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Slate reports that even old movies are enough to trigger a pretty strong knee jerk: Team America, World Police, selected as a tongue-in-cheek replacement by Dallas's Alamo Drafthouse Theater for the Sony-yanked The Interview after that film drew too much heat following the recent Sony hack, has also been pulled. The theater's tweet, as reprinted by Slate: "due to circumstances beyond our control,” their Dec. 27 Team America screening has also been canceled." If only I had a copy, I'd like to host a viewing party here in Austin for The Interview, which I want to see now more than ever. (And it would be a fitting venue.)
230 comments | 3 days ago
cartechboy writes The common assumption among Tesla fans seems to be that state auto-dealer lobbyists are working with Republican legislators to enact laws banning direct sales of Tesla's electric cars to retail buyers. Is it true? The New York Times published an article with some data points that assesses the supposition. While the article mainly focuses on the conflict between Uber and the Republican party, some quotes could be easily applied to Tesla. For instance, Republican National Committee chairman Reince Preibus said, "It should be consumers, not government bureaucrats or legislators, that deicde what companies get our business." The author of the article, Josh Barro, wrote that 22 states permit direct sales of automobiles by Tesla to retail buyers, and of those the majority--14 of them-- voted for President Obama. He suggested that Democratic California, Illinois, and New York "have freer markets in auto retailing than Texas," which is presently Republican. When looking at a five-year-old article by Nate Silver that looked at political donations by car dealers, fully 88 percent of those donations went to Republican candidates, and just 12 percent to Democrats. That possibly suggests a propensity among Republican state legislators to support the interests for car dealers over those of electric-car buyers. Is the small bit of evidence enough to make a case? Good background on the current system of dealership sinecure can be found in this short 2009 Competition Advocacy Paper from the U.S. Department of Justice, which delves into the history and effects of the dealers-only system which still prevails.
139 comments | 4 days ago
SternisheFan passes on this excerpt from an Ars Technica article: On Wednesday Councilman Dan Garodnick introduced a bill to the New York City council seeking to ban all use of drones except those operated by police officers who obtain warrants. A second, parallel bill introduced by councilman Paul Vallone would place more stringent restrictions on drone use but stop short of banning drones for hobbyists and companies altogether. Both bills have been passed to the city's committee on public safety. An all-out ban on drones within the metropolis would be a quite wide-reaching step, especially as the Federal Aviation Authority (FAA) seems poised to adopt more permissive rules, with respect to commercial interests in particular. Earlier this year, the FAA formally granted six Hollywood companies exemptions to drone ban rules. A couple of months later, the FAA granted similar exemptions for construction site monitoring and oil rig flare stack inspections. The article explains that Vallone's bill is less restrictive, and rather than propose an outright ban "lists 10 instances where operating a UAV would be illegal, including at night, out of the operator's eyesight, or above 400 ft high. Outside of those conditions, hobbyists and commercial interests would be free to fly drones."
68 comments | 4 days ago
New submitter aquadood writes: According to the Sunlight Foundation's analysis of recent comment submissions to the FCC regarding Net Neutrality, the majority (56.5%) were submitted by a single organization called American Commitment, which has "shadowy" ties to the Koch brothers' network. The blog article goes on to break down the comments in-depth, showing a roughly 60/40 split between those against net neutrality and those for it, respectively.
204 comments | 5 days ago
As reported by The Independent, A scientific study has found that Greenland is actually connected to the area beneath the polar ice where the North Pole lies – thanks to a huge stretch of continental crust known as the Lomonosov Ridge. Since Greenland is a Danish territory, that gives the country the right to put its hat in the ring for ownership of the stretch of land, Denmark’s foreign minister [Martin Lidegaard ] said. ... Of the five Arctic countries – the US, Russia, Norway, Canada and Denmark —only Canada and Russia had indicated an interest in the North Pole territory until now. "This is a historical milestone for Denmark and many others as the area has an impact on the lives of lot of people. After the U.N. panel had taken a decision based on scientific data, comes a political process," Lidegaard told The Associated Press in an interview on Friday. "I expect this to take some time. An answer will come in a few decades. Why such a big deal? As Business Insider notes, The U.S. currently estimates that the Arctic sea bed could contain 15% of the earth's remaining oil, along with 30% of the planet's natural gas and 20% of its liquefied natural gas. Whichever country is able to successfully claim the Arctic would have the right to extract these resources.
189 comments | about a week ago
szczys writes Obviously the personal computer revolution was world-wide, but the Eastern Bloc countries had a story of PC evolution all their own. Martin Malý tells first hand of his experiences seeing black market imports, locally built clones of popular western machines, and all kinds of home-built equipment. From the article: "The biggest problem was a lack of modern technologies. There were a lot of skilled and clever people in eastern countries, but they had a lot of problems with the elementary technical things. Manufacturing of electronics parts was divided into diverse countries of Comecon – The Council for Mutual Economic Assistance. In reality, it led to an absurd situation: You could buy the eastern copy of Z80 (made in Eastern Germany as U880D), but you couldn’t buy 74LS00 at the same time. Yes, a lot of manufacturers made it, but 'it is out of stock now; try to ask next year.' So 'make a computer' meant 50 percent of electronics skills and 50 percent of unofficial social network and knowledge like 'I know a guy who knows a guy and his neighbor works in a factory, where they maybe have a material for PCBs' at those times."
115 comments | about a week ago
An anonymous reader send this link to a developing situation in Sydney, Australia, being reported on via live feed at the Guardian, and covered by various other news outlets as well. According to CNN's coverage, "CNN affiliate Seven Network said that at least 13 people are being held at the Lindt Chocolate Cafe. It published a photograph of people inside the cafe holding a black flag with Arabic writing on it. The flag reads: "There is no God but God and Mohammed is the prophet of God." From The New York Times' coverage: The police have shut down parts of the city’s transport system, and closed off the mall area. They would not confirm how many people were being held hostage inside the cafe, nor whether those inside are armed. Local media reports said that the airspace over Sydney had been closed and the famed Sydney Opera House evacuated. Television images showed heavily armed officers with their weapons trained on the cafe.
877 comments | about a week ago
Freshly Exhumed writes Citizenship and Immigration Canada has granted an unprecedented exemption to Microsoft that will allow the company to bring in an unspecified number of temporary foreign workers as trainees without first looking for Canadians to fill the jobs. No other company in any other field has been granted such an exemption, and it does not fall within any of the other categories where exemptions are normally given, according to a source familiar with process, effectively creating a new category: the Microsoft Exemption. Microsoft Canada did not immediately respond to questions about the deal, but in an interview earlier this year with Bloomberg Businessweek, Karen Jones, Microsoft's deputy general counsel, said the deal will allow Microsoft to bypass stricter U.S. rules on visas for foreign workers. The entire issue of temporary foreign workers has been as blisteringly hot a topic across Canada as it has been in the USA.
122 comments | about a week ago
HughPickens.com writes The NYT reports that Peruvian authorities say Greenpeace activists have damaged the fragile, and restricted, landscape near the Nazca lines, ancient man-made designs etched in the Peruvian desert when they placed a large sign that promoted renewable energy near a set of lines that form the shape of a giant hummingbird. The sign was meant to draw the attention of world leaders, reporters and others who were in Lima, the Peruvian capital, for a United Nations summit meeting aimed at reaching an agreement to address climate change. Greenpeace issued a statement apologizing for the stunt at the archaeological site and its international executive director, Kumi Naidoo, flew to Lima to apologize for scarring one of Peru's most treasured national symbols. "We are not ready to accept apologies from anybody," says Luis Jaime Castillo, the vice minister for cultural heritage. "Let them apologize after they repair the damage."
465 comments | about two weeks ago
schwit1 (797399) writes Attorney General Eric Holder has decided against forcing a reporter for the New York Times to reveal the identity of a confidential source, according to a senior Justice Department official. The reporter, James Risen, has been battling for years to stop prosecutors from forcing him to name his source for a book that revealed a CIA effort to sabotage Iran's nuclear weapons program. The government wanted Risen's testimony in the trial of a former CIA official, Jeffrey Sterling, accused of leaking classified information.
55 comments | about two weeks ago
HughPickens.com writes: Edward Wyatt reports at the NY Times that the NAACP, the National Urban League and the Rainbow/PUSH Coalition have sent representatives, including the Rev. Jesse L. Jackson, to tell FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler that they think President Obama's call to regulate broadband Internet service as a utility would harm minority communities by stifling investment in underserved areas and entrenching already dominant Internet companies. "We got a lot of poor folks who don't have broadband," said Jackson. "If you create something where, for the poor, the lane is slower and the cost is more, you can't survive." "I think we're all on board with the values embedded in what President Obama said, things like accelerating broadband deployment and adoption," says Nicol Turner-Lee, vice president of the Minority Media and Telecommunications Council and a member of the group including Mr. Jackson that met with the F.C.C. chairman. "The question is, will we be able to solve these issues by going so far with stringent regulation?"
Some of the groups that oppose Title II designation, like the Urban League and the League of United Latin American Citizens, have received contributions from organizations affiliated with Internet service providers, like the Comcast Foundation, the charitable organization endowed by Comcast. But those organizations say that the donations or sponsorships do not influence their positions. "We get support from people on all sides of the issue, including Google and Facebook," says Brent A. Wilkes, national executive director of the League of United Latin American Citizens. "We don't let any of them influence our position." For it's part, the NAACP says its formal policy position is that the NAACP neither endorses, nor opposes the formally defined concept of net neutrality but supports the need to particularly focus on underserved racial and ethnic minority and poor communities, while highlighting the importance of protecting an open internet.
127 comments | about two weeks ago
HughPickens.com writes On 30 August 2012, Hollywood star Clint Eastwood took the stage to lambast President Obama. What ensued was an odd, 11-minute monologue where Eastwood conversed with an empty chair upon which an imaginary Barack Obama sat. The evening of Eastwood's speech the official campaign Twitter account @MittRomney did not mention the actor, while the Obama campaign deftly tweeted out from @BarackObama a picture of the president sitting in his chair with the words "This Seat's Taken". The picture was retweeted 59,663 times, favorited 23,887 times, and, as importantly, was featured in news articles across the country. According to Daniel Kress both campaigns sought to influence journalists in direct and indirect ways, and planned their strategic communication efforts around political events such as debates well in advance. Despite these similarities, staffers say that Obama's campaign had much greater ability to respond in real time to unfolding commentary around political events (PDF) given an organizational structure that provided digital staffers with a high degree of autonomy.
Romney's social media team did well when it practiced its strategy carefully before big events like the debates. But Obama's social media team was often quicker to respond to things and more creative. According to Kress, at extraordinary moments campaigns can exercise what Isaac Reed calls "performative power," influence over other actors' definitions of the situation and their consequent actions through well-timed, resonant, and rhetorically effective communicative action and interaction. During the Romney campaign as many as 22 staffers screened posts for Romney's social media accounts before they could go out. As Romney's digital director Zac Moffatt told Kreiss, the campaign had "the best tweets ever written by 17 people. ... It was the best they all could agree on every single time."
47 comments | about two weeks ago
HughPickens.com writes Andrew Higgins reports in the NYT that Romanian officials including the prime minister point to a mysteriously well-financed and well-organized campaign of protests over fracking in Europe and are pointing their fingers at Russia's Gazprom, a state-controlled energy giant, that has a clear interest in preventing countries dependent on Russian natural gas from developing their own alternative supplies of energy and preserving a lucrative market for itself — and a potent foreign policy tool for the Kremlin. "Russia, as part of their sophisticated information and disinformation operations, engaged actively with so-called nongovernmental organizations — environmental organizations working against shale gas — to maintain dependence on imported Russian gas," says NATO's former secretary general, Anders Fogh Rasmussen. A wave of protest against fracking began three years ago in Bulgaria, a country highly dependent on Russian energy. Faced with a sudden surge of street protests by activists, many of whom had previously shown little interest in environmental issues, the Bulgarian government in 2012 banned fracking and canceled a shale gas license issued earlier to Chevron.
155 comments | about two weeks ago
HughPickens.com writes: Ju-Min Park and James Pearson report at Reuters that despite its poverty and isolation, North Korea has poured resources into a sophisticated cyber-warfare cell called Bureau 121, staffed by some of the most talented, and rewarded, people in North Korea, handpicked and trained from as young as 17. "They are handpicked," says Kim Heung-kwang, a former computer science professor in North Korea who defected to the South in 2004. "It is a great honor for them. It is a white-collar job there and people have fantasies about it." The hackers in Bureau 121 were among the 100 students who graduate from the University of Automation each year after five years of study. Over 2,500 apply for places at the university, which has a campus in Pyongyang, behind barbed wire.
According to Jang Se-yul, who studied with them at North Korea's military college for computer science, the Bureau 121 unit comprises about 1,800 cyber-warriors, and is considered the elite of the military. As well as having salaries far above the country's average, they are often gifted with good food, luxuries and even apartments. According to John Griasafi, this kind of treatment could be expected for those working in the elite Bureau. "You'd have to be pretty special and well trusted to even be allowed on email in North Korea so I have no doubt that they are treated well too." Pyongyang has active cyber-warfare capabilities, military and software security experts have said. In 2013, tens of thousands of computers were made to malfunction, disrupting work at banks and television broadcasters in South Korea. "In North Korea, it's called the Secret War," says Jang.
102 comments | about two weeks ago
HughPickens.com writes Gerrymandering is the practice of establishing a political advantage for a particular party by manipulating district boundaries to concentrate all your opponents' votes in a few districts while keeping your party's supporters as a majority in the remaining districts. For example, in North Carolina in 2012 Republicans ended up winning nine out of 13 congressional seats even though more North Carolinians voted for Democrats than Republicans statewide. Now Jessica Jones reports that researchers at Duke are studying the mathematical explanation for the discrepancy. Mathematicians Jonathan Mattingly and Christy Vaughn created a series of district maps using the same vote totals from 2012, but with different borders. Their work was governed by two principles of redistricting: a federal rule requires each district have roughly the same population and a state rule requires congressional districts to be compact. Using those principles as a guide, they created a mathematical algorithm to randomly redraw the boundaries of the state's 13 congressional districts. "We just used the actual vote counts from 2012 and just retabulated them under the different districtings," says Vaughn. "If someone voted for a particular candidate in the 2012 election and one of our redrawn maps assigned where they live to a new congressional district, we assumed that they would still vote for the same political party."
The results were startling. After re-running the election 100 times with a randomly drawn nonpartisan map each time, the average simulated election result was 7 or 8 U.S. House seats for the Democrats and 5 or 6 for Republicans. The maximum number of Republican seats that emerged from any of the simulations was eight. The actual outcome of the election — four Democratic representatives and nine Republicans – did not occur in any of the simulations. "If we really want our elections to reflect the will of the people, then I think we have to put in safeguards to protect our democracy so redistrictings don't end up so biased that they essentially fix the elections before they get started," says Mattingly. But North Carolina State Senator Bob Rucho is unimpressed. "I'm saying these maps aren't gerrymandered," says Rucho. "It was a matter of what the candidates actually was able to tell the voters and if the voters agreed with them. Why would you call that uncompetitive?"
413 comments | about three weeks ago
New submitter ddtmm writes The Syrian Electronic Army is claiming responsibility for the hacking of multiple news websites, including CBC News. Some users trying to access the CBC website reported seeing a pop-up message reading: "You've been hacked by the Syrian Electronic Army (SEA)." It appears the hack targeted a network used by many news organizations and businesses. A tweet from an account appearing to belong to the Syrian Electronic Army suggested the attacks were meant to coincide with the U.S. Thanksgiving on Thursday. The group claimed to have used the domain Gigya.com, a company that offers businesses a customer identity management platform, to hack into other sites via GoDaddy, its domain registrar. Gigya is "trusted by more than 700 leading brands," according to its website. The hacker or hackers redirected sites to the Syrian Electronic Army image that users saw. Gigya's operations team released a statement Thursday morning saying that it identified an issue with its domai registrar at 6:45 a.m. ET. The breach "resulted in the redirect of the Gigya.com domain for a subset of users," the company said. Among the websites known to be hacked so far are New York Times, Chicago Tribune, CNBC, PC World, Forbes, The Telegraph, Walmart and Facebook.
24 comments | about three weeks ago
An anonymous reader writes A malfunction in electronic voting machines in Saline County, Kansas, left over 5,000 votes uncounted. That's roughly one-third of the votes cast. Counting those 5,207 votes didn't change any outcomes in this case however. “That’s a huge difference,” county Chairman Randy Duncan said when notified by the Journal of the error. “That’s scary. That makes me wonder about voting machines. Should we go back to paper ballots?”
127 comments | about three weeks ago
McGruber writes: Fired HP CEO and failed Republican Senate candidate Carly Fiorina is "actively exploring a 2016 presidential run." Fiorina has been "talking privately with potential donors, recruiting campaign staffers, courting grass-roots activists in early caucus and primary states, and planning trips to Iowa and New Hampshire starting next week."
433 comments | about a month ago
An anonymous reader writes with this snippet from The Guardian: "Internet companies are allowing their networks to be used to plot "murder and mayhem", David Cameron has said in response to the official inquiry into the intelligence agencies' actions ahead of the killing of Lee Rigby. He demanded that internet companies live up to their social responsibilities to report potential terror threats and said there was no reason for such firms to be willing to cooperate with state agencies over child abuse but not over combatting terrorism. His comments to the House of Commons came after the parliamentary intelligence and security committee concluded that the brutal murder of Rigby could have been prevented if an internet company had passed on an online exchange in which one of the killers expressed "in the most graphic terms" his intention to carry out an Islamist jihadi attack.
183 comments | about a month ago
schnell writes: The New Republic is running a fascinating article that analyzes the changing state of foreign development. Tech entrepreneurs and celebrities are increasingly realizing the inefficiencies of the old charitable NGO-based model of foreign aid, and shifting their support to "disruptive" new ideas that have been demonstrated in small experiments to deliver disproportionately beneficial results. But multiple studies now show that "game changing" ideas that prove revolutionary in limited studies fail to prove effective at scale, and are limited by a simple and disappointing fact: no matter how revolutionary your idea is, whether it works or not is wholly dependent on 1.) the local culture and circumstances, and 2.) who is implementing the program.
92 comments | about a month ago