At least 16 fraudulent sites attributed to the National Republican Congressional Committee have been discovered. These sites, whose domains are the names of Democratic candidates, use large type and photos that make them appear to be fundraisers for those candidates, though the small-print text makes it clear that these are actually sites set up opposing their apparent candidates. The NRCC claims these are all fair game and blame Democrats for not registered their candidates' names as for campaign sites. But when there's a site at AnnKirkpatrick.com, with the words ANN KIRKPATRICK FOR CONGRESS and a DONATE button beneath it, and when that DONATE button sends money to Ann Kirkpatrick's GOP rival, the intent to deceive is pretty clear.
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Eric Ferguson of Mooresville, NC was given a bill for $89,000 by Lake Norman Regional Medical Center, which treated him for a venomous snake-bite last August. Included in the itemized bill from the hospital was a $81,000 charge for four doses of anti-venom -- the same anti-venom that can be had on Ebay for $750. The hospital and Ferguson's insurer settled for $20,227, of which Ferguson paid $5,400.
Ferguson does not fault the standard of care at the hospital ("beyond phenomenal"), but he is understandably curious about the $80,000+ markup on the medicine with which he was treated. The hospital itself is already under investigation for overbilling.
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Are you one of those Old Net Hands who has a domain stashed with the always-terrible Network Solutions (now Web.com)? Time to move it somewhere sensible (I use and recommend Hover
): Netsol is moving random domains (they say it's high traffic, high Pagerank sites, but who knows what that means) into a $1850 protection racket
-- but don't worry, they're only going to auto-bill your card $1,350 per year, per domain, after the first year. Netsol initially insisted that this would be an opt-out program, then changed their tune and said it would be opt-in. But even if you opt in, $1,850 is an awful lot of cash to charge for setting the REGISTRAR-LOCK bit in a database, and it's unclear why they're charging $1,350 a year to leave it that way.
Jennifer Jenkins from the Duke Center for the Public Domain writes, "What could have been entering the public domain in the US on January 1, 2014? Under the law that existed until 1978 -- Works from 1957. The books 'On The Road,' 'Atlas Shrugged,' and 'The Cat in the Hat,' the films 'The Bridge on the River Kwai,' '12 Angry Men,' and 'Funny Face,' the musical 'West Side Story' and the songs 'All Shook Up' and 'Great Balls of Fire,' and more -- What is entering the public domain this January 1? Not a single published work."
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Adam the Alien has a Youtube channel that earns him some money through Youtube's "monetization" service, which inserts ads and gives him a cut of the money. It worked fine until Youtube's notorious "Content ID" system let some of the biggest music publishers in the world lay claim to the copyright in Adam's video, on the basis that his rendition of "Silent Night" belonged to them -- despite having been composed in 1818 and being firmly in the public domain. Once their claims had been laid, all the money his video generated was diverted to them.
The companies that laid claim to Adam's video are the publishing arms of the biggest record labels on the planet -- BMG, Warner/Chappell, and Universal Music Publishing Group -- and they use an automated system to identify videos and claim them. There is no penalty for automatically generated claims over things that the publishers have nothing to do with, and so, unsurprisingly, their copyright bots are fantastically sloppy and operate with little or no human oversight.
It's a perfect storm of stupidity and greed: Google has given the big publishers a platform that rewards fraudulent claims over indie creators' work; the publishers responded by making plenty of such claims, and all the while decrying "piracy" as the great evil of our day.
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In a photography forum, Surapon recounts the sad story of how the TSA took away his Giottos AA1900 Rocket Air Blaster, a blower for removing dust from equipment, at an airport in New York.
According to him, he was on his way back to North Carolina from Greece when the TSA flagged his camera-case for manual inspection. The TSA agent reportedly produced the rocket-shaped blower, and then he and a colleague grimly pronounced the dangers of this object, should it be filled with gunpowder and then launched like a rocket through the cockpit.
Since then, Surapon assiduously sliced the decorative fins off his blowers, and has had no further trouble from the TSA.
My New and Improve GIOTTOS Blower-for safety. (Thanks, Visionrouge!)
Things aren't looking good for copyright trolls Prenda Law -- they've been ordered to pay $261K
in opponents' fees, and the judge has made all three of Prenda's principles -- Paul Hansmeier, John Steele, and Paul Duffy -- jointly liable for the sum. He also called them liars. They're much worse than that
G4S, the titanic security contractor, has admitted to overcharging the UK Ministry of Justice £24M for its contract to monitor offenders' tracking tags. This is the latest mass-scale cock-up from the wildly profitable firm, whose recent hall of shame includes forging documents in order to deport asylum seekers, catastrophic failure to deliver London Olympics security, and complete mismanagement of a South African prison.
G4S offered to return the money, but the Ministry of Justice rejected the offer.
The firm is anxious to retain its eligiblility to bid on future government contracts, including the private municipal police forces for which it has aggressively lobbied.
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An anonymous commenter who identifies her/himself as a funeral director has posted a magnificent rant to a Reddit thread, explaining all the ways that funeral directors con bereaved families into paying for things they don't need, like $5000 painted plywood boxes and "barbaric," environmentally degrading "mutilation" (embalming), which are often described as legal requirements (they aren't). The post is full of great intel and advice, including mention of the FTC funeral rule, which sets out your rights in clear, simple language. I didn't know that US law requires funeral directors to accept your own coffin, which you can get at your local big-box discount store or have delivered from a variety of sellers through Amazon.
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Ramin Shokrizade's "Top F2P Monetization Tricks" shows how the free-to-play world deploys practical behavioral economics to convince players to spend more than they intend to, adapting to players to hook them and then pry open their wallets wider and wider. I was very interested to learn that some games look for behaviors that mark out "spenders" and convert themselves from "skill games" (win by being good at them) to "money games" (win only by spending):
A game of skill is one where your ability to make sound decisions primarily determines your success. A money game is one where your ability to spend money is the primary determinant of your success. Consumers far prefer skill games to money games, for obvious reasons. A key skill in deploying a coercive monetization model is to disguise your money game as a skill game.
King.com's Candy Crush Saga is designed masterfully in this regard. Early game play maps can be completed by almost anyone without spending money, and they slowly increase in difficulty. This presents a challenge to the skills of the player, making them feel good when they advance due to their abilities. Once the consumer has been marked as a spender (more on this later) the game difficulty ramps up massively, shifting the game from a skill game to a money game as progression becomes more dependent on the use of premium boosts than on player skills.
If the shift from skill game to money game is done in a subtle enough manner, the brain of the consumer has a hard time realizing that the rules of the game have changed. If done artfully, the consumer will increasingly spend under the assumption that they are still playing a skill game and “just need a bit of help”. This ends up also being a form of discriminatory pricing as the costs just keep going up until the consumer realizes they are playing a money game.
The Top F2P Monetization Tricks
(via O'Reilly Radar)
(Image: image, a Creative Commons Attribution (2.0) image from 76969036@N02's photostream)
Forget India's semi-shuttered telegram service
. Marko Rakar says, "Croatian post (btw. we are part of EU since last night) is still accepting and sending telegrams
. They also have price list and they charge by the number of words
. So a telegram with up to 50 words is 41 Croatian Kuna (which is about €5), while up to 100 words is 61 Croatian Kuna which is about €8."
Troy Maye was wanted for a string of identity thefts, but the IRS couldn't positively identify him. But after he passed a thumb-drive of stolen data to an IRS informant, investigators were able to pull his name off the drive's metadata. They used that to find his Instagram profile, and found a food-porn photo he'd taken at the Morton's steakhouse where he'd dined with the informant. Busted.
"IRS Agent Louis Babino then headed to Google and located Maye’s Instagram page, which contained a profile photo of Maye. When shown the profile photo, the CW confirmed that Maye (seen at right) was the man with whom he dined at Morton’s."
Well, sure, Agent Babino, but how can you be really sure this was your guy?
"A further review of Maye’s Instagram page, Babino noted, revealed “a photo of a steak and macaroni and cheese meal containing the caption ‘Morton’s.’” The image--uploaded on January 7 at 11:24 PM--“appears to coincide” with the CW’s meeting at Morton’s, added Babino."
Yup, this guy food-porned his way into being arrested. The Instagram photo is reportedly being entered into evidence in the case, so one hopes the juicy steak and the creamy mac and cheese was really, really worth all the trouble Maye is now in. Once again, if you're a criminal, online narcicism is probably something you'd be best to avoid.
Criminal Nabbed By His Own Food Porn [Timothy Geigner/TechDirt], [Gabrielle Bluestone/Gawker]
Canipre, a Canadian company that helps the entertainment industry send legal threats to people alleged to have infringed copyright, has been caught using several infringing images on its website. Included in the art that Canipre appropriated for commercial gain without permission is a CC-licensed photo that they could have used legally simply by crediting the photographer. Canipre blames its web developer.
I ended up getting a flurry of phone calls and e-mails from a guy named Barry Logan.
Logan claimed that the company used a 3rd party vendor to develop their website and that the vendor had purchased the image from an image bank.
I pointed out to Logan that if that was true, he had basically paid his vendor to rip off other people's creative work. Logan told me that he would contact his web provider and have the image removed. He also told me that he would provide me with the name of the website developer and the name of the image bank where they obtained my photo.
I did notice that they took down my photo, but I have not heard back from Logan regarding the name of the developer and where they sourced my image. I plan to contact Logan later today if he doesn't get back to me. [sic]
The best part is that the company claims it is motivated by a higher calling than mere profit: "[We want to] change social attitudes toward downloading. Many people know it is illegal but they continue to do it... Our collective goal is not to sue everybody… but to change the sense of entitlement that people have, regarding Internet-based theft of property."
The Company Helping Movie Studios Sue You for Illegal Downloading Has Been Using Images Without Permission [Vice/Jamie Lee Curtis]
sez, "Apparently they do it by clogging the court system with dubious - and allegedly fradulent
- claims against people for credit card debt. Let's see... massive numbers of lawsuits, hasty filings, breakneck pace, questionable and incomplete records. I wonder if JPMC is taking a page from the Cartel's playbook?"
The Financial Times analyzed the stock picks of the presenters at this week's Ira Sohn Investment conference in NYC and found that, on average, following a hedge fund manager was a much worse bet than buying passive index funds (though a couple hedgies did do pretty well last year, they were dragged down by the spectacularly wrong advice from the majority):
But a Financial Times analysis of last year's tips shows decidedly mixed results. An investor who followed every top idea from the 12 speakers last year would have made 19 per cent, less than the 22 per cent gain available from a passive index fund tracking the US stock market.
Many of the ideas have proved woefully miscued, including some from the most high-profile managers who will return to the stage on Wednesday: David Einhorn of Greenlight Capital and Bill Ackman of Pershing Square.
Tips From Wall Street Hedge Fund Gurus Fail to Reward Faithful