by Mike Masnick
Fri, Dec 6th 2013 5:40pm
by Michael Ho
Fri, Dec 6th 2013 5:00pm
from the urls-we-dig-up dept
- If you eat an apple by pulling out the stem and eating it top down, you'll probably be able to eat the entire apple without really tasting the core. Of course, some joker is going to say that it's better to eat it up from the bottom... [url]
- Do you hate cutting/peeling oranges? Can't decide to make an equatorial or polar cut? Here's your new method: slice a bit of the top and bottom off and then cut the peel so that it can unroll. The drawback is that you don't end up with any pieces that you can readily use to make an orange-peel-teeth smile. [url]
- Most people peel a banana from the stem down, but did you know that monkeys peel bananas from the other end? Monkeys don't care which end of the banana is the top. They just want to peel bananas in an easy way, instead of making a banana joystick with the stem and mashing the top of their bananas. [url]
by Mike Masnick
Fri, Dec 6th 2013 3:43pm
from the time-to-clear-up-the-mess dept
Now the Supreme Court can fix it, and hopefully can establish clear rules -- potentially ones that wipe out software patents entirely, though I'm not convinced they'll go that far. To some extent, the Supreme Court has itself to blame. Back in 2010, in the Bilski case, the Supreme Court had the chance to set clear rules of the road concerning software patents, but instead chose to punt, ruling incredibly narrowly (basically saying "the test the courts use isn't the only test, but we won't tell you what other tests to use"). Because of that, no one knows what tests should be applied to see if software (and business methods) are patentable, and that leads to complete messes like the CAFC ruling in the Alice v. CLS case.
At the very least, one hopes that the Supreme Court will clear things up, rather than punting again by ruling very narrowly. Part of the role of the Supreme Court is to set the standards for the lower courts to follow, based on the Constitution (and the law). Instead, lately, it seems to look to rule very narrowly and to let these issues keep bouncing around without any clarity at all. Hopefully, the Supreme Court will recognize that its own earlier precedents should have effectively made software unpatentable, but even if it won't go that far, a clear rule would be a step forward.
by Mike Masnick
Fri, Dec 6th 2013 2:44pm
from the wtf dept
But the really incredible part in this is that when reporter Joe Mullin, from Ars Technica, reached out to Prenda's Paul Duffy to comment on whether or not Prenda had paid up the fees, Duffy responded in the most bizarre way possible:
I hope you are doing well. I am devastated by the loss of Nelson Mandela and I hope you join with President Obama in remembering his legacy. He ranks with Mohandes Ghandi, Dr. King and President Kennedy in the struggle for human rights over the past 50 years. There are larger issues than the ability to steal porn... You seem like a nice guy. Thanks.Yes, the copyright porn trolling lawyer, whose firm has been implicated in setting up bogus honeypots to shake people down, in forging signatures and in efforts to publicly embarrass people (oh, and whose wife more or less admitted that her husband was engaged in interstate extortion) is now claiming that he's "devastated" by the loss of Mandela, and talking about "the struggle for human rights." That's a laugh. I'd guess he's a bit more devastated about the hundreds of thousands of dollars he's on the hook for and the criminal and tax evasion charges he may be facing before very long.
by Tim Cushing
Fri, Dec 6th 2013 1:43pm
from the the-unofficial-National-Tip-Jar dept
The TSA undoubtedly has several problems, chief among them being charged with providing an expensive, interactive theater program aimed at putting travelers' minds at ease while simultaneously putting their nether regions through a rigorous groping regimen. The exposure of documents stating its all-important job isn't actually that important certainly doesn't help. As it stands now, the TSA is just another government institution, destined to be funded in perpetuity, even as its relevance continues to erode.
One problem it shouldn't have but does is how to deal with a vast accumulation of pocket change left behind by the nation's travelers.
Last year, the Transportation Security Administration collected $531,395.22 in change left behind at checkpoints.While this amount is literally small change compared to the agency's ~$8 billion annual budget, it's still too significant an amount to ignore. This unclaimed change is earmarked for "civil aviation security" -- you know, the main thing that the TSA does. The agency is supposed to put the money back into the company, so to speak. But, if the following figure is accurate, it would appear the agency is operating at peak (in)efficiency.
Federal law requires the TSA to report the amount of unclaimed money they keep every year to Congress. The fiscal 2012 report, obtained by The Washington Post, shows the agency collected about $499,000 in U.S. currency, and another $32,000 in foreign currency, at their checkpoints.
[T]he TSA has only spent about $6,500 of the money it collected last year.Well, if the agency can't use it, maybe it could pass it on to those who could.
On Tuesday, the House passed H.R. 1095, sponsored by Rep. Jeff Miller (R-Fla.), which would require the TSA to fork that cash over to nonprofit organizations that provide travel-related assistance to military personnel or their families.Good idea, one would think. But that would be before hearing how expensive giving money away can be when the TSA handles the job.
The Congressional Budget Office estimated [pdf] that collecting, accounting for and transferring the money to the USO would cost $1.2 million — $700,000 more than the actual amount collected.The CBO's two-page estimate is woefully light on details on how it arrived at its $1.2 million figure. It just sort of claims the costs will exceed $1 million, extrapolates this income/expenditure over a decade and states the whole thing will be a wash, even if the TSA's spending steadily declines. To sum up: nothing ventured, nothing lost.
It seems there would be a very inexpensive way to route this money to charity. First off, each airport's security team could designate a charity to route the funds to. Then… nothing. The TSA simply collects the change as usual and dumps it into the proper receptacle. The designated charity could pick this up quarterly (unintentional pun), count it themselves and turn over a receipt for record keeping to the TSA -- all on their own dime (slightly less unintentional pun). Total cost to the TSA: nothing more than the hourly wage it already pays to have someone scoop up and store abandoned change.
End result? PR wins all around (especially if local charities are used) and the agency won't be spending money to reroute money. In fact, donation boxes for the selected charity could be set up right past the scanners, allowing people to toss the change in themselves and restore a little faith in humanity after a trip through the TSA's dehumanizing theatrical production.
by Mike Masnick
Fri, Dec 6th 2013 12:43pm
from the anti-science dept
And then there's just the general concept of the way Elsevier and a number of academic journals work in general. They don't pay their writers, the academics who submit articles (for some journals in some fields, academics actually have to pay significant sums to submit articles), they don't have to pay the peer reviewers who do such reviews for free. So they get content and a certain type of editing entirely for free. Then, they charge obscene sums of money to universities for subscriptions and try to block off all kinds of other access to research if people don't pay up -- which is especially troubling when the research is federally funded. Oh yeah, they also claim the copyright on any research submitted. A professor I know, who was trying to do followup research on some initially published research, actually had to recreate the original results, because the journal that published the original work wouldn't let him reuse the results of his original study, claiming that it was covered by copyright. In other words, they use copyright to make it that much harder to share knowledge and build on the works of others.
The one "crack" in this kind of academic publishing is that many academic journals would "look the other way" if an academic decided to post a pdf of their own research. At least some journals were even willing to put into their contracts that the authors can post a pdf to their own website, or to public collections of journal articles like SSRN.
However, it appears that Elsevier has started cracking down on this practice as well. Bijan Sabet alerts us to the news that Elsevier has suddenly started demanding that copies of research posted to Academia.edu get taken down. Here's one example from bioinformatician Guy Leonard, who posted a copy of his letter from Academia.edu, who clearly isn't happy about this turn of events either:
Mike Taylor's writeup of this situation (linked above) notes that many academics are pissed off about this and are complaining about it on Twitter. He also notes that there are some good folks at Elsevier who seem to recognize the importance of access to information and who, themselves, are probably pissed off about this. But, really, it seems that it's in Elsevier's general DNA to try to privatize knowledge, research and understanding. What a shameful company.
Unfortunately, we had to remove your paper, Resolving the question of trypanosome monophyly: a comparative genomics approach using whole genome data sets with low taxon sampling, due to a take-down notice from Elsevier.
Academia.edu is committed to enabling the transition to a world where there is open access to academic literature. Elsevier takes a different view, and is currently upping the ante in its opposition to academics sharing their own papers online.
Over the last year, more than 13,000 professors have signed a petition voicing displeasure at Elsevier’s business practices at www.thecostofknowledge.com. If you have any comments or thoughts, we would be glad to hear them.
The Academia.edu Team
by Mike Masnick
Fri, Dec 6th 2013 11:44am
from the pure-insanity dept
The folks over at KEI are putting together a letter to TPP delegates as they go through the latest negotiation, asking them to reject the life plus 70 requirement, noting that many countries that have it today (including the US) have shown indications that they regret such a long copyright term:
There is no benefit to society of extending copyright beyond the 50 years mandated by the WTO. While some TPP countries, like the USA, Mexico, Peru, Chile, Singapore or Australia, already have life + 70 (or longer) copyright terms, there is growing recognition that such terms were a mistake, and should be shortened, or modified by requiring formalities for the extended periods.Unfortunately, it looks like the only one who had been really fighting back against this proposal was Canada, and the indications are that Canadian negotiators are about to fold and agree to the life plus 70 requirement. There's a very important question here, which apparently no one in the USTR is willing to answer: why are they doing this? It makes no sense. All of the evidence suggests that having copyright this long has been bad for just about everyone, except perhaps Disney. The USTR has never even bothered to look at the issue, rather just accepting the idea that if the US currently has life + 70, it must lock that in permanently around the globe. Because.
The primary harm from the life + 70 copyright term is the loss of access to countless books, newspapers, pamphlets, photographs, films, sound recordings and other works that are “owned” but largely not commercialized, forgotten, and lost. The extended terms are also costly to consumers and performers, while benefiting persons and corporate owners that had nothing to do with the creation of the work.
Life+70 is a mistake, and it will be an embarrassment to enshrine this mistake into the largest regional trade agreement ever negotiated.
It's pure insanity in which the USTR continues to push for proposals that hurt American jobs, innovation and the public alike.
by Mike Masnick
Fri, Dec 6th 2013 10:44am
Feds Insist It Must Be Kept Secret Whether Or Not Plaintiff In No Fly List Trial Is Actually On The No Fly List
from the kafkaesque dept
Why can’t we tell the party [to the lawsuit] what her status is?Later, as the government presented its case, it included a discussion of how the State Department later pulled Ibrahim's visa after she was back in Malaysia (it's not entirely clear how this helps their case, since the no fly issue is separate from the visa). But, even there, the statements from the government didn't make much sense to Judge Alsup who called out a witness for saying something that didn't appear to be true -- arguing that Ibrahim could have asked for a special waiver on the visa issue, but didn't. Just one problem: as Judge Alsup noticed, there's a box on the form saying if you're eligible to apply for a waiver -- and the form sent to Ibrahim did not have that box checked.
This depends on our saying that national security depends on us having this information, but not her having it. I question whether that is true….
Something’s going on in this case that’s strange, and I mean on the part of the government.
I don’t understand why you’re fighting so hard to avoid having this poor plaintiff know what her status [on the no-fly list] is.
It’s easy for anyone to buy a ticket and try to get on an airplane. If they’re allowed to fly, they know they’re not on the no-fly list. If they’re stopped and handcuffed and sent to jail in the back of a police car, they know they’re on the list.
It’s so easy to find out what your status is by trying to get on an airplane — at least for the no-fly list. That’s a lot easier than months of litigation.
It’s possible for someone deemed ineligible for a visa to apply for a waiver of that ineligibility. Had Dr. Ibrahim failed to exhaust her administrative remedies by failing to apply for such a waiver?The trial should be wrapping up today, and it's not looking good for the US government at this point.
It was Judge Alsup who pointed out that the box on the notice given to Dr. Ibrahim marked “You are eligible to apply for a waiver of in eligibility” had not been checked. “If there’s a box for that, and the box isn’t checked, wouldn’t that imply to you that she couldn’t apply for a waiver?” the judge asked Mr. Cooper.
“You could infer that,” Cooper replied from the witness box, with an inflection that suggested, “….but you would be wrong.”
“It would certainly imply that to me,” Judge Alsup shot back.
by Tim Cushing
Fri, Dec 6th 2013 9:46am
Joe Biden Tells Chinese Citizens To 'Challenge The Government,' Neglects To Mention His Administration Doesn't Like Being Challenged
from the no,-but-you-guys-should-totally-do-it dept
Vice President Joe Biden is in China and as usual, he took the opportunity to try to insert his foot in his mouth. China may be veering towards its own brand of capitalism simply because it's a manufacturing powerhouse, but it's still a long way from being an open country in any other respect.
Biden's pep talk to some Chinese citizens gathered at the US embassy included this "empowering" exhortation.
“Innovation can only occur when you can breathe free, challenge the government, challenge your teachers, challenge religious leaders.”All well and good, I suppose. Of course, it's much easier said than done, and Biden's contribution only included the "saying" part. These sort of challenges have actual repercussions in China, which still wishes unruly citizens into high-walled political
But what's even more irritating about his blithe statement is the fact that his own administration isn't really keen on being challenged by its citizens.
Case in point: the NSA leaks. For a long time, the administration stood firm in its support of the agency. It only stepped back when it realized the situation was going to get a whole lot worse before it got any better and that the NSA itself wasn't just lying to the public, but to the president and the rest of the government as well. It also smelled blood in the water after amendments and bills targeting the NSA and its programs began gathering bipartisan support and wanted to be as far away from the massacre on the horizon.
This administration has also prosecuted more whistleblowers than all other administrations combined. This is what happens to people who challenge the administration. They end up broken by the system, the same system that tells them it wants to be "open" and "transparent."
The administration has also shown a fondness for shutting out inquiring minds with the overuse of state secret exceptions. Sure, information may want to be free, but its overseers won't let it roam without being covered in black ink. Its track record on civil liberties has eclipsed the awfulness of the Bush administration, which at least had the courtesy to be openly evil in its intentions.
Even the press has grown disillusioned with Obama's administration, recently complaining that it controls the narrative by handing out approved promo shots rather than allowing press photographers to do their jobs.
Now, I realize that as vice president, Biden doesn't truly represent the administration. He may be second-in-command, but the reality of the job demands someone who can stay out of the way while whipping up support for the administration's policies and pet legislation behind the scenes. It requires him to make appearances on behalf of the administration but kindly asks him not to embarrass it while doing so. Biden has failed to hold up his end of the bargain with his statements.
Here he hands Chinese citizens advice they can't possibly use while simultaneously highlighting the hypocrisy inherent in the administration's treatment of criticism. "Challenge your government," he tells people who can be ripped from their families for doing so before retreating to the safety of an administration that actively seeks out and punishes those who challenge its methods and actions. With this mindless bit of "go team!" posturing, Joe Biden is hurling stones from the balcony of the administration's glass house.
by Tim Cushing
Fri, Dec 6th 2013 8:39am
from the just-get-it-all,-you-never-know-when-you'll-need-it dept
Our founding fathers understood the problems with overly-broad warrants and the dangers posed by unreasonable searches and seizures. These were the sort of things kings did because the populace had no way to check that power. So, when they decided the US wouldn't be run like a patriarchal state, they built in protections for the new nation's inhabitants.
But they also understood that these checks on government power might be inconvenient for law enforcement and security agencies, which is why they built in extensive waivers and exceptions that would allow these entities to bypass the limits in order to pursue criminals, terrorists and whistleblowers. As the wording clearly states in the Bill of Rights, the people are guaranteed certain protections "unless, you know, we're trying to catch bad guys."
It's true.** Our founding fathers would be amazed to observe the ruckus being raised by so-called "defenders" of rights in the wake of the NSA leaks or the rising amount of evidence showing government agencies are willing to exploit every loophole (mainly the Third Party Doctrine) to seize tons of data completely unrelated to the investigations at hand.
**It absolutely fucking isn't.
Jess Remington at Reason points out another of these "non-events" being carried out under the name of law enforcement.
Police officers in Richland County, South Carolina are currently defending the use of a controversial investigation method that grants their departments access to thousands of cell phone users’ data in the search for criminals.How does one's info end up being swept up in a tower dump? Does one have a cellphone with a signal? Yeah, that's how. Checking your email? Surfing the web? Making a call? Sending a text message? It all goes in the dump. And South Carolina cops are helping themselves to all of this data because, hey, it makes capturing bad guys a little easier. (CAUTION: AUTOPLAY IN EFFECT)
The technique, in which law enforcement officials rely on what are known as “tower dumps,” is an increasingly common policing tactic in local departments across the country. Following a crime, law enforcement officials locate nearby cell towers and request all of the call, text, and data transmissions that occurred during the crime from the tower’s provider. The majority of the data collected belongs to individuals with no connection to the crime.
The Richland County Sheriff's Department used Tower Dumps during the investigation into a string of car breakins, where weapons and computers were stolen. They combined the Tower Dump information with DNA evidence and in 2011 arrested Phillip Tate on three counts of "breaking and entering a motor vehicle" and one count of "larceny."Cops seeking to use these tower dumps just can't call up the provider and ask for them. But neither do they have to jump through the probable cause hoops a warrant entails. All they need is a court order, which is considerably easier to obtain than a warrant, thanks to the (somewhat ironically-named) Electronic Communications Privacy Act of 1986.
"He did break and enter into both of those vehicles, one of them being the vehicle of Sheriff Lott. It was parked at his house," said Fifth Circuit Solicitor Joanna McDuffy in court. "It was his sheriff department issued vehicle. Weapons were taken from that vehicle your honor."
Search warrants we found say Richland Sheriff's investigators requested dumps on two cell phone towers during their investigation.
The Richland PD is just one of several law enforcement entities making frequent use of these untargeted, unminimized data dumps. And the numbers keep increasing every year.
In 2011, AT&T and Verizon received 1.3 million requests for cell phone data (many of which were tower dumps) and filled more than 500,000 of them. Verizon estimates that over the last 5 years, law enforcement’s tower dump requests have increased by 15% annually. T-Mobile reported increases of approximately 12%-16%.Thanks to the ease of obtaining tower dumps, it's becoming a go-to tool for law enforcement. Not only can they collect these without needing to show probable cause, they're also under no obligation to inform any of the millions of unrelated cellphone customers whose information they've obtained that they've swept up their data.
Oddly enough, someone from the counterterrorism community is being the voice of reason in all this.
"In recognizing that it's not just the CIA or FBI tracking a terrorist that may have flown over here, this is local law enforcement. As citizens, we sort of have a question: how often is this happening?" said Keith Pounds, president of counterrorism consulting firm Countercon…This obviously isn't being implemented anywhere at the moment, or we would have heard of it. Law enforcement agencies are understandably in no hurry to tell innocent citizens that they're sweeping up their data in order to sift through it for potential signs of wrongdoing. They seem to be taking their cues from our nation's intelligence agencies, which only begrudgingly inform the public about their data hauls, and then only after former employees splash them all over the front pages of newspapers.
He supports Tower Dumps, but only if a search warrant is signed, the data is purged after an investigation is complete and law enforcement notify subscribers included in the database.
"Inform us," Pounds said. "Or at least those couple of hundred or couple of thousand people, innocent people, inform them that hey we acquired your information for this particular crime. We're going to purge the data and get rid of it."
Making this worse (especially for South Carolina residents) is that local laws regarding this data tie retention rates to whether the suspect apprehended using tower dumps is convicted or not.
South Carolina evidence control laws say if a suspect is convicted or pleads guilty, police could keep everything they get from a Tower Dump for up to seven years.So, your data's stay in SC police databases isn't subject to any minimization by process of elimination. It isn't even purged once a guilty verdict (or entered plea) is obtained. Instead, SC law enforcement has nearly a decade (or longer -- no mention of what happens if the suspect is found not guilty) to play connect-the-dots with data on non-criminals.
Even worse, this is a state that at least has some sort of policy in place to deal with this data. Most states have very little in the way of guidelines or privacy protection. Usually, these are developed post-public uproar. And if no one has to inform the public about the gathering of their data, this delays the (almost inevitable) exposure of these practices and increases the chances of abuse.