Motel 6 was turning over guest info to ICE – no warrants, nothing!


…and give all your info to the Feds

❝ Motel 6 will pay $12 million to settle a lawsuit by the Washington state attorney general over the lodging chain’s practice of handing over guest lists to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents. The company also committed to no longer provide guest information without a warrant, a policy that will be adopted nationally, prosecutors said.

❝ Motel 6 locations in Washington state provided personal information about their guests to ICE “on a daily basis without requiring a warrant,” according to a statement from the Washington attorney general’s office. In total, the motel chain shared information for about 80,000 guests without their knowledge or consent…

…A Motel 6 spokesperson said, “Blah, blah, blah, blah, blah.”

Facebook busted for bigoted adverts

❝ The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development said it’s charging Facebook Inc. with allegedly violating the Fair Housing Act by restricting who can view housing-related ads.

❝ “Facebook is discriminating against people based upon who they are and where they live,” HUD Secretary Ben Carson said. “Using a computer to limit a person’s housing choices can be just as discriminatory as slamming a door in someone’s face.”

The social network allowed those advertising housing to exclude people it classified as parents; non-American-born; non-Christian; interested in accessibility and Hispanic culture; as well as other group’s deemed protected classes, according to HUD.

Facebook responded by saying, “Gee-whiz. We’re trying to reduce the bigotry in our ads. We’re just too busy counting our money to catch up with stuff like that.”

OK. That really isn’t what they said; but, it might as well be. Self-pitying whining about cost and time constraints from a company that rolls in money faster than they can stack it into boxcars ain’t cutting much ice with the few honorable folks remaining in federal government.

50% of the time, Americans won’t answer their cellphones

…for good reason.

❝ A big takeaway from a report released Tuesday by Hiya, a Seattle-based spam-monitoring service that analyzed activity from 450,000 users of its app to determine the scope of unwanted robo-calling — and how phone users react when they receive an automated call.

Consistent with other analyses, Hiya’s report found that the number of robo-calls is on the rise. Roughly 26.3 billion robo-calls were placed to U.S. phone numbers last year, Hiya said, up from 18 billion in 2017. One report last year projected that as many as half of all cellphone calls in 2019 could be spam.

❝ This month, T-Mobile said it would soon begin activating a technical protocol known as SHAKEN/STIR, a type of caller authentication that follows the same principles as website encryption. Other carriers including AT&T, Verizon and Sprint have also committed to implementing the feature. Endorsed by the FCC, the new protocol is part of an industry-wide push to limit the effects of caller-ID spoofing, which is when a spammer poses as a caller from a nearby area code in an effort to trick recipients into picking up the phone.

So, we can hope.

[1] I doubt the Feds are doing a fraction of what they might to stop spam phone calls. What’s their incentive? They don’t care a rat’s ass about consumers to begin with. Except keep us the primary source of tax dollars.

[2] Yup. I never answer my cellphone unless I see an ID from someone I care to talk to! More likely, I’ll wait for a recorded message that verifies who is calling.

The Feds Mandate That the US Postal Service Lose Money

❝ For the first three months of 2018, the US Postal Service reported a $1.3 billion loss, up from $562 million a year ago.

The basic issue is that revenue is growing more slowly than expenses. Total revenue grew by 1.4% while total expenses grew by 5.7%. Clearly, that makes for a less profitable business. This is a government-mandated financial squeeze and there are two main causes.

❝ First, regular mail—that is, the ordinary letters sent by individuals and businesses on a daily basis—is a declining business; volume-per-end-point (the mailbox) declined by 3.4% this year. Overall, regular mail is down 35% over the past 10 years. The problem is that the cost to deliver doesn’t decline with lower volume…

❝ Second, retirement expenses are growing significantly. Retiree health benefits increased 60% since last year and unfunded retirement benefits increased a whopping 142%…

RTFA. After all, there is some good news. Mostly from doing business with folks like Amazon.

Trump loves warrantless spying – on the people, not him – that is.

❝ The fight over a critical loophole in U.S. surveillance law may not be resolved in Congress before the year ends, but the Trump administration appears to have no qualms about keeping it open, even if the law expires…

❝ As The New York Times reports, “executive branch lawyers have now concluded that the government could lawfully continue to spy under the program through late April without new legislation,” a revelation that is sure to be just as controversial as the surveillance law itself, which is harshly criticized by privacy advocates for its practice of sweeping up the communications of American citizens while spying on foreign targets.

Trumps gets his shorts bunched if some kind of Fed says they’re going to check his tax returns. Turning loose any ordinary citizen’s communications to be Hoovered up by that Great NSA Vacuum Cleaner in the Sky doesn’t bother him in the least.

Fentanyl Passes Heroin as Leading Cause of U.S. Drug Deaths

Drug overdoses killed roughly 64,000 people in the United States last year, according to the first governmental account of nationwide drug deaths to cover all of 2016. It’s a staggering rise of more than 22 percent over the 52,404 drug deaths recorded the previous year — and even higher than The New York Times’s estimate in June, which was based on earlier preliminary data.

Drug overdoses are expected to remain the leading cause of death for Americans under 50, as synthetic opioids — primarily fentanyl and its analogues — continue to push the death count higher. Drug deaths involving fentanyl more than doubled from 2015 to 2016, accompanied by an upturn in deaths involving cocaine and methamphetamine. Together they add up to an epidemic of drug overdoses that is killing people at a faster rate than the H.I.V. epidemic at its peak…

The explosion in fentanyl deaths and the persistence of widespread opioid addiction have swamped local and state resources. Communities say their budgets are being strained by the additional needs — for increased police and medical care, for widespread naloxone distribution and for a stronger foster care system that can handle the swelling number of neglected or orphaned children.

It’s an epidemic hitting different parts of the country in different ways. People are accustomed to thinking of the opioid crisis as a rural white problem, with accounts of Appalachian despair and the plight of New England heroin addicts. But fentanyls are changing the equation: The death rate in Maryland last year outpaced that in both Kentucky and Maine.

Monthly provisional reporting looks like things are only getting worse. Too bad it doesn’t get through to a government more concerned with crushing expanded healthcare for Americans.

The Feds have no idea how to grow decent pot

❝ The only marijuana researchers can legally obtain for studies looks like something you would scrape off the bottom of your shoe after walking on a grassy field.

This is not an exaggeration. Take a look at this photo, courtesy of the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies:

This is the marijuana that researchers were sent for a study looking at whether pot can help treat post-traumatic stress disorder.

❝ Due to federal prohibition and regulations, all of the marijuana used for US research is provided by one facility at the University of Mississippi through the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA). But researchers have complained for years that the quality of marijuana that NIDA supplies is terrible — typically far below what you can get from state-legal medical or recreational marijuana markets or even the black market.

The photo above exemplifies this. The marijuana looks like it’s made up more of leaves and stems than the actual bud you’re supposed to smoke. As anyone who’s ever smoked pot can tell you, you’re typically supposed to throw out the leaves and stems — meaning what you see in the photo is basically garbage to the typical user. Usable pot is supposed to look chunkier and laced with crystals that are high in THC (which is what gets you high).

❝ Here’s an example of higher-quality pot, taken before the stems are fully removed:

It ain’t just aesthetics, folks. The questions of usability, effectiveness, say, as a product to be used to wean Americans off opioids – are relevant.

RTFA for all the details and discussion.

Hacker snooping — think it’s just the Feds we have to watch?


No – he’s not leaving his badge number

❝ …Many members of the public first became aware of the FBI’s interest in hacking in February, when the bureau and Apple battled over a locked iPhone belonging to one of the San Bernardino, California, shooters. That spat ended abruptly when the FBI announced it had hacked into the iPhone without Apple’s assistance…

❝ The present debate around law enforcement hacking is, for good reason, focused mostly on the FBI. At present, the most sophisticated law enforcement hacking capabilities belong to the federal government and remain classified. And although state and local police certainly investigate some serious crimes within their jurisdictions, the FBI routinely handles serious crimes — child pornography, human trafficking, financial crime resulting in the loss of millions of dollars. By many measures, the gravity of the crimes the FBI investigates makes it understandable that when we consider extraordinary hacking measures used by law enforcement, we would start with the FBI.

❝ But law enforcement hacking is not just a matter for the feds, thanks to two trends in particular.

First, just like law-abiding citizens, criminals have access to legal services that allow them to encrypt communications, browse privately, and otherwise minimize their digital footprints. Smartphone encryption frequently prevents crime, but as these tools become easier to use and the commercial default, it isn’t difficult to imagine that criminals—even those who aren’t technologically sophisticated — will use them, too.

Second, state and local police departments are very interested in hacking capabilities that could, as they see it, improve their ability to fight crime. Leaked emails from the past several years show that law enforcement agencies around the country have received demonstrations of spyware being sold by the controversial Italian-based company Hacking Team, whose mission is to “provide effective, easy-to-use offensive technology to the worldwide law enforcement and intelligence communities.” Hacking Team boasts of software that helps law enforcement “hack into [their] targets with the most advanced infection vectors available.”

❝ The federal government is also sharing cybercrime-related knowledge with state and local police departments. The National Computer Forensics Institute, a federally funded center, is “committed to training state and local officials in cyber crime investigations” and offers tuition-free education on many elements of policing in a high-tech crime era. And after unlocking the San Bernardino iPhone, the FBI hastened to assure its local partners that it would share technical assistance whenever possible.

RTFA for details. Reflect upon your local coppers being as likely – more likely? – than the Feds to consider Free Speech a crime. They can expect the range of political fools from Trumpkins to FuzzyWhigs to back them up. Many of America’s conservatives look at the Bill of Rights as a failed experiment.