Snowden addresses HOPE Conference


Barton Gellman/Getty Images/AP

Edward Snowden, the former U.S. spy agency contractor who leaked details of major U.S. surveillance programs, called on supporters at a hacking conference to spur development of easy-to-use technologies to subvert government surveillance programs around the globe.

Snowden, who addressed conference attendees on Saturday via video link from Moscow, said he intends to devote much of his time to promoting such technologies, including ones that allow people to communicate anonymously and encrypt their messages…

At the HOPE hacking conference, several talks detailed approaches for thwarting government surveillance, including a system known as SecureDrop that is designed to allow people to anonymously leak documents to journalists.

Attorneys with the Electronic Frontier Foundation answered questions about pending litigation with the NSA, including efforts to stop collection of phone records that were disclosed through Snowden’s leaks.

Snowden is seen as a hero by a large segment of the community of hackers attending the HOPE conference [and the nation and the world], which includes computer experts, anti-surveillance activists, artists and other types of hackers.

HOPE in this case stands for Hackers On Planet Earth.

And if you think every kind of government snoop wasn’t doing their best to photogrqph, record and trace everyone at the conference – you’re still living in cloud cuckoo-land — watching Father Knows Best on TV.

Reconnecting severed nerves with liquid metal

When peripheral nerves are severed, the loss of function leads to atrophy of the effected muscles, a dramatic change in quality of life and, in many cases, a shorter life expectancy.

Despite decades of research, nobody has come up with an effective way to reconnect nerves that have been severed. Various techniques exist to sew the ends back together or to graft nerves into the gap that is created between severed ends.

Ultimately, the success of these techniques depends on the ability of the nerve ends to grow back and knit together. But given that nerves grow at the rate of one mm per day, it can take a significant amount of time, sometimes years, to reconnect. And during this time, the muscles can degrade beyond repair, leading to long-term disability…

Today, Jing Liu at Tsinghua University in Beijing and a few pals say they’ve reconnected severed nerves using liquid metal for the first time. And they say that in conducting electrical signals between the severed ends of a nerve, the metal dramatically outperforms the standard saline electrolyte used to preserve the electrical properties of living tissue.

Biomedical engineers have been eyeing the liquid metal alloy gallium-indium-selenium for some time (67 percent Ga, 20.5 percent In and 12.5 percent Sn by volume). This material is liquid at body temperature and is thought to be entirely benign. Consequently, they have been studying various ways of using it inside the body, such as for imaging.

Now a team of Chinese biomedical engineers say the metal’s electrical properties could help preserve the function of nerves while they regenerate. And they’ve carried out the first experiments to show that the technique is viable

What’s more, since liquid metal clearly shows up in x-rays, it can be easily removed from the body when it is no longer needed using a microsyringe.

…Their goal is to make special conduits for reconnecting severed nerves that contain liquid metal to preserve electrical conduction and therefore muscle function, but also containing growth factor to promote nerve regeneration…

So it’s just possible that liquid metal will become an important component in the treatment of nerve injuries in future.

Bravo! Something I’d volunteer for in a New York minute. RTFA for surgical details.

Even though I’m an old fart I’d gladly offer to participate if there was a chance of aiding folks in following generations. Good research always needs a few warm bodies to check on final results.

An alternative solution to America’s probation problem?

Paradise on earth is how most people know Hawaii – white sandy beaches and coconut palms. But there are Hawaiians living outside the frame on the picture postcard.

The roughly 8 million tourists who visit the state each year attract a lot of property crime. Even an ocean away from the mainland, the methamphetamine market is thriving. The islands have jails and prisons, and plenty of people to fill them. But Judge Steven Alm is trying to bring his home state a little bit closer to the paradise people imagine.

To do that, he’s spearheaded an alternative probation program, one that delivers immediate consequences – often jail time — for each and every infraction. The program is tough on crime, while also keeping people out of prison. And this double feat has made it a nascent darling in the world of criminal justice policy, with states across the political spectrum seeking it out as a model…

From the deputy prosecuting attorney for Honolulu to the U.S. Attorney for Hawaii and finally judge, Alm won the respect of the law enforcement community…

That reputation gave Alm an opportunity. He knew Hawaii and the justice system. He also knew it needed a change, particularly the probation program.

…Probation is a great way to keep people out of prison, help them rebuild their lives and ease the burden on taxpayers.

The problem is that probationers rampantly violate the rules, and are often sent back to prison is at the discretion of the probation officer or presiding judge. How those authorities respond to violations varies widely from state to state, according to a 2007 Pew Study, with “enormous implications” for prison population size, cost and public safety…

In 2004, Alm founded HOPE, short for Hawaii’s Opportunity Probation with Enforcement. Its central principle is simple, Alm explained: “If there are any violations of probation, they’re going to go to jail.”

There also are opportunities and judicial/parole officer discretion exists especially for probationers who are honest and timely about reporting and discussing violations. This was an excellent piece of news reporting – and I hope the video is available sooner rather than later.

Please RTFA. It’s longish and thoughtful. Judge Alm’s system is bringing results – at a minimum 55% of probationers do not re-offend. Other qualities measured have even better results.

So far, 17 states and a number of other countries are on board to give his system a trial. No, New Mexico isn’t one of them; I can’t offer any local evidence.

But, please, read the whole article. If you have access to AJAM, AlJazeera in America from your TV content providers, watch for the documentary on one of their evening news programs. I imagine they’ll rerun it.

German parliament called to hold session on U.S. spying

The German parliament will hold a special session in November on alleged U.S. spying that included monitoring of mobile phone communications of Chancellor Angela Merkel, the chancellor’s party said Monday…

There have been calls for a special parliamentary investigative committee on the spying accusations, with some deputies demanding to summon whistleblower Edward Snowden to act as a witness.

Germany’s Justice Minister Sabine Leutheusser-Schnarrenberger told local media on Monday that the German Federal Prosecutor’s Office will have to consider the possibility of interrogating Snowden as a witness if suspicions on the spying prove correct and a case is opened…

German newspaper Bild am Sonntag newspaper reported on Sunday that U.S. President Barack Obama was aware of the alleged monitoring of mobile phone communications of Merkel years ago, but the claim was denied by the U.S. side.

The German government has voiced its anger at possible U.S. intelligence’s tapping of Merkel’s phone, saying it would be “a serious breach of trust” if confirmed.

High-ranking representatives of German security services as well as the chancellery will travel to Washington this week to seek clarifications of widespread spying allegations, German government spokesman Georg Streiter said on Friday.

Some members of the German Parliament want to offer Snowden asylum in Germany – adding to the list of nations willing to do so. “Christian Ströbele of the Green Party has proposed granting asylum to Snowden in Germany – or providing him with witness protection, at the very least. “He’s an important, but vulnerable, witness…”

It’s understandable why every failing church from the Vatican to fundamentalist Protestant sects looks to the United States to be their bastion against change. We are the last best hope of preservation through hypocrisy.

We condemn those nation-states which support violence against our country in the name of regime change – and pile on sanctions, fund guerilla bands and bandits doing exactly the same in other lands. We condemn spying by other countries on political and commercial entities within our borders – and lead the world in the use of technology to spy on every other nations’ political leaders and corporate commanders.

Franklin D. Roosevelt Four Freedoms Park to open

In the future days, which we seek to make secure, we look forward to a world founded upon four essential human freedoms.

The first is freedom of speech and expression—everywhere in the world.

The second is freedom of every person to worship God in his own way—everywhere in the world.

The third is freedom from want—which, translated into world terms, means economic understandings which will secure to every nation a healthy peacetime life for its inhabitants—everywhere in the world.

The fourth is freedom from fear—which, translated into world terms, means a world-wide reduction of armaments to such a point and in such a thorough fashion that no nation will be in a position to commit an act of physical aggression against any neighbor—anywhere in the world.

That is no vision of a distant millennium. It is a definite basis for a kind of world attainable in our own time and generation. That kind of world is the very antithesis of the so-called new order of tyranny which the dictators seek to create with the crash of a bomb.

—Franklin D. Roosevelt

The park — a memorial to Franklin Delano Roosevelt — was conceived four decades ago. The visionary architect who designed it died in 1974…

But in a city proud of its own impatience, perseverance sometimes pays off. Next month, on that triangular plot on the southern end of Roosevelt Island, the four-acre Franklin D. Roosevelt Four Freedoms Park will open, a belated and monumental triumph for New York and for everyone who cares about architecture and public space.

Here’s a link to the article about the history of this park.

Just in case you wonder how “Har!” made it into my vocabulary?

There is nothing quite like a bit of spring sunshine for raising the spirits. It seems instantly to chase away the gloom that has descended during the dark winter days, and most of us will have been invigorated by this year’s Easter sunshine.

For those who live near the east coast, however, it was not a case of wall-to-wall sunshine. From time to time, there were unwelcome visits from an old friend, the haar

In Scotland, a haar is a kind of sea fog which creeps in from the North Sea to cover the area near the east coast when the rest of the country is basking in brilliant sunshine.

An east coast haar, pronounced like far, is a deeply depressing experience. It is not as if any warmth remains amidst the fog. Far from it. A haar is not only dark, dank and damp, but often so cold that it seems to penetrate your very bones. Those of us who live in haar country should be used to it by now, but it often catches us by surprise…

Sometimes the haar deals out even crueller treatment. We awake to rejoice in the brilliant sunshine – then the haar descends about mid-morning, just as we have assembled the picnic things and the beach umbrella. The sunshine that we were enjoying has been callously taken away from us…

The word haar originally referred to a cold easterly wind before it took on its cold fog meaning, and it is derived from a Low German and Middle Dutch word hare, meaning a biting cold wind. The biting cold part has stayed with us.

When I left the northeast coast of the United States – as my grandparents left the east coast of PEI – I discovered that a cold easterly wind, quite common in a New Mexico winter, often gives way to a clearing breeze from the northeast and eventually sunshine and warming. I have tempered what is a dour comment in my ethnic past with clear skies and sunlight – which is after all a sign of hope.

Har has become reasonably positive – with a remembrance of irony.

Inauguration souvenir that lasts longer than a t-shirt

Daylife/AFP/Getty Images

For those who want a more permanent way to showcase their support for Barack Obama, Washington’s tattoo parlors are ready to help.

“There’s nothing more memorable than a tattoo,” said Matt Jessup, better known as “Fatty,” the owner of Fatty’s Custom Tattooz and Body Piercing.

His shop is celebrating what it has dubbed the “Obamathan,” where customers can get a free “Obama ’08” logo tattoo if they buy another tattoo worth $200. The Obama tattoo, Fatty says, is worth $70…

The most popular choices so far have been the Obama logo, the word “hope,” and the now iconic red-and-blue Obama hope poster by Shepard Fairey.

None of the shop owners reported any history of George W. Bush tattoos.

I’m still not a fan of tattoos. Makes it too easy to be identified.

Artist finds HOPE after LOVE

The Maine artist who brought LOVE to the world is doing the same with HOPE.

Robert Indiana decades ago created the pop icon LOVE, known worldwide with its letters stacked two to a line, the letter “o” tilted on its side. Now he has created a similar image with HOPE, with proceeds going to Democrat Barack Obama’s presidential campaign.

A stainless steel sculpture of the image was unveiled this week outside the Pepsi Center at the Democratic National Convention in Denver. The campaign is selling T-shirts, pins, bumper stickers and other items adorned with HOPE.

Indiana’s…best-known work is LOVE, which he designed for a Christmas card for The Museum of Modern Art in 1964. The U.S. Postal Service featured it on a stamp in 1973, selling 333 million of them.

The McCain campaign had no comment on the Obama campaign’s use of the image. No HOPE. No kidding.