Instagram influencer says photos of her motorcycle accident were not staged and did not include product placement

It sucks to be in a motorcycle accident, as Instagram influencer tifforelie was. She documented the accident by posting a series of professionally-shot photos of her lying in the road, one of which prominently displayed a bottle of Smartwater. The photos have since been deleted, but can be found here on Buzzfeed.

Buzzfeed editor Tanya Chen tweeted that tifforelie "denied to me that the Smartwater featured in one of the professional photos is a brand endorsement" and that "Smartwater confirmed to me they 'do not have a paid relationship with Tiffany.'" That settles it!

Semper Fur: fursuit technician improves military cooling vest and troops are into it

Furry fans sometimes use cooling vests to make hot fursuits comfortable to wear. Soldiers also have need for such garments. And now a Dutch fursuit maker has improved the state of the art.

Tired of overheating in his own fursuit, Pepeyn Langedijk adapted a military cooling vest to his own ends to create the EZ Cooldown vest. Langedijk, a resident of the Netherlands, goes by “EZ Wolf” in lupine costume and named his invention after his character.

Langedijk and his husband Tom live in Amsterdam and run the EZ Cooldown business together full-time. They met during Elfia, a medieval fantasy reenactment fair, and their hobbies led them to test their product on themselves. The team told The Daily Beast that they sold more than a thousand vests in 2018, which each retail for $215, packs included. Roughly 80 percent of the company’s sales are to U.S. customers.

The pair don’t have official military contracts, but they told The Daily Beast that a small group of U.S. Navy troops in Japan reached out to EZ Cooldown three years ago to ask if the company could ship to military bases. The service members ended up buying 10 vests, then their friends bought 20, then 30, Langedijk said. He still doesn’t know how they heard of his product.

Adding pink seaweed to cow feed eliminates their methane emissions

One of the major contributors to greenhouse gases is the methane that cows belch up as they break down cellulose, but five years ago, research from Australia's Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) found that adding small amounts of a pink seaweed called Asparagopsis to cows' diets eliminated the gut microbes responsible for methane production and "completely knocks out" cows' methane emissions. (more…)

OpenAI releases larger GPT-2 dataset. Can it write fake news better than a human?

OpenAI has released a more extensive version of its generative language model.

We’re releasing the 774 million parameter GPT-2 language model after the release of our small 124M model in February ...

2. Humans can be convinced by synthetic text. Research from our research partners Sarah Kreps and Miles McCain at Cornell published in Foreign Affairs says people find GPT-2 synthetic text samples almost as convincing (72% in one cohort judged the articles to be credible) as real articles from the New York Times (83%). Additionally, research from AI2/UW has shown that news written by a system called “GROVER” can be more plausible than human-written propaganda. These research results make us generally more cautious about releasing language models

Blockquoted below is something I just had it make (using Talk to Transformer, which has been updated with the new dataset.)

I wrote the first (bolded) paragraph. GPT-2 wrote the rest.

Former Democratic presidential candidate and United States Senator Hillary Clinton was arrested today and charged on four counts of conspiracy, one count of fraud, and one count of lying to Federal investigators.

The details of the case are detailed below.

A Brief Overview of the Case

On June 2, 2014, Clinton (pictured) admitted to FBI agents that, on June 23, 2013, she, and others, had conspired with other political figures to take "official action" in response to a series of negative articles which she wrote in the Washington Times and other outlets.

The following is a summary of Clinton's admission:

Secretary Clinton used the Washington Post as her de facto personal email account and for the official State Department email account. It is important to note that the Federal Records Act (FRA) requires, as a condition for releasing government records, that the subject matter of the records be protected from public disclosure. The State Department records in question pertained to public and official business conducted in the United States Government. The FBI's investigation revealed that on July 2, 2009, Secretary Clinton sent

Hillary Clinton of The Washington Times! GPT-2 has a better sense of humor than any fake news I ever read.

This is amazing generative prose. But it's still not as good as anything even the dumbest human grifters can and do churn out. No-one familiar with newswriting tropes would be convinced for a second, and I suspect that even the legendary Facebook Boomers are harder to fool than the hype suggests.

The danger of GPT-2 is not fake news as sharable, influential longform but as social media chum in brief: imagine a flood of more convincing bots making human actions harder to measure, goosing the "engagement" of emotionally vulnerable users while deflating the value of those interactions. This is the more straightforward "problem" presented by advanced machine bullshit.

Another way of putting it: generative writing is not threatening further political anguish. It's threatening the advertising value of social media platforms that exploit it.

Nevertheless, GPT-2 is like nothing else in machine intelligence. Here I fed it a paragraph of condensed Cormac McCarthy, which it elaborates upon perfectly in-voice, but slowly segueing to a Hallmark movie:

First detailed look at Poland's challenge to the EU Copyright Directive

After the EU Copyright Directive passed with a slim majority that only carried because some MEPs got confused and pressed the wrong button, the government of Poland filed a legal challenge with the European Court of Justice, arguing that the Directive -- and its rule requiring that all online discourse be filtered by black-box algorithms that will block anything that might be infringing -- violated both Polish and European law. (more…)

McDonald's employee burned by customer's "smoldering" dollar bill

In Hackettstown, New Jersey, a McDonald's drive-through customer reportedly paid with a "smoldering" dollar bill that burned the employee's hand. From NJ.com:

After taking the money, the employee realized the dollar was still smoldering and she was burned on the palm of her left hand, police said. The employee refused medical treatment.

Police are investigating the incident and said no further information would be released at this time.

Obviously the customer has money to burn.

Walter Geoffrey the Frenchie dog is a singing drama queen [Sound ON]

Who among us hasn't felt this way before, ourselves.

The difference between me and Walter Geoffrey the Frenchie dog, besides the fact he's cuter and weighs less, is the fact that Walter isn't afraid to yowl dramatically when he doesn't get exactly what he wants.

Oh, I'm just as ridiculous. I just use a keyboard to complain.

You're gonna want to unmute this, and prepare for any dogs to flip out if you have them nearby.

(more…)

The world's longest operating webcam is going offline

In 1994, Jeff Schwartz and Dan Wong fired up the San Francisco FogCam. For 25 years, it kept a constant vigil on the San Francisco State University campus, making the FogCam the longest operating webcam in history. (The first webcam, the Trojan Room coffee pot cam, went online in 1991 and shut down in 2001.) At the end of the month, Schwartz and Wong will turn off the FogCam. From SF Gate:

"Our webcam is a throwback to the early days of the Internet when anyone could do anything," Schwartz said.

The webcam will be switched off on August 30, but Schwartz says the website itself will be kept up "for sake of posterity."

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