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Messages - pipthom

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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

AOL Purchase / Hyperlocal news down, not out amid AOL retreat
« on: August 23, 2013, 01:16:28 PM »
Hyperlocal news, the Internet's version of community journalism, has taken a blow with major cutbacks at AOL's Patch, but it may not be time to write its obituary.

Scores of hyperlocal news sites are operating across the United States, and some say the idea still has promise, and could even thrive with the retrenchment of corporate-run news operations like Patch.

"Because Patch has been limping along losing money but supported by AOL, that has prevented other people from coming in and doing independent local sites," said Dan Kennedy, a Northeastern University journalism professor and author of a book on community online journalism.

AOL said last week it was cutting an unspecified number of jobs at its Patch hyperlocal news operations, while consolidating or closing some Patch sites.

Media reports said the cuts could affect as many as 500 people, or 40 percent of the staff. Patch has some 900 local news sites across the United States. Earlier this year, EveryBlock, a hyperlocal website backed by NBC which operated in 19 cities, was shuttered.

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The BBC has been run as "a get-rich scheme" for "an officer class" of top executives, according to one of its former correspondents.

The corporation spent £25 million on severance payments for 150 high-ranking staff in a three-year period up to December, according to a recent National Audit Office report, and since 2005 has made payments totalling £60 million to 401 senior managers.

Speaking at the Edinburgh Television Festival, former Newsnight journalist Liz MacKean said the payments showed "a failing" at the top of the BBC.

She said: "The whole issue about severance payments gets to the heart of something that has gone badly wrong with the BBC over the last decade and more, which is the creation of an officer class that seems to fly in the face of the principles of public service broadcasting and then we learn some of the appalling details about severance payments, that the corporation has been treated as a get-rich scheme where people at the top reward outgoing people at the top even if they have got new jobs to go to, even if they have been given more than a year's notice about their departure."

BBC director-general Tony Hall also highlighted the scandal of the corporation's Digital Media Initiative (DMI) which he scrapped shortly after taking the top job, branding the £100 million attempt to create a production system linked to the corporation's vast broadcasting archive as a waste of money.

Speaking today, he said: "The thing which worries me most about DMI is the fact you went round the place and people said 'we knew all about that' but no-one said and that is the problem of a culture where fingers are pointed, blame is appointed and people don't feel they can own up and say 'This is going wrong'."

Regulators have confirmed a compensation fund of £1.3bn for up to seven million victims of another insurance mis-selling scandal.

The announcement, which was made 12 hours after Sky News was handed details of the Financial Conduct Authority's agreement with banks, outlined how Card Protection Plan Limited (CPP) and 13 high street banks and credit card issuers would pay.

The FCA said the mis-selling centred on CPP's Card Protection and Identity Protection policies between 2005 and 2011 - with many people not even needing the cover.

York-based CPP - which has already been fined £10.5m for its behaviour - was brought to the brink of bankruptcy by the case but secured a new £36m financing deal with its lenders last month to assure its future.

The FCA said today: "Customers were given misleading and unclear information about the policies so that they bought cover that either was not needed, or to cover risks that had been greatly exaggerated.

An exodus of top journalists from Globovision appeared to dim all hope Thursday for preserving editorial independence at what had been Venezuela’s last nationally broadcast opposition TV channel.

At least a dozen journalists quit this week, complaining of government censorship, after the channel’s best-known on-air personality, Leopoldo Castillo, announced that his signature show, “Hello, Citizen,” was being taken off the air. Castillo was named a news director at Globovision in May when the station’s sale was completed to businessmen friendly with the socialist heirs of the late President Hugo Chavez.

The sale was announced before the April 14 presidential election in which Chavez’s hand-picked successor, Nicolas Maduro, defeated opposition leader Henrique Capriles by a razor-thin margin. The seller, Guillermo Zuloaga, said state harassment, including fines, had left him no other option.
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An Australian company's use of humorous censorship has been met with bemusement on Facebook.

Tourism Australia posted a photograph of a kangaroo - aptly named Big Baz - on its official Facebook page, with the marsupial shown casually chilling on some grass.

However, several users complained after Baz's genitals were pixelated as a joke.

"Censoring the reproductive organs of an animal is one of the most stupidest things I've ever seen," said one annoyed reader.

Another wrote: "Why are you censoring a kangaroo? OMG, that's just crazy! I've got loads of pics of my dog on Facebook and none of them are censored, it just seems silly and rather strange at that. Read more

Residents of the town of Mulberry, Florida are growing concerned about notorious Koran-burning pastor Terry Jones since his organization recently announced its intention to repeat the infamous 2010 event.

Last month, Jones announced plans to burn 2,998 Korans on September 11 – one book for every victim of the 2001 Al-Qaeda terrorist attacks on the US. In 2010 – the first time that Jones carried out the stunt – news of the event spread quickly through international media and ultimately caused riots to break out in Afghanistan.

The “Stand Up America Now with Dr. Terry Jones” organization put out a press release regarding the upcoming Koran burning.

“The radical hand of Islam shows itself with violence against anyone who dares to stand up and speak the truth,” read the statement. “We at Stand Up America Now will not back down. We will not be silent.”

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In early June Rini Das couldn’t work out why her posts to LinkedIn groups had stopped appearing.

It took Das, chief executive of software company Pakra, a week to discover she had been blocked and deleted by a moderator in one group and, by default, placed on a blacklist that restricted her from posting comments on any other group on the network.

In LinkedIn speak, Das had been SWAMed.

SWAM, or Site Wide Auto-Moderation, a LinkedIn policy introduced in December, is effectively a form of crowd-sourced blacklisting. It's a weapon in the professional network's covert war on spammers who use fake accounts to post links in groups or to email members.

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Guardian newspaper editor Alan Rusbridger has revealed that British authorities threatened to censor his team's reporting on surveillance by the state.

Rusbridger says British officials told him that documents from the whistleblower Edward Snowden should be destroyed or handed back and that they would use the courts to enforce their position.

The British government is already facing questions over why the partner of a Guardian journalist was held at Heathrow Airport for nine hours under anti-terrorism laws.

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Arriana Huffington / Rick Perry Seeks Obamacare Funding For Texans
« on: August 21, 2013, 09:14:39 AM »
Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R), a longstanding Obamacare critic, is negotiating a $100 million health care deal with the Obama administration, Politico reported on Tuesday.

The Community First Choice Program, aimed at improving the quality of health services for the elderly and disabled, was approved by the Texas legislature earlier this year. Perry health aides are now looking to the Obama administration for funding.

Perry has been a strident Obamacare critic from the beginning, but his spokesman explained that the funding pitch is about aiding people with disabilities, independent of a health insurance mandate.

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