Radicalized is one of The Verge’s picks for March!

    Well, this is awesome: Andrew Liptak picked my next book, Radicalized as one of The Verge's picks for March! The tour starts Monday! Read the rest

    Beto O'Rourke was in the Cult of the Dead Cow and his t-files are still online

    Investigative tech journalist Joseph Menn's (previously) next book is a history of the Cult of the Dead Cow (previously) the legendary hacker/prankster group that is considered to be "America's oldest hacking group." Read the rest

    Security researchers reveal defects that allow wireless hijacking of giant construction cranes, scrapers and excavators

    Using software-defined radios, researchers from Trend Micro were able to reverse-engineer the commands used to control massive industrial machines, including cranes, excavators and scrapers; most of these commands were unencrypted, but even the encrypted systems were vulnerable to "replay attacks" that allowed the researchers to bypass the encryption. Read the rest

    Letterlocking: the long-lost art of using paper-folding to foil snoops

    "Letterlocking" is a term coined by MIT Libraries conservator Jana Dambrogio after she discovered a trove of letters while spelunking in the conservation lab of the Vatican Secret Archives; the letters had been ingeniously folded and sealed so that they couldn't be opened and re-closed without revealing that they had been read. Some even contained "booby traps" to catch the unwary. Read the rest

    Some pretty impressive machine-learning generated poetry courtesy of GPT-2

    GPT-2 is Open AI's language-generation model (last seen around these parts as a means of detecting machine-generated text); it's powerful and cool, and Gwern Branwen fed it the Project Gutenberg poetry corpus to see what kind of poetry it would write. Read the rest

    Self-insurer Walmart flies its sick employees to out-of-state specialists to avoid local price-gougers

    Walmart self-insures its workforce, rather than relying on an outside insurer like Cigna or Blue Cross; this means that it gets to make judgment calls that other firms cannot, and that has led the retail giant to a pretty weird place: for certain procedures that it believes to be overused by local hospitals, it flies its employees (even front-line, low-waged employees) to see the nation's top specialists in out-of-state facilities where they receive "concierge, white-glove care that was reserved at other companies only for highly paid executives." Read the rest

    Big Chemical says higher pollution levels are safe in West Virginia because residents don't drink water, and are so fat that poisons are diluted in their bodies

    West Virginia Manufacturers Association (whose major member is Dow Chemical) wants to do something about the frequent "boil water" advisories in the state: specifically, they want to relax the criteria that results in water being declared unsafe to drink, on the ground that West Virginians are so overweight that they can absorb more dangerous substances before reaching unhealthy concentrations of them; and besides, West Virginians don't drink much water, anyway. Read the rest

    Walt Disney's Frozen Head: a science fiction movie secretly shot at Walt Disney World

    Filmmaker Benjamin Lancaster spent four years secretly shooting a science fiction movie called "The Further Adventures of Walt's Frozen Head," working with actors Daniel Cooksley and Ron Schneider to make a movie about a WDW cast-member who discovers the (urban)-legendary frozen head of Walt Disney, kicking off a series of adventures around the park. The movie premieres online later today. This is (at least) the second time someone has secretly shot a movie at Walt Disney World. (Thanks, Hugh!) Read the rest

    World Citizen Comics: a new line of graphic novels for young activists

    Firstsecond Books (previously, publisher of In Real Life, which I created with Jen Wang) has announced a new line of YA-oriented graphic novels called "World Citizen Comics," on contemporary activist themes like "how to fight corruption in elections, blast fake news with truth-telling, and even battle would-be dictators both near and far through a better understanding of constitutions and the rule of law." Read the rest

    A massive victory for fair use in the longrunning Dr Seuss vs Star Trek parody lawsuit

    Back in 2016, the Dr Seuss estate won a preliminary court action against "Oh, The Places You'll Boldly Go!" a crowdfunded parody of Dr Seuss's "Oh the Places You'll Go!" and Star Trek, written by veteran Star Trek creator David "Tribble" Gerrold and illustrated by the comics giant Ty Templeton. Read the rest

    Facebook and Big Tech are monopsonies, even when they're not monopolies

    Big Tech is often in a monopoly situation (for example, Amazon's Audible owns something like 90% of the audiobook market), but even where they aren't monopolies, they are often monopsonies: a single buyer that controls the whole market that a variety of sellers want to sell into. Read the rest

    Ketamine works great for depression and other conditions, and costs $10/dose; the new FDA-approved "ketamine" performs badly in trials and costs a fortune

    Ketamine is a sedative first synthesized in 1962; its patents have long elapsed and it costs pennies; it has many uses and is also sold illegally for use as a recreational drug, but in recent years it has been used with remarkable efficacy as a treatment for a variety of disorders, including depression, anxiety, and chronic pain (I have lifelong chronic pain and my specialist has prescribed very low doses of it for me at bedtime). Read the rest

    A detailed analysis of American ER bills reveals rampant, impossible-to-avoid price-gouging

    For more than a year, Vox's Sarah Kliff has been investigating hospital price-gouging in America, collecting hospital bills from her readers and comparing them, chasing up anomalies and pulling on threads, producing a stream of outstanding reports on her findings. Read the rest

    Spotify's antitrust complaint against Apple is a neat parable about Big Tech's monopoly

    Spotify has asked the EU Commission to intervene in its business relationship with Apple, citing the fact that Apple takes a 30% vig on all customer revenues from people who join the service or buy songs through an Iphone app, while Apple's own competing Itunes store does not have to pay this commission. Read the rest

    With days to go until the #CopyrightDirective vote, #Article13's father admits it requires filters and says he’s OK with killing Youtube

    The new EU Copyright Directive will be up for its final vote in the week of Mar 25, and like any piece of major EU policy, it has been under discussion for many years and had all its areas of controversy resolved a year ago -- but then German MEP Axel Voss took over as the "rapporteur" (steward) of the Directive and reintroduced the long-abandoned idea of forcing all online services to use filters to block users from posting anything that anyone, anywhere claimed was their copyrighted work. Read the rest

    Gimlet staff announce unionization plan following Spotify acquisition

    Gimlet Media, creator of such excellent podcasts as Crimetown, Reply All, and Science Vs, was recently acquired by Spotify for $230m; in the wake of the acquisition, the staff have announced a successful unionization drive organized under the Writers Guild of America East (WGAE), which is also organizing Vox Media's team: the union will have about 80 members, drawn from the production, editorial, host, and reporting staff, but excluding managers, marketing and sales staff. Read the rest

    McMansion Hell tours the homes of the "meritocratic" one-percenters who allegedly bought their thickwitted kids' way into top universities in the college admissions scandal

    Yesterday, federal authorities announced 50 indictments of college personnel, wealthy parents, and fixers who ran a multi-million-dollar bribery ring that ensured that the slow, plodding, undeserving fruit of wealthy grifters' loins could be admitted to the top universities in America. Read the rest

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