Nerf unveils "DRM for darts"

Hasbro's got a new foam dart gun, the $50 Nerf Ultra One blaster, and to make sure that owners of this toy arrange their affairs to the benefit of Hasbro's shareholders, the company has engineered a digital rights management system that detects and refuses to fire third-party darts, which sell by the hundreds for just a few bucks (the official darts are $10 for 20), which means that party organizers running Nerf wars will have to scale back their ambitions or shell out like crazy. Read the rest

Paper-towel dispenser with a EULA prohibiting rival brands of paper

John Overholt from Harvard's Houghton Library spotted a paper towel dispenser whose prominent EULA prohibits refilling it with non-Tork brands of towels, with Tork vowing to "enforce its rights under applicable laws and agreements." Read the rest

LA's new homelessness stats reveal a crisis that is only worsening

LA has the nation's worst homelessness problem, a (literal) epidemic so terrible it distorts the national statistics. Read the rest

Fast food executive complains that social media inflates young people's "self-importance," killing their willingness to work for free

Natalie Brennan is general manager of Muffin Break -- a multinational fast-food franchise business owned by Foodco -- and she's really angry that today's young people will not work for her for free. Read the rest

Ford CEO frankly admits that the car of the future is a surveillance device that you pay to spy on you

The era of finance capitalism is marked by a curious shift in the desire of the business world: to get out of the business of making things people use, and into the business of getting money for owning, extracting and/or liquidating things. Read the rest

Comcast's $1.2b/year modem-rental scam picks your pocket, then exposes you to hackers, stalkers and identity thieves

For most of a century, AT&T ripped off its customers by requiring them to rent their phones, meaning that over the life of your phone subscription, you would buy your phone thousands of times over. Read the rest

Eviction Lab: a comprehensive database of every eviction proceeding in America for the past 16 years

The Eviction Lab is a collaboration between Princeton University and Matthew Desmond, author of Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City Paperback; the lab's team gathered the court records of ever landlord-tenant proceeding in every court in every county in America for the past 16 years. Read the rest

All that stuff that was "killed by the net"? The real culprit was hedge funds

The web blew up at the same time as the Reagan/Clinton/Bush financial bombs were detonating, leading to a huge private equity bubble in which super-wealthy Americans used debt financing and other forms of financial engineering to buy out successful companies, then hollowed them out, selling off their real-estate and plant, loading them up with debt, and raiding their reserve funds. Read the rest

Hedge funds killed the newspaper industry, not the web

The web came of age with no-holds-barred finance capitalism, so it's hard to decide which of the last twenty years' worth of changes are the result of the tech industry, or of financialization, or a toxic mix of both. Read the rest

California's record poverty and real-estate bubble are creating a "wheel-estate" boom of people with good jobs living in their cars

Extreme housing prices in California -- driven by a combination of speculation, favorable legal/tax positions for landlords, foreclosures after the 2008 crisis, and an unwillingness to build public housing -- has created vast homeless encampments, but there's a less visible side to the crisis: working people in "good jobs" who have to live in their cars. Read the rest

Peter Thiel: the "libertarian" who loves mass government surveillance, monopolies, and censorship

Peter Thiel thinks that it was a mistake to let women vote; that democracy is incompatible with "freedom" (because poor people will tax rich people if they get to elect their own leaders); that the major problem with the mass government surveillance that Edward Snowden revealed was that it was incompetently conducted (which is why he started Palantir, a mass surveillance contractor that sells spying services to authoritarian states); that free markets are inefficient and should be replaced with monopolies; and that marketplace of ideas should be replaced by secretly funded litigation campaigns that eliminate publications that say things you don't like. Read the rest