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."
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inode_buddha writes "After completing its bailout rescue and paying back the money with interest, AIG is considering suing the US Government for doing so. The reasons why? Among other things, the 14% interest rate paid to the government. 'The lawsuit does not argue that government help was not needed. It contends that the onerous nature of the rescue — the taking of what became a 92 percent stake in the company, the deal's high interest rates and the funneling of billions to the insurer's Wall Street clients — deprived shareholders of tens of billions of dollars and violated the Fifth Amendment, which prohibits the taking of private property for "public use, without just compensation." The former CEO and current major shareholder said: "The government has been saying, 'We're your friend, we owned and controlled you and we let you go.' But A.I.G. doesn't owe loyalty to the government," a person close to Mr. Greenberg said. "It owes loyalty to its shareholders."' The lawyer representing him is none other than David Boies of SCO fame."
arclightfire writes "Endgame:Syria billed itself as the first game to cover on ongoing war in a mashup of interactivity and journalism. However it seems like Apple is not happy with this idea, as PocketTactics reports; 'Apple's app guidelines have once again tripped up the release of a strategy game rooted in a real-world conflict. Auroch Digital's Endgame Syria has been rejected by Apple's approvals team for violating guidelines section 15.3, "solely target[ing] a specific race, culture, a real government or corporation, or any other real entity." If section 15.3 sounds familiar, it's because it was the clause invoked when Cupertino said no to Pacific Fleet back in September – the game ran afoul of the guidelines for including Japanese flags in a WWII naval sim.'"
New submitter Fnordulicious writes "Although Canada's anti-spam legislation is already in place, the rules to implement it have been under development for more than a year. This weekend the proposed rules from the Department of Industry were published in the Canada Gazette. Kady O'Malley reports on the CBC Inside Politics Blog that Canadian ISPs will not be allowed to secretly monitor activity except in the case that the activity is illegal and represents an 'imminent risk to the security of its network.' In addition, consent would be required for monitoring of legal activities 'that are merely unauthorized or suspicious.'"
Dainsanefh writes with news that the new Congress isn't wasting any time getting back to work. From the article: "Lawmakers are still positioning themselves for a debt ceiling fight in a few months, but one Republican congressman wants to snuff out a particular idea immediately: the U.S. Treasury minting $1 trillion platinum coins to avert a debt ceiling showdown. Rep. Greg Walden (R-Ore.) has introduced a bill to specifically ban President Barack Obama from minting the coins. The trillion-dollar coin has been previously discussed on Slashdot:"
Rambo Tribble writes "Reuters reports that Los Almos National Laboratory has removed switches produced by Chinese firm H3C, which once had ties to Huawei. This appears to be a step taken to placate a nervous Congress, rather in response to any detected security issues. From the article: 'Switches are used to manage data traffic on computer networks. The exact number of Chinese-made switches installed at Los Alamos, how or when they were acquired, and whether they were placed in sensitive systems or pose any security risks, remains unclear. The laboratory - where the first atomic bomb was designed - is responsible for maintaining America's arsenal of nuclear weapons. A spokesman for the Los Alamos lab referred inquiries to the Department of Energy's National Nuclear Security Administration, or NNSA, which declined to comment.'"
fsterman writes "Without any prompting from the U.S. Metric Association, a We The People petition to standardize the U.S. on the metric system has received 13,000 signatures in six days. That's half the number needed for an official response from the White House. It looks like ending the U.S.'s anti-metric alliance with Liberia and Burma (the only other countries NOT on the metric system) might rank up there with building a death star."
paysonwelch points out John McAfee's latest blog post, which "details the complex spy network that he used to tap information from the highest echelons of the Belizean government. He might consider a new career as a movie producer — this blog post is enthralling. Here is an excerpt: 'I purchased 75 cheap laptop computers and, with trusted help, intalled invisible keystroke logging software on all of them — the kind that calls home (to me) and disgorges the text files. I began giving these away as presents to select people — government employees, police officers, Cabinet Minister's assistants, girlfriends of powerful men, boyfriends of powerful women.'"
Freddybear writes "Former anti-GMO activist Mark Lynas, who opposed genetically modified food in the 1990s, said recently, at the Oxford Farming Conference: 'I want to start with some apologies. For the record, here and upfront, I apologize for having spent several years ripping up GM crops. I am also sorry that I helped to start the anti-GM movement back in the mid 1990s, and that I thereby assisted in demonizing an important technological option which can be used to benefit the environment. As an environmentalist, and someone who believes that everyone in this world has a right to a healthy and nutritious diet of their choosing, I could not have chosen a more counter-productive path. I now regret it completely. So I guess you'll be wondering — what happened between 1995 and now that made me not only change my mind but come here and admit it? Well, the answer is fairly simple: I discovered science, and in the process I hope I became a better environmentalist.' To vilify GMOs is to be as anti-science as climate-change deniers, he says. To feed a growing world population (with an exploding middle class demanding more and better-quality food), we must take advantage of all the technology available to us, including GMOs. To insist on 'natural' agriculture and livestock is to doom people to starvation, and there’s no logical reason to prefer the old ways, either. Moreover, the reason why big companies dominate the industry is that anti-GMO activists and policymakers have made it too difficult for small startups to enter the field."
Frequent contributor Bennett Haselton writes this week with his explanation of how an improved algorithm on the White House's petition-creation site could do away with Death Star petitions and even improve on the existing serious ones. Read on below for his modest proposal on that front.
cathyreisenwitz writes "The 2012 bankruptcy of Rhode Island-based video-game developer 38 Studios isn't just a sad tale of a start-up tech company falling victim to the vagaries of a rough economy. It is a completely predictable story of crony capitalism, featuring star-struck legislators and the hubris of a larger-than-life athlete completely unprepared to compete in business." Reason makes no bones about its view of this kind of public-private "partnership."
EagleHasLanded writes "The U.S. Metric Association has been advocating for metrication since 1916 – without much success. In the mid-1970s, the U.S. government passed the Metric Conversion Act, but now it seems the time for complete conversion has come and gone. Or could U.S. educators and health & safety advocates put this issue back on Congress' radar screen?"
New submitter Jetra wrote with word that the House of Representatives failed to vote on the "fiscal cliff" deal before midnight, technically sending the U.S. over the fiscal cliff. The White House and Senate, however, reached an agreement at the last minute to allow for some tax increases, and a House vote approving it is expected in the next day or two: "The agreement came together after negotiators cleared two final hurdles involving the estate tax and automatic spending cuts set to hit the Pentagon and other federal agencies later this week. Republicans gave ground on the spending cuts, known as the sequester, by agreeing to a two-month delay paid for in part with fresh tax revenue, a condition they had resisted. White House officials yielded to GOP wishes on how to handle estate taxes, aides said." The battle over required spending cuts has predictably been delayed for another day, making the deal far from complete.
On Saturday, Pakistan briefly lifted the months-old ban on YouTube, spurred by the widely distributed U.S.-made video presented as a trailer for a film titled "Innocence of Muslims" and decried in many places around the world as blasphemous toward Islam. "After months of criticism of the ban, the government decided to allow Pakistanis to have access to YouTube again, saying steps had been taken to ensure that offensive content would not be visible. But those efforts apparently failed, and the authorities quickly backtracked," writes the New York Times. "Quickly" is right: access to YouTube was apparently open for just three minutes, which seems about right; it shouldn't take longer than that to discover things on the site to which adherents of any particular religion might take umbrage. What's surprising is that this took lifting the censorship on a wide scale, rather than just taking a smaller peek through tunneling software.
i_want_you_to_throw_ writes "Details of Jaron Lanier's crusade against Web 2.0 continue in an article at Smithsonian Magazine. The article expands upon Lanier's criticism of Web 2.0. It's an interesting read, with Lanier suggesting we are outsourcing ourselves into insignificant advertising-fodder and making an audacious connection between techno-utopianism, the rise of the machines and the Great Recession. From the article: 'As far back as the turn of the century, he singled out one standout aspect of the new web culture—the acceptance, the welcoming of anonymous commenters on websites—as a danger to political discourse and the polity itself. At the time, this objection seemed a bit extreme. But he saw anonymity as a poison seed. The way it didn’t hide, but, in fact, brandished the ugliness of human nature beneath the anonymous screen-name masks. An enabling and foreshadowing of mob rule, not a growth of democracy, but an accretion of tribalism. ... 'This is the thing that continues to scare me. You see in history the capacity of people to congeal—like social lasers of cruelty. That capacity is constant. ... We have economic fear combined with everybody joined together on these instant twitchy social networks which are designed to create mass action. What does it sound like to you? It sounds to me like the prequel to potential social catastrophe. I’d rather take the risk of being wrong than not be talking about that.'"