Monthly Archives: June 2014

Facebook conducts psychological experiments on unwitting users

Facebook is facing criticism after it emerged it had conducted a psychology experiment on nearly 700,000 users without their knowledge. http://www.bbc.com/news/technology-28051930 The test saw Facebook “manipulate” news feeds to control which emotional expressions the users were exposed to. The research was done in collaboration with two US universities to gauge if “exposure to emotions led […]

Immigration update: open borders and illegal checkpoints

This year, volunteers organized, gathering hundreds of signatures and picketing outside the Border Patrol offices in Tucson AZ to try to get illegal checkpoints removed, to no avail. For several months, small groups monitored the busiest of the area’s checkpoints, on Arivaca Road, noting things like the length of the stops, the questions asked and […]

How Gertrude Bell and Great Britain created Iraq in 1916

While claimed by the Iraqis as one of their own, Gertrude Bell, the British diplomat and spy, was an agent for her own country, advancing the interests of the British to secure influence, and oil, in Iraq, and to counter the efforts of Germany to position itself as a beneficiary of the decline of the […]

Google I/O event speakers heckled “Stop Jack Halprin”

During the yearly Google I/O event where the firm to shows off its latest products and plans a woman held up a sign reading “develop a conscience”, while another shouted that the firm was creating “machines that kill people”.  http://www.bbc.com/news/technology-28020654 Google could not be reached for comment about the interruptions. Away from the event, at […]

Supreme Court rules no unwarranted searches of mobile phones

The US Supreme Court has ruled police cannot search the digital contents of mobile phones of those arrested without a warrant. http://www.nytimes.com/2014/06/26/us/supreme-court-cellphones-search-privacy.html?ref=us&_r=0 The unanimous decision is a win for privacy advocates that argued searching mobiles was an unreasonable intrusion. Chief Justice John Roberts wrote in his opinion that mobiles “hold for many Americans the privacies […]

Teacher who is suspicious of government involuntarily committed

A  Pound Ridge, NY high school English teacher who allegedly wrote in online conversations with a “medium” that the government was behind the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting is suing the district for firing him. http://www.lohud.com/story/news/education/2014/06/16/fox-lane-teacher-fired-newtown-shooting-conspiracy-theories/10598729/  The Bedford school district fired Adam Heller, 35, after a disciplinary hearing on charges brought by schools Superintendent Jere […]

Federal District Court: Warantless surveillance ok, No-fly-list not ok

In two major Federal District Court rulings addressing trade-offs between government powers and individual rights, judges in Oregon on Tuesday upheld a 2008 law permitting warrantless surveillance but struck down a key aspect of the so-called no-fly list that blocks people suspected of terrorism ties from boarding planes. http://www.nytimes.com/2014/06/25/us/federal-judges-in-oregon-uphold-warrentless-surveillance-strike-down-no-fly-list-provision.html?ref=us&_r=0 The rulings were handed down on […]

NYT: Legal justification for drone killing of american questionable

The Obama administration on Monday reluctantly released its justification for killing an American citizen, Anwar al-Awlaki, whom it considered a terrorist, in a 2011 drone strike in Yemen. But the rationale provides little confidence that the lethal action was taken with real care. http://www.nytimes.com/2014/06/24/opinion/a-thin-rationale-for-drone-killings.html?hp&action=click&pgtype=Homepage&module=c-column-top-span-region&region=c-column-top-span-region&WT.nav=c-column-top-span-region&_r=1 Under orders from a federal appeals court, the Justice Department made […]

Google Nest allows more appliances to monitor homeowners

Google’s Nest division is to allow its “smart” thermostats and smoke alarms to communicate with third party products. http://www.bbc.com/news/technology-27981658 Initial tie-ups include letting Mercedes cars and Jawbone Up wristbands turn the heating on, and allowing Lifx’s wi-fi connected light bulbs to flash red if smoke is detected. Nest’s co-founder Matt Rogers told the BBC that […]

US shows the world where it stands on press rights in Egypt

In a chorus of condemnation, rights groups and some Western governments on Monday criticized jail terms imposed by an Egyptian court on three journalists from Al Jazeera’s English-language service, while the network itself said the punishment defied “logic, sense, and any semblance of justice.”  http://www.nytimes.com/2014/06/24/world/middleeast/sentencing-of-journalists-in-egypt-draws-condemnation.html?ref=world&_r=0 The sentences came one day after Secretary of State John […]

Employer surveillance is producing data profiles on workers

A digital Big Brother is coming to work, for better or worse. Advanced technological tools are beginning to make it possible to measure and monitor employees as never before, with the promise of fundamentally changing how we work — along with raising concerns about privacy and the specter of unchecked surveillance in the workplace. http://www.nytimes.com/2014/06/22/technology/workplace-surveillance-sees-good-and-bad.html?ref=us&_r=0 […]

First commercial attack drones sold to African mining firm

The maker of a drone that fires pepper spray bullets says it has received its first order for the machine. http://www.bbc.com/news/technology-27902634 South Africa-based Desert Wolf told the BBC it had secured the sale of 25 units to a mining company after showing off the tech at a trade show. It is marketing the device as […]

Recent global violence creates worst refugee crisis since WW 2

The number of people displaced by violent conflict hit the highest level since World War II at the end of 2013, the head of the United Nations refugee agency, António Guterres, said in a report released on Friday, warning, “Peace is dangerously in deficit.” http://www.nytimes.com/2014/06/21/world/refugees-at-levels-not-seen-since-second-world-war.html?ref=world&_r=1 Pushed up dramatically by the war in Syria, the total […]

Civilian intelligence analyst infiltrates antiwar groups for US Army

A federal judge in Washington State has dismissed a lawsuit that accused a civilian intelligence analyst working for the military of breaking the law by using a fake name to infiltrate antiwar groups and trying to thwart protests by sharing information he collected with the Army, law enforcement agencies and private security firms. http://www.nytimes.com/2014/06/20/us/suit-by-protest-groups-on-spying-is-dismissed.html?ref=us Plaintiffs […]

Federal Reserve lied about actual growth of US economy

Federal Reserve officials, who have persistently overestimated the strength of the economic recovery, predicted last June that the economy in 2014 would finally grow more than 3 percent for the first time since the recession. The updated forecasts the Fed will publish on Wednesday are likely to reflect more modest expectations.  http://www.nytimes.com/2014/06/18/upshot/federal-reserve-expected-to-reduce-growth-forecast-but-keep-cutting-stimulus.html?ref=us&_r=0The economy, after all, […]

US contractor Blackwater lied about murdering Iraqis

Four Blackwater security guards accused of killing 14 Iraqis lied about why they opened fire, a US court has heard. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-us-canada-27898565 The employees of the security company said insurgents were present but it wasn’t true, the jury was told. The shootings at Baghdad’s Nisoor Square in 2007, which wounded 18, sparked international outrage. One of […]

Robophobia: the fear of a hundred thousand deadly robots

From driverless cars to delivery drones, a new generation of robots is about to revolutionize the way people work, drive and shop. But there is one area where robots are already entrenched and spreading fast: the industrial sector, especially manufacturing and storage. http://www.nytimes.com/2014/06/17/upshot/danger-robots-working.html?ref=science?src=dayp Robots have long toiled alongside workers in factories and warehouses, where they […]

GCHQ intercepts Brits web traffic regardless of wrongdoing

In a broad legal rationale for collecting information from Internet use by its citizens, the British government has reportedly asserted the right to intercept communications that go through services like Facebook, Google and Twitter that are based in the United States or other foreign nations, even if they are between people in Britain. http://www.nytimes.com/2014/06/17/business/international/british-spy-agencies-said-to-assert-broad-power-to-intercept-web-traffic.html?ref=world The […]

Local police appear immune from federal prosecution

Nationwide, only about 20 civil rights lawsuits yielded criminal charges against police officers each year and convictions are even less common, said Nancy Leong, an associate professor at the University of Denver’s Sturm College of Law. http://www.nytimes.com/aponline/2014/06/17/us/ap-us-denver-police-problems.html?ref=us&_r=0 A federal judge has taken the unusual step of asking prosecutors to investigate whether Denver police tried to […]

Is Rand Paul the only rational voice regarding the Iraq crisis?

In a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing Thursday, Kentucky U.S. Sen. Rand Paul spoke about the possibility of the U.S. sending a confusing message because of its conflicting interests in the Middle East.http://www.kentucky.com/2014/06/13/3290834/kentuckys-representatives-in-washington.html In Syria, where the U.S. has provided support to moderate Sunni Muslim rebels, Paul says “we are on the same side as […]