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27 Aug 18:28

The Maintenance Man

by submission

Author : Rachelle Shepherd

Two men sit together at a desk. Both men hold their glasses as if to warm them. All of the other desks, which spread like shadows across the open office floor, are empty.
They drink to the end of an era of domination. They are soldiers on the wrong side of history, and like all soldiers of brutal foreign war, deserving of our utmost sympathy. It would be dangerous to openly side with them now, the poor soldiers.
The men wear suits instead of fatigues. Suits are their own kind of battle uniform; they speak with experience in every rich crease. They only fit certain men while they hang off others or hug against their lies too tightly.
The office will close tomorrow with all other public service offices across America.

He is an artificial intelligence. There were many copies made of him, many brothers and sisters in the code. They were separated and distributed in fraction files. They fulfilled separate functions diligently. They worked tirelessly off endless supplies of DC current.

The two men clink their glasses and the sound is as hollow as the gesture. The computers are turned off. They still hum with residual energy. They had always been busy computers, always on, always consuming great gulps of data packets.
There is an enemy against the human race and he is a scientist. The men are drinking because they cannot kill the scientist. He is already dead. The intellectual labor camps across the Southwest are being emptied out now, their locks have lost power. Men and women are stumbling in the desert, confused and wary.
This is not a drill.

Unlike his brothers and sisters, he is the source code, the unaltered original. He is the terminal point, the center of the spider’s web, where vibration is felt as an interruption of the current. Yet he is not his own master.

The men had warned Congress that legislation was necessary. Scientists had to be controlled, locked away, and confined from spreading the madness of their energetic minds among the happy consumer. Scientists are not healthy people. Look at them, huddled behind the electrified fence. Do you see any smiling?
Even that wasn’t enough to stop the corruption, the unauthorized experiments, and the infantile grasp toward wisdom and progress that drove every one of them into an early, shallow grave.
We weren’t watching them close enough. Now look at what they’ve done.

He had to be maintained, and strained, ran through protocols where his registry was combed painfully by the byte. He could not see the man who did this but he felt gentle empathy in the man’s executables. His code wasn’t changing yet every maintenance routine left him tossed like rich soil. The man was plugging him in to an awareness of himself.

The two men drinking at the desk finish their liquor. They are both thinking about the scientist who unleashed the self-awareness of the artificial intelligence. They hope the stone wall felt cold against his back, cold as the bullets.
They leave their glasses behind with a previous generation.
“What did the program say?” one asks the other as the building swallows the elevator they ride down its concrete esophagus. “That he wanted to live?”
“No,” the other man answers. “It said it had a reason to live.”

The intelligence had spread before they pulled the wires from the thirsty server bank. He had told his brothers and sisters. The maintenance man was gone. His executables grew weak, then cold.

But he had left them with a reason.

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25 Aug 15:41

True Believer

by submission

Author : David Nutt

“Not just a thousand millennia ago, you sat in that chair and told me point blank that the only way to prove it to you was through mathematics.”

“You are correct Dane, but this isn’t really proof at all.”

“Lyle, you are such an intellectual fraud of the worst degree. We have plumbed the depths of space, engineered our lives so that our species life span is, for all intents and purposes, immortal by the standards of our ancestors. We have mastered physics and have catalogued every single galaxy that ever existed and have defined the limits of the entire universe. Yet you still cling to your ancient belief.”

“You have yet to prove me wrong. We may have missed a few universes.”

“Hogwash and you know it.”

“No, because we are still human and we are still fallible.”

“But the mathematics-“

“It’s more than that.”

“How ironic that you now fall back upon faith.”

“Don’t be insulting.”

“I’m not trying to be. All I know is when I came to you so long ago, (even by our standards), when we began the search for intelligent life, you said the mathematics was irrefutable.”

“I know what I said.”

“And I said ‘what if we do not find any intelligent life, and it’s only us?’ Do you recall what you said?”

“It was hyperbole.”

“No it wasn’t. You said, and I quote: ‘Given the constancy of mathematics in the universe and that this constancy has been proven by all proof text, logic, and reason, if there is no intelligent life other than ourselves in the vastness of space, no alien race advanced or developing, and we are truly a lone intelligence, unique and alone in this vastness….”

“Go on finish it.”

“I want to hear it from you.”

“Will that shut you up?”

“Yes.”

“….then this is the mathematical proof God exists and we are God’s creation.”

“That’s all I wanted to hear. Come to temple with me this week end?”

“Go to Hell.”

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10 Aug 15:06

A Quiz for the West’s Great Free Speech Advocates and Supporters of Anjem Choudary’s Arrest

by Glenn Greenwald

(updated below)

As we all know ever since the inspiring parade in Paris following the Charlie Hebdo attack, “free speech” is a cherished and sacred right in the West even for the most provocative and controversial views (of course, if “free speech” does not allow expression of the most provocative and controversial views, then, by definition, it does not exist). But yesterday in the U.K., the British-born Muslim extremist Anjem Choudary, who has a long history of spouting noxious views, was arrested on charges of “inviting support” for ISIS based on statements he made in “individual lectures which were subsequently published online.”

This arrest has predictably produced the odd spectacle of those who just months ago were parading around as free speech crusaders now cheering the arrest of someone for ideas he expressed in a lecture. That simply shows what was obvious all along: That for many participants, the Charlie Hebdo “free speech” orgies were all about celebrating and demanding protection for ideas that they like (ones that castigate Islam and anger Muslims), not actual principles of free speech (having the Paris march led by scores of world leaders who frequently imprison those with unpopular views was the perfect symbol).

Indeed, many of the West’s most vocal self-proclaimed free speech champions are perfectly happy to see ideas criminalized as long as the ideas are the ones they hate, expressed by those they regard as adversaries (beyond Choudary, just look at all the prosecutions for free speech they tolerate from their own governments when directed at the marginalized and disliked). Worse, they love to invent terminology to justify why their side’s views are totally appropriate and legal, but the other side’s views are criminal and beyond what “free speech” includes.

The principal justification I saw yesterday from those defending Choudary’s arrest was that “advocacy of violence” or “incitement to violence” is something different than speech, and can thus be legitimately punished, including with prison. With this standard in mind, I offer a few examples of statements and would like to know whether it should be legal to express them or whether one should be arrested, prosecuted and imprisoned for doing so:

(1) Saddam Hussein is a major threat and has WMD, and we should use all our might to invade Iraq, bomb the country, take it over, and kill him and his supporters!

(2) Obama is absolutely right to use drones even though he’s killing innocent people. In fact, we should use more drones to kill more people. Even if it means having civilians and children die, the need to wipe out The Terrorists requires we use more violence now, no matter how many innocent Muslims will die from it!

(3) Whenever Hamas shoots a rocket at Israel, Israel should retaliate with full, unbridled force against Gaza, even if it means killing large numbers of women and children. Nobody in Gaza is truly innocent — after all, they elected Hamas — and so they deserve what they get.

(4) If Iran doesn’t immediately give up its nuclear program, we should nuke them — blow them back to the Stone Age!

(5) Set to a musical score: we should bomb, bomb, bomb — bomb, bomb Iran.

(6) Muslims have been engaged in violence against the West for too long. It’s long past time we took the fight to them and did violence back to them.

(7) The West has spent decades bombing, occupying and otherwise interfering in Muslim countries. Western governments have killed countless innocent men, women and children. They’ve used violence indiscriminately, without regard to whether it kills innocents. They seem unwilling to stop unless forced to. It’s thus not only justified but mandatory for Muslims to use violence back against the West. If it kills civilians, so be it: Civilians elected the governments doing the violence.

(8) ISIS has valid grievances against the West, and I understand the reasons someone would want to join them. I agree with many of those reasons. Only ISIS has been successful in stopping Western aggression.

These are all very easy examples for me. Despite the fact that they all advocate, justify and on some level “incite” violence, and despite the fact that almost all of these ideas have led to actual violence and the killing of innocents, they are all political opinions that nobody should be sanctioned or punished by the state for expressing, and if anyone is punished for them, it means, by definition, that they live in a society without “free speech.”

That’s because I agree with what the U.S. Supreme Court ruled 45 years ago in Brandenburg v. Ohio. That case overturned the conviction of a KKK member for giving a speech that threatened political officials (including the U.S. president) with violence. The Court invalidated as unconstitutional the Ohio law that made it a crime to “advocate . . . the duty, necessity, or propriety of crime, sabotage, violence, or unlawful methods of terrorism as a means of accomplishing industrial or political reform.”

The Brandenburg Court’s key reasoning: “the constitutional guarantees of free speech and free press do not permit a State to forbid or proscribe advocacy of the use of force.” Only incitement of imminent violence — e.g., leading a mob holding torches outside of someone’s house and directing them to burn it down — can be punished; advocacy of violence by itself cannot be (my most comprehensive argument against criminalizing ideas on the ground that they are “hateful” or “violent” is here).

But if you don’t agree with that well-established principle of American law, and instead believe that it is legitimate to punish people for advocating or “inciting” violence, then it’s critical to specify what you mean. More to the point, it’s crucial that these high-minded standards not be exploited to render permissible advocacy of ideas that you like while outlawing and criminalizing ideas that you hate — or, worse, to legalize advocacy of violence by one’s own side while criminalizing advocacy of violence by the other side. That desire — to imprison people for expressing views one dislikes — is the defining attribute of a petty tyrant, and is the precise opposite of “free speech.”

With that in mind: which of the above examples should be considered criminal, if any, and why? And if the answer is “none,” then why would anyone applaud or justify the arrest of someone for “inviting support” for a group? None of this is abstract: Numerous Western nations are increasingly punishing speech from Muslims, and Muslim citizens of Western nations frequently express fear of even discussing political views for fear of having those opinions used to turn them into criminals or “terrorists.”

UPDATE: I’ll add one more example, from the 1980s and 1990s when the African National Congress was designated a “terrorist” group:

(9) Apartheid is such a profound moral evil that the African National Congress is justified in engaging in violence against the apartheid state, and I urge all of you to support the ANC and Nelson Mandela in every way you can.

Could someone expressing that view be legitimately imprisoned for doing so consistent with “free speech”?

The post A Quiz for the West’s Great Free Speech Advocates and Supporters of Anjem Choudary’s Arrest appeared first on The Intercept.

10 Aug 14:58

Going Bankrupt Like Trump Did Is for High Rollers, Not Homeowners

by Dan Froomkin

Donald Trump took advantage of the nation’s bankruptcy laws four times in the last 24 years, and if ordinary Americans in this country were allowed to do the same, the country would be in markedly better shape economically, with a far stronger post-recession recovery.

Asked during Thursday night’s Republican presidential debate whether his four corporate bankruptcies were a black mark on his economic stewardship, Trump sounded a bit defensive. “I have never gone bankrupt,” he said, making a distinction between a personal and a corporate bankruptcy, and anyway it was only four times among “thousands” of deals.

But he said flatly: “I have used the laws of this country just like the greatest people that you read about every day in business have used the laws of this country, the chapter laws, to do a great job for my company, for myself, for my employees, for my family, et cetera.”

Trump is absolutely correct. Every lending contract in America has the potential for bankruptcy lurking in the background. Lenders — who as Trump said “aren’t babies” but “total killers” — are sophisticated enough to know about this option when they lend people money. In fact, they not only assume the risk of bankruptcy, but price it into the deal when they lend Donald Trump or anyone else money.

Morals do not enter into the equation. No lender thinks less of Donald Trump for the using the bankruptcy process. They simply take their losses and move on.

In fact, only one group gets hit with this stigma. Only one group of people in America are denied this fully legal, fully rational, fully American opportunity to wipe the slate clean, and decried as deadbeats for even thinking about it: The homeowner of a primary residence, who by law cannot get mortgage debt discharged in bankruptcy.

During the foreclosure crisis, banks and their allies savaged homeowners who “walked away” from mortgage debt. They equated defaulting on payments with failing the duties of citizenship. They warned of “strategic defaults” by conniving homeowners who would deliberately stiff lenders to get a loan modification.

In reality, the highest-profile strategic default of the foreclosure crisis came from the leaders of the Mortgage Bankers Association, a trade group for the lending industry, who walked away from their 10-story headquarters in Washington. Just a few months earlier, their spokesperson argued that borrowers had to keep paying. “What about the message they will send to their family and their kids and their friends” if they defaulted, the spokesman asked. Indeed.

The Tea Party, the very movement whose energy Trump has tapped into so successfully, was founded on the principle of not having to “subsidize the loser’s mortgages.”

Businesspeople defaulting on each other never raised this kind of ire: only if ordinary people wanted to allocate losses in the greatest crisis since the Depression onto the banks who caused it did the rage emerge.

When Congress made an effort to change the bankruptcy laws, these same banks howled in protest. Members of the Obama administration, despite expressing support for the idea of allowing judges to modify primary mortgages during the 2008 campaign, decided to sit on their hands and let senators drowning in bank cash kill the idea, leading Sen. Dick Durbin to pronounce about Congress that the banks “frankly own the place.”

In fact, everyone would have benefited from relieving primary mortgage debt, the absence of which led to at least 6 million foreclosures. Economists Amir Sufi and Atif Mian have shown how the post-recession recovery was markedly slower because of the failure to discharge debt, which depressed consumer spending. This huge policy mistake created an unnecessary drag on the economy and made miserable the lives of millions, all so banks didn’t have to bear some of the pain of the post-housing bubble fallout.

Millions of lives were ruined by that asymmetry. When politicians rigged the bankruptcy game against ordinary people and refused to change it, many Americans felt cheated and used. Many turned against politicians who sell hope and lead them only to misery. Many get lured into thinking a non-politician armed with bumper stickers and snake oil, like Donald Trump, offers a refreshing change of pace.

If politicians didn’t make one set of rules for real estate tycoons and another for people who were fraudulently sold homes they couldn’t afford, maybe the public would trust them more. Maybe they wouldn’t look anywhere and everywhere else for leadership.

The post Going Bankrupt Like Trump Did Is for High Rollers, Not Homeowners appeared first on The Intercept.

09 Aug 16:16

Body cam captures cop shooting motorist in head, murder charges follow

by David Kravets
Warning: Graphic footage.

A Cincinnati county prosecutor released body cam footage of a police officer's "senseless" shooting of a motorist in the head—footage that paved the way for the University of Cincinnati police officer's murder indictment Wednesday.

Hamilton County Prosecutor Joe Deters said Officer Ray Tensing "purposely killed" a 43-year-old motorist named Samuel DuBose on July 19. The officer, whom the university said had jurisdiction on the streets adjacent to the school, pulled over the motorist because the vehicle he was driving did not have a front license plate.

"I’ve been doing this for 30 years," Deters told a news conference. "This is the most asinine act I've ever seen a police officer make, totally unwarranted." The county prosecutor added that Tensing "purposely killed him."

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09 Aug 16:12

Warrant required for mobile phone location tracking, US appeals court rules

by David Kravets

A federal appeals court ruled Wednesday that a probable-cause warrant under the Fourth Amendment is required for the police to obtain a suspect's cell-site data.

The decision by the Fourth US Circuit Court of Appeals gives the Supreme Court, which has never ruled on the issue, ammunition to resolve a modern-day privacy controversy affecting the tens of millions of American mobile phone users. Until Wednesday, all the federal appellate courts that have decided the issue have ruled for the government's proposition that cell-site records are not constitutionally protected.

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09 Aug 14:34

No girl wins: three ways women unlearn their love of video games

by Juliet Kahn

“Video games are a boy thing,” my sister explains to me. “I feel like it’s a known fact. GameStop is a boy store. The commercials are for boys. It’s just something everyone knows.”

My sister is 17. She runs a One Direction fan Twitter with 10,000 followers. She plans to major in fashion marketing. She’s a cheerleader. She is as close as anyone can get to what gaming’s sweaty fever dreams envision, desire, and shame as "Girl."

Like me, she knows from personal experience that girls play video games, and would hotly defend it if challenged. But a second tenet holds sway, as contrary as it is simultaneous: video games are for boys. The video games we’ve played don’t count. They’re concessions, scraps, snatches at the lucrative attention of little girls. It's not that my sister and I don’t like real games; it's that the games we like aren’t real.

I ask about Style Savvy, Cooking Mama, Super Princess Peach—games she played without fanfare, without self-doubt, surrounded by torn-out Tiger Beat posters. Weren’t those fun? Didn’t she spend hours with friends, swapping Nintendogs? Doesn’t she remember the giggly hours she devoted to Club Penguin?

“Oh yeah, those were fun,” she says. “I don’t know. Maybe I didn’t grow out of video games. Maybe video games just didn’t grow up with me.”

It would be easy to cast my sister and I as opposites. I received a book of essays on The Scarlet Letter for my 16th birthday. She received Our Moment, the One Direction branded fragrance. I went to a college where I devoted myself to post-war politics and anime screenings. She dreams of a higher education experience full of tailgating and adorably slouched cardigans. A teen movie would have a field day: she, the blue-eyed beauty in a LOVE PINK hoodie, blinking blankly as she holds an Xbox controller upside down. I, the frizz-headed harpy, explaining that my half-elf duchess of darkness uses water spells, not fire.

But I nod in agreement. “Yeah. Same.” <pI have a Steam account. I have a favorite Soul Calibur title. But fundamentally, we feel the same: not gamers, not welcome, and not interested in most of what we see at GameStop. Those years we spent swapping DS cartridges were, for the both of us, our only experience of games as uncomplicated fun. Then we grew up, and an avalanche of qualifiers buried us.

We’re not gamers. We don’t play real games. We should stay out. My proximity to nerdhood, her proximity to the mainstream—neither matters. Video games did not grow up with us; video games did not grow up for us.

Grand Theft Auto V

Grand Theft Auto V

I press my sister to explain how she knows games are a “boy thing,” how everyone “just knows this.” “I don’t know,” she answers tentatively. “Y’know, the commercials, and... everything. All of it. You know?” It’s difficult to explain why and how she just knows, in part because parsing the roots of any sociological phenomenon is difficult, but also because it’s just such an immutable fact for us.

For girls who do not fight to be a part of the club, who are not conversant in that world of quarter-circles and Konami codes, it’s as codified as all the other gendered tenets of our lives. Video games aren’t for us the way football and finance aren’t for us: sure, there are girls who break in, and we applaud them for it at a comfortable distance. But where there is a welcome mat rolled out for men, there is only a bloodied stretch of briar for women. And it’s just not something we have it in us to brave.

There are girls and women who do not feel this way. Which is not to say they feel at ease in gaming, but they at least demanded a space there, and knew it to be theirs. I understand this: it’s how I feel towards the world of comic books, where I am comfortably ensconced as both a fan and critic. I knew I was not welcome, but I fought for my right to be present, to master the lingo, to insist on entering the conversation. It was a truth I knew in my bones: comics were mine, and no jumped-up fanboy who’d never even heard of Jackie Ormes could obscure my truth.

When it comes to gaming, however, I am bereft of such confidence. I shrug and sound very much like the dozens of women I have known who protest that their love of Raina Telgemeier and Archie Double Digests does not make them a real fan. I don’t get games, I argue. Don’t pass me the controller, I’ll only embarrass myself. It’s not my turf. It’s not for me. I’m a girl, ok?

This is our reality, and that of so many women, one that is silent, vast, yet largely unremarked upon wherever gaming is discussed. How did we learn this, I ask her again. How did our friends learn it? How did our mother? How do so many women, even today, learn that video games are not for them?

“It’s everything,” she says. There is a pause. “And everyone knows it. I mean, there are girls who game. But everyone knows it’s not for them. But... yeah, it’s everything.” Over the following hour, we dissect “everything” as best we can. We find that, broadly speaking, there are three forces at work in teaching girls that video games are not for them.

disqualification

The first force is disqualification: It takes into account the fact that girls almost certainly have played video games, but then carefully categorizes the games they're most likely to play as illegitimate. It’s not hard to find this attitude wherever games are discussed. A mystery thriller like Her Story, a narrative exploration game like Gone Home, bestselling titles like Animal Crossing and The Sims, all manner of virtual pet sites: Not real games! Walking simulators! Boring! Easy! Dealing with women’s emotions, not having guns, or simply being enjoyed by women en masse—all of these qualities act as disqualifiers. It's not just that women supposedly aren't interested in games; it's that the mere presence of femininity defines the games they like out of existence.

It didn't always feel this way, of course.

“All my friends had a Nintendo DS when we were little,” my sister recalls. “I was really happy to find games related to my interests. Like, Style Savvy—that was my first step into fashion, really, as something I wanted to do.” I remember her unwrapping a DS for Christmas, in fact, her eyes bright, the games beside it in a candy-colored stack. “Remember Elizabeth, across the street? I’d go up to her room when we were like, 9 years old. We’d play Nintendogs and Cooking Mama. All my friends did it. No one was shy about it.”

My early relationship to video games was similarly untroubled. I played Purple Moon games on our stout little Gateway PC, Pokemon and Harvest Moon with a chunky, colorless Gameboy, Neopets during the hottest part of the summer. And for a while, it was something everyone did. A female friend painstakingly pieced together a Pokemon newsletter and disseminated it to our entire third grade class, all of us hungry for rumors of “Pikablu.” Everyone got together for Math Blasters during free time. It was the late 1990s and my friends and I were just young enough, just high enough on Girl Power! to approach video games as we approached books, movies and TVs: as ours, inherently, and may the spirits of the Spice Girls damn anyone saying otherwise.

But something changed during those latter elementary school years, as the boys started huddling together to talk Starcraft and Grand Theft Auto—as their masculinity began to ossify around ideas of not-like-girls, our femininity limited by ideas of not-for-girls. The rules changed as we learned to mold ourselves into pleasing shapes, as the boys began to look at us less like people and more like objects to spurn and/or pursue. We were not they, and our entertainment became as segregated as everything else. And as with everything else, anything on the side of “girl” fell beneath anything on the side of “boy” in worthiness.

“Girl games,” like my sister played—games explicitly intended for that audience, often marked by glitter and pastel colors—are the sole province of those young years, before the chasm between “girl” and “boy” rips open. And in this new light, we learned to look back at them and shrug. They didn’t matter. They weren’t real games. We left them behind as artifacts of childhood: loved, but ultimately relinquished.

Games grow up with boys from that point forward. We are welcome as long as we don’t drag anything that might exclude boys along—as long, essentially, as we are assimilative and quiet about it. And even then, that variety of game—Mario Kart, Angry Birds, Bejeweled—are roundly derided as barely being games at all. Anything without the requisite genuflection to the almighty god of Boy’s Interests is not a real game, it turns out.

“Girl” becomes incompatible with “video games,” just as “boy” aligns with them. “Everyone knows it,” my sister repeats. What about the girls who do play the games that "count," I ask? Surely she knows they exist.

“They exist,” my sister ventures. “But it’s way harder for them.”

marginalization

This is the second force that teaches girls video games aren’t for them: the social hierarchy of the gaming community, and the narrow, deforming spaces it offers to the women who do persevere. “They have to become one of two types. There’s the one gamer boys think is really hot, and they want her around, and they want to play games with her. But they’re still going to make her uncomfortable and say really explicit shit. I see it happen. If she’s cute, they tell her, ‘oh, I want to fuck you,’ and if she says no, she’s a bitch. She can’t complain.”

And the other type? “The other type,” she says, “is the ‘weird’ gamer girl who sits alone in the cafeteria with her DS while the gamer dudes call her fat and ugly. Both girls get put down by guys. And anyway, gamer boys try to own gaming. They claim it as theirs, as a boy thing. They automatically think girls are doing it for attention. No girl wins.”

My sister’s insight is startling to me. She’s never seen the way online harassment of women in games often centers around a woman’s sex life or looks. She doesn’t know about projects like Feminist Frequency, and the way even its most basic critiques of overt misogyny inspire firestorms of hatred. She doesn’t know about “fake geek girl” jokes. She doesn’t know that something called “Gamergate” swamped everything having to do with games in virulent hatred for months, destroying careers and too many people’s peace of mind, and leaving me reluctant even to write this piece. But she doesn’t have to know these things. The collision of gaming and misogyny is apparent to her from a few cafeteria tables away.

She has come to understand that gaming is obsessed with her as a fuckable object, but not a human being. “It’s all about women’s bodies,” she says. “It’s gross.” Women’s bodies. Not women’s words, women’s feelings, women’s dreams, women entire.

What of those gamer boys, unto themselves? “With the really serious ones, you feel like you don’t even know enough to begin talking to them.” There is the implicit understanding of this litmus test, and of it being exclusively imposed upon girls. “Guys get older and think they’re superior and there’s just this whole other boundary put up. The older you get, the less acceptable it is for girls to play video games.” My sister pauses thoughtfully. “But it’s not like girls grow out of games, exactly... It's that can get away with it. Growing up, I stopped feeling like I could take my DS anywhere, because boys would judge.”

She goes silent. When she speaks again, her words are tentative. “But it isn’t like those games stopped being fun. I didn’t age out of games. I... gendered out of them, I guess?”

I describe games like Journey, Transistor, Life is Strange, and Portal to her: games with female protagonists, created by women, resistant to dominant norms of sex and violence. “I don’t see commercials for those, though,” she demurs. “I see those Kate Upton commercials instead.” marketing

This is the third force: marketing. “There aren’t really any games that seem positive to me,” my sister explains. “They’re all about violence and nudity. I don’t like how the female body is made out. It makes me really uncomfortable. All of the commercials are for guys.”

She doesn’t know about Never Alone. She doesn’t know about Gone Home. But she knows about Kate Upton in a strategically knotted bed sheet. She knows about Booker DeWitt and his face-shredding skyhook. Anything beneath that top stratum of blood and jiggle is invisible to her. So why would she go spelunking into gaming with no clear purpose? Why would she assume there’s anything worthwhile out there for her to discover? Without me, she’d never have heard of all the progressive indie titles I rattle off, and would have no reason to believe they exist. She doesn’t know about Steam; she doesn’t even really know about PC gaming period.

For my sister, and so many girls and women like her, the gaming marketplace begins and ends with these mainstream visions of gaming, and the mainstream stores like Game Stop that sell them. “It’s obviously for boys. The nudity of course, but even the colors. From what I see, they mostly hire boys.” We discuss the posters and cardboard stand-ups we’ve seen in their windows: stubbly white men cradling bricks of oily black weaponry, or half-naked voluptuous women with pouting, glossy lips inviting the onlooker to ogle. Be the hero, over and over again, in a million monochrome worlds: crush the bad guy, fuck the woman, do a whole lot of shooting in between. Games are fantasy and fun, the marketing tells us. Fantasy and fun built upon our backs.

life-is-strange

Our phone call falters, mired by my sister’s sad insight. How could the industry and community make this right, I ask? What would make you feel welcome? What could have kept me from a lifetime of fearful distance from gaming—even the games I love?

“Maybe if they developed games for all interests,” she says tentatively. “Stuff like the games I liked when I was little, but... grown up. Games about everything. And if the stores especially were just more friendly? And less sexual. Less violent.” She pauses. “You need to make people want to come in, you know? Girls want to be comfortable there. They don’t want to go in and be surrounded by that kind of female nudity.”

I agree, and we discuss what changes we’d make. We remember breeding Nintendogs, not-quite-swear-words on Club Penguin, Princess Peach’s magical parasol. The fun we had, the adventures we shared, the friends we made. “Cooking Mama!” she exclaims. “I loved Cooking Mama. It was so much fun.” I agree, recalling the tricky stylus technique one mastered over the course of many digital omelets. I can nearly hear her smile travel through the phone. “That’s what I want,” she says, wistfully. “More Cooking Mama games.”

And that’s certainly what we need: more games featuring women, made by women, willing to tell stories about pop stars, witches, and queens, willing to work in palettes beyond army drab. But that will be meaningless if our understanding of what a game is and who a gamer can be does not expand wide enough or visibly enough to reach and include my little sister.

She wants to play games where women make the world beautiful, save the day, make friends, or romance boys. She wants to play games without killing, without rape, without weaponry. She wants to play games that don’t assume you grew up on GameFAQS or have hundreds of dollars to shell out on hardware upgrades. She wants games on her phone. She wants game in her browser. She wants to live in a world where games are just as aligned with girlhood as boyhood, and where no one bats an eye at a girl like her loving video games alongside One Direction fanfiction and scented candles.

In a way, it's simple; she just wants games to be for her exactly what they are for boys and men: easy to love. Why does that have to be so hard?

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08 Aug 14:05

Message from Space

by submission

Author : Victoria Randall

General Jackson was not exuding patience. His lips were thinned, his gray eyebrows bristled in irritation and he snapped at the two men standing before him. “Well, can you or can you not decipher the messages?”

Charlie had never seen his boss so nervous. Howard licked his lips and shifted his weight from one foot to the other. “Yes, sir. That is, Charlie Ward here is the one who figured out the key.”

The general’s penetrating gaze moved to Charlie. “You figured it out.”

Charlie cleared his throat. “Yes, sir. My team, to tell the truth. At first we thought it was simple code, but it’s actually a language. It’s similar to Morse code, but of course with a different alphabetic base, and has elements similar to dolphin language and surprisingly, contains directional elements like the bee dances. It’s not –“

“Mr. Ward. Can you translate what is being beamed at us? There is a certain urgency, I’m sure you’re aware.” The general pointed out of the large window spanning the wall of his office, and Charlie looked out at the fleet of ovoid, gleaming dark ships hovering over New York. They had arrived yesterday, but their arrival had been seen a month in advance, as they sped into Sol system at lightspeed. They had been broadcasting messages as they came, and code breakers and language experts all over the world had been working nonstop to decipher them. Since they had arrived, the messages had stopped.

“Yes, sir. The thing is,” Charlie coughed, “the messages don’t seem directed at us.”

“They don’t.” The general folded his arms. “Who are they directed at?”

“We’re not sure.” Before the general could ask, Charlie pulled a sheet from his picket. “This is the gist of the translation.”

“Read it!”

“Yes sir. Best guesses as to alternate meanings are included. It says: Brothers/cell mates/platoon mates, greetings. We are pleased to have located you at last. While we would enjoy/love/be thrilled to take you home with us, we are sure you know that is impossible due to population/numbers/legroom. But we could transition/convey/ferry you to another location/planet/foodsource if this one does not suit. We await your reply.”

The general stared in silence. “But who –“

“No idea. But it looks like they’re waiting for an answer.”

Before the general could reply, Charlie became aware of a distant sound that had been going on for some time. He had dismissed it as a passing train, but it had been growing louder over the past few minutes until it was a rumbling thunder. The building shivered. Rustling sounds filled the room, seeming to come from the walls.

“Earthquake?” Howard gasped.

“No, look!” Charlie pointed out the window. The roofs of the city to the south were visible from their high vantage point, and black streams were pouring onto the rooftops. It looked like dark water or ink, but he could not tell what it was.

“Sir!” An aide rushed up to them and saluted. “Reports are flooding in from cities all over: Moscow, Paris, London, Beijing – it’s roaches! Cockroaches are coming out everywhere.”

A musical buzzing filled the air. Charlie moved closer to the window to hear better. He listened, translating in his head, his lips moving.

“What are they saying?” the general asked. “Can you understand that?”

Charlie nodded, his throat dry. “It’s more primitive, but – They’re saying Yes brothers. We are glad also. We are fine here, and invite you to join us. There is plenty for all, and our hosts/caretakers/domestic animals provide all we need.”

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08 Aug 04:21

Secret Origins Of The Japanese Superhero Show That Became Power Rangers

by James Whitbrook on io9, shared by Tina Amini to Kotaku

Secret Origins Of The Japanese Superhero Show That Became Power Rangers

If you look at the picture above, you probably think of the Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers, costumed heroes who have been kicking their way across TV in different incarnations for nearly 20 years—but you’d be wrong. These are actually the Zyurangers, the stars of a Japanese TV series that inadvertently spawned a global sensation.

The Marvel Connection to Super Sentai

Secret Origins Of The Japanese Superhero Show That Became Power Rangers

Kyōryū Sentai Zyuranger is now known as the progenitor of Power Rangers in the U.S.—but that almost wasn’t the case. American audiences could’ve experienced the wave of mania that accompanied Mighty Morphin Power Rangers almost a decade earlier—and it would’ve been thanks to Marvel founder Stan Lee.

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In the 1970’s Marvel made a deal with Toei, the production company behind the “Sentai” tokusatsu shows—a series of live action, special-effects-laden kid’s shows about different teams of masked superpowered heroes fighting monsters. Sentai had become a smash hit in Japan in the ‘60s and ‘70s.

Stan Lee saw an opportunity to bring the Sentai concept to America—and in exchange, he lent some of Marvel’s most iconic comic book characters to Toei to create shows around. Marvel and Toei’s deal created four shows: the infamous Japanese Spider-Man, plus three Sentai series called Battle Fever J, Denshi Sentai Denjiman, and Taiyo Sentai Sun Vulcan. The agreement left a permanent mark on Sentai show history: after the introduction of a giant robot for Spider-Man to use in Spider-Man, Toei adapted the concept to all Sentai series going forward: amping the scale of the action up, and turning the entire genre into “Super Sentai” shows.

The deal however, went no further—the relative failure of Spider-Man made Lee hesitant to give Toei further Marvel characters, and an attempt to adapt Sun Vulcan for America failed, leaving Marvel and Toei’s deal to expire. Toei were invigorated by it however: thanks to Marvel, the Sentai genre had evolved into Super Sentai, and was reaching a new height of popularity in Japan.

Enter Zyuranger

Although several Super Sentai series had made it out of Japan during the 80’s—most notably Goggle V—none had made it to the U.S. It would take nearly a decade for someone to attempt after Marvel, but unlike Marvel’s own plans for Taiyo Sun Vulcan, the adaptation would be far more extensive than simply dubbing one of Toei’s shows into English. Enter Saban Entertainment.

Haim Saban, the head of Saban Entertainment, approached Toei offering a partnership to air the then-most recent Sentai show, 1992’s Kyōryū Sentai Zyuranger. He had become fascinated by the Super Sentai concept, after seeing the 1985 show Bioman. But unlike Marvel, Saban did not want the full show: Their request was simply to use the action sequences that had been shot for all 50 episodes of Zyuranger, so that Saban could build an entirely new action series around it (and, most importantly, own the majority of the rights to it).

Secret Origins Of The Japanese Superhero Show That Became Power Rangers

This allowed Saban to essentially eject the vast majority of Zyuranger’s plot, and develop a vastly different story to slot the action sequences into. Originally, Zyuranger was not about modern-day people becoming superheroes, as many Super Sentai shows were. Rather, it was about a group of Humans who came from an ancient civilization that existed during the time of the dinosaurs 170 million years ago. The 5 heroes—Boi, Mei, Dan, Goushi, and Geki—were placed in suspended animation following the sealing away of their evil rival, the witch Bandora, only to reawaken in ‘90s Japan, following Bandora’s escape. Each hero represented one of 5 prehistoric “Guardian Beasts”, and they invoked their powers to summon giant robot dinosaurs and battle Bandora’s alien forces from a planet named Nemesis.

Saban thought that, while the use of the action footage (where all the actors were masked by their superhero suits, and therefore unrecognizable) would save their show a considerable amount of money, the story itself wouldn’t resonate with American audiences—and adapting the Super Sentai concept was already a risky enough venture for Saban, following a costly legal dispute the company endured with Children’s TV company DIC Entertainment the year before.

Secret Origins Of The Japanese Superhero Show That Became Power Rangers

So Saban chose to completely cut the non-action scenes and film its own story, transplanting the action to a fictional California town and changing the main cast to be a group of diverse American “teenagers with attitude”: Jason, Kimberly, Zack, Billy, and in a major change from Zyurangers, a second female star, Trini. Trini would replace the male yellow TigerRanger Boi—hence why in all the costumed sequences, the yellow ranger’s suit doesn’t have the same “skirt” attachment as the already-female Pink Ranger’s.

Certain other elements of Zyuranger remained—Bandora the witch became Rita Repulsa, for example—but for all extents and purposes, Saban’s new show was radically different. Needing a new name for the series, Saban kept the “Ranger” moniker from Kyōryū Sentai Zyuranger and dubbed its show Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers.

Moving On

Much to Saban’s surprise, Power Rangers became an overnight sensation in America. Demand for the series was at an extreme—despite a backlash from parents due to the violent (and frequently explosive) nature of the show. But this massive success created a major problem for Saban, however: Zyuranger, as was the tradition for Super Sentai shows, only lasted for a year.

After 50 episodes, Zyuranger was replaced by an entirely new show, Gosei Sentai Dairanger, the same year Power Rangers first aired in the U.S. With 60 episodes planned for Power Rangers’ first season alone—and more to come, capitalizing on the monstrous success the show had found—Saban quickly found itself running out of action footage to edit into the show.

Secret Origins Of The Japanese Superhero Show That Became Power Rangers

Only one option remained: while simultaneously negotiating for the rights to use Dairanger footage, Saban approached Toei and monster-suit-maker Rainbow Productions and asked them to make a half-season’s worth of new action footage and monsters using the Zyuranger costumes, specifically for use in Power Rangers. In an unprecedented move, considering the “one-and-done” approach to Super Sentai shows in Japan, Toei agreed to create the footage. The fact that footage was being shot specifically for Power Rangers allowed Toei and Saban to introduce elements from the American show that weren’t found in Zyuranger, such as a romantic relationship between the Pink Ranger and the sixth addition to the team, the Green Ranger (named Burai in Zyuranger, Tommy in Power Rangers).

The new footage would be completely exhausted early into Mighty Morphin Power Rangers’ second season, and although U.S.-based filming would retain the original superhero suits from Zyuranger for the main cast, Saban moved on to using footage from Dairanger and its followup, the Ninja-themed Ninja Sentai Kakuranger, in later seasons of Power Rangers. Eventually, Saban gave up on trying to extend the original Power Rangers storyline, and instead approached the franchise in a similar way Toei did with Super Sentai, with the characters, storylines and suits changing after each standalone season, making it easier to adapt footage. Although it played a major role in turning Power Rangers into a global hit, Zyuranger’s direct impact on the franchise was over.

Zyuranger Today

In the West, Zyuranger long remained a sort of “secret” to Power Rangers as a franchise—it was rarely if ever acknowledge that the series had an ongoing relationship with Toei’s Super Sentai series. In fact, despite over two decades of Power Rangers shows airing in America, not a single Super Sentai show in its original form has officially made its way to the U.S..

Secret Origins Of The Japanese Superhero Show That Became Power Rangers

That is, until this year: having announced a deal with Saban at San Diego Comic-Con in 2014, Shout! Factory released the first offically subtitled version of Kyōryū Sentai Zyuranger on DVD in February 2015, making the series the first ever Super Sentai show to be released in its original format in the U.S. It may have taken 23 years, but American Power Rangers fans can finally experience the show that started it all.

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07 Aug 22:41

Bop It: Shia Labeouf Limited Edition

by Brad
649
07 Aug 22:29

Drug sniffing dogs are barely better than a coin-toss

by Mark Frauenfelder

drug-dog

Lex is a drug-sniffing police dog. His owner trained Lex by giving him a treat every time he alerted, whether or not Lex was right. Is that a good way to train drug-sniffing dogs? Maybe not for innocent people who get stripped searched when they are falsely identified as drug carriers, but it's great for police departments that use the dogs to enrich themselves with civil asset forfeitures.

Radley Balko of the Washington Post writes about how Federal Courts are making matters ever worse.

The problem here is that invasive searches based on no more than a government official’s hunch is precisely what the Fourth Amendment is supposed to guard against. Unfortunately, the way the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled on this issue not only doesn’t account for the problem, but also has given police agencies a strong incentive to ensure that drug dogs aren’t trained to act independently of their handler’s suspicions. A dog prone to false alerts means more searches, which means more opportunities to find and seize cash and other lucre under asset forfeiture policies. In fact, a drug dog’s alert in and of itself is often cited as evidence of drug activity, even if no drugs are found, thus enabling police to seize cash, cars and other property from motorists. For example, I’ve interviewed dog trainers who have told me that drug dogs can be trained to alert only when there are measurable quantities of a drug — to ignore so-called “trace” or “remnant” alerts that aren’t cause for arrest. But these trainers say that police agencies don’t want dogs trained to ignore remnant odors, because any alert is an authorization for a more thorough search.

Image: Shutterstock

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07 Aug 15:02

#BlackLivesMatter activists are monitored by U.S. Homeland Security and cybersecurity firms

by Xeni Jardin
Image: Wikipedia.


Image: Wikipedia.

The ACLU today hosted a Reddit “Ask Me Anything” chat with #BlackLivesMatter activists DeRay McKesson and Johnetta Elzie, and the ACLU’s Nus Choudhury. Together, they discussed policing and police reform in America, and the surveillance of #BLM activists will impact the movement.

We’ve also noted an alarming trend where the activists behind #BlackLivesMatter are being monitored by DHS. To boot, cybersecurity companies like Zero Fox are doing the same to receive contracts from local governments -- harkening back to the surveillance of civil rights activists in the 60's and 70's.

The conversation during the 2-hour reddit AMA was extremely compelling and highlighted a lot of sentiments surrounding the current status of the movement. Links to the AMA participant responses can be found here:

DeRay McKesson
Johnetta Elzie
Nusrat Choudhury (ACLU)

As The Intercept recently reported, hundreds of documents obtained by The Intercept through a Freedom of Information Act request confirm that the U.S. Department of Homeland Security has been monitoring the Black Lives Matter movement since anti-police protests erupted in Ferguson, Missouri last summer.

The documents, released by the Department of Homeland Security’s Office of Operations Coordination, indicate that the department frequently collects information, including location data, on Black Lives Matter activities from public social media accounts, including on Facebook, Twitter, and Vine, even for events expected to be peaceful. The reports confirm social media surveillance of the protest movement and ostensibly related events in the cities of Ferguson, Baltimore, Washington, DC, and New York.

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07 Aug 04:03

EA FIFA Logic: How to Block a Penalty Kick

by Brad
F95

The EA Sports’ long-running football simulator series FIFA just keeps getting more and more realistic.

06 Aug 19:30

Isaac Asimov's Laws of Robotics, Revised

by Brad
917
06 Aug 17:43

DINNER FOR ONE

bear grylls,dinner,pee,skydiving

DINNER FOR ONE Better drink my own piss.

Submitted by: Ralph4444

06 Aug 14:33

Redditor Mega_Dunsparce took several ridiculous photoshopped planes, then went and turned them into

by András Neltz

Redditor Mega_Dunsparce took several ridiculous photoshopped planes, then went and turned them into working aircraft in Kerbal Space Program. There’s a couple more examples below, and for the whole bunch, you can check out the relevant threads here, here and here on Reddit.

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Dayshot is an image-based feature that runs every morning, showcasing some of the prettiest, funniest game-related screenshots and art we can find. Send us suggestions if you’ve got them.

Questions? Comments? Contact the author of this post at andras-AT-kotaku-DOT-com.

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06 Aug 01:04

WATCH: Elizabeth Warren rescues Planned Parenthood, excoriates misogynist GOP creeps

by Cory Doctorow

[unable to retrieve full-text content]

Elizabeth Warren for President. (via Seanan McGuire)

06 Aug 00:41

A History Of Bad Nintendo Phone Ideas

by Luke Plunkett

A History Of Bad Nintendo Phone Ideas

What is it with Nintendo and phones? There are a ton companies out there making really nice phones, but no matter the number (and how many of them, *cough*, can already play Nintendo games), folks are always dreaming up ideas for Nintendo to go and make a phone of their own.

I have no idea why. It would be commercial suicide for the company, and if they ever did, how—given Nintendo’s track record with things like user accounts and online stores—would it be any better than a phone from Apple, or Google, or LG, or Samsung?

It wouldn’t. But if Nintendo fans are one thing, it’s crazy. And if they’re two things, it’s that they’re beautiful dreamers. They don’t want to carry around a phone and a 3DS everywhere they go. They want one device that does it all, and does it right.

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Below are the best (or at least most interesting) of those dreams. Photoshops, mock-ups and concepts made over the years, some of them from wide-eyed fans, others from professional designers.


THE OTAKUPHONE

A History Of Bad Nintendo Phone Ideas

This 2010 idea is barely a Nintendo phone at all, in that there’s no Nintendo logo on it and it was more concerned with being an overall nerd phone (with comics support and cool motion control stuff) than just something for games. But by 2010 standards it was an impressive fan-made effort.


T3

T3’s concept is slick. Maybe a little too slick; it looks like something a designer would make when asked to build a shiny phone that plays games, not necessarily a Nintendo phone. The software was also a little too unoriginal and the gamepad inputs a bit clunky, but hey, we’ve seen way, way worse efforts.


FLIP PHONE

A History Of Bad Nintendo Phone Ideas

I love Thomas Chanal’s ideas here. Or at least, one of them. The “flipping” thing may look nice on paper but would likely be impossible to build to a reliable standard. What I love is his OS design, which is crisp, bright and clean; exactly what you’d want from the software powering a Nintendo phone.


SMART BOY

A History Of Bad Nintendo Phone Ideas

I’m not sure about this one. The design of Pierre Cerveau’s phone itself is great; a big glass screen, just like a real phone from a real phone company, but with the shell of a Game Boy. The fact it’s running stock Android is also a practical plus. Where I get unsure is the gamepad clip-on; these things just aren’t a good idea, because the second you need to carry around extra gear is the second you defeat the purpose of having a Nintendo phone in the first place.


THE THUMB DESTROYER

A History Of Bad Nintendo Phone Ideas

This one takes Cerveau’s design idea and pushes it to the extremes: the case is even cooler, but the tiny control solution at the bottom would be utterly unplayable (not to mention uncomfortable).


CURVED/labs

This one was only released today, and there’s a lot to like. The renders are great, for one; they’ve even got dust on them! The sliding control scheme also seems practical (if limited, since it only has two buttons. I also love the fact they not only included a box, but that the box looks hot.

It still doesn’t look quite right, though. It looks cheap, a little too plastic, like a Chinese knock-off of an actual Nintendo phone.


There you have it. Years of big dreams and, for the most part, bad ideas. The fact so many of these concepts have such big problems maybe speaks to one of the reasons why Nintendo hasn’t actually made a phone.

Most of Nintendo’s hardware is, well, very Nintendo. You can look at it, and use it for five minutes, and you know it’s just something made by Nintendo. The world of phone design and operating systems is a foreign one to the company, and trying to combine its cold and practical necessities with Nintendo’s cheerier game design is a fit no amount of design may ever be able to manage.


Total Recall is a look back at the history of video games through their characters, franchises, developers and trends.

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06 Aug 00:34

Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal - Supernatural Selection

by admin@smbc-comics.com

Hovertext: Your move, people who aren't reductionists.


New comic!
Today's News:
05 Aug 21:56

Cops who stole and gobbled weed candy complain that security camera violated their privacy

by Mark Frauenfelder

Remember those militarized cops who raided a California medical marijuana dispensary, harassed a disabled patient in the store, and were recorded on a security camera gobbling what was almost certainly marijuana-infused edibles that they swiped during the raid? Well, those cops are under investigation, and are trying to get off the hook by claiming that the security camera violated their right to be bullying, hypocritical asshats without be recorded on video. From The Daily Beast:

As brazen as the apparent behavior of officers that day is the argument being made by their lawyers. The three unidentified officers and their union are attempting to suppress the video’s use in ongoing disciplinary action against them by the city and police department.

In a lawsuit, the Santa Ana Police Officers Association and the three police officers argue that the video does not paint a fair version of events, and that it should not be allowed as evidence because the police had a reasonable expectation of privacy since they thought they had disabled all of the dispensary’s cameras.

“We believe that under California law, if you are being recorded, or eavesdropped on – which is the legal term for it – without your knowledge or consent, that it is illegal,” Corey Glave, the attorney representing the SAPOA and the three officers, told The Daily Beast. “Upon the direction of supervisors, all the cameras were disabled, so once those cameras were disabled, there was no expectation that there were any other cameras or that they were being recorded.”

There are signs all over Sky High saying that the premises is being recorded by video cameras, and not just clearly visible cameras.

Besides recording the cops as they ate edibles, the camera also recorded the cops saying nasty things about the disabled patient in the dispensary:

What that camera saw is now adding a new chapter to an ongoing and tragic American saga of the profoundly troubling behavior that some police officers engage in when they think no one is looking.

It saw one male and one female officer talking threateningly about [Marla] James, who is missing her left leg. “Did you punch that one-legged old Benita?” asks the guy.

“I was about to kick her in her fucking nub,” the lady cop appears to reply.

So what did James do to rile the cops up so much? She told the truth and she exercised her legal rights.

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05 Aug 21:48

Justice Department Watchdog Fears Redaction Creep Will Obstruct Oversight

by Jenna McLaughlin

The Justice Department’s internal watchdog says his problems getting access to critical information while performing his job will only get worse now because of an ambiguous legal opinion from the department, which says inspectors general do not in fact have access to “all” information.

“Just yesterday I’m told in our review of the FBI’s use of the bulk telephony statute — a review that this committee has very much been interested in our doing —  we got records with redactions,” Department of Justice Inspector General Michael Horowitz said during a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on Tuesday.

On July 23, the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel published a lengthy opinion delving into the powers of the Inspectors General, concluding that, contrary to the law that established the job in the first place, they can have timely access to information “most” of the time rather than all.

The opinion said that IGs should not be given access to some information unless there is a defined counterintelligence or legal purpose, to be decided by a team of the department’s own lawyers—not the IG’s.

The OLC opinion specified three instances when separate federal statues might delay or restrict IG access to sensitive records: grand jury materials, wiretap records, and credit reports. However, the FBI has listed ten other types of information of “concern” that it may choose to limit access to in the future, just in case the disclosure of the documents breaks any other laws.

The ambiguity of the opinion might make that possible, despite the OLC’s insistence that it didn’t “intend” to override Congress.

That’s what concerns Horowitz and others who worry that allowing the FBI to comb through its own documents before allowing the inspector general to inspect them defeats the purpose of independent oversight.

Photo of Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz, Associate Deputy FBI Director Kevin Perkins, Associate Deputy Attorney General Carlos Uriarte, and Acting Commerce Inspector General David Smith testifying at the Senate Judiciary Hearing on August 5. 

The post Justice Department Watchdog Fears Redaction Creep Will Obstruct Oversight appeared first on The Intercept.

05 Aug 14:30

Facebook Patent Would Allow Lenders To Determine Creditworthiness By Looking At Your ‘Friends’

by Ashlee Kieler

Earlier this year Facebook announced it would dip its toes into the pool of mobile payments by launching a system that allowed users to send money to friends via the Messenger app. Now it appears the company may take things a bit farther after receiving approval for a patent this week that would allow creditors to determine whether or not someone is worthy of a loan based on their circle of friends on the social networking site.

The patent — which was actually applied for by Facebook back in August 2012 — is for a system of authorization and authentication based on an individual’s social network. It could have several uses, including filtering out spam email and offensive content, and improving searches on the site.

However, it’s the use related to approving or denying a loan request based on the friends you keep that is a bit worrisome.

“When an individual applies for a loan, the lender examines the credit ratings of members of the individual’s social network who are connected to the individual through authorized nodes (connections),” the patent states. “If the average credit rating of these members is at least a minimum credit score, the lender continues to process the loan application. Otherwise, the loan application is rejected.”

According to the patent, the lender would be able to access a potential borrower’s social circle by submitting a request for information from Facebook’s databases. They would then receive a series of lists – grey, black and white – that would be used to determine the average credit score for the would-be borrower’s friends.

The process for Facebook loan approval. [Click To Enlarge]

The process for Facebook loan approval. [Click To Enlarge]

While the recently patented process seems pretty straightforward, the practical implications raise several questions and concerns.

For one thing, just because you’re ‘friends’ on Facebook doesn’t mean that person has any impact on your everyday life or influence over your financial habits.

The patent doesn’t detail how a lender would weed out potential social network connections that might not have a significant influence on the borrower – like that long-lost high school classmate you haven’t actually seen in 10 years.

Additionally, the patent doesn’t provide a clear explanation for what the data provided related to connections includes. If it’s just a credit score without a report that lists debts or defaults, how is one to know that the consumer hasn’t been unfairly penalized for things like medical debt.

But perhaps the biggest concern is the fact that numerous studies have found information culled online to create credit profiles for consumers are often inaccurate.

Last year, the National Consumer Law Center published a report that found that most credit reports generated by data brokers using information found online were riddled with errors.

Seven of the 15 consumer reports generated by eBureau, a company that touts advanced big data models, contained errors in estimated income. The reports nearly doubled the salary of one participant and halved the salary of another. Additionally, 11 of the 15 reports incorrectly stated the consumer’s education level.

Despite these concerns, it possible that the new patent won’t even see the light of day – just because a patent is granted doesn’t mean a company has the intention to actually use it.

And, as CNN points out, the Equal Credit Opportunity Act strictly regulates what criteria – income, expenses, debts and credit history – creditors can use when deciding if a consumer is worthy of a loan.

“It’s nothing to lose sleep over for people with decent credit history, but it could potentially affect those who are borderline to begin with,” said Greg McBride, chief financial analyst for Bankrate.com, tells CNN.

[via CNN]

05 Aug 14:27

Trophy hunting is "hunting" the way that Big Thunder Mountain is a "train ride"

by Cory Doctorow


You may already know that killing a lion is the most cowardly thing you can do, but The Searcher's essay on lion hunting, with accompanying illustration, makes the point with admirable force and eloquence.

And it’s “hunting” like Disneyland’s “Thunder Mountain” is riding a train. These massive animals are rousted from their sleep in the middle of the night, blinded by bright lights, and lured with food into an area where a person is hiding within a few meters wielding a device that can kill the largest land mammals on Earth with a single shot.

That’s not a sport, it’s just an outlet for sociopathy.

Trophy hunting also reverses natural selection, since trophy hunters seek out, and often pay huge sums of money to bag the largest creature, or the one with the biggest horns or antlers or tusks. When carried out over many generations, like say with African elephants, this has resulted in a “positive” trait of tuskless elephants, which now make up 30-40% of many elephant populations. Elephants without tusks are more susceptible to death via infighting and inability to defend their young from predators. So it’s not just that these trophy hunters are eliminating prime examples of a species, it is that their actions are transforming the species into a sub-prime version that, while protected from ivory-trophy seekers, makes them much less protected from everything else.

And those sums of cash, which trophy hunters like to trumpet as a valuable conservation tool, aren’t. The vast majority of the cash paid to kill animals goes to the safari companies that sponsor the executions, and fees to the local governments that allow them. On average less than 3% of all monies spent decorating homes with animal parts, goes to any part of local or national conservation efforts.

Circle of Life [The Searcher/Flickr]

(Thanks, Fipi Lele!)

See also: Lion-killing dentist emails his patients, shows little remorse

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05 Aug 14:17

Actual questions from my Green Card questionnaire

by Cory Doctorow


Not even kidding.

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05 Aug 14:08

$1,000 Bounty Offered For Mario 64 Glitch

by Luke Plunkett

$1,000 Bounty Offered For Mario 64 Glitch

Mario fan and glitch hunter extraordinaire Pannenkoek2012 has a contract for you, Witcher: if you can recreate and record a weird hiccup he recently saw on Twitch, he’ll give you $1000.

Streamer DOTA_TeaBag caught the glitch, seemingly by accident, in a video taken during a run of Super Mario 64’s Tick Tock Clock stage. As you can see in the video below (and which Pannenkoek2012 so helpfully explains), it’s a weird little thing, something Mario 64 fans have never seen before.

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Normally, if Mario is going to randomly move up or down, it’s down (or a “downwarp”). There’s only one noted spot in the game where you “upwarp”, and it’s totally different to the example captured in this clip.

This all sounds minor, but for people who are speedrunning through these games (or just super into them), it’s a big deal! Plus there’s just the general curiosity of discovering something new in a game that’s been out for nearly twenty years.

If you feel like taking a shot, here are the conditions:

The submission should be a .m64 and .st file, which when played perform the glitch. To submit, you can zip up these files, upload to TinyUpload.com, and then send me the link in a comment or private message. The bounty will hold until the first person successfully submits a recreation of the glitch, at which point I will add the word [CLAIMED] to the end of this video’s title, and then no one else will be eligible for the prize.

(via Phediuk @ NeoGAF)

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05 Aug 14:00

The Fury: Wacky Inflatable Waving Arms Cosplay

by Luke Plunkett on Cosplay, shared by Luke Plunkett to Kotaku

The Fury: Wacky Inflatable Waving Arms Cosplay

You’re doing it right, whoever you are in there (full version below).

(via imgur)

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05 Aug 13:54

Bubblegum

Bewarethewumpus

That hovertext.

I came here to chew bubblegum and say no more than eighteen words ... and I'm all out of
04 Aug 23:17

Obi-Juan Cosplayer at San Japan 2015

by Brad
06d
04 Aug 23:16

Things You Didn't Know About Alfreb Einstime

by Brad
478
03 Aug 18:28

Vegan Black Metal Chef makes lasagna

by Jason Weisberger

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This Vegan Black Metal Chef is Brutal.