John Oliver shreds multi-level-marketing pyramid schemes

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Oliver's 30+ minute investigative piece on Mary Kay, Amway, Herbalife, Avon, Rodan and Fields and the rest of the MLM basket of deplorables shows how the Facebook era has supercharged these semi-criminal enterprises, entrapping thousands of people in a cycle of debt and deception that is fuelled by celebrity endorsers, including Madeline Albright. Read the rest

That time Walt Disney's oppo researchers claimed his business rival was laundering money for Jimmy Hoffa

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Len Testa writes, "Back in the early 1960's, Walt was interested in buying and developing the Mineral King ski area in California, which was being put up for sale by the U.S. government. Another potential bidder on the project was industrialist Robert Brandt, husband of Hollywood actress Janet Leigh." Read the rest

Canadians are getting "blackmailed" by US copyright trolls

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Copyright trolls like LA-based CEG TEK are exploiting Canada's "notice-and-notice" copyright system to force ISPs to pass on extortion letters to their customers, threatening them with dire consequences unless they pay hundreds of dollars to settle unsubstantiated accusations of copyright infringement. Read the rest

Sole and Despotic Dominion: how a 20th century copyright law is abolishing property for humans (but not corporations)

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In the 18th century, William Blackstone wrote the seminal "Commentaries on the Laws of England," which contained one of the foundational definitions of property: "that sole and despotic dominion which one man claims and exercises over the external things of the world, in total exclusion of the right of any other individual in the universe." Read the rest

British curry restaurants say the Tories betrayed them on Brexit

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People involved in the £4B UK curry industry overwhelmingly backed Brexit on the promise of future easing off of visa requirements for curry chefs from south Asia, hoping to reverse the current waves of curry restaurant closures driven by a lack of skilled chefs. Read the rest

Donald Trump weaponized fine-print to make it impossible to sue Wall Street for fraud

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In 1993, Donald Trump won a lawsuit brought by his investors that alleged he had defrauded them by lying in a prospectus; his defense was that his "perfect prospectus" contained lies, but it also contained enough fine-print cautioning investors about the possibility of lies that it was their own fault that he cheated them. Incredibly, the judge (a pre-Supreme Court Samuel Alito!) bought this. Read the rest

Cable prices have risen at more than double the rate of inflation for 20 years

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Average US inflation since 1995 has been 2.2%; in the same time, cable TV prices have increased by 5.8% per year on average. Read the rest

Wells Fargo blackballed employees who refused to commit fraud, forcing them out of the industry forever

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Earlier this month, Planet Money aired an interview with a Wells Fargo whistleblower who was fired for trying to alert the bank to the millions of criminal frauds being committed against its customers, and we learned that the whistleblower had been added to a confidential blacklist used by the finance industry, preventing her from ever getting work in the industry again. Read the rest

Office space for happy mutants in San Francisco's Mission District

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My dear friend Bruce Tomb -- accomplished architect and creator of Maria del Camino, a "flying" art-car made from a 59 El Camino and a tank -- is renting out office space in his building in the middle of San Francisco's Mission District. Read the rest

Dr Seuss estate has crushed a kickstarter for a Seuss/Trek mashup

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An all-star team of comics and science fiction people -- impressario Glenn Hauman, writer David "Tribbles" Gerrold, and illustrator Ty Templeton -- had their kickstarter for a Seuss/Trek parody "Oh, The Places You'll Boldly Go" unceremoniously shut down when the Seuss estate's notorious attack-lawyers threatened legal action, without any regard for the clear fair use at play. Read the rest

Uber promises flying cars within 10 years

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“Just as skyscrapers allowed cities to use limited land more efficiently, urban air transportation will use three-dimensional airspace to alleviate transportation congestion on the ground.”

Ride-sharing service Uber released a 97-page white paper today that describes a network of “on-demand, fully electric aircraft that take off and land vertically.” The Vertical Takeoff and Landing aircraft are referred to as VTOLs. Uber's proprietary network of VTOL service will be called “Elevate.”

Read the rest

Warner Bros angry that someone other than the MPAA is running an illegal internal movie server

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Warner Bros has sued talent agency Innovative Artists for running an internal-use Google Drive folder that let its clients and staff review movies in the course of their duties. They say the company ripped "screeners" (DVDs sent for review purposes) and put them on the server, whence they leaked onto torrent sites. Read the rest

AT&T developed a "product" for spying on all its customers and made millions selling it to warrantless cops

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AT&T's secret "Hemisphere" product is a database of calls and call-records on all its customers, tracking their location, movements, and interactions -- this data was then sold in secret to American police forces for investigating crimes big and small (even Medicare fraud), on the condition that they never reveal the program's existence. Read the rest

Twitter to cut hundreds of jobs

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I still love Twitter and hope it finds a way forward. But it looks like all the potential suitors have passed on buying it, and job cuts are in the offing.

Twitter Inc., having failed to sell itself, is planning to fire about 8 percent of its workforce as the struggling social-media company prepares to go it alone for the time being. Twitter may eliminate about 300 people, the same percentage it did last year when co-founder Jack Dorsey took over as chief executive officer, according to people familiar with the matter. Planning for the cuts is still fluid and the number could change, they added. The people asked not to be identified talking about private company plans.

The other day, "George Zimmerman" was trending again. It was right there in the little box on the homepage. When you clicked on this hashtag, the second result was (and still is) an exhortation to follow a fake/ironic George Zimmerman account, with this bio:

Perhaps I get unique results for some algorithmic or settings-based reason that escapes me; it shows up irrespective of whether I have the "sensitive media" content filters checked. It looks like anyone from Salesforce or Disney who fired up Twitter last week and clicked on this promoted topical hashtag got this in their face. Maybe it's naive to think they would have been influenced by this, or that it's an easy thing to exclude at Twitter's scale. But I can't escape the nagging feeling that it being there represents a decision. Read the rest

Girl Scouts of America have licensed Girl Scout Cookie cereal rights to General Mills

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The company says it will start selling Caramel Crunch and Thin Mints breakfast cereals in January. It's not clear how the deal is structured and whether the cereals will be promoted as a way to make a charitable contribution to the Girl Scouts. Read the rest

Wirecutter and Sweethome purchased by New York Times in "more than $30 million" deal

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In a deal reportedly worth "more than $30 million," The New York Times announced today that it has purchased The Wirecutter and The Sweethome, consumer product review sites created by our friend Brian Lam. Congratulations, Brian and team! You built something amazing and we can't wait to see what you do next.

Read the rest

Tax-funded NZ company sold mass surveillance tech to torturers and GCHQ

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A whistleblower has provided The Intercept with leaked documents about Endace, an obscure New Zealand company based in Auckland, revealing that the company -- which received millions in government funding -- developed the mass surveillance equipment used by the UK spy agency to engage in illegal mass surveillance on fiber-optic lines that traverse the UK, and that Endace's customer list also includes a who's-who of telcoms companies, spy agencies, and the Moroccan secret police, who make a practice of spying on people, then kidnapping and torturing them. Read the rest

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