Tagged: independent

US plans to hand over Internet control to global independence


American center for Internet oversight

The United States will hand over government control of administration of the Internet, bowing to pressures to globalize the management of the networks that connect billions of people around the world in a move meant to ease fears following last year’s revelations of NSA spying.

U.S. officials on Friday announced plans to relinquish its oversight role over the group that manages the Web’s critical infrastructure, said Lawrence Strickling, the head of the National Telecommunications & Information Administration at the Commerce Department.

The transition will come in 2015, when Commerce contract with the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers expires next year. But the announcement comes with a major caveat: As part of the transition, an independent, international oversight authority must be established so as to earn the trust of the world, Strickling said.

ICANN, the California-based nonprofit that coordinates the Web’s various systems of identifiers, has been pushing for increased global participation in the administration of the Internet, particularly since Edward Snowden’s leak of thousands of classified NSA documents last summer revealed the U.S. had been snooping on foreign nationals and governments…

But not everyone welcomed the news, particularly business leaders and others who were glad to accept tight U.S. control on the Internet’s administration as it ensured the Web operated smoothly and openly…

Yup. And Mussolini made the trains run on time in Fascist Italy.

Daniel Castro, a senior analyst at the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation, warned that without U.S. oversight, the Web may not hold together as a single entity.

“The world could be faced with a splintered Internet that would stifle innovation, commerce, and the free flow and diversity of ideas that are bedrock tenets of world’s biggest economic engine,” Castro wrote in an op-ed Friday.

“It is too important to get wrong,” he said. “And if the Obama Administration gives away its oversight of the Internet, it will be gone forever.”

Daniel Castro’s argument is nothing new. It is advanced by many American geeks and pundits every time the question of globalizing management of the Web comes up, every time the ICANN contract comes up for renewal.

What’s changed is that we know now that our government has handed oversight of the Internet to the NSA.

UPDATE: the most prominent, broadest body already established to globalize, democratize Internet management is Global Commission on Internet Governance. Useful article at GigaOm.

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Boston Dynamics’ new quadruped Wildcat — Woo-Hoo!

Boston Dynamics, the company behind DARPA’s most advanced legged robots such as PETMAN, BigDog, and Atlas, has unveiled the free-roaming version of their sprinting robot Cheetah. The new robot is called WildCat, and it’s already galloping at speeds up to 16 mph on flat ground.

Boston Dynamics is participating in DARPA’s Maximum Mobility and Manipulation (M3) program, which seeks to build robot systems that can move quickly in natural environments. To that end, it first developed a prototype called Cheetah that broke all speed records for legged robots last year. Cheetah was capable or reaching 28 mph (45 km/h), but it was tethered to an external power source and had the benefit of running on a smooth treadmill while being partially balanced by a boom arm. At the time, Boston Dynamics said it was working towards a free-running version of the robot, but it wasn’t until a few hours ago that they finally blew the lid on it.

WildCat not only gallops, but can bound and turn circles as well. And, when it loses its footing during the demonstration and nearly flips over, it comes to rest with all four feet on the ground not much worse for wear. Being that this is still fairly early in its development, the quadruped’s powerful motors don’t so much purr as scream, but as we’ve seen with Boston Dynamics’ other robots they can dampen the noise later. For now, its work is focused on getting the robot up to speed.

Dig it. They haven’t worked hard at any level of miniaturization either – as far as I can see. Going to be an awesome critter, someday.

Media credibility declines again – especially for Republicans

For the second time in a decade, the believability ratings for major news organizations have suffered broad-based declines. In the new survey, positive believability ratings have fallen significantly for nine of 13 news organizations tested. This follows a similar downturn in positive believability ratings that occurred between 2002 and 2004.

The falloff in credibility affects news organizations in most sectors: national newspapers, such as the New York Times and USA Today, all three cable news outlets, as well as the broadcast TV networks and NPR.

Across all 13 news organizations included in the survey, the average positive believability rating…is 56%. In 2010, the average positive rating was 62%. A decade ago, the average rating for the news organizations tested was 71%. Since 2002, every news outlet’s believability rating has suffered a double-digit drop, except for local daily newspapers and local TV news. The New York Times was not included in this survey until 2004, but its believability rating has fallen by 13 points since then…

The believability ratings for individual news organizations – like views of the news media generally – have long been divided along partisan lines. But partisan differences have grown as Republicans’ views of the credibility of news outlets have continued to erode. Today, there are only two news organizations – Fox News and local TV news – that receive positive believability ratings from at least two-thirds of Republicans. A decade ago, there were only two news organizations that did not get positive ratings from at least two-thirds of Republicans. By contrast, Democrats generally rate the believability of news organizations positively; majorities of Democrats give all the news organizations tested ratings of 3 or 4 on the 4-point scale, with the exception of Fox News…

Facts are a real problem for conservatives aren’t they?

Republicans have long held a more negative view of the credibility of the news media than Democrats and this continues to be reflected in current assessments of news outlets. Republicans rate the believability of nine of 13 news organizations less positively than do Democrats. Fox News is the only news organization that is rated higher for believability by Republicans…

The partisan difference in news providers – to me – is a pretty accurate reflection of what has become the predominant ideology in the Republican Party. If the news and the world are presenting facts, information, anecdotes which contradict what they believe should be reality – than the reporting is wrong – not the reality Republicans believe in.

Take away the portion of results skewed by a Republican belief system and all the news organizations are believable except Fox News.

Republicans have moved from a political analysis and ideology to being a religion. And that is concurrent with the influence of fundamentalist religions within the rank-and-file as well leadership of that party. Sad but true.

British Conservative Party adopts Republican tactic of attacking women’s reproductive rights


Are you women looking at me?
Daylife/Getty Images used by permission

Britain’s healthcare regulator was forced to divert resources away from monitoring patient care in the NHS after Andrew Lansley, the health secretary, ordered unannounced inspections of more than 300 abortion clinics in England, it has emerged.

In a tersely worded letter to the Department of Health, Dame Jo Williams, chair of the Care Quality Commission, wrote to officials saying the “fulfilment of [the health secretary's] request has clearly impacted on planned regulatory activity by the CQC”.

The surprise inspections and the ensuing media furore led to the British Pregnancy Advisory Service and pro-choice campaigners claiming they were “under siege” owing to the growing attacks by politicians. Anti-abortion MPs such as Nadine Dorries, a standard-bearer for the Christian right, called for the 1967 Abortion Act to be debated in parliament “and redrafted to deal with the number of illegal abortions which take place every day”.

The CQC’s leaked letter opens a new front in the abortion debate, raising questions over whether precious time and money was being wasted on essentially political scheme to placate elements of the Conservative party. However, Lansley denies acting under such pressure…blah, blah, blah.

Williams said that including planning and management time, 1,100 days of the CQC’s time had been absorbed by the request. “This equates to a total of 580 inspections foregone and a total of 16 inspectors being utilised on a full year basis at an estimated cost of £1 million…”

The vexed political climate around abortion has led to anxiety among doctors, concerned that their practice will be increasingly called into question. In a letter to the Guardian last month a group of senior clinicians and researchers said they were deeply concerned about the way the public discussion on abortion was proceeding and about how the service would manage to carry on.

There also appears increasing political pressure on independent abortion clinics, run by charities such as the British Pregnancy Advisory Service, which fear that if rightwing Tories get their way planned revisions to their licence to operate may make it harder to offer women abortions.

Relying on rightwing religious fanatics to provide foot soldiers for your politics will only serve to drag the Tories into the same miasma that passes for today’s Republican Party here in the States.

Maybe that’s what they deserve. You think they’d be happy enough at the continued incompetence of a Labour Party still struggling to get out from under the Blair/Brown heritage.

Two governors call for Federal reclassification of marijuana

The move by the governors — Christine Gregoire of Washington, a Democrat, and Lincoln Chafee of Rhode Island, an independent who used to be a Republican — injected new political muscle into the long-running debate on the status of marijuana. Their states are among the 16 that now allow medical marijuana, but which have seen efforts to grow and distribute the drug targeted by federal prosecutors.

“The divergence in state and federal law creates a situation where there is no regulated and safe system to supply legitimate patients who may need medical cannabis,” the governors wrote Wednesday to Michele M. Leonhart, the administrator of the Drug Enforcement Administration.

Marijuana is currently classified by the federal government as a Schedule I controlled substance, the same category as heroin and L.S.D. Drugs with that classification, the government says, have a high potential for abuse and “no currently accepted medical use in treatment in the United States.”

Which shows how out of touch with reality our federal government can be.

The governors want marijuana reclassified as a Schedule II controlled substance, which would put it in the same category as drugs like cocaine, opium and morphine. The federal government says that those drugs have a strong potential for abuse and addiction, but that they also have “some accepted medical use and may be prescribed, administered or dispensed for medical use.”

Such a classification could pave the way for pharmacies to dispense marijuana, in addition to the marijuana dispensaries that operate in a murky legal zone in many states.

“What we have out here on the ground is chaos,” Governor Gregoire said in an interview. “And in the midst of all the chaos we have patients who really either feel like they’re criminals or may be engaged in some criminal activity, and really are legitimate patients who want medicinal marijuana.

“If our people really want medicinal marijuana, then we need to do it right, we need to do it with safety, we need to do it with health in mind, and that’s best done in a process that we know works in this country — and that’s through a pharmacist…”

Ms. Gregoire noted that many doctors believe it makes no sense to place marijuana in a more restricted category than opium and morphine. “People die from overdose of opiates,” she said. “Has anybody died from marijuana?”

Pigheaded is still considered a requisite quality in determining who gets to run for political office in the United States. Along with obedience to party hacks, public allegiance to 19th Century ethics and unwillingness to learn from either science or experience.

Congress and the White House’s stubborn reliance on information and policies decades out of date is considered a moderating force for good. In reality, the result is a continual drag on opportunities for the United States to keep up with advances in knowledge and sensible practices.

Independent activist wins election as mayor of Seoul


Daylife/Reuters Pictures used by permission

A civic activist and vocal critic of President Lee Myung-bak rode a growing call for political change to become mayor of the South Korean capital, Seoul, winning a poll widely seen as a bellwether for the presidential election in December next year.

The activist, Park Won-soon, an independent candidate who was supported by the main opposition Democratic Party, clinched the mayoral race by winning 53.4 percent of the 4 million votes cast, according to the country’s Central Election Management Committee.

His rival, Na Kyung-won, a candidate affiliated with President Lee’s Grand National Party, won 46.2 percent.

Citizens defeated political power,” said Mr. Park, who refused to join a political party, billing himself as a “citizens’ candidate.” “Through election, they defeated an outdated era…”

Sohn Hak-kyu, head of the Democratic Party, indicated the victory of Mr. Park as an independent would prompt all the liberal opposition parties to regroup toward “a change of governments next year.”

The race in Seoul, home to one-fifth of the country’s 50 million people, was also widely regarded as a referendum on President Lee ahead of the parliamentary elections in April…

The poll, although confined to Seoul, drew nationwide attention by pitting a woman against a man, a political establishment star against an outsider — and Park Geun-hye against another possible candidate for next year’s presidential election, Ahn Chul-soo, a Seoul National University professor whose meteoric rise to political stardom analysts said reflected a gathering storm for change…

Mr. Park, 55, is a former student activist expelled from his university in the 1970s for demonstrating against former President Park Chung-hee, who was assassinated in 1979. Mr. Park later became a human rights lawyer who led two of South Korea’s most influential civic groups that exposed corruption in the country’s powerful conglomerates and accused members of the conservative elite — including President Park — of collaborating with the Japanese during their colonial rule in Korea.

RTFA to get yourself up to speed on contemporary politics in South Korea. Understand that changes like this one are at least as qualitative as the American attempt at the end of the Bush/Cheney cabal. And may actually produce changes that are qualitative rather than quantitative.

Spanish grassroots party wins local political victory

Elena Biurrun, the mayor of Torrelodones, is not only new to the job but is also an unusual addition to the Spanish political landscape.

Rather than representing one of Spain’s two dominant parties, the governing Socialist Party and the main opposition Popular Party, Ms. Biurrun last month became mayor of this town of 22,000 on the outskirts of Madrid at the helm of a local party, Vecinos por Torrelodones, or Neighbors for Torrelodones.

Vecinos did not start out as a political party. Instead, it grew out of an environmental protest group that Ms. Biurrun and others formed to block a real estate project that had the backing of the town hall but would have threatened 128 hectares of protected woodland. The group’s successful environmental crusade, which went as far as filing a complaint with the European Commission, convinced members that they could make other improvements to life in Torrelodones by running for office.

Gonzalo Santamaría Puente, now the deputy mayor, said achieving cost cuts was relatively easy in a town with “an envelope culture,” whereby kickbacks would be offered to secure contracts. In addition, he said, most past contracts involved “useless middlemen who each had to get a share…”

Her victory also coincides with a youth-led movement that has been demanding an overhaul of Spain’s political system. The protesters have accused traditional parties and other institutions of putting their interests ahead of those of the citizens, even at a time of record unemployment…

Since taking office, Ms. Biurrun and her team have focused on renegotiating supplier contracts in a town that has debt totaling €13 million… The company that provides school bus services, for instance, recently agreed to cut the value of its contract by 30 percent.

At a time of austerity, another of Ms. Biurrun’s priorities is trying to lead by example. She cut her own annual salary to €49,000 from the €63,000 that her predecessor earned. Gone also are his chauffeur-driven car and round-the-clock police escort.

“Nobody in our team had previously held any party membership, and our only shared ideology is that of common sense,” Ms. Biurrun said in an interview. “Politics, at least at a local level, should be about providing the sound management that residents deserve rather than parading around with a party tattoo.”

Which goes to show that ordinary mortals can deliver a grassroots assault on the Establishment without ending up as flunkies for reactionary corporate interests. Of course, this movement – and a few others in my experience – is grounded in the needs of working people regardless of color or creed.

The last time Spain had a movement approximating our red-white-and-blue Tea Party – they were the Falange, headed by the fascist who eventually became dictator of Spain, Francisco Franco.

Deficient water checks achieving little at Canada oil sands

A government-sponsored scientific committee studying water monitoring in Canada’s oil sands has backed assertions that multibillion-dollar energy developments are polluting waterways and it urges more stringent oversight.

The report by the independent scientists, appointed by Alberta Premier Ed Stelmach, said an incendiary study by water ecologists last year appeared to be right in its contention that toxic substances downstream from the developments do not occur naturally.

An industry-funded body had long said heavy metals and polycyclic aromatic aromatic compounds, or PACs, found in the Athabasca River watershed north of Fort McMurray, in northern Alberta, occurred naturally as bitumen leached into the river…

The northern Alberta oil sands are the largest source of oil outside the Middle East and are the target of billions of dollars worth of development plans. However, the environmental impact, including greenhouse gas emissions, forest destruction and water pollution, are under heavy criticism by green groups…

In December, the federal panel reported “there was no evidence of science leadership to ensure that monitoring and research activities are planned and performed in a coordinated way”…

Alberta Environment Minister Rob Renner said the report will be used by the province’s own newly appointed panel as it works to design a better monitoring system.

And as usual the “better monitoring system” won’t mean a damn if the system is thwarted by political malingering controlled by the corporations wallowing in the trough of their profits.

Same as it ever was.

Florida Gov. Crist announces Independent bid for Senate


Daylife/Reuters Pictures used by permission

Florida Gov. Charlie Crist’s decision to abandon the Republican Party and run for Senate as an independent, made official at a St. Petersburg campaign event today, marks a stunning turnaround for a politician who just over a year ago was heralded as one of the GOP’s brightest young talents.

But Thursday’s rally also represents a general election kick-off for what is now one of the most entertaining and unpredictable races of the midterm election year, a battle between three viable statewide candidates…

Along with the slumping economy, an albatross for any incumbent, it was Rubio’s relentless criticism of Crist for embracing President Obama’s stimulus package that cost the governor precious support among conservative base voters, forcing him to quit the GOP primary altogether.

The Florida Republican Party has been thoroughly taken over by a range of right-wingers using teabaggers as their cheap foot soldiers. Republicans who might be moderates ain’t welcome anymore.

Still, a Quinnipiac University survey of Florida voters released earlier this month indicated that Crist would hold a narrow edge in a three-way contest with Rubio and Meek.

“You can’t compare this to Joe Lieberman in Connecticut or Jesse Ventura in Minnesota or anything like that, because now we are going to have a sitting incumbent governor running as an independent candidate against two traditional party candidates,” said Justin Sayfie, a Republican who supported Crist when he ran for governor in 2006. “There is no textbook example of how you win a race like that…”

As a sitting governor, Crist has the ability to insert himself into the newspaper headlines and local newscasts every day. That free exposure could make up for what he may end up lacking in campaign money.

Crist made several moves in recent weeks — including vetoing a teacher pay bill popular among conservatives and reversing his support for offshore drilling — that made clear he plans to target moderate voters instead of Republican regulars.

“He cares about everyone in the state of Florida, not just Republicans,” State Sen. Mike Fasano said. “I wish we had more politicians like that.”

The ethos of ex-Republicans who became independents because of crap wars and lousy fiscal policy by the Bush and Rove set aren’t exactly in line to be impressed by Rubio’s embrace of the same old sleaze. Crist is someone they could vote for – as a Republican or an Independent.

A.I. researcher calls for discussion and debate on killer robots


Daylife/AP Photo used by permission

An international debate is needed on the use of autonomous military robots, a leading academic has said.

Noel Sharkey of the University of Sheffield said that a push toward more robotic technology used in warfare would put civilian life at grave risk. Technology capable of distinguishing friend from foe reliably was at least 50 years away, he added.

However, he said that for the first time, US forces mentioned resolving such ethical concerns in their plans.

“Robots that can decide where to kill, who to kill and when to kill is high on all the military agendas,” Professor Sharkey said at a meeting in London. “The problem is that this is all based on artificial intelligence, and the military have a strange view of artificial intelligence based on science fiction…”

The problem, he said, was that robots could not fulfil two of the basic tenets of warfare: discriminating friend from foe, and “proportionality”, determining a reasonable amount of force to gain a given military advantage.

“Robots do not have the necessary discriminatory ability,” he explained.

They’re not bright enough to be called stupid – they can’t discriminate between civilians and non-civilians; it’s hard enough for soldiers to do that.

“And forget about proportionality, there’s no software that can make a robot proportional,” he added.

“There’s no objective calculus of proportionality – it’s just a decision that people make.”

RTFA. Lots of questions asked. Not a hell of a lot of answers.

I suppose the most pressing question is – does the military care about our questions at all? Do the politicians undertand – or care – who are supposed to oversee the military?