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An anonymous reader writes Julian Assange has hosted a press conference in which he indicated he is soon about to leave the embassy of Ecuador in London. From the article: "WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, who has spent over two years in Ecuador's London embassy to avoid a sex crimes inquiry in Sweden, said on Monday he planned to leave the building 'soon', but Britain signaled it would still arrest him if he tried. Assange made the surprise assertion during a news conference alongside Ecuador's Foreign Minister Ricardo Patino. But his spokesman played down the chances of an imminent departure, saying the British government would first need to revise its position and let him leave without arrest, something it has repeatedly refused to do.
Lasrick writes: Almost 10 years ago, California's legislature passed Assembly Bill 32, the Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006. AB 32 set the most ambitious legally binding climate policy in the United States, requiring that California's greenhouse gas emissions return to 1990 levels by the year 2020. The centerpiece of the state's efforts — in rhetorical terms, if not practical ones — is a comprehensive carbon market, which California's leaders promote as a model policy for controlling carbon pollution. Over the course of the past 18 months, however, California quietly changed its approach to a critical rule affecting the carbon market's integrity. Under the new rule, utilities are rewarded for swapping contracts on the Western electricity grid, without actually reducing greenhouse gas emissions to the atmosphere. Now that the Environmental Protection Agency is preparing to regulate greenhouse gases from power plants, many are looking to the Golden State for best climate policy practices. On that score, California's experience offers cautionary insights into the challenges of using carbon markets to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
stoborrobots writes: The Government Accountability Office has investigated the cost blowouts associated with how the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) handled the Healthcare.gov project. It has released a 60-page report entitled Healthcare.gov: Ineffective Planning and Oversight Practices Underscore the Need for Improved Contract Management, with a 5 page summary. The key takeaway messages are:
cartechboy writes: We all know Tesla is working on its Gigafactory, and it has yet to announce officially where it will be. But the automaker did announce a shortlist of possible locations, and California wasn't on it. The state has quickly been trying to lure Tesla to get back into contention. Now the state may waive environmental rules which would normally make construction of such a large manufacturing facility more difficult. Apparently, Governor Jerry Brown's office is currently negotiating an incentive package for Tesla that would waive certain parts of the nearly half-century-old California Environmental Quality Act. Not only that, but state officials are reportedly considering letting Tesla begin construction and perform damage mitigation later, along with limiting lawsuits that could slow down the project. Let's not forget some massive tax breaks, to the tune of $500 million. Is California stepping out of bounds here?
New submitter MutualFun sends this article from Science News: Which would you prefer: egalitarianism or totalitarianism? When it comes down to it, the choice you make may not be as obvious as you think. New research suggests that in the distant past, groups of hunter-gatherers may have recognized and accepted the benefits of living in hierarchical societies, even if they themselves weren't counted among the well-off. This model could help explain why bands of humans moved from largely egalitarian groups to hierarchical cultures in which social inequality was rife.
An anonymous reader writes Have you heard of personalized postage stamps? You pay the value of the stamps plus a fee and the post office prints official stamps usable for postage which show (almost) anything you can put into a jpeg file. An Austrian Tibet supporter found out what 'almost' means. He submitted a picture of the Dalai Lama with the text 'His Holiness the Dalai Lama,' but the Austrian post office refused to produce these stamps. Stampnews and the Neue Zuercher Zeitung (autotranslation) reported that this had been due to pressure from the Chinese embassy in Vienna. Now there is a video showing how visual cryptography has been used to get around this attempt at censorship [caution: organ music] .
Linking to a story at Reuters, reader WilliamGeorge writes "Russia is further constraining access to the internet and freedom of speech, with new laws regarding public use of WiFi. Nikolai Nikiforov, the Russian Communications Minister, tweeted that "Identification of users (via bank cards, cell phone numbers, etc.) with access to public Wifi is a worldwide practice." This comes on top of their actions recently to block websites of political opponents to Russian president Vladimir Putin, require registration of prominent bloggers, and more. The law was put into effect with little notice and without the input of Russian internet providers. Sergei Plugotarenko, head of the Russian Electronic Communications Association, said "It was unexpected, signed in such a short time and without consulting us." He added, "We will hope that this restrictive tendency stops at some point because soon won't there be anything left to ban." In addition to the ID requirement to use WiFi, the new law also requires companies to declare who is using their web networks and calls for Russian websites to store their data on servers located in Russia starting in 2016." That's not the only crackdown in progress, though: former Slashdot code-wrestler Vlad Kulchitski notes that Russian users are being blocked from downloading Java with an error message that reads, in essence, "You are in a country on which there is embargo; you cannot download JAVA." Readers at Hacker News note the same, though comments there indicate that the block may rely on a " specific and narrow IP-block," rather than being widespread. If you're reading this from Russia, what do you find?
SiggyRadiation writes Edward Snowden is allowed to stay in Russia for three more years. According to the NYPost:"His lawyer, Analtoly Kucherena, was quoted by Russian news agencies on Thursday as saying Snowden now has been granted residency for three more years, but that he had not been granted political asylum. That status, which would allow him to stay in Russia permanently, must be decided by a separate procedure, Kucherena said, but didn't say whether Snowden is seeking it." The question that remains, of course, is did the Russians use this as leverage over him to get to more information or influence him? Or is the positive PR in itself enough for the Russians in the current climate of tensions and economic sanctions relating to the Ukraine crisis?"
I Ate A Candle (3762149) writes Aaron's Law, named after the late internet activist Aaron Swartz, was supposed to fix U.S. hacking laws, which many deem dated and overly harsh. But the bill looks certain to wither in Congress, thanks to corporate lobbying, disagreements in Washington between key lawmakers and a simple lack of interest amongst the general population for changes to the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act. Representative Zoe Lofgren blamed inactivity from the House Judiciary Committee headed up by Representative Bob Goodlatte, which has chosen not to discuss or vote on Aaron's Law. There is still an appetite for CFAA reform, thanks to complaints from the security community that their research efforts have been deemed illegal acts, perversely making the internet a less secure place. But with the likes of Oracle trying to stop it and with Congress unwilling to act, change looks some way away.
Taco Cowboy writes Japan is planning to launch a military space force by 2019. The Mainichi Shimbun is reporting that Japan plans to create a "space force" within its existing Self Defence Force, hoping to have it operational by 2019. Japan would provide the US military with information obtained by the force as part of the joint bid to strengthen ties in space, the so-called "fourth battlefield", Kyodo news agency said, citing unnamed sources. Note that this plan, which involves simply looking into space using old civilian astronomy equipment and radar, is just the beginning. The transforming space fighters and combat mechs will presumably come later.
Taco Cowboy writes The Israel — Hamas conflict in Gaza is not only about bombs, missiles, bullets, but also about cyberwarfare, battles of the mind over social media, smart underground tunnels and cloud-based missile launching systems. The tunnels that Hamas has dug deep beneath Gaza are embedded with high tech gadgets, courtesy of Qatar, which has funded Hamas with billions to equipped their tunnels with intelligent sensors which are networked to control centers enabling the command and control staff to quickly notify operatives nearby that IDF units are advancing inside a certain tunnel, allowing for rapid deployment of attack units and the setting up of bobby traps inside the tunnel.
In addition, Hamas has automated its rocket firing system using networked, cloud-based launching software provided by Qatar which can set off a rocket from any distance, and set them to go off at a specific time, using timers. "Anyone who thinks they have dozens of people sitting next to launchers firing rockets each time there is a barrage is mistaken," said Aviad Dadon, a senior cyber-security adviser at several Israeli government ministries. While Doha is allowing Hamas to use its technology to fight Israel, it's their own cyber-security the leaders of Qatar are worried about. For the Qataris, the war between Israel and Hamas is a proving ground to see how their investments in cyber systems have paid of — Qatar is very worried that one of its Gulf rivals — specifically Saudi Arabia — will use technology to attack it, and Qatar spends a great deal of money each year on shoring up its cyber-technology.
Nicola Hahn (1482985) writes Despite the long line of covert operations that Ed Snowden's documents have exposed, public outcry hasn't come anywhere near the level of social unrest that characterized the 1960s. Journalists like Conor Friedersdorf have suggested that one explanation for this is that the public is "informed by a press that treats officials who get caught lying and misleading (e.g., James Clapper and Keith Alexander) as if they're credible."
Certainly there are a number of well-known popular venues which offer a stage for spies to broadcast their messages from while simultaneously claiming to "cultivate conversations among all members of the security community, both public and private." This year, for instance, Black Hat USA will host Dan Greer (the CISO of In-Q-Tel) as a keynote speaker.
But after all of the lies and subterfuge is it even constructive to give voice to the talking points of intelligence officials? Or are they just muddying the water? As one observer put it, "high-profile members of the intelligence community like Cofer Black, Shawn Henry, Keith Alexander, and Dan Greer are positioned front and center in keynote slots, as if they were glamorous Hollywood celebrities. While those who value their civil liberties might opine that they should more aptly be treated like pariahs."
Bruce66423 (1678196) writes with this story from the Guardian: The director of the Central Intelligence Agency, John Brennan, issued an extraordinary apology to leaders of the US Senate intelligence committee on Thursday, conceding that the agency employees spied on committee staff and reversing months of furious and public denials. Brennan acknowledged that an internal investigation had found agency security personnel transgressed a firewall set up on a CIA network, called RDINet, which allowed Senate committee investigators to review agency documents for their landmark inquiry into CIA torture." (Sen. Diane Feinstein was one of those vocally accusing the CIA of spying on Congress; Sen. Bernie Sanders has raised a similar question about the NSA.)
necro81 (917438) writes "Gaza's only power plant (see this profile at IEEE Spectrum — duct tape and bailing wire not included) has been knocked offline following an Israeli strike. Reports vary, but it appears that Israeli tank shells caused a fuel bunker at the plant to explode. Gaza, already short on electricity despite imports from Israel and Egpyt, now faces widening blackouts."
Jason Koebler (3528235) writes In the months and weeks leading up to a referendum vote that would have established a locally owned fiber network in three small Illinois cities, Comcast and SBC (now AT&T) bombarded residents and city council members with disinformation, exaggerations, and outright lies to ensure the measure failed. The series of two-sided postcards painted municipal broadband as a foolhardy endeavor unfit for adults, responsible people, and perhaps as not something a smart woman would do. Municipal fiber was a gamble, a high-wire act, a game, something as "SCARY" as a ghost. Why build a municipal fiber network, one asked, when "internet service [is] already offered by two respectable private businesses?" In the corner, in tiny print, each postcard said "paid for by SBC" or "paid for by Comcast." The postcards are pretty absurd and worth a look.
U.S. officials today made public satellite imagery which they say proves that Russian forces have been shelling eastern Ukraine in a campaign to assist rebel groups fighting Ukraine’s government. The U.S. Office of the Director of National Intelligence, which released the civilian-taken satellite images Sunday, said they show visual evidence that Russia has been firing shells across the border at Ukrainian military forces. Officials also said the images show that Russia-backed separatists have used heavy artillery, provided by Russia, in attacks on Ukrainian forces from inside Ukraine. One image dated July 25/26 shows what DNI claims is “ground scarring” on the Russian side of the border from artillery aimed at Ukrainian military units in Ukraine, as well as the resultant ground craters on the Ukrainian side of the border:
theodp writes: Back in 2012, Computerworld blasted Vice President Joe Biden for his ignorance of the H-1B temporary work visa program. But Joe's got his H-1B story and he's sticking to it, characterizing the visa program earlier this month in a speech to the National Governors Association as "apprenticeships" of sorts that companies provide to foreign workers to expand the Information Technology industry only after proving there are no qualified Americans to fill the jobs. Biden said he also learned from his talks with tech's top CEOs that 200,000 of the jobs that companies provide each year to highly-skilled H-1B visa holders could in fact be done by Americans with no more than a two-year community college degree.
An anonymous reader writes: The U.S. Department of Labor has released data that some proponents of raising minimum wage are touting as evidence that higher minimum wage promotes job growth. While the data doesn't actually establish cause and effect, it does "run counter to a Congressional Budget Office report in February that said raising the minimum wage to $10.10 an hour, as the White House supports, would cost 500,000 jobs." The data shows that the 13 states that raised their minimum wages in January added jobs at a faster rate than those that didn't. Other factors likely contributed to this outcome, but some economists are simply relieved that the higher wage factor didn't have a dramatically negative effect in general.
An anonymous reader writes: We've known for a while: the War on Drugs isn't working. Scientists, journalists, economists, and politicians have all argued against continuing the expensive and ineffective fight. Now, the World Health Organization has said flat out that nations should work to decriminalize the use of drugs. The recommendations came as part of a report released this month focusing on the prevention and treatment of HIV. "The WHO's unambiguous recommendation is clearly grounded in concerns for public health and human rights. Whilst the call is made in the context of the policy response to HIV specifically, it clearly has broader ramifications, specifically including drug use other than injecting. In the report, the WHO says: 'Countries should work toward developing policies and laws that decriminalize injection and other use of drugs and, thereby, reduce incarceration. ...Countries should ban compulsory treatment for people who use and/or inject drugs." The bottom line is that the criminalization of drug use comes with substantial costs, while providing no substantial benefit.
dcblogs (1096431) writes On the floor of U.S. Senate Thursday, Sen. Jeff Sessions delivered a scalding and sarcastic attack on the use of highly skilled foreign workers by U.S. corporations that was heavily aimed at Microsoft, a chief supporter of the practice. Sessions' speech began as a rebuttal to a recent New York Times op-ed column by Microsoft founder Bill Gates, investor Warren Buffett and Sheldon Adelson ... But the senator's attack on "three of our greatest masters of the universe," and "super billionaires," was clearly primed by Microsoft's announcement, also on Thursday, that it was laying off 18,000 employees. "What did we see in the newspaper today?" said Sessions, "News from Microsoft. Was it that they are having to raise wages to try to get enough good, quality engineers to do the work? Are they expanding or are they hiring? No, that is not what the news was, unfortunately. Not at all."
An anonymous reader writes On Thursday, Benjamin M. Lawsky, the superintendent of financial services, announced proposed regulations for virtual currency companies operating in New York. The "BitLicense" plan, which includes rules on consumer protection, the prevention of money laundering and cybersecurity, is the first proposal by a state to create guidelines specifically for virtual currency. "We have sought to strike an appropriate balance that helps protect consumers and root out illegal activity—without stifling beneficial innovation," he said in a statement.
SonicSpike sends this story from NY Magazine:
Rand Paul appears to be making a full-court press for the affections of Silicon Valley, and there are some signs that his efforts are paying off. At last week's Sun Valley conference, Paul had one-on-one meetings with Thiel and Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg. ... Next weekend, Paul will get to make his case yet again as the keynote speaker at Reboot, a San Francisco conference put on by a group called Lincoln Labs, which self-defines as "techies and politicos who believe in promoting liberty with technology." He'll likely say a version of what he's said before: that Silicon Valley's innovative potential can be best unlocked in an environment with minimal government intrusion in the forms of surveillance, corporate taxes, and regulation. “I see almost unlimited potential for us in Silicon Valley,” Paul has said, with "us" meaning libertarians.
Today's Silicon Valley is still exceedingly liberal on social issues. But it seems more skeptical about taxes and business regulation than at any point in its recent history. Part of this is due to the rise of companies like Uber and Tesla Motors, blazing-hot start-ups that have been opposed at every turn by protectionist regulators and trade unions, in confrontations that are being used by small-government conservatives as case studies in government control run amok.
angry tapir writes: The Australian Electoral Commission has been fighting a freedom of information request to reveal the source code of the software it uses to calculate votes in elections for Australia's upper house of parliament. Not only has the AEC refused an FOI request (PDF) for the source code, but it has also refused an order from the Senate directing that the source code be produced. Apparently releasing the code could "leave the voting system open to hacking or manipulation."
First time accepted submitter neanderslob (1207704) writes Last Friday, over a year after the petition gained the required signatures for a response, the White House rejected a We the People petition to "Allow Tesla Motors to sell directly to consumers in all 50 states." The letter went on to defend the administration by citing their initiatives "in promoting vehicle efficiency." In response, Tesla is firing back, blasting the White House for a lack of leadership on the issue and stating "138,469 people signed the petition asking the White House to allow Tesla Motors to sell directly to consumers in all 50 states. More than a year later, at 7.30pm EST on Friday as most of America prepared for the weekend, the White House released its disappointing response to those people. Rather than seize an opportunity to promote innovation and support the first successful American car company to be started in more than a century, the White House issued a response that was even more timid than its rejection of a petition to begin construction of a Death Star." There's a legal issue here: the executive can't just wave state law aside. But they could suggest Congress write new laws instead of just noting that Congress would need to take action.
The Washington Post reports that, "In a 3-2 vote along party lines Friday, the FCC greenlit a plan to spend $2 billion over the next two years on subsidies for internal networks. The move also begins a process to phase out some subsidies under the federal program, known as E-Rate, for services and equipment that are on the decline, such as pagers and dial-up Internet service." That sounds like a lot of money, and it is, but as usual in politics it's the result of a messy process: The original plan called for spending $5 billion on WiFi over five years, in line with a push by the Obama administration to bring next-gen broadband and WiFi to 99 percent of students over the same period. Those funds would have partly come from savings as a result of transitioning away from supporting legacy technologies. The proposal would also have eliminated an existing requirement that E-Rate funds be spent first on broadband services before being applied to WiFi. In past years, the cost of broadband service meant that money was rarely left over for upgrading WiFi connections. But the FCC's proposal was ultimately scaled back late Thursday amid Republican objections that the E-Rate program can't afford the changes. The final proposal's two-year, $2 billion commitment accounts for the money the FCC has already set aside for WiFi upgrades, but it does not commit the FCC to funding WiFi upgrades at that same rate for the following three years.
Lasrick (2629253) writes It isn't as if real analysis of Israel's "Iron Dome" isn't available, but invariably, whenever Israel has a skirmish the media is filled with glowing reports of how well the system works, and we always find out months later that the numbers were exaggerated. John Mecklin at the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists looks at the coverage of Iron Dome in the recent exchanges between Israel and Hamas and finds the pattern is repeating itself. However, 'Ted Postol, an MIT-based missile defense expert and frequent Bulletin contributor, provided a dose of context to the Iron Dome coverage in a National Public Radio interview Wednesday. "We can tell, for sure, from video images and even photographs that the Iron Dome system is not working very well at all,"' Includes a good explanation of the differences between Iron Dome (a 'rocket defense system') and missile defense systems pushed by the U.S.
MarkWhittington writes: "Rep. Bill Posey (R-FL) announced on Thursday that he was introducing a bill along with Rep, Derek Kilmer (D-WA) called the American Space Technology for Exploring Resource Opportunities in Deep Space (ASTEROIDS) Act of 2014 (PDF). The act is designed to protect the private property rights for entities mining asteroids and to otherwise encourage asteroid mining. The bill is in apparent reaction to efforts by companies like Planetary Resources and Deep Space Industries to locate and mine Earth approaching asteroids for their resources.
The crucial part of the short piece of legislation states that the resources mined from an asteroid would be the property of the entity undertaking the operation. This language gets around the provision of the Outer Space Treaty that says states are forbidden to establish national sovereignty over celestial bodies, which would be a prerequisite to the United States allowing a private entity to own an asteroid. It rather grants mineral rights to the asteroid, something the treaty does not mention. There is no enforcement mechanism in the event of a dispute with another country, however."
The Washington Post reports that Gemany's government has asked the CIA station chief in that country to leave. From the article, which points out the move comes after several high-profile instances of U.S. spying on German citiens, including Chancellor Angela Merkl:. "A day earlier, federal prosecutors in Germany said police had searched the office and apartment of an individual with ties to the German military who is suspected of working for U.S. intelligence. Those raids followed the arrest of an employee of Germany’s foreign intelligence service who was accused of selling secrets to the CIA. ... For years, Germany has sought to be included in a group of countries with which the United States has a non-espionage pact. Those nations include Britain, Australia, Canada and New Zealand. The Obama administration and that of George W. Bush both resisted such entreaties, in part because many U.S. intelligence officials believe that there are too many areas where German and U.S. security interests diverge."
beaker_72 (1845996) writes The Guardian reports that the UK government has unveiled plans to introduce emergency surveillance laws into the UK parliament at the beginning of next week. These are aimed at reinforcing the powers of security services in the UK to force service providers to retain records of their customers phone calls and emails. The laws, which have been introduced after the European Court of Justice (ECJ) ruled that existing laws invaded individual privacy, will receive cross-party support and so will not be subjected to scrutiny or challenged in Parliament before entering the statute books. But as Tom Watson (Labour backbench MP and one of few dissenting voices) has pointed out, the ECJ ruling was six weeks ago, so why has the government waited until now to railroad something through. Unless of course they don't want it scrutinised too closely.
mdsolar sends this story from the NY Times: Here's what your future will look like if we are to have a shot at preventing devastating climate change. Within about 15 years every new car sold in the United States will be electric. ... Up to 60 percent of power might come from nuclear sources. And coal's footprint will shrink drastically, perhaps even disappear from the power supply. This course, created by a team of energy experts, was unveiled on Tuesday in a report for the United Nations (PDF) that explores the technological paths available for the world's 15 main economies to both maintain reasonable rates of growth and cut their carbon emissions enough by 2050 to prevent climatic havoc. It offers a sobering conclusion: We might be able to pull it off. But it will take an overhaul of the way we use energy, and a huge investment in the development and deployment of new energy technologies. Significantly, it calls for an entirely different approach to international diplomacy on the issue of how to combat climate change.
MarkWhittington writes: While he has initiated the social media campaign, #Apollo45, to commemorate the 45th anniversary of the first moon landing, Apollo 11 astronaut Buzz Aldrin is also using the occasion to campaign for an expansion of American space exploration. According to a Tuesday story in the Washington Post, Aldrin has expressed the wish that President Obama make some sort of announcement along those lines this July 20. The idea has a certain aspect of deja vu. Aldrin believes that the American civil space program is adrift and that some new space exploration, he prefers to Mars, would be just the thing to set it back on course. There is only one problem, however. President Obama has already made the big space exploration announcement. Aldrin knows this because he was there. President Obama flew to the Kennedy Space Center on April 15, 2010, with Aldrin accompanying as a photo op prop, and made the announcement that America would no longer be headed back to the moon, as was the plan under his predecessor George W. Bush. Instead American astronauts would visit an Earth approaching asteroid and then, decades hence, would land on Mars.
schnell writes A New York Times article discusses a recent Yale study that shows that contrary to popular belief, increased scientific literacy does not correspond to increased belief in accepted scientific findings when it contradicts their religious or political views. The article notes that this is true across the political/religious spectrum and "factual and scientific evidence is often ineffective at reducing misperceptions and can even backfire on issues like weapons of mass destruction, health care reform and vaccines." So what is to be done? The article suggests that "we need to try to break the association between identity and factual beliefs on high-profile issues – for instance, by making clear that you can believe in human-induced climate change and still be a conservative Republican."
First time accepted submitter SingleEntendre (1273012) writes "Time is running out for the Mayday PAC to reach its latest crowd funding goal of $5M. The total currently stands at $4.5M. Led by Harvard Law Professor Lawrence Lessig, the Mayday PAC seeks to reduce the influence of money in US politics by 2016, primarily by identifying and supporting congressional candidates who share this vision. If phase 2 is successful, with matching funds the total raised will be $12M. A self-imposed deadline arrives at of midnight tonight, July 4th, Hawaii-Aleutian Standard Time (HAST)." (And now the total's at $4,700,066.)
v3rgEz (125380) writes A month before Comcast's announcement of a $45B takeover of rival Time-Warner, Comcast's top lobbyist invited the US government's top antitrust regulators to share the company's VIP box at the Sochi Olympics. A Freedom of Information Act request from Muckrock reveals that the regulators reluctantly declined, saying "it sounds like so much fun" but the pesky "rules folks" would frown on it, instead suggesting a more private dinner later.
New submitter DaveSmith1982 writes with word from PV Tech that A property tax exemption for solar power systems in California has been extended to 2025, following the passing of a bill as part of the annual state budget. Senate Bill 871 (SB871) was approved during the signing of the budget by governor Jerry Brown, which took place last week. The wording of SB871 extends the period during which property taxes will not be applied to "active solar energy systems," which includes PV and solar water heaters.
Graculus (3653645) writes Budgetmakers in the U.S. Senate have moved to halt U.S. participation in ITER, the huge international fusion experiment now under construction in Cadarache, France, that aims to demonstrate that nuclear fusion could be a viable source of energy. Although the details are not available, Senate sources confirm a report by Physics Today that the Senate's version of the budget for the Department of Energy (DOE) for fiscal year 2015, which begins 1 October, would provide just $75 million for the United States' part of the project. That would be half of what the White House had requested and just enough to wind down U.S. involvement in ITER. According to this story from April, the U.S. share of the ITER budget has jumped to "$3.9 billion — roughly four times as much as originally estimated." (That's a pretty big chunk; compare it, say, to NASA's entire annual budget.)
The original Mayday PAC goal was to raise $1 million. Now Larry is working on a second -- and more ambitious -- goal: To raise $5 million by July 4. We called for your questions on June 23, and you sent a bunch of them. This time, instead of using email, we used Google Hangout to ask via video, with an attached transcript for those who can't or won't watch the video. In today's video, Larry tells us that some of the impetus for Mayday PAC came from the late Aaron Swartz, and goes deeper into the group's goals and hopes than he did in yesterday's video. (Alternate Video Link)
An anonymous reader writes In a legislative first, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled on Monday that for-profit companies can, in essence, hold religious views. Given the Supreme Court's earlier decisions granting corporations the right to express political support through monetary donations, this ruling is not all that surprising. Its scope does not extend beyond family-owned companies where "there's no real difference between the business and its owners." It also only applies to the contraception mandate of the health care law. The justices indicated that contraceptive coverage can still be obtained through exceptions to the mandate that have already been introduced to accommodate religious nonprofits. Those exceptions, which authorize insurance companies to provide the coverage instead of the employers, are currently being challenged in lower courts. The "closely held" test is pretty meaningless, since the majority of U.S. corporations are closely held.
We've mentioned this interesting PAC more than once, including when Steve Wozniak endorsed it. The original Mayday PAC goal was to raise $1 million. Now Larry is working on a second -- and more ambitious -- goal: To raise $5 million by July 4. We called for your questions on June 23, and got a bunch of them. This time, instead of asking via email, we used Google Hangout to ask via video. Here's a quote from the Mayday website:'We are a crowdfunded Super PAC to end all Super PACs. Ironic? Yes. Embrace the irony. We’re kickstarting a Super PAC big enough to make it possible to win a Congress committed to fundamental reform by 2016. We set fundraising goals and then crowdfund those goals." Check the Mayday About page and you'll see that a whole bunch of Internet and coding luminaries are on board. You may also notice that they span the political spectrum; this is totally not a partisan effort. | Another quote from the website: "Wealthy funders are holding our democracy hostage. We want to pay the ransom and get it back." Is this an achievable goal? We'll never know if we don't try. | This is Part 1 of a 2-part video. (Alternate Video Link) Update: 07/02 23:42 GMT by T : Here's a link to part 2 of the video, too.
theodp (442580) writes "The Internet's Own Boy, the documentary about the life and death of Aaron Swartz, was appropriately released on the net as well as in theaters this weekend, and is getting good reviews from critics and audiences. Which is kind of remarkable, since the Achilles' heel of this documentary, as critic Matt Pais notes in his review, is that "everyone on the other side of this story, from the government officials who advocated for Swartz's prosecution to Swartz's former Reddit colleagues to folks at MIT, declined participation in the film." Still, writer/director Brian Knappenberger manages to deliver a compelling story, combining interesting footage with interviews from Swartz's parents, brothers, girlfriends, and others from his Internet projects/activism who go through the stages of joy, grief, anger, and hope that one sees from loved ones at a wake. "This remains an important David vs. Goliath story," concludes Pais, "of a remarkable brain years ahead of his age with the courage and will to fight Congress-and a system built to impede, rather than encourage, progress and common sense. The Internet's Own Boy will upset you. As it should." And Quinn Norton, who inadvertently gave the film its title ("He was the Internet's own boy," Quinn said after Swartz's death, "and the old world killed him."), offers some words of advice for documentary viewers: "Your ass will be in a seat watching a movie. When it is done, get up, and do something.""
VentureBeat reports that the unofficial Google ambassador to the world has made another significant visit to a place where Internet access is either forbidden or impractical for most of the citizenry; hopefully it heralds change on that front. Continuing his tour of countries with authoritarian governments and less-than-favorable Internet access, Google Chairman Eric Schmidt made a secret visit to Cuba yesterday. The U.S. government has forbidden its citizens from traveling to Cuba or spending any money within the country since cold war tensions in the 1960s. Even though the cold war is over, the ban remains in effect, which is why Schmidt’s visit is significant. Unofficially (meaning not on behalf of his company), the powerful Googler has also made controversial visits to North Korea and Myanmar to promote Internet freedom, and has previously spoken out against online censorship happening in both China and India. Schmidt, says the article, "was joined by a crew of former Google employees as well as author Jared Cohen."
Jason Koebler (3528235) writes "The cybersecurity bill making its way through the Senate right now is so broad that it could allow ISPs to classify Netflix as a "cyber threat," which would allow them to throttle the streaming service's delivery to customers. "A 'threat,' according to the bill, is anything that makes information unavailable or less available. So, high-bandwidth uses of some types of information make other types of information that go along the same pipe less available," Greg Nojeim, a lawyer with the Center for Democracy and Technology, said. "A company could, as a cybersecurity countermeasure, slow down Netflix in order to make other data going across its pipes more available to users.""
dcblogs writes: In a speech Wednesday on the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives, Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-Ill.) declared immigration reform dead. He chastised and baited Republicans in Congress for blocking reform, and declared that winning the White House without the support of a growing Hispanic population will become mathematically impossible. "The Republican Presidential nominee, whoever he or she may be, will enter the race with an electoral college deficit they cannot make up," said Gutierrez. If he's right, and comprehensive immigration reform is indeed dead, then so too is the tech industry's effort to raise the cap on H-1B visas. Immigration reform advocates have successfully blocked any effort to take up the immigration issue in piecemeal fashion, lest business support for comprehensive reform peel away. Next year may create an entirely new set of problems for tech. If the Republicans take control of the Senate, the tech industry will face this obstacle: Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa). Grassley, the ranking Republican on the Judiciary Committee could become its next chairman. He has been a consistent critic of the H-1B program through the years. "The H-1B program is so popular that it's now replacing the U.S. labor force," said Grassley, at one point.
An anonymous reader sends news that Norway will no longer experiment with online voting: [T]he trials have ended because, said the government, voters' fears about their votes becoming public could undermine democratic processes. Political controversy and the fact that the trials did not boost turnout also led to the experiment ending. In a statement, Norway's Office of Modernisation said it was ending the experiments following discussions in the nation's parliament about efforts to update voting systems. The statement said although there was "broad political desire" to let people vote via the net, the poor results from the last two experiments had convinced the government to stop spending money on more trials. ... A report looking into the success of the 2013 trial said about 70,000 Norwegians took the chance to cast an e-vote. This represented about 38% of all the 250,000 people across 12 towns and cities who were eligible to vote online. However, it said, there was no evidence that the trial led to a rise in the overall number of people voting nor that it mobilised new groups, such as young people, to vote.
New submitter thermowax sends a report on how Massachusetts SWAT teams are dodging open records requests by claiming to be corporations. From the article: As it turns out, a number of SWAT teams in the Bay State are operated by what are called law enforcement councils, or LECs. These LECs are funded by several police agencies in a given geographic area and overseen by an executive board, which is usually made up of police chiefs from member police departments. ... Some of these LECs have also apparently incorporated as 501(c)(3) organizations. And it's here that we run into problems. According to the ACLU, the LECs are claiming that the 501(c)(3) status means that they're private corporations, not government agencies. And therefore, they say they're immune from open records requests. Let's be clear. These agencies oversee police activities. They employ cops who carry guns, wear badges, collect paychecks provided by taxpayers and have the power to detain, arrest, injure and kill. They operate SWAT teams, which conduct raids on private residences. And yet they say that because they've incorporated, they're immune to Massachusetts open records laws. The state's residents aren't permitted to know how often the SWAT teams are used, what they're used for, what sort of training they get or who they're primarily used against.
schwit1 (797399) writes with word that, after revelations that Verizon assisted the NSA in its massive surveillance program, Germany is cutting ties with Verizon as their infrastructure provider. From the article: The Interior Ministry says it will let its current contract for Internet services with the New York-based company expire in 2015. The announcement comes after reports this week that Verizon and British company Colt provide Internet services to the German parliament and other official entities. ... Ministry spokesman Tobias Plate said Thursday that Germany wants to ensure it has full control over highly sensitive government communications networks.
An anonymous reader writes Former NSA Chief General Keith Alexander has apparently started his own cybersecurity consulting firm, IronNet Cybersecurity, and approached the banking industry pitching his company's suite of services. Word from Wired indicates that his services cost $1 million per month with a special discount asking price of $600,000 per month. Congressman Alan Grayson (D-FL) expressed concern about General Alexander's activities to the banking industry, stating, "I question how Mr. Alexander can provide any of the services he is offering unless he discloses or misuses classified information, including extremely sensitive sources and methods....Without the classified information he acquired in his former position, he literally would have nothing to offer to you." (PDF) The congressman from the House of Representatives reminds the bankers (and General Alexander, should he be listening) that selling top secret information is a federal offense.
An anonymous reader writes in with news that the memo presenting a case for killing Anwar al-Awlaki has been released thanks to a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit on Monday released a secret 2010 Justice Department memo justifying the killing of Anwar al-Awlaki, a U.S citizen killed in a drone strike in 2011. The court released the document as part of a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit filed by The New York Times and the American Civil Liberties Union to make the document public. Then-acting Assistant Attorney General David Barron, in the partially redacted 41-page memo, outlines the justification of the drone strike in Yemen to take out al-Awlaki, an alleged operational leader of al Qaeda.
An anonymous reader writes about a Chinese building project designed to cement claims to a disputed region of the South China Sea. Sand, cement, wood, and steel are China's weapons of choice as it asserts its claim over the Spratly Islands in the South China Sea. China, the Philippines, Malaysia, Vietnam, Taiwan, and Brunei have sparred for decades over ownership of the 100 islands and reefs, which measure less than 1,300 acres in total but stretch across an area about the size of Iraq. In recent months, vessels belonging to the People's Republic have been spotted ferrying construction materials to build new islands in the sea. Pasi Abdulpata, a Filipino fishing contractor who in October was plying the waters near Parola Island in the northern Spratlys, says he came across "this huge Chinese ship sucking sand and rocks from one end of the ocean and blasting it to the other using a tube."
Artificial islands could help China anchor its claim to waters that host some of the world's busiest shipping lanes. The South China Sea may hold as much as 11 billion barrels of oil and 190 trillion cubic feet of natural gas, according to a 2013 report by the U.S. Energy Information Administration. China has considered the Spratlys—which it calls Nansha—part of its territory since the 1940s and on occasion has used its military might to enforce its claim. In 1988 a Chinese naval attack at Johnson South Reef, in the northern portion of the archipelago, killed 64 Vietnamese border guards.
Funksaw writes: Steve Wozniak, co-found of Apple Computer, has come out to endorse Lawrence Lessig's MAYDAY PAC in an animated audio recording. Mayday.US, (formerly MayOne.US) is Lessig's crowd-funded (citizen-funded!), kick-started Super PAC to end all Super PACs. In the video, Wozniak points out that we're never going to get anywhere on issues important to the Internet community and technology advocates if we don't fix the root cause of corruption. The video can be found at the Mayday PAC's new landing page, "theInternetHasASuperPAC.com."