Three good pieces on Beth Clarkson’s case in Kansas, by IVN’s David Yee:
Election software firm Everyone Counts has raised $20 million in debt and equity financing to push its electronic voting technology into more county and state governments.
The influx of capital comes as the San Diego company awaits federal certification for its secure digital voting system – expected no later than the first quarter of next year, said Chief Executive Lori Steele.
Approval by the Election Assistance Commission would pave the way for county and state elections officials to offer digital voting via computers, tablets or smartphones – both in polling places and remotely.
“The interesting thing is we will be the only software-based voting system that is hardware agnostic that is (EAC) certified – probably for the next two years,” said Steele on Thursday.
By Jeff Schechtman
If the Defense Department, the CIA, and our largest corporations can be hacked, certainly 50 states and over 3,000 separate county systems are no match for individuals or nation states that might want to influence the outcome of elections. This is particularly true because nowadays things in the world of electronics and elections are as complex as ever. Even if we are casting our ballots on the Internet, the process of touch screens, optical scanning, or any kind of tabulation without a paper trail, may leave us vulnerable.
Jonathan Katz, director of the University of Maryland Cybersecurity Center, argues in this podcast with WhoWhatWhy’s Jeff Schechtman that every system is only as strong as its weakest node. He also talks about why every system, short of paper ballots, has some vulnerability and why the combination of voting, technology, and privacy are often competing forces.
By Pam and Russ Martens
Both Fed Chair Janet Yellen and Pope Francis delivered speeches on Thursday of last week that took an odd turn of events. A section of the Pope’s official speech transcript that slammed the finance industry was gutted before the Pope delivered his address to a joint session of Congress. In the case of Yellen, evidence strongly suggests that egregiously bad event planning sabotaged her speech at the University of Massachusetts in Amherst, triggering media hysteria and prognostications of how fast Stanley Fischer, the Fed’s Vice Chairman, would slide into Yellen’s seat as Chair of the Fed.
By Russ Baker
Considering Spy Agency’s Expanding Reach Into Our Lives.
One has to give people the benefit of the doubt when they say they have left the employ of an outfit like the National Security Agency (NSA), which seeks to know, well, almost everything about us.
Nonetheless, we note with interest this development: A former NSA employee has now joined the staff at Uber, the rapidly expanding — some might say exploding — provider of ride shares.
Perhaps, the biggest winners of Citizens United are Charles and David Koch, owners of the second-largest privately run business in America Koch Industries.
Among other things, the Koch brothers own oil refineries in Texas, Alaska, and Minnesota and control some 4,000 miles of pipeline.
According to Forbes Magazine, the Koch brothers are now worth $80 billion, and have increased their wealth by $12 billion since last year alone.
For the Koch brothers, $80 billion in wealth, apparently, is not good enough. Owning the second largest private company in America is, apparently, not good enough. It doesn’t appear that they will be satisfied until they are able to control the entire political process.
What Edwards doesn’t quite acknowledge is the propaganda function of the Western media referring to that multitude of victims not as “refugees” but “migrants”—a euphemistic term that helps obscure the largely US- backed catastrophe that’s driving all those people from their homes, and into Europe (whose governments the US press blames loudly, and conveniently, for this disaster).
“Refugee” or “Migrant”— Which Is Right?
Saturday, 26 September 2015
With almost 60 million people forcibly displaced globally and boat crossings of the Mediterranean in the headlines almost daily, it is becoming increasingly common to see the terms ‘refugee’ and ‘migrant’ being used interchangeably in media and public discourse. But is there a difference between the two, and does it matter?
Yes, there is a difference, and it does matter. The two terms have distinct and different meanings, and confusing them leads to problems for both populations. Here’s why:
Refugees are persons fleeing armed conflict or persecution. There were 19.5 million of them worldwide at the end of 2014. Their situation is often so perilous and intolerable that they cross national borders to seek safety in nearby countries, and thus become internationally recognized as “refugees” with access to assistance from States, UNHCR, and other organizations.
They are so recognized precisely because it is too dangerous for them to return home, and they need sanctuary elsewhere. These are people for whom denial of asylum has potentially deadly consequences.
Refugees are defined and protected in international law. The 1951 Refugee Convention and its 1967 Protocol as well as other legal texts, such as the 1969 OAU Refugee Convention, remain the cornerstone of modern refugee protection. The legal principles they enshrine have permeated into countless other international, regional, and national laws and practices.
The 1951 Convention defines who is a refugee and outlines the basic rights which States should afford to refugees. One of the most fundamental principles laid down in international law is that refugees should not be expelled or returned to situations where their life and freedom would be under threat.
The protection of refugees has many aspects. These include safety from being returned to the dangers they have fled; access to asylum procedures that are fair and efficient; and measures to ensure that their basic human rights are respected to allow them to live in dignity and safety while helping them to find a longer-term solution.
States bear the primary responsibility for this protection. UNHCR therefore works closely with governments, advising and supporting them as needed to implement their responsibilities.
Migrants choose to move not because of a direct threat of persecution or death, but mainly to improve their lives by finding work, or in some cases for education, family reunion, or other reasons. Unlike refugees who cannot safely return home, migrants face no such impediment to return. If they choose to return home, they will continue to receive the protection of their government.
Treating All With Respect and Dignity
For individual governments, this distinction is important. Countries deal with migrants under their own immigration laws and processes. Countries deal with refugees through norms of refugee protection and asylum that are defined in both national legislation and international law.
Countries have specific responsibilities towards anyone seeking asylum on their territories or at their borders. UNHCR helps countries deal with their asylum and refugee protection responsibilities.
Politics has a way of intervening in such debates. Conflating refugees and migrants can have serious consequences for the lives and safety of refugees.
Blurring the two terms takes attention away from the specific legal protections refugees require. It can undermine public support for refugees and the institution of asylum at a time when more refugees need such protection than ever before.
We need to treat all human beings with respect and dignity. We need to ensure that the human rights of migrants are respected. At the same time, we also need to provide an appropriate legal response for refugees, because of their particular predicament.
Both Refugees and Migrants in the Mediterranean
So, back to Europe and the large numbers of people arriving this year and last year by boats in Greece, Italy and elsewhere. Which are they? Refugees or migrants?
In fact, they happen to be both.
The majority of people arriving this year in Italy and Greece especially have been from countries mired in war or which otherwise are considered to be ‘refugee-producing’ and for whom international protection is needed. However, a smaller proportion is from elsewhere, and for many of these individuals, the term ‘migrant’ would be correct.
So, at UNHCR we say ‘refugees and migrants’ when referring to movements of people by sea or in other circumstances where we think both groups may be present – boat movements in Southeast Asia are another example.
We say ‘refugees’ when we mean people fleeing war or persecution across an international border. And we say ‘migrants’ when we mean people moving for reasons not included in the legal definition of a refugee.
We hope that others will give thought to doing the same. Choices about words do matter.
See the bolded paragraph below (and God bless Prof. Tufekci).
Volkswagen and the Era of Cheating Software
SEPT. 23, 2015
FOR the past six years, Volkswagen has been advertising a lie: “top-notch clean diesel” cars — fuel efficient, powerful and compliant with emissions standards for pollutants. It turns out the cars weren’t so clean. They were cheating.
The vehicles used software that cleverly put a lid on emissions during testing, but only then. The rest of the time, the cars spewed up to 40 times the legal limit of nitrogen oxide emissions. The federal government even paid up to $51 million in tax subsidies to some car owners on the false assumption of environmental friendliness.
In a world where more and more objects are run by software, we need to have better ways to catch such cheaters. As the Volkswagen case demonstrates, a smart object can lie and cheat. It can tell when it’s being tested, and it can beat the test.
The good news is that there are well-understood methods to safeguard the integrity of software systems. The bad news is that there is as yet little funding for creating the appropriate regulatory framework for smart objects, or even an understanding of the urgent need for it. We are rightly incensed with Volkswagen, but we should also consider how we have ceded a lot of power to software that runs everything from our devices to our cars, and have not persisted in keeping tabs on it. We correctly worry about hackers and data leaks, but we are largely ignoring the ramifications of introducing software, a form of intelligence, to so many realms — sometimes called the Internet of Things.
Corporate cheating is not novel: that’s why we have regulations to oversee the quality of many objects, ranging from lead in paint to pesticide residue in food. If similar precautions are not extended to the emergent realm of computer-enhanced objects, especially when the software is proprietary and thus completely controlled by the corporation that has huge incentives to exaggerate performance or hide faults during tests for regulatory benchmarks, Volkswagen will be neither the first nor the last scandal of the Internet of Cheating Things.
And cheating on crucial standards is more than slight misconduct. In 1999, in the aftermath of a major earthquake in Turkey, I walked on mangled streets lined by a zigzagged skyline: Some buildings had collapsed into twisted heaps while others next to them stood tall. A seasoned earthquake rescuer explained to me how survival could be so random. Some of the builders cheated on the codes for concrete — too much sand, no interconnecting metal rods to keep the columns in place. Just this month, a powerful earthquake in Chile — where strict building regulations are properly enforced — killed about 20 people, while 17,000 perished in Turkey’s 1999 earthquake.
Cheating software does not generate a trail of dust the way cheating concrete does. Volkswagen’s duplicity had been going on for at least six years. Last year, confronted by higher-than-allowed test results obtained by researchers at a West Virginia University lab, Volkswagen managers claimed that the differences were the result of flaws in the testing and the way the vehicles were being driven, and kept up the apparent deceit for another year. Had it not been for the diligence of researchers in two small labs, one in Germany and one in the United States, they might have gone on cheating without notice.
This isn’t the first instance of a car company caught cheating by using a “defeat device” on emissions tests. In 1998, Ford was fined $7.8 million for using defeat devices that allowed its Econoline vans to reduce emissions to pass testing, and then to exceed pollution limits when driving at highway speeds. The same year, Honda paid $17.1 million in fines for deliberately disabling a “misfire” device that warned about excess emissions. In 1995, General Motors paid $11 million in fines for the “defeat devices” on some of its Cadillac cars, which secretly overrode the emissions control system at times. The largest penalty for defeat devices to date was an $83.4 million fine in 1998 on Caterpillar, Volvo, Renault and other manufacturers.
Computational devices that are vulnerable to cheating are not limited to cars. Consider, for example, voting machines. Just a few months ago, the Virginia State Board of Elections finally decertified the use of a touch-screen voting machine called “AVS WinVote.” It turned out that the password was hard-wired to “admin” — a default password so common that it would be among the first three terms any hacker would try. There were no controls on changes that could be made to the database tallying the votes. If the software fraudulently altered election results, there would be virtually no way of detecting the fraud since everything, including the evidence of the tampering, could be erased.
If software is so smart and its traces of tampering are possible to erase, does this mean that we have no hope of catching cheaters? Not at all. We simply need to adopt and apply well-known methods for testing computing devices.
First, smart objects must be tested “in the wild” and not just in the lab, under the conditions where they will actually be used and with methods that don’t alert the device that it’s being tested. For cars, that means putting the emissions detector in the tail pipe of a running vehicle out on the highway. For voting machines that do not have an auditable paper trail, that means “parallel testing” — randomly selecting some machines on Election Day, and voting on them under observation to check their tallies. It is otherwise too easy for the voting machine software to behave perfectly well on all days of the year except, say, Nov. 8, 2016.
Second, manufacturers must not be allowed to use copyright claims on their software to block research into their systems, as car companies and voting machine manufacturers have repeatedly tried to do. There are proprietary commercial interests at stake, but there are many ways to deal with this obstacle, including creating special commissions with full access to the code under regulatory supervision.
Third, we need to regulate what software is doing through its outputs. It’s simply too easy to slip in a few lines of malicious code to a modern device. So the public can’t always know if the device is working properly — but we can check its operation by creating auditable and hard-to-tamper-with logs of how the software is running that regulators can inspect.
None of this is impossible. There is one industry in particular that employs many of these safeguards in an admirable fashion: slot machines in casinos. These machines, which in some ways present the perfect cheating scenario, are run by software designed by the manufacturers without a centralized database of winnings and losses to check if frequencies of losses are excessive. Despite all these temptations, in many jurisdictions, these machines run some of the best regulated software in the country. The machines are legally allowed to win slightly more often than lose, of course, ensuring a tidy profit for the casinos (and tax revenues for the local governments) without cheating on the disclosed standards.
It’s a pity that casinos have better scrutiny of their software than the code running our voting machines, cars and many other vital objects, including medical devices and even our infrastructure. As computation spreads in society, our regulatory systems need to be funded appropriately and updated in their methods so that keeping our air clean and our elections honest is not a worse gamble than a slot machine.
Zeynep Tufekci is an assistant professor at the School of Information and Library Science at the University of North Carolina and a contributing opinion writer.
By Jonathan Cook
In autumn 2002 Ed Vulliamy, a correspondent for Britain’s SundayObserver newspaper, stumbled on a terrible truth that many of us already suspected.
In a world-exclusive, he persuaded Mel Goodman, a former senior Central Intelligence Agency official who still had security clearance, to go on record that the CIA knew there were no WMD in Iraq. Everything the US and British governments were telling us to justify the coming attack on Iraq were lies.
“While We Were Sleeping”
Orwell Rolls In His Grave, featuring MCM – Buy the DVD
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