France slaps ban on Swiss pesticide as bee threat

by Staff Writers
Paris (AFP)

The French government on Friday slapped an immediate ban a pesticide made by Swiss giant Syngenta used in rapeseed cultivation that has been found to shorten bees’ lifespan.

The agriculture ministry had signalled at the beginning of the month that it planned to ban Cruiser and Agriculture Minister Stephane Le Foll said Syngenta failed to provide satisfactory information to call into doubt findings on the pesticide.

France’s National Food, Environment and Work Safety Agency (ANSES) issued a damning report on the pesticide after the journal Science published a French study demonstrating the harmful effects on bees of broad-spectrum insecticide thiamethoxam, found in Cruiser.

Le Foll said the ban “takes effect immediately,” and affected only Cruiser OSR which is used on rapeseed seeds when the plant is harvested in August.

Related Links
Farming Today – Suppliers and Technology

Australia prices carbon for greener economy

Published on Jun 30, 2012 by

Australia has begun putting a price on pollution, charging companies for their carbon emissions. The government says the carbon tax will promote a greener economy and help fight climate change. Prime Minister Julia Gillard has hailed the move. But critics say the law will stifle industry and increase the cost of living. Al Jazeera’s Andrew Thomas reports from Sydney.

Nature evades the best efforts of GMOs

By Willa Anderson,
(NaturalNews) While many of the plants are modified to increase crop yield, it is hardly the main change that has been made to the genetic structures of the plants over the practice’s thirty year history. Often industry leaders try to present genetic modification as being in the line of defense against “global food shortages,” but their primary use is in increasing the profitability of agricultural giants, such as Monsanto. A brief wine menu of GMO practicesOne of the more well-publicized “edits…


Cyber Space

The U.S. is Nosy: Twitter Releases First Transparency Report

Twitter has released its first biannual transparency report detailing which governments asked for the most info over the past six months.

By Sarah Jacobsson Purewal, PCWorld

In honor of American independence, Twitter has released its first ever transparency report. The Twitter Transparency Report includes data from January 1, 2012 through June 1, 2012, and Twitter says it plans to update the information twice a year.

The transparency report is pretty much what it sounds like–Twitter’s attempt to be transparent about which governments are requesting information from Twitter, what percentage of those requests produced some or all information, and how many accounts were specified in those requests. Such requests, as Twitter points out, are typically connected with criminal investigations.

Not surprisingly, our very own United States is the nosiest government, with 679 requests in the past six months, targeting almost 1000 user accounts. The United States’ requests accounted for 80 percent of all requests (out of 23 countries). The second nosiest government was Japan, with 98 requests in the past six months, targeting almost 150 user accounts.

Twitter notes that it does not comply with every government request for a variety of reasons. For example, the report states, Twitter does not comply with government requests that do not identify a specific Twitter account, seeks to narrow overly-broad requests, and may not comply with a request if a Twitter user challenges the request after being notified. Twitter says it notifies users of requests for their account information, except when prohibited by law.

Twitter’s Transparency Report is at least partially motivated by Google’s Transparency Report, which the company has been posting for about two years. In its blog post announcing the report, Twitter notes that the report is “inspired by the great work done by our peers @Google,” and that the main goal of the report is to “shed more light on government requests received for user information, government requests received to withhold content, and DMCA takedown notices received from copyright holders.”

The Transparency Report also gives information on the number of “formal government requests” Twitter has received to remove or withhold content on Twitter.

This chart shows the number of removal requests by court order and by government agencies, the percentage of instances in which some or all content was removed (0 percent in every case, during the past six months), and the number of accounts specified. Twitter apparently only received six removal requests in the past six months, which is good news–it means governments are not outright censoring social media (though they may, of course, be secretly censoring it).

The Report also shows the number of copyright takedown notices Twitter received in the past six months:

According to Twitter, the company receives a large number of “misfiled, non-copyright complaints” through its web form, and so does not comply with every request.

Follow Sarah on Twitter, Facebook, or Google+.

Feds Crack Down on Data Brokers

By Julie Sartain, NetworkWorld

J. Elizabeth Hill, a nurse living in San Diego, recently received a Gmail message from her nephew. Pasted inside was an article about soldiers in Afghanistan and the discrepancies regarding the ammunition they use.

Nine days later, Hill received via snail mail at her home address a catalog for a company that sells magnum semi-automatic air pistol revolvers, border patrol survival knives, self-cocking crossbows, armor-piercing “performance ballistic alloy” ammunition rounds, Israeli-issue gas masks, plus lots of other survival gear and military surplus items.

“I have never owned, fired, or even handled any type of weapon,” Hill says, “And I have never visited a website connected to the military, war, or weapons of any kind. In addition, this is the first and only email I have ever received that mentioned these types of keywords. Does this mean my name will start showing up on lists of potential terrorists?”

Hill has good reason to be concerned. There are nearly 200 companies out there that collect and sell your personal information. And there’s very little you can do if that information is flat-out wrong or gives a false impression of who you are.

In fact, it’s perfectly legal for online data brokers to collect information about you from any number of sources and then to aggregate and sell that information. The Interactive Advertising Bureau says personal information on Internet users is worth $31 billion a year, up 22% from last year.

However, there is a glimmer of hope.

Last month, for the first time ever, the Federal Trade Commission stepped in and spanked a data broker, in this case it was Spokeo, to the tune of an $800,000 fine for selling personal information to employers and job recruiters without taking steps to protect consumers under the Fair Credit Reporting Act.

The FTC also sent warning letters to six unidentified mobile app makers notifying them that their background screening apps may be violating federal statutes. The collecting of personal information is not at issue in these cases, it’s the use of that information for employment screening, housing, credit or other purposes that fall under the Fair Credit Reporting Act.

Where Spokeo crossed the line, according to the FTC, is that it failed to maintain reasonable procedures to verify who its users are and that the information would be used for a permissible purpose; that it failed to ensure the accuracy of consumer reports and that it failed to provide proper user notice. Also, Spokeo was posting endorsements of its service on news and tech websites, but those endorsements were written by Spokeo employees, according to the FTC.

Spokeo has agreed to change its practices and the FTC settlement should have a ripple effect throughout the industry. But the fact remains that these companies can legally gather whatever information they can about you, and there’s not much you can do about it.

Who Are These People?

“Most of these broker sites are actually search engines that scatter little Pac Man bots through cyberspace collecting every scrap of data that’s ever been recorded anywhere in the world. They justify this privacy intrusion by labeling it as a safety measure; that is, a way to check out your babysitters to ensure that no secret child corrupters are watching your children. Others claim it’s a fast way to connect with old friends,” says Jack Stratton, independent IT consultant and former Novell systems analyst.

For example, a Spokeo.com ad says, “Find a lost relative or contact an old school chum.” USA People Search’s marketing materials say, “Some people do people searches to try and reconnect with an old friend or family member. Others may be looking for criminal, marriage or other types of public records. Fortunately for users of USA-People-Search.com, information from bankruptcy records to divorce records, and everything in between, is easily accessible with a click of the mouse.”

Alexandra Senoner, head of corporate communications & public affairs at 123people.com puts it this way: “123people is a vertical search engine dedicated to people search. Based on a proprietary technology, it empowers users to find information on themselves, friends, relatives, or people of public interest by searching across more than 200 international, regional, and local data sources such as Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter; news sites, blogs, company websites, local sources such as white pages, videos, email addresses, Wikipedia results, and many more.”

According to Sarah A. Downey, an attorney at Abine, an online privacy company, “There are over 180 different data brokers and that doesn’t include those companies that sell criminal records and employment history for employment background checks. Many of these brokers are co-owned or affiliated and share databases. For example, Intelius owns the information and controls the opt-out requests for about 70% of the data broker industry. And Confi-Chek owns Veromi.com, CriminalSearches.com, PrivateEye.com, EnformionUSA-People-Search.com, PublicBackgroundChecks.com, and PeopleFinders.com, among others.”

Three of the largest data brokers are Acxiom (claims 32 billion data records), Lexis Nexis (boasts 500 million unique consumer identities), and Intelius (advertises millions of customers).

Where Do They Get This Information?

“Information comes from a variety of sources,” Downey says. “Some are voluntary submissions such as warranties, rebates, sweepstakes, online accounts, and social networks; but some of these sources are unavoidable because they’re part of everyday life; for example, voter registrations, marriage and business licenses, birth and death certificates, property and title records, bankruptcies, liens, judgments, criminal records, apartment leasing information, mortgages, and utility company bills. And then, some data brokers get your information from other data brokers, which just perpetuates the exploitation. It’s like that game of gossip: one incorrect piece of information can end up on a lot of different websites.”

Cha-ching of scraping: Data brokers digging up & selling your digital dirt

Alan Webber, principal analyst and partner at Altimeter Group, LLC. “These sites simply use information that is already publicly available, but generally difficult to obtain from a logistics perspective. I would not call it exploitation, but these sites do expose the fact that there is a lack of control in how personal information is made available and used.”

“We obtain our data from public sources, some online and some offline,” says Jim Adler, chief privacy officer and general manager of data systems at Intelius. “Online data comes from data that’s available to search engines, but the information is only as reliable as the public records.”

“One of these sources is your email account,” Downey adds. “Google has every email you’ve ever sent or received, every conversation you’ve had in Gchat, every video you’ve watched on YouTube, and every Google search you’ve ever done. Under Google’s new privacy policy, this information is now stored in one common profile for you. It’s a massive amount of personal information that’s tough to put into perspective.”

Read Full Article Here



Ridiculous Claims of Respecting Your Privacy After Violating It

Does anyone else shake their head in irritated bewilderment when privacy is quoted as the reason you cannot be told how your privacy has been invaded?

By Darlene Storm, Computerworld

Does anyone else shake their head in irritated bewilderment when privacy is quoted as the reason you cannot be told how your privacy has been invaded? The most recent example of such ridiculous reasoning comes from mobile phone service providers who happily collect and store your data for law enforcement to tap, but refuse to tell you the details of how your location information was otherwise shared with the government or advertisers.

Pro Publica reported that four different people requested their own geo-location data from the four largest cell phone providers, but all four mobile carriers refused to release it because:

Verizon: “Verizon Wireless will release a subscriber’s location information to law enforcement with that subscriber’s written consent. These requests must come to Verizon Wireless through law enforcement; so we would provide info on your account to law enforcement— with your consent— but not directly to you.”

Sprint: “We do not normally release this information to customers for privacy reasons because call detail records contain all calls made or received, including calls where numbers are ‘blocked.’ Because of an FCC rule requiring that we not disclose ‘blocked’ numbers, we only release this information to a customer when we receive a valid legal demand for it.”

AT&T: “Giving customers location data for their wireless phones is not a service we provide.”

T-Mobile: “No comment.”

Of course each wireless provider also had a response about releasing the same information to law enforcement, but they all do it. In fact, selling cell phone surveillance records is a big money-making business for mobile phone companies which have special divisions and manuals to assist law enforcement in nabbing our location data without requiring a warrant.

Read Full Article Here


Survival / Sustainability


Easy guide to create a home security safe room for emergency preparedness and survival

by: JB Bardot

(NaturalNews) The Red Cross and other disaster relief agencies advise having supplies and disaster plans in place for survival during hurricanes, tornadoes, earthquakes and other unexpected emergencies. Creating a home security safe room can save your life, sustaining you for days afterwards. It can be overwhelming setting up a home security safe room, and many people avoid doing so as a result. Here are some simple guidelines to help you get started and manage this task.


Choose an easily accessible room, closet, hallway or basement with no windows and where all doors can be closed off. It may not be perfect, just do the best you can. Pick a space preferably that has a closet, cupboards or an available storage area. Add shelves and anchor them to the wall. Make sure the room is large enough to accommodate anyone who might be in the house during emergencies, including pets. Add a pet door and train your cats and dogs to use it so they come to you during an emergency.

Read Full Article Here

Wildfires happen every year, each with varying degrees of damage. Just because
your home is outside of common wildfire regions doesn’t mean you shouldn’t consider
these simple tips to prevent your home from being more of a fire hazard.

Tale of Two Homes – Wildfire

Uploaded by on Jul 14, 2008

This wildfire campaign presents California homeowner stories from the 2007 wildfires and is designed to combat the myth that only the “lucky” homes survive when wildfire strikes.


Whistle Blowers

US officials pursue Julian Assange

Published on Jul 2, 2012 by

The evidence that the US is pursuing to have Wikileaks founder Julian Assange extradited to America is becoming more obvious. Assange still awaits in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London for political asylum to South America, but while he remains trapped, democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein has issued a statement to an Australian newspaper demanding that the whistleblower be prosecuted. Trevor Timm, an activist for the Electronic Frontier Foundation, joins us with more on the hunt for Assange.



Thousands gather in LA to rally against Wal-Mart

Published on Jul 2, 2012 by

Labor activists and union workers from across California are trying to put a stop to Wal-Mart.

Press TV’s Ross Michael Frasier reports from Los Angeles.



OWS plans mass resurgence in Philadelphia

Published on Jul 2, 2012 by

The Occupy Wall Street movement has been fairly quiet these last few months, but on July 4 the movement is expected to reawaken. In Philadelphia, the event dubbed “The National Gathering” is expected to draw thousands from the different Occupy movements across the country. RT’s Kristine Frazao tells us more.


Articles of Interest

Australia counts down to pollution, mining taxes

by Staff Writers
Sydney (AFP)

Australia said Friday the world expects it to do its part to reduce pollution linked to global warming as the nation counts down to controversial new taxes on carbon emissions and mining profits.

Hard-fought levies on corporate pollution and so-called “super profits” of iron ore and coal mining take effect Sunday after years of heated debate and campaigning which cost former prime minister Kevin Rudd his job.

The conservative opposition has warned that key resources industries, whose exports to fast-growing Asia helped Australia dodge recession during the financial crisis, face ruin under the new tax regime.

Opposition leader Tony Abbott has vowed to repeal both the mining and pollution taxes if he wins office in elections due in 2013.

Some 350 entities, many of them power generators and coal miners, will be liable to pay the Aus$23/tonne (US$23.1/tonne) pollution tax in its first year, according to the government’s Clean Energy Regulator.

The carbon levy is expected to bring in Aus$4.0 billion in the 2012-13 financial year, increasing the cost of living per household by about Aus$10 per week but funding a raft of compensation measures including tax cuts.

Climate Change Minister Greg Combet said the tax was an essential step in transforming Australia’s economy.

“We are the highest polluter per person of greenhouse gases among the advanced economies, we’re in the top 20 greenhouse gas emitters internationally,” he said Friday.

Combet added that Australia’s major trading partners, including China and South Korea, were introducing mitigation measures such as emissions trading schemes and “other countries are taking action as well”.

“The international community expects Australia to play its fair part in reducing greenhouse gas emissions,” he said.

Australia is the world’s biggest exporter of the iron ore and coking coal used in steelmaking, and the second-biggest exporter of thermal coal used in power stations.

Prime Minister Julia Gillard described the passage of the tax in November as the result of 37 political inquiries and “years of bitter debate and division” which saw her replace Rudd in a party-room coup.

Also instrumental in Rudd’s downfall was an ambitious plan to levy the “super profits” of Australia’s booming mining sector at 40 percent, a watered-down version of which will also kick in on Sunday.

Intense lobbying by mining giants including BHP Billiton, Rio Tinto and Xstrata against Rudd’s tax saw him axed in favour of Gillard who scaled it back to just the iron ore and coal industries and lowered the rate to 30 percent.

It is expected to bring in net revenues of Aus$3.0 billion in 2012-13.

Related Links
Climate Science News – Modeling, Mitigation Adaptation

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