Tag Archives: NSA

10 things you need to know today: March 25, 2014

Relatives of those missing on Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 protest in Beijing. 

The Week

Obama will propose curbing NSA data collection, Malaysia says Flight 370 crashed, and more

1. Obama will reportedly push to end NSA bulk phone surveillance
The Obama administration plans to propose an overhaul of National Security Agency spying that would end its mining of bulk phone recordsThe New York Times reported Tuesday. The law would leave the data under phone-company control. The NSA would have to get a warrant from a judge to examine specific records. An ACLU spokesman said the U.S. can track terror suspects “without placing millions of people under permanent surveillance.” [The New York Times]
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2. Authorities in Malaysia conclude that Flight 370 crashed
Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak said Monday that satellite and flight data indicated that Malaysia Airlines Flight 370, which went missing on March 8, “ended in the southern Indian Ocean,” with no survivors. The announcement touched off despair among the loved ones of the 237 people who were on board the flight from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing. Search crews are still looking for traces of the plane. [The Washington Post]
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3. Washington mudslide death toll rises to 14
The death toll from a weekend mudslide in Washington state climbed to 14 on Monday, after search and rescue crews found another six bodies. As many as 176 people have been reported missing. The devastated area covers a square mile, in which about 30 homes were destroyed. Authorities described the prospects for finding survivors as grim. “We have not found anybody still alive on this pile since Saturday,” said a local fire chief. [King5.com]
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4. The U.S. and its allies kick Russia out of the Group of 8
President Obama and allies in six major industrialized nations effectively booted Russia out of the Group of Eight on Monday as punishment for Moscow’s annexation of Ukraine’s Crimea region. The U.S., Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, and Britain agreed to boycott a planned June G-8 summit in Sochi, Russia, and meet in Brussels as the Group of Seven instead. They also threatened tougher sanctions. [The New York Times]
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5. Former Madoff aides convicted in connection with his Ponzi scheme
Five former aides of Bernard Madoff were convicted Monday on 31 fraud and conspiracy chargesconnected to the imprisoned financier’s $17.5 billion scam — the biggest Ponzi scheme in U.S. history. Madoff, who is serving a 150-year sentence, insists he acted alone. One juror said however that “the facts spoke for themselves.” She said the defendants collected hefty pay from Madoff for decades and were his “soldiers.” [Bloomberg Businessweek]
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6. Polluted air blamed for millions of deaths
Air pollution was the world’s biggest health hazard in 2012, killing seven million people, the World Health Organization said Tuesday. The estimated toll was twice as high as previously estimated. If accurate, it meant that one in every eight deaths was linked to dirty air. “The risks from air pollution are now far greater than previously thought or understood, particularly for heart disease and strokes,” said the WHO’s Maria Neira. [Reuters]
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7. Disney buys YouTube programmer Maker Studios
Disney announced Monday that it had agreed to buy YouTube content provider Maker Studios for $500 million. Disney also said it would pay up to $450 million more if Maker hits targets for performance, bringing the potential value of the deal close to $1 billion. The move marks an attempt to connect to the youthful audience that turns to short-form videos. [Bloomberg Businessweek]
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8. U.N. says 2013 was the sixth warmest on record
The United Nation’s weather agency, the World Meteorological Organization, reported Monday that 2013 was the sixth warmest year on record. The WMO’s secretary-general, Michel Jarraud, said the warming probably contributed to last year’s extreme weather patterns, including droughts and tropical cyclones. Rising sea levels, for example, increase damage from coastal flooding in major storms like November’s deadly Typhoon Haiyan, he said. [The Associated Press]
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9. Men arrested for parachuting off of 1 World Trade Center
Three men accused of parachuting off the 104-story One World Trade Center construction site in September turned themselves in at a New York City police station on Monday, as did an alleged accomplice. A defense attorney said the men — Marko Markovich, 27; Andrew Rossig, 33; Kyle Hartwell, 29; and James Brady, 32 — were “professional thrillseekers.” He said they would plead not guilty to burglary and reckless endangerment charges. [Reuters]
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10. Girl Scout beats a decades-old record for cookie sales
An Oklahoma City girl, Katie Francis, has broken the record for Girl Scout cookie sales. Francis sold 18,107 in the seven-week fundraiser, which ended Sunday night, beating the old high mark of 18,000, set in the 1980s. Francis sold 12,428 boxes last year. Her trick, she says, is devoting a lot of time to the project, and making a sales pitch to every person she meets. [The Associated Press]

 

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10 things you need to know today: March 19, 2014

Russians rally in the Red Square in Moscow. 

Russians rally in the Red Square in Moscow. (AP Photo/Pavel Golovkin)

The Week

Putin signs a treaty annexing Crimea, Obama awards overdue Medals of Honor, and more

1. Putin signs a treaty making Crimea part of Russia
Russian-backed forces stormed Ukraine’s naval headquarters in Crimea on Wednesday and raised the Russian flag, a day after Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a treaty annexing the Crimean Peninsula. A Ukrainian serviceman was killed Tuesday as a base in the main Crimean town of Simferopol was attacked — the first death in fighting between Ukraine and pro-Russia forces since Moscow sent in troops three weeks ago. [The Washington PostReuters]
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2. Obama awards top medal to soldiers overlooked due to discrimination
President Obama on Tuesday awarded the Medal of Honor to 24 Army veterans who investigators said were passed over due to their race, religion, or ethnicity. The honorees — 17 Hispanic, one black, one Jewish, and five white — served in World War II, Korea, and Vietnam. Only three are still alive. “No nation is perfect,” Obama said. “But here in America, we confront our imperfections and face a sometimes painful past.” [The New York Times]
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3. NSA can record every call made in a foreign country
The National Security Agency surveillance system can record “every single” telephone call in a foreign country, according to people familiar with the latest documents leaked by fugitive former NSA contractor Edward Snowden. The NSA can even replay conversations up to a month old. A classified summary says the system can collect a country’s every call — billions of them — and store them in a 30-day buffer offering a look “into the past.” [The Washington Post]
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4. Judge rejects KSM testimony in bin Laden relative’s trial
A judge ruled Tuesday that jurors in the terrorism trial of Osama bin Laden’s son-in-law, Suleiman Abu Ghaith, would not hear the testimony of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the accused mastermind of the Sept. 11 attacks. From Guantanamo Bay prison, Mohamed told the defense that Abu Ghaith “was not a military man” in al Qaeda. Judge Lewis Kaplan said a defense request to admit the testimony was “entirely baseless.” [Reuters]
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5. Court delays Oklahoma lethal injections due to drug shortage
An Oklahoma appeals court on Tuesday postponed two inmates’ executions, a day after the state said it had run out of two drugs it uses in lethal injections. The executions of convicted killers Clayton Locket and Charles Warner were pushed back one month to give the state time to find an adequate supply. [The Associated Press]
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6. TV station helicopter crashes in Seattle, killing two
A news helicopter crashed in Seattle on Tuesday near the city’s famous Space Needle, killing the pilot, Gary Pfitzner, and a photographer, Bill Strothman. The helicopter was taking off after refueling at a helipad on top of Fisher Plaza, which houses KOMO-TV. It made what a witness described as a “whining” sound, then spiraled down, landing on a car and igniting a fireball that injured a driver. [The Seattle Times]
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7. Toyota is expected to settle safety investigation for $1 billion
The Justice Department is expected to announce Wednesday that Toyota has agreed to pay $1 billion — one of the largest fines ever for an automaker — to settle a criminal investigation into its handling of unintended-acceleration complaints. For several years, Toyota did little more than change floor mats before recalling millions of cars in 2009 and 2010. Toyota says it has made changes to be more responsive. [CNN]
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8. Two winners share the third largest Mega Millions jackpot ever
Two winning tickets were drawn in Tuesday night’s Mega Millions lottery, which had a jackpot estimated at $400 million. The payoff is the third largest in the history of the game, which is available in 43 states, as well as Washington, D.C., and the U.S. Virgin Islands. The winning tickets were sold in Maryland and Florida. The record prize, $656 million, was split by three winners in 2012. [Chicago Tribune]
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9. California town approves the nation’s highest minimum wage
The Richmond, Calif., City Council voted late Tuesday to raise the local minimum wage to $12.30 an hour by 2017, which would give the city the highest minimum wage in the U.S. Richmond is just north of San Francisco, which currently holds the record at $10.74 an hour. Opponents said such a hike would drive businesses out of town; supporters said Richmond’s current minimum, $8 an hour, is not enough to live on. [NBC Bay Area]
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10. Rolling Stones cancel tour
Mick Jagger honored his late girlfriend, fashion designer L’Wren Scott, on Tuesday, as his legendary rock group, the Rolling Stones, canceled a seven-day tour of Australia and New Zealand after her death. “I am still struggling to understand how my lover and best friend could end her life in this tragic way,” Jagger wrote. He praised Scott, 49, for her “great presence” and talent, and said, “I will never forget her.” [The Associated Press]

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Why can’t you trust Snowden? Let me count (some of) the ways…

images?q=tbn:ANd9GcQnXDPMeGCIgTC-A19_krKhyk79_55zoE0sCaHksYV6BPdxUtBh

Edward Snowden’s Russian ID

From the onset, let me say that I know some of our TFC readers are pro Snowden and that’s perfectly fair.   This particular article happened to be “anti Snowden”.  I’ll be sure to balance it out within the week.

SuliaMilt Shook

I just read a comment on a blog post in which a poster claims it was the $250 million investment to Glenn Greenwald’s “news” website start-up that made her think that, perhaps, Snowden was full of crap.

Really? It was that, which is completely unrelated to Snowden? Why?

I would think that what Snowden has done would certify him as full of crap. Think about it…

He lied and took a national security job under false pretenses.

He got NSA employees to give him usernames and passwords under false pretenses.

He stole thousands of documents that he had no right to.

He lied to his bosses to get time off to hightail it to China with the stolen documents.

He lied to us in his introductory video about what his job was and how much he was supposedly “giving up.”

Who knows what he’s doing with the documents he stole, other than giving them to Greenwald and reporters.

He even lied about not taking the documents to Russia. How is he determining what to release unless he’s looking at them?

Seriously. Greenwald’s a money whore; we all knew that. But that has nothing to do with why you can’t trust Snowden.

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NSA collection of phone data is lawful, federal judge rules

NSA Logo

Of course this Federal Judge is not the final arbiter of this matter but it does put a bit of a damper in Snowden’s “I was right…I’m exonerated” meme.  Thoughts?

Washington Post

A federal judge in New York ruled Friday that the massive collection of domestic telephone data brought to light by former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden is lawful, rejecting a challenge to the program by the American Civil Liberties Union.

The decision conflicts with that of a U.S. District Court judge who ruled against the government early last week, finding that the NSA’s program was almost certainly unconstitutional. The divergent decisions make it more likely that the Supreme Court will make its own ruling.

In a 53-page opinion, U.S. District Judge William Pauley said Friday the legality of the program, which collects virtually all Americans’ phone records, is “ultimately a question of reasonableness,” under the Fourth Amendment and represents the U.S. government’s “counter-punch” to eliminate the al-Qaeda terrorist network.

Pauley said that if the U.S. government had the phone data collection program before the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, it could have helped provide critical clues. He said that so-called telephone metadata might have permitted the NSA to notify the FBI that one of the terrorists was calling a Yemeni safe house from inside the United States.

“The government learned from its mistake and adapted to confront a new enemy: a terror network capable of orchestrating attacks across the world,” Pauley wrote. “It launched a number of counter-measures, including a bulk telephony metadata collection program — a wide net that could find and isolate gossamer contacts among suspected terrorists in an ocean of seemingly disconnected data.”

Justice Department spokesman Peter Carr said the government is “pleased the court found the NSA’s bulk telephony metadata collection program to be lawful.”

In a statement, the ACLU said it intended to appeal the case.

“We are extremely disappointed with this decision, which misinterprets the relevant statutes, understates the privacy implications of the government’s surveillance and misapplies a narrow and outdated precedent to read away core constitutional protections,” said Jameel Jaffer, an ACLU deputy legal director.

Pauley’s opinion comes 11 days after a federal judge in Washington ruled that the NSA’s collection of bulk telephony metadata is based on “almost-Orwellian technology.”In that opinion, U.S. District Judge Richard J. Leon granted a request for an injunction that blocked the collection of the phone data of conservative legal activist Larry Klayman and a co-plaintiff. Leon stayed his ruling to give the government time to appeal.

As the issue plays out in the courts, Congress is debating whether the NSA’s sweeping collection of phone data should be curtailed. A panel appointed by President Obama recommended this month the NSA should no longer store the data.

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Tea Party ‘revolutionary’ Larry Klayman blames Obama for disastrous CNN interview

“It’s Obama’s fault!”

Sorting out the crazies indeed…

The Raw Story

Tea Partier and frequent litigant Larry Klayman said in an interview with World Net Daily on Thursday that he is considering filing a lawsuit against the news network CNN after an embarrassing interview with anchor Don Lemon and legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin earlier this week.

Not only did Klayman tell WND head Jerome Corsi that Lemon should be fired for being a “well-known ultra-leftist African-American political activist who pursues a LGBT sexual agenda,” Right Wing Watch reported that the Tea Party leader said that the interview was the culmination of a plot against him by formidable forces.

“What CNN did to me yesterday was a hit piece orchestrated against me by the Obama White House with the direct involvement of the Democratic National Committee in an attempt to discredit me and to turn the public against Judge Leon’s court decision that the NSA is violating Fourth Amendment rights,” Klayman said to Corsi

On Monday, U.S. District Court Judge Richard Leon — appointed by George W. Bush — found in favor of a suit by Klayman and fellow right-wing activist Charles Strange alleging that the National Security Agency’s metadata spying program is unconstitutional.

Toobin argued on CNN that while perhaps it’s true that the program is invasive and unconstitutional, a nuisance litigant like Klayman — who has sued, variously, President Barack Obama in a “birther” lawsuit demanding evidence of the president’s birth in Hawaii, the Minneapolis City Pages and the Phoenix Sun-Times, his ex-wife, an Ohio family court officialthe Clinton administration (18 different times) and even his own mother— was a useful tool in a targeted political ruling.

Toobin read from p. 39 of Leon’s ruling, which quoted Klayman as saying, “I think they, the NSA, are messing with me.” The judge wrote that Klayman “then went on to explain that he and his clients had received inexplicable test messages and emails, not to mention a disc, containing a spyware program.”

The legal analyst said that even the judge who granted the suit thinks that Klayman is a victim of “tin-foil hat paranoia” and a “lunatic.”

“He had some fantasy that the NSA was after him,” said Toobin. “This case is not about Larry Klayman. It’s about the metadata program that affects everybody, but the idea that Larry Klayman is the representative is simply outrageous.”

Klayman said on Thursday that all of this is an orchestrated hit on his credibility. 

“This was a Clinton thing as much as it was an Obama thing,” he said, accusing Lemon of being a “shill” for the DNC.

“Obama and the Clintons know this was a key decision, and they don’t want us to have any oxygen,” he said. “The DNC wants to cut me down to size.”

The Obama administration, he said, is carrying out “the worst violation of constitutional rights in America history.”

“The entire segment with me yesterday was structured as a hit piece, designed to bring in CNN legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin whose job was to call me a lunatic even though he appeared not to have read Judge Leon’s decision,” he insisted, and as a result he is contemplating filing a defamation suit against the network.

Earlier this year, Klayman announced at a rally during the government shutdown that a coup was going to sweep President Barack Obama out of office on November 19. Pointing toward the White House, the former Freedom Works leader ordered Obama to “put the Koran down” and “come out with your hands up.”

Klayman’s November 19 “coup” rally, which he promised would bring millions to the capital and send Obama “back to Iran” turned out to be around 130 people carrying signs and voicing various complaints against the Obama administration, from “birthers” to anti-Islam activists like “Ground Zero Mosque” opponent Pamela Geller.

 

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10 things you need to know today: October 25, 2013

These two aren't too happy with the U.S. right now. 

These two aren’t too happy with the U.S. right now. (REUTERS/Francois Lenoir)

The Week

NSA monitored phone calls of world leaders, Twitter announces its IPO price, and more

1. NSA monitored phone calls of 35 world leaders
The National Security Agency monitored the phone calls of 35 world leaders and about 165 other foreign phones, according to a memo unveiled by The Guardian. The leaked 2006 document, from former NSA contractor Edward Snowden, comes after reports that the NSA eavesdropped on the cellphone of German Chancellor Angela Merkel and millions of French citizens. Merkel and French President Francois Hollande are proposing to reach a pact with the U.S. on new ground rules for spying on allies. [GuardianNew York Times]
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2. Twitter announces IPO price
Twitter set the price of its eagerly awaited initial public offering at a relatively modest $11 to $20 per share. The company plans to sell about 70 million shares, raising up to $1.4 billion. The price values Twitter at about $11 billion. “They’re trying to price this for a very strong IPO, ideally creating the conditions for a solid after-market,” Pivotal Research Group’s Brian Wieser tellsReuters. Wieser thinks the company is probably worth $19 billion. [Reuters]
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3. FDA announces tighter restrictions on prescription drugs
The FDA announced on Thursday that it was going to recommend tightening restrictions on common prescription painkillers, like Vicodin and OxyContin. Changes, which would begin next year if approved, will include allowing patients fewer refills and making them take a written prescription to the pharmacy, rather than letting a doctor call it in. Three quarters of all overdoses are caused by prescription drugs. [New York Times]
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4. HealthCare.gov contractors concede mistakes
The private contractors who were tasked with creating the online home for the federal government’s health insurance marketplace conceded at a congressional hearing on Thursday that HealthCare.gov went live in spite of insufficient testing. Some blamed the administration for the ill-fated decision to launch such a faulty product. It was not our decision to go live,” said Cheryl Campbell of CGI Federal, which handled most of the project.The glitch-plagued website has been pilloried by critics on all sides as the majority of visitors have struggled or failed outright to purchase health insurance. [Washington Post]
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5. Court rules that New York’s campaign finance law is unconstitutional
A federal appellate court struck a blow to New York’s campaign finance laws Thursday, ruling that a conservative group backing the Republican candidate in New York City’s mayoral race, Joe Lhota, can immediately begin raising unlimited amounts of money. New York’s limit of $150,000 per year for individual donations to super PACs probably violates the Constitution, as interpreted in recent rulings by the Supreme Court, the appeals court said. The ruling could have a minimal effect on the upcoming mayoral election, but could have a pretty profound impact on next year’s New York gubernatorial race. [New York Times]
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6. Cardinals beat Red Sox to even World Series at 1-1
Behind a dominant pitching performance from rookie phenom Michael Wacha, the St. Louis Cardinals beat the Boston Red Sox 4-2 on Thursday night in Fenway Park to even the best-of-seven series at one game apiece. David Ortiz slugged a two-run homer for Boston, but it wasn’t enough to overcome the Cardinals’ pitching and clutch hits from Carlos Beltran and Matt Holliday. The World Series now heads to St. Louis for three games beginning on Saturday. [ESPN]
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7. Microsoft’s quarterly profit jumps 17 percent
Microsoft gave Wall Street forecasters a pleasant surprise by reporting a 17 percent rise in profits in its latest quarter, jumping to $5.2 billion in net income. Microsoft reported impressive gains in ad sales for Bing, Surface tablet sales, and its corporate software business. Sales of its Windows operating system, however, decreased by 7 percent. [CNN Money]
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8. Bo Xilai’s appeal rejected by Chinese court
A Chinese high court has rejected disgraced politician Bo Xilai’s appeal of his life sentence for bribery, corruption and embezzlement. Bo, once considered a future leader of China’s Communist Party, was expelled from the politburo last year after his wife was convicted of murdering British businessman Neil Heywood. The high court’s decision had been widely expected. [USAToday]
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9. Journalist eavesdrops on former spy chief
In a case of the eavesdropping tables being turned, a passenger on an Amtrak Acela train out of Washington overheard some off-the-record interviews former National Security Agency chief Michael Hayden was conducting over the phone with journalists — and he live-tweeted them. “Hayden was bragging about rendition and black sites a minute ago,” tweeted Tom Matzzie, a former MoveOn.org activist who now runs a renewable energy company. “I feel like I’m in the NSA. Except I’m in public.” Once Hayden discovered the eavesdropping, he posed for a friendly photo with Matzzie. [CBS News]
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10. Orlando Bloom, Miranda Kerr split after 3 years of marriage
Lord of the Rings star and his 30-year-old Victoria’s Secret model wife have been amicably separated for the past few months, and are now making it official, E! reports. They have a son, Flynn, who is 2. [E!]

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NEWS THAT’S TRENDING TODAY

Posts by gun sellers and buyers (below) on Instagram show that the photo-sharing website has become a hot market for weapons — often without background checks, which feds don’t require for private gun sales.

Posts by gun sellers and buyers (below) on Instagram show that the photo-sharing website has become a hot market for weapons —often without background checks, which feds don’t require for private gun sales.

From my Google-Plus email this morning:

PolicyMic

Instagram? More like Insta-guns. Gun buyers and sellers across the country are now using the popular photo-sharing site to bypass state and federal laws and purchase weapons freely. Thousands of firearms, including assault rifles, are up for grabs on the site.

Pope Francis suspends German “luxury bishop.” Pope Francis suspended German bishop Franz-Peter Tebartz-van Elst on Wednesday for spending $43m on lavish renovations to his residence (including $20,000 for his bathtub alone). The move is a signal of the Pope’s commitment to a more austere Church that sides with the poor.

NSA monitoring Germany’s leader? President Obama is in hot water with Angela Merkel after new reports that the NSA spied on her mobile phone. The German Chancellor called Obama on Wednesday to demand an explanation, and President Obama flatly denied the rumors. But the incident comes just days after French President François Hollande also called Obama after reports the NSA targeted the phone calls of millions of French people.

73 will be the retirement norm for millennials. A new study shows most of today’s college grads won’t be able to retire until age 73 due to high student debt – 12 years later than the current retirement age. To put it in perspective, here are the numbers:

+ Median debt for a student upon graduation: $23,300
+ Percentage of students who are unemployed at graduation: 18%
+ The median starting salary for those who do have jobs: $45,327
+ Standard loan repayment plan: 10 years
+ Average yearly loan repayment: $2,858
+ Number of college graduates currently estimated to be in default: Over 7 million

FROM THE CULTURE DESK

If you thought Banksy was cool, check out Natalia Rak, a millennial street artist bringing life-sized murals to the buildings of Poland (Instagram).

Arcade Fire has a new song “Afterlife” that will take every indie kid back to high school (PolicyMic).

A 20-year-old photographer’s Instagram account got revoked for posting a picture of her lower half in a bikini bottom that revealed some pubic hair (PolicyMic).

Kendrick Lamar vs. Drake is the most compelling rap rivalry since 2Pac and Notorious B.I.G. (PolicyMic).

CHARTS AND MAPS

HealthCare.gov’s lines of code, compared to other popular websites and operating systems (Alex Merchant).

America’s mood map: An interactive guide to the United States of attitude (TIME).

A breakdown of the valuations of every Major League Baseball franchise (Bloomberg).

DESSERT

Powerful life lessons from a six-time Jeopardy champion who lost it all (PolicyMic).

24 inspirational quotes from Gordon Ramsay to get you through the day (BuzzFeed).

An Uber for your teeth, with a dentist’s office on wheels that comes to you (Fast Company).

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The Fifth Column’s Blog Roundup – September 12, 2013

Toxic Inequality

Tech giants want NSA transparency

Trayvon Martin medical examiner fired

The rich got richer. The 99%? Not so much

Cops: Zimmerman iPad too busted to yield video

Pelosi: ‘New Low’ For GOP ‘Dysfunction And Disarray’

Pastor Arrested Before He Could Burn Qurans – ABC News

Obama quietly extends post-9/11 state of national emergency

Mercedes-Benz S 500 Plug-In Hybrid Offers Surprising Gas Mileage

Eric Boehlert: FLASHBACK: Bill O’Reilly Accuses NBC Of Being A “Fifth Column” For Putin

 

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Glenn Greenwald: Detaining my partner was a failed attempt at intimidation

Glenn Greenwald interviewed by Bill Moyers 042613

To be honest, when I read the headlines about this on other news sites my first thought was “intimidation”.  I’m not necessarily a Glenn Greenwald fan, but there does seem to be an intent to intimidate in this instance.

The Raw Story

Glenn Greenwald: The detention of my partner, David Miranda, by UK authorities will have the opposite effect of the one intended

At 6:30 am this morning my time – 5:30 am on the East Coast of the US – I received a telephone call from someone who identified himself as a “security official at Heathrow airport.” He told me that my partner, David Miranda, had been “detained” at the London airport “under Schedule 7 of the Terrorism Act of 2000.”

David had spent the last week in Berlin, where he stayed with Laura Poitras, the US filmmaker who has worked with me extensively on the NSA stories. A Brazilian citizen, he was returning to our home in Rio de Janeiro this morning on British Airways, flying first to London and then on to Rio. When he arrived in London this morning, he was detained.

At the time the “security official” called me, David had been detained for 3 hours. The security official told me that they had the right to detain him for up to 9 hours in order to question him, at which point they could either arrest and charge him or ask a court to extend the question time. The official – who refused to give his name but would only identify himself by his number: 203654 – said David was not allowed to have a lawyer present, nor would they allow me to talk to him.

I immediately contacted the Guardian, which sent lawyers to the airport, as well various Brazilian officials I know. Within the hour, several senior Brazilian officials were engaged and expressing indignation over what was being done. The Guardian has the full story here.

Despite all that, five more hours went by and neither the Guardian’s lawyers nor Brazilian officials, including the Ambassador to the UK in London, were able to obtain any information about David. We spent most of that time contemplating the charges he would likely face once the 9-hour period elapsed.

According to a document published by the UK government about Schedule 7 of the Terrorism Act, “fewer than 3 people in every 10,000 are examined as they pass through UK borders” (David was not entering the UK but only transiting through to Rio). Moreover, “most examinations, over 97%, last under an hour.” An appendix to that document states that only .06% of all people detained are kept for more than 6 hours.

The stated purpose of this law, as the name suggests, is to question people about terrorism. The detention power, claims the UK government, is used “to determine whether that person is or has been involved in the commission, preparation or instigation of acts of terrorism.”

But they obviously had zero suspicion that David was associated with a terrorist organization or involved in any terrorist plot. Instead, they spent their time interrogating him about the NSA reporting which Laura Poitras, the Guardian and I are doing, as well the content of the electronic products he was carrying. They completely abused their own terrorism law for reasons having nothing whatsoever to do with terrorism: a potent reminder of how often governments lie when they claim that they need powers to stop “the terrorists”, and how dangerous it is to vest unchecked power with political officials in its name.

Worse, they kept David detained right up until the last minute: for the full 9 hours, something they very rarely do. Only at the last minute did they finally release him. We spent all day – as every hour passed – worried that he would be arrested and charged under a terrorism statute. This was obviously designed to send a message of intimidation to those of us working journalistically on reporting on the NSA and its British counterpart, the GCHQ.

Before letting him go, they seized numerous possessions of his, including his laptop, his cellphone, various video game consoles, DVDs, USB sticks, and other materials. They did not say when they would return any of it, or if they would.

This is obviously a rather profound escalation of their attacks on the news-gathering process and journalism. It’s bad enough to prosecute and imprison sources. It’s worse still to imprison journalists who report the truth. But to start detaining the family members and loved ones of journalists is simply despotic. Even the Mafia had ethical rules against targeting the family members of people they felt threatened by. But the UK puppets and their owners in the US national security state obviously are unconstrained by even those minimal scruples.

If the UK and US governments believe that tactics like this are going to deter or intimidate us in any way from continuing to report aggressively on what these documents reveal, they are beyond deluded. If anything, it will have only the opposite effect: to embolden us even further. Beyond that, every time the US and UK governments show their true character to the world – when they prevent the Bolivian President’s plane from flying safely home, when they threaten journalists with prosecution, when they engage in behavior like what they did today – all they do is helpfully underscore why it’s so dangerous to allow them to exercise vast, unchecked spying power in the dark.

David was unable to call me because his phone and laptop are now with UK authorities. So I don’t yet know what they told him. But the Guardian’s lawyer was able to speak with him immediately upon his release, and told me that, while a bit distressed from the ordeal, he was in very good spirits and quite defiant, and he asked the lawyer to convey that defiance to me. I already share it, as I’m certain US and UK authorities will soon see.

© Guardian News and Media 2013

 

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Filed under Glenn Greenwald, UK Authorities

Why ‘stop and frisk’ is worse than NSA surveillance

New York Police Department officers monitor a march against stop-and-frisk tactics used by police on February 23.If my boys, who are now in their 40′s had lived during these times in NYC there is an overwhelming chance that they would have been stopped and frisked several times.  Today my  sons and daughters are professionals in their chosen fields, but would they have had that chance in today’s NYPD environment?

The New York Civil Liberties Union has published data that show African Americans and Latinos are the prime targets of the Stop and frisk programs.

The Compass - Marc Ambinder

My black friends in New York, particularly those who don’t live in the fancier precincts of Manhattan, have been harassed by the NYPD in a way that I, as a white guy, will never experience.

They’ve been stopped and frisked, for reasons known only to the officers. Almost every young black male I know has a story to tell.

The news today that a federal judge found this deliberate policing policy to be unconstitutional is a welcome one.

If you have never been stopped and frisked by a cop, it might not seem like a big deal.

So you lose, what, a few minutes of your time. You get frisked, there’s nothing on you, and you get sent on your way. It’s like the TSA.

Except that it’s not. It’s an encounter between powerless citizens and highly empowered police officers. It is scary. The confrontations are often aggressive, which is entirely appropriate from the perspective of the police officer: The person might be carrying. You’ve been singled out for your proximity to a place where a crime might be committed and because of the way you look, the way you move, the route you take. Your attitude towards the police will harden.

I think the NYPD is by and large an incredible organization and that its policing strategies have made New York City immeasurably safer; the city’s minority residents live with much less fear than ever before. But I think the “stop and frisk” policy is overzealous and counter-productive. And I think, in a small but tangible way, the practice harms those who come into contact with it.

The NSA’s surveillance capabilities and even its bulk collection programs do not damage or degrade Americans’ rights; they do not harm our ability to participate in the political process. (I think the FBI’s policies are MUCH more worrisome on that end.) To me, the symbolic harm is enough. I want the bright line to exist to prevent potential abuses by unsavory politicians.

There are many, many important debates to have about civil rights and liberties. Because of the NSA’s size, scope, and reach, I would be very concerned if the potential for willful abuse, and by extension, the potential to do something tangibly bad to Americans (and other innocents) was more than negligible. But it is negligible. Figuring out how to make sure NSA does everything right is important, but there is not one iota of evidence that the over-collection, even if it was broad, was (a) willful (b) not immediately reported and (c) ever detected by the Americans whose data passed through computers it shouldn’t have.

Yes, it would make me feel weird if I knew that an analyst somewhere was able to read my email; yes, I am totally and resolutely in favor of strong oversight procedures that are recognized by everyone as legitimate; but all the same, I am not being stopped by the police, or tortured, or arrested, or asked not to write something, or harassed, or, really, impacted in any way by that over-collect.

We have to make distinctions between what gives us the willies and what hurts or harms us. We have to make distinctions, fine ones, within topics; the NSA is not the CIA is not the FBI is not the NYPD.

Torture is evil. False wars are evil. Companies manipulating the data they collect to make you buy things and vote for people — that’s pretty wicked, too. What NSA does is not remotely close to that. To circle back to the point that’s obvious: They’re the government. They personify executive power. Our skepticism ought to be higher. I totally agree. But at the same time, we should not invent a caricature of what NSA does in order to polarize the debate about it. The facts don’t warrant that, just in the same way that the facts about the history of intelligence collection should absolutely force us to be vigilant.

In the scheme of things, the stop and frisk policy is a greater threat to civil rights than the NSA’s bulk collection programs.

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Filed under NYC Stop & Frisk Laws