Hugh Pickens DOT Com writes "Josh Gerstein writes on Politico that President Barack Obama told Chris Matthews in an interview recorded for MSNBC's 'Hardball' that he'll be reining in some of the snooping conducted by the NSA, but he did not detail what new limits he plans to impose on the embattled spy organization. 'I'll be proposing some self-restraint on the NSA. And...to initiate some reforms that can give people more confidence,' said the President who insisted that the NSA's work shows respect for the rights of Americans, while conceding that its activities are often more intrusive when it comes to foreigners communicating overseas. 'The NSA actually does a very good job about not engaging in domestic surveillance, not reading people's emails, not listening to the contents of their phone calls. Outside of our borders, the NSA's more aggressive. It's not constrained by laws.' During the program, Matthews raised the surveillance issue by noting a Washington Post report on NSA gathering of location data on billion of cell phones overseas. 'Young people, rightly, are sensitive to the needs to preserve their privacy and to retain internet freedom. And by the way, so am I,' responded the President. 'That's part of not just our First Amendment rights and expectations in this country, but it's particularly something that young people care about, because they spend so much time texting and-- you know, Instagramming.' With some at the NSA feeling hung out to dry by the president, Obama also went out of his way to praise the agency's personnel for their discretion. 'I want to everybody to be clear: the people at the NSA, generally, are looking out for the safety of the American people. They are not interested in reading your emails. They're not interested in reading your text messages. And that's not something that's done. And we've got a big system of checks and balances, including the courts and Congress, who have the capacity to prevent that from happening.'"
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snydeq writes "The U.S. House of Representatives has passed the Innovation Act, dealing trolls a severe blow despite opposition from universities looking to protect patents, InfoWorld's Simon Phipps reports. The act cleared the House of Representatives with an overwhelming majority of 325 to 91 despite opposition from the organizations most likely to feed new patents to the trolls. 'So bravo to the Innovation Act. It's far from perfect, as the EFF documents and as I commented before the holiday. But it's a step in the right direction, and the tidal surge of support it's seeing suggests legislators' appetite for proper patent reform is finally growing strong enough for them to contemplate substantial change.'"
An anonymous reader writes "I have been trying to make the move to the Seattle, WA area. I liked the weather, the nature, the scenery and the tech environment. However, for whatever reason it seems like interviews are hard to come by. As a MS Stack software developer in LA, I barely had to do anything and recruiters always come knocking, either via LinkedIn or from past connections. Not to mention in general I got phone interviews for easily .8 of the positions I applied for. I wanted to finally make the move and fulfill a live long dream to live in Seattle. So I have been applying for positions in the greater Seattle, WA (King County) area. So far the ratio of positions applied to phone interviews is a dismal .1. Which is terrible considering the economy was much worse when I was actively looking for job in LA. Something isn't right because I am still getting offers for interviews here in SoCal, but not much from where I really wanted to be. What could I be doing wrong? Why such a contrast? Is the IT market in Seattle in poor shape? Or may be I just lack the proper connections in a new area? Am I just being screened out immediately for not being local? Or is it the prevalence of bigger corporations vs. smaller startups? And frankly as nice as the city is I can't move unless there's a healthy IT market to thrive by. I hope someone can point me in the right direction."
tramp writes "The National Security Agency is gathering nearly 5 billion records a day on the whereabouts of cellphones around the world, according to top-secret documents and interviews with U.S. intelligence officials, enabling the agency to track the movements of individuals — and map their relationships — in ways that would have been previously unimaginable. Of course it is 'only metadata' and absolutely not invading privacy if you ask our 'beloved' NSA." Pretty soon, the argument about whether you have in any given facet of your life a "reasonable expectation of privacy" may take on a whole new meaning. Also at Slash BI.
binarstu writes "Suzanne Nossel, writing for CNN, reports that 'a survey of American writers done in October revealed that nearly one in four has self-censored for fear of government surveillance. They fessed up to curbing their research, not accepting certain assignments, even not discussing certain topics on the phone or via e-mail for fear of being targeted. The subjects they are avoiding are no surprise — mostly matters to do with the Middle East, the military and terrorism.' Yet ordinary Americans, for the most part, seem not to care: 'Surveillance so intrusive it is putting certain subjects out of bounds would seem like cause for alarm in a country that prides itself as the world's most free. Americans have long protested the persecution and constraints on journalists and writers living under repressive regimes abroad, yet many seem ready to accept these new encroachments on their freedom at home.'"
Nerval's Lobster writes "The state of Oregon blames Oracle for the failures of its online health exchange. The health-insurance site still doesn't fully work as intended, with many customers forced to download and fill out paper applications rather than sign up online; Oracle has reportedly informed the state that it will sort out the bulk of technical issues by December 16, a day after those paper applications are due. 'It is the most maddening and frustrating position to be in, absolutely,' Liz Baxter, chairwoman of the board for the online exchange, told NPR. 'We have spent a lot of money to get something done—to get it done well—to serve the people in our state, and it is maddening that we can't seem to get over this last hump.' Oregon state officials insist that, despite payments of $43 million, Oracle missed multiple deadlines in the months leading up to the health exchange's bungled launch." (Read more, below.)
Charliemopps writes "For 20 years the password for the U.S. nuclear arsenal was '00000000.' Kennedy instituted a security system on all nuclear warheads to prevent them from being armed by someone unauthorized. It was called PAL, and promised to secure the entire US arsenal around the world. Unfortunately for Kennedy (and I guess, the whole world) U.S. military leadership was more concerned about delaying a launch than securing Armageddon. They technically obeyed the order but then set the password to 8 Zeros, or '00000000'."
The much-discussed health care finance sign-up website HealthCare.gov has benefited from the flurry of improvements that have been thrown at it in the last several weeks. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid spokesman Aaron Albright told Fox News Saturday that "[w]ith the scheduled upgrades last night and tonight, we're on track to meet our stated goal for the site to work for the vast majority of users." CMM spokeswoman Julie Bataille. "said the installation of new servers Friday night helped improved the response times and error rates, even with heavier-than-usual weekend traffic." If you've used the site this weekend, what has your experience been like?
Jah-Wren Ryel writes "In 2012, Canadian Ellen Richardson was hospitalized for clinical depression. This past Monday she tried to board a plane to New York for a $6,000 Caribbean cruise. DHS denied her entry, citing supposedly private medical records listing her hospitalization. From the story: '“I was turned away, I was told, because I had a hospitalization in the summer of 2012 for clinical depression,’’ said Richardson, who is a paraplegic and set up her cruise in collaboration with a March of Dimes group of about 12 others.'"
v3rgEz writes "Wish you were a little more organized? Have trouble finding that archived contract when you actually need it? Don't feel too bad: The National Security Agency has the same problem, claiming that its contract database is stored manually and impossible to search by topic, category, or even by vendor in most cases."
Hugh Pickens DOT Com writes, quoting USA Today "The NASDAQ has topped 4000 for the first time in 13 years, but much has changed since then. ... Tech investors in 2000 were right about the possibilities of the Internet and mobile computing. But they were dead wrong about which companies would be in the vanguard ... The recovery of the NASDAQ has been a complex tale of creative destruction, where old companies that once fueled the index have been pushed aside by new players. Back in 2000, Microsoft, Cisco Systems, Intel, Oracle, and Sun accounted for 8.9%, 8.5%, 7.1%, 3.6% and 2.6%, respectively, of the value of the NASDAQ composite. Today, companies that were just starting out or didn't even exist — think Google, Amazon, and Facebook — are in the top 10, accounting for 4.7%, 2.7% and 1.5% of NASDAQ's value. Microsoft, Cisco and Intel's weight has fallen sharply. Apple, which wasn't in the top 10 in 2000, is a behemoth at 7.9%. So is the NASDAQ enjoying a long overdue catch-up with the rest of the market, or is the broad market overpriced, with the NASDAQ being pulled along for the ride? 'The reality is that the only thing that's the same from Nasdaq 4000 in 1999 and Nasdaq 4000 in 2013,' says Doug Sandler, 'is the number 4000.'"
Dega704 writes with news that Edward Snowden is believed to have a collection of highly sensitive classified documents that will be released in the event he is detained, hurt, or killed. According to Reuters, "The data is protected with sophisticated encryption, and multiple passwords are needed to open it, said two of the sources, who like the others spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss intelligence matters. The passwords are in the possession of at least three different people and are valid for only a brief time window each day, they said. The identities of persons who might have the passwords are unknown." These details have caused several security experts to express skepticism, but multiple sources, including Glenn Greenwald, believe Snowden has not released all of the documents he appropriated. "U.S. officials and other sources said only a small proportion of the classified material Snowden downloaded during stints as a contract systems administrator for NSA has been made public. Some Obama Administration officials have said privately that Snowden downloaded enough material to fuel two more years of news stories." Whether or not it's true, U.S. and U.K. officials clearly believe it, which can only serve to protect Snowden.
theodp writes " I hope my father dies soon," Dilbert creator Scott Adams wrote Saturday in a frustrated, angry, and poignant blog post. 'My father, age 86, is on the final approach to the long dirt nap (to use his own phrase). His mind is 98% gone, and all he has left is hours or possibly months of hideous unpleasantness in a hospital bed. I'll spare you the details, but it's as close to a living Hell as you can get. If my dad were a cat, we would have put him to sleep long ago. And not once would we have looked back and thought too soon. Because it's not too soon. It's far too late. His smallish estate pays about $8,000 per month to keep him in this state of perpetual suffering. Rarely has money been so poorly spent. I'd like to proactively end his suffering and let him go out with some dignity. But my government says I can't make that decision. Neither can his doctors. So, for all practical purposes, the government is torturing my father until he dies.' Adams also had harsh words for those who would oppose assisted suicide, 'I don't want anyone to misconstrue this post as satire or exaggeration. So I'll reiterate. If you have acted, or plan to act, in a way that keeps doctor-assisted suicide illegal, I see you as an accomplice in torturing my father, and perhaps me as well someday. I want you to die a painful death, and soon. And I'd be happy to tell you the same thing to your face.' His father passed a few hours after Adams wrote his screed. Challenged later by the SF Chronicle's Debra J. Saunders, an opponent of assisted suicide, Adams stood firm on his earlier words. So, can Adams succeed in convincing the U.S. where Dr. Jack failed?"
vikingpower writes "The Justice Department has all but concluded it will not bring charges against WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange for publishing classified documents because government lawyers said they could not do so without also prosecuting U.S. news organizations and journalists, according to U.S. officials." That "all but" probably wouldn't feel all that comforting if this announcement applied to me.
sciencehabit writes "A premier science museum in North Carolina has sparked controversy by refusing to show an hour long film about climate change and rising sea levels. The museum may be in a bit of a delicate position. It is part of a state agency, the North Carolina Department of Environment and Natural Resources. The state government has been perceived as hostile to action on climate change; last year, the legislature passed a bill forbidding the state coastal commission from defining rates of sea-level rise for regulation before 2016."
schwit1 writes with a short excerpt from The Cable "The United States and its key intelligence allies are quietly working behind the scenes to kneecap a mounting movement in the United Nations to promote a universal human right to online privacy, according to diplomatic sources and an internal American government document obtained by The Cable. American representatives have made it clear that they won't tolerate such checks on their global surveillance network." A leaked memo containing U.S. suggestions for changes to the ICCPR includes gems like (referring to intercepting communications) "Move 'may threaten' from before 'the foundations of a democratic [society]...' to before 'freedom of expression.' We need to clarify that privacy violations could 'interfere with' freedom of expression and avoid the inaccurate suggestion that all privacy violations are violations of freedom of expression." The U.S. changes are pretty much directed at making dragnet surveillance of non-citizens technically legal.
First time accepted submitter windwalker13th writes "Recently the New York Times ran an article highlighting the pull that a State Board in Texas holds over that state and rest of the Nation. Because of the unique way in which Texas picks school textbooks (purchasing large volumes of textbooks at once to be used for the next decade) publishers pander to this board to get their books approved. The board currently holds several members (6 of 28 who are known to reject evolution) who hold creationist views and actively work to ensure that the science textbooks do not use as strong language or must include "critical thinking" about possible alternate explanations for evolution."
An anonymous reader writes "Singapore and South Korea are playing key roles helping the United States and Australia tap undersea telecommunications links across Asia, according to top secret documents leaked by Edward Snowden. Indonesia and Malaysia have been key targets for Australian and Singaporean intelligence collaboration since much of Indonesia's telecommunications and Internet traffic is routed through Singapore. The NSA has a stranglehold on trans-Pacific communications channels with interception facilities on the West coast of the United States and at Hawaii and Guam, tapping all cable traffic across the Pacific Ocean as well as links between Australia and Japan. Japan had refused to take part."
cold fjord writes "France24 reports, "Beijing on Saturday announced it was setting up an 'air defence identification zone' over an area that includes islands controlled by Japan but claimed by China, in a move that could inflame the bitter territorial row. Along with the creation of the zone in the East China Sea, the defence ministry released a set of aircraft identification rules that must be followed by all planes entering the area, under penalty of intervention by the military. Aircraft are expected to provide their flight plan, clearly mark their nationality, and maintain two-way radio communication allowing them to 'respond in a timely and accurate manner to the identification inquiries' from Chinese authorities. The outline of the new zone ... covers a wide area of the East China Sea between South Korea and Taiwan that includes the Tokyo-controlled islands known as the Senkakus to Japan and Diaoyous to China. "China's armed forces will adopt defensive emergency measures to respond to aircraft that do not cooperate in the identification or refuse to follow the instructions," according to the ministry. ' The Politico adds, "Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel said Saturday the United States is 'deeply concerned'" over the move. Spiegel Online has background on the conflict with Japan and on related regional issues. This announcement follows the recent publication in Chinese state media of maps showing nuclear strike plans against the U.S."
First time accepted submitter conoviator writes "The NY Times has just published a piece providing more background on the healthcare.gov software project. One interesting aspect: 'Another sore point was the Medicare agency's decision to use database software, from a company called MarkLogic, that managed the data differently from systems by companies like IBM, Microsoft and Oracle. CGI officials argued that it would slow work because it was too unfamiliar. Government officials disagreed, and its configuration remains a serious problem.'" The story does not say that MarkLogic's software is bad in itself, only that the choice meant increased complexity on the project.