News

Two Facebooks: Liberal v. Conservative

If you sometimes feel like you are living in a completely different world than people who voted for the other candidate in this year’s presidential election, you kind of are. The echo chamber is real.

To illustrate the point, the Wall Street Journal built a “Blue Feed, Red Feed” tool that lets you see, side-by-side, what a liberal and conservative might see on Facebook at any given moment. And it’s striking.

The two feeds might as well exist in alternative universes. When you see them side-by-side, it looks like two uninformed elementary schoolers arguing about whose armpits are smellier.

Now, these feeds are built off of some pretty biased sources, but I definitely recognize some of the liberal-side sites. Although I try to have a balanced news feed, sites like Daily Kos, Salon, and the Daily Show regularly pop up in my own liberal echo chamber. Many of the articles on the conservative side are about things I’ve barely heard of. For example, George Soros is apparently a conservative boogeyman in the same way the Koch brothers are for liberals. Who knew?

I’ve gone through my own Facebook page likes and Twitter follows to try to build a more neutral information stream, and you should, too. Get out of the echo chamber and improve your news diet. It might feel good to hear people

How to Consume a Healthier News Diet (and Why It’s Critical)

On this weekend’s episode of Last Week Tonight, John Oliver explains that for many Americans, Facebook is their primary source of news. Then he puts this image on the screen:

2016-11-13-john-oliver-trump

That stopped me in my tracks. Of course. Of course your views about the candidates lined up with the headlines you saw every day. Your news diet is just like a regular diet. If you eat lots of junk food, you will probably get fat.

And yes, before you retort that it’s the same as liberals getting their news from the Daily Show and Last Week Tonight, I agree. It’s the same thing (except funnier).

Conservative or liberal, we all need to put some thought into our news diet. For most of us that means adding some balance to the news sources we see in our Facebook or Twitter feeds. And we all need to add a healthy dose of skepticism to our news diets.

Keep Reading »

San Francisco County Sued for Operating a Debtors Prison

There’s a new class action, this one against San Francisco County. Other debtors prison lawsuits include Austin, TX , Benton County, WA, DeKalb County, GABiloxi, MS, and New Orleans. [Daily Kos]

Minnesota Restaurant Association Info

Recently, @panndder was tweeting about the Minnesota Restaurant Association’s bill to cut the minimum wage for servers. “We should create a public database of Minnesota Restaurant Association members,” he wrote.

Keep Reading »

Encore Capital Group Must Vacate 4,500+ Judgments in New York

I have a quibble with this quote from the New York Times‘s Jessica Silver-Greenberg, which she uses to set the stage for her reporting on the Encore Capital Group settlement:

The same problems that dogged the foreclosure of homes — and prompted public outcry and a multibillion-dollar settlement by some of the nation’s biggest banks — are increasingly showing up in the practices of large buyers of bad consumer debt.

Debt buyers were engaging in assembly-line litigation long before the foreclosure firms started. I’ve been writing about it here for years, but it’s just never gotten the same kind of exposure as the foreclosure industry’s callous disregard for the courts briefly did.

Keep Reading »

A New Debt-Collection Low: Taking Lunch Away From Schoolchildren

A “child-nutrition manager” in Salt-Lake City, notified of an unusually-large number of students who owed money for lunch at Uintah Elementary School, came up with a brilliant plan: take away their lunches. Students with delinquent school-lunch accounts went through the lunch line as usual, but when their card was declined at the register, the lunch-room staff tossed their meal in the trash.

Several parents told the Salt Lake Tribune that they were not notified that they owed money for their children’s lunches. It doesn’t seem like anyone was notified that their children would have their lunches taken away from them, either. The school has said it is “currently investigating to see if [notification] guidelines were followed correctly.”

Keep Reading »

McDonald’s Publishes a Guide to Tipping the Help — for its Minimum-Wage Employees

From the Atlantic:

McDonald’s had published an etiquette guide on a company website full of advice from Emily Post on how families should tip their help during the holidays. If you were a McDonald’s worker with a pool cleaner, a personal trainer, or massage therapist, corporate had you covered.

For more budgeting advice from McDonald’s, here’s my earlier post with more ridiculous McDonald’s budgeting tips

Keep Reading »

Expert Global Solutions Fined $3.2 Million for Harassing Collection Tactics

Introducing his brief post on the settlement, BoingBoing’s Rob Beschizza says “Intimidation, abuse, deception: everyone knows what debt collectors will do to get paid.” That’s sad, but true.

Perhaps EGS, at least, will clean up its act now that it has been assessed the largest-ever civil penalty against a debt collector by the FTC.

Scranton, PA, Outsources Garbage Bill Collection, Gets Flood of Complaints

Sometimes administrative errors cause real problems for real people. From Consumerist:

Typically, the notices of delinquent bills get mailed in late January to mid-February, but this year there was a transition to a new collection agency, which delayed the process.

That same transition mucked up the city’s ability to easily figure out which property owners still owed some or all of their $178 annual fee for the last 10 years. Instead, the collection company was authorized to use the city’s written records to put together a database of who still owed money.

It sounds like they send collection notices to a lot of people who already paid. Residents are pissed, but the city seems to think it’s no big deal. “If a property owner can produce proof of payment, such as a receipt or canceled check, [the city treasurer] will certify that the fee was paid.” I’m sure that will be great comfort to everyone who has kept 10 years of receipts and canceled checks.

Read “Scranton sends out delinquent garbage bills from 1999 through 2011” on the Scranton Times-Tribune.

(photo: http://www.flickr.com/photos/wsdot/3251886214/)

RIAA Celebrates 15-Year Jail Sentence for 5 Copied Movies and 1 CD

The case, which was investigated by the Attorney General’s office and Hazlehurst Police Department, eventually saw King plead guilty to the sale of the five DVDs and one CD. But despite his apparent cooperation, King received the harshest sentence for a copyright infringement offense that we’ve ever seen.

Judge Lamar Pickard in Copiah County Circuit Court ordered King to serve a total of 15 years in jail to be followed by three years supervised release.

Look, profiting from illegally-copied movies and music may be piracy, but 15 years is absurd. You’d get less time for burglary. Here’s the response from the RIAA:

This sentencing demonstrates that theft of intellectual property is treated as a serious crime in Mississippi and highlights the fact that the individuals engaging in these activities are frequently serial criminals for whom IP theft is simply the most convenient and profitable way they could steal from others.

We extend our thanks and appreciation to Attorney General Hood for his leadership in IP enforcement and to the dedicated law enforcement officers and prosecutors who worked on the case.

It’s interesting to see the RIAA say that movie and music pirates are “frequently serial criminals,” since it also acknowledged that file-sharers/pirates are also the biggest fans of its artists, and spend more money on movies and music, in general. Also felons, apparently.

Read “RIAA Celebrates 15 Year Jail Sentence For Movie and Music Pirate” on TorrentFreak (thanks, Danny!).