#OpFOQ: A Campaign to Free Two Dozen Hostages

A group of human rights activists and members of Anonymous launched an operation directed at Iran on March 24, #OpFOQ, to focus attention on a mass kidnapping in Iraq, to force the government of Iran to divulge what it knows about the whereabouts and health of two dozen Qatari hostages, to bring this case to forefront of the world’s consciousness, and to earn the freedom of the hostages.

The men were kidnapped in December 2015, and since April 2016, when two of the hostages were freed, the missing men have been absent from the world’s headlines and attention as well, despite the fact that a handful of the hostages are members of the royal family of Qatar. Families are missing sons, brothers, husbands, fathers. The men were not taken by an official government entity, so groups such as Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have been bystanders as the mystery deepens each day.

The men were sportsmen—falconers—who crossed the Saudi Arabian-Iraqi border with government-issued permits and their birds, and they set up camp in Iraq’s remote southern province, Al Muthanna. December is training season for the falcons because December is the breeding season for the houbara bustard, a turkey-like bird found in Central Asia that the falcons hunt.
Read More

Lauri Love Banned from Twitter

Lauri Love, the British hacktivist who the United Kingdom has agreed to send to the United States to face charges despite pleas from over 100 MPs that he not be extradited, was permanently banned from Twitter this week. His account was @LauriLoveX.

The reasons are unclear, as no specific charges were fully explained to Love. It is understood that the reasons are related to an “alleged violent threat.” He wrote a few hours ago, “Being an actual Nazi on twitter: fine and dandy. Advocating punching Nazis on twitter: permanently banned for violent threats. This is why we can’t have nice things… (Only told I will never get my account back for obscure probably made-up reasons after starting a dozen support threads.)”
Read More

ICE Arrests Green Card Holder; Community Responds

UPDATED, April 29: When a GoFundMe page was established to help the family of Joel and Jessica Guerrero of New Paltz, New York, some 400 people donated $16,165 to the family of Joel and Jessica Guerrero within days. The community grew from immediate neighbors and family to the rest of the nation and beyond borders. When we remember that we are all cousins, the world shrinks in happy ways.

The fundraiser was closed at the start of April, but Joel remains in federal custody, detained by ICE. A petition on Change.org to free Joel has attracted almost 1000 signatures and many more are needed: “Please Stand With Joel & Jessica Guerrero.”

My column from March 5, 2017, with some corrections (thank you, Jessica Guerrero):
Read More

Lovingly Spammed

“Ashley” from “Supplement Sidekick” wrote to The Gad About Town (me) last week: “I wanted to thank you for this wonderful read!! I absolutely loved every bit of it. I have you book-marked to check out new things you post… .”

She (or he) wrote her (or his) comment on an article that one could describe as “a wonderful read,” if accounts of a threatened beheading of a protester in Saudi Arabia strike one as a wonderful read. Perhaps she (or he) felt that my point of view (I would describe myself as being against beheadings in general, but this might not be the first thing I would tell you about myself on a speed-date) is “wonderful.” She (or he) did not elaborate.
Read More

I, for One, Welcome Our New Robot Overlords

Most if not all of us have seen dialogue box like the one above in our online lives. Sometimes, a real person is called for, even in our heavily automated world. Especially when real money is about to be moved from one virtual hand to another.

About fifteen years ago, some Carnegie Mellon computer scientists developed a method to be employed to differentiate between a human being and a bit of software. They dubbed it, “Completely Automated Public Turing Test To Tell Computers and Humans Apart,” or CAPTCHA. There are several dozen applications commercially available that perform the test.

Some require a user to type in a randomly generated word or number sequence that the app has displayed just for them. Some require a bit less, a simple mouse click inside a box that sits next to a (sometimes) charmingly worded version of the question, “Are you a robot?”
Read More

The Spam Folder Follies

They love my information in the spam comments folder. Apparently, the only thing my web site needs is some help with one of the following: loading in Internet Explorer or compatibility with Safari or help with ways of viewing it on a phone browser, but otherwise, my posts have “great information” and my writing is “useful,” according to Spam commenters.

Oh! and no one can ever find this web site. “Disgrace on the sseek engines for nott positioning this submit upper,” one recent comment (December 8) declared. At least, I think this has something to do with that. The writer seems to be offering help with search engine optimization (SEO), which no one actually understands but many claim to.

Anyone who has read Madeleine L’Engle’s novel A Wrinkle in Time may appreciate the above comment’s inadvertent resemblance to the character Mrs. Which’s statements: “I ffindd itt verry ttirinngg, andd wee hhave mmuch ttoo ddoo.”
Read More

Nothing to Protest

The best two words any of us get to say or write each day are “Thank you.” Thank you to everyone who reads this website, even if this post is the first one by me that you have ever seen: Thank you.

Yesterday, this website was viewed for the 40,000th time in 2016. About one month ago, the number of views this website received surpassed the number of views it received in all of 2015. Just under 34,000 views in 2015, and more than 40,000 in 2016.
Read More

‘Higgling, Haggling …’

The title is a part of Adam Smith‘s description of the flaws inherent in any system of bartering: Once two parties have actually agreed to negotiate a swap of items or services, which is easier described than accomplished, how long will it take to negotiate value or price? Is my horse worth the same as your horse? Why do you think so? You must be hiding some detail. You must be trying to foist a sickly ill nag on me to ride off with my healthy animal. How dare you …

If one party thinks the other is out to cheat him—even if the other party is not out to cheat—he will over sell with the intent to make a profit. Further, if the other party also thinks he is about to be cheated, both parties will attempt to cheat each other in order to think they are protecting themselves. Hence Smith’s description of barter as “higgling, haggling, swapping, dickering.” The two bartering parties run the risk of spending the entire day in fickle negotiation rather than in work.
Read More