lampsie writes "You may recall from back in January 2012 that the Irish government had deemed their stock of 7,000 e-voting machines 'worthless.' Turns out they are not — after spending upwards of €54 million purchasing them almost a decade ago, all 7,000 will now be scrapped for €70,000 (just over nine Euros each). The machines were scrapped because 'they could not be guaranteed to be safe from tampering [...] and they could not produce a printout so that votes/results could be double-checked.'"
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An anonymous reader writes "Texas Republican delegates met earlier this month to put together their 2012 platform. Much of this focused on the educational system. Alarmingly, they openly state that they oppose schools teaching critical thinking, on the grounds that it may challenge 'student's fixed beliefs' and undermine 'parental authority.' Page 12 of their official platform (PDF) discusses their thinking on teaching thinking."
Geoffrey.landis writes "At last, a public opinion poll that gets the opinions of ordinary Americans on the issues that matter! Apparently, two thirds of Americans polled think that Barack Obama is better suited to defend against an alien invasion than Mitt Romney, according to a survey from National Geographic Channel, done to tout their upcoming TV series 'chasing UFOs'. In follow-up questioning, Americans would rather call on the Hulk (21%) than either Batman (12%) or Spiderman (8%) to save the day. No word on which candidate is most fit to defend America against shambling hordes of undead seeking to destroy civilization in the zombie apocalypse (perhaps that will be brought out in the debates)." The real question of course is how Obama would handle Galactus.
Dupple tips a story at Techdirt about comments from EU commissioner Karel De Gucht, who made some discouraging remarks to the EU International Trade committee about the opposition to ACTA: "If you decide for a negative vote before the European Court rules, let me tell you that the Commission will nonetheless continue to pursue the current procedure before the Court, as we are entitled to do. A negative vote will not stop the proceedings before the Court of Justice. ... If the Court questions the conformity of the agreement with the Treaties we will assess at that stage how this can be addressed." De Gucht also spoke about proposing clarifications to ACTA if Parliament declined to ratify it, which, as Techdirt points out, doesn't make much sense: "Remember that ACTA is now signed, and cannot be altered; so De Gucht is instead trying to fob off European politicians with this vague idea of 'clarifications' — as if more vagueness could somehow rectify the underlying problems of an already dangerously-vague treaty."
Hugh Pickens writes "The Salt Lake City Tribune reports that more than 9,000 people have been driven from their homes by a wind-whipped wildfire started by two shooters at landfill popular with target shooters who won't face any charges because they were not breaking any laws. The fire was the 20th this year in Utah sparked by target shooting where low precipitation, dry heat and high winds have hit the West hard, exacerbating the risk that bullets may glance off rocks and create sparks. Despite the increasing problem, local agencies are stuck in a legal quandary — the state's zealous protection of gun rights leaves fire prevention to the discretion of individuals — a freedom that allows for the careless to shoot into dry hills and rocks. When bullets strike rock, heated fragments can break off and if the fragments make contact with dry grass, which can burn at 450 to 500 degrees, the right conditions can lead to wildfires. Utah Gov. Gary Herbert has called on Utahns to use more "common sense" in target shooting urging target shooters to use established indoor and outdoor ranges instead of tinder-dry public lands. "We can do better than that as Utahns," says Herbert, calling on shooters to "self-regulate," since legislation bars sheriff's officials from regulating firearms. "A lot of the problem we have out here is a lack of common sense.""
Hugh Pickens writes "According to Business Week, the traffic accident that left U.S. Commerce Secretary John Bryson unconscious and alone in his bashed-up Lexus on June 9 raises questions about why the 10th official in line to succeed the president was left so vulnerable. It also highlights potential gaps in security for senior U.S. government officials, who receive varying levels of protection. 'They lost track of him,' says James Carafano, a terrorism scholar at the Heritage Foundation. 'Post 9/11, that's a bit of a head scratcher.' Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who are high in the line of succession and have national-security responsibilities, are provided protection 24 hours a day, seven days a week, but other federal officials, even in cabinet-level positions or other top posts, often travel without the security details that even a big-city mayor or state governor would be provided. Threats to cabinet-level officials aren't overblown, says Norman Ornstein, a congressional scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, who has urged that the government revamp its succession plans and says a nuclear bomb hidden in a suitcase detonated in Washington could leave a headless government. 'The lack of interest in continuity may stem from the same reasons some smart people refuse to create wills, even though failure to do so leaves behind horrific messes for their loved ones,' writes Ornstein. 'Yet the threat is real. Our leaders' failure to establish plans to ensure that our Constitution survives is irresponsible.'"
judgecorp writes "Iran has reported that its nuclear facilities are under a sustained cyber attack which it blames on the U.S., UK and Israel. America and Israel created Stuxnet, and have been accused of starting the Flame worm." And once a country admits that it's created such software, publicly deflecting such blame gets a lot harder.
Gottesser writes with this excerpt from Bev Harris's Black Box Voting: "I have found and posted the actual voter list software used widely throughout the USA (TN, WI, PA, CO, KS...) for Accenture voter registration and voter histories. I located the files on a magnetic backup tape of the hard drive of a county elections IT employee, part of a 120-gig set of discovery files. The Accenture voter registration / voter history software is highly problematic, and has been reported switching voter parties in Colorado, and losing voter histories in Tennessee. Although it is now widely known that Accenture voter list software gets it wrong, just WHY the program misreports voter information so often has never been explained. I am hoping that by releasing this software to the public, it may shed light on what's really going on with our voter registration systems. I also posted a Tennessee file with work orders and release notes which shows the Accenture software has a history of tripling votes in certain ('random') voter histories, going back to 2004. Except it is not random: Other files I discovered prove it is with primarily suburban Republican precincts that votes are somehow being recorded twice and sometimes three times for certain voters in the voter history report, and this didn't just happen in 2004; it also happened in the 2008 presidential primary and in May and August 2010, and according to election commission notes in Shelby County, also in the 2012 presidential primary. Computer buffs, have at it. Much source code exists within the structure because it is built on MS Access. I do not read source code, though I can see some structural problems with the software (for example, it allows political party ID to be set differently from one precinct to another)."
mk1004 writes with news from The Register that U.S. Senator Charles Schumer of New York has written to Apple and Google regarding their use of 'military-grade spy planes.' The Senator claims concerns ranging from voyeurism to terrorism. Suggested protections: Warn when areas are going to be imaged, give property owners the right to opt out, and blurring of individuals. Schumer seems happy enough, though, with the more detailed versions of such surveillance being in the hands of law enforcement agencies, and phrases his complaint to emphasize what he perceives as risks to infrastructure brought about by detailed maps that anyone can browse: "[I]f highly detailed images become available, criminals could create more complete schematic maps of the power and water grids in the United States. With the vast amount of infrastructure across the country, it would be impossible to secure every location."
judgecorp writes "Frustrated at the off-topic chatter on Twitter, British MP Louise Mensch has launched a supposedly rival service. Despite the name, Menshn, this is apparently not a hoax, but a site aimed at 'on-topic' conversation, initially around the U.S. election. Mensch is a former 'chick lit' author, and a Member of Parliament since 2010. She has taken part in questioning of Rupert and James Murdoch, and urged control of social media." If "control of social media" urged by sitting politicians strikes you as undesirable, or the hyper-focused content seems constraining, take heart: an anonymous reader points out an online community of a different stripe — a social network launched by Wikileaks, intended to be "a secure, surveillance-resistant social network purpose-built for Friends of WikiLeaks." Whether or not your politics line up with those of most Wikileaks supporters, you might wish for some of the features FoWL is designed to provide: "By design your details are encrypted, and hidden from everyone except your immediate contacts. Even we can't access them. Connected by FoWL, friends of WikiLeaks will communicate however they like, including using secure person-to-person methods. As the network grows away from the site infrastructure, it becomes autonomous and decentralized, opaque to observers and impossible to compromise."
An anonymous reader writes "Thought Do Not Track was strictly a geeks' issue? Think again. After Microsoft was slapped down for enabling DNT by default in Internet Explorer 10, the co-chairs of the US's Congressional Bi-Partisan Privacy Caucus have sent a strongly-worded letter to the W3C urging it to reconsider. As webdev360.com points out, it's an interesting (unprecedented?) example of Congress interacting with the standards body: 'Whether members of the [working group] will take kindly to the Representatives' interference remains to be seen. Ed Markey's legislative director, Joseph Wender, has brought the letter to the attention of the group's mailing list, but, as of the time of writing, he hasn't received any replies.'"
MarkWhittington writes "With the flight of the Shenzhou 9, which includes the first docking between a Chinese spacecraft and a prototype space station module, a renewed debate has arisen over the implications of Chinese space feats. China is planning a large space station by the end of this decade. It has expressed the desire to land people on the moon sometime in the next decade. Scientists, foreign policy experts and journalists debate whether China has supplanted the U.S. as a space power and whether that matters. 'In reality, the implications of China's move could be a much cooler third option: a new space race between the Chinese government and U.S. startups. While China is 50 years behind the U.S. government, they are much more comparable to U.S. companies. It was only a couple of weeks ago that SpaceX made history by becoming the first private company to successfully dock a space module to a station in orbit. This means they are roughly 10-15 years behind the Chinese government, but they could gain fast.'"
retroworks writes "Bloomberg News makes the case that when the federal government offers tuition assistance, students apply to more expensive colleges, giving the institutions an incentive to raise tuition and a disincentive to lower it. (The Wall Street Journal has a similar article, but it's paywalled.) This reminds me of the debate over President Reagan's cuts to the Pell Grant program in the 1980s. MIT's Campus Paper 'The Tech' quoted the MIT administration as saying it had 'no idea what really will occur' when Reagan's proposal to cut Pell came to Washington. So the question is, 25 years later, do we know now? Did cuts to federal tuition assistance hurt the education of the lower income students? Did increases to Pell grants create more opportunity? Or is federal money the milkshake, and students are just the straw?"
ananyo writes "In a revelation that could bring down the country's government, Romania's Prime Minister, Victor Ponta, stands accused of copying large sections of his 2003 PhD thesis in law from previous publications, without proper reference. Documents compiled by an anonymous whistle-blower indicate more than half of Ponta's 432-page, Romanian-language thesis on the functioning of the International Criminal Court consists of duplicated text. Last month, the country's education and research minister, computer scientist Ioan Mang, resigned following accusations of plagiarism in at least eight papers." Looks like it's contagious.
alphadogg writes "Revelations by The New York Times that President Barack Obama in his role as commander in chief ordered the Stuxnet cyberattack against Iran's uranium-enrichment facility two years ago in cahoots with Israel is generating controversy, with Washington in an uproar over national-security leaks. But the important question is whether this covert action of sabotage against Iran, the first known major cyberattack authorized by a U.S. president, is the right course for the country to take. Are secret cyberattacks helping the U.S. solve geopolitical problems or actually making things worse? Bruce Schneier, whose most recent book is 'Liars and Outliers,' argues the U.S. made a mistake with Stuxnet, and he discusses why it's important for the world to tackle cyber-arms control now."