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Wednesday: Time Travel

In this roundup: A short film about a mother’s time travel adventure, the Internet of Stupid Things, and more.

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Thursday Morning: A Little Green Around The Gills

Happy St. Patrick’s Day to those of you who observe this opportunity to drink beer (tinted green or otherwise) and eat boiled dinner and wear green! We’ll know the hardcore among you tomorrow by your hangovers.

Folks overseas don’t understand how St. Patrick’s Day blew up to the same proportions as other holidays like Halloween, blaming it on American commercialization. But the holiday as observed in the U.S., like Halloween, has roots in immigration. Four to five million Irish immigrated to the U.S.; their descendants here are nearly 40 million today, roughly seven times the number of actual Irish in Ireland now. With this many Irish-Americans, even a tepid observation of St. Patrick’s Day here would be visible abroad.

In addition to all things green, we’ll be watching this week’s second #FlintWaterCrisis hearing. Representatives Chaffetz and Cummings can go all shouty on Michigan’s OneLawyeredUpNerd Governor Rick Snyder and EPA’s Gina McCarthy though I have my doubts anything new will emerge. (And you’ll see me get really angry if Rep. SlackerForMichigan Tim Walberg shows up to merely make face on camera. Useless helicoptering.)

Unlike Tuesday, I hope like hell somebody brings up Legionnaire’s cases and deaths in Flint after the cut-over of Flint’s water to Flint River. Thousands of children may have been permanently poisoned by lead, but people sickened and died because of this complete failure of government-as-a-business.

I can’t stress this enough: There were fatalities in Flint because of the water.

Hearing details – set a reminder now:

Thursday 17-MAR — 9:00 AM — Gov. Snyder (R-MI) & EPA Head McCarthy: House Hearing on Flint, MI Water Crisis (est 3 hours, on C-SPAN3)   Link to House Oversight Committee calendar entry

You can find my timeline on Flint’s water here — as noted Tuesday, it’s a work in progress and still needs more entries.

Moving on…

Apple leaves Amazon for Google’s cloud service
Wait, what?! File under ‘Wow, I didn’t know!’ because I really though Apple housed all its cloud services under its own roof. I mean, I’ve written about data farms before, pointed to a new Apple location. I didn’t know Apple had outsourced some of its iCloud to Amazon.

Which makes Senator Ron Wyden’s remarks about asking the NSA with regard to the San Bernardino shooter’s iPhone even more interesting.

No wonder Apple is moving to Google, considering Amazon’s relationship with certain government agencies as a cloud service provider. Some of Apple’s data will remain with Amazon for now; we might wonder if this is content like iTunes versus users’ data. Keep your eyes open for future Apple cloud migrations.

US Navy sailors’ electronic devices combed for data by Iran
Gee, encrypted devices and communications sure are handy when members of the military are taken into custody by other countries. Too bad the Navy’s devices weren’t as secure as desired when Iran’s navy detained an American vessel in January this year. To be fair, we don’t know what all was obtained, if any of the data was usable. But if the devices were fully encrypted, Iran probably wouldn’t have said anything.

American Express’ customers’ data breached — in 2013
Looks like a select number of AmEx customers will receive a data breach notice with this explanation:

We became aware that a third party service provider engaged by numerous merchants experienced unauthorized access to its system. Account information of some of our Card Members, including some of your account information, may have been involved. It is important to note that American Express owned or controlled systems were not compromised by this incident, and we are providing this notice to you as a precautionary measure.

The breach happened on December 7, 2013, well into the Christmas shopping season, but we’re just finding out now? “Third party service” means “not our fault” — which may explain why AmEx shareholders (NASDAQ:AXP) haven’t been notified of a potential risk to stock value as yet. Who/what was the third party service? Where’s their notification to public and shareholders?

I need to brew some coffee and limber up before the hearing on Flint, track down my foam footballs and baseballs to throw at the TV while Gov. Snyder goes on about how sorry he is and how he’s going to fix Flint’s water crisis. Oh, and find an emesis basin. See you here tomorrow morning!

Tuesday Morning: Some Kind of Freak

Today’s the intersection of my Gwen Stefani jag and International Women’s Day 2016. Need some more estrogen-powered music to celebrate IWD? Try this list — note and compare Lesley Gore’s You Don’t Own Me and Nancy Sinatra’s These Boots Are Made for Walking against more recent tunes like No Doubt’s Just A Girl.

Let’s roll…

Volkswagen shocked, SHOCKED! the EPA went public on the diesel emissions standards cheat
But by the time the EPA made public statements regarding VW, the German automaker had already known about the International Council on Clean Transportation’s research results for a year and had yet to reveal to shareholders the risk of prosecution and penalties. VW’s leadership hoped for a mild and quiet slap on the hands and enough time for a technical solution before the EPA’s disclosure:

“In the past, even in the case of so-called ‘defeat device’ infringements, a settlement was reached with other carmakers involving a manageable fine without the breach being made public,” VW argued. “And in this case, the employees of Volkswagen of America had the impression on the basis of constructive talks with the EPA that the diesel issue would not be made public unilaterally but that negotiations would continue.”

Hope somebody is looking at insider trading for any sign that VW executives were unloading stock in the period between September 2014 when ICCT’s results were published, and when the EPA went public in 2015. Wonder what penalties there are under German/EU laws for this?

USDOJ appealed last week’s ruling in Brooklyn iPhone 5S case
At the heart of this appeal is Apple’s past cooperative actions when federal law enforcement asked for assistance in unlocking iPhones. Apple, however, said past acquiescence is not consent. USDOJ has now asked for review of Judge Orenstein’s ruling.

Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak appeared on Conan, sided unsurprisingly with Apple
Woz admitted to having tried his hand at writing viruses for Mac, but the entire premise terrified him, compelling him to destroyed his efforts. Video of his appearance included at this link.

France to punish phonemakers for encryption, while UK’s GCHQ says it should get around encryption
A narrow body of water, a different language, and a recent terrorist attack make for very different reactions to encrypted communications. France’s Parliament voted yesterday to punish phonemakers which do not cooperate with law enforcement on unencrypting data; the bill is not yet law, subject to further parliamentary process. Meanwhile, Britain’s spy chief said he hopes methods can be developed to get around encryption without building backdoors.

Drive-by quickies

And it’s Presidential Primary Day in Michigan, Mississippi, Idaho, Hawaii. I may avoid social media for most of the day for this reason. Hasta pasta!

[Work in Progress] Timeline: Flint’s Water Crisis

This is a work in progress. Not all dates and events between the end of 2015 and current date have been added as of publication. This timeline will be updated periodically, as events unfold and as key information is revealed about Flint’s ongoing water crisis. Some information is incomplete or in need of validation. Links to sources will be added over time. If you have content you believe is relevant and should be added, please share in comments.
__________

1974-2002

XX-DEC-1974 — The federal Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA) enacted to ensure safe drinking water for the public; the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is responsible for setting safety standards, monitoring, compliance and enforcement of the same under the SDWA.

07-JUN-1991 — EPA issued the Lead and Copper Rule (LCR) limiting the amount of lead and copper in public drinking water, as well limiting the permissible amount of pipe corrosion occurring due to the water itself.

XX-JUL-1998 — The federal Environmental Protection Agency required all large public water systems maintain a program to monitor and control lead in drinking water due to piping corrosion under the Lead and Copper Rule (LCR). Cities like Flint must have a state-approved plan to maintain water to regulatory limits for pH, alkalinity, corrosion inhibitor chemicals.

XX-XXX-2002 — [DATE TBD] Genesee County purchased 326 acres of property with 300 feet of Lake Huron waterfront via auction from Detroit Edison, for $2.7 million **How did this purchase affect the city of Flint’s 2002-2004 financial crisis?
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2009

28-AUG-2009 — Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ) issued a permit to Genesee County Drain Commission for water withdrawal from Lake Huron (Permit 2009-001), up to 85 million gallons per day. MDEQ director at the time is Steven Chester.
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2011

10-MAY-2011 — DTE Energy expressed interest in acquiring 3 million gallons of water from Lake Huron intake for use at the Greenwood electricity generation plant.

07-SEP-2011 — Report to Flint City Council by Rowe Professional Services determined buying water from Karegnondi Water Authority (KWA) cheaper than continuing to purchase from Detroit Water and Sewerage Department (DWSD), or using Flint River water as upgrades to Flint treatment equipment required would cost $50 million.

XX-SEP-2011 — (confirm date) City of Flint increase water and sewer rates 35%. Higher water costs due in part to higher-than-expected unmetered water losses. This is the second double-digit rate hike in 2011. The city’s water system once served ~200K residents, now serves half that number and a much smaller manufacturing base.

29-NOV-2011 — Emergency Manager Michael Brown appointed by Gov. Rick Snyder to take over management of the city of Flint effective 01-DEC-2011. Democratically elected offices are now subordinate to the EM.

XX-DEC-2011 — (confirm date) Report showed the City of Flint leaking 30 to 40% of its water, well above more typical 15-20 percent loss of unmetered water.

14-DEC-2011 — EM Michael Brown appointed Howard Croft as Director of Infrastructure and Development. Croft’s role has oversight of Parks and Recreation department, Street Maintenance, Water and Sewer, Sanitation, Planning, Fleet and Community and Economic Development. Jerry Ambrose named financial advisor, with oversight of finance, budget and treasury departments; Gary Bates named director of human resources and labor relations. Bates’s role was temporary, lasting 90 days, at time of appointment.

20-DEC-2011 — The City of Detroit sells $500,675,000 in bonds for Water Supply System Revenue funding (pdf). The offering prospectus notes Flint’s desire to migrate to the KWA, but that it might be seven years out before the move. 6% of DWSD water is supplied to Flint.
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2012

XX-FEB-2012 — (confirm date) Emergency Manager’s team audited Flint’s water system to identify current rate of unmetered water loss.

23-APR-2012 — EM Michael Brown proposed budget plan includes a 25% average increase in water and sewer rates, with water rates projected to increase 12.5% and sewer 45%. City personnel cuts were also proposed. Water and sewer are the single largest expenditure in the budget. (Proposed budget, PDF) **Did any of the personnel cuts made affect staffing of water and sewer maintenance?

XX-AUG-2012 — [DATE TBD] Emergency Manager Ed Kurtz appointed by Gov. Rick Snyder after Brown steps down. Kurtz has previous experience working in Flint during the 2002-2004 financial emergency.

XX-DEC-2012 — [DATE TBD] Michigan Treasury officials met with Flint city officials to discuss drinking water alternatives, including Flint River. Only two options — remaining on DWSD, or development/switch to new KWA — would be studied.
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Friday Morning: Nasty Habits

I got nasty habits; I take tea at three.
— Mick Jagger

Hah. Just be careful what water you use to make that tea, Mick. Could be an entirely different realm of nasty.

Late start here, too much to read this morning. I’ll keep updating this as I write. Start your day off, though, by reading Marcy’s post from last night. The claws are coming out, the life boats are getting punctured.

Many WordPress-powered sites infected with ransomware
Your next assignment this morning: check and update applications as out-of-date versions of Adobe Flash Player, Adobe Reader, Microsoft Silverlight, or Internet Explorer are most prone to this new wave of ransomware affecting WordPress sites. Back up all your data files to offline media in case you are hit with ransomware, and make it a habit to back up data files more frequently.

Planes inbound to the UK from regions with Zika virus may be sprayed
Take one tightly-closed oversized can, spray interior with insecticide, then insert humans before sealing for several hours. This sounds like a spectacularly bad idea to me. What about you? Yet this is what the UK is poised to do with planes flying in from areas with frequent Zika infections.

Comcast a possible smartphone service provider
NO. I don’t even have Comcast, yet I think this company is one of the worst suited to offering smartphones and service to their users. The company has expressed interest in bidding on spectrum for wireless, however. Comcast has struggled for years with one of — if not THE — worst reps for customer service. How do they think they will manage to expand their service offering without pissing off more customers?

AT&T obstructing muni broadband
No surprise here that AT&T is lobbying hard against more broadband, especially that offered by communities. The public knows there’s a problem with marketplace competition when they don’t have multiple choices for broadband, and they want solutions even if they have to build it themselves. When AT&T annoys a Republican lawmaker while squelching competition, they’ve gone too far. Keep an eye on this one as it may shape muni broadband everywhere.

Volkswagen roundup
VW delayed both its earnings report scheduled March 10th and its annual meeting scheduled April 21. The car maker says it needs more time to assess impact of the emissions control scandal on its books. New dates for the report and meeting have not been announced.

Volkswagen Financial Services, the banking arm of VW’s holding company structure which finances auto sales and leases, suffers from the ongoing scandal. Ratings firms have downgraded both the bank and parent firm. Not mentioned in the article: potential negative impact of emissions control scandal on VW’s captive reinsurer, Volkswagen Insurance Company Ltd (VICO).

Both the Justice Department and the Environmental Protection Agency filed a civil suit against VW in Detroit this week. Separate criminal charges are still possible.

That’s a wrap, I’m all caught up on my usual read-feed. Get nasty as you want come 5:00 p.m. because it’s Friday!

Friday Morning: Looks Like We Made It!

Looks like we survived the first business week of the year, made it through floods and fire and other apocalyptic events. Can’t imagine what next week will bring at this rate.

Saudi Arabia may sell shares in oil producer Aramco
Listing Aramco could create the most valuable company in the world, worth over a trillion in U.S. dollars. The move may raise cash to pay down some of the Saudi government’s debt, but it opens the oil producer to public scrutiny. Would it be worth the hassle?

With Russia increasingly eating into Aramco’s market share of China, and OECD countries’ oil consumption falling, selling shares in Aramco may not raise enough cash as its revenues may remain flat. Prices for utilities have already been raised within Saudi Arabia, shifting a portion of expenses to the public. What other cash-producing moves might Saudi Arabia make in the next year?

Detroit’s annual Autoshow brings VW’s CEO for more than a visit to tradeshow booth
Looks like Volkswagen’s Matthias Mueller will be tap dancing a lot next week — first at the 2016 North American International Auto Show, which unofficially opens Sunday, and then with the Environmental Protection Agency.

What’s the German word for “mea culpa”? Might be a nice name for a true “clean diesel” vehicle.

Data breaches now so common, court throws out suit
You’re going to have to show more than your privacy was lost if you sue a company for a data breach. Judge Joanna Seybert for U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York dismissed a class action suit against craft supplies retailer Michael’s last week, writing that lead plaintiff “has not asserted any injuries that are ‘certainly impending’ or based on a ‘substantial risk that the harm will occur.” Whalen’s credit card had been used fraudulently, but she wasn’t liable for the charges.

Annoyingly, Clapper v Amnesty International USA was used as precedent, much as it had been in last summer’s suit against Home Depot for a data breach. At this rate, retailers will continue to thumb their noses at protecting their customers’ data, though identity theft-related losses amount to more than all other property theft losses combined [pdf].

Don’t forget China: DOJ raids Chinese hoverboard company’s stall at CES 2016
I can’t find any previous examples of law enforcement conducting a raid at a trade show — if you know of one, please share in comments. The Department of Justice’s raid yesterday on Changzhou First International Trade Co.’s booth at CES 2016 doesn’t appear to have precedent. Changzhou’s hoverboard product looks an awful lot like Future Motion’s Onewheel, which had been the subject of a Kickstarter project. The Chinese hoverboard was expected to market for $500, versus the Onewheel at $1500.

Makes me wonder if there are other examples of internet-mediated crowd-funded technology at risk of intellectual property theft.

Pass the Patron. I’m declaring it tequila-thirty early today.

Tuesday Morning: Wow, You Survived Business Day 1

The post-holiday season debris field continues to thin out, making its way by the truckful to the landfill. I wonder how much oil the season’s plastic wrappings consumed.

Here’s what the trash man left behind this morning.

Hackers caused power outage — the first of its kind?
Marcy’s already posted about the electrical power disruption in Ukraine this past week, labeled by some as the first known hacker-caused outage. I find the location of this malware-based outage disturbing due to its location in western Ukraine. Given the level of tensions with Russia along the eastern portion of the country, particularly near Donetsk over the past couple of years, an outage in the west seems counterintuitive if the hackers were motivated by Ukraine-Russian conflict.

And hey, look, the hackers may have used backdoors! Hoocudanode hackers would use backdoors?!

Fortunately, one government is clued in: the Dutch grok the risks inherent in government-mandated backdoors and are willing to support better encryption.

‘Netflix and chill’ in a new Volvo
I’ve never been offered a compelling case for self-driving cars. Every excuse offered — like greater fuel efficiency and reduced traffic jams — only make greater arguments for more and better public transportation.

The latest excuse: watching streaming video while not-driving is Volvo’s rationalization for developing automotive artificial intelligence.

I’m not alone in my skepticism. I suspect Isaac Asimov is rolling in his grave.

US Govt sues pollution-cheater VW — while GOP Congress seeks bailout for VW
WHAT?! Is this nuts or what? A foreign car company deliberately broke U.S. laws, damaging the environment while lying to consumers and eating into U.S.-made automotive market share. The Environmental Protection Agency filed suit against Volkswagen for its use of illegal emissions control defeat systems. The violation of consumers’ trust has yet to be addressed.

Thank goodness for the GOP-led House, which stands ready to offer a freaking bailout to a lying, cheating foreign carmaker which screwed the American public. Yeah, that’ll fix everything.

Remember conservatives whining about bailing out General Motors during 2008’s financial crisis? All of them really need a job working for VW.

Massive data breach affecting 191 million voters — and nobody wants to own up to the database problem
An infosec researcher disclosed last week a database containing records on 191 million voters was exposed. You probably heard about this already and shrugged, because data breaches happen almost daily now. No big deal, right?

Except that 191 million voters is more than the number of people who cast a vote in 2012 or even 2008 presidential elections. This database must represent more than a couple election cycles of voter data because of its size — and nobody’s responding appropriately to the magnitude of the problem.

Nobody’s owning up to the database or the problem, either.

Here’s a novel idea: perhaps Congress, instead of bailing out lying, cheating foreign automakers, ought to spend their time investigating violations of voters’ data — those folks that put them in office?

Any member of Congress not concerned about this breach should also avoid bitching about voter fraud, because hypocrisy. Ditto the DNC and the Hillary Clinton campaign.

Whew, there it is, another mark on the 2016 resolution checklist. Have you checked anything off your list yet? Fess up.

Timeline: Is Volkswagen’s ‘Bug’ an EU Feature? [UPDATED]

[photo: macwagen via Flickr]

[photo: macwagen via Flickr]

Reports this last week that Volkswagen deployed “defeat devices” — software designed to cheat diesel passenger vehicle emissions controls tests — revealed more than an automobile manufacturing group run amok. One might suspect European Union’s emissions governance after looking at a timeline of events.

NOTE: This timeline is in progress and is subject to updating as new items are identified. [Update 7:00 pm EDT – note added about translation, and note added to citation [4]]

— 1970 —
February 1970 — The Council of the European Communities issued the Council Directive 70/156/EEC, which established a mutual baseline for technical specifications of vehicles sold across the member states. This included 3.2.20. Measures taken against air pollution.

— 1992 —
July 1992 — The first standard for passenger vehicle emissions, Euro 1 through 6, is implemented. Level Euro 1 for new diesel-fueled vehicles limited emissions of carbon monoxide (CO) to 2.72 grams per kilometer, with no initial limit on nitrous oxides (NOx) alone, but a combined limit of hydrocarbon+nitrous oxides (HC+NOx) at 0.97 g/km.

— 2004 – 2009 —
Dates Vary — Vehicle manufacturers phased in the remaining Euro 4 through 6 emissions standards.

19 October 2004 — European Environment Agency published a press release, Poor European test standards understate air pollution from cars, which summarized the problem:

Inadequate test standards are underestimating emissions of harmful air pollutants from new cars and evidence indicates that many diesel car owners are making things worse by modifying their engines to increase power, the European Environment Agency warned today.

No specific orders or directions were offered to resolve the problem with emissions test standards.

— 2007 —
(Month TBD) — Volkswagen subsidiary Audi launched its “Truth in Engineering” ad campaign. This tagline remains in use to present.

— 2008 —
(Month TBD) — VW announced its “Clean Diesel” (TDI model) technology, and began selling it in 4-cylinder diesel Jetta, Beetle, Audi A3, and Golf cars to the US market.

(Month TBD) — Green Car Journal named VW’s 2009 Jetta TDI “Green Car of the Year.”

— 2009 —
September 2009 — European emission standard Euro 5a for diesel passenger vehicles enacted, limiting CO to 0.50 grams per kilometer, NOx to 0.180 g/km , and HC+NOx to 0.230 g/km.

These levels are a reduction from Euro 4 standard implemented in January 2005 (CO=0.05, NOx=0.25, HC+NOx=0.30). Read more