FTC clobbers Roca Labs, the terrible weight-loss company that banned negative reviews


If you follow my tweets of interesting stories from one year ago, you'll have seen the Roca Labs saga popping up again. Roca sold a "non-surgical gastric bypass" that was mostly made from industrial food-thickeners that were supposed to gunk up your stomach and fill you up. Read the rest

Kentucky Republican state Senator: the First Amendment protects my right to receive bribes


Republican Kentucky state Sen. John Schickel is suing to overturn the state's ethics laws so that he can accept gifts worth more than $1,000 from lobbyists without reporting them, because he thinks the current ethics rules violate his First and Fourteenth Amendment rights. Read the rest

VW con produced as much extra air pollution as all UK power generation, industry, ag & vehicles


Volkswagen's intentional fraud resulted in an extra 1,000,000 metric tons of air pollution being spewed into the skies over America; if they'd extended the con to Europe (where there are far more diesels), it would have been orders of magnitude worse. Read the rest

Yet another pre-installed spyware app discovered on Lenovo computers


A factory refurbished Thinkpad shipped with Windows 7 and a scheduler app that ran once a day, collecting usage data about what you do with your computer and exfiltrating it to an analytics company. Read the rest

David Cameron now all alone in demanding crypto backdoors, doubles down on antibiotic resistant superterrorists


The US government has given up on demanding backdoors in cryptography for now (advocates have announced that they'll wait until a terrorist attack and then use that as the excuse for fresh demands), leaving the UK government as the last man standing in the race to compromise the security of the technologies with the power of life and death over us. Read the rest

Litigation Finance predators: champerty loves company


Litigation Finance involves loaning people money in return for the right to finance a lawsuit in their names. On its face, there's lots to love about this: it's a financial jiu-jitsu that turns every abusive act from a giant company into a target for an investor. The bigger the bully -- the deeper its pockets -- the more financiers there'll be waiting to sue it on your behalf when it screws you over. Read the rest

Bitcoin Ponzi operator pleads guilty over $150M fraud


Bitcoin Savings & Trust founder Trendon Shavers pleaded guilty to fraud over his company's Ponzi scheme, whose victims believed they would earn one percent interest every three days -- an annual rate of 3,641 percent. Read the rest

Tell-all free-to-play-game dev's confessions


An anonymous developer for a free-to-play game explains how his company stalked its most prolific players, creating fake sexy-lady Facebook accounts to friend them in order to gain insight into their proclivities so that super-expensive, one-off virtual goods could be made and targeted to them. Read the rest

America's spooks abandon crypto-backdoors, plan shock-doctrine revival


They have decided that there's no political will to ban crypto today, but have vowed to bring it back after some unspecific future terrorist atrocity. Read the rest

Campus cops: all the powers of real cops, none of the accountability


Michael from Muckrock writes, "Want some transparency from your local police? Then public records law is probably on your side if you're in the US -- unless you happen to be a college student. MuckRock's Shawn Musgrave looks at the broad exemptions that give campus police almost all the rights and powers of regular cops, without any of the public accountability."

Read the rest

Irving police violated Ahmed Mohamed's civil rights


Ahmed Mohamed was repeatedly denied access to counsel and to his parents, a direct and glaring violation of Texas Family Code section 52.025, which states "A child may not be left unattended in a juvenile processing office and is entitled to be accompanied by the child's parent, guardian, or other custodian or by the child’s attorney."

Also: every cop show in the history of America has made it clear to even the thickest planks that you get to have a lawyer present during questioning. This apparently escaped the notice of Irving's finest, though.

The Texas ACLU is all over this, and points out that MacArthur High principal Daniel Cummings's attempt to get Mohamed to sign a confession could have given the police the tools to arrest him on terrorism charges and secure a conviction.

Irving Police Chief Larry Boyd said he did “not have answers to [that] specific question” when reporters asked him Wednesday why Mohamed was not allowed to speak to his parents.

The executive director of the Texas chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union said that answer is not good enough.

“Once they’re being questioned, they have a right to refuse answering,” Terri Burke told The Daily Beast. “And, unless it's something like a traffic violation, [police] immediately need to release the child to their parents.”

At the very least, Mohamed should have been able to speak with his parents.

“If a child seeks to have a short conference with his parents, [the police] cannot deny them that.

Read the rest

America's mass incarceration of black people: the most important essay you'll read today


Ta-Nehisi Coates's longread in the Atlantic, "The Black Family in the Age of Mass Incarceration" is a stupendous piece of serious journalism, tracing the long history of system racism in America to the present day condition: America imprisons more people than any other country in the world; it imprisons more people than at any time in its history; and it imprisons black people, especially black men, at a rate that beggars belief. Read the rest

Interactive map of the swathes of England owned by offshore tax-dodgers

Whole regions of England are now owned by holding companies in tax-havens "from Panama to Luxembourg, and from Liechtenstein to the South Pacific island of Niue." Read the rest

Knuckle-scanning anti-cheating software won't say what it's doing with Rutgers students' data

Rutgers students taking exams are required to pay $32 in fees for Verificient's Proctortrack, an anti-cheating program that collects, audio, video, web activity and "scans the ID, face and knuckles" as well as voice-prints. Read the rest

EFF scores a giant victory for fair use and dancing babies

8 years ago, Universal Music sent a takedown notice over Stephanie Lenz's 29-second Youtube video of her kids dancing in the kitchen to Prince's "Let's Go Crazy." Read the rest

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