Category Archives: 9/11

Target Stores – An Identity Thief’s Best Friend ?

Is Target Stores, Inc. targeting your sensitive personal data ?  (image from angrywhiteboy.com)

Is Target Corporation targeting your personal data ? Will a data breach make you a victim of identity theft ? (image linked from angrywhiteboy.org)

You might have found this article after asking…

Why did Target scan my drivers license, or

Why did Target swipe my drivers license, or

Is Target collecting personal information from my drivers license, or

What is the Target stores ID policy, and what if I refuse to give them my drivers license,  or

Did a jury award  South Carolina Target shopper Rita Cantrell $3.1 million in a libel case, after she was wrongly accused of trying to pass a counterfeit $100 bill at Target ?

Maybe Eric Arthur Blair was right (you’ll probably know who he was, even if you don’t recognize his name).

We very rarely shop at Target, but happened to find ourselves in a Target store recently.  While our order was being scanned at the register, even before we decided how we would pay, the cashier asked for our drivers license.  When asked why they needed to see our drivers license, they told us that it was because we were buying a package of over-the-counter cold medicine.  Since we are closer to retirement age than we are to the age of majority, we can’t remember the last time a clerk or cashier “proofed” us.  But since we want to do our part to make sure that no minors can get relief from their cold or flu symptoms, we graciously handed the cashier our license.  We quickly regretted complying with their request, when, to our horror, the cashier scanned the barcode on our license with their barcode reader, before we realized what they were doing, and before we had a chance to stop them.  It is worth noting that the last time I checked, this was still America, and there was absolutely no legal requirement for a retailer to scan or swipe your drivers license, or any other form of ID when purchasing medications, alcoholic beverages, etc.  Target appears to have adopted this misguided policy to protect themselves, and to possibly make their job easier (but at your expense).  What’s next ?  Scanning a barcode tattooed on your forehead by the State, or scanning you for the mandatory RFID chip implanted under your skin at birth ?

It seems to us that Target might be capturing at least some the information embedded in the barcode of your drivers license.  If not, then simply having the cashier confirm the date of birth printed on the license would suffice, and scanning the license would serve no purpose.   This makes us wonder what they might be doing with the data.  How long are they retaining the data ?  Do they sell the data, or use it for marketing purposes ?  Will they provide the data to the government, either voluntarily or in response to a subpoena or a National Security Letter ?

As (now very wealthy) South Carolina Target shopper Rita Cantrell can attest, Target can’t distinguish real currency from counterfeit.  Likewise,  we have little confidence that their employees, POS scanners or computer systems would be able to tell a fake drivers license barcode from the real thing.

Are you wondering what information Target (and other retailers) can capture from your drivers license barcode, in this post-9/11, “Homeland Security” driven world ?  The American Association of Motor Vehicle Administrators (aamva.org) publishes the standards that the individual states follow when designing their drivers licenses.  This AAMVA document (in .PDF format) lists 22 mandatory and 23 optional data elements that are encoded into the PDF417 barcode that is used on U.S. drivers licenses.  Did you know that items such as a driver’s race/ethnic group and social security number can be embedded in the barcode ?   The individual states are free to add additional data elements that are not included in the AAMVA standard.

Sample License

We suspect that Target would be happy to sell cold medicine to this fellow, as long as he allows them to scan his drivers license.

Even if Target Stores does not have any ulterior motives, the fact that they are able to capture any or all of the data embedded in your drivers license barcode exposes their customers to the threat of identity theft.  The fact that their name is Target doesn’t help the situation either, if you catch our drift.  I mean, just look at their stores… they put a big red bulls eye right on the front of every store !  If that isn’t taunting all the hackers out there, I don’t know what is.   Maybe we would be less concerned if their name was “Fortress” or something along those lines, and their logo was a bank vault, rather than a bulls eye.  Even their cute mascot, Bullseye, looks like he would rather lick you to death than defend the company’s customer data.  Retailers, credit card companies, banks and other businesses are constantly making headlines because their networks are hacked into, their data stolen, and their customers or employees personal and financial information  compromised.  Sometimes it’s a hacker breaking into a computer network.  Sometimes, it’s a rogue employee inside a company or at a vendor that has access to a company’s systems.  Sometimes, it’s a laptop computer containing sensitive information that is lost or stolen.  Sometimes, backup tapes are lost in transit to an off-site storage location.  There are many ways that customer data can be put at risk of theft.

Now we’re wondering if we will pick up the newspaper one day, and see the headline “Target Stores Targeted By Hackers,  Personal Info From 50 Million Customers Stolen”.  Think it can’t happen ?  Think Again.  It has happened to other large retailers, banks and credit card companies.

How can consumers protect themselves ?  Well, it’s nearly impossible in the age of  The Internet and when “plastic” has largely supplanted the use of cash.  But nothing says that you have to shop at a retailer that unnecessarily places your personal information at risk, even if its only a potential risk.   We doubt that we will be shopping at Target stores again, but if we do, and we are asked for our drivers license in the future, we will refuse and walk out.  If collecting our personal data is more important to Target than keeping us as a customer, we will gladly take our business elsewhere, and patronize a business that does not unnecessarily expose us to the threat of identity theft.  Speaking of Target, we think that letting retailers scan and capture the data stored in your drivers license barcode is a lot like placing a bullseye on your back.

We are normally happy to accomodate a  merchant’s request to provide suitable ID, especially when the transaction involves payment by check or credit card, or we are returning an item, but Target’s policy is unacceptable, and we believe, simply wrong.  And we’re not the only one who feels this way.  This article at informationweek.com echoes our concerns about Target’s policy.  From a purely practical standpoint, we suspect that draconian policies such as the one put in place by Target will backfire, with (even more) people simply deciding to steal the medication.  OTC pharmacy items are already the most frequently shoplifted items (see this list of the 50 most frequently shoplifted items).   And isn’t it just a bit ludicrous (not to mention, rude) to ask a senior citizen buying cold medicine to prove they’re 18 years old ?

As far as we know,  Target customers concerned about identity theft can still do their shopping at Walmart without having to show them your drivers license when buying cold medications.  If you are very obviously over the age of 18, and asked for your drivers license at a Target store, we suggest that you decline.   If they persist, simply tell them that under the circumstances, you have changed your mind and don’t wish to purchase anything.  It won’t take Target very long to realize that their policy is costing them business, and that they need to change it.  They might not enjoy having to put all your stuff back on the shelves after you walk out without buying it, but at least your personal data will be safe.

– Routing By Rumor

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Filed under 9/11, Business, Consumerism, Law Enforcement, Life, Money, Retail, Retailers, Routing by Rumor, Shopping, Technology, Terrorism, Walmart, Your Money

Introducing The Sichuan Tengzhong Hummer H1

This week’s bankruptcy filing by General Motors, and indeed the current critical condition of the entire U.S. economy can be traced directly to the wholesale loss of decent paying American manufacturing jobs, primarily to China.  Retailers like Walmart, whose stores are stocked predominantly with cheap Chinese-made goods are thriving, because financially desperate American families can’t afford to shop anywhere else (Walmart employs almost 1.5 million workers in the United States, and will be adding 22,000 more U.S. workers to its payroll in 2009; while this may sound like good news, it is anything but.)  It is a vicious cycle of cheap imports, resulting in job losses and low wages for those still lucky enough to find work, that creates an even greater demand for cheap imports that are destroying the American economy even more.  Probably the only thing that is limiting imports from China right now is the lack of available space on cargo ships.  The U.S. government does not seem to be the least bit inclined to limit imports, despite the damage they are doing to our country.

Now, it appears that General Motor’s Hummer division is being sold to China’s Sichuan Tengzhong Heavy Industrial Machinery Company.  We feel that dismantling what was one of the largest and oldest American corporations, and selling a portion of it to China is nothing short of treason.  It’s also ludicrous.  Friends, what you are witnessing is an acceleration of the destruction of the U.S. economy.

On a purely practical level, it won’t work.  The type of American buyers who are attracted to a vehicle like a Hummer won’t want a Chinese vehicle.  And as the U.S. economy continues to disintegrate because of exactly this sort of exportation of American brands and jobs, few if any Americans will be able to afford to buy a Hummer, or any vehicle, for that matter.

From a national security standpoint, selling yet another major American manufacturing company to China places America in grave danger. And remember… Hummer is basically a military vehicle, even if it has morphed into a family vehicle for soccer moms on American highways. We’ve said it before on this blog, and we’ll say it again…  Anytime it desires, China will be able to bring America to its knees without firing a single shot.  If China cuts off the supply lines that America has become dependent on, the United States will starve to death.   And we won’t be able to defend ourselves either, because unlike during World War II, America’s manufacturing capacity has all but disappeared.  If you think that melamine-laced pet food, lead-tainted toys, or toxic sheetrock from China are a problem, you ain’t seen nothing yet.

How bad are things getting for U.S. manufacturers?  We went to the Home Depot recently to buy a few sheets of sandpaper, and everything they had was made in China.  It appears that America can’t even manufacture sandpaper any more.

So stop worrying about North Korea or Iran or al-Qaeda or the Taliban.  What you should really be worrying about are those shiny new Sichuan Tengzhong Hummers that will soon be rolling down America’s highways.

We wonder if they sell portraits of Chairman Mao at Walmart.  There’s a bare wall in our living room where we could hang it.

– Routing By Rumor

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Walking On Water

//www.nytimes.com/slideshow/2009/01/15/us/20090115-PLANECRASH_3.html#

Photo is part of a slideshow at http://www.nytimes.com/slideshow/2009/01/15/us/20090115-PLANECRASH_3.html# (click photo to view)

When we started this blog just over a year ago, we decided to place a photo we took of the New York City skyline several years ago at the top of our page. The photo was taken from the deck of a New York Waterway ferry, traveling from their West 38th Street terminal in Manhattan, to their Port Imperial terminal in Weehawken, New Jersey. Little did we know at that time, that New York Waterway ferries, quite possibly the very boat we took our photo from, quite possibly piloted by the same captain, would be involved in this story.

That stretch of the Hudson River is the exact spot where Captain Chesley B. Sullenberger (see his page at linkedin.com) landed US Airways Flight 1549 yesterday afternoon. It landed in the middle of the river, near, or just slightly South of where the USS Intrepid (pictured in our banner photo), and now a sea, air & space museum, is permanently moored on the Hudson. That would put it right around the center of the frame in our photo. Then, because the lower Hudson River is a tidal river, subject to very strong currents, it quickly floated South, towards lower Manhattan. It was eventually manuvered to the shoreline off Battery Park, where it was tied up, awaiting a barge and crane which will lift it from the River.

How strong can the currents on the Hudson get? I don’t know what the typical ferry boat’s top speed is, but when the tide is going out, and the river is flowing South in the area of Manhattan, ferries we’ve been on can barely make any headway when heading North, against the current !

Just after takeoff from LaGuardia Airport (LGA) in Queens, New York, and heading to Charlotte Douglas Airport (CLT) in Charlotte, North Carolina, it is believed that the Airbus A320-214 with 155 passengers and crew aboard struck a flock of Canada Geese, and injested birds into both of its CFM56 engines, disabling them.

Captain Chesley B. "Sully" Sullenberger

Captain Chesley B. "Sully" Sullenberger, III

Flight 1549 pilot, Captain, Chesley Sullenberger, age 57, a former U.S. Air Force fighter pilot, has flown for US Airways for almost 30 years. He is also the owner of Safety Reliability Methods, Inc., and you can view his profile at their website. A point we found most interesting about Captain Sullenberger, is that in addition to a Master’s degree in Public Administration from the University of Northern Colorado, he holds a Master’s degree in Psychology with a concentration in Human Factors, from Purdue University. Prior to that, he received his Bachelor’s degree in Psychology and Basic Sciences from the United States Air Force Academy in Colorado. “Human factors” certainly played a role in averting disaster yesterday.

With the aircraft traveling West as it struck the birds over The Bronx, Captain Sullenberger reportedly considered attempting to reach Teterboro Airport, which was approximately eight miles away in Northern New Jersey, but he opted to turn South, and make an emergency water landing on the Hudson River instead. With the loss of both engines, he was at the controls of what was now a very heavy glider, and apparently felt he might not make the airport. He was also undoubtedly concerned about overflying heavily populated Northern New Jersey in his crippled aircraft. It turned out to be an excellent call. That’s the value of having someone like Chesley Sullenberger, with almost 40 years of flying experience, in the Captain’s seat.

The decision to make what turned out to be a textbook water landing undoubtedly saved 155 lives on the plane, and countless lives on the ground. It even seems that once the intact plane is pulled from the river, the passengers will eventually get their checked baggage returned to them, even if it doesn’t smell quite as fresh as it did when they checked it. We’re really hoping that there weren’t any live animals in the cargo hold, since they would have certainly drowned.

The fact that Captain Sullenberger happened to ditch the plane on that particular section of the Hudson River also played a big role in saving lives (Sullenberger indicated to accident investigators that he deliberately landed his plane close to river traffic, to “improve chances of recovery”).

It is heavily traveled by various watercraft, including ferries and tour boats. With the plane filling with water, and it’s passengers standing on the submerging wings and sitting on the deployed escape chutes, as many as 14 New York Waterway ferries, and at least one Circle Line tour boat converged on the aircraft, some reportedly within a minute or two of it’s hitting the water (read this NY Times story about some of the rescuers). Every passenger on the plane was rescued, with some suffering hypothermia and non life-threatening injuries. With an air temperature around 20 degrees Farenheit, and a water temperature in the 30’s, the plane’s passengers would not have survived very long in the near-freezing water of the Hudson River.

Only in New York !

Interestingly, there has been next to nothing in the news about the other four crew members, who should also be recognized. We found the identities of the other crew members in this Wall Street Journal article, which we excerpt here…

According to an internal US Airways flight roster, the first officer on the flight was Jeffrey Skiles, and the three flight attendants were Donna Dent, Doreen Welsh and Sheila Dail. One of the three attendants was injured and taken to a Manhattan hospital.

This Chicago Tribune article says that First Officer Skiles, age 49, lives in the town of Oregon, Wisconsin. He is a former flight instructor, who began flying at age 15.

New York Waterway, whose ferry Captains and crew members were instrumental in the rescue, is an interesting company. Started in 1986 by Arthur E. Imperatore, who previously operated a major East Coast trucking company, APA Transport, along with four of his brothers (see his bother George E. Imperatore’s obituary in the NY Times). New York Waterway service expanded after the September 11, 2001 attack on the World Trade Center shut down the PATH (Port Authority Trans Hudson) subway line between New Jersey and the World Trade Center site in lower Manhattan. When the PATH service eventually resumed, ridership on the ferries dropped off precipitously, nearly bankrupting New York Waterway. New York Waterway is now run by Imperatore’s son, Arthur Imperatore, Jr. Here’s an article about Arthur Jr.

The New York Waterway ferry ride between Weekawken, New Jersey and midtown Manhattan(they also operate other routes) is a pleasant five-minute voyage, albeit fairly expensive when you add up the fare and the parking fee. They offer free shuttle buses on the New York side, which will take ferry passengers to and from many parts of Manhattan.

Of course, the quintessential New York ferry ride is the city-operated Staten Island Ferry, which is actually free ! The 25-minute trips between St. George on Staten Island and lower Manhattan operate 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Our guess is that President-elect Obama just might be inviting the heroic crew members of US Airways flight 1549 to the White House soon after his inauguration on January 20th. It was reported that President Bush phoned Captain Chesley Sullenberger. And we hope US Airways shows Captain Sullenberger (and the other crew members) their appreciation, despite the fact that he got one of their aircraft a bit damp.

Making Water Landings More Survivable

If this flight had made the same successful water landing in an area where immediate assistance from vessels in the area was not possible, the outcome would have been drastically different.

While we’re not aviation experts, we wonder if passenger aircraft might be designed to be boyant, whether or not the plane’s hull is breached. The Airbus A320 that was involved in this accident is equipped with what is called a “ditch switch” (see details and photo here). which the pilots can activate prior to a water landing. Assuming the hull remains intact, it is supposed to close the ports and other openings in the belly of the aircraft that would permit water to enter. In this incident, water quickly filled the airplane, so it seems like the hull was probably compromised in the landing. We suspect that this will be one of the things that investigators will be looking at. Perhaps airbags or other flotation devices that deploy when an aircraft hits the water are feasible.

The accounts we’ve read indicate that water in part of the cabin was chest-high before all the passengers could exit the plane. Passengers who were standing on the wings, awaiting rescue, found themselves sinking below the waterline as the fuselage took on water. Given the water and air temperature, it’s doubtful they would have survived, had rescuers not arrived almost immediately (see NY Times story).

It also seems to us that the U.S. Coast Guard, which licenses and regulates vessels such as the numerous ferries and tour boats that are found around New York City, might enact regulations that will help crews on those boats be more effective in rescues. For example, might some sort of platform that could be lowered to the water level be made required equipment ? Perhaps a motorized winch with a basket that can be lowered to the water would be valuable for water rescues. One of the ferries was using some sort of roll-up ladder which they unfurled over the bow of the ship, but injured, severly hypothermic victims or babies would not be able to climb a ladder. Would requiring vessels like ferries to have a few survival suits on-board for crew member use be feasible ?

If we’re not mistaken, the FAA only requires life rafts on aircraft that fly overwater routes. We doubt that a New York to Charlotte flight is categorized as such, but as flight 1549 demonstrated, being on a freezing river is probably not much different from being on the open ocean, in terms of the need for equipment such as life rafts. It appeared to us that some of the passengers on flight 1549 were sitting on inflated escape chutes (one chute at the forward door on each side of the plane), and not on life rafts. If there had been sufficient life rafts available on this flight, it seems that the crew would have had time to deploy them, and the crew would not have told passengers to jump into the water, as some have claimed !

Perhaps investigators should ask the passengers that survived this water landing what equipment they would want on future flights.

About This Airplane – N106US

According to the Federal Aviation Administration, US Airways flight 1549’s “tail number”, N106US, is registered to Wells Fargo Bank Northwest. The plane is 9 years old, having been delivered in 1999. There is already an extensive article about it at wikipedia.org !

Sunday, January 18 2009 Update…

US Airways flight 1549 being raised from the Hudson River late Saturday (photo and story at nytimes.com/2009/01/19/nyregion/19blackbox.html)

US Airways flight 1549 being raised from the Hudson River late Saturday (click on photo to see article and photo at nytimes.com/2009/01/19/nyregion/19blackbox.html)

Late yesterday, salvage crews raised flight 1549 from the Hudson River, and placed the plane onto a barge. The flight data recorder and cockpit voice recorder were recovered and sent to Washington for analysis.

Crews continue to search the Hudson for the missing left engine from the Airbus A320.

In an interview on Saturday with National Transportation Safety Board investigators, Captain Chesley Sullenberger indicated that he made the decision to ditch the plane on the Hudson River to avoid “catastrophic consequences” if they would have attempted to return to LaGuardia or make it to Teterboro Airport in heavily populated Northern New Jersey.


– Routing By Rumor

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The Dirty Little Secret That Warehouse Clubs Would Rather You Not Know

We’ve had memberships to several membership-based warehouse clubs over the years. You can save money on many items, but there are often better deals on many items at your local supermarket, Walmart or Target. When you factor in the annual membership fees, which generally range from $50.00 to $100.00 or more, we’re not so sure that you actually save enough to make it worthwhile. That is, unless you own a restaurant, feed a small city, or really need to buy 50 pounds of rice, sugar or detergent at a time. They don’t bag your groceries for you. In fact, they don’t even have any bags (unless you want to buy 500 bags from them at a time).

Interestingly, at a time when other retailers are hurting because of an economy that is in deep recession, the warehouse clubs are enjoying healthy increases in membership and sales volume. Consumers desperate to stretch their dollars are flocking to these retailers in an effort to save some money. Check out this piece from CNBC that says Costco recently reported a 32% increase in quarterly profits, or this Forbes.com article that says BJ’s Wholesale Club saw a larger than 25% increase in profits in the first quarter of this year.

Many warehouse clubs open later and close earlier than supermarkets or other discount chains. In an effort to sell you their more expensive memberships, most of them offer expanded hours to only their premium membership holders, sort of like a caste system. By the time the doors swing open for the hordes of regular members, you just know that all the good stuff will have been snapped up by the privileged few who can afford the $100.00 premium memberships. All that will be left for everyone else will be the dregs. You might as well just drive ’round back and do some dumpster diving.

We’re also surprised they don’t have a little window by the entrance where you have to whisper the secret password before they’ll let you in. And some warehouse clubs limit your payment options. For instance, Costco won’t accept any credit cards except American Express. That’s unfortunate, since we’ve always felt that American Express offers the least consumer-friendly credit cards out there. And AmEx has probably deforested more of the planet than any other credit card provider, so that they can produce all the paper they stuff your mailbox with, trying to convince you to become a cardholder. We can’t believe the volume of crap we get from them. Maybe we should get a wood-burning stove. We could probably heat our home using nothing more than the American Express offers that our poor mail carrier has to keep delivering almost daily.

Then there’s the silly and demeaning entry and exit procedures at many warehouse clubs. You have to show your membership card (at least at Costco) to gain entry. After all, they can never be too careful about who they let in. I mean, God forbid a non-member might sneak in and try to buy something there. Then these places practically strip search you before you can leave with the shopping cart full of stuff you just paid for. If you think we’re overreacting to these policies, which seem to assume that everyone is a criminal, then you probably haven’t read this fellow’s rant on the subject. His discussion is much more eloquent than what the monkeys here at RoutingByRumor produce when they jump up and down on the keyboard to create each of these articles.

Here’s an account from a blogger who got the treatment at a North Carolina Walmart store, where he says he was briefly detained, then threatened by overly aggressive employees for declining to show his receipt.

Maybe we should put the warehouse clubs in charge of the U.S. borders and security at our airports. As an added bonus, they could sell club memberships to all the Mexicans that want to enter the United States, and the proceeds could go to the U.S. Treasury. Before they return to Mexico, they can stock up at Costco, Sam’s Club or BJ’s, thereby decreasing the U.S. trade deficit. Everyone benefits, and the illegal immigrants won’t have to risk their lives crossing deserts or rivers to get into the United States.

So what’s their dirty little little secret? In many states, certain departments in members-only warehouse clubs are required to sell to the general public without requiring membership. It seems to vary by state, but in general, product categories regulated by the state, such as pharmacy, alcohol and gasoline sales, are usually open to the public. Here’s an article at answers.com that lists which states require warehouse clubs to sell alcholic beverages to the public. This article from prnewswire mentions the fact that Sam’s Club pharmacies are open to the public. But don’t expect the warehouse clubs to advertise this fact. They would probably rather sell you a membership. Don’t even expect a straight answer if you walk thru the front door and ask the gatekeeper at a place like Costco. We did, and our opinion is that they like to play dumb. If you press them, they will acknowledge the fact that certain items must be sold to the public. This posting confirms our experience, and even mentions something called a “temporary alcohol shopping pass” available at Costco. Is this country great, or what ?

With all the big chains offering cheap generic prescriptions these days on a wide variety of medications, is it worth trying to get past the pit bull chained to the entrance at your local Costco, just so you can get some cheap medicine at their pharmacy? This New York Times article certainly seems to think so.

Another option is to ask for a “one-day pass”, which most warehouse clubs will provide. You may have to pay a 10% or so surcharge on any purchases you make, but if you don’t plan on being a regular shopper there, it’s probably a lot cheaper than buying a membership. Some clubs will even refund the surcharge or apply it towards their membership fee if you join within a few days. What wonderful people.

Even in places where the law does not require sales to the general public, there are loopholes that people use to save some money. Some people share their membership cards with friends and neighbors. This article explains how non-members can buy gasoline at Costco gas stations that are supposedly members-only.

As much as we hate Walmart, we think you can do better on most items at Walmart than at the warehouse clubs. We’ve never checked out prices at Walmart’s Sam’s Club stores, but somehow, we doubt that there will be much of a differential in prices between the two.

When you figure in the cost of membership, the extra gasoline you’ll probably burn to get there, the generally limited product selection, the inconvenience, the lack of shopping bags, limited payment options, the crowds, the long checkout lines, the often shorter hours and the obligatory strip searches at the exit, are the warehouse clubs really worth it?

– Routing By Rumor

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What Would Osama Do ?

Ladies and Gentlemen, this is your captain speaking.

We are on final approach to election day, with just over three months before Americans step into the voting booth to elect the next President of the United States.

Both of the “presumptive” major party candidates, John McCain (R) and Barack Obama (D), have been focusing their rhetoric on Iraq and Afghanistan, and telling us that their opponent has it all wrong.

Without question, the course the United States takes not only in these two countries, but in the larger war on terrorism (which hasn’t been going all that swimmingly either), is the number one issue facing our country. We cannot afford to make the wrong decision on November 4th.

We wouldn’t think of telling you who to vote for.  Instead, we pose this question… What would Osama bin Laden do ?

Try to answer that question for yourself. If Osama bin Laden could vote for our next President, who would he vote for ? Once you have answered that question, regardless of your answer, we recommend you cast your vote for the OTHER candidate.

That is the best insurance policy against terrorism that we can think of.

Now, please fasten your seat belts.

– Routing By Rumor

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More Proof That The Gray Lady Is Hurting !

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Street level view of the new New York Times building (photo credit: pentagram.com)

Five months ago, we wrote about job cuts at the New York Times (a.k.a. “The Gray Lady“). This week, the New York Times announced their latest price increase. Once again, Times readers will pay more, but get less (that is, those readers who remain readers despite the price increase). And New York Times readers don’t even get their favorite comics. To our knowledge, the New York Times has never had a comics section.

The weekday editions will go from $1.25 to $1.50, a 20% increase. This increase comes just twelve months since the Times raised their cover price 25% for weekday editions, and about 15% for the Sunday edition. Prior to the last price increase, the Times was able to do without a price increase for eight years. Viewed another way, these two price increases in one year’s time equal a 50% increase in the cover price of the New York Times weekday editions. Our salary hasn’t increased 50% in the past year …has yours? Sadly, the New York Times print editions may just be a luxury we can no longer afford.

More frequent price increases for many consumer products is the norm these days, We believe it is further evidence of an economy in deep trouble. Newspapers are getting it from all sides… Advertising revenue is drying up, readership is down, and production costs are way up, particularly paper, electricity and fuel. As if that wasn’t bad enough, the Internet and “new media” have turned out to be the newspaper industry’s worst nightmare. Newspapers are trying to embrace the brave new digital world, but it looks like they may be waging a loosing battle.

The squeeze has been evident to readers of the Times for quite a while now. The paper is shrinking. Their flagship product, the Sunday New York Times, is a shadow of it’s former self. Help wanted display advertising in the Sunday business section, once perhaps 75 or 100 pages every Sunday, has completely disappeared. Complete Sunday sections have disappeared. What’s left is an anemic Sunday edition that sells for an incredible $4.00 !

The voracious technology hounds at Routing By Rumor like to read the New York Times on Tuesdays, for the Science section, which has been contracting as well. We used to enjoy the Circuits section on Thursdays, but that section has disappeared, replaced by one to two pages of articles buried towards the back of the Thursday Business section. We suspect the Science section will go A.W.O.L shortly, as well.

All this bad news at the New York Times just happens to come at a time when people seeking their 15 minutes of fame have been flocking to the new building the Times has built, one block from New York City’s Times Square (named for the site of a previous building the New York Times’ occupied at One Times Square,  during the early 1900’s). It seems people have an irresistible urge to climb up the outside of the their brand spanking new skyscraper, like so many spidermen.  The fact that their new building sports what amounts to ladders on it’s exterior walls is too much for some adventure or publicity seekers to ignore.

Hu Totya/Wikipedia)

The New York Times building under construction, 9/16/2006 (credit: Hu Totya/Wikipedia)

We propose a solution that could only happen in New York City, home to Coney Island’s famed Parachute Jump, the Empire State Building, Yankee Stadium, and the site of the deadliest attack in our nation’s history.

Why not sell permits to climbers who want to scale the New York Times building, sell tickets to the spectators, sell the television rights to one of the networks, and use all the money they earn to subsidize the print editions of the New York Times. They could even place corporate logos on each floor, similar to how ball parks plaster sponsor’s ads on every nook and cranny at the ball parks. This plan may be so successful, they will be able to give away the Times for free. Remember, you heard it hear first.

Of course, safety will be an important part of this plan. Climbers will need to have the proper climbing equipment, safety nets will need to be installed, and spotters will have to supervise the climbing. Perhaps some bleachers can be built along Eighth Avenue. A giant LCD screen in Times Square (like there aren’t enough of those already) could let people follow the climbers.

David Scull/New York Times)

Alain Robert climbs the New York Times building on June 5, 2008 (photo credit: David Scull/New York Times)

Think this plan is crazy? Then you probably won’t think much of the latest attraction a few blocks away in New York’s Central Park. For the incredible price of $25, you can ride a helium balloon 300 feet above Central Park. Really! …And you thought the helium balloons in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade were cool.

Only in New York.

– Routing By Rumor

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Filed under 9/11, Journalism, Life, News, Routing by Rumor, Terrorism

Newspapers Are Now Obsolete. Introducing News Headlines Mad Libs !

With apologies to Andy Rooney

Ya ever notice how the same news keeps showing up in your newspaper day after day ?

…and how it always seems to get worse ?

Well, the newshounds at RoutingByRumor have figured out how to save you some money, and save some trees at the same time. Instead of buying a newspaper every day, why not try this update of the word game “Mad Libs” to get your latest news.

If you’re one of the few people on the planet who have never heard of Mad Libs, read this before you continue. And yes, the Web does indeed have everything, including the kitchen sink. There is even an official Mad Libs website.

And remember… “no news is good news”.

THE “MAD LIBS” U.S. NEWS HEADLINES

CONSUMER NEWS

The __________________ Corporation (fill in the name of a food or consumer goods company that has shipped all of it’s manufacturing to China) has announced the recall of ____________________ (fill in the name of a food product or child’s toy) due to possible __________________ contamination (fill in the name of a poison or carcinogen) or choking hazard. Consumers are advised to return the product to the store where they bought it.

ENVIRONMENTAL NEWS

Scientists monitoring the effects of global warming today observed the breakup of a ____________________ (fill in a really big number) square mile section of the Arctic ice pack. This is the largest loss of Arctic ice ever observed in a single day, and is further evidence of global warming.

HEALTH NEWS

The U.S. Department of Agriculture has announced the recall of ____________________ (fill in an agricultural product) which is suspected in a recent outbreak of ____________________ (fill in a food-borne illness). There have been ____________________ (fill in a number) suspected cases reported in ____________________ (fill in a number) states.

In an unrelated case, the ____________________ (fill in the name of a meat processor) corporation has announced the recall of ____________________ (fill in a very large number) pounds of ground beef, after tests have indicated possible contamination with e-coli bacteria.

ENERGY NEWS

Crude oil prices have hit another record high, closing yesterday at ____________________ (fill in a very large number) dollars a barrel. Regular grade gasoline is now an average of ____________________ (fill in a very large number) dollars a gallon nationally, and diesel fuel is now averaging ____________________ (fill in a very large number) dollars, across the nation.

FOOD PRICES

Food prices have taken another steep jump in the past month, with a seasonally-adjusted increase of ____________________ (fill in a number) percent. Spurred by steep increases in energy and commodity prices, this is the ____________________th (fill in a number) straight monthly increase in food prices. Recent ____________________ (fill in a weather-related disaster, such as flooding, drought, forest fires, locusts, hail, etc.) in key ____________________ (fill in a food commodity) producing areas has increased the likelihood of further price increases and tight supplies of ____________________ (fill in a commodity) for the foreseeable future.
EMPLOYMENT NEWS

The ____________________ (fill in a major corporation’s name) company today announced plans to lay off another ____________________ (fill in a large number) thousand employees in coming months. Blaming the decision on the sluggish economy and increased foreign competition, they said further workforce reductions might be necessary.

Also, the ____________________ (fill in a major retailer) corporation today announced plans to file for chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. In the latest quarter, they posted losses totaling ____________________ (fill in a really big number) dollars. They also announced plans to close ____________________ (fill in a big number) of their least profitable stores, and lay off ____________________ (fill in a big number) thousand employees.
MILITARY NEWS

The Pentagon has announced that another ____________________ (fill in a number) servicemen have died in fighting in ____________________ (fill in either “Iraq” or “Afgahnistan”). This brings the total death count to ____________________ (fill in a very large number) since the war began. The Pentagon has also announced that the tours of duty for ____________________ (fill in a branch of service) in ______________________ (fill in “Iraq” or “Afghanistan”) will be extended by ____________________ (fill in a number) months.

In a related story, suicide bombers have killed another ____________________ (fill in a number) people in the Iraqi city of ____________________ (fill in the name of a city in Iraq), after detonating ______________________ (fill in “a car bomb” or “explosives strapped to their body”) in a crowd of people gathered for ____________________ (fill in any reason people might gather in a group), and another ____________________ (fill in number) U.S. servicemen have been ____________________ (fill in “killed” or “wounded”) by a roadside bomb in ____________________ (fill in the name of an Iraqi city).

9/11 ATTACKS

The New York City Medical Examiner’s office announced today, that another victim of the September 11th attacks has been positively identified thru the use of DNA testing. Bone fragments belonging to ____________________ (fill in yet another victim’s name), which were recovered from ground zero in the weeks after the attacks, were re-tested using new technologies which were unavailable until now. This brings the confirmed number of victims of the 9/11 attacks to ____________________ (fill in a very large number that should wake up every American to the evil we are up against), making 9/11 the single deadliest enemy attack on U.S. soil in the nation’s history.

In a related story, redevelopment of the former World Trade Center site in lower Manhattan has again suffered a setback, after ______________________ (fill in just about any reason imaginable ) has caused yet another delay in construction activity at the site. The reconstruction plans for ground zero have been mired in controversy, cost overruns, ____________________ (fill in another of the hundreds of reasons for the delays), and complaints from families of 9/11 victims, unhappy with plans for a memorial at the site.

NEWS FROM THE CAMPAIGN TRAIL

____________________ (fill in the name of a U.S. presidential candidate) has declared his intention to ____________________ (fill in either “end the war” or “win the war” or “increase the number of troops in Iraq and Afghanistan”) within ____________________ (fill in a number) days of being sworn in as President. Speaking from the campaign trail, he spoke to reporters about the growing dissatisfaction among Americans about how the war is going, and promised quick and decisive action to change the course of the war.

Also, in responding to reporter’s questions about ____________________ (fill in an embarrassing or troubling incident that has been dredged up from his past), he denied _____________________ (fill in “ever making the statement” or “ever meeting with the person” or “ever belonging to the group” or “ever voicing support for the group” or “ever practicing that religion” or “ever losing his temper”), blaming those rumors on ____________________ (fill in a political party) supporters trying to derail his campaign.
So there you have it… All the news that’s fit to print, and no need to buy a single newspaper.

– Routing By Rumor

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