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‘Big brother’ is watching: dark side of big data exposed
May 29th, 2014 by Warren Swil

Federal watchdog urges

curbs on data brokers

This IBM graphic depicts how the planet seems to be growing a central nervous system based on big data.

George Orwell could scarcely have imagined that his sci-fi novel, set in 1984, would come true a mere 30 years later.
But according to a Federal Trade Commission report on “big data” released this week, it apparently has.
In Data Brokers: A call for transparency and accountability, the government watchdog lays out in frightening detail how much is being collected about all of us and the uses to which it is being and could be put.
The FTC unanimously calls for legislation to give consumers the right to learn about the existence and activities of data brokers and give them access to their data.
“The need for consumer protections in this area has never been greater,” the report concludes.


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Peace With Honor? On Afghanistan, it looks like neither

OBAMA MISSES CHANCE TO BE BRAVE, WISE ON TIMETABLE
President Obama missed an opportunity to demonstrate both courage and wisdom on Afghanistan with his announcement on Tuesday.
The US has done everything it could to bring peace and stability to a region that has known little of either for a millennium.
It is a great pity the president did not announce the complete withdrawal of all US forces effective immediately. There is nothing to be gained by prolonging the agony.


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‘Internet of Things’ hits speed bump

HIDDEN COSTS OF UBIQUITOUS CONNECTIVITY BARED IN NEW SURVEY
Many experts responding to a Pew Research Center survey pointed to unforeseen problems raised by the looming Internet of Things, though the tone is overwhelmingly upbeat.
There is no stopping the onslaught of devices connected to the web.
But the interconnectivity of everything carries with it some not-too-obvious costs.
The Pew study should be required reading for everyone rushing to connect every device in the home for a marginal increase in convenience.


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BI-POLAR THREAT: Greenland melt to add much more to sea level rise

NASA REPORT ON GLACIERS ADD FUEL TO PARTISAN DIVIDE
A new report from NASA this week finds that Greenland’s ocean-feeding glaciers could increase even further the amount that sea levels will go up.
This is on top of its stunning week-old report about the collapsing Antarctic ice shelf.
Meanwhile, the political divide on the human contribution to climate change is growing as wide as the gaps in the glaciers. It is becoming a political football. The outlook is dismal, and getting darker.


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AT&T, DirecTV mega deal poses new threat to everyone

‘MA BELL’ MONOPOLISTS POISED TO RULE TELECOM
AT&T’s plan to acquire DirecTV makes the consolidation of the communications industry seem unstoppable – and threatens consumers on several fronts.
It portends a throwback to the bad old days of Ma Bell, when one giant monopolized the entire phone system.
As broadband and cable providers merge, they will leave the consumer with few options: all, or nothing.


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Turbulence rocks two of world’s top journalism institutions

EXIT OF TOP EDITORS REFLECT EXISTENTIAL STRUGGLE AT LE MONDE, THE TIMES
The media landscape on both sides of the Atlantic was rocked this week when the top editor of the French newspaper Le Monde and also that of The New York Times – both the first women to hold those jobs ¬– left amidst acrimony.
The changes signal rough sailing for these bastions of traditional media as they both struggle to make the transition to the digital era.
Hopefully the internal squabbles will be a harbinger of better days ahead.


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Climate change debate enters twilight zone (with video)

DESPITE MOUNTING EVIDENCE, CONSPIRACY THEORIES FLOURISH
With evidence mounting that climate change caused by human activity has arrived and will grow worse, the tenor of debate in America is undergoing a disturbing transformation.
Instead of attacking the science – an increasingly futile pursuit but one which has worked wonders in the past – naysayers are now couching it in conspiracy theories bordering on lunacy.
It’s all a communist plot, they say.
It’s an alarming shift.
Appeals to emotion can be most effective when the science is conclusive. Anyone who cares about the future of the planet should be really worried by this shift in strategy.


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OBAMA UNSCRIPTED: Careful, thoughtful foreign policy the right prescription

PRESIDENT RECOGNIZES LIMITS OF U.S. POWER IN MODERN WORLD
In a rare candid moment, President Obama revealed a thoughtful, realistic assessment of the US role in the modern world in unscripted remarks in the Philippines on April 28.
The punditocracy – both left and right – is wrong.
The president was absolutely correct in his assessment that thought leaders have failed to learn the lessons of the past decade as the US fought two disastrous and expensive wars with negative blowback for America and the world.


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