Canada's telcoms regulator declares internet an "essential service"

After decades of allowing anti-competitive mergers in the TV, radio, phone and internet sectors, Canada's telcoms regulator, the CRTC, has taken an important step to address the underperformance of Canada's monopolistic, bumbling phone companies and cable operators, declaring internet access to be an "essential service" and thus something that operators must offer in all territories in which they operate. Read the rest

Listen: Tim Wu on The Attention Merchants

Tim Wu's book The Attention Merchants: The Epic Scramble to Get Inside Our Heads (review) was one of the best books I read in 2016; on Rick Kleffel's Narrative Species podcast, Wu discusses the book (MP3) covering depth that he couldn't fit between the covers. Read the rest

Companies' self-devouring buyback spree is finally slowing down

Stock buybacks are the preferred form of financial engineering in corporate America, through which companies borrow like crazy and give the money to their shareholders, artificially increasing their earnings-per-share ratio, massively reducing real economic growth, while enriching a tiny number of already-wealthy investors: but buybacks may finally be coming to an end. Read the rest

San Francisco's groundbreaking, wonderful DNA Lounge may have to close

Jamie "JWZ" Zawinski was an early Netscape employee; observing that the dotcom bubble that enriched him had gutted the San Francisco arts scene with rising rents, he sank his money into opening the DNA Lounge, which has been a San Francisco institution for nearly 20 years, and has been the location of some of the best times I've ever had in the Bay Area (including numerous EFF fundraisers). Read the rest

Ten principles for user-protection in hostile states

The Tor Project's "Ten Principles for User Protection in Hostile States" is both thoughtful and thought-provoking -- it's a list that excites my interest as someone who cares about the use of technology in improving lives and organizing political movements (principle 1 is "Do not rely on the law to protect systems or users" -- a call to technologists -- while number 7 is aimed at companies, "Invest in cryptographic R&D to replace non-cryptographic systems" and principle 2 says "Prepare policy commentary for quick response to crisis," which suggests that the law, while not reliable, can't be ignored); and also as a science fiction writer (check out those tags! "Acausal trade," "Pluralistic singularity" and "Golden path"! Yowza!) Read the rest

McGill Neurology will no longer patent researchers' findings, instead everything will be open access

The Neurological Institute at Montreal's McGill University is host to the "Tanenbaum Open Science Institute," endowed by a $20M contribution; since last spring, the unit has pursued an ambitious open science agenda that includes open access publication of all research data and findings, and an end to the practice of patenting the university's findings. Instead, they will all be patent-free and usable by anyone. Read the rest

Lawmakers' support for bank bailouts was correlated with their individual investment in banks

In The Personal Wealth Interests of Politicians and the Stabilization of Financial Markets, researchers from the London Business School and Tillburg University demonstrate the likelihood of US members of Congress voting in favor of bank bailouts was correlated with those politicians' individual investments in banking stocks. Read the rest

Malware delivered by bad ads takes over your home router to serve more bad ads (for now)

Proofpoint has identified a new version of DNSChanger EK, a strain of malware that changes your DNS settings so that the ads on the websites you browse are replaced with other ads that benefit the attackers -- and which can also be used for more nefarious ends, because controlling your DNS means controlling things like where your computer gets software updates. Read the rest

How Lloyds of London solved the precarious market for kidnapping ransoms

Kidnapping ransom markets are really tough: it's hard to convey the demand, hard to arrange the payoff, hard to get the kidnapping victim back in one piece -- but Lloyds of London has largely solved this problem by monopolizing the market for kidnapping insurance, then setting standards for the amounts of ransom to be paid and the conditions for payment. Kidnappers know that if they kill their prey, Lloyds will never pay them again. Read the rest

Insiders: America's largest chain of psych hospitals kidnaps people seeking care, drugs and holds them until they're out of insurance

Universal Health Services (UHS) is the largest chain of psychiatric facilities in the USA, with 2.5x more beds than its closest competitor, and dozens of whistleblowers from inside the company told a Buzzfeed reporter that they were pressured to find pretenses to lock up people who voluntarily presented for assessments, holding them against their will until their insurance ran out, with massive bonuses for executives who increased profits (and much smaller bonuses for execs who improved health outcomes for patients). Read the rest

Toxic Avenger creator on why we need net neutrality

Robbo writes, "Lloyd Kaufman is best known as the uber super epic producer/director who runs Troma Films, creators of such cinema icons as 'The Toxic Avenger' and 'Surf Nazis Must Die.' Lloyd is also a die-hard advocate for Net Neutrality and he has posted an article to the Huffington Post entitled: Innovation And Our Better Future Depend On Preserving Net Neutrality - and it's a good read by a passionate and intelligent individual - who also happens to make movies like 'Poultrygeist: Night Of The Chicken Dead.'" Read the rest

The Mirai worm is gnawing its way through the Internet of Things and will not stop

The Mirai worm made its way into information security lore in September, when it was identified as the source of the punishing flood of junk traffic launched against Brian Krebs in retaliation for his investigative reporting about a couple of petty Israeli criminals; subsequent analysis showed Mirai to be amateurish and clumsy, and despite this, it went on to infect devices all over the world, gaining virulence as it hybridized with other Internet of Things worms, endangering entire countries, growing by leaps and bounds, helped along by negligent engineering practices at major companies like Sony. Read the rest

Upstate New York Elvis impersonator uses original blueprints to build stunning, 13,000 sqft Star Trek Enterprise replica

James Cawley is a 50 year old Elvis impersonator from Ticonderoga, NY; his friend William Ware Theiss was costume-designer for the original Star Trek series, and left Cawley the blueprints for the original Star Trek Enterprise sets in his will -- so Cawley rented out a 13,000 sqft shuttered supermarket and built an exquisite replica of the original there to use in elaborate fan-films, and now he gives one-hour tours. Read the rest

Excellent, deep series on Uber's Ponzi-scheme economics

For the past week, Naked Capitalism has run a series of articles by transportation industry expert Hubert Horan on the economic shenanigans of Uber, which cooks the numbers it shows investors, drivers and the press to make it seem like something other than a black box that uses arrogance and lawlessness to make a bet on establishing a monopoly on transport in the world's major cities. Read the rest

The kickstarted Pebble smartwatch is now a division of Fitbit, so they may "reduce functionality" on all the watches they ever sold

If you're one of the 60% of Pebble employees who didn't get a job offer from Fitbit, the company's new owner, you're probably not having a great Christmas season -- but that trepedation is shared by 100% of Pebble customers, who've just learned (via the fine print on an update on the Pebble Kickstarter page) that the company may soon "reduce functionality" on their watches. Read the rest

2016 sucked so much, it made "Anger Rooms" where you pay to smash things go viral

The first formal modern anger room was Donna Alexander's 2008 experiment on Chicago's south side, where customers paid $5 to smash things she'd found set out on neighborhood curbs on garbage days -- now Alexander runs a 1,000 square foot business called "Anger Room" in Dallas, and she's got competition. Read the rest

Whiplash: Joi Ito's nine principles of the Media Lab in book form

I first started writing about the remarkable Joi Ito in 2002, and over the decade and a half since, I've marvelled at his polymath abilities -- running international Creative Commons, starting and investing in remarkable tech businesses, getting Timothy Leary's ashes shot into space, backing Mondo 2000, using a sprawling Warcraft raiding guild to experiment with leadership and team structures, and now, running MIT's storied Media Lab -- and I've watched with excitement as he's distilled his seemingly impossible-to-characterize approach to life in a set of 9 compact principles, which he and Jeff Howe have turned into Whiplash, a voraciously readable, extremely exciting, and eminently sensible book.

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