Monday, September 30, 2013

Washington area could lose $200 million a day if shutdown occurs, economist says - The Washington Post

Washington area could lose $200 million a day if shutdown occurs, economist says - The Washington Post: "Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D) has been pushing a bill in Congress to exempt the city from a potential shutdown, as it did in 1995, when a federal shutdown had what Norton called a “disastrous” impact on the District.

“It was horrific,” Norton said. “In a shutdown, the garbage does not get picked up, no matter what, for a week. Then you can declare a health emergency.”

‘We’re really bleeding’"

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Thomas Jefferson’s Quran: How Islam Shaped the Founders

Thomas Jefferson's Quran: How Islam Shaped the Founders

by  Sep 29, 2013 4:45 AM EDT

What role did Islam have in shaping the Founders' views on religion? A new book argues that to understand the debate over church and state, we need to look to their views on Muslims, writes R.B. Bernstein.

One of the nastiest aspects of modern culture wars is the controversy raging over the place of Islam and Muslims in Western society. Too many Americans say things about Islam and Muslims that would horrify and offend them if they heard such things said about Christianity or Judaism, Christians or Jews. Unfortunately, those people won't open Denise A. Spellberg's Thomas Jefferson's Qur'an: Islam and the Founders. This enlightening book might cause them to rethink what they're saying.

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Photo Illustration by The Daily Beast

Thomas Jefferson's Qur'an examines the intersection during the nation's founding era of two contentious themes in the culture wars—the relationship of Islam to America, and the proper relationship between church and state. The story that it tells ought to be familiar to most Americans, and is familiar to historians of the nation's founding. And yet, by using Islam as her book's touchstone, Spellberg brings illuminating freshness to an oft-told tale.

Spellberg, associate professor of history and Middle Eastern Studies at the University of Texas at Austin, seeks to understand the role of Islam in the American struggle to protect religious liberty. She asks how Muslims and their religion fit into eighteenth-century Americans' models of religious freedom. While conceding that many Americans in that era viewed Islam with suspicion, classifying Muslims as dangerous and unworthy of inclusion within the American experiment, she also shows that such leading figures as Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, and George Washington spurned exclusionary arguments, arguing that America should be open to Muslim citizens, office-holders, and even presidents. Spellberg's point is that, contrary to those today who would dismiss Islam and Muslims as essentially and irretrievably alien to the American experiment and its religious mix, key figures in the era of the nation's founding argued that that American church-state calculus both could and should make room for Islam and for believing Muslims.

As Spellberg argues with compelling force, the conventional understanding of defining religion's role in the nation's public life has at its core a sharp divide between acceptable beliefs (members of most Protestant Christian denominations) and the unacceptable "other." Many Protestant Americans, for example, disdained the Roman Catholic Church because of their memories of the bitter religious wars of the Protestant Reformation. Further, Pennsylvania's constitution and laws allowed voting, sitting on juries, and holding office only to those who professed a belief in the divine inspiration of the Old and New Testaments.

By contrast, Thomas Jefferson, a central figure in Spellberg's book, had a strong, lifelong commitment to religious liberty. Jefferson rejected toleration, the alternative perspective and one embraced by John Locke and John Adams, as grounded on the idea that a religious majority has a right to impose its will on a religious minority, but chooses to be tolerant for reasons of benevolence. Religious liberty, Jefferson argued, denies the majority any right to coerce a dissenting minority, even one hostile to religion. Jefferson rejected using government power to coerce religious belief and practice because it would create a nation of tyrants and hypocrites, as it is impossible to force someone to believe against the promptings of his conscience. Jefferson embraced religious liberty and separation of church and state to protect the individual human mind and the secular political realm from the corrupting alliance of church and state. His political ally James Madison, echoing Roger Williams, the seventeenth-century Baptist religious leader and founder of Rhode Island, added that separation of church and state also would protect the garden of the church from a corrupting alliance with the wilderness of the secular world.

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Thomas Jefferson's Qur'an: Islam and the Founders. By Denise A. Spellberg 416 pages. Knopf. $27.95.

Ranged against separation was a view of church-state relations teaching that government could accommodate religion and need not be neutral between the cause of religion in general and that of irreligion or atheism. Adherents of this view included Samuel Adams, Roger Sherman, and Patrick Henry. The ongoing struggle between these two points of view has shaped and continues to shape American religious history and the law of church and state under the U.S. Constitution.

Spellberg adds to this familiar story well a valuable and unfamiliar twist, introducing Islam as a focal-point of American thought and argument. Were Muslims to be excluded from America? Was Islam antithetical to American ideas of religious freedom and openness of citizenship?

Spellberg begins her answers to these questions by analyzing Europeans' and Americans' negative and positive images of Islam between the mid-sixteenth century and the eighteenth century. For example, the French jurist and philosophe Charles Louis Secondat, baron de Montesquieu, made Muslim diplomats the viewpoint characters of his pathbreaking satirical novel The Persian Letters, which presented European laws, institutions, manners, and morals from an "outsider" Muslim perspective. Yet many Europeans and Americans, seeing Muslims as perennial adversaries of Christianity from the Crusades, insisted that Muslims had no claim to religious liberty because of their supposed hostility to the idea of libertyTurning from a general overview to focus on Jefferson, Spellberg devotes the core of her book to examining his seemingly antithetical views with regard to Islam and its believers. Though Jefferson was a harsh critic of Islam as a religion (as he was of all Abrahamic religions) and of the hostage-taking and ransom-seeking practices of Muslim states in the Mediterranean (the "Barbary Pirates," against whom he unsuccessfully tried to organize a Euro-American naval alliance), he also was a staunch advocate of religious freedom even for those falling outside the conventional spectrum of Protestant Christian believers, including Catholics, Jews, and Muslims. Jefferson's views differed from those of his friend and diplomatic colleague John Adams, who dismissed Jefferson's quest for an alliance against the Barbary states as unrealistic and who rejected the inclusion of Muslims within an evolving American definition of religious freedom.

Probably more Americans distrusted Islam and Muslims than made room for them in the American experiment.

Jefferson and Adams were far from the only Americans who differed about Islam and the status of believing Muslims in America. As Spellberg points out, during the ratification controversy of 1787-1788, the proposed U.S. Constitution's ban on religious tests for holding federal office (Article VI, clause 1) became a lightning-rod of criticism, with opponents of the Constitution charging that that ban would enable "a Jew, Turk, or infidel" to become president. Nor did these political controversies rage only among those conventionally identified as leading "founding fathers." A key leader of the Baptist denomination, John Leland, not only backed Jefferson's and Madison's campaign against religious establishments in Virginia and on the national stage, but also sided with them on the question of Muslims becoming part of the American experiment. Recognizing that the Baptists faced discrimination and denunciation from more established sects of Protestant Christianity, and taking that experience to heart, Leland opposed discrimination against those who were not part of that favored range of Protestant sects and denominations – including Muslims.

The story at the core of Spellberg's book privileges her chosen focus on liberty and inclusion while downplaying her account of religious suspicion and bigotry during the American founding. Probably more Americans distrusted Islam and Muslims than made room for them in the American experiment. This paradox poses the sharp question whether we should give weight to a probable numerical majority or to an enlightened minority in assessing constitutional interpretation during the nation's founding. Spellberg might have framed her book just as plausibly as a tale of conflicting political, constitutional, and religious visions – with the battle between them as pointed and bitter then as it is now.

Nonetheless, one of the most valuable aspects of Thomas Jefferson's Qur'an is its compelling, formidably documented case that Americans divided on this question in the founding period, as they do today, and that the case for inclusion is far stronger, in substance and in the authority of those embracing it, than the case for exclusion. Stressing the need to remember the enlightened approach to who gets the benefit of the American experiment's protections of religious liberty, Spellberg's book is essential reading in these troubled times.

Iqbal  Quidwai   
  1. Raise your words, not your voice. It is rain which grows flowers, not thunder.– Jalaluddin Rumi

Thomas Jefferson’s Quran: How Islam Shaped the Founders - The Daily Beast

Thomas Jefferson’s Quran: How Islam Shaped the Founders - The Daily Beast: "By contrast, Thomas Jefferson, a central figure in Spellberg’s book, had a strong, lifelong commitment to religious liberty. Jefferson rejected toleration, the alternative perspective and one embraced by John Locke and John Adams, as grounded on the idea that a religious majority has a right to impose its will on a religious minority, but chooses to be tolerant for reasons of benevolence. Religious liberty, Jefferson argued, denies the majority any right to coerce a dissenting minority, even one hostile to religion. Jefferson rejected using government power to coerce religious belief and practice because it would create a nation of tyrants and hypocrites, as it is impossible to force someone to believe against the promptings of his conscience. Jefferson embraced religious liberty and separation of church and state to protect the individual human mind and the secular political realm from the corrupting alliance of church and state"

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Government Shutdown Will Be Much Worse for Republicans Than 1996 | New Republic

Government Shutdown Will Be Much Worse for Republicans Than 1996 | New Republic:

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Democratic Lawmaker Grumbles About His Party Caving On Sequestration

Democratic Lawmaker Grumbles About His Party Caving On Sequestration: "Some Democrats wondered why Republicans haven't been more jubilant about the fact that they've effectively won the fight on sequestration, at least for now. By virtue of nobody taking action to replace it, the across-the-board cuts remain in place and the GOP can tout fiscal responsibility.

"It's baffling to me that the Republicans aren't claiming victory," Rep. Jim McGovern (D-Mass.) told The Huffington Post. "I've talked to a lot of them, privately, and a lot of them say, 'Yeah, this is what we want. We should call it a day.'"

Rep. Mike Honda (D-Calif.) said neither party is focused on sequestration because Republicans have turned the fiscal debate into something more dire: risking a government shutdown and potentially a debt default.

"They have bigger things to fry," Honda said, shaking his head. "The game changed when they started to say, 'Oh, let's defund Obamacare.'""

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John Boehner Mocks Obama In House Floor Speech

John Boehner Mocks Obama In House Floor Speech: "House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) mocked President Barack Obama in a floor speech Monday, hours before a potential government shutdown -- marking a rare move and a public sign of the two leaders' increasingly soured relationship.

"I didn't come here to shut down the government," Boehner said, moments before the House voted on the GOP's latest continuing resolution, which includes a one-year delay of Obamacare's individual mandate. "The American people don't want a shutdown, and neither do I.""

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Government Shutting Down in Impasse NY Times 100113


Government Shutting Down in Impasse

Stephen Crowley/The New York Times
Obama's Statement on Looming Shutdown: President Obama urged House Republicans to pass a funding measure, saying it would be the “height of irresponsibility” to shut down the government.
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WASHINGTON — A flurry of last-minute moves by the House, Senate and White House late Monday failed to break a bitter budget standoff over President Obama’s health care law, setting in motion the first government shutdown in nearly two decades.
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Doug Mills/The New York Times
House Speaker John A. Boehner of Ohio headed to vote on the latest bill to link further government financing to a weakening of President Obama‘s health care law.
Stephen Crowley/The New York Times
President Obama met with his cabinet on Monday to discuss how to deal with a possible government shutdown.
Doug Mills/The New York Times
Senator Harry Reid rejected the House's latest proposal, with hours to go before the budget deadline.

Readers’ Comments

The impasse meant that 800,000 federal workers were to be furloughed and more than a million others would be asked to work without pay. The Office of Management and Budget issued orders shortly before the midnight deadline that “agencies should now execute plans for an orderly shutdown due to the absence of appropriations” because Congress had failed to act to keep the federal government financed.
After a series of rapid-fire back and forth legislative maneuvers, the House and Senate ended the day with no resolution, and the Senate halted business until later Tuesday while the House took steps to open talks. But Harry Reid, the Senate majority leader, dismissed as game-playing the House proposal to begin conference committee negotiations.
“We will not go to conference with a gun to our heads,” he said, demanding that the House accept the Senate’s six-week stopgap spending bill, which has no policy prescriptions, before negotiations begin.
The Obama administration and the Republican-controlled House had come close to failing to finance the government in the past but had always reached a last-minute agreement to head off a disruption in government services.
In the hours leading up to the deadline, House Republican leaders won approval, in a vote of 228 to 201, of a new plan to tie further government spending to a one-year delay in a requirement that individuals buy health insurance. The House proposal would deny federal subsidies to members of Congress, Capitol Hill staff, executive branch political appointees, White House staff, and the president and vice president, who would be forced to buy their health coverage on the Affordable Care Act’s new insurance exchanges.
But 57 minutes later, and with almost no debate, the Senate killed the House health care provisions and sent the stopgap spending bill right back, free of policy prescriptions. Earlier in the day, the Senate had taken less than 25 minutes to convene and dispose of a weekend budget proposal by the House Republicans.
“They’ve lost their minds,” Mr. Reid said, before disposing of the House bill. “They keep trying to do the same thing over and over again.”
The federal government was then left essentially to run out of money at midnight, the end of the fiscal year, although the president signed a measure late Monday that would allow members of the military to continue to be paid.
“You don’t get to extract a ransom for doing your job,” Mr. Obama said in the White House briefing room as the clock ticked to midnight.
Mr. Obama called House Speaker John A. Boehner of Ohio, but they spoke for less than 10 minutes, without any sign of progress.
“I talked to the president tonight,” the speaker said on the House floor. He summed up Mr. Obama’s remarks as: “I’m not going to negotiate. I’m not going to negotiate.”
The House’s most ardent conservatives were resigned to seeing through their war on the health care law to its inevitable conclusion, a shutdown that could test voters’ patience with Republican brinkmanship.
Cracks in the party were opening into fissures of frustration.
“You have this group that keeps saying somehow if you’re not with them, you’re for Obamacare,” said Representative Devin Nunes, Republican of California. “If you’re not with exactly their plan, exactly what they want to do, then you’re somehow for Obamacare, and it’s just getting a little old.”
“It’s moronic to shut down the government over this,” he continued.
It was far from certain that Republicans could remain unified on their insistence on health care concessions if a shutdown lasted for some time. Asked whether Republicans could hold together through the end of the week, Representative Phil Gingrey of Georgia, one of the more conservative members, answered: “I don’t know. I don’t know.”
Earlier Monday, the Senate voted 54 to 46 along party lines to kill the previous House plan immediately after ending a weekend break. Senators then sent the House a bill to finance the government through Nov. 15 without policy prescriptions.
But House leaders would have none of it, again demanding a significant hit to the health law as a price for keeping the government open.
Mr. Reid laid into Mr. Boehner and put the blame for a shutdown solely on his shoulders. “Our negotiation is over with,” he said.
“You know with a bully you cannot let them slap you around, because they slap you around today, they slap you five or six times tomorrow,” Mr. Reid, a former boxer, continued. “We are not going to be bullied.”
In addition to criticizing Mr. Boehner, Mr. Reid excoriated what he called the “banana Republican mind-set” of the House. He called on the speaker to put the Senate bill up for a vote, which would almost certainly pass in the House because of overwhelming Democratic support and backing from moderate Republicans.
In one of their final moves, House Republicans attached language to a government funding bill that would delay the mandate that individuals obtain health insurance and would force members of Congress, their staffs and White House staff members to buy their health insurance on the new exchanges without any government subsidies.
Conservative activists have portrayed the language as ensuring that Congress and the White House would be held to the same strictures that apply to ordinary Americans under the health care law. In fact, the language would put poorly paid junior staff members at a disadvantage.
Most people buying coverage on the exchanges will receive subsidies through generous tax credits. Most Americans will still get their insurance from their employers, who will continue to receive a tax deduction for the cost of that care. Under the House language, lawmakers and their staffs, executive branch political appointees, the White House staff, and the president and vice president would have to pay the entire cost of health insurance out of pocket.
Representative Peter T. King, Republican of New York, said junior staff members were “being used as a sacrifice” for a political gambit, driven by Republican hard-liners in the Senate like Ted Cruz of Texas, that will go nowhere.
“They locked themselves into this situation, the dead end that Ted Cruz created,” Mr. King said.
The budget confrontation — which threatened to close federal offices and facilities, idling thousands of workers around the country — stemmed from an unusual push by Republicans to undo a law that has been on the books for three years, through a presidential election, and that the Supreme Court largely upheld in 2012. A major part of the law is set to take effect Tuesday: the opening of insurance exchanges, where people without insurance will be able to obtain coverage.
Republicans argue that the administration has itself delayed elements of the law. They say it should be postponed for at least a year.
Democrats say Republicans are being driven by the most extreme elements of their party to use the federal budget to extract concessions on health care that they could not win through the traditional legislative process. “The scary thing about the period we’re in right now is there is no clear end,” said Representative Chris Van Hollen, Democrat of Maryland.
Ashley Parker contributed reporting.

The Army of Islam and the Army of Muhammad in Syria



Thank you NATO for liberationg Libya: your fruits are being enjoyed by the Libyan people

"In short, Libya well and truly seems like a nation on the brink of all-out anarchy."
Vigilante Justice Is Taking Over Libya

This is hilarious: Western media desperate to maintain their level of support for Syrian rebels now talk about "moderate Salafis" (and this from the Economist)
"to shift to Ahrar al-Sham, a considerably larger and marginally more moderate Salafi militia".  There will come a day when you start reading that Zawahiri is a far more moderate person than Bin Laden.  Moderate Salafis and with guns?

The lowdown about Syrian rebels: extremists and moderates
I don't want to upset you but the US government now admits that the moderates who are supported and armed by the US government include some extremists.  I am not making this up.  "A senior State Department official who accompanied Mr. Kerry to the United Nations meetings this week said the United States was still trying to strengthen Mr. Jarba's coalition and suggested that some of the factions that had broken with him included extremists."



These are "moderate" Syrian rebels
 
The other face of the Syrian "revolution"
For the history books: the life and times of `Abdul-Hamid As-Sarraj




Monday, September 30, 2013

The Army of Islam and the Army of Muhammad in Syria

In the last few days alone, important developments occurred in the landscape of Syrian rebels: but those developments went unnoticed in the Western press although they occupied headlines in the Arabic press.  Three armed groups, Ahrar Ash-Sham and Liwa' Al-Islam and Liwa' At-Tawhid declared a joint army called the Army of Muhammad.  Yesterday, 43 different military organization declared the formation of the Army of Islam: its members are required to be part of Sunnah wa-l-Jama`ah and it aims to combat "the Nusayri [`Alawite] occupatio and its Shi`ite allies and Zoroastrian".  Please, don't take this information as a refutation to the persistent Western media stories to the effect that Syrian rebels are a bunch of secularists, liberals, feminists, and with a touch of Sufis.  

returning a stolen artifact is called a gift by the US



"Iranian President Hassan Rouhani on Saturday brought home a 2,700-year-old Persian artifact the US administration gave him as "a special gift" to Iranians, media reports said. "The Americans contacted us on Thursday and said 'we have a gift for you'," Rouhani told reporters upon arrival at the airport in Tehran, the ILNA news agency reported. Rouhani was speaking of a 7th century BC silver Persian drinking cup in the shape of a winged Griffin, a legendary creature with the head of an eagle and body of a lion. After being looted from a cave in Iran, the cup was seized by US custom officials in 2003 when an arts dealer attempted to smuggle it into the country, according to a State Department tweet." (thanks Basim)










The 50 Most Expensive Boarding Schools In America

Fwd: New Service Can Block Pesky — and Illegal — Robocallers

I found this by Googling:

Our main topic in this episode, though, is not icebox madness. We're going to return to robocalling, the subject of an episode in February. Many readers later e-mailed to ask why technology had not long ago put robocallers out of business. As it happens, the Federal Trade Commission has been pondering that very question, and last year it started a competition, inviting citizens to submit ideas about how this perpetual nuisance could be stopped.

On April 2, the commission announced two winners, who each pocketed $25,000. Both solutions, according to the F.T.C. news release, "focus on intercepting and filtering out illegal prerecorded calls using technology to 'blacklist' robocaller phone numbers and 'whitelist' numbers associated with acceptable incoming calls."

Sounds promising, right? But these solutions may have a serious problem:

They won't work, or so says Brad Herrmann, president and founder of Call-Em-All, a robocalling company in Frisco, Tex. Call-Em-All is a legitimate robocall company — and, yes, there is such a thing. It is hired, for instance, by businesses, like delivery services that want to tell customers about delays. Or by school districts that want to quickly alert families about snow days. The list goes on.

Mr. Herrmann says he'd be delighted by any technology that could stymie illegal robocallers, which, of course give the legitimate ones a bad name. But he says he doesn't believe that such a technology exists. His engineers thought long and hard about this, and would have submitted their own entry to the F.T.C. had they succeeded.

"We didn't come up with anything better because there isn't anything better," he said.

The problem with the two winners — a service called Nomorobo and the inelegantly named Robocall Filtering System and Device With Autonomous Blacklisting, Whitelisting, GrayListing and Caller ID Spoof Detection — is that they both rely heavily on caller ID. Which makes both ideas vulnerable to spoofing, an industry word that translates to "fooling your caller ID."

"Every robocaller, legitimate or not, they plug in what number a call is coming from and what number a call is going to," Mr. Herrmann said. "Whatever number that a robocaller would like to appear on your caller ID will appear on your caller ID. I could launch a call to your home phone right now and make it look like it came from your cellphone."

So if a particular incoming number winds up on a blacklist, no problem. There are millions of phone numbers, and a robocaller doesn't need to "own" them to appear to be calling from them.

Mr. Herrmann said he could not comment specifically on the system with the long name, as the F.T.C.'s Web site posted little about it, so he focused on the Nomorobo system, which could be called anti-spoofing plus. The plus part is this: Every call is split, heading to both your phone and a Nomorobo filter that analyzes the call and determines whether it is from an illegal robocaller. If the filter gives the call a thumbs up, your phone rings. If thumbs down, the filter hangs up "before the consumer's phone even has the chance to ring," as a promotional video for Nomorobo puts it.

The video says the system will "use machine learning" to analyze the frequency of every call, comparing the number to those on  blacklists and whitelists. Blacklisted numbers are presented with a Captcha-style test, like the little reading comprehension quizzes on Web sites to prove you're human.

Mr. Herrmann describes this as "conceptually, a wonderful idea." But it's like saying you're going to cure famine by making sure everyone has food — easy to say, all but impossible to do. Once a number winds up on a blacklist, robocallers will just use a different number, Mr. Herrmann says. And any robocalled number that winds up on a whitelist — say, for a school system coping with a snow day — will quickly be scooped up and used by illegal robocallers.

Aaron Foss, 34, a software developer who is Nomorobo's creator, is more optimistic. He says his system can detect bad actors further upstream than caller ID, though he acknowledged that this element is in the "proof of concept" phase. He added that Nomorobo could suss out the widespread use of a single outgoing number and quickly flag it as spam.

What if illegitimate robocallers just start using randomized outgoing numbers, instead of relying on a few of them? That's a tough one, he said.

"Is it foolproof?" he asked. "No. But maybe we can eliminate half the robocalls, and at least we're making them work a little harder."

Attempts to reach Serdar Danis, developer of the other contest winner, were unsuccessful last week.

Ideal answers to robocalling are elusive because of the telephony infrastructure, which was built for analog calls over copper wire. It was installed long before there was a World Wide Web — and before there was robocalling. The infrastructure lacks the smarts to determine the actual source of a call, like an Internet Protocol address.

"And nobody has the financial motivation to yank out that infrastructure," Mr. Herrmann said. So, apparently, illegal robocallers will be sticking around. Like common colds, and those intensely annoying people who get in line to board planes before it's their turn, we're just going to have to live with them.

E-mail: haggler@nytimes.com. Keep it brief and family-friendly, include your hometown and go easy on the caps-lock key. Letters may be edited for clarity and length.

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FYI copy em
My problems Aaron are anonymous calls / also calls masking their true number as I can block 50 callers via my cordless.
I pick up many times as I get over seas calls / others where the caller ID does not work.
If it works in these case then you have a sure shot WINNER!!

Iqbal  Quidwai   
  1. Raise your words, not your voice. It is rain which grows flowers, not thunder.– Jalaluddin Rumi


On Mon, Sep 30, 2013 at 4:14 PM, faraib@earthlink.net <faraib@earthlink.net> wrote:
http://finance.yahoo.com/blogs/the-exchange/block-pesky-illegal-robocallers-220537765.html


New Service Can Block Pesky — and Illegal — Robocallers
By Aaron Pressman | The Exchange – 40 minutes ago
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The federal do-not-call database was supposed to protect consumers from annoying telemarketing calls. There's only one problem – fraudulent telemarketers ignore the list and make billions of robocalls pitching scams and con games.

Overwhelmed regulators are turning to technology for part of the answer. A new service opening on Sept. 30, called Nomorobo, can block most telemarketing offenders.
The service, created by 35-year-old software engineer Aaron Foss, relies on a feature of the phone system known as simultaneous ring. When a consumer signs up on the Web with the service, all their calls are routed simultaneously to one of Nomorobo's online servers. Before the call even rings at the consumer's end, the service analyzes whether the call should go through or be blocked, based on a vast database of fraudulent calling numbers.
The Federal Trade Commission, which receives some 200,000 complaints a month about robocalling, last year held a contest for the best technological solutions; Foss was one of two winners among 800 entries.
"Personally, I don't have a really big problem with robocalls but I thought I had a creative solution for the contest," Foss says.
Although Nomorobo's servers currently rely on lists of over 1 million numbers that have already been tagged as robocallers, Foss designed the system to learn. A new, unknown number that is placing thousands of calls a minute may set off a red flag, for example.
The free service is initially available only to customers of five so-called Voice over Internet, or VoIP, services: Verizon Fios (VZ), AT&T (T) U-Verse, Vonage (VG), Cablevision Optimum (CVC) and SureWest. Those carriers were among the easiest to set up with the simultaneous ring feature, Foss said.
But he plans to expand quickly if the service proves popular: "There are 500 million phone numbers in the United States and I'd love to have them all."