Before Robert Bowers killed 11 in synagogue, on Gab he offered to help a white supremacist hate group dox a journalist

It's really hard to keep up with how weird every news story is right now. The Huffington Post's Jessica Schulberg sums her new HuffPo report perfectly: “Before Robert Bowers killed 11 people in a synagogue, he offered to help the League of the South's Brad Griffin dox a journalist on Gab.” Read the rest

Trump orders 5,200 more troops & 1,500 miles of concertina wire to U.S.-Mexico border

The U.S. will deploy an additional 5,200 troops to the U.S.-Mexico border, said White House officials today. The deployment will more than triple the military presence there, and is presumably a Trump administration response to the so-called “Migrant Caravan,” about which white supremacists in the United States are currently fixated. Read the rest

Alt-right social network Gab down after website, domain registrar and own tech chief abandon it

Social network Gab was the online sanctuary of Robert Bowers, the antisemitic killer of 11 Jewish people in Pittsburgh. Gab lost its payment processors Paypal and Stripe over the weekend. On Tuesday, it loses its webhost, Joyent. Godaddy, its domain name registrar, gave it the boot on Sunday. Gab co-founder Ekrem Büyükkaya, who once wrote that he'd be the first to leave if the site was seen to be right-wing, left Sunday.

The Washington Post reports on the origins of white supremacy's online hangout.

Gab is more than a platform. It’s also positioned itself as a key figure in the right-wing response to online crackdowns of extremist views, and has benefited directly from the white supremacists who flocked to Gab on the promise that their views would not be censored, according to Joan Donovan, the media manipulation and platform accountability research lead at Data and Society, who has followed the site’s growth.

Torba has become a charismatic leader of the “alt-tech” movement which, among other things, dedicates itself to protecting and building tech to house “free speech” — including extremist ideologies that are increasingly unwelcome on mainstream sites. When James Damore was fired from Google in 2017 for writing a viral memo about women in tech, Torba capitalized on the case’s media attention to promote an “alt-tech revolution,” where conservative tech workers would rise up and topple Silicon Valley giants. Gab, of course, would be there to take their place.

Gab complains:

Gab.com is under attack.

Read the rest

Pittsburgh killings: Trump blames synagogue for not having armed guards

A gunman killed at least 10 people this morning at a Pittsburgh synagogue, reportedly shouting "All Jews must die" as he opened fire. Social media profiles under the shooter's name illustrate a violently antisemitic extremist who wrote that "there is no #MAGA as long as there is a kike infestation." Asked about gun laws after the massacre, President Trump responded thus, according to CNN's Jeremy Diamond.

"This has little do do with it," Trump says when asked about gun laws in wake of Pittsburgh shooting. Instead, he puts the onus on the synagogue: "If they had some kind of a protection inside the temple, then it could have maybe been a very different situation. They didn't."

Three police officers were in fact shot by the gunman before he surrendered. Read the rest

Furries hit Pittsburgh

It's Anthrocon time again -- the annual summer invasion of Steel city by the Fur nation. There'll be fun, costumes, art, screenings, and the amazing sight of a major city's downtown filled with countless fursuited convention-goers.

Anthrocon 2018 will be held Thursday through Sunday at the David L. Lawrence Convention Center ... Costumes are only part of the convention for many of those attending, board member John Cole says in an earlier interview. He adds that Anthrocon is different than, for example, a science fiction convention or Harry Potter convention in that there is no preconceived storyline. Only about 20 percent of Anthrocon attendees partake in costuming. Some write, some draw — it's all about telling a story, Cole says.

An emerging tradition: many Pittsburgh restaurants will serve your meal in a dog bowl.

Photo: Rob Beschizza (CC BY 4.0) Read the rest

The Suburban Pittsburgh Book of the Dog

Allegheny County, Pennsylvania, is one of very few (and apparently the most populous) to publish data on its dog registrations. Nathan Fulton, a student at CMU, offers a summary of Pittsburgh Doggos By the Numbers, though it should be noted that it excludes those within city limits. (With 300k humans in town and a million more out in the burbs, assume we're missing at least a quarter of the doggos)

Ten Most Popular Dog Names in Allegheny County Name Count Bella 708 Lucy 474 Buddy 469 Molly 435 Bailey 424 Sadie 398 Max 393 Daisy 370 Charlie 328 Cooper 305

Read the rest

Sword-wielding robber finds that store clerk also has sword

[From 2015]: En garde! Read the rest

Annual trashing of Pittsburgh by Kenny Chesney fans breaks tonnage record

More than 48 tons of trash were left by fans of Kenny Chesney attending a concert this week in Pittsburgh—something of a tradition for the country singer. The piles are staggering, the smell appalling: an aftermath so disgusting it has some speculating on how it's even possible to generate so much trash in such a short amount of time. It's almost as if it was trucked in and left there to make a point...

As the concert let out around 10:30 p.m. and cars began to clear from the parking lots, a reeking, hulking mass of garbage leftover from the day’s earlier festivities began to appear behind the exodus of country music fans.

Pickup trucks crunched glass bottles underneath tires; fluid from portable toilets overflowed into the street; people covered their noses with their shirts to escape the stench.

"You're just walking around on a carpet of garbage." Dozens of drunks were hospitalized and several people arrested, reports the Post-Gazette.

The tonnage is a record, apparently; a Billy Joel concert was attended last weekend by a similarly-sized crowd without event. Read the rest

Pittsburgh police chief wants to fire cop who beat up teen

Last year, Pittsburgh Police officer Sgt. Stephen Matakovich was captured on camera beating up a 19-year-old outside Heinz Field. After lying about the circumstances, he was charged with assault—only to find the charges dismissed last week by a judge.

When video of the attack found its way to the media, however, the story changed: police chief Cameron McLay has now suspended Matakovich and says he will fire him, while prosecutors are planning to refile charges against the officer.

WPXI 11 reports that it'll be hard to make it stick: Matakovich can appeal the decision to city executives who can overrule McLay, then take it to an arbitration panel, where he can select one of the three people tasked with the final decision.

Deja vu: in 2003, Matakovich was recorded threatening to assault a superior officer, but was let off the hook over his own supervisor's objections. Read the rest

Video emerges of Pittsburgh cop beating up teen

Only after assault charges against Pittsburgh police Sgt. Stephen Matakovich were dropped did the public get to see the video of him beating up a teenager.

The off-duty cop, working as a security guard, claimed that 19-year-old Gabriel Despres kept his hands in his pockets after being ordered to remove them and was therefore a "threat."

A judge agreed Monday that Despres was the aggressor and dismissed the charges against Matakovich, reportedly to cheers among police gathered in the courtroom.

But now the FBI plans to review the case after the video of the Nov. 28, 2015 incident outside Heinz Field was posted online.

Though Matakovich also maintained that Despres lunged at and punched him, the video shows otherwise. The grainy footage depicts Matakovich shoving Despres to the ground and launching a series of punches to his head. Despres lifts his arm at one point to shield himself from the blows, but does not appear to retaliate or resist.

It's not Matakovich's first time in the news: in 2003, he was videotaped threatening to beat up a superior officer on the Pittsburgh Police force, but was let off the hook despite protests from his own commander.

Word of the review came a day after a district judge dismissed charges against Sgt. Stephen Matakovich, a 22-year veteran, who had been accused of using unnecessary force in taking down Gabriel Despres, 20, of South Park.… District Justice Robert Ravenstahl’s decision Monday to dismiss charges of simple assault and official oppression against Sgt.

Read the rest

Kickstarting The Origami, a new kind of portable laser-cutter

Created by a team from Pittsburgh's Techshop makerspace, the Origami uses a novel, fold-out arm that lets you laser-etch and -cut much larger designs than you could get into a normal, enclosed cutter. Read the rest

Storm approaches Pittsburgh

© Bri Anne Read the rest

The Black Forest: the darker side of Pittsburgh's underground art scene

Unicorn Mountain is a collective of Pittsburgh artists that publishes anthologies of local art, comics, music and literature. Their third anthology, The Black Forest, takes a different tack from their previous collections by exploring much darker, stranger themes. My friend Tara Helfer did the layout and supplementary illustrations for The Black Forest and sent me a copy to check out.

The collection covers a broad range of styles, and is packed with more than twenty different artists' work. Some parts are creepy and scribbly. Others are intricate and mysterious. I've picked some samples of a few of my favorites here.

Read the rest

Cow sex halts traffic

This weekend, state police in Pennsylvania State Police reported that cows "having relations in the road" brought traffic to a standstill near Kittanning, PA. "The bull rebuffed any notion of interruptus and police had to summon Pennsylvania Farm Bureau personnel," writes Jon Schmitz of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. (Photo via Sean Bonner) Read the rest

Using gestures to interact with surfaces that don't have screens

A joint Disney Research and CMU team have produced a demo showing gesture controls on a variety of everyday, non-computer objects. The system, called Touché, uses capacitive coupling to infer things about what your hands are doing. It can determine which utensil you're eating your food with, or how you're grasping a doorknob, or even whether you're touching one finger to another or clasping your hands together. It's a pretty exciting demo, and the user interface possibilities are certainly provocative. Here's some commentary from Wired UK's Mark Brown:

Some of the proof-of-concept applications in the lab include a smart doorknob that knows whether it has been grasped, touched, or pinched; a chair that dims the lights when you recline into it; a table that knows if you're resting one hand, two hands, or your elbows on it; and a tablet that can be pinched from back to front to open an on-screen menu.

The technology can also be shoved in wristbands, so you can make sign-language-style gestures to control the phone in your pocket—two fingers on your palm to change a song, say, or a clap to stop the music. It can also go in liquids, to detect when fingers and hands are submerged in water.

"In our laboratory experiments, Touché demonstrated recognition rates approaching 100 percent," claims Ivan Poupyrev, senior research scientist at Disney Research in Pittsburgh. "That suggests it could immediately be used to create new and exciting ways for people to interact with objects and the world at large."

Disney researchers put gesture recognition in door knobs, chairs, fish tanks Read the rest

Collared carjacker claims to be part of movie shoot

When a Pittsburgh man tried to carjack a plain-clothed police officer's car and got immediately collared, he claimed to be shooting a scene from The Dark Knight Rises, currently shooting in the city. From MSNBC:

[Detective] DiGiacomo said he was able to pull out his gun and arrest Micah Calamosca, 21, of Shadyside, after Calamosca tried to order him out of his vehicle on Ivy Street. Calamosca "said he was just filming the movie 'Batman,' and that him taking my vehicle was part of the script," according to the criminal complaint filed by DiGiacomo.

For reference, Ivy Street is like four miles out of downtown (embatsignalled above) and about as Gotham as a Jane Austen novel. However, the idea of Batman recklessly pursuing Bane through a synagogue brunch or independent arts festival is quite exciting.

Photo: Lightwave International. Read the rest

Pittsburgh Signs Project: appreciation of the glorious signage of Pittsburgh

Earlier this summer, a nice group of people approached me at my signing at the CMU bookstore in Pittsburgh, PA and handed me a copy of Pittsburgh Signs Project, a photography book that features glorious photos of Pittsburgh's beautiful vintage signs. It turns out that two of the people giving me the book were among its editors, and they'd come by especially because I'd played an unwitting role in the project's genesis. Back in 2003, I blogged a set of photos of I'd snapped of Denver's signs (I'd been there for a conference and after a couple days I was so overwhelmed by the signs I kept seeing in passing that I jumped in my rental car and spent the afternoon shooting), and this, in turn, had inspired the founding of the Pittsburgh Signs Project, which invited the pittsburghese to send in their favorite images. Before long, they had a book's worth of astounding signs from many eras and of many genres, from every county in the area.

The editors -- Jennifer Baron, Greg Langel, Elizabeth Perry and Mark Stroup -- then gathered up their favorites and arranged them thematically, with brief essays and short snips of text from the photographers. But the words aren't the important bit, the photos are, and they're really something. The layout of the book hints at the lineage of the signs; of rival liquor store owners who duelled with typography; of peeling hand-painted ancestors from the dawn of commercial advertising; of careful, handmade steel typography over a metal-shop's awning. Read the rest