Trump pre-empts Israel's ban on Dem congresswomen with tweet implying he made them do it

Israel barred Democractic congresswomen Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib from entering the country today, an hour after Trump tweeted that the country would show "great weakness" if it allows them to visit. Israel gave as its rationale the congresswomen's support of boycotts against the country over its treatment of Palestinians.

The BBC:

Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib were due to visit the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem next week. Both have supported the boycott movement against Israel and Israeli law allows supporters of the campaign to be banned from visiting. ... A statement from the Israeli Interior Ministry confirming the ban said it was "inconceivable that those who wish to harm the state of Israel while visiting would be granted entry". But only last month Israeli Ambassador Ron Dermer said the two Democrats would be permitted to visit "out of respect for the US Congress and the great alliance between Israel and America".

Trump instantly screws over everyone who supplicates to him. Netanyahu would not have wanted the ban to appear to be a response to Trump, Trump will have agreed with that stipulation, Trump’s press secretary said it wasn’t going to happen as a response to Trump, and then minutes later Trump pre-empts Israel's announcement with a tweet that gives the impression it is happening only at his behest. It’s a perfectly Trumpian undermining of any strategizing that involves him.

Post-Brexit Britain is well-positioned to be a conspicuous victim of this cycle. Some elaborate plan to announce fast-track trade deal negotiations will have been worked on for weeks that smooths out all the bumps and accounts for all the wild and wooly ways media coverage and the negotiations themselves might go. Read the rest

Popular new conservative activist turns out to be antisemitic conspiracy theorist

The conservative internet loves Zach Vorhies, a lovely activist that exposes leftist mischief at Google! *5 seconds later* We regret to inform you the Zach is a racist.

Right-wing provocateur James O’Keefe published his latest video on tech giants on Wednesday, touting an interview with former YouTube software engineer and self-proclaimed “whistleblower” Zach Vorhies. In the video, Vorhies claims that Google’s search algorithms are riddled with political bias, and touted a cache of internal Google files he alleges prove his case. ... What O’Keefe’s video leaves out, though, is that his much-hyped insider is not as credible as he claims. On social media, Vorhies is an avid promoter of anti-Semitic accusations that banks, the media, and the United States government are controlled by “Zionists.” He’s also pushed conspiracy theories like QAnon, Pizzagate, and the discredited claim that vaccines cause autism.

Remember the scene where Senator Palpatine says "I love democracy" and, thanks to Ian McDiarmid's acting talent, a crudely-scripted corrupt politician is shaded with pathos and genuine discomfort? In my memory, Palpatine says only "I love surprises" in this scene. I don't know why, but it works quite well and I have no plans to rewatch the Star Wars prequels to correct my neurons.

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British government annouces anti-knifecrime chicken takeout boxes

All-black but for the hashtag #knifefree, the official chicken boxes of Her Majesty's Government are presented as a warning about the dangers of knifecrime. The Home Office has suborned some takeout chains into using them. It's not going down well.

Policing Minister Kit Malthouse says they "will bring home to thousands of young people the tragic consequences of carrying a knife and challenge the idea that it makes you safer".

However, Ms Abbott tweeted: "Instead of investing in a public health approach to violent crime, the Home Office have opted for yet another crude, offensive and probably expensive campaign.

"They would do better to invest in our communities not demonise them."

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Brexiteer businessman hopes Greta Thunberg suffers "freak yachting accident"

Greta Thunberg is a young environmental campaigner setting off on a carbon-neutral boat trip across the Atlantic. Aaron Banks is a businessman, Brexit campaigner and money man behind the far-right UK Independence Party. On Wednesday, Banks tweeted to Thunberg: "Freak yachting accidents do happen in August." In the resulting outrage, he says it's just a joke.

Green Party MP Caroline Lucas ... said she reported his comment, while Mr Banks said it was a joke.

"Arron Banks' vile tweet about @GretaThunberg makes me sick to the stomach," Ms Lucas wrote on Twitter on Thursday morning. ...

His tweet faced widespread criticism, with Mr Banks later responding, saying it was "a joke" and accusing his critics of having "no sense of humour".

It's worth pointing out that there's no actual joke in the phrase "Freak yachting accidents do happen in August."

It's the unspeakable wrapped in jocular sarcasm, so that it can be denied even as it gives public life to a private fantasy.

Aaron Banks is encouraging "stochastic" violence, that term having become popular to refer to public rhetoric that hopes to make something more likely without being personally involved in any act that results from its general encouragement.

But Banks is a dumb thug, so he just blurted out I hope you die thinking it could pass muster as a "joke."

Here's Sartre on the right-wing mode of humor, then exemplified by anti-semites and now by alt-right meme culture.

They know that their remarks are frivolous, open to challenge.

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Animated comparison of tree sizes

Just for your information, there are some very teeny and some quite enormous trees.

keshitsubo grass, wheat sunflower, Apple tree Rocky Mountain Juniper, Socotra Dragon tree olive, Salix Babylonica Common Hawthorn, Southern Live oak Mediterranean cypress, Stone Pine Limber Pine, Palm tree Baldcypress, Sycamore Araucaria Araucana, Common Oak Brazil Nut, Kauri Eucalyptus, Patagonian cypress Noble fir, Giant Sequoia Coast Douglas fir, Yellow Meranti Sequoia sempervirens

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Brent Spiner on how Patrick Stewart's pronunciation of 'Data' changed how Americans say the word

Americans mostly used to say "daa-ta", as Brent Spiner relates in an appearance at Big Apple Comic Con earlier this year. Now they mostly say "day-ta". It's all because Patrick Stewart won an argument at the first reading of the first episode of Star Trek, The Next Generation.

Brent Spiner tells a funny story about the Data name from "Star Trek: The Next Generation", and how Patrick Stewart is responsible for the way the word is now pronounced. This panel was moderated by Larry Nemecek. For more information on Big Apple Comic Con, head to

But I have prior art: 1985's The Goonies. Jump to 50s in for the daa-ta v. day-ta moment.

Also, has anyone written about out how much ... weirder? creepier? offbeat? ... early TNG was? The first season has little of the cosy, formulaic rythyms and Flanderized characters we associate with late-century Star Trek stuff, but I feel we've forgotten how interesting it sometimes was because it was so rough (and mostly bad). I'm thinking a supercut of "weird early TNG" is needed. I'm certain I saw someone riffing on this on Twitter a while ago--who was it?

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Lichess is the best chess site

I've been playing a game called "Chess" lately. I'm not much good, but have found that a good way to get people mad is to use only the "Pawn" characters. Oftentimes players will end up snarled up on them and it's apparently quite humiliating. In this game the white player quit and msgd me "what the fuck are you doing?" Read the rest

Trailer out for The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance

Here's the first full trailer for the forthcoming Netflix The Dark Crystal series, which features oldschool puppetry and an amazing cast: Taron Egerton, Lena Headey, Mark Hamill, Sigourney Weaver, Simon Pegg, and several Game of Thrones alums.

Light the fires of resistance! Join Deet, Rian and Brea on an epic quest to find hope in darkness, save Thra, and reveal their destiny. Nothing will ever be the same.

A Netflix Original Series from the Jim Henson Company and visionary director Louis Leterrier, The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance premieres August 30.

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How many books could you read if you quit social media?

Omni Calculator asks a few questions about your internet usage and tells you what else you might consider doing instead. And yet, for some reason, I find myself wary of completing an online questionnaire about my online habits. Thankfully it's a simple calculation, writes Emma Charlton: Cutting out three 10-minute social media checks a day means you could read as many as 30 more books a year. Many of us are spending more time on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram than ever before: 2 hours and 23 minutes per day, on average, if you accept GlobalWebIndex’s Flagship Report for 2019. Read the rest

Facebook paid contractors to transcribe audio chats

Bloomberg reports that Facebook retains recordings of users' voice chats and paid contractors to transcribe them. Now that this has been exposed, the social media giant says it has "paused" the work.

Facebook Inc. has been paying hundreds of outside contractors to transcribe clips of audio from users of its services, according to people with knowledge of the work.

The work has rattled the contract employees, who are not told where the audio was recorded or how it was obtained -- only to transcribe it, said the people, who requested anonymity for fear of losing their jobs. They’re hearing Facebook users’ conversations, sometimes with vulgar content, but do not know why Facebook needs them transcribed, the people said.

Facebook is a fast zombie, sprinting at the details of your life, and can't see beyond the next bite. It can pretend to be human for brief moments when it perceives a threat, remaining motionless while something in its hungry mind utters a few words that it has learned will mollify prey. But it lurches back into motion as soon as your attention drifts away. Attributing human motivations and concerns to it is pointless, and the only option that makes any sense at all is to destroy it. Read the rest

Lawyer son loses trademark fight with lawyer dad, can't use own name for firm

George Sink Sr. is well-known to South Carolina couch potatoes thanks to the endless rotation of ads pitching his personal injury firm. George Sink Jr. is his son, also a lawyer, and now forbidden from using his own name to market his own firm.

A federal judge on Friday issued a temporary restraining order banning the younger Sink from using the “George Sink” name on his firm’s website, social media accounts and email address. The ban will stay in place until the case is heard by an arbitrator. The elder Sink’s corporation — George Sink P.A. Personal Injury Lawyers — sued Sink Jr. in April to stop him from using his birth name professionally, saying it violates trademark laws and confuses consumers.

Sink the Younger used to work for his dad but was fired by him: first from the family firm, then from the family name. Read the rest

Fossilized remains of human-sized "monster" penguin unearthed

It lived some 60m years ago, but the giant penguins are still with us. Standing about 5ft 3in and weighing up to 176 pounds, the monster penguin roamed New Zealand's balmy waters and ruled the beaches for millions of years.

It's not entirely clear why the giant penguins disappeared from the waters of the Southern Hemisphere. The most commonly held theory is that it's simply due to growing competition with marine mammals. "At the time giant penguins evolved, the large marine reptiles just had become extinct," Gerald Mayr, another author of the new study, told the BBC. "In Antarctica and New Zealand, there were no large marine competitors until the arrival of toothed whales and pinnipeds (seals) many million years later."

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Music of the circuit-bent smoke alarms

Dylan Sheridan circuit-bent some smoke alarms and posted the results of his sonorous experiments to Bandcamp. [via Metafilter]

Circuit Bent Smoke Alarms - Ringtone Collection by Dylan Sheridan

Unprocessed sounds of circuit bent smoke alarms. If anybody uses these let me know I can't tell you how happy it would make me

Big fan of the solid feet-on-the-floor beat of call_1 but its the intricate structures of call_5 that really speak to me. I am two glasses of sawbuck wine away from making a pounding EDM track that integrates these. Read the rest

How much keyboard latency can you take?

I wrote a while back about why typing on old keyboards feels better: it's because they were simple, low-latency devices interacting with your computer's bare metal. Nowadays, many device instructions end up filtered through a zillion layers of microcontrollers, firmware, virtual machinery, applications, hardware abstraction layers and God knows what else before a byte gets to the screen. How annoying is too annoying? is a Glitch site by Monica Dinculescu that lets you simulate keyboard latency, to see exactly how much of it you can take.

This is an experiment to see what amount of delay is too annoying for a user interaction like typing. Here are some presets; make sure to type a lot of characters at once for the full effect.

Note that whatever you select in the app, it's added to the actual latency of your own keyboard and computer--probably 100ms or so for most of us. After about 50ms of extra wait, I start to get aggravated. Read the rest

What are 3-cent microcontrollers good for?

You can buy microcontrollers for as little as 3 cents, if you order a lot of them, a staggeringly cheap number even if you're so young you don't know a Zilog Z80 was $10 in 1978 money. But are these cheapo parts any good? Hackaday says they're terrible, but Tim finds a role.

[it] surely is a question of perspective. They address a specific category of low-cost, high volume, non-serviceable products with limited functionality. You need to wait for the push of a button and then let an LED flash exactly five times? You need to control a battery-operated night light? The sub $0.10 MCU is your friend to reduce BOM and shorten development time.

For everything else, spare a buck. Read the rest

Epstein's death was posted to 4chan half an hour before officials announced it

This seems bad. Buzzfeed:

Almost 40 minutes before ABC News first reported Epstein’s death on Twitter, someone posted still-unverified details on 4chan, the anonymous message board popular with far-right trolls and white nationalists. “[D]ont ask me how I know, but Epstein died an hour ago from hanging, cardiac arrest. Screencap this,” read the post, which was published at 8:16 a.m. alongside an image of Pepe, the green frog that has become a mascot for right-wing internet trolls. ... the original poster added more information to the discussion thread, including a detailed breakdown of the procedures allegedly used to resuscitate Epstein, which suggest the poster may have been a first responder, medical worker, or otherwise privy to details about efforts to resuscitate the disgraced financier.

The Fire Department of New York apparently suspects one of their own and is "reviewing" the posting, but insists it is not "investigating" it. Read the rest

CBS News: "Shrieking" heard from Jeffrey Epstein's cell the morning he died

From an unbylined, slapdash item at CBS News:

CBS News has learned that the morning of Jeffrey Epstein's death there was shouting and shrieking from his jail cell. Guards attempted to revive him while saying "breathe, Epstein, breathe."

The rest of the story is all recap, offering no clarification at all about who was shrieking or even to make clear that it was after Epstein died. The only other new detail in it is that his brother was summoned to identify his body.

This is obviously going to be everywhere today. Is the suggestion that it was a guard or other jail staffer upon discovering his body? That CBS News chose such an ambiguous headline, allowing that it might have been Epstein shrieking, is the stuff institutional regrets are made of. Read the rest

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