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Government

Bidding In Government Auction of Airwaves Reaches $34 Billion 68

Posted by samzenpus
from the more-money-more-spectrums dept.
An anonymous reader sends word that the 2014 wireless spectrum license auction has surpassed $34 billion. "A government auction of airwaves for use in mobile broadband has blown through presale estimates, becoming the biggest auction in the Federal Communications Commission's history and signaling that wireless companies expect demand for Internet access by smartphones to continue to soar. And it's not over yet. Companies bid more than $34 billion as of Friday afternoon for six blocks of airwaves, totaling 65 megahertz of the electromagnetic spectrum, being sold by the F.C.C. That total is more than three times the $10.5 billion reserve price that the commission put on the sale, the first offering of previously unavailable airwaves in six years."
Earth

Prospects Rise For a 2015 UN Climate Deal, But Likely To Be Weak 130

Posted by samzenpus
from the too-little dept.
An anonymous reader writes with news that a global climate deal seems to be on the horizon. "A global deal to combat climate change in 2015 looks more likely after promises for action by China, the United States and the European Union, but any agreement will probably be too weak to halt rising temperatures. Delegates from almost 200 nations will meet in Lima, Peru, from Dec. 1-12 to work on the accord due in Paris in a year's time, also spurred by new scientific warnings about risks of floods, heatwaves, ocean acidification and rising seas. After failure to agree a sweeping U.N. treaty at a summit in Copenhagen in 2009, the easier but less ambitious aim now is a deal made up of 'nationally determined' plans to help reverse a 45 percent rise in greenhouse gas emissions since 1990."
Space

Spaceport America Loses $1.7 Million Due To Virgin Galactic Delays 46

Posted by samzenpus
from the stop-the-bleeding dept.
An anonymous reader writes "Officials of New Mexico's Spaceport Authority were grilled by lawmakers about the now vacant Spaceport America following the deadly crash of Virgin Galactic's SpaceShipTwo. The spaceport was built as a hub for commercial space flights. Its immediate future is uncertain since Virgin Galactic has indefinitely pushed back the launch date of its space tourism flights. From the article: "Christine Anderson, the authority's executive director, learned last week that she might have to do so one legislator at a time. Anderson was called out by Rep. Patricia Lundstrom, D-Gallup, for handing members of an interim legislative finance committee a presentation filled mostly with photographs. Lundstrom and other lawmakers wanted hard numbers and more details about what plan the authority has to get past the Virgin Galactic mishap and get the taxpayer-financed spaceport off the ground. 'It just made all of us look like idiots, like we don't do our homework,' Anderson said. 'That's not the case whatsoever.'"
Privacy

Judge Unseals 500+ Stingray Records 147

Posted by Soulskill
from the going-for-the-high-score dept.
An anonymous reader sends this excerpt from Ars Technica: A judge in Charlotte, North Carolina, has unsealed a set of 529 court documents in hundreds of criminal cases detailing the use of a stingray, or cell-site simulator, by local police. This move, which took place earlier this week, marks a rare example of a court opening up a vast trove of applications made by police to a judge, who authorized each use of the powerful and potentially invasive device

According to the Charlotte Observer, the records seem to suggest that judges likely did not fully understand what they were authorizing. Law enforcement agencies nationwide have taken extraordinary steps to preserve stingray secrecy. As recently as this week, prosecutors in a Baltimore robbery case dropped key evidence that stemmed from stingray use rather than fully disclose how the device was used.
Encryption

Another Hint For Kryptos 50

Posted by timothy
from the it's-about-where-to-get-local-donuts dept.
rastos1 writes Four years ago Jim Sanborn, the sculptor who created the wavy metal pane called Kryptos that sits in front of the CIA in Langley revealed a clue for breaking the last remaining part of the encrypted message on Kryptos. The clue was: BERLIN. But the puzzle resisted all all decryption efforts and is still unsolved. To honor the 25th anniversary of the Wall's demise and the artist's 69th birthday this year, Sanborn has decided to reveal a new clue to help solve his iconic and enigmatic artwork. It's only the second hint he's released since the sculpture was unveiled in 1990 and may finally help unlock the fourth and final section of the encrypted sculpture, which frustrated sleuths have been struggling to crack for more than two decades. The next word in the sequence is: "clock."
EU

The EU Has a Plan To Break Up Google 312

Posted by Soulskill
from the better-get-on-that-don't-be-evil-stuff-quick dept.
An anonymous reader points out a report at the Financial Times (paywalled) which says the European Parliament is preparing to call for the break-up of Google. According to the draft seen by the FT, a potential solution to ongoing anti-trust concerns with Google is "unbundling search engines from other services." The article notes, "The European parliament has no formal power to split up companies, but has increasing influence on the commission, which initiates all EU legislation. The commission has been investigating concerns over Google’s dominance of online search for five years, with critics arguing that the company’s rankings favour its own services, hitting its rivals’ profits. Unbundling cannot be excluded, said Andreas Schwab, a German MEP who is one of the motion’s backers."
Privacy

Top NSA Official Raised Alarm About Metadata Program In 2009 108

Posted by Soulskill
from the should-have-listened dept.
An anonymous reader sends this report from the Associated Press: "Dissenters within the National Security Agency, led by a senior agency executive, warned in 2009 that the program to secretly collect American phone records wasn't providing enough intelligence to justify the backlash it would cause if revealed, current and former intelligence officials say.

The NSA took the concerns seriously, and many senior officials shared them. But after an internal debate that has not been previously reported, NSA leaders, White House officials and key lawmakers opted to continue the collection and storage of American calling records, a domestic surveillance program without parallel in the agency's recent history.
Government

Obama's Immigration Order To Give Tech Industry Some, Leave 'Em Wanting More 179

Posted by Soulskill
from the everybody-gets-something-and-nobody-gets-everything dept.
theodp writes: "The high-tech industry," reports the Washington Post's Nancy Scola, "will have at least two things to be happy about in President Obama's speech outlining executive actions he'll take on immigration. The president plans to grant the tech industry some, but not nearly all, of what it has been after in the immigration debate. The first is aimed at increasing the opportunity for foreign students and recent graduates from U.S. schools to work in high-tech jobs in the United States. And the second is aimed at making it easier for foreign-born entrepreneurs to set up shop in the United States. According to the White House, Obama will direct the Department of Homeland Security to help students in the so-called STEM fields — science, technology, engineering and mathematics — by proposing, per a White House fact sheet released Thursday night, to "expand and extend" the controversial Optional Practical Training program that now allows foreign-born STEM students and recent graduates remain in the United States for up to 29 months. The exact details of that expansion will be worked out by the Department of Homeland Security as it goes through a rulemaking process."
United States

Greenwald Advises Market-Based Solution To Mass Surveillance 145

Posted by samzenpus
from the you-get-what-you-demand dept.
Nicola Hahn writes In his latest Intercept piece Glenn Greenwald considers the recent defeat of the Senate's USA Freedom Act. He remarks that governments "don't walk around trying to figure out how to limit their own power." Instead of appealing to an allegedly irrelevant Congress Greenwald advocates utilizing the power of consumer demand to address the failings of cyber security. Specifically he argues that companies care about their bottom line and that the trend of customers refusing to tolerate insecure products will force companies to protect user privacy, implement encryption, etc. All told Greenwald's argument is very telling: that society can rely on corporate interests for protection. Is it true that representative government is a lost cause and that lawmakers would never knowingly yield authority? There are people who think that advising citizens to devolve into consumers is a dubious proposition.
Privacy

Amnesty International Releases Tool To Combat Government Spyware 94

Posted by timothy
from the doing-the-right-thing dept.
New submitter Gordon_Shure_DOT_com writes Human rights charity Amnesty International has released Detekt, a tool that finds and removes known government spyware programs. Describing the free software as the first of its kind, Amnesty commissioned the tool from prominent German computer security researcher and open source advocate Claudio Guarnieri, aka 'nex'. While acknowledging that the only sure way to prevent government surveillance of huge dragnets of individuals is legislation, Marek Marczynski of Amnesty nevertheless called the tool (downloadable here) a useful countermeasure versus spooks. According to the app's instructions, it operates similarly to popular malware or virus removal suites, though systems must be disconnected from the Internet prior to it scanning.
Supercomputing

Does Being First Still Matter In America? 233

Posted by timothy
from the by-jingo dept.
dcblogs writes At the supercomputing conference, SC14, this week, a U.S. Dept. of Energy offical said the government has set a goal of 2023 as its delivery date for an exascale system. It may be taking a risky path with that amount of lead time because of increasing international competition. There was a time when the U.S. didn't settle for second place. President John F. Kennedy delivered his famous "we choose to go to the moon" speech in 1962, and seven years later a man walked on the moon. The U.S. exascale goal is nine years away. China, Europe and Japan all have major exascale efforts, and the government has already dropped on supercomputing. The European forecast of Hurricane Sandy in 2012 was so far ahead of U.S. models in predicting the storm's path that the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration was called before Congress to explain how it happened. It was told by a U.S. official that NOAA wasn't keeping up in computational capability. It's still not keeping up. Cliff Mass, a professor of meteorology at the University of Washington, wrote on his blog last month that the U.S. is "rapidly falling behind leading weather prediction centers around the world" because it has yet to catch up in computational capability to Europe. That criticism followed the $128 million recent purchase a Cray supercomputer by the U.K.'s Met Office, its meteorological agency.
The Courts

US Gov't Seeks To Keep Megaupload Assets Because Kim Dotcom Is a Fugitive 164

Posted by timothy
from the them-as-has-gits-by-law dept.
mrspoonsi writes with this excerpt from Billboard: 'On Tuesday, the U.S. Department of Justice told a Virginia federal judge that Kim Dotcom and cohorts have no business challenging the seizure of an estimated $67 million in assets because the Megaupload founder is evading prosecution. The government brought criminal charges against Dotcom in early 2012, but he's been holed up in New Zealand awaiting word on whether he'll be extradited. The government got antsy and this past July, brought a civil complaint for forfeiture in rem, a maneuver to firmly establish a hold over money from bank accounts around the world, luxury cars, big televisions, watches, artwork and other property allegedly gained by Megaupload in the course of crimes. Dotcom is fighting the seizures by questioning the government's basis for asserting a crime, saying "there is no such crime as secondary criminal copyright infringement," as well as challenging how the seized assets are tied to the charges against Dotcom. But according to the U.S. government, Dotcom doesn't get the pleasure of even making the arguments. In a motion to strike, the government cites the doctrine of fugitive disentitlement, which bars a person from using the resources of the court if that person is aware of prosecution and is evading it.
United States

Number of Coders In Congress To Triple (From One To Three) 158

Posted by samzenpus
from the small-steps dept.
jfruh writes Last weekend, Tim Berners-Lee said that the UK needs more members of parliament who can code. Well, the most recent U.S. congressional election has obliged him on this side of the Atlantic: the number of coders in Congress has tripled, with the downside being that their numbers have gone from one to three.
Republicans

Republicans Block Latest Attempt At Curbing NSA Power 428

Posted by Soulskill
from the and-everybody-will-have-forgotten-about-it-in-two-years dept.
Robotron23 writes: The latest attempt at NSA reform has been prevented from passage in the Senate by a margin of 58 to 42. Introduced as a means to stop the NSA collecting bulk phone and e-mail records on a daily basis, the USA Freedom Act has been considered a practical route to curtailment of perceived overreach by security services, 18 months since Edward Snowden went public. Opponents to the bill said it was needless, as Wall Street Journal raised the possibility of terrorists such as ISIS running amok on U.S. soil. Supporting the bill meanwhile were the technology giants Google and Microsoft. Prior to this vote, the bill had already been stripped of privacy protections in aid of gaining White House support. A provision to extend the controversial USA Patriot Act to 2017 was also appended by the House of Representatives.
Government

Sweden Considers Adding "Sexism" Ratings To Video Games 635

Posted by samzenpus
from the including-everyone dept.
An anonymous reader writes A government-funded agency in Sweden is considering creating special labels for video games based on whether or not the games' portrayals of women are sexist. From the article: "Avoiding sexism and gender stereotypes in video games produced in Sweden will become a key goal for the association, which has been given a 272,000 kronor ($36,672) grant by Sweden's government-funded innovation agency, Vinnova. Inspired by the Bechdel test, which looks at whether fictional films or books feature at least two women talking about a topic other than men, Dataspelsbranchen will work with several game developers to analyze how Swedish video games portray female characters and gender issues.
United States

State Department Joins NOAA, USPS In Club of Hacked Federal Agencies 54

Posted by timothy
from the more-funding-next-year dept.
Hot on the heels of recent cyber attacks on NOAA, the USPS, and the White House, the New York Times reports that the U.S. State Department has also suffered an online security breach, though it's not clear who to blame. “This has impacted some of our unclassified email traffic and our access to public websites from our main unclassified system,” said one senior State Department official, adding that the department expected its systems to be up soon. ....The breach at the White House was believed to be the work of hackers in Russia, while the breaches at NOAA and the Postal Service were believed to the work of hackers inside China. Attributing attacks to a group or nation is difficult because hackers typically tend to route their attack through compromised web servers all over the world. A senior State Department official said the breach was discovered after “activity of concern” was detected on portions of its unclassified computer system. Officials did not say how long hackers may have been lurking in those systems, but security improvements were being added to them on Sunday.
Supercomputing

US DOE Sets Sights On 300 Petaflop Supercomputer 127

Posted by timothy
from the who-is-this-we-paleface? dept.
dcblogs writes U.S. officials Friday announced plans to spend $325 million on two new supercomputers, one of which may eventually be built to support speeds of up to 300 petaflops. The U.S. Department of Energy, the major funder of supercomputers used for scientific research, wants to have the two systems – each with a base speed of 150 petaflops – possibly running by 2017. Going beyond the base speed to reach 300 petaflops will take additional government approvals. If the world stands still, the U.S. may conceivably regain the lead in supercomputing speed from China with these new systems. How adequate this planned investment will look three years from now is a question. Lawmakers weren't reading from the same script as U.S. Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz when it came to assessing the U.S.'s place in the supercomputing world. Moniz said the awards "will ensure the United States retains global leadership in supercomputing." But Rep. Chuck Fleischmann (R-Tenn.) put U.S. leadership in the past tense. "Supercomputing is one of those things that we can step up and lead the world again," he said.
Censorship

Former Police Officer Indicted For Teaching How To Pass a Polygraph Test 328

Posted by timothy
from the government-hates-competition dept.
George Maschke (699175) writes On Friday afternoon, the U.S. Department of Justice announced the indictment (2.6 mb PDF) of Douglas Gene Williams, a 69-year-old former Oklahoma City police polygraphist turned anti-polygraph activist for teaching two undercover agents posing as federal law enforcement applicants how to pass (or beat) a polygraph test. Williams offers instruction on how to pass polygraph tests through his website, Polygraph.com, which remains online. Marisa Taylor of McClatchy, who has been covering polygraph policy issues for several years, has written an informative report. This appears to be a case where an individual was targeted for criminal prosecution to suppress speech that the U.S. government dislikes. AntiPolygraph.org, which may also have been the target of an attempted entrapment, has a commentary.
Government

Comcast Kisses-Up To Obama, Publicly Agrees On Net Neutrality 258

Posted by timothy
from the wormtongues-all-around dept.
MojoKid writes Comcast is one of two companies to have earned Consumerist's "Worst Company in America" title on more than one occasion and it looks like they're lobbying for a third title. That is, unless there's another explanation as to how the cable giant can claim (with straight face) that it's in agreement with President Barack Obama for a free and open Internet. Comcast issued a statement of its own saying they back the exact same things, it just doesn't want to go the utility route. Comcast went on to list specific bullet points that they're supposedly in wholehearted agreement with, such as: Free and open Internet. We agree — and that is our practice. No blocking. We agree — and that is our practice. No throttling. We agree — and that is our practice. Increased transparency. We agree — and that is our practice. No paid prioritization. We agree — and that is our practice. Really? Comcast conveniently fails to address the giant elephant in the room whose name is Netflix. Earlier this year, Netflix begrudgingly inked a multi-year deal with Comcast in which the streaming service agreed to pay a toll to ensure faster delivery into the homes of Comcast subscribers, who prior to the deal had been complaining of frequent buffering and video degradation when watching content on Netflix. Comcast would undoubtedly argue that it's not a paid fast lane, but it's hard to see the deal as anything other than that.
The Almighty Buck

The Downside to Low Gas Prices 554

Posted by timothy
from the speak-for-yourself-hummer-buyers dept.
HughPickens.com writes Pat Garofalo writes in an op-ed in US News & World Report that with the recent drop in oil prices, there's something policymakers can do that will offset at least some of the negative effects of the currently low prices, while also removing a constant thorn in the side of American transportation and infrastructure policy: Raise the gas tax. The current 18.4 cent per gallon gas tax has not been raised since 1993, making it about 11 cents per gallon today, in constant dollars. Plus, as fuel efficiency has gotten better and Americans have started driving less, the tax has naturally raised less revenue anyway. And that's a problem because the tax fills the Highway Trust Fund, which is, not to put too fine a point on it, broke so that in recent years Congress has had to patch it time and time again to fill the gap. According to the Tax Policy Center's Howard Gleckman, if Congress doesn't make a move, "it will fumble one of those rare opportunities when the economic and policy stars align almost perfectly." The increase can be phased in slowly, a few cents per month, perhaps, so that the price of gas doesn't jump overnight. When prices eventually do creep back up thanks to economic factors, hopefully the tax will hardly be noticed.

Consumers are already starting to buy the sort of gas-guzzling vehicles, including Hummers, that had been going out of style as gas prices rose; that's bad for both the environment and consumers, because gas prices are inevitably going to increase again. According to data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration, taxes last year, even before the current drop in prices, made up 12 percent of the cost of a gallon of gasoline, down from 28 percent in 2000. And compared to other developed countries, US gas taxes are pretty much a joke. While we're at it, an even better idea, as a recent report from the Urban Institute makes clear, would be indexing the gas tax to inflation, so this problem doesn't consistently arise. "The status quo simply isn't sustainable, from an infrastructure or environmental perspective," concludes Garofalo. "So raise the gas tax now; someday down the line, it will look like a brilliant move."

Little known fact about Middle Earth: The Hobbits had a very sophisticated computer network! It was a Tolkien Ring...

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