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Science

When We Don't Like the Solution, We Deny the Problem 282

Posted by Soulskill
from the having-problems-is-not-a-problem dept.
Ichijo writes: A new study (abstract) from Duke University tested whether the desirability of a solution affects beliefs in the existence of the associated problem. Researchers found that 'yes, people will deny the problem when they don't like the solution. Quoting: "Participants in the experiment, including both self-identified Republicans and Democrats, read a statement asserting that global temperatures will rise 3.2 degrees in the 21st century. They were then asked to evaluate a proposed policy solution to address the warming. When the policy solution emphasized a tax on carbon emissions or some other form of government regulation, which is generally opposed by Republican ideology, only 22 percent of Republicans said they believed the temperatures would rise at least as much as indicated by the scientific statement they read.

But when the proposed policy solution emphasized the free market, such as with innovative green technology, 55 percent of Republicans agreed with the scientific statement. The researchers found liberal-leaning individuals exhibited a similar aversion to solutions they viewed as politically undesirable in an experiment involving violent home break-ins. When the proposed solution called for looser versus tighter gun-control laws, those with more liberal gun-control ideologies were more likely to downplay the frequency of violent home break-ins."
Facebook

Facebook Wants You To Vote Tuesday 165

Posted by timothy
from the in-particular-way dept.
theodp (442580) writes "Six years in the making, Facebook's get-out-the-vote tool — a high-profile button that proclaims "I'm Voting" or "I'm a Voter" — will on Tuesday give many of the social network's more than 150 million American users a gentle but effective nudge to vote. "If past research is any guide," writes Micah L. Sifry in Mother Jones, "up to a few million more people will head to the polls partly because their Facebook friends encouraged them. Yet the process by which Facebook has developed this tool — what the firm calls the 'voter megaphone' — has not been very transparent, raising questions about its use and Facebook's ability to influence elections. Moreover, while Facebook has been developing and promoting this tool, it has also been quietly conducting experiments on how the company's actions can affect the voting behavior of its users." Sifry adds, "There may be another reason for Facebook's lack of transparency regarding its voting promotion experiments: politics. Facebook officials likely do not want Republicans on Capitol Hill to realize that their voter megaphone isn't a neutral get-out-the-vote mechanism. It's not that Facebook uses this tool to remind only users who identify themselves as Democrats to vote — though the company certainly has the technical means to do so. But the Facebook user base tilts Democratic." So, it's probably worth mentioning again that Facebook caught flack last summer for deliberately experimenting on users' emotions without their consent. And just last June, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg's FWD.us PAC put out a call for "pissed off Data Scientists" to data mine critical legislative districts and "growth hack" ways to motivate "registered voters who are registered Republicans who we think are likely to support immigration reform.""
Privacy

Boo! The House Majority PAC Is Watching You 468

Posted by timothy
from the public-records-are-public dept.
An anonymous reader writes I received some interesting mail this week from the House Majority PAC. First, a "voter report card" postcard telling me my voting record was "excellent" (I'm a good citizen!), but also letting me know that they "plan to update this report card after the election to see whether you voted". OK, so one of the Democratic Party's super PACs want me to vote, but it seems to be something of an attempt at intimidation. Today, I received a letter in which they really put the pressure on. Here are some excerpts: "Who you vote for is secret. But whether or not you vote is public record. Our organization monitors turnout in your neighborhood, and we are disappointed that many of your neighbors do not always exercise their right to vote." So why contact me instead of them? Voting is a civic duty, but it isn't illegal to abstain. That's my neighbors' business, not mine. It's one way of expressing dissatisfaction, isn't it? And if there are no candidates you wish to vote for, then why should you vote for someone you don't want? But Big Brother PAC has other ideas: "We will be reviewing the Camden County [NJ] official voting records after the upcoming election to determine whether you joined your neighbors who voted in 2014. If you do not vote this year, we will be interested to hear why not." The letter is signed "Joe Fox Election day Coordinator". So what happens if I don't vote? Well, at least I got a scare this Halloween. Are PACs using similar tactics in other states?
Government

California Governor Vetoes Bill Requiring Warrants For Drone Surveillance 115

Posted by Soulskill
from the quis-custodiet-ipsos-drones? dept.
schwit1 sends word that California governor Jerry Brown has vetoed legislation that would have required warrants for surveillance using unmanned drones. In his veto message (PDF), Brown said, "This bill prohibits law enforcement from using a drone without obtaining a search warrant, except in limited circumstances. There are undoubtedly circumstances where a warrant is appropriate. The bill's exceptions, however, appear to be too narrow and could impose requirements beyond what is required by either the 4th Amendment or the privacy provisions in the California Constitution."

The article notes that 10 other states already require a warrant for routine surveillance with a drone (Florida, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Montana, Oregon, Tennessee, Utah, and Wisconsin). Further, Brown's claims about the bill's exceptions are overstated — according to Slate, "California's drone bill is not draconian. It includes exceptions for emergency situations, search-and-rescue efforts, traffic first responders, and inspection of wildfires. It allows other public agencies to use drones for other purposes — just not law enforcement."
Democrats

Emails Cast Unflattering Light On Internal Politics of Healthcare.gov Rollout 392

Posted by timothy
from the wanna-be-absolutely-clear dept.
An anonymous reader writes with this report from The Verge linking to and excerpting from a newly released report created for a committee in the U.S. House of Representatives, including portions of eight "damning emails" that offer an unflattering look at the rollout of the Obamacare website. The Government Office of Accountability released a report earlier this week detailing the security flaws in the site, but a report from the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform released yesterday is even more damning. Titled, "Behind the Curtain of the HealthCare.gov Rollout," the report fingers the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, which oversaw the development of the site, and its parent Department of Health and Human Services. "Officials at CMS and HHS refused to admit to the public that the website was not on track to launch without significant functionality problems and substantial security risks," the report says. "There is also evidence that the Administration, to this day, is continuing its efforts to shield ongoing problems with the website from public view." Writes the submitter: "The evidence includes emails that show Obamacare officials more interested in keeping their problems from leaking to the press than working to fix them. This is both both a coverup and incompetence."
Wikipedia

Wikipedia Blocks 'Disruptive' Edits From US Congress 165

Posted by Soulskill
from the history-no-longer-written-by-the-victors dept.
alphatel writes: Wikipedia has blocked anonymous edits from a congressional IP address for 10 days because of "disruptive" behavior. These otherwise anonymous edits were brought to light recently by @Congressedits, a bot that automatically tweets Wikipedia changes that come from Congressional IP addresses. The biography of former U.S. defense secretary Donald Rumsfeld was edited to say that he was an "alien lizard who eats Mexican babies." Mediaite's Wikipedia page was modified to label the site as a "sexist transphobic" publication.
Earth

The EPA Carbon Plan: Coal Loses, But Who Wins? 268

Posted by Soulskill
from the probably-the-mets dept.
Lasrick writes: Mark Cooper with one of the best explanations of some of the most pressing details on the new EPA rule change: 'The claims and counterclaims about EPA's proposed carbon pollution standards have filled the air: It will boost nuclear. It will expand renewables. It promotes energy efficiency. It will kill coal. It changes everything. It accomplishes almost nothing.' Cooper notes that although it's clear that coal is the big loser in the rule change, the rule itself doesn't really pick winners in terms of offering sweet deals for any particular technology; however, it seems that nuclear is also a loser in this formulation, because 'Assuming that states generally adhere to the prime directive of public utility resource acquisition—choosing the lowest-cost approach—the proposed rule will not alter the dismal prospects of nuclear power...' Nuclear power does seem to be struggling with economic burdens and a reluctance from taxpayers to pay continuing subsides in areas such as storage and cleanup. It seems that nuclear is another loser in the new EPA rule change.
Communications

IRS Lost Emails of 6 More Employees Under Investigation 465

Posted by Soulskill
from the conspiracy-theory-activate dept.
phrackthat writes with an update to Friday's news that the IRS cannot locate two years worth of email from Lois Lerner, a central figure in the controversy surrounding the IRS's apparent targeting of Tea Party groups for extra scrutiny. Now, the IRS says there are another six workers for whom the agency cannot locate emails. As with Lerner, they attribute the unrecoverable emails to computer crashes. Among them was Nikole Flax, who was chief of staff to Lerner’s boss, then-deputy commissioner Steven Miller. Miller later became acting IRS commissioner, but was forced to resign last year after the agency acknowledged that agents had improperly scrutinized tea party and other conservative groups when they applied for tax-exempt status. Documents have shown some liberal groups were also flagged. ... Lerner’s computer crashed in the summer of 2011, depriving investigators of many of her prior emails. Flax’s computer crashed in December 2011, Camp and Boustany said. The IRS said Friday that technicians went to great lengths trying to recover data from Lerner’s computer in 2011. In emails provided by the IRS, technicians said they sent the computer to a forensic lab run by the agency’s criminal investigations unit. But to no avail.
The Internet

U.S. Democrats Propose Legislation To Ban Internet Fast Lanes 190

Posted by Soulskill
from the good-luck-with-that dept.
An anonymous reader writes: A proposal from Democrats in the U.S. House and Senate would require the FCC to stop ISPs from creating "internet fast lanes." Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT) said, "Americans are speaking loud and clear. They want an Internet that is a platform for free expression and innovation, where the best ideas and services can reach consumers based on merit rather than based on a financial relationship with a broadband provider." Representative Doris Matsui (D-CA) added, "A free and open Internet is essential for consumers. Our country cannot afford 'pay-for-play' schemes that divide our Internet into tiers based on who has the deepest pockets." Unfortunately, this is only half a solution — the bill doesn't actually add to the FCC's authority. It only requires them to use the authority they currently have, which is questionable at best.
Democrats

After Non-Profit Application Furor, IRS Says It's Lost 2 Years Of Lerner's Email 372

Posted by timothy
from the computer-crashed-whaddya-do dept.
As reported by the Associated Press, via US News & World Report, the IRS says that it cannot locate much of the email sent by a former IRS official over a two-year period. "The IRS told Congress Friday it cannot locate many of Lois Lerner's emails prior to 2011 because her computer crashed during the summer of that year. Lerner headed the IRS division that processed applications for tax-exempt status. The IRS acknowledged last year that agents had improperly scrutinized applications for tax-exempt status by tea party and other conservative groups." Three congressional committees are investigating the agency because of the allegations of politically motivated mishandling of those applications, as is the Justice Department and the IRS's own inspector general. As the story says, "Congressional investigators have shown that IRS officials in Washington were closely involved in the handling of tea party applications, many of which languished for more than a year without action. But so far, they have not publicly produced evidence that anyone outside the agency directed the targeting or even knew about it." CBS News has a slightly different version, also based on the AP's reporting.
Democrats

Daniel Ellsberg: Snowden Would Not Get a Fair Trial – and Kerry Is Wrong 519

Posted by timothy
from the where-liddy-was-wrong dept.
Daniel Ellsberg, no slouch himself in bringing to public awareness documents that reveal uncomfortable facts about government operations, says that "Edward Snowden is the greatest patriot whistleblower of our time." Ellsberg says, in an editorial at The Guardian pointed out by reader ABEND (15913), that Snowden cannot receive a fair trial without reform of the Espionage Act. According to Ellsberg, "Snowden would come back home to a jail cell – and not just an ordinary cell-block but isolation in solitary confinement, not just for months like Chelsea Manning but for the rest of his sentence, and probably the rest of his life. His legal adviser, Ben Wizner, told me that he estimates Snowden's chance of being allowed out on bail as zero. (I was out on bond, speaking against the Vietnam war, the whole 23 months I was under indictment). More importantly, the current state of whistleblowing prosecutions under the Espionage Act makes a truly fair trial wholly unavailable to an American who has exposed classified wrongdoing. Legal scholars have strongly argued that the US supreme court – which has never yet addressed the constitutionality of applying the Espionage Act to leaks to the American public – should find the use of it overbroad and unconstitutional in the absence of a public interest defense. The Espionage Act, as applied to whistleblowers, violates the First Amendment, is what they're saying. As I know from my own case, even Snowden's own testimony on the stand would be gagged by government objections and the (arguably unconstitutional) nature of his charges. That was my own experience in court, as the first American to be prosecuted under the Espionage Act – or any other statute – for giving information to the American people." Ellsberg rejects the distinction made by John Kerry in praising Ellsberg's own whistleblowing as patriotic, but Snowden's as cowardly and traitorous.
Patents

Who Helped Kill Patent Troll Reform In the Senate 157

Posted by samzenpus
from the whoever-has-the-most-money dept.
First time accepted submitter VT-802-Software (3663479) writes "A bipartisan proposal to curb patent trolls was shelved by the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) Wednesday. 'Supporters of the compromise accuse trial lawyers, universities, pharmaceutical companies and biotech companies for foiling the plan at the eleventh hour. As late as Tuesday, the University of Vermont and a biotech coalition each sent letters to Leahy opposing the legislation. "We believe the measures in the legislation go far beyond what is necessary or desirable to combat abusive patent litigation, and would do serious damage to the patent system," reads one of the letters. "Many of the provisions would have the effect of treating every patent holder as a patent troll."'"
United States

NSA Surveillance Reform Bill Passes House 303 Votes To 121 208

Posted by samzenpus
from the better-than-nothing dept.
First time accepted submitter strangeintp (892348) writes "The first legislation aimed specifically at curbing US surveillance abuses revealed by Edward Snowden passed the House of Representatives on Thursday, with a majority of both Republicans and Democrats. But last-minute efforts by intelligence community loyalists to weaken key language in the USA Freedom Act led to a larger-than-expected rebellion by members of Congress, with the measure passing by 303 votes to 121. The bill's authors concede it was watered down significantly in recent days but insist it will still outlaw the practice of bulk collection of US telephone metadata by the NSA first revealed by Snowden."
Privacy

The Big Biz of Spying On Little Kids 111

Posted by Soulskill
from the tracked-from-the-womb dept.
theodp writes: "'The NSA,' writes POLITICO's Stephanie Simon in her eye-opening Data Mining Your Children, 'has nothing on the ed tech startup known as Knewton. The data analytics firm has peered into the brains of more than 4 million students across the country. By monitoring every mouse click, every keystroke, every split-second hesitation as children work through digital textbooks, Knewton is able to find out not just what individual kids know, but how they think. It can tell who has trouble focusing on science before lunch — and who will struggle with fractions next Thursday.' Simon adds, 'Even as Congress moves to rein in the National Security Agency, private-sector data mining has galloped forward — perhaps nowhere faster than in education. Both Republicans and Democrats have embraced the practice. And the Obama administration has encouraged it, even relaxing federal privacy law to allow school districts to share student data more widely.'"
United States

Kerry Says US Is On the "Right Side of History" When It Comes To Online Freedom 261

Posted by samzenpus
from the everything-is-good dept.
An anonymous reader writes "Addressing the audience at the Freedom Online Coalition Conference, Secretary of State John Kerry defended NSA snooping actions saying: 'Let me be clear – as in the physical space, cyber security cannot come at the expense of cyber privacy. And we all know this is a difficult challenge. But I am serious when I tell you that we are committed to discussing it in an absolutely inclusive and transparent manner, both at home and abroad. As President Obama has made clear, just because we can do something doesn't mean that we should do it. And that's why he ordered a thorough review of all our signals intelligence practices. And that's why he then, after examining it and debating it and openly engaging in a conversation about it, which is unlike most countries on the planet, he announced a set of concrete and meaningful reforms, including on electronic surveillance, in a world where we know there are terrorists and others who are seeking to do injury to all of us. And finally, transparency – the principles governing such activities need to be understood so that free people can debate them and play their part in shaping these choices. And we believe these principles can positively help us to distinguish the legitimate practices of states governed by the rule of law from the legitimate practices of states that actually use surveillance to repress their people. And while I expect you to hold the United States to the standards that I've outlined, I also hope that you won't let the world forget the places where those who hold their government to standards go to jail rather than win prizes.' He added: 'This debate is about two very different visions: one vision that respects freedom and another that denies it. All of you at the Freedom Online Coalition are on the right side of this debate, and now we need to make sure that all of us together wind up on the right side of history."
Crime

Anti-Game-Violence Legislator Arrested, Faces Gun Trafficking Charges 234

Posted by Soulskill
from the should-have-stayed-home-and-played-GTA dept.
Several readers sent word that California State Senator Leland Yee was arrested today. He's accused of conspiring to traffic guns and commit wire fraud, to defraud citizens of honest services, and bribery. The complant (PDF) also names 25 other defendants. Yee is known for pushing legislation that would ban the sale of violent video games to minors. "Federal prosecutors also allege Yee agreed to perform official acts in exchange for the money, including one instance in which he introduced a businessman to state legislators who had significant influence over pending medical marijuana legislation. In exchange, the businessman -- who was actually an undercover FBI agent -- agreed to donate thousands to Yee's campaign fund, according to the indictment. The indictment also describes an August 2013 exchange in which [former school board president Keith Jackson] told an undercover officer that Yee had an arms trafficking contact. Jackson allegedly said Yee could facilitate a meeting for a donation."
Government

CIA Accused: Sen. Feinstein Sees Torture Probe Meddling 187

Posted by timothy
from the taking-the-heat-off-that-other-agency dept.
SternisheFan writes with this news from the Washington Post: "In an extraordinary public accusation, the head of the Senate Intelligence Committee declared on Tuesday that the CIA interfered with and then tried to intimidate a congressional investigation into the agency's possible use of torture in terror probes during the Bush administration. The CIA clandestinely removed documents and searched a computer network set up for lawmakers, said Sen. Dianne Feinstein in a long and biting speech on the Senate floor. In an escalating dispute with an agency she has long supported, she said the CIA may well have violated criminal laws and the U.S. Constitution."
United States

Embarrassing Stories Shed Light On US Officials' Technological Ignorance 299

Posted by samzenpus
from the Is-this-thing-on? dept.
colinneagle writes "Speaking at the SXSW Conference recently, Dr. Peter W. Singer, director of the Center for 21st Century Security and Intelligence, recalled one U.S. official who was 'about to negotiate cybersecurity with China' asking him to explain what the term 'ISP' (Internet Service Provider) means. This wasn't the only example of this lack of awareness. 'That's like going to negotiate with the Soviets and not knowing what "ICBM" means,' Dr. Singer said. 'And I've had similar experiences with officials from the UK, China and Abu Dhabi.' Similarly, Dr. Singer recalled one account in which Janet Napolitano, the Secretary of the U.S. Homeland Security Department from 2009 to 2013, admitted that she didn't use email 'because she just didn't think it was useful.' 'A Supreme Court justice also told me "I haven't got round to email yet" — and this is someone who will get to vote on everything from net neutrality to the NSA negotiations,' Dr. Singer said."
Stats

Para Bellum Labs Will Attempt To Make the RNC a Political-Analytics Player 212

Posted by timothy
from the 2nd-mover-advantage? dept.
Nerval's Lobster writes "President Obama's 2012 re-election campaign relied on a sophisticated data-analytics platform that allowed organizers and volunteers to precisely target potential donors and voters. The centerpiece of that effort was Project Narwhal, which brought voter information—steadily accumulated since Obama's 2008 campaign—onto a single platform accessible to a growing number of campaign-related apps. The GOP has only a few short years to prepare for the next Presidential election cycle, and the party is scrambling to build an analytics system capable of competing against whatever the Democrats deploy onto the field of battle. To that end, the Republican National Committee (RNC) has launched Para Bellum Labs, modeled after a startup, to produce digital platforms for election analytics and voter engagement. Is this a genuine attempt to infuse the GOP's infrastructure with data science, or merely an attempt to show that the organization hasn't fallen behind the Democratic Party when it comes to analytics? Certainly the "Welcome to Para Bellum Labs" video posted by the RNC gives the impression of a huge office staffed with data scientists and programmers. However, the creation of a muscular digital ecosystem hinges on far more than building a couple of apps. Whatever the GOP rolls out, it'll face a tough opponent in the Democratic opposition, which will almost certainly emulate the robust IT infrastructure that the Obama campaign instituted in 2012 (not to mention Obama's massive voter and donor datasets). From that perspective, Para Bellum Labs might face the toughest job in politics."
Advertising

Dirty Tricks? Look-Alike Websites Lure Congressional Donors 157

Posted by timothy
from the this-way-to-the-egress dept.
First time accepted submitter AdamnSelene writes "Forbes reports on a National Republican Congressional Committee sanctioned campaign worthy of the NSA: fake candidate websites that use identical or similar pictures and color schemes to solicit donations to defeat the Democratic candidate. The Tampa Bay Times reports that the NRCC initially refused to refund the contribution from a Tampa Bay doctor who caught onto the scam, and he had to contact his credit card company to challenge the charges. The National Journal reports that the NRCC-sponsored effort may run afoul of Federal Election Commission regulations, though it expects that the bipartisan FEC will be toothless when it comes to enforcement. However, I have to wonder whether this is finally a good enough reason to use the DMCA and file take-down notices against the faux websites. Perhaps the candidates could solve this themselves, and get a judgement for copyright infringement so absurdly large that it puts the NRCC out of business?" Some sites along these lines might be dirtier than the ones here illustrated, which seem to fit pretty well into the broad world of snarky and cutting political ads; Dr. Ray Bellamy, the Tampa Bay donor mentioned above, intended to give money to candidate Alex Sink, but evidently didn't notice this line in bold print, just above the "Donate" button: "Make a contribution today to help defeat Alex Sink and candidates like her." Note that, as the Tampa Bay Times' article mentions, this kind of site isn't limited to Republicans, either.

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