Category Archives: Life

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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The David Letterman Sextortion Scandal And Confession Has Damaged The CBS Network !

From Murrow To Mediocrity…

The Fall From Grace At CBS

The Ed Sullivan Theater (photo from Wikimedia Commons)

The Ed Sullivan Theater in New York City, home of the Late Show, where David Letterman delivered his mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa, admitting to sexual indiscressions with staff members (photo from Wikimedia Commons)

Legendary CBS broadcasting giants, including Edward R. MurrowWalter Cronkite and Ed Sullivan must be turning over in their graves as a result of their “Tiffany Network”, the Columbia Broadcasting System, having its image tarnished by scandal in recent years.  The latest (sex) scandal to hit CBS involves David Letterman, his staff, and a CBS Producer named Robert Halderman.

Executives at CBS must regret the day they lured David Letterman away from NBC.  And the venerable Ed Sullivan Theater in New York City, where CBS tapes the Letterman show, has been forever sullied by the scandal that hit the news Thursday.  CBS began broadcasting from CBS-TV “Studio 50” in 1936, and renamed it the Ed Sullivan Theater in 1967.  The Ed Sullivan show was broadcast from there during it’s 23-year run, from 1948 thru 1971.

In the 1970’s, about the time that David Letterman was a weatherman on an Indianapolis, Indiana television station, we were working for a company in New York City that sold equipment to broadcasters.  They did business with CBS, and on one occasion our work took us to the Ed Sullivan Theater.  We entered that building in awe.  We felt extremely privileged to be in that space, where some of the most historic broadcasts in the history of television originated from.  Today however, we would be embarrassed to be seen entering  the studio where the Beatles made their U.S. debut, and where virtually every notable performer or group from that era appeared,  many of them multiple times.

Ed Sullivan would cringe if he heard what David Letterman admitted to this past Thursday, while standing on the same stage that Sullivan’s shows were broadcast from.  Ed Sullivan was so squeaky clean that it was commonplace for him to ask performers to change objectionable lyrics in the songs they performed on the Ed Sullivan show.  Performers that refused to clean up their lyrics would not be broadcast, and those that reneged on their promise to sanitize their lyrics (remember that this was live television), were never invited back to the Ed Sullivan show again.

This past Thursday, in what can only be described as one of the most bizarre broadcasts of the Letterman show (or any television show, for that matter), Letterman delivered his mea culpa, admitting to his sexual indiscretions, to an audience of people who were laughing like hyenas.  Apparently, the audience didn’t know what to make of the confession, and assumed it was part of his comedy routine.  Here’s an article published by the New York Daily News on Friday, which identifies a woman who worked for David Letterman, who they believe is involved in the scandal.  In any case, Letterman’s broadcast confession certainly gives a whole new meaning to the term “Worldwide Pants”.  You can probably find the confession on YouTube and elsewhere, but we aren’t going to link to it, since it seems that CBS has been asking YouTube to pull any excerpts people have been posting from the show, due to copyright infringement, and, no doubt, severe embarrassment.  Ya know, maybe CBS should have never broadcast it in the first place.

In the 1970’s Watergate scandal, Richard Nixon had his infamous 18- minute gap on the White House tapes.  Similarly, in the Letterman scandal, CBS has redacted the ten-minute mea culpa segment of David Letterman’s monologue from the official copy that CBS posted on YouTube (read this NY Times article about the missing Letterman segment).

As an aside, we think it’s worth noting that technology like cellphones, digital cameras, the VCR, DVDs, computers, the Internet and websites like YouTube have a way of  changing the status quo, and making existing law moot in many cases.  As many individuals and corporations have learned over the last few years, it is largely an exercise in futility to try and have something that has been posted on the Web taken down.  The harder you try to quash something, whether a photo, a video, an MP3 file or a point of view, the faster it propagates.  Remove it from one website, and it springs up in 100 other places.  The battle to protect intellectual property (IP) has been made infinitely more difficult as technology has made it a trivial matter to make high quality copies of materials such as music, movies, photos, etc.  Two events in particular stick out in our mind;  The introduction of VCRs in the late 1970’s, which had the entertainment industry scared to death about illegal recording of television shows, and the advent of music sharing websites such as Napster.  Blogs, personal websites, and the fact that virtually everyone can now have a “printing press” in their home has changed the publishing and newspaper businesses forever.  Organizations have learned that a different mindset is necessary to survive.  If you can’t beat them, join them.  As an example of this consider the fact that every major U.S. daily newspaper that has managed to survive also has a website.  Newspapers have even begun scrapping their paper editions, becoming Internet-only news outlets, a la The Huffington Post (see this NYTimes article about The Seattle Post-Intelligencer going Internet-only).  But we digress.

If we were running CBS, the Letterman show would be pulled faster than you can say “Top Ten List”, but for financial reasons, we doubt CBS will pull the show.  Moral and ethical standards are simply not what they were when William S. Paley was running CBS.  Certainly not at CBS, and not anywhere else in broadcasting, or society in general.  If Letterman can continue to do well in the ratings, his job is probably secure.  But we expect to see CBS getting hit with lawsuits from Letterman staffers, who will say that his conduct created a hostile work environment.

And of course, the “Top Ten” lists have begun to appear on the Web, in response to the Letterman scandal.  A fellow WordPress blogger posted “The Top Ten Reasons Why David Letterman Should Be Fired”, while this conservative Christian website posted their own Top Ten list.

– Routing By Rumor

P.S. – According to this article at the Museum of Broadcast Communications, “From Murrow To Mediocrity” was the title of a scathing 1987 New York Times op-ed piece written by CBS newsman Dan Rather.

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Maine High School Student Proves That Almost Anyone Can Become A School Administrator !

Bonny Eagle High School is located in Standish, Maine

Bonny Eagle High School is located in Standish, Maine

What was Justin Denney thinking ?

Mr. Denney’s actions risked the lives of his fellow students, as well as everyone attending the Bonny Eagle High School (Standish, Maine) graduation last Friday at the Cumberland County Civic Center in Portland, Maine.

What dastardly deed is this graduating senior guilty of ?   Did he bring a loaded gun to the graduation?  No.  Did he call in a bomb scare, or set off a smoke bomb in the Civic Center?  No.  Did he pull the fire alarm just as the graduation ceremonies were about to begin?  No.   Did he release a box full of mice during the pledge of allegiance?  No.  Mr. Denney is guilty of a much more sinister offense.

Mr. Denney’s crime involved taking a bow and blowing a kiss to his mother, as he went up to receive his diploma, which is apparently a capital offense in the State of Maine.  For the depraved indifference to human life that Mr. Denney demonstrated by blowing a kiss to his mother, Schools Superintendent Suzanne Lukas ordered Mr. Denney back to his seat, and he was denied his diploma (see “Blow a kiss, lose your diploma” at examiner.com, where Dr. Todd Berntson describes the conduct of the Maine school superintendent involved as bizarre, absurd,  disturbing, insensitive and hostile).  We shudder to think what sort of draconian punishment might be imposed on a student who is foolish enough to actually do something bad in this school district from hell.

We can picture Justin Denney sitting in a prison cell full of  murderers, felons and hardened criminals.  One of the inmates asks the others what landed them in prison.  One fellow says he killed three people.  The next guy says he robbed a bank.  Another says that he shot a cop.  Then Justin says “I blew a kiss to my mommy”.  The other inmates move away from Justin, fearing for their lives.  Justin Denney becomes known as “that Bonny Eagle dude” that you don’t want to mess with.

Good call, Ms. Lukas.  God only knows what might have happened if other students copied Mr. Denney’s reckless and depraved behavior.  You could have had every kid there blowing kisses to their parents.  Pandemonium would have ensued.  Lives might have been lost.  Fortunately, your quick action prevented a disaster.

We feel that Mr. Denney was way too well behaved, considering the circumstances.  If Ms. Lukas had told US to return to our seat without receiving our diploma, we would have flatly refused to move an inch until the diploma was awarded.  Let them have their goons drag us off  the stage if they wish (we would be screaming “I earned that diploma” and “Don’t tase me, bro” as they dragged us away).  The bigger the spectacle, the better, since there was a civic center full of witnesses who would have been horrified.  Video would have shown up on youtube faster than you can say “Suzanne Lukas”.  Actually, this story has shown up on youtube !

Those who meekly submit to tyrants empower them.  To Mr. Denney’s credit, when asked by Ms. Lukas why he should receive his diploma, he did not hesitate to tell her why he deserved it.

How would Ms. Lukas have felt if, let’s say, she was denied her diploma at her 1968 graduation from Marian Central Catholic High School in Worcester, Massachusetts, because she had acknowledged her parents in the audience ?

To recognize the courage and leadership that Suzanne Lukas demonstrated in the face of adversity, we have awarded her the Routing By Rumor Humanitarian Of The Year award.   If readers would like to express their appreciation and support for Ms. Lukas’ actions, you can visit the Maine Department of Education’s website, and e-mail Maine’s Education Commissioner,  Susan A. Gendron.

Ms. Lukas, you really need to give Justin Denney his hard-earned diploma (preferably with the news media present) before the Board of Education (it is called the “Board of Directors” in the case of this school district) hands you your walking papers, for making the District the laughing stock of the Internet and the State of Maine.  While you’re at it, why don’t you help yourself to a large serving of humble pie, and issue a public apology to Mr. Denney, his family, and the students and parents of Bonny Eagle High School.  Who knows… expressing a bit of remorse for your despicable behavior might even save your job !

Perhaps it’s also time for the Maine School Administrative District 6 to revisit some of their rules and regulations, which seem more appropriate for a correctional facility or prisoner-of-war camp, than for a school district.  On that note, perhaps Ms. Lukas should apply for a warden’s job with the Maine Department of Corrections.

And to Justin Denney, congratulations on your graduation, and on your 15 minutes of fame.  Andy Warhol was right !

6/18/2009 UPDATE…

It’s now almost a week since Justin Denney should have received his diploma.  Schools Superintendent Suzanne Lukas (her name has become a household word, but for all the wrong reasons) seems to have gone into hiding.  The School District Board of Directors has held a closed-door emergency meeting to discuss the situation, and the Dennys have spoken to an attorney.  Justin Denney still does not have the diploma that he has earned.

Doesn’t anybody in the school system have any intestinal fortitude or common sense ?  Deliver the diploma to Justin’s home in person.  Send it by FedEx.  Have Suzanne Lukas crawl up to the Denney’s front door on her hands and knees, holding the diploma in her mouth.  Whatever.  The important thing at this point is to award the diploma and issue a public apology.  Any administrative action against Ms. Lukas, any lawsuits against the school district, and any changes to school policy will all come in due time.  The longer the school district waits to “make things right”, the more damage that will be done.  Rather than going into closed-door executive sessions, sitting around a conference table and wringing their hands, one of the school administrators or Board members should stand up, take the lead, and put a quick end to this nonsense.  And the families of SAD #6 (aptly named, don’t you think?), should use the next school board elections as an opportunity to ensure that this sort of situation doesn’t happen again.

– 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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Using Website Visitor Statistics As An Early Warning System

Like the canary in the coal mine, warning of the presence of deadly gases, or the seismograph warning of an impending tsunami, website (or blog) visitor statistics provide a valuable early warning system of current events, breaking news stories, and things that will be making news in the days ahead.

Google has known this for quite a while. Google’s Zeitgeist provides statistics that show the latest search trends. You can even go back and see what searches were hot on a previous date.

Like many bloggers and Webmasters, we keep tabs on Routing By Rumor’s traffic statistics. In the past 24 hours, we’ve seen a spike in visits that are related to several of the articles we’ve written in the past. An unusually high number of visitors have landed at our doorstep after doing searches for “Walmart” (or “Wal-Mart” or “Wal Mart”), “Ashley Alexandra Dupre” and “Blackrock layoffs”. We welcome the “business”, but we’re always curious as to why people end up here.

Searches for “Walmart” have always been a top search engine source of traffic to our blog. We’re guessing that a few items related to Walmart that have been in the news in the past few days have a lot to do with the sudden spike in traffic related to Walmart. Perhaps the news coverage of Walmart’s (and other retailers) day-after-Thanksgiving “Black Friday” sales have a lot to do with the increase in search engine traffic.

Ashley Alexandra Dupre is the alleged prostitute allegedly associated with the (alleged former New York Governor) Eliot Spitzer scandal, who received some coverage in this alleged blog a few months back. But why is she suddenly a top search engine topic once again? A bit of research gave us the answer. It seems that Ms. “Dupre” will be interviewed by Diane Sawyer, in a piece that will air on ABC’s 20/20 broadcast this Friday. Who ever said that crime doesn’t pay ?

We were scratching our head on the “Blackrock layoffs” searches that were bringing visitors to our blog. We wrote a piece last winter about layoffs at WCBS-AM, which we titled “Bad Day At Black Rock”. Black Rock is the nickname for CBS’s New York City headquarters building, owing to the dark granite facade of the skyscraper. But we had not heard of any new layoffs at CBS, so why the sudden interest in layoffs at “Black Rock” ?

A bit of digging yielded the answer. There are rumors floating that a round of layoffs are about to be announced at investment company Blackrock, Inc., the largest publicly traded asset management firm in the United States. Nothing to do with CBS, but close enough that it created a spike in visitors to my blog !

So, Webmasters and SEO (Search Engine Optimization) experts take note. If you see unexpected increases in traffic to your site that you can’t explain, dig deeper to find the source. Search engines rarely lie. It may be a case of mistaken identity, as with our “Black Rock” visitors. Then again, it may be an early warning of something you should know about, possibly relating to your website, your company, or a competitor.

We wonder whether mainstream media has caught on to this as a news gathering tool. It is no secret that journalists often “find” stories because they have already been covered by another newspaper, TV or radio station. Search engine statistics should be able to scoop other sources of news. The statistics are real-time, not requiring the printing of a newspaper, or the taping and editing of a television or radio news report. We would like to think that if the Internet existed back in the days of The Daily Planet, that cub reporter Jimmy Olsen would be using his computer and Google to scoop the other reporters.

We were wondering if we would get credit for coining the term “zeitgeist journalism“, so we decided to Google the phrase. Edward Rothstein, for one, used the term in this New York Times article about trend-spotting a dozen years ago, although obviously not in reference to Google, so we probably can’t claim ownership. Maybe we’ll just call it “Google journalism“.

Great Caesar’s ghost !

– Routing By Rumor

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Filed under Blogging, Business, CBS Radio, Entertainment, Google, Journalism, Life, Movies, New York City, News, Retail, Retailers, Routing by Rumor, Science Fiction, Stock Markets, TV Shows, Uncategorized, Walmart, WCBS-AM

Hanesbrands Ships Even More American Jobs To China !

..And some people wonder why the American economy is on life support.

Hanesbrands, Inc., the North Carolina based clothing manufacturer best known for their Hanes, Champion and Playtex brands, has given up on more American workers. Two weeks ago, they announced the elimination of more than 8,000 jobs, or 12% of their payroll, and the closing of nine plants in five countries. The job cuts will include 1,300 workers in North Carolina alone. If you’re looking for work in China, you’re in luck. But if you’re looking for work in North Carolina, tough luck. Hanesbrands expects to hire 2,000 employees in China by the end of the year. They’re also building a new textile fabric plant in Nanjing, China.

What wonderful news for the American economy !

Hanesbrands is giving up on workers in Central America as well, including Costa Rica, El Salvador and Honduras. Apparently, not even low paid workers in these countries can compete against China. While it looks like most of these jobs are going to China, the company also said they will be moving production to plants in Vietnam and Thailand. It’s probably just a coincidence that these may be some of the worst countries on earth, in terms of worker exploitation (see “Secrets, Lies and Sweatshops“, Businessweek, 11/27/2006).

Al Norman over at The Huffington Post has written an excellent piece about Hanesbrands’ abandonment of American workers. He puts the blame squarely on retailers like Walmart, and the consumers that flock there looking for cheap goods. In fact, he calls Walmart “the travel agent for Hanesbrands”.  Also check out our article from last December, “The Walmartization Of America“.

Take a look at Hanesbrands’ CEO Richard A. Noll’s total annual compensation at Forbes.com. We would have less of a problem with the top management at a company receiving obscene levels of compensation if they were able to provide employees with secure jobs, and pay them decent wages. We’ve read opinions that most all CEOs at U.S. corporations are good, decent, intelligent people, and we trust that Mr. Noll fits that profile. But when large numbers of your employees are getting pink slips, and you are closing many of your factories, it seems to us that the pain should be shared by the most highly compensated employees at the company. If top management doesn’t see fit to spread around the pain, then the company’s directors should address the issue. Come to think of it, if Hanesbrands’ manufacturing is moving to low-cost places like China and Vietnam, perhaps their CEO position should move there also, to be closer to their workers. You could probably find a very capable CEO in Ho Chi Minh City, who would take the job for about 50 cents a day.

Do you think it’s possible for someone like Mr. Noll to comprehend the impact of the plant closings on an employee who has spent their entire career in a North Carolina textile factory, and is now told that their job is being sent to China? If you do the math, it would seem that if Mr. Noll and other executives at Hanesbrands took a modest cut in their annual compensation, Hanesbrands could afford to keep at least one of their North Carolina plants open, and many of their loyal employees on the payroll. It would sure be interesting to hear some of their soon-to-be-jobless employees’ opinions on the subject. Obviously, making tons of money is nice, but at some point, doesn’t the voice of reason (or perhaps conscience) tell you what the morally right thing to do might be ? Dining on Prime Rib is nice, but we would have trouble swallowing if we were surrounded by people who were starving to death. It’s also all about loyalty, which seems to be in terribly short supply in the American workplace, in the executive suite, as well as on the factory floor.

We believe, and we’ve written previously, that the loss of jobs and manufacturing capacity in the United States is at the root of our current economic woes. The withering stock market, the banking and real estate crisis, the credit crunch, the decrepit state of the U.S. auto industry and the weak U.S. dollar are all symptoms of an economy decimated by companies who have abandoned the American worker, in search of profits in places like China.

You know, those cheap Hanes socks, underwear or other garments at your local department store may not be the bargains they appear to be. Actually, you might not be able to afford the type of bargain that Hanes is offering !

Let’s say that you’ve had it with companies that have moved their manufacturing to China. This mom did, and she decided to boycott all Chinese-made goods for one year. She is a reporter, and wrote about her quest, in “A Year Without China: One Mom’s Fruitless Quest To Boycott China”. Her experience is quite interesting, and includes a futile attempt to avoid Hanes products made in China.

Last week, we were reading the New York Times, when an ad practically jumped off the page at us. With the title “Even The Rope We’re Hanging Ourselves With Is Made In China”, it echoes our feelings about what is wrong with the U.S. economy. A play on Lenin’s quote “The capitalists will sell us the rope with which we will hang them”, to be sure, but also very true with regard to the state of the U.S. economy.

The “rope” ad is from an organization we had never heard of, called The Institute For America’s Future. We urge you to visit their website at www.ourfuture.org. They are warning America about exactly the same things we’ve been writing about; the trade deficit, the exporting of American jobs, the loss of manufacturing capacity, and the dependence on foreign oil.

Doctor Bush and his band of merry economists can throw 700 billion band-aids at the problem, but that will have little effect. The patient is hemmorhaging, and unless the source of the bleeding is addressed, all the band-aids in China (or all the tea in China) won’t save the patient. President Bush has recently resorted to his emergency “fireside chats” with the American public, making his morning televised appearances to try and reassure the nation in the face of the economic meltdown. We think we can safely say these little pep talks have done nothing to calm Wall Street, or reassure the man on the street. They are too little, too late, from an American President who really doesn’t seem to get it.

And look at the $85 billion bailout of AIG, a company in such bad financial shape that they could afford to squander close to a half-million bucks on an “executive retreat” at a California resort, just days after lawmakers signed off on their bailout. But then, when your rich uncle is writing you a check for $85 billion, that hotel tab probably looks like pocket change. Talk about laughing all the way to the bank. It’s like giving a few bucks to a homeless person begging on the street, who then uses your money to hire a limo to take them to the welfare office. If AIG’s behavior isn’t criminal, it certainly should be.

And of course, when Robert Willumstad, the Chief Executive at AIG (he lost his job a day after the federal bailout was announced) is hauled before lawmakers on Capitol Hill, and asked to justify the squandering of money on a “retreat” at a California resort, which included $23,000 spent on spa treatments for AIG employees, he understandably pleads ignorance, telling the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee that he was “not familiar with the conference”.

In the last week or so, we’ve witnessed what historians will refer to as “The Stock Market Crash Of 2008”. The crash, proceeded by the economic epidemics of layoffs, home foreclosures and bank failures would seem to indicate to reasonable people that the U.S. economy, at the very least, is in a recession. In response to the crumbling economy, the U.S. government has taken unprecedented action to shore up banks, insurance companies and investments such as money market mutual funds. Yet, the Bush administration cannot bring themselves to using the “R” word. The Bush administration is in denial.

Good luck to the presidential candidate who will inherit this mess 100 days from now. Whichever candidate that happens to be, we think their first order of business, their top priority, must be to bring American jobs back to America, and to address the trade deficit and our dependence on foreign energy.

– Routing By Rumor

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Filed under Automobile Manufacturers, Business, Cars, China, Consumerism, Employment, Energy, Jobs, Labor, Life, Money, News, Politics, Routing by Rumor, Stock Markets, The Economy, Your Money

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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