Wells Fargo admits it ripped off its customers, creates low-response-rate opt-in system for its victims to get paid back

Wells Fargo has admitted wrongdoing in defrauding 110,000 mortgage borrowers, and to make good on it, they're sending out letters that look like junk-mail, containing a form that customers have to fill in to confirm that they want their stolen money back; if Wells doesn't get a reply, it will assume that those customers are donating their settlements back to the bank's shareholders. (more…)

FCC opens corruption investigation into Ajit Pai, who likes to joke about being a corporate puppet

Trump FCC Chairman Ajit Pai's tenure has been marked by a disregard for the rules under which his agency is legally bound to operate: his Net Neutrality killing order was made without satisfying the evidentiary burden required by law, on the basis of laughable lies (including more than a million fake anti-Neutrality comments from bots pretending to be dead people, nonexsitent people and people who support Net Neutrality) that even his own agency knew to be false, then stonewalling law enforcement attempts to identify the botmasters -- no surprise that Pai's Neutracide is going to be tied up in court for years. (more…)

Cheeseburger removed from Happy Meal menu

McDonald's is to cut a certain high-calorie item of junk food from the Happy Menu marketed to kids: cheeseburgers.

“We hope these actions will bring more choices to consumers and uniquely benefit millions of families, which are important steps as we build a better McDonald’s,” Chief Executive Officer Steve Easterbrook said in the statement. After child obesity rates in the U.S. almost tripled since the 1970s, McDonald’s is seeking healthier ingredients while trying to boost its image with more environmentally friendly packaging.

For those who appreciate the inherent absurdity of trying to make McDonald's a place of health and youthful wellbeing, a classic Onion story is always worth revisiting: McDonald's Drops 'Hammurderer' Character From Advertising.

Idiot burglar throws brick at window but hits partner in the head, has to drag him away

Like something out of an old Laurel and Hardy film, these two bumblers are more like clowns than burglars. They attempt to break into a building by throwing bricks through the window. But when one of the inept idiots throws a brick, the other runs in front of it, getting whacked right in the head. He crumples to the ground, leaving the other with the grunt work of dragging him away. You couldn't stage this any better if you were working on a set. The only thing missing is a couple of bowler hats.

Man who impersonated Kim Jong-un at Olympics kicked in the shin and detained

"The most feared weapon of any dictatorship is satire," says Howard, the Australian who impersonated Kim Jong-un waving a United Korea flag in front of North Korean cheerleaders at the Olympics yesterday. He was rewarded with a none-too-happy response.

According to the impersonator, his stunt got him a kick in the shin and angry shouting by North Korean "tough guys." He was then detained by South Korean police, for his own safety, and wasn't allowed to leave until after the game had finished.

Via Mashable, where you can read more details.

A dot-matrix printer that taps out a picture using a pencil

Here's a clever, artistic hack: Taking a dot-matrix printer and using its mechanism to tap a pencil against paper -- slowly drawing out a picture as a series of tiny graphite dots.

As Hackaday notes:

The software converts the image into an array, with 0 representing white and 1 representing black. The printer itself works a bit like an old-school CRT TV: the scanner array moves the printer along a horizontal line, then moves it vertically and along another horizontal line. It then triggers the hard drive actuator to create a mark on the paper if there is a 1 in the array at that point.

I love artbots that employ physical techniques humans not only wouldn't use, but probably couldn't: It'd be pretty hard for a mere mortal to tap a pencil so accurately, for so long. When the camera zooms in on that video you can see the eerie results this robot achieves -- the freaky sheen of graphite produced by a zillion little taps.

It also reminds me how fantastically rugged and reliable were those old dot-matrix printers. I used a couple back in the late 80s at a campus newspaper, and then in the early 90s when I was working as the receptionist at a driving school in Toronto. They were as noisy as a tommy gun, but tough as old boots: I could run 'em for hours and never have a problem. In contrast, today's printers are Rube Goldberg devices so wildly fragile that they break if you look at them in the wrong way; if you think about them in the wrong way, it sometimes feels. "The state of networking in the printer industry is abysmal," as The Wirecutter put it -- in a piece called "Why All Printers Suck" -- which concludes: "Basically, printers are a dismal product category."

Amen.

Gun homicide rate map of America

At r/DataIsBeautiful, academiaadvice posted this map of U.S. gun homicides per 100,000 residents between 2007-2016.
Source: U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention - https://wonder.cdc.gov/ucd-icd10.html - Tools: Excel, Datawrapper. Rates are expressed on an annual basis, covering the years 2007-2016. Raw CDC data

By comparison, here's gun ownership rates:

Idaho's relatively low gun homidice rate (about 1.2 per 100k) still outstrips those of heavily urban democracies like the UK (0.23) and Japan (0.1). The variation within U.S. regions conceals the general scale of the killing on a whole (5.3 per 100k). And that particular number excludes about half the gun deaths in America—gun deaths that are as less likely elsewhere as the homicides are. One we decide to ignore the obvious correlation -- absolute thresholds of gun owenership and availability -- the more significant obscure ones become.

Odd moment with a rubber chicken

It would be gauche of me to explain this wonderful moment of web video, but I feel obliged to protect you from any potential disappointment with respect to the interactions of rubber chickens and ceiling fans. It's a sample from this performance by Vitas, Russia's answer to Babylon Zoo:

(Nor is the the first wedding of Russian glam pop and chickens)

These glasses sport film strips rescued from vintage reels

To make their truly unique Cinematiq collection, Budapest-based eyewear designer Zachary Tipton and his team looked to vintage films for inspiration. Using 16 and 35mm film sourced from "old movie theaters, TV stations and private collections," they wedged short, high-contrast scenes into the temples of the collection's eyeglass frames.

Some of the films were labeled, others were so very much of indie origin we could not even identify their genre.

We’ve literally examined miles of films frame by frame to curate the final scenes that were ready to become more than just art living in the past.

Impressively, a man known for his distinct eyewear, Sir Elton John, is one of their first clients.

I don't wear glasses (yet, anyway), but if I did, I'd have a hard time choosing between these and Vinylize, the 'groovy' ones made from vinyl records. Both kinds are produced by Tipton's team.

(Mashable)

How a .tech domain can build your brand

The web is a big place, but it's by no means infinite where domain names are concerned. New domain seekers, in particular, are feeling the burn as .com domain names become increasingly saturated, forcing many to choose a second-rate domain name or rename their brand entirely.

Opting for a .tech domain not only affords you a better chance at picking the ideal domain name, but it can also help you flaunt your tech brand or startup online. Radix is offering 10-year subscriptions to '.tech' domains for over 80% off at $39.99.

Tech powerhouses like Microsoft (rewards.tech), The Consumer Electronics Show (CES.tech), and The Next Web (tnw.tech) are already using .tech domains, and having one can better position your brand in their league. Plus, with a host of unregistered domains available, you're more likely to find the domain that suits your product without having to compromise.

You can sign up today in the Boing Boing Store for ten years of a Radix '.tech.' domain for $39.99.

For sale: A lavish artist's home converted from an old brick incinerator

Officials in Tulsa, Oklahoma constructed this incinerator building in 1939 to burn the city's trash. A short year later, according to Tulsa World, an ordinance was passed that prohibited trash from being burnt within city limits. The property sat dormant for years until artist and Oklahoma native Ron Fleming was able to get the city to accept his bid to purchase it in 1981. The winning bid? $5400.

"I took a shot in the dark on the price," he said. "I had no idea what it was worth."

The first step in converting the industrial site to living space was abundantly clear, as the lower level was nearly full of ash, mostly from burned medical supplies. It took nearly a year to carry it all out by wheelbarrow, Fleming said.

He and his late wife, Patti, camped out in a nearby tent on weekends to oversee construction. By Halloween night 1982, the two of them were able to sleep inside as residents.

Over the years, they turned this former municipal structure into a swoonworthy 4,600-square-foot, three-bedroom luxury estate, which is now for sale for just $275K.

Thanks, Greg!

(Neatorama)

When Fonzie and the Happy Days gang time traveled

If you're a child of the seventies, you'll probably remember that while the sitcom Happy Days aired from 1974 to 1984, it was set in Milwaukee in the late fifties.

Ok, so in 1980, an animated spin-off series called The Fonz and the Happy Days Gang hit the Saturday morning cartoon circuit, lasting just two years. In those two seasons, they meet a "future chick" named Cupcake and are accidentally hurled through time and space in a janky spaceship with Mr. Cool, a talking dog. This quasi-educational show (which has Wolfman Jack as its narrator) chronicles their journey trying to get back to 1957, but first they jump to significant historical time and places, like the Salem Witch Trials.

So, it's a cartoon, made for early-eighties kids, of fifties youth bouncing around in time trying to get back to 1957. Sure... why not?.

If you have the time (heh), watch all of Season 1 and Season 2.

If you're wondering, this cartoon happened two years after Robin Williams landed a small role as Mork on the live-action Happy Days (which eventually turned into the spin-off, Mork & Mindy) and just three years after the Fonz jumped the shark.

Ayyy... Can you dig it?

(Weird Universe)

Incredible footage from 1929 of old folks born in the 1800s

In 1929, from Maine to California, and spots in-between, some spry senior citizens were interviewed for Movietone newsreels. This video is a compilation of those interviews. Keep in mind when watching that everyone featured was born before the mid-1800s. In the reels, you'll hear them recollect stories from their past and see glimpses of what their life as an elderly person is like.

The footage is from the University of South Carolina's Moving Image Research Collections and was cleaned up and put on YouTube by guy jones.

Here's another one. It features similar interviews but moves into the year 1930. Watch for the farmer at the 2:10 mark, as he doles out some timeless wisdom about "work" vs. "play":

Previously: Listen: Voice recordings of black slaves

(reddit)

3D Origami simulator

The Origami Simulator depicts prefolded paper on screen, all ready to go: to fold it into a beautiful bird, crane or geometric monstrosity, all you have to do is manipulate a slider. There are plenty of preferences to explore, too, including a VR mode and the option of having a young, slightly menacing Edward Olmos come around your house and place the origami knowingly on a table or desk.

Environmentalists sue White House for access to withheld public records on pesticide use

The Environmental Protection Agency's mission is in its name. But it's hard to tell whether or not the EPA is doing its job if the government refuses to release any records of its doing so.

In the summer of 2017, the Center for Biological Diversity – an organization that is passionate about the link between the well-being of humanity and the ongoing safety and diversity of all the creatures bopping around the earth – requested that the EPA and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife service provide them with public records on the use of a number of pesticides: chlorpyrifos, diazinon and malathion. Their request for information was never acknowledged.

Unwilling to take ghosting for an answer, they filed a lawsuit against the Trump administration, demanding that the thousands of pages of analysis on how the pesticides' use affects wild plants and animals, be released. In a statement released by the organization earlier today, they cited the following:

The Fish and Wildlife Service had committed to releasing its analysis of that research for public comment by May 2017 and to finalize the documents by December 2017. But last year, shortly after donating $1 million to Trump's inauguration, Dow Chemical asked federal agencies not to finalize the legally required assessments that are crucial to establishing common-sense measures to reduce the pesticides' harm to endangered species. 

The EPA’s initial analysis of the three pesticides, released in 2016, found that 97 percent of the more than 1,800 animals and plants protected under the Endangered Species Act are likely to be harmed by malathion and chlorpyrifos. Another 78 percent are likely to be hurt by the pesticide diazinon.

Upon the completion of the EPA’s analysis, the Fish and Wildlife Service was then required to complete its assessment and suggest mitigation to avoid jeopardizing the continued existence of endangered species like whooping cranes and Karner blue butterflies.

But the finalization of those assessments has stalled in the wake the request by Dow, which over the past six years has donated $11 million to congressional campaigns and political action committees. Over the same period the company has spent an additional $75 million lobbying Congress.

Gross, if true.

If you believe in what the Center for Biological Diversity stands for and want to make a donation to support their work, you can do so, here.

Image: Casey Deshong - This image is from the FEMA Photo Library., Public Domain

This book explains how to tell when your country's going to hell and how to stop it

You may have noticed of late that things in America are becoming less, well, American.

A cruel misogynist with dangerously racist beliefs is running the show. Nazis and bigots of all stripes no long fear giving voice to their hatred in public. The nation's journalists and the free flow of information are under attack. The government is working hard to defund the healthcare apparatus designed to protect the country's most vulnerable citizens. Piece by piece, the country's institutions, its heart and soul are being torn asunder, paving the way for something new. After reading Timothy Snyder's most recent book, On Tyranny: Twenty Lessons from the Twentieth Century, I gotta tell you, if you're scared of the outcome of all of this, chances are you're likely not scared enough.

Snyder is a scholar who specializes in the history of the the 20th century and, more pointedly, the holocaust. His knowledge of how a country's slow slide into fascism at the whim of a tyrant can occur is beyond reproach, given his academic street cred: he's the Richard C. Levin Professor of History at Yale, a Committee on Conscience member at the US Holocaust Memorial Museum. What I'm getting at is that he knows from bad shit, how it starts and historically, how it's gone down. With the current political and popular climate in a number of nations around the world, he's concerned that the ugliest parts of humanity are ready to rear their heads once again.

On Tyranny's only 126 pages long. Over the course of the book's 20 easy-to-read chapters, Snyder explains the signs that can be seen in the lead up to a fascist regime, sites brutal examples of where these signs have pointed to in the past, and what we as individuals can do to stand against the tide of such authoritarianism and hatred. From the book:

"The Founding Fathers tried to protect us from the threat they knew, the tyranny that overcame ancient democracy. Today, our political order faces new threats, not unlike the totalitarianism of the twentieth century. We are no wider than the Europeans who saw democracy yield to fascism, Nazism or Communism. Our one advantage is that we might learn from their experience."

No matter which side of the political fence you walk on, the lessons that the book offers make for essential reading. If you're interested and can't find the book at your local library, getting your hands on a copy of your own won't cost you much. Amazon's got it in paperback for $6.39, as an audiobook for $5.95 and Kindle owners can read it for just $3.99. That's a small price to pay for a tool that'll help you know fascism when you see it and how to stand against it when it comes.

Image via Seamus Bellamy

 

 

 

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