Feb 14

New year introduces Illinois texting while driving ban, among other laws

Sunday, January 3, 2010

About 300 new or amended laws took effect at midnight of New Year’s Day last Friday in Illinois, ranging from government ethics reform to driving laws.

One law that is likely to affect residents’ lives the most is a ban on reading or sending text messages through a hand-held device. Drivers who wish to text must put their vehicle on park or neutral while stopped in traffic or on the shoulder. The law also prohibits reading email or surfing the Internet, although using GPS capabilities is still allowed. Breaking this law is considered a primary offense, which means that law enforcement officers may pull violators over for it, similar to a seat belt violation.

Motorists also are prohibited from talking on their phones in a construction or school zone unless they are using earphones. Truck drivers outside the six-county Chicago area now have a speed limit of 65 mph, increased from 55 mph. In addition, injuring somebody while driving uninsured has become a misdemeanor, punishable with up to a year in jail or a $2,500 fine.

Former governor Rod Blagojevich’s removal from office has led to new legislation to reform state government as well. Changes to the state’s Freedom of Information Act requires government agencies to respond more quickly to requests for information. The Illinois Attorney General also gets broad powers to oversee enforcement of this law. In addition, lobbyists will have to pay a $1,000 annual registration fee, up from $150–$350. They will also have to report frequently on their activities and expenditures.

Posted in Uncategorized
Feb 13

ACLU, EFF challenging US ‘secret’ court orders seeking Twitter data

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Late last month, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) filed objections to the United States Government’s ‘secret’ attempts to obtain Twitter account information relating to WikiLeaks. The ACLU and EFF cite First and Fourth amendment issues as overriding reasons to overturn government attempts to keep their investigation secret; and, that with Birgitta Jonsdottir being an Icelandic Parliamentarian, the issue has serious international implications.

The case, titled “In the Matter of the 2703(d) Order Relating to Twitter Accounts: Wikileaks, Rop_G, IOERROR; and BirgittaJ“, has been in the EFF’s sights since late last year when they became aware of the US government’s attempts to investigate WikiLeaks-related communications using the popular microblogging service.

The key objective of this US government investigation is to obtain data for the prosecution of Bradley Manning, alleged to have supplied classified data to WikiLeaks. In addition to Manning’s Twitter account, and that of WikiLeaks (@wikileaks), the following three accounts are subject to the order: @ioerror, @birgittaj, and @rop_g. These, respectively, belong to Jacob Apelbaum, Birgitta Jonsdottir, and Rop Gonggrijp.

Birgitta is not the only non-US citizen with their Twitter account targeted by the US Government; Gonggrijp, a Dutch ‘ex-hacker’-turned-security-expert, was one of the founders of XS4ALL – the first Internet Service Provider in the Netherlands available to the public. He has worked on a mobile phone that can encrypt conversations, and proven that electronic voting systems can readily be hacked.

In early March, a Virginia magistrate judge ruled that the government could have the sought records, and neither the targeted users, or the public, could see documents submitted to justify data being passed to the government. The data sought is as follows:

  1. Personal contact information, including addresses
  2. Financial data, including credit card or bank account numbers
  3. Twitter account activity information, including the “date, time, length, and method of connections” plus the “source and destination Internet Protocol address(es)”
  4. Direct Message (DM) information, including the email addresses and IP addresses of everyone with whom the Parties have exchanged DMs

The order demands disclosure of absolutely all such data from November 1, 2009 for the targeted accounts.

The ACLU and EFF are not only challenging this, but demanding that all submissions made by the US government to justify the Twitter disclosure are made public, plus details of any other such cases which have been processed in secret.

Bradley Manning, at the time a specialist from Maryland enlisted with the United States Army’s 2nd Brigade, 10th Mountain Division, was arrested in June last year in connection with the leaking of classified combat video to WikiLeaks.

The leaked video footage, taken from a US helicopter gunship, showed the deaths of Reuters staff Saeed Chmagh and Namir Noor-Eldeen during a U.S. assault in Baghdad, Iraq. The wire agency unsuccessfully attempted to get the footage released via a Freedom of Information Act request in 2007.

When WikiLeaks released the video footage it directly contradicted the official line taken by the U.S. Army asserting that the deaths of the two Reuters staff were “collateral damage” in an attack on Iraqi insurgents. The radio chatter associated with the AH-64 Apache video indicated the helicopter crews had mistakenly identified the journalists’ equipment as weaponry.

The US government also claims Manning is linked to CableGate; the passing of around a quarter of a million classified diplomatic cables to WikiLeaks. Manning has been in detention since July last year; in December allegations of torture were made to the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights regarding the conditions under which he was and is being detained.

Reports last month that he must now sleep naked and attend role call at the U.S. Marine facility in Quantico in the same state, raised further concern over his detention conditions. Philip J. Crowley, at-the-time a State Department spokesman, remarked on this whilst speaking at Massachusetts Institute of Technology; describing the current treatment of Manning as “ridiculous and counterproductive and stupid”, Crowley was, as a consequence, put in the position of having to tender his resignation to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

Despite his native Australia finding, in December last year, that Assange’s WikiLeaks had not committed any criminal offences in their jurisdiction, the U.S. government has continued to make ongoing operations very difficult for the whistleblower website.

The result of the Australian Federal Police investigation left the country’s Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, having to retract a statement that WikiLeaks had acted “illegally”; instead, she characterised the site’s actions as “grossly irresponsible”.

Even with Australia finding no illegal activity on the part of WikiLeaks, and with founder Julian Assange facing extradition to Sweden, U.S. pressure sought to hobble WikiLeaks financially.

Based on a State Department letter, online payments site PayPal suspended WikiLeaks account in December. Their action was swiftly followed by Visa Europe and Mastercard ceasing to handle payments for WikiLeaks.

The online processing company, Datacell, threatened the two credit card giants with legal action over this. However, avenues of funding for the site were further curtailed when both Amazon.com and Swiss bank PostFinance joined the financial boycott of WikiLeaks.

Assange continues, to this day, to argue that his extradition to Sweden for questioning on alleged sexual offences is being orchestrated by the U.S. in an effort to discredit him, and thus WikiLeaks.

Wikinews consulted an IT and cryptography expert from the Belgian university which developed the current Advanced Encryption Standard; explaining modern communications, he stated: “Cryptography has developed to such a level that intercepting communications is no longer cost effective. That is, if any user uses the correct default settings, and makes sure that he/she is really connecting to Twitter it is highly unlikely that even the NSA can break the cryptography for a protocol such as SSL/TLS (used for https).”

Qualifying this, he commented that “the vulnerable parts of the communication are the end points.” To make his point, he cited the following quote from Gene Spafford: “Using encryption on the Internet is the equivalent of arranging an armored car to deliver credit card information from someone living in a cardboard box to someone living on a park bench.

Continuing, the Katholieke Universiteit Leuven (KUL) expert explained:

In the first place, the weak point is Twitter itself; the US government can go and ask for the data; companies such as Twitter and Google will typically store quite some information on their users, including IP addresses (it is known that Google deletes the last byte of the IP address after a few weeks, but it is not too hard for a motivated opponent to find out what this byte was).
In the second place, this is the computer of the user: by exploiting system weaknesses (with viruses, Trojan horses or backdoors in the operating system) a highly motivated opponent can enter your machine and record your keystrokes plus everything that is happening (e.g. the FBI is known to do this with the so-called Magic Lantern software). Such software is also commercially available, e.g. for a company to monitor its employees.
It would also be possible for a higly motivated opponent to play “man-in-the-middle”; that means that instead of having a secure connection to Twitter.com, you have a secure connection to the attacker’s server, who impersonates Twitter’s and then relays your information to Twitter. This requires tricks such as spoofing DNS (this is getting harder with DNSsec), or misleading the user (e.g. the user clicks on a link and connects to tw!tter.com or Twitter.c0m, which look very similar in a URL window as Twitter.com). It is clear that the US government is capable of using these kind of tricks; e.g., a company has been linked to the US government that was recognized as legitimate signer in the major browsers, so it would not be too large for them to sign a legitimate certificate for such a spoofing webserver; this means that the probability that a user would detect a problem would be very low.
As for traffic analysis (finding out who you are talking to rather than finding out what you are telling to whom), NSA and GCHQ are known to have access to lots of traffic (part of this is obtained via the UK-USA agreement). Even if one uses strong encryption, it is feasible for them to log the IP addresses and email addresses of all the parties you are connecting to. If necessary, they can even make routers re-route your traffic to their servers. In addition, the European Data Retention directive forces all operators to store such traffic data.
Whether other companies would have complied with such requests: this is very hard to tell. I believe however that it is very plausible that companies such as Google, Skype or Facebook would comply with such requests if they came from a government.
In summary: unless you go through great lengths to log through to several computers in multiple countries, you work in a clean virtual machine, you use private browser settings (don’t accept cookies, no plugins for Firefox, etc.) and use tools such as Tor, it is rather easy for any service provider to identify you.
Finally: I prefer not to be quoted on any sentences in which I make statements on the capabilities or actions of any particular government.

Wikinews also consulted French IT security researcher Stevens Le Blond on the issues surrounding the case, and the state-of-the-art in monitoring, and analysing, communications online. Le Blond, currently presenting a research paper on attacks on Tor to USENIX audiences in North America, responded via email:

Were the US Government to obtain the sought data, it would seem reasonable the NSA would handle further investigation. How would you expect them to exploit the data and expand on what they receive from Twitter?

  • Le Blond: My understanding is that the DOJ is requesting the following information: 1) Connection records and session times 2) IP addresses 3) e-mail addresses 4) banking info
By requesting 1) and 2) for Birgitta and other people involved with WikiLeaks (WL) since 2009, one could derive 2 main [pieces of] information.
First, he could tell the mobility of these people. Recent research in networking shows that you can map an IP address into a geographic location with a median error of 600 meters. So by looking at changes of IP addresses in time for a Twitter user, one could tell (or at least speculate about) where that person has been.
Second, by correlating locations of different people involved with WL in time, one could possibly derive their interactions and maybe even their level of involvement with WL. Whether it is possible to derive this information from 1) and 2) depends on how this people use Twitter. For example, do they log on Twitter often enough, long enough, and from enough places?
My research indicates that this is the case for other Internet services but I cannot tell whether it is the case for Twitter.
Note that even though IP logging, as done by Twitter, is similar to the logging done by GSM [mobile phone] operators, the major difference seems to be that Twitter is subject to US regulation, no matter the citizenship of its users. I find this rather disturbing.
Using 3), one could search for Birgitta on other Internet services, such as social networks, to find more information on her (e.g., hidden accounts). Recent research on privacy shows that people tend to use the same e-mail address to register an account on different social networks (even when they don’t want these accounts to be linked together). Obviously, one could then issue subpoenas for these accounts as well.
I do not have the expertise to comment on what could be done with 4).
((WN)) As I believe Jonsdottir to be involved in the Icelandic Modern Media Initiative (IMMI), what are the wider implications beyond the “WikiLeaks witchhunt”?
  • Le Blond: Personal data can be used to discredit, especially if the data is not public.

Having been alerted to the ongoing case through a joint press release by the ACLU and EFF, Wikinews sought clarification on the primary issues which the two non-profits saw as particularly important in challenging the U.S. Government over the ‘secret’ court orders. Rebecca Jeschke, Media Relations Director for the EFF, explained in more detail the points crucial to them, responding to a few questions from Wikinews on the case:

((WN)) As a worse-case, what precedents would be considered if this went to the Supreme Court?
  • Rebecca Jeschke: It’s extremely hard to know at this stage if this would go to the Supreme Court, and if it did, what would be at issue. However, some of the interesting questions about this case center on the rights of people around the world when they use US Internet services. This case questions the limits of US law enforcement, which may turn out to be very different from the limits in other countries.
((WN)) Since this is clearly a politicised attack on free speech with most chilling potential repercussions for the press, whistleblowers, and by-and-large anyone the relevant U.S. Government departments objects to the actions of, what action do you believe should be taken to protect free speech rights?
  • Jeschke: We believe that, except in very rare circumstances, the government should not be permitted to obtain information about individuals’ private Internet communications in secret. We also believe that Internet companies should, whenever possible, take steps to ensure their customers are notified about requests for information and have the opportunity to respond.
((WN)) Twitter via the web, in my experience, tends to use https:// connections. Are you aware of any possibility of the government cracking such connections? (I’m not up to date on the crypto arms race).
  • Jeschke: You don’t need to crack https, per se, to compromise its security. See this piece about fraudulent https certificates:
Iranian hackers obtain fraudulent httpsEFF website.
((WN)) And, do you believe that far, far more websites should – by default – employ https:// connections to protect people’s privacy?
  • Jeschke: We absolutely think that more websites should employ https! Here is a guide for site operators: (See external links, Ed.)

Finally, Wikinews approached the Icelandic politician, and WikiLeaks supporter, who has made this specific case a landmark in how the U.S. Government handles dealings with – supposedly – friendly governments and their elected representatives. A number of questions were posed, seeking the Icelandic Parliamentarian’s views:

((WN)) How did you feel when you were notified the US Government wanted your Twitter account, and message, details? Were you shocked?
  • Birgitta Jonsdottir: I felt angry but not shocked. I was expecting something like this to happen because of my involvement with WikiLeaks. My first reaction was to tweet about it.
((WN)) What do you believe is their reasoning in selecting you as a ‘target’?
  • Jonsdottir: It is quite clear to me that USA authorities are after Julian Assange and will use any means possible to get even with him. I think I am simply a pawn in a much larger context. I did of course both act as a spokesperson for WikiLeaks in relation to the Apache video and briefly for WikiLeaks, and I put my name to the video as a co-producer. I have not participated in any illegal activity and thus being a target doesn’t make me lose any sleep.
((WN)) Are you concerned that, as a Member of Parliament involved in the Icelandic Modern Media Initiative (IMMI), the US attempt to obtain your Twitter data is interfering with planned Icelandic government policy?
  • Jonsdottir: No
((WN)) In an earlier New York Times (NYT) article, you’re indicating there is nothing they can obtain about you that bothers you; but, how do you react to them wanting to know everyone you talk to?
  • Jonsdottir: It bothers me and according to top computer scientists the government should be required to obtain a search warrant to get our IP addresses from Twitter. I am, though, happy I am among the people DOJ is casting their nets around because of my parliamentary immunity; I have a greater protection then many other users and can use that immunity to raise the issue of lack of rights for those that use social media.
HAVE YOUR SAY
Do you believe the U.S. government should have the right to access data on foreign nationals using services such as Twitter?
Add or view comments
((WN)) The same NYT article describes you as a WikiLeaks supporter; is this still the case? What attracts you to their ‘radical transparency’?
  • Jonsdottir: I support the concept of WikiLeaks. While we don’t have a culture of protection for sources and whistleblowers we need sites like WikiLeaks. Plus, I think it is important to give WikiLeaks credit for raising awareness about in how bad shape freedom of information and expression is in our world and it is eroding at an alarming rate because of the fact that legal firms for corporations and corrupt politicians have understood the borderless nature of the legalities of the information flow online – we who feel it is important that people have access to information that should remain in the public domain need to step up our fight for those rights. WikiLeaks has played an important role in that context.I don’t support radical transparency – I understand that some things need to remain secret. It is the process of making things secret that needs to be both more transparent and in better consensus with nations.
((WN)) How do you think the Icelandic government would have reacted if it were tens of thousands of their diplomatic communications being leaked?
  • Jonsdottir: I am not sure – A lot of our dirty laundry has been aired via the USA cables – our diplomatic communications with USA were leaked in those cables, so far they have not stirred much debate nor shock. It is unlikely for tens of thousands of cables to leak from Iceland since we dont have the same influence or size as the USA, nor do we have a military.
((WN)) Your ambassador in the US has spoken to the Obama administration. Can you discuss any feedback from that? Do you have your party’s, and government’s, backing in challenging the ordered Twitter data release?
  • Jonsdottir: I have not had any feedback from that meeting, I did however receive a message from the DOJ via the USA ambassador in Iceland. The message stated three things: 1. I am free to travel to the USA. 2. If I would do so, I would not be a subject of involuntary interrogation. 3. I am not under criminal investigation. If this is indeed the reality I wonder why they are insisting on getting my personal details from Twitter. I want to stress that I understand the reasoning of trying to get to Assange through me, but I find it unacceptable since there is no foundation for criminal investigation against him. If WikiLeaks goes down, all the other media partners should go down at the same time. They all served similar roles. The way I see it is that WikiLeaks acted as the senior editor of material leaked to them. They could not by any means be considered a source. The source is the person that leaks the material to WikiLeaks. I am not sure if the media in our world understands how much is at stake for already shaky industry if WikiLeaks will carry on carrying the brunt of the attacks. I think it would be powerful if all the medias that have had access to WikiLeaks material would band together for their defence.
((WN)) Wikinews consulted a Belgian IT security expert who said it was most likely companies such as Facebook, Microsoft, and Google, would have complied with similar court orders *without advising the ‘targets*’. Does that disturb you?
  • Jonsdottir: This does disturb me for various reasons. The most obvious is that my emails are hosted at google/gmail and my search profile. I dont have anything to hide but it is important to note that many of the people that interact with me as a MP via both facebook and my various email accounts don’t always realize that there is no protection for them if they do so via those channels. I often get sensitive personal letters sent to me at facebook and gmail. In general most people are not aware of how little rights they have as users of social media. It is those of uttermost importance that those sites will create the legal disclaimers and agreements that state the most obvious rights we lose when we sign up to their services.
This exclusive interview features first-hand journalism by a Wikinews reporter. See the collaboration page for more details.
((WN)) Has there been any backlash within Iceland against US-based internet services in light of this? Do you expect such, or any increase in anti-American sentiments?
  • Jonsdottir: No, none what so ever. I dont think there is much anti-American sentiments in Iceland and I dont think this case will increase it. However I think it is important for everyone who does not live in the USA and uses social services to note that according to the ruling in my case, they dont have any protection of the 1st and 4th amendment, that only apply to USA citizens. Perhaps the legalities in relation to the borderless reality we live in online need to be upgraded in order for people to feel safe with using social media if it is hosted in the USA. Market tends to bend to simple rules.
((WN)) Does this make you more, or less, determined to see the IMMI succeed?
  • Jonsdottir: More. People have to realize that if we dont have freedom of information online we won’t have it offline. We have to wake up to the fact that our rights to access information that should be in the public domain is eroding while at the same time our rights as citizens online have now been undermined and we are only seen as consumers with consumers rights and in some cases our rights are less than of a product. This development needs to change and change fast before it is too late.

The U.S. Government continues to have issues internationally as a result of material passed to WikiLeaks, and subsequently published.

Within the past week, Ecuador has effectively declared the U.S. ambassador Heather Hodges persona-non-grata over corruption allegations brought to light in leaked cables. Asking the veteran diplomat to leave “as soon as possible”, the country may become the third in South America with no ambassadorial presence. Both Venezuela and Bolivia have no resident U.S. ambassador due to the two left-wing administrations believing the ejected diplomats were working with the opposition.

The U.S. State Department has cautioned Ecuador that a failure to speedily normalise diplomatic relations may jeapordise ongoing trade talks.

The United Kingdom is expected to press the Obama administration over the continuing detention of 23-year-old Manning, who also holds UK citizenship. British lawmakers are to discuss his ongoing detention conditions before again approaching the U.S. with their concerns that his solitary confinement, and treatment therein, is not acceptable.

The 22 charges brought against Manning are currently on hold whilst his fitness to stand trial is assessed.

Posted in Uncategorized
Feb 13

‘Invitational Games for the Deaf, Taipei 2008’ Day 2 features martial art events

Sunday, September 7, 2008

The ‘Invitational Games for the Deaf, Taipei 2008’ started yesterday in Taipei, Taiwan. After table tennis and soccer, events from martial arts including karate, judo, and taekwondo were featured mainly in the 2nd matchday. Unlike the taekwondo event which applied a single elimination rule, events from karate and judo applied round robin rules in their competitions.

Athletes from 7 nations including Argentina, Chinese Taipei (the host), Greece, Hong Kong, Japan, South Korea, Turkey, and the United States were among the main participants this event. As of the most recent lead check, European and American athletes threatened athletes from East Asians with what appeared to be a greater strength.

Guler Muhammed from Turkey accomplished a new record to win his gold medal in Men’s 58kg class. But European and American spectators were witnesses to the performance from the host after Bo-cong Lin and Szu-jou Lu won gold medals from “Men’s 58kg to 68kg” and “Women’s 49kg to 57kg” classes.

The karate event distinguishes classes with different weights, men’s are under 65kg, under 75kg, and over 75kg; women’s just differed with classes at 60kg.

Juan Matias Diaz from Argentina shone in the battlefield with a 3rd-straight-win, to win his gold medal in Men’s under 65kg class; but in Men’s under 65kg class, Russian athlete Evgeniy Pavlyuchenko had to give up, and Takahiro Kojima won his gold medal by defeating his teammate Akinobe Miyashita.

In judo, it was the first time ever that two athletes both won bronze medals in the same class since this invitation games began yesterday. In the men’s under 60kg (class), Akio Kira made a 4th-straight-win to win the gold medal, his teammate, Tomohiro Higashi won bronze medal with local athlete Wei-lun Hsu having the same scores in this class. Jinsub Byeon from South Korea, Sergey Belyaev from Russia, and Susana Monteggia from Argentina, won their gold medals in men’s 60.1kg to 66kg, men’s 66.1kg to 73kg, and women’s 57.1kg to 70kg classes.

Only listed nations who won at least one bronze medal.
Order Team Gold Silver Bronze
Chinese Taipei 4 2 3
Japan 4 1 4
Argentina 2 0 2
4 South Korea 1 4 3
5 Turkey 1 3 1
6 Russia 1 1 2
7 Hong Kong 0 1 1
8 United States 0 0 1

Posted in Uncategorized
Feb 12

Founder of UK sports car manufacturer TVR dies in Spain

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Trevor Wilkinson, who founded the UK performance car manufacturer TVR has died at his home in Minorca, Spain. He was 85.

Wilkinson, from Blackpool, left education at 14, getting an apprenticeship at a local garage. In 1946 he bought a local wheelwright’s business, which he renamed Trevcar Motors, which sold and repaired cars, as well as undertaking light engineering work.

He built his first car the following year. It was a two-seater based on an Alvis Firebird chassis for his own use. He then formed TVR Engineering, the name derived from his own – TreVoR. The first TVR was unveiled in 1949. It was a two-seater with an alloy body and a multi-tubular steel chassis.

The first production TVR was initially called simply the ‘Mark I’, but became known as the Grantura. This M-type glass fibre bodied car was to remain in production, in a modified form, until 1980, when it was replaced by the Tasmin, which had an angular wedge design.

Wilkinson himself left TVR in 1962 to form another engineering business, which specialised in glass fibre construction. He moved to Minorca after retiring.

The TVR Car Club website announced yesterday that he had died in Spain. The news was confirmed by a spokeswoman for Minorca’s Mateu Orfila Hospital. According to the TVR Car Club’s site “He was aware of the serious nature of his final illness but, according to a friend, took it in stoical fashion that was typical of the man.”

Posted in Uncategorized
Feb 12

Lobby groups oppose plans for EU copyright extension

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

The European Commission currently has proposals on the table to extend performers’ copyright terms. Described by Professor Martin Kretschmer as the “Beatles Extension Act”, the proposed measure would extend copyright from 50 to 95 years after recording. A vast number of classical tracks are at stake; the copyright on recordings from the fifties and early sixties is nearing its expiration date, after which it would normally enter the public domain or become ‘public property’. E.U. Commissioner for the Internal Market and Services Charlie McCreevy is proposing this extension, and if the other relevant Directorate Generales (Information Society, Consumers, Culture, Trade, Competition, etc.) agree with the proposal, it will be sent to the European Parliament.

Wikinews contacted Erik Josefsson, European Affairs Coordinator for the Electronic Frontier Foundation (E.F.F.), who invited us to Brussels, the heart of E.U. policy making, to discuss this new proposal and its implications. Expecting an office interview, we arrived to discover that the event was a party and meetup conveniently coinciding with FOSDEM 2008 (the Free and Open source Software Developers’ European Meeting). The meetup was in a sprawling city centre apartment festooned with E.F.F. flags and looked to be a party that would go on into the early hours of the morning with copious food and drink on tap. As more people showed up for the event it turned out that it was a truly international crowd, with guests from all over Europe.

Eddan Katz, the new International Affairs Director of the E.F.F., had come over from the U.S. to connect to the European E.F.F. network, and he gladly took part in our interview. Eddan Katz explained that the Electronic Frontier Foundation is “A non-profit organisation working to protect civil liberties and freedoms online. The E.F.F. has fought for information privacy rights online, in relation to both the government and companies who, with insufficient transparency, collect, aggregate and make abuse of information about individuals.” Another major focus of their advocacy is intellectual property, said Eddan: “The E.F.F. represents what would be the public interest, those parts of society that don’t have a concentration of power, that the private interests do have in terms of lobbying.”

Becky Hogge, Executive Director of the U.K.’s Open Rights Group (O.R.G.), joined our discussion as well. “The goals of the Open Rights Group are very simple: we speak up whenever we see civil, consumer or human rights being affected by the poor implementation or the poor regulation of new technologies,” Becky summarised. “In that sense, people call us -I mean the E.F.F. has been around, in internet years, since the beginning of time- but the Open Rights Group is often called the British E.F.F.

Contents

  • 1 The interview
    • 1.1 Cliff Richard’s pension
    • 1.2 Perpetual patents?
    • 1.3 The fight moves from the U.K. to Europe
    • 1.4 Reclaiming democratic processes in the E.U.
  • 2 Related news
  • 3 Sources
  • 4 External links
Posted in Uncategorized
Feb 12

Ethiopia plans to expand country’s Internet access

Thursday, April 7, 2005

At an information technology conference in Addis Ababa, Prime Minister Meles Zenawi of Ethiopia vowed to offer universal Internet connectivity in the country within three years. The government is working with a United States technology company Cisco Systems to fulfill this promise.

The government will invest US$40 million in the venture, which will lay nearly 10,000 km of fibre optic cable. Ethiopia currently ranks low in Internet penetration, with just 30,000 connections available for its 71 million inhabitants. Part of the program is the installation of Internet access at 450 secondary schools throughout the country.

Zenawi explained the change of heart that led to the decision to invest in this infrastructure project. “Not long ago many of us felt that we were too poor to seriously invest in information and communication technology,” he said at the conference. “We were convinced that we should invest every penny we have on securing the next meal for our people. We did not believe serious investment in ICT had anything to do with facing the challenges of poverty that kills. Now I think we know better,” he explained to the delegates.

Not everyone thinks that the government knows better. Giovani Peri, Assistant Professor of Economics at University of California, Davis, specializes in macroeconomics and growth theory. Peri believes that the Ethiopian government may be misguided in its direct investment in the build-up of information technology, and should instead create incentives for the private sector to build such infrastructure.

Professor Peri likened the Internet access project to previous failed attempts by African governments to stimulate growth via large-scale projects. “[African governments] in the past tried to build airports … in the middle of desolation.” — but people need to know that the environment is right for business, he said, not just a good airport. He said that the investment in Internet access might be too early for that country, and that before it is built, the country needs a good educational system to get the scientific community involved in the process of building technology infrastructure.

Ethiopia’s population is mostly rural, and over half of the population is illiterate. The country’s GDP per capita is US$560.

Posted in Uncategorized
Feb 11

4,400 kilograms of drugs seized in New Delhi

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

In the biggest ever narcotics haul in India’s capital, the New Delhi police have seized over 4,400 kg of Mandrax and Rs. 20 crore from a dealer in the city. The consignment, meant for a customer in the U.S, was seized from a godown in Badarpur, near the Delhi-Haryana border. The alleged trafficker, identified as Vinod Sharma, claimed that the contraband was not his and that he had nothing to do with the matter. Sharma started his career as a scrap-dealer in Delhi, and police suspect that with the help of some contacts he used container depots for drug-trafficking, whilst successfully dodging both the police and the Customs Department.

On Sunday the Delhi Police arrested him at his Kalkaji residence. The Deputy Commissioner of Police for South District, Delhi Police, Anil Shukla said, “Sharma befriended container drivers and once they had driven past customs, he and his men would meet them at a distance and pilfer the containers.”

Posted in Uncategorized
Feb 11

Chicago Metra considers selling naming rights for train lines, stations

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Chicago’s Metra is currently considering the possibility of selling the naming rights to its train stations, rail lines, and even bridges to generate more revenue. 

The regional rail system for Chicago and its surrounding suburbs has been experiencing revenue shortfalls, along with other public transportation agencies such as the Chicago Transit Authority and Pace. They all rely on sales taxes and fares to fund their services, but the recent recession has reduced sales tax revenues, and unemployment has caused ridership to fall. Compared to 86.8 million trips in 2008, Metra reported that only 82.3 million trips were provided in 2009. As spokeswoman Judy Pardonnet said, “We’re looking at any opportunity to increase non-fare revenue.”

A law approved by former Illinois governor Rod Blagojevich in 2008 granted free rides to all seniors regardless of income, adding to the decreasing fare revenues as well. State lawmakers are trying to restrict the free rides to low-income seniors; Metra has not yet commented on the issue, however. 

New designs put on the agency’s website last September has attracted more traffic, and Metra is considering selling advertising space online. In addition, advertising space could be sold on the outside of train cars as well. As for the naming rights to stations and routes, Metra plans to hire a consultant that would figure out the details of such a proposal. Spokesperson Meg Reihle did not know how much money Metra could gain from the sale or which organizations would be interested in buying. 

According to Ms. Reihle, public transit agencies in other cities have sold naming rights as well, such as the Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority in Cleveland and Long Island Rail Road in Long Island. TECO Energy sponsors a rail line in Tampa’s Hillsborough Area Regional Transit for US$1 million over ten years. 

Throughout its 26-year history, Metra has named several of its locomotives and renamed two stations: Ogilvie Transportation Center, which was previously named North Western Station, and Millennium Terminal, which was previously called Randolph Street. No transactions were made in renaming those two stations, however. There is also a Station named after the candy maker Mars, but that station was named before Metra took it over, and the company doesn’t pay Metra for any naming rights. 

I think the business community recognizes that transit is positive for their advertising benefit

Execuive Director Phil Pagano sees the proposal as a way for businesses to advertise themselves. “I think the business community recognizes that transit is positive for their advertising benefit,” said Mr. Pagano at a board meeting. In addition to businesses, hospitals located near the train stations could purchase naming rights as well. However, Mr. Pagano has also stated that “the agency would be selective about the type of businesses it partners with.”

Metra has said that it will be sensitive to the wishes of the communities near the stops, and town names will not be removed from station names. Rather, both the municipality and the sponsoring organization would share the naming rights, such as in renaming Naperville Station to “Naperville Boeing Station”. “I’m not sure whether [the old name] is first or second, but definitely it’s going to have to be there,” said Mr. Pagano.

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Feb 11

Rachel Weisz wants Botox ban for actors

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

English actress Rachel Weisz thinks that Botox injections should be banned for all actors.

The 39-year-old actress, best known for her roles in the Mummy movie franchise and for her Academy Award-winning portrayal in The Constant Gardener, feels facial Botox injections leave actors less able to convey emotion and that it harms the acting industry as much as steroids harm athletes.

In an interview with UK’s Harper’s Bazaar, coming out next month, Weisz says, “It should be banned for actors, as steroids are for sportsmen,” she claims. “Acting is all about expression; why would you want to iron out a frown?”

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Currently living in New York, she also mentions that English women are much less worried about their physical appearance than in the United States. “I love the way girls in London dress,” she claimed. “It’s so different to the American ‘blow-dry and immaculate grooming’ thing.”

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Feb 10

Girl found dead in truck in Northamptonshire, England

Sunday, August 30, 2009

On Saturday 1400 BST, Northamptonshire Police were alerted by an HGV company that a Spar delivery vehicle had gone missing because it had not come back to base.

A search discovered the truck on the A605 near Warmington, England. The truck was found in a lorry park near a Jet filling station. The cab was unlocked and the curtains were drawn at the time.

When the police looked inside, they discovered a nine-year-old girl who had been strangled to death. A search by police officers then discovered a forty-year-old man’s body hanging from a tree close to the lorry park.

Detective Chief Inspector Tricia Kirk said: “I cannot begin to imagine what the family are going through, and we have family liaison officers with them trying to answer any questions that they may have. At the moment, we are treating it as a murder-suicide. We believe the little girl was murdered and the man then committed suicide.” She also said, “While we have not yet ruled out the involvement of a third party, the evidence strongly suggests that it is unlikely that anyone else was involved in the two deaths. This is a tragic incident for two families and we are working closely with them as part of our investigation.”

A police spokesman said, “Both bodies were taken to Leicester Royal Infirmary last night so that forensic post mortems could be carried out.”

The man and the girl cannot be named at this stage but the police have said that the man is the girl’s stepfather and that both came from the West Midlands. It is thought that the girl had regarded the trip as a “treat”.

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