Author Archives: Jeremy

US and EU Sign Food Safety Pact

The agreement is intended to encourage the sharing of confidential scientific and other information between EFSA and the FDA, such as methodologies to ensure that food is safe.

This is good news considering the massive amounts of food safety problems recently reported concerning China (where it seems like everything but Americans are made). But the Chinese people are no happier about it than the rest of us apparently:

"There's a great deal of concern, a great deal of anger as well at the government for what appears to them to be a lack of concern about food and health safety standards — basic things that for a while, Chinese people took for granted."

Doesn't sound that different from us. The FDA is a failure as a regulatory body often favoring businesses over people.

It's too bad that the Chinese system of punishing corrupt agency directors can't be used here 🙂

iPhone Hack Makes It Usable Without AT&T

One of the biggest problems with the iPhone is that they're exclusive to AT&T's service (a company that is at the very bottom of cell providers due to privacy problems). Fortuneately, it was only a matter of time before the good hackers of the world broke that link and they're making some progress already.

(H/T to Slashdot for the link)

Update: 7/6/07

Another hack here that seems to be more comprehensive. That didn't take long.

Windows Vista Proven to be Spyware

Spyware: Any software that covertly gathers user information through the user's Internet connection without his or her knowledge, usually for advertising purposes. Spyware applications are typically bundled as a hidden component of freeware or shareware programs that can be downloaded from the Internet. Once installed, the spyware monitors user activity on the Internet and transmits that information in the background to someone else.

Because of the End User License Agreement of Vista, Microsoft arguably has the legal right to collect a large amount of data on you and report it back to their home servers. Some will say that they're not hidden, but is being buried in a giant EULA that most people don't have the expertise to understand really the same as full disclosure?

Microsoft says that users have the possibility to disable or not use the features and services altogether. But at the same time Windows update is crucial to the security of Windows Vista, so turning it off is not really an option, is it?

Not only that, but you have to know this a problem and then perform the immense amount of work required to identify all the various services and features that spy on you and disable them properly. By the time you're done, you won't really be using much of the software that came with Vista in the first place.

(H/T to Slashdot for the link)

Bush Quick to Pardon Old Friends Crimes

I really did wonder if Bush would have the guts to pardon Libby which only furthers the image that he's cultivated over the years as being someone who completely flouts the law. To be straight, he didn't actually pardon him, just commuted, but that still means that Libby won't be seing the inside of a jail.

He's left instead with a $250,000 fine and probation, but gosh if that 3 year sentance wasn't "excessive". Bush couldn't allow that for a loyal lier. Torture is ok for people that look like terrorists, but bushies remain ever safe.

The president noted Libby supporters' argument that the punishment did not fit the crime for a "first-time offender with years of exceptional public service."

Oh really? He was convicted of a "five-count indictment alleging perjury, obstruction of justice and making false statements to FBI investigators" during an investiagation of presidential misconduct. His actions shielded the nation's highest criminal and this quote definitely applies:

"People who occupy these types of positions, where they have the welfare and security of the nation in their hands, have a special obligation to not do anything that might create a problem"

If ever someone someday pardons Bush and Cheney, their career will die (I hope).

(H/T to Slashdot for the link)

Desperate T-Mobile Rep Tries to Retain New Iphone Customer

From the "Wow that's funny, though very, very sad" department, we hear a story of a T-Mobile rep who tries desperately to keep a customer from cancelling his account because of buying the new iPhone.

The best part is probably when Vic asks Matt if he still wants to stay with Tmobile and Matt says, "No," and then Vic asks, "Was that a yes?"

They try to sell him to taking to the Tmobile Wing, give him a month of free service, or reduce his service fee to $20 a month and keep his phone "as a backup."

Though very funny because this happened to someone with the tenacity to see it through, it's sad because this is the kind of back-handed harrassement that customers often have to go through to cancel services. Just look at the famous AOL cancellation video from not that long ago.

Of course, the other sad part is that the iPhone is AT&T service which we all know to avoid.

Supreme Court Catching Heat for Correct Decision?

There's a lot of angry news out there saying that the US Supreme Court's recent ruling against school diversity plans is a major set back to racial equality. The catalyst was a suit brought by parents who's kids had been the subject of discrimination:

One plaintiff in the case was a white woman in Louisville whose son was denied a transfer to attend kindergarten in a school that needed more black pupils to keep its minority population at the district-required minimum of 15 percent.

Excuse me, but isn't still discrimination even if the kid is white?

We only hope those schools will continue to value racial diversity and will make the effort to identify and use other methods to integrate classrooms.

How about accepting whoever lives in the area? If you're in a primarily white town, the students will reflect that. If you're in a highly hispanic or black neighborhoods, you'll probably end up with hispanic and black children. Discriminiation will never end if we have all these laws that focus only on skin color (no matter what the reason).

Bush Refuses Subpeonas Under Executive Privilege

This shouldn't surprise anyone. Hopefully, this will go to a full showdown between him and congress. But considering any kind of proceedings to force the information from him will take longer than he has in office, chances are that it may not mean much.

I wonder what kind of repercussions there are for someone who has been proven to abuse the office after the fact?

Gap Selling Bikinis to 3 Year Olds

I thought that retailers were done making sex objects out of children after that last fiasco, but apparently, I was wrong.

Though the article states that the sizes are for 18 month olds and up, the actual size chart only goes down to roughly 3 year old size (according to a pediatric growth chart I found).

That aside, there's several problems with this. First: what kind of stupid sleazy retailer values money so much that they would make suggestive articles like bikinis for kids? Second: what parent in their right mind would buy this stuff?

And you wonder why I'm a proponet of industry regulation…

Why Data-Rape is Bad (Ask the Japanese)

Bruce Schneier posted a great essay about how US Census data was used by the government to incarcerate innocent Japanese Americans during WWII.

When we think about our personal data, what bothers us most is generally not the initial collection and use, but the secondary uses. I personally appreciate it when Amazon.com suggests books that might interest me, based on books I have already bought. I like it that my airline knows what type of seat and meal I prefer, and my hotel chain keeps records of my room preferences. I don't mind that my automatic road-toll collection tag is tied to my credit card, and that I get billed automatically. I even like the detailed summary of my purchases that my credit card company sends me at the end of every year. What I don't want, though, is any of these companies selling that data to brokers, or for law enforcement to be allowed to paw through those records without a warrant.

He goes on to say that the two dangers of data rape (a.k.a data mining or data brokering) are that when people aren't certain that their data is private, they become less willing to provide it or give false information. The second is the risk of errors in the data which can cause different kinds of headaches alltogether (think of the no-fly list snafus).

Most of us who complain about the systems and laws that are changing for the worse over time (and especially during the regime of emperor Bush and our flacid Congress) are those who can clearly see how they can be used for more than intended. But you don't have to be a visionary to see what can happen. Look into history instead.

Be Warned – Was Small and Private, Now Huge Data Mine

Facebook is a Myspace-like social networking site that was originally designed to be accessible only be members of schools and universities (which was verified by .edu email addresses). It has recently opened to the general public probably in order to become more competitive against Myspace.

In the latest news, Facebook is actively seeking buyers advertising the data they hold as being the "most valuable data in the history of the media world".

Now let's look at the data they hold again: tons and tons of vital information on teenagers and young college students. It's sick, but yeah, big business would salivate to have all that data in their clutches.

The Lesson

Remember that even if the site you signed up for promises to protect your data, that doesn't mean it always will. Privacy policies can change without notice.

New York Affirms Open Source Code for E-Voting… Even for Microsoft

Microsoft wasn't thrilled by the idea that their source code might end up being available to the New York State Board of Elections if they determined that looking at e-voting code was necessary. They attempted to change a NY law that requires code escrow (meaning they have to give the code to a third party that will provide the code to the election board under certain circumstances), but fortunately, they failed.

The e-voting company in question (Sequoia Voting Systems), isn't too happy either:

A spokeswoman for Sequoia Voting Systems, which uses some of Microsoft's development technology in its devices, defended her company's lobbying. "We also vigorously protect our intellectual property and trade secrets as well as the overall security of our voting system," she said. Sequoia currently complies with all current state and federal review and escrow laws, she noted.

Over the past year, she said Sequoia has worked with the Elections Board to satisfy its requirements without disclosing any third-party proprietary source code such as Microsoft's. After the legislature's session closed, she expressed frustration, claiming the issue remains unresolved. "We would ideally like to work with the board to reach a solution that works for all parties involved," she said Friday.

How about an e-voting system that works? That would be nice for a change.

Germany Bans Tom Cruise Film Shoot for scientology Beliefs

I almost hesitated to get involved in promoting this kind of story since cults can be very scary, but I think cowardice only encourages villains. In any case, I think that masquerading as a religion for monetary reasons is about the lowest you can get and that's exactly what scientology is (and fortunately, the German government knows it).

Cruise, also one of the film's producers, is a member of the Church of Scientology which the German government does not recognise as a church. Berlin says it masquerades as a religion to make money, a charge Scientology leaders reject.

Of course they do.

Anyway, it would simplify things a lot if the American government automatically rejected all claims for religion status for groups that have secrecy as one of their core beliefs. No true religion has secrets. Only scams where they know there's no way you'll swallow the whole enchilada until you've been properly "conditioned" at the lower levels.

(H/T to Digg.com for the link)

Oregon Fights Payday Lender Scum

It's not as good as West Virginia(who banned all payday lending), but Oregon has taken a first important step to contain the evil that is payday lending.

The new laws should significantly ease the triple-digit interest rates charged by payday lenders and their cousins, auto title lenders. Indeed, payday lenders say the new laws will drive them out of the state altogether. Whether that is so remains to be seen, but the laws still allow payday lenders, through a combination of interest rates and "origination fees," to charge effective annual interest rates of well over 150% on one-month loans.

I like this line too:

If that's so, however, the demise of the industry might not be a bad thing at all. Any industry whose best argument is that it can only make money by exploiting the worst of its credit risks, and keeping them in a never-ending cycle of renewals and interest payments, doesn't seem to have much going for it.

Hear, hear.

GOA Proves Bush Broke Laws per Signing Statements

President Bush has asserted that he is not necessarily bound by the bills he signs into law, and yesterday a congressional study found multiple examples in which the administration has not complied with the requirements of the new statutes.

Which paraphrased means he broke the law again.

Question: Is it just me or is something really wrong here? What is it that I don't understand about this equation? He breaks the law, he get's put in jail. That obviously hasn't happened so what's wrong? Why won't congress or the media actually say it like it is? Why do they dance around it?

Is it cowardice? Is it impotence? Is it pure politics? Why is a president like the one we have now allowed to not only stay out of prison, but to keep his job as the leader of our country?

(H/T to Privacy.org for the link)

Privacy Changes Coming Soon?

According to Computer World, we could be getting some strong privacy protections similar to what the European Union has now.

From the EU's privacy directive:

Only the minimum personal data needed should be collected, and it should be retained for the minimum time necessary.

The subject has the right to know whom is keeping and accessing their personal data, and the right to examine the data and to have the data removed or changed.

Those would go a long way towards ending data rape issues.

The main point of the author is that self-regulation doesn't work which I agree with whole-heartedly.

(H/T to Slashdot for the link)

For Posterity – Why You Should Date a Geek

I found this while cleaning out some mail folders and I think it's still very relevant.

Why Geeks and Nerds Are Worth It…

My favorite:

You’ll almost never have to hear, “Yaw dawg whazzap!! ? plop out of their mouths. Unless it’s in jest. They spell properly, use correct punctuation, and are able to tell the difference between the toilet and the floor. They almost never get “wasted ?, so you won’t have to worry about coming home to find him and his friends passed out on the floor amidst a pile of beer bottles. Mt. Dew cans, perhaps…

TSA Harasses Mother For Sippy Cup of Water

The TSA is about the worst example of a security agency that there is. Nearly everything they do is pure theater and doesn't actually help us at all and yet they continue merrily on their way abusing us and making airports a living nightmare for all with no apparent improvement to security.

In this case, a mother was detained, humiliated, threatened with arrest and generally abused because she brought a tiny sippy cup of water through security for her 19 month old son.

At this point, I was detained against my will by the police officer and threatened to be arrested for endangering other passengers with the spilled 3 to 4 ounces of water. I was ordered to clean the water, so I got on my hands and knees while my son sat in his stroller with no shoes on since they were also screened and I had no time to put them back on his feet. I asked to call back my fiancé, who I could still see from afar, waiting for us to clear security, to watch my son while I was being detained, and the officer threatened to arrest me if I moved.

Freaking idiots.

I wonder how long this kind of crap will continue. I hope someone files a lawsuit against the TSA and soon. The judicial branch appears to be the only one that's working right now anyway.