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21 Apr 05:02


24 Apr 15:08

The Key War on Terror Propaganda Tool: Only Western Victims Are Acknowledged

by Glenn Greenwald

In all the years I’ve been writing about Obama’s drone killings, yesterday featured by far the most widespread critical discussion in U.S. establishment journalism circles. This long-suppressed but crucial fact about drones was actually trumpeted as the lead headline on the front page of The New York Times yesterday:

The reason for the unusually intense, largely critical coverage of drone killings yesterday is obvious: the victims of this strike were Western and non-Muslim, and therefore were seen as actually human.

Pakistani lawyer Shahzad Akbar, who represents 150 victims of American drones and was twice denied entry to the U.S. to speak about them, told my Intercept colleague Ryan Devereaux how two of his child clients would likely react to Obama’s “apology” yesterday:

“Today, if Nabila or Zubair or many of the civilian victims, if they are watching on TV the president being so remorseful over the killing of a Westerner, what message is that taking?” The answer, he argued, is “that you do not matter, you are children of a lesser God, and I’m only going to mourn if a Westerner is killed.”

The British-Yemeni journalist Abubakr Al-Shamahi put it succinctly: “It makes me angry that non-Western civilian victims of drone strikes are not given the same recognition by the US administration.” The independent journalist Naheed Mustafa said she was “hugely irritated by the ‘drone strikes have killed good Westerners so now we know there are issues with drones’ stories.” The Washington Post’s Eugene Robinson this morning observed: “It is all too easy to ignore … the dubious morality of the whole enterprise — until the unfortunate victims happen to be Westerners. Only then does ‘collateral damage’ become big news and an occasion for public sorrow.”

This highlights the ugliest propaganda tactic on which the War on Terror centrally depends, one in which the U.S. media is fully complicit: American and Western victims of violence by Muslims are endlessly mourned, while Muslim victims of American and Western violence are completely disappeared.

When there is an attack by a Muslim on Westerners in Paris, Sydney, Ottawa, Fort Hood or Boston, we are deluged with grief-inducing accounts of the victims. We learn their names and their extinguished life aspirations, see their pictures, hear from their grieving relatives, watch ceremonies honoring their lives and mourning their deaths, launch campaigns to memorialize them. Our side’s victims aren’t just humanized by our media, but are publicly grieved as martyrs.

I happened to be in Canada the week of the shooting at the Parliament in Ottawa, as well as a random attack on two Canadian soldiers days earlier in a parking lot in Southern Quebec, and there was non-stop media coverage of the victims, their families, their lives:

Thousands of mourners packed a church and lined adjacent streets in industrial Hamilton, Ontario, on Tuesday for the funeral of the soldier shot dead in last week’s attack on the nation’s seat of government. … Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper told mourners at the church that [Corporal Nathan] Cirillo had inspired and united Canadians. He choked back tears in a rare public display of emotion when addressing Cirillo’s five-year-old son.


The coffin of Cpl. Nathan Cirillo, Oct. 28, 2004. (Frank Gunn/The Canadian Press/AP)

But as I noted in a speech I gave in Ottawa two days after the Parliament shooting, the victims of Canada’s own violence — in Afghanistan and Iraq — and of its sustained cooperation in the U.S. War on Terror campaign, are completely ignored. While all of Canada knew the name of Corporal Nathan Cirillo, only the most minute fraction of Canadians could name even a single one of the many innocent victims killed by their own government and military. They simply don’t exist.

This is the toxic tribalism that repeats itself over and over throughout the West. Western victims are mourned and humanized, while victims of Western violence are invisible and thus dehumanized. Aside from being repugnant in its own right, this formula, by design, is deeply deceptive as propaganda: It creates the impression among Western populations that we are the victims but not the perpetrators of heinous violence, that terrorism is something done to us but that we never commit ourselves, that “primitive, radical and inhumanely violent” describes the enemy tribe but not our own. (It’s the same tactic that explains why we hear so much about American journalists imprisoned in adversary nations such as Iran and North Korea, but almost nothing about Muslim journalists imprisoned for years without charges by the U.S. government, thus deliberately creating the false impression that only those Bad Countries, but not us, do this.)

To see how systematically the U.S. dehumanizes foreign Muslims, just think about that above-posted New York Times drone headline. The full headline is even more descriptive:

This “uncomfortable truth” has been obvious for so long. So often, the U.S. government shoots missiles at buildings, cars and homes outside of “battlefields” without having any idea who it will kill. Despite this fact — that not even the government itself knows who it is killing — the U.S. media routinely and reflexively describes victims of U.S. drone strikes as “militants.” Democrats and progressives, who to their eternal disgrace overwhelmingly support Obama’s drone killing program, will declare “we are killing The Terrorists!” to justify all of this even though the Obama administration itself, let alone these cheering progressives, have no idea who their government just killed.

How can people killed by the U.S. government regularly be described as “militants” or “terrorists” when nobody has any idea who they are? Part of it is classic authoritarianism: My government says the people they are killing are Terrorists, so therefore, they are Terrorists.

But the deeper, more troubling answer is equally clear: Foreign Muslims are so dehumanized, so invisible, that they are just equated with Evil Threats even when nothing is known about them. Indeed, Obama officially re-defined the term “combatant” to mean “all military-age males in a strike zone.” In other words, as The New York Times reported in 2011, all males between 18 and (roughly) 54 killed by U.S. drones are presumed to be combatants — terrorists — “unless there is explicit intelligence posthumously proving them innocent.” That mentality is the ultimate in dehumanization.

There are so many heinous stories of U.S. drones blowing up children and innocent adults. Obama used cruise missiles and cluster bombs to kill 14 children and 21 women in a Yemeni village (weeks after winning the Nobel Peace Prize), while a 2012 drone strike attacked a Yemeni wedding convoy and “killed 12 passengers in the vehicle, including three children and a pregnant woman.” Except for those who watch shows like Democracy Now or certain Al Jazeera shows, virtually no Americans ever learn the name of any of those victims, or even hear that they exist at all.

It shouldn’t take the drone-killing of an American citizen to enable a mainstream discussion of how much deceit and recklessness drives these killings. But it does. And that fact, by itself, should cause a serious examination of the mindset behind all of this.

Photo of Mustafa Qadri, a Pakistan researcher at Amnesty International (Susan Walsh/AP) 

The post The Key War on Terror Propaganda Tool: Only Western Victims Are Acknowledged appeared first on The Intercept.

24 Apr 05:04

Troll Hunting

by submission

Author : Lee S. Hawke

Cxx61 stares down at the knife embedded hilt-deep in his chest. It’s so cold. Without thinking, he takes a breath, then stutter-shrieks in pain as his muscles shift and contract around the blade, shredding himself from within. He has no measure for how much this hurts. His body shakes and spits and coughs, trying to live.

The man in front of him, his murderer, watches him dying with a polite smile. “I’m going to cut you open,” he says quietly. He reaches towards the hilt of the blade. Cxx61 feels it before he hears the horrible ripping sound. Flesh and meat part and he screams and screams.

Bizarrely, his last thought is that the blood staining his clothes and pooling around his dead body doesn’t feel quite right.


Cxx61 startles awake. He looks down. He’s in military gear, and he knows through force of habit that if he touches his cheeks they will come away flaked with camouflage paint. He looks up, expecting to see his team around him, but he is alone in an empty clearing that shouts target.

The déjà vu hits him like a train. It’s so quiet. There’s nothing but the sound of his harsh breathing and the peaceful wind. He hears a whisper of leaves and before he can think he’s bolted. Dirt and decayed matter scud underneath his feet, his breath comes in short gasps that stings through his side. He knows in the marrow of his bones that he is being followed, and that knowledge consumes his brain until he doesn’t even remember his name, he just remembers the feeling of dying, over and over and over again.

He trips and staggers. The sharp whine of a bullet passes his ear and he throws himself flat on the ground. The impact is like a crowbar to the ribs, and he has a horrible feeling he’s died like that before as well, beaten to death in a back alley.ˇ

The almost-but-not-quite memory has him up and sprinting again. Moments later, he hears another high-pitched scream and then his legs collapse from underneath him. He feels the horrifying, nerve-burning pain that tells him his spine has been severed.

Soft footsteps on the grass. A boot kicks into his side and rolls him onto his back. He looks up through the dirt and blood and agony and his murderer is there, the same as ever, face so plain as to be anonymous, smiling that polite, self-satisfied smile.

The man kneels down by his side like a minister. “I’m going to slit your throat from ear to ear, you pathetic bitch.”

And he does.


A body lies comatose on a government table. A squat, branded computer watches over him, occasionally flickering with pre-programmed code. Thin wires connect to his brain, and his eyes are covered in strands of sheathed electricity. Occasionally, the fingers twitch and there is a faint hitch in the breathing, almost a moan, but then it slides back into the regular rhythm of sleep.

One of his onlookers crunches into an apple. Juice flecks off onto her police badge, and she wipes it off absentmindedly. “How much longer, do you think?” she asks conversationally.

Beside her, a man shakes his shaved head. Patches of smooth, charged fabric flex and sigh and mould themselves tighter to his skull. He looks at the screen and its light flickers against his face. “His log has 676 recorded instances of death threats, 1239 rape threats,” he says. He smiles politely. “I’d say this is going to take all day.”

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24 Apr 12:56

It’s True: The Comcast/Time Warner Cable Merger Is Officially Dead

by Kate Cox

There you go, @Cooper, it's finally official.

comcast-twclogo_NOGOAs it was predicted yesterday, so it has come to pass: after 15 months of trying to get it approved, and opposition not only from consumers, consumer advocates, and lawmakers but also from regulators, Comcast is giving up on its dreams of acquiring Time Warner Cable and walking away entirely from the merger.

In a statement, Comcast CEO Brian L. Roberts accepted defeat, saying, “Today, we move on.  Of course, we would have liked to bring our great products to new cities, but we structured this deal so that if the government didn’t agree, we could walk away.”

That proved to be a prescient move for the cable behemoth, as regulators did indeed decide that the deal would make Comcast too big and give them too much leverage in an already uncompetitive market. Comcast filed the termination documents with the SEC this morning.

Roberts also thanked Comcast and Time Warner Cable employees for their hard work on the ultimately-failed merger, and added, “I couldn’t be more proud of this company and I am truly excited for what’s next.”

Rumors swirled earlier this week that Comcast might walk away from the acquisition after sources inside both the Justice Department and the FCC told press that Comcast’s case wasn’t looking good. An objection from either agency would have been enough to stop the merger, as we explained yesterday. That both agencies objected, and could not agree with Comcast on conditions that would make the merger acceptable, means that Comcast would have had to spend an extraordinary amount of time and money publicly airing its dirty laundry to try to convince them otherwise — and would probably still have failed.

FCC chairman Tom Wheeler applauded Comcast’s decision to back off from the merger, saying in a statement that the proposed merger “would have posed an unacceptable risk to competition and innovation.”

Our colleagues at Consumers Union and our parent company Consumer Reports also cheered on the end of the merger. “This is a major victory for consumers who stood up against a media Goliath and won, and a major victory for everyone who wants a fair and competitive marketplace,” said Marta Tellado, president and CEO of Consumer Reports. “Comcast never was able to make a convincing case for why the merger would benefit anyone other than Comcast.”

“This mega merger was a sweet deal for Comcast but a poor one for consumers that would have hurt competition and stifled innovation,” added Ellen Bloom, senior director of federal policy at Consumers Union. “Comcast would have profited handsomely, while consumers ended up paying more and facing fewer choices.”

“The defeat of Comcast’s mega merger and the FCC’s decision earlier this year to enact strong net neutrality rules shows that the people can win when they stand united,” Bloom concluded. “We applaud the regulators and members of Congress who sided with consumers and opposed this deal. Now it’s time to get to work to foster more competition and affordable choices in the broadband market.”

CU advocated ardently against the merger, both on their own and also as members of the Stop Mega-Comcast Coalition.

Consumers, content companies, and what few competitors exist are now spared from Comcast getting even larger. But Time Warner Cable remains an attractive acquisition target: Charter may try again to purchase some or all of the cable company, which still has attractive footholds in New York and L.A. And Comcast won’t want to sit idle; they’ve got $45 billion burning a hole in their pocket and will want to spend it on something.

But for now, for today at least, Comcast and TWC can now join AT&T and T-Mobile in the “too bad, so sad” failed-merger afterparty room while the rest of us take a quick sigh of relief.

24 Apr 16:32

Former CIA head’s no-jail sentence for leaking called “gross hypocrisy”

by David Kravets

Yesterday, former CIA Director David Petraeus was handed two years of probation and a $100,000 fine after agreeing to a plea deal that ends in no jail time for leaking classified information to Paula Broadwell, his biographer and lover.

"I now look forward to moving on with the next phase of my life and continuing to serve our great nation as a private citizen," Petraeus said outside the federal courthouse in Charlotte, North Carolina on Thursday.

Lower-level government leakers have not, however, been as likely to walk out of a courthouse applauding the US as Petraeus did. Trevor Timm, executive director of the Freedom of the Press Foundation, called the Petraeus plea deal a "gross hypocrisy."

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24 Apr 00:14

Well, That Escalated Quickly

by Brad
22 Apr 22:34

Ninja Sex Party Takes a "Boning" Road Trip

by Don

Ninja Sex Party is out with a new music video detailing his impressive sexual exploits across the entire world over the past year.

22 Apr 05:46

Jeb Bush loves Obama('s NSA surveillance)

by Cory Doctorow

Who says bipartisanship is dead?

Jeb Bush's appeared on Michael Medved’s conservative talk radio to praise Obama's massive expansion of GWB's domestic surveillance program, and had some genuinely insightful things to say about how Obama is helping to destroy the fundamentals of democracy while insisting that he is opposed to his own policies:

I would say the best part of the Obama administration would be his continuance of the protections of the homeland using the big metadata programs, the NSA being enhanced. Advancing this — even though he never defends it, even though he never openly admits it, there has been a continuation of a very important service, which is the first obligation, I think of our national government is to keep us safe.

Jeb Bush Praises Obama’s Expansion of NSA Surveillance [Glenn Greenwald/The Intercept]

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22 Apr 21:29

Sorry About That, Mother Earth

by Brad
22 Apr 13:09

Man puts 8 bullets in his Dell, tells police it’s worth the ticket

by Megan Geuss

On Monday around 7pm, 37-year-old Colorado Springs resident Lucas Hinch took his Dell XPS 410 out into the alley behind the building where he lives and runs a homeopathic herb store, pulled out his 9mm handgun, and put eight bullets through the PC, in cold blood.

The Dell, it seems, had been causing Hinch trouble in recent months and gave him a blue screen of death for what turned out to be the final time on that fateful evening. It's unclear what version of Windows the computer was running before it met its demise.

According to the local police blotter, Colorado Springs police responded to the sound of the gunshots and ticketed Hinch for discharging his gun within city limits, a misdemeanor offense. Police spokeswoman Catherine Buckley told the Los Angeles Times that Hinch had just purchased a new gun, and when the police arrived on the scene, he told the officers he didn't realize he was breaking the law in discharging his weapon.

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21 Apr 21:05

Paramount reportedly shopping Galaxy Quest TV series

by Lee Hutchinson

I'd watch it.

Fans of Commander Peter Quincy Taggart and the crew of the NSEA Protector rejoice: according to a report in Variety, Paramount has plans to try to bring a TV series based on the cult hit film Galaxy Quest to the small screen.

Variety says that the effort includes Galaxy Quest co-writer Robert Gordon and director Dean Parisot, along with the film’s executive producers Mark Johnson and Melissa Bernstein (who have most recently worked on Breaking Bad and Better Call Saul).

Released in 1999, Galaxy Quest is a pastiche of science fiction television, telling the tale of the fictional eponymous TV show Galaxy Quest, which when the movie opens has been off the air for years. The show’s actors continue to perform on the convention circuit and the show has its own gaggle of devoted ear-wearing (and headpiece-wearing) cosplaying fans. The action kicks off when the show’s former leads are sort-of-kidnapped by actual for-real aliens, who have been watching TV transmissions of Galaxy Quest echoing through space and who believe the show to be actual-for real "historical documents"—and who, in the grand tradition of Seven Samurai and Three Amigos, need the help of some actual for-real heroes to save them from actual for-real bad guys.

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21 Apr 21:38

Waka Flocka Announces Presidential Run

by Don

In honor of yesterday’s 420 celebration, rapper Waka Flocka Flame announced plans to run for President of the United States in a video message on Rolling Stone. If elected, Flame assures voters that he would “legalize marijuana” as his first order of business as president.

21 Apr 21:44

Quadruple Rainbows: What Do They Mean?!

by Brad

NYC fashion entrepreneur Amanda Curtis captured this rare sight of four rainbows stretching over the sky.

21 Apr 18:24

obviousplant: Doing my best to help prevent crime…


Via Cooper Griggs


Doing my best to help prevent crime…

21 Apr 17:22

This Is The Face of a Man Who Has Seen It All

by Brad

This is Mike Rogers, the Director of the National Security Agency (NSA). His face says it all; he’s seen some s**t.

21 Apr 04:36

When In Doubt, Science

Ads by Project Wonderful! Your ad could be here, right now.

For the record, I disagree with all three of them- day-old fried chicken is the superior leftover food.

20 Apr 18:10

What Game Was Hillary Clinton Playing in '93?

by Brad

Grey brick? 90% chance it's Tetris.


Hillary Clinton plays a game on a Nintendo “Game Boy” on her flight from Austin, Texas to Washington DC. Photographed by Ralph Alswang (April 6, 1993). Courtesy of William J. Clinton Library (via The Daily What).

20 Apr 16:46

"420 Blaze It"

by Brad

The unofficial slogan of the national weed day.

20 Apr 19:32

Target Practice

by jon


Have you ever noticed that casual gamers have slightly smaller craniums, like babies or toy dogs? It’s weird.

We’re offering a brand new t-shirt for buying! It’s inspired by this comic and it goes a little something… like this:


19 Apr 18:52

A bill to fix America's most dangerous computer law

by Cory Doctorow

Senator Ron Wyden [D-OR] and Rep. Jared Polis [D-CO] have introduced legislation in the US Senate and House to fix one of the worst computer laws on the US statute books: section 1201 of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, which forbids breaking digital locks, even for lawful purposes.

Under DMCA 1201, people and companies who make legal modifications to your property face civil and criminal jeopardy. For example, mechanics aren't allowed to break the digital locks on your car to diagnose its problems and repair it, meaning that it's a no-fooling crime to fix a car without a license from the manufacturer. The Internet of Things is being born with the inkject printer business model, where every part is locked so that it only works with approved components and consumables, from which monopoly rents can be extracted. Get ready for DRM on your dishes.

Wyden and Polis's Breaking Down Barriers to Innovation Act of 2015 goes a long way toward fixing this. It makes it unambiguously legal to break DRM for legal purposes -- so you could make a PVR that records your Netflix videos, a universal ebook reader that merges your Kobo, Ibooks and Kindle collections, or a drop-in replacement for Samsung's speech-to-text module that didn't record what you say in your living room and send it to third parties.

Though this is sponsored by two Democrats, it should be a no-brainer for any self-respecting Republican. If you believe in markets and property rights, there is no government interference more odious than a law that literally criminalizes doing legal things with your property just because the company that originally manufactured it would like to imprison you in its walled garden.

And while the obvious beneficiaries of this law are competition and innovation, the real effect will be to improve security. Since a computerized appliance is a computer with spyware out of the box, keeping digital locks intact has meant criminalizing people who report bugs in the computers we rely on utterly. Once the I-Can't-Let-You-Do-That-Dave business model is dead, the legal rubric for keeping bugs secret will also die.

Even more important: this runs directly contrary to the NSA's plan to make it technically impossible and illegal to run software they can't spy on. That only works if you don't have the right to jailbreak your devices.

Bill Introduced To Fix Broken DMCA Anti-Circumvention Rules [Mike Masnick/Techdirt]

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19 Apr 17:25


16 Apr 13:00

What a Pot Head


Under the influence of pot, but the look of it.


Submitted by: Unknown

Tagged: cooking , drugs , funny , idiots , pots
16 Apr 13:07

The clone that wasn't

by Leigh Alexander

Could you design a brand-new game using only a deck of classic playing cards? It’s a cool idea -- repurposing familiar components in an original context. But the design for the game that would become Donsol was born out of necessity, the mother of invention. A pack of cards was all the creators had on hand.

Devine Lu Linvega developed the iOS version of Donsol, a game that sees heart suits re-cast as “health potions,” clubs and spades as “monsters”. Starting with four cards, the player gathers health and fights enemies, making their way through an imagined dungeon space making combat calculations -- the health cards versus the monsters. It’s a fascinating idea.

The only problem is that completely unbeknownst to Linvega, someone had already made it.

Donsol is almost exactly like Zach Gage’s Scoundrel. Was malicious copying afoot, or is it just that there’s only so much you can do with a deck of cards after all?

Linvega met John Eternal, who works for Sony, on the Train Jam earlier this year. Game developers buy tickets to buy the cross-country train to San Francisco, with the annual Game Developers Conference as the final destination. On the trip, they form tiny teams and make small games -- in game development, the “jam” environment posits that with unique settings and specific constraints, collaborative new ideas and relationships can form.

According to Linvega, Eternal turned up for the jam, but left his power supply behind. “Stuck on a train for 52 hours, he had to… improvise,” Linvega tells me. “He had a deck of cards, and he made this game.”

Linvega and his colleague enjoyed the result so much that Linvega volunteered to make a score-keeping app for Donsol on iOS. He ended up helping iterate on the design and contributing his stark, distinctive art style to the cards.

When Zach Gage found out about Donsol, it was an unsettling experience: The game was “basically identical” to Scoundrel, a game the prolific designer had created in 2011 along with Kurt Bieg. The similarities were so strong Gage found it hard to believe neither Linvega, whom he knew, and Eternal, whom he didn’t, had seen Scoundrel before.

Cloning, particularly on the App Store, is a crippling problem for game developers today. Releasing a high-quality game -- one that takes financial investment, time and design innovation to create -- on a mobile marketplace for even a tiny fee usually means a clone artist will quickly knock off the game wholesale and offer their nearly identical version for free.

When a game is popular, this means a cloner can siphon massive amounts of revenue from the original designer and enrich themselves via ads in the free app. Your average casual game player isn’t concerned with the difference between a free puzzle and the “authentic” original -- if they’re aware of an original at all.

The highest-profile case of this phenomenon recently is probably the case of Threes, a hooky number-puzzle that had its thunder stolen by 1024, a clone whose market penetration seems to have wildly outperformed the original. Mainstream outlets like CNBC, no better informed than your average consumer about the games market, even breathlessly celebrated the overnight success of 2048 -- a game that was itself a clone of a clone.

Apple has shown no inclination to curate or prevent clones on its platform, as it has no real financial incentive to address the issue. As much as the company has relied on games to showcase the appeal of its iPhone and iPad, at the end of the day it’s not interested in becoming a “games platform”. Even though smartphones and tablets could become the next great ecosystem of play -- the devices are virtually ubiquitous in the Western world -- saturation on the App Store and the prevalence of clones choking the financial viability of truly new, high-quality ideas on mobile marketplaces continue to inhibit game developers from investing meaningfully in those spaces.

But Scoundrel, while played heavily for a time in the small-world game design community (where it would certainly have the opportunity to be seen by and to influence many designers) never actually saw digital release, and today lives mainly as a ruleset; there’s no edition on mobile marketplaces at all, let alone one that sits beside Donsol. In fact, Linvega tells me, he and John Eternal were more worried about being compared to a different card battle game called Card Crawl (which also has some traits in common with Scoundrel, naturally).

“It’s very hard for me to imagine [Devine Lu Linvega] cloning someone, with his track record of originality,” a bewildered Gage admits. As a massive fan of Linvega’s work myself (read a profile I did of him here), I feel the same: The enigmatic creator hardly seems interested in populist trends, or even in media coverage.

He has a diverse portfolio of small works unified by a minimalist black-and-white design sensibility: A language-learning app, a strange alt keyboard, an alien diplomacy game involving bodily fluids and uncomfortable intimacy. My favorite Linvega project, Paradise, is a living universe of text, descriptions of objects nesting within one another, and any user can add to it. It’s easy to see why he’d be attracted to Donsol’s simplicity, but hard to believe he’d ever be interested in emulating anyone else for personal gain.

Both Linvega and Eternal say they never saw or heard of Scoundrel before. Eternal said the inspiration for Donsol was nothing more specific than Dungeons and Dragons; for Linvega’s part, he said it was his decision to distill Eternal’s suggested five-card “worlds” down into Scoundrel-like four-card ones. Both creators were more than happy to offer Gage a credit on their App Store game -- it seems as though the striking similarities were nothing more than a mistake. playingcards

Designer and teacher Naomi Clark is one of the greatest minds of the New York City game scene. I asked her how possible it is, how common it is, for game designers simply to have simultaneous ideas. Maybe there’s a limit, I thought, on how many things can optimally be done with certain components.

Game mechanics are nothing but sets of possibilities: for relationships between things, interactions between players, how nodes of an ecosystem can interact. “I tend to think of game mechanics as if they're things that are already out there in the world, independent of individual human beings -- that we're discovering something, rather than coming up with it all by ourselves,” she says.

“This explains why two people creating a game can stumble across the same mechanic, the same interaction and effect, even if they've never met, never played each other's games,” Clark continues. She’s even had it happen to her.

“It used to make me gnash my teeth, that someone else had also come across the idea that I was so proud of devising, and had beaten me to announcing or launching a game,” she says. “Over time, I've gotten much less attached to the feeling that any game mechanic could truly be ‘my idea’.”

For example, Clark is currently re-imagining cyberpunk dystopia card game Netrunner as a Victorian drama of manners (for fun, not profit): “A game is a lot more than a mechanic, and if anything could end up being ‘mine’, it'd be how I worked with a fundamental idea and molded other parts of a game to accompany it,” she says.

“The recent lawsuit over ‘Blurred Lines’ and its similarity to Marvin Gaye's ‘Got to Give it Up’ surprised many music-industry observers exactly because the conventional wisdom about songs is that only the lyrics and top-line melodies can be "cloned" or copyrighted,” says Clark. “Other aspects of a song, from the structure of the song's phrases to ‘classic’ rhythm lines and hooks, are shared in common between many songs.” playingcards2

As a relatively young medium that often courts very focused and intense fans -- the same people who go on to become creators -- game development is fairly insular relative to other media, and the pool of influences tends to be more limited. That’s why the idea of innovation is so widely worshiped in the design community, often invested with inappropriate primacy.

“In the case of the dungeon-crawling solitaire games, the creator of Card Crawl seems to have deliberately taken inspiration from Scoundrel, while the creator of Donsol describes the similarity as accidental,” says Clark. “Both are believable, not just because we can independently discover the same things, but because we're in a period when there's more and more overlap between digital game designers and board & card game designers.”

“The fact that all three games are presented as dungeon-crawling roguelikes definitely isn't just a coincidence -- it's also born from a shared cultural heritage,” Clark adds.

“Still,” Linvega tells me, “it's the kind of mistake you can only do once in your career.”

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15 Apr 16:20

Half-Life 2 Update - Gravity Gun > Modern FPS

by Ben "Yahtzee" Croshaw

This week, Zero Punctuation reviews Half-Life 2 Update.

15 Apr 04:39

Jobs Worth

by Jae Miles

Author : Jae Miles, Staff Writer

“Tom! Tom!”

I shake my head and massage my jaw as I sit up. The pretty woman crouched by me looks worried. Behind her I hear a struggle occurring. That has something to do with the pain in my jaw.

“Are you okay?”

Good question. I raise my hand for a pause and take stock. I’m in a nice suit, sitting on the grey carpet tiles of the floor next to an overturned chair. I glance at her name tag.

“I’m fine, Margaret.”

“Thank god for that! I thought he was going to kill you!”

He was? Fragmented memories return: Arthur Windemere, long-term claimant. He’d come in for a ‘New Year Restart’ review and – what?

“Give me a moment, Margaret. That shook me up a bit.”

I stand up and see a green-jacketed figure, presumably Arthur, being locked into restraints by a police officer while a pair of security officers hold him. He’s screaming all sorts of nonsense and they’re not trying to calm him down.

“Let me help you up.”

With Margaret’s assistance I manage to stand up and lean on my desk. He must have really clouted me one. A chap in a blue uniform hurries over to me.

“Okay, Tom, we’re going to go down to the medical centre and get you checked over.”

He escorts me out of the open-plan office, down a long corridor, into a white room where two nurses wait. I lie down as instructed and he proceeds to do a very thorough examination before looking me in the eye.

“How’s the head, Tom?”

“Things seem to be a bit jumbled –” I look at his name tag. “Andy.”

With a smile he whips out an injector and applies it to my neck. There’s a brief stinging sensation and a sudden warmth accompanies my mind settling.

My name is Tom. I am part of the Cleardown team. We go into the welfare centres and work with the stubborn cases, using our skillsets to identify and goad the temperamental ones into assault, drive the vulnerable to suicide and the needy back out onto the streets where nature will save us money before spring. I know every miniscule piece and combination of legislation to withhold welfare chips. Using that, I drag every claimant through a bureaucratic nightmare until they snap – or die. Dying is preferred: less datawork.

When they attack me in frustration they contravene the terms of their agreement with WFA (Welfare For All). Prosecution is inevitable and they will join labour units or get exiled to Titan. More importantly, they are removed from the ‘black triangle’ of foodpacks, freedata and hydrofare; thus ceasing to be a drain upon our society.

My predecessor was Steve and my successor will be Ulrich. We are designed to be fragile in certain ways, so it takes less than the usual amount of force to break us. The more severe the sentence, the better it is.

Andy escorts me back and Margaret has already tidied my work area.

“For a moment I thought we’d had another bad one like the bloke who used to sit here.”


She looks at me, eyes misty with tears: “He got attacked and cracked his head on the desk. Poor Steve never had a chance.”

“You’re a caring woman, Margaret. This place needs more people like you.”

Her eyes narrow and then open wider as she smiles; having decided that I am sincere.

“You remind me of him.” She looks down, then back at me: “What are you doing after work?”

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15 Apr 06:22

Arkansas cops send malware to whistleblowers' lawyers

by Cory Doctorow

An Arkansas lawyer representing ex-cops who blew the whistle on corruption in the Fort Smith Police Department says that when he gave the police brass a blank hard-drive for discovery documents, they returned it laden with sneaky malware, including a password-sniffing keylogger and a backdoor that would let the police department spy on their legal opponents.

According to court documents filed last week in the case, Campbell provided police officials with an external hard drive for them to load with e-mail and other data responding to his discovery request. When he got it back, he found something he didn't request. In a subfolder titled D:\Bales Court Order, a computer security consultant for Campbell allegedly found three well-known trojans, including:

* Win32:Zbot-AVH[Trj], a password logger and backdoor
* NSIS:Downloader-CC[Trj], a program that connects to attacker-controlled servers and downloads and installs additional programs, and
*Two instances of Win32Cycbot-NF[Trj], a backdoor

All three trojans are usually easily detected by antivirus software. In an affidavit filed in the whistle-blower case, Campbell's security consultant said it's unlikely the files were copied to the hard drive by accident, given claims by Fort Smith police that department systems ran real-time AV protection.

"Additionally, the placement of these trojans, all in the same sub-folder and not in the root directory, means that [t]he trojans were not already on the external hard drive that was sent to Mr. Campbell, and were more likely placed in that folder intentionally with the goal of taking command of Mr. Campbell's computer while also stealing passwords to his accounts."

Lawyer representing whistle blowers finds malware on drive supplied by cops [Dan Goodin/Ars Technica]

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14 Apr 16:34

On Patrick Chapin, Round Six, And The Importance Of First Impressions, by Cedric Phillips


High drama in the world of colorful playing cards.

SCGLive Lead Commentator Cedric Phillips stops by to weigh in on the sloppy and disastrous details of one of the most infamous rounds of Magic ever covered.
15 Apr 13:20

Titanic As A SNES RPG

by Gergo Vas

Titanic As A SNES RPG

The largest ship of the early 20th century would also be one of the smallest JRPG settings, as seen in this video by CineFix.

The clip is based on the 1997 movie with visuals similar to that era and man that’s one of the funniest usage of Final Fantasy VI tilesets I’ve seen.

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15 Apr 07:01

Comic: 101, Part Two

by (Tycho)
New Comic: 101, Part Two
15 Apr 04:00


If you live in the Northern hemisphere, anyway. In the southern hemisphere, due to the coriolis effect, babies are born nine months BEFORE they're conceived.