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Posts Tagged ‘profits

Criminal hacker who coded Mariposa botnet jailed in Slovenia

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A hacker accused of masterminding one of the biggest ever botnets has been sentenced to just under 5 years in jail.

Matjaz Skorjanc was arrested in 2010 after a two-year investigation into malware that had hijacked about 12.7 million computers around the world.

The 27-year-old was found guilty of creating the Mariposa botnet software, assisting others in “wrongdoings” and money laundering…

In addition to the 58-month jail term, Skorjanc was also ordered to pay a €4,000 fine and give up a flat and car he was alleged to have bought with money he had received from a Spanish criminal syndicate.

The prosecutors in the case have said they also intended to challenge the Slovenian court’s ruling because they had wanted a tougher jail sentence of seven-and-a-half-years.

The former medical student’s ex-girlfriend Nusa Coh was also sentenced to eight months probation for money laundering…

The botnet got its name because it was created with software called ButterFly Flooder that was alleged to have been written by Skorjanc and advertised on the net as a way to “stress test” computer networks and remotely control Windows and Linux PCs.

Computers in more than 190 countries were infected by Mariposa, which spread by a variety of methods including via instant messages, peer-to-peer file-sharing systems and removable storage devices…

The scale of the problem led the FBI to team up with European law enforcement agencies, the Georgia Tech Information Security Center and other security experts to track down the perpetrators…

“I think the sentence is significant and will be remembered as a milestone in the prosecution of cybercrimes,” Keith Murphy, chief executive of Defence Intelligence told the BBC.

It’s a milestone among adults. Too many hackers still have an understanding of life and society barely beyond sophomoric. Little understanding of commerce and freedom of communication makes clowns like Skorjanc an ideal candidate for the NSA and the criminal clones aping their ideology around the world. He just happened to choose the overt variety of corruption and evil.

Nice to see something more than the slap-on-the-wrist style usually reserved for petit bourgeois anarchists and profiteers.

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Written by Ed Campbell

December 24, 2013 at 2:00 pm

Class action lawsuit claims InBev watering down Budweiser beer

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Anheuser-Busch InBev NV (ABI), the world’s biggest brewer, was sued by consumers in three U.S. states for allegedly overstating the alcohol content in its Budweiser beer.

AB InBev’s St. Louis-based Anheuser-Busch Cos. routinely adds extra water to its finished products to produce malt beverages with significantly less alcohol content than displayed on its labels, violating state statutes on consumer protection, according to a complaint filed yesterday in federal court in Philadelphia. Similar lawsuits were filed in federal courts in New Jersey and San Francisco.

“AB’s customers are overcharged for watered-down beer and AB is unjustly enriched by the additional volume it can sell,” Thomas and Gerald Greenberg said in the Philadelphia complaint…

The claims against Anheuser-Busch are “completely false,” Peter Kraemer, the company’s vice president of brewing and supply, said in an e-mail…“Our beers are in full compliance with all alcohol labeling laws,” Kraemer said….

The complaints accuse the AB InBev unit of also mislabeling the amount of alcohol in Bud Ice, Bud Light Platinum, Michelob, King Cobra, Busch Ice, Black Crown, Bud Light Lime, Hurricane High Gravity Lager, Natural Ice and Michelob Ultra.

Josh Boxer, an attorney for plaintiffs in California, said additional lawsuits will be filed against the company in Ohio and Colorado. The California complaint, filed by Sonoma County residents Nina Giampaoli and John Elbert, seek to represent consumers in the state and consumers nationwide who have purchased AB InBev products in the past five years. All three complaints seek damages exceeding $5 million.

Total damages “could be quite significant based on the volume of products that AB produces a year,” Boxer said…

You betcha!

AB InBev allegedly keeps the alcohol level for each batch of malt beverage at specifications above the desired final product at least initially then adds water and CO2 to the final stage of the brewing process, according to the complaint.

The company began using in-line alcohol measuring instruments known as Anton Paar meters that can measure the alcohol content in malt beverages to within hundredths of one percent, according to the complaint. AB allegedly uses the precision technology to shave the alcohol content instead of providing consumers with a product based on the stated label, the Greenbergs said in the complaint.

Adding water to the brewing process cuts the stated alcohol content by 3 to 8 percent, Boxer said.

Budweiser announced the takeover move by InBev in 2006 – which was completed in 2009. Beaucoup Budweiser fans worried about an even larger corporate entity screwing with their favorite beer. I not only don’t drink anything from either, I don’t think anyone in my family does either. So, we never especially worried about their business ethics except within the context of marketing. Like could they screwup the English Football Association even more than the Brits managed to on their own?

Still, there is nothing more classic about capitalism than some scumbag “watering the beer” to increase profits. Should be an interesting case to follow.

Written by Ed Campbell

February 28, 2013 at 2:00 am

U.K. prosecutor makes first arrests in Libor-rigging fraud

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The U.K. Serious Fraud Office and City of London Police made the first three arrests in global probes into tampering with benchmark interest rates including the London interbank offered rate.

The three men arrested, ranging in age from 33 to 47, are all British nationals living in the U.K., the SFO said in an e-mailed statement. The agency and police also searched three homes in Surrey and Essex.

Global authorities are investigating claims that more than a dozen banks altered submissions used to set benchmarks such as Libor to profit from bets on interest-rate derivatives or make the lenders’ finances appear healthier. Swiss lender UBS AG is expected to face a fine as early as this week that may surpass the record $466 million paid in June by Barclays Plc, the U.K.’s second-biggest bank, to settle claims it attempted to manipulate Libor…

Libor, a benchmark for more than $300 trillion of financial products worldwide, is derived from a survey of banks conducted each day on behalf of the British Bankers’ Association in London. The rates help determine borrowing costs for everything from mortgages to student loans…

Criminal probes by the SFO and U.S. Department of Justice are running in parallel with civil investigations being conducted by the Justice Department’s fraud division, the U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission and the U.K. Financial Services Authority.

Anyone think the brave conservatives in our Congress will stand up and applaud, encourage prosecution of this criminal fraud?

Here we have an international conspiracy that manipulated rates affecting everything from student loans and mortgages to funding for corporate expansion. The investigating bodies accept as a premise they will not charge the management of these banks as responsible for the crime – only individuals will take the fall for the crime. The banks will pay fines. If the fines are big enough to affect their profit margins, they will pass the cost along to customers.

Contemptible!

Written by Ed Campbell

December 11, 2012 at 8:00 am

Exploring other options for palliative care

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Paula Span…wrote last week about the poor choices facing patients, most very old and within six months of death, who need nursing home care after a hospitalization.

Medicare will pay for hospice, the acknowledged gold standard for those at the end of life and their families, and it will also pay for skilled nursing (known in this universe as the “sniff” benefit, for Skilled Nursing Facility or S.N.F.)…but only rarely will it cover both at the same time, which creates a financial bind.

Rather than pay hundreds of dollars a day out of pocket for room and board in a nursing home, most families opt for S.N.F. coverage. But they pay a price in other ways: they lose the visits by nurses and aides and social workers, the comfort care, the pain relief and the spiritual support that can make hospice such a godsend, whether patients are at home or in nursing homes.

The study I wrote about, by a team mostly based at the University of California, San Francisco, found ongoing repercussions from this forced decision. People were much more likely to die in hospitals or nursing homes when they used the S.N.F. benefit. Though studies repeatedly find that most people would prefer to die at home, only 11 percent did. But those who did not use S.N.F. were far more likely to be enrolled in hospice – and 40 percent of them died at home.

On the other coast, meanwhile, researchers in Providence, R.I., and Boston exploring some of the same issues have documented still other problems when people nearing death use nursing homes…

The whole purpose of Medicare’s paying for skilled nursing, recall, is to help patients get stronger and return home, or at least to improve their health. But physical therapy, for instance, may serve little purpose for those who are bed-bound, who are totally incontinent, who can’t feed themselves. “These are people who are on a decline,” Dr. Miller said. “They’re not going to get better.”

Yet they received a lot of medical interventions compared to those in hospice care. Those using S.N.F. were significantly more likely to receive feeding tubes, intravenous fluids, injections and medications — none of which can stop or slow dementia, of course, or are likely to increase quality of life…

People in palliative care and hospice have complained about this restriction for years, and they may want to keep complaining. The Affordable Care Act calls for a demonstration project of “concurrent care,” a three-year experiment allowing up to 15 hospice programs around the country to enroll patients who can also continue to receive all the other services that Medicare covers, including skilled nursing…

But the statute doesn’t set a target date, so who knows when or whether this experiment will happen? Too bad, because a lot of patients and families would like to know the answer.

I certainly would like to know. And I’m the kind of taxpayer, medicare client, who will ask.

I’m drafting an email to go to medicare.gov, my Congress critters, asking about this experiment, how and when it will be started? I suggest if you’re in the same demographic – or you have family members who are or will be – please do the same.

Yes, I feel very strongly about dying where I have lived – in my home.

Written by Ed Campbell

December 3, 2012 at 4:00 pm

Charity refuses donations from former Navy SEAL’s book profits

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The former Navy SEAL who wrote No Easy Day under the pen name Mark Owen has promised to donate a majority of his profits to charities, but one of the non-profit groups he touted – the Navy SEAL Foundation – has ruled out accepting his donations.

“The Navy SEAL Foundation is committed to providing immediate and ongoing support and assistance to the Naval Special Warfare community and their families.

“With this principled mission in mind, the Foundation will not be accepting any donations that are generated from the book or any related activities,” the group said in a statement on its website…

The book has shot to the top of bestseller lists amid an avalanche of publicity, but Owen’s decision to publish his first-hand account has angered many fellow SEALs, including the commander of the elite units, who say he has betrayed the ethos of the special operators to be “quiet professionals”.

The Pentagon has accused the author of revealing classified information and violating non-disclosure agreements he signed while in uniform, which it says require him to submit any manuscript to the defence officials before publication.

NDA’s are something often regarded lightly by my fellow geeks. And perhaps in the world of tech that is so.

I say with equal consideration that is not the case in the life of those military women and men charged with defending their nation.

Any regular visitor here knows well of my feelings about the misuse of military power by our country and others, over time, over history — and today. I joke a bit about being a citizen of Earth more than I am of any political entity. But, I have always respected the charge of non-disclosure sacred to the lives of those brave or foolhardy enough – or sufficiently dedicated – to commit to a military life. I extend that to those I have known and lived alongside in military service – even in wars I have opposed.

Written by Ed Campbell

September 6, 2012 at 6:00 pm

Commodity trader boasts – “We’ll make a killing out of food crisis”

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The United Nations, aid agencies and the British Government have lined up to attack the world’s largest commodities trading company, Glencore, after it described the current global food crisis and soaring world prices as a “good” business opportunity.

With the US experiencing a rerun of the drought “Dust Bowl” days of the 1930s and Russia suffering a similar food crisis that could see Vladimir Putin’s government banning grain exports, the senior economist of the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation, Concepcion Calpe, told The Independent: “Private companies like Glencore are playing a game that will make them enormous profits.”

Ms Calpe said leading international politicians and banks expecting Glencore to back away from trading in potential starvation and hunger in developing nations for “ethical reasons” would be disappointed.

“This won’t happen,” she said. “So now is the time to change the rules and regulations about how Glencore and other multinationals such as ADM and Monsanto operate. They know this and have been lobbying heavily around the world to water down and halt any reform.”

Glencore’s director of agriculture trading, Chris Mahoney, sparked the controversy when he said: “The environment is a good one. High prices, lots of volatility, a lot of dislocation, tightness, a lot of arbitrage opportunities.

“We will be able to provide the world with solutions… and that should also be good for Glencore.”

RTFA for a touch more detail – about the greed, self-serving ethics of the corporate world that relies upon Free Market ideology and economics as the only excuse needed to justify profiteering from the pain and hunger of the world.

Written by Ed Campbell

August 23, 2012 at 10:00 am

Mexico’s President begs the United States — No more weapons!

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Sign made from 3 tons of crushed guns

Mexico’s president called on U.S. officials to stop gun trafficking across the border Thursday, saying the move would be the best thing Americans could do to stop brutal drug violence.

“The criminals have become more and more vicious in their eagerness to spark fear and anxiety in society,” President Felipe Calderon said. “One of the main factors that allows criminals to strengthen themselves is the unlimited access to high-powered weapons, which are sold freely, and also indiscriminately, in the United States of America.

Speaking in Ciudad Juarez, the border city across from El Paso, Texas, that has become Mexico’s murder capital, Calderon said a dramatic increase in violence in Mexico was directly connected with the 2004 expiration of the U.S. assault weapons ban…

Calderon stood in front of a massive new sign, constructed with tons of decommissioned arms. “NO MORE WEAPONS,” the sign said — in English. Americans on the other side of the border are the intended audience, Calderon said…

Out of 140,000 weapons Mexican authorities have seized since Calderon declared a crackdown on cartels at the beginning of his presidency, 84,000 were high-powered assault weapons, Calderon said.

More than 47,000 people have been killed in drug-related violence in Mexico since December 2006, according to government statistics.

Calderon’s plea for Americans to reduce drug consumption is laughable, of course. We have been a society based on mood-altering chemical dependency for decades. It starts with cigarettes and coffee, marches on through beer and hard liquor into prescription goodies all too easily accessible through your friendly family doctor. Symptomatic treatment is the watchword of America’s pharmaceutical industry.

Can we modify such dependencies? Of course. Many advocate a healthier lifestyle – in the face of politicians and flunkies who say pizza is a vegetable and sex education is a sin. We have to get past the profit cronies to even begin to have a voice in this land.

Meanwhile, there’s nothing wrong with symptomatic solutions to drug gangsters across the border, drug gangsters who leak their wars and profiteering across that border every hour of the day. Who stands in the way? Right-wing plutocrats in the arms industry and their flunkies in the NRA and both wings of political hacks – for a start. Even the mildest attempts to police guns trafficked across the border are shut down by sophistry and campaign dollars, lobbying and coercion.

Written by Ed Campbell

February 17, 2012 at 12:00 pm

The battle against SOPA comes to the fore at CES 2012

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The technology community has made substantial in-roads in efforts to stop SOPA and Protect IP, two bills pending in Congress that would expand the ability of federal law enforcement and rightsholders to police the Internet for violations of intellectual-property laws.

But the fight is far from won. That was the message yesterday at a contentious panel discussion at CES’s Innovation Policy Summit, featuring Congressional staffers along with industry representatives from both Hollywood and the technology community…

As further evidence of momentum against the bill, Ryan Clough described a rancorous SOPA markup session in December that featured over 70 proposed amendments from Republicans and Democrats. The coordinated revolt led House Judiciary Committee Chairman Lamar Smith (R-Texas) to abandon plans for quick passage of the bill…

Sandra Aistars, executive director of the Copyright Alliance, was the sole panelist who supported immediate passage of both bills. The Copyright Alliance…board members include the Motion Picture Association of America; the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers; BMI; and three of the largest content distributors–Viacom, Time Warner and NBC Universal…

I cannot define my contempt for political action couched in innocuous names – when they’re solely funded and staffed by folks with a dollar-stake in the outcome. I cannot define it adequately without obscenity.

Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Ed Campbell

January 12, 2012 at 6:00 pm

Fed hands over another $77 billion in profits to the U.S. Treasury

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Count it if you don’t believe me!
Daylife/Getty Images used by permission

The Federal Reserve said on Tuesday that it contributed $76.9 billion in profits to the Treasury Department last year, slightly less than its record 2010 transfer but much more than in any other previous year.

The Fed is required by law to turn over its profits to the Treasury each year, a highly lucrative byproduct of the central bank’s continuing campaign to stimulate economic growth.

Almost 97 percent of the Fed’s income was generated by interest payments on its investment portfolio, including $2.5 trillion in Treasury securities and mortgage-backed securities, which it has amassed in an effort to decrease borrowing costs for businesses and consumers by reducing long-term interest rates…

But Fed officials note that this cycle — payments flowing from Treasury to the Fed and then back to the Treasury — still saves money for taxpayers because those interest payments otherwise would be made to other investors.

It’s interest that the Treasury didn’t have to pay to the Chinese,” the Fed’s chairman, Ben S. Bernanke, half-jokingly told Congress last year.

The scale of the transfers grew rapidly after the financial crisis.

RTFA. Always gives me a chuckle to see nutballs from the Kool Aid Party to preachers of the Gold Bar religion like Ron Paul forced to confront a Fed which functions smoothly – even with double the tasks, say, of any European Central Bank.

Add to that the profits taken from the Evil Socialist Stimulus Plan which – yes, once again – gave Keynes another victory over Hayek and genetically-restricted Bears.

Written by Ed Campbell

January 11, 2012 at 6:00 am

Why do Republicans hate clean air, clean water?

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Last month President Obama finally unveiled a serious economic stimulus plan — far short of what I’d like to see, but a step in the right direction. Republicans, predictably, have blocked it. But the new plan, combined with the Occupy Wall Street demonstrations, seems to have shifted the national conversation. We are, suddenly, focused on what we should have been talking about all along: jobs.

So what is the G.O.P. jobs plan? The answer, in large part, is to allow more pollution. So what you need to know is that weakening environmental regulations would do little to create jobs and would make us both poorer and sicker…

Do you really need that explained to you? Are you as delusional as the Republican Party?

The important thing to understand is that the case for pollution control isn’t based on some kind of aesthetic distaste for industrial society. Pollution does real, measurable damage, especially to human health.

And policy makers should take that damage into account. We need more politicians like the courageous governor who supported environmental controls on a coal-fired power plant, despite warnings that the plant might be closed, because “I will not create jobs or hold jobs that kill people.”

Actually, that was Mitt Romney, back in 2003 — the same politician who now demands that we use more coal.

How big are these damages? A new study by researchers at Yale and Middlebury College brings together data from a variety of sources to put a dollar value on the environmental damage various industries inflict. The estimates are far from comprehensive, since they only consider air pollution…

For it turns out that there are a number of industries inflicting environmental damage that’s worth more than the sum of the wages they pay and the profits they earn — which means, in effect, that they destroy value rather than create it. High on the list, by the way, is coal-fired electricity generation, which the Mitt Romney-that-was used to stand up to.

As the study’s authors say, finding that an industry inflicts large environmental damage compared with its apparent economic return doesn’t necessarily mean that the industry should be shut down. What it means, instead, is that “the regulated levels of emissions from the industry are too high.” That is, environmental regulations aren’t strict enough.

Republicans ignore studies like that, the overwhelming body of industrial environment studies, BTW. Why start letting facts get in the way of profits for their largest contributors? Mining, power production industries are among the largest contributors to congressional Republicans. Simple-minded politicians who live the country-club life.

Their families, their kids are OK, Jack. The rest of us can go scramble for clean air and clean water whether we can afford it or not. There hasn’t been a Republican in office that I can recall fighting against pollution since that era before Ronald Reagan. Someone like that certainly wouldn’t be supported by today’s RNC or the KoolAid Party.

Written by Ed Campbell

October 22, 2011 at 2:00 pm

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