Obamacare opponents have already run more than 30,000 television ads attacking the health law and Democratic candidates who support it, according to the media tracking group CMAG — a staggering 12-fold increase from four years ago. Many of the ads are being run in states with high uninsurance rates where hundreds of thousands of poor people could benefit from the Affordable Care Act, including Arkansas, Kentucky, and Louisiana.
Nearly half of all ads that have been run about the health law in House and Senate races through March 9 are critical of the ACA. And in a reflection of the post-Citizens United political landscape, spending by outside groups without any official connection to a particular organization or party accounts for almost three-fourths of all the commercials, compared to just 13 percent in 2010.
“We knew there would be heightened public awareness around the implementation of the law, and we thought it was important to go up early with a heavy effort,” said Tim Phillips, president of the Koch brother-funded group Americans for Prosperity (AFP), in an interview with Bloomberg.
AFP has run the most anti-Obamacare ads of any political group by a large margin, targeting vulnerable Democrats who are up for re-election, such as Sen. Mark Pryor (D-AR) and Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-LA). The organization’s spots play up misleading “horror stories” related to the health law, such as Americans who have had their insurance policies cancelled or seen their premiums spike. But the ads’ content tends to range from exaggeration to outright misinformation — and AFP has even been caught hiring paid actors to play the roles of “real” local residents.
U.S. officials announced plans Friday to relinquish federal government control over the administration of the Internet, a move likely to please international critics but alarm many business leaders and others who rely on smooth functioning of the Web.
Pressure to let go of the final vestiges of U.S. authority over the system of Web addresses and domain names that organize the Internet has been building for more than a decade and was supercharged by the backlash to revelations about National Security Agency surveillance last year.
The practical consequences of the decision were not immediately clear, but it could alleviate rising global complaints that the United States essentially controls the Web and takes advantage of its oversight role to help spy on the rest of the world.
A good piece at Newsday by Cathy Young: U.S. Critic Blind to Putin Media Control.
Do some critics of U.S. government policies that may encroach on civil liberties give anti-American foreign states a pass on far worse abuses?
The latest subject of such a controversy is Glenn Greenwald, the journalist who has worked with whistle-blower Edward Snowden to disclose the National Security Agency’s surveillance of personal communication records. Given that Snowden received asylum in Russia, Greenwald has been accused by his detractors of colluding with a regime notorious for its police-state tactics — especially since, two years ago, he defended the Kremlin-run TV channel RT (Russia Today) after it gave a show to his ally, WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange.
Unfortunately, Greenwald’s most recent defense of Vladimir Putin’s propaganda network does little to counter the charge of double standards.
The Wake Up and Smell the Bacon device plugs into the headphone jack of an iPhone, and when it’s activated, the device emits a small puff of the scent of bacon, with the accompanying sizzle sound.
Bacon lovers — and who isn’t? — can start applying Thursday to get the device for free; it won’t be sold in stores and quantities are limited.
“With nearly two million mentions of #bacon on Instagram, it seems people never get tired of bacon,” said Tom Bick of Oscar Mayer in a news release announcing the device. “Oscar Mayer is thrilled to bring the first-ever, bacon-scented mobile device to market, giving bacon aficionados a new reason to welcome their morning alarm clocks.”
Bacon fans can apply to win one of the devices each day from now through April 4, by going here.
Ken Ham, the founder of the Creation Museum who last month debated TV personality Bill Nye “The Science Guy” pitting his Biblical literalism against Darwinian evolution, says the highly publicized showdown has been like manna from heaven for a foundering $73 million Noah’s Ark theme park.
“It was a challenging time, one that on a human level required a miracle to overcome,” Ham, who heads the Answers in Genesis ministry, said in a statement of the near collapse of funding for the long-delayed Ark Encounter park. “And God in His providence supplied our needs.”
Nye is widely viewed as having won that debate, but Ham may have gotten the last word: on Thursday he announced that his Creation Museum’s proposed Noah’s Ark theme park, including a 510-foot replica of the Biblical vessel, had against all odds secured a last-minute $62 million municipal bond offering.
Rich Mogull at TidBITS has an interesting article about the new highly advanced cryptographic options in Apple’s iCloud system, that essentially make it impossible even for government agencies like the NSA to spy on your iCloud data.
This week Apple released a massive update to their “iOS Security” white paper for IT professionals. It contains more information on iOS security than Apple has ever shared publicly before, including extensive details on Touch ID, Data Protection, network security, application security, and nearly all security-related features, options, and protective controls.
For the first time, we have extensive details on iCloud security. For security professionals like myself, this is like waking up and finding a pot of gold sitting on my keyboard. Along with some of the most impressive security I’ve ever seen, Apple has provided a way to make it impossible for agencies like the NSA to obtain your iCloud Keychain passwords.
The paper is incredibly dense, even getting to the level of detail of which flavor of particular encryption algorithms are used in which security controls. I will likely be digesting it for months, but one particular section contained an important nugget that explains why the NSA can’t snoop on your iCloud Keychain passwords.
Read the rest: TidBITS: How to Protect Your iCloud Keychain From the NSA.
Here’s that iOS Security White Paper:
(CNN) — Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman, the legendary and elusive chief of one of the world’s most powerful drug trafficking operations, was arrested overnight in Mexico, a U.S. official told CNN Saturday.
The official said Guzman, accompanied by a female, was captured in a joint operation with Mexican marines and Drug Enforcement Administration authorities at a hotel in the beach resort of Mazatlan. The operation had been in the works for four or five weeks, the official said.
Phil Jordan, who spent three decades with the DEA and headed the agency’s El Paso Intelligence Center, said the arrest represents a huge blow to the world’s most powerful drug trafficker.
“It is a significant arrest provided he gets extradited immediately to the United States,” Jordan told CNN. “If he does not get extradited, then he will be allowed to escape within a period of time.
With 450 million monthly users and a million more signing up each day, WhatsApp was just too far ahead in the international mobile messaging race for Facebook to catch up, as you can see in the chart above we made last year. Facebook either had to surrender the linchpin to mobile social networking abroad, or pony up and acquire WhatsApp before it got any bigger. It chose the latter.
Facebook recently said on its earnings call a few weeks ago that its November relaunch of Messenger led to a 70% increase in usage, with many more messages being sent. But much of that was likely in the United States and Canada where the standalone messaging app war is still to be won.
Internationally, Facebook was late to the Messenger party. It didn’t launch until 2011 after Facebook bought Beluga, and at the time it was centered around group messaging where SMS was especially weak.
WhatsApp launched in 2009 with the right focus on a lean, clean, and fast mobile messaging app. And while the international messaging market is incredibly fragmented, it was able to gain a major presence where Messenger didn’t as you can see in this chart above that we made about a year ago.
Unlike PC-based social networking, there is no outstanding market leader in mobile messaging. Still, WhatsApp absolutely dominates in markets outside of the U.S. like Europe and India. It’s also impossible for Facebook to acquire certain other Asian competitors like WeChat, which is the one hope of Chinese mega-giant Tencent to have a global consumer product.
So it’s clear that WhatsApp had strategic interest to Facebook, and we know that the two talked from time to time.
There’s one main rule at the conservative donor conclaves held twice a year by Charles and David Koch at luxury resorts: What happens there stays there.
The billionaire industrialists and their political operatives strive to ensure the anonymity of the wealthy conservatives who fund their sprawling political operation—which funneled more than $400 million into the 2012 elections—and to keep their plans private. Attendees of these summits are warned that the seminars, where the Kochs and their allies hatch strategies for electing Republicans and advancing conservative initiatives on the state and national levels, are strictly confidential; they are cautioned to keep a close eye on their meeting notes and materials. But last week, following the Kochs’ first donor gathering of 2014, one attendee left behind a sensitive document at the Renaissance Esmeralda resort outside of Palm Springs, California, where the Kochs and their comrades had spent three days focused on winning the 2014 midterm elections and more. The document lists VIP donors—including John Schnatter, the founder of the Papa John’s pizza chain—who were scheduled for one-on-one meetings with representatives of the political, corporate, and philanthropic wings of Kochworld. The one-page document, provided to Mother Jones by a hotel guest who discovered it, offers a fascinating glimpse into the Kochs’ political machine and shows how closely intertwined it is with Koch Industries, their $115 billion conglomerate.
The more than 40 donors courted by the Kochs include hedge fund and private-equity billionaires, real estate tycoons, and executives of top corporations, including Jockey International and TRT Holdings, owner of Omni Hotels and Gold’s Gym. A number of them have never been identified as members of the Koch donor network, including Schnatter, one of the more prominent names on the list. An outspoken opponent of the Affordable Care Act, he is a longtime Republican donor who hosted a fundraiser for Mitt Romney’s presidential campaign. The document notes that the pizza mogul was scheduled to meet with Ryan Stowers, the director of higher education at the Charles G. Koch Foundation. (Schnatter did not respond to requests for comment.)