Fake reviews now generally necessary to do business online

"The temptation to pose as an impartial reviewer of one’s own work will be familiar to many authors across history, writes Simon Parkin. "But the Internet has, as with all vices, smoothed the transition from temptation to action."

Such self-fluffing is at least supposed to be secret. But the review systems are so crude and easily-gamed that it enables nakedly public manipulation. When The Gamers want to waltz around Amazon's useless "verified purchase" wall to punish a developer for offending them, it's easy...

“People would buy our game, not play it, leave the terrible review, and instantly request a refund,” Sean Vanaman, Campo Santo’s co-founder, told me. “It’s a well-worn tactic.” In his estimation, user-review systems such as those used by Valve, Steam’s developer, are so vulnerable to exploitation that they require as much moderation as social-media platforms.

Worse, without fake positive reviews, your thing -- your book, your restaurant, your startup -- is at a disadvantage in the apps and platforms that potential customers use to scan for new stuff. Once the medium is corrupt, everyone has to follow suit to survive. Get a load of this wonderful nonsense at TripAdvisor:

For the recent test, he created his own fake business, which he called the Shed at Dulwich. (It was named for his garden shed, in Dulwich, London.) He photographed plates of carefully arranged food (created using household products such as shaving cream and dishwasher tablets), bought a burner phone, and added the Shed to the site. Within four weeks, he had posted enough fake reviews to move the spectral establishment into the top two thousand restaurants in London.

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The FBI's mountain of uncrackable crimephones was nearly entirely imaginary

The FBI has been trying to ban working cryptography since the Clinton years, a losing battle whose stakes go up with each passing day as the number of devices that depend on working crypto to secure them and their users goes up and up and up. Read the rest

Ikea's Swedish meatballs? Totally NOT Swedish

Here's a fact you can kill with alcohol or a head injury and never miss: Ikea doles out around 2 million of its Swedish meatballs, per day. Here's another: those Swedish meatballs? There's a very good chance that they're not actually Swedish.

According to the Hürriet Daily News, the recipe for Swedish meatballs is actually based on a recipe from Turkey. In a tweet that shook the meat-in-ball-form world, the Swedish government declared that “Swedish meatballs are actually based on a recipe King Charles XII brought home from Turkey in the early 18th century. Let’s stick to the facts!"

From the Hürriet Daily News:

Annie Mattson, a researcher at the literature department of Uppsala University, told Anadoly Agency that Sweden’s King Charles XII lost a battle against Russia and took shelter in Bender, then an Ottoman territory near Moldova.

Having spent a long time in Bender, apparently on a local food bender, Charles XII couldn't bear to leave behind the local cuisine. When he finally headed on home, he came packing the recipes for cabbage rolls, meatballs and, god love him, introduced Turkey's national love for strong, hot coffee to the Swedish people.

Earlier today, The Guardian got their meat hooks on this story and added to it. Apparently, feelings on the revelation, in Turkey are mixed.

This week in Turkey’s meatball capital, Inegöl, a local chef, İbrahim Veysel, told the Dogan news agency it was an honor that the Turkish dish should have become “an example to different cuisines all over the world”.

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How to do smokey eye as well as Sarah Huckabee Sanders

After Michelle Wolf made fun of Sarah Huckabee Sanders and the courtiers of the White House press corps, there was much anguish and gnashing of teeth. Beyond a heightened awareness of how servile and sad the American political press is, though, not much good's come out of it. The best is surely Laura Hudson's (previously) guide to doing Smokey Eye makeup, an art that Sanders is as accomplished at as she is at lying.

This may come as a surprise, but it does not mean that Sanders applied eyeshadow to herself like a 19th century chimney sweep rubbing her eyes. A smoky eye is a complex, elegant makeup technique that is difficult to execute well without copious practice, and saying that someone nailed it is no small compliment. Fortunately for the uninitiated, there are many, many YouTube tutorials from beauty experts that can help explain it in more detail! After reviewing a few of my favorites, I’ve put together a quick guide on how to achieve the classic look that Sanders so often wears to press briefings

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"Secret family recipes" mostly plagiarised

Perhaps mom still has a twinkle in her eye when she makes pancakes with that special ingredient, coyly hidden from you since early childhood, a ritual that speaks to a parent's enduring love, the small things that return us to the best moments of our youth and reify the bonds of family.

Perhaps dad still talks in hushed terms about the family ragu, passed down from generation to generation since the days of the old country, a secret to be earned, cementing centuries of careful experimentation in tomato and wine, drawing one's soul back into the collective warmth of an ethnic milieu often forgotten in the relentless yet blandly anglosaxon routines of American life.

Fuckin' liars got it from a cookbook.

In response to our call, 174 readers wrote in with stories of plagiarized family recipes. Hailing from New York to Nicaragua, from Auckland, New Zealand, to Baghpat, India, they prove that this is a global phenomenon. The majority of readers described devastating discoveries: They found supposedly secret recipes in the pages of famous cookbooks, and heard confessions from parents whose legendary dessert recipes came from the side of Karo Syrup bottles.

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Yet again, Kellyanne Conway violates Federal ethics rules

The Office of the Special Counsel, a Federal ethics watchdog agency, has once again found Kellyanne Conway in violation of the Hatch Act.

In publicly supporting child molester Roy Moore from the White House lawn and using her government job title, in a harsh political attack on his opponent, Conway broke ethics rules over using a government office for political ends. Conway will of course claim she did not do any of these things by pointing out in fact that she did do all them several times.

The OSC has sent information surrounding her offense to the Trump Administration that will probably reprimand her with a large bonus and champagne lunch.

Via NPR:

"While the Hatch Act allows federal employees to express their views about candidates and political issues as private citizens, it restricts employees from using their official government positions for partisan political purposes, including by trying to influence partisan elections," the agency's report says. "Ms. Conway's statements during the Fox & Friends and New Day interviews impermissibly mixed official government business with political views about candidates in the Alabama special election for U.S. Senate."

The agency says Conway never responded to its inquiries and says that it has submitted its report to the president for "appropriate disciplinary action." Because Conway is a high-ranking presidential appointee, it's up to Trump to decide what action is appropriate.

The White House pushed back on the report and argued Conway did not advocate for or against a candidate in the Alabama race.

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Man claims to have been beaten up by savage feminists at the Women's March

One Steamelmo of House Imgur posted this exchange, with a twitterer who alleges a brutal womanhandling at this weekend's Women's March.

The OP has locked down their twitter account, but the replies remain:

If it is perhaps faked, console yourself with this picture of a man slathered in jam. [via]

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Video of 10 hours of white noise has 5 copyright claims

Sebastian Tomczak, who blogs his fascination with sound and technology at little-scale.blogspot.com, reports that "My ten hour white noise video now has five copyright claims!"

The culprit appears to be YouTube's hapless and hostile contentID system, which automatically matches portions of different videos, makes stupid conclusions about intellectual property, then invites corporate customers to "claim" and monetize other people's work as their own.

Owning white noise today are "White Noise Sleep Therapy", "El Muelle Records", "Rachel Conwell" and "Silent Knights." Read the rest

Trump now privately denies authenticity of the Access Hollywood tape

The New York Times reports Orange Julius now denies the Access Hollywood tapes are legit. The gaslighting of America continues...

Via NYT:

But something deeper has been consuming Mr. Trump. He sees the calls for Mr. Moore to step aside as a version of the response to the now-famous “Access Hollywood” tape, in which he boasted about grabbing women’s genitalia, and the flood of groping accusations against him that followed soon after. He suggested to a senator earlier this year that it was not authentic, and repeated that claim to an adviser more recently. (In the hours after it was revealed in October 2016, Mr. Trump acknowledged that the voice was his, and he apologized.)

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Former Trump aide admits lying to FBI over Russia contacts

Though Paul Manafort's indictment was top of the ticket, it's the guilty plea of Trump campaign foreign policy adviser George Papadopoulos that's proving bigger news today. Paladopoulos not only admits he lied to FBI agents about his contacts with people close to the Russian government in search of "dirt" on Trump's opponent in the 2016 presidential race, but is described as a co-operating witness. For anti-Trump folks who feared too much was being made of too little, it's a dream come true. Jeer Heer: "a member of Trump’s campaign has pled guilty and provided evidence that the campaign did collude or attempt to collude with Russia. That cuts to the heart of the Mueller investigation—and it means that the president should be in very deep trouble." Read the rest

Clock mysteriously photoshopped out of Tillerson photo

Reality, and all the facts and things in it, are negotiable. Even the clocks on the wall.

Soon after a two-hour secret visit to Afghanistan by Secretary of State Rex W. Tillerson on Monday was publicly disclosed, the American Embassy and the office of President Ashraf Ghani made statements about their productive meeting in Kabul.

The problem is that the meeting was not in Kabul, but in a windowless room in Bagram, the heavily fortified American military base a 90-minute drive away. The misinformation, apparently meant to obscure the true venue, was betrayed by discrepancies in similar photographs released by the Americans and the Afghans.

The photoshopping here was done by the Afghan side. Still, a good example of how the administration has a knack for exposing the stupidity of everything that tries to cooperate with it.

Trumpistemology: the incompetent free-range rewriting of the world that occurs after consensus reality is marginalized. Read the rest

Review of pages intentionally left blank

The most perfect lie in publishing, "This Page Intentionally Left Blank", is commonly to be found in books, manuals and tests. But also journals, curiously enough, a fact that is the subject of a paper published at Academia Obscura.

The US Code of Regulations (1984) actually mandates that blank pages in certain books and pamphlets must be marked as such.1 As such, they are especially common in technical works. This has lead to a large number of people attempting to solve the philosophical conundrum such non-blank blank pages create, often through online fora and crowdsourcing platforms. The Office of the General Counsel at the US General Accounting Office, acutely aware of the distress caused, purported in 2001 to have resolved the conundrum in its Principles of Federal Appropriations Law (Second Edition, Volume IV).2 Text on page ii, which is otherwise blank, reads “This page is intended to be blank. Please do not read it.” However, this appears to have only further entrenched the philosophical contradictions, and the subsequent Third Edition contained no such text on its blank page.

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The guy who thought up the Brexit Bus and its NHS lie says referendum was a "dumb idea"

One of the most enduring symbols of 2016's UK Brexit referendum was the huge red "battle bus" with its message, "We send the EU £350 million a week, let's fund our NHS instead. Vote Leave." Read the rest

Newt Gingrich admits Trump lied about taping Comey

Ethically challenged former US Congressperson Newt Gingrich has proclaimed Donald Trump a liar. Gingrich claims there are no tapes of Trump strong-arming former FBI Director James Comey, it was an uncalculated bluff.

President Trump is supposed to reveal this week, six weeks after making the initial suggestion, whether he actually has tapes of his White House conversations. Trump last month wielded those potential tapes as a very thinly veiled threat against former FBI director James B. Comey. And ever since then, he and the White House have decided to withhold the truth from the American people, refusing to answer a simple yes-or-no question.

But Newt Gingrich just gave away the game, for all intents and purposes. In an interview with the Associated Press, the Trump-backing former House speaker basically admits that Trump was just bluffing to try to get inside Comey's head.

“I think he was in his way instinctively trying to rattle Comey,” Gingrich said. “He's not a professional politician. He doesn't come back and think about Nixon and Watergate. His instinct is: 'I'll outbluff you.'”

Apparently not being a “professional politician” is a license for dishonesty.

Via WaPo Read the rest

In bizarre tweet, Trump says those investigating him told him to fire Comey

Donald Trump just claimed that "I am being investigated for firing the FBI Director by the man who told me to fire the FBI Director!" Read the rest

"Anonymous sources" now more credible than the White House

National Security Sharer H.R. McMaster's overnight flip from denying the Washington Post story about Comrade President sharing classified data with the Russians during his job interview last week, to calling this blunder critical for national security is par for course.

It is now far easier to trust just about anyone other than the White House.

Slate tears into the logic of trusting the White House:

The Post’s sources have made factual allegations that can be checked. The administration hasn’t. Contrast this record with the administration’s response. The White House has released three statements. McMaster says the Post story, “as reported, is false,” but he doesn’t debunk any specific claim in the story. He says “it didn’t happen,” but he doesn’t say what “it” is. The empirical claims he makes—for example, that “at no time were intelligence sources or methods discussed”—are compatible with the Post report, which alleges not that sources and methods were explicitly discussed, but that they were inadvertently exposed by Trump’s disclosures.

The other two statements released by the White House are equally hollow. Dina Powell, the White House deputy national security adviser, says: “This story is false. The president only discussed the common threats that both countries faced.” Again, the factual claim fits the Post story, and the denial is too vague to check. A third statement, issued by Tillerson, doesn’t even say the Post story is false. It just says the people in the meeting “did not discuss sources, methods or military operations.”

To be fair, that last claim by Tillerson is falsifiable.

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The Chicago airport cops who beat David Dao unconscious totally lied about it on their report

Chicago's Department of Aviation finally replied to the LA Times's Freedom of Information request for the police report on the public beating Chicago airport cops dealt to Dr David Dao when United Airlines decided to give his confirmed, paid seat to a crewmember and ordered him to vacate it. Read the rest

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