Behold, how the mighty have fallen.
GOP presidential candidate and noted scumbag Donald Trump met with a bunch of televangelists, Tea Party “teavangelicals,” and preacher profiteers at his Trump Tower office Monday afternoon.
The elite group, which included some megachurch chiefs who have previously been investigated by the federal government for misuse of donations, prayed while performing the “laying on of hands” to infuse him with the Holy Spirit. The goal: Jesus, get our man elected. Read the rest
I use Yelp and Trip Advisor reviews to help me decide which restaurants and hotels to visit. I assumed many businesses purchase shill reviews to boost their ratings and try to take that into consideration, but I did't know that the "review dealer" business was so large. You can buy 5-star reviews for your own business and 1-star reviews for your competition. From Atlas Obscura:
A 2012 Cornell University study found that, after a one-star increase in a hotel's overall review score, that hotel could raise its room rate by 11 percent and wouldn't scare away any new customers.
Jeremy Burke says he contacted the "not-shady-at-all sounding" Silverman Slim's review dealer posing as someone who'd like to get paid to write reviews for businesses:
A representative explained via email that once Silverman Slim's got "sales" for reviews in my area, they would kick me the link. Once I completed each review, I would get compensated through PayPal.
After expressing my enthusiasm for review assignments in both Brooklyn and Toronto—places I legitimately frequent — I didn't hear back for a few days. I sent an email asking for an update. They responded by asking me to share their information with local businesses, negotiate a deal myself, and write the review. And after all that, they'd still take a cut of the profit.
It didn't seem to add up.
I'm fascinated by conspiracy theories and their origins. I'm also fascinated by the real people behind click-bait and spam email scams. This story brings them both together.
Reporter Zack Beauchamp went looking for Frank Bates, the face of a "FEMA hates this!"/"The secret Obama doesn't want you to know!"-style online ad campaign that sells overpriced dehydrated food (and lots and lots of fear) to middle-aged conservatives. He quickly discovered that Bates doesn't actually exist. Instead, the company Food4Patriots is the work of a salesman named Allen Baler who was just tired of working in an office and wanted to run his own business.
Unlike Bates, Baler doesn't live off-the-grid. He doesn't appear to be under any threat from FEMA and/or the Obama administration. It's not even clear that he's particularly conservative. But Baler is making an awful lot of money pretending to be Bates.
I wouldn't normally link to ThinkProgress, which generally seems to exist for the sole purpose of getting liberal people outraged about things. (I'm not particularly fond of the Outrage-Industrial Complex, no matter which side is participating.) But this story is a fascinating look at what goes on behind the scenes of scammy ad links you see all over the Internet and I think it's worth reading.
Read the rest
Baler started dabbling in this field in his free time after work. His first foray — a campaign he refers to as “How To Train Your Pug Dog” — got noticed by his boss, who told him to choose between making cheapo pug training videos and his “multiple six figures” salary.
Bryan Seely, a Microsoft Engineer demonstrated an attack against Google Maps through which he was able to set up fake Secret Service offices in the company's geo-database, complete with fake phone numbers that rang a switch under his control and then were forwarded to real Secret Service offices, allowing him to intercept and record phone-calls made to the Secret Service (including one call from a police officer reporting counterfeit money). Seely was able to attack Google Maps by adding two ATMs to the database through its Google Places crowdsourcing tool, verifying them through a phone verification service (since discontinued by Google), then changing them into Secret Service offices. According to Seely, the disabling of the phone-verification service would not prevent him from conducting this attack again.
As Dune Lawrence points out, this is a higher-stakes version of a common spam-attack on Google Maps practiced by locksmith, carpet cleaning, and home repair services. Spammers flood Google Maps with listing for fake "local" companies offering these services, and rake in high commissions when you call to get service, dispatching actual local tradespeople who often charge more than you were quoted (I fell victim to this once, when I had a key break off in the lock of my old office-door in London and called what appeared to be a "local" locksmith, only to reach a call-center who dispatched a locksmith who took two hours to arrive and charged a huge premium over what I later learned by local locksmiths would have charged). Read the rest
Twenty years ago, Peter Molyneux's Dungeon Keeper became an instant classic, wedding a clever premise—you're the baddie fending off the heroes—to innovative strategy gameplay. The remake just came out for iOS. Not only is it bad, but it is free-to-play bad: the original's brilliant gameplay is all but frozen, with even the most basic mechanisms of play hooked into expensive further payments.
Like recent games such as Minecraft, progess in DK's requires the player to clear space one block at a time. With the new iOS version, however, you soon have to pony up real money for each individual cube to clear--or it takes up to 24 hours for the action to take effect. When it comes to digging out your realm, Dungeon Keeper iOS grinds to a halt unless you're willing to pay-per-tap.
"As I write this review, I am waiting for one of my imps to finish mining a block that I commanded it to start digging last night," writes Jim Sterling in a review at The Escapist. "Something so simple, something that took a handful of seconds in the original Dungeon Keeper, is taking me 24 hours in the twisted mobile reimagining."
Sterling awarded the game 1/10; a brutal score to match its brutal payment model. Destructoid, issuing a comparatively generous but hardly enticing 4/10, says that publisher Electronic Arts is selling a "sack of spolied potatoes ... using a respectable IP as its skin."
German gaming site Superlevel's review is more concise—and works in any language.
German gaming site Superlevel's review is more concise—and works in any language.Read the rest
In Colorado, a scamming sonofabitch charged with collecting about $2 million through sales of breast-cancer-awareness merchandise, none of which helped breast cancer charities, has been sentenced to 14 days in jail. We wrote about this dirtbag back in 2012, when the Illinois state attorney general began investigating his cancer-scam activities.
The Denver Post today reports that Adam Cole Shyrock was jailed for running a new scam in violation of a court order. He wrote a $36,000 check on a frozen Wells Fargo bank account to a T-shirt manufacturer to make t-shirts for "I Heart This Bar," a new scheme purporting to raise money for college scholarships. Man, some people never learn. Snip: Read the rest
Keith Jones was scammed out of US$110,000 by a fraudulent investment firm. Not surprisingly, law enforcement initially had little interest in the case, so Mr. Jones decided to track down the criminals on his own, leading him from his home in Australia to Thailand. He made this high-quality and fascinating documentary of his sleuthing.
HSBC bank, which gave the scammers an account to rip off Mr. Jones, also refused to help him. (That's not surprising either, once you read Matt Taibbi's Rolling Stone article, "Gangster Bankers: Too Big to Jail How HSBC hooked up with drug traffickers and terrorists. And got away with it.") Read the rest
A filmmaker named Melton Barker travelled America from the 1930s to the 1970s, making and remaking a short movie called "The Kidnapper's Foil," which featured a large cast of kids. He'd roll into small towns, announce that he was going into production, and advertise for proud parents who wanted their kids to break into the movies. He'd raise local money to (re)make the film with an all townie cast, have it produced, and leave it behind. There are lots of versions still extant, but there are probably hundreds more that may never be recovered. They're a fascinating insight into the lives of Americans across the country and the years.
Read the rest
She estimates that Barker made hundreds of versions of “The Kidnappers Foil,” but fewer than 20 have been unearthed and digitized. In advance of his arrival to a new town — like Reidsville, N.C., or Allentown, Pa. — Barker, who Ms. Frick said probably died on the road in 1977, would broker a deal with a local theater to screen the film upon completion, handing over the reels once they’d been developed, either by himself (working in his hotel room) or by a lab in Dallas. (During part of his career Barker, like the filmmakers of his era, was working with cellulose nitrate, a wildly flammable film stock that is difficult and dangerous to store.) All the currently accessible prints are available to view on meltonbarker.org, a Web site Ms. Frick and her colleagues built to raise more interest in Barker’s work.
Potential Prostitutes is only the latest sleazy site to wed personal photos to public humiliation. Its offer to publicize anonymous claims of sex crimes, however, is a novelty: any woman may be be anonymously tagged as a prostitute.
The site accepts anonymous submissions through an online form and promises to post uploads in a browsable "offender" database seeded with mugshots of convicted prostitutes. Entries may be removed by those listed—so long as they pay a hefty removal fee. Read the rest
Last week, the Chicago Sun-Times first exposed allegations that "Boobies Rock!," a for-profit business that purports to fund-raise for “breast-cancer awareness” in Chicago and around the US, wasn't actually funneling funds to charities it claimed to benefit.
At left, the president of Boobies Rock!, Adam Shyrock. I don't know what could possibly not be forthright about a breast cancer "awareness" effort run by a guy who looks this douchey, especially when the project, which is about an awful terrible disgusting disease that kills people, is called "Boobies Rock!" (the exclamation point, it should be noted, is part of the name).
The idea itself— to build a car that runs on ordinary water— is total crap, scientifically. It violates at least one law of physics, and pisses off a few others. But the idea behind the idea— a car that runs on something so plentiful and cheap it’s almost valueless— will never go away. It’s just too tantalizing to give up.Read the rest