So the FBI only abused snoop powers around 280,000 times. What's to worry about?

The Register - Thu, 05/25/2023 - 07:30
When is warrantless surveillance warranted?

Register Kettle  If there's one thing that's more all the rage these days than this AI hype, it's warrantless spying by the Feds.…

Categories: Tech News

The neurons that make you feel hangry

ARS Technica - Thu, 05/25/2023 - 06:59
Box of donuts

Enlarge (credit: warrenrandalcarr via Getty Images)

Maybe it starts with a low-energy feeling, or maybe you’re getting a little cranky. You might have a headache or difficulty concentrating. Your brain is sending you a message: You’re hungry. Find food.

Studies in mice have pinpointed a cluster of cells called AgRP neurons near the underside of the brain that may create this unpleasant hungry, even “hangry,” feeling. They sit near the brain’s blood supply, giving them access to hormones arriving from the stomach and fat tissue that indicate energy levels. When energy is low, they act on a variety of other brain areas to promote feeding.

By eavesdropping on AgRP neurons in mice, scientists have begun to untangle how these cells switch on and encourage animals to seek food when they’re low on nutrients, and how they sense food landing in the gut to turn back off. Researchers have also found that the activity of AgRP neurons goes awry in mice with symptoms akin to those of anorexia, and that activating these neurons can help to restore normal eating patterns in those animals.

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Categories: Tech News

Major Transit Official Compares Building Bike and Bus Lanes to Bulldozing Neighborhoods for Freeways

Motherboard (Vice) - Thu, 05/25/2023 - 06:54

Last week, Seleta Reynolds, the chief innovation officer for LA Metro, appeared on the podcast CityAge to discuss how Los Angeles is preparing to host the Olympics in 2028. The most striking remark came towards the end of the segment when Reynolds, in talking up LA Metro’s community engagement efforts, compared building bike and bus lanes to freeway construction that destroys neighborhoods.

“How can we say we’re going to do better than our predecessors who bulldozed black and brown neighborhoods to put in the freeway system, you know, without really allowing those communities to be at the table, how can we say that we’re better than them just because what we’re trying to build is a bus lane or a bike lane?” Reynolds said. “What makes us so confident that we know best? And what makes us so, I would almost say arrogant, to presume that we really understand what’s really at the heart of some of these issues that we’re trying to address?”

As a transportation reporter covering cities, I have heard similar arguments many times, invariably from opponents of bike and bus lanes. Here in New York, the longer a community meeting on a bike lane goes the odds that someone will invoke Robert Moses’ destruction of Bronx neighborhoods to build a highway approaches one. What’s the difference, these opponents argue, between what Moses did and what the city is trying to do now?

It is disturbing, if hardly shocking, that Reynolds would make the same argument. She is a senior executive at a major American transportation authority, one that provided 255 million mostly slow bus trips last year. Reynolds is also a former president of the National Association of City Transportation Officials (NACTO), an influential professional organization that is pro-bike-and-bus lanes. When Motherboard asked if she’d like to clarify her statement or provide additional context, Reynolds said she has “worked on bike, pedestrian, traffic calming, school safety, and bus lane projects throughout the U.S. for the last 25 years” and was “specifically thinking about calls to shortcut community engagement altogether, particularly during the pandemic…Some of the most humbling experiences I’ve had have been going into neighborhoods where I felt that the facts clearly supported one type of project only to hear that my assumptions fell far too short of the needs of those communities. In so doing, the projects and outcomes were much better than the ones I had first imagined.”

Last year, I spent several months reporting a story about how the community feedback process has gotten out of control and hobbles our cities from building necessary infrastructure like bus and bike lanes. The injustices of the feedback process—that it primarily caters to older, higher-income drivers obsessed with parking because research consistently shows bus riders, who are statistically lower income, are either too busy to attend such meetings or unaware they’re even taking place—have been well-documented in the urban planning field. Still, while reporting that story, I did not talk to any public officials who, no matter how critical of aspects of the engagement process, expressed a desire to get rid of the feedback process entirely. Instead, they saw no end in sight to the dynamic of “engagement inflation,” which I described as “where more engagement is done with no idea of how much is enough, when the community’s voice is sufficiently heard, or any other metric of success other than more engagement. In practice, it ends up being a form of delay until a local politician or official weighs in.” 

While humility is a fine trait for a public official to have, it too often crosses over into policy nihilism, which is precisely the wrong lesson to take from the mistakes from the past. The result of this is well-intentioned, dedicated public officials comparing building bike lanes to urban highways. Not all bike or bus lane projects are perfect at their initial conception, but it is, in fact, possible to know if something is good or bad without hearing everyone’s opinion on it.

The most obvious issue with comparing highway construction to bike and bus lanes involves little more than looking out the window. One is a massive industrial construction project of wanton destruction and steel and concrete that will obviously and irrevocably alter urban landscapes for generations. The other is, at its most elaborate, a series of flexible barriers and paint on existing roads repurposing up to two lanes of traffic for different kinds of vehicles. Bike and bus lanes involve very little new construction at all.

This difference of intent and scale is worth dwelling on because it is why the comparison is so misguided. The U.S. Department of Transportation has estimated 475,000 households containing one million people were displaced due to highway construction from 1957 to 1977. That is the equivalent of displacing the entire population of modern-day Austin, Texas. Likewise, a Los Angeles Times analysis found that an additional 200,000 people have lost their homes due to highway construction since 1990. To the best of my knowledge, there has not been a single housing unit destroyed or person displaced to build a bike or bus lane anywhere in the U.S. On these grounds alone, it is simply absurd to compare urban highway construction to bike and bus lanes. Projects of such vastly different scopes and scale deserve different approaches and mindsets. 

But there is another good reason to reject this comparison, one that is equally revealing about the biases of modern transportation officials. Reynolds asked, “What makes us so confident we know best?” Another way of asking this is, what makes us so confident we know bike and bus lanes are better than masses of parking and multiple travel lanes for private cars for everyone? 

The answer is: we’ve got the receipts. In this case, decades of scientific study and experiments carefully tracked and evaluated by local departments of transportation.

Think of all the familiar arguments against bike and bus lanes repeated in local community meetings all over the country in recent decades, the kinds of meetings Reynolds and her colleagues have to attend for every project. They’ve heard them all before: that they hurt local businesses by removing customer parking, don’t improve safety or increase bike usage, they slow down cars, and cater to the whims of white, urban elites and speed gentrification. All of these arguments have been debunked. Protected bike lanes make everyone safer. New York, Washington, D.C., Chicago, Philadelphia, Portland, and San Francisco have all seen double-digit percent reduction in crashes between drivers, pedestrians, and cyclists all while seeing double-digit increases in bicycle usage after installing protected bike lanes. In other words, more people ride bikes and fewer crashes happen between everyone on roads with protected bike lanes. These safety improvements are particularly important in black and brown neighborhoods where, due to the historical legacy of redlining, freeway construction, and industrial development, often have the most dangerous roads of all. And studies that look at both entire cycle networks and individual streets find businesses not only survive these changes but often thrive after bus or bike lanes are installed.

Similarly, busways—or roads only for buses and limited local access for commercial vehicles and residents—like the one on 14th Street in Manhattan have profound safety benefits while also speeding up buses for tens of thousands of people. In fact, the 14th Street case is an illustrative one for why planners and transit experts like Reynolds do know best in such cases, or at least ought to. 

Prior to the busway’s implementation, the city and transit authority held countless meetings where their staff got yelled at by locals about how stupid they are, how they know nothing, how they’re just like Robert Moses destroying neighborhoods. A particular point of contention was the placement of bike lanes on adjacent streets and the concern this, along with a surge in traffic of cars redirected by the busway, would “threaten the wellbeing of residents,” according to an ultimately-dismissed lawsuit filed by Arthur Schwartz, a local resident who repeatedly invoked his past civil rights and union activism to play to concerns over the “equity” of the transit project. What actually happened was exactly what transportation experts said would happen: 14th Street got a lot safer, buses that primarily transport lower-income New Yorkers got a lot faster, and there was virtually no increase in travel time on adjacent streets. The project was, and remains, an unabashed, complete success for exactly the reasons transit experts said it would be. 

While modern urban planners have decades of scientific literature on which to base their modest claims that protected bike and bus lanes are good, mid-century highway boosters had no evidence on which to base their astounding claims that ramming overpasses through center cities while destroying hundreds or thousands of homes would revitalize downtowns. It was all based on conjecture that suburbanites like to drive places and so the easier it is to drive to the center city the more likely suburbanites would be to go there, logic which failed to account for lost business from the people the highway projects displaced and the broader hollowing out of the downtown core that resulted from it. 

In other words, the urban freeway fad was the exact opposite of the bike and bus lane advocacy boom: a novel, brash idea, fashionable at the time but with no evidence to back it up beyond fancy dioramas and civic boosterism. The lack of intellectual seriousness behind the projects is ever clearer when looking at how the planners actually planned the projects. As the environmental historian Christopher Wells documented in his book Car Country, highway planners held workshops where they made “desire paths,” or asked people to draw lines between where they worked and lived. They then combined all those lines, found the middle one, and tore down everything in its way. Or, in extreme examples, a racist state official saved everyone the trouble of pretending there was any logic behind it and just tore down the black neighborhood. This is a far cry from how modern planners determine locations for bus and bike projects. They use actual data on how streets are used and by whom as a starting point before designing a project, which automatically puts them ahead of highway planners in terms of sophistication and real-world application.

So it is disturbing, but not surprising, to hear a transit official in a major American city tasked with building more bike and bus lanes arguing that the process for doing so is actually indistinguishable from midcentury highway construction, because the unfortunate truth is Reynolds is hardly alone. For this reason, Reynolds’ remark is worth paying attention to. It is a pure expression of how a generation of American urban planners and transportation officials internalized the criticisms against their profession so thoroughly that they no longer believe it is their place to know anything. 

Categories: Tech News

Microsoft appeals UK's block on Activision deal

The Register - Thu, 05/25/2023 - 06:32
CMA: European Commission accepted proposals that would let Redmond set terms in market 'for the next 10 years'

Microsoft has filed an appeal against the UK competition watchdog’s decision to block its takeover of game developer Activision Blizzard, just days after China became the latest country to approve the deal.…

Categories: Tech News

'Fuck the Rules:' Rubberists are Starting Their Own Revolution

Motherboard (Vice) - Thu, 05/25/2023 - 06:00

On a Saturday in May, Pusckatt Pumera Onyx traveled to Atlanta, donned his black and white rubber suit, draped his Mr. International Rubber sash over his shoulder, and paraded around on a cool night on the patio of The Atlanta Eagle. 

Rubber fetishists are people who wear skin tight latex and rubber clothing, including gloves, bodysuits, and masks, either for personal pleasure or competitive, pageant-style performance. Onyx is the first Black Mr. International Rubber (MIR) in the competition’s 26 year history. As part of the title, the organizers  awarded him a travel fund and a mandate to spread the word about the rubber fetish community throughout the world. 

As hot dogs sizzled at the Eagle, and sounds of power ballads wafted down from the drag show upstairs, Onyx greeted a skinny, bearded psychology student clad in a red and black latex singlet, Mr. Southeast Rubber 2022, Scott Wolf, who was performing his service, which he does at least once a month. Sometimes he sells Jell-O shots for a cause, other times he educates people on how to care for rubber—one of the keys is Vivishine.  

The night I met Wolf, a few weeks earlier, he was inside the club hanging upside down in his rubber singlet, rope wound over his torso and arms, a dozen people looking on, some coming up to slide their hands across the silicone-slicked latex. 

One of the most common questions Wolf and Onyx are asked is whether they get hot while wearing rubber. The answer is: only when it’s hot outside. Latex is thin, so whatever the outside temperature is, your skin feels. To get the skintight material on, he applies silicone lube so it can slide right on his body, which is what most people who wear rubber do, although some use powder.  

Wolf is from a small, conservative town in the deep South of Georgia. Like Onyx, Wolf is on a mission to make the entire rubber fetish community more inclusive to women and gender minorities. That’s why he’s competing for MIR in November, where he hopes to be crowned the winner. 

Soon after he won Mr. Southeast Rubber in 2022, Wolf started changing things. “I got rid of the honorific, so it does not need to be ‘Mr.’ Our title is no longer gender bound,” he said. “We have this large growing gender queer, gender minority community, and I've been wanting to support them.” 

He didn’t feel comfortable coming out as gay until age 22—long after he moved to Atlanta. Wolf was introduced to rubber at a workshop at the Eagle run by G-man, a guy who was crowned Mr. International Rubber 2011. Like Onyx, he was hooked after donning a suit.  

Wolf introduced me to some of the rubberists out that night. There was mustachioed Pup Loki in a fire-engine red singlet; bald and buff Pup Cookie in a rubber vest over a yellow tank top, representing his interest in piss play as part of the hanky code/flagging system (colors can be a fashion choice, not a flag, but you need to be prepared for people to ask you about it, he said), and Cookie’s trainer Jonathan, bespectacled in a red and black singlet. There seemed to be as many people out in leather as rubber. I asked them why they chose rubber over the more conventional gay male fetish gear of leather.

“I think with leather, you are more grounded by the rules of the community. In rubber there's much more freedom and expression with creativity … I mean, look, at Pusckatt, they express himself in such a beautiful fashion,” Pup Cookie said. 

Jonathan jumped in. “People tend to put on rubber and it just changes the way they carry themselves. It gives them such a protective shell,” he said. 

“I would say that, if anybody [is] body conscious of themselves, screw it. Everyone looks sexy in rubber,” another rubberist said.  

I asked if MIR should become gender neutral. They all said yes. “I think that having it be gender specific is holding it back,” Pup Cookie said. “I think taking down that barrier is going to allow, selfishly, where I want to see rubber go. I want to see the more creative stuff. I want to see unique styles like Pusckatt’s.” 

“The female-identifying [performers] that I’ve seen in rubber are phenomenal,” said Jonathan. 

“They’re in colonial dresses, full on frickin latex, that’s badass,” Pup Cookie said. 

Wolf is creating change at the Southeast competitive level, but it’s not easy. Many of the smaller contests that MIR competitors have to participate in to qualify at the international level only allow men. 

“How are we going to go about making sure we're supporting the community as a whole?” Wolf said. “Because the big saying is… [MIR] supports everyone, no matter even if the contest is still ‘Mister.’ They do a lot of work to support everyone within the community whether they are male-identifying, female identifying, genderqueer, or non-binary.”

Elsewhere in the bar, I met a guy in a full red rubber suit with gloves, wearing loose black fabric shorts on top. He told me he was from a small town in rural Georgia that he didn’t want named for fear that people would recognize him. 

A man in a red latex suit and black full face maskAn attendee at The Eagle's rubber night in Atlanta. Photo by Eric Schatzberg

“It must have been hard growing up gay there,” I said. 

“I identify as straight,” he replied.

“What? You’re not at least bi?” I asked, as I looked around and saw what I assumed (perhaps falsely) were dozens of queer men. 

“Nope, maybe heteroflexible, possibly,” he said. “My girlfriend knows I’m here. She gave me permission.” 

He told me that he wore rubber at home regularly, but could never bring himself to don it in public. He was at Atlanta Eagle because it was the only place he knew of that had a rubber night. 

“How do you feel?” I asked.

“Phenomenal,” he said. “I truly think this is the skin I belong in.” 

Even on rubber night, attendees in normal street clothing far outnumbered the people wearing rubber. But rubber is starting to become more popular, and Wolf thinks that’s because it’s aesthetically more gender fluid.  

“Leather has this very masculine, confident, dominating presence, while rubber has got a more relaxed and more approachable presence,” he said. “I've gotten approached more often when I'm wearing rubber and then people ask questions, hands go wandering, fun happens afterwards.” In the rubber community he’s submissive: a “boy,” as his brand of submissive is called.  

Pup Loki, Pup Cookie, and Jonathan Left to right: Pup Loki, Pup Cookie, and Jonathan, at the Eagle in Atlanta. Photo by Eric Schatzberg

Onyx, who lives in Fort Lauderdale, got into rubber in 2019, when his close friend was running for Mr. Florida Rubber, which is similar to a pageant event, like Miss America. Usually the competition involves an interview, a fantasy scene, and a display of their rubber image. 

At the time, he was solely into leather, but his friend was going to a local bar in latex, and didn’t want to be the only one wearing rubber. So he asked Onyx if he’d join him, and offered Onyx a pair of his latex shorts and tank top. Onyx reluctantly put them on and went to the bar. 

He wasn’t expecting the response he got. “Something about latex, everybody wants to touch it and rub it because of the shiny and slickness of it. And I think that is what really drew me to it,” Onyx said. “I haven't been out of latex since.” In February 2022, Onyx won the Mr. Florida Rubber title, and in November 2022 he won the Mr. International competition—the highest level 

But the path to MIR hasn’t been smooth—in fact, Onyx and other gender nonconforming rubberists and people of color have started a revolution in the historically white, almost ironically rigid community of rubber enthusiasts. 


Three days before Onyx was supposed to appear at the Mr. International Rubber (MIR) contest in Chicago to compete for the title, the Touché club in Chicago, where MIR’s opening party and other events were to be held, became the center of a controversy. It had just hosted a party featuring white performer Jerry Halliday and his puppet “Sista Girl.”

Touché employees instructed the audience not to record the show, and then a bowler-hat wearing Halliday took the stage with Sista Girl, and performed a racist caricature show.

As Onyx was debating whether to go to MIR in light of this offensive spectacle at the venue, MIR’s announced they were cutting ties with Touché and the event would be held elsewhere. "MIR remains committed to producing an event weekend free of harassment , racism, misogyny, abelism, sizeism, and ageism. Where all rubber kinksters are welcome and made to feel their authentic selves," the MIR organization announced on Twitter

Following that announcement, Onyx decided to fly to Chicago for the competition. “It made me want to run for the title even more … They could have easily went the way of being quiet and not standing up for the community. To me it showed a lot of their character and their stance,” he said. He had good reason to be hesitant: In the history of MIR, there had never been a Black Mr. International Rubber, let alone a gender non-conforming winner. He had a chance to become the first. 

“Fuck the rules, I'm going to wear what makes me feel sexy… if you don't like it, fuck you.”

At the MIR finals in Chicago on November 5, 2022, Onyx stood on stage in a fuchsia full-body rubber suit with a black girdle for his fantasy scene, where contestants really had to shine for the seven judges. Each contestant had to create a scene related to the theme: Rubber University.

“You’ve been hired to teach a course at RubU. What is the course title, and what is the course description?” said the emcee, while he batted a rainbow fan in front of his face. 

“The title of my course will be the rubber band … The description will be to embrace the rubberist community, all of the rubberist community and we will have discussion around inclusion and diversity,” he said. 

On stage a man in a black and pink accented shirt and black rubber pants stood next to a table with a large dildo. “Let’s have role call: leather, bears, pups, littles. Rubber. Rubber. Where’s Pusckatt?” 

“I’m here,” Onyx said offstage. 

“Late again, are we?” 

“It takes time to get all lubed down for you,” Onyx said. “I mean, shined up for class.”

The man placed a gas mask on Onyx as Onyx slithered through his rubber legs. “Now arch that back for Daddy,” he said, and began spanking his butt cheeks with a paddle. Then he licked Onyx’s rubber-covered butt crack, and pulled him up on his feet to face him. 

“Pussy,” Onyx said and turned his head to the audience to thunderous applause. 

Later that day, after performing in shiny charades, Onyx stood in the lineup next to the other contestants in his thigh high rubber boots, black leotard, and fuchsia hat.  As the first and second runner took their places at the front of the stage, he politely clapped. “The winner of MIR … drumroll, drumroll, drumroll,” MIR organizer and 2003 winner William “Rubber Willi” Schendel said, and the men onstage stomped their feet. “Contestant Number 6, Pusckatt Pumera Onyx!” Onyx threw his hand in the air, waved to the crowd, smiled broadly and pranced center stage in his stilettos. He embraced the previous year’s winner Joe Chicago Rubber, as about 500 people watched in person and 175 or so online. Onyx was now the first Black winner of MIR. 

It didn’t take long for Onyx to receive backlash on social media. His faux pas, according to some rubberists? Wearing high heels and appearing too femme. The criticism came from the old guard, wanting the rubber contest to stay hypermasculine and Tom of Finland-esque. 

But the backlash was immediately shut down by the MIR organizers. “My whole platform is about how do I make space for those who are not on the hyper masculine side?” Onyx said.

And besides, not everyone was upset about his femininity. After he won, the rubber vendors on site sold out of pink. 


The rubber community has historically been pretty white. “There are not as many Black men into the rubber fetish scene. There's kind of this archetypal image of a rubber man that exists: they are tall, skinny, and bald, and they wear all black rubber. It’s very Germanic,” Schendel, who fits that description himself, said. 

The first person of color to win MIR was Preston “Wexx” So, crowned Mr. International Rubber in 2016, 19 years after the contest began. “He got a lot of pushback during his year, especially in Europe. He faced a lot of racism,” Schendel said. 

When So won MIR in 2016, he said he was a recent Harvard grad who simply thought it would be fun to enter a rubber contest. “I was not only the first person of color to win MIR, but I was also the first Asian to be an international fetish title holder at all,” So said. “In 2016 there were very few people of color attending MIR.” 

As So was awarded the title, he could see the comments showing up on Zoom, where the show was streamed. “People were saying things like, how did the Asian beat the white guy,” he said. “They’re using slurs as well as saying things like the C word, the ‘chink’ word.”

He started getting “horrifying levels of online abuse,” he said. But he powered through. Then, things got worse. It was January 2017, and he’d recently won the title and was riding the elevator during the international fetish event Mid Atlantic Leather in Washington, DC. “And one of the gentlemen inside the elevator was very inebriated. And he said to my face, ‘You know, now that Trump's president, you can't be in this elevator with us, pointing to everyone else in the elevator who was white. [He] shoved me out of the elevator, and I fell back, stunned and dazed onto the floor,” So said. 

Another time he was at a bar in New England when a stranger sexually assaulted him. “An older white gentleman wearing leather decided to walk up to me to grab my crotch and said, oh, I just wanted to check if the stereotype was true,” So said. 

He was met with racism while traveling outside of the U.S. as well. “I was at Folsom in Berlin, probably Europe's largest, fetish and kink fair … And a gentleman walked up to me, saw that I was wearing the Mr. International Sash, pushed me and tried to take it from me,” So said. “And he said, ‘where are you from?’ And I said, ‘I'm from America.’ He said, ‘No, no, no, no, you can't be Mr. International Rubber. You're not American. You are China or Japan…’ He refused to let go of me just because I was refusing to say that I wasn't American.” 

So said he’s not alone: “Multiply my story by hundreds and thousands and you'll get a fair representation of who's suffered at the hands of the kink community, who are women who are trans, who are Black and Brown,” he said. “There are so many of us who don't speak up.”  

So eventually left the kink community—rubberists or otherwise—in 2019 after receiving numerous death threats and having to shut down his Facebook page. About a year later, he came back after deciding that instead of wearing rubber publicly for the community, he would do so for himself. “I've been [wearing rubber] for these racists who didn't actually appreciate the fact that there was somebody else who was as into rubber as they were. And that's the reason why when I came back, I told myself,  … This time, I'm not going to wear rubber for anybody else but myself. Nothing else is going to matter,” he said. 

Since he’s come back, he is devoted to making events more inclusive and he’s created risk management, safety, and antiharassment policies for kink clubs. “We may talk about safe, sane, consensual. That doesn't mean abuse and violence aren't happening at our events in our spaces,” he said.  

Schendel said that following So’s experiences with harassment, the Mr. International Rubber organization worked to address racism within the rubber community. The organization and So co-founded a POC meet up in conjunction with the contest, and, later, an Asian rubberist meetup. 

Now, there is another challenge facing the community: gender inclusivity. “We are in a contest at the moment to select a Mister, but we want to make our events and our weekend is a space where everybody feels welcomed, included and seen and valued. And so we've really done a lot of work, continue to do a lot of work, to kind of move the ball in that direction. A lot of that started when Preston won the contest,” Schendel said. 

MIR crowned its first winner in 1997 in a gay fetish bar. The contest has always required contestants to be male-identified, although the judges and audience members don’t have to be.  “We weren't thinking about gender politics the way that we are now,” said Schendel. Other, smaller competitions called “feeder” contests exist across the world, although they aren’t officially sanctioned by MIR and you don’t have to win one of them to compete in the main MIR event. 

“You just kind of feel like a superhero.”

Rubber was originally fetishized in the straight community, Schendel said, after rubber rain slickers and gas masks were first used in World War I. “That fetish started to grow and then it started to find its way into other things, like pantyhose and girdles,” he said. “Rubber existed for a long time in the straight world as this way to heighten the sexuality and the sensuality of the female form. Once you can make sheet latex that is more like a fabric that you can actually cut and mend and sew,  then people start designing latex fashions … but then the women want to see the guys in the same thing.”

Schendel said that rubber didn’t fit into the gay aesthetic until much later. Post-World War II, the look was Tom of Finland, hypermasculine, motorcycle, military vibes, he said. “Rubber kind of flips the middle finger at the old guard, which is like, these are the rules you must follow in kink, and you must address me as sir  … Rubber doesn't really have any rules, like, we are very much, fuck the rules, I'm going to wear what makes me feel sexy … if you don't like it, fuck you.”

It’s only in the past few decades that rubber has gained more mainstream popularity. Since MIR began, rubber contests have spread throughout the U.S. and into other countries as well. Most of these require contestants to be male identified. The female origins of rubber are nearly absent. But female-identified people want their place at the table again, and so do non-binary people. 

Although you still have to be male-identified to win, in the past few years, MIR has been making their event more gender inclusive. Play parties allowed people of all genders to attend for the first time last year. A woman’s rubberist group throws their own party as well. Some people, including So, think the contestant should abandon the “male” requirement altogether.  “I’m very in support of gender neutral titles,” So said. 


In 2021, a year before Scott won Southeast Rubber, MIR changed when Joe Chicago ran for the contest. At the time, they were using both male and gender-neutral pronouns. “I kind of already wasn't feeling super comfortable with hyper masculine words like ‘bro’ and ‘dude’ and ‘man,’” Joe said. During their interview portion they told the judges that they “wanted to create a more gender inclusive title in Chicago.” At the time, the Chicago rubber contest, which feeds into MIR, was open to male-identified people only. 

Photo credit: PupRockitLeft to right: Pup Kilo, Onyx Pusckatt and Doggo Raeko. Photo credit: PupRockit

Joe had already helped rebrand the Chicago Rubber Men to Chicago Rubber Club. “Women [and] trans men who were coming to some events and saying, ‘Well, I don't really feel like a member [of this community],” they said. “That was what really made us think, ‘Hey, we're trying to be this inclusive, queer organization. And people who we respect in the community don't necessarily feel like it's their space, even though they're attending our events.” 

The response was mainly positive, aside from one man who quit the club in protest. 

After Joe won MIR, they began to rethink their gender identity. “Through the course of my title year, I just kind of realized that for me being queer, kind of is like the rejection of those labels,” they said. “Whenever I'm in leather, I feel hyper masculine. And whenever I'm in rubber, I feel as masculine or feminine as I feel that day,” Joe said. “There's also something about the sleekness of it. You just kind of feel like a superhero.”

Joe began to identify as non-binary. But people started to ask how they could reconcile being non-binary with their “Mr.” title.

“Even though I am non-binary, I recognize that I appear more male and … I felt like I could move the needle and make more progress with that title,” they said.

Onyx(left), Chris Gonzalez, Mr GNI Leather 2022  (middle) and Scott Wolf (right)Onyx(left), Chris Gonzalez, Mr GNI Leather 2022 (middle) and Scott Wolf (right). Photo by Eric Schatzberg

After their win, they started traveling the world on a mission. “I went in expecting that I was going to be able to change everything. And you get in there and you realize that it's much more complicated, that communities are very different. We're not monolithic,” they said. They tried to make any change, no matter how small, as long as it “slowly moves the needle,” they said. They successfully pushed Ireland to have a gender inclusive title. 

All the communities they visited were welcoming to Joe, even though most were heavily male-identified. Rubberists were accepting of Joe even when they wore their bubblegum pink rubber uniform that “was a little jab at the old guard … I thought it was gonna piss people off in Berlin and people loved it. So I do think a shift is happening,” they said. 

This year they’ve convinced the organizers of the Midwest Rubber contest to be open to all genders as well. “There has been some pushback of like, oh, well, we should just have separate titles. We can have a Mr. Title and Mx. Title and Ms title,” Joe said. But they think that Chicago doesn’t have enough women and trans rubberists who would participate in the competitions to justify having three separate titles.  

Joe hopes MIR will switch to being gender neutral and not require contestants to be male.  It’s already starting to change. “MIR is a really great organization and it has made strides,” they said. 


Onyx is still traveling the world spreading the word about rubber. He’s already been to clubs in Paris, Belgium, Milan, and all across the U.S. clad in rubber gear. Later this year he’s flying to Australia, Spain and Ireland. He estimates he travels three to four weekends a month. 

“I want to move around a lot, because I feel the importance of being a Black person and being a gender non-conforming [person] out here doing the work, I felt like I need to be seen,” he said. 

MIR gave him a small stipend of a few thousand dollars, but he’s able to fly around the world with his friend’s free airline tickets and receive housing and other funds from clubs. 

As he’s traveled, people of color have reached out to him and on social media, he said. Sometimes he’ll tell them what event he’s going to, and they’ll say they don’t typically attend because nobody who looks like them goes. “Well, I'll be there,” he tells them. “And they end up coming out,” he said. 

As part of his title holding position he’s invited to judge contests, and he always makes sure to ask contestants, “How diverse is your community? How inclusive is your community? Is there a POC space?” A lot of people of color and gender minorities believe they aren’t welcome, Onyx said. He said he tells clubs, “I look at some of your advertisements, and I see no POC person, I see no trans person, I see no females in your marketing, but yet, you're telling me you want these individuals to show up and be a part of your event?” He said he has gotten positive feedback and some contests have even changed their marketing and asked how they can create safer spaces for minorities.  

Paul B. aka Pup Urban, who creates marketing images for rubber events in Atlanta and wants to see more women at events, said one reason there are so many men in event posters is because of a lack of representation in stock images. “Finding stock images that are affordable is hard…I'm not getting paid,” Paul said.

In keeping with the theme of gender and sexual diversity, Onyx has also visited heterosexual clubs in his time as a title holder of Mr. Florida Rubber. 

Yet he’s not quite sure that Mr. Florida Rubber and Mr. International Rubber should drop the “Mr.” title yet—at least, not until the competition can welcome a diverse range of gender representation more thoroughly. He still thinks that women wouldn’t have a fair chance because the judges panel and culture is predominantly male. “Our trans siblings,  our non-binary [siblings], they're not feeling included,” he said. “Yeah, they show up in the space, but they can't even compete. How do you make them feel included without totally changing the concept of the contest?”  

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Europe’s biggest city council faces £100M bill in Oracle ERP project disaster

The Register - Thu, 05/25/2023 - 05:37
Doubts over Birmingham’s decision to replace SAP in plan once hailed an exemplar win by Larry Ellison

Birmingham City Council is set to pay up to £100 million ($123 million) for its Oracle ERP system — potentially a four-fold increase on initial estimated expenses — in a project suffering from delays, cost over-runs and a lack of controls.…

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At long last, the glorious future we were promised in space is on the way

ARS Technica - Thu, 05/25/2023 - 04:45
In this illustration, SpaceX's Starship vehicle is seen landing on the Moon.

Enlarge / In this illustration, SpaceX's Starship vehicle is seen landing on the Moon. (credit: NASA)

Last Friday, NASA awarded a $3.4 billion contract to a team led by Blue Origin for the design and construction of a second Human Landing System to fly astronauts down to the Moon.

The announcement capped a furious, two-year lobbying campaign by Blue Origin owner Jeff Bezos to obtain a coveted piece of NASA's Artemis Program. NASA also notched a big win, gaining the competition with SpaceX it sought for landing services. But there is a more profound takeaway from the announcement.

After losing the initial lander contract to SpaceX two years ago, Blue Origin did not just bid a lower price this time around. Instead, it radically transformed the means by which it would put humans on the Moon. The Blue Moon lander is now completely reusable; it will remain in lunar orbit, going up and down to the surface. It will be serviced by a transport vehicle that will be fueled in low-Earth orbit and then deliver propellant to the Moon. This transporter, in turn, will be refilled by multiple launches of the reusable New Glenn rocket.

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Google wants to target you – yes, YOU – with AI-generated ads

The Register - Thu, 05/25/2023 - 04:33
Just when you thought maybe your phone wasn't spying on you …

Google plans to roll out generative AI tools that can automatically create online advertising campaigns personalized to users' search queries.…

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Facial recog system used by Met Police shows racial bias at low thresholds

The Register - Thu, 05/25/2023 - 03:34
Tech used at King's Coronation employs higher thresholds on once-only watch-lists, Met tells MPs

The UK Parliament has heard that a facial recognition system used by the Metropolitan police during the King’s Coronation can exhibit racial bias at certain thresholds.…

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Intel mulls cutting ties to 16 and 32-bit support

The Register - Thu, 05/25/2023 - 02:33
Hypothetical x86S architecture would boot straight into 64-bit mode

Chip giant Intel has proposed something rather unusual: a potential simplification of the x86 architecture by removing old features.…

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How to Deal With a Break-Up

Motherboard (Vice) - Thu, 05/25/2023 - 02:19

Break-ups, as the pop girlies have long been attuned—see: Whitney Houston, Gwen Stefani, Robyn—are wholly unpleasant affairs. Whether you’re breaking up with someone or being broken up with (or involved in one of those mature, amicable situations you hear about), you’re effectively saying goodbye, which is, generally speaking, A Sad Event. 

What makes it even worse? Over the next week/month/year you’ll live out multiple clichés, thus adding a layer of frustration and potentially even embarrassment to proceedings. Your person was really special and what you had was genuinely unique? I don’t doubt it! But you’re still on track towards entertaining several silly tropes before you’re properly healed. Sorry about that. 

Of course, knowing you’re not the only one can also be a welcoming comfort. Vogue columnist and VICE writer, Annie Lord pens particularly wonderful words on relationships and intimacy. In her debut book Notes On Heartbreak, she muses that “heartbreak is like a chronic illness I have learned to live with,” while Jennifer Wright, who literally wrote the book on historically bad break-ups, reminds us that “there are a lot more break-ups in this point in history than there ever have been before.”

While there’s no perfect way to say farewell and all heart’s ache differently, there are plenty of methods that can help to avoid feeling like a dick, and may even stop the pain quicker. So we’ve put together a definitive guide for when you’re really going through it. 

How to know when a relationship is over

This should be pretty obvious right? Well, not quite. Not every break-up is the culmination of months spent arguing, a single act of malice, or some deeper mistreatment. Some start to unfold before you’re properly in control of what’s happening, and others kind of unravel like a secret you can’t hide. “Our brains will always go to the path of least resistance,” explains relationship expert and neuropsychotherapist Joanne Wilson. “So if there’s the thought of breaking up with someone, it is far easier just to keep doing what you’re doing. Our thoughts can be limiting, so it’s important to push past that resistance and get to the core of the issue.” 

Love isn’t fair, but you can’t let guilt be the reason you stay—it’s not fair to them, or to you. Do you still enjoy their company? Does it feel like your lives are becoming too different? Is there an element of resentment creeping in? Are you thinking about other people to the point of yearning? Then quit stalling for time and make your feelings known. 

How to break up with someone

There’s no single correct way to break up with someone, but there are plenty of wrong ones. As a general rule, in person is best. No one wants to hear ‘it’s not you, it’s me’, and fewer still will take well to being ghosted. “Do what you can to leave them in the best possible position to feel heard, understood and ready to move on,” suggests Beth McColl, in what is frankly sound advice. “It’s all about treating someone the way you want to be treated,” adds Wilson. 

There are some obvious barriers to a healthy break-up (read: when it means removing someone’s name from the mortgage), but even people living together can separate sans anguish, with some care and understanding. Be clear in your communication, acknowledge your own faults, and don’t make it go on forever if it doesn’t need to. 

In turn, don’t ask questions you don’t want answers to if you don’t want to immediately enter an emotional tailspin, beyond the one building up already. Discuss boundaries up front if you think it might be helpful—as Anna Pulley explains, co-deciding on the timeframe to take space can prevent harmful abandonment fears—and make sure you stick to it. As much as you might think being mature means staying friends, this isn’t kind for either of you in the immediate aftermath, even if that’s not how it feels at the time. 

How to get over it

You might think the hard bit’s over, but to quote the old adage, it’s only just begun—now you’ve got to figure out what your life looks like without them in it. It’s worth remembering that everyone heals at their own pace and there’s no clear pathway for this. Also, be kind to yourself! Let yourself feel sad—it’s going to happen, so why fight it? One thing to do with those emotions is get them out. “Write a letter that you’ll never send. This will give you the space to say anything and everything you want to your ex,” recommends therapist and ADAA member, Rachel Aredia. “Getting all your emotions on paper can be healing.” 

You’re going to suddenly have a lot of time and, for a period, little emotional capacity, so make sure you have somewhere to be in the morning so you don’t stay in bed all day (though, if you fancy that for a few days, who’s to stop you?). “After a break-up I try to say yes to everything my friends ask me to do,” shares Megan Barton Hanson. That person you always text isn’t going to be around anymore, so make sure plenty of others are. “Focus on your health, friends, or moving your life forward. Focus on your interests and passions,” suggests dating coach and expert, John Keegan. “Don’t worry about jumping into the next thing and trying to replace the person. You can’t. What you can do is focus on your life.”

How to handle social media

Shouting about it on TikTok might be therapeutic for some, but if you didn’t spend 2009 writing cryptic Facebook statuses about an ex, you’re probably not going to find comfort on TikTok today. The more graceful approach to social media in a time of heartbreak is avoidance: Disable any features that remind you what you were doing on this day last year, and for peace of mind and your mental health, block, mute or unfollow your former respective other on all platforms (it doesn’t have to be forever). 

When freshly broken up, distance is key… Later, if they are a legit friend, you can engage,” says former Editor-in-Chief of Ebony, Kyra Kyles. Meanwhile, psychotherapist and relationship expert Sarah Mandel suggests that only you can decide what works for you regarding the big block. “Remember, friends will offer a lot of advice but at the end of the day, you need to do what is best for you to heal and recover from the break-up. Create the boundaries that are best for you.” 

How to move forward

You’ve had space to think, spent some time being indulgent, made peace with the fact they’re going be sleeping with other people (sort of), and you’re ready for the next bit. Congrats! Sign up for some classes, entertain new hobbies, become one of those people who quietly sits in the corner of the pub with a glass of wine and a book, or treat yourself to a new sex toy. You deserve it.

When it comes to your next relationship, get on the apps, but take your time. “It’s a good time to ask ourselves if we want to be in a relationship or if we need to be in a relationship. They’re different,” explains psychotherapist Laurie Singer. At this time, “being compassionate, and practical with your goal of enjoying singledom” is vital, adds counselor and therapist, Dan Stanley. “We can decide to frame things positively.” Good luck.

Categories: Tech News

Ministry of Justice rapped by ICO for old fashioned data leak

The Register - Thu, 05/25/2023 - 01:29
Forget AWS buckets, bags of medical and personal info on inmates and their guards left in 'unsecured' area of prison

We step back into the analogue world for this tale of woe that involves bags and bags of sensitive data being left unsealed in an “unsecured” area of a prison. The financial penalty for doing so? A slap on the wrist for Britain’s Ministry of Justice.…

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Snowflake and Zoom celebrate shrunken cloud bills as margins swell

The Register - Thu, 05/25/2023 - 00:31
Analytics outfit gets there by moving customers to Amazon’s Graviton CPUs

Two big SaaS operations – Snowflake and Zoom – have reported cloud cost cuts boosting their margins.…

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Amazon to shutter its Chinese Appstore – the one used by hardly anyone, anywhere

The Register - Wed, 05/24/2023 - 23:28
Middle Kingdom users told to acquaint themselves with the Windows Subsystem for Android has pulled the plug on the Chinese outpost of its Appstore.…

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Singapore on track to reach cloud migration goals, asks tech suppliers to re-apply for panel positions

The Register - Wed, 05/24/2023 - 22:32
Plans renewed SaaS push and purchase of 100,000 PCs

Singapore will ask its current IT panel vendors to reapply for their positions, digital agency GovTech revealed on Wednesday.…

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Five Eyes and Microsoft accuse China of attacking US infrastructure again

The Register - Wed, 05/24/2023 - 20:30
Defeating Volt Typhoon will be hard, because the attacks look like legit Windows admin activity

China has attacked critical infrastructure organizations in the US using a "living off the land" attack that hides offensive action among everyday Windows admin activity.…

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AMD undercuts Nvidia's 4060 launch with a $269 GPU

The Register - Wed, 05/24/2023 - 18:58
Maybe the years of accelerators being hard to find and harder to pay for are behind us?

After more than two years of soaring GPU prices – fueled by demand from cryptominers and then made worse by the semiconductor shortage – things are finally heading in the other direction on price.…

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Get ready for Team America: AI Police

The Register - Wed, 05/24/2023 - 18:29
Biden Admin expands plan for 'responsible' ML research and seeks to drive international talks on making binary brainboxes behave

The US Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) has updated America's National AI R&D Strategic Plan for the first time since 2019, without making enormous changes to its plan.…

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This legit Android app turned into audio-snooping malware – and Google missed it

The Register - Wed, 05/24/2023 - 16:58
File-stealing nasty in my Play store? Preposterous!!1

Google Play has been caught with its cybersecurity pants down yet again after a once-legit Android screen-and-audio recorder app was updated to include malicious code.…

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The lightning onset of AI—what suddenly changed? An Ars Frontiers 2023 recap

ARS Technica - Wed, 05/24/2023 - 16:31
Benj Edwards (L) moderated a panel featuring Paige Bailey (C), Haiyan Zhang (R) for the Ars Frontiers 2023 session titled

Enlarge / On May 22, Benj Edwards (left) moderated a panel featuring Paige Bailey (center), Haiyan Zhang (right) for the Ars Frontiers 2023 session titled, "The Lightning Onset of AI — What Suddenly Changed?" (credit: Ars Technica)

On Monday, Ars Technica hosted our Ars Frontiers virtual conference. In our fifth panel, we covered "The Lightning Onset of AI—What Suddenly Changed?" The panel featured a conversation with Paige Bailey, lead product manager for Generative Models at Google DeepMind, and Haiyan Zhang, general manager of Gaming AI at Xbox, moderated by Ars Technica's AI reporter, Benj Edwards.

The panel originally streamed live, and you can now watch a recording of the entire event on YouTube. The "Lightning AI" part introduction begins at the 2:26:05 mark in the broadcast.

Ars Frontiers 2023 livestream recording.

With "AI" being a nebulous term, meaning different things in different contexts, we began the discussion by considering the definition of AI and what it means to the panelists. Bailey said, "I like to think of AI as helping derive patterns from data and use it to predict insights ... it's not anything more than just deriving insights from data and using it to make predictions and to make even more useful information."

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