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COUNT THE STUPIDS: PART TWO (END)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Medical, Politics, Social commentary on October 16, 2020 at 12:18 am

There are at least seven reasons why so many Americans refuse to wear a mask.

First: A feeling of solidarity. According to David Abrams, a professor of social and behavioral sciences at NYU School of Global Public Health: People who don’t wear masks may see it as a sign of solidarity, as if they are taking a stand against authority.

Second: If liberals do it, it’s fascistic. Many mask protesters accuse those who wear masks of being fascists. This is a hallmark of Right-wing politics—accusing their opponents of being what they are themselves.

Third: They have utterly rejected the rising death-toll caused by the virus. They claim stories of such deaths are mere “fake news”—the term Donald Trump uses to dismiss any news stories that highlight his mistakes and criminality. 

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Fourth: Republicans disdain education in general—and science in particular. In March, an NBC News poll found that only 30% of Republicans said that they would actually listen to the advice of doctors to stay away from large, crowded areas to avoid Coronavirus

Fifth: Religious Fanaticism: Many fundamentalist Christians believe that their faith in Jesus will protect them against COVID-19. They continue to attend services indoors in defiance of warnings by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that such meetings are dangerous.

A female member of the Solid Red Rock Church in Monroe, Ohio, told CNN: “I wouldn’t be anywhere else. I’m covered in Jesus’ blood. I’m covered in Jesus’ blood.”

Sixth: Hypocrisy. Since the Supreme Court legalized abortion in 1973, the Right has demanded that even women who are pregnant due to rape or incest carry the fetus to term.

Yet now that Right-wingers are being asked to wear masks in public—to protect themselves and others from a deadly plague—they’ve suddenly discovered the mantra: “It’s my body!”

Seventh: Identifying with Donald Trump. The President has made it clear that his followers don’t wear masks. And they have fallen into line, refusing to mask up even in crowded, indoor arenas where infection is most likely.

Yet even in states where wearing a mask is mandatory when venturing out in public, many people refuse to do so. Fights have erupted before mask-less and mask-wearing customers—and sometimes store employees—who asked them to put on a mask before entering.

  • Two men were arrested for felony battery after starting a fight with employees at a Los Angeles Target store over wearing masks inside the store.
  • A woman entered Curbside Eatery in La Mesa, California, without a mask, pulling her T-shirt over her face. When the owner told her to mask up or leave, the woman yelled: “This is ridiculous! You’re discriminating against me!’ and threatened a lawsuit.
  • In a Costco in Fort Myers, Florida, a masked man asked an unmasked customer to wear a mask. The unmasked man screamed that he was being harassed: “I feel threatened!”

So: How should those who refuse to wear a mask—and thus threaten the lives of others—be dealt with?

Ideally, President Trump should issue a mandatory emergency order requiring everyone to wear a mask when out in public. But Trump cannot admit to error—let alone one that could cost him votes among his most fanatical followers. So that’s not going to happen.

Governors, mayors and business owners need to fill the leadership void. They should issue emergency orders mandating the wearing of masks in public. And these orders should be forcibly backed up by the following:

  • Stop stressing that wearing a mask will protect others from “you.” Most people don’t care about strangers. Emphasize that wearing a mask will protect “you and your family” from others. 
  • Don’t hand out tickets to mask-evaders. They will simply ignore them—or write them off as a cheap price for going without a mask. 
  • Major retailers should hire professional guards to handle mask-evaders—who should be turned over to police.
  • Police should arrest everyone not wearing a mask in public and jail them—without bond—until the plague is over or a vaccine is found.
  • These inmates should be lodged together—and away from those who are not infected with COVID-19.
  • Police should create tip hotlines for reporting mask-evaders—and offer rewards for tips that lead to arrests.
  • The media should publicize these arrests and jailings—to warn other potential mask-evaders.  
  • Right-wingers who openly carry firearms and threaten violence should be arrested and imprisoned under State and Federal anti-terrorism laws.  

It was the failure of German police and courts to abort Right-wing violence during the Weimar Republic that led to even greater violence through the rise of Adolf Hitler and his Nazi party.

Laws are useless if citizens believe they are unfairly or unpredictably enforced. As Niccolo Machiavelli warns in his classic work, The Discourses:

…Whoever desires to found a state and give it laws, must start with assuming that all men are bad and ever ready to display their vicious nature, whenever they may find occasion for it. If their evil disposition remains concealed for a time, it must be attributed to some unknown reason; and we must assume that it lacked occasion to show itself.

COUNT THE STUPIDS!: PART ONE (OF TWO)

In History, Law, Law Enforcement, Medical, Politics, Social commentary on October 15, 2020 at 12:05 am

Here’s a new game you can play the next time you take a walk: Count the Stupids! 

These are the people who, during a deadly pandemic: 

  • Don’t wear a mask.
  • Don’t wear a mask—and suck on a cigarette.
  • Wear a mask—just under their nose.
  • Wear a mask—around their neck like a bandanna. 

The number of people who fall into these categories will vary each day.

But they all constitute a clear and present danger to those who want to stay clear of COVID-19. Here’s why:

  • NOT WEARING A MASK exposes the non-wearer and anyone else not wearing one to the possibility of COVID-19. You can sneeze or cough into someone’s face—or someone can sneeze or cough into yours.
  • NOT WEARING A MASK WHILE SMOKING exposes the smoker to both the possibility of getting COVID-19 and the almost certainty of getting lung cancer, heart disease and/or emphysema.
  • WEARING A MASK JUST UNDER THE NOSE means you can sneeze COVID-19 into someone’s face—or someone with COVID-19 can sneeze into your nose.
  • WEARING A MASK AROUND THE NECK may make you feel like a range-roving cowboy, but it offers the same degree of protection as NOT WEARING A MASK: Zero. 

N95 Respirator Masks | Bass-Mollett Publishers Inc.

N95 mask

President Donald Trump has made the wearing of masks a divisive political issue. Wearing a mask, according to him, makes you a wimp and a liberal Never-Trumper.  NOT wearing a mask shows you’re a macho man or woman—and in solidarity with him.

The Coronavirus, also known as COVID-19, emerged in China in December, 2019, and has since spread throughout the world. By October 12, 2020, it had infected 38.1 million people worldwide. Of these, 1.09 million have died.

In the United States, case totals reached 7.9 million. Of these, 216,000 have died.

But in his public appearances Trump has repeatedly downplayed the lethality of the virus—even though, in February, he admitted to Washington Post investigative reporter Bob Woodward that it was “deadly.”

“It goes through air, Bob,” said Trump. “That’s always tougher than the touch. The touch, you don’t have to touch things, right? But the air, you just breathe the air and that’s how it’s passed. And so that’s a very tricky one. That’s a very delicate one. It’s also more deadly than even your strenuous flues.”

SARS-CoV-2 without background.png

Coronavirus

Trump has:

  • Disregarded the warnings of his own health experts.
  • Said he knew better.
  • Held indoor campaign mega-rallies where his followers don’t wear masks and sit or stand literally shoulder-to-shoulder.
  • Touted an anti-malarial drug (hydroxychloroquine) as a Coronavirus cure, even though its effectiveness against COVID-19 remains unproven.
  • Even suggested injecting bleach as a treatment.

Above all, he has repeatedly mocked the wearing of masks.

On April 3, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention first recommended Americans wear face coverings in public. Trump announced at a task force briefing that the practice was “voluntary” and that “you do not have to do it.”

Four months later, in August, Trump said of masks: “Maybe they’re great, and maybe they’re just good. Maybe they’re not so good.” 

On September 26, Trump hosted festivities in the Rose Garden to celebrate his third Supreme Court nominee, Amy Coney Barrett. All the major domos of the Right showed up—without masks, and crammed together in folding chairs. And soon many of them tested positive for COVID-19. 

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Donald Trump

Among the most important casualties:

  • Trump
  • First Lady Melania Trump
  • White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany
  • Three Republican United States Senators
  • White House Senior Adviser for Policy Stephen Miller
  • Former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie
  • Trump Presidential Campaign Manager Bill Stepien

For the first three months of the plague, masks were hard to come by. Top-of-the-line masks such as the N95 were quickly snapped up by hospitals filling with COVID cases. This forced many families to sew their own masks. Many of these were made of porous material, allowing the wearer to become easily infected.

But today masks are advertised—and sold—everywhere. 

Wearing a mask and “social distancing”—keeping at least six feet between yourself and others while in public—have been the Golden Rules urged by public health officials for months.

Scientists have learned, for example, that COVID-19 can be spread by those who show no symptom of the disease. And mounting evidence has proven that masks are essential for protecting people from the virus. 

Coronavirus is spread by respiratory droplets when an infected person coughs, sneezes or talks—especially if large numbers of people are packed indoors. The danger goes up if the talker is shouting or singing loudly.

If not blocked by a face covering, the droplets can travel six to 13 feet.   

Researchers at Florida Atlantic University found that some masks were more effective than others. One study showed that well-fitted homemade masks with multiple layers of fabric, as well as off-the-shelf cone style masks, were the most effective in reducing droplet dispersal.

Bandannas turned out to be the least effective in reducing transmission.

There are at least seven reasons why so many Americans refuse to wear a mask—even in the midst of a deadly pandemic. And these will be explored in the second part of this series. 

WHO WAS THAT UNMASKED MAN?: PART THREE (END)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on July 24, 2020 at 12:11 am

There are five reasons why millions of Americans refuse to wear masks during a deadly pandemic:

  1. A feeling of solidarity against authority.
  2. “If liberals do it, it’s fascistic.”
  3. Rejection of the death-toll caused by COVID-19.
  4. Disdain for education in general—and science in particular.
  5. Religious fanaticism.

To these must be added:

Sixth: Hypocrisy. Since the Supreme Court legalized abortion in 1973, the Right has demanded that even women who are pregnant due to rape or incest carry the fetus to term.

Yet now that Right-wingers are being asked to wear masks in public—to protect themselves and others from a deadly plague—they’ve suddenly discovered the mantra: “It’s my body!”

Seventh: Identifying with Donald Trump. The President has made it clear that his followers don’t wear masks. And they have fallen into line, refusing to mask up even in crowded, indoor arenas where infection is most likely.

The following states require their citizens to wear masks when in public: Alabama, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, District of Columbia, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Massachusetts, Maryland, Michigan, Mississippi, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Texas, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia.

The following states still refuse to order their citizens to wear masks when in public: Arizona, Alaska, Florida, Georgia, Iowa, Indiana, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, New Hampshire, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Utah, Vermont, Wisconsin, Wyoming. 

Yet even in states where wearing a mask is mandatory when venturing out in public, many people refuse to do so. Fights have erupted before mask-less and mask-wearing customers—and sometimes store employees—who asked them to put on a mask before entering.

  • Two men were arrested for felony battery after starting a fight with employees at a Los Angeles Target store over wearing masks inside the store.
  • A woman entered Curbside Eatery in La Mesa, California, without a mask, pulling her T-shirt over her face. When the owner told her to mask up or leave, the woman yelled: “This is ridiculous! You’re discriminating against me!’ and threatened a lawsuit.
  • In a Costco in Fort Myers, Florida, a masked man asked an unmasked customer to wear a mask. The unmasked man screamed that he was being harassed: “I feel threatened!”

So: How should those who refuse to wear a mask—and thus present a clear and present danger to others—be dealt with?

Ideally, President Donald Trump should issue a mandatory emergency order requiring everyone to wear a mask when out in public. But Trump cannot admit to error—let alone one that could cost him votes among his most fanatical followers. So that’s not going to happen.

Governors, mayors and business owners need to fill the leadership void. They should issue emergency orders mandating the wearing of masks in public. And these orders should be forcibly backed up by the following:

  • Stop mollycoddling Right-wing thugs.  
  • Stop stressing that wearing a mask will protect others from “you.” Most people don’t care about strangers. Emphasize that wearing a mask will protect “you and your family” from others. 
  • Don’t hand out tickets to mask-evaders. They will simply ignore them—or write them off as a cheap price for going without a mask. 
  • Major retailers should hire professional guards to handle mask-evaders—who should be turned over to police.
  • Police should arrest everyone not wearing a mask in public and jail them—without bond—until the plague is over or a vaccine is found.
  • These inmates should be lodged together—and away from those who are not infected with COVID-19.
  • Police should create tip hotlines for reporting mask-evaders.
  • Police should offer rewards for tips that lead to arrests.
  • The media should publicize these arrests and jailings—to warn other potential mask-evaders.  
  • Many Right-wingers openly threaten unarmed civilians with assault rifles. They must be forcibly taught the penalties for endangering the lives of others—via firearms or as potential carriers of a deadly virus.  

It was the failure of German police and courts to abort Right-wing violence during the Weimar Republic that led to even greater violence through the rise of Adolf Hitler and his Nazi party.

This is how United States authorities dealt with “Typhoid Mary” Mallon (September 23, 1869 – November 11, 1938).

A white woman with dark hair is lying in a hospital bed; she is looking at the camera

Mary Mallon

An Irish-born cook, she was an asymptomatic carrier of typhoid fever and is believed to have infected 53 people, three of whom died. Because she persisted in working as a cook, she exposed others to the disease.

As a result, she was twice forcibly quarantined by authorities, and died after a total of nearly 30 years in isolation at Riverside Hospital on North Brother Island, in New York City.

Laws are useless if citizens believe they are unfairly or unpredictably enforced. As Niccolo Machiavelli warns in his classic work, The Discourses:

All those who have written upon civil institutions demonstrate…that whoever desires to found a state and give it laws, must start with assuming that all men are bad and ever ready to display their vicious nature, whenever they may find occasion for it. 

WHO WAS THAT UNMASKED MAN?: PART TWO (OF THREE)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Medical, Politics, Social commentary on July 23, 2020 at 12:22 am

Not only does President Donald Trump refuse to wear a mask, but he suspects the loyalty of his staffers and Republican allies who don’t follow his mask-less example.

On April 28, Vice President Mike Pence toured the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota. Pence, who leads the White House task force on the virus, refused to wear a mask, even though all the officials and medical personnel clustered around him did.  Pence even visited with a patient who had survived the Coronavirus and was going to give blood.

Pence lauds Minnesota's COVID-19 fight in Mayo Clinic visit

Mike Pence at the May Clinic

Few White House aides wear masks, although they claim that Trump hasn’t told them not to wear them. Some Republican allies have asked Trump’s campaign how they would be seen by Trump if he saw them wearing a mask.

“It’s a vanity thing, I guess, with him,” Nancy Pelosi, speaker of the House of Representatives, said. “You’d think, as the President of the United States, you would have the confidence to honor the guidance he’s giving the country.”

By refusing to wear a mask, Trump has convinced untold numbers of Americans—mostly males—that ignoring the dangers of Coronavirus is the manly thing to do.

(On July 20, he tweeted an image of himself wearing a mask and called it “patriotic” to wear one. Hours later, however, he appeared without a mask at a fundraiser at the Trump International Hotel in Washington.)

Meanwhile, former Vice President Joe Biden, the presumptive Democratic nominee for President, has often appeared in public wearing a mask. During a June 26 television interview he said that, if he were elected President, he would require wearing face masks in public to prevent the spread of the Coronavirus. 

“The one thing we do know—these masks make a gigantic difference,” Biden said. “I would insist that everybody out in public be wearing that mask.”

Yet even in states such as California and New York, where this is required, many people still refuse to do so.  

From May 5 to May 12, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) surveyed 4,042 adults throughout the country on wearing masks. The agency found that 60.3% of respondents said they always wore a mask when out in public. Another 13.8% said they often wore a mask in public.

But 17.1% said they either rarely or never wore a mask in public.

The CDC found that women were more likely than men to say they always wore a mask in public.

CDC headquarters in Atlanta

There are several reasons why people refuse to wear masks.

First: A feeling of solidarity. According to David Abrams, a professor of social and behavioral sciences at NYU School of Global Public Health: People who don’t wear masks may see it as a sign of solidarity, as if they are taking a stand against authority.

Second: If liberals do it, it’s fascistic. Many mask protesters accuse those who wear masks of being fascists. This is a hallmark of Right-wing politics—accusing their opponents of being what they are themselves.

Third: They have utterly rejected the rising death-toll caused by the virus. They claim stories of such deaths are mere “fake news”—the term Trump uses to dismiss any news stories that highlight his mistakes and criminality. 

Fourth: Republicans disdain education in general—and science in particular. In March, an NBC News poll found that only 30% of Republicans said that they would actually listen to the advice of doctors to stay away from large, crowded areas to avoid Coronavirus

These are the same people who get their version of reality from Right-wing sources like Fox News Network and radio broadcaster Rush Limbaugh. 

Rush Limbaugh

On his March 27 show, Limbaugh dismissed Coronavirus as “the common cold,” then added: “We didn’t elect a president to defer to a bunch of health experts that we don’t know

“And how do we know they’re even health experts? Well, they wear white lab coats, and they’ve been in the job for a while, and they’re at the CDC [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention] and they’re at the NIH [National Institutes of Health] and they’re up, well—yeah, they’ve been there, and they are there.

“But has there been any job assessment for them? They’re just assumed to be the best because they’re in government. But, these are all kinds of things that I’ve been questioning.” 

In 2015, Limbaugh said: “Firsthand smoke takes 50 years to kill people, if it does. Not everybody that smokes gets cancer. Now, it’s true that everybody who smokes dies, but so does everyone who eats carrots.”

Five years later, Limbaugh—a longtime and heavy cigar smoker—announced that he had Stage Four lung cancer. 

Fifth: Religious Fanaticism: Many fundamentalist Christians believe that their faith in Jesus will protect them against COVID-19. They continue to attend services indoors in defiance of CDC warnings by meeting in large numbers indoors.

A female member of the Solid Red Rock Church in Monroe, Ohio, told CNN: “I wouldn’t be anywhere else. I’m covered in Jesus’ blood. I’m covered in Jesus’ blood.”

WHO WAS THAT UNMASKED MAN?: PART ONE (OF THREE)

In History, Law, Law Enforcement, Medical, Politics, Social commentary on July 22, 2020 at 12:24 am

The United States is now into the seventh month of a deadly plague. More than 3.9 million Americans have become infected with COVID-19 and at least 142,028 have died.

Wearing a mask and “social distancing”—keeping at least six feet between yourself and others while in public—have been the Golden Rules urged by public health officials for months.

And yet vast numbers of Americans still refuse to do either.

Surgical Face Mask 50 Pack - Face Masks & Hand Sanitiser ...

Surgical mask

In the early weeks and months of the pandemic, cloth face masks weren’t universally endorsed, even by public health experts.

“One, we didn’t know whether they were actually helpful, and two, there was a lot of concern that if people were using medical masks then people like myself, were not going to have access to them,” said Dr. Craig Spencer, director of global health in emergency medicine at Columbia University Medical Center.

No less an authority than Dr. Anthony Fauci,  the country’s leading infectious disease expert, said in March that “people should not be walking around with masks.”

Only in early June did the World Health Organization (WHO) urge non-healthcare workers to mask up. The WHO advised people to don masks when social distancing was not possible, such as when visiting stores and using public transportation.

world-health-organisation-logo – definearth

According to Dr. Jeremy Faust, the change in attitudes toward masks should be seen as the nature of science, and not as a flaw.

“That is what experts, in fact, do. They don’t just have an opinion and stick to it,” said Faust, an emergency physician at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, in Boston, Massachusetts. “They actually let their opinions develop and evolve as better information becomes available.”  

Scientists have learned, for example, that COVID-19 can be spread by those who show no symptom of the disease. And mounting evidence has proven that masks are essential for protecting people from the virus. 

Coronavirus is spread by respiratory droplets when an infected person coughs, sneezes or talks—especially if large numbers of people are packed indoors. The danger goes up if the talker is shouting or singing loudly.

If not blocked by a face covering, the droplets can travel six to 13 feet.  

Researchers at Florida Atlantic University found that some masks were more effective than others. One study showed that well-fitted homemade masks with multiple layers of fabric, as well as off-the-shelf cone style masks, were the most effective in reducing droplet dispersal.

Bandannas turned out to be the least effective in reducing transmission.

SARS-CoV-2 without background.png

Coronavirus

In cases involving SARS, MERS and COVID, the chance of transmission of an infection was significantly reduced when a mask was worn. 

So why do so many Americans refuse to wear a mask?

Start at the top: With Donald Trump, 45th President of the United States.

From the outset, Trump refused to wear a mask in public.

A colossal egotist, Trump is orange-skinned, morbidly obese and lacking a neck. (His head seems to pop right out of his shoulders.) Yet he still thinks of himself as dangerously handsome. And he fears that covering his face would diminish his power and appeal.

“Appearing to play it safe contradicts a core principle of masculinity: show no weakness,” wrote social sciences professor Peter Glick at Scientific American magazine. “Defying experts’ warnings about personal danger signals ‘I’m a tough guy, bring it on.’”

On May 21, Trump refused to wear a face mask as he toured a Ford facility in Michigan that’s manufacturing ventilators and personal protective equipment. This violated the policies of the facility, the governor’s executive order and warnings from the state’s attorney general.

Once states across the country began “reopening,” Trump scheduled his first 2020 re-election rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma. 

It was held on June 20 at the BOK Center. Scientists had learned that Coronavirus is more likely to be transmitted indoors than outdoors, when masses of people are packed together, and when people are loudly talking—or, worse, shouting.

Masks were available for those who wanted them, but Trump made it clear that his supporters shouldn’t wear masks, as a sign of support for him. Photos of the rally show men and women densely packed together, with none of them wearing masks.

Trump rallies supporters in Wis. as Democrats debate in Iowa

A Trump rally

The Tulsa event was followed by another indoor rally in Phoenix on June 23. “Students for Trump” featured a packed crowd, with almost no one wearing masks. 

After staging COVID-spreading rallies at Tulsa, Oklahoma, and Phoenix, Arizona, Trump scheduled another one for July 3 at Mount Rushmore, in Keystone, South Dakota.

Such rallies had been put on hold since March, due to the issuing of stay-at-home orders across the country by states’ mayors and governors.

Although health experts expressed fears about a large gathering during the Coronavirus pandemic, South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem said people would “not be social distancing” during the celebration:

“In South Dakota, we’ve told people to focus on personal responsibility….Those who want to come and join us, we’ll be giving out free face masks, if they choose to wear one. But we won’t be social distancing.”

CORPORATE DATA BREACHES? BLAME CEOs: PART TWO (END)

In Bureaucracy, Business, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on August 2, 2019 at 12:43 am

On July 15, 2015, Ashley Madison joined the list of companies that failed to safeguard their customers’ most sensitive information—such as their credit card numbers, addresses, emails and phone numbers.

And Ashley Madison had more reason than most to do this—as the notorious website for cheating wives and husbands.

After all, its database is a blackmailer’s dream-come-true. Yet apparently its owners didn’t care enough about the privacy of their customers to provide adequate security.

Like so many other companies hit by hackers, Ashley Madison sought to reassure its dangerously compromised customers:

“At this time, we have been able to secure our sites, and close the unauthorized access points. We are working with law enforcement agencies, which are investigating this criminal act.”

This statement gave new meaning to the phrase, “Closing the barn door after the cow has gotten out.”

Avid Life Media assured its customers that it had hired “one of the world’s top IT security teams” to work on the breach.

Adultery-dating website Ashley Madison hacked

So why wasn’t this “top IT security team” hired at the outset?

On August 18, 2015, the hackers began releasing their pirated information. 

Ashley Madison’s customers chose to put their private information on its computer system.

Those of Equifax, didn’t. Equifax collected this from credit card companies.

From Mid-May through July, 2017, Equifax was hacked. The breach was discovered on July 29. 

But the company didn’t announce it until September 7, 2017.

As a result, the private data of nearly 150 million people was compromised.

On July 22, 2019, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) announced that Equifax, one of the nation’s largest credit-reporting companies, would pay up to $700 million to settle with the FTC and consumers.

If approved by the federal district court Northern District of Georgia, the settlement will provide up to $425 million in monetary relief to consumers and a $100 million civil money penalty.

According to Karl A. Racine, attorney general for Washington, D.C., it’s the largest settlement ever for a data breach. 

“Equifax failed to protect consumers’ information and failed to enact reasonable security measures under California’s data security laws,” California Attorney General Xavier Becerra said in a news conference.

“That left very important personal information exposed and allowed hackers to steal consumers’ names, Social Security numbers, their birth dates, their addresses and in some instances their driver’s license number and even credit related information.”

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And for those who believe the private sector is inherently more efficient than the public one: On the week that Equifax agreed to pay $700 million for its massive 2017 data breach, Richard Smith, its disgraced former CEO, got some wonderful news: 

  • He was slated to receive as much as $19.6 million in stock bonuses since leaving the company.
  • That’s roughly 1,000 times the $20,000 maximum payout that any financially damaged consumer can collect from Equifax.
  • In addition, Equifax agreed to cover Smith’s medical bills for life, a benefit the company estimates is worth another $103,500.
  • Equifax decided he deserved a $24 million pension.
  • Smith got $50,000 in tax and financial planning services.
  • His stock bonuses cover a period that includes the former executive’s performance in 2017. 

When CBS News contacted Equifax on this development, the company refused to comment. Neither could Smith be reached.

There is a reason why these security breaches keep happening.

An October 22, 2014 “commentary” published in Forbes magazine raised the highly disturbing question: “Cybersecurity: Does Corporate America Really Care?”

And the answer is clearly: No.

Its author was John Hering, co-founder and executive director of Lookout, which bills itself as “the world leader in mobile security for consumers and enterprises alike.”

Click here: Cybersecurity: Does corporate America really care?

“One thing is clear,” wrote Hering. “CEOs need to put security on their strategic agendas alongside revenue growth and other issues given priority in boardrooms.”

Hering warned that “CEOs don’t seem to be making security a priority.” And he offered several reasons for this:

  • The sheer number of data compromises.
  • Relatively little consumer outcry.
  • Almost no impact on the companies’ standing on Wall Street.
  • Executives may consider such breaches part of the cost of doing business.

“There’s a short-term mindset and denial of convenience in board rooms,” wrote Hering.

“Top executives don’t realize their systems are vulnerable and don’t understand the risks. Sales figures and new products are top of mind; shoring up IT systems aren’t.”

There are three ways corporations can be forced to start behaving responsibly on this issue.

  1. Smart attorneys need to start filing class-action lawsuits against companies that refuse to take steps to protect their customers’ private information. There is a name for such behavior: Criminal negligence. And there are laws carrying serious penalties for it.
  2. There must be Federal legislation to ensure that multi-million-dollar fines are levied against such companies—and especially their CEOs—when such data breaches occur.
  3. The Justice Department should vigorously prosecute CEOs whose companies’ criminal negligence leads to such massive data breaches. They should be considered as accessories to crime, and, if convicted, sentenced to lengthy prison terms.

Only then will the CEO mindset of “We don’t care, we don’t have to” be replaced with: “We care, because we’ll lose our money and/or freedom if we don’t.”

CORPORATE DATA BREACHES? BLAME CEOs: PART ONE (OF TWO)

In Bureaucracy, Business, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on August 1, 2019 at 12:08 am

Comedian Lily Tomlin rose to fame on the 1960s comedy hit, Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-In, as Ernestine, the rude, sarcastic switchboard operator for Ma Bell.

She would tap into customers’ calls, interrupt them, make snide remarks about their personal lives. And her victims included celebrities as much as run-of-the-mill customers.

Lily Tomlin as Ernestine

She introduced herself as working for “the phone company, serving everyone from presidents and kings to the scum of the earth.”

But perhaps the line for which her character is best remembered was: “We don’t care. We don’t have to. We’re the phone company.”

Watching Ernestine on Laugh-In was a blast for millions of TV viewers. But facing such corporate arrogance in real-life is no laughing matter.

Clearly, too many companies take the same attitude as Ernestine: “We don’t care. We don’t have to.”

This is especially true for companies that are supposed to safeguard their customers’ most sensitive information—such as their credit card numbers, addresses, emails and phone numbers.

Among those companies hacked:

  • Kmart
  • Staples
  • Dairy Queen
  • Target
  • Sony Pictures 
  • Primera Blue Cross
  • Home Depot
  • JPMorgan/Chase

In 2015, they were joined by health insurance giant Anthem Inc. The company announced that hackers had breached its computer system and accessed the medical records of tens of millions of its customers and employees.

Anthem, the nation’s second-largest health insurer, said the infiltrated database held records on up to 80 million people.

Among the customers’ information accessed:

  • Names
  • Birthdates
  • Social Security numbers
  • Member ID numbers
  • Addresses
  • Phone numbers
  • Email addresses 
  • Employment information

Some of the customer data may have included details on their income.

Click here: Anthem hack exposes data on 80 million; experts warn of identity theft – LA Times

Bad as that news was, worse was to come.

A February 5, 2015 story by the Wall Street Journal revealed that Anthem stored the Social Security numbers of 80 million customers without encrypting them.

The company believed that hackers used a stolen employee password to access the database

Anthem’s alleged reason for refusing to encrypt such sensitive data: Doing so would have made it harder for the company’s employees to track health care trends or share data with state and Federal health providers.

Anthem spokeswoman Kristin Binns blamed the data breach on employers and government agencies who “require us to maintain a member’s Social Security number in our systems so that their systems can uniquely identify their members.”

She said that Anthem encrypted personal data when it moves in or out of its database–-but not where it is stored.

This is a commonplace practice in the healthcare industry.

The FBI launched an investigation into the hack.

According to an anonymous source, the hackers used malware that has been used almost exclusively by Chinese cyberspies.

Naturally, China denied any wrongdoing.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei said: “We maintain a cooperative, open and secure cyberspace, and we hope that countries around the world will make concerted efforts to that end.”

He also said that the charge that the hackers were Chinese was “groundless.”  

On July 15, 2015, Ashley Madison—the notorious website for cheating wives and husbands—joined this list.

Launched in 2001, its catchy slogan is: “Life is short.  Have an affair.”

One of its ads featured a photo of a woman apparently kneeling at the feet of a bare-chested man, her hand passionately clawing at his belt. Next to her was the caption: “Join FREE & change your life today. Guaranteed!”

Related image

Millions of its clients suddenly found their lives changed in ways they never imagined—for the worse.

Ashley Madison claimed to have more than 37 million members.  

Its hackers were enraged at the company’s refusal to fully delete users’ profiles unless it received a $19 fee.

Referring to themselves as “The Impact Team,” they stated in an online manifesto: “Full Delete netted [Avid Life Media, the parent company of Ashley Madison] $1.7 million in revenue in 2014. It’s also a complete lie.

“Users almost always pay with credit card; their purchase details are not removed as promised, and include real names and address, which is of course the most important information the users want removed.”

On July 20, 2015, Avid Life Media defended the service, and promised to make it free.

The hackers demanded: “AM [Ashley Madison] AND EM [Established Men] MUST SHUT DOWN IMMEDIATELY PERMANENTLY.

“We have taken over all systems in your entire office and production domains, all customer information databases, source code repositories, financial records, emails.

“Shutting down AM and EM will cost you, but non-compliance will cost you more.”

The hackers threatened to “release all customer records, including profiles with all the customers’ secret sexual fantasies and matching credit card transactions, real names and addresses, and employee documents and emails.”

Avid Life Media assured its customers that it had hired “one of the world’s top IT security teams” to work on the breach:

“At this time, we have been able to secure our sites, and close the unauthorized access points. We are working with law enforcement agencies, which are investigating this criminal act.”

So why didn’t the company hire “one of the world’s top IT security teams” before the hack?

THE CULPRIT IN DATA-BREACHES

In Bureaucracy, Business, History, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on March 22, 2019 at 12:18 am

Comedian Lily Tomlin rose to fame on the 1960s comedy hit, Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-In, as Ernestine, the rude, sarcastic switchboard operator for Ma Bell.

She would tap into customers’ calls, interrupt them, make snide remarks about their personal lives. And her victims included celebrities as much as run-of-the-mill customers.

Lily Tomlin as Ernestine

She introduced herself as working for “the phone company, serving everyone from presidents and kings to the scum of the earth.”

But perhaps the line for which her character is best remembered was: “We don’t care. We don’t have to. We’re the phone company.”

Watching Ernestine on Laugh-In was a blast for millions of TV viewers. But facing such corporate arrogance in real-life is no laughing matter.

Clearly, too many companies take the same attitude as Ernestine: “We don’t care. We don’t have to.”

This is especially true for companies that are supposed to safeguard their customers’ most sensitive information—such as their credit card numbers, addresses, emails and phone numbers.

An October 22, 2014 “commentary” published in Forbes magazine raised the highly disturbing question: “Cybersecurity: Does Corporate America Really Care?”

And the answer is clearly: No.

Its author is John Hering, co-founder and executive director of Lookout, which bills itself as “the world leader in mobile security for consumers and enterprises alike.”

Click here: Cybersecurity: Does corporate America really care?

October, 2014 proved a bad month for credit card-using customers of Kmart, Staples and Dairy Queen.

All these corporations reported data breeches involving the theft of credit card numbers of countless numbers of customers.

Earlier breaches had hit Target, Home Depot and JPMorgan/Chase.

And on February 5, 2015, health insurance giant Anthem Inc. announced that hackers had breached its computer system and accessed the medical records of tens of millions of its customers and employees.

Anthem, the nation’s second-largest health insurer, said the infiltrated database held records on up to 80 million people.

Among the customers’ information accessed:

  • Names
  • Birthdates
  • Social Security numbers
  • Member ID numbers
  • Addresses
  • Phone numbers
  • Email addresses and
  • Employment information.

Some of the customer data may also include details on their income.

Click here: Anthem hack exposes data on 80 million; experts warn of identity theft – LA Times

Bad as that news was, worse was to come.

A February 5 2015 story by the Wall Street Journal revealed that Anthem stored the Social Security numbers of 80 million customers without encrypting them.

The company believes that hackers used a stolen employee password to access the database

Anthem’s alleged reason for refusing to encrypt such sensitive data: Doing so would have made it harder for the company’s employees to track health care trends or share data with state and Federal health providers.

Anthem spokeswoman Kristin Binns blamed the data breach on employers and government agencies who “require us to maintain a member’s Social Security number in our systems so that their systems can uniquely identify their members.”

She said that Anthem encrypts personal data when it moves in or out of its database—but not where it  is stored.

This is a commonplace practice in the healthcare industry.

The FBI launched an investigation into the hack.

According to an anonymous source, the hackers used malware that has been used almost exclusively by Chinese cyberspies.

Naturally, China has denied any wrongdoing. With a completely straight face, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei said:

“We maintain a cooperative, open and secure cyberspace, and we hope that countries around the world will make concerted efforts to that end.”

He also said that the charge that the hackers were Chinese was “groundless.”

Click here: Health Insurer Anthem Didn’t Encrypt Stolen Data – WSJ

Meanwhile, John Hering’s complaints remain as valid today as they did in 2014.

“One thing is clear,” writes Hering. “CEOs need to put security on their strategic agendas alongside revenue growth and other issues given priority in boardrooms.”

Hering warns that “CEOs don’t seem to be making security a priority.” And he offers several reasons for this:

  • The sheer number of data compromises;
  • Relatively little consumer outcry;
  • Almost no impact on the companies’ standing on Wall Street;
  • Executives may consider such breaches part of the cost of doing business.

“There’s a short-term mindset and denial of convenience in board rooms,” writes Hering.

“Top executives don’t realize their systems are vulnerable and don’t understand the risks. Sales figures and new products are top of mind; shoring up IT systems aren’t.”

There are three ways corporations can be forced to start behaving responsibly on this issue.

  1. Smart attorneys need to start filing class-action lawsuits against companies that refuse to take steps to protect their customers’ private information. There is a name for such behavior: Criminal negligence. And there are laws carrying serious penalties for it.
  2. There must be Federal legislation to ensure that multi-million-dollar fines are levied against such companies—and especially their CEOs—when such data breaches occur.
  3. Congress should enact legislation allowing for the prosecution of CEOs whose companies’ negligence leads to such massive data breaches. They should be considered as accessories to crime, and, if convicted, sentenced to lengthy prison terms.

Only then will the CEO mindset of “We don’t care, we don’t have to” be replaced with: “We care, because we’ll lose our money and/or freedom if we don’t.”

DUMBOCRATS AND THEIR COMPUTERS

In Bureaucracy, Business, History, Politics, Social commentary on April 13, 2018 at 12:06 am

On July 22, 2016, Wikileaks released 19,252 emails and 8,034 attachments hacked from computers of the highest-ranking officials of the Democratic National Committee (DNC).

The emails were exchanged from January 2015 through May 2016.

These clearly reveal a bias for Hillary Clinton and against her lone challenger, Vermont United States Senator Bernie Sanders.

One email revealed that Brad Marshall, the chief financial officer of the DNC, suggested that Sanders, who is Jewish, could be portrayed as an atheist. 

Sanders’ supporters had long charged that the DNC and its chair, Debbie Wasserman-Schultz, were plotting to undercut his campaign. Now thousands of them were outraged to discover that their fears had been confirmed.  

The leak came at a disastrous time for Hillary Clinton, the former First Lady, United States Senator from New York and Secretary of State under President Barack Obama.

About to receive the Democratic nomination for President, she found herself charged with undermining the electoral process. 

Wasserman-Schultz proved the first casualty of the leak, resigning from her position as chair of the DNC and saying she would not open the Democratic convention as previously scheduled.

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Debbie Wasserman-Schultz

As for Clinton: Her campaign manager, Bobby Mook, blamed the Russians for the leak. Their alleged motive: To help Republican Presidential nominee Donald Trump.

Cyber-security experts believed the hackers originated from Russia—-and that Russian President Vladimir Putin may have authorized it.

His alleged motive: Trump had repeatedly attacked United States’ membership in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO).

Trump believed the United States was paying an unfairly large portion of the monies needed to maintain this alliance—and he wanted other members to contribute far more. He made it clear that if they didn’t—and if he was elected President—they would be on their own if attacked by Russia.

Trump took to twitter to offer his take on the release: “How much BAD JUDGEMENT was on display by the people in DNC in writing those really dumb e-mails, using even religion, against Bernie!”  

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Bernie Sanders

Which brings up the obvious question: Why was such sensitive information entrusted to computers that could be hacked? 

This is not the first time a major corporation or government agency has fallen prey to hackers.

Name-brand companies, trusted by millions, have been hit with massive data breaches that compromised their customers’ and/or employees’ most sensitive financial and personal information.

Among those companies and agencies:

  • Target
  • Kmart
  • Home Depot
  • JPMorgan/Chase
  • Staples
  • Dairy Queen
  • Anthem, Inc.
  • Sony Pictures
  • The U.S. State Department
  • The Pentagon
  • The Office of Personnel Management

Perhaps the most notorious target hacked was Ashley Madison, the website for cheating wives and husbands. Launched in 2001, its catchy slogan was: “Life is short. Have an affair.”  

On July 15, 2015, its more than 37 million members learned that highly embarrassing secrets they had entrusted to Ashley Madison had been compromised.

This included their sexual fantasies, matching credit card transactions, real names and addresses, and employee documents and emails.

A website offering cheating services to those wealthy enough to afford high-priced fees is an obvious target for hackers. After all, its database is a blackmailer’s dream-come-true.  

And the same is true for computers of one of the two major political parties of the United States. 

Among the secrets unearthed in the WikiLeaks document-dump: Plans by Democratic party officials to reward large donors and prominent fundraisers with lucrative appointments to federal boards and commissions.

Most of the donors listed gave to Clinton’s campaign. None gave to Sanders.

According to Ken Boehm, chairman of the National Legal and Policy Center, a government watchdog group: 

“The disclosed DNC emails sure look like the potential Clinton Administration has intertwined the appointments to federal government boards and commissions with the political and fund raising operations of the Democratic Party. That is unethical, if not illegal.”  

Centuries before the invention of computers–and the machinery needed to hack into them–Niccolo Machiavelli offered cautionary advice to those thinking of entering into a conspiracy.  He did so in his masterwork on politics, The Discourses.  

Niccolo Machiavelli

Unlike his better-known work, The Prince, which deals with how to secure power, The Discourses lays out rules for preserving liberty within a republic.

In Book Three, Chapter Six (“Of Conspiracies”) he writes:

“I have heard many wise men say that you may talk freely with any one man about everything, for unless you have committed yourself in writing, the ‘Yes’ of one man is worth as much as the ‘No’ of another. 

“And therefore one should guard most carefully against writing, as against a dangerous rock, for nothing will convict you quicker than your own handwriting.”

In 1804, Napoleon Bonaparte, then First Consul of France, ordered the execution of the popular Louis Antoine de Bourbon, Duke of Enghien, claiming that he had aided Britain and plotted against France.

The aristocracy of Europe, still recalling the slaughters of the French Revolution, was shocked. 

Asked for his opinion on the execution, Napoleon’s chief of police, Joseph Fouche, said: “It was worse than a crime; it was a blunder.”  

This may prove to be history’s verdict on the storing of so many incriminating computer files by the DNC.

MORE DATA SECURITY BREACHES: “WE DON’T CARE–WE DON’T HAVE TO”

In Bureaucracy, Business, History, Law, Politics, Self-Help, Social commentary on September 12, 2017 at 12:01 am

Comedian Lily Tomlin rose to fame on the 1960s comedy hit, Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-In, as Ernestine, the rude, sarcastic switchboard operator for Ma Bell.

She would tap into customers’ calls, interrupt them, make snide remarks about their personal lives. And her victims included celebrities as much as run-of-the-mill customers.

Lily Tomlin as Ernestine

She introduced herself as working for “the phone company, serving everyone from presidents and kings to the scum of the earth.”

But perhaps the line for which her character is best remembered was: “We don’t care. We don’t have to. We’re the phone company.”

Clearly, too many companies take the same attitude as Ernestine: “We don’t care. We don’t have to.”

This is especially true for companies that are supposed to safeguard their customers’ most sensitive information.  

Companies like:

  • Kmart
  • Staples
  • Dairy Queen
  • Target Home Depot
  • JPMorgan/Chase
  • Anthem Insurance 

All these corporations suffered data breeches that exposed tens of millions of individuals’ private information–such as:

  • Names
  • Birthdates
  • Credit card numbers
  • Social Security numbers
  • Member ID numbers
  • Addresses
  • Email addresses
  • Employment Information
  • Phone numbers

And now hackers have compromised Equifax, the consumer credit reporting agency. 

Image result for Equifax

One out of every two Americans stands to be a victim. Some 143 million consumers’ sensitive data is potentially compromised.

From mid-May to July, 2017, there was a flaw in Equifax’s website software. This allowed hackers to access 143 million Americans’ supposedly private information. Only after this massive robbery had occurred did the company discover the breach and close the loophole.

On September 8, PBS Newshour correspondent William Brangham outlined the dimensions of this catastrophe:

“It’s everything that would be in your credit report. So, it’s Social Security number. It’s your name, it’s your address, it’s your driver’s license information, it’s your employers, it’s your payment history, it’s what bank accounts you have….

“The thing that a thief could do with this information is, one, they could hack into your existing accounts once they have all that information. They could also set up new ones pretending to be John Yang or William Brangham and set up new accounts and then rack up big charges on those.

“So, the great irony here is that Equifax is a company that actually sells identity theft protection, and here it is they have theoretically allowed a huge breach that could trigger a ton of identity theft.

According to Brangham, the two most outrageous aspects of this catastrophe are: 

“[Equifax] found out about this on July 29, and we only found out about this breach on—this week. So, you’re supposed to, in these kinds of cases, immediately jump to do something about it. And it seems like they didn’t give consumers much time.

“And, secondly, several executives at the company, after they found out about the breach, sold about $18.8 million worth of stock in their company before this news got out, the implication being they didn’t want their stock to tank and their stock to lose value.”

Asked, “What are we supposed to do?” Brangham replied:

  • Freeze your credit account—thus blocking anyone from setting up a new bank account, loan or mortgage in your name without you being alerted to it.
  • Alert credit reporting companies Equifax, Transunion and Experian.
  • Monitor your bank and credit cards for suspicious activity.

An October 22, 2014 “commentary” published in Forbes magazine raised the highly disturbing question: “Cybersecurity: Does Corporate America Really Care?”

And the answer is clearly: No.

Its author is John Hering, co-founder and executive director of Lookout, which bills itself as “the world leader in mobile security for consumers and enterprises alike.”

Click here: Cybersecurity: Does corporate America really care? 

“One thing is clear,” writes Hering. “CEOs need to put security on their strategic agendas alongside revenue growth and other issues given priority in boardrooms.”

Hering warns that “CEOs don’t seem to be making security a priority.” And he offers several reasons for this:

  • The sheer number of data compromises;
  • Relatively little consumer outcry;
  • Almost no impact on the companies’ standing on Wall Street;
  • Executives may consider such breaches part of the cost of doing business.

“There’s a short-term mindset and denial of convenience in board rooms,” writes Hering. “Top executives don’t realize their systems are vulnerable and don’t understand the risks. Sales figures and new products are top of mind; shoring up IT systems aren’t.”

There are three ways corporations can be forced to start behaving responsibly on this issue.

  • Smart attorneys need to start filing class-action lawsuits against companies that refuse to take steps to protect their customers’ private information. There is a name for such behavior: Criminal negligence. And there are laws carrying serious penalties for it.
  • There must be Federal legislation to ensure that multi-million-dollar fines are levied against such companies—and especially their CEOs—when such data breaches occur.
  • Congress should enact legislation allowing for the prosecution of CEOs whose companies’ negligence leads to such massive data breaches. They should be considered as accessories to crime, and, if convicted, sentenced to lengthy prison terms.

Only then will the CEO mindset of “We don’t care, we don’t have to” be replaced with: “We care, because we’ll lose our money and/or freedom if we don’t.”

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