Newspapers' unmatched credulity about their own future


American Society of News Editors president David Boardman rails against the happy-talk optimism of the newspaper industry, who insist that the decline isn't that bad and will shortly turn around.

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Rupert Murdoch wants to buy Time Warner

The kingmaking evil billionaire offered $75B, and said he'd sell off CNN to avoid competition inquiries.

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Makerbot now on sale at Home Depot stores

Home Depot stores in California, New York and Illinois are now stocking Makerbot 3D printers in their aisles, with staff on-hand to demo 3D printing for a wide audience.

Economist examines empirical evidence of file-sharing on box-office revenue

A paper from University of Kansas economist Koleman Strumpf (whose work we've featured here for years) empirically examines the impact of file-sharing on box-office revenues.

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Jeff VanderMeer's name-your-price bundle of great, indie New Weird fiction


Jeff VenderMeer has curated a name-your-price bundle of New Weird fiction of great repute and deep weirdness, hosted at Storybundle.

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Airborne police surveillance is a PVR for every car-journey in a city


America's police forces have demonstrated a bottomless appetite for army-style crowd control and CIA-style surveillance, and the private sector has stepped up to the plate in a big way.

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Hair Highway: sculptures made from human hair plastic

London's Studio Swine has created a beautiful and provocative collection of art-pieces made from human hair in resin.

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FTC sues Amazon over in-game purchases by children

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Online retailer Amazon is accused of hooking millions of dollars from underage users making unauthorized in-app purchases. The Federal Trade Commission filed a lawsuit Thursday charging that the company willingly allowed kids to set up purchases without the consent of their parents.

Though most were for smaller ammounts, some of the charges ranged as high as $99, and typically were for game weapons, clothes and other virtual bullshit installed on its Kindle Fire gadget.

"Amazon’s in-app system allowed children to incur unlimited charges on their parents’ accounts without permission," FTC Chairwoman Edith Ramirez wrote in a press release issued by the comission. "Even Amazon's own employees recognized the serious problem its process created. We are seeking refunds for affected parents and a court order to ensure that Amazon gets parents' consent for in-app purchases."

Amazon's in-app purchase system, established in 2011 to help the firm catch up with competitors Apple and Google, was relatively rudimentary and lacked locks or passwords to prevent unuathorized users racking up huge bills. Within a month, internal emails show that Amazon was aware of "problems" that were "clearly causing problems for a large percentage of our customers," according to the FTC's lawsuit.

Amazon only added passwords months later, and did not apply them to purchases of less than $20 for a year. Even then, according to the suit, Amazon did not disclose that doing so once would enable further purchases for more than an hour.

The FTC settled a similar lawsuit with Apple earlier this year, when the company agreed to institute stricter policies and paid $32.5m in restitution. Amazon, informed of the pending lawsuit, said that it had no plans to change its system as Apple had, and would fight the action.

"We have continuously improved our experience since launch, but even at launch, when customers told us their kids had made purchases they didn't want we refunded those purchases," Amazon's associate general counsel wrote in a response to the commission.

Part of the FTC's suit, however, alleges that the refund process itself is intentionally obscure and "rife with deterrents including statements that consumers cannot, in fact, get a refund for in-app charges."

Games aimed at youngsters are at the heart of the controversy, as they are typically free to download and play, only to bombard the user with enticements to pay for the virtual bullshit. The enticements are often clevery designed to "blur the lines between what costs virtual currency and what costs real money," writes the FTC, using visually similar icons and other psychological manipulations to generate unfair and unexpected charges.

Earlier this week, UK regulators ordered Electronic Arts to stop marketing its sleazy mobile game Dungeon Keeper as free-to-play after gamers complained that it was effectively unplayable without in-game paid upgrades.

Realtors hire ruined millionaires to pretend to live in vacant megamansions


How do you imbue an empty mansion with the indefinable "energy" that comes from daily habitation? Find distressed rich people with nice furniture and precarious jobs at McDonald's to move in.

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Google's badass "Security Princess" profiled


Parisa Tabriz 's title at Google is "Security Princess" -- meaning that she runs the adversarial internal team tasked with continuously testing and probing Google's security to find flaws before the enemy does.

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Name your price for 11 books in the Humble Science Fiction Bundle

The latest Humble Ebook Bundle focuses on science fiction, with name-your-price DRM-free ebooks from Harlan Ellison, Elizabeth Ann Scarborough, Dan Simmons, Buzz Aldrin and more.

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OECD predicts collapse of capitalism


The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development -- a pro-establishment, rock-ribbed bastion of pro-market thinking -- has released a report predicting a collapse in global economic growth rates, a rise in feudal wealth disparity, collapsing tax revenue and huge, migrating bands of migrant laborers roaming from country to country, seeking crumbs of work. They prescribe "flexible" workforces, austerity, and mass privatization.

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Insurance companies create the Internet of Things You Can't Get Away From

When people who don't agree to bug themselves with devices that snitch on their habits and foibles to insurers are charged huge premiums for their "choice," is it really a choice at all?

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Jerktech: Silicon Valley's most shameful export

Jerktech is the very apt epithet for the class of "disruptive" startups that sell things that don't belong to them, like parking spots and restaurant reservations, simply raising the prices of them and making access to public resources a factor of your disposable income.

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Wall Street as cause and beneficiary of skyrocketing university tuition

A deep, carefully argued, carefully research report from Debt and Society makes a strong case that sky-high tuition (and brutal, lifelong student debt, up 1000% in 15 years) is not primarily caused by bloated administrations or high professors' salaries. The explanation is a lot more banker-y.

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