The Coolest New Drops This Week, From Carhartt WIP to Moncler x Clarks
Cruel, cruel summer, why must you love us and leave us? We were just starting to tackle how to dress for this humidity, and now? A chill in the air? Leaves turning? How could you? WE LOVED YOU. It’s cool, we’re cool. Just a little heated that our steamy fling is coming to an end—and we all know what that means. Cuffing season. Yes, babes, grab your beanie and skateboard and get ready to cozy up with your new squeeze—or your new vibrating stroker, whichever you manage to lock down first [wink].
If you missed the best new drops and collabs of last week, here’s a refresher: We tickled your almost-fall-fancy with a fresh delivery of Hoka’s newest trail-running sneaker (excellent for all those autumnal hikes you’re about to take), MUD/WTR’s new Mushroom Boost blend that will give you a flu-season immunity boost, and Fly by Jing’s newest Xtra Spicy Chili Crisp, which will keep you warm even when summer’s heat has fully left us.
This week, we’re bringing you even more juicy drops to transition you gently into the land of 5 p.m. sunsets—like La Colombe’s new iced PSL in a can; harvest-themed Boochcraft flavors; and an absolutely want-everything collaboration between Carhartt WIP and Small Talk Studio. Clarks teamed up with Moncler for the dreamy, cozy desert boots you’ll want to sport from now till next spring (that orange shearling is fuego). Finally, because it’s not over till they pry our summer Fridays from our cold, pumpkin-spiced hands, we also have whipped-cream sunscreen and an SPF-inspired ice cream to help you bid adieu to summer in sun-protected style. Oooweee, we’ve got chills thinking about wearing layers again! Read on for the best new products of the week.Clarks x Moncler
The new Clarks x Moncler collection is the marrying of two classic brands which really bring out the best in one another—we are straight losing our shit over the collab’s new shearling chukka boots. Whether you’re more of a classic cream guy or like to spice up your winter whites with a dollop of spicy sauce, à la these steezy orange wool Wallabees, either pair are perfect for flexing on all those other so called “hypebeasts”.Vacation’s whipped-cream sunscreen
Yes, you read that right. Not only is Vacation’s new Classic Whip presented in a delightfully playful Reddi Wip-like can'; it’s also SPF 30, vegan, and reef-friendly. It also maintains the brand’s signature coconut, banana, pineapple, and orange blossom scent reminiscent of the utterly delicious (yet probably toxic) sunscreens of the 80s—with decidedly modern ingredients like coconut oil, shea butter, and aloe vera. All pre-order sales (slated to ship 8/29) include a free air freshener in that intoxicating scent. The absolute sunscreen of our dreams is making our nostalgic Jessica Simpson Dessert fantasies come true.Supergoop x Sunscoop Ice Cream
There’s nothing like toasting the end of summer with a treat that embodies the season. Our favorite ethereal Supergoop! SPF, Glowscreen, is the inspiration behind this plant-based, allergen-friendly ice cream flavor. It even has pearl powder for a shimmery finish, just like its sunscreen cousin. Sunscoop’s ice cream is also made with passion fruit, vanilla, ginger, and turmeric, which gives it not only a delicious, tropical-creamsicle flavor, but also its signature sunny hue, and it contains no added sugar. So, it’s basically like having a smoothie for dessert—meaning yes, you can eat the entire carton in one sitting.Carhartt WIP x Small Talk Studio
We haven’t been this excited about a collab since we found out Supreme was making a Beanie Baby. Seriously, if you haven’t heard of Small Talk Studio, let us put you on. Artist and Small Talk creator Nick Williams started out with one-of-a-kind bespoke pieces that he hand-drew, painted, and embroidered. While he still makes incredibly detailed custom-pieces, this collab with Carhartt WIP brings his talent to the masses—cop a piece of wearable art before they’re sold out.Boochcraft’s new fall flavors
What screams “autumnal harvest” louder than apples, and pomegranates? When you turn them into alcohol and use them to tailgate. Boochcraft’s newest brews are an homage to the crisp weather, with two tart flavors. Orange pomegranate contains beets, red wine vinegar, and rosemary that drinks like a switchel, and the brand describes the apple jasmine drink as a “liquid slice of apple pie.” Yum.La Colombe’s PSL in a can
When you’re ready to be completely rugged up and ready to stomp some extra-crunchy leaves, but the thermostat still reads 85, you need an iced pumpkin spice latte in a can for grab-and-go convenience—because this time you WILL be the first person in line at Aime Leon Doré, and no East Villain will stand in your way. The tasty seasonal bev is available in both classic and oat milk, because sometimes you’re feeling an alt-milk, and sometimes you're not.
Don’t forget to dry-clean your favorite sweaters in time for the first chill, pals!
The Rec Room staff independently selected all of the stuff featured in this story. Want more reviews, recommendations, and red-hot deals? Sign up for our newsletter.
Mark Zuckerberg Tells Joe Rogan That Running Facebook Sucks, Metaverse Is Better
On Thursday, two men famous for running gigantic platforms that host disinformation and conspiracies talked together on a podcast.
Mark Zuckerberg, the CEO of Meta and the man behind Facebook, and Joe Rogan talked for close to three hours in a wide-ranging conversation on Rogan’s podcast that focused on virtual reality, social media censorship, and the politics of a divided America. In the middle of the conversation, during a moment when the pair were discussing disinformation, Zuckerberg claimed Meta spent $5 billion last year on combating disinformation and other “defensive” work at the company.
“I think we spend $5 billion a year…on all this community integrity work,” he said.
The pair spent much of the first half of the podcast talking up Zuckerberg’s focus on VR and the so-called metaverse; Facebook’s particular corporatized version of which has been roundly criticized and jeered at recently. Zuckerberg’s vision for his metaverse not only seemed fanciful, but hinted troublingly at the picture of a CEO running towards something that seems easier than Facebook’s quagmire of politics and content moderation.
Zuckerberg claimed that VR had a penetration rate “on par with Playstation or Xbox” and imagined a future where people wore their headsets at the coffee shop. He also said that many physical objects in the real world will one day be replaced by holograms. “We could deal hologram cards to each other and we could play poker and you could have a poker night where some of your friends are there and some of them could be holograms,” he said.
Much has been written about Facebook’s pivot to VR and whether it’s a good idea or not, as well as why it was done in the first place. Zuckerberg didn’t offer much substance on this topic, but he heavily implied that running Facebook—with all of the serious, world-impacting decisions around moderation that entails—just isn’t all that fun.
“You wake up in the morning, look at my phone, get like a million messages…it’s usually not good,” Zuckerberg said, in one of the most human moments of the conversation. “It’s almost like everyday you wake up and you’re punched in the stomach.”
Facebook has come to mean so many things to so many different people. It’s a window into the lives of our families, a way to keep up with friends, a place for memes, and also a toxic stew of hate speech, extremism, and bizarre advertisements. Zuckerberg is, ultimately, responsible for it all.
“These are values questions, around what do you value more? Those are super tricky questions. Part of what I’ve struggled with around this is… I didn’t get into this to basically judge those things. I got into this to design technology that helps people connect,” Zuckerberg said.
The metaverse, he explained, fits the bill. “You can probably tell when we spent the first hour talking about the metaverse and the future of building this whole technology roadmap to give people this realistic sense of presence, it’s like, that's what I’m here to do,” he said.
Unfortunately for Zuckerberg in this regard, the VR metaverse is going to need just as much moderation as Facebook. For example, there have been instances of sexual harassment in Meta’s VR platform, which prompted the company to implement a “personal boundary” zone.
Halfway through the episode, Rogan began to ask questions about disinformation, algorithms, and what he views as Zuckerberg’s responsibility to the world. “It’s such an immense responsibility,” Rogan said. “And the fact that it’s a private company…troubles some people. You have this ability to control the flow of information and that’s never existed before…you’re controlling the signal of three plus billion people. That is so astounding to even say.”
“I don’t exactly look at it the way that you said,” Zuckerberg said. “I view our job as empowering people to express what they want and get the content that they want.” He then explained that any time they’ve tried to exert more control, people notice and run to the competition.
Zuckerberg then dithered and said that the power of the market is what drives Facebook. He also, repeatedly throughout the conversation, said that he didn’t get into this business to make people angry. He wants, he said, to empower people.
Rogan then asked Zuckerberg why the U.S. is so divided, where Zuckerberg again defaulted to deflecting responsibility. “I think there’s probably a media environment issue that predates the internet,” said the man who has made billions of dollars pushing that media into people’s brains. “If some of the news is so far left and some of it is so far right, there’s all this talk of filter bubbles on the internet, but even predating this, going back to the 70s or 80s, when Fox News and these other media organizations were established, that’s had a long term effect and people have studied that.”
He then said that binaries are so prevalent in the U.S. because of the two party system and the open primaries would help smooth things out. “A lot of people want to point to social media as being the primary cause of this, but when you look at how polarization has been rising in the US since before the internet, that makes it very unlikely that social media is the prime mover here,” he said.
Extreme political division in the U.S. absolutely predates social media, but it has accelerated that division. Social scientists, mathematicians, and others have studied the influence of sites like Facebook on the electorate and they’ve all come to the same conclusion: it profits from polarization.
All in all, Zuckerberg’s Rogan appearance was rather tame but painted the picture of someone eager to deflect responsibility; if things keep going the way they are, then Meta’s metaverse is going to have just as many problems as Facebook.
China's Baidu enters quantum computing chat with Qian Shi system
Chinese search giant Baidu has unveiled its first quantum computing hardware and software capabilities during the Quantum Create developer conference in Beijing this week.…
Biden's $10K Student Loan Forgiveness Will Change Millions of Lives, But It's Still Not Enough
On Wednesday, President Biden announced a debt forgiveness plan that has driven some people into meltdowns. Some critics say that it doesn’t do enough and are pushing for universal cancellation, but others are claiming it does far too much or is fundamentally unfair because they already paid off their loans.
The policy proposals are relatively simple ones that begin, unfortunately, with a means test—only individuals who make less than $125,000 or couples making up to $250,000 qualify. From there, we have three main policies: up to $10,000 forgiven per borrower, and up to $20,000 per borrower for Pell Grant recipients; an extension of the student loan repayment pause until January 2023; and a change to the income-driven repayment plan that would cut monthly payments from ten to five percent of a borrower's discretionary income, and prevent interest from accumulating so long as monthly payments are made.
If the most strident critics of the plan are to be believed, then this amounts to a massive wealth transfer from downtrodden working class people to coastal elites with fancy degrees. The reality is quite different: 53 percent of borrowers owe less than $20,000 and typically have a harder time paying back their balances because they didn’t finish school. The White House estimates this will provide relief for up to 43 million borrowers, cancel debt entirely for about 20 million borrowers, and the relief will mainly go to low- and middle- income borrowers (about 90 percent to those making less than $75,000).
Online, there’s been a great deal of celebration that is heart-warming to read.
"If all of this comes to pass, it will be the single greatest [quality of life] improvement in my entire adult life, by far. Here's to hoping," wrote one redditor on the StudentLoans subreddit said in a megathread on the announcement.
"I just want to cry!! I got the max Pell grant every semester because I was forced to be the breadwinner and my parents didn't work. This will pay my undergraduate loans and then I can pay my graduate loans out of pocket," another Redditor shared.
"I know that $20,000 is a drop in the bucket for many, but this is a god send for me. I’ve been carrying this debt since 2008 and the recession was hell on my family. Every single member was laid off, except for my mom, who was a social worker. It’s going to mean an extra $150 in my pocket every month, plus the sheer relief of having that debt just be GONE. I truly hope those with higher loads can appreciate the gift they were given today. $20,000 is a lot of money no matter how you look at it,” said another Redditor.
You can read comments like this all day (and you should). Still, there is criticism of the plan coming from both sides of the political spectrum.
On the left, the criticism is that the plan doesn’t do enough. Calls for more forgiveness for student debt (or all debt) are rooted in the concern that the Biden plan still leaves tens of millions of Americans with crushing debt. Full debt cancellation would help non-white students who leave school with higher debt burdens than their peers, and also are less likely to have families that can facilitate wealth transfers to help pay down debt or invest in some asset that gains value (e.g. a home). So while these reforms are huge material improvements for nearly half of all American student debt holders, that burden is still an odious one that no one should suffer—especially true when it disproportionately falls on Black and brown borrowers.
“This is a stepping stone, not the destination. A President who wanted to do NOTHING had to do something,” tweeted Astra Taylor, a co-founder of the Strike Debt collective. “Up to 20 million people could be debt free. Hopefully some of them will join the fight for everyone else.”
Others—ranging from liberals and centrists to conservatives and right-wing reactionaries—are making unsound or ridiculous arguments in their criticisms that the plan does too much. Rep. Jim Banks (R-IN) even argued that forgiving student debt would undercut the U.S. military's recruiting strategy; an unintentionally dire admission that the military relies on the threat of lifelong debt to attract poor people to become soldiers.
Probably the loudest among this group is Jason Furman, a shopping mall real estate tycoon heir, professor at Harvard, and former chair of Obama's Council of Economic Advisers. Furman has been a loud critic of every progressive policy you can imagine, but over the past year debt forgiveness has risen to become one of his favorite bugbears.
“Pouring roughly half trillion dollars of gasoline on the inflationary fire that is already burning is reckless. Doing it while going well beyond one campaign promise ($10K of student loan relief) and breaking another (all proposals paid for) is even worse,” Furman tweeted on Wednesday after Biden revealed the student debt forgiveness plan. Furman also affirmed an analysis from the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget which asserted that Biden's student debt forgiveness program would wipe out fiscal and inflationary gains from the recently-signed Inflation Reduction Act.
Goldman Sachs, (not exactly known as being a leftist agitator), doesn't seem to agree. A report issued by Joseph Briggs and Alec Phillips, two economists at the financial firm, makes it abundantly clear that the math doesn’t support arguments about student debt relief having inflationary effects.
“The aggregate effects from such an income boost would be small, however, with the level of GDP increasing by about 0.1% in 2023 with smaller effects in subsequent years. We would expect the effects on inflation to be similarly small," Briggs and Phillips write. “However, the end of the payment pause and the resumption of monthly payments looks likely to more than fully offset the small boost to consumption from the debt relief program.”
It’s unlikely this will silence Furman and others who echo these talking points. Ultimately, though, those saying the plan does too much should be ignored for a multitude of reasons. The plan will help people—tens of millions of people, in fact. It will absolutely change lives. That’s good, and there’s nothing real estate heirs and policy wonks say to dispute that. But if we helped everyone and fully canceled student debt? Or if we changed the higher education system in America so that going to school doesn't require taking on huge amounts of debt in the first place? Well, that would be even better.
Suspects in Bizarre ‘Off-Grid’ Alabama Shooting Posted About New Age Conspiracy Theories, Followed a Controversial Content Creator
“2 Goddess and a starseed are stranded in Colorado,” Yasmine Hider wrote in a frantic Instagram post on May 23. “Went to go camping out in the mountains and got snowed in.” She posted a photo of a snowy mountain scene, and then a second image of herself alongside a woman named Krystal Pinkins and Pinkins’ five-year-old son. All three beam into the camera, the women grinning, the boy’s arms outstretched.
Four months later, Hider and Pinkins are in custody in county jail in Ashland, Alabama, charged with murder, kidnapping, and robbery after a violent alleged attack on two college students in the woods of Alabama. (Hider is identified as Yasmine Maira-del Hider in jail records.)
A gag order issued by a judge in the case prohibits investigators and attorneys from discussing it, so that no meaningful information has emerged since last week. A Motherboard investigation, though, provides clues as to the circumstances leading up to the bizarre and violent incident, even as it raises other questions. Central among them is why two Black women from seemingly normal backgrounds in Oklahoma and Tennessee ended up in the woods of Alabama, where sheriffs say they were found in an armed “off-grid community.” The answers appear to involve Hider descending into a rabbithole of New Age conspiracy theories about ancient alien races and government coverups, which seem to have led her, somehow, into the woods where Adam Simjee was ultimately killed.
As reported earlier this week, Simjee and his girlfriend Mikayla Paulus, both students at the University of Central Florida, were driving near Cheaha State Park in Alabama on August 14, in the boundaries of the Talladega National Forest. They were flagged down by a woman identified by the Clay County Sheriff’s office as Hider, who claimed her car wouldn’t start. Paulus’ mother told WBRC that the pair tried to help her for more than 30 minutes; when they were unable to get the car working, the woman pulled out a gun. “She told them to put up their hands and give her the keys and their cell phones and they did,” the woman told the outlet.
Hider then demanded couple walk into the woods with her, holding them at gunpoint. Simjee pulled out his own gun; Hider was shot in the torso and Simjee in the back. Simjee died at the scene, despite Paulus’ attempts to revive him.
Police said in their statement that Krystal Pinkins was standing in the woods during the shooting; Hider called out for her help, but Pinkins fled.
“Over the next several hours,” the statement continued, “sheriff deputies received information that they may be a group of people ‘living off the grid’ somewhere in the National Forest.”
A tracking team from the Alabama Department of Corrections, the statement said, led law enforcement “to a large group of tents that had been set up in the National Forrest [sic] in what appeared to be a base camp.” There, police encountered a woman standing near the tents, later identified as Pinkins.
“As officers were ordering the female to the ground a 5-year-old child ran from the woods holding a loaded shotgun,” the statement continued. “Law enforcement told the child to put the shotgun down, however the child continued to the female’s location before laying the gun on the ground. The female was taken into custody and later identified as Krystal Pinkins. It was determined that the child was Pinkins’ son.”
As would be expected given the gag order, law enforcement and prosecutors did not respond to Motherboard’s inquiries about the case.
All of this is a bizarre and shocking turn of events, and all the more so given that both women were seemingly leading unremarkable lives not long ago. In July of 2020, Hider, now 20, was, according to social media profiles reviewed by Motherboard, moving into her college dorm in her native Oklahoma, accompanied by her family. (Administration officials at the college, Langston University, Oklahoma’s only HBCU, could not immediately confirm whether Hider remained an enrolled student.)
One Hider family member declined to comment when reached by Motherboard, while another said that the young woman “left home a year or two ago” and hasn’t spoken to the family since. Court records and social media posts show that Hider’s father died in her teens; she has one sibling and was seemingly raised by a tight-knit extended family who all burst with pride and excitement when she began college at the same university some of them had attended.
Pinkins, meanwhile, is about 36 years old and listed herself on LinkedIn as a certified home health aide, where she wrote that she worked for the same company in Tennessee for nine years. (A representative at the agency she said she worked for, Baptist Memorial Health, could not immediately find her in their employment database or confirm her employment without her Social Security number.) Pinkins also listed herself on social media as a “freelance writer and aspiring motivational speaker” and wrote a series of posts for a content farm website called Thought Nova with headlines like “7 Reasons to Value a Good Morning Text” and “10 Ways Proving That Happiness Starts With You.” (Thought Nova did not respond to a request for comment.)
Both women seemingly became interested in more esoteric ideas in recent years, specifically following social media accounts focused on Black sovereignty and freedom from mainstream systems of thought and social control, New Age-flavored spiritual empowerment, and various conspiracy theories. Hider changed her Instagram handle sometime in the last two years from “Y_Hider” to “Cosmic Goddess.” In the past year, she also posted scornfully about people who got COVID vaccinations and linked to what looks like a flat earth conspiracy video in her Instagram stories, questioning what NASA is hiding about “the firmament,” a Biblical reference to a dome above the earth sometimes referenced in conspiracy videos. Hider was tagged in a group photo posted by a Memphis woman who describes herself as a real estate agent as well as a “sovereign being” and a “sovereign empress”; the woman made a series of posts about things like astral travel. (More recently, the same woman made a video outdoors, at night, in the woods, saying mysteriously that she’s been traveling and “moving around.”
In late 2021 and early 2022, Hider was making TikTok videos in a comfortable-looking house, sometimes featuring a little girl; the two didn’t speak, but did a series of dance challenges. In September of that year, she was still in Oklahoma, working at Walmart and asking for other spiritually conscious people in the region to contact her. “It's coming,” she said, without elaboration, in one video from that time. “It's getting close. I am lost myself, and I need a tribe of people to gather information and figure it out together. Because that's the true way of life and getting back to how we originally were."
By March of this year, her videos appeared to be taken in cars or modest hotel rooms, and often featured her recording her own face and taking quizzes. Her last video, posted on April 24, featured her meditating and reading Rupi Kaur poems in a green field. “I’ve never been more at peace than rn,” she posted, in a caption to a video earlier that week.
Both Pinkins and Hider had seemingly, based on their social media posts, become fans of something called The University of Cosmic Intelligence (UCI), the project of a man named Rashad Jamal White. (The Memphis real estate agent who tagged Hider in a photo is also an admirer of this man, who goes by Rashad Jamal, and has posted seemingly on his behalf.) Jamal is a content creator who describes himself on Instagram as an “Author / Poet / Revolutionary / Luminous Being” and uses the UCI’s Instagram and YouTube accounts to both share his music videos—these feature him in the company of multiple women and covering such subjects as “Kundalini Energy”— and make videos about things like cleansing his chakras, aimed at awakening Black and Latino people whom he refers to as “carbonated beings.” On Twitter, he focuses largely on the virtues of polygamy.
Or he did, anyway: Barrow County Detention Center in Georgia, near Atlanta, confirmed to Motherboard that Jamal White is currently in custody there, facing three counts of child molestation and two counts of cruelty to children in the first degree. (From jail, he called someone who recorded their phone as he recited a lengthy spoken word poem, accusing those around him of being Judases. Public databases show he has a lengthy rap sheet and has pleaded guilty to, among other crimes, battery and strangulation and suffocation. He has also previously been charged with, though not convicted of, attempted murder and murder.)
Earlier this year, Hider reposted a video of Jamal originally posted by the Memphis real estate agent, who could not be reached for comment and herself has posted extensively about the need for Black people to become polygamous and the virtues of being a sister-wife. In it he warns that “they” are readying to attack people’s houses with synthetic robots, posing this as the natural follow-on to efforts to force COVID vaccination. Around the same time, Hider posted a video in which, while sitting in a parking lot, she marvels at how “they” had first tried to “cover the sun with their dumb-ass clouds,” then pans to other clouds, which she says are covering up “most of the stargate,” by which she seems to mean a rainbow that is partially covered by clouds.
Hider also posted a video earlier this year featuring a Jamal track; the video depicted the sun in a cloudy sky, and the hashtags “#nowwerise #timeisup #anunnaki #blacktok #blacksprituality #wakeup. The Annunaki were ancient Sumerian deities; in various branches of pseudohistory, they are referred to as alien beings responsible for things like building the pyramids. (British conspiracy theorist David Icke popularized that conception of the Annunaki, but more recently, the idea that they were a race of Black aliens who engineered humanity has been popularized on Tiktok.) Hider made reference to moving to the Atlanta area, where Jamal is based; in November of 2021, she made a video asking humorously for someone to help her find weed there. She also made a listing on the website Nanny Lane in January 2021, listing herself as located in Atlanta and looking for a full-time, live-in position. “I love reading and meditating when I have free time and I believe I’m a very humorous person,” she wrote in her bio.
(Jamal could not be reached for comment; messages sent to The University of Cosmic Intelligence went unanswered.)
By May of this year, Pinkins and Hider were seemingly traveling together, and in desperate straits. In her post requesting help in Colorado, Hider wrote, “Had to abandon the car after a search and rescue team came. Just got kicked out of a hotel and sitting in a Dunkin’ Donuts. Any assistance would be so appreciated right now.” She included Zelle and Cashapp information; the Cashapp ID she provided belonged to Pinkins.
It’s still unclear what led Pinkins and Hider to the Alabama woods, or whether Hider’s alleged attempt to rob Simjee and Paulus was orchestrated by anyone besides her.
Police said that Hider went into surgery following the shooting before being charged with murder, while Pinkins was arrested for endangering the welfare of a child. A local judge has imposed a gag order on the case, prohibiting “any attorneys, witnesses, law enforcement personnel, district attorney and staff, members of the trial team, prosecution, or investigative team” from commenting on the case to the media or online. Citing the gag order, a clerk of court in Clay County refused to even release the name of Pinkins’ lawyer to a Motherboard reporter; when told the gag order did not seem to prohibit this, they transferred the reporter to another person, who hung up when she was told the gag order did not seem to prohibit giving out the name of the lawyer.
Jail records for Clay County show that Hider and Pinkins are both in custody. Hider faces one charge of murder, two charges of kidnapping in the first degree, and two counts of robbery in the first degree. Pinkins faces one count of endangering the welfare of a child, one count of murder, two counts of kidnapping in the first degree and two counts of robbery in the first degree.
Scientists explore chemistry of tattoo inks amid growing safety concerns
Scientists at Binghamton University (State University of New York) have analyzed nearly 100 different tattoo inks and found that the manufacturers' ingredient labels (when used) are often inaccurate and that many inks contain small particles at the nanoscale that could be harmful to human cells. They presented their findings at this week's meeting of the American Chemical Society (ACS) in Chicago.
According to principal investigator John Swierk, a chemist at Binghamton, the project initially started when his group became interested in tattoos as tools for medical diagnostics. This shifted to an interest in tattoo laser removal, specifically how laser light causes tattoos to fade. "We realized we didn't understand a lot about the interaction between light and tattoos," Swierk said during a press briefing at the ACS meeting. "My group studies how light can drive chemical reactions, so it was a natural fit."
That meant learning more about the chemical composition of tattoo inks, which is also not well understood. One reason for this significant gap in scientific understanding is that in the US, at least, manufacturers of tattoo inks aren't required to disclose the ingredients, and even when they do, there is no real oversight of whether those disclosures are correct, per Swierk.
Alibaba Cloud launches RISC-V developer platform for edge SoCs
China's Alibaba has released a development platform to help engineers building high-performance Systems-on-Chip (SoC) silicon based on the RISC-V open architecture, which is claimed to also include an optimized software stack to help speed product rollout.…
The Best Statement Chairs for Holding Court
Statement chairs are like the tragus piercings of home decor: unique and horny when done right, and forgettable and uncomfortable when done wrong. We know, we know—finding a comfy couch often takes precedence when you’re fleshing out a living room, and that’s understandable; your sofa will anchor the entire space, and set the tone for your color scheme and design aesthetic. But don’t underestimate the power of a great statement chair, which can become the jewel in your living room’s crown like only a vintage Le Corbusier slingback can.
Every bro deserves a bouclé swivel chair throne, and every host should have the option of sipping their icy martini from a 80s-inspired velvet chair. If you live in a small space, finding an XXL statement chair with some bells and whistles (think, pockets on pockets for you iPad and books) can save you from the fate of trying to squeeze in a couch and a statement chair, when you can just concentrate on investing all your hard-earned clams on a plush, scratch-proof chair that’s big enough for two.
We’ve run the gamut of design aesthetics over the years, from scorned Victorian vampire to full-blown Japandi jabroni (our current avatar), which is why we’ve given you a wealth of design options from various eras and designers to choose from. Whether you’re a MCM simp or looking for the more affordable cousin of your favorite West Elm pieces, we’ve got a chair for you.The best affordable statement chair
You don’t have to drop all of your hard-earned coins to get a big ass, comfy chair that can hold its own with the rest of your mid-century modern furniture. The fabric on this 1950s-esque Christopher Knight chair has an impressive, tufted waffle stitching that will make your buds think it’s old school MCM—peep those Googie birch wood legs—and it’s that attention to detail that makes it such a solid best-seller on Amazon; the chair has earned a 4.6-star average rating from over 1,200 reviews on the site, where fans praise how well-packaged and easy to assemble it is.A statement chair your cat can’t scratch
… Or anyone else, for that matter. Interior Define’s couches and chairs are famously pet-resistant and scratch-proof thanks to its broad range of durable materials, such as this marigold performance velvet. With its deeply set seat and wide back, this golden statement chair—which is really more like a chair-and-a-half, or a micro-couch—is the kind of furniture staple that really goes the extra mile in a small apartment. “[it offers] perfect support and comfort, plus room for my 80 lb pup, Higgins!” one reviewer writes. “[It has a ] beautiful color that coordinates with my vintage sofa [and] is a joy to lounge in.”
If your aesthetic is a little more 1980s Cocaine Decor, we give you the Floria velvet chair from Urban Outfitters. Take your pick from the four versatile colorways (mossy green, lavender, gold, and terracotta), and then get ready to ascend your scratch-proof velvet throne like Sharon Stone.Bouclé is the it-fabric RN
Damn. Bouclé sure is a cool way to say, “a fabric that’s as comfortable as sitting on a bunch of plushies from your childhood,” because the material is the same kind of teddy bear fabric that feels so irresistibly soft to the touch (and hides snags like a pro). It’s a staple fabric amongst designers such as Axel Vervoordt, who famously designed Kim and Kanye’s all-white home years ago, and the perfect material for blending in with both contemporary and vintage decor. West Elm’s bouclé chair is a best-selling swivel seat, but Amazon also carries one for a fraction of the price.This Hans Wegner dupe
A living room filled with all-fabric furniture can risk feeling a little grandma-y, but adding a wood lounger into the mix can do wonders for balancing out the vibe. The Rosie chair by Foundstone is a wildly affordable Hans Wegner dupe, and it’s just begging for one of West Elm’s faux chinchilla fur throws. It’s earned a 4.6-star average rating on the site, where fans say it looks way more expensive than it actually is; “This is such a rich looking chair,” one reviewer writes, “The leather and the wood are beautiful, very high quality.”A Togo sofa seat
You’ve probably seen Togo sofas popping up more and more on your Instagram feed in the past few years with the resurgence of 70s style. Michel Ducaroy’s iconic couch is famous for mastering the nonchalant, Paris-with-a-cigarette-in-1978 energy we aspire to bring into our homes. We’ve penned an extensive guide about where to cop the cult-fave sofa for less, but Amazon is hands-down one of the best places on the list to find couches and chairs inspired by the designer’s wares. Plus, there’s literally no assembly for this hot lump—just roll it out of the box, and curl-up on it for movie time.This $96 version of a best-selling West Elm chair
The Auburn is one of West Elm’s best-selling statement chairs, because it has a little more cushion for the pushin’ with its slightly extended seat. So when we saw this dopplegänger with an under a hundo price tag, we were smitten.The best recliner statement chair
Why is it so hard to find reclining chairs that aren’t fugly? This highly-rated Wade Logan chair gives you the ability to slide back and put your feet up without compromising on your mid-century modern design aesthetic. Scoop it while it’s 23% off.It’s corn!
A big lump with knobs. It has the juice. We’ve never seen such a beautiful thing as this novelty statement stool, which has only further entrenched the TikTok-viral corn song even deeper into our hearts, and made our mid-western aunties proud.Peep vintage and used furniture sites
Where else do you think we found this eagle-shaped fainting couch? We’ve written a guide to navigating the best vintage and used furniture sites, which includes Etsy, Kaiyo, 1stDibs, Chairish, and other marketplaces giving the people what they want and deserve: painstaking curation, quality furniture, and the thrill of the hunt. Where else are you going to find a museum quality Le Corbusier chair for under a grand?
Next up? Statement chairs for our sex dungeon spare room.
The Rec Room staff independently selected all of the stuff featured in this story. Want more reviews, recommendations, and red-hot deals? Sign up for our newsletter.
Top Staffer for Major Anti-Abortion Group Arrested for Soliciting a Minor
A man who worked as a political director for Texas Right to Life, the premier anti-abortion group in the state, has been arrested for the online solicitation of a minor.
Lucas “Luke” Bowen, 33, was charged with the second-degree felony on August 3. A minor, under that statute, refers to anyone who’s younger than 17 or who the arrested person believes to be younger than 17.
Texas Right to Life is one of the most powerful anti-abortion groups in a state known for setting the anti-abortion agenda for the rest of the nation. As part of his work for the organization, Bowen had appeared on stage representing Texas Right to Life at a 2020 Texas Youth Summit panel, spoke to Politico in 2018, and served as its campaign treasurer, according to a Texas campaign finance report filed last month..
Now, it appears that Bowen’s name has been removed from some pages on Texas Right to Life’s website and other pages mentioning him have been removed entirely. In one press release from February 2020, a quote attributed to Bowen as of September last year now appears without his name but still has the quote, a cached version of the page obtained from the Internet Archive showed. The quote originally read:
Texas Right to Life has never endorsed Kay Granger, including for this cycle,” Luke Bowen, Political Director of Texas Right to Life, said. “Republican Chris Putnam is the only Pro-Life candidate in the race. We proudly endorsed Putnam after our interview in December, and are excited for the people of Congressional District 12 to finally have Pro-Life representation in Washington.
Another press release, claiming a Texas Right to Life employee named Kim Schwartz “saved” a woman from getting an abortion, mentioned that Bowen stayed behind with Schwartz to ensure she “wasn’t left alone in the office.” That release is now erased from the website.
Texas Right to Life has run regular boot camps for young people looking to become anti-abortion activists. A third press release from 2018, concerning “medical ethics training” for anti-abortion college students, said that Bowen spoke to the students and encouraged to get them involved with political campaigns for anti-abortion candidates, but that release has also been deleted.
Do you know anything about sexual misconduct involving anti-abortion or pro-abortion rights groups? Reach out to email@example.com, or DM her on Twitter at @carter_sherman for Signal.
Bowen’s name remains on one 2018 Texas Right to Life press release still live on the website.
Bowen’s employment with Texas Right to Life was terminated on Aug. 3, Schwartz, a spokesperson for the group, told VICE News over email. Schwartz did not immediately respond to questions about whether Bowen’s arrest was related to his termination or the changes to Texas Right to Life’s website. Schwartz also did not immediately respond to questions about whether Bowen came into contact with young people through his work with Texas Right to Life.
The news of Bowen’s arrest was previously reported by Jessica Valenti, an independent feminist journalist.
An attorney listed for Bowen didn’t immediately respond to a VICE News request for comment.
Last year, Texas Right to Life set up a website urging people to become anonymous “pro-life whistleblowers” and send tips about people they suspected of violating a law that would let one another sue over abortions past roughly six weeks of pregnancy.
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Phishers who hit Twilio and Cloudflare stole 10k credentials from 136 others
Two weeks ago, Twilio and Cloudflare detailed a phishing attack so methodical and well-orchestrated that it tricked employees from both companies into revealing their account credentials. In the case of Twilio, the attack overrode its 2FA protection and gave the threat actors access to its internal systems. Now, researchers have unearthed evidence the attacks were part of a massive phishing campaign that netted almost 10,000 account credentials belonging to 130 organizations.
Based on the revelations provided by Twilio and Cloudflare, it was already clear that the phishing attacks were executed with almost surgical precision and planning. Somehow, the threat actor had obtained private phone numbers of employees and, in some cases, their family members. The attackers then sent text messages that urged the employees to log in to what appeared to be their employers' legitimate authentication page.
In 40 minutes, 76 Cloudflare employees received the text message, which included a domain name registered only 40 minutes earlier, thwarting safeguards the company has in place to detect sites that spoof its name. The phishers also used a proxy site to perform hijacks in real time, a method that allowed them to capture the one-time passcodes Twilio used in its 2FA verifications and enter them into the real site. Almost immediately, the threat actor used its access to Twilio's network to obtain phone numbers belonging to 1,900 users of the Signal Messenger.
Crooks target top execs on Office 365 with MFA-bypass scheme
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Sellers for Encrypted Phone Firm Ciphr Locked Out of Orders
Encrypted phone firm Ciphr, a company in an industry that caters to serious organized criminals, has made a radical change to how its product can be used and sold, signaling an attempt by the company to distance themselves from, or perhaps cut off, their problematic customers.
The move is significant in that Ciphr is one of the few remaining established members of the encrypted phone industry after a cascading series of high profile law enforcement actions against its competitors. Some companies, such as Sky Secure, have also tried to clean up their act by banning resellers who they have identified as catering to criminal markets.
“As we continue to focus on our core competencies as a software development company, we have made the decision to no longer support our Mobile Device Management (MDM/UEM) services,” a message sent by Ciphr to its resellers and seen by Motherboard reads. MDM is a tool for managing lots of phones at once, and can be used to install apps or block others. Ordinary companies often use MDM to keep their employees’ devices secure. For years Ciphr has used MDM to distribute its encrypted messaging tools.
Do you work for Ciphr? Are you a user of its phones? We'd love to hear from you. Using a non-work phone or computer, you can contact Joseph Cox securely on Signal on +44 20 8133 5190, Wickr on josephcox, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Now, it is shifting that responsibility away from itself to individual resellers of the devices. The message says that for resellers to continue with new sales or renewals of customers’ subscriptions, they will need to run their own MDM solution. This essentially puts the management of customers much more in the hands of the resellers and not Ciphr.
The message says that this policy will come into force Thursday. “Effective August 25th, 2022, our software will no longer be supported using our MDM solution,” the message reads. “If you choose not to host your own MDM you will not be able to activate new sales or renewals as of August 22nd, 2020,” it adds.
The reason for Ciphr’s change, such as legally distancing itself from use of its products by criminals, is unclear. Ciphr has not responded to multiple emails sent over the past several weeks about this and related issues. Ciphr has previously responded to requests to comment for stories about its exit from certain markets.
“Next-level secure communication. The best app for encrypted messaging and calling,” Ciphr’s website reads. Motherboard has previously reported that Ciphr has been especially popular in Australia, where organized criminals have traditionally used encrypted devices from companies that sometimes deliberately lean into serving such markets. After the FBI, Australian Federal Police, and European partners revealed that another encrypted phone company called Anom was secretly a law enforcement honeypot, Ciphr pulled out of the Australian market altogether, Motherboard previously reported. One criminal organization ran by a mastermind known as Mr. Blonde appears to have dodged the Anom honeypot because his associates were instead using Ciphr, the Sydney Morning Herald previously reported.
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The message Ciphr sent to resellers caps off weeks of signs that the company was planning some sort of exit or change to its services. Weeks ago a website used by resellers of Ciphr became inaccessible, with vendors unable to log into the portal which allows them to renew customers subscriptions, according to a screenshot viewed by Motherboard at the time and a source with knowledge of the situation.
“HTTP ERROR: 404 — Compliance Issue, please contact support,” an error message displayed above the login page for Ciphr’s reseller portal read, according to the screenshot. Encrypted phone companies often use these password protected websites to let their resellers update customers' subscriptions or to sign up new users. The encrypted phone industry that Ciphr is part of often sells subscriptions to their services for thousands of dollars every six or 12 months.
The source with knowledge of the situation said that some Ciphr users have moved to another company called SecureCrypt in response to the recent issues. Motherboard granted the source anonymity to speak more candidly about industry developments.
A former developer for Ciphr told Motherboard that even though they worked at the company for multiple years, they never saw the face of the company’s CTO. While other workers had their faces in their profile photos in chat programs, the CTO did not.
“I have no idea what he looks like,” the developer said. The developer added they were not aware of who the sorts of people who bought Ciphr phones were before Motherboard alerted them to it earlier this year. Motherboard granted the developer anonymity to protect them from retaliation.
In 2018, the FBI shuttered Phantom Secure, a pioneer in the underground industry, and arrested its CEO Vincent Ramos. Various agencies were involved in a hack of Encrochat in 2020, and then Sky Secure last year. These companies, including Ciphr, have an especially heavy use among drug traffickers and other top tier criminals.
In 2017, someone created a website and dumped sensitive information about Ciphr users, including unique IMEI numbers and email addresses.
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Google’s Fuchsia OS is taking over smart displays, now on its second device
The kingdom of Google's third major operating system, Fuchsia, is growing a little wider today. 9to5Google reports Google completed the rollout of Fuchsia to the Google Nest Hub Max. Along with the original Nest Hub/Google Home Hub, that puts two of Google's three smart displays on the new OS, with the one holdout being the 2nd Gen Nest Hub. The Nest Hub Max is the first device running Fuchsia that Google is currently selling—the Home Hub only got Fuchsia after it had been discontinued.
The Google smart display user interface is written in Flutter, a Google programming language designed for portability, which runs on Android, iOS, Fuchsia, and the weird cast platform Nest Hubs typically use. So it's not right to describe the user interface as "similar" after the OS swap—it's the exact same code because Flutter runs on nearly everything. You are getting a slightly newer code version, though, and it comes with a Bluetooth menu. If you dive into the settings and hit "about device," you'll see a "Fuchsia Version" field that will say something like "6.20211109.1.3166243."
It's a bit weird to do an entire OS switch to the futuristic, secretive Fuchsia project and then have basically nothing to show (or say) for it in terms of obvious improvements in performance or security. You can dive into the minutia of the Fuchsia source code, but it continues to be a mystery in terms of what practical benefits it offers consumers. Google never talks about Fuchsia, so not much is known about what, exactly, Google is accomplishing here.
The GPU shortage is over. The GPU surplus has arrived!
How quickly things change: A year ago, it was nearly impossible to buy a GeForce GPU for its intended retail price. Now, the company has the opposite problem. Nvidia CEO Jensen Huang said during the company's Q2 2023 earnings call yesterday that the company is dealing with "excess inventory" of RTX 3000-series GPUs ahead of its next-gen RTX 4000 series release later this year.
To deal with this, according to Huang, Nvidia will reduce the number of GPUs it sells to manufacturers of graphics cards and laptops so that those manufacturers can clear out their existing inventory. Huang also says Nvidia has "instituted programs to price position our current products to prepare for next-generation products." When translated from C-suite to English, this means the company will be cutting the prices of current-generation GPUs to make more room for next-generation ones. Those price cuts should theoretically be passed along to consumers somehow, though that will be up to Nvidia's partners.
Nvidia announced earlier this month that it would be missing its quarterly projections by $1.4 billion, mainly due to decreased demand for its gaming GPUs. Huang said that "sell-through" of GPUs, or the number of cards being sold to users, had still "increased 70 percent since pre-COVID," though the company still expects year-over-year revenue from GPUs to decline next quarter.
Compound that 'remembers' phase transitions could have uses in computer memory
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Two swatting attempts on Marjorie Taylor Greene used bog-standard tech
Yesterday, Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) tweeted to sound the alarm that she had been "swatted" around 1 am. "Swatting" is a term for incidents that involve a false report of emergencies like suicide or gun violence that leads police to send a SWAT team or armed tactical unit to enter a person's home, often with guns drawn.
A Rome Police Department report from Wednesday confirmed there was an "attempted swatting," where five officers responding to a report of possible gun violence used a "tactical approach" before ringing the doorbell on Greene's residence. They said they knew it was her house before they arrived but didn't kick the door down like they might during an actual swatting because they "were still unsure" of "exactly what had transpired." A few minutes later, Greene answered the door and sent the police away after they performed a quick wellness check in the house to ensure there was no threat.
Today, Greene tweeted again, saying that she was swatted again.
150 Cops Were On a Cartel Payroll in One of Mexico's Most Violent States
A secret, elite Mexican taskforce discovered more than 150 corrupt police officers working under two payrolls: the government’s and the New Generation Jalisco Cartel’s.
The taskforce in the Mexican central state of Guanajuato was staffed by former Mexican federal police officers trained in the U.S., Colombia and México to tackle crimes such as cyber-terrorism, drug trafficking and counter-intelligence, according to the Guanajuato authorities.
The secret operation started over a year ago after state government officials started noticing that municipal policemen were leaking information to criminals so they could elude arrest, a source inside the taskforce told Mexican news outlet Milenio.
“They were criminals with uniforms,” Guanajuato state Security Secretary Sophia Huett said in a press conference this week. “These people disguised themselves as police officers and now they will get fired and will go to jail.”
Guanajuato’s governor, Diego Sinhue Rodríguez Vallejo, said about the corrupt officers:
“They not only are leaking information to criminals, but also they don’t attend to the citizens' call for help.”
Last week two local police officers were murdered by alleged members of a cartel while on duty. During the first half of 2022 at least 25 policemen have been killed in Guanajuato, according to official figures.
Guanajuato has been at the top of Mexico’s most violent states for the last five months, with over 10 murders a day.
The son of Celaya’s city mayor in the Mexican central state of Guanajuato was murdered by sicarios while parked outside a convenience store earlier this month. A few hours after the attack, alleged members of a drug cartel circulated a message on social media that claimed the assassination was due to the mayor breaking supposed promises, and threatened to kill more family members. The message was posted anonymously without any specific criminal organization attributing the attack.
Guanajuato and the neighboring state of Jalisco were recently under siege for several hours after Mexico’s military attempted to arrest prominent Jalisco New Generation Cartel commander Ricardo Ruiz aka "Doble R”.
California’s Gas Car Ban Is Going to Make Electric Cars Better
California is set to require electric vehicles (EVs) to be an ever-increasing share of the state’s new car market starting in 2026, rising to the point where they must account for virtually all new cars sold in the state beginning in 2035. It will be a major step in the state’s—and by ripple effect, the country’s—transition to EVs.
But it is not a total and complete ban on cars powered by gasoline, as the new regulations are being widely reported. Automakers will still be able to sell a small number of plug-in EVs that run on gas engines once the battery is depleted. However, the focus on gas cars misses the bigger picture about the new regulations, called Advanced Clean Cars II, a comprehensive suite of new rules intended to spur a mature and viable EV market.
The new rules are aimed at improving the range, durability, efficiency, charging, data standardization and repairability, and battery labeling of EVs. Automakers are also incentivized to offer discounted EVs to community carsharing programs, increase the number of used EVs at dealerships, and offer EVs for less than $21,000 suggested retail price.
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The vote to approve the new regulations—which will be taken by the California Air Resources Board (CARB) on Thursday and then will require a waiver from the Environmental Protection Agency to fully enact—ends an almost two-year process to institute new, stricter emissions standards for the state’s vehicles and a regulatory framework around future EVs. The move both signals the coming end of the gasoline era in a state that owes so much of its history to the gasoline-powered automobile, but will also likely have a ripple effect in other states that have historically followed CARB’s lead. The hope is it will spur further EV investment and development from auto companies as the long-term future of the technology is legally mandated.
Starting in 2026, California will require 35 percent of new vehicles to be either partially or fully electric. Plug-in hybrids like the Prius Prime—where a battery provides a few dozen miles of electric-only range before a gas engine takes over—will count the same as a fully EV if it provides 70 miles or more of electric-only range and complies with the other regulations for EVs. If the range is less than that, it counts as a “partial vehicle” based on a formula you can read about here if you’re interested in such things. The “Zero Emissions Vehicle” requirement increases year by year until it is 100 percent in 2035, by which point all cars will have to be either PHEVs that hit the range requirement or full EVs.Source: CARB
Arguably, the more impactful regulations involve the EVs themselves. A number of regulations for charging cords and standards, battery labeling, minimum warranties for batteries and drivetrains, repairability, and other practical but less sexy issues will go a long way to maturing not only the new car market, but the used one too. For example, as Motherboard has previously reported, buying a used EV can be very challenging because there is no reliable way for prospective buyers to know the health of the car’s battery, the single most important consideration in buying a used EV. The new CARB rules will require not only a way for prospective buyers to see the battery’s health, but also if (and when) the health meter was reset.
While much of the focus has been on how the new rules outline a path towards no more gas-only cars, the bigger picture is even brighter, a road to better electric ones.
Deepin prepares to leave Debian base and move to fully independent distro
A leading Chinese Linux vendor is polishing what may be its last Debian-based release, and preparing for the move to becoming a fully independent distro with its own new package format, Linglong.…
‘Aquariumgate’ Is New Child Trafficking 4chan Conspiracy That Relies on Very Basic Google Maps Trolling
A new, convoluted conspiracy theory called “Aquariumgate” is spreading on 4chan in which people are theorizing that fake aquariums in Texas are somehow tied to child trafficking, satanic rituals or “(covens) of satanic witches,” tunnel systems, or something else entirely. The conspiracy theory is, according to experts, a low-effort Google Maps trolljob that has actively been cleaned up by Google over the last few days.
Aquariumgate, which has also been called “Pizzagate 2.0” by some posters, requires several levels of conspiracy knowledge to understand, but basically goes like this: Sometime over the weekend, a few posters on 4chan discovered a string of bizarre place listings on Google Maps in the greater Houston area. Many of these place listings were for “aquariums,” all of which had two-letter names.
These included, for example, “HR Aquarium,” “TS Aquarium,” “TD Aquarium,” “EC Aquarium,” and so-on and so forth. Google Streetview images of these locations made clear that no aquarium was located in most of these places; lots of the “aquariums” corresponded to random houses in Texas, or the middle of a forest, or broad stretches of road where there were no buildings whatsoever.
A 4chan user posted that they had found these Google Maps listings, and posters on 4chan began looking for coded messages in the reviews for the aquariums (very few of them had any reviews at all), in StreetView images of the areas, in their names, the descriptions of the locations, or, seemingly, in the reviews and listings for other, real aquariums in Texas. Users began suggesting that these locations or codes they found were intended to direct people to child trafficking services, or witch covens, or “gang safehouses.”
Many of the listings were eventually deleted by Google because they are obviously fake, and discussion of the conspiracy was deleted by Reddit moderators on r/conspiracy, all of which, of course, led people to believe the conspiracy was being hidden (the Reddit posts were deleted because they contained addresses, some of which seemingly corresponded to people’s houses.)
This is all somewhat reminiscent of “PizzaGate,” where the pizza restaurant Comet Ping Pong in Washington, D.C. became the subject of a conspiracy theory that it was secretly a child sex dungeon broadly associated with the Clintons and other elites. That conspiracy theory eventually led someone to show up to Comet Ping Pong with a gun. The general thought with Aquariumgate is that, perhaps, children are being kept by traffickers in glass tanks of some sort.
The main thing to keep in mind here is that there is no evidence of anything here. It is possible for anyone to add a specific location to Google Maps, and none of the aquarium listings viewed by Motherboard were verified by Google, which requires a business to enter a pin number sent by physical mail to the business’ mailbox.
“Anyone can add a ‘Business’ to Google at a location, however, Google won’t verify it unless they can send you a postcard with a pin number,” Jason Isoline, an artist who uses Google Maps in his artwork, told Motherboard. “These aren’t verified locations because they likely don’t have mailboxes. Therefore, it’s just a weak, user-based hack.”
Mickey Mellen, a tech consultant who has been writing about Google Maps for more than a decade, told Motherboard that it’s easy for anyone to “spam [Google Maps] with garbage like this.”
“In a way, it feels like when people cook up crazy things like ‘If you rearrange the letters of Delta and Omicron, you get MEDIA CONTROL,’” he said. “The idea that Google is showing these aquariums out there as kind of a semi-hidden pizzagate is just silly. I figure it's either a group foolishly using Google Maps for something they want hidden, or just some person/people trolling everyone.”
A Google spokesperson told Motherboard that it has begun deleting Aquariumgate locations: “We’re aware of the situation and have begun removing policy-violating content and putting protections in place to help prevent further abuse. We have clear policies that prohibit fake contributed content, and our automated systems and trained operators work around the clock to monitor Maps for suspicious behavior. We also make it easy for people to report misleading places and inappropriate content, which helps us keep the information on Maps authentic and reliable.”
The spokesperson added that the company always deletes deliberately fake content.