Federal courts resist transparency, but the Free Law Project fights back

In the age of Internet, discussions about the federal government and its functions are informed by and rely on our unprecedented access to federal documents. Anyone can freely view public records online, such as proposed Congressional legislation and presidential executive orders. Accessing public court documents, however, is a bit trickier. As Katherine Mangu-Ward wrote for the Wall Street Journal in 2011, "no aspect of government remains more locked down than the secretive, hierarchical judicial branch."

The previous owners of used "smart" cars can still control them via the cars' apps (not just cars!)

It's not just that smart cars' Android apps are sloppily designed and thus horribly insecure; they are also deliberately designed with extremely poor security choices: even if you factory-reset a car after it is sold as used, the original owner can still locate it, honk its horn, and unlock its doors. Read the rest

"Artisanal" Nintendo console cartridge hacker creates impossible alternate history games

Josh Jacobson is a Nintendo cartridge hacker who makes homebrew cartridges for games that were never released for NES/SNES, complete with label art and colored plastic cases that makes them look like they came from an alternate universe where (for example), there was a Nintendo version of Sonic the Hedgehog. Read the rest

Millions of lead-filled CRTs have been abandoned in warehouses across America

The swift replacement of CRT screens with flat panels created tons of extremely toxic e-waste, with dangerous tubes and leaded glass posing unique environmental and safety hazards for disposal workers and sites. Read the rest

In China's once poverty-stricken villages, former peasants manufacture a single product for one retailer

Alibaba subsidiary Taobao has given rise to "Taobao Villages" -- 18 villages that were once among China's poorest places, where former peasant farmers have attained prosperity by working in factories that produce a single class of goods (for example, Daiji township, a remote town in Shandong where most working age people have moved away, is now a high-speed-fiber linked booming factory town dedicated to "acting and dance costumes"). Read the rest

Disney wants to build an "aerial tramway" between the Disney World parks

Disney's "skybuckets" are fondly remembered as the best place in the themepark to do some sneaky kissin', but they were also a magnet for antisocial behavior, from smoking weed to spitting on people to jumping out of them -- and they proved lethal to park maintenance crews. Read the rest

How trolls like Milo Yiannopoulos monetize your hate, and what to do about it

This week's edition of the always, always-excellent On the Media podcast featured an interview (MP3) with notorious (and self-confessed) media manipulator Ryan Holiday, whose book, Trust Me, I'm Lying: Confessions of a Media Manipulator describes his career in PR, in which he perfected the art of making terrible people rich by getting decent people to hate them. Read the rest

Proof-of-concept ransomware locks up the PLCs that control power plants

In Out of Control: Ransomware for Industrial Control Systems, three Georgia Tech computer scientists describe their work to develop LogicLocker, a piece of proof-of-concept ransomware that infects the programmable logic controllers that are used to control industrial systems like those in power plants. Read the rest

A trip to the domain name conference

Ingrid Burrington thought of domain names as "a very niche genre of experimental poetry, one in which radical constraints (availability, brevity, the cadence of an interrupting “dot”) produce small, densely packed pockets of internet magic." At a conference for domainers--the dot.whatever squatters and salesfolk and speculators--she learned that it's more a matter of alchemy.

...brevity is typically a good move, though memorable phrases are also effective. Some TLDs are hot right now (.io), and some single words are always a good investment (lotions.com, furs.com), but good TLDs and good words together don’t always work (as was explained to the owner of furs.io and lotions.io in one session). Long-time domainers also had oddly specific advice—”Hyphens make your domain less valuable—unless you’re in Germany” and “.info is a dead zone.”

Domainers are generally a short-sighted crowd. Lotions.io might be worthless by itself, but one person dedicating themselves day and night to the thorough and remorseless blogging of all the lotions that go in and out? By Christmas lotions.io could be worth thousands. Read the rest

A brand without a base: Kmart, Sears, TJ Maxx, Marshall's, Neiman-Marcus join Nordstroms in kicking Ivanka Trump's products to the curb

It seems there isn't a demographic that justifies stocking Ivanka Trump's "Trump Home" items -- they've now been removed from high-end retailer Nordstrom's, mid-range retailer Sears, and low-end retailer Kmart. They've also been removed from TJ Maxx, Marshalls, Neiman Marcus. Read the rest

Dollar-a-dose, off-patent drug being marketed in the US for $89,000 as a muscular dystrophy treatment

Deflazacort, a steroid, can be purchased online from non-US sources for $1.00, but now it's being marketed by Illinois's Marathon Pharmaceuticals for $89,000 as Emflaza, to treat Duchenne muscular dystrophy, which predominantly affects men in their 20s. Read the rest

Steve Bannon sunk $60M of Goldman Sachs' money into a failed World of Warcraft goldfarming scheme

I missed this story when it was published last Labor Day, but hey: when Steve Bannon was you know, a regular joe working for a scrappy, much-loved, all-American firm called Goldman Sachs, he directed a $60m investment in a company called Internet Gaming Entertainment, which was a marketplace for buying and selling World of Warcraft gold, ground out of the game by botmasters and sweatshop gold-farmers. Read the rest

UK's Digital Economy Bill is a gift to copyright trolls, with 10 years in prison for watching TV the wrong way

Jim from the UK Open Rights Group writes, "Why has the UK's Digital Economy Bill been drafted to criminalise file sharing and minor online copyright infringements? The government said they just wanted to bring online infringement into line with 'real world' fake DVD offences. However, that isn't how they offence is drawn up: and the government has now been told in Parliament twice that they are both criminalising minor infringements and helping copyright trolls." Read the rest

Leak: Trump will allow US companies to buy "conflict minerals" that fund terrorist warlords in the DRC

A leaked draft presidential memo from the Trump administration would suspend the provisions in Dodd-Frank that limit US firms in sourcing their "conflict minerals" from the Democratic Republic of Congo, where the trade in these minerals provides funding to warlords who target civilian populations for campaigns of terror. Read the rest

"Cruelty free" Italian snail-farming booms thanks to caviar and slime-cosmetics

The Italian snail-farming industry has grown by more than 325% over 20 years, driven by a boom in eating snail-egg "caviar" and snail-slime-based cosmetics (which have little-to-no scientific basis) -- slime sales are up 46% over the past ten months. Read the rest

Classy ransomware criminals set themselves apart with 24/7, Russian/English customer service

The customer service operatives for the criminal gang that operates the Spora ransomware are relentlessly customer focused, working to soothe upset victims and streamline their payments in order to recover their data. Read the rest

Waterstones, the UK's national bookstore, came back from near-death by transforming into indie, local stores

Waterstones was at death's door when it was purchased by Russian billioniare Alexander Mamut, who hired James Daunt -- an investment banker who'd founded the successful, six-store Daunt Books -- to run the chain. Read the rest

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