Cyberpunk news for the week brings us an encroaching police state that falsifies evidence, removes privacy protections, and robs you. On the bright side, we’re giving a front seat to the future of Los Angeles and we’ll have plenty of music along the way.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions Reinstates Asset Forfeiture
In an address to the National District Attorney’s Association, Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced that the Department of Justice will resume federal asset forfeiture, saying “no criminal should be able to keep the proceeds of their illegal activity.”
Former Attorney General Eric Holder, under the Obama administration, ended the program in 2015 when adoptive forfeiture–allowing police departments to join the federal government in seizing property and money–was proven to be abused by subjecting those who weren’t suspects or formally charged to the program. In the year leading up to Holder’s decision, defense attorneys at the Institute for Justice found that state and local authorities had seized $65 million in public property.
Under the current administration, the DOJ will allow law enforcement to only seize property valued at less than $10,000. There will also be a notification process put in place so suspects aren’t caught unaware. This falls short of the guidelines put in place by 13 states, which require a conviction from authorities under their purview before assets of any value can be targeted for forfeiture.
Under the new federal law, vehicles, homes, and property of any kind, including money, can be taken without any charge being filed. They are also entitled to 20% of any seizures at the state and local authorities. The median average for this fifth of the seizure program was an approximate $9,000. In one 2014 case, officers in Kanakee, Illinois seized $107 from a suspect and handed over $21.40 to the DEA.
The implementation of guidelines that are less restrictive on authorities at the federal level presents a conflict. Some states have made seizure more difficult, but now that law enforcement has new laws in place it’s unclear which will guide their practices at the local level.
The Institute of Justice discovered that between 1997 and 2013 87% of the DOJ’s forfeitures were taken without criminal charges or convictions.
ISPs Compelled to Give FBI Data Without Informing Users
Under the Obama administration, the FBI could not compel ISPs to hand over private data of any kind without the user first being notified with an official letter that’s been approved by a judge. A federal appeals court changed that this week by ruling that ISPs and banks cannot inform suspects that their data has been requested by the FBI. This means those suspected of crimes that include their online habits, like purchases and communications, cannot challenge the FBI in court to preserve their privacy.
Representatives of the digital rights organization Electronic Frontier Foundation have stated that their position is that users should have the right to privacy but also the knowledge they’re being investigated so they can contest any request for their data.
While it’s all in the hands of the FBI now, the power to investigate and gather data at their discretion, EFF has their Canary Watch that tracks when ISPs have been forced to comply with FBI investigations.
Baltimore Officer Thinks Body Cam is Off, Proceeds to Plant Drugs
After a string of high-profile shootings by police across the US, many of which resulted in the death or injury of unarmed minorities, adopted body cams as a stop-gap measure that would help correct police behavior and retain evidence in the case of a suspect’s death. This has had mixed results.
The latest in this string of bad behavior comes from Baltimore. Newly released footage captured from Officer Richard Pinheiro’s body cam shows him planting a baggie of pills in an alley before walking away. 30 seconds later, Officer Pinheiro’s camera shows him re-entering the alley and discovering the same drugs he left before yelling to other officers, announcing the (re)discovery.
The Axon body cams used by Baltimore Police Department capture 30 seconds of footage by default before capturing audio and video, something Officer Pinheiro appeared to not be aware of. Baltimore public defenders in Baltimore found the footage during discovery, which led to charges being dropped and their client being released as he had been in custody since January because he could not afford the $50,000 bail.
Baltimore’s public defender’s office noted in a statement that Officer Pinheiro took part in more than 50 ongoing cases.
Reporter Ksenija Pavlovic Defies White House Media Blackout, Streams Press Briefing
In what’s been a month-long practice of removing cameras and forbidding live broadcasting, the White House has attempted to manage the message of its daily press briefings. While they’ve received criticism from media outlets, reporters have largely complied with the lack of open media channels to the public. This Wednesday, reporter Ksenija Pavlovic, of Pavlovic Today, decided enough was enough and broadcast the briefing on Periscope.
Pavlovic only drew a small crowd of a few dozen listeners, and her first attempt was interrupted, forcing her to stream a second time during the briefing, but it is the sole example of defiance to Sarah Huckabee Sanders’s orders since the rules were put in place.
Shepard Smith of Fox News, coincidentally, was live as Pavlovic’s stream was running. Smith told his viewers that while he and his team were able to access what was going on “they just won’t let you listen to the briefing. It’s the White House rules, not ours.”
The White House has declined requests for comment.
Celebrity Security Bot Falls in the Line of Duty
Knightscope security bot, affectionately known as Steve by those at MRP Realty, arrived in Washington, DC just a few days ago. Steve became an instant celebrity, taking the time to pose with people who work and commute through Washington Harbour before rolling down his designated route. Steve was still learning the path at its new job, a necessary precaution before it can be allowed to patrol autonomously. It seemed he had a promising future ahead of him.
Unfortunately, Steve’s bottom-heavy design doomed it. One wrong turn sent Steve tumbling down a few short steps into a shallow fountain. Many came to the security bot’s side only to discover they were too late. Though its time was short, many will always remember the silent but reliable protector who never turned down a selfie.
Micheal B. Jordan Shares First Fahrenheit 451 Image
Micheal B. Jordan shared the first official image from Fahrenheit 451 via Instagram (@michaelbjordan). Pictured with fellow Micheal, Shannon, we see the firemen presumably burn independent media in a future with mass propaganda.
In HBO’s take on Ray Bradbury’s classic, Micheal B. Jordan will play Guy Montag, a fireman who feels the pull of revolution as he begins to embrace forbidden literature while under the watchful eye of Chief Beatty, played by Micheal Shannon.
Tal M. Klein’s The Punch Escrow Finds its Director
After a heated bidding war back in April, Tal M. Klein’s The Punch Escrow‘s film rights were picked up by Lionsgate. And now it’s been announced that James Bobin, co-creator of Flight of the Conchords and director of Alice Through the Looking Glass, will take over the film.
The Punch Escrow takes place in 2147 Joel Byram works with artificial intelligence engines, attempting to make them more human. After finding his way to teleportation technology, Byram is duplicated. Now the real Byram must evade his copy and the organization that made his creation possible while racing home. The Punch Escrow has yet to be given a release date.
Terminator 2 Gets 4K Release with a Killer Piece of Robotic Endoskeleton
Terminator 2: Judgment Day is often cited as the highest point for the Terminator Franchise. It’s where John Connor makes his first appearance, the Resistance is shown to have a secret weapon in the form of Skynet’s foot soldiers, and Sarah Connor is the most ripped, angry mom to menace a whole lot of people without actually killing anyone. The celebration of T2 lives on, not in the form of a UHD Blu-ray release complete with a 4K restoration coming October 3. For those willing to pay a little extra, there are 6,000 limited editions of the T2 4K edition with a T-800 endoskeleton arm.
Blade Runner 2049 Brings Los Angeles to San Diego
San Diego Comic Con opened with a cyberpunk night courtesy of the “Blade Runner 2049 Experience.” This mixed reality installation recreated a corner of Blade Runner’s take on the Los Angeles of tomorrow, complete with a replica of Officer K’s updated spinner. This is all to maintain the atmosphere as attendants slid into the front seat of a standard LAPD spinner in VR so they can fly even closer to those holographic Sony billboards.
Blade Runner 2049 – Trailer 2
Blade Runner 2049 released a second trailer, this one with a greater look at the plot and it gives off some a sincere Deus Ex: Human Revolution vibe as opposed to echoing the original film (No? Just me?).
After wrestling his way across future California, K finally finds his way to Deckard’s hideout. It’s not clear why the old Blade Runner is in hiding or who’s specifically doing the seeking, but Neander Wallace definitely wants this old cop’s secrets.
Blade Runner 2049 comes to theaters October 6.
Mr. Robot Pops Up at San Diego Comic Con
Sam Esmail is starting to make the rounds to promote the 3rd season of Mr. Robot. A 10-episode run is scheduled to premiere in October, and Esmail described it as Elliot’s chance “to bounce back and fight against the people who have been using him.” That doesn’t reveal much of anything, but fans in San Diego will have an opportunity to learn more at Comic Con.
Like they did in New York leading up to the 2nd season, Mr. Robot has pop-up locations at SDCC. Those in attendance can sign up for Ecoin at the Bank of E and grab pulled pork from the Red Wheelbarrow BBQ. In addition to free food, there are puzzles and easter eggs hidden throughout the pop-up that point to hints at what’s coming for Elliot and fsociety in the coming season. And nothing should be overlooked, as “everything has a meaning.”
Rutger Hauer Goes Back to the Future in Observer
In 2084, War and the Nanophage have significantly reduced the human population, and to escape the dread around them those that remain turn to drugs and neural uplinks. Daniel Lazarski, played by Hauer, is a seasoned Observer, a detective with the ability and authority to invade the minds of suspects. The combination of suspect technology and demented psyches tosses Lazarski into a tech-heavy wonderland of nightmares. We’ll all get to see just how dark the mind can get when Observer releases on August 15.
Galaxy Magazine Revived on Archive
Between 1950 and 1980, Galaxy magazine provided a home to high sci-fi concepts, respected voices, and skilled artists. Galaxy gave a start to experimental writers like Theodore Sturgeon, Isaac Asimov, and Ray Bradbury. Though it’s been abandoned by time, a cache of 355 issues was discovered on Archive.org.
Those entirely unfamiliar with Galaxy may find interest in going through this back catalog when considering the magazine’s place in history. Though it lasted 30 years, Galaxy was seen as a frivolous publication with many detractors. The idea of sci-fi for adults just wasn’t mainstream in 1950, as publisher H.L. Gold pointed out, via Open Culture:
“…other publishers thought the idea of offering mature science fiction in an attractive, adult format was downright funny. They knew what sold–shapely female endomorphs with bronze bras, embattled male mesomorphs clad in muscle, and frightful alien monsters in search of a human soul.”
And while Astounding Science Fiction was focused on technology–suited for an America that had fundamentally changed since WWII–H.L. Gold’s Galaxy focused on ideas, humor, satire, psychology and sociology. It also had one of the best pay rates in the industry, and offered some of its writers exclusive contracts. And the writers responded in kind and followed their own obsessions–although Gold often pitched ideas.
San Junipero Spreads Love to Vinyl
While Charlie Brooker got a to enjoy a couple of Emmy nods for his much loved “San Junipero” episode of Black Mirror, we get to drift off to paradise with Clint Mansell’s dreamy synth score in all its vinyl glory. Invada Records has released the “San Junipero” score on vinyl, complete with retro comic illustrations from pop artist Butcher Billy (he also provided similar artwork for every Black Mirror episode so far). It’s finally able to join the “Men Against Fire” vinyl, composed by Geoff Barrow and Ben Salisbury.
Aphex Twin Launches Streaming Service for Entire Discography
For a month people watched with anticipation as a clock ticked down to zero, and when it had Aphex Twin invited us all in to listen to what could be every piece of music he’s touched since 1991.
Aphex Twin is known for doing just about everything differently, from programming robots to play every track on Computer Controlled Acoustic Instruments to promoting Syro via the deep-web. This archive is in the same spirit. Every Aphex Twin album, EP, single, including unreleased, and incomplete projects are available for purchase in FLAC and MP3 formats. Aphex Twin has also made the archive stream straight from his site, making hours of music made over the last 26 years absolutely free.
Nine Inch Nails – ADD Violence
Just a week after Trent Reznor’s hasty announcement, Add Violence, the second in a trio of NIN EPs, has been released. We now know that the second single, “This Isn’t the Place,” had its video teased when Reznor published the EP’s back cover earlier in the week. They ask whether we’re in a simulation run by analog technology.
Add Violence, which follows Not the Actual Events, is available to stream now.
If you find a story we should’ve covered while listening to all that Aphex Twin, let us know down below. Or tell us on social media.