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US Air Force Overstepped In SpaceX Certification

Slashdot -

Rambo Tribble writes: An internal review commissioned by Air Force Secretary Deborah James has concluded that Air Force personnel tasked with evaluating SpaceX's certification treated it as a design review, going so far as to dictate organizational changes in the company. This was judged contrary to the intention of promoting a competitive environment. The report, prepared by former Air Force Chief of Staff General Larry Welch, concluded, "The result to date has been ... the worst of all worlds, pressing the Falcon 9 commercially oriented approach into a comfortable government mold that eliminates or significantly reduces the expected benefits to the government of the commercial approach. Both teams need to adjust."

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

US voices concern over China’s banking technology restrictions

RT -

The China Banking Regulatory Commission’s (CBRC) guidelines for IT security equipment used in banks has raised new trade concerns with the United States, according to a document published by the World Trade Organization on Thursday. The concerns were made public during the first Technical Barriers to Trade (TBT) Committee meeting of 2015, when the US was supported by the European Union and Canada. They claim China’s new rules announced in December go beyond the usual practice for the regulation of information and communication technology equipment in the commercial banking sector.

READ MORE: US business groups alarmed over China's new ‘intrusive’ cybersecurity regulations

Chinese banks have a restriction on the use of foreign information technology, all foreign companies operating in China are also required to install Beijing-approved encryption, and submit private source code for government inspection.

The US argued that China’s banking regulations would discriminate against foreign tech firms. Meanwhile, WTO rules prohibit countries from favoring domestic companies over foreign competitors.

READ MORE: NSA spied on Chinese govt and telecom giant Huawei - Snowden docs

China says it’s promoting cyber security as rapid development of global information technology and financial innovation had brought new challenges to the banking sector, and all governments have “to strengthen security to protect public interests.” The country also assures its restrictions are consistent with international practice and contribute to the stability of the global financial system.

Vague terms

However, the US, EU and Canada insist that the measures will hurt global trade. Washington requested clarification on what China meant by saying its banking security rules were intended to ensure “secure and controllable” banking technology. The US argued such a definition could cut out many foreign products. According to Chinese regulations, all new computer servers, desktop computers and laptop computers and 50 percent of new tablets and smartphones bought by the banking industry must meet "security and controllability" requirements.

Chinese rules also encourage "indigenous innovation,” and the US requests clarification. "The requirement for a product to be 'indigenous' would allow for little involvement by foreign companies," the US Delegation said. The Delegation also asked China to explain if the country excluded the possibility that foreign-developed technology might provide a “better security solution than a technology developed indigenously.”

Cyber security has become a sensitive issue between the US and China, following leaks from National Security Agency (NSA) contractor Edward Snowden on US international spy programs that targeted a number of Chinese institutions. China called on banks to stop using IBM servers and replace them with locally made machines, fearing the country’s financial security might be compromised. At the end of 2014 Beijing approved its cyber security policy with new regulations excluding foreign technology.

​Britain at ‘cliff edge’ as ISIS recruitment rises, must offer ‘counter-narrative’ – MPs

RT -

They called for a stronger “counter-narrative” to prevent young Britons traveling to fight in Syria, as well as stronger support for families, as more and more youngsters become radicalized online.

The Commons Home Affairs Select Committee said there was now a real danger that police, security services and others are failing to prevent more departures.

“We are in danger of failing to prevent even more departures,” said committee Chairman Keith Vaz.

“We are at the edge of a cliff.”

“Radical groups from abroad are preying on young British citizens through social media to encourage them to travel abroad to join them,” said Vaz.

READ MORE: UK must put an end to youth radicalization – Cameron

“The number of cases being brought to public attention should ring alarm bells. Schools and the police must inform parents immediately, and work with them even if there is the smallest hint of radicalization, or a close association with someone who is thought to have been radicalized.

“This must be a relentless battle for hearts and minds, and without a strong counter-narrative we are in danger of failing to prevent even more departures.”

Social media firms like Twitter and Facebook must suspend accounts which promote violent extremism, the cross-party group of MPs said.

The committee suggested the launch of a helpline on which parents can express concerns about their children. They also urged for better communication between all the parties involved.

READ MORE: 3 British teenagers aiming to join ISIS in Syria detained in Turkey, sent back

“The police must engage in a regular and open dialogue with schools and community groups to ensure that information is exchanged and new initiatives can be explored at community level,” the report said.

The investigation was launched after three teenage girls – Amira Abase, Shamima Begum and Kadiza Sultana, all from East London – flew to Istanbul last month. They are now believed to have crossed the border from Turkey into Syria to join the IS.

The Metropolitan Police Service recently apologized for its failure to communicate directly with the missing girls’ families.

The committee also wants the Home Office to work more closely with airlines and border officials that serve Syria, Iraq, Somalia and Nigeria to develop stricter controls on passengers traveling on those routes.

​Italian schoolkids suspended for posting ISIS mock execution on WhatsApp, Instagram

RT -

The students at a middle school in Piove di Sacco in northeast Italy have been suspended for three days for impersonating the jihadist group.

Photos circulating on social media show one of the children kneeling in a bikini top in front of a friend clad in dark clothing and a scarf hiding his face holding a knife to her throat. The other children could be seen in the background. The teens shared the photos on the messaging application WhatsApp and Instagram last month.

The images bear a striking resemblance to the propaganda videos depicting gruesome executions of hostages by Islamic State militants. Islamic State (also known as ISIS, or ISIL) disseminates the chilling videos through social media. Just last month ISIS released videos of the beheadings of two Japanese hostages, Haruna Yukawa and Kenji Goto.

The children were suspended as soon as the school was made aware of the images. They were also ordered to attend psycho-social counseling, according to Corriere della Sera newspaper.

Mayor of Piove di Sacco, Davide Gianella, expressed shock at the children’s stunt, saying: “I can hardly believe that such a thing is true.”

Alessandro De Carlo, president of the order of psychologists in the Padua area, told Corriere that the incident was a not unusual example of children acting out, but it was amplified by the perils of modern technology.

“Stunts like this have always been done, and these teenagers are certainly not the first to behave in this way,” he said. “What the children must bear in mind, however, is that today with the internet and phones they can do things that remain forever – something that was inconceivable until a few years ago.”

Cameron and Rouhani discuss Iran’s nuclear program as talks deadline looms

RT -

"Both leaders reaffirmed their commitment to securing a deal," a spokeswoman for Cameron said on Thursday.

"They both agreed that the ongoing discussions in Switzerland and the possibility of securing a political framework by the end of the month presented a historic opportunity," said the spokesperson.

Britain’s PM also told Rouhani that Iran needed to acknowledge the international community’s concerns about whether its nuclear program was being developed for peaceful purposes. Despite international criticism, the Iranian government has repeatedly brushed off allegations it wishes to acquire nuclear weapons.

Iran, Germany, France, the UK, Russia and China are due to meet in Lausanne on Saturday to try to overcome an impasse in the nuclear talks. They are hoping to hammer out a deal before the looming deadline of March 31.

"The Iranians needed to take on board that the E3+3 [Germany, France, the UK and three non-EU nations US, Russia and China] would need to allay those concerns through any deal," Cameron’s spokeswomen said.

"We are clearly approaching this (with the idea) that it is possible to do a deal, we believe, with Iran that will ensure we stop Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon."

READ MORE: Failure to secure Iran nuclear deal could spark MidEast arms race – UK Foreign Sec

General Secretary of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, Kate Hudson, told RT Cameron was right in attempting to “encourage a diplomatic solution over Iran's nuclear program.”

“After many years of faltering negotiations it does indeed appear that progress is being made,” she said.

“Cameron is also right to say that it would be a 'historic' agreement: not only for Iran and the West, but for the way in which these situations can be approached in the future.”

Hudson expressed hope that a deal could deepen peaceful international ties and help establish a so-called Weapons of Mass Destruction Free Zone in the Middle East.

“In a region of such volatility, where states already possess chemical and nuclear arsenals, the creation of such a zone would be a huge boost to state relations - and could prevent a damaging downward spiral of nuclear proliferation,” she said.

READ MORE: Iran, Russia demand immediate halt to Saudi-led intervention in Yemen

On his official English twitter account, Rouhani said the lifting of international sanctions on the country was the main step to reaching a deal.

Rouhani and Cameron also discussed the conflict in Yemen and the possibility of reopening the British embassy in Teheran.

Cameron told Rouhani that a political process is needed to restore stability in Yemen, and to achieve this President Hadi should be supported as the legitimate leader of Yemen.

“The Prime Minister emphasized that there needs to be a political process to restore stability and, as part of that, other countries should not be supporting the Houthi rebels but rather encouraging all the different parties in Yemen to come together in a political process,” Cameron’s spokesperson said.

As over a decade of tense Iran nuclear talks come to a close, Saudi Arabia has launched airstrikes on Houthi militants in cooperation with Egypt and Gulf neighbors Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Kuwait.

Britain’s government said Thursday that it supported Saudi Arabia’s intervention but was not contributing to the effort. Iran has condemned Saudi Arabia’s military intervention, with Iran’s Foreign Minister Javad Zariftold warning the military action will escalate tension in the region.

The Houthis are thought to receive support from Iran, while Yemen’s President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi has the support of Saudi Arabia and the US.

Iran nuclear deal: 'Stakes are too high for US'

RT -

Nuclear talks between the US and Iran have resumed in the Swiss resort of Lausanne, with just a week left before a deadline expires to secure a deal. The deal has drawn heavy criticism from conservative lawmakers in Washington, Israel, and Saudi Arabia.

Riyadh has warned it may expand its own nuclear program if Tehran is allowed to continue enriching uranium. However, the White House has made reaching an agreement a top priority.

RT: The clock's ticking down to the end of the month when an agreement is supposed to be reached. Does it look like there will be one by the deadline?

Paul Heroux: I think we are going to have some type of agreement in terms of the general framework, but one of the sticking points that have recently appeared is that Iran is not really willing to put a signature to anything. This kind of view is something that they would like to see is more of a verbal agreement rather than a written agreement. And that’s been a new wrinkle in the negotiations. But I do believe that something is going to come about with the reduction in the number of the centrifuges and the timeline of the sanctions.

READ MORE: US proposes to let Iran operate fortified nuclear site – reports

RT: Why is Washington putting the Iran deal higher on its list of priorities than keeping Israel and Saudi Arabia happy?

PH: I think one of the reasons why the US is putting this as a high priority, or even a higher priority than keeping some of its traditional long-standing allies happy, is because the stakes are so high. Right now we have Iran in a situation where it’s a breakout capacity of about three months from this given period of time. But the negotiations are looking to make that breakout period a minimum of one year and that would go on for about a period of about ten years. So I think the stakes are too high to walk away from the negotiations. And Israel’s PM Benjamin Netanyahu said that no deal is better than the deal that the Obama administration is negotiating right now. I disagree with that. I think that the deal that the Obama administration is negotiating right now is actually a very good deal. This is a deal that could help develop trust between the US and Iran, and Iran and the rest of the West over the next ten years.

RT: Let's put it into context with what's happening in Yemen. We've got the government supported by the US pushed out by Iran-backed rebels. Is that likely to sour the negotiations?

PH: The deal is being looked at right now is looking to reduce the number of centrifuges from about 20,000 centrifuges to about between 6,000-7,000 centrifuges. It also wants to decrease the amount of enriched uranium from about 8,000 grams to about 1,000 grams. Now 1,000 grams is still enough to make nuclear bombs, however it’s sort of at that threshold point where a lot of it is going to be used for peaceful nuclear energy. And something that is really worth noting is that there is no evidence of an Iranian nuclear weapons program. We know they have a nuclear program but that program is designed for intentionally peaceful purposes. So there has been no silver bullet that says no mushroom cloud, if you will, that says that there really is a weapons program. What we have is a situation with not a lot of trust is between Iran and the rest of the world.

RT: The Israeli Prime Minister says he will continue to work to disrupt the potential deal with Iran. But can he do anything to prevent it?

PH: What Israel has been trying to do, has been mostly of a political nature. At this point I think the only thing that Israel could probably do to disrupt the negotiations is to take military action. Other than that I think they’ve done everything they can. The PM spoke before the US Congress and gave his strongest possible case he could. However, there was nothing really new delivered in that speech before Congress earlier this month. The PM also basically has been working with Republicans, hardliners in the US, to try and derail this negotiations and that hasn’t happened. So I think if anything was going to happen it would have been done by now - that short of military action against Iran.

RT: Does the US consider Iran negotiations and the Yemen crisis related?

PH: The US negotiators are probably looking at what’s happening in Yemen as a separate issue. It is certainly related because you do have the Iranian-backed forces in Yemen. However the history of the US has shown that we will negotiate in silos. So for example with certain countries around the worldwe have diplomatic relationships, economic relationships, military partnerships with various countries but their human rights records are not to be desired to put it mildly. So I believe once again that stakes are too high to walk away from the negotiating table or to try and complicate them by bringing in other variables such as Yemen.

READ MORE: Failure to secure Iran nuclear deal could spark MidEast arms race – UK Foreign Sec

50/50 chance of Iran deal

Meanwhile, Hooshang Amir-Ahmadi, founder and President of American Iranian Council thinks that the chances that a deal will be reached are “50/50 at best”.

“I will put the odds in favor of ‘not’,” he told RT. “I believe that there is a lot of dream thinking and optimism that is not warranted.”

All the issues between the sides that existed from the very beginning are still on the table, including the enrichment capacity, the time framework, Iran’s research and development capability, and the lifting of sanctions, he said.

“I don’t know what this optimism is all about. A major game is being played here, and I think it is a very sophisticated game that the White House is playing in this so-called negotiation. I don’t think there is a negotiation. After all, there was supposed to be P5+1 that includes Russia, China, France, the UK, [the US], Germany, but seems to me that for all the practical purposes Russia and China have disappeared, and Germany as well. So basically we are really dealing with the US and to some extent France who is on the other side. I feel like there isn’t anything going on there except for the hype,” said Amir-Ahmadi.

What Washington is trying to achieve is “to make Iran make commitments to a nuclear deal. ” Once the deal is reached, the US will simply forget about its own commitments, and put forward new demands for Iran, thinks Amir-Ahmadi.

“What the US is telling Israelis and Saudis: “Wait until I get this deal, and then you would see what happens there after.” I’m not sure if that “after” is at all is good for Iran,” he said.

New live streaming app Meerkat snags $14mn funding

RT -

The new app lets users stream and share videos in real time and automatically sends them to Twitter.

“We are all about re-inventing shared experiences,” the company says on its website.

Announcing our funding. https://t.co/hW1hUZuLnS

— Meerkat (@AppMeerkat) March 26, 2015

Meerkat is expected to be used for on the ground reporting, as well as socially, between friends to share personal moments. The platform has more than 120,000 users and is one of the fastest growing social apps.

Introduced last February by San Francisco-based Life on Air, the live streaming service is already in the top 25 social networking downloads in Apple’s App Store, according to App Annie, which tracks application metrics.

Like Snapchat, content is only available in real time- no reruns. Each user’s content will be saved to his/her device, but not on a general cloud. Snapchat, which is only four years old, values itself at $19 billion. The company is rumored to be considering an IPO.

27-yeard old Ben Rubin, Meerkat’s chief executive officer, uploaded his own video on Thursday March 26 to announce the $14 million in funding. Investors include Chad Hurley, co-founder of YouTube and Hollywood actor Jared Leto. Financing was led by Greylock Partners.

The app is competing head to head with Twitter-backed Periscope, which is similar to Meerkat, but has the advantage of tapping into Twitter’s data.

Twitter went public in a $1 billion IPO in October 2013.

Amy Goodman Questions Ex-CIA Director Porter Goss about Torture at George W. Bush Conference

Democracy Now! Videos -

When questioned by Democracy Now! host and executive producer Amy Goodman, former CIA Director Peter Goss said the bipartisan Senate Committee Report on the CIA's Use of Torture was "not the full truth" and criticized Sen. John McCain for defending it.

Both Goodman and Goss spoke Tuesday during a conference at Hofstra University that assessed the George W. Bush presidency.

As Newsday reports:

Goss criticized the committee's report as a "partisan political study" because it was called for by Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), who serves as vice chairwoman of the committee.

Goodman countered that Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), once a prisoner of war in Vietnam, had defended the report, saying the use of torture "damaged our security interests, as well as our reputation as a force for good in the world."

Watch the exchange in the video above.

Former national intelligence director and U.S. ambassador to Iraq, John Negroponte, also spoke at the event, and later said, "Boy, I need a stiff drink after that one." See more here.

Watch Amy Goodman's full remarks at the conference here.

See all of Democracy Now!'s reports on CIA torture.

PORTER GOSS: In the interests of fairness, would respond a little bit on the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence study on rendition, detention and interrogation—was a partisan political study. It was not two-sided. And there are further facts that need to come out from those who are able to, I think, correct some of the misstatements in the Senate study. That has not happened yet. I hope it will happen, because I do believe the American public needs to know the truth of all of this. The Senate study is not the full truth.

AMY GOODMAN: Was there any truth in it?

MODERATOR: Could you say again?

PORTER GOSS: What?

AMY GOODMAN: Was there any truth in it?

PORTER GOSS: Of course there was some truth in it. It was a cherry-picked, selective presentation of information to support a narrative that was made before this report actually even was started. The announced purpose of the report, of the study, if I'm correcting Chairman Feinstein—if I'm quoting Chairman Feinstein properly, was to make sure this never happens again. I'm not sure what the "this" was, or neither are a lot of people. But apparently, as you go through the report, as you go through this study, there are a series of observations that involved information that the decision makers could have provided to the people doing the report and would have given a fairer and more complete understanding of what happened and why. If you want to know why something happened, it's a good idea to go back to the people who made the decision and ask them. They calculatedly and determinedly avoided going back to anybody that they thought might spoil their narrative. So, consequently, yes, there is some information that is cherry-picked, some out of context and some actually factually correct, as far as I know. I have not read a word of the report. I have not read a word of any of this stuff, because, to me, it is purely partisan political. And a politicization of intelligence in this country is going to hurt only one person, and that's every citizen in the United States.

AMY GOODMAN: I just wanted to quote Senator McCain, who—

PORTER GOSS: I love Senator McCain, and I would certainly agree with you that Senator McCain is the icon of prisoner of war conduct. He has suffered greatly for our country and made great sacrifices and deserves to be listened to. But he does not have all of the information either.

AMY GOODMAN: He said, "It is a thorough and thoughtful study of practices that I believe not only failed their purpose—to secure actionable intelligence to prevent further attacks on the U.S. and our allies—but actually damaged our security interests, as well as our reputation as a force for good in the world."

PORTER GOSS: He is welcome to his opinion. I doubt he's read the report. And in any event, he has certainly not asked the people who were involved in this activity what they think, because they have all indicated that he has not asked them. So, even he is dealing with less than a full deck.

Harry Reid hangs up his ‘rusty spurs’ as Senate minority leader

RT -

Sen. Reid (D-Nevada), 75, said in a video released Friday that he won’t be running in the 2016 election, eliminating any possibility of a sixth term in the Senate for the lawmaker.

"I have had time to ponder and to think. We've got to be more concerned about the country, the Senate, the state of Nevada than ourselves," Reid said. "And as a result of that I'm not going to run for re-election."

After a single four-year term in the US House representing his home state of Nevada, Reid was successfully elected to the Senate in 1986. He began serving as majority leader after Democrats gained control of the Senate following the 2006 elections, but lost that title when the Republican Party took hold of the chamber earlier this year and installed Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky) as majority leader.

Citing the need for Democrats to reclaim control in 2016, Reid said Friday that he believes it would be “inappropriate” for him to soak up the party’s resources when they could be better spent on ensuring the caucus can usurp the GOP from power.

"We have to make sure that the Democrats take control of the Senate again," he said.

In his video, Reid warned Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell that Republicans shouldn’t consider his decision not to seek re-election as a premature win for the GOP ahead of 2016.

"Don't be too elated. I am going to be here for 22 months ... doing the same thing I've done since I first came to the Senate,” Reid said in a personal message to McConnell in the video.

Nevertheless, some members of the GOP are already hailing Friday’s announcement as a win for the Republican Party.

“On the verge of losing his own election and after losing the majority, Senator Harry Reid has decided to hang up his rusty spurs. Not only does Reid instantly become irrelevant and a lame duck, his retirement signals that there is no hope for the Democrats to regain control of the Senate,” National Republican Senatorial Committee Executive Director Ward Baker said in a statement. “With the exception of Reid, every elected statewide official in Nevada is Republican and this race is the top pickup opportunity for the GOP.”

With regard to what Reid’s departure from the Senate could mean for his home state, Sen. Jon Tester (D-Montana), the chairman of the party’s Senatorial Campaign Committee, said Democrats needn’t worry.

"There is a talented pool of Nevada Democrats who are ready to step up to the plate, and we will recruit a top-notch candidate in Nevada who will be successful in holding this seat in 2016," Tester said in a statement.

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