Escalator malfunction leads to injuries and arrests

After an escalator malfunctioned and reversed its course at high speed, sending shoppers sprawling into a mall concourse, two engineers called in to investigate were themselves arrested and charged with tampering with evidence.

Why were the men arrested?

Officials had called in the two technicians, who work for Otis Elevator Company, to assist in investigations hours after the incident. The escalator had been shut down and all personnel involved in the investigation were ordered not to touch it. Late on Sunday night however, officials discovered that the escalator's auxiliary braking system had been reactivated, reported local media. Newspaper Apple Daily said the reactivation could have affected the escalator's computer data records. Officials ordered police to arrest the two men on the spot.

It's important that we realize there's nothing remotely funny about that video of screaming humans piling up at the foot of a haywire escalator.

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Site turns any image into an animated waving flag

Flag Waver accepts uploaded images or URLs and turns them into an on-screen waving flag. There are advanced options for wind and hoisting! Sadly, you cannot export or save animations. Read the rest

How many towns in the world have the same name as yours?

A weirdly fascinating single-serve site: How many places are named Pittsburgh? (Spoiler: three!)

There are 15 New Yorks, 29 Londons, 53 Parises, 248 San Franciscos and 320 San Antonios. But there is only one Truth or Consequences. Read the rest

Enjoy a startling "vintage cigarette commercial" from Japan

This is presented on the viral internet as a clever 1991 cigarette commercial for "Sutaffu" cigarettes, but it appears to be from Topknot Detective, an Australian entry in the annals of Steve Oedekerk-style problematic remix humor. Note: includes child subjected to offscreen slapstick violence.

Here is an indisputably real Japanese cigarette commercial from 1991, introducing Sir Charles Sheen as himself:

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Store manager vs alleged shoplifter

KodyXO's video has everything going for it, from landscape-oriented 60fps footage to elderly ladies refereeing a wrestling match in a grocery store between a store manager and an alleged shoplifter. There's even an annoying photobomber!

EMPLOYEE: "You're shoplifting, you can't shoplift here!" THE ACCUSED: "Yeah? Why not?" EMPLOYEE: (momentarily baffled) "Wh.. Why not?"

The arrestee was reportedly charged with third-degree robbery.

Big retailers might let you walk off if the cops don't arrive in time, but stores can and do detain shoplifters. Rite-Aid's got its staffer's back, but one imagines there may be a chain-wide round of "why we just let them go" retraining days quite soon.

It's interesting to see how different media cast the events of the video. The local Hillsborough Tribune sticks to the facts, as it sees them...

The two fight over the purse, with the woman pulling, yanking and twisting in order to pry it from his grip. At one point the woman tries to punch the employee, and kicks him. He tells her that she is not allowed to shoplift in the store. Eventally the man wrestles her to the floor as she attempts to strike him.

"Ma'am, you need to chill out," a voice is heard on the video as the woman is on the ground. "You need to chill."

The woman screams "Let me go!" several times, but eventually relinquishes the purse to the employee as Washington County Sheriff's deputies arrive and arrest her. ... "You can use reasonable force to detain someone," Reimann said.

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"I didn't know there was this much green in the whole galaxy"

Anyone familiar with Star Wars or even the modern art of movie-making will know what's coming as soon as Rey says it, but it's a brilliantly effective joke. Read the rest

United Airlines bars girls in leggings from boarding flight: they're "not properly clothed"

Call it The Landmaid's Tale: two girls were barred from boarding a flight by a United Airlines agent Sunday, and the airline confirmed that leggings are against a dress policy it applies to people traveling on passes issued to employees and their dependents.

A United Airlines gate agent barred two girls from boarding a flight Sunday morning because the girls were wearing leggings.

Another girl who was wearing gray leggings had to change before she was allowed to board the flight from Denver to Minneapolis, a witness said.

“She’s forcing them to change or put dresses on over leggings or they can’t board,” Shannon Watts, who was at a gate at Denver International Airport said on Twitter. “Since when does @united police women’s clothing?”

The airline, when challenged, backed up its gate agent on Twitter.

"Casual attire is allowed as long as it looks neat and is in good taste for the local environment," tweeted a United Airlines spokesperson.

The "contract" referred to turns out to be very vague indeed, specifying only that passengers must be "properly clothed."

Later, though, United Airlines said that the girls were "United pass travelers" who are "United employees or their eligible dependents standing by on a space-available basis," meaning that the company was was applying an employee policy to someone "who was denied boarding this morning because her attire didn’t meet the United pass travel clothing requirements." Normal passengers' attire "doesn't need to meet the United pass travel clothing requirement," they wrote. Read the rest

Old Paul Ryan gaffe goes viral: "We're not going to give up on destroying the health care system"

This brainfart from the Republican speaker of the house dates to 2013, not the aftermath of his failure to pass 2017's universally-loathed Obamacare replacement plan. Snopes:

WHAT'S TRUE House Speaker Ryan said he would not give up on destroying the United States' health care system.

WHAT'S FALSE The statement was a gaffe that was taken out of context, not an actual admission of intent. ...

Although Ryan did say “we’re not going to give up on destroying the healthcare system for the American people,” this was merely a gaffe, not a statement of intent. Ryan was referring to the Affordable Care Act and his efforts to not let that law destroy the health care system.

This is fair context, but "merely a gaffe" handwaves what makes gaffes interesting. Lack of intent is not intrinsic to gaffes. Indeed, the fact gaffes tend to reveal intent is embodied by a term a journalists use for political ones to distinguish them from lesser varieties: the Kinsley Gaffe.

The first appearance in print of “Kinsley’s Law of Gaffes” may have been on January 17, 2008, when Hendrik Hertzberg wrote in a post about a Democratic candidates’ debate in his New Yorker blog: No article or blog post of this kind can be complete without a reference to (Michael) Kinsley’s Law of Gaffes, which states that a gaffe occurs when a politician accidentally tells the truth. Perhaps this should be supplemented by the notion of a Deductive Slip, meaning something a politician says, however inadvertently, that can be shoehorned into a pre-existing “narrative.”

Kinsley himself points out that in political cases, the supposed gaffe is never animated by surprise. Read the rest

Man costumed as The Joker arrested and charged with "wearing a mask in public"

The AP reports that Jeremy Putnam, 31, was arrested in Winchester, Virginia, and charged with "wearing a mask in public," a felony in that state.

He was armed with a "sword" in public, which apparently alarmed residents. But they haven't charged him with that; they've charged him with this, a fascinatingly terrible law:

§ 18.2-422. Prohibition of wearing of masks in certain places; exceptions.

It shall be unlawful for any person over 16 years of age to, with the intent to conceal his identity, wear any mask, hood or other device whereby a substantial portion of the face is hidden or covered so as to conceal the identity of the wearer...

...with specific exceptions for "traditional holiday costumes," protective or medical masks, or ones for a "bona fide theatrical production or masquerade ball."

Putnam is being held at the Northwestern Regional Adult Detention Center.

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Trump advisor Steve Bannon ordered conservative Republicans to vote for Trumpcare and they just laughed at him

Trumpcare went down in flames yesterday, and the flames smelled faintly of burning Trumphair. But the president's personal humiliation was shared with adviser Steve Bannon, according to reports, whose behavior around conservative Republicans made a joke of Trump's ultimatum.

Mike Allen quotes him thus:

"Guys, look. This is not a discussion. This is not a debate. You have no choice but to vote for this bill."

Bannon's point was: This is the Republican platform. You're the conservative wing of the Republican Party. But people in the room were put off by the dictatorial mindset.

One of the members replied: "You know, the last time someone ordered me to something, I was 18 years old. And it was my daddy. And I didn't listen to him, either."

Bannon's already plotting his revenge, reports Asawin Suebsaeng.

The general consensus seems to be that the failure to replace Obamacare is unexpectedly bad for both president and GOP: he's exposed as a crêpe leopard, and them as a bunch of unprincipled bickering morons with nothing to show for 7 years' empty ranting about Obamacare. Read the rest

"Obamacare is law of the land" as replacement fails in House

Republicans withdrew Trump's favored legislative plan to replace Obamacare on Friday, understanding that they lacked the votes to pass it in the House of Representatives. This despite the president's threat to leave Obamacare as law of the land if they did not give the American Health Care Act an up-or-down hearing today.

The GOP bill—a comically mangled "Obamacare Lite" stripped of everything people like about the original and little that they don't—held only a 17% public approval rating, according to a Quinnipiac poll. It attempted to please both conservatives, who want unfettered profitability for insurance companies, and GOP moderates, who are wary of killing quite so many poor people as this would entail.

Trump, however, made clear that he isn't blaming House Speaker Paul Ryan for its failure.

Run, Paul. Run!

Update:

The GOP's health care bill to repeal and replace the Affordable Health Care Act was scheduled for a House vote today, but was withdrawn just before. In an address, Speaker Paul Ryan said "we were close, but not quite there" and said that the United States would be living with Obamacare "for the foreseeable future."
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UK court refuses to let wife divorce husband, tells her unhappiness is to be expected in marriage

In Britain, grounds for divorce are quite specific: adultery, desertion, "unreasonable behavior", the agreement of both parties or five years separation. An appeals court has therefore affirmed another judge's ruling that Tini Owens, 66, is not otherwise permitted to divorce her husband of 39 years.

Judge Robin Tolson ruled against Mrs Owens in the family court last year, concluding that her allegations were "of the kind to be expected in marriage" and refused to grant a divorce petition.

Three appeal judges, led by Sir James Munby, the most senior family court judge in England and Wales, analysed the case at a hearing in London on Tuesday.

Philip Marshall QC, representing Mrs Owens, told the court that the "vast majority" of divorces were undefended in 21st Century England.

He said: "It is extraordinarily unusual in modern times for a court to dismiss a petition for divorce."

She said the marriage was loveless, desperately unhappy, and that she was left in a wretched state by his manner, tone, insensitivity and mistrust.

Her complaint reads like the script of a grim British cringe-humor sitcom: yelling at her in an airport after her failure to buy the right crystal tchotchke from duty free; nasty remarks during dinner with guests; endless passive-aggressive sighing and tutting, etc.

He reprimanded the Respondent saying, “can I say something without you flying off the handle? I have said this before that when you put cardboard in the skip, do it properly and not without any thought about what will happen to it.
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The BBC is using this excellent photo of Trump for everything

It's not even clear where it's from, but alongside various stories about Trump's healthcare legislation woes, it's been on the BBC News homepage for what, two days now? For this morning's one, they've started zooming into it. By tomorrow, if the legislation has yet to pass, we'll be inside his weird angry tired mouth.

If someone could figure out the source (it doesn't seem to be Reuters) that would be fabulous. I've used a fractal image enhancement application to make this 2600-pixel wide enlargement, but it's just not the same as a nice raw wire shot.

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Humiliated Trump issues ultimatum to GOP: pass healthcare act now or I'll never repeal Obamacare

Trump, his deal-making skills having failed him, simply ordered his party Thursday night to pass his unappetizing Obamacare replacement plan, or else. And the "else" is Obamacare, forever and ever and ever.

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Senate votes to allow ISPs to collect and sell personal data without permission

In a party-line split, the U.S. Senate today voted to allow internet service providers to retain personal data without permission and sell it to whomever might pay for it.

The Senate voted 50:48 in favor of S.J. 34, which would remove the rules and, under the authority of the Congressional Review Act, prevent similar rules from being enacted. It now heads to the House for approval.

“If signed by the President, this law would repeal the FCC’s widely-supported broadband privacy framework, and eliminate the requirement that cable and broadband providers offer customers a choice before selling their sensitive, personal information,” said FCC Commissioner Mignon Clyburn and FTC Commissioner Terrell McSweeny in a joint statement.

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Conservative trolls pretending to be black on Twitter "sad" and "obvious"

A sharp increase in right-wingers pretending to be black on Twitter as they troll people has been noted.

"I'm used to trolling, and it doesn't bother me, but the idea of a black woman selling her sons out to police with everything we know now was so sad to me that I couldn't wrap my mind around it. And the idea that anyone — let alone a black person — could say Emmett Till deserved to die is just so beyond the pale," he said.

Over the past few months, Black Twitter has noticed an increase in the number of white trolls creating fake Twitter accounts. Newkirk says he first noticed this around election time last year, when people began posting directions on how to create these fake accounts on websites and forums.

This sounds like a play-for-play repeat of a strategy defined during the gamergate imbroglio: a generic female name, a googled cutesy avatar and a comically idealized personality that supposedly will bring the enemy to their knees but which convinces no-one but fellow believers. "All very cartoonish," as Newkirk describes.

...one of the common mistakes trolls make is misusing or overusing African-American Vernacular English. "It's not just that they get the rules of AAVE wrong — both the spoken and written conventions — they also don't code switch the way black people do. Not a lot of effort goes into these accounts, in my honest opinion," Rosenbaum says.

Likewise, the gamergate-era trolls would mix up various strata of queer theory and feminism in precisely the same uncannily comical way. Read the rest

The Commodore 64's "secret colours"

Commodore's C64 had a famously decisive, if drab set of 16 colors to choose from, a note of artistic intent amid the unthinking mathematical extremities of other 8-bit color palettes. But did you know there were secret colors? Aaron Bell writes up a discovery that blew his mind many years ago and which, 26 years later, he's finally figured out.
If you swap two colours rapidly enough - say at 50 or 60 frames per second - you can fool the eye into seeing something that isn't there. On a machine with sixteen colours, just one or two extra can add a lot to a scene. Since today we all live in the future and you are reading a fully programmable document on a supercomputer, let's try it.

The sad part is that the trick doesn't work for most pairings due to the obvious strobing/flickering effect it generates. But now wily coders can add a whole host of new grays to their vivid Commodore palettes. ("The tartan for the clan McPuke" is definitely the best description of the C64 palette I've ever read. I doubt it'll be topped.)

I read somewhere this is more or less what's done on cheapo monitors to make you think you're getting 24-bit color.

Previously: How the hell did they get 1024 colors out of a 1981 PC? Read the rest

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