* Posts by veti

3118 posts • joined 25 Mar 2010

UK.gov's use of black box algorithms to decide stuff needs watching

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Re: Why don't they...

Now here's a public health research project in waiting: climate derangement syndrome. The compulsion to drag every public debate back to an argument that was intellectually bankrupt 20 years ago, as if it's still a live issue.

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Re: AI in government?

Then add a requirement in the spec, that the system must be able to explain every decision in human-readable form. Sounds like a good idea in its own right, to me.

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Re: Just wondered...

Yes, the govt does care about reports like this. Think it through. It's only a matter of time before some huge scandal breaks over public sector data, and when that happens the parties will take turns to explain how they followed these rules more faithfully than the other lot.

Cynicism is fine, but don't let it lull you into simple mindedness.

President Trump broke US Constitution with Twitter bans – judge

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Re: Ha

Let's not overreact. All that happened here is that a judge found that the president did something wrong. Doesn't that happen, multiple times, to every president?

All that needs to happen is that he goes from "blocking" to "ignoring" them and promises not to do it again. And if he doesn't want to do that, he can appeal the judgment (allowing him to pose as a martyr to the Deep State for a bit longer, because ye gods this is a trivial matter), and failing appeal, ignore it completely, because seriously - can you see anyone voting for impeachment over this issue?

Blood spilled from another US high school shooting has yet to dry – and video games are already being blamed

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Re: If it were videogames...

What saddens me is that Fox News hosts apparently think it's appropriate to take their moms to McDonald's for a mother's day dinner.

Perhaps if Fox paid a bit better, they might be able to attract some people with a working brain to the job.

US Congress mulls expanding copyright yet again – to 144 years

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Re: Next act will be titled: "To infinity - and beyond!"

@John Fen: big picture. You're not thinking big enough.

In about two more iterations the Constitution itself will be in copyright, and then good luck trying to quote it against Congress.

Trump’s new ZTE tweets trump old ZTE tweets

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Re: I can't believe y'all are still falling for this

No, don't look at what Trump does, look at what his administration does while everyone's busy getting upset about his tweets.

"Getting upset". Exactly. That's what the tweets are for.

Politicians have always known that journalists are lazy, but Trump has taken it to a whole new level. Conventional politicians just cultivate a few tame journalists and feed them stories, thus allowing the journalist to look informed and insightful without doing any real work.

But Trump - Trump uses Twitter to distract the entire press corps at once. "Following Twitter" is about as cheap and lazy as journalism gets, which means he can rely on just about every media organisation in the world doing it. As long as he continues to generate "things that look like news" in this way - things that can pass for news to enough people that they don't look out of place on the news pages - they will all run it.

Think about what that means. First, the press spend their time talking about what Trump wants them to talk about - which means they have no time left for talking about things he doesn't want them to talk about. The press waste their time picking holes in his positions and logic, which bolsters Trump's narrative of the press all being against him - and is completely meaningless, because he has no intention of following up on any of this crap anyway. And the public's attention is saturated, so we don't notice what his administration is actually doing while he's spraying all this bullshit at us.

Dear journalists: just stop following the tweets. Block him on Twitter. Filter from your newsfeed any story containing the words "Trump" and "Twitter". They have negative information content. Every time you read one, you become slightly stupider, and you're taking the rest of the world down with you.

veti Silver badge

I can't believe y'all are still falling for this

It's a year and a half into Trump's term, and you're still following his tweets.

Fire and motion. The tweets are a distraction, in the most literal sense possible. They mean nothing. Less than nothing. Paying attention to them is like staring hard into the conjurer's eyes, thinking he's going to give away his tricks.

Every time you run a story about Trump's tweets, you play his game. This is how he won the election: by saying so much outrageous crap that the media never actually got around to doing any hard work on him, like showing the American public what kind of businessman/politician/leader he really is.

Look at what he does, not what he says. Twitter is not policy.

Privacy group asks UK politicos to pinky swear not to use personal data for electioneering

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Re: The worst exemption ever

Because the law is written by politicians, duh.

Exemptions in laws are bad. Period. There are no exceptions to this rule.

If the police can justify battering down your door because $REASONS, then an ordinary citizen should be able to cite the same reasons to justify it. If journalists are allowed to take pictures and record conversations, then so are we all. If censors are allowed to watch porn and snuff movies, then so should we all be.

Any time you see a named group that's allowed to do something that's forbidden to everyone else, another little bit of our freedom has died. Sometimes quite a big bit.

Pointless US Congress net neutrality vote will take place tomorrow!

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What do you want them to do?

When Trump reversed DACA all the talk was "Congress should pass a law, that's their job."

We're all agreed, aren't we, that leaving important policy decisions to unaccountable government agencies is a bad thing? The correct approach is for elected lawmakers to propose, debate and vote on appropriate laws.

Now they're trying to do that, you're still giving them grief. What do you people want?

Engineer crashed mega-corp's electricity billing portal, was promoted

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Thomas Watson quote seems apposite here

"Recently, I was asked if I was going to fire an employee who made a mistake that cost the company $600,000. No, I replied, I just spent $600,000 training him. Why would I want somebody to hire his experience?"

Someone who makes a screwup of that magnitude is someone who has a reasonable chance of remembering it. It's a learning experience. Why waste it?

S/MIME artists: EFAIL email app flaws menace PGP-encrypted chats

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Re: Word elsewhere...

Ah, the inevitable "you're holding it wrong" defense...

That's like saying "the problem isn't that my defence isn't good enough, it's that these bastards keep attacking me". The whole reason PGP exists in the first place is to provide protection at precisely this level. If it's not doing that job, then what good is it?

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Re: Who relies on this stuff?

Err... it's a hack that can be used to decrypt encrypted content in some circumstances. If your content isn't encrypted in the first place, then it doesn't need decrypting, so this attack is unnecessary.

I'm a great believer in plain text emails, but I have to admit that HTML is also bloody useful. Mostly for tables - sending those in plain text is a right PITA, if only because the recipient probably isn't viewing a fixed-width font.

(Of course you can get around that by forcing a fixed-width font in your own message, using HTML formatting, so... what was I doing again?)

How could the Facebook data slurping scandal get worse? Glad you asked

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Re: good looks

Right. What is it about Cambridge? Is its psychology department that much more unscrupulous than those of thousands of other universities worldwide? That seems hard to swallow.

Or is it because it's still, after all these years, the recruiting ground of choice for Russian spies?

You've got pr0n: Yes, smut by email is latest workaround for UK's looming cock block

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"... they can't be ordered to block emails"

Wanna bet?

Cisco cancels all YouTube ads, then conceals cancellation

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Re: CNN started this, they want to defund independent media

I'm all for not trusting any one media outlet, if by "trust" you mean "uncritically believe". But I fail to see how some random comedian (who maintains his own website so isn't beholden to YouTube anyway) is relevant to the story.

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Re: "someone thought the wording could be better and changed it."

Your version adds graphic (and speculative) detail, but the burden of it is precisely the same as the parent post, so I don't know why you're "correcting" it.

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Re: American puritanism?

To be fair, the USA is "actually called" all sorts of things, ranging from "America the beautiful" and "home of the brave" to "the great Satan". Indisputably, it does get called just "America" several million times a day.

US Congress finally emits all 3,000 Russian 'troll' Facebook ads. Let's take a look at some

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Re: Purpose

@Peter2: did you actually read those links at all before posting them? There's nothing in that memo that suggests Clinton's preferences, nothing that even hints at "commanding" the media ("free and independent" or otherwise), and nothing about promoting Trump to the exclusion of everybody else. He's mentioned only as one of three names on a "non-exclusive" list of loonier candidates who could be plied for leverage against the more serious ones.

I mean - I get it, Clinton was a poor candidate with no charisma and a tin ear for politics in general. She was way out of her depth. She made dumb decisions. But this memo doesn't say anything even remotely like what you characterise it as saying.

Nor does it show anything about Clinton, because it says nothing about her views or preferences at all. It's interesting, in an academic sense, as a sliver of insight into the early stages of her campaign - but that's all it is.

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You're missing the point

The ads themselves may have swayed a vanishingly small rounding error of people.

That's not what they were for. Clearly, the originators spent more on crafting the messages than they did on publishing them. Hundreds upon hundreds of ads, each one only viewed a few dozen times? - that's not a campaign, that's A/B testing. What these ads were for was not to sway voters, but to find out what messages would give the best click/response rates.

That's why the ad spend was so low. The real heavy lifting was done by the trolls on message boards, some on Facebook but many more out here on the real web. They were the bastards who reduced just about every well-trafficked forum on the 'net to a cratered hellhole in the second half of 2016. And they're still here, ready to do it again.

So when can you get in the first self-driving car? GM says 2019. Mobileye says 2021. Waymo says 2018 – yes, this year

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Re: wrong direction...

Sounds great. How can I get one?

And more importantly, how can I stop all those other people I have to share the road with from getting one? Because I sure as heck don't want to see those idiots in charge of big chunks of metal that are actually flying.

Windows Notepad fixed after 33 years: Now it finally handles Unix, Mac OS line endings

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Re: Notepad++

It's not "just' for that, though. That's really the least of Notepad++'s many excellencies. Tabs, character counts, syntax highlighting, decent default font, ability to launch with multiple files already opened - these are things that even the most naive user will discover and appreciate very quickly. That's without even touching on the 'power user' features.

Microsoft's most popular SQL Server product of all time runs on Linux

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Embrace, extend...

Microsoft has never been shy of adopting new platforms, once they reach some minimum threshold of seriousness. "Embrace and extend" flows inevitably into "extinguish" iff Microsoft's additions make the existing platform significantly more attractive to significantly more people.

If people start switching to Linux purely because they can now use SQL Server on it, it'll be in trouble.

Google will vet political ads to ward off Phantom Menace of fake news

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Re: Google's twichy bums

The TRUTH about Mrs. Clinton's crimes is that she's been the target of investigations by some of the fiercest and most motivated prosecutors on earth for a quarter of a century, now, and they still haven't managed to pin a single indictment, let alone conviction, on her. Or her family, her lawyers, her campaign managers...

If you've got the evidence to do better, then go do it. Go do it now. I guarantee you'll make headlines in the "non-Fox media".

It always annoys me when people claim things are JUST OBVIOUSLY SO, and yet they won't take the trivial amount of effort it would require to actually show it. Like - remember when the Weinstein story broke, your friends at Fox were saying "this was an open secret, we've all known it all along" - but they didn't break the story, did they...? If they knew it all along, why didn't they fucking say so earlier, rather than waiting for "the non-Fox media" to do all the hard homework and take the legal risk?

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Re: "Political" ads?

So they're going to review every ad and decide whether it's "political", then?

Sounds like a fun job. Also a way to completely wipe out their margin on something like 90% of their total business, which is "ads that will never be seen by more than a few hundred people".

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"Political" ads?

And who's to say when an ad is "political"?

This is the old spam debate over again. Rules have to be applied to everyone, without exemptions - otherwise they're completely pointless. In this case, all you have to do is not check the box for "political content", and you can continue to run whatever the heck you want.

Password re-use is dangerous, right? So what about stopping it with password-sharing?

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Holy crap

... there's a lot of bollocks talked about passwords.

My bank, and my main email account, are both pretty important to me. On those, I use strong passwords that are not reused from anywhere else. If I thought for one moment that my bank or my email provider was broadcasting my password, however encrypted, to every other internet service in the world, I'd close the accounts faster than you can say "formal complaint". I would deeply resent the idea that my bank had even tried to identify my email username, let alone password, or vice versa.

At the other end of the scale, there's dozens of tinpot little blogs (El Reg, I'm looking at you) that require me to log into something to post on them, and don't allow OAuth because... I dunno, they want to sell password managers or something. On those I see no reason not to reuse passwords, and I'll deeply resent anyone who tries to prevent me from doing so.

So this proposal is calculated to piss me off in two entirely separate ways.

Pentagon in uproar: 'China's lasers' make US pilots shake in Djibouti

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Re: Welding glasses

If by "welding glasses" you mean basic goggles, they're probably not protective enough to save you if a laser hits your eye directly.

If you mean like an arc welding visor - then sure, that would solve one problem. You wouldn't be blinded by a laser pointer. However, you also wouldn't be able to see a bloody thing in the cockpit, or much outside it unless the sun happened to be straight in front of you. So, kinda self-defeating.

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Re: Binding Protocol?

If you are a non-combatant, which is probably the case since you don't at least have a rifle or a sidearm, then the guy in the assault helicopter is also a war criminal for targeting you.

But he'll be court martialled and tried by his own military.

You - will be treated exactly the same, which is to say, if you survive long enough, you'll also be tried before a tribunal convened by his military.

GoDaddy exiles altright.com after civil rights group complaint

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Re: The holes are glaring and obvious

When you see Randall Munroe post his opinion about the baker case, then you can reasonably try to pick holes in it and, if appropriate, compare with his other stated or implied opinions. Right now all you're doing is arguing against your own imagination of his opinion, which is textbook straw-manning.

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Re: re: The solution is to educate people

I'll turn your question around: can anyone name an instance in which education alone, absent legal support, has resulted in an opinion being abandoned by all?

For 200 years we've been crying "education is the answer!" It doesn't work because we can't agree on what the question was. Education that creates social cohesion and consensus? - that's brainwashing. Education that tries to lead the way to a more advanced, enlightened consensus? That's not only brainwashing, but also divisive and calculated to alienate half the country from the other half.

LLVM contributor hits breakpoint, quits citing inclusivity intolerance

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Re: The promote discrimination while claiming to fight it

Thousands of organisations that promote discrimination have tax-exempt status in the US. They're mostly called "churches".

And this is really an example of the pervasive bias that campaigners complain about. You see an injustice and want to correct it, which is fine. But in the process, you overlook a much larger injustice that just happens to be weighted the other way (in favour of the majority).

Did you overlook it because it's weighted the other way? I would guess, you simply didn't think of it because it's not news, hence not part of this story. But whatever your reasons, the net effect is inherent bias in favour of the status quo. This is precisely why proactive steps are sometimes needed to make any headway in the other direction.

if dev == woman then dont_be(asshole): Stack Overflow tries again to be more friendly to non-male non-pasty coders

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Re: Maybe a silly question, but...

You don't need to know.

The same response that's accepted without question when addressed to a man, may be inappropriate when addressed to a woman. The obvious example is if it makes some jokey mention of bodily functions or sex, but there are more subtle differentiators too. When talking face to face, we unconsciously adjust to our audience. Online, we don't have the information to do that.

(Not that we should, of course.)

It's not you, it's Big G: Sneaky spammers slip strangers spoofed spam, swamp Gmail sent files

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Re: DMARC prevents spoofing

Then those users would have to come up with some new processes, clearly.

One of Gmail's key selling points is its spam filtering. That's nice and all, but it puts Google in an ambivalent position. They have an active disincentive to fight spam, because every spam message people see is a reminder of how much better they are than the competition in this important area.

Adopting actual standards is no part of their plan. Google didn't get where it is today by doing things the same way as everyone else.

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Re: Once again, Google pissing all over RFC standards

It's the other way round - they store sent emails in the inbox. Or rather, they store all emails in one big folder. When you "change folders', all that really changes is the filter applied to your view.

I don't know if that violates any RFCs, but nobody seems to have noticed until now.

Windrush immigration papers scandal is a big fat GDPR fail for UK.gov

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Think back to 2009. Cameron was fighting a flanking action from the usual suspects in the Tory party, and UKIP was on the warpath. Immigration was a big issue. The Home Office was desperate to show it could get immigrant numbers down.

Unfortunately, it didn't really have any legit options to do that. And so, instead, under intense pressure from several sides, May eventually finds a target she has some hope of hitting - by losing their paperwork.

It was as slimy a move as I can remember seeing. But it was what happens when politicians are pressured into making promises they can't keep. Brexit and Windrush are two outcomes of the same crisis.

Academics: Shutting down Facebook API damages research, oversight, competition

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Because it would be insanely stupid for an academic at a university to do that. These people have pretty good jobs already, don't particularly want a massive payday (they are in academia after all, not known for its inflated salaries) and it would be fairly easy to trace it back to them.

That's the fallacy of homogeneity. This may be true for many academics, maybe even most, but there will always be exceptions. And it only takes one bad actor to compromise millions of accounts.

C.f. Cambridge Analytica, which did exactly this.

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If you think it through, there's no reason why the political/brainwashing classes can't work just as well with anonymised data. So long as there's enough of it, they can still aim a campaign at "all people who live in $AREA, visit $SITE more than once per week, and 'Like' stories about cars and immigration." You don't need to know names to do any of that, just numbers.

If it's the political abuse we're worried about (and for the record, I am), then anonymising the data is no help at all.

You say Halo and I say goodbye: Microsoft has a word with unauthorised mod devs

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Whenever there's a lot of people who think that a company has decided against exploiting its digital assets, some of them will take matters into their own hands. Always happens, and usually nothing happens to stop it. That's what "abandonware" is - and by using the word in their own official statement, 343 Industries acknowledges that legally murky fact.

So at the very least, they should have seen it coming. It would be nice if they'd made a statement on the subject earlier.

There's just one month left 'til the big day: May 25... but don't panic!

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Marvin is never pleased, but he'll do it anyway.

Oh dear... Netizens think 'private' browsing really means totally private

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Re: Logging into accounts "privately"

Actually, there's a good bit of overhyping going on here.

If you're logged in to Google, and you open an incognito window - even while keeping your regular browser session still open - the incognito window isn't logged in to Google, or any other accounts for that matter. So any searches you do in that window - unless you log in again - will not be recorded against your account profile. I know this is true in Chrome and Firefox, it's probably also true in the others.

Of course Google will still know it was you making those searches, but frankly if there's anything you don't want Google knowing about you, you're best off not doing it on a computer at all. But (unlike Facebook), Google don't tell.

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Re: re Long version

It says "Chrome won't save" all those things. It very clearly does not say that anyone else will. And considering who publishes Chrome, I'm pretty sure that's deliberate.

Do you think the naive user understands the role of each party involved in their internet browsing? Seriously, if they realise that their ISP is separate from Google, it'd be more than I expected. As far as they know, if "Chrome", whoever that is, forgets these things, then they're forgotten.

Good news: AI could solve the pension crisis – by triggering a nuclear apocalypse by 2040

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Nice try

... but headline misses the mark.

Nuclear war won't solve the pension crisis, because the hit to GDP would be greater than the hit to population. Given the distribution of wealth, it may well be that the older population survive in disproportionate numbers.

Even assuming some means can be contrived to keep paying pensions, and even if there isn't a complete breakdown of money and banking, they'd still be worthless because nobody would be making Tetley's and carpet slippers and the Daily Telegraph any more.

IETF: GDPR compliance means caring about what's in your logfiles

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Re: Why are people finding this difficult?

How is "your intrusion detection policy" a "service" (that you are providing)?

I'm inclined to think that the EU has completely lost the plot at this point, and maybe Brexit isn't such a bad idea after all.

Revenge pornography ban tramples free speech, law tossed out – where else but Texas!

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Re: Education, education, education

So your argument is, "we need better people, these ones are defective"?

If we lived in that world, we wouldn't need laws at all.

As for the "old playground lessons" - I remember those. But I don't remember that people were particularly more virtuous in those days.

'Your computer has a virus' cold call con artists on the rise – Microsoft

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The option to spoof the calling number is a feature, not a bug. It's something that, historically, companies have gone out of their way to enable people to do.

The use-case is for - yes, call centres, but also other types of offices, where people make outgoing calls but want the return call routed to somewhere else.

Of course, scumbags quickly came up with another use for it. But that's true of approximately every feature ever added to anything. Scumbags are inventive.

British Crackas With Attitude chief gets two years in the cooler for CIA spymaster hack

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Re: According to the BBC, at least, he's autistic.

Look, autism is a real thing, and it's not the same as psychopathy. It doesn't help anyone to paint every criminal with the same brush.

True, some people are just plain fucked up and need to be kept away from us all for everyone's safety. But for a lot of them, the only reason they do what they do is that no-one has ever taken the trouble to explain to them why it's bad, or how to determine what is bad. (Because you're expected to know that instinctively, or something. In practice nobody does, but the autistic kid - knows that they don't, and therefore has a compulsion to find the limits by testing them.)

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Re: Another Perspective....

According to the BBC, at least, he's autistic. That's not the same as psychopathic.

I think the sentence is about right in this case. I'm heartily glad he wasn't extradited to face US "justice". The sentence is enough to show the crime is being taken seriously, but not enough to ruin his whole life. Good.

Yahoo! webmail! hacker! faces! nearly! eight! years! in! the! cooler!

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What strikes me is the closeness between proposed sentences. One side wants him to get 94 months, the other 45 months? That's - really not a very wide difference of opinion.

If I were employing the defense team, they should be seeking a writ of "boys will be boys" and arguing for a six month suspended sentence, or whatever it's called in California.

Facebook puts 1.5bn users on a boat from Ireland to California

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Re: Who 100% trusts American Firms to know which countries are European?

Since Slovenia and Slovakia are both in the EU, it doesn't much matter...

I've never opened a Facebook account, but I assume it asks you what country you're living in (if not your whole street address). And I would also assume that's a lookup table thingy, you can't just type "the Moon" or something. So further looking up who is and isn't in the EU can't be all that hard.


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