An appreciation for Samuel Delany

Samuel R "Chip" Delany is a science fiction pioneer: a brilliant literary stylist with dazzling ideas who was one of the field's first openly queer writers, and one of the first Black writers accepted into the field. He is one of the fathers of afrofuturism. Read the rest

More than 20 Texas cities and towns have been taken hostage by ransomware

The American ransomware epidemic shows no signs of slowing, as the confluence of underinvestment in IT and information security and the NSA's reckless stockpiling of computer vulnerabilities means that petty criminals can extort vast sums from distant municipalities by seizing their entire networked infrastructure. Read the rest

Owner of Phoenix apartment building serves eviction notices to every tenant so he can turn their homes into unlicensed hotel rooms

Like many large US cities, Phoenix has a housing shortage and like many US cities, that crisis is worsened by the conversion of much of its housing stock into unlicensed hotel rooms through companies like Airbnb, VRBO, and Wanderjaunt, a new competitor in the unlicensed hotel room industry. Read the rest

Ecofascism isn't new: white supremacy and exterminism have always lurked in the environmental movement

It's easy to think of climate denial as a right-wing phenomenon, but a growing and ultra-violent strain of white-nationalism also embraces climate science, in the worst way possible. Read the rest

A cycle of renewal, broken: How Big Tech and Big Media abuse copyright law to slay competition

As long we've had electronic mass media, audiences and creators have benefited from periods of technological upheaval that force old gatekeepers to compete with brash newcomers with new ideas about what constitutes acceptable culture and art. Those newcomers eventually became gatekeepers themselves, who then faced their own crop of revolutionaries. But today, the cycle is broken: as media, telecoms, and tech have all grown concentrated, the markets have become winner-take-all clashes among titans who seek to dominate our culture, our discourse and our communications. Read the rest

The TSA strip searched a grandmother on Mother's Day and now says that she's overreacting because it's no different from a locker room

Last Mother's Day, grandmother Rhonda Mengert was subjected to a pat-down search at Tulsa airport, wherein a TSA agent felt a panty-liner in her underwear; she was then forced to strip down and show her panty-liner to a female TSA agent. Naturally, she filed suit against the TSA. Read the rest

Congrats to the winners of the 2019 Hugo! Kowal, Wells, Cho, Harrow, Chambers, AO3, Liu, Dozois, Wolfe, and more!

The 2019 World Science Fiction Convention is being held in Dublin, and tonight, the con presented the annual Hugo Awards, voted on by the attendees and supporters of this year's con. Read the rest

A new biography reveals the Koch brothers' very early role in creating organized climate denial

The Koch brothers are quite an enigma: on the one hand, they owe their vast fortune to extremely long-range planning: Charles Koch is famously contemptuous of entrepreneurs who take their companies public, believing that the public markets insist on such short timescales that they undermine real growth; and he grew his father's hydrocarbon empire by investing heavily in automation systems with extremely long amortization schedules. Read the rest

Turning a recalled children's unicorn boot into a display for endless product recall notices

Phil Torrone from Adafruit told us about Consumers Should Immediately...: "This uses a live data feed from The United States Consumer Product Safety Commission (USCPSC) to randomly display thousands of products recalled for reasons such as fire, electrocution, entrapment, choking and a variety of other unintended dangers. Every two minutes the embedded screen lists the name of the product, the identified danger, the product manufacturer, and the original recall date. The electronics are enclosed in an actual recalled children’s unicorn boot, along with an embedded rechargeable battery, allowing for an uninterrupted stream of recalled products in any location." Read the rest

Towards a better practice of online news-corrections

Dan Gillmor and the ASU News Co/Lab: "An honest admission of an error is transparency. It’s not just the right thing to do. It can enhance trust when done right. It can lead to more engagement — by which we mean deeper conversations — among journalists and people in communities." Read the rest

McMansion Hell: the Campbell County, Wyoming edition

McMansion Hell (previously) continues to tear through America's most affluent ZIP codes with trenchant commentary on realtors' listings for terrible monster homes; in the current edition, critic Kate Wagner visits Campbell County, Wyoming, home to some of the most ill-considered monstrosities in America. As always, she is laugh-aloud funny as she tackles the "Divorce Lawyer house," a 6,000 square foot house from 2002, listed for a mere $700k. Read the rest

Tech conference changes policy, rescinds requirement for chipped, unremovable bracelets for attendees

Update: Justin Reese from Abstractions writes, "policy changes were implemented last night and additional changes were made this morning."

He adds, "The article was also inaccurate from the start by calling the wristbands surveillance devices in the title. They are only used to control access and don't track where users are or have been except in the case where the attendee has given explicit permission in their profiles to share with sponsors and completed a double opt-in by scanning their ID at the sponsor table (the read range is about 2"). Unless we receive a double opt-in, the ids on the wristband are never associated with a user. It is no more a surveillance device than any other conference badge. I'd appreciate a retraction of this inaccuracy and an update regarding our policies."

Reese is correct that the manufacturers design RFID chips to be read from inches; however, that doesn't mean that they can't be read from longer distances (for example, distant, directional antennas can read them at longer distances while they are being energized by a nearby reader). Likewise, the idea that users can't be identified from persistent, anonymous identifiers is incorrect.

It's a pretty good example of how a thin understanding of privacy issues in wireless technologies and statistical analysis can result in selecting authentication systems that expose users to privacy risks.

Sumana Harihareswara (previously) writes, "The Abstractions tech conference (Aug 21-23, in Pittsburgh) doesn't tell attendees this before they buy a ticket, but attendance requires you wear their wristband with an embedded tracking chip -- and that you don't take it off at night or in the shower till the conference ends. Read the rest

The case for allowing children to vote

Writing on Crooked Timber, John Quiggin (previously) responds to the epidemic of elderly reactionaries piling vitriol and violent rhetoric on the child activist Greta Thunberg and asks, why not let kids vote? Read the rest

Washington state rep Matt Shea secretly backed and organized terror-training camps to create child soldiers to fight in a race war

Leaked emails reveal that Washington state rep Matt Shea has "close ties" with Team Rugged, a white nationalist/Christian fundamentalist terror organization that trains children, teens and young men to fight in an apocalyptic race-war against Muslims and communists. Read the rest

Call for boycott after the actor who played Mulan in the reboot supports Hong Kong's brutal police crackdown on pro-democracy protestors

Crystal Liu is the actor who plays Mulan in Disney's live-action reboot; on Weibo, she has been publishing messages in support of the Hong Kong police, who have been brutally attacking pro-Democracy protesters and tacitly collaborating with organized crime gangs. Read the rest

Check out these amazing sf movies made by Nigerian teens

The Critics Company is a collective of Nigerian teen afrofuturist filmmakers who make incredible looking, smart science fiction movies with camerawork courtesy of old, busted mobile phones and VFX generated in Blender. Read the rest

Elizabeth Warren publishes a massive, detailed plan for addressing the injustice of US relations with indigenous American peoples

Even by Elizabeth Warren's high standards, her plan for "honoring and empowering tribal nations and indigenous peoples is detailed, ambitious, and important. Read the rest

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