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With $160 Billion Merger, Pfizer Moves To Ireland and Dodges Taxes ( 339

ourlovecanlastforeve writes: In a $160 billion dollar acquisition, drug company Allergan, a small company based in Ireland, "purchased" Pfizer, allowing the drug producing giant to move to Ireland and lower its tax rate from about 25 percent to 17-18 percent. Ars reports: "Such inversions, which are said to cost the American government billions in lost tax revenue, have drawn scorn from the Obama Administration and the Treasury Department. Last year, President Obama referred to the deals as 'unpatriotic' loopholes and proposed to close them. And last week, the Treasury announced new rules to make such deals more difficult. But Pfizer’s reverse-inversion skirts the rules, in part by keeping ownership split somewhat evenly between the two companies. After the deal is complete, current shareholders of Allergan, which has the majority of its operations in the US, will own 44 percent of the mega company. The remaining 56 percent will be owned by current Pfizer shareholders."

Whistleblowers: How NSA Created the 'Largest Failure' In Its History ( 116

An anonymous reader writes: Former NSA whistleblowers contend that the agency shut down a program that could have "absolutely prevented" some of the worst terror attacks in memory. According to the ZDNet story: "Weeks prior to the September 11 terrorist attacks, a test-bed program dubbed ThinThread was shut down in favor of a more expensive, privacy-invasive program that too would see its eventual demise some three years later -- not before wasting billions of Americans' tax dollars. Four whistleblowers, including a congressional senior staffer, came out against the intelligence community they had served, after ThinThread. designed to modernize the agency's intelligence gathering effort, was cancelled. Speaking at the premier of a new documentary film A Good American in New York, which chronicles the rise and demise of the program, the whistleblowers spoke in support of the program, led by former NSA technical director William Binney."
United States

US and China Setting Up "Space Hotline" ( 15

Taco Cowboy writes: Washington and Beijing have established an emergency 'space hotline' to reduce the risk of accidental conflict. Several international initiatives are already in train to seal a space treaty to avoid a further build-up of weapons beyond the atmosphere. However, security experts say the initiatives have little chance of success. A joint Russia-China proposal wending its way through the UN was not acceptable to the US. An EU proposal, for a "code of conduct" in space, was having diplomatic "difficulties" but was closer to Washington's position.

FDA Signs Off On Genetically Modified Salmon Without Labeling ( 513

kheldan writes: Today, in a historic decision, the FDA approved the marketing of genetically-engineered salmon for sale to the general public, without any sort of labeling to indicate to consumers they've been genetically altered. According to the article: "Though the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (FD&C Act) gives the FDA the authority to require mandatory labeling of foods if there is a material difference between a GE product and its conventional counterpart, the agency says it is not requiring labeling of these GE fish 'Because the data and information evaluated show that AquAdvantage Salmon is not materially different from other Atlantic salmon.' In this case, the GE salmon use an rDNA construct composed of the growth hormone gene from Chinook salmon under the control of a promoter from another type of fish called an 'ocean pout.' According to the FDA, this tweak to the DNA allows the salmon to grow to market size faster than non-GE farm-raised salmon."

How Cisco Is Trying To Prove It Can Keep NSA Spies Out of Its Gear ( 130

itwbennett writes: A now infamous photo [leaked by Edward Snowden] showed NSA employees around a box labeled Cisco during a so-called 'interdiction' operation, one of the spy agency's most productive programs,' writes Jeremy Kirk. 'Once that genie is out of the bottle, it's a hell of job to put it back in,' said Steve Durbin, managing director of the Information Security Forum in London. Yet that's just what Cisco is trying to do, and early next year, the company plans to open a facility in the Research Triangle Park in North Carolina where customers can test and inspect source code in a secure environment. But, considering that a Cisco router might have 30 million lines of code, proving a product hasn't been tampered with by spy agencies is like trying 'to prove the non-existence of god,' says Joe Skorupa, a networking and communications analyst with Gartner.
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US Navy Is Planning To Launch a Squadron of Underwater Drones By 2020 ( 38

Hallie Siegel writes: According to the non-profit Autonomous Undersea Vehicle Applications Center, there are over 250 different configurations of unmanned undersea vehicles (UUVs) in service today. That number is likely to grow in the coming years as the technology improves — note that the US Navy has made UUVs a priority and is planning to launch a whole squadron of them by 2020. Dan Gettinger from the Center for the Study of the Drone at Bard College gives an overview of this technology.
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Justice Officials Fear Nation's Biggest Wiretap Operation May Not Be Legal ( 118

schwit1 writes with news about a vast wiretapping program and questions about its legality. USA Today reports: "Federal drug agents have built a massive wiretapping operation in the Los Angeles suburbs, secretly intercepting tens of thousands of Americans' phone calls and text messages to monitor drug traffickers across the United States despite objections from Justice Department lawyers who fear the practice may not be legal. Nearly all of that surveillance was authorized by a single state court judge in Riverside County, who last year signed off on almost five times as many wiretaps as any other judge in the United States. The judge's orders allowed investigators — usually from the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration — to intercept more than 2 million conversations involving 44,000 people, federal court records show."
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Classified Report On the CIA's Secret Prisons Is Caught In Limbo ( 54

sandbagger writes: A 6,700-page report that cost $40 million to produce is being blocked from circulation by the US Department of Justice by relabeling it as a Congressional Record, even though it isn't. Why? Congressional records aren't necessarily subject to Freedom of Information Act requests. Techdirt reports: "There had been some hope that ex-Senator Mark Udall might choose to release some of it from the Senate floor before leaving office, but that didn't happen. And, with the changing of the guard, the new head of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Richard Burr, demanded that all the federal government agencies that received the report should return it to him so he can destroy it and make sure that no one ever sees what's in the report. As we noted, however, this whole thing seemed to be an effort to state publicly that the document was a Congressional record. That matters because Congressional records are not subject to FOIA requests. Executive branch records are subject to FOIA requests -- and the ACLU has made a FOIA request to the exec branch for a copy of the report."
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US Judge Rules Against NSA In Phone Spying Case ( 93

An anonymous reader writes with news that a federal judge ordered the NSA to immediately end its collection of call records associated with a California lawyer and his law firm. Reuters reports: "Opponents of mass surveillance cheered the ruling by U.S. District Court Judge Richard Leon, who granted an injunction to bar the NSA from collecting the phone metadata of California attorney J.J. Little and his small legal practice. Unlike previous rulings against the NSA's program to vacuum up Americans' call data, which was exposed publicly by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden in 2013, Leon's opinion does not grant a stay, meaning it will take effect immediately."
United States

US Spends $1bn Over a Decade Trying To Digitize Immigration Forms, Just 1 Is Online ( 305

Bruce66423 writes: A government project to digitize immigration forms succeeded in enabling exactly one application to be completed and submitted after 10 years of work because of the botched software and implementation. The Washington Post reports: "This project, run by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, was originally supposed to cost a half-billion dollars and be finished in 2013. Instead, it’s now projected to reach up to $3.1 billion and be done nearly four years from now, putting in jeopardy efforts to overhaul the nation’s immigration policies, handle immigrants already seeking citizenship and detect national security threats, according to documents and interviews with former and current federal officials."
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Rural Mississippi: The Land That the Internet Era Forgot ( 154

New submitter lesedeuezghe writes with this Wired story by W. Ralph Eubanks about the efforts of the Extension Service to broaden its scope from mostly agricultural information to bringing broadband to rural communities. "In sleepy public libraries, at Rotary breakfasts, and in town halls, he [Assistant Extension Professor Roberto Gallardo] gives PowerPoint presentations that seem calculated to fill rural audiences with healthy awe for the technological sublime. Rather than go easy, he starts with a rapid-fire primer on heady concepts like the Internet of Things, the mobile revolution, cloud computing, digital disruption, and the perpetual increase of processing power. ('It’s exponential, folks. It’s just growing and growing.') The upshot: If you don’t at least try to think digitally, the digital economy will disrupt you. It will drain your town of young people and leave your business in the dust. Then he switches gears and tries to stiffen their spines with confidence. Start a website, he’ll say. Get on social media. See if the place where you live can finally get a high-speed broadband connection—a baseline point of entry into modern economic and civic life."
United States

Senators Attempting To Remove Robocall Loophole 108

New submitter bearded_yak writes: Last week, it was reported here that a loophole for debt collection robocalls had found its way into the budget bill. In the end, the loophole survived. Now, several senators want to remove it with Senator Ed Markey's "Help Americans Never Get Unwanted Phone calls" (HANGUP) Act. Meanwhile, according to an article at Consumerist, "the Federal Communications Commission has nine months to craft rules dictating the conditions under which the government would be allowed to make these robocalls", so perhaps this loophole will meet its end before that time.
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Larry Lessig Ends Presidential Campaign, Citing Unfair Debate Rules ( 309

An anonymous reader writes: Harvard law professor Larry Lessig is ending his run for the Democratic presidential nomination. Lessig blames the demise of his campaign on party rules that have left him "shut out" of the Democratic debates. "The party won't let me be a candidate," Lessig said in his final campaign video. "I can't ask people to support a campaign that I know can't get before the members of the Democratic Party."

Virginia Radio Station Broadcasting Chinese Propaganda ( 294

An anonymous reader writes: An investigation by Reuters has uncovered a radio station located just outside Washington, D.C. that broadcasts dedicated Chinese propaganda to the U.S. capital and the surrounding area. In 2009, under new ownership, Virginia-based station WAGE erected new broadcast towers, amplifying its signal by ten times, and changed its call letters to WCRW, for "China Radio Washington." All WCRW programming shares a common theme, with newscasts that avoid any criticism of China and are critical of Beijing's political enemies; for example, a report on pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong last year did not explain why people were in the streets, and said only that the demonstrations had "failed without support." WCRW's American owners claim they have no input on content and are only rebroadcasting programming provided to them by a state-sponsored Chinese company to which they lease the airtime. U.S. law requires that anyone seeking to influence American policy or public opinion on behalf of a foreign government must register with the Department of Justice, but according to Reuters, government officials didn't even know WCRW existed until Reuters told them about it.
United States

Meet the Drone Registration Task Force ( 92

An anonymous reader writes: The FAA has named the 25-member task force that will make recommendations for drone registration. Amazon has 2 members in the group, joining Google, Walmart, DJI, 3D Robotics and others. The group will meet formally from Nov. 3-5 before developing recommendations on a streamlined registration process and minimum requirements on which drones should be registered. Department of Transportation (DOT) Secretary Anthony Foxx has set a deadline of Nov. 20 for the task force to complete its recommendations and work is already underway.

You can tell the ideals of a nation by its advertisements. -- Norman Douglas