The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

How the McDonalds Monopoly game was rigged

Via Schneier, the head of security for the marketing firm running the game stole the million-dollar game pieces:

[FBI Special Agent Richard] Dent’s investigation had started in 2000, when a mysterious informant called the FBI and claimed that McDonald’s games had been rigged by an insider known as “Uncle Jerry.” The person revealed that “winners” paid Uncle Jerry for stolen game pieces in various ways. The $1 million winners, for example, passed the first $50,000 installment to Uncle Jerry in cash. Sometimes Uncle Jerry would demand cash up front, requiring winners to mortgage their homes to come up with the money. According to the informant, members of one close-knit family in Jacksonville had claimed three $1 million prizes and a Dodge Viper.

When Dent alerted McDonald’s headquarters in Oak Brook, Illinois, executives were deeply concerned. The company’s top lawyers pledged to help the FBI, and faxed Dent a list of past winners. They explained that their game pieces were produced by a Los Angeles company, Simon Marketing, and printed by Dittler Brothers in Oakwood, Georgia, a firm trusted with printing U.S. mail stamps and lotto scratch-offs. The person in charge of the game pieces was Simon’s director of security, Jerry Jacobson.

Dent thought he had found his man. But after installing a wiretap on Jacobson’s phone, he realized that his tip had led to a super-sized conspiracy. Jacobson was the head of a sprawling network of mobsters, psychics, strip-club owners, convicts, drug traffickers, and even a family of Mormons, who had falsely claimed more than $24 million in cash and prizes.

The longish read is worth the time.

Yuck

It's the hottest weekend of the year so far. We beat the high temperature on June 30th by half a degree (35.6°C v 36.1°C) yesterday, and so far today we've hovered around 32°C for the past four hours. So, naturally, I walked about 5 km earlier today to check out some open houses.

I'm ready for fall. Just as soon as I take my second shower of the day...

Personal note on travel

I love to travel. So I was surprised to learn, after chasing a hunch, that I haven't been outside the state of Illinois since January 22nd, 194 days ago. I confirmed this with Google Timeline.

The last time I've gone this long without traveling to another state (or country), as far as I can tell, was 3 August 1981 to 5 March 1982, a gap of 214 days. But my family probably went up to Wisconsin at some point during that period, so I can't exactly call that a reliable record. Same with the 213-day gap between 4 January 1979 and 5 August 1979 that's on the record. (These dates come from my mom's journals, which is why I'm not sure they're complete.)

So it's possible that this is the longest time in my entire life that I've gone without crossing a state line. And if I don't leave Illinois before my next scheduled trip on August 31st, that'll be 221 days, and absolutely a lifetime record.

What surprises me even more is that I didn't realize this until yesterday. Weird.

Deadly heatwave in Iberia

Temperatures in southern Portugal and Spain have reached 45°C as dust from the Sahara turns skies orange:

In the latest phase of a summer of extreme weather that has brought blistering heat to Britaindrought to the Netherlands and deadly wildfires to Greece, the heatwave affecting parts of southern Europe has reached a new intensity this weekend. According to IPMA, the Portuguese weather agency, about a third of the country’s meteorological stations broke temperature records on Saturday. The highest was 46.4°C in Alvega, 120km from Lisbon.

In the southern Algarve, more than 700 firefighters battled a forest fire that had spread across 1,000 hectares near the town of Monchique; in the capital, Lisbon, the usually busy terrace cafes of the Chiado district were quiet as people stayed indoors. And in Amareleja, a sleepy town as famous for its hot summers as for its full-bodied red wines, the large outdoor thermometer at the Farmácia Portugal read 44.5°C just after midday. Petrol station attendant Joaquim, however, was not fazed: the past couple of days had been abnormal, he said, but locals were “used to the heat and know how to adapt”.

The high temperatures in Portugal and Spain are caused by a plume of warm air from the Sahara, which yesterday turned the sky an eerie orange in places, including above Amareleja.

Meanwhile, the best President we have right now is trying to tank fuel-economy standards for cars.

Hot pants in the White House

Hot, as in "on fire." The Washington Post has found that the President has made more than 4,200 false or misleading claims since taking office, half of them in the last six months. Moreover:

On July 5, the president reached a new daily high of 79 false and misleading claims. On a monthly basis, June and July rank in first and second place, with 532 and 446 claims, respectively.

Trump has a proclivity to repeat, over and over, many of his false or misleading statements. We’ve counted nearly 150 claims that the president has repeated at least three times, some with breathtaking frequency.

Almost one third of Trump’s claims — 1,293 — relate to economic issues, trade deals or jobs. He frequently takes credit for jobs created before he became president or company decisions with which he had no role. He cites his “incredible success” in terms of job growth, even though annual job growth under his presidency has been slower than the last five years of Barack Obama’s term.

On the other hand, this is the one category in which Trump truly is the best in class. Everyone has his talents, I suppose.

New evidence of the Mayans' fate

Sediment under Lake Chichancanab on the Yucatan Peninsula has offered scientists a clearer view of what happened to the Mayan civilization:

Scientists have several theories about why the collapse happened, including deforestation, overpopulation and extreme drought. New research, published in Science Thursday, focuses on the drought and suggests, for the first time, how extreme it was.

[S]cientists found a 50 percent decrease in annual precipitation over more than 100 years, from 800 to 1,000 A.D. At times, the study shows, the decrease was as much as 70 percent.

The drought was previously known, but this study is the first to quantify the rainfall, relative humidity and evaporation at that time. It's also the first to combine multiple elemental analyses and modeling to determine the climate record during the Mayan civilization demise.

Many theories about the drought triggers exist, but there is no smoking gun some 1,000 years later. The drought coincides with the beginning of the Medieval Warm Period, thought to have been caused by a decrease in volcanic ash in the atmosphere and an increase in solar activity. Previous studies have shown that the Mayans’ deforestation may have also contributed. Deforestation tends to decrease the amount of moisture and destabilize the soil. Additional theories for the cause of the drought include changes to the atmospheric circulation and decline in tropical cyclone frequency, Evans said.

What this research has to do with the early 21st Century I'll leave as an exercise for the reader.

Late afternoon reading

When I get home tonight, I'll need to read these (and so should you):

And now, I'm off to the Art Institute.

American Land Use

Bloomberg published on Monday a super-cool analysis of U.S. land use patterns:

Using surveys, satellite images and categorizations from various government agencies, the U.S. Department of Agriculture divides the U.S. into six major types of land. The data can’t be pinpointed to a city block—each square on the map represents 250,000 acres of land. But piecing the data together state-by-state can give a general sense of how U.S. land is used.

Gathered together, cropland would take up more than a fifth of the 48 contiguous states. Pasture and rangeland would cover most of the Western U.S., and all of the country’s cities and towns would fit neatly in the Northeast.

This is, of course, total Daily Parker bait.

Lunchtime reading

Happy August! (Wait, where did April go?)

As I munch on my salad at my desk today, I'm reading these stories:

And finally, a bit of good news out of Half Moon Bay, Calif. The corporate owner of the local paper told them they had to shut down, so a group of townspeople formed a California benefit corporation to buy the paper out.

Forgetting the "forgotten men"

Greg Sargent points out how President Trump's latest tweetstorm shows his utter contempt for the voters who elected him:

The campaign story Trump told about self-enriching globalist elites was that they have employed permissive immigration and misguided or corrupt trade policies to subject U.S. workers to debilitating labor competition from border-crossing migrants and slave-wage workers in China. Trump supplemented this economic nationalism with vows to make wealthy investors pay more, secure huge job-creating infrastructure expenditures and protect social insurance — thus promising a broad, dramatic ideological break with the GOP.

All that’s left of this vision, of course, is Trump’s draconian immigration crackdown, which is spreading terror and misery in immigrant communities, and Trump’s trade war, which is threatening to upend complex global supply chains and is badly rattling our international alliances. On everything else, Trump threw in with traditional GOP plutocratic priorities: He has done all he can to gut consumer, financial and environmental regulations; his tax plan lavished huge, regressive benefits on the wealthy; his infrastructure plan vanished; and his vow to replace Obamacare with better coverage “for everybody” morphed into a failed effort to cut health insurance for millions (to facilitate tax cuts for the wealthy).

Now Trump is mulling yet another plan to cut taxes by $100 billion mainly on the rich...

Yep. Trump's plan isn't even economic nationalism, Sargent adds. It's just xenophobic nationalism. The only good news here is that even people who voted for him in 2016 have had enough.