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Irish women call for a nationwide strike if they don't get a referendum on the country's brutal abortion ban

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Ireland's abortion laws are among the most barbaric in the world -- among its many deficits, it forces women to carry unviable fetuses to term, making them labor to deliver babies who live short hours in extreme pain before dying before them. (more…)

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Manzabar
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A Stop Motion Examination of Endless Loading Screens

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Director Rafael Vangelis transforms the unbearable task of watching an endlessly spinning wheel or loading bar into an entertaining and analogue study of self-produced loading mechanisms in his latest short film Analogue Loaders. Using stop motion techniques and traditional animation he turns clay, wood, 3D-printed objects, and even eggs into 3D loaders, dazzling the eye rather than enraging the mind.

Vangelis considers the short film an animated autobiography, as he spends a great chunk of his own life watching projects slowly load and computers crash. “The result,” says Vangelis, “is an homage to all the lost time we collectively spend in digital limbo in the hopes of sudden development on our screen.”

The video was just selected as a Staff Pick on Vimeo. You can see behind-the-scenes video of Analogue Loaders on Vangelis’s website.

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Manzabar
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K.T. McFarland Is Too Much to Swallow, So Robert Harward Turns Down NSA Position

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After Michael Flynn resigned/was fired as National Security Advisor, everyone breathed a sigh of relief when the top prospect to replace him turned out to be Retired Vice Admiral Robert Harward. He's well respected by both Democrats and Republicans and would have brought some needed experience and sobriety to the White House.

Unfortunately, Harward turned down the job. It all hinged on whether he would be allowed to choose his own team. Here is CBS News:

Two sources close to the situation confirm Harward demanded his own team, and the White House resisted. Specifically, Mr. Trump told Deputy National Security Adviser K. T. McFarland that she could retain her post, even after the ouster of National Security Adviser Michael Flynn. Harward refused to keep McFarland as his deputy, and after a day of negotiations over this and other staffing matters, Harward declined to serve as Flynn’s replacement.

McFarland hasn't held a government position for over 30 years, but she has appeared regularly on Fox News as a standard-issue hardline pundit for the past decade. In Trump's eyes, this qualifies her to be the #2 person on the National Security Council. Apparently Harward didn't agree. Politico has more:

According to an individual familiar with Harward's thinking, [Harward] turned down the Trump offer because he did not receive sufficient assurances about staffing and autonomy. Specifically, the source said Harward wanted commitments that the National Security Council would be fully in charge of security matters, not Trump's political advisers. And he wanted to be able to select his own staff.

Trump's decision last month to place his top strategist and former Breitbart CEO Steve Bannon on the National Security Council was roundly criticized as a departure from tradition, and previous administrations have tried to keep the NSC as divorced from politics as possible.

Basically, Harward is a serious guy who wanted the National Security Council to be staffed with national security experts, not Fox News hacks and political operators. That was too much for the Trump team, so Harward pulled out, reportedly calling the offer a "shit sandwich."

That's all bad enough, but it raises another question: now that this is all public knowledge, will anyone serious be willing to take this position? How could they?

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Italy Proposes Astonishingly Sensible Rules To Regulate Government Hacking Using Trojans

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As Techdirt has just reported, even though encryption is becoming more widespread, it's not still not much of a problem for law enforcement agencies, despite some claims to the contrary. However, governments around the world are certainly not sitting back waiting for it to become an issue before acting. Many have already put in place legal frameworks that allow them to obtain information even when encryption is used, predominantly by hacking into a suspect's computer or mobile phone. In the US, this has been achieved with controversial changes to Rule 41; in the UK, the Snooper's Charter gives the government there almost unlimited powers to conduct what it coyly calls "equipment interference."

One of the main tools for carrying out surveillance in this way is the trojan -- code that is placed surreptitiously on a suspect's system to allow it to be monitored and controlled by the authorities in real time over the Internet. There are clearly huge risks and problems with this approach, something that a legislative proposal from the Civic and Innovators parliamentary group in Italy tries to address, as explained by Fabio Pietrosanti and Stefano Aterno on Boing Boing. The draft law is the result of nearly two years' work by a group of experts from many fields:

a former speaker of the Parliament, civil rights activists, law enforcement officers, computer forensics researchers, prosecutors, law professors, IT security experts, anti-mafia and anti-terrorism departments and politicians.

Perhaps that breadth explains why the ideas are really pretty good, for once. The underlying principle is that a government trojan is only allowed to operate in ways that have been explicitly authorized by an Italian judge's signed warrant. For example:

A Telephone Wiretapping Warrant is required to listen a Whatsapp call.

A Remote Search and Seizure Warrant is required to acquire files on remote devices.

An Internet Wiretapping Warrant is required to record web browsing sessions.

The same kind of warrant that would be required for planting a physical audio surveillance bug is required to listen to the surrounding environment with the device’s microphone.

Those kinds of legal safeguards are welcome, but they are not enough on their own. Also needed are stringent technical controls that will limit the harm and risk of introducing government malware onto a system. The working group has addressed this too with a series of innovative requirements for trojan surveillance programs:

a. The source code must be deposited to a specific authority and it must be verifiable with a reproducible build process (like the Tor Project and Debian Linux are doing)

b. Every operation carried on by the trojan or through its use must be duly documented and logged in a tamper proof and verifiable way, using cryptographic time-stamping and digital signing, so that its results can be fairly contested by the defendant during the inter partes hearing [that is, with everyone involved present].

c. The trojan, once installed, shall not lower the security level of the device where it has been activated

d. Once the investigation has finished, the trojan must be uninstalled or, otherwise, detailed instruction on how to self-remove it must be provided.

e. Trojan production and uses must be traceable by establishing a National Trojan Registry with the fingerprint of each version of the software being produced and deployed.

f. The trojans must be certified, with a yearly renewal of the certification, to ensure compliance with the law and technical regulation issued by the ministry.

It's a remarkable list of technical and operational requirements that are surely unique in their attempt to minimize the key dangers of implanting clandestine surveillance software. Of course, it would be better if the use of government malware were avoided completely, and other methods were adopted. But realistically, the police and intelligence agencies around the world will be pushing hard for legislation to allow them to infect people's computers and mobiles in this way, not least if encryption does become more of a problem.

Given that trojans will be used, whether we like it or not, far better to constrain them as much as possible through well-thought out rules such as those drawn up by the Italian parliamentary group. Let's hope their proposals are adopted without significant amendments by the Italian parliament so that they can be used as a template for similar laws in other jurisdictions.

Follow me @glynmoody on Twitter or identi.ca, and +glynmoody on Google+



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Manzabar
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40 years of data show immigration decreases or stabilizes crime rates

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Enlarge (credit: Alex M. Hayward)

According to the White House Office of the Press Secretary, a recent Executive Order on Border Security and Immigration Enforcement was intended to address the issue of “significant increase in violent crime” due to immigration driven by “transnational criminal organizations.” These claims directly contradict the results of academic work on immigration and crime, and a recent study published in the Journal of Ethnicity in Criminal Justice reinforces that. It shows that immigration is not linked to increases in crime—in fact, this study suggests it's linked to reductions in certain types of crimes.

This study builds on previous findings on arrests and criminal offenses. That previous data showed that foreign-born residents of the US were less likely to commit crimes than native-born Americans. The new study looked at 200 major metropolitan areas as defined by the US Census Bureau. The researchers then used Census data and FBI crime reporting data from 1970-2010 to look at trends for these regions.

The authors were interested in increases in crimes that might be attributable to an influx of immigrants who decreased economic opportunities or ended up in jobs that might otherwise have gone to local-born residents. To that end, they looked at violent crimes and property crimes, including rates of murder, non-negligent manslaughter, aggravated assault, robbery, burglary, and larceny.

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Hypnotic forest of resonating lamps

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TEAMLAB created this beautiful installation reminiscent of Chinese sky lanterns, except the color of each can be controlled. The result is simply gorgeous. (more…)

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3 days ago
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