• Same sex and interracial marriage act passes House, heads to Biden's desk

    Thirty-nine House Republicans joined Democrats today to pass a bill giving federal protection to same-sex and interracial marriage, which was passed last week in the Senate. The law now heads to the desk of President Biden, who is eager to sign it.

    The legislation — led by Sen. Tammy Baldwin, D-Wis., the first openly gay person elected to the Senate — would assure that the federal government recognizes marriages that were validly performed and guarantee full benefits "regardless of the couple's sex, race, ethnicity, or national origin." It would not, however, require states to issue marriage licenses contrary to state law. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi was present to gavel down the vote and announce the bill's passage. Loud applause broke out on the Democratic side of the chamber, while a few Republicans joined in clapping.

    The bill repeals a Clinton-era bill "defending" marriage from homosexuality and requires states to recognize marriages from other states. But it stops short of enshrining the Supreme Court ruling in Obergefell, which forces all states to themselves peform and recognize same-sex marriage—and could be repealed by it in future.

    The right-wing backlash against gay and trans rights, however, has only led to greater support for them in the real world: a Gallup tracking poll now finds support for same-sex marriage at 71% nationwide, with "weekly churchgoers" as the "final holdouts of opposition."

  • Forbes: Elon Musk no longer world's richest person after latest Tesla stock dip Elon Musk Horse Trader

    The ongoing slide in Tesla share price means Elon Musk is no longer the world's richard person, reports Forbes. It now places Bernard Arnault, boss of French luxury brand Louis Vuitton Moët Hennessy, at number one thanks to his $185bn in assets.

    Musk, a relative pauper at only $183bn, has lately been busy running Twitter, bought for $44bn and packed with distractions. He reportedly sleeps at its San Francisco offices and has outfitted various rooms with beds for his "hardcore" team.

  • Alex Jones says he won't be paying off those verdicts

    Conspiracy theorist, huckster and carnival barker Alex Jones owes Sandy Hook parents some $1.4bn, so far, as largely uncontested libel verdicts rack up against him across the nation. He says he won't be paying the tab.

    Jones said in court filings that he needs more time to file detailed financial reports because his personal finances are "somewhat disorganized." Jones also said that he would not "give up his public life, or discontinue public discourse" as part of a bankruptcy settlement.

    Jones did not appear at Wednesday's hearing.

    Jones claimed for years that the 2012 killing of 20 students and six staff members at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut was staged as part of a government plot to seize Americans' guns. He has since acknowledged the shooting occurred, but plaintiffs said Jones cashed in for years off his lies about the massacre.

    Jones, whose companies generated hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue on the back of his constant braying bullshit, implies that he could settle for $12m.

  • Basketball star Brittney Griner released by Russia in swap for arms dealer Viktor Bout

    Brittney Griner and Viktor Bout are going home. Griner, the U.S. basketball star arrested leaving Russia with vape cartridges containing hashish oil in her luggage, was released today in a prisoner swap for Viktor Bout, the Russian arms smuggler and "sanctions buster" extradicted to the U.S. in 2011 and jailed there since.

    Biden's authorization to release a Russian felon once nicknamed "the Merchant of Death" underscored the escalating pressure that his administration faced to get Griner home, particularly after the recent resolution of her criminal case and her subsequent transfer to a penal colony.

    The swap was confirmed by U.S. officials with direct knowledge of the negotiations who were not authorized to publicly discuss the deal before a White House announcement and spoke on condition of anonymity. Biden spoke with Griner on the phone Thursday while her wife, Cherelle, was in the Oval Office. The president was to address reporters later in the morning.

  • Donate to the EFF, get a warm fuzzy feeling and the satisfaction of helping smash stupid patents, legislation and lawsuits

    It's Power Up week at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a critical annual fund-raising effort that helps the nonprofit group defend our privacy, our speech and our online rights year-round. The EFF exposes corporate shenanigans, challenges ill-considered legislation, busts patents that should never have been approves, and litigates against those who use the law to threaten, bully and silence critics, activists and publishers. That's included Boing Boing—more than once!—and if you like what we do, please donate.

    Power Up Online Privacy & Free Expression [eff.org]

  • Theranos executive Sunny Balwani off to jail for 13 years

    Sunny Balwani, the chief operating officer of Theranos and former lover of founder and fraudster Elizabeth Holmes, will join her in prison. He was today sentenced to 13 years inside for his part in the billion-dollar fraud, built upon the false promise of blood-testing technology that did not exist.

    Holmes and Balwani were first indicted together four years ago on the same 12 criminal charges pertaining to defrauding investors and patients about Theranos' capabilities and business dealings in order to get money. Their trials were severed after Holmes indicated she intended to accuse Balwani of sexually, emotionally and psychologically abusing her throughout their decade-long relationship, which coincided with her time running the company. (Balwani's attorneys have denied her claims.)

    In July, Balwani was found guilty on all 12 charges he faced, which included ten counts of federal wire fraud and two counts of conspiracy to commit wire fraud. Holmes was found guilty in January on four charges relating to defrauding investors, and found not guilty on three additional charges concerning defrauding patients and one charge of conspiracy to defraud patients.

    The movie The Dropout, fictionalizing the Theranos fraud, features an amazing scene in which Elizabeth (performed by Amanda Seyfried) tries to warm up loverboy Sunny (Naveen Andrews) by dancing exceedingly whitely to Lil Wayne's How To Love. You will watch this scene now.

  • Epic roguelike Dwarf Fortress hits Steam and Itch.io, with a beautiful new look

    Dwarf Fortress is an amazing, mindboggling game, a roguelike that simulates an entire world in pursuit of simulating the remote but promising outpost of hardy dwarves which you lead in it. Deep, intricate, and brimming with fascinating and arresting "emergent properties", it always had one big thing going against it: the impenetrability of its text-mode graphics and user interface.

    Fantastic, then, that it's now available on Steam and Itch with an accessible, attractive new UI crafted by Kitfox Games. It's not just a tileset slapped over the text, but a complete reworking of the game's UX. There's even a tutorial!

    In this complex construction/management/roguelike simulation, every generated world brings a unique challenge, whether it's dwarves with their own simulated personalities or aquifers. Observe what makes your fortress fall into eventual decline, and learn for next time… until something else inevitably goes wrong.

    The combat model includes skills, body parts, material properties, aimed attacks, wrestling, pain, nausea, various poison effects, and much more.

    It's difficult to convey the depth of the generation. Hundreds of animals and monsters, many of which are randomly created for each world, as well as generated poetry, musical forms, instruments, and dances for your dwarves to practice and perform. A dynamic weather model tracks wind, humidity, and air masses to create fronts, clouds, storms, and blizzards. Over two hundred rock and mineral types can appear, in their proper geological environments.

    Remember: Losing is fun!

    The impression created by the strange and simple abstraction of ASCII will never leave me, but this will draw me back in, inexorably, to whatever disaters and tragedies await in the latest version of this incredible simulation.

  • Asteroid impact simulator

    There are many asteroid impact simulators online, but Neal Agarwal's is the state of the art. Select your asteroid, then select your target, then enjoy the toll of death and destruction. Pictured above, a mile-wide rock obliterates Pittsburgh on its way to triggering global climate catastrophe and extinction.

    An estimated 102,821 people would be vaporized in the crater

    The crater is 1,866 ft deep

    Your asteroid impacted the ground at 37,680 mph

    The impact is equivalent to 9 Gigatons of TNT

    More energy was released than a hurricane releases in a day

    An impact this size happens on average every 134,000 years

    If that seems light, don't worry, a further 1.3m—the rest of Allegheny County—get roasted by the fireball.

  • The making of Dune II, the game that put real-time strategy on the map

    Read Only Memory published a fantastic retrospective of Dune II, the game that codified the realtime strategy genre and, en passant, helped make a sci-fi classic cool again.

    Success comes from balancing numerous competing sets of demands. Exploring the desert will reveal spice deposits to mine, yet this takes the player away from base building. Spice is a currency that must be spent wisely. Should you, for example, build the base up or create a vast mobile army? Should your base be full of production and research facilities, or be ringed by strong walls and fixed defenses? Should you have swarms of fast, light infantry or put your trust in slower, heavier armoured units? Should you make more of an existing kind of unit, or spend spice developing newer, better weapons?

    Victory also comes from making the right decisions at the right time. Proving the old military maxim that no plan survives contact with the enemy, many missions were lost by launching massed attacks against an enemy base just as they attacked yours, leaving your own base to fend for itself.

    Though Dune II was the mega-hit, the game it was nominally a sequel to—Cryo's Dune—was itself a remarkable and memorable achievement. A graphic adventure with strategy and RPG-lite elements, it synthesized the novel, David Lynch's 1984 movie and state-of-the-art graphics and was a significant domino in the restoration of Frank Herbert's epic to nerd graces in the 1990s. Be sure to read The Digital Antiquarian's history of it. The apparent secret to its weird blend of wild imagination and solid gameplay: French designers, British managers.

  • Twitter's janitors strike

    The people who keep Twitter's offices clean and tidy are indubitable hard-working, but have evidently had enough of the hardcore regime imposed by new boss Elon Musk. They are on strike, having walked off the job this week.

    According to a tweet from SEIU Local 87, the janitors are "fighting for the pay, benefits and job protections" they need for their families. The janitors said Twitter did not renegotiate their contract with Flagship, the company that employes them.

    Forbes reports it as "another headache" for Musk, but the problem seems to be that he simply doesn't think about this stuff at all and is content to let it slide, irrespective of consequences.

  • Warnock wins Georgia senate runoff

    Though offical returns as of 9:45 p.m. EST have the GOP's Herschel Walker ahead by a hair with 82% of the votes in, experts are calling the Georgia Senate runoff for Democrat Raphael Warnock. The red exurbs have reported in, but Atlanta's just warming up. Moeover, at least two counties that chose Walker in November's general election have flipped blue.

    "I've seen enough," Dave Wasserman wrote on Twitter, "Sen. Raphael Warnock (D) defeats Herschel Walker (R)". The BBC, CNN, MSNBC, Fox News and others have called it likewise.

    The New York Times' famed needle was out of action for the critical hours this evening, but signaled an overwhelming probability of Warnock victory upon its return. Nate Cohn posted a map that illustrates Walker's problem:

    Barring a statistical miracle, then, the Democrats will have a 51-49 majority in the U.S. Senate. Though still a thin margin, it means that the party's majority no longer depends upon West Virginia "coal baron" Joe Manchin or self-absorbed poseur Kyrsten Sinema. Shame, then, that New York's parade of useless, corrupt Democrat hacks tossed half the state, and with it the House, to the GOP.

  • Trump Organization found guilty of tax fraud

    The Trump Corporation and Trump Payroll were today found guilty of tax fraud and falsifying records by jurors in Manhattan, reports CNN. The companies paid for executives' personal expenses and luxuries and lied about it to avoid them and it being taxed for the perks, many personally arranged by Trump himself. Though Trump and his family were not personally charged, his involvement loomed large in court and in closing statements.

    Prosecutor Joshua Steinglass told the jury in closing arguments that Trump "explicitly sanctioned" tax fraud and urged them to reject the defense's argument that former Trump Organization Chief Financial Officer Allen Weisselberg was a rogue employee motivated by his own personal greed.

    "This whole narrative that Donald Trump is blissfully ignorant is just not true," Steinglass said.

    The jury heard that Trump agreed on a whim to pay the private school tuition for his Weisselberg's grandchildren and signed a lease for a Manhattan apartment to shorten the executive's commute. Trump personally signed his employees' bonus checks at Christmas time and he initialed a memo reducing the salary of another top executives, which prosecutors said suggested he knew all along about the fraudulent scheme.

    The fines are going to be trivial—up to $1.6m, reports CNBC—but it was nice to find out the details of how he made life sweet for his corrupt cronies.

    Moreover, this is the one case that got him so mad he tried to use an outright racial slur online: he bizarrely referred to New York's black Attorney General as "peekaboo" when the charges were filed, which just happens to be the autocorrected result of typing an almost identical insult beginning with J, and makes no sense whatsoever in any other context. So while the punishment may be slight, his rage at it will be large.

  • Facebook: no more linking to news if Congress lets publishers bill us for it

    Congress is about to pass a law that could ultimately force websites to pay news publishers just for linking to them—an attempt to shore up the news business by exempting it from antitrust law and establishing a government-approved content cartel. Facebook, for its part, says it will simply not allow links to news sites anymore if this comes to pass.

    Facebook is an appalling company that has misled, manipulated and defrauded news publishers a dozen times over—but it's right about this.

    Trying to address the local news crisis by making websites pay every time someone links to their work—the endgame of this proposed antitrust exemption for publishers—represents a misreading of the technical and economic dynamics at work. It will eat major platforms' profits, sure, but also permanently institutionalize their relationship with news media. No-one wants this except major news publishers, not even Facebook, which for all its faults is now well into the Finding Out stage of fucking around with News.

    At best, it invites platforms and the cartel to cut deals and everyone else (from small outlinking sites 🥳 to smaller publishers) gets rinsed—which seems to be the emerging outcome in the EU, which likes nothing better than a stable, predictable racket that benefits yet binds incumbents. At worst, the publishers and politicians who thought they were about to become landlords find themselves being evicted—and begging to be let back into the house.

  • Nike ends endorsement deal with Kyrie Irving over antisemitic tweet

    Brooklyn Nets guard Kyrie Irving hopped on the antisemitism bandwagon in October. Top sponsor Nike (and his team) let it blow over with perfunctory suspensions, but that train crashed a little more spectacularly than they expected and the apparel giant was forced to take action.

    "Kyrie Irving is no longer a Nike Athlete," a Nike spokesperson told NPR.

    The signature endorsement agreement Irving signed with the company had been due to expire on Oct. 1, 2023. The termination comes after Irving posted on social media a link to an antisemitic movie and book in late October.

  • 9m Americans wrongly told they were already approved for student debt relief

    Last month, 9 million Americans were wrongly told their their applications of student debt relief had been approved. Not so, reports CBS News.

    The error was made by Accenture Federal Services, a contractor with the Education Department, which sent the emails on November 22 and 23. The mistake may only compound confusion among some borrowers about the debt-relief program, which for now remains in limbo due to several legal challenges, with the Supreme Court earlier this month agreeing to hear one of the cases. 

    CBS News allows for the interpretation that the email was sent to people who did not qualify for the debt relief in the first place, but the details suggest that the only reason they were not approved is because their applications came after the approval process was suspended, due to the legal challenges. If I'm reading that right, the 9 million applicants implicated will still be approved, eventually, so long as the U.S. Supreme Court doesn't find the debt relief program unconstitutional. Be on the lookout for a "corrected" email, applicants.

  • Disgraced lawyer Mike Avenatti sentenced to 14 years imprisonment

    Mike Avenatti, the former lawyer of Trump mistress Stormy Daniels, was today sentenced to 14 years imprisonment for stealing from other clients. Avenatti, who pleaded guilty earlier this year to various counts of fraud and obstruction, and was also ordered to pay $10m in restitution.

    "Michael Avenatti was a corrupt lawyer who claimed he was fighting for the little guy. In fact, he only cared about his own selfish interests," US Attorney Martin Estrada said in a statement following the sentencing. "He stole millions of dollars from his clients – all to finance his extravagant lifestyle that included a private jet and race cars. As a result of his illegal acts, he has lost his right to practice law in California, and now he will serve a richly deserved prison sentence."

    Dean Steward, an attorney for Avenatti, said in a statement to CNN that the sentence "was overly harsh and uncalled for," adding that his client described it in court as being "off the charts."

    The new sentence comes after an earlier 4-year term imposed for stealing from Daniels, and 30 months in yet another case, wherein he attempted to extort millions from apparel giant Nike.

    The judge ruled that the sentences will be served consecutive to those, meaning Avenatti faces nearly 20 years inside.

    Avenatti was briefly a hero of "resistance" liberals, who hoped that his representation of Daniels would somehow ensnarl the then-president in legal problems.

  • Tampa's police chief flashed her badge when she was pulled over in a golf cart. Now she's resigned

    Bodycam footage showed Tampa Police Chief Mary O'Connor flashing her badge and saying she's "hoping that you'll just let us go tonight", after her spouse was pulled over for driving a golf cart on public roads. The deputy let them go but the footage was uncovered, and now she's been placed on administrative leave, reports CNN.

    UPDATE: She's resigned.

    "It was poor judgment on our part to be driving a golf cart on a public roadway without the appropriate tags," O'Connor said. "This was the first time we had exited the golf-cart friendly community in which we own property with this vehicle, prompting the need for a license plate."

    "In hindsight, I realize how my handling of this matter could be viewed as inappropriate, but that was certainly not my intent. I knew my conversation was on video, and my motive was not to put the deputy in an uncomfortable position. I have personally called the Pinellas County Sheriff offering to pay for any potential citation," she added.

    "We hold everyone accountable, no matter their position, and this behavior was unacceptable. Chief O'Connor will go through the due process and face appropriate discipline," Tampa Mayor Jane Castor said in an accompanying statement Thursday.