That Anonymous Cowardpoints us to what may be the most pitch perfect satire of the NSA's activities, in a write-up about how the NSA intercepted children's letters to Santa, over at the Duffel Blog. The concept is obvious from the title, but it's the attention to detail, matching almost point for point the kinds of things that have been revealed that the NSA actually does, that make the satire so perfect.
The documents describe an operation known as MILK COOKIES, based out of Fort Meade and run in conjunction with the U.S. Postal Service. COOKIES is the interception of the letters while MILK feeds them through a complex series of algorithms to spot any hidden messages.
Agency director Gen. Keith Alexander had previously testified to Congress in 2011 that the NSA would occasionally collect letters addressed to Santa, but insisted that it was totally accidental and that no one was actually reading or storing them.
The NSA is prohibited from directly monitoring American citizens under both Executive Order 12333 and the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. However, because the letters are addressed to the North Pole, which falls outside of U.S. territory, they are considered potential foreign intelligence signals which the NSA is authorized to intercept.
The article includes the history of the program, discusses the ELFCHELON data center in the North Pole, and even discusses how the NSA has "routinely hacked Santa’s Naughty and Nice List for any information on world leaders." As we head into a little break, this seems like an appropriate post to go out on...
With the holiday season upon us, we figured it was time to offer some special deals over at our Insider Shop — just in case you've got someone on your list this year who would appreciate some Techdirt gear or a subscription package (or if you feel like giving yourself a gift this season). So today we're unveiling two limited-time offerings. First up, the Holiday Bundle:
For only $99 (over $50 off the regular price), the Holiday Bundle includes:
This package will only be around for a limited time, and some sizes are already selling out, so if you want one, don't wait too long to order! We're also happy to announce a special deal on multiple t-shirts, for those who want a complete set or need a few to give out as gifts:
If you're ordering t-shirts, the bundle or any other gear as a gift, please order soon to ensure shipping in time for the holidays! We've spoken to our fulfillment partner and determined that orders placed by December 14th (in the US) and December 9th (internationally) should arrive on time with all shipping options, and depending on your location there may be express shipping available, too—but ordering early is always safer!
Aaron DeOliveira points us to an amusing Christmas to New Year's week diversion in the story of the song, WTF?! I Wanted An iPhone!!! (warning, potentially NSFW, if your work place doesn't like people singing curses). Beyond being entertaining and amusing, the story behind it is a cool case study in how creativity comes from all sorts of strange sources online. The story begins with comedy writer Jon Hendren, being bored on Christmas Eve & Christmas, and playing around with Twitter search, doing searches on terms seeking particularly entitled and angry tweets from kids who didn't get "what they wanted" on Christmas -- with "what they wanted" being defined as an iPhone, an iPad or a car. Hendren then started retweeting the ones he found:
That, itself, started to go viral, at which point singer Jonathan Mann, who's made quite a name for himself writing, recording and releasing a song a day ever since January 1 of 2009, picked up on the story and wrote the song linked above (his 1089th song, if you were wondering). The song basically takes some of the "best" of the entitled tweets and produces a fun little ditty (again, potentially NSFW):
Now, this whole thing is silly (or, potentially, a bit sickening when you look at how entitled some of those kids feel), but it really does demonstrate a few different concepts, all wrapped up in one nice holiday package:
Creativity comes from all sorts of strange sources
Online, collaboration can happen without people even realizing it (and that's cool)
The ability to create, promote and distribute content just keeps getting easier and easier
With the holidays approaching, there are lots of recipes and cooking ideas floating around online. But it's way more interesting to us to read up on weird foods that are out there (not turduckens). We're making a list. We're not checking it twice. Most of these foods are not nice at all, and some are just gross. Bon appetit!
from the it-ain't-a-purchase-if-you-don't-own-it dept
Lots of folks have sent in various versions of Amazon's hyped up press release about how it sold more ebooks on Christmas than physical books. While this ought to make some publishers reconsider their hatred of ebooks, there are two points that make this rather meaningless. First, how many physical books are usually sold on Amazon on Christmas day? My guess is not very many. Books are purchased before Christmas day. However, I'm sure plenty of people did get new Kindles on Christmas, and quite a few then went and "purchased" an ebook or two to test it out.
But, again, since this is the Kindle we're talking about, shouldn't Amazon make the distinction between purchased and rented? When someone buys a physical book from Amazon, they then own that book and can do pretty much what they want with it, including reselling it or giving it away. When they "purchase" an ebook from Amazon, that's not the case at all. They're quite limited in what they can do with it. They can't resell it. They can't share it with a friend (unless they give up their entire Kindle and all the books on it). And, of course, Amazon can make the ebook disappear at will -- though, it insists it will never do this again. Even though it can. So, congrats to Amazon, for renting more books on a day when such rentals are to be expected and when physical book sales are probably at their very lowest.
Thanks to both Eric and Gunnar who simultaneously sent in the news of lawyers representing Dr. Seuss's estate who threatened the town of Louisville, Kentucky with a lawsuit if they didn't stop a planned "How the Grinch Stole Christmas"-themed celebration as a part of its Light Up Louisville holiday event. The lawyers pointed out that the characters are copyrighted, and could not be used. Legally, they may be correct, but as Louisville Mayor Jerry Abramson pointed out: "It appears these lawyers' hearts are two sizes too small." Given the very subject matter, and the joy which Dr. Seuss stories bring to kids, you would have thought that the lawyers might think twice on this one. Apparently not. I'm sure that all the Grinch-themed aspects of the celebration probably would have made new Seuss fans out of many kids, but apparently, Dr. Seuss' estate would prefer that not happen.