Get some use out of your car's CD player - with a phone mount

If you drive daily, especially to new destinations, it's wise to have a smartphone car mount. Aside from making map directions considerably easier to follow, they also keeps your phone in a central location so you can keep an eye on notifications without taking your eyes off the road. While most mounts attach to your dashboard via suction cup, the ExoMount CD inserts into your CD player which you probably aren't using all that much these days.

Plugging into the CD drive assures a sturdy mount while the grip is compatible with any kind of smartphone. It can even be rotated 360 degrees, letting you orient your screen however you like.

Until automakers start integrating smartphone mounts directly into the dashboard, this ExoMount CD is one of your best bets. You can get one here in the Boing Boing Store.

Retracted! Wcry ransomware is reborn without its killswitch, starts spreading anew

Motherboard has retracted this story: "Correction: This piece was based on the premise that a new piece of WannaCry ransomware spread in the same manner as the one that was responsible for widespread attacks on Friday, and that it did not contain a so-called kill switch. However, after the publication of this article one of the researchers making this claim, Costin Raiu, director of global research and analysis team at Kaspersky Lab, realized that was not the case. The ransomware samples without the kill switch did not proflierate in the same manner, and so did not pose the same threat to the public. Motherboard regrets the error."

Yesterday, the world got a temporary respite from the virulent Wcry ransomware worm, which used a leaked NSA cyberweapon to spread itself to computers all over the world, shutting down hospitals, financial institutions, power companies, business, and private individuals' computers, demanding $300 to reactivate them. (more…)

Insider whistleblower says London police hired Indian hackers to surveil journalists, politicians and activists

The Independent Police Complaints Commission is investigating a tip-off from a current or ex-London police officer that the London Metropolitan Police's National Domestic Extremism and Disorder Intelligence Unit asked Indian police to use their hacker contacts to break into the private communications of hundreds of British people and groups, from journalists to Greenpeace. (more…)

It’s Mental Health Awareness Month: Trumpcare’s dangerous impact on mental health care

Last week, I felt a great disturbance in the Force, as if millions of voices cried out in terror and were suddenly uninsurable. While tracking the Trumpcare vote (AHCA), I felt like Princess Leia, helplessly watching the Empire destroy her home planet. Yes, the Senate still has to vote on it, and no, I’m not saying that Republicans are evil. But for me and so many Americans, Obamacare (ACA) got rid of the terror and carnage of being denied or unable to afford healthcare coverage based on pre-existing conditions. Watching it dismantled was disturbing.

Obamacare also did away with the false separation of mental health from physical health. Trumpcare does the opposite, classifying mental health care as non-essential, meaning that states, employers, or insurers will decide if the 1 in 5 Americans who struggle with mental illness will be covered at all. May is Mental Health Awareness Month , so here’s one fact to be aware of:

“The World Health Organization determined that depression is presently the leading cause of disability worldwide, and is a major contributor to the overall global burden of disease.” - World Health Organization

That’s just ONE KIND of mental illness. How will Trumpcare affect you, your friends or family with mental health issues? Like this:

The House bill allows states to let health plans:

  • Drop coverage of mental health and substance use (one of the essential health benefits).
  • Charge people higher premiums if they have a pre-existing condition, like depression or anxiety.
  • Create high-risk pools, which are another way of charging people with mental illness more money and providing less coverage.

--From NAMI (National Alliance for the Mentally Ill)

As a person with pre-existing mental health conditions, who is here and stabilized today because of consistent, quality mental health care, it’s disturbing to watch federal health care policy under the GOP re-ghettoize mental health care. Obamacare is flawed, yes, but throwing out the progress which brought relief and functionality to so many Americans is illogical and dangerous. It’s not great for the GNP numbers either -- which should matter to both the GOP and Democrats. My concern is not just for myself, but for people suffering the way I used to, who now have an uncertain path forward. People like Matt, who courageously agreed to share his situation here:

“I was mugged and knocked out pretty bad way back in 2008. Lost some speech capability and had to get all the MRI's and CT scans and whatever else. I basically recovered, but haven't been the same since. My decision making is the worst now. Impulse control and compulsions can be frustrating for everyone -- I believe those decisions happen in the frontal lobe. I guess mine was damaged. I was never a genius, but I had control before.

No one can really understand what I'm feeling. Depression is constant, super anger flashes, heightened over-sensitivity to light and noise, and I don't like to be looked at (which I guess is called sociophobia). I don't feel joy anymore. Thoughts of suicide are always present and sometimes I, irrationally of course, feel like other people are somehow communicating that I should kill myself. Weird stuff, but very real. 

First and probably most importantly, I am not an immediate harm to myself. Just giving you the rundown of pervasive thoughts. They are not rational thoughts, this is just the brain I live with now.”

This could happen to anyone, literally walking down the street. Matt wrote the email excerpts in this piece to a former co-worker who lives with a degenerative disease, hoping to find understanding and help. He was about to become homeless due to the cumulative impact his mental health had on his ability to support himself. He is unable to maintain steady employment, and cannot afford Obamacare premiums.

Matt’s situation came to my attention when his former co-worker asked if I might know how to help him. My credentials? I’d been there. I’d also been on disability for mental illness. She forwarded me his message, which hit me hard -- not just because of what was going on for him -- but because I’d written letters like this. I remember how humiliating, terrifying, and useless I felt asking for help. I wanted him to know I was on Team Matt. I called him that night, to try to figure out next steps, and hopefully find a way through. I know it’s not easy, but part of me wondered, with the current and future state of our healthcare system, just how hard it was going to be. His letter continued:

“There is also shame involved. Shame about being a grown man who can't handle his business, shame about going backwards with employment goals and generally shame about not being, you know, just normal like everyone else. There's always that element of starting a new job where people innocently ask 'so what did you do before?' Well, I've been clinically depressed and haven't worked much in the last three years.

It's not acceptable in our current society. Lies are preferable, which bugs me, because if someone hurts their leg, they limp and a doctor diagnoses the cause and sets a course of action to correct it. Maybe they still limp, but nobody cares. If you have not had the pleasure of experiencing our mental health system, then good for you. Programs and money are constantly cut, so we have Cook County Jail, right?

I'm sorry but Obamacare sucks, too, probably because it was Romneycare first. You don't get any benefit if you can't work. So my mom paid for Blue Cross straight up for a year. The cost of that went from $230/mo for the cheapest plan to $322/mo the next year! Are you kidding me? So I had to drop any kind of insurance. Seriously, thanks Obama for being too much of a pussy to push for single payer. God knows what Trump will bring.”

These are the kinds of catch-22s that beg us to consider single payer, aka Medicare for All. Matt sent his email just hours before the AHCA passed the House. What Trump and the American Health Care Act bring is this:

  • “over $800 billion cut from Medicaid in the next 10 years, which will cause vital mental health services in states to be slashed.
  • effectively ends Medicaid expansion -- a lifeline for single adults with mental illness who fall through the cracks -- which today covers 1 in 3 people who live with a mental health or substance use condition.


Matt recently applied for Medicaid, but was denied -- apparently they didn’t think his lack of income was believable. If you think that’s far-fetched, the same thing has happened to me twice. He will now have to go through the red tape of appealing it. Even if Matt is eligible for Medicaid, it’s not going to be a long-term solution if the AHCA passes the Senate. Mental health is not a partisan issue, but it’s being treated as one. That we are still discussing this issue is, well, sad.

The brain is a vital organ -- arguably the most important. The brain, in tandem with other bodily systems, regulates thought, mood, and behavior, so symptoms of a problem with the brain will manifest primarily in thought, mood, and behavior. Brain health can be impacted by traumatic injury, genetics, brain structure, disease, or biochemical makeup, to name a few. A problem with the brain IS a physical health problem. Mental health already IS physical health, and mental illness already IS physical illness.

Now, we’re going backwards in government messaging and it is negatively impacting the already-precarious public understanding of mental illness. Once believed to be caused by demons or possession, humanity progressed to blaming a person’s bad character, flawed morality, or laziness for not pulling themselves up by their bootstraps during a rough time. We progressed again when science and medicine started to recognize common symptoms and classify disorders. Still today, many people believe mental illness symptoms are a person’s fault, or can be fixed by a positive attitude, or a good walk in nature. When you have a mental illness, trying to fix your brain with your brain is like trying to fix a broken arm with a broken arm.

Standard mental health treatment includes talk therapy, and prescription medication, but it doesn’t work for everyone. Personally, psychiatric medicine gave me my life back: a functional, motivated quality of existence that I had lost sometime in my early twenties from recurring, disabling depression. Unfortunately, many people who take prescription medication for their mental health conditions get pill-shamed frequently by friends and family -- and bad Facebook memes.

Pill-shamers make the same mistake Trumpcare makes: treating mental health as non-physical and non-essential. Sadly, I have seen people cave to this pressure, and tragically, in one case, take their own life. Just as you would not tell a person to stop taking pills for their high blood pressure or insulin for their diabetes, you should not medically advise someone on their psychiatric regimen. That said, medication does not work for everyone or for every condition. It doesn’t work for Matt:

“I have seen a Licensed Clinical Social Worker, I saw a psychiatrist for a year last year, and my primary care physician was great until she retired. Between them I have tried probably a dozen or so medications to no avail. The clinical term is “treatment-resistant.” I have since been diagnosed with Bipolar II and PTSD.

They throw lots and lots of pills at you if you aren't making progress. This can create problems in behavior by itself. I had basically a psychotic break, including auditory hallucinations, caused by medicine. That experience was such a humiliation, it really broke me.

So now I basically have this huge gap of three years of work history with not a lot to show for it. I’m trying to put together some semblance of self reliance again -- find a place that would be accepting of spotty work history. If I can find a place to sleep while I try employment again, if you have any openings where I can janitor or host or try bartending or whatever. So yes, even though it's not ideal to go back to a job I had when I was in my twenties, at least it's a place that I know how things work. Those were definitely my happiest days, working with you all.”

Mental health disability doesn’t mean a complete lack of functionality. It means a lack of consistent, predictable functionality. If you are at times functioning normally and take on a job, then when you have your next episode or acute symptoms, depending on what they are and how often they occur, you risk losing your job. Steady employment is not a psychiatric treatment plan -- it’s the byproduct of a successful one.

Another option for Matt would be applying for Disability, but that is a long shot considering the rate of denial. Disability, like retirement, is a benefit all Americans are eligible for if they have paid Social Security taxes via work over their lifetime, as Matt has. However, it is such a lengthy and complex application process, that it is common -- and recommended -- to hire a disability lawyer. For a lawyer to take his case, Matt would need to be under the consistent, documented care of a physician -- a crucial component of a successful disability application. With no health insurance or job right now, this is not possible.

The Chief Medical Officer of Medicaid was called a “hero” for breaking with the administration in opposing the #AHCA.

When your symptoms impact your ability to work, people most commonly turn to Medicaid, if they have insurance at all. They are the ones who will be most impacted by these $800 billion in cuts that supposedly don’t impact anyone. Right now, Matt is one of the “anyone”:

I'm in a slightly dire situation now. I thought I had co-signers for my current apartment lease renewal, but money and a cosigner are both problems of my own making. I wouldn't co-sign for me either without any income. I have to be out actually tomorrow by midnight. So I'm throwing it all at the wall. This is all going in slow motion for me, like it's not real, but after this Friday I'm probably going to try and sleep in the park.

I hate to depend on other people, but that's all I can do now. I'm a 43 year old man who is mentally ill. I've never really admitted that before. There's a reason mentally ill folks end up homeless. And now it's me. Gross feeling to own.

I can say that I'm going to sleep in the park, but I have to admit, it's pretty scary. But I wouldn't be the first. To be extremely honest and real with you, I would just like to end my life, since I haven't felt or looked forward to anything for awhile. But logistically, I don't know how people do it. I do, of course, but the options are tough to conceive and accomplish, believe it or not. I'm not a fan of gruesome for other people.”

Yes, Rep. Labrador, people do die from lack of access to healthcare, and those with mental illness or in active addiction are arguably the most critically vulnerable, whether by their own hand or accidental overdose. In talking to people about suicide, one thing is clear: the symptoms of untreated depression are not sustainable in the long term. People are looking for relief. As strange as it may sound, the thing I hear the most from friends with severe depression, is that just knowing you have the power to make it end can get you through another day. Worldwide, someone commits suicide every 40 seconds. It is the second leading cause of death in 15-29-year-olds.

  • “The Congressional Budget Office estimates that 24 million will lose insurance for mental health care, pushing people with mental illness to emergency rooms, jails and the streets.” -- NAMI

And yeah, probably some to the morgue, frankly. To those who say that nobody is denied care, that they have to treat you at an ER, that does not work for the mentally ill. I know from taking suicidal people to the ER that their only legal obligation is to medically stabilize you, and consult with a psychiatrist to determine if you are still a danger to yourself. For people without insurance, that’s about as far as it goes. A particularly hard hit group will be U.S. Veterans.

You can’t get an accurate psychiatric diagnosis and a long-term mental health treatment plan in an ER. You can’t complete addiction treatment in an ER. When someone says they’re suicidal or abusing substances, they’re describing symptoms they need a solution for, they’re not looking to get committed to a psych ward for two or three days.

Regressive policy and ignorant thinking are particularly lethal for mental illness -- and that includes addiction. The U.S. Surgeon General recently reclassified addiction as a brain disorder, a type of mental illness, in the agency’s bombshell report, “Facing Addiction in America: The Surgeon General’s Report on Alcohol, Drugs, and Health.

Why didn’t anyone hear about it? Because the report was released a week after the 2016 presidential election. It was huge, life-altering news for anyone with skin in the game: the idea that the substances of addiction are ancillary, that the modern focus of cause and treatment is on the brain’s role. Sadly, it didn’t get the attention it deserved.

"We must help everyone see that addiction is not a character flaw — it is a chronic illness that we must approach with the same skill and compassion with which we approach heart disease, diabetes, and cancer." - former Surgeon General Vivek Murthy

However, compassion does not seem to be in Trump’s playbook when it comes to drug policy. Trump has since fired Surgeon General Murthy , and cut the Drug Policy budget by 95%, effectively killing it . There is little indication as to how he plans to address the opioid crisis, outside of his continued praise of addict-killing Philippines President Duterte , whom he recently invited to the White House, appointing Chris Christie to head the now-gutted White House commission on drug policy, and knowing the economic benefit he gives the private prison industry when his policies call for incarcerating certain types of people.

The mentally ill and addicts are not a powerful lobbying force. Considering the stigma, who wants to join a coalition made up of them? Princess Leia herself, Carrie Fisher, was an outspoken advocate of mental health and addiction treatment. She is gone now. The mentally ill are not only under-served, they are largely powerless, and without treatment, symptoms become acute and lethal. Who will stand up for them?

The United States has been observing Mental Health Awareness Month since 1949. It’s time for us a nation to consider the minimum threshold we are willing to maintain for mental health care in this country, based on our shared values and humanity, not religion, race, or party. Humans are too reckless and stupid to wear seat belts unless we’re forced to. There is a reason we drive on one side of the road. Laws have to be better than the worst of us, for the good of public safety and health. So what are we willing to do for the mentally ill? We need to decide what baseline of care lets us sleep at night, and legislate from there. I do not take my mental health for granted -- I need to be vigilant every day. So it is with our democracy.

Civil rights, which seem obvious, had to be embedded into the nation’s laws, and they are tested daily. In the same way, progress in our understanding and treatment of mental health as undifferentiated from physical health, needs to be in the fabric of our laws, accepted in our culture, and reflected in our media. We need to institutionalize empathy and compassion for the mentally ill to preserve the social and civic progress we have made. Otherwise, we go backward, and people will be ground up in the apathy and red tape. Like Matt, they already are.

The United States, the wealthiest nation on Earth, should have basic health care, or Medicare for All , that is not tied to employment status or work requirements -- for so many reasons. One of them is so that people with debilitating health conditions like Matt's are not cast out to fend for themselves. I hope, as a society, we can agree on that basic principle. If we do, we need to get the details right, because the details matter when you’re facing the street. In all the current and forthcoming analysis and partisan bickering, we need to remember people’s lives are at stake.

Consistent, quality mental health care enables me to function and be a productive member of society -- something I am not capable of without it. So yeah, Obamacare was my Alderaan. Now what? I hope people will stand up for us, for people like me, for people like Matt, because Go Fund Me cannot be the solution to America’s healthcare crises -- but right now, for Matt, that’s all he’s got.

”I never thought in a million years I would be this guy. But I guess this is how it happens. I rarely drink, I don’t use drugs, and I don't smoke. Luckily I can't grow much of a beard, so I won't be one of those dirty beard guys. So there's that. I'm trying to kid myself into believing this will be fine. And I fully realize I am actually one of the lucky ones. Some folks are totally alone.”



Actions you can take:

Guillotine watch: LAX's new one-percenter luxury terminal -- UPDATED with veiled legal threats!, AND MORE LEGAL THREATS!

Update again: We've had yet another legal threat regarding this. The lawyers for the terminal want us to include the notice below or face litigatation. I think it was all implied by my update yesterday, but I have no objection to adding this text too (they sent it to us as a bitmap, so I can't paste the text, but I'm including a screenshot of the relevant section of the letter). They require that this notice be posted without "more content that is sarcastic and malicious.":

Update: the proprietors of this dubious enterprise want everyone to know that the REDACTED that shows the REDACTED captioned with REDACTED is not on general display. It is REDACTED.

Trieste Pinzini, writing on behalf of ID PR, sent me a note advising me that "This matter has now fallen into legal matter," which is technically a sentence, though I'm not sure what, exactly, it means.

Ms Pinzini wrote to me initially at an email address I don't use for Boing Boing correspondence and don't pay close attention to. Now I've got her second email, which notes, (hilariously) that "The erroneous story you ran produced 100+ disparaging comments, specifically about the non-existent video supposedly shown to customers of The Private Suite."

Yeah. Because the thing that really stood out about this thing was REDACTED.

Pay $7,500/year and $2,700/flight and you can use can use the new "private terminal" at LAX where you are waited on hand-and-foot, including a personal sit-down with the TSA guard who "searches" you before you're put in a BMW and driven across the tarmac to your flight -- best of all, REDACTED. (more…)

Drone race like it is the Boonta Eve Classic

Looking to break into the rapidly growing world of drone racing? Maybe? Just looking for a solid remote-controlled camera quadcopter to shoot aerial footage? Either way, the Aerix Black Talon 2.0's friendly controls and stable flight make it a great option for novice and intermediate flyers.

The Aerix Black Talon drone is able to fly at 15 mph for up to 7 minutes straight. It streams real-time POV flight footage to its companion phone app in 720p HD, and is compatible with Google Cardboard to give you an immersive pilot experience. Operating the Aerix is easy with the included joypad controller; it provides a selection of pre-set maneuvers and an automatic return-to-pilot function.

This drone includes a rechargeable lithium-ion battery and a 4GB SD card for saving footage and still shots. You can get the Aerix Black Talon 2.0 Micro FPV Beginner Racing Drone here in the Boing Boing Store.

Useful magnetic LED clip lights

I bought a pair of these magnetic clip lights a few years and they've proven to be incredibly useful when I have to do repair work. The light has 8 LEDs and it throws a pretty wide beam of bright light. It sticks securely to any ferrous metal surface and has a clip so you can attach it to your pocket. I used it when I was installing a new safety switch in a washing machine. I stuck it on the side of the washing machine cabinet and it gave me plenty of light to attach the ground wire and route the cable. I haven't had to change the batteries yet, either. I keep one on our fridge and the other in my toolbox.

The price is right, too. A set of 2 costs $9 on Amazon. mr-light2

Loop-a-Lot (1966) crummy toy commerical

The Loop-a-Lot is described by this YouTuber as a "crummy toy." Is it really crummy? Well, it probably didn't keep kids amused for more that 45 seconds. So, it probably is crummy.

The purpose of the toy is to balance pennies on points inside cutouts of a paddle while you spin it around your finger. You could make one out of a piece of cardboard in a couple of minutes.

The manufacturers knew this toy would be a hard sell, so they resorted to the desperate ploy of incorporating a suit-wearing, roller skating monkey into the commercial.

See the Amazing Johnathan next weekend at Beyond Brookledge

Much to the delight of sick and twisted people everywhere the Amazing Johnathan is touring again! Next weekend he'll be in Riverside, California at Beyond Brookledge!

Magician Johnathan Szeles is one of the most talented, brilliantly funny, brutally ascerbic, fantastically creative people alive -- and boy are we glad he still is! In 2014 Johnathan retired from magic and gave up performing. Poor circulation led doctors to give him 18 months to live. Here we are 36 months later, and every time I've seen Johnathan over the last few years he looks better and better.

Johnathan and his absolute rockstar wife Anastasia both love performing at Beyond Brookledge, which is perhaps the greatest 3 days of magic and variety planned in any calendar year. You'll be wowed by both their performances next weekend!

Ransomware hackers have stolen hospitals and doctors' offices across the UK, using a leaked NSA cyberweapon

25 NHS trusts and multiple doctors' practices in England and Scotland (but so far, not Northern Ireland or Wales) report that they have had to effectively shut down due to a massive Wcry ransomware infection that has stolen whole swathes of the English healthcare system in one go. The infection appears to exploit a bug that the NSA discovered and deliberately kept secret, only to have it revealed by the Shadow Brokers. (more…)

Mother Jones is raising $500,000 to do their own investigation of Trump Russia ties

Mother Jones is taking donations "to get to the truth on the Trump team's connections to Russia." The magazine plans on raising $500,000 through a crowdfunding campaign "to make sure truth prevails over power."

According to Mother Jones:

To be clear: We can't, and shouldn't, assume that where there's smoke, there's fire. But at this point, that doesn't matter. What Trump or any of his associates did in 2016 may or may not have been a scandal, but blocking the public from finding out most definitely is. Trump may turn out to have overreached with the Comey firing, prompting the kind of independent inquiry he was so desperate to avoid. But it's evident that Republicans on Capitol Hill—terrified of what such a probe would do to their agenda and their electoral prospects—will do everything they can to avoid going there.

That means it's up to the public—all of us—to make sure truth prevails over power. There are many ways of doing that, from showing up at town halls to calmly reasoning with friends or relatives. For us, as journalists, the call to action is an especially urgent one: We need to deploy every skill we've learned, from shoe-leather reporting to data dives. We need to go deep, stick with the story no matter where it leads, and resist getting tangled in conventional wisdom or distracted by sideshows.

The campaign just started and they've already received a $200,000 grant from the Glaser Progress Foundation, who will donate an additional $50,000 once Mother Jones reaches their goal.

Mother Jones admits that this digging up this story – if there is one – will be a time-consuming task. "It's going to require going down a lot of rabbit holes and spending quality time with stacks of documents—day after day, month after month. So please help send us down those rabbit holes."

Image: FolsomNatural

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