Elsevier sends copyright threat to site for linking to Sci-Hub

Sci-Hub (previously) is a scrappy, nonprofit site founded in memory of Aaron Swartz, dedicated to providing global access to the world's scholarship -- journal articles that generally report on publicly-funded research, which rapacious, giant corporations acquire for free, and then charge the very same institutions that paid for the research millions of dollars a year to access. Read the rest

Cisco's failure to heed whistleblower's warning about security defects in video surveillance software costs the company $8.6m in fines

In 2008, a security researcher named James Glenn warned Cisco that its video surveillance software had a defect that made it vulnerable to a trivial-to-exploit attack; for four years afterward, the company continued to sell this software to schools, airports, hospitals, state/local governments, the US military, FEMA, the Secret Service and police departments without mitigating the defect or warning their customers that internet-connected randos could undetectably peer through their security cameras, unlock their doors, disable their alarms, and delete footage. Read the rest

Affluent parents surrender custody of their kids to "scam" their way into needs-based college scholarships

Propublica Illinois has identified "dozens of suburban Chicago families" who surrendered custody of their children during the kids' junior and senior years of high-school, turning them over to aunts, grandparents, friends, and cousins, so that the kids claim to be independent and qualify for needs-based scholarships, crowding out the poor kids the scholarship was designed for. Read the rest

Academic used GDPR request to reveal they'd been secretly blacklisted

In The Independent, Dora B writes about experiencing a growing and disturbing awareness that they were being shunned and excluded from their field of specialism. Dora eventually used the GDPR—Europe's recent law providing access to the data held on you by companies and institutions—to expose what was going on. Dora was not only professionally blacklisted, the emails revealed, but privately the subject of insults, scorn and abuse from peers that Dora trusted and depended upon for references and appointments.

Firstly, my eminent and influential PhD supervisor had let it be widely known that they thought I was an unpleasant person, impossible to work with, fundamentally stupid, and that I definitely shouldn’t be doing a doctorate.

They complained vigorously about having such an awful student, but never mentioned the two hour-long interviews they conducted with me before agreeing to take me on. After that, one of my PhD examiners had been asked about me off the record, and had advised against me. They repeatedly used insults and demeaning adjectives to block me from several employment positions and speaking engagements.

I approached the individuals and the institutions concerned about the content of my Subject Access Request. They all refused to discuss the matter with me, so I can only speculate as to what was going on. If my conduct had been that awful, I would have received a warning or been subject to some kind of disciplinary procedure, but I wasn’t, so where my supervisor thought I was difficult, it is equally possible that, as a mature student, I merely had clear boundaries.

Read the rest

Small but meaningful progress towards a federal Right to Repair rule

The Right to Repair movement has introduced dozens of state-level laws that would force companies to support independent repairs by making manuals, parts and diagnostic codes available, and by ending the illegal practice of voiding warranties for customers who use independent repair services, but these bills keep getting killed by overwhelming shows of lobbying force from members of the highly concentrated manufacturing sector, particularly Apple, whose CEO, Tim Cook, warned investors in January that the number one threat to Iphone sales is that customers are choosing to repair, rather than replace, their mobile devices. Read the rest

How to hide from the cops

Step 1: be small enough to fit in a trashcan.

(Protip: recycling cans smell better) Read the rest

Heirs' property: how southern states allow white land developers to steal reconstruction-era land from Black families

Back in 2017, The Nation ran a superb, in-depth story on "heirs' property," a legalized form of property theft that allows primarily rich white developers to expropriate land owned by the descendants of Black slaves. Read the rest

Cooperative porno copyright troll gets 5 years in prison, while his co-conspirator got 14 years

Last month, Paul Hansmeier was sentenced to 14 years in prison and ordered to pay $1.5m in restitution for the copyright trolling his firm, Prenda Law, engaged in: the firm used a mix of entrapment, blackmail, identity theft, intimidation and fraud to extort millions from its victims by threatening to drag them into court for alleged infringement of copyright in eye-watering pornography, thus forever associating their victims' name with lurid pornography in the public record. Read the rest

After poacher crackdown, Tanzanian endangered rhino and elephant populations are staging inspiring recoveries

Four years ago, there were 15 known black rhinos left in Tanzania -- "ground zero of the poaching crisis" -- and today there 167 of them; elephant populations (which dropped 60% between 2009-2014) are rebounding too, up to over 60,000 from a low of 43,330. Read the rest

Understanding "transfer pricing": how corporations dodge taxes through financial colonialism

Every day, the world's poorest countries lose $3b in tax revenues as multinationals sluice their profits through their national boundaries in order to avoid taxes in rich countries, and then sluice the money out again, purged of tax obligations thanks to their exploitation of tax loopholes in poor nations. Read the rest

French politicians want to add an ag-gag rule to the country's sweeping online hate speech proposal

One of the arguments against hate-speech laws is that once the state starts dividing expression into "allowed" and "prohibited," the "prohibited" category tends to grow, in three ways: first, because company lawyers and other veto-wielders err on the side of caution by excising anything that might be in the "prohibited" bucket; second, because courts respond to these shifts in the discourse by finding more and more edge-cases to be in violation of the law; and finally, because lawmakers are tempted to shovel any speech they or their campaign donors don't like into the "prohibited" bucket. Read the rest

The Serial Toilet Clogger of Sheboygan, WI is going to jail for 150 days

Sheboyagan's Patrick D. Beeman has been sentenced to 150 days in the Huber program -- which allows him to work days and return to his cell at night -- as well as $5,500 in restitution payments and 100 hours of community service for a string of vandalism incidents in which he clogged public toilets with plastic water bottles. The toilets Beeman clogged had been supplied by a company where he was temping. Beeman, whom the court also banned from possessing or consuming alcohol or controlled substances, apologized for his behavior at his sentencing and vowed that he would "make things right and pray forgiveness every day." Beeman told police that "he gets urges to do odd things, like look for bottles in the garbage to plug toilets." (via Lowering the Bar) Read the rest

Texas' new cannabis laws screw PTSD sufferers. Again.

Back in 2015, the great state of Texas passed The Compassionate Use Act, making the use of cannabis for medical purposes totally cool... in a small number of instances. Only those with epilepsy are allowed to use the plant's properties to ease their symptoms and the cannabis that they're allowed to use must contain minuscule amounts of THC. This left Texans who'd like to turn to cannabis to help ease their way out of opioid use or deal with chronic pain, to saddle up and move to a less restrictive state or risk being arrested. Recently, the state's lawmakers looked to reforming the restrictive act, Once again, too small a group of folks wound up being told that they're cool to roll with a bit of cannabis in their lives. One of the biggest groups excluded: individuals suffering from PTSD.

From The Texas Observer:

Activists say opposition to cannabis reform is partially based on fearmongering over alleged dangers of marijuana by Republicans and law enforcement officials, a powerful group at the Lege. False claims and junk science often go unchallenged in a vacuum created by the lack of research into cannabis. (Marijuana’s status as a Schedule I drug is a significant barrier to studying the plant’s uses.) For three sessions, the Rural Sheriffs Association of Texas has peddled its report that falsely claims pot lowers IQ scores, is addictive and increases criminality. In March, Plano Police Sergeant Terence Holway told lawmakers in a committee hearing that “all drug addicts … started with marijuana.”

Brian Birdwell, a GOP state senator and Desert Storm Army veteran, spoke about his “highly guarded sense of danger” about marijuana for more than 20 minutes during the Senate debate of HB 3703.

Read the rest

Mississippi makes it a jailable offense to call plant-based or cultured-meat patties "burgers"

FDA (totally not in thrall to Big Dairy): we're going to ban calling almond milk "milk"; Missouri State legislature (totally not in thrall to Big Ag): hold my beer. Read the rest

Appeals court orders unsealing of the Jeffrey Epstein files

More than a decade ago, a federal prosecutor named Alexander Acosta set up a secret sweetheart deal for Jeffrey Epstein, a wealthy, Trump-connected admitted multiple rapist of underaged teen girls who was thought to be running a trafficking ring for wealthy, well-connected sexual predators, that saw Epstein serving only 13 months in a minimum security facility, on a work-release program that let him spend most of that time out of a cell. Read the rest

Gentleman angry in court

Alan McCarty Jr. was charged with threatening a judge. After his court hearing in August, 2018, he was described as "extremely belligerent" by the Daytona Beach News-Journal.

Shut the fuck up, bitch, I'm trying to think over here!

The judge made his own threat in response -- to have him "duct-taped" shut -- but eventually was satisfied to have McCarty thrown out.

McCarty was ultimately found guilty and sentenced to 20 years imprisonment.

He attended his sentencing and it went swimmingly:

A man who spewed so many profanities in court that a judge threatened to have his mouth shut with duct tape read a book and ignored the judge Wednesday while sitting in handcuffs and leg shackles for his sentencing hearing.... McCarty, 36, didn’t stay quiet for long.

Excellent comic timing.

Read the rest

Why can't we see big companies' tax returns?

As Russell Brandom writes, "before 1976, corporate tax returns were broadly considered part of the public record" and there's been bipartisan support since for mandating that big companies show us how they're structuring their earnings (this was especially urgent after the Enron scandal). Read the rest

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