“The metadata the government collects isn’t just a list of numbers dialed and times—it’s a window into the lives of millions of Americans,” EFF Staff Attorney Mark Rumold said. “The law should provide the highest level of protection for this kind of information. The technology experts who signed the brief provide a valuable perspective for the court to consider.”
The ACLU filed its lawsuit against the Director of National Intelligence, NSA, Department of Defense, Department of Justice and FBI last year after former intelligence contractor Edward Snowden revealed a secret legal order allowing for the indiscriminate capture of call metadata from Verizon Business Services.
EFF represents 17 professors who signed onto the brief, including: Profs. Harold Abelson and Ron Rivest of the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology; Prof. Andrew Appel, chair of Princeton University’s computer science department; Prof. Steven Bellovin of Columbia University’s computer science department; and Matthew Blaze, an associate professor in the University of Pennsylvania’s Computer and Information Science Department. Other experts signed on to the brief come from Johns Hopkins University, the University of Michigan, Rice University and Purdue.
“Metadata equals surveillance,” said security expert and EFF board member Bruce Schneier, another signer of the brief. “It’s who we talk to, what we read, and where we go. When the president says ‘don’t worry, it’s only metadata,’ what he’s really saying is that you’re all under surveillance.”
The ballot paper for the contest, which was published by parliament, disclosed that Crimean voters will be given two options: either immediate “reunification” with Russia, or adopting the “1992 constitution” — which gives parliament the power to vote to join Russia.
The status quo, whereby Crimea has autonomy within Ukraine, does not appear on the ballot paper. In practise, experts said that this amounted to giving voters the choice between joining Russia immediately or joining Russia after a short delay.
Also see: blog.foreignpolicy.com
Via YouTuber Fabio Baccaglioni comes a solemn compilation of rocket launch failures, from the early days of space exploration to present. That it’s just shy of 32 minutes long is a testament to something that can’t be overemphasized: getting to space is hard. It’s grueling, it’s dangerous, and, as we all know too well, it can be deadly.
[Fabio Baccaglioni via Universe Today]
Intense opposition from the National Rifle Assn. has all but doomed prospects for President Obama’s nominee for surgeon general, officials said Saturday as pro-gun Senate Democrats peeled away from the White House on a volatile issue in an election year.
Facing a potential high-profile setback for the president, the White House is not pushing for a vote to confirm Dr. Vivek Hallegere Murthy, a Harvard- and Yale-educated internist and former emergency room doctor who has advocated for stricter gun control laws, the officials said.
Democratic leaders in the Senate have begun surveying senators to determine whether there is enough support to save the troubled nomination. Few Republicans are expected to back Murthy, and as many as eight Democrats also could be opposed.
“We don’t expect a vote to happen,” a Senate aide said.
The Susan B. Anthony (SBA) List will go after vulnerable Democratic senators in conservative Southern states during this mid-term election season, said the group’s president, Marjorie Dannenfelser, at a donors’ conference in Washington, D.C.
On Wednesday, the SBA List—a national nonprofit that tries to influence congressional elections with the stated mission of reducing and ultimately ending legal abortion in the United States—hosted its 2014 Campaign for Life Summit, a four-and-a-half-hour conference that included discussion among congressional leaders and anti-choice advocates on the best strategies for the GOP to gain electoral ground during this mid-term election year and to try to make abortion bans at 20 weeks national policy.
The SBA List’s strategy is crucial given the multiple governors races during this election cycle. And abortion continues to be a prominent issue at state and federal levels, evidenced by money flowing from so-called free-market organizations to groups such as the SBA List.
Posted by on March 14, 2014 at 10:57 AM EDT
Tomorrow evening, Jews in America, Israel and around the globe will celebrate Purim, a holiday known for costumes, carnivals and noisemakers. Even rabbis and synagogue presidents dress up for a playful re-telling of the holiday story during Purim spoofs called spiels. With all the fun of the holiday, it’s also important to remember Purim’s more serious underlying themes of persecution and survival in the face of the planned genocide of ancient Persia’s Jews. Based on events over 2,000 years ago, these themes resonate throughout the centuries and in today’s world as well. By speaking up and speaking out, justice will triumph over evil.
At the center of the Purim story is the powerful and wealthy King Achashverosh, his brave new bride Queen Esther, her wise uncle Mordecai and the villain of the story, Haman, the king’s advisor who was determined to rid the land of the Jewish “outsiders.” As queen, Esther conceals her Jewishness in order to work with Mordecai to help save their people. All of the evil plans, court intrigues, power shifts and the eventual triumph of good over evil are recorded in the Scroll of Esther or the megillah, which is read aloud as the holiday begins each year. Tradition demands that each time the name of Haman is uttered, it is drowned out by noisemakers and yells so that no one has to hear the name of this evil man.
One of Purim’s special traditions is the sharing of hamantashen and other gifts of food with friends while it is also traditional to give gifts to the poor, particularly donations of money that recall the price put on the head of every Jew in Esther’s Persia. We are taught to give generously on Purim. One never knows what tomorrow will bring.
As for hamantaschen, special treats associated with the holiday, folklore says the three-cornered shape of these filled pastries represents the shape of Haman’s hat. However, the word taschen meant “pockets” in old German—as in Haman lining his pockets with the King’s riches—while mohn is the poppy seed paste that is the most traditional filling for the pastries. Some people say they were originally called “mohntaschen” but eventually the name became haman-taschen for obvious reasons. And why poppy seed? It recalls the clandestine way Esther was able to maintain her Jewish identity and keep kosher in the palace by eating vegetarian including seeds and nuts.
Here are two hamantaschen recipes, one an easy take on the classic Ashkenazic (Eastern European) hamantaschen and the other a three-cornered savory treat from Sephardic cuisine. The recipes are provided by Susan Barocas, who most recently led the launch of the Jewish Food Experience project in Washington, DC.
This recipe makes a non-diary, crispy pastry that is good with a variety of fillings. The oranges juice and zest add extra flavor. The dough also makes a good cookie including thumb print that can be filled as desired.
5-5 1/2 cups all-purpose flour*
3 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 cup vegetable oil
3/4 cup sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/4 cup orange juice or water
2 teaspoon grated orange rind
Fillings of choice including poppy seed (mohn in Yiddish), prune butter (lekvar), hazelnut chocolate spread, lemon curd, thick fruit preserve, crumbled halvah
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease baking sheet or cover with parchment paper. Add flour and baking power to a bowl and blend with a dry whisk. Use the whisk to beat the eggs in separate larger bowl. Add oil, sugar, vanilla and orange juice or water and beat until well blended and creamy. Mix in grated rind. Add flour mixture to the wet ingredients gradually, mixing in completely each time with a wooden spoon. Once the dough can be formed into a ball not too sticky to handle, knead it together until smooth.
All of the steps up to this point can also be done in a food processor fit with steel blades. Blend the wet ingredients, then add the flour gradually until a ball forms and continue to roll, fill and fold.
Once the dough is in a smooth ball, pull off a large piece and roll to 1/4 inch thick on a lightly floured board or counter. Cut into 3 to 3 1/2-inch rounds; the top of a glass works quite well. Place about 1 teaspoon of filling of choice in the center of each round. Moisten around the edge of the dough circle, then fold into a triangle, pinching each corner closed and leaving some filling showing. Bake 20 to 25 minutes just until starting to barely golden brown. Yield: about 3 dozen
*To add some whole grain, you can trade out up to half the all-purpose flour for white whole wheat flour.
Understanding your enemy is critical if you want to defeat them:
In early June, Perrigo asked the department for more information on Femcare’s inspection history, as well as those of abortion clinics in Charlotte, Fayetteville and Wilmington, according to other emails provided by DHHS. A month later, on July 11, an aide to Rep. Sarah Stevens, a Republican from Mount Airy who sponsored the House’s version of the abortion bill, asked DHHS in an email for information on “the types of problems found in the abortion clinics that were not closed” during recent inspections.
A resulting records check at DHHS noted that Femcare hadn’t been cited with any major deficiencies since 2006, the date of the clinic’s last licensure inspection. Small problems had cropped up in other, more limited inspections at the clinic since that date, but they had been quickly rectified, the documents indicate.
A week later, on July 18 and 19, DHHS performed an unannounced inspection at Femcare, setting the stage for the clinic’s suspension.
It’s obvious the actions of Republicans in the General Assembly were focused on creating legislation which would bring about the closing of most (if not all) abortion clinics in the state, a direct assault on the rights of women in North Carolina. And it was also obvious the Governor’s office tried to get the most mileage out of the subsequent closures, an effort to repair McCrory’s image after his flip-flop:
While similarly classified groups exist in progressive circles, they have nowhere near the funding provided to right-wing groups by wealthy, business-focused donors. Of the top-ten outside spending “social welfare” groups engaged in the 2012 elections, all but one were either right-wing or conservative.
Helping to drive the right-wing offensive in the states and in Congress is a network of deep-pocketed business titans convened by the billionaire brothers Charles and David Koch, principals in Koch Industries, the second-largest privately held corporation in the United States. Like the Kochs themselves, many of the donors in the brothers’ networks signal disinterest in fighting against women’s rights or LGBTQ rights, yet anti-choice groups have seen their coffers swell with millions of the network’s dollars.
“If you want to promote a pro-corporate agenda, you’re only going to get so far,” Sue Sturgis, the Durham, North Carolina-based editorial director of the progressive website Facing South, told RH Reality Check. “But when you start weaving in these social issues like abortion and other reproductive rights issues, then you’re gonna appeal to a broader range of people, and a very motivated voting bloc. They will turn out. So it serves your larger cause.”
In fact Smith and I both stood out in the crowd. The place was teeming with hundreds of energized and determined college students and recent grads from more than forty states and 100 schools, assembled for a training in nonviolent direct action. The next morning, Sunday, March 2, more than 1,200 young people would march from Georgetown University down Pennsylvania Avenue to Lafayette Park and the gates of the White House, where nearly 400 of them would be arrested for peaceful civil disobedience protesting the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline and Barack Obama’s lack of seriousness on climate change. The student-led protest, dubbed XL Dissent, would be the largest one-day civil disobedience action at the White House in a generation. In a show of solidarity, the student organizers had invited Smith and his MICATS comrades Chris Wahmhoff and Jarret Schlaff, along with others from frontline communities fighting tar sands extraction and pipelines, to join the march and speak at the rally in Lafayette Park.
At the single stoplight in Harpersville, Alabama, Debra Shoemaker Ford saw the police lights flash. On that January day in 2007, she steered her beat-up black Chevy Blazer into the parking lot, under the big red dot advertising Jack’s restaurant. The officer said she had a taillight out. He asked to see her license.
Ford didn’t have one. Her license had been revoked after she failed to pay a court judgment against her for a traffic ticket in a nearby town. She hadn’t worked since a car wreck a decade earlier, surviving instead on disability payments of about $670 a month. That meant generic washing powder instead of Purex. Cigarettes, when she allowed herself, were rationed, each drag a pleasure measured in pennies. To pay the ticket, plus the fee to reinstate her license, would have meant going without essentials. Though she knew she shouldn’t, Ford, a small white woman in her 50s with a fringe of bangs and a raspy voice, regularly climbed behind the wheel of the old Chevy. In rural Alabama, it’s the only way to get around.
Ford left the parking lot with tickets for no proof of insurance and driving without a license, which would come to $745 with court costs. She didn’t know it yet, but they would also cause her to spend years cycling through court, jail and the offices of a private probation company called Judicial Correction Services. JCS had contracted with the town of Harpersville several years earlier to help collect on court fines, and also to earn a little something extra for itself. It did this by charging probationers like Ford a monthly fee (typically between $35 and $45) while tacking on additional fees for court-mandated classes and electronic monitoring.