After OPM hack, CIA pulls agents from Beijing for their safety


22 million Americans' most compromising data (from fingerprints to criminal records to identities of family and lovers) was breached in the Office of Personnel Management hack, presumably by hackers working for the Chinese government. Read the rest

Playful, pacifist IEDs


Sculptor Petros Eftstathiadiadis makes these "pacifist bombs" as a commentary on the Greek political/economic situation, constructing them from materials chosen to seem absurd, playful and harmless. Despite that, a few of these look somewhat alarming to me, possibly because of Eftstathiadiadis's (admirable) lack of knowledge about antipersonnel weaponry -- the soap immediately makes me think of jellied gasoline, for example. Read the rest

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Why biometrics suck, the Office of Personnel Management edition


The nation-state hackers who stole 5.6 million+ records of US government employees (cough China cough) also took 5.6 million+ fingerprints. But it's no problem: those people can just get new fingerprints and revoke their old ones right? Read the rest

How to save online advertising


My latest Guardian column, How to save online advertising, looks at the writing on the wall for ad-blockers and ad-supported publishing, and suggests one way to keep ads viable. Read the rest

Notorious Islamophobic mayor of Irving, TX worried Ahmed Mohamed's arrest will negatively impact town police


Irving mayor Beth Van Duyne is a notorious racist and is also the sworn mayor of the townspeople of Irving, TX, where Ahmed Mohamed and his family live.

On hearing the news that her police chief had dropped criminal charges against Ahmed Mohamed, a boy who made a clock because he wanted to engage with the makers in his new high school, Mayor Van Duyne posted to Facebook, exonerating the police and asking townsfolk not to hold their grotesque abuse of authority and farcically bad judgment against them:

I do not fault the school or the police for looking into what they saw as a potential threat. They have procedures to run when a possible threat or criminal act is discovered. They follow these procedures in the sole interest of protecting our children and school personnel. To the best of my knowledge, they followed protocol for investigating whether this was an attempt to bring a Hoax Bomb to a school campus. Following this investigation, Irving PD has stated no charges will be filed against the student. I hope this incident does not serve as a deterrent against our police and school personnel from maintaining the safety and security of our schools.

Later, she appended a little weak-kneed blurb about how it's nice that kids are creative to her initial victim-blaming, bad-cop-exonerating post.

Police Drop Case Against Kid Who Made Clock, While Mayor Worries About The Impact... On The Police [Mike Masnick/Techdirt]

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Dear Internet of Things: human beings are not things

My new Locus column is What If People Were Sensors, Not Things to be Sensed? Read the rest

Baby trapped in car turns out to be realistic doll

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Rescuers smashed their way into the vehicle only to find that the alarmingly still baby in the back seat was merely a toy. ABC News reports that emergency services were called to the scene in Oakland, California, on Monday.

"Fortunately, it was not a baby or small child," [Officer] Watson said. "We encourage anyone who believes there is a dangerous situation such as this incident to contact emergency personnel so we can make that determination." The police do not know why the doll was in the car seat, Watson said.

[via Arbroath] Read the rest

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A beautiful and affordable didgeridoo


This didgeridoo is made from PVC pipe that’s been heated, warped and stained to look like wood. It has a beeswax mouthpiece that gets soft when you press it against your mouth, forming a seal. It took me a while to get the hang of playing it. Like all didgeridoos, it’s just a hollow tube. There are no reeds or holes. To play it, you make a raspberry sound with your lips. The trick is in finding the resonant frequency of the instrument and using as little air as possible to make it buzz. Once you are able to do that consistently, you can alter the sound with your cheeks, tongue, and voicebox. Another challenge is being able to play without pause. To do this, you must learn “circular breathing.”

Here’s a video on how to play a didgeridoo, and this video shows you how to make different sounds with a didgeridoo. In traditional Aboriginal culture, only men play the didgeridoo, but women all over the world now play them. Watch a woman playing a didgeridoo and bells at the same time in Carcassonne, France.

Didgeridoo with Beeswax Mouthpiece by World Percussion USA $36 Buy one on Amazon

See more photos of this at Wink. Read the rest

Back-to-school must-have: pink bullet-proof backpack


Don't let your child out of the house without this stylish pink bullet-proof backpack. It has been "tested against 2 types of ammunition, yet weighs just a few more ounces than non-armed backpacks. Ideal for everyone, including students, law enforcement and military personnel and security staff."

While you're at it, why not grab a 3-pack of P.S. Products Strike Spikes: "Just attach the thick, quarter-sized aluminum disc to the back of your baseball-style cap. Whip your cap off and fight back with the Strike Spike's short but ultra-sharp spikes. Or wear it on your watch band so you can strike an assailant before he even gets a chance."

(Thanks, Andreas!) Read the rest

New pornoscanners are also useless, cost $160 million

The new generation of millimeter-wave body scanners from the convicted war-criminals at L-3 were supposed to replace the useless, expensive backscatter radiation machines from Rapiscan with a more robust, less privacy invasive alternative. Read the rest

One way to avoid cultural appropriation: Seek collaborators, not just characters

How one publisher turned a video game into a collaboration with an entire Alaska Native community.

Texas releases full police dashcam video of Sandra Bland's arrest

sandra bland The Texas Department of Public Safety has just released what is said to be a complete and unedited police dashcam video recording of the arrest of Sandra Bland. An altercation begins around 9 minutes in.

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War without tears

The relationship between video games and violence is healthier than we like to think

Sandra Bland death to be investigated as murder

sandra bland

Sandra Bland was pulled over for failing to signal a turn in Waller County, Texas. She was arrested and taken to the cells, where she died three days later. Read the rest

With faked degrees, U.S. tech official ran law enforcement data systems for years. Then he resigned, got a new gov job.

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“A key Interior technology official who had access to sensitive systems for over five years had lied about his education, submitting falsified college transcripts produced by an online service.”