Memory Card Found With Brutal Videos and Photos Leads to Murder Arrest

Memory cards often hold troves of information. Well-meaning people have used the photos and videos stored on them to return lost cards found to their rightful owners. But a memory card that someone recently picked up off the ground in Anchorage led to the arrest of a city resident this week on a first-degree murder […]

The cable industry made $28 billion last year in company-imposed hidden fees

For over a decade, the telecom and cable industry has used hidden fees to get around its misleading advertising. When Comcast tells you your cable will only cost you $50 a month, it is lying. Historically, fees that the telecom industry is forced to charge its customers—taxes on federal, state, and local use—are technically out of its control, and therefore companies do not have to inform them of those costs in their advertising. These fees are below-the-line costs; they aren’t included in the sticker price. 

However, with no regulations restraining them, cable companies have jacked up their prices, pocketing those profits while still pretending the increases are due to the fees that are out of their control. Consumer Reports recently released a new study in which it analyzes the cable industry’s abuse of such hidden fees and charges. According to the report, the cable industry brings in “$28 billion a year from charging company-imposed fees.” That’s not a typo.

One of the long-standing and most infuriating fees charged by companies like Comcast is the broadcast TV Fee. In four years, starting in 2015, Comcast increased its $1.50-a-month broadcast TV fee and its $1-a-month regional sports fee, resulting in a bundled price of $18.50 a month in 2019. That’s an increase of 630%. Charter introduced a broadcast TV surcharge of $1 a month in 2010. The monthly fee for consumers is now $13.50. 

Other fees that cable companies have used to hike up profits while hiding them below the line include modem and cable box rental fees. Unless you’ve purchased your own, you don’t own that modem or cable box; you are renting it from your cable operator. And while it would make sense to have that cost upfront in the advertising, as well as the fact that those rental costs might continue to rise, regardless of your contract with the cable company, cable companies continue to see no repercussions from regulators. 

The report uses the example of an average cable package of $217.42 a month. It notes that “once all fees, taxes, and charges for premium services were subtracted from the total price,” that base monthly cost was $156.71. This leaves $60.71 a month in add-on fees and charges. 

Where was this other monthly amount going? Around $9 went for premium services (e.g., HBO, Showtime). Just over $13 dollars was for government fees or taxes, while a little over $1 is accounted for with the opaque “miscellaneous” identifier. That still leaves more than $37 unaccounted for every month. 

The findings are as bad as you imagined they might be, but the numbers are still breathtaking. With 64% of Americans saying they are paying more now in surprise charges than they were just five years ago, the breakdown of telecom companies’ bogus fees just innumerates what most of us already know—that there are absolutely no consumer protections from the telecom giants.

What can be done? More state attorneys general can use their office to enforce existing consumer protection laws against the telecom industry. If you are able to, you can cut the cord. However, as Consumer Reports notes, some of the same hidden fees are beginning to make their way into internet-only services—usually provided by many of the same companies providing you cable access.

Arizona Official Placed 29 Babies in Adoption Fraud Scheme, Prosecutors Say

He offered each of the expecting mothers $10,000 to put their newborns up for adoption, siphoning off money for housing and health care after arranging for them to travel more than 5,000 miles from the Marshall Islands to the United States, prosecutors said. Then, after falsifying their residency records to enroll them in state health […]

Facebook refuses Biden request to pull Trump ad filled with lies about Ukraine

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Donald Trump’s reelection campaign is currently running an ad on Facebook that, with absolutely no evidence, suggests that when he was vice president, Joe Biden threatened to withhold $1 billion in U.S. aid to Ukraine to coerce the country’s government into stopping an investigation into his son Hunter. Biden has repeatedly said that this story is completely false. Various reputable fact-checkers, ranging from Politifact to factcheck.org, have also disputed the claim. CNN, for example, refused to air the ad. It’s not a gray area or tricky wording—it’s a lie.

Did Facebook remove the ad? Nope. The tech giant rejected the Biden campaign’s request to pull the ad, responding: 

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Here’s the letter Facebook sent the @JoeBiden campaign explaining why it allowed Trump to run Facebook ads with false allegations about the VP and Ukraine — @sarahmucha reports. https://t.co/HFMdDqpzXH pic.twitter.com/VbUlW2C6qI

— Donie O’Sullivan (@donie) October 9, 2019

If you’ve followed Facebook’s recent policy change on ads paid for by politicians, however, this might not surprise you. When it comes to fact-checking for most posts, Facebook says that it “prohibits ads that include claims debunked by third-party fact-checkers or, in certain circumstances, claims debunked by organizations with particular expertise.” Misinformation is rampant on the platform, so that’s questionable in practice. But as a policy, it’s fairly straightforward.

When it comes to ads paid for by politicians, however, it takes a hands-off approach. That’s an even bigger problem.

“Our approach is grounded in Facebook’s fundamental belief in free expression, respect for the democratic process, and the belief that, in mature democracies with a free press, political speech is already arguably the most scrutinized speech there is,” Facebook’s global elections policy chief Katie Harbath wrote. “Thus, when a politician speaks or makes an ad, we do not send it to third-party fact checkers.”

What might have inspired this change? We don’t know for certain, but Sen. Elizabeth Warren pointed out in a Twitter thread that Donald Trump recently met with Mark Zuckerberg, the CEO of Facebook, in a private meeting in Washington, D.C. Shortly after, Facebook announced the new policy that it wouldn’t fact-check ads paid for by politicians.

We also know that Trump drops some major money—to the tune of millions per week—on Facebook ads. 

Two years ago, Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar co-sponsored a bill called the Honest Ads Act. Its purpose would be to hold paid digital ads (like the ones on the internet) to the same record-keeping and discourse standards and laws that ads that appear on the radio and television have to meet. The bill has been referred to the Senate Committee on Rules and Administration. Klobuchar has this week pressed for a markup of the bill.

In a statement, the Biden campaign said that Facebook’s response is unacceptable and that using misinformation to influence public opinions “poisons the public discourse and chips away at our democracy.”

Trey Gowdy, Who Led Republicans in Investigating Benghazi, Joins Trump Legal Team

WASHINGTON — Trey Gowdy, the former South Carolina congressman who led the committee that investigated the terrorist attack on the American diplomatic compound in Benghazi, Libya, that killed four Americans, will join President Trump’s legal team as an outside adviser. The move — which had been widely anticipated — was announced Wednesday night by Mr. […]

Trump Green-Lights Some Sales to Huawei

WASHINGTON — The Trump administration plans to soon issue licenses allowing some American companies to supply nonsensitive goods to the Chinese telecom giant Huawei, according to people familiar with the matter, a step that could cool tensions between the United States and China as trade talks resume this week. In a meeting last week, President […]

Trump Is Serious About Carrying Minnesota, the One That Got Away in 2016

WASHINGTON — A Republican presidential candidate has not won the state of Minnesota since Richard M. Nixon’s victory there in 1972. But President Trump has long viewed it as the one that got away. Mr. Trump barely set foot in the state during his 2016 campaign, and his field organization on the ground was nonexistent: […]

New acting director of Trump’s Bureau of Land Management has history of climate denial and racism

In July, Interior Secretary David Bernhardt appointed William Perry Pendley to the position of acting director of the Department of Interior’s Bureau of Land Management (BLM). Pendley’s views on public lands were already known. Shortly after he was named acting director, The Washington Post reported on Pendley’s anti-federal land history of saying things like, “The Founding Fathers intended all lands owned by the federal government to be sold.” Grrrreeeaaaaat! A new report from CNN adds to Pendley’s long and illustrious history of being a climate denier, an Islamophobe, and a crazy anti-immigrant racist. 

According to CNN, Pendley spoke at a Heritage Foundation function in 1992, where he said “Despite the total absence of credible scientific evidence, the media is convinced and is attempting to convince us that we have global warming, an Ozone hole and acid rain and that it is all man’s fault.” Which means that at the very least, Mr. Pendley was a frightening and dangerous idiot in 1992. 

In a 2007 fundraising mailer Pendley wrote, “You see, the problems Hazleton or Valley Park faces could be in your community next because illegal immigration is spreading like a cancer.” [Emphasis added] And just in case you aren’t sure about his opinions on the matter, here’s another quote from the scariest looking senior Yosemite Sam: “Violent crime—including dangerous gangs, over-crowded schools, the appearance of diseases once vanquished from the western world, escalating hospital costs, and an overwhelming demand for government services! These are the new problems being faced by small, cash-strapped cities and towns all across America. The source: illegal immigrants.”

The BLM is supposed to protect and manage 244 million acres of land in the United States of America. Since Donald Trump came into office, the direction of the department has moved towards destruction of public lands. Every person Trump has put into the BLM has made the same empty promise not to sell off public lands to private interests—and none of them have done anything but sell off federal land to the highest private donor.

California’s Massive Power Outages Are Threatening the Oakland Zoo’s Animals

Grizzly and brown bears in their pool habitat at the Oakland ZooBen Margot/AP As massive power outages swept across the northern part of California Wednesday, the Oakland Zoo, which was closed to the public, hustled to protect its animals, especially ones that rely on a stable environment. Of the highest priority are the mountain yellow-legged frogs, […]