Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Solar Update, 3 Big Flares - March 3, 2015

No to 2yr metadata storage: Report says Australian govt members use secret messaging app

No to 2yr metadata storage: Report says Australian govt members use secret messaging app
Published time: March 02, 2015 19:35 Get short URL
Reuters/Steve Marcus Reuters/Steve Marcus


Top Australian politicians are reportedly using a covert messaging application. The correspondence, sent via the service, is encrypted and self-destructs. It comes as a new bill would force telecom providers to store users’ metadata for 2 years.

Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull and Minister for Social Services Scott Morrison, both perceived as contenders for prime minister, are among Australian politicians using the Wickr service, the Australian reported.

The media outlet claims its journalists were able to find Turnbull among Wickr users, but would not reveal his codename.

The news has fuelled interest for the app among Australians.

The service launched in 2012 promises to secure messages with military-grade encryption.

Users are offered a choice of message life span – from one second to 6 days, after which they are self-destruct.

The service says none of its conversations can be tracked and all metadata is deleted from messages.

READ MORE: Australian metadata bill proposes phone, internet record storage for 2yrs

Wickr has, however, according to Mashable, been criticized by security and cryptography experts, who doubt the company’s claims of high security, because it doesn’t make its code open source.

Australian politicians might be encrypting their correspondence, while they have also granted the country’s intelligence broader access to citizens' communications.

Last week Australia’s Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence & Security (PJCIS) endorsed the data retention bill, which would force telecom providers to store the metadata of all phone and internet users for two years.

READ MORE: Crackdown on freedoms? Australian Senate passes draconian anti-terror laws

A warrant to access the data won’t be needed and it will be accessible by a range of law enforcement and other official bodies.

Also, among measures introduced under the pretext of countering the terror threat, the nation’s spying agency, ASIO, has permission to use a single warrant to access a limitless number of computers on a computer network when attempting to monitor a target. Critics of the legislation have argued that the vague wording of the document allows the entire internet to be monitored.

Maduro claims Venezuela has detained Americans for 'espionage'


Maduro claims Venezuela has detained Americans for 'espionage'

From Phil Gunson, For CNN

Updated 2:03 PM ET, Sun March 1, 2015

Source: CNN
Venezuela in the News
Story highlights

    Four Americans missionaries were released Saturday after being detained a few days ago
    Not clear if this is related to detained Americans mentioned by Venezuelan President Maduro
    Maduro also banned George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, others from entering Venezuela
    Venezuela will now require Americans to get a visa to visit

Caracas (CNN)Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro said Saturday an unspecified number of Americans were arrested "a few days ago" for engaging in espionage and recruitment activities.

The President said they included an American pilot of Latin American origin, arrested in the southwest border state of Táchira.

He said the pilot was found in possession of "all kinds of documents" and was being interrogated by the authorities, though he did not identify him. The Venezuelan government has made many similar claims in recent years, without ever substantiating them.

Maduro also announced Saturday a series of measures, including visa requirements for U.S. citizens and the downsizing of the U.S. Embassy in Caracas, to counteract what he called U.S. "interference" in his country.

Venezuela has in recent weeks accused the United States of being behind an alleged coup plot.

Speaking at an "anti-imperialist" rally in the capital, Maduro said visas would now be required for all U.S. visitors and that the U.S. Embassy in Caracas would now need foreign ministry approval for any meetings. The Embassy, which he said had more than 100 staff, is to be reduced to a number closer to the 17 Venezuelan diplomats based in Washington.

Moreover, a group of prominent U.S. officials, current and retired, will be banned from entering Venezuela because of what Maduro said was their involvement in "bombing Iraq, Syria and Vietnam" and other "terrorist" actions. The officials include George W. Bush, former U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney, former CIA Director George Tenet and Mario Diazseveral current members of Congress, including Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, Bob Menendez and -Balart.

Following the Maduro's announcement Diaz-Balart reacted via Twitter, saying he has "always wanted to travel to a corrupt country that is not a free democracy. And now Castro's lap dog won't let me!"

The move comes after the U.S. government last month approved a law under which Venezuelan officials allegedly involved in human rights violations are to have their visas revoked and their U.S. assets frozen.

A relatively small, but noisy crowd, dressed mostly in revolutionary red, applauded and cheered the measures announced by the President from a platform outside the presidential palace in downtown Caracas.

Americans released

Four missionaries from Bethel Evangelical Free Church in Devils Lake, North Dakota were released by Venezuelan authorities on Saturday, a church official said.

Pastor Bruce Dick said the missionaries arrived in Venezuela on February 20 and were detained a few days ago.

"We love the Venezuelan people and have served alongside them for over 12 years," Dick said. "We have been praying along with hundreds or thousands of others for their release and for those in Venezuela who also have been affected by this."

It is unclear if the detention and release of these Americans is connected to Maduro's charges of espionage.

Journalist Phil Gunson reported from Caracas. CNN's Juan Carlos Lopez, Florencia Trucco and Janet DiGiacomo contributed to this report. 

Kansas could put teachers in prison for assigning books prosecutors don’t like

Sam Brownback (Credit: AP/Charlie Riedel)

Kansas could put teachers in prison for assigning books prosecutors don’t like
State Senate passes measure allowing prosecution of teachers who distribute "harmful" literature

by Luke Brinker
Friday, Feb 27, 2015 8:45 PM UTC

Sam Brownback (Credit: AP/Charlie Riedel)

A bill approved by the Kansas Senate on Wednesday would enable prosecutors to bring charges against teachers and school administrators for assigning or distributing materials judged harmful to students, the Kansas City Star reports.

The bill, proposed by conservative state Sen. Mary Pilcher-Cook (R-Shawnee), deletes a provision in current state law that exempts schoolteachers and officials from such prosecutions. Senators passed the bill 26 to 14.

After introducing the bill earlier this month, Pilcher-Cook told the Topeka Capital-Journal that she did so in response to a poster displayed at a Shawnee Mission middle school in 2013. The poster posed the question,  “How do people express their sexual feelings?” and listed such examples as oral sex, kissing, intercourse, and talking. Media outlets pounced on the controversy after some parents complained, and though the poster was part of a broader sex education curriculum that emphasized abstinence, the school suspended use of the material.

Pilcher-Cook and other supporters of her measure also say that it’s necessary to prevent the distribution of pornography in schools — a problem that has not hitherto arisen. The Star reports that earlier this week, state Rep. Joseph Scapa (R-Wichita) cited as pornographic a book by Nobel Prize-winning author Toni Morrison.

Testifying against the bill earlier this month, Kansas National Education Association general counsel David Schnauer called the legislation “a solution looking for a problem,” arguing that its real effect would not be to protect minors from harmful materials, but to undermine “legitimate educational programs and curriculum.”

The legislation now moves to the deeply conservative House of Representatives. GOP Gov. Sam Brownback hasn’t commented on the measure, but as a hardline social conservative, it would hardly be out of character for him to sign it.

Luke Brinker is Salon's deputy politics editor. Follow him on Twitter at @LukeBrinker
This blog is supported by ads and donations. If you enjoy this blog please consider supporting it with a contribution via PayPal.