Misleading TV advertising, big changes in your credit score, bitcoin miners and more


Lots of consumer treats here. Let’s start with The Watchdog’s nomination for the most misleading local political TV ad of 2022:

State Rep. Stephanie Klick’s announcement of R-Fort Worth’s attack on challenger David Lowe in the recent runoff of the Republican primaries baffled me.

Every time I’ve seen it — and I’ve seen it at least two dozen times — the ad confused me because Klick portrayed Lowe as an abortion-rights supporter. I didn’t understand. How could an abortion rights advocate qualify for a runoff in the Republican primary?

In the ad, Lowe is heard saying in a podcast interview, “I’m prepared to stand on the floor of the House and vote no to any pro-life bill.”

It’s pretty clear, isn’t it?

Not really. As it turns out, Klick’s announcement cut off the rest of Lowe’s comment, in which he criticized Republican lawmakers for regulating abortion instead of abolishing it altogether.

To abolish abortion, he said: “I would be ready to give my life to make this happen. And I would.” She left that part out.

Cutting a quote to change its meaning – whether in a movie ad, in journalism or in political ads – is a mistake.

Klick told me that if Lowe voted ‘no’ to abortion bills, as he said, because they weren’t strong enough, he would save abortion rather than stop it. .

Lowe said: “It’s sad how low she goes just to hold on to power.”

Gov. Greg Abbott with State Rep. Stephanie Klick on May 17, 2022. Klick was in a GOP runoff at the time. Watchdog Dave Lieber calls him out for a cheap trick in a TV commercial against his opponent.(Elias Valverde II / Personal photographer)

Crypto-mining shutdowns?

Are you worried about cryptocurrency miners using too much electricity when we need all the power we can muster?

Bitcoin miners have set up thousands of very powerful servers that we are told consume enough electricity to power a city.

Readers ask The Watchdog if cryptocurrency miners are shutting down their machines when Texas-based network operator ERCOT calls for conservation. So I checked.

Public Utility Commission spokesman Rich Parsons sent me to Texas-based grid operator ERCOT for answers.

ERCOT’s Media Department issued a statement: During a recent conservation warning period in mid-May, businesses of all types voluntarily reduced their energy consumption.

ERCOT recommended that I get out of government for more information by contacting Texas Industrial Energy Consumers (who did not respond to my emails) and the Texas Blockchain Council, a trade association. (I can’t remember the last time a state agency sent me to a trade association for public information.)

I checked with board chairman Lee Bratcher. Last month it issued a statement saying that “some facilities will shut down while many will slow down in the afternoon this weekend when power is in high demand, but then turn back on overnight.”

Miners are supposed to get permission from ERCOT to connect to the Texas network. The only news I could find is that an ERCOT task force has been created to protect the network as miners flock to the state to set up operations.

Hopefully Texas regulators get more actively involved in protecting existing customers before worrying about these power-hungry miners.

With his new cryptocurrency mining business on city land, Denton is suddenly a crypto player

Cowtown Computing

Fort Worth now claims to be the first US city to set up its own cryptocurrency mining operation.

While real miners have thousands of machines running, Fort Worth only has three, which were donated by the Texas Blockchain Council. Fort Worth officials say each of these machines uses “the same amount of energy as a household vacuum cleaner.”

City spokesman Carlo Capua told a resident in a letter shown to me that the project is a “very small-scale pilot program to be able to better understand the implications and opportunities of mining of bitcoin”.

On this subject, we are told that it takes the amount of electricity you use in your house for two months to produce one bitcoin.

In this photo from 2021, Frisco resident Ishaan Thakur, 14, explains how he operates...
In this photo from 2021, 14-year-old Frisco resident Ishaan Thakur explains how he is mining cryptocurrency with computers in his garage to earn money for college. The city of Fort Worth is also building a mini-cryptocurrency mining facility as part of a pilot program, Watchdog Dave Lieber reports. It may be the first city to do so.(Stewart F. House / Special Contributor)

Latest robocalls

On illegal spam and robocalls, Federal Communications Chairman Jessica Rosenworcel’s proposal to block illegal foreign callers from using US telephone networks – known as gateways – passed.

Will it work? I am skeptical, but hopeful. Unfortunately, many of my spam calls sound like they’re calling from the United States.

The FCC is trying something new to stop spam calls from overseas, reports Watchdog Dave Lieber.
The FCC is trying something new to stop spam calls from overseas, reports Watchdog Dave Lieber.(Dreamstime / TNS)

Stop unwanted charges

The US Consumer Financial Protection Bureau has declared war on junk fees, which are fees you learn about after you agree to buy something. These hidden fees make comparison shopping more difficult.

Example: You buy a new car and the salesperson tries to sell you a service warranty or an add-on like window etching.

The bureau says junk fees particularly hurt people of color, as they are more susceptible to exploitation. Banks and credit card companies are the main culprits, the bureau says. But you’ll also find these fees in concert tickets and offers from retail power companies.

Hello facebook. Anyone at home?

A story on the front page in The Wall Street Journal reports that our major social media companies do not offer customer service desks, making it extremely difficult for some to restore locked or hacked accounts.

The newspaper cited Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, Twitter and WhatsApp as the main culprits where you can’t find a human to talk to.

My thought: Companies this big and powerful need to give customers a human voice to solve problems. Life is hard enough when you lose access to your account. This selfishness is unacceptable.

Facebook and other social media companies should offer customer support services, Watchdog...
Facebook and other social media companies should offer customer support services, says Watchdog Dave Lieber.(The Associated Press)

Improve your credit score

The Equifax, Experian and TransUnion trio of nationwide credit reporting agencies announced that they have agreed to significant changes when reporting medical debt collection.

According to a letter I received from Equifax, the time before unpaid medical debt appears on a credit report will be reduced from six months to one year. This gives consumers more time to repay before it impacts their credit score.

By 2023, medical debts under $500 will no longer be included in credit reports.

The big three credit bureaus are changing the way they report medical debt on your credit...
The big three credit bureaus are changing the way they report medical debt on your credit report, reports Watchdog Dave Lieber.(Calli Richmond)

A new municipal park opens its doors

It’s been almost four years since I told you about one man’s crusade to create a new urban park in Dallas on rugged terrain on the north end of Dallas. Sadly, Bruce Hatter passed away before his dream could be realized. Posthumously, he received the Parks Department’s Volunteer of the Year award.

Well, his lobbying efforts paid off: Moss Glen Park opens Saturday at 10 a.m. at 5230 Bentwood Trail, Dallas, 75252.

Well done, Bruce.

Before he died, Bruce Hatter led the movement to create a new urban park in Dallas in the far north...
Before he died, Bruce Hatter led the movement to create a new urban park in Dallas in far north Dallas. Moss Glen Park officially opens Saturday, June 11 at 10 a.m.(Courtesy picture)
Dallas man showed how to fight for a new city park, but he’ll never see it

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The Dallas Morning News Watchdog column is the 2019 winner of the National Society of Newspaper Columnists’ top column writing award. The contest judge called his winning works “models of suspenseful storytelling and public service.”

Read his winning columns:

* Assist the widow of Officer JD Tippit, the Dallas police officer killed by Lee Harvey Oswald, to be buried next to her late husband

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