Several readers sent word that California State Senator Leland Yee was arrested today. He's accused of conspiring to traffic guns and commit wire fraud, to defraud citizens of honest services, and bribery. The complant (PDF) also names 25 other defendants. Yee is known for pushing legislation that would ban the sale of violent video games to minors. "Federal prosecutors also allege Yee agreed to perform official acts in exchange for the money, including one instance in which he introduced a businessman to state legislators who had significant influence over pending medical marijuana legislation. In exchange, the businessman -- who was actually an undercover FBI agent -- agreed to donate thousands to Yee's campaign fund, according to the indictment. The indictment also describes an August 2013 exchange in which [former school board president Keith Jackson] told an undercover officer that Yee had an arms trafficking contact. Jackson allegedly said Yee could facilitate a meeting for a donation."
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SternisheFan writes with this news from the Washington Post: "In an extraordinary public accusation, the head of the Senate Intelligence Committee declared on Tuesday that the CIA interfered with and then tried to intimidate a congressional investigation into the agency's possible use of torture in terror probes during the Bush administration. The CIA clandestinely removed documents and searched a computer network set up for lawmakers, said Sen. Dianne Feinstein in a long and biting speech on the Senate floor. In an escalating dispute with an agency she has long supported, she said the CIA may well have violated criminal laws and the U.S. Constitution."
colinneagle writes "Speaking at the SXSW Conference recently, Dr. Peter W. Singer, director of the Center for 21st Century Security and Intelligence, recalled one U.S. official who was 'about to negotiate cybersecurity with China' asking him to explain what the term 'ISP' (Internet Service Provider) means. This wasn't the only example of this lack of awareness. 'That's like going to negotiate with the Soviets and not knowing what "ICBM" means,' Dr. Singer said. 'And I've had similar experiences with officials from the UK, China and Abu Dhabi.' Similarly, Dr. Singer recalled one account in which Janet Napolitano, the Secretary of the U.S. Homeland Security Department from 2009 to 2013, admitted that she didn't use email 'because she just didn't think it was useful.' 'A Supreme Court justice also told me "I haven't got round to email yet" — and this is someone who will get to vote on everything from net neutrality to the NSA negotiations,' Dr. Singer said."
Nerval's Lobster writes "President Obama's 2012 re-election campaign relied on a sophisticated data-analytics platform that allowed organizers and volunteers to precisely target potential donors and voters. The centerpiece of that effort was Project Narwhal, which brought voter information—steadily accumulated since Obama's 2008 campaign—onto a single platform accessible to a growing number of campaign-related apps. The GOP has only a few short years to prepare for the next Presidential election cycle, and the party is scrambling to build an analytics system capable of competing against whatever the Democrats deploy onto the field of battle. To that end, the Republican National Committee (RNC) has launched Para Bellum Labs, modeled after a startup, to produce digital platforms for election analytics and voter engagement. Is this a genuine attempt to infuse the GOP's infrastructure with data science, or merely an attempt to show that the organization hasn't fallen behind the Democratic Party when it comes to analytics? Certainly the "Welcome to Para Bellum Labs" video posted by the RNC gives the impression of a huge office staffed with data scientists and programmers. However, the creation of a muscular digital ecosystem hinges on far more than building a couple of apps. Whatever the GOP rolls out, it'll face a tough opponent in the Democratic opposition, which will almost certainly emulate the robust IT infrastructure that the Obama campaign instituted in 2012 (not to mention Obama's massive voter and donor datasets). From that perspective, Para Bellum Labs might face the toughest job in politics."
First time accepted submitter AdamnSelene writes "Forbes reports on a National Republican Congressional Committee sanctioned campaign worthy of the NSA: fake candidate websites that use identical or similar pictures and color schemes to solicit donations to defeat the Democratic candidate. The Tampa Bay Times reports that the NRCC initially refused to refund the contribution from a Tampa Bay doctor who caught onto the scam, and he had to contact his credit card company to challenge the charges. The National Journal reports that the NRCC-sponsored effort may run afoul of Federal Election Commission regulations, though it expects that the bipartisan FEC will be toothless when it comes to enforcement. However, I have to wonder whether this is finally a good enough reason to use the DMCA and file take-down notices against the faux websites. Perhaps the candidates could solve this themselves, and get a judgement for copyright infringement so absurdly large that it puts the NRCC out of business?" Some sites along these lines might be dirtier than the ones here illustrated, which seem to fit pretty well into the broad world of snarky and cutting political ads; Dr. Ray Bellamy, the Tampa Bay donor mentioned above, intended to give money to candidate Alex Sink, but evidently didn't notice this line in bold print, just above the "Donate" button: "Make a contribution today to help defeat Alex Sink and candidates like her." Note that, as the Tampa Bay Times' article mentions, this kind of site isn't limited to Republicans, either.
New submitter litehacksaur111 writes "Lawmakers are introducing the Open Internet Preservation Act (PDF) which aims to restore net neutrality rules enforced by the FCC before being struck down by the DC appeals court. Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA) said, 'The Internet is an engine of economic growth because it has always been an open platform for competition and innovation. Our bill very simply ensures that consumers can continue to access the content and applications of their choosing online.' Unfortunately, it looks unlikely the bill will make it through Congress. 'Republicans are almost entirely united in opposition to the Internet rules, meaning the bill is unlikely to ever receive a vote in the GOP-controlled House.'"
cold fjord writes "The Hill reports, 'Senate Intelligence Committee Chairwoman Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) predicted Sunday that lawmakers who favored shutting down the bulk collection of telephone metadata would not be successful in their efforts as Congress weighs potential reforms to the nation's controversial intelligence programs. "I don't believe so," Feinstein said during an appearance on NBC's Meet the Press (video). "The president has very clearly said that he wants to keep the capability So I think we would agree with him. I know a dominant majority of the — everybody, virtually, except two or three, on the Senate Intelligence Committee would agree with that." ... "A lot of the privacy people, perhaps, don't understand that we still occupy the role of the Great Satan. New bombs are being devised. New terrorists are emerging, new groups, actually, a new level of viciousness," Feinstein said. "We need to be prepared. I think we need to do it in a way that respects people's privacy rights."'"
Hugh Pickens DOT Com writes "Lauran Neergaard writes at the Christian Science Monitor that doctors are warning that if Congress cuts food stamps, the federal government could be socked with bigger health bills because over time the poor wind up seeking treatment in doctors' offices or hospitals as a result. 'If you're interested in saving health care costs, the dumbest thing you can do is cut nutrition,' says Dr. Deborah Frank of Boston Medical Center, who founded the Children's HealthWatch pediatric research institute. 'People don't make the hunger-health connection.' Food stamps feed 1 in 7 Americans and cost almost $80 billion a year, twice what it cost five years ago. The doctors' lobbying effort comes as Congress is working on a compromise farm bill that's certain to include food stamp cuts. Republicans want heftier reductions than do Democrats in yet another partisan battle over the government's role in helping poor Americans. Conservatives say the program spiraled out of control as the economy struggled and the costs are not sustainable. However research from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and The Pew Charitable Trusts estimated that a cut of $2 billion a year in food stamps could trigger in an increase of $15 billion in medical costs (PDF) for over the next decade. Other research shows children from food-insecure families are 30 percent more likely to have been hospitalized for a range of illnesses. 'Food is medicine,' says Massachusetts Representative Jim McGovern, who has led the Democrats' defense of the food stamp program. 'Critics focus almost exclusively on how much we spend, and I wish they understood that if we did this better, we could save a lot more money in health care costs.'"
biobricks writes "New York Times reports on how the county council on the Big Island of Hawaii banned GMOs. 'Urged on by Margaret Wille, the ban’s sponsor, who spoke passionately of the need to “act before it’s too late,” the Council declined to form a task force to look into such questions before its November vote. But Mr. Ilagan, 27, sought answers on his own. In the process, he found himself, like so many public and business leaders worldwide, wrestling with a subject in which popular beliefs often do not reflect scientific evidence. At stake is how to grow healthful food most efficiently, at a time when a warming world and a growing population make that goal all the more urgent.'"
Hugh Pickens DOT Com writes "Reuters reports that thirty-three percent of Americans reject the idea of evolution and believe that 'humans and other living things have existed in their present form since the beginning of time' rather than evolving gradually through a process of natural selection, as described by Charles Darwin more than 150 years ago. Although this percentage remained steady since 2009, the last time Pew asked the question, there was a growing partisan gap on whether humans evolved. The poll showed 43 percent of Republicans and 67 percent of Democrats say humans have evolved over time, compared with 54 percent and 64 percent respectively four years ago. 'The gap is coming from the Republicans, where fewer are now saying that humans have evolved over time,' says Cary Funk. Among religious groups, white evangelical Protestants topped the list of those rejecting evolution, with 64 percent of those polled saying they believe humans have existed in their present form since the beginning of time."
retroworks writes "The MIT Materials Systems Laboratory, EU's StEP, and the U.S. National Center for Electronics Recycling (NCER) have released a study, Quantitative Characterization of Domestic and Transboundary Flows of Used Electronics, that analyses collection and export of obsolete electronics generated in the United States. It is the fifth study to debunk a widely reported statistic that '80 percent' of used electronics are dumped abroad. Last year, the United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP) released studies of 279 sea containers, seized as 'e-waste' in African ports of Lagos and Accra, and found 91% of the goods were reused. According to the UN, most of the junk at Chinese and African dumps was generated in African cities (Lagos had 6.9M households with TV in 2007, World Bank). The UNEP study also bolsters African traders claims that used product purchased from nations with strong warranty laws outperform 'affordable' new product imported from Asia. Where did the 'original' widely reported statistic of 80% dumping (see /. slashdot dumping story) originate? Last May, in response to an editorial by Junkyard Planet author Adam Minter in Bloomberg, the source of dumping accusations (Basel Action Network) claimed 'never, ever' to have cited the statistic. The new studies have not slowed USA legislation aimed at banning trade of used electronics for repair, reuse and recycling overseas. This month, the Coalition for American Electronics Recycling (CAER.org) announced 13 republicans and 5 democrats had signed on to support the bill 2791 to criminalize exports of non-shredded displays, cell phones, and computers. Interpol announced a new 'Project Eden' targeting African geek importers in November 2013." In related news, First time accepted submitter Accordion Noir writes: "Virginia tech researchers and a team from the US, Canada, and Russia have released a study indicating that the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991 may have had positive environmental results in fish. Reduced mercury releases from mining in areas effected by the economic disarray in Russia led fish to have lower levels of methyl mercury than those in rivers on the Norwegian border or in Canada, where mining continued."
An anonymous reader writes with this excerpt from The Daily Dot:"On Monday evening, a bill aimed at thwarting the production and distribution of plastic 3-D printed weapons was blocked by Senate Republicans. ... The debate over the new legislation centered around the 1988 Undetectable Firearms Act, which bans the production and distribution of weapons that skirt 'walk through metal detectors.' The act has been renewed on two occasions since its passage. It was due to expire again on the 9th of December. The House voted to renew the bill last week. The rise of 3-D printing has made this year's renewal more complicated in the Senate. Many lawmakers, particularly Democrats, feel the current Undetectable Firearms Act inadequately addresses the rising threat posed by printed plastic weapons."
sl4shd0rk writes "Remember when the ex-cable lobbyist Tom Wheeler was appointed to the FCC chair back in May of 2013? Turns out he's currently gunning for Internet Service Providers to be able to 'favor some traffic over other traffic.' It would set a dangerous precedent, considering the Open Internet Order in 2010 forbade such action if it fell under unreasonable discrimination. The bendy interpretation of the 2010 order is apparently aimed somewhat at Netflix, as Wheeler stated: 'Netflix might say, "I'll pay in order to make sure that my subscriber might receive the best possible transmission of this movie."'"
SonicSpike writes with this snippet from The Guardian: "As the technology to print 3D firearms advances, a federal law that banned the undetectable guns is about to expire. The New York senator Chuck Schumer says he is seeking an extension of the law before it expires on 9 December. Schumer said the technology of so-called 3D printing has advanced to the point where anyone with $1,000 and an internet connection can access the plastic parts that can be fitted into a gun. Those firearms cannot be detected by metal detectors or x-ray machines. Schumer says that means anyone can download a gun cheaply, then take the weapons anywhere, including high-security areas. The Democrat is pushing the extension along with Senators Patrick Leahy of Vermont and Bill Nelson of Florida. The effort was announced on Sunday."
Funksaw writes "In a political op-ed on his blog, long time Slashdot reader and contributor Brian Boyko (the guy who did that animated Windows 8 video) — now a candidate for state representative — explains how lobbyists from car dealerships successfully banned Tesla Motors from selling cars in Texas. From the article: 'Tesla Motors doesn't just present a case study of why a lack of campaign finance reform blocks meaningful reform on the issues that Democrats care about, like climate change and health care. A lack of campaign finance reform blocks reforms on both the Left and the Right. Here's the big elephant in the room I'd like to point out to all the "elephants" in the room: With a Republican-controlled legislature, a Republican executive, and many conservatives in our judiciary, why the hell don't we have free markets in Texas? Isn't it the very core of economic-conservative theory that the invisible hand of the free market determines who gets what resources? Doesn't the free market have the ability to direct resources to where they can most efficiently be used? I'm not saying the conservatives are right in these assumptions; but I am saying that our broken campaign finance system makes a mockery of them.'"
Frosty P writes "Congressman Rush D. Holt, a New Jersey Democrat, has proposed legislation (summary, full text) that would prohibit the agency from installing 'back doors' into encryption, the electronic scrambling that protects e-mail, online transactions and other communications. Representative Holt, a physicist, said Friday that he believed the NSA was overreaching and could hurt American interests, including the reputations of American companies whose products the agency may have altered or influenced. 'We pay them to spy,' Mr. Holt said. 'But if in the process they degrade the security of the encryption we all use, it's a net national disservice.'"
v3rgEz writes "The days of anonymous commenting on The Huffington Post are numbered. Founder Arianna Huffington said in a question-and-answer session with reporters in Boston Wednesday that the online news site plans to require users to comment on stories under their real names, beginning next month. 'Freedom of expression is given to people who stand up for what they’re saying and not hiding behind anonymity,' Huffington said."
dcblogs writes "The self-described nerds of President Obama's presidential campaign last year are back using big data analytics, this time to help Newark Mayor Cory Booker achieve a landside primary win Tuesday in the New Jersey Democratic primary for a vacant U.S. Senate seat. The data scientists from Obama and Romney campaigns recently formed their own consulting businesses within months of each other. The chief data scientist for Romney's campaign, Alex Lundry, co-founded Deep Root Analytics. He gives credit to the Obama campaign's data effort in 2012. But since last year's election, "what you are seeing is a flurry of activity on the right to make sure that we not only catch them, but surpass them," Lundry said. Meanwhile, the co-founder of BlueLabs, Chris Wegrzyn, a senior member of Obama's 2012 campaign analytics department, says last year was turning point for big data analytics in elections. "Usually the nerds in the back room don't warrant a great deal of attention, especially in politics," said Wegrzyn, "but the world is changing.""
MarkWhittington writes "Two House Democrats, Reps. Donna Edwards (D-Md.) and Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-Texas), have proposed a bill called Apollo Lunar Landing Legacy Act, H.R. 2617 (PDF), that would establish the Apollo Lunar Landing Sites National Historical Park at all the Apollo lunar landing sites, according to a story in The Hill. 'The park would be comprised of all artifacts left on the surface of the moon from the Apollo 11 through 17 missions. The bill says these sites need to be protected because of the anticipated increase in commercial moon landings in the future.'"
turbosaab writes "The Obama administration has quietly notified insurers that a computer system glitch will limit penalties that companies may charge smokers under the new healthcare law. The underlying reason for the limitation is another provision in the health care law that says insurers can't charge older customers more than three times what they charge the youngest adults in the pool. The government's computer system has been unable to accommodate the two. So younger smokers and older smokers must be charged the same penalty, or the system will kick it out. A fix will take at least a year to put in place."