Another reason I will boycott the Olympics

It’s now clear to me that the Olympics is just about money, not athletics anymore.  And this is so sad.

World’s largest McDonald’s: A big ad for obesity, say British doctors

And it’s more than just the symbolism for obesity supported by an organization that should be fighting it.  It’s about the exclusivity.  If we are going to get fat at the Olympics, we should have a choice.  What they should be doing is leasing out space for as much money as they can, to whoever is willing to lease it.  Let people have a choice.  And maybe one of those choices won’t be as bad for you (like maybe Subway).

And they are going to have a McDonalds in the athletic village, too?  How utterly sad.

I would also like to boycott McDonalds for this, too.  But I can’t because I already avoid the fools gold arches just because of the junk they sell.  Same for Coca-Cola.

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New Jersey made a mistake!

Oh heavens no!  Tell me it ain’t so!  A state agency making a mistake?

Of course we know state government agencies make mistakes all the time.  And federal government agencies do, too.  But in this case, how do we know that the state is not making yet another mistake now?  How does this woman know they miscalculated again and they really owe her money?  Well, until the state coughs up all the original calculations, and explains how they were wrong then, and what they should have been, back then, we just won’t know one way or the other.

NJ has Amesbury woman on hook for decades-old $73 debt

If this were happening to me, I’d treat it like any other undocumented debt … except for the fact that this is very unlikely to be a scammer since the state was contacted already and they admit to claiming this debt.  If it is in fact a genuine debt, it can be paid directly to the state.

What I would do is demand full validation of the debt.  But I would go beyond merely the kind of bogus validation the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (which doesn’t apply here, anyway) allows for to defer debt collection.  I would demand the state prove they made the original mistake by showing the original calculations that were in error, and the corrected calculations that come up with the $73 difference, and cite state laws that support the corrected calculations.  I would also demand documentation how it is the original error was allowed to happen in the first place and what methods were put in place to ensure that kind of mistake could not happen again.  And I would demand documentation of what efforts were made at the time the mistake was discovered to ask for the money back.  These demands would all be done through the legal process.

I do believe in paying one’s debts.  But I also believe in making absolutely and positively sure the debt is correct (and in the case of debt collectors, see proof that the collector claiming it really owns the debt … which is actually quite rare).

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Text spam joins telemarketing

Text spam has joined telemarketing as the things about phone service that everyone hates.  Everyone except the telemarketers and spammers, that is.

Mobile Spam Texts Hit 4.5 Billion Raising Consumer Ire [BloombergBusinessWeek]

What’s worse is that so much telemarketing has, and soon for sure the texting spam will have, forged phone numbers.  And the phone companies don’t care … they just let it happen (because they make money from telemarketers and no doubt from the text spammers as well).

Here’s what I think is needed to start solving this problem:

A law to require all phone companies to validate all caller ID info at the point where the call enters the phone carrier networks.  If the call has caller ID blocked, that’s OK (see below).  If the call has caller ID number info, that number must be checked against the number of the line it comes through.  If that is a match, allow it to go through.  If it is not a match, look up the account the line belongs to and see if the number is the ONE number that customer is allowed present as caller ID and which has also been regularly verified (at least every 3 months) as one which the public can reach a real human being at.

This law shall also require all phone companies to allow customers to block calls from “no number available” as well as any numbers they provide.

The only allowed exceptions are cases where the law recognizes a need for caller anonymity.  For example calls placed from a Protective Shelter via a supervised (but not monitored) phone line (supervision to prevent it from being used to cause abuses).

Of course, it would be better to outlaw telemarketing altogether.  But that would be a hard thing to have done, given the free speech issues.  Even outlawing autodialing would be great, and even that would be hard to get politicians to go for.  So, for the time being, I propose the above law so that at least we can have a better means to get back at the scammers that are forging phone numbers.

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Here we go again – TSA a third time

Newark Airport terminal shut after baby goes through checkpoint unscreened

It seems the TSA still doesn’t “get it”.  First, they made a serious error by not checking the baby.  In theory, if this were a terrorist family, mom could have passed some weapon to dad on the baby.  That is why the correct procedure is to check everyone again.  Eventually they realized this mistake.

They really should have shutdown the airport themselves because if this is a terrorist family, there may be others working with them to whom they could have passed on the weapon (if there was one).  Of course shutting down an airport is a major issue.  But it is the fault of these officers for the original mistake.  The entire airport would need to be evacuated and rechecked (yes, that is what is supposed to happen).

What they do not “get” is that this is NOT an issue about their authority to shutdown an airport or do pat-downs on children.  The issue is about how they have handled the situations.  They have been handling them very poorly.  Screaming at children, or even their parents, is not appropriate.  Sure, if people come in contact with someone that is unscreened, all those in that contact must be screened again.  That’s just basic security logic.

They seem to be fearing the wrong things.  The TSA officers need to be following what is shown on the website (link in previous post here).  They should be dealing with children gently, and allow the parents or guardians to participate in getting the children screened, even if it means screening the adults again (which it should).

They need to be working with all the public “gently” because even though they must process everyone with no exceptions, the vast majority are not terrorists.  And they do not need to shutdown a whole airport if the people who are unscreened are still there at the station to be screened.

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CISPA is Wrong for Security

The Republican controlled House passed its version of the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act (CISPA) bill yesterday.  This was, however, a bipartisan vote.  That means some members of both parties (28 Republicans, 140 Democrats) have a clue, while more (206 Republicans, 42 Democrats) don’t.

[Text of HR3523, PDF]

This bill is wrong for America.  Security “at all cost” is wrong.  If security destroys our freedom, then that security itself is what we need to be protected from.  The terrorists are winning when they manage to get our own government to take away our rights.

But this bill is even worse than that.  Contrary to it’s name (and this a form of fraud upon the American people by whoever gave it this name), this bill covers non-security areas like intellectual property rights.  This should be out of this bill and put into one of its own where it can be properly voted up or down based on its own merits or lack thereof.  And then security can be voted up or down on its own merits, too.

CISPA wants to not only allow corporations to provide private information to the government without a court order, contrary to the 4th Amendment of the US Constitution (and possibly also the 5th and others), but it also wants to shield corporations who exchange this information between themselves.

The non-security aspects of CISPA are even worse because it inserts some of the bad provisions of SOPA.  This should not have been in a security bill at all.

President Barack Obama has stated that this bill … “does not contain adequate oversight or accountability measures necessary to ensure that the data is used only for appropriate purposes.” [Download PDF]  I wonder why it is the bill’s supporters did not want to have accountability.  I hope Mr. Obama keeps his word.

Representative Ron Paul (R-TX) has called this bill “Big Brother writ large.” [Cnet][The Hill][New American]  Most other House Republicans should be holding their heads low in shame for breaking with their own party’s principle of reducing, not expanding, government.

[Wikipedia information on CISPA/HR3523]

Call and/or write your Senators and ask them to vote NO on the Senate version of this bill … to protect our privacy, protect our freedoms, and to flip the finger at terrorists who want to destroy our liberty.

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TSA – Two In A Row

Keep it up, TSA, and I’ll have to make a separate blog just for your antics.  We have another case of TSA officers (TSOs) having no clue about the TSA policies published on their own web site … and a TSA spokesperson trying to divert attention away from the abusive actions by its officers.

Report: TSA Has No Idea How To Screen A 7-Year-Old With Cerebral Palsy [The Consumerist]

It seems there’s one common element here in this case and the one in my previous post here … the Supervisor or Manager seems to be able to figure it out.

Is the TSA just not training these people properly?  It seems plausible because from what the spokesperson is saying, there might be some cover up going on.  This is based on the spokesperson failing to address all the factors involved.

One thing is for sure, either heads need to roll or retraining is needed.

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TSA, Again – Has Some Explaining To Do

Here we go again.  Over on The Consumerist site is another story about yet another TS failure involving a child.  This time the TSA believes the officers followed proper procedures.  However, the TSA web site explains something entirely different.  So either the TSA spokesperson was not really aware of the situation, or something is serious wrong with that agency.

According to this page at the TSA web site:

Security officers will approach children gently and treat them with respect. If a child becomes uncomfortable or upset, security officers will consult parents about the best way to relieve the child’s concern.

That is not what happened according to the story.  A crying child is certainly a form of being upset.  This should be obvious.  But some TSO apparently didn’t get it and proceeded to make things worse.  And continued on when the child and mother were taken to another room.

And about the TSO that threatened to shut down the entire airport?  This kind of thing should never be used as a threat mechanism.  Either he believes the airport is at risk and does so (shuts it down), or does not believe so (and does not shut it down).  Making threats along these lines is completely misappropriate because a difference in action as ordered in this case has no bearing, whatsoever, on whether the airport is or is not at risk.

I’ll let you read the accompany Consumerist story and the Facebook story linked from there to make your own judgment of how appropriate or inappropriate the officers’ actions were.  Eventually a manger with some clearer thinking got things on the right track.  But there’s something wrong if the officers cannot do things right on their own.  Training?  Maybe.  But I’m very concerned about what the agency said to The Consumerist.  Security is certainly important.  But not this way.  The TSA spokesperson that characterized the officers’ actions as appropriate, when they were clearly in conflict with the TSA web page given, has some explaining to do.

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