Boing Boing 

LAPD & Chicago bought "Stingrays on steroids" with asset-forfeiture & DHS money

The military surveillance devices known as "Dirtboxes" have been in secret operation for more than a decade, tracking citizens' locations and intercepting their calls, breaking the encryption on hundreds of calls at once.

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Chicagoans: EFF fundraiser at Cards Against Humanity's club!


EFF's executive director, the wonderful Cindy Cohn, will host a Q&A before a night of outstanding comedy and improv.

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50th Nebula Awards Weekend coming to Chicago


Jun 4-7, join science fiction writers from around the world for events including a banquet, a self-publishing workshop, and a tour of Fermilab.

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First-hand reports of torture from Homan Square, Chicago PD's "black site"


In the wake of last week's revelations about Homan Square, the off-the-books "black site" where Chicago PD disappear prisoners for violent, aggressive interrogation, four of the site's victims have come forward to describe the highly racialized human rights abuses at the secret site.

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Chicago Police Department maintains "black site" for illegal detention and torture

Homan Square is the Chicago Police Department's "secure site" where people as young as 15 are detained without charge and without access to counsel, subject to beatings that result in head wounds, and, in one case, death.

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In Chicago, it's impossible to get dirty cops investigated


Matthew Clark and Gregory Malandrucco were out for tacos at an all-night place when they gave offense to two Chicago off-duty cops who followed them into the parking lot and beat them so badly that they were hospitalized -- the uniformed officers who attended let their colleagues simply walk away.

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Chicago schools lost $100M by letting Wall Street engineer their finances


In 2007, the school raised $1B, and instead of issuing bonds, it let the bankers who'd been courting it talk it into issuing a floating-rate bond that it swapped into a fixed-rate issue.

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Brian Ewing show at Chicago's Galerie F


Brian Ewing's delightful, monstrous art has been a regular feature on Boing Boing, and there's a ton of new work to be seen at Galerie F in Chicago this month.

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Lessig's U Chicago lectures on corruption this fall


Levi says, "Lawrence Lessig will be lecturing at the University of Chicago in October, launching a new series with a series of talks on institutional corruption, with separate talks on the problem in Congress, finance, the media, and the academy, then wrapping up with a lecture that covers possible remedies."

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Chicago PD's Big Data: using pseudoscience to justify racial profiling


The Chicago Police Department has ramped up the use of its "predictive analysis" system to identify people it believes are likely to commit crimes. These people, who are placed on a "heat list," are visited by police officers who tell them that they are considered pre-criminals by CPD, and are warned that if they do commit any crimes, they are likely to be caught.

The CPD defends the practice, and its technical champion, Miles Wernick from the Illinois Institute of Technology, characterizes it as a neutral, data-driven system for preventing crime in a city that has struggled with street violence and other forms of crime. Wernick's approach involves seeking through the data for "abnormal" patterns that correlate with crime. He compares it with epidemiological approaches, stating that people whose social networks have violence within them are also likely to commit violence.

The CPD refuses to share the names of the people on its secret watchlist, nor will it disclose the algorithm that put it there.

This is a terrible way of running a criminal justice system.

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City of Chicago and public-spirited hackers unveil the Chicago City Code


Rogue archivist Carl Malamud writes, "Something pretty rare happened last week. City officials of Chicago got together with hackers from around the country to unveil a vastly better new online version of the Chicago City Code. Public.Resource.Org worked with the City to make bulk data available, the folks at the OpenGov Foundation turned that into the popular States Decoded format that folks are using in DC, Virginia, San Francisco, and other locations around the country. The code, the data, and the formats are all open source and we were there to celebrate the unveiling and encourage volunteers in Chicago to take it even further."

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Chicago Mayor Rahm Emmanuel apologizes for decades of police torture

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emmanuel has apologized for twenty years' worth of police torture under the stewardship of former Chicago PD Commander Jon Burge, and set aside $85M to compensate victims -- mostly black people from Chicago's South Side. At least two of Burge's victims spent 21 years in jail before being released and paid off. In a City Council meeting, Emmanuel called the torture "a stain on the city’s reputation." His predecessor, former Mayor Daley, refused to apologize for -- or admit -- torture, and used out-of-court settlements to avoid testifying in court about his administration's complicity in the torture.

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Libraries and makerspaces join up in DC, Chicago


This morning dawned with two exciting announcements from the world of libraries and makerspaces: first, the Chicago Public Library has opened a popup makerlab in the main downtown branch (this is merely the latest in a series of amazing, interactive, maker-ish initiatives from the CPL system). They've got 3D printers, laser cutters and a milling machine.

The other awesome news is that the 11,000 sqft the DC Library Digital Commons opens today in the Martin Luther King Jr Memorial Library, with 3D printers, book-on-demand printers, and computers with 3D design software running on them.

This is a great day for libraries and makers -- as I've written, that's a match made in heaven.

(Images: Jacqui Cheng, Benjamin R. Freed)

Suburban Express bus-line sends bullying, cowardly legal threat to Reddit, discovers Streisand Effect


A convicted cybersquatter named Dennis Toeppen now runs the Suburban Express bus service that is used to take students home from university in Illinois, Indiana, and Iowa to Chicago. Suburban Express attracts many online complaints from riders who object to the company's policy of fining riders $100 (charged automatically to their ticket-purchase credit-card) if they present the wrong ticket when they board, and other, similar policies -- and who allege that the company hunts down its online critics and bans them from riding.

But Toeppen and Suburban Express went too far when it threatened a volunteer Reddit moderator with a defamation suit for failing to police the company's critics on the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign subreddit, where a banner read, "Don't ride Suburban Express! They're likely to sue you, have terrible reviews, and also this." The banner implied that an anonymous Reddit commenter who accused Suburban Express critics of of being "lonely virgins" was run by Toeppen or his representatives.

The ensuing negative publicity (and a stern note from Ken "Popehat" White) frightened the bullying, cowardly company into withdrawing its threat. But with any luck, the company's public conduct will warn its potential customers away and make the offers presented by its rivals more attractive. If I was running a competing bus service, I'd be buying ad space on the subreddit in question, running ads that say, "Ride with us, we don't fine you, we don't ban you for complaining, and we won't threaten to sue you if you aren't happy!"

The company has developed a bad reputation online, with reviewers on Yelp and commenters on reddit sharing stories of what they claim are the company’s cutthroat business practices. For example, the company's ticket policy includes a "ticket fraud" clause that hits riders who hand the wrong ticket to a driver with a $100 fine, charged to the credit card used to purchase their ticket. "In the event that ticket is used to obtain transportation on another day or at another time," the company's policy statement reads, "or to or from a Chicago area stop other than printed on your ticket, you will be charged full fare for the trip you actually rode PLUS $100 penalty. You will also be permanently banned." The company also has a history of suing passengers for violating its terms and conditions—it has filed 125 tort and contract damage lawsuits against passengers this year alone, according to a report from a student newspaper.

The terms of service don't include not speaking ill of the company online, but apparently they might as well. Some commenters have accused the company's owner, Dennis Toeppen, of hunting down negative reviewers and banning them from the company's buses.

The Internet cauldron of opinion boiled over for Suburban Express after an incident on March 31. University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign graduate student Jeremy Leval took to Facebook, describing a driver he saw make derogatory comments to an international student who was having difficulty understanding him—“If you don’t understand English, you don’t belong at the University of Illinois or any ‘American’ University," he reportedly told her.


Update: Aaand here it is: a rival company, Peoria Charter, is advertising to Suburban Express customers with a campaign that stresses that they don't sue their customers. They're offering $2 off if you book tickets on their coaches with the promo code "nolawsuits" -- thanks, Murph!

Express to Internet Hate: Bus company threatens redditor with lawsuit [Sean Gallagher/Ars Technica]

Why the stuff you don't see at the museum matters

Chicago's Field Museum isn't just a science museum. It's also a research center, especially for archaeologists and anthropologists who come to the museum to make use of its extensive collections of artifacts — only a tiny fraction of which is on public display at any given time. Unfortunately, the museum is currently up to its neck in debt, and part of the current administrators' plan to deal with that problem is to restructure the research department and cut back on curators and staffing there.It's hard to understand why this has the archaeology community so on edge unless you really understand what the Field Museum has in those vast Indiana-Jones-inspiring storage collections. Here's Michael Smith, an archaeologist who studies the ancient Aztecs, explaining why the Field Museum is so important to his work and that of his colleagues.

The photo above shows an Aztec flute in the museum. I have excavated many small fragments of these objects in Aztec domestic middens, but never an entire example. When one just has the animal's ear, or a segment with a hole, or a fragment of the mouthpiece, it is hard to figure out just what these are pieces of. It is through study of the whole flutes in the Field Museum or other museums that I learned to interpret the tiny fragments of musical instruments, and of many other unusual items, from my excavations. Or consider our knowledge of Aztec music. Scholars such as Adje Both have reconstructed aspects of Aztec music by studying flutes like this and by playing them (and recording the tones and doing analyses of the sound diagrams). Museums are the only places with the resources for such research, and the Field Museum is one of the most important in the U.S. and the world.

Read a Chicago Tribune story on the Field Museum's debt problem.

Cory in Evanston, IL tonight

Hey, Evanston, IL! I'll be at the Evanston Public Library tonight, on the final stop of the Chicago-area part of my Pirate Cinema tour (if you're coming, you can RSVP here). Tomorrow, I head to NYC for appearances at Comic-Con and WORD Books in Brooklyn (here's our video remix contest), and thence to Philly, Bethesda, Edmonton, and many other US and Canadian cities (here's the whole schedule). Be there, or be unprepared for the end-times!

Cory in Naperville, IL tonight

Hey, Naperville, IL! I'll be speaking and signing at Anderson's Bookshop tonight at 7PM, in part two of the Chicagoland leg of my Pirate Cinema tour, which wraps up tomorrow night at the Evanston Public Library. Anderson's is one of the nation's great indie bookstores, ranking in my books with the likes of Powell's, and they're especially committed to kids' and YA books, doing tons of outreach to schools across the midwest. I hope you'll come out tonight and show them the love they've earned! After Chicago, I go to NYC for Comic-Con and an appearance at WORD in Brooklyn (check out the video remix contest) and then on to Philly, Bethesda, Edmonton and many other cities -- check the full schedule for more.