Assorted Stupidity #32

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  • In response to increased numbers of gadget thefts from people who are drunk and/or snoozing on the subway, the NYPD is reportedly training undercover officers to act drunk. What does that training involve, I wonder? I think these stakeouts are a good idea, actually — they should at least turn out better than the undercover barber did. (Gizmodo)
  • Nineteen beer-loving suspects were rounded up the other day when they were told they had won a free crate of beer, but when they showed up to get it, turned out they had won a free trip to jail. Yes, these men were wanted for criminal offenses, but it still somehow seems wrong to trick a man into showing up with an empty promise of free beer.  (The Guardian)
  • Did you know that insider trading is illegal for most people but legal for members of Congress, who can profit from nonpublic information they learn in briefings? For six years, Rep. Louise Slaughter has been looking for co-sponsors for legislation that would ban the practice. Number of co-sponsors in November, prior to a 60 Minutes exposé on the matter: nine. Current number of co-sponsors: 127. "I've never seen such an explosion of interest," Slaughter said. (Washington Post)
  • In other federal government news, it'll soon be spying on itself, and probably on you, or at least it'll be more efficient than it is now. Researchers at Georgia Tech recently announced they have been working with the Pentagon on PRODIGAL, a system for the "Proactive Discovery of Insider Threats Using Graph Analysis and Learning." Translation: it reads your mail. PRODIGAL can scan a quarter-billion instant messages, texts, and emails per day, looking for "anomalies." If it works, it's that much less freedom. If it doesn't, it'll have lived up to its acronym, which somebody may not know means "to spend money or resources freely and recklessly; wastefully extravagant." (
  • Also codename-challenged is the CIA, which has been working closely with a company and software known as Palantir, which is also designed to "make it really easy to mine these big datasets," potentially uncovering suspicious activity by terrorists. Nerds like myself will know that palantir is taken from "The Lord of the Rings," in which a palantir is a crystal-ball-type item that was created with good intentions but virtually always deceived and corrupted the user. And that's the name they picked. (BusinessWeek)
  • According to a lawsuit filed in New Mexico, a 13-year-old was handcuffed, arrested and taken to juvenile detention last May for burping in P.E. class. (Daily Mail) Not to be outdone, a North Carolina school recently suspended a 9-year-old boy for "sexual harassment" of a teacher. Emanyea Lockett's story is that he told a friend the teacher was "cute," but in a letter the school reportedly alleged that he said she was "'fine,' in a suggestive tone." So you can see why they had to take action. (