An anonymous reader writes "Peter Sunde aka brokep of TPB fame is going to run for European Parliament in 2014, as a Finnish Pirate Party candidate. As he still has a prison sentence to serve in Sweden, he might have to campaign from behind bars. 'Amusingly, the Pirate ticket in Finland could have been even bigger than it is now. Sunde informs TorrentFreak that he also reached out to Finnish-born Kim Dotcom to join the race, but the Megaupload founder currently has other priorities.'"
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This may be a coincidence, but according to MapLight, Senators who voted last week for the bill allowing states to directly collect taxes on sales via the Internet, AKA The Marketplace Fairness Act of 2013, received 40 times as much campaign donation money (yes, that's four-oh, not just four) from businesses in favor of the bill as those who voted against it received from businesses that were against Internet sales taxes. Was this bribery? Of course not! We're not some piddly fifth-world country. But it's a prime example of how money influences politics here in the good old USA, and it's far from the only one we've seen lately. In this video, MapLight Program Director Jay Costa shares a bunch more with us, along with tips on how to spot this sort of thing and some steps we voters can take to fight against both direct and indirect influence-buying. Note that all this is totally non-partisan; the politicians with the most influence -- whether local, state or federal -- get most of the available special interest money no matter what other agenda(s) they may have. And for those who want to learn more about who is spending their dollars to influence your representatives, Jay also suggests a look at these two money-in-politics resources: FollowTheMoney.org and OpenSecrets.org.
An anonymous reader writes "Yesterday, Russia's Foreign Minister declared that Moscow would not sell any new surface-to-air missiles to Syria, although there is a catch. He said old contracts are being honored. Could old contracts just be code for an already signed, but undisclosed deal for the S-300? Lavarov certainly left the door open: '...when questioned in particular about the S-300, his reply was not clear if the "earlier contracts" were for the S-300 or something else.' With Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu going to the Black Sea town of Sochi early next week for talks with President Vladimir Putin, it seems they may have something to talk about."
New submitter phrackthat writes with news that California State Senator Leland Yee (D-S.F.) says he wants regulations to track who owns and uses 3-D printers. Yee's comments come in response to the recent news of Defense Distributed's successful test-firing of a 3-D printed gun. "He's concerned that just about anyone with access to those cutting-edge printers can arm themselves. 'Terrorists can make these guns and do some horrible things to an individual and then walk away scott-free, and that is something that is really dangerous,' said Yee. He said while this new technology is impressive, it must be regulated when it comes to making guns. He says background checks, requiring serial numbers and even registering them could be part of new legislation that he says will protect the public. Yee added, 'This particular gun has no trace whatsoever.'"
An anonymous reader writes "A recurring theme in comments on Slashdot since the 9/11 attacks has been concern about the use of government power to monitor or suppress political activity unassociated with terrorism but rather based on ideology. It has just been revealed that the IRS has in fact done that. From the story: "The Internal Revenue Service inappropriately flagged conservative political groups for additional reviews during the 2012 election . . . Organizations were singled out because they included the words 'tea party' or 'patriot' in their applications for tax-exempt status, said Lois Lerner, who heads the IRS division that oversees tax-exempt groups. In some cases, groups were asked for their list of donors, which violates IRS policy in most cases, she said. 'That was wrong. That was absolutely incorrect, it was insensitive and it was inappropriate. That's not how we go about selecting cases for further review,' Lerner said . . . 'The IRS would like to apologize for that,' she added. . . . Lerner said the practice was initiated by low-level workers in Cincinnati and was not motivated by political bias. . . . she told The AP that no high level IRS officials knew about the practice. Tea Party groups were livid on Friday. ... In all, about 300 groups were singled out for additional review. . . Tea Party groups weren't buying the idea that the decision to target them was solely the responsibility of low-level IRS workers. ... During the conference call it was stated that no disciplinary action had been taken by those who engaged in this activity. President Obama has previously joked about using the IRS to target people." So it's not how they choose cases for review (except when it is), and was not motivated by political bias (except that it was). Also at National Review, with more bite.
An anonymous reader writes "John McCain, Republican Senator for Arizona and former U.S. presidential candidate, is drafting a new bill that would pressure TV providers to allow customers to select and pay for only the channels they want to watch. The bill will also 'bar TV networks from bundling their broadcast stations with cable channels they own during negotiations with the cable companies, according to industry sources. So for example, the Disney Company, which owns both ABC and ESPN, could not force a cable provider to pay for ESPN in order to carry ABC.' Perhaps most importantly, the bill could 'end the sports blackout rule, which prohibits cable companies from carrying a sports event if the game is blacked out on local broadcast television stations.' This would hamstring the ludicrous practice of blacking out TV broadcasts in order to drive fans to buy actual tickets to a game. The cable and satellite TV industry is expected to push back very strongly against the bill."
Nerval's Lobster writes "For comedy publication The Onion, a recent cyber-attack by the Syrian Electronic Army was no laughing matter. The SEA managed to compromise The Onion's Twitter account, plastering it with insults aimed at the United Nations, Israel, and Syrian rebels. 'UN retracts report of Syrian chemical weapon use: "Lab tests confirm it is Jihadi body odor,"' read a typical (and perhaps one of the more printable) ones. When the Tweets appeared, some Onion Twitter-followers questioned whether the newspaper was playing some sort of elaborate meta-joke, perhaps riffing on a recent series of high-profile cyber attacks. But the SEA was serious, and so was The Onion about flushing the attackers from its systems. In a new posting on theonion.github.io, the publication's IT crew details exactly what happened. On May 3, attackers from the SEA fired off phishing emails to Onion employees, at least one of whom clicked on a malicious link. From there, the attackers compromised a handful of systems. 'In total, the attacker compromised at least 5 accounts,' the account concluded. 'The attacker logged in to compromised accounts from 184.108.40.206 which is also where the SEA hosts a website.' But following the crisis, The Onion couldn't resist swiping at its attackers. 'Syrian Electronic Army Has a Little Fun Before Inevitable Upcoming Deaths at Hands of Rebels,' read the headline for a May 6 article that described a fictional massacre of the SEA in gruesome detail."
judgecorp writes "The city of San Francisco has abandoned a law proposed in 2010 which would have required mobile phones to be labelled with their radiation level. Mobile phone industry body the CTIA fought the bill in court, arguing that there is not enough evidence of harm. The city is not convinced phones are safe — it says its decision to abandon the law is simply based on the legal costs."
schwit1 quotes The Washington Post: "The Senate aimed to help traditional retailers and financially strapped state and local governments Monday by passing a bill that would widely subject online shopping — for many a largely tax-free frontier — to state sales taxes. The Senate passed the bill by a vote of 69 to 27, getting support from Republicans and Democrats alike." schwit1 adds "Unfortunately online businesses could be in for a rude awakening when it comes to the law's interpretation." Passage in the House is not certain, and companies like eBay are lobbying to raise the minimum sales required to collect state sales tax to $10 million instead of $1 million per year.
puddingebola writes with a New York Times article about how mundane PC equipment — not just more esoteric and eyebrow-raising network monitoring equipment from Blue Coat — makes its way to Syria: "Large amounts of computer equipment from Dell have been sold to the Syrian government through a Dubai-based distributor despite strict trade sanctions intended to ban the selling of technology to the regime, according to documents obtained by The New York Times. The disclosure of the computer sales is the latest example of how the Syrian government has managed to acquire technology, some of which is used to censor Internet activity and track opponents of the Syrian president, Bashar al-Assad."
A year ago today, we noted that Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky called for the abolition of the Transportation Security Administration. It's now nearly 12 years since the hijacked-plane terror attacks of 2001; the TSA was created barely two months later, and has been (with various rules, procedures, and equipment, all of it controversial for reasons of privacy, safety, and efficacy) a major presence ever since at American commercial airports. "The American people shouldn't be subjected to harassment, groping, and other public humiliation simply to board an airplane," wrote Paul last year, and in June of 2012, he followed up by introducing two bills on the topic; the first calling for a "bill of rights" for air travelers, the other for privatizing airport screening practices. Neither bill went far. Should they have? Libertarian-leaning Paul did not succeed in knocking back the TSA, never mind privatizing its functions (currently funded at nearly $8 billion annually), though some of the things called for in his bill of rights are manifest now at least in muted form. (Very young passengers, as well as elderly passengers, face less stringent security requirements, for instance, and TSA has ended its prohibition of certain items aboard planes.) Whether you're from the U.S. or not, what practical changes would you like to see implemented? What shouldn't be on the bill of rights for airplane passengers?
Daniel_Stuckey writes with this snippet from Motherboard with an update on Cody Wilson's Defense Distributed project: "On Friday morning, Forbes's Andy Greenberg published photos of the world's first completely 3D-printed gun. It has a 3D-printed handle, a 3D-printed trigger, a 3D-printed body and a 3D-printed barrel, all made of polymer. It's not completely plastic, though. So as not to violate the Undetectable Firearms Act and guarantee it would get spotted by a metal detector, Wilson and friends embedded a six-ounce hunk of steel inside the gun. They're calling it 'The Liberator.'" (A name I'm sure that Wilson didn't come up with accidentally.)
hypnosec writes "Google has indirectly walked right into one of the Middle East's most obstinate conflicts by labeling Palestine as an independent nation — wiping off the term 'Palestinian Territories' and replacing it with 'Palestine' in its localized search page. Google's move is more or less in line with the UN's October decision to name Palestine as a non-member observer state. The status given to Palestine will allow the state to join UN debates as well as global bodies such as the International Criminal Court, in theory at least. Up until May 1, anyone visiting http://www.google.ps were shown the phrase Palestinian Territories. This change is definitely not a huge one but, it has attracted criticism from politicians in Israel."
egjertse writes "A Louisiana law that opponents say leaves the backdoor open to teaching 'creationism' in public schools will stay on the books after a Senate committee Wednesday effectively killed a bill that would repeal the statute. After hours of testimony for and against House Bill 26, which repeals the 2008 Louisiana Science Education Act, the senators narrowly deferred the legislation, effectively killing it in committee. The bill was sponsored by Sen. Karen Carter Peterson, D-New Orleans."
v3rgEz writes "The Supreme Court ruled Monday morning that states have the right to restrict public records access to locals, meaning one more hurdle to would-be muckrakers everywhere. Even in-state requesters are harmed: It means one more bureaucratic hurdle and another excuse for agencies to respond in paper rather than electronically. MuckRock has helped file requests in all 50 states — important for projects like the Drone Census — and we're looking for more volunteers to help ensure transparency from sea to shining sea. States impacted: Alabama; Arkansas; Delaware; Georgia; New Hampshire; New Jersey; Tennessee; and Virginia. If you live in one of the above, fill out a simple form and we can help ensure that sunshine isn't restricted depending on where you live."