• UK phone carrier Vodafone refusing to close dead customers' accounts—and sending debt collectors after bereaved relatives who stop payment

    Vodaphone UK is accused of routinely refusing to close the accounts of dead customers, demanding that the dead do so themselves—even refusing to respect requests made under power of attorney by bereaved relatives. The nightmarish treatment was exposed after the company made the mistake of trying to screw over one of Britain's most prolix and relentless political columnists after his mother died.

    My mum suffered a long and debilitating illness, and we were as prepared for her death as anyone can be. We are blessed with the support of my dad's brilliant carer. Even so, Vodafone made everything much worse. I can scarcely imagine how this might have affected a family unexpectedly bereaved, under great stress and with fewer resources.

    A fortnight ago, more than four months after my mother's death, I belatedly snapped, and described our experience in a Twitter thread. My intention was to shame Vodafone into action. I got more than I bargained for.

    Immediately, the responses started pouring in: first dozens, then hundreds of people sharing similar and sometimes even worse experiences when trying to cancel accounts with Vodafone, especially the accounts of people who had died or whose capacity had diminished. They reported, while in the depths of grief, the same nastiness and lack of sympathy. They reported an insistence on questioning vulnerable and confused elderly people. They described months, in some cases years, of failure to cancel such contracts. One woman who contacted me said she was still paying £78 a month to Vodafone for the phone of her daughter, who was murdered more than a year ago, despite sending them the death certificate and newspaper clippings.

    George Monbiot writes at length on Twitter, and his story is infuriating, as is Vodafone's perfunctory "mistakes were made" statement. But his are rhetorical questions. The short of it is surely this: Vodafone's phone staff get in trouble if they close accounts and its internal system is designed to make callers give up trying. Vodafone will never change this, short of a proverbial gun to its head, because the cellular market is saturated and retention is everything. The likely outcome is some pointless years-long wrangle over trivial aspects of customer service policy implementation, because burning down the corporate and legal context that enables all this is unthinkable.

  • Sex trafficking suspect Matt Gaetz and sex offender wife Lauren Boebert among 20 Republicans to vote against sex trafficking law

    A law providing aid to victims of sex trafficking and harsh penalties for those convicted of it sailed though the U.S. House today in a 401-20 vote, a rare bipartisan high five in a divided age. Among the 20 Republicans to vote against it were Matt Gaetz, himself a sex trafficking suspect, and Lauren Boebert, married to a sex offender.

    The Frederick Douglass Trafficking Victims Prevention and Protection Reauthorization Act of 2022 was approved in the House for reauthorization with a massive majority of 401 votes to 20.  The act combats human trafficking — particularly sex trafficking — through severe penalties for perpetrators and support services for victims.  It first came into law as the Victims of Trafficking and Violence Protection Act of 2000, when it passed the House and Senate with almost no opposition, and has been reauthorized multiple times without significant challenge. 

  • Can Tumblr "be a better Twitter"?

    Techcrunch interviews Matt Mullenwag of Automattic/WordPress, which bought Tumblr for a song after a succession of corporate owners let the billion-dollar blog platform decay into a bleak ritual of itself. Work has progressed on reviving the vibe, and now he hopes it could be a better Twitter than Twitter.

    In this episode, he talks about why it's important to keep all of these platforms open source and how he thinks Tumblr could begin to compete with Twitter.

    I'm not done listening to the interview, but it's great to hear someone advocate so eloquently and forcefully for open-source licensing. He points out something interesting about Tumblr, that it's the unsung source of many features now copied by all other social networks. And he understands that it is the place where publishing and distribution came together on the web.

    Still, there's an interesting advantage Twitter has over Tumblr: you can post adult material on Twitter. I don't think this is a trivial observation. Twitter is censored by Twitter, Tumblr is censored by banks. It can't beTumblr anymore, let alone Twitter.

  • Proud Christian Nationalist Marjorie Taylor Greene "melts down" after Maddow segment on history of Christian Nationalism

    Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.,) proudly called herself a Christian Nationalist and called for her party to rebrand around that movement. After Rachel Maddow ran a segment about the racist and anti-semitic history of Christian Nationalism, though, Marje was angrier than ever.

    Maddow's history lesson focused on the life and ideology of Gerald L.K. Smith, the founder of the Christian Nationalist crusade and the America First party. Smith defined Christian Nationalism in America and was blunt about his hatred of Jews and other "alien" influences. (He didn't know about the space lasers, though)

    Greene's "meltdown", so-called, was posted soon after Maddow highlighted her and Smith using similar language to define Christian Nationalism and to advocate its centrality to American government.

    The proud Christian Nationalist has never heard of Christian Nationalism, yet has found her way to all its precepts but one.

  • Uvalde suspends elementary school principal in latest effort to find a scapegoat for police inaction during massacre

    Three hundred and seventy six cops stood in and around Uvalde Elementary School waiting, cowering and restraining locals while a gunman slaughtered 19 children and two teachers in an unlocked classroom. The school district there has finally found a responsible party: Mandy Gutierrez, the school's principal, suspended yesterday for her failure to secure the school.

    A special legislative investigation into the May 24 massacre at the school found that Gutierrez was aware of security problems prior to a shooter accessing the school — killing 19 students and two teachers — but she had not had the problems fixed.

    District officials declined to discuss the suspension or what it means. … News about Gutierrez's suspension began circulating just before a regularly scheduled school board meeting Monday night. During the session, the board announced that the 2022-23 school year would start on Sept. 6 as the district puts in place a series of security improvements and arrangements for emotional and social support services.

    Next they'll be going after the parents for failing to equip their children with ballistic armor.

  • Report: Supreme Court leak helped overturn Roe

    When the Supreme Court's preliminary ruling overturning Roe v. Wade leaked, conservatives made a big fuss of claiming it must have been a liberal staffer trying to stop it. But even then it made more sense as a device to lock justices into decisions they hadn't yet fully committed to. And now Rolling Stone reports that Chief Justice Roberts was indeed trying to convince Justice Brett Kavanaugh to save Roe, an effort supposedly derailed by the leak. In the end, the court ruled 6-3 in the case, with Roberts signing on to the majority verdict in Dobbs—a 15-week ban—while making clear he would not agree to overturn Roe entirely.

    Roberts, who would ultimately vote to uphold the Mississippi law disputed under Dobbs but filed a seperate concurrence disagreeing with the majority decision to strike down Roe, has had success persuading Kavanaugh to dissent from the conservative bloc in the past, most notably his decision to side with the liberal justices in upholding the Affordable Care Act. Those with knowledge of the situation tell CNN that Roberts already faced an uphill battle in convincing Kavanaugh to vote in favor of abortion rights even before the leak: Kavanaugh had previously indicated his desire to overturn Roe and had voted against it in a private justices' conference. 

    Yes, I don't really buy it. Kavanaugh was put on the court to kill Roe, after all.

  • Host of UK Conservative Party leadership debate faints on-air

    At this evening's debate between Rishi Sunak and Liz Truss, the two remaining candidates for leadership of the Conservative Party in the UK, host Kate McCann fainted live on air. The debate was canceled. McCann, who was running the event solo after her co-presenter tested positive for Covid, is reportedly ok.

    Here's footage from Talk TV's coverage of the event. The camera is on Liz Truss, responding to a question. You see her startle in reaction to McCann's off-screen collapse. Then Truss makes her way forward (to help? to feed?) before the camera cuts out.

  • Verizon Fios drops right-wing One America News network

    The right-wing One America News network (previously at Boing Boing) will no longer be found on Verizon's lineup.

    OAN, which is owned by the California-based Herring Networks, has faced criticism for allegedly "peddling conspiracy theories and falsehoods." In 2020, YouTube suspended the network's channel after it promoted a fake cure for COVID-19. OAN also became the subject of a defamation lawsuit filed by the electronic voting system company Dominion over false allegations that its machines interfered with the 2020 US election. Smartmatic, another voting system company, ordered OAN and other conservative stations to retract their claims about voter fraud.

    OAN's really mad about it, assailing Verizon—a joint-stock corporation that generates some $30bn in profits annually—as "Marxist". In truth, Verizon was its last supporter, continuing to host OAN long after other providers ditched it, even as OAN began snarling at the hand that fed it.

    Despite Verizon being its largest remaining carrier after satellite provider DirecTV dropped the network this past spring, OAN lobbed numerous attacks at the company as the network's agreement neared expiration. Calling it "one of the largest and wokest companies to date," the network's hosts grumbled in recent weeks that Verizon was "silencing conservative voices" and "engaging in censorship" of OAN.

    OAN's reportage is now free to descend completely into a hallucinatory conflagration of misinformation, conspiracy and libel, free of oversight or indeed a significant audience.

  • Seven players from Australian rugby team refuse to play in "pride" version of kit featuring rainbow stripe

    The coach of National Rugby League team in Australia apologized Tuesday after the announcement of an LGBT Pride-themed kit triggered a walkout among players. The jerseys feature thin rainbow stripes and will be used in a game this weekend, but seven players from the normal lineup will not be playing on "religious and cultural grounds."

    "They [the players] are not wearing the jersey as it conflicts with their cultural and religious beliefs, and I am concerned for their welfare," Hasler said. "Their spirituality is a central part of their wellbeing. The club has made an error from which it will learn. The players will not play on Thursday and we accept their decision.

    "These young men are strong in their beliefs and convictions. We'll give them space and the support they require. The playing group are solid and understanding of each other's views."

    The team bosses made the classic mistake of thinking that Australia was Britain.

  • David Warner, 1941-2022

    David Warner, star of countless screen roles calling for an intimidating English presence, is dead at 80. However many lights there were, there is now one fewer.

    The actor died of a cancer-related illness on Sunday in London, his family told the BBC. "Over the past 18 months he approached his diagnosis with a characteristic grace and dignity," his family said in a statement shared with the public broadcaster. "He will be missed hugely by us, his family and friends, and remembered as a kind-hearted, generous and compassionate man, partner and father, whose legacy of extraordinary work has touched the lives of so many over the years. We are heartbroken," the statement continued.

  • Why Princess Mononoke only made $2.3m in the U.S.

    A fascinating BBC article about why Princess Mononoke bombed in America is titled "the masterpiece that flummoxed the US", but it's really about how badly Disney and co. handled Studio Ghibli movies despite explosive interest in anime in the U.S. They knew enough to hire Neil Gaiman to write an English script for Mononoke, for example, but his work ended up trampled in committee and then by someone "whose job was to make sure the words aligned with the characters' mouth movements."

    Princess Mononoke did not perform particularly well in the United States, grossing just $2.3 million domestically. There is a popular idea that this was because a US audience raised on the broad, all-singing, all-dancing animations of Disney were simply not ready for a film like Princess Mononoke. It's an opinion that Miyazaki arguably shares himself. In 1988, he gave a lecture on Japanese animation that included the line: "There are few barriers to entry into [animated] films – they will invite anyone in – but the barriers to exit must be high and purifying… The barrier to both the entry and exit of Disney films is too low and too wide. To me, they show nothing but contempt for the audience."

    Coming into this story, you're likewise thinking the western movie executives didn't get the grown-up Japanese mythic storytelling at hand—a ready narrative of cultural ignorance and arrogance. And it is that. But you also read that they get snarled up on things like "how can he be a prince if he doesn't have a castle"? In that sense, "Japan" is a red herring for plainer shortcomings, a view of moviemaking completely defined and circumscribed by the content of Disney Classics. And one of the executives stands out in particular—a name you surely recognize.

    Gaiman, however, is not entirely convinced by those arguments. "I don't think I came away thinking, 'OK! Huge gulf between America and Japan.' What I came to the conclusion of was that there is a huge gulf between what Mr Miyazaki is doing and American commercial filmmaking." Instead, Gaiman thinks that everything that went wrong with Princess Mononoke, "came down to Harvey Weinstein being petty." He tells a story of how, after the film's first official screening at the New York Film Festival, Weinstein informed Gaiman that he planned to renege on Disney's deal not to cut the film.

    Miyazaki said no and Weinstein killed the movie's marketing campaign.

  • State Trooper charged with animal cruelty after repeatedly hitting horse with vehicle—but only after the dashcam footage became legally inaccessible

    Animal cruelty charges for a Pennsylvania State Trooper who repeatedly drove his police vehicle into a horse were filed last week. But the indictment—and resulting publicity—came only after "the legal window" for accessing dashboard camera footage had expired, ensuring the media and public will not see what he did.

    The horse was reportedly "euthanazed" by another trooper during the incident.

    [Cpl. Michael] Perillo drove a vehicle into the horse multiple times, causing it to fall, and then pinned the horse to the road, authorities said. Another trooper then euthanized it. Perillo, who enlisted in the state police in September 2006, is assigned to Troop J in Avondale. The charges against Perillo were announced after the legal window closed on requests for dashboard camera footage. State law provides 60 days to submit a request for a copy of an officer's audio or video recording. Requests must be made in writing by certified mail or hand-delivered, and rejections can be appealed to court.

  • Florida cop charged with battery after choking fellow officer

    A belligerent Florida cop who choked another officer who pulled him off a suspect was today charged with battery and assault. Christopher Pullease, 47, was also charged with evidence tampering and assaulting a civilian, reports NBC News.

    Pullease, who was relieved of his supervisory duties in January, was accused of "intentionally touching or striking" the female officer against her will and assaulting her when he held pepper spray to her face, the statement said. The assault charge against the civilian, who was being arrested on what authorities described as a violent felony when the incident occurred, was prompted by Pullease holding the spray to the man's face, the prosecutor's office said.

    I'm certain I wrote about this when the footage first emerged, but searching our archives for "florida", "cop", "choke", etc, just ends in me looking for a needle in a needlestack.

  • Steve Bannon found guilty

    Shambling pustulence Steve Bannon was today found guilty on two charges of contempt of congress. His trial was brief, not least because of the clarity of the evidence against him: he was subpoenaed to appear before congress, refused to do so, and a federal jury found no fact otherwise.

    Bannon, briefly employed in the White House and serving as a general-purpose right-wing strategist-cum-provocateur before and since, was summoned to give evidence about the Jan. 6 riot among Trump supporters, which sought to prevent Congress confirming Joe Biden's win in the 2020 presidential election. Previously charged with fraud, Bannon was pardoned by Trump days after the riot.

  • Casio's classic F-91 "Terrorist" watch turned into a smartwatch

    Casio's F-91 wristwatch is available in many colors and materials and is famous for its overwhelming success and its designation as a "terrorist" signifier by hysterical U.S. investigators who found them being used as a timer in bombs. Casio has neglected to make a smartwatch version—it is very compact, after all—but an aficionado has stepped into the void. Behold the F91 Kepler, a custom-made smartwatch that uses the classic chassis.

    The F91 Kepler is complete redesign of the classic Casio F91W watch. This project completely replaces the original internals of the watch only keeping the original case and adding an OLED display and a bluetooth capable MCU. This repo contains all the firmware, hardware, and completely unfinished software (phone app) ;).

  • Department of Defense announces ambiguous and disquieting "All-domain Anomaly Resolution Office"

    Does anyone know exactly what the All-domain Anomaly Resolution Office will be doing? I'm not sure the Department of Defense does, as its announcement is a masterpiece of military-bureacratic ambiguity and circumlocution evoking everything from the funny guy with the sign outside Area 51 to eldritch horrors.

    synchronize efforts across the Department of Defense, and with other U.S. federal departments and agencies, to detect, identify and attribute objects of interest in, on or near military installations, operating areas, training areas, special use airspace and other areas of interest, and, as necessary, to mitigate any associated threats to safety of operations and national security. This includes anomalous, unidentified space, airborne, submerged and transmedium objects.

    The SCP Foundation wants to have a word:

  • Footage: Josh Hawley riled up the Jan 6 rioters-then fled congress as fast as his feet could carry him

    Footage shown to the Jan 6 hearing shows Republican U.S. Sentator Josh Hawley running across a hall in Congress after riling up the Jan 6 crowd of Trump supporters. Those attending the hearing cannot help but burst into laughter at the juxtaposition of him raising his fist in solidarity then skipping fearfully across a hallway at maximum speed:

    People have been adding appropriate soundtracks:

  • YouTube copyright trolls claim public domain footage of Apollo moon landing

    Film archivist Fran Blanche posted content featuring the Apollo moon landings to YouTube, and reported being besieged by frauds using ContentID, the platform's private copyright enforcement and monetization system. No sooner than she makes a new transfer of a classic public domain film from NASA's own reels, for example, than it gets dinged by some shady agent—who in one case turns out to represent the makers of a "VHS shockumentary" which reproduced only low-quality broadcast footage in the first place and has absolutely no legal claim to the original material.

    "The way it's set up, the claimant has all of the authority," Blanche says. "They are the sole judge and authority."

    Blanche cites another recent case of hers where Sony Music claimed to own audio of wind blowing in a 1973 public domain movie. A Sony Music artist sampled the movie's audio in a 2003 heavy metal album, and it's on that basis that Sony made its claim to own the audio. Even after she filed a counter-claim, she reports, YouTube sided with Sony Music.

    Whenever something like this is reported, a clever commenter always pipes up with "make a new thing that samples Sony Music and now you can claim it!" Alas, you're forgetting who YouTube's ContentID system was made for.

    YouTube is just not fit for anything important. Treat it as an ephemeral money-making endpoint for Content and don't do anything there that you'd be disappointed or troubled to see disappear.

  • Mississippi police chief fired after alleged tape of him boasting about killing 13 people: "I shot that n***** 119 times"

    Sam Dobbins, chief of police in Lexington, Mississippi, is accused of being the cop caught on tape boasting of killing 13 people and using racial and homophobic slurs to justify himself. "I shot that n***** 119 times, OK?" the man on the recording says. "I don't give a f— if you kill a motherf—er in cold blood."

    Dobbins did not admit to being the man on the recording, reports MCIR, but he was fired yesterday in a 3-2 vote of Lexington's Board of Alderman.

    "I chased this motherf—er across the field. I got him. He was DRT [dead right there] in the field. The vehicle was shot 319 times, but he was hit 119 times by me." He said he was cleared at the sheriff's office, where he worked at the time, and received his gun back before he ever sat back down. When the subject arises of him talking to someone, he responded with homophobic slurs, "I don't talk to f—ing queers, I don't talk to f—ing fa——s." He talked of an officer who was perpetually late. "I can be a motherf—er," he said. "I really can." Then he told the officer, "I can only pay you 32 hours a week. You can work all you want to." He talked of inheriting his tough ways from the one who trained him.If a suspect "got out of line, I didn't open the door," the officer said. "I smashed the mother—er through the window. It would get your attention real quick." The bad guys, he said, "think it's a game." Dobbins was appointed by the Lexington Board of Alderman last July. On the tape, the officer can be heard saying, "I work for the board, so when I want something, I want it right then."

    Note that this is Lexington, Mississippi (population 1,700). I imagine it's been a long day or two for the black police chief of Lexington, Kentucky (population 320,000).

    Here's another copy of the recording.

  • Minecraft rejects NFTs

    Minecraft's developers announced there would be no NFT shenanigans in the game or its official environments, saying such applications of crypto do "not align with Minecraft values of creative inclusion and playing together" and promote "scarcity and exclusion".

    Due to Minecraft's broad popularity, the game has been the target for third-party NFT world files and skin packs – something Mojang is not comfortable with.

    "Each of these uses of NFTs and other blockchain technologies creates digital ownership based on scarcity and exclusion, which does not align with Minecraft values of creative inclusion and playing together," explained Mojang.

    "NFTs are not inclusive of all our community and create a scenario of the haves and the have-nots. The speculative pricing and investment mentality around NFTs takes the focus away from playing the game and encourages profiteering, which we think is inconsistent with the long-term joy and success of our players."

    Good for them. And this doesn't even get to the proliferation of scams and other financial wheezes that crypto is up to its well-crashed neck in.