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March 2020
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DOJ Correctly Takes Down Fraudulent COVID-19 Website Selling Bogus 'Vaccine Kits'

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While it always raises alarm bells when the government is taking down websites, the Justice Department's announced enforcement action against a website claiming to sell "vaccine kits" for COVID-19 appears legit. At issue was some scammer who put up a website fraudulently claiming that the World Health Organization was "giving away vaccine kits" and you just had to give this just registered website $4.95 for "shipping" and you'd get one of these kits. The website, laughably, claimed:

You just need to add water, and the drugs and vaccines are ready to be administered. There are two parts to the kit: one holds pellets containing the chemical machinery that synthesises [sic] the end product, and the other holds pellets containing instructions that tell the drug which compound to create. Mix two parts together in a chosen combination, add water, and the treatment is ready.
The DOJ complaint suggests this was all just a scam to get credit cards and purchaser info for further identity scams with no actual product ever being sent.Again, while taking down websites always raises some 1st Amendment concerns, those don't seem to apply here. This was just blatant fraud, first claiming to be associated with the WHO, and second selling some snake oil vaccine or treatment that doesn't exist... oh, and on top of that, never actually having any product to sell, and likely using the credit card info for further scams. So, unlike some other law enforcement claims of prosecuting "false information" about COVID-19 and the response, this is a legitimate law enforcement action to stop outright fraud.Of course, given how many lies the President has been spewing about the COVID-19 response, it wouldn't surprise me to see him point people to similar websites via a tweet before this week is over. I mean, he's already pushing people to try snake oil treatments that are literally killing people.

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posted at: 12:00am on 26-Mar-2020
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After Years Of Being Blamed For Everything, The World Turns To Video Games To Escape During Coronavirus Shut-In

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For years and years and years, video games have suffered the brunt of blame for all manner of the world's ills. Real world violence? Video games. Mass shootings? Video games. Soccer team not performing well? Video games! Kids getting into hacking? Bruh, video games! Men not finding women attractive enough to keep the human race going? Video games did that, too!Which makes it kind of fun to now see media outlets suggesting, nay, pushing those impacted one way or the other by the coronavirus outbreak to go jump into those same dastardly video games.

Think of gaming as a personal stimulus plan for a nation of unexpected shut-ins: It’s not a long-term solution, it won’t work for everyone, and it won’t solve the underlying problems — but it can provide limited, temporary relief for some.Video games take many forms, but they are all essentially simulations. And when the real world is temporarily unavailable, a simulated version might be what we need.
Those of us who evangelize gaming, of course, have shouted this same line for years. Still, the point is only partially right. Yes, video games are something of a simulation... but typically a fantastical one. Which is the entire point, of course. During times of high stress, and being forced to be shut-ins by some invisible enemy that we may already have inside of us certainly qualifies, a little escapism through entertainment is nearly medicine. And certain games, frankly, are particularly well-suited to this situation.Stuck inside a small house or apartment because your state is in lockdown? Fire up that big screen TV and Skyrim and just walk the wilds for a while. Miss being able to get out into your big city and enjoy a little freedom? GTA will at least give you a simulation of that, albeit an over the top ridiculous one. Just need to turn your brain off for an hour because you lost your job and need to relax? I'll be damned if Stardew Valley won't set you at ease.
That makes games useful in another way. Some of us are shut in alone. But especially in cities, many are now effectively trapped inside modest apartments with family or roommates, and little private space. Games offer a form of personal escape, a way to simulate being elsewhere from the confines of your couch.And for those who are alone, games can also serve as social spaces, virtual fields of play for cooperative adventures or competitive contests. Many of today’s most popular games are online experiences that allow players to engage with friends as well as strangers, to forge digital versions of the same sort of bonds with teammates that can develop in the real world.
As the post notes, these are not long-term solutions, but they are therapy of a kind. All I'll say is that we should be damned glad our PCs and consoles aren't vengeful, or they'd refuse to help us in our time of need with all of the abuse we've heaped on them.

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posted at: 12:00am on 26-Mar-2020
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