Pelosi says House to begin 'official impeachment inquiry' on Donald Trump

"The President must be held accountable. No one is above the law" — House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, 9-24-2019

Mark Zuckerberg meets Donald Trump at White House

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg's “please don't regulate us too much” charm offensive stopped off in Washington, DC today, where Zuck met with Donald Trump and various members of Congress. Read the rest

Why CRTs are great for modern video games

Photo of CRT monitor and an old CRT Macintosh

First it was vinyl, then it was cassette tapes -- now the latest old media that's being praised for offering warmer, richer, higher-quality experiences? Read the rest

Data leak exposes surveillance at Russia's top telecommunications firm

Documents on an unprotected, network-connected drive owned by an employee of Nokia shed light on the inner workings of Russia's networked surveillance system known as SORM (Russian: COPM). Read the rest

Google hit with demands for detailed ad business info from Texas and other states

PHOTO: Shutterstock. TX AG Ken Paxton, shown here, is leading nationwide probe into Google.

The Texas attorney general today issued a 29-page civil investigative demand with more than 200 directives for Google to provide detailed information on its ad business. The deadline is October 9. Read the rest

Right-wing troll complains about how hard he has it

Having managed to be so vile as to be kicked off Twitter, a darling of the white supremacy market complains about how hard it is to be him.

Vice:

The provocateur made no mention of the harassment that landed him in social media jail. Nor did he touch on being forced out of Breitbart the following year, after he made comments that seemed to endorse pedophilia.

While Telegram allows Yiannopoulos to share such important commentary with more than 19,000 followers directly, it does not offer the mass reach of Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube. The same goes for Gab and other social networks set up in protest of Big Tech’s increasingly aggressive content-moderation efforts.

“I can’t find anyone who’s managing to grow a really big channel here,” wrote Yiannopoulos, whose Telegram posts typically reach around 2,000 pairs of eyeballs. “Everyone is hitting a wall. There’s no future to Telegram for social media refugees if this is the best it gets.”

Read the rest

A few great video game soundtracks

Any list of great video game soundtrack list that does not include THPS is bunk. Tony Hawk is measurably one of the coolest people to ever walk the Earth and this soundtrack wins.

Halo and the Gregorian chant thing. Chills. Halo 3 might be better, tho.

Space Harrier. Meant to be played at a motion-enhanced sit-down machine.

If Tony Hawk is he coolest guy ever in a video game, Parappa is a close second. Read the rest

Here's what happens when you touch a wild monkey

The large primate could not resist touching the little primate.  The little primate didn't want to be touched by the large primate, and showed its displeasure by scratching the large primate.

Let me just touch this monkey to see what happens

Read the rest

Pharmaceutical mix-up results in 17 very hairy Spanish children

I am hopeful that time will cure the 17 children mistakenly dosed with hair loss treatment.

El País:

An internal error at the pharmaceutical company Farma-Química Sur is the cause of a hypertrichosis outbreak that has so far affected 17 babies in Spain, sources from the Spanish Agency of Medicines and Medical Devices (AEMPS) has told EL PAÍS. The company accidentally sold a strong vasodilator, which is most commonly used to treat alopecia, or hair loss, as omeprazole, a drug used to treat heartburn and acid reflux.

Hypertrichosis is also known as “werewolf syndrome” because it is characterized by an abnormal amount of hair growth over the body. The AEMPS, which works under the Health Ministry, was notified of a new case on Tuesday, which was diagnosed in the province of Granada in the southern Spanish region of Andalusia. In total, 10 babies have been affected in Cantabria, four in Andalusia and three in Valencia.

Read the rest

Apple tech, jewelry, guns: Dataviz of what Americans pawn

Dataviz of which items are disproportionately likely to be pawned, state by state in the US

I'm coming late to this one, because it was posted last year -- but hey, better late than never: Behold this fascinating set of Pricenomics graphics about what types of objects Americans pawn.

One thing that jumps out in the data? Apple products dominate the realm of pawning. Here's the chart:

Basically, Apple products are amazingly good at holding their value. Electronics are the single biggest category of what Americans pawn overall, but even within that valuable vertical, Steve Jobs has created a storehouse of capital value for everyday Americans: "Apple’s products retain value far longer than its competitors in both personal computing and smartphones. They’re the Honda of electronics– or maybe the Volvo." Jewelry and guns are the only other things in the top 5. "It turns out that weapons serve as a remarkably durable store of value."

Speaking of jewelry and guns, they are, perhaps unsurprisingly, super gendered in their empawnment. Fully 76% of guns are pawned by men, and 69% of jewelry is pawned by women.

Also interesting is the geographic distribution of pawning, as rendered in the state-by-state dataviz of which items are disproportionately likely to be pawned; that's the chart at the top of this entry. As the Pricenomics folks note ...

Perhaps most notable in the above analysis is the category of guns. In American pawn shops, there are “gun states” and “everything” else states. In Southern states and ones with larger rural populations, like the Mountain West, people pawn guns at a much higher rate than the national average.

Read the rest

Molly of Denali has a pretty great dog

I like Suki, Molly of Denali's pet dog.

Molly and her dog Suki, an Alaskan Malamute, live in the fictional town of Qyah, Alaska. Molly of Denali is the first US children's show to feature a Native American lead character, the titular Molly. Every indigenous character is voiced by an indigenous actor. Alaska Native and Canadian First Tribes people also work as writers, producers, and staff on the show.

Wisconsin Public Television Blog:

“When I was growing up, Indigenous people weren’t reflected in television and film,” said Princess Daazhraii Johnson (Neets’aii Gwich’in), creative producer for Molly of Denali. “When an Indigenous person was portrayed, it was usually a stereotype. What makes the Molly of Denali series so exciting is that Alaska Native voices were incorporated from the start of the show, and WGBH and PBS KIDS continue to incorporate more Alaska Native voices at every level of production. We can’t wait for Native youth to see themselves in Molly and her friends.”

Molly of Denali includes Alaska Native voices in all aspects of the production, both on camera and behind the scenes. Every Indigenous character is voiced by an Indigenous actor. Producers developed Molly of Denali with a working group of Alaska Native advisors, and is creating opportunities for developing Alaska Native talent via a scriptwriting fellowship.

The show also provides a window into the Alaskan experience through live-action interstitials featuring local children and regions, filmed by Alaskan production teams.

My first dog was an Alaskan Malamute, her name was Sabrina. Read the rest

Shocking: Trump campaign official insists President Trump has never lied

It is all the fake media, she says.

Read the rest

AI increases the resolution of emoji, turning them into horrifying creatures

Screenshot of twitter emoji with their resolution increased by an AI algorithm

There's an AI algorithmic technique known as "Progressive Face Super-Resolution", which can take low-rez photos of people's faces and enhance them into higher-rez versions.

It's actually a rather unsettling development for public privacy, as Futurism points out, because it means it's increasingly possible to take grainy surveillance-cam pictures and produce detailed pictures. (Or even more worryingly, I'd add, it'll produce pictures that have seeming realism but are in fact inaccurate up-rezzings of the low-rez pictures, thus misidentifying innocent people. These days, some AI's biggest dangers come not from its omnipotent successes but from its clown-show failures ... particularly when authorities can't tell the difference, or don't care.)

Anyway! Over at I Forced A Bot, Jonathan Fly wondered what would happen if he used Progressive Face Super-Resolution to increase the resolution of emoji.

Super freaky results, as it turns out! Fly used it on Twitter emoji, and the result is the picture above. As he writes:

Because this model is trained specifically to look for facial landmarks it will take any excuse to draw eyes and nostrils on a pixel. And I’m pretty sure the pepperoni on that pizza is made out of human lips… 😶

Here are a few more of Fry's transformed Twitter emoji ...

I'm gonna have trouble getting to sleep tonight. Read the rest

A cheap set of watchband springs and their associated removal tool

When replacing a watchband, or fixing one where the spring bar has gone awry, this super cheap tool and set of springs will come to the rescue.

Much like an eyeglasses repair kit, a watch spring bar tool is never around when you need one. Trying to push that tiny pin in and get the spring to engage, or disengage, is maddening. If I do not just break the spring bar and send bits a flying, I'll find some tool around the house to try that invariably scratches the lugs on my watch.

This cheap box of springs and a removal tool can sit in my desk drawer and just always be there. The set comes with replacement tips for the tool, and 108 spring bars in the standard sizes.

Watch Spring Bar Tool Set for Watch Wrist Strap Repair Kit, 108PCS Extra Watch Band Pins via Amazon Read the rest

Deutsche Bank has tax returns, won't publicly say if they're Trump's

Deutsche Bank disclosed in a court filing on Tuesday that financial records requested by congressional Democrats that are related to U.S. President Donald Trump and three of his adult children include tax returns.

The bank won't publicly disclose whether those tax returns are Donald Trump's.

The illegitimate, popular-vote-losing, manifestly unfit president has famously failed to release his tax returns, and it's widely speculated that the financial documents would point the way to dirty doings he'd rather keep secret.

Excerpt, Reuters:

Two committees in the U.S. House of Representatives subpoenaed Deutsche Bank in April to provide financial records belonging to the president and his children Donald Trump Jr., Ivanka Trump and Eric Trump.

Deutsche Bank’s filing, in the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, revealed that it had tax returns that it would need to hand over if it complied with the subpoenas, which the Trumps are seeking to block. It was not clear whose tax returns it had, because names were redacted from the filing.

A lawyer for the Trumps could not immediately be reached for comment. Deutsche Bank declined to comment.

The disclosure comes as Democrats on the House Ways and Means Committee are seeking to obtain Trump’s personal and business tax returns, which the president has refused to turn over, from the Treasury Department.

Deutsche Bank has long been a principal lender for Trump’s real estate business. A 2017 disclosure form showed that Trump had at least $130 million of liabilities to the bank.

Deutsche Bank says records sought in Trump congressional probe include tax returns [reuters.com, photo: Shutterstock] Read the rest

Uber and Lyft gouge their drivers

I hear endless stories of grief from the friends I have who try to make ends meet working for these services.

Jalopnik's Dhruv Mehrotra and Aaron Gordon share the terrible economics:

But Dave, who was granted anonymity out of fear of being deactivated by the ride-hail giant for speaking to the press, had no real choice but to wait. The passenger had requested the stop through the app, so refusing to make it would have been contentious both with the customer and with Uber. The exact number varies by city, but drivers must maintain a high rating in order to work on their platform. And there’s widespread belief among drivers that the Uber algorithm punishes drivers for cancelling trips.

Ultimately, the rider paid $65 for the half-hour trip, according to a receipt viewed by Jalopnik. But Dave made only $15 (the fares have been rounded to anonymize the transaction).

Uber kept the rest, meaning the multibillion-dollar corporation kept more than 75 percent of the fare, more than triple the average so-called “take-rate” it claims in financial reports with the Securities and Exchange Commission.

Had he known in advance how much he would have been paid for the ride relative to what the rider paid, Dave said he never would have accepted the fare.

“This is robbery,” Dave told Jalopnik over email. “This business is out of control.”

Read the rest

The GENIAC, a narrative interactive game from 1955

Picture of the GENIAC

Hackaday has a great post about a recreation of the GENIAC, an electric toy from 1955 that used simple switches to creative a turn-based interactive game narrative.

The GENIAC, short for "GENIus Almost-automatic Computer", lets the player work through a scenario called "The Uranian Shipment and the Space Pirates", where the goal is to figure out whether a ship traveling from Callisto to Earth is a uranium shipment or a pirate vessel disguised as a shipment. Depending on how you decide to react, you rotate the switches back and forth and the game displays the reaction via four lightbulbs -- "PIRATES WIN", "ALL LOST", "NO COMBAT", and "PIRATES KILLED".

The GENIAC is super rare, but Michael Gardi -- who has a track record of doing fabulous builds of old lost logic games from the predigital era (previously) -- created a functioning model. If you want to built it yourself, he's made a guide on Instructables.

As Tom Nardi notes over at Hackaday:

This might seem a little silly to modern audiences, but thanks to a well written manual that featured a collection of compelling projects, the GENIAC managed to get a lot of mileage out of a couple light bulbs and some wire. In fact, [Mike] says that the GENIAC is often considered one of the first examples of an interactive electronic narrative, as the carefully crafted stories from the manual allowed players to go on virtual adventures long before the average kid had ever heard of a “video game”.

Read the rest

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