Elon Musk considers taking Tesla private

(Reuters) – Elon Musk is considering taking Tesla Inc private, the electric car maker’s chief executive tweeted on Tuesday.

FILE PHOTO: Elon Musk listens at a press conference following the first launch of a SpaceX Falcon Heavy rocket at the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida, U.S., February 6, 2018. REUTERS/Joe Skipper/File Photo

“Am considering taking Tesla private at $420. Funding secured,” Musk said. bit.ly/2Om3gn3

At $420 per share, a deal would represent a 22.8 percent premium to Tesla’s closing price on Monday, making it one of the biggest go-private deals with a price tag of about $72 billion.

Tesla’s shares were up 6.5 percent at $363.46. The company had a market value of $58 billion as of Monday’s close. Musk owns nearly 20 percent of the company.

A Tesla electric car supercharger station is seen in Los Angeles, California, U.S. August 2, 2018. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson

Separately, Financial Times reported on Tuesday Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund, overseen by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, has built an undisclosed stake of between 3 and 5 percent stake in Tesla.

“I believe Tesla considers Tweets as public disclosure. I think he’s serious. Plus this is short squeeze rocket fuel after a nice quarter,” said analyst Chaim Siegel from Elazar Advisors.

While Musk is known for making erratic tweets, he tweeted “420” in a reply to Fox Business anchor Liz Claman, following up on his initial tweet. The company did not immediately respond to request for comment.

“If true, this would be an incredible and surprising development. We still would see risk to completion of such a deal,” said CFRA analyst Efraim Levy.

He is also under intense pressure to prove he can deliver consistent production numbers for the Model 3 sedan, Tesla’s lowest-priced model and the key to its plans to become a mass-market automaker, after a host of manufacturing challenges and concerns it was burning cash too quickly.

Reporting by Sonam Rai in Bengaluru; Editing by Saumyadeb Chakrabarty

As Facebook Gets Slammed for Data Practices, It Wants Your Financial Info from Banks

That’s been clear for years. Facebook’s history is one of pushing limits on acquiring and using personal data. It continually gets into trouble, mumbles an apology, promises to do better, and then keeps going the way it was.

In this case, the point apparently is not to use the data to target more ads (How much do you trust Facebook?) but to offer features in Messenger. The company wants to tell you what your checking account balance is or to provide fraud alerts. Facebook also wants to know where people use their debit and credit cards when not on the site. Because, that wouldn’t lend itself to targeted marketing.

According to the Journal, at least one bank out of JPMorgan Chase, Wells Fargo, Citigroup, and U.S. Bankcorp, all approached  by Facebook, walked away over privacy worries. The story also said that Google’s parent Alphabet and Amazon have also asked banks to share data to provide banking services.

Everybody’s doing it.

Not that banks are particularly more concerned about people more than other corporations. But there are some strict privacy laws that govern financial services. It’s bad enough when they screw up and get into trouble. Facebook has next to zero credibility at this point when it comes to data safety.

So, banks are supposed to put themselves into the position of possible liability and say, “Hey, Mark Zuckerberg, could you please make money off us and pinky-swear that no one will see anything they’re not supposed to? Thanks, buddy!” What could go wrong?

Facebook has always depended on the tie between data and growth in usage. Last month, if you’ll remember, the company lost $120 billion in market value overnight when it said that growth had slowed.

The idea is to make new services available on Messenger so people will pull closer to the company. As the Journal reported, “Facebook said it wouldn’t use the bank data for ad-targeting purposes or share it with third parties.”

Just a minute, I have to follow online tradition and roll over on the floor while laughing.

Even if Facebook could and would make good on this promise, how long is it supposed to last? When will the potential to rake in more advertising dollars, particularly if usage continues to slow and advertisers start to walk away, turn into, “We’re not targeting ads, we’re targeting consumer opportunities”?

Facebook has made somewhat stronger statements about privacy and data security of late. But the company also wants to start a dating service. Because everyone should overshare everything.

To complicate things even more for the banks, they want people to go to them, not some third party.

Facebook’s creditability isn’t at zero. It’s less than zero. Zuckerberg would have to do daring cartwheels and personally secure everyone’s information just to get back to nothing.

Facebook has a virtually insurmountable problem. The foundation of its entire business model requires the company to treat personal data they way it does. To fix things, it would need a new way to make a living. That doesn’t seem to be in the works for the near future, however.

[Update 6-Aug-2018 12:50PM: Facebook sent a statement that in part said the Journal story “implies incorrectly that we are actively asking financial services companies for financial transaction data.”

It doesn’t, exactly, because an account balance or a collection of places where someone used a credit or debit card wouldn’t technically be transaction data, which is, as the name implies, information about specific transactions with companies.

The statement further says:

Account linking enables people to receive real-time updates in Facebook Messenger where people can keep track of their transaction data like account balances, receipts, and shipping updates. The idea is that messaging with a bank can be better than waiting on hold over the phone – and it’s completely opt-in. We’re not using this information beyond enabling these types of experiences – not for advertising or anything else. A critical part of these partnerships is keeping people’s information safe and secure.

Again, you have to ask whether Facebook has shown that it can be trusted or not.]

Top 10 Crowdfunding Platforms of 2018

It’s an excellent way to gauge interest since people will only fund what they’re seriously interested in.

However, not all crowdfunding platforms are equal. Each one specializes in a different purpose.

You can choose among 10 of the most popular crowdfunding platforms online as of 2018.

Kickstarter

The most popular crowdfunding site on the Internet, Kickstarter has become a household name.

However, it’s more for funding inventions and creative works and not for helping nonprofit organizations or funding your own endeavors without something in return.

Also, you don’t get to keep the money pledged if the kickstarter goal is not reached.

Indiegogo​

While it tends to play second fiddle to Kickstarter, Indiegogo has a number of advantages its counterpart doesn’t provide.

For instance, Indiegogo has flexible funding that lets you keep the funds you’ve raised, even when you haven’t been able to reach your goal.

It also lets you buy funded products in the platform’s marketplace, so successful projects have another potential source of income.

Patreon

Another popular crowdfunding platform, Patreon sets itself apart with its subscription model.

Instead of being for straight-up campaigns, this is more for providing ongoing financial support for a creative venture or artist.

There’s also the option to provide content exclusive to patrons who are subscribed to your Patreon through the site itself.

GoFundMe

This one is more popular for individuals who need money right away.

You may often see people asking for crowdfunding for short-term projects and medical emergencies in GoFundMe, which is common practice in this platform.

Crowdrise

While not as popular as the platforms mentioned above, Crowdrise has garnered attention for its focus on crowdfunding “real-world issues” over funding for-profit ventures.

It can also be used to fund college scholarships, weddings, and even birthday parties.

Due to this mostly socially-conscious objective, GoFundMe took notice and acquired it in early 2017.

PledgeMusic

If you’re a musician and need a way to cover expenses for things like launching a new album or going on a tour, then PledgeMusic may be good for that.

You can also provide rewards for donors who pledge a certain amount of money, like free digital copy of your music or such.

Razoo

Like Crowdrise, this platform has its focus on crowdfunding worthy causes, so it’s not really the right platform for businesses and for-profit ventures.

Razoo is great if you’re looking to fundraise for charity.

RocketHub

This one is mostly for venture capital, so businesses and other for-profit ventures can use RocketHub for crowdfunding their startups.

Meanwhile, their ELEQUITY Funding Room lets you pitch your project idea and generate interest, which can then lead to getting advice and even additional funding.

Crowdfunder

It has a fairly straightforward name, which matches what it’s for.

Crowdfunder lets you sell equity and debt in your business to attract angel investors and venture capitalists to raise money for your projects.

It’s like a regular venture capital program, but with the online infrastructure to raise awareness usually beyond smaller business’ means.

Give

Rather than a website, Give is a WordPress plugin you can install in your blog to help you collect donations from visitors.

However, it’s meant for non-profit ventures only, so it’s not really a “beg for money to pay your rent” type of plugin.

On the other hand, it doesn’t take any fees for collecting donations.

If you’re looking for a way to fund your next unicorn idea, crowdfunding could be the key.

TSMC says third-quarter revenue hit by computer virus

TAIPEI (Reuters) – A computer virus outbreak has hit third-quarter results at Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company Ltd, the world’s largest contract chipmaker, the company said on Sunday.

A logo of Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co (TSMC) is seen at its headquarters in Hsinchu, Taiwan October 5, 2017. REUTERS/Eason Lam

On Saturday, TSMC, a major supplier for Apple Inc, said that a number of its computer systems and fab tools had been infected by a virus, but the problem had been contained.

The company expects full recovery on Aug. 6, the company said in an updated statement on Sunday.

“TSMC expects this incident to cause shipment delays and additional costs. We estimate the impact to third quarter revenue to be about three percent, and impact to gross margin to be about one percentage point,” it said.

“The Company is confident shipments delayed in third quarter will be recovered in the fourth quarter 2018, and maintains its forecast of high single-digit revenue growth for 2018 in U.S. dollars given on July 19, 2018.”

The chipmaker has notified its customers and is working with them on the wafer delivery schedule. Details will be provided to each customer individually over the next few days, it said.

The virus outbreak occurred during the software installation for a new tool, which caused a virus to spread once the tool was connected to the company’s computer network, TSMC said.

“Data integrity and confidential information was not compromised. TSMC has taken actions to close this security gap and further strengthen security measures,” it said.

Reporting by Jess Macy Yu, editing by Larry King

'No Man's Sky Next': Tips To Get You Started And Ease Your Way

‘No Man’s Sky Next’Credit: Hello Games

No Man’s Sky Next is a satisfying and addictive game that overflows with discovery, wonder and challenge. It’s finally the game that No Man’s Sky notoriously was not when it first released in 2016. It can also be immensely confusing for first time players. You’re most likely to begin the game in threatening circumstances with a clock ticking down and no idea what to do or how to do it. Here are some tips to get you started and ease your way if you haven’t played No Man’s Sky before or don’t remember much about the game.

The opening

You begin the game on a random, procedurally generated planet. You may luck out and start with a planet that doesn’t present a life-threatening hazard, but the chances aren’t good. Most planets demand protection from the environment. Your Exosuit’s Hazard Protection system protects you, but when the game begins it needs to be recharged. You have some time left, but not much. When the charge runs out, you begin to take damage. You need sodium to charge Hazard Protection. Where do you find it? How do you get it? How do you use it?

The most common source of sodium is a plant that emits a golden glow. Harvest the plant by clicking on it.

If you don’t see any plants or crystals, you can use your Scanner to find some, but first it has to be repaired. Fixing it requires ferrite dust which is easy to acquire. Almost all of the small rocks and many of the large ones are sources for ferrite dust. Shoot them with your Mining Beam and you can gather the 50 ferrite dust needed to repair the Scanner in a minute or less. If you don’t immediately see a sodium source in your area, shoot rocks and repair the Scanner.

‘No Man’s Sky Next’Credit: Hello Games

Three main conduits for interacting with the game

Once you have either sodium or ferrite dust you have to use them. This is a good time to become familiar with No Man’s Sky Next’s three main conduits for interacting with the game, the Exosuit, Starship and Multi-tool. Each conduit serves as an inventory space for related subsystems, tools, devices, and upgrades. The Exosuit and Starship also store the things you collect and the crafting components you gather.

The Exosuit houses the Jetpack, and the Hazard Protection and Life Support subsystems. Clicking on Hazard Protection will let you charge it once you’ve acquired sodium.

The Multi-tool houses the Mining Beam and the Scanner. Click on the Scanner to repair it.

The Starship houses the Launch Thruster, Pulse Engine, Deflector Shield, Photon Cannon and Rocket Launcher. You need to repair the Launch Thruster and Pulse Engine before you can fly the ship.

Finding your starship and leaving the star system

If you gathered sodium, use it to charge Hazard Protection and then repair the Scanner; if you repaired the Scanner, use it to find sodium and charge Hazard Protection. If the Scanner doesn’t reveal any sodium sources, don’t worry. Getting into your ship will also charge Hazard Protection. The ship is close by and easy to find because it shows up on your HUD as soon as the Scanner is repaired if you haven’t moved too far away.

Repairing your ship is your next task once you’ve found it. After your ship is repaired you can explore the local star system while you complete the in-game tutorial which unlocks new tools, devices and capabilities.

There’s so much to do in No Man’s Sky Next that it’s easy to get sidetracked. It’s not a problem if you do, but you may not have advanced far enough into the game to take advantage of many of the things you discover. Following the tutorial will keep you on track and give you everything you need to warp out of your first star system.

‘No Man’s Sky Next’Credit: Hello Games

Tips to ease your way.

  • If you have a long distance to travel on a planet, boost into space, move until you’re above your target location, and then dive down through the atmosphere. It’s much quicker.
  • Use your Mining Beam carefully if there are Sentinels around. If you’ve attracted their attention, go somewhere else until they lose interest. They call for backup if you get into a fight.
  • You can avoid most fights by running away from Sentinels and boosting away from space pirates. The AI isn’t too bright.
  • Build the Analysis Visor as soon as you can. The visor lets you scan flora, fauna and minerals as well as locate buried items and large mineral deposits. The large deposits can be harvested with a Terrain Manipulator which the tutorial will show you how to build. The Analysis Visor also locates your ship and keeps it on your HUD which is a life saver if you get lost.
  • Scan everything that’s unidentified. Scanning gives you units, the game’s main currency, and uploading your discoveries gives you nanites which are used to buy blueprints and upgrades.
  • Stockpile blueprints. They don’t take up inventory space, let you reinstall your favorite upgrades after you pick up a new ship or Multi-tool, and may be just what you need for an on-the-spot upgrade.
  • You can buy additional inventory slots for the Exosuit at one of the merchant kiosks on the space station. Walk past the merchant to get to the suit-upgrade device. The first slot costs 5000 units and the price doubles for each additional slot.
  • Discover buildings and points of interest on a planet by feeding Navigation Data to the Signal Booster. It beats flying around randomly looking for things. The orange octahedrons inside buildings yield either Navigation Data or nanites. Asking lifeforms for directions will also reveal planetary locations on your Exosuit and Starship HUDs.
  • Visit all the planets in your star system once you get your ship repaired. Each planet has its own ecosystem to scan and is loaded with things to find. Planets with extremely hazardous environments also tend to have more valuable resources to harvest. A relatively benign planet is a good base of operations while you complete the tutorial.
  • Carbon, ferrite and di-hydrogen are often-needed crafting materials that are plentiful and easy to acquire on most planets. Sodium and oxygen are not rare but not as abundant either. It’s a good idea to keep some in your Exosuit inventory because they’re needed to charge Hazard Protection and Life Support.
  • Don’t forget to pick up your deployable machines like the Signal Booster and Portable Refiner after you’ve used them. Having to build a new one because you left the old one behind is annoying.
  • If you swap ships with a lifeform to increase your ship inventory, make sure you empty your ship before you make the trade. All of a ship’s cargo and upgrades go with a ship when it’s traded. Upgrades can’t be removed but they can be salvaged for parts. Move cargo you don’t want to lose to your Exosuit inventory and sell the rest before you trade ships. You’re going to have to make some hard choices about what to keep and what to sell but it’s better than losing it all.

No Man’s Sky Next is a complex game with a lot to discover and do. I haven’t even scratched the surface here, but it should be enough to ease your way through the early stages of the game.

If you’re interested in No Man’s Sky Next, here is another article you might enjoy.

Start Your Semester Off Strong With These Back To School Supplies And Accessories

Don’t end your summer in a stressful frantic hunting for last minute accessories you need in order to get the most out of your upcoming semester. Between your residency, wardrobe, or classes, you’re going to need a lot of things.

We compiled a list of some essentials for everyday use. These products, including the most up to date tech and organization tools, will make your hectic days at school much more manageable.

Herschel Supply Co. Retreat Backpack 

https://herschel.com/shop/backpacks/retreat-backpack?&gclid=EAIaIQobChMI_qfit9O63AIVyp6zCh2L6gTVEAAYAiAAEgIlc_D_BwE&v=10066-00001-OS

This popular and stylish backpack is also a smart choice with its padded 15-inch laptop sleeve, adjustable straps and closure, and extra storage pocket on the bag’s exterior. With over 30 color and print options, you can personalize your backpack to fit your own style.

Shop Now: $80


Beats Solo 3 Wireless 

Bose Wireless Speakers

With up to 40 hours of battery, these comfortable headphones with fine-tuned acoustics are perfect for walking around and studying everyday. However, the Apple Airpods ($159.00) are also a good option that you don’t have to worry about destroying at the gym.

Shop Now: $300


S’well 17 oz Water Bottle 

S’well Water Bottle

This eco-friendly water bottle made from insulated stainless steel can keep your water cool for up to 24 hours and hot beverages warm for up to 12 hours. It is a great way to stay hydrated throughout your busy day.

Shop Now: $35


Bose Soundlink Revolve Bluetooth Speaker

Bose Speaker

These water resistant, 360-degree sound speakers are a great way to spend time with friends indoors and outdoors. With up to 12 hours of battery, they can last you all day. If you are looking for indoor speakers with an alarm clock and phone dock charger, you can’t go wrong with the iHome IBN350 ($129.99).

Shop Now: $200


WD 2TB Portable External Hard Drive

With numerous digital assignments, it is always important to backup your work. This portable hard drive comes with 2TB of storage and is formatted for Windows 8, 7, and Vista & XP, but can easily reformat for Mac.

Shop Now: $65


13” Macbook Air

Macbook Air

Having a laptop makes essay writing and note taking much easier, but it can be hard on your back and take up a lot of space in your backpack. The Macbook Air is the perfect choice for long days of carrying your backpack around.

Shop Now: $999


The 10.5” iPad Pro

The iPad Pro has the same functions as a Mac Laptop, but is lighter and smaller, making it easier to carry around with you all day. However, if you are a loyal Android customer, the Samsung 9.7” Galaxy Tab s3 ($549.99) is probably right for you.

Shop Now: $929


Moleskine 12-Month Daily Planner

Moleskine Planner

Organization is extremely important in order to meet many tight deadlines. The sleek Moleskine Daily Planner comes with a calendar in the first few pages to write down big events, and gives a full page of space for each day to write down details and assignments.

Shop Now: $18


Philips HF3520 Wake-Up Light with Colored Sunlight Simulation

Wake Up Light

Waking up for classes in the morning can be quite a struggle. The Philips Wake-Up Light emits sunlight to wake you up in an effective and relaxing way without hurting your ears or disturbing your roommate.

Shop Now: $140


Halo Wireless 8000 Portable Charger

Halo Portable Charger

Frequent classes and long hours at the library can make it hard to access an outlet when you need it. This easy-to-carry, portable charger comes with 2 USB ports and can charge tablets, smartphones, and other small electronic devices with wire chargers and also wirelessly.   

Shop Now: $75


Activity Fitbit AltaHR

Purchasing the activity fitbit is a great way to maintain your health and exercise during your busy schedule. This watch with up to 7 days of battery shows you your heart rate, tracks your sleeping stages, reminds you to move, and records your steps, calories, time, and distance.

Shop Now: $150


Roku Streaming Stick

This portable streaming stick allows you to watch thousands of movies, TV shows, live sports, news, and music wherever you go. You can choose from rentals and free or paid subscriptions.

Shop Now: $50


Tomtoc 13” Laptop Sleeve $17.99

Tomtoc Laptop Sleeve

Tomtoc’s 3 layer protection sleeve will keep your laptop safe from falls and spills. The outer layer is made up of a spill-resistant polyester, and the inner two layers include a shock-proof sponge and soft internal foam cushioning.

Shop Now: $18


At-A-Glance Wall Calendar

At-A-Glance Wall Calendar

This aesthetically pleasing monthly calendar can be hung on your wall easily with its looped wire. This can make your days easier and even reduce your stress level by just having to look at your wall in the beginning of the day to check if there are any important events, meetings, or deadlines.

Shop Now: $25


Samsung 49” Class Q6F 4K Smart HD TV

Samsung Smart TV

This high-quality smart TV with superior contrast and color is a great way to blow off steam and relax. It creates a personalized browsing menu for you with your favorite content from various devices and apps and makes recommendations just for you.

Shop Now: $1,100


Pixo Optical LED Table Lamp

Pixo LED Lamp

This LED light with USB charging can rotate 360 degrees and tilt 180 degrees so you can direct light anywhere. The dimming and adjusting brightness features make it the perfect lamp to keep on your desk.

Shop Now: $230

Amazon forays into Australia with small loss

SYDNEY (Reuters) – Online retail giant Amazon.com Inc, whose entry into Australia last year rattled established bricks-and-mortar retailers, posted a modest loss in its earliest days in the country, corporate filings show.

FILE PHOTO: Amazon boxes are seen stacked for delivery in the Manhattan borough of New York City,U.S., January 29, 2016. REUTERS/Mike Segar/File Photo

Amazon’s foray into Australia was met with fevered attention from investors and a steep selldown in traditional retail stocks.

The U.S. company launched its website on Dec. 5, though it ran preparatory operations through the year, racking up a modest loss of almost A$9 million ($6.6 million).

In the Christmas trading weeks from the launch to Dec. 31, it turned over A$6.3 million in direct sales versus total Australian retail sales of A$26.3 billion that month.

These figures, however, are unlikely to be indicative of the future performance of a company that reported losses and roller-coaster results for years, but is now the second-biggest company in the world and closely watched on Wall Street.

The Australian trading period was too short for meaningful analysis, said Evan Lucas, chief market strategist at fund manager InvestSmart.

“Amazon is not the kind of company that accepts failure – they have a longer term goal.”

Amazon hit logistical snafus in Australia’s vast interior and handed eBay Inc – market leader in Australia – some victory after a move last month to block Australians from shopping on its foreign websites drew customer backlash.

A spokesman for Amazon declined to comment on the filing and directed Reuters to previous commentary about record Australian sales during a promotion in July without quantifying them.

The filing was lodged in April but the results were not reported at the time. They were first reported on Friday by the Sydney Morning Herald newspaper.

Last week, Amazon forecast strong fall sales for its overall operations and posted a $2.5 billion quarterly profit that was double Wall Street targets on the back of its younger businesses – cloud computing and advertising.

($1 = 1.3569 Australian dollars)

Reporting by Tom Westbrook; Editing by Sayantani Ghosh and Manolo Serapio Jr.

The Strange Life of a Murderer Turned Crime Blogger

Squeeze the trigger of a gun and a spring unwinds. A bolt lurches forward. On that piece of precision-milled steel is a firing pin that ignites a spark and initiates a sequence of events which, if the human will is powerful enough and mechanical tolerance is not exceeded, often ends in death. And tolerance for Martin Kok was running out.

As a teenager living north of Amsterdam, Kok sold fish and later cocaine. He was nicknamed the Stutterer, for an affliction he would never quite overcome, and he went to prison multiple times—twice for killing acquaintances. After his release at the age of 47, Kok (pronounced “coke”) sought redemption through a keyboard: Holland is home to an active community of bloggers and online sleuths who detail the gritty trade of drug syndicates and killers for hire, and he started a crime blog of his own in February 2015.

He named his site Vlinderscrime, after the Dutch word for butterflies, and the blog had a healthy readership in the Dutch underworld. It became indispensable reading for civilians, too. In early December 2016 he posted a screenshot of a Google Analytics page claiming more than 4 million pageviews for the previous month. Banner ads (for law firms, spy shops, encrypted communication devices, flooring suppliers, and sex shops) sold for thousands of Euros, he once told local media. Respectable regional publications quoted Kok. Often.

He reported on Irish mob kingpins, Moroccan drug lords, assassination plots, biker gangs, and his frequent partying habits. Unlike mainstream Dutch media outlets, which only report a suspect’s first name and the first initial of the last name, he often published full names. Kok’s rejection of this journalistic convention made him a target of the people he covered. As did his relentless mocking of his subjects.

Someone tried to shoot him at his home in 2015, leaving his car perforated by bullets, and in 2016 he discovered an explosive under his vehicle. When a bomb squad descended, along with television news cameras, Kok reveled in the attention. In an interview with a journalist at the scene, Kok was amiable and charismatic, drunk on exposure as he stuttered through the interview. He called the explosive device a “bommeroni” to the delight of viewers who had come to know Kok and his exploits. “I’m on so many lists all I have to do is bow my head and they’ll kill each other” in the crossfire, he told the television reporter. Kok, a sturdy man with a heavy, creased face and eyes that nevertheless seemed eager to please, crowed to the camera: “Vlinderscrime is not going to quit. That’s where it happens!”

Five months after the car-bombing attempt, on a brisk December night, a security camera caught Kok leaving an Amsterdam hotel bar with another man. As the two walked along the sidewalk, the footage shows a third man running up behind Kok. He raises a pistol to within inches of the blogger’s nape. Then, suddenly, the gunman changes course and dashes into the street, narrowly avoiding some cyclists. Perhaps he changed his mind. A more likely explanation: The trigger plunged and the springs decompressed, but the striker failed to reach the pin and the weapon jammed—the slightest of tolerances offset.

Kok, his head turned toward his companion, seems unaware that he has cheated death again. He continues down the sidewalk, talking to his companion, never breaking his stride.

Martin Kok grew up in the town of Volendam, in a place of wooden windmills and cheese markets. As a teen, he and his father and brother sold eel at cafés in Amsterdam. He would wear the traditional Volendammer garb: red shirt, baggy black pants, and clogs. The work felt demeaning, and the patrons were condescending. He started selling eel in bars popular with well-known criminals. Kok moved on to the cocaine trade and quit his fishmonger job to work in smoky club coat rooms, which were good for meeting potential clients. It beat selling eels.

Kok was sardonic and charismatic—a class clown—but also tall, beefy, and imposing, with a streak of ruthlessness. He was as disarming as he was dangerous, like Yogi Bear with a handgun. According to a biography of him, in the summer of 1988, at the age of 21, he shot at an old schoolmate who had begun cutting into his business; several months later he got into a fight with a rival and smashed him in the head with a barstool. The man died a day later, and Kok went to prison for five years, a not-unheard-of sentence in a country with fairly lenient sentencing terms.

During that prison term, Kok met a man named Willem Holleeder, who was—and still is—Holland’s most infamous criminal. Holleeder was in prison for the 1983 kidnapping of beer magnate Freddy Heineken, and the caper remains unmatched in the annals of Dutch crime; a huge ransom was paid and Holleeder went on the run in France before being caught. In prison, Kok and Holleeder often ate lunch together, and Kok also befriended Cor van Hout, one of Holleeder’s accomplices in the Heineken kidnapping.

Martin in jail in the town of Alphen aan den Rijn in 2003, working on his prison ‘newspaper’ De Vlinder, which translates to “The Butterfly.”

Courtesy of Timo Van der Eng

Van Hout was a prankster among dour men. Everyone loved him. “You could laugh with Cor,” Kok once said. “Always joking, always happy. I accepted [Holleeder], but Cor was the real boss.”

When Kok got out, he murdered the boyfriend of a former romantic partner. In between sentences, he expanded his business into prostitution.

That line of work furnished him with a transferable skill for his next stint behind bars: Dutch prisons allow conjugal visits, and through a contact on the outside he hired women who would pose as prisoners’ girlfriends.

Kok in 2005 enjoying himself at a makeshift bar with other inmates in Veenhuizen prison. He leaked the photo to the press, and after publication, the backlash led to Kok getting beaten up.

Courtesy of Timo van der Eng

According to his biography, Kok eventually told a newspaper reporter about how he was providing a much-needed service to his friends. The warden placed Kok in solitary confinement for two weeks, but it was worthwhile for the attention he got. As he told Timo van der Eng, a journalist who interviewed him extensively for a book about his life titled Kokkie, “How awesome was that? When I exited the isolation chamber, the whole cell block was applauding me.”

Amsterdam has long been a trading center for substances and information. Frisia, as the region was known in the 17th century, was a hub of commerce and trade for seafaring entrepreneurs. Spices, yes. Coffee, of course. Tea, naturally. Hemp, too, was something of a cash crop. Harvested in the region around Utrecht, it was used by the Dutch East India Company to make ropes.

Information was another commodity in great demand. Shipping records were important: Who was entering the ports? Who was leaving? And from this utilitarian beginning sprang an industry. By mid-century, the Amsterdam presses made “books and newsletters that carry the facts around Europe, that sometimes give away secrets and sometimes cause scandals,” journalist Michael Pye wrote in his book The Edge of the World. Amsterdam was the newspaper capital of Europe during the 17th century.

By the 18th century, a liberal and prosperous city of canals and art and vast markets, Amsterdam developed a thriving criminal underground, or penose. It was the natural outcome for a wealthy city that greed would be inevitable. Among the notorious criminals who perpetuated this tradition were Van Hout and Holleeder.

The modern drug trade in Holland stretches across the globe, much like those old trade routes, and the country’s crime blogging sites track this busy industry. Today, Holland is a producer and consumer of synthetic drugs like ecstasy and the source for US-bound party drugs; the majority of drug offenses connected to heroin, cocaine, ecstasy, and amphetamines are related to possession. With the drug trade comes violence. While many fewer murders are committed in the Netherlands than in the United States (0.55 per 100,000 people, compared with 5.3 for every 100,000 in the US), people pay much more attention to them, fed by the salacious details on the crime sites.

“Criminals are humans, like you and me,” says Wim van de Pol, who co-owns and edits (with van der Eng) Crimesite, a 14-year-old website operated by veteran journalists and editors that gets nearly 4 million pageviews a month. “That’s what I like about crime reporting. It’s a study in human ambition and human struggle.”

The many crime blogs cover—with varying degrees of journalistic rigor—the activities of criminals and “liquidations,” or assassinations. False accusations are not unheard of. And even the official newspapers, which tend to be rigorous in their sourcing and circumspect about what they publish, sometimes lean on the less-scrupulous digital publications for stories.

Kok joined this fraternity of crime bloggers in 2015 after being released from prison, when he moved to Amsterdam and launched Vlinderscrime. It was easy enough: He was familiar with the crime blog scene, and he had many sources both free and incarcerated. He also wanted to be part of the story himself; a blog could be a conduit to fame. “I thought it would be fun to write about crime. I knew a lot about it, being a former criminal,” he told van der Eng, a former television journalist.

Kok was irreverent both online and off. His Twitter feed was a parade of women spliced with updates on crime busts. Then, say, a photo of him posing with Holleeder’s defense attorney followed by an image of Kok’s derriere during a massage (caption: “… I am so fresh and fruity”). He often wrote about his partying habits: “Your crime journalist has drunk too much and arrived home. That’s why crime will have to wait.”

Kok’s method was to talk to guys he’d known in prison, accept their chatter as fact, and publish a story, fast. He was willing to impugn people with little more than anonymous quotes. Then he’d send text messages to journalists alerting them to his scoop.

He was a bear poking other bears. In 2014, Holleeder was charged with ordering the assassinations of multiple people, including his kidnapping coconspirator van Hout. Kok, who was released from prison a few months later, used his media appearances to make fun of Holleeder. “Holleeder is a crybaby, and he can’t stand being in prison,” Kok said on a daily talk show. He mocked a reputed Dutch-Moroccan hit man who was arrested in Dublin, making fun of his many expensive watches and shoes. “People warned him. ‘Be careful—you are insulting people,’” van der Eng says. “He was insulting everyone, even Willem Holleeder, who was considered the biggest criminal in the Netherlands. He thought of himself as a crime reporter, a journalist. He was a shock blogger. It was without limits.”

Willem Holleeder and Cor van Hout (left) in the dock in 1987 before the start of the trial for the kidnapping of of beer tycoon Alfred Heineken. “The Nose,” as Holleeder is called, was the target of many digital and IRL pranks by Kok.

Peter Elenbaas/Hollandse Hoogte/Redux

Journalists enjoyed his company, and he enjoyed their validation. But it was dangerous to be too close to him; a bullet meant for Kok might stray. Journalists who met with him for dinner would not let him pay their bills, fearing that it would lead to discomfiting moral debts.

“He managed to get a lot of attention. He was successful at earning money without any more criminal activities. People liked him,” van der Eng told me. He loved his notoriety.

Despite his pleasure in taunting drug dealers and killers, he did eventually develop some instinct for self-preservation. “Before the bomb and the shooting, I welcomed everything and everyone, but I have become more careful,” he told van der Eng in 2016. He described getting a call from someone who wanted to give him information about an assassination. “It didn’t feel right, so I declined his invitation.”

His newfound instincts only went so far: At one point, Kok reportedly called the leader of a gang he had written about and dared them to come and find him. He gave the address of the house and hung up and waited. No one ever came, strengthening his illusion of invincibility.

On the night of December 8, 2016, after unwittingly surviving an assassination attempt on that Amsterdam sidewalk, Kok went to one of his favorite sex clubs, just outside Amsterdam. A photo shows him there, lounging on a bed in black underpants. A pink neon light glowing behind him, he gives a double thumbs up to the camera. He left the club around 11:20, and surveillance footage shows the lights on a Volkswagen Polo in the club parking lot wink to life as he walks out the door. Kok crosses over to the car and gets in.

From the bushes an assassin emerges. Maybe it’s the same gunman from earlier in the evening on the sidewalk. Maybe not. This time the gun doesn’t jam: The man fires into the driver’s side window and retreats.

Months after his funeral, on a February day overcast and spittly with rain, I visited his grave at the Vredenhof Cemetery, in an industrial part of Amsterdam. A caretaker directed me down a path toward the very back of the cemetery.

Taken inside the Boccaccio sex club, this is the last known photo of Kok alive. He was shot dead one hour after he sent this image to Timo van der Eng.

Courtesy of Timo van der Eng

Decorated with a headshot and butterflies, the grave marker was much smaller than those of the two men he is buried next to: Gijs Van Dam Jr., the son of a major distributor of hashish, and Kok’s friend Cor Van Hout.

Some journalists have tentatively tied Kok’s murder to the elusive criminal collective known as 26Koper (a “murder service on wheels,” according to one headline Kok wrote). Maybe they killed him. Maybe a hit was ordered by someone like the supposed hit man he had mocked. Plenty of people had reason to be mad at him.

Whoever killed him, no one in the crime blogging community was surprised. And Kok, his colleagues said, would have loved the attention. “There was one thing he was aiming for,” Vico Olling, a journalist at the Dutch magazine Panorama, tells me. “That was his death.”

Kok was buried next to Cor Van Hout and Gijs van Dam, Jr., the son of a hash dealer.

Kenneth R. Rosen

Even the Uber driver who gives me a ride from the graveyard back to Amsterdam has an opinion on who killed Martin Kok. “I know Martin,” the driver says. “He’s crazy. You hear about 26Koper? Guys my age. Hit men. You pay them, you give them pictures, they kill somebody. He wrote about those guys; those guys don’t like that.”

We drive along a narrow stretch of road, flanked by wetlands and fields. He claims 26Koper uses GPS trackers to monitor the movements of a subject before they kill him. He grows increasingly vague on the source of his information, which becomes a source of growing discomfort for me. “I don’t do anything. There are guys from my neighborhood. That’s it,” he says.

I suggest we eat lunch. A kibbeling stand on the side of the road—battered chunks of fish slathered in tartar sauce on a buttered roll. I am hungry and want to brace my driver for more about Kok and 26Koper, so we munch on our food quietly and make plans to meet later and drive to the sex club where Kok was killed. But back in my rented flat, I change my mind, recalling Kok’s own reconsideration of a meeting with someone he did not know.

In the months after Kok’s death, Dutch police hunted down leads on his killer, and in March Crimesite reported the arrest of a man identified as Zakaria A. (Another suspect was arrested a few weeks later.) Bloggers cranked into gear. Some of the crime blogs suggested that the hit might have been ordered by a Moroccan crime boss named Redouan Taghi, but most didn’t speculate on the motives.

The bigger news was the trial of Willem Holleeder. The charges of conspiring to murder van Hout and others were being heard in court when I was in Amsterdam, and his sister, who has written a tell-all about their childhood and Holleeder’s despotic behavior and misdeeds, was to testify against her brother. It was billed as the trial of the century.

A crowd of about 50 people jostled outside the courthouse, hoping for a glimpse of the defendant. Inside, Holleeder sat behind a clear security divider separating judges, prosecutors, lawyers, and the accused from the press and the public. It was just this sort of spectacle that Kok had cashed in on as a blogger.

Some journalists were inside the security divider, too. One of them was Paul Vugts, who writes for Het Parool, a daily newspaper. He was under police protection mainly because of his reporting on Moroccan criminals in Amsterdam, but he writes about a lot of vengeful people. He and his armed guards drove to the courthouse in two unmarked SUVs, like a criminal. Or a celebrity. Or both.

“Some criminals think I have too much information, too many good sources,” Vugts told me later. We were seated at a table in a discreet hotel bar. Sitting nearby, three mustachioed men wore puffy jackets, and I could see the protruding collar of a bullet-resistant vest. Vugts’s bodyguards, they would occasionally look our way. “They think I know more than the police,” he said of the underworld types he covers. Because of this, those criminals “want to kill me before I bring out the information.”

Reporting on crime is hazardous in Holland. In June, the offices of two prominent news outlets were attacked. A rocket was fired into the building that houses Panorama, possibly in connection with its reporting on a motorcycle gang, and a week later someone rammed a car into the entrance to Holland’s largest newspaper, De Telegraaf, and then lit the car on fire. There were no casualties, and the publications continued their coverage.

Kok was the unlucky one. His name is now synonymous with fame and misfortune, fearlessness and misinformation. And it’s a story that the killer turned writer could well have written himself. Kok’s only regret might have been that he wasn’t around to publish the name of the man who found him at the story’s end.

Which is surely what he would have done.


More Great WIRED Stories

Climate Change's Looming Mental Health Crisis

For the Inuit of Labrador in Canada, climate disaster has already arrived. These indigenous people form an intense bond with their land, hunting for food and fur. “People like to go out on the land to feel good,” says Noah Nochasak in the documentary Lament for the Land. “If they can’t go out on the land, travel a long ways to feel good, they don’t feel like people.”

The Inuit’s lands, though, are warming twice as fast as the global average, imperiling the ice they rely on to travel. In the fall, hunters tend to get stuck in the community, because ice hasn’t fully formed up—and again, in the spring, when things are melting. Climate change is making these ice transition periods even longer.

“During those times historically, there has been some increases in suicide or suicide attempts or ideation in the communities,” says Ashlee Cunsolo, a health geographer who has studied the region. “There is a lot of concern among the mental health practitioners. What does that mean if this time is lengthened from two weeks to eight weeks?”

It’s known as ecological grief—the mourning of ecosystems and species and ways of life that are disappearing as the planet warms. But it isn’t just hitting the Inuit. As our planet plays host to rising seas, more intense storms, and higher temperatures, those conditions will support a growing international mental health crisis.

“Things like depression, anxiety, post traumatic stress disorder, substance abuse, domestic abuse, all these things tend to go up in the aftermath of a natural disasters,” says psychologist Susan Clayton of the College of Wooster, co-author of an extensive report on climate change and mental health. “As we have more natural disasters, one would expect to also have increases in those kinds of mental health consequences.”

Take Hurricane Katrina. In its aftermath, a sample of survivors found one in six met the criteria for PTSD. Rates of suicide and suicidal thoughts doubled. And especially in refugee situations, those mental health challenges can be intimately tied to physical health, compounding the harm. “When people are moving to places they bring diseases with them that the home population might not be immune to, and on the flip side these people are moving into places where they might not have immunity to the diseases in the new place,” says Jonathan Patz, director of the Global Health Institute at the University of Wisconsin.

Even those whose homes aren’t directly threatened by sea level rise or fiercer hurricanes aren’t immune. By the end of the century, the average American will have to endure four to eight times the number of 95+ degree days. Arizonans will get it particularly bad: Their number of 95+ degree days a year will leap from an average of 116 to over 200. And several studies have made a link between higher temperatures and higher rates of suicide.

One particularly data-intensive survey recently published in Nature Climate Change compiled temperatures and suicide statistics on the county level for the US, and municipality level for Mexico. They compared these granular regions not with each other, but with themselves—so the average monthly temperature in Palo Alto in July 2009 versus July 2010. This controlled for differences between locations in factors like poverty rates or gun ownership rates, both of which have been tied to suicide rates.

The uptick in suicide rates the researchers found may be small—a rise of 2 percent in Mexico and .7 percent in the US for every additional degree Celsius in average monthly temperature—and the relationship is far from simple. Rates of suicide fluctuate around the world, and where those suicide rates are highest, the temperature isn’t necessarily the highest. But extrapolated forward, the impact on public health could be devastating. “The fact that our results are so consistent across different socioeconomic strata, across different populations, suggests a common biological response,” says Stanford economist Marshall Burke, lead author of the study.

It’s unclear if scientists will unearth shared mechanisms behind the mental health effects of climate-related trauma. But the experience itself is obviously, intuitively human. When Cunsolo and a colleague published an essay in Nature Climate Change earlier this year on ecological grief, the email response they got was huge, and it was cosmopolitan.

“It wasn’t drought-affected farmers, it wasn’t low-lying island states, it wasn’t people who had been forced to relocate, it was people often living in urban settings would describe this overall sense of despair and anxiety,” says Cunsolo.

The root of our shared problem may be the same, but the manifestations of climate change can be wildly different. “Each region, each place, each culture, is going to experience something very, very different,” says Cunsolo. For the Inuit, it’s about ice. For the Southern US, it’s supercharged hurricanes. As with all health care, prevention is the best medicine. But in the case of climate change, we may be too late.


More Great WIRED Stories

Bird scooters roll into Paris, Tel Aviv

SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) – Scooter rental company Bird rolled into Europe on Tuesday, a month after the two-wheeled electric vehicle startup was valued at $2 billion in its latest funding round.

Bird announced its foray into Paris, followed by a launch in Tel Aviv in the coming weeks, suggesting the company is dipping into its venture capital funding to stake out a global footprint. The company said it will start with small pilot programs of 50 to 100 scooters, with plans to add more.

It has raised $418 million and spread its operations to more than 30 cities in the United States.

Since its debut in September, Southern California-based Bird has become one of several electric scooter companies that have upset city transportation patterns and vexed regulators, while capturing the imagination of tourists and commuters looking for an alternative to cars, bicycles and city buses.

Bird said officials in Tel Aviv and Paris had advance notice of the scooter rental launch, an effort to avert possible regulatory battles.

The scooters will only be available on the campus of Tel Aviv University and in three districts in the center of Paris. Bird will gather data on how the vehicles are used and collaborate with city officials before deciding on a longer-term presence.

Bird said its global expansion is led by Patrick Studener, who oversaw Uber Technologies Inc’s [UBER.UL] international growth into Europe, the Middle East and Africa. Bird has about 30 employees in Europe.

It has plans to open an office in China and is entertaining an expansion into Latin America, according to people with knowledge of the matter.

Bird trails competitor Lime, a San Francisco-based e-bike and e-scooter company that launched in Paris in June and has “hundreds of scooters available throughout the city”, a company spokeswoman said. Lime is also in Switzerland and Germany.

Lime earlier this month raised $335 million from investors at a valuation of more than $1 billion, and signed a partnership with Uber to include Lime’s scooters in the ride-hailing company’s smartphone app. The lofty valuations of scooter companies have led some investors to caution that the sector has become over-hyped.

Scooter companies tout their product as an efficient transportation method for distances under three miles, reducing carbon emissions from cars.

However, basic issues remain unresolved, such as how cities will regulate scooters, where scooter users should ride the vehicles, helmet laws and fixing the backlog at scooter manufacturers. Approaches to regulations so far include capping the number of scooters allowed and requiring permits and fees.

Reporting by Heather Somerville