Taking Stock, Fraud

This article is a repost promoting content originally published elsewhere. See more things Dan's reposted.

Taking Stock, Fraud Article (Inc.com)
Nowadays, fraudulent online stock-trading schemes are common. But even before the first electric telegraph, two bankers committed the equivalent of modern-day Internet stock fraud.

Nowadays, fraudulent online stock-trading schemes are common. But even before the first electric telegraph, two bankers committed the equivalent of modern-day Internet stock fraud.

Fabulous article from 1999 about how two bankers in 1837 hacked additional data into the fledgling telegraph system to surreptitiously (and illicitly) send messages to give them an edge at the stock exchange. Their innovative approach is similar to modern steganographic systems that hide information in headers, metadata, or within the encoding of invisible characters.

Inside the Deadly World of Private Prisoner Transport

This article is a repost promoting content originally published elsewhere. See more things Dan's reposted.

Inside the Deadly World of Private Prisoner Transport (The Marshall Project)
Tens of thousands of people every year are packed into vans run by for-profit companies with almost no oversight.

Private prisoner transport vehicle

In July 2012, Steven Galack, the former owner of a home remodeling business, was living in Florida when he was arrested on an out-of-state warrant for failing to pay child support. Galack, 46, had come to the end of a long downward spiral, overcoming a painkiller addiction only to struggle with crippling anxiety. Now, he was to be driven more than a thousand miles to Butler County, Ohio, where his ex-wife and three children lived, to face a judge.

This story was produced in collaboration with The New York Times.

Like dozens of states and countless localities, Butler County outsources the long-distance transport of suspects and fugitives. Galack was loaded into a van run by Prisoner Transportation Services of America, the nation’s largest for-profit extradition company.

Crammed around him were 10 other people, both men and women, all handcuffed and shackled at the waist and ankles. They sat tightly packed on seats inside a cage, with no way to lie down to sleep. The air conditioning faltered amid 90-degree heat. Galack soon grew delusional, keeping everyone awake with a barrage of chatter and odd behavior. On the third day, the van stopped in Georgia, and one of two guards onboard gave a directive to the prisoners. “Only body shots,” one prisoner said she heard the guard say. The others began to stomp on Galack, two prisoners said.

The guards said later in depositions that they had first noticed Galack’s slumped, bloodied body more than 70 miles later, in Tennessee. A homicide investigation lasted less than a day, and the van continued on its journey. The cause of death was later found to be undetermined.

“This is someone’s brother, father, and it’s like nobody even cared,” said Galack’s ex-wife, Kristin Galack.

A Russian Slot Machine Hack Is Costing Casinos Big Time

This article is a repost promoting content originally published elsewhere. See more things Dan's reposted.

Slot machine.

In early June 2014, accountants at the Lumiere Place Casino in St. Louis noticed that several of their slot machines had—just for a couple of days—gone haywire. The government-approved software that powers such machines gives the house a fixed mathematical edge, so that casinos can be certain of how much they’ll earn over the long haul—say, 7.129 cents for every dollar played. But on June 2 and 3, a number of Lumiere’s machines had spit out far more money than they’d consumed, despite not awarding any major jackpots, an aberration known in industry parlance as a negative hold. Since code isn’t prone to sudden fits of madness, the only plausible explanation was that someone was cheating…

Wake Me Up When September Begins

As a result of a couple of different health issues and the death of my old and much-loved mobile, August wasn’t shaping up to be a very good month already. But the biscuit was really taken this week during what turned into An Unexpectedly Expensive Night Out.

An Unexpectedly Expensive Night Out

It started okay: Ruth and went out for tapas, then for cocktails, and then to the cinema to watch the (pretty disappointing) Cowboys & Aliens. So a good start, getting worse. The food was cheap (hooray for vouchers!), the cocktails were reasonably priced (although we did have… a few of them), and the cinema was aided by Orange Wednesdays, so all seemed to be going pretty well, so far, until we came to going home.

Because when we got back to the cycle racks, my bike wasn’t there. By the look of things, somebody cut through my bike lock and had away with it, rendering me bikeless. Suddenly, it became a far more-expensive night out than I’d planned for.

Here's the kind of lock I was using. Turns out that it's insufficient to stop a determined attacker.

They say that you haven’t lived in Oxford until you’ve had your bike stolen[citation needed]. Well: now I have, and I’ve learned an important lesson about the ineffectiveness of moderate-security cable locks like the Kryptonite HardWire (the lock I was using) when up against thieves who are willing to put in the effort to, for example, bring bolt cutters on a night out.

I spoke to a police officer yesterday who’s going to see if any of the nearby CCTV cameras are going to be of any use in finding the bugger.  But in the meantime, I’ve had enough of August. It’s had highlights, like Liz & Simon’s wedding, but mostly it’s been less-than-great.

Wake me up when September begins.

Beware: Necrophiliac Paramedics!

A conversation I had this morning with JTA, via text message:

I sent:

Boiler update: this is getting silly. The probability-weighted Markov-chain based predictive text system I’m using this morning saw me type “boi” and suggested “Boiler update:”? /sighs/
On the upside, I’ve successfully arranged for the new distributor valve to be installed on Friday, when I’ll be around.

To give a little background, we’re having trouble with the boiler on Earth. You may have observed that it broke last year, and then again this year: well – it’s still broken, really. Nowadays it’ll only produce a little hot water at a time, and makes a noise like that scene in Titanic where the ship begins to tear in two. You know – a bad noise for a boiler to make. Over the last two or three weeks we’ve repeatedly fought to get it repaired, but it’s been challenging: more on that in a different blog post, if JTA doesn’t get there first.

JTA replied:

On the plus side, at least this saga is overriding your phone’s memory of your previous life as a male prostitute. :-)

I was once mistaken for a gay prostitute, actually – by a gay prostitute – but that’s another story, I guess. In any case, I responded:

Until now! you’ve just mentioned that again, which means it’ll be the “last message received” when the paramedics go through my phone if I’m killed on the way to work this morning. And they’ll say, “yeah; I’d pay to have sex with him.”

Quickly followed by:

And his mate will say:
“Now he’s dead, you don’t HAVE to pay.”
If my corpse is raped by a paramedic, I’m blaming you.

To which JTA said:

You’re talking about people who drive blacked out vans full of drugs. I’m pretty sure they never pay.

From prostitution to necrophilia to date rape over the course of only a handful of text messages. What a great start to a Wednesday morning. I do like the image of an ambulance as “a blacked out van full of drugs,” though…

Space Cowboy

If you’re not following Castle, yet, you should be. I can’t believe that I’ve not recommended this more loudly by now, but seriously, this show is awesome. And I’m not just saying that because the episode I watched most-recently was the single best bit of Whedonverse fan service outside of the Whedonverse. And would be great even if it wasn’t.

Nathan Fillion as Richard Castle as Nathan Fillion as Malcolm Reynolds. This show just got meta. Click on the image for animated version.

The ten second-summary for those of you with short attention spans: Nathan Fillion (of Buffy/Firefly/Dr. Horrible fame) plays Richard Castle, a crime fiction writer who’s drafted into helping the NYPD on a murder case. He then continues to hang around (thanks to his connections with the mayor and the chief of police) with detective Kate Beckett – played by Stana Katic (she was in Quantum of Solace, but we remember her most-fondly from the third Librarian film) – in an effort to use her as the inspiration of his next fictional crime fighter, Nicky Heat. Its cleverly-spun mysteries will appeal to mystery lovers and its comedic elements – generally quite dry but sometimes verging on the silly – prevent the show from being “just another crime drama.”

CTRL-ALT-DEL comic from 28th Feb 2011

The third season’s broadcasting right now (and you can also watch it on Hulu, assuming that you’re in the USA or you know how to Google for how to “watch Hulu without a proxy or VPN”), and the first two seasons are available on DVD. You’ve got my recommendation; now go try it.

Mr. Smith’s Robbery

This piece of fiction’s been floating around the Internet, recently: I first saw it on Faye‘s blog and wanted to share it. I believe it’s originally written by a Susan from Glasgow, but I haven’t find anything else to pinpoint the original author.

The law discriminates against rape victims in a manner which would not be tolerated by victims of any other crime. In the following example, a holdup victim is asked questions similar in form to those usually asked a victim of rape:

“Mr. Smith, you were held up at gunpoint on the corner of 16th and Locust?”

“Yes.”

“Did you struggle with the robber?”

“No.”

“Why not?”

“He was armed.”

“Then you made a conscious decision to comply with his demands rather than to resist?”

“Yes.”

“Did you scream? Cry out?”

“No. I was afraid.”

“I see. Have you ever been held up before?”

“No.”

“Have you ever given money away?”

“Yes, of course–”

“And did you do so willingly?”

“What are you getting at?”

“Well, let’s put it like this, Mr. Smith. You’ve given away money in the past–in fact, you have quite a reputation for philanthropy. How can we be sure that you weren’t contriving to have your money taken from you by force?”

“Listen, if I wanted–”

“Never mind. What time did this holdup take place, Mr. Smith?”

“About 11 p.m.”

“You were out on the streets at 11 p.m.? Doing what?”

“Just walking.”

“Just walking? You know it’s dangerous being out on the street that late at night. Weren’t you aware that you could have been held up?”

“I hadn’t thought about it.”

“What were you wearing at the time, Mr. Smith?”

“Let’s see. A suit. Yes, a suit.”

“An expensive suit?”

“Well–yes.”

“In other words, Mr. Smith, you were walking around the streets late at night in a suit that practically advertised the fact that you might be a good target for some easy money, isn’t that so? I mean, if we didn’t know better, Mr. Smith, we might even think you were asking for this to happen, mightn’t we?”

“Look, can’t we talk about the past history of the guy who did this to me?”

“I’m afraid not, Mr. Smith. I don’t think you would want to violate his rights, now, would you?”

It’s an effective story, I think, despite the reinforcement of the illusion that rape victims are at most risk from the hypothetical “stranger in a dark alley” (when in actual fact, most rape is conducted by somebody known personally to the victim).

The crime of rape is a whole minefield of complications: the issue of consent; the fact that the only witnesses are generally the victim and their attacker(s), and the sometimes-fuzzy definitions used in many countries’ laws, to name a few. We’re less than a week since a particularly troublesome and emotive case being tried in Cheltenham. In this particular incident, a 15 year-old girl accused a 14 year-old boy of raping her, but it later became clear through the vast inconsistencies in her story that this almost certainly a fabrication. Now, naturally, she’s now being convicted of attempting to pervert the course of justice.

The statement from Women Against Rape? “It is awful that a girl so young has been prosecuted in this way.”

Whoah, whoah – let’s step back a moment. Let’s get this clear: it’s awful that a young woman who lies about being raped, threatening a young man with prison and a lifetime of being on the sex offenders’ register, is being convicted for this? That’s your stance on this? Did I accidentally turn over two pages at once, because I feel like I’ve missed something here.

It’s already awful and tragic that we live in a world where a majority of rape goes unreported. Let’s not also try to make it into a world where it’s acceptable to knowingly make false accusations of crimes, especially those with life-altering consequences.

Silliest Thing I’ve Seen All Week

As this hilarious BBC news story tells it, an artist came home to his Liverpool house to find that:

(a) A criminal had broken in to his home.
(b) Mistaking a piece of his artwork as a human head in a jar, the criminal turned himself in to the police to tell them about it. He also confessed all of his crimes to his mother.
(c) The police broke down the door and raided the house, and found that the contents of the jar were merely formaldehyde and a mask made from rashers of bacon.

I laughed.

Now I’m going home. I’m not feeling top-form today.

Cool Thing Of The Day

Cool And Interesting Thing Of The Day To Do At The University Of Wales, Aberystwyth, #9:

Steal a flag from a golf course, and, without the aid of alcohol, smuggle it through town, into and out of burger king, and onto campus, with the overall aim of setting up your own course near your room, and hide it under a bridge near your back door, and have somebody steal it from you… bugger…

The ‘cool and interesting things’ were originally published to a location at which my “friends back home” could read them, during the first few months of my time at the University of Wales, Aberystwyth, which I started in September 1999. It proved to be particularly popular, and so now it is immortalised through the medium of my weblog.

Cool Thing Of The Day

Cool And Interesting Thing Of The Day To Do At The University Of Wales, Aberystwyth, #8:

Lose a pair of shoes by leaving them outside your door and finding them missing the following morning. Then find another pair you’ve never seen before underneah your bed.

The ‘cool and interesting things’ were originally published to a location at which my “friends back home” could read them, during the first few months of my time at the University of Wales, Aberystwyth, which I started in September 1999. It proved to be particularly popular, and so now it is immortalised through the medium of my weblog.