Monday, September 1, 275760

Random Disclaimer: This blog is GRIMDARK AS FUCK.

Everyone, please sign this petition if you value Internet freedom. Congress claims to have vetoed SOPA due to political pressure, but the Trans-Pacific Partnership is more than willing to take up its mantle and pass it and various SOPA-like legislations (or even worse in many cases) that would utterly change the Internet as we know it. So, if you value the Internet, please, sign this bill and make your voice heard NOW. https://petitions.whitehouse.gov/petition/stop-sopa-policies-trans-pacific-partnership-notice-and-staydown-efforts-and-other-policies/dXMRvNh8


5/29/12 EDIT: I've just created a new blog exclusively for ponies and pony-related news, WITHOUT the stressful news articles on this blog.  It's no Equestria Daily, nor will it ever be, but it's still a pony blog. Feel free to check it out if you please... http://brony-montana.blogspot.com

If you're a brony and a Final Fantasy fan, and you want to play a game that combines ponies with Final Fantasy, I just thought you might like to know that an excellent fan game called Pony Fantasy 6 was released a few days ago.

If you are interested in this game, and would like to give it a try, please follow this link... http://www.pony-fantasy-6.com/

This blog contains some controversial posts concerning certain political issues and depressing news stories. If you find some of the content on my blog too controversial for your liking, or you're simply interested in My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic, go to http://www.dailymotion.com/MLPFiMVideos... That is my DailyMotion channel that is filled with every episode of My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic so far. If a new epsisode of MLP:FiM comes on, expect to see it on there within a few hours. It might help to take the edge off from hearing or seeing too much stressful stuff (i.e. some of the posts on my blog), and you may walk away with the realization that not ALL things pertaining to My Little Pony suck. In fact, in the case of FiM, it's AWESOME.

BTW, since DailyMotion absolutely ADORES putting ads all over the place, often ruining perfectly good videos by placing ads at the beginning, end, and occasionally, even the MIDDLE of many videos, please consider installing Adblock Plus for maximum pony enjoyment. DailyMotion can be a great deal better and more enjoyable than YouTube, but only if you use Adblock to get around the horribly annoying ads.

If you're interested in MLP:FiM, but you don't want to go to DailyMotion, either because of the annoying random ads or because the videos play slower there than on other sites, there are dozens, if not hundreds of channels on YouTube that have the entire first and second seasons uploaded to their channels, and they're all ad-free, too. I was planning on creating another YouTube channel to upload pony videos to, but it wouldn't allow me to upload videos past 15 minutes unless I gave a mobile phone number, and I don't have a mobile phone, and I'm NOT breaking these videos into parts.

If ponies aren't your thing, I understand. At any rate, I cannot stress enough that there are PLENTY of depressing pieces of news and controversial opinions about certain subjects on here. But if you can get past this disclaimer, you might find that this blog is fairly interesting and informative. I do my best to post interesting articles from various news sources, many of which provide a glimpse into the harsh realities of the world. Some of them may be easily accessed by searching your favorite news site or clicking on CNN, FOX News, MSNBC, etc, whereas some other news stories are less known for various reasons.

Just know what you're getting yourself into before you traverse my blog. There is some HIGHLY depressing stuff on this blog, and I do use plenty of profanity in some of my posts. I am NOT kidding when I say this blog is grimdark as fuck.


BTW, I've noticed a few people have been searching for "Rainbow Dash Attack", basically a ponified version of the popular Adult Swim Flash game "Robot Unicorn Attack". If you want to play "Rainbow Dash Attack", follow the link below.
http://www.comdotgame.com/play/rainbow-dash-attack

If you just want to play the original version, Robot Unicorn Attack, feel free to follow this link...
http://games.adultswim.com/robot-unicorn-attack-twitchy-online-game.html




Saturday, December 31, 275555

A veritable encyclopedia of important links, including search engines, Pastebins, proxies, alternative news sources, etc.

Alternative Search Engines
 
001 http://www.mamma.com
002 https://blekko.com/
003 https://startpage.com/
004 https://ixquick.com
005 https://duckduckgo.com/
006 http://www.alltheweb.com
007 http://www.gigablast.com/
008 http://www.proxysearchengine.tk
009 http://74.125.47.132  (google)
010 http://gibiru.com/
011 http://filetram.com/  (file search)
012 http://www.worldcat.org/  (library search engine)
013 http://www.monstercrawler.com
014 http://searchalot.com
015 http://www.searchcanvas.com/
016 http://web.search.ch
017 http://mamma75.mamma.com
018 http://search.freecause.com/
019 http://www.general-files.com/  (file search)
020 http://www.ebook3000.com/ (free books)
021 http://www.sqfile.com  (file search)
022 http://www.zoozle.org/ (file search)
023 http://translate.google.com/
024 http://www.robtex.com/
025 http://95.154.230.253 (hide my ass)

Thursday, December 30, 99999

Saturday, March 6, 99999

A wealth of information about the Deep Web Part 2 (More information, slightly less disturbing shit, 56K WARNING)

http://www.businessinsider.com/tor-silk-road-deep-web-2013-3?op=1

The average person is only aware of a fraction of the Internet.

There is more content out there than any conventional browser can access. These sites are termed
"Deep Web" or "Undernet." They exist outside the scope of Google, Facebook, and your RSS reader. It's the digital equivalent of a thriving city that's been domed over and cordoned off.



These sites are locked down so tightly that you need a special browser to access them. It's called the Tor browser, and it offers you an entirely new way of connecting to the Internet.

Where conventional web browsers like Chrome and Firefox make no effort to conceal your location
or identity, Tor is built upon the idea of preserving anonymity as aggressively as possible.

What is Tor?

Tor, originally an acronym for "The Onion Router," is an anonymity network designed to keep your identity and location completely secure as you browse the web. When you use the Tor browser (a free download), volunteer servers around the world route your internet traffic from server to server before finally delivering you your content. On top of this evasive routing, data is encrypted a number of times as it travels to you.

Exploring the Deep Web

Michael Bergman of BrightPlanet puts it succinctly: "Searching on the Internet today can be compared to dragging a net across the surface of the ocean. While a great deal may be caught in the net, there is still a wealth of information that is deep, and therefore, missed."

Using the Tor browser unlocks the door to a whole weird and wild world you never would have guessed existed online. Where Google helps you find the needle, Tor lets you "explore the haystack."

There is lots of promise in Tor's value – people use it to protect their communications, to research
sensitive topics, and to access information they might otherwise not have access to (if a country is behind a firewall, for example). By guaranteeing such a high level of anonymity, Tor lends itself well to information freedom activists, libertarians, and those who simply want to take their Internet safety to the extreme.

But with such anonymizing power made available for free, some less-than-legal (and even downright malicious) operations claim to operate successfully.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Behind The Veil Part 5: Comcast Metrics For All Employees As Simple As ABC, Always Be Closing

https://www.techdirt.com/articles/20140820/06411728263/behind-veil-part-5-comcast-metrics-all-employees-as-simple-as-abc-always-be-closing.shtml

In the ongoing fallout Comcast is facing due to the high-pressure sales tactics of their non-sales employees, the company has consistently indicated that these employees are not behaving in a manner consistent with the company's wishes. The common thread in most of these stories consists of customer service duties being handled by customer retention reps as often as not and complaints or attempts to cancel service being met with sales pitches instead of service. Comcast has specifically indicated that these examples are outside of the way they train employees to conduct their business.

Comcast, as it turns out, is completely full of shit. The latest reveal via past and current Comcast employees spilling their guts to The Verge is all about employee metrics. And it seems that Comcast sees everyone as part of the sales team.
Guidelines for repair reps, which show how a trouble call can be segued into a sales call, are part of S4, Comcast's "universal call flow." S4 is an evaluative measurement to ensure that all agents "give every customer a great call experience every time." It stands for: start, solve, sell, summarize. Part S3, or "sell," includes four parts: "transition to relevant offer," "present offer," "overcome objections," and "proactively close sale."
That's not even a retention rep being trained in that document; it's a repair tech. Because, hey, the thing I most want when Comcast's service is failing is the person fixing it to sell me more of that failing service. This is the kind of pressure tactics that lead repair calls down the dark path to an angry customer who likely subsequently finds out that Comcast has a monopoly on service in their area. Where are my free-market conservative friends on this stuff? This is supposed to be in your wheelhouse!

It doesn't get any better for customer service reps.
Similarly, a scorecard for customer service reps in the Pennsylvania area shows that sales are explicitly worth 18 percent of an agent's performance. Sales are measured again in the general customer service "Pinnacle" metric, which is worth 27 percent. An excerpt from the Pinnacle guidelines says "Sales/Conversion" is one of eight categories measured in an employee's interaction with a customer.
A fifth of a customer service reps performance is judged on their salesmanship. Let that sink in for a moment and then remind yourself of this fact the next time you call for a complaint or help with your service. That person you're speaking to is being judged on whether they can sell you on something when they're supposed to be helping you.

You can see the full dump of the metrics documents here, but don't eat much before you go looking. You may not be able to keep your meal down.

Behind The Veil Part 4: Customer Trying To Cancel Service Is Put On Hold Until Comcast Office Closes

https://www.techdirt.com/articles/20140813/08581528199/behind-veil-part-4-customer-trying-to-cancel-service-is-put-hold-until-comcast-office-closes.shtml

Between trying to negotiate disputed charges with increased levels of internet service, releases of customer retention employee handbooks that are hella damning, and the release of a recording with a customer retention rep that alarmed even the most cynical of us, Comcast hasn't had an easy go of it lately. Two things have become pretty clear as these stories have rolled out to the public. First, thou shalt always record your conversations with Comcast reps (local/stupid two-party consent laws apply) or thou shalt be forever filled with regret. Second, Comcast really needs to change the way its customer service reps handle calls.

And perhaps now we're seeing evidence that a change has indeed been implemented. Though, the process of simply putting cancelling customers on hold until the office closes probably won't win Comcast any brownie points.
That's Aaron Spain of Chicago (holla!), who waited on hold with Comcast about as long as it takes some people to run a marathon, three and a half hours. Upon notifying Comcast that he was trying to cancel his service, he was in fact put on hold long enough that the Comcast offices had closed while the elevator music continued to play. Aaron confirmed this by calling back into Comcast with a different phone and getting the automated message that all the people tasked with helping him cancel his service had gone home for the day.

Now, you might be wondering why someone would wait on hold for three and a half hours with Comcast to begin with. I like to think that Aaron saw this as some kind of completely idiotic test of wills between a megalithic corporation and himself, and he'd be damned if he wasn't going to win. Call it the Chicago spirit. Call it boredom. Call it the opportunity for a great YouTube video.

Whatever you call it, don't call Comcast about it, because they'll put you on hold until they leave for the day.

Behind The Veil Part 3: Comcast Rep Confirms That You Should Always Record Customer Service Calls

https://www.techdirt.com/articles/20140812/05475128186/behind-veil-part-3-comcast-rep-confirms-that-you-should-always-record-customer-service-calls.shtml

As you probably know by now, Comcast has been in the news quite a bit lately for all the wrong reasons. It started with a recorded call of one Comcast customer attempting to cancel his service before being passed over to a "customer retention" representative who had watched entirely too much Boiler Room. Comcast made a great deal of noise about how this wasn't how they told their reps to conduct their business, which, thanks to the Verge's call for input from past and current Comcast employees, was shown pretty conclusively to a complete lie. It's been a pretty, nice, little lesson in why breeding the kind of monopoly that Comcast tends to hold in many areas of this country is a really crappy idea. The other lesson that this should be teaching all of us is the importance of recording customer service calls with Comcast*.

And that appears to apply even for customers of Comcast that aren't trying to flee their brand of customer service. Tim Davis uploaded a (NSFW due to language) recording to YouTube of a couple of conversations he had with Comcast's customer service.

If you can't listen to the audio, or want a quick breakdown: Tim had moved recently and chose to relocate his Comcast service because, according to the video, he didn't have a choice due to a lack of competitive providers. I've gone through this myself several times in Chicago; it sucks. In any case, he did the internet portion of the install himself, as I too have done several times. All went well until a few weeks later when he was experiencing intermittent outages. An initial call with Comcast confirmed the problem was with the wiring outside the home, not the internal setup. Tim recorded that conversation, including when a Comcast rep confirmed that there is no charge to have a technician do work on outside lines to provide adequate service. Makes sense. A tech comes out, fixes the outside line issue, tests the network inside the home to assure connectivity is restored, and leaves. Then this happens.
All is fine until a week or two later when Davis receives a bill that includes $99.99 for "Failed Self Install," another $32 for "Failed Video [Self Install Kit]," and $49.95 for "Wireless Network SET Up." That's $181.94 in total. But, insists Davis, the problem wasn't that he failed to do the self-install correctly or that there was a failed self-install kit, since the problem involved cables entering his property that he never touched. Similarly, the tech never set up or did anything with Davis's WiFi system, so the set-up charge is bogus.
When Tim calls up to dispute the charges, he's told several things. First, the rep applies a "discount" that wipes out about fifty dollars. Then she insists she cannot apply any credits because all of the tech's service charges are valid, despite Tim informing her of both the recording of the call with the other rep that said there would be no charge and the fact that the tech would have had to have the apartment landlord's approval to access what the tech claimed he'd worked on. Instead of applying a credit, she suggests she upgrade his internet for a year for free instead, which would be of a $60 or so value. $121 or $60 in temporary service upgrades...guess which Tim wanted? He insisted the bogus charges to be credited back to him. The rep then claims she'd get back to him. When she did, she confirmed that everyone on the planet should be recording their calls to Comcast's customer service.
She eventually calls back later than planned, and after escalating his call one final time she tells him that the full $82 will actually be credited back to his account. When Davis asks why she couldn't simply do that during the earlier call, her explanation is enough to make you pound your head through a wall in frustration.

"We try to negotiate, and again, that is a valid charge," she answers. "But since I advised my manager that there is a recording and you were misinformed, then she's the one who can approve that $82."

Seemingly flabbergasted, Davis asks to confirm, "You're telling me that if I didn't have a recording of that call, you wouldn't have been able to do it?"

"Yes, that is correct," answers the rep, confirming that the only way to get Comcast to erase a bogus charge from your account is to have recorded evidence that you were promised in advance that the call would be free.
Everyone got that? Customer service reps dealing with disputed charges will try to "negotiate" with you and you only have a chance at legitimate recourse if you record all your calls with them. Keep digging, Comcast. I don't think the grave is big enough yet.

* Oh, but if you're recording your call, you may want to pay attention to the local laws about such things.

Behind The Veil Part 2: Let's All Look At Comcast's Customer Retention Playbook For Its Employees!

https://www.techdirt.com/articles/20140806/09215028129/behind-veil-part-2-lets-all-look-comcasts-customer-retention-playbook-its-employees.shtml

Following one Comcast customer-retention rep's brave attempt to set the record for the most annoying cancellation call, The Verge put out a call for past and current Comcast employees to weigh in on just how rare or frowned-upon this sort of thing is. As the initial submissions noted, this sort of thing isn't so much frowned-upon as it is, oh, let's call it super-actively encouraged. So much so, in fact, that the latest confession dump on The Verge includes Comcast's employee handbook for customer retention reps, and it's exactly as infuriating as you think it is.
A current employee at Comcast who participated in the Comcast Confessions series provided The Verge with a copy of the 20-page guidelines the company uses for evaluating retention specialists. The guidelines are divided into 13 sections:

1. Greet customer clearly
2. Clarify reason for call
3. Relate and empathize
4. Take control
5. Set the agenda
6. Ask targeted questions
7. Consider unstated needs / active listening
8. Take ownership / make offer
9. Overcome objections
10. Close the save
11. Confirm details
12. End on a positive note
13. Documentation
It has all the hallmarks of a playbook designed to piss off and annoy someone who wants to cancel service. Legislated courtesy followed by manufactured empathy that devolves into the assertion of the rep's dominance on the call, all leading to a close of the "save." If you're not in some kind of sales role, this list probably doesn't look familiar to you. I've been in sales all of my life, however, and this is the kind of playbook you get in a sales role at a faceless mega-corporation. Trust me, it's as frustrating for the sales person as it is for the customer. But you know what this isn't? Customer service for someone looking to cancel their damned account.

But the handbook does offer indirect advice on how to get past these Comcast retention people in the form of what "objections" cannot be resolved with some contrived buddy-talk and a "special" offer.
Save Attempt is Not Applicable in the Following Scenarios

-Customer is moving in with an existing Comcast customer (CAE must verify Comcast services active at new address)
-Customer is moving to a non-Comcast area (CAE must verify by looking up zip code)
-Account holder is deceased / incapacitated
-Temporary / seasonal disconnect and Seasonal Suspend Plan is not available in their area
-Natural disaster
-Customer doesn't know what address they're moving to
So, if you're a Comcast customer looking to cancel your service, your playbook is quite clear. Once you are transferred to customer retention, you say the following: "I am cancelling my service because my home was hit by a tornado, flinging me out of the window and into an unknown address that I'll be sharing with someone who already has Comcast service. Also I'm dead."

Happy cancelling, folks!

Behind The Veil: Comcast Techs Detail How Customer Service Is Really All Just 'Sales'

https://www.techdirt.com/articles/20140730/06472928054/behind-veil-comcast-techs-detail-how-customer-service-is-really-all-just-sales.shtml

By now you've surely heard the story of Ryan Block's recorded attempt to cancel his Comcast service, which resulted in one of the most infuriating 3rd person experiences I've ever witnessed. On top of that, we wondered recently whether some of the claims made in the call, chiefly revolving around Comcast's status as the speediest internet provider out there, might land the company in legal trouble. Both stories essentially stem from a supposed customer service rep behaving more like a used car salesman than anything remotely resembling an agent that might assist with the cancellation of service. The problem with these kinds of stories is that they're usually written off as one-time occurrences, with the company in question insisting this isn't how it typically does business. Comcast did just that, suggesting they might need to re-train some employees at some call centers to get them back on the company line.

Fortunately for us, there are enterprising journalists like the folks at The Verge, who put out a call for current and former Comcast employees to tell the story behind the veil. The result is pretty much what you'd expect: Block's call wasn't a deviation from company policy, it was just the application of company policy on steroids. There are several examples here, with a promise of more to come, but they pretty much tell the same story.
Mark Pavlic was hired as a customer account executive at Comcast in October 2010 after graduating from a technical institute. He figured he’d be troubleshooting TV, phone, and internet service, but most of his month-long training focused on sales. Every day when he walked into the call center, he’d see a whiteboard with employee names and their RGUs, or revenue generating units. Pavlic’s call center in Pittsburgh is operated by Comcast, but the company also uses third-party and international call centers. Exact training and incentive structures vary by call center, and on whether employees are working on business services or residential services. Our interviews revealed a common thread across facilities: what often started out as a carrot — bonuses for frontline employees who made sales — turned into a stick, as employees who failed to pitch hard enough or meet their quotas were chastised, or worse.
Worse meaning getting fired, basically. Such was the case with Brian Van Horn, who had been hired by Comcast to be a billing specialist and had been employed for 10 years. He detailed how the culture and policies he was tasked with changed over the years, getting more aggressive and less cooperative with cancellations. Eventually, he had scripts designed to overcome objections, repeatedly, rather than comply with the customer's requests. Despite his being good at the aspects of the job he'd actually been hired for, things didn't go well.
Van Horn says he "couldn’t sell water to a man dying of thirst in the desert," but his other metrics were good: he had high scores on "first call resolution," meaning that customers’ issues were often fixed in a single call, as well as "attaboys," where a customer asked to speak to a supervisor in order to compliment him for a job well done. But after repeated reprimands for low sales, Van Horn was fired.
These stories aren't just coming from former employees who were fired or quit, by the way. Current employees, including at least one from the same call center than handled the infamous Block call, weighed in as well.
[The rep who spoke to Block] was placed on leave, pending investigation. His desk is still set up, which means he still works for us. Yes, he is a good salesperson. I mean if you don’t have stellar numbers, you get fired. One of the issues with [the recorded call] is he actually did his job, just went WAY overboard with it. According to our retention handbook, he did not violate any of the things that can end your employment.

-Retention supervisor, 2012-present, Colorado
So much for all of this being some overly zealous employee going rogue. The question that arises with this kind of thing, particularly with Comcast operating a multi-tiered group of call centers, some outsourced, some not, is whether the company has become too unwieldy to actually meet customer requests. It's fine for a company to work to retain customers, but that's typically done by providing great service, not irritating the shit out of anyone who doesn't think your company's poop doesn't stink. Far from too big to fail, Comcast, recently in massive merger discussions, may be getting too big to succeed.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

New London, Connecticut: Man climbs fence on Gold Star Bridge in possible suicide attempt

 http://www.theday.com/article/20140824/NWS01/140829885/1070/NWSnlpd

New London — A man who climbed the fence on the southbound side of the Gold Star Memorial Bridge late Saturday night came down without incident and was taken to Lawrence + Memorial Hospital for a psychological evaluation, according to city police.


The man’s name was not released and no charges have been filed against him.


Police responded shortly before 10 p.m. to a report of a man on the bridge who appeared to be contemplating suicide.


Last Thursday, the body of a man who jumped from the bridge shortly after noon was recovered several hours later. As this afternoon, state police had not released the man’s name.

March 2013 Report: New London, Connecticut police officers punched, kicked suspect's head

http://www.theday.com/article/20130329/NWS02/303299972/-1/NWSnlpd

Editor's note: An earlier version of this story erroneously reported that then-Sgt. Lawrence J. Keating Jr. was among five officers and a former officer named in a federal lawsuit claiming excessive force. Lawrence M. Keating is the officer named in that suit.

A New London police officer and his supervisor punched and kicked a repeat domestic violence offender in the head as they struggled to take him into custody on March 13, leaving him with a black eye and a bruise on his forehead.

According to court records, police responded to 518 Ocean Ave. after receiving an anonymous report that Hector Maldonado, 25, of New London, was at the house in violation of a standing criminal protective order prohibiting him from having contact with a female victim for the next 50 years.

Maldonado jumped out a window and struggled with the officers who were waiting for him below. Patrolman David McElroy wrote in an incident report that he punched Maldonado "in the area of his right eyebrow" two times during the incident. The report says that Sgt. Lawrence J. Keating Jr., an 18-year veteran of the department who was promoted to lieutenant on March 21, kicked Maldonado in the same area.

Maldonado was charged with violation of a protective order and interfering with an officer and was presented in court on March 14. A judge set his bond at $150,000 and continued the case to April 11.
At his arraignment, Maldonado was represented by attorney Dawn Bradinini from the public defender's office, who did not respond to a request for information.

Police Officers Facing Potential Felony Charges After Using Government Databases To Screen Potential Dates

 https://www.techdirt.com/articles/20140824/21280528312/police-officers-facing-potential-felony-charges-after-using-government-databases-to-screen-potential-dates.shtml


Hey, look! It's more abuse of privileges by people in power. (via PoliceMisconduct.net)
Court documents show that Fairfield Police Officers Stephen Ruiz and Jacob Glashoff used company time and equipment to search for women on internet dating sites.
Just a bad idea, whether you're a government employee or engaged in the private sector rat race. In almost every case, using work computers (while on the clock) to surf dating sites will be a violation of company/agency policy. But there's more.
Court documents allege the officers then used a police-issued computer to look up the women they found appealing in a confidential law enforcement database that connects to the DMV and state and federal records.
This isn't an isolated incident. Government employees and law enforcement officers have a long history of abusing the public's trust.

There's not a ton of commentary to add here. The basic issue is this: many, many people have access to personal information that the government demands you provide in exchange for essential items like driver's licenses, vehicle/home titles, etc. Connected to these databases is one used to house information on every person booked by police (notably, not every person convicted or even every person charged).

Some people place a lot of trust in those who have access to this information. This trust is often misplaced. Many others place no trust in those who have this access and yet, there is very little they can do without placing their personal information in the hands of people they actively distrust.

Having verifiable records on hand is a safeguard against fraud and other criminal activity… by the public. The internal safeguards meant to protect citizens from untoward actions by public servants are ultimately useless because the government far too frequently refuses to take serious actions against those who abuse the public's trust. People are given paid suspensions or are allowed to transfer out of the agency rather than face more severe consequences. These two officers face the possibility of criminal charges (after being reported by another officer -- kudos to him or her) but in the meantime, both are still on duty and fully paid. Innocent until proven guilty, sure, but it would seem the police department should have caught this before it became a problem severe enough that felony charges are even being discussed. Externally, police are issuing tickets for expired vehicle tags and other minor lapses. Internally, no one can apparently be bothered to monitor access of sensitive info.

Defenders of surveillance and the wholesale collection of personal information by government entities often claim the Googles and Twitters of the world are just as disinterested in your privacy as any government agency. But you can opt out of Google, Twitter, et al. You can choose to not participate. The government, for the most part, isn't optional. There's no TOS you can read before deciding to do business elsewhere. Your information is gathered, stored and rifled through by any number of people, some of whom are doing it just because their positions give them access.

NSA Makes Metadata (Including Info On Americans) Available To Domestic Law Enforcement Via 'Google-Like' Search

https://www.techdirt.com/articles/20140825/11364228314/nsa-makes-metadata-searches-including-info-americans-available-to-domestic-law-enforcement-via-google-like-search.shtml

The latest report from The Intercept on documents obtained from Ed Snowden (and, yes, they make it clear that these are from Snowden, rather than the purported "second leaker") is about a "Google-like" search engine that the NSA built, called ICREACH, which lets the NSA share a massive trove (at least 850 billion) of "metadata" records not just with others in the NSA or CIA, but with domestic law enforcement and other government agencies including the FBI and the DEA. The database includes records collected via Executive Order 12333, which we recently noted a State Department official revealed as the main program via which the NSA collects its data (and which is not subject to oversight by Congress).

While data collected under 12333 is supposed to be "minimized" to ditch information on "US Persons" we've already noted how backdoor searches get around that. Further, as this report reminds everyone, while "minimized" the NSA still keeps the data, and if someone (say, the DEA or FBI) wants to dig deeper, they can "un-minimize" the data.
However, the documents make clear that it is not only data about foreigners’ communications that are available on the system. Alexander’s memo states that “many millions of…minimized communications metadata records” would be available through ICREACH, a reference to the process of “minimization,” whereby identifying information—such as part of a phone number or email address—is removed so it is not visible to the analyst. NSA documents define minimization as “specific procedures to minimize the acquisition and retention [of] information concerning unconsenting U.S. persons”—making it a near certainty that ICREACH gives analysts access to millions of records about Americans. The “minimized” information can still be retained under NSA rules for up to five years and “unmasked” at any point during that period if it is ever deemed necessary for an investigation.
In other words, there's a decent chance that the FBI and DEA can easily surf through these hundreds of billions of records, and "unmask" people if need be, and then make use of the infamous parallel construction to hide how they first decided to focus on a particular individual or group.
In practice, this could mean that a DEA agent identifies an individual he believes is involved in drug trafficking in the United States on the basis of information stored on ICREACH. The agent begins an investigation but pretends, in his records of the investigation, that the original tip did not come from the secret trove. Last year, Reuters first reported details of parallel construction based on NSA data, linking the practice to a unit known as the Special Operations Division, which Reuters said distributes tips from NSA intercepts and a DEA database known as DICE.

Tampa attorney James Felman, chair of the American Bar Association’s criminal justice section, told The Intercept that parallel construction is a “tremendously problematic” tactic because law enforcement agencies “must be honest with courts about where they are getting their information.” The ICREACH revelations, he said, “raise the question of whether parallel construction is present in more cases than we had thought. And if that’s true, it is deeply disturbing and disappointing.”
And yes, this is "just metadata" but as the Intercept report notes, the NSA's own notes relating to this project reveal just how valuable metadata can be, including noting that it "has been a contribution to virtually every successful rendition of suspects and often, the deciding factor."
An NSA memo noted that PROTON could identify people based on whether they behaved in a “similar manner to a specific target.” The memo also said the system “identifies correspondents in common with two or more targets, identifies potential new phone numbers when a target switches phones, and identifies networks of organizations based on communications within the group.” In July 2006, the NSA estimated that it was storing 149 billion phone records on PROTON. According to the NSA documents, PROTON was used to track down “High Value Individuals” in the United States and Iraq, investigate front companies, and discover information about foreign government operatives. CRISSCROSS enabled major narcotics arrests and was integral to the CIA’s rendition program during the Bush Administration, which involved abducting terror suspects and flying them to secret “black site” prisons where they were brutally interrogated and sometimes tortured. One NSA document on the system, dated from July 2005, noted that the use of communications metadata “has been a contribution to virtually every successful rendition of suspects and often, the deciding factor.”
Remember Michael Hayden gleefully admitting that the US kills people based on metadata? Well, now it turns out that we "rendition" them on metadata as well. Oh, and contrary to earlier claims about how just a few NSA analysts could examine the metadata, it now looks like tons of other government agencies, including the FBI and DEA have pretty free license to scour the data as well.

Putting Body Cameras On Cops Won't Fix Misconduct, But It's A Good Start

https://www.techdirt.com/articles/20140824/17311428309/putting-body-cameras-cops-wont-fix-misconduct-its-good-start.shtml

Prompted by the fatal shooting of Ferguson resident Mike Brown, a We the People petition asking the federal government to require body cameras for all law enforcement officers has roared past the 100,000 signature threshold required for a White House response. (Theoretically.)

The petition asks for the creation of the "Mike Brown Law," which would mandate the use of body cameras and ensure agencies are supplied with funding needed to comply. The usual caveat about bad laws being named after deceased persons aside, the use of body cameras by police officers is nearing inevitability, what with police misconduct now being a mainstream media topic.

It's not a complete solution, but it is a very valuable addition. Dash cams, which have been in use for years, only capture a small percentage of interactions with civilians. While the use of body cameras will prompt new privacy concerns, the presence of the unblinking eye has been shown to make both police and the public behave better.

KlearGear Revamps Website; New Address Traces Back To Scammy Penny Auction Site

https://www.techdirt.com/articles/20140823/23233628305/kleargear-revamps-website-new-address-traces-back-to-scammy-penny-auction-site.shtml

KlearGear is on the move! Not content to simply dodge judgments against it by pretending to be a French corporation rather than the variety of remailers it appears to be, KlearGear has revamped its website and given itself a brand new address.

Gone are the legal threats claiming it has the "right" to charge customers $3,500 for bad reviews. Also gone are the claims that it will fight every chargeback to the death with a variety of tactics including reporting unhappy customers to a scam site shut down by the Federal Trade Commission and an ever-escalating number of punitive charges.

KlearGear's subtly updated site now shows the following as its new address.
427 North Tatnall Street
Wilmington, Delaware 19801-2230
KlearGear used to be "located" at a strip of nondescript warehouses in Grandville, Michigan. But that's all in the past now. The new KlearGear is nominally a Delaware corporation, one that shares its address with yet another scammy business, penny auction site Zbiddy, which boasts an absolutely gaudy 424 customer complaints over the last three years.

Zbiddy seems to have nearly as many pissed-off customers as KlearGear. Winning bidders report their items never arrived. Many more complaints call out the company for charging their credit cards $60-99 immediately after registration, without them ever placing a bid or winning an auction. Like other equally abysmal auction sites, Zbiddy lures people in with the chance to obtain stuff for low, low prices. And like other auction sites, it requires a credit card before a potential bidder can do anything. And (again) like equally shady sites, Zbiddy sells packages of bids, without which bidders can't even participate in auctions.

New London, Connecticut: Man charged with threatening to shoot woman in parking garage

 http://theday.com/article/20140825/NWS01/140829806/1070/NWSlatest

New London — A 26-year-old Norwich man is due in court next month to answer to charges he threatened to shoot a woman in the city-owned Water Street parking garage.


Hector Pagan, 26, of 140 Washington St., Norwich, is charged with first-degree threatening and third-degree criminal trespass in the Aug. 1 incident.


The alleged victim in the case, a 59-year-old New London woman who asked not to be identified because of safety concerns, said it was a life-changing event. She said she no longer feels safe going anywhere by herself.


The woman said she was pulling into a parking spot on the ground level of the garage when a man approached her car and told her to put the window down. He then placed two hands on her partially open window and told her “if you don’t put that window down I’ve got a gun in the bag and I’m going to shoot you,” she said.


The woman said she sounded her horn to scare the man off, drove to the attendant’s office and called police. She said police had the man on the ground and in custody of police before she was even able to speak with an officer.


Pagan is free after posting a $500 bond and is due to appear Sept. 12 at New London Superior Court.

New London, Connecticut police investigate second reported suicide in a week

http://theday.com/article/20140825/NWS04/140829871/1070/FRONTPAGE

New London — Police are investigating what appears to be the suicide of a man found shot to death this morning in a wooded area off of Ocean Avenue and Mansfield Road.


Police responded to the area shortly after 6 a.m. and said they are making notification to family of the victim before releasing a name. An autopsy is expected to be performed at the state Office of the Chief Medical Examiner.


No further information was available.