Tag Archives | Corporation Watch

Obama Wants Companies to Stop Stealing Your Data. Good Luck.

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Jenna McLaughlin writes at Mother Jones:

President Barack Obama’s sixth State of the Union address, which he will deliver on Tuesday, will focus on cybersecurity, according to a speech he gave last Monday at the Federal Trade Commission. Protecting our government and corporations from foreign threats will not be Obama’s only focus—he’s also pushing for a bill that would protect internet consumers. But online privacy advocates are far from optimistic. They say Obama’s new consumer privacy bill will need to be very strong and specific to fill all the existing holes in consumer privacy law. Even then, they warn, the bill is likely doomed, because tech-industry lobbyists will spend millions to block it.

Right now, there are now very few restrictions on what data companies are allowed to scoop up from our digital apps and how they are allowed to use it. Companies routinely gather information and use it in ways consumers’ didn’t know about, much less sanction.

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USDA Approves New Monsanto Seeds While Kidneys Fail in Sri Lanka

Donna Cleveland (CC BY 2.0)

Donna Cleveland (CC BY 2.0)

Via St. Louis Biz Journal:

St. Louis Biz JournalMonsanto Co. has won approval from the U.S. Department of Agriculture for new soybean and cotton seeds resistant to specific herbicides, including dicamba and glyphosate, which is marketed by the company under the Roundup brand.

The decision Thursday clears another hurdle for Monsanto’s genetically modified products, with the Environmental Protection Agency expected to make a decision on the seeds in the coming months.

Monsanto applied for deregulation of the plants with the USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) in 2013. In its decision Thursday, APHIS said Monsanto’s new technologies “are unlikely to pose a plant pest risk and, therefore, should not be regulated” under the agency’s rules on dissemination of plant pests.

The seeds are part of what Monsanto has branded as its Roundup Ready 2 Xtend system, which combines tolerance to both dicamba and glyphosate herbicides and is aimed in part at tackling glyphosate-resistant weeds.

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Hydroponic gardener to raise plants that produce valuable medicines

 

Bob Shaw, St. Paul Pioneer Press writes at Duluth News Tribune:

MAPLEWOOD, Minn. — For Dave Roeser, it’s not just about salad anymore.

St. Paul’s award-winning hydroponic gardener will still grow vegetables but is adding medicinal plants. He plans to raise 100,000 genetically modified plants to produce medicine for cancer, flu and — potentially — Ebola.

“This is exciting,” said Roeser, a retired controller for Hewlett-Packard.

Roeser has been operating a Maplewood greenhouse to produce vegetables for his company, Garden Fresh Farms. He will continue growing vegetables in a new location in St. Paul but has co-founded a new company — MnPharm — to convert the Maplewood greenhouse into a biological drug factory.

Scientists — and Roeser — see great potential in using plants to produce vaccines.

That’s because vaccines traditionally have been made by the cumbersome process of injecting weakened germs into chicken eggs.

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NSA Cyber War Will Use Internet of Things as Weapons Platform; Your Home is the Battlefield

Martin Beek (CC BY 2.0)

Martin Beek (CC BY 2.0)

Daniel Taylor at Activist Post writes:

World War III is a guerrilla information war with no division between military and civilian participation.” – Marshall McLuhan, Culture is Our Business, 1970

New Snowden documents recently revealed that the NSA is getting ready for future digital wars as the agency postures itself in an aggressive manner towards the world. “The Five Eyes Alliance,” a cooperation between United States, Canada, Britain, Australia, and New Zealand, is working hard to develop these weapons of Cyber Warfare.

So called “D” weapons, as reported by Der Spiegel, will paralyze computer networks and infrastructure that they monitor. Water supplies, factories, airports, as well as the flow of money are all potential targets.

The Der Spiegel report does not mention the wider issue of the expanding network of everyday objects and appliances that are connected to the Internet. According to CIA chief David Petraeus the Internet of Things will have a monumental impact on “clandestine tradecraft.” Richard Adhikari writes for Tech News World that the Internet of Things is “…ripe for exploitation by the NSA.”

Consumer appliances are now becoming activated and “smart.” RFID chips and wireless Internet connections enable devices like televisions, refrigerators, printers, and computers to communicate with each other and generally make life easier for us.

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Wife, daughter, and writer of controversial FEMA camp movie ‘Gray State’ dead in ‘murder-suicide’

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Anti Media via WTF News:

The lead writer of a controversial movie was found dead along with his wife and daughter in a Minnesota home Saturday afternoon. Officers went to the house Saturday after a neighbor called to report bodies inside. Three people were found dead and have been identified as screenwriter David Crowley, his wife, Komel, 28, and their 5-year-old daughter.

A statement from Apple Valley police Sunday morning said the case would be considered “an apparent murder-suicide” and the deaths would be investigated as suspicious.

Next-door neighbor Collin Prochnow said he went to the house on Saturday to ‘gather packages that were sitting on the front steps’ when he looked inside and saw the bodies. Prochnow told the Minneapolis Star Tribune that the family had not been seen since Christmas and that a dog was also in the house.

David Crowley had been the lead screenwriter for the movie Gray State which depicts a violent police state in post-crisis America as people reject government policy en masse in frustration over economic collapse and the breakdown of society.

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Security is Not a Crime—Unless You’re an Anarchist

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Jannes Pockele (CC BY 2.0)

Nadia Kayyali and Kattza Rodriguez write at Electronic Frontier Foundation:

Riseup, a tech collective that provides security-minded communications to activists worldwide, sounded the alarm last month when a judge in Spain stated that the use of their email service is a practice, he believes, associated with terrorism.

Javier Gómez Bermúdez is a judge of Audiencia Nacional, a special high court in Spain that deals with serious crimes such as terrorism and genocide. According to press reports, he ordered arrest warrants that were carried out on December 16th against alleged members of an anarchist group. The arrests were part of Operation Pandora, a coordinated campaign against “anarchist activity” that has been called an attempt  “to criminalize anarchist social movements.” The police seized books, cell phones, and computers, and arrested 11 activists. Few details are known about the situation, since the judge has declared the case secret.

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The Streets of San Francisco Are Covered in Human Shit

nynbys82m8ttdj5rfs3jAndy Cush writes at Gawker:

Poop on Mission Street. Poop between cars. Poop in the alley. Poop in the Tenderloin. Poop in the escalator—so much poop that the escalator breaks down under the strain of all that poop. Everywhere you look, San Francisco residents are saying, there is poop, poop, poop.

The latest doodoo dispatch comes via a New York Times op-ed by Allison Arieff. She begins:

This past fall, a project started called (Human) Wasteland, which maps reports of human waste throughout the city of San Francisco. Yes, a disproportionate amount of poop on the streets is not from dogs but from humans.

Some in the blogosphere tended to play this for laughs, but the reality isn’t very funny.

Counterpoint: it’s a little funny. There’s a nice poetic justice to the gilded paradise of new-money tech-dudes teeming with the inescapable waste of people left behind or displaced by the awful march of disruption.

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Why Drugs Cost So Much

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More specifically, the question is why do prescription drugs from the large corporations collectively known as Big Pharma cost so much.

In an op-ed for the New York Times, Peter B. Bach, a physician and director of the Center for Health Policy and Outcomes at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, suggests, almost heretically one would have thought given his position in the healthcare establishment, that America should move to the European model of drug pricing:

Eli Lilly charges more than $13,000 a month for Cyramza, the newest drug to treat stomach cancer. The latest medicine for lung cancer, Novartis’s Zykadia, costs almost $14,000 a month. Amgen’s Blincyto, for leukemia, will cost $64,000 a month.

Why? Drug manufacturers blame high prices on the complexity of biology, government regulations and shareholder expectations for high profit margins. In other words, they say, they are hamstrung. But there’s a simpler explanation.

Companies are taking advantage of a mix of laws that force insurers to include essentially all expensive drugs in their policies, and a philosophy that demands that every new health care product be available to everyone, no matter how little it helps or how much it costs.

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Elon Musk is spending $10 million to save us from an evil robot takeover

Via Quartz:

Elon Musk may be a tech guru, but it turns out he’s just as scared of robots taking over the world as anyone else who grew up watching Terminator movies. So the CEO of Tesla Motors and SpaceX announced yesterday that he is giving $10 million to fund research that ensures artificial intelligence will be used for good, not evil.

He donated the money to the Future of Life Institute, a nonprofit research group, which will distribute the money in grants. In a video that the organization released, Musk talks about his motivations [via the Verge]:

Read more.

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Inequity is at a boiling point in today’s America

Amir Farshad Ebrahimi (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Amir Farshad Ebrahimi (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Via Times-Standard

Communities all over the country are struggling to find answers to the issue of the increasing numbers of homeless people and people living in poverty. Most of those communities are themselves struggling with budget problems and, at best, are only able to come up with Band-Aid solutions. What’s happening here in the richest country in the world? Do we just have a lot of lazy people?

Let’s take a look at some numbers (compiled by Bill Moyers and Company): families of 4 living on less than $11,510 (poverty level for one person) number 20.4 million, that’s 1 in 15 Americans, 7.1 million are children; 25 percent of U.S. jobs pay below the poverty line for a family of four, less than $23,000/year; in 2011 28 percent of all workers earned poverty level wages. Overall 50 percent of U.S. workers earn less than $34,000/year.

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