Britain's unbelievably stupid, dangerous porn "age verification" scheme is totally dead

For years, Her Majesty's Government has been pursuing a plan to use the Great Firewall of Britain to block all porn sites unless they collect and retain personally identifying information on every porn user attesting to their age, thus fashioning the world's largest kompromat database, which -- thanks to the use of credit-cards as part of the verification scheme -- could be conveniently sorted by its members' net worth by would-be blackmailers. Read the rest

Dick and Stewart: a new, delightfully dark and twisted animated series from Scarfolk's Richard Littler

[[You may know Richard Littler from the astounding dystopian alternate fiction/bleak humour series Scarfolk (previously). He's been working on an on-again/off-again animated series that is, at long last, on. I was honoured to be offered the opportunity to launch the series here today!]]

Dick and Stewart is a series of short animations set in either Britain’s dismal past or the Britain that’s soon to come. It's hard to tell nowadays, isn't it? Either way, just imagine what it would be like if children's TV programmes were written by George Orwell or Franz Kafka. Or the government itself. Read the rest

Gollancz announces a £4,000 prize for sf writing by people of color

Gollancz, a venerable British science fiction publisher (now a division of Hachette) has announced its BAME SFF Award, with a top prize of £4,000 for science fiction written by over-18 BAME ("Black, Asian, minority ethnic) writers. Read the rest

Thomas Cook travel collapsed and stranded 150,000 passengers, but still had millions for the execs who tanked it

Thomas Cook is one of the oldest travel agencies in the world, operating their own flights, ships, hotels, etc, whose founders effectively invented modern tourism (listen to this excellent Stuff You Missed in History Class episode for the fascinating and fraught tale of how that happened) but a consolidation in the travel industry combined with private equity chicanery that loaded the company up with $2.1b in debt in order to pay out investors drove the company to its knees, and, last week, it finally died. Read the rest

Trial begins for the "cum/ex" bankers accused of stealing €447m and trying for €60b

You know that late-stage capitalism is upon us when a financial scandal targeting €60 billion in fraud against public treasuries is lost in the noise of other scandals. Read the rest

Banksy celebrates the erasure of his Brexit mural: "I guess a big white flag says it just as well"

In 2017, Banksy painted a giant mural on a wall in Dover, England depicting a worker chiseling a star off the EU flag, by way of a comment on the Brexit vote; now, parties unknown have painted over that mural, whitewashing it. Banksy is philosophical about this development: "Oh. I had planned that on the day of Brexit I was going to change the piece in Dover to this. But seems they've painted over it. Nevermind. I guess a big white flag says it just as well." (via Naked Capitalism) (Image: Dunk, CC BY) Read the rest

Atomik Vodka: distilled from grains grown in the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone

Atomik Grain Spirit is a (largely) (radiation-free) moonshine vodka distilled from grains grown in the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone as part of an experiment to determine the transfer of radiation from soil to crops; so far, the University of Portsmouth researchers behind the project have only made one bottle, but they hope to go into production and remit 75% of the proceeds to charities in the Exclusion Zone. Read the rest

Barnes and Noble's new boss is James Daunt, who rescued the UK's Waterstones

James Daunt gave up a brief career in banking and opened a small, family-owned chain of London bookstores bearing the family name (the original store, in Marylebone High Street, is literally the most beautiful English-language bookstore I've ever set foot in); in 2011, he took over management of Waterstones, the UK's last, foundering bookstore chain, and effected a miraculous turnaround by devolving purchasing to the managers who knew local tastes best, ending the practice of soliciting "co-op" payments from publishers to order in and stock massive piles of their frontlist titles, most of which would end up being returned. Read the rest

46% of Scots want to separate from the UK; 43% want to remain

An Lord Ashcroft Poll for Holyrood found that the largest group of Scots with a preference favour independence from the UK: 46% leave vs 43% remain; after removing undecided voters, the figures are 52%-48%. Read the rest

Slime Tango: an inverse tug-of-war, played with blobs of slime

Anton Hecht writes, "Slime Tango is a new game, the cello is optional. It is an inversion of tug of war, as here the players work together, while going apart. So is also an inversion of dance where people are close. The slime is stretched while following the dance steps, till it touches the floor, or breaks. This one is on the streets of Farlington in the UK." Read the rest

Rockstar Games made £4b between 2013-19, paid no corporate tax in the UK, claimed £42m in tax relief

Multinationals are excellent players of the global financial tax system, using "profit shifting" (through which operating profits are remitted to phony sister companies in tax havens as "licensing fees" or "management fees") to make it look like wildly profitable companies are losing money, making them eligible for tax relief and rebates -- thus it is that companies can rake in billions and then receive millions more in corporate welfare. Read the rest

After the Oliver Twist poorhouse became luxury housing with a segregated playground, London bans segregated play-areas

The world is full of corrupt oligarchs looking to smuggle their money out of their countries and put it somewhere where the rule of law that they have helped to dismantle at home still reigns; a favourite safe asset class is luxury housing in major cities, which is viewed as easy to sell on short notice due to the large supply of other money-laundering oligarchs. Read the rest

The new £50 notes will feature Alan Turing (whilst HMG proposes bans on Turing complete computers AND working crypto)

The Bank of England has unveiled its new £50 notes, which had been earmarked to honour a distinguished British scientist, and which will feature Alan Turing, the WWII hero who discovered many of the foundational insights to both modern computing and cryptography, and whose work with the codebreakers of Bletchley Park are widely believed to have shortened WWII by many years and saved millions of lives. Read the rest

London police official warns journalists not to publish leaks on pain of imprisonment

After a leak revealed that the British Ambassador to the USA had called Trump "inept, insecure and incompetent" (leading to the ambassador's resignation and a round of Twitter insults between Trump and senior Tory officials), London's Metropolitan Police Assistant Commissioner Neil Basu publicly warned journalists not to publish government leaks, threatening to imprison them if they do: "The publication of leaked communications, knowing the damage they have caused or are likely to cause may also be a criminal matter. I would advise all owners, editors and publishers of social and mainstream media not to publish leaked government documents that may already be in their possession, or which may be offered to them, and to turn them over to the police or give them back to their rightful owner, Her Majesty's Government." Read the rest

Britain's US ambassador: Trump is "insecure, incompetent, inept"

A leaked cable from the British ambassador to the US, sent home to the British Foreign and Commonwealth Office has the ambassador calling Trump "insecure," "incompetent" and "inept." In the ambassador's defense, it's completely true. Trump has not yet commented on the news. Read the rest

UK ISP Association, spies, censorship organsation jointly condemn Mozilla for supporting secure DNS because it breaks UK internet censorship rules

ISPs in the UK are required to censor a wide swathe of content: what began as a strictly limited, opt-in ban on depictions of the sexual abuse of children has been steadily expanded to a mandatory ban on "extreme" pornography, "terrorist content," copyright and trademark infringement, and then there's the on-again/off-again ban on all porn sites unless they keep a record of the identity of each user and the porn they request.. Read the rest

How Boris Johnson's "model bus hobby" non sequitur manipulated the public discourse and his search results

Boris Johnson is a racist, sexist, homophobic lying buffoon who has been repeatedly caught out using lies to sway public opinion, and that's why he's likely to lead the UK Conservative party and become the country's Prime Minister. Read the rest

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