Saturday, June 13, 2015

Something unusual here. No indication that a change went wrong? Everything worked fine up until it didn't? Not the way things really work. Perhaps we should ask Hillary to reboot her servers?
Tech glitch at State Dept. halts new visas, passports
The State Department is suffering technical troubles preventing the agency from issuing visas and passports at its overseas postings.
In a notice on Friday, the department’s Bureau of Consular Affairs said that the glitches were affecting people from all over the globe, and ruled out a cyber attack as the cause.
“We are working as quickly as possible to pinpoint the root cause of our technical issues,” the department said.
… Because of the “technical difficulties” affecting systems that perform national security checks, the department cannot print out visas, passports or other travel documents at its foreign diplomatic missions, it claimed.
People applying for a passport from within the U.S. should not have a problem, however, nor should those applying for emergency passports for urgent travel. [Because there is no security check if it's an “emergency?” Bob]

(Related) Remember, these are the same folks who didn't notice that they had no access to Hillary's email and can't figure out why their passport system won't work. I'm less than confident that their assurances are trustworthy. (Then again, maybe they are using Hillary's super secure computers?)
US Says Confident No Security Breach in Iran Talks
The US State Department ... said Thursday it was confident there had been no security breach, after Swiss and Austrian investigators launched probes into alleged cyber-spying.
Spokesman Jeff Rathke told reporters that the US government was aware of the investigations that had been opened, and that Washington had "close working relationships" with both countries.
Swiss and Austrian investigators are separately looking into possible spying at the hotels. The Swiss attorney general's office said it had seized computer equipment on "suspicion of illegal intelligence services operating in Switzerland."
Israel, which is vehemently opposed to any nuclear deal with Iran, has denied its secret services were involved.
The probes come after Russian-based security firm Kaspersky Lab said a computer worm widely linked to Israel was used to spy on the negotiations.

I'm surprised they noticed.
FCC warns Paypal that policy might violate law
… The Federal Communications Commission’s enforcement bureau sent a warning to the payment processing company Thursday that its terms of service slated to take effect next month might violate the law.
As a condition of signing the users agreement, Paypal customers would be giving their consent to receive robocalls and texts from the company on any number it obtains.

Just in case I need to declare war...
The last time the U.S. Department of Defense published a comprehensive manual on the law of war was in 1956, when Richard Baxter set the standard. Much has happened since then–the U.S., in particular, has engaged in many armed conflicts and other military endeavors — and yet the 1956 Manual, although slightly amended, has never been superseded. In 1990 — that is to say, a quarter of a century ago — esteemed Department of Defense lawyer Hays Parks published a law review article in which he wrote that “the United States has undertaken a two-track program to ensure and enhance continued respect for the law of war. [A] comprehensive military review identified a need to update and significantly expand American military law of war manuals. A new Navy manual was published in 1987, and the new Army law of war manual will be completed in 1990.”
Well, here we are 25 years later and, believe it or not, the Department of Defense today published the long-awaited revised Manual, on behalf of the Department as a whole. (An Army-specific manual reportedly will follow shortly.)

Will this start another round of CIA-bashing?
CIA Releases Declassified Documents Related to 9/11 Attacks
by Sabrina I. Pacifici on Jun 12, 2015
“Today, CIA has released to the public declassified versions of five internal documents related to the Agency’s performance in the lead-up to the attacks of September 11, 2001. The documents can be found at CIA’s Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) online reading room at The first of these documents is a redacted version of the 2005 CIA Office of Inspector General (OIG) Report on Central Intelligence Agency Accountability Regarding Findings and Conclusions of the Report of the Joint Inquiry into Intelligence Community Activities Before and After the Terrorist Attacks of September 11, 2001. In 2005, then-CIA Director Porter Goss issued a public statement on the OIG report. In 2007, CIA publicly released a redacted executive summary of the report along with a statement from then-Director Michael Hayden. In response to FOIA requests for the full 2005 OIG report, CIA and other agencies conducted an extensive review of the nearly 500-page document in order to release information that no longer needed to be protected in the interests of national security. To further contribute to the public record on these events, CIA has also released today redacted versions of four other documents that relate to the 2005 OIG report and provide alternate views on the Agency’s performance prior to 9/11.

Perspective. Facebook does not rule the social networking world. They just think they do.
Facebook Now Cares About How Long You Look At Stuff In Your News Feed
… Facebook is tweaking its algorithms to account for a new metric: the amount of time you spend looking at things in your feed, regardless of whether or not you actively interact with it.
Scroll past something without stopping for long, and Facebook’s algorithms will slowly learn that you don’t particularly care for that sort of content.
Camp out on a post for a bit, though, and Facebook starts the timer behind the scenes. If you spend more time on this story than you spend on most things in your feed — studying a picture, perusing the comment thread — they’ll take that as a signal that it’s something you care about.
… It’ll be interesting/a little terrifying to see how this actually impacts what shows up in feeds, if only because it’s all so passive. Facebooks algorithm’s have thus far been largely tuned by what you’re liking/sharing/commenting on — actions that all require at least a modicum of conscious effort. Once things shift toward passive behavior analysis, Facebook’s News Feed begins to understand what you care about more than you ever could.

(Related) “A few seconds” is much too long to be competitive.
Facebook's Messenger App Hits 700 Million Users
Facebook’s standalone messenger app now has 700 million users, up from 600 million in late March. Announced by CEO Mark Zuckerberg on Thursday during Facebook’s annual investor meeting, the milestone represents a major win for the company—particularly considering the initial user push-back and outrage when the company first announced its decision to separate messaging from the main Facebook app last summer.
As Forbes reported in November of last year when Messenger hit 500 million users, the decision to split the messaging feature from the nucleus of the Facebook app was driven by a desire to simplify the messaging process for users. Zuckerberg laid out the rationale behind the Messenger app at a Facebook town hall meeting, where he said: “There are more than 10 billion messages sent every day on Facebook, but in order to get to your messages, you had to open up the app—which could take a few seconds—and then go to a separate tab. And what we saw was that all of the messaging apps that people were using and they relied on the most were—kind of—these dedicated, focused experiences.”

Perhaps my students could use these in the website class.
Smithsonian Digitizes For Download 40,000 Works of Asian and American Art
by Sabrina I. Pacifici on Jun 12, 2015
Via OpenCulture: “Like many major museums all over the world—including the National Gallery, the Rijksmuseum, The British Library, and over 200 others—the Freer/Sackler has made its collection, all of it, available to view online. You can also download much of it. See delicate 16th century Iranian watercolors like “Woman with a spray of flowers” (top), powerful Edo period Japanese ink on paper drawings like “Thunder god” (above), and astonishingly intricate 15th century Tibetan designs like the “Four Mandala Vajravali Thangka” (below). And so, so much more. As Freer/Sackler director Julian Raby describes the initiative, “We strive to promote the love and study of Asian art, and the best way we can do so is to free our unmatched resources for inspiration, appreciation, academic study, and artistic creation.” There are, writes the galleries’ website, Bento, “thousands of works now ready for you to download, modify, and share for noncommercial purposes.” More than 40,000, to be fairly precise.”

Because my students don't have enough distractions.
5 More Sites for Watching TV Online
TV is, in 2015, not a particular gadget anymore: it’s a category of entertainment. Some people watch “TV” on what’s called a “TV set”, but others watch it online.
If you’re in the latter category, Cool Websites and Tools is once again rounding up alternative sites to watch TV on. We aim to discover the sites you probably haven’t heard of yet. Last time we showed you 5 never ending video sites, which brought the channel surfing feel to the web. Today we’ve got a few sites like that for mobile and the desktop, along with a few general sites for finding things to watch.

For my biking and running students.
Plan and Share Biking and Walking Routes on Google's My Maps
… To create a biking or walking route map on My Maps first sign into your Google account then open My Maps. After signing into My Maps select the "draw a line" tool then choose "add biking route." To draw your biking route click on a starting location on the map then drag the line along a road. My Maps tries to predict where you are going to draw your route. The prediction feature can be handy when you're trying to make short biking routes. When you're making longer routes you will have to draw over the predicted lines if you don't want to use the suggested routes.

Once again, it's humor time!
Hack Education Weekly News
… “The Education Department is beefing up its oversight over the hundreds of different companies that colleges hire for a wide range of services that it says are somehow related to federal student aid dollars and therefore subject to regulation,” according to Inside Higher Ed. [This is likely to be a mess. Outsourcing is not in their skill set. Bob]
… “Oakton Community College (OCC) is insisting that a one-sentence ‘May Day’ email referencing the Haymarket Riot sent by a faculty member to several colleagues constituted a ‘true threat’ to the college president,” FIRE reports.
… Kennesaw State University has apologized to a student after a video of him attempting to meet with an academic advisor (and being accused of harassment for doing so) went viral.
… “Jott, a messaging app that works without a data plan or WiFi connection, has caught on among junior high and high school students,” says Techcrunch.
… The cost of developing an open textbook, according to Tony Bates: $80,000 - $130,000. [I use free student labor! Bob]
… Education Week has released a report called “Tech Counts 2015: Learning the Digital Way.” Among the stories: “Why Ed-Tech Is Not Transforming How Teachers Teach.”
… “Research” by the Fordham Institute’s Michael Petrilli on “What Twitter Says about the Education Policy Debate.”

Sometimes you should believe your technology.

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