Sunday, July 31, 2011
If you use Internet Explorer, your IQ might be below average--at least, according to one study.
AptiQuant, a "psychometric consulting" firm that provides hiring exams for businesses, gave online IQ tests to more than 100,000 people. Visitors arrived either through organic searches or through advertisements on other sites, and Aptiquant made a note of which browser each test taker was using.
On average, Internet Explorer users fared the worst, with IE6 users at the bottom of the pile and IE8 users performing slightly better. Firefox, Chrome and Safari fell in the middle with little difference between them. IE with Chrome Frame and Camino landed on top, along with Opera, whose users scored the highest (on average).
"The study showed a substantial relationship between an individual's cognitive ability and their choice of web browser," AptiQuant concluded. "From the test results, it is a clear indication that individuals on the lower side of the IQ scale tend to resist a change/upgrade of their browsers."
Now, you might argue that Internet Explorer's standing as the most popular Web browser means more IE users took the test, pushing their scores toward the mean. But AptiQuant also provided data from a similar 2006 study showing that Internet Explorer users performed well -- back when IE had a bigger share of the market -- so that theory may not hold up. It's also possible, as Business Insider's Matt Rosoff points out, that computer geeks with high IQs are more likely to use other browsers, but again the 2006 study doesn't bear that theory out.
Whatever the reason for these results, I wouldn't take them too seriously. They are, after all, comprised only of people who feel compelled to take IQ tests. But if you ever want to argue that Internet Explorer 6 users are too stupid to upgrade, at least now you've got some empirical evidence.
Saturday, July 30, 2011
Posted: 29 Jul 2011 02:00 PM PDT
Comcast stirred a pot of trouble when it decided to cut off Vrignaud, who twice exceeded his monthly data cap of 250 gigabytes on his cable modem. Vrignaud’s story hit news outlets across the nation and raised the question: What do broadband providers have to put up with when it comes to their customers, particularly as cloud computing starts to put the strain on networks? And what right do consumers have to internet access?
Vrignaud, a former game-focused platform strategist and evangelist for Microsoft and Intel, is a frequent blogger on his own personal Ozymandias site. He also recently worked at Amazon and is now an independent game industry consultant. He’s raising a lot of questions about it now. Comcast offered to restore service this week, but Vrignaud said it was too late.
He let the world know about how Comcast cut him off and the arbitrary nature of it. Dozens of publications wrote about it. Vrignaud is considering his options, which include Comcast’s rival, Qwest/CenturyLink, which could provide bandwidth via telephone lines. Comcast is getting a publicity black-eye and taking a drubbing from consumers for its stance on data caps at a time when bandwidth should be getting less expensive, not more.
We caught up with Vrignaud in Seattle at the Casual Connect game conference, and he told us the latest about his ordeal.
It all started on July 11, when Vrignaud came home and discovered he had no internet and that he would be cut off for a year. Vrignaud had a $60 a month Comcast cable modem that could deliver 15 megabits a second to his home and carry data out of his home at 3 megabits per second. A month earlier, Vrignaud said he had a “polite but irritated” conversation with Comcast’s Customer Security Department about how much data he was using. He told them he had no idea how he used so much and wondered if his roommates may have hit the limit because they watched Netflix HD streaming movies and listened to Pandora’s internet-streamed music radio. He also had an open access point that he reserved for guests. Vrignaud wanted to know his usage details, but Comcast wouldn’t share that.
“I made very clear to the gentleman I spoke with that I thought Comcast’s data cap policy was arbitrary, unfair, and extremely irritating,” Vrignaud later wrote on his blog. “And that if I had any decent competitive options in the neighborhood I’d dump Comcast in a heartbeat. Since I don’t, I listened to him read his canned warning that if I exceeded their cap again I’d be cut off again.”
Comcast reactivated the service and Vrignaud asked roommates to keep an eye on the bandwidth use and deactivated the visitor access point. Then he forgot about it, got cut off again, and found that he had now been banned for a full year “due to exceeding Comcast’s acceptable use policy limits.”
Charlie Douglas, a spokesman for Comcast, said, “More than 99 percent of our customers don’t even come close to using 250 gigabytes of data in a month. Nationwide, our customers’ median data usage is four to six gigabytes a month. 250 gigabytes is an extraordinary amount of data and equivalent to downloading 62,500 songs or uploading 25,000 hi-res photos.”
Comcast started its bandwidth cap in 2008. In late 2009, Comcast rolled out a bandwidth monitor for those 1 percent of customers who are likely to come close to the data cap. Douglas also said that Comcast transparently explains all of its data usage policies, which customers agree to when they sign up. It also describes what it considers to be excessive use.
When Comcast finally cut Vrignaud off, he made it known to the world via his blog and contacts. He also figured out that he hit his limit because he uploaded many hundreds of audio CDs and high-resolution pictures to cloud storage accounts.
“In the case of music I rip my CDs to WMA Lossless (for ease of streaming to Windows), FLAC (another lossless format, so I can stream losslessly to my Sonos system), and M4A (also known as Apple’s iTunes AAC format, so I can import my music from the media server to iTunes),” Vrignaud said. “I’m a big believer in storing the original, lossless digital content so that I can access it in full fidelity in the future no matter how technology evolves. In some ways that makes me a bit archaic as I still buy (used) CDs from Amazon for all of my music so I can rip it losslessly – I’m not a fan of the compressed music formats you buy and download. But the ramification is that I have terabytes of storage in my basement RAID server – each music track is duplicated three times, I have all of my original RAW photos, plus processed JPEG versions of those RAW photos, as well as a variety of other miscellaneous content – documents, spreadsheets, that sort of thing.”
That explained the problem. Vrignaud bought a three-year subscription to Carbonite so he could back up all of the content to the cloud. He also uploaded his music collection to Amazon’s new Cloud Drive service, so that he could access it while on the road. All of that uploading caused Vrignaud to exceed his bandwidth cap.
“I suspect many people are going to be surprised by this in the coming years, especially as the cloud continues to become more and more a part of our lives,” he said.
Comcast told him there was no appeal to the ruling, at first. He said he would post on it and send a letter to the Federal Communications Commission, Public Knowledge organization, New Media Foundation, the city of Seattle’s Mayor’s Office, and his Seattle City Council representative. Vrignaud had no luck.
Vrignaud was upset because he believes that “the ability to access broadband internet is a right, and should be defined as an essential utility,” provided that you pay for it.
“Just as you’re surprised when you flick a light switch and the light doesn’t come on so are you surprised when the internet goes away in your house,” he wrote. “The internet is used for communication, entertainment, business — an entire panopoly of humor endevours. Just as there are protections to keep water and electricity flowing to your house, so should the internet be protected.”
He added, “Now the broadband companies would strongly disagree with me here. They’re terrified of being turned into dumb pipes that only deliver data. This is why you see such vicious fights over the definition of internet neutrality, and cable companies fighting to be able to restrict services that flow over their pipes, inspect packets, or have the right to charge more for differing levels of service. They try to spin this as protecting the integrity of the network for other customers, and not having to charge more to offer service that some small percentage of their users overuse. However, these same companies are also strangely quiet when you ask them why (as in Comcast’s case) they’re able to keep boosting my broadband speed tier year after year for no additional charge. Or why their quarterly filings show their cost of providing broadband service continues to drop year after year, while rates keep going up. It doesn’t add up.”
Indeed, broadband costs should be falling as more users join the internet and pay for the shared costs. Technology is also getting more and more efficient as better chips and networking equipment can replace older, less-efficient technologies.
Ultimately, more users will find themselves in the same shoes as Vrignaud, who seems like a bandwidth hog today. People will come to depend on cloud services like Dropbox, Simplenote, Google Apps, and Google Docs for work. They will use streaming online services such as Netflix, Xbox Live, Playstation Network, OnLive, Gaikai, Otoy and Pandora for entertainment. The use of these bandwidth-heavy services is expected to go up. During primetime, streaming services such as Netflix reportedly accounts for 30 percent of traffic. Sandvine estimates it could be 55 percent of peak internet traffic by the end of this year.
Vrignaud is trying to gather political and consumer support for his plight, not just from the David vs. Goliath angle, but on whether internet service providers should be allowed to cut people off for overuse. While he is a heavy user, he is an example of the kind of typical user in the future who will tap a lot of cloud services; at some point, we will all use a lot more bandwidth. He noted that Public Knowledge has asked Comcast why it needs to cut off users for “excessive use” when those users are not themselves directly to blame for network congestion. Uploading data from midnight to 6 am will likely not lead to congestion, but it could still trigger a violation of the data cap. Vrignaud suggested that Comcast charge heavy users an extra $10 or $20 a month to pay for their extra costs.
Related to this is the problem that Netflix recently ran into: It had to raise the fees it charges users for its disk-based movie service, though it kept the movie-streaming monthly fee unchanged. At some point, will Netflix have to raise that too as bandwidth providers start charging fees to Netflix? If there are fees attached to the new video services based on data usage, then consumers won’t want to use them as much and those new services won’t disrupt the traditional media the way they were intended to do so. That reduces consumer choice, and that is why Vrignaud asked the FCC to look into the matter of data caps.
Of course, a Netflix HD movie consumes only about 1 gigabyte to 1.5 gigabytes of data per hour. You would have to watch 166 hours to 250 hours of HD movies a month to hit the bandwidth cap. That’s not likely for most users. But it’s more of a problem if they are using lots of other cloud services too, Vrignaud says. In any case, Comcast could probably better address the coming data problem by introducing tiered fees, such as charging extra or slowing data delivery if it exceeds the 250 gigabyte cap.
Comcast has a business version of its data plan, ranging from $65 a month to $395 a month, depending on the speed of data coming into and out of the house. There is no cap for the business users, but the installation fees, hardware leases, and time requirements for that business option aren’t necessarily that attractive. Even if Vrignaud wanted to get this option, he can’t, since it is not available to anyone who had been banned from the Comcast consumer service for a year. At least that is what Comcast told him before the media blitz hit. Vrignaud notes that the business versions appears to be just a re-branding of the consumer service, as it uses “high-end networking equipment.” That phrase actually just means a DOCSIS 3.0 modem from Comcast — equipment that Vrignaud already has.
Meanwhile, Vrignaud is hoping someone else will provide fast internet services to his neighborhood on the top of a hill in the Montlake section of Seattle. Comcast representatives spoke to him again this week, this time offering to restore service. But Vrignaud told them he was pursuing other options.
“They didn’t bring any answers,” Vrignaud said. “They wanted to talk, understand my concerns, get ideas. Supposedly they’re investigating things. Also wanted to offer me broadband back. But not a single answer to any of the hard questions.”
Here are Vrignaud’s questions for Comcast. We haven’t gotten answers from them yet.
Is your bandwidth data cap designed to protect your television distribution business? If not, why do you insist on completely cutting off data instead of using other more consumer-friendly options such as charging for overages or slowing internet use?
What ISP-offered services are excluded from the cap? Specifically, are your voice telephony and video programming services excluded? If so, why doesn’t your data cap apply to data consumed when watching television or making a phone call?
How are your data caps set? What data informed that decision? Why do different ISPs have different data caps when using similar networks and distribution technology?
How are your data caps evaluated on an ongoing basis? What customer input do you seek? What are the conditions under which those caps could be raised and/or eliminated?
Do you practice selective enforcement of data caps? (Many ISP users report being over their supposed limits for months in a row without action.)
Posted: 29 Jul 2011 05:08 PM PDT
It’s one of the first of several launches for the company as part of a 12-flight cargo mission to supply the International Space Station now that the U.S. space shuttle program has ended. SpaceX secured $1.6 billion in funding to run the mission.
“I think it’s a really exciting time for space, because for the first time in several decades we had a very real prospect of fielding multiple human space vehicles,” Virgin Galactic CEO George Whitesides told VentureBeat. “That’s good for the U.S., it encourages innovation and also provides more than one option, which means it’s more reliable.”
The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) is currently discussing developing an in-line, disposable space vehicle that would put between 70 and 130 tons of cargo into orbit. Those rockets are primarily planned for exploration beyond low-Earth orbit, Whitesides said. But there’s plenty of room for a company to handle cargo missions and sub-orbital travel, he said.
There’s also room for companies that specialize in space tourism, like Virgin Galactic. That company sells tickets for flight’s in sub-orbital paths above the Earth for around $200,000, while there are companies in Russia that sell tickets for orbital flights for around $65 million each ticket.
“My sense is that we’ll (Virgin Galactic) be the next american company that sends humans into space,” he said. “Obviously it’s sub-orbital versus orbital, but I think our general expectation whether it’s sub-orbital or orbital is that over time prices will come down.”
SpaceX is one of two companies NASA has contracted to fly cargo missions to the International Space Station now that the shuttle program has ended. NASA has also contracted Orbital Sciences to launch cargo missions to the space station.
SpaceX has raised $500 million from investors and $300 million in funding from NASA. The company was the first to send a private space capsule into orbit and bring it back to Earth in December.
GE CEO Jeffrey Immelt, The Head Of Obama’s Jobs Council, Is Moving Jobs And Economic Infrastructure To China
GE CEO Jeffrey Immelt, The Head Of Obama’s Jobs Council, Is Moving Jobs And Economic Infrastructure To China At A Blistering Pace
July 30th, 2011
(EconomicCollapse) – Jeffrey Immelt, the head of Barack Obama’s highly touted “Jobs Council”, is moving even more GE infrastructure to China. GE makes more medical-imaging machines than anyone else in the world, and now GE has announced that it “is moving the headquarters of its 115-year-old X-ray business to Beijing“. Apparently, this is all part of a “plan to invest about $2 billion across China” over the next few years. But moving core pieces of its business overseas is nothing new for GE.
Under Immelt, GE has shipped tens of thousands of good jobs out of the United States. Perhaps GE should change its slogan to “Imagination At Work (In China)”. If the very people that have been entrusted with solving the unemployment crisis are shipping jobs out of the country, what hope is there that things are going to turn around any time soon?
Earlier this month, Immelt made the following statement to a jobs summit at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce….
“There’s no excuse today for lack of leadership. The truth is we all need to be part of the solution.”
Apparently Immelt’s idea of being part of the solution is to ship as many jobs overseas as he possibly can.
A recent article on the Huffington Post documented how GE has been sending tens of thousands of good jobs out of the country….
As the administration struggles to prod businesses to create jobs at home, GE has been busy sending them abroad. Since Immelt took over in 2001, GE has shed 34,000 jobs in the U.S., according to its most recent annual filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission. But it’s added 25,000 jobs overseas.
At the end of 2009, GE employed 36,000 more people abroad than it did in the U.S. In 2000, it was nearly the opposite.
GE is supposed to be creating the “jobs of tomorrow”, but it seems that most of the “jobs of tomorrow” will not be located inside the United States.
The last GE factory in the U.S. that made light bulbs closed last September. The transition to the new CFL light bulbs was supposed to create a whole bunch of those “green jobs” that Barack Obama keeps talking about, but as an article in the Washington Post noted, that simply is not happening….
Rather than setting off a boom in the U.S. manufacture of replacement lights, the leading replacement lights are compact fluorescents, or CFLs, which are made almost entirely overseas, mostly in China.
But GE is far from alone in shipping jobs and economic infrastructure out of the United States. For example, big automakers such as Ford are being very aggressive in China. Ford is currently “building three factories in Chongqing as part of $1.6 billion investment that also includes another plant in Nanchang”.
Today, China accounts for approximately one out of every four vehicles sold worldwide. The big automakers consider the future to be in China.
Just a few decades ago, China was an economic joke and the U.S. economy was absolutely unparalleled.
But disastrous trade policies have opened up the door for a mammoth transfer of jobs, factories and wealth from the United States to China.
China has become an absolute powerhouse and America is rapidly declining.
Beautiful new infrastructure is going up all over China even as U.S. infrastructure rots and decays right in front of our eyes.
America is being deindustrialized at lightning speed and very few of our politicians seem to care.
Back in 1979, there were 19.5 million manufacturing jobs in the United States.
Today, there are 11.6 million.
That represents a decline of 40 percent during a time period when our overall population experienced tremendous growth.
We used to have the greatest manufacturing cities on the entire globe. The rest of the world was in awe of us.
Today, most of those formerly great manufacturing cities are decaying, rottinghellholes.
The following is what one reporter from the UK saw during his visit to Detroit….
As you pass the city limits a blanket of gloom, neglect and cheapness descends. The buildings are shabbier, the paint is faded. The businesses, where they exist, are thrift shops and pawn shops or wretched groceries where the goods are old and tired. Finding somewhere to have breakfast, normally easy in any American city, involves a long hunt. ‘God bless Detroit’, says one billboard, just beside another offering the alternative solution: liquor.
You can see some really shocking images of the decline of Detroit right here.
Our politicians insisted that globalism would not result in a “giant sucking sound” as millions of jobs left America.
But that is exactly what has happened.
Sadly, most American families still don’t understand what has happened. Most of them are still waiting for things to get back to “normal”.
Millions of unemployed Americans are dealing with incredible amounts ofstress right now as they wait for jobs to start opening up again. But the jobs that have been shipped overseas are not coming back. In a globalized economy, it doesn’t make sense to hire American workers when you can legally pay workers slave labor wages on the other side of the globe.
Millions of good middle class jobs have been replaced by low paying service jobs. Today there are huge numbers of Americans that are cutting hair or flipping burgers because that is all they can get right now.
Many others are only able to survive because of the safety net. One reader named David recently left a comment in which he shared his story. David did everything that the system asked him to do, but the promised rewards never materialized. Now David is broke, unemployed and he feels deeply frustrated….
A year ago I had a job, we were struggling, but bills were getting paid, and somehow we were getting by. Then I made the mistake of getting sick, one day before my company insurance kicked in. An auto-immune illness almost killed me, if it weren’t for the amazing efforts of my physicians and an emergency spleenectomy, I would not be here.
My wife would have been a single mother,raising two young sons, one of which is autistic. Instead, I pulled through. The disease damaged my liver, leaving me with a chronic condition, and even after a year, it is hard to get up and go some days. My “employer” dumped me as soon as I left the hospital, and I haven’t worked since. It isn’t for lack of looking. There just isn’t anything.
Oh, I get my government cheese money. Here I am college educated, unable to find something that can pay the bills better than the money that we get from the government. It sickens me to be this dependent on the system like this. But the system de-incentivizes work, and makes living on the dole make a perverse economic sense.
I used to have dreams, but I have given up on them. My wife and I have no savings, we have no life raft and if it weren’t for the generosity of her parents and mine, things would have ground to a halt a long time ago.
I believed every thing adults told me. Work hard, I did. Get an education, I did. Find a nice girl and settle down, I did. Two cars, a dog, a cat and couple of kids, a nice townhouse…the american dream. Yep.
I love my country. My heart is broken, broken because I have been betrayed. I did what you asked, I played by the rules. I did what you said to do; I submitted, I conformed, I stopped dreaming. Now what?
I am willing to pay for my faults and transgressions; my failures are my own, I get that. My children should not have to suffer for my failures, they did not do anything wrong. My youngest boy is autistic, we hope he will be able to integrate into society, but the fact is we may have to take care of him for the rest of his life. How do I do this with nothing, and no opportunity in the foreseeable future?
Depression, stress…yep, I’ve got all that. I used to be hopeful and optimistic about the future. Now all I am is afraid.
As the United States continues to bleed good jobs, stories like the one you just read are going to become much more common.
So what are our politicians doing about all of this?
They tell us that we need even more “free trade”!
Barack Obama says that we need more free trade.
The Republicans say that we need more free trade.
In Washington D.C. our politicians do not agree on much, but one thing they do agree on is that we need to keep shipping jobs out of the country.
Until the American people wake up and start demanding an end to the globalization of the U.S. economy, the job losses are just going to continue to get worse.
The United States has lost a staggering 32 percent of its manufacturing jobs since the year 2000. If this trend continues, millions more Americans will soon be surviving on food stamps or living in tent cities.
The American people are deeply concerned about the economy, but they still have not connected the dots on these issues. The mainstream media and most of our politicians keep telling them that the globalization of the economy is a wonderful thing.
It is so sad that people just do not understand what is going on right in front of their eyes.
Whether you are a conservative or a liberal or a libertarian, you should be against the deindustrialization of America.
Allowing our industrial base to be raped is not a good thing.
Allowing big corporations and foreign governments to pay slave labor wages to workers on the other side of the globe making things that will be sold inside the United States is not a good thing.
Allowing the destruction of our industrial capacity to threaten our national security is not a good thing.
Allowing millions of precious jobs to leave the country is not a good thing.
The biggest corporations are making some extra profits by exploiting cheap labor on the other side of the globe. Corporate executives love to shower themselves with larger and larger bonuses.
But our current trade policies are not working for American workers.
We need “fair trade”, not “free trade”.
The United States is being taken advantage of, and the Democrats and the Republicans are both laying down like doormats and letting it happen.
If you want to know where all the good jobs went, it is not a big mystery.
They have been shipped out of the country and they are not coming back.
Unless fundamental changes are made, things are going to get worse and worse and worse for American workers.
So what is going to happen next?
It is up to you America.
Friday, July 29, 2011
Set Photos from Second Season of GAME OF THRONES Reveal Statues of The Seven
by Ethan Anderton Posted:July 29th, 2011 at 2:10 pmThough we’ve yet to see any photos of actual filming for the anticipated second season of HBO’s epic fantasy series Game of Thrones, based on the books by author George R.R. Martin, some photos of a prominent set piece surfaced today that should get those familiar with the series excited. The photos clearly reveal the statue of The Seven, the predominant Gods of Westeros which include the Father, the Mother, the Warrior, the Maiden, the Smith, the Crone, and the Stranger (who represents Death).
As someone who hasn’t read the books, I can’t exactly tell you how they come into play in the second season, and we’d rather not spoil what could be a major plot point anyway, so if you’re dying to know more about these statues, the rest of the world wide web is at your disposal. Otherwise check out the photos of the statue below and be sure to check out our recent post about the future of Game of Thrones and more from the Television Critics Association Press Tour going on right now. Hit the jump to check out the photos.
“I’ve talked to my lawyers,” President Obama said in explaining his dismissal of the argument that Section Four of the Fourteenth Amendment authorizes him to raise the debt ceiling if Congress fails to act. “They are not persuaded that that is a winning argument.” But who are President Obama’s cowering lawyers, and why would the former constitutional law professor defer to their overly cautious prediction that the Supreme Court would rule against Obama if asked to adjudicate a dispute between the president and Congress? In fact, it’s far more likely that the Court would refuse to hear the case. And even if the justices did agree to hear it, the conservative justices would be torn between their dislike of Obama and their commitment to expanding executive power at all costs. If all the justices are true to their constitutional philosophies, the Court would rule for Obama by a lopsided margin.
As Matthew Zeitlin has argued in TNR, if Obama invoked the Fourteenth Amendment to raise the debt ceiling unilaterally, the most likely outcome is that the Supreme Court would refuse to hear the case. The conservative justices have long required clear evidence of legal “standing” before opening the courthouse door—something they showed in their recent 5-4 decision rejecting a taxpayer’s challenge to an Arizona school vouchers program—and it’s hard to imagine who could establish enough of a legal injury to establish standing in this case. Individual senators and representatives wouldn’t have standing to sue on their own, according to a 1997 Supreme Court precedent, and although the House and Senate could, in theory, pass a joint resolution asserting that the president has injured Congress by usurping its power, they’re unlikely to find the votes to do so. (If the House alone passed a resolution asserting a constitutional injury, its legal status is less certain.)
When it comes to individual taxpayers, they’re likely barred from establishing standing to sue by the definitive precedent on the debt clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, the 1935 Perry case. In that case, a bondholder asserted that the Congressional joint resolution taking the U.S. off the gold standard violated section Four of the Fourteenth Amendment, which says: “The validity of the public debt of the United States, authorized by law, … shall not be questioned.” The Court, in an opinion that supports Obama’s position in every respect, expansively interpreted the constitutional text and said it did indeed prohibit any government policy that “concerns the integrity of the public obligations.” But the Court went on to say that although the bondholder had suffered a constitutional injury, he had no legal standing to sue, since it was impossible to calculate precisely how much of an economic loss he had suffered.
In addition to their concerns about legal standing, the conservative justices have also, in other cases, said that the courts should refuse to hear cases that raise “political questions”—in other words, cases that raise the possibility of “embarrassment from multifarious pronouncements” by the president, Congress, and the Supreme Court on the same legal issue. Nevertheless, Bush v. Gore showed that the conservative justices can abandon their longstanding devotion to construing standing requirements narrowly and the “political question” doctrine broadly when their political passions are high. So let’s imagine, for the sake of argument, that the Roberts Court agreed to hear the case of Obama v. Boehner and decide it on the merits. How would the justices rule?
It seems a safe bet that all four liberal justices would rule for Obama. There’s a strong argument that Congress’s refusal to raise the debt ceiling falls within the spirit, if not the letter, of the paradigm case that the framers of the Fourteenth Amendment were concerned about: the efforts of former Southern rebels who had been newly elected to Congress effectively to overthrow the government by repudiating the Union debt and assuming the Southern debt. All four liberal Justices are committed to a vision of “living constitutionalism” that interprets the historical evidence broadly, and they would be supported in their judgment by the Perry decision. Moreover, at least two of the liberal justices—Elena Kagan and Stephen Breyer—have supported broad judicial deference to the president’s ability to control the administrative state through regulations and unilateral action. And none of the liberals on the Court tends to be overly textualist when construing Congress’s power.
What about the conservative justices? Here the divisions in the conservative ranks might become relevant. There are three distinct strains of legal conservatives on the Court: the tea party conservative, Clarence Thomas, the libertarian conservative, Anthony Kennedy, and the pro-executive power conservatives, John Roberts, Samuel Alito, and Antonin Scalia. Of these five justices, Thomas is the only one whose judicial philosophy might lead him to side with Congress over Obama. As someone who believes that Congressional power over the purse should be construed strictly, Thomas might conclude that Article I gives Congress, and not the president, the power “to borrow money on the credit of the United States”—a power that it has exercised by establishing a debt ceiling. The debt ceiling doesn’t repudiate the debt or question its validity, Thomas might hold; it simply threatens default by prohibiting the president from assuming extra debt beyond what Congress has authorized. According to this argument, Obama’s unilateral decision to take on additional debt to avoid a government default would not represent debt “authorized by law,” as the Fourteenth Amendment requires, and therefore wouldn’t be justified by the Amendment.
COMMENT: Perhaps BO's lawyers aren't serving him well. Truman used the 14th Amendment to raise the ceiling. Legal scholars believe he stands to win in a Supreme Court fight. Soooo. What is BO's hidden agenda? Keep some paid-for promise to the wealthy to maintain Bush tax breaks while lookin' sad because he had to "compromise" his Democratic ideals? It's all a big show sponsored by the "job makers" imo.
Most people wouldn't count a photo of a baby's penis as pornography. But that didn't stop Facebook from taking down a posting of Nirvana's classic Nevermind cover art this week. According to the Hollywood Reporter, the social networking giant hive mind determined that the photo of a nude infant in a pool violated its terms of service, which prohibit photos that contain nudity. Later though, Facebook came back and said the photo actually didn't violate its terms -- since it wasn't sexual -- and that the Nevermind cover could be posted on its site.
Not safe for Facebook?
We're still a little confused about all this, but one thing seems clear: There are a lot of steamy album covers no one will be seeing on Facebook anytime soon. Here are ten of our favorites.
10. The Cars -- Candy-O
Not technically a photograph, but still plenty alluring, is the cover of the Cars' 1979 sophomore album, Candy-O. Even given the fact that the blonde here is painted, we'd bet this pin-up style image is still too hot for the Facebook censors to approve.
9. Dwarves -- Drug Store
Pretty much every Dwarves cover is a hilarious and hot take on the above theme: naked women and a little person. The Chicago-via-S.F. punk band loves chaos, boobies, and --
we're just guessing here -- bubbles.
We can go when we want to
The night is young and so am I
And we can dress real neat from our hats to our feet
And surprise 'em with the victory cry
Say, we can act if want to
If we don't nobody will
And you can act real rude and totally removed
And I can act like an imbecile
Thursday, July 28, 2011
RIP, Len Sassaman: cypherpunk and anonymity hacker
GuidoDavid sez, “Len Sassaman, a cryptographer, activist and biopunk died yesterday, he lost the battle against depression in Leuven, Belgium. He is survived by his widow, Meredith L. Patterson, also a hacker and biopunk. His work and actions inspired me and shaped the world we live in, as he was active during the Crypto Wars and
designed and wrote anonymizing tools.
He will be missed, but I hope that his
legacy will go on and I am certain he will continue inspiring our efforts.”
An obituary posted on Facebook by Sassaman’s friend and fellow hacker Pablos Holman recounted the pair’s early work on crypto-systems after they met in 1999.
“We were reimagining our world, riddled with cryptosystems that would mathematically enforce the freedoms that we treasured. Anonymous remailers to preserve speech without fear of retribution; onion routers to ensure nobody could censor the internet; digital cash to enable a radically free economy.”
While much of their work was an academic “geek utopia exercise”, Sassaman liked to “get his hands dirty”, which led to numerous visits from Federal agencies over remailer abuse, according to Holman:
“Len, you are, in fact, an inspiration to those of us who inspired you. You made something great of your life. You left a lot behind for us. Thanks for letting me be a part of it all.”
A memorial service for Len Sassaman will be held in San Francisco, on
Saturday, July 30th, 2011, 2-5pm, at DNA Lounge (375 11th St, at Harrison).
An additional service will be held at DEF CON, on Friday evening, August 5th,
2011, in the Skytalks room. More information will be available at the con.
In lieu of flowers, donations are requested to eff.org, or jpfo.org
'War texting' lets hackers unlock car doors via SMS
But with hundreds of embedded mobile devices, car hacking is just the tip of the iceberg
July 27, 2011 01:50 PM ET
Software that lets drivers unlock car doors and even start their vehicles using a mobile phone could let car thieves do the very same things, according to computer security researchers at iSec Partners.
Don Bailey and fellow iSec researcher Mathew Solnik say they've figured out the protocols that some of these software makers use to remote control the cars, and they've produced a video showing how they can unlock a car and turn the engine on via a laptop. According to Bailey, it took them about two hours to figure out how to intercept wireless messages between the car and the network and then recreate them from his laptop.
Bailey will discuss the research at next week's Black Hat conference in Las Vegas, but he isn't going to name the products they've hacked -- they've looked at two so far -- or provide full technical details of their work until the software makers can patch them.
Probably the best known of this type of product is the OnStar RemoteLink app, which can be used to start up and unlock many late-model General Motors vehicles, but similar software is available for other makes of cars, including Mercedes and BMW.
Bailey calls his technique "war texting," a reference to another hacking technique called "war driving," which involves driving around cities looking for data on wireless networks.
War texting is technically complex. First of all, the researchers have to identify cars that are using these mobile applications. Then they have to find a way to connect with them. With these mobile car apps, the phone connects to a server that then sends secret numerical keys to the car in order to authenticate itself, but the iSec researchers figured out ways to get around this by looking at the messages sent between the server and the car over the mobile network, Bailey said in an interview. "We reverse-engineer the protocol and then we build our own tools to use that protocol to contact that system," he said.
The iSec researchers believe that they are uncovering symptoms of a much more widespread problem. In recent years, mobile networking has been built into an astonishing range of devices -- everything from picture frames to cars to smart meters -- giving them a cheap and easy way to communicate. According to Bailey, however, security has often been an afterthought, and many of these products can be hacked and misused.
Research in this area has taken off in recent years as open-source tools have given hackers an inexpensive way of setting up their own mobile-phone test networks.
In April, Bailey used similar techniques to hack Zoombak's personal locator devices, and there are hundreds of other similar products that have not been examined. "This architectural flaw expands to so many engineering industries," he said.
The IDG News Service is a Network World affiliate.
“We are on track to develop, test and make available to the public—within the next few years—a safe, reliable, noninvasive brain computer interface that can bring life-changing technology to millions of people whose ability to move has been diminished due to paralysis, stroke, or other injury or illness,” says José ‘Pepe’ Contreras-Vidal associate professor of kinesiology at the University of Maryland.
Posted: 27 Jul 2011 05:05 PM PDT
Digster, which is scheduled to go live in the U.S. Wednesday, gets music editors to create playlists just like any Spotify user, but adds its own layer of editorial influence and discovery. Those that create the playlists are either music artists or Universal Music employees, according to the report. The music isn’t limited to songs affiliated or owned by Universal. Playlists will feature songs from a variety of artists regardless of the record label.
Universal Music Group Distribution hasn’t responded to VentureBeat regarding the U.S. launch of the new playlist service. However, the company has already launched sites in Finland, Sweden, Norway and theU.K.
Users can access Digster through Facebook, Spotify (both premium and free versions) or by creating a Digster account. As for the playlists, they can be accessed through the Spotify service or by downloading them on iTunes.
Universal Music Group signed a licensing deal with Spotify in June 2011, which marked the beginning of the relationship between the companies.
For Spotify, this is certainly a good deal because it encourages people with influence in the music world to create and share playlists on its platform. Universal, on the other hand, gains an impressive new avenue to promote music and artists on its label.
The news comes at a time when other, most established streaming music services are vying for attention in the midst of Spotify’s highly visible U.S. launch. For example, Pandora Radio recently debuted a redesign of its website. Also Spotify competitor Rdio is planning to offer family plans of its streaming music service as well as an iPad application.
Wednesday, July 27, 2011
EFF Urges Appeals Court to Block Unconstitutional Federal Law
The forced collection of DNA samples from arrestees without search warrants violates their Fourth Amendment right to privacy, the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) told a federal appeals court in an amicus brief filed Monday.
A federal law mandates DNA collection as a condition for bail for people who have been arrested for felonies. The FBI receives the DNA samples, conducts an analysis, and places a profile into CODIS, a national database. Those who are not eventually convicted of a crime must make a request if they want their information removed from the FBI's system, while the data collected without cause from other individuals remains permanently. In its amicus brief filed with the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, EFF argues that this collection and storage is unconstitutional, violating the Fourth Amendment prohibition on baseless search and seizure of private information.
"DNA reveals an extraordinary amount of private information about you—your family background, your current health, your future propensity for disease, and possibly even your behavioral tendencies," said EFF Staff Attorney Hanni Fakhoury. "This data is bound to get even more sensitive as technology advances and we learn more about DNA."
The widespread data collection mandated by this unconstitutional law was upheld by a three-judge panel from the 9th Circuit. If the law is not struck down by the en banc court, it could open the door to other expansions of warrantless DNA collection.
"The government is collecting these genetic profiles without warrants and storing them in a database freely accessed by federal and state law enforcement agencies across the country," said EFF Staff Attorney Jennifer Lynch. "We urge the 9th Circuit to reverse the opinion and strike down this sweeping law."
The Center for Constitutional Rights, the National Immigration Project of the National Lawyers Guild, and Generations Ahead joined EFF in Monday's amicus brief.
For the full amicus brief in US v. Pool:
The United States Air Force has been training young missile officers about the morals and ethics of launching nuclear weapons by citing passages from the New Testament and commentary from a former member of the Nazi Party, according to newly released documents.
The mandatory Nuclear Ethics and Nuclear Warfare session, which includes a discussion on St. Augustine's "Christian Just War Theory," is led by Air Force chaplains and takes place during a missile officer's first week in training at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California.
The Christian Just War Theory has been touted by Rep. Ron Paul, a 2012 presidential candidate, during campaign stops.
St. Augustine's "Qualifications for Just War," according to the way it is cited in a 43-page PowerPoint presentation, are: "to avenge or to avert evil; to protect the innocent and restore moral social order (just cause)" and "to restore moral order; not expand power, not for pride or revenge (just intent)."
The Air Force documents were released under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) and provided to Truthout by the Military Religious Freedom Foundation (MRFF), a civil rights organization. MRFF President Mikey Weinstein said more than 30 Air Force officers, a majority of whom describe themselves as practicing Protestants and Roman Catholics, have contacted his group over the past week in hopes of enlisting him to work with the Air Force to have the Christian-themed teachings removed from the nuclear weapons ethics training session. [Full disclosure: Weinstein is a member of Truthout's Board of Advisers.]
Included with the PowerPoint presentation are more than 500 pages of other documents pertaining to a missile officer's first week of training. After missile officers complete their training they are sent to one of three Air Force bases to guard the country's Intercontinental Ballistic Missile (ICBM) arsenal and, if called upon to do so by the president, launch their nuclear-armed Minuteman IIIs.
One of the slides used to explain to missile officers the moral justification for launching nuclear weapons quotes Wernher Von Braun, a former member of the Nazi Party and SS officer who used Jews imprisoned in concentration camps, captured French anti-Nazi partisans and civilians, and others, to help build the V-2 rocket.
"We knew that we had created a new means of warfare and the question as to what nation, to what victorious nation we were willing to entrust this brainchild of ours was a moral decision [emphasis in document] more than anything else," Von Braun said upon surrendering to American forces in May 1945. "We wanted to see the world spared another conflict such as Germany had just been through and we felt that only by surrendering such a weapon to people who are guided by the Bible could such an assurance to the world be best secured." [emphasis in document]
Von Braun was part of a top-secret military program known as "Operation Paperclip," which recruited Nazi scientists after World War II who "were secretly brought to the United States, without State Department review and approval; their service for [Adolf] Hitler's Third Reich, [Nazi Party] and SS memberships as well as the classification of many as war criminals or security threats also disqualified them from officially obtaining visas," according to the Operation Paperclip web site.
Von Braun and about 500 or so other Nazi scientists who were part of the classified program worked on guided missile and ballistic missile technology at military installations in New Mexico, Alabama and Texas.
The Air Force has been citing Christian teachings in its missile officer training materials for at least a decade. One Air Force officer currently on active duty, who spoke to Truthout on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak with the media, said he was trained as a missile officer in 2001 and vividly recalls how the chaplain leading the training session on the ethics of launching nuclear weapons said, "the American Catholic Church and their leadership says it's ok in their eyes to launch nukes."
Last year, however, Archbishop Celestino Migliore, the Vatican representative to the United Nations, said in speeches in Washington and New York City that "nuclear weapons are no longer just for deterrence but have become entrenched in the military doctrines of the major powers."
"The conditions that prevailed during the Cold War, which gave a basis for the [Catholic] Church's limited toleration of nuclear deterrence, no longer apply in a consistent and effective manner," the Archbishop said.
The 381st Training Group and 392nd Training Squadron are responsible for training every Air Force Space and Missile Officer. Several emails and phone calls left for spokespeople at Vandenberg Air Force Base, where the squadron is based, were not returned. The PowerPoint identifies Chaplain Capt. Shin Soh as leading the nuclear ethics presentation.
One of the ethical questions contained in the PowerPoint presented to missile officers asks: "Can you imagine a set of circumstances that would warrant a nuclear launch from the US, knowing that it would kill thousands of non-combatants?
Another question trainees are confronted with asks: "Can we train physically, emotionally and spiritually for a job we hope we never have to do?"
To help officers answer these ethical queries, the PowerPoint presentation cites numerous examples of characters from the New and Old Testament fighting "just" wars. For example, "Abraham organized an army to rescue Lot," God motivated "judges (Samson, Deborah, Barak) to fight and deliver Israel from foreign oppressors," and "David is a warrior who is also a 'man after God's own heart.'"
Also included in the PowerPoint presentation is a slide containing a passage from the Book of Revelation that attempts to explain how Jesus Christ, as the "mighty warrior," believed war to be "just."
It goes on to say that there are "many examples of believers [who] engaged in wars in Old Testament" in a "righteous way" and notes there is "no pacifistic sentiment in mainstream Jewish history."
The Air Force has been mired in numerous religious scandals over the past decade and has been sued for allowing widespread proselytization at the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs.
The PowerPoint documents' blatant use of religious imagery and its numerous citations of the Bible seem to be yet another violation of the First Amendment establishing a wall of separation between church and state and Clause 3, Article 6 of the Constitution, which specifically prohibits a "religious test."
Weinstein, a graduate of the Air Force Academy and a former Air Force Judge Advocate General (JAG), said a section of the PowerPoint presentation that has been cited by MRFF clients as being at the top of the list of "unconstitutional outrages" is the one "which wretchedly asserts that war is both ethical and part of 'the natural order' of man's existence on earth."
"Astonishingly, the training presentation grotesquely attempts to justify that unconscionable concept of 'war is good because Jesus says it is' by specifically textually referencing allegedly supportive bible passages from the New Testament Books of Luke, Acts, Hebrews, Timothy and, finally even Revelation," said Weinstein, a former White House counsel during the Reagan administration. "If this repugnant nuclear missile training is not Constitutionally violative of both the 'no religious test' mandate of the Constitution and the First Amendment's No Establishment Clause then those bedrock legal principles simply do not exist."
"Jesus Loves Nukes"
Former Air Force Capt. Damon Bosetti, 27, who attended missile officer training in 2006 and was stationed at Malmstrom Air Force Base in Great Falls, Montana, said he and his colleagues used to call the religious section of the ethics training the "Jesus loves nukes speech."
"What I went through in 2006 didn't have that level of inappropriateness in it, but it was still strongly religious," he said of the PowerPoint presentation the Air Force now uses for training missile officers.
Bosetti, who is represented by MRFF, said he believes the intent of quoting Bible passages was to make officers feel "comfortable" about launching nuclear weapons and signing a legal document stating they had "no moral qualms" about "turning the key" if ordered to do so.
The legal document from the Department of the Air Force, Air Education and Training Command, which was also released under the FOIA, states, in part, "I will perform duties involving the operation of nuclear-armed ICBMs and will launch them if lawfully ordered to do so by the President of the United States or his lawful successor." [emphasis in document]
Bosetti, an officer who left active duty in the Air Force last year, said officers were immediately presented with the three-page document to sign after the end of the training session on nuclear ethics.
"I think the average American would be and should be very disturbed to know that people go through training where the Air Force quotes the Bible," Bosetti said. "This type of teaching sets a dangerous precedent because no one above you is objecting. It shifts the group definition of acceptable behavior more and more off track."
A senior Air Force Space and Missile officer who reviewed the materials, said the teachings are "an outrage of the highest order."
"No way in hell should this have been presented as a mandatory briefing to ALL in the basic missiles class," said the officer, who spoke on condition of anonymity. "It presumes ALL missile officers are religious and specifically in need of CHRISTIAN justification for their service.
"If they wanted to help people with their spiritual/religious/secular justification for serving as missile officers, then they should've said something like 'for those of you with religious concerns about missile duty, we've arranged the following times to chat with chaplains from your particular faith group.' For those with secular concerns about the morality of missile duty, we'll have a discussion moderated by a professor [and/or] counselor, a noted ethicist, too. If you're already good with your role and duty as a missile officer, then you're welcome to hit the golf course or gym."
The senior Air Force officer added that the commander of the training squadron "that approved this, along with the Training Group Commander at Vandenberg, should be fired instantly for allowing it."
Weinstein said the combination of citing fundamentalist Christianity and a Nazi scientist as a way of explaining to missile officers why launching nuclear weapons is ethical is a new low for the Air Force.
"Leave it to the United States Air Force to find a way to dictate the 'ethical' value of nuclear war and it's inevitable role in the 'natural order' of humanity's existence, to it's missile launch officer trainees by merging unadulterated, fundamentalist Christian end times Armageddon doctrines with the tortured 'people who are guided by the bible' endorsements of a former, leading Nazi SS official," Weinstein said.
COMMENT: Ahha moment. I've been puzzling lately over how we reach some "moral" consensus in this country over, hell, anything: killing, lying, greed, generalized sociopathic behavior. In this case it's St. Augustine and Wernher Von Braun.
Science. Yes. For the rest of us Science replaces superstition as the foundation for moral action??? Is there scientific or other proof that mass killing by nuclear weapon is "immoral" under any circumstances. This is a belief, right? How about greed? Science seems to prove that those with "greed" and self-interest are the fittest and survive. My point is that once you get rid of the "superstitions" (religion) there is no agreed-upon set of values. Why should I tell the truth? If I can get what I want by killing, why not? I have no answer to these big problems myself. In the past the construction of human societies and rules began with questions like: "What's the point of it all? What is the good life?" Religion often stepped in here and provided "answers." Science is a method not a set of life-principles. It can neither prove nor disprove the existence of "God" nor can it provide the foundation for a workable social system imho. What we have now is a free-for-all.
When was the last time your heard anyone talk about "honor" seriously? Societies were once founded on this concept. How about "mensch" as in act like a mensch? Please let me know. I'm learning the ways of this new order. If we fail it will be because we no longer have a concept of "right action." You don't need a god or hell to motivate that.