Mouse shakers, power naps: Corporate America fights ‘keyboard fraud’

A customer looks at a laptop computer with Microsoft Copilot+ installed on display at the Best Buy store on June 18, 2024, in Miami, Florida. (AFP)
A customer looks at a laptop computer with Microsoft Copilot+ installed on display at the Best Buy store on June 18, 2024, in Miami, Florida. (AFP)
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Updated 19 June 2024
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Mouse shakers, power naps: Corporate America fights ‘keyboard fraud’

Mouse shakers, power naps: Corporate America fights ‘keyboard fraud’
  • In one viral Reddit post titled “My manager caught me with a mouse jiggler,” an employee noted that the transgression was the “last straw” after he excused himself from several meetings citing “power outages” and “thunderstorms”

WASHINGTON: A US banking giant fired more than a dozen employees for “simulating keyboard activity,” highlighting a battle within productivity-obsessed corporate America to tame a culture of faking work with gizmos such as mouse jigglers.
The sackings by Wells Fargo come as employers use sophisticated tools — popularly called “tattleware” or “bossware” — on company-issued devices to monitor productivity in the age of hybrid work that took off after the Covid-19 pandemic.
Some workers seek to outsmart them with tools such as mouse movers — which simulate cursor movement, preventing their devices from going into sleep mode and making them appear active when they may actually be getting a power nap or doing laundry.
The cat-and-mouse game — no pun intended — has spurred a wider debate in corporate America about whether screentime and the click-clacking of keyboards are effective yardsticks to measure productivity amid a boom in remote work.
The Well Fargo workers were dismissed last month following a probe of allegations involving “simulation of keyboard activity creating impression of active work,” Bloomberg reported, citing the company’s disclosures to financial regulators.
Wells Fargo “holds employees to the highest standards and does not tolerate unethical behavior,” the company said in a statement, without elaborating.

Multiple US surveys show that demand for employee monitoring software — systems that track activity via desktop monitoring, keystroke tracking and even GPS location — has shot up since the pandemic.
One Florida-based social media marketing company, according to the Harvard Business Review (HBR), installed software on employees’ devices that took screenshots of their desktop every 10 minutes.
Such surveillance has given rise to what human resource professionals call “productivity theater” — in which some employees seek to project that they are busy while doing nothing constructive.
A series of “tutorials” on platforms including TikTok and YouTube even teach how to appear busy on computer screens, which generally go black after a few minutes of inactivity.
Those include fake PowerPoint techniques for “when you need to take your afternoon nap.”
“Just hit ‘slideshow’ and you’re good,” Sho Dewan, an influencer who identifies himself as an “ex-recruiter sharing HR secrets,” said in a TikTok video that garnered millions of views.
The device will stay “active” while the presentation is on, he said flashing a thumbs up before a slide that read: “Really important work meeting.”
Among the hundreds of comments under the video, one viewer quipped: “At one point I taped a mouse to an oscillating fan — why couldn’t I have found (this) sooner?“

Another trick noted in the tutorials involves opening a notes application and placing a lock on any keyboard letter. The worker thereby appears active to tracking devices while the page fills up with row after row of the same letter.
But the most popular trick appears to be the deployment of mouse jigglers, widely available on Amazon for as little as $11.
“Push the button when you’re getting up from your desk and the cursor travels randomly around the screen — for hours, if needed!” reads one product review on Amazon.
But there remains a serious risk of getting caught.
In one viral Reddit post titled “My manager caught me with a mouse jiggler,” an employee noted that the transgression was the “last straw” after he excused himself from several meetings citing “power outages” and “thunderstorms.”
He noted that he had installed a software-based jiggler, prompting some readers to suggest using “non detectable” physical ones.
HR professionals warn of the dangers of surveilling employees and confusing keyboard activity with productivity.
One survey cited by HBR suggested that secretly monitoring employees can “seriously backfire.”
“We found that monitored employees were substantially more likely to take unapproved breaks, disregard instructions, damage workplace property, steal office equipment, and purposefully work at a slow pace,” the HBR report said.
A.J. Mizes, chief executive of the consulting firm Human Reach, said the use of mouse jigglers demonstrated a “work culture driven by metrics rather than meaningful productivity and human connection.”
“There has been a growing troubling trend of excessive surveillance in corporate America,” Mizes told AFP.
“Rather than stirring up innovation and trust, this surveillance approach will only push employees to find additional ways to appear busy.”
 

 


Cyprus displays once-looted antiquities dating back thousands of years

Cyprus displays once-looted antiquities dating back thousands of years
Updated 22 July 2024
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Cyprus displays once-looted antiquities dating back thousands of years

Cyprus displays once-looted antiquities dating back thousands of years
  • The returned artifacts numbering around 60 were part of a larger haul of 250 antiquities that German authorities had seized from Turkish art dealer Aydin Dikmen in 1997

NICOSIA: Cyprus on Monday put on display artifacts — some of them thousands of years old — that were returned after a Turkish art dealer looted them from the ethnically divided island nation decades ago.
Aydin Dikmen took the artifacts from the country’s breakaway north in the years after Cyprus’ split in 1974, when Turkiye invaded following a coup mounted by supporters of union with Greece. The antiquities were kept in Germany after authorities there seized them in 1997, and protracted legal battles secured their repatriation in three batches, the last one this year.
Addressing the unveiling ceremony at Cyprus’ archaeological museum, President Nikos Christodoulides said the destruction of a country’s cultural heritage as evidenced in recent conflicts becomes a “deliberate campaign of cultural and religious cleansing that aims to eliminate identity.”
Among the 60 most recently returned artifacts put on display include jewelry from the Chalcolithic Period between 3500-1500 B.C. and Bronze Age bird-shaped idols.
Antiquities that Dikmen also looted but were returned years ago include 1,500-year-old mosaics of Saints Luke, Mark, Matthew and James. They are among the few examples of early Christian works to survive the Iconoclastic period in the 8th and 9th centuries when most such works were destroyed.
Cyprus’ authorities and the country’s Orthodox Church for decades have been hunting for the island’s looted antiquities and centuries-old relics from as many as 500 churches in open auctions and on the black market.
The museum’s antiquities curator, Eftychia Zachariou, told the ceremony that Cyprus in recent years has benefited from a shift in thinking among authorities in many countries who now opt to repatriate antiquities of dubious provenance.


Baby flamingos saved from drought-decimated lake in Algeria

Baby flamingos saved from drought-decimated lake in Algeria
Updated 22 July 2024
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Baby flamingos saved from drought-decimated lake in Algeria

Baby flamingos saved from drought-decimated lake in Algeria

OUM EL BOUAGHI: Around 300 pink flamingo chicks were rescued by volunteers in eastern Algeria after the salt lake where they hatched dried up following years of high temperatures and drought.
Thousands of flamingos migrate each year to nest in Lake Tinsilt, located around 450 kilometers (about 280 miles) southeast of the capital Algiers.
It is one of the largest wetlands in the country, with an area of more than 20 square kilometers.
“Barely a month ago there was water here,” volunteer Mourad Ajroud told AFP on Friday, pointing to what is now a vast expanse of cracked earth littered with the carcasses of dead birds.
The disappearance of the lake, which locals and Algerian media attribute to high temperatures and a years-long drought, has driven the adult flamingos away.
They left behind their unhatched eggs and defenseless chicks, dozens of which have died from hunger, thirst, poaching and wolf attacks.
A group of volunteers provided their cars and trucks to transfer 283 pink flamingos about 50 kilometers away to Lake Mahidiya, about 50 kilometers away.
The wetland near Ain Mlila remains flush thanks to a steady flow of water from nearby rivers and lakes.
The rescue operation was initiated by local amateur photographer Tarek Kawajlia, who documents the wildlife in his area, and noticed the decrease in the size of the lake and the flight of birds.
The volunteers carry out “morning and evening patrols to follow the chicks until they recover and are able to fly, so that they can return next year to the sabkha (marsh) and life can resume its normal course,” Kawajlia told AFP.
Ajroud, 53, said the group was not able to save all the birds.
“We couldn’t transport them all,” he said sadly, as another volunteer takes an injured bird to a veterinary clinic.
A few hours after the chicks were released at their new habitat, some adult birds joined them.
“The operation was successful and the parents found their little ones in a magnificent scene,” Kawajlia said in a comment on one of his photos posted to Facebook.
Lake Tinsilt is one of the around 50 bodies of water in Algeria declared wetlands of international importance under the Ramsar international environment treaty to protect wetlands.
Last year, about a hundred pink flamingos died at Lake Telamine in western Algeria’s Oran province due to wastewater pollution, according to environmental activists.


Artist swaps British Museum coin with fake

Artist swaps British Museum coin with fake
Updated 22 July 2024
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Artist swaps British Museum coin with fake

Artist swaps British Museum coin with fake
  • Ile Sartuzi said the idea came to him when he saw a museum volunteer handing visitors coins to handle

LONDON: A Brazilian conceptual artist swapped a historic British coin for a fake in the British Museum to highlight the large number of foreign objects it holds.
Ile Sartuzi said the idea came to him when he saw a museum volunteer handing visitors coins to handle.
He asked for an English Civil War-era silver coin because “It is one of the few British things in the British Museum” and then created a diversion while he swapped it for the fake.
Sartuzi told Reuters he deposited the original coin in the museum’s collection box on the way out. The Art Newspaper first reported his act, which he recounted in a video made for his master’s degree at Goldsmiths, University of London.
The British Museum said it would inform police about the incident, which took place in June.
“This is a disappointing and derivative act that abuses a volunteer led service aimed at giving visitors the opportunity to handle real items and engage with history,” a museum spokesperson said when asked for comment.
Sartuzi said institutions such as the British museum and France’s Louvre view themselves as the “holders of the treasures of humanity. The problem is that these institutions are the basis of imperialist cultures that looted a lot of these objects from the global south and world.”
The British Museum has been under scrutiny over the way it acquired some of the artefacts it holds, with some countries asking for pieces to be returned. Examples include the Parthenon Sculptures and Nigeria’s bronzes looted by British troops in 1897. It did not respond to Sartuzi’s allegations.
Sartuzi, who has exhibited in Brazil, Portugal and London, said he had sought advice from an art lawyer before swapping the coin.
The Museum dismissed an employee a year ago and ordered a review of security after it discovered hundreds of items had been stolen from its collection or were missing.


A 12-year-old girl is accused of smothering her 8-year-old cousin over an iPhone

iPhones are displayed during an event in Cupertino, Calif., on Tuesday, Sept. 10, 2019. (AP)
iPhones are displayed during an event in Cupertino, Calif., on Tuesday, Sept. 10, 2019. (AP)
Updated 21 July 2024
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A 12-year-old girl is accused of smothering her 8-year-old cousin over an iPhone

iPhones are displayed during an event in Cupertino, Calif., on Tuesday, Sept. 10, 2019. (AP)
  • The recording shows the older child using bedding to suffocate her cousin as the younger girl slept in the top bunk, Gibson District Attorney Frederick Agee’s statement said

HUMBOLDT, Tennessee: A 12-year-old girl in Tennessee has been charged with murder, accused of smothering her 8-year-old cousin as the younger girl slept. A relative said they had been arguing over an iPhone.
A security camera recorded the killing, inside the bedroom they shared on July 15 in Humboldt, Tennessee, the county prosecutor said.
The recording shows the older child using bedding to suffocate her cousin as the younger girl slept in the top bunk, Gibson District Attorney Frederick Agee’s statement said. After the child died, “the juvenile cleaned up the victim and repositioned her body,” Agee said.
A relative told WREG-TV in Memphis that the girls had been arguing over an iPhone after coming from out of town to stay with their grandmother.
The girl was charged with first-degree murder and tampering with evidence after authorities obtained the video on Wednesday.
“I consider this to be one of the most disturbing violent acts committed by either an adult or juvenile that my office has prosecuted,” Agee wrote in the statement.
He said he would petition a judge to prosecute the girl, who turns 13 later this month, in adult court, which would allow for “a lengthier sentence, whether that will be through incarceration or supervision with court-ordered conditions.”

 


Watermelon soap from cosmetics firm Lush will support Palestinian children’s mental health

Watermelon soap from cosmetics firm Lush will support Palestinian children’s mental health
Updated 19 July 2024
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Watermelon soap from cosmetics firm Lush will support Palestinian children’s mental health

Watermelon soap from cosmetics firm Lush will support Palestinian children’s mental health
  • Soap made from natural ingredients and safe synthetics such as rapeseed, coconut, watermelon, bergamot, rose

LONDON: British cosmetics retailer Lush has launched a watermelon soap, the proceeds of which will fund essential mental health support and trauma counseling for children in Gaza and the West Bank.

Watermelons have emerged as a symbol of solidarity with Palestine, as they contain the colors of the Palestinian flag.

The Lush soap is made from natural ingredients and safe synthetics such as rapeseed, coconut, watermelon, bergamot and rose.

In 2011, the British Medical Journal published a review study that found high rates of post-traumatic stress disorder among Palestinian children. New research by Save the Children has reported that feelings of depression, hyperactivity, a preference for being alone, and aggression are now reported by 95 percent of children in Gaza.

Lush’s support is nothing new. The company sources extra virgin olive oil from Palestine’s Marda Permaculture Farm, which is dedicated to social and environmental regeneration. The farm encourages sustainable agricultural practices and offers economic opportunities to local communities.