Day: October 24, 2016

Video that explains how to become a dictator


This 20-minute explainer video lays down three rules for becoming a dictator:

1. Get the key supporters on your side.

2. Control the treasure.

3. Minimize key supporters.

The video is based on a book called, The Dictator’s Handbook: Why Bad Behavior is Almost Always Good Politics

For eighteen years, Bruce Bueno de Mesquita and Alastair Smith have been part of a team revolutionizing the study of politics by turning conventional wisdom on its head. They start from a single assertion: Leaders do whatever keeps them in power. They don’t care about the “national interest” — or even their subjects—unless they have to.
This clever and accessible book shows that the difference between tyrants and democrats is just a convenient fiction. Governments do not differ in kind but only in the number of essential supporters, or backs that need scratching. The size of this group determines almost everything about politics: what leaders can get away with, and the quality of life or misery under them. The picture the authors paint is not pretty. But it just may be the truth, which is a good starting point for anyone seeking to improve human governance.

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Geek Fuel is like comic-con delivered to your door

Geek Fuel is a subscription delivery service that caters to those of us that love comics, gaming, and general geek culture. Every month, Geek Fuel will assemble a box of goodies with a value of $50 or over.

The specific items are a mystery, but you’ll always get an exclusive t-shirt not found anywhere else, a full downloadable game, the latest issue of Geek Fuel Magazine, and 5-8 items like toys, comics, collectibles, and more.

They say each box delivers a $50 value (minimum), and we’ve found each box to be truly worth it. Plus, with this deal you get a welcome box and three additional boxes for just $79.99. Past products include paraphernalia from titles like Doctor Who, Super Mario Bros, and The Avengers. One of our favorite finds was a Stormtrooper Bobblehead.

Geek Fuel is a great pick me up in the mailbox every month, for yourself or for a friend. Act fast if you want your own Geek Fuel Mega Pack: this 64% off deal is for a limited time only.

Also explore the Best-Sellers from different categories on our network right now:

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Pete Burns, singer of Dead or Alive, RIP

Pete Burns, fabulous freak singer of 1980s dance-pop group Dead or Alive, died yesterday of cardiac arrest. He was 57. From The Guardian:

Burns rose to fame in the 1980s with the band’s hit so

    ng You Spin Me Round (Like a Record). He also appeared on Celebrity Big Brother in 2006, coming fifth in the final.

    A statement released by his partner, Michael Simpson, his ex-wife, Lynne Corlett, and his manager and former band member, Steve Coy, read: “All of his family and friends are devastated by the loss of our special star. He was a true visionary, a beautiful talented soul and will be missed by all those who loved and appreciated everything he was and all of the wonderful memories he has left us with.”

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A Field Guide to Redheads - an assortment of people, places and things all topped with red


For redheads, and people who love them, get past the slightly disturbing title and enjoy this collection of people, places, and things, all with red on top. The subjects are diverse, from movie stars to redheaded animals to L. Ron Hubbard to a recipe for carrot soup. The full-page, full-color, ink-wash illustrations are all charming and usually identifiable: Ron Howard is clearly nobody else, while Ginger Spice is less recognizable. Redheads of the White House, Thelma and Louise driving off a cliff, Mario Batali, and Malcolm X, all lovingly drawn here for your…your…well, it’s not clear what the point of the book is, but it’s enjoyable and odd, and isn’t that enough?

A Field Guide to Redheads: An Illustrated Celebration

by Elizabeth Graeber

Workman Publishing

2016, 160 pages, 5.1 x 0.7 x 7.1 inches (hardcover)

$13 Buy a copy on Amazon

See sample pages from this book at Wink.

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UAE surveillance contractor is recruiting an army of foreign hackers to break into its citizens' devices


The world’s most sophisticated security experts have been bombarded with recruiting offers from UAE-based company Darkmatter, which bills itself as a major state security contractor — but people who’ve taken the bait say they were then told that they were being hired to weaponize huge arsenals of zero-day vulnerabilities so that the UAE can subject its own population to fine-grained, continuous surveillance.

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Artificial intelligence won't destroy the human race anytime soon


The Allen Institute for Artificial Intelligence (AI2), funded by billionaire Paul Allen’s, is developing projects like an AI-based search engine for scientific papers and a system to extract “visual knowledge” from images and videos. According to Scientific American, another goal of AI2 is “to counter messages perpetuated by Hollywood and even other researchers that AI could menace the human race.” SciAm’s Larry Greenemeier interviewed AI2 CEO and computer scientist Oren Etzioni:

Why do so many well-respected scientists and engineers warn that AI is out to get us?

It’s hard for me to speculate about what motivates somebody like Stephen Hawking or Elon Musk to talk so extensively about AI. I’d have to guess that talking about black holes gets boring after awhile—it’s a slowly developing topic. The one thing that I would say is that when they and Bill Gates—someone I respect enormously—talk about AI turning evil or potential cataclysmic consequences, they always insert a qualifier that says “eventually” or this “could” happen. And I agree with that. If we talk about a thousand-year horizon or the indefinite future, is it possible that AI could spell out doom for the human race? Absolutely it’s possible, but I don’t think this long-term discussion should distract us from the real issues like AI and jobs and AI and weapons systems. And that qualifier about “eventually” or “conceptually” is what gets lost in translation…

How do you ensure that an AI program will behave legally and ethically?

If you’re a bank and you have a software program that’s processing loans, for example, you can’t hide behind it. Saying that my computer did it is not an excuse. A computer program could be engaged in discriminatory behavior even if it doesn’t use race or gender as an explicit variable. Because a program has access to a lot of variables and a lot of statistics it may find correlations between zip codes and other variables that come to constitute a surrogate race or gender variable. If it’s using the surrogate variable to affect decisions, that’s really problematic and would be very, very hard for a person to detect or track. So the approach that we suggest is this idea of AI guardians—AI systems that monitor and analyze the behavior of, say, an AI-based loan-processing program to make sure that it’s obeying the law and to make sure it’s being ethical as it evolves over time.

Do AI guardians exist today?

We issued a call to the community to start researching and building these things. I think there might be some trivial ones out there but this is very much a vision at this point. We want the idea of AI guardians out there to counter the pervasive image of AI—promulgated in Hollywood movies like The Terminator—that the technology is an evil and monolithic force.

AI Is Not out to Get Us(SciAm)

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Woman with skull on stick leads police to corpse


A woman walking around Sacramento with a skull on a stick led police to a homeless encampment where she found the cranium. Apparently someone spotted the woman marching around with the skull and called police. After police found the woman at an abandoned house, she took them to the area where they located the body.

“A call like this is not something that happens every day,” Sacramento police Sgt. Bryce Heinlein told Fox 40. “We hope we can get down to the bottom of what caused this person to become deceased.”

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Maserati Hearse


People are dying for a ride in Ellena Funeral Car’s Maserati Hearse:

Multifunctional steering wheel
– Dual-zone automatic climate control
– Windshield wiper with rain sensor
– Body in fiberglass
– Hydraulic Alzabara
– Interior lighting LED
– Stainless steel cladding and imitation leather boating
– Cross removable stainless steel
– Hooks door wreaths
– Audio engineer
– Metallic paint choice

Optional accessories:
– Opening the tailgate automatic
– Platform Automatic
– Parking sensors
– Tinted windows

Maserati Hearse (via Uncrate)


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Build this high-tech helicopter, then fly it using your smartphone

If you like to DIY and you like helicopters, you’re going to really love the Flexbot Hexacopter Kit. This copter blows traditional models out of the water: it includes everything you need to actually build your own hexacopter, and then pilot it like a pro, too.

The construction is complicated enough to give you a challenge, but also straightforward enough that you won’t be scratching your head in frustration as you go. And the best part is, you can personalize your flying experience with any design you like, and even 3D print your own additions to the copter at home. As an added bonus, you can also lower flying noises, remove signals, etc by coding it yourself.

As for controlling the Flexbot Hexacopter when it’s in the air, you pilot if directly from your smartphone or tablet. Basically, the Flexbot is the new, high tech helicopter model we’ve all always wanted.

For a limited time, the Flexbot Hexacopter can be yours for just $89.99.

Also explore the Internationally Shipped Best-Sellers on our network right now.

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First Amendment offers "too much protection" of free speech, says millionaire Donald Trump


Trump wants to end criticism of Trump. But more than that, he wants to silence the women he boasted about groping.Specifically, he wants America to be more like England, where “they actually have a system where you can sue if someone says something wrong.”

Alas, he’s both wrong and incorrect. Jedd Legum:

Trump is right that he would have a better chance of prevailing under English law where an allegedly defamatory statement is presumed to be false. There, it is up to the defendant in a libel suit to prove that their statements are true.

But even if U.S. law were more like England’s, Trump might still have difficulty in prevailing against his accusers or the New York Times.

Many of Trump’s accusers have witnesses who can corroborate their stories. The reporter for People Magazine who says she was assaulted by Trump, for example, has six different people supporting her version of events.

English defamation law was also amended in 2013 to add a “public interest” exemption. This change would potentially allow the New York Times to escape liability in England even if they were unable to definitely prove the truth of their reporting.

The historically plaintiff-friendly libel laws in the U.K. were gross enough that other countries (including the U.S.) passed laws making it difficult to domesticate or enforce U.K. libel verdicts locally. But there was a curious silver lining to it all: though the law gave outrageous power to bluffing plaintiffs, when their bluff was called it could result in the total reputational immolation they deserved in the first place.

Trump is exactly the sort of person you could expect to overplay his hand in English courts.

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Trump campaign: "we can safely assume" 201 electoral votes


Down but clearly not out, the presidential campaign of millionaire Donald Trump just issued a map of states that places him in a commanding position: “those colored red are states that we can safely assume will vote for Trump.”

The Trump picks add up to 201 electoral votes, 69 short of what he needs to prevail on Nov. 8. Hillary Clinton, in comparison, has only 187 votes secured on the map. The remaining states are gray, indicating battleground status, with 150 electoral votes available.


According to polls, however, Clinton has a commanding lead, including in several of the states Trump’s campaign believes are up for grabs.

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Tell us about your Halloween candy preferences, and other things besides


There’s the stuff about science, and ranking, and surveys, and strata, we say that every year. There’s the extra layer about experimental proof, rigorous data analysis, metrics of repeatability. Got it, we got it.

So we’re here are again.

Last year was a kind of game changer in the candy ranking industry. We split the survey results between those who were actually planning to trick-or-treat and those basing their answers on memories of childhoods long lost to time. We added this whole other layer of survey questions to gauge the character of survey takers. We promised we would find a legit reason for doing so, but we’d figure it out post facto. Which we did. We contrived a reason post facto. Like, did you know people who like black licorice prefer Sundays over Fridays? No wonder they suck (Sundays and black licorice).

Also, did you know that people who ranked peanut butter and chocolate combo candies higher than mint and chocolate combos are wrong to do so?
Why? Because it’s just wrong. Because Mint + Chocolate always goes first. Then Caramel + Chocolate. Then, if you must, Peanut Butter + Chocolate. Stuff like that, that’s what we got. No bias or rigging here.

Also, what about that 5000+ people voted with over 500,000 individual preferences? God, imagine if we could harness that energy for something that actually made things better on this crazy blue dot of ours.

Now we return in trying times. We were tempted to focus this survey on Tic Tac and Skittles-heavy asides and sly references. You’d all be like, Oh damn, they just did that. But Halloween is still some time away, and we know by now that campaign references only have a shelf life of about ten days, two weeks tops, so that even today, we bet half of you don’t know what we’re referencing with deplorable Tic Tacs and Skittles. (Unlike Mint + Chocolate candies, which can keep in the pantry for months and still best Peanut Butter + Chocolate in a straight up two-way race.)

With sophisticated survey tools at our disposal and genuine statistical analysis to follow, here is our third annual Candy Hierarchy survey (that makes this a longitudinal study folks!) and, overall, the preparation for our tenth annual Candy Hierarchy. Please fill it out to the best of your ability, and we’ll report back, as always, on Halloween.

The Third Annual Candy Hierarchy Survey


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Tax-funded NZ company sold mass surveillance tech to torturers and GCHQ


A whistleblower has provided The Intercept with leaked documents about Endace, an obscure New Zealand company based in Auckland, revealing that the company — which received millions in government funding — developed the mass surveillance equipment used by the UK spy agency to engage in illegal mass surveillance on fiber-optic lines that traverse the UK, and that Endace’s customer list also includes a who’s-who of telcoms companies, spy agencies, and the Moroccan secret police, who make a practice of spying on people, then kidnapping and torturing them.

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Audit reveals significant vulnerabilities in Truecrypt and its successors


Veracrypt was created to fill the vacuum left by the implosion of disk-encryption tool Truecrypt, which mysteriously vanished in 2014, along with a “suicide note” (possibly containing a hidden message) that many interpreted as a warning that an intelligence agency had inserted a backdoor into the code, or was attempting to force Truecrypt’s anonymous creators to do so.


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