Total’s CEO Christophe de Margerie Dies in Moscow Plane Crash

October 21st, 2014

Via: BBC:

Christophe de Margerie, the chief executive of French oil company Total, has died in an air crash in Moscow.

His corporate jet collided with a snow plough and was then engulfed in flames. All four people on board were killed.

The driver of the snow plough was drunk, according to Russian investigators.

Mr de Margerie, 63, had been chief executive of Europe’s third largest oil company since 2007. He was highly regarded within the oil industry.

Research Credit: PW


China Hires As Many As 300,000 Internet Trolls To Make The Communist Party Look Good

October 20th, 2014

In other news, German Journalist Udo Ulfkotte Admits Spreading CIA and BND Propaganda for Decades.

Via: Business Insider:

The Chinese government doesn’t just censor its internet. It actually pays people to leave fake comments that make the country – and its communist regime – look good.

After reading “Blocked on Weibo” by Chinese researcher Jason Q. Ng, we recently learned China’s version of Twitter, Sina Weibo, banned the phrase “50 cents.” It references China’s “50 Cent Party,” a group of ordinary citizens hired by the government to post internet comments spinning that day’s news in China’s favor.

These hired guns supposedly earn 50 cents (or .5 Yuan) for every post. While the Chinese government has only implicitly acknowledged their existence, the brigade likely functions at various levels, with some commenters even employed by websites or internet providers themselves.

An estimated 250,000 to 300,000 belong to the “party,” researchers from Harvard University wrote in the American Political Science Review in May 2013. “The size and sophistication of the Chinese government’s program to selectively censor the expressed views of the Chinese people is unprecedented in recorded world history,” the authors wrote.


Vote All You Want—The Secret Government Won’t Change

October 20th, 2014

The argument that the two parties should represent opposed ideals and policies, one, perhaps, of the Right and the other of the Left, is a foolish idea acceptable only to doctrinaire and academic thinkers. Instead, the two parties should be almost identical, so that the American people can ‘throw the rascals out’ at any election without leading to any profound or extensive shifts in policy.

—Carroll Quigley, Tragedy and Hope: A History of the World in Our Time

Via: Boston Globe:

The voters who put Barack Obama in office expected some big changes. From the NSA’s warrantless wiretapping to Guantanamo Bay to the Patriot Act, candidate Obama was a defender of civil liberties and privacy, promising a dramatically different approach from his predecessor.

But six years into his administration, the Obama version of national security looks almost indistinguishable from the one he inherited. Guantanamo Bay remains open. The NSA has, if anything, become more aggressive in monitoring Americans. Drone strikes have escalated. Most recently it was reported that the same president who won a Nobel Prize in part for promoting nuclear disarmament is spending up to $1 trillion modernizing and revitalizing America’s nuclear weapons.

Why did the face in the Oval Office change but the policies remain the same? Critics tend to focus on Obama himself, a leader who perhaps has shifted with politics to take a harder line. But Tufts University political scientist Michael J. Glennon has a more pessimistic answer: Obama couldn’t have changed policies much even if he tried.

Though it’s a bedrock American principle that citizens can steer their own government by electing new officials, Glennon suggests that in practice, much of our government no longer works that way. In a new book, “National Security and Double Government,” he catalogs the ways that the defense and national security apparatus is effectively self-governing, with virtually no accountability, transparency, or checks and balances of any kind. He uses the term “double government”: There’s the one we elect, and then there’s the one behind it, steering huge swaths of policy almost unchecked. Elected officials end up serving as mere cover for the real decisions made by the bureaucracy.


Corpus of Data Automatically Shared with Apple by a Standard Installation of OS X Yosemite

October 20th, 2014

Via: GitHub:

This repository provides a corpus of network communications automatically sent to Apple by OS X Yosemite; we’re using this dataset to explore how Yosemite shares user data with Apple.

The provided data was collected using our Net Monitor toolkit; more information regarding usage and methodology is provided below.

Having read DuckDuckGo’s privacy statements, you might decide to switch Safari’s default search to DuckDuckGo. If we enter a new search in Safari, we can then search the logged data to see who the search terms are actually sent to.

The logs show that a copy of your Safari searches are still sent to Apple, even when selecting DuckDuckGo as your search provider, and ‘Spotlight Suggestions’ are disabled in System Preferences > Spotlight.

Related: Using the Windows 10 Technical Preview? Microsoft might be watching your every move “to help with feedback”


Virginia Police Have Been Secretively Stockpiling Private Phone Records

October 20th, 2014

Via: Wired:

While revelations from Edward Snowden about the National Security Agency’s massive database of phone records have sparked a national debate about its constitutionality, another secretive database has gone largely unnoticed and without scrutiny.

The database, which affects unknown numbers of people, contains phone records that at least five police agencies in southeast Virginia have been collecting since 2012 and sharing with one another with little oversight. Some of the data appears to have been obtained by police from telecoms using only a subpoena, rather than a court order or probable-cause warrant. Other information in the database comes from mobile phones seized from suspects during an arrest.

The five cities participating in the program, known as the Hampton Roads Telephone Analysis Sharing Network, are Hampton, Newport News, Norfolk, Chesapeake and Suffolk, according to the memorandum of understanding that established the database. The effort is being led in part by the Peninsula Narcotics Enforcement Task Force, which is responsible for a “telephone analysis room” in the city of Hampton, where the database is maintained.

The unusual and secretive database contains telecom customer subscriber information; records about individual phone calls, such as the numbers dialed, the time the calls were made and their duration; as well as the contents of seized mobile devices. The information is collected and shared among police agencies to enhance analysis and law enforcement intelligence.


U.S. Humanitarian Aid Going to ISIS

October 20th, 2014

Via: Daily Beast:

While U.S. warplanes strike at the militants of the so-called Islamic State in both Syria and Iraq, truckloads of U.S. and Western aid has been flowing into territory controlled by the jihadists, assisting them to build their terror-inspiring “Caliphate.”

The aid—mainly food and medical equipment—is meant for Syrians displaced from their hometowns, and for hungry civilians. It is funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development, European donors, and the United Nations. Whether it continues is now the subject of anguished debate among officials in Washington and European. The fear is that stopping aid would hurt innocent civilians and would be used for propaganda purposes by the militants, who would likely blame the West for added hardship.


Updated Secret Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPP) – IP Chapter

October 16th, 2014

Via: WikiLeaks:

Today, Thursday 16 October 2014, WikiLeaks released a second updated version of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) Intellectual Property Rights Chapter. The TPP is the world’s largest economic trade agreement that will, if it comes into force, encompass more than 40 per cent of the world’s GDP. The IP Chapter covers topics from pharmaceuticals, patent registrations and copyright issues to digital rights. Experts say it will affect freedom of information, civil liberties and access to medicines globally. The WikiLeaks release comes ahead of a Chief Negotiators’ meeting in Canberra on 19 October 2014, which is followed by what is meant to be a decisive Ministerial meeting in Sydney on 25–27 October.

Despite the wide-ranging effects on the global population, the TPP is currently being negotiated in total secrecy by 12 countries. Few people, even within the negotiating countries’ governments, have access to the full text of the draft agreement and the public, who it will affect most, none at all. Large corporations, however, are able to see portions of the text, generating a powerful lobby to effect changes on behalf of these groups and bringing developing country members reduced force, while the public at large gets no say.


Our Imperial Rulers Are Deranged: Leon Panetta’s Memoir Proves It

October 16th, 2014

Via: David Stockman’s Contra Corner:

Which brings us to the question of just what is being “defended” here. It sure isn’t South Korea, which would be obliterated in the event of a nuclear exchange with the North. So then what is it?

The answer is the sacred principle of American “world leadership,” which supposedly gives us a mandate to intervene everywhere and anywhere in the name of preserving the “world order.”

Research Credit: Pookie


Russia: Reduction in Gas Exports to Europe Possible

October 16th, 2014

Via: CNBC:

Russia’s President Vladimir Putin said Russia will have to reduce gas supplies to Europe if Ukraine steals gas. Pipelines that supply Europe crosses Ukraine en route.

In June, Moscow halted gas supplies to Ukraine due to mounting debts and pricing disagreements.

Disturbance of Russian gas supplies to Europe has happened two times in the past ten years, in 2006 and 2009. A third of Europe’s gas comes from Russia.


New Lithium Ion Batteries Charge 70 Percent in 2 Minutes

October 16th, 2014

Via: cNet:

The freedom to hold computers in our hands, pop wireless headphones in our ears and pilot drones through our backyards is all brought to us by batteries — especially rechargeable lithium ion batteries. The portable powerhouses are a critical component of our march toward tech mobility, yet most require hours of being plugged in to wall outlets to achieve a full charge.

A brand-new kind of battery to come out of the labs of scientists at Singapore’s Nanyang Technological University (NTU) is set to change that. They’ve created a lithium ion battery that can get up to a 70 percent charge in just 2 minutes and can allegedly last up to 20 years.

The difference between their battery and the standard lithium ion type has to do with the substance used for the anode — the negative terminal.

Current lithium ion batteries have graphite anodes. Instead of graphite, the team at NTU used a titanium dioxide gel they developed that dramatically speeds up the chemical reaction that takes place in the battery, meaning it can charge much faster.


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