Antipater writes "According to a member of the White House panel that recently called for the NSA's metadata-collection program to be curtailed, that program has not stopped any terrorist actions at all. This runs counter to the stories we've heard for months, which claimed as many as fifty prevented attacks. 'Stone declined to comment on the accuracy of public statements by U.S. intelligence officials about the telephone collection program, but said that when they referred to successes they seemed to be mixing the results of domestic metadata collection with the intelligence derived from the separate, and less controversial, NSA program, known as 702, to intercept communications overseas.'"
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theodp writes "A week after President Obama stressed the importance of computer science to America, the Department of Homeland Security put out a call for 100+ of the nations' best-and-brightest college students to work for nothing on the nation's cyber security. The unpaid internship program, DHS notes, is the realization of recommendations (PDF) from the Homeland Security Advisory Council's Task Force on CyberSkills, which included execs from Facebook, Lockheed Martin, and Sony, and was advised by representatives from Cisco, JP Morgan Chase, Goldman Sachs, Northrop Grumman, the NSF, and the NSA. 'Do you desire to protect American interests and secure our Nation while building a meaningful and rewarding career?' reads the job posting for Secretary's Honors Program Cyber Student Volunteers (salary: $0.00-$0.00). 'If so, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is calling.' Student volunteers, DHS adds, will begin in spring 2014 and participate throughout the summer. Get your applications in by January 3, kids!"
First time accepted submitter jma05 writes "The UN General Assembly unanimously adopted a privacy resolution introduced by Brazil and Germany, against unlawful surveillance. 'The resolution affirms that the same rights that people have offline must also be protected online, including the right to privacy.' Under pressure from US lobbying, the clause that mass surveillance constitutes a human rights violation was dropped earlier."
An anonymous reader writes with this excerpt from a Reuters report shedding light on one consequence of increasing knowledge of the extent of U.S. government spying: "Brazil awarded a $4.5 billion contract to Saab AB on Wednesday to replace its aging fleet of fighter jets, a surprise coup for the Swedish company after news of U.S. spying on Brazilians helped derail Boeing's chances for the deal. ... The timing of the announcement, after more than a decade of off-and-on negotiations, appeared to catch the companies involved by surprise. Even Juniti Saito, Brazil's top air force commander, said on Wednesday that he only heard of the decision a day earlier in a meeting with President Dilma Rousseff. Until earlier this year, Boeing's F/A-18 Super Hornet had been considered the front runner. But revelations of spying by the U.S. National Security Agency in Brazil, including personal communication by Rousseff, led Brazil to believe it could not trust a U.S. company."
toshikodo writes "The BBC is reporting that Internet content filters being rolled out by major ISPs in the UK are failing to allow access to acceptable content, such as sex education and sexual abuse advise sites, while also still allowing access to porn. According to the article, 'TalkTalk's filter is endorsed by Mr Cameron but it failed to block 7% of the 68 pornographic websites tested by Newsnight.' The ISPs claim that it is impossible for their filters to be 100% accurate, and that they are working with their users to improve quality. I wonder how long it will be before one of these filters blocks access to the Conservative Party's website, and what will Cameron do then?"
wiredmikey writes "A board set up to review the NSA's vast surveillance programs has called for a wide-ranging overhaul of National Security Agency practices while preserving 'robust' intelligence capabilities. The panel, set up by President Obama, issued 46 recommendations, including reforms at a secret national security court and an end to retention of telephone 'metadata' by the spy agency. The 308-page report (PDF) submitted last week to the White House and released publicly Wednesday says the US government needs to balance the interests of national security and intelligence gathering with privacy and 'protecting democracy, civil liberties, and the rule of law.' Panel members said the recommendations would not necessarily mean a rolling back of intelligence gathering, including on foreign leaders, but that surveillance must be guided by standards and by high-level policymakers."
coondoggie writes "In its annual look at what challenges NASA faces in the coming year, the agency's Office of the Inspector General (OIG) this year outlined nine key areas it says will cause the most angina. Leading the way in pain is money. NASA's current money story starts off bad and just gets worse. From the article: '"Along with the rest of the Federal Government, NASA began FY 2013 under a 6-month continuing resolution that funded the Agency at FY 2012 levels. This was followed by a budget for the remainder of the fiscal year that reduced the Agency's enacted funding level of $17. 5 billion by $626.5 million, or approximately 4% due to sequestration. These financial pressures look to repeat themselves in FY 2014, with no annual budget in place at the beginning of the fiscal year and potential sequestration impacts that could reduce NASA's budget request of $17.7 billion by $1.5 billion to $16.2 billion. As the National Research Council noted in its 2012 report examining NASA's strategic direction and management, NASA's budget is 'mismatched to the current portfolio of missions, facilities, and staff,'" the OIG report stated.'"
SonicSpike writes with a story about the huge amount of bitcoins owned by the FBI. "In September, the FBI shut down the Silk Road online drug marketplace, and it started seizing bitcoins belonging to the Dread Pirate Roberts — the operator of the illicit online marketplace, who they say is an American man named Ross Ulbricht. The seizure sparked an ongoing public discussion about the future of Bitcoin, the world's most popular digital currency, but it had an unforeseen side-effect: It made the FBI the holder of the world's biggest Bitcoin wallet. The FBI now controls more than 144,000 bitcoins that reside at a bitcoin address that consolidates much of the seized Silk Road bitcoins. Those 144,000 bitcoins are worth close to $100 million at Tuesday's exchange rates. Another address, containing Silk Road funds seized earlier by the FBI, contains nearly 30,000 bitcoins ($20 million)."
cartechboy writes "The state of California will give Tesla Motors a $34.7 million tax break to expand the company's production capacity for electric cars, state officials announced yesterday. Basically, Tesla won't have to pay sales taxes on new manufacturing equipment worth up to $415 million. The added equipment will help Tesla more than double the number of Model S sedans it builds, as well as assemble more electric powertrains for other car makers. In addition to continued Model S production, Tesla plans to introduce the Model X electric crossover in late 2014, as well as a sub-$40,000 car — tentatively called Model E — that could debut as soon as the 2015 Detroit Auto Show. It turns out California is one of the few states to tax the purchase of manufacturing equipment — but the state grants exemptions for 'clean-tech' companies."
ananyo writes "The Guardian's technology editor, Charles Arthur, asks why researchers have remained largely silent in the wake of the revelation that the U.S. National Institute of Standards and Technology's standard for random numbers used for cryptography had been weakened by the NSA: 'The nature of the subversions sounds abstruse: the random-number generator, the 'Dual EC DRBG' standard, had been hacked by the NSA and the UK's GCHQ so that its output would not be as random as it should have been. That might not sound like much, but if you are trying to break an encrypted message, the knowledge that it is hundreds or thousands of times weaker than advertised is a great encouragement.' Arthur attributes the silence of UK academics, at least, to pressure from GCHQ. He goes on to say: 'For those who do care, White and Matthew Green, who teaches cryptography at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland, have embarked on an ambitious effort to clean up the mess — one that needs help. They have created a non-profit organization called OpenAudit.org, which aims to recruit experts to provide technical assistance for security projects in the public interest, especially open-source security software.'"
Hugh Pickens DOT Com writes "The Guardian reports that while President Obama tried to portray a meeting with tech leaders as a wide-ranging discussion of broader priorities including ways of improving the functionality of the troubled health insurance website Healthcare.gov, senior executives from Apple, Yahoo, Google, Comcast, Facebook, Microsoft, Twitter, and Netflix said they were determined to keep the discussion focused on the NSA. 'We are there to talk about the NSA,' said one executive who was briefed on the company's agenda before the event. After meeting Obama and vice president Joe Biden for two-and-a-half hours, the companies issued a one-line statement. 'We appreciated the opportunity to share directly with the president our principles on government surveillance that we released last week and we urge him to move aggressively on reform.' Many of the senior tech leaders had already made public their demand for sweeping surveillance reforms in an open letter that specifically called for a ban on the kind of bulk data collection that a federal judge ruled on Monday was probably unlawful. Obama seemed sympathetic to the idea of allowing more disclosure of government surveillance requests by technology companies, according to a tech industry official who was briefed on the meeting. Marissa Mayer brought up concerns about the potentially negative impact that could be caused if countries, such as Brazil, move forward with legislation that would require service providers to ensure that data belonging to a citizen of a certain country remain in the country it originates, the official said. That would require technology companies to build data centers in each country — a costly problem for American Internet companies. The decision by the tech giants to press their case in such a public and unified way poses a problem for the White House. The industry is an increasingly influential voice in Washington, a vital part of the US economy and many of its most successful leaders are prominent Democratic political donors."
Antipater writes "NBCNews reports that Kurt DelBene, former head of Microsoft's Office division, will take over operations of Healthcare.gov on Wednesday. DelBene will replace Jeffrey Zients, who stepped in to lead the team fixing the health insurance website when it crashed and burned on its Oct. 1 launch. Zients is set to take over next month as senior White House economic adviser from Gene Sperling.'"
SonicSpike writes "2013 may be a turning point for red-light cameras across the United States. According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), a non-profit largely funded by auto insurance companies, this year is the first time in nearly two decades that the number of American cities with red-light cameras has fallen — the systems were installed in 509 communities as of November 2013. While a single-year drop may not ultimately mean much, legislators across the country are increasingly agitated about the cameras. Bills are also pending in Florida and Ohio that would ban the devices entirely. A state representative in Iowa has also twice introduced legislation to ban RLCs (he was not successful). Part of this backlash has to do with the (sometimes accurate) perception that RLCs are a moneymaking scheme, pure and simple."
PolygamousRanchKid writes with news that GM's outgoing CEO doesn't agree with the National Law and Policy Center's call for GM to repay the loss made by the Treasury from their bailout. From the article: "GM CEO Dan Akerson rejects any suggestion that the company should compensate for the losses. He says Treasury officials took the same risk assumed by anyone who purchases stock. Akerson said that GM repaid all the debt issued by the government beginning in December 2008 when George W. Bush was still president and extending into the first year of Barack Obama's presidency. He added that it was the Treasury's decision ... to take an ownership stake in the form of company shares."
schwit1 writes in with the latest on an U.S. District Court ruling over NSA spying. "A federal judge ruled Monday that the National Security Agency's phone surveillance program is likely unconstitutional, Politico reports. U.S. District Court Judge Richard Leon said that the agency's controversial program, first unveiled by former government contractor Edward Snowden earlier this year, appears to violate the Constitution's Fourth Amendment, which states that the 'right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated.' 'I cannot imagine a more "indiscriminate" and "arbitrary invasion" than this systematic and high-tech collection and retention of personal data on virtually every single citizen for purposes of querying it and analyzing it without judicial approval,' Leon wrote in the ruling. The federal ruling came down after activist Larry Klayman filed a lawsuit in June over the program. The suit claimed that the NSA's surveillance 'violates the U.S. Constitution and also federal laws, including, but not limited to, the outrageous breach of privacy, freedom of speech, freedom of association, and the due process rights of American citizens.'"
barlevg writes "It's long been a concern that the widespread use of antibacterial soaps is contributing towards the evolution of drug-resistant 'superbugs,' but as the Washington Post reports, the Food and Drug Administration also does not believe that there is any evidence to support that the antibacterial agents in soaps are any more effective at killing germs than simply washing with soap and water. Under the terms of a proposal under consideration, the FDA will require that manufacturers making such claims will have to show proof. If they fail to do so, they will be required to change their marketing or even stop selling the products altogether."
An anonymous reader writes "This week CBS New's 60 Minutes program had a broadcast segment devoted to the NSA, and additional online features. It revealed that the first secret Snowden stole was the test and answers for a technical examination to get a job at NSA. When working at home, Snowden covered his head and screen with a hood so that his girlfriend couldn't see what he was doing. NSA considered the possibility that Snowden left malicious software behind and removed every computer and cable that Snowden had access to from its classified network, costing tens of millions of dollars. Snowden took approximately 1.7 million classified documents. Snowden never approached any of multiple Inspectors General, supervisors, or Congressional oversight committee members about his concerns. Snowden's activity caught the notice of other System Administrators. There were also other interesting details, such as the NSA has a highly competitive intern program for High School students that are given a Top Secret clearance and a chance to break codes that have resisted the efforts of NSA's analysts — some succeed. The NSA is only targeting the communications, as opposed to metadata, of less than 60 Americans. Targeting the actual communications of Americans, rather than metadata, requires a probable cause finding and a specific court order. NSA analysts working with metadata don't have access to the name, and can't listen to the call. The NSA's work is driven by requests for information by other parts of the government, and there are about 31,000 requests. Snowden apparently managed to steal a copy of that document, the 'crown jewels' of the intelligence world. With that information, foreign nations would know what the US does and doesn't know, and how to exploit it."
An anonymous reader writes "Norway is the latest country to consider the legal implications of cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin. Norway's director general of taxation has come out and said '[Bitcoin] doesn't fall under the usual definition of money,' which means that it will be considered as assets and charged under capital gains laws. This sentiment was echoed last week by the European banking authority as well, where citizens were warned of using the cyrptocurrency."
SonicSpike writes "Light bulb manufacturers will cease making traditional 40 and 60-watt light bulbs — the most popular in the country — at the start of 2014. This comes after the controversial phasing out of incandescent 75 and 100-watt light bulbs at the beginning of 2013. In their place will be halogen bulbs, compact fluorescent bulbs, LED bulbs and high efficiency incandescents — which are just regular incandescents that have the filament wrapped in gas. All are significantly more expensive than traditional light bulbs, but offer significant energy and costs savings over the long run. (Some specialty incandescents — such as three-way bulbs — will still be available.) ... The rules were signed into law by President George W. Bush in 2007. They are designed to address gross inefficiencies with old light bulbs — only 10% of the energy they use is converted into light, according to the Environmental Protection Agency, which has a handy fact sheet about the changes. The rest is wasted as heat. But the rules have drawn fire from a number of circles — mainly conservatives and libertarians who are unhappy about the government telling people what light bulbs they can use. They argue that if the new ones really are so good, people will buy them on their own without being forced to do so."
krakman writes "With the NSA disclosures, French media was 'outraged'. Yet they appear to be worse than the NSA, with a new law that codifies standard practice and provides for no judicial oversight while allowing electronic surveillance for a broad range of purposes, including 'national security,' the protection of France's 'scientific and economic potential' and prevention of ;terrorism' or 'criminality.' The government argues that the law, passed last week with little debate as part of a routine military spending bill, which takes effect in 2015, does not expand intelligence powers. Rather, officials say, those powers have been in place for years, and the law creates rules where there had been none, notably with regard to real-time location tracking. French intelligence agencies have little experience publicly justifying their practices. Parliamentary oversight did not begin until 2007."