RIP, Little Free Library founder Todd H. Bol

Todd Bol died yesterday of fast-moving cancer at the age of 62, less than a month after receiving his diagnosis; he was the founder of the wildly successful Little Free Library movement (previously). Read the rest

Kickstarting the Makerphone: an open-source hardware phone kit, programmable with python and Scratch

Circuitmess's fully funded Makerphone kickstarter is raising money to produce open source hardware smartphone kits to teach kids (and grownups) everything from soldering to programming. Read the rest

Portals of London: urban exploration to discover gateways to alternative universe

Salim Fadhley writes, "Portals of London, an urban exploration blog, presents an alternative geography of London. It's a catalog of the weird, decrepit and slightly crumpled - things the author posits might plausibly be portals to alternative universes, but then again might not." Read the rest

A bot has been finding bugs and submitting patches for them, successfully masquerading as a human

Repairnator is a bot that identifies bugs in open source software integration and creates patches without human intervention, submitting them to the open source project's maintainers under an assumed human identity; it has succeeded in having five of its patches accepted so far. Read the rest

Apple's new parental control: Daily Stormer is in, sex-ed is out

The new parental controls in Ios 12 have all the same problems that all parental controls have: they overblock legit material (with a bias for sex-ed, especially sex-ed targeted at girls and queer kids, including Teen Vogue) and underblock all kinds of other material (neo-Nazi publications like The Daily Stormer and Reddit's pornographic /r/Gonewild are not blocked). Read the rest

Robin "Sourdough" Sloan is using a machine-learning autocomplete system to write his next novel

Robin Sloan is a programmer and novelist whose books like Sourdough and Mr Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore are rich and evocative blends of self-aware nerdy playfulness and magical speculation. Read the rest

An interactive map of China's wildcat strikes

China's move into a "mixed economy" has created a wealth inequality crisis to rival any nation's; wildcat workers' strikes (aided by Young Communist movements) have become increasingly common, though they are not often reported in the news (it helps that Chinese state media and the country's official censors suppress these reports). Read the rest

California tenants receive rent-hike threats that will only be rescinded if rent-control initiative fails

Tenants in California have received threatening letters from their landlords promising massive rent hikes if Proposition 10 (previously), which restores rent control, passes. Read the rest

Wanna get into Harvard? Just ask your parents to donate a building.

A batch of internal Harvard admission-related emails have come into the public domain as part of a lawsuit alleging that Harvard discriminates against Asian applicants, and they reveal that the admissions process is tilted in favor of members of families who are major donors to Harvard. Read the rest

A data-driven look at the devastating efficacy of a far-right judge-education program

More than 40% of US federal judges have attended Manne seminars, a notionally "bipartisan" educational conference presented by a Florida "Law and Economics" institute whose invited ideological allies explained to judges why pollution is good for minorities (polluted neighborhoods are cheaper and therefore affordable by poor people), unions are bad, monopolies are economically efficient, discrimination in punishment is economically efficient, insider trading is economically efficient, and so on. Read the rest

Helm: A home network email server appliance to redecentralize the web

Helm is a startup making a $500 home gadget that replaces Gmail and Google Calendar, letting you control your own email and coordination; its founders have deep information security backgrounds, and plan to make money by charging an annual $100 management fee. Read the rest

Compression could be machine learning's "killer app"

Pete Warden (previously) writes persuasively that machine learning companies could make a ton of money by turning to data-compression: for example, ML systems could convert your speech to text, then back into speech using a high-fidelity facsimile of your voice at the other end, saving enormous amounts of bandwidth in between. Read the rest

US veterans operate in Yemen as mercenary assassins for Middle Eastern autocrats

The mercenary squads who carry out targeted assassinations in Yemen on behalf of the autocratic rulers of the UAE are composed of US veterans from elite units like the Green Berets, Navy SEALs, CIA "ground branch" and the special forces of the Maryland Army National Guard, working for the US-based mercenary company Spear Operations Group. Some of the mercenaries are reportedly still US military reservists, others have US top secret clearance. Read the rest

Slaves - including children - make the bricks for Cambodia's housing bubble

Two bedroom apartments in Phnom Penh start at $260,000 -- equivalent to 2,000 years' worth of average annual wages for Cambodia's workers. Read the rest

Deleting Facebook is not enough: without antitrust, the company will be our lives' "operating system"

Facebook is the poster-child for the techlash, the worst offender in the monopolistic bunch, and recent books like Antisocial Media: How Facebook Disconnects Us and Undermines Democracy by Siva Vaidhyanathan (previously) and Ten Arguments for Deleting Your Social Media Accounts Right Now by Jaron Lanier present variations on the main critiques of Facebook with some prescriptions for what to do about it. Read the rest

Nobel-winning economist Joe Stiglitz on how the US economy became a "rigged, inherited plutocracy" and how to fix it

Writing in Scientific American (!), Nobel-prize-winning economist Joseph E Stiglitz (previously) describes the US economy as an "inherited plutocracy" that's "rigged" to shift an ever-greater share of the national wealth to the very richest people: Stiglitz blames the rigging on Ronald Reagan's dismantling of antitrust enforcement, inheritance tax, and other progressive measures 40 years ago -- and says that the orthodox economic apologists for economists who attribute inequality to globalism or other factors are wrong and unsupported by evidence. Read the rest

City of Seattle's official tow partner impounded a homeless woman's stolen car and wanted $21,634 to give it back

Update: An earlier version of this article misidentified Dick's Towing of Everett as the Dick's Towing of Seattle involved this this story. I apologize to Dick's of Everett for the error.

Seattle is in the grips of a dire housing emergency (though the city has money to burn when it comes to subsidizing multi-billion-dollar sports teams); Amanda Ogle is one of the many people in Seattle living out of a car, in her case, a 1991 Camry. Read the rest

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