A letter to the Senate from a few folks working in technology

tech logos

Dear Members of the Senate:

It’s been a year since the first headlines alleging the extent of government surveillance on the Internet.

We understand that governments have a duty to protect their citizens. But the balance in many countries has tipped too far in favor of the state and away from the rights of the individual. This undermines the freedoms we all cherish, and it must change.

Over the last year many of our companies have taken important steps, including further strengthening the security of our services and taking action to increase transparency. But the government needs to do more.

In the next few weeks, the Senate has the opportunity to demonstrate leadership and pass a version of the USA Freedom Act that would help restore the confidence of Internet users here and around the world, while keeping citizens safe.

Unfortunately, the version that just passed the House of Representatives could permit bulk collection of Internet “metadata” (e.g. who you email and who emails you), something that the Administration and Congress said they intended to end. Moreover, while the House bill permits some transparency, it is critical to our customers that the bill allow companies to provide even greater detail about the number and type of government requests they receive for customer information.

It is in the best interest of the United States to resolve these issues. Confidence in the Internet, both in the U.S. and internationally, has been badly damaged over the last year. It is time for action. As the Senate takes up this important legislation, we urge you to ensure that U.S. surveillance efforts are clearly restricted by law, proportionate to the risks, transparent, and subject to independent oversight.

Signed,

Tim Armstrong, AOL
Tim Cook, Apple
Drew Houston, Dropbox
Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook
Larry Page, Google
Jeff Weiner, LinkedIn
Dick Costolo, Twitter
Satya Nadella, Microsoft
Marissa Mayer, Yahoo!

Roman Catholic Church in Ireland turned septic tank into mass grave

The Roman Catholic Church in Ireland is facing fresh accusations of child neglect after a researcher found records for 796 young children believed to be buried in a mass grave beside a former orphanage for the children of unwed mothers.

The researcher, Catherine Corless, says her discovery of child death records at the Catholic nun-run home in Tuam, County Galway, suggests that a former septic tank filled with bones is the final resting place for most, if not all, of the children.

Church leaders in Galway, western Ireland, said they had no idea so many children who died at the orphanage had been buried there, and said they would support local efforts to mark the spot with a plaque listing all 796 children.

County Galway death records showed that the children, mostly babies and toddlers, died often of sickness or disease in the orphanage during the 35 years it operated from 1926 to 1961.

The building, which had previously been a workhouse for homeless adults, was torn down decades ago to make way for new houses.

A 1944 government inspection recorded evidence of malnutrition among some of the 271 children then living in the Tuam orphanage alongside 61 unwed mothers. The death records cite sicknesses, diseases, deformities and premature births as causes.

Elderly residents recalled that the children attended a local school – but were segregated from other pupils – until they were adopted or placed, around age 7 or 8, into church-run industrial schools that featured unpaid labour and abuse.

In keeping with Catholic teaching, such out-of-wedlock children were denied baptism and, if they died at such facilities, Christian burial.

Treating the dead with such contempt is almost as criminal as killing them directly. And now that this discovery has reached the light of day – the next question is being asked by Irish citizens who care for the dead as well as the living. How many more charnel pits like this are there at the centers of Catholic “charity” throughout Ireland?

Thanks, Mike

41 people charged in phony dead deer insurance scam

imitation deer

Forty-one people are facing charges in an elaborate insurance fraud scheme that used dead deer to fake car accidents.

Prosecutors in Philadelphia say that Ronald Galati Sr. ran a $5 million scam out of his auto body shop, reports The Associated Press.

Galati allegedly coached customers to claim they’d struck a deer rather than a car. That way, insurance companies would consider them “no fault” accidents and pay the claims without raising the customers’ premiums.

Deer blood, carcasses and fur were found in the back of his shop to use as props.

Prosecutors say that Galati’s wife, son and daughter, several insurance adjusters, tow truck drivers, a city official and a police officer were also charged.

I wonder if they ever used parrots?

SCOTUS won’t stop gay marriage in Oregon

The U.S. Supreme Court rejected a conservative group’s move to halt same-sex marriages in Oregon in a brief order Wednesday.

The Oregon attorney general has refused to challenge a judge’s ruling in May that found the state’s ban on gay marriage unconstitutional. The National Organization for Marriage has been attempting to win standing to appeal.

In a filing Tuesday with Justice Anthony Kennedy, who handles emergency matters for Western states, NOM said that in Oregon a position decided by voters in a referendum was “invalidated at the behest and encouragement of its elected officials.” Oregon held the vote in 2004 after Multnomah County, which includes the city of Portland, issued marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

Kennedy referred the matter to the entire court, which issued a one-sentence decision denying the group’s request.

“The application for stay presented to Justice [Anthony] Kennedy and by him referred to the Court is denied…” In case you wondered what that sentence was.