Thursday, April 28, 2005

The News – 04/27/05

Contribute to SNS or I Will Kill My Cat!

Sound like extortion? Well it is. I’m totally serious. The cat gets it. Soon. Unless you help.

I’m inspired by a similar plea to save a rabbit named Toby. Toby’s owner and one-time savior promises to eat his pet unless the good people of the Web come up with $50,000.

Toby is the cutest little bunny on the planet. Unfortunately, he will DIE on June 30th, 2005 if you don’t help. [. . .] I am going to eat him. I am going to take Toby to a butcher to have him slaughter this cute bunny. [. . .] I don’t want to eat Toby, he is my friend, and he has always been the most loving, adorable pet. However, God as my witness, I will devour this little guy unless I receive 50,000$ USD into my account from donations or purchase of merchandise. You can help this poor, helpless bunny’s cause by making donations through my verified PayPal account by clicking on any of the Donate buttons on this site, or by purchasing merchandise at the online store.

At press time, the Save Toby site claims to have received more than $20,000 in the effort to save the potential hasenpfeffer.

Toby’s plight is wringing the hearts of scads of people worldwide who are morally outraged that someone would eat a pet rabbit. (See some of Save Toby’s hate mail; warning: very rude language!) Of course, in the meantime, discarded pet bunnies are perishing in animal shelters in large numbers because they breed like, er, rabbits and aren’t quite the cuddly lap pets their owners assume they’ll be. Rabbits actually don’t like to be held and cuddled. Plus they also like to chew on electrical cords, as we found out when rabbitsitting once years ago.

Toby was not the only imperiled bunny on the Net. A rabbit known as Bernd cheated death once as his owner sought 1,000,000 Euros to keep him from the stew pot. The original deadline of December 31, 2004 passed without incident. However, the new deadline of March 27, 2005 was apparently honored and Bernd met his gustatory end. (If you want to see the site, be sure your popup blocker is in place, as there are loads of them at These aren’t the only two threatened bunnies. There was even a Save Fluffy site that is now defunct.

So what’s with the Lagomorphicide? A quick visit to the Urban Legend Reference Pages reveals the fact that both the Toby and the Bernd sites are jokes. The Toby site used to post an “it’s a joke” disclaimer and the Bernd site still includes one in small type at the bottom of the page. Yet the Bernd site lists dozens of donors and although PayPal has shut down the Toby account, it appears Toby’s owner has actually collected at least some of the money the site claims.

So what’s the big deal about a dead rabbit? Even the straight press (OK, perhaps MSNBC isn’t properly the straight press) has taken up the clarion cry, identifying the Toby perpetrators as two college students from the east coast. The students claim to be serious; they really will eat the rabbit. The horror!

Endangered rabbits aside, Web extortion is actually a serious business. Rather than imperiling bunnies, real Web extorters threaten Web sites with massive attacks or with revealing sensitive information if they don’t fork over the dough.

  • A Mississippi man was recently convicted of two counts of extortion — one for threatening to damage property and reputation and one for threatening to damage computers – for trying to extort $2.5 million from BestBuy by threatening to expose the security weaknesses of the company’s Web site.
  • A ring of Russian criminals tried to shake down online gambling sites for $40,000 and actually launched successful attacks that took the barely legal sites down.
  • There have been too many incidents to list where criminals stole credit card numbers from Web sites and then sought payment for not releasing or selling them.

So online extortion is a real problem, even if endangered bunnies are not. Yet it is hard for me to understand why people get so worked up by the impending death of an anonymous pet, especially when hundreds or thousands of rabbits are dying daily to make rabbit stew or just because nobody cares for them. The human heart has an infinite capacity for empathy that unfortunately appears to be matched by people’s infinite capacity to believe whatever they read or see on the Internet. Until something changes, hoaxes like the bunny problem will continue to distract people from the real problems our civilization faces.

But, seriously, my cat’s dead if you don’t fork over some cash.

P.S. I’m allergic to cats and haven’t had one since childhood.

Briefly Noted

  • Shameless Self-Promotion Dept.: It’s here: A wireless networking company called The WiMAX Guys. Our main business is new installs for people who want to set up wireless hotspots such as hotels, warehouses, apartment buildings, and office buildings or hotzones that cover cities. We also sell a knowledge-based Web portal called the MAX K-Base. Check out our main Website at My wife created a bit of a stir when her op-ed piece was published in the Minneapolis StarTribune newspaper after the election. Her article, “Two Nations, Handcuffed Together,” has been commented on or linked to by more than 85 Websites. She’s now created a Website to capitalize on her newfound pundit status. Check it out at Coming At Some Point: A new eBook, Be On the Wave Or Under It™ will collect the best of SNS’ insights over the last couple of years, along with additional material from CTOMentor white papers and new material. It will make a great gift for associates and friends in need of a guide to the latest and greatest technology. Watch for more information in upcoming SNS issues. Several issues ago I debuted SNS Begware, an opportunity for you, gentle reader, to express your appreciation by tipping your server via PayPal. See the sidebar for more info. Total in the kitty so far: $91.48. Thanks Dave!
  • The Raw File – SNS is dedicated to delivering the scoop on the latest and greatest. However, I collect lots of information that never makes it into the newsletter before it gets old. I’ve collected all this aging info into a page called The Raw File. This page is the raw information I gather for SNS articles. It’s not pretty, and some may be a little incoherent, but chances are there are still things in TRF that might be news to you. So therefore, use The Raw File at your own risk – it’s 45+ pages of the best stuff that didn’t make it into SNS. The Raw File
  • Cyborgs on the Horizon: Thanks to Alert SNS Reader David Dabbs for the pointer to a blog detailing a new kind of creepy craze: using implanted RFID chips to unlock your car and perform other authentication tasks. RFID stands for Radio Frequency Identification, which uses a tiny radio receiver to store data that is then read and used to track the movement of goods. The tags on expensive clothes or other items in stores are a form of RFID. But there are other potential uses for RFID technology, including tracking people. While many privacy proponents are concerned about the implications of implanting RFID in humans, some protocyborgs are doing it themselves. UberGeek Amal Graafstra embedded a RFID tag in his hand to easily open his car door, home and to be used as his "password" for a Windows login prompt. Graafstra hacked together a series of RFID readers that read the encrypted serial number in the chip and allow him to do an open sesame with the wave of his hand. Kind of reminds me of the Mechanists in Bruce Sterling’s great story cycle, The Schismatrix. The future is trying to be born. Makezine
  • More Exploitation and Net Begging: So you’re a twentysomething and photographers from a popular brand of casual clothing take you aside on a street, put a hoodie sweatshirt on you, snap your picture, and put it on the cover of their catalog. Sounds great, right? You’re famous. But fame can have a dark site, as Caleb found out. Warning: this link is to a video of Caleb’s plea for compensation and it contains rude language. Caleb's Plea
  • Things You Thought You Knew How to Do: I used to work for a guy who forbade us to talk about doing things the “right way.” He reasoned that there were many right ways to do things and asserting a single right way limited our thinking. Well, I thought I knew how to fold up a shirt. Turns out there is a right way. See the video. Albino Black Sheep
  • Things That Make Your Skin Crawl: Just because you’re a Neanderthal white racist doesn’t mean you’re not thinking about the future. Stormfront Futurist Thread
  • Blast From the Past: Style vs. Substance: From SNS three years ago: I recently came upon this very interesting article written in January [2002] by Jason Pontin, editor of Red Herring. It draws parallels between Carly Fiorina of HP and Jeffrey Skilling, former Enron CEO. Pontin accuses both, and most of modern technology marketers, as being empty suits, more concerned with the “message” of their company than with the company’s business. It’s an interesting read. Red Herring (registration required)

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