Thursday, 13 June

12:00 EDT

How Amazon Blew Alexa's Shot To Dominate AI [Slashdot]

Amazon unveiled a new generative AI-powered version of its Alexa voice assistant at a packed event in September 2023, demonstrating how the digital assistant could engage in more natural conversation. However, nearly a year later, the updated Alexa has yet to be widely released, with former employees citing technical challenges and organizational dysfunction as key hurdles, Fortune reported Thursday. The magazine reports that the Alexa large language model lacks the necessary data and computing power to compete with rivals like OpenAI. Additionally, Amazon has prioritized AI development for its cloud computing unit, AWS, over Alexa, the report said. Despite a $4 billion investment in AI startup Anthropic, privacy concerns and internal politics have prevented Alexa's teams from fully leveraging Anthropic's technology.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Bill Gates Backs Nuclear [NeuroLogica Blog]

No one ever said that nuclear power is simple or easy. It’s a tricky and expensive technology. But it also has tremendous potential to create large amounts of reliable green low carbon energy, and many believe that we cannot ignore this potential if we are going to tackle climate change. Billionaire Bill Gates is one of those people.

In the US, since around 1990, we have generated about 19% of our electricity from nuclear power plants. Nuclear produces about 10% of the world’s power from 440 plants. The average age of a nuclear power plant in the US is 42 years – these plants were designed with a 40 year life expectancy. There have been three plants to go online this century, and the last one before that was completed in 1996 – with a 20 year gap with no new nuclear. The bottom line is that we have not been maintaining our expertise in nuclear reactors. Now we are trying to make up for lost time, but find ourselves far behind.

There are several challenges (this list is not meant to be exhaustive) – the cost of building large nuclear power plants, safety issues, sourcing the fissile material, and storing spent nuclear fuel. But there are also lots of advantages – safe reliable green power, predictable (not variable) power, and a small land footprint. Further, we can choose to build nuclear power plants on existing coal fired plant sites. This also has several advantages – the new plant can use existing connections to the grid, will minimize the economic impact to the community of shutting down a job source, and much of the site work is already done.

While wind and solar are great renewable energy sources, they have their own challenges – they use a relatively large amount of land for the amount of power produced, they require lots of upgrades and extensions to the grid, and they are intermittent. I see the two energy sources as complementary. Put solar on roofs, put wind where it is optimal, and replace existing coal plants with nuclear plants while maintaining our existing nuclear fleet.

The challenge is this – how do we revitalize our nuclear industry to make it more modern and competitive? It will require lots of that universal resource, the resource that makes all things possible, money. This is the reason the IRA includes subsidies for new nuclear, to kickstart the process of ramping up and modernizing our nuclear industry. This is also where Bill Gates comes in. What I describe sounds like exactly how he sees things, and he understands that making new nuclear feasible requires deep pockets to absorb the short term costs. He is willing to be those deep pockets.

He is doing this through a company called Terrapower. They are building their first plant in Wyoming, near the site of a coal-fired plant that is being retired.  The plant has two main design innovations intended to make it more cost effective. The first is that it uses molten salt rather than water to cool the reactor and transfer heat to the turbine. This allows for much lower pressure and the molten salt also will cool faster on its own. Avoiding the need for high pressure can be a significant cost saving and would make the plant much safer.

The molten salt design also has another huge advantage over older designs – it makes it easier to ramp up or down the power output of the entire plant, so that it can combine better with intermittent sources. In fact, energy can be stored in the molten salt when it is not needed, and then sold to the grid when demand spikes or intermittent sources wane. This plant design therefore can help stabilize the grid.

The second design change is to separate the part of the plant that produces heat – the nuclear reactor – from the turbine that makes electricity. The molten salt is transported from one building to the other to transfer the heat. Separate these buildings means that the turbine part of the plant does not need all the safety measures that the nuclear reactor part requires. That, at least, is the theory. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission still needs to sign off on this design.

But these are great examples of the kinds of innovations that can make nuclear safer, more nimble, and more cost effective. The plant is also smaller than traditional large nuclear power plants, which also reduces the upfront costs.

I have to say, as billionaires go, I am impressed with Gates. I admired his charity work for a long time, and his stated goal to “vaccinate the world”. He has shrugged off the conspiracy theories from the tin-hat brigade, and has just plugged along trying to make the world a better place. He is doing that now, and I think he gets the issue exactly right. He says:

“Wind and solar are absolutely fantastic, and we have to build them as fast as we can, but the idea that we don’t need anything beyond that is very unlikely,”

He also understands his role in this:

“We’re taking that risk, which, because of our design, we feel very good about,” Mr. Gates said. “But it means you need very deep pockets.”

The plant is scheduled to come online in 2030. We need a hundred more similar plants. We also need to continue to innovate and improve the designs so that nuclear is more competitive and integrates well into the future grid. At the same time we also need to redevelop domestic sources of fissile material. We allowed Russia to corner that market, and that may not be sustainable in the current geopolitical climate. We also need federal regulation for long term spent fuel storage, to end the NIMBYism that has hampered such projects so far.

On a side note, because this always comes up, spent nuclear fuel is not the deal-killer many make it out to be. First, the highly radioactive materials have a short half-life – by definition. Half life and intensity are inversely related. The very long half-life materials, the ones that need to be stored for thousands of years, are near background radiation levels. Further, if we wanted to, we could reprocess much of this spent fuel into new fuel for modern reactors. In the meantime, we just store it.

All of the issues with nuclear power are solvable, and it is becoming increasingly clear that we may not have any other choice if we are going to avoid the worst of climate change. This is especially true as our electricity demand is rapidly growing, even faster than previous estimates. All those AI data centers need lots of power. The only solution is the “all of the above” approach, and that includes nuclear. The advantages I listed above just can’t be ignored.

If Bill Gates, who seems to agree with all this, is successful, this may be his greatest contribution to the world.

The post Bill Gates Backs Nuclear first appeared on NeuroLogica Blog.

In 1958, a American B-47 bomber accidentally dropped an unarmed nuclear bomb on a family farm [Boing Boing]

In 1958, Mars Bluff, a rural community near in South Carolina, experienced a surreal catastrophe when an American B-47 bomber accidentally dropped an unarmed nuclear bomb on a family farm. The bomb, which carried 7,600 pounds of metal and TNT, created a 50-foot-wide crater and obliterated the Gregg family's property. — Read the rest

The post In 1958, a American B-47 bomber accidentally dropped an unarmed nuclear bomb on a family farm appeared first on Boing Boing.

Boebert vapes again [Boing Boing]

Lauren boebert bible lesson

Once again, Colorado Congressperson Lauren Boebert is accused of vaping in a place where vaping is not permitted.

The Daily Beast reports that Lauren Boebert has again decided the rules do not apply to her. Her ex-husband was just sentenced to probation, and her son is struggling with the legal system, but Boebert seems to pay things like rules or laws never mind. — Read the rest

The post Boebert vapes again appeared first on Boing Boing.

Supreme Court rejects long-shot effort to ban abortion drug Mifepristone [Boing Boing]

supreme court of the United States

The U.S. Supreme Court today unanimously rejected an effort to outlaw mifepristone, a drug commonly-prescribed to induce abortions among other uses. Writing for the whole circus, Justice Brent Kavanaugh said those making the case didn't have standing.

Justice Brett Kavanaugh wrote for the court that "federal courts are the wrong forum for addressing the plaintiffs' concerns about FDA's actions."

Read the rest

The post Supreme Court rejects long-shot effort to ban abortion drug Mifepristone appeared first on Boing Boing.

5 ways to make the most of your next long flight [Boing Boing]

power bank

TL;DR: Before you jet off to that summer vacation spot, get the most out of your trip with these five flying tips, which include charging solutions, seat selection ideas, and more. 

Summer is finally here, and that long-awaited vacation is just around the corner! — Read the rest

The post 5 ways to make the most of your next long flight appeared first on Boing Boing.

Reconstruction-era records reveal how formerly enslaved people were stripped of land [NPR Topics: News]

Journalist Alexia Fernández Campbell says following the Civil War, some freed men and women were given titles to land -- but after President Lincoln's death, the land was taken back.

AI and the Indian Election [Schneier on Security]

As India concluded the world’s largest election on June 5, 2024, with over 640 million votes counted, observers could assess how the various parties and factions used artificial intelligence technologies—and what lessons that holds for the rest of the world.

The campaigns made extensive use of AI, including deepfake impersonations of candidates, celebrities and dead politicians. By some estimates, millions of Indian voters viewed deepfakes.

But, despite fears of widespread disinformation, for the most part the campaigns, candidates and activists used AI constructively in the election. They used AI for typical political activities, including mudslinging, but primarily to better connect with voters.

Deepfakes without the deception

Political parties in India spent an estimated US$50 million on authorized AI-generated content for targeted communication with their constituencies this election cycle. And it was largely successful.

Indian political strategists have long recognized the influence of personality and emotion on their constituents, and they started using AI to bolster their messaging. Young and upcoming AI companies like The Indian Deepfaker, which started out serving the entertainment industry, quickly responded to this growing demand for AI-generated campaign material.

In January, Muthuvel Karunanidhi, former chief minister of the southern state of Tamil Nadu for two decades, appeared via video at his party’s youth wing conference. He wore his signature yellow scarf, white shirt, dark glasses and had his familiar stance—head slightly bent sideways. But Karunanidhi died in 2018. His party authorized the deepfake.

In February, the All-India Anna Dravidian Progressive Federation party’s official X account posted an audio clip of Jayaram Jayalalithaa, the iconic superstar of Tamil politics colloquially called “Amma” or “Mother.” Jayalalithaa died in 2016.

Meanwhile, voters received calls from their local representatives to discuss local issues—except the leader on the other end of the phone was an AI impersonation. Bhartiya Janta Party (BJP) workers like Shakti Singh Rathore have been frequenting AI startups to send personalized videos to specific voters about the government benefits they received and asking for their vote over WhatsApp.

Multilingual boost

Deepfakes were not the only manifestation of AI in the Indian elections. Long before the election began, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi addressed a tightly packed crowd celebrating links between the state of Tamil Nadu in the south of India and the city of Varanasi in the northern state of Uttar Pradesh. Instructing his audience to put on earphones, Modi proudly announced the launch of his “new AI technology” as his Hindi speech was translated to Tamil in real time.

In a country with 22 official languages and almost 780 unofficial recorded languages, the BJP adopted AI tools to make Modi’s personality accessible to voters in regions where Hindi is not easily understood. Since 2022, Modi and his BJP have been using the AI-powered tool Bhashini, embedded in the NaMo mobile app, to translate Modi’s speeches with voiceovers in Telugu, Tamil, Malayalam, Kannada, Odia, Bengali, Marathi and Punjabi.

As part of their demos, some AI companies circulated their own viral versions of Modi’s famous monthly radio show “Mann Ki Baat,” which loosely translates to “From the Heart,” which they voice cloned to regional languages.

Adversarial uses

Indian political parties doubled down on online trolling, using AI to augment their ongoing meme wars. Early in the election season, the Indian National Congress released a short clip to its 6 million followers on Instagram, taking the title track from a new Hindi music album named “Chor” (thief). The video grafted Modi’s digital likeness onto the lead singer and cloned his voice with reworked lyrics critiquing his close ties to Indian business tycoons.

The BJP retaliated with its own video, on its 7-million-follower Instagram account, featuring a supercut of Modi campaigning on the streets, mixed with clips of his supporters but set to unique music. It was an old patriotic Hindi song sung by famous singer Mahendra Kapoor, who passed away in 2008 but was resurrected with AI voice cloning.

Modi himself quote-tweeted an AI-created video of him dancing—a common meme that alters footage of rapper Lil Yachty on stage—commenting “such creativity in peak poll season is truly a delight.”

In some cases, the violent rhetoric in Modi’s campaign that put Muslims at risk and incited violence was conveyed using generative AI tools, but the harm can be traced back to the hateful rhetoric itself and not necessarily the AI tools used to spread it.

The Indian experience

India is an early adopter, and the country’s experiments with AI serve as an illustration of what the rest of the world can expect in future elections. The technology’s ability to produce nonconsensual deepfakes of anyone can make it harder to tell truth from fiction, but its consensual uses are likely to make democracy more accessible.

The Indian election’s embrace of AI that began with entertainment, political meme wars, emotional appeals to people, resurrected politicians and persuasion through personalized phone calls to voters has opened a pathway for the role of AI in participatory democracy.

The surprise outcome of the election, with the BJP’s failure to win its predicted parliamentary majority, and India’s return to a deeply competitive political system especially highlights the possibility for AI to have a positive role in deliberative democracy and representative governance.

Lessons for the world’s democracies

It’s a goal of any political party or candidate in a democracy to have more targeted touch points with their constituents. The Indian elections have shown a unique attempt at using AI for more individualized communication across linguistically and ethnically diverse constituencies, and making their messages more accessible, especially to rural, low-income populations.

AI and the future of participatory democracy could make constituent communication not just personalized but also a dialogue, so voters can share their demands and experiences directly with their representatives—at speed and scale.

India can be an example of taking its recent fluency in AI-assisted party-to-people communications and moving it beyond politics. The government is already using these platforms to provide government services to citizens in their native languages.

If used safely and ethically, this technology could be an opportunity for a new era in representative governance, especially for the needs and experiences of people in rural areas to reach Parliament.

This essay was written with Vandinika Shukla and previously appeared in The Conversation.

The Beats Studio Pro are down to $180, nearly matching their all-time low [The Verge - All Posts]

A product photo of the Beats Studio Pro noise-canceling headphones.
We’re hoping for a big overhaul on this iconic pair, but they’re still the best Beats headphones you can buy. | Photo by Chris Welch / The Verge

If you’re not an audiophile and can’t otherwise afford to splurge on a substantial pair of headphones like the AirPods Max or the new Sonos Ace headphones, a pair of Beats can do the job just fine. The brand’s headphones consistently sound pretty good and have kept up well with the times under Apple’s stewardship. You can consider the Beats Studio Pro the pinnacle of the line right now, and the flagship over-ear pair are nearly matching their all-time low price at around $179.95 ($170 off) at Amazon and Best Buy. That’s only $10 more than the all-time low price we saw during Black Friday.

At launch, we felt the Beats Studio Pro couldn’t quite measure up to the competition in the price arena they played in. In terms of audio quality,...

Continue reading…

11:00 EDT

Wells Fargo Fires Employees for Faking Work By Simulating Keyboard Activity [Slashdot]

Wells Fargo fired more than a dozen employees last month after investigating claims that they were faking work. From a report: The staffers, all in the firm's wealth- and investment-management unit, were "discharged after review of allegations involving simulation of keyboard activity creating impression of active work," according to disclosures filed with the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority. "Wells Fargo holds employees to the highest standards and does not tolerate unethical behavior," a company spokesperson said in a statement. Devices and software to imitate employee activity, sometimes known as "mouse movers" or "mouse jigglers," took off during the pandemic-spurred work-from-home era, with people swapping tips for using them on social-media sites Reddit and TikTok. Such gadgets are available on for less than $20.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Microsoft Chose Profit Over Security and Left US Government Vulnerable To Russian Hack, Whistleblower Says [Slashdot]

A former Microsoft employee claims the tech giant dismissed his repeated warnings about a security flaw that was later exploited in the SolarWinds hack, prioritizing business interests over customer safety. Andrew Harris, who worked on Microsoft's cloud security team, says he discovered the weakness in 2016 but was told fixing it could jeopardize a multibillion-dollar government contract and the company's competitive edge, ProPublica reported Thursday. The flaw, in a Microsoft product called Active Directory Federation Services, allowed hackers to bypass security measures and access sensitive cloud data. Russian hackers exploited the vulnerability in the 2020 SolarWinds attack, breaching several U.S. agencies. Microsoft continues to deny wrongdoing, insisting customer protection is its top priority. The revelations come at a time when Microsoft is facing increasing scrutiny over its security practices and seeks to expand its government business.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Winamp as a real-life touchscreen stereo system [Boing Boing]

Photo: rodmg / YouTube

Winamp was the just-works music-playing app of the late 1990s. Its perfect utilily facilitated the MP3 era, and the distinctive style of its interface became legendary in its own right. Now, nearly thirty years on, it's finally implemented in hardware—in the form of a 7.9-inch touchscreen—on a Pi-powered custom stereo system. — Read the rest

The post Winamp as a real-life touchscreen stereo system appeared first on Boing Boing.

Supreme Court rejects challenge to FDA's approval of mifepristone [NPR Topics: News]

 The U.S. Supreme Court on Thursday tossed out a challenge to the FDA’s rules for prescribing and dispensing abortion pills. <br>

The court said that the challengers, a group called the Alliance for Hippocratic Medicine, had no right to be in court at all since neither the organization nor its members could show they had suffered any concrete injury.

(Image credit: Erin Hooley/Chicago Tribune)

Nearly 120 million people were displaced around the world in 2023, UNHCR report says [NPR Topics: News]

South Sudanese who fled from Sudan sit outside a nutrition clinic at a transit center in Renk, South Sudan, May 16, 2023. Fighting in Sudan has displaced 10 million people, according to U.N. figures.

The U.N. office on refugees found that by the end of last year, 1 in 69 people had been forced from their homes -- either within their own country or across an international border.

(Image credit: Sam Mednick)

eSim Cards/Good Travel Pants/Airline Policy Changes [Cool Tools]

An eSim User Experience

Claudia from our sister newsletter Recomendo just got back from South America and sent this tip: I usually stay offline while traveling abroad and use my phone only when I’m connected to hotel WiFi. However, toward the end of my recent trip to Peru, I tested out the Airalo app and installed an eSIM on my phone. I bought the cheapest data package, which was $8 for 1GB or 7 days, whichever comes first, and it lasted me 4 days with no issues. I saved $40, which is what I would have paid Verizon for a daily travel pass. Airalo offers eSIMs for more than 200 countries and was surprisingly easy to install and delete.

Recommended Travel Pants

I’m always on the lookout for travel clothing that can also transition to attending meetings or going out to a restaurant without looking like I’m preparing for a safari or going fishing. On this recent trip, I wore items from Western Rise to a conference and out on excursions and they’re going onto my frequent packing list. I especially like the Diversion Pant slim version, which is stretchy and comfortable for a hike but looks good enough to be in front of a crowd or giving a presentation. They also make some nice merino wool shirts that are great for male travelers.

Good/Bad Airline Policy Changes

Frontier Airlines may be noticing its bottom-of-the-barrel reputation in surveys: it recently eliminated change fees for most classes, made its pricing much clearer, and extended its time to redeem credits. Details here. Reputational rival Spirit Air just raised its checked baggage maximum from 40 pounds to 50 and like Frontier, increased the voucher/credit use time limit from 90 days (really?) to a year. Usually beloved Southwest was the party pooper: it is raising its fees for early bird check-in and boarding.

30% Renewable Energy Worldwide

I’m always happy looking out a plane window when I see whole rooftops of warehouses or factories covered with solar panels. It turns out that a record-breaking 30% of the world’s electricity was produced by renewables last year as wind and solar power became more popular worldwide. We’re making progress…

TikTok’s latest feature for musicians is a glossy video series [The Verge - All Posts]

Vector art of the TikTok logo.
Image: The Verge

TikTok is introducing a new way for musicians on the platform to promote their music — this time through a video series.

The series, called “Off the Record,” is produced by TikTok and features musical artists like Shakira, Charli XCX, and Meghan Trainor. The short clips are similar to series like Song Exploder or The New York Times’Diary of a Song,” where artists talk about their inspiration behind songs, the writing and recording process, and more. The videos — some of which have already gone live — are shared by artists over the course of June.

TikTok also announced a hub on the app where Off the Record videos live. Users can find the page by searching for #OfftheRecord.

“Off the Record is part of TikTok’s continued efforts to...

Continue reading…

How to watch Tesla’s annual stockholder meeting [The Verge - All Posts]

logo for Tesla cyber roundup annual shareholder meeting 2024, its a neon Texas-shaped sign
Image: Tesla

Tesla is holding its annual shareholder meeting in Austin, Texas, today, where investors will decide the fate of CEO Elon Musk’s enormous $50 billion compensation package.

The event is not just about Musk’s payday. Tesla’s board is portraying it as a pivotal moment in the company’s effort to secure Musk’s attention span, which is divided between X Corp., SpaceX, Neuralink, and his other companies. It also hinges on the question of whether Musk can steer Tesla back on track.

From the looks of things, Musk may get exactly what he wants: both the money and the reincorporation of Tesla in Texas in retaliation of a Delaware judge voiding Musk’s package are on track to pass by wide margins, Musk claimed in a post on X.

Meanwhile, Musk is...

Continue reading…

How to turn off Windows’ aging activity tracker [The Verge - All Posts]

Windows laptop against graphic background
Illustration by Samar Haddad / The Verge

You may see Microsoft’s upcoming Recall feature, which screenshots everything you do (and has now become an opt-in feature) as a convenient way to keep an eye on your history or a problematic privacy violation. However, it’s not the first time your activity on a Windows computer will have been recorded.

As XDA Developers has pointed out, Windows 10 and 11 computers already contain an activity tracker, which was introduced in Windows 10 as part of its Timeline feature. And although Timeline was removed in Windows 11, the tracker apparently was not.

Screenshot: Microsoft
Activity history may still be enabled in Windows 11, even though Timeline has disappeared.

It’s a simple matter to see if the tracker is still...

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Here’s how Apple’s AI model tries to keep your data private [The Verge - All Posts]

Vector collage of the World Wide Developer Conference logo.
Image: The Verge, Getty Images

At WWDC on Monday, Apple revealed Apple Intelligence, a suite of features bringing generative AI tools like rewriting an email draft, summarizing notifications, and creating custom emoji to the iPhone, iPad, and Mac. Apple spent a significant portion of its keynote explaining how useful the tools will be — and an almost equal portion of time assuring customers how private the new AI system keeps your data.

That privacy is possible thanks to a twofold approach to generative AI that Apple started to explain in its keynote and offered more detail on in papers and presentations afterward. They show that Apple Intelligence is built with an on-device philosophy that can do the common AI tasks users want fast, like transcribing calls and...

Continue reading…

10:00 EDT

Firefox Browser Blocks Anti-Censorship Add-Ons At Russia's Request [Slashdot]

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Intercept: The Mozilla Foundation,the entity behind the web browser Firefox, is blocking various censorship circumvention add-ons for its browser, including ones specifically to help those in Russia bypass state censorship. The add-ons were blocked at the request of Russia's federal censorship agency, Roskomnadzor -- the Federal Service for Supervision of Communications, Information Technology, and Mass Media -- according to a statement by Mozilla to The Intercept. "Following recent regulatory changes in Russia, we received persistent requests from Roskomnadzor demanding that five add-ons be removed from the Mozilla add-on store," a Mozilla spokesperson told The Intercept in response to a request for comment. "After careful consideration, we've temporarily restricted their availability within Russia. Recognizing the implications of these actions, we are closely evaluating our next steps while keeping in mind our local community." Developers of digital tools designed to get around censorship began noticing recently that their Firefox add-ons were no longer available in Russia. On June 8, the developer of Censor Tracker, an add-on for bypassing internet censorship restrictions in Russia and other former Soviet countries, made a post on the Mozilla Foundation's discussion forums saying that their extension was unavailable to users in Russia. The developer of another add-on, Runet Censorship Bypass, which is specifically designed to bypass Roskomnadzor censorship, posted in the thread that their extension was also blocked. The developer said they did not receive any notification from Mozilla regarding the block. Two VPN add-ons, Planet VPN and FastProxy -- the latter explicitly designed for Russian users to bypass Russian censorship -- are also blocked. VPNs, or virtual private networks, are designed to obscure internet users' locations by routing users' traffic through servers in other countries. "It's a kind of unpleasant surprise because we thought the values of this corporation were very clear in terms of access to information, and its policy was somewhat different," said Stanislav Shakirov, the chief technical officer of Roskomsvoboda, a Russian open internet group. "And due to these values, it should not be so simple to comply with state censors and fulfill the requirements of laws that have little to do with common sense."

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Probation for Lauren Boebert's ex-husband after their public fight [Boing Boing]

Garfield County Sheriff's Office/Lauren Boebert/Instagram

Lauren Boebert and her ex-husband Jayson Boebert got into a fight over something at a restaurant in Colorado—reportedly their criminally-wayward son—and the former Mr. Boebert later behaved in similar fashion during a later run-in with the son. Charged with assault, disorderly conduct, criminal trespass, prohibited use of a weapon, harassment and obstruction of a peace officer over the two incidents, he received a probationary sentence and a $40 fine. — Read the rest

The post Probation for Lauren Boebert's ex-husband after their public fight appeared first on Boing Boing.

Arizona man planned to kill Blacks, Jews and Muslims in mass shooting to start "race war" [Boing Boing]

Prieto at a gun show. Photo courtesy U.S. Attorney's Office for the District of Arizona

Mark Adams Prieto was charged with firearms trafficking, transfer of a firearm for use in a hate crime and possession of an unregistered firearm. He wanted to start a "race war" by killing as many black Americans as he could, but was foiled. — Read the rest

The post Arizona man planned to kill Blacks, Jews and Muslims in mass shooting to start "race war" appeared first on Boing Boing.

The time for subtlety is long gone [Pharyngula]

I find nationalism and racism to be mostly indistinguishable — they’re both reductive and draw false connections and conclusions. At least I’ve got George Orwell to draw a line between patriotism and nationalism.

By ‘nationalism’ I mean first of all the habit of assuming that human beings can be classified like insects and that whole blocks of millions or tens of millions of people can be confidently labelled ‘good’ or ‘bad’. But secondly — and this is much more important — I mean the habit of identifying oneself with a single nation or other unit, placing it beyond good and evil and recognizing no other duty than that of advancing its interests. Nationalism is not to be confused with patriotism. Both words are normally used in so vague a way that any definition is liable to be challenged, but one must draw a distinction between them, since two different and even opposing ideas are involved. By ‘patriotism’ I mean devotion to a particular place and a particular way of life, which one believes to be the best in the world but has no wish to force on other people. Patriotism is of its nature defensive, both militarily and culturally. Nationalism, on the other hand, is inseparable from the desire for power. The abiding purpose of every nationalist is to secure more power and more prestige, not for himself but for the nation or other unit in which he has chosen to sink his own individuality.

It’s so strange to live in a time and a place where many people are professing to be nationalists, as if it’s a good and honorable thing. They haven’t learned what it means!

Maybe this cartoon will help.

What’s even stranger is that some people like to argue that fascism is a legitimate political ideology. This cartoon is for them.

Do you think it’s too subtle?

Fathers and sons [Pharyngula]

I can sympathize with Joe Biden feeling the pain of his son’s conviction.

President Joe Biden said he accepts the guilty verdict of Hunter Biden after his son was convicted by a jury of three federal gun charges Tuesday − a historic first for the child of a sitting president.

“I will accept the outcome of this case and will continue to respect the judicial process as Hunter considers an appeal,” Biden said in a statement.

“As I said last week, I am the President, but I am also a Dad,” Biden said. “Jill and I love our son, and we are so proud of the man he is today. So many families who have had loved ones battle addiction understand the feeling of pride seeing someone you love come out the other side and be so strong and resilient in recovery.”

That would be my reaction if one of my kids was a screw-up who got caught: we’re going to have to accept that you committed a crime and are being punished for it, but we still love and support you.

Unfortunately, we’d also suffer some anguish — where did we go wrong? What could we have done to prevent them from taking this path? Did my pursuit of a career do them harm? I don’t have to worry about it since my adult kids are all perfect and delightful, but I imagine the Biden family is doing some soul-searching, and if they’re not, they’re not good people.

You know who are not good people? Republicans. Apparently, some of them are very good at cutting human feeling out of their lives. Like, say, Clarence Thomas.

One of the many corruption scandals in his life is that he accepted somewhere around $150,000 to pay private school tuition for his grand-nephew. He and his wife were legal guardians for this kid between the ages of 6 and 19. Clarence said he was raising this boy, Mark Martin, as his son.

Then Mark’s life went awry, he was doing drugs and playing with guns. He has been arrested and is awaiting a mandatory 25 year prison sentence. He’s a great big screw-up. So, the response from Clarence Thomas and his wife is to pretend they don’t know him, to cut their adoptive son out of their lives.

Now 32 years old, Martin told BI in an interview from the Jasper County Detention Center in South Carolina that Clarence and Ginni Thomas washed their hands of him years ago.

“I haven’t really heard much from them in a long time,” Martin said. “I tried to communicate with them a couple of times, but I’ve never gotten any response.”

Yikes. I cannot imagine turning my back on my kids like that, cutting off all communication. I feel pain right now that we live so far apart that we can only see each other sporadically.

But then, ol’ Clarence made his feelings known early when he preferred getting millions of dollars from his billionaire buddies to his son’s company, and sent Mark off to military school.

While his own father was incarcerated, Martin remembers much of his childhood as the Thomases’ ward as relatively privileged. Together, Martin said they traveled to more than 20 countries; he frequently spent summers wakeboarding or waterskiing and babysitting Crow’s son when the elite families vacationed together.

That all stopped when Martin entered high school, he said, when the Thomases decided they “just didn’t have time to deal with” him and sent him away to the boarding schools. From his freshman year of high school on, Martin said he rarely saw his Supreme Court-justice great-uncle or his wife, who Martin said had raised him “like another mother and father” since childhood.

Rich Republicans can’t be like the mother and father I knew, or have tried to be, I guess.

Maybe Mark Martin disappointed his grand-uncle by growing up to be such a small time crook rather than a big-time rotten crook like Clarence Thomas.

Apple and Google won’t be able to stop third-party app stores in Japan [The Verge - All Posts]

Economy And Business In Cannes, France
Apple and Google have already been named “designated providers” and will be impacted by the law. | Photo by Beata Zawrzel / NurPhoto via Getty Images

Following in the footsteps of the European Union, Japan has now passed a law that will restrict Apple and Google from blocking third-party app stores for Japanese users on their platforms. The legislation is expected to come into force by the end of 2025 and aims to reduce app prices and create a more equitable market by forcing the tech giants to compete with smaller challengers.

Dubbed the Act on Promotion of Competition for Specified Smartphone Software, Japan’s law shares some similarities with the EU’s Digital Markets Act (DMA), enforcing strict rules against “designated providers.” That includes requiring their platforms to allow third-party app stores, allowing app developers to offer third-party billing services, and making it...

Continue reading…

Bumblebee joins Optimus Prime as the next Transformers Lego set [The Verge - All Posts]

A close-up of Lego Bumblebee’s upper torso.
Image: Lego

Two years after Lego revealed a buildable model of the Transformers’ Optimus Prime that actually transformed, the heroic Autobot leader is finally getting backup with his second-in-command, Bumblebee, debuting as a 950-piece set that transforms into a Volkswagen Beetle — or at least a close facsimile thereof.

In recent years, thanks to the run of big-budget Transformers movies, Bumblebee is best known for transforming into a bright yellow Chevrolet Camaro. But in the original ’80s toy line and animated series, Bumblebee’s alternate vehicle mode was the iconic Volkswagen Beetle.

Image: Lego
Lego Bumblebee’s vehicle mode appears to be a mashup of several different vehicles.

As with its Optimus Prime set, Lego is...

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09:00 EDT

Stop by the North American Bigfoot Center [Boing Boing]

Raggedstone / Shutterstock

The North American Bigfoot Center is a hub to learn about and celebrate this famous cryptid. 

The center was founded by Cliff Barackman, who has conducted extensive research on Bigfoot. The museum staff are all Bigfoot researchers too, and are proud to present alleged evidence on the subject matter. — Read the rest

The post Stop by the North American Bigfoot Center appeared first on Boing Boing.

Slint's David Pajo talks Frankensteined guitars and 8 Bit pedals [Boing Boing]

Earthquaker Devices

Earthquaker Devices, a great YouTube channel dedicated to the nitty, gritty and sometimes goofy technical specs of musician's equipment, got the chance to grill David Pajo of Slint last year. How I only discovered this recently will remain a mystery with no payoff. — Read the rest

The post Slint's David Pajo talks Frankensteined guitars and 8 Bit pedals appeared first on Boing Boing.

Hail Satan! AV Undercover is finally coming back! [Boing Boing]

Screenshot via YouTube

Back in 2010, The AV Club launched a series that was perhaps the site's greatest contribution to popular culture: AV Undercover. The basic premise of the video series was that AV Club staff would come up with a list of cover songs, and invite touring bands into their studio for a few hours to rehearse and record a cover from the list. — Read the rest

The post Hail Satan! AV Undercover is finally coming back! appeared first on Boing Boing.

Watch Daniel Labelle sprint while wearing snowboarding boots, ice skates, high heels, trash cans, flippers, rubber chickens, and more! [Boing Boing]

fortton / shutterstock

We've featured Wisconsin-based comedian Daniel Labelle here at Boing Boing before, demonstrating what it looks like to run in various ways (after a rejected kiss, for example). I had to come share some of his other work that has just blown my mind. — Read the rest

The post Watch Daniel Labelle sprint while wearing snowboarding boots, ice skates, high heels, trash cans, flippers, rubber chickens, and more! appeared first on Boing Boing.

Watch animal rights activists transform King Charles' face into Wallace, from Wallace and Gromit [Boing Boing]

Watch activists from the animal rights group "Animal Rising" use a paint roller to affix stickers on top of the controversial first official portrait of King Charles. The painting is currently open to the public, as it's on display at the Philip Mould gallery in London. — Read the rest

The post Watch animal rights activists transform King Charles' face into Wallace, from Wallace and Gromit appeared first on Boing Boing.

Meet Portugal's first cartoonist, Rafael Bordalo Pinheiro [Boing Boing]

Photos: Bob Knetzger

On a recent trip to Portugal I discovered The Rafael Bordalo Pinheiro Museum. According to its website it's "the most entertaining museum in Lisbon"—and I agree!

Polymath Pinheiro was a 19th century writer, cartoonist, entrepreneur, ceramicist, and political commentator. Struck me as a blend of the talents and personalities of Mark Twain, Thomas Nast, Diego Rivera, and Ernie Kovaks, all rolled up into one. — Read the rest

The post Meet Portugal's first cartoonist, Rafael Bordalo Pinheiro appeared first on Boing Boing.

This gentleman discovered a cool trick when lighting his sock on fire for fun [Boing Boing]

fluke samed/

This gentleman discovered a cool trick when lighting his sock on fire for fun.

Instead of catching on fire in one spot, a ring of fire rapidly passes over the sock (which is still on his foot), and disappears before it can actually burn him. — Read the rest

The post This gentleman discovered a cool trick when lighting his sock on fire for fun appeared first on Boing Boing.

A hilarious squirrel keeps spying on a woman through different windows of her house (video) [Boing Boing]

A wild squirrel showed up at a woman's house a few years ago — and has been stalking her ever since. In fact, no matter what the woman is doing or where she is in her house, the squirrel tracks her down — and proceeds to stare at her. — Read the rest

The post A hilarious squirrel keeps spying on a woman through different windows of her house (video) appeared first on Boing Boing.

Hamas’ cease-fire demands, Joey Chestnut banned from hot dog contest [NPR Topics: News]

Palestinian Hamas militants are seen during an event in the Bani Suheila district of Gaza City, Gaza Strip, on July 20, 2017.

Mediators try to bridge gaps after Hamas’ demands to Biden’s cease-fire plan. America’s eating champion Joey Chestnut is banned from a NYC hotdog contest after signing with a plant-based meat company.

(Image credit: Chris McGrath)

A jury says Chiquita should pay millions over paramilitary killings in Colombia [NPR Topics: News]

An aerial view of banana plantations in Apartado, Colombia, taken on June 11. Banana giant Chiquita Brands International says it will appeal a federal jury

The jury awarded plaintiffs $38.3 million in damages saying that Chiquita was liable for killings perpetrated by the AUC–Autodefensas Unidas de Colombia (the United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia).

(Image credit: Danilo Gomez)

India defeats the U.S. in a match in the Cricket T20 World Cup [NPR Topics: News]

The loss to India means the U.S. has a critical match coming up on Friday against Ireland. It's the first time the tournament has been held in the U.S.

A business leader, who's a vocal supporter of Trump, explains what corporations want [NPR Topics: News]

NPR's Steve Inskeep talks to businessman and talk radio show host John Catsimatidis, CEO of Red Apple Group, about support for presumptive GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump among business leaders.

Trouble for ecstasy? What MDMA’s FDA setback could mean for psychedelics [NPR Topics: News]

MDMA or ecstasy is under consideration for FDA approval for treating PTSD but it

Psychedelics researchers and investors are still reeling from last week’s no vote for MDMA by a panel of advisers to the FDA.

(Image credit: MirageC/Getty Images)


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