Author Topic: News Items Members Wish to Post For Viewing and Comment  (Read 1319 times)

Golden Oxen

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News Items Members Wish to Post For Viewing and Comment
« on: April 25, 2014, 08:08:21 am »
Any news item members present that they feel would be of interest to members, they feel are important, or just plain interesting and looking for comments are welcome at this area of the Forum. 

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Golden Oxen

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While realizing it is just rhetoric, the newer tone of it has me worried. :-[

US warns Putin on Ukraine: Stop 'provocation' or face 'grave' consequences

Secretary of State John Kerry said that if Russian President Putin held to his current course on Ukraine, it would be an 'expensive mistake.' In Tokyo, President Obama said: 'We are ready to act.'


Secretary of State John Kerry speaks about the situation with Ukraine and Russia from the State Department in Washington, Thursday, April 24, 2014. Kerry is accusing Russia of failing to live up to commitments it made to ease the crisis in Ukraine.
(Jacquelyn Martin/AP)

By Howard LaFranchi, Staff writer / April 24, 2014 at 9:30 pm EDT

With Ukraine moving to the brink of open confrontation with Russia, and Moscow ordering fresh military exercises on the countries' common border, Secretary of State John Kerry issued a blunt warning to Russian President Vladimir Putin Thursday evening: Reverse his course of “provocation” or face “grave” and “costly” consequences from a united international community.

"The window to change course is closing,” said Secretary Kerry, as he laid out a list of covert and destabilizing actions he said Russia has pursued against Ukraine over the past week.

“If Russia continues in this direction, it will not just be a grave mistake, it will be an expensive mistake," he concluded.

Kerry’s statement, delivered in the State Department briefing room, echoed comments earlier Thursday from President Obama in Tokyo and, earlier in the week, from Vice President Joe Biden in Kiev.

Mr. Obama, at the start of a four-nation tour of Asia, raised the prospect of tougher economic sanctions from the West and said, “We are ready to act.” He was responding to comments from Mr. Putin Thursday warning the Ukrainian government that it faces “consequences” for moving against pro-Russia separatists in eastern Ukraine.

Appearing to presage deeper Russian intervention, Putin said Russia would “have to react to such developments.” Ukrainian security forces attempting to clear roadblocks and take back barricaded government buildings in eastern Ukraine killed as many as five separatists Thursday.

Kerry’s statement, the most detailed and direct of those coming from US leaders, sounded like a final warning shot.

Kerry said Russia’s destabilizing activities and thinly disguised covert actions in Eastern Ukraine had started even as the US, Russia, the European Union, and Ukraine were meeting in Geneva last week to forge a stabilization plan to end the Ukraine standoff. But while the government in Kiev was doing everything it had agreed to under the plan, Kerry said, Russia was stepping up activities designed to undermine and provoke the Kiev government.

Offering copious examples of the subversion he was referring to – disciplined paramilitary groups in new but unmarked uniforms occupying Ukraine government buildings, arrests in Ukraine of undercover Russian intelligence agents, the kidnappings and murders of local Ukrainian officials and journalists – Kerry said, “We’ve seen this movie before – mostly recently in Crimea.”

Insisting that the world is not being fooled by Russia’s “propaganda” and “President Putin’s fantasy” of peaceful but besieged Russian-speaking protesters, Kerry said, “Russia is stoking the very instability they say they want to quell.”

Putin and other Russian officials have mocked the impact of existing or potential Western sanctions on the Russian economy. But Kerry offered statistics suggesting the Russian economy is already hurting from sanctions imposed over the Crimea annexation. He also cited some Russian officials acknowledging the blow sanctions have already struck, in particular to foreign investment and the confidence of foreign investors in considering Russia in the current climate.

But some analysts are considerably less confident than Kerry appears to be that the “international community” will be united in imposing a new round of broader sanctions on sectors of the Russian economy.

Experts considering sanctions at a Washington forum sponsored by the Center for Strategic and International Studies Thursday underscored that Western Europe remains reliant on Russian energy and is likely to find it difficult to replace that energy in time for next winter.

Others note that the European Union is not united on imposing broad sector sanctions, and that some Europeans could be sympathetic to a Russian claim, if it moved into Ukraine, that it acted to restore order where a civil war threatened.

“I can imagine the Russians claiming they acted to stop the unrest and reestablish order, and if they take that to the Germans and maybe some others, that could fall on some sympathetic ears, and we could see some breaks in a united Western front,” says Nikolas Gvosdev, a specialist in Russian security affairs at the Naval War College in Newport, R.I. “That would put Obama in a tough spot.”

Golden Oxen

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Keystone XL pipeline moving forward ... in Canada's eyes

Keystone XL pipeline decision was delayed again in the US. But Canada's new energy minister says he's confident the controversial Keystone XL pipeline will eventually win Obama's approval.

A group of ranchers, farmers, and indigenous leaders set up an encampment on the National Mall in Washington earlier this year to protest against the Keystone XL pipeline.
(J. Scott Applewhite/AP/File)

  By Euan Rocha, Reuters / April 27, 2014 at 11:39 pm EDT

Canada remains confident Washington will ultimately approve the Keystone XL pipeline to the U.S. Gulf Coast, two prominent cabinet ministers said on Friday, adding that the latest U.S. delay is political and not based on environmental concerns.

In his first public remarks on the controversial project, the country's new energy minister, Greg Rickford, said he hoped the Obama administration will "depoliticize" its decision on Keystone XL and give it the green light.

"On the Keystone, we're still very hopeful ... that this will go ahead sooner rather than later, and it will simply add to the economic benefits of pipeline transmission of energy products," Rickford told reporters after a speech in the Toronto suburb of Mississauga on Friday.

"Obviously we hope sooner rather than later that this is depoliticized, if you will, and that the communities along the pipeline, which include Canada and the United States, can reap the tremendous economic benefits of Keystone," he said.

Rickford was reacting to Washington's move last week to further delay a decision on whether to approve TransCanada Corp's $5.4 billion Keystone XL project, which would transport crude from the Alberta oil sands and northern U.S. states to the U.S. Gulf Coast.

No U.S. decision on the proposed pipeline is now likely until after the midterm elections in November.

By linking to refiners in the Gulf Coast, the 1,200-mile (1,900-km) pipeline would provide a boost to the oil sands of the western province of Alberta, where heavy oil is abundant but requires the burning vast amounts of fossil fuels to extract.

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The project has galvanized the environmental movement, which says consuming carbon fuel to extract oil sands crude will worsen climate change.

Environmentalists opposed to Keystone are part of U.S. President Barack Obama's liberal-leaning base and approval of the project now might have resulted in Obama's Democrats losing votes in the Nov. 4 congressional elections.

The oil industry argues projects such as Keystone can reduce U.S. reliance on Middle East oil, while allowing the United States to partner with one of its closest allies, Canada.

The State Department said last week the delay was to extend the period for government agencies to comment on the project, citing a need to wait until the Nebraska Supreme Court settles a dispute over what path the pipeline should take.

Rickford was appointed to his new portfolio last month and his main mandate is to win support forKeystone as well as other pipelines within Canada.

Finance Minister Joe Oliver, who was Rickford predecessor as energy minister and who aggressively lobbied in the United States for Keystone XL, told an audience in the Canadian oil industry capital ofCalgary on Friday that the government "will never give up on Alberta".

"We will continue to advocate for Keystone until it is approved, as we will advocate for other environmentally responsible projects in the national interest," he said.

Oliver slammed what he called "powerful and well-funded Americans" who have opposed oil sands development and the pipeline, without naming anyone in particular.

California billionaire Tom Steyer, a donor to the Democrats, is spending tens of millions of dollars to boost environmentally friendly U.S. candidates and has personally asked the president to reject theKeystone pipeline.

"On the merits, they have picked the wrong target," Oliver said, arguing that U.S. coal-fired electricity emits more greenhouse gases than the oil sands.

"The Keystone decision was political. Everything is in place for a positive national interest determination but politics intervened," he said.

Golden Oxen

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When can cops search cellphones? Supreme Court to hear cases.

The US Supreme Court will hear two cases Tuesday that deal with police searching an arrestee's cellphone without a warrant. Lower courts have disagreed on whether that is constitutional.
People walk on the steps of the US Supreme Court in Washington on Saturday April 26. Two Supreme Court cases about police searches of cellphones without warrants present vastly different views of the ubiquitous device. Is it a critical tool for a criminal or is it an American’s virtual home?
(Jacquelyn Martin/AP)
 By Warren Richey, Staff writer / April 28, 2014 at 8:06 pm EDT

The US Supreme Court on Tuesday takes up two cases testing whether the police, after placing someone under arrest, are free to examine the full contents of the arrestee’s cellphone without first obtaining a search warrant.

Two statistics illustrate the broad national implications of a ruling by the high court.

    Ninety percent of Americans own a cell phone.
    Roughly 12 million Americans are arrested each year.

The case arrives at the court at a time of growing national unease about secret government programs designed to collect and store massive amounts of information about Americans through various forms of digital surveillance.

But the case also arises at a time of continuing concern about the threat from terrorism and crime. Warrantless cellphone searches can help quickly solve crimes and, perhaps, save lives.

“This court has long confirmed that officers possess ‘unqualified authority’ to search the person of an arrestee and any objects or containers found on his person for evidence of a crime,” US Solicitor General Donald Verrilli wrote in his brief to the court.

He said such searches are justified by important interests of law enforcement in gathering evidence of crime during the crucial period following an arrest.

If officers don’t act swiftly, the digital content of a cellphone could be concealed or destroyed during the extra time it would take to obtain a warrant from a neutral judge.

Others say there is no reason law enforcement officials couldn’t obtain a warrant before conducting any search of the contents of a cellphone.

Once seized, the phone could be disabled by removing the battery and placing it in a device to shield it from outside transmissions. That would secure the phone and any crime-revealing content for the hour or two it would take to justify to a judge that the cellphone search was not an unreasonable invasion of the phone owner’s privacy.

The Obama administration and the California Attorney General’s Office are urging the court to endorse a bright-line rule that would allow police to search the full content of any cellphone, tablet, or laptop computer being carried by anyone arrested by authorities for any reason.

Critics of this approach say cellphones, particularly so-called smart phones, and other electronic devices increasingly hold or provide access to the most private details of a person’s life – including personal photos, videos, messages, names of friends and associates, banking and financial information, and medical records, among others. 

“The government asks this court to transform the search-incident-to-arrest exception to the Fourth Amendment’s warrant requirement into a blanket rule that would allow police carte blanche access to this information as a matter of right,” said Judith Mizner of the Boston Federal Defender Office in her brief to the court.

She said such a ruling would grant local, state, and federal authorities a power “that is virtually limitless and makes no distinction between a weapon, a bag, a cigarette pack, a cell phone, a tablet, a laptop computer, or any other item a person may carry.”

“Under the government’s all-encompassing view, everyone arrested with a cell phone or tablet computer is automatically subject to a search of any and all aspects of their lives contained in that personal electronic device – regardless of the purpose of the arrest,” Ms. Mizner wrote.

“The Fourth Amendment does not authorize such an unprecedented ability to pry into the most private matters of any person arrested for any violation of law,” she said.

Stanford Law professor Jeffrey Fisher said in his brief that the Framers of the Constitution included a prohibition against unreasonable searches in the Bill of Rights to prevent “general warrants” that had authorized British authorities in colonial America to enter a home and examine the owner’s private papers for evidence of a crime.

“Searching through a smart phone’s text, photo, and video files would be the modern equivalent of such a general search,” he wrote.

“Americans use smart phones to generate and store a vast array of their most sensitive thoughts, communications, and expressive material,” he added.

“Because the core purpose of the Fourth Amendment has always been to safeguard such personal and professional information from exploratory searches, this court should hold that even when officers seize smart phones incident to lawful arrests, they may not search the phones’ digital contents without first obtaining a warrant,” Professor Fisher said.

The high court is examining the issue through the lens of two criminal cases; a state prosecution of an alleged criminal gang member in San Diego, and a federal prosecution of an alleged crack **** dealer in Boston.

In the Boston case, Brima Wurie was arrested after a Boston police officer watched him complete an apparent drug sale. While in custody at the police station, officers noticed one of Mr. Wurie’s two cellphones received repeated calls from a number identified as “my house.”

Investigators accessed the phone’s call log to obtain the phone number for “my house.” They used a reverse directory to identify an address in South Boston associated with the phone number.

The officers then obtained a warrant to search the South Boston location. There they found crack ****, marijuana, cash, and a firearm with ammunition.

Wurie was convicted and sentenced to 22 years in prison. His lawyer challenged the conviction on grounds that the police conducted an illegal search of Wurie’s cellphone.

A federal appeals court agreed. In vacating a portion of his conviction, the judges rejected a government argument that the warrantless search of Wurie’s cellphone was justified by the need to prevent the destruction of data on the phone while he was in police custody.

The appeals court said the government’s concern was merely theoretical and that it did not outweigh the “significant privacy implications inherent in cell phone data searches.”

The other case involves David Riley, a suspected San Diego criminal gang member.

Mr. Riley was stopped by police for driving with expired tags and a suspended license. While impounding his car, police discovered two concealed firearms.

Riley was placed under arrest. After seizing and examining his cellphone, the arresting officer noticed several text entries suggesting to the officer that Riley was associated with a criminal gang.

The officer notified a detective who specializes in gang investigations. The detective then conducted a more detailed examination of the contents of Riley’s phone and found photos, video, and text information that police said linked Riley to a shooting incident three weeks earlier.

Based in large part on the information obtained from the phone, Riley was charged and convicted of assault with a semiautomatic firearm and attempted murder. He was also found guilty of committing a crime for the benefit of a criminal street gang. He was sentenced to 15 years to life in prison.

A state appeals court upheld the conviction based on an earlier ruling by the California Supreme Court that police are entitled to conduct a warrantless search of items and containers found on an individual during an arrest – including a cellphone.

Critics of the ruling say that the rationale for allowing police to conduct a warrantless search of items found during an arrest is based on two prime law enforcement interests – to protect officer safety by locating any potential weapons and to preserve any evidence of crime.

Neither justification applies to a search of the contents of a cellphone they say.

“Unlike physical items inside a container, the digital contents of a smart phone are categorically incapable of threatening officer safety,” Fisher says.

“And once the police have seized and secured a smart phone, there is no risk that the arrestee might destroy or alter its digital content,” he said.

Fisher said any threat that a third party might seek to alter the contents of a seized cellphone could be defeated by preventing the phone from receiving any signal during the time it takes to decide to obtain a search warrant.

The California Attorney General’s Office defends the police practice of searching cellphones without a warrant. “The law has long recognized that it is reasonable for police to search an individual they arrest, and to seize and examine personal effects discovered during such a search,” California Deputy Attorney General Christine Levingston Bergman wrote in her brief to the court.

“This categorical approach provides clear guidance and a practical rule for operation in the field,” she said.

She said seizing a cellphone and examining the contents was not substantially different from a police officer searching the wallet, address book, or personal papers being carried by a person at the time of arrest.

“While technology has increased the amount of information an individual may practically choose to carry, neither the form nor the volume of the information at issue here provides a sound basis for redrawing clearly established Fourth Amendment lines, or reveals any special of unjustified invasion of [an individual’s] privacy interests,” Ms. Bergman wrote.

“Here the facts reflect only solid police work leading to a sound and just result,” she said.

In his brief, Solicitor General Verrilli noted that arrestees have a diminished expectation of privacy and should not benefit by using of high-tech devices.

“Evidence of crime should not be insulated from traditional review because the arrestee maintains it in a technologically sophisticated form,” Verrilli said.

The cases are Riley v. California (13-132), and US v. Wurie (13-212).

A decision is expected by late June.

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  Pro-Russian activists march with riot shields during a pro-Ukrainian rally in the eastern city of Donetsk, Ukraine. Marko Djurica/Reuters

Golden Oxen

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Google will no longer data mine student e-mail accounts

After a lawsuit concerning privacy of students using Google's suite of education apps gained traction, the tech company announced it would end its practice of data-mining its education-specific apps.

 By Karis Hustad

posted April 30, 2014 at 5:54 pm EDT

Good news: Google will no longer sell ads based on information gleaned from its suite of education products.

Wait, they were doing that?

It’s no secret that the technology company in Mountainview, Calif., makes money off ad revenue, often through analyzing e-mail and search content. But the lines become a bit more blurred when it comes to education-specific products, as those protesting Google’s practice say this violates state and federal laws. In response, the search engine has halted data scanning on its “Apps for Education” products.

The practice came to light through a lawsuit filed by California students against Google. The students say the company’s practice of data-mining education apps, such as Gmail, is against the Family Education Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA), which protects the confidentiality of student information. Since they were required to use a school-specific Gmail, they were never were given the chance to opt-out of Google’s data-mining practices.

Google’s Apps for Education are Google products specifically designed for specific educational institutions, and can be used from kindergarten through college. The apps include Gmail, Google Docs, Calendar, and Google Drive. More than 30 million students, educators, and administrators use these tools.

Previously, Google scanned e-mails for information, though it maintains that it did not include advertisements on Apps for Education products. Protesters still worried that information taken from these products could be used to target advertisements or spread confidential data about students in the future.

“Who knows what ... Google is doing with that information, and who knows what problems it could cause for that child in the future,” says Bradley Shear, a social-media and digital-privacy lawyer based in Bethesda, Md., to Education Week. “Years ago, it might have been put in a filing cabinet, but it wouldn’t be tagged to the child forever.”

However, Bram Brout, director of Google for Education, wrote a blog post on Wednesday announcing an end to the data-mining process. Specifically, these are the changes, according to Mr. Brout:

        We’ve permanently removed the "enable/disable” toggle for ads in the Apps for Education Administrator console. This means ads in Apps for Education services are turned off and administrators no longer have the option or ability to turn ads in these services on.
        We’ve permanently removed all ads scanning in Gmail for Apps for Education, which means Google cannot collect or use student data in Apps for Education services for advertising purposes.

Brout also says the company is taking steps to remove the practice from its business and government-specific apps, as well as a free version of the Apps.

“We know that trust is earned through protecting their privacy and providing the best security measures,” he writes.

Golden Oxen

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    What is happening in Donetsk is by the classic book on how to wipe out an economy. The banking system has shut down. The banks simply have said it is too dangerous for their staff to work. The only way to get any money is using a bank card but that will soon run out. Ukraine’s biggest bank, Privatbank, says the situation in the eastern cities of Donetsk and Lugansk has reached a critical point that is too dangerous for staff to go to work. ATM and branch services have been shut down. Elderly who relied upon pensions from the state just do not know what will happen now.

This is a warning of what can happen in the middle of an economic crisis in the modern era. With everyone relying upon government handouts and the dwindling supply of actual real physical paper money (cash), we can easily end up in a situation of barter.

Golden Oxen

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   8 May 2014 Last updated at 06:54 ET

Tech giants urge rethink of net neutrality changes

More than 100 technology companies have written to the US Federal Communication Commission (FCC), opposing potential changes to net neutrality rules.

The FCC is considering allowing internet service providers (ISPs) to charge content providers to prioritise their traffic.

Google, Facebook, Twitter and Amazon warn that such a move represents a "grave threat to the internet".

One FCC commissioner has called for a delay to the vote, due on 15 May.

Net neutrality - the premise that all internet traffic should be treated equally - has been a cornerstone of the web for many years.

But with the growth of bandwidth-hungry services such as Netflix, ISPs have increasingly asked for the right to charge a fee for carrying such data at high speed on their networks.

A landmark court case in February, in which Verizon successfully challenged the FCC's right to stop it charging such fees, pushed the regulator into a major rethink of its rules.

Rather than enshrining the principle of net neutrality, leaked reports suggest the FCC will allow ISPs to strike such deals as long as they act "in a commercially reasonable manner".

In the letter, tech companies, ranging from three-person start-ups to the biggest names on the web, made clear their dismay at the feared U-turn.

"We write to express our support for a free and open internet," it said.

"The innovation we have seen to date happened in a world without discrimination.

"Instead of permitting individualised bargaining and discrimination, the commission's rules should protect users and internet companies on both fixed and mobile platforms against blocking, discrimination and paid prioritisation."

The letter urged the commission to "take the necessary steps to ensure that the internet remains an open platform".
Street protests

More than a million people have signed petitions to the FCC calling for it to abandon plans to allow a tiered internet.

A handful of protesters have gathered outside FCC headquarters in Washington, promising to camp there until the 15 May vote.

And a group of net firms and civil liberty groups have called on the FCC to reclassify broadband companies as "telecommunication services", which would give it the authority to impose net-neutrality rules on them.

One of the FCC's four commissioners, Jessica Rosenworcel, has called for the vote to be delayed by at least a month.

She said: "Rushing headlong into a rulemaking next week fails to respect the public response".

But an FCC spokesman said the vote would go ahead as planned.

"Moving forward will allow the American people to review and comment on the proposed plan without delay, and bring us one step closer to putting rules on the books to protect consumers and entrepreneurs online," he added.