The second good thing Congress has done in the last year

The other good thing Congress did was forcing TV networks to stop cranking up the volume when going to commercials.


After investigation, AT&T, Verizon agree to stop ‘cramming’ phone bills

By Bob Sullivan

Verizon and AT&T have agreed to stop “cramming” consumers’ telephone bills with unauthorized third-party charges, Sen. Jay Rockefeller announced Wednesday. The move comes after a Senate investigation revealed last year that consumers were hit with $10 billion in fraudulent charges due to the practice over the past five years.

A TODAY show/ investigation in July  revealed how extensive and frustrating cramming is, with maddening, mysterious $10 or $20 charges appearing every month on millions of Americans ‘phone bills.

The investigation relied on a report commissioned by Rockefeller that found that three telecom firms – — Verizon, AT&T and CenturyLink/Quest — earned $650 million as their cut of cramming charges levied by third-parties since 2006.

“AT&T made the right decision to end cramming by August,” the West Virginia Democrat’s office said in a statement on Wednesday.  “Something had to be done.  And while the decisions of AT&T and Verizon are a step in the right direction, I still believe we need to pass a bill that bans this abusive practice once and for all.”

“AT&T has decided to discontinue most third-party billing on our customers’ landline accounts,” Michael Balmoris, an AT&T spokesman, said in a statement to “We currently receive cramming complaints for only about one out of every thousand bills that contain third-party charges.  However, due to continued concern over the possibility of unauthorized charges, we have decided to take this additional step and eliminate third-party billing for most types of services.”

Verizon spokesman Bill Kula also confirmed the change, saying in an email: “On March 19, Verizon’s wireline business began notifying its billing aggregators (or “clearinghouses”) and carriers that it is going to cease providing third-party billing services for so-called ‘miscellaneous’ or ‘enhanced’ services. All billing of those services will be phased out by the end of 2012.  … Verizon wireline will continue to provide billing services for third party charges that generally relate to telecommunications or information services that use our network.”

Separately, Verizon earlier this month agreed to settle aclass-action lawsuit related to cramming, and agreed to refund 100 percent of victims’ money for any unauthorized third-party charges consumers suffered from April 27, 2005, through Feb. 28, 2012.

Cramming has vexed consumers and generated mountains of complaints since 1995, when land line providers began making it easy for third-party firms to sell add-on services like voice mail through local phone bills.

The problem is it’s too easy for third parties to attach unwanted items to consumers’ bills:  Previous investigations have found firms frequently trick consumers into signing up using sweepstakes entries or cashing small checks that also serve as authorization forms. In other cases, the third-party firms simply lie about getting authorization, a scam called “phantom billing.” Last year, Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan testified that usage rates for the unwanted services could be as low as 1 percent.

“Committee staff has found hundreds of egregious examples of cramming,” the Rockefeller report found. “Third-party vendors have enrolled deceased persons in their so-called services and charged family members’ telephone bills for it. They have charged telephone lines dedicated to fire alarms, security systems, bank vaults, elevators and 911 systems. Senior citizens’ telephones have been enrolled in web-hosting services, even though they have never used. A children‘s hospital was charged for a celebrity tracker e-mail service that provided daily celebrity news feeds, photo, and videos. A national bank‘s telephone lines were charged for credit protection plans.”

Perhaps nothing illustrates how out of control cramming had become as well as AT&T’s own victimization.

“Committee staff confirmed that third-party vendors associated with one hub company crammed at least 80 of AT&T‘s own telephone lines with charges for services such as voicemail, sometimes for periods as long as 18 months,” the report said.

Rush’s Immigration Laws

Our poor illegal aliens have it so rough. I think Rush has it dead on.

The following is excerpted from Rush’s transcript:

“All right, immigration proposals under discussion. Let me add mine to the mix. I want to call this proposal the Limbaugh Laws. …

First, if you immigrate to the United States of America, you must speak the native language.

You have to be a professional or an investor.

[America is] not going to take unskilled workers…

There will be no special bilingual programs in the schools, no special ballots for elections, no government business will be conducted in your native language.

Foreigners will not have the right to vote…nor will they ever be allowed to hold political office. According to the Limbaugh Laws, if you’re in our country, you cannot be a burden to taxpayers. You are not entitled, ever, to welfare, to food stamps, or other government goodies.

You can come if you invest here, but it must be an amount equal to 40,000 times the daily minimum wage. If you don’t know have that amount of money, you can’t come and invest. You have to stay home.

If you do come and you want to buy land, okay, but we’re going to restrict your options. You will not be allowed to buy waterfront property in the United States. That will be reserved for citizens naturally born in this country.

In fact, as a foreigner, you must relinquish individual rights to property… Another thing.

You don’t have the right to protest when you come here. You’re allowed no demonstrations, you cannot wave a foreign flag, no political organizing, no bad-mouthing our president or his policies, or you get sent home.

You’re a foreigner. You shut your mouth or you get out, and if you come here illegally, you go straight to jail and we’re going to hunt you down ’til we find you.

I can imagine many of you think that the Limbaugh Laws are pretty harsh. I imagine today some of you probably are going, “Yeah! Yeah!” Well, let me tell you this, folks. Every one of the laws I just mentioned are actual laws of Mexico, today. I just read you Mexican immigration law. That’s how the Mexican government handles immigrants to their country.”

Originally read in 2006. Re-read September 17, 2008

Interesting BYU Admission Statistics

Hey, I was an Eagle Scout, attended seminary and got my Duty to God.

Statistics on BYU’s Incoming 2009 Freshman

  • 96% participated in seminary
  • 83.6% received their Duty to God or Young Womanhood Recognition Award
  • 69.6% of males received Eagle Awards
  • 84% received some advanced placement high school credit
  • 83% participated in performing arts in high school
  • 69.3% were involved in high school sports
  • 31.6% won math or science awards
  • 27.6% served as student body officers or team captains
  • 10,081 students applied
  • 141 were elected student body president
  • 77% of their fathers and 51% of their mothers received a bachelor’s degree
  • Average high school GPA 3.83
  • Average ACT score 28.0

Source: BYU Magazine Summer 2009

A Real Pocket PC

Microsoft coined the term “Pocket PC” in 2000. The product it represented, while technically a personal computer, did not have the utility of what we consider a PC. Microsoft’s Pocket PC allowed you to read email, manage appointments and even play a few basic games but you still sat down at the computer on your desk when you had real work to do. I don’t yearn very often but when I do, I yearn for all the functionality of my laptop in the device I call my cell phone.

I believe we are only three to five years away from having what we consider a real pocket pc with the power and functionality of a typical laptop. The following issues are what stand between us and a real useful full fledged mini computer.

Issue 1: Input

Despite advances in voice recognition and small qwerty keyboards, we need to involve our fingers not just our thumbs. Our minds are still faster than any computer. Current cell phone keyboards are inadequate for anything but a simple email.

The answer–projectable keyboards. They have been around for a number of years but have not gone mainstream. They currently require a separate projection device that communicates via bluetooth to the computer. The projection needs to come directly from the phone.



Issue 2: Output

We’ve all become spoiled by large monitors but you can’t carry them with you. They also require a dedicated power source. Samsung and several other cell phone manufacturers have now built projectors into their cell phones. Samsung’s latest release projects a 50″ high definition screen.




Issue 3: Memory

Solid state memory is here. It is capable of storing large amounts of data, is small, fast and able to handle millions of re-writes. We are already there but you can never have enough memory.

Issue 4: Processing

Despite having phones with 1.5GHz Dual-core CPU’s, they still don’t have the processing power of a laptop. I’m not sure why. Maybe its the number of transistors or the size of the I/O bus but it’s getting better all the time. Cell phone computation is about equivalent to a laptop built in 2006.

Issue 5: High Speed Internet

We are there. 4G and WiFi allow cell phones to access data in the cloud with the speed needed for most business applications.

Issue 6: Power

When projecting your screen and keyboard you can imagine a significant drain on the battery. Additionally, crunching numbers in a big spreadsheet or building a Powerpoint presentation will also put the hurt on your power source. Despite the advances in battery technology, we may always be hindered by power consumption.