…gives me the creeps.

Trump is showing himself to be…the bogeyman. And in the process, he’s scaring the heck out of me. Could anyone be scarier? Maybe Hitler in his rise to power.

During my annual eye checkup with our ophthalmologist today, he reassured me that there was no way Trump would be elected president. He cited as proof the fact that 83% of Hispanic women and 91% of African American women are against Trump. As comforting as that may sound, he has until November to wear voters down.

Americans are driven by advertising. Most don’t research the pros and cons behind their purchases. TV ads that keep making the pitch to buy their products usually hit their mark. We are bombarded every day by subliminal messages to buy this or that. And we succumb, time and again. Even against our better judgment in some cases.

If voters hear Trump sound bytes over and over and over again, they might eventually be sucked into believing he’s speaking the truth. In fact, he is a grand manipulator of the truth. It’s what he calls…”the art of the deal.”

Young and old alike smoke, do drugs, drink to excess, and eat junk food. So why wouldn’t they vote for Trump? He’s bad for America, but he tells it like it is. That’s a “high” for a lot of people. They enjoy getting high on Trump’s belly-aching. There’s never been anything like it, so it must be good…at least until after the high wears off. And believe me, it’ll wear off pretty fast if he’s elected.

The really scary part is Trump didn’t expect to win. His was suppose to be a message campaign. The same can be said for his democratic counterpart, Bernie Sanders. Now that Trump is at the top of the Republican heap, he doesn’t know how to lead except to continue denigrating all his would-be detractors, including Speaker-of-the-House Paul Ryan.

Trump’s only asset is making deals. So until he sits at the president’s desk in the Oval Office, Trump will only know how to mouth off from the bully pulpit. Don’t look for substantive policies on how he’d fight Isis, or reduce the deficit, or send millions of immigrants back home to Mexico. Trump hasn’t figured that all out yet. He’s having too much fun scaring the bejesus out of everyone…his supporters, his forsworn enemies at home and abroad, parents and their children, women who aren’t candidates for Miss Universe or who serve as media mouthpieces for him, people of color and non-Christians.

We may watch in disbelief as Kim Jong il, North Korea’s leader, dallies the threat of nuclear warfare in front of the world, but we may be facing our own despot in Donald Trump.

…be careful what you ask for.

………hugmamma.


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hawaiian airlines bureaucracy…irksome, to say the least

Forgive the rant, but tangling with airline bureaucracy is never a “walk in the park.” It’s more like treading water in the middle of the ocean…with no land in sight.

So why get involved with a dragon that breathes fire, while rearing its massive, unwieldy head? Or in this case…Methusala with her many heads, all of which do not converse with one another?

Well, I’ll tell you.

IMG_4514Our family is planning a visit to Hawaii to see relatives and enjoy some time together in the sun, sand, and blue waters. Normally my husband books the cheapest flights he can find. To the islands, it’s more than likely we’ll fly with Alaska Airlines. This time, however, I insisted we fly on Hawaiian Airlines, the unofficially crowned carrier of the islands where my husband and I were born.

Call it nostalgia. Call it hokey. But from what I recollect, the flight attendants pour on the famed Aloha Spirit the minute you step through the aircraft door. And it doesn’t stop until you touch down on a Hawaiian island runway.

At least that’s my expectation.

Unfortunately from what I’ve already experienced on the administrative end…methinks I smell a rotten on-board experience in the offing as well. Or at the very least, little sign of the so-called Aloha Spirit.

What started this rant? A seemingly innocuous email from Hawaiian Airlines.

Almost immediately after our flight was booked, I got an email touting a “Dream Fare” from Seattle to Honolulu for $538, round trip. Almost $200 cheaper than what we’d paid, I took the advice of a niece to call and see if we might take advantage of the lower rate.

Unbeknownst to me, when I called Reservations, I was actually dialing an offshore call center in the Philippines. I wondered as I spoke with the woman whose heavy accent was, at times, difficult to understand. I had to ask her to repeat herself several times.

After explaining my situation, she put me on hold while she went in search of an answer…a couple of times. When she returned the second time, she indicated that she’d be transferring me to another department for what I thought was a price adjustment.

I got Greg in Web Support, which I’ve since learned is also in the Philippines.

Repeating the reason for my call, Greg told me that the only way I could take advantage of the lower fare was to cancel my previous reservations for which I would pay a penalty.

Duh??? What brainiac at Hawaiian Airlines thought I was going to go through the hassle…to pay…to save? 

Having agreed to a survey beforehand, I blasted away with both barrels firing.

Evidently the Marketing Department dreamed up the “Dream Fare” email, ASSUMING the recipient would know not to call if he or she had already booked a flight. No, there was no mention of this in the email. With Hawaii being the destination and the fare being that low, who wouldn’t want to take advantage of the bargain?

As I told both offshore reps for Hawaiian Airlines, had the email specified that the offer did not apply to previously booked reservations I would have deleted it. End of story.

When I asked to speak with a supervisor, Greg directed me to the airline’s Consumer Advocate’s office. “Wow!” I thought.  “Hawaiian Airlines actually goes through the trouble of installing on-site advocacy for passengers?” Well, don’t expect too much. It’s more than likely also in the Philippines. And if it is in fact in Hawaii, it’s a last resort effort to be heard.

As of yet, I still hadn’t spoken with anyone from Hawaiian Airlines itself. It’s cheaper for them to have foreigners front the operation. Not something other corporations aren’t guilty of as well. More money in their pockets if labor costs originate in poorer countries whose folks are willing to work for pittance.

But the Aloha Spirit airlines skimping on…the ALOHA? OMG! What’s this world coming to?

At first I decided to end the charade and not call the consumer advocate. A glutton for punishment, I decided to take Hawaiian Airlines up on its offer to have someone take up my cause…before I took the matter into my own, very capable hands and went directly to the top of the pyramid.

I provided Hannah, the consumer advocate, with a thorough rundown of my conversations. She filled out a form for submission, agreeing that the email misled in its omission that booked passengers need not inquire. Hannah explained that I should receive feedback within 30 business days. I decided I would probably not hear back, but that I did what I could at this peripheral level of Hawaiian Airlines.

Almost immediately, I received an email from Nel/GBA of Web Support asking that I provide her with the fare I was seeking to re-book. I forwarded her the email I’d received to which came an instant email reply that no one was tending the site. Frustrated, I called the consumer advocate back for help. Wouldn’t you know it? I couldn’t speak to Hannah again because Olive was unable to transfer my call.

Okay. So I repeated my entire story to Olive. Of course I huffed and puffed my way through, explaining that this was only adding more fuel to the fire. Explaining that I had to attach the original Dream Fare email to my reply responding to the email I had just received, rather than forwarding it separately, was like telling a very old dog to do a trick he’d only ever done once before. Now, how did that trick go? Instead, Olive sent an email to Web Support on my behalf. Meanwhile, I simultaneously sent a reply telling Nel/GBA of Web Support indicating what the lower fare was.

The final outcome of this several act Hawaiian Airlines farce is that the following email was sent that has seemingly ratcheted up the ante.

…call Web Support at 1-866-586-9419…

We can actually do some price adjustment on your reservation, though when we tried repricing it, we were not able to get the same fare anymore, as it is possible that the fares advertised is already sold out.

We hope you can call us as soon as you can so we can see about possibly doing some price adjustments after assessment. We are open 24/7 so you can call at your convenience.

Feel free to contact us or reply back if you have any more inquiries. Web Support is open 24/7 to take in your web-related concerns.

Mahalo,

Nel/GBA
Hawaiian Airlines Web Support

I called early this morning and had to repeat my entire story for the fifth time to Jervis. Evidently Nel/GBA sends emails, but doesn’t do phone calls. Very matter-of-factly, Jervis told me that the lower fare was no longer available for my flight. Probably the allotted number of seats for $538 had been filled.

Jervis, Olive, Hannah, Greg, and the first rep I spoke with all apologized for any inconvenience caused me by Hawaiian Airlines.

Rather than doing another annoying, pre-programmed, so-called “short” survey at the end of my call with Jervis, I told him I’d be blogging about the long, bumpy road I’ve traveled in less than 24 hours with Hawaiian Airlines.

It all started with an email that came hot-on-the-heels of booking our reservations. Makes me think Hawaiian Airlines’ Marketing didn’t check beforehand to see that we already booked and, therefore, couldn’t claim the Dream Fare being advertised. Were they trying to play…GOTCHA? Or is it that they’re just dumb?

Check out our latest low fares to Hawaii and book your next flight on Hawaiian Airlines today! Enjoy complimentary meals served at appropriate mealtimes and our authentic Hawaiian hospitality as soon as you step on board.***
 Booking Period: Apr 29 – May 5, 2014
Travel Period: Jun 13 – Aug 11, 2014

My thoughts are that as well-intentioned as their consumer advocacy program might be, it is merely a fancy spin on an old ploy of…”dodging the bullet.” A lot of fancy footwork here, even rivaling that made famous by boxing notable Muhammad Ali, in his prime. Jervis indicated I’d hear from Nel/GBA. I think not. She’s probably some phantom embodiment for Hawaiian Airlines Web Support.

So our family will head for the distant shores of our ancestors enjoying whatever Aloha Spirit we find en route. With what I’ve experienced of them thus far, I’m no longer expecting Hawaiian Airlines to provide anything more in the way of on board service than I would find on Alaska Airlines or Delta Airlines, for that matter. And from now on, I’ll remember that age-old saying…

…if it sounds too good to be true…it probably is!

………hugmamma.IMG_4544

 

 

weekly photo challenge: perspective…

City View. That’s what the ad said for this Waikiki condo. More like a View of the parking lot. Don’t you think?IMG_4456

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Romantic seating for two. Or standing room only???IMG_4457

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A scenic view. More like a Value-less view.IMG_4459

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The owner of this Waikiki condo was excited for me to be the first to review it after my family’s visit of several days. I didn’t have the heart to give her my honest opinion.

…she had her perspective…i had mine…

………hugmamma.

man-made food…and i don’t mean home cooking

Corn

Wonder why sweet corn no longer tastes…sweet, or for that matter…like corn? I could say the same thing about…farmed shrimp. But that’s a whole other kettle of fish…farmed vs. wild.

Only recently have my taste buds been questioning the corn I’ve been buying, specifically canned and frozen. Fresh ears of corn have not yet given me pause to wonder. Emphasis on…YET. 

There’s a Washington State vote on the horizon, I-522, to do with genetically engineered foods. I’ve read enough to know that messing with food made by Mother Nature is not good for my health. In fact, eating stuff created in corporate laboratories probably contributed to my digestive system being out of whack for some time. Thankfully I’m back on track with the help of a naturopath, and literature I’ve read on the subject.

According to local nutrition educator Nick Rose, genetically engineered foods are not more nutritious as is being touted. Instead they’re ” ‘stacked with foreign DNA so they will either produce pesticides or withstand herbicides or both, such as Monsanto’s new ‘double-stacked’ sweet corn.”

Rose goes on to speak of his concern about salmon…”the very first GE animal for human consumption, genetic engineering has produced a food offering less nutrition than the original food it is replacing.”

Salmon intended for consumption as food

Salmon, easily the most iconic food celebrated here in the Northwest, will very likely soon become the first ever GE animal food for human consumption. And the company that produced it admits their GE salmon is less nutritious.

What’s the unique nutritional benefit from salmon? Omega-3 fatty acids that supports brain health, helps manage inflammation, and is found in very few foods.

So, why would anyone want to put eel-like genes into salmon, knowing the end result would be a less nutritious food? To make the fish grow faster. GE salmon reach their market weight in about half the amount of time it takes today’s salmon to be ready for market. As a result of this super-growth, the GE salmon contain higher levels of the growth hormone IGF-1, a known carcinogen.

To summarize, the biotech industry has created a new “food” to replace one of the healthiest foods on the planet, except that the new and “enhanced” GE salmon will offer fewer heart-healthy omega 3s, and more cancer-promoting IGF-1 growth hormones. Oh, and did I mention that consumers won’t be able to tell whether the salmon they are buying at the store is genetically engineered? That is, unless…

This November, Washington voters have a chance to tell the food industry that they would like to know whether or not their foods are genetically engineered. Voting “YES” on intiative 522 will require foods produced with genetic engineering to be labeled in Washington state, making it much easier for everyone to make an informed choice when shopping at the grocery store.

GMO labeling is important to eaters around the planet for a wide variety of reasons, and 64 countries around the world already label foods produced with genetic engineering.  Do you want to avoid GMOs in your breakfast cereal, lunch box and salmon dinner? Then vote YES on 522!

Needless to say I intend to vote YES to labeling genetically engineered foods.

I understand that the practice of speeding up nature’s growth cycle may have been in response to feeding the planet’s hungry. Unfortunately success seems to have caused the industry to run amok. It’s as though a new magic trick has been discovered and all manner of magicians want in on the act. The fact that there are health risks seems of no consequence. After all, we never think preventative until we’re in the iron grip of some dastardly disease like cancer or Alzheimer’s or diabetes

Having Diabetes

Having Diabetes (Photo credit: MsH_ISB)

Why is it that mankind is always “behind the eight ball?” Is it because we think we can always dig ourselves out of the hole we dive into? Or is it because we’re just…plain stupid???

I don’t know if you live where foods have to be identified as having been genetically engineered. If you do, count yourself lucky; if you don’t…start reading labels…and everything else you can lay your hands on to do with genetically engineered foods. After all it’s your life…and those of your loved ones…that’s at stake! Even a capitalist society should allow for…freedom of choice. 

Yes, we all need to eat. But need it be at the expense of…

…our health?…

………hugmamma.

ConAgra: Genetically Modified Foods You Love (...

ConAgra: Genetically Modified Foods You Love (g1a2d0035c1) (Photo credit: watchingfrogsboil)

 

karma…

“HATE HAS CONSEQUENCES.”

Something I heard on a news show today. Not a surprising statement about the topic of discussion…Rush Limbaugh…conservative radio personality.

Rush Limbaugh Cartoon by Ian D. Marsden of mar...

 

My aversion to the man is akin to my total disgust for bed bugs. He and they…one and the same…as far as I’m concerned.

Seems Limbaugh is losing significant financial support. Advertisers have bowed to the wishes of women and young folk who oppose Limbaugh’s attack against those with whom they identify. Remember college student Sandra Fluke who spoke out in support of contraceptive coverage by health insurers?

On February 29, 2012, Rush Limbaugh labeled Sandra Fluke a “slut” and “prostitute” based on her speech before House Democrats. Fluke appeared to support mandating health insurers to cover contraceptive costs. Limbaugh stated:[30][31]

“[Fluke] essentially says that she must be paid to have sex—what does that make her? It makes her a slut, right? It makes her a prostitute. She wants to be paid to have sex. She’s having so much sex she can’t afford the contraception. She wants you and me and the taxpayers to pay her to have sex.”

Political figures, including President Obama and Republican House Speaker John Boehner, voiced disapproval of Limbaugh’s comments.[32] On March 3, Limbaugh apologized to Fluke for his comments, saying his “insulting word choices” were meant to be “humorous”, and that he never believed her to be a “slut” or a prostitute.[33][34] Fluke rejected the apology as dubious and inadequate.[35]

Karma may be a long time coming, but when it arrives…

 …how sweet it is…

ACLU/SC 19th Annual Law Luncheon

………hugmamma.

a fine line…

English: Bo Derek attending the

English: Bo Derek attending the “Night of 100 Stars” for the 82nd Academy Awards viewing party at the Beverly Hills Hotel, Beverly Hills, CA on March 7, 2010 – Photo by Glenn Francis of http://www.PacificProDigital.com (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Acknowledging female beauty has always been at the forefront of society. There’s a subconscious standard where women are rated on a scale of 1 to 10. Bo Derek was labeled a “10” in a film of the same name, co-starring Dudley Moore…a 4 or 5 by comparison. Yes, even women are guilty of judging whether a guy is a hunk or a dud…pun intended.

Mothers, and fathers for that matter, unwittingly expose their daughters to societal discrimination. It’s an age-old desire that they measure up to the standard set by others…be they relatives, friends, acquaintances or even complete strangers.

We allow ourselves to be bullied into thinking we should look like Angelina Jolie or Beyonce.

English: Phyllis Diller portrait

English: Phyllis Diller portrait (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

God help us if we look like Phyllis Diller, a comedienne of the psychedelic 60s and 70s. I can’t even think of a current media darling who looks as homely. There are none! Those folks don’t make the small screen, big screen or print. Unless, of course, they’re meant to draw attention to what we don’t want to emulate.

Whether we like it or not, we imprint our mindset onto our daughters.

Other adult females  are also guilty of doing harm. A relative once asked her husband if he didn’t think I looked gorgeous swimming around in their pool. Wanting to escape his appreciative stare, I instinctively crossed my arms over my chest and tread water. While the moment quickly passed, it has never faded from my memory.

There’s no escaping the web we have woven for ourselves. It is embedded into the very fiber of our souls, I’m afraid.

My daughter is a ballerina…the quintessential embodiment of female beauty. At least that is what is presented to the paying public. It’s a different story behind the scenes. If you’re an avid fan of “Dancing with the Stars,” you know what I mean. The same is true for the reality shows about models.

It’s important we teach our daughters what’s true and what’s false. There’s no escaping the latter, considering our constant bombardment by the advertising and marketing world. Only a solid, moral foundation can help our youngsters maneuver life’s slippery slope.

Beauty need not be evil…if it shines from the inside out.

…perhaps we should…shift our focus to…our inner beauty…IMG_4505

………hugmamma.

 

 

trick ads…

Earlier I posted that I’d been invited to participate in WordAds, paid advertising sponsored by WordPress. I declined because of security concerns, moved on and eventually forgot about it. A visit to another blog seconds ago jarred me back into that old conversation.

Without intending to click on a “paid advertisement,” i.e. a commercial…who chooses to watch them, anyway?…I discovered I wasn’t viewing what I thought was part of the blogger’s post. I had just clicked $$$ into the owner’s pocket.

Advertising advertising

Advertising advertising (Photo credit: Toban Black)

While I’m not adverse to capitalism, I’m not particularly fond of deception. After I’d done the dastardly deed, or while I was scrutinizing the youtube video as to its relevance to the post, I noticed in small print “advertising” floating just above and to the left of the commercial.

Feeling bamboozled, I discontinued watching the ad. So I’ve no idea what it was selling. Instead I perused the site. With 4,000,000 page views and thousands of followers the blogger is building quite a nest egg.

The writing is good, as are the photos. I’ve no complaint there. I’m just a little skeptical when it comes to visits to “like” other blogger’s posts, because etiquette calls for return visits and “likes.” A silent handshake, if you will.

There’s a hope that behind it all is a genuine expression of favorability. I don’t like to participate in popularity contests, especially when there’s a payoff involved.

Ads on blogs is fine, when they’re above board. When they sneak up on the reader, I’m not a fan. After unknowingly clicking on the ad, I felt like a “deer in headlights.” I think I’ll be more careful…where I wander…so as not to have another…

Deer in Headlights

…aha!…gotcha…moment!!!…

……….hugmamma.  

😦

not everyone’s cup o’ tea…

I’m sure WordPress has invited many of you to participate in WordAds. For those not familiar with this, blogs approved for participation are potentially paid for ads that run on their sites.

Reality Television

Reality Television (Photo credit: badjonni)

Receiving the invitation is indeed an ego-booster, especially for a senior hobbit like myself use to toiling away in my cave incognito, more or less. Once the adrenalin rush has passed however, my own form of reality TV sets in.

One of the requirements for participation in WordAds is handing over my social security number. As a mom who has discouraged my daughter from revealing too much on Facebook, and as one who can’t wrap my brain around identity theft victims sorting out the mess their lives have become, why would I then relinquish my unique piece of identification to a company that is neither my health care provider, my banker or my loan provider? 

WordPress is as good a social network site as one can get. I’m particularly grateful for their attention to security. That doesn’t mean they’re impervious to hacking however. A year or so ago I was up close and personal with just how badly WordPress can be attacked. 

My blog was caught in the crossfire when WordPress pulled out their ‘big guns” to do battle with a global invasion of their systems. As a result of their hypersensitivity to intruders, I was spammed out of leaving comments on other WordPress blogs. I seriously contemplated leaving WordPress when it decided to pull the plug instead. My husband intervened with a few kind words on my behalf which finally got WordPress to review my situation. Hugmamma’s Mind, Body, and Soul was reinstated after they decided I wasn’t a bad egg after all. Their apology helped me recover from the bad experience. But I’ll admit…it was a long week.

I couldn’t imagine dealing with identity theft and picking up the threads of my life thereafter. At 63, would I really want the stress? It’s for sure the dollars earned from participating in WordAds would never compensate for the money I’d spend while waging the battle of my life.

Need a social security #?

Need a social security #? (Photo credit: Matt Blaze)

I’ve since learned that my social security number would be encrypted, a good thing. Unfortunately there are as many brainiacs trying to do evil as there are trying to do good. Where mega bucks is concerned, those on the “dark side” never give up until they can get their greedy hands on someonelse’s hard-earned cash.

I don’t fault anyone who opts to participate in WordAds. Why not make some money doing what you’re already doing, writing and blogging. Everyone buys and sells on the internet. Private information flows…in abundance. What’s the big deal?

For me, stress is a big deal. It consumes one’s life, mentally, emotionally, and physically. Research indicates that too much stress can lead to Alzheimer’s, cancer, heart ailments, diabetes and a whole host of other diseases.

Staving off illness is an uphill climb, moreso for those of lesser means. We all do what we must…to live. I choose to do so…with as little stress as I’m able. 

 

Scanned image of author's US Social Security card.

Scanned image of author’s US Social Security card. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

…your thoughts?…i’m open to some new age enlightenment…

………hugmamma.  😉

google…stung!!! (part 2…read part 1 first)

Google's Server Error page

Image via Wikipedia

So who was the operative used by the Feds to snag Internet giant Google? Someone like you and me? Not really. Unless you’re a person living on the edge…a risk-taker…a reality star in the making. Meet…Mr. Whitaker…

The Tennessee native suffers from bipolar disorder, according to court submissions by his lawyers, and has a history of manic spending and fraud sprees. When he was 16 years old, Mr. Whitaker took his mother’s credit card, rented a private jet and flew his girlfriend for a shopping spree in Knoxville, the documents said.
     Mr. Whitaker’s path to undercover operative began in 2005, when he took millions of dollars in orders for Apple iPods and other electronics at below market prices and skipped town without filling the orders, according to his account and court documents. He hopscotched around the U.S. in a private jet, evading arrest and protected by a private security detail. He briefly rented a Miami mansion for $200,000 a month.
     He fled to Mexico in 2006 and started an Internet pharmacy, selling steroids and human growth hormone to U.S. consumers through Google ads, he said. The two substances–sold in the U.S. by prescription only–are sought by body builders to add muscle and by older consumers seeking to slow the signs of aging; they aren’t approved in the U.S. for such uses. Google’s policy prohibited advertising their sale online.
     “It was very obvious to Google that my website was not a licensed pharmacy,” Mr. Whitaker wrote to the Journal. “Understanding this, Google provided me with a very generous credit line and allowed me to set my target advertising directly to American consumers.”
     Mr. Whitaker was arrested in Mexico in March 2008 for entering that country illegally and returned to the U.S. to face charges of wire fraud, conspiracy and commercial bribery in the iPod case. Mr. Whitaker told U.S. authorities about the alleged role Google played in helping his Mexico-based pharmacy.
     Federal prosecutors, seeking to test the allegation, set up a task force in early 2009 with Mr. Whitaker’s help. On weekdays, he was escorted from the Wyatt Detention Facility in Central Falls, R.I., to a former school department building in North Providence, R.I. There, under the watch of federal agents, he set a snare for Google.
     Posing as the fictious Jason Corriente, an agent for advertisers with lots of money to spend, Mr. Whitaker bypassed Google’s automated advertising system to reach flesh-and-blood ad executives. Federal agents created [a website] designed to look “as if a Mexican drug lord had built a website to sell HGH and steroids,” Mr. Whitaker said in his account of the sting.
     Google first rejected it, along with an anti-aging website … But the company’s ad executives worked with Mr. Whitaker to find a way around Google rules, according to prosecutors and Mr. Whitaker’s account.
     The undercover team removed a link to buy the drugs directly–instead of requiring customers to submit an online request form–and Google approved it. “The site generated a flood of email traffic from customers wanting to buy HGH and steroids,” Mr. whitaker said.
     To pay Google’s fees for the growing online traffic, undercover agents made payments every two or three days with a government-backed credit card.
     Federal agents grew more brazen. They created a site selling weight-loss medications without a prescription, according to Mr. Whitaker and people familiar with the matter. They also added another site selling the abortion pill RU-486, which in the U.S. can only be taken in a doctor’s office.
     Google’s ad team in Mexico approved the site, so U.S. consumers searching for “RU 486” would see an ad for the site. Google ad executives allowed the agents to add the phrase “no prescription needed.”
     Days later, federal agents added links to buy the drugs directly. Such sales broke U.S. laws prohibiting the sale of drugs from outside the country and without a prescription. “There were photos of the drugs, descriptions, labels that clearly printed out that we were shipping without a prescription and it was from Mexico,” Mr. Whitaker said.
     By the end of the operation in mid-2009, agents were buying Google ads for sites purportedly selling such prescription-only narcotics as oxycodone and hydrocodone. Agents also got Google’s sales office in China to approve a site selling Prozac and Valium to U.S. customers without a prescription.
     “Google’s employees were instrumental in bypassing policy regarding pharmacy verification,” Mr. Whitaker told the Journal. “The websites were blatantly illegal.”
     At the agents’ direction, Mr. Whitaker said he signaled his illegal intent to Google ad executives, including Google’s top manager in Mexico. As a tape recorder ran, he walked Google executives through the illegal parts of the websites. He said he told ad executives that U.S. Customs had seized shipments, for example, and that one client wanted to be “the biggest steroid dealer in the United States.”
     Agents at first ignored the flood of orders. But as the ersatz sites morphed into full-fledged Internet pharmacies, they worried that clients, some sick, would be expecting medication.
     So customers were told they had to become members by filling out an online form and to receive a “membership kit.” The kits never arrived, but it stopped users from placing orders, Mr. Whitaker said.
     In the summer of 2009, U.S. agents visited Google’s headquarters in Mountain View, Calif., to tell corporate executives about the evidence they had collected. Prosecutors served grand jury subpoenas and eventually collected four million pages of internal emails and documents, as well as witness testimony.
     The federal task force, which also included the Food and Drug Administration’s Office of Criminal Investigation, was preparing criminal charges against the company and its executives for aiding and abetting criminal activity online, prosecutors said.
     Google hired attorney Jamie Gorelick, the former deputy U.S. Attorney General under President Clinton. Two years later, the company reached a settlement with the government, a decision that stopped the likely introduction of emails to top Google executives had the case gone to trial.
     “Suffice to say this was not two or three rogue employees at the customer service level doing this on their own,” said Mr. Neronha, the U.S. attorney. “This was corporate decision to engage in this conduct.”
     Six private shareholder lawsuits have so far been filed against Google’s executives and board members, alleging they damaged the company by not taking earlier action against the illegal pharmacy ads.
     Google has other potential legal exposure. Record companies and movie studios say Google wilfully profits from illegal Internet piracy–an issue raised last week, when Congress dropped antipiracy legislation after opposition from Internet companies, including Google.
     A 2011 study commissioned by NBC Universal estimated that nearly a quarter of all Internet traffic relates to pirated movies, TV shows and games. “There’s big business in being agnostic about what sites you place your ads on,” said Jay Roth, national executive director of Directors Guild of America, which backed antipiracy legislation.
     Online scams pose another potential legal threat. Searches relating to mortgage refinancing have been among the most popular on Google, Eric Schmidt said in 2009 when he was chief executive. An investigation by Consumer Watchdog, a consumer advocacy group, found that a large number of companies selling “mortgage modification” on Google bore the hallmarks of fraud.
     The special inspector general’s office for the Troubled Asset Relief Program in November said it had shut down 85 alleged online loan modification schemes that defrauded homeowners through Google ads.
     “Google has a natural longterm financial incentive to make sure that the advertisements we serve are trustworthy so that users continue to use our services and we aren’t afraid to take aggressive action to achieve that goal,” the company said.
     To end the sting, federal agents killed off Mr. Whitaker’s fictional character. They sent the Google employees a final email, allegedly from Jason Corriente’s brother, saying the online entrepreneur died in a car crash.
     Mr. Whitaker, who pleaded guilty and faced a maximum 65-year prison term, was sentenced in December to six years, following what federal prosecutors called “rather extraordinary” cooperation. He is due for release in two years.

(Amir Efrati and Amy Schatz contributed to “Con Artist Starred in Sting That Cost Google Millions” by Thomas Catan)

American Greed

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The height of capitalism…or greed? This is the stuff of movies and novels, far removed from the lives of commoners like you and me. That these people, Whitaker, Google execs, and government agents, are born ordinary Joes only to take center stage later in life…is beyond comprehension.

Scenography for the movie Greed. 1926.

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Trying to make a buck gets us up and out every day. Most of us plug along, making a buck here, a buck there…legally. Then there are those who make handfuls of bucks…any way they can.

 

Goya's

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sooner or later…the bogie man’s gonna get them…i hope!…

………hugmamma. 

google…stung!!! (Part 1 of 2)

Google 的貼牌冰箱(Google refrigerator)

Image by Aray Chen via Flickr

Hot on the heels of my previous post about Internet Goliath Google, is a sister story from today’s Wall Street Journal. Learning that it got caught in a web of its own lies was too good an opportunity to let slip.

Con Artist Starred in Sting That Cost Google Millions
by Thomas Catan 
    
Wearing leg irons and guarded by federal agents, David Whitaker posed as an agent for online drug dealers in dozens of recorded phone calls and email exchanges with Google sales executives, spending $200,000 in government money for ads selling narcotics, steroids and other controlled substances.
     Over four months in 2009, Mr. Whitaker, a federal prisoner and convicted con artist, was the lead actor in a government sting targeting Google Inc. that yielded one of the largest business forfeitures in U.S. history.
     “There was a part of me that felt bad,” Mr. Whitaker wrote in his account of the undercover operation viewed by The Wall Street Journal. “I had grown to like these people.” But, he said, “I took ease in knowing they…knew it was wrong.”
     The government built its criminal case against Google using money, aliases and fake companies–tactics often used against drug cartels and other crime syndicates, according to interviews and court documents. Google agreed to pay a $500 million forfeiture last summer in a settlement to avoid prosecution for aiding illegal online pharmaceutical sales.
     Google acknowledged in the settlement that it had improperly and knowingly assisted online pharmacy advertisers allegedly based in Canada to run advertisements for illicit pharmacy sales targeting U.S. customers.
     “We banned the advertising of prescription drugs in the U.S. by Canadian pharmacies some time ago,” the company said in its sole comment on the matter. “However, it’s obvious with hindsight that we shouldn’t have allowed these ads on Google in the first place.”
     The half-billion dollar forfeiture, although historically large, was small change for google, which holds $45 billion in cash. But the company’s acceptance of responsibility opened the door to potential liability for taking ads from other people involved in unlawful acts online, such as distributing pirate movies or perpetrating online fraud.
     Google has long argued it wasn’t responsible for the actions of its more than one million advertisers. But the forfeiture paid by Google represented not just the money it made from the ads, but also the revenue collected by illegal pharmacies through Google-related sales.
     In an important shift, the settlement “signals that, where evidence can be developed that a search engine knowingly and actively assisted advertisers to promote improper conduct, the search engine can be held accountable as an accomplice,” according to Peter Neronha, the lead prosecutor.
     Unknown is whether the company will toss aside advertisers as a result. “If Google were to adopt a much more restrictive definition of problematic advertisements, everyone would immediately notice a drop in their revenue,” said Eric Goldman, director of the High Tech Law Institute at Santa Clara University.
     The government’s case also contained potentially embarrassing allegations that top Google executives, including co-founder Larry Page, were told about legal problems with the drug ads.
     Mr. Page, now google’s chief executive, knew about the illicit conduct, said Mr. Neronha, the U.S. attorney for Rhode Island who led the multiagency federal task force that conducted the sting. “We simply know from the documents we reviewed and witnesses we interviewed that Larry Page knew what was going on,” he said in an interview after the August settlement.
     Mr. Neronha declined to detail the evidence, which was presented in secret to a federal grand jury. Other people familiar with the case said internal emails showed Sheryl Sandberg, a former top Google executive who left in 2008 for Facebook Inc., had raised concerns about the ads.
     Prosecutors could have used that evidence to argue Google deliberately turned a blind eye to lawbreaking to protect a profit stream estimated by the government in the hundreds of millions of dollars.
     Ms. Sandberg declined to comment through a spokesman. Mr. Page also declined to comment.
     Google says it has strict policies in place to prevent criminals from using its ad services and it bans advertisers who repeatedly violate its guidelines.
     “We ban not just ads but also advertisers who abuse our platform, and we work closely with law enforcement and other government authorities to take action against bad actors,” said Kent Walker, Google’s general counsel.
     Mr. Whitaker’s story, told here for the first time, presents a different picture. Shuffling into federal court in handcuffs and beige overalls last month, the 37-year-old prisoner looked like he could pass for an employee of a Silicon Valley start-up. …

Now let’s mosey along to part 2…to see how the sting…went down…

………hugmamma.  😉 

 

     

tiptoeing…through the internet…

Hover!

Image via Wikipedia

I lead a double life as I’m sure most of us do these days. We’re on the internet doing our thing, whatever that might be. Meanwhile the gods hover overhead controlling the maze in which we find ourselves. We’re mice looking for that tasty morsel, that “feel-good moment,” which momentarily quiets our brain in its perpetual hunt for satisfaction.

facebook engancha

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Addicted to social networking is putting it mildly. We’re as committed to the internet as we are to the automobile and foreign gas. Yes, there are those who have managed to side-step both life altering inventions, but they are decidedly in the minority. But I would venture to guess that they too are affected, just as non-smokers are by second-hand smoke.

The Human Body -- Cancer

Image by n0cturbulous via Flickr

According to Webster, “Cancer…1. a malignant growth or tumor that tends to spread. 2. any evil that spreads destructively. …” I liken the pervasive invasion of Google and Facebook into our privacy like a cancer that can only have dire consequences. And just as a victim of the dreaded disease is never certain of his prognosis, so too we users of the internet might be viewed as lambs led to slaughter. When and where we meet with our destruction is yet to be seen.

Image representing YouTube as depicted in Crun...

Image via CrunchBase

You can draw your own conclusions from the following Wall Street Journal article in today’s paper.

Google Widens Its Tracks
by Julia Angwin

     In a move that could make it harder for Google users to remain anonymous, Google Inc. said it would start combining nearly all the information it has on its users.
     This could mean, for instance, that when users search via Google, the company will use their activities on sister sites like Gmail and YouTube to influence those users’ search results. Google hasn’t done that before.
     Google’s move–which was disclosed in a privacy policy that will take effect on March 1–is a sign of the fierce competition between Google and Facebook Inc. over personal data. Facebook has amassed an unprecedented amount of data about the lives of its more than 800 million members–information that is coveted by advertisers.
     Google traditionally hasn’t had the same amount of personal data about its users, and has kept much of its personal data separate.
     But as Facebook gears up for its planned initial public offering this year, Google has amped up the competition.
     Last year, Google launched its own social network, called Google+ in members’ search results. Google’s latest move would allow the company to include insights from services such as Gmail and YouTube to search results as well.
     This could effectively rewrite the relationship between users and the world’s most-popular search engine.
     Google has long treated users’ search queries as sacrosanct–in part because they can contain very personal sensitive information–about topics such as health and finances.
     In June, at The Wall Street Journal’s All Things Digital conference, Google Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt said, “Google will remain a place where you can do anonymous searches. We’re very committed to having you have control over the information we have about you. So, for example, if you want to continue to use Google and don’t log in, and don’t tell us who you are, that will continue to be true forever.”
     Mr. Schmidt’s statement would remain true for people who aren’t logged into a Gmail, Google+, YouTube, Android phone or an other Google account. But as Google’s services become more ubiquitous and deeply linked, it could become more difficult for users to take Google up on that promise of anonymity.
     “Google now watches consumers practically everywhere they go on the Web–and in real life, when using a mobile phone,” said Christopher Soghoian, an independent privacy and security researcher in Washington D.C. “No single entity should be trusted with this much sensitive data.”
     Google said that it isn’t collecting any new information, just combining it to provide better service to customers. For example, the company said that it could alert a user that he is going to be late to a meeting based on Google’s analysis of the user’s location, calendar and analysis of traffic on the road to the meeting.
     “We’ll treat you as a single user across all our products, which will mean a simpler, more intuitive Google experience,” Alma Whitten, Google’s director of privacy, product and engineering, wrote on the company’s blog.
     Google added that it would continue its policy of not combining user’s personal information with data about their Web browsing collected by its DoubleClick advertising network.
     The company last year signed a privacy agreement with the Federal Trade Commission. The settlement requires Google to ask users for permission before changing some of its privacy settings and requires the company to submit to privacy audits for 20 years.
     This month, the company launched an advertising campaign touting its commitment to privacy.
     Google until recently refrained from aggressively exploiting its own data about internet users to show them online ads tailored to their interests, fearing a backlash. But the rapid emergence of rivals such as Facebook has caused it to change its policy over time.
     In 2009 Google for the first time started collecting a new type of data about the websites people visit, and using it to track and show them ads across the Internet.
     Last June, the company launched Google+, which was intended to rival Facebook, Twitter Inc. and other social-media companies whose users have willingly provided information about themselves.
     With Tuesday’s changes, Google is “setting the stage for one-upping” Facebook in terms of being able to better target online ads to website visitors based on what it knows about their interests, said Brian Kennish, a former Google programmer who runs Disconnect Inc., a firm that offers software to block Google and other companies that collect information about Web users.
(–Amir Efrati contributed to this article)

Makes me think of former New York Governor, Elliott Spitzer. He trolled the internet seeking sexual favors from women on online sites. I’m sure it’s safe to assume there are millions of men who do the same. What they do in the privacy of their own homes is their business…or is it? Not anymore it seems. Google is now the all knowing eye. Will it give up its information for money? To buy political favors? To get the Feds off its back? Who knows?

Profile shown on Facebook in September 2011

Image via Wikipedia

Our privacy is no longer sacrosanct. It’s in jeopardy of being relinquished to the highest bidder, which in this case…are the deep pockets of the almighty advertisers. They want to know what we want…so they can sell us more of the same. A vicious cycle over which we’ve ultimate control. Or do we?

We seem willing pawns in the battle of the gods. All of this may seem far-fetched, and I may be the one who cried wolf once too often. My voice is lost amidst the din consuming the internet. I’m just Chicken Little running around shouting “The sky is falling! The sky is falling!” And the resounding response? Silence. 

English: A chicken running Français : Un poule...

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Even i have no idea what it is we should do…

Chicken Little (2005 film)
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…tomorrow…i’ll think about it…tomorrow…

………hugmamma.      

david and goliath…best buds?

Goliath

Image by vmcampos via Flickr

Had some interesting piece of news from my husband just minutes ago. He noticed that my recent posts didn’t contain any ads. Not sure what to make of it. Am “knocking on wood.” Don’t want to get ahead of myself…jumping up and down…shouting from atop Jericho‘s Walls of having negotiated with Goliath. After all I’m only a peanut in a jarful of Planters…probably sitting on the very bottom, dying to get out from under.

So did someone from WordPress take pity on this senior citizen, deciding to give me a break. If so, it’s like I hit the lottery or something. I never win anything…tangible, that is. I’ve got closets full of spiritual stuff…compassion, hope, empathy, gratitude, kindness. I could use the other kind of stuff once-in-awhile, like the time Comcast answered my prayer for internet connection via a comment on my blog post. Mark, Comcast’s customer service rep, was my Clarence, James Stewart’s guardian angel inIt’s A Wonderful Life.”

Travers in his most memorable role, as Clarenc...

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I know I risk having the plug pulled on what I perceive to be a little bit of good fortune…no commercial ads inserted into my posts. But I must profess to being giddy over the prospect. So even if Lady Luck should take her leave…please allow me to wallow in the moment.

…it may never come this way again…

………hugmamma.  😉

Iconic screen shot from the movie It's a Wonde...

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advertising…and wordpress

Contacted WordPress support about unsolicited advertising on “hugmamma’s mind, body, and soul.” Asked that it be removed. Following is the answer I received.

WordPress.com has been running advertising on our free hosted blogs since 2006. Many bloggers do not know this because despite the fact they ticked the box required to get a free blog, they did not read the ToS. Many also do not read features page, or advertising entry in the support documents after registering their username and blog(s). Also note that as the ads do not display to us when we are logged in, and as many use browsers with ad blockers when logged out, they may not realize they are there at all. The only way to get rid of all advertising on our free hosted WordPress.com blogs is to purchase an annually renewable No-Ads upgrade.

If you feel an ad is inappropriate please take a screenshot of it and send it to Staff by emailing support@wordpress.com or upload it into your Media Library and contact Staff and let them know it’s there for them to view.

 In response, I said…

Thanks lots for the clarification. You’re right that I did not pay heed to the “fine print.” Entirely my error. I seem to remember, as does my husband, that ads use to run in the sidebar. The fact that they now appear as part of my post is somewhat off-putting. My husband has opened up an ad thinking it was a continuation of what I’d written. Can anything be done to separate ads out of the body of the post?

I chose WordPress because of its offer to blog for free. I’d like to hold onto that freedom, such as it is. I already pay to own my domain name. Another $30 would seem to run contrary to why I chose your site.

hugs for your timely response…hugmamma.

A final response…and I mean final…came almost immediately.

No, in fact ads used to run everywhere, including sometimes between the title and the body of an article. There are generally speaking fewer ads than there were before.

Short of buying the No Ads upgrade or applying for this WordAds program, which also reduces the number of ads further from what it is now, there’s nothing you can do.

And so…the matter is resolved. David and Goliath have come to terms…the giant laying down the law of the land. Truth be told…the conversation was very civil…and clarification of the matter is all this David needed. I can still play in the land of the giants…as long as I abide by their rules. More importantly…
 
…i continue to do it for free…kind of…
………hugmamma.  😉

advertising…unsolicited

My husband just informed me that there’s commercial advertising attached to my posts. I wasn’t aware of this fact, so I’ll be looking into the matter with WordPress support staff. I’ve not noticed it when visiting other blogs. I’ve just checked the technical aspects of my blog set-up and didn’t see where I inadvertently okayed such a change.

Is anyone experiencing such unsolicited advertising on your blogs? Would appreciate knowing if you are, and if anything can be done to remove them? Didn’t want my readers to think I was personally trying to sell you something…especially if I don’t like the product myself.

Robogallery

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…strange occurrences…when wordpress starts to tinkering…

………hugmamma.  😉

weekly photo challenge: windows

In and of themselves, windows can be works of art. And sometimes what’s on the other side, offers a glimpse into peoples’ lives. The unexpected is more appealing…than the predictable. Don’t you agree?…

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………hugmamma.  😉