June 27, 2006

Geno’s Mini-Update: Business Is Apparently Good

Filed under: Business Moves — Tom @ 3:24 pm

From The Philadelphia Daily News on June 26 — an otherwise critical column by Deborah Leavy begins thusly:

SINCE I first wrote about Geno’s three weeks ago, the story has bounced off satellites and gone around the world, picked up by everyone from CNN to the China Daily.

Joey Vento is now famous way beyond the neighborhood, and so many people have flocked to his place that his cheesesteak emporium actually ran out of rolls one day.

AT&T’s Clever Misdirection

Lost in the hubbub over AT&T’s privacy policy rewrite as it relates to government interactions, which I don’t want to get into, is that they are claiming to have the right on the consumer side to do something competitive services can’t:

AT&T rewrites rules: Your data isn’t yours

….. The changes are significant because they appear to give the telecom giant more latitude when it comes to sharing customers’ personal data with government officials.

The new policy says that AT&T — not customers — owns customers’ confidential info and can use it “to protect its legitimate business interests, safeguard others, or respond to legal process.”

The policy also indicates that AT&T will track the viewing habits of customers of its new video service — something that cable and satellite providers are prohibited from doing.

….. The Cable Communications Policy Act of 1984 stipulates that cable and satellite companies can’t collect or disclose information about customers’ viewing habits.

Another article I saw elsewhere but don’t have a link to said that the company “has no plans” to provide the data collected to third parties, which is a clever way of saying “we’ll do just that after the furor dies down.”

I would suggest not using AT&T’s U-Serv video service until either the company changes its policy or federal legislation forces the company to operate under the same framework as the cable and satellite companies.

EVEN MORE Reasons to Pass Universal Credit Freeze Legislation

All of the following represents evidence that the bad guys and gals can, do, and will get access to personal information.

UAB Computer Theft Puts Thousands At Risk Of Identity Theft

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. — A computer possibly containing the names, Social Security numbers and medical information for almost 10,000 people has been stolen from the University of Alabama at Birmingham.

The computer had lists of donors, recipients and potential recipients of the university’s kidney transplant program.

UAB officials said there is no indication that the information has been used.

This could mean that personal information of 9,800 UAB kidney patients is out on the street and subject to possible identity theft.

The computer was stolen from the UAB School of Medicine Research Department in February. The people affected were not notified until June 8. UAB said that was because it took months for the school to reconstruct the missing database.

UK Warns Students and Alumni of Possible Identity Theft

Thousands of current and former UK students are on alert tonight after a computer drive was stolen from a professor.

The drive contained the personal information of 6500 students including their social security numbers.

Jackson workers open to ID theft

Jackson Health System informed 8,500 employees this week that their personal information may be at risk following the theft of two laptop computers seven months ago.

The computers, belonging to financial services provider ING, contained information gathered during a voluntary life insurance enrollment drive in December and included names, dates of birth and Social Security numbers.

”We are relatively certain the computers were stolen for their hardware value and the personal information was not accessed,” said Chuck Eudy, a North American spokesman for ING, based in Amsterdam.

An inventory check at the company’s Minneapolis office revealed the laptops were missing in late December, but auditors didn’t realize they contained sensitive data until about three weeks ago, Eudy said.

Nine charged in SoCal identity theft case

LOS ANGELES – Eight people were arrested on charges of stealing more than $1 million by swiping information from the credit cards of diners at several Southern California restaurants, federal prosecutors announced Tuesday.

The identity theft ring is accused of enlisting servers at a Cheesecake Factory in Thousand Oaks, a TGI Friday’s and Cafe Verona in Los Angeles to use skimmer devices to steal information encoded in the magnetic strip of diners’ credit cards, the U.S. Attorney’s office said.

Prosecutors claimed the ring was led by Kresimir Matuzovic, 28, and Nour-Eddine Messaghrou, 28, saying they used the stolen information to create new debit cards at Wells Fargo and Washington Mutual.

The only way people can be sure that the bad people won’t be able to open up new accounts when it happens is if they have a credit freeze on their credit files. The, only, way.
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Selected Previous Posts:

  • June 26 — Just a Few of the Many More Reasons Congress Should Pass a Universal Credit Freeze
  • June 15, 2006 — E-Mail to My Congressperson Advocating Universally Available Credit Freeze
  • Sept. 23, 2005 — More Proof That “They” Don’t Really Care about Preventing Identity Theft
  • Aug. 10 — What May Be the Mother of All Data Thefts Proves Why Data Encryption and Credit Freezes are Needed, NOW
  • July 19 — Identity Theft: It’s Time for National Credit Freeze Legislation

I’ll Play This: Right on the Right’s Election Results Prediction Game

Filed under: Taxes & Government — Tom @ 9:02 am

His post is here.

Current Congress:

  • US Senate — 55-R, 44-D, 1-I
  • US House — 231-R, 201-D, 1-I, 2 vacant

My predictions:

  • US Senate — 57-R, 42-D, 1-I
  • US House — 235-R, 200-D

Senate Highlights:

  • DeWine holds off Brown in OH.
  • Two of these three Dem incumbents lose — Stabenow (MI), Cantwell (WA), Byrd (WV).
  • Two of these three GOP incumbents lose — Burns (MT), Chafee/Laffey (RI), Santorum (PA).
  • Change of parties from Dem to GOP in two of these three open seats — MD, MN, and NJ.
  • Net Senate impact — GOP +2.

House Highlights:

  • GOP pickups of note in immediate area — Irey beats John Murtha (PA), Mollohan loses (WV), Blasdel beats Green Card Wilson for Ted Strickland’s old seat (OH).
  • The rest of country will see little net change. I predict a GOP net gain of 1 everywhere else.

I’ll be around to claim my prize on November 8. :–>

Bizzy’s AM Coffee Biz-Econ-Life Links (062706)

Filed under: Economy,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 7:55 am

Free Links:

  • It’s amazing his pants weren’t on fire (HT Manufacturers’ Blog) –

    A U.S. district judge in Baltimore ….. heard arguments over the validity of Maryland’s controversial law requiring large companies — namely Wal-Mart — to spend at least 8 percent of their payroll on health benefits.

    ….. State Assistant Attorney General Gary W. Kuc denied that the legislation was intended to single out Wal-Mart.

    The legislation only affects Maryland companies with over 10,000 employees in the state. Wal-Mart is the only Maryland employer fitting that description.

  • Extracting an article that is behind The Financial Times’ firewall, SOX First notes that former SEC Chairman Harvey Pitt is afraid that Sarbanes Oxley will become the de facto standard of corporate conduct for the rest of the world:

    Pitt says that there are some positives in the legislation but the ”one-size-fits-all” approach has created something that stifles innovation, creativity, risk-taking and competitiveness. SOX has not only diverted intial public offerings abroad but it’s also encouraged the New York Stock Exchange and Nasdaq to seek offshore acquisitions.

  • In possibly related news, publicly-traded Univision is going private in a $12 billion-plus deal, making it what I believe is the second-largest company to go private since Sarbanes Oxley became law; the largest was the $13.2 billion acquisition of Georgia Pacific by Koch Industries last year. Going private has become more attractive because of SarBox due to the law’s heavy compliance costs.
  • And you thought FEMA was bad — how about this from Belgium:

    Flood victims left waiting for disaster compensation
    23 June 2006

    BRUSSELS — Just one in 10 victims in West Flanders have received government compensation a year after heavy rains and flooding.

    In 85 percent of the 4,081 claims for compensation, an expert has not even assessed the damage or has not yet completed the necessary report.

    This is despite the fact the federal government decided at the end of July 2005 that the heavy rainfall on the weekend of 4 and 5 July should be classified as a natural disaster.

    The same classification was also applied to the heavy hailstorms of 15 and 16 August 2004 — a classification necessary to qualify for government compensation.

Positivity: Angel on the Airplane Saves Woman’s Life

Filed under: Positivity — Tom @ 5:55 am

By persuading a pilot to land at a closed airport at 4 a.m., Jim Addington saved Erin McKelvey’s life:

FREDERICK — Erin McKelvey spent a year sending e-mails, leaving voice messages and requesting police reports to find the man who saved her life at 35,000 feet April 8, 2005.

When Jim Addington, 44, of Middletown, persuaded a pilot to make an emergency medical landing at 4 a.m., he had no idea how close Ms. McKelvey, 33, was to death.

Mr. Addington was honored Monday with the Vita Wireless Samaritan Award. The prize is given by the Cellular Telecommunications Industry Association for people who use wireless technology in an emergency.

Blood clots formed in Ms. McKelvey’s legs as she slept on a United Airlines red-eye flight from Los Angeles to Baltimore.

….. As the clots assaulted her lungs, a jolt of agony woke her. A flight attendant called for a doctor or a nurse and when no one answered, Mr. Addington asked for the plane’s medical kit.

Mr. Addington, a former EMT at United Fire Company No. 3 in downtown Frederick, consulted with a doctor on the ground through an Airfone mounted to the seat in front of Ms. McKelvey.

She seemed to have a punctured lung.

“It felt like someone had driven a machete into my spine,” she said Thursday. “I couldn’t get my breath, and every time I tried to breathe it felt like another machete hit me.”

Mr. Addington saw her vital signs worsen. He told the pilot to land as soon as possible.

The plane was passing over Kansas City, Mo., but the airport there was closed for the night. The closest full-service airport was in St. Louis, more than an hour away.

Mr. Addington insisted to the pilot that she needed to get to a hospital sooner. Moments later, the plane spiraled down for a steep landing at the deserted airport.

“He held my hand from the second he sat down next to me until the moment the EMTs took me away from the tarmac,” Ms. McKelvey said. “It was the hardest thing to let go of his hand because he was my lifeline.”

Ms. McKelvey was diagnosed with a pulmonary embolism. A doctor in Kansas City said she was within minutes of dying.

“That was the trigger,” she said. “I knew immediately I had to find him to thank him.”

Her doctor also told her she was lucky a former EMT responded to her call for help, and not a doctor. Doctors are trained to diagnose and treat; EMTs are trained to stabilize patients and get them to a place where they can get care, he explained.

“That’s exactly what he did,” she said. “Jim was my angel that night, he was the only one who stepped up to help. He was so very calming and compassionate and a true gentleman.”

After four days of intensive care, Ms. McKelvey, who lives in Columbia, began a series of blood-thinning treatments that lasted nearly a year.

She didn’t expect her search for the man who saved her life would take even longer.

All she knew was his first name, that he was a management consultant in Frederick and that he had two kids. Her search was blocked by privacy laws, which require requests for police reports to be made in person.

….. Ms. McKelvey can’t remember how many calls she made to United Airlines, but she knew she wanted to nominate Mr. Addington for the Vita Award and to tell him about the impact he had on her when he saved her life.

Ms. McKelvey finally got his e-mail address from United Airlines on March 15. She sat in front of her computer for hours struggling to put into words what it meant for him to get out of his seat that morning.

“He had no idea what happened to me, he didn’t even know he saved my life, how serious it was,” she said. “He could have put on his headphones and just turned the other way.”

She titled the e-mail, “How to say thank you.”

They met for dinner three days later in Ellicott City.

“We met just once before, but we knew each other immediately, it was very emotional,” she said. “I could have picked him out of a million people, it was just the intensity of that moment frozen in time.”

They sat for seven hours over dinner and drinks.

“It was emotionally moving for him, it caught him by surprise, and he was incredibly humbled,” she said.

Later that night, Ms. McKelvey e-mailed Mr. Addington to thank him a second time.

“Now we both have the ends to our story,” she wrote.

She met her hero. He learned the impact of his actions that day.

“On the contrary,” he responded. “I don’t think we know the ending yet.”

The two have become close friends and talk weekly. Their families have grown close.

“We are so much alike, people tell us it seems as if we have been friends forever,” she said. “We’re trying to be good parents, work our tails off and travel extensively and we have a bond from that evening.”

Mr. Addington said he wouldn’t think twice about doing it again if given the opportunity.

“If I really think about it, it’s a little bit overwhelming,” he said. “Her daughter would have been with out a mother.”

Ms. McKelvey is taking advantage of her second chance. She spends more time with her daughter, who will celebrate her ninth birthday Monday, and doesn’t get flustered over minor annoyances anymore.

“That lump you feel when you hear this story, that’s what I feel every time I see him,” she said.