“Over the last few months it has become very difficult to sign out of a session from sites like Amazon and PayPal,” the reader wrote. “The ‘Sign Out’ or equivalent link that for years was at the top of nearly every page is now missing from nearly all pages of those sites. Even the most obvious page where a sign out link should be — the page acknowledging completion of an order — offers no way to log out. Amazon and PayPal have turned things upside down and instead of closing a session, they now want us to remain logged in after leaving their site. Why would they do that? What good does it do Amazon and PayPal when their customers minimize the browser or surf to another site while signed in?”
The reader was particularly bothered by what appears to be the only procedure now for logging out of an Amazon account. “Amazon offers a moronic – i.e., counterintuitive — solution to signing out. You have to find a page on the site that has ‘If you’re not (your name), click here’ and click on it, thereby saying you’re not you.
In other words, while Amazon admits staying logged in to your account is probably not a good idea, they nonetheless want to make it as hard as possible for you to sign out. And it’s pretty obvious why Amazon and other e-commerce sites would prefer you stay logged in all the time. If a search engine or online ad leads you to an Amazon page selling what you think you might want to buy, they want to make it as easy as possible for you to indulge the impulse. If you don’t have to log in to your accounts, it’s far more likely you’ll buy from them. So it’s a pretty simple equation: the fewer clicks it takes to buy, and the more clicks it takes to log out, the more money for Amazon.
But of course, the other factor in that equation is that the harder it is for you to log out from a site where you can spend money, the greater the security risk to you. That certainly is what the reader concludes. “We cannot expect a business today to do anything but what benefits them, and that often harms customers,” he wrote. “There’s only one possible reason to change an easy sign out to an obscure, counterintuitive one requiring lying: Amazon wants users to leave the site while signed in because that results in more charges to their account than if they signed out. Since some of those charges could involve theft encouraged by Amazon, I think that’s despicable.”
My experience shows that there’s a different reason: the marketeers have a bigger say in what’s happening on the site than the security folks, and the marketeers are simply too stupid to see the consequences of their actions.
A few days ago the State Department released what it called a “first blush” report on the Blackwater incident in Baghdad, a report which largely exonerated the Blackwater personnel involved.
I noted at the time that “first blush” was something of an understatement since the report was based exclusively on statements the State Department took from Blackwater operatives on the scene. In other words, the Blackwater employees who did the shooting gave State an account that largely exonerated themselves. A truly shocking development.
But it seems that I was behind the curve on the level of caricature and self-parody that is the military contracting biz in Iraq these days.
The report was written out of the State Department’s Bureau of Diplomatic Security, the folks who hired Blackwater to provide security for US diplomats in Iraq. But it turns out that the State Department employee who interviewed the Blackwater folks and wrote the report, Darren Hanner … well, he wasn’t a State Department employee. He was another contractor from Blackwater.
So yes, you’ve got that right. We’ve now reached what can only be called the alpha and the omega of contracting accountability breakdown ridiculousness. We’re outsourcing our investigations of Blackwater to Blackwater.
A lot is going well for Rudy Giuliani’s campaign. His fund raising is strong. He outstrips his GOP rivals in national polls. His speeches on taxes and health care were solid. He picked up some foreign-policy gravitas with a successful trip to London.
But there is a fly in the ointment. Even members of Mr. Giuliani’s own staff are appalled at how he handled the incident in which he answered a phone call from his wife, Judith, right in the middle of a nationally televised speech to the National Rifle Association.
What was that about? Columnist Robert Novak cites “supporters from outside the Giuliani staff” who claim that taking phone calls from his wife as been “part of his political bag of tricks all year.” But Mr. Giuliani’s deputy press secretary Jason Miller told me the NRA incident was definitely not a stunt. Instead it was a “candid and spontaneous moment” that would humanize the tough-guy former mayor with voters.
Nice try. Just in case this isn’t obviously ridiculous, Fox News commissioned a poll on the subject. It found that only 9% of Americans think a candidate should ever interrupt a speech to accept a call from his spouse.
The fact is that people inside the Giuliani campaign are appalled at the number of times their candidate has felt compelled to interrupt public appearances to take calls from his wife. The estimate from those in a position to know is that he has taken such calls more than 40 times in the middle of speeches, conferences and presentations to large donors. “If it’s a stunt, it’s not one coming from him,” says one Giuliani staffer. “It’s an ongoing problem that he won’t take advice on.”
Great. Another president with ongoing problems he won’t take advice on. Just what we need.
A female CNN journalist heard about a very old Jewish man who had been going to the Western Wall to pray, twice a day, every day, for a long, long time.
So she went to check it out. She went to the Western Wall and there he was, walking slowly up to the holy site.
She watched him pray and after about 45 minutes, when he turned to leave, using a cane and moving very slowly, she approached him for an interview.
“Pardon me, sir, I’m Rebecca Smith from CNN. What’s your name?
“Morris Fishbien,” he replied.
“Sir, how long have you been coming to the Western Wall and praying?”
“For about 60 years.”
“60 years! That’s amazing! What do you pray for?”
“I pray for peace between the Christians, Jews and the Muslims.”
“I pray for all the wars and all the hatred to stop. ”
“I pray for all our children to grow up safely as responsible adults, and to love their fellow man.”
“How do you feel after doing this for 60 years?”
“Like I’m talking to a fuckin’ wall.”
Zimbabwe’s bakeries have shut and supermarkets have warned there will be no bread for the foreseeable future as the government admitted that wheat production had collapsed following the seizure of white-owned farms.
The agricultural ministry announcement that the wheat harvest is only about a third of what is required, and that imports are held up by lack of hard currency, came as a deadline passed today for the last white farmers to leave their land or face prosecution for trespass.
The maize harvest is expected to be equally dire and price controls to contain hyperinflation have emptied the stores of most other foodstuffs. The World Food Programme says at least 3 million people – one in four of the population – will need food aid in the coming months. It describes hunger in some parts of the country, which used to be a food exporter, as “acutely serious”.
UN special envoy Ibrahim Gambari has met Myanmar junta supremo Than Shwe today, to try to persuade him to end a crackdown on the biggest democracy protests in 20 years.
The two met in the junta’s remote new capital, Naypyitaw, two foreign diplomats said.
Also present were Than Shwe’s no. 2, General Maung Aye, no. 3, General Thura Shwe Mann, and acting Prime Minister Thein Sein, who’s fourth in the hierarchy.
The diplomats spoke on condition of anonymity, citing protocol.
The most senior official to defect so far, Hla Win, said: “Many more people have been killed in recent days than you’ve heard about. The bodies can be counted in several thousand.”
Executed: The body of a Buddhist monk floats in a river
Tufts University researchers are developing techniques that could allow computers to respond to users’ thoughts of frustration — too much work — or boredom–too little work. Applying non-invasive and easily portable imaging technology in new ways, they hope to gain real-time insight into the brain’s more subtle emotional cues and help provide a more efficient way to get work done.
USER: You mean you can see into my mind.
COMPUTER: It amazes me how you manage to live in anything that small.