Tuesday, March 18, 2014

British Think Tank Predicts Financial Catastrophe for United States

(The New American) Entitled "The Government Debt Iceberg," the latest report from The Institute of Economic Affairs (IEA) in London was meant primarily for British eyes, but there's enough in there to concern Americans worried about how the United States will make good on its promises. Researched and written by Jagadeesh Gokhale, a senior fellow at the Cato Institute, the report claims that the problem facing both the U.K. and the United States is the same: making promises without making provisions to fulfill them.

If a private business made a promise to a customer to be fulfilled over time, it would book that promise as a liability and make present plans to fulfill it. Not so the government. Gokhale says that governments use “backward-looking” financials — measuring only what has already been spent in the past — with little if any regard for, and certainly no strategy to pay for, promises made to be fulfilled in the future.

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Posted on Tuesday, March 18, 2014 / 0 comments / Read More

Monday, March 17, 2014

Britain's five richest families worth more than poorest 20%

(Guardian) The scale of Britain's growing inequality is revealed today by a report from a leading charity showing that the country's five richest families now own more wealth than the poorest 20% of the population.

Oxfam urged the chancellor George Osborne to use Wednesday's budget to make a fresh assault on tax avoidance and introduce a living wage in a report highlighting how a handful of the super-rich, headed by the Duke of Westminster, have more money and financial assets than 12.6 million Britons put together.

The development charity, which has opened UK programmes to tackle poverty, said the government should explore the possibility of a wealth tax after revealing how income gains and the benefits of rising asset prices had disproportionately helped those at the top.

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Posted on Monday, March 17, 2014 / 0 comments / Read More

Google Wants E-Mail Scanning Information Blocked

(Bloomberg) Google Inc. (GOOG), the world’s largest Internet-search provider, is seeking to black out portions of a transcript from a public court hearing that includes information on how it mines data from personal e-mails.

Google, fighting a lawsuit claiming its interception of e-mails amounts to illegal wiretapping, asked U.S. District Judge Lucy H. Koh in a filing yesterday to redact “confidential” information from the transcript, without being more specific. The main revelation at the Feb. 27 hearing was the existence of “Content Onebox,” used by Google to intercept e-mails for targeted advertising and to build user profiles, Sean Rommel, a lawyer for plaintiffs, told the judge at the time.

Google’s latest move to keep records in the case out of public view comes as Koh is weighing a request by companies including National Public Radio, New York Times Co. and Washington Post Co. to unseal other key documents filed earlier that the company contended were too sensitive to be revealed.

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Posted on Monday, March 17, 2014 / 0 comments / Read More

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Inequality 'costs Britain £39bn a year'

(Guardian) The ever-increasing gulf between rich and poor in Britain is costing the economy more than £39bn a year, according to a report by the Equality Trust thinktank. The effects of inequality can be measured in financial terms through its impact on health, wellbeing and crime rates, according to statisticians at the independent campaign group.

Researchers pointed to the fact that the 100 wealthiest people in the UK have as much money as the poorest 18 million – 30% of all people – and said that the consequences of such unusually high rates of inequality needed to be acknowledged by politicians.

Duncan Exley, the trust's chief executive, said economists in the US had begun taking the issue seriously but that the UK was behind the curve in understanding the full extent of the harm that could be caused by inequality. "But people are starting to talk about the gap between rich and poor as we are seeing such a chasm now. Not only are wages stagnating and austerity hitting the poor hardest but the rising stock market and soaraway rates of top pay are rocketing in the other direction."

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Posted on Sunday, March 16, 2014 / 0 comments / Read More

Sina Weibo files for $500 million U.S. IPO

(Reuters) Twitter-like messaging service Weibo Corp filed on Friday to raise $500 million via a U.S. initial public offering, as Chinese companies flock to the American market in record numbers to take advantage of soaring valuations.

Weibo, owned by Sina Corp, becomes the latest Chinese Internet giant to tap U.S. markets, following on the heels of search service Baidu and its own corporate parent. Alibaba, which owns a stake in Weibo, is expected to raise about $15 billion in New York this year, in the highest-profile Internet IPO since Facebook's in 2012.

But underscoring challenges facing Internet firms operating in a heavily censored and tightly controlled media environment, Weibo warned investors in its Friday IPO filing about uncertainty arising from Chinese government regulation.

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Posted on Sunday, March 16, 2014 / 0 comments / Read More

Monday, March 10, 2014

Scientists: Fukushima Radiation to Hit West Coast...

(USA Today) Very low levels of radiation from the Fukushima nuclear disaster likely will reach ocean waters along the U.S. West Coast next month, scientists are reporting.

Current models predict that the radiation will be at extremely low levels that won't harm humans or the environment, said Ken Buesseler, a chemical oceanographer at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution who presented research on the issue last week.

But Buesseler and other scientists are calling for more monitoring. No federal agency currently samples Pacific Coast seawater for radiation, he said.

"I'm not trying to be alarmist," Buesseler said. "We can make predictions, we can do models. But unless you have results, how will we know it's safe?"

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Posted on Monday, March 10, 2014 / 0 comments / Read More

Three years after Fukushima, Japan still feeling effects of nuclear disaster

(McClatchy) The complex known here as J-Village was once Japan’s largest soccer training facility. A statue in the building’s foyer depicts three soccer players battling for a ball. The logo of the Tepco Mareeze, a women’s soccer team that was disbanded in 2011, still is part of the decor. The sliding glass doors that open automatically when visitors approach are emblazoned with an image of soccer players.

But no one plays soccer here anymore. Instead, J-Village has become the command center in the effort to clean up the nuclear catastrophe that began when a magnitude 9.0 earthquake struck off the coast of Honshu, Japan, at 2:46 p.m. on March 11, 2011, sending a 45-foot wall of water over the 19-foot protective seawall at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant and triggering the worst nuclear disaster since the Chernobyl power plant in Ukraine exploded in 1986.

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Posted on Monday, March 10, 2014 / 0 comments / Read More

You Know Who Else Collected Metadata? The Stasi.

(ProPublica) The East German secret police, known as the Stasi, were an infamously intrusive secret police force. They amassed dossiers on about one quarter of the population of the country during the Communist regime.

But their spycraft — while incredibly invasive — was also technologically primitive by today’s standards. While researching my book Dragnet Nation, I obtained the above hand drawn social network graph and other files from the Stasi Archive in Berlin, where German citizens can see files kept about them and media can access some files, with the names of the people who were monitored removed.

The graphic shows forty-six connections, linking a target to various people (an “aunt,” “Operational Case Jentzsch,” presumably Bernd Jentzsch, an East German poet who defected to the West in 1976), places (“church”), and meetings (“by post, by phone, meeting in Hungary”).

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Posted on Monday, March 10, 2014 / 0 comments / Read More

Friday, March 07, 2014

Snowden: I raised NSA concerns internally over 10 times before going rogue

(WashingtonPost) Former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden said he repeatedly tried to go through official channels to raise concerns about government snooping programs but that his warnings fell on the deaf ears. In testimony to the European Parliament released Friday morning, Snowden wrote that he reported policy or legal issues related to spying programs to more than 10 officials, but as a contractor he had no legal avenue to pursue further whistleblowing.

Asked specifically if he felt like he had exhausted all other avenues before deciding to leak classified information to the public, Snowden responded:

Yes. I had reported these clearly problematic programs to more than ten distinct officials, none of whom took any action to address them. As an employee of a private company rather than a direct employee of the US government, I was not protected by US whistleblower laws, and I would not have been protected from retaliation and legal sanction for revealing classified information about lawbreaking in accordance with the recommended process.
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Posted on Friday, March 07, 2014 / 0 comments / Read More

Suspected Russian spyware Turla targets Europe, U.S.

(Reuters) A sophisticated piece of spyware has been quietly infecting hundreds of government computers across Europe and the United States in one of the most complex cyber espionage programs uncovered to date.

Several security researchers and Western intelligence officers say they believe the malware, widely known as Turla, is the work of the Russian government and linked to the same software used to launch a massive breach on the U.S. military uncovered in 2008. Those assessments were based on analysis of tactics employed by hackers, along with technical indicators and the victims they targeted.

"It is sophisticated malware that's linked to other Russian exploits, uses encryption and targets western governments. It has Russian paw prints all over it," said Jim Lewis, a former U.S. foreign service officer, now senior fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington.

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Posted on Friday, March 07, 2014 / 0 comments / Read More

Thursday, March 06, 2014

Google’s Schmidt Sees Robots Omnipresent ‘in a Good Way’

(Bloomberg) Chairman Eric Schmidt said his company is experimenting with automation in ways that will “replace a lot of the repetitive behavior in our lives.”

“We’re experimenting with what automation will lead to,” Schmidt said yesterday at a conference in Santa Monica, California. “Robots will become omnipresent in our lives in a good way.”

Google is pushing ahead with products beyond its core search business for new sources of user traffic and revenue in areas such as mobile and online video. The company also has shown a willingness to make bets on longer-term projects, such as wearable technology, robotics and driverless cars.

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Posted on Thursday, March 06, 2014 / 0 comments / Read More

VIDEO: Silicon Valley Boom Bypasses Poor

(AP) Silicon Valley's economy is growing, with some of the highest incomes in the U.S. and the largest share of high-wage jobs. But those gains have doubled housing costs over five years while wages for low and middle skilled workers are stagnant. (March 6)

Posted on Thursday, March 06, 2014 / 0 comments / Read More

Bill to Make the Fine $0 for Violating the Individual Mandate Passes by 90 Votes

(WeeklyStandard) The House of Representatives passed legislation Wednesday afternoon to make the fine/“tax” for violating Obamacare’s individual mandate $0 for this year, and it did so by the wide margin of 90 votes (250 to 160). That’s 83 more than the 7-vote margin (219 to 212) by which Obamacare passed the House four Marches ago. Moreover, 27 Democrats voted for today’s legislation—27 more than the number of Republicans who voted for Obamacare when it passed. In all, 223 Republicans voted for today’s bill, while only one—Paul Broun of Georgia—voted against it. Here’s the member-by-member tally for the vote.

Earlier today, the Obama White House released a 3-paragraph statement on the legislation, noting that Obamacare “helps millions of Americans stay on their parents’ plans until age 26”—which, of course, has nothing to do with the individual mandate or the fine/“tax” for violating it—and saying that if President Obama were presented with the legislation, “he would veto it.”

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Posted on Thursday, March 06, 2014 / 0 comments / Read More

'Scientific' evidence for FDA-approved drugs isn't so scientific, it turns out

(NaturalNews) A recent study conducted by Yale University's School of Medicine proves that the Food and Drug Administration's (FDA) approval process for testing new drugs is extremely inconsistent. The study, published on January 21 in the Journal of the American Medical Association, exposes the agency's anxiousness to get new drugs onto the market, many without adequate testing.

The study's lead author, Dr. Nicholas Downing, said his objective was to educate patients and doctors who presume that all new drugs have undergone the same amount of testing before hitting the market. His experiment included the examination of close to 200 new drug approvals between 2005 and 2012. What he found: "Not all FDA approvals are created equally."

According to the study, researchers found the FDA to be quite inconsistent when it came to their approval process for drugs and medical devices. For example, some drugs required "high-quality" clinical trials, while about a third received approval on the basis of just one clinical trial.

Read full article here.

Posted on Thursday, March 06, 2014 / 0 comments / Read More

Company says no more GMO ingredients in Smart Balance spreads

(LA Times) Smart Balance says it will change the ingredients in its butter-like spreads to make sure they include no genetically modified organisms.

“I’ve been in the food industry for 35 years. I have never seen a consumer issue come on this fast,” said Stephen Hughes, chairman and chief executive of Boulder Brands, the parent company of Smart Balance. “Forty-three percent of our consumers want to see a non-GMO Smart Balance.”

Some of the newly formulated products will be on store shelves in March, with the process completed in early summer. The price won’t go up, the company said.

Smart Balance’s move follows the announcement in January by General Mills that it would no longer use genetically modified corn starch and sugar cane in its Cheerios.

Hughes said consumers are looking for ingredients lists that are easy to understand, less processed products. “They think what we put in our food matters, and frankly, the same applies to what we leave out."

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Posted on Thursday, March 06, 2014 / 0 comments / Read More

Why is American internet so slow? U.S. now ranks 31st in the World

(The Week) According to a recent study by Ookla Speedtest, the U.S. ranks a shocking 31st in the world in terms of average download speeds. The leaders in the world are Hong Kong at 72.49 Mbps and Singapore on 58.84 Mbps. And America? Averaging speeds of 20.77 Mbps, it falls behind countries like Estonia, Hungary, Slovakia, and Uruguay.

Its upload speeds are even worse. Globally, the U.S. ranks 42nd with an average upload speed of 6.31 Mbps, behind Lesotho, Belarus, Slovenia, and other countries you only hear mentioned on Jeopardy.

So how did America fall behind? How did the country that literally invented the internet — and the home to world-leading tech companies such as Apple, Microsoft, Netflix, Facebook, Google, and Cisco — fall behind so many others in download speeds?

Susan Crawford argues that "huge telecommunication companies" such as Comcast, Time Warner, Verizon, and AT&T have "divided up markets and put themselves in a position where they're subject to no competition."

Read full article here.
Posted on Thursday, March 06, 2014 / 0 comments / Read More
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