Site fetches the real URL for any shortened URL

cyber-creme
Get Link Info protects you from being rickrolled, linked to malware or otherwise misled with a link: punch in a short URL from any of the big URL shortening services, see the real one before you go there. There's a browser plugin for Firefox and IE; for Chrome users, Redditor NickPapa suggests Nope, which doesn't quite do that, but does warn about links that redirect. [via] Read the rest

Watch: Kurds take out a "suicide bomb truck" as it hurtles toward them

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Amazing footage from Syria shows an armored truck, apparently loaded with explosives and driven by a suicide bomber, hurtling toward a low ridge held by Kurdish fighters. After failing to stop it with small arms, they roll out an anti-tank missile launcher and blow the crap out of it. Comparisons with Mad Max are not entirely appropriate... but they really did get the pyrotechnic effects right in that film, didn't they? Read the rest

Tilt Six: lurid CGI J-pop nightmare music video of the day

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Directed by Kota Yamaji, the the music is by Vocaloid producer tilt six, whose YouTube channel is full of similar delights. The director describes the inspirations and creative process at Behance.

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The Huntsman: Winter’s War is a terrible movie, say critics

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The hot trend in Hollywood is to recast fairy tales as gritty, pathos-driven tragic emofeasts: Maleficent was symbolically raped as a youngster, Peter Pan was a lonely British schoolboy, and so forth. The Huntsman: Winter’s War is the latest and it's "90% terrible," reports Annalee Newitz.

There is something fascinating, in a purely sociological sense, about watching a movie like this. Lord of the Rings and Game of Thrones may have reinvigorated epic fantasy filmmaking, but they are also inspiring their fair share of stinky knockoffs. Some of those knockoffs are silly fun, like the first Huntsman film. But this prequel-sequel abomination is barely good enough for hate-watching unless you want to see the purest expression of paint-by-dollars filmmaking to come out this year.

Great Evil Queen outfits, though! Also remarkable is the degree of lifting it does – of images and even phrases — from Game of Thrones. No-one's accusing it of plagiarism; it's just tacky, a dollar-store laser sword with a Star Wars price tag.

Steven Rea appears to be the only critic who likes it, if you'd like a second opinion. Read the rest

More Google Earth anomalies

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Artist Clement Valla collects the most remarkable machine-vision nightmares and curiosities from Google Earth, a world whose parallels to our own become uncannier with each sweep of the satellites and Googlecars. [Previously. via] Read the rest

Republican rivals team up to stop Trump at all costs

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Neither can beat him, but Ted Cruz and John Kasich are teaming up against Donald Trump in a last-ditch effort to prevent him winning the Republican presidential nomination.

The two candidates, at opposite spectrums of the Republican spectrum, still agree on enough things (e.g. that Donald Trump is bad for America) to put aside their differences and announce the collaboration. The deal will involve Kasich supporting Cruz in Indiana while Cruz supports Kazich in Oregon and New Mexico – and perhaps other states where one or the other candidate is too weak to challenge Trump.

“To ensure that we nominate a Republican who can unify the Republican Party and win in November, our campaign will focus its time and resources in Indiana and in turn clear the path for Gov. Kasich to compete in Oregon and New Mexico, and we would hope that allies of both campaigns would follow our lead,” wrote Cruz's campaign manager, Jeff Roe.

John Weaver, from Kasich's camp, said that they were giving Cruz “a clear path in Indiana.”

“In turn, we will focus our time and resources in New Mexico and Oregon, both areas that are structurally similar to the Northeast politically, where Gov. Kasich is performing well,” Weaver wrote.

Trump hit Twitter almost immediately to denounce the deal as "DESPERATE!" and "sad!" collusion.

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Attempt to crush book with hydraulic press goes awry

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An operator of a powerful hydraulic press has achieved some fame of late crushing various mundane objects (such as Barbie), but the press almost met its match in the form of an English-Finnish dictionary: "Book exploded very well." Read the rest

German politician arrested in Berlin for insulting Turkish president

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Bruno Kramm, leader of Berlin's branch of the German Pirate Party, was arrested Saturday for insulting Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Kramm was detained while conducting a "literary analysis," in support of comedian Jan Boehmermann, outside the Turkish Embassy in Berlin. As part of the publicity stunt, he read two lines of Boehmermann poem ridiculing Erdogan.

The incident comes after chancellor Angela Merkel allowed prosecutors to file charges against Boehmermann, following Turkish demands that he be punished for broadcasting the poem on local television.

Boehmermann, however, was not physically detained by police.

RT reports that Kramm was "approached by several police officers" after he began citing the lines and taken into custody. Police dispersed the gathering, according to RT.

The arrest will further embarrass the German government, which sees itself as supportive of free speech but has failed to scrap an old law against insulting foreign heads of state. Merkel has promised to do so, but has also been criticized for condemning the poem and cosying up to the Turks to get them to accept more Syrian refugees. Read the rest

The "dark tales" spoken by an amazingly prolific sleep-talker

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Dion McGregor talked in his sleep. But he did more than just that: he narrated tales so dark his roommates began recording them for the world to hear.

Normally, we can only catch a few shards of the shattered dreamscape; as much as we may try to cling onto the fragments of thoughts, feelings and sensations, they soon evaporate in the glare of our waking consciousness.

In contrast, McGregor’s tapes offer hundreds of hours of one man’s slumbers narrated in astonishing detail. The stories are full of eccentric characters like Edwina; they occupy a sinister place where a simple Lazy Susan can suddenly inspire a dangerous game of Russian roulette.

One intriguing finding from a study of the transcripts: his stories are less bizarre than "average" dreams. [via @greatdismal] Read the rest

Trump: states should decide which bathrooms trans people can use

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It only took a few hours for the latest Trump inconsistency to emerge: saying in one interview that trans people should be able to use whichever bathrooms they like, he said in another that state governments should decide, backing discriminatory laws passed recently in North Carolina and Mississippi.

It's funny how the wording of his statement in each case is similar, as if it were recently memorized and he doesn't quite understand which part of it is politically meaningful. Read the rest

Rare photos of the subway system in North Korea's capital, Pyongyang

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Elliott was among the first outsiders to be given access to Pyongyang's metro. Previously, only two stations could be visited. He posted a nice big gallery of photos and his reflections on a strange (and beautiful) place.

This may sound mundane, but the previously restricted Pyongyang Metro is surely one of the most mysterious, yet beautiful transit systems on earth, each station uniquely themed in ultra-nationalism, parading North Korea’s revolutionary goals and achievements to impressionable commuters. In many ways, it’s a small museum, most of which formerly hidden from outside eyes and subsequently shrouded in conspiracy theories. Sensationalism aside, here’s my journey in over sixty photos of the beating heart of Pyongyang, the Pyongyang Metro.

There are chandeliers everywhere. Even the trains are museum-pieces - and perfectly looked-after. Previously: Sycophantic Reactionary Foreign Trains Condemned Read the rest

Merriam-Webster adds "genderqueer" to dictionary

A gender-neutral bathroom is seen at the University of California, Irvine, 2014 [Reuters]

Merriam-Webster is to add "genderqueer" to its unabridged English dictionary; also "cisgender".

Cisgender: of, relating to, or being a person whose gender identity corresponds with the sex the person had or was identified as having at birth.

Genderqueer: of, relating to, or being a person whose gender identity cannot be categorized as solely male or female.

Which pronoun? TIP: Whichever they want. Read the rest

Trump: transgender people should be allowed to use whatever bathroom they like

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Donald J. Trump, Republican candidate for president, says that transgender people should use whatever bathrooms they like.

“North Carolina did something — it was very strong — and they’re paying a big price,” Mr. Trump said. “And there’s a lot of problems. And I heard — one of the best answers I heard was from a commentator yesterday saying, leave it the way it is, right now.”

He added that before the law passed, there had been “very few problems” but now North Carolina is experiencing an exodus of businesses and “strife” from people on both sides of the issue.“You leave it the way it is,” he said. “There have been very few complaints the way it is.”

...in response to a follow-up question, he said that if Caitlyn Jenner were to walk into Trump Tower and want to use a bathroom, he would be comfortable with her choosing any bathroom she wanted. “That is correct,” Mr. Trump said. “You know, there’s a big move to create new bathrooms” for transgender people alone, Mr. Trump said. “First of all, I think that would be discriminatory in a certain way. It would be unbelievably expensive for businesses and for the country. Leave it the way it is.”

His rival, Ted Cruz, is ranting creepily about "grown men with little girls." If there's one image to take away with you from the primaries, I think it's this one. It's Trump chancing upon principle through sheer indifference, and conservatives debasing themselves with pedophiliac fantasies in a desperate attempt to make that look bad. Read the rest

FBI paid at least $1.3 million to hack into the San Bernardino iPhone

iPhone parts in a NY repair store, February 17, 2016.  REUTERS

The Wall Street Journal (paywall) reports that the FBI payed more than $1m to get into the San Bernardino terrorist's iPhone after Apple refused to create software to bypass its encryption. The Washington Post reports that a one-off $1.3m price tag was admitted, obliquely, by FBI Director James Comey by comparison with his own salary.

Federal authorities have not publicly revealed who helped the FBI unlock the San Bernardino iPhone, which was at the center of an extended fight between the government and Apple. The Justice Department had maintained that only Apple could help it access the phone without erasing all of its data before abruptly saying it had gotten help from an outside party and no longer needed Apple’s assistance.

According to people familiar with the issue, the FBI cracked the phone with the help of professional hackers who were paid a one-time flat fee. Law enforcement officials have said recently that the FBI has found no links to foreign terrorists on the phone, though they are still hoping that geolocation data on the device could help reveal what the attackers did during an 18-minute period after the shooting.

The FBI's attempts to compel Apple's cooperation backfired after CEO Tim Cook publicly accused the Bureau of exploiting the case to try and gain backdoor access to iPhones in general. The phone ultimately yielded no useful information.
“But it was, in my view, worth it,” the FBI director said of what it cost to access the phone’s data.
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Britain warns LGBT travelers about visiting North Carolina, Mississippi

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The Independent writes that the U.K. is warning travelers about new anti-LGBT laws in North Carolina and Mississippi.

Dr Felicity Daly, director of the LGBT Kaleidoscope Trust said: “It is heartening the Foreign and Commonwealth Office is becoming more LGBT responsive in their work, it’s a good sign as it is an important issue in the UK, but most people who identify as LGBT in the UK will already be aware of the nature of certain states.”

Matt Horwood of Stonewall charity said: “What’s happened in Mississippi and North Carolina proves that equality is never secure.

"It’s positive to see the UK government recognise this need and update its travel advice pages accordingly."

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TRIPMUNKS: all the CGI Chipmunks movies overlaid, at half speed

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Neil Cicierega took the four (!) Chipmunks movies, superimposed them upon one another, and slowed them down. If CGI remakes of cartoons can be seen as the pigs of our cartoon childhoods ushered into the rendering plant, this is the psychic slime left gluelike under the vats. [via]

Previously: Chipmunk Christmas, slowed down to original speed Read the rest

Website serves endless stream of "epic" music

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Epic Music Time is a website that plays only epic music. Other single-serving web radio sites include jazzandrain.com, which plays jazz and the sound of rain, and relaxingbeats.com, which plays Industrial Pornogrind Metal. Just kidding. It actually plays relaxing beats. Read the rest

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