As you suspected: claw machines are rigged


Claw machines can be programmed to automatically reduce their grip strength to maximize profits, while allowing an infrequent full-strength grip to entice suckers. From the instruction manual for a claw machine:

Managing profit is made easy, simply input the coin value, the average value of the merchandise, and the profit level. The machine will automatically calculate when to send full strength to the claw, games sent full strength will be randomly selected from a group making it difficult for players to “predict.”

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Lottery ticket with $500,000 prize was a "misprint"

John Wines was pleased when the scratch-off lottery ticket he bought at a New Mexico gas station turned out to be worth $500,000. But when Wines tried collect his prize, an employee of the New Mexico Lottery robbed him of his pleasure:

“We did find a flaw in that particular pack of tickets and it’s been reported to our printer. Thanks for bringing this to our attention. I did complete a reconstruction of your ticket and it was not a winner.”

The New Mexico Lottery offered Wines $100 in lottery tickets as a token of their sympathy. Read the rest

Shia LaBeouf's movie plagiarizes Daniel Clowes

Jacquelene Cohen, director of publicity & promotions for Fantagraphics Books, emailed me the following:
Shia LaBeouf's new short film,, is a complete rip off of Daniel Clowes's comic "Justin M. Damiano." Every-word from the 4 page comic created by Clowes in 2006 is used in the script for LaBeouf's directional debut. Clowes never authorized the use of his comic for He had no knowledge that he had been plagiarized until today when the film was posted on Vimeo.

Comic Book Alliance has more:

The film, which was posted online earlier today but has since been removed, shares several similarities with Clowes’ short story, with lines that are lifted directly from the comic. Yet in an interview with the website Short of the Week, LaBeouf, who has been accused of plagiarism in the past, claims to have come up with the concept for the film organically, having been inspired by negative reviews he received for his lackluster comics work, as well as the films he has reportedly appeared in.
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Keylogger service provides peek inside Nigerian 419 scammers' tactics

Security researcher Brian Krebs has had a look at the contents of "BestRecovery" (now called "PrivateRecovery") a service used by Nigerian 419 scammers to store the keystrokes of victims who have been infected with keyloggers. It appears that many of the scammers -- known locally as "Yahoo Boys" -- also plant keyloggers on each other, and Krebs has been able to get a look at the internal workings of these con artists. He's assembled a slideshow of the scammers' Facebook profiles and other information. Read the rest

The Mark Inside: the best book I've read on the long con

Amy Reading's The Mark Inside is perhaps the best book I've ever read on con artists and con artistry, a retelling of one of the classic stories of the bunco boom that marked the start of the 20th century in America. Reading builds her book around the life story of J Frank Norfleet, a soft-spoken, thrifty Texas rancher who built his fortune up from nothing, only to lose it all to a gang of swindlers. Norfleet became obsessed with the men who'd victimized him, and became a nationally famous vigilante, crisscrossing America bent on capturing and jailing the whole gang -- and any other con-men he met along the way.

Norfleet himself was transformed by his quest, which awoke in him a kind of inner showman and bunco artist. He delighted in showing off for the press and for audiences, spinning yarns as adeptly as the con artists he hunted. In order to get cooperation from government prosecutors and lawmen, he had to flimflam them, too, convincing them with carefully scripted cons of his own. Reading places Norfleet's con within the wider context of the con-artists who ruled America and the shifting American attitude towards wagering and speculating, showing how the whole nation was moving itself from a republican thriftiness to a nation that mythologized plungers and get-rich-quickmen who made a fortune by dicing with dollars in markets and at the faro tables.

I've read dozens of books about and by con artists (the bunco boom had its own publishing wing, and every fast talker who lived long enough seems to have penned a memoir after the fashion of The Yellow Kid Weil). Read the rest

Don't waste your money on alternative flu remedies

What's one of the things Time magazine says you should never waste your money on ever again? Alternative flu remedies—from homeopathic to herbal, there's no evidence that they actually produce results. The one exception: Homemade chicken soup. (Follow that link for a research paper that includes a recipe.) Read the rest

Probiotics and "Science by Product Release"

When heavy publicity turns early scientific findings into massive public debacles—see: Life, arsenic—we spend a lot of time talking about the problems inherent in doing science by press release. Essentially, an early finding might be pretty damn intriguing. But an early finding doesn't mean much until it's been picked apart by other scientists, and held up to criticism and verification. The process of science is glacially slow, while the news cycle moves like a waterfall.

But there's another place in public life where the speed of good science conflicts with outside demands. Namely: The food industry. Over at Slate, Amanda Schaffer has a really interesting article about how food companies (Big Food and crunchy hippie mom n' pops, alike) have taken incomplete, relatively new research on probiotics and turned it into absolute (and frequently overblown) statements about functional foods.

There's certainly a scientific basis for humankind's relationship with symbiotic bacteria, and there's also research suggesting that you can ingest these bacteria and benefit from it. But there is still a lot we don't know, and the benefits are usually smaller than you've been led to believe.

What about the immune system? Good bacteria may tweak the balance of immune cells or cause more cells to become activated, at least temporarily. In theory, this might help to fend off disease. Of course, "most people aren't as interested in, for example, how activated their macrophages might be as they are in keeping from getting sick," as Mary Ellen Sanders, a probiotics consultant who runs the company Dairy and Food Culture Technologies, puts it.

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Bachmann's husband operates a "pray the gay away" psuedo-science clinic

In case you're curious about what happens during pseudo-scientific, inherently bigoted treatments to make gay people be straight, ABC news and Truth Wins Out have been investigating the clinic owned and operated by Michelle Bachmann's husband. Read the rest

Airline security still isn't: Man uses old boarding passes to fly NY-LA for free

Olajide Oluwaseun Noibi, a Nigerian-American man, managed to bypass all layers of airport security and avoid arrest for five days after Virgin America and authorities learned that he'd flown from New York to Los Angeles as a stowaway. It all started when some of his nearby passengers on the Virgin America flight complained that he was emanating powerful B.O. From the Los Angeles Times:

A flight attendant asked Olajide Oluwaseun Noibi for his boarding pass and was surprised to see it was from a different fight and in someone else's name. She alerted authorities, and Noibi went back to sleep in his black leather airline seat. When the plane landed, authorities chose not to arrest Noibi, allowing him to leave the airport.

On Wednesday, Noibi was arrested trying to board a Delta flight out of Los Angeles. Once again, he had managed to pass undetected through security with an expired ticket issued in someone else's name. Authorities found at least 10 other boarding passes, none of which belonged to him. Law enforcement sources told The Times they suspect Noibi has used expired plane tickets to sneak on to flights in the past. On his website, Noibi describes himself as a "frequent traveler."

(...) Noibi, also known as Seun Noibi, proclaims himself a "storyteller, strategist and designer who is passionate about reaching the world for Jesus," according to his Facebook page. He was arrested in Chicago in 2008 after allegedly refusing to pay a $4.70 fare on a Metra train. Those charges were later dropped.

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Audio: Blagojevich trying to sell Obama's senate seat

Blago Audio: Barack Obama's senate seat is "a valuable thing - you don't just give it away for nothing." Read the rest

Taiwan: Blogger fined $7K, jailed for 30 days over negative noodle review

(Photo: a delicious plate of noodles in Toronto by John Elmslie, contributed to the Boing Boing Flickr Pool.)

A court in Taiwan this week ruled against a female food-blogger who said a local restaurant's beef noodles "were too salty," and that she'd seen cockroaches scurrying around in the restaurant. She gets 30 days in detention, two years of probation, and must pay 200,000 Taiwanese dollars (about $7K US dollars) in compensation to the restaurant. The court didn't argue she was lying about the bugs, but ruled that "Ms. Liu should not have criticized all the restaurant's food as too salty because she only had one dish on her single visit."

From the Taipei Times:

After visiting a Taichung beef noodle restaurant in July 2008, where she had dried noodles and side dishes, Liu wrote that the restaurant served food that was too salty, the place was unsanitary because there were cockroaches and that the owner was a "bully" because he let customers park their cars haphazardly, leading to traffic jams.

The restaurant owner, who sounds like a total dick (I can say this because I'm not in Taiwan!), said "he hoped the case would teach her a lesson."

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Thierry "Mr. Brainwash" Guetta loses copyright case with photographer Glen E. Friedman

(Above Left: Photo of Run D.M.C., taken by Glen E. Friedman Above Right: The invitation which Thierry Guetta, aka Mr. Brainwash, used for his debut exhibition 'Life Is Beautiful'.)

Thierry Guetta, the figure at the center of the Banksy documentary Exit Through the Gift Shop, just lost a court case which could result in significant damages.

Sean Bonner broke the initial news of the legal dispute here on Boing Boing, in a guest blog post this January.

From the Melrose and Fairfax art blog:

A judge just ruled against Mr. Brainwash in a lawsuit from photographer Glen E. Friedman claiming that MBW used his iconic photo of Run D.M.C. without permission. Mr. Brainwash had argued that the photo had been altered sufficiently and could be used under the 'fair use act'. But the judge disagreed, and, MBW's haters will be excited to hear that the judge "ruled that Guetta can't defend his work as transformative fair use."

The Hollywood Reporter has the full story, and covered earlier news of the dispute here.

More at the UK Guardian, and Thomas Hawk's photography blog, and at

Some will ask how this case is different from that of the Associated Press and Shepard Fairey, over Fairey's iconic Obama poster. Some context: Fairey is a creative collaborator and friend of Friedman, and Bonner, and crossed paths with Guetta, as those of you who saw "Gift Shop" will recall. Sean Bonner covered that question here in detail, in a previous Boing Boing guest blog post. Read the rest

ATM repairman who worked for Diebold accused of swapping $200K in fake bills for cash

64-year-old Samuel Kioskl of San Francisco, who services ATMs for Bank of America as an employee of Diebold, has been charged with swapping $200,000 in fake bills for real cash at machines.

Last July, Kioskli went to six BofA branches in San Francisco and one in Daly City, and made off with about $200,000 by swapping out the cash in the machine trays with counterfeit or photocopied $20 bills, according to San Mateo County District Attorney Steve Wagstaffe.

More at the San Francisco Chronicle. Read the rest

Tapes show Italian priest lured teenage boys for sex, paid them with cocaine

Investigators examining tapped cellphone conversations between a Moroccan drug dealer and 51-year-old Father Riccardo Seppia (shown at left, in the red robe) found evidence of arranged sexual encounters with young boys, some of whom were paid for sex with cocaine.

"I do not want 16-year-old boys but younger," Seppia is accused of having said on the tapes. "Fourteen-year-olds are O.K. Look for needy boys who have family issues."

Seppia is a priest in a the archdiocese of one of the top advisers working with Pope Benedict XVI "on reforms to respond to prior scandals of pedophile priests." He is said to have boasted in the recorded cellphone conversations that local shopping malls were the best place to pick up boys for sex.

Investigators are also examining three confiscated computers: the priest allegedly looked for partners via chat as well.

More in TIME magazine.

(via New Civil Rights Movement, via Christopher Hayes) Read the rest

Did Urban Outfitters rip off an indie designer, yet again?

The similarity between the work of Chicago-based designer Stevie Koerner, aka imakeshinythings, and a recently-launched line of jewelry from Urban Outfitters, appears too close to be an accident. This is not the first time the fashion chain has been accused of ripping off indie designers.

Above: Urban Outfitters' line at left, Stevie Koerner's at right. More on Stevie's blog.

(via Submitterator, thanks Jack Crosby) Read the rest

Judgment Day Open Thread: How are you planning to celebrate The Rapture on May 21?

[Video Link]

Judgment Day is upon us: tomorrow, Saturday May 21, at 6pm local time, according to this gentleman. Are you planning to leave this earthly plane and join The Lord, or are you planning to observe the day in some other fashion? Read the rest

Big Border Bologna Bust: U.S. seizes nearly 400 pounds of illegal Mexican meat

U.S. Customs and Border Patrol officers intercepted 385 pounds of Mexican bologna after finding the contraband luncheon meat behind the seat of a pickup truck stopped at the port of Santa Teresa, New Mexico, last Friday. I wonder how they sniffed that one out. Guess the smuggler didn't do a very good job of hiding the salami, so to speak.

"Usually officers see one or two rolls of bologna, not 35 as in this case," quoth the AP. "Officials say this marked the largest bologna bust ever recorded at the Santa Teresa crossing."

(via Submitterator thanks, Acudiva) Read the rest

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