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News Items

Submitted by:kgb999 2012-11-14 19:59:13

I am in an authoritarian state listening to a panel about human rights, at an internet conference without internet access. It is November 5, 2012 and I am in Azerbaijan for the Internet Governance Forum, an annual conference sponsored by the United Nations to encourage dialogue on internet policy issues. This year's IGF takes place in the Baku Expo Center, a warehouse-style building on an isolated compound on the outskirts of the city. The Center's lack of interior walls or ceilings creates an acoustic black hole, rendering the stream of policy jargon literally incomprehensible. Delegates listen with headphones and speak only with microphones. "We have to make sure the voice of the people is heard," says one policy official, and the people nod silently, adjusting their headsets for static.

Numerous commentators have bemoaned the fact that IGF, a conference dedicated to participatory dialogue about digital rights, was held in Azerbaijan, a country where bloggers are arrested for criticising their government. Azerbaijani officials proudly proclaim that they have a free internet and that they do not apply the blocks and firewalls common in other authoritarian states. This is true, but a free internet is of little use to a people who are not free.

In Azerbaijan, internet users are able to speak their minds, and the government is able to monitor them, intimidate them, arrest them, and abuse them. At IGF, a delegation of thousands of internet experts from around the world got a small taste of how digital media operates in a surveillance state. We modified our behaviour, struggled to protect our privacy, and relied on rumor in an information void. Incompetence became conspiracy, caution turned into paranoia. On IGF's island of democracy, separated literally and figuratively from the rest of the country, we too succumbed to state control.

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Submitted by:kgb999 2012-11-10 04:44:02


Manning's defence lawyer, David Coombs, told a pre-trial hearing ahead of his court martial that the soldier wanted to offer a guilty plea for some offences contained within the US government's case against him. This is the first time the intelligence analyst has given any public indication that he accepts that he played a part in the breach of confidential US material.

The statement is technically known as "pleading by exceptions and substitutions". By taking this legal route, Manning is not pleading guilty to any of the 22 charges brought against him, and nor is he making a plea bargain. He is asking the court to rule on whether his plea accepting limited responsibility is admissible in the case. Coombs set out the details in a statement that was posted on his website after the hearing.

Should the judge presiding over Manning's court martial allow the soldier to plead guilty by "exceptions and substitutions", army prosecutors could still press on with all 22 counts. In this instance, a full trial would go ahead next year. Manning would continue to face the most serious charge of "aiding the enemy", which carries a maximum sentence of life in military custody with no chance of parole.

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Submitted by:kgb999 2012-11-09 21:47:44

This was a case in the news a few months back. Basically, after arresting the blogger the police went through and deleted all video from his camera. And then lied about what had happened.

In a stroke of good fortune, he was able to recover the video ... and things didn'go well for the Miami PD and prosecutors who, for some insane reason (*cough* trying to avoid a lawsuit *cough*) decided to take it to trial anyhow.

He's posting video of the court proceedings. The closing argument is pretty damn good ... so's the cross examination of the arresting officer!

The most telling part of my trial yesterday, besides the continuous lies under oath by Miami-Dade Police Major Nancy Perez, was when a frattish looking prosecutor fresh out of law school named Ari Pregen tried to explain to jurors how a “real journalist” was supposed to act.

A real journalist, he explained, was supposed to follow police orders without a second thought. A real journalist would never back talk to police. A real journalist would never question a direct police order as to why he was not allowed to stand on a public sidewalk.

That left the door open for one of my attorneys, Santiago Lavandera, to remind jurors that a real journalist was supposed to do the complete opposite.

“In this country, when you’re a journalist, your job is to investigate.

Not to be led by your hand where the police want you to see, so they can hide what they don’t want you to see.

No, when you’re a journalist, a real journalist, it’s your job to go find the truth. As long as you are acting within the law as Mr. Miller was, you have the right to demand and say, ‘no, I’m not moving, I have the right to be here. This is a public sidewalk, I have the right to be here.’

He did his job. He has the right to do his job the way he sees fit. It’s not up to these prosecutors to tell anybody, much less an independent journalist, how to do their job. It’s not up to the police officers, it’s not up to a judge or the president.

In this country, journalists do their job the way they see fit.

What’s he describing is Cuba. What he’s describing is a communist country. The government says you can’t be here because I say you can’t be here.

And it’s infuriating to me that a prosecutor would try to get up here and try to convince you that just because a police officer says something, that he has to bow his head and walk away.

That is a disgrace to the Constitution of this country.”

By that time, both prosecutors had their heads hung low, knowing they had been beat, reminding me of the old Charlie Daniel’s song about the devil going back to Georgia where the devil hung his head after losing a fiddling contest.

But as I had predicted before the trial, the real ace in my hole was my surprise witness, Miami Herald reporter Glenn Garvin, who was also covering the Occupy Miami eviction that night, but wasn’t arrested, even though he had been standing on the same sidewalk as I had been.

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Submitted by:kgb999 2012-10-03 17:31:18

Quelle surprise!

Hundreds of problems have been found at European nuclear plants that would cost 25bn euros (£20bn) to fix, says a leaked draft report.

The report, commissioned after Japan's Fukushima nuclear disaster, aimed to see how Europe's nuclear power stations would cope during extreme emergencies.

The final report is to be published on Thursday. The draft says nearly all the EU's 143 nuclear plants need improving.

Anti-nuclear groups say the report's warnings do not go far enough.

For its part, the regulatory body for European nuclear safety has urged the Commission not to use language that could undermine public confidence, says the BBC's Chris Morris in Brussels.

[...]The report - the wording of which could change before Thursday's final version is published - points out that in the EU, 47 nuclear power plants with 111 reactors have more than 100,000 inhabitants living within a circle of 30km.

"On the basis of the stress test results practically all [nuclear plants] need to undergo safety improvements," says the leaked draft. "Hundreds of technical upgrade measures have already been identified.

"Following the accidents at Three Mile Island and Chernobyl, urgent measures to protect nuclear plants were agreed. The stress tests demonstrated that even today, decades later, their implementation is still pending in some member states."

Four reactors in two unnamed countries would have less than an hour to restore safety functions if electrical power was lost, it adds.

In France, Europe's largest nuclear power producer which relies on 58 nuclear reactors for 80% of its electricity, specific failings were found in all 58 nuclear reactors.

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Submitted by: 2012-10-02 04:18:36

Health Care Costs

This story was produced in collaboration with The Washington Post.

I ran across this Kaiser Health News piece while I was researching a comment, the other day.  The policy "reform" that this piece addresses, hits home for me since we currently reside in Tennessee.

In my opinion, this groundbreaking and truly pernicious policy is not likely to be "contained" in the state of Tennessee.  It is the result of a federal test pilot program conducted under the auspices of the [Patient Protection and] Affordable Care Act (ACA).  This "new category" of patient has been approved by both the Tennessee State Legislature, and the Obama Administration's Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).

I find it to be nothing short of abhorrent, that in order to expand Medicaid, we as a society will accept allowing some of our most elderly, sickly and frail citizens lie in their own excrement, and/or possibly starve to death (the ones who are unable to even feed themselves) in order to "save a buck."

The idea that folks who cannot perform two or more of the Activities of Daily Living, or ADLs, can "get by" with no more than an occasional “visit” (or for that matter, a 4-hour, 5 day-a-week visit) from a home health care aide, is absolutely ludicrous.  [The six (6) types of ADLs, are:  Eating, Bathing, Dressing, Toileting, Transferring, and Maintaining Continence.]

Now, is the time to fight this regulation, before it spreads to other states.  Please help get the word out.  If you see an opportunity to post the hyperlink above, please do so. Tennessee is still considered a "purple state," by some.  You can bet that other states (especially "red states") will adopt this policy, if there is no organized pushback.

Here's an excerpt from the full article, below:

In a unique experiment being watched nationally, Tennessee is revising its Medicaid long-term care options to make it harder for certain low-income elderly people to qualify for state-paid nursing home care.

The program, which has received federal approval and began this month, is the first of its kind in the nation because it creates this new category of patients who don’t qualify for nursing home care. Up to now, under federal law, everyone who receives long-term care under Medicaid first had to qualify to be admitted to a nursing home.

"Federal law requires that program eligibility be tied to eligibility for nursing homes," said Matt Salo, executive director of the National Association of Medicaid Directors. "Tennessee is stepping ahead to create this new category of at-risk individuals whose benefits are not linked to nursing homes."

But consumer advocates worry that the $15,000 annual limit will fall short of meeting the needs of some seniors, who could end up going without services or relying on funds from family or friends. Gordon Bonnyman, executive director of the Tennessee Justice Center, said he feared that "a lot of frail people are not going to make it on the reduced package."

The average cost per year for nursing home care nationally is about $80,000.

State officials decided they could raise the level of need for patients to qualify for full long-term benefits, whether in a nursing home or elsewhere.  The legislature approved the change in April, as did the federal Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services.

Under the new regulations, the current requirement – that someone need help with an "activity of daily living" such as dressing or using the bathroom – has been replaced by a complicated weighted point system that makes it considerably more difficult for patients to reach the standard to qualify for nursing home care.

Jesse Samples, executive director of the Tennessee Health Care Association, representing the majority of Tennessee’s 330 nursing homes, agreed [with Bonnyman] that TennCare’s chief motivation is to save money and also agreed with Killingsworth that nursing homes were the target.

"In an ideal world we would increase funding for all categories of services," Samples said. "But we’re playing a zero-sum game here. In order to get money for home and community-based services, you have to take it from somewhere else. That would be nursing homes."




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Submitted by:kgb999 2012-10-01 18:01:02

This sounds about right.

I do think it's kind of funny that the article manages to almost entirely dissociate the conditions that exist and anything Obama himself may or may not have done.

The whole thing, somewhat absurdly, rounds out as a full-on campaign commercial ... but no matter how you spin 'em, the facts are pretty damning.

Also interesting is the persistent refrain that a president Romney would *NEVER* have passed Obamacare ... which, as we all know, he actually *did* totally pass well before Obama did.

The most marked political change in the last four years is the degree to which those who were once politically engaged no longer have that sense of possibility. Every Obama supporter I met in 2008 was less involved now than they were then. Most were not involved at all. Many had their reasons, primarily work and children. All of them thought he was certain to win, which may have been a factor. And it would be difficult to replicate the excitement of that election. In the words of Sade: "It's never as good as the first time."

But underpinning it all was a general sense of ennui not with him in particular – they all still loved him – but with politics in general: a sense that there was little point in investing energy in a political class or much faith in the electoral process that produces them. "I never thought things could become more divided, and there be more fighting," says Ann Trinkel, echoing the frustrations of many. "But oh my gosh it's just … gridlock. And I guess that's what sort of lessened the hopefulness for me, and made me a bit more cynical, is all the money."

[...]"They talk about the rich and the middle class … they never talk about poverty. We're living in total poverty. We have nothing right now," said Robin Barbour four years ago in Roanoke. Back then she was living with her partner Fred Crews in his mother's basement and volunteering for the Obama campaign. Since Obama's been president poverty has increased around 14% but he's not delivered a single speech on poverty and mentioned the word just three times in all his state of the union speeches.

Few, even among his own supporters, believe Obama re-election will actually reverse these trends.

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Submitted by:kgb999 2012-09-30 19:15:46

The power of video. Here's a good place to remind folks with smart-phones to install something like this.

Emphasis mine.

(h/t Ars)

The family of a New Jersey teenager is suing a local police department claiming officers arrested the boy simply because he was videotaping a confrontation with cops.

15-year-old Austin DeCaro never imagined his habit of taking his camcorder everywhere would come in so handy on an evening several months ago.

"He got out of a car and said, 'All of you get on the curb,' and none of us knew what to do, so I flipped on my camera," said Austin DeCaro, a teenage videographer, "I saw this random guy telling us to sit on the curb and I didn't know if he was a cop or not. I decided I should record it."

 DeCaro and a couple of friends had been crossing a park in Hanover Township, New Jersey, just after dusk.

They say they had no idea there was a park curfew, a black car drove up, and a cop in plainclothes confronted them.

"I gave him my name and he realized I had a camera and he said, 'turn that off.'" DeCaro said.

"Turn that video camera off right now or it's going to be mine, forever," the officer said on the video.

"Why?" DeCaro is heard asking.

"And I asked why, and he tackled me to the ground, handcuffed me, threw my camera, and arrested me," DeCaro said.

[...]DeCaro's parents were stunned.

"They were going to charge him with obstruction, vandalism, being in the park after dark," said Anthony DeCaro, Austin's father.

Then, the videotape was shown to the chief.

"They dropped all the charges except for being in the park," Anthony DeCaro said.

"And I'm sure glad my son was rolling the video camera or he would have had a whole mess of charges that were just lies," said Lois DeCaro, Austin's mother.

The police department declined to comment because the DeCaro family has now filed a lawsuit.

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Submitted by:admin 2012-09-29 06:24:43

I agree ... not much chance of it passing. But it's nice to see that these issues are getting at least a bit of push-back in the halls of legislature.

A new bill introduced today in the US House of Representatives seeks to require warrants before police can trawl through your e-mail or track your cell phone, reports CNET. The legislation is backed by several technology companies, including Apple, Google, Microsoft, and Twitter. But given the government's history with privacy bills, it faces a high chance of getting blocked by the Department of Justice.

The bill was introduced by Representative Zoe Lofgren (D-CA) and would require officers to get a warrant before accessing e-mail or location information. Access to these data types is a notorious gray area in US courts.

[...] Lofgren's bill would amend the Electronic Communications Privacy Act that went into effect in 1986—the olden cellular days, before even Zach Morris had GPS in his phone. Such bills in the past have been blocked by the Department of Justice on the grounds that making access to information in the cloud and on cellular networks would make police investigations more difficult; this one may face a similarly unsuccessful road.

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Submitted by:kgb999 2012-09-28 00:49:21

Ars chalks the spike up to a lower cost point for surveilance technology. While that is likely some of it, the analysis misses some of the factors driving institutional consumption of thes products.

The increase in demand for domestic surveilance products likely has something to do with the emergence of the Occupy movement as well as the solidification of a Democratic party policy empowering government resources to be leveraged to a larger degree to monitor labor organizers.

Sure, it has grown marganially less expensive to accomplish over the last two years, but that alone does not create customers.

Statistics obtained by the American Civil Liberties Union provides additional evidence that government surveillance of Americans has skyrocketed in recent years. The government is legally obligated to release reports about its surveillance activities, but it refused to do so until the ACLU sued to compel the production of the documents.

[...]The legal standard for conducting this kind of non-content surveillance is less stringent than the rules for conducting a wiretap. To get a wiretap order, the government must convince a judge that it is essential to an investigation, but pen registers must merely be "relevant" to an investigation to obtain the approval of a judge.

The statistics uncovered by the ACLU show a striking increase in the frequency of government surveillance. Here is the number of orders issued by the government over the last 12 years:

[...] As the ACLU's Naomi Gilens points out, "more people were subjected to pen register and trap and trace surveillance in the past two years than in the entire previous decade."

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Submitted by:wendy davis 2012-09-24 11:37:16

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Submitted by:kgb999 2012-09-22 02:01:55

Again. Good on them.

Google should be taking a few "Don't be evil" pointers just about now.

The chief executive of Twitter, Dick Costolo, has said the company will continue to fight legal challenges brought against its users by officials who want access to their archived tweets.

Costolo said Twitter found itself in an invidious position in the case of Malcolm Harris, an Occupy Wall Street protester whose tweets were sought by prosecutors in New York.

Speaking at the Online News Association's annual conference in San Francisco, Costolo said: "We strongly believe it's important for us to defend our users' right to protest the forced publication of their private information."

He said the company had spent a large amount of its money and the time of its top in house legal resources to fight the Harris case. Earlier this month a court in New York ordered Twitter to turn over three months' worth of Harris's tweets relating to protests on Brooklyn Bridge in New York last year.

The court allowed for the information to be sealed until an appeal is heard. Costolo said Twitter was disappointed that it was forced to hand over the information in advance of the appeal, even in sealed form. "We have been put between a rock and a hard place," he said.

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Submitted by:kgb999 2012-09-22 01:53:55

Not entirely sure what to make of this - tentatively, this seems like a step in the right direction. The guardian also has coverge.

Demonstrators in Libya have stormed the headquarters of the Islamist Ansar al-Sharia group and evicted its fighters from the site in a sweep of militia bases in the eastern city of Benghazi.

Friday's action against the group appeared to be part of a co-ordinated sweep of militia headquarters buildings by police, government troops and activists following a mass public demonstration against armed groups earlier in the day.

[...]Armed fighters made a stand at another heavily fortified compound in the eastern city, firing on demonstrators with heavy machine guns and wounding several people, protesters said.

Al Jazeera's Hoda Abdel-Hamid, reporting from Benghazi, said: "We went there to see their slogans and basically what they're saying is that they refused insults to the Prophet but they also refuse terrorism in their city."

"They have also called for the disbanding of the militias, chanting: 'What are you waiting for?'. They're asking the government how long it will take before they do that."

[...]A standoff around the base of Rafallah Sehati, an official brigade of the ministry of defence, left 10 people wounded.

It was not immediately clear who had started the shooting.

[...]The chief of staff and defence minister both alluded to "Gaddafi loyalists" as being responsible for the raid.

The wounded, however, refute  such allegations, saying instead that the government and its brigades responded in a violent manner reminiscent of the days of Gaddafi.

[...]Also earlier on Friday, inside the square, which was a key battleground in the uprising that overthrew dictator Muammar Gaddafi last year, around 3,000 supporters of the ultraconservative Salafist group gathered.

Waving black Islamic flags, they chanted against a US-made video that mocked Islam and cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed published by a French satirical weekly.

"Our demonstration is in support of the messenger of Allah and to condemn the abuse of Islam and Muslims carried out by any given country, chief among them France and the US," a group member told the AFP news agency."It wasn't enough for them to produce a film denigrating the Prophet in America, off goes France insisting on publishing cartoons in its newspaper that are offensive to our Prophet. We will never tolerate that."

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Submitted by: 2012-09-18 01:36:51

Alan Simpson's Teat Suckers - Cartoon

This is priceless.

Congressional Progressive Caucus Diva Jan Schakowsky (D-IL), along with boy-pals Jerry Nadler (D-NY) and Mike Honda (D-CA), US House Representatives all, have penned a letter to the presidential debate commission objecting to a request by four Senators, that Obama and Romney be asked "which of the commission’s proposals to address the debt they support."  The four Senators are Saxby Chambliss (R-GA), Lindsey Graham (R-SC), Joe Lieberman (I-CT), and Mark Pryor (D-AR).

The Senators requested that the debate commission devote “specific and extensive attention to the question of how the candidates would get our nation’s fiscal house in order during the first debate dedicated to domestic policy."

They wrote, "Specifically, we request that you ask the presidential candidates which of the recommendations of the National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform they would adopt as part of their plan to reduce the deficit."

In response, in a letter to the debate commission, the Democratic Representatives countered that such a question would force "candidates to choose solutions from one menu of options."

The Representatives "cried foul," further stating in their letter that, "We urge the [Debate] Commission to fight any effort to unnecessarily narrow such an important debate by placing disproportionate attention on one set of proposals over another,” they wrote, adding that such a question would “cheapen the debate” and “thwart the candidates’ ability to explain alternative proposals.”

This Politico piece clearly demonstrates the duplicity of the Democratic Party, and exposes these so-called liberal Democratic Representatives to be no more than tools, and enablers of the corporatist Obama Administration.

[Link to the full Politico article above.]

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Submitted by:kgb999 2012-09-15 01:45:25

Lame. Twitter is to be commended for at least fighting.

Again, lame.

Twitter handed over a sealed document containing the tweets and data from an Occupy Wall Street protester's Twitter account to a New York criminal court today. The company was subpoenaed for defendant Malcolm Harris' information after Harris was arrested along with 700 others during an Occupy Wall Street protest last year. Harris has been charged with disorderly conduct.

While Twitter and Harris filed motions to kill the subpoena, the New York criminal court judge denied both motions earlier this year. Twitter was forced to hand over Harris' tweets from the period between September 15, 2011 to December 15, 2011 by today, or be fined and found in contempt of court, Bloomberg noted. And to add insult to injury, the judge ordered that if Twitter did not comply with the subpoena, it would have to make its financial information available to the court—according to All Things D, this information would be used to determine the amount of the fine.

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Submitted by: 2012-09-14 17:58:44

Protest in Baghdad's Tahrir Square

[Note:  This flickr image is from protests in al Tahrir Square, Bagdad.]

Excerpt from "The US Embassy Protests."

"Protests at US embassies throughout the Middle East against an anti-Islamic video are a devastating popular verdict on the policies of the United States government.

Protests have spread to at least eleven countries, including Egypt, Yemen, Libya, Iraq, Tunisia, Algeria, Jordan, Iran, Morocco, Sudan, and Bangladesh.

Popular anger over the video, a political provocation by right-wing circles in the United States, has brought to the surface deep popular anger over Washington’s Middle East policies. Since mass working class uprisings last year toppled US-backed dictatorships in Tunisia and Egypt, the Obama administration has relentlessly backed right-wing regimes against popular opposition and escalated bloody proxy wars in Libya and Syria." . . . and,

"Washington’s response to the latest upsurge of popular protests in the region is to mobilize its military power to intimidate popular opposition and set the stage for a new round of bloodshed. It has dispatched US destroyers to patrol the Libyan coast and fire cruise missiles at targets inside the country that it suspects of being responsible for the attack.

Amid the US proxy war with Syria and US threats against other Iranian-allied forces, like the Hezbollah organization in Lebanon, a new escalation of US operations also sets the stage for a war with Iran demanded by the Israeli regime and large sections of the American ruling class."

"A report recently published by the Iran Project—a group of US academics, military officers, and foreign policy officials—warned of likely consequences of such war. These include the disruption of world oil trade by fighting in the strategic Strait of Hormuz, fighting between US-backed and Iranian-backed forces that could engulf the entire Near East, and increased weapons supplies to Iran by other major powers, like Russia and China." . . .

Won't find an analysis like this in the WaPo or NYT.  Too bad "the real news" never makes it into our MSM reporting.

[Full article can be read at WSWS hyperlink above.]

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Submitted by:kgb999 2012-09-14 17:35:27

Libya closed its air space over Benghazi airport temporarily because of heavy anti-aircraft fire by Islamists aiming at U.S. reconnaissance drones flying over the city, days after the U.S. ambassador and three other Americans were killed in an attack.

The closure of the airport prompted speculation that the United States was deploying special forces in preparation for an attack against the militants who were involved in the attack.

A Libyan official said the spy planes flew over the embassy compound and the city, taking photos and inspecting locations of radical militant groups who are believed to have planned and staged the attack on the U.S. consulate on Tuesday.

Militants used anti-aircraft guns to fire at the drones, forcing the authorities to shut the airport because they feared for the safety of passenger planes.

"Two American drones flew over Benghazi last night with knowledge of the Libyan authorities," Deputy Interior Minister, Wanis al-Sharif told Reuters.


[...]The U.S. military was moving two warships toward the coast of the North African state, giving the Obama administration flexibility for any future action against militant threats.

But a member of the Libyan national assembly told Reuters: [...]"I believe that so far we as Libyans can take care of the operation ourselves because the militias feel they are part of Libyan society, but if we have Americans come in with an operation then these militias will also turn on us," he said.

"For sure we will need the Americans for their logistical and technical support and expertise, and we will ask them for it when the time comes. But for now we need to try to do it ourselves."


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Submitted by:kgb999 2012-09-10 20:57:50

A 98% correlation means 2% of the records can not be matched to the developer's database. On a dump of 1 million names, that would be about 20,000 UIDS in the released dataset that can not be linked to Blue Toad at this stage.

It's important to note that this is a matching game, not a statistical analysis - an imagined standard deviation is irrelevant. In this analysis, each piece of data exists and was clearly collected from somewhere. An unaccounted for record doesn't implicitly become a member of an unmatched reference set simply because a large number of other records being analyzed have been matched. Until the absence of these 20,000 records from Blue Toad's information base can be explained - we don't have a complete answer as to where this data came from.

It will be interesting to see where this goes (if anywhere).

A digital publishing company named BlueToad has come forward to take responsibility for the leak of a million iOS unique device identifiers (UDIDs) that were previously attributed to an alleged FBI laptop hack. In a number of interviews published Monday, BlueToad apologized to the public for the incident, explaining that hackers had broken into the company's systems in order to steal the file. The company says, however, that it had "nowhere near" the alleged 12 million UDIDs that hacking group AntiSec claims to have in its possession.

According to BlueToad, the company was able to match its own data against the list released by AntiSec last week which, according to an interview with NBC, showed a 98 percent correlation. "As soon as we found out we were involved and victimized, we approached the appropriate law enforcement officials, and we began to take steps to come forward, clear the record and take responsibility for this," DeHart told NBC.

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2012-09-10 16:48:19

With the amazing communications skills Rahm Emanuel showed as Obama's COS, I'm shocked ... shocked, I say ... that the situation in Chicago has devolved into a strike.

After weeks of negotiations, Mayor Rahm Emanuel's team and the Chicago Teacher's Union failed to agree on a contract. On Sunday night, CTU officially announced it was going to strike for the first time in a quarter century. So on Monday, instead of teaching, the union's 26,000 educators will protest.

"In the morning, no CTU members will be inside our schools," CTU President Karen Lewis said Sunday at a late-night press conference outdoors, surrounded by throngs of reporters and teachers. She appeared in a bright red jacket with crimson lipstick, the intensity of her wardrobe illustrating the defiance in her words. "We will walk the picket lines, we will talk to parents, we ... will demand a fair contract today, we demand a fair contract now," she said, calling the ordeal an "education justice fight."


[...]Emanuel was followed by Chicago's police chief, who said that no police would be on administrative duty Monday. Rather, they would all be on the streets, monitoring protest activity and making sure kids weren't just hanging out. The district has set up over 100 spaces with alternate activities to keep students safe in places like churches and nonprofits.

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Submitted by:kgb999 2012-09-07 18:04:22

Good on him. I imagine a donation to Wikipedia would be better spent than one to most damn politicians these days.

Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales has joined the opposition to the Communications Data Bill that was proposed by the UK government earlier this year. Civil rights groups have raised the alarm about provisions that could require British ISPs to keep records of every website their customers visit for 12 months. Now Wales is threatening to enable encryption on Wikipedia for UK Web users to protect their privacy.

"If we find that UK ISPs are mandated to keep track of every single webpage that you read at Wikipedia, I am almost certain we would immediately move to a default of encrypting all communication to the UK, so that the local ISP would only be able to see that you are speaking to Wikipedia, not what you are reading," Wales told members of parliament. He said this wouldn't be a difficult change to implement.

He said the data retention bill is "not the sort of thing I'd expect from a western democracy. It is the kind of thing I would expect from the Iranians or the Chinese."

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Submitted by:kgb999 2012-09-07 07:01:17

The Guardian has a two-fer of depressing news regarding abusive detention practices in which America is deeply involved.


US forces will continue to hold prisoners in Afghanistan even after they transfer their main detention centre to Afghan authorities this week, a report from a rights group said, in a decision likely to anger Kabul officials who believed they had won control of all Afghan detainees.

Afghanistan has also created a system of indefinite detention without trial for some inmates transferred from the US system. Afghan lawyers have warned that this is unconstitutional and sets a dangerous precedent for the country's security forces.[...]

US forces are now apparently at odds with the Afghan government over what the agreement binds them to, the report said. They plan to keep at least two detention blocks in the Bagram jail, as well as continuing to take Afghan prisoners.

"They believe they have a continued authority to capture and detain Afghans on Afghan soil where they need to for security reasons," Reid said. Some 600 have been captured since the transfer was agreed, and the terms of their transfer are unclear, she added.

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Submitted by:kgb999 2012-09-07 06:53:01

Haven't gotten a chance to read the full HRW report yet.

Honestly, this has been rumbling for a while. Khalid al-Sharif has been raising the allegation that he had been waterboarded since he established a role in the NTC. Awkwardly for America ... he's now head of the Libyan National Guard.

Human Rights Watch (HRW) has accused the US government of covering up the extent of waterboarding at secret CIA prisons, alleging that Libyan opponents of Muammar Gaddafi were subjected to the torture before being handed over to the former dictator's security police.

[...]The report, Delivered into Enemy Hands: US-Led Abuse and Rendition of Opponents to Gaddafi's Libya, also says that the CIA, Britain's MI6 and other western intelligence services were responsible for "delivering Gaddafi his enemies on a silver platter" by sending the captured men to Tripoli for further abuse after the American interrogations.

The HRW report is based on documents seized at the Libyan intelligence headquarters after Gaddafi's fall, and interviews with 14 former detainees, mostly members of the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG), which attempted for 20 years to overthrow the former regime in Tripoli. The group joined last year's revolution and some of those tortured by the US now hold leadership positions in the new Libyan administration.

[...]Sharif told HRW a doctor was present who would tell the interrogators when to stop the abuse and when to continue.

Detained alongside Sharif was Mohammed al-Shoroeiya. He told HRW he was waterboarded numerous times.

"He said he felt like each time lasted about three minutes but said there was no way to really tell time," the HRW report states. "When told that the United States had admitted to doing this to a few people for between 20 and 40 seconds each time, he said he was sure his sessions were definitely longer than that.

"He said there were doctors present. He knows they were doctors because his leg was broken while he was there and he was treated by these same people. The doctors would monitor him as the cold water was poured on him, and when his body temperature got too low, they would order warm water be added to the cold. Once his temperature was okay, they would begin adding cold water again."

[...]The report contains documents, some of which it said are being made public for the first time, found abandoned in the offices of former Libyan intelligence chief, Moussa Koussa, after Gaddafi was overthrown.

"The documents include communications between Moussa Koussa's office and the CIA, and between Koussa's office and MI6," the report said. "They show a high level of cooperation between the United States, the United Kingdom and the government of former Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi on the transfer of Gaddafi's opponents into Libyan custody. The documents are significant because they shed light on the still opaque CIA renditions programme, identify former detainees by name, and provide corroborating evidence in several specific cases, most notably confirming the involvement of the US, the UK, and other governments.

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Submitted by:kgb999 2012-08-31 18:01:55

Secret prisons. Secret courts. Secret rulings.


Last month, a letter to Congress noted that “on at least one occasion” a secretive US court ruled that National Security Agency surveillance carried out under a 2008 act of Congress violated the Fourth Amendment’s restriction against unreasonable searches and seizures. But the actual ruling remains secret. Decisions handed down by the US’s Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC) are classified “because of the sensitive intelligence matters they concern,” the letter from the Office of the National Intelligence Director to Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) states.

The explanation wasn’t good enough for the Electronic Frontier Foundation, which filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request for details on the FISC ruling or rulings. Today, the EFF followed that up with a lawsuit against the Department of Justice in US District Court in Washington, D.C., saying its July 26 FOIA request has not been processed within the 20-day deadline.

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Submitted by:miguelitoh2o 2012-08-23 19:15:21

Gawker's come up with a bunch of info regarding Romney's investments via Bain.  There are a series of related articles at Gawker worth perusing.  most of the analysis hasn't yet been done, but it looks like the Republican nominee is skilled at tax avoidance at the very least.  As much as I'm not a fan of President Obama, I have to think that if the American people elect a president with this kind of financial portfolio, we are lost as a nation.


Today, we are publishing more than 950 pages of internal audits, financial statements, and private investor letters for 21 cryptically named entities in which Romney had invested—at minimum—more than $10 million as of 2011 (that number is based on the low end of ranges he has disclosed—the true number is almost certainly significantly higher). Almost all of them are affiliated with Bain Capital, the secretive private equity firm Romney co-founded in 1984 and ran until his departure in 1999 (or 2002, depending on whom you ask). Many of them are offshore funds based in the Cayman Islands. Together, they reveal the mind-numbing, maze-like, and deeply opaque complexity with which Romney has handled his wealth, the exotic tax-avoidance schemes available only to the preposterously wealthy that benefit him, the unlikely (for a right-wing religious Mormon) places that his money has ended up, and the deeply hypocritical distance between his own criticisms of Obama's fiscal approach and his money managers' embrace of those same policies. They also show that some of the investments that Romney has always described as part of his retirement package at Bain weren't made until years after he left the company.

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Submitted by:wendy davis 2012-08-04 12:11:12




MONTPELIER, Vt. – Working in a stout former bank building with windows closed and air conditioners humming, Orleans County sheriff's deputies didn't know what was happening in their parking lot until a neighbor called 911.

A man on a big farm tractor, angry about his recent arrest for resisting arrest and marijuana possession, was rolling across their vehicles -- five marked cruisers, one unmarked car and a transport van.

By the time they ran outside, the tractor was down the driveway and out onto the road.

With their vehicles crushed, "We had nothing to pursue him with," said Chief Deputy Philip Brooks.


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Submitted by:kgb999 2012-08-01 17:50:18

Honestly, this is rather less Kafkaesque than many of the stories that have been coming down the pike recently.


On Jan. 26, 2011, a pair of U.S. Marines put Alan Gourgue in handcuffs and a restraint belt and hauled him across the country to face trial as a deserter. Gourgue was distraught and completely confused; he had been honorably discharged in 2006 and finished his reserve obligation four months earlier.

Gourgue’s ordeal provides a glimpse into a rarely seen, slow-moving, stiflingly bureaucratic world of military desertions, where one administrative mistake can result in a catch-22 that Joseph Heller couldn’t have invented.

[...]the system didn’t work out so well for Gourgue, who was neither UA nor a deserter. Yet he languished in custody for more than a month before he was released with an apology for the mistake and a ticket home.

Gourgue thinks he deserves more, including an explanation and compensation for the job he lost due to what he believes was at best negligence, at worst a civil rights abuse, on the part of the Marine Corps.

As outlined in a federal lawsuit against the Department of the Navy (.pdf), Gourgue’s tale reads like a screenplay treatment for one of the “Worst Day Ever” slapstick comedies, the kind where everything that can go wrong does go wrong, spectacularly, and the protagonist is left crying out, “Really?” and “C’mon!” and “Throw a dog a bone!” The big difference: For Gourgue, it was the worst month ever and neither he, nor his seven-months-pregnant wife and two sons thought it was very funny.

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