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Feinstein: In Past 6 Years, ‘No Real Policy’ to Handle Sony-Style Attacks

Friday, December 19th, 2014 - by Bridget Johnson

The chairwoman of the Senate Intelligence Committee said the hacking attack against Sony is part of a longer-running plot — and the administration has had “no real policy” to face such attacks.

“This is part of a much bigger picture. It really began in 2008 with robberies by cyber of both the Royal Bank of Scotland and Citibank, to the tune of about $8 million and $10 million, respectively. It has gone on and graduated to the point where most companies have been attacked one way or another. In the last two years, we have JPMorgan Chase, we have Home Depot, we have eBay and we have Target,” Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) told CNN today.

“What’s different to me about this attack is the monumental size of it, and secondly, there is extortion involved with it. In other words, the North Koreans are saying, unless you do this, we will do that. And this is where it becomes extraordinarily dangerous.”

She added that “in the six years that have gone by, we have no real policy to handle this.”

“Now, right now, you can look at North Korea, taken off the terrorist list, you can see this attack is in a sense a terrorist attack. You could put them back on. You can levy financial sanctions against them,” Feinstein continued.

The State Department list of state sponsors of terrorism only includes four countries by this point — Cuba, Iran, Sudan and Syria — and the Obama administration is considering taking Cuba off the list. President George W. Bush took North Korea off the list in 2008.

“But the big problem is developing an international agreement with teeth to stop this kind of behavior because we’re going toward bloodshed, I believe, if we don’t solve it. We have tried to pass a cyber information-sharing bill,” the senator said. “…We’re getting into the arena of major attacks. Right now, it has to do a great deal with private industry. But the cost for private industry is now in the trillions of dollars. And it has to be stopped.”

President Obama said he wished Sony had consulted him before yanking the film from theaters, but Sony Entertainment CEO Michael Lynton told CNN he did consult with the White House after the threats.

“This is a complicated matter. And there is the question of liability. If something were to happen, who is liable for the loss of life?” Feinstein said.

“Now, this attack took place almost a month ago. So, we’re 3 1/2 weeks into it and still going back and forth as to what might be done or who should have done what. And this can’t continue to happen, in my view. This is a problem that’s going to be with us for a very long time. And so, we have to get certain structures in place and the ability to handle it.”

Whatever the administration decides to do, the senator stressed, “I would hope that we can convince the North Koreans that this carries a very heavy price.”

“Certainly, we have attacks from China. We have attacks from Russia. We have attacks from Iran and we have attacks from within our own country. So, it has become a very sad way of life. And at some point, we face a disastrous attack. And this is what we must prevent.”

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Hollywood Pulls More Movies in Dictator’s Wake

Thursday, December 18th, 2014 - by Susan L.M. Goldberg

What Kimmy doesn’t want you to see.

Cinema Blend reports:

We might as well all pack up and go home, because at the moment the bad-guys are winning. The repercussions of Sony’s hacking are now starting to be felt around the movie industry, as New Regency has announced that work on Steve Carell’s potential new film set in North Korea had now been stopped.

At the time of its cancellation, the project was being developed for Gore Verbinski to direct with Steve Carell was going to play the lead. Steve Conrad, who has previously written The Weather ManThe Pursuit Of Happyness and The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, had scribed what’s been described as a paranoid thriller. In fact, production had already been pencilled in for March. But the recent hacking of Sony and the consequent threats to any screening of The Interview has led New Regency to decide that there wasn’t any point in making the movie. According to Deadline, insiders from the studio explained to the website, “it just makes no sense to move forward.” This all apparently began internally, with the folks at Fox saying that they wouldn’t be distributing the film. Thus, the plug was pulled.

The plug might also impact a number of other Gore Verbinski films set to be released by the same studio, despite the fact that they have nothing to do whatsoever with North Korea.

Studios are now going to think twice about creating any movie that could lead to them being targeted. Now big, serious questions need to be asked. Why was Sony able to be hacked so easily? Where does cinema go from here? At the moment it feels like the movie industry is about to cave in on itself. Who would have thought that it would be all be because of a Seth Rogen movie?

In related news, the Kim Jong-un death scene (shown above) has been leaked:

Defamer first previewed the clip on Monday, but removed it shortly thereafter. They also explored the leaked emails between Rogen and Sony execs, in which the co-director and actor became exasperated with the studio’s repeated demands for a less graphic death scene.

And so this is the final product. The death scene that was apparently seen by the State Department and has effectively led to the movie being shelved altogether for fear of terrorism.

If Hollywood had any sense of history, they’d be asking WWCCD: What Would Charlie Chaplin Do? For those of you too young to get the joke, try this question: What would Hitler have done if he had the Internet? At least one Texas theater chain is fighting back against one of the most blatant violations of freedom of speech this side of the Pacific.

*Updated*: Another upload of video via Daily Caller.

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North Korea Threatens to Attack NYC Movie Premiere?

Tuesday, December 16th, 2014 - by Susan L.M. Goldberg

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Apparently Kim Jong-un isn’t into Seth Rogen’s brand of humor.

While the North Korean dictator does not claim responsibility, he nonetheless praised a terrorist threat issued in advance of The Interview‘s Thursday night premiere in New York City:

Warning

We will clearly show it to you at the very time and places “The Interview” be shown, including the premiere, how bitter fate those who seek fun in terror should be doomed to.

Soon all the world will see what an awful movie Sony Pictures Entertainment has made.

The world will be full of fear.

Remember the 11th of September 2001.

We recommend you to keep yourself distant from the places at that time.

(If your house is nearby, you’d better leave.)

Whatever comes in the coming days is called by the greed of Sony Pictures Entertainment.

All the world will denounce the SONY.

It has been widely suspected that North Korea is involved in the recent hacker attack on Sony performed by the “Guardians of Peace.” This email seems to confirm that suspicion:

The threat was included alongside the release of another set of emails, this time said to be those of Sony Entertainment CEO Michael Lynton. Because the hackers post this information anonymously and are contacting reporters through reusable email addresses, it is possible that a separate party is behind this threat. However, that seems unlikely. The communications have been consistent, and it should be clear soon whether the leaked emails are genuine, confirming the authenticity of this note.

While Seth Rogen reportedly doesn’t regret making the film about two American TV boobs sent on a secret mission to assassinate the North Korean dictator, he and his co-star James Franco have cancelled all upcoming press appearances to promote the film. Meanwhile, the New York City police are busy ramping up for the now scaled-back screening.

The Interview is due out in theaters across the country on Christmas day.

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What’s Moving Millennials Into the Pro-Life Camp?

Tuesday, December 16th, 2014 - by Susan L.M. Goldberg

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Millennials areincreasingly more pro-life and supportive of restrictions on abortion” than their Boomer and Gen-X parents. 

Blame science.

“There’s a window into the womb with ultrasound. Just having the look into the womb you can see, even in the first trimester, the early development of the child — you can see the humanity of the child,” Rose said. “Now that we have that imagery and it’s more prevalent, people are having that personal encounter with the child, so it’s easier to recognize their human rights.”

…”Years ago, it was the case that advocates for abortion would talk about the ‘thing’ growing in a woman’s womb as a lifeless blob of tissue,” Monahan explained. “And I think our advances in sonography and ultrasounds, and even our understanding of fetal development has dispelled those myths.”

She continued: “We know that, from the moment of conception, a baby has all of its DNA that it needs for the rest of its life. It has everything inherent that it will need for later on. Really, the only difference [between the preborn and adults] is in size and development.”

When most millennials were in the womb, ultrasound technology was still relatively new to pregnancy. Mothers of Gen-X/millennial crossovers most likely only had an ultrasound if there were suspected complications with the pregnancy. Today, however, those crossovers and their fellow millennials will have an ultrasound as early as 8 weeks to confirm pregnancy, including fetal heartbeat. One-dimensional sonograms will continue throughout the pregnancy. Parents will also have the option to have a 3-D or 4-D ultrasound done so that they may see their smiling baby in the womb.

Abortion is at an all-time low in the United States. And while abortion advocates are quick to note that the majority of women who are required to view sonograms before their abortions will choose to proceed with the abortion, the reality is that the majority of abortions in America are being performed before an 8 week ultrasound can be done. The women who abort after the ultrasound are in the minority that is growing smaller by the year.

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Christmas Tradition Warms Children to Big Brother-Style Government

Monday, December 15th, 2014 - by Susan L.M. Goldberg

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Think the Elf on the Shelf is a cute little holiday tradition to keep your young one on their toes? Think again.

Laura Pinto, a digital technology professor at the University of Ontario Institute of Technology recently published a paper concluding that Santa’s little spy  “sets up children for dangerous, uncritical acceptance of power structures.”

When children enter the play world of The Elf on the Shelf, they accept a series of practices and rules associated with the larger story. This, of course, is not unique to The Elf on the Shelf. Many children’s games, including board games and video games, require children to participate while following a prescribed set of rules. The difference, however, is that in other games, the child role-plays a character, or the child imagines herself within a play-world of the game, but the role play does not enter the child’s real world as part of the game. As well, in most games, the time of play is delineated (while the game goes on), and the play to which the rules apply typically does not overlap with the child’s real world.

“You’re teaching (kids) a bigger lesson, which is that it’s OK for other people to spy on you and you’re not entitled to privacy,” she tells the Toronto Star.

She calls the elf “an external form of non-familial surveillance,” and says it’s potentially conditioning children to accept the state acting that way, too.

“If you grow up thinking it’s cool for the elves to watch me and report back to Santa, well, then it’s cool for the NSA to watch me and report back to the government,” according to Pinto.

According to the report, some parent bloggers agree with Pinto’s conclusions. However, others think she’s gone overboard with a fun holiday tradition. Pinto also fails to criticize the Elf’s Jewish counterpart “Mensch on a Bench” for exhibiting the same surveillance state tendencies since the Mensch spends his nights watching the menorah, not the kiddies.

Is this another case of academia gone too far, or is there something to this notion of Big Brother Elf?

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Facebook’s New Scheme to Manipulate Your Emotions for Profit

Thursday, December 11th, 2014 - by Dave Swindle

I loudly gave up Facebook last month, and decided to shift my social networking efforts to tweeting, shooting more Instagram videos, and exploring the potential of other emerging social networks: “7 Reasons Why Thanksgiving Will Be My Last Day on Facebook.”

Wired reported this week how Facebook is choosing to spend its money to develop robot babysitters for people supposedly too irresponsible to handle their social networking: “Facebook Envisions AI That Keeps You From Uploading Embarrassing Pics.”

Let’s say you’re out drinking with your buddies, things get out of hand, you pull out your smartphone, you take a selfie in the middle of all this drunken revelry, then you take 30 or 40 more, and, without hesitation, you start uploading them to Facebook.

It’s a common thing to do. But Yann LeCun aims to stop such unbridled behavior—or at least warn people when they’re about to do something they might regret. He wants to build a kind of Facebook digital assistant that will, say, recognize when you’re uploading an embarrassingly candid photo of your late-night antics. In a virtual way, he explains, this assistant would tap you on the shoulder and say: “Uh, this is being posted publicly. Are you sure you want your boss and your mother to see this?”

The idea is more than just an idle suggestion. LeCun is the New York University researcher and machine-learning guru who now oversees the Facebook Artificial Intelligence Research lab, a team of AI researchers inside the internet giant that spans offices in both California and New York, and this rapidly expanding operation is now laying the basic groundwork for his digital assistant.

Here’s the kicker, emphasis added:

The team’s deep learning algorithms now examine your overall Facebook behavior in an effort to identify the right content for your news feed—content you’re likely to click on—and they’ll soon analyze the text you type into status posts, automatically suggesting relevant hashtags. But LeCun and his team are also looking towards AI systems that can understand Facebook data in more complex ways—and guide you in directions you may not go on your own.

From Business Insider today, a look inside the emotionally manipulative approach driving the company: “Facebook: We Don’t Call Them ‘Users’ Any More, We Call Them ‘People’”:

The company also has an “empathy team” which is charged with helping its engineers and designers understand what it’s actually like to be a user, or a business paying for advertising.

Tech Crunch reveals the background game Facebook has been playing, quietly expanding beyond social networking, picking up tech companies left and right to figure out what they can plug into their user base to maximize profits (“Facebook Combines Atlas, Audience Network, And LiveRail Into An AdTech Voltron“):

So Facebook built what’s called Custom Audiences, which lets businesses upload their purchase data and identifying information about their customers to Facebook in a hashed, privacy-protected way. Facebook can both use this to let businesses target ads to their existing customers, but also to reference them against who saw ads to prove that impressions on web or mobile, even without clicks, lead to purchases.

Facebook also collects offline purchase data tied to people’s grocery loyalty cards and other identifiers through partners like Datalogix. The point of all this measurement is that when advertisers can see they’re getting a return on investment, they spend more.

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Video Of Navy Laser Weapon System (LaWS) Demo

Wednesday, December 10th, 2014 - by Stephen Kruiser

Via NPR

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Because Why Not? NASA Building a Biodegradable Drone

Wednesday, December 10th, 2014 - by Stephen Kruiser

My Christmas list is complete.

A bio-drone that dissolves after use leaving no trace it ever existed may sound like the stuff of a James Bond film, but NASA and a team of researchers are actually building one.

Made from a substance that combines mushroom fibers and cloned paper wasp spit, the drone might resemble a propeller-powered egg carton, but its designers say it has the ability to fly into environmentally sensitive areas and leave almost no trace.

Lynn Rothschild, the NASA developer guiding students from Stanford-Brown-Spelman working on the project, says the drone could be made to disappear simply by ditching it into a stream or puddle.

Who among us hasn’t at one time asked, “What am I going to do with all of this spit from my paper wasp clones?”

I am at once fascinated and horrified by the future of drone technology. The same drone that can deliver a pizza can also take a peek from afar into your shower window. Once I realized the latter, everything in The Jetsons started to give me nightmares.

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Orion Lifts Off

Friday, December 5th, 2014 - by Bryan Preston

America is back in the manned space flight business, or at least, we’re getting closer. The Orion rocket launched from the Kennedy Space Center this morning.

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. — An unmanned NASA exploration capsule blasted off on its first ride to space Friday.

Onlookers cheered as a 24-story Delta IV Heavy rocket rumbled from slowly from its Cape Canaveral Air Force Station pad with NASA’s first Orion capsule at 7:05 a.m.

The launch marked the start of a planned four-and-a-half hour test flight intended to take Orion on two laps around the planet, flying 3,600 miles up to set up a high-speed re-entry through the atmosphere and splashdown in the Pacific Ocean.

For some perspective, the space shuttle and the Hubble Space Telescope orbit at about 350 miles above the earth’s surface. Orion went a whole lot higher than that. It’s a powerful beast. Orion’s mission today marks the first flight of a vehicle designed to carry humans, to go beyond low earth orbit since the Apollo moon missions. The moon is about 250,000 miles from earth. Orion will eventually traverse millions of miles.

NASA described the launch as “perfect.” Orion is the next generation of America’s space flight platforms. It will eventually take humans out to an asteroid, and to Mars. Those missions remain a decade or more away, but Orion’s first manned missions are set for around 2018.

NASA rocketry and research has transformed technology since the agency’s beginnings. A full list of all of the innovations that have their roots in NASA would take days to compile. Fortunately, NASA has been keeping track at its spinoff tech site.

What will we learn by putting humans on an asteroid and on Mars? We don’t know yet, and that’s the point of going.

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Report From Lima: Obama’s Quest for Power, At America’s Expense

Wednesday, December 3rd, 2014 - by Cathie Adams
Greenpeace International is seeking help from President Obama during the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change meeting in Lima, Peru that concludes on December 12. Greenpeace wants him to “lead the international community to a strong, legally binding climate agreement.” After all, he made the commitment last November 12, in Beijing, China to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 28% below 2005 levels by 2025, ”regardless of approval by the Republican Congress.”
The Greenpeace Energy Revolution states that America’s “fair share” is to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 39% from 2005 levels by 2025 — even more devastating that Obama’s unilateral 28%.
NONE of these actions will prevent the climate from changing, which is mostly affected by sun activity, ocean currents and winds that no one can control. But “science” is not at the core of UNFCCC negotiations; politics is and has been since I began attending its meetings in 1997 in Kyoto, Japan.
The UN’s “science” originates with the International Panel on Climate Change which does no scientific research. It gleans from researchers, then presents its own conclusions that call for a total phase out of fossil fuel use by 2050, as well as a massive wealth transfer from rich to poor countries.
As the IPCC wars against the use of fossil fuels at the global level, local efforts in the U.S. are led by community organizer Jay Carmona of U.S. Community Divestment. He calls fossil fuel divestment, “[A] way to wield power and influence on behalf of ordinary people without the resources of a multi-billion dollar industry.” Like Saul Alinsky’s disciples Obama and Clinton, Carmona calls for building “on the success of the People’s Climate March by pushing divestment as a powerful and accessible tool to defend our climate.”
Carmona, et al, don’t mention the fact that wind and solar are NOT dependable sources of energy. The technology for “renewable” sources of energy is simply not developed enough to replace our clean and affordable sources of coal, gas and nuclear.
The 20th Conference of the Parties meeting in Peru will produce a draft for the 21st meeting set for this time next year in Paris, France for a legally binding treaty. We’ll see over the next two weeks how many jobs and how much of the American standard of living Obama unilaterally puts on the chopping block. Thankfully, the U.S. Constitution still requires 2/3s Senate approval for any treaty, regardless Obama’s shenanigans.

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Exclusive: New, Legally Binding Treaty Emerges on First Day of UN’s Lima Climate Conference

Tuesday, December 2nd, 2014 - by Cathie Adams

At a United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change meeting in Lima, Peru, delegates from 196 parties are drafting a new legally binding treaty to replace the 1997 Kyoto Protocol that is to be completed next year in Paris, France. At the outset of negotiations, environmentalists are calling for the new treaty to mandate a cap and tax on greenhouse gas emissions to go into effect by 2020. And to eliminate the use of fossil fuels altogether by 2050.

President Obama’s recent climate announcement with China, that the U.S. would reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 28% below 2005 levels by 2025, is a boost to environmentalists at the Peru meeting that extends from December 1-12.

Stated by Martin Kaiser of Greenpeace, “In Lima, the countries must agree on the long-term goal of phasing out fossil fuel emissions to zero by mid-century while moving towards 100% renewable energy for all in a fair transition period. Subsidies for fossil fuel industries must be shifted towards renewable energy deployment and climate adaptation for vulnerable countries. In countries like the US, China, and the EU, the phase-out of coal must be accelerated.”

Enrique Maurtua Konstantinidis, international policy adviser for Climate Action Network Latin America, added, “We must leave fossil fuels in the ground and not repeat the steps of the developed countries that brought us to this point.”

The UNFCCC thesis is that rich nations are responsible for climate change because they burn fossil fuels to produce energy, even though there is no conclusive science to substantiate the claims. Furthermore, the poor nations want the rich nations to fork over a minimum of $100 million annually for the UN’s Green Climate Fund that is to afford renewable energy for the poor.

On the first day of the conference, Climate Action Network, a conglomerate of 900 radical green groups from about 100 nations, mocked Australia, Belgium, Ireland and Austria because they have yet to donate to a new Green Climate Fund. With a new legally binding treaty, they hope to make nations pay penalties for using fossil fuels. The climate will continue to change, even if nations are energy poor.

Remember it was President Bill Clinton’s VP Al Gore who flew to Kyoto, Japan, in 1997 to revive talks for the same scheme to cap and tax greenhouse gas emissions. That treaty was never ratified by the U.S. Senate because it would have killed American jobs and devastated our economy. Even so, Americans should expect Obama to sign the new legally binding treaty before he leaves office, which should make American voters cautious about electing another President Clinton in 2016.

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Report: E-Cigs Can Give You Malware

Friday, November 21st, 2014 - by Bryan Preston

Specifically, Chinese-made e-cigarettes. If you plug them into your computer’s USB port to charge them up, you may be loading malware on your machine.

Many e-cigarettes can be charged over USB, either with a special cable, or by plugging the cigarette itself directly into a USB port. That might be a USB port plugged into a wall socket or the port on a computer – but, if so, that means that a cheap e-cigarette from an untrustworthy supplier gains physical access to a device.

A report on social news site Reddit suggests that at least one “vaper” has suffered the downside of trusting their cigarette manufacturer. “One particular executive had a malware infection on his computer from which the source could not be determined,” the user writes. “After all traditional means of infection were covered, IT started looking into other possibilities.

“The made in China e-cigarette had malware hardcoded into the charger, and when plugged into a computer’s USB port the malware phoned home and infected the system.”

Rik Ferguson, a security consultant for Trend Micro, says the story is entirely plausible. “Production line malware has been around for a few years, infecting photo frames, MP3 players and more,” he says. In 2008, for instance, a photo frame produced by Samsung shipped with malware on the product’s install disc.

Lovely.

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A Challenge to Edward Snowden’s Fraudulent ‘Whistleblower’ Status

Wednesday, November 19th, 2014 - by James Simpson

Activists are cheering for NSA leaker Edward Snowden, from Senator Rand Paul and WND publisher Joseph Farah on the right, to Katrina vanden Heuvel of The Nation magazine on the left. Yet a close analysis of his disclosures and the actions he took to protect himself point to a premeditated act of willful treason, not that of a whistleblower. This was the conclusion drawn at a National Press Club conference held on Monday held by Cliff Kincaid of America’s Survival.

Snowden’s disclosures, argues Kincaid, have put America and its allies in danger of further Russian aggression, Islamic terrorism, and Chinese cyber-warfare. He called for immediate hearings in Congress, arguing that Snowden’s disclosures:

  • Provided highly classified intelligence information to Russia and China
  • Have helped ISIS evade NSA surveillance
  • Were designed to undermine the U.S.-Israeli intelligence-sharing relationship
  • Made Israel more vulnerable to terrorist attacks
  • Undermined the U.S. ability to monitor any nuclear deal Obama may make with Iran

Kincaid, a veteran media analyst and journalist, also argued for Congressional scrutiny of a suspected swap of foreign agents or spies, with convicted Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout going back to Russia, in exchange for Snowden returning to the U.S. to face minor charges and arranging a plea deal to stay out of prison. Bout, who made a weapons deal with undercover DEA agents posing as communist terrorists, is serving a 25-year sentence in a U.S. federal prison. Attorney General Eric Holder has assured Snowden he won’t get the death penalty for violating the Espionage Act.

Kincaid, who just published the book, Back From the Dead: The Return of the Evil Empire, about a resurgent Russia, announced a forthcoming book entitled Blood on His Hands: The True Story of Edward Snowden. He said it is designed to counteract a slew of pro-Snowden books and movies being planned by the likes of Oliver Stone and others.

Lt. Gen. Ion Mihai Pacepa, the highest-ranking official ever to have defected from the former Soviet bloc, provided a statement for the news conference, comparing Snowden to NSA defectors Bernon Mitchell, William Martin and Victor Norris Hamilton.

Pacepa said:

All three had unsuccessfully asked to leave Russia soon after their defection. After the Soviet Union collapsed, Hamilton surfaced in a Russian mental hospital. He had been missing for more than 20 years, but no one in the whole world noticed his disappearance. Let’s hope that Snowden, who also damaged the security of our country, will have the same fate.

Kincaid said the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the rise of ISIS, and increased cyber-attacks from China can all be traced back to Snowden’s disclosures. Meanwhile, media coverage in the U.S. has been focused on the NSA’s alleged interest in what ordinary Americans are saying and doing on the Internet.

Although the NSA programs are a subject of dispute in the courts, a bipartisan panel reviewed the Snowden revelations earlier this year and found that the NSA programs did not violate the Constitution. Furthermore, NSA advocates argue that its surveillance efforts were effective in thwarting terrorism. Kincaid noted that it was the NSA which carried out the successful Venona project, identifying Soviet agents in the U.S. Government during World War II. We need such an agency, he argued, at a time when infiltration of Western governments, including our own, is an obvious concern.

Snowden himself admitted that he took his job specifically to gain access to the secrets of the NSA spying program, which he then planned to share with the world. As quoted in the South China Morning Post shortly after he fled to China, he said, “My position with Booz Allen Hamilton granted me access to lists of machines all over the world the NSA hacked… That is why I accepted that position about three months ago.”

NSA surveillance of foreign leaders also raised eyebrows, but as Bernard Kouchner, the former French foreign minister, said at the time: “Let’s be honest, we eavesdrop, too. Everyone is listening to everyone else. But we don’t have the same means as the United States, which makes us jealous.”

Leaders and/or governments frequently mentioned as NSA targets by Snowden’s main media mouthpiece, Glenn Greenwald, are Brazil’s President Dilma Rousseff and German Chancellor Angela Merkel. There may be good reasons to listen in on their conversations. Rousseff is a former communist guerrilla with direct ties to Cuba and Fidel Castro. Her government has sought closer relations with Iran and communist China and is a member of the BRICS alliance that includes Russia. Meanwhile, Iranian-backed Hezbollah terrorists have established bases in the tri-border region of Brazil, Paraguay and Argentina.

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Uber Has a Very Serious Privacy Problem (Updated)

Wednesday, November 19th, 2014 - by Bryan Preston

Let’s get disclosure out of the way: I like Uber’s entrepreneurial spirit and creativity, but I’ve never actually used the company’s services. I don’t like Uber’s vocal support for Obamacare, at all. Uber CEO Travis Kalanick says “The democratization of those types of (healthcare) benefits allow people to have more flexible ways to make a living. They don’t have to be working for The Man.” Right, they just have to obey The Government Man or face the loving embrace of the IRS, the Tax Man. That’s not freedom.

Uber drivers should be aware that their company is on the record supporting higher taxes on them as individuals that the company isn’t willing to pay. Never mind all the privacy implications of centralizing all Americans’ healthcare records in the hands of a government that has already proven itself an aggressive antagonist and oppressor of dissent. Hello, IRS and NSA scandals…

That out of the way, Uber is a tech darling. But that may change, swiftly and brutally, after a couple of its executives have been caught using its “God View” to track a BuzzFeed reporter — and one threatened to use Uber-based information to destroy a critical reporter’s life.

Uber said Tuesday that it is investigating its top New York executive for tracking a BuzzFeed News reporter without her permission in violation of what the transit giant says has long been its privacy policy. The company also published its privacy policy for the first time on Tuesday, though it said the policy had always been in effect.

Uber took both actions in the wake of a BuzzFeed News story that revealed that the reporter’s ride had been tracked without her permission and that another Uber executive had suggested the company might smear journalists who wrote critically of Uber. The executive who suggested digging into the private lives of journalists, Emil Michael, said his comments were “wrong” and that he regrets them.

That’s a political take. Michael regrets that his comments, made at an off-the-record soiree, ended up on the record. Those comments suggest that Michael has a fully-formed plan to hush up journalists who ever criticize the $30 billion company.

Michael, who Kalanick described as “one of the top deal guys in the Valley” when he joined the company, is a charismatic and well-regarded figure who came to Uber from Klout. He also sits on a board that advises the Department of Defense.

Over dinner, he outlined the notion of spending “a million dollars” to hire four top opposition researchers and four journalists. That team could, he said, help Uber fight back against the press — they’d look into “your personal lives, your families,” and give the media a taste of its own medicine.

Michael was particularly focused on one journalist, Sarah Lacy, the editor of the Silicon Valley website PandoDaily, a sometimes combative voice inside the industry. Lacy recently accused Uber of “sexism and misogyny.” She wrote that she was deleting her Uber app after BuzzFeed News reported that Uber appeared to be working with a French escort service. “I don’t know how many more signals we need that the company simply doesn’t respect us or prioritize our safety,” she wrote.

I have nothing to say about Lacy’s reporting, as I haven’t followed it. In general, accusations of sexism and misogyny have come to feel like cries of “Wolf!” lately. In this case, though, Lacy may have a point.

Whether she has a point or not, Lacy has a right to criticize Uber without the company then using a slice of its billions to destroy her personally. The rideshare company that claims that it’s against The Man is behaving like The Man, and a very sinister Man at that.

Update: In the interests of disclosure…

BuzzFeed itself — a financial play as much as Uber is — has key investors who are investors in Uber’s main competitor, Lyft. Those investors are, too, investors inPandoDaily. Does this have any bearing at all on the cost of tea in China? I don’t know. But I know that little in this world is what it seems.

The author of that is Michael Wolff. He invited BuzzFeed’s Ben Smith to the party at which Uber’s Michael outlined his plot to go after journalists.

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HuffPo Already Hyperventilating About Post-Election Shift In Energy Policy

Tuesday, November 18th, 2014 - by Stephen Kruiser

“ZOMG-IT’S PETROLEUMMMMMM!”

There is enough hot air in this post to finally almost make humans the cause of climate change. Most of it could serve as fodder for some psychology grad work on “projection”. Let’s just grab a couple nuggets to pick apart.

Pop the Champagne corks in Washington! It’s party time for Big Energy.

Hey-it only took two sentences to find something ridiculous! “Big Oil” is now “Big Energy” and the seemingly minor change is notable. A central component to the push for federal subsidization of alternative energy sources is the notion that it’s the result of the imminent danger of polar bears floating through Manhattan and not influence peddling by lobbyists. It’s all part of the Democrat fairy tale that all of the money ever spent in politics comes from the checkbooks of Charles and David Koch. There is plenty of money in being a shill for Big Green (see: Al Gore’s bank account). The Dem narrative is reinforced by pretending that all energy lobby money is oil money.

None of their initiatives, however, will have as catastrophic an impact as their coming drive to ensure that fossil fuels will dominate the nation’s energy landscape into the distant future, long after climate change has wrecked the planet and ruined the lives of millions of Americans.

Get this poor man a tissue and some smelling salts. It’s as if he’s trying to turn hyperbole into an alternative energy source. Ratchet up the fear-mongering and hope no one notices that the computer models aren’t really looking that solid and the United States is now becoming energy independent (an idea all Democrats paid lip service to when they thought it only meant alternative fuels would make it happen).

Most amusing in this meltdown is the assertion that non-AGW hysterics have a “messianic belief” in the benefits of fossil fuels. The fastest growing religion on the planet is the Church of Anthropogenic Global Warming, which has resurrected the selling of indulgences from Middle Ages Catholicism and repacked it as carbon offsets. It even has its own elaborate climate-themed eschatology (WRECKED PLANET!).

All of this caterwauling has almost nothing to do with a genuine fear of the demise of the planet. It’s designed merely to obfuscate the almost purely political agenda of the Big Green movement. The panic needs to be at a fever pitch to keep the EPA running amok and taxpayer dollars flowing to fund technologies that can’t survive market testing at the moment, or maybe ever.

There are a lot of American cities buried in snow today. They’re looking for petroleum based heating solutions, not solar or wind. That petroleum is the better present day option isn’t a “messianic belief,” it’s reality.

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Touchdown! Europeans Successfully Land a Space Probe on a Comet

Wednesday, November 12th, 2014 - by Bryan Preston

First the first time ever, humans have an outpost on a comet.

The European Space Agency’s 10-year Rosetta mission successfully landed its Philae probe on the comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko.

Fifty seconds after landing, Philae took a scheduled image and sent it back to earth. The comet is so far away that the image, traveling through space at the speed of light, took about 28 minutes to arrive.

Light only takes 9 minutes to travel from the Sun to earth.

This is the first image ever taken from the Philae lander. It is looking up at the Rosetta spacecraft, trailing the comet.

philae-image

Shortly after landing on the comet, Philae tweeted.

Immediately after the image was released Philae tweeted ‘It’s me…landing on a comet and feeling good!’.
The separation of Philae from Rosetta was confirmed at 9.03am GMT today, and just after 11am GMT mission control in Darmstadt, Germany received a signal confirming the lander was working.

Throughout the day, the lander has been transmitting data and images back to Earth. ‘Everything looks really, really good,’ said Philae lander manager Stephan Ulamec.

However, the success of the mission hung in the balance because Philae has a faulty thruster, which means it may have had to rely solely on harpoons to attach itself to the surface.

Whether or not it was able to make the thruster work in time has yet to be revealed by Esa.

Landing a spacecraft on a comet will help scientists fill in gaps in our knowledge of how the solar system formed. Comets are thought to be rubble left over from the stellar and planetary formation process.

As engineering feats go, Philae’s successful landing on a comet, bodies that are notoriously unstable as they tumble through space as incredible speed, has to rank very high in all of human history. It amounts to not only firing a bullet at a bullet from millions of miles away, but successfully landing a bullet on a bullet, as the target bullet constantly tumbles.

The target comet is mindblowingly far from earth.

rosetta-distance

The mission to Rosetta took ten years from launch to touchdown, and many years of proposal and planning prior to that.

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Internet Reclassification: President Obama Tosses Another Grenade After Second Election Shellacking

Monday, November 10th, 2014 - by Seton Motley

President Barack Obama this morning released a statement calling for his administration’s Federal Communications Commission (FCC) – allegedly an independent agency – to execute a unilateral, complete rewrite of existing law.

He wants reclassification of how the Internet is regulated — so as to then impose network neutrality.  Twice before the FCC has tried to impose net neutrality — twice it was unanimously rejected as overreaching by courts.

The law — the 1996 Telecommunications Act — classifies the Internet as lightly-regulated Title I, and does not authorize the FCC to impose net neutrality.

The president wants his FCC — all by itself — to shove it under uber-heavily-regulated Title II, which applies 1934 Telecom Act land line phone law and regulations to the future-forward World Wide Web.

This is the second end-run around Congress the president has threatened in the six days since he and his Democrat Party were thoroughly rejected in the midterm elections.  He also said he plans to go ahead with unilateral illegal alien amnesty.

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New York Dems Threaten Their Own: ‘We’re Watching You’

Sunday, November 2nd, 2014 - by Susan L.M. Goldberg

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The New York Post reports on a disturbing mailing received by registered Democrats in New York state:

The New York State Democratic Committee is bullying people into voting next week with intimidating letters warning that it can easily find out which slackers fail to cast a ballot next Tuesday.

“Who you vote for is your secret. But whether or not you vote is public record,” the letter says.

“We will be reviewing voting records . . . to determine whether you joined your neighbors who voted in 2014.”

It ends with a line better suited to a mob movie than a major political party: “If you do not vote this year, we will be interested to hear why not.”

Apparently, the tracking has already begun:

“I’m outraged. Whether I vote or not is none of your business!” said a Manhattan voter, who was so incensed that she complained to a local Democratic leader.

“The letter is ludicrous and menacing,” said the voter, who requested anonymity.

The woman also received a report card of her voting record, pointing out that she had failed to vote in two of the last four elections.

Overall, the notices were sent out to 1 million registered Democrats who had failed to vote in previous midterm elections, according to the group.

The Democratic Committee spokesperson used his defense of the bullying tactic as an opportunity to disparage Republicans, as if they somehow had anything to do with this:

This flier is part of the nationwide Democratic response to traditional Republican voter-suppression efforts, because Democrats believe our democracy works better when more people vote, not less,” said Peter Kauffmann, a committee spokesman.

The difference between Democrats and Republicans is they don’t want people to vote and we want everyone to vote.

Everyone …as long as they’re a “registered Democrat.” Apparently Lena Dunham and the New York Dems have something in common. To quote Ed Driscoll in reference to the latest Dunham sex scandal, “as the late Sen. Pat Moynihan once told an interviewer, ‘Hannah Arendt had it right. She said one of the great advantages of the totalitarian elites of the twenties and thirties was to turn any statement of fact into a question of motive.’” Glad to see Andrew Cuomo, Inc. is in good company.

According to the Post, voter-shaming is a common tactic on the Left and was employed by the Obama campaign in 2012. It is a strategy grounded in Ivy League research. National Review reports that similar letters are being mailed out in Alaska, North Carolina, Rhode Island, Colorado, and Iowa.

 

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Ivy League Students to Earn College Credit for Wasting Time. Seriously.

Friday, October 31st, 2014 - by Susan L.M. Goldberg

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Note: This class did not make it into the sales pitch video.

Apparently technology has created a “new morality” and it’s up to University of Pennsylvania creative writing students to shame the hell out of it next spring:

Next semester at the University of Pennsylvania, students will walk into a classroom, pull out their laptops, their smartphones, their tablets, and sit there, for three hours, doing what they no doubt do pretty often: Waste time on the internet.

The Ivy League school’s newest creative writing class is trying to remove the stigma from an activity that millions of people do on a daily basis, in an attempt to explore how our minds might work when we’re totally aimlessly clicking through reddit or Facebook or Buzzfeed or watching porn or doing whatever the hell people do in their free time.

I’m very tired of reading articles in the New York Times every week that make us feel bad about spending so much time on the internet, about dividing our attention so many times,” Kenneth Goldsmith, a world-renowned poet and the course’s professor, told me. “I think it’s complete bullshit that the internet is making us dumber. I think the internet is making us smarter. There’s this new morality built around guilt and shame in the digital age.”

Parents, before sending your children to college please watch PCU. It’s a cute little flick from the mid-90′s in which a group of misfits essentially throw a massive party to overcome PC culture. It also contains a lot of great commentary on the waste of time that college has become, especially for liberal arts majors. For instance, one guy spends the entire movie stuck in front of a television doing research for his senior thesis. The “Caine-Hackman Theory” argues that, at any time during the day or night, you can find a movie with either Michael Caine or Gene Hackman running on the tube. I’m convinced he now has more academic validity than 21st century Ivy Leaguers. That’s right, this ain’t state school material. G-chat, Facebook, and Reddit are now the stuff of the future “dreamers of dreams”.

So, his students will explore what, exactly, wasting time even means. Is it a waste of time to tap out some forum posts or internet comments? Is it a waste of time to gchat with your friends? Is it a waste of time to click through YouTube videos? Can we consciously or even unconsciously channel the things we do on the internet to make a work of art or the next great American novel or an autobiography?

His students will be tasked with trying. For much of the class, they’ll be wasting time online, sure, but at some point, they’re going to have to take the raw material of all that time wasting—browser histories, text messages, screenshots, who knows what else—and turn it into a “compelling and emotional work of literature.”

You’ve been warned. The next time you’re browsing for a good read and pick up something by an author with an Ivy League education, you may just wind up reading snippets of a Reddit feed. Suddenly Lena Dunham having drugged out sex with a college Republican and putting pebbles in her year 1 year-old sister’s vagina is high art, indeed.

 

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Tim Cook’s Silliest Announcement: Apple CEO ‘Proud’ of God-Given Gift of Gay-ness

Thursday, October 30th, 2014 - by Scott Ott

Apple CEO Tim Cook coming out as gay today packs all the surprise of most recent Apple product announcements. By the time Tim takes the stage, everything’s already been leaked.

And yet we know that for many people, Tim’s announcement carries cultural significance. They see it as bold, ennobling, inspiring, and perhaps long overdue.

I see it as just plain silly — absurd, lacking in common sense, ignorant, pitiable, and perhaps disingenuous.

“So let me be clear: I’m proud to be gay, and I consider being gay among the greatest gifts God has given me.” — Tim Cook, Bloomberg Businessweek

First of all, Tim, “Let me be clear” is Obamese for “I’m about to lie.”

And in fact, in this context, you’re saying that you haven’t “publicly acknowledged” your “sexuality,” but you sure are proud of it. Is that like how you’re so proud of the new iPad Air 2, that you’ve just decided to keep it a secret? [By the way, when did publicly acknowledging one's sexuality become a rite of passage? Imagine if the late Steve Jobs had written an op-ed in a business publication to proclaim, "I just want everybody to know that I love women. And I'm proud of it. Thank you, Jesus, for this awesome desire."]

As Tim Cook goes on, it becomes more absurd on several levels, if you accept conventional wisdom about what it means to be gay.

How could someone be “proud” of their natural condition? Pride bespeaks achievement. But if, as GaGa say, you’re “born that way,” then what sparks pride?

Slavishly obeying your genetic predisposition is merely animal instinct, not accomplishment. Why would you talk about homosexuality as if it were a choice? (Hmmm?)

Now, if you chose to be gay, in the face of a society that rejects homosexual behavior, perhaps then you’d have something to brag about. Although it would seem silly to buck your heterosexual nature, just to tick off your neighbors.

Next, Tim says being gay is one of the “greatest gifts” from God. Setting aside any biblical interpretation of that remark, let’s just take it as Tim leaves it.

So, Tim, I guess you weren’t really born that way, God just threw in your desire for male-on-male sex as a bonus. Forgive me, I know it’s much deeper than that.

Tim Cook, Apple CEOBeing gay has given me a deeper understanding of what it means to be in the minority and provided a window into the challenges that people in other minority groups deal with every day. It’s made me more empathetic, which has led to a richer life. It’s been tough and uncomfortable at times, but it has given me the confidence to be myself, to follow my own path, and to rise above adversity and bigotry. It’s also given me the skin of a rhinoceros, which comes in handy when you’re the CEO of Apple.

“Timmy,” the Lord seems to say, “I’m going to give you homosexual desires, so that folks will treat you badly. That way, you won’t grow up to be a bigot, and you’ll be ready to manage the world’s most respected brand.

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Attkisson: ‘Government-Related Agency’ Triggered Skype, Spied on Her at Home

Monday, October 27th, 2014 - by Bryan Preston

“Worse than anything Nixon ever did,” former CBS reporter Sharly Attkisson says in her new book.

In her new memoir, Sharyl Attkisson says a source who arranged to have her laptop checked for spyware in 2013 was “shocked” and “flabbergasted” at what the analysis revealed.

“This is outrageous. Worse than anything Nixon ever did. I wouldn’t have believed something like this could happen in the United States of America,” Attkisson quotes the source saying.

She speculates that the motive was to lay the groundwork for possible charges against her or her sources.

Attkisson says the source, who’s “connected to government three-letter agencies,” told her the computer was hacked into by “a sophisticated entity that used commercial, nonattributable spyware that’s proprietary to a government agency: either the CIA, FBI, the Defense Intelligence Agency or the National Security Agency.”

According to Attkisson’s contact, the agency was able to scoop up all of her keystrokes and therefore all of her passwords. That gave them access to her financial records and to programs like Skype, which they turned on “heavily” and probably used to listen to Attkisson in her home and wherever she happened to be with her computer at the time.

The agency also, according to Attkisson, placed three classified documents on her machine, “buried deep” in her operating system. She would have been extremely unlikely to find them, but a criminal forensics probe would probably have turned them up. Attkisson’s freedom would have been in serious jeopardy. She could have been cast by the government as a criminal, even a threat to national security.

Of all of the crimes that the government has committed during the Obama era, with the IRS targeting scandal leading the way, the computer assault on Attkisson may be the most frightening and pernicious. It is the targeting of a single individual who was exercising a fundamental right guaranteed by the Constitution, possibly with the aim of jailing her and destroying her reputation in order to silence her and frighten others.

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Little Girls F-Bomb the Internet, Social Media Goes Wild

Wednesday, October 22nd, 2014 - by Susan L.M. Goldberg

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Serious content warning. Serious enough that the original video was pulled from YouTube.

There’s a great episode of Modern Family in which Cam and Mitchell have to explain to their four year old daughter Lily that she can’t use the f-word. Every time Lily drops the f-bomb, Cam starts compulsively laughing, making it very hard to convince the child that using the f-word is inappropriate. Horrified, Mitchell rebukes Cam throughout the episode until Lily drops a big, fat f-bomb while standing in front of a church full of people, dressed as a flower girl in a wedding party. At that point everyone laughs. Point being: Adults get a perverse kick out of watching innocent little kids use bad words.

It’s probably why Will Ferrell made a series of videos for Funny or Die featuring his creative partner Adam McKay’s toddler daughter repeating loads of foul, inappropriate language in adult-like scenarios. Commenting on his child’s foul-mouthed role, McKay remarked:

“Fortunately she is in this great stage now where she repeats anything you say to her and then forgets it right away, which is key,” says McKay, who has two daughters by his wife of 11 years, actress Shira Piven (Jeremy’s sister).

Adds McKay, “She has not said the B-word since we shot the thing.”

Rumor had it that the videos ceased production once the toddler was old enough to realize what she was saying and repeat it.

Adults find kids cursing to be funny. The younger the kid, the better. So, when FCKH8 decided to have a load of little girls dress up as princesses and drop the f-bomb all over the Internet, they basically decided to give adults everywhere (except those with some sense of moral fiber) a laugh.

And mock feminism at the same time.

I laugh at the War on Women mythology quite frequently. The idea that beauty is somehow associated with helplessness, that abortion translates to career equality, and the whole 77 cents-to-a-dollar thing all really tickle my funny bone. But I do take feminism seriously. And I wonder, if the folks at FCKH8 really took feminism seriously, would they have chosen to market it by employing one of the gags that makes adults laugh the most?

Apparently, FCKH8′s real goal is to say American Feminism, with it’s slavish attachment to the War on Women is a complete joke best understood by those with the intellect of a 5 year old. Which is a shame, both for FCKH8 and American feminism, because, for the women facing real issues of inequality and gender-based persecution, feminism is no laughing matter.

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Ben Shapiro Joins the Factual Feminist Crowd

Wednesday, October 22nd, 2014 - by Susan L.M. Goldberg

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Truth Revolt‘s Ben Shapiro (a.k.a. the guy who took over the Breitbart mantle) has jumped on Christina Hoff Sommers‘ Factual Feminist bandwagon with his own info short Women are Winning the War on Women. Knocking down the pay gap, birth control, and sexual assault myths with statistical evidence, Shapiro declares, “It’s a great time to be a woman, which means we don’t need Hillary Clinton and her magical X-chromosomes to save the day.”

In the short Shapiro, an Orthodox Jew, touts the fact that his wife balances both motherhood and medical school, destroying the stereotype that religious men don’t (or can’t) support gender equality.

Using midterm hype to get ahead of 2016 Presidential electioneering, Shapiro applies his legal mind and quick wit to what is becoming a genre of informational videos geared towards the next generation of American feminists.

Check it out and pass it on.

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U.S. Attorney General Blocked Aid to Israel, Cost Soldier’s Life

Monday, October 20th, 2014 - by Susan L.M. Goldberg

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When Israeli Sergeant Oron Shaul was captured by Hamas terrorists in the thick of this past summer’s Operation Protective Sheild, the Palestinian terror organization used the sergeant’s Facebook page to broadcast their sick achievement to his family and friends. It should have been easy for the IDF to electronically trace the gloating terrorists, but it wasn’t. Why not? Apparently the U.S. attorney general got in the way.

Israel issued a request for Facebook to turn over IP address information, and the Justice Department got to work. In the meantime, the FBI got the bureaucratic wheels rolling with the U.S. Attorney’s office in what should have been a cut and dry procedure that, in a few short hours, was inexplicably shut down. The Jewish Press reports:

Suddenly, and to the shock of the prosecutors working feverishly to obtain the information that possibly could reveal where Shaul (or his body) was being held, a shocking email arrived from the FBI. An email that spelled a death sentence for what many believed to be the best chance of finding Shaul and his kidnappers.

Thank you for your effort, input and assistance. I regret to inform you we have been denied approval to move forward with legal process.We were told by our management we need a MLAT [Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty] in order to continue to assist our partner with the request in question.

The MLAT requires a standardized process to wind its way through legal and diplomatic protocols and usually take weeks to process. They are used, [Steve] Emerson explained, for non-pressing legal matters in which the United States or another country is carrying out some legal process, such as a prosecution of a citizen in another country. They are not used in urgent, life-or-death or counter-terrorism scenarios, “especially with a close ally such as Israel,” Emerson was told.

…Three days after the stand down email was sent, the IDF concluded that Oron Shaul was dead. His body has never been recovered. Hamas is interested in using whatever parts of Shaul’s body they claim to have to swap for terrorist prisoners held by Israel.

According to Emerson’s investigation, those involved in the legal procedures in the U.S. believe the stop order was given by the attorney general’s office.

Add this to the list of reasons why Eric Holder stepped down just in time. It may also be on the list of reasons why Israel is choosing to wean itself from its strong dependency on American military aid.

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Facebook, Apple Pay for Female Employees to Freeze Eggs

Wednesday, October 15th, 2014 - by Susan L.M. Goldberg

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Are you a woman who wants it all? Career now, kids eventually? Now you can have it – as long as you work for Apple or Facebook.

Two Silicon Valley giants now offer women a game-changing perk: Apple and Facebook will pay for employees to freeze their eggs.

Facebook recently began covering egg freezing, and Apple will start in January, spokespeople for the companies told NBC News. The firms appear to be the first major employers to offer this coverage for non-medical reasons.

“Having a high-powered career and children is still a very hard thing to do,” said Brigitte Adams, an egg-freezing advocate and founder of the patient forum Eggsurance.com. By offering this benefit, companies are investing in women, she said, and supporting them in carving out the lives they want.
The coverage comes at an opportune time for a tech industry under (highly questionable) severe scrutiny for a lack of female representation in its ranks. Promoted as a perk open to female employees on a voluntary basis, “covering egg freezing can be viewed as a type of “payback” for women’s commitment.” The “payback” goes both ways:
The benefit will likely encourage women to stay with their employer longer, cutting down on recruiting and hiring costs. And practically speaking, when women freeze their eggs early, firms may save on pregnancy costs in the long run, said Westphal. A woman could avoid paying to use a donor egg down the road, for example, or undergoing more intensive fertility treatments when she’s ready to have a baby.
Now, for the real slap in the face:

But the emotional and cultural payoff may be more valuable, said [Extended Fertility founder Christy] Jones: Offering this benefit “can help women be more productive human beings.”

Egg freezing is marketed as the latest, greatest equalizer between women and men. So, long metaphor short, if you want to be a “more productive human being” you’d better start working like a man. I wonder, would George Bernard Shaw discount the reproduction of human life and the raising of good, moral, decent human beings as not being a “productive” enough member of society? If so, he might have found good company in Silicon Valley.

The real question is, as the science of egg freezing continues to develop, will these employer benefits go from being optional perks to potential requirements of the job? Will employers frown upon women who choose to take their chances on children now instead of freezing their options for another day?

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Using Social Media Activism as a Mask for Apathy

Wednesday, October 8th, 2014 - by Leslie Loftis

meriamI loved Nancy Kaffer’s recent offering in the Daily Beast, When Activism is Worse than Apathy. Before noting that those things we were so fussed about for a few days here and there over the past six months are still happening, she writes:

Apathy isn’t our problem. We care—we care a lot. Show us an injustice, and we’ll slap a hashtag on it in a hot minute. We may even have a national conversation about it. And then? Ooh, shiny! We’re on to the next outrage. Call it hashtag activism, call it slacktivism—worse than indifference, it’s a transitory, bustling attentiveness that passes so quickly it barely registers, yet leaves in its wake a sense that we’ve done something.

Social media can decry a problem. It can spread news like wildfire scorching a dry field. But it doesn’t Do. Results require action. And we’ve seen that in the past 6 months.

While the Nigerian girls have not been brought back, Meriam Ibriam is free.

People spread #BackOurGirls all over the web, and then forgot it. But Meriam, the Christian woman sentenced to lashings and death for apostasy and adultery in South Sudan for not adhering to the Muslim faith of her father, hardly had a hashtag. Christian persecution isn’t something the hashtag warriors get fussed about. Still, Meriam had something better than social media activism. She had old media, Italian diplomats, and the Vatican.

In the comments on to the Times of London article on her freedom and surprise audience with the Pope, one highlighted the truth about PR campaigns.

David Cameron said that her oppression was “barbaric.” The former US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton called the way she had been treated abhorrent. Western feminists didn’t even bother to create on of those ‘we care but aren’t willing to actually do anything about it’ hashtags. But the Italian Foreign Minister acted.

And that made all the difference. Apparently, the Italians offered diplomatic help to the US State Department to secure her release as The Telegraph and The Times of London publicized the story. The Italian Foreign Ministry flew representatives to Sudan and negotiated her release with the help of Vatican funding and advice. It wasn’t easy. There were setbacks and scares, but Meriam arrived in the US months ago. She is free. The Nigerian girls who we all heard about are not.

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Should We Fear Jobs Being Lost to Machines?

Tuesday, October 7th, 2014 - by Walter Hudson

Every time I stoop down to take a sip from a water fountain, I marvel at how far the human race has come. Something as simple as getting a quick drink of water, which we in the first world take wholly for granted, would have occupied a significant portion of a person’s day just a handful of decades ago.

Think of it. Imagine what life would be like without indoor plumbing and modern methods of water distribution. What if you had to go out and find a natural source of water to sustain yourself and your family? How different would your life look? It’s humbling to consider.

With that in mind, imagine if someone had argued at the dawn of indoor plumbing that one out of every three jobs would be lost to the scary new technological development. How would you respond? Knowing what we all do now, we would regard the claim as ludicrous. After all, what kind of jobs would we be talking about? Digging wells? Schlepping buckets back from the nearest river? Who would want to do that when you could simply turn a facet in your home and let the life-giving bounty flow? Think of all the time saved by not having to seek water, the other things we’re able to do, the quality of life we’re able to enjoy.

We should keep that in mind when regarding claims like those coming out of Gartner’s Symposium/ITxpo this week. Computer World reports:

Smart machines are an emerging “super class” of technologies that perform a wide variety of work, both the physical and the intellectual kind, said [Peter Sondergaard, Gartner's research director]. Machines, for instance, have been grading multiple choice for years, but now they are grading essays and unstructured text.

This cognitive capability in software will extend to other areas, including financial analysis, medical diagnostics and data analytic jobs of all sorts, says Gartner.

“Knowledge work will be automated,” said Sondergaard, as will physical jobs with the arrival of smart robots.

“Gartner predicts one in three jobs will be converted to software, robots and smart machines by 2025,” said Sondergaard. “New digital businesses require less labor; machines will be make sense of data faster than humans can.”

Even if Gartner’s prediction pans out, and one out of three current jobs is soon lost to the rise of intelligent machines, that does not mean life will soon get worse for humankind. On the contrary, to the extent work can continue to be automated by computers and robots, the cost of production will drop, and the ability of humans to pursue more meaningful work will increase.

New jobs will emerge which we lack the context to imagine. Someone working in the 1890’s could hardly envision a functioning world without blacksmiths, to say nothing of comprehending information technology. Yet here we are, enjoying a quality of life far in excess of theirs.

The whole notion of children growing up to be whoever they want to be, and to do whatever they want to do, is recent to civilization. It wasn’t that long ago that your occupation, indeed your entire life’s path, was dictated by the fundamental requirements  survival. Advancements in automation will only broaden the horizons of future generations.

(Today’s Fightin Words podcast is on this topic available here. 15:12 minutes long; 14.66 MB file size. Right click here to download this show to your hard drive. Subscribe through iTunes or RSS feed.)

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GOP Draws Up Plan to Force Keystone XL Decision if They Take Back The Senate

Wednesday, October 1st, 2014 - by Stephen Kruiser

Counting the chickens before they’re hatched?

Republicans plan to put approval of the long-delayed Keystone XL oil pipeline on a fast track early next year if they win a U.S. Senate majority in November, finally forcing President Barack Obama to make a tough call on the controversial plan.

The $10 billion Keystone project to connect Canadian oil sands with U.S. refineries will top the list of Republican energy priorities if they gain control of the Senate after the November 4 midterm elections. It could come as a stand-alone measure or attached to must-pass legislation such as a government spending or transportation bill, according to senators and congressional aides.

Republicans, along with some Democrats, have for years pushed for a bill that would allow Congress to approve Keystone, and reduce the role of the administration. However, with Democrats in control, the closest they have gotten in the Senate was a symbolic measure expressing support for the project.

President Obama is so in the grasp of Big Green that he has turned a deaf ear to Big Labor on this issue, which should give you an idea of just how much money the former has. He’s had to work hard to ignore all of the various factions that support Keystone XL. It may be the only real hard work he’s done off the golf course.

It’s good to see the GOP planning for a victory in November but complacency is a killer, especially with a weaker Get Out The Vote effort than the Democrats have.

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Voice Hacking: Is Siri A Little Too Friendly?

Monday, September 29th, 2014 - by Stephen Kruiser

Comforting.

Voice-activated technology is so vulnerable to attack that users should immediately disable speech recognition on all their devices, a security researcher at AVG has warned.

Yuval Ben-Itzhak, chief technology officer at the anti-virus company, has carried out several experiments which revealed the new techniques hackers might use to gain control of voice-controlled devices.

He made the ominous prediction that a “thief outside the door” could take control of gadgets such as smart televisions or laptops from outside a target’s home, potentially burgling them without even smashing a window.

The vulnerability of technology which uses voice commands is likely to become an important issue in the coming years, as smartwatches and connected home devices grow in popularity and the technology becomes commonplace.

Just when you thought technology was making everything easier, now comes the potential for some creeper outside your window to give you a really embarrassing Netflix search history.

I admit, I love the new stuff and try everything when it first comes out, with very little thought about what new nightmare scenarios hackers might be working up. Voice activation was the sci-fi thing we all just expected to be a fact of life. Now I am ready to go to a stationery store and start writing letters to people again.

Still gonna need IMDB when I’m watching a movie though.

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‘Local Choice’ — Let’s Roll Back Some Crony Socialism, Shall We?

Thursday, September 18th, 2014 - by Seton Motley

Cronyism.  Or Crony Capitalism.  It’s actually Crony Socialism – because it actually has nothing to do with capitalism.

Crony Socialism is not an unfettered free market where the best ideas and companies win.  It’s the government warping and distorting the market: favoring with absurdly tilted policies some ideas and companies – and thus inherently dis-favoring everyone else in said sector.

How much you pay to watch TV has been a Crony Socialist nightmare mess since basically the creation of cable TV.  Thanks to government meddlesomely messing with the market.

The Cable Television Consumer Protection and Competition Act of 1992 (also known as the 1992 Cable Act) is a United States federal law which required cable systems to carry most local broadcast channels and prohibited cable operators from charging local broadcasters to carry their signal.

Get that?  Cable companies are required by law to deliver all local broadcast stations in every channel package.  Cable companies must then sit down with broadcasters and pretend to negotiate a “free market” deal for how much they pay for those stations.

If you and I sat down to negotiate a price for my widgets – after the government has mandated that you purchase my widgets – don’t you think I’m going to inflate the price of my widgets?

And broadcasters are thanks to government a monopoly – in the sense that they alone carry the product cable companies are mandated by government to purchase. And thus their prices are perpetually on the rise.

Of course the more cable companies pay for these local stations – the more we pay for them.

And cable companies—and thus you—are required by government to pay rigged prices for a product that you used to get for free with a rooftop antenna or a pair of rabbit ears.

Government mandates rarely go well.  Government is now mandating that everyone buy health insurance – how’s that going?

ObamaCare will increase average individual-market insurance premiums by 99% for men, 62% for women; ObamaCare will raise premiums for 65% of small firms; ObamaCare taxes add billion to rising premiums.

And broadcasters know: when your cable bill goes up, you don’t get mad at the broadcasters for overcharging for their channels – you get mad at your cable company for having to pass those costs on to you.

As sweet as this broadcasters’ deal is – it ain’t anywhere near all.

The Broadcasters are actually the beneficiaries of decades of government good grace well beyond the uber-tilted Cable Act.

They received free from government charge their spectrum – the airwaves they use to broadcast.  Surely something the cellular phone companies have eyed as theyve paid the government tens of billions of dollars for their spectrum.

And now we have the looming spectrum incentive auction.  Where Broadcasters get to sell their spectrum that they, again, received for free to the cell phone companies (via the government middle man).

Im sure a company like Verizon -  a cell phone company who with Fios is also a television Provider is thrilled to pay Broadcasters for spectrum the latter received for free, while also having the government tilt the Retransmission rules against them, in the Broadcasters favor.

The Broadcasters have a pretty sweet omni-directional Crony Socialist deal going.  Little wonder they are fighting so hard against any changes to it.

If we can get an injection of Free Market (Food and Drug Administration [FDA] approval-pending) anywhere into this Crony Socialist organism – we should absolutely take it.  The “Local Choice” bill now before the Senate would do just that.

Taking a novel approach to broadcast retransmission consent, Senate Commerce Committee Chairman Jay Rockefeller (D-WV) joined forces with ranking committee member John Thune (R-SD) in unveiling a proposal that would allow subscribers to multichannel video program distribution (MVPD) services to select the local broadcast channels they want while permitting MVPDs to bill subscribers directly for licensing fees connected with the broadcast channels of their choice.

Any roll back of any Crony Socialism is a turn in the right direction.

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Airlines Slowly Switching From Paper To Tablets Because…IT’S THE 21st CENTURY

Wednesday, September 10th, 2014 - by Stephen Kruiser

Financial incentives work.

American Airlines has won regulatory approval to swap flight attendants’ paper manuals for lighter Samsung tablets in a change that will save nearly $1 million a year, the company said on Wednesday.

The move, which does not yet affect attendants at American Airlines Group Inc’s (AAL.O) subsidiary US Airways, comes little more than a year after American’s cockpit went paperless, and is one of many strategies that airlines have pursued to reduce weight and fuel costs.

Delta Air Lines (DAL.N) and United Airlines (UAL.N) have also distributed smart devices to their pilots, and Delta plans to roll out an e-manual for flight attendants starting in October.

American said its attendants already have the tablets, and those at US Airways will receive them after the combined company receives a single operating certificate from the Federal Aviation Administration. The timing of that is uncertain.

Few technological advancements exemplify progress more than our ability to make journeys that used to take days, weeks or even months, in a matter of hours now. Yet even as the planes and the way we book travel have kept evolving, much of the airline industry has kept a lot of its business practices rooted in the 1960s, for a variety of reasons.

As someone who has been flying to work for a couple of decades, here is the change I would most like now: frequently travelers can take a test (annually, if need be) to prove that we understand the intricacies of the safety announcement, like how to use a seat belt buckle or recognize a door in a vehicle that doesn’t have many of them. Once we do, we’re given something that we can use to show the flight attendant that we have been cleared to listen to music during the announcements and spare ourselves one of the most tedious experiences known to modern man.

Sweet, sweet freedom.

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Millions of Gmail Account Passwords Were Released Online

Wednesday, September 10th, 2014 - by Bryan Preston

I checked, and one of my gmail accounts had been compromised. If you use gmail it’s a good idea to check after this happened.

Time to change your password again. A database containing nearly 5 million Gmail user accounts and passwords was leaked on Bitcoin Security, a popular Russian website devoted to the cryptocurrency.

The text file was published on Tuesday night by user tvskit, according to CNews, the Russian news outlet that first broke the story. The leaker claimed that the majority of the accounts belong to users who speak English, Russian, or Spanish, and that approximately 60 percent are active. The passwords not only give access to Gmail, but a slew of other Google services such as Drive and the mobile payment system Google Wallet.

You can check your gmail account(s) here. You might have to be patient — people are flocking to the site to check their accounts.

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New Caption Contest: Translate the Message Under Obama’s Doctored Image in the ISIS Video

Friday, September 5th, 2014 - by Myra Adams
Obama ISIS video

Caption from UK Telegraph: A grab from the Isil video

This week the Drudge Report had this link from the UK Telegraph with the headline and subhead:

How Isil doctored the image of Obama, making him appear haggard in videos

The terrorist group carefully manipulate their videos to make the US president look as tired and weary as possible, demonstrating its technical prowess

Welcome to war in the modern age where our enemies use media manipulation to taunt President Obama. (Remember when Putin and the Russians made light of Obama’s wimpy image using the kitty cats? Click here if you missed that unusual caption contest.)

Below, the Telegraph describes the techniques ISIL (or ISIS) used in the screen-grab image that is the subject of our contest.

In the same way, Mr. Obama’s blue jacket is made to appear a funereal black. His strands of grey hair are picked up and exaggerated. The editor has also caused an interlacing effect of black lines to run across the president’s white shirt. For good measure, he has carefully stretched the screen length ways in order to make Mr. Obama appear thin and gaunt.

Now, here is your “special ops” mission for these dangerous times. You must translate the message written in whatever language these barbarians used, into a language that PJ Media readers can better understand.

In addition to the “official translation,” you can also write a non-official translation from the Democratic National Committee, the Republican National Committee or from any committee or organization you wish, even the NRA or the Navy Seals.

Finally, is it just me, or does the ISIS video manipulation make Obama resemble, even more than before, “this guy” from the History Channel’s Bible mini-series? (Official name of “this guy” withheld for many political, religious and IRS reasons.)

Credit: History Channel

Credit: History Channel

Good luck, and you don’t have to be nice with your translations because the “folks” who did this video manipulation really are the personification of “this guy” in the photo above.

 

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No Delete: Artist Plans to Use Life-Sized Leaked Nude Photos in Art Exhibit

Thursday, September 4th, 2014 - by Bryan Preston

Jennifer Lawrence and Kate Upton have fired up their lawyers and managed to get most of their leaked nude photos off of the sites that were posting them. But E! reports that the photos will be coming back to public view anyway.

Los Angeles artist XVALA intends to create uncensored, life-sized versions of them, call them “art” and display them in a gallery in St. Petersburg, FL in October.

The exhibit’s publicist does what an amoral publicist does.

“XVALA appropriating celebrity compromised images and the overall ‘Fear Google’ campaign has helped strengthen the ongoing debate over privacy in the digital era,” said publicist Cory Allen. ”The commentary behind this show is a reflection of who we are today. We all become ‘users’ and in the end, we become ‘used.’”

In this case, used by the publicist and the artist he represents. Cha-ching!

XVALA has been gathering up leaked celebrity photos for seven years using Google, and intends to use that collection in his exhibit.

Being wary of Google and Facebook is wise. They are universal data-mining and privacy-deleting megacorporations.

But the “Fear Google” logic isn’t exactly sound in the recent leak case. The photos were posted on iCloud, which is Apple, and were posted on sites like 4chan after the hacker or hackers obtained them. Google was merely the means by which many Internet users found the photos once the media went into overdrive reporting on the leak.

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Pool Party at the U.S. Embassy in Libya! Infidels Not Invited.

Tuesday, September 2nd, 2014 - by Bryan Preston

President Obama used to hold Libya up as one of the examples of how the Arab Spring had ushered in freedom.

He had no idea…

Islamist militias are now free to take over the U.S. embassy in Tripoli and host an end-of-summer pool party bash there.

Par-tay!!!

YouTube Preview Image

Islamist pool parties tend to be a little different from ours. No alcohol will be consumed, though Islamists are perfectly free to distribute heroin, cocaine, marijuana and any other hard drug to infidel addicts if they donate the money to the jihad.

No women are allowed unless they’re covered head to toe. Even the men stay fully covered while they jump from the roof to the pool.

Jackknifes are not entertaining ways to make a splash. They’re what the partygoers will use for the ceremonial beheading of a westerner at the end of the party.

The U.S. embassy in Tripoli, like all U.S. embassies, is under the purview of Secretary of State John Kerry.

While Kerry was not technically invited to the Islamist pool party, he showed solidarity with it.

kerry-kiteboarding

What do you think Putin is thinking about all this?

h/t Daily Caller

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