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Obama, Romney Data Scientists Strike Out On Their Own 120

Posted by timothy
from the hive-of-scum-and-villainy dept.
dcblogs writes "The self-described nerds of President Obama's presidential campaign last year are back using big data analytics, this time to help Newark Mayor Cory Booker achieve a landside primary win Tuesday in the New Jersey Democratic primary for a vacant U.S. Senate seat. The data scientists from Obama and Romney campaigns recently formed their own consulting businesses within months of each other. The chief data scientist for Romney's campaign, Alex Lundry, co-founded Deep Root Analytics. He gives credit to the Obama campaign's data effort in 2012. But since last year's election, "what you are seeing is a flurry of activity on the right to make sure that we not only catch them, but surpass them," Lundry said. Meanwhile, the co-founder of BlueLabs, Chris Wegrzyn, a senior member of Obama's 2012 campaign analytics department, says last year was turning point for big data analytics in elections. "Usually the nerds in the back room don't warrant a great deal of attention, especially in politics," said Wegrzyn, "but the world is changing.""
Education

The College-Loan Scandal 827

Posted by Soulskill
from the all-about-the-benjamins dept.
Matt Taibbi writes in Rolling Stone about the economics behind college tuition. Interest rates get the headlines and the attention of politicians, but Taibbi says the real culprit is "appallingly high tuition costs that have been soaring at two to three times the rate of inflation, an irrational upward trajectory eerily reminiscent of skyrocketing housing prices in the years before 2008." He writes, "For this story, I interviewed people who developed crippling mental and physical conditions, who considered suicide, who had to give up hope of having children, who were forced to leave the country, or who even entered a life of crime because of their student debts. ... Because the underlying cause of all that later-life distress and heartache – the reason they carry such crushing, life-alteringly huge college debt – is that our university-tuition system really is exploitative and unfair, designed primarily to benefit two major actors. First in line are the colleges and universities, and the contractors who build their extravagant athletic complexes, hotel-like dormitories and God knows what other campus embellishments. For these little regional economic empires, the federal student-loan system is essentially a massive and ongoing government subsidy, once funded mostly by emotionally vulnerable parents, but now increasingly paid for in the form of federally backed loans to a political constituency – low- and middle-income students – that has virtually no lobby in Washington. Next up is the government itself. While it's not commonly discussed on the Hill, the government actually stands to make an enormous profit on the president's new federal student-loan system, an estimated $184 billion over 10 years, a boondoggle paid for by hyperinflated tuition costs and fueled by a government-sponsored predatory-lending program that makes even the most ruthless private credit-card company seem like a "Save the Panda" charity. Why is this happening? The answer lies in a sociopathic marriage of private-sector greed and government force that will make you shake your head in wonder at the way modern America sucks blood out of its young."
Government

US, Germany To Enter No-Spying Agreement 209

Posted by Soulskill
from the solving-nonexistent-problems dept.
itwbennett writes "The German Federal Intelligence Service said in a news release that the U.S. has verbally committed to enter into a no-spying agreement with Germany. The no-spying agreement talks were announced as part of a progress report on an eight-point program proposed by German Chancellor Angela Merkel in July with measures to better protect the privacy of German citizens. In the progress report, the German government found that U.S. intelligence services comply with German law. Also, the operators of large German Internet exchanges and the federal government did not find any evidence that the U.S. spies on Germans, the government said."
Privacy

Next Up: the Jamming Wars 209

Posted by Soulskill
from the drummers-everywhere-confused-by-pleased dept.
chicksdaddy writes "ITWorld has an interesting opinion piece on the next privacy battleground, which they say will be over citizens' rights to use jamming technology to (forcibly) opt-out of ubiquitous surveillance, as sensors pop up in more and more public spaces and private homes alike. 'Given the rapid pace of technological change, we don't know exactly what the future holds for us. But one thing is certain: personal privacy is going to turn from a "right" to a "fight" in the next decade, as individuals take up arms against government and private sector snooping on their personal lives.' The article mentions some skirmishes that have already occurred: employees using GPS jamming hardware to prevent employers from tracking their every movement, and the crush of new business for encrypted voice, video and texting services like SilentCircle (up 400% in the last two months). 'Absent the protection of the law, citizens should be expected to do what they do elsewhere: take matters into their own hands: latching onto tools and technology to give them the privacy that they aren't afforded by the legal system. However, there may not be an easy technology fix for ubiquitous, unregulated surveillance. Writing in Wired this week, Jathan Sadowski warns that the tendency for individuals to focus on securing their own data and communications and using technology to do may be misleading. 'The problem is that focusing on one or both of these approaches distracts from the much-needed political reform and societal pushback necessary to dig up a surveillance state at its root,' Sadowski writes."
Social Networks

Twitter Buzz As an Election Predictor 55

Posted by Unknown Lamer
from the popularity-contest dept.
Capt.Albatross writes "A study presented at the American Sociological Association's annual meeting suggests that simply comparing the frequency with which the candidates' names are mentioned in tweets can predict the result of elections almost as well as conventional polls, even without considering the sentiment (for or against the named candidate) of the messages. Furthermore, the correlation seems strongest in close elections. Additional commentary can be found at the Wall Street Journal and from Indiana University."
Medicine

Medical Costs Bankrupt Patients; It's the Computer's Fault 637

Posted by Soulskill
from the i-blame-the-schools dept.
nbauman writes "Don't get cancer until 2015. The Obama health reform is supposed to limit out-of-pocket costs to $12,700. But the Obama Administration has delayed its implementation until 2015. The insurance companies told them that their computers weren't able to add up all their customers' out-of-pocket costs to see whether they had reached the limit. For some common diseases, such as cancer or heart failure, treatment can cost over $100,000, and patients will be responsible for the balance. Tell me, Slashdot, how difficult would it be to rewrite an insurance billing system to aggregate a policyholder's out-of-pocket costs? 'A senior administration official, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss internal deliberations, said: "We knew this was an important issue. We had to balance the interests of consumers with the concerns of health plan sponsors and carriers, which told us that their computer systems were not set up to aggregate all of a person's out-of-pocket costs. They asked for more time to comply."'"
Power

Court: NRC In Violation For Not Ruling On Yucca Mountain 258

Posted by Soulskill
from the waste-not-want-not dept.
schwit1 sends this quote from an AP report: "The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia ordered the [Nuclear Regulatory Commission] to complete the licensing process and approve or reject the Energy Department's application for a never-completed waste storage site at Nevada's Yucca Mountain. In a sharply worded opinion, the court said the nuclear agency was 'simply flouting the law' when it allowed the Obama administration to continue plans to close the proposed waste site 90 miles northwest of Las Vegas. The action goes against a federal law designating Yucca Mountain as the nation's nuclear waste repository. 'The president may not decline to follow a statutory mandate or prohibition simply because of policy objections,' Judge Brett M. Kavanaugh wrote in a majority opinion (PDF), which was joined Judge A. Raymond Randolph. Chief Judge Merrick B. Garland dissented. The appeals court said the case has important implications for the separation of powers between the executive and legislative branches of government. 'It is no overstatement to say that our constitutional system of separation of powers would be significantly altered if we were to allow executive and independent agencies to disregard federal law in the manner asserted in this case by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission,' Kavanaugh wrote. 'The commission is simply defying a law enacted by Congress ... without any legal basis.'"
Government

Obama's Privacy Reform Panel Will Report To ... the NSA 569

Posted by timothy
from the just-washing-the-dishes-honey dept.
FuzzNugget writes "No, you didn't just stumble upon The Onion by mistake. Ars Technica reports that Obama's 'reform' panel will report directly to James Clapper, the Director of National Intelligence who arguably lied to Congress about whether the NSA conducted dragnet surveillance of Americans' communications. But is anyone really surprised?"
Government

Photocopying Michelle Obama's Diary, Just In Case 218

Posted by Unknown Lamer
from the potus-doesn't-actually-do-dishes-anyway dept.
Hugh Pickens DOT Com writes "Conor Friedersdorf has a good (and humorous) read in the Atlantic about the analogy that President Obama has settled on to explain his theory of the NSA surveillance controversy to reporters. 'The question is how do we make the American people more comfortable?' Obama said. 'If I tell Michelle that I did the dishes ... and she's a little skeptical, well, I'd like her to trust me, but maybe I need to bring her back and show her the dishes and not just have her take my word for it.' The analogy has been widely panned, and for good reason. Friedersdorf writes that he has come up with a much better analogy. What if 'Barack snuck into Michelle's closet one day, dug through her belongings until he found her diary, and photocopied it. Then he replaced the original, locked the copy in his desk, and didn't think about it much until she found out months later and furiously confronted him.' Admittedly, it isn't a perfect analogy either says Friedersdorf, 'but it comes a lot closer than Obama did to capturing the actual stakes in this debate, and the reason so many Americans are angry at him.'" In related news, Snowden's father disagrees that his son isn't a patriot: "My son has spoken the truth, and he has sacrificed more than either the president of the United States or Peter King have ever in their political careers or their American lives. So how they choose to characterize him really doesn't carry that much weight with me."
United States

Federal Judge Rules NYC "Stop and Frisk" Violated Rights 308

Posted by Unknown Lamer
from the what-fourth-amendment dept.
In a mixed ruling for Fourth Amendment rights, a federal judge today ruled that NYC's Stop-and-Frisk program violated constitutional rights due to disproportionately targeting minorities. However, despite the program being unconstitutional in its current form, it will not stop. From the New York Times: " Judge Scheindlin also ordered a number of other remedies, including a pilot program in which officers in at least five precincts across the city will wear body-worn cameras in an effort to record street encounters. She also ordered a 'joint remedial process' — in essence, a series of community meetings — to solicit public input on how to reform stop-and-frisk. ... The Supreme Court had long ago ruled that stop-and-frisks were constitutionally permissible under certain conditions, and Judge Scheindlin stressed that she was 'not ordering an end to the practice.' But she said that changes were needed to ensure that the street stops were carried out in a manner that “protects the rights and liberties of all New Yorkers, while still providing much needed police protection.' ... The judge found that the New York police were too quick to deem as suspicious behavior that was perfectly innocent, in effect watering down the legal standard required for a stop. " The ruling itself (PDF). Bloomberg is furious about the decision, and the city, naturally, intends to appeal.
Government

Obama on Surveillance: "We Can and Must Be More Transparent" 537

Posted by Soulskill
from the proof-is-in-the-pudding dept.
Today President Obama held a press conference to address the situation surrounding the NSA's surveillance activities. (Here is the full transcript.) He announced four actions the administration is undertaking to restore the public's confidence in the intelligence community. Obama plans to work with Congress to reform the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court to give greater weight to civil liberties, and to revisit section 215 of the PATRIOT Act, which is the section that allowed bulk collection of phone records. (Of course, "will work with Congress" is a vague term, and Congress isn't known for getting things done lately. Thus, it remains to be seen if anything substantive happens.) Obama is ordering the Dept. of Justice to make public their legal rationale for data collection, and there will be a new NSA official dedicated to transparency efforts. There will also be a new website for citizens to learn about transparency in intelligence agencies. Lastly, a group of outside experts will be convened to review the government's surveillance capabilities. Their job will include figuring out how to maintain the public's trust and prevent abuse, and to consider how the intelligence community's actions will affect foreign policy. In addition to these initiatives, President Obama made his position very clear about several different aspects of this controversy. While acknowledging that "we have significant capabilities," he said, "America is not interested in spying on ordinary people." He added that the people who have raised concerns about privacy and government overreach in a lawful manner are "patriots." This is in stark contrast to his view of leakers like Edward Snowden: "I don't think Mr. Snowden was a patriot." (For his part, Snowden says the recent shut down of encrypted email services is 'inspiring.') When asked about how his opinion of the surveillance programs have changed, he said his perception of them has not evolved since the story broke worldwide. "What you're not seeing is people actually abusing these programs." Obama also endorsed finding technological solutions that will protect privacy regardless of what government agencies want to do.
Politics

Is New York City Ready For Digital Voting? 93

Posted by Soulskill
from the only-if-they-can-do-it-from-a-cab dept.
Daniel_Stuckey writes "Turnout for local elections in New York City was 33.7 percent in 2010, according to Fair Vote. And while some apps and startups are looking to resurrect turnouts in future elections, most candidates still couldn't tell you how they work or why they might be necessary. Benjamin Kallos is a candidate for New York City Council's fifth district, which includes the Upper East Side and Roosevelt Island, and has his sights on modernizing the electoral process. He's campaigning on a high-tech platform that he says aims to deepen technology's role in promoting transparency, inclusion, and accountability within pockets of New York City's voting pool that remain largely disengaged."
United States

Snowden Gave 15,000 Documents to Glenn Greenwald; Obama Cancels Russia Summit 531

Posted by Unknown Lamer
from the where's-sarah-palin-when-you-need-her dept.
sl4shd0rk writes "The American journalist Glenn Greewald, who published much of the initial info on illegal NSA programs, plans to release more revelations on the NSA spying machine in 10 days. 'The articles we have published so far are a very small part of the revelations that ought to be published,' Greenwald said on Tuesday. Greenwald further elaborated on public posturing which many nations are currently taking: 'The Brazilian government is showing much more anger in public than it is showing in private discussions with the U.S. government. All governments are doing this, even in Europe.'" The U.S. decided to pull out of a summit with Russia next month, citing the decision to grant Snowden asylum as a factor: "However, given our lack of progress on issues such as missile defense and arms control, trade and commercial relations, global security issues, and human rights and civil society in the last twelve months, we have informed the Russian Government that we believe it would be more constructive to postpone the summit until we have more results from our shared agenda. Russia's disappointing decision to grant Edward Snowden temporary asylum was also a factor that we considered in assessing the current state of our bilateral relationship. Our cooperation on these issues remains a priority for the United States, so on Friday, August 9, Secretaries Hagel and Kerry will meet with their Russian counterparts in a 2+2 format in Washington to discuss how we can best make progress moving forward on the full range of issues in our bilateral relationship."
Security

Zimbabweans Hit By Cyber Attacks During Election 63

Posted by Soulskill
from the failsafes-failed-safely dept.
judgecorp writes "During last week's Zimbabwean election, some huge denial of service attacks took down sites including several reporting on human rights issues and potential irregularities in the election. Those affected suspect government involvement. ... GreenNet is only just recovering today, with some customer websites still down, having reported the strike on Thursday morning, the day after Zimbabweans headed to the polls. It appeared to be a powerful attack – TechWeek understands it was at the 100Gbps level – aimed at GreenNet’s co-location data centre provider Level 3, which subsequently did not let GreenNet move workloads within that facility. ... The DDoS that hit GreenNet was not a crude attack using a botnet to fire traffic straight at a target port, but a DNS reflection attack using UDP packets, which can generate considerable power. DNS reflection sees the attacker spoof their IP address to pretend to be the target, send lines of attack code to a DNS server, which then sends back large amounts of traffic to the victim."
Earth

Google's Science Fellows Challenge the Company's Fund-Raising For Senator Inhofe 140

Posted by samzenpus
from the keep-your-friends-close dept.
Lasrick writes "At the Dot Earth blog in the NY Times, 'Big companies have many, and sometimes conflicting, interests, as a spokesperson for Google tried to explain to the environmental blogger Brian Merchant this way: “[W]hile we disagree on climate change policy, we share an interest with Senator Inhofe in the employees and data center we have in Oklahoma.” Now the Web giant is facing fresh criticism, this time in an open letter from 17 scientists and policy researchers who were invited to Google’s Silicon Valley headquarters back in 2011 to explore ways to improve climate science communication....'"
Businesses

Obama Praises Amazon At One of Its Controversial Warehouses 435

Posted by Unknown Lamer
from the should-have-been-born-a-robot dept.
theodp writes "In his first term, President Obama was a big booster of indie bookstores. But on Tuesday, the President chose to deliver his speech on Jobs for the Middle Class at one of Amazon's controversial fulfillment centers in Chattanooga, TN. 'Amazon is a great example of what's possible,' said Obama, who also toured the 'amazing facility' where workers can make $10.50-$11.50 an hour as an employee of Integrity Staffing Group, 'may also be eligible for medical and dental benefits', and 'must be able to stand/walk for up to 10-12 hours' in temperatures that 'will occasionally exceed 90 degrees.' So, are '21st century migrant workers' the new middle class?"
Censorship

Bahrain Activists Battered By IP Tracking Attacks 48

Posted by timothy
from the couldn't-happen-here dept.
An anonymous reader writes "Having been targeted by malware in the past, anti-government protesters in Bahrain are now being hit hard by IP tracking attacks, according to a researcher. Bill Marczak, of Bahrain Watch and Citizen Lab, who is putting together a report on the attacks, said it appeared Bahrain officials had been masquerading as fake activists, sending obfuscated URLs to targets to learn their IP address. The next step is to take the IP address and the time of the click to the relevant ISP to find out who the user is. Then all sorts of things can happen. 'People who have clicked on these links have suffered various types of consequences ranging from having their houses raided and being charged for saying insulting things about the king on Twitter, or losing their jobs,' says Marczak. 'It looks like, from our investigation so far, in one case, the government did lock up the wrong person.'"
Government

Lawmakers Who Upheld NSA Phone Spying Received Double the Defense Industry Cash 284

Posted by Unknown Lamer
from the business-as-usual dept.
An anonymous reader writes "The numbers tell the story — in votes and dollars. On Wednesday, the House voted 217 to 205 not to rein in the NSA's phone-spying dragnet. It turns out that those 217 'no' voters received twice as much campaign financing from the defense and intelligence industry as the 205 'yes' voters."
China

Several Western Govts. Ban Lenovo Equipment From Sensitive Networks 410

Posted by timothy
from the this-far-and-no-farther dept.
renai42 writes "If you've been in the IT industry for a while, you'll know that Lenovo's ThinkPad brand has a strong reputation with large organisations for quality, dating back to the brand's pre-2005 ownership by IBM. However, all that may be set to change with the news that the defence agencies of key Western governments such as Australia, the US, Britain, Canada and New Zealand have banned Lenovo gear from being used in sensitive areas, because of concerns that the Chinese vendor has been leaving back doors in its devices for the Chinese Government. No evidence has yet been presented to back the claims, but Lenovo remains locked out of sensitive areas of these governments. Is it fearmongering? Or is there some legitimate basis for the ban?"
Australia

Man Formerly Charged With Rigging Student Ballot Exposed As Labor Official 96

Posted by timothy
from the public-servants-around-the-world dept.
First time accepted submitter pocock writes "Motivated by reports of Matthew Weaver's twelve month jail sentence for rigging CalState student elections, a comprehensive blog describes in detail how a generation of student ballot riggers from the late 1990s have graduated unhindered into federal politics, playing a pivotal role in Australia's upcoming federal election. One can only wonder if Weaver had not been caught, would he too have eventually swiped a million dollars and put the SRC into liquidation?"
Government

NSA Still Funded To Spy On US Phone Records 362

Posted by timothy
from the good-day-to-donate-to-the-eff dept.
Reader turp182 notes that the Amash Amendment (#100) to HR 2397 (DOD appropriations bill) failed to pass the House of Representatives, meaning it will not be added to the appropriations bill. turp182 writes "The amendment would have specifically defunded the bulk collection of American phone records." Americans can see how their representatives voted here.
Privacy

New Zealand Government About To Legalize Spying On NZ Citizens 216

Posted by Unknown Lamer
from the if-you-have-nothing-to-hide dept.
Flere Imsaho writes "After admitting they have illegally spied on NZ citizens or residents 88 times (PDF) since 2003, the government, in a stunning example of arse covering, is about to grant the GCSB the right to intercept the communications of New Zealanders in its role as the national cyber security agency, rather than examine the role the GCSB should play and then look at the laws. There has been strong criticism from many avenues. The bill is being opposed by Labor and the Greens, but it looks like National now have the numbers to get this passed. Of course, the front page story is all about the royal baby, with this huge erosion of privacy relegated to a small article near the bottom of the front page. Three cheers, the monarchy is secure, never mind the rights of the people. More bread and circuses anyone?"
Security

Former Student Gets Year In Prison For College President Election Fraud 274

Posted by Unknown Lamer
from the of-all-the-elections-to-steal dept.
Gunkerty Jeb writes, quoting Threatpost: "A former Cal State San Marcos student was sentenced to a year in prison this week for election tampering by using keystroke loggers to grab student credentials and then vote for himself. Matthew Weaver, 22, of Huntington Beach, Calif., stole almost 750 students' identities to try and become president of the San Diego County college's student government. His plan went awry when the school's computer technicians noticed an anomaly in activity and caught Weaver with keystroke loggers as he sat in front of the suspicious computer."
The Courts

Whistleblowing IT Director Fired By FL State Attorney 569

Posted by timothy
from the also-he-was-probably-using-a-computer dept.
An anonymous reader writes "Ben Kruidbos, the IT director for the Florida State Attorney's Office who'd spoken up when important cellphone evidence he'd extracted from Trayvon Martin's cellphone was withheld by the state from the defense, was fired by messenger at 7:30 PM Friday, after closing arguments in the Zimmerman case. He was told that he could not be 'trusted to set foot in this office,' and that he was being fired for incompetence. Kruidbos had received a merit pay raise earlier this year. The firing letter also blames him for consulting a lawyer, an obvious sign of evil."
Government

E-Voting Source Code Made Public In Estonia 88

Posted by Soulskill
from the but-omg-hackers dept.
New submitter paavo512 writes "Server-side source code used for electronic voting was made fully public by Estonian officials on July 11 (in Estonian). The aim is to encourage more specialists to get involved in the technical analysis of the software. It is hoped that public overview will help to ensure the security of the system. E-voting has been successfully used five times in Estonia since 2007. It facilitates national ID cards which are obligatory for all citizens. In the next municipal elections later this year it is planned to test an experimental feature where the voter can check via a physically separate channel (smart phone) if his or her vote has been registered correctly. The publicized source code is available at GitHub."
Earth

Google Raises Campaign Funds For Climate Change Denier 365

Posted by Soulskill
from the pi-is-exactly-3 dept.
HonorPoncaCityDotCom writes "Alex Altman reports at Time Magazine that Google recently hosted a fundraiser for Oklahoma Senator Jim Inhofe, one of the Senate's most conservative Republicans and a staunch opponent of EPA regulations. Inhofe authored a treatise called 'The Greatest Hoax: How the Global Warming Conspiracy Threatens Your Future,' thinks the Bible disproves global warming, and once denounced the 'arrogance' of scientists who suggest that 'we, human beings, would be able to change what He is doing in the climate.' What prompted Google to host a fund raiser where attendees shelled out up to $2,500 for lunch with Inhofe? A data center that Google operates in Pryor, Oklahoma. 'Google runs a significant operation that provides around 100 jobs,' says Rusty Appleton, Inhofe's campaign manager. 'The Senator had an opportunity to tour the facilities in May of last year, and is committed to ensuring that Oklahoma remains a great place to do business.' A Google spokesperson says the company regularly hosts fundraisers for candidates of all stripes, even when Google disagrees with some of their policies — as it does with Inhofe on climate change. This explanation didn't wash with the activists outside Google's D.C. headquarters near K Street. "
United States

DHS Chief Janet Napolitano Resigns 192

Posted by Soulskill
from the so-long-and-thanks-for-all-the-cavity-searches dept.
schwit1 writes with news that the U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security, Janet Napolitano, has resigned her post. Napolitano entered the office at the beginning of President Obama's first term, and she was only the third person to hold the position since it was created in response to the September 11th attacks. In a statement, she said the Department of Homeland Security "has improved the safety of travelers; implemented smart steps that make our immigration system more fair and focused while deploying record resources to protect our nation's borders; worked with states to build resiliency and make our nation's emergency and disaster response capabilities more robust; and partnered with the private sector to improve our cybersecurity." Napolitano will be taking over the presidency of the University of California's 10-campus education system. "UC officials believe that her Cabinet experiences –- which include helping to lead responses to hurricanes and tornadoes and overseeing some anti-terrorism measures — will help UC administer its federal energy and nuclear weapons labs and aid its federally funded research in medicine and other areas."
Moon

House Democrats Propose National Park On the Moon 255

Posted by Soulskill
from the taking-volunteers-for-space-rangers dept.
MarkWhittington writes "Two House Democrats, Reps. Donna Edwards (D-Md.) and Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-Texas), have proposed a bill called Apollo Lunar Landing Legacy Act, H.R. 2617 (PDF), that would establish the Apollo Lunar Landing Sites National Historical Park at all the Apollo lunar landing sites, according to a story in The Hill. 'The park would be comprised of all artifacts left on the surface of the moon from the Apollo 11 through 17 missions. The bill says these sites need to be protected because of the anticipated increase in commercial moon landings in the future.'"
Software

Obamacare Software Glitch Will Limit Penalties Charged To Smokers 490

Posted by Soulskill
from the software-engineers-1,-democracy-0 dept.
turbosaab writes "The Obama administration has quietly notified insurers that a computer system glitch will limit penalties that companies may charge smokers under the new healthcare law. The underlying reason for the limitation is another provision in the health care law that says insurers can't charge older customers more than three times what they charge the youngest adults in the pool. The government's computer system has been unable to accommodate the two. So younger smokers and older smokers must be charged the same penalty, or the system will kick it out. A fix will take at least a year to put in place."
Privacy

According To YouGov Poll, Snowden Support Declining Among Americans 658

Posted by Soulskill
from the or-at-least-sick-of-the-media-playing-Where's-Waldo dept.
eldavojohn writes "A recent poll from the YouGov consisting of one thousand responses shows that Snowden's support among Americans has shifted. Now, according to the poll, more Americans think he did the wrong thing rather than the right thing when asked: 'Based on what you've heard, do think Snowden's leak of top-secret information about government surveillance programs to the media was the right thing to do or the wrong thing to do?' The results and breakdown are available online (PDF). Without getting into racial or political breakdowns, the results now show that 38% say he did the wrong thing, 33% say he did the right thing and 29% remain undecided about the results of his actions. Instead of charging the populace into action Snowden may be facing apathy at best and public disapproval at worst."
United States

Snowden Offered Asylum By Venezuelan President 380

Posted by Unknown Lamer
from the zombie-hugo-chavez-wants-american-brains dept.
First time accepted submitter aBaldrich writes "Edward Snowden was offered 'humanitarian asylum' by Nicolás Maduro, the president of Venezuela. The country's official news agency reports (original Spanish, Google translation) that the decision was taken after a meeting of the presidents of Argentina, Bolivia, Ecuador, Suriname, Uruguay and Venezuela. Maduro denounced an attempt to 'colonize' several European countries, and that he is acting 'on behalf of the dignity of the Americas.'" The Guardian confirms.
Earth

How Old Is the Average Country? 375

Posted by timothy
from the we-just-eat-a-lot-of-yogurt dept.
Daniel_Stuckey writes with a snippet from his piece at Vice: "I did some calculations in Excel, using independence dates provided on About.com, and found the average age of a country is about 158.78 years old. Now, before anyone throws a tizzy about what makes a country a country, about nations, tribes, civilizations, ethnic categories, or about my makeshift methodology, keep in mind, I simply assessed 195 countries based on their political sovereignty. That is the occasion we're celebrating today, right?"
Government

Egyptian President Overthrown, Constitution Suspended 413

Posted by Soulskill
from the if-you're-there,-stay-safe dept.
Al Jazeera and other publications are reporting that Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi has been overthrown by the country's army. General Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, head of the Egyptian armed forces, said in a televised announcement that Morsi had been removed from power, the Constitution had been suspended, and Adli al-Mansour, leader of Egypt's Supreme Constitutional Court, had been appointed to lead the country until elections can be held. "Sisi called for presidential and parliamentary elections, a panel to review the constitution and a national reconciliation committee that would include youth movements. He said the roadmap had been agreed by a range of political groups." According to the BBC's report, "General Sisi said on state TV that the armed forces could not stay silent and blind to the call of the Egyptian masses," and "The army is currently involved in a show of force, fanning out across Cairo and taking control of the capital."
EU

Bolivian President's Plane 'Rerouted Over Snowden Suspicions' 621

Posted by Unknown Lamer
from the plot-continues-to-thicken dept.
niftydude writes with the latest news on the Edward Snowden saga. It appears that the Bolivian President's plane was denied access to French and Spanish airspace due to suspicions that Snowden was on board. Quoting a few pieces from the Guardian: "In an extraordinary move, France and Portugal revoked flight clearances for the Bolivian President's plane on Tuesday after representations were reportedly made by the U.S. State Department. Mr Morales was flying home from an energy conference in Moscow and his aircraft was hastily rerouted to Vienna, Austria. Bolivian Foreign Minister David Choquehuanca angrily denied that Mr Snowden was on the President's aircraft, a fact later confirmed by Austrian authorities, and said France and Portugal would have to explain why they abruptly canceled authorization for the flight. AP reports that Venezuela's foreign minister Elias Jaua has condemned the decision by France and Portugal to block the plane from its airspace. He claimed that changing a flight's route without checking on how much fuel was left in the plane, put Morales' life at risk." Spain claims they only agreed to allow the plane to refuel there if it were subject to search, and France did end up authorizing use of their air space today. In related news, Julian Assange and the general secretary of Reporters Without Borders Christophe Deloire published an Op-Ed today why Europe must protect Snowden. And: dryriver sends news that Ecuador discovered that their embassy in London was bugged, describing the incident as "another instance of a loss of ethics at the international level in relations between governments."
Government

Obamacare Employer Mandate Delayed Until After Congressional Elections 600

Posted by Unknown Lamer
from the chocolate-ration-increased dept.
theodp writes "If you hoped your employer would finally provide health insurance in 2014, take two aspirin and call your doctor in the morning — the morning of January 1st, 2015. The Obama administration will delay a crucial provision of its signature health-care law until 2015, giving businesses an extra year to comply with a requirement that they provide their workers with insurance. The government will postpone enforcement of the so-called employer mandate until 2015, after the congressional elections, the administration said Tuesday. Under the provision, companies with 50 or more workers face a fine of as much as $3,000 per employee if they don't offer affordable insurance."
Security

Edward Snowden Files For Political Asylum In Russia 447

Posted by Unknown Lamer
from the silly-rabbit-human-rights-are-for-Party-members dept.
vikingpower writes "The official Russian Press agency Interfax has the scoop: Edward Snowden asks for political asylum in Russia (Google Translate). Russia Today, however, denies the news. Is this part of a clever disinformation move by Snowden, who reportedly is still in the Moscow airport Sheremetyevo 2?" The Washington Post is also reporting Snowden did apply for asylum in Russia. Snowden released a statement last night through Wikileaks, quoting: "For decades the United States of America has been one of the strongest defenders of the human right to seek asylum. Sadly, this right, laid out and voted for by the U.S. in Article 14 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, is now being rejected by the current government of my country. The Obama administration has now adopted the strategy of using citizenship as a weapon. Although I am convicted of nothing, it has unilaterally revoked my passport, leaving me a stateless person. Without any judicial order, the administration now seeks to stop me exercising a basic right. A right that belongs to everybody. The right to seek asylum."
Businesses

FWD.us Remixes the Statue of Liberty Greeting 160

Posted by Unknown Lamer
from the business-people-doing-business-things dept.
theodp writes "In the days leading up to the Senate's passage of the landmark immigration bill, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg unveiled a new ad from FWD.us, his pro-immigration reform PAC. The ad, 'Emma', contains an altered version of Emma Lazarus' famous 1883 poem 'The New Colossus' ('Give me your tired, your poor...'), which is engraved on a bronze plaque inside the Statue of Liberty. 'In doing so,' notes the Latin Times, 'it [the ad] departs radically from the meaning of Lazarus' original — which exalted the Statue of Liberty as a "mother of exiles" and redeemer of the world's rootless poor — to accommodate the PAC's call for more high-skilled workers from abroad be allowed to work and live legally in the United States.' Instead of the original's call for 'the wretched refuse of your teeming shore' and 'the homeless, tempest-tossed', the FWD.us remix asks for 'the influencers and the dreamers...talent that is searching for purpose...those dedicated to the doing'. Here's a YouTube Doubler of readings of both versions — pick your fave, kids!"
United States

More Details Emerge On How the US Is Bugging Its European Allies 442

Posted by timothy
from the bugging-is-the-polite-word dept.
dryriver writes with this excerpt from the Guardian: "U.S. intelligence services are spying on the European Union mission in New York and its embassy in Washington, according to the latest top secret U.S. National Security Agency documents leaked by the whistleblower Edward Snowden. One document lists 38 embassies and missions, describing them as 'targets.' It details an extraordinary range of spying methods used against each target, from bugs implanted in electronic communications gear to taps into cables to the collection of transmissions with specialised antennae. Along with traditional ideological adversaries and sensitive Middle Eastern countries, the list of targets includes the E.U. missions and the French, Italian and Greek embassies, as well as a number of other American allies, including Japan, Mexico, South Korea, India and Turkey. ... One of the bugging methods mentioned is codenamed Dropmire, which, according to a 2007 document, is 'implanted on the Cryptofax at the E.U. embassy, DC' – an apparent reference to a bug placed in a commercially available encrypted fax machine used at the mission. The NSA documents note the machine is used to send cables back to foreign affairs ministries in European capitals."
Businesses

Immigration Bill Passes the Senate, Includes More H-1B Visas 274

Posted by Soulskill
from the no-word-on-more-h-1b-mastercards dept.
An anonymous reader writes "While the landmark immigration bill (full text PDF), which recently passed the U.S. Senate, is being hailed as bringing crucial reforms that will vastly improve the state of immigration in this country, there is a provision in it that is seeing relatively little discussion: section 4101, a 'market-based' increase in the amount of H-1B visas for skilled workers. 'The pitched arguments of both sides, which are likely to resurface in the House when it takes up its version of an immigration overhaul, cloud a complicated reality. There is little empirical evidence to suggest that foreign engineers displace American engineers as a whole. If anything, one recent study suggests, the growth of immigrant workers in American companies helps younger American technical workers — more of them are hired and at higher-paying jobs — but has no noticeable consequences, good or bad, on older workers.'"
Crime

TN Man Indicted For Romney Blackmail Attempt: Wanted $1M In Bitcoins 92

Posted by timothy
from the ok-ok-one-hundred-beeeeeeelion-in-bitcoin dept.
OakDragon writes "A Franklin, Tennessee man has been indicted for his attempt to blackmail Mitt Romney. Michael Mancil Brown allegedly claimed his intent to release some of Romney's pre-2010 tax documents unless one million dollars was converted to Bitcoins and deposited into an account which he specified. Demand letters were sent to Republican and Democratic Party offices in Tennessee, and Pricewaterhouse Coopers (whom he claimed to have stolen the documents from). Pricewaterhouse Coopers denies that he ever obtained such documents. Brown was also attempting to "sell" the documents to others (presumably the Democrats or other interested parties) for the same amount. And yes, he was apparently well aware of the Dr. Evil reference."
United States

Supreme Court Overturns Defense of Marriage Act 1073

Posted by timothy
from the totally-bringing-on-the-apocalypse dept.
12 U.S. states have adopted same-sex marriage over the past decade, and many other states have adopted legislation specifically intended to prevent same-sex marriages from being performed or recognized within their borders. The landscape has just changed on that front, though: the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act, which barred federal recognition of same-sex marriages, has been ruled unconstitutional by the U.S. Supreme Court; here's the ruling itself. From the NBC News version of the story: "The decision was 5-4, written by Justice Anthony Kennedy. “'DOMA instructs all federal officials, and indeed all persons with whom same-sex couples interact, including their own children, that their marriage is less worthy than the marriages of others,' the ruling said. 'The federal statute is invalid, for no legitimate purpose overcomes the purpose and effect to disparage and to injure those whom the State, by its marriage laws, sought to protect in personhood and dignity.'" One major area this affects is tax law; that's one of the salient points in U.S. v. Windsor, the case that drove the court's conclusion. There's more on the story at many major news outlets, and at law-centric sources like SCOTUSblog. The Boston Globe is also live blogging various reactions.

Update: 06/26 16:58 GMT by T : In a separate decision, the court disappointed supporters of California's Proposition 8, a law passed by voter initiative, under which "only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California." The court ruled that the private parties which had taken up the Prop 8 banner did not have standing to do so; as the story says, "The 5-4 decision avoids, for now, a sweeping conclusion on whether same-sex marriage is a constitutional "equal protection" right that would apply to all states."
Earth

Obama Reveals Climate Change Plan 577

Posted by Soulskill
from the it-ain't-easy-being-green dept.
Today President Obama gave a speech outlining the administration's plan to take on climate change. (Video of the speech available on YouTube, and the White House published an infographic as well.) Most significantly, Obama's plan would have the EPA set limits on carbon pollution from all U.S. power plants, a goal already meeting resistance from Republicans. The plan also sets the goal of funding enough solar- and wind-based energy projects on public lands to power over 6 million homes by 2020. By 2030, it aims to use efficiency standards to reduce carbon pollution by 3 billion metric tons. Obama called for new efforts to deal with extreme weather like Hurricane Sandy. He also pointed out the difficulty in getting emerging industrial economies to be environmentally conscious. To that end, the plan calls for the end of U.S. support for financing coal power plants in foreign countries, unless those plants use carbon capture and sequestration technologies. The speech addressed the controversial Keystone XL pipeline, which would carry up to 800,000 gallons of oil per day from Canada into the U.S. Obama indicated that approval for the pipeline would be tied to emissions goals.
China

Chinese Media Calls For Boycott of Cisco 216

Posted by timothy
from the better-to-be-tapped-domestically dept.
An anonymous reader writes "China's state-run media is calling on the country's wireless carriers to move away from Cisco products. According to reports, using Cisco products allows the U.S. to 'attack China almost at will,' and forms a 'terrible security threat.' Chinese officials are urging the companies' wireless carriers to switch to hardware made by Huawei and ZTE Corp. Citing cybersecurity concerns, the United States has banned the use of equipment from both Huawei and ZTE in its cellular networks. Cisco has not yet been named in documents describing the NSA's global wiretapping operations. Apple, a company named in leaked documents, has slashed iPhone production for the second half of this year on falling overseas sales."
Patents

Analyzing Congress's Multiple Approaches To Patent Reform 58

Posted by Unknown Lamer
from the none-of-them-very-good dept.
ectoman writes "Patent reform is becoming an unavoidable issue — and the United States Congress is taking note. But the scope and scale of the problem have prompted multiple legislative solutions, and keeping track of them all can be rather difficult. Mark Bohannon, Vice President of Corporate Affairs and Global Public Policy at Red Hat, provides an overview of four important legislative actions currently under consideration, offering clear and concise analysis of their goals and provisions. He also assesses their potential impacts. 'Given the widening attacks by PAEs [Patent Assertion Entities],' Bohannon concludes, 'it is essential that Congress work to produce meaningful legislation on at least the issues identified above in order to begin to stem the tide.'"
United States

Obama's Climate Plans Face Long Fight 229

Posted by samzenpus
from the long-road dept.
An anonymous reader writes "He hasn't even given his Tuesday speech yet but Obama's plans to tackle climate change are already raising objections in Washington. From the article: 'When President Barack Obama lays out plans to tackle climate change in a speech Tuesday, including the first effort to curb greenhouse-gas emissions from existing power plants, he will unleash a years-long battle that has little assurance of being resolved during his time in office. The president has called climate change a "legacy issue," and his speech may head off a backlash from environmentalists should his administration approve the proposed Keystone XL oil pipeline from Canada. But the address is unlikely to blunt criticism of Mr. Obama's approach from the left or the right.'"
Advertising

Data Miners Liken Obama Voters To Caesars Gamblers 166

Posted by timothy
from the you're-just-a-line-in-a-database dept.
theodp writes "As Steve Wozniak publicly laments how government used new technologies he introduced in unintended ways to monitor people, the NY Times reports how the digital masterminds behind the Obama Presidential campaign are cashing in by bringing the secret, technologically advanced formulas used for reaching voters to commercial advertisers. 'The plan is to bring the same Big Data expertise that guided the most expensive presidential campaign in history to companies and nonprofits,' explains Civis Analytics, which is backed by Google Chairman and Obama advisor Eric Schmidt. Also boasting senior members of Obama's campaign team is Analytics Media Group (A.M.G.), which pitched that 'keeping gamblers loyal to Caesars was not all that different from keeping onetime Obama voters from straying to Mitt Romney.' The extent to which the Obama campaign used the newest tech tools to look into people's lives was largely shrouded, the Times reports, but included data mining efforts that triggered Facebook's internal safeguard alarms. ... 'We asked to see [voter's Facebook] photos but really we were looking for who were tagged in photos with you, which was a really great way to dredge up old college friends — and ex-girlfriends.' The Times also explains how the Obama campaign was able to out-optimize the Romney campaign on TV buys by obtaining set-top box TV show viewing information from cable companies for voters on the Obama campaign's 'persuadable voters' list. "
United Kingdom

BT Chief To Become British Government Minister 47

Posted by Unknown Lamer
from the revolving-door dept.
judgecorp writes "BT chief Ian Livingston is leaving the British telecom provider to become a government minister. The executive has been appointed a seat in the House of Lords, which enables him to become Minister for Trade and Investment without having to be elected as a Member of the lower house of Parliament. Livingston has seen BT go from a £134 million loss in 2008 when he was appointed, to a profit of £2.5 billion in 2012. It still has a monopoly over certain sectors of the British telecom market, and has won all the contracts so far for rolling out broadband to rural areas."
Politics

One Year Since Assange Took Refuge in Ecuadorian Embassy 541

Posted by Unknown Lamer
from the crawling-up-the-walls dept.
Daniel_Stuckey writes with an article marking the one year anniversary of Julian Assange seeking asylum in the Ecuadorian Embassy. From the article: "Uninterested in facing U.S. justice, Assange said he's prepared to spend five years living there. If he goes out for a walk, he'll be extradited to Sweden to answer rape accusations —after which he has no promise from Sweden to deny further extradition efforts to America, where a grand jury investigation into WikiLeaks awaits. This also means that London's Metropolitan Police have been devoting their resources to keeping tabs on Assange for a year. Yesterday, a spokesperson explained the updated costs of guarding the embassy over the phone: 'From July 2012 through May 2013, the full cost has been £3.8 million ($5,963,340),' he said. '£700,000 ($1,099,560) of which are additional, or overtime costs.' Julian has a treadmill, a SAD lamp, and a connection to the Internet, through which he's been publishing small leaks and conducting interviews. The indoor lifestyle has taken its toll on Julian, and it led to his contracting a chronic lung condition last fall."
Transportation

Nicaragua Gives Chinese Firm Contract To Build Alternative To Panama Canal 323

Posted by timothy
from the now-there's-a-weekend-project dept.
McGruber writes with this news from late last week: "The Guardian is reporting that Nicaragua has awarded a Chinese company a 100-year concession to build an alternative to the Panama Canal, in a step that looks set to have profound geopolitical ramifications. The new route will be a higher-capacity alternative to the 99-year-old Panama Canal, which is currently being widened at the cost of $5.2bn. Last year, the Nicaraguan government noted that the new canal should be able to allow passage for mega-container ships with a dead weight of up to 250,000 tonnes. This is more than double the size of the vessels that will be able to pass through the Panama Canal after its expansion, it said."
Politics

The Free State Project, One Decade Later 701

Posted by samzenpus
from the power-to-the-people dept.
Okian Warrior writes "About a decade ago Slashdot ran an article about the Free State Project: an attempt to get 20,000 liberty-minded activists to move to one state (they chose NH) and change the political landscape. Eleven years on, the project is still growing and having an effect on statewide politics. NPR recently ran a program discussing the movement, its list of successes, and plans for the future. The FSP has a noticeable effect on politics right now — still 6,000 short of their 20,000 goal, and long before the members are scheduled to move to NH."

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