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United Kingdom

UK Government Admits Intelligence Services Allowed To Break Into Any System 107

An anonymous reader writes Recently, Techdirt noted that the FBI may soon have permission to break into computers anywhere on the planet. It will come as no surprise to learn that the U.S.'s partner in crime, the UK, granted similar powers to its own intelligence services some time back. What's more unexpected is that it has now publicly said as much, as Privacy International explains: "The British Government has admitted its intelligence services have the broad power to hack into personal phones, computers, and communications networks, and claims they are legally justified to hack anyone, anywhere in the world, even if the target is not a threat to national security nor suspected of any crime." That important admission was made in what the UK government calls its "Open Response" to court cases started last year against GCHQ.
Medicine

Judge Rules Drug Maker Cannot Halt Sales of Alzheimer's Medicine 266

HughPickens.com writes Andrew Pollack reports at the NYT that a federal judge has blocked an attempt by the drug company Actavis to halt sales of an older form of its Alzheimer's disease drug Namenda in favor of a newer version with a longer patent life after New York's attorney general filed an antitrust lawsuit accusing the drug company of forcing patients to switch to the newer version of the widely used medicine to hinder competition from generic manufacturers. "Today's decision prevents Actavis from pursuing its scheme to block competition and maintain its high drug prices," says Eric Schneiderman, the New York attorney general. "Our lawsuit against Actavis sends a clear message: Drug companies cannot illegally prioritize profits over patients."

The case involves a practice called product hopping where brand name manufacturers make a slight alteration to their prescription drug (PDF) and engage in marketing efforts to shift consumers from the old version to the new to insulate the drug company from generic competition for several years. For its part Actavis argued that an injunction would be "unprecedented and extraordinary" and would cause the company "great financial harm, including unnecessary manufacturing and marketing costs." Namenda has been a big seller. In the last fiscal year, the drug generated $1.5 billion in sales. The drug costs about $300 a month.
Crime

Fugitive Child Sex Abuser Caught By Face-Recognition Technology 232

mrspoonsi sends this BBC report: "A U.S. juggler facing child sex abuse charges, who jumped bail 14 years ago, has been arrested in Nepal after the use of facial-recognition technology. Street performer Neil Stammer traveled to Nepal eight years ago using a fake passport under the name Kevin Hodges. New facial-recognition software matched his passport picture with a wanted poster the FBI released in January. Mr Stammer, who had owned a magic shop in New Mexico, has now been returned to the U.S. state to face trial. The Diplomatic Security Service, which protects U.S. embassies and checks the validity of U.S. visas and passports, had been using FBI wanted posters to test the facial-recognition software, designed to uncover passport fraud. The FBI has been developing its own facial-recognition database as part of the bureau's Next Generation Identification program."
The Almighty Buck

Predicting a Future Free of Dollar Bills 753

An anonymous reader writes with this story about how a cashless society might work and how far-off in the future it is. "...We're not there yet, but a cashless society is not as fanciful as it seems. Recent research suggests that many believe we will stop using notes and coins altogether in the not-too-distant future. New payments technologies are rapidly transforming our lives. Today in the U.S., 66 percent of all point-of-sale transactions are done with plastic, while in the U.K. it's just under half. But while a truly cashless society is some time away yet, there is raft of groundbreaking technologies that will make cash a mere supporting act in the near future."
The Courts

Supreme Court Upholds Most EPA Rules On Greenhouse Gases 109

UnknowingFool writes In Utility Air Regulatory Group v. EPA, the Supreme Court ruled against the EPA on some limits to greenhouse gases but also upheld other limits. In a 5-4 partial decision, the high court ruled that EPA overstepped their authority in requiring permits only for greenhouse gases for new and modified facilities using the Clean Air act. Such regulatory action can only be granted by Congress. But in the same case on a 7-2 decision, the court ruled that the EPA can enforce greenhouse gas limits on facilities that already require permits for other air pollutants. This leaves intact most of the new regulations proposed by the Obama administration earlier this month as many coal plants produce other air pollutants that can be regulated by the EPA.
Government

Emails Show Feds Asking Florida Cops To Deceive Judges About Surveillance Tech 251

Advocatus Diaboli sends this excerpt from Wired: Police in Florida have, at the request of the U.S. Marshals Service, been deliberately deceiving judges and defendants about their use of a controversial surveillance tool to track suspects, according to newly obtained emails (PDF). At the request of the Marshals Service, the officers using so-called stingrays have been routinely telling judges, in applications for warrants, that they obtained knowledge of a suspect's location from a 'confidential source' rather than disclosing that the information was gleaned using a stingray.
The Courts

U.S. Supreme Court Declines To Rule On Constitutionality of Bulk Surveillance 141

An anonymous reader writes "On Monday, the U.S. Supreme Court declined to rule on the constitutionality of the National Security Agency's bulk acquisition and storage of phone record metadata. The petition (PDF) for a Supreme Court ruling was submitted as a result of U.S. District Judge Richard Leon staying his ruling (PDF), pending an appeal, in a suit in which he concluded that collection of phone metadata without probable cause violated the Fourth Amendment. The plaintiffs had bypassed the federal appeals court and applied directly to the high court, given Judge Leon's admission that the case had significant national security interests at stake. The Supreme Court's decision not to rule on the case means that an appeal will need to be submitted to the federal appeals court as per protocol, but there is speculation that the mass surveillance issue will likely be addressed in the legislative and executive branches of government before the judicial branch weighs in. The provision allowing the bulk collection, Section 215 of the Patriot Act, expires June 1, 2015.'"
Privacy

Supreme Court Ruling Relaxes Warrant Requirements For Home Searches 500

cold fjord writes with news that the Supreme Court has expanded the ability of police officers to search a home without needing a warrant, quoting the LA Times: "Police officers may enter and search a home without a warrant as long as one occupant consents, even if another resident has previously objected, the Supreme Court ruled Tuesday ... The 6-3 ruling ... gives authorities more leeway to search homes without obtaining a warrant, even when there is no emergency. The majority ... said police need not take the time to get a magistrate's approval before entering a home in such cases. But dissenters ... warned that the decision would erode protections against warrantless home searches." In this case, one person objected to the search and was arrested followed by the police returning and receiving the consent of the remaining occupant.
Your Rights Online

Blogger Fined €3,000 for 'Publicizing' Files Found Through Google Search 248

mpicpp points out an article detailing the case of French blogger Olivier Laurelli, who had the misfortune to click links from search results. Laurelli stumbled upon a public link leading to documents from the French National Agency for Food Safety, Environment, and Labor. He downloaded them — over 7 Gb worth — and looked through them, eventually publishing a few slides to his website. When one of France's intelligence agencies found out, they took Laurelli into custody and indicted him, referring to him as a 'hacker.' In their own investigation, they said, "we then found that it was sufficient to have the full URL to access to the resource on the extranet in order to bypass the authentication rules on this server." The first court acquitted Laurelli of the charges against him. An appeals court affirmed part of the decision, but convicted him of "theft of documents and fraudulent retention of information." He was fined €3,000 (about $4,000).
United States

US Customs Destroys Virtuoso's Flutes Because They Were "Agricultural Items" 894

McGruber writes "Flute virtuoso Boujemaa Razgui performed on a variety of flutes, each made by himself over years for specific types of ancient and modern performance. Razgui has performed with many U.S. ensembles and is a regular guest with the diverse and enterprising Boston Camerata. Last week, Razgui flew from Morocco to Boston, with stops in Madrid and New York. In New York, he says, a US Customs official opened his luggage and found the 13 flutelike instruments — 11 nays and two kawalas. Razgui says he had made all of the instruments using hard-to-find reeds. 'They said this is an agriculture item,' said Razgui, who was not present when his bag was opened. 'I fly with them in and out all the time and this is the first time there has been a problem. This is my life.' When his baggage arrived in Boston, the instruments were gone. He was instead given a number to call. 'They told me they were destroyed,' he says. 'Nobody talked to me. They said I have to write a letter to the Department of Agriculture in Washington, D.C. This is horrible. I don't know what to do. I've never written letters to people.'"
Your Rights Online

Proposed California Law Would Mandate Smartphone Kill Switch 252

alphadogg writes "Kill-switch technology that can render a lost or stolen smartphone useless would become mandatory in California under a new bill that will be proposed to the state legislature in January. The bill will be introduced by Senator Mark Leno, a Democrat representing San Francisco and neighboring towns, and George Gascón, the district attorney for San Francisco. Gascón has been spearheading a push by major law-enforcement agencies across the U.S. for more to be done to prevent smartphone theft. The proposed law could reach well beyond the borders of California. Because of the difficulty and added cost of producing handsets solely for sale in California, it could serve to make kill-switch technology a standard feature on phones sold across the U.S."
Biotech

Police Pull Over More Drivers For DNA Tests 562

schwit1 sends this news from the Washington Times: "Pennsylvania police this week were pulling people to the side of the road, quizzing them on their driving habits, and asking if they'd like to provide a cheek swap or a blood sample — the latest in a federally contracted operation that's touted as making roads safer. The same operation took place last month at a community in Texas. Then, drivers were randomly told to pull off the road into a parking lot, where white-coated researchers asked if they'd like to provide DNA samples for a project that determines what percentage of drivers are operating under the influence of drugs or alcohol at given times. With uniformed police in the background, the researchers also offered the motorists money — up to $50 or so — for the blood or saliva samples."
Censorship

UK Men Arrested For Anti-Semitic Tweets After Football Game 598

magic maverick writes "Reuters reports that three men were arrested for posting anti-Semitic comments on Twitter following the English Premier League match between Tottenham Hotspur and West Ham United in October, police said on Friday. 'Two men, aged 22 and 24, were arrested on Thursday in London and in Wiltshire, while a 48-year-old man was arrested at his home in Canning Town in London last week on suspicion of inciting racial hatred. The investigation following the match on October 6 was triggered by complaints about tweets that referred to Hitler and the gas chambers.' I guess it goes to show, you'd be stupid to use your real name or identifying details on Twitter. Perhaps the British should also work on reforming their laws on free speech (or lack thereof)."
Cellphones

Senators Propose Bill Prohibiting Phone Calls On Planes 513

SonicSpike writes with news that two U.S. Senators, Lamar Alexander (R-TN) and Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), have proposed legislation to ban cell phone calls while aboard an airplane. This follows a recent announcement from the FAA increasing the range of electronic gadgets travelers can use while flying, and a vote by the FCC to consider allowing phone calls during flight. However, even as those government agencies work to lift regulations on in-flight technology, the Department of Transportation is pondering a in-flight call ban of its own, saying it might not be "fair" to consumers to have to listen to other passengers talk on the phone throughout a long flight. FCC commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel said, "If we move beyond what we do here today and actually update our rules to allow voice calls on planes we can see a future where our quiet time is monetized and seating in the silent section comes at a premium."
Government

Gov't Puts Witness On No Fly List, Then Denies Having Done So 462

cathyreisenwitz sends word of a San Francisco trial in which the U.S. government appears to be manipulating the no-fly list to its advantage. The court case involves a Stanford Ph.D. student who was barred from returning to the U.S. after visiting her native Malaysia. She's one of roughly 700,000 people on the no-fly list. Here's the sketchy part: the woman's eldest daughter, who was born in the U.S. and is a U.S. citizen, was called as a witness for the trial. Unfortunately, she mysteriously found herself on the no-fly list as well, and wasn't able to board a plane to come to the trial. Lawyers for the Department of Justice told the court that she simply missed her plane, but she was able to provide documents from the airline explaining that the Department of Homeland Security was not allowing her to fly.

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