Science & Technology

J&J Pulls Ads From YouTube Over ‘Offensive’ Videos

Johnson & Johnson the latest company to drop ads over fears content may appear alongside ‘terrorism’ and hate videos. US healthcare conglomerate Johnson & Johnson has become the latest company to suspend all digital advertising on YouTube over concerns its ads may have appeared on channels that broadcast offensive videos. J&J said on Thursday it wanted to ensure that its product advertising did not appear on channels that promote “offensive content”, a day after AT&T, Verizon, and several other major advertisers suspended their digital ads after discovering their brands had been appearing alongside videos promoting violence and hatred. “We are deeply concerned that our ads may have appeared alongside YouTube content promoting terrorism and hate,” AT&T said in a statement. “Until Google can ensure this won’t happen again, we are removing our ads from Google’s non-search platforms.” Google, YouTube’s parent company, has come under intense scrutiny for ads appearing alongside videos...

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‘Earth is a Planet in Upheaval’: World Meteorological Organization Issues Dire Climate Warning

by Joe Romm – “Truly uncharted territory” 2016’s record-warming continues in 2017 with Jan-Feb 2017 the second hottest on record after 2016. CREDIT: NOAA Humanity is “now in truly uncharted territory,” thanks to CO2-driven climate change, the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) warned Tuesday. The WMO’s annual “State of the Global Climate in 2016” paints a dire picture for humanity: record CO2 levels, record warming, record drop in both Arctic and Antarctic sea ice, and record high sea levels. Severe droughts “brought food insecurity to millions in southern and eastern Africa and Central America.” NOAA reported this month that the record-smashing warming of 2016 continued into 2017. In this country, “there were 11,743 daily warm temperature records broken or tied” in February alone. Globally, it was the second hottest February and January-February on record after 2016. “Earth is a planet in upheaval due to human-caused changes in the atmosphere,” as University of Arizona...

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US Ditches Human Rights Hearing in ‘Unprecedented Show of Disrespect’

by Nadia Prupis – ACLU had planned to drill officials on immigration, DAPL, and Muslim ban, but representatives from various departments never showed. The U.S. failed to show up to a human rights hearing in an “unprecedented show of disrespect to the international community,” the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) said Tuesday. In a surprise move, the government ditched a hearing with the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR), an arm of the Organization of American States, where the ACLU had planned to drill officials on the Trump administration’s crackdown on immigration; its ban on travelers from six Muslim-majority countries; and the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL), among other issues. The civil rights group had filed an emergency request for the meeting in February, after President Donald Trump signed an executive order that banned travelers from seven Muslim-majority countries. That order, as well as its follow-up mandate, issued last month, have since...

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Can Customs and Border Officials Search Your Phone? These Are Your Rights

by Patrick G. Lee – Recent detentions and seizures of phones and other material from travelers to the United States have sparked alarm. We detail what powers Customs and Border Protection officials have over you and your devices. This story has been updated to add that Customs and Border Protection agents must have probable cause of wrongdoing to make stops outside the 100-mile border zone within which they have broad search powers. A NASA scientist heading home to the U.S. said he was detained in January at a Houston airport, where Customs and Border Protection officers pressured him for access to his work phone and its potentially sensitive contents. Last month, CBP agents checked the identification of passengers leaving a domestic flight at New York’s John F. Kennedy Airport during a search for an immigrant with a deportation order. And in October, border agents seized phones and other work-related material from...

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“Morally Obscene” Trump Budget Proposal Stands to Make America Cruel Again

by Deirdre Fulton – Environment, public education, worker protections, and cultural institutions all stand to lose under Trump’s “cruel” budget blueprint.   Meals on Wheels. Amtrak. Teacher training, after-school, and summer educational programs. The National Endowment for the Arts. The Appalachian Regional Commission. The National Institutes of Health (NIH). The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). All these initiatives and agencies—plus many more—face cuts or wholesale elimination under President Donald Trump’s proposed “skinny budget,” officially unveiled Thursday. Meanwhile, the blueprint calls for increases in military spending, border and immigration enforcement, and money for charter and private schools. The Washington Post has a comprehensive breakdown, with graphics, here. The document was variously denounced as “an all-out assault on our planet;” “dirty and dangerous;” “cruel;” and “unacceptable.” “President Trump’s budget is morally obscene and bad economic policy,” declared Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.). “It will cause devastating pain to the very people Trump promised to help...

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House Dems Send Educational Materials to Help Scott Pruitt Get a Grip on Basic Climate Science

by Andrea Germanos – “It’s clear that you need to read the enclosed reports.” Given the lack of understanding of basic climate science Scott Pruitt displayed on a recent appearance on CNBC, 33 House Democrats have sent the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) head educational materials to help him get a grip on established facts. Speaking last week to the network’s “Squawk Box,” Pruitt sparked the ire of climate groups—and contradicted his own statements to the U.S. Senate—when he said, “I would not agree that is a primary contributor to the global warming that we see.” “As Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, Scott Pruitt must understand these non-controversial concepts,” a press statement from Rep. Earl Blumenauer (Ore.) states. Blumenauer, along with 32 of his House colleagues including Reps. Raul Grijalva (Ariz.), Barbara Lee (Calif.), Mark Pocan (Wis.), and Jan Schakowsky (Ill.) sent to Pruitt a brief letter as well...

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Don’t Say You Weren’t Warned: Your Smart TV is Spying On You

by MICHAEL PRICE – It appears the CIA is exploiting Americans TVs to collect information, and it’s a safe bet they’re not the only ones. Don’t say we didn’t warn you about this one: your “smart” TV may be spying on you. Really. According to classified documents leaked this week, the CIA found a way to hack the microphone on televisions equipped with voice control and send the audio back to headquarters. It can even record in “Fake-Off” mode — when the TV looks like it’s off but isn’t, according to notes on project “Weeping Angel.” See, this is why we can’t have nice things. Way back in 2014, we noticed a rather ominous waring in the novella-length privacy policy that came with our new smart TV: “Please be aware that if your spoken words include personal or other sensitive information, that information will be among the data captured and transmitted...

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Another Sign Just Came in That Tar Sands Operations Are on Life Support

by Andrea Germanos – ‘Societal acceptance of the energy system as we have it is just disappearing,’ Shell chief executive said. Royal Dutch Shell announced last Thursday that it is selling off the majority of its tar sands assets, as its chief executive noted dwindling “societal acceptance of the energy system as we have it.” Of the $7.25 billion deal with energy company Canadian Natural, Shell said in a statement that it will “sell all of its in-situ and undeveloped oil sands interests in Canada and reduce its share in the Athabasca Oil Sands Project (AOSP) from 60 percent to 10 percent.” As InsideClimate News noted, the sale is “one of the biggest in a series of steps by multinational companies to turn away from the tar sands, among the most expensive and carbon-intensive sources of oil.” For Shell Chief Executive Officer Ben van Beurden, it marks “a significant step in...

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Report: Trump Adviser Communicated with Russian Hackers Before Election

by Aaron Rupar – Roger Stone appeared to know about documents the hackers had stolen before they were published. Roger Stone, a longtime confidant and adviser of Donald Trump, exchanged direct messages on Twitter with Guccifer 2.0 before the presidential election, according to a report published Wednesday by The Smoking Gun. In a joint statement released in October, U.S. intelligence community officials said they had concluded that Guccifer 2.0 is a front for hackers directed by the Russian government. Emails Guccifer 2.0 hacked from the Democratic National Committee (DNC) and Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta were later shared with and published by Wikileaks, with the DNC emails hitting the internet just before the Democratic National Convention in July and Podesta’s emails trickling out in installments beginning in October. The report simply cites “a source,” but reached for comment by TSG, Stone didn’t deny anything. He also indicated he’s been afflicted with...

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Will Electric Cars Soon have Solar Roofs? Toyota and Tesla say Yes.

by Joe Romm – Advanced Panasonic solar modules triple the output of Toyota’s previous solar roof. Last week, Panasonic announced an advanced solar panel system that will debut on the 2017 model Toyota Prius plug-in hybrid in Japan (the Prius Prime). It is “the first commercially available, mass-produced passenger car to feature an optional solar charging system,” PV magazine explained. Panasonic notes that, previously, rooftop solar cells had outputs of only “several tens of watts.” So they were used only for ventilating parked cars and “auxiliary charging” of the standard 12-Volt lead-acid battery. But improvements in solar efficiency combined with advanced design and “technologies to laminate three-dimensional curved glass” have allowed a high output — some 180 watts, which is more than triple the output of the previous solar roof. As a result, this battery can charge the lithium-ion powertrain batteries, providing up to an additional 3.7 miles of range on a sunny day....

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This Program has Saved Taxpayers Hundreds of Billions of Dollars. The GOP Wants to Cut it

by Samantha Page – The Energy Star efficiency program costs less than .001 percent of the DoD budget. As the federal government braces for the administration’s so-called “skinny budget,” expected late next week, rumors of what, exactly, will be cut keep circulating. Among the programs reported to be on the Trump administration’s chopping block: the popular, cheap, effective Energy Star consumer labeling program from the Energy Department and the Environmental Protection Agency. The United States spends about $57 million a year on the Energy Star efficiency standards program. Under Energy Star, scientists create guidelines and test new consumer goods for efficiency — new washing machines, for instance. The programs most recently launched standard is for electric vehicle chargers, which gives some sense of how far-ranging and modern this program is. It’s also a huge money-saver. Since it was established in the 1990s, the Energy Star program has saved U.S. consumers some $360 billion, mostly...

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Climate Scientist: Trump Budget is ‘an All-Out Assault on Earth’

by Joe Romm – Defunding NOAA’s satellites will also hurt weather forecasts, jeopardizing public safety, experts warn. Donald Trump’s “see no evil” approach to climate change became dangerously real this week. A four-page White House budget memo secured by The Washington Post reveals the Trump administration wants a 17 percent cut in National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)’s overall budget — with the deepest cuts coming from earth observation. NOAA studies the atmosphere and oceans — often using satellites — to better understand climate and weather. Under the draft Trump plan, NOAA’s satellite program would be cut by more than a half billion dollars. These cuts would be “devastating” both to NOAA and the United States, extreme-weather expert Dr. Kevin Trenberth told ThinkProgress. “All of the major fronts in advancing weather forecasting and El Nino forecasts come from climate research involving interactions between the atmosphere and the ocean, and land surface and moisture flows. Satellite data are a vital...

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Why Discovering New Earth-Like Planets Matters (VIDEOS)

by Lucianne Walkowicz – From across the Galaxy, just shy of 40 light years away, seven long shadows sweep across our planet. These shadows belong to the planets of the TRAPPIST-1 system, seven Earth-sized worlds whose discoveries were announced with great fanfare this past week. Led by Michael Gillon of the University of Liege, an international team of astronomers deployed both space and Earth-based telescopes to make these incredible discoveries: three of the TRAPPIST-1 planets were revealed last year, with the recent announcement unveiling an additional four. Each world passes in front of its parent star from our point of view, creating those shadows – called “transits” – that dim the light of the star during the planet’s passage. The transits occur with each lap the planets make around their sun, and by measuring how long it takes between them, we can time the length of their year. From there, it’s just a few calculations to deduce how far they are from...

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Biologists Warn Half of All Species to Face Extinction by 2100, as GOP Pushes to Destroy Protections

by Nika Knight – Days after Republican lawmakers speechified about dismantling the Endangered Species Act, biologists ring alarm bells about global mass extinction. Today, 20 percent of all species are at risk of being wiped out, scientists at a Vatican conference on biodiversity warn, and that number may rise to nearly 50 percent by the end of the century. “The living fabric of the world is slipping through our fingers without our showing much sign of caring,” warned the conference organizers. Biologists, ecologists, and economists traveled to Rome from around the world for the workshop titled “How to Save the Natural World on Which We Depend,” which begins Monday, to strategize together on how to limit the mass extinction event caused by rampant over-development, climate change, overpopulation, and unsustainable agricultural practices. The meeting sharply contrasts with last week’s U.S. Senate hearing on how to “modernize the Endangered Species Act ,”...

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President Trump’s Coming War on Science: Environment Edition

by Alison Cassady – On February 17, the U.S. Senate confirmed former Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt as administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, or EPA. Observers can now expect the Trump administration—with Congress providing the wind at Administrator Pruitt’s back—to charge ahead with an aggressive agenda to weaken or nullify a decade’s worth of progress on pollution reduction. President Donald Trump and Administrator Pruitt are likely to start off by announcing plans to dismantle the EPA’s Clean Power Plan, which set the first-ever carbon pollution standards for power plants, and other components of President Barack Obama’s Climate Action Plan. They may also attack an Obama-era rule to protect the nation’s waterways from pollution. In addition to taking on specific environmental protections, President Trump and Congress are likely to pursue a more pernicious strategy to deny or obscure basic facts and science about climate change and assert new supposed truths...

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Doomsday Clock Now Two and a Half Minutes to Midnight

by Deirdre Fulton – The nuclear danger of a Trump presidency, combined with his administration’s climate denialism, heighten the risk of a global catastrophe, according to scientists. The symbolic Doomsday Clock inched closer to midnight on Thursday, and we have President Donald Trump largely to thank for the ominous development. At the National Press Club in Washington, D.C. on Thursday morning, the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists‘ Science and Security Board moved the hands of the iconic clock 30 seconds closer to “midnight,” or the end of the world. For the first time in the 70-year history of the clock, “the board has decided to act, in part, based on the words of a single person: Donald Trump, the new President of the United States,” according to a press statement. The nuclear danger of a Trump presidency, combined with his and his administration’s climate denialism, heighten the risk of a global...

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War on Facts Sparks Momentum for Scientists’ March on Washington

by Deirdre Fulton – ‘An American government that ignores science to pursue ideological agendas endangers the world’ The Trump-Pence administration’s war on facts may have galvanized the next major demonstration in the nation’s capital—the Scientists’ March on Washington, which is as yet unscheduled but is garnering significant enthusiasm online. Spurred by the new administration’s stance on climate change, muzzling of scientists, and slashing of environmental regulations, the idea grew out of a Reddit thread started in the wake of Saturday’s inspirational Women’s March on Washington and global solidarity events. As the Washington Post reports: omeone wrote, “There needs to be a Scientists’ March on Washington.” “100%,” someone replied. Dozens of others agreed. One participant in the exchange, University of Texas Health Science Center postdoctoral fellow Jonathan Berman, took the conversation to heart. In short order, the march had a Facebook page (whose membership swelled from 200 people on Tuesday night to more than...

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SEC Launches Yahoo Investigation Over Improper Handling of Cyberattacks

by Lauren C. Williams – The agency is looking into whether the tech company waited too long to tell investors of the breaches. After unveiling a newer, smaller corporate identity following the sale of most of its holdings to Verizon, Yahoo is facing a federal probe for how it handled its massive data breaches, the Wall Street Journal reported. The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) is investigating Yahoo to determine whether the company kept investors in the dark regarding its two mega-breaches that exposed more than a billion consumers’ data in two major breaches since 2013. Yahoo previously mentioned it was cooperating with international, state, and federal agencies regarding the 2014 breach, including the Federal Trade Commission and SEC, the Journal reported. The investigation will likely focus on the 2014 hack, which wasn’t publicly disclosed for two years. Even in the face of mounting criticism, Yahoo hasn’t given any reason for...

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2014 Was Hottest Year Ever Recorded. Then It Was 2015. Now It’s 2016.

by Andrea Germanos – (Credit: NOAA)For the third year in a row, the world experienced its warmest year on the books, global scientists have determined The new assessments come from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), and the UK’s Met Office, as well as the World Meteorological Organization (WMO), which relies in part on data from those agencies. The findings also back up the declaration made earlier this month by the EU’s Copernicus Climate Change Service. “2016 is remarkably the third record year in a row in this series,” said Gavin Schmidt, director of NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS). “We don’t expect record years every year, but the ongoing long-term warming trend is clear.” NOAA’s calculations put the average temperature across global land and ocean surfaces at 1.69°F (0.94°C) above the 20th century average, while NASA puts the globally-averaged temperatures for...

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Huge Scientific Study Refutes the Federal Government’s Stance on Marijuana

by Laurel Raymond – It just reinforces what our policy makers should already know.” In the federal drug classification scheme, marijuana is classed at the very top. It is considered to be a Schedule I substance — a category reserved for drugs with a high potential for abuse and no accepted medical use. For years, however, scientists have done study after study showing that this classification is misguided. On Thursday, the National Academy of Sciences put one more nail in the coffin with one of the most thorough reviews of the research to date: a massive, 396-page report on 10,000 research studies on marijuana, assessing therapeutic benefits and risk factors. The review, conducted by a panel of experts led by Harvard public health researcher Marie McCormack, is broken out into 100 different conclusions — many of which are just assessments of the current state of the research. It is particularly significant, however, that the review states...

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Likely Conflicts Ahead as Trump Elevates Giuliani to Cyber Czar

by Lauren McCauley – Giuliani admits he might have business ties with some of the people he connects to President Trump, Former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani will be serving as a key cyber security adviser to President-elect Donald Trump, the transition team announced on Thursday, which could pose yet more conflicts of interest for the incoming administration. The Trump loyalist, who had been on the shortlist for secretary of state, “will be sharing his expertise and insight as a trusted friend concerning private sector cyber security problems and emerging solutions developing in the private sector,” the Trump team said, which could include arranging meetings with corporate executives to discuss cyber issues in the private sector. Despite the appointment—which comes with no title—Giuliani has said he will not resign from his role as chair of the global cyber security practice at Greenberg Traurig, nor from his post of CEO of...

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‘Not Just Dumb—Dangerous’: Trump to Force Exit of Nuke Safety Officials

by Deirdre Fulton – Without replacements in line, president-elect demanding immediate resignation of key officials at agency that ‘works to reduce the global danger from weapons of mass destruction’. On Monday, Ploughshares Fund president Joseph Cirincione tweeted in response to the news:President-elect Donald Trump—whose pending control of America’s nuclear arsenal already has many people deeply concerned—has apparently ordered the resignation of two government officials whose role is to ensure that stockpile remains safe and secure. Citing an unnamed Energy Department official, Gizmodo reported that on Friday, Trump “instructed the head of the National Nuclear Security Administration and his deputy to clean out their desks when Trump takes office on January 20th.” The NNSA is a semi-autonomous agency within the U.S. Department of Energy that, according to its website, “maintains and enhances the safety, security, and effectiveness of the U.S. nuclear weapons stockpile without nuclear explosive testing; works to reduce the...

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In Historic Decision, Canada Declares Internet Access a Fundamental Right for All

by Lauren McCauley – National telecom agency promises to connect all Canadians, from Quebec to Yukon, to high-speed broadband. In what is being described as a “historic” decision that will have a significant impact, particularly on the lives of those living in rural and First Nations communities, Canada’s telecom agency on Wednesday issued a new rule declaring high-speed internet a basic service “necessary to the quality of life” of all Canadians. “The future of our economy, our prosperity, and our society—indeed, the future of every citizen—requires us to set ambitious goals, and to get on with connecting all Canadians for the 21st century,” said Jean-Pierre Blais, chair of the Canadian Radio-Television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC), at a news conference. “These goals are ambitious. They will not be easy to achieve and they will cost money. But we have no choice.” Under the new broadband strategy, the CRTC aims to provide 100...

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Putin Involved in Election Hack & Trump May Have Known

by Egberto Willies – This story is getting bigger, and it would not surprise me if it ultimately becomes the 21st century Watergate. There are just too many Russian and Vladimir Putin connections. CIA evidence continues to point to Putin’s involvement in the 2016 election hack. Worse, Trump may have known about the Russian involvement. The New York Times article titled “The Perfect Weapon: How Russian Cyberpower Invaded the U.S.” provides a chronology of the Russian hacking into the DNC. The following passage is prescient and should worry the GOP and Donald Trump. What started as an information-gathering operation, intelligence officials believe, ultimately morphed into an effort to harm one candidate, Hillary Clinton, and tip the election to her opponent, Donald J. Trump. Like another famous American election scandal, it started with a break-in at the D.N.C. The first time, 44 years ago at the committee’s old offices in the Watergate complex,...

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Where’s the Proof? Calls Grow to Declassify Evidence of Alleged Russian Hack

by Deirdre Fulton – “There is a disturbing trend emerging that dictates that if you simply demand evidence for this tremendously significant allegation, you must be a Trump apologist or a Soviet agent.” “Let’s have some proof.” That’s what some observers are demanding of President Barack Obama, urging him to declassify as much evidence as possible to support CIA claims that Russia interfered in the U.S. elections to bolster President-elect Donald Trump’s candidacy. Ten members of the Electoral College have signed an open letter asking Director of National Intelligence James Clapper to provide them with classified briefings on Russia’s alleged hacking during the campaign. “The Electors require to know from the intelligence community whether there are ongoing investigations into ties between Donald Trump, his campaign or associates, and Russian government interference in the election, the scope of those investigations, how far those investigations may have reached, and who was involved in...

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‘Absolutely Insane’: John Bolton Suggests DNC Hack Was Obama ‘False Flag’

by Nika Knight – Former UN ambassador appears to accuse Obama administration of vast conspiracy to undermine presidential election results. ThinkProgress‘ Jedd Legum characterized Bolton’s charge as an “absolutely insane theory”:hn Bolton, the hawkish former Bush administration official now reportedly under serious consideration for deputy secretary of state, suggested during a Fox News interview on Sunday that the reports of Russian meddling in the U.S. presidential election might be a “false flag” by the Obama administration, an accusation characterized as “insane” by observers. “It’s not at all clear to me just viewing this from the outside that this hacking into the DNC and the RNC computers was not a false flag operation,” the former UN ambassador said. “The question that has to be asked is, why did the Russians run their smart intelligence service against Hillary’s server but their dumb intelligence services against the election?” “False flag, that’s a very serious charge,” Shawn responded,...

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CIA Reports that Russia Intervened in Election to Help Trump

by Mark Sumner – While some previous discussions of Russian hacking associated with the 2016 election indicated that the purpose was simply disruption of the election ,  the CIA has now reached a different conclusion. The CIA has concluded in a secret assessment that Russia intervened in the 2016 election to help Donald Trump win the presidency, rather than just to undermine confidence in the U.S. electoral system, according to officials briefed on the matter. Hacking of both DNC and personal email was reportedly done by Russian state actors, who then provided the information to Wikileaks with the intent of harming Hillary Clinton’s chances and assisting Trump. This assessment follows President Obama’s announcement on Friday that he was ordering a full review of Russia’s attempts to interfere with the election. Though Russia also hacked information from Republicans they didn’t use that information. … the Russians hacked the Republican National Committee’s computer systems in addition...

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All Around American Hero John Glenn has Died at the Age of 95

by Jen Hayden – The U.S. has lost one of our greatest pioneers and heroes. The Columbus Dispatch is reporting former Ohio Senator John Glenn has passed away: An authentic hero and genuine American icon, Glenn died this afternoon surrounded by family at the Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center in Columbus after a remarkably healthy life spent almost from the cradle with Annie, his beloved wife of 73 years, who survives. He was 95 years old and his life was legendary: Glenn lived a Ripley’s Believe It or Not! life. As a Marine Corps pilot, he broke the transcontinental flight speed record before being the first American to orbit the Earth in 1962 and, 36 years later at age 77 in 1998, becoming the oldest man in space as a member of the seven-astronaut crew of the shuttle Discovery. He made that flight in his 24th and final year in the U.S....

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The House Science Committee’s Tweets are an Embarrassment to Science

by Laurel Raymond – Climate scientists were quick to fire back to the committee tweeting out Breitbart misinformation. In the era of fake news, it is downright cringe-worthy when an ostensibly reliable source — a House of Representatives committee, for example — tweets out misleading information. In the era of rapidly increasing climate change, it’s also dangerous. That’s what happened on Thursday, when the official, verified House Science Committee account spread an article based on bad science through their Twitter feed. Not only does the article peddle misinformation in order to deny the reality of climate change, but it was published by Breitbart news — which is notorious for its links to white nationalism, misogyny, and antisemitism. The site also has a long history of insistent climate change denial. Sci,Space,&Tech Cmte ✔@HouseScience .@BreitbartNews: Global Temperatures Plunge. Icy Silence from Climate Alarmists http://bit.ly/2gINZNf  2:12 PM – 1 Dec 2016 The article purports to counter NASA’s exhaustive evidence that...

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Medical Innovation Bill Would Water Down Disclosure of Industry Payments to Doctors

by Charles Ornstein – The 21st Century Cures Act aims to support biomedical research. But along the way, it would exempt certain payments from drug companies to doctors. Critics say such changes are a mistake. Update, Nov. 29, 2016: Provisions in the 21st Century Cures Act dealing with disclosure of physician payments were removed from the bill Tuesday, following criticism from some lawmakers and transparency advocates, a GOP aide said. This week, Congress is expected to consider a bill promoting biomedical research and innovation that would also weaken requirements on pharmaceutical and medical device companies to disclose certain payments to doctors. The goal of the 21st Century Cures Act, which has bipartisan support, is to help bring drugs and devices to market faster and at lower cost. It would increase funding for the National Institutes of Health and the Food and Drug Administration and would provide grants to states to address...

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Security Experts Back Up Jill Stein’s Demand for Manual Recount

by Nadia Prupis – ‘To determine whether the reported winner actually won requires verifying the results as accurately as possible, which in turn requires manually examining the underlying paper records.’ Security experts on Monday testified in support of Green Party presidential nominee Jill Stein, who is spearheading a by-hand election recount initiative in Wisconsin. Unless a judge rules in her favor, the state will likely allow its 72 counties to decide whether they want to conduct the process manually or by machine. On Monday, a group of academics and other specialists agreed with Stein’s argument that an automated recount would risk an incorrect tally. President-elect Donald Trump won Wisconsin 47.9 percent to Democratic rival Hillary Clinton’s 46.9 percent—a margin of just over 22,000 votes. A manual count would be the only way to ensure that there had been no foreign interference, the experts said. “It is not possible to determine with...

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The United Kingdom Authorizes Broad Mass Surveillance on Its Citizens

by Scott Shackford – A level of snooping every autocrat in the world will admire. The United Kingdom’s Gangmasters and Labour Abuse Authority is not part of an agency tasked with fighting terrorism. They are a licensing body monitoring labor rules in the U.K.’s agriculture industries. Nevertheless, under a new mass surveillance law, high-ranking officials of this agency will have as much access to the private Internet information of British citizens as agencies that actually are tasked with fighting terrorism. This will be the outcome of the passage of the Investigatory Powers Act, also known as the Snooper’s Charter. It has passed both houses of the British Parliament and will become law in 2017 if approved by the queen. The Investigatory Powers Act makes the surveillance authorized by America’s PATRIOT Act look remarkably tame in comparison. The law requires Internet Service Providers to keep all metadata and web browsing history of users...

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Twelve Scientists Propose Ten Policies to Protect Pollinators

by Besame – In response to the United Nations’ global study on pollinator status, twelve scientists from universities around the world have outlined ten policies to protect pollinators. Earlier this year, the U.N. confirmed that pollinator populations are declining in North American and western Europe, and that urgent studies are needed to fill in data gaps here and elsewhere in the world. The status of pollinators outside these two regions can’t be determined due to lack of adequate information. This is no small issue for humans, although pollinators like bees, wasps, flies, moths, butterflies, and bats are important to all habitats and wildlife. Even orcas depend on pollinators. Three-quarters of the world’s food crops benefit from pollinators and ironically one primary threat to pollinators is the agriculture that produces our food. Pollinator health is a worldwide issue that extends across national boundaries. Avocados, chocolate, coffee and vanilla come from outside the U.S. and other nations depend on the income...

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Presidents Can’t Use National Security Concerns as an Excuse to Spy on Critics

by Brett Max Kaufman – Until 40 years ago, American presidents regularly used surveillance powers for their own political ends. Watergate, of course, was perhaps the best-known example of such activity — and not coincidentally, it was also perhaps the last. In the wake of President Richard Nixon’s abuses of individual rights and government resources to enact political vengeance, a shocked American public demanded that Congress ensure that the president’s crimes could not be repeated. In 1976, in a document known as the Church Committee Report (named after Democratic senator Frank Church), the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence delved into America’s far and recent past to tell a disturbing tale about the dangerous powers of the American presidency — powers whose abuse had led just years earlier to a full-blown constitutional crisis resulting in the impeachment and resignation of President Nixon. The committee’s historic report is just as important today with...

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‘Shockingly Stupid’ Attack on Science: Trump to Eliminate NASA Climate Research

by Nika Knight – President-elect plans to entirely slash climate science in favor of deep space exploration. President-elect Donald Trump plans to entirely eliminate all climate research at NASA, a move that climate scientists warn will send us back to the “dark ages.” Trump instead plans to devote more funds toward exploring deep space. The proposal to totally eliminate climate research falls in line with previous GOP efforts to gut NASA’s Earth sciences program, and takes those attempts even further. In 2015 and earlier this year, Republican members of Congress also sought deep cuts to climate research while favoring space exploration in its stead, as Common Dreams reported. It also lends credence to the charge that Trump’s apparent reversal of his anti-climate statements in a recent New York Times interview was nothing but “a bunch of empty rhetoric.” The Guardian reports on this latest move: Bob Walker, a senior Trump campaign...

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UK Set to Approve Most Extreme Spy Bill in ‘History of Western Democracy’

by Nadia Prupis – “Snooper’s charter” poised to become law by end of 2016 after passing both houses of Parliament this week. The U.K. surveillance bill known as the “Snooper’s charter” is poised to become law after passing both houses of Parliament this week. It only needs to be approved by Royal Assent, which is expected to happen by the end of the year. The Investigatory Powers (IP) Bill is, as transparency advocates describe it, the most extreme surveillance law ever passed by a democracy. Approved amid the chaos of the post-Brexit vote and President-elect Donald Trump‘s historic upset, the bill has implications that reach far beyond its borders. Jamie Killock, executive director of the civil liberties organization Open Rights Group, said Thursday, “The passing of the IP Bill will have an impact that goes beyond the U.K.’s shores. It is likely that other countries, including authoritarian regimes with poor human...

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Graham, McCain Want to Investigate Russian Hacks of the DNC

by Joan McCarter – Sens. Lindsey Graham and John McCain might finally be doing something useful in the Senate. WASHINGTON ― Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) on Tuesday said he wants Senate hearings to investigate whether Russian President Vladimir Putin interfered in the U.S. election, casting doubts on President-elect Donald Trump’s desire to improve relations with Russia. “Assuming for a moment that we do believe that the Russian government was controlling outside organizations that hacked into our election, they should be punished,” Graham told reporters on Capitol Hill. “Putin should be punished.” Graham’s friend, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), also cautioned against Trump’s steps toward Russia. “With the U.S. presidential transition underway, Vladimir Putin has said in recent days that he wants to improve relations with the United States,” McCain said in a statement on Tuesday. “We should place as much faith in such statements as any other made by a former KGB agent who...

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Melania Trump’s Denunciation of Online Bullying is Absurd — and not Just Because of Her Husband

by Aaron Rupar – She is part of the problem. Prospective First Lady Melania Trump denounced online trolls and cyberbullying during a Thursday campaign appearance, saying that finding “better ways to honor and support the basic goodness of our children, especially in social media” will be “one of the main focuses of my work if I’m privileged enough to become your First Lady.” “Our culture has gotten too mean and too rough, especially to children and teenagers,” said Trump. “It is never okay when a 12-year-old girl or boy is mocked, bullied or attacked. It is terrible when that happens on the playground, and it is absolutely unacceptable when it’s done by someone with no name hiding on the internet.”  Bradd Jaffy ✔@BraddJaffy Melania Trump: “We need to teach our youth…kindness, honesty, respect, compassion, charity, understanding…our culture has gotten too mean” 3:30 PM – 3 Nov 2016 Her speech, which echoed comments...

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Critics Decry Surveillance of Canadian Journalist as Part of ‘Horrifying’ Culture Shift

by Nadia Prupis – “The new powers that the police have to surveil Canadians are absolutely horrifying, they’re basically limitless, there’s very little oversight.” Canadian free speech advocates slammed recent revelations that Montreal police tracked a journalist’s cell phone calls, text messages, and locations in an attempt to identify one of his sources, who was leaking details of an internal police investigation. La Presse columnist Patrick Lagacé, the target in the case, called the move “indefensible,” stating in an interview on Monday that the approval of a warrant to spy on a journalist was “incredibly aggressive.” “To me, this was a great pretext to try to investigate a reporter who has done numerous stories in the past that have embarrassed the service,” he said. “This is a big thing in a country like Canada. Police were permitted to spy on a journalist under very, very thin motives on a secondary part...

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FCC Passes Sweeping Internet Privacy Rules in ‘Big Win for Civil Rights’

by Nadia Prupis – New rules require internet service providers to get customers’ explicit consent before sharing data with third parties. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) on Thursday passed sweeping new privacy rules designed to keep broadband providers from giving customers’ private data to third parties. The rules, approved by a vote of 3-2, require Internet Service Providers (ISPs) to get customers’ explicit consent before using or sharing behavioral data like browsing history, location, and other sensitive information with marketing firms or other companies, the Washington Post reports. “It’s the consumers’ information,” FCC chairman Tom Wheeler said. “How it is used should be the consumers’ choice. Not the choice of some corporate algorithm.” According to the Post‘s Brian Fung: Also covered by that requirement are health data, financial information, Social Security numbers and the content of emails and other digital messages. The measure allows the FCC to impose the opt-in rule...

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Snowden: ‘Journalists Are a Threatened Class’ in Era of Mass Surveillance (VIDEO)

by Nika Knight – “Things are pretty bad for our side. For the government’s side, it’s never been easier.” Whistleblower Edward Snowden warned a group of European reporters Wednesday that in the era of mass surveillance, journalists are increasingly a threatened class. In a live-streamed discussion on investigative journalism hosted by Germany’s Süddeutsche Zeitung, Snowden explored the threats to journalists posed by hostile governmental forces and a vast global surveillance network. “Journalists are increasingly a threatened class when we think about the right to privacy,” Snowden said. “Yes, I can give you tips on how to protect your communications, but you are going to be engaging in an arms race that you simply cannot win. You must fight this on the front pages and you must win, if you want to be able to report in the same way that you’ve been able to do in the previous centuries.” Snowden went...

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Donald Trump Filled out a Survey about Science and it is Amazing

by Samantha Page – Answers to a science survey show lack of either knowledge or policy. Science is hard. At least, it seems to be for Donald Trump, who this week gave contradictory, off-topic, and sometimes garbled answers to a science questionnaire distributed by Science Debate, a non-profit that urges scientific literacy and accountability from political candidates. “Science is science.” — Donald Trump, 2016 The survey on the 20 “most pressing” scientific issues of our time, ranging from internet freedom to climate change to mental health, is intended to give voters and reporters an idea of where the candidates stand. Trump, Hillary Clinton, and the Green Party’s Jill Stein all responded. “Science is central to policies that protect public health, safety and the environment, from climate change to diet related diseases,” Andrew Rosenberg, director of the Center for Science and Democracy at the Union of Concerned Scientists, said in a statement accompanying the candidates’ responses....

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The First U.S. Offshore Wind Farm Is Complete

by Samantha Page – The 30-megawatt project is set to be operational in November The country’s first offshore wind farm is complete and set to start putting electricity on the grid by November, the developer announced last week. The five-turbine, 30-megawatt Block Island Wind Farm — providing enough electricity to power roughly 18,000 homes for a year — is not going to overhaul the state’s electricity supply, but it is a powerful step forward for Rhode Island and for the country. That’s because the electricity sector produces roughly a third of U.S. emissions. If the country wants to meet its emissions reduction goals as part of a global effort to curb climate change, transitioning from fossil fuel-powered electricity generation to clean resources such as wind is critical to that effort. In addition, the cost of wind energy has decreased dramatically, making it one of the most cost-effective means of electricity generation. Calling the project’s completion...

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State That Exposed 6 Million Voters’ Private Data Says It Doesn’t Need Election Security Aid

by Alice Ollstein – Georgia’s aging, paperless voting machines have been called a “sitting duck” for hackers. Six million Georgia voters had reams of personal information exposed by a data breach in Republican Secretary of State Brian Kemp’s office earlier this year. Yet Kemp is refusing an offer from the Department of Homeland Security to help shore up the cyber-security of the state’s vulnerable voting machines. Instead, he accused the federal government of attempting to “subvert the Constitution to achieve the goal of federalizing elections under the guise of security.” He said the state is capable of handling its own election security, and opined a hack is “not probable at all.” Less than a year ago, Kemp’s office accidentally mailed out a dozen discs containing the private information of more than six million Georgia voters, including Social Security numbers, birth dates, and driver’s license numbers. At the time, Kemp told state...

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13-Year-Old Physicist Has A Mindblowing Theory On God [Must Watch]

by Amanda Froelich – This young man’s theories on the universe are sure to inspire deep contemplation… Remember the name Max Loughan, for you’ll likely hear it again and again in the years to come. The 13-year-old physicist is known for his eloquent theories on God, the universe, and the bible, and his lessons  are sure to inspire some deep contemplation on life’s big questions. Not only did Loughan invent a free Tesla-inspired energy device using a coffee tin, spoon and wire (all of which cost him $15), he has developed some intriguing ideas on the universe. In the video below, he shares his latest theory on God, and it’s sure to touch your heart.  Loughan says, “As cheesy as this sounds, from day one on this planet, I knew I was put here for a reason. And that reason is to invent and to bring the future. My true...

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Scientists Say Expect More 1,000-Year Events Like Louisiana Flood

by Nika Knight – Louisiana’s devastating rainfall was the state’s second “1,000-year” flood this year Parts of Louisiana’s disastrous, ongoing flooding has been upgraded by meteorologists to once-in-1,000-years rainfall, with other areas classified as 500-year and 100-year events, nola.com reported Monday, as scientists warn that such storms are growing more and more frequent as the planet heats up. “On Tuesday, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) is set to classify the Louisiana disaster as the eighth flood considered to be a once-in-every-500-years event to have taken place in the U.S. in little over 12 months,” the Guardian reports: Since May of last year, dozens of people have been killed and thousands of homes have been swamped with water in extreme events in Oklahoma, Texas, South Carolina, West Virginia, and Maryland. NOAA considers these floods extreme because, based on historical rainfall records, they should be expected to occur only once every 500 years. The...

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It’s Not Alarmist: Trump and the Republican Party Could Destroy the World

by Phil Torres and Peter Boghossian, Truthout | Op-Ed – Trump and Republican Party literally threaten the existence of our species. While this statement may sound alarming, it’s not in the least alarmist. Alarmism is what results when one’s degree of fear goes beyond the best available evidence. It’s not alarmist, for example, to shout “Bear!” when one sees a grizzly charging in one’s direction, just as it’s not alarmist to scream, “Civilization could collapse as a result of environmental degradation!” when one sincerely examines the evidence. Consider the following two phenomena: biodiversity loss and climate change. The first receives hardly any attention from the popular media, yet it constitutes an immense danger to humanity. For example, according to a 2015 study published in Science Advances, humanity has escorted the biosphere into a new phase of devastation: the sixth mass extinction, also called the Holocene extinction. To put this...

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Spying’s New Frontier: Private Firm Collects Data on ‘Every American Adult’

by Nadia Prupis – “We have data on that 21-year-old who’s living at home with mom and dad” The fight for internet privacy has focused much of its attention on government surveillance, but mass data collection is done by private companies as well—and one such firm has “centralized and weaponized” all that information for its customers, Bloomberg reports on Friday. In fact, it has already built a profile on “every American adult,” Bloomberg writes. While “professional snoops” have trawled through public and nonpublic records databases to amass information on people for more than a decade, Bloomberg‘s David Gauvey Herbert highlights the company that has turned it into a powerful new industry for private investigators, government agencies, debt collectors, and other customers: For more than a decade, professional snoops have been able to search troves of public and nonpublic records—known addresses, DMV records, photographs of a person’s car—and condense them into comprehensive reports...

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Trump Basically Encourages Russia to Hack Clinton Emails

by Andrea Germanos – ‘Russia , if you’re listening, I hope you’re able to find the 30,000 emails that are missing,’ Trump said Wednesday Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump on Wednesday said he “would love to have the power” to have been behind the recently leaked emails from the Democratic National Committee (DNC) and invited Russia to find Hillary Clinton’s missing emails. In making the latter statement, the New York Times reports, Trump was “essentially encouraging an adversarial foreign power’s cyberspying on a secretary of state’s correspondence.” Speaking at press conference in Doral, Florida, Trump said if Russia was behind the DNC leaks, “they probably have her 33,000 emails. I hope they do … because you’d see some beauties there. So let’s see.” He then references an interview Clinton campaign manager Robby Mook gave in which he asserted—and was challenged—that Russia was behind the hack and did so to help Trump’s campaign....

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In Memoriam: The VCR, 1956 – 2016

by JESSICA GOLDSTEIN – The Videocassette Recorder, a piece of technology already so obsolete you would be forgiven for not realizing it hadn’t died long ago, finally kicked it for good last Thursday, when Funai Corporation of Japan, the last known VCR manufacturer on the face of the Earth, announced it would cease production by the end of July. According to the New York Times, a company spokesperson said Funai will keep on selling VCRs “though its subsidiary until inventory runs out and will provide maintenance services as long as it can.” The VCR is survived by the technologies that fueled its demise, which rule for now (the DVD), the foreseeable future (the DVR, streaming video) and probably forever (piracy). It was 60 years old. It was a player and it crushed a lot (of the competition) The Ampex Electric and Manufacturing Company introduced “the world’s first economically and technically...

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NASA’s Juno Spacecraft Enters Jupiter’s Orbit (VIDEO)

The $1.1bn mission launched five years ago aims to probe the origin of the solar system before it aborts in 2018 NASA’s Juno spacecraft has begun to orbit Jupiter to investigate the origin of the solar system, the US space agency has said. The $1.1bn mission launched five years ago successfully entered the orbit of Jupiter, the largest planet in the solar system, after a 35-minute manoeuvre, NASA said on Tuesday. “Success! Engine burn complete. Juno is now orbiting Jupiter, poised to unlock the planet’s secrets,” NASA said on its Twitter account. The unmanned solar-powered observatory has travelled 2.7bn kilometres since it was launched five years ago from Cape Canaveral in Florida. Once in position to begin its 20-month science mission, Juno will fly in egg-shaped orbits, each one lasting 14 days, to peer through the planet’s thick clouds, map its gargantuan magnetic field and probe through the crushing atmosphere for evidence of...

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31 Science Groups To Congress: Stop Denying And Start Fighting Climate Change

by JOE ROMM – In a blunt letter to Congress, 31 leading scientific societies reaffirmed the reality that humans are causing climate change and only we can stop it. “To reduce the risk of the most severe impacts of climate change, greenhouse gas emissions must be substantially reduced,” they write. Yes, this is the umpteenth report from scientists — see, for instance, “Climate Scientists: We’re Alarmed. Here’s Why You Should Be, Too” and “IPCC Scientists Emphasize Immorality Of Inaction By Focusing On ‘Irreversible Impacts’.” Heck, it’s not even the first letter to Congress from most of these groups — 18 of them wrote a similar letter back in 2009. But as long as the media still gives presidential candidates (and pretty much every other major politician) a free pass on this most preventable of existential threats to America, scientists will have to keep “reminding” policymakers of the broad scientific understanding about...

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Three Years After Snowden, Bipartisan Coalition Demands Congress End Warrantless Spying

by Lauren McCauley – “The Snowden leaks caused a sea change in the policy landscape related to surveillance,” writes watchdog, from the recent passage of the USA Freedom Act to the coming showdown in Congress over Section 702 Three years ago on Monday, the world was shattered by news that the United States was conducting sweeping, warrantless surveillance of people, heads of state, and organizations across the globe. To mark the anniversary of those revelations, brought forth by a then-unknown contractor working for the National Security Administration (NSA), a coalition of public interest groups have launched a new campaign fighting for the expiration of the law that the government claims authorizes its mass spying. Section 702 of the FISA Amendments Act of 2008 “has allowed for mass surveillance programs, including PRISM and UPSTREAM,” —two programs exposed by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden—”that have been used by the U.S. government to warrantlessly collect...

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Rosetta’s Comet Contains the Ingredients for Life

by DRAGOS MITRICA – Astronomers working on the Rosetta mission have discovered the key ingredients for life on the comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko, including the simple amino acid glycine and phosphorus, key components of DNA and cell membranes. In 2014, Rosetta’s Philae probe landed on a comet — a monumental achievement in space exploration — documenting the inner workings, chemical composition and structure of these fascinating cosmic bodies. Among others, we now know the 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko comet has sinkholes or holds primordial oxygen. Now, researchers have answered one of the main questions of the mission: the ingredients of life can be indeed found on the comet. Understanding comets and their potential to seed water and/or life on Earth was crucial. Rosetta had already shown that the comets’ contribution to Earth’s water couldn’t have been massive, but the other question still remained: did comets seed Earth with the necessary ingredients for life? While over 140 molecules had already been identified in the interstellar medium,...

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A New Way to Keep an Eye on Who Represents You in Congress

by Derek Willis – Today ProPublica is launching a new interactive database that will help you keep track of the officials who represent you in Congress. The project is the continuation of two projects I worked on at The New York Times — the first is the Inside Congress database, which we are taking over at ProPublica starting today. But we also have big plans for it. While the original interactive database at The Times focused on bills and votes, our new project adds pages for each elected official, where you can find their latest votes, legislation they support and statistics about their voting. As we move forward we want to add much more data to help you understand how your elected officials represent you, the incentives that drive them and the issues they care about. In that way, it is also a continuation of another project I worked on at...

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Supreme Court Quietly Approves Rule to Give FBI ‘Sprawling’ Hacking Powers

by Nadia Prupis – Absent action by Congress, the rule change will go into effect in December The U.S. Supreme Court on Thursday quietly approved a rule change that would allow a federal magistrate judge to issue a search and seizure warrant for any target using anonymity software like Tor to browse the internet. Absent action by U.S. Congress, the rule change (pdf) will go into effect in December. The FBI would then be able to search computers remotely—even if the bureau doesn’t know where that computer is located—if a user has anonymity software installed on it. The rule changes, which the FBI said were necessary to combat cybercrime, come amid escalating tensions between the intelligence community and technology and privacy advocates, and just a day after the U.S. House of Representatives advanced a bill that would require the government to obtain a probable cause warrant from a judge before seizing...

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Is the US Moving Closer to Banning Encryption? (VIDEO)

How much power should governments have to snoop on what we share online? The US Senate has published a draft law to force tech companies to show encrypted messages to security services. The Compliance with Court Orders Act would force companies to hand over what is called “intelligible” or non-encrypted data, if they receive a court order. It follows decisions by Apple and Whatsapp take a stand on encryption. Apple has been locked in a battle with the FBI over its refusal to unlock its iPhone. And Facebook recently announced all messages on its messaging app, Whatsapp are now encrypted. Is the right to keep our online information a secret about to be banned? And where should the line be between privacy and transparency? Presenter: Jane Dutton Guests: Rachel Levison-Waldman – Senior Counsel at the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University. Robert Pritchard – Associate Fellow at...

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Revealed: CIA Funding Companies that Specialize in Social Media Spying

by Deirdre Fulton – In-Q-Tel reportedly investing in firms that monitor, collect, and analyze social media activities on platforms such as Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram Reflecting the CIA’s “increasing focus on monitoring social media,” the spy agency’s venture capital arm, In-Q-Tel, has made investments in four social media mining and surveillance firms, The Intercept revealed Thursday. According to a document obtained by journalist Lee Fang, In-Q-Tel is funding companies that monitor, collect, and analyze social media traffic and activities on platforms such as Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. The investments were previously undisclosed. For instance, Fang points to PATHAR, a social media intelligence company whose product, Dunami, is already being used by the FBI to “mine Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and other social media to determine networks of association, centers of influence and potential signs of radicalization,” as confirmed last month by the Center for Investigative Reporting. Another firm in In-Q-Tel’s portfolio is...

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Infamous Climate Denier Falls Apart After Bill Nye Makes Him A $20,000 Bet He Knows He’ll Lose (VIDEO)

by Jameson Parker –   Bill Nye was this close to participating in a debate on climate change with Sarah Palin, only to find out that he wasn’t invited to the panel… But in a recently aired teaser for an interview with Marc Morano, the organizer of the climate denial panel, it’s obvious to see why the group was terrified to let Nye on the stage with an intellectual lightweight like Sarah Palin – Nye mopped the floor with Morano’s tired arguments and didn’t even break a sweat. In a two-and-a-half minute clip of a lengthier interview, Nye gets Morano, a man whom Media Matters named the “Climate Change Misinformer of the Year” in 2012, to admit that the world is warming. Then he asks the outspoken denier to put his money where his mouth and winds up demonstrating just how little confidence Morano has in his own radical position. Nye: Would you...

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MIT’s Innovative 3D Solar Tower Produces 20x the Energy of Traditional Panels

By Brianna Blaschke – MIT researchers have discovered a way to maximize the efficiency of solar panels, effectively producing up to 20 times the solar output of traditional flat panels with the same surface area. Through the construction of vertical towers, scientists were able to create 3 different modules that are far more efficient in tracking solar movement and adjusting to changing seasons. Unlike traditional flat panels that are designed to harness energy when the sun is at its peak, the different permutations were able to track the sun when it was closer to the horizon; consequently, they collected more sunlight and generated a more consistent output of energy over time. Even variations in weather and altering seasons did not deter these 3D modules, as they were still able to produce double the energy of flat panels despite unfavorable conditions. The team relied on computer modeling to construct and analyze...

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Proving ‘Just This Phone’ Canard, FBI to Help Unlock Other Apple Devices

by Nadia Prupis – Bureau announced it would help Arkansas prosecutors unlock two devices in murder case Though the FBI claimed for months it was only concerned with unlocking the iPhone of the suspected San Bernardino shooter in its legal battle with Apple, the bureau just agreed to help Arkansas prosecutors break into an iPhone and iPod belonging to two murder suspects. “This case was never about one phone,” Evan Greer, campaign director for the digital rights group Fight for the Future, told Common Dreams on Thursday. “It was always about the FBI’s pursuit of a dangerous precedent that would have made us less safe, not more safe.” The bureau told prosecutors late Wednesday that it would help them unlock the devices, less than a day after the initial request from Faulkner County prosecutor Cody Hiland, according to the Associated Press. Four suspects, ages 14 to 18, have been charged in the July...

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Chomsky, Snowden, Greenwald on Privacy in the Age of Surveillance

by Lauren McCauley – Panel discussion challenges the rhetoric that national security requires that governments can access individual communications What is privacy and what is an individual’s right to it? That is the question that renowned linguist and MIT professor Noam Chomsky, National Security Agency (NSA) whistleblower Edward Snowden, and Intercept co-founding editor Glenn Greenwald sought to answer on Friday evening as the three (virtually) shared a stage for a panel discussion at the University of Arizona in Tuscon. Coming amid the FBI’s public battle against Apple as well as days after the bombings in Brussels last week, which have spurred another round of calls for heightened security and surveillance, the conversation challenged the rhetoric that national security requires that governments can access individual communications. “Should our government be omniscient?” asked Snowden, who took part in the discussion via satellite from Russia. “That has value, of course, in thwarting nefarious and criminal...

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Science Is a Good Substitute for God

by Ronald Bailey – Religious believers tend to be happier than non-religious folk, according to a long line of psychological research. Scientists have suggested several possible explanations for this phenomenon, including the ideas that religion offers a greater sense of control, provides a purpose for life, and reduces uncertainty. So if religious belief makes people more satisfied with their lives, why is secularism growing in many countries? A new study offers one possible answer: A belief in scientific and technological progress can also serve as a source of life satisfaction. Indeed, it may even offer more lifetime happiness than religion does. The study appeared in the journal Personality and Individual Differences, and the research team that conducted it was led by Olga Stavrova, a psychologist at the University of Cologne. The researchers first did a deep analysis of how the belief in scientific and technological progress affects the life satisfaction of a...

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FBI Allegedly Cracks Terrorist’s Phone, Ending Fight with Apple (for Now)

by Scott Shackford – The Senate is still interested in legislation that could weaken everybody’s security It appears as though a major court battle over whether the federal government can force Apple to weaken its iPhone security in order to assist in data gathering is not going to happen. That doesn’t, however, mean this larger conflict is remotely over. The FBI had gone to the courts to try to use the All Writs Act to force Apple to help it weaken the security of the work iPhone of Syed Farook, one of the terrorists who launched the deadly attack in San Bernardino, California. Apple resisted on the grounds that it wasn’t possible to weaken the security on just one phone—doing so would weaken the security on everybody’s phones. The FBI asked for a delay on the court fight last week because it may have figured out a way to break the...

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Climate Skepticism Has Lost Major Ground Among Weather Experts

by ALEJANDRO DAVILA FRAGOSO – Among climate scientists, there’s a consensus that climate change is real and driven by human activity. Among meteorologists and weathercasters, however, that acceptance of climate science has historically been harder to find. That may have finally changed. Some 99 percent of U.S. weathercasters — those who communicate weather forecasts on TV or radio, but who aren’t always trained meteorologists — accept the fact that climate change is happening, according to preliminary findings from a George Mason University’s Center for Climate Change Communication study released Thursday. The study, which has yet to go through the peer review process, comes days after George Mason University released a similar survey that shows that some 96 percent of American Meteorological Society members think climate change is real. Edward Maibach, the lead author of both studies, said the findings are not surprising because theevidence of climate change has been mounting....

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Leading Climate Scientists: ‘We Have A Global Emergency,’ Must Slash CO2 ASAP

by JOE ROMM – James Hansen and 18 leading climate experts have published a peer-reviewed version of their 2015 discussion paper on the dangers posed by unrestricted carbon pollution. The study adds to the growing body of evidence that the current global target or defense line embraced by the world — 2°C (3.6°F) total global warming — “could be dangerous” to humanity. That 2°C warming should be avoided at all costs is not news to people who pay attention to climate science, though it may be news to people who only follow the popular media. The warning is, after all, very similar to the one found in an embarrassingly underreported report last year from 70 leading climate experts, who had been asked by the world’s leading nations to review the adequacy of the 2°C target. Specifically, the new Hansen et al study — titled “Ice melt, sea level rise and...

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FBI Unexpectedly Says It May Not Need Apple’s Help to Unlock iPhone

by Nadia Prupis – Government backs off from privacy fight, temporarily, as it asks court for time to test alternate method The FBI has unexpectedly backed off its privacy battle with Apple, as the agency cancelled a hearing set for Tuesday in its ongoing effort to force the tech company to break into one of the suspected San Bernardino shooter’s iPhones, telling the court it had found a potential new way to access the data. Until Monday, the government had insisted—under oath—that it needed Apple’s help in unlocking Syed Farook’s phone, a claim which Apple has denied. The FBI told the court late Monday that a “third party” had demonstrated an alternate method of unlocking the device and asked for time to test it. The government has until April 5 to determine if it wants to pursue the case. Just ahead of Tuesday’s hearing, magistrate judge Sheri Pym stayed her previous...

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UN Human Rights Chief: FBI Could Unlock “Pandora’s Box” in Apple Case

by Nadia Prupis – ‘It is neither fanciful nor an exaggeration to say that, without encryption tools, lives may be endangered.’ The United Nations human rights chief on Friday warned that the U.S. government risks opening a “Pandora’s Box” if it successfully forces Apple to unlock an iPhone belonging to one of the suspected San Bernardino shooters. “Encryption and anonymity are needed as enablers of both freedom of expression and opinion, and the right to privacy,” UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein said in a statement. “It is neither fanciful nor an exaggeration to say that, without encryption tools, lives may be endangered. In the worst cases, a government’s ability to break into its citizens’ phones may lead to the persecution of individuals who are simply exercising their fundamental human rights.” “In order to address a security-related issue related to encryption in one case, the authorities risk...

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Federal Judge Takes Apple’s Side vs. Feds in New York

by Scott Shackford – Judge says government has overstepped bounds We have a new wrinkle in the encryption fight between Apple and the FBI. In a drug case, a magistrate judge in New York’s Eastern District has ruled that Apple does not need to assist the feds in unlocking a person’s phone and that the All Writs Act does not extend to such a demand. From The New York Times: Magistrate Judge James Orenstein in New York’s Eastern District said in a ruling on Monday that the United States government couldn’t use a law called the All Writs Act to force Apple to hack into an iPhone that was seized in connection with a drug case. The government overstepped what the All Writs Act was intended for, the judge wrote. “After reviewing the facts in the record and the parties’ arguments, I conclude that none of those factors justifies imposing on...

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Does Anybody Believe the FBI Isn’t Out to Defeat Encryption?

by Scott Shackford – The talking points insist this Apple case is an isolated incident. Evidence suggests otherwise FBI Director James Comey starts his defense of their effort to force Apple to help them break into the iPhone of San Bernardino terrorist and killer Syed Farook with a sentence that is that is extremely hard to take seriously: “The San Bernardino litigation isn’t about trying to set a precedent or send any kind of message.” That’s from a Sunday contribution on the Lawfare blog, focusing on the same talking points we’ve been hearing from the feds since a judge last week ordered Apple to take some actions that would make it easier for the FBI to brute force the passcode into Farook’s phone. Comey insists that what the FBI is asking for is very narrow and is not about breaking encryption or creating a “master key” to force back doors into...

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What’s Really at Stake in the Apple Encryption Debate

by Julia Angwin – The government has never been allowed to create a “backdoor” to encrypted devices. Now, it’s trying to force Apple to build one The FBI’s much-discussed request to Apple can seem innocuous: Help us extract six weeks of encrypted data from the locked iPhone of Syed Farook, an employee of San Bernardino health department who spearheaded an attack that killed 14 people. Most people believe Apple should comply. But the FBI is demanding a lot more than the data on a single phone. It has obtained a court order requiring Apple to build custom surveillance software for the FBI – which computer security expert Dan Guido cleverly dubs an FBiOS. Once that software exists, it is inevitable that other law enforcement agencies will approach Apple seeking to get it to use the FBiOS to unlock iPhones in other investigations. Already, Apple says it has received U.S. court orders,...

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Bolstering Apple Argument, DOJ Wants Data from Dozen Other Phones

by Deirdre Fulton – Suggesting slipper slope already exists, news reports show outcome of Apple-FBI battle could have wide implications for privacy and encryption Contradicting FBI claims that the U.S. government is focused only on a single phone in the landmark privacy case pitting Apple against federal law enforcement, news outlets are reporting Tuesday that the Justice Department is pursuing court orders to force the tech company to help investigators extract data from iPhones in about a dozen undisclosed cases around the country. The Wall Street Journal first reported the news Tuesday morning, citing “people familiar with the matter.” According to the paper: The other phones are at issue in cases where prosecutors have sought, as in the San Bernardino, Calif., terror case, to use an 18th-century law called the All Writs Act to compel the company to help them bypass the passcode security feature of phones that may hold evidence, these...

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The Encryption Fight We Knew Was Coming Is Here—and Apple Appears Ready

by Scott Shackford – Company will not compromise user security to help access terrorist’s phone   We have one massive test case for Apple’s commitment to end-to-end encryption on its smart phones in the dock. Syed Farook, one of the terrorists responsible for killing 14 people in San Bernardino, California, had a locked iPhone, and the FBI has not been able to access its contents. So they’re trying to get help from Apple, and they’ve turned to a judge to try to force the company’s assistance. This week a judge sided with the FBI, ordering Apple to not exactly create a back door to bypass its encryption, but pretty damn close. The judge has ordered Apple to assist the FBI by making it possible to bypass or deactivate the auto-erase function that deletes the contents of the phone after too many failed password attempts; to allow the FBI to electronically submit...

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‘Watershed Moment for Privacy’ as Apple Refuses FBI Order to Create iPhone Backdoor

by Lauren McCauley – Apple president Tim Cook calls government demand ‘chilling,’ argues that it threatens the security and rights of people worldwide Technology behemoth Apple is taking a hard stand against the U.S. government in a case it says could set a dangerous precedent for government overreach after a federal court ruled Tuesday that the company must assist the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and break into an iPhone recovered from one of the suspected San Bernardino shooters. In an open letter posted online, Apple president Tim Cook states that the company opposes the court order (pdf), which essentially demands that Apple build a “backdoor to the iPhone.” Such a move, Cook says, not only “threatens the security of our customers” but would have “implications far beyond the legal case at hand.” Cook continues: Up to this point, we have done everything that is both within our power and within...

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Professor Who Exposed Flint Crisis Says Greed Has Killed Public Science

by Lauren McCauley – Academic pressure and financial motives has prohibited scientists from asking important questions “Academic research and scientists in this country are no longer deserving of the public trust,” declared Marc Edwards, the Virginia Tech civil engineering professor who helped expose the Flint water crisis. In an interview published in the Chronicle of Higher Education on Tuesday, Edwards explained how the pressures put on academics to secure funding are forcing scientists to abandon work done in the public interest and that similar financial motives are causing government science agencies to ignore inconvenient truths—like high levels of lead in public drinking water. He said he’s “very concerned about the culture of academia in this country and the perverse incentives that are given to young faculty.” Edwards describes the culture as a “hedonistic treadmill,” with “extraordinary” pressures to pursue funding, publication, and academic clout. Meanwhile, he said, “the idea of science...

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