FBI Blew $1m Hacking an iPhone – For Nothing!



Something needs to be done to reign in U.S. intelligence agencies – particularly when they act totally unintelligently. Example: The FBI just blew more than $1 million to hack the iPhone used by San Bernardo shooter Syed Rizwan Farook in an attempt to tie him to some terrorist plot beyond the one he and his wife cooked up. The result: Nada. Nothing – of value – was learned.

Not even, would you believe, how to hack an iPhone a couple of months, weeks or days from now, after Apple has tightened the security even more than it already was.

The Wall Street Journal quoted FBI director James Comey, who’s lied to the American people and to Congress in the past, as saying that expenditure “was worth it.” A Reuters report said Comey noted that sum of taxpayers’ dollars was “a lot —  more than I will make in the remainder of this job, which is seven years and four months for sure.”

In 1789, in the year before his death, Benjamin Franklin wrote in a letter to Jean-Baptiste Leroy that, “‘In this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.” We can only hope that’s true of the term of James Comey.

In testimony before the House Judiciary Committee on October 22, 2015 (see minutes 13:00-16:00 and 19:09-19:12) he declares that the assorted agencies charged with one or another aspect of the country’s security “use, collect and share intelligence in everything we do” – supposedly “better” since 9/11 than earlier, but, as the evidence shows, they seem to do so no more intelligently, or in any more an appropriately coordinated fashion, or much (if any) more successfully than was the case before 9/11.

How hard is it, really, to keep track of individuals who, for whatever reason, are on the FBI ‘watch’ list – who, for whatever reason, are considered to fit a profile of someone with harmful intents on the country? Apparently way harder than the modern-day FBI is capable of.

Comey argues that it is necessary for the FBI to be able to break or bypass encryption of private communications between citizens to further the cause of … what, freedom? One arguing against that view is Gen. Michael Hayden, the retired head of the U.S. National Security Agency, and he said as much as a conference on security issues in Miami Beach.

“I disagree with [FBI director] Jim Comey,” Hayden said in a speech. “I actually think end-to-end encryption is good for America.”

Before the bureau was shown the pricey method, investigators had claimed the phone could only be accessed with Apple’s assistance, The Hill reported. The Justice Department obtained a court order directing the tech giant to help unlock the phone, setting off a high-profile standoff when Apple refused.

Apple insisted that complying would set a dangerous precedent that would allow the government to ask other companies to intentionally undermine their security features, imperiling global digital security and online privacy.

The FBI countered that its request was narrowly tailored to the case at hand.

The court battle sparked a heated debate on Capitol Hill, as some lawmakers jumped to Apple’s defense, while others called on the Silicon Valley stalwart to help law enforcement.

The government eventually dropped its court order after purchasing the intrusion method from third-party hackers.

But because of the exorbitant costs to this approach, the FBI has said it cannot rely on paying outside hackers to get around secure devices.

“These solutions are very case-by-case specific,” said Amy Hess, the FBI’s executive assistant director for science and technology, during a House hearing this week.

“They’re very dependent on the fragility of the system,” she added. “And also they’re very time intensive and resource intensive, which may not be scalable.”


I will be very appreciative if you will encourage your friends, family and colleagues to check out what my two blogs – Food TradeTrends.com and YouSayWhat.info – do in the interest of providing information you might, otherwise, never become aware of. You never know: Some of my research could prove useful, or possibly amusing, to you (and/or them).

I also encourage you to check out the blogs of people I am following and Commotion In The Pews, a blog I stumbled upon a year or so ago. The author of the latter is a fascinating guy who cultivates the appearance of the character he plays through a good part of December each year: Santa Claus.


Kids Die As Parents Deny Medical Care



American law, in some places, works in mysterious ways – as when it allows parents who staunchly believe in ‘faith healing’ to deny medical care to their children, sometimes causing their deaths, or permanent disability.

In yet another example of how the U.K.-based The Guardian beats out U.S. media on a U.S.-based story, that British website has reported how legislators in the state of Idaho have repeatedly denied young citizens they represent a pair of  basic rights – to ‘life,’ and to ‘the pursuit of happiness’ – expressed so eloquently in the nascent country’s Declaration of Independence.

The issue, in this instance, is the strongly-held (but totally unproved) belief of their parents that faith-healing is a superior approach to ‘treatment’ than is the well-established (and superiorly proven) practice of employing skilled medical professionals in attempts to cure diseases, treat physical ailments and, in the process, possibly even save lives.

The parents, in this situation, are members of a fundamentalist Mormon sect – strict followers of their own version of the rather offbeat beliefs of the Church of Jesus Christ of the Latter Day Saints, often referred to as LDS. Among their beyond-the-ordinary beliefs are that an assortment of substances, including ‘strong drink’ (except home-made wine), tobacco, and ‘hot drinks’ – including coffee and tea, are not to be consumed, for reasons that shall, no doubt, forever remain a mystery.

And somewhere deep in their portfolio of odd expectations is the concept that prayer, the laying-on of unlikely ointments and the like can, miraculously, accomplish as much as modern medicine might.

Sadly, that too often proves to not be the case.

In northern Idaho, The Guardian article says, “While Idaho legislators stonewall [pleas to alter the law – discussed below], children in faith-healing communities continue to suffer; According to coroners’ reports, in Canyon County alone just in the past decade at least 10 children in the Followers of Christ church have died. These include 15-year-old Arrian Granden, who died in 2012 after contracting food poisoning. She vomited so much that her esophagus ruptured. Untreated, she bled to death.

“The other deaths are mostly infants who died during at-home births or soon after from treatable complications, simple infections or pneumonia.”

In their way, members of the Followers of Christ sect, are to LDS, as extreme to the extreme as are, say, Lubavitch Hassidics to Judaism – with rules of their own that bare little if any resemblance to the basics of their ‘home’ church. Unlike the extreme Hassidim, though, the likes of the Followers of Christ – and they’re just one of several such extreme sects – look like ‘everybody else’, residing, as they tend to, in areas where there is little racial inter-mixing, scarcely any inter-cultural interaction, very few clearly obvious ‘foreigners’. Hassidim of whatever sect clearly set themselves aside from others through their dress – solid black for men, bearded with, in some sects, long ‘sidelocks’ or sidecurls’ (payot, in Hebrew), and wearing traditional forms of hats, among other distinguishing features.

There was a TV series a few years ago called ‘Big Love’. It centered on a family with one male adult and three females, all living as if they were his legal wives. (They had a massive side-by-side collection of houses, and ‘arrangements’ for sexual liaisons for the man and his assorted mates.)

The concept of ‘legal wives’, plural, is illegal throughout the United States. But one-man-two (or more)-women ‘marriages’ exist, and, for unknown reasons, they are basically ignored by law-enforcement authorities.

The concept of parents being able to deny health care to their children for religious reasons is, however, being challenged. As well it should be.

Take the case of Mariah Walton, who’s now 20, and permanently disabled because her parents refused to let her be treated to close a congenital hole in her heart. That condition could easily have been corrected for a number of years, but now it’s too late; And, rightly so, Mariah is pretty unhappy about that.

“Yes,” she told The Guardian, “I would like to see my parents prosecuted.” Because, she, added, “They deserve it.” She pauses. “And it might stop others.” Stop other parents from denying their children life- or life-style-saving treatments.

Mariah is frail and permanently disabled as a result of a condition called pulmonary hypertension. When she’s not bedridden, she has to carry an oxygen tank that allows her to breathe. Her life, as you might imagine, leaves much to be desired.

As she grew sicker, in her youth, her parents prayed over her and used ‘alternative medicines’, The Guardian said. The supposedly always-attentive ‘man upstairs’ – if you persist in believing in that myth – obviously was on bathroom breaks during all of their prayer sessions.

Not long ago, Mariah moved out of her parents home. Somehow, she was able to acquire the birth certificate they’d long denied her, and a Social Security number.

She’s probably eligible for, and benefiting from, Medicaid, the government program dedicated to providing (sometimes minimum) health care for seriously ill or disabled individuals with low incomes. The Guardian’s article indicates no income or potential for it for this young lady, whose income would, therefore, fall into the ‘zero to none’ category – making her eligible for both government-paid-for medical help but also for housing and food support.

These are costs that – while I would never deny them to Mariah – are being borne by Americans who pay taxes, who are, in effect, supporting a ‘religious right’ of crazy people. That’s wrong.

The Guardian noted that, “In Canyon County, just west of the capital [of Idaho], the [Followers of Christ] sect’s Peaceful Valley cemetery is full of graves marking the deaths of children who lived a day, a week, a month. Last year, a taskforce set up by Idaho governor Butch Otter estimated that the child mortality rate for the Followers of Christ between 2002 and 2011 was 10 times that of Idaho as a whole.”

The laws shielding followers of that sect and others from prosecution in Idaho were passed during the Nixon presidency in the 1974, after some high—profile child abuse cases in the 1960’s led Congress to strengthened laws to protect kids. This particular ‘shielding’ section was inserted at the urging of two of Nixon’s key advisors, John Erlichman and J.R. Haldeman, both lifelong Christian Scientists and both key players in the Watergate scandal which revolved around [1] a theft from the Democratic National Committee of assorted documents, [2] the attempt to cover up that theft by Nixon ‘operatives’, and [3] the revelation that the Nixon White House was adorned with microphones and recording systems that tracked virtually everything the president said and did – on his orders. That ‘historic record’ eventually led to the resignation of the president – the first and, so far, only time that’s happened – in August of 1974.

Boston College history professor Alan Rogers explained to The Guardian that, “Because Erlichman and Haldeman were Christian Scientists, they had inserted into the law a provision that said those who believe that prayer is the only way to cure illness are exempted from this law.”

It gets more complicated – and more ridiculous, legally – but the bottom line is, Oregon was slow to react and conform to a provision of that law until it because obvious, through news and ancillary reports, that the Followers of Christ were, by neglect, causing the needless, pointless, death of lots of children.

Slowly, very slowly, prosecutors and courts are catching up with these wingnuts, and prosecutions are resulting – up to and including for criminally negligent homicide (Jeffrey and Marci Beagley in 2010) and criminal mistreatment (Timothy and Rebecca Wyland, 2011, whose daughter, Aylana, was ordered to be treated by a condition that was threatening to blinding her), and second degee manslaughter (Dale and Shannon Hickman, after their newborn son died as a result of a simple, easily-curable infection).

I’ve linked to The Guardian article. It goes on and on – ever more horrifically. Read it; you’ll weep.



They Call Themselves ‘Human Beings’; Their History Dates Back 65,000 Years



There were sporadic reports more than half a century ago (but few since then) of indigenous tribes in deepest, darkest Africa or even South America that had, until someone ‘just’ stumbled upon them, had no contact with modern-day humans. While it is possible that more such usually-tiny groups may be found, it’s increasingly less likely as surveying the world from far above gets easier and easier.

Meanwhile, within an archipelago (a string of islands) in the Bay of Bengal, off northeast India stretching east toward Myanmar, there are several small-and-fading groups of people whose genetic history extends back some 65,000 years, to when their ancestors were among the first – if not the first – homo sapiens to migrate thousands of miles from Africa to this area.

For the most part, these tribal groups – the Jarawas, the Sentinelese, the Onges – continue to live as those ancient relatives did: As hunter-gatherers, depending solely on food sources nature provides. Items such as wild boar, turtles and their eggs, crabs, fruit, and honey. On the two islands they seldom stray from, they are nomadic, moving from area to area as the seasons, and their needs, dictate.

Until fairly recently, when outsiders came into their territories in the Andaman Islands either out of curiosity or as exploiters, these people remained unclothed, but did wear ornaments of various kinds and clay-based decorations on their skin. More recently, some have taken to wearing items of clothing obtained, no doubt obtained through doing ‘favors’, to/for outsiders.

The most-documented of these groups are those known to outsiders as Jarawas (“strangers)” and to themselves as “Yan-eng-nga,” which translates as ‘human being’.

They have a strong belief in monogamy, in forces of nature, and in ‘living lessons’ from their ancestors that, somehow, seem to outweigh many of the ‘values’ of outsiders’ beliefs and religions: [1] While there is little documentation of how these groups interact with each other, to the degree they do, reports on inter-group disagreements or ‘wars’ are noticeably absent; [2] A tsunami in 2004 that killed thousands in that part of the world apparently caused no harm to these indigenous people, who claim their ancestors gave them warning, causing them to flee to areas well above the coast.

There have been battles with outsiders, who for a while were allowed to occupy part of the natives’ land to cultivate it – a concept that’s foreign to the indigenous folk. But access to their ancestral lands has relatively recently been limited to the point that, with few exceptions, outsiders are not allowed to either go there or make contact with those with a history-given-right to peacefully live as they choose to.

That includes living free of diseases and other ailments of modern man.

Separate clinics have been set up for them, for when they choose to take advantage of ‘our’ medical advances, and government laws protect both their territories and their choice to remain isolated from the modern world.

Still, there are those who would invade their land, poach the animals they depend on for food, and even go so far as to take sexual advantage of their women.

Because these people so strongly believe in not mixing with outsiders, it is not unknown for them to kill a child born of a relationship between one of their women and someone from beyond their group, or tribe.

Beyond that, they don’t seem to practice (or to have ever practiced) forms of human sacrifice more ‘modern’ people have.

One senses, in reading about them, that they are, and live their lives, more nearly aligned with biblical depictions of ‘ideal’ people than any other people ever have. And they do so without a written language, with only oral history – with only the history of their own people, as its been passed along other the centuries. And they appear to survive with no ‘weapons’ beyond stone-age-era ones they need to kill the animals they depend on for life.

Theirs undoubtedly is a hard life, but it’s also a life free of the complications modern day man struggles to deal with on a daily basis.

I would never choose to live as they do, but I would love to know more about how they have managed, over literally tens of thousands of years, to remain ‘true’ to a lifestyle that seemingly suits them very well – as ours too often doesn’t!

I will be very appreciative if you will encourage your friends, family and colleagues to check out what my two blogs – Food TradeTrends.com and YouSayWhat.info – do in the interest of providing information you might, otherwise, never become aware of. You never know: Some of my research could prove useful, or possibly amusing, to you (and/or them).

I also encourage you to check out the blogs of people I am following and Commotion In The Pews, a blog I stumbled upon a year or so ago. The author of the latter is a fascinating guy who cultivates the appearance of the character he plays through a good part of December each year: Santa Claus.


This Blog’s Article On ‘Juicero’ Preceded The NY Times’ Version!



Doug Evans, Juicero’s founder. (Photo: Amy Lombard for The New York Times.)

OK, it was only by one day, but when a working-alone blogger spots and reports on something before the New York Times does, that blogger should feel OK about patting himself on the back!

Granted, the Times’ reporter undoubtedly was working on his longer, more detailed story before I put mine together, but amazingly, we kind of came to the same conclusion: Is there really a market for a $700 kitchen gadget that depends on your WiFi being up when you want to down a $10 glass of fresh-pressed juice?

(David Gelles’ article also noted that what I reported as $70 million in venture capital investments in Juicero — a sum that seems to have been squeezed nearly dry — is up to or more than $28 million in additional liquidity for this start-up, which actually starts taking orders for its products this week.)

The aim of this blog — like that of FoodTradeTrends.com, my other one, , which will have a version of this article ‘live’ later today — is to hand-pick and interpret for you stories you aren’t likely to stumble upon on your own.

Toward that aim, I scan an incredibly broad range of websites, many of them highly specialized on aspects of science, food technology, astronomy, medicine and doctoring, technology, opinion and, oh yeah, news — among other topics.

One of these blogs was launched late last year. The other came on the scene early in 2016. Between them, they now have been seen in at least 34 countries, including China.

I am proud — justifiably so, I think — of what I do with these blogs. I hope you will consider yourself proud to have found one or both — and that you will feel enriched from following them.


India’s Govt: ATM’s Shouldn’t Be Filled with Cash in Evenings


A rash of attacks on and lootings of cash vans — roughly the equivalent of armored vans in the U.S. — has caused the government of India to propose banning the refilling ATMs with cash from late afternoon or the early evening, in some instances, The Economic Times  reported early today (April 2). Such a move would greatly inconvenience both the public and the owners of ATMs.

The extent of the problem was highlighted 1n a report last November on NDTV, which said that “In Delhi’s biggest heist, an ATM cash van’s driver had fled with Rs. 22.5 crore — some 22,500,000,000.00 rupees, or $339,725,200. (A ‘crore’ is 10 million rupees. The U.S. dollar value of ¿100,000.000 rupees (one hundred million rupees) is presently nearly $1,509,889.)

It is entirely possible — and even likely — that the threat of late-day cash shortages in ATMs would cause customers to withdraw as many rupees as possible before 3 p.m. or 5 p.m. in rural areas or 8 pm. in cities — proposed times for machine-refilling cut-offs — to allow for by-cash shopping and entertainment later in the day.

This would, of course, shift the risk of robberies from protected vans to unprotected pedestrians!

The Economic Times didn’t explain what would have to happen for this rule to be put into effect. But it did add that the government’s proposal would not just limit when ATM’s could be ‘restocked,’ it would also place stringent physical requirements on cash vans and training rules on the people who man them. And, for good measure, on how cash being transported would need to be secured. Collectively, those rules surely would end up costing someone — a lot of someones — a great deal of money.

Cash vans would, under this proposal (or set or them, as it were) have to be specially designed — with both CCTV and GPS on board, they’d be limited to ¿50,000.000 rupees ($755,000) per trip, with separate, distinctly-secured sections for the cash and the staff, the former would have to be in containers chained to the floor “with keys entrusted to separate custodians”, and the latter would need to have 160 hours of training, before they could be assigned to a van, on “how to spot risks and threats, like being tailed be vehicle-borne criminals, insider’s threat [sic] and how to use weapons to deter and resist criminals while disengaging with the situation and driving [the] vehicle to safety.”

Individuals aspiring to drive or staff cash vans would need to produce, with their applications for employment, references from “two guarantors of good standing, including one serving or retired government servant”and. of course, have their ‘antecedents’ [history] police-checked.

And, further, cash vans would have to be secured  in facilities “as per RBI [Reserve Bank of India, the rough equivalent of the U.S.’s Federal Reserve) norms and [be] fitted with CCTV [cameras].”

Sadly, pedestrian users of ATMs would remain as (un)protected as they are today from punks and professionals anxious to separate them from their cash.

Assuming they had the where-with-all to do so, the smart ones would pull their daily limit as early in the day as possible and ‘park’ what they don’t immediately  off their person — leaving a pittance for a potential thug to make off with.

There was an occasion, many years ago, when I was the only person — on either side of or in a vehicle within  — New York City’s 42nd Street between 5th and 6th Avenues, in the middle of an afternoon. This is a very heavily-trafficked area, in a city of some 7 million souls. Delhi’s population, at 9.8 million in 2013, was a bit larger then, with a lot of pedestrian traffic and way too many people- and gas-propelled vehicles on the streets.

(An average east-west New York City block is 750 ft. — close to 229 meters)  ) from one [up and downtown] avenue to another. That avenue-avenue distance is the length of  7.5 American football fields, or 6.25 soccer fields.

(I cannot envision being all alone, the sole occupant of so much street, in Delhi. I continue to be amazed, nearly 30 years later, that ‘chance’ enabled me to be ‘the last — the only — man standing’ in such an expanse then.

My point: It’s hard to believe, with the population density of Delhi, that pedestrians could be robbed, alongside streets, in broad daylight, without someone raising a ruckus.

I’ve seen videos of Delhi traffic, but never witnessed it personally. My impression is that there’s an almost inorganic energy that controls, in what clearly appears to be, ‘organized chaos.’

If I was a cash van owner or driver in India, I would welcome the proposed rules. They could provide a level of protection that, clearly, doesn’t exist today.

But as a pedestrian ATM user, I’d be afraid — very afraid. And always asking for cash back when I used a charge card with a merchant.

I will be very appreciative if you will encourage your friends, family and colleagues to check out what my two blogs – Food TradeTrends.com and YouSayWhat.info – do in the interest of providing information you might, otherwise, never become aware of. You never know: Some of my research could prove useful, or possibly amusing, to you (and/or them).






Want Fresh Juice? It Will Cost You – A LOT!!


Somewhere, somehow, the economy is improving enough to justify the existence of a countertop vegetable-juice-producing machine costing $699 – with pre-packed veggies custom-made for it at prices up to $10 or so per 8-ounce (242 g) ‘dose’.

That, at least, is the view of investors who have put some $70 million behind a California start-up hawking its initial product as a tool, as one news report put it, “to get people to drink their fruit- and vegetable-based nutrients and reduce the amount of junk foods that they buy and eat, while also making it easy to cold-press juice at home or possibly the office.”

But your home or office has to be in California, as that’s the only place the Juicero is being offered at present. And while the company fully intends to expand, no future locations have been announced where it will be possible to plop down $699 up front and $9 or $10 daily thereafter to enjoy this wonder’s wonderful benefits.

Oh, OK, I’ll give to ‘em: Their machine is picture perfect, and it crushes the juice out of only certified organic veggies – from only hand-picked farms – and it comes with, and actually requires the use of, an app that keeps it connected, via the internet, to the parent company, which is able to read a QR code – a topic we’ll being looking at within a few days – to ensure your ‘veggie pack’ is within its ‘use-by’ period, and to record what you’ve ordered so ‘appropriate’ repeat or newly-suggested reorders can be scheduled.

This entire concept is, to me, mind-boggling!

First of all, how many people can afford to plop down $699 upfront than another $50-70 per week for seven 8-ounce glasses of juice?

I’m also wondering how a start-up company can raise $70 million for a product that, in the short (and probably long) term, would appear to appeal to a relatively small sector of the juice-loving public, and only a fraction of that number is likely to even want to spend so much for so little, in terms of quantity.

And of those who are so focused on getting the very freshest and purest juice available (at any price), I can’t imagine many of them being so fanatical on the subject that they want to know the specific farms where their juice-source vegetables were grown.

Even in California, where a copious number of start-up companies have earned small fortunes for their entrepreneur owners, where rents in such high tech centers as San Francisco are so high that at least one young man is living in a box (he calls it a pod) in someone else’s living room (at $400 per month, a bargain most anywhere for a one-bedroom apartment; but a box?) it’s hard to imagine there being enough people willing to shell out so much cash, on an ongoing basis, to generate glasses of juice.


Peter Berk’s Box (or ‘pod’)

But 65 years or so ago, ‘the big they’ was saying television would wipe out radio. That still hasn’t come to pass, and more than likely never will.

And who would have imagined, a mere four months ago, that this blog would by now have found its way into 34 countries, including China?

We live in strange times.