writes: In an ornate room on the first floor of the Capitol, some of the most liberal members of Congress met for lunch on Thursday with nearly a dozen stalwart conservatives who’ve repeatedly taken on their own leadership for being too soft.
The agenda consisted of a single topic, perhaps the only one that would bring together such ideologically divergent politicians in Washington at this moment: their shared disdain for the PATRIOT Act.
With key provisions of the controversial post-9/11 law set to expire at the end of the month, including authority for the National Security Agency’s bulk collection of Americans’ phone records, critics in both parties are preparing to strike. Among those on hand for the meeting were Democratic Rep. Mark Pocan, a card-carrying ACLU member from the liberal mecca of Madison, Wisconsin, and GOP Rep. Thomas Massie, a tea party adherent from Kentucky.
Along with Pocan and Massie, the Thursday gathering drew Reps. Justin Amash (R-Mich.), Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.) and Jared Polis (D-Colo.). The lawmakers, many of them privacy zealots with libertarian leanings, discussed the USA Freedom Act, bipartisan legislation that would rein in the bulk collection of telephone records and reauthorize expiring anti-terror surveillance provisions in the PATRIOT Act.
“We are definitely making it a bipartisan effort because we believe there are people on both sides of the aisle who are interested in protecting the rights of Americans,” Amash said.
Democrats and libertarian-minded Republicans want changes that go beyond what’s currently on the table, but it’s unclear whether they have the numbers. Massie and Amash are key players in a growing conservative bloc of the Republican caucus that in the past has forced Boehner and Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) to alter legislation that didn’t pass conservative muster.
“People are going to have to make a decision if there are enough real reforms in there to make it worth reauthorizing the PATRIOT Act,” Massie said. “I don’t think the reforms are significant enough.”
“The onus is really on [Republican and Democratic leaders] to have something in place if this is going to run out and they need to reauthorize something,” the Republican added. “We’re trying to figure out how to get a better, stronger [bill] that protects privacy rights.”Link to Original Source
writes: Congress faces a critical deadline, and time is running out. On June 1, 2015, three provisions of the USA PATRIOT Act will expire. The actions of the U.S. Congress between today and June 1st will affect the privacy and liberty of millions of innocent Americans.
The 2001 USA PATRIOT Act was drafted and swiftly passed in the wake of the September 11th terrorist attacks. Due to the nature of the crisis, the goal was simply to pass a bill as quickly as possible. Many congressmen did not have an opportunity to thoroughly read, analyze or vet the bill's numerous and lengthy provisions. In fact, Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner, one of the original authors of the Patriot Act, later declared that he was shocked by how the law was used to spy on innocent Americans.
Congress and the American people now know, thanks to whistleblower leaks, that federal agencies like the National Security Agency regularly perform mass surveillance on Americans without bothering to obtain a warrant. As constitutional law scholar Randy Barnett wrote in the Wall Street Journal, "The National Security Agency has seized from private companies voluminous data on the phone and Internet usage of all U.S. citizens. ... This dangerously violates the most fundamental principles of our republican form of government." He concludes that "[s]uch indiscriminate data seizures are the epitome of 'unreasonable,' akin to the 'general warrants' issued by the Crown to authorize searches of Colonial Americans."
The Founders of this great nation fought and died to stop the kind of warrantless spying and searches that the Patriot Act and the FISA Amendments Act authorize. What happens between now and June 1 depends on the American people. It is imperative that every freedom-loving American demand an end to these unconstitutional programs. At the very least, the expiring provisions of the Patriot Act should not be renewed. After that, the entire Patriot Act should be repealed so we can start over and establish law enforcement programs that respect our Constitution.Link to Original Source
writes: Congressman Thomas Massie does things differently in the House, perhaps because his path to politics was pretty unique: He graduated from MIT with degrees in engineering, started a technology company, sold that company, and moved back to Kentucky with his wife, Rhonda, where they now live entirely off-the-grid on a cattle farm. He was elected in 2012 special election out of a seven-way primary in a heavily Republican district and has been the thorn in the side Boehner and his allies ever since.
That hasn’t stopped Democrats from believing that he’s sometimes their best option for getting their legislation through the House. Last June, Rep Lofgren convinced Massie to take on the role as lead sponsor of an amendment to a major defense bill that would to end so called “back door” searches by the NSA.
It’s incredibly unlikely some of Massie’s legislation — particularly his bill with Pocan to repeal the PATRIOT Act — would ever pass the House, let alone get through the Senate. But putting Massie’s name on a bill could have other benefits: Massie is able to tout the legislation in places Democrats won’t go.
Increasingly, in fact, Massie has become a go-to member of the Republican conference for Democratic members looking for a GOP member to sponsor legislation on everything from surveillance, to industrial hemp, to cell-phone unlocking legislation.
But his early opposition to surveillance programs have drawn him accolades from the Democratic side of the aisle, as has his willingness to buck his party leadership. And as the House and Senate attempt to re-authorize portions of the PATRIOT Act in the coming month, Massie plans on being at the center of that debate — again with a Democrat. He recently introducing a bill with Wisconsin Democrat Mark Pocan to repeal that 2001 law passed in the wake of 9/11 and overhaul many of the NSA’s surveillance programs.Link to Original Source
writes: U.S. Senator Rand Paul, a Republican presidential hopeful, on Wednesday introduced a resolution to block new regulations on Internet service providers, saying they would "wrap the Internet in red tape."
The "net neutrality" rules, which are slated to take effect in June, are backed by the Obama administration and were passed by the Democratic majority of the Federal Communications Commission in February. AT&T Inc and wireless and cable trade associations are challenging them in court.
Paul's resolution, if adopted, would allow the Senate to fast-track a vote to establish that Congress disapproves of the FCC's new rules and moves to nullify them.Link to Original Source
writes: Aiming to appeal to Millennials and libertarian-leaning tech workers, GOP presidential candidate Sen. Rand Paul will visit San Francisco next week for a campaign swing that includes headlining a discussion and conference on “Disrupting Democracy.”
The May 9 event, formally titled “Disrupting Democracy: A New Generation of Voter Engagement,” is being hosted by Lincoln Labs, a GOP-leaning “liberty-focused thought and leadership group,” and Brigade, a tech firm that develops social tools aimed at boosting civic engagement and is chaired by billionaire Facebook and Napster co-founder Sean Parker.
Paul is scheduled to sit down with Brigade CEO Matt Mahan during the conference.Link to Original Source
writes: Sen. Rand Paul today introduced a joint resolution of disapproval under the Congressional Review Act to nullify Internet regulations recently published by the U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC). Through the resolution, Sen. Paul will seek a vote in the U.S. Senate against the FCC’s unnecessary and overreaching power grab for control over the Internet.
“This regulation by the FCC is a textbook example of Washington’s desire to regulate anything and everything and will do nothing more than wrap the Internet in red-tape. The Internet has successfully flourished without the heavy hand of government interference. Stated simply, I do not want to see the government regulating the Internet,” Sen. Paul said.Link to Original Source
writes: U.S. Senator Rand Paul today attended the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee hearing to question the Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson regarding the scope of Fourth Amendment protections for American citizens.
During the hearing, Sen. Paul noted that the transition to encrypted data is a market-driven response to the U.S. government’s bulk collection of the records of millions of Americans, and reiterated his view that law enforcement should instead seek individualized warrants under the Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.Link to Original Source
writes: Sens. Rand Paul (R-KY) and Ron Wyden (D-OR), and Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-CA) introduced bipartisan legislation today to better target serious criminals and curb overzealous prosecutions for non-malicious computer and Internet offenses.
The legislation, inspired by the late Internet innovator and activist Aaron Swartz, who faced up to 35 years in prison for an act of civil disobedience, would reform the quarter-century old Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (CFAA) to better reflect computer and internet activities in the digital age. Numerous and recent instances of heavy-handed prosecutions for non-malicious computer crimes have raised serious questions as to how the law treats violations of terms of service, employer agreements and website notices.
“I am proud to join Sen. Wyden and Rep. Lofgren today in offering this bipartisan and bicameral legislation which will reduce overbroad prosecutions and adjust unfair sentencing practices,” Sen. Paul said.Link to Original Source
writes: The FCC’s recently concluded “AWS-3 spectrum auction” was extremely important, even if you didn’t hear about it.
Due to the immense success of the recent auction – it amassed $45 billion for the U.S. Treasury, double the predicted total – pundits widely hailed the sale as a success. Yet given the ability for the top bidder – Dish Network – to abuse a flawed government policy and walk away with $3.3 billion in taxpayer-funded corporate cronyism, perhaps it is now time to re-evaluate what really happened and change the way the agency treats “small businesses.”
Dish bought more licenses – 44 percent –than anyone. But it did so through a loophole designed to help small businesses – something Dish clearly is not. “Through sleight of hand and aggressive use of partners and loopholes, Dish turned itself into that very small business, distorting reality and creating an unfair advantage,” the New York Times reported in February.
In short, Dish set up shell companies that qualify under the Federal Communications Commission’s Designated Entity program – designed to help “small businesses, businesses owned by members of minority groups and/or women, and rural telephone companies” – to flood the auction with Dish bids and undercut wireless companies to secure spectrum at a fraction of the cost. In the lead up to the auction, two companies sprouted up – Northstar Wireless and SNR Wireless – which Dish owns 85 percent ofLink to Original Source
writes: The media industry is racing toward an Internet-TV future at a breathtaking pace. But the swift changes, highlighted by efforts from Apple Inc., Dish Network Corp. and others, are giving consumers an array of confusing options and forcing entertainment giants to confront some sober realities.
Not long ago, consumers who wanted to watch “Monday Night Football” on ESPN, “Mad Men” on AMC or “Game of Thrones” on HBO knew what they had to do: shell out for a cable package that typically costs around $90 a month in the U.S. They could catch old seasons of popular shows on Netflix or a similar streaming on-demand service, but live, up-to-date programming lived in the cable bundle.
In the span of a few months, tectonic shifts are remaking a television landscape it took decades to sculpt, opening up a range of other possibilities for “cord cutters” who don’t want traditional pay TV. Apple is working on an Internet-TV service with some 25 channels, which is expected to be priced between $25 to $35 a month, according to people familiar with its plans. It will join Dish Network Corp. and Sony Corp., which are pitching their own online-TV bundles. A host of TV companies, including HBO, NBCUniversal, Nickelodeon’s Noggin and CBS, are in the mix with stand-alone streaming offerings.
But if consumers drop pay TV and sign up for TV services delivered over broadband, will they really get a better deal?Link to Original Source
writes: YouTube has been using loudness normalisation on their music videos – and they’ve been doing it since December last year. Everything plays at a similar loudness, regardless of how it was mastered. And no-one has noticed.
for example, at the more dynamic end of the spectrum, Mark Ronson & Bruno Mars’ massive hit ”Uptown Funk” measures -12 LUFS (DR 8 on the TT Meter) on CD. Whereas “Love Me Like You Do” by Ellie Goulding is squashed up to -8 LUFS (DR 5) on CD, and later in the playlist, Madonna’s “Living For Love” clocks in at an eye-watering (and heavily distorted) -7 LUFS (DR 4!)
But on YouTube, all of them are being played back at a similar loudness of roughly -13 LUFS.
And that’s HUGE, because YouTube is the single largest online discovery source for music. More kids look for music on YouTube than on iTunes, TV or radio, or anywhere.Link to Original Source
writes: In an extraordinary admission, Attorney General Eric Holder has told Congress that U.S. drone strikes since 2009 have killed four Americans — three of whom were “not specifically targeted.”
For all the effort that the Obama administration has gone to in asserting that its drones only kill the people that the administration intends to kill, Holder wrote in a letter today to Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) that Samir Khan, 16-year-old Abdulrahman Awlaki and Jude Kenan Mohammad were “not specifically targeted by the United States.” The fourth American to die in a drone strike since 2009 was Abdulrahman’s father Anwar Awlaki, a radical propagandist whom the U.S. killed in Yemen in 2011.
The five-page letter, obtained and published by Charlie Savage of The New York Times, does not explain the circumstances that led to the unintentional killings of Khan, Mohammad and the younger Awlaki. Holder does not apologize for the killings, nor explain whether their deaths resulted from errant targeting, mistaken identity or another circumstance.
But after acknowledging that the administration did “not specifically targe[t]” those three Americans, Holder defended killing Americans the administration believes to be members of al-Qaida without due process, a constitutionally questionable proposition.Link to Original Source
writes: Congressman Thomas Massie (R-KY) writes in an op-ed:
"As a small inventor and holder of 29 patents, I care deeply about innovation and its role in our economy. Unfortunately, the Innovation Act, which in 2013 passed the House but stalled in the Senate, is back. This bill, which proposes changes to our patent system, would pose a serious threat to the American inventor and extinguish creativity and invention.
In my opinion, the Innovation Act threatens American inventors, particularly individual inventors and those working at small businesses and startups. The bill attempts to “fix” a few isolated abuses of the patent system, but instead it sets forth a comprehensive overhaul of the existing legal framework that compromises the rights of all legitimate inventors.
Perhaps the most troubling aspect of the Innovation Act is the provision that makes it easier for corporations to keep shipping products even if a court finds reason to believe those products contain stolen inventions. When deciding whether to pay a fair license fee to the rightful inventors, or whether to steal a patented idea and risk a lawsuit, it is the threat of lost revenue that keeps the big companies honest."
Read the rest at the link...Link to Original Source
writes: The United States government has taken a new, though preliminary, step to encourage commercial development of the moon.
According to documents obtained by Reuters, U.S. companies can stake claims to lunar territory through an existing licensing process for space launches.
The Federal Aviation Administration, in a previously undisclosed late-December letter to Bigelow Aerospace, said the agency intends to “leverage the FAA’s existing launch licensing authority to encourage private sector investments in space systems by ensuring that commercial activities can be conducted on a non-interference basis.”
In other words, experts said, Bigelow could set up one of its proposed inflatable habitats on the moon, and expect to have exclusive rights to that territory — as well as related areas that might be tapped for mining, exploration and other activities.
However, the FAA letter noted a concern flagged by the U.S. State Department that “the national regulatory framework, in its present form, is ill-equipped to enable the U.S. government to fulfill its obligations” under a 1967 United Nations treaty, which, in part, governs activities on the moon.Link to Original Source
writes: Autonomous cars will be commonplace by 2025 and have a near monopoly by 2030, and the sweeping change they bring will eclipse every other innovation our society has experienced.
They will cause unprecedented job loss and a fundamental restructuring of our economy, solve large portions of our environmental problems, prevent tens of thousands of deaths per year, save millions of hours with increased productivity, and create entire new industries that we cannot even imagine from our current vantage point.
Industry experts think that consumers will be slow to purchase autonomous cars – while this may be true, it is a mistake to assume that this will impede the transition. Morgan Stanley’s research shows that cars are driven just 4% of the time,5 which is an astonishing waste considering that the average cost of car ownership is nearly $9,000 per year.6 Next to a house, an automobile is the second most expensive asset that most people will ever buy – it is no surprise that ride sharing services like Uber and car sharing services like Zipcar are quickly gaining popularity as an alternative to car ownership. It is now more economical to use a ride sharing service if you live in a city and drive less than 10,000 miles per year.7 The impact on private car ownership is enormous: a UC-Berkeley study showed that vehicle ownership among car sharing users was cut in half.8 The car purchasers of the future will not be you and me – cars will be purchased and operated by ride sharing and car sharing companies.Link to Original Source