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
writes "The investigative arm of the Department of Justice is attempting to short-circuit the legal checks of the Fourth Amendment by requesting a change in the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure. These procedural rules dictate how law enforcement agencies must conduct criminal prosecutions, from investigation to trial. Any deviations from the rules can have serious consequences, including dismissal of a case. The specific rule the FBI is targeting outlines the terms for obtaining a search warrant.
It’s called Federal Rule 41(b), and the requested change would allow law enforcement to obtain a warrant to search electronic data without providing any specific details as long as the target computer location has been hidden through a technical tool like Tor or a virtual private network. It would also allow nonspecific search warrants where computers have been intentionally damaged (such as through botnets, but also through common malware and viruses) and are in five or more separate federal judicial districts. Furthermore, the provision would allow investigators to seize electronically stored information regardless of whether that information is stored inside or outside the court’s jurisdiction."Link to Original Source
writes "According to a new study from the Progressive Policy Institute, President Obama’s call to regulate the Internet like a public utility would mean a $17 Billion tax hike for Americans.
In Delaware, bills for Comcast, Verizon, Time Warner Cable and other Internet service providers would rise by $8 per year under reclassification, the study found. The average annual cost of service in certain parts of Alaska, meanwhile, would go up by almost $148.
Since Obama and advocates have called for the new Internet rules to apply to wireless service as well as wired broadband, the fees would likely be tacked on to cellphone bills as well."Link to Original Source
writes "At the heart of this new clock is the element strontium. Inside a small chamber, the strontium atoms are suspended in a lattice of crisscrossing laser beams. Researchers then give them a little ping, like ringing a bell. The strontium vibrates at an incredibly fast frequency. It's a natural atomic metronome ticking out teeny, teeny fractions of a second.
This new clock can keep perfect time for 5 billion years.
"It's about the whole, entire age of the earth," says Jun Ye, the scientist here at JILA who built this clock. "Our aim is that we'll have a clock that, during the entire age of the universe, would not have lost a second."
But this new clock has run into a big problem: This thing we call time doesn't tick at the same rate everywhere in the universe. Or even on our planet.
Right now, on the top of Mount Everest, time is passing just a little bit faster than it is in Death Valley. That's because speed at which time passes depends on the strength of gravity. Einstein himself discovered this dependence as part of his theory of relativity, and it is a very real effect.
The relative nature of time isn't just something seen in the extreme. If you take a clock off the floor, and hang it on the wall, Ye says, "the time will speed up by about one part in 1016."
That is a sliver of a second. But this isn't some effect of gravity on the clock's machinery. Time itself is flowing more quickly on the wall than on the floor. These differences didn't really matter until now. But this new clock is so sensitive, little changes in height throw it way off. Lift it just a couple of centimeters, Ye says, "and you will start to see that difference."
This new clock can sense the pace of time speeding up as it moves inch by inch away from the earth's core."Link to Original Source
writes "For most of the past week, when someone typed "Michelle Obama" in the popular search engine Google, one of the first images that came up was a picture of the American first lady altered to resemble a monkey.
On Wednesday morning, the racially offensive image appeared to have been removed from any Google Image searches for "Michelle Obama."
Google officials could not immediately be reached for comment.
Google faced a firestorm of criticism over the episode. First, it banned the Web site that posted the photo, saying it could spread a malware virus. Then, when the image appeared on another Web site, Google let the photo stand. When a Google image search brought up the photo, an apologetic Google ad occasionally appeared above it.
The ad redirected users to a statement from Google which read, "Sometimes Google search results from the Internet can include disturbing content, even from innocuous queries. We assure you that the views expressed by such sites are not in any way endorsed by Google.""Link to Original Source
writes "Google recently became the country’s biggest political donor, replacing heavily regulated Goldman Sachs . It’s too bad the technology industry has been forced to ante up in Washington’s money game, but the good news is that depending on the results from this week’s elections, Silicon Valley could at least start getting its money’s worth.
Washington is a disaster zone for innovation, especially for the software firms that make up the growing parts of the U.S. economy. There has been no progress in meeting Silicon Valley’s desperate needs, including patent reform and open immigration for skilled workers.
As a result, technology companies long associated with liberal causes are switching loyalties. In 2010 Democratic candidates for national office got 55% of contributions from tech-company political-action committees. This year Republicans have received 52%. According to the Center for Responsive Politics, companies with PACs giving more to Republicans than to Democrats include Google, Facebook and Amazon.
Democrats especially humiliated Silicon Valley this year by failing to enact patent reform. Patents make little sense for software, which almost always builds on earlier work. There are some 250,000 potential patent violations in smartphones alone. Companies known as “patent trolls” stockpile patents to extract huge settlements from technology companies, not to build products."Link to Original Source
writes "Cody Wilson, famous for making the first usable fully plastic 3D printed handgun and for his new project "Ghost Gunner" which mills metal lower receivers (the milling machine itself is of course not a weapon, and what it makes is not itself legally a weapon) for AR-15s, informs me today that his online payment processor Stripe has decided that his companies, all of them, qualify as forbidden "weapons and munitions; gunpowder and other explosives" services. This includes the Ghost Gunner and Defense Distributed."Link to Original Source
writes "A Houston man has been arrested after Google sent a tip to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children saying the man had explicit images of a child in his email, according to Houston police.
The man was a registered sex offender, convicted of sexually assaulting a child in 1994, reports Tim Wetzel at KHOU Channel 11 News in Houston.
"He was keeping it inside of his email. I can't see that information, I can't see that photo, but Google can," Detective David Nettles of the Houston Metro Internet Crimes Against Children Taskforce told Channel 11.
After Google reportedly tipped off the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, the center alerted police, who used the information to get a warrant.
A search of the man's other devices revealed more suspicious images and text messages. Police arrested him and he's being held on a $200,000 bond.
On one hand, most people would certainly applaud the use of technology to scan email in a case like this.
On the other, debate rages about how much privacy users can expect when using Google's services like email. In a word: none.
A year ago, in a court brief, Google said as much. Then, in April, after a class-action case against Google for email scanning fell apart, Google updated its terms of service to warn people that it was automatically analyzing emails .
Considering Google has been working to fight online child sexual abuse since 2006, it stands to reason the company would scan emails looking for those sorts of images. Google has never come right out and said so, but hinted strongly at it about a year ago when Jacquelline Fuller, director of Google Giving, specifically mentioned the National Center's "CyberTipline" in a blog post . The CyberTipline receives leads and tips regarding suspected crimes."Link to Original Source
writes "Now that consumers can use digital currencies like bitcoin to buy rugs from Overstock.com, pay for Peruvian pork sandwiches from a food truck in Washington, D.C. and even make donations to political action committees, states are beginning to explore how to regulate the emerging industry.
Digital currencies — also known as virtual currencies or cash for the Internet —allow people to transfer value over the Internet, but are not legal tender. Because they don’t require third-party intermediaries such as credit card companies or PayPal, merchants and consumers can avoid the fees typically associated with traditional payment systems.
Advocates of virtual currencies also say that because personal information is not tied to transactions, digital currencies are less prone to identity theft.
With about $7.8 billion in circulation, bitcoin is the most widely used digital currency; others include Litecoin and Peercoin. All are examples of cryptocurrencies, a subset of digital currencies that rely on cryptography to function.
“As far as we know, most state laws are completely silent on this topic,” said David J. Cotney, chairman of the Conference of State Bank Supervisors’ Emerging Payments Task Force, which in March began exploring virtual currency.
Among the questions the task force will consider, Cotney said, is whether bitcoins should be classified as currencies, investment securities or commodities, which could determine which regulators should apply.
New York became the first state to propose regulations for the digital currency industry when it unveiled earlier this month a broad-ranging proposal that aims to address consumer protection, money laundering and cybersecurity.
Until recently, California prohibited the use of alternative currencies. Last month, Democratic Gov. Jerry Brown signed legislation to allow the use of alternative currencies, including digital currencies.
The Texas Department of Banking said in April Texas will not treat bitcoin and other digital currencies as money. “What it means, from our perspective, is just simply that it’s not money for the purposes of money transmission or currency exchange,” said Daniel Wood, an assistant general counsel in the department. “A bitcoin is basically property.” However, most bitcoin exchanges would be considered money transmitters and exchanging digital currency for sovereign currency would in most cases be considered money transmission.
Last month, the Kansas Office of the State Bank Commissioner issued a guidance that, like Texas, concluded that digital currencies are not considered money under the Kansas Money Transmitter Act."Link to Original Source
writes "Free thinkers could find a home in the Republican Party
Sen. Rand Paul, Kentucky Republican, recently spoke at the “Rebooting Congress, Causes and Campaigns 2014” conference in Silicon Valley. The goal of Lincoln Labs, which put on the event, is to “create a bridge between technology and efforts to advance liberty.” The conference sought to “bring together technical talent and policy advocates to turn ideas into deliverables for liberty.”
Mr. Paul has also met in recent weeks with tech luminaries, including Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg and PayPal co-founder Peter Thiel.
This might seem like just the usual meet-and-greet in advance of a possible presidential run. The libertarian-leaning Mr. Paul’s efforts, though, could presage a radical realignment of the Republican Party and a revolution in American politics.
The GOP is in a demographic death spiral as its traditional voter base — for example, white evangelicals — shrinks. To survive, it must bring into its fold minorities, young people, and, especially, the new modernist achievers. These latter are the innovators who led the communications and information revolution and who are pioneering new technologies and services in areas such as medicine, robotics, energy, transportation, space and education."Link to Original Source
writes "There are now more than 30 candidates, party organizations and PACs accepting bitcoin, according to a rough count that’s partly based on data compiled by Make Your Laws, a non-partisan political action committee focused on campaign finance reform.
It’s perhaps no surprise that New Hampshire politicians in particular have warmed to bitcoin since the Federal Election Commission approved a specific request by Make Your Laws in May. With its motto of “live free or die” and a reputation for libertarian values of the kind shared by many bitcoiners, there’s a natural fit.
There, the charge is being led by 32-year-old Republican Andrew Hemingway, the youngest gubernatorial candidate in the country. Thursday he joined a dozen candidates for the state’s Senate to incorporate onto their websites a platform from payment processor Paystand that provides an option to pay in credit card, e-check or bitcoin.
“I’m the first millennial candidate for governor anywhere in the country, so I come at this from a distinct generational perspective,” Mr. Hemingway said. “I’m also a tech entrepreneur. A lot of my friends and a lot of my regular network use bitcoins on a regular basis and have been active in the bitcoin community. So, it was a no-brainer to incorporate it into my campaign.”"Link to Original Source
writes "Rand Paul goes hunting in San Francisco starting Thursday for two things Democrats usually expect to have locked up in the Golden State: rich technology donors and computer geeks game to leave their jobs to work on a White House campaign.
Focusing on a libertarian sliver of the Bay Area’s tech crowd, the Kentucky Republican hopes the three-day trip can tap into a powerful resource that could boost his fundraising skills, message delivery and voter turnout — potent technology tools that were a crucial component in President Barack Obama’s two general election victories.
But Paul also has a more lofty agenda — using his strongly held views on National Security Agency surveillance, Internet privacy and free markets to broaden the traditional GOP coalition — and perhaps even persuade California voters to turn their state red for the first time since George H.W. Bush in 1988.
“I think it has to be someone with the right message, but I think there’s room for us out there,” Paul said in an interview where he called on Republicans to “run a 50-state strategy.”"Link to Original Source