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Partial list of corporate lickspittles who are allowed to know what’s in the secret copyright treaty the Obama administration claims is a matter of “national security”

Posted on March 14th, 2009 at 13:13 by John Sinteur in category: Intellectual Property

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Remember yesterday’s post about how the Obama administration had refused to release the details of a secret copyright treaty because doing so would compromise “national security?” Well, it turns out that there are plenty of people who are cleared to be privy to this “sensitive” document — strangely, they all seem to work for giant copyright companies!


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The Looting of America’s Coffers

Posted on March 14th, 2009 at 11:54 by John Sinteur in category: Robber Barons

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Sixteen years ago, two economists published a research paper with a delightfully simple title: “Looting.”

The economists were George Akerlof, who would later win a Nobel Prize, and Paul Romer, the renowned expert on economic growth. In the paper, they argued that several financial crises in the 1980s, like the Texas real estate bust, had been the result of private investors taking advantage of the government. The investors had borrowed huge amounts of money, made big profits when times were good and then left the government holding the bag for their eventual (and predictable) losses.

In a word, the investors looted. Someone trying to make an honest profit, Professors Akerlof and Romer said, would have operated in a completely different manner. The investors displayed a “total disregard for even the most basic principles of lending,” failing to verify standard information about their borrowers or, in some cases, even to ask for that information.

The investors “acted as if future losses were somebody else’s problem,” the economists wrote. “They were right.”


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Piracy Has Become Mainstream, Studies Show

Posted on March 14th, 2009 at 11:46 by John Sinteur in category: Intellectual Property

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In recent years many studies have shown that a large chunk of Internet users share copyrighted files on P2P networks, and this number is rapidly increasing every year. The results of a Canadian study published today show that 45% of all those surveyed use file-sharing networks to download movies and music. Also, this behavior is widely accepted since only 3% of the people who participated in the study said that file-sharers should be punished by law.

These results are not unique to Canada either. A few weeks ago a Spanish survey found pretty much the same results (pdf). Of the thousands of Internet users questioned, more than half admitted using file-sharing software regularly. In fact, 28% said they use it every day. Only 1% of the respondents saw downloading copyrighted files as criminal behavior, while 43% said that the development of P2P networks should be promoted.


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Microsoft-Novell, Once Hot and Heavy, Cooling Down

Posted on March 14th, 2009 at 9:21 by John Sinteur in category: Free Software, Microsoft

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Novell had this to report this week, in its most recent quarterly SEC report, on its Linux business:

During the first quarter of fiscal 2009, we did not sign any large deals, many of which have been historically fulfilled by SUSE Linux Enterprise Server (“SLES”) certificates delivered through Microsoft.

Repeat: “We did not sign any large deals. . . ” (Emphasis added.)

So Novell, one of the biggest Linux distributors in the world, and Microsoft, one of the biggest companies in world history, couldn’t find a single large customer on Planet Earth to buy into Novell’s Suse Linux Enterprise Server software.

No surprise. If you do things with Microsoft, you’re a Microsoft partner, not a Microsoft alternative. Lots of Linux customers went to Linux specifically to avoid Microsoft lock-in, they want away from Microsoft.


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Shirky: “What will replace newspapers?” is a plea to not be living through a revolution

Posted on March 14th, 2009 at 9:09 by John Sinteur in category: News

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When someone demands to be told how we can replace newspapers, they are really demanding to be told that we are not living through a revolution. They are demanding to be told that old systems won’t break before new systems are in place. They are demanding to be told that ancient social bargains aren’t in peril, that core institutions will be spared, that new methods of spreading information will improve previous practice rather than upending it. They are demanding to be lied to.

And the same thing is true for media companies (movies and music), and soon for advertising as well.


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Let Me Chew My Coca Leaves

Posted on March 14th, 2009 at 9:02 by John Sinteur in category: News

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In 1961, the United Nations Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs placed the coca leaf in the same category with cocaine — thus promoting the false notion that the coca leaf is a narcotic — and ordered that “coca leaf chewing must be abolished within 25 years from the coming into force of this convention.” Bolivia signed the convention in 1976, during the brutal dictatorship of Col. Hugo Banzer, and the 25-year deadline expired in 2001.

So for the past eight years, the millions of us who maintain the traditional practice of chewing coca have been, according to the convention, criminals who violate international law. This is an unacceptable and absurd state of affairs for Bolivians and other Andean peoples.

Many plants have small quantities of various chemical compounds called alkaloids. One common alkaloid is caffeine, which is found in more than 50 varieties of plants, from coffee to cacao, and even in the flowers of orange and lemon trees. Excessive use of caffeine can cause nervousness, elevated pulse, insomnia and other unwanted effects.

Another common alkaloid is nicotine, found in the tobacco plant. Its consumption can lead to addiction, high blood pressure and cancer; smoking causes one in five deaths in the United States. Some alkaloids have important medicinal qualities. Quinine, for example, the first known treatment for malaria, was discovered by the Quechua Indians of Peru in the bark of the cinchona tree.


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Investigator uses phony documents to get passports

Posted on March 14th, 2009 at 9:00 by John Sinteur in category: Security

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Using phony documents and the identities of a dead man and a 5-year-old boy, a government investigator obtained U.S. passports in a test of post-9/11 security. Despite efforts to boost passport security since the 2001 terror attacks, the investigator fooled passport and postal service employees four out of four times, according to a new report made public Friday.

The report by the Government Accountability Office, Congress’ investigative arm, details the ruses:

–One investigator used the Social Security number of a man who died in 1965, a fake New York birth certificate and a fake Florida driver’s license. He received a passport four days later.

–A second attempt had the investigator using a 5-year-old boy’s information but identifying himself as 53 years old on the passport application. He received that passport seven days later.

–In another test, an investigator used fake documents to get a genuine Washington, D.C., identification card, which he then used to apply for a passport. He received it the same day.

–A fourth investigator used a fake New York birth certificate and a fake West Virginia driver’s license and got the passport eight days later.


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