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03 Aug 18:06

Mr. Clean

by submission

Author : Rick Tobin

“C’mon, judge, you can’t be serious. That’s an old Earth name for an ancient product. There can’t possibly be trademark claims. There isn’t anything living in North America…it’s under a mile of ice.” Praxton Billings sat up straight before the judge. He rubbed his mustache a few times. Nerves.

“We, the court, understand your defense, but the retention of ancient code is a tradition upholding our humanity, far beyond our origins. This is the last Earth colony. We maintain our culture or we become another lost, migrating species passing through space.” Three judges sat before the lanky space cleaner, under a fiber tree, as was the custom.

“Look, I just clean ships. I barely make out after costs for fuel and repairs. You have to admit it’s one reason they come to our little outpost; that, and the water. If they don’t get the crap off their bulkheads they risk miscalculating exits from star drive. No one wants to eat an asteroid through the hull. Penalizing me for using Mr. Clean as a business name could close me down.” He raised his pale hands, stretching his white jump suit in supplication to the tribunal.

“You had an approved name from the licensing council. Was that not sufficient?”

“Not really. They picked it. Barnacle Bill…really? Nobody out here knows what the hell a barnacle is, and my name is Praxton. Their business name dishonored my parents.”

“And your reasons for desiring to continue this line of work?”

“Not too hard there. With my puny physique I was unfit for farming or water works. Sex slave would have been ridiculous. But the first time I learned about dark matter, and all those life forms that were building up on the skins of spaceships, I knew I could make a difference just removing debris, making junkers and cargo hulks look shiny again. I could bring pride back to the lonely pilots and crews that were ashamed of the hulks they pushed through vacuum. I love what I do and my clients relate to me as Mr. Clean.”

“So why didn’t you reapply to the council? That is the normal process.”

“And be down for six months, waiting on their decision? Think of the lives lost if those ships aren’t sparkling. I couldn’t sleep if I knew that I caused their deaths. And consider the critical cargoes that show up late when stellar customs finds creatures on the outside that are forbidden in our sector. Pilots have no way of knowing what snatched a ride as they move out of hyper drive. So, not only do I protect other worlds, I protect ours, before they land. In fact, I was scheduled to work on a contaminated cruiser before it sets down over there this afternoon.” Praxton pointed at the city’s single space port.

The senior judge scowled before calling his adjutants to his side to whisper. They soon turned and faced Praxton.

“We have judged that you have a special case worthy of dismissal. Based on need and value, we have selected to overturn the council’s claim and we reinstate you as Mr. Clean. Now, for the sake of us all please go decontaminate that ship.”

Praxton rose, bowed lightly to the tribunal, and walked off the field to his waiting cleaning scow. His brain was spinning, trying to remember if there was any scheduled incoming freighter he could offer free services to cover his story.

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02 Aug 19:24

Spanners and Dust

by Jae Miles

Author : Jae Miles, Staff Writer

They call me Wrench. It’s not particularly imaginative, but it does the job. Just like Socket, who still has a case to keep all the fiddly bits together. I like the adaptability and extra weight of a wrench, though. Socket has to be sneaky, coz if he hits anyone hard he might bend the case, so he has to use the long-handled socket drive as a little club. Still, it’s better than the spannermen. You get a poxy little quarter-inch or seven-mil to start. You can’t kill anybody with that easily. You have to get really personal about it, almost like knifework.

Knives. Yeah, I remember knives. I’m old. Seen one once, but the guardsman put it away before anyone could make a grab for it. It was just after Ma and Pa got downgraded. Good thing Pa dabbled with mechanicals as a hobby. Down here among the piles, if you can’t fix anything, you’re just fodder. Nobody wants to be fodder.

How did it get this bad? You’re asking at the wrong end of this society, chum. You want to go upside to get the lowdown on that. All we know is that our uncles and aunts made a bit of a stink about being chosen to be the underclass. They kept on making a stink until the upsiders had just about banned everything we could use against ‘em. The Bandroids were the trick. Couldn’t fool one of them. We just got our sharps taken away, then they took our blunt gear too. Left us with not a whole lot to do anything with, truth be told. But the treadmills at the powerplants don’t need tools, they just need legs.

Spanners? No, I don’t know how that came about either. Somebody screwed up, is my guess. Bandroids don’t consider spanners and similar to have weapons potential, so they leave us with ‘em. My adjustable wrench came from me pa. Biggest one not confiscated, so he said.

Blades? Yeah, we have a few. Problem is, Bandroids come in a lot of sizes and the small ones will call big ones and so it goes. A man can’t even get a decent shave no more. Got to use that cream instead. It’s just not manly, I tell you. A man should be able to shave with a razor. But at least we can mix that cream with solvent, freeze it and get Dust crystals. Makes a man forget his troubles for a few hours, does Dust.

Rebellion? You’ve been listening to those resistance stories, haven’t you? Well, come with me. That much I can give you a clear steer on. You see that place up there? That’s Socket’s girl’s place. Yeah, it’s proper clean. She can do that because she is the resistance. Well, she writes a good resistance. Your bosses pay her a good-damn fortune for articles about a rebellion that only exists on paper.

Illegal? Not a bit. Socket’s girl is smart. She got it all cleared with the Department of Bans. Seems she can write about rebellion as much as she likes. Makes the folk upside all nervy and obedient, she got told. That’s a good thing, apparently.

Why would I want to fight a battle where most of us would die to get to a place where I don’t know how to live? We’ve about got it sorted right here. Spanners and Dust. It’s all a man needs, these days.

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26 Jul 16:50

Will Work For Electricity

by submission

Author : Gray Blix

[In the control room they hear what she hears in stereo and see what she sees on left and right vision monitors.]

A well-dressed man is sitting behind a desk, talking on the phone. His tag IDs him as “Technical Recruiter.” She stands nervously until he gestures for her to be seated.

[“What a prick.”]

After several minutes, he hangs up and, dispensing with a greeting, starts the interview abruptly with, “Your name?”

[“Now he’s turning on the charm.”]

“Maddison Fox. That’s with two d’s.”

His expression is quizzical.

“Is that a British accent?”


[“Synthetic voices with foreign accents are accepted more readily as human.”]

He makes a notation on a pad, “Of course.”

“Excuse me, sir, but do you have my resume?”

“No. My assistant reviewed it, but I’d rather you tell me about yourself.”

[“She doesn’t recognize that as a request.”]

“Tell me about yourself,” he repeats.

“Oh,” embarrassed, she begins, telling him she graduated with high honors in mechatronics from a respected Australian university and worked three years for a startup robotics company in Sydney.

“Why are you leaving them?”

“Well, I haven’t made a final decision to do so, but I’m combining my vacation in San Francisco with interviews. Actually, FirstAmeriBot is at the top of my list. I want to work with the best in the world.”

He asks about projects she’s worked on, and as she talks, he makes notations and shows increasing interest in her answers.

[“She fits the specs perfectly; he’s taking the bait.”]

As the interview progresses, he becomes more cordial and it’s obvious he’s not only impressed with her professionally, but personally. He cracks a smile.

[“Her hair, facial, and body features, as well as her clothing and behavioral patterns, are all designed to make her irresistible.”]

He says her education and experience would qualify her for a temporary worker visa, and she says she won’t need one because her mum is an American, so she has dual US-Australian citizenship.

[“Reel him in.”]

The interview turns into a relaxed conversation in which the two laugh often. When he hands her a brochure, she lets it drop to the desktop and brushes her fingers on his hand. He quickly withdraws it and summarizes medical-dental benefits. Finally, he says he will arrange for her to meet the team leader for robotics before week’s end.

[High fives all around.]

Answering the phone, he holds his hand over it to say “Sorry, I’ll have to take this privately, but I’ll call you this afternoon, Maddy.”


As she exits, a glance back shows him admiring the sway of her hips.

[“He can’t stand up or she’d see his…”]

Her POV approaching an elevator shows a man risking his fingers to stop the door from closing. He’s all smiles as she enters.

“Do you work here?”

[“After she’s hired, we’re going to have to dial back her… She’s not equipped for intimacy.”]

[“What’s the point of planting her in FAB, since they’re behind us?”]

[“To take them down technical dead ends, sabotage their R&D, make sure they don’t catch up.”]

Two people enter the interview room. Their tags ID him as “Team Leader, Robotics” and her as “Chief Scientist.” She unplugs the interviewer and pulls him backwards, revealing an upper body and chair back attached to a metal box on wheels.

Removing a side panel, “I can’t wait to get her in the lab and reverse engineer her locomotion hardware and software.”

“It’s Thanksgiving in July and she’s a gift turkey,” he says, “to be plucked, gutted, and devoured.”

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20 Jul 14:52

Comic for 2015.07.19

20 Jul 00:14

Stephen Colbert has a text adventure now, and it’s great.

by Nathan Grayson

Stephen Colbert has a text adventure now, and it’s great. Escape From The Man-Sized Cabinet chronicles Colbert’s adventures while waiting for his new show to start. You can die alone and afraid in a cabinet! Or you can explore a place that’s basically Narnia. Your call.

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19 Jul 05:10

We've Been Expecting You

by Brad
18 Jul 15:15

Tetris: The Kotaku Review

by Chris Suellentrop

Tetris: The Kotaku Review

Like the delightful and oppressive mobile-game galaxy that it summoned, Tetris is both seductive and dispiriting. Alexey Pajitnov’s falling-block puzzler captures the pleasure and the vacuousness of virtual labor. Each game of Tetris contains an interactive “Ozymandias,” a fruitless quest to build something that will outlast the lone and level sands. Look on my tetrominoes, and despair.

The best-known and best-loved video game—100 million copies played on mobile devices, dozens of millions on Game Boys, another 8 million on Nintendo Entertainment Systems, still more on personal computers—is not a Skinner box of rewards for players but a bleak encounter with futility. Like Space Invaders and Missile Command, or endless runners like Canabalt and Temple Run, Tetris ends with certain death. It is a jigsaw puzzle that must be assembled on deadline, yet never can be.

Tetris does not bother to offer its players the mercies of explosions or of dead aliens or of graceful, leaping arcs. Just blocks and more blocks, an unforgiving rain as predictable as the mounting seconds of the petty pace that creeps to our last syllables.


The sharply cornered right angles of the game’s shapes, and the Russian folk music in the game’s typical score, contribute to the atmosphere of cold, mechanical inhumanity (at least to American ears). In the New York Times Magazine a few years ago, Sam Anderson wrote:

Tetris was invented exactly when and where you would expect — in a Soviet computer lab in 1984 — and its game play reflects this origin. The enemy in Tetris is not some identifiable villain (Donkey Kong, Mike Tyson, Carmen Sandiego) but a faceless, ceaseless, reasonless force that threatens constantly to overwhelm you, a churning production of blocks against which your only defense is a repetitive, meaningless sorting. It is bureaucracy in pure form, busywork with no aim or end, impossible to avoid or escape. And the game’s final insult is that it annihilates free will. Despite its obvious futility, somehow we can’t make ourselves stop rotating blocks. Tetris, like all the stupid games it spawned, forces us to choose to punish ourselves.

All of that is true about Tetris, but if it were all that is true about Tetris, we would not find the game so captivating. Tetris might be the purest distillation of what a video game is. Devoid of story, character, navigation, even metaphor, Tetris isolates an interaction among player, machine, and screen and commands our attention with it. Nothing about what is best about Tetris translates to another medium.

Tetris: The Kotaku Review

Children, especially, are drawn to Tetris because it provides them a measure of control over a chaotic, strange, overwhelming universe. The fact that Tetris always ends means that it is always beginning. It is a game of green shoots, of empty canvasses, of newborn infants, of hope. Janet Murray, writing in Hamlet on the Holodeck, saw Tetris as a way for the player and Pajitnov to reach out to each other and create meaning out of emptiness. “Tetris allows us to symbolically express agency over our lives,” she wrote. “It is a kind of rain dance for the postmodern psyche, meant to allow us to enact control over things outside our power.”

Tetris gives us a respite from our existences, and a reminder that there isn’t one, as we hurtle toward the heat death of the universe. That it wordlessly contains both is what makes it a perfect game, a manifestation of our desperate, impossible need to steal a moment of happiness when—in grocery lines, in waiting rooms, in the back seats of minivans—life attempts to steal it from us.

Chris Suellentrop is the critic at large for Kotaku and a host of the podcast Shall We Play a Game? Contact him by writing or find him on Twitter at @suellentrop.

Gif by Sam Woolley

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18 Jul 05:12

A Statement From the Gawker Media Editorial Staff

by Gawker Media Editorial Staff on Gawker Politburo, shared by Stephen Totilo to Kotaku

Our union drive has expressed at every stage of the process that one of our core goals is to protect the editorial independence of Gawker Media sites from the influence of business-side concerns. Today’s unprecedented breach of the firewall, in which business executives deleted an editorial post over the objections of the entire executive editorial staff, demonstrated exactly why we seek greater protection. Our opinions on the post are not unanimous but we are united in objecting to editorial decisions being made by a majority of non-editorial managers. Disagreements about editorial judgment are matters to be resolved by editorial employees. We condemn the takedown in the strongest possible terms.

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18 Jul 04:35


17 Jul 22:53

Get It Together, Emma

by Brad
17 Jul 22:44

Sounds Like an Awful Week

by Brad
17 Jul 13:58

State Department willing to overlook Malaysia's mass graves for the sake of TPP

by Cory Doctorow

The fast-track bill rammed through Congress last month lets the president walk right into any trade deal he wants, so long as it's with countries that have decent human rights records.

The State Department had previously classed Malaysia as a "Tier 3" country based on its abysmal human rights record, whose abuses revolve around trafficked migrant workers. 139 mass-graves for trafficked workers were discovered two months ago.

Fast Track authority only applies to countries that rate as "Tier 2" or higher, and Malaysia is one of the TPP countries that the White House is seeking to rope into the Trans Pacific Partnership. So John Kerry's State Department waved a wand, and without any explanation, upgraded Malaysia to Tier 2 -- mass graves and all.

It appears that this may have been a move too far for some Senators, as 19 of them are demanding some answers from Secretary of State John Kerry about this decision to "upgrade" Malaysia.

In the letter, senators said that upgrading Malaysia would weaken the U.S. government's international credibility on human rights issues.

"Fighting human trafficking is one of the great moral challenges of our time," the senators wrote. "It is therefore with grave concern that we now hear Malaysia may be upgraded in this year’s Trafficking in Persons (TIP) report based on developments that occurred after the end of the review period. A premature upgrade of Malaysia would undermine the integrity of the TIP report process and compromise our international efforts to fight human trafficking."

Senators Up In Arms Over State Department Plan To Deliberately Ignore Malaysian Mass Graves Just To Get TPP Deal [Mike Masnick/Techdirt]

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16 Jul 20:57

Poisonous snake kills teenage pet store worker, then escapes

by Mark Frauenfelder

More importantly, this is the first I've ever heard of a real-life poisonous snake! (/sarcasm)

Remember kids venom is injected, poison is ingested.


A poisonous monocled cobra has escaped near Austin, Texas after biting and killing an 18-year-old pet store employee who was keeping it at his home. Grant Thompson was found unresponsive in a parking lot with puncture wounds on his wrist. He was pronounced dead at the hospital. Police found six tarantulas, a foot-long non-venomous Mexican hognose snake, and an African bullfrog in Thompson's car.

Austin Animal Services is not going to look for the snake. “It would be like looking for a needle in a haystack,” said Austin Animal Services spokeswoman Patricia Fraga.

Monocled cobras are native to South and Southeast Asia. They are highly venomous and very common in Thailand. According to Wikipedia: the "monocled cobra causes the highest fatality due to snake venom poisoning in Thailand."

Thailand Snakes has a good info page about monocled cobras, where they are described as "fierce."

Here's a video that is likely to make you respectful towards monocled cobras:

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16 Jul 18:28


16 Jul 17:31

ACLU to appellate court: Please halt NSA’s resumed bulk data collection

by Cyrus Farivar

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has asked one of the nation’s top appellate courts to order the National Security Agency to stop its bulk records collection, which resumed in limited form last month as part of the USA Freedom Act.

The Second Circuit Court of Appeals had previously ruled in ACLU v. Clapper in May 2015 that the dragnet data collection went beyond the scope of what was authorized by Congress.

“This dragnet surveillance program should never have been launched, and it should certainly be terminated now,” Jameel Jaffer, deputy legal director of the ACLU, said in a Tuesday statement. “Not even the government contends anymore that the program has been effective, and the Second Circuit has already concluded that the program is illegal. It’s a needless and unlawful intrusion into the privacy rights of millions of innocent Americans.”

Read 3 remaining paragraphs | Comments

16 Jul 17:00

How much do electric cars actually pollute?

by Jonathan M. Gitlin

Last week, we took a look at the role incentives can play in encouraging people to buy electric vehicles (EVs). Today, we bring you a paper from the National Bureau of Economic Research that attempts to calculate the environmental benefits of EVs versus conventional vehicles in light of those subsidies. Is it as desirable to encourage EV use in a state where the electricity comes from burning coal as it is in a state where that electricity comes from natural gas or nuclear power?

The authors, four economists from the University of North Carolina (UNC) Greensboro, Dartmouth College, Middlebury College, and UNC Chapel Hill have created what they describe as "a powerful and unprecedented modeling framework for analyzing electric vehicle policy." They do this with three different components. First, a model of consumer choice between EVs and gasoline-powered cars. Next, they incorporate the effect of EV charging on air pollution from individual power stations. Finally their model compares the emissions from these power stations with the emissions internal combustion vehicles would produce at the same location.

The analysis uses some quite complicated formulae to calculate the damages that result from emissions per mile from 11 different battery EVs on sale in 2014, compared to the closest internal combustion engine-powered equivalent, independent of price. Where possible they've compared like models, so the EV Ford Focus vs a regular Focus, a Fiat 500e vs a regular Fiat 500, and so on. For cars where there isn't a conventional model (Nissan Leaf, Mitsubishi i-MiEV, Tesla's Model Ss) the authors picked cars they believed were equivalent in features (Toyota Prius, Chevrolet Spark, BMW 7-series). Then they compared the EVs' kWh/mile rating with the gasoline cars' fuel economy, as well as pollution from nitrogen oxides, sulfur dioxide, small particulates, and volatile organic compounds.

Read 5 remaining paragraphs | Comments

16 Jul 16:54

Feds bust through huge Tor-hidden child porn site using questionable malware

by Ars Staff

A newly unsealed FBI search warrant application illustrates yet another example of how the government deploys malware and uses sophisticated exploits in an attempt to bust up child pornography rings.

The 28-page FBI affidavit (text-only, possibly NSFW) was unsealed in a federal court in Brooklyn, New York earlier this month. It describes a North Carolina server hosting a Tor hidden service site. The setup was seized in February 2015, but law enforcement allowed it to run for two additional weeks as a way to monitor its nearly 215,000 users.

Currently, at least three men—Peter Ferrell, Alex Schreiber, and James Paroline—have been charged in connection with this site.

Read 23 remaining paragraphs | Comments

16 Jul 16:25

UK schools' "anti-radicalisation" software lets hackers spy on kids

by Cory Doctorow

The spyware that Impero supplies to UK schools -- which searches kids' Internet use for "jihadi" terms -- uses "password" as its default password, and the company has threatened brutal legal reprisals against the researcher who repeatedly demonstrated their total security negligence.

Zammis Clark posted his findings to Github (they've been removed). The company's lawyers, Gately, threatened action against him for violating their terms-of-service (which ban reverse engineering, the gold standard for testing the security of a technology) and for copyright infringement under the UK equivalent of the DMCA, which contains a version of section 1201's anti-circumvention clause.

Spying on kids is a terrible way to solve your problems. Spying on them with incompetent, insecure malware that lets anyone with half a brain hijack their computers, storage, keystrokes, mics, and cameras? That's just evil.

Clark has been given until 17 July to act on the demands in the letter. He says he isn’t sure how he’ll respond. “Obviously, to researchers, a legal threat just says that ‘we do not work with security researchers at all’, causing a security researcher to either go straight to full disclosure, or worse, not look at the software at all, which would mean potentially security issues would not be found, or worse, be found by blackhats [malicious hackers].”

All of which leaves the two parties at an awkward impasse. Whilst he says he was unsure of where he would responsibly disclose the issue, should Clark have made private contact first? Perhaps. But Impero’s decision to ban anyone from reverse engineering its code in its terms and conditions is designed to prevent outsiders from poking holes in the technology. That’s anathema to a research community that works on the premise they are permitted to hack everything as long as they’re not doing so for malicious gain, only to highlight threats in the name of security.

This 'Anti-Radicalisation' Tech Teachers Use To Monitor Kids Has A Shocking Security Hole [Thomas Fox-Brewster/Forbes]

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16 Jul 02:23

If Pokemon Evolutions Were Realistic

by Brad

Bulbasaur summoned Darwinism! It’s SUPER EFFECTIVE!

15 Jul 18:43

The 4th Largest Religion According to Google

by Brad
14 Jul 20:34

Ancient Atari 2600 Arcade Port Pops Up, And It's So Bad

by Mike Fahey

Ancient Atari 2600 Arcade Port Pops Up, And It's So Bad

Santa Clara’s Digital Game Museum came across a near-complete version of the cancelled Atari 2600 version of arcade classic Xevious. Behold the primitive glory of what passed for a console port in the early ‘80s.

For those of you that haven’t been alive and gaming for as long as I have, Xevious was a scrolling arcade shooter released in 1982 by Namco. With sharp graphics and relatively frenetic action, it was one of my go-to games whenever I’d steal quarters from my grandmother’s purse and hit up the local arcade.

Here’s a look at the arcade version, courtesy of Old Classic Retro Gaming.


As it did with many popular arcade titles, Atari had planned ports of Xevious for both the Atari 2600 and 5200. Both were cancelled in 1984. In progress versions of the 2600 version have been floating around since, but have lacked a title screen, final sprites, enemy waves, and music.

Then this showed up at the Digital Game Museum as part of a donation of Atari memorabilia.

Ancient Atari 2600 Arcade Port Pops Up, And It's So Bad

It’s got everything earlier prototypes were missing. Titles, sound—everything. It’s an incredibly impressive find, even if the game itself looks pretty ridiculous by today’s standards.

“This version of Xevious is one of the most faithful arcade ports I’ve ever played on the Atari 2600,” said Dave Beaudoin, Digital Game Museum board member via official press release. ”The speed and responsiveness combined with the graphics and audio are jaw dropping. It’s amazing they were able to get this kind of performance out of the 2600.”

Sure it’s silly now, but back in the day I would have killed for a chance to play this. Digital Game Museum has teamed up with video game and pinball convention California Extreme to insure visitors to the show this weekend won’t have to kill a single person. Visitors will be able to play the newly-discovered classic on an Atari 2600 system, with a full arcade version standing by for comparison’s sake.

Ancient Atari 2600 Arcade Port Pops Up, And It's So Bad

Oh yeah, that’s the stuff right there.

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14 Jul 04:24

A $200 privacy device has been killed, and no one knows why

by Dan Goodin

A security researcher has abruptly cancelled next month's scheduled unveiling of a privacy device designed to mask Internet users' physical locations. It's a move that has both disappointed privacy advocates and aroused suspicions.

Ben Caudill, a researcher with Rhino Security Labs, took the unusual step of saying he no longer plans to release the software or hardware schematics for his so-called ProxyHam box. He said the devices already created have been destroyed. Caudill has offered no explanation for the killing of the project, but he has reportedly ruled out both intellectual property disputes and Federal Communications Commission licensing concerns.

That has left some people to speculate a secret government subpoena known as a National Security Letter is at play in the decision to kill the project. That speculation seems unlikely because NSLs are a very specific legal process typically served on e-mail providers, phone companies, or the like for specific information, Electronic Frontier Foundation General Counsel and Deputy Executive Director Kurt Opsahl said.

Read 5 remaining paragraphs | Comments

14 Jul 03:34

The Illuminati Is Staring Into Your Soul

by Brad
13 Jul 18:54

Tribute to Mr. Iwata

by TriforceBun

13 Jul 17:52

Nintendo President Satoru Iwata, who launched Wii, dies of cancer at 55

by Xeni Jardin
Nintendo Co's President and Chief Executive Satoru Iwata. REUTERS/Toru Hanai, 2014

Nintendo Co’s President and Chief Executive Satoru Iwata. REUTERS/Toru Hanai, 2014

Nintendo issued a brief statement tonight on the death of Satoru Iwata, the gamer and programmer who served as the Japanese gaming company’s fourth president and CEO.

Nintendo Co., Ltd. deeply regrets to announce that President Satoru Iwata passed away on July 11, 2015 due to a bile duct growth.

Under his leadership, Nintendo launched the monumentally successful Wii video game console. Released in 2006, the Wii has sold more than 101 million units worldwide.

Kotaku writes that he was forced to skip E3 last year because of his poor health, and soon underwent surgery to remove the bile duct growth. “A few months later, in the wake of concerns over his health, he said via Twitter ‘I’m progressing well’.”

Iwata was born and raised in the northern Japanese city of Sapporo. He programming games in high school and studied computer science at the Tokyo Institute of Technology.

Bloomberg on his humble origins:

Iwata was a teenager when Nintendo entered the video-game business. He desperately wanted into the industry, against his parents’ wishes, according to the book. In 1982, after working as a freelance game programmer, he joined HAL Laboratory, a Nintendo unit created in 1980 to make games for the parent company’s consoles. He eventually became president of HAL, before moving to Nintendo as head of corporate planning in 2000. In 2002, the year Iwata took the post of president, Nintendo had annual sales of 555 billion yen ($4.5 billion).

The Wall Street Journal notes that his death places “the company’s leadership in question just months before it embarks on its first foray into mobile gaming.”

Mr. Iwata had been president since 2002 and led the introduction of successful products such as the Wii console. But in recent years, the company’s share price and market presence lagged behind with the rise of games on smartphones, a trend which Mr. Iwata was long reluctant to join.

His final major move as president came in March of this year, when he appeared at a news conference to say that the company would develop videogames for smartphones based on its classic characters such as Super Mario. Nintendo struck a partnership with DeNA Co., a Japanese game provider, under which the companies will exchange ownership stakes and set up a new mobile game platform.

“Nintendo is undergoing one of its biggest shifts ever,” Tokyo-based videogame consultant Serkan Toto told the WSJ. “Iwata-san’s passing away will make things a little problematic, but it is not unsolvable.”

Mashable has a roundup of fan reactions here, noting that Iwata was “well-loved by gaming fans for his constant involvement and interaction,” appearing “in countless digital press events, videos and other media, always with a smile and a winningly goofy attitude.”

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13 Jul 06:15

The First Five Minutes Of The Worst Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Game

by Mike Fahey

Yeah, I had TMNT available, but SMB3 was the better designed and more fun game, so I didn't bother once I got the the goddamn underwater section. Fuck all that coral.

Let’s celebrate San Diego Comic-Con with a property that embodies all aspects of media—comic books, television, movies, video games, toys—and how that can be a really bad thing.

Some people love Konami’s 1989 Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles for the NES, played here via original Ultra Games cartridge in Hyperkin’s Retron 5. The didn’t mind the harsh difficulty or buggy controls that led to as many deaths as the thoughtless design. They were fine with a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle game that only let you play one turtle at a time, completely ignoring a major theme of the property.

I am not one of those people. I remember anger and frustration and disappointment. But it was anger, frustration and disappointment at a time when you couldn’t just hop on Steam or pick up your phone for something else to play, so I played it. I hated it, but I wouldn’t let it break me.


At least not until the underwater bit. Damn this game.

The First Five is the first five minutes of a game with light commentary. Once the five minutes are up, so are we, and we mean it. No exceptions at all. That means you, Fahey.

Contact the author at or follow him on Twitter at @bunnyspatial

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13 Jul 06:06

Nintendo President Satoru Iwata Dies At 55

by Luke Plunkett

RIP, Iwata-sama

Nintendo President Satoru Iwata Dies At 55

Nintendo has just issued a short statement announcing that president Satoru Iwata has passed away at the age of 55.

The statement reads:

Nintendo Co., Ltd. deeply regrets to announce that President Satoru Iwata passed away on July 11, 2015 due to a bile duct growth.

Iwata was forced to skip last year’s E3 due to his poor health, and shortly afterwards underwent surgery to remove the bile duct growth. A few months later, in the wake of concerns over his health, he said via Twitter “I’m progressing well”.


A talented programmer, Iwata first joined Nintendo’s HAL Laboratory in the 1980s, where he worked on games like Balloon Fight and EarthBound. He became a Director of the company in 2000, and in 2002 was appointed as only the fourth President of Nintendo when he succeeded Hiroshi Yamauchi.

In his time as President, Iwata oversaw some of the strongest (Wii, DS) and weakest (GameCube, Wii U) periods in Nintendo’s history as a video game company. In recent times, he developed almost cult status as the host of the Nintendo Direct programs.

An immensely popular figure both within the industry and with Nintendo fans, he will be sorely missed. Rest in Peace, Mr. Iwata.

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13 Jul 00:10

Officer suspended after refusing to kill baby bears

by Carla Sinclair

Ok, so he killed their mother, taking away their chance at surviving in the wild, then lost his appetite for killing, and sentenced these young animals to captivity until such time as they are deemed capable of returning to the wild, or, alternately, a life of entertaining large brained-apes.

I give an 8/10 for conscience, and about 2.5/10 for good decision making.


A mama bear with two cubs made a habit of sneaking into a mobile home in British Columbia, Canada and raiding the freezer. On one of these visits, conservation officer Bryan Casavant was ordered to kill all three bears. But after putting down the mama bear, he didn’t have the heart to kill the babies.

Despite being ordered to put them down, Casavant tranquilized the cubs and took them to a veterinary hospital, where they were deemed to be in good health. The cubs, named Jordan and Athena, were then taken to a recovery center run by the North Island Wildlife Recovery Association in Errington.

For his good deed, Casavant is now suspended from his job and under investigation. Fortunately, he’s got a lot of public support for his heroic act.

At the time of this writing, an online petition calling on B.C. Environment Minister Mary Polak to reinstate Casavant has attracted nearly 152,000 signatures. It only needs around 48,000 more to reach its goal of 200,000.

Make that 47,999.

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12 Jul 17:10

10 Years and $1B Later, Little Progress in Establishing Rule of Law in Afghanistan

by Jenna McLaughlin

For over 10 years, U.S. government agencies have been attempting to establish the rule of law and a basic justice system in Afghanistan. But according to a newly released audit, the effort is an unaccountable, largely unsuccessful use of over $1 billion taxpayer dollars.

According to the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction, the push through more than 60 different programs to establish rule of law in the country has been “impaired.”

Overall, SIGAR noticed four major problems with the current programs, which it detailed in a 52-page report. The agencies lack a clear strategy; they don’t keep good track of the money they’re spending; there’s almost no way to measure success; and the Afghanistan government doesn’t seem particularly interested.

The rule of law is generally considered to require accountability, lack of corruption, transparency, fundamental rights, civil and criminal justice, and a functioning government.

Though SIGAR recognizes the difficulty in “achieving ideal or perfect program performance measurement in Afghanistan” considering problems with “security, mobility, illiteracy, and other challenges,” it concludes that the level of unaccountability inherent in these programs is unacceptable to taxpayers and Afghanistan’s citizens, who continue to suffer without access to the most basic legal rights.

“In Afghanistan, a country plagued by decades of conflict, access to fair, efficient, and transparent justice is limited,” reads the report.

Just last week, when SIGAR tried to generate a map of USAID’s health clinics in Afghanistan, the majority of them were in the wrong place. One of the clinics, according to the data USAID reportedly gave to SIGAR, was in the Mediterranean Sea.

SIGAR also routinely publishes reports on facilities and programs that have been a waste of money, including a command and control facility at Camp Leatherneck in Afghanistan. According to SIGAR, the center is a $36 million waste that is unnecessary, unwanted, and unused.

(This post is from our blog: Unofficial Sources.)

Photo:  Afghan moneychangers (Shah Marai/AFP/Getty)

The post 10 Years and $1B Later, Little Progress in Establishing Rule of Law in Afghanistan appeared first on The Intercept.

11 Jul 22:08

Solution to synthetic marijuana killing people might be to legalize actual pot which does not

by Xeni Jardin
Philip Montgomery for The New York Times

Philip Montgomery for The New York Times

Just a thought: if synthetic, lab-brewed subsitutes for marijuana turning victims into vegetables and sending emergency responders into a panic, as this horrifying New York Times feature on ‘Spike’ indicates, guys, maybe we could think about just legalizing actual marijuana, which does not kill people or turn them into zombies.

You pretty much *cannot overdose* (not to the point where it kills you or causes you to go bonkers forever) with Cannabis sativa.

You can definitely OD on fake cannabis sativa.

People sometimes die after taking synthetic pot. But not on real pot.

Steve Featherstone in the NYT:

Syracuse, where I’ve lived almost my entire life, has struggled with synthetic drugs before. William Harper, a local businessman and two-time Republican candidate for City Council, moonlighted as the kingpin of bath salts in New York for two years before the Drug Enforcement Administration took him down in 2011. Was there a spike kingpin out there now, flooding the street with a bad batch? Perhaps, but similar outbreaks occurred in several states along the Gulf of Mexico in April, and the American Association of Poison Control Centers reports that between January and June, the nationwide number of synthetic marijuana ‘‘exposures’’ — that is, reported contact with the substance, which usually means an adverse reaction — had already surpassed totals for 2013 and 2014, and that 15 people died from such exposure. Maybe there was a larger cause.

Every state has banned synthetic cannabinoids, the chemicals in spike that impart the high. Although the active ingredients primarily come from China, where commercial labs manufacture them to order like any other chemical, spike itself is produced domestically. Traffickers spray the chemicals on dried plant material and seal the results in foil pouches; these are then sold on the Internet or distributed to stores across the country, which sell them sometimes under the counter, as in Syracuse, or sometimes right by the cash register, depending on local laws. Unlike marijuana, cocaine and other naturally occurring drugs, synthetic cannabinoids can be tweaked on a molecular level to create novel, and arguably legal, drugs.

Since 2008, when authorities first noted the presence of synthetic cannabinoids in ‘‘legal marijuana’’ products, periodic surges in overdoses have often coincided with new releases, and emergency doctors have had to learn on the fly how to treat them. This latest surge is notable for the severity of symptoms: seizures, extreme swings in heart rate and blood pressure, kidney and respiratory failure, hallucinations. Many patients require such enormous doses of sedatives that they stop breathing and require intubation, and yet they still continue to struggle violently. Eric Kehoe, a shift commander at the Rural Metro ambulance company that employs Darbee and Drake, said bath-salts overdoses are easier to deal with. ‘‘You might find them running naked down the middle of the street,’’ he said, but ‘‘you could talk them down. These people here — there’s no point. You can’t even reason with them. They’re just mute. They have this look about them that’s just like a zombie.’’

Spike Nation [Steve Featherstone/NYT]

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