Facebook’s email dump in the UK

❝ As expected, the UK Parliament has released a set of internal Facebook emails that were seized as part of its investigation into the company’s data-privacy practices. The 250-page document, which includes conversations between Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and other high-level executives, is a window into the social media giant’s ruthless thinking from 2012 to 2015 — a period of time when it was growing (and collecting user data) at an unstoppable rate…

❝ If Facebook was hoping to close the year without any more controversies, these internal documents certainly won’t help. They’re yet another example of the company’s old, ambitious motto to “move fast and break things,” one that it’s desperately trying to get away from.

Some of the folks I respect the most – like Om Malik – have wholly nuked their Facebook presence. The only reason I retain a site there is to maintain minimal contact with old friends and family back in New England and round about this tired planet. Frankly, I’m the worst in the world at actually staying in touch. I never get round to answering “how are you doin'” inquiries from folks I still love as comrades fighting bigotry and war. Hopefully, they remember I was always craptastic at that.

US medical-industrial complex always knows how to make a profit

Millions of Americans see the doctor each year with worries about a persistent or severe headache or migraine…And according to a new University of Michigan Medical School study, 12 percent of those visits end in a brain scan being ordered for the patient. Those brain scans add up to a total cost of roughly $1 billion a year.

Health experts say it’s a waste of resources, given the extremely low probability of a scan finding a serious issue, such as a malignant brain tumor…

A number of national guidelines have been issued in the last decade advising doctors to refrain from ordering scans for those who complain of headaches. But the frequency of brain scans continues to go up, suggesting patients are advocating for them — an expensive way to get reassurance that a brain tumor or aneurysm isn’t lurking inside the cerebrum.

The answer might be better educating the public about the costs verses the risk, says Callaghan. On top of the fact that statistics show a scan is unlikely to find anything serious, it also exposes the brain to radiation.

And monetarily speaking, the true costs of all these unnecessary scans could be higher. The research doesn’t factor in additional costs, such as follow-up tests or treatment for minor issues discovered as a result of the scans.

Callaghan says the bottom line is this: trust your doctor. If he or she doesn’t think a scan is necessary, then you don’t need one.

Any journalist who avoids the question of greedy physicians/medical facilities operating their radiology department as a juicy little profit center hasn’t the foggiest idea what American healthcare is all about.

Senator Feinstein says CIA spied on Intelligence Committee

The chairwoman of the Senate Intelligence Committee torched the Central Intelligence Agency in a floor speech Tuesday morning, charging the agency with spying on her committee’s computers in a possibly illegal search that has been referred to the Department of Justice for possible prosecution.

During her speech, Sen. Dianne Feinstein said she learned in January that the Central Intelligence Agency improperly searched committee computer files, confirming several media reports. She said the incident has been referred to the Department of Justice for possible prosecution. But Feinstein was also riled by a separate referral by the CIA to the Department of Justice suggesting that the committee staff had improperly received classified information…

The CIA, it seems, was trying to figure out whether the committee staff had managed to gain access to an internal review of CIA interrogation methods that came to be named after now-former CIA Director Leon E. Panetta.

CIA hacks are crapping their drawers over the possibility of payback for torture on behalf of the Bush/Cheney invasions in the Middle East. They presumed assurances of torture being OK were good till the end of time. Not just the end of the Bush Administration.

Feinstein had been quiet about previous press reports, preferring to avoid creating a firestorm and deferring answering questions from reporters at the Capitol in recent weeks about the incident, but she said Tuesday on the Senate floor that was no longer possible. She said the CIA has not answered repeated questions from the committee about the incident, raising questions of illegality.

“I have grave concerns that the CIA’s search may well have violated the separation of powers principles embodied in the United States constitution, including the speech and debate,” Feinstein said…

Judiciary Chairman Patrick J. Leahy, D-Vt., appeared on the floor shortly after Feinstein’s lengthy speech to praise her comments, calling for all senators to stand behind her.

“If we do not stand up for … the protection of the separation of powers and our ability to do oversight, especially when conduct has happened that is in all likelihood criminal by the part of a government agency, then what do we stand for?” Leahy said.

Warms the cockles of my heart to see chickens come home to roost in the crap-filled coop called Congress.

Ed Snowden’s reaction to Feinstein’s self-righteous speech is completely to the point – and he made it inclusive, to the world view of our government and the “coalition of the willing”:

“It’s clear the CIA was trying to play ‘keep away’ with documents relevant to an investigation by their overseers in Congress, and that’s a serious constitutional concern,” said Snowden in a statement to NBC News. “But it’s equally if not more concerning that we’re seeing another ‘Merkel Effect,’ where an elected official does not care at all that the rights of millions of ordinary citizens are violated by our spies, but suddenly it’s a scandal when a politician finds out the same thing happens to them.”

$486 million spent on aircraft parked in the weeds in Afghanistan


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Sixteen broken-down transport planes that cost U.S. taxpayers at least $486 million are languishing among the weeds, wooden cargo boxes and old tires at Kabul International Airport, waiting to be destroyed without ever being delivered to the Afghan Air Force.

The special inspector general for Afghanistan is investigating why the refurbished G222 turboprop aircraft from Finmeccanica SpA’s Alenia Aermacchi North America unit no longer can be flown after logging only 200 of 4,500 hours of U.S.-led training flights and missions required…because of persistent maintenance issues.

The unused transport planes are in addition to the billions of dollars in wasted U.S. funds documented by the inspector general’s office since American troops entered Afghanistan after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. They also compound the doubts about the Afghan Air Force’s capability to operate independently after U.S. forces withdraw by the end of next year…

We need answers to this huge waste of U.S. taxpayer money,” John Sopko, the special inspector general for Afghanistan reconstruction, said in an e-mailed statement. “Who made the decision to purchase these planes, and why? We need to get to the bottom of this, and that’s why we’re opening this inquiry…”

The G222 transports refurbished by the unit of Rome-based Finmeccanica were supposed to make up about 15 percent of the 105-aircraft Afghan Air Force, flying top Afghan civilian officials and combat troops and conducting medical evacuations.

Instead, six of the planes already have been cannibalized for spare parts, a separate audit by the Pentagon inspector general found. In addition to the 16 planes in Kabul, there are four in Germany.

Sopko’s investigation will review the decision to select the Alenia aircraft, determine the total spent to buy, sustain, and dispose of them and evaluate what procedures are in place to prevent similar failures with other purchases for the Afghan Air Force.

The inquiry was prompted by “the need to ensure that the U.S. government does not repeat the mistakes made throughout this nearly half-billion dollar program,” Sopko said in a Dec. 5 letter to Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel.

RTFA. I imagine few of y’all will be surprised by Pentagon failures ranging from the decision to acquire these particular aircraft, deliver them to an Afghan Air Force [what?] – all the way back to the grand plans set in motion by the money-wasters who passed themselves off as political/military experts in the days of the Bush Administrations.

I guess we should say American taxpayers get what we deserve. After all, it’s only been 52 years since President Eisenhower warned us about the crooks in the military-industrial complex taking over the political economy of the United States. Way too short a time for the average American voter to comprehend.

True, half of the 2-party karaoke fest we dance through every 4 years is composed of idiots and thieves still trying to convince themselves – and us – that Herbert Hoover and his policies really were the best thing that ever happened to the United States. The Great Depression was just a mild hiccup along the Yellow Brick Road of trickle-down economics. The other half spend their time trying to stay unnoticed while the revolving door of elected service in Congress morphed into the next logical step in employment as lobbyists for the profits-before-people mafia.

Still, a couple of dedicated bureaucrats are trying like hell to get us to understand how we’re being taken for a ride – and a few folks at Bloomberg News have taken the time to put it into print for folks who care to read.

How common are intrusive strip searches in Milwaukee?

A Milwaukee police officer is being singled out for intrusive procedures in an investigation of illegal strip searches…

Officer Michael Vagnini is one of eight department employees under investigation for allegedly illegal strip searches…a police report said he searched a suspect’s anal area for drugs while assisting District 7 officers in July 2011, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported…

The defendant apparently knew the procedures, turning around and bending over when Vagnini arrived, the report said.

“According to the report, Officer Vagnini had a reputation for doing this,”said defense attorney Alex Cossi, who handled the case. “This is not a rogue happenstance. This was tacit acceptance of strip searches without proper procedures or supervision.”

The drug dealing charge against the man was dropped, the second such charge to be dropped in recent weeks amid allegations the evidence was illegally obtained, the newspaper said.

Vagnini, six other officers and a supervisor were stripped of their badges in March 2012 after allegations that rectal searches for drugs may have been sexual assaults and violations of civil rights. Milwaukee County prosecutors have launched an investigation, as have the civilian Fire and Police Commission, and the Police Internal Affairs Division…federal officials and the Milwaukee Common Council are monitoring the process.

Does the Milwaukee Police Department get a price break on rubber gloves?

China crackdown on ID theft – over 1700 arrests in a month

Beijing authorities have arrested 160 individuals on charges of stealing personal information, according to the Chinese news site Sina. Police have also shut down 13 online platforms that were alleged to have traded in stolen personal information. It follows the arrest of 1,700 suspects in China on similar charges last month.

The raids are part of an ongoing crackdown on online identity theft in the country.

In a co-ordinated raid, 400 police homed in on 10 districts including Dongcheng, Xicheng and Chaoyang to make the arrests.

The suspects are believed to have registered fake commercial consultancies and legal affairs research firms. They are also accused of illegally using professional spying equipment to obtain large volumes of personal and company information. It is claimed the details were then sold for a profit.

A Beijing-based lawyer is among those detained. Sina reports that he had been the subject of a police investigation since October 2009. It said the suspect had been identified while using an online chat program. He is alleged to have told a lawyers’ group that it could be “profitable” to pass on company information.

Sina reported that he had subsequently searched for clients online and had obtained documents from Beijing’s Industry and Commerce Department, with the help of a fake introduction letter from the law firm he worked at.

The news site said it was believed that he went on to recruit other lawyers to obtain further information from local businesses, and raised more than 40,000 yuan ($6,310) from selling it on.

Some of the script kiddies sell essential stolen information for as little a $1 a pop at Chinese sites. Always nice to see authorities in any nation make this part of their daily practice.

LA Sheriff’s officer freed con to give him golf lessons

A Los Angeles County sheriff’s captain is under investigation, suspected of springing a prisoner from jail to get free tips on his golf swing.

The lessons from Frank Carrillo, a convicted jewel thief with a reputation as an expert golfer, allegedly took place on a course on Catalina Island, where Carrillo was serving a sentence on charges of theft, including stealing during a golf match a World Series ring that belonged to former Dodgers catcher Jimmy Campanis and a Rolex watch.

Acccording to a claim from sheriff’s deputy William R. Cordero, Capt. Jeff Donahue “illegally transported (inmate Frank) Carrillo to a local golf course where he was given golf lessons by Carrillo.”

The claim says that the captain had “Carrillo’s prison yellow jumpsuit and wristband removed … then had Carrillo outfitted in civilian golf clothes including a polo shirt and Docker pants…”

Donahue, who is part of the sheriff’s force at Avalon that polices California’s Catalina Island, is on medical leave. He did not immediately return a call…seeking comment.

NSS. Egregious crap like this tends to happen within local politics’ Good Old Boy network. Certainly likely to exist in long-term bureaucracies like the police in Los Angeles County.

Predictably, the whistleblower – William Cordero – has been threatened, harassed, transferred and not promoted as the response from the Sheriff’s Department. Ain’t life special in the Free World?

Army hospital commander removed during PTSD probe


Medical aid in the snow — does it matter which war?

The Army has removed the head of the Madigan Army Medical Center in Washington state during an investigation into whether soldiers had diagnoses of post-traumatic stress disorder reversed to reduce medical costs.

“This is a common practice during ongoing investigations and nothing more,” Maj. Gen. Phillip Volpe, who heads the Western Region Medical Command, said Monday about the removal of Col. Dallas Homas.

Homas is a West Point graduate whose career has included deployments to Afghanistan and Iraq, where he served as command surgeon. His military honors include two Bronze Stars…

The focus of the Army Medical Command investigation is a Madigan forensic psychiatric team that has the lead role in screening soldiers being considered for medical retirement due to PTSD, a condition that results from experiencing or seeing a traumatic event, such as a battlefield casualty.

Symptoms can include recurrent nightmares, flashbacks, irritability and feeling distant from other people. Soldiers diagnosed with PTSD gain at least a 50 percent rating of disability, and qualify for pensions, family health insurance and other financial benefits.

In 2011, an ombudsman investigated complaints from soldiers who said the forensic psychiatric team had reversed earlier diagnoses of PTSD and tagged some of them as possible malingerers.

The ombudsman also wrote a memo about a lecture in which a member of the forensic psychiatric team talked about the need to be good stewards of taxpayer dollars and not rubber stamp PTSD diagnoses that could result in a soldier earning $1.5 million in benefits over a lifetime…

I didn’t know there was a specific field of psychiatric study dedicated to oversight by beancounters.

The ombudsman investigation resulted in more than a dozen soldiers getting a chance for a second PTSD screening by doctors from Walter Reed National Military Medical Center outside Washington, D.C.

Fourteen of those soldiers will have the results of their Walter Reed reviews detailed in individual meetings at Madigan with Col. Rebecca Porter, chief of behavioral health, Office of the U.S. Army Surgeon General.

One would hope the analysis reverts to psychiatric concerns rather than saving the budget.

I’ve mentioned my closest friend being the most decorated WW2 veteran from our home state and the months he spent in hospital after the war. That helped his physical wounds. There wasn’t any broad definition of PTSD available for those vets. So, he received nothing – either for what he suffered in battle – or what he saw and felt at the liberation of Hitler’s Death Camps.

But, I shall never forget the times he woke in the middle of the night and rolled under his bed because he thought there was incoming artillery fire – and that he was back in Bastogne in the winter of 1944-45.