Charles Babbage wrote a "cardboard vaporware" app in 1840 and left it in Turin

Bruce Sterling's been playing with a stack of hand-punched cardboard cards created in 1840 by Charles Babbage as a kind of vaporware app for his never-built Analytical Engine; they were intended to placed in a revolving "six-sided prism." Read the rest

Mafia used the text-message ticker at the bottom of a sports broadcast to get messages to mob bosses

Quelli che il Calcio (That which is Football) is one of Italy's top sports broadcasts and it is played in the country's prisons; it has a ticker that you can send SMSes to that then show up on screen. Read the rest

Cyber-arms dealers offer to sell surveillance weapons to undercover Al Jazeera reporters posing as reps of South Sudan and Iran

Companies in the EU and China have been caught offering to commit fraud to launder sales of mass surveillance weapons to Al Jazeera reporters posing as representatives of autocratic regimes under sanction for gross human rights abuses; these weapons would allow their users to target and round up political dissidents for arbitrary detention, torture and murder. Read the rest

On "Eastern European Women"

“A Serb makes a good wife: she can pull the cart out of mud.”

That old Serbian proverb, its genius author has no name. It’s like the earthy quip from a hospital that I once heard in real life; after her severe car crash, the emergency doctor told her worried husband: Don’t you worry man, those Herzegovinian vipers are hard to kill!

I’m personally half Serb and half Herzegovinian, so I take these attitudes to my heart, half proud and half offended. But my American friend said: what about the Serbian and Herzegovinian husbands? Are they pleased about their mud-carting vipers? Is that the kind of proper home-girl that a local guy just has to have?

Good questions! If enough years go by, a man gets used to the woman of the house, muddy viper or not. But what about the opinions of the rest of the world?

Our world is a big place, so maybe a Serbian Herzegovinian woman is considered just one regional sub-class of East European womanhood. I might be called Balkan, from that mountain region of many fractured grooves, or a historical, fossilized ex-Yugoslav. I was never “Warsaw Pact,” although that arrangement meant “Eastern Europe” in the eyes of the Cold War West. I’m from a shatter-belt, a corner cushion among conflicting empires, a little regional federation that has vanished like the Austro-Hungarians and often resembled the modern European Union. It broke up in blood, but that’s been the fate of most European alliances, eastern or western, northern or southern. Read the rest

Video: Mount Etna erupts as BBC journalists run for their lives

A group of BBC News journalists had to run for their lives when a volcanic eruption took place while they were filming on Mount Etna.

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Makers: enter the Share Festival's ARTMAKER Prize competition for sincere electronic art

An all-star jury composed of Arduino inventor Massimo Canzi, Arthur C Clarke Center director Sheldon Brown, tech artist Motor Comino, activist Jasmina Tesanovic and OG Cyberpunk Bruce Sterling are judging the Artmaker prize for the tenth annual Share Festival: this year's theme is "Sincerity" and the prize goes to "art works with the virtues of lucidity, honesty and clarity. Our theme for 2017 asks for self-evident truth and heartfelt emotion, and scorns all slyness, demagoguery and deceit." Read the rest

Milosevic, Berlusconi, Trump

I saw this coming, for the past ten years or more. I saw small Trumps, rising and tramping around, first timidly, then bravely, and finally boldly.

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Italy unveils a legal proposal to regulate government hacking

Internet traffic nowadays is mostly encrypted (“HTTPS”). Thus, for a few years now, Law Enforcement Agencies (LEA) have been facing far more challenges at gathering data through the interception of connections than they used to.

"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

Accounting fraud admission wipes £5.5b off BT's valuation

The former UK national phone company BT announced that it's writing down the value of its Italian operation by £530m because it has been committing accounting fraud for years, triggering a mass sell-off of its shares, wiping £5.5b off the company's valuation. Read the rest

Italy's referendum: a vote against neoliberalism and authoritarianism

Soon-to-be-former Italian PM Matteo Renzi just lost a referendum he called on a set of reforms to Italy's constitution, promising to resign if he lost, which he did; many of Italy's far-right, trumpist and berlusconian elements latched onto the No side of the referendum and pitched it as a kind of Italian version of Brexit, a poll on whether Italy would be another stronghold of gamergate-inflected neo-fascism. Read the rest

Italy on the verge of the stupidest censorship law in European history

After a string of high-profile cyberbullying and revenge-porn incidents, the Italian Chamber of Deputies has put forward a bill that will do nothing to prevent these abuses, and everything to allow for rampant, unaccountable censorship of the Italian internet, without rule of law or penalty for abuse.

Artist installs rooms beneath Milan's sewer entrances

Biancoshock, an artist in Milan, created these "Borderlife" installations that appear to be underground rooms beneath the city's sewer-entrances, as a way of calling attention to homelessness, especially in Bucharest, where 600 people are living in the sewer tunnels. Read the rest

Saudi embassy hired mafiosi to smuggle Turkish PM Erdoğan's son out of Italy ahead of money laundering charges

Italian police spokesman Lt. Colonel Domenico Grimaldi says that Bilal Erdoğan was able to jump bail on money laundering charges because the Saudi embassy paid the mafia to help get him clear, assisting them with fraudulent diplomatic papers and a Saudi prince disguise. Read the rest

Call for submissions: SHARE electronic art festival, curated by Bruce Sterling

The ninth Share Festival, held in Turin, Italy in May 2016, awards a "Share Prize" for best electronic art on the festival's theme of "House Guests," which raises a series of questions about everyday living and the Internet of Things, inspired by Casa Jasmina, a human-centered model IoT home: Read the rest

Nude statues at Rome museum covered to not embarrass Iranian president

Classical nude statues at Italy's Capitoline Museum were covered up this week in anticipation of Iranian President Hassan Rouhani's visit. Some politicians and art critics called out the stupidity. From The Telegraph:

The president’s aides were also reportedly anxious that he not be photographed too close to a giant bronze statue of the Roman emperor Marcus Aurelius on horseback.

The Iranians objected to what one Italian newspaper delicately described as “the attributes” or genitalia of the huge horse, which dates from the second century AD.

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Replica weapons made from thousands of cut and stacked post-its

Rome-based sculptor Marco Ecroli's "Army" project turns stacks of patiently cut, colorful post-it notes into full-sized three-dimensional replica weapons: a Colt six-shooter ("i Love Ammerica"), a machine-gun ("Tenere Lontano dalla Portata dei Bambini") , a hand-grenade ("Bomba non Bomba") , and a katana ("Daily Samurai"). He's also made a full-sized post-it car ("The Sheep Stand Far From The Rainbow"). Read the rest

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