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February 21 2014

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Dear soup.io fans and users,
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It's breaking our heart and we honestly tried whatever we could to keep the platform up and running. But the high costs and low revenue streams made it impossible to continue with it. We invested a lot of personal time and money to operate the platform, but when it's over, it's over.
We are really sorry. Soup.io is part of the internet history and online for one and a half decades.
Here are the hard facts:
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July, 20th, 2020 is the due date.
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February 20 2014


February 18 2014


February 17 2014


February 13 2014


EU members protest proposed GM crop approval

Posted on behalf of Barbara Casassus

Ministers from 12 European Union member states have urged the European Commission to reconsider its proposal to approve a new strain of genetically modified maize.

The representatives, from countries including Austria, France and Italy, sent a letter dated 12 February to European Health Commissioner Tonio Borg asking him not to sanction the approval of Pioneer 1507. The move follows a debate at an EU General Affairs Council meeting on 11 February, at which it became clear that the Commission is almost certain to sanction cultivation of the crop. This is despite the opposition of 19 of the 28 member countries – and the European Parliament. The letter states that this outcome would not “yield approval under any other decision-making procedure”.

At the meeting, Germany indicated it would abstain in a vote, a move that would swing the decision in favour of planting the genetically modified organism (GMO), made by DuPont and Dow Chemical. This is because its vote carries more weight than those of smaller nations under the EU voting system. Two other large states, UK and Spain, are in favour, but France, Italy and several smaller states are against.

Before the letter was received, Commission agriculture spokesperson Roger Waite was quoted by Euractiv as saying: “The Commission shall adopt the proposal to approve the GMO. The rules are clear – there is no choice. This is why the Commissioner made clear that an abstention is equivalent to a vote in favour.”

But Greek foreign minister Evangelos Venizelos told a press conference after the meeting that a legal technicality could allow the Commission to reject the law, as the debate had been about voting intentions and did not produce  a formal vote, according to the European Observer. New scientific evidence against the maize could make the difference.

Many consumers in Europe have long been lukewarm or hostile to GM crops, and Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth Europe claim that Pioneer 1507 releases a toxin that is dangerous for butterflies and moths, the European Observer added.

At the moment, two GM crops are authorized for cultivation in the EU, but only Monsanto’s MON810 maize is being grown, and only in a few countries. Last summer, Monsanto threw in the EU towel, saying it would withdraw all its applications for authorization in the 28 countries.

That paved the way for Pioneer, which filed its application for 1507 in 2001 and has received approval for food and feed use from the European Food Safety Authority.

February 12 2014


Don’t blame voters for lack of minority candidates

Voters may not be the reason there are so few minorities in US state legislatures. Instead, it may be that the two major political parties don’t recruit enough minority candidates in the first place.

For a new study, researchers analyzed nearly 10,000 statehouse elections in 2000 and 2010 and found Latino candidates were on the ballot just 5 percent of the time. But when Latinos did run for office, they won just as often as their white counterparts—even in districts where most voters were white.

Earlier research suggests the same holds true for black and other ethnic minority candidates.

President Barack Obama, a black Democrat, and US Sen. Marco Rubio, a Latino Republican from Florida, are good examples of minority politicians who won elections in which a majority of constituents were white, says Eric Gonzalez Juenke, assistant professor of political science at Michigan State University.

“Thus, the puzzle of minority underrepresentation in the United States shifts away from voters and moves instead toward the parties who are responsible for recruiting, training, and supporting minority candidates for office,” he says.

Published in the American Journal of Political Science, the study is the first large-scale investigation of minority candidate under-representation at the state level and its effects on the election of minority officeholders.

Party affiliation over race

Past research suggests many voters are biased against candidates of different ethnicities and races. The new study doesn’t refute that finding. Instead, it suggests white voters are more likely to prioritize party affiliation over race or ethnicity when considering a candidate.

Despite their low representation in elected office, Hispanics are the nation’s largest racial minority, making up 17 percent of the population—a number that’s projected to grow to 31 percent by 2060, according to the census.

Lack of minority representation in elected office has fueled many lawsuits against how political districts are drawn. But Juenke says district makeup may not be as important as many think.

“We don’t have to pack districts with minority voters in order to get minority representatives in legislatures,” he says. “What we need to do is start running more minority candidates.”

Source: Michigan State University

The post Don’t blame voters for lack of minority candidates appeared first on Futurity.

February 11 2014


English research gets cuts reprieve as ministers hit teaching

English universities will face significant funding cuts in the next two financial years, the government has announced. But research spending has once again been preserved.

Institutions will lose an extra £125 million from their funding in 2014-15, the government’s Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) announced in its annual grant letter sent to the Higher Education Funding Council for England, published on 10 February. The figures also show that funding in 2015-16 will fall by a further £100 million, from £4.1 billion in 2014-15 to £4.0 billion.

BIS said the cuts were necessary “in the context of stretched public finances”. The biggest drop will come in the teaching grant, which will fall by £45 million in 2014-15 compared with spending plans outlined this time last year, and by another £246 million in 2015-16. A £37 million hardship scheme to help fund the poorest students has also been scrapped and merged into other streams.

Universities’ core funding for research will be maintained at £1.57 billion for the coming two years, the same as in 2013-14. Research avoided cuts mooted in an internal memo leaked from the department last year, but science advocates are likely to remain concerned about the effects of inflation on the static budget. The government will also maintain the £113 million Higher Education Innovation Fund, which promotes knowledge transfer beyond academia.

The letter does not dictate exactly how HEFCE should spend its budget, but does lay out government priorities. BIS says the council should deliver savings “in ways that protect as far as possible high cost subjects (including science, technology, engineering and mathematics), widening participation and small and specialist institutions”.

Capital spending – cut drastically in the 2010 spending review – will see a boost, including a £200 million competitive scheme to fund science teaching facilities, announced in September. Research will also receive an extra £17 million in capital in 2015-16, the documents show.

The letter calls for greater efficiency within higher education, specifically highlighting concerns about pay at the highest levels. “We are very concerned about the substantial upward drift of salaries of some top management. We want to see leaders in the sector exercise much greater restraint as part of continuing to hold down increases in pay generally,” it reads.

Within quality-related (QR) research funding, the letter says the sector must continue in its goal to make £238 million of “savings” over the period 2011-15, which is being put back into research. This includes more collaboration, sharing equipment and reducing “regulatory and bureaucratic burden”, it says. Ministers have also asked former chair of Research Councils UK, Sir Ian Diamond, to carry out a review of efficiency in higher education – his second such review in three years.

In a statement, Sir Christopher Snowden, vice-chancellor of the University of Surrey and president of the vice-chancellor’s group Universities UK, said the body was pleased that areas were being protected, but added that it failed to see how the projected cuts could be delivered without reducing allocations in those areas.

On 10 February, the government also announced the funding allocations for the UK’s seven research councils for 2015-16. The document confirms a pledge, made in June last year, to maintain the UK science budget (which includes research funding for the arts, humanities and social sciences) and increase science infrastructure spending to £1.1 billion in 2015-16.

The “ring-fenced” science budget, which ministers have promised not to dip into for non-science purposes, sees a rise of £115 million to £4.7 billion in 2015-16. The Campaign for Science and Engineering, which welcomed the news, put this down mainly to the inclusion of the £79 million “International programme and Emerging Powers Fund”, for which funding is transferring to BIS from the Department for International Development, as well as a £51 million boost for the research councils.

February 07 2014


EU may set up body in European Space Agency

The European Union (EU) may set up a dedicated directorate within the European Space Agency (ESA) to resolve mismatches in the way the two bodies cooperate.

The option emerged as the leading contender in a report published by the European Commission on 6 February, which scoped out several scenarios for their future relationship.

The “pillar” or “chamber” would allow EU projects to be run under EU rules but from within ESA. A second route explored in the report, based largely on results of an external study by Munich-based Roland Berger Strategy Consultants, would be to improve cooperation under the status quo, with an improved interface between the two. Other options – for example to turn ESA wholesale into an EU agency – curried little favour.

The EU currently allocates around three-quarters of its space budget to ESA, making it the agency’s largest contributor. ESA already delivers dedicated EU-funded projects such as the global satellite navigation system Galileo and the Earth observation programme Copernicus.

But the two organisations run in very different ways. While ESA is under direct control of member states, the EU reports to both member states and the European Parliament. In its industrial dealings, ESA operates under a policy of juste retour that guarantees states contracts roughly proportionate to their financial contributions, while the EU goes on the principle of best value.

Nor do the two bodies have the same membership: among ESA’s members are Norway and Switzerland, with Canada also an associate. The Commission says this membership asymmetry could become a particular concern as ESA and the EU move into more defence-related activities.

The Commission laid out the case for reforming the relationship based on these asymmetries in 2012, with member state ministers also backing a change in February last year.

Ministers will discuss the findings when the Competitiveness Council meets on 21 February, with the Commission planning to further analyse the options over the coming year. Depending on the outcome – as well as dialogue with ESA – the Commission says it could produce concrete proposals towards the end of 2014 or early 2015. ESA is expected to take a decision about the evolution of the agency during its council meeting in December.

Speaking at the sixth annual Conference on EU space policy in Brussels last month, UK science minister David Willetts outlined his government’s objection to bringing ESA into the EU structure. “This suggestion has caused a lot of distraction and delay, while our competitors outside Europe focus on growth and make progress,” he says.

The EU has plans to increase its spending on space. Between 2014 and 2020, it will spend almost €12bn on funding space activities – a doubling of investment compared to the previous financial planning period.

February 06 2014


Industrial Band Bills DoJ For Using Its Music as a Torture Device

20140206-135549.jpg“What really bothers us is that they played our songs at an intolerable volume for hours on end” …

Industrial band Skinny Puppy is billing the U.S. Justice Department after finding out their tunes were used as a means of torturing detainees at the Guantanamo Bay detention facility in Cuba.

The band recently invoiced the DoJ for $666,000, requesting royalties be paid for unauthorized use of their music. “We thought we would invoice them properly, so we hit them with the evil numbers of $666,000,” keyboardist and founder CeVin Key told the Tampa Tribune. “We gave them a breakdown of the bill.”

Members of the Canadian experimental electro-industrial group say they’re not only aggravated their music was used without permission, but that they’re also against torture in general.

“We never supported those types of scenarios,” Key said. “Because we make unsettling music, we can see it being used in a weird way. But it doesn’t sit right with us.”

In an interview with the Phoenix New Times last month, Key said the news made him feel “not too good.” “We heard through a reliable grapevine that our music was being used in Guantanamo Bay prison camps to musically stun or torture people,” Key said.

“What really bothers us is that they played our songs at an intolerable volume for hours on end. The guards would ridicule the detainees when they defecated or urinated themselves. How can there be a torture camp there? It’s wrong. We’ve found out all about this over a year ago and it just ticked us off,” Key told the Tribune…


February 04 2014


WiFi mandatory in every car? Block it.

WASHINGTON — The federal government said on Monday that it planned to require all new cars to broadcast their location, speed, direction and other data, and to receive similar data from other vehicles, to warn drivers of impending collisions. But regulators cautioned that any new rules would be years away.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration plans to issue a report in the next few weeks that would lay out the costs and benefits of such a system. Anthony Foxx, the transportation secretary, said he hoped his department could advance the concept to the status of a proposed rule, open for public comment, before President Obama left office in January 2017.

“A lot of innovation and safety to this point has been about protecting the occupants of a vehicle after an accident occurs,” he told reporters. But now, he said, technology allows a system “in which the safety advances kick in before an accident occurs.”

Automakers already offer an array of technologies that take control of the car to keep it out of danger. For example, some cars sense when a car is drifting out of a lane, and steer back into the lane. Other systems keep a car at a fixed distance behind another car, known as adaptive cruise control, or stop the vehicle altogether to avoid a collision.

The system proposed on Monday would provide only warnings to the driver — through a display screen, sounds or perhaps a vibrating steering wheel — and not automatically apply the brakes or take control of the car in another way. …


Due to this…


… you may want this:

… metal in window materials is a more recent development. In recent years, some green-building architects have relied on new windows that have a thin metallic coating that reduces energy usage by reflecting heat into the building in the winter and out in the summer. … some businesses have used the transparent metal linings in some window glass as a security advantage, blocking Wi-Fi piggybacking from outside, not to mention hackers sitting in a parking lot hoping to read data moving inside the building. Astic Signals Defenses LLC in Owings Mills, Md., sells such glass specifically for that purpose. …


Will they make car windows?

January 31 2014


Politics on Facebook can test friendship

A typical Facebook newsfeed is peppered with links, opinions, and jabs about the latest political topics.

A new study suggests that politics are the great divider. People who think the majority of their friends have differing opinions than their own engage less on Facebook.

For those who choose to stay logged in and politically active, the research finds that most tend to stick in their own circles, ignore those on the other side, and become more polarized.

Show us shared interests?

At the same time, the study suggests a few design changes that could allow the social media platform to bridge political differences. By displaying shared interests between friends during their prickly conversations, Facebook could help diffuse possible arguments and alleviate tension.

The research also notes that increasing exposure and engagement to weak ties could make people more resilient in the face of political disagreement.

“People are mainly friends with those who share similar values and interests. They tend to interact with them the most, a phenomenon called homophily,” says study leader Catherine Grevet, a PhD student at Georgia Institute of Technology (Georgia Tech). “But that means they rarely interact with the few friends with differing opinions. As a result, they aren’t exposed to opposing viewpoints.”

Facebook’s algorithms don’t help the cause. Newsfeeds are filled with the friends a person most often interacts with, typically those with strong ties. Grevet suggests that the social media site should sprinkle in a few status updates on both sides of political issues. That would expose people to different opinions, which are typically held by weak ties.

“Designing social media toward nudging users to strengthen relationships with weak ties with different viewpoints could have beneficial consequences for the platform, users, and society,” says Grevet.

Ignore and be quiet

The study surveyed more than 100 politically active Facebook users in the spring of 2013 amid debates about budgets cuts, gay marriage, and gun control regulations. The majority of participants were liberal, female, and under the age of 40, mirroring the traditional Facebook user.

More than 70 percent said they don’t talk about politics with their friends with different opinions. When they saw something they didn’t agree with, 60 percent said they ignored it and didn’t comment. When they did, sometimes it made the person question the relationship and disassociate and from the friend.

“Even though people could simply unfriend someone with different opinions, and there were certainly those who did that, there were many relationships that were able to be maintained,” says Grevet. “Through a combination of behaviors on Facebook like hiding, tuning out, logging off, or avoiding certain conversations, people negotiated around those differences to stay connected.”

That’s why she feels social media sites like Facebook could support those relationships better, for instance, by highlighting shared interests between acquaintances.

Grevet will present the study in February at the Computer Supported Cooperative Work and Social Computing conference in Baltimore.

Source: Georgia Tech

The post Politics on Facebook can test friendship appeared first on Futurity.

January 30 2014


Hollande pledges to avoid cuts to France’s science funding

Posted on behalf of Barbara Casassus.

PARIS – French President François Hollande today promised to spare the research and higher education budget from savings of €50 billion (US$67 billion) that his government has pledged to find over the next three years to reign in its massive public deficit.

The government will find other ways to cut the deficit, avoid tax increases and ensure business can increase investment and create jobs, he said during a visit to the University of Strasbourg.

In a speech devoted entirely to research and higher education, Hollande also said he would maintain the controversial research tax credit (CIR) because companies appreciate it and it helps attracts foreign investment.

Reacting to the speech, Dominique Guellec, head of country studies at the Science, Technology and Industry division of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), said the CIR is a good measure, but has become far too costly.

“It has failed to boost private sector R&D spending as intended,” Guellec told Nature. “Its cost to the country is rising from €1.5 billion in 2008 to a projected €7 billion next year. But at the same time, companies have sharply reduced R&D outlays from their own resources.”

On the cash front, Hollande also pledged €2 billion ($2.71 billion) out of the €12 billion for the second Investments for the Future programme announced in July to the so-called initiatives of excellence, which are aimed to create world-class research and higher education clusters. Eight, including Strasbourg, were created in the first round in 2011 when conservative president Nicolas Sarkozy was still in office.

Hollande added that another €1 billion would be earmarked to help regional universities boost their cooperative research and €100 million over five years would go to systems biology.

During a round table with students, Hollande floated the idea of creating a European campus in Strasbourg and said that he would raise the issue at the next Franco-German council of ministers meeting in Paris on 19 February, according to press reports.


Snowden Nominated For Nobel Peace Prize + How to Add Your Own Nomination

Saying that Edward Snowden has “contributed to a more stable and peaceful world order” by exposing U.S. surveillance practices and forcing a new debate over security and privacy, two Norwegian politicians nominated the former intelligence contractor for the Nobel Peace Prize Wednesday.

If he were to win the award, Snowden, who gave a trove of classified documents to media outlets last summer, would join the ranks of popular Nobel Peace laureates such as Martin Luther King Jr., Nelson Mandela, and Mother Teresa. …

Earlier today, Snorre Valen posted a nominating letter on a Norwegian site, including a version in English.

While the two Norwegians say they don’t condone all of Snowden’s actions, they say they’re “convinced that the public debate and changes in policy that have followed in the wake of Snowden’s whistleblowing has contributed to a more stable and peaceful world order.”

The revelations of broad and powerful spying techniques that target electronic communications “have in effect led to the reintroduction of trust and transparency as a leading principle in global security policies,” they write. “Its value can’t be overestimated.”

If you’re wondering how Nobel nominees are chosen, so were we.

“A nomination for the Nobel Peace Prize may be submitted by any person who meets the nomination criteria,” according to The Nobel Website. Those criteria include members of national assemblies and governments, as well as university professors (a Swedish professor nominated Snowden for the award last year, but not until after the deadline, AFP says). …

The deadline for all Nobel Peace Prize nominations is February. The names will be pared down to a short list in March and May. The winner of the 2014 award will be announced in October.

Snowden’s name came up today in Washington, where Director of National Intelligence James Clapper called for the former contractor and the journalists who received secret documents from him to give them back. As earlier today, the director said that unauthorized disclosures of classified material “continue to pose a critical threat.”

“Snowden claims he’s won and that his mission is accomplished,” Clapper told the U.S. Senate Intelligence Committee, according to Reuters. “If that is so, I call on him and his accomplices to facilitate the return of the remaining stolen documents that have not yet been exposed to prevent even more danger to U.S. security.” …

via Edward Snowden Is Nominated For The Nobel Peace Prize : The Two-Way : NPR.

In my view flooding the Norwegian Nobel Committee with nominations for Snowden is not a waste of time, even if you don’t qualify as a nominator. I suppose I could stretch and say that I’m a leader of a peace research institute. No, I won’t stretch, I’ll actually create my own peace research institute! Who’s in? Done.

The World Peace Research Institute (http://worldpeaceresearchinstitute.wordpress.com/) is now created and we have only a few billion spots open for new directors.  Become a director, then, according to the Nobel site, you can nominate anyone (but not yourself) for a Nobel Peace Prize. Don’t abuse your new power by making frivolous or humorous nominations.

SeptemberThe Norwegian Nobel Committee prepares to receive nominations. These nominations will be submitted by members of national assemblies, governments, and international courts of law; university chancellors, professors of social science, history, philosophy, law and theology; leaders of peace research institutes and institutes of foreign affairs; previous Nobel Peace Prize Laureates; board members of organizations that have received the Nobel Peace Prize; present and past members of the Norwegian Nobel Committee; and former advisers of the Norwegian Nobel Institute.

FebruaryDeadline for submission. The Committee bases its assessment on nominations that must be postmarked no later than 1 February each year. Nominations postmarked and received after this date are included in the following year’s discussions. In recent years, the Committee has received close to 200 different nominations for different nominations for the Nobel Peace Prize. The number of nominating letters is much higher, as many are for the same candidates.

February-MarchShort list. The Committee assesses the candidates’ work and prepares a short list.

Yours Truly,

Director, World Peace Research Institute

January 29 2014


Obama promises action and seeks a science-funding boost

US President Barack Obama says 2014 will be a “year of action” in which he plans to use his executive authority to enact new policies, while seeking greater cooperation from the sharply divided Congress.

“I am eager to work with all of you,” Obama told lawmakers  during his State of the Union address on 28 January. “But America does not stand still — and neither will I.”

For those interested in scientific issues, this year’s speech contained few surprises. Obama did not hint at new policy priorities, as he did in 2013 when he highlighted brain-mapping research just weeks before the White House unveiled its Brain Research Through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies (BRAIN) Initiative. Instead, he sounded familiar themes, beginning with a plea to Congress to increase funding for scientific research and development “so we can unleash the next great American discovery.”

Declaring that “climate change is a fact,” Obama once again touted his “all-of-the-above” energy policy, which supports the development of both renewable and fossil fuel energy sources. Two of the few new proposals in tonight’s speech included Obama’s plans to propose new regulations that would allow medium- and heavy-duty trucks to run on natural gas and other alternative fuels, and a tax credit to encourage the development of infrastructure to support such vehicles.

Obama also made a brief plea for patent reform, urging Congress to limit what he said was costly and needless litigation, following a series of reforms and recommendations released in June by the White House. The House of Representatives approved a patent-reform measure in December, with White House backing, but a similar effort in the Senate has made little progress.

The president also exhorted lawmakers to revise US immigration laws, though he offered few specifics about what that would entail. The Senate approved immigration legislation last year that would, among other things, allow thousands more foreign scientists and engineers to remain in the United States permanently, but the issue stalled in the House.

Finally, a note for US political trivia buffs. One notable face was missing from the US Capitol during Obama’s address: Secretary of Energy Ernest Moniz, who was chosen as this year’s “designated survivor”. He sat out the speech in an undisclosed location to ensure government continuity in case of catastrophe. (Moniz, who took office in May, is the second Energy secretary in as many years to earn the honor; his predecessor, Steven Chu, skipped Obama’s 2013 address.)

January 28 2014


Did Big Internet Companies Handicap Start-Ups in FISA Rule Changes?

A small but significant caveat in a new agreement brokered between the Obama administration and Google, Facebook, Yahoo and Microsoft could cast a long shadow over America’s technology start-ups.

Intelligence officials agreed only to allow communication providers to disclose more specific information about data sought by government agents because of a new provision that bars companies less than two years old from disclosing such information for a period of two years.

That caveat effectively means that no one will know whether the government is eavesdropping on a new email platform or chat service for two years.

Ladar Levison, the founder of Lavabit, the email service used by Edward Snowden that was the target of a government investigation last year, said the new rules would cast a pall over new technology companies while doing little for the established companies.

Ladar Levison started Lavabit, the e-mail service used by Edward Snowden.
“While our courts are allowed to keep ethically dubious court orders secret, it will remain impossible to trust private data to American companies,” Mr. Levison said. “As an American businessman, this reality is terribly upsetting.”

Until now, technology companies were forbidden from acknowledging government requests they received under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. Now, under the terms of the new agreement, the government will allow companies that are older than two years old to disclose the number of FISA orders they receive in increments of 1,000. They can publish that number in increments of 250, if they lump the number of FISA requests with the number of so-called National Security Letters they receive.

Companies will also be allowed to release the number of “selectors” – user names, email addresses or Internet addresses, for instance – that the government sought information about and will be allowed to publish the information every six months, with a six-month delay.

Because of those amended rules, Google, Facebook, Yahoo and Microsoft agreed to dismiss their lawsuits before the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court.

But Mr. Levison said the number of FISA requests was less important than the kind of information sought by each request. If a FISA order asks a company to turn over its source code or encryption keys, for example, one order could affect thousands of users.

“They’re asking companies to do some pretty scary things, well beyond what they would ask for in a normal criminal order and doing it because there is no civilian oversight,” Mr. Levison said. “What we really need is information about the means and methods the government is using to conduct these investigations.” …


If they were in jail for violating their oaths to the Constitution, for misuse of taxpayer money, and for illegal wiretapping of millions of Americans without probable cause, they would not be making up these absurd rules about how little we can know about their illegal activities. Crazy world.

I’d love to change the world, but I don’t know what to do, so I’ll leave it up to you.

January 27 2014


NSA Using Google Maps, Angry Birds to Monitor Phone Users

http://www.tapscape.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/01/NSA-Even-Spies-Through-Angry-Birds-300x200.jpgThe National Security Agency and its UK counterpart GCHQ have been developing capabilities to take advantage of “leaky” smartphone apps, such as the wildly popular Angry Birds game, that transmit users’ private information across the internet, according to top secret documents.
The data pouring onto communication networks from the new generation of iPhone and Android apps ranges from phone model and screen size to personal details such as age, gender and location. Some apps, the documents state, can share users’ most sensitive information such as sexual orientation – and one app recorded in the material even sends specific sexual preferences such as whether or not the user may be a swinger.

Many smartphone owners will be unaware of the full extent this information is being shared across the internet, and even the most sophisticated would be unlikely to realise that all of it is available for the spy agencies to collect.

Dozens of classified documents, provided to the Guardian by whistleblower Edward Snowden and reported in partnership with the New York Times and ProPublica, detail the NSA and GCHQ efforts to piggyback on this commercial data collection for their own purposes.

Scooping up information the apps are sending about their users allows the agencies to collect large quantities of mobile phone data from their existing mass surveillance tools – such as cable taps, or from international mobile networks – rather than solely from hacking into individual mobile handsets.

Exploiting phone information and location is a high-priority effort for the intelligence agencies, as terrorists and other intelligence targets make substantial use of phones in planning and carrying out their activities, for example by using phones as triggering devices in conflict zones. The NSA has cumulatively spent more than $1bn in its phone targeting efforts.

The disclosures also reveal how much the shift towards smartphone browsing could benefit spy agencies’ collection efforts.

A May 2010 NSA slide on the agency’s ‘perfect scenario’ for obtaining data from mobile apps. …

One slide from a May 2010 NSA presentation on getting data from smartphones – breathlessly titled “Golden Nugget!” – sets out the agency’s “perfect scenario”: “Target uploading photo to a social media site taken with a mobile device. What can we get?”

The question is answered in the notes to the slide: from that event alone, the agency said it could obtain a “possible image”, email selector, phone, buddy lists, and “a host of other social working data as well as location”.

In practice, most major social media sites, such as Facebook and Twitter, strip photos of identifying location metadata (known as EXIF data) before publication. However, depending on when this is done during upload, such data may still, briefly, be available for collection by the agencies as it travels across the networks.

Depending on what profile information a user had supplied, the documents suggested, the agency would be able to collect almost every key detail of a user’s life: including home country, current location (through geolocation), age, gender, zip code, martial status – options included “single”, “married”, “divorced”, “swinger” and more – income, ethnicity, sexual orientation, education level, and number of children.

The agencies also made use of their mobile interception capabilities to collect location information in bulk, from Google and other mapping apps. One basic effort by GCHQ and the NSA was to build a database geolocating every mobile phone mast in the world – meaning that just by taking tower ID from a handset, location information could be gleaned.

A more sophisticated effort, though, relied on intercepting Google Maps queries made on smartphones, and using them to collect large volumes of location information.

So successful was this effort that one 2008 document noted that “[i]t effectively means that anyone using Google Maps on a smartphone is working in support of a GCHQ system.”

The information generated by each app is chosen by its developers, or by the company that delivers an app’s adverts. The documents do not detail whether the agencies actually collect the potentially sensitive details some apps are capable of storing or transmitting, but any such information would likely qualify as content, rather than metadata.

Data collected from smartphone apps is subject to the same laws and minimisation procedures as all other NSA activity – procedures that the US president, Barack Obama, suggested may be subject to reform in a speech 10 days ago. But the president focused largely on the NSA’s collection of the metadata from US phone calls and made no mention in his address of the large amounts of data the agency collects from smartphone apps.


January 24 2014


Snowden: ‘Not all spying bad’ but NSA program ‘divorced from reason’

During a live Web chat, NSA whistle-blower/leaker Edward Snowden emphasizes the need for the rule of law. He also strikes, at one point, a tone you might be forgiven for taking as conciliatory.

“I think a person should be able to dial a number, make a purchase, send an SMS, write an e-mail, or visit a Web site without having to think about what it’s going to look like on their permanent record. “

That’s the word from NSA whistle-blower/leaker Edward Snowden, who today answered questions tweeted by the public as part of a live Web chat, his first since June of last year.

The Thursday event took place the same day that the US Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board (PCLOB), an independent federal watchdog agency within the executive branch, released a report that said, despite differing views on the board, that the US National Security Agency’s controversial bulk phone-records program is illegal, has provided “minimal” counterterrorism value, and should be shut down.

The chat also happened just about a week after President Obama announced during a closely watched speech that “the work had begun” on reforms to the NSA and that several first steps had been taken, including initial measures to prevent abuse of the bulk phone-records program and moves to create greater privacy protections for citizens of other nations.

Snowden said during the chat that the PCLOB report makes it clear: “There is simply no justification for continuing an unconstitutional policy with a zero percent success rate.” Rather, he said, warrantless, bulk collection of data should end and surveillance should be conducted along traditional legal lines involving ideas of probable cause and court orders.

The people at the working level at the NSA, CIA, or any other member of the [Intelligence Community] are not out to get you. They’re good people trying to do the right thing, and I can tell you from personal experience that they were worried about the same things I was.” – Edward Snowden”The fact that these records are gathered without the government having any reasonable suspicion or probable cause justifying the seizure of data is so divorced from the domain of reason as to be incapable of ever being made lawful at all,” Snowden wrote, adding elsewhere that there was no reason for the NSA and other agencies not to abide by the law:

“The NSA and the rest of the US Intelligence Community is exceptionally well positioned to meet our intelligence requirements through targeted surveillance – the same way we’ve always done it – without resorting to the mass surveillance of entire populations,” Snowden wrote.

Obama said during his reform speech that the government should no longer hold telephone metadata and that an inquiry would be made into how a third party could be developed to hold it. He also said he’d directed the attorney general and the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court to develop a way to require the court’s permission before the NSA can access metadata in the database…


Hey, wait, I just remembered that most of us vote. Let’s vote on it. If you want the spying, raise your hand. Don’t worry, they can see you just fine right where you are sitting or standing, right through your walls.

Before you say “I have nothing to hide,” ask yourself if you have anything to protect, because a government keeping secret records on everyone is a set up for a horrific Nazi situation.

Accept this current situation and we face a future where you can be framed and harvested. A knock on the door, then no one sees you again. Or perhaps they see you on the news. Who knew you were a terrorist? You hid it so well. Good thing they got you … and confiscated your life savings to keep it from falling into the wrong hands. Anyone who complains must be a terrorist too and will be taken.

Tell me why this could never happen.

I see. And these safeguards and high standards of which you speak, they kept the spying to date on an “as needed” basis that was Constitutional and they protected all Americans from unreasonable searches without probable cause? No, they didn’t.

End this mess.

January 15 2014


Unknown Cloud Seen from Space Station

http://guardianlv.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/10/cloud-parmitano-580x384.jpgUnknown Cloud Seen from Space Station

Added by Kimberly Ruble on October 13, 2013.

This weekend, an astronaut from Italy, Luca Parmitano, put some very strange photographs upon his account at Twitter which had been taken from the International Space Station. They showed what appeared to be some sort of unknown cloud that was rising directly above the horizon of the Earth at twilight, the types of man-made clouds that usually appear after rockets have been shot off.

What is so weird about this is that there were no planned launches by NASA because of the government shutdown or from any United States commercial spaceflight corporation. Europe and Russia neither one had announced any scheduled launches at that time as well. Nevertheless, there was something that got fired up into space.

Another picture showed what appeared to be a curved trail of a white smoky tail, this being water vapor and exhaust which is made by a rocket going through the atmosphere. There were strange designs created after being pounded by high elevation winds. Then Parmitano showed another picture of the cloud and that seemed to be caused by the rocket crumbling over the Earth.

Mike Hopkins, who is a NASA astronaut, and is stationed on the ISS, also tweeted his observation of the clouds, and stated that he saw something being launching up into space. He said he was not sure what it was but that the clouds it left behind were amazing.

To see some sort of unexpected rocket being launched outside their window had to be unsettling for the ISS team. Did they ever discover what the rocket actually was?

It is believed that Strategic Rocket Forces in Russia had a successful secret trial takeoff of a Topol/SS-25 missile. The rocket was sent up from Kapustin to the Shagan trial area located in Kazakhstan. Conferring to a representative of the Rocket Forces, the experiment was used to check characteristics of the Topol rocket, and to check the systems of the Sary Shagan test site.

This missile is the newest addition to Russia’s military fleet, and it is the first international airborne missile to be developed after the disbanding of the Soviet Union. Intercontinental missiles are used as nuclear weapon delivery systems, and are able to be launched into space and deliver their payloads over thousands of miles away.

According to the Information Telegraph Agency in Russia, various news agencies reported the test was needed to make sure of the stability of the performance characteristics of this class of missile during the extension of its life, preparation of its various measuring systems, and the testing of warheads of ballistic missiles.

The news reports also said the missile test was a triumph, that the practice target they aimed at in Kazakhstan was hit. So it does appear that the cloud encounter was produced by the disintegration of the top part of the Topol’s rocket.

The trouble is that this is a notice to everyone that even though World Space Week had just ended, a festivity which marks the anniversary of the signing of the Outer Space Treaty which banned the militarization of space, that human beings still are testing the transfer apparatuses for weapons of mass destruction, even as the peaceful civilian ISS (crew) watch(es) from their windows and can do nothing when they happen to notice clouds of unknown origin coming into existence right in front of their eyes.

via Unknown Cloud Seen from Space Station.

January 14 2014


Verizon wins, Net neutrality loses, as court ruling opens door to a tiered Internet 

Telecom companies won a victory in the battle over “Net neutrality” Tuesay after a U.S. appeals court invalidated regulations from the FCC that banned carriers from favoring traffic from certain sources.

Those FCC rules were meant to force broadband providers to treat all Internet traffic equally – essentially making it impossible for them to charge companies for a faster route into people’s homes.

The FCC’s “Open Internet Order” has long been supported by President Barack Obama, who, according to a 2010 White House statement, was “strongly committed to Net neutrality in order to keep an open Internet that fosters investment, innovation, consumer choice, and free speech.”

Now, the door is open for companies like AT&T, Verizon, Sprint and T-Mobile to create a tiered Internet, where those who can pay the most can utilize the fastest connections, while others are stuck transmitting information at slower speeds. A ban on completely blocking certain Internet traffic sources was also overturned.


Welcome to China. The US military industrial complex hopes you have enjoyed this brief period of partial free speech. At the next scheduled 9/11 event you may still be able to find uncensored views on a few excruciatingly slow web sites. Any damning facts, however, will be stopped in the name of national security and all individuals determined by the NSA to possess unapproved information will be taken to a reeducation facility to be killed.

Perhaps you think you are being treated unfairly?

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