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United States

Why 6 Republican Senators Think You Don't Need Faster Broadband (cio.com) 522

itwbennett writes: Broadband in the United States still lags behind similar service in other industrialized countries, so Congress made broadband expansion a national priority, and it offers subsidies, mostly in rural areas, to help providers expand their offerings,' writes Bill Snyder. And that's where an effort by the big ISPs and a group of senators to change the definition of broadband comes in. Of course, the ISPs want the threshold to be as low as possible so it's easier for them to qualify for government subsidies. In a letter to FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler, dated January 21, 2016, the senators called the current broadband benchmark of 25 Mbps downstream and 3 Mbps upstream 'arbitrary' and said that users don't need that kind of speed anyway. '[W]e are aware of few applications that require download speeds of 25 Mbps.' the senators wrote, missing the simple fact that many users have multiple connected devices.
Government

"Unsecured Memory Card" Prompts Election Fraud Investigation In Georgia (ajc.com) 172

McGruber writes: On Tuesday, there was an election in Dekalb County, Georgia. An area of the county known as LaVista Hills voted on a referendum on whether they should incorporate into a brand-new city or whether they should remain an unincorporated part of the county. The referendum failed by a mere 136 votes, less than 1 percent of all votes cast. The second in command at DeKalb County's office of elections is now alleging there were very serious irregularities regarding the LaVista Hills cityhood vote. Piazza says voters were turned away at their polling places, voter material wasn't properly secured, and that "there was a memory card that collects citizen votes loose in the office." Piazza's allegations have prompted Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp and the Georgia Bureau of Investigation to open an investigation. Local Atlanta television stations are reporting that Piazza first reported the irregularities to his boss in Dekalb County and that she responded by putting him on leave. One TV station is also broadcasting footage of state investigators removing election equipment from Dekalb County offices. (Those reports are not yet posted on their websites.)
Advertising

AVG Proudly Announces It Will Sell Your Browsing History To Online Advertisers 229

An anonymous reader writes: AVG, the Czech antivirus company, has announced a new privacy policy in which it boldly and openly admits it will collect user details and sell them to online advertisers for the purpose of continuing to fund its freemium-based products. This new privacy policy is slated to come into effect starting October 15. The policy says: We collect non-personal data to make money from our free offerings so we can keep them free, including: Advertising ID associated with your device; Browsing and search history, including meta data; Internet service provider or mobile network you use to connect to our products, and Information regarding other applications you may have on your device and how they are used.
Government

Kansas Secretary of State Blocks Release of Voting Machine Tapes 288

PvtVoid writes: Wichita State University statistician Beth Clarkson has filed a lawsuit under Kansas' open records law to force the state to release paper tape records from voting machines, to be used as data in her research on statistical anomalies in voting patterns in the state. Clarkson, a certified quality engineer with a Ph.D. in statistics, has analyzed election returns in Kansas and elsewhere over several elections that indicate 'a statistically significant' pattern where the percentage of Republican votes increase the larger the size of the precinct. The pattern could be voter fraud or a demographic trend that has not been picked up by extensive polling. Secretary of State Kris Kobach argued that the records sought by Clarkson are not subject to the Kansas open records act, and that their disclosure is prohibited by Kansas statute.
Wikipedia

Wikipedia Admin's Manipulation "Messed Up Perhaps 15,000 Students' Lives" 264

Andreas Kolbe writes: Recently, "ArbCom", Wikipedia's highest court, banned an administrator account that for years had been manipulating the Wikipedia article of a bogus Indian business school – deleting criticism, adding puffery, and enabling the article to become a significant part of the school's PR strategy. Believing the school's promises and advertisements, families went to great expense to send sons and daughters on courses there – only for their children to find that the degrees they had gained were worthless. "In my opinion, by letting this go on for so long, Wikipedia has messed up perhaps 15,000 students' lives," an Indian journalist quoted in the story says. India is one of the countries where tens of millions of Internet users have free access to Wikipedia Zero, but cannot afford the data charges to access the rest of the Internet, making Wikipedia a potential gatekeeper.
Verizon

Report: Verizon Claimed Public Utility Status To Get Government Perks 140

An anonymous reader writes "Research for the Public Utility Law Project (PULP) has been released which details 'how Verizon deliberately moves back and forth between regulatory regimes, classifying its infrastructure either like a heavily regulated telephone network or a deregulated information service depending on its needs. The chicanery has allowed Verizon to raise telephone rates, all the while missing commitments for high-speed internet deployment' (PDF). In short, Verizon pushed for the government to give it common carrier privileges under Title II in order to build out its fiber network with tax-payer money. Result: increased service rates on telephone users to subsidize Verizon's 'infrastructure investment.' When it comes to regulations on Verizon's fiber network, however, Verizon has been pushing the government to classify its services as that of information only — i.e., beyond Title II. Verizon has made about $4.4 billion in additional revenue in New York City alone, 'money that's funneled directly from a Title II service to an array of services that currently lie beyond Title II's reach.' And it's all legal. An attorney at advocacy group Public Knowledge said it best: 'To expect that you can come in and use public infrastructure and funds to build a network and then be free of any regulation is absurd....When Verizon itself is describing these activities as a Title II common carrier, how can the FCC look at broadband internet and continue acting as though it's not a telecommunication network?'"
The Courts

Supreme Court OKs Stop and Search Based On Anonymous 911 Tips 461

An anonymous reader writes "On Tuesday, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that police officers are legally allowed to stop and search vehicles based solely on anonymous 911 tips. Justice Clarence Thomas, writing for the majority opinion, reasoned that 'a 911 call has some features that allow for identifying and tracking callers' as well as for recording their calls, both of which he believed gave anonymous callers enough reliability for police officers to act on their tips with reasonable suspicion against the people being reported.

The specific case before them involved an anonymous woman who called 911 to report a driver who forced her off the road. She gave the driver's license plate number and the make and model of his car as well as the location of the incident in question. Police officers later found him, pulled him over, smelled marijuana, and searched his car. They found 30 pounds of weed and subsequently arrested the driver. The driver later challenged the constitutionality of the arrest, claiming that a tip from an anonymous source was unreliable and therefore failed to meet the criteria of reasonable suspicion, which would have justified the stop and search. Five of the nine justices disagreed with him."
The ruling itself (PDF).
Earth

Oklahoma Moves To Discourage Solar and Wind Power 504

Hugh Pickens DOT Com (2995471) writes "Paul Monies reports at NewsOK that Oklahoma's legislature has passed a bill that allows regulated utilities to apply to the Oklahoma Corporation Commission to charge a higher base rate to customers who generate solar and wind energy and send their excess power back into the grid reversing a 1977 law that forbade utilities to charge extra to solar users. 'Renewable energy fed back into the grid is ultimately doing utility companies a service,' says John Aziz. 'Solar generates in the daytime, when demand for electricity is highest, thereby alleviating pressure during peak demand.'

The state's major electric utilities backed the bill but couldn't provide figures on how much customers already using distributed generation are getting subsidized by other customers. Oklahoma Gas and Electric Co. and Public Service Co. of Oklahoma have about 1.3 million electric customers in the state. They have about 500 customers using distributed generation. Kathleen O'Shea, OG&E spokeswoman, said few distributed generation customers want to sever their ties to the grid. 'If there's something wrong with their panel or it's really cloudy, they need our electricity, and it's going to be there for them,' O'Shea said. 'We just want to make sure they're paying their fair amount of that maintenance cost.' The prospect of widespread adoption of rooftop solar worries many utilities. A report last year by the industry's research group, the Edison Electric Institute, warns of the risks posed by rooftop solar (PDF). 'When customers have the opportunity to reduce their use of a product or find another provider of such service, utility earnings growth is threatened," the report said. "As this threat to growth becomes more evident, investors will become less attracted to investments in the utility sector.''"
The Almighty Buck

Can You Buy a License To Speed In California? 325

Hugh Pickens DOT Com writes: "Alex Mayyasi reports that in the parking lots of Silicon Valley's venture capital firms, expensive cars gleam in the California sun and a closer look reveals that the cars share a mysterious detail: they nearly all have a custom license plate frame that reads, 'Member. 11-99 Foundation.' Are the Bay Area's wealthy all part of some sort of illuminati group that identifies each other by license plate instead of secret handshakes? The answer is the state highway patrol — the men and women that most people interact with only when getting ticketed for speeding. A number of the frames read 'CHP 11-99 Foundation,' which is the full name of a charitable organization that supports California Highway Patrol officers and their families in times of crisis. Donors receive one license plate as part of a $2,500 'Classic' level donation, or two as part of a bronze, silver, or gold level donation of $5,000, $10,000, or $25,000. Rumor has it, according to Mayyasi, that the license plate frames come with a lucrative return on investment. As one member of a Mercedes-Benz owners community wrote online back in 2002: 'I have the ultimate speeding ticket solution. I paid $1800 for a lifetime membership into the 11-99 foundation. My only goal was to get the infamous 'get out of jail' free license plate frame.'

The 11-99 Foundation has sold license plate frames for most of its 32 year existence, and drivers have been aware of the potential benefits since at least the late 1990s. But attention to the issue in 2006-2008 led the foundation to stop giving out the frames. An article in the LA Times asked 'Can Drivers Buy CHP Leniency?' and began by describing a young man zipping around traffic — including a police cruiser — and telling the Times that he believed his 11-99 frames kept him from receiving a ticket. But the decision was almost irrelevant to another thriving market: the production and sale of fake 11-99 license plate frames. But wait — the CHP 11-99 Foundation also gives out membership cards to big donors. 'Unless you have the I.D. in hand when (not if) I stop you,' says one cop, 'no love will be shown.'"
The Almighty Buck

Comcast PAC Gave Money To Every Senator Examining Time Warner Cable Merger 133

An anonymous reader writes in with news about money and politics that is sure to shock no one."It's no surprise that Comcast donates money to members of Congress. Political connections come in handy for a company seeking government approval of mergers, like Comcast's 2011 purchase of NBCUniversal and its proposed acquisition of Time Warner Cable (TWC). But just how many politicians have accepted money from Comcast's political arm? In the case of the Senate Judiciary Committee, which held the first congressional hearing on the Comcast/TWC merger yesterday, the answer is all of them."
Crime

LA Police Officers Suspected of Tampering With Their Monitoring Systems 322

An anonymous reader writes "An internal audit conducted by the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) in March revealed that 'dozens of the [voice] transmitters worn by officers in Southeast Division were missing or damaged.' In the summer of 2013, this same division was found to have mysteriously lost 45% of the antennae placed on their cars to pick up the signals sent by their voice transmitters. The Southeast Division of the LAPD covers an area that has 'historically been marred by mistrust and claims of officer abuse.' For decades, the LAPD had been closely monitored by the U.S. Department of Justice, but a federal judge in 2013 decided to end that practice after being assured by the LAPD and city officials that the LAPD sufficiently monitors itself via dash-cams and voice transmitters. A formal investigation is currently being conducted to determine whether or not police officers intentionally subverted mandatory efforts to monitor and record their patrols."
Government

Feds Confiscate Investigative Reporter's Confidential Files During Raid 622

schwit1 writes "Using a warrant to search for guns, Homeland security officers and Maryland police confiscated a journalist's confidential files. The reporter had written a series of articles critical of the TSA. It appears that the raid was specifically designed to get her files, which contain identifying information about her sources in the TSA. 'In particular, the files included notes that were used to expose how the Federal Air Marshal Service had lied to Congress about the number of airline flights there were actually protecting against another terrorist attack,' Hudson [the reporter] wrote in a summary about the raid provided to The Daily Caller. Recalling the experience during an interview this week, Hudson said: 'When they called and told me about it, I just about had a heart attack.' She said she asked Bosch [the investigator heading the raid] why they took the files. He responded that they needed to run them by TSA to make sure it was 'legitimate' for her to have them. '"Legitimate" for me to have my own notes?' she said incredulously on Wednesday. Asked how many sources she thinks may have been exposed, Hudson said: 'A lot. More than one. There were a lot of names in those files. This guy basically came in here and took my anonymous sources and turned them over — took my whistleblowers — and turned it over to the agency they were blowing the whistle on,' Hudson said. 'And these guys still work there.'"
Government

Would-Be Tesla Owners Jump Through Hoops To Skirt Wacky Texas Rules 470

cartechboy writes "Texas is known for having the nation's most draconian anti-Tesla rules, based on intense and cash-rich lobbying and political donations by Texas car dealers. What's amazing is what would-be Tesla owners still have to do to get their hands on--and maintain--a Tesla Model S. How do you buy a car the laws try to stop you from owning? By jumping through wacky hoops, it turns out. Tesla store staff, for example, can't tell visitors how much a Model S costs. They can't give test drives, and they can't discuss financing options. Tesla service centers are banned from showing the company logo — or advertising that they do Tesla warranty work or service at all. So how have 1,000 Model S cars been sold? That would be sheer persistence."
The Courts

DOJ: Defendant Has No Standing To Oppose Use of Phone Records 396

An anonymous reader writes with news of a man caught by the NSA dragnet for donating a small sum of money to an organization that the federal government considered terrorist in nature. The man is having problems mounting an appeal. From the article: "Seven months after his conviction, Basaaly Moalin's defense attorney moved for a new trial, arguing that evidence collected about him under the government's recently disclosed dragnet telephone surveillance program violated his constitutional and statutory rights. ... The government's response (PDF), filed on September 30th, is a heavily redacted opposition arguing that when law enforcement can monitor one person's information without a warrant, it can monitor everyone's information, 'regardless of the collection's expanse.' Notably, the government is also arguing that no one other than the company that provided the information — including the defendant in this case — has the right to challenge this disclosure in court." This goes far beyond the third party doctrine, effectively prosecuting someone and depriving them of the ability to defend themselves by declaring that they have no standing to refute the evidence used against them.
Encryption

Did NIST Cripple SHA-3? 169

An anonymous reader writes "In the process of standardizing the SHA-3 competition winning algorithm Keccak, the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) may have lowered the bar for attacks, which might be useful for or even initiated by NSA. 'NIST is proposing a huge reduction in the internal strength of Keccak below what went into final SHA-3 comp,' writes cryptographer Marsh Ray on Twitter. In August, John Kelsey, working at NIST, described (slides 44-48) the changes to the algorithm, including reduction of the bit length from 224, 256, 384 and 512-bit modes down to 128 and 256-bit modes."

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