An anonymous reader sends this excerpt from a blog post by Taren Stinebrickner-Kauffman, founder of corporate watchdog SumOfUs.org and partner of the late Aaron Swartz: "The DOJ has told Congressional investigators that Aaron's prosecution was motivated by his political views on copyright. I was going to start that last paragraph with 'In a stunning turn of events,' but I realized that would be inaccurate — because it's really not that surprising. Many people speculated throughout the whole ordeal that this was a political prosecution, motivated by anything/everything from Aaron's effective campaigning against SOPA to his run-ins with the FBI over the PACER database. But Aaron actually didn't believe it was — he thought it was overreach by some local prosecutors who didn't really understand the internet and just saw him as a high-profile scalp they could claim, facilitated by a criminal justice system and computer crime laws specifically designed to give prosecutors, however incompetent or malicious, all the wrong incentives and all the power they could ever want. But this HuffPo article, and what I’m hearing from sources on the Hill, suggest that that’s not true. That Ortiz and Heymann knew exactly what they were doing: Shutting up, and hopefully locking up, an extremely effective activist whose political views, including those on copyright, threatened the Powers That Be."
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An anonymous reader writes with this news (excerpted from IT World) that follows up on the report of pressure put on Sweden's Pirate Party for its connection to The Pirate Bay: "The Pirate Bay has opened two new gateways to its internal network in order to shield its current Internet provider, the Swedish Pirate Party, which had been threatened with legal action if it did not stop providing Internet access to the torrent search site by Tuesday. The Swedish Pirate Party had provided bandwidth to The Pirate Bay for about three years because it was hard for the site to find anyone else who would do so. But last Tuesday the Rights Alliance, an organization that represents the film industry, gave it an ultimatum: The Pirate Party had to cut off Internet access to the torrent search site or face legal action. The Pirate Bay's administrators said in a post on Facebook that, because of the legal threat and the potential cost of fighting it, 'We've taken the decision to move on to Norway and Spain.'"
New submitter C0R1D4N writes "Carl Bergmanson, a New Jersey gubernatorial democrat running in the 2013 primary, has recently spoken out against the new 'six strike policy' being put in place this week by major ISPs. He said: 'The internet has become an essential part of living in the 21st century, it uses public infrastructure and it is time we treat it as a public utility. The electric company has no say over what you power with their service, the ISPs have no right to decide what you can and can not download.'"
Hugh Pickens writes "The rules for papal elections are steeped in tradition. John Paul II last codified them in 1996, and Benedict XVI left the rules largely untouched. The 'Universi Dominici Gregis on the Vacancy of the Apostolic See and the Election of the Roman Pontiff' is surprisingly detailed. Now as the College of Cardinals prepares to elect a new pope, security people like Bruce Schneier wonder about the process. How does it work, and just how hard would it be to hack the vote? First, the system is entirely manual, making it immune to the sorts of technological attacks that make modern voting systems so risky. Second, the small group of voters — all of whom know each other — makes it impossible for an outsider to affect the voting in any way. The chapel is cleared and locked before voting. No one is going to dress up as a cardinal and sneak into the Sistine Chapel. In short, the voter verification process is about as good as you're ever going to find. A cardinal can't stuff ballots when he votes. Then the complicated paten-and-chalice ritual ensures that each cardinal votes once — his ballot is visible — and also keeps his hand out of the chalice holding the other votes. Ballots from previous votes are burned, which makes it harder to use one to stuff the ballot box. What are the lessons here? First, open systems conducted within a known group make voting fraud much harder. Every step of the election process is observed by everyone, and everyone knows everyone, which makes it harder for someone to get away with anything. Second, small and simple elections are easier to secure. This kind of process works to elect a pope or a club president, but quickly becomes unwieldy for a large-scale election. And third: When an election process is left to develop over the course of a couple of thousand years, you end up with something surprisingly good."
cervesaebraciator writes "U.S. Representative Judy Chu (D-CA) will be starting a new caucus with the ostensible purpose of protecting the intellectual property rights of filmmakers, musicians and other artists. The new caucus, styled the Congressional Creative Rights Caucus, will be formed along with Rep. Howard Coble (R-NC). Chu's office released a statement, including the following: 'American innovation hinges on creativity – it is what allows our kids to dream big and our artists to create works that inspire us all. The jobs that result are thanks entirely to our willingness to foster creative talent, and an environment where it can thrive and prosper. [...] The Congressional Creative Rights Caucus will serve to educate Members of Congress and the general public about the importance of preserving and protecting the rights of the creative community in the U.S. American creators of motion pictures, music, software and other creative works rely on Congress to protect their copyrights, human rights, First Amendment rights and property rights.'"
Z80xxc! writes "The White House Office of Science and Technology Policy announced a "policy memorandum" today requiring any federal agency with over $100 million in R&D expenditures each year to develop plans for making all research funded by that agency freely available to the public within one year of publication in any peer-reviewed scholarly journal. The full memorandum is available on the White House website. It appears that this policy would not only apply to federal agencies conducting research, but also to any university, private corporation, or other entity conducting research that arises from federal funding. For those in academia and the public at large, this is a huge step towards free open access to publicly funded research." Edward Tufte calls the move timid and unimaginative, linking to a Verge article that explains that it's not quite as sweeping as the summary above sounds.
Hugh Pickens writes "William D. Hartung, director of the Arms and Security Project at the Center for International Policy, writes that although we have been bombarded with tales of woe about the potentially devastating impacts of cutting the Pentagon budget 8% under the sequester, examples of egregious waste and misplaced spending priorities at the Pentagon abound. One need look no further than the department's largest weapons program, the F-35 combat aircraft, which has just been grounded again after a routine inspection revealed a crack on a turbine blade in the jet engine of an F-35 test aircraft in California. Even before it has moved into full-scale production, the plane has already increased in price by 75%, and it has so far failed to meet basic performance standards. By the Pentagon's own admission, building and operating three versions of the F-35 — one for the Air Force, one for the Navy and one for the Marines — will cost more than $1.4 trillion over its lifetime, making it the most expensive weapons program ever undertaken. And in an era in which aerial combat is of diminishing importance and upgraded versions of current generation U.S. aircraft can more than do the job, it is not at all clear that we need to purchase more than 2,400 of these planes. Cutting the two most expensive versions of the F-35 will save over $60 billion in the next decade."
New submitter BetterThanCaesar writes "The Swedish Pirate Party and their ISP Serious Tubes have received a letter from 'The Rights Alliance' (formerly Antipiratbyrån, The Swedish Anti-Piracy Bureau), demanding they cease supplying Internet access to The Pirate Bay. Referring to the final sentence on the four Pirate Bay profiles, they threaten with legal action if access is not removed by February 26. On her blog, party leader Anna Troberg calls the letter 'extortion,' pointing out that (translated from Swedish) '[i]t is not illegal to provide The Pirate Bay with Internet access. There is no list of illegal sites that ISPs cannot provide access to.' (google translation to English)." The letter sent (in Swedish). Update: 02/20 14:58 GMT by U L : richie2000 notes that hosting isn't quite right; they're just routing traffic to TPB: "We're not hosting TPB, we're just routing traffic to them. Just like an ISP. Serious Tubes routes traffic to the Pirate Party, so they're even more removed. But, last night, Portlane, one of the ISPs that routes traffic to Serious Tubes, was pressured into cutting their transit to ST, even if they were just a provider to a provider to a provider to TPB."
New submitter kyjellyfish writes "Research published in the journal PLOS ONE, suggests that your parents 'Left or 'Right' party affiliations are not the only factor at work shaping a person's political identity. Differences in opinion between 'Lefties' and 'Righties' may reflect specific physiological processes. In research performed over 10 years ago, brain scans showed that London cab drivers' gray matter grew larger to help them store a mental map of the city." From the article: "Other scans have shown that brain regions associated with risk and uncertainty, such as the fear-processing amygdala, differ in structure in liberals and conservatives. And different architecture means different behavior. Liberals tend to seek out novelty and uncertainty, while conservatives exhibit strong changes in attitude to threatening situations. The former are more willing to accept risk, while the latter tends to have more intense physical reactions to threatening stimuli."
An anonymous reader writes "After a huge meteor recently exploded over Chelyabinsk (population 1,130,132), Russia, NASA has approved $5 million for funding for ATLAS project (Asteroid Terrestrial-impact Last Alert System). From the article: '"There are excellent ongoing surveys for asteroids that are capable of seeing such a rock with one to two days' warning, but they do not cover the whole sky each night, so there's a good chance that any given rock can slip by them for days to weeks. This one obviously did," astronomer John Tonry of the Institute for Astronomy at the University of Hawaii told NBC News Friday.'"
ptorrone writes "In a welcome turn of events, President Barack Obama spoke directly to the patent troll problem and the need for more comprehensive patent reform yesterday in a 'Fireside Hangout' — a live question and answer session (video) hosted in a Google+ hangout. The President was responding to a question by the prominent electrical engineer and entrepreneur Limor 'Ladyada' Fried of Adafruit Industries, who in 2009 won an EFF Pioneer Award for her work with free software and open-source hardware."
First time accepted submitter Daniel_Stuckey writes "Bam! For anyone that's paid a speck of attention to the tedium of political redistricting, which happens while a state grows unevenly, (and must dynamically respond to density, electorate disparity, natural resources and ridgelines, etc.), this is straight out of some psychedelic dream. For Democrats, it could be straight out of a nightmare. That's because Freeman's map necessitates 50 equally populous United States. His methods for creating the map are explained thusly: 'The algorithm was seeded with the fifty largest cities. After that, manual changes took into account compact shapes, equal populations, metro areas divided by state lines, and drainage basins. In certain areas, divisions are based on census tract lines... The suggested names of the new states are taken mainly from geographical features.'"
Dangerous_Minds writes "The International Intellectual Property Alliance (IIPA) is demanding a number of countries be placed back on the special 301 piracy watchlist. One country being recommended for inclusion is Canada (PDF). Apparently, even though Canada passed copyright reform laws, any compromise to protect consumers is reason for inclusion. Michael Geist offers some analysis on this move. Meanwhile, the IIPA is also recommending that Spain be included in the watchlist. In a separate filing, the IIPA makes a host of reasons why Spain should also be included. One of the main reasons seems to be that even though Spain passed the Sinde Law in spite of protests, the courts aren't simply rubberstamping any takedown requests and that cases that were dismissed due to lack of evidence is cause for concern. Freezenet offers some in-depth analysis on this development while noting towards the end that the Special 301 report suffers from credibility problems."
head_dunce writes "A bill introduced Thursday by a bipartisan group of U.S. lawmakers seeks to make it easier for states to collect sales taxes stemming from online purchases. Amazon is among the e-retailers supporting the proposal, while a lobbying group representing eBay and Overstock.com stands opposed. From the article: '"Small businesses and states alike are suffering from the inability to collect due -- not new -- taxes from purchases made online," said Rep. Steve Womack, R-Ark., adding the legislation is a "bipartisan, bicameral, common-sense solution that promotes states' rights and levels the playing field for our Main Street businesses."'"
GovTechGuy writes "A number of lawmakers are using the death of Internet activist Aaron Swartz to speak out against the Justice Department's handling of the case, and application of the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act. The controversy surrounding the Swartz case could finally give activists the momentum they need to halt the steady increase in penalties for even minor computer crimes."
holy_calamity writes "MIT Technology Review reports that efforts by U.S. government agencies and defense contractors to develop malware to attack enemies is driving a black market in zero-day vulnerabilities. Experts warn that could make the internet less secure for everyone, since malicious code is typically left behind on targeted systems and often shows up on untargeted ones, providing opportunities for reverse engineering. '"On the one hand the government is freaking out about cyber-security, and on the other the U.S. is participating in a global market in vulnerabilities and pushing up the prices," says Soghoian, who says he has spoken with people involved in the trade and that prices range from the thousands to the hundreds of thousands. Even civilian law-enforcement agencies pay for zero-days, Soghoian says, in order to sneak spy software onto suspects’ computers or mobile phones.'"
New submitter sbulut77 writes with a follow up to accusations Ron Paul is using the UN to gain control of ronpaul.com. "Lew Rockwell explains the RonPaul.com issue. There is so much misinformation on this topic, his blog is very welcome. His blog entry is pretty short and well-written please read the blog post directly." From the article: "Ron is not calling on the UN. ICANN has four approved arbitration organizations. Because the RP.com guys registered Ron's name in Australia, the international arbitration option must be used. Yes, it is associated with the UN. Too bad, but one must play the cards one is dealt. The UN itself is not involved, though note — whatever else is wrong with it — the UN is not a State."
dstates writes with news from NASA about the state of available water in the Middle East. From the NASA article: "'GRACE data show an alarming rate of decrease in total water storage in the Tigris and Euphrates river basins, which currently have the second fastest rate of groundwater storage loss on Earth, after India,' said Jay Famiglietti, principal investigator of the study and a hydrologist and professor at UC Irvine. 'The rate was especially striking after the 2007 drought. Meanwhile, demand for freshwater continues to rise, and the region does not coordinate its water management because of different interpretations of international laws.'" dstates adds: "Water is a huge global security issue. To understand the middle east, you need to understand that the Golan Heights provides a significant amount of the water used in Israel. Focusing on conflicts and politics means that huge volumes of valuable water are being wasted in the Middle East, and this will only exacerbate future conflicts. Water is a serious issue between India and China. And then there is Africa. U.S. food exports are in effect exporting irrigation water drawn from the Ogallala aquifer. Fracking trades water for energy, and lack of water limits fracking in many parts of th world. Think about it."
astroengine writes "President Barack Obama called for 'meaningful progress' on tackling climate change in his State of the Union speech in Washington, DC on Tuesday night. While acknowledging that 'no single event makes a trend,' the President noted that the United States had been buffeted by extreme weather events that in many cases encapsulated the predictions of climate scientists. 'But the fact is, the 12 hottest years on record have all come in the last 15. Heat waves, droughts, wildfires, and floods — all are now more frequent and intense. We can choose to believe that Superstorm Sandy, and the most severe drought in decades, and the worst wildfires some states have ever seen were all just a freak coincidence. Or we can choose to believe in the overwhelming judgment of science — and act before it's too late,' Obama added." Other significant statements from Obama's speech: 34,000 troops coming back from Afghanistan over the next year; new gun regulations "deserve a vote"; rewards for schools that focus on STEM education; increases in tech research; a proposal to raise the minimum wage to $9.00/hr and tie it to inflation; and a proposal to use oil and gas revenues to fund a move away from oil and gas,
First time accepted submitter WolfeCanada writes "North Korea apparently conducted a widely anticipated nuclear test Tuesday, strongly indicated by an 'explosion-like' earthquake that monitoring agencies around the globe said appeared to be unnatural." North Korea has confirmed the test, according to the Washington Post, in an article that touches on its political context. Among other things, the Post notes that this "is the first under new North Korean leader Kim Jong Eun and the clearest sign that the third-generation leader, like his father and grandfather, prefers to confront the United States and its allies rather than make peace with them." Adds reader eldavojohn "KCNA news claims that the test was safe and cited the threat of the U.S. for conducting the test, saying 'The test was carried out as part of practical measure of counteraction to defend the country's security and sovereignty in the face of the ferocious hostile act of the U.S. which wantonly violated the DPRK's legitimate right to launch satellite for peaceful purposes.' RT is posting a feed of the many condemnations from governments and organizations."
First time accepted submitter thoughtfulbloke writes "Ron Paul has gone to the United Nations' World Intellectual Property Organization to seize control of the RonPaul.com domain from the fans that built it up, rather than purchase it. From the article: 'The proprietors of RonPaul.com say they reached out to the retired politicain and offered him RonPaul.org as a free gift, but if he "insisted" on owning RonPaul.com then they would sell it to him. There was a catch, though. It would be part of a "liberty package" with the site's 170,000 person mailing list for... wait for it... $250,000. They think the price is totally worth it: '"
theodp writes "In an open letter on TechCrunch, Vivek Wadhwa calls on Congressman Luis Gutierrez to lift his 'hold on Silicon Valley' and stop tying immigration reform for highly-skilled STEM immigrants to the plight of undocumented immigrants. So, why should the STEM set get first dibs? 'The issues of high-skilled and undocumented immigrants are both equally important,' says Wadhwa, but 'the difference is that the skilled workers have mobility and are in great demand all over the world. They are getting frustrated and are leaving in droves.' Commenting on Gutierrez's voting record, Wadhwa adds, 'I would have voted for visas for 50,000 smart foreign students graduating with STEM degrees from U.S. universities over bringing in 55,000 randomly selected high-school graduates from abroad. The STEM graduates would have created jobs and boosted our economy. The lottery winners will come to the U.S. with high hopes, but will face certain unemployment and misery because of our weak economy.' So, should Gutierrez cede to Wadhwa's techies-before-Latinos proposal, or would this be an example of the paradox of virtuous meritocracy undermining equality of opportunity?"
New submitter rHBa sends this article about another high-profile email account breach: "The apparent hack of several e-mail accounts has exposed personal photos and sensitive correspondence from members of the Bush family, including both former U.S. presidents. The posted photos and e-mails contain a watermark with the hacker's online alias, 'Guccifer.' ... Included in the hacked material is a confidential October 2012 list of home addresses, cell phone numbers, and e-mails for dozens of Bush family members, including both former presidents, their siblings, and their children. ... Correspondence obtained by the hacker indicates that at least six separate e-mail accounts have been compromised, including the AOL account of Dorothy Bush Koch, daughter of George H.W. Bush and sister of George W. Bush. Other breached accounts belong to Willard Heminway, 79, an old friend of the 41st president who lives in Greenwich, Connecticut; CBS sportscaster Jim Nantz, a longtime Bush family friend; former first lady Barbara Bush’s brother; and George H.W. Bush’s sister-in-law. "
Frequent contributor Bennett Haselton is still thinking about prediction markets, and giving away money. He writes: "In an article last December I described a problem with prediction markets, where even markets with cap on betting limits could be manipulated by a single trader willing to spend a lot of money to distort the marketplace odds. So I offered a $100 cash prize to be split between readers who collectively came up with the best solution to the problem. Here's an idea that I think would work." Read on for the rest.
An anonymous reader writes "According to an Al-Jazeera report, 'Charlottesville, Virginia is the first city in the United States to pass an anti-drone resolution. The writing of the resolution coincides with a leaked memo outlining the legal case for drone strikes on U.S. citizens and a Federal Aviation Administration plan to allow the deployment of some 30,000 domestic drones.' The finalized resolution is fairly weak, but it's a start. There is also some anti-drone legislation in the Oregon state Senate, and it has much bigger teeth. It defines public airspace as anything above your shoelaces, and the wording for 'drone' is broad enough to include RC helicopters and the like."
cathyreisenwitz writes "For over a year now journalists, civil liberties advocates, and members of Congress have been asking the Obama administration to release internal memoranda from the Office of Legal Counsel justifying Obama's targeted killing program. While the White House continues to deny that such memos exist, NBC is reporting that it has acquired the next best thing: A secretish 16-page white paper from the Department of Justice that was provided to select members of the Senate last June." Spencer Ackerman at Wired says the leaked rules "[trump] traditional Constitutional protections American citizens enjoy from being killed by their government without due process" by redefining the concept of "imminence."
lcam writes "A Richard Stallman opinion piece appears at Reuters addressing the 'Too big to fail' view that has recently caused large corporations to be bailed out by taxpayer dollars. His solution is elegant: 'We tax a company’s gross income, with a tax rate that increases as the company gets bigger. Companies would be able to reduce their tax rates by splitting themselves up.' However, it could use some refining. For example, his measure would create a required minimum 'Return on Investment' scale that corporations need to follow to be viable, and these types of metrics are very industry specific. Another issue is that many large corporations stay in business because they don't take unnecessary risk. Companies like Intel, Lockheed, Walmart are very large and have a very low chance of failure, yet Stallman would have them split up as a result of the excessive risks that banks and insurance companies were seen to have taken. It also has the potential to cause problems with the global market; some multinationals may find it better to simply 'move out' to a country that doesn't compromise their business models. How can this idea be made better?"
An anonymous reader writes "Iran has unveiled a new home-made combat aircraft, which officials say can evade radar. The single-seat Qaher F313 (Dominant F313) is the latest design produced by Iran's military since it launched the Azarakhsh (Lightning), in 2007. President Mahmoud Ahmedinejad said it had 'almost all the positive features' of the world's most sophisticated jets.Footage from state TV showed the jet in flight, but not its take-off or landing."
New submitter Matt Slaybaugh writes "John Foley at InformationWeek has an editorial saying that the missing piece in the new gun control legislation is adequate data management. 'President Obama introduced 23 executive orders on Jan. 16 aimed at reducing gun violence through a combination of tougher regulation and enforcement, research, training, education and attention to mental healthcare. Several of the proposed actions involve better information sharing, including requiring federal agencies to make relevant data available to the FBI's background check system and easing legal barriers that prevent states from contributing data to that system.' But concrete plans are needed now to improve the current poor system of data collection and sharing. Federal CIO Steven VanRoekel's Digital Government Strategy, introduced in May, 'defines an IT architecture and processes for sharing digitized content securely, using Web APIs and with attention to protecting privacy. ... Unfortunately, on top of the data quality issues identified by the White House, and the FBI's and ATF's outdated IT systems, there's a lack of transparency about the systems used to enforce federal gun-control laws.'"
Rick Zeman writes "According to a headline article in the New York Times, they admit to being hacked by the Chinese, and covers the efforts of Mandiant to investigate, and then to eradicate their custom Advanced Persistent Threats (APT). This was alleged to be in reaction to an article which details the sleazy business dealings of the family of Wen Jiabao, China's newest Prime Minister. China's Ministry of National Defense said in denial, 'Chinese laws prohibit any action including hacking that damages Internet security.'" Update: 01/31 15:00 GMT by T : The Times used Symanetic's suite of malware protection software; Symantec has issued a statement that could be taken as slightly snippy about its role in (not) preventing the spyware from taking hold.
The Washington Post has announced a prototype news application called "Truth Teller", that displays “TRUE" or “FALSE” in real time next to video of politicians as they speak. The Knight Foundation-funded program automatically transcribes speeches and checks the statements against a database of facts. From the article: "For now, the early beta prototype has to be manually hand-fed some facts, and thus only works on topics it has been specifically designed to recognize. Since Congress has yet to pass a budget, and financial discussions are prone to widespread lies and misstatements, Truth Teller is being piloted on the issue of tax policy."
An anonymous reader writes "'Right now, there are brilliant students from all over the world sitting in classrooms at our top universities,' President Obama explained to the nation Tuesday in his pitch for immigration reform. 'They are earning degrees in the fields of the future, like engineering and computer science...We are giving them the skills to figure that out, but then we are going to turn around and tell them to start the business and create those jobs in China, or India, or Mexico, or someplace else. That is not how you grow new industries in America. That is how you give new industries to our competitors. That is why we need comprehensive immigration reform." If the President truly fears that international students will use skills learned at U.S. colleges and universities to the detriment of the United States if they return home (isn't a rising tide supposed to lift all boats?) — an argument NYC Mayor Bloomberg advanced in 2011 ('we are investing millions of dollars [actually billions] to educate these students at our leading universities, and then giving the economic dividends back to our competitors – for free') — then wouldn't another option be not providing them with the skills in the first place?"
As reported by news.com.au, Julian Assange has seen leaked copies of the script of an upcoming film depicting WikiLeaks, and blasts it as inaccurate propaganda. He says, among other things, "They tried to frame Iran as having an active nuclear weapons program. Then they try to frame WikiLeaks as the reason why that's not known to the public now." Says the article: "Assange declined to say where he got the script, although he hinted that he had been supplied with several copies of it over time. He also declined to say whether the script would be posted to the WikiLeaks website, saying only that "we are examining options closely.'"
As reported by Reuters, The New York Times, and Fox News, among others, North Korea's nuclear saber-rattling has reached a new peak. North Korean officials have made clear their intent to conduct a third nuclear test (earlier tests were in 2006 and 2009), as well as further rocket launches specifically designed to demonstrate missile reach extending to the U.S. From Reuters' story: "North Korea is not believed to have the technology to deliver a nuclear warhead capable of hitting the continental United States, although its December launch showed it had the capacity to deliver a rocket that could travel 10,000 km (6,200 miles), potentially putting San Francisco in range, according to an intelligence assessment by South Korea. 'We are not disguising the fact that the various satellites and long-range rockets that we will fire and the high-level nuclear test we will carry out are targeted at the United States,' North Korea's National Defence Commission said, according to state news agency KCNA."
An anonymous reader writes "Yesterday in a post at the White House website, the U.S. government announced that June 1-2 would be the National Day of Civic Hacking. 'Civic Hacking Day is an opportunity for software developers, technologists, and entrepreneurs to unleash their can-do American spirit by collaboratively harnessing publicly-released data and code to create innovative solutions for problems that affect Americans.' It will be a joint project with Random Hacks of Kindness, Code for America. Activities are being planned in many cities across the country, and you can also sign up to host your own event. It's nice to see the government use the word 'hacking' in a positive way, since most uses of the term these days involve malicious activity."
An anonymous reader writes "There's a battle brewing amongst Obama's election team. The political folks want to keep the get out the vote code closed source so republicans never get access to it, but the programmers want it open sourced so it can be improved upon. 'In this sense, the decision to mothball the tech would be a violation of the developers’ ethical principles. But the argument is about more than whether putting the tech back in the hands of the public is the right thing to do. "The biggest issue we saw with all of the commercial election software we used was that it’s only updated every four years," says Ryan. It was these outdated options that convinced team Obama to build all the campaign tech in-house. If the code OFA built was put on ice at the DNC until 2016, it would become effectively worthless. "None of that will be useful in four years, technology moves too fast," said Ryan. "But if our work was open and people were forking it and improving it all the time, then it keeps up with changes as we go."'"
judgecorp writes "The European Commission has proposals for data privacy (including the 'right to be forgotten') and the U.S. government is opposing them. Now U.S. activists have arrived in Brussels to lobby against their government's opposition to the European measures. The move comes following reports of 'extreme' lobbying by U.S. authorities against the European proposals." Although the "right to be forgotten" raises some free speech issues, it doesn't seem like a bad idea in principle.
First time accepted submitter norpy writes "The Australian branch of the pirate party has today announced that their registration as a political party has been successful. According to the announcement the party will now turn its attention to selection of candidates and development of policies for the upcoming federal election. 'Organising and validating a membership database to then submit to the AEC for the purposes of registration is a daunting task. Fortunately, we had a team of volunteers who were prepared to spend many weekends ensuring that the list we sent to the AEC was entirely valid, and I thank them for their effort,' said Brendan Molloy, Secretary of Pirate Party Australia."
Eric Schmidt attracted headlines when he visited North Korea, but until now he has said little about the trip. Today he broke his silence with a Google+ post. He says in part: "As the world becomes increasingly connected, the North Korean decision to be virtually isolated is very much going to affect their physical world and their economic growth. It will make it harder for them to catch up economically. We made that alternative very, very clear. Once the internet starts in any country, citizens in that country can certainly build on top of it, but the government has to do one thing: open up the Internet first. They have to make it possible for people to use the Internet, which the government of North Korea has not yet done. It is their choice now, and in my view, it’s time for them to start, or they will remain behind." His daughter had some interesting things to say as well, "The best description we could come up with: it's like The Truman Show, at country scale."
An anonymous reader writes "The Scientific and Technical Research Council of Turkey (TÜBITAK) has put a stop to the publication and sale of all books in its archives that support the theory of evolution, daily Radikal has reported. The books have long been listed as “out of stock” on TÜBTAK's website, but their further publication is now slated to be stopped permanently. Titles by Richard Dawkins, Alan Moorehead, Stephen Jay Gould, Richard Levontin and James Watson are all included in the list of books that will no longer be available to Turkish readers. In early 2009, a huge uproar occurred when the cover story of a publication by TÜBITAK was pulled, reportedly because it focused on Darwin’s theory of evolution."
McGruber writes "The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) has ended a contract with Rapiscan, a unit of OSI Systems Inc., manufacturer of about half of all of the controversial full-body scanners used on air passengers. TSA officials claim that Rapiscan failed to deliver software that would protect the privacy of passengers, but the contract termination happened immediately after the TSA finally got around to studying the health effects of the scanners, and Congress had a hearing on TSA's 'Scanner Shuffle'."
First time accepted submitter singinho writes "In times of political turmoil, operators are caught in the middle, between the wishes of the regime and the communications needs of the public. Orange exec Marc Rennard explains how he is forced to risk the lives of his employees." Companies operating with the blessing of any particular regime end up in some interesting predicaments; trying to keep communications open in a place like Mali (one of the places Rennard oversees) must make for some exciting work days for the guys in the field.
Lasrick writes "Physicist Lawrence Krauss has a great piece in the NY Times today about the lack of influence scientists wield on global security issues, to the world's detriment. He writes, 'To our great peril, the scientific community has had little success in recent years influencing policy on global security. Perhaps this is because the best scientists today are not directly responsible for the very weapons that threaten our safety, and are therefore no longer the high priests of destruction, to be consulted as oracles as they were after World War II. The problems scientists confront today are actually much harder than they were at the dawn of the nuclear age, and their successes more heartily earned. This is why it is so distressing that even Stephen Hawking, perhaps the world’s most famous living scientist, gets more attention for his views on space aliens than his views on nuclear weapons. Scientists' voices are crucial in the debates over the global challenges of climate change, nuclear proliferation and the potential creation of new and deadly pathogens. But unlike in the past, their voices aren't being heard.'"
New submitter mallyn points out that the state of New York has become the first state to pass a new gun control law since the school shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary last month. "Called the New York Safe Act, the law includes a tougher assault weapons ban that broadens the definition of what constitutes an assault weapon, and limits the capacity of magazines to seven bullets, down from 10. The law also requires background checks of ammunition and gun buyers, even in private sales, imposes tougher penalties for illegal gun use, a one-state check on all firearms purchases, and programs to cut gun violence in high-crime neighborhoods. ... New York's law also aims to keep guns out of the hands of those will mental illness. The law gives judges the power to require those who pose a threat to themselves or others get outpatient care. The law also requires that when a mental health professional determines a gun owner is likely to do harm, the risk must be reported and the gun removed by law enforcement." Meanwhile, the Obama Administration is expected to propose a new federal assault weapons ban later today.
New submitter sHr0oMaN writes with news that Diane Franklin, a Republican member of Missouri's state House of Representatives, has proposed a sales tax on violent video games. The proposal, HB0157I, is one of many responses to the shooting in Newtown, Connecticut. The proceeds from the tax would go toward mental health programs and law enforcement in the hopes that future shootings can be prevented. The total amount taxed would be small — 1% — and would be applied to video games rated Teen, Mature, or Adult-only by the ESRB. Of course, many games earn the "Teen" rating without having violence in them, like Guitar Hero. The Entertainment Software Association responded to Rep. Franklin's bill with a statement: "Taxing First Amendment protected speech based on its content is not only wrong, but will end up costing Missouri taxpayers."
Lasrick writes "The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists announces whether their Doomsday Clock has been moved with this open letter to President Obama, outlining progress on a number of fronts, but also detailing what still needs to be done to avoid various threats to humanity." From the article: "2012 was a year in which the problems of the world pressed forward, but too many of its citizens stood back. In the U.S. elections the focus was "the economy, stupid," with barely a word about the severe long-term trends that threaten the population's well-being to a far greater extent: climate change, the continuing menace of nuclear oblivion, and the vulnerabilities of the world's energy sources."
New submitter jespada writes "BBC News reports the Vietnamese Communist Party is approaching its internet image in a more sophisticated manner by hiring shill bloggers to argue its case. From the article: 'Hanoi Propaganda and Education Department head Ho Quang Loi said that the authorities had hired hundreds of so-called "internet polemists" in the fight against "online hostile forces." While the exact number of these activists is unknown, Mr Loi revealed that his organisation is running at least 400 online accounts and 20 microblogs. Regular visitors on popular social media networks in Vietnam such as Facebook have long noticed the existence of a number of pro-regime bloggers, who frequently post comments and articles supportive of the Communist Party. The bloggers also take part in online discussions, where they fiercely attack anybody who they see as critical of the regime.'"
cervesaebraciator writes "Tim Lee over at Ars Technica recently interviewed Derek Khanna, a former staffer for the Republican Study Committee. As reported on Slashdot, Khanna wrote a brief suggesting the current copyright law might not constitute free market thinking. He was rewarded for his efforts with permanent time off of work. Khanna continues to speak out about the need for copyright reform as well as its potential as a winning electoral issue and, according to Lee, he's actually beginning to receive some positive attention for his efforts. 'I encourage Hill staffers to bring forth new ideas. Don't be discouraged by the potential consequences,' Khanna told Ars. 'You work for the American people. It's your job, your obligation to be challenging existing paradigms and put forward novel solutions to existing problems.' Would that more in both major parties thought like this."
Nerval's Lobster writes "A presidential campaign is many things to many people: a reason to hope in the future, a wellspring of jokes and debate fodder, an annoyance to tune out, a chance to participate in the civic process. But for a couple dozen software engineers and developers involved over the past two years in President Obama's re-election effort, a campaign was something entirely different: a billion-dollar tech startup with an eighteen-month lifespan and a mandate to ship code under extreme pressure. Speaking to a New York City audience, some of Obama for America's leading tech people—those involved in the all-important Dashboard and Narwhal projects, as well as fundraising and DevOps—characterized the experience as 'insane,' filled with unending problems and the knowledge that, at the end of the whole process, nearly everything they worked on would likely end up tossed away. This is the story of what happened, and how technologies on a massive scale can make or break campaigns."