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UFO Shocker: $37 million in debt for Blink 182 ex-singer Tom DeLonge's 'aliens' project

Former Blink 182 frontman Tom DeLonge got involved in a shady UFO conspiracy business, where for a few hundred bucks, people who are afraid of aliens could learn "the truth" that “they” (the government) do not want you to know. The project is on track to lose $37 million this year, if we're reading their latest SEC filing correctly. Bummer, Tom.

We found this story in a deep-dive piece today by Eric Berger at Ars Technica, who describes how he's been following Tom DeLonge, the ex-Blink 182 singer, as his "aliens" jig evolved throughout the years.

DeLonge will apparently be losing a lot of money in what is at best a highly speculative project involving extraterrestrial life, and at worst, a scam.

Great headline, not gonna spoil it, you should click it, and read the whole thing.

The setup: A rich rock star buys into the idea that aliens are out there, and bad things will happen:

In other words, the evil government is covering all kinds of mysterious alien stuff up for its own nefarious purposes. And interested personages were invited to help the good guys. For a few hundred bucks, people could get a piece of an "A+ investment offering" from To the Stars, to assist its efforts to pull back the veil from the government cover-up and bring brilliant new technologies—such as beamed energy propulsion—into public view.


Anyway, here's the money stuff. A recent SEC filing shows that this aliens protection racket scheme is losing tons of money. Read the rest

Posted on 16 October 2018 | 2:26 am

Blame billionaires for climate change

70% of global emissions come from 100 companies: Koch Industries' annual carbon emissions bill is 24 million tons. Just like Exxon (who spent years and millions denying the climate change their own research told them was happening), Peter Thiel knows climate change is real, but he plans on Seasteading his way through it with a handpicked gang of Galt-fetishists. Billionaire-backed dark money outfits like American Solutions spend lavishly to punish any Republican lawmaker who diverges from the party line on climate change. The Trump administration admits that climate change is real, but they present it as an investment opportunity: sea-wall construction, sure, but also immigration detention centers for climate refugees, pharma for pandemics, and so. Many. Mercenary. Armies.

Even today, after literally decades of radical libertarian billionaires fostering disbelief in climate change and skepticism about the government, three out of five Americans believe climate change affects their local community. That number climbs to two-thirds on the coasts. Even the Trump administration now admits that climate change is real, but their response to it is dead-eyed acceptance. If popular support actually influenced public policy, there would have been more decisive action from the U.S. government years ago. But the fossil-fuel industry's interests are too well-insulated by the mountains of cash that have been converted into lobbyists, industry-shilling Republicans and Democrats, and misinformation. To them, the rest of the world is just kindling.

Billionaires Are the Leading Cause of Climate Change [Luke Darby/GQ] Read the rest

Posted on 16 October 2018 | 2:25 am

Converting die cast toy cars into post-apocalyptic combat vehicles

Gareth Branwyn has a fun tutorial on Make: about how to convert Hot Wheels and Matchbox toy cars into combat vehicles for the tabletop game, Gaslands.

In Gaslands, you put together a racing crew using die cast toy cars (Hot Wheels, Matchbox, etc) that you have modified to create combat cars. Then, using special dice and movement templates, you take turns racing through a scenario while fighting off other players’ cars using weapons and various dastardly deeds that you pay for in points as you outfit your crew. In many game scenarios, you have 50 points (called “Cans”) to spend on your cars and their weapons and special abilities.

The game has a very basic but evocative backstory where the rich and powerful have left Earth and become Martians, abandoning a dying Earth and most of its population to fend for itself. For entertainment, the Martians host an anything-goes vehicular combat reality game show, called Gaslands, back on Earth. The show is televised, and hugely popular, on Mars. Winners of each game show season earn a one-way ticket to Mars, and an escape from the miseries of Earth.

One of the most compelling things about Gaslands is that you spend around $13 for the rule book and then you have to basically build the rest of the game yourself. There are templates and markers in the back of the book to print out and mount, terrain and buildings to build, and most fun of all, you get to convert and Mad Max-ify toy cars.

Read the rest

Posted on 16 October 2018 | 1:46 am

Website charges 99 cents to see who paid 99 cents to see who paid 99 cents...

I paid 99 cents so I could show you what the Who Paid 99 Cents? website looks like when you pay 99 cents. It reveals a list of people who paid 99 cents to see who else did. I'm the 334th person to pay 99 cents. Some enterprising people are entering ads instead of their names.

Business Insider interviewed the creator, Pasquale D'Silva:

When asked simply, "Why?" D'Silva said, "We pretty much build anything that makes us laugh at Thinko."

As for why anyone would pay 99 cents to see who else has done the same, D'Silva said he wasn't sure who would actually do it but that it's something simple that makes people laugh.

"People are paying because it gives them something funny they can talk about," D'Silva said. "I think people like the feeling of making other people laugh too. It's just good energy. Especially given that it's at their expense."

Read the rest

Posted on 16 October 2018 | 1:15 am

Which is the deepest, hardest Mandelbrot zoom of them all?

I love mandelbrot youtube, where the most important thing is how many iterations is in your deep, hard zoom.

Here's "Mandelbrot zoom to 10E+1116 with deep zoom into minibrot - 75,000,000 iterations":

Or how about some "Mandelbrot deep zoom to 10E+2431 at 60 fps - Needle Julia evolution - 30,000,000 iterations." Very satisfying:

Granted, that's not quite as many iterations as some. Here Eddy Fry offers a staggering 538 trillion iterations, but to be honest I'm not all that impressed with the hardness of his zoom:

Here's a "lucky zoom" with 7.777*10^777 | 777,777 iterations:

It is amazing what folks find hidden in the set. The "Pinwheel of Infinity" is a striking example of the uncannyiness of fractals:

....and, from Fractal Universe, the "hardest Mandelbrot Zoom Ever":

You can make your own with Mandelbrot Explorer.

Image: SeryZone Read the rest

Posted on 16 October 2018 | 1:14 am

DNA test shows Elizabeth Warren has Native American ancestry

Trump always gets a laugh from his very fine deplorables when he calls Elizabeth Warren “Pocahontas.” A recent DNA test revealed that Warren has Native American ancestry. "The analysis of Warren’s DNA was reportedly done by Carlos D. Bustamante, a Stanford University professor, and shows that she had a Native American in her family tree dating back six to 10 generations," reports the Daily Beast.

While it won't make a speck of difference to Trump and his tribe, everyone else on the planet will see these people for who they are - unapologetic racists.

Image: Shutterstock Read the rest

Posted on 16 October 2018 | 12:45 am

Star Citizen's "terrifying face tracking" demonstrated

Star Citizen is a game hovering on the margins of vaporware, its scope bloated by a $150m+ crowdfunding haul, creator Chris Roberts' lack of creative discipline, and an enabling fanbase. One of the many whimsical additions bolted onto the perm-alpha release is face-tracking: what you do on camera is reflected on-screen in the facial expressions of your character. It's very Star Citizen: a technical tour de force light years ahead of what other devs are doing, but immediately and overwhelmingly unpleasant. Sleep tight!

Read the rest

Posted on 16 October 2018 | 12:44 am

Saying "Avogadro's Number" Avogadro's Number of times.

Avogadro's Number is 6.022140857 × 1023. That's how many atoms are in 12 grams of carbon-12. One mole of anything has one Avogadro's Number of elementary particles in it. In this video, the Action Lab Man repeats the words "Avogadro's Number," quadrupling the audio track each time until he reaches 6.022140857 × 1023. Each time he utters the words, he includes an interesting fact about the in-progress number. For example 256 is the "Unplayable/unbeatable level in Pac-Man due to an 8-bit integer overflow." And 68,719,476,736 is the "Number of animals eaten by humans each year."

He ends the video by describing what would happen if you gathered together a mole of moles, as found in Randall Munroe's great book, What If? Serious Scientific Answers to Absurd Hypothetical Questions. Read the rest

Posted on 16 October 2018 | 12:17 am

Russian pop music, 2018

It's by Little Big and it's called Skibidi. They're still trying so very hard, after all this time.

Join the #skibidichallenge - just film how you dance the skibidi-dance, put the #skibidichallenge hashtag and post it on your YouTube and Instagram.

Read the rest

Posted on 16 October 2018 | 12:03 am

Watch: caterpillars feeding on exploding touch-me-not seed pods

There is a kind of caterpillar in England's Lake District that has evolved to feed exclusively on the seed pods of a plant called the touch-me-not. Unfortunately for the caterpillar, the seed pods explode, without warning, to disperse their seeds. In this BBC video by David Attenborough you'll see a number of caterpillars having their feast interrupted when it explodes in their face. [Video]

Image: BBC Read the rest

Posted on 15 October 2018 | 11:48 pm

No identity theft protection for latest Facebook hack victims

Facebook will not provide fraud protection for victims of its latest data breach, details of which were announced in a Friday news dump. It set up a page where you can check if your Facebook account was breached.

One analyst told the BBC the decision was "unconscionable" ... For the most severely impacted users - a group of around 14 million, Facebook said - the stolen data included "username, gender, locale/language, relationship status, religion, hometown, self-reported current city, birthdate, device types used to access Facebook, education, work, the last 10 places they checked into or were tagged in, website, people or pages they follow, and the 15 most recent searches".

Typically, companies affected by large data breaches - such as Target, in 2013 - provide access to credit protection agencies and other methods to lower the risk of identity theft. Other hacked companies, such as on the Playstation Network, and credit monitoring agency Equifax, offered similar solutions.

A Facebook spokeswoman told the BBC it would not be taking this step "at this time". Users would instead be directed to the website's help section.

They're done caring. If you're still using Facebook, you're done caring too. Read the rest

Posted on 15 October 2018 | 11:47 pm

Watch: the evolution of desktop computer motherboards since the early 1990s

I recently discovered Christopher Barnatt's YouTube channel, ExplainingComputers, and I highly recommend it. Barnatt is the author of 13 books about computers and has taught for 25 years at the University of Nottingham. He explains digital technology very clearly, and many of his videos contain tests and demonstrations. In his latest video, he presents the evolution of computer motherboards since 1990, starting with the Intel 386 that ran at 20Mhz (no fan or heat sink needed!). It's amazing to see how things have changed in a few decades. Read the rest

Posted on 15 October 2018 | 11:37 pm

Georgia Senator, asked about voter suppression, mugs constituent for his phone

US Senator David Purdue (R-GA/@sendavidperdue), a grown-ass human being elected to high office in the most powerful nation in the land, was asked a question about Brian Kemp, who is both a (monumentally unhinged) candidate for governor of Georgia and Georgia's Secretary of State, in charge of overseeing the election in which he is standing.

In that latter capacity, Kemp has purged 10% of the state's voter rolls comprising 53,000 people, 70% of whom are Black.

One of Purdue's constituents asked him a question about his endorsement of Kemp in light of this blatant, illegal voter suppression, whereupon the senator stole his constituent's phone and walked away with it. Read the rest

Posted on 15 October 2018 | 2:02 pm

Criminal mastermind arrested for robbing same bank, twice

Armed with the knowledge that comes from damned dear experience, you go back in time and correct the terrible wrongs of your life. Old loves could be mended. Lost chances would be taken. It's something that most of us have dreamed of at one point in our lives or another.

While dwelling on such things might be a balm against the pain of wistful regrets, it is, as 50-year-old Brent Allen Drees of Wichita, Kansas discovered, an absolutely terrible idea when applied to bank robbery.

After spending 46 months in prison for bank robbery, Drees, having repaid his debt to society, was ready to leave the clink behind and start a new life. His time behind bars at an end, he celebrated his new-found freedom... by robbing a bank he'd already robbed back in 2011.

From the Wichita Eagle:

Drees allegedly robbed the Conway Bank at 121 E. Kellogg on Tuesday, giving the teller a note saying, “Give me $3,000 and you won’t get hurt,” a criminal affidavit states.

He was arrested Thursday afternoon in connection to the robbery after a Crime Stoppers tip led investigators to an area on the south side of Wichita, police Officer Paul Cruz said in a release.

Drees was released from Federal Bureau of Prisons custody in July 2017, prison records show. He had served a 46-month sentence for bank robbery, McAllister’s release said.

Drees was dinged for robbing the E. Kellogg branch of Conway Bank back in 2011. It was his first conviction for bank robbery. Read the rest

Posted on 15 October 2018 | 1:25 pm

The first trailer for Good Omens makes the apocalypse look delightful

Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman's Good Omens is a book that I've revisited many times over the years. Each time that I do, it feels like I'm spending time with an old friend: nothing much has changed since the last time that we saw each other, but I enjoy the book's presence in my life, nonetheless.

The first trailer for Amazon's Good Omens doesn't give me those feels. That's not a bad thing. The mini-series, staring Michael Sheen and David Tennant as Aziraphale and Crowley, feels vital and expansive compared to the cozy confines of the novel I've enjoyed so often over the past few decades. I'm really looking forward to seeing how the production interprets the work.

And hey, if it sucks, I still have the wonderful written iteration to fall back on. Read the rest

Posted on 15 October 2018 | 12:24 pm

A book made from shelf-stable American cheese slices

The University of Michigan's library recently acquired a copy of American Cheese, 20 Slices, by Ben Denzer, a book made from shelf-stable, plastic-wrapped slices of American cheese.

The book had an edition-size of ten; the library's copy is number nine. It's the only copy in a library collection. The book is about cheese, but it has no words: the material in its construction is also its subject matter.

Denzer's other books include "200 one-dollar bills arranged in serial number order, and a tiny volume of Chinese restaurant fortunes."

The book was acquired by Jamie Lausch Vander Broek, the Art & Design Librarian at UMich, who spent $200 on the title, and who will keep it in "a special plastic container" and sent it out for examination by classes.

Some people—especially librarians, particularly book catalogers at other institutions—were mad when I bought the cheese book. This surprised me. I thought that people would laugh, or crinkle up their faces in bewilderment. Their anger reminded me of reactions to color field paintings; people seemed divided between “I could do that,” and “that’s an insult to books!”

All of this gave me a deep sense of satisfaction. If my job is to engender interest and even passion for the library and its collections, a book made of cheese was really getting people excited. Suddenly they had opinions! Even among my coworkers there were arguments about things we take for granted in other books. Is someone the author of the cheese book? What is its subject?

Read the rest

Posted on 15 October 2018 | 6:12 am

Canada Pension Plan is long on US private prisons and immigrant detention centers

Robbo sez, "As a Canadian in my later years I benefit from my monthly Canada Pension Plan payments. As a Canadian and a human being I am disgusted that CPP holds stock in Geo Group and CoreCivic, companies who operate for-profit prisons and immigrant detention centres. As MP Charlie Angus (NDP) sez: 'Quite frankly, if they’re going to be investing in private prisons, weapons manufacturers and tobacco companies, why aren’t they investing in narco gangs?' They better clean this shit up - and fast."

The increase in Geo Group shares was from the 12,000 shares held a year previous, according to August 2017 filings. During the same period, the pension fund grew its investment in America’s second biggest private prison company, CoreCivic, to 73,700 shares from 33,000 shares, worth around $1.7m.

Canadian justice and democracy advocates also questioned the ethics of acquiring and growing the holdings. About 70% of the immigrants the US government detains are held in facilities run by CoreCivic or GEO Group, according to 2017 statistics obtained by the National Immigrant Justice Center.

Catherine Latimer, the head of the John Howard Society of Canada, a penal and justice reform advocacy group, said: “Our experience, with the research we’ve done on private prisons, indicates it’s not the type of social investment we would like to see Canada support.”

'Deeply concerning': Canada pension fund invests in US immigration detention firms [Max Siegelbaum/The Guardian]

(Image: Shane Bauer/Mother Jones) Read the rest

Posted on 15 October 2018 | 6:00 am

New and improved gadget for doing vinyl-like scratching with magnetic audio-tape

Back in 2014, David wrote up Jeremy Bell's prototype "ScrubBoard" that enabled a scratch-like effect with magnetic audiotape. Bell writes, "I've made a lot of progress on my device since then, and I have a much more sophisticated prototype that uses a motorized tape loop and can record live audio directly onto the tape while I'm scratching. Enjoy!" Read the rest

Posted on 15 October 2018 | 5:48 am

The Congressional Progressive Caucus is (still) awash in corporate money

The 78-member Congressional Progressive Caucus is meant to be the democracy-friendly, corporate-hostile wing of the Democratic Party, which is why the caucus announced a year ago that it would stop accepting corporate money -- but a year later, nearly every member is still accepting corporate money in their individual capacity.

The CPC co-chair is Mark Pocan [D-WI], and it was he who announced the no-corporate-money policy, saying, "“If we are going to end the influence of corporations and special interests in government, we have to start by not relying on their support. Only by being fully independent of their financial influence can we prioritize people over corporations."

Pocan is one of the CPC members who has accepted corporate donations. Only three CPC members have refused all corporate money -- but 40 new members (including Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez) have all taken the pledge.

While Jayapal is trying to coax her colleagues with carrots, the ballot box is acting as a stick. In September, Rep. Michael Capuano, a longtime progressive from Massachusetts, was bested in a primary contest by his opponent, Ayanna Pressley, who made Capuano’s acceptance of corporate money a key campaign issue.

An analysis by The Intercept of the 2017-18 campaign cycle reveals that the vast majority of CPC members are similarly vulnerable, taking not just money from union and advocacy group PACs, but significant sums of corporate PAC cash as well. Not coincidentally, given the reliance on big money, hardly any members of the CPC rely on small individual donors.

Nearly Every Member of the Congressional Progressive Caucus Still Takes Corporate PAC Money [Rachel M. Read the rest

Posted on 15 October 2018 | 5:40 am

Capitalism torched the world, fascism rose from the ashes

Umair Haque (previously) is in the unfortunate position of being both inarguably correct and horribly depressing when he says "catastrophic climate change is probably inevitable."

Capitalism was incapable of dealing with climate change, treating damage to human lives and the planet we share as "unpriced negative externalities" rather than evidence that a system whose tenet was the we would achieve optimal outcomes only if we "exploit and abuse one another, not hold each other close, mortal and frail things that [we] are."

But capitalism not only failed to come to grips with climate change: it also "ate through people’s towns and cities and communities, then through social systems, then through their savings, and finally, through their democracies," by making the one percent richer, and richer, and richer -- and everyone else poorer and more desperate.

The result of that was the dizzying rise of fascism: in the Philippines, Hungary, Italy, America -- and, any day now, Brazil, where the fascist government-in-waiting stands ready to feed the entire Amazon rain forest into big business's wood-chipper.

Fascism is arising at the worst possible moment: the moment when democratic accountability and decisive action are the only possible hope of averting millions of deaths and hundreds of millions of immiserated lives.

A sense of frustration, of resignation, of pessimism came to sweep the world. People lost trust in their great systems and institutions. They turned away from democracy, and towards authoritarianism, in a great, thunderous wave, which tilted the globe on its very axis.

Read the rest

Posted on 15 October 2018 | 5:24 am

Obama's policy on Bush's crimes is how Kavanaugh got to the Supreme Court

When Obama took office, he took over from one of the least popular presidents in US history, 22% George Bush, a liar who tortured and spied his way through an illegitimate war that we're still fighting, and next year's deployment will include soldiers who weren't even born when the war started.

Bush's crimes, high and low, were the subject of intense public interest and there was massive pressure on Obama to investigate and publish the details of the outgoing administration's misdeeds.

Obama's position was that "We need to look forward as opposed to looking backwards." He refused any attempt to prosecute the GWB squad for their myriad of sins. This set the stage for the rehabilitation of America's first wave of 21st century looters: from GWB himself (now known as Michelle Obama's BFF -- a gentlemanly painter who is supposedly secretly part of the #resistance), the torturer who now runs the CIA, and now, Brett Kavanaugh: once GWB's White House Staff Secretary, whose memos and emails from that period were not investigated and published when Obama and the Dems owned the White House and Congress, and which were later suppressed by Trump during Kavanaugh's confirmation process.

Meanwhile, Bush's "resistance" consisted of repeatedly calling up swing senators to lobby for Kavanaugh's confirmation. I tell you what: I never cared about Obama "palling around with Bill Ayers" (indeed, that's a mark in his favor), but it's pretty gross that Michelle Obama is palling around with GW Bush. And now it's more than gross: it's contributed to a generation's worth of toxic, anti-woman, racist class warfare from a Supreme Court packed with plutocrats, rapists and enablers of plutocrats and rapists. Read the rest

Posted on 15 October 2018 | 4:39 am

Douglas Rushkoff's sobering view of Universal Basic Income

In a new essay, Douglas Rushkoff examines Universal Basic Income, writing that it's not a gift but a "scam" and a "tool for our further enslavement."

Here's a snippet:

To the rescue comes UBI. The policy was once thought of as a way of taking extreme poverty off the table. In this new incarnation, however, it merely serves as a way to keep the wealthiest people (and their loyal vassals, the software developers) entrenched at the very top of the economic operating system. Because of course, the cash doled out to citizens by the government will inevitably flow to them.

Think of it: The government prints more money or perhaps — god forbid — it taxes some corporate profits, then it showers the cash down on the people so they can continue to spend. As a result, more and more capital accumulates at the top. And with that capital comes more power to dictate the terms governing human existence.

...As appealing as it may sound, UBI is nothing more than a way for corporations to increase their power over us, all under the pretense of putting us on the payroll. It’s the candy that a creep offers a kid to get into the car or the raise a sleazy employer gives a staff member who they’ve sexually harassed. It’s hush money.

Read: Universal Basic Income Is Silicon Valley’s Latest Scam

photo by photosteve101 Read the rest

Posted on 15 October 2018 | 3:00 am

Anyone can speed read. Learn how now and save precious time.

Speed reading isn't just an innate skill possessed by a lucky few. Anyone can learn to speed read, and the benefits are endless. The brain can process more information than most people have time to soak up, but you can make that time now with the 2018 Award-Winning Speed Reading Bundle.

The first half of the bundle, 7 Speed Reading EX, does more than just show you how to become an effective speed reader. With video tutorials, eye/ body training exercises and progress reports, you'll be breezing through novels and documents alike more than 3 times faster - with no loss in comprehension. The platform even comes with access to 20,477 eBooks free.

When you're ready, the Spreeder CX 2018 tool will allow you to put your newfound talent to practice, with a text-display app that will guide you at an increasing pace through any document you can upload or paste.

Before you crack open another book, grab a lifetime subscription to the 2018 Award-Winning Speed Reading Bundle for a $19. Read the rest

Posted on 15 October 2018 | 2:00 am

Disney heiress condemns Trump for lowering her taxes: vote out the Republicans on Nov 6!

Abigail Disney is Walt Disney's grand-niece; she is an activist and documentarian and being the grand-daughter of Roy Disney, she is rich as hell.

Despite her personal stake in Trump's tax cuts, she made this amazing call to action to vote the Republicans out and end the raging movement of money to the super-rich from everyone else in America.

It's a fantastic video.

This Disney heiress is taking a stand against the GOP tax bill — even though she’s going to benefit from it

— NowThis (@nowthisnews) December 20, 2017
Read the rest

Posted on 14 October 2018 | 11:30 am

Maryland voter registration and online voting vendor financed by Russian oligarch

The State of Maryland got a bit of a surprise when the FBI informed state officials the contractor responsible for much of Maryland's voting infrastructure was, unbeknownst to Maryland, purchased by a Russian oligarch in 2015.

Via CBS News:

"We were briefed late yesterday, along with Governor Hogan, by the Federal Bureau of Investigation that the software vendor who maintains portions of the State Board of Elections voter registration platform was purchased by a Russian investor in 2015, without the knowledge of state officials," Maryland State Senate President Thomas Mike Miller, Jr. and Maryland House Speaker Michael Busch, said in a joint statement Friday.

State officials say they were told they were told their voter registration system, ByteGrid LLC, is financed by AltPoint Capital Partners, whose fund manager is "a Russian" and largest investor is Russian oligarch Vladimir Potanin. ByteGrid LLC performs a vast array of voting-related functions for the state, including voter registration, the state's online voter registration system, online ballot delivery and unofficial election night results.

"While the FBI did not indicate that there was a breach, we were concerned enough to ask Attorney General [Brian] Frosh to review the existing contractual obligation of the state, as well as asked for a review of the system to ensure there have been no breaches," Miller and Busch said.

We have also instructed the State Board of Elections to complete all due diligence to give the voters of Maryland confidence in the integrity of the election system. We are also asking the federal Department of Homeland Security Election Task Force to assist the State Board of Elections for any corrective action deemed necessary."

Read the rest

Posted on 14 October 2018 | 8:39 am

Against all evidence, city of Savannah claims googly eyes glued to Revolutionary War statue are "not funny"

An extremely funny prankster glued googly eyes to the statue of Revolutionary War commander Nathaniel Greene; the City of Savannah took to its Facebook page to insist that this was "not funny" but rather "vandalism" and saying that the police had been involved.

Savannah Police are not impressed by the city's wrath. Noting that the eyes didn't do any damage, the police promised to review its CCTV footage to see if they could prosecute someone for trespassing.

"It may look funny but harming our historic monuments and public property is no laughing matter," the city wrote. "In fact, it's a crime."

City officials urged anyone with information to contact local police. "We are hoping to find the person responsible!" they wrote.

Someone Stuck Googly Eyes On This Savannah Statue And Now Police Are Involved [David Mack/Buzzfeed] Read the rest

Posted on 14 October 2018 | 6:11 am

Jared Kushner took home millions, paid little or no tax for years

Jared Kushner borrowed money to put down tiny down-payments on properties, paid himself millions from the rents generated by those properties, then used aggressive depreciation markdowns to declare an operating loss every year, meaning that he paid no tax at all from at least 2012 to 2016, and very little tax in the three years proceeding it.

Someone gave the New York Times a 40-page dossier prepared by Kushner and his advisors as part of a loan application; the documents detail Kushner's tax situation from 2009-2016.

The deductions mirror those used by Donald Trump -- whose own finances were the subject of a Times report based on leaked documents -- though, unlike Trump, Kushner did not engage in "outright fraud."

Kushner is advisor to his father-in-law, the President of the United States, who is situated to substantially overhaul the tax system. This overhaul could close the loopholes that let real-estate developers pull in millions and pay nothing in tax, or expand them.

Unlike typical wage earners, the owners of such companies can report losses for tax purposes. When a firm like Kushner Companies reports expenses in excess of its income, the result is a “net operating loss.” That loss can wipe out any taxes that the company’s owner otherwise would owe. Depending on the size of the loss, it can even be used to get refunds for taxes paid in prior years or eliminate tax bills in future years.

Mr. Kushner’s losses, stemming in large part from the depreciation deduction, appeared to wipe out his taxable income in most years covered by the documents.

Read the rest

Posted on 14 October 2018 | 6:03 am

Just look at this 1943 Busby Berkeley banana dance

Just look at it. (Thanks, Greg Cook!) Read the rest

Posted on 14 October 2018 | 5:26 am

Forensics company advises cops not to look at seized Iphones, to avoid facial-recognition lockouts

A leaked police-training presentation from digital forensics company Elcomsoft (a company that made history due to its early run-in with the DMCA) advises officers not to look at Iphones seized from suspects in order to avoid tripping the phones' facial recognition systems -- if Iphones sense too many unlock attempts with faces other than those registered as trusted, they fall back to requiring additional unlock measures like passcodes or fingerprints.

“iPhone X: don’t look at the screen, or else… The same thing will occur as happened on Apple’s event,” the slide, from forensics company Elcomsoft, reads. Motherboard obtained the presentation from a non-Elcomsoft source, and the company subsequently confirmed its veracity.

“This is quite simple. Passcode is required after five unsuccessful attempts to match a face,” Vladimir Katalov, CEO of Elcomsoft, told Motherboard in an online chat, pointing to Apple’s own documentation on Face ID. “So by looking into suspect’s phone, [the] investigator immediately lose one of [the] attempts.”

Cops Told ‘Don’t Look’ at New iPhones to Avoid Face ID Lock-Out [Joseph Cox/Motherboard] Read the rest

Posted on 14 October 2018 | 4:33 am

California ballot measure to reintroduce rent control met with millions in opposition from Wall Street landlords

California is one of the hot-zones in the world's urban housing crisis, driven by a combination of opposition to highrise/high-density living and the mass purchase of foreclosed properties following the 2008 crisis by giant Wall Street landlords who have steadily ratcheted up rents and evictions in a big to safeguard the flow of payments to bondholders who get a share of the rents extracted from struggling tenants living in dangerous, substanding housing.

California's cities have different policy levers they can yank on to address this: zoning changes, commuter rail, school spending. But one lever that cities have relied upon since the beginning of modern urban government is missing: rent control. California state law forbids rent control on single-family homes; and apartments build after 1995.

A ballot measure, Prop 10, will allow cities to impose rent controls on all rental stock, allowing voters a say in the way that their cities are developed. But the giant hedge funds that own hundreds of thousands of California rental properties are pumping millions more into scare-campaigns intended to convince voters to oppose Prop 10.

Blackstone, the largest private equity firm in the world, is California's biggest corporate landlord, with 127,000 single-family homes in its "portfolio." They're responsible for $6,859,747 in anti-Prop-10 spending, part of the $45m attack on the proposition.

Landlords across California have sent eviction notices to their tenants giving them 60 days to leave; other have announced massive rent increases -- and tenants have been notified that these will be cancelled only if Prop 10 fails. Read the rest

Posted on 14 October 2018 | 4:27 am