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Wed, 20 Oct 2021
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Peek-a-boo: everyone on Facebook can see you (unless you block them)

fb timeline

Privacy feature goes bye-bye
In an earlier, simpler time, Facebook FB +2.87% had a quaint little privacy option that let users opt out of being found in searches. It allowed the rare hermit types who embraced social media to have a profile on the site that could not be found by strangers, or even in some cases, contacts and friends. Like an invisibility cloak, it allowed them to be on the site but only to open the cloak - and friend people - when they chose. It was a popular option among privacy-loving types and celebs.

Facebook took away that Harry Potter-like option from its privacy settings last year. But anyone who had donned the invisibility cloak previously - such as Selena Larson at ReadWrite - got to hold onto it... until now. Facebook says it's yanking away the cloak from the remaining privacy hold-outs.

"The search setting was removed last year for people who weren't using it," wrote Facebook's chief privacy officer Michael Richter in a blog post Thursday. "For the small percentage of people still using the setting, they will see reminders about it being removed in the coming weeks."

Comment: More interesting information:

Employees Have No Expectation of Privacy in Facebook or MySpace Profiles

Brick Wall

Gaza receives first fuel shipment in weeks as storm causes havoc

Gazastorm crisis
© Khalil Hamra/The Associated Press
The storm hit Gaza at a time when it is buckling under widespread fuel shortages and rolling power cuts as a result of a tightened border closure by Egypt.
'Large swathes of northern Gaza are a disaster area'

A Palestinian official says the Gaza Strip has received its first industrial fuel shipment in 45 days, bringing much-needed relief to the storm-battered coastal territory.

A lack of fuel has hampered the rescue efforts in Gaza, where flooding from heavy rains has forced about 40,000 residents from their homes.The territory suffers from frequent power outages.

While the rival Palestinian government in the West Bank can ship fuel to Gaza through Israel, Gaza's Hamas rulers have refused to accept the shipments, saying they cannot afford a new tax.

Palestinian border official Raed Fattouh said Sunday's fuel shipment was paid for by Qatar.

The storm has also left thousands of Israelis without power. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he was postponing a regularly scheduled Cabinet meeting until Sunday afternoon over it.

Comment: There is an ongoing, urgent humanitarian crisis in Gaza due to the brutal, illegal military Israeli occupation and blockade. In addition, Gazans have been enduring daily rolling power outages for up to 18 hours per day, and sewage-filled streets due to the fuel shortage, both of which could be resolved if the international law-violating, UN resolution-condemned Israeli government occupier would release its chokehold over the people of Palestine. It is Israel, ultimately, that controls, decides and determines what goes on ( or does not) in Gaza with respect to food, fuel, electrical power, the economy, and the extent to which Palestinians are able to respond to and manage any crisis, whether man-made or weather-related.

Ask yourself how you'd survive in such conditions.


Venezuela grounds Air France plane over suspected terror threat

air france passangers
© Associated Press/Fernando Llano
Passengers by the Air France desk at the airport in Caracas after their flight to Paris was cancelled.
Minister says French authorities passed on intelligence that terrorist group was planning to put bomb on flight

Venezuela has grounded an Air France flight after being tipped off by French authorities that a terrorist group might be planning to detonate an explosive device in midair.

The Venezuelan interior minister, Miguel Rodríguez Torres, told state TV late on Saturday that more than 60 technicians, bomb experts and a canine team would perform an exhaustive search of the aircraft before the flight could be reprogrammed. Five hours after the flight's 7.25pm scheduled departure it was still unclear what the results of that search were or when they would be announced.


Meet the robot telemarketer who denies she's a robot

© Getty Images
Our encounter with an all-too-convincing robot.

The phone call came from a charming woman with a bright, engaging voice to the cell phone of a TIME Washington Bureau Chief Michael Scherer. She wanted to offer a deal on health insurance, but something was fishy.

When Scherer asked point blank if she was a real person, or a computer-operated robot voice, she replied enthusiastically that she was real, with a charming laugh. But then she failed several other tests. When asked "What vegetable is found in tomato soup?" she said she did not understand the question. When asked multiple times what day of the week it was yesterday, she complained repeatedly of a bad connection.


U.S.: Georgia police caught on video body slamming 70-year-old woman to ground

A YouTube video posted on Tuesday appears to show yet another case of excessive force used by American police officers.

The video shows a Glynn County, Georgia police officer body slamming a 70-year-old woman to the ground during a DUI arrest. A witness filming the arrest was then allegedly intimidated by a Glynn County officer and pressured to stop recording.

The elderly woman has been identified as Kathleen Mary Allegrone. At the start of the video, Allegrone is pulled out of her car by officers and falls to the ground. It's not clear whether she fell out of intoxication or due to the force used by police. Moments later, she is seen being escorted with her arms behind her back over to Officer Jones' car. She can be heard yelling to officers that she is in pain.

Next, officers move to handcuff Allegrone. Out of nowhere, Allegrone is picked up and body slammed to the ground. Her arms were immobilized and she could not break her fall. The man filming the video said he heard a distinct smack when Allegrone's head hit the pavement. Judging by Allegrone's post-arrest picture, she seems to have fallen directly on her face.

In light of the public attention the incident is receiving, the officer involved has been placed on paid administrative leave. He claims Allegrone dug her nails into his skin while he was putting handcuffs on the woman, and he body slammed her in order to "stop the assault." Glynn County PD is conducting an internal investigation of the event.

Here is the video of the incident. Allegrone is dropped to the ground around the 1:10 mark:

Evil Rays

'Interpreter' at Mandela memorial event says he does not remember being up on stage with world leaders

interpreter at mandela
© Associated Press/Tsvangirayi Mukwazhi
Thamsanqa Jantjie gesticulates at his home during an interview with the Associated Press in Johannesburg, South Africa,Thursday, Dec. 12, 2013. Jantjie, the man accused of faking sign interpretation next to world leaders at Nelson Mandela's memorial, told a local newspaper that he was hallucinating and hearing voices.
The man accused of faking sign interpretation while standing alongside world leaders like U.S. President Barack Obama at Nelson Mandela's memorial service said Thursday he hallucinated that angels were entering the stadium, suffers from schizophrenia and has been violent in the past.

Thamsanqa Jantjie said in a 45-minute interview with The Associated Press that his hallucinations began while he was interpreting and that he tried not to panic because there were "armed policemen around me." He added that he was once hospitalized in a mental health facility for more than one year.

Comment: Mind control?

The firm he was supposedly hired from is a cut-out:

Firm that employed fake interpreter for deaf at Mandela memorial service has 'vanished'

And then, there's this:

Family concerned about priest after bizarre call regarding an assassination plot involving himself and interpreter


The debt collecting machine: mystery company threatens homes from Washington, D.C to Ohio

forclosure 1
© Michael S. Williamson/The Washington Post
An Aeon-owned property in Cleveland.
Aeon Financial foreclosed on more than 400 properties in Ohio's biggest county. It threatened more than 1,900 in D.C. and Maryland. To distressed homeowners, it's a debt-collecting machine.

The firm that threatened to foreclose on hundreds of struggling D.C. homeowners is a mystery: It lists no owners, no local office, no Web site.

Aeon Financial is incorporated in Delaware, operates from mail-drop boxes in Chicago and is represented by a law firm with an address at a 7,200-square-foot estate on a mountainside near Vail, Colo.

Yet no other tax lien purchaser in the District has been more aggressive in recent years, buying the liens placed on properties when owners fell behind on their taxes, then charging families thousands in fees to save their homes from foreclosure.

Aeon has been accused by the city's attorney general of predatory and unlawful practices and has been harshly criticized by local judges for overbilling. All along, the firm has remained shrouded in corporate secrecy as it pushed to foreclose on more than 700 houses in every ward of the District.

"Who the heck is Aeon?" said David Chung, a local lawyer who said he wasn't notified that he owed $575 in back taxes on his Northwest Washington condominium until he received a notice from Aeon. "They said, 'We bought the right to take over your property. If you want it back - pay us.' "

Aeon's story underscores how an obscure tax lien company - backed by large banks and savvy lawyers - can move from city to city with little government scrutiny, taking in millions from distressed homeowners.

The firm came into the District eight years ago with hardball tactics, sending families threatening letters and demanding $5,000 or more in legal fees and other costs, often more than three times the tax debt.


Charles Dickens redux: In jail for being in debt

You committed no crime, but an officer is knocking on your door. More Minnesotans are surprised to find themselves being locked up over debts.

As a sheriff's deputy dumped the contents of Joy Uhlmeyer's purse into a sealed bag, she begged to know why she had just been arrested while driving home to Richfield after an Easter visit with her elderly mother.

No one had an answer. Uhlmeyer spent a sleepless night in a frigid Anoka County holding cell, her hands tucked under her armpits for warmth. Then, handcuffed in a squad car, she was taken to downtown Minneapolis for booking. Finally, after 16 hours in limbo, jail officials fingerprinted Uhlmeyer and explained her offense -- missing a court hearing over an unpaid debt. "They have no right to do this to me," said the 57-year-old patient care advocate, her voice as soft as a whisper. "Not for a stupid credit card."

It's not a crime to owe money, and debtors' prisons were abolished in the United States in the 19th century. But people are routinely being thrown in jail for failing to pay debts. In Minnesota, which has some of the most creditor-friendly laws in the country, the use of arrest warrants against debtors has jumped 60 percent over the past four years, with 845 cases in 2009, a Star Tribune analysis of state court data has found.

Not every warrant results in an arrest, but in Minnesota many debtors spend up to 48 hours in cells with criminals. Consumer attorneys say such arrests are increasing in many states, including Arkansas, Arizona and Washington, driven by a bad economy, high consumer debt and a growing industry that buys bad debts and employs every means available to collect.

Whether a debtor is locked up depends largely on where the person lives, because enforcement is inconsistent from state to state, and even county to county.

In Illinois and southwest Indiana, some judges jail debtors for missing court-ordered debt payments. In extreme cases, people stay in jail until they raise a minimum payment. In January, a judge sentenced a Kenney, Ill., man "to indefinite incarceration" until he came up with $300 toward a lumber yard debt.


Manhattan apartment rents drop for a third straight month

nyc apartments
© Daniel Acker/Bloomberg
The median monthly rent in Manhattan dropped 3 percent from a year earlier to $3,100.
Manhattan apartment rents fell for a third month in November and the vacancy rate reached the highest in at least seven years, signs the market is weakening amid a spike in homebuying and the lure of leasing in Brooklyn.

The median monthly rent in Manhattan dropped 3 percent from a year earlier to $3,100, according to a report today by appraiser Miller Samuel Inc. and brokerage Douglas Elliman Real Estate. The vacancy rate climbed to 2.8 percent, the highest since the firms began tracking the data in August 2006.

Rents had been climbing for almost two years and approaching the 2006 peak of $3,265 a month before they began to slide in September. Manhattan home purchases jumped to a six-year high in the third quarter as buyers rushed to make deals before rising mortgage rates pushed costs higher, Miller Samuel and Douglas Elliman said. Sales of one-bedroom units reached a 15-year high, suggesting an influx of first-time buyers.

Arrow Up

Meet Lucia Topolansky, Uruguay's first lady like no other

Lucia Topolansky is a first lady like no other. An outspoken senator, former Tupamaro guerrilla and key member of her country's ruling coalition, she is more than qualified to follow her husband Jose Mujica into the presidency.

But would she?

"No way," she told The Associated Press in an interview in her Senate office. "Now that I've seen the presidency up close, I wouldn't wish it on anybody. Look, I remember well how in your country Barack Obama didn't have a single gray hair in his first term, and now he's totally gray!"

Topolansky is, however, being talked about as a potential vice president for Tabare Vazquez, who preceded Mujica in office and is a likely front-runner to retake the presidency in 2014.

Now 69 and gray herself, Topolansky still speaks with the intensity of the young, blond militant who tried to change her country through armed revolution starting in 1966, organizing jailbreaks and even crawling through sewers to escape from prison.

Recaptured just before Uruguay's 1973 military coup, she suffered torture during her nearly 14 years in prison. With democracy's return in 1985, she and Mujica were among the former guerrillas granted amnesties. They eventually got married and kept working for change, achieving through the ballot box what bullets couldn't.

Mujica won the presidency through his charisma and common touch, but credits his wife for his political backbone - missing her birthday while visiting the United Nations last week, he called her his "hard drive."

Comment: See also: Man of the people: President of Uruguay José Mujica gives away 90% of his salary