Tagged: Obama

Tim Cook won’t back down — opposes terrorism, selling data, and snooping

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During an unannounced visit to Apple’s Covent Garden store

Following comments regarding Apple Watch specifications and an upcoming Apple Store revamp, Cook spoke with the Telegraph in an extensive interview covering data privacy, government snooping, terrorism and more.

The Apple chief is cognizant of the amount of customer information being “trafficked around” by corporations, governments and other organizations, saying data sharing is a practice that goes against Apple’s core philosophies. He said consumers, however, “don’t fully understand what is going on” at present, but “one day they will, and will be very offended.”

“None of us should accept that the government or a company or anybody should have access to all of our private information,” Cook said. “This is a basic human right. We all have a right to privacy. We shouldn’t give it up. We shouldn’t give in to scare-mongering or to people who fundamentally don’t understand the details…”

The publication also asked about implications of terrorism, especially government surveillance operations created with the intent of aiding law enforcement agencies. Cook took a hard-nosed stance on the topic, saying the issue is a non-starter in his book because terrorists use proprietary encryption tools not under the control of U.S. or UK governments.

“Terrorists will encrypt. They know what to do,” Cook said. “If we don’t encrypt, the people we affect [by cracking down on privacy] are the good people. They are the 99.999 percent of people who are good.” He added, “You don’t want to eliminate everyone’s privacy. If you do, you not only don’t solve the terrorist issue but you also take away something that is a human right. The consequences of doing that are very significant…”

The executive reiterated Apple’s mantra of making products, not marketing consumers as products. Every device and service that comes out of Cupertino is designed to store only a minimal amount of customer information, Cook said.

Finally, Cook talked about privacy as it applies to Apple Pay, the fledgling payments service Apple rolled out in October. Unlike other payments processors, Apple designed Apple Pay to reveal little to no information to outside parties, including itself.

“If you use your phone to buy something on Apple Pay, we don’t want to know what you bought, how much you paid for it and where you bought it. That is between you, your bank and the merchant,” Cook said. “Could we make money from knowing about this? Of course. Do you want us to do that that? No. Would it be in our value system to do that? No. We’ve designed [Apple Pay] to be private and for it to be secure.”

I love the privacy of Apple Pay. I haven’t stopped smiling since the first time a checkout clerk exclaimed…”It doesn’t even tell me your name!”

This is excerpted from a long interview in the TELEGRAPH – worth reading.

American government’s answer to privacy concerns — Trust us!


Women sense my power and they seek the life essence…But, I do deny them my essence, Mandrake.

The National Security Agency director, Mike Rogers…sought to calm a chorus of doubts about the government’s plans to maintain built-in access to data held by US technology companies, saying such “backdoors” would not be harmful to privacy, would not fatally compromise encryption and would not ruin international markets for US technology products.

Rogers mounted an elaborate defense of Barack Obama’s evolving cybersecurity strategy in an appearance before an audience of cryptographers, tech company security officers and national security reporters at the New America Foundation in Washington…

For most of the appearance, however, Rogers was on the defensive, at pains to explain how legal or technological protections could be put in place to ensure that government access to the data of US technology companies would not result in abuse by intelligence agencies. The White House is trying to broker a deal with companies such as Apple, Yahoo and Google, to ensure holes in encryption for the government to access mobile data, cloud computing and other data…

Rogers admitted that concerns about US government infiltration of US companies’ data represented a business risk for US companies, but he suggested that the greater threat was from cyber-attacks…

US technology companies have bridled at government pressure to introduce weaknesses in encryption systems in order to ensure government access to data streams, and technical experts have warned that there is no way to create a “backdoor” in an encryption system without summarily compromising it. An appearance by Obama at a cybersecurity conference at Stanford University last week to tout cooperation between the government and US tech companies was upstaged by an impassioned speech by Apple’s chief executive, Tim Cook, who warned of the “dire consequences” of sacrificing the right to online privacy…

“‘Backdoor’ is not the context I would use, because when I hear the phrase ‘backdoor’ I think: ‘Well this is kind of shady, why wouldn’t you want to go in the front door, be very public?’” Rogers said. “We can create a legal framework for how we do this.”

“Legal framework”, eh? Let me remind folks the first mass bombing of civilians had a “legal framework”. Hitler’s Condor Legion was invited into Spain by the fascist dictator, Franco. All perfectly legal. They bombed civilians in Madrid, Guernica, across Republican Spain.

Not that the United States would ever “legally” bomb civilians. Oh.

Hospitals buy up doctors’ practices — we get screwed with higher charges

Imagine you’re a Medicare patient, and you go to your doctor for an ultrasound of your heart one month. Medicare pays your doctor’s office $189, and you pay about 20 percent of that bill as a co-payment.

Then, the next month, your doctor’s practice has been bought by the local hospital. You go to the same building and get the same test from the same doctor, but suddenly the price has shot up to $453, as has your share of the bill.

Patients around the country are getting that unpleasant surprise, as more and more doctors’ offices are being bought by hospitals. Medicare, the government health insurance program for those 65 and over or the disabled, pays one price to independent doctors and another to doctors who work for large health systems — even if they are performing the exact same service in the exact same place.

This week, the Obama administration recommended a change to eliminate much of that gap. Despite expected protests from hospitals and doctors, the idea has a chance of being adopted because it would yield huge savings for Medicare and patients.

In the dry language of the annual budget, the White House asks Congress to “encourage efficient care by improving incentives to provide care in the most appropriate ambulatory setting.” In normal English, that means reducing financial incentives that are causing many doctors to sell their practices to hospitals just to take advantage of extra revenue.

The heart doctors are a great example. In 2009, the federal government cut back on what it paid to cardiologists in private practice who offered certain tests to their patients. Medicare determined that the tests, which made up about 30 percent of a typical cardiologist’s revenue, cost more than was justified, and there was evidence that some doctors were overusing them. Suddenly, Medicare paid about a third less than it had before.

But the government didn’t cut what it paid cardiologists who worked for a hospital and provided the same test. It actually paid those doctors more, because the payment systems were completely separate. In general, Medicare assumes that hospital care is by definition more expensive to provide than office-based care.

You can imagine the result: Over the past five years, the number of cardiologists in private practice has plummeted as more and more doctors sold their practices to nearby hospitals that weren’t subject to the new cuts. Between 2007 and 2012, the number of cardiologists working for hospitals more than tripled, according to a survey from the American College of Cardiology, while the percentage working in private practice fell to 36 percent from 59 percent. At the time of the survey, an additional 31 percent of practices were either in the midst of merger talks or considering it. The group’s former chief operating officer once described the shift to me as “like a migration of wildebeests.”

Cardiologists are not the only doctors who have been migrating toward hospital practice. In the last few years, there have been increases in the number of doctors working for hospitals across the specialties. And spreads between fees for office services exist in an array of medical services, down to the basic office visit.

RTFA for more disheartening details. The crux remains, Obama and Congress in those first couple of years managed to get changes through to lower costs for some healthcare. The lawyers, lobbyists and other professional creeps working for the medical-industrial complex figured out a way around the changes – and increased profits to boot. Doctors around the country lined up to join the money parade. Not all of them. There remains a principled class in the corner here and there.

But, who noticed the changes? Who did anything about it? Certainly not Congress. They may be elected to represent the people of America, every state; but, they only listen to the Sound of Money riffling into their bank accounts.

It’s taken Obama till the last half of his second term to stand up and notice the change, propose new legislation to sort the problem. How much of a chance do you think we have of getting regulations through a Congress controlled by greenback conservatives, both Republican and Democrat – and restore a human focus to healthcare and family practice?

Will Democrats walk away from obedience to Wall Street?

FDR vs big banks

America’s presidential election is still nearly two years away, and few candidates have formally thrown their hats into the ring. But both Democrats and Republicans are hard at work figuring out what will appeal to voters in their parties’ respective primary elections – and thinking about what will play well to the electorate as a whole in November 2016.

The contrast between the parties at this stage is striking. Potential Republican presidential candidates are arguing among themselves about almost everything, from economics to social issues; it is hard to say which ideas and arguments will end up on top. The Democrats, by contrast, are in agreement on most issues, with one major exception: financial reform and the power of very large banks.

The Democrats’ internal disagreement on this issue is apparent when one compares three major proposals to address income inequality that the party and its allies have presented in recent weeks. There are only small differences between President Barack Obama’s proposals (in his budget and State of the Union address), those made in a high-profile report from the Center for American Progress, and ideas advanced by Chris Van Hollen, an influential member of Congress. (For example, Van Hollen recommends more redistribution from higher-income people to offset a larger tax cut for middle-income groups.)

Against this backdrop of programmatic unity, the difference of opinion among leading Democrats concerning Wall Street – both the specifics of the 2010 Dodd-Frank financial reforms and more broadly – stands out in bold relief.

But a serious challenge to all of these views has now emerged, in proposals by Senator Elizabeth Warren, a rising Democratic star who has become increasingly prominent at the national level. In her view, the authorities need to confront head-on the outsize influence and dangerous structure of America’s largest banks.

Warren’s opponents like to suggest that her ideas are somehow outside the mainstream; in fact, she draws support from across the political spectrum. In last month’s fight against Citigroup’s successful effort to roll back Dodd-Frank, for example, Warren’s allies included the House Democratic leadership, the Independent Community Bankers of America, Republican Senator David Vitter, and Thomas Hoenig (a Republican-appointed vice chair of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation).

Warren’s message is simple: remove the implicit government subsidies that support the too-big-to-fail banks. That single move would go a long way toward reducing, if not eliminating, crony capitalism and strengthening market competition in the financial sector. This is a message that plays well across the political spectrum. And growing support for Warren’s ideas helps the Federal Reserve and other responsible regulators in their efforts to prevent big banks from taking on dangerous levels of risk.

RTFA. Consider the possibility that the Democrat Party – unlike Republicans – might challenge subservience to Wall Street or be satisfied with populist lip service to core reforms pressed by Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders and many others?

Hard to fool a detainee with a fake letter from mom – when he knows she can’t write


Mohamedou Ould Slahi

Guantánamo prison camp authorities tried to trick inmate Mohamedou Ould Slahi by forging a letter purportedly from his mother whom he had been unable to see for years, his brother Yahdih has said.

The ploy, which was intended to persuade him to cooperate with his interrogators, failed not only because they misspelt Slahi’s name but also because his mother could not write.

This week Slahi became the first inmate to publish a memoir while still incarcerated when Guantánamo Diary was published in 20 countries and serialised in the Guardian.

Speaking on Tuesday at an event organised by the Guardian in partnership with Canongate, the publisher of Guantánamo Diary, and PEN, the writers’ association, Yahdih Ould Slahi said his brother had not been able to see his mother before she died at their home in Mauritania in 2013…

The 44-year-old engineer was first detained in 2001 in Mauritania at the request of the US government, then rendered to Jordan and Afghanistan and tortured, and then flown to Guantánamo.

He is one of two inmates whose “additional interrogation techniques” were personally approved by Donald Rumsfeld, then US defence secretary, according to a US Senate inquiry. Slahi was dressed in a burqa, deprived of sleep, subjected to strobe lights, doused in water, threatened with dogs, sexually assaulted by female interrogators and forced to bark and perform dog tricks.

He wrote his memoir by hand after learning English, his fourth language, from his Guantánamo guards and interrogators, and it was published this week after his lawyer, Nancy Hollander, battled for six years to have the document declassified.

Hollander told the event that Slahi’s descriptions of the abuse that he had suffered at Guantánamo had already been confirmed by both the Senate inquiry and a separate investigation by the FBI…

Hollander said her client had been in a form of legal limbo since the US government lodged an appeal after a US district court judge ordered his release…

The American Civil Liberties Union has launched an online petition demanding Slahi’s release.

One more case where Obama’s Administration matches the incompetence of his neo-con predecessor. Incompetence, that is, at differentiating liberal foreign policy from the conservative flavor. There may be some small difference in the total number of civilians killed. But, the destruction of civil liberties, civil rights, human rights guaranteed by international treaty seem to be consistent between both flavors of imperial arrogance.

Palestine becomes a member of the International Criminal Court


Click to enlargeREUTERS/Francois Lenoir

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has confirmed that the Palestinians will officially become a member of the International Criminal Court on April 1…

On Friday the Palestinians delivered to U.N. headquarters documents on joining the Rome Statute of the ICC and other international treaties, in a move that has heightened tensions with Israel and could lead to cuts in U.S. aid.

Israel will say, Jump! Obama and Congress will ask, “How high?”

The official announcement of the date of the Palestinian accession to the ICC, in the form of a letter from Ban, was posted on a U.N. website. The United Nations is the official depositary of the Rome Statute and many other treaties.

Under ICC rules, Palestinian membership would allow the court, based in The Hague, to exercise jurisdiction over war crimes committed by anyone on Palestinian territory, without a referral from the U.N. Security Council. Israel, like the United States, is not a party to the Rome statute, but its citizens could be tried for actions taken on Palestinian land…

Momentum to recognize a Palestinian state has built since Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas succeeded in a bid for de facto recognition of Palestinian statehood at the U.N. General Assembly in 2012, which made Palestinians eligible to join the ICC.

Overdue.

Also overdue is prosecution of Israel for apartheid, all the fascist practices that government has instituted in territory acquired by force of arms.

Report Card for 10 top world leaders

In a rare poll, citizens on five continents and in 30 countries, including China, were asked to identify and evaluate the job performance of 10 of the most widely recognized global leaders, including Chinese President Xi Jinping, Russian President Vladimir Putin, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, and U.S. President Barack Obama…

Respondents in India (87.8 percent), Russia (79.6 percent), and China (78.6 percent) overwhelmingly said that their home country was moving in the right direction, while only a minority in the United States (44.8 percent), Japan (30.4 percent), and South Africa (29.3 percent) felt their nation was making progress.

WL2
Click to enlarge — click twice for largest size

The results also offer a glimpse into what kinds of information about other nations filter down to the average citizen, Anthony Saich said, “so you can begin to ask questions about how both geopolitics and about how national presses begin to report activities and behavior of other countries and how that reflects onto particular leaders.”

“Two things did surprise me — how well Modi came out. I just put that down to the fact that he’d only just been elected and so I suspect that a lot of people didn’t really know very much about him, and his own nationals were probably still in the phase of him having won the election,” said Saich. “I thought what was interesting, though, was how well Merkel came out across the board. From the surveys, she really emerges as a leader of international respect.”

Saich, who serves as faculty chair of HKS’s China program, said granular data about how Chinese citizens viewed other world leaders was groundbreaking and supports what was generally known already. Their positive assessment of Xi’s performance both at home and abroad is explained by a multitude of factors…

“For a large number of people, life has generally gotten better year by year — more freedom of choice, probably more income, better living conditions, better material conditions, a lot more to watch on the television,” Saich added. “I think that also plays into it.”

Saich doesn’t try to draw too much from the results of this initial survey. It can and will serve as a baseline for returning efforts in the future.

That doesn’t mean that TV talking heads and directly-employed government PR-types won’t try for a special spin. Not that I expect much of that in a nation as parochial as the United States.

While Brennan lied on camera, Feinstein live-tweeted corrections to his lies

CIA director John Brennan gave a press conference on Wednesday afternoon defending the agency from the Senate Intelligence Committee report on the CIA’s use of torture during the Bush administration. During the speech, Sen. Dianne Feinstein — the leading force behind the report — fact-checked Brennan’s assertions. And it was devastating.

For example, when Brennan said it was “unknowable” whether torture was necessary to produce useful intelligence, Feinstein pointed out that the CIA’s own records show that the best intel was obtained without torture:

When Brennan said the CIA didn’t mislead Congress, Feinstein cited CIA sources saying otherwise:

When Brennan said torture provided “useful intelligence,” Feinstein pointed out that — even if that was true — this wasn’t nearly enough to justify its use in legal terms:

Brennan said that tortured detainees provided “useful intelligence” in the hunt for bin Laden. Feinstein points out, correctly, that torture played no role in finding the al-Qaeda chief:

Feinstein also went off on the CIA’s use of torture more generally, dismantling the agency’s legal and practical case for the program as well as its attacks on the report’s credibility:

The whole feed is pretty devastating.

Considering that Feinstein in general terms is an apologist for our network of spies, foreign and domestic – her action in bringing the report forward before Republicans could stonewall it next month is admirable.

Obama finally backs net neutrality — UPDATED

US President Barack Obama voiced support for a new regulatory system for Internet providers aimed at avoiding a two-speed system leaving some services in an online “slow lane.”

Obama endorsed an effort to reclassify the Internet as a public utility to give regulators authority to enforce “net neutrality,” the principle barring Internet service firms from playing favourites or opening up “fast lanes” for those who pay more.

In a statement on Monday, Obama said he wants the independent Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to “implement the strongest possible rules to protect net neutrality.”

Obama’s comment comes as the FCC seeks to draft new rules to replace those struck down this year by a US appeals court, which said the agency lacked authority to regulate Internet service firms as it does telephone carriers.

“‘Net neutrality’ has been built into the fabric of the Internet since its creation – but it is also a principle that we cannot take for granted,” Obama said in a statement.

“We cannot allow Internet service providers to restrict the best access or to pick winners and losers in the online marketplace for services and ideas.” Obama added…

Obama also said he wants the same rules to apply to mobile broadband, which was not covered in the earlier regulations.

Predictable creeps, ranging from profiteers in cable and telecom to absolute ignoranuses like Ted Cruz are lining up according to pay grade to oppose equal access to Web communications. Cruz, of course, is chartered by his owners to oppose anything that contains the word “equal”. The telecom model is simply to lie even more than politicians. Usually about imaginary costs and research.

While we do have some of the most expensive broadband in the world – we’re down to about 18th in the world for the speeds we get for our buck$.

UPDATE: FCC chairman kicks the can down the road – to have backing of rightwing Congress. So much for government agencies dedicated to the good of the whole nation, eh?

The question was “Who votes for an idjit?” The answer in Colorado was – “idjits”

One of the GOP candidates swept into office Tuesday in Colorado was a former Navy chaplain who believes gays are “unhuman” and once performed an on-air exorcism of President Barack Obama.

Gordon Klingenschmitt won just under 70 percent of the vote in the state’s 15th House district, according to the Colorado Springs Gazette. Republicans outnumber Democrats in that district by more than 2 to 1.

Klingenschmitt heads up the Pray in Jesus Name Project, which is designated as an anti-LGBT hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center. The former chaplain hosts a daily “Pray in Jesus Name” program, where homosexuality is by far his favorite topic of discussion.

Right Wing Watch has a great round-up of Klingenschmitt’s most extreme statements. Here’s a sampling:

On gays: “They’re cooperating with the Devil and there is something unhuman inside of them.”

On “curing” a transgender teen: “The parents are encouraging that and really what the parents ought to do is take that boy to an exorcist, take that boy to a minister or at least discipline the boy, maybe give him a spanking…”

On exorcising Obama: “Father in Heaven, we pray against the domestic enemies of the Constitution, against the demon of tyranny who is using the White House occupant and that demonic spirit is oppressing us.”

Apparently, Klingenschmitt himself has realized that those extreme statements could prove problematic during his time as a legislator…”I would say it is time for people of good will on both sides of the political debate to come together to have reasonable discussions about these issues,”

Like most Republicans whose self-image is bound up in the constipated world view of the 14th Century – Klingenschmitt is a liar. Like most of his peers who ran for state and federal office in Colorado – he is a liar. Like most of his peers who ran for national office throughout the United States – he is a liar.

But, that’s OK with the folks who voted for him. They know he is a liar. They accept he is lying to the public in general to get elected and they are smug about being in on the lie. It’s all for a good cause in their tiny little brains – thoroughly absent the part that requires ethics and understands that a changing society offers a chance to learn more about the world and life.

Lying is good. Especially if it leads to Christian Sharia rule.

Thanks, Mike