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‘Coversnitch’ records and tweets out New Yorkers’ public conversations

RT -

Kyle McDonald and Brian House, who described themselves as artists during an interview with Wired, have posted a video online showing how anyone with $100 can buy the necessary components to build their own light with the ability to listen in on discussions taking place nearby.

The device known as “Coversnitch” also purports the ability to post snippets from these conversations directly onto Twitter for the world to see.

What does it mean to deploy one of these in a library, a public square, someone’s bathroom? What kind of power relationship does it set up?” wondered House, who is also an adjunct professor at the Rhode Island School of design. “And what does this stream of tweets mean if it’s not set up by an artist but by the US government?”

Any names or personal details overheard in public conversations were removed before the statements were posted on Twitter. The few tweets that did refer to a specific individual only did so with a single-letter abbreviation where a name would have been. Popular conversation topics included work complaints, relationship issues, and homework assignments.

"That's stupid. Seems like a waste of time."

— Conversnitch (@conversnitch) April 18, 2014

"Are you sure you want to be talking about this? I really don't know if this is the place."

— Conversnitch (@conversnitch) April 18, 2014

"I'm not sure I'm qualified for the new position."

— Conversnitch (@conversnitch) April 18, 2014

The Vimeo video posted Wednesday shows the pair assembling the monitoring device with a microphone, LED light source, and a small plastic flower plant. The device records the audio with help from the nearest open WiFi connection and pays freelance workers through Amazon’s Mechanical Turk program to transcribe the audio into tweets.

House and McDonald told wired they first debuted Coversnitch at a Manhattan art exhibition last October, although they refused to mention where else they planted it because of legal concerns. The video they posted online shows a man with his face blurred entering a McDonald’s fast food restaurant dressed as a maintenance man, who installs the “light” unmolested by any employees. Exactly which McDonald’s branch Coversnitch was (or is) being used remains a mystery.

We recognize that this device can be used in an illegal way, and we will not admit to using it in that way,” McDonald said. “It had potentially been deployed in various places.”

Observers have already accused McDonald and House of creating Conversnitch for little more reason than to attract attention. McDonald made headlines in 2011 when he infiltrated Apple store computers and installed a bug that would snap photos of customers’ faces and save them to his own server. The stunt prompted a call from Apple to the Secret Service, which raided his apartment and took two of his computers.

I think you have to make things provocative or even dangerous if you want people to pay attention,” he said.

#Mynypd hashtag attracts photos of police violence and abuse

Boing Boing -

how #myNYPD treats 16 year olds who say "no" to being stopped and frisked: https://t.co/awb00Qxeon pic.twitter.com/MhyArnHKXK

— DefendedInTheStreets (@KimaniFilm) April 22, 2014

When the NYPD's Twitter account asked people to tweet photos of their interactions with NYPD and tag them Mynypd, the outcome was pretty predictable: people who feel that the NYPD stands for unchecked brutality, mass-scale stop-and-frisk racism, and the violent defense of the ultra-rich combined with official impunity flooded the tag with photos of NYPD violence.

Need a mammogram? #myNYPD has you covered! Forget Obamacare! pic.twitter.com/Fusv3WhiRZ

— आनिल् (@guru0509) April 22, 2014

Do you have a photo w/ a member of the #NYPD? Tweet us & tag it #myNYPD. It may be featured on their Facebook! pic.twitter.com/Ps7rThxgNw

— Occupy Wall Street (@OccupyWallStNYC) April 22, 2014

#myNYPD pic.twitter.com/jf7CgQ2xWs

— יהושע (@YahFet) April 22, 2014

#MyNYPD murders people in custody, and because of corruption in the system,the DA decides that charges won't be filed pic.twitter.com/nr8m09aUtP

— Dan Routhier (@Danbobjoe) April 22, 2014

NYPD's hashtag campaign backfires horribly [Miles Klee/Daily Dot]

(via Sean Bonner)

​Three charged conspiring to smuggle chemical lab equipment to Syria

RT -

US prosecutors have charged a 72-year-old Pennsylvania man Harold Rinko, the owner of Global Parts Supply, which exported illegal goods, and brothers Ahmad Deri, a UK national and Moawea Diri, Syrian national for smuggling contraband via third states.

According to the Justice Department, Diri was arrested in London in March 2013 and is facing extradition to the United States, while his brother Deri remains at large. Prosecution has offered Rinko a plea agreement that is pending court approval.

A federal judge in Scranton, Pennsylvania, unsealed the case 17 months after Assistant US Attorney Todd Hinkley, signed a plea agreement for one of three men charged in 2012.

Three men stand accused of illegal export of goods, money laundering, conspiracy, wire fraud, and making false statements. Their criminal actions, the investigators believe range from creating false invoices, undervalued and mislabeled the items, to listing false purchases and buyers before smuggling the goods via United Arab Emirates, Jordan and the United Kingdom for nine years, between 2003 and late 2012.

Investigation believes that men sold portable instruments used to detect chemical agents, industrial engines used in oil and gas fields, laboratory equipment, a device used to locate buried pipelines and masks used against chemical agents.

The goods, which are restricted for export by US law, were never sent, Reuters reports, but the men allegedly circumvented federal law that requires a license to export goods, other than humanitarian supplies and medicines, to Syria under the sanctions imposed on Damascus in 2004.

“No good comes of illegal exports to Syria during this time of gross misgovernment and civil strife,” said John Kelleghan, special agent in charge of Homeland Security Investigations in Philadelphia, The Times-Tribune quotes. “HSI will do all in its power . . . to ensure that sensitive technology doesn’t fall into the wrong hands in Syria.”’

The 31-page indictment does not describe how the authorities were able to track down the scheme with Hinkley saying he was unable to comment on it.

Authorities also claim they do not know who the goods were intended to reach, the government forces or the rebels. “We know they were exported to Syria,” Hinkley said. “The end user information we weren't able, at least to this point, to develop in the investigation.”

Syria's chemical disarmament on track

Meanwhile in Syria, the UN chemical weapons watchdog said Damascus has delivered over 86.5 percent of its chemical arsenal as June 30 deadline to destroy chemical stockpiles approaches.

“The overall portion of chemicals removed from Syria to 86.5 percent of the total,” The Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) said in a statement on Wednesday adding that another batch of chemicals was removed from the port of Latakia in the 17th shipment since October.

“We hope that the remaining two or three consignments are delivered quickly to permit destruction operations to get under way in time to meet the mid-year deadline for destroying Syria's chemical weapons.”

UN calls for chlorine attack probe

At the same time on Wednesday the UN Security Council called for an investigation into claims of a chlorine gas attack in Syria earlier this month.

After the closed door meeting delegates “expressed concern about alleged reports about the use of chlorine gas in some towns, which left people dead and injured, and called for an investigation of this incident,” said Joy Ogwu the ambassador of Nigeria, which currently holds the rotating presidency in the council.

“We're still waiting to confirm the authenticity of the reports. Until we have the full facts we cannot take any decision on this matter,” Ogwu said, adding no decision has yet been taken on who would be tasked to investigate the matter.

Syrian ambassador Bashar Jaafari denied that government forces are using chlorine gas against its own people. “The aim of this kind of allegations emanating from Washington or elsewhere is to overshadow the successful preparations for the presidential elections in Syria,” he said.

Damascus announced this week that the country will hold a presidential election on June 3.

French president was among the first to officials to publicly accuse Bashar Assad on Monday of using chlorine in the village of Kafr Zita that has killed two and injured more than 100 people earlier this month. In a rarely cited remark he however added he had no proof to back his claims, but only a “few elements of information.”

The next day Washington stated that it was investigating the allegations. “We have indications of the use of a toxic industrial chemical, probably chlorine, in Syria this month,” said White House spokesman Jay Carney, stressing that the village of Kafr Zita is “opposition-dominated.”

Under Russian-brokered deal for the Syrian government to get rid of its chemical stockpiles, chlorine – a chemical widely used for commercial and domestic purposes – was not placed on the list. However its use as a chemical weapon it is prohibited under the Chemical Weapons Convention.

Raspberry Pi-like boardset boasts quad-core i.MX6

LXer -

SolidRun revealed a Raspberry Pi-like “HummingBoard” boardset for its Linux-ready CuBox mini-PCs, based on a Freescale i.MX6 SoC located on a tiny COM. SolidRun created the community-backed “HummingBoard” to serve as a modular motherboard for use in its Linux- and Android-ready CuBox mini-PCs, including the recent CuBox-i models. Like the recently announced, Allwinner A20-based Banana […]

Band Releases Album As Linux Kernel Module

Slashdot -

netbuzz (955038) writes "A band called netcat is generating buzz in software circles by releasing its debut album as a Linux kernel module (among other more typical formats.) 'Are you ever listening to an album, and thinking "man, this sounds good, but I wish it crossed from user-space to kernel-space more often!" We got you covered,' the band says on its Facebook page. 'Our album is now fully playable as a loadable Linux kernel module.'"

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

​Vermont poised to enact toughest US GMO-labeling law yet

RT -

The state House of Representatives approved the bill on Wednesday by a vote of 114-30. The state Senate passed the legislation last week by a vote of 28-2.

The bill would require any foods containing GMOs sold at retail outlets to be labeled as having been produced or partially produced with “genetic engineering.” The law would go into effect on July 1, 2016.

Gov. Shumlin must now sign the bill to cap the process. He again expressed support for the measure on Wednesday.

"I am proud of Vermont for being the first state in the nation to ensure that Vermonters will know what is in their food. The Legislature has spoken loud and clear through its passage of this bill," Shumlin said. "I wholeheartedly agree with them and look forward to signing this bill into law.”

Anticipating lawsuits from industry, legislators established a fund of up to $1.5 million to help the state pay for defense against any legal action. People can contribute voluntarily to the fund, and settlements won in other court cases can be added to the fund by the state attorney general, the Burlington Free Press reported.

The bill also makes it illegal to call any food that contains GMO ingredients “natural” or “all natural.”

Maine and Connecticut are the only US states that have passed GMO labeling laws, though their proposals would only go into effect if and when surrounding states also pass similar laws. GMO labeling is required in 64 countries, including the European Union.

The Center for Food Safety says dozens of states are considering GMO labeling laws on some level, as there is no federal labeling standard. Polling suggests over 90 percent of Americans would prefer GMO ingredients in consumables to be labeled to some extent.

Powerful food industry and biotechnology players are currently banding together on many fronts to protect their investment in GMO technology despite national and international pushback. Their main effort in the US is seen in federal legislation that would block states from passing mandatory GMO labeling measures like Vermont’s despite the “right to know” movement’s rising popularity.

The claim that genetically-engineered food poses no risk to human and environmental health is far from settled, despite the industry's assertions.

In October, 93 international scientists said there was a lack of empirical and scientific evidence to support what they called false claims made by the biotech industry about a so-called “consensus” on GMO safety. They said more independent research is needed, as existing studies that say GMOs are safe are overwhelmingly funded and supported by biotech companies.

The US Department of Agriculture recently voiced concerns over the potentially devastating environmental effects of GMOs.

A recent study found that global classification of GMO foods is fundamentally flawed and “has failed miserably” at protecting public health.

GMOs have been in the food supply since the 1990s, and are included in roughly 70 to 80 percent of products available to American consumers, according to food manufacturers. The most widely-used GMO crops in the US are corn, soybeans, and canola.

Ukraine coal miners on strike, refuse to pay Kiev coup damages bill

RT -

Some 80 percent of miners from five coal mines belonging to "Krasnodonugol" enterprise in the city of Krasnodon have not shown up to work. The mines are all owned by one of Ukraine's richest man, Rinat Akhmetov of the mining and metallurgical "Metinvest" corporation.

Angry miners are pressing for wage increases to match region's average pay, better social and living conditions and higher social bonuses. According to the strikers they get an average of 6,000 hryvnas ($520), while the average salary in the coal industry in the region is up to 10,000 hryvnia ($860).

Miners are also refusing to pay a 10 percent tax on their salaries, imposed by the post-coup authorities to restore the Maidan square in Kiev. The square and nearby buildings suffered significant damage during months of rallies and the violent standoff that led to a coup in February.

According to local media reports miners have seen around a 10 percent cut in their paychecks to restore the Ukrainian capital.

“I don't understand why are we involved!” one of the protesting miners, Stanislav Denisenko told Itar-tass. “It was not us who dismantled the stones and burned the houses down. I get about 900 hryvna a month, that is around 9,000 rubles ($260). I don't understand why they are taking away my salary.”

Local media also reports that protests also demand the reinstatement of a few dozen of their colleagues who they say have been fired from their jobs for taking part in pro-federalization rallies in the region.

While the coal sector workers mainly remain apolitical, some still question the legitimacy of the Kiev government.

“We are also against Kiev's junta. We do not recognize their authority. It is not legitimate. We stand for the memory of our ancestors fighting alongside Russians. We're all Slavs. We are one nation. We do not have heroes such as Bandera and Shukhevych. We are against these people because they are destroying our history,” one of the protesters said during the second day of the strike.

The prosecutor’s office in Krasnodon is now conducting an investigation into the legal compliance and requirements for miners fair pay. The company is locked in negotiations with the strikers.

International relations expert Mark Sleboda told RT that Kiev cannot afford losing control of “the real bread winner of the Ukraine” – the mining industry.

“The mining industry employs about 500,000 people throughout the region, provides about 15 percent of the country's GDP and coal alone is 30 percent of Ukraine's energy consumption,” Sleboda says.


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