Larry Lessig presented at TED his new project, an effort to curb the corrupting influence of money in American politics with a reform to campaign finance, so that the government depends on the people alone. It's a wonderful talk:
There is a corruption at the heart of American politics, caused by the dependence of Congressional candidates on funding from the tiniest percentage of citizens. That's the argument at the core of this blistering talk by legal scholar Lawrence Lessig. With rapid-fire visuals, he shows how the funding process weakens the Republic in the most fundamental way, and issues a rallying bipartisan cry that will resonate with many in the U.S. and beyond.
Wikileaks opens Public Library of US Diplomacy (PLUSD), searchable repository of 1970s US diplomatic and intel documents
Julian Assange today announced the launch of the Public Library of US Diplomacy, or PLUSD, the publication of more than 1.7 million US diplomatic and intelligence documents from the 1970s. PLUSD includes diplomatic cables, intel reports, congressional correspondence, and other formerly restricted material, now all online in searchable text form.
The project was apparently orchestrated by Assange from his place of refuge, within the Ecuadorean embassy in London. He says the records highlighted the "vast range and scope" of the United States' global influence. He has been encamped in the Latin American country's embassy mission for nine months, seeking to avoid extradition to Sweden over allegations of rape and sexual assault, which he denies.
The Mozilla Foundation has previewed a new, experimental system for in-app payments that is intended to solve several major problems with existing payment systems available to developers, including the fact that other payment systems are strongly partisan, tilted to one or just a few payment processors. It's a good and useful thing, and an example of the sort of good that a well-funded nonprofit can do for the health of the Web:
Here’s what’s wrong:
* Users cannot choose how to pay; they have to select from one of the pre-defined options.
* In most cases, the user has to type in an actual credit card number on each site. This is like giving someone the keys to your expensive car, letting them drive it around the block in a potentially dangerous neighborhood (the web) and saying please don’t get carjacked!
* Merchants typically have to manage all this on their own: payment processor setup, costly processing fees, and possibly even PCI compliance.
There are services to mitigate a lot of these complications such as PayPal, Stripe, and others but they aren’t integrated into web devices very well. Mozilla wants to introduce a common web API to make payments easy and secure on web devices yet still as flexible as the checkout button for merchants.
Introducing navigator.mozPay() For Web Payments [Mozilla.org/Kumar McMillan]
TorrentFreak's been looking at the BitTorrent video-downloading from the small pool of downloaders in Vatican City, and they've reported in with the Vatican's favorite pornography:
In the interests of science we researched each of the titles (including the curiously named RS77_Episode 01) and discovered that downloaders in the Vatican have one or two unusual ‘niche’ interests. We won’t link to our discoveries here, but feel free to do your own ‘research’ using the titles shown above. There isn’t a commandment that covers these films directly, but some might argue there should be.
TorrentFreak couldn’t find a priest prepared to make a comment and apparently the Pope is “busy” today. On a Sunday?
On March 25, Randall Munroe ran a strip called Time, an enigmatic, wordless image whose tool-tip was "Wait for it." Ever since, the strip has been updating with subsequent frames, all of them making up a time-lapse animation of a lovely story about a day of sand-castle building at the beach.
The XKCD Wikia entry for the post has animated GIFs and a slideshow showing the progress to date. It's really coming along nicely, and Randall's done some clever things with the back-end to stop people from previewing future frames.
James Bridle photographed every CCTV between his home in east London and Dalston Junction, a 1.4mi walk with about 140 cameras. Welcome to London, where we have 11 CCTVs per red blood cells.
Rock Paper Shotgun's John Walker has published an excellent essay called "Misogyny, Sexism, And Why RPS Isn’t Shutting Up," making the case for games (and tech) writers of all sexes writing about sexism and misogyny in public, documenting the intimidation that writers experience when they do so, and offering some explanations for the violent, vicious response the work evokes. I particularly liked the section where he deals with accusations of "trying to get laid," and "white knighting."
Both phrases contain those truths. The accusation gets a grip because of them, causes me to hesitate, to pause as I write, to worry my motivations are wrong. And that’s their purpose. Generally the motivation for my writing any sort of polemic on RPS is because I’m angry about something – constructively angry about something a person should be angry about – and I want to see positive change. That’s what causes me to start typing, including this piece. But as I go along, those words creep in. “You’re just saying this to win the approval of others.” “You’re just trying to make girls like you.” “You think women need you to stand up for them.” And so on. They get to me. They’re getting to me right now. They’re evil spells, cast to insidiously infect.
I like it when people like me. I like it when people come up and compliment me. I like the approval of others. Because that’s normal. And I write this both to exorcise the infection those words cause, and to make it known to everyone else who feels the same that these are not words that should stop you from speaking up for what you know is right. They are words that will never silence RPS on these matters, and they should never silence you either.
It’s vital that men speak out about this subject. Mostly because it’s vital that people speak out, a unified voice with whatever genitals it may have, condemning cruelty and inequality. For some men, only another man’s voice will be heard. If you’re a fellow, and you object to the portrayal and treatment of women within gaming, start saying so. You will receive abuse. And I am sorry, because it’s not fair. It really damned sucks, and it gets to me, it weighs me down. But it’s so worthwhile.
Abuse is the natural response of anyone wishing to perpetuate a privilege that by its nature demeans or diminishes others. And receiving abuse is horrible. But so long as you surround yourself by others who will support and care for you, it’s worthwhile. The louder the united voice, the more effective it is. So long as people remain silent, they provide a safe space for the cruel and oppressive to speak. When it’s clear that such behaviour is not tolerated in a space, it’s harder for it to be heard. And look at the positive change that’s already been seen. The positive change is why there’s a fight. Things are already getting so much better.
ExxonMobil, FAA, Arkansas cops establish flight restriction zone, threaten reporters who try to document Mayflower, AR spill
Expect to see a lot fewer images of toxic sludge creeping through small communities, thanks to the hard work of ExxonMobil. The company could have used its prodigious resources to make its oil pipelines more secure, preventing town-destroying leaks like the one that hit Mayflower, Arkansas. But they figured out that it would be cheaper to just corrupt the local law to chase reporters out and get the FAA to establish a Temporary Flight Restriction zone over the spill. Problem solved!
Michael Hibblen, who reports for the radio station KUAR, went to the spill site on Wednesday with state Attorney General Dustin McDaniel. McDaniel was in the area to inspect the site and hold a news conference, and Hibblen and a small group of reporters were following him to report on the visit. Upon arrival, representatives from the county sheriff's office, which is running security at the site, directed the reporters to a boundary point 10 feet away that they should not pass. The reporters agreed to comply. But the tone shifted abruptly, Hibblen told Mother Jones on Friday:
It was less than 90 seconds before suddenly the sheriff's deputies started yelling that all the media people had to leave, that ExxonMobil had decided they don't want you here, you have to leave. They even referred to it as "Exxon Media"…Some reporters were like, "Who made this decision? Who can we talk to?" The sheriff's deputies started saying, "You have to leave. You have 10 seconds to leave or you will be arrested."
Hibblen says he didn't really have time to deal with getting arrested, since he needed to file his report on the visit for both the local affiliate and national NPR. (You can hear his piece on the AG's visit here.) KUAR has also reported on Exxon blocking reporters' access to the spill site.
Reporters Say Exxon Is Impeding Spill Coverage in Arkansas [MotherJones/Kate Sheppard]
Blush, a German lingerie company, created a campaign that either co-opts or honors (or both) Pussy Riot, sending a scantily clad lingerie model in a knit balaclava to walk through -15C weather in Moscow holding a FREE PUSSY RIOT sign in order to advertise their clothes and to advertise freepussyriot.org, which legitimately raises money for the defense of the Pussy Riot women who have been sentenced to labor camps for singing an anti-Putin, anti-corruption song in a church.
Here's a writeup of Evan Booth's Hack the Box conference presentation on making lethal weapons out of items bought in airport duty-free shops. It's pretty ingenious stuff (the video above is from a related presentation at CarolinaCon 2013).
The problem here is that legitimate purpose of airport security is not protecting passengers and flight attendants from harm. In reality, there's no way to accomplish that goal against a determined attacker. The real and legitimate purpose of airport security is to protect airplanes and cockpits from harm -- to stop people from hijacking and/or crashing airplanes (this is why the TSA correctly relaxed its rules about carrying small knives onto planes -- and why so many of their other rules are pointless and stupid). So long as none of these lethal weapons can crash an airplane or beat an armored, bolted cockpit door, they embody no new incremental threat to aviation -- on the other hand, the improvised battery-bombs are a real threat.
Besides a bomb knew Booth also easy to make a bow and arrow of stuff he had bought in a shop in an airport. For this he used an umbrella, hair dryer, socks, a leather belt and condoms. Too obvious things like a lighter and deodorant as alternative gas burner he did not elaborate.
Booth also made a crossbow of an umbrella, floss, grab a toy, a rolkoffertje, a straw and tape. With a straw, cotton and a piece of metal from a remote controlled helicopter he was able to make a blow gun for firing arrows.
Remarkable is also a club that he made a gift, what magazines, floss, a leather strap and tape. In a test showed that so firmly, that he with a single blow a coconut in several parts stores.
Onderzoeker maakt bom van artikelen luchthavenwinkels [Dutch, Nu.nl]
Researcher makes bomb Articles airport shops [Google Translate]
French spies demand removal of a Wikipedia entry, threaten random Wikipedia admin in France when they don't get their way
The French spy agency Direction Centrale du Renseignement Intérieur inexplicably flipped out about a longstanding Wikipedia entry on a military base (station hertzienne militaire de Pierre sur Haute) filled with public domain, widely known information. They tried to get the Wikimedia Foundation to delete it, but wouldn't explain what, exactly, they objected to in the entry. When the Wikimedia Foundation rebuffed them, they picked out a random volunteer Wikipedia admin living in France -- a person who had never had anything to do with the post in question -- and threatened him with jail unless he used his admin privileges to delete the post.
The Foundation is trying to support the their volunteer as best as they can. Meantime, the post about station hertzienne militaire de Pierre sur Haute's pageviews have shot from a couple per day to 9000+.
The Foundation takes allegations of national security threats seriously and investigated the matter accordingly. However, it was not readily apparent what specific information the DCRI could consider classified or otherwise high-risk. Without further information, we could not understand why the DCRI believes information in the article is classified. Almost all of the information in the article is cited to publicly-available sources. In fact, the article’s contents are largely consistent with a publicly available video in which Major Jeansac, the chief of the military station in question, gives a detailed interview and tour of the station to a reporter. This video is now cited in the article. Furthermore, the page was originally created on July 24, 2009 and has been continually available and edited since. We do not know why the DCRI believes that the article has suddenly become an urgent threat now.
We requested more information from the DCRI, such as which specific sentences or sections they believed to contain classified information. Unfortunately, the DCRI refused to provide any more specific detail and reaffirmed their demand that the entire article be deleted. Therefore, the Foundation was forced to refuse their request pending receipt of more information that we could use to fully evaluate their claim.
On 30 March 2013, we discovered that the DCRI, evidently dissatisfied with the Foundation’s response, contacted a volunteer with administrative rights (a “sysop”) who resides in France. This sysop is not responsible for the hosting of the content on Wikipedia, had no role in the creation of the article, and is not part of the Wikimedia Foundation. As we understand it, the sysop attempted to explain his limited role as a volunteer and directed them back to the Foundation’s legal department.
(Image: A general view of the military base of Pierre sur Haute, located in the Monts du Forez. It's a dependency of the Base Aerienne 942 of Lyon-Mont Verdun, GDL/CC BY-SA image by S. Rimbaud)
Government Attic: repository of noteworthy declassified/FOIA'd/public records access government docs
A reader writes,
GovernmentAttic.org, a noncommercial independent website, announces the publication of thousands of important government documents obtained through proper channels using public records access laws such as the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). Government Attic includes fascinating historical documents, oddities and fun stuff about government programs, and government "bloopers". Browsing the site is like rummaging through the Government's Attic -- hence the name.
Among the notable holdings:
- Tens of thousands of pages of FBI files on important events and famous people;
- Weird items seized by customs inspectors at airports;
- A listing of movies, books and TV shows available on the International Space Station;
- Air Defense System audio recordings of the events on 9/11;
- Lists of investigations performed by dozens of agency Inspectors General;
- Internal newsletters from the National Security Agency;
- Complaints to the FCC about various television series, including The Simpsons, Saturday Night Live, and Law & Order; and
- Documents from most federal agencies, including those with responsibilities in law enforcement, intelligence, and national defense.
Projectophile's Clare has a funny post about the hazards presented by beautiful mid-century modern home designs to children. My grandparents had a proper split-level MCM when I was a kid, and it's a wonder we survived. As Clare says, "I love open, flowing space as much as the next modern girl. But I know it would only be a matter of minutes before my kid flings himself off one of these deadly ledges..."
Ry4an sez, "Today's maker project was a pair of bedside lamps that switch one another. The effect is really jarring because the switches are so near the bulbs they'd normally control." I love this -- it's just annoying enough that you can imagine it appearing unintentionally in, say, a hotel room (the most notorious source of terrible lighting controls in the developed world), and yet perversely pleasing.