Tech Thoughts Daily Net News – February 25, 2015

Chicago police are running a horrifying CIA-style black site out of a warehouse;  Arrange your iOS home screen any way you like with Makeovr;  Microsoft rolls out free Office for students, worldwide;  Microsoft kills off Google and Facebook chat for Outlook.com;  How to turn your old phone into a basic PC for cheap;  Reddit bans nude images posted without consent;  How to Clean Out and Organize Your Computer;  Six awesome Android apps to get your creative juices flowing;  Monitor battery status with these five free apps;  Forge, the sketch app for brainstorming, lands on iOS;  Tips: How the iPhone 6 Plus and Android phones can do real work;  Feds say skin cancer apps are deceptive;  Tweaking.com – Technicians Toolbox (free).

Tech Thoughts Daily Tech News 2

Chicago police are running a horrifying CIA-style black site out of a warehouse – A remarkable report from Spencer Ackerman at The Guardian has revealed in detail the existence of an interrogation facility used by Chicago police to detain and hold people in secret. The report describes how police have used a “nondescript warehouse” to keep detainees out of booking databases, beat prisoners, shackle them for “prolonged periods,” and keep them from legal counsel for up to 24 hours — including even children as young as 15. As The Guardian’s report demonstrates, it’s not just weapons from the war on terror that are flowing to police departments across the country: it’s tactics and attitudes, too. “I’ve never known of any kind of organized, secret place where they go and just hold somebody before booking for hours and hours and hours,” retired DC homicide detective James Trainum told The Guardian. “That scares the hell out of me that that even exists or might exist.”

Pointing up       A chilling illustration of the Boiling Frog.

Microsoft rolls out free Office for students, worldwide – In 2013, Microsoft said it would offer Microsoft Office 365 to U.S. students for free, provided their schools licensed the software for faculty and staff. Now, that offer is being extended worldwide. Microsoft said Tuesday that the offer for free Office is being extended anywhere Office is available: from Afghanistan to Zimbabwe, or dozens of countries around the world. As before, the school must license Office in order for its students to be eligible.

How to Clean Out and Organize Your Computer – Deep cleaning your computer of unwanted files and streamlining your folder system can not only free up storage space, but improve your computer’s performance. From decluttering tips to apps that do your organizing for you, here’s how to spruce up your computer and make sure it stays that way.

How to turn your old phone into a basic PC for cheap – Your old smartphone has a greater destiny than your junk drawer. Believe it or not, you can turn it into, say, a mini-PC or media streamer. Assuming it packs both USB On The Go support (OTG) and a Mobile High-Definition Link (MHL) compatible port, there’s a ton of additional functionality lurking under that its hood. Heck, you can even use a smartphone with a broken screen for this. Without further ado, here’s how to transform your old smartphone into the brains of an Android-powered PC.

Arrange your iOS home screen any way you like with Makeovr – Tired of the same, boring home screen grid layout that’s been around on iOS since its inception? You’re going to want to read this.

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The process for adding a home screen icon to your iOS device.

Monitor battery status with the help of these five free apps – Don’t get caught short with a powerless device. These apps make it easy to monitor and conserve battery life.

Reddit bans nude images posted without consent – Several months after reddit found itself at the center of a controversy involving stolen celebrity nude photos, the site has changed its policy regarding nudity. As of March 10, any photos posted without permission of those photographed will be banned. The change was announced today in a short statement signed by executives and “the reddit team,” which also mentions new hires and other changes. It alludes to reddit’s failure to act promptly when unruly users in a few subreddits continued to post links to nude photos of Jennifer Lawrence, Kate Upton, and other celebrities. The statement reads:

Google Chrome Experiments launches their 1000th experiment – It’s a landmark day for Google’s Chrome Experiments as they’ve reached 1000 submissions today. Google has curated a collection of user-made games, art, and creative coding it calls Chrome Experiments. These experiments look like games, but each one uses outside-the-box design and coding to create an entirely unique user experience. Launched in 2009, it started with only a handful of games. Now Google has reached its 1000 experiments! To honor the occasion, they have created a unique way to interface with the entire collection of experiments titled Experiment #1000.

Microsoft opens up OneDrive storage for developers to integrate into apps – Microsoft is opening up its cloud storage service, OneDrive, to developers today so they can start integrating it directly into applications. A new OneDrive API will include support for Windows, iOS, Android, and the web, with the full features of OneDrive available directly within apps. “The OneDrive API is a major step toward making the platform more accessible and powerful, but this is only the beginning,” says OneDrive program manager Ryan Gregg. “We are working on a lot of other improvements and features that we will release throughout the year.”

Microsoft kills off Google and Facebook chat for Outlook.com – Microsoft is revealing today that it plans to kill off Google and Facebook chat from its Outlook.com email service “within the next couple of weeks.” In an email to Outlook.com customers, Microsoft says it’s removing Google Talk integration “due to Google’s decision to discontinue the chat protocol used by the Google Talk platform.” Microsoft will also be discontinuing support for Facebook chat in Outlook.com, but the company has not revealed why it’s killing off the social network’s chat integration.

Six awesome Android apps to get your creative juices flowing – Form virtual pottery throwing to music making, these Android apps do wonders to get you out of your mental rut and try something new. Whether it’s humming a ditty into the mic or literally sketching up a mini-masterpiece, there’s likely an app for this, that, and everything else. What follows are examples of Android apps that can help get the creative juices flowing. Spend a few minutes with these and you may unlock a side of you that you didn’t know existed.

Stardock announces Start10, a Windows 10 Start menu replacement – Stardock, the company behind the popular Start8 application, has announced Start10 that brings new Start menu customization options to Windows 10 including the ability to use a Windows 7 styled menu.

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Scout gets IFTTT channel, runs away with DIY home security crown – Home security doesn’t have to be expensive any more. In fact, you can get peace of mind for a few hundred bucks upfront, and never pay another dime. It’s one of the benefits of the ‘Internet of Things’ we keep hearing about. DIY home security is probably best realized with Scout, which lets you migrate between connected monitoring and home-grown security. Already one of the better options around, Scout just got a lot better with a new IFTTT channel.

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Forge, the sketch app for brainstorming, lands on iOS – Drawing apps for iOS are easy to come by, with Paper by FiftyThree or Adobe’s Sketch being the most notable and identifiable apps. Those ask that you use them to completion, though, and provide you with the tools necessary to finish works of art. What if you just want a sketching app, though? Those do the trick, but a new app, Forge, is made for it. Rather than creating something that looks like a painting, Forge is meant for brainstorming.

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New ‘Pebble Time’ Smartwatch Hits Kickstarter – Pebble is returning to its roots today with the Kickstarter launch of its new Pebble Time smartwatch. The next-gen wristwatch features a new color e-paper display and microphone, as well as a thinner, curved design. Like its predecessors (the Pebble and Pebble Steel), the Time syncs with Apple and Android smartphones; users will need an iPhone 4s or newer running the latest iOS, while Android owners must be updated to Android 4.0 or higher.

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How to deal with difficult SD cards that refuse to write data – SD cards can be pricey, but they also pack a lot of storage into a small form factor—if you don’t get one that refuses to work with PCs. If you do, here’s how to fix the issue.

Tips: How the iPhone 6 Plus and Android phones can do real work – Tablets do a nice job standing in for laptops at work, especially when paired with a good keyboard. What some don’t realize is the same is true for smartphones with a large display. The biggest iPhone is particularly good for occasional work tasks if you do it right. The advantage the phone has over other types of mobile devices is that the phone is always with you. This is reason enough to give some thought to using it for work, and with a little preparation it can be a full work system.

VMSave preserves your deceased loved one’s voicemail greeting – Losing a loved one is one of the hardest things in the world. A new service saves the voicemail greetings of those who’ve passed away so you can listen to them forever.

Security:

The NSA’s SIM heist could have given it the power to plant spyware on any phone – The stolen SIM keys don’t just give the NSA the power to listen in on calls, but potentially to plant spyware on any phone at any time. Once the stolen keys have bypassed the usual protections, the spyware would live on the SIM card itself, undetectable through conventional tools, able to pull data and install malicious software. If the NSA and GCHQ are pursuing that capability, it could be one of the biggest threats unearthed by Snowden so far.

Glad you’re not on the Anthem hacker hit list? Not so fast – millions more affected – US health insurer Anthem now says that the recent security breach that exposed the personal data of tens of millions of its customers also affected people who never did business with the firm. That’s because Anthem’s database included data not just for customers of Anthem-run Blue Cross Blue Shield healthcare plans, but also for customers of Blue Cross Blue Shield plans run by other companies outside of the fourteen states in which Anthem operates. Reuters reports that in addition to the 70 million Anthem customers who were affected by the breach, Anthem now estimates that between 8.8 million and 18.8 million customers of other companies’ health plans may also have had their data compromised.

FBI “close” to identifying Anthem hackers, as dozens of state-sponsored groups identified – As many as 78.8 million people may have been affected by the health insurance hack that hit the company earlier this year. That also includes up to 18.8 million customers of non-Anthem plans, the company said. It comes as the FBI confirmed Tuesday it has more than 60 different state-sponsored cyber-threat groups on its radar.

Snowden’s favourite Linux – Tails – rushes sec-fix version to market – Tails, the secure live-boot Linux made famous by Edward Snowden, has had a major revision release to Version 1.3. The new version, released after testing since February 12, combines various security fixes with new apps and simplified install, the developers say. The developers want to kill off the previous version, Tails 1.2.3, as soon as possible, with a list of 14 security issues covering everything from the Tor browser and its network security services (NSS) through to a sudo privilege escalation bug.

Kaspersky Labs Launches Online Bootcamp To Eye Security Startups – More signs that security is rising up the investment agenda: another security-focused accelerator program has launched, hoping to put a clutch of security startups through their paces — this one with backing from veteran security firm Kaspersky Labs, via its educational arm Kaspersky Academy. The incentive here is for Kaspersky to get proximity to new business ideas, and the participating VC firms to improve their security-related deal flow — given they can always step in and invest in any of the early stage businesses that catch their eye.

Feds say skin cancer apps are deceptive – The Federal Trade Commission charges several promoters of supposed melanoma-detection apps with deceptive marketing and says they must provide evidence to back up their claims.

Company News:

Google Tests Live Chat With Businesses From Search Results – Google is testing out a service that incorporates live chat with businesses right into search results, via a new link that shows whether a business is currently available, and immediately launches a chat via Google Hangouts (on either desktop or mobile) if they are. The service resembles Path Talk’s direct messaging platform with local businesses, but incorporates its service right into the business listing search result card it shows on Google.com, which also shows you details including price level, address, map location, phone number, opening hours, ratings and reviews.

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HP gives a bleak forecast as split approaches – Hewlett-Packard has lowered its financial outlook for the year after another quarter of declining sales and profit. CEO Meg Whitman is trying to get HP in shape before the company splits itself in two later this year. One half will sell PCs and printers and the other will focus on back-end business products.

Google Acquires Facebook Marketing Startup Toro – Toro, a startup that helps developers promote their apps on Facebook, just announced that it’s been acquired by Google. The announcement does not disclose the financial terms of the deal. Toro had raised $1.5 million in funding from investors, including Andreessen Horowitz, Greylock Partners, SV Angel, General Catalyst, Keith Rabois, Chris Dixon, Bill Tai and Guitar Hero co-creators Charles Huang and Kai Huang. A Google spokesperson confirmed the news and said Toro will be joining the mobile ads team.

Games and Entertainment:

You got TV in my video game: Telltale, Lionsgate partner for episodic hybrid – Telltale is going a bit outside of its traditional adventure game box for its next foray into interactive storytelling. The studio behind episodic gaming hits like The Walking Dead, Game of Thrones, and The Wolf Among Us has teamed up with film and TV studio Lionsgate (Orange is the New Black) to develop a “Super Show” hybrid combining a traditional TV show with episodic adventure gaming. Each episode of the Super Show will “combine one part of interactive playable content with one part of scripted television style content,” as Telltale CEO Kevin Bruner put it in an announcement interview with Entertainment Weekly. The hybrid episodes will be released together in a package that can be played/watched in either order, though the second portion you experience will be altered based on your experience with the first.

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A scene from Telltale’s The Wolf Among Us

Homeworld Remastered puts you in command of the most stunning space battles ever – Homeworld, a space-based strategy game first released in 1999, is one example of this. Whoever’s call it was to make the spaceships emit colorful light trails in their wake made a pretty amazing decision, because it helped solidify one of the most distinctive art styles in the history of gaming. Homeworld rendered space warfare as gorgeous, balletic battles, with every movement made by your fleet etching rainbow lines against a backdrop of psychedelic nebulae. At least, that’s how I remember it looking. And that’s how Homeworld Remastered Collection, a new re-release of Homeworld and Homeworld 2 that’s out tomorrow, looks. It brings the two games up to date in meticulous detail, while also including the original versions so you can see how far we’ve come. As it happens, we’ve come a long way.

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Grand Theft Auto V for PC delayed again, now expected in April – The game had originally been scheduled for PC release on January 27 – already over two months later than its launch on the Xbox One and PlayStation 4 – but the games developers said that they needed “a few extra weeks of testing and polish to make it as good as can be”, promising to release it on March 24. Rockstar now says that GTA V for PC will go on sale on April 14th (still 2015, we presume), both in retail stores and as a digital download. Anyone who has already pre-ordered the game will get an extra $200,000 of in-game cash for use in GTA Online.

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Off Topic (Sort of):

Cybergeddon: Why the Internet could be the next “failed state” – That day is not yet nigh, but logic suggests the status quo can’t continue forever. The recent rash of major breaches of corporate networks, including the theft of personal information from the health insurer Anthem and the theft of as much as a billion dollars from over 100 banks are symptoms of a much larger trend of cybercrime and espionage. And while the issue has been once again raised to national importance by the White House, it could be argued that governments have done more to exacerbate the problem than address it. Fears of digital warfare and crime are shifting budget priorities, funding the rapid expansion of the security industry and being used as a reason for proposals for new laws and policy that could reshape the Internet.

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You Asked: How Do Driverless Cars Work? – Even though they’re barely on the road, self-driving cars have been talked about so much that they already seem like they’re last year’s model. Google has been working on one for years. Apple is allegedly, possibly, working on one, too. And there’s even speculation that everyone from Uber to Tesla could join the race, too. But before you give up the wheel, get familiar with the technology driving autonomous vehicles.

Instagram account exposes congressman who blew public funds on private flights and concerts – An Illinois congressman was found to have used taxpayer and campaign funds on private plane travel, concert tickets, and other lavish expenses after the Associated Press cross-referenced his Instagram account against his flight records. Republican representative Aaron Schock, who is already facing several ethics probes, reportedly spent more than $40,000 on private air travel from 2011 onwards, and took his interns to a sold-out Katy Perry show in June last year, a $1,928 expense that he listed as a “PAC fundraising event.”

Fresh honey is on tap at these amazing beehives – Amateur apiarists, check out this sweet little creation. It’s a revolutionary new beehive system that literally puts honey on tap in your backyard. The Flow Hive offers an easier — and much gentler — way to collect honey. Put a container under the tube, turn the handle, watch the liquid gold flow. There’s no smoker required and no protective suit is necessary. It looks so safe you could probably do it in the nude if you were so inclined.

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Gerbils replace rats as historical plague spreaders – It would appear that our hatred of rats for the past several hundred years may be due to a bit of mistaken identity. Scientists this week have published a paper which suggests that it wasn’t so much rats that spread the bubonic plague across the planet, but gerbils. Your best buddy, the gerbil – the one you’ve got in a plastic tube cage sitting in your living room right now. He may have been guilty this whole time! All these hundreds of years, keeping silent for his ancestors, the real-deal spreaders of plague.

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Here’s how to make mini ‘rockets’ out of tea bags – DIY guru DaveHax is back with another one fun but pointless project. Here, he makes miniature “rockets” out of nothing more than a standard tea bag. Remember, safety first.

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The big deal about “big data”—your guide to what the heck it actually means – On the surface, “big data” sounds like it ought to have something to do with, say, storing tremendous amounts of data. Frankly it does, but that’s only part of the picture. Wikipedia has an extremely long, extremely thorough (and, overly complex) breakdown of the term, but without reading for two hours, big data as a buzzword refers to the entire process of gathering and storing tremendous amounts of data, then applying tremendous amounts of computing power and advanced algorithms to the data in order to pick out trends and connect dots that would otherwise be invisible and un-connectable within the mass

Something to think about:

“The aim of life is self-development. To realize one’s nature perfectly – that is what each of us is here for.”

–      Oscar Wilde

Today’s Free Downloads:

Tweaking.com – Technicians Toolbox – Tweaking.com – Technicians Toolbox is a collection of powerful tools to help both the technician and home users. Portable version also available.

Many of the tools have been built with making certain repair, cleanup and tasks easier, faster and better.

More and more tools will be added to the program over time. Many of the tools have so many options, control and features that they could have been full programs on their own. But the goal was to have everything in one spot.

Here are just some of the tools in the program. Also note that the program has full Unicode support!

Quick Tools (Windows Built-in Tools)

Take A Screen Shot

Check Disk (chkdsk) At Next Boot

Run As System Account

Netstat

Network Information

Static IPv4

TCP & UDP Stats

IP Subnet Calculator

IP Address Scanner

Manage Windows Users

Manage Users

Create New Windows User

User Account Properties

Manage Groups

Create New Windows Group

Group Properties

Bulk Manage Users Tool

Delete, Move Or Rename Locked Files At Bootup

Svchost.exe Lookup

Process Information

Windows Services

Windows Services Safe Mode

Windows Shutdown Timer

CPU Monitor

Drives Monitor

Memory Monitor

Network Monitor

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Tails – Tails is a live system that aims to preserve your privacy and anonymity. It helps you to use the Internet anonymously and circumvent censorship almost anywhere you go and on any computer but leaving no trace unless you ask it to explicitly.

It is a complete operating system designed to be used from a DVD, USB stick, or SD card independently of the computer’s original operating system. It is Free Software and based on Debian GNU/Linux.

Tails comes with several built-in applications pre-configured with security in mind: web browser, instant messaging client, email client, office suite, image and sound editor, etc.

It aims at preserving your privacy and anonymity, and helps you to:

use the Internet anonymously and circumvent censorship;

all connections to the Internet are forced to go through the Tor network;

leave no trace on the computer you are using unless you ask it explicitly;

use state-of-the-art cryptographic tools to encrypt your files, emails and instant messaging.

 

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In Pursuit of Freedom – The Pushback Continues:

Report: Rahm Emanuel’s Chicago Police Operating Domestic Black Site – Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s Chicago Police Department is operating a CIA-style black site on the city’s West Side, according to an explosive new report from The Guardian’s Spencer Ackerman. The facility, an otherwise plain warehouse known as Homan Square, also houses military-style vehicles, according to Ackerman.

The Guardian reports that the CPD detains mostly poor, black and brown people at Homan. Once at the site, detainees are allegedly beaten by police, shackled for hours and denied access to counsel. There is no booking at Homan Square, so details about who has been detained at the facility are scarce. “Witnesses, suspects or other Chicagoans who end up inside do not appear to have a public, searchable record entered into a database indicating where they are,” Ackerman wrote. “Lawyers and relatives insist there is no way of finding their whereabouts.”

One detainee, 44-year-old John Hubbard, died in an interview room at Homan. There are no official records — or a coroner’s report — concerning Hubbard’s official cause of death, or why he was detained in the first place.

European Lawmakers Demand Answers on Phone Key Theft – European officials are demanding answers and investigations into a joint U.S. and U.K. hack of the world’s largest manufacturer of mobile SIM cards, following a report published by The Intercept Thursday.

The report, based on leaked documents provided by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden, revealed the U.S. spy agency and its British counterpart Government Communications Headquarters, GCHQ, hacked the Franco-Dutch digital security giant Gemalto in a sophisticated heist of encrypted cell-phone keys.

The European Parliament’s chief negotiator on the European Union’s data protection law, Jan Philipp Albrecht, said the hack was “obviously based on some illegal activities.”

“Member states like the U.K. are frankly not respecting the [law of the] Netherlands and partner states,” Albrecht told the Wall Street Journal.

Sophie in ’t Veld, an EU parliamentarian with D66, the Netherlands’ largest opposition party, added, “Year after year we have heard about cowboy practices of secret services, but governments did nothing and kept quiet […] In fact, those very same governments push for ever-more surveillance capabilities, while it remains unclear how effective these practices are.”

Former FBI Director Defends Metadata Collection – The current practices of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act court are effective and don’t need to be changed, according to former FBI director Robert Mueller.

“Yes, it’s worthwhile. Metadata of telephone companies is terribly helpful,” Mueller said, speaking Tuesday morning at an American Bar Association breakfast held at the the University Club in Washington, D.C.

Mueller cited the example of the Boston Marathon bombing as evidence that bulk collection is important, saying that analysis of metadata was able to rule out potential associates of the Tsarnaev brothers. “They had additional IEDs [Improvised Explosive Devices],” Mueller said, adding that bulk collection helped prevent a second attack.

Metadata collection, he said, “is tremendously helpful in identifying contacts.”

The FISA court’s bulk metadata collection program has come under intense scrutiny in light of disclosures made by former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden. Congress now has until the end of May to decide whether to reauthorize Section 215 of the Patriot Act, which allows the bulk collection program.

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2 Comments

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

2 responses to “Tech Thoughts Daily Net News – February 25, 2015

  1. Fred

    Hi Bill!
    “Chicago police are running a horrifying CIA-style black site out of a warehouse”
    Well just look at who the Mayor is, Obama’s former White House Chief of Staff, Rahm Emanuel, that is enough right there to see where the OK came from for this. Your use of the Boiling Frog analogy is spot on. My fellow Americans are dozing in front of the TV being programmed to eat unhealthy crap and believe everything .gov wants them to. Sad, this used to be a liberty loving country which at one time was populated with some brave citizens. The lure of the shiny baubles of consumerism did the US citizenry in, that and the droning Glass Toilet known as the TV.

    Ever and most truly your friend,
    Fred

    • Hi Fred,

      Agreed.

      Americans are little different from the rest of us (particularly, we Canadians) – they are fundamentally under informed on a vast range of issues. While I mean that in the sense that more effort needs to be made to understand the complexities of current events (by all of us) – I more particularly mean – when I say “under informed” – that there is a concerted effort by Western governments to keep populations under informed by massaging the message to suit a political ideology, rather than supporting the TRUTH. TRUTH of course, would allow each of us to reach a personal supportable position (pro or con), rather than a position artfully prepared for us by those who are fundamentally opposed to civil liberties and human dignity – and who are highly practiced at deceit. It works – most of us go about our day happily wearing this mantle of deceit.

      It’s hardly surprising then, that 87% of Canadians (one percentage figure tossed around), are in favor of new draconian security measures to be implemented based on the propaganda regularly pushed out by the government as hard facts. A reasonably informed person may well dispute the government’s assertions that such measures are required. Therein lies the paradox.

      I’ll repeat what I’ve long maintained – one can ignore reality – but, one cannot ignore the consequences of ignoring reality. It seems both taxpayer/citizens, and the governments which hover over them, are equally guilty of ignoring reality. It’s inevitable that the moral and ethical debt generated by this ignorance will be presented. I’m not convinced we will have the intellectual currency to pay this debt.

      I realize that this is an incomplete comment – but, it would require a 5000 word essay to appropriately address the issues at hand. Even then, I suspect, that might be on the short side. 🙂

      Best,

      Bill