Showing posts from June 24, 2014

CIA expands spy work through Amazon cloud

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[Another reason for why I no longer buy from Amazon. *RON*]

By Barney Jopson, Financial Times, June 24, 2014

The Central Intelligence Agency is stepping up its reliance on Amazon’s burgeoning cloud computing infrastructure, as US spymasters look to use cloud-based commercial software in their analytical work.

In a rare public speech, Doug Wolfe, the CIA’s chief information officer, said on Tuesday that Ukraine and Iraq were examples of how increases in the “pace and complexity” of the agency’s mission were demanding the best information technology.

The CIA’s work with Amazon has been seen as an endorsement of the security and reliability of Jeff Bezos’s cloud division, Amazon Web Services, whose clients include both public sector agencies and private companies.

The US spy agency already has a $600m contract in place with Amazon – that IBM challenged unsuccessfully in the courts – under which the e-commerce group will set up and manage a private clou…

Political Polarization Has Never Been Worse, And It May Be Driving Inequality

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[It would have been a surprise to me if the two things did not correlate. *RON*]
Elena Holodny, Business Insider, 23 June 2014

New York Fed economists think there may be a correlation between two problems currently plaguing the U.S.: extreme political polarization and income inequality.

Rajashri Chakrabarti, senior economist in the Federal Reserve Bank of New York’s Research and Statistics Group, and Matt Mazewski, a research analyst in the same group, plotted the relationship between polarization and income inequality from 1913 to 2012.

They noticed that the two measures follow similar trajectories: during the first half of the 20th century, the left-right political divide and income inequality decrease over time, while during the second half both increase over time.

However, although the two measures take similar paths, you can see in the chart above that the inequality measure (in blue) lags several years behind the shift in polarization (in r…

The Harper government is thwarting a Bill designed to Protect the Transgender Community from Hate Crimes

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["All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others". George Orwell, Animal Farm (1945) *RON*]
By Justin Ling,, Jun 23 2014
You know that classic Charlie Brown gag where he tries to kick a football that Lucy is holding, only to have it pulled away at the last second as he lands flat on his back?

The feeling must be a familiar one for the transgender community in Canada, as the government has—once again—thwarted efforts to protect them from discrimination and hate crimes.

The bill, now known as C-279, has been around for more than a decade. Colloquially, it’s known as the trans rights act, and it was nearly passed through parliament.

But thanks to the work of two unelected Senators and the inner machinations of the Harper government, the bill has been stuck. And proponents are not optimistic.

“It’s dead,” Randall Garrison, the Member of Parliament championing the bill, told me. “I’ve given up hope.”

The football has …

Widespread impacts of neonicotinoids 'impossible to deny'

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[Researchers, who have carried out a four-year review of the literature, say the evidence of neonicontinoid pesticides causing significant damage to a wide range of beneficial species including bees is now "conclusive," and they compare the level of danger to that of DDT which was banned in the US in 1972. *RON*]

 By Matt McGrath, BBC News, 23 June 2014
Neonicotinoid pesticides are causing significant damage to a wide range of beneficial species and are a key factor in the decline of bees, say scientists.

Researchers, who have carried out a four-year review of the literature, say the evidence of damage is now "conclusive".

The scientists say the threat to nature is the same as that once posed by the notorious chemical DDT.

Manufacturers say the pesticides are not harming bees or other species.

Neonicotinoids were introduced in the early 1990s as a replacement for older, more damaging chemicals.

They are a systemic insecticide, mean…

Glenn Greenwald on Government Snooping: Why It's Dangerous and What We Can Do About It

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[I've just started reading Greenwald's "No Place To Hide" and am quite enjoying it. When it comes to stopping NSA surveillance, it may be more effective to write to Facebook and Google than to government officials. *RON*]

by Dean Paton, YES! magazine, Jun 23, 2014
One year ago, Edward Snowden was thrust upon the world stage when he began revealing what he called widespread violations of civil liberties by a growing “surveillance state.”

Glenn Greenwald, one of the three reporters who broke those stories—which won the Pulitzer Prize for public affairs reporting, the Polk Award for national security reporting, and the top award for investigative journalism from the Online News Association—has just published a book about his experiences: No Place To Hide: Edward Snowden, the NSA and the U.S. Surveillance State.

Greenwald found time during his current book tour to speak with YES! Executive Editor Dean Paton—about government threats to…

A reminder that not everyone loves more transparency for health-care prices

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[A good illustration of how those who scream loudest about free markets will work like demons to keep them from actually existing. This story relates to information asymmetry in health care services. Information asymmetry happens when people decide on making transactions when one party (typically the seller) has more or better information on the product or service being offered than the other, and it results in a form of market failure - think of when someone buys a lemon of a used car, for instance. *RON*]

By Jason Millman, Washington Post, 23 June 2014
Welcome to Health Reform Watch, Jason Millman's regular look at how the Affordable Care Act is changing the American health-care system — and being changed by it. You can reach Jason with questions, comments and suggestions here. Check back every Monday, Wednesday and Friday afternoon for the latest edition, or sign up here to receive it straight from your inbox. Read previous columns here.


Northern Africa continues to be a general mess

Will ISIS Cohere or Collapse?

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[As an organization with tight central leadership but comparatively weak local ties, Staniland argues that ISIS has an unpredictable future. He compares their history with that of the Al Qaeda in Iraq to develop scenarios for how their future may turn out. *RON*]
By Paul Staniland,, June 24, 2014
The resurgence of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) has come as a shock to the Iraqi government. The key question now is whether the group can deepen its hold on the area it now controls, or whether it will instead face factional challenges from within. In my new book, Networks of Rebellion: Explaining Insurgent Cohesion and Collapse, I explore the origins and evolution of insurgent groups’ organizational structures. ISIS in Iraq resembles what I call a “vanguard” group, with a tight central leadership but relatively weak local embeddedness. This contrasts with parochial groups such as the Pakistani Taliban (loose …

This man says Canadians need to know what's in their government pension plan and what demanding justice cost him

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[As I have commented previously, Canadian mining companies have the global reputation of being among the most venal and vicious corporations in the world, and they have the whole-hearted support of the Harper Government. As pointed out here, "Canadians who contribute to the Canada Pension Plan are shareholders of the company that Garcia is accusing. Canadian taxpayers collectively own 1,448,000 shares in Tahoe Resources – holdings currently worth roughly $35 million." *RON*] 
Joshua Hergesheimer, Vancouver Observer, Jun 23rd, 2014
Luis Fernando Garcia sits down on the stack of cinder blocks, rests his elbows on his knees and draws in a slow, shallow breath. The 19-year-old tells me it has been nearly a year since he was shot during a protest on a public road outside Escobal, a silver mine owned by Vancouver-based Tahoe Resources, in what he alleges to be an act of intimidation. While doctors have tried their best to reconstruct his nasa…