Oakland, California sets tax rates for marijuana

Refrigerator magnets
Daylife/Reuters Pictures used by permission

Anticipating California voters will back a November ballot measure to legalize casual marijuana use, officials in Oakland have approved two tax rates on pot sales in their city, already a hub of the state’s medicinal marijuana scene.

Oakland’s city council…approved the rates — a 5 percent gross receipts tax on licensed marijuana growers and on businesses selling marijuana for medical purposes, and a 10 percent rate on sales of marijuana used for recreational purposes.

California voters in 1996 approved a measure allowing marijuana use for medical purposes and would legalize its recreational use if they approve Proposition 19 in November.

The measure would allow marijuana possession for personal use and would authorize local governments to issue permits for pot production and sales and to tax it under state law. Selling marijuana would remain illegal under federal law…

Federal authorities have not aggressively interfered with sales of medicinal marijuana sales in California.

Cripes. I’ll bet that even bible-thumper/stoners living in Oakland will vote for Prop 19. Sooner or later, enlightened self-interest has to overcome hypocrisy.

Only the “saved” who want to stick with alcohol for their highs and resent anyone having alternatives will fight to jail people for possession.

Lawsuit attacks Zombie Cookies – UPDATED

A legal challenge has been launched in the US against a number of websites amid claims that they were engaged in “covert surveillance” of users. The lawsuit alleges that a number of firms, including Hulu, MTV, and Myspace, used a Quantcast Flash application to restore deleted cookies…

The lawsuit says that the application was creating so-called “zombie cookies” from deleted files.

Quantcast has not responded to a BBC News request for comment.

The term “zombie cookie” was coined after the issue of traditional browser cookies being undeleted by Flash was brought to light in a 2009 paper by US researchers.

The study found that more than half of sites surveyed used flash cookies to store information about the user, with some using it to “respawn or re-instantiate cookies deleted by the user”…

However, while most browsers have simple commands to delete text cookies, Flash cookies are neither listed nor controlled by the browser…

Graham Cluley, senior technology consultant at the internet security firm Sophos, told BBC News that the source of the trouble was Adobe Flash itself, which he called “one of the weirdest programs on the planet”.

“I think it’s highly unlikely that these large companies have abused Flash cookies – which are different from browser cookies – with malicious intent,” he said. “I think it’s much more likely that the vast majority of users are simply oblivious to the bizarre way in which Adobe allows them to configure the software…”

The security settings for Flash are hosted on Adobe’s own website, rather than your own computer. …These settings are changed by logging onto Adobe’s website, right-clicking on a Flash object and selecting “Global Settings” and then adjusting the security settings via the “Global Privacy Settings” panel.

Golly gosh. Seems thoughtful and easy to me. I can come up with a spare hour or two – just to diddle with Flash cookie settings over at Adobe’s website. Every day!

UPDATE: Predictably, Adobe is a royal PITA. I went to the adobe.com website and logged-in. Fortunately, I’m still registered there from days of yore.

I had to search for “Global Storage Settings” to get to anywhere I might achieve blocking this crap. I used the slider to bring available storage down to Zero and unclicked all the options – which took yet another small window to affirm I really wanted to.

I have no idea – yet – whether this worked; but, it just moves me one-click closer to the Steve Jobs camp on “Flash is useless crap”.

German footballer’s estranged wife demands “normal” boobs!

The former German football captain, Lothar Matthaeus, is fighting demands from his estranged wife that he pays for a breast enlargement reversal.

Ukrainian-born, Liliana, 22, claims Mr Matthaeus, 49, should foot the €2,800 bill for the reduction, which has already taken place, as he paid for the original operation as a school-leaving present for her in 2008.

I fail to see why I should pay for this and other plastic surgery bills,” Matthaeus said. Mrs Matthaeus has also had her lips enlarged and liposuction.

I imagine he didn’t mind paying for them on the way up – so to speak.

The collapse of the former Bayern Munich and Inter Milan star’s fourth marriage has been given extensive coverage in Germany.

As ye sow, so shall ye reap. She just wants crop yield requirements back to normal.

Hackers to get cellphone snooping lessons at DefCon

A security expert said he has devised a simple and relatively inexpensive way to snoop on cellphone conversations, claiming that most wireless networks are incapable of guaranteeing calls won’t be intercepted.

Law enforcement has long had access to expensive cell-phone tapping equipment known as IMSI catchers that each cost hundreds of thousands of dollars. But Chris Paget, who does technology security consulting work, says he has figured out how to build an IMSI catcher using a $1,500 piece of hardware and free, open-source software.

Paget will teach other hackers how to make their own IMSI catchers on Saturday during in a presentation at the annual Defcon security conference in Las Vegas.

His technique only works with wireless systems based on GSM technology, which is used by most of the world’s wireless carriers. In the United States, AT&T and T-Mobile USA, a unit of Deutsche Telekom AG operate on GSM systems.

Thousands of hackers will attend the Defcon conference in Las Vegas that starts on Friday, where researchers like Paget will disclose security vulnerabilities in systems from cell phones and business software to systems that run the electrical grid.

They will all swear fealty to the vaguely religious rationale that they’re only involved in proving to hardware and software manufacturers better ways to provide security.

One would hope that advances in contemporary sophistry might eventually provide them with more believable rationales. Something better than the usual crap copouts.

FBI agents caught cheating on tests

The Justice Department is investigating whether hundreds of FBI agents cheated on a test of new rules allowing the bureau to conduct surveillance and open cases without evidence that a crime has been committed.

In some instances, agents took the open-book test together, violating rules that they take it alone. Others finished the lengthy exam unusually quickly, current and former officials said.

In Columbia, S.C., agents printed the test in advance to use as a study guide, according to a letter to the inspector general from the FBI Agents Association that summarized the investigation. The inspector general investigation also was confirmed by current and former officials who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the case.

“There are similar stories for practically every office, demonstrating the pervasive confusion and miscommunication that existed,” Konrad Motyka, the association’s president, wrote May 13 in the letter obtained by The Associated Press.

“Confusion and miscommunication” is almost as good an excuse as “the dog ate my homework”.

Depending on the outcome of the investigation, agents could be disciplined or even fired…

Continue reading

Minnesota, God and the $190 million fraud

Now, do we get the Kool-Aid?

1,200 investors, and more than $190 million lost in just 3 years. It all began as market turmoil gained momentum in the run-up to the Great Recession, and investors were searching for a safe haven for their savings.

Minnesota money manager Trevor Cook and radio show host Pat Kiley said they had the answer, with the promise of solid returns and a no-loss guarantee. The Securities and Exchange Commission, however, calls it a “scheme to defraud perpetrated by Cook and Kiley…”

Kiley, 72, used the airwaves to get the word out on his weekly Christian radio program, “Follow the Money.” Kiley called his listeners “truth seekers” and appealed to their distrust of Wall Street and the government…

Cook and Kiley told investors that they could withdraw their money at any time. Now almost all the money is gone, and investors are out of luck…

Cook, according to the SEC, used $51 million collected from investors in later years to pay off early investors — a classic Ponzi scheme structure similar to the one orchestrated by Bernie Madoff. As with Madoff, Cook’s investors were given phony account statements that “falsely reported substantial, continuing gains,” according to the SEC.

In its complaint, the SEC says that Cook and Kiley diverted nearly $43 million, “of their victims’ money to their own personal purposes … and for other illegal purposes…”

Some investors were drawn in through Kiley’s radio show. In fact…Kiley claims his radio program brought in 75% of the funds raised in the foreign currency program…

Merri Jo Gillette, who heads the SEC’s Midwest division in Chicago, says even with an enforcement staff of 100 overseeing a 9-state region, the agency is understaffed and is “light-years behind the industry” technologically due to lack of funding. “Nobody’s gonna protect you from these folks except yourself,” Gillette told CNNMoney.

If it sounds too good to be true, it probably isn’t.

If it sounds too good to be true – but, “God says it’s safe” – run for the nearest exit!