April 18, 2014

XKCD on free speech

I should probably bookmark this image to share with every forum warrior and troll who think being told to shut up is a violation of their rights.

xkcd: Free Speech

Employers who steal from their employees should go to prison

Robbery is robbery. It shouldn't matter if it's an executive at McDonald's stealing from people by falsifying their time sheets.

Put the Wage Thieves in Prison - Lawyers, Guns & Money : Lawyers, Guns & Money

Take Ashley Cathey, 25, a six-year McDonald’s employee who participated in a national one-day strike last December. A couple of months later, she got a 25-cent raise, to $8 an hour from $7.75. But something about her next paycheck looked fishy: Her pay seemed short given her raise and new, longer hours. She usually works overnight, and in recent months her shifts have frequently stretched to 12 or 14 hours because her Memphis restaurant has been short-staffed. (Perhaps because its wages are still too low to retain enough employees.)

She asked a friend who is a manager to print out her time sheet and noticed that someone had clocked her out for breaks she never took. Other co-workers spotted hours shaved from their time sheets, too. When employees brought this to the attention of a more senior boss, they were told the wrongly subtracted hours would appear in their next paychecks. Meanwhile, the helpful manager who had printed out the time sheets was reprimanded for sharing official time records with workers and told that he’d be fired if he did it again, Cathey said. Now Cathey keeps a personal record of the hours she clocks in and out.

“I never paid attention before,” she told me in a phone interview. She suspects that someone has been doctoring her hours for years, but she doesn’t want to endanger her manager friend’s job by asking for help obtaining proof. Even without proof she is convinced: “They’re hiding something, obviously,” she said.

This is not a one-off accusation. In the past few weeks, New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman extracted settlements from dozens of McDonald’s and Domino’s locations around the state for off-the-clock work. Last month, workers in California, Michigan and New York filed class-action lawsuits against McDonald’s alleging multiple charges of wage theft. These suits have upped the ante by implicating the McDonald’s corporation, not just individual franchisees, in bad behavior. The plaintiffs allege that McDonald’s corporate office exerts so much control over franchisees — including by monitoring their hourly labor costs through a corporate computer system — that it had to have known what was going on.”

Wall Street's Newest Scam: Buying all the houses they foreclosed on and renting them back to us

Rents are skyrocketing--up 19% on average over last year--and Wall Street is to blame.

Also, whenever a reporter says the rebounding housing market is a sign of recovery? They're wrong.

Wall Street Hedge Funds Buy Up Rental Properties | New Republic

Housing analysts have been giddy for the past year about the comeback of their industry, whose collapse led to the Great Recession. Sure, 2012 was actually the third-worst year for housing ever—but it still beat 2010 and 2011. New and existing home sales, housing starts, and prices jumped in 2012, and experts expect an even stronger recovery for 2013.

It’s clear why people are so excited: Housing typically leads economic recoveries. As more people build equity in their homes, they feel more free to spend disposable income and increase economic activity, a phenomenon known as the “wealth effect.” So a bullish outlook for housing would seemingly augur a long-awaited recovery to Main Street. But the more you look into it, the clearer it becomes that it’s not being driven by the typical American families who lost their homes in the economic crash. In fact, it’s being fueled by the banks and hedge funds whose speculation caused that crash in the first place.

If you’ve signed a lease in the past year, there’s a good chance your landlord wears a tailored suit and works on Wall Street. One of the hottest trends in the financial sector is known as “REO-to-rental.” Over the past couple years, hedge funds, private equity firms and the biggest banks have raised massive amounts of capital to buy distressed or foreclosed single-family homes, often in bulk, at bargain prices. Their strategy is to convert them to rental units for a while before reselling them when prices appreciate. The Wall Street firms are scooping up properties in the hardest-hit areas, promising high returns for the rental revenue streams—up to 10 percent annually —and starting bidding wars that have driven up some prices well above national averages. It’s the next Wall Street gold rush, with all the warning signs of a renewed speculative bubble.

The investment market for REO, which stands for real estate-owned properties (i.e. owned by the bank, typically after a foreclosure), really heated up in 2011. In that year, according to Wall Street analyst Graham Fisher & Co., investors made 27 percent of all home purchases, a number right in line with the housing bubble years of 2004 and 2005. Numbers for 2012 have not yet been released, but indications show it accelerated, particularly in areas with the highest foreclosure rates. Hedge funds and private equity firms seek out foreclosed properties at public auctions, or purchase them through short sales, where a bank agrees to let an underwater buyer sell the home for less than the balance of his or her mortgage. The cheap, often damaged homes usually cost between $100,000 and $150,000, and the investors pay in cash. They routinely promise their backers annual returns from the rental revenue income of anywhere between 6-10 percent, and they typically offer a share of the profits when they eventually flip the homes.
. . .

April 17, 2014

If you LIKE General Mills on Facebook, you void all your rights

Dear General Mills, if anyone reads this post you owe me a million dollars.

When ‘Liking’ a Brand Online Voids the Right to Sue - NYTimes.com

General Mills, the maker of cereals like Cheerios and Chex as well as brands like Bisquick and Betty Crocker, has quietly added language to its website to alert consumers that they give up their right to sue the company if they download coupons, “join” it in online communities like Facebook, enter a company-sponsored sweepstakes or contest or interact with it in a variety of other ways.

Instead, anyone who has received anything that could be construed as a benefit and who then has a dispute with the company over its products will have to use informal negotiation via email or go through arbitration to seek relief, according to the new terms posted on its site.

In language added on Tuesday after The New York Times contacted it about the changes, General Mills seemed to go even further, suggesting that buying its products would bind consumers to those terms.
Continue reading the main story
Related Coverage

General Mills Amends New Legal PoliciesAPRIL 17, 2014

“We’ve updated our privacy policy,” the company wrote in a thin, gray bar across the top of its home page. “Please note we also have new legal terms which require all disputes related to the purchase or use of any General Mills product or service to be resolved through binding arbitration.”

April 13, 2014

The Fort Pillow Massacre

I bailed on Ken Burns' Civil War documentary after historian (and slavery apologist) Shelby Foote waxed rhapsodical about what a great man Nathan Bedford Forrest was.

Great men don't massacre civilians or surrendering armies. They also don't fight against their country to preserve slavery.

Fort Pillow Massacre - Lawyers, Guns & Money : Lawyers, Guns & Money

On April 12, 1864, Confederate troops under the command of Nathan Bedford Forrest massacred black Union troops attempting to surrender after their defeat at Fort Pillow, Tennessee. In a war of horrible things, this was probably the worst, as angry southerners got their revenge on their slaves leaving them by dyeing the river red with their blood. Of course, the same Southerners who prefer not to talk about Fort Pillow or even defend Forrest love to hate on William Tecumseh Sherman, whose troops engaged in no such activities on their march through Georgia and the Carolinas. The preeminent historian and Grant biographer Brooks Simpson:

When it comes to Forrest’s responsibility (or culpability), I’ll simply note that one cannot claim that William T. Sherman is a war criminal without accepting that Nathan Bedford Forrest is a war criminal. After all, Sherman did not issue orders calling for the raping of women or the destruction of property outside the laws of war. Nor did he issue orders for the destruction of Columbia in February 1865. One can hold him accountable for (a) the orders he issued and (b) his actions (or inaction) in punishing his own men for violations of the law of war. One would have to hold Forrest to the same standard, unless you think the destruction of property is a greater crime than cold-blooded murder … or whether you think crimes against white people bother you more than crimes against black people, especially those wearing the uniform of the United States armed forces. Once you say that Sherman must be held responsible for the actions of his men, you must say the same for Forrest.

April 12, 2014

Aubrey Plaza in . . . RING POP

skolita: poopflow: smokeweedandeatpizza: ...

April 10, 2014

Dropbox admits that it snoops on users, hires Condi "Dead Iraqis" Rice as CTO

Condi Rice? Really?

Dropbox clarifies its policy on reviewing shared files for DMCA issues | Ars Technica

For years now, Internet users have accepted the risk of files and content they share through various online services being subject to takedown requests based on the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) and/or content-matching algorithms. But users have also gotten used to treating services like Dropbox as their own private, cloud-based file storage and sharing systems, facilitating direct person-to-person file transfer without having to worry.

This weekend, though, a small corner of the Internet exploded with concern that Dropbox was going too far, actually scanning users' private and directly peer-shared files for potential copyright issues. What's actually going on is a little more complicated than that, but it shows that sharing a file on Dropbox isn't always the same as sharing that file directly from your hard drive over something like e-mail or instant messenger.

The whole kerfuffle started yesterday evening, when one Darrell Whitelaw tweeted a picture of an error he received when trying to share a link to a Dropbox file via IM. The Dropbox webpage warned him and his friend that "certain files in this folder can't be shared due to a takedown request in accordance with the DMCA."

Whitelaw freely admits that the content he was sharing was a copyrighted video, but he still expressed surprise that Dropbox was apparently watching what he shared for copyright issues. "I treat [Dropbox] like my hard drive," he tweeted. "This shows it's not private, nor mine, even though I pay for it."

In response to follow-up questions from Ars, Whitelaw said the link he sent to his friend via IM was technically a public link and theoretically could have been shared more widely than the simple IM between friends. That said, he noted that the DMCA notice appeared on the Dropbox webpage "immediately" after the link was generated, suggesting that Dropbox was automatically checking shared files somehow to see if they were copyrighted material rather than waiting for a specific DMCA takedown request.

Free clinic closes because all of their patients have ObamaCare now

Arkansas Free Clinic Closing, Citing More Insured Through Obamacare

A medical clinic in Mena, Ark. announced that it would be closing, citing a large drop in need for the clinic as people have signed up for health insurance under Obamacare.

"Because people are qualifying for insurance coverage through the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, our free medical clinic will not be needed anymore," Stacey Bowser, the director of the 9th Street Ministries Clinic, told the Mena Star.

"We’ve gone from seeing around 300 people a month on a regular basis, but as people were enrolling in Obamacare, the numbers we were seeing have dropped. We were down to 80 people that came through the medical clinic in February, all the way down to three people at the medical clinic in March. Our services won’t be needed anymore, and this will conclude our mission," she continued.

Bowser said that because the clinic was established to provide care to those without insurance, there are far fewer people who qualify for the missions's services, linking the drop in visitors to the health care law.

"This complete dropoff of numbers of people coming to the clinic is a result of all those who have successfully enrolled in an insurance policy now," she said.

The Obama administration announced on Thursday that enrollment under the health care law had hit 7.5 million people.

Common Core tests are just terrible

The tests penalize students for actually thinking and using their own words instead of mindlessly repeating the phrases in the reading sections. You could guess this was done so that the tests were more machine-readable and would make the testing company even more money.

If you can, boycott the tests. They are no good for students or teachers or school districts. They exist only to make money for testing firms and to give bureaucrats an excuse to close public schools.

Shhhh! New York’s Most Closely Guarded Secret | Diane Ravitch's blog

"And what exactly are we measuring? 2013 ELA test questions released on Engage NY show that students who used valid inferences in their written responses supported by paraphrased details from a passage did not receive full credit despite being correct and demonstrating a thorough understanding of the text. This is because the Common Core requires students to use a strategy called “close reading,” a strategy that requires them to support their answers using only “text-based details.” What this means is that a student who engages in higher-level thinking skills (such as inference) and who is able to explain a text in his or her own words will not score as a well as a students who simply copy text details verbatim into their response. If high-stakes testing encourages teaching to the test, could we actually be encouraging a dumbed-down, formulaic method of responding to a text? Without access to these tests, we may never know.”

April 07, 2014

Koch Brothers strip Kansas teachers of due process

BREAKING NEWS: Kansas Eliminates Due Process for Teachers, Expands Privatization | Diane Ravitch's blog

Responding to the extremist group Americans for Prosperity, funded by the Koch brothers, the Kansas state legislature enacted legislation that strips teachers of due process and expands “school choice” (aka privatization of public schools and their funding). In the future, teachers may be fired without a hearing.

The legislature used the pretext of a court ruling to equalize funding to enact proposals that align with the far-right ALEC organization.

Destroying due process is called “reform.” Teachers may be unjustly accused and fired without a hearing. They may be fired because they taught both sides of a controversial issue or expressed a controversial view. They may be fired because the principal doesn’t like the way they look or doesn’t like their race or religion. No reason is needed because there will be no hearing.

Without any right to a fair hearing, you can be sure that the word “evolution” will never be heard in many districts, nor any reference to global warming. Nor will many classics of American literature be taught. Books like “Huckleberry Finn,” “Invisible Man,” “The Grapes of Wrath,” are risky and controversial. Now is exactly when the children of Kansas and the U.S. should be reading “1984″ and “Brave New World.”

“The bill is potentially a big victory for conservative Republicans because it gives them some educational reforms they have sought while putting more money into schools.

April 05, 2014

"What I Want to Know Is Why You Hate Porn Stars?"

This is a beautiful piece about the awful way people react to a person who works in porn.

What I Want to Know Is Why You Hate Porn Stars by Conner Habib - Seattle Features - The Stranger, Seattle's Only Newspaper

It can't be factual. The reason you hate us, I mean. It's fine, not all emotions have to be based on facts. We're human beings, after all. I just wanted to make sure you knew it couldn't be factual.

You might think the thing that upsets you about us is that we're ruining society. And there are studies. You like to start sentences with the phrase, Studies show that...

But listen. The facts? You're going to have a hard time with them.

Every in-depth study that looks at how porn affects people ends up either supporting porn or rendering it neutral. Now, I know, I know, you're going to say, "But what about THIS one?" and point to a study I've never heard of. It'll say that porn is somehow rearranging our neural pathways or that such-and-such part of the brain lights up when we watch porn. But those studies are routinely debunked. Did you know that most of those anti-porn neuroscience studies don't have much evidence to back them up? Or that they have leap-of-faith conclusions? Don't take my word for it. Just look it up. Not right now? You want to keep reading? Well, all right.

So then you bring up the studies that say porn leads to sexual abuse. There actually aren't many of those, and the ones that exist have also been debunked. Did you know that sexual violence is more likely to occur in places that have sexually repressed atmospheres—including the banning of pornography? And did you know that there's no sociological data that clearly links pornography to sexual violence? Don't take my word for it. Just look it up.

Not right now? Okay, okay.

But sometime, just take an hour—or even a half hour—and investigate that.

You know what? Fuck it. Ten minutes. Just 10 minutes.

Christians are slaughtering every Muslim they can find in the Central African Republic

This is utterly horrible. Why isn't anyone talking about it?

The story of this church tells so much about the ethnic cleansing going on in the CAR | Public Radio International

The UN's chief special adviser on genocide prevention says that only 20 percent of the country's Muslims are left in the country. The rest have either fled or been killed by members of the Anti-Balaka militia, a Christian extremist militia that formed in 2013 after a Christian president was overthrown by a Muslim.

Since then, the violence perpetrated by the Anti-Balaka militia has continued largely unabated. The UN estimates that more than 290,000 people, mostly Muslims, have fled to neighboring countries. The country remains so dangerous that the UN has to airlift food to reach people displaced by the violence — delivery by truck is too dangerous.

The BBC's Tim Whewell recently returned from the Central African Republic, where he witnessed the attempts at ethnic cleansing first hand.

Whewell traveled for hours from the capital Bangui along dirt tracks in a forest to reach the town of Carnot in the west of the country. It's a place that few journalists or international agencies have reached. Once there, Whewell found a concrete church with a muddy compound full of displaced Muslims.

"It's an overwhelming sight when you first see it," says Whewell. "There are about a thousand Muslim fugitives with the few possessions they were able to bring with them, mostly battered foam mattresses."

They are there, says Whewell, because of a "remarkably courageous" local priest named Father Justin Nary, who offered refuge to the Muslims. Some traveled for up to two weeks through the bush to reach Carnot once they heard of the priest's offer.

April 04, 2014

Energy company pleased that 85 years of toxic dumping will only cost them $5 billion

Mining is one of those businesses where--once you calculate the clean-up and health damage--there are literally no profits. So what do you do? You don't pay for the damage.

Anadarko Agrees To Record $5 Billion Fine For '85 Years Of Poisoning The Earth' | ThinkProgress

Energy company Anadarko Petroleum Corp. on Thursday announced that it has agreed to pay $5.15 billion to clean up 85 years of harmful uranium, wood creosote, and rocket fuel pollution, in what is being widely reported as the largest environment settlement in history.

The deal with the U.S. Department of Justice ends a long-running lawsuit against the Kerr-McGee company, an energy and chemical company owned by Anadarko. Kerr-McGee, the lawsuit claimed, was responsible for detrimental pollution at more than 2,000 sites nationwide which caused at least 8,000 cases of cancer, which in some cases led to death.

“If you are responsible for 85 years of poisoning the earth, you are responsible for cleaning it up,” U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said at a press conference.

The settlement still must be approved by a federal judge after a 30-day public comment period. But if approved, U.S. Deputy Attorney General James Cole said $4.4 billion of the settlement would go toward cleanup and environmental claims.

Of that $4.4 billion, The Navajo Nation would get about $1 billion to remedy radioactive contamination from Kerr-McGee’s shuttered uranium mining operation, according to the litigation trust. $1.1 billion would address pollution from ammonium perchlorate, a primary component of fuel, in Nevada. Another $1.1 billion would be dedicated to cleaning up more than two dozen other contaminated sites around the U.S.

Though a $5.5 billion fine — larger even than the Justice Department’s settlement with BP over the 2010 Deepwater Horizon disaster — sounds like it would be harmful for even the largest company, it is being widely reported that Anadarko is enjoying numerous benefits from settling the claims.

When you layoff all your editors, don't be shocked when you find typos

The media conglomerate that runs a bunch of Ohio-based papers and websites laid off editors. And now they are suffering for it because without editors, it turns out no one is editing their content.

The best part here is the suggestion that the spouses of the writers should work as unpaid copy-editors.

[UPDATE] Northeast Ohio Media Group content chief institutes a zero-tolerance policy for typos JIMROMENESKO.COM

In January, St. Augustine Record’s publisher recruited readers to help accomplish her 2014 goal of eliminating typos and grammar mistakes.

“It seems to take an army to help turn this tide,” wrote publisher Delinda Fogel.

Chris Quinn

Chris Quinn

Northeast Ohio Media Group content chief Chris Quinn is similarly frustrated by what he and readers see on Cleveland.com.

“We hear from people about typos every day,” Quinn writes in a staff memo. “It’s a genuine crisis, and it threatens our long-term success. So I’m taking the drastic action of instituting a zero-tolerance policy for typos.”

His advice to Cleveland.com journalists:

Ask a colleague to read your stuff before you post it. Or your spouse. Or your significant other. I can’t tell you how many times my wife has caught typos in my stuff. In a pinch on something really important, you might even send something to Andrea, who, it turns out, is the most eagle-eyed finder of typos I’ve ever met. She’s merciless. [He's referring to Andrea Hogben, president of Northeast Ohio Media Group.]

The key is that you or someone you trust has to actively read your copy to find the spelling mistakes.

April 03, 2014

Adding unnecessary bleeps to the Avengers results in potty-mouthed hilarity

It also straight-up turns the blockbuster into its own fanfic.

The Avengers • Unnecessary Censorship - YouTube

Why do rich people hate Venezuela?

Venezuela is the poster child for reversing the power of the 1% and for using wealth to eradicate poverty. So why is the U.S. paying saboteurs to destroy their power grid?

DownWithTyranny!: If You're Asking If The U.S. Still Does Imperialism, You Have To Be Joking, Right?

According to the United Nations, Venezuela has consistently reduced inequality: It now has the lowest income inequality in the region. We have reduced poverty enormously-- to 25.4 percent in 2012, on the World Bank’s data, from 49 percent in 1998; in the same period, according to government statistics, extreme poverty diminished to 6 percent from 21 percent.

We have created flagship universal health care and education programs, free to our citizens nationwide. We have achieved these feats in large part by using revenue from Venezuelan oil.

…The claims that Venezuela has a deficient democracy and that current protests represent mainstream sentiment are belied by the facts. The antigovernment protests are being carried out by people in the wealthier segments of society who seek to reverse the gains of the democratic process that have benefited the vast majority of the people.

Antigovernment protesters have physically attacked and damaged health care clinics, burned down a university in T�chira State and thrown Molotov cocktails and rocks at buses. They have also targeted other public institutions by throwing rocks and torches at the offices of the Supreme Court, the public telephone company CANTV and the attorney general’s office. These violent actions have caused many millions of dollars’ worth of damage. This is why the protests have received no support in poor and working-class neighborhoods.

The protesters have a single goal: the unconstitutional ouster of the democratically elected government. Antigovernment leaders made this clear when they started the campaign in January, vowing to create chaos in the streets. Those with legitimate criticisms of economic conditions or the crime rate are being exploited by protest leaders with a violent, antidemocratic agenda.

In two months, a reported 36 people have been killed. The protesters are, we believe, directly responsible for about half of the fatalities. Six members of the National Guard have been shot and killed; other citizens have been murdered while attempting to remove obstacles placed by protesters to block transit.
. . .

U.S. secretly launched Cuban twitter analog aimed at encouraging revolution

It's 2012 and we are still trying to overthrow the government of Cuba.

US Secretly Tried To Gin Up A 'Cuban Spring' With Twitter-Like Network

The U.S. government secretly ran a Twitter-like communications network in Cuba aimed at encouraging an uprising against the island's communist government, according to an Associated Press investigation published Thursday.

The United States Agency for International Development set up a text-based social media platform in 2009 called ZunZuneo, which is slang for a hummingbird's tweet. The agency used shell companies in Spain and a Cayman Islands bank account to obscure the project's true origins and circumvent Cuba's strict Internet censorship.

Documents obtained by the AP showed that the U.S. government wanted to first attract subscribers to the service with news updates and then blast out political content once ZunZuneo gained popularity. The goal was to faciliate a sort of Cuban Spring, inspiring mass gatherings of people to "renegotiate the balance of power between the state and society," as one document read.

The company charged with building the service, Mobile Accord Inc., was also gathering valuable intelligence about the Cuban subscribers including "gender, age, 'receptiveness' and 'political tendencies,'" according to the AP.

But ZunZuneo had lost steam by the middle of 2012. The Cuban government caught onto the scheme by the time the service signed up just 40,000 subscribers in 2011, a former employee told the AP, and the company charged with finding an independent firm to take over the operation from the U.S. government failed in its search for new management.

Twitter co-founder Jack Dorsey met with a State Department official about potentially taking over funding for the project, according to documents obtained by the AP, although he declined comment on the matter.

April 02, 2014

Texas governor refuses to follow federal rape prevention law

Apparently it's too expensive to treat Americans in prison as if they were people deserving of any kind of consideration or protection.

Rick Perry orders Texas prisons not to follow federal rape prevention law | The Raw Story

Perry argued that because 40 percent of the correctional officers in male prisons were female, it would be impossible to comply with rules that prevented “cross-gender viewing” of inmates.

The governor also complained that the law “infringes on Texas’ right to establish the state’s own age of criminal responsibility” by mandating that inmates 17 years old and younger be separated from adults. And he said “specific staffing ratios for juvenile detention facilities” were unreasonably high.

“I encourage the administration to change these standards and do so soon,” Perry concluded. “Absent standards that acknowledge the operational realities in our prisons and jails, I will not sign your form and I will encourage my fellow governors to follow suit. In the meantime, Texas will continue the programs it has already implemented to reduce prison rapes.”

The San Antonio Express-News noted that the failure to follow federal law could result in criminal penalties, but federal officials have said Perry would not be charged with a crime. Officials from the Justice Department were expecting to meet with Texas officials to discuss the problem instead.

In a Texas Department of Criminal Justice training video for the Prison Rape Elimination Act that was leaked last year, a prison official explains that “offender on offender, or staff on offender abuse allows predatory offenders to grow strong at our expense. As they become powerful, our strength as a security force declines.”

April 01, 2014

Flash traders: the stock market is rigged

Much more here.

Michael Lewis’ new book Flash Boys: He says the stock market is rigged.

Kroft: What’s the advantage of speed?

Lewis: I’ll give you an example. If I am just an ordinary trader, at a bank, or an investor in Manhattan, and I’m trying to go buy stock, and I hit a button that says I’m going to buy 10,000 shares of Microsoft that seem to be out there, my trade signal goes up the West Side Highway, out the Lincoln Tunnel and arrives first at an exchange on the other side of the Lincoln Tunnel called the BATS Exchange. There are waiting high-frequency traders who have algorithms that are able to determine what it is I want to do. They then need to beat me to the other exchanges to buy the Microsoft I want to buy and sell it back to me at a higher price.

Kroft: And they’re doing that?

Lewis: They’re doing that. But they not only need to beat me. They need to beat each other. Beating me is easy. I’m just an ordinary investor operating at fairly ordinary speeds. Fast, but not that fast. Whoever’s the fastest to go get the Microsoft at the other exchanges that are scattered across New Jersey will have the advantage and can get them and sell them back to me because I need to buy them.

Kroft: At a higher price?

Lewis: At a higher price.

The NSA has been recording every call, text, and email in Iraq and five other countries

If some other country was recording every call you made in the U.S., wouldn't you be furious?

The NSA's Been Spying on Every Single Call, Text, and Email in Iraq

A couple weeks ago, we learned from leaked documents that the NSA has the capability to record an entire country's calls, texts, and email in real time. That's a hell of a capability, and those documents revealed that it was being used in one country. Now, thanks to a retired NSA leader, we know which country that is: Iraq.

In a curious turn of events, John "Chris" Inglis, who recently retired from the top civilian post, divulged the details of its sweeping surveillance program in a Los Angeles Times story by Ken Dilanian, who Glenn Greenwald calls "one of the most pro-NSA reporters in the country." Retired Gen. David Petraeus, the former U.S. commander in Iraq, told the Times that the surveillance effort was "absolutely invaluable." In a blog post, Greenwald goes on to say that the NSA—or rather the retired officer—revealed the details about Iraq "for no reason other than to make itself look good and to justify these activities."

No matter what the reasoning was, it's still pretty insane that the NSA can monitor every single phone call, text, and email in a country. They're doing that with six countries now, according to the leaked documents. But it's even more insane that friends of the NSA think fessing up to it is going to make the agency look good.

March 31, 2014

Judge suggests man who raped a three-year-old get probation instead of prison, because he's rich

Should we just make it officially the law that rich people are immune to felonies? Or should we just let judges keep acting like this and accepting it as normal that literal baby-rapers should do less jail time than people who shoplift?

The Ladder of Law Has No Top And No Bottom - Lawyers, Guns & Money : Lawyers, Guns & Money

A Superior Court judge who sentenced an heir to the du Pont fortune to probation for raping his 3-year-old daughter wrote in her order that he “will not fare well” in prison and suggested that he needed treatment instead of time behind bars, according to Delaware Online.

Court records show that in Judge Jan Jurden’s sentencing order for Robert H. Richards IV she considered unique circumstances when deciding his punishment for fourth-degree rape. Her observation that prison life would adversely affect Richards confused several criminal justice authorities in Delaware, who said that her view that treatment was a better idea than prison is typically used when sentencing drug addicts, not child rapists.

March 28, 2014

Entertainment Weekly to move to using free unpaid bloggers to write their content

There is a chance here, of course, to get the much vaunted exposure and to lure readers away from EW to buying your books, reading your blog, listening to your music, etc.

Entertainment Weekly’s disgraceful decision puts “prestige” over paying writers | The Passive Voice | A Lawyer's Thoughts on Authors, Self-Publishing and Traditional Publishing

Entertainment Weekly, the venerable consumer-friendly magazine about movies and TV and the like, is under the same crunch as the rest of the media industry; its parent company, Time Inc., has recently gone through a series of layoffs. But the manner in which the magazine is attempting to build out its brand is the absolute worst-case scenario — bad for authors and for readers.

Lucia Moses at Digiday reports that Entertainment Weekly is to launch an online “contributor network” that is to feature readers as writers, particularly on “TV and eventually other areas [...] staff reporters don’t cover deeply.” In other words, anyone can now write for Entertainment Weekly, but they shouldn’t expect a check.

. . . .

In an ideal world, writing for free would never happen — it’s work and should be compensated — but perhaps there is an argument that a community platform could give rise to particularly innovative or exciting takes. So far, the beta page is just recaps of TV shows in the EW house style. There’s something deeply disingenuous about opening up a website as a platform for young or eager writers to ply their trade for free when they’re not expected to do anything new. Why would Entertainment Weekly hire any of the people contributing to the community page when they’ve already shown they’re willing to do the work of a writer for free? Pardon me — not for free, as they’ll have the “prestige” and “access to editors” that Entertainment Weekly promises. Prestige entirely aside, how helpful or receptive will be editors staking their livelihoods on writers not waking up and demanding money for labor? How can any writer producing identical content to their counterpart distinguish herself enough to make exposure meaningful?

Michigan bans teaching students about Labor

It's almost refreshing when Republicans give the game away and flat out state that everything they do is to destroy unions and to oppress workers.

MSU Isn't Allowed To Teach Labor Courses Anymore

A state Senate panel approved a measure Thursday banning courses at public universities that promote or discourage organizing efforts. It’s a reaction to MSU’s recent decision to take over some programs from the National Labor College. Republicans say those courses violate the proposed rule. “I believe in academic freedom, and you’re going to have difficult subjects that you’re going to cover at any university,” said state Rep. Al Pscholka, R-Stevensville, who chairs the panel that directs higher education funding in the House. “But this is a case where I think we’re almost encouraging labor disputes, and I don’t think that’s appropriate.”

March 27, 2014

UNC caught giving athletes A grades for nearly illiterate papers

Either pay the student athletes or educate them. If you exploit for them no pay AND give them a sham education you're just being monstrous.

The UNC fake class scandal: Athlete got an A- for a one-paragraph paper.

The University of North Carolina–Chapel Hill has already been embroiled in a scandal for allowing its athletes to enroll in fake courses for easy credit. Now, the whole controversy has a rather potent visual symbol to go along with it: a 146-word, ungrammatical essay on Rosa Parks that earned an A-.

Mary Willingham, who spent a decade tutoring and advising UNC’s jocks before turning into a whistleblower, unveiled the paper during an interview with ESPN. As the segment explains, academically troubled UNC athletes were encouraged to sign up for so-called “paper classes”—which were essentially no-work independent studies involving a single paper that allowed functionally illiterate football players to prop up their GPAs, thus satisfying the NCAA’s eligibility requirements.
. . .
The paper's text:

On the evening of December Rosa Parks decided that she was going to sit in the white people section on the bus in Montgomery, Alabama. During this time blacks had to give up there seats to whites when more whites got on the bus. Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat. Her and the bus driver began to talk and the conversation went like this. “Let me have those front seats” said the driver. She didn’t get up and told the driver that she was tired of giving her seat to white people. “I’m going to have you arrested,” said the driver. “You may do that,” Rosa Parks responded. Two white policemen came in and Rosa Parks asked them “why do you all push us around?” The police officer replied and said “I don’t know, but the law is the law and you’re under arrest.

Archaeologists think they've discovered the remains if Attila the Hun and his magic sword

If they didn't already know where it was how did they harvest his DNA to form Serpentor?

Hungary: Archeologists Discover Tomb of Attila the Hun

“This site is absolutely incredible!” explains Albrecht Rümschtein, an historian from the Lorand Eötvös University in Budapest and member of the team of specialists investigating the tomb. “We found many horse skeletons, as well as various weapons and other artefacts, all traditionally associated with Huns. These objects include a large sword made of meteoric iron, which could certainly be Attila’s legendary “Holy War Sword of the Scythians”, allegedly given to him by the god Mars himself. In fact, this definitely seems to be the resting place of the almighty Attila, but further analysis needs to be done to confirm it.”

Nicknamed “the scourge of God” by roman historians, Attila was the ruler of the Huns, a nomadic people originating possibly from Central Asia. He ruled from 434 A.D., until his death in 453 after a feast celebrating his latest marriage to a beautiful and young gothic princess named Ildico. He led many military raids on both the Eastern and Western Roman Empires provoquing what has become knowned as the Barbarian Invasions or the Great Migration, a large movement of germanic populations that greatly accelerated the fall of Rome and the advent of the Middle Ages in Europe. He his considered by most Hungarians, as the founder of the country.

The discovery of this funerary site could bring many clarifications concerning the origins and identity of the hunnic people and of Attila himself, which have both been sources of debate for centuries. The analysis of pieces of pottery and jewelry found on the site, should bring a new light on their cultural origins and trade networks, and help scientists better understand this badly documented people.
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March 26, 2014

State senator indicted in massive investigation into trafficking, gun running, and murder for hire

Drugs, Money, And Murder: Federal Authorities Unseal Criminal Complaint Against Senator Leland Yee, 25 Others

Federal authorities have unsealed a criminal complaint in San Francisco today alleging charges including drug trafficking, gun running, money laundering and murder for hire against 26 people, including state Sen. Leland Yee.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation arrested Yee this morning, along with infamous Chinatown gang leader Raymond “Shrimp Boy” Chow. Chow is the president of the Supreme Lodge of Chinese Free Masons in San Francisco.
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March 25, 2014

Apple and Google and dozens of other tech firms conspired to illegally keep worker pay as low as possible

Apple and Google’s wage-fixing cartel involved dozens more companies, over one million employees | The Passive Voice | A Lawyer's Thoughts on Authors, Self-Publishing and Traditional Publishing

Back in January, I wrote about “The Techtopus” — an illegal agreement between seven tech giants, including Apple, Google, and Intel, to suppress wages for tens of thousands of tech employees. The agreement prompted a Department of Justice investigation, resulting in a settlement in which the companies agreed to curb their restricting hiring deals. The same companies were then hit with a civil suit by employees affected by the agreements.

This week, as the final summary judgement for the resulting class action suit looms, and several of the companies mentioned (Intuit, Pixar and Lucasfilm) scramble to settle out of court, Pando has obtained court documents (embedded below) which show shocking evidence of a much larger conspiracy, reaching far beyond Silicon Valley.

Confidential internal Google and Apple memos, buried within piles of court dockets and reviewed by PandoDaily, clearly show that what began as a secret cartel agreement between Apple’s Steve Jobs and Google’s Eric Schmidt to illegally fix the labor market for hi-tech workers, expanded within a few years to include companies ranging from Dell, IBM, eBay and Microsoft, to Comcast, Clear Channel, Dreamworks, and London-based public relations behemoth WPP. All told, the combined workforces of the companies involved totals well over a million employees.

. . . .

Although the Department ultimately decided to focus its attention on just Adobe, Apple, Google, Intel, Intuit, Lucasfilm and Pixar, the emails and memos clearly name dozens more companies which, at least as far as Google and Apple executives were concerned, formed part of their wage-fixing cartel.

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March 22, 2014

Alabama has reinstituted debtors' prisons

This is slavery.

Alabama Town Allegedly Imprisons Poor People And Tells Them To Scrub Floors To Pay Off Traffic Fines | ThinkProgress

A handful of unpaid traffic tickets landed four residents of Montgomery, AL in jail, where they were told to work off their debt by scrubbing floors and serving food, according to a lawsuit filed in federal court Tuesday.

The complaint charges that Montgomery is running an illegal debtors’ prison by imprisoning poor people who can’t afford to pay fines. To pay off their debts faster, inmates allegedly compete for jobs around the jail, like cleaning feces and blood off the floor. One plaintiff, 23-year-old Sharnalle Mitchell, says she was told she could work off her debt at $25 a day, and started keeping track of how quickly she could get back to her children on the back of a paper the guards had given her. “There were a lot of other women in the City jail, and most of them were desperate to get out, so we were all competing with each other to get the cleaning work so that we could work off our debts more quickly,” she wrote in her statement to the court.

Another plaintiff, 58-year-old Lorenzo Brown, reported that the jail was so crowded he had to sleep on the floor, even though he has various disabilities including arthritis and join pain. The Montgomery Legal Department and the Department of Public Safety declined to comment on the ongoing case.

Debtors prisons, nominally abolished in the U.S. in the 1830s, are enjoying a resurgence after the recession simultaneously pushed more people into poverty and squeezed cash-strapped court systems hungry for revenue. Courts are legally required to assess the defendants’ ability to pay, but in several recent cases across the country, attorneys have reported that judges simply skipped over that determination. Another case currently being pursued against Montgomery charges that one judge refused to even look at a letter from an employer explaining that the man in question would not be able to afford payments because work had been slow.

Judge DESTROYS Mark Regnerus In Same-Sex Marriage Ruling

This dude is one of those slimy academics-for-hire who gets told what the results should look like before he begins his research. I hope he never works again after this.

Joe. My. God.: MICHIGAN: Judge DESTROYS Mark Regnerus In Same-Sex Marriage Ruling

"The Court finds Regnerus’s testimony entirely unbelievable and not worthy of serious consideration. The evidence adduced at trial demonstrated that his 2012 'study' was hastily concocted at the behest of a third-party funder, which found it 'essential that the necessary data be gathered to settle the question in the forum of public debate about what kinds of family arrangement are best for society' and which 'was confident that the traditional understanding of marriage will be vindicated by this study.' While Regnerus maintained that the funding source did not affect his impartiality as a researcher, the Court finds this testimony unbelievable. The funder clearly wanted a certain result, and Regnerus obliged. Whatever Regnerus may have found in this 'study,' he certainly cannot purport to have undertaken a scholarly research effort to compare the outcomes of children raised by same-sex couples with those of children raised by heterosexual couples. It is no wonder that the NFSS has been widely and severely criticized by other scholars, and that Regnerus’s own sociology department at the University of Texas has distanced itself from the NFSS in particular and Dr. Regnerus’s views in general." - Judge Bernard Friedman, in his ruling that Michigan's ban on same-sex marriage is unconstitutional.

I want to gay-marry those scare quotes around "study"!

March 21, 2014

Former Undercover Drug Narc on Why Police Don't Bust White People

Former Undercover Drug Narc on Why Police Don't Bust White People and How He Turned Against Drug War | Alternet

How did the violence start? The drug trade. No, not so much the drug trade, but policing the drug trade. We always had drugs, but we didn’t always have violence in our streets. Back then, there were major drug organizations in the city that divided up different areas among themselves. “That’s your area, this is ours, and if we have problems, we settle them among ourselves.” Violence was bad for business. When the drug war began, though, we started dismantling those organizations. The vacancies that we created were filled by the sons of the men we sent to prison. The sons fought each other over who would fill those vacancies. They went to the street corners, and gangs started developing, and six organizations turned into 600.

So there’s actually an increase in violence after every drug bust?

Yes, that’s exactly right. There’s also an increase in overdoses. People overdose because their dealer got arrested and they have to go to a new dealer. With their old dealer, he always mixes it the same way, so they know what the potency is. Suddenly, though, they’re buying from this new guy and have no idea how potent it is. Too much and they’re dead. The problems of drug use and addiction are real, but the policies of prohibition don’t get rid of them and end up creating a whole bunch of other problems.
. . .

So it was racially motivated?

In most cases I don’t think it was. It’s just easier to bust those guys. You give me a squad of narcs and drug dogs, and we’ll go to some affluent white community. I can walk down the streets sniffing cars, do some knock-and-talks, and I assure you we’ll come across some marijuana parties. I guarantee I can come out of there with some drug arrests. But after the first day, after the mayor’s phone rings off the hook—that’s the end of that operation.