Did the US try to weaponize ticks?

The US House passed an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) that orders the Inspector General of the Department of Defense to "conduct a review of whether the Department of Defense experimented with ticks and other insects regarding use as a biological weapon between the years of 1950 and 1975." The amendment was spearheaded by New Jersey Republican Rep. Chris Smith. From CBS News:

The theory, which sounds like something straight out of a science fiction novel, contends that bioweapon specialists packed ticks with pathogens that could cause severe disabilities, disease and death among potential enemies to the homeland. Smith said he was inspired to add the amendment to the annual defense bill by "a number of books and articles suggesting that significant research had been done at U.S. government facilities including Fort Detrick, Maryland and Plum Island, New York to turn ticks and other insects into bioweapons."

Those books, however, have been questioned by some experts who dismiss long-held conspiracy theories that the federal government aided the spread of tick-borne diseases, and federal agencies, including the CDC, may have participated in a cover-up of sorts to conceal findings about the spread of Lyme disease.

Here's the amendment.

image: "Chelicera of the sheep tick" by Richard Bartz (CC) Read the rest

VIDEO: Activists vow to 'shut down' ICE headquarters in Washington, DC

Human rights activists in Washington DC who oppose the Trump administration's racist policies against mostly Mexican and Central American refugees at the southern border protested at ICE headquarters in the nation's capital today. Read the rest

Onion becomes reality: '82-Year-Old New Jersey Congressman Bill Pascrell Quietly Asks Ilhan Omar If He Can Be Part Of The Squad'

SPOILER: He's now in #TheSquad.

Did Donald Trump's racist tweets violate federal laws against workplace discrimination?

When President Trump said on Sunday that "'Progressive' Democratic Congresswomen" should “go back and help fix the totally broken and crime infested places from which they came,” was he violating federal workplace discrimination law?

We aren't lawyers and we don't know, but here's something relevant from the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission website, “Immigrants' Employment Rights Under Federal Anti-Discrimination Laws” —

Ethnic slurs and other verbal or physical conduct because of nationality are illegal if they are severe or pervasive and create an intimidating, hostile or offensive working environment, interfere with work performance, or negatively affect job opportunities. Examples of potentially unlawful conduct include insults, taunting, or ethnic epithets, such as making fun of a person's foreign accent or comments like, "Go back to where you came from, " whether made by supervisors or by co-workers.

HT: @nick_ramsey

Read the rest

Kickstarting "The Decline of Mall Civilization," a sequel to the long-out-of-print "Malls Across America" book

Michael Galinsky's 2011 photo-book "Malls Across America" went out of print quickly and now sells for upwards of $1000/copy; Galinsky is now kickstarting a sequel, The Decline of Mall Civilization, featuring 112 pages of images of American malls from 1989. Read the rest

How F Scott Fitzgerald conjugated the verb "To cocktail"

F Scott Fitzgerald, in a 1928 letter to Blanche Knopf: "As ‘cocktail,’ so I gather, has become a verb, it ought to be conjugated at least once." (via JWZ) Read the rest

Great deal on a 6.5-inch Lodge cast iron skillet

This 6.5-inch Lodge cast iron skillet is on sale at a bargain price on Amazon today for Read the rest

When Trump's #TaxScam meant that affluent people no longer had to use the paid version of Turbotax, Turbotax started charging poor people, disabled people, students and elderly people

In most countries, you don't have to pay an accountant to prepare your tax return: the government already knows how much you made, so every year they just send you a pre-filled in form to check over and sign. Read the rest

How Wechat censors images in private chats

Citizen Lab has expanded its analysis of how censorship and filtering work on Chinese social media (previously). In (Can’t) Picture This 2 An Analysis of WeChat’s Realtime Image Filtering in Chats , researchers probe and document how Wechat complies with Chinese state censorship policies in private chats. Read the rest

Tennessee police to drug users: don't flush your dope or you'll create "meth gators"

Following a raid where they caught a suspect flushing evidence down the toilet Loretto, Tennessee Police Department has asked the citizenry to refrain from flushing dope due to the potential risks to local wildlife, including the possibility of creating "meth gators." Read the rest

Here's Robert Hazard's "Girls Just Wanna Have Fun" from 1979, four years before Cyndi Lauper's cover

Musician Robert Hazard (1948-2008) wrote and recorded "Girls Just Wanna Have Fun" on a demo tape in 1979. Four years later, Cyndi Lauper covered it and it made her famous.

From Wikipedia:

The song was written by Robert Hazard, who recorded only a demo of it in 1979. Hazard's version was written from a male point of view. Lauper's version appeared on her 1983 debut solo record, She's So Unusual. The track is a synthesizer-backed anthem, from a feminist point of view, conveying the point that all women really want is to have the same experiences that men can. Gillian G. Gaar, author of She's a Rebel: The History of Women in Rock & Roll (2002), described the single and corresponding video as a "strong feminist statement", an "anthem of female solidarity" and a "playful romp celebrating female camaraderie."

[via r/ObscureMedia ] Read the rest

Complete run of MAKE magazine on archive.org

I was part of the team that launched MAKE: (a technology project magazine) and served as its editor-in-chief for 12 wonderful years. I just found out that archive.org has a searchable archive of all past MAKE: issues. Enjoy! Read the rest

People in Japan are renting cars, but not to drive them anywhere

Orix Auto charges $4 to rent a car for 30 min. The car-sharing company has more than 12,000 parking places, so cars are readily available. Orix learned that a large number of its 230,000 users rent cars and don't drive them anywhere. So they looked into it and discovered that people were using them to take naps, eat lunch, do work, change clothes, recharge cell phones, and store things (when storage lockers at train stations weren't available).

From Asahi:

"I rented a car to eat a boxed meal that I bought at a convenience store because I couldn't find anywhere else to have lunch,"said a 31-year-old male company employee who lives in Saitama Prefecture, close to Tokyo.

“Usually the only place I can take a nap while visiting my clients is a cybercafe in front of the station, but renting a car to sleep in is just a few hundred yen (several dollars), almost the same as staying in the cybercafe.”

Easy accessibility is a big advantage of car-sharing services. Customers can reserve vehicles any time 24 hours a day on their smartphones for immediate use.

Image: Orix Auto Corp.

[via The Verge] Read the rest

Robots made from tree branches learns how to walk

Made from servo motors and tree branches, these robots were trained to successfully walk across the floor. Read the paper. (The project was undertaken by Preferred Networks of Japan, which also made this cool website called Paintschainer that colors black and white images using AI.)

The robots were trained with "deep reinforcement learning" (DRL). Here's how VentureBeat defines DRL:

Unlike supervised machine learning, which trains models based on known-correct answers, in reinforcement learning, researchers train the model by having an agent interact with an environment. When the agent’s actions produce desired results, it gets positive feedback. For example, the agent gets a reward for scoring a point or winning a game. Put simply, researchers reinforce the agent’s good behaviors.

Image: YouTube Read the rest

Neo-Nazi ordered to pay $14MM in damages for anti-semitic "troll storm"

The founders of German National Socialist fan-site "The Daily Stormer" were ordered to pay $14MM in damages for being trollish assholes.


The founder and editor of the neo-Nazi website The Daily Stormer should be ordered to pay more than $14 million to a Montana real estate agent against whom he organized an anti-Semitic "troll storm," a federal magistrate judge found on Monday.

The judgment was filed Monday in U.S. District Court in Missoula, Montana, against Andrew Anglin, who encouraged the online intimidation campaign against Tanya Gersh, a Jewish real estate agent in the Montana resort town of Whitefish, her husband and their 12-year-old son.

In an opinion that must still be approved by U.S. District Judge Dana L. Christensen, the magistrate judge, Jeremiah C. Lynch, recommended a default judgment against Anglin, who failed to appear for a deposition in April.

But Lynch went further than finding for Gersh on procedural grounds: He recommended that Christensen order Anglin, who is in his mid-30s, to pay $4,042,438 in compensatory damages and $10 million, the maximum under state law, in punitive damages for "the particularly egregious and reprehensible nature of Anglin's conduct."

Writing about these guys the first time got me a lot of unwanted late night phonecalls. Read the rest

$12,000,000 buys Yosemite's iconic landmarks their names back

A few years ago bad dealmaking with the park concessionaire cost the National Parks Service the names of Yosemite's famous Ahwahnee Hotel, The Wawona Hotel and Curry Village. Restoring the historic names to the historic properties cost the American taxpayer $12,000,000 and legal fees.


The Ahwahnee was renamed the Majestic Yosemite Hotel after the park's former concessionaire filed a lawsuit against the National Park Service in September 2015, claiming ownership of some of the park's trade names and trademarks.

The Ahwahnee Hotel became The Majestic Yosemite Hotel. The Wawona Hotel became Big Trees Lodge. Curry Village became Half Dome Village. And Badger Pass Ski Area was renamed Yosemite Ski & Snowboard Area.

As part of a $12 million settlement signed July 15 and paid to the park's former concessionaire, names that had been changed during the lawsuit will revert to their original names.

Read the rest

It feels like this GSI 30oz french press saves my life every morning

#Vanlife would be intolerable without coffee. This GSI Glacier series 30oz 'java' press is my new best friend.

I transition back and forth from tea to coffee and spent most of the last year pounding shots of espresso. Upon moving into my VW Vanagon camper for the summer I forgot to pack either. After one day on the road my daughter, who is a mere 12-years-old, made the observation that I am a lot meaner and less fun to be around without the caffeine.

An exgirlfriend declared my old press "no good" and threw it away after trying to brew loose tea in it. It had been used for coffee for years and was of course, not good for tea.

Tea is lovely but it doesn't get the job done when camping. This 30oz french press does. I'm currently drinking pre-ground Trader Joe's medium roast, but when it is gone I'm thinking Illy or Lavazza. I used to hand grind beans when camping but the fuck if I have time for that now.

This GSI insulated press is just the right size for me to brew a pot and drink it as I get my work done in the morning. The coffee stays hot for the 3-4 hours I am working, and always seems to be empty just when I am done typing away.

Praise the press.

GSI Outdoors - Glacier Stainless JavaPress, 30oz Camping French Press via Amazon Read the rest

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