Report: UK "Ransomware consultants" Red Mosquito promise to unlock your data, but they're just paying off the criminals (and charging you a markup!)

    Last month, Propublica published a blockbuster investigative report on companies that claimed they could help you get your ransomware-locked data back, but who were secretly just paying off the criminals -- one company got so good at it that ransomware criminals started to refer their victims to them. Read the rest

    Life with chronic Lyme disease ("post-treatment Lyme disease syndrome") sucks

    Karl Bode is a respected and talented tech journalist, but he labors under a tremendous burden: for nearly a decade he has struggled with "post-treatment Lyme disease syndrome" -- colloquially known as "chronic Lyme disease" -- enduring the twin struggles of a largely untreatable debilitating illness and skeptical dismissals from much of the medical establishment. Read the rest

    Son-of-Reflectacles: Kickstarting a new generation of anti-surveillance eyewear

    Eccentric eyewear maker Scott Urban first kickstarted his "Reflectacles" frames in 2016; the frames used emedded retroreflectors to make them throw back tons of light, making them highly visible (and great for things like night cycling); subsequent iterations beefed up the IR reflectivity, which blinded many CCTV surveillance cameras (they use IR to paint low-light scenes, and their sensors can be overwhelmed if enough of that IR bounces back at them). Read the rest

    America's super-rich write to Democratic presidential hopefuls, demanding a wealth tax

    18 of the richest people in America have sent a letter to all the candidates for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination, demanding that their election platform include a annual wealth tax on the largest American fortunes, something advocated by economist Thomas Piketty in his blockbuster book Capital in the 21st Century and subsequently integrated into Elizabeth Warren's campaign platform (with Piketty's endorsement). Read the rest

    You can't recycle your way out of climate change

    Mary Annaise Heglar of the Natural Resources Defense Council is tired of her friends confessing their environmental sins to her, like using disposable containers; as she points out, climate change is a systemic problem, not an individual one, and the Ayn-Rand-ish framing of all problems as having individual causes with individual solutions is sheer victim blaming. Read the rest

    US election security: still a dumpster fire

    Securing Our Cyber Future, Stanford Cyber Policy Center's new report on election security, depicts a US electoral system whose glaring vulnerabilities are still in place, three years after the chaos of the 2016 elections. Read the rest

    "I Shouldn't Have to Publish This in The New York Times": my op-ed from the future

    I was honored to be invited to contribute to the New York Times's excellent "Op-Eds From the Future" series (previously), with an op-ed called "I Shouldn't Have to Publish This in The New York Times," set in the near-future, in which we have decided to solve the problems of Big Tech by making them liable for what their users say and do, thus ushering in an era in which all our speech is vetted by algorithms that delete anything that looks like misinformation, harassment, copyright infringement, incitement to terrorism, etc -- with the result that the only place where you can discuss anything of import is newspapers themselves. Read the rest

    Bernie Sanders will use a tax on Wall Street speculators to wipe out $1.6 trillion in US student debt

    Bernie Sanders's latest campaign promise is a proposal to forgive all outstanding US student debt, and raising the $2.2 trillion needed over a decade to make lenders whole by taxing Wall Street speculators with a 0.5% tax on stock trades, a 0.1% fee on bonds, and a 0.005% fee on derivatives. Read the rest

    Lessons from Microsoft's antitrust adventure for today's Big Tech giants

    With trustbusting in the air and Big Tech in the crosshairs, Bloomberg's Dina Bass reflects on the antitrust case against Microsoft in the 1990s, which the company bungled badly (but still survived, thanks to a judiciary in thrall to a bizarre theory of antitrust that has no problem with monopolies). Read the rest

    Mandatory childbirth: how the anti-abortion crusade masks cruelty to women in the "sacralizing of fetuses"

    Writing in the New York Times, author John Irving describes the impulses that led him to write his novel "The Cider House Rules" in the early 1980s, a decade after Roe vs Wade; Irving reflects on the incredible cruelty inflicted upon children (a cruelty that only mounts) with the enthusiastic support of anti-abortion crusaders, and how impossible this is to reconcile with their purported concern for fetuses. Read the rest

    The internet has become a "low-trust society"

    Writing in Wired, Zeynep Tufekci (previously) discusses how the internet has become a "low-trust society," where fake reviews, fraud, conspiracies and disinformation campaigns have burdened us all with the need to investigate every claim and doubt every promise, at enormous costs to time and opportunity. Read the rest

    "PM for a day": dissident Tories plan to bring down the government the day after Boris Johnson becomes Prime Minister

    Boris Johnson -- a racist, sexist, homophobic lying buffoon who has been repeatedly caught out using lies to sway public opinion -- is now, incredibly, tipped to become the leader of the Conservative Party and thus the Prime Minister of the UK (this is because outgoing PM Theresa May totally bungled Brexit, and the UK's form of parliamentary democracy lets the ruling party fill the PM's seat with a vote of party members, and the British Tories have become the swivel-eyed racist loony party, and Boris is the perfect nominee for King of the Racist Swivel-Eyed Loons). Read the rest

    Texas Instrument's post-#taxscam budget for financial engineering is $5B -- triple its budget for actual engineering

    The Trump #taxscam was supposed to create jobs by handing $1 trillion in cuts to multinational corporations and one percenters, who, we were promised, would put that money into R&D, business development, and other job-creating initiatives. Read the rest

    Man-Eaters Volume Two: Fleshing out the world where girls turn into lethal werepanthers when they get their periods

    Volume One of Man-Eaters, Chelsea Cain and Kate Niemczyk's scathing, hilarious, brilliant comic about girls who turn into man-eating werepanthers when they get their periods, is the best comic I read in 2019, and Volume Two, just published by Image comics, continues the brilliance with a set of design-fiction-y fake ads and other collateral that straddle the line between a serious piece of science fictional world-building and Switfian satire. Read the rest

    Good Omens is amazing

    I was already a Terry Pratchett fan and a Neil Gaiman fan in 1990, when their comedic novel Good Omens showed up in the bookstore I worked at, and I dibsed it, took it home over the weekend, read it in huge gulps, and wrote an enthusiastic review on a 3x5 card that I tacked to the bookshelf next to it on the new release rack at the front of the store; I hand-sold hundreds of copies, and have read it dozens of times since. Read the rest

    To do in LA this weekend: laugh your head off at PUBLIC DOMAIN THE MUSICAL at the Hollywood Fringe

    Last night, I went to see Public Domain: The Musical at the Actor's Company Theater in West Hollywood. I had no idea what to expect, but I was prepared for the worst (I've been to shows at fringe festivals where I would have walked out in the first five minutes, except I was the only person in the audience), and I was totally wrong. I can't remember the last time I laughed that hard. Read the rest

    In a bid to avoid climate vote, Oregon Republican Senators cross state lines, go into hiding, threaten to murder cops, as white nationalist paramilitaries pledge armed support

    Oregon's legislature is about to vote on a piece of climate change cap-and-trade legislation that the Democratic majority are likely to win, so to avoid the vote, 12 Oregon state senators have gone into hiding, thus depriving the senate of the necessary quorum. Read the rest

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