Re: NSA to shut down bulk phone surveillance program by Sunday

[Note:  This comment comes from friend David Rosenthal.  DLH]

Subject: Re: [Dewayne-Net] NSA to shut down bulk phone surveillance program by Sunday
Date: Sun, 29 Nov 2015 07:00:15 -0800
From: David S. H. Rosenthal <>


NSA to shut down bulk phone surveillance program by Sunday




Nov 27 2015









The U.S. National Security Agency will end its daily vacuuming of


millions of Americans’ phone records by Sunday and replace the practice


with more tightly targeted surveillance methods, the Obama


administration said on Friday.





How to Make Millions of Hoverboards (Almost Overnight)

[Note:  This item comes from friend David Rosenthal.  David’s comment:’Dean Kamen’s nightmare’.  DLH]

How to Make Millions of Hoverboards (Almost Overnight)
This holiday season, we want to roll around on motorized two-wheeled scooters — and China wants to give us what we want, as soon as we want it. BuzzFeed News travels to Shenzhen, the world capital of memeufacturing, to see how your Black Friday sausage gets made.
By Joseph Bernstein
Nov 27 2015

The 16th-century Chinese novel Fengshen Yanyi tells the story of Nezha, a child deity who can’t quite keep from killing people. First, he nearly kills his mother, who carries him in utero for four agonizing years before birthing “a huge meatball” that rolls around “in mad circles like a wheel.” As a boy, Nezha kills a series of important people with his toys, which he keeps forgetting are lethal weapons, and to avoid retribution against his family, he disembowels himself, absolving them of responsibility. After Nezha’s death, his father burns down a temple built in his honor, calling him “impudent,” a troublemaker. This enrages Nezha’s spirit, who beseeches his master, Superiorman Paragon, for help. Superiorman Paragon obliges, crafting Nezha a new body out of lotus flowers and bestowing a gift: two “wind-fire wheels,” aboard which Nezha sets out to seek revenge.

The Chinese have lots of names for hoverboards, which are all made here, mostly in the vast southern province of Guangdong: They call them huaban, “skateboard,” or pinghengche, “balancing wheels,” or diandongpinghengban, “power balance board.” But people in the know, young people on the internet, cool people, call those goofy two-wheeled scooter thingies feng huo lun or fung fo leon: wind-fire wheels. The name doesn’t just describe the board; it also describes the rider: someone young, someone who likes to show off, someone who is maybe a little bit of a punk.

Also, someone incurious. Nezha doesn’t wonder where Superiorman Paragon actually got the nifty wheels — he just uses them. They’re just there.

And so, almost overnight, are hoverboards. They’re in MTV awards shows and Justin Bieber videos; in suburban high schools and on city sidewalks. They’re a physical commodity, but they’re also a meme — popularized by celebrities, shared endlessly on Twitter and Instagram and Vine, discussed to death by the chittering idea factory that is the English-language internet. Wiz Khalifa’s tweet calling the boards “the technology everyone will be using in the next 6 months” has been retweeted some 34,000 times; when Kendall Jenner posted a video of herself flailing around on a model called the PhunkeeDuck this summer, more than 1.1 million Instagram accounts liked it. According to Alyssa Steele, divisional merchandising manager at eBay, the site currently has about 10,000 listings for hoverboards; in the first two weeks of November, one was being sold there about once every two minutes. Over the past week and a half, that number has ramped up to one board every single minute of the day. Hoverboards are clearly, loudly, definitely here — but still, most Americans have only the faintest idea about where they actually come from.


Tiny open-source gadget simulates replacement Amex cards, disables chip-&-PIN

Tiny open-source gadget simulates replacement Amex cards, disables chip-&-PIN
By Cory Doctorow
Nov 26 2015

Hardware hacker/security researcher Samy Kamkar is legendary for his legion of playful, ha-ha-only-serious gadgets that show how terrible information security is, and now he’s turned his attention to the American Express company, which turns out to be a goddamned train-wreck.

When you cancel an Amex card as lost or stolen, the company generates your new number using an easy-to-derive algorithm based on your old card and expiration date. That means that if an attacker knows about your old Amex number (say, because it was extracted from a hacked reader and posted, along with millions of others, on a carding site), they can say, with certainty, what your new Amex number is, even before Amex mails your replacement card to you.

Kamkar’s tiny, open source hardware Magspoof gadget will trick any credit-card reader into thinking that a card with any number and characteristics you’ve specified has just been swiped through it. It’s a smaller, more flexible version of Coin, a kickstarted credit-card-shaped gadget that can be programmed to simulate all of your own credit and debit cards.

But when you combine this with Amex’s poor information security, it means that an attacker could use Magspoof or Coin to commit fraud against cards, even after they’re canceled. What’s more, Kamkar has found a bit in the Amex magstripe that turns off chip-and-pin, so that you can spoof a chipped Amex and ensure that the reader does not ask you to “dip” your card and verify the chip.

Kamkar’s release does not include the Amex-spoofing and chip-disabling sourcecode, because Magspoof is meant as a convenient card-replacement, not a fraud device. But in demonstrating the potential for fraud latent in all card-replacement technologies, Kamkar is taking the credit-card issuers to task for sloppy, lazy practices that put us all at risk.

I saw Kamkar demo this over lunch some time ago — he picked up the tab with a Coin that was programmed with the number of an Amex that replaced one he’d reported lost. Kamkar had never opened the envelope the replacement card came in. He’d derived its number using the Amex algorithm he’d figured out, programmed it into the Coin, and I can verify that the number worked and he was able to make the transaction. (Thanks for lunch, Samy!)


Is the 2 °C world a fantasy?

[Note:  This item comes from friend David Rosenthal.  DLH]

Is the 2 °C world a fantasy?
Countries have pledged to limit global warming to 2 °C, and climate models say that is still possible. But only with heroic — and unlikely — efforts.
By Jeff Tollefson
Nov 24 2015

The year is 2100 and the world looks nothing like it did when global leaders gathered for the historic climate summit in Paris at the end of 2015. Nearly 8.8 billion people now crowd the planet. Energy consumption has nearly doubled, and economic production has increased more than sevenfold. Vast disparities in wealth remain, but governments have achieved one crucial goal: limiting global warming to 2 °C above pre-industrial temperatures.

The United Nations meeting in Paris proved to be a turning point. After forging a climate treaty, governments immediately moved to halt tropical deforestation and to expand forests around the globe. By 2020, plants and soils were stockpiling more than 17 billion tonnes of extra carbon dioxide each year, offsetting 50% of global CO2 emissions. Several million wind turbines were installed, and thousands of nuclear power plants were built. The solar industry ballooned, overtaking coal as a source of energy in the waning years of the twenty-first century.

But it took more than this. Governments had to drive emissions into negative terri­tory — essentially sucking greenhouse gases from the skies — by vastly increasing the use of bioenergy, capturing the CO2 generated and then pumping it underground on truly massive scales. These efforts pulled Earth back from the brink. Atmospheric CO2 concentrations peaked in 2060, below the target of 450 parts per million (p.p.m.) and continue to fall.


That scenario for conquering global warming is one possible — if optimistic — vision of the future. It was developed by modellers at the Joint Global Change Research Institute in College Park, Maryland, as part of a broad effort by climate scientists to chart possible paths for limiting global warming to 2 °C, a target enshrined in the UN climate convention that will produce the Paris treaty.

Climate modellers have developed dozens of rosy 2 °C scenarios over several years, and these fed into the latest assessment by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). The panel seeks to be policy-neutral and has never formally endorsed the 2-degree target, but its official message, delivered in April 2014, was clear: the goal is ambitious but achievable.

This work has fuelled hope among policymakers and environ­mentalists, and it will provide a foundation for debate as governments negotiate a new climate agreement at the UN’s 2015 Paris Climate Conference starting on 30 November. Despite broad agreement that the emissions-reduction commitments that countries have offered up so far are insufficient, policy­makers continue to talk about bending the emissions curve downwards to remain on the path to 2 degrees that was laid out by the IPCC.

But take a closer look, some scientists argue, and the 2 °C scenarios that define that path seem so optimistic and detached from current political realities that they verge on the farcical. Although the caveats and uncertainties are all spelled out in the scientific literature, there is concern that the 2 °C modelling effort has distorted the political debate by obscuring the scale of the challenge. In particular, some researchers have questioned the viability of large-scale bioenergy use with carbon capture and storage (CCS), on which many models now rely as a relatively cheap way to provide substantial negative emissions. The entire exercise has opened up a rift in the scientific community, with some people raising ethical questions about whether scientists are bending to the will of politicians and government funders who want to maintain 2 °C as a viable political target.

“Nobody dares say it’s impossible,” says Oliver Geden, head of the European Union Research Division at the German Institute for Inter­national and Security Affairs in Berlin. “Everybody is sort of underwriting the 2-degree cheque, but scientists have to think about the credibility of climate science.”

Modellers are first to acknowledge the limits of their work, and say that the effort is designed to explore options, not predict the future. “We’ll tell you how many nuclear power plants you need, or how much CCS, but we can’t tell you whether society is going to be willing to do that or not,” says Leon Clarke, a senior scientist and modeller at the Joint Global Change Research Institute. “That’s a different question.”


Re: Dream of New Kind of Credit Union Is Extinguished by Bureaucracy

[Note:  This comment comes from a reader of Dave Farber’s IP List.  DLH]

Subject:     Re: [IP] Dream of New Kind of Credit Union Is Extinguished by
Date:     Sat, 28 Nov 2015 12:12:27 -0800
From:     Ross Stapleton-Gray <>
To:     Dave Farber <>, Dewayne Hendricks







Brewster Kahle didn’t need to start a bank.




He made a fortune building start-ups and then used his money to


build the Internet Archive, a nonprofit trying to maintain a copy of


everything published on the Internet.




In 2008, though, Mr. Kahle saw how hard it was for the employees at


his firm to obtain loans, and more broadly, how the existing


financial system had helped contribute to the financial crisis. He


thought he could do things differently, and he aimed to prove it


when he began applying to open a credit union in early 2011.


I like Brewster, but I’d have liked to see the journalist ask a few more
questions, such as why New Jersey? (the Internet Archive, and presumably
the employees having difficulty getting loans, is based in San
Francisco.) And why throw Bitcoin on the pile of issues to deal with…
throwing yourself on barbed wire to let others run across your back to
victory is noble, but try it one trench at a time…

Meanwhile, he’s a partner in a
former-icebreaker-as-floating-coworking-center in San Francisco Bay:

There are times when revolutionary leaps are the necessary steps, but if
your interests intersect with major and immovable regulatory hurdles,
smaller hacks may be necessary, e.g., finding an existing credit union
whose management wants to move on, and recruit new membership/ownership
from the population you’re interested in serving. I’m a member of a
credit union, sited in Bedford, MA; it’s a federal credit union and I
could join because a federal agency I once worked for has a locus of
business in Massachusetts (and my only interest in them thus far is an
astonishingly low HELOC rate); I’m also a member of PenFed, the Pentagon
Federal Credit Union, which merely required that I spent $15 to join an
association related to military families (which didn’t require that we
be one). I’m sure there were a lot of alternative hacks that might have
been attempted, before trying to launch a new credit union from a
standing start.


Stapleton-Gray and Associates, Inc.
Albany, CA

Dream of New Kind of Credit Union Is Extinguished by Bureaucracy




Nov 24 2015



Bread Is Broken

[Note:  This item comes from friend David Rosenthal.  DLH]

Bread Is Broken
Industrial production destroyed both the taste and the nutritional
value of wheat. One scientist believes he can undo the damage.
Oct 29 2015

On the morning of July 13, like most mornings, Stephen Jones’s laboratory in Mount Vernon, Wash., was suffused with the thick warm smell of baking bread. Jones walked me around the floor, explaining the layout. A long counter split the space down the middle. To the right was what Jones called ‘‘the science part,’’ a cluster of high-tech equipment designed to evaluate grain, flour and dough. Jones, who is 58 and stands a daunting 6 foot 5, calls to mind a lovably geeky high-school teacher. He wore dungarees, a plaid shirt, a baseball cap and a warm, slightly goofy smile. Two pairs of eyeglasses dangling from his neck jostled gently as he gesticulated, describing the esoteric gadgetry surrounding us. The 600-square-foot room, known as the Bread Lab, serves as a headquarters for Jones’s project to reinvent the most important food in history.

Jones pointed to a sleek red machine, roughly the length of three toasters. ‘‘This one’s an alveo­graph,’’ he said, smirking. ‘‘It blows bubbles.’’ If a globe of dough inflates to the size of a baseball without bursting, that means it has enough elasticity and extensibility to make a baguette or a rustic loaf. ‘‘But if it just goes fffft, it’s probably going to be at best a scone or cookie,’’ Jones said. Nearby was a squat device that looked like a photocopier — a farinograph, which assesses the strength of dough as it is mixed — and a cylindrical machine that tests raw grain for adequate levels of starch.

‘‘You put all three of those together, and you get a very good idea of what type of product that’s going to bake,’’ Jones said. ‘‘Then you come over here’’ — we moved to the left side of the room — ‘‘and you have everything that a craft baker would be familiar with.’’ There was a wooden baker’s bench, wicker nests for rising dough, a steam-injected hearth oven full of crispening boules, an assortment of hand-operated mills. And there was flour: flour piled in bowls, flour coating every available surface, flour kicked up into the air as we walked by.

What most people picture when they think of flour — that anonymous chalk-white powder from the supermarket — is anathema to Jones. Before the advent of industrial agriculture, Americans enjoyed a wide range of regional flours milled from equally diverse wheats, which in turn could be used to make breads that were astonish­ingly flavorful and nutritious. For nearly a century, however, America has grown wheat tailored to an industrial system designed to produce nutrient-poor flour and insipid, spongy breads soaked in preservatives. For the sake of profit and expediency, we forfeited pleasure and health. The Bread Lab’s mission is to make regional grain farming viable once more, by creating entirely new kinds of wheat that unite the taste and wholesomeness of their ancestors with the robustness of their modern counterparts.

Although regional grain economies have developed in California, North Carolina, Arizona and elsewhere, there are few people who match Jones’s fervor for wheat and none with an equally grand vision for its future. His lab was founded just three years ago, but it has already earned the respect of the country’s most celebrated bakers, like Chad Robertson of Tartine and Jeffrey Hamelman, the director of King Arthur Bakery. Dan Barber teamed up with Jones to develop ‘‘Barber wheat’’ for his restaurant Blue Hill at Stone Barns, which is ensconced in a working farm. Bread Lab breads have even made their way to the kitchens of the White House.

In recent months, the lab’s newfound popularity has caused a bit of an identity crisis. Its latest collaborator is the fast-casual Mexican chain Chipotle, which wants to use one of the lab’s regional wheats in its tortillas. Chipotle serves 800,000 tortillas around the country every day. ‘‘There are definitely issues of scale,’’ Jones says. ‘‘If you have Chipotle come in, how big does it get, and how quickly? Do we end up with a commodity by any other name?’’


Top Ten differences between White Terrorists and Others

Top Ten differences between White Terrorists and Others
By Juan Cole
Nov 28 2015

Reprint edn.

1. White terrorists are called “gunmen.” What does that even mean? A person with a gun? Wouldn’t that be, like, everyone in the US? Other terrorists are called, like, “terrorists.”

2. White terrorists are “troubled loners.” Other terrorists are always suspected of being part of a global plot, even when they are obviously troubled loners.

3. Doing a study on the danger of white terrorists at the Department of Homeland Security will get you sidelined by angry white Congressmen. Doing studies on other kinds of terrorists is a guaranteed promotion.

4. The family of a white terrorist is interviewed, weeping as they wonder where he went wrong. The families of other terrorists are almost never interviewed.

5. White terrorists are part of a “fringe.” Other terrorists are apparently mainstream.

6. White terrorists are random events, like tornadoes. Other terrorists are long-running conspiracies.

7. White terrorists are never called “white.” But other terrorists are given ethnic affiliations.

8. Nobody thinks white terrorists are typical of white people. But other terrorists are considered paragons of their societies.


Dream of New Kind of Credit Union Is Extinguished by Bureaucracy

Dream of New Kind of Credit Union Is Extinguished by Bureaucracy
Nov 24 2015

Brewster Kahle didn’t need to start a bank.

He made a fortune building start-ups and then used his money to build the Internet Archive, a nonprofit trying to maintain a copy of everything published on the Internet.

In 2008, though, Mr. Kahle saw how hard it was for the employees at his firm to obtain loans, and more broadly, how the existing financial system had helped contribute to the financial crisis. He thought he could do things differently, and he aimed to prove it when he began applying to open a credit union in early 2011.

Since then, the credit union has faced a barrage of regulatory audits and limitations on its operations, first when it tried to work with low-income immigrants in New Jersey and especially after it looked at providing banking services to Bitcoin companies that were being rejected by other banks.

Now, Mr. Kahle is giving up on his dream of creating a new kind of bank, one for social good rather than profit. He hopes to give the credit union charter to a nonprofit organization in New Jersey that can make use of it — or give it up.

Mr. Kahle’s experience and internal documents offer a glimpse into how regulators approach a new technology like Bitcoin, which most banks have refused to touch, partly because of the hesitation of regulators. More broadly, the troubles faced by his Internet Archive Federal Credit Union point to how difficult it can be to try out anything new in the heavily regulated industry.

After an 18-month application process, regulators let the Internet Archive Federal Credit Union open in 2012, but with restrictions that did not allow it to offer basic banking products, such as debit cards and online banking.

Mr. Kahle said the credit union asked its regulators before it took on the first Bitcoin clients — and quickly dropped those clients after the regulators turned sour on the idea — but it has faced a steady stream of official exams since: 11 in 14 months. In August, the credit union, by its own count, spent 187 hours dealing with regulators and only 61 hours dealing with customers.

“I think we could really use some new ideas in the banking world — and the credit union offers a nice structure,” Mr. Kahle said. “But they just won’t allow it.”

A spokesman for the National Credit Union Administration, a federal agency whose board is appointed by the president, said it would not comment on Mr. Kahle’s specific complaints, but in a statement, the chairwoman of the agency, Debbie Matz, a Democrat, said that “if a credit union thinks it’s going to be cited for breaking the law, sometimes a C.E.O. will push back and blame the regulator. It’s our job to protect depositors.”

The chief executive of Mr. Kahle’s credit union, Jordan Modell, said that the N.C.U.A. had never given him any indication that the credit union would be cited for breaking the law.

Mr. Modell and Mr. Kahle said the red flags raised by the N.C.U.A. examiners had been over small discrepancies and record-keeping issues — and often turned out to be factually wrong.

“None of the compliance issues listed in the report were correct,” the credit union wrote in an appeal sent to the N.C.U.A. in May, after the agency lowered the credit union’s regulatory rating.


Brewster Kahle’s statement: “Difficult Times at our Credit Union” <>

NPR’s ‘Planet Money’:Episode 666: The Hoverboard Life

NPR’s ‘Planet Money’:Episode 666: The Hoverboard Life
Nov 27 2015

The hottest toy this holiday season has no identifiable logo, no main distributor, and no widely agreed upon name. Today, we seek out the origin of the hands-free, two wheeled, self-balancing scooter.

Today on the show: We set out to find who invented them. The process involves late night phone calls to Shenzhen, a high tech deconstruction project, and the purchase of a Planet Money hoverboard all our own.

Audio: 17:16 min

What really drives you crazy about waiting in line (it actually isn’t the wait at all)

What really drives you crazy about waiting in line (it actually isn’t the wait at all)
By Ana Swanson
Nov 27 2015

If the people who study the psychology of waiting in line — yes, there is such a thing — have an origin story, it’s this:

It was the 1950s, and a high-rise office building in Manhattan had a problem. The tenants complained of an excessively long wait for the elevator when people arrived in the morning, took their lunch break, and left at night. Engineers examined the building and determined that nothing could be done to speed up the service.

Desperate to keep his tenants, the building manager turned to his staff for suggestions. One employee noted that people were probably just bored and recommended installing floor-to-ceiling mirrors near the elevators, so people could look at themselves and each other while waiting. This was done, and complaints dropped to nearly zero.

It’s a tale that appears in books and articles about organizational design, though it’s not clear whether it’s a real story or simply a parable. Regardless, the story offers a powerful insight into one of the most universal, and universally hated, things we do: waiting in line. It suggests that there are hidden and surprising factors that affect how we experience lines.

In the case of elevators, it wasn’t the wait that mattered. It was that we got bored while waiting.

While that story has become legend, it was not the first time people started thinking seriously about waiting, or queuing, as academics call it. A Danish engineer named A.K. Erlang developed the first mathematical models of how lines worked in the early 20th century to complement a new device at the time: the telephone.

Erlang’s work helped the phone company figure out how many phone lines and operators the old-fashioned central switchboard needed to keep customers from waiting too long. He used probability and statistics to model how bottlenecks form as customers arrive, and how quickly companies need to provide service to keep queues moving. His work inspired the next generation of mathematicians and engineers to take up the subject.

In those early days, engineers were focused solely on efficiency — how to serve as many customers as possible without cutting into a company’s profits. It wasn’t until 50 years later that researchers began to realize that there were subtler factors influencing people’s experience of waiting in line, including ideas of fairness, mismanaged expectations, and the strange and inaccurate way that most people perceive both time and pain.

Interestingly, it turns out that what you hate most about lines probably isn’t the length of the wait after all.

The business of lines

The time that people spend waiting in line, and how they feel when they do so, is a big deal for average people and the economy.

Altogether, some people spend a year or two of their lives waiting in line, estimates Richard Larson, a professor who studies queuing theory at MIT. This back-of-the envelope calculation includes less obvious types of queues, like driving in slower-than-normal traffic during a daily commute.*

And the way that businesses manage lines results in easily billions of dollars of gained and lost brand equity and consumer spending. A long and unpleasant wait can damage a customer’s view of a brand, cause people to leave a line or not enter it in the first place (what researchers respectively call “reneging” and “balking”), or discourage them from coming back to the store entirely.

Companies have come up with some novel solutions to shorten lines, including charging customers for skipping or advancing in the line. Examples include priority boarding on airplanes and special concession lines for NFL season-ticket holders. These new technologies seem to be cutting down on the amount of time spent waiting in line, though they are unlikely to get rid of waiting altogether.

Even so, businesses can still do a lot to improve customer experiences. As numerous studies show, how people feel when they wait in line often matters a lot more than the duration of the wait.