The first-ever mandatory California drug price report reveals Big Pharma's farcical price-gouging

In 2017, California passed a state law mandating disclosure of wholesale drug prices, something the Big Pharma companies fought tooth and nail. Now, the first of those disclosures has taken place, and it reveals spectacular levels of price-gouging from the pharmaceutical industry's greediest monopolists: an overall rise of 25.8% in the median drug price since 2017. Read the rest

The far right is dominating the information wars through "keyword signaling"

It's an old story: someone searches Google for a common keyword -- "jews," "women," "black people" -- and gets back a bunch of far-right conspiracist/genocidal garbage; Google gets embarrassed, twiddles some search-weighting knobs, and the results change. Read the rest

Medallion Status: comparison is the thief of joy, and John Hodgman is the thief-taker

John Hodgman's last book, Vacationland, was a kind of absurdist memoir of a weird kid who'd grown up to the kind of self-aware grownup who really wanted to dig into how he got to where he was, with bone-dry wit and real heart (I compared it to Steve Martin's Cruel Shoes, but for adults who'd outgrown it); in his new book, Medallion Status: True Stories from Secret Rooms, Hodgman offers something much more uncomfortable (if no less funny), a series of vignettes that explore the hollowness of privilege, the toxicity of comparison, and the melancholy of accomplishment. Read the rest

Podcast: False Flag

In my latest podcast (MP3), I read my Green European Journal short story about the terrible European Copyright Directive which passed last March, False Flag. Published in December 2018, the story highlights the ways in which this badly considered law creates unlimited opportunities for abuse, especially censorship by corporations who've been embarassed by whistleblowers and activists.

The crew couldn’t even supply their videos to friendly journalists to rebut the claims from the big corporate papers. Just *linking* to a major newspaper required a paid license, and while the newspapers licensed to one another so they could reference articles in rival publications, the kinds of dissident, independent news outlets that had once provided commentary and analysis of what went into the news and what didn’t had all disappeared once the news corporations had refused to license the right to link to them.

Agata spoke with a lawyer she knew, obliquely, in guarded hypotheticals, and the lawyer confirmed what she’d already intuited.

“Your imaginary friend has no hope. They’d have to out themselves in order to file a counterclaim, tell everyone their true identity and reveal that they were behind the video. Even so, it would take six months to get the platforms to hear their case, and by then the whole story would have faded from the public eye. And if they *did* miraculously get people to pay attention again? Well, the fakers would just get the video taken offline again. It takes an instant for a bot to file a fake copyright claim.

Read the rest

Kickstarting a deluxe "Dracula" edition in a suitcase full of "primary source materials" from the novel

Josh O'Neill writes, "We're doing a box set edition of Dracula in which we reconstitute the novel into the primary source documents from which it's drawn: Mina's diary, Lucy's letters, Dailygraph newspaper clippings, even an actual phonograph record from Dr. Seward. It comes in a suitcase. Or a wooden casket or stone crypt, depending on the edition." Read the rest

What it would cost to build Trump's snake-and-alligator border moat

Earlier this month, we learned that one of the most enduring frustrations of Trump's presidency is that no one will take his suggestion of building a moat filled with man-eating alligators and poisonous snakes along the US border (something he's been talking up for at least 35 years!). Read the rest

German bank robber staged a 5-day fillibuster with his legally guaranteed right to a post-sentencing "final word"

German law allows convicted criminals to deliver a "final word" ("Schlusswort") in court after their sentencing; this right is typically waived or used to deliver a few words of apology and remorse, but when a Hamburg court sentenced 71-year-old bank robber Michael Jauernik to 12 years in jail, he used his "final word" to speak for five solid days. Read the rest

Apple told TV Plus showrunners to avoid plots that might upset Chinese officials

In early 2018, Apple SVP of internet software and services Eddy Cue and SVP of internet software and services Morgan Wandell instructed TV creators it had commissioned to produce content for Apple TV Plus to avoid plots and scenarios that held China and the Chinese state up in a critical light. Read the rest

China's new cybersecurity rules ban foreign companies from using VPNs to phone home

For decades, it was a commonplace in western business that no one could afford to ignore China: whatever problems a CEO might have with China's human rights record could never outweigh the profits to be had by targeting the growing Chinese middle-class. Read the rest

Orban humiliated: Hungary's crypto-fascist Fidesz party suffers string of municipal election defeats

Viktor Orban and his far-right, xenophobic, conspiratorial Fidesz party have led Hungary through a string of catastrophes, from its handling of Middle Eastern migrants to its ouster of the internationally famous Central European University to the passage of a slave labor bill that allowed employers to require hundreds of hours of mandatory overtime that needn't be paid for for years to the creation of a parallel system of partisan "administrative courts" to investigate government corruption and electoral fraud. Read the rest

Proof-of-concept supply-chain poisoning: tiny, undetectable hardware alterations could compromise corporate IT

A little over a year ago, Bloomberg stunned the world with a report that claimed that Chinese intelligence services had figured out how to put undetectable, rice-grain-sized hardware implants into servers headed for the biggest US cloud and enterprise IT firms, and that when some of the victims discovered this fact, they quietly ripped out whole data-centers and replaced all their servers. Read the rest

AT&T hikes business customers' bills by up to 7%, charging them to recoup its own property taxes

AT&T business customers, including those who've been promised a locked-in rate inclusive of all taxes and fees, are finding "property tax" surcharges on their bills of up to 7%. These charges represent an attempt by AT&T to pass on the property taxes it pays on its own offices and other facilities to its customers. Read the rest

Google continues to funnel vast sums to notorious climate deniers

Google and the other big tech companies are some of the most lavish funders of climate denial "think tanks" and lobbying groups, something they've been at continuously for more than six years, without interruption. Read the rest

Mayor accused of failing to fullfil road maintenance promises is dragged through the streets by angry voters

Jorge Luis Escandón Hernández was elected mayor of Las Margaritas, Chiapas after he promised to repair city's rural roads, in a chaotic campaign that included accusations of a "brawl" with his opponent's supporters. Read the rest

CBC sues Canada's Conservative Party for using short debate clips in campaign materials

Canada's Conservative Party is terrible, and it has terrible policies, and it will be terrible for Canada if they are elected. I already voted against them with my mail-in ballot. That said, the CBC is 100% wrong to sue the Tories for copyright infringement over the inclusion of short debate clips in Conservative campaign websites and tweets. Read the rest

A plugin to force Twitter to respect your settings and stop showing you "top" tweets

Twitter has a setting that (nominally) allows you to turn off its default of showing you "top" tweets (as selected by its engagement-maximizing, conflict-seeking algorithm), but periodically, Twitter just ignores that setting and starts nonconsensually eyeball-fucking you with inflammatory headlines. Read the rest

Celebrate tomorrow's Day Against DRM with a dustjacket that demands the right to read

Greg from the Free Software Foundation writes, "Celebrate Saturday's International Day Against DRM with this shareable "dead tree" book dust jacket!" Read the rest

More posts