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Sun, 24 Nov 2013 13:06
SUSAN MONTOYA BRYANPublished: TodayALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) - Stormy weather across the West blamed in eight deaths moved steadily eastward, prompting alerts of wintry conditions in New Mexico and Texas.
Forecasters said the storm system in the West would sweep across the South and toward the Atlantic coast the coming week, causing problems for holiday travelers.
The "Nordic outbreak" will "produce a mixed bag of wily weather that will end up impacting much of the nation," National Weather Service meteorologist Joe Harris said.
With a winter storm warning in effect for parts of New Mexico, snow was falling across much of the state early Sunday and forecasters predicted up to 5 inches for many areas.
The state Department of Transportation said motorists on several major roadways, including parts of Interstate 40, faced difficult driving conditions because of packed snow and ice, while some roads in the south were closed. Low temps were predicted to be mainly in the 20s statewide.
Station KOB reported strong winds and near white-out conditions late Saturday night along a stretch of I-40, about 80 miles west of Albuquerque.
Parts of the state had already been hit with snow and freezing rain that caused a rollover accident that killed a 4-year-old girl in the eastern part of the state.
Three other storm-related deaths were reported Saturday in a crash in the Texas Panhandle involving nearly a dozen vehicles.
In California, where the storm system hit first, prompting flooding and water rescues in recent days, three deaths have been linked to the storms since Thursday, as authorities found one body near downed power lines, one man crashed his vehicle into a tree and a woman was killed when a tree fell on a parked car.
In Arizona, firefighters recovered the body of a man who was swept away by high waters Friday in the Santa Cruz River in the southern part of the state.
The storm already has affected much of the West, causing hundreds of rollover accidents and prompting officials to cancel events and close roads.
In Nevada, snow in high elevations temporarily bogged down travel.
In Arizona, more than 8,000 cyclists competed Saturday in rainy conditions in the annual El Tour de Tucson. One cyclist died in a collision with a vehicle, but there was no immediate indication that the accident was storm related. Also, high school football games, soccer tournaments and parades were cancelled across the state.
Forecasters said parts of both California and Arizona could expect severe weather with winter storm warnings through Saturday.
In Texas, freezing rain and cold temperatures have already hampered travel and much of the "heavy stuff" will hit south of I-20, Harris said. Several traffic accidents were reported, including the fatal crash late Friday that left several injured hurt in Vega, about 30 miles west Amarillo, and one that injured three members of singer Willie Nelson's band when their bus struck a pillar on Interstate 30 near Sulphur Springs, about 75 miles northeast of Dallas.
The National Weather Service has issued a winter weather advisory for much of the Texas Panhandle until Monday morning, while the Dallas-Fort Worth area was under a winter storm warning until Monday.
Contributing to this report were Associated Press writers Michelle Rindels in Las Vegas, Sudhin Thanawala in San Francisco, Paul Davenport in Phoenix, and Diana Heidgerd in Dallas.
Sat, 23 Nov 2013 03:34
The White House
Office of the Press Secretary
For Immediate Release
November 21, 2013
DAY OF REMEMBRANCE FOR PRESIDENT JOHN F. KENNEDY
- - - - - - -
BY THE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
A half century ago, America mourned the loss of an extraordinary public servant. With broad vision and soaring but sober idealism, President John F. Kennedy had called a generation to service and summoned a Nation to greatness. Today, we honor his memory and celebrate his enduring imprint on American history.
In his 3 years as President of the United States, John F. Kennedy weathered some of the most perilous tests of the Cold War and led America to the cusp of a bright new age. His leadership through the Cuban Missile Crisis remains the standard for American diplomacy at its finest. In a divided Berlin, he delivered a stirring defense of freedom that would echo through the ages, yet he also knew that we must advance human rights here at home. During his final year in office, he proposed a civil rights bill that called for an end to segregation in America. And recognizing women's basic right to earn a living equal to their efforts, he signed the Equal Pay Act into law.
While President Kennedy's life was tragically cut short, his vision lives on in the generations he inspired -- volunteers who serve as ambassadors for peace in distant corners of the globe, scientists and engineers who reach for new heights in the face of impossible odds, innovators who set their sights on the new frontiers of our time. Today and in the decades to come, let us carry his legacy forward. Let us face today's tests by beckoning the spirit he embodied -- that fearless, resilient, uniquely American character that has always driven our Nation to defy the odds, write our own destiny, and make the world anew.
NOW, THEREFORE, I, BARACK OBAMA, President of the United States of America, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the Constitution and the laws of the United States, do hereby proclaim November 22, 2013, as a Day of Remembrance for President John F. Kennedy. I call upon all Americans to honor his life and legacy with appropriate programs, ceremonies, and activities. I also call upon Governors of the United States and the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, officials of the other territories subject to the jurisdiction of the United States, and appropriate officials of all units of government, to direct that the flag be flown at half-staff on the Day of Remembrance for President John F. Kennedy. I further encourage all Americans to display the flag at half-staff from their homes and businesses on that day.
IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand this twenty-first day of November, in the year of our Lord two thousand thirteen, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and thirty-eighth.
Sat, 23 Nov 2013 03:53
The White House
Office of the Press Secretary
For Immediate Release
November 22, 2013
NATIONAL FAMILY WEEK, 2013
- - - - - - -
BY THE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
Whether united by blood or bonds of kinship -- whether led by a mother and father, same-sex couple, single parent, or guardian -- families are the building blocks of American society. During National Family Week, we celebrate the spirit that moves family members to care for one another, to grow and dream together, and to instill in their children the character that keeps our Nation strong.
As we honor America's families, we must also lift them up. We must restore the basic bargain that built our country -- the idea that if you work hard and meet your responsibilities, you can get ahead. That is why my Administration has prioritized high-quality job creation, affordable health insurance for America's families, and a world-class education for every child. Earlier this year, I signed the American Taxpayer Relief Act, which permanently extended middle class tax cuts while expanding the Child Tax Credit and marriage penalty relief. I am calling on the Congress to increase the minimum wage, a step that would raise incomes for millions of working families. And because we must serve our military families as well as they serve us, First Lady Michelle Obama and Dr. Jill Biden's Joining Forces initiative is connecting service members, veterans, and military spouses with companies looking to hire.
This week, let us renew our family bonds. Whether by sharing a family meal, reading a bedtime story, or creating a holiday tradition, let us carve out a place in the lives of our loved ones. And as we do so, let us resolve that every family should have the opportunity to raise America's next generation of innovators, scholars, and leaders.
NOW, THEREFORE, I, BARACK OBAMA, President of the United States of America, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the Constitution and the laws of the United States, do hereby proclaim November 24 through November 30, 2013, as National Family Week. I invite all States, communities, and individuals to join in observing this week with appropriate ceremonies and activities to honor our Nation's families.
IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand this
twenty-second day of November, in the year of our Lord two thousand thirteen, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and thirty-eighth.
Sun, 24 Nov 2013 15:01
A ProclamationEach year on National Child's Day, America takes time to celebrate our most precious resource. We reaffirm our commitment to giving our next generation the tools to lead, innovate, and pursue their own measure of happiness.
In the United States of America, no matter where you come from, who you are, or how you look, you should have a chance to succeed. That is why we must build ladders of opportunity for all children'--including high-quality preschool, strong education in key fields like math and science, and nutritious meals that give young people the energy to focus. Through First Lady Michelle Obama's Let's Move! initiative, my Administration is helping children develop habits that will let them lead healthier lives, and we are partnering with businesses, local governments, and non-profit organizations to ensure families have the information they need to give our children the happy, healthy futures they deserve.
Yet equal opportunity cannot exist while some parents are forced to choose between buying groceries, paying the rent, or taking their children to the doctor. Under the Affordable Care Act, new health insurance options are now available to millions of Americans. Millions of families will gain access to affordable coverage options through the new Health Insurance Marketplace, including through Medicaid in those States that have chosen to expand coverage. Thanks to this law, children can no longer be denied coverage because they have a pre-existing condition. And most health plans are covering recommended preventive services for children, including developmental screenings and immunizations, without cost-sharing.
With the support of a Nation and the guidance of parents and mentors, our children can lead America into a bright new age. Today, let us strengthen our resolve to provide the opportunities their energy and creativity demand.
NOW, THEREFORE, I, BARACK OBAMA, President of the United States of America, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the Constitution and the laws of the United States, do hereby proclaim November 20, 2013, as National Child's Day. I call upon all citizens to observe this day with appropriate activities, programs, and ceremonies, and to rededicate ourselves to creating the bright future we want for our Nation's children.
IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand this nineteenth day of November, in the year of our Lord two thousand thirteen, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and thirty-eighth.
[FR Doc. 2013-28303Filed 11-22-13; 8:45 am]
Billing code 3295-F4
Sun, 24 Nov 2013 15:15
Waar komt de uitdrukking 'Er blijft veel aan de strijkstok hangen' vandaan en wat wordt ermee bedoeld?'Er blijft veel aan de strijkstok hangen' betekent 'lang niet alles komt ten goede aan wie er recht op heeft', 'er zijn tussenpersonen die zich geld toe-eigenen, waardoor lang niet alles terechtkomt op de plaats waar het nodig is'.
Het gaat hier niet om een strijkstok van een viool, cello e.d., maar om een maatstok waarmee bakjes (de zogenoemde maten) met koren, kalk en andere droge waren werden afgestreken als ze waren gevuld. De inhoud kwam zo gelijk te staan met de rand van de maat. Het Groot Uitdrukkingenwoordenboek van Van Dale (2006) vermeldt dat de zegswijze vroeger 'Er blijft veel aan de maat en de strijkstok hangen' luidde. Blijkbaar wist men de strijkstok z" handig te hanteren dat men er zelf iets aan overhield en de klanten tekort werd gedaan. Een koopman kon bijvoorbeeld tijdens het afstrijken met zijn vingers ongemerkt wat graan uit de maat halen. Ook werd er met de strijkstokken zelf geknoeid.
Sat, 23 Nov 2013 18:16
Good News! Health insurance companies are required by law to cover breast reconstruction. This is true whether the reconstruction is to be done at the time of mastectomy or at a later time. Coverage is also extended to those who have suffered an unsatisfactory outcome from previous reconstructive attempts.
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In network with:CIGNAThree Rivers Provider Network (see full list .pdf)National Preferred Provider Network (see full list .pdf)National Health Benefits Corporation (see full list .pdf)
Contact us for more information:Insurance & Billing ManagerCappy TaylorTelephone: firstname.lastname@example.org
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Sun, 24 Nov 2013 01:40
On October 6, 2000 I posted ''I need a label!'' on the FORCE message boards.
Little did I know at that time just how important that one post would be. I had recently discovered I was BRCA1-positive and was in the process of determining what I was going to do with that information. I remember sitting down and creating the post because I was so frustrated by continually having to repeat who I was and what I was going through. I simply wanted a succinct way of describing my experience to doctors, family and friends. Early on, FORCE's message boards had become an invaluable resource as it gave me a place to interact with others who understood. If I was frustrated, might I not be alone?
An excerpt of my post reads:''Ok, I have to admit. I need a label. Do we have one? You know, those that have the gene [mutation] but have not had cancer. The ones going through all this research and deciding on prophylactic surgeries or not. We need more of a voice and a label'...a name.''I laugh as I read my original post, often saying if I had only known it was going to be such a important piece of FORCE history I surely would have taken the time to write a more sophisticated request. I do think, however, that my random thought process, so evident in the post, helps support the level of frustration I felt at the time.Sue Friedman, FORCE's executive director, understood the magnitude of my request. At that moment, FORCE embarked upon creating a label for our community, but also creating that much needed voice. For the past 10 years, ''previvor'' has been widely accepted and used among the hereditary cancer medical community and even became one of Time Magazine's Top 10 Buzzwords for 2007. The latest claim to fame for the term, which excites me the most, is National Previvor Day. It will not only help substantiate the term among the general population, but will allow for additional educational opportunities as well. I have no doubt it will spark conversations within families who may ultimately find out that they too are at high risk. National Previvor Day can and will save lives. I could not be more thrilled to have been a part of this initiative. It often leaves me speechless.Ten years later, I'm proud to say I'm still 100% a previvor. I'm involved with FORCE on a deeper level, but just as important, I'm happy to report I live a completely normal life. I'm a designer at a commercial real estate services company, I'm a mother of two high school sons, and I just celebrated my 20th wedding anniversary.
I use the term previvor all the time. Mostly when talking about breast cancer, or BRCA or HBOC, because it is a lot shorter and much less nausea invoking than "85% chance of breast cancer and 40% chance of ovarian cancer." And a lot easier than "I used to have an incredibly high risk of breast and ovarian cancer, now my risk is the same as average after major surgeries." But it is October, and my family and partner want to honor my struggles along with the survivors. And in my life cancer, and BRCA and HBOC come up every week somewhere. I need a tee shirt. I have a button. It is not meant to be exclusionary. It is meant to be descriptive. Some day the term will be on book jackets to explain characters. In the vernacular - As impatient as a previvor looking for a mate, As anxious as a previvor waiting for test results. As proud as a previvor in October.
It may still not be that well known but it says a lot in a few words. Points to argue about could be who counts as a previvor? Those with BRCA mutations,those with HBOC, those doing surveillance, those who have had surgeries? I tend to be inclusive about it.
It is not like we are requesting special parking spots. We are requesting a day a year, along with grandparents, sweethearts and bosses, and you don't even have to buy a card. We are asking for help in saving people's lives by educating people about a condition that 1 in 400 people have that there are very specific things that can be done to avoid disease and death.
Yes, it is hard to understand, but that is what the whole education campaign is about. It is true that everyone has mutations and risks of diseases, but most people don't know what they are, and most do not have to worry about it in their 30's and 40s while establishing families and carreers. Most do not have to make hard decisions about major surgeries in their 30's and forties and most do not have so much cancer hanging over our heads.
This week I have to have a list to remember who to pray for. I think we deserve a moniker.
Fri, 22 Nov 2013 07:39
In another blow to President Barack Obama's transparency pledge, major news organizations and associations are protesting the White House policy of banning news photographers from covering President Barack Obama in certain official events, while releasing official White House photos and videos of such gatherings.
And now the White House is trying to frame such moves as a ''win'' for transparency.
President Barack Obama gestures as he speaks during a dinner in honor of the Presidential Medal of Freedom awardees at the Smithsonian Museum of American History on Wednesday, Nov. 20, 2013 in Washington. (AP Photo/ Evan Vucci) AP Photo/ Evan Vucci
''Journalists are routinely being denied the right to photograph or videotape the President while he is performing his official duties,'' the journalists said in a letter to White House press secretary Jay Carney. ''As surely as if they were placing a hand over a journalist's camera lens, officials in this administration are blocking the public from having an independent view of important functions of the Executive Branch of government.''
The letter, dated Nov. 21, also made clear this is not traditional.
The White House Correspondents' Association announced the letter Thursday, joining the nation's four major TV networks, national newspapers and wire services, the American Society of Newspaper Editors, the Associated Press Managing Editors, the White House News Photographers Association and other news companies.
''To exclude the press from these functions is a major break from how previous administrations have worked with the press,'' the letter states.
It also states, ''You are, in effect, replacing independent photojournalism with visual press releases.''
On Jan. 21, 2009, one day after taking office, Obama said, ''Transparency and the rule of law will be the touchstones of this presidency.''
The White House on Thursday tried to turn the lack of journalist access, however, into an example of being more transparent.
''What we have actually done is used a range of new technologies to provide people greater access to the president,'' White House spokesman Josh Earnest said during the White House press briefing. ''There are certain circumstances where it is simply not feasible to have independent journalists in the room when the president is making decisions. So rather than close that off to the American public, we are giving the American people even greater access to behind the scenes footage or photographs of the president doing his job. I understand why that is a source of some consternation in this room. But to the American public, this is a clear win.'' [Emphasis added]
Earnest continued: ''That is people having access because of new technology to things they've never seen before. That's something we remain committed to and we will continue to do. But that has never been viewed internally here at the White House as a substitute for the important work that's done by free and independent journalists.''
The Obama Justice Department has been criticized since May for labeling Fox News reporter James Rosen a ''co-conspirator'' in a leak investigation and for obtaining phone records from Associated Press journalists.
Interestingly, on Wednesday, when presenting the Presidential Medal of Freedom to former Washington Post editor Ben Bradlee, Obama praised Bradlee for ''reminding us that our freedom as a nation rests on our freedom of the press.''
The letter listed seven instances the press should have been allowed to attend:
' On July 10, 2013, the President met with members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus.
' On July 11, 2013, the President met with the Co-Chairs of the U.S. '' China Strategic and Economic Dialogue.
' On July 29, 2013, the President met with former Secretary of State Clinton (White House photo also distributed via Twitter).
' On July 30, 2013, the President and Vice President met with Israeli and Palestinian negotiators.
' On August 26, 2013, the President met with African-American Faith Leaders.
' On September 2, 2013, the President met with Senators McCain and Graham.
' On October. 11, 2013, the President and family members met with Pakistani human rights activist Malala Yousafzai, a person of great public interest.
''While certain of these events may appear 'private' in nature, the decision of the White House to release its own contemporaneous photograph(s) suggests that the White House believes these events are, in fact, newsworthy and not private.''
It goes on, ''The right of journalists to gather the news is most critical when covering government officials acting in their official capacities,'' the letter said. ''Previous administrations have recognized this, and have granted press access to visually cover precisely these types of events, thus creating government transparency. It is clear that the restrictions imposed by your office on photographers undercuts the President's stated desire to continue and broaden that tradition.''
The groups asked for a meeting to make the case face to face for a change in policy.
There are also significant constitutional issues, the letter said, citing Supreme Court precedent.
''Moreover, these restrictions raise constitutional concerns. As the Supreme Court has stated, the First Amendment protects 'the public and the press from abridgment of their rights of access to information about the operation of their government,' Richmond Newspapers Inc. v. Virginia, 448 U.S. 555, 584 (1980).''
''The fact that there is no access whatsoever only heightens those concerns,'' the letter adds. ''As one court has noted in considering a similar restriction: 'The total exclusion of television representatives from White House pool coverage denies the public and the press their limited right of access, guaranteed by the First Amendment of the Constitution of the United States.' Cable News Network, Inc. v. American Broadcasting Companies, Inc., et al. 518 F.Supp. 1238, 1245 (N.D. GA 1981).''
You can read the letter in full below:
Correspondence letter to White House
Sun, 24 Nov 2013 05:10
When I first saw it, I immediately saw the ''screw you'' in it and said, wow, does he figure that he can get away with that too?
Then I thought, it's like everything else. He thinks putting this out will show people, ''no, there isn't, wasn't any problem''. Which was the whole point of the staging of photos to begin with'...
Via US News:
Friday's White House ''Photo of the Day'' seems fairly innocuous at first glance. President Obama, in the Oval Office, is surrounded by eight photojournalists as he signs a bill into law.
But that particular photo comes courtesy of the White House just one day after 38 news organizations and journalistic institutions, en masse, penned a letter of protest to Press Secretary Jay Carney, asking that the Obama administration stop simply sending out their own photos and allow more access to photographers and videographers.
Some journalists interpreted Friday's photo as the White House attempting to sweep the issue under the rug, while others figured it a subliminal ''screw you.''
''I think given the fact that this picture of them taking pictures was now pushed out, I almost wonder if this wasn't just a set up?'' said Mickey Osterreicher, general counsel for the National Press Photographers Association, who worked on a draft of the letter. ''See, we give everybody access, what's the problem?'' he said the White House was trying to say.
Julie Mason, SiriusXM POTUS press pool host and former White House Correspondents' Association board member, saw Friday's photo and suggested it was an equivalent to a middle finger, a snub and an eye roll. ''All of that, plus a drop of anxiety,'' Mason wrote in an email. ''Behold how sensitive the White House is to claims they shut the press out.''
BagNewsNotes, a website that analyzes images, was the first to notice Friday's Oval Office picture and called the White House ''incredibly petty'' for putting it out, arguing that photojournalists should have been offered the opportunity to capture President Obama doing something personal, instead of another staged photo-op.
Sun, 24 Nov 2013 15:10
WASHINGTON '-- A mutiny has erupted among photographers who cover President Obama over what they say is the White House's increasing practice of excluding them from events involving the president and then releasing its own photos or video.
On Thursday, the White House Correspondents' Association and 37 news organizations submitted a letter to the press secretary, Jay Carney, protesting what photographers said amounted to the establishment of the White House's own Soviet-style news service, which gets privileged access to Mr. Obama at the expense of journalists who cover the president.
''As surely as if they were placing a hand over a journalist's camera lens,'' the three-page letter said, ''officials in this administration are blocking the public from having an independent view of important functions of the executive branch of government.''
The Obama administration has embraced social media as a way to get its message to the public beyond the traditional news media. Senior officials post tweets and blog items, while the chief White House photographer, Pete Souza, posts photos of the president on Facebook, Flickr and Instagram, often minutes after they are taken.
Doug Mills, a staff photographer at The New York Times, took this picture of the Obama family on the same day as Mr. Souza's photograph. A complaint has been filed with the press secretary, Jay Carney, over the increasing practice of excluding press photographers from events.
Doug Mills / The New York Times
The White House defended its policy, arguing it is not logistically feasible to give photographers access to every event. The deputy spokesman, Josh Earnest, said, ''We've taken advantage of new technology to give the American public even greater access to behind-the-scenes footage or photographs of the president doing his job.''
''I understand why that is a source of some consternation to the people in this room,'' Mr. Earnest said during the daily White House briefing. ''But to the American public, that is a clear win.''
Mr. Earnest faced persistent questioning from reporters who said the White House was setting a precedent on access and was substituting a government photographer for those from news agencies. Mr. Souza, a former photographer for The Chicago Tribune who became close to Mr. Obama when he was a senator from Illinois, referred questions to Mr. Earnest.
The letter cited seven recent examples of newsworthy events from which photographers were banned, including an outdoor lunch for Mr. Obama and former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, a meeting with Israeli and Palestinian negotiators, and a session in the Oval Office at which Malala Yousafzai, a young Pakistani human rights campaigner, spoke with Mr. Obama, his wife, Michelle, and their daughter Malia.
Administration officials have said these were private meetings. But in all of the cases, a White House photographer recorded the event and posted the pictures on Flickr or other social media sites. Major news organizations regularly publish the photos.
''They're excluding photographers from events at the White House, which is a problem in and of itself,'' said Steve Thomma, the president of the White House Correspondents' Association. ''But now they're sending in their photographers and video crews and then releasing the photos and video. That sets up their own media operation.''
Tensions between the photographers and the White House have simmered for months. They flared during Mr. Obama's visit to South Africa last summer, when photographers were allowed to take a single shot of the president in Nelson Mandela's jail cell on Robben Island, but were excluded from the cell when he hugged his daughter Sasha. That moment was caught by Mr. Souza and widely distributed.
White House photographers have historically captured private moments of the president, with his family or conferring with advisers in the Oval Office or the Situation Room. During the debate over the civil war in Syria, Mr. Souza's images of internal meetings provided a revealing account of the tensions felt by the president and his staff.
But the news organizations argue that the White House has expanded its restrictions to everyday activities, like the time when Mr. Obama went for a swim off Panama City, Fla., in 2010 to demonstrate that the water had been cleaned up after the BP oil spill.
''The way they exclude us is to say that this is a very private moment,'' said Doug Mills, a photographer for The New York Times who has covered the White House since the Reagan administration. ''But they're making private moments very public.''
In a tense meeting late last month with Mr. Carney, Mr. Mills and other board members of the White House Correspondents' Association showed a stack of photos that they said illustrated the problem.
''I said, 'Jay, this is just like Tass,' '' Mr. Mills said, referring to the Soviet state news agency. ''It's like government-controlled use of the public image of the president.''
Fri, 22 Nov 2013 13:07
Journalists often use Twitter for information on breaking stories - but when the story of three women held in domestic "slavery" broke on Thursday, one social media user decided to play a prank.
Responding to employees from, for example, Sky News, @totalprat said the house the media were looking for was located in Mordaunt Street, in Brixton.
He also tweeted his concerns about getting back to his house from work with police on the street, and his shock that people on his street had "apparently had slaves for 30 years", saying he "always thought they looked odd".
Mr Mitchell was not, however, on his way back to Mordaunt Street from work. He was at an airport. Flying from London back to Edinburgh. Where he lives.
Reporters from press agencies and organisations such as CNN and the Times began contacting @totalprat, asking for more information.
The apparent result of @totalprat's joke was tweeted by one presumably genuine resident of Mordaunt Street. It was also reported by local residents that a media helicopter had been dispatched to the area.
The episode shines a light on the media rush for information when a story breaks, but also raises questions over Mr Mitchell's actions. He said it had been "truly the funniest afternoon I have had in about three days", despite the fact that his prank centred on a disturbing and tragic story.
@totalprat received something of an angry response from members of press, with some accusing him of wasting people's time. It was also suggested that Mr Mitchell was wrong to "have a laugh" in relation to such an emotionally charged story.
@totalprat responded by saying that anyone who believes the veracity of a Twitter account called "@totalprat", which includes as its avatar a picture of a naked man, has questionable intelligence.
Fri, 22 Nov 2013 08:08
Schools in Decatur, Ala., were evacuated on Thursday morning after a suspicious device was found on a rail car. The car is located near the Daikin America plant.
UPDATE: WAAY-TV reported that the bomb squad removed the suspicious device from the train, which was coming from Texas, and deemed that it was not explosive. It said the package contained a kilogram of marijuana.
Blue Springs Elementary; Calhoun Community College; Clements High School; East Lawrence High, Middle and Elementary; Julian Harris; Leon Sheffield; Benjamin Davis; Tanner High Schoo; Woodmeade; West Decatur and West Morgan High, Middle and Elementary were dismissed or evacuated, WHNT reported.
Primarily, schools in Decatur, Morgan County, Limestone County and Lawrence County were evacuated, said reports.
The device was attached to a rail car at the Daikin, or Daiken, chemical manufacturing facility near Highway 20.
Officials are closing down Highway 20 between Highway 67 and Woodall Road. River traffic was closed off from Mallard Fox Industrial Park to Highway 31 river bridge.
If an explosion were to take place, the greatest danger area would be to the northeast of Dectur, said WAAY-TV. Emergency sirens will go off if the town has to be evacuated. Police have said the estimated danger potential is about 25 miles.
The rail car contains hazardous material, the station reported.AL.comsaid the train contains hydrogen fluoride gas.
Morgan County Sheriff Ana Franklin told WHNT that a worker at the Daikin plant discovered a package connected to the train car during a routine security check. ''We'd rather be safe than sorry,'' said Franklin.
TVA officials released a statement about the matter.
''TVA officials are closely monitoring the situation at the Daiken facility near Decatur. Plant operations are currently unaffected but site personnel are prepared to take the appropriate actions to protect the public, our employees and the facility,'' the statement reads, according to Fox.
On Twitter, users commented about the incident.
''They're saying we need to get OUT of Decatur,'' one wrote.
Another wrote: ''Class cancelled BC a bomb found on railroad track close to Decatur.''
''Crazy day in decatur. Just got off work because of this suspicious package situation at diakin,'' said a user.
Julian Harris, Leon Sheffield, Benjamin Davis, Woodmeade, West Decatur, and Decatur Campus of Calhoun Community College and the Alabama Center for the Arts are being evacuated immediately.
West Morgan High School, West Morgan Middle School, West Morgan Elementary School have been dismissed at 10:30 a.m.
Clements and Tanner High Schools, and Blue Springs Elementary were evacuated to Ardmore High School and Cedar Hill Elementary.
East Lawrence High, Middle and Elementary schools are being evacuated to Moulton Coliseum, said WAAY-TV.
Fri, 22 Nov 2013 14:43
Virgin Galactic is one of the universe's most exciting, futuristic companies. Bitcoin, the virtual currency, has really captured the imagination recently as one of the world's most innovative businesses looking to the future. So we think it is about time Virgin Galactic customers can choose to pay with bitcoins.Virgin Galactic is one of the universe's most exciting, futuristic companies. Bitcoin, the virtual currency, has really captured the imagination recently as one of the world's most innovative businesses looking to the future. So we think it is about time Virgin Galactic customers can choose to pay with bitcoins.
One future astronaut, a female flight attendant from Hawaii, has already purchased her Virgin Galactic ticket using bitcoins, and we expect many more to follow in her footsteps. All of our future astronauts are pioneers in their own right, and this is one more way to be forward-thinking.
Two years ago, one bitcoin was valued at less than $10. Earlier this week one bitcoin's value reached $900, tripling in the past month, and a US Senate committee hearing deemed it a legitimate financial service.
I have invested in some bitcoins myself, and find it fascinating how a whole new global currency has been created. For people who can afford to invest a little in bitcoins, it's worth looking into. Many people and organisations are - today a Cyprus university is allowing students to pay their tuition fees with bitcoins.
The lack of transparency from Bitcoin's founders has attracted some criticism, but its open source nature means anyone can audit the code. It is a brilliantly conceived idea to allow users to power the peer-to-peer payment network themselves, providing control and freedom for consumers.
Bitcoins aren't yet formally recognized by governments as a currency but with some regulation I hope that it will become more widely accepted. A few years ago many people had doubts about whether Virgin Galactic would ever get off the ground. Now we have gone supersonic, are a long way along the testing process, and are looking forward to launching commercial space travel.
While the world of travel is rapidly advancing, the world of payments is changing fast too. New methods of paying such as Square and Clinkle, both of which I have invested in, are revolutionising the way we pay and will continue to do so in years to come. The days of carrying cash and coins could soon be over. Sometime in the future, innovative payment models such as Square, Clinkle and Bitcoin will become serious challengers to traditional banks, which will spur more competition and give customers even more options.
Virgin Galactic is a company looking into the future, so is Bitcoin. So it makes sense we would offer Bitcoin as a way to pay for your journey to space. A lot of the people who have joined Bitcoin are tech-minded people, as are many of our current future astronauts.
We would be delighted to welcome more of the Bitcoin community as future astronauts.
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27 September 2013Greg Rose
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Sat, 23 Nov 2013 19:55
Looks like someone's really bullish on Bitcoin. A transfer worth about $147 million was made Friday around 1 p.m. ET, making it the largest single Bitcoin transaction by value. Because the transaction is anonymous, it's unknown who's behind the transfer of 194,993.5 Bitcoins.
The story, which shot to the top of Hacker News, has many people wondering who's behind the move. The value of Bitcoin has been prone to fluctuating, reaching $729 as of this writing, up from less than $100 in early October. As Bitcoin gains ground, more companies have started accepting the cryptocurrency--the latest high-profile one being Virgin Galactic, which announced today that customers can pay for flights to space with Bitcoin. Earlier this week, the Department of Justice and Securities Exchange Commission began making arguments at a Senate committee hearing for Bitcoin's role as a real financial instrument.
Sun, 24 Nov 2013 02:33
gavin-andresenGavin AndresenChief ScientistGavin began his career working on 3D graphics software at Silicon Graphics Computer Systems. Since leaving the Silicon Valley, his positions included CTO of an early voice-over-the-Internet startup and co-founder of a company making multiplayer online games for blind people and their sighted friends. Most recently, Gavin has been the lead developer for the Bitcoin digital currency project.
karpelesMark KarpelesBoard MemberMark currently serves as CEO of Mt.Gox, one of the oldest Bitcoin businesses in operation today. He is the mastermind who created the current trade engine and the multi-currency platform for Mt.Gox. Mark founded Tibanne in Japan, the mother company of Kalyhost and AutoVPS. Previously Mark was employed in IT development positions with Nexway (France) and Fotovista Group (France).
Micky MalkaBoard MemberMicky is the founder and sole General Partner of Ribbit Capital, a Silicon Valley-based venture capital firm. He has over two decades of global experience in the financial services industry. He started five financial services companies '' his first at the age of 18 '' in the U.S., Europe and Latin America, and serves on the board of multiple financial services businesses, including Wonga, Mercado Libre, and Lemon. He lived through hyperinflation in Venezuela and Brazil, where he witnessed more than half of the banks in his home country fail. As a result, he strives to help create tangible solutions and financial reform for the antiquated industry.
jonmatonisJon MatonisExecutive Director and Board MemberA money researcher and crypto economist from George Washington University, Jon advises startups in Bitcoin, gaming, mobile and prepaid organizations. A tech contributor to Forbes Magazine and editor of The Monetary Future, Jon serves on the editorial board of Bitcoin Magazine. Previously CEO of Hushmail and Chief Forex Trader at VISA., Jon also held senior posts at Sumitomo Bank and VeriSign.
elizabeth-ploshayElizabeth T. PloshayBoard MemberElizabeth serves as Manager of Communications of Bitcoin Magazine. Having previously served as the Scheduler, Policy Assistant, and Legislative Correspondent for a US Member of Congress, Elizabeth has a background in public policy, Middle Eastern politics, and grassroots activism. With a keen desire to promote decentralization and free market principles, she is fascinated with the Bitcoin currency and the multiple opportunities for this decentralized peer to peer currency to flourish on a global scale.
charlieshremCharlie ShremVice ChairmanCurrently serving as CEO and co-founder of BitInstant, one of the largest, earliest and well known alternative payment companies, Charlie used his position in both the old banking world and new alternative currency world to help pave the way for the Bitcoin economy to emerge in early 2011. Known in the Bitcoin and old hacker communities as 'Yankee', he is also founding member and current Vice Chairman of the Bitcoin Foundation. Along with Gareth Nelson, he found the need for a more secure, fast and convenient way of transferring funds between and within payment networks around the world and leads BitInstant through the complex compliance, licensing and regulations of the worldwide banking system.
vessenesPeter VessenesChairman of the BoardPeter's newest enterprise, CoinLab, extracts and exchanges computer power from gamers and other consumers for Bitcoins. A serial entrepreneur, Peter has founded startups, created an international development corporation in Africa, worked in top executive positions and as a business analyst, and served as a board member for tech companies.
General CounselpatrickmurckPatrick MurckPatrick is a principal and founder of Engage Legal PLLC. His expertise extends across the legal and regulatory issues governing the use of Bitcoin, virtual economies, gamification, alternative payment systems, and social loyalty and reward programs. Previously Patrick worked in business and legal affairs at BigDoor, as an attorney at a DC-based law firm, and as a journalist on international investigatory teams.
Sun, 24 Nov 2013 02:48
2009BigDoor is born!Founders Co-op in Seattle invests $250K. Andy Sack joins the board.2010Foundry leads a $5 million investment round into BigDoor. Brad Feld joins the board.We hit double digits! Bigdoor grows to over 10 employees.2011BigDoor moves into our current digs in the middle of the tech hub that is South Lake UnionWe launch Loyalty Program, our flagship product.2012Foundry invests another $5 million into BigDoor.BigDoor is named one of the ''Top 100 Best Companies to Work For'' by Seattle Business Magazine.We're named ''Best Early Stage Company of the Year'' at the WTIA Industry Achievement Awards.2013BigDoor launches our Loyalty Campaign product.BigDoor rebrands itself to focus on loyalty, and launches reciprocal loyalty into the spotlight.The FutureWe've come this far, and we're excited about what's next. Won't you join us?
Sun, 24 Nov 2013 02:48
At Engage Legal we are laser-focused on discovering new and innovative ways to provide value and deliver results for our clients.
We specialize in:
Gamification - The use of game design to increase user engagement and retention in non-game applications.
Virtual Economies - The use of Virtual Currency and Virtual Goods to create monetization, engagement and retention strategies.
Social Loyalty and Rewards - The use of Virtual and Real reward systems to motivate desired actions in your audience or community including virality, participation and consumption.
Alternative Payment Systems - Virtual Currency, Promotional Points, e-Wallets and other non-traditional forms of stored value and payment systems.
We help clients manage their legal risk, create new business opportunities, open new markets, drive revenue, structure deals and craft agreements.
Sun, 24 Nov 2013 03:36
Political organizations can't accept contributions in the form of bitcoins, at least for now, The Federal Election Commission said Thursday.
The commission passed on a request by the Conservative Action Fund, a political action committee, to use the digital currency. That group had asked the FEC recently whether it could accept bitcoins, how it could spend them and how donors must report those contributions. It was not immediately clear whether the same ruling would apply to individual political candidates.
Bitcoin is a cybercurrency that is relatively anonymous and is created and exchanged independently of any government or bank. Some retailers accept it, and the currency can be converted into cash after being deposited into virtual wallets.
But the FEC isn't yet sold on allowing bitcoins to funnel into the bank accounts of political campaigns and outside groups supporting them, and commissioners deadlocked 3-3 along party lines Thursday.
FEC chairwoman Ellen Weintraub acknowledged that she had never heard of bitcoins until she saw the Conservative Action Fund's request. Weintraub, a Democrat, raised the prospect of anonymous or foreign bitcoin donations '-- both prohibited under federal law '-- flowing into campaigns and outside groups. But she suggested the FEC would revisit bitcoins at a later date.
Some commissioners who supported bitcoin donations said current regulations already allow for bitcoin transactions. Republican Commissioner Lee Goodman, who was recently confirmed by the Senate, voted in favor of the fund's request.
Fund lawyers had asked the FEC as early as this summer about the use of bitcoin in a changing campaign finance system.
"Notwithstanding the worth of an individual bitcoin, their general popularity is soaring," they said in a letter, noting the Libertarian Party and other state-level candidates already accept the currency.
Bitcoins have gained increased attention by the U.S. government, particularly how they can be used alongside of more traditional currency. At a hearing this week before the Senate Homeland Security Committee, federal officials told lawmakers that bitcoin and other companies should receive greater scrutiny from financial regulators and other authorities.
This is not the FEC's first time debating how modern technology can square with the country's decades-old campaign finance laws. Last summer, for instance, the commission approved the use of political contributions via cell phone text messages.
Follow Jack Gillum on Twitter: http://twitter.com/jackgillum
Sat, 23 Nov 2013 20:06
What is Common Core?
The answer to this question has been a carefully guarded secret by those who created the Common Core Standards. The Common Core Standards came about when Bill and Melinda Gates first began funding their vision for national educational standards with a grant to the James B. Hunt Institute. To date, the contribution of the Gates' to this project is estimated at 27 million dollars and counting. This seed money led to the development of the Common Core Standards State Initiative by the National Governors Association (NGA) and the Council of Chief State School Officers (NCSSO), two Washington, D.C. based trade organizations, working in conjunction with Achieve, Incorporated, a D.C. based contractor, and the James B. Hunt Institute, a private lobbying group. Despite the participation of the NGA and NCSSO, the Common Core standards are NOT state-led initiatives, as proponents of Common Core would have you believe.
Why should Americans be concerned about these standards?
It would take many pages to lay out all of the dangers to our liberty and educational freedoms contained in the Common Core State Standards Initiative. In brief, each of the fifty states has been bribed by the Federal Government to accept the copyrighted and thus unalterable Common Core standards'--even though most Americans have no idea what they entail'--by offering those states millions in so-called ''Race to the Top'' money or exemptions from the failed No Child Left Behind program. To date, forty-six states have accepted Common Core money, ceding curricular control to the Federal government and taking it away from parents, teachers, and local school boards. Beyond the educational mediocrity that Common Core standards will further enshrine in public schools, there are elaborate plans to use the required national assessments within the Common Core Standards as a tool to institute massive data collection about American school children that has nothing to do with education, and everything to do about Government intrusion and control.
We urge you to read FPE's policy about Common Core, watch our Webcasts on the subject, and commit to joining our efforts to defeat Common Core.
Dr. Sandra Stotsky, a leading authority on English Language Arts standards and member of the Common Core validation committee who refused to sign-off on the ELA standards, testified in Fond du Lac, WI against the implementation of Common Core.
FreedomProject Education's Academic Director testified in Fond du Lac, WI against the implementation of Common Core.
FreedomProject Education's Executive Director Mr. Alan Scholl testified in Madison, WI against the implementation of Common Core.
FreedomProject Education's Student Development Director Mrs. Mary Black testified in Madison, WI against the implementation of Common Core.
FreedomProject Education's Executive Director Mr. Alan Scholl testified in Eau Claire, WI against the implementation of Common Core.
Dr. James Milgram, a leading authority on Math standards from Stanford University and member of the Common Core validation committee who refused to sign-off on the Math standards, testified in Eau Claire, WI.
Dr. Gary Thompson of the Early Life Child Psychology and Education Center, (earlylifepsych.com/) testified in Eau Claire, WI against the implementation of Common Core.
Mr. Ze'ev Wurman, a U.S. Department of Education official under George W. Bush and co-author of the book ''Common Core's Standards Still Don't Make the Grade,'' testified in Wausau, WI against the implementation of Common Core.
Theodor Rebarber, CEO and founder of AccountabilityWorks, (accountabilityworks.org) testified in Wausau, WI against the implementation of Common Core.
Sun, 24 Nov 2013 04:42
@garyrubinstein are they practicing bubbling?
'--Jessica Roy (@jroy218) November 17, 2013Twitchy's CEO Michelle Malkin has been one of the more vocal critics of the imposition of Common Core standards on our schools. One of the controversial issues has to do with the emphasis on unorthodox (often unclear) paths to solutions, rather than simply asking kids to solve problems. Some parents are taking to Twitter to register their anger and confusion over the weird instruction their children are receiving, reportedly from Common Core-aligned curricula:
My daughter's kindergarten common core workbook. http://t.co/by0m5l9hjN'--Gary Rubinstein (@garyrubinstein) November 17, 2013
''@garyrubinstein: My daughter's kindergarten common core workbook. http://t.co/ATciz3KOUM” I don't get what the book wants a student to do.'--Education Hawk (@EdHawk1) November 17, 2013
@leoniehaimson @PeterMDeWitt @edweek kids can't learn 68= 48 anymore its now 68=(5+1)x8Why the confusing work http://t.co/FNs9Anp8zc'--nicole (@NicoleAgonicole) November 17, 2013
@garyrubinstein @leoniehaimson 1st grader's common core homework scanned with family commentary added. http://t.co/mBR6BTCmSq'--e (@TheeErin) November 17, 2013
Here's a screen shot of the answer key for a questionable homework assignment from Common Core for 3rd grade grammar. http://t.co/LWdDanTLpD'--Colette Moran (@ColetteMoran) October 31, 2013
Attn. Parents: Common Core homework makes it necessary to keep a supply of brass fasteners on hand @ home http://t.co/kdSH7Sq55s'--Shawna Coppola (@ShawnaCoppola) October 25, 2013
Coles homework tonight. No explanations. Just this. #CommonCore#neveraskizzytohelpwithhomeworkhttp://t.co/lUeoB9KqzW'--KÄrr (@mom2lexcole) October 23, 2013
Poorly worded #commoncore homework question or are we overthinking? What's your answer? http://t.co/mgbZw09q2m'--Jon Hickey (@jhickey62) October 21, 2013
The flags in my kids math homework look a lot more like a Chinese flag then a us one. Its a common core worksheet. http://t.co/ZNjKHsMl4s'--lea (@mrs_flyboy) October 10, 2013
Is this really what should be taught in the schools? Be careful how you answer, or Secretary of Education Arne Duncan might accuse of being opposed to it just because you're white and from the suburbs. Whether you are or not.
Must-see Common Core math problems of the day [pics]
Michelle Malkin takes on reality-challenged Common Core mouthpiece
Dana Loesch slams Common Core, Arne Duncan on 'Kelly File'
Education Secretary's statement about Common Core opponents sparks 'Moms Against Duncan'
First grade teacher mocks Common Core
'Who should survive?': Common Core assignment mixes race, religion and lifeboats
Michelle Malkin: My child's Common Core-aligned Algebra book is crap
Sun, 24 Nov 2013 03:56
We're inspired by the innovation, compassion and focus of our founders, Gordon and Betty Moore. Gordon's thinking was part of the birth of Silicon Valley in the late 1950s. Betty's commitment to improving the lives of patients resulted in a regional collaborative that is making a difference in the care that Californians receive. Together, they've identified places where they, and the foundation, could create positive change for future generations.
In 1965 Gordon made a rule-of-thumb prediction, later dubbed Moore's Law, that became a guiding principle for the delivery of ever-more powerful semiconductor chips at proportionally lower costs. Today, this standard continues to set the pace of technology development and progress. Gordon has been committed to progress in science and technology throughout his career as a leader in the semiconductor industry, first as co-founder of Fairchild Semiconductor, and then as co-founder of Intel Corporation.Betty met Gordon at San Jose State College, where she received her bachelor's degree in journalism in 1949. Gordon and Betty were married the following year. While Gordon attended graduate school at the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, Betty worked for Consolidated Engineering Corporation in advertising and public relations before joining the Ford Foundation. Gordon and Betty established their own foundation in 2000 to create positive outcomes for future generations around the world and at home in the San Francisco Bay Area.
Sun, 24 Nov 2013 03:48
An Update from Joyce and Larry Stupski:
In September 2012, after carefully considering our commitments, intentions and life circumstances, we decided to wind down the work of the Stupski Foundation. Over the years, we've had the privilege of working with many dedicated and innovative partners in the field of education. We are forever grateful.
We are presently engaged in a review process'--thinking more deeply about children and education'--and other important issues and initiatives'--and how we might make an impact in our private philanthropic work. While we're not sure where we're headed just yet, we invite you to visit www.stupski.org for an update in the months ahead.
Please know that we are following'--with great interest'--the innovative, collaborative and inspiring work being done each day in the nonprofit, philanthropic and public sectors.
Sun, 24 Nov 2013 03:47
Board of DirectorsLumina Foundation Board of Directors, 2010 | download .jpg | 496kNot pictured: Frank Alvarez, Kathy Davis, Allan Hubbard, Belle WheelanBoard Chair James C. LintzenichFormer Vice Chairman and CEO of USA Group; former President and Chief Operating Officer of Sallie Mae
Frank D. AlvarezFormer President and CEO of the Hispanic Scholarship Fund, San Francisco, CA
Kathy DavisOwner, Davis Design Group LLC.
Allan HubbardCo-founder, E&A Industries, Inc.
F. Joseph LoughreyRetired Vice Chairman, President and Chief Operating Officer of Cummins, Inc., Columbus, IN
Marie V. McDemmondPresident Emeritus of Norfolk State University, Norfolk, VA
Jamie P. MerisotisPresident and Chief Executive Officer of the Foundation
J. Bonnie NewmanChancellor Emeritus of the Community College System of New Hampshire, Concord, NH
Laura Palmer NooneCEO of Potomac College and President Emeritus, University of Phoenix, Phoenix, AZ
Michael L. SmithFormer CFO of Anthem, Inc., Indianapolis, IN
Belle S. WheelanPresident, Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges, Decatur, GA
Mark G. YudofPresident of the University of California, Oakland, CA
Executive TeamJamie P. MerisotisPresident and Chief Executive Officer
Samuel CargileVice President, Senior Advisor to CEO
J. David MaasVice President of Finance and Investments & CFO
Dewayne MatthewsVice President of Policy and Strategy
Holiday Hart McKiernanChief of Staff & General Counsel
Juan (Kiko) SuarezVice President of Communications and Innovation
Sun, 24 Nov 2013 03:45
Lumina Foundation is a private, Indianapolis-based foundation with about $1.4 billion in assets. Its mission is to expand student access to and success in education beyond high school. Since its founding in August 2000, Lumina has made grants totaling more than $250 million.
HistoryLumina Foundation is a conversion foundation created in mid-2000 as USA Group, Inc., the nation's largest private guarantor and administrator of education loans, sold most of its operating assets to the Student Loan Marketing Association, Inc. (Sallie Mae). Proceeds from the sale established the USA Group Foundation with an endowment of $770M. The Foundation was renamed Lumina Foundation for Education in February, 2001.
Early initiativesLumina's early grant making efforts provided start-up funding for three initiatives: Achieving the Dream: Community Colleges Count; KnowHow2GO, a college-access campaign; and College Productivity, formerly known as Making Opportunity Affordable. 
Lumina's goal is to increase the proportion of Americans with high-quality degrees and credentials to 60 percent by the year 2025. Lumina pursues this goal by identifying and supporting effective practice, through public policy advocacy, and by using communications and convenings to build public will for change.
Sun, 24 Nov 2013 03:44
Jeff RaikesBornJeffrey Scott Raikes(1958-05-29) May 29, 1958 (age 55)NE, USOccupationCEO of the Bill & Melinda Gates FoundationYears active2008''presentSpouse(s)Tricia RaikesChildrenMichaela, Connor, and GillianJeffrey Scott "Jeff" Raikes (born May 29, 1958) is the chief executive officer of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Until early 2008 Raikes was the President of the Microsoft Business Division and oversaw the Information Worker, Server & Tools Business and Microsoft Business Solutions Groups. He joined Microsoft in 1981 as a product manager. He retired from Microsoft in September 2008, after a transitional period, to join the Gates Foundation. Raikes is credited with driving much of Microsoft's early work in business applications. He also held roles managing the company's sales force and services groups.
BiographyRaikes grew up in Ashland, Nebraska, graduating from Ashland-Greenwood High School in 1976. Raikes prepared to work for the US Department of Agriculture on agricultural policy while earning his Bachelor of Science degree in Engineering-Economics Systems (EES) from Stanford University. It was while at Stanford that Raikes had his first exposure to computing, learning Pascal on a DEC System 20. The first computer he bought was an Apple II, which he used to help his brother, Ron Raikes, manage the family farm.
He joined Apple Computer as the VisiCalc Engineering Manager in 1980. He worked at Apple for 15 months before being recruited to Microsoft by Steve Ballmer in 1981 as a product manager. He was promoted to director of Applications Marketing in 1984, and was the chief strategist behind Microsoft's investments in graphical applications for the Apple Macintosh and the Microsoft Windows operating system. In this role, he drove the product strategy and design of Microsoft Office. Raikes was promoted to vice president of Office Systems, where he was responsible for development and marketing of word processing, workgroup applications and pen computing.
He later held roles managing North American operations, and worldwide sales, marketing, and services. In 2000, he was appointed to lead Productivity and Business Services, which later became the Information Worker business at Microsoft. He was named a company president in 2005.
Raikes and his wife, Tricia Raikes n(C)e McGinnis, have three children; Michaela, Connor, and Gillian.
Raikes has a wide range of philanthropic interests. He and his wife are co-founders of the Raikes Foundation. He is a major donor to the Center for Comparative Studies in Race and Ethnicity (CCSRE) at Stanford University where he also established the Jeff and Tricia Raikes Undergraduate Scholarship Fund to ensure that students admitted to Stanford from rural and inner-city schools have an opportunity to attend the university. He is a trustee at the University of Nebraska Foundation, funded a professorship in agronomy, and was a designer of the University of Nebraska''LincolnJ. D. Edwards Honors Program in computer science and management. He has been active in United Way for several years. In 2006-2007, he co-chaired the annual campaign of United Way of King County with his wife, setting a national record for funds raised. On 2008-05-12 it was announced that Raikes would replace Patty Stonesifer as the CEO of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
In 1992 the Pacific Northwest was in danger of losing the Seattle Mariners Major League Baseball franchise. Raikes joined with other local business leaders to purchase the team, keeping them ''safe at home'' for the enjoyment of Northwest baseball fans.
In June, 2008, Raikes donated approximately $10 million to the University of Nebraska's JD Edwards Honors Program, which officially changed its name to the Jeffrey S. Raikes School of Computer Science and Management shortly thereafter.
ReferencesExternal linksPersondataNameRaikes, JeffAlternative namesShort descriptionAmerican businessmanDate of birth1958-05-29Place of birthDate of deathPlace of death
Sun, 24 Nov 2013 03:43
Press RoomPress ReleasesBack
PrintSeattle, September 10, 2013 '' Jeff Raikes, CEO of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, today announced his decision to step down from his position in an email and subsequent meeting with employees, accompanied by Bill and Melinda Gates, co-chairs of the foundation.
In his email, he wrote:
When Bill and Melinda approached me about this job in May 2008, we discussed a five-year commitment. I am proud of the work we've all done together in the past five years. We are having an impact on people's lives every single day, and we are set up to keep on having an even bigger impact in the years to come.
Now, I'm looking forward to doing some things I haven't had time for, including my work at the Raikes Foundation, which is tackling youth and education issues. I have learned so much from Bill, Melinda, our grantees and partners, and all of you about catalytic philanthropy and specific issues like agriculture and education. I have also learned from'--and been deeply moved by'--the people I've met in the field, whether they're Ethiopian farmers trying to grow enough food to feed their children or a teacher in New Orleans helping students make a better future. These lessons will not only inspire me but also serve me day-to-day, because I will continue to invest my time and energy in these areas.
It has been a privilege to get to do this urgent, important work with you, and it has also been a lot of fun. I'm focused on making sure that the transition to your next leader is as seamless as possible, so that you can continue doing this work with the intellect and passion you bring to it every day.
''The foundation is in the best shape that it's ever been in thanks to Jeff. He has successfully managed the organization through a period of significant growth, built a phenomenal leadership team, and set us on a great path programmatically. Thanks to Jeff we are at the place now where we will be able to have the impact we want,'' said Bill Gates following the announcement.
''Jeff has been a wonderful collaborator. He kept us looking ahead and positioned the foundation, and Bill and me, for long-term success. He always stressed the importance of partnership and continuous learning, which has been invaluable to improving the work we do,'' said Melinda Gates.
''Jeff took exactly the right approach to managing the foundation. He encouraged bold thinking and risk taking, and encouraged people to learn not just from what worked, but also what didn't. It's what I expected from him and he delivered,'' said Warren Buffett, trustee of the foundation.
Raikes will remain in his position until a successor is named.
Sat, 23 Nov 2013 20:47
DUPO, IL - Fourth graders in Dupo Illinois are reading a biography of Barack Obama that's raising eyebrows among St. Clair County parents. The book, which supplements the school's Common Core curriculum, blames television for the negative behaviors the first African-American president picked up as a teen:
The book - brought to the attention this week of those on the "Moms Against Duncan - MAD" Facebook page, goes on to say white Americans were hesitant to vote for a black president, and that Obama pushed the race issue to bring the nation together.
"But some people said Americans weren't ready for that much change. Sure Barack was a nice fellow, they said. But white voters would never vote for a black president. Other angry voices were raised. Barack's former pastor called the country a failure. God would damn the United States for mistreating its black citizens, he said."
The Bluffview Elementary students were told the book's content would be tested for grades. That brought outrage among parents just across the Mississippi River from St. Louis, one of the "MAD" moms reported.
This biography of America's 44th president, entitled "Barack Obama," is written by Jane Sutcliffe and published by Lerner. The book is part of Scholastic's "Reading Counts" program acceptable to the controversial Common Core curriculum standards.
An online sampling to "Barack Obama" is available HERE.
As to the "Moms Against Duncan" (MAD), which formed on Facebook to pushback on U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan's recent comment about "white suburban moms" and their resistance to the national Common Core curriculum standards, here's what one of the MAD moms wrote this week about Duncan and Common Core:
"Duncan's foot-in-mouth-disease comes from the fact that he doesn't understand that this is no longer a political thing. This is about our children. As a teacher who left the classroom because of Common Core and the abuse of our children, I can promise it has nothing to do with color, or sex, or education level, or income, or political party. As a Democrat myself I will be voting all over party lines in November. If you support Common Core'....we will show you the door. There are a lot of Dems who have signed onto Harkins bill, which will effectively remove all local boards of education, and they need to watch their re-election bids carefully.
"As the co-founder of MAD (Moms Against Duncan) we are linking groups of parents all over this country together. Our ultimate goal is a 10% standardized test opt out rate in every school K-8. We will corrupt the data so it is useless. No school scores, no teacher scores, no student scores. No databases, no prison planning data, no economic development data. Pearson, Gates and Duncan can kiss our multicolored backsides. Our children are NOT data. We want all this wasted money back in the hands of our teachers.
"If Arne Duncan thinks he can take a poop on someone's yard and apologize by saying "it would have looked better if I'd been over a few feet" he is sadly mistaken. We are America's MOMS (and Dads) and WE ARE MAD!!!"
Illinois Review has reached out to the school's 4th grade teachers as to whether parents have complained to them about the book.
Sat, 23 Nov 2013 22:52
Why are some kids crying when they do homework these days? Here's why, from award-winning Principal Carol Burris of South Side High School in New York. Burris has for more than a year chronicled on this blog the many problems with the test-driven reform in New York (here, and here and here and here, for example). She was named New York's 2013 High School Principal of the Year by the School Administrators Association of New York and the National Association of Secondary School Principals, and in 2010, tapped as the 2010 New York State Outstanding Educator by the School Administrators Association of New York State. She is the co-author of the New York Principals letter of concern regarding the evaluation of teachers by student test scores. It has been signed by more than 1,535 New York principals and more than 6,500 teachers, parents, professors, administrators and citizens. You can read the letter by clicking here.
By Carol Burris
My speech teacher came to see me. She was both angry and distraught. In her hand was her 6-year-old's math test. On the top of it was written, ''Topic 2, 45%''. On the bottom, were the words, ''Copyright @ Pearson Education.'' After I got over my horror that a first-grader would take a multiple-choice test with a percent-based grade, I started to look at the questions.
The test provides insight into why New York State parents are up in arms about testing and the Common Core. With mom's permission, I posted the test here. Take a look at question No. 1, which shows students five pennies, under which it says ''part I know,'' and then a full coffee cup labeled with a ''6'" and, under it, the word, ''Whole.'' Students are asked to find ''the missing part'' from a list of four numbers. My assistant principal for mathematics was not sure what the question was asking. How could pennies be a part of a cup?
Then there is Question No. 12. Would (or should) a 6 year old understand the question, ''Which is a related subtraction sentence?'' My nephew's wife, who teaches Calculus, was stumped by that one. Finally, think about the level of sophistication required to answer the multiple-choice question in No. 8 which asks students to ''Circle the number sentence that is true'' from a list of four.
Keep in mind that many New York State first graders are still 5 years old at the beginning of October, when this test was given.
It is easy to point fingers at the teacher or school for giving the test, or to point fingers at Pearson for creating it. The problem, however, goes much deeper. The problem (no pun intended) is at the core.
Question 1 on the first-grade test is based on the New York Common Core Standard, 1.OA4 Understand subtraction as an unknown-addend problem. Question 12 tests standard 1.OA6, which requires students to use the relationship between addition and subtraction to solve problems. Question 8 assesses Standard 1.OA 7 which requires students to determine whether addition or subtraction sentences are true or false. You can find the New York Common Core standards here.
This Pearson first-grade unit test is the realization of the New York Common Core math standards. Pearson knows how the questions will be asked on the New York State tests, because they, of course, create them. Certainly, districts buy Pearson materials in the hope of preparing their students for the tests that will evaluate teachers, principals, students and the school itself.
Part of the problem with the rushed implementation of this reform is that there was never sufficient opportunity for schools to carefully examine and critique the standards themselves. In the field, it has been ''whack a mole'' as districts implement evaluation systems, testing and data driven networks while wading through thousands of pages of modules.
Are the standards reasonable, appropriate and developmentally sound'--especially for our youngest learners? In order to answer that question, it is important to understand how the early primary standards were determined. If you read Commissioner John King's Powerpoint slide 18, which can be found here, you see that the Common Core standards were ''backmapped'' from a description of 12th grade college-ready skills. There is no evidence that early childhood experts were consulted to ensure that the standards were appropriate for young learners. Every parent knows that their kids do not develop according to a ''back map'''--young children develop through a complex interaction of biology and experience that is unique to the child and which cannot be rushed.
We also know that the standards were internationally benchmarked. We are told continually that we are ''falling behind.'' Yet the age at which students begin school varies from nation to nation.
In the United States, students begin Grade 1 at the age of 5 or 6.
In Finland, students begin Grade 1 at age 7.
In Singapore, students begin Grade 1 at age 7 after two years of kindergarten.
This is not an argument for starting school at a later age. Canadian students also begin first-grade at age 6. But we must recognize, especially given that Singapore's standards were used to develop the Common Core, that we are asking our young children to engage in intellectual tasks for which they may not be developmentally ready.
Finally, let's do a quick comparison of the standards of the Common Core and those of high-performing Finland. You can find the math curriculum of Finland here ( beginning on page 158). You can find the New York Common Core standards for math here.
Notice that the first Finnish math objective incorporates the importance of students deriving satisfaction and pleasure from problem solving. In contrast, the Common Core does not speak of enjoyment but rather ''a habitual inclination to see mathematics as sensible, useful, and worthwhile, coupled with a belief in diligence and one's own efficacy.''
The Finnish ''description of good performance at the end of second grade'' (there are no kindergarten or first-grade standards) can best be described as topical, open-ended and descriptive, thus allowing teachers to differentiate while working with tasks such as geometry or measurement. In contrast, the Common Core standards are behavioral and prescriptive such as, second-grade standard: 2MD9.
''Generate measurement data by measuring lengths of several objects to the nearest whole unit, or by making repeated measurements of the same object. Show the measurement by making a line plot, where the horizontal scale is marked off in whole-number unit''. P 19.
Finns do not have an equivalent standard 2MD 19: Work with time and money. I will let readers draw their own conclusions.
I am amused by all of the politicians and bureaucrats who love the Common Core and see it as the salvation of our nation. I suspect they are supporting standards that they have never studied. I wonder if they have ever read the details that ask first-graders to ''compose and decompose plane and solid figures'' and ''to determine if equations of addition or subtraction are true or false.'' It is likely that much of the support for the Common Core is based on the ideal that we should have national standards that are challenging, yet the devil in the detail is ignored.
When one actually examines the standards and the tests like the sample I provided, it quickly becomes apparent why young students are crying when they do their homework and telling their parents they do not want to go to school. Many New York children are simply not developmentally ready to do the work. Much of the work is confusing. When you add the pressure under which teachers find themselves to quickly implement the standards and prepare students for standardized testing, it becomes clear why New York parents are expressing outrage at forums across the state.
It is time for New York State to heed, at the very least, the New York State United Teachers' call for a three-year moratorium on high-stakes testing, thus providing time for New York to re-examine its reforms, and change course. New York, sadly, has been a canary in the Common Core coal mine, and if we do not heed the danger a generation of students will be lost.
Sun, 24 Nov 2013 13:27
[Note: If you can see this note, this post is a work in progress. I will update it as I write it so is subject to revision. Once this note is gone, this should be the mostly-final version.]
As promised, and perhaps not surprisingly, I have some things to say about the new Bill C-13, called the "Protecting Canadians from Online Crime Act". It was introduced as Canada's cyberbullying law, but it's more than that. The summary of the bill only refers to the portions of the legislation that deal with cyberbullying, but the government has buried a number of other provisions in the statute that seem to have little, if nothing, to do with cyberbullying.
A word of caution: I've only just gotten my hands on the Bill and my comments are necessarily quick off the mark and without a whole lot of opportunity for reflection. My opinions may change as I digest this or hear responses to this. And, of course, this does not reflect the opinions of my firm, its clients, my friends, my cat or anyone else. If I make a mistake, please let me know and I will be glad to correct it.
First of all, the actual cyberbullying parts, which start at Clause 3 of the Bill:
The heart of it is the creation of a new crime of the non-consensual distribution of intimate images.
162.1 (1) Everyone who knowingly publishes, distributes, transmits, sells, makes available or advertises an intimate image of a person knowing that the person depicted in the image did not give their consent to that conduct, or being reckless as to whether or not that person gave their consent to that conduct, is guilty
(a) of an indictable offence and liable to imprisonment for a term of not more than five years; or
(b) of an offence punishable on summary conviction.
Definition of ''intimate image''
(2) In this section, ''intimate image'' means a visual recording of a person made by any means including a photographic, film or video recording,
(a) in which the person is nude, is exposing his or her genital organs or anal region or her breasts or is engaged in explicit sexual activity;
(b) in respect of which, at the time of the recording, there were circumstances that gave rise to a reasonable expectation of privacy; and
(c) in respect of which the person depicted retains a reasonable expectation of privacy at the time the offence is committed.
(3) No person shall be convicted of an offence under this section if the conduct that forms the subject-matter of the charge serves the public good and does not extend beyond what serves the public good.
Question of fact and law, motives
(4) For the purposes of subsection (3),
(a) it is a question of law whether the conduct serves the public good and whether there is evidence that the conduct alleged goes beyond what serves the public good, but it is a question of fact whether the conduct does or does not extend beyond what serves the public good; and
(b) the motives of an accused are irrelevant.
This is a very difficult provision to get right and an easy provision to get wrong. It is a good thing, in my view, that in order to be found guilty, the accused has to have known that the person depicted did not give consent. But the standard is then lowered to being reckless about whether or not the person gave their consent. This is problematic, in my view.
Imagine a scenario where a woman (let's call her Anne and also assume she's an adult) takes an intimate image of herself and sends it to her boyfriend, Bob. By doing that she has at least consented to having that image sent to him. Anne sent it to Bob, afterall, but there is not explicit communication of the consent involved. Bob is an idiot and a braggart, so he then sends the image to his friend Carl. Did Bob not have Anne's consent to do that? Probably, but the police would have to prove that he knew that he did not have her consent or that he was reckless about a lack of consent. This would have to be proven beyond a reasonable doubt. But now Carl has it and is two steps removed from Anne and has little knowledge about the circumstances under which Bob got the image. It's harder to convict him of knowledge of lack of consent and probably about his recklessness. Imagine that Bob and Anne broke up. As I said, Bob is an idiot, so he posts it on a website, where it is viewed by Dan and Ed. Both Dan and Ed like the photo, so they re-post it and tweet it all over the internet. Dan and Ed have no idea who Anne or Bob are and have no knowledge of this history. They also don't know that Bob took the photo and posted it on the internet to hurt Anne. Are Dan and Ed criminals in this situation? Are they reckless if they don't inquire into it? Can they, since they don't know who Anne is or how to contact her? In this scenario, I would think that Bob is and Carl may be criminals, but Dan and Ed are too far removed to know whether there was consent and the law can't assume any sort of knowledge about lack of consent. It has to be proven. I would not want the law to assume a lack of consent unless the distributor had confirmed it.
I also wonder what is meant by "publishes". Criminal liability should not attach to an intermediary who has no knowledge of the background and the law should not place an obligation on that intermediary to somehow establish the provenance of the photo or image.
The new Section 162.2 allows a court to prohibit someone convicted under the previous section from using the internet for any indeterminate period of time set by the court.
162.2 (1) When an offender is convicted, or is discharged on the conditions prescribed in a probation order under section 730, of an offence referred to in subsection 162.1(1), the court that sentences or discharges the offender, in addition to any other punishment that may be imposed for that offence or any other condition prescribed in the order of discharge, may make, subject to the conditions or exemptions that the court directs, an order prohibiting the offender from using the Internet or other digital network, unless the offender does so in accordance with conditions set by the court.
Duration of prohibition
(2) The prohibition may be for any period that the court considers appropriate, including any period to which the offender is sentenced to imprisonment.
Court may vary order
(3) A court that makes an order of prohibition or, if the court is for any reason unable to act, another court of equivalent jurisdiction in the same province may, on application of the offender or the prosecutor, require the offender to appear before it at any time and, after hearing the parties, that court may vary the conditions prescribed in the order if, in the opinion of the court, the variation is desirable because of changed circumstances after the conditions were prescribed.
I can see the logic behind this, but I often find myself wondering whether the people who draft these laws and the people who enforce them are detached from living in the modern world. Refusing access to the internet is not the same as prohibiting ownership of a firearm. It is virtually impossible for a young person to live any sort of normal life without access to the internet. I know of few jobs these days, other than flipping burgers, that doesn't involve using the internet in one way or another. It's pretty hard to even get a cell phone that doesn't have access to the internet. (Even the old Nokia 252 sitting in the bottom of my junk drawer can access the internet.) I am concerned that such a measure may be imposed too regularly without enough consideration of what sort of impact this may have on the ability of someone to reintegrate into society.
Next up are a number of amendments to existing sections of the Criminal Code which allow for the seizure of obscenity, child pornography and "crime comics" (yes, you read that right), to which "intimate images" are added.
After that, Clause 6 provides for the forfeiture of property related to the offence.
Clause 7 adds the distribution of intimate images to the category of offences that are applicable for certain warrants. some other sub-clauses look like housekeeping, though I'll take a closer look later.
Clause 8 deals with authorizations to intercept certain private communications with the consent of a party to the communication. It adds a new subsection (5) to Section 184.2 of the Criminal Code:
(5) A judge who gives an authorization under this section may, at the same time, issue a warrant or make an order under any of sections 487, 487.01, 487.014 to 487.018, 487.02, 492.1 and 492.2 if the judge is of the opinion that the requested warrant or order is related to the execution of the authorization.
Likewise, clause 9 adds a similar subsection to section 186 of the Criminal Code:
(8) A judge who gives an authorization under this section may, at the same time, issue a warrant or make an order under any of sections 487, 487.01, 487.014 to 487.018, 487.02, 492.1 and 492.2 if the judge is of the opinion that the requested warrant or order is related to the execution of the authorization.
Clause 10 deals with keeping the affidavit to obtain a warrant secret. This appears, at first glance, to be housekeeping. Clause 11 also looks like a housekeeping amendment.
Oddly out of place, Clause 12 seems to expand the categories of identifiable groups for the advocating genocide crime under Section 318 of the Criminal Code:
(4) In this section, ''identifiable group'' means any section of the public distinguished by colour, race, religion, national or ethnic origin, age, sex, sexual orientation, or mental or physical disability.
Clauses 13 amends the provisions of the Code dealing with hate propaganda.
Clauses 14-17 amend the existing sections in the Criminal Code addressing computer crime, none of which have anything to do specifically with cyberbullying. Clause 15 augments the offence of possession of a device to obtain use of telecommunication facility or telecommunication service while Clause 17 amends the offence of Possession of device to obtain unauthorized use of computer system or to commit mischief.
Clause 18, on the other hand, actually has to do with cyberbullying. It amends the existing provisions of the Code related to harassing communications and extends them to include all modes of telecommunications:
Message in false name
371. Everyone who, with intent to defraud, causes a message to be sent as if it were sent under the authority of another person, knowing that it is not sent under that authority and with intent that it should be acted on as if it were, is guilty of an indictable offence and liable to imprisonment for a term of not more than five years.
False information372. (1) Everyone commits an offence who, with intent to injure or alarm a person, conveys information that they know is false, or causes such information to be conveyed by letter or any means of telecommunication.
(2) Everyone commits an offence who, with intent to alarm or annoy a person, makes an indecent communication to that person or to any other person by a means of telecommunication.
(3) Everyone commits an offence who, without lawful excuse and with intent to harass a person, repeatedly communicates, or causes repeated communications to be made, with them by a means of telecommunication.
(4) Everyone who commits an offence under this section is
(a) guilty of an indictable offence and liable to imprisonment for a term of not more than two years; or
(b) guilty of an offence punishable on summary conviction.
Clause 20 adds new categories of production orders to the Criminal Code, including orders related to transmission data and tracing data, along with giving law enforcement the ability to demand that anyone preserve computer data for 21 or 90 days, depending upon the nature of the offence. They are all somewhat problematic, since all that is required is a "reasonable suspicion", not "reasonable and probable grounds to believe" or another higher threshold. The drafters appear to think that the sort of information that would be produced is not sensitive and should not be afforded a high level of protection.
487.012 (1) A peace officer or public officer may make a demand to a person in Form 5.001 requiring them to preserve computer data that is in their possession or control when the demand is made.
Conditions for making demand
(2) The peace officer or public officer may make the demand only if they have reasonable grounds to suspect that
(a) an offence has been or will be committed under this or any other Act of Parliament or has been committed under a law of a foreign state;
(b) in the case of an offence committed under a law of a foreign state, an investigation is being conducted by a person or authority with responsibility in that state for the investigation of such offences; and
(c) the computer data is in the person's possession or control and will assist in the investigation of the offence.
(3) A demand may not be made to a person who is under investigation for the offence referred to in paragraph (2)(a).
Expiry and revocation of demand
(4) A peace officer or public officer may revoke the demand by notice given to the person at any time. Unless the demand is revoked earlier, the demand expires
(a) in the case of an offence that has been or will be committed under this or any other Act of Parliament, 21 days after the day on which it is made; and
(b) in the case of an offence committed under a law of a foreign state, 90 days after the day on which it is made.
Conditions in demand
(5) The peace officer or public officer who makes the demand may impose any conditions in the demand that they consider appropriate '-- including conditions prohibiting the disclosure of its existence or some or all of its contents '-- and may revoke a condition at any time by notice given to the person.
No further demand
(6) A peace officer or public officer may not make another demand requiring the person to preserve the same computer data in connection with the investigation.
I don't have any particular concerns with this new provision, other than subsection (5), which seems to give the peace officer unfettered discretion to place conditions on the demand, including a gag order. If a gag order is contemplated, it should be clearly set out in the Code, the criteria to justify it should be clearly set out as well and it should be subject to judicial review. Providing the police with such discretion only means it will be exercised in the vast majority of cases.
The following sections allow a police officer to seek a judge's order that data be preserved in similar circumstances.
Next up is a new Section 487.014 of the Code, which provides for a "general production order".
General production order
487.014 (1) Subject to sections 487.015 to 487.018, on ex parte application made by a peace officer or public officer, a justice or judge may order a person to produce a document that is a copy of a document that is in their possession or control when they receive the order, or to prepare and produce a document containing data that is in their possession or control at that time.
Conditions for making order
(2) Before making the order, the justice or judge must be satisfied by information on oath in Form 5.004 that there are reasonable grounds to believe that
(a) an offence has been or will be committed under this or any other Act of Parliament; and
(b) the document or data is in the person's possession or control and will afford evidence respecting the commission of the offence.
(3) The order is to be in Form 5.005.
(4) A person who is under investigation for the offence referred to in subsection (2) may not be made subject to an order.
Subsequent sections add on production orders for tracing communications (new s. 487.015), to obtain transmission data (new s. 148.016), to obtain tracking (location) data (new s. 487.017) and to obtain financial data from a financial institution (new s. 487.018).
Sun, 24 Nov 2013 13:28
In February 2012, then-Public Safety Minister Vic Toews introduced Bill C-30, the "Protecting Children From Internet Predators Act". While the government marketed the bill as an attempt to protect children from Internet predators (and infamously accused opponents of siding with child pornographers), it soon became readily apparent that the bill was really about adopting a wide range of measures that increased police powers, stripped away privacy rights, and increased Internet surveillance. The overwhelming negative publicity led the government to put the bill on hold. Earlier this year, then-Justice Minister Rob Nicholson announced that Bill C-30 was dead:We will not be proceeding with Bill C-30 and any attempts that we will continue to have to modernize the Criminal Code will not contain the measures contained in C-30, including the warrantless mandatory disclosure of basic subscriber information or the requirement for telecommunications service providers to build intercept capability within their systems. We've listened to the concerns of Canadians who have been very clear on this and responding to that.
Nicholson's commitment lasted less than a year (the same was true on lawful access in 2007, when Stockwell Day promised no warrantless access to subscriber information only to have Peter Van Loan backtrack a year and a half later). Yesterday, Peter MacKay, the new Justice Minister, unveiled Bill C-13, the Protecting Canadians from Online Crime Act. The similarly-named bill is now marketed as an effort to crack-down cyber-bullying, yet the vast majority of the bill simply brings back many (though not all) lawful access provisions.
There were hints that this might be the government's plan. In October 2012, the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police renewed its call for lawful access (the bill was still on hiatus at the time), shifting away from child predators to cyber-bullying:
Criminal bullying is extremely concerning to all Canadians, especially the parents of young children, and Bill C-30 also provides new legislation to help police intervene and investigate cyber bullying in their early stages to prevent needless tragedy. The Bill makes it an offence to use telecommunications, including social media and the Internet, to injure, alarm, and harass others.
As I noted at the time, the government had not mentioned cyber-bullying in any of its materials on Bill C-30. In April 2013, Jesse Brown noted that cyber-bullying might lead to a reboot of the lawful access bill. Rumours this fall that lawful access might be on the agenda started when Peter MacKay gave a speech in August indicating that cyber-bullying legislation could be forthcoming. As I blogged on August 26th, the press reported that:
MacKay said he also won't be intimidated or deterred from considering new lawful access provisions despite privacy concerns that ultimately led to the death of previous bills.
MacKay was asked about the issue in a Hill Times piece in September with a spokesperson confirming the latter part of the Nicholson's commitment, but not the first part:
''[W]e have no plans to move forward with measures related to the warrantless mandatory disclosure of basic subscriber information or the requirement for telecommunications service providers to build intercept capability within their systems."
Of course, Nicholson's commitment went further than that since he stated that attempts to modernize the Criminal Code would not include measures contained in Bill C-30. The government has simply ignored that commitment by focusing on cyber-bullying and claiming that the remaining provisions are a response to the Federal/Provincial/Territorial Ministers Responsible for Justice and Public Safety June 2013 report on cyber-bullying that recommended bringing back lawful access:
The Working Group strongly recommends that the Federal Government enact investigative tools and procedures which will enable law enforcement to keep pace with modern technology, similar to those elements which have previously been introduced by the Federal Government.
With that foundation, Bill C-13 includes several provisions designed to target cyber-bullying and dozens of pages of reforms that come straight from prior lawful access bills. The bill excludes warrantless mandatory disclosure of basic subscriber information and the requirement for telecommunications service providers to build intercept capability within their systems, yet that is cold comfort given the Snowden revelations about ubiquitous surveillance that may include access to subscriber information and the collection of seemingly all Internet and communications traffic.
As for the cyber-bullying provisions, David Fraser does a good job of parsing the legislation, which focuses on creating an offence for:
Everyone who knowingly publishes, distributes, transmits, sells, makes available or advertises an intimate image of a person knowing that the person depicted in the image did not give their consent to that conduct, or being reckless as to whether or not that person gave their consent to that conduct, is guilty(a) of an indictable offence and liable to imprisonment for a term of not more than five years; or(b) of an offence punishable on summary conviction.
The law also includes the prospect of an Internet ban for offenders, with Section 162.2 allowing a court to prohibit someone convicted under the law from using the Internet or other digital networks.
Once the cyber-bullying provisions are done, the bill includes a wide range of computer-related provisions and new warrant powers. For example, the Criminal Code will be expanded to cover computer programs (currently limited to devices) that can be used to gain access to telecommunications service without payment or lawful excuse (this would include a cable television service, wifi service, Internet services, or phone service) or cause mischief such as interfering or obstructing lawful use of computer data. The expanded provision may mean that coding such a program or merely downloading it will now be a criminal offence.
The bill also expands provisions covering false messages or harassing communications. The harassment provision is drafted in a very broad manner, suggesting that multiple harassing communications to a person would be a crime:
Everyone commits an offence who, without lawful excuse and with intent to harass a person, repeatedly communicates, or causes repeated communications to be made, with them by a means of telecommunication.
One can certainly envision repeated emails from an angry constituent or customer now falling under the Criminal Code. The law currently restricts harassment to telephone calls.
Warrant Powers - Metadata
The new warrant powers include a new court-ordered preservation warrant and order requiring the recipient to preserve computer data. There is also a new court-ordered production order, requiring recipients to produce a document in their possession. The production order links closely to a reduced standard for accessing metadata. The bill includes a provision defining "transmission data", which covers the much-discussed metadata created from telecommunications. The production order can be used to order to production of any transmission data (ie. metadata). The standard is lower than for other warrants.
Ironically, the lower standard for metadata comes just as the Supreme Court of Canada has warned that "it is difficult to imagine a more intrusive invasion of privacy than the search of a personal or home computer" in the R. v. Vu case. The court specifically points to metadata as one of the reasons why:
most browsers used to surf the Internet are programmed to automatically retain information about the websites the user has visited in recent weeks and the search terms that were employed to access those websites. Ordinarily, this information can help a user retrace his or her cybernetic steps. In the context of a criminal investigation, however, it can also enable investigators to access intimate details about a user's interests, habits, and identity, drawing on a record that the user created unwittingly: O. S. Kerr, ''Searches and Seizures in a Digital World'' (2005), 119 Harv. L. Rev. 531, at pp. 542-43. This kind of information has no analogue in the physical world in which other types of receptacles are found.
While this discussion is in the context of a personal computer, the same metadata may be generated on the ISP side.
Warrant Powers - Location Data
The bill also creates new tracking orders, which involves data that relates to the location of a transaction, individual or thing. The production order can also be used to obtain tracking data as well as financial data. The tracking orders can also be used to install tracking devices.
Ban on Disclosure of Warrants
The bill grants a judge the power to prohibit the disclosure of the existence or content of a preservation order or production order. The judge must be satisfied that disclosure would jeopardize the investigation.Voluntary Disclosure With Legal Immunity
The bill also encourages telecom companies, ISPs, and others to disclose information on their customers without a court order. The bill establishes immunity from criminal or civil liability for such disclosures. The bill states:
(1) For greater certainty, no preservation demand, preservation order or production order is necessary for a peace officer or public officer to ask a person to voluntarily preserve data that the person is not prohibited by law from preserving or to voluntarily provide a document to the officer that the person is not prohibited by law from disclosing.'¨(2) A person who preserves data or provides a document in those circumstances does not incur any criminal or civil liability for doing so.
This particular provision is enormously problematic as it opens the door to cooperation on the widespread surveillance revealed by the Snowden documents. It has become increasingly clear that many telecom companies willingly provided millions of documents on their subscribers. With this immunity in hand, Canadian telcos could "voluntarily" provide surveillance data without fear of any liability.
There are also pages of forms and provisions on mutual legal assistance (along with a very confusing set of coordinating amendments that involve the anti-spam legislation - I could not figure out what they mean).
Law enforcement have been asking for some of these provisions for many years and there could be a good debate on the merits of many of the proposed reforms. As this post suggests, some of the provisions raise some serious concerns. Yet the government is signalling that it would prefer to avoid such debates, wrapping up the provisions in the cyber-bullying flag and backtracking on a commitment made earlier this year to not bring forward Criminal Code amendments that were contained in Bill C-30.
c-13, cyber-bullying, lawful access, privacySlashdot, Digg, Del.icio.us, Newsfeeder, Reddit, StumbleUpon, TwitterEmailPrintPDFThursday November 21, 2013Related Items:
Sun, 24 Nov 2013 13:29
Suicide of Rehtaeh ParsonsRehtaeh Parsons in 2012
LocationHalifax, Nova Scotia, CanadaCauseHanging, resulting in coma, leading to deathRehtaeh Parsons (//, rÉ-TEY-É), a 17-year-old former Cole Harbour District High School student, attempted suicide by hanging on April 4, 2013, at her home in Dartmouth, Nova Scotia, Canada, leading to a coma and the decision to switch her life support machine off on April 7, 2013. Her death has been attributed to online distribution of photos of an alleged gang rape that occurred 17 months prior to her suicide, in November 2011. On a Facebook page set up in tribute to her daughter, Parsons' mother blamed the four boys who she claimed raped and released images of her, the subsequent constant "bullying and messaging and harassment", and the failure of the Canadian justice system, for her daughter's decision to commit suicide.
In response to Parsons' suicide, Nova Scotia enacted a law in August 2013 allowing victims to seek protection from cyberbullying and to sue the perpetrator.
BackgroundIn November 2011, Rehtaeh Parsons, then 15, allegedly went with a friend to a home in which she was reportedly raped by 4 teenage boys. The teenagers were drinking vodka at a small party. Parsons had little memory of the event, except that at one point she vomited. While a boy was allegedly raping her, the incident was photographed and the photo became widespread in Parsons' school and town in three days. Afterwards, many in school called Parsons a "slut" and she received texts and Facebook messages from people requesting to have sex with her. The alleged rape went unreported for several days until Parsons broke down and told her family, who contacted an emergency health team and the police.
According to an RCMP report, in March 2013, six boys, including some of Parsons' accused rapists, had an angry argument with three other boys. One of the three boys, who was a friend of Parsons, was stabbed and treated for a "non-life-threatening injury".
InvestigationA year following the alleged rape, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police concluded an investigation stating, "[an] investigation into an earlier sexual assault was completed, and in consultation with the Crown, there was insufficient evidence to lay charges". According to the family, the police called it a "he said, she said" case and also decided the photo was not criminal in spite of Parsons being a minor. Likewise, there were no arrests for the March 2013 stabbing incident.
Following the suicide, the RCMP announced they were reviewing the case. On April 12, the RCMP announced the case was being reopened in light of "new and credible information" that they said did not come from the Internet.
ReactionsFollowing the suicide, Rehtaeh Parsons' mother Leah Parsons went public with the story and started a memorial Facebook page called "Angel Rehtaeh." The blog of Rehtaeh's father, Glen Canning, also went viral. The story drew international attention and sparked outrage on the Internet, with CBC reporting the phrase "Nova Scotia" was "trending on Twitter worldwide."
Canadian Prime MinisterStephen Harper commented on the case, saying he was "sickened" by the story and that the online bullying was "simply criminal activity." Rehtaeh's funeral on April 13 was attended by 500 people, including Nova Scotia Premier Darrell Dexter, who said he came "first and foremost as a father trying to imagine what kind of incredible, unfathomable grief could be visited upon a family."
There are reports that the group named Anonymous has involved itself in tracing the alleged perpetrators of the incidents Parsons suffered. In its news release, Anonymous blamed the death on "school teachers, administrators, the police and prosecutors, those who should have been role models in the late Rehtaeh's life." Later, Anonymous announced it would not publicize the names of the individuals it believed to be the rapists, in respect of the Parsons family's wishes. Leah Parsons had called for the case to be settled legally rather than by vigilantes.
Parsons' suicide and the circumstances surrounding it have been compared to those of British Columbian Amanda Todd and with Audrie Pott, a fifteen-year-old girl from Saratoga, California, United States, and appear to show highly similar characteristics. New laws are being considered after these events. Parsons has been described as a "victim of sexting".
After her suicide, posters appeared locally in support of the boys who allegedly attacked Parsons. The RCMP expressed concern that the posters might lead to vigilantism, although they do not name the accused.
On April 26, 2013, Christie Blatchford wrote in the National Post that a problem in the case was that one of Parsons' friends claimed Parsons was "flirtatious" on the night the photo was taken and was seen laughing in bed with two boys, and also that there were "accounts from Rehtaeh herself and independent evidence, including retrieved online messages, that supported the suggestion the sex that took place was consensual." Blatchford also wrote the photo did not show Parsons' face. In response, Parsons' father Glen Canning accused Blatchford of victim blaming and argued, "The two boys involved in taking and posing for the photograph stated Rehtaeh was throwing up when they had sex with her. That is not called consensual sex. That is called rape."
In August 2013, Nova Scotia enacted a law allowing victims of cyberbullying to seek protection, including help in identifying anonymous perpetrators, and to sue the individuals or the parents in the case of minors. The law was passed in response to Parsons' suicide.
The case was featured on a segment on the Dr. Phil show that aired on September 13, 2013.
See alsoReferences^"Rehtaeh Parsons' Mother". Maritime Noon With Norma Lee MacLeod. CBC Radio. April 9, 2013. Retrieved April 12, 2013. ^ ab"Rehtaeh Parsons Video Tribute Marks Life Of 'Angel' (VIDEO)," The Huffington Post Canada, April 9, 2013, URL accessed April 14, 2013.^ abc"Rehtaeh Parsons, Canadian Girl, Dies After Suicide Attempt; Parents Allege She Was Raped By 4 Boys". The Huffington Post. Retrieved 11 April 2013. ^"Canadian teen commits suicide after alleged rape, bullying". CNN. Retrieved 2013-04-11. ^ abBazelon, Emily (2013-04-10). "Sexting Scourge". Slate. Retrieved 11 April 2013. ^Ross, Selena. "Who failed Rehtaeh Parsons?". The Chronicle Herald. Retrieved 11 April 2013. ^ abc"Rape, bullying led to N.S. teen's death, says mom", CBC News, April 9, 2013, URL accessed April 13, 2013.^ abc"Rehtaeh Parsons Case Connected To Stabbing?," The Huffington Post Canada, April 16, 2013, URL accessed April 16, 2013.^Dolak, Kevin. "Rehtaeh Parsons Suicide: Justice Minister Revisiting Alleged Rape Case". ABC News. Retrieved 11 April 2013. ^"Rehtaeh Parsons case to be reopened by police," CBC News, April 12, 2013, URL accessed April 13, 2013.^ abc"Rehtaeh Parsons' mom calls for vigilantes to stop," CBC News, April 10, 2013, URL accessed April 13, 2013.^"Friends, family, dignitaries attend Rehtaeh Parsons funeral," CBC News, April 13, 2013, URL accessed April 13, 2013.^"Rehtaeh Parsons Suicide: Web Calls On Anonymous To Act After Nova Scotia Teen's Death (UPDATE: Anonymous Responds)". The Huffington Post Canada. 10 April 2013. Retrieved 12 April 2013. "Anonymous released a statement Wednesday, claiming to know the identities of some of Rehtaeh Parsons' alleged rapists." ^"'Anonymous' won't release names of Rehtaeh Parsons suspects," CBC News, April 12, 2013, URL accessed April 13, 2013.^Tu Thanh Ha and Jane Taber, "Bullying blamed in death of Nova Scotia teen," The Globe and Mail, April 9, 2013, URL accessed April 26, 2013.^"U.S. teen's death eerily similar to Rehtaeh Parsons's story - Nova Scotia - CBC News". CBC News. 12 April 2013. Retrieved 12 April 2013. "The case involving three U.S. teens arrested for sexual battery last week against a 15-year-old girl from California who took her own life is eerily similar to the tragedy involving Nova Scotia teen Rehtaeh Parsons, says attorney Robert Allard." ^"3 U.S. teens arrested for sexual battery after girl's suicide - World - CBC News". CBC News. 12 April 2013. Retrieved 13 April 2013. "In Canada, authorities said they are looking further into the case of a 17-year-old girl who killed herself Sunday after an alleged rape and months of bullying. A photo said to be of the 2011 assault of Rehtaeh Parsons was shared online. She was 15 at the time." ^Patten, Melanie (18 April 2013). "Rehtaeh Parsons case: RCMP worried posters supporting 4 boys could incite vigilantism". Toronto Star (The Canadian Press). Retrieved 23 April 2013. "The RCMP say they're concerned posters that have appeared on Halifax streets in support of four boys accused of sexually assaulting Rehtaeh Parsons could incite vigilante behaviour against the teens. The brightly coloured posters bear the words, ''Speak the Truth'' in large, bold print and urge people to support the boys, though it does not identify them." ^Christie Blatchford, "Why there may never be a case against the alleged Rehtaeh Parsons rapists," National Post, April 26, 2013, URL accessed April 26, 2013.^Allison Cross, "'It's always about the victim': Rehtaeh Parsons' father responds to Christie Blatchford's column," National Post, April 26, 2013, URL accessed April 26, 2013.^"Cyberbullying law inspired by Rehtaeh Parsons' suicide takes effect". The Toronto Star. August 7, 2013. Retrieved August 7, 2013. ^"N.S. cyberbullying legislation allows victims to sue". CBC News. August 7, 2013. Retrieved August 14, 2013. ^Staff (September 13, 2013). "Mother of Rehtaeh Parsons shares daughter's story on Dr. Phil". Global News. Canadian Press. Retrieved September 13, 2013. External links
Fri, 22 Nov 2013 07:33
Joop Bouma '' 22/11/13, 07:31
(C) anp. Windmolens bij Urk.
Er is de komende jaren minstens zeven miljard euro aan investeringen nodig van banken en particulieren om de ambitieuze windenergie-plannen van het kabinet te realiseren. Vooral particulieren moeten massaal geld in windmolens gaan steken, aangetrokken door goede rendementen. Maar experts denken dat het vereiste aantal windmolens lang niet wordt gehaald.
In 2020 moet 16 procent van het energieverbruik afkomstig zijn uit duurzame bronnen, vooral wind. De overheid steekt zelf (tot 2023) miljarden aan garantie-subsidies ('SDE+') in de windplannen. Maar investeringen in nieuwe molens moeten vooral van private partijen komen.
Afgesproken is dat in 2020 op het vasteland van Nederland voor 6000 megawatt (MW) aan windmolens zal staan. Momenteel is dat 2200 MW, opgewekt door een kleine 1900 windmolens. Niet alleen moet er dus voor 3800 MW aan molens bijkomen, ook is de helft van de bestaande molens binnen enkele jaren aan vervanging toe. Er moet de komende zeven jaar dus in totaal voor bijna 5000 MW worden gebouwd.
Uit een enquªte onder 1200 professionals in de windsector bleek in 2012 dat 80 procent denkt dat die doelstelling niet wordt gehaald. Ruim de helft denkt dat het totaal van 6000 MW in 2020 ergens tussen de 4000 en 5000 MW zal blijven hangen. Op dit moment is voor 1240 MW aan windplannen in procedure, voor ruim 1800 MW zijn de plannen nog in de fase van voorbereiding.
Geert Bosch van Bosch & Van Rijn, een adviesbureau gespecialiseerd in duurzame energie, wijst erop dat veel plannen niet doorgaan. "Met name in gemeenten is dit onderwerp politiek beladen. En dat is zorgelijk. Wij hebben een keer globaal gekeken wat er van windplannen die sinds 2008 door gemeenten zijn opgezet, uiteindelijk alsnog is gesneuveld. We kwamen tot 86 mislukte projecten met een totaal aan 2000 megawatt."
Er moet nu nog voor zo'n 2000 MW aan plannen worden ontwikkeld. Omdat geschikte locaties op het vasteland vrijwel zijn uitgeput, zal het vooral gaan om kleinschalige projecten: drie tot tien windmolens per plan. Volgens projectontwikkelaar Kevin Dijker van Yard Energy in Hilversum, een bedrijf dat sinds 2000 windprojecten ontwikkelt, kunnen kleinere investeerders daarbij een grote rol spelen en kunnen ze rendementen behalen van 5 tot 7 procent per jaar. "Er staat in Nederland voor honderden miljarden aan spaargeld op de bank. Veel mensen zoeken naar een alternatief voor de anderhalf procent aan rente die ze van de bank krijgen. Wij zien dat investeren in duurzame energie wordt beschouwd als een zeker alternatief."
Voorbeeldproject: 5 windturbinesEen windpark van vijf turbines met een vermogen van drie megawatt elk vergt een investering van 20 miljoen euro, waarvan 4 miljoen eigen vermogen. Dat geld gaat op aan grond, aanschaf van turbines, aanleg van kabels en funderingen. Vijf van dit soort windmolens leveren, volgens bureau Bosch & Van Rijn, op jaarbasis 33 miljoen kilowattuur elektriciteit, goed voor 1,75 miljoen euro. Het Rijk compenseert de nu nog te lage kWh-prijs met een subsidie: een miljoen per jaar. Na aftrek van de kosten (van 2,25 miljoen), blijft er een bruto-opbrengst over: 5 ton per jaar (over eigen investering van 4 miljoen). Een windmolen draait zo'n 15 jaar.
Sat, 23 Nov 2013 21:53
Although those installing solar panels have good intentions, the latest research shows that they may not be the most informed. In the Northern hemisphere, solar panels are generally pointed south but should be pointed west according to energy experts
The Pecan Street Research Institute is a research and development organization headquartered at The University of Texas at Austin, one of the top schools for energy and engineering in the world. Their latest research shows most solar panel systems in the Northern hemisphere are tilted to the south.
It is simple common sense for the panels to be oriented south, in the direction of more overall sunlight. However, that decision only makes sense if the available data on energy demand is ignored. On a daily basis, peak energy demand occurs in the afternoon and evening. West-facing panels are better able to meet that peak demand, as they produce 49% more electricity at that time than south-facing panels do.
Although massive solar farms can afford panel systems that adjust with the sun's daily movements, that technology is not yet practical on a residential scale. The fact that sunlight is not received in a way that aligns with energy demand is one of the most fundamental trade-offs of solar technology as an alternative energy source.
Yet the importance of correct orientation will only increase as more and more individuals (especially those in hot and sunny climates) are making the conscious effort to invest in solar panels, save money in the long-term, and reduce the energy strain on the grid at peak times in peak months.
Therefore, homeowners who want to take the plunge and purchase sustainable energy technology must also educate themselves on how best to use it.
Many will need to start with a re-installed rooftop.
Sat, 23 Nov 2013 19:17
(Daisy Luther) What would you do if you received a threatening letter from your child's school, demanding that you take your youngster to a medical doctor and dentist at the whims of the school administrators, or risk being reported to the child welfare authorities?
Parents in at least two states have gotten exactly such letters. Police State USA reports:
Under the auspices of keeping children healthy, the government has usurped the role of ''parent'' away from actual parents. The state '-- not legal guardians '-- is determining when and how children should be subjected to outside business influences.
The provisions establish that the state has taken the final say in parenting matters, undermining parents' natural role in the child's life as protector and final decision maker. The provision invades the privacy of the family by giving the government access to private medical results.
Then there is the inherent problem of forcing people into unwanted business contracts, with parties they may not agree with, for services that may not be needed or wanted. The law states that the health certificates may only be signed by medical staff authorized by the state; meaning that parents' alternatives to fulfill this mandate are limited down to allopathic, pro-pharmaceutical doctors. Families who favor natural and holistic caregivers are undermined by virtue of exclusionary state licensing. (source)
First, the letter from New York:
Then the one from Michigan'...
Let me emphasize the most important and terrifying line in this letter:
It is our intention to work with you in this matter to avoid any involvement with child protection services.
This letter is threatening the parents of this youngster with child welfare agencies if they do not comply with the demands of the school. So, potentially, at the very least, the welfare agency could investigate the family, and at the worst, take steps to remove the child from the household, all because a parent might have different ideas about healthcare than those of the school system.
This brings us to some very important questions about privacy and the right to make decisions for your own children.
If you are anti-vaccine, will the doctor refuse to sign the letter? What happens then?What if the medical or dental visit is not in the budget at the time the school demands it?What if you choose to treat your child's concerns with natural substances and diet, but the doctor wants you to medicate with pharmaceuticals?What gives the school the right to tell you that you must take your child to a standard physician instead of a holistic practitioner?What if you refuse to have your child's teeth treated with toxic fluoride?Will your child be subjected to nosy questions, such as inquiries about firearms in the home?The US government seems more and more convinced that THEY own YOUR kids. Just this week, a Tennessee dad was arrested for picking up his young children after school instead of allowing them to cross into traffic as the school's policy demanded. Some schools won't allow lunches to be sent from home, and if they are, the school insists on supplementing those lunches at extortionistic rates in order to control the situation regardless of parental wishes. This doesn't even take into account the dumbed down Common Core curriculum, the absurd attempts to be politically correct, and the zero-tolerance insanity that causes kids to be charged with felonies for having loaded fishing tackle boxes in their vehicles or cutlery in their lunch boxes.
If you're wondering why so many people home school, add this to the ever-growing list of reasons.
Sat, 23 Nov 2013 19:05
Lord McNally told the House of Lords that the new Defamation Act, which received Royal Assent in April, would take effect from the start of next year. New regulations, which govern the process website operators must follow when informed about alleged defamatory comments on their site to avoid becoming liable for that material themselves, have also been passed by Parliament and will come into effect on 1 January as well.
"I believe that the process established by the regulations strikes a fair balance between freedom of expression and the protection of reputation and between the interests of all those involved, and that it will provide a useful and effective means of helping to resolve disputes over online material," Lord McNally said in the Grand Committee of the House of Lords.
The Defamation Act 2013 creates a new statutory defence for publishers to claim that allegedly defamatory statements constituted, or "formed part of", comments "on a matter of public interest" and that they "reasonably believed that publishing the statement complained of was in the public interest".
The Act also set into law a broad equivalent to the common law 'Reynolds defence' for 'responsible journalism' that has been available to publishers since it was established by the House of Lords in a case between former Irish Prime Minister Albert Reynolds and the Times Newspapers Ltd in 2001.
Under the Defamation Act, a statement can be said to be defamatory if its publication "caused or is likely to cause serious harm" to individuals' or businesses' reputation. However, only if businesses have suffered, or are likely to suffer, "serious financial loss", can they bring a claim of defamation against commentators.
The authors of defamatory comments can avoid becoming liable for damages if they can show "that the imputation conveyed by the statement complained of is substantially true" or, if the comments took the form of an opinion, that the opinion is one which "an honest person could have held the basis of any fact which existed at the time the statement complained of was published; anything asserted to be a fact in a privileged statement published before the statement complained of".
Authors shown not to have held the opinion themselves will lose their right to rely on this 'honest opinion' defence.
Under the Act website operators can be pursued by those who claim they have been defamed as a result of comments on their site even if they are not the author of those comments. The new Defamation (Operators of Websites) Regulations sets out the process operators have to adhere to in order to escape liability for comments complained of.
Upon notification, authors of the comments would have five days to issue a written response outlining whether they consent to the removal of the comments from the site. A failure to respond would place website operators under the obligation to delete the comments within 48 hours of that five day deadline expiring if they are to avoid exposure to liability.
When notifying authors that their comments are subject to defamation complaints, website operators would have to conceal the identity of the complainant from those authors if such anonymisation is sought by the complainants.
In cases where the authors do not consent to the removal of their comments, those individuals or businesses would be required to inform website operators of their name and address and tell the operator whether or not they consent to the handing over of their details to the complainant. A complainant would have to be informed by the operator within 48 hours of an author's response and of the content of that response.
Website operators would be required to delete comments from their site within two days of receiving a notice of complaint if it has "no means of contacting the poster" through a "private electronic communication" channel, such as via email.
If authors that do respond to website operators' notifications of a complaint fail to provide details of their full name and address, the operators would have to remove their comments within two days of that response. If a "reasonable website operator" believes that details given by an author are "obviously false" then they must also delete the comments within the 48 hour deadline.
In cases where authors of defamatory comments repost the same or substantially similar comments after they have been removed twice before from the site, website operators would be obliged to remove the comments within 48 hours of receiving a notice of complaint.
"Where the poster has not consented to release of his or her contact details to the complainant, it will be a matter for the complainant to consider what further action he may wish to take," Lord McNally said. "It will, for example, be open to the complainant to seek a court order, known as a Norwich Pharmacal order, for the operator to release the information that they hold on the poster's identity and contact details so that legal proceedings can be brought against the poster."
Separate new laws aimed at cutting the cost of making defamation claims before a court for those with modest means are also currently under consideration.
Sat, 23 Nov 2013 19:05
Website operators seeking to avoid liability for defamatory comments published on their sites would have two days, in general, to notify the authors of those comments about complaints they receive under new legislation drafted by the Government.18 Oct 2013
The draft new rules would work together with reforms to UK libel laws brought about under the Defamation Act. The Act received Royal Assent earlier this year but has yet to come into force in full.
Under defamation law, website operators can in some circumstances be pursued by those who claim they have been defamed as a result of comments on their site even if those operators are not the author of those comments. The new draft regulations set out the actions website operators must take when notified of the existence of defamatory comments on their site in order to avoid becoming liable for that material.
Upon notification, authors of the comments would have five days to issue a written response outlining whether they consent to the removal of the comments from the site. A failure to respond would place website operators under the obligation to delete the comments within 48 hours of that five day deadline expiring if they are to avoid exposure to liability.
When notifying authors that their comments are subject to defamation complaints, website operators would have to conceal the identity of the complainant from those authors if such anonymisation is sought by the complainants.
In cases where the authors do not consent to the removal of their comments, those individuals or businesses would be required to inform website operators of their name and address and tell the operator whether or not they consent to the handing over their details to the complainant. A complainant would have to be informed by the operator within 48 hours of an author's response and of the content of that response.
Website operators would be required to delete comments from their site within two days of receiving a notice of complaint if it has "no means of contacting the poster" through a "private electronic communication" channel, such as via email.
If authors that do respond to website operators' notifications of a complaint fail to provide details of their full name and address, the operators would have to remove their comments within two days of that response. If a "reasonable website operator" believes that details given by an author are "obviously false" then they must also delete the comments within the 48 hour deadline.
In cases where authors of defamatory comments repost the same or substantially similar comments after they have been removed twice before from the site, website operators would be obliged to remove the comments within 48 hours of receiving a notice of complaint.
Wed, 20 Nov 2013 13:01
Elle Lucero has been tracked since birth.
For the first 10 months of her life, her mother, Yasmin, kept detailed records of Elle's sleep patterns, feedings, and diaper changes, noting the data points with a pencil and paper on a clipboard. A few months in, she digitized the logs, graphed the data, and became a more knowledgeable parent.
"It helped me feel confident," she told Fast Company.
Elle wasn't a very good sleeper, even for a baby. The pediatrician told Yasmin she needed to let her daughter "cry it out" until she fell asleep, but that never worked. For the sake of her sanity (and sleep), Yasmin took problem solving into her own hands. She wanted answers: Did she put Elle to bed too early? Too late? Give her too many naps? Parsing data, she thought, would help her figure it out. "That was the kind of stuff we were looking for," she said.
Unfortunately for the Lucero family's sleeping habits, Yasmin never found a definitive answer. Per the data, Elle was just fussy.
The results suggested Yasmin couldn't engineer better naps, as she'd hoped. Just knowing that, however, made her feel better. "If you come to the conclusion that you have no control, then it's okay to relax and just do whatever is convenient for you at the moment," she explained. (Of course, many parents come to this conclusion at the moment of birth, without all that tedious data tracking.) But for Lucero, a conclusion--any conclusion at all--was all she wanted.
You can't see them breathing; your first thought is: 'Oh my God, something is wrong.'Many new and sleep-deprived parents crave that peace of mind and would kill for a data set that helped them determine if putting little Emma down an hour earlier would mean a restful night for the whole family. But unlike Yasmin, most people aren't trained statisticians. Tired moms and dads with no mathematical background aren't about to write down hundreds of data points, and might not know how to analyze that information anyway. Twenty-two months into Elle's life, even Yasmin has semi-abandoned the project, and keeps much less rigorous records now.
In the imminent future, though, any curious parent with an iPhone will have access to helpful analytics, thanks to the rise of wearable gadgets for babies. Following the success of self-trackers for grown-ups, like Jawbone and Fitbit, companies like Sproutling, Owlet, and Mimo want to quantify your infants.
Mimo OnesieThese devices connect to a baby via boot, anklet, or onesie, and record his or her heart rate, breathing patterns, temperature, body position, as well as the ambient conditions of the room. They aim to replace baby monitors, which give an incomplete picture of a sleeping child. There's also the nascent "smart diaper" market, led by Pixie Scientific, which scans dirty diapers for signs of infection.
In addition to alerting parents of any concerning findings, these companies encourage a big-data approach to parenting. By gathering information on your kid's poop, sleep, and eating schedules, the idea goes, you can engineer a happier, healthier baby. The accompanying app for the Sproutling monitor, for example, looks at patterns specific to your child and its environment to offer insights--the kind that Yasmin craved--that might help the child sleep better. It might find that little Jake naps better in complete dark, for example.
The Sproutling monitorIn theory, all this data will lead to more rested, relaxed parents and healthier kids. As of now, parents do a lot of this in the dark. "There's no owner's manual," Sproutling CEO Chris Bruce told Fast Company. His company hopes to change that. "It's smart technology that helps raise the parenting IQ."
When Bruce talks about "parenting IQ," he doesn't just mean his customers. Sproutling and its cohorts want to use their arsenals of data to better inform research. "The promise of big data is that we can monitor every single environmental parameter and we can find correlations and detect patterns," added Bruce, calling big data the "holy grail" of his business. Both Owlet and Sproutling indicated that they will offer up their intel--anonymously!--to researchers so that all future parents can better understand babies.
Parents like Yasmin, who haven't had a full night of sleep in months, are desperate to have that information. She didn't want to know average sleep patterns--information available in baby books--she wanted bell curves. Yasmin knew her baby wasn't normal, but she didn't know how abnormal and her own analyses couldn't clarify that, either. "I wasn't finding the exact data I wanted to see," Yasmin said, after scouring the Internet for answers.
An aggregation of Yasmins, however, can provide those insights. At least that's the hope.
What sounds like a lot of progress for parenting also means handing a digital record of your baby over to an iPhone app. Are the benefits worth that?
While these apps could improve infant health by telling a parent the exact right nap or changing time, the app in large part benefits parents. Anxious first time moms and dads who worry about every little movement (or non-movement) can monitor their children more closely than ever. "You see your baby lying there and you don't see them moving," Bruce, who has two young daughters, said of his experience with old-school video monitors. "You can't see them breathing; your first thought is: 'Oh my God, something is wrong.'"
Unlike a basic $35 baby-monitor, the $250 Owlet bootie and accompanying app can alert parents if anything serious has gone wrong, like if a kid stops breathing, or if his heart stops beating. That means no more unnecessary freakouts for the over-protective and inexperienced dad like Bruce, which leaves more time for him to do other dad things.
But, to an extent, these apps take advantage of parent anxieties. "SIDS is the number one cause of infant death. That's really scary to parents," Jordan Monroe, a cofounder of Owlet, told Fast Company. Monroe has no kids, but while talking to friends and friends of friends with babies, he found that to be a common worry.
Those fears don't come from a place of reality, though. According to the Center for Disease Control, 4,000 infants die each year from Sudden Unexpected Infant Death. Only a fraction of those deaths occur because of "accidental suffocation and strangulation in bed," according to the CDC report. And even SIDS--which causes about 2,000 deaths a year--might stem from underlying brain issues, according to recent research. Monitoring a child's breathing with a high-tech bootie won't cure SIDS.
As anyone who has ever had any contact with a hypochondriac knows, those facts don't really matter. Parents will continue to worry. And, as we saw with Yasmin, certainty has a lot of value. A certain type of parent, like TechCrunch's Leean Rao, thinks that $250 for Owlet or $200 for Mimo's version--Sproutling hasn't yet announced pricing--is a reasonable price to pay to worry about one less thing. In her review of Sproutling, she writes:
As a relatively new parent myself, I would have loved to be able to use some of the data from a wearable to help determine optimal sleep patterns for my child. I'm not sure if it would have helped my daughter sleep through the night earlier in her development, but to me as a fledgling parent, knowledge is power.
Of course, the dollar amount is only a part of the price parents pay with these apps. They give up their children's data and possibly privacy. "We're creating the largest data set of infant health data," Monroe said--a chilling statement in certain contexts. Trackers could turn around and sell their troves to insurers or be forced to hand them over to the government. The information is also vulnerable to hackers.
These companies say they take security issues seriously. "Security encryption has been designed in our system from the get-go," said Bruce. Anonymous sharing with researchers is both opt-in and anonymous for Sproutling users. But, even Bruce admits that our cultural acceptance of privacy changes every day. What seems innocuous today might feel invasive tomorrow (or vice versa).
Is that risk worth the stated benefits? At this point, it's not clear these monitors offer many health solutions. The breathing and sleeping alerts will calm (and draw) a lot of parents. But, none of these companies see that as the "holy grail." The main sell is the tracking. And what does that do for parents and babies?
Arguably, it means finding those little tweaks that make life easier. But, as Yasmin discovered, sometimes babies fuss just because. Numbers don't always offer solutions, as technical theorist and staunch critic of the self-quantified movement Evgeny Morozov wrote in his book To Save Everything, Click Here: The Folly of Technological Solutionism. "Self-trackers gain too much respect for the numbers and forget that other ways of telling the story--and generating action out of it--are possible."
While pediatricians typically ask new parents to chart and report feedings and bowel movements for a few weeks after bringing babies home to make sure all systems are go, obsessive tracking beyond that could get in the way of parenting, some doctors say. "Often, when babies have regained their birthweight and are 10-14 days old, I instruct families to dial the tracking down," Dr. Wendy Sue Swanson wrote on her blog. She adds:
I want new parents to gain confidence and appreciate the homeostasis with following a baby's natural routine. Relying only on the numbers may cause parents to miss out on the nearly unspeakable experience of parenting a new baby and all that a baby intimately communicates from the beginning. It's better to look up at the sky to know if it's raining than to consult the weather report on your iPhone.
After all, do you really want to treat your child like a Tamagotchi?
Sat, 23 Nov 2013 21:01
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Sat, 23 Nov 2013 21:32
(CNSNews.com) - Before the end of this year, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration will decide whether or not to begin the rulemaking process to mandate that newly manufactured cars include what is being called ''vehicle-to-vehicle'' (V2V) communications technology that constantly broadcasts via radio wave the car's location, direction, speed and, possibly, even the number of passengers it is carrying.
''NHTSA expects to make a decision on V2V technology by the end of the year,'' a spokesman for the agency told CNSNews.com.
That point was reaffirmed by NHTSA Administrator David Strickland in testimony in the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee today, where he said the agency will ''decide this year whether to further advance the technology through regulatory action, additional research, or a combination of both.''
''We expect to issue decisions on light duty vehicles this year, followed by a decision on heavy-duty vehicles in 2014,'' he said.
NHTSA sees this technology as the first step on a ''continuum'' of automotive evolution that will ultimately lead to fully automated vehicles navigated by internal electronics linked to external infrastructure, communications and database systems.
The upside of a government-mandated movement toward cars that are not controlled by the people riding in them is that it could make transportation safer, allow people to use time spent in a vehicle for work, rest or entertainment, and give people who are currently incapable of driving because of age or disability the opportunity to move as freely as those who can now drive.
The downside is that such a transportation system would give the government at least the capability to exert increasing control over when, where, if--or for how much additional taxation--people are allowed to go places in individually owned vehicles. It could also give government the ability to track where people go and when.
NHTSA Administrator David Strickland (AP Photo)
The Obama administration says this is something it has ''no plans'' to do even if it does mandate V2V technology in all new cars.
''NHTSA has no plans to modify the current V2V system design in a way that would enable the government or private entities to track individual motor vehicles,'' a NHTSA spokesman told CNSNews.com.
In October 2011, the Department of Transportation (DOT) published a plan for researching the safety applications of this technology. It summarized how the technology would work and the information it could transmit from vehicles.
''V2V communication for safety refers to the exchange of data over a wireless network that provides critical information that allows each vehicle to perform calculations and issue driver advisories, driver warnings, or take pre-emptive actions to avoid and mitigate crashes,'' said the DOT plan. ''Data that may be exchanged includes each vehicle's latitude, longitude, time, heading angle, speed, lateral acceleration, longitudinal acceleration, yaw rate, throttle position, brake status, steering angle, headlight status, turn signal status, vehicle length, vehicle width, vehicle mass, bumper height, and the number of occupants in the vehicle.''
Earlier this month, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) released a report noting that NHTSA could act this year to mandate V2V in new cars and describing the ''challenges'' deploying these technologies would present.
''The continued progress of V2V technology development hinges on a decision that the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration plans to make in late 2013 on how to proceed with these technologies,'' said the GAO report. ''One option would be to pursue a rulemaking requiring their inclusion in new vehicles.''
President Barack Obama with then-Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood. (AP Photo/Duane Burleson)
The report summarized six components that would be deployed in vehicles equipped with V2V. These included: 1) a Dedicated Short Range Communications (DSRC) radio that ''receives and transmits data through antennae,'' 2) a GPS receiver that ''provides vehicle position and time to DSRC radio'' and ''provides timekeeping signal for applications,'' 3) an ''internal communications network'' that incorporates the ''existing network that interconnects components'' in the vehicle, 4) an electronic control unit that ''runs safety applications,'' 5) a driver-vehicle interface that ''generates warning[s] issued to driver,'' and 6) a memory that ''stores security certificates, application data and other information.''
The proper functioning of these components in helping a driver safely operate a vehicle, according to the GAO, would depend on a ''communication security system'' that ''provides and verifies V2V security certificates to ensure trust between vehicles.''
In August 2012, then-Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood initiated the ''Connected Vehicle Safety Pilot Model Deployment,'' the main phase of which was completed in August of this year. In this pilot program, conducted in Ann Arbor, Mich., DOT partnered with divisions of eight automobile companies'--Ford, General Motors, Honda, Hyundai, Mercedes Benz, Nissan, Toyota, and Volkswagen'--to road test V2V systems.
A total of 2,700 vehicles participated in the test, according to GAO. Each of the eight automobile manufacturers provided eight automobiles a piece with fully integrated V2V systems of the type that would be installed in new cars. Additionally, according to the GAO, 79 commercial vehicles in Ann Arbor and 88 mass transit vehicles were equipped with V2V.
The rest of the cars were retrofitted with the sort of V2V equipment that would go into cars that were already on the road before the technology became available.
''What was once previously thought of as science fiction and decades away from reality may now appear to be just around the corner,'' NHTSA Administrator Strickland told the Senate Commerce Committee in written testimony in May.
Two weeks later, Strickland's agency released ''A Preliminary Statement of Policy Concerning Automated Vehicles.'' It said NHTSA believed the U.S. was heading down a ''continuum'' of vehicle development that would end with fully automated vehicles. V2V was a step on this continuum.
President Barack Obama and White House Office of Science and Technology Director John Holdren. (White House photo/Pete Souza)
''NHTSA finds that it is helpful to think of these emerging technologies as part of a continuum of vehicle control automation,'' said NHTSA. ''The continuum '... runs from vehicles with no active control systems all the way to full automation and self-driving.
John Lee, a professor of industrial and systems engineering at the University of Wisconsin, testified in the same Senate Commerce Committee hearing as the NHTSA administrator.
''We think of cars as mechanical systems, but they are actually rolling computers,'' said Lee in his written testimony. ''These computers are changing what it means to drive.''
''Moore's law suggests the capacity of automation and entertainment systems will change rapidly, doubling every 18 months,'' Lee said. ''This exponential increase means that in fifteen years we are likely to be discussing whether people should be allowed to drive--because autonomous vehicles may be much less error prone than people.''
In preparing its report on V2V, the GAO surveyed a group of 21 experts on this technology and related issues. It also interviewed representatives of public interest groups.
The GAO asked the experts to rate various potential challenges to deploying V2V on a scale that ran from no challenge, to slight challenge, to moderate challenge, to great challenge, to very great challenge.
''Of the 21 experts we interviewed, 12 cited the technical development of a V2V communication security system as a great or very great challenge to the deployment of V2V technologies,'' said the GAO report. ''One expert told us that it is challenging to establish technical specifications for a system that attempts to maintain users' privacy while providing security for over-the-air transmission of data.
''Another expert noted that a public key infrastructure system the size of the one needed to support the nationwide deployment of V2V technologies has never been developed before,'' said the GAO, ''the sheer magnitude of the system will pose challenges to its development.''
Six experts said that establishing ''acceptable end use privacy'' would be a ''very great'' challenge.
''Public interest groups we interviewed said that overcoming concerns about privacy under a system that involves the sharing of data among vehicles will pose a challenge,'' said the GAO. ''One group suggested that the possibility that V2V data could be obtained by third parties such as law enforcement agencies could harm the deployment of these technologies. Similarly, one expert suggested that public acceptance of V2 V technologies might be limited without rules prohibiting the use of vehicles' speed and location data to issue tickets or track drivers' movements.
''Three experts we interviewed suggested that legislation may be needed to limit the potential use of V2V data,'' said the GAO.
''Further,'' said the GAO, ''one automobile manufacturer '... said that it could be difficult to explain how V2V technologies work to the public without raising concerns related to privacy.''
Like any inanimate tool, V2V and automated vehicle technology can be used for good or ill, depending on the aims and intentions of those who use it.
The Obama administration has included at least two senior officials who have expressed a desire to use government power to curb the use of vehicles.
John P. Holdren, director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, co-authored a 1973 book'--Human Ecology: Problems and Solutions'--with population-control advocates Paul and Anne Ehrlich.
In this book, Holdren and his co-authors said a ''massive campaign must be launched to restore a high-quality environment in North America and to de-develop the United States.'' Part of their vision involved automobiles.
''We believe,'' wrote Holdren and the Ehrlichs, ''a Federal task force should be established immediately to do the planning and lay the groundwork for dealing with the automobile problem without great disruption of the national economy. Such a task force might be part of a larger institution with the responsibility to devise policies for making the transition to a stable, ecologically sound economy. The task is enormous but it is both possible and necessary.''
''In the short term,'' wrote Holdren and his co-authors, ''alternative activities must be found for various industries, including those related to the automobile.''
Holdren and the Ehrlichs wrote that action would be needed in the ''political arena.''
''And when solutions to the problems of human ecology are considered, all roads seem to lead to the political arena,'' they wrote.
''If you '... decided to buy a small car that would last 30 years, be easily repairable and recyclable, and have a low-compression engine, you would find it impossible to do,'' they wrote. ''A manufacturer who wanted to produce such a car today probably could not; no one would put up the huge amount of capital required for fear that the 'Eco-special' would not sell. Only when society makes other kinds of cars illegal (or too expensive) will the money become available for such ventures.''
Thirty five years after Holdren and the Ehrlichs published this book, President Obama named Holdren his science and technology adviser. He also named Ray LaHood, who had been a Republican congressman from Illinois, his transportation secretary.
A month after Obama's inauguration, LaHood told the Associated Press: "We should look at the vehicular miles program where people are actually clocked on the number of miles that they traveled.''
At that time, however, White House press spokesman Robert Gibbs told reporters the administration would not pursue the policy of taxing people by the mile.
LaHood, nonetheless, soon announced the DOT's ''livability initiative,'' which was designed to get people to live in denser housing near public transit lines.
At a May 21, 2009 appearance at the National Press Club, LaHood was asked: ''Is this an effort to make driving more torturous and to coerce people out of their cars?
''It is a way to coerce people out of their cars,'' said LaHood, adding a moment later that ''we have to create opportunities for people that do want to use a bicycle or want to walk or want to get on a streetcar or want to ride a light rail.''
LaHood was asked a follow-up: ''Some conservative groups are wary of the livable communities program, saying it's an example of government intrusion into people's lives. How do you respond?''
''About everything we do around here is government intrusion in people's lives,'' said LaHood. ''So have at it.''
The GAO report on V2V said that the Department of Transportation saw a need for the system to ''identify bad actors'' but wanted to ''minimize risks to privacy.''
''DOT officials have emphasized the need to distinguish between the ability to identify bad actors through a V2V communication security system and the ability to monitor the movements of individual vehicles,'' said the GAO report. ''DOT stated that as currently conceived, a V2V communication security system would contain multiple technical, physical, and organizational controls to minimize privacy risks'--including the risk of vehicle tracking by individuals and government or commercial entities.''
In a speech in New York in April, NHTSA Administrator Strickland said his agency believed V2V technologies and the eventual automation of automobiles could help manage traffic and preserve the environment.
''In addition to the potential safety impact of V2V and automation, the agency is also aware that these technologies have significant added potential to contribute to intelligent management of roadway traffic and reduce the burden of highway traffic on the environment,'' he said. ''These potential benefits are additional reasons why the continued exploration of these technologies is an extremely worthwhile endeavor.''
CNSNews.com contacted David Wise, director of the physical infrastructure team at GAO that conducted the study of V2V, and asked him two questions raised by this technology.
Question: ''Is it true that V2V technology and the communication system that goes with it, would at least give the government the potential to track the movement of vehicles if that is what it wanted to do?''
Wise: ''It would depend on the specific design of the security communications system which, as we say in the report, is not finalized. As we state in our report, according to automobile industry representatives, the security system now under development is being designed to ensure data privacy structure that prevents the association of a vehicle's V2V communication security certificates with any unique identifier of drivers of their vehicles. In addition, according to DOT, as currently conceived, a V2V communication security system would contain multiple technical, physical, and organizational controls to minimize privacy risks'--including the risk of vehicle tracking by individuals and government or commercial entities. DOT officials also told us that the department will continue to assess any risks to privacy posed by the introduction of V2V technologies and identify mitigation measures to minimize those risks as more aspects of a system of V2V communications are defined.''
Question: ''DOT's indication that it wants to distinguish between the ability to identify 'bad actors' and 'the ability to monitor movements of individual vehicles' indicates there is already an interest by the government in using this emerging technology to track 'bad actors'''?
Wise: ''Yes. However the term 'bad actors' refers to vehicles and their devices that are misbehaving or potentially misbehaving. According to CAMP VSC 3 officials [the eight auto companies that joined in the Ann Arbor pilot test], in-vehicle V2V equipment must be able to detect and automatically report potentially misbehaving devices'--such as devices that are malfunctioning, used maliciously, or hacked'--to a communication security system. The communication security system must also detect and automatically revoke certificates from vehicles with such devices. This is so that vehicles can be sure that the data they receive from other vehicles is valid and can be trusted.''
Wise also said: ''I think it is fair to add that DOT and industry are taking steps to try to minimize privacy risks. Also, while we do not explicitly say this in our report, we did not see or hear any indication that DOT has any plan or desire to use V2V to track peoples' movements.''
CNSNews.com also contacted NHTSA to ask why DOT wanted the "ability to identify bad actors" in a V2V system, and whether DOT was permanently ruling out developing any system that would track individual vehicles on any basis or developing any system that would allow any agency of government to remotely control or deactivate an individual's or individuals' vehicles?''
''At the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), safety is our top priority, and we are always looking for ways that innovative technology can be harnessed to improve driver safety,'' said a NHTSA spokesman. ''As we look ahead to the next stage of roadway safety in America, connected vehicle technology has the potential to significantly reduce injuries and fatalities from crashes.
''NHTSA would seek to develop a V2V system that increases consumer safety, while protecting privacy,'' said the spokesman. ''Identifying 'bad actors,' which could include anything from malfunctioning vehicles to intentional malfeasance (such as hacking), is crucial to ensuring that the V2V security system functions properly.
''The design under consideration for a security system does not collect any personally identifying information, nor does it enable real-time tracking of individual vehicles,'' said the spokesman. ''NHTSA has no plans to modify the current V2V system design in a way that would enable the government or private entities to track individual motor vehicles. The V2V requirements that NHTSA is currently exploring only involve warnings to drivers to help them avoid crashes.
''The information collected from the year-long model deployment and additional research will be used by NHTSA to determine the best course of action for proceeding with additional V2V communication activities, including possible future rulemakings, additional research, or a combination of both,'' said the spokesman. ''NHTSA expects to make a decision on V2V technology by the end of the year.''
Fri, 22 Nov 2013 15:09
Exposing the comprehensive UN plan to bring about an authoritarian world government via international regulations and treaties under the guise of environmentalism and social equity.
Remember, a lot of this is heavy doublespeak. I.E. "Commuter Friendly" = Commuter hell, at the mercy of public transportation, unfriendly-to-cars, no leaving the area etc., "Walkable" = car unfriendly, literally poverty infrastructure
New UrbanismTriple Bottom LineSustainability/Sustainable DevelopmentSocial EquityEconomic EmpowermentSocial Responsibility"Smart" i.e. Smart GrowthEconomic/Environmental JusticeCorporate Social Responsibility(CSR)Liveable/WalkableNew NormalComplete StreetsMixed-Use (property)"Green"Commuter Friendly"Well-Being"Community ActionResilience/Resilient CommunitiesTransition TownNext/New EconomySECTION I. SOCIAL AND ECONOMIC DIMENSIONS: Chapter 2.1.
In order to meet the challenges of environment and development, States have decided to establish a new global partnership. This partnership commits all States to engage in a continuous and constructive dialogue, inspired by the need to achieve a more efficient and equitable world economy, keeping in view the increasing interdependence of the community of nations and that sustainable development should become a priority item on the agenda of the international community. It is recognized that, for the success of this new partnership, it is important to overcome confrontation and to foster a climate of genuine cooperation and solidarity. It is equally important to strengthen national and international policies and multinational cooperation to adapt to the new realities.
No Abusive/threatening language.
Any posts that attack the sub, the users or the mods can be removed. Breaking this rule more than once can earn a ban.
We are all different here, and you may find that have different beliefs, but please be respectful of each other.
Fri, 22 Nov 2013 07:49
Student performance, achievements are focus of conversationsVerenice Gutierrez picks up on the subtle language of racism every day.
Take the peanut butter sandwich, a seemingly innocent example a teacher used in a lesson last school year.
''What about Somali or Hispanic students, who might not eat sandwiches?'' says Gutierrez, principal at Harvey Scott K-8 School, a diverse school of 500 students in Northeast Portland's Cully neighborhood.
''Another way would be to say: 'Americans eat peanut butter and jelly, do you have anything like that?' Let them tell you. Maybe they eat torta. Or pita.''
Guitierrez, along with all of Portland Public Schools' principals, will start the new school year off this week by drilling in on the language of ''Courageous Conversations,'' the district-wide equity training being implemented in every building in phases during the past few years.
Through intensive staff trainings, frequent staff meetings, classroom observations and other initiatives, the premise is that if educators can understand their own ''white privilege,'' then they can change their teaching practices to boost minority students' performance.
Last Wednesday, the first day of the school year for staff, for example, the first item of business for teachers at Scott School was to have a Courageous Conversation '-- to examine a news article and discuss the ''white privilege'' it conveys.
Most of the staff are on board, but there is some opposition to a drum class being offered to middle school boys of color at Scott School.
Fifty percent of the students at Scott are Hispanic; another 15 percent are black and 9 percent are Asian. Eighty-five percent are eligible for free or reduced-price meals.
Chuck Barber, who also offers boys' drum corps at Vernon and Faubion schools in Northeast Portland, approached Gutierrez last year to start up a lunch-time drum class for black and Latino boys once a week. This year, it'll expand to two classes a week, to accommodate new boys as well as those with experience.
At least one parent has a problem with the the class, saying it amounts to ''blatant discrimination and equity of women, Asians, whites and Native Americans.''
''This 'club' was approved by the administration, and any girls who complained were brushed off and it was not addressed,'' the parent wrote anonymously.
Gutierrez denies that any students were turned away from the drum corps, and vehemently rejects any suggestion that it is discrimination to offer a club catering to minority boys.
''When white people do it, it is not a problem, but if it's for kids of color, then it's a problem?'' says Gutierrez, 40, an El Paso, Texas, native whose parents were Mexican immigrants. ''Break it down for me. That's your white privilege, and your whiteness.''
Not for the weakLike many if not all of PPS' leaders, Gutierrez has gone through California-based consultant Glenn Singleton's ''Coaching for Educational Equity,'' a weeklong seminar on race and how it affects life; she's also become an ''affiliate,'' certified to teach the equity curriculum; and she serves on the district's administrative committee to address systematic racism, a group that meets every other week.
''Our focus school and our Superintendent's mandate that we improve education for students of color, particularly Black and Brown boys, will provide us with many opportunities to use the protocols of Courageous Conversations in data teams, team meetings, staff meetings, and conversations amongst one another,'' Guitierrez' letter to staff reads.
Equity training aside, Scott School must teach the same number of students with fewer teachers and resources. Down five full-time positions this year, including two reading specialists, Gutierrez is trying desperately do more with less.
''My first year as principal, I looked at the data and found that the eighth-graders that year, a third of them were going to Madison (High School) at about a third-grade level,'' she told the Tribune. ''I said, 'This is completely unacceptable.' ''
That led to her adopting what she calls the school's ''Big Hairy Audacious Goal'': that every student will make two years' growth in one year's time in reading, writing and math.
Last year, teachers set out to tackle that goal, meeting in teams to look at data and coming up with creative ways to target their instruction.
''We want to teach them to be critical thinkers,'' Gutierrez says.
The results, by the end of the year, were promising, she says. The biggest achievement was among the kindergarteners: All but three of the 63 students met their benchmarks at the end of the year.
Among the other grades, there was ''tremendous growth in pockets,'' she says. ''Now we need to make it happen school wide.''
Despite that year of work, Oregon's Department of Education just last month identified Scott as a ''focus school,'' one that performs among the state's lowest 15 percent.
Five other PPS schools are state-designated focus schools as well: Jefferson High; C(C)sar Chvez K-8; and Rigler, Whitman and Woodmere elementary schools.
The designation comes with $5,000 per school and a state-appointed coach who'll work with each school team on an improvement plan.
Another six PPS schools, which ranked among the state's lowest 5 percent, are newly designated as ''priority'' schools: Madison and Roosevelt High; Ockley Green K-8; and King, Rosa Parks and Woodlawn elementary schools.
''I'm excited by the fact that we're designated a focus school by the state,'' Gutierrez says. ''It's an added layer of accountability.''
She's so motivated to see growth that she's adopted a new school vision: to be an ''academic beacon'' for Northeast Portland, where students achieve at high academic levels in two languages.
''This isn't for the weak,'' she says. ''We have less resources. We can't impact that. I want to walk away from Scott when my tenure is done and be able to say that school is achieving just as well as Alameda or Sabin, or any other school in the city. Why not?''
Sun, 24 Nov 2013 15:04
Did you know that eating or even talking about a peanut butter and jelly sandwich could be considered racist?
Apparently, it's because people in some cultures don't eat sandwich bread. Verenice Gutierrez, principal of Harvey Scott K-8 School in Portland explained in and interview with the Portland Tribune:
''Take the peanut butter sandwich, a seemingly innocent example a teacher used in a lesson last school year,'' the Tribune said.
''What about Somali or Hispanic students, who might not eat sandwiches?'' Gutierrez asked. ''Another way would be to say: 'Americans eat peanut butter and jelly, do you have anything like that?' Let them tell you. Maybe they eat torta. Or pita.''
'...The Tribune noted that the school started the new year with ''intensive staff trainings, frequent staff meetings, classroom observations and other initiatives,'' to help educators understand their own ''white privilege,'' in order to ''change their teaching practices to boost minority students' performance.''"Last Wednesday, the first day of the school year for staff, for example, the first item of business for teachers at Scott School was to have a Courageous Conversation '-- to examine a news article and discuss the 'white privilege' it conveys,'' the Tribune added.
Gutierrez completed a week-long seminar called ''Coaching for Educational Equity,'' a program the Tribune says focuses ''on race and how it affects life.'' She also serves on an administrative committee that focuses on systematic racism.
''Our focus school and our Superintendent's mandate that we improve education for students of color, particularly Black and Brown boys, will provide us with many opportunities to use the protocols of Courageous Conversations in data teams, team meetings, staff meetings, and conversations amongst one another,'' she said in a letter to staff.
You can read more about principal Gutierrez's sandwich-sensitivity philosophy here.
Next time you're in the bread aisle at the grocery store, you may want to think twice. Sensitive liberal educators are now recommending the ''torta'' or the ''pita'' as a more culturally inclusive alternative.
Now that you've been made aware of the evil of PB&J, there's only one question left to answer: Is white bread more racist than whole wheat?
Nathan Harden is editor of The College Fix and author of the book SEX & GOD AT YALE: Porn, Political Correctness, and a Good Education Gone Bad.
Like The College Fix on Facebook. / Follow Nathan on Twitter @NathanHarden
Tagged as:extreme,jelly,multiculturalism,peanut butter,portland,racist,sandwich
Sat, 23 Nov 2013 22:41
Thank you to the NSPCC for hosting me today and thank you for all the amazing work you do for Britain's children.
Today I am going to tread into territory that can be hard for our society to confront. It is frankly difficult for politicians to talk about, but I believe we need to address as a matter of urgency.
I want to talk about the internet, the impact it's having on the innocence of our children, how online pornography is corroding childhood and how, in the darkest corners of the internet, there are things going on that are a direct danger to our children and that must be stamped out. Now, I'm not making this speech because I want to moralise or scaremonger but because I feel profoundly, as a politician and as a dad, that the time for action has come. This is, quite simply, about how we protect our children and their innocence.
Now, let me be very clear right at the start: the internet has transformed our lives for the better. It helps liberate those who are oppressed, it allows people to tell truth to power, it brings education to those previously denied it, it adds billions to our economy, it is one of the most profound and era'changing inventions in human history.
But because of this, the internet can sometimes be given a sort of special status in debate. In fact, it can almost be seen as beyond debate, that to raise concerns about how people should access the internet or what should be on it, is somehow na¯ve or backwards looking. People sometimes feel they're being told almost the following: that an unruled internet is just a fact of modern life; any fallout from that is just collateral damage and that you can as easily legislate what happens on the internet as you can legislate the tides.
And against this mind-set, people's, most often parents', very real concerns get dismissed. They're told the internet is too big to mess with; it's too big to change. But to me, the questions around the internet and the impact it has are too big to ignore. The internet is not just where we buy, sell and socialise; it's where crimes happen; it's where people can get hurt; it's where children and young people learn about the world, each other, and themselves.
The fact is that the growth of the internet as an unregulated space has thrown up 2 major challenges when it comes to protecting our children. The first challenge is criminal and that is the proliferation and accessibility of child abuse images on the internet. The second challenge is cultural; the fact that many children are viewing online pornography and other damaging material at a very early age and that the nature of that pornography is so extreme it is distorting their view of sex and relationships.
Now, let me be clear, the 2 challenges are very distinct and very different. In one we're talking about illegal material, the other is legal material that is being viewed by those who are underage. But both the challenges have something in common; they're about how our collective lack of action on the internet has led to harmful and, in some cases, truly dreadful consequences for children.
Now, of course, a free and open internet is vital. But in no other market and with no other industry do we have such an extraordinarily light touch when it comes to protecting our children. Children can't go into the shops or the cinema and buy things meant for adults or have adult experiences; we rightly regulate to protect them. But when it comes to the internet, in the balance between freedom and responsibility we've neglected our responsibility to children.
My argument is that the internet is not a side-line to real life or an escape from real life, it is real life. It has an impact on the children who view things that harm them, on the vile images of abuse that pollute minds and cause crime, on the very values that underpin our society. So we've got to be more active, more aware, more responsible about what happens online. And when I say we I mean we collectively: governments, parents, internet providers and platforms, educators and charities. We've got to work together across both the challenges that I've set out.
So let me start with the criminal challenge, and that is the proliferation of child abuse images online. Obviously we need to tackle this at every step of the way, whether it's where the material is hosted, transmitted, viewed or downloaded. And I am absolutely clear that the state has a vital role to play here.
The police and CEOP, that is the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre, are already doing a good job in clamping down on the uploading and hosting of this material in the UK. Indeed, they have together cut the total amount of known child abuse content hosted in the UK from 18% of the global total in 1996 to less than 1% today. They're also doing well on disrupting the so-called hidden internet, where people can share illegal files and on peer'to'peer sharing of images through photo-sharing sites or networks away from the mainstream internet.
Once CEOP becomes a part of the national Crime Agency, that will further increase their ability to investigate behind the pay walls, to shine a light on this hidden internet and to drive prosecutions and convictions of those who are found to use it. So we should be clear to any offender who might think otherwise, there is no such thing as a safe place on the internet to access child abuse material.
But government needs to do more. We need to give CEOP and the police all the powers they need to keep pace with the changing nature of the internet. And today I can announce that from next year we'll also link up existing fragmented databases across all police forces to produce a single, secure database of illegal images of children which will help police in different parts of the country work together more effectively to close the net on paedophiles. It will also enable the industry to use digital hash tags from the database to proactively scan for, block and take down those images wherever they occur. Otherwise you have different police forces with different databases; you need one set of all the hash tags, all the URLS, in one place for everybody to use.
Now, industry has agreed to do exactly that because this isn't just a job for government. The internet service providers and the search engine companies have a vital role to play and we've already reached a number of important agreements with them. A new UK-US taskforce is being formed to lead a global alliance with the big players in the industry to stamp out these vile images. I've asked Joanna Shields, CEO of Tech City and our business ambassador for digital industries, who is here today, to head up engagement with industry for this taskforce. And she's going to work both with the UK and US governments and law enforcement agencies to maximise our international efforts.
Here in Britain, Google, Microsoft and Yahoo are already actively engaged on a major campaign to deter people who are searching for child abuse images. Now, I can't go into the detail about this campaign, because that might undermine its effectiveness, but I can tell you it is robust, it is hard-hitting; it is a serious deterrent to people who are looking for these images.
Now, where images are reported they are immediately added to a list and they're blocked by search engines and ISPs so people can't access those sites. These search engines also act to block illegal images and the URLs, or pathways, that lead to these images from search results, once they've been alerted to their existence.
But here to me is the problem. The job of actually identifying these images falls to a small body called the Internet Watch Foundation. Now this is a world leading organisation, but it relies almost entirely on members of the public reporting things they've seen online.
So the search engines themselves have a purely reactive position. When they're prompted to take something down they act, otherwise they don't. And if an illegal image hasn't been reported it can still be returned in searches. In other words, the search engines are not doing enough to take responsibility. Indeed, in this specific area, they are effectively denying responsibility.
And this situation has continued because of a technical argument. It goes like this: the search engine shouldn't be involved in finding out where these images are because the search engines are just the pipe that delivers the images, and that holding them responsible would be a bit like holding the Post Office responsible for sending illegal objects in anonymous packages. But that analogy isn't really right, because the search engine doesn't just deliver the material that people see, it helps to identify it.
Companies like Google make their living out of trawling and categorising content on the web, so that in a few key strokes you can find what you're looking for out of unimaginable amounts of information. That's what they do. They then sell advertising space to companies based on your search patterns. So if I go back to the Post Office analogy, it would be like the Post Office helping someone to identify and then order the illegal material in the first place and then sending it on to them, in which case the Post Office would be held responsible for their actions.
So quite simply we need the search engines to step up to the plate on this issue. We need a situation where you cannot have people searching for child abuse images and being aided in doing so. If people do try and search for these things, they are not only blocked, but there are clear and simple signs warning them that what they are trying to do is illegal, and where there is much more accountability on the part of the search engines to help find these sites and block them.
On all of these things, let me tell you what we've already done and what we're going to do. What we've already done is insist that clear, simple warning pages are designed and placed wherever child abuse sites have been identified and taken down so that if someone arrives at one of these sites they are clearly warned that the page contained illegal images. These so-called splash pages are up on the internet from today and this is, I think, a vital step forward. But we need to go further.
These warning pages should also tell people who've landed on these sites that they face consequences like losing their job, losing their family or even access to their children if they continue. And vitally they should direct them to the charity Stop it Now! which can help people change their behaviour anonymously and in complete confidence.
On people searching for these images, there are some searches where people should be given clear routes out of that search to legitimate sites on the web. Let me give you an example. If someone is typing in 'child' and 'sex' there should come up a list of options: do you mean child sex education? Do you mean child gender? What should not be returned is a list of pathways into illegal images which have yet to be identified by CEOP or reported to the Internet Watch Foundation.
Then there's this next issue. There are some searches which are so abhorrent and where there could be no doubt whatsoever about the sick and malevolent intent of the searcher '' terms that I can't say today in front of you with the television cameras here, but you can imagine '' where it's absolutely obvious the person at the keyboard is looking for revolting child abuse images. In these cases, there should be no search results returned at all. Put simply, there needs to be a list of terms '' a blacklist '' which offer up no direct search returns.
So I have a very clear message for Google, Bing, Yahoo! and the rest: you have a duty to act on this, and it is a moral duty. I simply don't accept the argument that some of these companies have used to say that these searches should be allowed because of freedom of speech.
On Friday, I sat with the parents of Tia Sharp and April Jones. They want to feel that everyone involved is doing everything they can to play their full part in helping rid the internet of child abuse images. So I've called for a progress report in Downing Street in October with the search engines coming in to update me.
And the question we've asked is clear. If CEOP give you a blacklist of internet search terms, will you commit to stop offering up any returns on these searches? If the answer is yes, good. If the answer is no and the progress is slow or non-existent, I can tell you we're already looking at legislative options so that we can force action in this area.
There's one further message I have for the search engines. If there are technical obstacles to acting on this, don't just stand by and say nothing can be done, use your great brains to overcome them. You're the people who've worked out how to map almost every inch of the earth from space. You've designed algorithms to make sense of vast quantities of information. You're the people who take pride in doing what they say can't be done.
You hold hackathons for people to solve impossible internet conundrums. Well hold a hackathon for child safety. Set your greatest brains to work on this. You're not separate from our society, you're part of our society and you must play a responsible role within it. This is quite simply about obliterating this disgusting material from the net, and we should do whatever it takes.
So that's how we're going to deal with the criminal challenge. The cultural challenge is the fact that many children are watching online pornography and finding other damaging material online at an increasingly young age. Now young people have always been curious about pornography; they've always sought it out.
But it used to be that society could protect children by enforcing age restrictions on the ground; whether that was setting a minimum age for buying top-shelf magazines, putting watersheds on the TV or age rating films and DVDs. But the explosion of pornography on the internet, and the explosion of the internet into our children's lives, has changed all of that profoundly. It's made it much harder to enforce age restrictions. It's made it much more difficult for parents to know what's going on. And as a society we need to be clear and honest about what is going on.
For a lot of children, watching hard-core pornography is in danger of becoming a rite of passage. In schools up and down our country, from the suburbs to the inner city, there are young people who think it's normal to send pornographic material as a prelude to dating in the same way you might once have sent a note across the classroom.
Over a third of children have received a sexually explicit text or email. In a recent survey, a quarter of children said they had seen pornography which had upset them. This is happening, and it is happening on our watch as adults. And the effect that it can have can be devastating. Effectively our children are growing up too fast. They're getting distorted ideas about sex and being pressurised in a way that we've never seen before, and as a father I am extremely concerned about this.
Now there's some who might say, 'Well, it's fine for you to have a view as a parent but not as Prime Minister. This is '' this is an issue for parents not the state.' But the way I see it, there is a contract between parents and the state. Parents say, 'Look, we'll do our best to raise our children right and the state should agree to stand on our side, to make that job a bit easier not a bit harder.'
But when it comes to internet pornography, parents have been left too much on their own. And I'm determined to put that right. We all need to work together, both to prevent children from accessing pornography and educate them about keeping safe online. This is about access and it's about education. And I want to say briefly what we're doing about each.
On access, things have changed profoundly in recent years. Not long ago access to the internet was mainly restricted to the PC in the corner of the living room with a beeping dial-up modem '' we all remember the worldwide wait '' it was downstairs in the house where parents could keep an eye on things. But now the internet is on the smartphones, the laptops, the tablets, the computers, the games consoles. And with high speed connections that make movie downloads and real time streaming possible, parents need much, much more help to protect their children across all of these fronts.
So on mobile phones, it's great to report that all of the operators have now agreed to put adult content filters onto phones automatically. And to deactivate them you have to prove you're over 18 and operators will continue to refine and improve those filters.
On public wi-fi, of which more than 90% is provided by 6 companies '' O2, Virgin Media, Sky, Nomad, BT and Arquiva '' I'm pleased to say we've now reached an agreement with all of them that family friendly filters are to be applied across public wi-fi networks wherever children are likely to be present. This will be done by the end of next month. And we're keen to introduce a family friendly wi-fi symbol which retailers, hotels, transport companies can use to show that their customers '' use to show their customers that their public wi-fi is properly filtered. So I think good progress there; that's how we're protecting children outside the home.
Inside the home, on the private family network, it is a more complicated issue. There's been a big debate about whether internet filters should be set to a default 'on' position, in other words with adult content filters applied by default, or not. Let's be clear, this has never been a debate about companies or government censoring the internet, but about filters to protect children at the home network level.
Those who wanted default 'on' said, 'It's a no-brainer: just have the filter set to 'on', then adults can turn them off if they want to and that way we can protect all children whether their parents are engaged in internet safety or not.' But others said default 'on' filters could create a dangerous sense of complacency. They said that with default filters parents wouldn't bother to keep an eye on what their kids are watching, as they'd be complacent; they'd just assume the whole thing had been taken care of.
Now, I say we need both: we need good filters that are preselected to be on, pre-ticked unless an adult turns them off, and we need parents aware and engaged in the setting of those filters. So, that is what we've worked hard to achieve, and I appointed Claire Perry to take charge of this, for the very simple reason that she's passionate about this issue, determined to get things done and extremely knowledgeable about it at the same too. Now, she's worked with the big 4 internet service providers '' TalkTalk, Virgin, Sky and BT '' who together supply internet connections to almost 9 out of 10 homes.
And today, after months of negotiation, we've agreed home network filters that are the best of both worlds. By the end of this year, when someone sets up a new broadband account, the settings to install family friendly filters will be automatically selected; if you just click next or enter, then the filters are automatically on.
And, in a really big step forward, all the ISPs have rewired their technology so that once your filters are installed they will cover any device connected to your home internet account; no more hassle of downloading filters for every device, just one click protection. One click to protect your whole home and to keep your children safe.
Now, once those filters are installed it should not be the case that technically literate children can just flick the filters off at the click of the mouse without anyone knowing, and this, if you've got children, is absolutely vital. So, we've agreed with industry that those filters can only be changed by the account holder, who has to be an adult. So an adult has to be engaged in the decisions.
But of course, all this only deals with the flow of new customers, new broadband accounts, those switching service providers or buying an internet connection for the first time. It doesn't deal with the huge stock of the existing customers, almost 19 million households, so that is where we now need to set our sights.
Following the work we've already done with the service providers, they have now agreed to take a big step: by the end of next year, they will have contacted all their existing customers and presented them with an unavoidable decision about whether or not to install family friendly content filters. TalkTalk, who've shown great leadership on this, have already started and are asking existing customers as I speak.
We're not prescribing how the ISPs should contact their customers; it's up to them to find their own technological solutions. But however they do it, there'll be no escaping this decision, no, 'Remind me later,' and then it never gets done. And they will ensure that it's an adult making the choice.
Now, if adults don't want these filters that is their decision, but for the many parents who would like to be prompted or reminded, they'll get that reminder and they'll be shown very clearly how to put on family friendly filters. I think this is a big improvement on what we had before and I want to thank the service providers for getting on board with this, but let me be clear: I want this to be a priority for all internet service providers not just now, but always.
That is why I am asking today for the small companies in the market to adopt this approach too, and I am also asking Ofcom, the industry regulator, to oversee this work, to judge how well the ISPs are doing and to report back regularly. If they find that we're not protecting children effectively, I will not hesitate to take further action.
But let me also say this: I know there are lots of charities and other organisations which provide vital online advice and support that many young people depend on, and we need to make sure that the filters do not, even unintentionally, restrict this helpful and often educational content. So I'll be asking the UK Council for Child Internet Safety to set up a working group to ensure this doesn't happen, as well as talking to parents about how effective they think that these filter products we're talking about really are.
So, making filters work is one front we're acting on; the other is education. In the new national curriculum, launched just a couple of weeks ago, there are unprecedented requirements to teach children about online safety. That doesn't mean teaching young children about pornography; it means sensible, age-appropriate education about what to expect on the internet. We need to teach our children not just about how to stay safe online, but how to behave online too, on social media and over phones with their friends.
And it's not just children that need to be educated; it's us parents, too. People of my generation grew up in a completely different world; our parents kept an eye on us in the world they could see. This is still relatively new, a digital landscape, a world of online profiles and passwords, and speaking as a parent, most of us do need help in navigating it.
Companies like Vodafone already do a good job at giving parents advice about online safety; they spend millions on it, and today they're launching the latest edition of their Digital Parenting guide. They're also going to publish a million copies of a new educational tool for younger children called, 'The digital facts of life.'
And I'm pleased to announce something else today: a major new national campaign that is going to be launched in the new year, that is going to be backed by the 4 major internet service providers as well as other child focused companies, that will speak directly to parents about how to keep their children safe online and how to talk to their children about other dangers like sexting or online bullying.
And government is going to play its part, too, because we get millions of people interacting with government. Whether that's sorting out their road tax or their Twitter account, or soon registering for Universal Credit, I've asked that we use these interactions to keep up the campaign, to prompt parents to think about filters and to think about how they can keep their children safe online. This is about all of us playing our part.
So, we're taking action on how children access this stuff, how they're educated about it, and I can tell you today we're also taking action on the content that is online. There are certain types of pornography that can only be described as extreme; I am talking particularly about pornography that is violent and that depicts simulated rape. These images normalise sexual violence against women and they're quite simply poisonous to the young people who see them.
The legal situation is, although it's been a crime to publish pornographic portrayals of rape for decades, existing legislation does not cover possession of this material, at least in England and Wales. Possession of such material is already an offence in Scotland, but because of a loophole in the Criminal Justice and Immigration Act 2008 it is not an offence south of the border. But I can tell you today, we are changing that: we are closing the loophole, making it a criminal offence to possess internet pornography that depicts rape.
And we're going to do something else to make sure that the same rules apply online as they do offline. There are examples of extreme pornography that are so bad you can't even buy this material in a licensed sex shop, and today I can announce we'll be legislating so that videos streamed online in the UK are subject to the same rules as those sold in shops. Put simply: what you can't get in a shop, you shouldn't be able to get online.
Now, everything today I've spoken about comes back to one thing: the kind of society we want to be. I want Britain to be the best place to raise a family; a place where your children are safe, where there's a sense of right and wrong and proper boundaries between them, where children are allowed to be children.
And all the actions we're taking today come back to that basic idea: protecting the most vulnerable in our society, protecting innocence, protecting childhood itself. That is what is at stake, and I will do whatever it takes to keep our children safe.
Sat, 23 Nov 2013 19:26
NewsThe American intelligence service - NSA - infected more than 50,000 computer networks worldwide with malicious software designed to steal sensitive information. Documents provided by former NSA-employee Edward Snowden and seen by this newspaper, prove this.
A management presentation dating from 2012 explains how the NSA collects information worldwide. In addition, the presentation shows that the intelligence service uses 'Computer Network Exploitation' (CNE) in more than 50,000 locations. CNE is the secret infiltration of computer systems achieved by installing malware, malicious software.
One example of this type of hacking was discovered in September 2013 at the Belgium telecom provider Belgacom. For a number of years the British intelligence service - GCHQ '' has been installing this malicious software in the Belgacom network in order to tap their customers' telephone and data traffic. The Belgacom network was infiltrated by GCHQ through a process of luring employees to a false Linkedin page.
NSA special department employs more than a thousand hackersThe NSA computer attacks are performed by a special department called TAO (Tailored Access Operations). Public sources show that this department employs more than a thousand hackers. As recently as August 2013, the Washington Post published articles about these NSA-TAO cyber operations. In these articles The Washington Post reported that the NSA installed an estimated 20,000 'implants' as early as 2008. These articles were based on a secret budget report of the American intelligence services. By mid-2012 this number had more than doubled to 50,000, as is shown in the presentation NRC Handelsblad laid eyes on.
Cyber operations are increasingly important for the NSA. Computer hacks are relatively inexpensive and provide the NSA with opportunities to obtain information that they otherwise would not have access to. The NSA-presentation shows their CNE-operations in countries such as Venezuela and Brazil. The malware installed in these countries can remain active for years without being detected.
'Sleeper cells' can be activated with a single push of a buttonThe malware can be controlled remotely and be turned on and off at will. The 'implants' act as digital 'sleeper cells' that can be activated with a single push of a button. According to the Washington Post, the NSA has been carrying out this type of cyber operation since 1998.
The Dutch intelligence services - AIVD and MIVD '' have displayed interest in hacking. The Joint Sigint Cyber Unit '' JSCU '' was created early in 2013. The JSCU is an inter-agency unit drawing on experts with a range of IT skills. This new unit is prohibited by law from performing the type of operations carried out by the NSA as Dutch law does not allow this type of internet searches.
The NSA declined to comment and referred to the US Government. A government spokesperson states that any disclosure of classified material is harmful to our national security.
Lees meer over:Edward SnowdenGCHQGlenn GreenwaldNational Security AgencyNSA
Sat, 23 Nov 2013 14:25
Het is niet duidelijk of de Amerikaanse inlichtingendienst NSA na 1968 is gestopt met het afluisteren van Nederland. Dat concludeert NRC Handelsblad zaterdag uit documenten van klokkenluider Edward Snowden. In het televisieprogramma De Wereld Draait Door gaf NRC-hoofdredacteur Peter vandermeesch vrijdag al aan dat de Amerikanen Nederland sinds 1946 bespioneren.
Het document maakt niet duidelijk of het afluisteren na 1968 is opgehouden. De Amerikaanse inlichtingendienst wil verborgen houden dat Nederland wordt afgeluisterd omdat de bevriende relatie met Nederland anders in gevaar zou kunnen komen, blijkt volgens de krant uit het document. Officile documenten die aantonen dat Nederland wordt afgeluisterd, mogen niet worden gepubliceerd.
Het document van Snowden is een recent overzicht van welke informatie uit het archief openbaar mag worden gemaakt en welke niet. Daaruit blijkt volgens de krant dat ook met de VS bevriende landen zoals Belgi, Duitsland, Frankrijk en Noorwegen vanaf 1946 worden afgeluisterd.
Deze landen vermoeden volgens de NSA misschien wel dat ze voor 1968 door de VS werden afgeluisterd, maar als dat algemeen bekend wordt kan de samenwerking met de NSA afnemen. Dat wil de NSA niet, want de inlichtingendiensten van de bevriende landen leveren 'unieke en waardevolle inzichten in contraterrorisme, antiproliferatie en regionale veiligheidsproblemen.''
Indien u geregistreerd bent, kunt u hieronder reageren op het artikel. Hiertoe dient u in te loggen.
Sat, 23 Nov 2013 18:19
WASHINGTON '-- Officials at the National Security Agency, intent on maintaining its dominance in intelligence collection, pledged last year to push to expand its surveillance powers, according to a top-secret strategy document.
In a February 2012 paper laying out the four-year strategy for the N.S.A.'s signals intelligence operations, which include the agency's eavesdropping and communications data collection around the world, agency officials set an objective to ''aggressively pursue legal authorities and a policy framework mapped more fully to the information age.''
Written as an agency mission statement with broad goals, the five-page document said that existing American laws were not adequate to meet the needs of the N.S.A. to conduct broad surveillance in what it cited as ''the golden age of Sigint,'' or signals intelligence. ''The interpretation and guidelines for applying our authorities, and in some cases the authorities themselves, have not kept pace with the complexity of the technology and target environments, or the operational expectations levied on N.S.A.'s mission,'' the document concluded.
Using sweeping language, the paper also outlined some of the agency's other ambitions. They included defeating the cybersecurity practices of adversaries in order to acquire the data the agency needs from ''anyone, anytime, anywhere.'' The agency also said it would try to decrypt or bypass codes that keep communications secret by influencing ''the global commercial encryption market through commercial relationships,'' human spies and intelligence partners in other countries. It also talked of the need to ''revolutionize'' analysis of its vast collections of data to ''radically increase operational impact.''
The strategy document, provided by the former N.S.A. contractor Edward J. Snowden, was written at a time when the agency was at the peak of its powers and the scope of its surveillance operations was still secret. Since then, Mr. Snowden's revelations have changed the political landscape.
Prompted by a public outcry over the N.S.A.'s domestic operations, the agency's critics in Congress have been pushing to limit, rather than expand, its ability to routinely collect the phone and email records of millions of Americans, while foreign leaders have protested reports of virtually unlimited N.S.A. surveillance overseas, even in allied nations. Several inquiries are underway in Washington; Gen. Keith B. Alexander, the N.S.A.'s longest-serving director, has announced plans to retire; and the White House has offered proposals to disclose more information about the agency's domestic surveillance activities.
The N.S.A. document, titled ''Sigint Strategy 2012-2016,'' does not make clear what legal or policy changes the agency might seek. The N.S.A.'s powers are determined variously by Congress, executive orders and the nation's secret intelligence court, and its operations are governed by layers of regulations. While asserting that the agency's ''culture of compliance'' would not be compromised, N.S.A. officials argued that they needed more flexibility, according to the paper.
Senior intelligence officials, responding to questions about the document, said that the N.S.A. believed that legal impediments limited its ability to conduct surveillance of terrorism suspects inside the United States. Despite an overhaul of national security law in 2008, the officials said, if a terrorism suspect who is under surveillance overseas enters the United States, the agency has to stop monitoring him until it obtains a warrant from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court.
''N.S.A.'s Sigint strategy is designed to guide investments in future capabilities and close gaps in current capabilities,'' the agency said in a statement. ''In an ever-changing technology and telecommunications environment, N.S.A. tries to get in front of issues to better fulfill the foreign-intelligence requirements of the U.S. government.''
Critics, including some congressional leaders, say that the role of N.S.A. surveillance in thwarting terrorist attacks '-- often cited by the agency to justify expanded powers '-- has been exaggerated. In response to the controversy about its activities after Mr. Snowden's disclosures, agency officials claimed that the N.S.A.'s sweeping domestic surveillance programs had helped in 54 ''terrorist-related activities.'' But under growing scrutiny, congressional staff members and other critics say that the use of such figures by defenders of the agency has drastically overstated the value of the domestic surveillance programs in counterterrorism.
Agency leaders believe that the N.S.A. has never enjoyed such a target-rich environment as it does now because of the global explosion of digital information '-- and they want to make certain that they can dominate ''the Sigint battle space'' in the future, the document said. To be ''optimally effective,'' the paper said, ''legal, policy and process authorities must be as adaptive and dynamic as the technological and operational advances we seek to exploit.''
Intent on unlocking the secrets of adversaries, the paper underscores the agency's long-term goal of being able to collect virtually everything available in the digital world. To achieve that objective, the paper suggests that the N.S.A. plans to gain greater access, in a variety of ways, to the infrastructure of the world's telecommunications networks.
Reports based on other documents previously leaked by Mr. Snowden showed that the N.S.A. has infiltrated the cable links to Google and Yahoo data centers around the world, leading to protests from company executives and a growing backlash against the N.S.A. in Silicon Valley.
Yet the paper also shows how the agency believes it can influence and shape trends in high-tech industries in other ways to suit its needs. One of the agency's goals is to ''continue to invest in the industrial base and drive the state of the art for high performance computing to maintain pre-eminent cryptanalytic capability for the nation.'' The paper added that the N.S.A. must seek to ''identify new access, collection and exploitation methods by leveraging global business trends in data and communications services.''
And it wants to find ways to combine all of its technical tools to enhance its surveillance powers. The N.S.A. will seek to integrate its ''capabilities to reach previously inaccessible targets in support of exploitation, cyberdefense and cyberoperations,'' the paper stated.
The agency also intends to improve its access to encrypted communications used by individuals, businesses and foreign governments, the strategy document said. The N.S.A. has already had some success in defeating encryption, The New York Times has reported, but the document makes it clear that countering ''ubiquitous, strong, commercial network encryption'' is a top priority. The agency plans to fight back against the rise of encryption through relationships with companies that develop encryption tools and through espionage operations. In other countries, the document said, the N.S.A. must also ''counter indigenous cryptographic programs by targeting their industrial bases with all available Sigint and Humint'' '-- human intelligence, meaning spies.
The document also mentioned a goal of integrating the agency's eavesdropping and data collection systems into a national network of sensors that interactively ''sense, respond and alert one another at machine speed.'' Senior intelligence officials said that the system of sensors is designed to protect the computer networks of the Defense Department, and that the N.S.A. does not use data collected from Americans for the system.
One of the agency's other four-year goals was to ''share bulk data'' more broadly to allow for better analysis. While the paper does not explain in detail how widely it would disseminate bulk data within the intelligence community, the proposal raises questions about what safeguards the N.S.A. plans to place on its domestic phone and email data collection programs to protect Americans' privacy.
N.S.A. officials have insisted that they have placed tight controls on those programs. In an interview, the senior intelligence officials said that the strategy paper was referring to the agency's desire to share foreign data more broadly, not phone logs of Americans collected under the Patriot Act.
Above all, the strategy paper suggests the N.S.A.'s vast view of its mission: nothing less than to ''dramatically increase mastery of the global network.''
Other N.S.A. documents offer hints of how the agency is trying to do just that. One program, code-named Treasure Map, provides what a secret N.S.A. PowerPoint presentation describes as ''a near real-time, interactive map of the global Internet.'' According to the undated PowerPoint presentation, disclosed by Mr. Snowden, Treasure Map gives the N.S.A. ''a 300,000 foot view of the Internet.''
Relying on Internet routing data, commercial and Sigint information, Treasure Map is a sophisticated tool, one that the PowerPoint presentation describes as a ''massive Internet mapping, analysis and exploration engine.'' It collects Wi-Fi network and geolocation data, and between 30 million and 50 million unique Internet provider addresses '-- code that can reveal the location and owner of a computer, mobile device or router '-- are represented each day on Treasure Map, according to the document. It boasts that the program can map ''any device, anywhere, all the time.''
The documents include addresses labeled as based in the ''U.S.,'' and because so much Internet traffic flows through the United States, it would be difficult to map much of the world without capturing such addresses.
But the intelligence officials said that Treasure Map maps only foreign and Defense Department networks, and is limited by the amount of data available to the agency. There are several billion I.P. addresses on the Internet, the officials said, and Treasure Map cannot map them all. The program is not used for surveillance, they said, but to understand computer networks.
The program takes advantage of the capabilities of other secret N.S.A. programs. To support Treasure Map, for example, the document states that another program, called Packaged Goods, tracks the ''traceroutes'' through which data flows around the Internet. Through Packaged Goods, the N.S.A. has gained access to ''13 covered servers in unwitting data centers around the globe,'' according to the PowerPoint. The document identifies a list of countries where the data centers are located, including Germany, Poland, Denmark, South Africa and Taiwan as well as Russia, China and Singapore.
Despite the document's reference to ''unwitting data centers,'' government officials said that the agency does not hack into those centers. Instead, the officials said, the intelligence community secretly uses front companies to lease space on the servers.
Despite the N.S.A.'s broad surveillance powers, the strategy paper shows that N.S.A. officials still worry about the agency's ability to fend off bureaucratic inertia while keeping pace with change.
''To sustain current mission relevance,'' the document said, Signals Intelligence Directorate, the N.S.A.'s signals intelligence arm, ''must undertake a profound and revolutionary shift from the mission approach which has served us so well in the decades preceding the onset of the information age.''
James Risen reported from Washington, and Laura Poitras from Berlin.
Sat, 23 Nov 2013 03:49
LG admits it collected information on consumers' viewing habits, promises firmware update to honor opt-out requests.South Korean multinational LG Electronics Thursday confirmed that its smart televisions can track what consumers are watching, and that they continue to do so even after consumers select a preference that purports to deactivate that tracking.
Viewing data -- including viewing duration, real-time tracking of the selected channel, and the names of all files stored on connected USB drives and network shares -- is collected as part of the Smart TV platform to deliver more relevant advertisements and to offer recommendations to viewers based on what other LG Smart TV owners are watching, according to a statement LG emailed to security researcher Graham Cluley.
LG promised to issue a firmware upgrade to honor consumers' opt-out preferences. It also promised to remove a feature that collected filenames and folder names on connected USB drives and network shares. "This feature, however, was never fully implemented and no personal data was ever collected or retained," said LG. "This feature will also be removed from affected LG Smart TVs with the firmware update."
[ Will Facebook's privacy tweaks never end? Here are some of the latest: 10 Most Misunderstood Facebook Privacy Facts. ]
Cluley criticized LG for failing to apologize for tracking its customers despite the company's claim that "our customers' privacy is a very important part of the Smart TV experience." He also criticized the company for creating a system that sent viewing data over the Internet in plaintext format, meaning that it could be easily intercepted. "I assume they're not sorry because they've passed up the opportunity to apologize to the consumers who may find it disturbing that their TVs were spying on their viewing habits, and the files on their USB sticks," Cluley said in a blog post.
Despite LG's promised firmware changes, consumers will likely be no wiser about how their viewing habits are being tracked or how they can stop that from happening. In addition, finding firmware updates that fix the always-on tracking problem will require users to manually check for firmware updates (menu >> network >> software updates) once they're available and ensure that the TV is connected to the network via an Ethernet cable, since LG's support site notes that wireless Internet connections are not reliable enough for firmware updates.
LG's data collection practices came to light Monday, after a security researcher known as DoctorBeet reported in a blog post that his LG smart TV was "logging USB filenames and viewing info to LG servers."
DoctorBeet started investigating what data his TV might be collecting after he found advertising displayed on its "smart" screen, along with a "creepy corporate video" -- which LC has since deleted -- that advertised LG's data collection practices to potential advertisers.
Buried in his TV's preferences menu DoctorBeet also found a "collection of watching info" setting, which was active by default. When that setting was active, it transmitted a unique device ID and name of the channel being watched. Every channel change triggered a signal to LG's servers, and overall viewing duration appeared to also be tracked. Furthermore, DoctorBeet found that the TV was also sending the names of all files that were stored on an external USB hard drive connected to the TV.
All that information continued to be transmitted even after turning the "collection of watching info" setting off, although the transmitted data did then include a special flag, meaning LG may have intended to discard the data.
One caveat, DoctorBeet noted, was that the URLs to which the TV tried to send data didn't appear to exist, because they resulted in HTTP 404 errors. "However, despite being missing at the moment, this collection URL could be implemented by LG on their server tomorrow," DoctorBeet explained, "enabling them to start transparently collecting detailed information on what media files you have stored."
DoctorBeet, who lives in Britain, emailed LG to ask why the company was insecurely collecting data on consumers' viewing habits and ignoring the opt-out setting. In response, LG's help desk told him that by using the TV, he'd agreed to certain terms and conditions and that he should take up any related complaints with the retailer that had sold him the television.
DoctorBeet's finding were corroborated Thursday by a security researcher -- posting under the name Mark -- who found that his LG television was not only tracking his viewing habits but was also cataloging and sending the names of all folders and files on networks that had been shared with the device. He also noted what appeared to be regional firmware variations in LG devices, including no option on his smart TV to disable viewing data collection.
The use of cloud technology is booming, often offering the only way to meet customers', employees', and partners' rapidly rising requirements. But IT pros are rightly nervous about a lack of visibility into the security of data in the cloud. In this Dark Reading report, "Integrating Vulnerability Management Into The Application Development Process," we put the risk in context and offer recommendations for products and practices that can increase insight -- and enterprise security. (Free registration required.)
Fri, 22 Nov 2013 07:59
Published time: November 21, 2013 16:36Google Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt (Reuters / Bobby Yip)
The executive chairman of internet giant Google predicted during a lecture this week that the global eradication of online censorship could come in just ten years' time.
Eric Schmidt, who formerly served as CEO of Google until 2011, was a guest speaker on the topic of ''Technology as a Spark for Growth'' at Johns Hopkins University when he made the remarks Wednesday afternoon.
"I believe there's a real chance that we can eliminate censorship and the possibility of censorship in a decade,'' Schmidt, 58, told an audience on the school's Washington, DC campus, according to Reuters' Alina Selyukh.
"First they try to block you; second, they try to infiltrate you; and third, you win,'' he said. ''I really think that's how it works. Because the power is shifted.''
Schmidt's remarks were made months after a he embarked on a personal trip to North Korea, where he told Wednesday's crowd that he attempted to get people in the largely disconnected country to try and see what a powerful tool the internet is.
"My view is that if we can get some connectivity, then they'll begin to open the country, they'll begin to understand other systems,'' he said.
But according to Schmidt, he was unsuccessful in that mission. "It's clear that we failed. But we'll try again,'' he said. With regards to neighboring China, however, where the colloquial ''Great Firewall'' has hindered open internet access to the country's one-billion inhabitants, Schmidt said people there and in other nations where censorship and surveillance are prominent could help end that oppression by resorting to encryption.
"The solution to government surveillance is to encrypt everyone," Schmidt said, according to Reuters.
Selyukh added in her report that Schmidt boasted of Google's recent decision to increase the length and complexity of its own encryption keys, and equated the public's necessity to constantly encrypt their data by new standards as a ''game of cat and mouse'' between governments and internet users.
Aside from the situations in North Korea and China, however, Schmidt's comments come in the midst of an ongoing scandal pertaining to the United States government's persistent use of tools and tactics to eavesdrop on the online communications of foreigners. Leaked classified documents disclosed to the media earlier this year by former contractor Edward Snowden suggested that the US National Security Agency was gaining direct access to the servers of internet companies, including Google, for alleged intelligence gathering and counterterrorism purposes, and subsequent revelations have indicated that the NSA even unlawfully tapped into the foreign networks of Silicon Valley companies to collect customer data in an decrypted state.
During the lecture, Schmidt suggested that the spread of encryption tools and the subsequent knowledge needed to employ them properly could eventually end censorship.
"It's pretty clear to me that government surveillance and the way in which governments are doing this will be here to stay in some form, because it's how the citizens will express themselves, and the governments will want to know what they're doing," Schmidt said. "In that race, I think the censors will lose, and I think that people would be empowered."
Sun, 24 Nov 2013 14:29
Award Approving Official: Thomas R. Frieden, MD, MPH, Director, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and Administrator, Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry.
Registration opens on November 23 and closes December 2, 2013. Register by sending email to email@example.com and include your first and last name, your address, and your phone number. Please see ''Registration Process for Participants'' below for additional details.
The Competition Submission Period is from December 1, 2013-March 27, 2014. The first submission of the prediction must be received by December 2, 2013. Subsequent submissions will be required biweekly until the close of the submission period and must be received by 11:59 p.m. Eastern on December 19, 2013; January 2, 2014; January 16, 2014; January 30, 2014; February 13, 2014; February 27, 2014; March 13, 2014; and March 27, 2014.
Judging will take place between March 28, 2014 and May 30, 2014. Winners will be announced by June 20, 2014.
Matthew Biggerstaff, MPH, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 1600 Clifton Rd NE MS A32; Atlanta, GA 30333, Phone: 404-639-3747, Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Subject of Challenge Competition: Entrants of the Predict the Influenza Season Challenge are asked to predict the beginning, the peak, and the intensity of the 2013-2014 influenza season at the national level and at each or any Health and Human Services (HHS) region level(s) in the United States by developing mathematical and statistical models that utilize digital surveillance data (e.g. Twitter data, mining internet search term data, internet-based surveys). If there are questions about the eligibility of different data sources, please contact Matthew Biggerstaff at 404-639-3747 or email@example.com.
Eligibility Rules for Participating in the Competition:
To be eligible to win a prize under this challenge, an individual or entity'--
(1) Must be at least 18 years old;
(2) Shall have registered to participate in the competition under the rules promulgated by HHS/CDC;
(3) Shall have complied with all the requirements under this section;
(4) In the case of a private entity, shall be incorporated in and maintain a primary place of business in the United States, and in the case of an individual, whether participating singly or in a group, shall be a citizen or permanent resident of the United States; and
(5) May not be a Federal entity or Federal employee acting within the scope of their employment.
(6) Shall not be an HHS employee working on their applications or submissions during assigned duty hours.
(7) Shall not be an employee of or contractor at HHS/CDC.
(8) Federal grantees may not use Federal funds to develop COMPETES Act challenge applications unless consistent with the purpose of their grant award.
(9) Federal contractors may not use Federal funds from a contract to develop COMPETES Act challenge applications or to fund efforts in support of a COMPETES Act challenge submission.
An individual or entity shall not be deemed ineligible because the individual or entity used Federal facilities or consulted with Federal employees during a competition if the facilities and employees are made available to all individuals and entities participating in the competition on an equal basis.
By participating in this challenge, an individual or organization agrees to assume any and all risks related to participating in the challenge. Individuals or organizations also agree to waive claims against the Federal Government and its related entities, except in the case of willful misconduct, when participating in the challenge, including claims for injury; death; damage; or loss of property, money, or profits, and including those risks caused by negligence or other causes.
By participating in this challenge, individuals or organizations agree to protect the Federal Government against third party claims for damages arising from or related to challenge activities.
Individuals or organizations are not required to hold liability insurance related to participation in this challenge.
Registration Process for Participants: To register, please send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org and include your first and last name, your address, and your phone number. The subject line of the email submission must be labeled ''Predict the Flu Challenge [Competitors Name] [Date of Submission]''. Additionally, this email should include the following statements: ''By participating in this competition, I agree to assume any and all risks and waive claims against the Federal Government and its related entities, except in the case of willful misconduct, for any injury, death, damage, or loss of property, revenue, or profits, whether direct, indirect, or consequential, arising from my participation in this prize contest, whether the injury, death, damage, or loss arises through negligence or otherwise. Additionally, I agree to indemnify the Federal Government against third party claims for damages arising from or related to competition activities.'' Registration opens on November 23, 2013, and closes 11:59 p.m. EST on December 2, 2013.
The Competition Submission Period is from December 1, 2013-March 27, 2014. The first submission of the prediction must be received by December 2, 2013 and include a narrative describing the methodology of the prediction model and the results of that model (figures, tables, or narratives) using digital surveillance data (e.g. Twitter data, mining internet search term data, internet-based surveys) that predicts the beginning, the peak, and the intensity of the 2013-2014 influenza season at the national level in the United States. The methodology and data source(s) submitted to CDC must match the actual methods utilized by the competitors when making their influenza season predictions. In addition to the national-level predictions, competitors may also submit predictions of the beginning, the peak, and the intensity of the 2013-2014 influenza seasons for any of the 10 HHS regions.
Subsequent submissions will be required biweekly until the close of the submission period and must include the updated results of the prediction model (figures, tables, or narratives) at the national level in the United States using digital surveillance data; predictions for any of the 10 HHS regions will also be accepted, and submitting predictions for the 10 regions can potentially add to the final scores competitors. Subsequent submissions that include the updated predictions of the beginning, peak, and the intensity of the 2013-2014 influenza season must be received by 11:59 p.m. Eastern on December 19, 2013; January 2, 2014; January 16, 2014; January 30, 2014; February 13, 2014; February 27, 2014; March 13, 2014; and March 27, 2014. A total of 9 submissions must be received over the course of the contest to be eligible for the contest prize; late submissions will not be considered.
Contest Prize: For the contest, one $75,000 prize will be awarded. The winning competitor will be recognized on the CDC influenza Web page.
Payment of the Prize: Prizes awarded under this competition will be paid by electronic funds transfer and may be subject to Federal income taxes. HHS will comply with the Internal Revenue Service withholding and reporting requirements, where applicable.
Basis Upon Which Winner Will Be Selected: A total of 9 submissions must be received over the course of the contest to be eligible for judging; late submissions will not be considered. The Competitors' model methodology and nine biweekly predictions will comprise their challenge entry. The selection of the winner for this challenge will be based on an evaluation of the methodology used to make the prediction and the accuracy of the prediction compared to the U.S. Outpatient Influenza-like Illness Surveillance Network (ILINet: http://www.cdc.gov/flu/weekly/) at the national level and any of the included 10 HHS regions. National and HHS-level predictions must be scaled to ILINet.
Submissions will be judged by a panel of reviewers that may include CDC staff, public health officials, and/or academics from noncompeting colleges or universities. Judges will score submissions on a scale of 0 to 150 using the six criteria identified below. Based on the average score for each submission, the top submissions will be recommended to a Lead Judge in CDC's Influenza Division. The Lead Judge will assess the top submissions using the criteria below and select the first place entry. Judging will take place between March 28, 2014 and May 30, 2014.
i. Methodology (25)Are key materials to support the correct interpretation of the predictions by the judges, such as concepts, sources, and methods, provided as part of the submission?Are the predictions scaled to ILINet? Are the data and results presented clearly, allowing the judges who may not be experts in mathematical modeling to evaluate the model and its outputs?What are the data sources used to make the prediction? Is the data source representative? If not, which groups are underrepresented in the data? Are there any impacts caused by these exclusions?Is there a clear description of how the search terms were selected (if relevant)?Are there any serious accuracy or methodological problems with the prediction approach?Are measures provided that give an indication of how certain contestants are about their predictions? (e.g. confidence intervals, probability of the prediction occurring)?ii. Predicting the Start of the Influenza Season (10)Does the model accurately predict the start of the influenza season at the national level and any of the included 10 HHS regions? The start of the season will be defined as the week when the percentage of visits reported through ILINet crosses the baseline value for three consecutive weeks. ILINet baseline values for the United States and the 10 HHS regions for the 2013-2014 influenza season are available at http://www.cdc.gov/flu/weekly/overview.htm#Outpatient.iii. Predicting the Peak Week of the Influenza Season (10)Does the model accurately predict the peak week of ILINet at the national level and any of the included 10 HHS regions? The peak week will be defined as the surveillance week that the ILINet percentage is the highest for the 2013-14 influenza season in the United States and the 10 separate HHS regions. iv. Predicting the Intensity of the Influenza Season (25)Does the model predict the intensity of the influenza season at the national and any of the included HHS regional levels? The intensity will be defined as the number of weeks that ILINet remains above baseline and the highest numeric value that the ILINet percentage reaches in the United States and the 10 separate HHS regions.v. Timeliness and Reliability of the Predictions (20)How many weeks before each prediction milestone (the start and the peak week) was the most accurate prediction made?Did the prediction of each milestone vary widely between the Competitors' submissions?vi. Geography (10)How comprehensively are the geographic regions of the United States represented in the source data?vii. Optional HHS Regional Predictions (Up to 50 Bonus Points)HHS regional predictions will be evaluated separately using the six criteria identified above. Each submitted regional prediction will add between 0 and 5 points to the competitor's final score, depending on the evaluation of the accuracy, timeliness, and reliability of the prediction.Additional Information: The historical national surveillance data that could be used to enable training and correlation model development by competitors are available at http://gis.cdc.gov/grasp/fluview/fluportaldashboard.html and are updated every Friday at noon.
The Competitors will not have to transfer their exclusive intellectual property rights to the CDC. Instead, the Competitors will grant to CDC non-exclusive license to practice their solutions.
Compliance With Rules and Contacting Contest Winners: Finalists and the contest winners must comply with all terms and conditions of these official rules, and winning is contingent upon fulfilling all requirements herein. The initial finalists will be notified by email, telephone, or mail after the date of the judging. Awards may be subject to Federal income taxes, and the Department of Health and Human Services will comply with the Internal Revenue Service withholding and reporting requirements, where applicable.
Privacy: If contestants choose to provide the CDC with personal information by registering or filling out the submission form through the Challenge.gov Web site, that information is used to respond to contestants in matters regarding their submission, announcements of entrants, finalists, and winners of the contest. Information is not collected for commercial marketing. Registering through the Challenge.gov Web site is not required, however. Registrants may submit an email to email@example.com as noted in ''Registration Process for Participants.'' Winners are permitted to cite that they won this contest.
General Conditions: The CDC reserves the right to cancel, suspend, and/or modify the contest, or any part of it, for any reason, at CDC's sole discretion.
Participation in this contest constitutes a contestants' full and unconditional agreement to abide by the contest's official rules found at www.Challenge.gov.
Sun, 24 Nov 2013 15:19
Photo: Bertil Ericsson/TT
Published: 24 Nov 2013 09:26 GMT+01:00Updated: 24 Nov 2013 09:26 GMT+01:00
Sweden's Minister of Social Affairs G¶ran H¤gglund has said he is prepared to make a public apology to the people, most young adults and children, who suffered from narcolepsy following vaccination against swine flu.
"I have no problem promising one if it is requested it, or if it is thought that it could lead to any improvement for these families," H¤gglund said to the Svenska Dagbladet (SvD) daily.
After it was established that the swine flu vaccination caused narcolepsy the state promised to be generous. But it is neither the state nor local health authorities who determine which sufferers are entitled to help, this responsibility falls on the private insurance firm L¤kemedelsf¶rs¤kringen.
In order to receive compensation from insurance company, the patient must have been aware of the symptoms within eight months from the time of vaccination.
Some 28 people , including 19 children, have been thus denied compensation because they did not notice the symptoms in time, according to the SvD report.
However, according to several experts to whom both TT and SvD have spoken, such a limit can not be placed on the condition. Symptoms are initially diffuse and were previously relatively unknown. Many sufferers seek other explanations for their fatigue and it may have taken some time before getting a diagnosis.
Despite the difficulties for some sufferers, H¤gglund told the newspaper that there are no plans to help the group that has not received any compensation.
"Not at the moment," he said.
The Local reported last week about one sufferer of narcolepsy who was ejected from a popular Stockholm night spot after she fell asleep at the bar.
Evelina Per(C)s, a 20-year-old Swede, reported Stockholm nightclub Caf(C) Opera to the Equality Ombudsman (Diskrimineringsombudsman, DO) after she was thrown out for dozing off.
After snoozing on the stool, two bouncers took her by the arms and threw her onto the street, roughing her up enough to leave bruises on her arms, her report stated.
Per(C)s, who has a doctor's certificate for her narcolepsy, wrote that the condition was a direct result of a swine flu jab, and added that she hoped her report could bring some much-needed attention to the problem.
"The state made us get the shot. We are already affected. We don't need to be punished more, we need support and help instead. I have friends with nacolepsy who no longer go out because they don't want to risk being kicked out," she told the paper.
A Swedish study confirmed in March that the swine flu vaccine Pandemrix had a direct link to narcolepsy, with those taking the shot under the age of 21 at three times the risk of developing the condition.
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Swartlings riding school in Stockholm. Photo: Ingvar Karmhed/TT
The 39-year-old man arrested on suspicion of the brutal murder of a 25-year-old student outside a Stockholm riding school in 1996 was remanded into custody on Sunday despite his denial. READ () >>
Photo: Bertil Ericsson/TT
Sweden's Minister of Social Affairs G¶ran H¤gglund has said he is prepared to make a public apology to the people, most young adults and children, who suffered from narcolepsy following vaccination against swine flu. READ () >>
Photo: Anders Hillegren/TT
The captain of a vessel which ran aground north of Landskrona on the west coast of Sweden was arrested on Sunday after he was found to be under the influence of alcohol. READ () >>
Swartlings riding school in Stockholm. Photo: Ingvar Karmhed/TT
A 39-year-old man has been arrested on suspicion of murdering a 25-year-old student outside a Stockholm riding school in 1996. READ () >>
Photo: Roberto Jorge/Flickr
A 30-year-old woman has been charged with aggravated assault on suspicion of having systematically tortured a 70-year-old man whom she referred to as "grandad". READ () >>
The Sweden Democrat women's wing chairwoman Carina Herrstedt. File photo: Annicka af Klercker/TT
The Local catches up with Carina Herrstedt, chair of the Sweden Democrat women's wing, to learn more about women's place in a party sometimes labelled as a bunch of "angry white men". READ () >>
Sweden is set to introduce crimes against humanity into its penal code in a move to tackle widespread, systematic, and inhumane crimes abroad in Swedish courts. READ () >>
The ring is made of Roman gold. Photo: Camilla Lundin
A woman was left gobsmacked when she learned the gold ring she stumbled across in a field was 2,000 years old. READ () >>
Sweden Democrat Party Secretary Bj¶rn S¶der. Photo: Janerik Henriksson/TT
Rebels or rogues? The national meeting of Sweden Democrats this weekend certainly has the Swedish political scene abuzz. With ten months until elections, the once Nazi-tainted party may soon find itself playing kingmaker. But will they get a say in their core question - immigration? READ () >>
Top brass within Sweden's Armed Forces are furious after a Swedish female officer was sexually harassed while participating in an EU training mission in Africa. READ () >>
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Blog Update: The Diplomatic Dispatch
28 October 15:16
The Green Growth Group Summit >>
"Today on the 28 October in Brussels, a large group of key EU Ministers and business people, including UK Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change Edward Davey, and Swedish Environment Minister Lena Ek, will meet to discuss green growth. They all have a stake in resolving a challenge which, although it is crucial..." READ >>
Sun, 24 Nov 2013 14:03
Nov. 22, 2013 at 7:22 PM ET
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration said on Friday it has approved a vaccine made by GlaxoSmithKline Plc for use in the event of an H5N1 bird flu epidemic.
The vaccine, Pandemrix, will be added to the national stockpile and will not be available for commercial use, the FDA said.
It is the first H5N1 vaccine approved in the United States to contain an adjuvant, or booster, that turbo-charges the body's immune response to the vaccine.
"This vaccine could be used in the event that the H5N1 avian influenza virus develops the capability to spread efficiently from human to human, resulting in the rapid spread of disease across the globe," Dr. Karen Midthun, director of the FDA's biologics division, said in a statement.
The FDA approved the vaccine for use in people over the age of 18 who are at increased risk of exposure to the virus. It would be distributed by public health officials if needed.
The approval comes amid some uncertainty over the safety of modern adjuvants such as the one used in GSK's bird flu vaccine.
However, there are no effective traditional vaccines against bird flu. Glaxo's super-charged product is the first to show it can confer protection in the event of a pandemic. European regulators have approved it under the brand name Pumarix.
Data shows that children in England who received a similar adjuvanted vaccine during the 2009-10 H1N1 swine flu epidemic had a 14-fold heightened risk of developing narcolepsy, a chronic and potentially debilitating sleep disorder that can cause hallucinations, daytime sleepiness and cataplexy, a form of muscle weakness precipitated by strong emotion.
According to GSK, some 30 million doses of Pandemrix were administered across Europe and 800 people, mostly children, developed narcolepsy. While GSK has acknowledged an association between the vaccine and the narcolepsy cases, it has said there is insufficient evidence to prove the adjuvant was to blame.
Adjuvants have been used in vaccines for diseases such as diphtheria and tetanus for decades. Now, a new, more powerful generation of adjuvants, including one known as AS03 that is contained in the bird flu vaccine, is being developed whose safety is relatively untested.
Previously, the United States has taken a more cautious approach toward adjuvants than some other countries. The FDA did not, for example, approve Pandemrix for H1NI swine flu. U.S. experts felt that traditional, non-adjuvanted H1N1 vaccines made by Sanofi SA and others offered enough protection against the virus.
But an advisory panel voted unanimously that the FDA should approve the vaccine against bird flu, which kills nearly 60 percent of those who become infected. By comparison, the H1N1 virus kills fewer than 1 percent of those infected.
The H5N1 bird flu virus was first isolated in a human in Hong Kong in 1997 and began to spread throughout Southeast Asia in 2003. A 2011 report by the World Health Organization showed only 566 people had been infected with bird flu worldwide, compared with millions infected with the 2009 H1N1 swine flu virus. But the death rate for bird flu is far higher.
Copyright 2013 Thomson Reuters.
Wed, 20 Nov 2013 12:49
Last week, the nation's leading heart organizations released a sweeping new set of guidelines for lowering cholesterol, along with an online calculator meant to help doctors assess risks and treatment options. But, in a major embarrassment to the health groups, the calculator appears to greatly overestimate risk, so much so that it could mistakenly suggest that millions more people are candidates for statin drugs.
The apparent problem prompted one leading cardiologist, a past president of the American College of Cardiology, to call on Sunday for a halt to the implementation of the new guidelines.
''It's stunning,'' said the cardiologist, Dr. Steven Nissen, chief of cardiovascular medicine at the Cleveland Clinic. ''We need a pause to further evaluate this approach before it is implemented on a widespread basis.''
The controversy set off turmoil at the annual meeting of the American Heart Association, which started this weekend in Dallas. After an emergency session on Saturday night, the two organizations that published the guidelines '-- the American Heart Association and the American College of Cardiology '-- said that while the calculator was not perfect, it was a major step forward, and that the guidelines already say patients and doctors should discuss treatment options rather than blindly follow a calculator.
Dr. Sidney Smith, the executive chairman of the guideline committee, said the associations would examine the flaws found in the calculator and determine if changes were needed. ''We need to see if the concerns raised are substantive,'' he said in a telephone interview on Sunday. ''Do there need to be changes?''
The problems were identified by two Harvard Medical School professors whose findings will be published Tuesday in a commentary in The Lancet, a major medical journal. The professors, Dr. Paul M. Ridker and Dr. Nancy Cook, had pointed out the problems a year earlier when the National Institutes of Health's National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, which originally was developing the guidelines, sent a draft to each professor independently to review. Both reported back that the calculator was not working among the populations it was tested on by the guideline makers.
That was unfortunate because the committee thought the researchers had been given the professors' responses, said Dr. Donald Lloyd-Jones, co-chairman of the guidelines task force and chairman of the department of preventive medicine at Northwestern University.
Drs. Ridker and Cook saw the final guidelines and risk calculator on Tuesday at 4 p.m., when a news embargo was lifted, and saw that the problems remained.
On Saturday night, members of the association and the college of cardiology held a hastily called closed-door meeting with Dr. Ridker, who directs the Center for Cardiovascular Disease Prevention at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston. He showed them his data and pointed out the problem. On Sunday, officials from the organizations struggled with how to respond.
Other experts said there has not been a real appreciation of the difficulties with this and other risk calculators. ''I don't think people have a good idea of what needs to be done,'' said Dr. Michael Blaha, director of clinical research at the Ciccarone Center for the Prevention of Heart Disease at Johns Hopkins University, who was not associated with forming the new guidelines.
Dr. Blaha said the problem might have stemmed from the fact that the calculator uses as reference points data collected more than a decade ago, when more people smoked and had strokes and heart attacks earlier in life. For example, the guideline makers used data from studies in the 1990s to determine how various risk factors like cholesterol levels and blood pressure led to actual heart attacks and strokes over a decade of observation.
But people have changed in the past few decades, Dr. Blaha said. Among other things, there is no longer such a big gap between women's risks and those of men at a given age. And people get heart attacks and strokes at older ages.
''The cohorts were from a different era,'' Dr. Blaha said.
This week, after they saw the guidelines and the calculator, Dr. Ridker and Dr. Cook evaluated it using three large studies that involved thousands of people and continued for at least a decade. They knew the subjects' characteristics at the start '-- their ages, whether they smoked, their cholesterol levels, their blood pressures. Then they asked how many had heart attacks or strokes in the next 10 years and how many would the risk calculator predict.
The answer was that the calculator overpredicted risk by 75 to 150 percent, depending on the population. A man whose risk was 4 percent, for example, might show up as having an 8 percent risk. With a 4 percent risk, he would not warrant treatment '-- the guidelines that say treatment is advised for those with at least a 7.5 percent risk and that treatment can be considered for those whose risk is 5 percent.
''Miscalibration to this extent should be reconciled and addressed before these new prediction models are widely implemented,'' Dr. Ridker and Dr. Cook wrote in The Lancet. ''If real, such systematic overestimation of risk will lead to considerable overprescription.''
In a response on Sunday, Dr. Smith of the guidelines committee said the concerns raised by Dr. Cook and Dr. Ridker ''merit attention.''
But, he continued, ''a lot of people put a lot of thought into how can we identify people who can benefit from therapy.'' Further, said Dr. Smith, who is also a professor of medicine at the University of North Carolina and a past president of the American Heart Association, ''What we have come forward with represents the best efforts of people who have been working for five years.''
The chairmen of the guidelines panel said they believed the three populations Dr. Ridker and Dr. Cook examined were unusually healthy and so their heart attack and stroke rates might be lower than expected.
Asked to comment on the situation on Sunday, some doctors said they worried that, with many people already leery of statins, the public would lose its trust in the guidelines or the heart associations.
''We're surrounded by a real disaster in terms of credibility,'' said Dr. Peter Libby, the chairman of the department of cardiovascular medicine at Brigham and Women's Hospital.
What are patients and doctors to do? On Sunday, there seemed to be no firm answers, except that those at the highest risk, like people who have had a heart attack or have diabetes, should take statins.
The guideline developers said they were not totally surprised by the problems with the calculator.
''We recognize a potential for overestimates, especially at the high end of risk,'' said Dr. David Goff, the dean of the University of Colorado School of Public Health and the co-chairman of the guidelines' risk assessment working group.
Last year, not long after it received the assessments from Dr. Ridker and Dr. Cook, the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute removed itself from the development of the guidelines, saying that was not its mission. The institute handed responsibility to the American Heart Association and the American College of Cardiology.
Dr. Michael Lauer, the director of the division of cardiovascular sciences at the institute, said on Sunday that it had received many reviews and sent them to the other groups, together with the responses of the guidelines' authors.
Some doctors who tested the calculator with hypothetical patients wondered if they should trust the results.
Dr. Nissen entered the figures for a 60-year-old African-American man with no risk factors '-- total cholesterol of 150, HDL (the good cholesterol) of 45, systolic blood pressure of 125 '-- who was not a diabetic or a smoker. He ended up with a 10-year risk of 7.5 percent, meaning he should be taking cholesterol-lowering statins despite being in a seemingly low-risk group.
Dr. Nissen also calculated the figures for a healthy white man, age 60, and also got a risk factor of 7.5 percent.
''Something is terribly wrong,'' Dr. Nissen said. Using the calculator's results, he said, ''your average healthy Joe gets treated, virtually every African-American man over 65 gets treated.''
Thu, 21 Nov 2013 09:33
Living in a wealthy, developed nation may not make you happier, with a study finding that antidepressant use has surged across the rich world.
US data show that more than 10% of American adults use depression medication. (Gallo)
The use of antidepressants has surged across the rich world over the past decade, according to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), raising concerns among doctors that pills are being overprescribed.
Data from the OECD show that in some countries doctors are writing prescriptions for more than one in 10 adults, with Iceland, Australia, Canada and the other European Nordic countries leading the way.
Separate data from the US show that more than 10% of American adults use depression medication.
Numbers are even rising in China, with the antidepressant market growing there by about 20% for each of the past three years, albeit from a lower base.
Global rates of depression have not risen to the same extent, even though more people than ever before are being diagnosed in some countries.
Cause and consumptionThe OECD says in its Health at a Glance report, to be released on Thursday, that the use of antidepressants in milder cases could explain rising consumption levels.
"These extensions have raised concerns about appropriateness," it said.
It added that the financial crisis may have been a factor in more recent increases in use, noting that in Spain and Portugal, for example, prescriptions have jumped by more than 20% over the past five years.
Most psychiatrists agree that antidepressants work for people with severe illness but are not supposed to be the first resort for those with mild depression.
Counselling and talking therapies, such as cognitive behaviour therapy (CBT), are recognised as being just as effective over the long term.
But counselling is in short supply in many countries.
"We know that antidepressants work for moderate to severe depression," said Dr Mark van Ommeren, of the World Health Organisation's department of mental health and substance abuse.
"The explosion of antidepressants you see in most countries reflects the fact that lots of people with moderate to severe depression are getting treatment '' that's a good thing.
"But the negative thing is that a lot of people are getting antidepressants who shouldn't be getting them. Doctors and healthcare providers should be able to recognise depression correctly so that those who need antidepressants get them and those with only mild cases do not get prescribed."
Modern medicationModern antidepressants known as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), such as Prozac, took off in the 1990s and gained almost cult status with the publication of Elizabeth Wurtzel's book Prozac Nation in 1994.
Doctors were happier to prescribe them because they did not have the addictive properties or side-effects of pills such as benzodiazepines.
But the bubble seemed to burst within a few years, with stories of some, particularly younger, people attempting suicide while on the drugs.
Some companies paid large sums to settle court cases in the US and, in the UK, doctors were warned in 2003 not to prescribe them to patients under 18 years of age.
But the issues around the various medications do not seem to have affected the long-term upward trend.
The OECD figures show that Iceland has the highest prescribing rate at 105.8 doses a day for every 1 000 inhabitants in 2011, up from 70.9 in 2000 and 14.9 in 1989, when it first submitted figures.
Three countries had figures in the 80s in 2011 '' Australia, up from 45.4 in 2000 to 88.9 in 2011; Canada was up from 75 in 2007, when it first submitted figures, to 85.9; and Denmark, up from 34.8 to 85.2.
The lowest rate in 2011 was in Chile, where 12.8 daily doses were prescribed for every 1 000 inhabitants. In the UK, rates have roughly doubled over the past decade to 70.7 for every 1 000 people.
Over-prescribedMost experts say that antidepressants are over-prescribed for some people but under-used in others.
"Antidepressants are widely oversubscribed to get rid of unhappiness," said Professor Tim Cantopher, consultant psychiatrist with the Priory Group in the UK.
"They were not designed for that. Unhappiness is part of the human condition. But real clinical depression does respond to antidepressants. And not to prescribe in these cases is to sentence an individual to a far longer illness than he or she need suffer."
Harvey Whiteford, Kratzmann professor of psychiatry and population health at the University of Queensland, Australia, said depression was common and the second leading cause of health-related disability.
But in most OECD countries, he said, only about 50% to 60% of those suffering from depression got treatment, although the rates were increasing.
But the sort of treatment people need varies according to their illness, he said.
"There is good evidence that only major depression is likely to respond to antidepressants and other forms of depression much less so," he said.
Drugs vs counsellingPrimary care physicians tend to prescribe drugs rather than CBT, although some countries such as Australia and the UK have initiatives intended to increase the amount of counselling available.
"My view is that antidepressants are often prescribed for the increasing numbers of people now coming to treatment for depression (including mild to moderate forms of depression) where CBT would be the better treatment.
Thus, the prescribing rates are going up and some of this prescribing would be for types of depression better treated non-pharmacologically," he said.
A Better Access scheme, which subsidised CBT for common mental disorders, increased treatment rates in Australia to 46% in 2009-2010 from 37% in 2006-207, he said.
"To get access to psychologists for CBT under the scheme required referral from a GP, who made the diagnosis and ruled out medical causes for the anxiety and depression. We hoped this would decrease the prescribing rates of medication with referral to a psychologist being substituted as first-line treatment for mild to moderate disorders. However, what seems to have happened is that most GPs prescribed and referred for CBT."
Marketing ployProfessor Tim Kendall, director of the National Collaborating Centre for Mental Health in the UK, said he doubted if the rise in antidepressant prescription was a result of better recognition of depression in so many countries.
"It's much more likely a testament to the effective marketing by the pharmaceutical industry," he said.
"I also wonder if, in better off countries, which OECD countries are, we don't have time to be depressed and seek chemical solutions to 'get rid of it'."
Dr Jordi Alonso, director of the programme of epidemiology and public health at the IMIM-Institut de Recerca hospital del Mar in Barcelona, Spain, said: "In my opinion, one major issue is that GPs have become familiar with the indications and results of antidepressants.
"Possible explanations of this fact are the time elapsed since new SSRIs were available and of course, the dissemination and publicity about their efficacy '' with the lead of the companies who have produced them." '' guardian.co.uk (C) Guardian News and Media 2013
Sat, 23 Nov 2013 22:48
HomeApplicationThe Office of the Gene Technology Regulator (OGTR) has received a licence application from PaxVax Australia Pty Ltd (PaxVax) for the intentional release of a genetically modified (GM) bacterial vaccine into the environment (DIR 126), which qualifies as a limited and controlled release under section 50A of the Gene Technology Act 2000 (the Act).PaxVax is seeking approval to conduct a clinical trial of a GM live bacterial vaccine against cholera. Once underway the trial is expected to be completed within one year, with trial sites selected from local government areas (LGAs) in Queensland, South Australia, Victoria and Western Australia. The trial will involve the inoculation of approximately 1000 children and adults. The applicant has proposed a number of control measures to restrict the spread and persistence of the GM vaccine and its introduced genetic material.
PaxVax has indicated that a Clinical Trial Notification will be submitted to the Therapeutic Goods Administration, and that they will be applying to Department of Agriculture for a permit to import the vaccines.
Purpose of this notificationThis notification provides early information about the above application and the assessment process, including a forthcoming opportunity to comment. At this stage, comment is not sought from members of the public. Later, the public will be asked to comment on a comprehensive Risk Assessment and Risk Management Plan (RARMP) for the application. This is expected to be released for public comment and advice from a broad range of experts, agencies and authorities in late January 2014. A period of at least 30 days will be allowed for submission of comments, as required by the Act.In the interim, you can obtain a copy of the application by contacting my Office (contact details below; please quote application DIR 126). As the application is quite lengthy, you may prefer to view a summary of the application, which is posted on our website along with this document (under 'What's New').
If you have any questions or would like to receive a hard copy of the application summary, please contact the OGTR.
Office of the Gene Technology Regulator, MDP 54, GPO BOX 9848 CANBERRA ACT 2601Telephone: 1800 181 030 Facsimile: 02 6271 4202 E-mail:OGTR Website
Dr Joe SmithGene Technology Regulator11 November 2013
Sat, 23 Nov 2013 22:52
For years we have been told that raw, crude marijuana plants do not meet the Food & Drug Administration's (FDA) guidelines for a safe, effective medicine. Cannabis remains a Schedule I substance, deemed to have no medicinal value, is dangerously addictive and holds a high potential for abuse.
Now, that same FDA has approved a new painkiller called Zohydro. This is a pill that contains 10 times the opioid hydrocodone as found in the often-abused Vicodin. Worse, the drug is the first approved hydrocodone drug that is not cut with acetaminophen or ibuprofen. Unlike the recently reformulated OxyContin, Zohydro does not contain any additives to prevent its users from crushing and snorting or shooting the drug. Abuse concerns led the FDA's Anesthetic and Analgesic Drug Products Advisory Committee to vote 11 to 2 against recommending the drug's approval.
But the FDA approved the drug anyway, even though the Centers for Disease Control tell us fatal overdoses from painkillers are reaching epidemic levels in the United States. A global study published in The Lancet found that opioid drugs are the most dangerous in terms of mortality, especially compared to cocaine and marijuana. Americans, comprising less than five percent of the world's population, consume 80% of all opioids and 99% of all hydrocodone.
Also raising eyebrows is the company the FDA has approved to produce this new ''Super-Vicodin:'' Alkermes. In addition to making this powerfully addictive opioid drug, Alkermes makes the popular naltrexone medication Vivitrol, which is used to treat addictions to'... wait for it'... opioids. Sure, this may be no more shady than cigarette companies that also sell smoking cessation patches, until you find out that Alkermes also financially supports the American Society of Addiction Medicine, aka Big Rehab.
When OxyContin first hit the market there was a big spike in addiction problems and experts believe the release of Zohydro will repeat the devastation. Yet even as the current opioids have led to addiction epidemics, the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) has approved a 1,500% increase in quotas on hydrocodone manufacturing throughout the medical marijuana era. A DEA rep explained that so many pain pills had to be made because there had to be enough left for legitimate patients after all the recreational users had illegally gotten theirs. Too bad that excuse doesn't work for medical marijuana gardens.
Cannabis has been shown to work synergistically with opioid painkillers to improve the quality of pain relief and reduce the amount of pills needed. Most clients of the Berkeley Patients Group surveyed said using cannabis allowed them to cut their use of prescription pain killers by up to half. But when there's so much money to be made getting people hooked on synthetic heroin, and money to made on the drug to help them kick it, and money to be made on the rehab treatment, a safer, cheaper, effective, non-addictive herbal alternative is a danger'... to your bottom line.
"Radical" Russ Belville is the host of The Russ Belville Show, which airs live at 3pm Pacific.
Sat, 23 Nov 2013 14:30
The current debate over a bilateral security agreement with Afghanistan disguises far more serious challenges in the years to come. The BSA is a necessary first step in creating the conditions for United States troops to stay in Afghanistan and function there. But even if Afghan President Hamid Karzai can be persuaded to stop manipulating the issue in an effort to gain domestic political support, it is only a prelude to the real challenges the U.S. faces in staying in Afghanistan.
First, the United States must make hard choices as to how many U.S. troops it will keep in country, their role as advisors and enablers to the Afghan forces and how much money it is willing to pay to keep the Afghan forces combat capable. Senior U.S. officers have said it will take some 11,000 to 13,600 U.S. and allied troops to support Afghan military and police forces through at least 2016, and these estimates seem all too accurate given the problems in Afghan forces -- particularly the police elements. It will also take some $3 billion to $5 billion in aid, although all of this aid does not have to come from the U.S.
AuthorAnthony H. Cordesman is the Arleigh A. Burke Chair in Strategy at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. Full Bio
The U.S. will also be advising forces that cannot now defeat the Taliban, Haqqani Network and other insurgents. They can only create a layered defense that may be able to secure most population centers and key lines of communication. U.S. combat forces will leave a nation very much at war, and the U.S. cannot predict how much aid and assistance Afghanistan will need.
Second, the U.S. must work with its allies to provide economic aid indefinitely into the future at a time when most aid workers will have left the field, aid has made remarkably little progress to date in creating real development and Afghan corruption has wasted much of the funding the country has received. The U.S. also faces the risk that the sudden cuts in military and civil aid and spending will trigger a serious recession in the market-driven aspects of the Afghan economy.
This means billions more in aid will be needed through at least 2018. Yet, no one can seriously calculate how much, at present, and how much the U.S. will need to contribute. Furthermore, it is far from clear that Afghanistan will come close to meeting the pledges it made at the Tokyo conference in 2012 to provide for economic reform and fight corruption, and no one knows what will replace the failed UN effort to try to plan and manage a meaningful aid and development effort. Without decisive actions in these areas, aid dollars will often do little more than enrich power brokers and disappear into foreign accounts.
(Read more: Will Corruption Force U.S. Troops to Abandon Afghanistan?)
Third, these uncertainties are compounded by the gross corruption and incompetence of an Afghan government that faces a presidential election in the spring of 2014. This election could bring a weak or corrupt and factional leader to power, take four to six months of a critical transition year to create a new, functioning government, and reopen all of the issues raised by the BSA even if Karzai signs it before the election. The failed constitution that gives so much power to the president makes the election critical, but no one knows who will win, whether the Afghan people will accept the result or what will happen to Afghan governance and political unity.
Fourth, the withdrawal of almost all U.S. and allied forces means that Pakistan and Iran will come to play a far more influential role in Afghan affairs, particularly since the Taliban and insurgent sanctuaries in Pakistan will be a strong as ever. Pakistani pressure, and Afghan politics, may well mean that the United States will be caught in the middle, and see one barrier after another raised to any use of U.S. forces to fight the threat of terrorism. The end result could be to leave the U.S. committed to aiding an Afghanistan that plays no meaningful role in the war on terrorism.
Fifth, desirable as a peace settlement might be in theory, such a peace could suddenly impose a whole new set of constraints on the U.S. -- if not require the withdrawal of all U.S. forces. The Taliban senior leadership has made it clear that it sees ''peace'' as an extension of war by other means, while the new Northern Alliance has made it clear it could reject any such peace and divide the country.
This is a long list of risks to deal with. It does not mean the U.S. cannot deal with them, or that the war in Afghanistan cannot be won over time. It does mean, that the debate over the BSA is at most step one in a complex series of more serious challenges, the U.S. will have to adapt to conditions it cannot now predict and any U.S. involvement with a change of success does require men, money and at least a half decade of further effort. The Afghan conflict is already the longest war in U.S. history, but if a workable BSA is agreed upon, it is anything but over.
Anthony H. Cordesman is the Arleigh A. Burke Chair in Strategy at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.
Sat, 23 Nov 2013 21:38
Andrew Burton / Reuters
U.S. Army soldiers with Charlie Company, 36th Infantry Regiment, 1st Armored Division set up a supportive position during a mission near Command Outpost Pa'in Kalay in Maiwand District, Kandahar Province in February.
By Richard Engel, NBC News Chief Foreign Correspondent
KABUL '' While many Americans have been led to believe the war in Afghanistan will soon be over, a draft of a key U.S.-Afghan security deal obtained by NBC News shows the United States is prepared to maintain military outposts in Afghanistan for many years to come, and pay to support hundreds of thousands of Afghan security forces.
The wide-ranging document, still unsigned by the United States and Afghanistan, has the potential to commit thousands of American troops to Afghanistan and spend billions of U.S. taxpayer dollars.
The document outlines what appears to be the start of a new, open-ended military commitment in Afghanistan in the name of training and continuing to fight al-Qaeda. The war in Afghanistan doesn't seem to be ending, but renewed under new, scaled-down U.S.-Afghan terms.
''The Parties acknowledge that continued U.S. military operations to defeat al-Qaeda and its affiliates may be appropriate and agree to continue their close cooperation and coordination toward that end,'' the draft states.
The 25-page ''Security and Defense Cooperation Agreement Between the United States of America and the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan'' is a sweeping document, vague in places, highly specific in others, defining everything from the types of future missions U.S. troops would be allowed to conduct in Afghanistan, to the use of radios and the taxation of American soldiers and contractors.
The bilateral security agreement will be debated this week in Kabul by around 2,500 village elders, academics and officials in a traditional Loya Jirga. While the Loya Jirga is strictly consultative, Afghan President Hamid Karzai has said he won't sign it without the Jirga's approval.
The copy of the draft -- the full text is available here -- is dated July 25, 2013. As a working draft, it is particularly revealing because it shows the back and forth negotiations, as U.S. and Afghan officials added words and struck out paragraphs. The changes are marked by annotations still revealed in the text. The document is a work in progress. US officials say there have been more changes since July. The draft, however, does indicate the scope of this possible agreement with major implications for Washington, Kabul, U.S. troops and the continuation of America's longest war.
A U.S.-Afghan agreement could mean a longer stay for American forces in Afghanistan, which requests that about 15,000 soldiers remain for at least a decade. NBC's Richard Engel reports.
Taken as a whole, the document describes a basic U.S.-Afghan exchange. Afghanistan would allow Washington to operate military bases to train Afghan forces and conduct counter-terrorism operations against al-Qaeda after the current mission ends in 2014. For that foothold in this volatile mountain region wedged between Pakistan and Iran, the United States would agree to sustain and equip Afghanistan's large security force, which the government in Kabul currently cannot afford. The deal, according to the text, would take effect on Jan. 1, 2015 and ''shall remain in force until the end of 2024 and beyond.'' It could be terminated by either Washington or Kabul with two years advance written notice.
There is however what U.S. officials believe is a contradiction in the July draft, which would effectively ask American troops to provide training and confront al-Qaeda from the confines of bases. While it says operations against al-Qaeda may be necessary, it also says US troops will not be allowed to make arrests or enter Afghan homes.
''No detention or arrest shall be carried out by the United States forces. The United States forces shall not search any homes or other real estate properties,'' it says.
''[The contradiction] was a matter of serious consternation at the highest levels'' of the Obama administration over the weekend, according to one senior defense official. ''It is the one remaining issue that could ultimately kill the deal." However, US officials believe that in a more recent draft, which was circulated among key Pentagon officials and US lawmakers on Monday, the US has won its position on this point.
The document doesn't specifically say how many U.S. and NATO troops would remain in Afghanistan beyond 2014. Afghan officials tell NBC News they hope it will be 10 to 15 thousand. U.S. officials tell NBC News the number is closer to seven to eight thousand, with an additional contribution from NATO. Factoring in troop rotations, home leave, and breaks between deployments, the service of tens of thousands of American troops would be required to maintain a force of seven to eight thousand for a decade or longer. The anticipated costs would likely run into the billions quickly.
Afghan officials tell NBC NEWS the agreement is critical to Afghanistan's future stability. Without ongoing military assistance, training and funding, those officials say the government could collapse and Afghanistan would enter a civil war. If the agreement passes, the draft says Washington would commit to a long -term, indefinite military involvement in this land-locked Asian nation.
A spokesperson for the White House National Security Council did not comment on the draft version of the agreement, but said that "the President is still reviewing options from his national security team and has not made a decision about a possible U.S. presence after 2014."
According to a document obtained by NBC News, the war in Afghanistan may not be over for years to come. NBC's Richard Engel reports.
The agreement circulating this week is unlikely to be the last. It first must pass through the Loya Jirga, then go onto parliament for final approval. ''We're looking at 60-days or more'' before the US and Afghanistan sign any agreement, defense officials said.
Here are highlights of the July draft of the bi-lateral agreement:
American basesWhile the document specifically says the United States would not seek ''permanent bases'' in Afghanistan, the US military would have ''access to and use of the agreed facilities and areas.'' Some of these areas would be for the ''exclusive use'' of US troops.
''Afghanistan hereby authorizes United States forces to exercise all rights and authorities within the agreed facilities and areas that are necessary for their use, operation, defense, or control, including the right to undertake new construction works,'' the document says.
US troops would be allowed to carry weapons, wear uniforms and guard the perimeter of those areas. The agreement does not say how many ''exclusive use'' sites there would be in Afghanistan. The United States also would also be permitted to keep vehicles and aircraft in Afghanistan, take off and land from Afghan soil, and fly though Afghan airspace. The facilities would be provided the US government ''rent free,'' but significant costs would mount in other ways.
U.S. paymentsThe draft agreement says the Afghan government should ''eventually'' pay for all of its defense and security personal. But until then, ''so long as the strategic partnership agreement so provides, the United States shall have an obligation to seek funds on a yearly basis to support the training, equipping, advising and sustaining of the Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF), so that Afghanistan can independently secure and defend itself against internal and external threats, and help ensure that terrorists never again encroach on Afghan soil and threaten Afghanistan, the region, and the world.'' The specific amount of payment is not stated. The money would be ''managed by relevant Afghan institutions.''
Sticking pointsThe document shows a long and hard series of negotiations, particularly on the issue of legal jurisdiction. The draft initially insisted that U.S. military personnel be subject to Afghan laws and, if accused of a crime, be tried in Afghan courts. This section in the July draft is crossed out. Afghan officials tell NBC NEWS the jurisdiction dispute appears to have been overcome, with U.S. troops only being subject to American laws.
Endless Afghanistan?The document suggests Afghan negotiators want a long-term U.S. presence, with U.S. forces and contractors providing intelligence, training and funding, but also to keep American forces as confined as possible. It shows Afghans want to keep their U.S. partners, but on their terms. It also suggests the United States is not confident that without a long-term commitment, the Afghan government can bring stability or effectively fight terrorism.
NBC News' Jim Miklaszewski and Courtney Kube contributed to this report.
Sun, 24 Nov 2013 15:11
By Pam Martens: November 21, 2013
Simon Potter, Markets Group Head at the New York Fed
Just when it seemed one could no longer be shocked by the corruption, hubris and lack of accountability in the American financial system, along comes yesterday's release of the Federal Reserve's minutes for the October 29-30 meeting of its Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC).
While mainstream media focuses on what the minutes revealed about when the Fed might begin to reduce its monthly $85 billion in bond purchases, receiving scant attention is a brazen power grab boldly stated on page two of the eleven pages of minutes.
Back on October 31, wire services reported that the temporary dollar and foreign currency swap lines that had been put in place between central banks on a temporary basis during the financial crisis had been turned into standing arrangements.
The Associated Press explained the action as follows: ''Six of the world's leading central banks, including the U.S. Federal Reserve, say they will provide each other with ready supplies of their currencies on a standing basis, extending arrangements set up to steady the global financial system during post-2007 turbulence.''
In other words, without public deliberations, an action that was adopted as a temporary, emergency operation, now had become a permanent part of world finance '' on the basis of minutes and details yet to be seen by Congress or the general public.
When those minutes were released yesterday, alarm bells should have rang out from the business press. Not only did this temporary emergency measure become permanent, but the full FOMC committee is reduced to voting on its continuance but once a year and the conduct of the program has been effectively delegated to the Chairman of the Federal Reserve and a man the American people have never heard of, Simon Potter, the Manager of the System Open Market Account and Markets Group at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York.
According to the minutes, ten members of the FOMC Committee, including Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke and his likely replacement, Vice Chairman, Janet Yellen, unanimously voted in favor of the plan. The comments of those opposing the plan are opaquely described in the minutes as follows: ''The Committee considered a proposal to convert the existing temporary central bank liquidity swap arrangements to standing arrangements with no preset expiration dates. The Manager [Potter] described the proposed arrangements, noting that the Committee would still be asked to review participation in the arrangements annually. A couple of participants expressed reservations about the proposal, citing opposition to swap lines with foreign central banks in general or questioning the governance implications of these standing arrangements in particular.''
Instead of the full FOMC committee, which includes Federal Reserve Board Commissioners and Presidents of the regional Federal Reserve banks, approving these interventions in foreign currencies, the Chairman of the Federal Reserve will simply now consult with a subcommittee. But more troubling, the New York Fed has gained enormous power in the process. The minutes state: ''authority to approve subsequent drawings of a more routine character for either the dollar or foreign currency liquidity swap lines may be delegated to the Manager [Potter], in consultation with the Chairman.''
Simon Potter already wields enormous and nontransparent power in financial markets. Potter is head of the Markets Group which oversees a sprawling trading operation at the New York Fed. Of the 12 regional Federal Reserve Banks, only the New York Fed has a trading floor rivaling that of Goldman Sachs. Potter is also Manager of the System Open Market Account (SOMA) at the New York Fed. According to the Fed's web site, SOMA operations are designed to influence bank reserves, money market conditions, and monetary aggregates.
The New York Fed has come under withering criticism for allowing CEOs of the serially prosecuted Wall Street banks to serve on its Board of Directors while it purports to function as a primary regulator of Wall Street. Despite having failed to detect and prevent the frauds that led to the financial collapse of Wall Street in 2008, it has received expanded regulatory powers under the Dodd-Frank ''reform'' legislation.
On July 16 of last year, the former New York State Attorney General and later Governor who attempted to drag Wall Street corruption into the light of day before it imploded the system, Eliot Spitzer, penned an article for Slate on the insidious doings of the New York Fed.
Under the headline, ''Why the New York Fed Must Be Investigated,'' Spitzer explained the history of the New York Fed's role in turning a blind eye to the rigging of the global interest rate benchmark known as Libor, a benchmark impacting everything from student loans to mortgage rates to municipal borrowing costs across America. Spitzer wrote: ''The New York Federal Reserve knew about Libor games being played by the banks years ago and seems to have done precious little about it'--except perhaps send a memo parroting the so-called reform ideas proposed by the banks themselves. Then nothing more. No prosecutions, no inquiries of the banks to see if the illegal behavior had stopped'--just a live-and-let-live attitude.''
Spitzer called for an independent special prosecutor to investigate the New York Fed, citing the deep conflicts of interests on its Board over the years:
''Well, look who was on the board: Dick Fuld of Lehman fame; Sandy Weill of Citibank; Jeff Immelt of GE'--the largest beneficiary of the Fed's commercial paper guarantees; and, of course, Jamie Dimon of JPMorgan Chase, whose bank's London derivative trades and Libor involvement make his role on the board even more absurd.''
Dimon's two-terms totaling six years on the Board of the New York Fed ended this past December. He continued to serve even as his bank, JPMorgan Chase, was being investigated for losing $6.2 billion trading exotic derivatives with its bank depositors' money.
And the hits just keep on coming. Last month we learned that Carmen Segarra, a former bank examiner at the New York Fed is charging in a lawsuit that she was told to change her negative review of Goldman Sachs over its inadequate conflict of interest policy. When she refused to do so, she was terminated in retaliation and escorted from the Fed premises, according to her lawsuit.
Just how long will it take Congress '-- that body in Washington with a 9 percent approval rating from the American people '-- to figure out that ''just trust us'' has been a killer policy when it comes to Wall Street and other people's money.
Sun, 24 Nov 2013 01:32
23 November 2013Last updated at 10:42 ET China has demarcated an "air-defence identification zone" over an area of the East China Sea, covering islands that are also claimed by Japan.
China's defence ministry said aircraft entering the zone must obey its rules or face "emergency defensive measures".
The islands, known as Senkaku in Japan and Diaoyu in China, are a source of rising tension between the countries.
Japan lodged a strong protest over what it said was an "escalation".
Continue reading the main storyAnalysisSince President Xi Jinping took power a year ago, he has overseen a more muscular effort to assert Chinese control over disputed territories in East and South China seas.
His nationalist approach, backed-up by large increases in spending on the armed forces, is welcomed by many in China. But it has led to increasing tension with almost all of China's neighbours. Many, like Japan, have defence agreements with the United States, which has long sought to preserve the balance of power in Asia.
The fear is that one small incident, for example between Chinese and Japanese vessels or aircraft, could escalate rapidly into a far wider and more serious crisis.
"Setting up such airspace unilaterally escalates the situations surrounding Senkaku islands and has danger of leading to an unexpected situation," Japan's foreign ministry said in a statement.
Taiwan, which also claims the Diaoyu/Senkaku islands, expressed regret at the move and promised that the military would take measure to protect national security.
'No specific target'In its statement, the Chinese defence ministry said aircraft must report a flight plan, "maintain two-way radio communications", and "respond in a timely and accurate manner" to identification inquiries.
"China's armed forces will adopt defensive emergency measures to respond to aircraft that do not co-operate in the identification or refuse to follow the instructions," said the statement.
It said the zone came into effect from 10:00 local time (02:00GMT) on Saturday.
State news agency Xinhua showed a map on its website covering a wide area of the East China Sea, including regions very close to South Korea and Japan.
Responding to questions about the zone on an official state website, a defence ministry spokesman, Yang Yujun, said China set up the area "with the aim of safeguarding state sovereignty, territorial land and air security, and maintaining flight order".
"It is not directed against any specific country or target," he said, adding that China "has always respected the freedom of over-flight in accordance with international law".
"Normal flights by international airliners in the East China Sea air-defence identification zone will not be affected in any way."
The islands have been a source of tension between China and Japan for decades.
In 2012, the Japanese government bought three of the islands from their Japanese owner, sparking mass protests in Chinese cities.
Continue reading the main storyAir-defence identification zones Zones do not necessarily overlap with airspace, sovereign territory or territorial claims States define zones, and stipulate rules that aircraft must obey; legal basis is unclear During WW2, US established an air perimeter and now maintains four separate zones - Guam, Hawaii, Alaska, and a contiguous mainland zone UK, Norway, Japan and Canada also maintain zones Source: aviationdevelopment.org
Since then, Chinese ships have repeatedly sailed in and out of what Japan says are its territorial waters.
In September this year, Japan said it would shoot down unmanned aircraft in Japanese airspace after an unmanned Chinese drone flew close to the disputed islands.
China said that any attempt by Japan to shoot down Chinese aircraft would constitute "an act of war".
Last month Japan's defence minister, Itsunori Onodera, said China's behaviour over the disputed East China Sea islands was jeopardising peace.
BBC World Service East Asia editor Charles Scanlon says the confrontation over the small chain of uninhabited islands is made more intractable by conflicting claims for potentially rich energy resources on the sea bed.
But the issue has now become a nationalist touchstone in both countries, making it hard for either side to be seen to back down, he says.
Sun, 24 Nov 2013 01:30
The United States is deeply concerned about China's announcement that they've established an "East China Sea Air Defense Identification Zone." This unilateral action constitutes an attempt to change the status quo in the East China Sea. Escalatory action will only increase tensions in the region and create risks of an incident.
Freedom of overflight and other internationally lawful uses of sea and airspace are essential to prosperity, stability, and security in the Pacific. We don't support efforts by any State to apply its ADIZ procedures to foreign aircraft not intending to enter its national airspace. The United States does not apply its ADIZ procedures to foreign aircraft not intending to enter U.S. national airspace. We urge China not to implement its threat to take action against aircraft that do not identify themselves or obey orders from Beijing.
We have urged China to exercise caution and restraint, and we are consulting with Japan and other affected parties, throughout the region. We remain steadfastly committed to our allies and partners, and hope to see a more collaborative and less confrontational future in the Pacific.
Sat, 23 Nov 2013 14:31
HALIFAX, Nova Scotia -- Citing American interests in climate change, energy security and the integrity of northern sea lanes, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel introduced a new Pentagon plan for Arctic security on Friday that promises to significantly increase U.S. military resources and attention to the polar region.
The plan is the Defense Department's follow-on to President Barack Obama's national Arctic strategy, released in May. The Arctic has gained increased attention in security circles as melting ice caps promise new access to strategic positions and undersea resources for three of the worlds most powerful countries in the U.S., Russia, and China, as well as Canada and NATO.
AuthorKevin Baron is executive editor of Defense One. A 15-year veteran of Washington's defense, national security and foreign affairs scene, Baron has covered the military, the Pentagon, Congress and politics for Foreign Policy, National Journal, Stars and Stripes, the Boston Globe's Washington bureau, ... Full Bio
''In order to realize the full potential of the Arctic, nations must collaborate and build trust and confidence through transparency and engagement,'' Hagel said at the Halifax International Security Forum in Canada.
(Related: To Reach the East, NATO Must First Go North)
The U.S. will not relent in defending Alaska and its northern borders, Hagel said, laying out an 8-point plan to 1) Protect U.S. borders and Alaska, 2) do more to more study the environment, 3) enforce the law of the seas, 4) ''evolve'' Defense Department capabilities and infrastructure, 5) increase international training, 6) prepare for natural disasters, 7) protect the Arctic environment, and 8) build and enforce international institutions and organizations.
''We are beginning to think about and plan for how our Naval fleet and other capabilities and assets will need to adapt to the evolving shifts and requirements in the region,'' Hagel told the audience of international officials, including a congressional delegation led by Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz.
Hagel is scheduled to return to Washington on Friday evening. The forum continues through Sunday.
Sat, 23 Nov 2013 22:25
By Scot J. Paltrow
LETTERKENNY ARMY DEPOT, Chambersburg, PennsylvaniaMon Nov 18, 2013 9:56am EST
1 of 15. Munitions (L) are destroyed in a controlled blast at the U.S. Army Letterkenny Munitions Center in Chambersburg, Pennsylvania November 19, 2012.
Credit: Reuters/Gary Cameron
LETTERKENNY ARMY DEPOT, Chambersburg, Pennsylvania (Reuters) - Linda Woodford spent the last 15 years of her career inserting phony numbers in the U.S. Department of Defense's accounts.
Every month until she retired in 2011, she says, the day came when the Navy would start dumping numbers on the Cleveland, Ohio, office of the Defense Finance and Accounting Service, the Pentagon's main accounting agency. Using the data they received, Woodford and her fellow DFAS accountants there set about preparing monthly reports to square the Navy's books with the U.S. Treasury's - a balancing-the-checkbook maneuver required of all the military services and other Pentagon agencies.
And every month, they encountered the same problem. Numbers were missing. Numbers were clearly wrong. Numbers came with no explanation of how the money had been spent or which congressional appropriation it came from. "A lot of times there were issues of numbers being inaccurate," Woodford says. "We didn't have the detail '... for a lot of it."
The data flooded in just two days before deadline. As the clock ticked down, Woodford says, staff were able to resolve a lot of the false entries through hurried calls and emails to Navy personnel, but many mystery numbers remained. For those, Woodford and her colleagues were told by superiors to take "unsubstantiated change actions" - in other words, enter false numbers, commonly called "plugs," to make the Navy's totals match the Treasury's.
Jeff Yokel, who spent 17 years in senior positions in DFAS's Cleveland office before retiring in 2009, says supervisors were required to approve every "plug" - thousands a month. "If the amounts didn't balance, Treasury would hit it back to you," he says.
After the monthly reports were sent to the Treasury, the accountants continued to seek accurate information to correct the entries. In some instances, they succeeded. In others, they didn't, and the unresolved numbers stood on the books.
At the DFAS offices that handle accounting for the Army, Navy, Air Force and other defense agencies, fudging the accounts with false entries is standard operating procedure, Reuters has found. And plugging isn't confined to DFAS (pronounced DEE-fass). Former military service officials say record-keeping at the operational level throughout the services is rife with made-up numbers to cover lost or missing information.
A review of multiple reports from oversight agencies in recent years shows that the Pentagon also has systematically ignored warnings about its accounting practices. "These types of adjustments, made without supporting documentation '... can mask much larger problems in the original accounting data," the Government Accountability Office, the investigative arm of Congress, said in a December 2011 report.
Plugs also are symptomatic of one very large problem: the Pentagon's chronic failure to keep track of its money - how much it has, how much it pays out and how much is wasted or stolen.
This is the second installment in a series in which Reuters delves into the Defense Department's inability to account for itself. The first article examined how the Pentagon's record-keeping dysfunction results in widespread pay errors that inflict financial hardship on soldiers and sap morale. This account is based on interviews with scores of current and former Defense Department officials, as well as Reuters analyses of Pentagon logistics practices, bookkeeping methods, court cases and reports by federal agencies.
As the use of plugs indicates, pay errors are only a small part of the sums that annually disappear into the vast bureaucracy that manages more than half of all annual government outlays approved by Congress. The Defense Department's 2012 budget totaled $565.8 billion, more than the annual defense budgets of the 10 next largest military spenders combined, including Russia and China. How much of that money is spent as intended is impossible to determine.
In its investigation, Reuters has found that the Pentagon is largely incapable of keeping track of its vast stores of weapons, ammunition and other supplies; thus it continues to spend money on new supplies it doesn't need and on storing others long out of date. It has amassed a backlog of more than half a trillion dollars in unaudited contracts with outside vendors; how much of that money paid for actual goods and services delivered isn't known. And it repeatedly falls prey to fraud and theft that can go undiscovered for years, often eventually detected by external law enforcement agencies.
The consequences aren't only financial; bad bookkeeping can affect the nation's defense. In one example of many, the Army lost track of $5.8 billion of supplies between 2003 and 2011 as it shuffled equipment between reserve and regular units. Affected units "may experience equipment shortages that could hinder their ability to train soldiers and respond to emergencies," the Pentagon inspector general said in a September 2012 report.
Because of its persistent inability to tally its accounts, the Pentagon is the only federal agency that has not complied with a law that requires annual audits of all government departments. That means that the $8.5 trillion in taxpayer money doled out by Congress to the Pentagon since 1996, the first year it was supposed to be audited, has never been accounted for. That sum exceeds the value of China's economic output last year.
Congress in 2009 passed a law requiring that the Defense Department be audit-ready by 2017. Then-Defense Secretary Leon Panetta in 2011 tightened the screws when ordered that the department make a key part of its books audit-ready in 2014.
Reuters has found that the Pentagon probably won't meet its deadlines. (See related article [ID:nL2N0J00PX].) The main reason is rooted in the Pentagon's continuing reliance on a tangle of thousands of disparate, obsolete, largely incompatible accounting and business-management systems. Many of these systems were built in the 1970s and use outmoded computer languages such as COBOL on old mainframes. They use antiquated file systems that make it difficult or impossible to search for data. Much of their data is corrupted and erroneous.
"It's like if every electrical socket in the Pentagon had a different shape and voltage," says a former defense official who until recently led efforts to modernize defense accounting.
"AMALGAM OF FIEFDOMS"
No one can even agree on how many of these accounting and business systems are in use. The Pentagon itself puts the number at 2,200 spread throughout the military services and other defense agencies. A January 2012 report by a task force of the Defense Business Board, an advisory group of business leaders appointed by the secretary of defense, put the number at around 5,000.
"There are thousands and thousands of systems," former Deputy Secretary of Defense Gordon England said in an interview. "I'm not sure anybody knows how many systems there are."
In a May 2011 speech, then-Secretary of Defense Robert Gates described the Pentagon's business operations as "an amalgam of fiefdoms without centralized mechanisms to allocate resources, track expenditures, and measure results. ... My staff and I learned that it was nearly impossible to get accurate information and answers to questions such as 'How much money did you spend' and 'How many people do you have?' "
The Pentagon has spent tens of billions of dollars to upgrade to new, more efficient technology in order to become audit-ready. But many of these new systems have failed, either unable to perform all the jobs they were meant to do or scrapped altogether - only adding to the waste they were meant to stop.
Mired in a mess largely of its own making, the Pentagon is left to make do with old technology and plugs - lots of them. In the Cleveland DFAS office where Woodford worked, for example, "unsupported adjustments" to "make balances agree" totaled $1.03 billion in 2010 alone, according to a December 2011 GAO report.
In its annual report of department-wide finances for 2012, the Pentagon reported $9.22 billion in "reconciling amounts" to make its own numbers match the Treasury's, up from $7.41 billion a year earlier. It said that $585.6 million of the 2012 figure was attributable to missing records. The remaining $8 billion-plus represented what Pentagon officials say are legitimate discrepancies. However, a source with knowledge of the Pentagon's accounting processes said that because the report and others like it aren't audited, they may conceal large amounts of additional plugs and other accounting problems.
The secretary of defense's office and the heads of the military and DFAS have for years knowingly signed off on false entries. "I don't think they're lying and cheating and stealing necessarily, but it's not the right thing to do," Pentagon Comptroller Robert Hale said in an interview. "We've got to fix the processes so we don't have to do that."
Congress has been much more lenient on the Defense Department than on publicly traded corporations. The Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002, a response to the Enron Corp and other turn-of-the-century accounting scandals, imposes criminal penalties on corporate managers who certify false financial reports. "The concept of Sarbanes-Oxley is completely foreign" to the Pentagon, says Mike Young, a former Air Force logistics officer who for years has been a consultant on, and written about, Defense Department logistics.
Defense officials point out that most plugs represent pending transactions - like checks waiting to clear with a bank - and other legitimate maneuvers, many of which are eventually resolved. The dollar amounts, too, don't necessarily represent actual money lost, but multiple accounting entries for money in and money out, often duplicated across several ledgers. That's how, for example, a single DFAS office in Columbus, Ohio, made at least $1.59 trillion - yes, trillion - in errors, including $538 billion in plugs, in financial reports for the Air Force in 2009, according to a December 2011 Pentagon inspector general report. Those amounts far exceeded the Air Force's total budget for that year.
Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel declined to comment for this article. In an August 2013 video message to the entire Defense Department, he said: "The Department of Defense is the only federal agency that has not produced audit-ready financial statements, which are required by law. That's unacceptable."
DFAS Director Teresa McKay declined to be interviewed for this article.
In an email response to questions from Reuters, a Treasury spokesman said: "The Department of Defense is continuing to take steps to strengthen its financial reporting. ... We're supportive of those efforts and will continue to work with DOD as they make additional progress." While the Treasury knowingly accepts false entries, it rejects accounts containing blank spaces for unknown numbers and totals that don't match its own.
Senators Tom Coburn, an Oklahoma Republican, and Joe Manchin, a West Virginia Democrat, introduced legislation earlier this year that would penalize the Pentagon if it isn't audit-ready by 2017. Under the proposed Audit the Pentagon Act of 2013, failure to meet the deadline will result in restrictions on funding for new acquisition programs, prohibit purchases of any information-technology systems that would take more than three years to install, and transfer all DFAS functions to the Treasury.
"The Pentagon can't manage what it can't measure, and Congress can't effectively perform its constitutional oversight role if it doesn't know how the Pentagon is spending taxpayer dollars," Coburn said in an email response to questions. "Until the Pentagon produces a viable financial audit, it won't be able to effectively prioritize its spending, and it will continue to violate the Constitution and put our national security at risk."
TOO MUCH STUFF
The practical impact of the Pentagon's accounting dysfunction is evident at the Defense Logistics Agency, which buys, stores and ships much of the Defense Department's supplies - everything from airplane parts to zippers for uniforms.
It has way too much stuff.
"We have about $14 billion of inventory for lots of reasons, and probably half of that is excess to what we need," Navy Vice Admiral Mark Harnitchek, the director of the DLA, said at an August 7, 2013, meeting with aviation industry executives, as reported on the agency's web site.
And the DLA keeps buying more of what it already has too much of. A document the Pentagon supplied to Congress shows that as of September 30, 2012, the DLA and the military services had $733 million worth of supplies and equipment on order that was already stocked in excess amounts on warehouse shelves. That figure was up 21% from $609 million a year earlier. The Defense Department defines "excess inventory" as anything more than a three-year supply.
Consider the "vehicular control arm," part of the front suspension on the military's ubiquitous High Mobility Multipurpose Vehicles, or Humvees. As of November 2008, the DLA had 15,000 of the parts in stock, equal to a 14-year supply, according to an April 2013 Pentagon inspector general's report.
And yet, from 2010 through 2012, the agency bought 7,437 more of them - at prices considerably higher than it paid for the thousands sitting on its shelves. The DLA was making the new purchases as demand plunged by nearly half with the winding down of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. The inspector general's report said the DLA's buyers hadn't checked current inventory when they signed a contract to acquire more.
Just outside Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, the DLA operates its Eastern Distribution Center, the Defense Department's biggest storage facility. In one of its warehouses, millions of small replacement parts for military equipment and other supplies are stored in hundreds of thousands of breadbox-size bins, stacked floor to ceiling on metal shelves in the 1.7 million-square-foot building.
Sonya Gish, director of the DLA's process and planning directorate, works at the complex. She says no system tracks whether newly received items are put in the correct bins, and she confirmed that because of the vast quantities of material stored, comprehensive inventories are impossible. The DLA makes do with intermittent sampling to see if items are missing or stored in the wrong place. Gish also says the distribution center does not attempt to track or estimate losses from employee theft.
The Pentagon in 2004 ordered the entire Defense Department to adopt a modern labeling system that would allow all the military branches to see quickly and accurately what supplies are on hand at the DLA and each of the services. To date, the DLA has ignored the directive to use the system. William Budden, deputy director of distribution, said in an interview that the cost would have exceeded the potential benefits, and that the DLA's existing systems are adequate.
A "Clean Out the Attic" program to jettison obsolete inventory is making progress, DLA Director Harnitchek said in an interview. But the effort is hindered because the lack of reliable information on what's in storage makes it hard to figure out what can be thrown out.
The DLA also has run into resistance among warehouse supervisors who for years have been in charge of a handful of warehouse aisles and jealously husband their inventory. "I believe that the biggest challenge is helping item managers identify things we have in our warehouses that they can just let go of," Budden said in an interview published in an undated in-house DLA magazine.
OLD AND DANGEROUS
A few miles away, amid the gently rolling hills of south central Pennsylvania, a series of 14 explosions interrupt the stillness of a spring afternoon, shooting fountains of dirt more than 100 feet into the air. Staff at the Letterkenny Army Depot - one of eight Army Joint Munitions Command depots in the United States - are disposing of 480 pounds of C4 plastic explosive manufactured in 1979 and at risk of becoming dangerously unstable.
If Woody Pike could have his way, the soldiers would be destroying a lot more of the old, unused munitions stored in scores of turf-covered concrete "igloos" ranged across the Letterkenny compound.
There are runway flares from the 1940s, and warheads for Sparrow missiles that the military hasn't fielded since the 1990s. Most irksome, because they take up a lot of space, are rocket-launch systems that were retired in the 1980s. "It will be years before they're gone," says Pike, a logistics management specialist and planner at Letterkenny.
More than one-third of the weapons and munitions the Joint Munitions Command stores at Letterkenny and its other depots are obsolete, according to Stephen Abney, command spokesman. Keeping all those useless bullets, explosives, missiles, rifles, rocket launchers and other munitions costs tens of millions of dollars a year.
The munitions sit, year after year, because in the short term, "it's cheaper for the military to store it than to get rid of it," said Keith Byers, Letterkenny's ammunition manager. "What's counterproductive is that what you're looking at is stocks that are going to be destroyed eventually anyway."
Also, an Army spokesman said, the Pentagon requires the Army to store munitions reserves free of charge for the other military services, which thus have no incentive to pay for destroying useless stock.
To access ammunition and other inventory still in use, depot staff often must move old explosives, much of which is stored in flimsy, thin-slatted crates. "Continuing to store unneeded ammunition creates potential safety, security and environmental concerns," Brigadier General Gustave Perna said in a 2012 military logistics newsletter, when he was in charge of the Joint Munitions Command. The cost and danger of storing old munitions "frustrates me as a taxpayer," he said. Perna declined requests for an interview.
Sometimes the danger leads to action, as when the C4 was detonated. And the depot recently received funding to destroy 15,000 recoilless rifles last used during World War II, Pike says.
Yet, on the day of the C4 blasts, piles of Phoenix air-to-air missiles - used on Navy F-14 fighter jets that last flew for the U.S. in 2006 - had just been offloaded from rail cars and were waiting to be put into storage.
In 2010, as part of the Defense Department's modernization effort , the Joint Munitions Command scrapped a computer system that kept track of inventory and automatically generated required shipping documents. It was replaced with one that Pike says doesn't do either.
His staff now must guess how much inventory and space Letterkenny has. The Army built at additional cost a second system to create shipping documents and an interface between the two systems. "We're having problems with the interface," Pike says.
Media reports of Defense Department waste tend to focus on outrageous line items: $604 toilet seats for the Navy, $7,600 coffee makers for the Air Force. These headline-grabbing outliers amount to little next to the billions the Pentagon has spent on repeated efforts to fix its bookkeeping, with little to show for it.
The Air Force's Expeditionary Combat Support System was intended to provide for the first time a single system to oversee transportation, supplies, maintenance and acquisitions, replacing scores of costly legacy systems. Work got under way in 2005. Delays and costs mounted. In late 2012, the Air Force conducted a test run. The data that poured out was mostly gibberish. The Air Force killed the project.
The system "has cost $1.03 billion '... and has not yielded any significant military capability," the Air Force said in a November 2012 announcement.
Fixing the system would cost an additional $1.1 billion, it said, and even then, it would do only about a quarter of the tasks originally intended, and not until 2020.
The Air Force blamed the failure on the main contractor, Virginia-based Computer Sciences Corp, saying the company was unable to handle the job.
Computer Sciences spokesman Marcel Goldstein said that the company provided the Air Force with important "capabilities," and that "the progress we made, jointly with the Air Force, and the software we have delivered could be the foundation for the next effort to develop and deploy a logistics system for the Air Force."
David Scott Norton, an expert in accounting systems who worked for CSC on the Air Force contract, said the project employed too many people, making coordination and efficiency impossible. "There were probably thousands of people, both Air Force and contractors, on it," he says. High turnover among both Air Force and contractor staff hurt, too, he says; many of the people who worked on it weren't the people who had conceived and designed it.
More than $1 billion was wasted when the Pentagon in 2010 ditched the Defense Integrated Military Human Resources System, launched in 2003 as a single, department-wide pay and personnel system that would eliminate pay errors. Interagency squabbles and demands for thousands of changes eventually sank it.
The Air Force's Defense Enterprise Accounting and Management System was supposed to take over the Air Force's basic accounting functions in 2010. To date, $466 million has been spent on DEAMS, with a projected total cost of $1.77 billion to build and operate it, an Air Force spokeswoman said. The system lacks "critical functional capabilities," and its "data lacks validity and reliability," according to a September 2012 Defense Department inspector general report. It now isn't expected to be fully operational until 2017.
The Army's General Fund Enterprise Business System is often held up as an example of rare success. Up and running in 2012, GFEBS is now used in Army posts all over the world to handle basic accounting functions.
Some things it does well, but the inspector general said in March last year that the system didn't provide department management with required information and may not resolve "longstanding weaknesses" in the Army's financial management, "despite costing the Army $630.4 million as of October 2011."
In 2000, the Navy began work on four separate projects to handle finances, supplies, maintenance of equipment and contracting. Instead, the systems took on overlapping duties that each performed in different ways, using different formats for the same data. Five years later, the GAO said: "These efforts were failures. ... $1 billion was largely wasted."
The Navy started again in 2004 with the Navy Enterprise Resources Planning project to handle all Navy accounting - at first. The Navy later decided on a system design that would cover only about half of the service's budget because a single, service-wide system would be too difficult and time-consuming, according to former Navy personnel who worked on the project. Accounting for property and other physical assets was dropped, too.
Now in use, the Navy ERP relies on data fed to it from 44 old systems it was meant to replace. "Navy officials spent $870 million ... and still did not correct" the system's inability to account for $416 billion in equipment, the Pentagon inspector general said in a July 2013 report.
The Navy declined to comment.
Even an effort to coordinate all these projects ended in failure. In 2006, Deputy Secretary of Defense Gordon England established the Business Transformation Agency to force the military branches and other agencies to upgrade their business operations, adhere to common standards and make the department audit-ready.
Three years later, the Center for Strategic and International Studies said that while the Defense Department was spending "in excess of $10 billion per year on business systems modernization and maintenance, (o)verall the result is close to business as usual."
Defense Secretary Gates shut it down in 2011 - after the Pentagon had spent $700 million on it. England declined to comment on the episode.
Former BTA officials blamed the failure on their lack of authority to enforce their decisions and resistance from the individual services.
Over the past 10 years, the Defense Department has signed contracts for the provision of more than $3 trillion in goods and services. How much of that money is wasted in overpayments to contractors, or was never spent and never remitted to the Treasury, is a mystery. That's because of a massive backlog of "closeouts" - audits meant to ensure that a contract was fulfilled and the money ended up in the right place.
The Defense Contract Management Agency handles audits of fixed-price contracts, which are relatively problem-free. It's the Defense Contract Audit Agency that handles closeouts for department-wide contracts that pay the company or individual for expenses incurred. At the end of fiscal 2011, the agency's backlog totaled 24,722 contracts worth $573.3 billion, according to DCAA figures. Some of them date as far back as 1996.
The individual military services close out their own contracts, and the backlogs have piled up there, too. The Army's backlog was 450,000 contracts, the GAO said in a December 2012 report. The Navy and Air Force did not have estimates of their backlogs.
"This backlog represents hundreds of billions of dollars in unsettled costs," the GAO report said. Timely closeouts also reduce the government's financial risk by avoiding interest on late payments to contractors.
To trim its backlog, the DCAA last year raised to $250 million from $15 million the threshold value at which a contract is automatically audited. DCAA says that by concentrating its auditors on the biggest contracts, it will recoup the largest sums of money, and that it will conduct selective audits of smaller contracts, based on perceived risk and other factors. Still, hundreds of thousands of contracts that would eventually have been audited now won't be.
"Having billions of dollars of open, unaudited contracts stretching back to the 1990s is clearly unacceptable, and places taxpayer dollars at risk of misuse and mismanagement," Senator Thomas Carper, a Delaware Democrat and chairman of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, said in an email response to questions. "We must make sure that the Department of Defense is actively assessing risks and making sure that contractors who fall underneath the threshold remain accountable for their work."
Spotty monitoring of contracts is one reason Pentagon personnel and contractors are able to siphon off taxpayer dollars through fraud and theft - amounting to billions of dollars in losses, according to numerous GAO reports. In many cases, Reuters found, the perpetrators were caught only after outside law-enforcement agencies stumbled onto them, or outsiders brought them to the attention of prosecutors.
In May this year, Ralph Mariano, who worked as a civilian Navy employee for 38 years, pleaded guilty in federal court in Rhode Island to charges of conspiracy and theft of government funds related to a kickback scheme that cost the Navy $18 million from 1996 to 2011. Mariano was sentenced November 1 to 10 years in prison and fined $18 million.
Mariano admitted that as an engineer at the Naval Undersea Warfare Center in Newport, Rhode Island, he added money to contracts held by Advanced Solutions for Tomorrow. The Georgia-based company then paid kickbacks to Mariano and others, including friends and relatives.
Mariano was charged more than five years after the allegations against him first emerged in a 2006 civil whistleblower lawsuit in federal court in Georgia that had been kept under seal. Court documents suggest one reason why the conspiracy went undetected for so long: The Navy not only gave Mariano authority to award money to contractors; it also put him in charge of confirming that the contractors did the work. The Navy never audited any of the contracts until after Mariano was arrested, a Navy spokeswoman confirmed.
On the opposite side of the country, federal prosecutors in San Diego, California, in 2009 accused Gary Alexander, a Navy civilian employee, of arranging with subcontractors to have them bill the Defense Department for services never performed and then pay him kickbacks from money the subcontractors received. Alexander masterminded the scheme while he was head of the Air Surveillance and Reconnaissance Branch of the Navy's Space and Naval Warfare Systems Center, based in San Diego.
Alexander in 2010 pleaded guilty to defrauding the Navy and filing false tax returns. He was sentenced to 75 months in prison and was required to pay restitution and forfeitures totaling more than $500,000.
Robert Ciaffa, a federal prosecutor assigned to the case, said the bills were easily padded because DFAS didn't require detailed invoices. The case came to light, he said, only after "a woman friend" of one of Alexander's associates went to prosecutors in 2008 with information about the fraud.
A Navy spokeswoman said that Navy Secretary Ray Mabus has taken steps to avert such fraud, including creating a contract review board, requiring closer oversight of employees who manage contracts and establishing antifraud units within Navy contracting services.
Ciaffa said the Alexander case prompted his office in 2009 to set up a toll-free fraud tip line that has so far have yielded at least six cases. One led to guilty pleas in March 2012 by four civilian employees of the North Island Naval Air Station, near San Diego, after they were accused of receiving $1 million in kickbacks from contractors.
In its 2007 audit-readiness plan, the Defense Department called on DFAS to eliminate plugs by June 2008. That hasn't happened.
In its financial report for 2012, the Army said each month it "adjusts its Fund Balance With Treasury to agree with the U.S. Treasury accounts." In its 2012 annual report, the Defense Logistics Agency said it does the same. "On a monthly basis, DLA's (Fund Balance With Treasury) is adjusted to agree with the U.S. Treasury accounts."
The Navy, in a footnote in its 2012 financial report, "acknowledges that it has a material internal control weakness in that it does not reconcile its" numbers with the Treasury's. The footnote said the Navy inserts inaccurate numbers in its monthly reports so that they agree with the Treasury's. It said it is working with DFAS to try to eliminate the problems.
The Treasury says it requires the monthly reports from Pentagon agencies to ensure that it is "providing accurate financial information to Congress and the general public." The reports verify that the military is using money for its intended purposes; spending money on things other than what it was appropriated for is, with rare exceptions, a violation of the Antideficiency Act, which forbids anyone but Congress to appropriate money. The law carries penalties for individuals involved in violating it.
Because of the lack of accurate accounting, a 2012 GAO report said, "the Department of the Navy is at increased risk of Antideficiency Act violations."
Without a functioning, unified bookkeeping system, the Pentagon's accountants have no option but to continue taking that risk.
Woodford, the former accountant in DFAS's Cleveland office, says that in the frenzy to complete the Navy's monthly financial reports to the Treasury, much of the blame rested with the "old antiquated systems" the Pentagon used. A common reason for inserting plugs was that "you knew what the numbers were, but you didn't have the supporting documents."
The Navy data, pouring in through dozens of jury-rigged pipelines into similarly disparate systems, required many "manual workarounds" - typing data from one system into another, which only added to the potential for errors.
"They do so much manual work, it's just ridiculous," says Toni Medley, who retired five years ago after 30 years doing an assortment of jobs at the same DFAS office. It's tedious work, she says, and the people doing it "make a lot of mistakes."
The Navy declined to comment.
Yokel, the retired official at the DFAS Cleveland office, worked as a consultant on the Navy Enterprise Resource Planning project, the new accounting system that fell short of expectations. He says that in recent years, the new system has managed to reduce the number of plugs, though they still can add up to a lot in dollar terms. And nearly half the Navy's budget isn't covered by the system.
(Edited by John Blanton)
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Sat, 23 Nov 2013 19:51
21 November 2013Last updated at 21:17 ET Several thousand off-duty Portuguese police officers have demonstrated on the steps of parliament against cuts.
The officers broke through a cordon of riot police to reach the doors of parliament, where they sang the national anthem and chanted anti-government slogans, before dispersing.
The organisers say budget cuts do not just mean reduced police pay, but are also a risk to national security.
The government says the police cannot be immune from austerity measures.
The demonstration was called by various police associations, including Portugal's paramilitary National Republican Guard, border agents, prison guards and the maritime police.
The off-duty officers made repeated attempts to breach the security cordon around parliament in Lisbon, although there were no direct confrontations with the riot police.
Bailout commitmentSome shook hands with on-duty police officers, before being allowed to climb the steps of the building and reaching the main entrance doors.
They sang the national anthem and called for the government of Prime Minister Pedro Passos Coelho to resign.
In 2011 Portugal agreed to carry out a sustained programme of reforms and cuts in return for a bailout from the European Union and International Monetary Fund worth 78bn euros ($105bn or £65bn).
Police associations in Portugal say public sector austerity measures have led to police pay cuts and reduced pensions. They also say they are worried that ongoing cuts will damage the operational capabilities of the security forces.
On Wednesday, Interior Minister Miguel Macedo said police could not be exempt from the sacrifices suffered by the rest of Portuguese society in order to meet the demands of its international creditors.
Sat, 23 Nov 2013 14:19
Tatarstan Airlines Flight 363 was a scheduled domestic passenger flight operated by Tatarstan Airlines on behalf of Ak Bars Aero from Moscow to Kazan, Russia. On 17 November 2013, at 7:20 p.m. local time (UTC+4), the aircraft operating this flight, a Boeing 737-500, crashed at Kazan International Airport while attempting to land, killing all 44 passengers and 6 crew members on board. The crash resulted in the temporary closure of the airport. The airport's CCTV camera caught the flight crashing into the ground and exploding.
AircraftThe aircraft involved was a Boeing 737-53A bearing registration number VQ-BBN, which had been in service for more than 23 years and which had been operated by seven airlines in total. Owned by AWAS from delivery on (Boeing customer code 3A represents AWAS), it was leased to Euralair (1990 to 1992, registered F-GGML), Air France (1992 to 1995, still as F-GGML), Uganda Airlines (1995 to 1999, registered 5X-USM), Rio Sul (2000 to 2005, registered PT-SSI), Blue Air (2005 to 2008, registered YR-BAB), Bulgaria Air (several months in 2008, registered LZ-BOY), and Tatarstan Airlines (late 2008 until it crashed).
The airframe had been involved in two prior incidents. While in service with Rio Sul, on 17 December 2001, the aircraft crashed about 70 metres (230 ft) short of the runway while landing at Tancredo Neves International Airport under adverse weather conditions, damaging its landing gear. However, none of the 108 passengers and crew on board the plane at the time died. On 26 November 2012, the aircraft was forced to make an emergency landing in Kazan due to problems with cabin depressurization shortly after take off.
Flight 363 took off from Domodedovo International Airport in Moscow at 6:25 p.m. local time, destined for Kazan International Airport, some 800 kilometres (500 mi) east of Moscow.
Whilst on final approach to Kazan International Airport, the crew initiated a go-around due to an unstable approach but crashed onto the runway in a 75-degree-nose-down attitude, at a speed of 242 knots (448 km/h) moments later and exploded upon impact with the ground. A second explosion occurred 40 seconds after impact. The crash was caught on one of the airport's surveillance cameras. All 44 passengers and 6 crew members aboard were killed; there were no casualties on the ground. High winds and cloudy conditions were reported at the airport at the time of the crash.
The Kazan International Airport was kept closed for about 24 hours, serving only transit flights, before it was fully reopened on 18 November.
VictimsThe full list of the passengers and crew was published by the Ministry of Emergency Situations. Among the deaths were Irek Minnikhanov, son of Tatarstan president Rustam Minnikhanov, as well as the head of Tatarstan's Federal Security Service regional office, Aleksandr Antonov.
InvestigationThe Interstate Aviation Committee (IAC) launched an investigation into the crash and arrived at the site on 18 November. Both flight recorders, the flight data recorder (FDR) and the cockpit voice recorder (CVR), were recovered from the wreckage on the same day. The Tatarstan Transport Prosecution Office has opened a criminal investigation into the crash. The American National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) dispatched a team of investigators to the crash site.
On 19 November, Aksan Giniyatullin, the director of Tatarstan Airlines, declared that although the cockpit crew was experienced, the captain of the airliner may have lacked experience performing a go-around maneuver. Moments before the crash the pilot informed the control tower that the aircraft was not properly configured for landing and initiated a go-around, before plunging into the ground as if it had stalled. Investigators said the possible causes of the accident included technical malfunction as well as pilot error.
The Investigation Board of IAC reported the following details after recovering some information from the flight data recorder:
Tatarstan Airlines Boeing 737-500 accident Technical Investigation Board of IAC informs about preliminary results of flight data recorder information recovery.
During landing the crew could not perform a nominal approach according to the pattern defined by the regulating documentation. Having considered the aircraft is not lined-up properly relative to the runway, the crew reported to the ATC and started to go around using TOGA (Take Off / Go Around) detent. One of the two autopilots, which was active during landing, has been switched off and the flight was being controlled manually.
The engines reached thrust level close to full. The crew retracted the flaps from 30° to 15° position.
Affected by the upturn moment generated by the engine thrust, the aircraft has started ascent, reaching the pitch angle of about 25°. Indicated airspeed has started to decrease. The crew retracted the landing gear. Since initiating the Go Around maneuver up to this moment the crew did not perform control actions through the yoke.
After the airspeed decreased from 150 to 125 KIAS the crew started control actions through the yoke, pitching nose down, which has lead to stopping ascent then starting descent and increase of the airspeed. Maximum angles of attack have not exceeded operational limits during the flight.
After reaching the altitude of 700 meters, the aircraft started a steep nosedive, with the pitch angle reaching ''75° by the end of the flight (end of the recording).
The aircraft collided with terrain at high speed (exceeding 450 km/h) and with highly negative pitch angle.
About 45 seconds have passed between the moment of starting Go Around maneuver and the moment the recording stopped, the descent took about 20 seconds.
The propulsion systems were operating up to the collision with terrain. No single commands detected by the preliminary analysis, which would indicate failures of systems or units of the aircraft or engines.>>
See alsoReferences^ abc50 dead as passenger jet crashes in central Russia (PHOTOS,VIDEO). RT. 17 November 2013.^"'Dozens dead' in Russian plane crash". BBC News. 17 November 2013. Retrieved 17 November 2013. ^"Russian airline crashes in Kazan, killing dozens". CBS News. 17 November 2013. Retrieved 17 November 2013. [dead link]^ ab"Ð' ÐÐ°Ð·Ð°Ð½Ð¸ ÑÐ°Ð·Ð±Ð¸Ð>>ÑÑ ÑÐ°Ð¼Ð¾Ð>>ÐµÑ" (in Russian). Interfax. 17 November 2013. Retrieved 17 November 2013. ^"Dramatic footage: Kazan Boeing crash caught on camera". YouTube, RT Channel. 18 November 2013. Retrieved 19 November 2013. ^ ab"Boeing 737 '' MSN 24785 '' VQ-BBN". airfleets.net. Retrieved 17 November 2013. ^Accident description, aviation-safety.net, 17 November 2013^"Incident: Tatarstan B735 near Kazan on Nov 26th 2012, loss of cabin pressure". The Aviation Herald. 27 November 2012. Retrieved 18 November 2013. ^"Boeing airliner crashes in Russia, 50 killed". Reuters. 17 November 2013. Retrieved 18 November 2013. ^ abc"Crash: Tatarstan B735 at Kazan on Nov 17th 2013, crashed on landing". The Aviation Herald. 17 November 2013. Retrieved 17 November 2013. ^Video of Tatarstan Airlines Flight 363^"Dozens Killed As Plane Crash Lands in Russia". Sky News. 17 November 2013. Retrieved 17 November 2013. ^"Boeing 737 crashes in Russian city of Kazan, 50 killed". torontosun.com. Retrieved 17 November 2013. ^"ÐÐ²Ð¸Ð°ÐºÐ°ÑÐ°ÑÑÑÐ¾ÑÐ° Ð² ÐÐ°Ð·Ð°Ð½Ð¸: Ð¾ÐÑÐ±Ð>>Ð¸ÐºÐ¾Ð²Ð°Ð½ ÑÐÐ¸ÑÐ¾Ðº 50 ÐÐ¾Ð"Ð¸Ð±ÑÐ¸Ñ " (in Russian). ITAR TASS. 17 November 2013. Retrieved 17 November 2013. ^"Both recorders retrieved from Kazan 737 crash site". Flightglobal. 18 November 2013. Retrieved 19 November 2013. (subscription required)^"Kazan plane crash '' RT News". rt.com. Retrieved 18 November 2013. ^ abKazan crash plane lost speed, went into nosedive - investigators. RT. 19 November 2013.^"Kazan Crash Pilot Had No Missed Approach Experience". Ria Novosti. Retrieved 19 November 2013. ^Interstate Aviation Committee. Boeing 737-500 VQ-BBN 17.11.2013(Russian)External links' 2012Aviation accidents and incidents in 2013 (2013)Incidents resulting in at least 50 deaths shown in italics Deadliest incident shown in Bold SmallCaps
Sat, 23 Nov 2013 07:10
Cross section view of the M-array ILS antenna system. Schematic overview of the ''Fly up''(blue) and ''Fly down''(brown) indication.
The Dutch Safety Board issued a Safety Alert, warning aviation authorities about unexpected autopilot behavior on an ILS approach could lead to (approach to) stall conditions.
The Dutch Safety Board is investigating a severe and sudden pitch-up upset during an ILS approach to Eindhoven Airport in 2013. The airspeed dropped rapidly to a near stall situation in which the stick shaker activated. The crew carried out a go-around. During the investigation the Board became aware of similar events. Analysis revealed that the common factor linking these events is the ILS antenna type; M-array (Capture effect) ILS antenna. TheM-array ILS antenna type is used around the world, including at major airports and military air bases in the Netherlands.
Regulations mandate that ILS systems be periodically checked with a Flight Inspection in order to be certified for operational use. The Flight Inspection focuses exclusively on the 3 degree glide slope area. The signal characteristics in the area above the 3 degree glide slope were examined as part of the Dutch Safety Board's investigation. Flight tests were conducted to measure the M-array antenna signal and determine the 'glide slope field' characteristics above the 3 degree glide path while established on the localizer.Analysis of the measurements show that between the 3 and 9 degree glide path, signal strength changes. For the pilot this can result in observable movement of the ILS glide slope marker on the primary flight display. At this time two important characteristics of the M-array ILS antenna 'glide slope field' have been identified:- A signal reversal was always present at approximately 9 degree glide path.- A signal reversal was sometimes present at approximately 6 degree glide path.
Depending on the glide slope field, signal reversal occurs occasionally at 6 degree, and always at the 9 degree glide path. This reversal activates the glide slope capture mode after which the autopilot follows the glide slope signal without restrictions. During flight tests the reversal resulted in the automatic flight control system commanding a severe pitch-up. Immediate flight crew intervention was required to regain aircraft control.
Thus far the investigation has revealed that aircraft from four different manufacturers operated by different airlines have experienced a pitch-up upset caused by a false glide slope either under test conditions or during operation.This investigative information has led the Dutch Safety Board to issue this Safety Alert to address the following safety concern: to generate awareness of different ILS signal characteristics and the potential of aircraft pitch-up upset due to capturing a false glide slope, which can lead to (approach to) stall conditions.
Filed under: Uncategorized by Harro RanterComments Off
Thu, 21 Nov 2013 10:24
EasyJet boss Carolyn McCall is one of few women at the top of UK business. Steve Parsons/PAIn the UK, women make up just just 17.3% of FTSE 100 companies' board members. This puts the UK 5th in the world behind Norway, Sweden, Finland and France.
Things are certainly improving: 44% of new appointments to FTSE 100 boards go to women. However, we are still some way off the target of 25% by 2015 recommended in a recent UK government report. It also falls far short of where the country's boardrooms should be '' an equal split between men and women in directorship roles.
The question of how to remedy this yawning gap has occupied a lot of time and effort. The first big question is whether it is indeed necessary for companies to patch up the gender divide. There is a now a large body of evidence that how firm performance is affected by the presence of more women on boards. There are frequent reports by consultancies and companies that detail miraculous results achieved by firms which appoint more women to the board. For instance, the catering firm Sodexo launched a press release this summer claiming that companies where women make up over one third of the board have 42% higher profit and 53% higher returns to shareholders.
Although these numbers sound excellent, there are mixed reports on how improved gender balance on boards actually affects corporate performance. One interesting recent study points out that companies with more women on the board tend to do better on the basis of objective measures, such as return on assets and return on equity. However, they tend to do worse on more subjective metrics, such as stock-based measures of performance.
The reason for this is that market analysts and investors often take fright at women being appointed to a board. This is because women are perceived as poorly performing ''- even though the evidence points in the opposite direction. However, another piece of research finds that this market aversion to female board members is not seen in all contexts; it seems the market is quite prepared to reward firms for appointing women directors in consumer-facing industries like retail, or in the media. In sectors where the company is far removed from final consumers, such as logistics or resources, more female-averse sexist attitudes can still be found.
Other recent research has pointed out that boards which include more women tend to have better working processes. For instance, one US-based study found that women are more likely to attend board meetings than their male counterparts. What's more, their mere presence on the board actually shames the men into also turning up more. In addition, boards with more women are often reported to be nicer places. They tend to develop their members more and suffer less internal conflict.
Get on board?The many benefits of having more women on boards have led policymakers throughout the world to ask how numbers could be increased. Companies themselves are often reluctant to do this, typically citing a lack of appropriate or experienced candidates. This, of course, is a myth, as women appointed to boards are often likely to be better qualified than their male counterparts in many important aspects (education, titles, community links), though worse on some other factors (notably, previous experience in executive roles '' a catch-22 situation).
To address corporate foot-dragging over this issue, some countries have adopted policies which mandate the number of women on corporate boards. The first mover was Norway, which now requires boards to be at least 40% female. Other countries including Italy, France, Spain, Belgium, Iceland and that bastion of women's liberation Dubai have followed this initiative. This week, news appeared that the famously masculine boardrooms of Germany may be forced to implement a 30% Frauenquote.
These moves towards quota systems have led some to ask whether the UK should implement a similar approach. This question is likely to be met with significant degrees of resistance from parts of the business community. They will inevitably point out that the UK economy is more liberal than most European economies, and argue that forcing companies to do something is not appropriate. Instead, they will claim, companies will be able to self-regulate their way towards a level of board equality appropriate to their business. They might also point out that the UK has done reasonably well without a quota '' 5th in the world for boardroom diversity isn't bad, after all.
Nordic evidenceAll these arguments are to be expected, but what exactly does the evidence tell us about quotas in the most advanced case '' Norway? The one major piece of negative evidence for quotas comes from two economists who pointed out that introduction of the quota led to younger, less experienced directors being appointed to corporate boards. In addition, they found that the quota led to declines in some market-based measures of corporate performance.
However, other research has shown that the increasing number of women on boards has led to no difference in overall corporate performance on the basis of more ''objective'' measures such as return on assets. In addition, the increased number of women on Norwegian boards has also been linked with an increase in innovation.
While the quota may have had little effect on the objective performance of Norway's companies, it has certainly helped to build a far greater population of women business leaders in the the country. The quota made it more likely that women will be appointed as CEOs. In addition, women business leaders were able to build stronger networks with other directors ''- an important characteristic that headhunters usually look for in board members. The potential downside of all this is the formation of a small elite of women who sit on multiple boards.
If the UK is serious about creating equality at the highest levels of our companies, then a quota could be an excellent step forward. However, it is important we are realistic about the barriers that might be faced to implementing this policy.
A paper published last month gives some clues about what these barriers might be. A study of the 10 countries across the world which have adopted quotas identifies some common features: they tend to have high female workforce participation rates, well developed welfare states, and left-leaning political parties in power.
The UK only has one and a half of these. Women may have to wait a while longer to get on board.
Sign in to Favourite Post a CommentTagsGender, Workplace relations, Gender equity, Women in the workforce, Sexism
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Wed, 20 Nov 2013 08:52
How aggressive is the human female? When the anthropologist Sarah B. Hrdy surveyed the research literature three decades ago, she concluded that ''the competitive component in the nature of women remains anecdotal, intuitively sensed, but not confirmed by science.''
Science has come a long way since then, as Dr. Hrdy notes in her introduction to a recent issue of Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society devoted entirely to the topic of female aggression. She credits the ''stunning'' amount of new evidence partly to better research techniques and partly to the entry of so many women into scientific fields once dominated by men.
The existence of female competition may seem obvious to anyone who has been in a high-school cafeteria or a singles bar, but analyzing it has been difficult because it tends be more subtle and indirect (and a lot less violent) than the male variety. Now that researchers have been looking more closely, they say that this ''intrasexual competition'' is the most important factor explaining the pressures that young women feel to meet standards of sexual conduct and physical appearance.
The old doubts about female competitiveness derived partly from an evolutionary analysis of the reproductive odds in ancient polygynous societies in which some men were left single because dominant males had multiple wives. So men had to compete to have a chance of reproducing, whereas virtually all women were assured of it.
But even in those societies, women were not passive trophies for victorious males. They had their own incentives to compete with one another for more desirable partners and more resources for their children. And now that most people live in monogamous societies, most women face the same odds as men. In fact, they face tougher odds in some places, like the many college campuses with more women than men.
To see how female students react to a rival, researchers brought pairs of them into a laboratory at McMaster University for what was ostensibly a discussion about female friendships. But the real experiment began when another young woman entered the room asking where to find one of the researchers.
This woman had been chosen by the researchers, Tracy Vaillancourt and Aanchal Sharma, because she ''embodied qualities considered attractive from an evolutionary perspective,'' meaning a ''low waist-to-hip ratio, clear skin, large breasts.'' Sometimes, she wore a T-shirt and jeans, other times a tightfitting, low-cut blouse and short skirt.
In jeans, she attracted little notice and no negative comments from the students, whose reactions were being secretly recorded during the encounter and after the woman left the room. But when she wore the other outfit, virtually all the students reacted with hostility.
They stared at her, looked her up and down, rolled their eyes and sometimes showed outright anger. One asked her in disgust, ''What the [expletive] is that?''
Most of the aggression, though, happened after she left the room. Then the students laughed about her and impugned her motives. One student suggested that she dressed that way in order to have sex with a professor. Another said that her breasts ''were about to pop out.''
The results of the experiment jibe with evidence that this ''mean girl'' form of indirect aggression is used more by adolescents and young women than by older women, who have less incentive to handicap rivals once they marry. Other studies have shown that the more attractive an adolescent girl or woman is, the more likely she is to become a target for indirect aggression from her female peers.
''Women are indeed very capable of aggressing against others, especially women they perceive as rivals,'' said Dr. Vaillancourt, now a psychologist at the University of Ottawa. ''The research also shows that suppression of female sexuality is by women, not necessarily by men.''
Stigmatizing female promiscuity '-- a.k.a. slut-shaming '-- has often been blamed on men, who have a Darwinian incentive to discourage their spouses from straying. But they also have a Darwinian incentive to encourage other women to be promiscuous. Dr. Vaillancourt said the experiment and other research suggest the stigma is enforced mainly by women.
''Sex is coveted by men,'' she said. ''Accordingly, women limit access as a way of maintaining advantage in the negotiation of this resource. Women who make sex too readily available compromise the power-holding position of the group, which is why many women are particularly intolerant of women who are, or seem to be, promiscuous.''
Indirect aggression can take a psychological toll on women who are ostracized or feel pressured to meet impossible standards, like the vogue of thin bodies in many modern societies. Studies have shown that women's ideal body shape is to be thinner than average '-- and thinner than what men consider the ideal shape to be. This pressure is frequently blamed on the ultrathin female role models featured in magazines and on television, but Christopher J. Ferguson and other researchers say that it's mainly the result of competition with their peers, not media images.
''To a large degree the media reflects trends that are going on in society, not creates them,'' said Dr. Ferguson, a psychologist at Stetson University. He found that women's dissatisfaction with their bodies did not correlate with what they watched on television at home. Nor were they influenced by TV programs shown in laboratory experiments: Watching the svelte actresses on ''Scrubs'' induced no more feelings of inferiority than watching the not-so-svelte star of ''Roseanne.''
But he found that women were more likely to feel worse when they compared themselves with peers in their own social circles, or even if they were in a room with a thin stranger, like the assistant to Dr. Ferguson who ran an experiment with female college students. When she wore makeup and sleek business attire, the students were less satisfied with their own bodies than when she wore baggy sweats and no makeup. And they felt still worse when there was an attractive man in the room with her.
''Sexual competition among females seems to increase due to circumstances that tend to be particularly common in affluent societies,'' Dr. Ferguson said.
In traditional villages, people married at an early age to someone nearby, but young men and women in modern societies are free to postpone marriage as they search long and far for better options. The result is more competition because there are so many more rivals '-- and there's no longer any scientific doubt that both sexes are in to win it.
Sat, 23 Nov 2013 21:37
The memo suggested avoiding photos that 'glamorize' women in combat. | US ARMY
CloseThe Army should use photos of ''average-looking women'' when it needs to illustrate stories about female soldiers, a specialist recommends '-- images of women who are too pretty undermine the communications strategy about introducing them into combat roles.
That's the gist of an internal Army e-mail an Army source shared with POLITICO.
Continue ReadingGillibrand: Military resisting change
''In general, ugly women are perceived as competent while pretty women are perceived as having used their looks to get ahead,'' wrote Col. Lynette Arnhart, who is leading a team of analysts studying how best to integrate women into combat roles that have previously been closed off to them. She sent her message to give guidance to Army spokesmen and spokeswomen about how they should tell the press and public about the Army's integration of women.
(PHOTOS: 30 amazing photos of the Army)
''There is a general tendency to select nice looking women when we select a photo to go with an article (where the article does not reference a specific person). It might behoove us to select more average looking women for our comms strategy. For example, the attached article shows a pretty woman, wearing make-up while on deployed duty. Such photos undermine the rest of the message (and may even make people ask if breaking a nail is considered hazardous duty),'' Arnhart said.
She wrote that a photo of a female soldier with mud on her face that news agencies used last spring ''sends a much different message'--one of women willing to do the dirty work necessary in order to get the job done.''
(WATCH: Women rule the workforce? Check the numbers)
Arnhart's note was originally sent to two people, including Col. Christian Kubik, chief of public affairs for the Army's Training and Doctrine Command. He forwarded the email to all public affairs officers supporting TRADOC with the note: ''A valuable reminder from the TRADOC experts who are studying gender integration '-- when [public affairs officers] choose photos that glamorize women (such as in the attached article), we undermine our own efforts. Please use 'real' photos that are typical, not exceptional.''
In a statement, Army spokesman George Wright said the comments ''were an internal email conversation'' and ''not an Army position.''
After POLITICO first reported on the e-mail in Tuesday's Morning Defense, critics seized upon Arnhart's guidance as proof that today's Army culture has a long way to go before women will be treated as equals.
(Also on POLITICO: Sexual assault issue not resonating)
Rep. Jackie Speier (D-Calif.) tweeted that it was ''another example that @USArmy just doesn't get it as it debates if pretty girls should be used in pamphlets.''
One Army source said, ''It scares me to think that these are people involved in gender integration.''
As deputy director of the Army's Training and Doctrine Command's Analysis Center in Fort Leavenworth, Kan., Arnhart is helping lead ''an extensive study of the institutional and cultural factors associated with integrating women into previously closed'' positions.
In a story published by the Army earlier this month, Arnhart is quoted as saying, ''As we move toward integrating women into previously closed occupations, we must do so with the understanding that the leadership and culture of a unit '-- the history, lineage and social dynamics '-- are crucial to successfully dealing with changes that will occur.''
Sat, 23 Nov 2013 22:01
Excited about flying home for Thanksgiving to see your family and friends' shining faces? Well, you won't be after reading this! Because according to a soon-to-be released study commissioned by the FAA, if it weren't for automated systems, our pilots would suck at flying'--bad.
That doesn't mean automation is evil, though. In fact, over the past few decades, automated flying systems have been a huge part of what makes flying so safe. However, because plane automation has proved so dependable, it's also making our pilots lazy. The Wall Street Journal explains:
The study found that some pilots "lack sufficient or in-depth knowledge and skills" to properly control their plane's trajectory, partly because "current training methods, training devices and the time allotted for training" may be inadequate to fully master advanced automated systems.
By examining data from over 9,000 commercial flights world-wide, the FAA found that about two-thirds of the involved pilots either made mistakes using flight computers or simply had significant difficulty manually flying planes in general. And not only are these automation-reliant pilots a problem, they're actually the biggest threat to airliner safety world-wide, according to the study. The WSJ notes:
The results can range from degraded manual-flying skills to poor decision-making to possible erosion of confidence among some aviators when automation abruptly malfunctions or disconnects during an emergency.
The FAA's study wasn't all bad news. Observers were able to determine that, in the vast majority of cases, pilots were able to find and fix any automation errors before they could become serious problems. It's just in those cases in which serious problems did arise, the pilots were used to watching'--not proactively "hand flying."
Fortunately, the agency's meticulously collected findings'--detailed in the 277-page report compiled by a team of industry, labor, academic, and government officials'--have already spurred some action, specifically with 18 total recommendations in the form of new FAA rules. Among other changes, the report calls for more opportunities for pilots to "refine" manual flying skills as well as cockpit designs that are "more understandable from the flightcrew's perspective." So thankfully, it seems that every aspect of flying experience'--both the pilot's actions and the design of the plane itself'--is being held accountable.
The FAA will be discussing the necessary next steps on Thursday, Nov 28 at a summit with the industry's leaders, but of course, we won't be seeing the residual effects of these measures for some time. Still, while it's reassuring to know that the FAA is fully aware of the problem and looking to fix it, we can't help but wish they could have waited to tell us until after the holidays. [The Wall Street Journal]
Image: Shutterstock/View Apart
Thu, 21 Nov 2013 10:03
20 November 2013Last updated at 18:47 ET The government of the Central African Republic (CAR) has said it is in talks with Ugandan warlord Joseph Kony with the aim of his surrender.
A CAR government spokesman told the BBC that Kony was in the country but wanted his security to be guaranteed before giving himself up.
Kony, leader of the Lord's Resistance Army, is wanted by the International Criminal Court for alleged war crimes.
The US has offered up to $5m (£3.3m) for leads resulting in his arrest.
This is the first time for many years that Kony's whereabouts have been revealed.
Also on Wednesday, the African Union's special envoy on the LRA, Francisco Madeira, told the UN Security Council he had seen reports that Kony was suffering from a "serious, uncharacterized illness".
In April the Ugandan army suspended a search for Kony in the CAR, blaming "hostility" from the government formed when rebel forces took power there.
Joseph Kony and the estimated 200-500 fighters of his Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) have waged war in Uganda and the region for more than two decades.
He claims the LRA's mission is to install a government in Uganda based on the Biblical Ten Commandments.
But his rebels have terrorised large swathes of the Democratic Republic of Congo, South Sudan and the CAR and he is wanted by the International Criminal Court accused of rape, mutilation and murder of civilians, as well as forcibly recruiting children to serve as soldiers and sex slaves.
His global notoriety increased when a US activist group called Invisible Children released a video, Kony 2012, which went viral on the internet and was viewed tens of millions of times across the world.
The highly emotive video profiled Kony and the history of the LRA, but Invisible Children came in for criticism from some for oversimplifying the conflict and for not spending enough of the money raised on the LRA's victims.
Sat, 23 Nov 2013 22:42
The Geneva negotiations between the so-called P5+1 powers and Iran are a mere ''facade,'' because the terms of a deal on Iran's nuclear program have been negotiated in talks between a top adviser to President Barack Obama and a leading Iranian nuclear official that have continued in secret for more than a year, Israeli television reported Sunday.
Despite ostensible full coordination between the US and Israel over strategies for thwarting Iran's nuclear weapons drive, the administration did not keep Israel fully informed on those talks, Channel 10 news reported, but Jerusalem nonetheless has a pretty clear picture of what has been going on in the secret channel.
White House spokesman Bernadette Meehan was quoted by Haaretz as saying that the report was ''absolutely, 100 percent false.''
The report, which relied on unnamed senior Israeli officials, said the US team to the secret talks was led by Obama adviser Valerie Jarrett. Her primary interlocutor, the report said, was the head of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran, Ali Akbar Salehi. The talks have been taking place in various Gulf states.
In the course of the talks, the report said, the Americans offered the Iranians a series of ''confidence-building measures,'' which underlined American readiness to conclude a deal and undercut sanctions pressure.
It was the deal discussed in these secret talks, the report said, that the Americans then brought to Geneva earlier this month, where it was largely adopted by the P5+1 nations '-- the US, Britain, France, Russia, China, plus Germany.
France has indicated that it raised objections to the proposed terms, while US Secretary of State John Kerry said the deal was so ''tough'' that the Iranians had to return to Tehran to take a decision on whether to sign it. The Geneva talks are set to resume on Wednesday.
Valerie Jarrett, an adviser to US President Barack Obama (photo credit: public domain via Wikipedia)
According to Channel 10, the secret channel marginalized Kerry, and was overseen by the president. The idea had been for Kerry merely to fly to Geneva, as he did last Friday, to sign a deal in which he had been a bit player. In the event, factors such as the French stance, and Israel's very public objections, derailed this plan, and the talks broke up last Saturday without an agreement.
Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has publicly fumed at the terms that were offered to Iran at Geneva, including an easing of non-core sanctions under an arrangements whereby Iran would still be permitted to enrich uranium to 3.5%. Netanyahu wants all sanctions retained, and all enrichment to be frozen, as a first step toward the dismantling of Iran's entire ''military nuclear'' program.
Nevertheless, the expectation in Jerusalem is that a deal is on the way in the near future. Kerry, with whom Netanyahu has been engaged in a public sniping match in recent days, is due back in Israel at the end of this week, after the Geneva talks resume.
Sunday's Channel 10 report was not the first to assert a secret US-Iran channel involving Obama aide Jarrett. In November of 2012, the daily Yedioth Ahronoth said Jarrett '-- a Chicago lawyer born in Shiraz, Iran, to American parents, and good friend of Obama's '-- was ''a key figure in secret contacts the White House is conducting with the Iranian regime.''
That report said ''Jarrett served as the personal and direct emissary of the president to secret meetings with the Iranians, which are understood to have taken place in one of the Gulf principalities.''
Sun, 24 Nov 2013 03:27
GENEVA '-- Iran and six major powers agreed early Sunday on an historic deal that freezes key parts of Iran's nuclear program in exchange for temporary relief on some economic sanctions, diplomats confirmed.
The deal was reached after four days of marathon bargaining and an 11th-hour intervention by U.S. Secretary of State John F. Kerry and other foreign ministers from Europe, Russia and China. the sources said.
The agreement, sealed at 3 a.m. signing ceremony in Geneva's Palace of Nations, requires Iran to halt or scale back parts of its nuclear infrastructure, the first such pause in more than a decade.
''We have reached an agreement,'' Michael Mann, spokesman for European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton said in a Twitter posting.
''We have reached an agreement,'' echoed Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif in a separate posting.
More details from the NY Times:
According to the accord, Iran would agree to stop enriching uranium beyond 5 percent. To make good on that pledge, Iran would dismantle the links between networks of centrifuges.
All of Iran's stockpile of uranium that has been enriched to 20 percent, a short hop to weapons-grade fuel, would be diluted or converted into oxide so that it could not be readily used for military purposes.
No new centrifuges, neither old models nor newer more efficient ones, could be installed. Centrifuges that have been installed but which are not currently operating '-- Iran has more than 8,000 such centrifuges '-- could not be started up. No new enrichment facilities could be established.
The agreement, however, would not require Iran to stop enriching uranium to a level of 3.5 percent or dismantle any of its existing centrifuges.
Iran's stockpile of such low-enriched uranium would be allowed to temporarily increase to about eight tons from seven tons currently. But Tehran would be required to shrink this stockpile by the end of the six-month agreement back to seven tons. This would be done by installing equipment to covert some of that stockpile to oxide.
To guard against cheating, international monitors would be allowed to visit the Natanz enrichment facility and the underground nuclear enrichment plant at Fordo on a daily basis to check the film from cameras installed there.
In return for the initial agreement, the United States has agreed to provide $6 billion to $7 billion in sanctions relief, American officials said. This limited sanctions relief can be accomplished by executive order, allowing the Obama administration to make the deal without having to appeal to Congress, where there is strong criticism of any agreement that does not fully dismantle Iran's nuclear program.
Sun, 24 Nov 2013 05:49
The White House
Office of the Press Secretary
For Immediate Release
November 23, 2013
The P5+1 (the United States, United Kingdom, Germany, France, Russia, and China, facilitated by the European Union) has been engaged in serious and substantive negotiations with Iran with the goal of reaching a verifiable diplomatic resolution that would prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon.
President Obama has been clear that achieving a peaceful resolution that prevents Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon is in America's national security interest. Today, the P5+1 and Iran reached a set of initial understandings that halts the progress of Iran's nuclear program and rolls it back in key respects. These are the first meaningful limits that Iran has accepted on its nuclear program in close to a decade. The initial, six month step includes significant limits on Iran's nuclear program and begins to address our most urgent concerns including Iran's enrichment capabilities; its existing stockpiles of enriched uranium; the number and capabilities of its centrifuges; and its ability to produce weapons-grade plutonium using the Arak reactor. The concessions Iran has committed to make as part of this first step will also provide us with increased transparency and intrusive monitoring of its nuclear program. In the past, the concern has been expressed that Iran will use negotiations to buy time to advance their program. Taken together, these first step measures will help prevent Iran from using the cover of negotiations to continue advancing its nuclear program as we seek to negotiate a long-term, comprehensive solution that addresses all of the international community's concerns.
In return, as part of this initial step, the P5+1 will provide limited, temporary, targeted, and reversible relief to Iran. This relief is structured so that the overwhelming majority of the sanctions regime, including the key oil, banking, and financial sanctions architecture, remains in place. The P5+1 will continue to enforce these sanctions vigorously. If Iran fails to meet its commitments, we will revoke the limited relief and impose additional sanctions on Iran.
The P5+1 and Iran also discussed the general parameters of a comprehensive solution that would constrain Iran's nuclear program over the long term, provide verifiable assurances to the international community that Iran's nuclear activities will be exclusively peaceful, and ensure that any attempt by Iran to pursue a nuclear weapon would be promptly detected. The set of understandings also includes an acknowledgment by Iran that it must address all United Nations Security Council resolutions '' which Iran has long claimed are illegal '' as well as past and present issues with Iran's nuclear program that have been identified by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). This would include resolution of questions concerning the possible military dimension of Iran's nuclear program, including Iran's activities at Parchin. As part of a comprehensive solution, Iran must also come into full compliance with its obligations under the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and its obligations to the IAEA. With respect to the comprehensive solution, nothing is agreed until everything is agreed. Put simply, this first step expires in six months, and does not represent an acceptable end state to the United States or our P5+1 partners.
Halting the Progress of Iran's Program and Rolling Back Key Elements
Iran has committed to halt enrichment above 5%:
· Halt all enrichment above 5% and dismantle the technical connections required to enrich above 5%.
Iran has committed to neutralize its stockpile of near-20% uranium:
· Dilute below 5% or convert to a form not suitable for further enrichment its entire stockpile of near-20% enriched uranium before the end of the initial phase.
Iran has committed to halt progress on its enrichment capacity:
· Not install additional centrifuges of any type.
· Not install or use any next-generation centrifuges to enrich uranium.
· Leave inoperable roughly half of installed centrifuges at Natanz and three-quarters of installed centrifuges at Fordow, so they cannot be used to enrich uranium.
· Limit its centrifuge production to those needed to replace damaged machines, so Iran cannot use the six months to stockpile centrifuges.
· Not construct additional enrichment facilities.
Iran has committed to halt progress on the growth of its 3.5% stockpile:
· Not increase its stockpile of 3.5% low enriched uranium, so that the amount is not greater at the end of the six months than it is at the beginning, and any newly enriched 3.5% enriched uranium is converted into oxide.
Iran has committed to no further advances of its activities at Arak and to halt progress on its plutonium track. Iran has committed to:
· Not commission the Arak reactor.
· Not fuel the Arak reactor.
· Halt the production of fuel for the Arak reactor.
· No additional testing of fuel for the Arak reactor.
· Not install any additional reactor components at Arak.
· Not transfer fuel and heavy water to the reactor site.
· Not construct a facility capable of reprocessing. Without reprocessing, Iran cannot separate plutonium from spent fuel.
Unprecedented transparency and intrusive monitoring of Iran's nuclear program
Iran has committed to:
· Provide daily access by IAEA inspectors at Natanz and Fordow. This daily access will permit inspectors to review surveillance camera footage to ensure comprehensive monitoring. This access will provide even greater transparency into enrichment at these sites and shorten detection time for any non-compliance.
· Provide IAEA access to centrifuge assembly facilities.
· Provide IAEA access to centrifuge rotor component production and storage facilities.
· Provide IAEA access to uranium mines and mills.
· Provide long-sought design information for the Arak reactor. This will provide critical insight into the reactor that has not previously been available.
· Provide more frequent inspector access to the Arak reactor.
· Provide certain key data and information called for in the Additional Protocol to Iran's IAEA Safeguards Agreement and Modified Code 3.1.
The IAEA will be called upon to perform many of these verification steps, consistent with their ongoing inspection role in Iran. In addition, the P5+1 and Iran have committed to establishing a Joint Commission to work with the IAEA to monitor implementation and address issues that may arise. The Joint Commission will also work with the IAEA to facilitate resolution of past and present concerns with respect to Iran's nuclear program, including the possible military dimension of Iran's nuclear program and Iran's activities at Parchin.
Limited, Temporary, Reversible Relief
In return for these steps, the P5+1 is to provide limited, temporary, targeted, and reversible relief while maintaining the vast bulk of our sanctions, including the oil, finance, and banking sanctions architecture. If Iran fails to meet its commitments, we will revoke the relief. Specifically the P5+1 has committed to:
· Not impose new nuclear-related sanctions for six months, if Iran abides by its commitments under this deal, to the extent permissible within their political systems.
· Suspend certain sanctions on gold and precious metals, Iran's auto sector, and Iran's petrochemical exports, potentially providing Iran approximately $1.5 billion in revenue.
· License safety-related repairs and inspections inside Iran for certain Iranian airlines.
· Allow purchases of Iranian oil to remain at their currently significantly reduced levels '' levels that are 60% less than two years ago. $4.2 billion from these sales will be allowed to be transferred in installments if, and as, Iran fulfills its commitments.
· Allow $400 million in governmental tuition assistance to be transferred from restricted Iranian funds directly to recognized educational institutions in third countries to defray the tuition costs of Iranian students.
Facilitate humanitarian transactions that are already allowed by U.S. law. Humanitarian transactions have been explicitly exempted from sanctions by Congress so this channel will not provide Iran access to any new source of funds. Humanitarian transactions are those related to Iran's purchase of food, agricultural commodities, medicine, medical devices; we would also facilitate transactions for medical expenses incurred abroad. We will establish this channel for the benefit of the Iranian people.
Putting Limited Relief in Perspective
In total, the approximately $7 billion in relief is a fraction of the costs that Iran will continue to incur during this first phase under the sanctions that will remain in place. The vast majority of Iran's approximately $100 billion in foreign exchange holdings are inaccessible or restricted by sanctions.
In the next six months, Iran's crude oil sales cannot increase. Oil sanctions alone will result in approximately $30 billion in lost revenues to Iran '' or roughly $5 billion per month '' compared to what Iran earned in a six month period in 2011, before these sanctions took effect. While Iran will be allowed access to $4.2 billion of its oil sales, nearly $15 billion of its revenues during this period will go into restricted overseas accounts. In summary, we expect the balance of Iran's money in restricted accounts overseas will actually increase, not decrease, under the terms of this deal.
Maintaining Economic Pressure on Iran and Preserving Our Sanctions Architecture
During the first phase, we will continue to vigorously enforce our sanctions against Iran, including by taking action against those who seek to evade or circumvent our sanctions.
· Sanctions affecting crude oil sales will continue to impose pressure on Iran's government. Working with our international partners, we have cut Iran's oil sales from 2.5 million barrels per day (bpd) in early 2012 to 1 million bpd today, denying Iran the ability to sell almost 1.5 million bpd. That's a loss of more than $80 billion since the beginning of 2012 that Iran will never be able to recoup. Under this first step, the EU crude oil ban will remain in effect and Iran will be held to approximately 1 million bpd in sales, resulting in continuing lost sales worth an additional $4 billion per month, every month, going forward.
· Sanctions affecting petroleum product exports to Iran, which result in billions of dollars of lost revenue, will remain in effect.
· The vast majority of Iran's approximately $100 billion in foreign exchange holdings remain inaccessible or restricted by our sanctions.
· Other significant parts of our sanctions regime remain intact, including:
o Sanctions against the Central Bank of Iran and approximately two dozen other major Iranian banks and financial actors;
o Secondary sanctions, pursuant to the Comprehensive Iran Sanctions, Accountability, and Divestment Act (CISADA) as amended and other laws, on banks that do business with U.S.-designated individuals and entities;
o Sanctions on those who provide a broad range of other financial services to Iran, such as many types of insurance; and,
o Restricted access to the U.S. financial system.
· All sanctions on over 600 individuals and entities targeted for supporting Iran's nuclear or ballistic missile program remain in effect.
· Sanctions on several sectors of Iran's economy, including shipping and shipbuilding, remain in effect.
· Sanctions on long-term investment in and provision of technical services to Iran's energy sector remain in effect.
· Sanctions on Iran's military program remain in effect.
· Broad U.S. restrictions on trade with Iran remain in effect, depriving Iran of access to virtually all dealings with the world's biggest economy
· All UN Security Council sanctions remain in effect.
· All of our targeted sanctions related to Iran's state sponsorship of terrorism, its destabilizing role in the Syrian conflict, and its abysmal human rights record, among other concerns, remain in effect.
A Comprehensive Solution
During the six-month initial phase, the P5+1 will negotiate the contours of a comprehensive solution. Thus far, the outline of the general parameters of the comprehensive solution envisions concrete steps to give the international community confidence that Iran's nuclear activities will be exclusively peaceful. With respect to this comprehensive resolution: nothing is agreed to with respect to a comprehensive solution until everything is agreed to. Over the next six months, we will determine whether there is a solution that gives us sufficient confidence that the Iranian program is peaceful. If Iran cannot address our concerns, we are prepared to increase sanctions and pressure.
In sum, this first step achieves a great deal in its own right. Without this phased agreement, Iran could start spinning thousands of additional centrifuges. It could install and spin next-generation centrifuges that will reduce its breakout times. It could fuel and commission the Arak heavy water reactor. It could grow its stockpile of 20% enriched uranium to beyond the threshold for a bomb's worth of uranium. Iran can do none of these things under the conditions of the first step understanding.
Furthermore, without this phased approach, the international sanctions coalition would begin to fray because Iran would make the case to the world that it was serious about a diplomatic solution and we were not. We would be unable to bring partners along to do the crucial work of enforcing our sanctions. With this first step, we stop and begin to roll back Iran's program and give Iran a sharp choice: fulfill its commitments and negotiate in good faith to a final deal, or the entire international community will respond with even more isolation and pressure.
The American people prefer a peaceful and enduring resolution that prevents Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon and strengthens the global non-proliferation regime. This solution has the potential to achieve that. Through strong and principled diplomacy, the United States of America will do its part for greater peace, security, and cooperation among nations.
Sun, 24 Nov 2013 02:18
Nov 22, 2013 4:41pm
Jacquelyn Martin/AP Photo
They may have avoided the Thanksgiving dinner table, but it turns out the turkeys pardoned by President Obama haven't been so lucky after all.
Last year, the president ceremoniously spared Cobbler and his alternate Gobbler, two 40-pound birds from Rockingham Country, Va., sending them off to live a charmed life on a sprawling historic estate.
''From here these two lucky birds will be swept up in a whirlwind of fame and fortune that will ultimately lead them to Mount Vernon, where they will spend their twilight years in the storied home of George Washington,'' Obama said at last year's ceremony.
But their freedom was short lived.
Cobbler, who, according to the White House, loved cranberries and the musical stylings of Carly Simon, was reportedly euthanized in August. And Gobbler, described as ''a patient but proud bird,'' passed suddenly in February.
In fact, all eight of the birds pardoned by Obama have reportedly moved on to greener pastures.
To be fair, the average turkey lifespan is roughly three to four years and Obama is not the first president with a poor track record in this department.
In 2001, ABC's John Stossel visited the farm where the saved birds had been sent to live out their golden years and found the turkey pen empty.
''We usually just find 'em and they're dead,'' the farmer told him, before explaining that the birds are bred for eating and not retirement.
''Their flesh has grown so fast, and their heart and their bones and their other organs can't catch up,'' he explained.
The somewhat misleading tradition of sparing turkeys dates back to 1963, when President Kennedy sent that year's gift from the National Turkey Federation back to the farm, declaring ''we'll just let this one grow.'' President George H.W. Bush was the first to grant a turkey an official presidential pardon in 1989.
President Obama will continue the tradition next Wednesday, when he will grant two more turkeys their freedom.
Hopefully, they'll have better luck than their predecessors.
SHOWS: World News
Fri, 22 Nov 2013 22:06
Published time: November 22, 2013 19:00AFP Photo / Tim Sloan
Two proposals that could have brought new levels of accountability and transparency to the United States' controversial weaponized drone program were rejected by the House of Representatives on Thursday.
The amendments, both introduced by Rep. Adam Schiff (D-California), were offered as possible provisions to be tacked onto the Intelligence Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2014. The Republican-controlled House Intelligence Committee canned the proposals, however, and a markup of the bill absent those amendments was passed by a voice vote.
Schiff, a 53-year-old lawmaker with nearly two decades of public service under his belt, unsuccessfully proposed amendments that would have required the US intelligence community to annually disclose the number of casualties caused by American drone strikes and install an independent review board to oversee instances when US citizens may be targeted for execution by unmanned aerial vehicles.
Although independent, international watchdog groups have attributed US drone strikes with thousands of casualties, including many involving innocent civilians, the White House has rarely acknowledged the largely covert operations.
During a May 2013 address at the National Defense University, US President Barack Obama said the nation was entering a new phase with regards to it counterterrorism measures, and that, ''before any strike is taken, there must be near certainty that no civilians will be killed or injured, the highest standard we can set.''
''There's a wide gap between US assessments of such casualties and nongovernmental reports,'' the president acknowledged at the time. In a statement on his website this week, Rep. Schiff said the first of two amendments '-- one which mandates the annual reporting of combatant and non-combatant deaths and injuries '--''would help narrow that gap.''
''The production of this report will require minimal resources, but will provide a modest but important measure of transparency and oversight,'' Schiff insisted.
Patrick Boland, a spokesman for Rep. Schiff, confirmed to Reuters on Thursday that that amendment was rejected by a vote of 15-5.
The second proposal offered by the Democrat would have mandated that ''red team'' reports be prepared before a US person is potentially targeted with lethal force, and that those files be eventually declassified a decade later.
''While this or other administration may put in place internal processes, codifying the process would ensure that our commitment to oversight of the incredibly weighty decision to potentially target a US citizen is a common sense reform,'' wrote Schiff. His amendments were introduced roughly two years and one month after Anwar al-Awlaki, a US-born imam with ties to Al-Qaeda, was executed in Yemen by a drone. ''It will serve to increase the confidence in our assessments, and provide an additional measure of transparency through the Intelligence Committees and the Inspector General," the lawmaker said.
That amendment was rejected by the committee as well, according to the congressman's website and a Reuters report, but Schiff's office said he ''plans to continue fighting for these and other reforms as the bill moves to the House Floor and conference with the Senate.''
Days earlier, Schiff had met with Ali Jaber, a 55-year-old Yemeni government engineer who has come to America to demand compensation for the loss of life and property in his village that he blames on US drone strikes.
"It's one thing to read about collateral damage. It's another to talk to someone who lost their brother-in-law and their nephew," Schiff told NBC News after his meeting on Wednesday. "I was struck by the perspective that people in his village go about their lives thinking, at any moment, that if they make the wrong turn, or are in the wrong place at the wrong time, the heavens may open up and it may be the end of their existence."
According to Britain's Bureau of Investigation Journalism, Pres. Obama has authorized at least 326 drone strikes between entering office and the end of last month. And although his administration's propensity to rely on unmanned aircraft has indeed diminished in recent months, Pakistani officials claimed this week that three drone-fired missiles destroyed a compound in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa containing an Islamic school.
Upon news that the House committee completed their markup of next year's intelligence authorization bill, Chairman Mike Rogers issued a statement saluting the ''good, bipartisan work'' involved in crafting the act, which he predicts will increase attention to counterintelligence effort and shape the execution of important national security policies.
''Our nation continues to face violent and changing threats from terrorists and other groups that want to harm Americans and American interests,'' Rep. Dutch Ruppersberger (D-Maryland), a ranking member of the House Intelligence Committee, added in a statement. ''It is the House Intelligence Committee's responsibility to give our intelligence professionals the resources, authorities and capabilities they need to protect our nation, while also conducting effective oversight. This solid, bipartisan bill does that by protecting our national security while also protecting privacy and civil liberties.''
Although Rogers and Ruppersburger's committee failed to advance the Californian's attempt at increasing transparency with regards to America's covert drone wars, the markup they did approve of adds $75 million to address insider threats and provides funding for new counterintelligence positions within the federal government, while at the same time removing more than $130 million from the nation's space budget.
Additionally, the committee passed an amendment requiring the declassification of documents collected by Osama bin Laden's Abbottabad, Pakistan compound during the 2011 raid that ended his life ''to further highlight Al-Qaeda's growth and spread under bin Laden's leadership,'' and no doubt provide more ammo for their argument that secretive drone strikes must continue as is in lieu of a lack of oversight.
Thu, 21 Nov 2013 10:05
BRUSSELS '' Seven EU countries have formed what France calls a ''club'' to produce military drones from 2020 onward.
The scheme was agreed in Brussels on Tuesday (19 November) at a meeting of the European Defence Agency (EDA), the EU's defence think tank, by France, Germany, Greece, Italy, the Netherlands, Poland and Spain.
The group-of-seven's defence ministers signed a ''letter of intent'' tasking the EDA to draw up a study on joint production of Medium Altitude Long Endurance (Male) craft, which can be used to strike military targets or for surveillance of migrant boats in the Mediterranean Sea.
The EDA said in a press release that ''the objective of this community is to exchange information as well as to identify and facilitate co-operation among member states which currently operate or plan to operate RPAS [Remotely Piloted Aircraft Systems].''
The think tank's director, Claude-France Arnould, noted: ''In view of today's constrained financial situation, this effort for defence must be fully efficient which implies co-operation and searching for synergies.''
Another EDA official, Peter Round, told media: ''This is the starting pistol for us to be able to start work on a European RPAS.''
The French defence minister, Jean-Yves Le Drian, said: ''If Europe hopes to maintain a strategic capability, countries must pool their capacities and actions in a pragmatic way.''
He called the group of seven a ''club of drone-using countries.''
It also comes amid a raft of existing European drone projects.
Three European arms firms '' France's Dassualt, Franco-German firm Eads and Italy's Finmeccanica '' agreed in June to launch their own European drone programme.
France, Greece, Italy, Spain, Sweden and Switzerland are working on what they call a ''euro-Ucav,'' or unmanned combat air vehicle, the Neuron, which made a test flight in December 2012.
France and the UK are working on a ''stealth'' drone called Telemos to fly in 2018.
Thu, 21 Nov 2013 09:24
Published time: November 20, 2013 13:18Edited time: November 21, 2013 04:37A model of the 'EuroHawk' unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) (Reuters/Wolfgang Rattay)
France, Germany and other European countries on Tuesday announced the creation of a "drone users club" to go head-to-head against US- and Israeli-made unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) that now dominate the skies.
At a time when aerial-vehicles are radically altering the modern battlefield, Europe finds itself playing catch up in the race to develop what it calls Medium Altitude Long Endurance (MALE) pilotless aircraft.
''If Europe hopes to maintain a strategic capability, countries must pool their capacities and actions in a pragmatic way,'' French Defense Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said after the talks in Brussels.
Referring to the members as the 'drone users club', presently comprised of France, Germany, Greece, Italy, the Netherlands, Poland and Spain, Le Drian said the group would cooperate on a number of technical aspects, including training, certification, logistics, maintenance and the planning for future projects, the defense minister noted.
Membership is open to any of the 28 EU member states that are operating drones or that anticipate to within five years.
Europe has become increasingly dependent on US and Israeli drone technology: France used US drones during its military intervention this year against Islamists in Mali, while Germany uses the Israeli-built Heron 1 drone for reconnaissance purposes in Afghanistan.
European leaders are also looking to develop air-refueling capabilities after EU nations were forced to rely on the US military during the NATO campaign in Libya in 2011.
In response to Europe's lagging behind in what military experts predict is the future of combat, Le Drian said the European Defense Agency has been charged with creating a "European generation" of drones within a decade.
Many aviation experts, pointing to the US military's increased dependence on drones in places like Afghanistan and Pakistan, say the days of piloted fighter aircraft are numbered.
Last year, German Defense Minister Thomas de Maiziere said his country would cooperate with France to develop a new generation of armed aerial vehicles.
"We have a gap in our capabilities that we would like to close," he said.
The European Defense Agency said it will now take into account the costs, technological capabilities and other factors, and draw up a report that could become the cornerstone of a European drone program.
Europe's top three defense companies, EADS, France's Dassault Aviation and Italy's Finmeccanica offered in June to cooperate on the development of a prototype MALE if given the greenlight by Brussels.
However, despite the enthusiasm for this eye-in-the-sky death technology, human rights groups have been sounding the alarm on drone warfare following a rash of civilian deaths in Afghanistan and Pakistan and elsewhere. Last month, Amnesty International issued a report that says US officials responsible for carrying out drone strikes may have to stand trial for war crimes.
The report is based on nine out of 45 drone strikes reported between January 2012 and August 2013 in North Waziristan, a mountainous region of northeast Pakistan where the US drone campaign is most intensive.
The research focused on one particular case '' that of 68-year-old Mamana Bibi, who was killed by a US drone last October while she was working in her garden with her grandchildren.
European leaders will formally approve the projects at an EU summit next month focusing on defense cooperation.
Sun, 24 Nov 2013 00:36
People can classify themselves as heterosexual, homosexual, asexual, metrosexual. There are endless sexual orientations under the sun, and now, pedophilia can be added to the list.
In the fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders(DSM V), the American Psychiatric Association (APA) drew a very distinct line between pedophilia and pedophilic disorder. Pedophilia refers to a sexual orientation or profession of sexual preference devoid of consummation, whereas pedophilic disorder is defined as a compulsion and is used in reference to individuals who act on their sexuality.
APA's decision has given rise to numerous pedophilia-advocacy groups, the chief of them being B4U-ACT, a non-profit grassroots organization based in Maryland. Created in 2003 primarily as a means for ''minor-attracted persons'' to be open about their sexual preferences in a supportive atmosphere, B4U-ACT is now widening the scope of their organization.
According to spokesperson and registered sex offender Paul Christiano, the pedophilia-advocacy group is ''working towards de-stigmatizing the mental health community.'' Christiano explained that negative societal attitudes towards minor-attracted persons ''trickle down to policy-making and the mental health community.''
''Policy-making'' is used chiefly in reference to the sex-offender registry. Christiano is not alone in advocating change within the system. Caitlin Myers, a doctorate student in Sociology here at the University of Southern California, says the registry needs to be ''more senstitive to the nature of crime.'' Myers explained that the chief problem within the sex-offender registry itself is the ''one size fits all'' viewpoint it bears towards sexual offenses. ''There could be a man who committed 20 consecutive rapes and a 19-year-old boy who had sex with his 17-year-old girlfriend and they would be punished in the same manner.''
Change to the system is understandable, yet B4U-ACT's grounds for such change remains murky. When questioned about the most responsible way in which a pedophile could manage his sexual preferences, Christiano answered that while B4U-ACT encouraged minor-attracted persons within the organization to openly acknowledge their feelings and desires, such sexual preferences must remain purely a mental exercise and therefore entirely unconsummated. In other words, pedophiles must be allowed to fantasize about minors, as long as such acts are never consummated.
''B4U-ACT does not condone illegal activity,'' Christiano insisted.
Yet how can we be assured that such behavior remains entirely in the mind and not carried out in the bedroom? Answer: we can't. Myers confirmed that it is ''scientifically impossible to settle the question of whether or not a minor-attracted person will act on their compulsion.''
In an essay written for his senior thesis as a graduatestudent, Christiano argued for the ''sexual autonomy'' of children, citing that children ''should not be left in the dark about their own sexuality.'' With more education about their sexuality, reasoned Christiano, comes more knowledge of boundaries and what they do or don't want.
However, there is an underlying suggestion that with sexual knowledge comes sexual consent. If children were permitted to be more sexually autonomous, would they then be able to fully consent to a sexual relationship or more importantly, a sexual relationship with an adult?
While Myers agrees that open discussion and acknowledgement of sexuality is something our current society is lacking, she emphasizes that children cannot give consent. ''In theory,'' Myers says, ''pedophilia as a practiced sexual orientation walks a thin line. There is no possibility of pedophilia becoming an accepted sexual orientation in current culture.''
According to Christiano, people must be allowed to celebrate sex and sexuality, ''one of the few freely-given pleasures in life.'' The community of minor-attracted persons is, as a whole, ''denied their complexities.''
Thu, 21 Nov 2013 09:18
Earlier this month I discovered that my new LG Smart TV was displaying ads on the Smart landing screen.After some investigation, I found a rather creepy corporate video advertising their data collection practices to potential advertisers. It's quite long but a sample of their claims are as follows:LG Smart Ad analyses users favourite programs, online behaviour, search keywords and other information to offer relevant ads to target audiences. For example, LG Smart Ad can feature sharp suits to men, or alluring cosmetics and fragrances to women.Furthermore, LG Smart Ad offers useful and various advertising performance reports. That live broadcasting ads cannot. To accurately identify actual advertising effectiveness.In fact, there is an option in the system settings called "Collection of watching info:" which is set ON by default. This setting requires the user to scroll down to see it and, unlike most other settings, contains no "balloon help" to describe what it does.At this point, I decided to do some traffic analysis to see what was being sent. It turns out that viewing information appears to be being sent regardless of whether this option is set to On or Off.Here you can clearly see that a unique device ID is transmitted, along with the Channel name "BBC NEWS" and a unique device ID.Here is another example of a viewing info packet.GB.smartshare.lgtvsdp.com POST /ibs/v2.2/service/watchInformation.xml HTTP/1.1Host: GB.ibis.lgappstv.comAccept: */*X-Device-Product:NETCAST 4.0X-Device-Platform:NC4MX-Device-Model:HE_DTV_NC4M_AFAAABAAX-Device-Netcast-Platform-Version:0004.0002.0000X-Device-Country:GBX-Device-Country-Group:EUX-Device-ID:2yxQ5kEhf45fjUD35G+E/xdq7xxWE2ghu0j4an9kbGoNcyWaSsoLgyk8JJoMtjRrYRsVS6mHKy/Zdd6nZp+Y+gK6DVqnbQeDqr16YgacdzKU80sCKwOAi1TwIQov/SlBX-Authentication:YMu3V1dv8m8JD0ghrsmEToxONDI= cookie:JSESSIONID=3BB87277C55EED9489B6E6B2DEA7C9FD.node_sdpibis10; Path=/Content-Length: 460Content-Type: application/x-www-form-urlencoded&chan_name=BBC TWO&device_src_idx=1&dtv_standard_type=2&broadcast_type=2&device_platform_name=NETCAST 4.0_mtk5398&chan_code=251533454-72E0D0FB0A8A4C70E4E2D829523CA235&external_input_name=Antenna&chan_phy_no=&atsc_chan_maj_no=&atsc_chan_min_no=&chan_src_idx=1&chan_phy_no=&atsc_chan_maj_no=&atsc_chan_min_no=&chan_phy_no=47&atsc_chan_maj_no=2&atsc_chan_min_no=2&chan_src_idx=1&dvb_chan_nw_id=9018&dvb_chan_transf_id=4170&dvb_chan_svc_id=4287&watch_dvc_logging=0
This information appears to be sent back unencrypted and in the clear to LG every time you change channel, even if you have gone to the trouble of changing the setting above to switch collection of viewing information off.It was at this point, I made an even more disturbing find within the packet data dumps. I noticed filenames were being posted to LG's servers and that these filenames were ones stored on my external USB hard drive. To demonstrate this, I created a mock avi file and copied it to a USB stick.
This file didn't really contain "midget porn" at all, I renamed it to make sure it had a unique filename that I could spot easily in the data and one that was unlikely to come from a broadcast source.And sure enough, there is was...
Sometimes the names of the contents of an entire folder was posted, other times nothing was sent. I couldn't determine what rules controlled this.I think it's important to point out that the URL that the data is being POSTed to doesn't in fact exist, you can see this from the HTTP 404 response in the next response from LG's server after the ACK.
However, despite being missing at the moment, this collection URL could be implemented by LG on their server tomorrow, enabling them to start transparently collecting detailed information on what media files you have stored.
It would easily be possible to infer the presence of adult content or files that had been downloaded from file sharing sites. My wife was shocked to see our children's names being transmitted in the name of a Christmas video file that we had watched from USB.
So what does LG have to say about this? I approached them and asked them to comment on data collection, profiling of their customers, collection of usage information and mandatory embedded advertising on products that their customers had paid for. Their response to this was as follows:
Thank you for your e-mail.Further to our previous email to yourself, we have escalated the issues you reported to LG's UK Head Office.The advice we have been given is that unfortunately as you accepted the Terms and Conditions on your TV, your concerns would be best directed to the retailer. We understand you feel you should have been made aware of these T's and C's at the point of sale, and for obvious reasons LG are unable to pass comment on their actions.We apologise for any inconvenience this may cause you. If you have any further questions please do not hesitate to contact us again.LG Electronics UK HelpdeskTel: 0844 847 5454Fax: 01480 274 000Email: firstname.lastname@example.orgUK: [premium rate number removed] Ireland: 0818 27 6954Mon-Fri 9am to 8pm Sat 9am-6pmI haven't asked them about leaking of USB filenames due to the "deal with it" nature of the above response but I have no real expectation that their response would be any different.So how can we prevent this from happening? I haven't read the T&Cs but one thing I am sure about is that I own my router and have absolute jurisdiction of any traffic that I allow to pass, so I have compiled an initial list of internet domains that you can block to stop spying and advertising on TVs that we, as customers have actually paid for.ad.lgappstv.comyumenetworks.comsmartclip.netsmartclip.comllnwd.netsmartshare.lgtvsdp.comibis.lgappstv.comThis will free you from seeing ads plastered on your screen and having your viewing habits monitored, whilst it should still allow firmware updates to be applied.(Update: removed llnwd domain, see comments)
Thu, 21 Nov 2013 08:18
This is a deeply technical but potentially very troubling story. Imagine one day you're using the Internet the same way you do every day. Reading the news, shopping, sending email, checking your bank and credit card balances. Maybe even doing some work for your employer.
Typically, but not always, the bits being sent from your computer, tablet or phone will flow from where you are to where they need to be via the most direct route available.
But what if they didn't? What if someone slipped in between you and the various servers you're connecting with and diverted your traffic elsewhere, funneling it through a choke point of their choosing, so they could capture, copy and analyze it? Your data takes some extra '-- and imperceptible '-- milliseconds to get where it's going and ultimately everything you're doing online works just fine. But your traffic has been hijacked by parties unknown and you're none the wiser that it has happened.
In network security circles, this is what's known as a Man-In-The-Middle attack. And for years it has been understood to be possible in theory, but never seen in practice. That changed earlier this year when someone '-- it's unclear who '-- diverted Internet traffic from some 150 cities around the world through networks in Belarus and Iceland.
The troubling disclosure came yesterday from the research company Renesys. The firm specializes in tracking the operational health of global Internet infrastructure. When Internet traffic goes down in one country or another, whether because of a natural disaster or political unrest, Renesys is usually among the first to see it.
The attack '-- and Renesys maintains that it was an attack '-- targeted large Internet carriers in every major city in the U.S. and numerous major cities in Europe and around the world. (See their map here.)
The first incident took place during most of the month of February, when Internet traffic was silently redirected through an Internet service provider called GlobalOneBel, based in the Belarusian capital, Minsk. The targets of these attacks included financial institutions, government agencies and network service providers.
Renesys tracked the attacks as they happened. Here's how its CTO Jim Cowie described one:
Here's an example of a trace from Guadalajara, Mexico, to Washington, D.C., that goes through Moscow and Minsk. Mexican provider Alestra hands it to PCCW for transit in Laredo, Texas. PCCW takes it to the Washington, D.C., metro area, where they would normally hand it to Qwest/Centurylink for delivery.
Instead, however, PCCW gives it to Level3 (previously Global Crossing), who is advertising a false Belarus route, having heard it from Russia's TransTelecom, who heard it from their customer, Belarus Telecom. Level3 carries the traffic to London, where it delivers it to Transtelecom, who takes it to Moscow and on to Belarus. Beltelecom has a chance to examine the traffic, and then sends it back out on the ''clean path'' through Russian provider ReTN. ReTN delivers it to Frankfurt and hands it to NTT, who takes it to New York. Finally, NTT hands it off to Qwest/Centurylink in Washington D.C., and the traffic is delivered.
So if you were in Mexico, sending an email to someone in Washington, D.C., it got diverted in Virginia and sent to London, Moscow and Minsk before taking a return trip through Frankfurt, New York and ultimately to its intended destination. Renesys thinks the chances are pretty good it was read along the way.
It's helpful at this point to understand something called Border Gateway Protocol. It's one of those things that make the Internet work, but is a little hard to get your head around if you don't live with it day to day.
Basically, BGP is a method by which Internet service providers tell the world what other networks they're connected to and how they themselves can be reached. Because the Internet is built for resiliency and reliability, there are usually multiple ways for traffic to get from one place to another, and those routes are published in something called the Global Routing Table.
Imagine the Internet is a long series of intersecting lines of people going in multiple directions, and you can only pass handwritten messages to three or four different people standing next to you, and each of them are in lines headed in different directions. BGP is sort of a way of announcing to the world where you're located in that chain, which people you can reach and which directions they're heading.
But imagine what would happen if one of those three people you can reach lies to you about who they can reach. With no reason to question that information, you would probably pass a message on to them, unaware that it would be handed off to additional actors that might just peek at it before they send it on its way.
That's essentially what Renesys said has been happening here. These attacks occurred throughout February and into March. Then they stopped for awhile.
The attacks resumed in May, and almost right away the choke point switched from Belarus to Iceland. For about five minutes '-- literally '-- traffic was routed through was an Icelandic ISP called Nyherji hf.
Then they stopped again '-- until July. This time, the venue was again in Iceland. Beginning on July 31, traffic from a large VOIP company '-- Renesys wouldn't name it '-- was diverted through an Internet service provider called Opin Kerfi that oddly announced access to 597 different IP blocks versus its usual three.
The result caused routine Internet traffic to take some routes that were so indirect as to be absurd. For a brief time on Aug. 2, data traffic between two providers in Denver didn't just flow across town as it normally would. Instead the bits went to Iceland first, with stops in London, Montreal, New York, Dallas and Kansas City along the way.
So who did it? It's hard to say. I talked to Cowie last night and he didn't seem to have much of an idea. ''We can track whose infrastructure was used to carry out these attacks because they leave their footprints in the global routing table,'' he said. ''Tracing it back to who engineered this attack is another thing entirely.''
The targets of the attack have been notified. The motivation was likely a financial one.
This sort of attack should not happen, Renesys contends. But when it does, it leaves a permanent, indelible mark that is visible to those who know how to look for it. While sometimes these bad traffic routes are advertised in error and by accident '-- someone mistypes a digit in configuring networking equipment '-- when they are sustained and as wide-ranging as this, something bad is likely taking place, Cowie said, something that can and should be stopped.
''If you're watching, this sort of attack is instantly visible to those people who monitor BGP,'' Cowie said. ''But no one is looking.''
While it's a fair bet that some kind of crime was at least attempted if not committed in carrying out these attacks, the legal jurisdictions will be kind of tricky to sort out. The attackers could be anywhere in the world and might have used ISPs in Belarus and Iceland without their knowledge. With possible victims in a variety of countries, prosecution of a crime '-- if one was indeed committed '-- would likely be difficult.
But there is a way to stop this from happening again. Cowie said the really big Internet service providers '-- the ones who resell their traffic to smaller regional and national providers '-- should be watching for when smaller players advertise false routes. ''If big ISPs monitored their customers and filtered their traffic when they advertise these false routes, this would be over. This kind of attack could not occur. '... In each one of these attacks there was someone, usually a very large ISP, who failed to filter.''
''Our motivation is to shed some light on this,'' he said. ''We really want people to start raising their game a bit and start watching out for this.''
Wed, 13 Nov 2013 21:44
Once upon a time, enterprises had a straightforward way to give each employee access to a desktop computer. New employees would join the organization and receive a standard-issue desktop, preconfigured with a common set of tools and applications. This one-size-fits all model was acceptable in the early days of personal computing, but not anymore.
Enterprise IT has been engaged in a balancing act in order to meet the needs of a diverse and enlightened user base. They must protect proprietary corporate data while giving employees the ability to work whenever and wherever they want, while using the desktop or mobile device of their choice.
Our new Amazon WorkSpaces product gives Enterprise IT the power to meet this challenge head-on. You, the IT professional, can now provision a desktop computing experience in the cloud for your users. Your users can access the applications, documents, and intranet resources that they need to get their job done, all from the comfort of their desktop computer, laptop, iPad, or Android tablet.
Let's take a look at the WorkSpaces feature set and use cases. We'll also take a look at it from the viewpoint of an IT professional, and then we'll switch roles and see what it looks like from the user's point of view.
WorkSpaces Feature SetAmazon WorkSpaces provides, as I have already mentioned, a desktop computing experience in the cloud. It is easy to provision and maintain, and can be accessed from a wide variety of client devices.
Each WorkSpaces user can install the client application on the device of their choice. After a quick download, they have access to a complete Windows 7 experience in the cloud, with persistent storage, bundled utilities and productivity applications, and access to files and other resources on the corporate intranet.
The IT professional chooses to supply each user with a given WorkSpaces Bundle. There are four standard bundles. Here are the hardware specifications for each one:
Standard - 1 vCPU, 3.75 GiB of memory, and 50 GB of persistent user storage.Standard Plus - 1 vCPU, 3.75 GiB of memory, and 50 GB of persistent user storage.Performance - 2 vCPU, 7.5 GiB of memory, and 100 GB of persistent user storage.Performance Plus - 2 vCPU, 7.5 GiB of memory, and 100 GB of persistent user storage.All of the bundles include Adobe Reader, Adobe Flash, Firefox, Internet Explorer 9, 7-Zip, the Java Runtime Environment (JRE), and other utilities. The Standard and Performance Plus bundles also include Microsoft Office Professional and Trend Micro Worry-Free Business Security Services. The bundles can be augmented and customized by the IT professional in order to meet the needs of specific users.
Each user has access to between 50 and 100 GB of persistent AWS storage from their WorkSpace (the precise amount depends on the bundle that was chosen for the user). The persistent storage is backed up to Amazon S3 on a regular basis, where it is stored with 99.99999999% durability and 99.99% availability over the course of a year.
Pricing is on a per-user, per-month basis, as follows:
Standard - $35 / user / month.Standard Plus - $50 / user / month.Performance - $60 / month.Performance Plus - $75 / user / month.WorkSpaces Use CasesI believe that you will find many ways to put WorkSpaces to use within your organization after you have spent a little bit of time experimenting with it. Here are a few ideas to get you started:
Mobile Workers - Allow users to access their desktops from iPads, Kindles, and Android tablets so that they can be productive while connected and on-the-go.
Secure WorkSpaces - You can meet stringent compliance requirements and still deliver a managed desktop experience to your users.
Students, Seasonal, and Temporary Workers - Provision WorkSpaces on an as-needed basis so that students, seasonal workers, temporary workers, and consultants can access the applications that they need, then simply terminate the WorkSpace when they leave.
Developers - Provide local and remote developers with the tools that they need to have in order to be productive, while ensuring that source code and other intellectual property are protected.
WorkSpaces for the IT ProfessionalLet's take a look at Amazon WorkSpaces through the eyes of an IT professional tasked with providing cloud desktops to some new employees. All of the necessary tasks can be performed from the WorkSpaces Console:
Start by choosing a WorkSpaces profile:
Add new users by name and email address:
You can provision up to five WorkSpaces at a time. They will be provisioned in less than 20 minutes and invitations will be sent to each user via email.
As the administrator, you can manage all of your organization's WorkSpaces through the console:
WorkSpaces for the UserOk, now let's turn the tables and take a look at Amazon WorkSpaces from the user's point of view!
Let's say that your administrator has gone through the steps that I outlined above and that a new WorkSpace has been provisioned for you. You will receive an email message like this:
The email will provide you with a registration code and a link to the client download. Download the client to your device, enter the registration code, and start using your WorkSpace:
WorkSpaces delivers a Windows 7 desktop experience:
Persistent storage for the WorkSpace is mapped to the D: drive:
WorkSpaces can also be accessed from iPads, Kindles, and Android tablets. Here's the desktop experience on the Kindle:
Behind the ScenesIf you already know a thing or two about AWS, you may be wondering what happens when you start to use Amazon WorkSpaces.
A Virtual Private Cloud (VPC) is created as part of the setup process. The VPC can be connected to an on-premises network using a secure VPN connection to allow access to an existing Active Directory and other intranet resources.
WorkSpaces run on Amazon EC2 instances hosted within the VPC. Communication between EC2 and the client is managed by the PCoIP (PC-over-IP) protocol. The client connection must allow TCP and UDP connections on port 4172, along with TCP connections on port 443.
Persistent storage is backed up to Amazon S3 on a regular and frequent basis.
Preview WorkSpacesYou can register now in order to get access to the WorkSpaces preview as soon as it is available.
Thu, 14 Nov 2013 03:31
Free Network Foundation ## end of header> ## end of carousel_container> ## end of carousel_wrapper> The Free Network Foundation envisions a world where communities build, maintain, and own their own share of the global computer network. If you share our vision...