A vase ringed with razor-sharp knives

Machinist-sculptor Chris Bathgate (previously) has unveiled his latest: a vase ringed with razor-sharp knives ("an object that mischievously demands that it be appreciated for more than its precarious utility"). Read the rest

"A piece of shit": Government report on Wells Fargo corruption shows top executives' direct complicity in millions of acts of fraud

Last week, the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency handed down stiff penalties for John Stumpf (previously) who was CEO of Wells Fargo during its scandal-haunted decade, during which time it stole from rich people, poor people, veterans, active-service military personnel, homeowners, small businesses, etc, as well as 2,000,000 ordinary customers who had fraudulent accounts opened in their names in order to bleed them of transaction fees, sometimes at the expense of their good credit and even their financial solvency. Under the deal, Stumpf will have to pay $17.5m in fines and cannot ever work in finance again (don't worry, he's still a multi-multi-multi millionaire). Read the rest

Podcast: The case for ... cities that aren't dystopian surveillance states

For my latest podcast, I read my Guardian Cities column, "The case for ... cities that aren't dystopian surveillance states," which was the last piece ever commissioned for the section. Read the rest

Listen: loudspeakers broadcast corona virus closure messages to the empty streets of Shanghai Disneyland

Deutsche Welle's footage of the empty entrance plaza of Shanghai Disneyland as the PA system broadcasts a message that the park is "temporarily closed" for "prevention and control of the disease outbreak" is indeed "straight out of a Hollywood horror movie," as the caption says. Read the rest

Amazon threatened to fire two tech workers who spoke about climate and Amazon's business, then 357 more workers joined them

Last October, two Amazon employees -- Maren Costa (UX designer) and Jamie Kowalski (software engineer) spoke on the record to the Washington Post about their employer's complicity in the climate crisis, including the provision of cloud computing services to energy company in search of new sources of fossil fuels. Read the rest

Climate denial has destroyed the libertarian movement

Leading libertarian intellectuals are now disavowing the label (Tyler Cowan says he's now a "State Capacity Libertarian") thanks to the total failure of libertarianism to cope with climate change. Read the rest

Why I won't buy an Ipad: ten years later

Ten years ago, Apple released the Ipad. I was in a hotel room in Seattle, jetlagged and awake at 4AM while my wife and daughter slept. Read the rest

One of the CIA's waterboarding torturers called himself "The Preacher" and shouted religious nonsense while performing executions

More word from the ongoing attempt to bring the people responsible for years of CIA torture to justice: one of the three waterboarding specialists at Guantanamo was called "The Preacher" because while he was drowning suspects to the point of near death, he "would at random times put one hand on the forehead of a detainee, raise the other high in the air, and in a deep Southern drawl say things like, 'Can you feel it, son? Can you feel the spirit moving down my arm, into your body?'" Read the rest

The privacy-invading, junk science "home DNA test" industry is cratering

Home genetics tests purport to tell you what percentage of your ancestry comes from which places, an incoherent, unscientific fraud that perpetuates ridiculous eugenic myths. But that's not all: when you take one of these tests, you nonconsensually opt your family into perpetual, global genetic surveillance (and it's not like they can opt out afterwards by changing their DNA). Read the rest

Brexit means the UK will shelve the EU Copyright Directive (for now)

Last year, the EU adopted the incredibly controversial Copyright Directive (it passed by only five votes, and afterwards 10 MEPs said they'd got confused and pushed the wrong buttons!): now, EU member states have to create rules that require online platforms to filter all user-generated content and block it if it matches a secret, unaccountable blacklist of supposedly copyrighted works; and to allow news sites to veto or charge for links to their articles. Read the rest

Two years after a federal law banning shackling women during childbirth was passed, prisoners in America are still giving birth in chains

In 2010, the UN adopted a rule regarding incarcerated pregnant women: "instruments of restraint shall never be used … during labour, during birth and immediately after birth." In 2018, the Federal First Step Act banned shackling pregnant women, women giving birth, and women caring for newborns; but the law does not extend to local and state jails, where 85% of the incarcerated women in America are locked up. Read the rest

Andrew Cuomo's naked hostility drives out MTA president Andy Byford, the "Train Daddy" who has transformed the world's rail systems

Andy Byford comes from generations of public transportation workers and worked his way from a London Underground platform supervisor to running multiple British rail lines; then went to Australia where he oversaw Railcorp in NSW; then to Toronto, where he ran a successful five-year initiative that turned the TTC into the American Public Transportation Association's Outstanding Transit System of the Year -- and then he moved to New York City, to turn around the ailing MTA. Read the rest

Fatal car wrecks are correlated with stock-market fluctuations

Writing in The Journal of Health Economics, three economists claim (Sci Hub mirror) that "a one standard deviation reduction in daily stock market returns is associated with a 0.6% increase in fatal car accidents that happen after the stock market opening" and that this is robust across "a battery of falsification tests." Read the rest

Banks have returned to the pre-2008 world of automatic credit-limit increases for credit cards used by already indebted people

"Proactive credit line increases" (PCLIs) are when your credit card company increases your credit limit without your asking for it; it was very common prior to the 2008 crisis, but the post-crisis rules largely put a stop to it. Now, banks have figured out regulatory loopholes that allow them to throw PCLIs at their most vulnerable customers, leading to record-high national levels of credit-card debt of $880b as of last September, higher than the pre-crisis high. Read the rest

Cheating term-paper-for-pay businesses recruited customers through subsidized on-campus parties

Companies like Edubirdie offer platforms for academic cheating, connecting freelance essay-writers with desperate students who pay hundreds of dollars to have their academic papers ghostwritten for them. Edubirdie has recruited customers with on-campus "epic parties" which offered organizers $250, along with branded cups and a standee with the company's mascot, in exchange for posting five or more photos of students posed with the standee and hashtagged with #EduBirdieParty. The organizer whose party that received the most attention would get $3,000 and a 2-hour DJ set. Read the rest

The cum-ex scam stole $60b from European tax authorities: it's monumentally boring, complicated, and very, very important

Cum-ex (previously) is a technical, boring financial engineering technique that lets fraudsters file multiple tax-refund claims for the same stock transactions (they called it "dividend arbitrage"); from 2006-2011, the EU's largest, most respectable banks, law firms, and investors used the scam to steal $60,000,000,000. Read the rest

Chicago PD's predictive policing tool has been shut down after 8 years of catastrophically bad results

In 2012, Chicago PD collaborated with the RAND Corporation and the Illinois Institute of Technology to automatically generate "risk scores" for people they arrested, which were supposed to predict the likelihood that the person would be a "party to violence" in the future (this program was called "TRAP" -- Targeted Repeat-Offender Apprehension Program" -- seemingly without a shred of irony). Now, that program has been shut down, and the City of Chicago's Office of the Inspector General has published a damning report on its eight-year reign, revealing the ways in which the program discriminated against the people ensnared in it, without reducing violent crime. Read the rest

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