EU Commissioner Wants to Abolish Netflix-Style Geoblocking

Due to complicated licensing agreements Netflix is only available in a few dozen countries, all of which have a different content library.

The same is true for many other media services such as BBC iPlayer, Amazon Instant Video, and even YouTube.

These regional blockades are a thorn in the side of Andrus Ansip, Vice-President for the Digital Single Market in the European Commission. In a speech this week he explained why these roadblocks should be abolished.

“Far too often, consumers find themselves redirected to a national website, or blocked. I know this from my own experience. You probably do as well,” Ansip said.

“This is one of many barriers that needs to be removed so that everyone can enjoy the best Europe has to offer online. It is a serious and common barrier, as well as extremely frustrating,” he added.

Link (TorrentFreak)

Let’s blame Iran (again)

US director of National Intelligence James Clapper has accused Iran of orchestrating a 2014 hack of the Las Vegas Sands casino. The attack crippled the magnificent cultural institution’s IT infrastructure.

Clapper told a US Senate Armed Services Committee Thursday (US time) that the hack of the US$14 billion casino was the handiwork of Iran rather than ordinary hacking groups, Bloomberg reports.

“While both of these nations (Iran and North Korea) have lesser technical capabilities in comparison to Russia and China, these destructive attacks demonstrate that Iran and North Korea are motivated and unpredictable cyber-actors,” Clapper says.

The attacks brought down the casino’s IT systems including email but not the most valuable components of the organisation.

Link (The Register)

Chicago’s “Black Site” Detainees Speak Out

On Tuesday, The Guardian’s Spencer Ackerman reported on the “equivalent of a CIA black site” operated by police in Chicago. When computer program analyst Kory Wright opened the story, he told me, “I immediately recognized the building” — because, the Chicago resident says, he was zip-tied to a bench there for hours in an intentionally overheated room without access to water or a bathroom, eventually giving false statements to try and end his ordeal.

A friend of Wright’s swept up in the same police raid described his own brutal treatment at the facility, known as Homan Square, including attacks to his face and genitals. The experiences of the two men line up with the way defense attorneys described the “black site” warehouse to Ackerman: as a place where detainees were held off the books, without access to lawyers, while being beaten or shackled for long periods of time.

Wright claims that nine years ago, he spent “at least six [brutal] hours” at the Homan facility on his 21st birthday. He says that he was never read his Miranda rights, and that his arrest was not put into the police system until after his ordeal was over. Wright was reminded of the facility again this week when he noticed a tweet from a writer he admires, The Atlantic’s Ta-Nehisi Coates, linking to Ackerman’s story. Ackerman compared Homan Square to the network of shadowy torture centers built by the CIA across the Middle East — but focused “on Americans, most often poor, black and brown,” rather than on purported overseas terrorists.

But unlike CIA black sites, Homan Square wasn’t a completely furtive enterprise. Several lawyers and anti-police brutality advocates with whom I spoke knew that suspects were routinely detained at Homan. The facility houses many of the police department’s special units, including the anti-gang and anti-drug task forces, along with the evidence-retrieval unit. Once suspects arrived at Homan, they did not have to be booked immediately, at least not as far as the police department was concerned, according to the people with whom I spoke. In fact, it was possible that a suspect’s arrest report wouldn’t show that he or she had ever been to Homan. Further, police could detain individuals at Homan for hours, or disappear them, before shipping them off to a district station for processing.

The Chicago Police Department declined to address the specific allegations from Wright and his friend, providing only a general statement denying abuses at Homan Square. (The same statement also appears in Ackerman’s story.) “CPD abides by all laws, rules and guidelines pertaining to any interviews of suspects or witnesses, at Homan Square or any other CPD facility,” the statement read. “There are always records of anyone who is arrested by CPD, and this is not any different at Homan Square.”

Kory Wright disagrees.

Link (The Intercept)

Despite Losing Money Year After Year, States Still Wondering How They Can Hand Out BIGGER Subsidies To Hollywood

Fool me once, shame on me. Fool me annually and let me get my checkbook! Losses continue to mount, but some very resilient states are still willing to throw more taxpayer money at the film industry. Michigan — a state that seems to be able to generate at least one fiscal horror story per year — is one of the nation’s most consistent losers. Two years ago, it bet the state pension fund on film-related subsidies… and lost. When the “investment” failed to generate a return, nearly $2 million was removed from the already-underfunded retirement pool. One small town pinned its hopes and dreams on a film project that promised 3,000 new jobs but instead fell apart, dragging the town towards insolvency.

Michigan has made some moves in the right direction after being burned so often by Hollywood and its fleeting, mercenary “interest” in its state. It paid out nearly $100 million in subsidies in 2011, but that number has dropped to $38 million for the coming year. Michigan House Minority leader Tim Greimel is pushing to bring that back up to $50 million, claiming that the program has been a great job creator — an assertion that couldn’t be farther from the truth.

Link (Techdirt)

Dr. Mario J.A. Saad Tries, And Fails, To Censor American Diabetes Association

Dr. Saad is mad.

Dr. Saad is mad because of something bad — specifically, the American Diabetes Association, through its journal Diabetes, is publishing expressions of concern about some of his scholarly articles, and may formally withdraw them.

Expressions of concern — like formal withdrawal of past articles — are part of the peer review process. It’s how scientific journals police themselves and call attention to questions raised about research they’ve published. Naturally they are a source of annoyance to the authors questioned, as I’ve written about in the cases of several legal threats against the blog Retraction Watch.

So when the ADA began questioning Dr. Saad’s work, he and his lawyers at Deutsch Williams did not rely on the peer review process, or on advocacy or persuasion. Don’t be ridiculous! This is America. So they sued.

Link (Popehat)

Here’s 140 Fully-Redacted Pages Explaining How Much Snowden’s Leaks Have Harmed The Nation’s Security

If the US intelligence committee is concerned about the status of “hearts and minds” in its ongoing NSA v. Snowden battle, it won’t be winning anyone over with its latest response to a FOIA request.

Various representatives of the intelligence community have asserted (sometimes repeatedly) that Snowden’s leaks have caused irreparable harm to intelligence-gathering efforts and placed the nation in “grave danger.” But when given the chance to show the public how much damage has been done, it declares everything on the subject too sensitive to release. EVERYTHING.

Link (Techdirt)

Why Does the FBI Have to Manufacture its Own Plots if Terrorism and ISIS Are Such Grave Threats?

The FBI and major media outlets yesterday trumpeted the agency’s latest counterterrorism triumph: the arrest of three Brooklyn men, ages 19 to 30, on charges of conspiring to travel to Syria to fight for ISIS (photo of joint FBI/NYPD press conference, above). As my colleague Murtaza Hussain ably documents, “it appears that none of the three men was in any condition to travel or support the Islamic State, without help from the FBI informant.” One of the frightening terrorist villains told the FBI informant that, beyond having no money, he had encountered a significant problem in following through on the FBI’s plot: his mom had taken away his passport. Noting the bizarre and unhinged ranting of one of the suspects, Hussain noted on Twitter that this case “sounds like another victory for the FBI over the mentally ill.”

In this regard, this latest arrest appears to be quite similar to the overwhelming majority of terrorism arrests the FBI has proudly touted over the last decade. As my colleague Andrew Fishman and I wrote last month — after the FBI manipulated a 20-year-old loner who lived with his parents into allegedly agreeing to join an FBI-created plot to attack the Capitol — these cases follow a very clear pattern:

The known facts from this latest case seem to fit well within a now-familiar FBI pattern whereby the agency does not disrupt planned domestic terror attacks but rather creates them, then publicly praises itself for stopping its own plots.

First, they target a Muslim: not due to any evidence of intent or capability to engage in terrorism, but rather for the “radical” political views he expresses. In most cases, the Muslim targeted by the FBI is a very young (late teens, early 20s), adrift, unemployed loner who has shown no signs of mastering basic life functions, let alone carrying out a serious terror attack, and has no known involvement with actual terrorist groups.

They then find another Muslim who is highly motivated to help disrupt a “terror plot”: either because they’re being paid substantial sums of money by the FBI or because (as appears to be the case here) they are charged with some unrelated crime and are desperate to please the FBI in exchange for leniency (or both). The FBI then gives the informant a detailed attack plan, and sometimes even the money and other instruments to carry it out, and the informant then shares all of that with the target. Typically, the informant also induces, lures, cajoles, and persuades the target to agree to carry out the FBI-designed plot. In some instances where the target refuses to go along, they have their informant offer huge cash inducements to the impoverished target.

Once they finally get the target to agree, the FBI swoops in at the last minute, arrests the target, issues a press release praising themselves for disrupting a dangerous attack (which it conceived of, funded, and recruited the operatives for), and the DOJ and federal judges send their target to prison for years or even decades (where they are kept in special GITMO-like units). Subservient U.S. courts uphold the charges by applying such a broad and permissive interpretation of “entrapment” that it could almost never be successfully invoked.

Link (The Intercept)

Confidential Informant Played Key Role in FBI Foiling Its Own Terror Plot

The FBI Wednesday announced the arrest of three men it alleges planned to help the Islamic State, news that at first appeared to confirm fears that radical extremism is spreading to the United States.

“The flow of foreign fighters to Syria represents an evolving threat to our country and to our allies,” U.S. Attorney Loretta Lynch said in a press release announcing the arrests. “We will vigorously prosecute those who attempt to travel to Syria to wage violent jihad on behalf of ISIL and those who support them.”

Left unmentioned in the FBI statement, however, is the integral role a paid informant appears to have played in generating the charges against the men, and helping turn a fantastical “plot” into something even remotely tangible. It appears that none of the three men was in any condition to travel or support the Islamic State, without help from the FBI informant.

On Feb. 25, two Brooklyn men were arrested following FBI and New York Police Department anti-terror raids and charged with providing “material support” to the Islamic State. Abdurasul Hasanovich Juraboev, 24, and Akhror Saidakhmetov 19, are alleged to have made arrangements to travel to Syria, and also to have expressed willingness to conduct attacks in the United States “if ordered to do so” by the group. A third man, Abror Habibov, 30, was arrested in Florida and charged with helping provide financial support for their travel plans.

According to the criminal complaint against the three, the FBI first began investigating Juraboev after he made postings on Uzbek-language social media sites in August 2014 praising the Islamic State and offering to pledge allegiance to them. While these postings were made anonymously, Juraboev neglected to conceal his IP address which led to him being quickly identified by authorities.

On Aug. 15, 2014, Juraboev was visited at a Brooklyn residence by FBI agents; he openly expressed his desire to join Islamic State to them. He is said to have told the agents he desired to travel and join the group, but that “he currently lacked the means to go there.” Juraboev is also said to have told the FBI agents in this interview of his desire to kill President Obama, but stated that he does not have any “means or imminent plans to do so.”

Three days after that initial visit, FBI agents visited him again; he reiterated these violent and criminal desires, stating his willingness to kill President Obama if he were ordered to do so by any member of Islamic State, and also telling the agents he was willing to “plant a bomb on Coney Island if so ordered by ISIL”.

Link (The Intercept)

Red Bull Disputes Old Ox Brewery Trademarked Logo/Name Because, Seriously, An Ox Is Just A Castrated Bull

Red Bull has filed a complaint with the United States Patent and Trademark Office against a small brewery in Virginia called Old Ox Brewery for the using a male cow in its name and logo. “An ‘ox’ and a ‘bull’ both fall within the same class of ‘bovine’ animals and are virtually indistinguishable to most consumers. In addition, an ox is a castrated bull,” Red Bull said in the lawsuit. “Applicant’s Old Ox marks so much resemble Red Bull so as to cause confusion, mistake or deception among purchasers, users and the public, thereby damaging Red Bull.”

Link (Techdirt)