Boing Boing 

Accessible, CC-licensed academic site comes to the US

Michael says, "'The Conversation' has been in Australia for a couple of years: writing by academics, for a lay audience, which aims to be readable and relevant. Their slogan is 'academic rigor, journalistic flair', and they've done pretty well at that so far."

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Ello, what's all this then? An ad-free social network

A new social micro-blogging network, Ello, is flooded with users during its beta. Ello is predicated on not selling its users out or selling them stuff. Glenn Fleishman suggests it already needs to be held to the fire.

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John Oliver and Cookie Monster, reporting for W-ORD

The video has a cavalcade of guest-stars, including Al Roker and Nick Offerman -- all trying to understand the mystery of the missing letter "C" and to understand why Oliver's tie is not an adequate cookie substitute: 5/5, would watch again!

(via Neatorama!)

Documenting the arrests of journalists in Ferguson

Getty Images photographer Scott Olson (center) is arrested by a highway patrol officer during a protest for the shooting death of Michael Brown, in Ferguson, Missouri August 18, 2014. He was arrested because police required media to be within certain areas, media quoted another journalist as saying. Missouri Governor Jay Nixon lifted the curfew for the St. Louis suburb of Ferguson on Monday and began deploying National Guard troops to help quell days of rioting and looting spurred by the fatal shooting of the black unarmed teenager by a white policeman.    REUTERS/Joshua Lott.


Getty Images photographer Scott Olson (center) is arrested by a highway patrol officer during a protest for the shooting death of Michael Brown, in Ferguson, Missouri August 18, 2014. Authorities say he was arrested because police required media to be within certain areas. Missouri Governor Jay Nixon lifted the curfew for the St. Louis suburb of Ferguson on Monday and began deploying National Guard troops to oversee protests sparked by the fatal shooting of the black unarmed teenager by a white policeman. REUTERS/Joshua Lott.

On Aug. 13, 2014, police in Ferguson, Missouri, assaulted and arrested two journalists for allegedly failing to exit a McDonald's quickly enough while on a break from covering the protests. Since then, police actions against journalists in Ferguson have escalated in severity and frequency. Many have been tear gassed and shot with rubber bullets and at least nine more have been arrested.

It should go without saying that these arrests are a gross violation of the reporters' First Amendment rights, and attempts to prevent journalists from lawfully doing their job on the streets of Ferguson are downright illegal. We will be documenting each journalist arrest below and are filing public records requests for the arrest records of the journalists who have been assaulted, detained, and arrested in Ferguson. All requests are publicly available on MuckRock.

August 19, 2014

August 18, 2014

August 17, 2014

August 13, 2014

We insist that the St. Louis County Police Department, Ferguson Police Department, and Missouri Highway Patrol cease and desist from violating the Constiutional rights of reporters covering the protests, and respect the court document they all signed agreeing that the media and members of the public have a right to record public events without abridgement. This document is not necessary, as the First Amendment provides that right to all members of the media and public, but it's an indication of how the police have decided to ignore the law.

Freedom of the Press Foundation is monitoring the situation and will be filing requests and updating this blog post for as long as necessary.

[Editor's note: Guest contributor Runa A. Sandvik is a privacy and security researcher, working at the intersection of technology, law and policy. She is a Forbes contributor, a technical advisor to the TrueCrypt Audit project, and a member of the review board for Black Hat Europe. Prior to joining the Freedom of the Press Foundation as a full-time technologist in June 2014, she worked with The Tor Project for four years.]

Brits trust Wikipedia more than the BBC, "serious" newspapers


According to a Yougov poll, 64% of Britons believe Wikipedia tells the truth "a great deal" or "a fair amount."

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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.

@Cnnyourmom: inserting "your mom" into news headlines

@Cnnyourmom is admittedly immature, but works surprisingly well: "Your Mom Forms In Atlantic, Threatens North Carolina" (via JWZ)

News of the Weird: some of Chuck Shepherd's favorites

News of the Weird's Chuck Shepherd, celebrating 25 years yesterday of his wonderful column's weekly distribution deal, posted a few of his favorite stories from the archives:

NewImage(1989) In the mid 1980s, convicted South Carolina murderer Michael Godwin won his appeal to avoid the electric chair and serve only life imprisonment. In March, while sitting naked on a metal prison toilet, attempting to fix a TV set, the 28-year-old Godwin bit into a wire and was electrocuted. [Orlando Sentinel, 3-8-89]

(1991 and later) Gary Arthur Medrow, 47, was arrested in March in Milwaukee (the latest of his then-30-plus arrests over 23 years) for once again causing mischief by telephoning a woman and trying to persuade her to physically pick up another person and to carry her around a room. In the latest incident, after repeatedly calling, he told her another woman had been impersonating her, had been in an accident, and had been seen carrying someone away (and that Medrow needed evidence that she should could or could not do that). He had previously talked cheerleaders, motel workers, and business executives into lifting and carrying. [Milwaukee Sentinel, 3-18-91]

(1988) And finally, there was ol’ Hal Warden, the Tennessee 16-year-old who was married at 15 and granted a divorce from his wife, 13. Hal had previously been married at age 12 to a 14-year-old (and fathered children with both), but the first wife divorced Hal because, she told the judge, "He was acting like a 10-year-old." [The precise citation is inaccessible, but various marital reports on the Wardens are available, e.g., Associated Press, 2-21-1987]

News of the Weird (6/8/14)

NBC airs Edward Snowden's first US TV interview

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NBC released a preview clip from a widely-promoted Brian Williams interview with whistleblower Edward Snowden, which airs tonight, Wednesday May 28, at 10pm EDT. The hour-long interview is the former NSA contractor’s first US television interview since leaking NSA documents to reporters.

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Why did the 9/11 'falling man' image disappear?

fallingman

At Design Observer, a fascinating piece on how photographer Richard Drew's iconic, disturbing image of a man falling to his death from the World Trade Center on 911 has been erased from public view.

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Military-trained dolphins will not be killing Russians

Yes. The US Navy keeps and trains dolphins. No, they are not trained to murder. No, they will not be deployed to Ukraine.

US intel chief's insane new secrecy directive forbids intel employees from "unauthorized" contact with reporters


U.S. Director of National Intelligence James Clapper. (Kevin Lamarque/Reuters)

The US Director of National Intelligence has issued a Directive [PDF] that forbids most intelligence community employees from talking to journalists about “intelligence-related information” unless they have explicit authorization to do so.

Intelligence community employees “must obtain authorization for contacts with the media” on any intel-related matters, and “must also report… unplanned or unintentional contact with the media on covered matters,” according to the Directive signed by James Clapper.

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Gabriel García Márquez, Nobel laureate novelist, 1927-2014

Novelist Gabriel García Márquez, whose One Hundred Years of Solitude "established him as a giant of 20th-century literature," died today at his home in Mexico City. He was 87.

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“I F*cking Hate @RuPaul”

Filmmaker, writer, and trans activist Andrea James on the current state of post-disruption journalism and its unhealthy addiction to Twitter, and LGBT brain drain.

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Amazing fire rescue

"Damn, I was gonna get an apartment over there, too. It'll be cheaper now!" [Video Link]

Missing plane "deliberately flew way off course"

Malaysia's military radar data suggests Flight MH370, missing with 239 people on board, veered hundreds of miles off course, on a heading toward the Middle East and Europe. [Reuters]

A crowd-sourced effort to find missing Malaysia Air flight

A satellite imaging company is looking for volunteers to help comb through satellite pictures for evidence of Flight MH370.

The 727 that vanished without a trace in 2003

The ocean is big and deep. The most likely scenario, right now, is that Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 crashed into the water and no one has yet looked in just the right place to find evidence of that crash. (You can read more about losing planes in the age of GPS in a post Rob made earlier today.) But the case made me curious about other lost planes — cases where an aircraft just "vanished" and nobody ever found a crash site or debris.

Naturally, Wikipedia has a list for that ...

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Guilty plea in Fox News leak case shows why Espionage Act prosecutions are unfair to reporters' sources


Stephen Jin-Woo Kim. Image: Stephen Kim Legal Defense Trust.

Former State Department official Stephen Kim announced today he will plead guilty to leaking classified information to Fox News journalist James Rosen and will serve 13 months in jail.

The case sparked controversy last year when it was revealed the Justice Department named Rosen a “co-conspirator” in court documents for essentially doing his job as a journalist. But a largely ignored ruling in Kim’s case may have far broader impact on how sources interact with journalists in the future.

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European companies cut off US supply of death penalty drugs

Over the last decade, the drugs used in lethal injection executions in the United States have fallen into short supply, as the mostly European companies that manufacture those drugs cut off their availability in protest of the death penalty. States are beginning to run out of stockpiles of pentobarbital and sodium thiopental. Instead, they're turning to combinations of what drugs are still available. The results could change the case on whether lethal injection represents cruel and unusual punishment. In Ohio last week, a prisoner took 25 minutes to die, struggling and gasping for breath all the while.

Who wants a cruise ship that might be filled with possibly diseased rats?

Perhaps you've heard of the Russian cruise ship that was abandoned in the North Atlantic and is now, possibly, floating towards a landfall in England? (Or, it might have sunk a while ago. Nobody is really sure.) Anyway, here's a fun fact: According to maritime law, if you can find the thing and take control of her (which may, or may not, involve fighting off armies of cannibal rats) then you own her.

The Net Neutrality ruling in a nutshell

A précis from the New York Times on what the courts' apparent rejection of FCC network neutrality rules meant, and what happens next.

The West Virginia chemical spill is just one example of a much bigger problem


Image: West Virginians line up at a water filling station at West Virginia State University. A chemical spill prevents them from using tap water. REUTERS/Lisa Hechesky

Over the weekend, Xeni wrote here about a chemical spill in West Virginia that's dumped upwards of 7,500 gallons of 4-methylcyclohexane methanol into the Elk River just a mile upstream from the West Virginia American Water intake system, contaminating local water supplies. Since she posted, there have been some more updates on this story, including some interesting chemical sleuthing from a couple of great writers.

First off, what is 4-methylcyclohexane methanol? It's used in coal washing, a process that it would be reasonable to think of as "a good thing", because washing coal is what removes a lot of the sulfur that would otherwise contribute to acid rain. Basically, while we'd all prefer we didn't burn coal, if we're going to burn it, we want it to be washed. To do that, coal is crushed fine and dumped into a bath of frothy, foamy water. Relatively light coal floats and sticks to the foam. Relatively heavy sulfurous rock sinks. 4-methylcyclohexane methanol is one of the chemicals that can be used to make the froth.

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Newscaster faints on air and masterfully recovers

Yesterday I posted an epic collection of the "Best News Bloopers 2013." But here's a last minute great one in which KUTV Utah reporter Brooke Graham faints during a live report and instantly recovers to finish her interview! (via Bleacher Report)

Graham, who gave permission to KUTV to post the video, later wrote, "I am known to faint any time I am in high altitudes and get too cold... I could feel myself getting light headed and tried to warn the producer that I was sick."

The real story of Ronald Reagan's "welfare queen"

Back in the 80s, Ronald Reagan paid a lot of rhetorical attention to the story of an anonymous "welfare queen" who drove a Cadillac and lived high on the taxpayer's dime. I'd long assumed that Reagan's queen was a fictional construct, but the truth is much, much more fascinating.

At Slate, Josh Levin has a long read on the life and times of "Linda Taylor" (in quotes because that's only one of her many, many aliases), the real woman who served as the basis for Reagan's story. Taylor really did drive a Cadillac and perpetrate a decent amount of welfare fraud. But her story isn't really representative of the typical sort of welfare fraud — let alone the typical welfare recipient, in general. In fact, Taylor was the sort of person that gets armchair diagnosed as a sociopath. She spent most of her life grifting somebody and was possibly involved in the deaths of multiple people.

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Is that cool news true? Here's how you judge.

Love this list of 20 rules of thumb to help you analyze the validity of science news. A lot of it boils down to statistics and common sense (hey, you guys, scientists are human), but it's also stuff that easy to lose sight of when you're excited or scared or totally fascinated. Print this out and read it before you click "share".

"Duon" is just a new name for something we already knew about

Over the last couple of days, you might have heard about the "duon" — a "second" genetic code that's being hyped as a radical new "breakthrough" in science.

Based solely on the number of words I've put in quotations here, you can probably guess that the actual news doesn't really match the hype.

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Carjackers doomed to die in petty theft gone horribly wrong

Two days ago, a truck carrying a container of radioactive cobalt-60 (enough to make a dirty bomb) was stolen by carjackers off a highway near Tijuana. Today, authorities found the truck. The thieves probably aren't terrorists, just some guys who wanted a truck with a crane attached to it. But, at some point, they opened the container of cobalt-60 and will now almost certainly die from radiation exposure.

Microbes and health: The debate continues

Last week, I linked you to a piece pointing out that three New York Times op-ed pieces linking bacterial exposure (or lack thereof) to autism, celiac disease, and allergies were all written by the same guy, Moises Velasquez-Manoff. His ideas are interesting, but there's also good reason to be skeptical. If you want to get a better idea of the arguments for and against Velasquez-Manoff's thesis, I'd recommend checking out this post at the Knight Science Journalism Tracker, which links to several critical stories and to Velasquez-Manoff's response to them.

Canadians save shark from choking to death on moose


A Greenland shark found beached on Nov. 16. (CBC/Derrick Chaulk)

A tragedy was averted in Newfoundland when two men rescued an 8-foot-long Greenland shark that had managed to both partially beach itself and get a 2-foot-long hunk of moose lodged in its mouth. The men pulled the moose bits free and then towed the shark back into deeper water. The shark survived and, hopefully, learned some valuable lessons about hubris.