theodp writes "Illinois Governor Pat Quinn has launched a website and gone social on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube to educate taxpayers on why they must make good on pension promises to state workers. And, in addition to Squeezy the Pension Python, Gov. Quinn is enlisting the help of Khan Academy, the tax-exempt, future-of-education organization funded by tax-free millions from Google, Bill Gates, and others, to help convince taxpayers that a state-pension-promise is a promise. In the Khan Academy video commissioned by the Governor, Illinois Pension Obligations, Sal Khan concedes that the annual annuity payouts for IL state employee retirees do look 'pretty reasonable' — e.g., $43,591 for the average teacher, $117,558 for a judge — but goes on to argue that 'in all fairness, this was promised to these people,' who he speculates 'probably took lower compensation while they were working,' 'probably stayed in the jobs longer,' and 'probably sacrificed other things' to get these 'great benefits.' 'We're delighted to have his [Khan's] help in enlightening Illinois citizens about how the pension problem came to be,' said the Governor. Of course, not everything can be explained in one video — perhaps other contributing factors like 'pension spiking', lobbyists' maneuvers, sweetheart deals, creative job reclassification, golden parachutes, bruising investment losses, and other wacky pension games will be taught in Illinois Pension Obligations II!"
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hypnosec writes "The Pirate Bay's artist promotion platform (the Promo Bay), despite being perfectly legal, is being blocked by several UK Internet service providers including BT, and Virgin Media. The Promo Bay was launched this week as a promotion platform for content creators like filmmakers and musicians enabling them to showcase their talent and work to thousands of people across the web. Even though the idea is novel, The Promo Bay has somehow found itself on a block list alongside the Pirate Bay."
New submitter DJ Jones sent in good news in the attempts to update privacy rights for stored electronic communication. From the article: "The Senate Judiciary Committee on Thursday approved a bill that would strengthen privacy protection for e-mails by requiring law enforcement officials to obtain a warrant from a judge in most cases before gaining access to messages in individual accounts stored electronically. The bill is not expected to make it through Congress this year and will be the subject of negotiations next year with the Republican-led House." The EFF seems pretty happy with the proposed changes, but notes that the bill also reduces the protections of the Video Privacy Protection Act in order to allow Netflix et al to sell your viewing history.
quantr writes with the news that Apple claims that the company "wasn't aware during trial that the foreman of the jury that issued a $1.05 billion verdict against Samsung Electronics Co. was involved in a lawsuit with his former employer, Seagate Technology Inc. 'Samsung asked Apple to disclose when it first learned about the litigation between the jury foreman, Velvin Hogan, and Seagate. Apple responded in a filing yesterday in federal court in San Jose, California. Samsung is attempting to get the Aug. 24 verdict thrown out based on claims the trial was tainted by the foreman's failure during jury selection to tell U.S. District Judge Lucy H. Koh, who presided over the case, that he filed for bankruptcy in 1993 and was sued by Seagate."
jamaicaplain writes "In an extensive look at rebel communications, the New York Times reports that, 'In a demonstration of their growing sophistication and organization, Syrian rebels responded to a nationwide shutdown of the Internet by turning to satellite technology to coordinate within the country and to communicate with outside activists. To prepare, they have spent months smuggling communications equipment like mobile handsets and portable satellite phones into the country.'"
CowboyRobot writes "The ACM has an article describing the history and present of the Great Firewall of China (GFW). 'Essentially, GFW is a government-controlled attacking system, launching attacks that interfere with legitimate communications and affecting many more victims than malicious actors. Using special techniques, it successfully blocks the majority of Chinese Internet users from accessing most of the Web sites or information that the government doesn't like. GFW is not perfect, however. Some Chinese technical professionals can bypass it with a variety of methods and/or tools. An arms race between censorship and circumvention has been going on for years, and GFW has caused collateral damage along the way.'"
hackingbear writes "In China, the whole team of medical staff and their brokers were sentenced to jail yesterday over their involvement in the case of a teenager who sold a kidney to buy an iPhone and iPad. He Wei, who organized the illegal transaction in April 2011, was sentenced to five years' imprisonment by the Beihu District People's Court in Chenzhou City. The court added that the defendants had paid compensation worth more than 1.47 million yuan (~ US $237,000) to Wang. Ministry of Health statistics show that about 1.5 million people in China need transplants, but only 10,000 operations are performed each year."
darthcamaro writes "Unlike every other major browser vendor, Mozilla today does not allow users to have their private mode browser window open at the same time as a regular browser window. That's now set to change. This is a flaw that has been in Bugzilla since 2008 and has been the subject of heated discussion for years."
dcblogs writes "The U.S. Dept. of Energy has set a goal to develop battery and energy storage technologies that are five times more powerful and five times cheaper within five years. DOE is creating a new center at Argonne National Laboratory, at a cost of $120 million over five years, that's intended to reproduce development environments that were successfully used by Bell Laboratories and World War II's Manhattan Project. 'When you had to deliver the goods very, very quickly, you needed to put the best scientists next to the best engineers across disciplines to get very focused,' said U.S. Energy Secretary Stephen Chu, on Friday. The Joint Center for Energy Storage Research isn't designed to seek incremental improvements in existing technologies. This technology hub, according to DOE's solicitation (PDF), 'should foster new energy storage designs that begin with a "clean sheet of paper" — overcoming current manufacturing limitations through innovation to reduce complexity and cost.' Other research labs, universities and private companies are participating in the effort."
An anonymous reader writes "Ars is running an article about a paper written just over a decade ago by four engineers at Microsoft. In it, they talk about the darknet, and how it applies to distributing content online. They correctly predicted the uselessness of DRM: 'In the presence of an infinitely efficient darknet — which allows instantaneous transmission of objects to all interested users — even sophisticated DRM systems are inherently ineffective.' The paper's lead author, Peter Biddle, said he almost got fired over the paper at the time. 'Biddle tried to get buy-in from senior Microsoft executives prior to releasing the paper. But he says they didn't really understand the paper's implications — and particularly how it could strain relationships with content companies — until after it was released. Once the paper was released, Microsoft's got stuck in bureaucratic paralysis. Redmond neither repudiated Biddle's paper nor allowed him to publicly defend it.' The paper itself is available in .DOC format."
coondoggie writes "It seems well past time that the U.S. ditch its $1 bill — considering such a move could save the country somewhere in the neighborhood of $4 billion. But there is much resistance, or perhaps a lack of real consideration of the issue from most people. Watchdogs at the Government Accountability Office this week testified before a Congressional hearing on the topic, and said dollar coins could save $4.4 billion over 30 years (PDF), or an average of about $146 million per year."
Nerval's Lobster writes "A massive outage knocked Syria's Internet offline Nov. 29 — with the exception of five servers implicated in serving malware earlier this year. But the next day, those five servers went dark as well. Internet analytics firm Renesys suggested late Nov. 29 that those five servers were likely offshore. 'Now, there are a few Syrian networks that are still connected to the Internet, still reachable by traceroutes, and indeed still hosting Syrian content,' the company wrote in a blog post. 'These are five networks that use Syrian-registered IP space, but the originator of the routes is actually Tata Communications. These are potentially offshore, rather than domestic, and perhaps not subject to whatever killswitch was thrown today within Syria.' By the morning of Nov. 30, those five servers went offline. 'The last 5 networks belonging to Syria, a set of smaller netblocks previously advertised by Tata Communications, have been torn down and are no longer routed,' Renesys wrote." CloudFlare has a blog post confirming that the Syrian government was responsible for flipping the switch, contrary to their claims. Meanwhile, Anonymous has started targeting the Syrian government's remaining websites and helping to get communications channels flowing out of Syria. Google is reminding people of its Speak2Tweet service, which lets people post to Twitter through voicemail over still-functioning phone lines.
judgecorp writes "The British Pirate Party has been asked by the music business organisation BPI to pull the plug on the Pirate Bay proxy it has been running. The Pirate Party provides a way round the court-ordered ban on ISPs providing connections to the file-sharing site, The Pirate Bay. So far the Pirate Party says the proxy is a 'legitimate route' to the site, but the BPI says the Pirate Bay is 'not above the law.'"
nonprofiteer writes "This is a crazy story. An FBI agent put spyware on his kid's school-issued laptop in order to monitor his Internet use. Before returning the laptop to the school, he tried to wipe the program (SpectorSoft's eBlaster) by having FBI agents scrub the computer and by taking it to a computer repair shop to be re-imaged. It somehow survived and began sending him reports a week later about child porn searches. He winds up busting the school principal for child porn despite never getting a warrant, subpoena, etc. The case was a gift-wrapped present, thanks to spyware. A judge says the principal has no 4th Amendment protection because 1. FBI dad originally installed spyware as a private citizen not an officer and 2. he had no reasonable expectation of privacy on a computer he didn't own/obtained by fraud."
An anonymous reader writes "A Tor Exit node owner is being prosecuted in Austria. As part of the prosecution, all of his electronics have been held by the authorities, including over 20 computers, his cell phone and hard disks. 'During interview with police later on Wednesday, Weber said there was a "more friendly environment" once investigators understood the Polish server that transmitted the illegal images was used by Tor participants rather than by Weber himself. But he said he still faces the possibility of serious criminal penalties and the possibility of a precedent that Tor operators can be held liable if he's convicted.' This brings up the question: What backup plan, if any, should the average nerd have for something like this?"