Web Analytics

The best wire strippers you can buy

Insider Picks writes about products and services to help you navigate when shopping online. Insider Inc. receives a commission from our affiliate partners when you buy through our links, but our reporting and recommendations are always independent and objective.

  • A wire stripper can help you repair anything, from an extension cord to an iPhone charger. It makes the process of replacing an outlet or light fixture easy, efficient, and safe.
  • A wire stripper is a distinct tool not to be confused with a wire cutter, though many good wire-stripping tools also have a wire cutter built-in.
  • The Klein Tools Katapult Wire Stripper and Cutter is our top pick because it allows you to strip long lengths of various wire thickness and type, with minimal effort and error.

The best wire strippers are critical for basic electrical work, such as installing a ceiling fan or light fixture, replacing an outlet or light switch, or wiring a device like a garage door opener or DIY home security system. They can be used to repair all sorts of cables, like extension cords, chargers, a floor lamp’s cord, etc. They are also important tools for hobbyists who work on computer hardware, cars, robotics, and the like.

And, get this: A wire-stripping tool can also help you make a tidy profit as a side hustle selling copper, an increasingly valuable metal with a current market price near $3 per pound. (Don’t go stripping the copper wires from your neighbors; we’re talking about legal means.)

I discovered how effective a wire stripper could be when I had to swap out a light switch for a dimmer. This was after being charged $150 a year prior by an electrician for a 15-minute job, which I later discovered I could have done myself. So, armed with decades of DIY experience, tools that included a good wire stripper, and instructions from YouTube, I did the job myself.

Whether you’re replacing an old light switch or selling scrap wire for cash, a wire stripper is a good tool to have on hand.

Be safe: If you aren’t familiar or comfortable working with electricity, consult an expert.

Here are the best wire strippers you can buy:

The best wire stripper overall


The Home Depot

The Klein Tools Katapult Wire Stripper and Cutter takes the guesswork out of wire stripping thanks to a number of clearly marked slots suitable for various wire gauges.

If you can match up a wire to clearly labeled cutout, you can strip a wire with the Klein Tools Katapult Wire Stripper and Cutter. Not sure of the wire gauge at hand? No problem, just gently slip the wire into each slot until you find one where it fits snugly. And what’s more, a steady squeeze on the spring-loaded handles will strip both solid and stranded wire, so this tool can be used for most moderate-grade wiring projects.

The Klein Tools Katapult Wire Stripper and Cutter reveals about an inch of wire with that squeeze, which is the perfect length for rewiring light switches, lighting fixtures, or outlets. If the wire is too long, or if you need to cut a section of cable, you can use a unique wire cutter that’s built into the Katapult. Unlike most wire cutters, which are set into the base of scissor-like jaws, this one is a circular cutout, through which the wire is fed; the design prevents the cord from slipping out and guarantees a clean cut.

At around $30, this isn’t a cheap tool, but it’s worth its price if you think you’ll use it even a few times a year; botching a wire-stripping job can mean running entire new lengths of wire once you mangle too much of the wiring, so think of it as an investment against future frustration.

ProToolsReview called the Katapult “built to last and withstand the rigors of daily use.”

With more than 200 reviews posted on The Home Depot’s website, the Klein Tools Katapult Wire Stripper and Cutter has a 4.6-star average rating (out of 5) at the time of this review. One buyer loved how it “stripped in one quick movement,” while another appreciated that it created “less strain on the hand” than other wire strippers. A few buyers complained about its relative bulk, but that’s only really an issue if you’re bringing your tools on the road.

Pros: Removes guesswork from wire stripping, works with solid and stranded wire, easy-to-use wire cutter built in

Cons: Heavier and bulkier than most hand wire strippers

Buy on The Home Depot for $32.00

The best low-cost wire stripper


Amazon

If you only anticipate working on a few wire-stripping projects a year, then save yourself some cash and get the perfectly adequate Dowell 10-22 AWG Wire Stripper.

If you’re a professional electrician who needs to strip hundreds of wires monthly, then you already have several high-quality wire-stripping tools. If you’re like me, do like I did and get a Dowell 10-22 AWG Wire Stripper to help out with those two to three annual wiring projects.

This simple, low-cost wire-stripping tool has clearly marked slots for 10, 12, 14, 16, 18, 20, and 22-gauge wires. If that doesn’t mean much to you, no worries: Anyone who is unfamiliar with wire gauges probably won’t be dealing with wires outside that range, anyway. The jaws lock shut for safety and have a sturdy spring for ease of use, and there’s a decent cutter set into the base of the jaws.

While many wire strippers allow for a perfect stripping of a one-inch section of wire with just a squeeze of the fingers, this lower-priced tool requires you to pull the section of cord to be stripped, through the blades. This can mean less precision and uniformity, but it also means you can strip much longer sections of casing, which can be useful for various projects, such as when you want to splice two wires together and want to ensure maximum surface area.

A product guide from ProductBrowsercalled this Dowell stripper lightweight and useful for “several other functions” beyond stripping, like crimping and cutting.

More than 250 people have reviews the Dowell 10-22 AWG on Amazon, where it has a 4.4-star rating as of this posting. One buyer wrote, “This is a case of ‘you get what you pay for'” and “[It’s a] good value, but not the best stripper ever,” and added that the tool often cuts through far too much of stranded wire, requiring repeated attempts before a successful stripping.

Pros: Very low cost, can strip long lengths of cord, crimps and cuts as well

Cons: Often cuts through wire accidentally

Buy on Amazon for $6.99

The best self-adjusting wire stripper


Amazon

The Irwin Tools Vise-Grip Self-Adjusting Wire Stripper can separate both the thick outer casing and thinner interior sheaths of double-insulated wires without cutting or crimping the slender wiring within.

If you cut apart a power cord to a lamp, toaster, hairdryer, or other small household appliance, you will see copper wiring sheathed in the rubber exterior. Cut apart a thicker cable, however, like that of a grounded extension cord or the wiring of a washing machine, and you’ll see multiple copper wires sheathed in secondary layers of rubber or vinyl. And in order to work with these thicker types of wiring, both layers must be cleanly removed.

Enter the Irwin Tools Vise-Grip Self-Adjusting Wire Stripper, a useful handheld wire stripper that makes short work of both the outer and inner casings of a cable. And it does so with nothing but a squeeze of the fingers. Just thread the cord to be stripped into its jaws and give a squeeze. The outer sheath will be cleanly removed, exposing the inner casing. Reload the interior wires lined up side-by-side and squeeze again to reveal the metal wiring at the core.

As the name suggests, the jaws of this stripper self-adjust to create the perfect amount of cutting and stripping depth — taking away only the sheath, never cutting the metal itself. The stripper works with wires rated between AWG 10 and AWG 24 ( AWG stands for American Wire Gauge), therefore making it suitable for most DIY and many commercial projects.

BestToolExpert called the Irwin Tools Vise-Grip Self-Adjusting Wire Stripper “one of the best tools of its kind in terms of effectivity, reliability, and durability.”

With more than 2,700 reviews, Amazon shoppers have given the Irwin Tools Vise-Grip Self-Adjusting Wire Stripper a 4.5-star averaged rating. One buyer praised the tool for being able to handle “very large to very small wires” and also noted its “nice cutters and crimpers” built into the body. On the flip-side, a number of people found the stripper not suitable for use with thicker, tougher insulation, and at least one user warned of easily pinched fingers.

Pros: Self-adjusts to correct stripping depth, removes outer and inner casings, works with wide range of wire gauges

Cons: Poor performance with stiff wire coatings

Buy on Amazon for $16.99

The best commercial-grade wire stripper


Amazon

A StripMeister Automatic Wire Stripping Machine can power through hundreds of feet of wire in minutes.

If you need to strip and splice a few wires to replace an old outlet or dimmer switch, then buying a StripMeister Automatic Wire Stripping Machine would be like getting a Ferrari for commuting to the train station. But if, on the other hand, you’re hoping to make a serious profit selling pound after pound of reclaimed copper wire, then this industrial-grade wire stripper will justify its own cost in no time.

The StripMeister Automatic Wire Stripping Machine works with a huge range of wire thicknesses, and can strip Romex wire – the most common type of wiring found running all throughout homes and commercial properties – with ease and reliability. The device works by connecting a drill to the post that protrudes from its side, securing the wire in a bladed chamber, and then firing up the drill, the action of which rapidly feeds the wire through the unit. You’ll get foot after foot of raw copper with sheathing cleanly removed and basically no manpower exerted.

Yes, a StripMeister Automatic Wire Stripping Machine costs $200 and is totally impractical for most people. But with copper selling for close to $3 per pound at present, it wouldn’t take long for you to make back your investment if you started collecting scrap wire and sending it barreling through this serious stripping tool.

More than 125 people have reviewed the StripMeister Automatic Wire Stripping Machine on Amazon, giving it a 4.6-star average rating as of this writing. One buyer said it worked with thick, rugged cables and wires “all the wat down to 16 gauge.” Another owner claimed to strip “over $1,000 in wire” in less than two months.

A few owners reported that the blade dulls fast, but it comes with one replacement and you can always order more.

Pros: Strips long lengths of wire fast, huge gauge range, easy to replace blades

Cons: Very expensive, blades dull fast with heavy use

Buy on Amazon for $179.00

The best wire stripper for large cords


The Home Depot

The Klein Tools Large Cable Stripper manages to work with both finesse and brute strength, deftly revealing the perfect amount of exposed wire even when you’re dealing with big, thick cables.

Wire gets expensive fast: 2/0 THHN wire, the kind commonly used in buildings, boats, and automotive applications, sells from Home Depot for $2.35 a foot, or for $562 when you buy a 250-foot spool. So you don’t want to waste much of this or other larger, lower-gauge wiring (the lower the gauge, the thicker the wire and the larger the load it can carry). Thus, it’s a good idea to get a Klein Tools Large Cable Stripper if you’re going to be working with a fair amount of fairly pricey cables.

The operation of this heavy-duty wire stripping tool is refreshingly simple: insert the cable into the correct slot on the four-pronged stripped and rotate it. It works much like a pencil sharpener, slicing away the outer layer of casing and revealing the wiring within. Just make sure to get a clean cut before you start the stripping, or the process will be messy at best and totally ineffective at worst.

While easy to use and durable, the Klein Tools Large Cable Stripper does have its limitations. It is only compatible with four sizes of cable: 2/0, 3/0, 4/0, and 250 MCM thickness cords. That said, if you work with those kinds of cables at all, you likely do so often, and thus the $52 price tag is easy to justify. Also, unlike with most stripping tools, there are no moving parts, so a dulled blade is the only issue this stripper faces.

In a video review, TechToolSupply said the Klein Tools Large Cable Stripper could “safely remove insulation” without nicking the wire and allowed for “a precise cut every time.”

Pros: Precise cutting without wasted wire, suitable for commercial grade use, replaceable blades

Cons: Only works with a few specific wire gauges

Buy on The Home Depot for $52.07


The Home Depot

With each of the wire-stripping tools on this list, you’d likely never meet a wire you couldn’t strip cleanly and quickly. But these aren’t the only general-purpose wire strippers we considered. We researched a few others that didn’t make the cut for one reason or another.

The Klein Tools 2-Level Coaxial Cable Stripper is a must-have if you’re working with stubborn coaxial cable, the type of cord that screws into older TVs and monitors to transfer the image signal. The thing is, you’re probably not.

A TruePower Heavy Duty Automatic Wire Stripper offers the same self-adjusting operation as the Irwin Tools self-adjusting stripping tool, for much less money and can remove much of the guesswork from the process. But it will also probably fail on you twice as fast.

Milwaukee’s 6 in 1 Combination Electricians Wire Strippers start off working great, stripping with ease and with dual cutters robust enough to snip through screws or nails, but the pair I own (and, apparently, that of many other DIY-ers) wore down fast, with the blades sticking together and the handles separating from the blades over time.

Finally, I looked at the super-basic but super-reliable Ideal 45-092 Stripmaster Wire Stripper, a tool you will probably have for life. I passed on it because it’s not quite worth its almost $50 price tag, quality notwithstanding.

Subscribe to our newsletter. Find all the best offers at our Coupons page. Disclosure: This post is brought to you by the Insider Picks team. We highlight products and services you might find interesting. If you buy them, we get a small share of the revenue from the sale from our commerce partners. We frequently receive products free of charge from manufacturers to test. This does not drive our decision as to whether or not a product is featured or recommended. We operate independently from our advertising sales team. We welcome your feedback. Email us at insiderpicks@businessinsider.com.

More:

Features
Insider Picks 2019
Insider Picks Guides
Best Guides

Chevron icon
It indicates an expandable section or menu, or sometimes previous / next navigation options.


Close icon
Two crossed lines that form an ‘X’. It indicates a way to close an interaction, or dismiss a notification.



Check mark icon
A check mark. It indicates a confirmation of your intended interaction.



Read More

The Not Quite USB-C Of Nintendo Switch Accessories

Historically gaming consoles are sold at little-to-no profit in order to entice customers with a low up-front price. The real profits roll in afterwards from sales of games and accessories. Seeking a slice of the latter, aftermarket accessory makers jump in with reverse-engineered compatible products at varying levels of “compatible”.

When the Nintendo Switch was released with a standard USB-C port for accessories, we had hoped those days of hit-or-miss reverse engineering were over, but reality fell short. Redditor [VECTORDRIVER] summarized a few parts of this story where Nintendo deviated from spec, and accessory makers still got things wrong.

Officially, Nintendo declared the Switch USB-C compliant. But as we’ve recently covered, USB-C is a big and complicated beast. Determined to find the root of their issues, confused consumers banded together on the internet to gather anecdotal evidence and speculate. One theory is that Nintendo’s official dock deviated from official USB-C dimensions in pursuit of a specific tactile feel; namely reducing tolerance on proper USB-C pin alignment and compensating with an internal mechanism. With Nintendo playing fast and loose with the specs, it makes developing properly functioning aftermarket accessories all the more difficult.

But that’s not the only way a company can slip up with their aftermarket dock. A teardown revealed Nyko didn’t use a dedicated chip to manage USB power delivery, choosing instead to implement it in software running on ATmega8. We can speculate on why (parts cost? time to market?) but more importantly we can read the actual voltage on its output pins which are too high. Every use becomes a risky game of “will this Switch tolerate above-spec voltage today?” We expect that as USB-C becomes more common, it would soon be cheapest and easiest to use a dedicated chip, eliminating the work of an independent implementation and risk of doing it wrong.

These are fairly typical early teething problems for a new complex technology on their road to ubiquity. Early USB keyboard and mice didn’t always work, and certain combination of early PCI-Express cards and motherboards caused damage. Hopefully USB-C problems — and memories of them — will fade in time as well.

[via Ars Technica]

[Main image source: iFixit Nintendo Switch Teardown]

Read More

Smart cities need to take people with disabilities into account from the get-go

As technology and urban design march into the future, more and more urban centers will begin looking like the “smart cities” science fiction began promising us many decades ago: City infrastructure that talks to cars, cars that talk to each other, sensors everywhere, high-speed wireless communications, self-driving and self-parking cars and much, much more.

But what is the cost of such a city? Not just the price tag, or even the value such investments promise to deliver, but the actual human cost? Will anybody be left behind by smart cities, including the elderly or the disabled?

Urban development is already a challenge for the disabled

Just precisely what constitutes a “smart city” will vary depending on that city’s goals. But one thing that doesn’t change from place to place is that technology should provide the means to realize one’s independence. Regrettably, even some of our current approaches to urban development, even the low-tech ones, already present some Herculean challenges for some of our most vulnerable citizens.

It’s a big enough problem, and it goes unanswered often enough, that the United Nations maintains a publication called “Good Practices of Accessible Urban Development.”

Its stated mission is to “ensure accessibility, following the universal design approach, by removing barriers to the physical environment, transportation, employment, education, health, services, information and assistive devices, such as information and communications technology (ICTs), including in remote or rural areas, to achieve the fullest potential throughout the whole life cycle of persons with disabilities.”

So where are we falling short at present?

By 2050, the UN predicts accessibility will be a “major challenge” across the globe. By then, there will likely be some 940 million disabled individuals living in the world’s urban centers. These are just a tiny minority (6.25 percent) among the year 2050’s estimated 6.25 billion city dwellers.

In some ways, smart cities preserve many of the most mundane problems in urban development where the disabled are concerned. Without proper care during the design of pedestrian thoroughfares, embarkation points for public transportation, and public-facing technologies like digital signage and walking directions, those with physical disabilities like poor eyesight or compromised locomotion could quickly find themselves thoroughly excluded from even basic daily tasks.

The promise and challenge of smart cities

The phrase “you can’t get there from here” doesn’t apply to most of us. But for those who must live with disabilities, getting around an urban environment — to work, say, or to visit loved ones — can sometimes grant this phrase a nearly literal meaning. Technology companies are working more closely than ever with civic planners to make walking directions more widely available.

But for the disabled, directions which don’t accurately portray accessibility features, like ramps and dropped curbs, or, worse still, cities which don’t provide them at all, can make it difficult or impossible for the disabled to reach their destination unassisted. Several neighborhoods in Seattle famously don’t have any pavement at all, and occasional grades as high as 20 percent on some hills.

Smart cities won’t automatically solve this problem—not if we bring in the same design language we’ve been using for many decades. Instead, we can use the technologies we’re developing, like beacons and more advanced mapping systems to help pedestrians, drivers, and public transporters get around our cities.

But we can use that same technology to crowd-source feedback on lackluster or missing accessibility features, bring poor design to the attention of city leadership, and ultimately build more open and inclusive mapping databases which account for all types of obstacles, rather than just those of interest to the non-disabled.

Making Smart Cities green with IoT

There is a major need for the smart cities of the future to make public services, including new technologies, as easy to use as possible for as many people as possible. The “universal design” principles mentioned earlier from the UN’s accessibility guidelines will have to expand to include mandatory automatic doors and wider availability of voice commands for interacting with services.

When a ticket sales kiosk uses a touchscreen, for example, it leaves a not inconsiderable portion of the population behind, including those who live with vision, dexterity or cognitive impairments.

Microsoft’s “Smart Cities for All” program and Google’s (Alphabet’s) “Project Sidewalk” are two great examples of the public and private sectors coming together, including policymakers, civic designers, app developers, disability advocates and many more.

Both of these organizations boast many member organizations and both recognize that technology is unquestionably the key to economic opportunity. Getting around a smart city means using our smartphones to acquire information, make reservations, or make contactless payments. A considerable amount of public infrastructure could be off-limits to people who aren’t able to read the contents of a mobile phone screen or physically manipulate the controls.

It’s time to learn the lessons of the past, too, when it comes to rushing the design and construction of public buildings and infrastructure. Construction booms and shoddy practices in the mid-2000s ended up costing companies and cities considerable rework and additional expenses because of construction defects.

Instead, accessible smart cities require thoughtful and deliberate design plus environmentally-sound and eminently durable construction. In other words: design and build it just once, for everybody to use.

Smart cities, accessibility and accountability

There’s no stopping smart cities. Whether they’re using data from mobile device traffic to plan future developments or make changes to existing roadways and infrastructure, or allowing automotive guidance systems to interface with city infrastructure for more harmonious intersections, we’ll all be living in a smart city before too long.

But we need to take a long, hard look at who benefits first, and sometimes exclusively, from giant leaps forward in technology. It seems like the smart city accessibility program is finally on all of the right parties’ radars.

But answering the call for inclusivity means nailing the fundamentals first, like making sure a city is wheelchair-accessible from top to bottom before we begin layering on technology services. And it means countries everywhere must take up the UN’s call for universal accessible design and hold their own designers, builders, lawmakers, and landlords accountable.

This story is republished from TechTalks, the blog that explores how technology is solving problems… and creating new ones. Like them on Facebook and follow them on Twitter.

Read next:

Microsoft contractors are listening to your translated Skype calls

Read More

Check to See if Robinhood Exposed Your Password PSP Hacks

Illustration for article titled Check to See if Robinhood Exposed Your Password

Bad news, money-makers. The popular stock-trading app Robinhood recently sent emails to an undisclosed number of users, letting them know that the company made a bit of a boo-boo and stored their passwords on its servers in plaintext.

While you probably get a number of emails from your various financial institutions, and probably filter Robinhood’s to a folder (or trash) if you’re a fairly active trader, you’re definitely going to want to comb through your email app or web-based service to see if you’ve been affected by this issue.

Even if you haven’t, or are too lazy to look, changing your password on the service is easy. Pull up the app and use the “reset password” link on the login page, or visit this link on the web.

Once you’ve done that, make sure you’ve set up two-factor authentication on your account so you’re a bit more protected even if someone has managed to decipher your password. I almost feel like I don’t even need to tell you that, because it would be the absolute worst practice in the world to only have a simple password protecting a financial app like the one you use to buy and sell stocks.

Even though Robinhood has a verification system in place that alerts you via text message or email whenever there’s a new login attempt for your account, you absolutely should use every security measure you can get your hands on for your financial services. This is not an area where you want to be lazy about your account security, because the consequences could be disastrous—even more so than when your favorite stock pick tanks.

As for Robinhood’s plaintext problem, the company maintains that no third-party used them to access user accounts. That’s reassuring news, even though you should still be a little upset about the company’s gaffe. As they wrote in an email to affected users:

“When you set a password for your Robinhood account, we use an industry-standard process that prevents anyone at our company from reading it. On Monday night, we discovered that some user credentials were stored in a readable format within our internal systems. We wanted to let you know that your password may have been included.

We resolved this issue, and after thorough review, found no evidence that this information was accessed by anyone outside of our response team. Out of an abundance of caution, we still recommend that you change your Robinhood password.”

And, of course, please don’t use a new password for Robinhood that you use for other services around the web. You’re better than that.

Read More

The Roku Channel is adding a kids and family section with free TV shows and movies PSP Hacks

The Roku Channel currently offers a mix of free-to-watch, ad-supported movies, TV shows, and live news. You can also purchase subscriptions to HBO, Showtime, Starz, Epix, and other networks through the Roku Channel instead of subscribing to each of those streaming apps separately. Beginning today, the company is adding a new section to the Roku Channel that’s focused on kid and family content.

The Kids and Family area is available now in the US on Roku streaming players, Roku TVs, on the web, and on select Samsung smart TVs. It includes a curated mix of shows that are grouped into different age ranges so that it’s easy to find something appropriate when trying to entertain a child. Roku says that it provides “a unique blend of quality shows, movies, live linear and short-form video typically found across multiple free and paid kids channels and brings them together to watch in a single place.” Everything is chosen by an in-house editorial team, so one would hope nothing too weird or creepy will slip through.

Everyone will be able to stream a family-friendly mix of TV shows and movies at no extra charge. In total, Roku says it’s including “7,000 free, ad-supported movies and TV episodes” from partners including All Spark, A Hasbro Company, DHX Media, Happy Kids TV, Lionsgate, Mattel, Moonbug, and pocket.watch, among others.”

But customers who subscribe to Noggin, Hopster, or even HBO or Starz will see kid-appropriate content from those networks featured in this new section as well. Roku explained to me that this will only happen if you subscribe to those channels through the Roku Channel. So if you’re paying for HBO elsewhere, Sesame Street won’t show up in the Roku Channel’s kids and family portal. Make sense?

Roku notes that although the new section is ad-supported, it’ll see 40 percent less ad volume compared to regular Roku Channel content, which the company claims is already below cable TV averages. Like the TV shows and movies you can stream, ads will also be screened to ensure kids aren’t seeing anything they shouldn’t.

Read More

Doctors Warn Of Poor Health, Rising Costs From Trump Immigration Law

CHICAGO (AP) — Diabetics skipping regular checkups. Young asthmatics not getting preventive care. A surge in expensive emergency room visits.

Doctors and public health experts warn of poor health and rising costs they say will come from sweeping Trump administration changes that would deny green cards to many immigrants who use Medicaid, as well as food stamps and other forms of public assistance. Some advocates say they’re already seeing the fallout even before the complex 837-page rule takes effect in October.

President Donald Trump‘s administration trumpeted its aggressive approach this past week as a way to keep only self-sufficient immigrants in the country, but health experts argue it could force potentially millions of low-income migrants to choose between needed services and their bid to stay legally in the U.S.

“People are going to be sicker. They’re not going to go get health care, or not until they have to go to an emergency room,” said Lisa David, president and CEO of Public Health Solutions, New York’s largest public health organization. “It’s going to cost the system a lot of money.”

Immigrants who want permanent legal status, commonly called a green card, have long been required to prove they won’t be “a public charge.” The Trump administration announced Monday that would redefine the term to mean those who are “more likely than not” to receive public benefits over a certain period. U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services will also now consider other factors, including income, education and English proficiency.

“We want to see people coming to this country who are self-sufficient,” said Ken Cuccinelli, the agency’s acting director. “That’s a core principle of the American dream. It’s deeply embedded in our history, and particularly our history related to legal immigration.”

Two California counties and attorneys general in 13 states sued, saying the changes will increase public health risks.

There are signs that is already happening in cities including Chicago, Detroit and New York, immigrant advocates say.

Within hours of the announcement, a Minnesota immigration attorney said she received a flurry of calls from worried clients about whether to leave Medicaid. A Detroit nonprofit helping Latinos and immigrants with social services said its usually jam-packed lobby was empty the day after the rules were unveiled. New York’s largest public health organization, Public Health Solutions, which serves a large immigrant population, reported a 20% drop in food stamps enrollment since the rule was first proposed in the fall.

There is precedent for such a chilling effect.

After 1996 welfare and immigration changes that limited public assistance for some immigrants, the use of benefits dropped steeply among U.S. citizen children and refugees, groups who were still eligible. Studies based on data following that change showed people disenrolled from Medicaid at rates ranging from 15% to 35%, according to Harvard University’s François-Bagnoud Center for Health and Human Rights. And, it found, this came at a high cost: Asthma-related school absences in 1996 led to $719 million in lost parental productivity.

Federico Mason, who emigrated from Mexico over two decades ago, said he is worried about the new criteria because he is low-income and doesn’t speak English well. The Chicago resident said he has no immediate plans to remove his 8- and 15-year-old sons, who are U.S. citizens, from Medicaid, but the new rule has made him more fearful about providing for his family and about applying for a green card.

“If one day I want to adjust my status, it will be more difficult because of these unfair policies that continue to discriminate against me,” he said in Spanish.

Overall, non-citizen low-income immigrants use public benefits at a much lower rate than low-income U.S.-born citizens, but there’s the possibility that millions of people could drop benefits out of fear or confusion. Estimates vary. It could be as high as 24 million people, according to the nonpartisan Fiscal Policy Institute, which includes in its count anyone in a family that has received food, health or housing support and where at least one person is a non-citizen.

Dr. Deanna Behrens, a pediatric critical-care physician in suburban Chicago who wrote public testimony opposing the rule change, said children are the most vulnerable.

She said non-citizen parents might hesitate to apply for their children who are U.S. citizens, mistakenly fearing that if their children get benefits it will destroy their own chances of getting a green card and tear their families apart. That will lead to people being unable to afford care for chronic diseases like asthma and diabetes, as well as preventative measures. Instead, they’ll rely on far more costly emergency rooms.

“This has forced the immigrant families into an impossible choice,” Behrens said.

Roughly 544,000 people apply for green cards annually, with about 382,000 falling into categories that would be subject to the new review, according to the government.

Esperanza Health Centers, which runs four Chicago-based clinics that serve low-income and largely immigrant populations, has seen an increase in the number of uninsured children. Since a draft of the new rule was released in the fall, the clinics report having 600 children without insurance, including those who have disenrolled from Medicaid. Typically, it’s about 200, according to Jessica Boland, director of behavioral health.

“We’re condemning people to having a much more unhealthy lifestyles because we believe that there is something awful about their request for what we think for most people is a right and not a privilege: health care,” said Dr. Kenneth Davis, president and CEO of Mount Sinai Health System, which covers eight hospitals in New York.

Over a dozen major patient groups, including the March of Dimes and the American Heart Association, have written fierce opposition to the rule.

The issue is personal for Dr. Jasmine Saavedra, a pediatrician who works at an Esperanza clinic in a heavily Latino Chicago neighborhood.

She is convinced that if new Trump administration criteria were in effect for her parents three decades ago, she would have had a far different future. Her parents emigrated from Mexico in the 1980s unable to speak English and with little education. While working low-wage jobs, they relied on food stamps for a short time to get by.

Her mother later quit public assistance because of the stigma, but Saavedra said there were days when her mother wouldn’t eat so her children could. She believes that helped her become a doctor and her two sisters become an accountant and a nurse.

“Maybe when certain people think about immigrant families, they do think of it as a burden on this country, the way people would tell my mom she was when she was receiving assistance,” Saavedra said. “But my parents, with no education, not speaking this language, being impoverished with a little bit assistance when they could, got us out and they have three successful daughters.”

___

Follow Sophia Tareen on Twitter: https://twitter.com/sophiatareen .

___

Associated Press video journalist Mike Householder in Detroit contributed to this report.

REAL LIFE. REAL NEWS. REAL VOICES.

Help us tell more of the stories that matter from voices that too often remain unheard.

Read More

This soon-to-be-married Icelandic couple met in a Facebook group for Costco fans, and their friends call their child the ‘Costco Baby’ (COST)

Every couple has a story. For Icelandic couple Thorey Sigurjonsdottir and Omar Magnusson, that story begins with Costco.

The couple met by chance in an Icelandic Facebook group called “Keypt í Costco Ísl.—Myndir og verð” or “Bought in Costco Iceland— Pictures and prices,” a space meant for Icelanders to speak about their purchases and the deals to be found at Costco.

Over 91,000 people — or nearly a fourth of Iceland’s population— are currently in this group.

Read more: From rings to cakes, Costco has what you need for a budget wedding

“I made a funny comment, and he saw it and thought it was funny, so he clicked on my name and sent me a message,” Sigurjonsdottir told Business Insider. “It was something about the baby tomatoes. I don’t eat tomatoes, I never have.”

But Costco tomatoes were a different story, Sigurjonsdottir said. She shared in a post to the group that she had finished three whole boxes of Costco’s baby tomatoes, despite her tendency to stay away from the fruit — and Magnusson was intrigued.

The two began speaking and decided to go on a date a few days later.

“I just wasn’t expecting really anything,” Sigurjonsdottir said. Two years later, the couple is still together, with plans to tie the knot in a private ceremony on Saturday.

“It’s a weird one,” Sigurjonsdottir says of her love story.

She and her fiancé are often at the receiving end of jokes from friends and family. When the couple had their daughter in June 2018, the child was jokingly dubbed “Costco Baby” by their friends. Sigurjonsdottir’s friends even ordered a customized bib to present to the couple at their baby shower.

Friends bought a “Costco Baby” bib for the couple’s baby shower.
Thorey Sigurjonsdottir

“[The bib-maker] said that it had been the weirdest thing she had ever been asked to do,” Sigurjonsdottir said with a laugh, noting that the Costco jokes have somewhat died down at this point.

Sigurjonsdottir and Magnusson aren’t the only couple to have their origins in Costco. An American couple who met in a Hawaii Costco recently celebrated their fateful meeting point with a romantic wedding photoshoot in the warehouse’s aisles. The photoshoot went viral.

But a “Costco couple” might not be the strangest thing in Iceland. That’s because for Icelandic people, Costco is more than a warehouse store — it’s practically religion.

Sigurjonsdottir’s and Magnusson’s baby shower also had Costco Baby decorations on the wall.
Thorey Sigurjonsdottir

When the US-based warehouse chain opened its first Icelandic store in May 2017, people went berserk. The Facebook group that Sigurjonsdottir and Magnusson met in had more than 62,000 members — or one-fifth of the Icelandic population at the time — within a week of the store’s opening, Quartz reported.

Sigurjonsdottir, like many Icelanders, had been anticipating Costco’s arrival in 2017.

“When we heard what they were going to offer, we were really excited,” she said.

She was at the store on its opening day, where search-and-rescue teams had been employed to manage the crowds.

Costco was exciting for Icelanders for many reasons, especially the low prices for food and vegetables.

But Costco — via its Facebook pages — has unexpectedly become somewhat of a matchmaking forum for Icelandic singles.

“I’ve met a lot of women because of Costco,” said Sigurdur Solmundarson, an Icelandic comedian who became nationally known as “The Costco Guy” after he posted a viral video making fun of Iceland’s Costco obsession in the aforementioned Facebook group. After he posted the video, he began receiving messages from admiring fans — many of them women.

“It’s much better than Tinder,” Solmundarson joked, though unlike Sigurjonsdottir and Magnusson, he doesn’t anticipate a wedding any time soon.

“I just want to keep my toilet paper to myself,” he said, adding that he currently has about 200 rolls.

Unsurprisingly, he bought them at Costco.

Read More

China’s Biggest Propaganda Agency Buys Ads on Facebook and Twitter to Smear Protesters in Hong Kong PSP Hacks

Pro-democracy protesters take part in a rally as they march on August 18, 2019 in Hong Kong.

Pro-democracy protesters take part in a rally as they march on August 18, 2019 in Hong Kong.
Photo: Getty Images

China’s largest state-run news agency, Xinhua News, is buying ads on Facebook and Twitter to smear protesters in Hong Kong, a new tactic being used to influence how the rest of the world perceives the pro-democracy demonstrators.

An estimated 1.7 million people in Hong Kong, roughly a quarter of its population, took to the streets on Sunday to denounce Beijing’s attempts to interfere in the semi-autonomous territory. But China has amassed soldiers across the border in Shenzhen and appears to be stepping up its propaganda efforts online through paid ads on Facebook and Twitter, as well as unpaid content on platforms like YouTube.

Xinhua News currently has five different Facebook ads that directly relate to the unrest in Hong Kong, and all of the ads started running on Sunday, August 18. One of the Facebook ads addresses Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi directly, calling on her to “fly to Hong Kong to see what the true facts are.” Pelosi has been critical of the Chinese government’s suppression of the demonstrators and called Beijing’s actions “cowardly.”

The anti-Pelosi Facebook ad uses viral video from an Australian traveler who was recently inconvenienced at the Hong Kong International Airport. Protesters helped shut down the airport over the course of two days, demanding freedom and apologizing to travelers for disrupting their flights. The Australian traveler, who appears to have given an interview to Chinese state media, told pro-democracy demonstrators they should “get a job” and even said they should “know their place,” though the latter isn’t featured in the Facebook ad.

The Australian traveler also said that “Hong Kong is a part of China,” something that’s controversial because Hong Kong currently operates under a “one country, two systems” arrangement. That arrangement allows Hong Kong to temporarily maintain democratic laws and traditions until the year 2047. That year is obviously well within the lifetimes of many young protesters, and has contributed to the young-old divide in the region. Some elderly Hongkongers have been the most outspoken against the protests, something that becomes clear in the pro-Beijing Facebook ads.

Another Facebook ad from Xinhua claims that Hong Kong’s economy is suffering over the protests and insists that the public wants someone to “restore order.” The ad shows pro-Beijing demonstrators calling for an end to the violence, heavily implying that it’s the protestors who have caused the most harm.

In reality, Hong Kong police have been the ones causing the most violence on the ground, shooting “nonlethal” rounds at point blank range, and firing tear gas regularly into crowds of non-violent protesters. One woman recently lost an eye after being shot by police, leading some allies to wear a bandage over their own eyes in a sign of solidarity. Xinhua’s propaganda video has also been posted to YouTube, though it’s unclear if the propaganda agency is buying paid ads on the platform.

Another propaganda ad from Xinhua focuses on the economic situation in Hong Kong. The ad shows photos of empty shopping malls with a caption that, yet again, calls for “order” to be restored—an ominous declaration from an authoritarian government like China’s, which currently holds anywhere from 800,000 to 3 million Muslims in concentration camps.

Xinhua is also promoting Twitter posts that suggest the violence is being perpetrated by the protesters and claims, again, that “order should be restored.” There’s obviously a pattern to all of this and Beijing wants to control the narrative by insisting that “order” is more important than democratic rights. And it’s no wonder why, with so much money at stake.

Another Chinese state media outlet, CGTN, even posted an embarrassing anti-democracy rap video to Twitter over the weekend that ends with President Donald Trump saying Hong Kong is part of China.

Trump has previously been reluctant to criticize China over its anti-democratic crackdown and now Chinese propagandists are using his own words against the protesters.

The protests in Hong Kong have been raging for eleven weeks now, initially set off by an extradition bill that would have allowed Beijing to snatch so-called criminals from Hong Kong. The big problem, however, is that Hong Kong is a haven for political dissidents and pro-democracy leaders in Asia. The extradition bill has been withdrawn by Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam, but the protesters want assurances that it won’t be reintroduced.

China’s Xinhua News has been on Facebook since 2012, despite the fact that Facebook is banned in mainland China. Twitter and YouTube are also banned, but the intended audience of these ads is clearly the international community. Protest organizers in Hong Kong have purchased their own ads in international newspapers, according to the Hong Kong Free Press, but it’s not clear whether they’re buying ads online as well.

The print ad, which appeared today in the New York Times and Canada’s Globe and Mail, among others, reads in part:

Amid tear gas and rubber bullets, this once vibrant and safe metropolis is at a crossroads. Since the protests against the controversial extradition bill started in June, Hong Kong’s autonomy and freedom have been eroded beyond recognition. This is the ugly truth that the Hong Kong government does not want you to know: Hong Kong is becoming a police state.

Instead of implementing political reform as promised, the Hong Kong government has turned into an apparatus of repression. Police brutality, endorsed by both the Hong Kong and Chinese governments, has now become part of our daily lives.

In the name of public order, the police dehumanize protesters as ‘cockroaches’ and deploy certain anti-riot measures prohibited by international standards. The police also batter passers-by, journalists and medical personnel. Police stations are shut whenever alleged thugs-for-hire indiscriminately attack protesters and ordinary citizens.

Arbitrary arrests and political prosecutions are becoming increasingly common. These are all tactics of the Hong Kong government to intimidate its own people into silence.

Bear witness to Hongkongers’ fight for freedom. Tell our story—especially if we can no longer do it ourselves. Fight For Freedom. Stand With Hong Kong.

It’s not clear how much money Facebook and Twitter are making from the Chinese propaganda ads and the tech giants did not respond to requests for comment this morning. We will update this article if we hear back.

Read More

A Drop-In Upgrade Module for Cheap Rotary Tools

We’ve all seen them, the rotary tools that look almost, but not quite exactly, like a Dremel. They cost just a fraction of the real thing, and even use the same bits as the official Bosch-owned version. At first glance, they might seem like a perfect solution for the hacker who’s trying to kit out their workshop on a tight budget. There’s only one problem: the similarities between the two are only skin deep.

Recovering components from the original controller

As [Vitaly Puzrin] explains, one of the big problems with these clones are the simplistic electronics which have a tendency to stall out the motor at low RPM. So he’s developed a drop-in replacement speed controller for his particular Dremel clone that solves this problem. While the module design probably won’t work on every clone out there in its current form, he feels confident that with help from the community it could be adapted to other models.

Of course, the first step to replacing the speed controller in your not-a-Dremel is removing the crusty old one. But before you chuck it, you’ll need to recover a few key components. Specifically the potentiometer, filter capacitor, and the motor terminals. You could possibly source the latter components from the parts bin, but the potentiometer is likely going to be designed to match the tool so you’ll want that at least.

The microprocessor controlled upgrade board uses back EMF to detect the motor’s current speed without the need for any additional sensors; important for a retrofit module like this. [Vitaly] says that conceptually this should work on any AC brushed motor, and the source code for the firmware is open if you need to make any tweaks. But hacker beware, the current version of the PCB doesn’t have any AC isolation; you’ll need to take special care if you want to hook it up to your computer’s USB port.

On the other hand, if you’re willing to buy a cheap rotary tool just to crack it open and replace the electronics, you might as well just build your own. If you’re feeling particularly adventurous, you can always abandon the electric motor and spin it up with a tiny turbine.

Read More