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Bill O’Reilly Compares Internet Climate to Nazi Propaganda

Saturday, January 24th, 2015 - by Paula Bolyard

The topic of Bill O’Reilly’s Fox News Talking Points Memo on Friday was “How the Internet is Deceiving You.” Using an attack on the film American Sniper by Vox’s Amanda Taub as an example, O’Reilly said, “The far left is going nuts launching hateful attacks on the film and on Mr. Kyle and most of the libel is found on the net.”

O’Reilly said that Taub may even be a terrorist sympathizer, citing an article she wrote trying to explain the actions of the terrorists who blew up a school in Pakistan.

“Here we have Taub providing the rationale for the slaughtering of innocent school children,” O’Reilly said. “Does it get much worse?”

He complained that her article about American Sniper was posted “on a number of sites including Yahoo.”

“But those providers did not tell you, the reader, who Amanda Taub is, or the quality of the organization for whom she works. They just post her disgusting stuff without any context,” O’Reilly continued.

“The chief danger here is not from a propagandist here like Amanda Taub. It’s the entire internet climate,” he said. “Americans are often presented with information that’s false, libelous, and distorted in the extreme. There are no journalistic standards on the net. Few websites even have editors looking at it. They just post this stuff and walk away.”

It’s a fair-enough criticism. Anyone can create a blog or put up a website that has the look and feel of a legitimate news site. Fact-checking is sometimes an afterthought.

O’Reilly thinks this free flow of information (and misinformation) poses a great danger to our republic:

“Unfortunately, many Americans believe what they read and therefore there is a danger to the republic,” he said. “If you know anything about history you know that dictators, both on the left and on the right, first control the press. The Nazis and the communists put out a steady stream of garbage brainwashing their population. To some extent, that is happening now in free societies with the elevation of the net. And it’s flat-out dangerous.”

Has Bill O’Reilly been to N. Korea lately? Or to China (that allegedly burgeoning bastion of capitalism and freedom)? A friend recently returned from a business trip to China and said both Facebook and Google were blocked there. He had to use Microsoft Outlook to send and receive email. “That pesky free exchange of ideas thing,” he said sarcastically.

Nomiki Konst, a political strategist and former Huffington Post blogger, joined Bill O’Reilly after his Talking Points Memo and reminded him that the Nazis had very limited vehicles with which to release their propaganda. Today, she said, there are “literally millions of ways to communicate different messages to different echo chambers.”

She asked him if he wanted to regulate the internet.

O’Reilly, who clearly doesn’t understand how the interwebs and news aggregator sites work, said he doesn’t want to regulate small sites like Vox but said, “When it gets over into the big ones like Google and Yahoo and all of these things and they just post it with no context, that’s propaganda, it’s wrong, and it’s happening all over the place. ”

O’Reilly said he thinks readers ought to know what a writer’s “worldview” is and that it should be clear where writers are coming from.

“If you write an op-ed in a newspaper, it tells at the bottom who you are and what agency you’re coming from. It doesn’t do it on the net.”

Well, except for that whole charade of the unsigned newspaper editorials that we are led to believe are right-down-the-middle pieces, written by trained journalists who have no biases whatsoever. And if we were to use O’Reilly’s truth-in-journalism standards, a large percentage of op-eds over the last 50 years should have been carrying labels that read: WARNING: LIBERAL BIAS. Also, where were the warnings about the danger to our republic when the “Big 3″ networks had far-left “real journalists” like Dan Rather feeding Americans their news on a nightly basis?

Konti told O’Reilly that the best way to rebut opinions that he didn’t like was by having more opinions. “We’re in a free society where we have freedom of speech and you just rebutted hers. That’s the best way to do it.”

In a later segment of the show, O’Reilly discussed the problem with Geraldo Rivera and they both worried about the proliferation of opinions floating around the internet without the guiding hand of “trained journalists.” It’s clear that O’Reilly is nostalgic for the days when just a handful of powerful individuals controlled the media and the flow of information.

The democratization of information is at once powerful and terrifying and liberating, but the technology can’t be undone — the information revolution is here to stay. More speech (and more excellent speech) is what is needed, not regulation.

 

 

 

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Door Opened on Drone Reporting as Media Companies Start Testing

Thursday, January 22nd, 2015 - by Bridget Johnson

Ten media companies have aligned to test drone newsgathering with Virginia Tech, shortly after CNN announced it would be developing drone reporting with Georgia Tech.

They’re wandering into new territory as regulations currently don’t allow media organizations to use the unmanned aircraft.

Advance Publications Inc., A.H. Belo Corp., The Associated Press, Gannet Co. Inc., Getty Images (U.S.) Inc., NBC Universal, The New York Times Co., The E.W. Scripps Co., Sinclair Broadcast Group Inc. and The Washington Post have partnered to test drone newsgathering at the FAA-approved site in Virginia.

At the testing site, one of six approved by Congress as a first step to forging domestic drone regulations, the news agencies will “conduct controlled safety testing of a series of real-life scenarios where the news media could use small UAS technology to gather the news,” according to law firm Holland & Knight.

The firm has been working with the media companies since the middle of last year to come to an agreement on testing.

The Federal Aviation Administration recently entered into a research and development agreement with CNN.

“Our aim is to get beyond hobby-grade equipment and to establish what options are available and workable to produce high-quality video journalism using various types of UAVs and camera setups,” said CNN Senior Vice President David Vigilante. “Our hope is that these efforts contribute to the development of a vibrant ecosystem where operators of various types and sizes can safely operate in the U.S. airspace.”

While the FAA has granted exemptions for the use of drones in other industries including agriculture and film, no media organization has yet been granted permission to use drones for newsgathering.

“Unmanned aircraft offer news organizations significant opportunities,” said FAA Administrator Michael Huerta said in a statement. “We hope this agreement with CNN and the work we are doing with other news organizations and associations will help safely integrate unmanned newsgathering technology and operating procedures into the National Airspace System.”

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Feminist Mag Complains American Sniper Unfair …to Babies?

Monday, January 19th, 2015 - by Susan L.M. Goldberg

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Get ready for a good laugh. If you aren’t ready, file this story for when you need one. I did, and it hit the spot.

Online feminist mag Jezebel, which spends more time discussing Lena Dunham’s haircuts than anything actually relevant to feminism, featured a story on “human-baby activist” Alice Vincent’s complaint that Clint Eastwood used dolls instead of live babies for his latest box office smash American Sniper.

Yep. “Human-baby activist.” It gets better:

The film notoriously forewent actual child actors in favor of plastic baby dolls, presumably to avoid traumatizing real babies from the terror of being in the same room as director Clint Eastwood. A sagacious decision, but one that poised yet another dilemma: the plastic babies are milkfed and symmetrical, glowing in their perfection and delicately rosy cheeks, sweet and subdued, and will never encounter colic. The babies’ noses are flawlessly buttony, their cheeks absolutely round, their tiny lips distended in an unachievable bow. The babies’ tans are even, and a perfect shade of sunkissed white skin. Their very existence, the upholding of these babies as somehow the way all babies should look, exerts undue pressure on actual live babies to live up to this type of unachievable ideal, and ultimately sends the message to American Sniperviewers that if their babies are not as perfect as the babies onscreen, then they are not as worthy. It says that in order to be considered beautiful, a baby must be a doll.

Babies, beware. Even though you don’t yet have the cognitive ability to watch a film, Hollywood is out to harass and intimidate you with their impossible beauty standards. Jezebel ends their compelling coverage of this hot-button issue with a “plea” to the American Sniper gang:

We make a collective plea to Clint Eastwood and the cast of American Sniper for the liberation and visibility for all babies, not just ones constructed of plastic and rubber: of human babies, and of babies who are flawed, and babies whose shit and piss and puke is tangible, not just the kind scrawled out into a diaper with yellow and brown magic markers. We demand the depiction of normal, oxygen-breathing babies on our screens, in a show of solidarity that babies come in all shapes and sizes, all religions and nationalities, and do not have to be in possession of perfect diction or enthusiastic participants in nightlife to be good enough to be included in the cast of a film.

Clint, Bradley, next time you’re about to make an Oscar-nominated movie about a war hero, think about the babies!

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Anti-Israel CNN Reporter Jim Clancy Resigns

Friday, January 16th, 2015 - by Susan L.M. Goldberg

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Last week we covered the story of CNN’s Jim Clancy, who embarrassed himself with a feeble Twitter attempt to tie the radical Islamists behind the Charlie Hebdo massacre to Hasbara (Israeli PR). Today, the Jewish Telegraphic Agency reports:

Veteran CNN anchor Jim Clancy stepped down on Friday, one week after a series of Twitter posts in which he mocked pro-Israel tweeters on a thread discussing the Charlie Hebdo massacre.

Neither CNN nor Jim Clancy gave a reason for his departure, which was reported by AdWeek. Clancy had worked at CNN for 34 years.

Although Clancy’s Twitter account no longer existed as of Thursday, the tweets have been preserved on a number of websites, including Twitchy and Mediaite, and by Tablet journalist Yair Rosenberg.

Apparently, at one point the Twitter backlash got so bad that Clancy took mouthing off to a whole new disgusting level:

Clancy later told the Twitter account for Human Rights News, “You and the Hasbara team need to pick on some cripple at the edge of the herd.”

Jay Ruderman, head of the Ruderman Family Foundation, which is dedicated to advocacy and inclusion for the disabled, demanded an apology from Clancy and CNN. Ruderman said the use of the term “cripple” was insensitive.

Whether it was a long-overdue retirement or a simple parting of the ways, Clancy’s exit from CNN is one thing for which we can fully thank some serious Twitter hasbara.

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Uh-Oh: GOP Crafting Its Own Net Neutrality Legislation

Thursday, January 15th, 2015 - by Stephen Kruiser

More government “help” is on the way.

Republicans in Congress are doing a 180 on net neutrality as the Federal Communications Commission prepares to issue new rules within weeks.

For years, GOP lawmakers have adamantly opposed any rules requiring Internet service providers to treat all Web traffic equally, calling them unnecessary and an example of Washington overreach.

But now that the FCC is moving toward issuing a tough net neutrality order that would subject broadband to utility-style regulation — an approach endorsed by President Barack Obama — top Republicans in both chambers are making plans to legislate their own rules to ensure the agency doesn’t go too far.

There are enough bad ideas here to write five posts about but I’ll limit it to a couple of broader ideas.

First, net neutrality is a bad idea. That is, of course, unless you are a big fan of government regulation.

I am not.

Secondly, this approach by the Republicans is, quite frankly, idiotic.

If a regulatory agency is going to run amok and circumvent the legislative process, giving said agency a modified legislated version of its overreach isn’t the best way to deal with it. Legislating the opposite, or trying to trim back the power of the agency would be more along the lines of what the country definitely needs at this time.

Most disturbing about this is seeing the new majority Republicans caving on an issue they were adamantly opposed to when they were in the minority. They can spin it however they want, but their reasons for originally being against it were sound and nothing has changed to warrant an about-face.

As I have been saying since November: the reason I am not excited about the new Republican majority is that I remember the last one.

The White House, by the way, believes that the FCC has all of the power it needs to make their version happen anyway.

That is the real problem.

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RadioShack Prepares to File for Bankruptcy

Wednesday, January 14th, 2015 - by Stephen Kruiser

Welcome to the new tech world order.

Electronics retailer RadioShack Corp (RSH.N) might prepare to file for bankruptcy protection by next month, the Wall Street Journal reported citing people familiar with the matter.

Texas-based Radioshack is in talks with a private-equity firm that could buy its assets out of bankruptcy, the Journal reported, citing sources.

The talks may not produce a deal, and RadioShack may opt for other debt-restructuring options that do not include a sale, the Journal said.

RadioShack has reached out to potential lenders that could provide a loan to fund its operations during the bankruptcy case, the Journal added.

RadioShack was not immediately available for comment.

The retailer, which reported a bigger-than-expected third-quarter loss last month, warned in September that a bankruptcy filing was a possibility.

Just the other day I was explaining to my sixteen-year-old daughter how many brands that seemed like they would last forever are going by the wayside. Blockbuster is the prime example for her because she remembers going there when she was little and now its brick and mortar stores have vanished.

RadioShack was a frequent go-to for us road comics and our various electronic needs as we spent weeks away from home.

Every time I think about these dying brands (and the malls) I get a little nostalgic.

Then I order something from Amazon to make me feel better.

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What Did Back to the Future 2 Get Right About 2015?

Sunday, January 11th, 2015 - by Kathy Shaidle

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A delightful video from the always-entertaining guys at Dark Corners breaks it down:

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Anonymous Launches #OpCharlieHebdo to Take Revenge on Terrorist Groups

Friday, January 9th, 2015 - by Bridget Johnson
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Anonymous has declared war on jihadists over the Charlie Hebdo attack.

In a French-language video labeled as “a message for al-Qaeda, the Islamic State and other terrorists,” the hackers vow to shut down jihadist websites and social media accounts. “We are declaring war against you, the terrorists.”

It follows up on a Wednesday threat to stick it to the jihadists:

Freedom of speech has suffered an inhuman assault. Terrorists broke into the premises of the “Charlie Hebdo” newspaper and shot in cold blood several satirical cartoon artists, journalists and two policemen. The killers are still at large. Disgusted and also shocked, we can not fall to our knees. It is our responsibility to react.

First, we wish to express our condolences to the families of the victims of this cowardly and despicable act. We are all affected by the death of Cabu, Charb, Tignous and Wolinski, great artists that marked their talent throughout the history of the press and died for freedom. We do not forget the other victims killed and injured in the attack that were the targets of these murderers.

It is clear that some people do not want, in a free world, this inviolable and sacred right to express in any way one’s opinions. Anonymous will never leave this right violated by obscurantism and mysticism. We will fight always and  everywhere the enemies of freedom of speech. Charlie Hebdo, historical figure of satirical journalism has now been targeted. Anonymous must remind every citizen that the freedom of the press is a fundamental principle of democratic countries. Freedom of opinion, speech and to publish articles without any threat, and stress is a right “inalienable.” Anonymous has always fought the slayers of these rights and will never allow a person to be shot down radically for publishing an article, a drawing, an opinion …

Freedom of speech and opinion is a non-negotiable thing, to tackle it is to attack democracy. Expect a massive frontal reaction from us because the struggle for the defense of those freedoms is the foundation of our movement.

    We are Legion.
    We do not forgive.
    We do not forget.
    Expect us!

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SpaceX CEO Elon Musk Takes Questions During Reddit AMA

Tuesday, January 6th, 2015 - by Paula Bolyard
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SpaceX and Tesla Motors CEO Elon Musk participated in a reddit AMA (Ask Me Anything) on Monday night ahead of his company’s planned rocket launch from Florida on Tuesday. SpaceX plans to launch its Falcon 9 rocket, which will carry supplies to the International Space Station, at 6:20 a.m. ET. If all goes as planned, the rocket will complete a soft vertical landing on a drone “spaceport ship” in the Atlantic with the goal of creating a “fully and rapidly reusable rocket.”

 

 

Asked by one reddit fan how he was able to estimate a 50% probability of success for Tuesday’s landing, Musk answered, “I pretty much made that up. I have no idea.” He added a smiley face and explained, “The grid fins are super important for landing with precision. The aerodynamic forces are way too strong for the nitrogen thrusters. In particular, achieving pitch trim is hopeless. Our atmosphere is like molasses at Mach 4!”

A group of fans from the reddit SpaceX community asked about a planned SpaceX mission to Mars. They wanted to know what the Mars Colonial Transporter actually is? Is it a crew module like Dragon (a partially reusable spacecraft developed by SpaceX), a launch vehicle like Falcon, or a mix of both?

“The Mars transport system will be a completely new architecture,” Musk said. “Am hoping to present that towards the end of this year.” He added that it was a good thing they didn’t do it sooner because they have learned a “huge amount” from Falcon and Dragon.

He said the goal is to send 100 metric tons of useful payload to the surface of Mars. “This obviously requires a very big spaceship and booster system,” he said. “At first, I was thinking we would just scale up Falcon Heavy, but it looks like it probably makes more sense just to have a single monster boost stage.”

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Should Kids Still Have to Say Thank You?

Monday, January 5th, 2015 - by Susan L.M. Goldberg

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UK Guardian writer Peter Ormerod

tells NPR’s Arun Rath that he’s not at all against gratitude. His argument has more to do with the spirit of the thing. “It’s really because gratitude is so important to me. I don’t, however, think that forcing children to write what’s often quite formulaic letters — I don’t think that’s necessarily the best way of helping children develop gratitude.”

Instead, he thinks the emphasis should be on getting kids to feel and experience gratitude, rather than just make a show of it. And once they feel it, he says, they can express it in fun or creative ways, “ways that feel much less like a chore.” That could involve drawing pictures, taking photos or baking. Ormerod says he’s even written songs for people.

Ormerod tags thank you letter-writting as an “anachronism” and an “exercise in lying” designed to “maintain respectability” among parents because no one wants to have a child who is an “ingrate.” So, would you dear parents of America choose to let your child feel gratitude by baking cookies or Instagramming their gift? In this social media age, where we share photographs of our meals and ruminations on our work lives, would expressing thanks through a written message add much needed veracity to an otherwise seemingly meaningless milieu? Would a handwritten note express deeper, longer lasting emotion than a public message? Or is it better to follow Ormerod’s advice and simply have the kid do nothing at all?

If “nothing at all” is the answer, take a look at the statistics. Not saying “thank you” in a written note may cost you big time down the line. According to a recent survey conducted by the Royal Mail:

New research by Royal Mail has revealed the true cost of not saying thank you for Christmas presents. Of those people expecting thank you letters, over half (52 per cent) say they would reduce the cost of their gift by up to £10 next year if they did not receive a thank you letter.

A further 10 per cent said they would cut their budget from £25 to £21 if they were not thanked properly in writing.

The survey also found that 20 per cent would be so offended that they would not bother buying their loved one a gift again.

Almost three quarters (73 per cent) of those surveyed said it was important for children to say thanks via a note, while over half of adults (53 per cent) think thank you letters are important too.

Note that for all of his heavy-handed philosophizing about parenting, Ormerod is childless and bases his theory in having to arduously write out thank you notes as a child. If you’re looking to exemplify “petulant” to your child, have them read his screed. They’ll thank you, if not now then definitely later.

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The Case Against Buying New

Monday, December 29th, 2014 - by Susan L.M. Goldberg

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Michael Walsh linked to an excellent article on the inability of many millennials to fix the simplest of household devices. Walsh was joined by many of my Boomer/Gen-X friends in his comment that it’s usually cheaper to throw out and buy new, but speaking as one of those Gen-X/millennial crossovers, going shopping isn’t always the cheapest thing to do. Especially when you’re caught up in a lousy economy.

Here’s where I praise my incredibly handy husband who grew up learning fractions via wrench set before he ever encountered them in school. When he lost his job shortly after the recession hit, we newlyweds risked becoming a statistic, joining the millions of college graduates like us who were out of work at a time when no jobs could be found. Thankfully, along with raising us with a fabulously humble work ethic, our parents also trained us to make the most out of nothing. My husband saved us thousands of dollars by repairing cars, plumbing, even our household heater himself when times were lean.

Fixing things doesn’t always mean owning crap, either. How did my husband manage to drive a Mercedes in college? He found a wreck in a salvage yard and spent one summer fixing it up with his dad after work. That car lasted him over 10 years and remained a great investment because he took the time to learn how to maintain and repair it when necessary.

His Mr. Fix-It habit is far from over now that he’s back in the work force. Do you know how much it costs the average young homeowner to re-do a bathroom in their first fixer-upper? Enough to make them not bother, or mortgage more for a home that’s already been upgraded. Every project we’ve done in our home we’ve done ourselves with little to no outside help. Yes, it takes longer. Yes, it’s hard work. But when you’re young and newly married in a depression marketed as a recession, knowing how to be handy around the house is a lifesaver for your budget and your marriage.

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Comcast: Crappy Service for You, Priority Service for Politicians

Monday, December 29th, 2014 - by Paula Bolyard
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An article in The Washingtonian about the downfall of David Gregory at Meet the Press details how Comcast has become a major political player in Washington ahead of their proposed merger with Time Warner. The company hired legendary political fixer David L. Cohen, who previously worked as chief of staff to Philadelphia mayor Ed Rendell. Cohen tripled the company’s Washington lobbying team and increased its lobbying spending more than five-fold between 2002 and 2009 when the merger was announced. And then there was this little gem:

Comcast also had an even more personal way of sucking up to Washington. Its government-affairs team carried around “We’ll make it right” cards stamped with “priority assistance” codes for fast-tracking help and handed them out to congressional staffers, journalists, and other influential Washingtonians who complained about their service.

A Comcast spokeswoman says this practice isn’t exclusive to DC; every Comcast employee receives the cards, which they can distribute to any customer with cable or internet trouble. Nevertheless, efforts like this one have surely helped Comcast boost its standing inside the Beltway and improve its chances of winning regulatory approval for its next big conquest: merging with the second-largest cable provider in the country, Time Warner Cable.

Since we have a representative democracy in the United States, let me suggest how this is perhaps supposed to work: Comcast is obviously acknowledging with these cards that their customer service is often really lousy (there’s a reason it’s one of the most hated companies in the country, after all). So when — not if — when you receive crappy customer service from the company, you’re supposed to call your congressman, who can then refer to the special code on his magic VIP “We’ll make it right” card. He can immediately call the “No-Wait Hotline” and  lobby Comcast directly on your behalf to implore them to give you something resembling adequate customer service. Maybe even get a premium channel or two thrown in for your trouble. He should at least have enough clout to get you out of their hellish customer service maze.

Or maybe Comcast could work on improving customer service company-wide instead of only for those with the lucky VIP cards.

 

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The Helpless Generation?

Sunday, December 28th, 2014 - by Michael Walsh

That’s what one professor in Britain is calling the Millennials:

Young people in Britain have become a lost generation who can no longer mend gadgets and appliances because they have grown up in a disposable world, the professor giving this year’s Royal Institution Christmas lectures has warned.

Danielle George, Professor of Radio Frequency Engineering, at the University of Manchester, claims that the under 40s expect everything to ‘just work’ and have no idea what to do when things go wrong. Unlike previous generations who would ‘make do and mend’ now young people will just chuck out their faulty appliances and buy new ones.

In fairness to the youth of the world, the transition from analog to digital technology has a lot to do with it. It really is faster and cheaper to throw out some deceased solid-state piece of junk and buy a new one from the sweatshops of China than to try and fix it.

“Radio Frequency Engineering” — what the heck is that?

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Anonymous Leaks Enormous Cache of Online Passwords, Usernames, Credit Card Info

Saturday, December 27th, 2014 - by Paula Bolyard

 

A hacker group said to be associated with “Anonymous” followed through on a threat they made to leak information about “accounts of various companies around the world” by leaking passwords and usernames of 13,000 accounts at Amazon,  PlayStation, XBox Live, Hulu Plus, Walmart, and other online retailers and entertainment services.

The group announced the leak, which included credit card numbers, expiration dates, and security codes, in a tweet the day after Christmas:

 

 

“For the lulz” is a phrase used on social media and in online forums to explain that an individual did something to be humourous or for personal enjoyment.

The data was released as a text file on the file-sharing site Ghostbin. The file has since been taken down, but the personal information of thousands of online customers was exposed to the public for a period of time. DailyDot has a list of all the companies affected by the data breach.

The group also linked to a site where a pirated copy of Sony’s The Interview could be downloaded.

Earlier in the week a self-described hacker group called Lizard Squad attacked the gaming networks of Sony and Microsoft, knocking the online gaming sites for XBox and Playstation Network offline for most of Christmas Day. The group also claimed responsibility for attacking Tor’s anonymous network system.

“Anonymous,” the loosely affiliated group of hackers that claims to be leaderless and without any organizational structure, fired back at Lizard Squad on Twitter, telling the group to “stand down. “Anonymous” said, ”People need that service because of corrupt governments.”

It appears the attack on Tor was unsuccessful.

 

 

These groups are working overtime to exert their dominance in the cyber universe and a lot of it is “for the lulz” — just for kicks, regardless of the collateral damage. Whether or not this mini-hacktivist war continues, it’s a good reminder to think about updating your online security because consumers will likely be caught in the crossfire if these groups continue to face off. If you have an account at one of the breached online sites, it would be a good idea to change your password and log in to minimize the risk of identity theft. You should also monitor your bank account and credit card accounts for unauthorized charges and consider how you can make your accounts more secure going forward.

Also read: 

Huntsman: No ‘Digital Pearl Harbor’ Yet, But Intellectual Property Theft a Big Threat

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Sony PlayStation Gaming Network Crippled by Christmas Day Cyber Attacks

Thursday, December 25th, 2014 - by Paula Bolyard

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Update: It appears that Lizard Squad has suspended the DDoS attacks after file sharing service Mega’s founder Kim Dotcom offered the group 3000 premium accounts to leave the gaming sites alone. Lizard Squad announced on Twitter that they’ve accepted the offer and have ended the attacks. Reports of service disruptions have dropped significantly since the announcement.

 

Gamers who tried to log onto their Sony PlayStation Network or Microsoft XBox Live accounts to play their new systems on Christmas Day were greeted by error messages saying the networks were offline. Reportedly, both companies have been hit with distributed denial-of-service (DDOS) attacks in which botnets flood networks with tens of thousands of requests for service, creating more traffic than networks can handle. The attacks come on a day that networks are typically already strained and traffic is high.

Sony began reporting problems in the afternoon on Christmas Eve:

 

 

A group of malicious programmers calling itself Lizard Squad claimed responsibility for the attacks (which technically are not considered hacking) on Twitter. The anonymous group said they are the “next generation Grinch.” They promised to end the attacks in return for new Twitter followers and retweets.

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On Tuesday,  Polygon reported on a rivalry between two groups involved in a planned Christmas “hacking war”:

The turmoil started in August when Lizard Squad made a bit of a name for itself by claiming responsibility for Blizzard and PlayStation Network outages and a tweeted bomb threat which diverted the flight of Sony Online Entertainment head John Smedley.

The group returned in September, claiming responsibility for attacks on the servers for a slew of games including Call of Duty: Advanced WarfareDestiny and Grand Theft Auto Online. Then on Dec. 1, the group said it once more took the PlayStation Network and Xbox Live offline.

The group tweeted that it was preparing for a larger attack at Christmas and that the Dec. 1 attack was just a “small dose of what’s to come.”

No one has verified exactly who is responsible for what in these outages.

On Dec. 2, a new hacker group surfaced. The Finest Squad said it would prevent the promised attack by Lizard Squad and dismantle the group by outing its members and turning them in to police.

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FAA Warns Holiday Drone Recipients to ‘Stay Off the Naughty List!’

Monday, December 22nd, 2014 - by Bridget Johnson
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Just in time for the holiday drone season, industry groups and the Federal Aviation Administration have teamed up for a program teaching good drone manners.

“Getting a new unmanned aircraft for the holidays? Stay off the naughty list!” tweeted the FAA as it released the “Know Before You Fly” video.

“Many will be excited when they unwrap the box and find an unmanned aircraft!” the video says with jingling Christmas music. “How do you make sure you stay off the naughty list? We want you to know before you fly. It’s time to have fun with your new unmanned aircraft. But to protect people and other aircraft in the sky, you need to learn to fly safely.”

The video tells amateur drone operators to fly below 400 feet, posting an illustration of the 455-foot Great Pyramid of Giza as a reference.

The FAA adds that drones should be flown within sight, preferably with a local club, and not near airports or stadiums. “Don’t fly for payment or commercial purposes,” the video warns.

The “Know Before You Fly” campaign is sponsored by the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International (AUVSI), Academy of Model Aeronautics (AMA) and the Small UAV Coalition.

“There is a lot of excitement and enthusiasm around UAS, and the technology is becoming the must-have holiday gift,” AUVSI President and CEO Michael Toscano said in a statement. “The ‘Know Before You Fly’ campaign fills a critical education gap just in time for the holiday season. We want to ensure that all prospective operators have the tools they need to fly safely and responsibly.”

“Our 175,000 members are intimately familiar with our safety code, which we take very seriously, but not everyone who buys an unmanned aircraft knows what he or she should and should not do,” said AMA President Bob Brown.

The campaign includes a Know Before You Fly instructional website and a social media campaign with the hashtag #KnowB4UFly.

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North Korea: U.S. ‘Should Reflect on Its Evil Doings That Put Itself in Trouble’

Monday, December 22nd, 2014 - by Bridget Johnson

The Policy Department of North Korea’s National Defence Commission said in an official statement that Sony Pictures ”got into a serious trouble and paid a due price” for making The Interview.

“Strange thing that happened in the heart of the U.S., the ill-famed cesspool of injustice, is now afloat in the world as shocking news,” began the statement carried by the official Korean Central News Agency:

The Sony Pictures Entertainment, the biggest movie producer in the U.S., which produced the undesirable reactionary film “The Interview” daring hurt the dignity of the supreme leadership of the DPRK and agitating even terrorism and had a plan to distribute it, was exposed to surprisingly sophisticated, destructive and threatening cyber warfare and has been thrown into a bottomless quagmire after suffering property losses worth hundreds of millions of dollars.

The NDC of the DPRK highly estimates the righteous action taken by the “guardians of peace,” though it is not aware of their residence.

It, at the same time, considers as fortunate the step taken by the Sony Pictures Entertainment to give up the overall distribution of the above-said movie due to the decision and strong pressure of the movie and drama distributors for stopping the screening of the reactionary movie, though belatedly.

This is an official stand of the army and the people of the DPRK on what happened in the heart of the U.S.

This stand is taken by the DPRK because the movie “The Interview” is an undesirable and reactionary one justifying and inciting terrorism which should not be allowed in any country and any region.

Another reason is that the movie is run through with a story agitating a vicious and dastardly method of assassinating a head of a legitimate sovereign state.

No wonder, even political and social circles of the U.S. commented that it is quite wrong to defame the head of the state for the mere reason that his politics is different from that of the U.S. and it is in the hostile relationship with the latter and, therefore, the Sony Pictures Entertainment got into a serious trouble and paid a due price.

For these reasons, the DPRK is more highly praising the “guardians of peace” for their righteous deed which prevented in advance the evil cycle of retaliation– terrorism sparks terrorism.

Despite North Korea’s official protestations that they don’t know the “Guardians of Peace,” the FBI said Friday that it has “enough information to conclude that the North Korean government is responsible for these actions.”

“Technical analysis of the data deletion malware used in this attack revealed links to other malware that the FBI knows North Korean actors previously developed. For example, there were similarities in specific lines of code, encryption algorithms, data deletion methods, and compromised networks,” the FBI statement said. “The FBI also observed significant overlap between the infrastructure used in this attack and other malicious cyber activity the U.S. government has previously linked directly to North Korea. For example, the FBI discovered that several Internet protocol (IP) addresses associated with known North Korean infrastructure communicated with IP addresses that were hardcoded into the data deletion malware used in this attack.”

“Separately, the tools used in the SPE attack have similarities to a cyber attack in March of last year against South Korean banks and media outlets, which was carried out by North Korea.”

Pyongyang’s response to the FBI findings?

“No matter how big and disgraceful the loss may be, the U.S. should not pull up others for no reason,” continued the NDC statements on KCNA.

“…The grounds cited by the FBI in its announcement were all based on obscure sci-tech data and false story and, accordingly, the announcement itself is another fabrication. This is the DPRK’s stand on the U.S. gangster-like behavior against it.”

They called out President Obama for “recklessly making the rumor about ‘DPRK’s cyber-attack on Sony Pictures’ a fait accompli while crying out for symmetric counteraction, strict calculation and additionally retaliatory sanctions.”

“This is like beating air after being hit hard. A saying goes every sin brings its punishment with it. It is best for the guilty to repent of its evil doings and draw a lesson when forced to pay dearly for them… The U.S. should reflect on its evil doings that put itself in such a trouble, apologize to the Koreans and other people of the world and should not dare pull up others.”

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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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