TSA: "please verify that your used cane is not a sword before flying"

Kevin Underhill nails it: "Anyone who does not know their cane conceals a sword or dagger (almost certainly an elderly or disabled person with a second-hand cane) poses no threat, while anyone who does know it will not need, want, or follow this advice."

Keurig's K-Cup coffee DRM cracked


When they unveiled the stupid idea of locking out competitors' coffee-pods, I predicted this would happen, and I still wonder if Keurig will be dumb enough to bring a test-case that makes some good law; after all, they are a good candidate for Battle Station Most Likely to Have a Convenient Thermal Exhaust Port.

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EU wants Google to extend "right to be forgotten" to global users


Right now, Google blocks "forgotten" articles on EU versions of its site.

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Ocala, FL criminalizes sagging pants

If you're on city property and your pants hang more than 2" below your "natural waistline," you face a $500 fine, and for repeat offenders, jail.

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UK cinemas ban Google Glass from screenings


UK cinema exhibitors -- which already makes a practice of recklessly confiscating mobile phones full of sensitive, unprotected data during preview screenings -- have announced that it will not allow Google Glass wearers into cinemas, lest they commit an act of piracy (Glass has a 45 minute battery life when in recording mode).

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North Korea threatens "merciless" war against the US over Seth Rogen movie

North Korea has threatened "merciless" war against the USA if a James Franco and Seth Rogen comedy called "The Interview" is released. The movie involves a plot to assassinate North Korean hereditary dictator Kim Jong-un. A North Korean state spokesman called the movie an "act of war" and a "blatant act of terrorism" and "reckless US provocative insanity." The spokesman called the film's director a "gangster filmmaker" and said that North Koreans had greeted the production with "a gust of hatred and rage."

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Once there was a show called "The Hat Squad" and it was very, very stupid

I remember the day I realized that TV was controlled by idiots: the day I watched Hat Squad. It only ran for one season, but the idea that anyone green-lit such a manifestly terrible idea literally shocked my conscience. The plot: a crusty old cop adopted a multi-ethnic trio of orphans and raised them to fight crime. Now that they are grown, Buddy, Rafael and Matty go abroad in the world, wearing distinctive hats, to dispense justice.

This show was so offensively stupid that for many years I thought I must have misremembered it, but I discovered its Wikipedia page this morning and realized that it was every bit as bad as I recalled, and possibly worse. That there were people stupid enough to spend enormous amounts of money of this turd sandwich is startling, but even more startling is the realization that these people were also allowed to operate motor vehicles and (shudder) reproduce.

Clapper's ban on talking about leaks makes life difficult for crypto profs with cleared students

When James Clapper banned intelligence agency employees from discussing or acknowledging the existence of leaked docs (including the Snowden docs), he made life very hard for university professors like Matt Blaze, a security expert whose classes often have students with security clearance.

My own books -- which deal with leaks like these -- are taught at West Point at a course whose instructors include a member of US Cyber Command. I imagine a rule like this would make future inclusion on the curriculum difficult, if not impossible.

Amazon patents taking pictures of stuff on a white background


The annals of stupid, sloppy patents have a new world-beating entry: Amazon has received a patent on taking pictures of stuff on a white background. The patent's particulars specify a well-known lighting arrangement that minimizes shadows and post-production cleanup. As DIY Photography points out, there's a huge corpus of prior art on this that Amazon didn't disclose in its filing, and the USPTo appeared to have done no due diligence before giving the company a 20-year monopoly on a common studio technique.

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UK tax authority caught sneaking in plan to sell Britons' private financial records

Just weeks after a plan to sell "anonymized" sets of British health-records collapsed in the face of massive public criticism, a new plan has emerged to sell the country's tax records to companies and researchers, prompting an even more critical response. One Tory MP called the plan "borderline insane," and tax professionals are in an uproar. The plan was buried as a brief mention in the autumn budget. HMRC's defense rests on the idea that the information in the datasets will be anonymized, something that computer scientists widely believe is effectively impossible.

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On knife-crime island, teens are not allowed to buy spoons

The UK tabloid press spent a decade drumming up hysteria about teenage knife-crime, and MPs responded on cue, passing a series of meaningless, overbearing feel-good measures that require shops to refuse to sell anything knife-like to teenagers -- meaning that seventeen-year-old art students can't buy xacto blades, and 16-year-old carpenter's apprentices can't buy utility knives.

This silliness has burrowed deep into the automated systems and psyches of English society. A 16 year old boy who tried to buy a pack of teaspoons at a Tesco automated checkout was flagged for an "age check," and when an employee came to check it out, she or he explained to the teen that he was not allowed to buy any cutlery at all.

Tesco later apologised, but even the kid's stepmum says that she can understand why her stepson shouldn't be allowed to buy forks or butter knives, and the BBC story doesn't question why the state (or Tesco) should be intervening in teenagers' cutlery purchases -- why a kid who is old enough to marry and rent a flat isn't considered old enough to buy cutlery to eat with in that flat.

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Child in wet bathing suit made to stand in -5F weather because school policy forbade her from waiting in teacher's car

Kayona Hagen-Tietz, a ninth grader at Como Park High School in St Paul, MN, says she developed frostbite when she was made to stand in -5F weather wearing nothing but a wet bathing suit. She had been in swim class when the fire-bell rang, and evacuated in nothing but her wet swimsuit. Faculty offered to allow her to wait in a car, but school policy prohibits students from entering cars other than those belonging to family and their delegated help. Eventually, common sense won out, though apparently not soon enough. (via Free Range Kids) Cory 66

TSA agents demand bag-search to look for "Bitcoins"

Davi Barker was flying from Manchester, NH when, he says, he was stopped by two men who identified themselves as "managers" for the TSA, who claimed they had seen Bitcoins in his baggage and wanted to be sure he wasn't transporting more than $10,000 worth. When he asked them what they thought a Bitcoin looked like, they allegedly said that it looked like a coin or a medallion. (via Hacker News) Cory 63

TSA not sure if DC drivers licenses are valid ID

DC resident Ashley Brandt was surprised to meet a TSA agent at Phoenix airport who didn't think that DC drivers' licenses were valid ID, because DC isn't a state. Cory 42

Mall cops freak out over steampunk meetup, call the real cops


A group of steampunk cosplayers arranged to meet up at Westfield Plaza Camino Real near San Diego to ride the mall's Victorian carousel. But Westfield's mall cops were terrified of the cosplayers and evicted them all, escorting them to the door, calling the cops, and making them wait until the police arrived (the police basically shrugged and said, "Look, it's stupid, but it's their mall").

The mall cops -- and their corporate overlords -- cited a variety of dumb policies in support of the action, including a ban on wearing costumes that obscured the wearer's face (which didn't describe the cosplayers' outfits), a ban on gathering in groups larger than three (ORLY), a ban on photography without the subjects' permission (the steampunks, having gathered to have their photos taken, can be presumed to have consented to the pictures). Basically, it's a case of mall cop authoritarianism followed by the usual bland corporate doubling-down.

Of course, kids -- especially kids who happen to be brown -- already know that malls are capricious and fraught replacements for the public square. Mall cops basically hate anything that doesn't accord with their view of what a shopper should be and relentlessly discriminate against anyone they don't like. Back when I was in high school, more than half of my school had been banned from College Park, the mall in Toronto that was across the street from the school, by sneering jerks from Intercon security, who had the full backing of their management and the mall management.

The irony of ejecting people for wearing steampunk clothes in rich: malls are full of steampunk-inflected clothing, as the commodification mills of the fashion industry relentlessly mine subculture for new looks to put under glass. And here, too, is another parallel to the much more widespread discrimination against brown kids, who are often ejected on the pretense of wearing "gang" clothes -- clothes whose styles have been snaffled up, denatured, and repackaged for sale in the stores whose rent keeps the mall in business.

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