• Electric vehicle company Nikola admits demo truck was just rolling downhill

    In 2016, Nikola demonstrated a full-size electric truck flying along a desert highway. The company now admits the demo, embedded below, was faked. The truck was simply rolling downhill.

    The trick ius not subtle: it appears they towed the vehicle to a subtle slope, hid the gradient with slightly curvilinear lenses and camera angles, and were careful to avoid making clear claims about power (the truck is "in motion") in their marketing copy. The company insists they did not lie about the truck, but no-one is fooled.

    Fred Lambert:

    The video was clearly fake. They can use their "in-motion" loophole, but this was undeniably a deceptive tactic to make people think they had a working prototype in 2018 when in fact they didn't.

    Furthermore, Nikola has the guts to claim that this video is now irrelevant because they now have a working prototype of their truck.

    No. The fact that you were willing to deceive people about where you are in the development process of your truck is extremely relevant.

    Nikola is now a publicly-traded stock with a $2bn deal with General Motors underway. A profound contemporary example of "fake it til you make it."

  • What happens if Trump loses the election but refuses to leave office

    The Financial Times takes a sober look at the tricks Trump and the GOP could pull to keep him in power if he loses the election. FiveThirtyEight offers a similar analysis. With a vast patchwork of state legislatures, electors, vote-count shenangigans, congressional maneuvers and courtroom fights to wage, it could go on for months, and even see Nancy Pelosi installed as a caretaker president after Trump's current term ends.

    The grim reality, though, is if it gets to that point, awful things will already be happening in the streets. From the FT:

    Such uncertainty amid high expectations for victory on either side risks civil unrest that increases pressure for one side to concede, officials fear. It could also pit the military against civilians who have taken to the streets. "Leaders are already thinking through the potential for unrest," said a former senior military officer in touch with top Pentagon officials. Pentagon leadership has insisted the US military has no role to play in any election dispute and has openly discouraged Mr Trump from invoking the 1807 Insurrection Act, which would give him the authority to deploy troops to quell any civil unrest.

    Biden has to either win enough electors to obviate the possibility of the candidates sharing a tipping-point state, or win by enough votes in such states to make a slim electoral college advantage unassailable.

    The tl;dr of this and the other articles like it: if Biden doesn't go to bed in the early hours of November 4 a clear Florida-worth of called electoral votes ahead of Trump, Trump can probably engineer the war he wants. This even if it's obvious Biden will still prevail after mail-in votes are counted.

  • Judge jails politician who chanted "I'm a naughty Tory" during sexual assault

    Former Conservative MP Charlie Elphicke was convicted in July of sexually assaulting two women, and was yesterday sentenced to two years in jail for the crimes.

    His first victim, who was attacked by Elphicke at his London home in 2007, said in a statement his actions had had a "lasting impact" on her life, leaving her cautious of being around men. He had forced the woman on to a sofa and groped her breast while trying to kiss her, before chasing her and chanting "I'm a naughty Tory", his trial had heard.

  • Behold LG's "Wing" smartphone

    The LG Wing has two layers:the top slides to form a "T" shape with the bottom, revealing a smaller touchscreen display on the rear layer. It's absolutely ridiculous and I'm delighted it exists.

    "It's a very tricky design to evaluate without using it – it is reminiscent of some of the designs we saw from Japan back in the late 2000s," Ben Wood from the consultancy CCS Insight said, noting it was unlike any of the folding-screen designs that several of LG's rivals have recently focused on."You have to applaud LG for experimenting. Ultimately it will be up to consumers to decide whether its an approach that works."The 5G device also has three cameras on the back and a fourth pop-up lens.

    No pricing yet, but it is coming the U.S.

  • Alternative Twitter front-end kills the cruft

    Nitter is an alternative view of Twitter, showing what's on the microblogging platform without forcing you to interact with the real site's bloated, javascript-heavy design. You can see individual tweets, timelines, searches and personal pages, and it even offers RSS feeds. And unlike Twitter's own legacy/low-bandwidth version, it isn't a barely-functional afterthought. See, for example, what Boing Boing's Twitter account looks like through the mirror. The asterisk is, of course, that you're not logged in there and can't tweet or interact with tweets beyond simply reading them.

    Nitter is a free and open source alternative Twitter front-end focused on privacy. The source is available on GitHub at https://github.com/zedeus/nitter

    • No JavaScript or ads
    • All requests go through the backend, client never talks to Twitter
    • Prevents Twitter from tracking your IP or JavaScript fingerprint
    • Unofficial API (no rate limits or developer account required)
    • Lightweight (for @nim_lang, 60KB vs 784KB from twitter.com)
    • RSS feeds
    • Themes
    • Mobile support (responsive design)
    • AGPLv3 licensed, no proprietary instances permitted

    The Nitter website is useful in its own right, but installing your own Nitter front-end on a local server (or VPS) has additional privacy benefits.

  • Fox News poll finds Biden leads Trump on "mental soundness"

    In an election season featuring two septuagenarians and a week where Donald Trump (in his self-incriminating way) accused rival Joe Biden of taking performance-enhancing drugs, it stands to reason that "mental soundness" would end up a question on polls. Fox News found that Biden leads Trump on "mental soundness" by four points, reflecting his five-point lead in voting intentions.

    The survey of likely 1,191 likely voters found that 51% believe that Biden "has the mental soundness to serve as president." Only 47% of likely voters told Fox News that President Trump has the "mental soundness" to be commander-in-chief. The current president has made his mental stability a cornerstone of his campaign. The same voters preferred the compassion of Biden over Trump, 62% to 44%, the poll found.

  • Maniac Pittsburgh cop notorious for that sort of thing

    Paul Abel, the angry Pittsburgh cop filmed arresting a man who criticized his "Thin Blue Line" facemask, is notorious for his long history of brutalizing locals and the department's unwillingness or inability to fire him.

    The story, this time around, is that Officer Abel didn't like it being pointed out that he's wearing a defaced American flag on his face. Daniel Holc, 22, was threatened with a taser, then arrested for "failing to disperse" and later charged with trespassing and disorderly conduct.

    One wonders why Abel's so upset at Holc's question, given that no-one has the power or gumption to stop Abel doing whatever he wants. (Check out the one-sided agreement Pittsburgh has with the Fraternal Order of Police for a simple reason why.)

    With Abel, through, anger never seems far from the surface. As long ago as 2008, local media mused over his "debacle-filled past" and reported that he was nicknamed "Pit Bull" by his colleagues, one of whom was quoted describing "his tendency to knock the [expletive] out of people."

    That year, Abel pistol-whipped a man and shot him in the hand, leading to a $45,000 settlement.

    Abel was charged with drunken driving, aggravated assault and reckless endangerment, but let off the hook in a non-jury trial.

    In 2017, an off-duty Abel got into a bar fight with a former Steeler. The Steeler, an assistant coach with the team, was fined $300.

    It gets weirder. The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported that Abel "has been accused of pressuring his wife to make false allegations of sexual abuse against the grandparents of her children" as part of a custody battle, and that one of the grandparents claimed he made a threatening remark.

    "He's like a bomb waiting to go off," the grandmother told the Post-Gazette, in that story, which details some of the various other complaints made about Abel.

    Another man accused Abel of beating him up at his own home.

    Abel once got into a fistfight with his own brother-in-law in the Allegheny County Courthouse; the brother-in-law was arrested and jailed for two months.

    Abel was reportedly paid $145k a year by 2012. Though he is no longer listed among the city's top earners in an official statement, a spreadsheet of Pittsburgh public salaries publicized online claims he took home $156k last year, more than Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto.

    Settlements don't come out of his pocket, though, or even the police department's. They're paid for by the city of Pittsburgh, which expects to have a budget shortfall of $100m next year. But hey, what's another six figures on the pile?

  • Data shows what's hot on Steam game platform

    GameDataCrunch is a project by Lars Doucet that aggregates stats about the Steam game platform (with data from the Epic Store and GoG to come). The presentation is simple and straightforward (for example, its trending list for popular releases) and a surprisingly good way to discover interesting new games. (via Bennett Foddy)

    Who is it for?

    Anyone who's interested in learning more about the games industry by looking at data! That said, I specifically designed this website with developers, publishers, PR agencies, curators, influencers, researchers, and journalists in mind. … We collect all the publicly available facts that we know correlate with success — however loosely — and present them to you all in one place. Stats like — how many reviews does a game have? How many concurrent users? What's it's most recent position in the top sellers chart? We can measure these stats directly and report them accurately. But how many sales has game X made based on these stats? That we can't say. But we can say this: if you look at game X's performance stats, the game is ranked in the top 250 games on Steam. That starts to paint a picture.

  • How to make an eight-ball out of stainless steel and brass

    'First, you'll need a steel cylinder and an proportionately sized smaller cylinders of brass and steel to serve as the eight-ball's eye and number. Second, you'll need a metal shop outfitted with the equipment necessary to do "very accurate work."

    My Mechanics:

    I had this idea since I recently discovered how to easily make balls on the milling machine and lathe. As I currently don't know what to restore next, I decided to make the 8 ball. It was a very cool little project. Very accurate work was needed to get all six individual pieces fit together with no gaps. The hardest part of this project was filming the last few shots, because it is so super shiny now and reflects everything. I really like how it turned out and it will be a nice decoration piece to look at.

    The result is astonishing, an object of true beauty. $25 in materials.

  • Billionaire Trumpkin Peter Thiel "really enjoyed" meeting with prominent white nationalist

    Buzzfeed reports that Peter Thiel, the billionaire tech investor and Facebook board member, hosted a dinner with prominent white nationalist Kevin DeAnna as he went all-in on Donald Trump in the 2016 presidential race. Thiel "met with the racist fringe" in the run-up to the reality TV star's election victory, write Rosie Gray and Ryan Mac, and "really enjoyed" it.

    BuzzFeed News can reveal that in at least one instance during the summer of 2016, Thiel hosted a dinner with one of the most influential and vocal white nationalists in modern-day America — a man who has called for the creation of a white ethnostate and played a key role in an effort to mainstream white nationalism as the "alt-right." And then Thiel emailed the next day to say how much he'd enjoyed his company.

    Among those on the racist right, Thiel's outreach raised hopes that his financial bet on Trump would extend into the ascendant alt-right movement, which despite its prominence was a collection of small and often cash-strapped organizations. One avowed white nationalist privately speculated that Thiel's money and influence could have made him "our George Soros."

    Thiel is often described using terms like "enigmatic" and "libertarian", but his opinions are well-publicized and his interest in freedom is well-asterisked. He famously wrote that women getting the vote rendered capitalist democracy an oxymoron ("The 1920s were the last decade in American history during which one could be genuinely optimistic about politics.") and has long been associated with neo-reactionary "dark enlightenment" dreamers such as Mencius Moldbug, who surely appreciate another famous Thiel quote: "I no longer believe that freedom and democracy are compatible."

    So Thiel's reported palling-around with regular fascists is, frankly, no surprise.

    Interesting, though, that the event Buzzfeed uncovered happened a week or two from when Thiel was exposed as the financial backer of Hulk Hogan's lawsuit against Gawker, which led to the eponymous political blog's demise.

  • Oracle wins bid to "partner" with Tik Tok in the U.S.

    U.S. operations of Chinese social video giant Tik Tok are to be "partnered" with by Oracle, reports the Wall Street Journal. The company's bid prevailed after weeks of speculation and courting by U.S. firms, prompted earlier this summer by Donald Trump's whimsical promise to "ban" Tik Tok over security concerns. The deal is being described not as a sale but as a "partnership" in hopes of appeasing both the White House and the Chinese government, which has signaled it would not allow a full acquisition.

    A bid from Microsoft was rejected, according to the Journal.

    Oracle, which specializes in enterprise software, offers no significant consumer products or services, making its interest in the wildly popular but definitively unnerdly video site something of a headscratcher. Oracle's co-founder and executive chairman, Larry Ellison, is one of Trump's few supporters in the tech business—and his richest.

    Reuters describes the unusual deal.

    Under the proposed deal, Oracle will be ByteDance's technology partner and will assume management of TikTok's U.S. user data, the sources said. Oracle is also negotiating taking a stake in TikTok's U.S. assets, the sources added.

    It is unclear whether Trump, who wants a U.S. technology company to own most of TikTok in the United States, will approve the proposed deal. The Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS), which reviews deals for potential national security risks, is overseeing the talks between ByteDance and Oracle.

  • PayPal won't run transactions referring to tardigrades

    Archie McPhee, sellers of curios, realized that any PayPal transaction containing the word "tardigrade" — that being the name of the adorable tiny space-surviving creatures they sell ornaments of — would be blocked.

    "We've contacted them and they told us we should just stop using the word tardigrade," Archie McPhee wrote on Twitter. "We changed the name (and everything else on the page) of our Tardigrade Ornament to Water Bear Ornament because we had just sent out an email, but this is a terrible solution."

    PayPal's response was brief, referring to its security system and offering little guidance beyond not using the word. It made clear that using it breaks the PayPal user agreement, and that it is not a case of the Scunthorpe Problem, where bad code sees a bad word in an innocent series of letters. The word
    "tardigrade", explicitly, will be rejected.

    "Every transaction that goes through our system, is reviewed by our internal security system. Certain words can trigger our security system. Unfortunately, this cannot be overridden. I would advise you to change the wording on your website to prevent this from happening," wrote PayPal.

    The mystery remains open, officially, but Vice's Samantha Cole identified what is surely the culprit: a foreign company named "Tardigrade Limited" is on a sanctions list over arms sales. The Office of Foreign Assets Control has a search engine that returns the word as an entry, and the company crops up in this U.S. Treasury Department shit list.

    "In 2015, PayPal was ordered to pay $7.7 million for 486 OFAC sanctions violations over several years," Cole writes.

  • Goodreads must be destroyed

    Goodreads is a vile website, both shopworn and sharp-edged. There, the machinery of social media and engagement-generation was applied so ruthlessly to books that Amazon itself was outgunned and ended up buying it. Years later, Goodreads stagnates even as its near-monopoly persists, a wedding of the worst excesses of online commenting, fiction fandom and tech-biz social engineering. The lies, the insecure hatereaders, the impassive tolerance of toxic behavior—all are brought to bear, without mercy, on authors at the precarious margins of career security. And after all that, it's all but useless as a discovery service. At The New Stateman, Sarah Manavis hopes that its "reign of terror" will soon come to an end.

    There should be nothing in the world more benign than Goodreads, a website and app that 90 million people around the world use to find new books, track their reading, and attempt to meet people with similar tastes. For almost 15 years, it has been the dominant platform for readers to rate books and find recommendations. But many of the internet's most dedicated readers now wish they could share their enthusiasm for books elsewhere. What should be a cosy, pleasant corner of the internet has become a monster.

    She examines in depth why potential competitors have failed, so far, and why The StoryGraph, a book discovery site in the UK, has a good chance of succeeding. The problem, in a nutshell: Goodreads has a virtually insurmountable advantage in its access to Amazon's library and user data.

    Stacked against the likes of Facebook, a company that admits it was used to incite genocide in Myanmar, it might seem weird to complain about a book site. But Goodreads is a pure example of just how broken a platform can be for humans while being just good enough to hold a monopoly over their attention.

  • Parody news report from 9/11

    In this 2004 segment of The Day Today, the legendary parody news show from the UK, a reporter assigned to cover a meeting at the World Trade Center finds that he is a) going to get fired for faking his report and b) has already had the luckiest day of his life.

  • Real footage of San Francisco set to the Blade Runner 2049 theme

    As posted by Terry Tsai: "SF drone footage during the #BayAreaFires on 9/9/20, set to Blade Runner 2049 music."

    Horrifying footage (originally posted by DrSbaitso) made beatiful—at least until the video ends and one goes back to the reality of choking clouds of smoke covering the western seaboard as fires rage inland.

    Previously:

    'This is fine': Ominous orange skies over California's Bay Area match Pantone 130U