Roman candles are best when held by terrified children

Give your kids Roman candles to use in a confined space. What could go wrong?

Sure, they might drop them in terror. Yeah, the sparkling, white-hot explosion of entertaining color that pours out of the firework could cause them life-altering injuries, but it’s totally cool. Just enjoy the colors.

Enjoy. Those. Colors. Read the rest

Activists teaching Australian Aboriginals to protect themselves by recording their interactions with law enforcement

Smartphone video footage of police brutality being exercised against black Americans and other ethnic minorities living their lives within the nation’s borders have become depressingly commonplace. While difficult to watch and, most likely for the videographer, difficult to stand by and film, such footage can be an important tool in bringing cops who abuse the power of their office to justice. The news, social media and water cooler talk here in North America often overflows with reports of abuses of power by law enforcement officials. It’s easy to forget that the very same brand of injustice and violence are served up in other parts of the world – a lot.

According to The New York Times, in Australia, a country that’s been marred by institutional racism since its inception, “...aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples are incarcerated at 13 times the rate of non-Indigenous Australians. They make up 27 percent of Australia’s prisoners, compared with 3 percent of the overall population.” Given the disproportionate representation of Indigenous Australians in the clink, it’s safe to say that there’s some greasy shit going on Down Under, of a similar sort to the greasy shit we see going on up here in places like New York City and Ferguson, Missouri.

To help Australia aboriginals and Torres Strait Islander peoples to mitigate this prejudicial treatment at the hands of those meant to serve and protect them, human rights activists are teaching them how to respond to the threat of police violence and to record their interactions with law enforcement, just like we do up here:

From The New York Times:

The Copwatch workshops, activists said, are intended to teach people their legal rights and how to safely record interactions with police officers.

Read the rest

Patrick Stewart signs on to narrate upcoming video game My Memory of Us

Scheduled for release on October 9th, My Memory of Us is a game that tackles a game that tackles a difficult subject: the lives of Jewish children in Nazi-occupied Poland during the Second World War. Engadget recently spoke with Mikołaj Pawłowski, the CEO of Juggler Games, about how a video game with such a dark backdrop will be presented in a way that respects the grim period of human history in which it’s set, while still making it something that folks might actually want to play.

From Engadget:

The story tells of a friendship between and boy and a girl in a Jewish ghetto in Poland, made during some of history's darkest days. You venture outside, exploring what you can of your world now full of walls, decrees and exclusion, completing logic puzzles and looking for small pleasures along the way. The animation, reminiscent of old Disney cartoons, gives the gameplay even greater poignancy. "The story of My Memory of Us is a personal one to us, as our grandparents faced similar oppression World War 2. This game is our ode to them and the millions of others who lived and died during this time," says Pawłowski.

To add to the gravitas surrounding the project, Juggler’s recruited one of the best-known voice talents on the planet, Patrick Stewart, to narrate the game.

Given Stewart’s involvement in a number of worthwhile humanitarian causes, including Amnesty International, I can only assume that the game will treat the delicate subject of the horrors and humiliations that Jews were forced to live in Nazi Germany’s ghettos with the utmost care and respect. Read the rest

Comic book art being auctioned off for a great cause

Giving generously to an important cause is cool. Y’all know what’s cooler? Giving generously to an important cause and, as a result, becoming the proud owner of a gorgeous piece of comic book art.

Cat Staggs — the co-creator of Crosswind and an artist on Wonder Woman ‘77 — was approached at a recent comic book convention and was commissioned by a fan, Danielle Van Lier, to throw together a gorgeous drawing of Wonder Woman. It was a sketch with a mission: to raise as much coin as possible for Immigrant Families Together. It’s a charity that focuses its efforts on improving the lives of families separated at America’s southern borders in the following areas:

• Raising funds through coordinated crowdfunding and individual giving in order to post bond for parents separated from their children • Paying bonds and providing pro bono legal representation to fulfill all legal responsibilities while awaiting trial so that they may be with their children • Arranging safe transportation from state of detention to the city where children are currently in foster care • When needed, finding long-term housing in the destination city while they await trial • Connecting parents with resources in order to sustain them during the process of being unified with their children • Working with local organizations and government to expedite the process of achieving full custody of their children while they await trial

Given the shitty way that the Trump administration has been treating families seeking safe harbor from the dangers of their homes, this is vital work. Read the rest

United Nations: ISIS is regrouping

It’s been a while since we’ve heard a lot about the so-called Islamic State. Since the "defeat" of ISIS in Iraq and the majority of Syria, much of the focus in the war-torn regions of the Middle East has been on: the ongoing pissing match between the United States, Russia and Turkey in Syria, what will become of the civilians whose lives were shattered during the Syrian Civil War, hostilities between Iran and damn near everyone, Palestinian rights, and what the Israelis have cooking in regards to Gaza and the protection of their populace from a variety of aggressors.

Would you be surprised to learn that ISIS is still kind of a big deal? Because it sort of sounds like the United Nations was. According to the CBC, a report from U.N. Terrorism experts says that ISIS is still doing fine, thank you very much, boasting as many as 30,000 members stationed in Syria and Iraq. However, after multiple ass-kickings at the hands of professional and volunteer military forces across the Middle East, they’ve decided to tone things down a bit. That overt, "we're gonna build a freaking caliphate" look of theirs? SO last year. Currently, ISIS is playing it cool by conducting covert operations in its bases of operation while the terrorist group regroups and rebuilds.

From The CBC:

While many ISIS fighters, planners and commanders have been killed in fighting, and many other fighters and supporters have left the immediate conflict zone, the experts said many still remain in the two countries — some engaged militarily, "and others hiding out in sympathetic communities and urban areas."

...

Read the rest

The Kids in the Hall warned us about Russia but we wouldn't listen

Good God. We should have listened to Dave Foley. He knew the score for YEARS before election tampering and a compromised government were even glints in Vladimir Putin's eye. Aside from the fact that the Russians are no longer Communists? Dead. On.

I guess that means we should start preparing for a killer bee attack. Read the rest

United Nations: China is running forced re-education camps for Muslims and ethnic minorities

One million ethnic Uigurs are being held in a "massive internment camp that is shrouded in secrecy" by the Chinese government, says a United Nations Human Rights panel that has received multiple credible reports to back up their claim (this story has been percolating all summer long). According to Gay McDougall of the U.N. Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, you can tack an additional million people on to that initial figure: it’s estimated that another one million Muslims living in China’s western Xinjiang autonomous region have also been sent to similar camps for political indoctrination. The reasoning for this, according to Reuters, is that China’s sovereignty in the western Xinjiang autonomous region is being threatened by separatists and Islamic militants. The Uigurs mostly identify as Muslim, so there you go.

At the meeting in Geneva, McDougall was quoted as saying:

“We are deeply concerned at the many numerous and credible reports that we have received that in the name of combating religious extremism and maintaining social stability (China) has changed the Uighur autonomous region into something that resembles a massive internment camp that is shrouded in secrecy, a sort of ‘no rights zone.”

The Chinese, for their part, have responded, "nuh-uh."

From The Globe & Mail:

The Chinese government has flatly denied rounding up large numbers of Muslims into internment centres for political indoctrination, telling a United Nations committee that such places do not exist.

The idea that “Xinjiang is a ‘no-rights zone’ is completely against the facts,” Hu Lianhe, deputy director-general of the Communist Party’s United Front Work Department, told members of the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination in Geneva Monday.

Read the rest

Tweaks made to Android OS are causing massive security holes

Last month, I used up a good chunk of text talking about how much I’ve come to enjoy using Android-powered smartphones. Unfortunately, a story I ran across over at Wired has convinced me that, at least for the time being, spending significantly more time with my iPhone 6 Plus might be a good idea.

According to the report, for many Android users, it’s not necessary to download an altered .APK file from a shady torrenting website or click an email link that’ll fill your handset up with malware in order to compromise your smartphone’s security. Twenty-five different Android smartphone models, made by well-known manufacturers and available across North America, have been found to be full of security flaws and other exploitable nightmares baked into them. The most frustrating part of it all: none of the exploits detailed in the story would be there if the manufacturers had their shit together

From Wired:

The potential outcomes of the vulnerabilities range in severity, from being able to lock someone out of their device to gaining surreptitious access to its microphone and other functions. They all share one common trait, though: They didn’t have to be there.

Instead, they’re a byproduct of an open Android operating system that lets third-party companies modify code to their own liking. There’s nothing inherently wrong with that; it allows for differentiation, which gives people more choice. Google will release a vanilla version of Android Pie this fall, but it’ll eventually come in all kinds of flavors.

Those modifications lead to headaches, though, including the well-established problem of delays in shipping security updates.

Read the rest

For most people, driving for Uber or Lyft just ain't worth it

After a long day of driving for Uber and Lyft, this fella decided to work out exactly how much money he'd be taking home after paying taxes and expenses on his income as an independent contractor. While there's certainly a number of tax loopholes and write-offs that he could be taking advantage of, it looks like, for most people, driving for Uber or Lyft isn't worth the time. Read the rest

Aaron Paul and Bryan Cranston invite you to help out a pair of great causes and also, breakfast

I can't believe that it's been five years since the final episode of Breaking Bad hit the air. I also can't believe that I could be having breakfast with Aaron Paul and Bryan Cranston, thanks to this fun new contest from Omaze.

By making a donation, you'll not only be giving to two exceptional causes--The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children and Kind Campaign--you'll also have the chance to cook AND nosh the most important meal of the day with Cranston and Paul in the RV from Breaking Bad. What's not to like?

Oh, one thing... Not everyone who lives in an RV has to shit in a bucket. I'm just saying. We have bathrooms. Also, ditches and bushes. Read the rest

Donations to help Puerto Ricans in wake of hurricane left to rot

I think we can safely say that the United States government's response to the humanitarian crisis in Puerto Rico in the wake of Hurricane Maria was a rolling clusterfuck. Cronyism, red tape and terrible management practices on the part of FEMA, the National Guard and, in many cases, ill-equipped private contractors, turned what should have been a swift government controlled cleanup and restoration effort into a miserable quagmire. Many Puerto Ricans, a year after having their lives torn apart by hurricane-force winds and flooding, are still without permanent housing.

Difficult as it might be to believe, the ineptitude at every level of the government, both federal and territorial, has reached a new low. This past week, a large cache of donations--10 semi trailers full of medical supplies, diapers, food and water--that should have been handed out to Puerto Ricans in need of sustenance and other necessities, was found by an employee of Puerto Rican radio station Radio Isla. In a video taken by one of the radio station's employees, it's apparent that the supplies were left to rot.

According to Splinter, when the word got out that the rotting supplies had been found, the head of the National Guard for the region came up with an excuse for why the supplies had been left to ruin:

The Adjutant General of Puerto Rico, Brig. Gen. Isabelo Rivera, explained today that the merchandise stored in containers at the State Election Commission facilities, related to the collection center to help the victims of Hurricane Maria, will finish with its distribution in the next few days.

Read the rest

Crocs no longer making Crocs

You may have thought that you were prepared for this moment, but I want you to sit down, nonetheless. Brace yourself. Buck up. Be strong.

Here we go.

Crocs, squishy footwear manufacturer to the stars (also, Larry, who stops by to top off that pig tank of propane I’ve got sitting outside of my RV when we winter in Texas,) is closing its last manufacturing plants.

According to a statement plopped out by the company last week, Crocs decreed that they will no longer be making the iconic closed cell resin kicks that made them famous, any longer, saying “In connection with ongoing efforts to simplify the business and improve profitability, during the second quarter, the company closed its manufacturing facility in Mexico and moved ahead with plans to close its last manufacturing facility, which is located in Italy,"

That said, it’s sounding like the company will likely be licensing out the right to make Crocs sandals, clogs and other squishy footwear options to outside manufacturers.

From Jezebel:

...there have been multiple media reports that Crocs is winding down production in our owned manufacturing facilities. While accurate, some people have interpreted that to mean that Crocs will no longer be making and selling shoes. Quite the contrary, Crocs will continue to innovate, design and produce the most comfortable shoes on the planet. As we streamline our business to meet growing demand for Crocs, we’re simply shifting production to third parties to increase our manufacturing capacity.

We’re extremely grateful, but not surprised that our passionate fans are rallying around the brand today.

Read the rest

Canadian scolding of Saudi Arabia's human rights violations means nothing if they continue to sell them weapons

I’m a proud Canadian. I’m proud that my nation took a stand against the human rights practices in Saudi Arabia. Maybe you’ve read about it. Earlier this week, Canada’s Minster of Foreign Affairs tweeted that our nation was less than impressed with Saudi Arabia’s arrest of a woman’s right activist. It’s a sentiment echoed by Human Rights Watch and the United Nations.

From The Guardian:

On Wednesday, Human Rights Watch said Saudi Arabia had arrested the women’s rights activists Samar Badawi and Nassima al-Sadah. The arrests were the latest in a government crackdown on activists, clerics and journalists. More than a dozen women’s rights activists have been targeted since May.

Most of those arrested campaigned for the right to drive and an end to the country’s male guardianship system, which requires women to obtain the consent of a male relative for major decisions.

On Friday, Canada said it was gravely concerned about the arrests, including Badawi’s. Her brother Raif Badawi, a dissident blogger, has been imprisoned since 2012. His wife, Ensaf Haidar, lives in Canada and recently became a Canadian citizen.

As a result of Canada commenting on the Saudi treatment of these individuals, the Saudi Arabia kind of lost its shit: After tweeting that no one would be allowed to dictate how the nation administrated its people, the Saudi government called its ambassadors to Canada home and gave Canada’s ambassador to the nation 24 hours to get out of Dodge. The Saudis followed up by ordering many of its citizens who were attending university at Canadian institutions home and messing with established trade deals it holds with Canada. Read the rest

Criminal corralled by crime-fighting cows

Last week, a Florida woman (because of course she’s from Florida) was caught rolling around in a stolen SUV. There was a chase! There was a crash! In an effort to escape her police entourage, 46-year old Jennifer Anne Kaufman left the other occupants of her pilfered ride behind and took off on foot. As she fled across a farmer's field, Kaufman could likely hear the sirens of the prowl cars that had been chasing her. The helicopter that the Seminole County Sheriff’s Office called in to help hunt her down? No way she’d have missed that.

Kaufman did not, however, account for the cows.

Rural crime is a serious issue: everyone’s gotta do their part, even livestock.

According to the Tampa Bay Times, after the cows and Seminole County Sheriff’s deputies took Kaufman and her pals, who were good enough to stick around, into custody, they had a chance to search the stolen SUV and discovered "…more than a gram of cocaine, a crack pipe, syringes and a metal spoon."

That’ll do cows. That’ll do.

Yeah, I know that it's more likely that the cattle were either curious or expecting to be fed by a human tromping through their field. But honestly, in a world so full of hate, violence and unspeakable dangers, I need to believe that, when faced with a situation like this one, a cow can be relied upon to rise up and mete out justice, that we all might sleep just a little bit easier. Read the rest

Weekend Tunes: Salsa Celtica--Pa'l Rumberos

Sometimes, the most delightful musical discoveries happen completely by accident: a song you hear at a party or catch the tail end of on the radio without the DJ bothering to tell you what it's called can wind up being one of the tunes that's always lurking on the cusp of your mind. This was the case for me with Salsa Celtica.

I was listening to Eliza Carthy sing The Grey Cockerel, and happened to glance at my phone's display while the music was playing. Salsa Celtica was credited as Carthy's collaborator on the track. Digging their sound, I googled the name. Boom: they'd a ton of albums to their credit. The title of one of their records, El Agua De La Vida, made me laugh. The translation: The water of life. In Gaeilge (Irish,) the translation of this is uisce beatha (uisge beatha in Gaelic.) It means 'whiskey.' It's one of the phrases that many tourists returning Ireland or Scotland is likely to have picked up during their time on holiday.

This, it seemed to me, was a band that could teach a master class in taking the piss.

Salsa Celtica has been spinning out dancable Celtic-infused Cuban music since the 1990s. I've yet to fall out of love with any of their albums. Read the rest

Ebola in a war zone: what could go wrong?

A few days after skipping out on the Democratic Republic of Congo, Ebola decided, ‘nah,’ cropping back up in a town of around 60,000 potential carriers called Mangina, located in Congo’s North Kivu province. Since the latest outbreak was identified, four people have died of the hemorrhagic fever. The World Health Organization is hoping that the strain of Ebola that’s shown up in North Kivu province is the same as the one that Congolese health workers and an international team of medical professionals were able to put down, this past July: they have a vaccine for that particular strain and it works fabulously. The WHO plans on giving the vaccine a go with this new outbreak—fingers crossed! Unfortunately, in addition to the possibility that the vaccine might not work for this Ebola outbreak, those tasked with stemming the spread of the disease are facing a threat that doesn’t involve contracting a virus: Working in an active war zone.

From The New York Times:

But North Kivu Province, the volatile region in the Democratic Republic of Congo where the new outbreak is centered, creates security complications that health officials did not confront in the outbreak they just defeated in northwest Équateur Province, 1,550 miles away. The World Health Organization is worried about the safety of medical workers in North Kivu and their access to areas controlled by militants.

“This new cluster is occurring in an environment which is very different from where we were operating in the northwest,” said Dr. Peter Salama, the deputy director general of the health agency and the head of its emergency response unit.

Read the rest

Uncover the tragic history of Fallout Online: The MMO that could have been

Before Fallout 76 was a twinkle in Bethesda's eye, there were rumors of another Fallout MMO being whispered by gamers. Interplay, the company responsible for the now classic titles, Fallout and Fallout 2, had plans for a title called Project V13 – an installment in the Fallout franchise that would allow players to work together, online, to solve puzzles, finish quests and overcome overwhelming odds in the game’s post-apocalyptic universe. Other than some concept art (which later was used by modders to create some fabulous weapons and armor for Fallout 4), Project V13 never saw the light of day.

Mostly.

For a brief, shining moment (37 seconds, to be exact) there was hope. Project 13 was teased as Fallout Online. They even made a trailer announcing a beta for it.

From The Verge:

O’Green tells The Verge that the already post-apocalyptic Fallout Online was going to start with another apocalypse. By the time Interplay started serious development, it had settled on an American West Coast setting that would span parts of Oregon, California, Utah, Arizona, and Nevada, close to where Fallout and Fallout 2 took place. But around the beginning of Fallout Online, something would trigger an almost comically long series of disasters — potentially including asteroids, volcanoes, nukes, tsunamis, and a resurgence of the series’s powerful Forced Evolutionary Virus. “It wasn’t going to be completely torn down, but we were going to tear it up again a little bit,” says O’Green.

The idea behind the apocalypses was partly to create a world that was still believably chaotic after 200 years and partly to set up new storylines, some of which pushed the series’ science fictional limits.

Read the rest

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