Justice Department investigated journalists 14 times during 2014

bkncn-20141115000317306-1115_05411_001_01b

A Justice Department report says the US government questioned, arrested or subpoenaed journalists 14 times during 2014, including the high-profile subpoena issued to New York Times reporter James Risen.

Former US attorney general Eric Holder said in February 2014 that the department would release information on how law enforcement officials use its tool to investigate the news media.

The four-page annual report released on Friday includes 14 incidents, including the subpoena issued to Risen, who refused to divulge his CIA source for a chapter of his book about the Iran nuclear program. The informant, Jeffrey Sterling, was convicted on nine counts in January.

“Today’s report is an important step in the Justice Department’s ongoing efforts to promote the freedom of the press, to keep the American people informed and to improve transparency and accountability regarding media-related process,” said attorney general Loretta Lynch.

Also included in the report are a handful of attorney general-authorized questions, arrests, charges or subpoenas for court orders or search warrants.

Most of the cases involved the department attempting to get information about criminal investigations obtained through reporting, often with the news companies voluntarily submitting to questioning or complying with the department’s request…

Lynch said the report includes the information, so blah, blah, blah-de-blah.

You don’t need the actual words, do you? If you’re the sort of curious mind, the kind of individual who feels individual liberties must not be set aside in the normal course of growth and progress, you know the boiler-plate phrases our politicians are accustomed to rolling out to make us all calm and quiet.

Well, most of us. The ones who think limits on political parties, a tame press, theocracy and ignorance are all part of the natural state of affairs.

The price of rejecting the Iran treaty


UN Security Council voting to remove Iran sanctions

The Iran nuclear deal offers a long-term solution to one of the most urgent threats of our time. Without this deal, Iran, the world’s leading state sponsor of terrorism, would be less than 90 days away from having enough fissile material to make a nuclear bomb. This deal greatly reduces the threat of Iran’s nuclear program, making Iran’s breakout time four times as long, securing unprecedented access to ensure that we will know if Iran cheats and giving us the leverage to hold it to its commitments.

Israel cheats – and that’s OK with Congress.

Those calling on Congress to scrap the deal argue that the United States could have gotten a better deal, and still could, if we unilaterally ramped up existing sanctions, enough to force Iran to dismantle its entire nuclear program or even alter the character of its regime wholesale. This assumption is a dangerous fantasy, flying in the face of economic and diplomatic reality…

In the eyes of the world, the nuclear agreement — endorsed by the United Nations Security Council and more than 90 other countries — addresses the threat of Iran’s nuclear program by constraining it for the long term and ensuring that it will be exclusively peaceful. If Congress now rejects this deal, the elements that were fundamental in establishing that international consensus will be gone.

The simple fact is that, after two years of testing Iran in negotiations, the international community does not believe that ramping up sanctions will persuade Iran to eradicate all traces of its hard-won civil nuclear program or sever its ties to its armed proxies in the region. Foreign governments will not continue to make costly sacrifices at our demand.

Indeed, they would more likely blame us for walking away from a credible solution to one of the world’s greatest security threats, and would continue to re-engage with Iran. Instead of toughening the sanctions, a decision by Congress to unilaterally reject the deal would end a decade of isolation of Iran and put the United States at odds with the rest of the world…

We must remember recent history. In 1996, in the absence of any other international support for imposing sanctions on Iran, Congress tried to force the hands of foreign companies, creating secondary sanctions that threatened to penalize them for investing in Iran’s energy sector. The idea was to force international oil companies to choose between doing business with Iran or the United States, with the expectation that all would choose us.

This outraged our foreign partners, particularly the European Union, which threatened retaliatory action and referral to the World Trade Organization and passed its own law prohibiting companies from complying. The largest oil companies of Europe and Asia stayed in Iran until, more than a decade later, we built a global consensus around the threat posed by Iran and put forward a realistic diplomatic means of addressing it.

The deal we reached last month is strong, unprecedented and good for America, with all the key elements the international community demanded to stop Iran from getting a nuclear weapon. Congress should approve this deal and ignore critics who offer no alternative.

By JACOB J. LEW, US Secretary of the treasury

The point of any negotiations is a context of agreement upon what is possible – not what is ideology. I feel equally strong about the hypocrisy of our government’s fealty to Israel – a nation which has rejected the Nuclear Proliferation Treaty, has a deadly stockpile of nuclear weapons and consistently threatens all of its neighbors. I think Israel should bear the weight of sanctions equal to those applied to Iran – and I’m also perfectly aware our government will continue to be decades out-of-date – and there is no chance at present that honesty will prevail.

So, I support the premise of honoring this agreement.

The ethics of modern web ad-blocking

More than fifteen years ago, in response to decreasing ad rates and banner blindness, web advertisers and publishers adopted pop-up ads.

People hated pop-up ads. We tolerated in-page banners as an acceptable cost of browsing free websites, but pop-ups were over the line: they were too annoying and intrusive. Many website publishers claimed helplessness in serving them — the ads came from somewhere else that they had little control over, they said. They really needed the money from pop-ups to stay afloat, they said.

The future didn’t work out well for pop-ups. Pop-up-blocking software boomed, and within a few years, every modern web browser blocked almost all pop-ups by default.

A line had been crossed, and people fought back.

People often argue that running ad-blocking software is violating an implied contract between the reader and the publisher: the publisher offers the page content to the reader for free, in exchange for the reader seeing the publisher’s ads. And that’s a nice, simple theory…

By that implied-contract theory, readers should not only permit their browsers to load the ads, but they should actually read each one, giving themselves a chance to develop an interest for the advertised product or service and maybe even click on it and make a purchase. That’s also a nice theory, but of course, it’s ridiculous to expect anyone to actually do that.

Ads have always been a hopeful gamble, not required consumption. Before the web, people changed channels or got up during TV commercials, or skipped right over ads in newspapers and magazines. Pragmatic advertisers and publishers know that their job is to try to show you an ad and hope you see and care about it. They know that the vast majority of people won’t, and the ads are priced accordingly. The burden is on the advertisers and publishers to create ads that you’ll care about and present them in a way that you’ll tolerate.

And the invention of time-shifting DVRs also made skipping or slipping over adverts possible. A delight.

Web ads are dramatically different from prior ad media, though — rather than just being printed on paper or inserted into a broadcast, web ads are software. They run arbitrary code on your computer, which can (and usually does) collect and send data about you and your behavior back to the advertisers and publishers…

All of that tracking and data collection is done without your knowledge, and — critically — without your consent…There’s no opportunity for disclosure, negotiation, or reconsideration. By following any link, you unwittingly opt into whatever the target site, and any number of embedded scripts from other sites and tracking networks, wants to collect, track, analyze, and sell about you.

RTFA. More detail and analysis is in there…including Marco’s preferences and choices for auxiliary software to inhibit the ad beasties from populating your life.

Poisonally, I almost walked away from WordPress when the decision was made to go with automatic video commercials for advertising on wordpress.com blogs. It drove me nuts just trying to edit and formulate my posts. I finally had to load ad blocking software to retain what little sanity I have.

I think this will be the latest straw that breaks the back of IP providers. This choice of instant-on blather. I’ve seen the wee compensation I receive from adverts on my blog diminish by over half since self-starting videos appeared. Which means our readers are as offended by obnoxious as I am. Money is not why I blog – still, I may choose to go elsewhere if there is an elsewhere without this crap.

Thanks, Om

Humans were the dominant cause of the extinction of giant beasts

Scientists at the universities of Exeter and Cambridge claim their research settles a prolonged debate over whether humankind or climate change was the dominant cause of the demise of massive creatures in the time of the sabretooth tiger, the woolly mammoth, the woolly rhino and the giant armadillo.

Known collectively as megafauna, most of the largest mammals ever to roam the earth were wiped out over the last 80,000 years, and were all extinct by 10,000 years ago.

Lewis Bartlett, of the University of Exeter, led the research…He said cutting-edge statistical analysis had helped solve the mystery almost beyond dispute, concluding that man was the dominant force in wiping out the creatures, although climate change could also have played a lesser role.

The researchers ran thousands of scenarios which mapped the windows of time in which each species is known to have become extinct, and humans are known to have arrived on different continents or islands. This was compared against climate reconstructions for the last 90,000 years.

Examining different regions of the world across these scenarios, they found coincidences of human spread and species extinction which illustrate that man was the main agent causing the demise, with climate change exacerbating the number of extinctions. However, in certain regions of the world — mainly in Asia — they found patterns which patterns were broadly unaccounted for by either of these two drivers, and called for renewed focus on these neglected areas for further study.

Bartlett…said: “As far as we are concerned, this research is the nail in the coffin of this 50-year debate — humans were the dominant cause of the extinction of megafauna. What we don’t know is what it was about these early settlers that caused this demise. Were they killing them for food, was it early use of fire or were they driven out of their habitats? Our analysis doesn’t differentiate, but we can say that it was caused by human activity more than by climate change. It debunks the myth of early humans living in harmony with nature.”

Matches my own subjective, unscientific feelings derived from wandering physically and intellectually through the Colorado Plateau. Not only large species; but, small to medium animals vanished with the arrival of the Athabascan peoples.

Leaving behind bones gnawed by humans.