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Brazil to Defend Against NSA Snooping

By Mike Kanoff | Counterpoint | October 15th, 2013 |

 

[Image Credit: Carolyn Kaster/AP]

Over the weekend, Brazil announced its plans to throw off the NSA’s ability to snoop in on their internal affairs. The system is still in development, but the idea is that a new form of secure communication is being developed that will not allow traditional NSA intrusions into it. The move comes after revelations that the NSA had infiltrated Brazilian governmental communications. An email system with the same intent is being developed for the public.

If only the same was happening in the U.S… But oh well, I’m relatively happy for Brazil actually doing something about the NSA. This brings up the idea of extra-legal justice: since the NSA is actively violating legal and moral standards, it is certainly acceptable to abandon diplomatic channels and solve the problem unilaterally. A similar solution needs to be developed in the U.S. I’ve put forth the needs for privacy before, so I’ll keep it short– it’s not just the idea that you’re being watched, it’s the mentality that comes with it: that one will never truly be able to create/express themselves freely without the threat of silent eyes judging them from some dark cubicle in some data center. It may seem like some paranoid musing, but we’ve seen after the Snowden leaks that at the very least, it’s not out of the question.

Anyways, it’s a slow news cycle: anything other than the debt ceiling, the shutdown, or the ensuing bickering that comes with it has been pushed way off to the side. Don’t forget to tune in Friday, when we’ll be talking about all of the above and more.

 

COUNTERPOINT airs Fridays at 1pm EST.

#UnitedWeServe: The Case for National Service

By Michael Matthiesen | October 10th, 2013 |

Since their inception programs like Peace Corp and AmeriCorps have been very popular alternative options for recent college graduates (famously President Donna Shalala was among the first Peace Corps members sent abroad). With the good each program is doing, and it’s growing popularity, the case for Universal Service has been made by powerhouses like Sen. Ted Kennedy and General Stanley McChrystal and seems to be gaining steam. Is Universal Service something that can become common place in the lives of Americans? Kevin Bulger from ServiceNation will be a guest on RadioActive to discuss the case for Universal Service: it’s history, impact, and future.

RadioActive: #UnitedWeServe – The Case for Universal Service by Wvumnews on Mixcloud

The iPhone 5s: the Start of Widespread Genetic Tech?

By Mike Kanoff | Counterpoint | September 25th, 2013 |

(Image credit: The Denver Post)

 

In case you missed it, the new iPhone went on sale recently. Normally this wouldn’t be even remotely newsworthy, but this iPhone is different: it comes with a fingerprint sensor.

The iPhone 5s (Apple’s latest offering) is able to read and store the fingerprint of the owner and if chosen, other people as well. I can’t possibly be the only one who smells something fishy here: hot on the heels of the Snowden leaks, the new must-have product just so happens to have this technology?

“But so what?” you say. It’s just a fingerprint, and those are taken all the time; for jobs, arrests, etc. so why does this even matter? Personally, I don’t think the actual data does, after all, I just said fingerprints are taken all the time, but this is huge for the “surveillance culture” we have creeping up on us: for the first time ever, there is the widespread use of a technology that uses a genetic marker to identify people on a regular basis. While I’ll admit that “fingerprints” and “genetic marker” generally aren’t lumped together as synonymous, “DNA” and “genetic marker” usually are, and that’s what this technology is paving the way for. That sounds far off into the future, but DNA-verification has been around for a while, it’s only a matter of time before it reaches the general public. What’s more, while it’s not generally accepted that specific genetic information can be reliably determined from a fingerprint, DNA-verification could pave the way for corporations to target ads with precision the likes of which has never been seen before on this Earth. Got a cold? (For those not familiar, the common cold– like any virus– can actually make slight alterations to genes) Your iPhone 151s could one day be offering you coupons for CVS before you know you’re sick.

Something to ponder as you go about your day.

Healthcare Q and A with President Shalala

By Hyan Freitas | News Director | September 23rd, 2013 |

WVUM News had the opportunity to participate in a student media Q and A with UM President Donna Shalala. She answered questions and provided insights on President Obama’s Affordable Care Act, commonly referred to as Obamacare.  President Shalala is the former Secretary for Health and Human Services under President Bill Clinton.

Afterwards, Meg, Jordan and Matt from ‘Counterpoint’ weighed in with their own thoughts.

‘Counterpoint’ airs Fridays at 1pm EST.

Obamacare Q and A with President Shalala by Wvumnews on Mixcloud

Counterpoint Recap 9/20: Obamacare or Shutdown

By Meg McGee | Counterpoint | September 23rd, 2013 |

This week the Counterpoint team debated the politics behind Obamacare and why Washington is constantly in a deadlock. It is apparent on both sides of the aisle that neither is budging. Is it worth it to sacrifice Obamacare in order for the government to keep running? What is the importance of social welfare programs? This discussion even had our two Democratic correspondents debating with each other. Listen to the audio and decide for yourself.

Later this week we will be airing UM President Donna Shalala’s discussion with student media on Obamacare.

Counterpoint 9/20 by Wvumnews on Mixcloud

Counterpoint Recap 09/13: Chartwells Walk-Out

By Meg McGee | Counterpoint | September 16th, 2013 |

Last Friday’s show included audio from the Chartwells walk-out protest and Counterpoint’s Jordan Lewis, Mike Kanoff, and William Ng were able to witness. They heard the strikers grievances not just about their own jobs but the greater impact of UM in their community. Most notably, Miss Betty, a favorite at UM after Chartwells dismissed her over a simple misunderstanding was present as well as other community leaders. Miss Betty stressed how the Chartwells workers provide students with delicious meals but many employees cannot even feed their own families. This comment particularly struck me because I realize being able to attend a university is apart of the American dream but the reality is that many cannot afford this opportunity. Betty was grateful that one of her sons was able to attend UM but most people on minimum wage don’t have the means to do so. Our privilege at this university juxtaposed with the unfair wages that the worker whether from Chartwells or UNICO is a reflection of the deep income disparities our country.

So is this just a Chartwells problem or is it a UM problem? It’s both. We do business with Chartwells and expect them to have not just fair business practices but also fair treatment of their workers. UM should pressure Chartwells to do the right thing and increase wages, include healthcare, and cut long hours. Why? It is because UM has a reputation to uphold as well as a high price tag. That in turn, should buy students not just meals but provide decent wages for the workers.

Another one of commentators, Michael Fuentes, made the argument against increasing wages because minimum wage jobs are not meant to be permanent, and that people need to “move up the ladder” in terms of economic status. Some minimum wage workers might have that opportunity, while others do not have a choice. There is little room for economic mobility due to the deregulated financial markets that led up to the economic crisis in 2008. The debate should not be over minimum wages but rather over if a person s being paid fairly for the quality and quantity of work they’re doing. Betty urged UM students and faculty to speak out against the unfair treatment of Chartwells workers. We, the students, are the ones paying for this university, so let’s make a difference not just in UM but also in the community by supporting the Chartwells workers and their push to get a higher pay.

Counterpoint 09/13: Chartwells Strike and Obamacare by Wvumnews on Mixcloud

Opinion: A Fight For Us All-We Want More!

By Jordan Lewis | Counterpoint | September 15th, 2013 |

This Thursday, workers at the Hecht-Stanford dining hall worked out of the job. It was an affirmative statement that they want higher wages, better benefits, and more respect in the workplace. They stood up for themselves and other working people, and for that we should be extremely grateful.

The walkout took place at about noon. I was there, waiting with fellow Counterpoint co-hosts, ready to observe the proceedings. The workers were jubilant, happy to defy the wills of their overbearing bosses, if just temporarily. The workers marched along Ponce De Leon Boulevard and generally were well received by passers-by and motorists. The students that came by were supportive of the effort, though most students were not immediately aware of the walkout or the circumstances that preceded it.

The plight of the Chartwell’s workers is a rallying point in the local community. The crowd at the rally was a diverse set of individuals, from local activists, to Democratic Party leaders, to students, and supporters of labor. Father Corbishley, the chaplain of the St. Bede’s Episcopal Church at UM, was quick to mention that the prophets in the Old and New Testament made eradicating poverty a priority. UNICCO workers who recently received a new contract joined in support of the Chartwell’s employees.

The battle for better wages is not isolated to Chartwell’s. One leader wore a shirt that urged for justice at Wal-Mart, another retailer that pays poverty wages. . The societal costs of low wages and mediocre health care coverage are significant. In one such example, a 300-employee Wal-Mart store could cost $1.75 million per year

in taxpayer subsidies. On a similar note, McDonald’s and Visa put together a budget for somebody making $1,105 a month at McDonald’s (and $955 at a second job, because everybody has the ability to work 2 jobs at the same time). They also budgeted no money for gas to heat homes, and $20 for health insurance (basically acknowledging that one can’t afford health insurance under this budget). The situation at Chartwell’s is not too different; workers are forced to choose between important priorities. They live in some of the worst neighborhoods in Miami—and many make less than the medium income in these neighborhoods. Chartwell’s recently raised the cost of a meal at the dining hall by $1.75 but did not pass on any of those proceeds to its workers, many of whom have been there for over 10 years.

As students, we come to learn important skills such as problem solving and critical analysis; we also should learn how to be proper citizens. A good citizen lifts others in need. The Chartwells workers took a chance to fight for the rights of working people. According to Miss Betty, victory belonged to the Chartwells workers on Thursday. A fair contract isn’t just a victory for Chartwells employees; it’s a victory for the community, for the students, and for millions of Americans who work towards their American Dream every day.

Click the hyperlink below to listen to our interview with Miss Betty
Miss Betty Interview

From Under the Bridge to Into Our Hard Drives: Patent Trolls

By Mike Kanoff | Counterpoint | September 13th, 2013 |

(Image credit: iDownloadBlog)

 

You might be wondering “what on Earth is a patent troll?”, so I’ll tell you– “patent troll” is a label for any person/company/firm/etc. that makes a business of threatening to people for alleged patent infringement: almost homogeneously, these people buy patents from other companies/inventors with absolutely zero intention of using the patents for anything other than ammunition for litigation (not to be confused with the MPAA, the RIAA, or the copyright system in general). Rather than using patents in their intended manner– to ensure an inventor has time to complete his/her invention– the patent troll uses the temporary legal monopoly granted with a patent as a means to extort money from inventors who come up with new ideas/inventions or extensions on previous ideas/inventions that may at first glance seem similar to the patents which the patent trolls hold. It is estimated that any actual litigation that is brought by patent trolls and does not get settled before a court battle leads to the patent trolls losing over 75% of the time.

The patent trolls are not a new phenomenon, but they certainly have grown to prominence since the rise of big software. Software development is unique in that software’s “life” goes by considerably faster than most physical items and it is often the case that something becomes standardized in a fraction of the time of physical items. This creates the opportunity for mass patent trolling: if someone obtains a patent for a piece of software that has become a standard before the patent has expired, it is incredibly likely that someone somewhere has made an improvement on that standard, and since this improvement was not done by the patent holder, the patent troll has a prime opportunity to launch a legal missile. Another litigation-mongering opportunity occurs when a piece of closed-sourced software (not free for everyone to tinker with) resembling an open-sourced software (free for everyone to tinker with) that is not well known gets a patent, and since the open-sourced software wasn’t patented, the new patent owner can try to sue, even if the closed-source software was developed after the invention or even adoption as a standard.

These scenarios sound perfectly viable for patent trolls, but in reality, the “perfect patent troll situation” rarely occurs. Most often, the later example– of closed-source software patents being used to attack open-sourced software– is the case. Or not at all; sometimes the patent trolls simply choose someone who has just enough money to pay a settlement, but not enough to want to go to war with the patent trolls, which can get pretty costly, easily reaching the millions mark for a regular patent case. This is where the problem lies: the immoral patent trolls lose over 75% of the time, but simply by bringing a suit, they are almost guaranteed a settlement because the target often won’t be able to afford a lawsuit, even if they are innocent.

The solution? Make it so that it’s in the patent trolls best interest to be actually right about bringing a suit. Make it so that the plaintiff pays the fees if the case is found to be a pile of garbage. This would make it so that the average target of the patent trolls would be able to go to court and win ~75% of the time. This isn’t a fix in itself, but it’s a start. To be honest, I think the entire patent system is far outdated and needs to be updated from scratch to the modern world. Somewhere in that reform, I think the best way to stop wrong patent lawsuits is to place risk on the accuser as opposed to how it is now where the risk is all on the defendant. As a side note, it would be nice if there were no software patents, given the building-block nature of software itself, but I seriously doubt that a majority would go along with removing patents for software.

 

A discussion on the sex trafficking industry

By Shelly Lynn | NFP | September 8th, 2013 |

Victoria Morales and Barbara Padron lead outreach teams in Hialeah, Biscayne Blvd and Miami Beach. This is part of Sharing One Love Outreach program. http://sharingonelove.org/  They’ve been conducting outreaches for the entire year and have repeatedly come across locations and information about the possible sex trafficking of local runaway children. They also connect with local groups, law enforcement and business owners to increase awareness and the identification and rescue of children that are at-risk of being commercially sexually exploited.

A typical outreach includes the following activities:

  • All first time volunteers receive street outreach training.
  • Volunteers form into small groups and identify local businesses to share information on Human Trafficking and the vulnerability of runaway children to being commercially sexually exploited.
  • Volunteers also handout flyers with red flags on on how employees can identify and report suspected human trafficking.
  • Groups also show pictures of missing children from the community to employees and record and report and possible sightings and relevant information.
  • Participants also complete surveys of areas that show signs of suspected commercial sexual activity. This data is used to identify areas that benefit or profit in facilitating human trafficking and other forms of commercial sexual abuse and exploitation.

A discussion on the sex trafficking industry by Wvumnews on Mixcloud

NSA Took a “Look-See” at Al Jazeera’s Internal Communications

By Mike Kanoff | Counterpoint | September 1st, 2013 |

http://www.rawstory.com/rs/wp-content/uploads/2012/05/Digital-surveillance-image-via-Shutterstock.jpg

(Image Credit: The Raw Story)

Since all the headlines are being dominated by the Syria situation, there isn’t a lot of current material for me to write about in my column, so this week, I’ll quickly touch on the favorite punching bag for the tech world at the moment: the NSA. A while ago, it was revealed by some of the documents Edward Snowden obtained and then released that the agency had hacked into Al Jazeera’s internal correspondences. The information comes a week after the revelations that the NSA had hacked into UN video calls.

I understand that “Al Jazeera” and “Al Qaeda” share an “Al” prefix, but seriously? It’s a news network, not a terrorism organization. The report cited communications sent to the network by “interesting targets” as the reason for the hacking. Even if the so-called “interesting targets” were anything/anyone that should be on the U.S.’s radar, it is unacceptable that the government is/was able to tap into a news source’s communications, no matter how “anti-American” their bias may be.

While anyone could probably guess what I think about this from the above paragraph, I think it’s worth mentioning that this seems to be part of a bigger pattern recently: as we learn more about the PRISM program and the NSA in general, the doomsayers’ predictions are starting to come true. As I said earlier, a while back it was revealed that the NSA spied on the UN video conferences, which is worthy on an article itself, but I’ll only invoke the fact that we are friendly and cooperative with the UN for now; the news that the PRISM program was used by low-level NSA employees; and also that NSA employees had regularly used the program to spy on their love interests, among other notable pieces of Snowden’s leaks. Taken separately, these are “only” egregious, but taken together, the chilling effects on personal liberties are potentially massive.

Personally, I think it’s time for another Amash Amendment to go up for a vote; this needs to stop.