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January 13, 2010

Google gets pissed at China over hacking, stops self-censoring

Official Google Blog: A new approach to China
. . . We launched Google.cn in January 2006 in the belief that the benefits of increased access to information for people in China and a more open Internet outweighed our discomfort in agreeing to censor some results. At the time we made clear that "we will carefully monitor conditions in China, including new laws and other restrictions on our services. If we determine that we are unable to achieve the objectives outlined we will not hesitate to reconsider our approach to China." These attacks and the surveillance they have uncovered--combined with the attempts over the past year to further limit free speech on the web--have led us to conclude that we should review the feasibility of our business operations in China. We have decided we are no longer willing to continue censoring our results on Google.cn, and so over the next few weeks we will be discussing with the Chinese government the basis on which we could operate an unfiltered search engine within the law, if at all. We recognize that this may well mean having to shut down Google.cn, and potentially our offices in China. The decision to review our business operations in China has been incredibly hard, and we know that it will have potentially far-reaching consequences. We want to make clear that this move was driven by our executives in the United States, without the knowledge or involvement of our employees in China who have worked incredibly hard to make Google.cn the success it is today. We are committed to working responsibly to resolve the very difficult issues raised. . . .

January 05, 2010

There are over 17,000 secret, harmful chemicals we are not allowed to know about

Use of potentially harmful chemicals kept secret under law - washingtonpost.com
Of the 84,000 chemicals in commercial use in the United States -- from flame retardants in furniture to household cleaners -- nearly 20 percent are secret, according to the Environmental Protection Agency, their names and physical properties guarded from consumers and virtually all public officials under a little-known federal provision. The policy was designed 33 years ago to protect trade secrets in a highly competitive industry. But critics -- including the Obama administration -- say the secrecy has grown out of control, making it impossible for regulators to control potential dangers or for consumers to know which toxic substances they might be exposed to. At a time of increasing public demand for more information about chemical exposure, pressure is building on lawmakers to make it more difficult for manufacturers to cloak their products in secrecy. Congress is set to rewrite chemical regulations this year for the first time in a generation. Under the 1976 Toxic Substances Control Act, manufacturers must report to the federal government new chemicals they intend to market. But the law exempts from public disclosure any information that could harm their bottom line. . . .

U.S. unveils more drones t be used for American border patrol, spying

U.S. Adds Drones to Fight Smuggling - NYTimes.com
PALMDALE, Calif. — To help spot and track smugglers, the Homeland Security Department is expanding its use of drones, the unmanned aircraft widely used in Iraq and other war zones, beyond the Mexican and Canadian borders to the Caribbean and possibly other seas. The department, through its Customs and Border Protection division, already operates five of the aircraft, known as the Predator B, along the Southwest border from a base in Arizona and the Canadian border from an installation in North Dakota. Like the drones used by the military, these drones can fly long ranges at high altitudes and are difficult to detect. But the drones that have been used at the border since 2005 are for surveillance and tracking and do not carry weapons. The department on Monday unveiled a new drone loaded with special radar, cameras and sensors. Built for $13.5 million by General Atomics Aeronautical Systems here, it is designed for maritime use. It features wide-range radar that gives a more sweeping view of the ocean than any of the government’s fleet of manned aircraft.

December 09, 2009

AT&T wants you to use your iPhone less

AT&T: Tighter control of cell data usage ahead So all those apps you see in commercials, like Pandora radio, yeah AT&T doesn't want you to use them.
The carrier has had trouble keeping up with wireless data usage, leading to dropped connections and long waits for users trying to run programs on their devices. AT&T is upgrading its network to cope, but its head of consumer services, Ralph de la Vega, told investors at a UBS conference in New York that it will also give high-bandwidth users incentives to "reduce or modify their usage." De la Vega didn't say exactly how or when the carrier would change its policies, but he said some form of usage-based pricing for data is inevitable. Right now, the carrier doesn't limit data usage for smart phones. It also doesn't make it easy for subscribers to know how much data they're consuming. "We need to educate the customer ... We've got to get them to understand what represents a megabyte of data," de la Vega said. "We're improving all our systems to let consumers get real-time information on their data usage."