$1bn blood-testing scam Theranos dissolved

Photo: Shutterstock.

Theranos, the $1bn Silicon Valley fraud that made fools or corpses of everyone who trusted it, is finally to meet its doom. The Wall Street Journal reports that its dissolution was announced Tuesday in an email sent to the shareholders.

Despite a series of journalistic exposés covering both the company's sham technology and its cultlike corporate culture, lawsuits, and regulatory sanctions, founder Elizabeth Holmes somehow clung on until finally being charged with fraud a few weeks ago.

The move comes after federal prosecutors filed criminal charges against Theranos founder Elizabeth Holmes and the blood-testing company’s former No. 2 executive, alleging that they defrauded investors out of hundreds of millions of dollars and defrauded doctors and patients.

The executives have denied the charges and face a coming criminal trial.

The dissolution process was precipitated by the fact that Theranos breached a covenant governing a $65 million loan it received from Fortress Investment Group last year. Under the loan terms, Fortress was entitled to foreclose upon the company’s assets if its cash fell beneath a certain threshold.

Every new thing I read about this makes me ever more amazed by the scale and audacity of this scam. Holmes conned Betsy DeVos, Rupert Murdoch, and the Walmart heirs alone out of $350m by literally cosplaying Steve Jobs. How is this reality?

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Man in truck rams Dallas TV station then starts ranting at it

Fox News 4 in Dallas reports that a man crashed his truck into the side of its building at least twice "then got out and started ranting."

FOX 4 Reporter Brandon Todd heard what happened and went to investigate. He saw the man through a window.

“You could see the man’s pickup truck, the front of it clearly smashed. One of our employees told me he ran into the side of the building, backed up and then ran into it a second time. When we went into the office we saw him and he was in the bed of his truck and he was throwing boxes into the street and then just grabbing handfuls of paper and throwing handfuls of paper into the street as well,” he said.

Brandon took out his cellphone and started recording the man. When he realized he had an audience he grabbed a few pieces of paper, slammed them up against the window and started pleading his case.

“Originally when he was in the bed of the truck he was yelling out ‘High treason! High treason!’ As he got over to the window he was trying to explain something that involved the Denton County Sheriff’s Department,” Brandon said.

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Twitter was going to ban conspiracy theorist Alex Jones. Then Jack Dorsey intervened to save his account.

When Twitter was the only major social network not to boot the hateful, violence-advocating conspiracy theorist Alex Jones, the company struggled to explain that decision in terms of its already flexible policies. The Wall Street Journal reports that in fact Alex Jones was to be permanently banned, but CEO Jack Dorsey personally intervened and overruled the decision.

Last month, after Twitter's controversial decision to allow conspiracy theorist Alex Jones to remain on its platform, Mr. Dorsey told one person that he had overruled a decision by his staff to kick Mr. Jones off, according to a person familiar with the discussion. Twitter disputes that account and says Mr. Dorsey wasn't involved in those discussions.

White supremacist Richard Spencer too.

The only reason they remain on Twitter is because Jack made them untouchable. This is the personal connection between these men that proponents of another conspiracy theory—that Dorsey is a friend or fellow traveler to the alt-right and its media personalities—were waiting for.

Photo: Brian Solis (CC) Read the rest

Steve Bannon to headline The New Yorker's festival (UPDATE: disinvited)

A grim reminder that in the upper echelons of journalism, white supremacists are at worst wayward tribesmates and at best very interesting men: Steve Bannon is to headline The New Yorker's October festival.

From The New York Times:

Stephen K. Bannon, President Trump’s former chief strategist, who will be interviewed by the magazine’s editor, David Remnick, a frequent critic of the administration.

“I have every intention of asking him difficult questions and engaging in a serious and even combative conversation,” Mr. Remnick said in a phone interview.

More than anything else, America's elites consider themselves gracious hosts. But some of us have outstayed our welcome. Tickets go on sale Thursday.

UPDATED: They disinvited him after a deluge of complaints, not least from other celebrity invitees publicly disinviting themselves from the event. Read the rest

Mad Musk: Tesla CEO angrily headbutted car after safety sensor paused assembly line

The first paragraphs in this Wall Street Journal story about the Tesla CEO's ego problems are absolutely b🔥o🔥n🔥k🔥e🔥r🔥s.

During a tour this spring at Tesla Inc.’s electric-car factory in Fremont, Calif., Elon Musk asked why the assembly line had stopped. Managers said automatic safety sensors halted the line whenever people got in the way.

Mr. Musk became angry, according to people familiar with what happened. His high-profile gamble on mass-producing electric cars had lagged behind since production began, and here was one more frustration. The billionaire entrepreneur began head-butting the front end of a car on the assembly line.

“I don’t see how this could hurt me,” he said of vehicles on the slow-speed line. “I want the cars to just keep moving.”

When a senior engineering manager involved with the system explained that it was a safety measure, Mr. Musk told him, “Get out!” Tesla said the manager was fired for other reasons.

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Telco lobbyists accidentally send TechDirt all their bullshit talking points

USTelecom emailed a 12-page document to Mike Masnick, founder and editor of TechDirt, detailing the talking points to be used by company president Jonathan Spalter in a forthcoming C-SPAN appearance.

It was sent in error.

The talking points are not all that surprising, if you're at all familiar with the telco industry, so there aren't really any huge smoking guns here, but they do cover a huge range of issues, from net neutrality, competition, privacy, cybersecurity, and more. Amusingly, on the net neutrality front, there's a section on "Verizon Throttling Fire Responders." Tragically, that appears to be one of the few sections in the document that they hadn't yet filled in yet -- perhaps because the industry still doesn't have a good response to Verizon throttling fire fighters in California as they were battling wildfires.

USTelecom's tactical plan is to demonize Facebook and Google: social media as a distraction from the telcos' more fundamental power to influence users and invade our privacy. As Masnick puts it: "You can avoid Google and Facebook if you want. Not so much your ISP." Read the rest

Trump volunteer tries to block reporter from photographing rally protestor

Evan Vucci's incredible photo from last night's Trump rally in Evansville, Indiana, shows the moment one of his volunteers "blocks the lens of a photographer trying to take a photo of a demonstrator."

Evan is the AP's chief photographer in Washington, and you can follow him at @evanvucci. Here's the Instagram embed:

View this post on Instagram

A volunteer member of the advance team for #president #donaldtrump blocks the lens of a photographer trying to take a photo of a demonstrator during a #campaign rally in #evansville #indiana

A post shared by Evan Vucci (@evanvucci) on Aug 30, 2018 at 6:02pm PDT

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Florida sheriff makes reasonable stand-your-ground shooting sound like casual murder

Jason Boek swerved his truck in front of an Uber driver at 2 a.m., forced him to pull over, then approached his vehicle while claiming to have a pistol and threatening to shoot. Boek was stalking a woman and under the mistaken impression she was a passenger in the vehicle. The Uber driver, Robert Westlake, pulled his own gun and shot Boek once, killing him.

Given the violent threat and the dangerous circumstances, no-one's in trouble: Westlake even performed CPR and called 911, to no avail. But here's the local sheriff to put the unique stamp of Florida on it all:

Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd said Mr Boek was a "goofball".

"Here's a message for the hotheads of the community: don't do that stuff," the sheriff said.

"Good people carry guns and they will shoot you. A lot. Graveyard dead."

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New York City renamed as "Jewtropolis" in Snapchat maps

New York City was vandalized in OpenStreetMap, and as a result renamed as "Jewtropolis" in Snapchat and other applications that ultimately depend on the service for mapping.

The company called it an act of "vandalism" and said it was working with its partner Mapbox to "get this fixed immediately".

In a statement, Snap said the defacement was "deeply offensive".

Screenshots on social media appeared to show other apps had also been affected.

The problem with outsourcing content to third parties is that it pins your reputation to their reliability and trustworthiness. And here there appears to be a chain: Snapchat (etc) pulling data from Mapbox pulling data from OpenStreetMap pulling data from antisemitic users.

I'd been waiting for a major wikipedia page to "fall" to an organized clique on the far right without being successfully reverted to the prior editorial consensus. This incident tastes like an apéritif. Read the rest

Lapsed domain names paint "hack me" target on law firms

Law firms are singularly bad at technology, yet present a singularly delicious target to hackers. One particular vulnerability comes from all their abandoned domain names, which Gabor Szathmari writes "pose a significant cyber risk to the legal profession."

Domain name abandonment allows cybercriminals to gain access to, or reset passwords for online services and profession-specific portals. These online services store documents, emails and other information relating to a legal practice, including financial details, personal information, confidential information and client-legal privileged information. ...

In short, bad actors can re-register an abandoned domain of a business and take full control of email services configuring it to:

receive email correspondence sensitive in nature; and use the email accounts to reset passwords to online services.

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Security guard frisks visitors without touching them

Enjoy this footage of a security guard frisking visitors without actually touching them, top of Reddit today after the site got hacked and its management learned that "SMS-based authentication is not nearly as secure as we would hope." [via] Read the rest

If Google Maps says a place has a certain name, it now has that name

The East Cut is a neighborhood in San Francisco invented by a branding agency. Such things usually wither on the local-business bullshit vine, but thanks to Google Maps, it's now the plain reality of that part of town.

Another in Detroit is now known by a mispelling, made by the mysterious cartographers who run the service. And one LA community now there was cooked up by a realtor to make a hilly part of Silver Lake sound fancy, and somehow ended up enshrined on the service after he began using it in listings.

Timothy Boscarino, a Detroit city planner, traced Google’s use of those names to a map posted online around 2002 by a few locals. Google almost identically copied that map’s neighborhoods and boundaries, he said — down to its typos. One result was that Google transposed the k and h for the district known as Fiskhorn, making it Fishkorn.

I imagine Google's paid a lot of money to sources it appropriated in its rush to get everything online before anyone else; mapmakers who do this are caught due to Trap Streets, though the traps can be much less obvious than an imaginary street. And sometimes all a reporter need do to expose a falsehood is put two quotes next to each other:

Mr. Robinson said his team asked Google to add the East Cut to its maps. A Google spokeswoman said employees manually inserted the name after verifying it through public sources.

It's funny, but Google describing a "brand experience design company" hired by a local nonprofit as a "public source" is a clever way of making people assume it refers to "public record" or "government" without actually saying so. Read the rest

White man in company van follows black man home to let him "know how much of a N— " he is

Jeff Whitman, driving a van emblazoned with a company logo and contact number, made it his business to follow another man home to let him "know how much of a N— you are." Read the rest

What happens when you let computers optimize floorplans

I eagerly await our new AI masters' world of ultraoptimized, uncannily organic, evolving foorplans. Joel Simon:

Evolving Floor Plans is an experimental research project exploring speculative, optimized floor plan layouts. The rooms and expected flow of people are given to a genetic algorithm which attempts to optimize the layout to minimize walking time, the use of hallways, etc. The creative goal is to approach floor plan design solely from the perspective of optimization and without regard for convention, constructability, etc. The research goal is to see how a combination of explicit, implicit and emergent methods allow floor plans of high complexity to evolve. The floorplan is 'grown' from its genetic encoding using indirect methods such as graph contraction and emergent ones such as growing hallways using an ant-colony inspired algorithm.

Adds Simon: "I have very mixed feelings about this project." Read the rest

Big tech stocks tumble

Facebook's down 20% and Twitter's down 14%, for reasons that everyone now says are obvious.

But the same pundit class was boosting them until reality bit:

One of the funny things about news aggregators, and filtered feeds in general (as opposed to chronological ones) is how they hide time and change and make everything seem immediate. Yesterday's confident bullshit gets posed against today's naked truth, competing with it until no-one's left who believes anything there. Read the rest

Republican lawmaker screams racial slurs and exposes self on Sacha Baron Cohen show

Just when the pundits were insisting Sacha Baron Cohen was already outstaying his welcome. Read the rest

Cryptocurrencies hawked by celebrities mostly a bust

Some things in life are obvious. The Pope's catholic, the sky's is blue, cryptocurrencies hawked by celebrities were bad investments, if not outright swizzes.

STEVEN SEAGAL

Last year, the actor became the brand ambassador for the cryptocurrency called “Bitcoiin,” which was just one letter away from the original thing. This past March, New Jersey regulators sent the Bitcoiin founders a cease-and-desist order, saying the coin was never registered as a security in the state.

Soon after, Seagal and the anonymous founders parted ways with the coin. Since then, his Twitter account has been largely silent and so has his Instagram, except for a mysteriously incongruous post on Thursday asking for donations for a homeless shelter in Russia.

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