Iraq stops using $60,000 dowsing rods for bomb detection

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After the July 3 suicide bomb that killed 300 people in Baghdad, Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi banned the use of the ADE 651. a fake bomb detector made by British fraudsters, who claimed the gadgets could detect bombs, ivory, drugs, and golf balls. The Iraqi military had purchased $60 million worth of the bogus devices. The founder of the company that made the useless devices is in prison serving a ten-year sentence. I think he should spend a lot more time than that behind bars, since a great many people died by putting their trust in the devices.

ABC News

Faced with mounting criticism, former Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki ordered an investigation into the effectiveness of the devices in 2010. The outcome was inconclusive, and they continued to be used.

The head of the Interior Ministry's bomb squad department, Jihad al-Jabri, was convicted in 2012 and sentenced to four years in prison for accepting a bribe from the British manufacturers. But the case against him did not address whether the wands were effective. Many Iraqis believe he was a scapegoat to protect more senior Iraqi officials from prosecution.

Politics also may have played a role.

After the July 3 blast, al-Abadi fired the military officer in charge of Baghdad's security and accepted the resignation of Interior Minister Mohammed Salem al-Ghabban, who was in charge of police.

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Herp Derp

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Derp. Herp derp. Read the rest

Paul Ryan selfie with congressional interns

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This photo of congressional interns taken by House Speaker Paul Ryan struck me as lacking in diversity, but I eventually found a ginger.

Edit: Dupe! Read the rest

Itty-bitty Nintendo NES with 30 built-in games coming in November

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Today, Nintendo announced the NES Classic Edition, a little console loaded with 30 classic titles, including Super Mario Bros., The Legend of Zelda, Metroid, Donkey Kong, and Kirby's Adventure. It plugs into your TV's HDMI port and includes one NES gamepad controller. It's coming November 11 and retails for $60.

Included titles: Balloon Fight Bubble Bobble Castlevania Castlevania II: Simon's Quest Donkey Kong Donkey Kong Jr. Double Dragon II: The Revenge Dr. Mario Excitebike Final Fantasy Galaga Ghosts'N Goblins Gradius Ice Climber Kid Icarus Kirby's Adventure Mario Bros. Mega Man 2 Metroid Ninja Gaiden Pac-Man Punch-Out!! Featuring Mr. Dream StarTropics Super C Super Mario Bros. Super Mario Bros. 2 Super Mario Bros. 3 Tecmo Bowl The Legend of Zelda Zelda II: The Adventure of Link

[via]

(Thanks, Calvin!) Read the rest

Hulk Hairgan

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Peter Thiel's lawyers are threatening Gawker with a lawsuit over its expose of Donald Trump's "hair," weeks after winning a lawsuit over Gawker's publishing of Hulk Hogan's "sex" tape. As we now have all the carnies in one tent—the billionaire, the millionaire and Donald Trump—it behooves us to imagine them sharing their props. Read the rest

Orlando killer frequented Pulse nightclub, described as gay by ex-wife and friends

Investigators work the scene following a mass shooting at the Pulse gay nightclub in Orlando Florida,  June 12, 2016. REUTERS/Carlo Allegri

Omar Mateen, perpetrator of America's deadliest civilian mass shooting, was a regular at the gay nightclub where he killed 49 people this weekend. His friends believe he is gay, his ex-wife told an interviewer much the same, and other people who frequent the club describe his drunken and often angry presence there. Read the rest

HOAX: New China law bans women - but not men - from interracial marriage

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THIS IS A HOAX.

Because of the one-child-only law in China, combined with the practice of abandoning baby girls to make room for a boy, the country now has a gross gender imbalance of three boys for every girl under the age of 18. So to make sure at least one-third of the men still have a chance of marrying a Chinese woman, the Supreme People's Court of China just passed a law that will forbid Chinese women from marrying a non-Chinese man. But Chinese men will still be able to marry anyone they choose, regardless of race.

Business owners seem to be more concerned with how this new law will affect their businesses than the fairness of it. One owner of a matchmaking business says that allowing men more freedom with marriage is "common sense."

“I had feared that they might also ban men from interracial marriage,” commented the owner of a successful matchmaking business in China’s Fujian Province. “Thankfully common sense has prevailed, although by banning Chinese women from marrying foreigners, my business will have more competition.”

Those in charge of English-speaking schools, on the other hand, are worried the law will prevent them from getting good teachers.

“The majority of teachers are male, and most end up wedding local women,” said a spokesperson for a chain of English-teaching cram schools in Shanghai. “If our teachers are banned from marrying Chinese girls, they may not stay in the country as long, and we risk losing talented staff.”

The law will go into effect by early 2018.

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How to make an edible virtual reality headset

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Caleb Kraft used the Google Cardboard design to make a working VR headset from graham crackers and icing. It's entirely edible, except for the lenses.

"Making an Edible Virtual Reality Viewer for Your Phone" (MAKE:)

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Bees can sense a flower's electric field

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New research shows that bees can recognize flowers by the plants' tiny electric field that differs between species. The electric field bends the tiny hairs on a bee's body, firing neurons located at the base of the hair. From the journal Science:

Such fields—which form from the imbalance of charge between the ground and the atmosphere—are unique to each species, based on the plant’s distance from the ground and shape. Flowers use them as an additional way to advertise themselves to pollinators...

Electric fields can only be sensed from a distance of 10 cm or so, so they’re not very useful for large animals like ourselves. But for small insects, this distance represents several body lengths, a relatively long distance.

"How bees sense a flower’s electric field" (Science)

"Mechanosensory hairs in bumblebees (Bombus terrestris) detect weak electric fields" (PNAS)

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Google's former "design ethicist" on "How Technology Hijacks People’s Minds"

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Tristan Harris was Google's "Design Ethicist" where he studied how design choices directly affect people's behavior in conscious and unconscious ways. He's also a practicing magician! As he says, "Magicians start by looking for blind spots, edges, vulnerabilities and limits of people’s perception, so they can influence what people do without them even realizing it." Over at Medium, Harris wrote a fascinating post about persuasive technology and how design can "exploit our minds’ weaknesses." From Medium:

Western Culture is built around ideals of individual choice and freedom. Millions of us fiercely defend our right to make “free” choices, while we ignore how those choices are manipulated upstream by menus we didn’t question in the first place.

This is exactly what magicians do. They give people the illusion of free choice while architecting the menu so that they win, no matter what you choose. I can’t emphasize enough how deep this insight is.

When people are given a menu of choices, they rarely ask:

• “what’s not on the menu?”

• “why am I being given these options and not others?”

• “do I know the menu provider’s goals?”

• “is this menu empowering for my original need, or are the choices actually a distraction?” (e.g. an overwhelmingly array of toothpastes)

"How Technology Hijacks People’s Minds — from a Magician and Google’s Design Ethicist" (Medium)

Harris's piece supports the essay that my Institute for the Future colleagues Marina Gorbis and Devin Fidler recently posted about the incredibly high stakes of on-demand platform design: "Design It Like Our Livelihoods Depend on It" (WTF?) Read the rest

A Gift for You From Jacob Frey

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Watch this (please, the whole thing). Its title is "The Present," and it's a gift to you from Jacob Frey. Read the rest

Google to kill Flash by default in Chrome.

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Commanding two thirds or so of the browser market, Google's decision to turn off Adobe Flash by default in Chrome before 2017 seems like the end of an era that's always said to be ending.
Later this year we plan to change how Chromium hints to websites about the presence of Flash Player, by changing the default response of Navigator.plugins and Navigator.mimeTypes. If a site offers an HTML5 experience, this change will make that the primary experience. We will continue to ship Flash Player with Chrome, and if a site truly requires Flash, a prompt will appear at the top of the page when the user first visits that site, giving them the option of allowing it to run for that site (see the proposal for the mock-ups).

As usual, there are exceptions, starting with an official list of exempted Flash-serving domains. Can you guess what they are?

YouTube.com Facebook.com Yahoo.com VK.com Live.com Yandex.ru OK.ru Twitch.tv Amazon.com Mail.ru

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Russian Embassy in London tweets game screengrab, thinks it's real

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The Russian Embassy in London retweeted a screengrab from Command And Conquer Generals: Zero Hour along with the comment, "Extremists near Aleppo received several truckloads of chemical ammo." People replied with funny tweets.

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UPDATED RIP Ray Tomlinson, email inventor and at-sign popularizer

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UPDATE This is a couple months old -- I read "Mar 5" as "May 5." My apologies.

Ray Tomlinson created the first networked email system in 1971 while working on his MIT doctorate and collaborating on the early ARPAnet at BBN; he used @ -- the at symbol -- to separate the username from the machinename because "it did not appear in user names and did not have any meaning in the TENEX paging program." Read the rest

Tiny, 8-bit console designed for hackability and homebrew game development

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Pocket CHIP is a tiny, $50, ARM-based pocket games console with a full keyboard and a Bluetooth interface. Read the rest

Sex doll mistaken as angel by Indonesian villagers

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After a solar eclipse last month, a fisher in Indonesia's Banggai island region found a female figure floating in the sea. He brought the figure to his remote village where some believed it to be a bidadari, a kind of angel.

Police noticed images of the figure on social media along with reports that the fisher spotted the angel "stranded and crying." The police investigated and quickly determined that the angel was in fact a sex doll. According to the BBC, the police confiscated the doll. What a shame.

"They have no internet, they don't know what a sex toy is," the police chief said.

(BBC)

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Internet Talk Radio: Podcasting Like It Was 1993

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In 1993, I started a radio station on the Internet, engaging in activities that later became known as podcasting and webcasting. I'm pleased to say that I've finished uploaded the archive of Internet Talk Radio to the Internet Archive.

I ran the radio station from 1993-1996, and it was an exciting time on the Internet. Our flagship program was Geek of the Week, but we also were able to get one of the broadcast booths in the National Press Club to send out their luncheons, and joined the Public Radio Satellite system so we send out programs like TechNation. It was early in the digital world, so we were able to convince Harper Collins to give us Internet rights to Harper Audio, an amazing collection of people like Anne Sexton, T.S. Eliot, Robert Frost, Frank Herbert and J.R.R. Tolkien reading their own work. We also managed to get official Congressional press credentials and ran tie lines into the basement of the Capitol to send out live feeds from the floors of the House and Senate.

We also did a lot of special programs (check out John Perry Barlow, Cliff Stoll and the United Nations 50th Anniversary and published some really cool SoundBytes you could use for alerts and notifications, and had a thriving Christmas practice going until Santa got mailbombed in a nasty DDOS incident. I also uploaded some early press coverage and some of the presentations and letters in my files.

We ran Internet Talk Radio as a nonprofit corporation called the Internet Multicasting Service. Read the rest

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