Day: October 4, 2016

Yahoo secretly scanned its users' email for U.S. intelligence services


Yahoo email accounts were scanned by the company on behalf of U.S. intelligence services from last year. This represents the first example of a U.S. service provider providing complete access to “all arriving messages,” reports Reuters.

It is not known what information intelligence officials were looking for, only that they wanted Yahoo to search for a set of characters. That could mean a phrase in an email or an attachment, said the sources, who did not want to be identified.

Reuters was unable to determine what data Yahoo may have handed over, if any, and if intelligence officials had approached other email providers besides Yahoo with this kind of request.

According to the two former employees, Yahoo Chief Executive Marissa Mayer’s decision to obey the directive roiled some senior executives and led to the June 2015 departure of Chief Information Security Officer Alex Stamos, who now holds the top security job at Facebook Inc.

It might not seem terribly meaningful to users, given the revelation that 500m Yahoo accounts (surely all of its users, or close to it) were hacked anyway, but there’s a difference between a one-off break-in and a standing invitation. Over four years of Mayer’s leadership, Yahoo suffered a “stunning collapse in valuation” and was sold to Verizon for $4.83bn. Completion of the deal is reportedly threatened by the recent stories about Yahoo’s security failings.

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Boars, Gore, and Swords podcast's ASOIAF book club - FeastDance #10: "Captain Davos: Civil War"

Tyrion crossbow

The Boars, Gore, and Swords book club reading of the Boiled Leather chapter order combining George R.R. Martin’s A Feast for Crows and A Dance with Dragons continues with this week’s “Captain Davos: Civil War.” Ivan and Red covered Bran II (ADwD) in a previous episode, and continue with Tyrion IV and Davos II. They discuss their civil war over Civil War, Book Tyrion and saying one of the worst things you can say to a woman, and Davos’s series of info dumps. You can also head over to their Patreon for their latest episode of Great British Bake Off coverage.

To catch up on previous television seasons, the A Song of Ice And Fire books, and other TV and movies, check out the BGaS archive. You can find them on Twitter @boarsgoreswords, like their Facebook fanpage, and email them. If you want access to extra episodes and content, you can donate to the Patreon.

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How to: Criticize technology


Sara writes, “This new report from the Tow Center for Digital Journalism at Columbia University explores the current state of technology criticism and argues to recognize a wider range of contributors and approaches to the popular critical discourse about technology. The report also advocates for a more constructive approach to technology criticism that fosters conversation and poses alternative visions for a more inclusive technological society. Following this constructive approach, the project offers resources including an extensive reading list and a practical style guide for better technology writing.”


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Johnson & Johnson says people with diabetes don't need to worry about potentially lethal wireless attacks on insulin pumps


Rapid7 security researcher Jay Radcliffe (previously) has Type I diabetes, and has taken a personal interest in rooting out vulnerabilities in the networked, wireless-equipped blood-sugar monitors and insulin-pumps marketed to people with diabetes, repeatedly discovering potentially lethal defects in these devices.

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The malware that's pwning the Internet of Things is terrifyingly amateurish


Following the release of the sourcecode for the Mirai botnet, which was used to harness DVRs, surveillance cameras and other Internet of Things things into one of the most powerful denial-of-service attacks the internet has ever seen, analysts have gone over its sourcecode and found that the devastatingly effective malware was strictly amateur-hour, a stark commentary on the even worse security in the millions and millions of IoT devices we’ve welcomed into our homes.

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California's 40-year-old ban on property tax raises has made the rich a lot richer


In 1978, California ballot initiative Proposition 13 capped property taxes at 1% of assessed value and increases at 2% per year, creating a massive hole in the ability of cities to fund their operations, which has only been partially plugged by hiking sales taxes and utility rates, regressive moves that disproportionately shift the burden of civic services to low-income households.

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A box of random stuff from our sponsor Meh, reviewed by a 10-year-old


Boing Boing is sponsored in part by Meh.

Our sponsor Meh is a daily deals site that deals in a wide range of gadgets, gizmos, geegaws, widgets, stuff, gear, goods, and, of course, things. Recently, they sent me a big box of items they’ve previously sold for me to “review.” But before I even got a chance to open the package, my ten-year-old son had torn into it, tried out each item (for at least one minute), and formed strong opinions that I will now share with you. -dp


Ion Audio Vinyl Motion Portable Suitcase Turntable: “I collect vinyl, and I can tell you that as a rule, new turntables that sell for less than $100 are crap. This one is surprisingly much better than the crappy ones that most people end up buying. The Ion turntable is actually a great bang for your buck, especially if you’re playing $1 bin records that you don’t care too much about.”


Evriholder Beer Chill’R Mug: “I don’t drink beer, but even if I did… this thing is stupid.”


Haan HandiPro HS-22 Hand Held Steam Cleaner: “I guess this could be useful for cleaning up cat pee from rugs and other messes. But it would be better modded into a Ghostbusters Proton Pack for Halloween.”


Banana Boat Rechargeable Wireless Floating Sound System: “This waterproof bluetooth speaker sounds good, but unfortunately we don’t have a pool. I am listening to the new Green Day album in the bathtub though. So that’s pretty cool.”

“Overall, this was an OK haul. Not bad. Not great. Meh.”

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The Wells Fargo fraud came to light because of union organizers


Though Wells Fargo had been pressuring its employees to commit fraud since 1998, firing those who couldn’t make quota, as well as the whistleblowers who came forward to report the fraud, it wasn’t until the Committee for Better Banks launched a unionization drive to organize retail banking workers against punitive sales quotas that the crimes came to light.

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Morbid Curiosities – A dark and delightful glimpse into 18 macabre collections


See sample pages from this book at Wink.

Morbid Curiosities: Collections of the Uncommon and the Bizarre

by Paul Gambino

Laurence King Publishing

2016, 160 pages, 7 x 9.8 x 1 inches (hardcover)

$22 Buy a copy on Amazon

Dark and delightful, artistic and unusual, Morbid Curiosities: Collections of the Uncommon and the Bizarre is a glimpse into 18 fascinating collections of oddities. But more than that, it is also a collection of the collectors themselves. Author Paul Gambino’s familiarity with these traders of the macabre has granted him access to their greatest finds and most beloved possessions and in turn into their psyches as well.

We are talking about the types of things that most of us don’t encounter grouped together outside of museums: Jars of diseased organs and the owner’s own placenta; shelves of human skulls of various shapes and histories; exhumed items; masks; ephemera; the letters and art of serial killers; antique wax anatomical dummies; shrunken heads and mummies; parts of deformed people and animals; vintage prosthetic devices; poisons; Ouija boards and séance contraptions; a hangman’s record book and tape measure…and the list goes on.

Gambino presents the collections to us succinctly, with great visuals and a thoughtful introduction. And in doing so, he also presents to us a look at the folks who champion these items, who go to the ends of the earth to acquire them, who save them from garbage bins and bonfires, and who display them lovingly, beautifully, as objet d’art.

Their collections are every bit as ghoulish as you would imagine, but the collectors themselves are a variety of folks with regular lives. Aside from a high degree of correlation to tattoos (either by having them or by giving them or both) and for preferring bones over beanie babies, they appear to be the same everyday folks who you might encounter in your neighborhood, not knowing they have hair sculptures and jars of brains on their mantels. Their aesthetic tastes are unique, as are their reasons for collecting. But as Gambino notes, the common thread is a love of history. They have a passion for learning and curating and for the thrill of the hunt.

The book itself is a beautiful hardcover with black-edged pages, a nice touch. The photographs are well done and abundant on matte pages. Captions are small, but explain clearly what you’re looking at. This book isn’t for everybody, but to those it is for, it will be a nice addition to their own collection. The folks herein have undertaken the various dangers of acquiring their pieces, spent large sums of money, and painstakingly displayed them. It can be gross, but it is never dull. You might as well take a peek. You know you want to.

– Aaron Downey

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Super Powereds by Drew Hayes


Super hero junior college? Drew Hayes has another fantastic series in Super Powereds, adding his humor and irony to the genre!

Landers is pretty much your average college, except they have a special course program for people with super powers. This year five new students are joining the special program, hoping to train up from “powered” to “super” without hurting themselves, or anyone else.

Hayes’ Fred the Vampire Accountant stories are some my favorites this year. He does a wonderful job playing around in this genre, and I’m eager to read the second book in the series.

Super Powereds: Year 1 by Drew Hayes via Amazon

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Red Dwarf XI has arrived


Red Dwarf never gets old! Lister, Rimmer, Kryten and the Cat are back!

I just watched season eleven’s kick-off episode, Twentica. Reminiscent of Star Trek’s famous The City on the Edge of Forever, the crew travels back in time to prohibition America. Oddly, they find the prohibition is on science!

I could not be happier! Red Dwarf is back! Now just give me the Mighty Boosh and Black’s Books.

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German prosecutors drop investigation against comedian who insulted Turkish president

Erdogan_gesturing_Rabia (1)

German prosecutors have dropped an investigation into comedian Jan Boehmermann over a ribald poem he wrote about Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan, reports the BBC.

Boehmermann’s televised performance quipped that Erdogan fucked goats, among other insults, leading to an official complaint and an investigation.

Boehmermann is a satirist and television presenter well-known for pushing the boundaries of German humour.

The poem was broadcast on ZDF television. The comedian was later given police protection.

Mr Erdogan has drawn much criticism in Turkey and internationally for attacking political opponents, including harassment of journalists. Many accuse him of authoritarian methods, stifling legitimate dissent and promoting an Islamist agenda.

The Turkish government cited an ancient lese-majeste law making it illegal to insult foreign heads of state. Though saying the law should be scrapped, German Chancellor Angela Merkel approved the inquiry and was critical of Boehmermann.

In the resulting uproar over free speech, however, both Merkel and prosecutors came under withering criticism—and stories about Boehmermann and his work only proliferated.

Other people who have quipped about Ergodan’s alleged affection for quadrupeds include UK foreign minister Boris Johnson.

Previously: German chancellor allows prosecution of satirist who insulted Turkish president

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Rudy Rucker reissues five of his classic books as $12 paperbacks and $2 DRM-free ebooks


Science fiction writer/hacker/mathematician Rudy Rucker (previously, a Gold Star Happy Mutant if ever there was one, has reissued five of his classic titles with new forematter and his own paintings on the covers, priced to move at $12 for paperbacks and $2 for DRM-free ebooks: Saucer Wisdom (“brilliantly funny, prescient, and as fully engaging as a coffee-fueled late-night conversation with a slightly manic genius”); Spacetime Donuts (“A plugged-in rebel becomes the incredible shrinking man”); The Sex Sphere (“An alien named Babs and her crew take the form of disembodied sex organs that attach to human hosts”); The Secret of Life (“A coming-of-age science fiction novel, blending realism and the fantastic in a transreal style”); and White Light (“A hipster math prof’s journey to Abosolute Infinity…and back”).

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Theroux Scientology documentary trailer released


Here’s the trailer for Louis Theroux’s upcoming documentary, My Scientology Movie.

Inspired by the Church’s use of filming techniques, and aided by ex-members of the organization Theroux uses actors to replay some incidents people claim they experienced as members in an attempt to better understand the way it operates. In a bizarre twist, it becomes clear that the Church is also making a film about Louis Theroux. Suffused with a good dose of humor and moments worthy of a Hollywood script, MY SCIENTOLOGY MOVIE is stranger than fiction.

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NYT on Twitter: "hate speech bounded only by a character limit"


If it seems rough that the New York Times would publish an op-ed so plainly holding Twitter responsible for publishing hate speech, remember that it’s 2016 and the gloves are off.

It warns users they may not “threaten other people on the basis of race, ethnicity, national origin, sexual orientation, gender” and various other traits. Yet it often fumbles the enforcement. Charlie Warzel of BuzzFeed News unearthed a doozy last week.

After a user who identified herself as Kathleen posted a tweet criticizing the Trump campaign, a Twitter member going by Adorable Deplorable directed a message back at her featuring a photograph of a beheaded man — apparently an ISIS victim — and the words, “Your [sic] heading for a deep hole.”

Twitter forced the photo’s removal after BuzzFeed’s inquiries, but it initially told Kathleen that the post did not violate its policies. This is apparently common. In a BuzzFeed survey of Twitter users, about 90 percent of those who said they had reported abuse said their complaints went unheeded.

The odd part, in a nutshell: Twitter seems able to quickly and comprehensively squelch stuff that offends brands and governments, so why is it so slow to deal with abuse?

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Jewish man arrested at Kansas City library speech after asking "provocative" questions


Take care when asking provocative questions at Kansas City’s library events: you might end up in jail.

The executive director of Kansas City Libraries says he’s outraged by the charges against Jeremy Rothe-Kushel, a Jewish man grabbed by private security after asking the event’s speaker, former diplomat Dennis Ross, uninvited follow-up questions. Off-duty cops moved in to arrest Rothe-Kushel when he objected to the hands-on treatment—as well as a library staffer who had moved to intervene.

The Associated Press reports Kansas City police spokeswoman Capt. Stacey Graves as saying officers “acted properly in helping private security stop an audience member from asking follow-up questions.”

Issues arose after Ross finished speaking and took a question from Jeremy Rothe-Kushel concerning whether Jewish Americans like Rothe-Kushel should be concerned about actions by the U.S. and Israel that amount to “state-sponsored terrorism.”

“When are we going to stand up and be ethical Jews and Americans?” Rothe-Kushel asked.

When Rothe-Kushel tried to ask another question, a private security guard grasped his arm, followed by an off-duty police officer, both employed by the Jewish Community Foundation. Rothe-Kushel then shouted, “Get your hands off of me right now!”

Steve Woolfolk, director of public programming for the library, tried to intervene. Both men were arrested by off-duty officers.

On-duty officers posted to the event apparently did not get involved until later: he was arrested by a man out of uniform and paid by the event’s organizers.

Rothe-Kushel was charged with trespassing and resisting arrest. Steve Woolfolk, director of public programming for the library, was charged with interfering with an arrest. The libraries’ executive director, R. Crosby Kemper III. Kemper, said the private security guards have no right to remove library patrons and that he was going public because prosecutors refuse to drop the charges.

At this stage, I’m actually outraged,” Kemper said. “This is a big violation of the very first amendment to the Constitution of the United States.”

If Kemper regrets letting cops work as hired muscle at library events, he seems to be learning his lesson.

“I assumed they would want this to go away,” he said, but “the police and the prosecutor’s office aren’t talking to us. They’ve just gotten into a defensive mode.”

The Kansas City prosecutor’s office declined to comment, citing a pending case. Kansas City Police Department spokeswoman Capt. Stacey Graves did not return KCUR’s call. But on Friday, she told The Kansas City Star: “If security wants the person out, and the officer saw a person being disruptive at the event, then we would remove the person,” Graves said. “We’re there to keep the peace.”


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Pax 2 is the gold standard in portable vaporizers and it's now $80 off


The Pax 2 is a compact, high-tech vaporizer that offers a slew of features including versatile heat settings, an upgraded interface, and a system that heats up in less than a minute. Its mouthpiece doesn’t stick out like most vapes, but is cleverly built into the design, featuring a small slit to inhale out of.

Even though the Pax 2 is super compact and portable, it includes a pretty sizable area for packing tobacco. Coupled with an impressive battery size, you can vape for a good amount of time without needing to refill or recharge.

Best of all, you can now get the Pax 2 for just $199 in the Boing Boing store. That’s $80 off the original retail price of $279 for this high-quality vaporizer.

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Recomendo picks: Voyager Golden Record/Hola/Way of Life


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I just backed the Kickstarter campaign for a replica of the Voyager golden record sent into space that contained the music of Earth for aliens to listen to. The original golden disk was launched in 1977 and contains images, diagrams, and messages explaining humans. The modern replica is three translucent yellow vinyl LPs in an ornate slipcase and book. Very cool project. — Kevin Kelly


Wikipedia’s “Unusual articles” page has links to hundreds of eclectic and offbeat articles. Learn about the Korean invasion of Normandy, happy numbers, and the Phantom time hypothesis (it’s really 1719, not 2016 as we’ve been led to believe). I’d love this as a multi-volume hardbound illustrated set. — Mark Frauenfelder


I am addicted to TOWIE, a British reality show, but Hulu is very delayed on posting recently aired episodes, and the show website has a country block on their videos. Fortunately, Hola, the free VPN proxy service has never failed to bypass the block, so I can get my trashy reality show fix. — Claudia Lamar


We installed AI into our kitchen to get a glimpse of the future. Now we talk to Alexa, and ask it to do all kinds of things. “Alexa, what is on my calendar today?” “Alexa, add granola to my shopping list.” The cheapest way to do this is not with an Echo (size of wine bottle), if you already have speakers, but with the Echo Dot. Size of a large hockey puck, it’s always on, waiting for your command. And it will get upgraded over time. — KK


I used the Way of Life iPhone app (sorry, no Android) to make a habit of making my bed. The simple app lets you set up a list of habits you want to make or break. Once a day you touch a red X or a green checkmark to record your success or failure. It took me about two years to get to the point where I don’t think about making my bed. I just do it. It’s free if you track three or fewer activities. The full version, with unlimited activities, is $5. — MF

Downloadable: has tons of free fonts, classified by type (e.g., pixel, grunge, retro, etc). They also have very nice “almost free” fonts, usually costing less than $10. — MF

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