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The U.S. Supreme Court this week hears arguments on a provision of the Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism Act of 2001 — or as it is more familiarly known, the Patriot Act.

read the full briefing | join the discussion

UPI

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Diabetes drug linked to heart attacks

WASHINGTON, Feb. 20 (UPI) —

The U.S. Senate Finance Committee released a 334-page report Saturday showing a link between the Type 2 diabetes drug Avandia and thousands of heart attacks.

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My Notes – from 08-21-09

Lookup proof of Republican stalemating –

Whatever marketing genius convinced you that you must serve the Republican “brand” – failed to note the unique capacity and position in which you serve and its broader demands.

The actions you take or fail to take, the decisions you make or decide against supporting will last long after the Republican Party ceases to exist and have lasting effects far beyond the ability of any narrowly focused conservative group to perceive.

–          Cricketdiane

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Plundering the Amazon
Alcoa and Cargill have bypassed laws designed to prevent destruction of the world’s largest rain forest, Brazilian prosecutors say. The damage wrought by scores of companies is robbing the earth of its best shield against global warming. (Sept 2009)

Washington’s Other Handout
While taxpayers and lawmakers fret about the $700 billion bank bailout, the Treasury and Commerce departments are among a list of agencies that waste as much as $100 billion a year on contracts, often managed in secret. (March 2009)

Busting the Chip Cartel
U.S. antitrust prosecutors sent 15 executives from four companies to jail for price fixing of memory chips. There was a rub: The collusion failed. (June 2008)

The Subprime in the Schoolhouse
The mortgage contagion has hit state-run investment pools that handle $200 billion in funds for schools and cities. Taxpayers are in the dark. (Jan 2008)

Unsafe Havens
U.S. money market funds have invested $11 billion in subprime debt, much of it managed by Bear Stearns. (Oct 2007)

The Insurance Hoax
Property insurers use secret tactics to cheat customers out of payments—as profits break records. McKinsey’s advice to Allstate: Use “boxing gloves” instead of “good hands.”
(Sept 2007)

The Secret World of Modern Slavery
Steel used to build cars and appliances in the U.S. starts with forced labor in Brazil. (Dec 2006)

Bloomberg market magazine

LETTERS TO THE EDITOR

Markets Magazine
The editors of BLOOMBERG MARKETS™ magazine would like to hear from you, our readers. Tell us what you think about the articles we publish. Tell us which people or companies you’d like to see us write about more—or less. Praise us, criticize us, ask us questions. We regularly publish letters from our readers in the print version of our magazine, reserving the right to edit them for length and clarity. Please include your full name, address and telephone number. Thank you.

Ronald Henkoff
Editor
BLOOMBERG MARKETS

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Secret AIG Document Shows Goldman Sachs Minted Most Toxic CDOs

By Richard Teitelbaum

(see article on bloomberg for the full report – also, Robert Dietrich, bloomberg markets magazine has a full article and appeared with a segment on bloomberg news today, 02-23-10, at 1.55pmET – about the story – worth seeing the segment)

CDOs Identified

The document Issa made public cuts to the heart of the controversy over the September 2008 AIG rescue by identifying specific securities, known as collateralized-debt obligations, that had been insured with the company. The banks holding the credit-default swaps, a type of derivative, collected collateral as the insurer was downgraded and the CDOs tumbled in value.

The public can now see for the first time how poorly the securities performed, with losses exceeding 75 percent of their notional value in some cases. Compounding this, the document and Bloomberg data demonstrate that the banks that bought the swaps from AIG are mostly the same firms that underwrote the CDOs in the first place.

[ . . . ]

“It’s almost too uncanny,” Calacci says. “If these banks had insight into the underlying loans because they had relationships with banks, originators or servicers, that’s at the least unethical.”

The identification of securities in the document, known as Schedule A, and data compiled by Bloomberg show that Goldman Sachs underwrote $17.2 billion of the $62.1 billion in CDOs that AIG insured — more than any other investment bank. Merrill Lynch & Co., now part of Bank of America Corp., created $13.2 billion of the CDOs, and Deutsche Bank AG underwrote $9.5 billion.

[ . . . ]

AIG paid its counter­parties — the banks — the full value of the contracts, after accounting for any collateral that had been posted, and took the devalued CDOs in exchange. As requested by the New York Fed, AIG kept the bank names out of the Dec. 24 filing and edited out a sentence that said they got full payment.

Paid in Full

Before the New York Fed ordered AIG to pay the banks in full, the company was trying to negotiate to pay off the credit- default swaps at a discount or “haircut.”

[ . . . ]

In May 2009, AIG again filed Schedule A, this time with about 400 redactions. It revealed that Paris-based Societe Generale got the biggest payout from AIG, or $16.5 billion, followed by Goldman Sachs, which got $14 billion, and then Deutsche Bank and Merrill Lynch. It still kept secret the CDOs’ identification and information that would show performance.

[ . . . ]

Bad to Worse

Tavakoli also says that the poor performance of the underlying securities (which are actually specific slices or tranches of CDOs) shows they were toxic in the first place and were probably replenished with bundles of mortgages that were particularly troubled. Managers who oversee CDOs after they are created have discretion in choosing the mortgage bonds used to replenish them.

[ . . . ]

Neil Barofsky, the special inspector general for the Troubled Asset Relief Program, who delivered a report on the AIG bailout in November, says he’s not finished. He has begun a probe of why his office wasn’t provided all of the 250,000 pages of documents, including e-mails and phone logs, that Issa’s committee received from the New York Fed.

Schedule A provides some answers — and raises questions that need to be tackled to avoid the next expensive bailout.

To contact the reporter on this story: Richard Teitelbaum in New York at rteitelbaum1@bloomberg.net

Last Updated: February 23, 2010 00:01 EST

http://www.bloomberg.com/apps/news?pid=20601109&sid=ax3yON_uNe7I&pos=11

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Auditor General Jack Wagner Calls on General Assembly to Ban Risky ” …

FOXBusiness – Nov 18, 2009
Wagner also recommended that all Pennsylvania school districts, maintained inadequate controls over more than $11.5 million of laptop computers and also

All 10 relatedRelated web pages

Wagner also found that the district was the victim of a variety of deceptive marketing tactics: fees that were characterized as being paid by the investment banks were actually ultimately charged to the district; the agreements resulted in huge hidden profits for the investment banks that were not required to be, and have not been, disclosed to the district; the intermediaries involved in the deals – such as the district’s former financial advisor – had apparent conflicts of interests as a result of representing the interests of counterparties as well as the district; and at least two of the transactions were structured to provide the district with substantial up-front cash payments at the inception of the agreements as an additional inducement, totaling $5.8 million, while failing to disclose to the district that the investment bank was making a huge and immediate profit on the deal that was far in excess of the cash paid to the district. As a result, Wagner recommended that local governments should hire their financial advisers through a competitive selection process and periodically evaluate the quality, cost, and independence of the services provided.

Wagner urged the General Assembly to act on his legislative recommendations immediately. “These toxic products are being peddled to well-meaning but relatively unsophisticated local officials every day throughout the commonwealth,” he said. “The risk of huge losses is compounded by a lack of transparency in the deals and the failure of federal regulators to impose accountability on firms who created and marketed these products in the first place. These dangerous deals work in favor of the gambling houses and not the gamblers, and they must stop now.”

Wagner referred his findings to numerous state, federal, and independent entities. Among the recipients are the Pennsylvania Office of Attorney General, Pennsylvania Securities Commission, State Ethics Commission, U.S. Departments of Justice and the Treasury, U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, and U.S. Commodities Futures Trading Commission.

(So, they did the opposite –  and likely still have this legislation in place, where it started in the first place, my note)

In 2003, the General Assembly passed, and the governor signed, Act 23, which amended state law to explicitly permit local governments to enter into “qualified interest rate management agreements” or “QIRMAs,” commonly referred to as interest rate swaps, or just swaps, which are a type of derivative. Swaps were an attractive investment instrument when interest rates on variable-rate bonds and notes were low in comparison to fixed-rate bonds and notes, because they allowed local governments to take advantage of the lower rates while, in theory at least, providing a hedge against large increases in those rates. These exotic financial instruments are neither investments nor debt; they are contracts between a bond issuer (such as a school district) and an investment bank to exchange (“swap”) cash flows during an agreed-upon term based on other securities or indices. When the two sets of cash flows are exchanged, the side that generates the larger payments receives the difference between the sums.

Wagner noted that, while Act 23 was written primarily for the benefit and protection of the financial services industry, the swaps problem is not peculiar to Pennsylvania. The state of Tennessee has banned local governments from using these risky investments, New York State’s attorney general is investigating a possible ban, and the U.S. Congress is considering federal regulations.

(Excerpted from -)

NEWS RELEASE
For Immediate Release
Contact: Steve Halvonik 717 787-1381
Report Text

Auditor General Jack Wagner Calls on General Assembly to Ban Risky “Swap” Contracts by Schools, Local Governments

Urges new efforts to recover millions in taxpayer losses in Bethlehem Area School District and throughout Pennsylvania

HARRISBURG (Nov. 18, 2009) – Auditor General Jack Wagner said today that the General Assembly should ban the use of “swaps,” after a special investigation completed by his department found that the Bethlehem Area School District lost at least $10.2 million of taxpayers’ money in these risky and complex financial instruments. Wagner also recommended that all Pennsylvania school districts, local governments, and municipal authorities stop entering into swap agreements and immediately terminate any active swaps to which they are a party.

“Quite simply, the use of swaps amounts to gambling with public money,” Wagner said. “The fundamental guiding principle in handling public funds is that they should never be exposed to the risk of financial loss. Swaps have no place in public financing and should be banned immediately.”

While the investigation focused on the Bethlehem Area School District, Wagner called his report a “case study” of the use of swaps by all local governments in Pennsylvania. The Department of Community and Economic Development’s records indicate that 626 swap filings were made in Pennsylvania between October 2003 and June 2009, which related to $14.9 billion in debt. The precise number of different swaps and the precise amount of debt cannot be determined because the DCED data may include some double-counting.

During this time period, 107 of Pennsylvania’s 500 school districts, or 21.4 percent, and 86 other local governments reported to DCED that they entered into swap agreements. At least 13 investment firms, including Citibank, Goldman Sachs, J.P. Morgan, and Morgan Stanley, have entered into swap agreements with Pennsylvania school districts and other local governments.

In 2003, the General Assembly passed, and the governor signed, Act 23, which amended state law to explicitly permit local governments to enter into “qualified interest rate management agreements” or “QIRMAs,” commonly referred to as interest rate swaps, or just swaps, which are a type of derivative. Swaps were an attractive investment instrument when interest rates on variable-rate bonds and notes were low in comparison to fixed-rate bonds and notes, because they allowed local governments to take advantage of the lower rates while, in theory at least, providing a hedge against large increases in those rates. These exotic financial instruments are neither investments nor debt; they are contracts between a bond issuer (such as a school district) and an investment bank to exchange (“swap”) cash flows during an agreed-upon term based on other securities or indices. When the two sets of cash flows are exchanged, the side that generates the larger payments receives the difference between the sums.

Until September 2008, the swap agreements were generally favorable to the Bethlehem Area School District, and it received cash payments from its investment bank counterparties. However, the swaps became unfavorable to the school district after the worldwide collapse of the banking system. The district was forced to pay $12.3 million to investment bank J.P. Morgan in May 2009.

Wagner’s investigation focused on the Bethlehem Area School District’s swap agreements entered into between April 29, 2003 and June 27, 2006. During that period, the district entered into 13 different swaps – the most of any school district in Pennsylvania. The 13 agreements related to $272.9 million in debt for school construction projects.

Wagner reviewed just two of the district’s swaps because those were the only two that had concluded by the time of his investigation. The two swaps cost district taxpayers $10.2 million more than if the district had issued a standard fixed-rate bond or note. Ironically, the swaps cost taxpayers $15.5 million more than if the district had simply paid the interest on the variable-rate note without any swaps at all. The district’s losses were largely due to excessive fees and other charges and the termination payment. “Because the district has many other swaps still in effect, the ultimate financial impact on the taxpayers remains to be seen,” explained Wagner.

Wagner noted that, while Act 23 was written primarily for the benefit and protection of the financial services industry, the swaps problem is not peculiar to Pennsylvania. The state of Tennessee has banned local governments from using these risky investments, New York State’s attorney general is investigating a possible ban, and the U.S. Congress is considering federal regulations.

Wagner also found that the district was the victim of a variety of deceptive marketing tactics: fees that were characterized as being paid by the investment banks were actually ultimately charged to the district; the agreements resulted in huge hidden profits for the investment banks that were not required to be, and have not been, disclosed to the district; the intermediaries involved in the deals – such as the district’s former financial advisor – had apparent conflicts of interests as a result of representing the interests of counterparties as well as the district; and at least two of the transactions were structured to provide the district with substantial up-front cash payments at the inception of the agreements as an additional inducement, totaling $5.8 million, while failing to disclose to the district that the investment bank was making a huge and immediate profit on the deal that was far in excess of the cash paid to the district.

As a result, Wagner recommended that local governments should hire their financial advisers through a competitive selection process and periodically evaluate the quality, cost, and independence of the services provided.

Wagner urged the General Assembly to act on his legislative recommendations immediately. “These toxic products are being peddled to well-meaning but relatively unsophisticated local officials every day throughout the commonwealth,” he said. “The risk of huge losses is compounded by a lack of transparency in the deals and the failure of federal regulators to impose accountability on firms who created and marketed these products in the first place. These dangerous deals work in favor of the gambling houses and not the gamblers, and they must stop now.”

Wagner referred his findings to numerous state, federal, and independent entities. Among the recipients are the Pennsylvania Office of Attorney General, Pennsylvania Securities Commission, State Ethics Commission, U.S. Departments of Justice and the Treasury, U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, and U.S. Commodities Futures Trading Commission.

“I encourage the law enforcement agencies, in particular, to investigate and prosecute any conflicts of interest involved in these transactions,” Wagner said, “and to pursue all avenues that may be available to recover funds for the taxpayers of this district and elsewhere.”

Wagner conducted his investigation at the request of State Sen. Lisa Boscola, following a series of investigative reports by the media about the Bethlehem Area School District’s use of swaps. This is the second investigation report of the district released by Wagner in as many months. In October, Wagner reported that the district had maintained inadequate controls over more than $11.5 million of laptop computers and also had exercised poor oversight of an internal investigation related to the drug arrest of a former middle-school principal that cost the district $52,726.

Wagner commended the district for its cooperation with the investigation and its positive response to most of the recommendations in the report. He said that he would follow up in the future to determine the status of action on his recommendations by both the district and the General Assembly.

A complete copy of Wagner’s special investigation report is available at www.auditorgen.state.pa.us.

Auditor General Jack Wagner is responsible for ensuring that all state money is spent legally and properly. He is the Commonwealth’s elected independent fiscal watchdog, conducting financial audits, performance audits and special investigations. The Department of the Auditor General conducts more than 5,000 audits per year. To learn more about the Department of the Auditor General, taxpayers are encouraged to visit the department’s Web site at http://www.auditorgen.state.pa.us.
###

http://www.auditorgen.state.pa.us/Department/Press/WagnerCallsOnBanRiskySwapContracts.html

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States short $1 trillion to fund retiree benefits

Taxpayers could be on the hook for $1 trillion in pension and retiree health benefits.By Tami Luhby, senior writerFebruary 18, 2010: 7:31 PM ET

NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) — Just as they are contending with massive gaps in their operating budgets, states and localities must also deal with a $1 trillion deficit in public employees’ retirement benefits’ funds, a new report found.

The shortfall amounts to more than $8,800 for every household in the nation, according to the Pew Center on the States, which published its findings Thursday.

States largely got themselves into this mess by failing to make annual contributions while also enhancing benefits, the study found. Now, they are behind by a total $452 billion in their pension accounts and $555 billion in their retiree health funds, as of the end of fiscal 2008, which ended June 30 for most states.

[ . . . ]

In the most trouble

The consequences of the shortfall could be severe. It comes at a time when states are wrestling with a cumulative $180 billion budget gap for fiscal 2011.

[ etc. ]

The study looked at 231 state-administered pension plans and 159 state-administered retiree health care and other non-pension benefit plans, which include some localities’ and teacher plans. 

http://money.cnn.com/2010/02/18/news/economy/public_pension_gap/index.htm?source=cnn_bin&hpt=Sbin

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States to Senate: Send more federal aid

By Tami Luhby, senior writerFebruary 13, 2010: 8:29 AM ET

NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) — States are looking to the federal government for more help balancing their budgets, but the Senate is not heeding their call.

Federal aid to the states was among the top priorities in an early Senate job creation bill, as well as in a $154 billion measure passed by the House in December. But it has fallen off the list as Senate Democrats look to craft legislation that will attract bipartisan support.

[ . . . ]

Big budget gaps

States are looking at a total budget gap of $180 billion for fiscal 2011, which for most of them begins July 1. These cuts could lead to a loss of 900,000 jobs, according to Mark Zandi, chief economist of Moody’s Economy.com.

[ etc. ]

Already, states laid off 44,000 workers in the 12 months ending in January, according to federal labor statistics.

In California, for instance, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger is proposing deep cuts to health care, education, the state workforce and social services programs. The governor is looking to Washington D.C. for $6.9 billion for its fiscal 2011 budget, on top of the $6 billion in stimulus funds it is using.

Mixed support on Capitol Hill

While many Democratic lawmakers on Capitol Hill back another federal bailout of the states, Republicans have said they don’t think it’s the best way to create jobs.

A recent Congressional Budget Office report showed that sending money to the states for needs other than infrastructure does spur hiring, but not as much as increasing aid to the unemployed or cutting employers’ payroll taxes.

Still, CBO Director Douglas Elmendorf said in testimony Friday that providing aid promptly would probably have a significant effect on employment and economic output.

“Without further aid from the federal government, many states would have to raise taxes or cut spending by more than they would if aid was provided,” Elmendorf said. “Such actions would dampen spending by those in government and by households in those states, and more state and private jobs would be lost.”

Not only would state workers be impacted, but government contractors and suppliers would be too, Shure said. If the states curtain their spending, the companies that do business with them will likely downsize too.

[ etc. ]

http://money.cnn.com/2010/02/13/news/economy/federal_funds_for_states/index.htm?postversion=2010021308

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Consumer prices rise 2.6%

By Blake Ellis, staff reporterFebruary 19, 2010: 11:23 AM ET

NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) — Consumer prices rose from a year ago amid climbing gasoline prices but the pace of price increases slowed, the government said Friday.

The Consumer Price Index, the government’s key inflation reading, rose 2.6% during the past 12 months, according to a report from the Labor Department. In December, prices rose 2.7% from the previous year.

[ etc.]

http://money.cnn.com/2010/02/19/news/economy/CPI/index.htm

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LAUSD Uses Secret Weapon in Laptop Theft Recovery

  • By Dian Schaffhauser
  • 11/11/08

Laptop theft in schools is rampant. The Racine Unified School District in Wisconsin reported dozens of computers stolen from its schools this fall. In Northern California, three custodians were arrested in connection with a series of thefts at the Oakland Unified School District, involving computers and other electronics. A library aid for the Del Olmo Elementary School in Los Angeles was arrested in September for the theft of five computers at her school.

So when staff at a middle school in the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) discovered the disappearance of 32 notebook computers in early October, it didn’t generate much attention. That wasn’t because the school doesn’t care about the loss. It was simply because the district has an efficient process in place to follow for reporting the missing equipment, including the use of a secret weapon to help in its recovery.

A Secret Weapon in Laptop Recovery
According to Joe Oliver, director of instructional technology for LAUSD, when a computer is stolen in the district, the school files a report with instructional support services, as well as with the district’s own police department. That department acts as a liaison with the city police department to file a report; plus, it puts into action its secret weapon: Absolute Software’s Computrace.

When a school or district purchases a license for Computrace, it actives a hibernating agent already embedded into the computer’s BIOS. According to David Hawks, business development manager for the education industry division of Absolute, about 70 million notebook computers have the agent in the BIOS, including laptops from Dell, HP, Lenovo, Toshiba, and several other manufacturers.

The agent contacts the Absolute data center to say it’s activated, and it creates a small application on the machine’s hard drive, explained Hawks. From that point forward, every 24.5 hours, the application sends a small update to the data center, to maintain a current profile of hardware, software, and licensing for the computer, including the IP address that’s being used to send the update from. When a theft of a particular computer is reported, he said, a flag goes up in the system that the computer has been stolen. The next time contact is made with the data center through the Internet, the computer is told, “instead of every 24.5 hours, we want you to report back every 15 minutes.”

The data center uses a set of forensic tools to begin recording historical data, including IP address information and keystroke logging. Unless the user is sophisticated enough to use an IP address anonymizer, that IP address can be used to track the computer to a specific Internet service provider. Absolute’s recovery services team, made up of retired and former police officers, works with local law enforcement agents to accumulate the facts necessary to obtain a subpoena. That, in turn, can be used to find out from an ISP what customer is using a particular IP address and where that Internet access is originating from.

http://thejournal.com/articles/2008/11/11/lausd-uses-secret-weapon-in-laptop-theft-recovery.aspx

LAUSD Uses Secret Weapon in Laptop Theft Recovery

  • 11/11/08

In the case of the October theft at LAUSD, the investigation led to the residence of a woman who was found in possession of one of the stolen computers. She confessed to police that her boyfriend had given it to her. That resulted in a sting operation, in which the Los Angeles Police Department recovered an additional 12 laptops. Upon making bail, the boyfriend led police to an additional 11 computers, as well as a school projector, microscope, and entomology kit. Three suspects were arrested, and the investigation continues.

When a computer theft is solved, frequently, so are other cases. As Hawks pointed out, “Usually, the bad guy is doing a lot of other crimes besides just stealing a laptop.”

By virtue of the technology being embedded in the BIOS of the computer, local persistence remains, explained Hawks. A thief can “reimage the machine; they can rip out the hard drive. But the agent can heal itself on any hard drive that’s put in there.” If the hard drive from the stolen computer is placed into a different notebook, “then we have two computers calling into the center,” he said.

Eventually, Hawks predicted, computers will include some form of GPS technology that will aide in equipment recovery. Absolute’s software already encompasses the capability of working with computers that provide GPS capabilities, such as those that include the Qualcomm Gobi chipset. “With these 3G chips being embedded on the motherboard, it allows us to wake up the PC and track that machine using GPS triangulation,” he said. But first, he added, “It has to become pervasive, like WiFi is now.”

Embedded into the BIOS, Embedded into the Deal
LAUSD has been using Computrace since 2002. Just a year earlier the district had received a sizable federal grant to put laptops into a large number of classrooms. “At that point we were dealing with 88 classrooms, 20 laptops per classroom, about 1,600 to 1,700 laptops,” said Oliver. “We knew that laptops were–for better or worse–going to be targeted by a number of people who didn’t necessarily have the best of intentions. We also knew there were a few pieces of technology that would help us to track and make better use of our technology dollars in getting some type of asset tracking.”

The district wrote the use of tracking technology into the request for proposal that vendors had to include as part of their package to win the bid. The Absolute solution was suggested by the vendors. “There was nothing tricky about deploying [Computrace],” said Oliver. “The laptops arrived with the software embedded.”

Now, he said, when a school or other entity purchases a computer, it comes with the software loaded.

The same agent can be used not only for theft recovery, but also for asset tracking and remote deletion. Absolute’s Hawks said that some districts have misplaced computers and used the technology to track them down. If a computer can’t be recovered quickly, the remote deletion function allows for all selected data on the machine to be deleted the next time contact is made with the data center. IT administrators can access those profiles from a browser to view assets and generate reports.

LAUSD Uses Secret Weapon in Laptop Theft Recovery

  • 11/11/08

The Absolute approach isn’t failsafe. “In some cases we’ve been very successful and been able to get all of [the computers],” said LAUSD’s Oliver. “In some cases we haven’t been able to.”

But he has noticed a pattern. “It’s kind of like stroke victims. The quicker they get to the hospital, the better the chances of their survival.” Thus, he advised, “In terms of being to recover computers, the shorter the period between the police being able to get the report and the system being activated, the better.”

About the Author

Dian Schaffhauser is a writer who covers technology and business. Send your higher education technology news to her at dian@dischaffhauser.com.

http://thejournal.com/articles/2008/11/11/lausd-uses-secret-weapon-in-laptop-theft-recovery.aspx

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Privaris Biometric Verification Software

In support of the Privaris family of personal identity verification tokens for secure physical and IT access, an updated version of its plusID Manager Version 2.0 software extends the capabilities and convenience to administer and enroll biometric tokens. The software offers multi-client support, import and export functionality, more extensive reporting features and a key server for a more convenient method of securing tokens to the issuing organization.

To read more…

This month in Access Control

Popular Stories

from Government Security magazine – “Access Control”

My Note – so who is really deciding for all of us, whether it is school systems that spy on their students at home or in uses for technology on the rest of our communities’ members? Do any of them play by the same rules that most of us would agree to?

– cricketdiane

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CO2 emissions from energy related sources, cars, trucks, power generating, industry

Emissions from Energy Related and Industry / Transportation of CO2

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Brown wants global regulation deal at next G20

Fri Feb 19, 2010 10:55am EST

Related News

Fri, Feb 19 2010

Tue, Feb 16 2010

Fri, Jan 22 2010

LONDON, Feb 19 (Reuters) – British Prime Minister Gordon Brown said on Friday that the next meeting of the G20 group of leading and emerging countries should be a deadline for agreeing on a new global regulation system for financial markets.

Currencies |  Regulatory News |  Bonds

Addressing a centre-left political conference in London where Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou was also a speaker, Brown said Papandreou had inherited a very difficult situation from the previous Greek government and was working to fix it.

(Reporting by Matt Falloon and Estelle Shirbon)

http://www.reuters.com/article/idUSLDE61I1S320100219

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HIGHLIGHTS-UK’s Brown speech to London conference

Fri Feb 19, 2010 5:16am EST

LONDON, Feb 19 (Reuters) – Below are highlights of a speech by British Prime Minister Gordon Brown to the Progressive Governance conference, a meeting of centre-left European leaders in London, on Friday.

Currencies |  Bonds

WORLD CONSTITUTION

“I believe first of all that we now need nothing short of a world constitution for the global financial system.”

“I believe that each country needs national growth and jobs strategies that are founded on science, innovation and skills for the future, but also … growth for the each of us will be lower and therefore low growth will affect us all unless there is a strategy for global growth agreed between the G20 countries and beyond.”

FINANCIAL REGULATION

“We are doing what we can in Britain to give our banks a sound capital base from which to move forward.

“But we need a global solution: common rules for capital and liquidity, common standards for supervision, common rules for bonuses and a shared way of assessing the contribution banks should make to society, free of the unfair and disproportionate use of regulatory and tax havens which penalise countries doing the right things.”

“We are now discussing with the IMF and other countries the prospect of a global levy that will embody the contribution global banks should make to the public interest.

“I hope that all these things can be agreed in the coming months in the meetings in Canada and Korea.”

FISCAL STRATEGIES

“Now we face a new choice for 2010 about that fiscal stimulus — whether to continue the stimulus to make sure that a fragile global recovery does not dip into a further recession or whether we take the necessary measures to ensure that growth in 2010 is stronger and more stable.

“So this is the critical question economies round the world face now: whether to go for growth in 2010. Progressive rounds the world say rightly that we have to go for growth and do nothing to put the recovery at risk.

“So instead of helping the recovery, in our country Conservative dislike bordering on hatred of government action would risk the recovery now.”

DEFICIT REDUCTION

“And we have been crystal clear that we will halve the deficit over the next four years – indeed more than halve it.

“That does mean that we must raise taxes and cut some programmes. But the vast majority of the increase in our deficit since the global financial crisis hit the UK has been caused by a decline in estimated tax revenue.

“We will remain resolutely focused on progressive priorities — protecting the key front line services and targeting investment to take our country forward.”

ON CONSERVATIVES AND EUROPE

“I know that people have been deeply concerned by recent developments on the British right, by the decision of the British Conservative Party to leave the mainstream right grouping in the European Parliament to join an alliance of the extremes and the fringes.

“So let me reassure you today; as long as I remain Prime Minister, Britain will stay firmly in Europe’s mainstream, never in its backwaters, and we will resist the attempts of the Conservatives to pull Britain into isolation and irrelevance.”

(Reporting by Matt Falloon, Estelle Shirbon and Adrian Croft)

http://www.reuters.com/article/idUSLDE61I0PE20100219

**

By ALISTAIR MACDONALD

LONDON—U.K. Prime Minister Gordon Brown, acknowledging he is the underdog heading into a spring general election, will outline an election campaign focused heavily on economic recovery.

Mr. Brown’s Labour Party has consistently trailed the opposition Conservative Party in the run-up to the election, which hasn’t yet been called but must be held by June. He has been damaged by the U.K.’s downtrodden economy, the country’s involvement in the Afghanistan and Iraq wars, and voter fatigue from Labour’s 13 years in power.

To combat that, Mr. Brown on Saturday plans to outline four themes he will emphasize during the campaign as he aims to persuade Britons they should return Labour to power.

Gordon Brown

Mr. Brown’s game plan, named “Operation Fightback,” calls for securing an economic recovery before aggressive debt cuts; supporting new industries; protecting key public services; and pledging to “stand up for the many and not the few.”

Some of the themes are familiar ones, and Mr. Brown, trailing the opposition Conservatives, could need more to secure his party a fourth term.

On Friday, James Purnell a former cabinet minister who launched the most destabilizing of a series of coup attempts against Mr. Brown in June, said he won’t run for re-election to Parliament. Mr. Purnell said he wants to focus on interests outside frontline politics. However, the departure of a relatively young politician was interpreted by some as a sign that many in the party are resigned to a long period out of power.

On Saturday, Mr. Brown will direct his fire at the Conservative Party, telling an audience of Labour party workers that beneath the “veneer” of Tory leader David Cameron’s rebranding of the party as “progressive,” it remains a party that will return to old habits by cutting public spending and damaging the U.K.’s fragile economic recovery.

“At every stage the Tories want to kick away the ladders of opportunity, because they are not the party of Britain’s mainstream majority and have policies that give most benefit for the few,” Mr. Brown will say, according to excerpts from his speech.

The run-up to this election has been particularly long, with Mr. Cameron kicking off his campaign in January.

Though the actual election date has yet to be announced, Mr. Brown is expected to call an election in May in what is seen as the most dramatic U.K. ballot since his party swept to power in 1997.

Write to Alistair MacDonald at alistair.macdonald@wsj.com

Printed in The Wall Street Journal, page A9

2009 Dow Jones & Company, Inc.

More In World

http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748704511304575075664233014100.html?mod=WSJ_World_LEFTSecondNews

**

February 22, 2010 3:52 PM PST

Many ways to activate Webcams sans spy software

by Larry Magid

The Webcam spy case in the Lower Merion School District near Philadelphia has raised concern as to whether others with Webcams are vulnerable to remote spying. The school district admitted to activating the Webcams 42 times during a 14-month period, claiming that it did so only to track lost or stolen laptops.

But for anyone with a Webcam (and Webcams are now built in to many laptops and desktops), the question is whether you are vulnerable to having your Webcam remotely turned on. The answer is yes, though the newest version of the software used by the district to monitor its computers can no longer be used to activate Webcams or even track stolen computers.

According to Harriton High School student Phil Hayes, officials at the Lower Merion School District used a program called LANRev to manage and track the Macintosh laptops issued to students. The product was published by Pole Position Software, which was acquired last year by Vancouver, B.C.-based Absolute Software. An Absolute Software spokesman verified that it is also his understanding that the school used LANRev software.

The Philadelphia Inquirer reported that Mike Perbix, a network technician from the district, had recorded a Webcast where he talked about his use of LANRev. In a YouTube video attributed to Perbix, he says, “I’ve actually had some laptops we thought were stolen which actually were still in a classroom because they were misplaced, and by the time we found out that they were back I had to turn the tracking off and I had a good 20 snapshots of the teacher and the students using the machines in the classroom.”

(and more)

The blog Stryde Hax has more detail about Perbix’s reported activities.

End users can no longer track machines
Absolute has changed the name of the program to Absolute Manager and will be marketing it for remote management of PCs, Macs, and iPhones, but the product will no longer be used for theft or loss recovery. For those functions, Absolute offers Computrace for enterprise customers (including schools) and LoJack for Laptops for consumers.

[ . . . ]

Both the Computrace and LoJack products can be used to turn on a Webcam and photograph the user in the event of a theft investigation. But unlike the old LANRev, only Absolute engineers can track devices and activate recovery features. Company policy, according to Midgley, prohibits them for doing that until a police report is filed. “For us to begin a theft recovery process, we need a case file from the police,” he said.

[etc.]

I spoke with a student at Harriton who said some students are employing a very low-tech solution to block their Webcams: they’re pasting black tape over the lens. Now all they need to do is figure out how to disable the microphone.

http://news.cnet.com/8301-19518_3-10457737-238.html

**

NEWS RELEASE
For Immediate Release
Contact: Steve Halvonik 717 787-1381
Report Text

Auditor General Jack Wagner Calls on General Assembly to Ban Risky “Swap” Contracts by Schools, Local Governments

Urges new efforts to recover millions in taxpayer losses in Bethlehem Area School District and throughout Pennsylvania

HARRISBURG (Nov. 18, 2009) – Auditor General Jack Wagner said today that the General Assembly should ban the use of “swaps,” after a special investigation completed by his department found that the Bethlehem Area School District lost at least $10.2 million of taxpayers’ money in these risky and complex financial instruments. Wagner also recommended that all Pennsylvania school districts, local governments, and municipal authorities stop entering into swap agreements and immediately terminate any active swaps to which they are a party.

“Quite simply, the use of swaps amounts to gambling with public money,” Wagner said. “The fundamental guiding principle in handling public funds is that they should never be exposed to the risk of financial loss. Swaps have no place in public financing and should be banned immediately.”

[etc.]

###

http://www.auditorgen.state.pa.us/Department/Press/WagnerCallsOnBanRiskySwapContracts.html

**

The New Poor

Millions of Unemployed Face Years Without Jobs

By PETER S. GOODMAN

Published: February 20, 2010

BUENA PARK, Calif. — Even as the American economy shows tentative signs of a rebound, the human toll of the recession continues to mount, with millions of Americans remaining out of work, out of savings and nearing the end of their unemployment benefits.

[ . . . ]

Warm, outgoing and prone to the positive, Ms. Eisen has worked much of her life. Now, she is one of 6.3 million Americans who have been unemployed for six months or longer, the largest number since the government began keeping track in 1948. That is more than double the toll in the next-worst period, in the early 1980s.

Men have suffered the largest numbers of job losses in this recession. But Ms. Eisen has the unfortunate distinction of being among a group — women from 45 to 64 years of age — whose long-term unemployment rate has grown rapidly.

In 1983, after a deep recession, women in that range made up only 7 percent of those who had been out of work for six months or longer, according to the Labor Department. Last year, they made up 14 percent.

[ etc. ]

During periods of American economic expansion in the 1950s, ’60s and ’70s, the number of private-sector jobs increased about 3.5 percent a year, according to an analysis of Labor Department data by Lakshman Achuthan, managing director of the Economic Cycle Research Institute, a research firm. During expansions in the 1980s and ’90s, jobs grew just 2.4 percent annually. And during the last decade, job growth fell to 0.9 percent annually.

“The pace of job growth has been getting weaker in each expansion,” Mr. Achuthan said. “There is no indication that this pattern is about to change.”

Before 1990, it took an average of 21 months for the economy to regain the jobs shed during a recession, according to an analysis of Labor Department data by the National Employment Law Project and the Economic Policy Institute, a labor-oriented research group in Washington.

After the recessions in 1990 and in 2001, 31 and 46 months passed before employment returned to its previous peaks. The economy was growing, but companies remained conservative in their hiring.

Some 34 million people were hired into new and existing private-sector jobs in 2000, at the tail end of an expansion, according to Labor Department data. A year later, in the midst of recession, hiring had fallen off to 31.6 million. And as late as 2003, with the economy again growing, hiring in the private sector continued to slip, to 29.8 million.

It was a jobless recovery: Business was picking up, but it simply did not translate into more work. This time, hiring may be especially subdued, labor economists say.

Traditionally, three sectors have led the way out of recession: automobiles, home building and banking. But auto companies have been shrinking because strapped households have less buying power. Home building is limited by fears about a glut of foreclosed properties. Banking is expanding, but this seems largely a function of government support that is being withdrawn.

At the same time, the continued bite of the financial crisis has crimped the flow of money to small businesses and new ventures, which tend to be major sources of new jobs.

All of which helps explain why Ms. Eisen — who has never before struggled to find work — feels a familiar pain each time she scans job listings on her computer: There are positions in health care, most requiring experience she lacks. Office jobs demand familiarity with software she has never used. Jobs at fast food restaurants are mostly secured by young people and immigrants.

If, as Mr. Sinai expects, the economy again expands without adding many jobs, millions of people like Ms. Eisen will be dependent on an unemployment insurance already being severely tested.

“The system was ill prepared for the reality of long-term unemployment,” said Maurice Emsellem, a policy director for the National Employment Law Project. “Now, you add a severe recession, and you have created a crisis of historic proportions.”

Fewer Protections

Some poverty experts say the broader social safety net is not up to cushioning the impact of the worst downturn since the Great Depression. Social services are less extensive than during the last period of double-digit unemployment, in the early 1980s.

On average, only two-thirds of unemployed people received state-provided unemployment checks last year, according to the Labor Department. The rest either exhausted their benefits, fell short of requirements or did not apply.

“You have very large sets of people who have no social protections,” said Randy Albelda, an economist at the University of Massachusetts in Boston. “They are landing in this netherworld.”

When Ms. Eisen and her husband, Jeff, applied for food stamps, they were turned away for having too much monthly income. The cutoff was $1,570 a month — $25 less than her husband’s disability check.

Reforms in the mid-1990s imposed time limits on cash assistance for poor single mothers, a change predicated on the assumption that women would trade welfare checks for paychecks.

Yet as jobs have become harder to get, so has welfare: as of 2006, 44 states cut off anyone with a household income totaling 75 percent of the poverty level — then limited to $1,383 a month for a family of three — according to an analysis by Ms. Albelda.

“We have a work-based safety net without any work,” said Timothy M. Smeeding, director of the Institute for Research on Poverty at the University of Wisconsin, Madison. “People with more education and skills will probably figure something out once the economy picks up. It’s the ones with less education and skills: that’s the new poor.”

[ . . . ]

Labor experts say the economy needs 100,000 new jobs a month just to absorb entrants to the labor force. With more than 15 million people officially jobless, even a vigorous recovery is likely to leave an enormous number out of work for years.

Some labor experts note that severe economic downturns are generally followed by powerful expansions, suggesting that aggressive hiring will soon resume. But doubts remain about whether such hiring can last long enough to absorb anywhere close to the millions of unemployed.

A New Scarcity of Jobs

Some labor experts say the basic functioning of the American economy has changed in ways that make jobs scarce — particularly for older, less-educated people like Ms. Eisen, who has only a high school diploma.

Large companies are increasingly owned by institutional investors who crave swift profits, a feat often achieved by cutting payroll. The declining influence of unions has made it easier for employers to shift work to part-time and temporary employees. Factory work and even white-collar jobs have moved in recent years to low-cost countries in Asia and Latin America. Automation has helped manufacturing cut 5.6 million jobs since 2000 — the sort of jobs that once provided lower-skilled workers with middle-class paychecks.

“American business is about maximizing shareholder value,” said Allen Sinai, chief global economist at the research firm Decision Economics. “You basically don’t want workers. You hire less, and you try to find capital equipment to replace them.”

http://www.nytimes.com/2010/02/21/business/economy/21unemployed.html?em

**

As it battled the global financial crisis, the Fed printed more than $1 trillion in new money and kept interest rates near zero, prompting criticism that it was setting the stage for rampant inflation.

http://www.nytimes.com/2010/02/20/business/economy/20econ.html?bl

**

Georgia Now Third In U.S. In Late Mortgage Payments

Weeks said the worst thing for her is the uncertainty. She said she just got a job but says she hasn’t been able to get answers from her bank.

“Now that I have a job, I actually have money, but I won’t get paid until March 11. So I just am hoping they will work with me but I don’t even know if it’s already been sold from under me and I haven’t heard from them in two months,” Weeks said.

She said she plans to meet with the bank this week. She is far from alone. Fourteen out of every 100 mortgage holders in Georgia are late in making mortgage payments – making the state third only to Mississippi and Nevada. But there is a way for homeowners to deal with delinquencies and avoid foreclosure.

http://fwix.com/atlanta/share/0a22345d18/georgia_now_third_in_us_in_late_mortgage_payments?referrer=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.upi.com%2F

**

Tough Choices For Atlanta Pension Reform

Updated 2/22/2010 8:06:39 PM

ATLANTA – When he took office last month, Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed promised to fix one of the city’s most crushing problems — its $3.5 billion pension bill, a bill that could soon cripple the city.

One out of every five city budget dollars now goes toward pensions and the percentage is rising rapidly.

http://fwix.com/atlanta/share/0a22345d18/georgia_now_third_in_us_in_late_mortgage_payments?referrer=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.upi.com%2F

**

February 20, 2010 11:04 AM PST

School district: Spy Webcams activated 42 times

by Chris Matyszczyk

When one hears the word “spy,” one normally thinks of places like Moscow, London, and Washington rather than Rosemont, Pa. However, the controversy swirling around Rosemont’s Harriton High School and the Lower Merion School District increasingly makes for bizarre reading. And even more bizarre thinking.

The school district has been accused of remote-controlled Webcam spying on its students. The student at the center of the allegations, Blake Robbins, claims the school, having produced a still photograph taken remotely by a school official, falsely accused him of selling drugs (I have embedded the video of CBS News interview with Robbins and his family).

One fact, though, has emerged that seems mystifying in the extreme.

Watch CBS News Videos Online

According to the Washington Post, the school district has admitted activating students’ laptop Webcams 42 times over a 14-month period. The district claims each activation was merely an attempt to locate a stolen or missing laptop.

[ etc.]

While the school scrambles to defend itself against accusations of violating the Fourth Amendment, as well as transgressing the Electronic Communication Privacy Act, the Computer Fraud Abuse Act, the Stored Communications Act, Section 1983 of the Civil Rights Act, the Pennsylvania Wiretapping and Electronic Surveillance Act, and Pennsylvania common law, it becomes increasingly difficult to see how it will defend its actions.

It’s one thing to attempt to install security procedures to protect against the loss of a laptop. It’s quite another when those procedures appear to have been enacted without the knowledge of students or parents and leave the school open not only to all of the charges already leveled in the Robbins’ lawsuit, but also–as in the case of a student who leaves her laptop open in the shower to listen to music–to charges of child pornography.

http://news.cnet.com/8301-17852_3-10457126-71.html?tag=mncol;mlt_related

**

Laptop Security

Rationale

As part of an ongoing effort to protect Penn’s assets and to comply with Federal regulations and standards to protect the privacy, confidentiality, and integrity of institutional data, the ComputracePlus Laptop Security Program has been implemented at the School of Medicine. This program enables law enforcement officials to track and potentially retrieve lost and/or stolen laptops.

Criteria

It is highly recommended that the Computrace Agent be installed on ALL laptops regardless of their specific function.

ALL laptops purchased with Institutional funds (including research grants and funds from federal agencies and industry sponsors) MUST have the Computrace Agent installed. All personal laptops with ePHI MUST also have it installed. It is recommended that all other personal laptops have the agent installed, especially those with other confidential but non-patient related information.

According to PennMed policy, confidential data is defined by UPHS/SOM as data such that, if compromised, would likely result in an adverse impact to UPHS/SOM, its patients, partners, and/or workforce members.

Laptop Owner Roles

To maintain the recovery guarantee, it is the responsibility of the laptop owner to ensure their device is connected to the Internet at least once every 30 days. If this requirement is not upheld and the device is stolen, attempts to recover the device will be made, but replacement monies will not be paid out if the device is not recovered.

It is vital that the laptop owner stores their laptop serial number and Emergency contact information in a safe place separate from the laptop. SOMIS has wallet-sized cards for storing this information. If you would like a card, please contact Michael Herzog at 215-573-4382 or mherzog@mail.med.upenn.edu. This information will be crucial in the recovery process.

In the event of a loss or theft, it is also the responsibility of the laptop owner to follow the appropriate steps outlined below.

What happens if a loss occurs?

See our page on What Happens if Your Laptop is Lost or Stolen.

How do I get ComputracePlus for my laptop?

FAQ

Q. What is installed on my computer?
A. The ComputracePlus agent is a small, software client that resides on the host computer.

Q. Exactly what is ComputracePlus designed to do?
A. This Agent is designed to create both a deterrent for theft, which exposes the privacy and confidentiality of electronic Protected Health Information (ePHI) to outside parties, and to assist in the recovery of stolen laptop computers.

Q. What is ComputracePlus NOT designed to do?
A. The product is not:

  • A means of tracking, obtaining an inventory, or monitoring normal laptop activity
  • A means of knowing what other software is resident on the laptop
  • A guarantee of loss prevention
  • An agent known to disrupt routine computing on the laptop
  • An automatic trigger for finding a lost or stolen device

Q. Through what means are licenses paid?
A. The cost of this software is $65 per computer for a 3-year contract, and fees will be charged to the department, center or institute based on the laptop inventory.

Please note: each license is valid for a 3 year contract period. After that point, a new license will need to be purchased.

Q. Are devices other than laptops covered by this program?
A. At this time, only laptops are being covered with this program. However, the Agent can be installed on desktops, including local and out-of-office devices.

Q. Is my laptop protected when I travel?
A. The software is designed to work in both the USA and Canada. In other locations, reliance on the cooperation of local law enforcement is not necessarily as consistent.

Q. What happens to my laptop protection if I leave on sabbatical?
A. The device must check in through an Internet connection once each 30 days in order to maintain the recovery guarantee. Otherwise, if it is reported stolen during the leave period, attempts to recover it would be made, but the replacement monies could not be paid out if the device is not recovered. Once the device regularly reports in again, it is under the standard warrantee.

Q. Is there a means through this contract by which the data on my computer can be viewed by others?
A. No.

Q. What are the kinds of laptop losses covered by this service?
A. Internal Loss, Internal Theft, and External theft.

Q. What are the minimum system requirements to run ComputracePlus?
A. Computrace Agent Hardware & Operating System Requirements:

For PCs:
486 or faster processor
Hayes-compatible modem or connection to the Internet
Windows 95/98/2000/NT/Me/XP

For Macs:
G3 processor or above
Connection to the Internet
Mac OS X version 10.2

Q. Does ComputracePlus interfere with applications that are in operation?
A. No. ComputracePlus does not affect system performance or security. The agent itself occupies a small amount of memory when idle. When placing a call to the Monitoring Center, it occupies approximately 27 KB during the data transfer.

Q. Can the Computrace Agent dial through various telephone systems?
A. The Computrace Agent works from any phone line in the United States and Canada, even those requiring a special prefix number, such as 8 or 9. If the Agent is set to dial with a special prefix, it will first dial using that prefix but will try all common prefixes (and no prefix) until it makes a successful connection. When the Computrace Agent uses a phone connection to communicate with the Monitoring Center, it uses a toll-free telephone number.

Q. How long does it take to install the ComputracePlus service?
A. For individual installations it only takes a few minutes to run through the wizard- based installation tool and install the Computrace Agent.

The Trustees of the University of Pennsylvania

http://www.med.upenn.edu/somis/laptopsecurity.shtml

**

Did Cuban Spies steal an activist’s laptop?

Posted on Saturday 21 January 2006

A group of anti-Castro activists wonders if spies may have stolen a laptop computer from their office during Hurricane Wilma. The office of the Cuban Liberty Council was not forcibly broken into and nothing was taken except for the Apple laptop. The burglary of the laptop seemed to have occured as Miami shut down in October, 2005 during Hurricane Wilma.

The laptop contained information about donors to the council, as well as the dissident groups in Cuba that receive the council’s contributions. The office building where the council has a suite had been closed for a week and it is unclear exactly what day the laptop was taken.

Recently, two Florida International University staffers were arrested for not registering as foreign agents and allegedly providing information about the exile community to Cuba.

‘’It could be a burglary like any that happens a thousand times in this city,’’ council president Ninoska Perez-Castellon said Thursday. “But there’s always the possibility when you hear about cases of Cuban spies.’’

via MiamiHerald

http://security4laptops.com/

**

**

EU to require ISPs retain your data

Posted on Wednesday 14 December 2005

Laptop Security @ 12:25 pm

Filed under: Laptops

**

**

Gadget snaps photo of school laptop theft suspect

by KGW.com Staff

Posted on February 11, 2010 at 10:24 AM

******

PORTLAND, Ore. — Several Portland area schools have been burglarized in recent months, according to a spokesperson with GadgetTrak.

One school “had enough” and used the company’s software on a number of its laptops. When the school was again burglarized, the spokesperson said “the wrong laptop” was stolen.

GadgetTrak’s software activated and began photographing the suspect and his location.

Ken Westin with GadgetTrak said police were able to work with the company to locate the device.

Suspects have been identified thanks to the software, Westin said.

http://www.nwcn.com/news/oregon/Gadget-snaps-photo-of-school-laptop-theft-suspect-84134927.html

includes video clip

http://www.nwcn.com/news/oregon/Gadget-snaps-photo-of-school-laptop-theft-suspect-84134927.html

<object height=”288″ width=”470″><param name=”movie” value=”http://www.nwcn.com/v/?i=84134927&#8243; /><param name=”allowScriptAccess” value=”always” /><param name=”wmode” value=”transparent” /><param name=”AllowFullScreen” value=”true” /><embed type=”application/x-shockwave-flash” src=”http://www.nwcn.com/v/?i=84134927&#8243; AllowFullScreen=”true” allowScriptAccess=”always” height=”288″ wmode=”transparent” width=”470″></embed></object>

(from -)

http://www.nwcn.com/news/oregon/Gadget-snaps-photo-of-school-laptop-theft-suspect-84134927.html

**

EU to require ISPs retain your data

Posted on Wednesday 14 December 2005

The register reports about a new proposal passed in the EU Parlimant.

The European Parliament has approved proposals on data retention that would compel telecom firms to keep customer email logs, details of internet usage and phone call records for between six months to two years.

The plan – designed to assist law enforcement in the fight against terrorism and serious crime – leaves it up to individual governments to decide how long service providers will be obliged to keep data.

It is vital to understand that any data stored on a remote server has been backed up and now forcibly retained by governments in the EU for at least 6 months but probably 2 years or more, depending on the country and ISP.

The obvious solution is public key encryption, and we will soon detail the available e-mail encryption and IM encryption solutions.

http://security4laptops.com/eu-to-require-isps-retain-your-data

**

Posted on Mon, Feb. 22, 2010

Laptop camera snapped away in one classroom

By Dan Hardy, Derrick Nunnally, and John Shiffman

Inquirer Staff Writers

A laptop security program at Lower Merion schools was, when triggered, set up to snap multiple photos of whoever was using the computer, a district computer employee said in a 2008 webcast.

As an example, network technician Mike Perbix said, the system snapped as many as 20 photos of a teacher and some students without their knowledge while they were in a high school classroom during regular classes.

It would keep recording photos from the webcam and screen shots of whatever the computer user was doing until it was turned off, he said.

“It’s a fantastic feature,” Perbix said, chuckling at times as he talked about the theft-tracking feature in the software. “I can’t speak highly enough of it.”

The webcast provides new details about a system that first surfaced last week, in a federal lawsuit filed by a Harriton High School sophomore and his parents.

Blake Robbins, 15, said in the suit that an assistant principal confronted him last November with a photo from the laptop – supposedly evidence he was involved in “improper behavior” in his Penn Valley house.

The teenager has said that he was holding Mike & Ike candy in his hand, and that the assistant principal thought they might be drugs.

The system was triggered 42 times this school year, in an attempt to track lost or missing computers, school officials say.

District spokesman Douglas Young yesterday repeated that the security program was developed to help recover lost or stolen laptops, and added: “This included tracking loaner laptops that may, against regulations, have been taken off campus.”

The wealthy Lower Merion district purchased Apple MacBook laptops for all 2,300 students in its Harriton and Lower Merion High Schools.

But the district requires all students to pay a $55 insurance fee, with a $100 deductible if they are damaged or lost, according to a 2009 letter to parents from Harriton principal Steven R. Kline. “No uninsured laptops are permitted off campus,” Kline wrote.

Each school has a pool of “loaner laptops” available for students who haven’t paid the fee. Asked if Robbins took a loaner computer home without authorization, Young declined to comment.

The district defended the Harriton High administrator who confronted Robbins, assistant principal Lynn Matsko, saying she has been “unfairly portrayed and unjustly attacked in connection with her attempts to be supportive of a student and his family.”

“The district never did and never would use” a photo taken from a school-issued laptop to discipline a student, the statement said.

The Robbins family declined to comment to a reporter who visited their house yesterday. Their lawyer, Mark S. Haltzman, did not respond to requests for comment.

Since the suit was filed, federal prosecutors have issued a subpoena and Montgomery County authorities have opened their own probe. Meanwhile, the district has already apologized for not telling parents, and it has hired the law firm of Ballard Spahr to conduct an internal investigation and to recommend policy changes.

“These are important issues and we view them seriously,” said a statement issued yesterday by attorney Henry E. Hockeimer Jr., the former federal prosecutor leading the effort. While the investigation is under way, he said, people should not jump to conclusions.

“Important issues like these often generate misinformation and unjustified speculation. This situation is no exception.”

Other new details are surfacing about the controversy that students are already calling “Webcamgate.”

More than a year ago, two Harriton High School student council members privately confronted the principal when they learned that the school could covertly photograph students using the laptop’s cameras.

When Kline said it was true, the students told the principal they were worried about privacy rights, and asked questions about other kinds of monitoring. Could, for example, the school system read saved files on their computers? At a minimum, the student leaders told the principal, the student body should be formal warned about any surveillance.

But nothing happened, according to other council members who were briefed afterward, and the student leaders returned a short while later to once again tell the principal that they were greatly concerned about a potential invasion of privacy. Again, nothing happened.

Kline and district spokesman Young did not respond yesterday to requests for comment about the meeting with the principal.

The Web presentation by Perbix is featured on a site touting the benefits of the software system known as LANrev. He talked in detail about the program’s different features – including the remote tracking.

Once the feature is activated and a computer goes online, he said, “that computer will start sending back, at regular intervals . . . screen shots [pictures of what is on the computer’s screen] and if you have a built-in iSight [the Apple camera], it will start sending in camera shots.”

The security system also shows the computer’s unique “address” and shows what Internet server it was logged into, which Perbix said can “help the police try to track down your stolen computer.”

“Yes, we have used it, and yes, it has gleaned some results for us . . . especially when you’re in a school environment and you’re worrying about laptops getting up and missing,” he said.

Once, he said laptops he thought were stolen were just misplaced – in a classroom.

“And by the time we found out they were back, I had to turn the tracking off, and I had a good 20 snapshots of the teacher and students using the machines in the classroom.”

Perbix declined to talk about the webcast this weekend, saying that any comment would come from the school district.

Student council members, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said that they did not necessarily disagree with the laptop policy, but that they believed students should have been informed.

“I don’t think they were spying on us as the media has portrayed it – that’s ridiculous,” said a Harriton student council member. But, she said, the administration should have been transparent about what it was doing.

“What would allow them to begin a search? What is installed on my laptop?” she said. “In the immediate future – like, Monday – we look forward to communicating with the administration about this.”


Contact staff writer Dan Hardy

at 610-313-8134 or dhardy@phillynews.com.

Inquirer staff writer Joseph Tanfani contributed to this article.

http://www.philly.com/philly/news/homepage/20100222_Laptop_camera_snapped_away_in_one_classroom.html

**

(Mis)Uses of Technology

by Mike Masnick

Mon, Feb 22nd 2010 5:40pm

**

Industry News: Major Banks Accused of Accepting Kickbacks: Citigroup (NYSE: C), JP Morgan Chase (NYSE: JPM), Bank of America (NYSE: BAC)

February 22nd, 2010 • RelatedFiled Under • by admin

Some of the nation’s largest banks including Bank of America (NYSE: BAC), JP Morgan Chase (NYSE: JPM) and Citigroup’s Citi Mortgage division (NYSE: C) have been accused of finding unethical ways of making money from distressed homeowners who are trying to avoid foreclosure, including allegations that banks are making illegal requests for up-front cash payments from buyers and real estate agents as part of their agreement to close the deal on short sales.

Short sales require banks to accept less than the full amount due on the mortgage.

Industry-insider, Jeremy Brandt, recently said in an interview with CNBC that “at least 200 real estate agents said they have had these requests made by representatives of Citi Mortgage, JP Morgan Chase, Bank of America and other large banks.”

Since the cash that lenders receive is not listed on the final HUD settlement statement as mandated by the Real Estate Settlement Practice Act (RESPA), the cash payments are illegal.

Brandt said that this type of fraud appears to be more prevalent in the case of banks that hold a second mortgage on a homeowner, which often end up with nothing in short sales.

JP Morgan Chase was recently questioned about the practice by the Examiner and declined to comment. Bank of America and Citigroup’s Citi Mortgage division denied that the practice was happening.

http://www.americanbankingnews.com/2010/02/22/major-banks-accused-of-accepting-kickbacks-citigroup-nyse-c-jp-morgan-chase-nyse-jpm-bank-of-america-nyse-bac/

**

Citigroup: 7299 Pending Permanent Mortgage Modifications For CitiMortgage In …

Red, White, and Blue Press (blog) – Lee McFarland – ‎18 hours ago‎

Citigroup’s CitiMortgage has 7299 pending permanent home loan modifications in the works for their customers as they bring their home loan

Monday, February 22, 2010

Citi Notice Causes Customer Angst

By Darryl R. Isherwood
FOXBusiness

If a recent notice in your bank statement from Citigroup (C: 3.4395, n.a., n.a.%) has you fretting that you won’t get your money out when you need it, the bank has a message for you: Don’t sweat it.

Citi recently sent notices to a large majority of its checking account customers informing them – in no uncertain terms – that the bank has the right to require account holders to provide advanced notice before withdrawing money.  The notice had some customers buzzing over whether the cryptic language meant Citi was preparing for an onslaught of customer withdrawals – an old-fashioned, “It’s a Wonderful Life” kind of bank run.

“Effective April 1, 2010, we reserve the right to require (7) days advance notice before permitting a withdrawal from all checking accounts. While we do not currently exercise this right and have not exercised it in the past, we are required by law to notify you of this change,” the notice read.

But according to Citi officials there is nothing nefarious behind the notification, which they say amounts to nothing more than a technical requirement for all banks that offer interest on checking account balances. Citi says that when the FDIC began offering unlimited account protection in 2009, the bank converted all of its interest- and promotion-eligible accounts that did not currently pay an interest payment into what is known in bank circles as a Demand Deposit Account to take advantage of the FDIC change.

When the bank moved back to standard FDIC coverage this year, it converted the accounts back to interest-eligible accounts – known as NOW accounts – triggering the account notification.  According to a spokeswoman for Citi, all banks that offer NOW accounts are required to reserve the right to require advanced notice of withdrawals.

“However, we have never exercised this right and have no plans to do so in the future,” according to a statement from the bank explaining the notice.

It was unclear if the notice caused Citi customers to attempt to withdraw funds at a higher rate than normal. However, a person familiar with the notice pointed out that customers would have been notified by their branches that it was a technical matter.

Spokespeople for Bank of America (BAC: 16.21, n.a., n.a.%)  and JPMorgan Chase (JPM: 40.87, n.a., n.a.%) did not immediately return calls for comment.

http://www.foxbusiness.com/story/markets/industries/finance/citi-notice-causes-customer-angst/

**

Citigroup Boosts Credit Card Fees

By Bill Hardekopf 02/19/10 – 05:00 AM EST

NEW YORK (TheStreet) — Citigroup(C Quote) is adding annual fees to many popular credit cards a week before the CARD Act goes into effect.

Some Citigroup cardholders are receiving letters about a $60 annual fee that is being attached to their account effective April 1. If consumers make $2,400 in purchases during the year, the annual fee will be credited to their account. Only about 20% of credit cards in the U.S. have annual fees, according to data compiled by LowCards.com.

It appears that Citigroup’s test of adding an annual fee to a small share of customers in August 2009 proved to be successful for the issuer, which competes with Visa(V Quote), MasterCard(MC Quote) and Capital One(COF Quote).

At that time, Citigroup began charging some cardholders an annual fee of $30 to $90 unless they spent at least $2,400 a year. Now a far greater number of customers are receiving this notice.

“The reason we are making this change is to maintain the quality of our service amid the rising cost of doing business,” said Ken Stork of Citibank in a letter to the cardholders receiving this notice.

Citigroup’s decision may be a sign of things to come. Issuers such as Citigroup have been squeezed weaker consumer spending, higher default rates and the enactment of the CARD Act, which puts limits on some interest-rate increases. Adding annual fees is a way to easily generate revenue.

For consumers who spend at least an average of $200 a month on their Citigroup cards, the fee may not be a big deal. Those who own credit cards for emergencies will now have to pay for that safety.

Holders can always ask issuers to waive annual fees. It may not work, but it doesn’t hurt to try. If consumers have a good history with the Citigroup card and it is building up their credit score, they can shift some spending to reach the $2,400 limit and pay off balances each month.

Of course, you can opt out of the card, close the account and shop for a new credit card.

— Reported by Bill Hardekopf, CEO of LowCards.com.

http://www.thestreet.com/story/10684532/1/citigroup-boosts-credit-card-fees.html?cm_ven=GOOGLEN

**

Secret AIG Document Shows Goldman Sachs Minted Most Toxic CDOs

By Richard Teitelbaum

Feb. 23 (Bloomberg) — When a congressional panel convened a hearing on the government rescue of American International Group Inc. in January, the public scolding of Treasury Secretary Timothy F. Geithner got the most attention.

Lawmakers said the former head of the New York Federal Reserve Bank had presided over a backdoor bailout of Wall Street firms and a coverup. Geithner countered that he had acted properly to avert the collapse of the financial system.

A potentially more important development slipped by with less notice, Bloomberg Markets reports in its April issue. Representative Darrell Issa, the ranking Republican on the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, placed into the hearing record a five-page document itemizing the mortgage securities on which banks such as Goldman Sachs Group Inc. and Societe Generale SA had bought $62.1 billion in credit-default swaps from AIG.

These were the deals that pushed the insurer to the brink of insolvency — and were eventually paid in full at taxpayer expense. The New York Fed, which secretly engineered the bailout, prevented the full publication of the document for more than a year, even when AIG wanted it released.

That lack of disclosure shows how the government has obstructed a proper accounting of what went wrong in the financial crisis, author and former investment banker William Cohan says. “This secrecy is one more example of how the whole bailout has been done in such a slithering manner,” says Cohan, who wrote “House of Cards” (Doubleday, 2009), about the unraveling of Bear Stearns Cos. “There’s been no accountability.”

CDOs Identified

The document Issa made public cuts to the heart of the controversy over the September 2008 AIG rescue by identifying specific securities, known as collateralized-debt obligations, that had been insured with the company. The banks holding the credit-default swaps, a type of derivative, collected collateral as the insurer was downgraded and the CDOs tumbled in value.

The public can now see for the first time how poorly the securities performed, with losses exceeding 75 percent of their notional value in some cases. Compounding this, the document and Bloomberg data demonstrate that the banks that bought the swaps from AIG are mostly the same firms that underwrote the CDOs in the first place.

[etc.]

To contact the reporter on this story: Richard Teitelbaum in New York at rteitelbaum1@bloomberg.net

Last Updated: February 23, 2010 00:01 EST

http://www.bloomberg.com/apps/news?pid=20601109&sid=ax3yON_uNe7I&pos=11

**

Banks at risk of going bust tops 700

http://money.cnn.com/2010/02/23/news/companies/fdic_list/index.htm?hpt=T2

**

Matthew Yetter3:18 pm

The Constitution represents a contract between the people and our government. All officials in Washington swear an oath upon taking office that they will uphold and defend the Constitution. It clearly defines what the federal government can and cannot do.

One of the powers granted to the government is the levying of taxes. The 16th Amendment adds income tax to that.

However, the fact that our elected officials have forsaken their oaths of office and for decades now have increasingly acted in outright defiance of the Constitution effectively puts the government in breach of contract. They are now using the Constitution to hold us accountable for the taxes they choose to impose while simultaneously side-stepping our outright ignoring the Constitution with just about everything else. This is wrong. It is oppressive and flirts with outright tyranny

More Details Emerging About School Laptop Spying, And It Doesn’t Look Good

from the a-bit-proud-of-your-spying… dept

Following up on this morning’s post, new details are emerging about the school spying scandal in which a student was punished for apparently chowing down on Mike&Ike candy (which the school thought were drugs). In our comments, someone named Paul points us to a blog post from a security consultant, who digs much deeper into the story — focusing on one of the techies who worked at the school and apparently had a noticeable internet presence, having said a few things that could come back to haunt him. Note, that the school itself has said that only two techies on staff had the power to initiate the use of the remote spying tool.

Apparently, in various forums, blog posts and videos, one of the school’s techies talked about the technology they were using and how to set it up so that the user would not realize they were being spied on. He also discussed how to prevent a laptop using this software from being “jailbroken,” so users couldn’t discover that their computers were being used in this manner. Other forum posts from students at the school show that they were told they could not use other computers, could not disable the cameras and could not jailbreak their laptops on the risk of expulsion.

Re: In the not too distant future

by SecretsOfApple

Something like this?

www.appleinsider.com/articles/08/03/26/apples_patent_for_an_lcd_display_that_also_takes_pho tos_video.html

http://techdirt.com/articles/20100222/1118438253.shtml

**

Sunday, February 21, 2010

The Spy at Harriton High

This investigation into the remote spying allegedly being conducted against students at Lower Merion represents an attempt to find proof of spying and a look into the toolchain used to accomplish spying. Taking a look at the LMSD Staff List, Mike Perbix is listed as a Network Tech at LMSD. Mr. Perbix has a large online web forum footprint as well as a personal blog, and a lot of his posts, attributed to his role at Lower Merion, provide insight into the tools, methods, and capabilities deployed against students at LMSD. Of the three network techs employed at LMSD, Mr. Perbix appears to have been the mastermind behind a massive, highly effective digital panopticon.

PanoMasterMind

I’ll be watch-in you – Mike Perbix

The primary piece of evidence, already being reported on by a Fox affiliate, is this amazing promotional webcast for a remote monitoring product named LANRev. In it, Mike Perbix identifies himself as a high school network tech, and then speaks at length about using the track-and-monitor features of LanRev to take surreptitious remote pictures through a high school laptop webcam. A note of particular pride is evident in his voice when he talks about finding a way outside of LANRev to enable “curtain mode”, a special remote administration mode that makes remote control of a laptop invisible to the victim. Listen at 35:47, when he says:
“you’re controlling someone’s machine, you don’t want them to know what you’re doing”
-Mike Perbix

In a September 2009 post that may come to haunt this investigation, Perbix posted a scripting method for remote enable/disable of the iSight camera in the laptops. This post makes a lot more sense when Perbix puts it in context on an admin newsgroup, in a post which makes it clear that his script allows for the camera to appear shut down to user applications such as Photo Booth but still function via remote administration:
“what this does is prevent internal use of the iSight, but some utilities might still work (for instance an external application using it for Theft tracking”

What’s the purpose of shutting down a camera for the user of the laptop but still making it available to network administrators? Ask yourself: if you wanted to convince someone that a webcam blinking was a glitch, would disabling the cameras help make your case?

We Found the Glitch, Mrs. Buttle

The truly amazing part of this story is what’s coming out from comments from the students themselves. Some of the interesting points:

  • Possession of a monitored Macbook was required for classes
  • Possession of an unmonitored personal computer was forbidden and would be confiscated
  • Disabling the camera was impossible
  • Jailbreaking a school laptop in order to secure it or monitor it against intrusion was an offense which merited expulsion

When I spoke at MIT about the wealth of electronic evidence I came across regarding Chinese gymnasts, I used the phrase “compulsory transparency”. I never thought I would be using the phrase to describe America, especially so soon, but that appears to be exactly the case. On a familiar note, the authorities are denying everything. As one reads comments on this story, a consistent story begins to emerge:

“My name is Manuel Tebas. I was a student at Harriton High School, in the graduating class of 2009. We were the first year on the one-to-one laptop initiative. […] I saw your post about removing webcam capability from the Macbook. It is possible – I did it last year. I will preface this by saying that when I did it, I was almost expelled, saved only by the fact that there was, at the time, no rule against doing so.”

“I remember that the laptop was a requirement in school for many classes. That may remain so.”

” had brought in my own personal computer to work on a project for school one day. I was doing a presentation involving programs not available on the regular computers, only in specific labs. I happened to have a copy of my own. My personal property was confiscated from me in a study hall when I was working on a school assignment because it was against the schools ‘code of conduct’.”

“Hi, I’m a 2009 Graduate of Harriton Highschool. […] I and a few of my fellow peers were suspicious of this sort of activity when we first received the laptops. The light next to the web cam would randomly come on, whether we were in class, in study hall or at home minding our own business. We reported it multiple times, each time getting the response: “It’s only a malfunction. if you’d like we’ll look into it and give you a loaner computer.”

“The webcam couldn’t be disabled due through tough tough security settings. Occasionally we would notice that the green light was on from time to time but we just figured that it was glitching out as some macbooks do sometimes. Some few covered it up with tape and post its because they thought the IT guys were watching them. I always thought they were crazy and that the district, one of the more respectable ones within the state, would never pull some shit like this. I guess I was wrong.”

“I am the father of a 17 y/o Harrington High student. She has had one of these laptops for 2 years. She has noticed the “green light” coming on but was not computer literate enough to know what initiated it”

Browse as many web forums as you like, the comments above are highly representative. Students were told green webcam activation lights going off at home were a glitch, were required to use a jailed computer, were threatened with expulsion if they attempted to jailbreak the computer to find the truth, and were not allowed to use computers they controlled.

Inside LANRev

With some of my colleagues, I began a reverse engineering effort against LANRev in order to determine the nature of the threat and possible countermeasures. Some of the things we found at first left us aghast as security pros: the spyware “client” (they call it an agent) binds to the server permanently without using authentication or key distribution. Find an unbound agent on your network with Bonjour, click on it, you own it. The server software, with an externally facing Internet port… runs as root. I’m not kidding. For those unfamiliar with the principle of least privilege- this is an indicator of a highly unskilled design. Unfortunately, when we got down to basic forensics, LANRev appears to cover its tracks well. Here’s a screenshot of the server application monitoring a tracked host:

[etc.]

Here’s one last capture from the Windows version of the administration console, showing a forced remote webcam snapshot. We’ve pixellated this, but rest assured the real thing looks very detailed

(from the comments – this one below was interesting, my note)

Methadras said…

This is absolutely a case closed scenario you just posted. I read it 4 times and cannot find any holes to poke into it. If people do not go to jail over this, then there is really no justice at this point. The primary highlights for where three-fold. The first one was that students, by force, were required to use only state-school appointed equipment, namely these laptops. and that any other laptops as a function of personal property would be confiscated. The second is the remote admin curtain mode camera function built into the LANrev software being used without the users permission and without any highlighting, at least contractually that this a possible use with respect to EULA/TOS. The third is Mr. Pervix, er, I mean, Perbix’ commentary on the usage of the LANrev software. Who sanctioned him to use it and under what circumstances.

This is beyond anything I’ve ever with respect to personal privacy intrusions. The insidious nature of this situation is even more disturbing because of the fact that it’s from a state run school. This is the state on the hook, so now who’s head will roll and who will be protected.

February 22, 2010 2:49 PM

(excerpts from -)

http://strydehax.blogspot.com/2010/02/spy-at-harrington-high.html

**

What proof exists that this product can be used for remote monitoring of students? Remote observation and control of target computers is plainly listed in the Apple Remote Desktop 3 Feature List. But the best evidence is this PBS documentary (about a different school), in which a high school assistant principal is shown listing, monitoring, and remotely taking pictures of high school students using Apple Remote Desktop 3:

Five minutes, twelve seconds into the video:

“They don’t even realize that we are watching. I always like to mess with them and take their picture.”
-Assistant Principal Dan Ackerman

This story is only a day old, and if the published numbers are correct, nearly 1800 children and their families may have been exposed. I don’t have information yet on what forensic traces this spying may have left on the computers, however, I can recommend best practices for any parent who believes their school system may be using issued hardware to spy on their children (in Lower Merion or elsewhere):

  • Understand that most laptops have a microphone and a video camera embedded, and that remote activation of microphones can be utterly silent.
  • If the issue becomes public, as is the case above, connecting the laptop to a school administered network or VPN may allow administrators to remove forensic traces of spying. Do not network the computer until evidence collection is complete.
  • Consult a lawyer before confronting school officials. Capturing live network forensic evidence of remote spying can be far more powerful than word-of-mouth allegations.

This story is generating a lot of questions in the press, questions about how cameras should be deployed by schools in children’s homes, and what guidelines should be set for their use. Personally, I believe these are the wrong questions. I believe the right question is: should students be subject to remote surreptitious monitoring by their school systems at all? Do we want our kids to grow up always wondering who’s watching?

Matthew Wollenweber said…

With comments like Five minutes, twelve seconds into the video:

“They don’t even realize that we are watching. I always like to mess with them and take their picture.”
-Assistant Principal Dan Ackerman
Teachers have long felt like students have no rights and the comments emphasize that the administrators had no concept that what they were doing was wrong. I expect we’ll hear from a lot more students in the near future — if the schools haven’t already turned to students into Orwellian sheep.

February 18, 2010 7:35 PM

Cold Potato said…

The video you reference is: http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/digitalnation/learning/schools/how-google-saved-a-school.html

February 22, 2010 1:59 PM

http://strydehax.blogspot.com/2010/02/technology-behind-school-spying.html

**

On watching, and being watched

May 18, 2009 _ 14:19 / Rachel Dretzin /

A few days ago, we filmed at IS 339, a middle school in the Bronx that until recently had been chronically underperforming. The current principal, Jason Levy, brought in a 1:1 laptop program and is using digital tools like Google to completely revamp the school. We’ll be posting some of the video we shot there next week.

While the laptop program has indisputably been a success, the kids, being kids, spend a good chunk of time goofing off. Since they all have laptops with wireless access to the internet, they tend to goof off online. They all have the proxies to get around DOE restrictions on sights like YouTube and MySpace. The boys play video games, and the girls in particular love Photo Booth, which allows them to use the camera in their laptop like a live video mirror.

One of the highlights of the day was when Assistant Principal Dan Ackerman showed us how he can access what’s going on on every student’s laptop using a program called Apple Remote Desktop. Ackerman has access to the laptop of every kid in the school through this program, and he can switch from one to another and watch what the kids are doing on their computers in real time. The sixth and seventh graders all have cameras enabled in their laptops, so not only can Ackerman see their screens, he can see their faces. He can push a button and see a seventh grade girl in social studies class two floors away, peering at herself in video, putting on lip gloss, fixing her hair. He can also communicate with her: to freak the kids out and remind them they’re being watched, he sometimes will take a picture of them (he can control their laptops remotely) in Photo Booth, or interrupt their IM conversation with his own message, telling them to get back to work.

Sitting next to Ackerman watching him watch his students was a really profound experience. Sure, the kids all know they’re being monitored, and they don’t seem terribly upset about it. After all, they’re in middle school, and the laptops don’t belong to them, so they have no real expectation of privacy. But there’s something about having access to a moment as intimate as someone else looking in a mirror that says volumes about how our relationship to privacy as a society is changing. It rattled me, not because I necessarily disapprove of what Ackerman is doing, but because I realized how relatively easy it has become for anyone to watch anyone else at any time.

Today, I had two meetings via video Skype, a relatively new thing for me. The meetings went well, but when I signed off and the camera went to black, I had a momentary shudder. I realized I wasn’t completely confident that the camera in my laptop was no longer recording me. Was there a chance that the people on the other end of the call– or anyone else– could still see me? After all, there was the camera in my laptop, still pointed straight at my face. Who’s to know if anyone was watching?

Comments

(none)

http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/digitalnation/blog/2009/05/a-few-days-ago-we.html

**

Officers acquitted in N.Y.abuse case

Published: Feb. 22, 2010 at 3:11 PM

New York, Feb. 22 (UPI) – Three New York police officers accused in the subway beating of a suspect were acquitted Monday of sexual abuse, assault and trying to cover up the attack.

A Brooklyn jury deliberated a full day before acquitting officers Richard Kern, Alex Cruz, and Andrew Morales.

Kern was cleared of a charge of using a baton to sodomize Michael Mineo, 25, who Kern and other officers saw smoking marijuana in a subway station. Cruz and Morales were accused of attempting to help Kern cover up the incident.

“It’s not over,” the New York Times quoted Mineo as saying after the verdict. “I ain’t even surprised. I kind of had a feeling it would turn out this way. If you want to commit a murder, join the NYPD (New York Police Department) and you get cleared off.”

Mineo has filed a multimillion-dollar lawsuit against the city. Federal prosecutors also are considering charges.

http://www.upi.com/Top_News/US/2010/02/22/Officers-acquitted-in-NYabuse-case/UPI-38201266869461/

**

Officer testifies against co-workers

Published: Feb. 2, 2010 at 2:25 PM

New York, D.C., Feb. 2 (UPI)

A New York transit police officer testified he saw another officer use his baton to sexually assault a man as officers tried to arrest him.

Officer Kevin Maloney, 27, said he was helping cuff the prisoner, Michael Mineo, as he lay on the floor of a subway station when he saw officer Richard Kern gripping the baton then move it, the New York Daily News reported Tuesday.

“It was pressed on Michael Mineo’s left buttock,” Maloney testified Monday. “I saw it move from left to right . . . . Yes, there was pressure being applied. It went from left to right, into Michael Mineo’s butt crack.”

The testimony was the first solid corroboration of Mineo’s claims that he was sodomized with an object after being wrestled to the ground following a street chase. Kern, 26, is charged with carrying out that assault. Officer Alex Cruz, 28, and officer Andrew Morales, 27, are accused of covering it up.

Maloney, who was not charged, also reported hearing Mineo question what was happening after which Kern described the suspect as an emotionally disturbed person.

Maloney also testified that Mineo, once in the patrol car, reached his cuffed hands around his waist then showing officers a bloody fingertip.

[ etc.]

Published: Feb. 2, 2010 at 2:25 PM

http://www.upi.com/Top_News/US/2010/02/02/Officer-testifies-against-co-workers/UPI-43761265138709/

My Note – weren’t the New York officers that shot the man coming from his bachelors’ party to his car, cleared of wrongdoing as well? Are any of the cases involving police brutality, abuse of power, conflict of interest, or crimes against civil and human rights in the United States holding any of the officers of our government accountable who have caused loss of life, loss of property, loss of money, loss of basic human and civil rights? Why do they think it is okay to spy on us, brutalize us, deny us our rights, ignore our basic human dignity and basic human and civil rights? What country’s ideology and what type of government ideology are they serving because it sure isn’t ours and it sure isn’t the United States Constitutional guarantees? Why did they decide that we, the American people, are their enemy?

– cricketdiane, 02-23-10

**

US Super-rich Get Five Times More Income Than in 1995

Center for Research on Globalization – Andre Damon – ‎Feb 22, 2010‎
The top income earners received a total income of $138 billion in 2007. This figure is larger than the yearly output of most of the world’s countries,
**

Fludd proposes tax hike for state’s highest earners

The Citizen.com – John Munford – ‎Feb 22, 2010‎
State Representative Virgil Fludd, D-Tyrone, wants to add a “temporary” 1 percent income tax surcharge on Georgia’s highest earners as a way to raise more

IRS: 400 richest averaged $345M in ’07 income, 16% tax rate

USA Today – ‎Feb 18, 2010‎
Almost three-quarters of the highest earnersincome was in capital gains and dividends taxed at a 15 percent rate set as part of Bush-backed tax cuts in
**

Top-Earning US Households Averaged $345 Million in ’07

New York Times – ‎Feb 17, 2010‎
Almost three-quarters of the highest earnersincome was in capital gains and dividends taxed at a 15 percent rate set as part of 2003 tax cuts supported by
**

Richest Get Richer But Pay Less in Federal Tax

Cleveland Leader – Roldo Bartimole – ‎Feb 19, 2010‎
The top 400 earners saw their tax rates drop as their income soared. No one gives us this information better than David Cay Johnston. He says that these top

America’s Dirty Little Secret: Who’s really poor in America?

Huffington Post (blog) – ‎5 hours ago‎
every earned income level except the top 10%, average household income hasn’t changed a bit for 10 years, and that for the bottom 60% of wage earners it

Who’s rich?

Economist (blog) – ‎3 hours ago‎
In fact, only 5 percent of the households in America earn more than $180000 to begin with, so “high earners” comprise something less than 5 percent of the
**

Blogs | Scam Diego

“Healthy” Expansion? For Whom?

By Don Bauder | Posted February 22, 2010, 7:46 a.m.

The National Association for Business Economics will release today a poll of economists who say a recovery is firmly on track, although there will be no drop in unemployment below 9 percent for another year. Lynn Reaser, chief economist at Point Loma Nazarene University, and president of the NABE, says “We see a healthy expansion,” although there will be bumps along the way. She is an excellent economist, but should not have used the word “healthy.” The NABE prediction is an oxymoron.
There can be no firm or healthy expansion if unemployment remains at 9 percent, particularly since consumer spending is 70 percent of the economy. New York Times pointed out in a front page story Sunday that 6.3 million people have been out of work for longer than six months. Even in the megrims of the mid-70s, that figure was below 2 million. In the deep recessions of the early 1980s it was below 3 million. The NABE sees jobs growing at 103,000 a month in 2010. That is optimistic, but even if it eventuates, still very weak. The NABE economists see consumer spending rising 2.2% this year, according to the A.P.
The economists expect the stock market, as measured by the Standard & Poor’s 500, to rise 23 percent over the next two years. But it is almost impossible to say stocks and commodities WON’T move up when the Federal Reserve is lending money at around zero percent interest rates to banks. These markets are increasingly disconnected from economic reality. They are driven by the liquidity. Expectations of continued liquidity, or essentially free money, seem to be driving the NABE economists, too.

Response to post #2:

You’re right to reference more considerations SurfPuppy619, it’s not just the special interests and politicians who are the root cause of our economic failures, it is far too many people who vote without thinking of consequences of letting political zealots run amuck in Washington, Sacramento and San Diego as if taxpayers were funding their own personal piggy banks to maximize the lusts for greed and power for special interests only.

Meanwhile, the tales of suffering and harm done to hard working Americans are escalating to the breaking point while our representatives don’t give a damn about families, voters, taxpayers, Americans who simply want to work hard, produce honest goods and services to provide a good quality of life for our families.

Economists such as Don refers too frequently have never been known to face reality, just figures on their computers instead of the fact that these figures represent the hopes and dreams of living, breathing, human beings that they fail completely to help.

Economist, scientists, and all academics for that matter live in Ivory Towers and fail us just as much as politicians, and far too many other institutions.

By Anon92107 12:58 p.m., Feb 22, 2010

(from)

“Healthy” Expansion? For Whom?

San Diego Reader – Don Bauder – ‎Feb 22, 2010‎
The poor keep getting poorer, the rich are raking it in (to 30K-300K income earners), and if you take out the over paid public sector there is basically no
**

Definition of rich varies by income, place

Denver Post – Kevin Simpson, Michael Booth – ‎Feb 21, 2010‎
In line with the rest of the country, an income of $250000 or more put you in the top 2.5 percent of taxpayers. Neither Denver’s mayor nor Colorado’s

Quiner: Taxes aren’t the problem

DesMoinesRegister.com – ‎Feb 21, 2010‎
Back in 1980, the average tax rate (as a percentage of adjusted gross income) for the top 1 percent of earners was just under 35 percent.

Proposal to nix Tenn. grocery tax faces uphill battle due to income tax opposition

Jackson Sun – Nicholas Beadle – ‎Feb 21, 2010‎
Ron Eley, 67, also from Jackson, said he does not want to pay an income tax and that the tax burden on the state’s lowest earners is not his problem.

Obama Should Raise Taxes on the Rich. Here’s Why.

Atlantic Online – Derek Thompson – ‎Feb 4, 2010‎
In 2006, the top one percent of earners made the highest share of income in American history (22%) and their effective individual income tax rate was 19%.

Taxes, choices and gridlock

The Guardian – ‎Feb 18, 2010‎
About what the average earner (who makes a little more in a year than a top 400 person made in an hour in 2007) has a realistic right to expect that the

What We’re Reading …

New York Times (blog) – Catherine Rampell – ‎Feb 18, 2010‎
The incomes of the top 400 earners grew to a record in 2007, while their average income tax rate fell to a record.

Under pressure: tax inspectors turn up the heat on the rich

The Guardian – ‎Feb 20, 2010‎
getting paid in shares, moving offshore … professional advisers have a host of strategies to help high-earners keep as much of their income as possible.
  1. A.I.G. Planning Huge Bonuses After $170 Billion Bailout – NYTimes.com

    Mar 15, 2009 The insurer planned to pay about $165 million in bonuses by Sunday, though some payments were reduced after the Treasury secretary
    http://www.nytimes.com/2009/03/15/business/15AIG.htmlSimilar

  2. What Red Ink? Wall St. Paid Fat Bonuses – NYTimes.com

    Jan 29, 2009 Despite crippling losses in 2008, financial employees in New York collected an estimated $18.4 billion in bonuses for the year.
    http://www.nytimes.com/2009/01/29/business/29bonus.html

Wall Street Bonuses Rise as Big 3 May Pay $30 Billion (Update2

Nov 9, 2009 [bn:WBTKR=GS:US] Goldman Sachs Group Inc. [], Morgan Stanley and [bn:WBTKR=JPM:

US] JPMorgan Chase & Co. []’s investment bank, survivors of
http://www.bloomberg.com/apps/news?pid=20601109&sid=acKzkgNEhfXI

Anger over Wall Street’s big bonuses resurfaces, despite Obama

Jan 14, 2010 After a yearlong effort by the Obama administration to reform how Wall Street pays its executives, some of the nation’s biggest banks
http://www.washingtonpost.comPolitics

Fresh round of Wall Street bonuses rekindles scrutiny

Jan 11, 2010 NEW YORK — As resurgent Wall Street banks prepare to hand out billions of dollars in bonuses — their first since returning federal bailout
http://www.washingtonpost.comBusiness
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Whose Bonuses Are They? – DealBook Blog – NYTimes.com

Jan 15, 2010 For the sake of fairness, Congress should pass a one-off windfall tax on banking bonuses, The New York Times’s editorial board argues.
dealbook.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/01/15/whose-bonuses-are-they/
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My Note – whose money do they think they are using – their business losses and bad bets were covered by us. They depleted our families’ and communities’ resources. They made money borrowing from our Treasury taxpayer moneys at 0% interest while not loaning to any of us and while telling us to grow up and be responsible for the debts and mortgages we took – even though, they are charging us around 30% for the money we’ve borrowed by the time they finish tallying it up the way they do on our mortgages, credit cards and loans. – And after laying off everybody that was actually showing up and doing their jobs at every company in America. Who are these deranged thieves that hold none of us as valuable?
Money has no value without us. Where do they think they will live safely when this is all done – these are people that never cook a meal for themselves, don’t mow their own lawns, can’t buy their own groceries if they had to, don’t do their own accounting, can’t fix the pipes in their own houses and can’t use nail clippers to trim their own toenails . . . In fact, it probably takes most of their brain’s ability to wipe their own asses when their spouse, valet, girlfriend, hired help, or special prostitute isn’t there to do it for them. What schools of higher education bred these pieces of shit running our country and its economy into hell? There isn’t an inbred aristocrat in old world history that has a thing on this bunch, Wall Street brokers to corporate CEOs to politicians who think they are a business to insurance companies who own our Treasury as a personal bank account to hedge fund managers that keep on stealing no matter what happens as a result of their actions to the bankers who can’t live on less than $400 million a year without bitching about “roughing it”. Do they know what the basic amenities available on the other planets look like, because once they’ve finished screwing up this one and screwing the rest of us – they may want to leave and I sure don’t see where they are thinking they will go . . .
– cricketdiane
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Report: Wall Streeters got $20B in bonuses in 2009

BusinessWeek – Michael Gormley – ‎1 hour ago‎
The New York state comptroller says Wall Street bonuses rose 17 percent to more than $20 billion in 2009, the year after taxpayers bailed
Wall Street Bonuses Rise 17% Wall Street Journal
(from google search)
– my note, I know a friend who placed $2,000 with Hancock investments in 1995, now they are returning $300 dollars – that’s three hundred dollars total – a loss of $1700 – or rather, a theft of seventeen hundred dollars while getting to use that money which belonged to my friend at 0% rate plus returning none of it except $300. That is nothing short of grand larceny and embezzlement, considering the massive numbers of people across the US and the world that they’ve done that same thing to, at the same rate of depletion in real cash resources to individuals, to families, to 401Ks, to pension funds, to state budgets, to cities, to counties, to building funds, to non-profits, to trusts, to endowments, to people – to real people who did not agree to have those funds at risk nor agreed to give them as fodder for massive thefts of their earned resources.
– cricketdiane
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