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24 Aug 22:11

She Who Weaves

by Jae Miles

Author : Jae Miles, Staff Writer

I woke to one of those ‘phantom impacts’ on the bed. The source of the bump was one of the legs of the spider looming over me. I will admit to squealing a little before grabbing my glasses to restore things into perspective.

The glasses allowed me to focus on the gigantic purple spider filling my bedroom. My squeal, which had been ebbing, climbed into a full-blown shriek.

A huge pair of mandibles swung down in front of my face and my shriek fainted dead away.

“Youthling, you have averred a policy of peaceful co-existence with my siblings all of your life. Many have not.”

The voice emanating from this monster arachnid did not alarm me as much as a sudden awareness of distant bedlam.

“Please excuse the disturbance. We are dealing with transgressors.”

I found a voice. It wasn’t my grown up one, but it had to do: “Transgressors?”

“The many who sorely afflicted my kin are being judged. We are the Avengers of Uttu.”

I swallowed hard before asking: “Uttu?”

“She who wove the net upon which the universes hang. We are her blessed, journeying the webs between the suns to bring her scattered kindred home.”

I took a moment to think slightly faster than my hyperventilation, then slowed breathing and imagination.

“You’re taking all the spiders to arachnid heaven?”

“I do not accurately parse the terms ‘arachnid’ or ‘heaven’, but derivation by context leads to confirmation of your query.”

“You will be leaving afterwards?”

“Assuredly. We have many planets yet to visit.”

“So why are you in my bedroom?”

“The sibling that you prevented your progenitor from crushing with a tome yesterday asked me to thank you.”

“They remember?”

“Other than threats, only for a short while. I was impressed by the level of recall, which indicated repeated interventions by yourself.”

“Repeated? I though spiders didn’t live very long?”

“They live many cycles. They just do not stay in one location for long. Otherwise their uncharacteristic longevity would be noticed by your elders.”

I had a moment of wonder and horror: “Spiders live for centuries but we haven’t noticed because they were actually a part of a covert alien ecosystem in temporary residence on our planet, which is about to depart forever?”


I just stared. I may have gibbered a bit.

“My vessel is ready. Farewell, youthling.”

It backed out of my room without touching a thing. In the darkness of the hallway, the glow of eight violet eyes receded, then vanished.

I fainted.

As nightmares go, I thought it was new paradigm. Until I turned on the news the following day.

That was two months ago. While a lot of people had squished a spider, a strange commonality was that there seemed to be only one person in each home or office who did that. We’ve got a new view of the universe, a massively reduced population, and a lot of single-parent families.

Governments and religions are having a hard time arguing against the sudden outbreak of Uttu shrines and anti-Uttu cults, but everyone expects sectarian violence soon.

Ecologists are quietly watching and guessing what the sudden loss of spiders will do to the world, apart from make arachnophobes happy.

Me? I had to mop up my father.

Now I care for my mother: waking up to find a giant purple spider hacking her husband to pieces was a little much for her mind.

We, like everyone else, just get by. And worry about every other creature that has had an ancient divinity associated with it.

Especially the species that humanity has rendered extinct.

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23 Aug 00:00

Tipping Point

by submission

Author : Rick Tobin

“I need a short break. You,” he directed, pointing to his second. “Move the weapons to the dark side of the planet. We may be able to hold them off there if we can hide the missiles during transit.” The junior officer nodded and began sending orders to the remaining resistance troops.

As the toilet room door sealed, and the Commander moved towards a stall, he sensed someone behind him. Turning swiftly, he confronted an alien humanoid with a dozen limbs, six eyes and glistening blue skin. He stood numbed.

“We know who you are, Commander. This was an opportunity to communicate directly about your destruction.” The intruder’s face did not move. The Commander pushed his hand forward and through the hologram. The alien’s voice filled his head. He could not silence it.

“Damndest choice of locations. You obviously have no sense of honor.”

“Such trifles, Commander, when your world is to be terraformed. It’s all part of the process. Your race simply failed the test.”

“The test! Eight billion people died today. That’s no test, you filthy…”

“Ah, now that’s the spirit, but not for long. We do have one protocol, and that is to let the single resistance leader know why his race is eliminated. I think it wasteful and futile, but it is an ancient tradition. By the way, they didn’t all die. We culled the strongest and most interesting mutations. We have to repopulate the next series of planets as we try to grow improved Clots for our advancement in this sector. Your elite gave a paltry fight. We had hoped for better, still some of the samples we’ve taken will be useful. Eventually we’ll find the warrior DNA strong enough to defend our realm. We all have enemies, Commander.”

“Clots? What the hell? We’ll fight to the last person against your machines.”

“The Clots aren’t machines. They are a reflection of us combined in a half-cyborg and half-clone of the best we continue to harvest and incubate. Still, highly expendable.”

“You will pay, you monster…all of you. I’ll…”
“Do nothing, like so many before you, and like those of you on other orbs in this system. We’ll visit them all soon. Your species simply didn’t advance adequately. So boring. I’ve done my protocol. Oh, and we don’t want your genes either, Commander. They truly lack the majesty we need.” With that the holograph faded.
Disregarding his physical needs, the Commander rushed back to the control center. “Get me Geneva. I need to talk to the Hadron before Europe is exposed to the armada.”

The Junior Officer took charge of the communications array. Turning, as he waited for a reply from Switzerland, he addressed his superior. “Most of them have gone underground to the deep caves. What should I tell those left behind?”

“Just give them the code ‘Hawking.” He knew this was coming two hundred years ago. A single button is all that needs to be activated. Because of his vision we repurposed the Hadron and tied it to ten nuclear power plants. We’re done for, Major, but the outer colonies still have a chance. Let’s see how our betters feel about being beaten by a man in a wheel chair introducing them to a singularity.”

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21 Aug 20:48

Asymmetric Warfare

by submission

Author : Bob Newbell

Another Ezerfol battle cruiser came in from the inner system and joined the other vessels surrounding the Earth ship. The latter was the UESS Curtis Newton commanded by United Earth Defense Captain Anton Tao. Tao and his crew were wanted by the militaries of both Earth and Ezerfol. The former wanted them for disobeying orders, destroying the Curtis Newton’s hyperwave transponder, and going rogue; the latter for stealing one of the Ezerfol’s most sacred religious relics and somehow destroying 23 starships over seven months that had been scouring the HD 10180 system to retrieve their property.

“I can disable the Earth ship without destroying it,” said the chief weapons officer of the Ezerfol command ship in what to a human would sound like a series of high-pitched screeches.

“No,” replied the captain. “The Artifact has already been sullied by the loathsome touch of alien hands. If we were to damage it ourselves, or even destroy it…”

The captain didn’t need to continue. Simply allowing the religious icon to be stolen in the first place had already placed the fate of the Ezerfol race in the next life in a precarious position. To inflict further indignity on the holy object, it was said, might compromise even making it to the next life. Indeed, the repeated defeat of one ship after another by this one vessel of the technologically inferior human race had been interpreted by more than one religious authority as evidence that the Ezerfol were already under divine censure. Prior to the theft by the Curtis Newton’s crew, every encounter with Earth’s space navy had resulted in a resounding defeat for the humans.

“They are not responding to our hails,” said the communications officer. “Nor am I detecting any attempt by them to contact any other human ship or base by radio, laser, or hyperwave.”

“Captain, the ship seems…dark,” noted the command ship’s executive officer. “There’s no light coming from any of the porthole windows.”

“There!” said the weapons officer. “Their cargo bay doors just opened and something came out! Captain, we have to risk firing on–”

The Ezerfol officer’s recommendation was cut off by the bridge going completely dark. The bridge had viewscreens but no windows. At the same time, the artificial gravity failed. So did life support. It took about 26 hours for all 2,200 Ezerfol on the nine ships to die.

The lights on the Curtis Newton slowly came back up. Even with the few pieces of tech the ship had left safely stowed away in Faraday cages during combat missions, there was always about a day or two of repair work that had to be done by candlelight afterward.

“How long will it take to rig up another EMP bomb, Kelly?” Captain Tao asked his chief engineer.

The woman brushed back her red hair getting a streak of dark grime on her forehead in the process and sighed. “Well, sir, we’ve got enough explosives and a couple of armatures left. But we’re getting low on stator winding. Give me a week and I can have a bomb ready. After the next hit we need to resupply.”

“There’s an Ezerfol supply depot in orbit around this system’s largest gas giant. We’ll hit it next. Take out an important enemy resource and resupply ourselves at the same time. Krishna, how long to get to that planet?”

“Let me find a window facing the right direction and I’ll ask my ‘navigation computer,’ sir,” the officer said with annoyance holding up the antique sextant.

Tao laughed. “To defeat a technologically superior enemy, you have to get primitive.”

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20 Aug 05:34

The Politics of Non Sequitur

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Author : David Botticello

When the Nezzan ambassador abruptly walked out of a Council session, nobody really thought much of it. It was a time-honored method showing political irritation. Not that the Nezzan had ever used it before. They were a quiet species—fundamentally reasonable we thought—but quiet. Ideal citizens, really.

The Nezzan introduced themselves into galactic society in the usual way. First encountered by a long-distance cargo hauler that had wandered off course, they were eager to meet new races and participate in our burgeoning community. They joined the League of Free Worlds. They traded interesting variations on the most current technologies. They became active members of our polity, spoke at our councils, and joined even our most idealistic causes.

Usually, it’s the little cultural quirks that cause friction. One race worships the color red. Another hoards natural fabrics “because they’re fuzzy.” Every so often an ambassador gets offended, often as a political ploy, and then there’s an apology, some commiseration over Illyrian wine, and an economic concession. The affairs of state go on.

The Nezzan fleet attacked exactly as their ambassador’s shuttle debarked. We checked. The offensive was cold, strategic, and planned in alarming detail. But the Nezzan were never the most powerful of races; with only moderate technology and a below average birth rate, their ability to wage war was nothing special. To be sure, they caused serious damage to a few worlds—the attacks were particularly unpredictable, and therefore, effective—but the Nezzan never had any real chance against our Coalition Fleet.

We sent messages. What grave offense had set the Nezzan on their murderous course? The Nezzan gave no response. We sent envoys, but they were turned away at the edge of Nezzan space. So we turned inward to our own resources, but our great scholars and xenologists just shook their heads and shrugged. The Council voted to send Senior Mediator Drelax to search for answers and seek out peace. He made it past the border by virtue of his venerable reputation, but then sat daily in a conference room, in the finest government building of the largest city on the Nezzan homeworld, alone. It was not until the last day of his visit that Drelax was joined by the Nezzan’s most esteemed ambassador, Nax Nioryl. He, too, said nothing. Nioryl perched on the edge of the table and smiled pleasantly, implacable as a neutron star. After an hour of Drelax’s entreaties—begging for peace, or armistice, or at least some measure of explanation, the defeated senior mediator rose to leave, turning to Nioryl for one final question: simply, “Why?”

The Nezzan ambassador stared back wordlessly.

Still, we finally got an answer, of sorts. Two days ago a Nezzan heavy cruiser parked in low orbit over a primordial world deep inside the League’s territory. It deployed a plasma cannon of alarming scale and magnitude, carving intricate lines of ancient Nezzan calligraphy into the crust of Colmar Prime. As we gaped at the images coming in, great glowing scars in the planet’s the now-boiling surface, we realized this was Ambassador Nioryl’s response. Loosely translated it reads:

“Why? . . . Because life grows. Because gravity pulls. Because the stars burn.”

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17 Aug 20:04

The Tower

by submission

Author : William Ovide Richardson

On a clear day, the tower was a perfect filament of white, stretching from its mile-wide root before you to its faded terminus directly over your head.

The human mind is not accustomed to seeing straight lines at such massive scales. It interprets them as curves, and since the tower was 35,000 kilometers long and perfectly rigid and straight, it seemed to hang overhead, as though before it was lost to sight in the haze of the atmosphere it bent at the end like a light standard. To a conventional mind, unaccustomed to such counterintuitive sights, it could be as jarring as the view from the inner surface of one of the larger Stanford Tori, which seemed like an arch over a curved strip of solid ground, punctuated at the noon position by a luminous suspended cylinder that seemed to float weightless, and which the mind would simply not allow to be as massive as it actually was. The brain was trained and evolutionarily predisposed to understand ‘up’ as a place where incalculably huge things simply didn’t hang like that.

If you stood in front of the tower, that bizarre and disorienting apparent curve would confront you, and several thoughts would come to your mind unbidden. The first you might dismiss as hackneyed and obvious: this was the tower of Babel. It was a monument to human arrogance and hubris and God or nature or chaos or whatever would make us pay for it. Those who laboured for the consortium at all strata, from executives to lawyers to engineers to migrant labourers, would tell you that whatever your beliefs, that thought was perfectly normal. Some of them even believed it.

The second was sheer awe at the scale of human potential. We fight. We forget our lessons every generation, and most of us never learn them at all. We succumb to superstition, incompetence, and the endless blights of stupidity and mean-spiritedness. Nonetheless, this. Somehow we can achieve Olympus, Pedestal, Canaan, Luna, and the utterly mindblowing Tower and the masterstroke of political organization of the Consortium.

Once those thoughts crossed your mind, you would turn, because knowing what was there, you’d have to turn to look after your mind processed the second thought. The idea that the Tower Consortium was a miracle would necessitate it. You’d turn to see the airbase, operating military aircraft around the clock. Beyond that, warships passed, and in the seaport, the derricks of the shipyard turned and swung where the massive landing craft, fully equipped for long-duration seabasing, underwent construction and refits.

The scale of the operation was staggering, of an order to impoverish superlatives, and so was its opposition. Newton’s laws are, of course, immutable. Every action has an equal and opposite reaction. If some optimistic segment of humanity decided to buck the dark-age warnings of the fearful and build a tower to the stars, then those who thought any of a thousand contrary things–either that we should be satisfied with our God-given dominion, or that we were testing God’s (apparently finite) patience, or that we ought to simply read the stories bronze-age nomads wrote, or whatever else– would come together to tear it down, bound by the basic laws that govern the motion of everything from events to baseballs to force their own prophecies to come true.

And so, war. No more justification required. No more explanation needed for the now constant air, sea, and space battle being waged mere hundreds of miles away from where you now stood. The Consortium’s superiority was incontestable, but it was limited in manpower, while its enemies were legion. It was only a matter of time until this stroke of human genius came tumbling back to Earth, incomplete. Something had to change. Humanity had to improve; we needed to be objectively better.

That was a project much larger and far more daunting even than the Tower, and it was already underway.

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09 Aug 16:31

Nope, White House won’t pardon Snowden

by Cyrus Farivar

Unsurprisingly, the White House formally announced Tuesday that it will not be granting a pardon to Edward Snowden anytime soon.

Immediately after Snowden was formally charged in 2013 with espionage, theft, and conversion of government property, supporters began petitioning the White House to pardon the famed former National Security Agency contractor.

In a brief statement, Lisa Monaco, the president's advisor on homeland security and counterterrorism, wrote:

Read 5 remaining paragraphs | Comments

09 Aug 16:14

Crypto activists announce vision for Tor exit relay in every library

by Cyrus Farivar

Crypto nerds have now firmly set their sights on libraries, with the ultimate goal of setting up Tor exit relays in as many of these ubiquitous public institutions as possible. As of now, only about 1,000 exit relays exist worldwide. If this plan is successful, it could vastly increase the scope and speed of the famed anonymizing network.

"We love this—we hope that more libraries and news outlets will start hosting Tor exit nodes," Kate Krauss, a spokeswoman for the Tor Project, told Ars. "It's a bold statement for free speech."

The plan is being executed by the Library Freedom Project (LFP), a new group trying to get American libraries to incorporate more privacy tools into their everyday operations as a way to protect patrons from aggressive snooping. The group’s new campaign was announced earlier this week.

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05 Aug 20:46

MeFi: Top 10 Medieval Butt-Licking Cats

by Confess, Fletch
04 Aug 17:41

TSA’s Behavior Detection Program Has a Newsletter, and It’s Ridiculous

by Jana Winter

The Transportation Security Administration’s embattled behavior detection program has not identified a single terrorist, but it has produced glossy bimonthly newsletters poking fun at the traveling public.

In these employee newsletters — six of which were obtained by The Intercept — behavior detection officers, who are supposed to help spot possible terrorists, sometimes make fun of inexperienced or nervous travelers, including one “sweet little old lady” who thought the bowl for metallic objects was a tip jar.

On their own, the newsletters could be regarded as light-hearted workplace fun, but they are also part of a controversial billion-dollar program, known as Screening of Passengers by Observation Techniques, or SPOT, which employs specially trained officers, known as behavior detection officers, to rate passengers going through screening for signs of deception. Those alleged signs of deception, which the The Intercept revealed earlier this year, include “excessive yawning” and “wringing of hands,” and have been widely criticized for lacking any basis in science, or even common sense.

The Intercept also reported on the program’s flawed design that targets undocumented immigrants not potential terrorists.

The newsletter issues range from seven to nine pages and provide a forum for behavior detection officers to share stories about confiscated wine, showcase original poetry (an ode to Alaska, for example), and in one case, promote an officer’s dog-breeding business (the officer says her TSA training to spot deception helps her “read” potential dog buyers).

A section called “BDO Funnies” highlights naïve or nervous passengers, including an example of an officer successfully convincing one woman going through security that a swab used to detect explosives was instead testing for DNA. At other times, the newsletters praise behavior detection officers for providing “customer service” to the traveling public, by explaining security procedures or helping passengers. There are also mentions of various pilot program tests or attempts to test out metrics to track and evaluate the program overall.

Some offices detail their goals for the year. “This year’s goal is to visit the Botanical Garden which is adjacent to the beautiful and newly re-modeled airport and learn more about the indigenous plants and species that share in improving our air quality!” reads one item.

Others  highlight past memorable moments or achievements.  One team, for example, wrote about a botched attempt to reheat a chicken sandwich in the airport’s break room microwave. (Someone forgot to remove the foil wrapper, and the sandwich became engulfed in flames, then exploded.)

Much of the newsletter space is devoted to very lengthy regional articles about the weather, with headlines like, “Surviving the Snow in Bangor, Maine!” “Beating the Summer Heat in Milwaulkee!” and “Yes it Snows in Arizona!”

The newsletters also offer insights into the background of some behavior detection officers, who are supposed to be able to spot potential terrorists just by looking at them. “How many of us can look back about 20 years at the Susan Smith case, specifically at that famous news conference where she insisted there had been a carjacking and her children were in the car?” wrote one officer. “I know I turned to my husband and said, ‘She’s lying.’ I knew nothing about BDOs at that time; I just knew that her behaviors contradicted her words.”

Prior to joining TSA, the behavior detection officer worked as a travel agent for Walt Disney Company.

Newly confirmed TSA Administrator Peter Neffenger faced tough questions from lawmakers earlier this week about the agency’s failure to spot weapons and explosives 96 percent of the time in recent tests. The congressional panel also raised questions about the behavior detection officer program. Neffenger said he needed to continue to look at the program before making decisions about its future.

In response to The Intercept’s questions about the content and purpose of the newsletters, TSA spokesperson Bruce Anderson said they were one of the myriad methods used by the agency to engage and encourage communication across its workforce.

“An engaged and informed workforce is critical to TSA’s mission while ensuring that we treat all passengers fairly and with dignity and integrity,” the spokesperson said via email. “Employees who feel part of a community and recognized are more engaged and better perform their security mission. ‘BDOs in Motion’ is a newsletter written by Behavior Detection Officers. As always, professionalism and integrity are at the core of who we are as homeland security professionals, and TSA strives to demonstrate this with every passenger at every airport around the country.”

TSA did not answer The Intercept’s questions regarding cost and time involved in producing the BDO newsletters.

BDO Newsletters

BDO Newsletter, April 1, 2014

BDO Newsletter, June 1, 2014

BDO Newsletter, August 1, 2014

BDO Newsletter, October 1, 2014

BDO Newsletter, December 1, 2014

BDO Newsletter, February 1, 2015

The post TSA’s Behavior Detection Program Has a Newsletter, and It’s Ridiculous appeared first on The Intercept.

03 Aug 15:59

An elegant computer for a more civilized age

by Jason Weisberger

Apple ///

Somewhere, nestled in the woods near Santa Rosa, California, Ryan Powers came across this relic from a time better left forgotten.

This Apple /// serves as a dark reminder of the days when computer science pioneers were outcasts, and forced to hide in the wild, with little more than a 6502 assembler to keep them warm.

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03 Aug 15:01


02 Aug 00:16

Texas gentleman shot by bullet that ricocheted off armadillo

by Mark Frauenfelder


A fellow from East Texas didn't take kindly to an armadillo that entered his backyard at 3am on Thursday morning. He opened fire on the animal, but one bullet bounced of the critter's tough hide and hit the man in his face. He was airlifted to the hospital, where a surgeon wire his jaw shut. The armadillo got away.

Michael Marks of the San Antonio Current writes, "Leave them alone. Do not shoot them, do not eat them, do not hit them with your car if you can help it. They are simple and majestic beasts. Let them eat grubs and migrate north in peace."

Image: Shutterstock

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31 Jul 15:42

Pot-Centric Colorado Credit Union Sues Federal Reserve Bank For Denying Account

by Chris Morran

fourthcornerpicThe state of Colorado no longer outlaws recreational marijuana use, but the U.S. government still considers it a Schedule I controlled substance, so many businesses making money from the locally legal sale of cannabis are having trouble finding banks to handle their cash. One credit union formed with the goal of providing financial services to those in the marijuana industry received a charter from Colorado, but has filed suit against a regional Federal Reserve bank for blocking its ability to work with other banks.

Denver-based Fourth Corner Credit Union, whose stated mission is to “service the unique financial needs of the cannabis and hemp industries and their supporters,” received a charter from Colorado regulators in late 2014. The credit union then reached out to the Federal Bank of Kansas City to apply for what’s known as a “master account.”

Master accounts at Fed branches allow banks to not only deposit their cash reserves, but gives banks the ability to easily transact business with other financial institutions by settling credits and debits through the account at that Fed branch bank. Basically, the master account is the bank’s bank account.

Without a master account, “a depository institution is nothing more than a vault,” notes Fourth Corner in its lawsuit [PDF].

The credit union accuses the Fed bank of delaying review of Fourth Corner’s master account application for nearly nine months, claiming that the usual turnaround for processing an application is only five to seven days.

Fourth Corner argues that federal law requires the Fed banks to provide their payment services to all “depository institutions,” even if the institution is not a member of the Federal Reserve system.

Despite the increasing decriminalization and legalization of marijuana, many established financial institutions are refusing to accept deposits from pot sellers, growers, and distributors out of concern that it may lead to unwanted scrutiny of their business from federal regulators and law enforcement.

In early 2014, the U.S. government attempted to provide some guidance for banks who might find themselves involved with marijuana money, but it may have only muddied the waters. Banks now know they should file “suspicious activity reports” that are specific to the pot industry, but they don’t really know if they are breaking federal law by continuing to do business with these account-holders.

As a result, there are a number of licensed marijuana businesses in Colorado and Washington who can’t deposit their piles of cash in the bank.

Not only does this make it difficult for these businesses to pay taxes, rents, salaries, and other costs that would normally be dealt with through checks or electronic transfers, it is a growing public safety risk. In an era when gas station and fast food heists turn up less money because of increased use of credit cards, robbers will certainly be tempted to go after primarily cash businesses that have no bank in which to deposit their earnings.

Part of the Fed’s eventual decision to deny the Fourth Corner master account application was the fact that the National Credit Union Administration — an independent federal regulatory agency — refused the credit union’s application for deposit insurance.

In order to get a master account, an institution must show that it’s eligible to receive this type of insurance, but Fourth Corner argues that the insurance need not come from the NCUA and can be privately obtained. The credit union has filed a separate suit against the NCUA claiming it was denied due process in the insurance application review.

Andrew Freedman, Colorado’s director of marijuana coordination, had hoped the Fed would be more open-minded about Fourth Corner’s business.

“We thought it was a good solution to the problem,” Freedman told Dealbook about the Fed’s decision. “Here was a place willing to take on the risk of banking this underbanked group — and that could do rigorous compliance.”

31 Jul 14:52

Jimmy Carter: The U.S. Is an “Oligarchy With Unlimited Political Bribery”

by Jon Schwarz

Former president Jimmy Carter said Tuesday on the nationally syndicated radio show the Thom Hartmann Program that the United States is now an “oligarchy” in which “unlimited political bribery” has created “a complete subversion of our political system as a payoff to major contributors.” Both Democrats and Republicans, Carter said, “look upon this unlimited money as a great benefit to themselves.”

Carter was responding to a question from Hartmann about recent Supreme Court decisions on campaign financing like Citizens United.


HARTMANN: Our Supreme Court has now said, “unlimited money in politics.” It seems like a violation of principles of democracy. … Your thoughts on that?

CARTER: It violates the essence of what made America a great country in its political system. Now it’s just an oligarchy, with unlimited political bribery being the essence of getting the nominations for president or to elect the president. And the same thing applies to governors and U.S. senators and congress members. So now we’ve just seen a complete subversion of our political system as a payoff to major contributors, who want and expect and sometimes get favors for themselves after the election’s over. … The incumbents, Democrats and Republicans, look upon this unlimited money as a great benefit to themselves. Somebody’s who’s already in Congress has a lot more to sell to an avid contributor than somebody who’s just a challenger.

I’ve added Carter’s statement to this list of politicians acknowledging that money controls politics. Please let me know if you have other good examples.

(Thanks to Sam Sacks for pointing this out.)

The post Jimmy Carter: The U.S. Is an “Oligarchy With Unlimited Political Bribery” appeared first on The Intercept.

31 Jul 14:47

New WikiLeaks Cache Reveals a Decade of U.S. Spying on Japan

by Jamie Condliffe on Gizmodo, shared by András Neltz to Kotaku

New WikiLeaks Cache Reveals a Decade of U.S. Spying on Japan

A new series of documents released by WikiLeaks reveals a list of 35 high-profile targets in Japan that the NSA has spied on since 2006.

The slew of new documents reveals that the USA has been spying on “conglomerates, government officials, ministries and senior advisers.” Those include:

the Japanese Cabinet Office; the executive secretary to the Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga; a line described as “Government VIP Line”; numerous officials within the Japanese Central Bank, including Governor Haruhiko Kuroda; the home phone number of at least one Central Bank official; numerous numbers within the Japanese Finance Ministry; the Japanese Minister for Economy, Trade and Industry Yoichi Miyazawa; the Natural Gas Division of Mitsubishi; and the Petroleum Division of Mitsui.

Elsewhere, documents made available by WikiLeaks include a series of reports that describe detailed U.S. understanding of internal Japanese deliberations. The reports touch on topics including agricultural imports, trade disputes, nuclear power and energy policy.


Speaking about the release, Julian Assange, WikiLeaks Editor-in-Chief, explained that “the lesson for Japan is this: do not expect a global surveillance superpower to act with honour or respect.” It certainly won’t help U.S.-Japan relations, that’s for sure.


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31 Jul 14:13

German prosecutors give spies a walk, but investigate journalists for "treason"

by Cory Doctorow

The German prosecutors who dropped all action against the US and UK spy-agencies who trampled German law and put the whole nation, up to and including Chancellor Angela Merkel, under surveillance, have decided instead to open an investigation into the bloggers at Netzpolitik, who revealed the wrongdoing.

Netzpolitik are an important source of independent news, analysis and campaigning for privacy and freedom in Germany. This is a genuinely shameful moment for the nation. We stand with Netzpolitik and its supporters around the world.

The investigation’s cause are the articles „mass data processing of the Internet’s content“ and „a new unit for expanding internet surveillance“ executed by the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution whereof we had reported with the aid of the original documents.

We have reported on this matter because we deem it necessary to start a social debate. Two years after after Snowden’s revelations, the Federal Government has no better ideas than spending more and more money and responsibilities on largely uncontrolled secret services instead of ensuring a better control of secret services and reducing the system of total surveillance.

Naturally, we uploaded the original documents relating to our article because there was still enough disk space and because it is part of our philosophy to enable our readers to inform themselves using the original source. Thus, they can scrutinise us and our reporting.

Apparently, this suffices for a twice charge for treason because it seems to be confidential when the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution expands the Internet’s surveillance and keeps social networks under surveillance using the dragnet principle. This affects everybody, e.g. we could be under surveillance because we have sign up for the same Facebook event as a potential terrorist. But a public debate thereon is undesired.

The charge was published the day after the Deutsche Bundestag (German parliament, translator’s note) has passed a reform of the Federal office for the Protection of the Constitution containing expanded surveillance authority for it.

Criminal Charges From Domestic Secret Service: Federal Prosecutor Investigates our Publications, Leaks and Sources [Markus Beckedahl/Netzpolitik]

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30 Jul 04:49

An Evangelion Masterpiece

by Luke Plunkett

An Evangelion Masterpiece

Kyonghwan “Tahra” Kim is a freelance concept artist and illustrator from Korea. Good thing he’s got a book collecting his work already, because it saves me asking for one.

You can see more of Kim’s work at his personal site and ArtStation page.

To see the larger pics in all their glory (or, if they’re big enough, so you can save them as wallpaper), click on the “expand” button in the top-left corner.


Fine Art is a celebration of the work of video game artists, showcasing the best of both their professional and personal portfolios. If you’re in the business and have some concept, environment, promotional or character art you’d like to share, drop us a line!

An Evangelion Masterpiece

An Evangelion Masterpiece

An Evangelion Masterpiece

An Evangelion Masterpiece

An Evangelion Masterpiece

An Evangelion Masterpiece

An Evangelion Masterpiece

An Evangelion Masterpiece

An Evangelion Masterpiece

An Evangelion Masterpiece

An Evangelion Masterpiece

An Evangelion Masterpiece

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29 Jul 20:20

Physics Puzzler Has a Community of Mad Geniuses

by Julian Benson

Physics Puzzler Has a Community of Mad Geniuses

Your aim in Poly Bridge is simple: build a bridge that’s strong enough to carry waiting cars across a river to their destination. Yet on that simple gameplay foundation, players have come up with some genius solutions.

This post originally appeared on Kotaku UK.

Some of the players’ solutions are elegant creations:


Physics Puzzler Has a Community of Mad Geniuses

Image credit: KerbalrocketryYT.

Physics Puzzler Has a Community of Mad Geniuses

Image credit: Pidiotpong.

Underpinning each level is a physics system which sees bridges buckle and collapse if they’re subjected to too much weight. Usually this is bad, but some players have started to work broken bridges into their solutions:

Physics Puzzler Has a Community of Mad Geniuses

Image credit: PM_ME_A_PIZZAROLL.

The blend of physics, engineering, and a GIF generator has seen the Reddit community go nuts.

Physics Puzzler Has a Community of Mad Geniuses

Image credit: Mittentroll.

Not everyone goes for the masterpiece, some players just build what’s needed to get the job done.

Physics Puzzler Has a Community of Mad Geniuses

Image credit: Karmacist.

Physics Puzzler Has a Community of Mad Geniuses

Image credit: Iwajira.

Physics Puzzler Has a Community of Mad Geniuses

Image credit: Colonyyy.

Physics Puzzler Has a Community of Mad Geniuses

Image credit: Xotice.

Poly Bridge has been in Steam Early Access since the end of June and it’s coming along really nicely as it heads towards a September release window. Updates have added new levels, new features, fixed bugs, and added new tracks to the soundtrack.

If you’ve been looking for a physics-based bridge building puzzle game (who hasn’t) you should definitely check it out.

Physics Puzzler Has a Community of Mad Geniuses

This post originally appeared on Kotaku UK, bringing you original reporting, game culture and humour with a U from the British isles. Follow them on @Kotaku_UK.

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29 Jul 16:44

Hackers Can Now Remotely Attack A Gun, Change Its Target, And Lock The Owner Out

by Kate Cox


(Not the gun that was hacked. Photo: jayRaz)

Over the past few years we’ve heard a lot about the smart, connected devices that make up the internet of things. From ceiling fans to cars and cameras, they’re everywhere. Unfortunately, anything that can connect to the internet can be hacked through the internet… and now, it seems, that includes guns.

Wired has reported today on a husband and wife security team that will be presenting their newest hack at a security conference in August. Their project? They’ve spent the last year hacking a pair of sniper rifles.

The TrackingPoint self-aiming rifles come with a fully-computerized, Linux-powered scope that allows the user to designate a target, then set variables like wind, temperature, and ammunition type. When the shooter pulls the trigger, the computer takes over and chooses the specific moment to fire, only activating when the gun is perfectly aimed, Wired explains. The weapon “can allow even a gun novice to reliably hit targets from as far as a mile away.”

That is, as long as nobody’s come along on wifi and stuck their fingers in the gun’s code.

The weapon’s wifi is turned off by default, which is the good news. The bad news is, as soon as it’s turned on, it’s vulnerable. The rifle uses a default password that allows anyone in range to communicate with it. Once connected, a hacker can access the weapon’s APIs to muck around with its targeting application and other features.

(Why does a gun have wifi at all, you may ask? “So you can do things like stream a video of your shot to a laptop or iPad,” Wired explains.)

The researchers demonstrated to Wired the range of control they had remotely over the gun. By assigning new values to variables the scope tracks, they were able to completely change its targets or even to disable the gun entirely. They were also able to interfere with the gun’s security, altering the PIN a user can set to limit others’ access to lock out the owner.

Happily, they were not able to fire the rifle remotely — doing that still requires manually pulling the trigger.

The risks from this particular hack, of this particular rifle, are low. Researchers had to acquire and dismantle one of the rifles in order to discover the full extent of its vulnerabilities. The guns are luxury items that go for $13,000 apiece, Wired reports, and about a thousand have been sold. They are far from the most common firearms being purchased and carried today.

But the potential pitfalls in the category of “smart gun” are something that buyers will have to be keenly aware of going forward. Using technology to increase security features on firearms isn’t itself a bad idea — but providing insecure internet connections opens it up to a whole world of problems.

In the same way that very few people thought about the network security of their cars until last week, very few people are thinking about the default password and exploitable wifi code embedded in firearms today. The problem is larger than one gun, one phone, one printer, one car, or one camera. It’s a whole world of default passwords and poor security that consumers don’t usually even know they need to change.

Hackers Can Disable a Sniper Rifle—Or Change Its Target [Wired]

29 Jul 01:22

Tetris Grandmaster Takes On The Weirdest Game Mode I’ve Ever Seen

by Evan Narcisse

Tetris Grandmaster Takes On The Weirdest Game Mode I’ve Ever Seen

In its most vanilla, near-ubiquitous form, Tetris is already a near perfect video game that challenges you to be smart and fast in increasingly hard fashion. The stuff that gets thrown at you in an ultra-hard arcade version is mind-blowing. Blocks that need to be cleared twice. A stack that flips around. Let’s watch one of the best Tetris players in the world take it on.

The video above is showing the Item Mode feature in Tetris: The Grand Master 2, taken on by Japanese grandmaster SQR as part of the Summer Games Done Quick charity speedrun marathon. In the ten-minute clip from last night’s stream, you’ll see him deal with a Death Block where the tetromino are twice as big, Roll Roll which changes into a different tetrominoes every time you rotate and 180 item that turns the whole stack upside down. SQR handles it all like the champion he is and the gasps of the crowd watching him play are a great indicator of just how crazy this playthrough is.

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28 Jul 20:24

Mormons Threaten To Leave Boy Scouts

by Joe Jervis
Last night the Mormon Church issued a press release in which they threaten to end their relationship with the Boy Scouts over the end of the ban on openly gay leaders.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is deeply troubled by today’s vote by the Boy Scouts of America National Executive Board. In spite of a request to delay the vote, it was scheduled at a time in July when members of the Church’s governing councils are out of their offices and do not meet. When the leadership of the Church resumes its regular schedule of meetings in August, the century-long association with Scouting will need to be examined. The Church has always welcomed all boys to its Scouting units regardless of sexual orientation. However, the admission of openly gay leaders is inconsistent with the doctrines of the Church and what have traditionally been the values of the Boy Scouts of America. As a global organization with members in 170 countries, the Church has long been evaluating the limitations that fully one-half of its youth face where Scouting is not available. Those worldwide needs combined with this vote by the BSA National Executive Board will be carefully reviewed by the leaders of the Church in the weeks ahead.
The Mormon Church is the nation's largest sponsor of the Boy Scouts with over 30,000 LDS chapters comprising about 15% of total membership.
28 Jul 16:01

Group that hacked Anthem shared weaponized 0-days with rival attackers

by Dan Goodin

An attack in early 2014 on Anthem, the No. 2 US health insurer, was by most measuring sticks a historic hack, leading to the biggest healthcare data breach ever. New evidence unearthed by researchers from security firm Symantec, however, shows it was business as usual for the hacking group, which over the past three years has carried out more than a dozen similar attacks.

Dubbed Black Vine, the group is well financed enough to have a reliable stream of weaponized exploits for zero-day vulnerabilities in Microsoft's Internet Explorer browser. Since 2012, the gang has brazenly infected websites frequented by executives in the aerospace, energy, military, and technology industries and then used the compromises to siphon blueprints, designs, and other intellectual property from the executives' organizations. The targeting of Anthem appears to reflect more of a secondary interest that was intended to further advance a primary interest in aerospace, energy, and other similar industries rather than to target healthcare information for its own sake.

"If someone just has Vikram's healthcare records, overall there's very little gain," Vikram Thakur, senior security researcher with Symantec, told Ars, as he described the motivations of the Black Vine group hacking Anthem. "But then you get healthcare information about a Vikram working for a government entity or a defense contractor, there is substantial value in that. This is the kind of data that's used in combination with something else to reach an entirely non-healthcare related goal."

Read 8 remaining paragraphs | Comments

28 Jul 15:55

AT&T doesn’t want to pay $100M fine, says throttling didn’t harm customers

by Jon Brodkin

AT&T is trying to convince the Federal Communications Commission to backtrack from a $100 million fine issued to punish AT&T for its throttling of customers on unlimited data plans.

“The Commission’s findings that consumers and competition were harmed are devoid of factual support and wholly implausible,” AT&T wrote in a response to the FCC, according to The Hill. “Its 'moderate' forfeiture penalty of $100 million is plucked out of thin air, and the injunctive sanctions it proposes are beyond the Commission’s authority.”

AT&T claimed it made all the required disclosures to customers, and also that the statute of limitations on the alleged violations had passed. The company also claimed that the FCC is infringing its First Amendment rights by requiring AT&T to tell customers that it violated an FCC rule.

Read 9 remaining paragraphs | Comments

28 Jul 14:23

Comfort Food

28 Jul 04:51

"The Furniture of Law Enforcement"

by Brad

The sequel that could never live up to the original.

27 Jul 21:58

Man Arrested After Making It Through Security, Boarding Plane Without Ticket

by Ashlee Kieler

Screen Shot 2015-07-27 at 12.57.18 PMThe Transportation Security Administration is investigating a disruption – that included a visit from the local bomb squad – at Dallas Fort-Worth International Airport Sunday night after authorities say a man boarded a flight without a ticket.

The Dallas Morning News reports airport authorities are investigating how the 26-year-old man was able to make it through a security checkpoint and onto a flight without being noticed.

The man allegedly drove his car to the airport, and left it parked at the terminal curb before heading inside. Once in the airport, he made his way through the Transportation Security Administration checkpoint and to an airport gate without a ticket.

Authorities were alerted to the unticketed passenger via a courtesy call from an airline agent. He was then arrested for criminal trespassing by officers of the airport’s Department of Public Safety, the Dallas Morning News reports.

As for the man’s car, according to CBS DFW, a bomb squad was called in to inspect the vehicle. Traffic in the area was diverted for a short period before it was determined the car posed no threat.

So far, the airport says in a statement that the only flight affected by the incident was the one the man boarded. A full report from the airport and local law enforcement – including which airline was involved – is expected to be released this afternoon.

TSA is investigating how a man boarded a plane at D/FW Airport Sunday without a ticket [Dallas Morning News]
Bomb Squad Called For Suspicious Vehicle At DFW Airport [CBS DFW]

27 Jul 21:57

Critic Publicly Calls Out Movie Company For Editing His Negative Review Into A Rave

by Chris Morran

While the words "A comedic masterstroke" were indeed in Dowd's original review, the rest of the sentence makes it clear that he thought the film was anything but.

While the words “A comedic masterstroke” were indeed in Dowd’s original review, the rest of the sentence makes it clear that he thought the film was anything but.

Everyone knows that when a movie trailer or poster is peppered with single-word review quotes — “Wow,” “Thrilling,” “Meh” — there’s usually a good reason why the full sentence from the reviews aren’t being quoted. But when you see something resembling a complete thought on a DVD box, you might be misled into thinking it accurately represents the reviewer’s opinion.

Over at, reviewer A.A. Dowd has published an open letter to Mongrel Media, a company that picked up the DVD rights to a little-known (unless you’re a David O. Russell completist) film called Nailed and used a quote from Dowd’s review on the box.

“A comedic masterstroke,” reads the back of the packaging in bright, bold letters.

That would be great, if it even vaguely resembled what Dowd had written in his “C-” review of the film, which was released in the U.S. under the dreadful title, Accidental Love.

See, the movie was a long-in-progress project, directed by Russell and written by Al Gore’s daughter Kristin, that fell apart so many times before the director eventually washed his hands of it and had his name changed in the credits before its eventual, virtually unnoticed release earlier this year.

In Dowd’s review of the movie, he wrote [bolding for emphasis]:

To be fair to whoever refashioned Accidental Love from the abandoned scraps of Nailed, there’s little reason to believe that the ideal, untroubled version of the material would have been a comedic masterstroke.

So the review didn’t even give the glimmer of hope that there might have been a good movie in there before Russell abandoned it. And yet there’s the misappropriated quote right on the DVD box.

“Did you think I wouldn’t find out, Mongrel, just because you’re all the way up there in Canada?” asks Dowd, who accuses the company of playing “dirty pool.”

“You’re breaking the bond of trust between a critic and the public; if I lead anyone astray—and I’m sure you could find plenty of readers of this site who feel that I have—it’s by way of a difference in opinion, not malicious intent,” he explains. “Framing me as a big fan of Nailed isn’t just a lie, it’s an attack on my critical reputation. What if someone reads that and really thinks I see a ‘comedic masterwork’ in Nailed? They’ll never trust me on a comedy again!”

Dowd says he’s not demanding that the boxes be pulled from stores, just an apology, “and maybe a promise that you won’t pull this kind of stunt again. Because when you turn your allies in the critical community into unwitting shills, it’s the film-buying public that really gets nailed.”

27 Jul 21:55

Google Removing Google+ Requirement For YouTube, Other Product Interactions

by Ashlee Kieler

Just a week after Google said it would ship its Google+ Photo platform into the ether, the company announced more plans to distance its social network venture from its other products by ditching a requirement that tied user activities to their public profiles.

Google announced today that it will begin removing the connection between users’ Google+ profiles and other platforms like YouTube, where some people may prefer to remain anonymous.

“People have told us that accessing all of their Google stuff with one account makes life a whole lot easier,” Bradley Horowitz, vice president of streams, photos and sharing at Google wrote in a blog post. “But we’ve also heard that it doesn’t make sense for your Google+ profile to be your identity in all the other Google products you use.”

So, starting today with YouTube and rolling out to other products over the next several months, Google will allow people to use their unsearchable standard Google account to comment or post content.

Under the previous requirement to use a searchable public Google+ account, individuals comments, posts and other actions were plastered on their profile for all to see.

For now, the folks at YouTube say in a blog post that the disconnect between Google+ and the platform only applies to posting comments. However, in the next several weeks, it plans to rollout changes in which a Google+ profile is no longer needed to upload or create a channel.

The company also says it will make it easier for people who currently have a Google+ account but don’t want to actually use it, to manage and remove the public profile.

Everything in its right place [Google]

27 Jul 15:00

Bad News: Security Hole Can Let An Attacker Take Over Your Android Phone With A Single Text

by Kate Cox

It’s a bad news Monday for up to 950 million — yes, that’s almost 1 billion — Android device owners worldwide. A vulnerability that would let a hacker take over your phone remotely has been announced, and it’s a doozy.

The damage travels by text, Forbes reports, and takes advantage of a weakness in a piece of code called Stagefright.

Stagefright is a tool Android uses to play back media — any text you get that’s an MMS (as opposed to an SMS) is played back to you using Stagefright. Any app that can read your text messages sits on top of that code, from Google Hangouts to your pre-installed default “Messaging” program.

Joshua Drake, the security researcher who discovered the flaw, told Forbes that the only thing a hacker would need to send out exploitations would be phone numbers. Attackers could then send messages to those numbers with bad code packaged in that would allow them to access the receiving device and steal data.

The level of access attackers would gain would allow access to files stored on SD cards as well as on the phone memory. Attackers could also turn your phone into a bug, remotely recording audio and video without your knowledge. Bluetooth access is also hackable via Stagefright. All versions of Android from 2.2 and up are considered vulnerable.

If that sounds terrifying, well, it kind of is. And then it gets worse. The exploit isn’t like a virus-laden e-mail attachment; you don’t actually have to try to view the media in order to be affected. Merely looking at the message in some apps is enough.

And then there are the apps where you don’t even have to open the message: for folks who use Google Hangouts to read their texts, Hangouts would open and access the exploit code “immediately before you even look at your phone… before you even get the notification,” Drake told Forbes, adding that it’s possible then to delete the message before the user even receives an alert, making the attack completely silent.

The good news is, after Drake reported his findings, Google has verified and corrected seven security holes. But here’s the bad news: Google doesn’t update Android phones directly. Service providers do. So Verizon, Sprint, T-Mobile, AT&T, and other, smaller carriers all have to push patches to their own Android customers… and they are not known for doing so quickly.

Drake will be speaking about his process for discovering vulnerabilities in Android at the Black Hat InfoSec conference in Las Vegas next week.

Stagefright: It Only Takes One Text To Hack 950 Million Android Phones [Forbes]

26 Jul 19:31

Dunkin' CEO makes $10 million a year but $15 minimum wage is "absolutely outrageous"

by Mark Frauenfelder

Dunkin' Donuts CEO Nigel Travis says it's just not fair that he makes $4800 an hour while his store employees make $15 an hour. To correct the situation, he thinks they should earn $12 an hour.

It's curious that Travis would argue that paying low-income people money – and in this case, $15 per hour isn't a whole lot of money in an expensive state like New York, it amounts to around $30,000 per year, which is fairly modest – would have cataclysmic impacts on his company and others.

After all, Travis's own compensation is through the roof. His most recent annual salary was $990,385. If you add in stock options and other non-salary benefits, his total compensation is calculated at over $10.2 million.

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