The Crashed Malaysia Airlines Plane Wasn’t the Only Jet in Ukraine’s Airspace

A Boeing 777 operated by Malaysia Airlines crashed in eastern Ukraine this morning. Local authorities are saying the plane was shot down and that all 295 people aboard were killed.

The plane’s route had been closed by Ukrainian authorities below 32,000 feet, but the Malaysia plane was flying at approximately 33,000 feet when it crashed, according to Eurocontrol, an international air traffic management organization.

Fewer flights have crossed through Ukrainian airspace in the past month, but there has still been plenty of traffic, says Mikael Robertsson, co-founder of flight tracking website Flightradar24. There were two other planes within 10 minutes of the Malaysia 777 in its final moments, so it’s not as if everyone had been avoiding the area.

FlightRadar24 provided the tracking information for the flight, which took off from Amsterdam and was headed for Kuala Lumpur. You can see it disappears about 25 miles before reaching the Russian border:



And here’s a screenshot of the area showing the moment the plane crashed. Note that there are other planes nearby:

The crashed Malaysia plane wasn't alone in Ukraine's airspace.

The crashed Malaysia plane wasn’t alone in Ukraine’s airspace. Flightradar24

Giving Us a Female Thor and Black Captain America Isn’t Enough


Marvel Entertainment

Starting in November, it seems we’ll have a new Captain America to go along with the new Thor in Marvel’s comic book line-up. As announced on last night’s episode of The Colbert Report, Sam Wilson—better known to many as the Falcon from this spring’s movie Captain America: The Winter Soldier—will be taking up the shield and replacing Steve Rogers in the current comic storyline.

The reveal of an African-American Captain America following on the heels of a female Thor is hardly a coincidence. Speaking to earlier this week, Marvel editor-in-chief Axel Alonso said that the publisher “perceived there to be a real thirst for characters that reflect what we see in the mirror [and] our goal is to make our characters reflect the outside world.”

On the surface, this is good news. Marvel, like its chief competitor DC Entertainment, has an obvious diversity problem—one born of the comic book industry’s reluctance to enrage a conservative fanbase or disrupt its own nostalgia-based appeal. Any attempt at broadening its cast of characters is is a welcome one. Just three years ago, Marvel had no comics with female leads; as of October, it will have eight, including the new Thor series. (The All-New Captain America series will be one of seven Marvel books with a non-white lead; eight, if you count Rocket Raccoon.)

There’s only one problem: As genuine attempts to diversify the Marvel universe, both the Thor and Captain America announcements are significantly flawed, and are likely doomed to fail.

Temporary Measures

Let’s ignore the uncomfortable weirdness around an African-American Cap working for a white master (From Marvel’s press release about the new Cap, former Cap Steve Rogers will be “running Cap’s missions from his headquarters in Avengers Mansion” and will “also tutor Sam in how to throw the shield, a skill that’s deceptively difficult for the new Cap to master”); there’s also the fact that neither the new Thor nor the new Captain America actually get to establish their own identities in any real sense.

Not only are they, by definition, replacements—forced to live up to legacies established by white male characters both in the fictional worlds they inhabit and the minds of the fans reading the comics—but they both got the job because of the failings of their white predecessors rather than on their own merits. (Again, from the official press release about the new Captain America: “Steve’s spirit is as willing as ever, but his body is no longer up to the task of being Captain America.” From the press release about the new Thor: “No longer is the classic Thunder God able to hold the mighty hammer, Mj√∂lnir, and a brand new female hero will emerge worthy of the name THOR.”

But perhaps worst of all, both the new Thor and the new Captain America are practically guaranteed to be temporary changes. History and experience suggests as much: Sam Wilson is the seventh person to be Captain America, with the role always defaulting to Steve Rogers for some increasingly unlikely reason, and Thor’s past replacements have proven to be equally temporary. Even the creators of the stories have hinted as much: Jason Aaron, writer of the new Thor series has already spoken about his plan to give a different character Thor’s power “for a while” and implying that the original Thor will “return” at some point.

Those identities are likely to be taken away from them when Marvel requires the old status quo to reassert itself for the sake of a dramatic plot twist or movie tie-in. (Do you really believe the comics won’t bring back the old Thor or Cap to tie in to the next movies, if they hadn’t already done so?) And that undercuts the message of diversity and inclusion that Marvel is promoting with these announcements. While Marvel is paying lip service to the idea that women or African-Americans are the equal of its traditional white male leads, the publisher takes their agency away at almost every turn.

None of this means that the stories in question won’t be enjoyable, or that Marvel isn’t sincere in its desire to offer something more than just white guys saving the world. It does, however, point out that trying to do this kind of thing is more difficult than it looks, and needs a different approach from that suggested by these two recent announcements.

Thor and Captain America may get all the headlines—as Marvel engineered with the national-TV announcements—but living up to their promise of these announcements may require more meaningful measures.

A Pocket-Sized Antenna That Lets You Text Even in a Disaster Like Sandy

On October 29, 2012 Hurricane Sandy descended upon the New York and New Jersey coastlines. Among the storm’s many casualties were some of the area’s cellphone towers, leaving millions of residents stripped of both electrical power and their usual cell phone service. “I was thinking, ‘Is there any way to make cell phones communicate, so even in the worst case scenario like Sandy, when you have no power or Wi-Fi, you can still communicate?’” Daniela Perdomo says. “The only thing that does that is Bluetooth, and for that you have to be within 20 feet, so you might as well just speak loudly. We figured out that the only way to do that was an external piece of hardware.”

By November 2—less than a week later—Perdomo had sketched out a plan for goTenna, a gadget that could have given people stuck without service the ability to use their phones again. By February 2013, she had physical prototypes.

GoTenna is part disaster relief, part slick smartphone accessory that Perdomo created with the help of Brooklyn-based design firm Pensa (before goTenna, Perdomo worked at a string of New York-based software startups). It’s a five-inch aluminum and nylon device that pairs with a fairly basic iPhone or Android messaging app. When users lose service, rather than scurry around in search of bars, they can instead open that app to text other goTenna users. Texts first get sent to the native goTenna device over Bluetooth LE, where—thanks to the circuit board, radio chips, and antennae hidden within—the gadget piggybacks onto radio frequencies to transmit an analog version of the message to the receiving user. GoTenna users can use group messaging, and send their current location to contacts—a feature designed especially for emergency situations. The battery lasts about three days on, or up to a year and a half if it’s normally kept switched off.

A Solution That Fits Between High-End and None

“In terms of people communicating when they don’t have service, on one end of the spectrum are walkie-talkies, and on the other are satellite communication devices, which are super expensive,” Perdomo says. “Walkie-talkies are big clunky devices that people use at Disney World. You have to carry them in addition to your phone, they only let you do voice communication, you have to make sure you’re on the same channel, you hear everyone’s’ conversations—they’re annoying.” GoTenna streamlines all of that activity: Besides the two-ounce gadget that stays in your bag, only a smartphone is needed.

Superstorm Sandy provided the impetus for creating goTenna, but as Perdomo and her cofounder (and brother) Jorge Perdomo fleshed out plans for the device, they realized its many applications beyond an emergency: camping, music festivals, large sporting events, skiing, travel in a foreign country. Since the functionality was sure to appeal to a variety of situations—from the most dire to the most recreational—the design needed to as well. So rather than model goTenna’s looks after flashlights or helmets, Perdomo says they spent a lot of time surveying the merchandise at REI, considering which gadgets people truly want to use outside.

For a tiny product that could easily be a stocking stuffer come December, goTenna could have big implications. Like Airbnb or Uber, the gadget bucks corporate (or government) authority by giving users a chance to circumvent around the powers that be—in this case, Verizon or AT&aT. But Perdomo says that disrupting the telecommunications industry isn’t the company’s goal (plus, it’s not technically possible: for example, New Yorkers can’t use it to reach San Franciscans). Rather, they see goTenna as an important complementary service, and perhaps even a harbinger of what communication could look like in the future. “I do think there is something to decentralizing communication, to the idea that every person can be their synonymous node, and that you can create a communications system on your terms, on need as opposed to access,” she says.

GoTenna costs $150 for two, available here.

New York’s New Bitcoin Rules Are Going to Kill Its Startups


Adam Voorhes Gail Anderson + Joe Newton

New York State has released a first draft of its much-anticipated plan to regulate bitcoin and other virtual currencies, and at first blush, they look like they were written for the 19th century banking industry, not the modern fast-changing world of crypto currencies.

The guy responsible for the rules, Benjamin Lawsky, has a fine line to walk. Bitcoin, after all, came of age as a lubricant for illegal activity on the Silk Road. But today, a new generation of bitcoin startups are coming of age with millions of dollars in backing from legitimate venture capital companies. Is New York about to drive these startups out of town by clubbing them with onerous regulations before they can walk? Quite possibly. The New York regulations introduce a new level of reporting rules that cover a wider swath of businesses and require more work than the current federal guidelines.

‘The reporting is extremely frequent and extremely detailed. And it seems quite onerous especially in a new business.’

The guidelines ask bitcoin businesses to keep track not only of the physical addresses of their customers, but also of anybody who sends their customers money using the bitcoin network. That undermines the fundamental value proposition of bitcoin, which works very much like the internet’s version of cash. But there’s more. Bitcoin businesses must also file frequent reports to Lawsky’s organization, the New York State Department of Financial Services, or DFS, to detail changes in ownership, financial forecasts, even strategic business plans.

If adopted, these requirements will make things very tough for bitcoin startups, who have limited resources and are scrambling to invent whole new types of businesses. “I am concerned that the reporting is extremely frequent and extremely detailed. And it seems quite onerous especially in a new business,” says Jean-Jacques Cabou, a partner with the law firm Perkins Coie, who advises bitcoin companies

In some cases, bitcoin businesses would have to do more reporting than other businesses licensed by the DFS. For example, they have to store 10 years worth of customer complaints. “The corner store that does money transmission doesn’t keep 10 years of customer complaints,” says Cabou. “This is just a lot for a new industry to do and I think it would be very hard.”

Another big problem is that the regulations appear to cover a whole new class of bitcoin businesses that are not presently subject to federal regulation. These include online wallet companies like Blockchain and BitGo, and maybe even bitcoin tipping apps. That’s “ridiculous,” according to Patrick Muck, general counsel for the Bitcoin Foundation. “Really the scope of this thing ropes in the whole industry,” he says. “This proposal would set New York up as a quasi-federal regulator for the entire bitcoin industry.”

The DFS did not immediately respond to WIRED’s request for comment, but the agency is clearly ready to engage in some back-and-forth with the bitcoin community. Lawsky, the Superintendent of Financial Services at the DFS, unveiled the proposed regulations on Reddit today, where they were not exactly well-received.

Roger Ver, a libertarian who and serial bitcoin business investor, believes that—if adopted— the rules will drive bitcoin businesses out of New York. “These men calling themselves government are not asking anybody to do anything. They are making demands, and will put us behind bars if we don’t obey,” he says. “Bitcoin was specifically designed to strip away power from men who would be so presumptuous to believe that they have the right to rule over others.”

It’s Tool Time for Weird Al in His Iggy Azalea ‘Fancy’ Parody

Iggy Azalea’s “Fancy” was only just ousted from the Billboard Hot 100′s No. 1 spot after seven weeks of Song of Summer dominance, but that beat is still just so hot! Sitting at No. 2 on the charts hardly means a song has gone stale (“Fancy” will literally never get tired), but with Weird Al Yankovic on the mic we can keep that Invisible Men/Arcade production fresh with some new-god-level flow in the form of “Handy,” which marks the halfway point in his eight-video offload.

“Handy” is the best showcase yet of Yankovic’s dance-like-no-one-is-watching-style moves and it’s a classic work of Weird in that it gives us our wordsmith fully creating a single character and giving his first-person micro narrative in song, a la “Fat” and “White & Nerdy.” Never one to choose the half measure, Yankovic goes fully Iggy for “Handy” and nails all the background “yeahs” and “huhs,” elevating the song from simple aping to embodying. By the end of the track, you trust this handy man for all of your caulking and hardwiring needs. You’re more than welcome to be our stripper, Al.