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A NEW Zealand teenage internet troll has been convicted of assaulting an Australian television journalist during an interview and ordered to pay him $440 for emotional harm.

Tristan Barker, son of former Split Enz drummer Michael Barker, was sentenced in Rotorua District Court today after pleading guilty to assaulting Seven Network's Today Tonight reporter David Eccleston.

He was convicted and discharged, and ordered to pay $440 to Eccleston as emotional compensation.

The assault took place in Rotorua in March during an interview that focused on Barker's internet trolling, which occurred when he was living in Australia.

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The Canadian government in recent years has banned government scientists from talking about a growing list of research topics including: snowflakes, the ozone layer, salmon, and previously published work about a 13,000-year-old flood.

Now it seems the scientists are talking back.

Researchers in 16 Canadian cities have called protests on Monday against science policies introduced under the government of Stephen Harper, which include rules barring government researchers from talking about their own work with journalists and, in some cases, even fellow researchers.

"There a lot of concern in Canada right now about government scientists not being allowed to speak about their research to the public because of the new communications policies being put into place," said Katie Gibbs, director of a new group, Evidence for Democracy, which is organizing the protests.

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It wasn’t ever seriously in doubt, but the FBI yesterday acknowledged that it secretly took control of Freedom Hosting last July, days before the servers of the largest provider of ultra-anonymous hosting were found to be serving custom malware designed to identify visitors.

Freedom Hosting’s operator, Eric Eoin Marques, had rented the servers from an unnamed commercial hosting provider in France, and paid for them from a bank account in Las Vegas. It’s not clear how the FBI took over the servers in late July, but the bureau was temporarily thwarted when Marques somehow regained access and changed the passwords, briefly locking out the FBI until it gained back control.

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Microsoft and Google announced Friday they are going forward with a lawsuit against the US government for the right to reveal more information about official requests for customer data by American intelligence.

The companies originally filed suits in June following revelations provided by Edward Snowden of their relationship with the National Security Agency and the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, which oversees the government’s requests of the companies’ systems.

Microsoft’s general counsel Brad Smith announced the companies were following through with a suit, saying negotiations with the government since June have not yielded significant progress. The companies maintain they should be allowed to disclose the nature of their relationship with government spying — via the program known as PRISM — in the face of public criticism after the NSA stories were reported by The Guardian and The Washington Post.

“On six occasions in recent weeks we agreed with the Department of Justice to extend the Government’s deadline to reply to these lawsuits.  We hoped that these discussions would lead to an agreement acceptable to all.  While we appreciate the good faith and earnest efforts by the capable Government lawyers with whom we negotiated, we are disappointed that these negotiations ended in failure,” Smith wrote in a post entitled “Standing Together for Greater Transparency” on Microsoft’s corporate blog.

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The UN is under growing pressure from Syria to do its job and prevent an American “war of aggression,” and the Arab League demanding punishment for “war criminals” in the Syrian government.

The two identical letters delivered to the UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and President of the UN Security Council, Maria Cristina Perceval call on the international body to maintain its role of protector of international legitimacy and prevent US-led aggression against Damascus, Syria’s permanent representative to the UN Bashar al-Jaafari told Sana.

The Syrian government continues to deny any use of chemical weapons on the civilian population, with Jaafari reminding of Syria’s cooperation with the UN on this issue, which was often downplayed and twisted in the western media.

“The Syrian government is the first side who asked the UN Secretary General to form an objective investigation team to investigate the use of chemical weapons in Khan al-Assal in Aleppo,” Bashar al-Jaafari said, adding that they warned, “more than a year ago, against the serious risks of the possibility of using chemical materials by the armed terrorist groups in Syria.”

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Big Cars makes big improvement in extra time

There is something both very familiar and very alien about the characters and the world of AOL's Little Women, Big Cars.

We all know a group of soccer moms with a dynamic like the one depicted in this AOL scripted series. There's Meg (the supermom) and her cohorts Barbara (the feminist divorcée, played by Julie Warner), Rocky (the diva), and Connie (the diva's BFF). But through the eyes of outsiders, the world they inhabit is often perceived as small, driven by overprotective, neurotic tendencies.

The Vuguru-produced Little Women invites the audience to experience that world's intricacies as a way to cast away any preconceived notions about the difficulties of being a mother while also gently poking fun at that sub-culture. However, despite the creators’ best intentions, the shallowness with which the show treated that world in its first season disappoints; the potential is there, but often falls flat.

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If you can’t beat China’s censors, why not join them?

That’s what a Harvard University professor decided to do, in a creative effort to learn firsthand just how censorship in China works.

To get inside the system, professor Gary King and two Ph.D. students started their own fake social network over the past year, which—while it never formally went online—allowed them to reach out to some of China’s many companies offering censorship software. Their results, published this week, show the wide array of tools that social media companies like Sina Corp. and Tencent Holdings Ltd. can harness to control information as required by authorities.

Read more at WSJ’s China Real Time.

Arriana Huffington / An Inside Look at China’s Censorship Tools
« on: August 31, 2013, 05:30:32 PM »
If you can’t beat China’s censors, why not join them?

That’s what a Harvard University professor decided to do, in a creative effort to learn firsthand just how censorship in China works.

To get inside the system, professor Gary King and two Ph.D. students started their own fake social network over the past year, which—while it never formally went online—allowed them to reach out to some of China’s many companies offering censorship software. Their results, published this week, show the wide array of tools that social media companies like Sina Corp. and Tencent Holdings Ltd. can harness to control information as required by authorities.

Read more at WSJ’s China Real Time.

US intelligence carried out 231 offensive cyber-ops in 2011, nearly three-quarters of them against key targets such as Iran, Russia, China and N. Korea, as well as nuclear proliferation, a classified report obtained by The Washington Post says.

The “most challenging targets” also include suspected terrorists “in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen, Iraq, Somalia, and other extremist safe havens,” according to one list of priorities. US budget documents describe the attacks as “active defense.”

Some cyber-operations reportedly feature what one budget document calls “field operations” organized “to physically place hardware implants or software modifications” with the help of CIA operatives or clandestine military forces.

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By Laura Poitras, Marcel Rosenbach and Holger Stark

President Obama promised that NSA surveillance activities were aimed exclusively at preventing terrorist attacks. But secret documents from the intelligence agency show that the Americans spy on Europe, the UN and other countries.

The European Union building on New York's Third Avenue is an office tower with a glittering facade and an impressive view of the East River. Chris Matthews, the press officer for the EU delegation to the United Nations, opens the ambassadors' room on the 31st floor, gestures toward a long conference table and says: "This is where all ambassadors from our 28 members meet every Tuesday at 9 a.m." It is the place where Europe seeks to forge a common policy on the UN.

To mark the official opening of the delegation's new offices in September 2012, EU Commission President José Manuel Barroso and EU Council President Herman Van Rompuy flew in from Brussels, and UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon was on hand as guest of honor. For "old" Europe -- which finances over one-third of the regular UN budget -- this was a confirmation of its geopolitical importance.

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Arriana Huffington / Why Huffington Post Comments Should Stay Anonymous
« on: August 23, 2013, 01:23:46 PM »
According to statements made by Huffington Post founder Arianna Huffington in Boston on Wednesday, the site plans to end anonymous comments next month, as my GigaOM colleague Barb Darrow reported. Huffington said she has decided there are too many “trolls” using the site who hide behind anonymity to make violent or offensive comments, and that she believes people should “stand up for what they say.”

Is anonymity really the problem with online comments? I don’t think so, and there’s at least some evidence that supports my argument—but more than that, anonymity has real value, and giving it up has serious consequences.

The Huffington Post founder suggested her feelings about anonymity have been colored by recent rape and death threats against women in Britain, even though most of these—including a sustained attack on freelance journalist Caroline Criado-Perez that took place over a number of days—actually occurred on Twitter (which has repeatedly defended its users’ rights to remain anonymous, or at least pseudonymous). According to Huffington:

“Trolls are just getting more and more aggressive and uglier, and I just came from London where there are threats of rape and death threats. I feel that freedom of expression is given to people who stand up for what they say and not hiding behind anonymity. We need to evolve a platform to meet the needs of the grown-up Internet.”

Do we need a “grown-up Internet”?

An air of constructive civility should descend on the Huffington Post comment threads next month, if the latest news from its founder is to be believed. Arianna Huffington has announced that the site is putting an end to anonymous comments in a move to stop trolls posting abusive messages.

"Freedom of expression is given to people who stand up for what they say and not hiding behind anonymity," she said at a conference in Boston, citing the threats to Caroline Criado-Perez as an example of trolls' behaviour getting uglier and more aggressive.

Of course, when you have reports of female journalists (including myself) receiving rape and bomb threats, it's hard to deny there's a problem. But removing anonymity from comments is an ill-thought-out way to deal with it. It will have big consequences for the way that Huffington Post commenters can interact with the publication and, at the same time, may do very little to combat the problem of abusiveness. Read full article

Leaked documents from the German Federal Office for Information Security (BSI) indicate that the organization has become suspicious of Trusted Platform Module (TPM) technology built into an increasing number of Windows 8 PCs and tablets.

Documents uncovered and leaked by German news outlet Zeit Online found that the German Ministry of Economic Affairs was displaying significant unease with the combined technologies, suggesting the possibility that a backdoor could be created for further covert NSA surveillance operations.

The backdoor in question would allow Microsoft to control the computer remotely. “Trusted Computing,” a method developed and promoted by the Trusted Computing Group, is nothing new – fears were being aired over its capabilities and potential as early its founding in 1999.

TPM appeared in 2006 as security technology. However, version 2.0 would implant a chip on every single PC, allowing it to control which programs could and couldn’t be executed because under Windows 8, there is no override. The users thus basically surrender control over their computers. Read full story

Newly unveiled National Security Agency programs detail how the US government has the ability to monitor approximately 75 per cent of American internet traffic, and further discloses how telecommunications companies are compelled to provide such data.

The programs – known as Blarney, Fairview, Oakstar, Lithium, and Stormbrew – are able to monitor the writing of emails, not just a message’s metadata, according to The Wall Street Journal. The programs also affect digital phone calls placed inside the US.

Among other capabilities, the systems can “reach roughly 75 per cent of all US internet traffic, including a wide array of communications by foreigners and Americans.”

The NSA commands internet service providers (ISPs) to send “various stream internet traffic it believes most likely to contain foreign intelligence,” then copies that data and searches through it.

NSA officials have claimed in recent weeks that the intelligence agency “touches” a mere 1.6 percent of internet traffic, although TechCrunch speculated that rhetoric refers to information that has been sent to the NSA and “culled to their liking.” Read full story

AOL Purchase / Half of AOL’s MN Patch Sites Face Closure
« on: August 23, 2013, 01:17:25 PM »
Thirteen of Minnesota’s 25 Patch sites are slated for closure if they cannot be sold or partnered in about 60 days.

AOL’s “hyper-local” news network Patch proceeded to layoff about 40 percent of its employees Friday, and while its Minnesota news websites remain intact, it seems some have a ticking clock.
According to an email from Kevira Voegele, an editor for the company’s Eden Prairie site, 13 of Minnesota’s 25 sites will be closed, sold, or partnered by October 15, reported the Pioneer Press.
A total of 350 Patch employees were laid off on Friday, and 142 Patch sites were closed nationally. Minnesota avoided the brunt of the assault by only losing two news employees and its five-member advertising sales staff.
Reached Wednesday, several Minnesota-based Patch editors declined to comment on the closures or layoffs, and Patch's national PR team did not immediately respond to inquiries.
While all of the Minnesota sites are still churning out recent news, according to Voegele’s email, the following are on the chopping block for closure or consolidation unless they are sold: Apple Valley-Rosemount, Burnsville, Eden Prairie, Fridley, Golden Valley, Hopkins, Inver Grove Heights, Lake Minnetonka, Mendota Heights, Plymouth, Roseville, Shakopee, and Southwest Minneapolis. Read more

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