Category Archives: News

Your headphones are spying on you, lawsuit alleges

A customer is suing Bose. Kyle Zak claims the audio company is using its headphones to spy on us.

The proposed class-action suit claims Bose uses its wireless headphones and Bose Connect app to collect private data and sell it to third parties. Zak says Bose is violating the U.S. Wiretap Act by “secretly collecting, transmitting, and disclosing its customers’ private music and audio selections to third parties, including a data mining company.”

Two things about this lawsuit bother me.

One, Zak’s claim trips my BS detector – just a little bit. On the other hand, smart TVs have been caught recording and storing our conversations, so headphones spying on us isn’t outside the realm of possibility.

But the bigger problem is this: Social media and internet providers already gather this information and now, thanks to a new law, are free to sell it to whomever they wish without your permission. Going after Bose is a moot point.

We live in paranoid times. But one need not fear the CIA or NSA as much as marketing agencies. They already know far more about you than national intelligence. Big Brother isn’t working nearly as hard to root out dissent as big corporations are violating every last vestige of our privacy to show us targeted ads.

I am, however, keeping a close eye on my Keurig from now on.

Now’s the time to support print journalism

Print and broadcast journalism is more important than ever, especially in these chaotic times. But broadcast journalism depends on print media for serious, in-depth stories that are able to get a lot more room to breathe on the page than on a short TV report.

That’s why now is the time to support print journalism, and the way to do it is with money. I’ve dumped a couple of my music subscription services and signed on with The New York Times, The Washington Post, and the online edition of The Los Angeles Times.

I could drone on about why print journalism is so important, but I think John Oliver did a much better job. Also, it’s in video form, so you don’t have to strain your eyes looking at lots of words.

Standoff between China and the US over seized underwater drone

UPDATE: The Pentagon says China has agreed to return the underwater drone. The original post is below.

China has seized a US underwater drone and the standoff is escalating. The US says the drone was a scientific research vessel, the Chinese say it was spying on their submarines in Chinese waters. It’s another in a series of escalating actions China is taking.

Is this because of Donald Trump accepting a phone call from the president of Taiwan and his increasing anti-China rhetoric? Maybe. And it’s interesting to note that a retired Chinese admiral, speaking at a conference sponsored by a state-run newspaper, called out the president-elect by name:

“If Trump and the American government dare to take actions to challenge the bottom line of China’s policy and core interests, we must drop any expectations about him and give him a bloody nose.”

More from the New York Times:

According to a Pentagon account, a Chinese Navy vessel that was shadowing the Bowditch — a common practice in the South China Sea — pulled up not far from the vessel. It then dispatched a small boat to seize the drone as the American crew was recovering it from the water, the Pentagon said. The Pentagon described the vehicle as an unclassified “ocean glider” system used to gather military oceanographic data such as salinity, water temperature and sound speed.

An American naval expert did not disagree with Mr. Wu’s notion of what the Americans were probably doing. “Warfare and surveillance in the age of drones has not yet developed an agreed-upon set of rules,” said Lyle J. Goldstein, associate professor at the China Maritime Studies Institute at the U.S. Naval War College, in Rhode Island.

“This is increasingly a major problem as both China and the U.S. are deploying ever more air and naval drones into the contested waters and airspace of the Western Pacific,” he said.

The seizure was possibly another demonstration by Beijing that it can irritate the United States in a gray zone, just under the threshold of actual hostilities, Mr. Goldstein said. He said it was a time for “cooler heads to prevail,” to halt a cycle of escalation that “cannot end well for either side.”

Another mountain lion killed on a southern California freeway

The National Park Service has confirmed that mountain lion P-39 was struck and killed on the 118 near Chatsworth.

I spoke with Kate Kuykendall, a spokesperson with the National Park Service, who told me that only the damaged GPS tracking collar has been found, but they have been informed that the remains were taken to the sanitation district and disposed of nearly two weeks ago. It has taken the park service that long to confirm P-39’s death. She was reportedly killed on December 3.


P-39’s litter of kittens aren’t old enough to have the hunting skills they need to survive on their own. (Photo: National Park Service)

P-39 leaves behind a litter of three kittens who aren’t old enough to fend for themselves, but the park service doesn’t know where they are and can’t help them. P-50, 51, and 52 have been ear-tagged, but aren’t wearing tracking collars. Even if they knew exactly where in the Santa Susana Mountains they are and could get them, captivity wouldn’t be the best life for them, either.

Kuykendall told me that at six months’ of age, the kittens probably don’t have the hunting skills they need to survive.

Now is a good time to remind drivers to be careful when driving through mountain lion areas. And if you accidentally hit one, please let the authorities know about it.

WATCH: Happy holidays. NSFW.

A woman in Chicago has a 45-minute meltdown. For no apparent reason, she starts screaming she voted for Trump and the African-American store employees were discriminating against her for voting for the president-elect, something no one there had any way of knowing before she announced it. Her meltdown continues as she begins to berate everyone else in the store, accusing a woman’s husband of cheating on her and her infant of stealing.

Happy holidays.

Read more about the incident here.

UPDATE: The woman who shot the video has posted the following on her Facebook page:

It has been brought to my attention that people have identified the woman in the video I posted. I started taking that video to protect the employees of the store and I am glad that is working! But, I’m going to do something the president-elect is not going to do and ask people to stop throwing hatred at the woman in the video. Do not try to contact her or harass her. Do not post her contact info. Violence is not the answer. Also, SHE is not the point. Her actions are – and the fact that this behavior has been normalized is unacceptable. It’s happening everywhere. I posted this video so that people would see that this is real. What matters are the employees she hurled the insults at. This woman did not see anything wrong with her actions. If anything, she felt justified. She expected white people like me to agree with her and when they told her she was wrong and to stop, she spun out of control. What you don’t see in the video were other people united – different skin color, different gender, different sexuality – all united. I was not shaking in the video because of the woman shouting, I was shaking because the black employee standing next to me was so strong, unwavering and calm. This is bigger than one person and one incident. We have to stand up and say this is not okay every time. Don’t get caught up in demonizing one individual. This is bigger than that.

On the passing of Fidel Castro

The passing of Fidel Castro marks the exit of a man who changed the history of our hemisphere. Brutality and totalitarianism marked his dictatorship.

However, when I spoke to many Cuban people — most of them young — during our visit a few weeks ago, I noted mostly ambivalence about Fidel. There was much hope for a continuing thaw in Cuba’s relationship with the United States, excitement about the possible lifting of the embargo and the normalizing of ties, and change in the air with the liberalizations brought about by Raul Castro and his promise to leave office in 2018.

They fear to lose some of the things they like about their revolution, like free healthcare, access to education, and lack of homelessness, but there is a sincere desire for changes that would give their island nation access to much-needed resources to restore crumbling infrastructure and the availability of common goods and medicines.

There is trepidation about what will come after Raul Castro steps down in 2018. They worry there may be some chaos and that the way forward may not be clear.

Some say Fidel Castro turned Cuba into an “island prison.” That was no doubt true in the past, but we did not feel that at all during our visit. Everyone seemed free and open to sharing their opinions about their home, America, and the place they wanted in the world.

They adore President Obama, and mark his visit there as the new “before and after” in their history. They love America and Americans and are joyful that more of us are visiting. They hate the embargo, and call it the “genocide.”

But most of all, Cubans are ready for the future. At the time of our visit, they were hopeful for more normalization of ties under President Hillary Clinton, but now that Donald Trump is the president-elect, I have no idea how they feel. He has tweeted a promise to roll back the small steps Obama has taken toward restoring relations.

In my opinion, we should stay on our current president’s course. We should lift the embargo. It has failed, for 52 years, to drive the Castros from power. Note that Fidel outlived JFK, LBJ, Nixon, and Reagan. Note that he even outlasted the USSR.

The brightest future for the Cuban people, in my mind, lies in close ties with the US. We can influence them by showing them who we are, and our learning who they are, beyond the stereotypes of their nation given us during the Cold (and dead) War.

Scalia conspiracy theories won’t rest

Conspiracy theories fell like rain soon after the news of the death of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia broke Saturday.

Conspiracy theorists went into high gear when the owner of the Texas ranch where he was found said that Scalia’s pillow was “over his head.” People, including Donald Trump, took that to mean that the pillow was found over his face, where Barack Obama, or Hillary Clinton, or Ted Cruz, or whoever is the most villainous subject of someone’s particular paranoid fantasies, had smothered the outspoken conservative justice in his sleep.

But the ranch owner, John Poindexter, clarified his comments, telling “CBS This Morning” that Scalia “had a pillow over his head, not over his face as some have been saying. The pillow was against the headboard.”

Of course, this will do nothing to tamp down conspiracy theories from people who find the death of a 79-year-old man with multiple health problems suspicious.

The most delicious theory I’ve heard so far is that Scalia’s death was faked by President Obama, who aims to keep him alive in some plot to engineer a third presidential term. As to how that would actually work, precious little sense is made.