Tech Thoughts Daily Net News – July 21, 2014

See who is using your Wi-Fi on Windows;  EFF asks you to share your Internet to improve security worldwide;  Get Facebook’s Nose Out Of Your Business;  How to protect yourself from smartphone bill cramming; Beware the spin behind Australia’s new surveillance laws; UK set to launch new anti-piracy campaign;  Stay ahead of the weather with these apps; Why Google Chrome thinks uTorrent is malware;  Government-grade malware in hacker hands;  Google to stop referring to games with in-app purchases as ‘free’; Woman chooses to be shot, rather than give up Samsung phone;  Dumb fun: 15 dead stupid, utterly joyful PC games; Microsoft announces all the details for the August Xbox One update;  This is the 2015 Smart car: Is it ridiculous? US needs to restore trust following NSA revelations, tech groups say.

See who is using your Wi-Fi on Windows – Sometimes a Wi-Fi password just isn’t enough to keep a neighbor or a stranger from stealing your Internet connection. You may notice that websites, videos, or file transfers aren’t moving as fast as they used to. The problem may not be theft, but simply a case of too many devices trying to share a slow connection. To get to the root of the issue you can use a free app for Windows. Let’s investigate.

EFF asks you to share your Internet to improve security worldwide – The Electronic Frontier Federation is soon to release router software which will allow you to open your Internet up to strangers — while keeping a separate, secure portion for yourself.

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Quick tip: Add events to Google Calendar via the search box – Google just rolled out a new way to add events to your calendar without leaving the homepage. As an added bonus, Chrome users can use this feature from the omnibox.

Win XP antivirus compared – last time? – Independent test lab AV-Test has completed a test of nine corporate and 23 consumer antivirus products on Windows XP. Nearly all of the products detected all or nearly all of the malware in the test. AV-Test has stated that this test will probably be their last such comparison on Windows XP.

Tech Thoughts Daily Tech News 2

Get Facebook’s Nose Out Of Your Business – You’re being tracked on the web. Of course, you already knew that. Luckily, Adblock Plus, a content filtering and ad blocking extension for web browsers, is here to save the day. Or at least some of your privacy. Last year, it released a handy feature, the Social Media Tracking Blocker, that lets you stop Facebook and other social networks from tracking your activity. The blocking list of the feature currently stops over 6,500 different trackers.

How to protect yourself from smartphone bill cramming – You might not be familiar with the term “cramming.” But if you’re not careful, it could be costing you money on your mobile phone bill each month.

Get more out of the Windows Taskbar with these 3 shortcuts – Looking to cycle through your apps or just get a more standard right-click context menu? There are a few shortcuts for that.

Windows 8.1 update 2 said to arrive on August 12th – Windows 8.1 update 2 is right around the corner and thanks to a few leaked documents, it looks like August 12th will be the day that the update is released as part of Patch Tuesday.

Turn your old iPod into a security camera for free – Manything is a free iOS app that lets you convert a spare iPod Touch, iPad, or iPhone into a video surveillance camera. The next part is up to you: either use a second device to view footage remotely and receive alerts and Cloud-saved clips based on motion activity, or simply track what’s happening on the Manything Web app. Basically, it works like an IP camera without requiring a separate purchase.

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Stream your own film festival of Netflix recent releases – In our increasingly complex world, it seems as if we don’t have the time we once enjoyed to actually go to the movies, and see new movies in theaters. Yes, we still love our big blockbusters, but what about those slightly smaller movies, the ones that don’t get the same kind of advertising push? Well, here are nine movies from the past 18 months, plus one cult classic that slipped through the cracks some decades ago—all of which are available with the convenience of streaming on Netflix. There’s something for everyone here: documentaries, dramas, comedies, some deep thoughts, and a little sex and violence.

Stay ahead of the weather with these apps – Though Google Play Store is teeming with hundreds of weather apps, the most popular titles all hail from the big names in weather, including the Weather Channel and Accuweather. I’ve rounded up some of the best options out there, including a few lesser-known choices. Armed with any of these, you’ll never get caught in the rain again.

UK set to launch new anti-piracy campaign – For what seems like forever, Internet service providers have been attempting to fight consumers that pirate content. Last year, ISPs in the UK were ordered to block 21 sites that were regularly used to pirate content, including many database websites that are used for torrents. Most recently, the co-founder of The Pirate Bay, Pete Sunde, had been arrested in Sweden, after nearly two years of being on the run. Now, “People in the UK who persistently pirate music and movies will soon start getting emails warning them that their actions are illegal,” according to BBC.

SOS Online Backup offers a lifeline to those concerned about data privacy – Online backup is a great thing, and there are a lot of companies offering it. But many farm out your data to storage sub-contractors and are reluctant to share even basic facts about how they go about their business. Even large concerns such as Microsoft and Google are reticent to provide details. SOS Online Backup owns all its own data centers and is very forthcoming about how they handle your data. Add affordable pricing, online access, and support for mobile devices and you have a storage service worthy of the name.

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Rise of the Planet of the Lockscreens – Lockscreens were supposed to be a subordinate interface — a kind of screen saver for smartphones that told you the time and put a barrier between your phone’s home screen and the world. But soon, lockscreens will take over, moving from the least important interface on your phone to the most important. Here’s why I’m going bananas over the new smart lockscreens.

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Slidelock Locker illustrated.

Security:

Why Google Chrome thinks uTorrent is malware – If you’ve tried to download uTorrent in the last few days and you’re a Google Chrome user, you may have noticed something alarming: Chrome seems to think that uTorrent is malware. Wonder what’s going?

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Critical industrial control systems remain vulnerable to Heartbleed exploits – The products are used to control switches, valves, and other equipment in chemical, manufacturing, energy, and wastewater facilities. Heartbleed is the name given to a bug in the widely used OpenSSL cryptographic library that leaks passwords, usernames, and secret encryption keys. While Siemens has updated some of its industrial control products to patch the Heartbleed vulnerability, others remain susceptible, an advisory published Thursday by the Industrial Control Systems Cyber Emergency Response Team warned.

Government-grade malware in hacker hands – New research suggests that ‘government-grade’ malware designed to operate undetected on computer systems is in the hands of cybercriminals who are integrating it into rootkits and ransomware.

Snowden plans to work on anti-surveillance technology – Edward Snowden says he plans to develop and promote anti-surveillance technology to hamper government spying across the globe. The former US National Security Agency (NSA) contractor, who leaked confidential documents detailing the extensive surveillance activities of the NSA and the UK’s GCHQ, called for support at the Hackers On Planet Earth (HOPE) conference via a video link from Moscow, Russia. Snowden addressed the conference on Saturday, requesting that the hacking community channel its resources into developing anti-surveillance technologies which will making government spying more difficult — and said that he planned to spend much of his future time doing the same.

Home router security to be tested in Defcon contest – Researchers are gearing up to hack an array of different home routers during a contest next month at the Defcon 22 security conference in Las Vegas. The contest is called SOHOpelessly Broken — a nod to the small office/home office space targeted by the products — and follows a growing number of large scale attacks this year against routers and other home embedded systems. The competition is organized by security consultancy firm Independent Security Evaluators and advocacy group the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), and will have two separate challenges.

Microsoft password research has fatal flaw – I wrote yesterday about a report from Microsoft researchers, which goes against established password security best practices. The new guidance from the Microsoft researchers makes sense to me, because it fits how I handle password management already. However, at least one security expert feels that there is a fatal flaw that makes the new password advice impractical: You.

Company News:

Google reportedly confronted Samsung over wearables strategy in ‘tense’ meeting – Google’s Larry Page is said to have expressed frustrations over Samsung’s wearables strategy in a ‘tense’ meeting – but Samsung isn’t happy either, privately referring to Google as a “bully”.

Huawei’s enterprise business helps lift sales by 19 percent YoY – Despite continued hostile exchanges with the Australian, British, and US governments, Huawei Technologies has reported an increase in revenue and profit for the first half of 2014. Huawei chief financial officer Cathy Meng said the revenue and profit for the first half of 2014 are in line with company’s expectations, and believes its efforts in the enterprise business have “begun to pay off” where the company has “enjoyed accelerated growth” in this area.

BlackBerry’s Passport to the future – The odd dimensions of the BlackBerry Passport make it an ugly duckling, but the phone focuses on innovation that should excite fans.

Games and Entertainment:

Dumb fun: 15 dead stupid, utterly joyful PC games – “Video games will rot your brain,” said one of my elementary school teachers. Well, Mrs. You’re-A-Fictional-Placeholder, they haven’t managed to empty out my skull yet, but that’s not for lack of trying. To commemorate the lack of summertime learning, here are 15 dumb games, full of explosions and frogs and explosions and goats and explosions and 50 Cent and more explosions. These games are utterly stupid—and utterly wonderful for it.

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Destiny Beta begins: detailing 20 minutes of gameplay – The video you see here was recorded on the first day of the Destiny Beta for PlayStation 4. It was recorded with an Elgato GameCapture HD and transferred in 1080p to YouTube. As good as the game looks here, it looks even better straight to the TV set from the PS4, of that you can rest assured.

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NVIDIA SHIELD Tablet unofficially unveiled, priced at $299 USD – While there have been leaks about an upcoming gaming tablet by NVIDIA, this leak is probably the most comprehensive and detailed. The leaked documents shows the tablet, its specifications, and a couple of its accessories. This will be NVIDIA’s latest attempt at a portable gaming device, a follow-up to last year’s SHIELD.

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Microsoft announces all the details for the August Xbox One update – Over the next few days, Microsoft will push out an update to those of you who are in the ‘Xbox Preview Dashboard’ program that will bring with it new features which will eventually be released in August. The update will add quite a few new features to the Xbox One and we have them listed below.

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Google to stop referring to games with in-app purchases as ‘free’ – Google has now said that it will stop using the word ‘free’ to describe games with in-app purchases, as well as introducing specific guidelines for developers to prevent them from targeting children and encouraging them to buy more. These changes will be implemented in late September, but while Google has responded with a commitment to action, the EU has expressed disappointment that Apple has so far failed to do so.

You Should Play: Doug Dug – The first thing you will discover when you fire up Doug Dug, an iOS game that runs on both the iPhone and the iPad, is that it has nothing to do with Dig Dug, the 1980s arcade classic from Namco. There are no Pookas, no Fygars, and definitely no inflating monsters until they burst. And that will be a bitter disappointment to you. I understand that. But it will be the last thing to disappoint you about Doug Dug. Because the game manages to inspire Flappy Bird-levels of addictiveness without resorting to frustrating gameplay or gimmicks to do it (which is very much unlike Flappy Bird).

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Off Topic (Sort of):

Woman chooses to be shot, rather than give up Samsung phone – No one knows for certain how they’d react if confronted with an armed robber. One Harris County, TX. woman, however, decided that she’d take the chance of being shot rather than hand over her Samsung Galaxy phone. She said: “He was like, hey, let me get that phone. I was like, I’m not giving you my phone sir. He’s like, I’m going to shoot you, so I put my hands up.” She says she crouched down and prepared to be shot. Could a phone really be worth this risk?

Apollo 11 turns 45: a lunar landing anniversary retrospective – Fortunately for amateur and professional historians wondering how the effort succeeded despite its comparatively primitive computing, NASA has extensive historical resources about project Apollo available in the public domain to study, including the outstanding Apollo Lunar Surface Journal (along with its companion site, the Apollo Flight Journal). We’ve combed through gigabytes of documents and images to bring you this brief retrospective of some lesser-known interesting historical tidbits around Apollo 11 and that one small step nearly a half-century ago.

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The Apollo 11 spacecraft rolls out from the Vehicle Assembly Building a few days prior to launch.

Japanese aquarium uses penguins to make the best AR app ever – Turn-by-turn navigation has changed how many of use get around, but apparently we’ve been doing it wrong this whole time. The Sunshine Aquarium in Tokyo has found the missing element in all of our walking directions: penguins.

Penguin AR

How to pack like a true geek – Geeks have a tendency to find hard things easy, and easy things hard. For instance, a geek might look at a complex logical or mathematical problem and see the solution immediately — but confront them with something more mundane, like an empty stomach, and they tend to voluntarily make things much more difficult. Now, a consummate nerd has brought the obsessive mentality to bear on perhaps the most defining issue of our times: how much underwear should you bring on vacation?

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This is the 2015 Smart car: Is it ridiculous? – Smart is back with a new version of its ForTwo city car, promising more internal space and distinctive design while still preserving the tiny footprint, and it’s resurrecting the ForFour in the process. Sticking to the parking-friendly 2.69m (8.83 feet) length, the new ForTwo keeps its rear-engine, rear-wheel-drive layout with a trio of new three-cylinder engines, an electric version, convertible option, and plenty of safety technology and other components borrowed from Mercedes’ C-Class.

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Something to think about:

“We live in a time of transition, an uneasy era which is likely to endure for the rest of this century. During the period we may be tempted to abandon some of the time-honored principles and commitments which have been proven during the difficult times of past generations. We must never yield to this temptation. Our American values are not luxuries, but necessities – not the salt in our bread, but the bread itself.”

–      Jimmy Carter

Today’s Free Downloads:

Win Toolkit – Win Toolkit is a lightweight and easy to use application that was created in order to help you customize your Windows installation!

With this tool you can integrate Addons, Drivers, Gadgets, Language packs, Modified Files, Theme Packs, Tweaks, Silent Installers, Updates. You can also remove features such as Windows Media Player and customize Windows default services state. Win Toolkit also comes with extra tools which helps you convert files, make ISOs, download the latest updates (thanks to SoLoR and McRip), and completely customize your images to tailor your Windows installation disk to your exact needs.

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Windows Tweaker – Windows Tweaker is a free Windows tweaking utility using which you can tweak your Windows 8/7 both x86 and x64 systems are supported. It contains several tweaks grouped into 11 main categories, and access to 38 Windows tools (Device Manager, Registry Editor, DirectX Troubleshooter, Advanced Disk Cleanup, etc) all in a single place.

Features:

Has over 100 useful tweaks for your Windows 8/7 which you can’t find available, by default in Windows.

A one-stop place for all your important tweaks bundled in a single place.

Highly reliable and doesn’t affect your system in any way. All the applied tweaks can be safely undone, without leaving any traces (our main focus is reliability).

Small, efficient and easy to use tweaker.

You can enhance your Windows for smooth running, faster performance and lower memory consumption.

What more??? You can even schedule Shutdowns, configure startup programs and hide files/folders with System File privileges very easily.

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In Pursuit of Freedom – The Pushback Continues:

Snowden Calls On Developers To Champion Privacy By Design – Speaking at the Hope X conference taking place in New York this weekend, NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden put out a call for developers to build systems that protect privacy and constitutional rights by design. He also revealed his own intention to work on developing privacy protecting technology.

Snowden was speaking via videolink from Russia where he currently has asylum after the US government cancelled his passport, following his leak last year of classified NSA documents detailing security agency surveillance programs.

Responding to a question about what people working in technology can do to counteract dragnet, overreaching surveillance, Snowden said encryption is an “important first step”. But he added that simply securing the content of communications is not in itself enough. New privacy-protecting protocols and infrastructures need to be designed.

“It doesn’t end at encryption it starts at encryption,” said Snowden. “Encryption protects the content but we forget about associations… These programs like section 215 [of the Patriot Act] and mass surveillance in general is not about surveilling you, it’s not about surveilling me. It’s about surveilling us collectively. It’s about watching the company. For everybody in the country and on a global scale.

“This is basically a big data program which provides the raw data that can then be analyzed, it can be filtered, it can be subjected to rules for example… it says everything you do is being analyzed, it’s being weighted, it’s being measured and that’s without regard to whether or not you’ve done anything wrong.”

Snowden argued that government dragnet surveillance programs constitute an “unreasonable seizure” of information, under the 4th and 5th amendments, being as there’s no proven suspicion to justify what happens in advance. He also argued it can be seen as a due process violation under the 5th amendment – “where the government is basically saying we’re going to use warrantless surveillance to collect evidence to then secretly use to get a warrant application” – and a violation of 1st amendment rights that give US citizens freedom of association.

The continuous, programmatic analysis of the connections of everybody is “a fundamentally un-America thing”, he argued. “If you let you go of your rights for a moment, you’ve lost them for a lifetime. And that’s why this matters. It’s because it happened, and we didn’t know about it. We weren’t told,” he said.

Beware the spin behind Australia’s new surveillance laws – “Now, Alison, I’m a liberal, so philosophically I have a very strong predisposition against big government and against expanding state power,” said Australia’s favourite Attorney-General, Senator George Brandis QC, to ABC Radio National journalist Alison Carabine last Thursday. “And that is why, in the legislation that I introduced into the Senate yesterday, we have taken the most conservative possible approach in empowering the national security agencies with additional powers, but it was necessary to contemporise the legislation.”

Except that the 124-page National Security Legislation Amendment Bill (No. 1) 2014 is not “the most conservative possible approach”. That’s just part of the jumble of spin and logical fallacies that Brandis is using to “justify” substantial increases to the surveillance powers of the Australian Security and Intelligence Organisation (ASIO).

The most significant change, at least for ZDNet readers, would give ASIO the power to hack into the computers of completely innocent people in pursuit of their target.

Computer access warrants can already give ASIO permission to access a specific computer if there are “reasonable grounds” for believing the data in that computer will “substantially assist” the collection of intelligence in a matter that is “important in relation to security”. The warrant may also allow ASIO to do “any thing reasonably necessary to conceal the fact that any thing has been done under the warrant” — that is, to erase their tracks.

The relevant law is section 25A of the ASIO Act 1979, although those provisions reflect more recent amendments.

Brandis’ Bill extends the definition of computer access warrants. “The target computer may be any one or more of the following: (a) a particular computer; (b) a computer on particular premises; (c) a computer associated with, used by or likely to be used by, a person (whose identity may or may not be known).”

ASIO would also be able to use “any other computer or a communication in transit to access the relevant data and, if necessary to achieve that purpose, adding, copying, deleting or altering other data in the computer or the communication in transit”, provided that they’ve considered other methods of obtaining that data that are “likely to be as effective” and using these third-party systems is “reasonable in all the circumstances”.

What a moron – he condescendingly  claims to be a Liberal – and then leads off with a classic definition of a Conservative, which he applies to himself. Chuck this guy out on his arse.

Will the next US-EU trade pact prevent Brussels acting against US tech giants? – The European Union government in recent years has proven to be perhaps the most willing to take on the world’s major tech companies over digital rights and wrongs. But that could come to an end if planned measures allowing companies to sue governments for lost profits are implemented as part of the next EU-US trade agreement.

A controversial chapter of the agreement currently being negotiated would give multinationals the right to sue the government concerned if new laws lead to lower profits. So if, for example, a new law caused Apple’s profits – or Google’s, or Samsung’s, or Amazon’s, or any of a thousand others – to drop sharply they could take the government to tribunal.

Such an action could have followed such previous events as the EU forcing Microsoft to institute browser choice, or the recent ECJ “right to be forgotten” ruling, which could end up throwing a significant administration burden on Google and other search engines. It might stymie ongoing moves by the EU to enforce stricter intellectual-property compliance on the internet giants, too.

Digital civil liberties groups have reacted with horror to the suggestion that investor-to-state dispute settlement (ISDS) will be enshrined in the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) agreement being negotiated in Brussels this week.

US needs to restore trust following NSA revelations, tech groups say – The U.S government can take action to slow the calls in other countries to abandon U.S. tech vendors following revelations about widespread National Security Agency surveillance, some tech representatives said Friday.

Decisions by other governments to move their residents’ data away from the U.S. are hurting tech vendors, but Congress can take steps to “rebuild the trust” in the U.S. as a responsible Internet leader, said Kevin Bankston, policy director of the New America Foundation’s Open Technology Institute.

Still, other governments will continue to try to use the NSA revelations by former agency contractor Edward Snowden to their advantage, said panelists at a Congressional Internet Caucus discussion on the effect of NSA surveillance on U.S. businesses.

“What we have here is an inflection point — a moment for other countries, other companies, to close the gap and to use this as an opportunity to really catch up to the IT industry in the U.S.,” added Chris Hopfensperger, policy director with software trade group BSA.

BSA is hearing “anecdotal” evidence of foreign governments turning away U.S. tech vendors because of NSA surveillance, Hopfensperger said. He noted news reports last month of the German government dropping a contract with Verizon Communications because of spying.

Hopfensperger called on U.S. policymakers to actively address worldwide concerns about NSA surveillance, instead of waiting to see what the impact on the U.S. tech industry will be. “There’s a very large focus on what is the dollar impact on this,” he said. “The problem with looking at the numbers of what has happened is, by the time you have a real dollar amount, that business is lost, and it’s not coming back to the U.S.”

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6 Comments

Filed under Free Software Downloads, Internet Security Alerts, Latest Tech News

6 responses to “Tech Thoughts Daily Net News – July 21, 2014

  1. delenn13

    Hey Bill,

    Back from 10 days of camping in the wild. Even saw baby deer twins. So cute.

    “US needs to restore trust following NSA revelations, tech groups say.”
    How can anyone use the words “trust” and “NSA” in the same sentence without chocking?

    • Hey Delenn13,

      Sounds WONDERFUL! 🙂

      You’re right – it’s laughable. Just throw out a few words – “US needs to restore trust following NSA revelations” – and poof – all is forgiven. How stupid is it that the failure to understand the damage is so extensive, it may take a generation, or more, to reestablish some semblance of “trust” in America? For some of us – that day will never arrive. Once bitten – twice shy – and all that.

      Best,

      Bill

  2. John Bent

    Hi Bill,

    Another excellent and informative blog to start my week – thanks. I was a little surprised to find an Amazon ad at the end of it. I don’t recall having seen ads before, have I just been unobservant? There is a link above the ad that leads to an explanation of why it is there, which is to help cover the cost of hosting the blog.

    I don’t have a problem with this, I’m just curious. What made the ad stand out was that it is for a new CD by the Scottish virtuoso violinist Nicola Benedetti. I am a big fan and have several of her previous albums. This, and the fact that it was priced in £GB, leads me to believe it is a targeted ad.

    I have Ghostery disabled on WordPress as it’s a site I trust and everyone’s entitled to make a buck. Just goes to show how effective tracking can be.

    Kind regards,
    John

    • Hi John,

      From WordPress – At WordPress.com, we sometimes display advertisements on your blog to help pay the bills. This keeps free features free! To eliminate ads on your blog entirely, you can purchase the No-Ads Upgrade. The upgrade is especially attractive and useful to business blogs in order to eliminate any possibility of competitors’ ads displaying on their domains. The No-Ads Upgrade costs $30.00 per blog, per year.

      It seems to me, that these ads (on my site), have been running for 4 years, or more. I must admit, that I rarely pay a visit to reread an article – as a consequence, I rarely see the ads. Out of sight – out of mind sort of thing. 🙂

      You’re quite right – using all the magic available (or, stomping all over an individual’s privacy rights – depending on one’s perspective), these ads are targeted. But, aren’t they all in one way or another.

      Good to get your views on this. Thanks John.

      Best,

      Bill

  3. Mal

    Hey Bill,

    Re: Beware the spin behind Australia’s new surveillance laws

    George Brandis is a piece of garbage. When you say “chuck him out”, that should apply to this whole government of ours. After all, “Brother” Tony Abbott is the one who is ultimately in charge, and so the whole lot should go with Brandis. Although it is still a long way to our next election, this government is so unpopular after less than a year in government, it is looking likely that they will be a one term wonder. That is what happens when the whole lot of them are pathological liars. They even lie about the accusation they they lied. How pathetic is that.

    Here is a link with a bit more info on what our ASIO head has to say. It’s a long read, but very interesting. The comments afterwards are telling too.

    http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/jul/21/asio-spy-chief-defends-surveillence-network

    Cheers
    Mal

    • Hey Mal,

      A very familiar story here in Canada – particularly “They even lie about the accusation they they lied.” Lessons from the Rob Ford school of government.

      The current Con-servative government here, is frequently identified as the worst government in Canada’s history. A point of view substantiated by the recklessness of these fascists in attacking the fundamental rights guaranteed by our Constitution. The Supreme Court is having none of it, and has overturned, or rejected, the past 7 government cases brought before them. An unheard of series of events.

      These bastards are being exposed to the disagreeable reality that this country is a country of rights, solidly ensconced in a Constitution, and a Charter of Rights. There are those who hold the view that, in a real sense, some of this government’s actions represent a flirtation with treason.

      Following the next election (the Fall of 2015), when these bozos will be soundly defeated, we may well see a public inquiry into the reprehensible actions of this crowd of gangsters. It can’t happen too soon, in my view.

      Thanks for the link – I’ll get to that.

      Best,

      Bill