Cable company robocalled woman 153 times = $229,500 payment for harassment

Time Warner Cable has been ordered to pay a woman $229,500 (£150,000) after a judge ruled it had harassed her with automated calls.

Texas resident Araceli King received 153 computer-controlled “robocalls”, which continued after she had asked the company to stop.

US district judge Alvin Hellerstein said Time Warner Cable had acted in a “particularly egregious” manner…

Making unwanted automated calls is illegal in the US, and companies breaking the rules can face a fine of $1,500 for each call.

Mr Hellerstein said he had tripled the penalty for Time Warner because it had made 74 calls to Ms King after she had registered her complaint…

The US made it illegal to make unwanted automated calls in 2009…The law says marketers must have written permission from a person before robocalls can be made, although exceptions are made for surveys or if the subject matter is political or to do with a charity…

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) enforcement bureau chief Travis LeBlanc has said “customers are not required to consent to unwanted robocalls or robotexts”.

Sock it to ’em, Ms. King!

FBI wants easy access to all our communications or Isis will KILL US ALL!


Quillian and Comey

The director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation has warned US senators that the threat from the Islamic State merits a “debate” about limiting commercial encryption – the linchpin of digital security – despite a growing chorus of technical experts who say that undermining encryption would prove an enormous boon for hackers, cybercriminals, foreign spies and terrorists.

In a twin pair of appearances before the Senate’s judiciary and intelligence committees on Wednesday, James Comey testified that Isis’s use of end-to-end encryption, whereby the messaging service being used to send information does not have access to the decryption keys of those who receive it, helped the group place a “devil” on the shoulders of potential recruits “saying kill, kill, kill, kill”…

He added: “I am not trying to scare folks.”

Since October, following Apple’s decision to bolster its mobile-device security, Comey has called for a “debate” about inserting “back doors” – or “front doors”, as he prefers to call them – into encryption software, warning that “encryption threatens to lead us all to a very, very dark place”.

But Comey and deputy attorney general Sally Quillian Yates testified…they did not wish the government to itself hold user encryption keys and preferred to “engage” communications providers for access, though technicians have stated that what Comey and Yates seek is fundamentally incompatible with end-to-end encryption.

Comey, who is not a software engineer, said his response to that was: “Really?”…

…Comey’s campaign against encryption has run into a wall of opposition from digital security experts and engineers. Their response is that there is no technical way to insert a back door into security systems for governments that does not leave the door ajar for anyone – hackers, criminals, foreign intelligence services – to exploit and gain access to enormous treasure troves of user data, including medical records, financial information and much more.

The cybersecurity expert Susan Landau, writing on the prominent blog Lawfare, called Comey’s vision of a security flaw only the US government could exploit “magical thinking”…

In advance of Comey’s testimony, several of the world’s leading cryptographers, alarmed by the return of a battle they thought won during the 1990s “Crypto Wars”, rejected the effort as pernicious from a security perspective and technologically illiterate.

A paper they released on Tuesday, called “Keys Under Doormats”, said the transatlantic effort to insert backdoors into encryption was “unworkable in practice, raise[s] enormous legal and ethical questions, and would undo progress on security at a time when internet vulnerabilities are causing extreme economic harm”.

I guess all these years spent successfully stopping enemies of democracy [excluding politicians and elected officials] before encrypted communications were broadly, cheaply possible were just a fluke.

Perhaps time spent hiring and training talented well-educated people to work within a system that respects democratic freedoms may have something to do with it. Perhaps aiding folks, domestic and foreign, to build a better life – instead of simply insisting upon obedience – might diminish the danger from demagogues.

CVS Health quits U.S. Chamber of Commerce over tobacco

CVS Health Corp said it was withdrawing its membership from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce after media reports that the trade group was lobbying globally against anti-smoking laws.

The No. 2 U.S. drugstore chain said it was “surprised” to read recent reports on the chamber’s position on tobacco products outside the United States.

The New York Times reported last week that the chamber and its foreign affiliates were lobbying against anti-smoking laws such as restrictions on smoking in public places and bans on menthol and slim cigarettes, mainly in developing countries.

“CVS’s purpose is to help people on their path to better health, and we fundamentally believe tobacco use is in direct conflict with this purpose,” CVS spokesman David Palombi said…

The chamber said blah, blah, blah

CVS became the first major U.S. drugstore chain to stop selling tobacco products last year.

Good for you, folks. That decision to stop selling cigarettes and tobacco products, last year, made you my #1 choice for a drugstore.

As for the corporate barons who run the Chamber of Commerce, their hardest decision is whether to sweep out the pockets of fossil fuel barons like the Koch Bros or spend all their waking hours polishing the wingtips of the military-industrial complex.

Americans are OK with a mediocre economy

For the past six years, Americans have been hearing that this economic expansion is lackluster. They’re now OK with it, and moving on.

That’s how Richard Curtin, director of the University of Michigan Survey of Consumers, characterized the disconnect between weaker economic growth and improving household confidence. A report…showed the group’s consumer sentiment gauge rose to 96.1 in June, the second-highest reading in eight years…

The gain in confidence “is due to both an improving economy from the consumer perspective, but it also may reflect the acceptance of the diminished economic prospects in the years ahead,” Curtin said. “They rate what we would have considered in a bygone era to be rather modest or mediocre growth more positively.”

Families are even shrugging their shoulders at moderate income expectations, primarily because they believe low inflation is here to stay. The…chart below shows what households say are the odds that their incomes will beat inflation over the next five years.

“The divergence between declining economic forecasts by policy makers and economists and the surge in optimism among consumers has rarely been greater during the past half-century,” Curtin said.

Americans are accustomed to mediocrity throughout the whole software of our lives, our culture. Between conservatives and cowards, Congress is a mediocrity. The most overpriced healthcare system in the world is a preposterous mediocrity – if you can even afford access. Government has moved from being a care provider to Big Brother – out of fear of foreigners. The 19th Century all over again.

Yeah, the hardware works. We can buy hot cars and economical cars and even economical hot cars. Our military can turn any city in the world uninhabitable in a week. We have more computing power in our pockets than corporations could purchase 50 years ago – and the music they play is another mediocrity.