Apple and Google met with spy chiefs at an 18th-century mansion in England to secretly discuss government surveillance – STEVEN TWEEDIE MAY 23, 2015, 12:35 PM

The Ditchley Foundation Mansion

Google MapsThe Ditchley Foundation Mansion in England.

Top representatives from Apple and Google met with spy chiefs at an 18th-century mansion last week to talk about the growing public concern over government surveillance, according to The Intercept.

The secretive meeting took place over the course of three days at a conference hosted by The Ditchley Foundation at its countryside mansion in England, where everything discussed was under a strict confidentiality agreement called the Chatham House Rule.

Under the Chatham House Rule, “participants are free to use the information received, but neither the identity nor the affiliation of the speaker(s), nor that of any other participant, may be revealed.”

Spy chiefs from seven countries spanning from the U.S. to Australia met with tech giants including Apple, Google, and Vodafone to discuss the balance between national security, bulk surveillance, and personal privacy in the wake of the leaks by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden.

According to the leaked itinerary obtained by The Intercept, the conference’s agenda included topics such as “Are we being misled by the term ‘mass surveillance?’, “How much should the press disclose about intelligence activity,” and “Is spying on allies/friends/potential adversaries inevitable if there is a perceived national security interest?”

Spies and top leaders were attendance from the following organizations: the CIA, President Obama’s Intelligence Advisory Board, the British surveillance agency Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ), the National Crime Agency, the German federal intelligence service the BND, Sweden’s surveillance agency the FRA, the Canadian Security Intelligence Service, and the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation.

Leading the entire conference was former British M16 spy chief Sir John Scarlett, according to The Intercept, who led talks about how the leaked information on the bulk data collection programs by Snowden had changed the landscape of government surveillance.

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We live in the future AT&T imagined in 1994 – Updated by Timothy B. Lee on May 22, 2015, 10:50 a.m. ET

More than 20 years ago, AT&T ran a series of ads depicting the miraculous things information technology would allow us to do in the future.

“Have you ever borrowed a book from thousands of miles away?” the first ad asks. “Crossed the country without stopping for directions? Or sent someone a fax from the beach? You will. And the company that will bring it to you is AT&T.”

Obviously, the future hasn’t turned out exactly as AT&T anticipated — most of us avoid sending a fax whenever we can. But the basic technologies AT&T is describing here — e-books, turn-by-turn directions, sending documents via mobile devices — are all commonplace. So, too, are many of the futuristic capabilities depicted in other ads in the campaign: video conferencing, electronic tollbooths, electronic ticket-buying kiosks, on-demand videos. Indeed, many of today’s technologies are better than the clunky versions depicted in these ads — we make video calls from smartphones, not phone booths.

Others, including smartwatches, MOOCs, and the internet of things, are just taking off now. Most of the remaining technologies — electronic medical records, wireless supermarket checkouts, efficient driver’s license renewals, telemedicine — are technologically feasible but have been thwarted by logistical or bureaucratic obstacles. (Real-time voice translation and useful virtual assistants are the two technologies that are still clearly in the future.)

Overall, the ads were remarkably accurate in predicting the cutting-edge technologies of the coming decades. But the ads were mostly wrong about one thing: the company that brought these technologies to the world was notAT&T. At least not on its own. AT&T does provide some of the infrastructure on which the world’s communications flow. But the gadgets and software that brought these futuristic capabilities to consumers were created by a new generation of Silicon Valley companies that mostly didn’t exist when these ads were made.

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Christianity faces sharp decline as Americans are becoming even less affiliated with religion – By Sarah Pulliam Bailey May 12

The Memorial Peace Cross is a well-known landmark in Bladensburg, Md. (Mark Gail for The Washington Post)

Christianity is on the decline in America, not just among younger generations or in certain regions of the country but across race, gender, education and geographic barriers. The percentage of adults who describe themselves as Christians dropped by nearly eight percentage points in just seven years to about 71 percent, according to a survey conducted by the Pew Research Center.

“It’s remarkably widespread,” said Alan Cooperman, director of religion research for the Pew Research Center. “The country is becoming less religious as a whole, and it’s happening across the board.”

At the same time, the share of those who are not affiliated with a religion has jumped from 16 percent to about 23 percent in the same time period. The trend follows a pattern found earlier in the American Religious Identification Survey, which found that in 1990, 86 percent of American adults identified as Christians, compared with 76 percent in 2008.

Here are three key takeaways from Pew’s new survey.

1. Millennials are growing even less affiliated with religion as they get older 

The older generation of millennials (those who were born from 1981 to 1989) are becoming even less affiliated with religion than they were about a decade ago, the survey suggests. In 2007, when the Pew Research Center did their last Religious Landscape Survey and these adults were just entering adulthood, 25 percent of them did not affiliate with a religion, but this grew to 34 percent in the latest survey.

The trends among the aging millennials is especially significant, said Greg Smith, associate director of research at the Pew Research Center. In 2010, 13 percent of baby boomers were religiously unaffiliated as they were entering retirement, the same percentage in 1972.

“Some have asked, ‘Might they become more religiously affiliated as they get older?’ There’s nothing in this data to suggest that’s what’s happening,” he said. Millennials get married later than older generations, but they are not necessarily more likely to become religiously affiliated, he said.

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This is the Modern American Family – The Business of Life (Episode 2) – Vice News Published on May 6, 2015

The idea of the American family has changed dramatically over the past few decades: Young Americans are marrying later, finding marriage and parenthood to be less central concerns. But what does the structure of the modern American family mean for us, and how much is it costing us? To unpack the issue, we’ve enlisted author Ty Tashiro, New York Magazine’s Maureen O’Connor, and Mona Chalabi of FiveThirtyEight.

Introducing a new kind of talk show from VICE News. “The Business of Life” is a fresh perspective on the most important issues of our time, as told through the facts, figures, dollars, and cents that shape our world. Hosted by journalist Michael C. Moynihan, each episode brings together an eclectic panel of writers, thinkers, policy experts, and scholars to break down everything you need to make sense of the most complicated topics of our time.

All content is the sole property of VICE News. Materials presented are for informational purposes only and do not necessarily reflect the views or endorsement of Bank of America. Bank of America, VICE and/or their partners assume no liability for loss or damage resulting from anyone’s reliance on the information provided

Baltimore Killed Freddie Gray – By EMILY LIEB May 04, 2015

Everywhere you look in the city you can see the not-so-distant shadow of Jim Crow.

BALTIMORE, MD - MAY 03:  A mural dedicated to Freddie Gray is seen on a wall of the Gilmor Home in the Sandtown neighborhood where he was arrested on May 3, 2015 in Baltimore, Maryland. Gray later died in custody; the Maryland state attorney announced on Friday that charges would be brought against the six police officers who arrested Gray.  (Photo by Andrew Burton/Getty Images)

BALTIMORE, MD – MAY 03: A mural dedicated to Freddie Gray is seen on a wall of the Gilmor Home in the Sandtown neighborhood where he was arrested on May 3, 2015 in Baltimore, Maryland. Gray later died in custody; the Maryland state attorney announced on Friday that charges would be brought against the six police officers who arrested Gray. (Photo by Andrew Burton/Getty Images)

The past isn’t past. William Faulkner said it, and Freddie Gray’s death proves it. For the past 100 years, the people who had the power in Baltimore built a city in which white property was more important than black citizenship—they created a city, you might say, that killed Freddie Gray.

“The coming of violence to Baltimore’s ghetto,” began the American Friends Service Committee’s report on the Baltimore uprising in April 1968, “was no surprise.” Those 1968 riots, sparked by the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr., were fueled by the abuses and indignities that had set-off riots in other American cities: in Baltimore, just as in Watts and Harlem and Newark and Louisville and Detroit, white children went to better schools than black children, played in cleaner parks and community centers and rarely had to watch as police officers harassed their parents for no good reason.

As they do today, many of Baltimore’s African-Americans lived in overcrowded, run-down apartments in neighborhoods where zoning and housing ordinances were barely enforced, good jobs didn’t exist, white merchants exploited their customers without restraint and the real-estate market bled them of every penny they had. “When one accumulates a list of the complaints of Baltimoreans,” the Quakers concluded, “one tends to wonder why the retaliation was not worse.”

One still tends to wonder.

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Love and the law – BY R.G. AND THE DATA TEAM Apr 28th 2015, 13:46

ON April 28th America’s Supreme Court begins hearing arguments about gay marriage. At issue is whether the minority of states that still ban it should be allowed to do so. Traditionalists insist that marriage is a matter for elected state lawmakers to regulate. Not so, say proponents of same-sex marriage: the constitution requires the states to give all people within their jurisdiction “the equal protection of the laws”, and that means they can’t limit wedlock to heterosexuals.

Public opinion has shifted faster than a cheetah with its tail on fire. In 2004, when the first gay marriages were recognised in Massachusetts, no state had a majority in favour of such unions. Today most do. And the least gay-friendly state, Alabama, is about where today’s most gay-friendly state, Vermont, was a decade ago.


White House awakes to ‘national crisis’ – By EDWARD-ISAAC DOVERE 4/28/15 6:13 AM EDT

Baltimore riots show limits of task force recommendations, deference to local authorities.

Police detain a man after a march to City Hall for Freddie Gray, Saturday, April 25, 2015 in Baltimore. Gray died from spinal injuries about a week after he was arrested and transported in a police van. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

For President Barack Obama and Congress, one thing was clear amid the smoke in Baltimore: A task force didn’t solve the problem.

There weren’t a lot of firm recommendations from the 11 people whom Obama appointed after last year’s uproar in Ferguson, Missouri, to give him an interim report on 21st Century Policing last month (No. 1 recommendation: “Law enforcement culture should embrace a guardian mindset to build public trust and legitimacy”). They skipped over body cameras. They skipped over racial bias training.

They did recommend the creation of another task force, this one called the National Crime and Justice Task Force.

Congress managed to do even less.

Since then, Walter Scott was shot five times in the back by a police officer in North Charleston, S.C., and Freddie Gray died from spinal injuries he didn’t have before he was taken into custody by the police in Baltimore, which burst into riots and looting Monday, right in the middle of the day.

With a dozen incidents in a year and a half, all around the country, the frustrations appear to transcend local conditions. And though local officials keep blaming round-the-clock cable news coverage for encouraging the violence, the speed and intensity of the protests in city after city make clear how much deeper than police misconduct these frustrations are — joblessness, hopelessness, racial double standards.

“It’s a state of emergency of tremendous proportions,” said Marc Morial, president of the National Urban League. “The response you’re having is not about the incidents. The response is about lack of faith in the political system to adequately respond to what we’re dealing with here.”

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Orioles COO John Angelos offers eye-opening perspective on Baltimore protests – By TED BERG April 27 2015

After protests in Baltimore over the death of Freddie Gray turned violent on Saturday, Baltimore sports-radio broadcaster Brett Hollander took to Twitter to argue that demonstrations that negatively impact the daily lives of fellow citizens are counter-productive. Orioles COO John Angelos, son of owner Peter Angelos, seized the opportunity to respond with a qualified and brilliant defense of those protesting.

Demonstrators destroy the windshield of a Baltimore Police car as they protest the death Freddie Gray. (Photo via Jim Watson/Getty Images)

Demonstrators destroy the windshield of a Baltimore Police car as they protest the death Freddie Gray. (Photo via Jim Watson/Getty Images)

You can read the whole thing in Angelos’ Twitter replies, but it’s transcribed here for clarity. It’s all here because it’s all so good. Read the whole thing:

Brett, speaking only for myself, I agree with your point that the principle of peaceful, non-violent protest and the observance of the rule of law is of utmost importance in any society. MLK, Gandhi, Mandela and all great opposition leaders throughout history have always preached this precept. Further, it is critical that in any democracy, investigation must be completed and due process must be honored before any government or police members are judged responsible.

That said, my greater source of personal concern, outrage and sympathy beyond this particular case is focused neither upon one night’s property damage nor upon the acts, but is focused rather upon the past four-decade period during which an American political elite have shipped middle class and working class jobs away from Baltimore and cities and towns around the U.S. to third-world dictatorships like China and others, plunged tens of millions of good, hard-working Americans into economic devastation, and then followed that action around the nation by diminishing every American’s civil rights protections in order to control an unfairly impoverished population living under an ever-declining standard of living and suffering at the butt end of an ever-more militarized and aggressive surveillance state.

The innocent working families of all backgrounds whose lives and dreams have been cut short by excessive violence, surveillance, and other abuses of the Bill of Rights by government pay the true price, and ultimate price, and one that far exceeds the importances of any kids’ game played tonight, or ever, at Camden Yards. We need to keep in mind people are suffering and dying around the U.S., and while we are thankful no one was injured at Camden Yards, there is a far bigger picture for poor Americans in Baltimore and everywhere who don’t have jobs and are losing economic civil and legal rights, and this makes inconvenience at a ballgame irrelevant in light of the needless suffering government is inflicting upon ordinary Americans.

Gray, a 25-year-old Baltimore resident, suffered a spinal injury while in police custody after his arrest on April 12 and died seven days later. Six city police officers have been suspended pending an investigation into Gray’s death.

When will the race debate in America end? Toni Morrison says it’s far from over. – Updated by Rachel Huggins on April 26, 2015, 2:10 p.m. ET

That uncomfortable, cringeworthy conversation on race that everyone always talks about? Toni Morrison wants to have it — and isn’t pulling any punches.

Toni Morrison speaks during an event at Lisner Auditorium at George Washington University on September 21, 2011 in Washington, DC. — Kris Connor/Getty Images

In an interview with The Telegraph’s Gaby Wood on Morrison’s new novel, God Help The Child, the Nobel prize-winning author explained when we’ll know the conversation on race can come to an end.

“People keep saying, ‘We need to have a conversation about race,’” she said. “This is the conversation. I want to see a cop shoot a white unarmed teenager in the back. And I want to see a white man convicted for raping a black woman. Then when you ask me, ‘Is it over?’, I will say yes.”

Morrison’s remarks reflect the frustration and growing furor over the highly publicized string of unarmed black men who’ve died at the hands of white officers, from Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri; to Eric Garner in New York City; to Freddie Gray in Baltimore.

Toni Morrison was right: African Americans don’t trust cops to dole out equal justice

African Americans make up only 13 percent of the US population, but are killed by police at disproportionately higher rates than other races. Data suggests that police are 21 times more likely to kill black teens than white teens.

So Morrison’s dismal view isn’t at all surprising. In fact, it’s echoed throughout the black community. Take Ferguson, for instance. The protests that broke out after Michael Brown was killed by police officer Darren Wilson last August didn’t occur in a vacuum. A March Department of Justice report showed the deep roots of residents’ frustration: city officials balance their local budget by targeting low-income black residents with fines and court fees and police disproportionately arrest and use force on black residents.

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Colored scanning electron micrograph (SEM) of a human embryo at the eight cell stage. YORGOS NIKAS/SPROCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY/CORBIS

In an international first, researchers in China have reported doing  experiments that involve editing the genome of a human embryo. Ever since scientists developed the ability to cut and splice DNA, they have worried over the safety and ethical implications of applying those techniques to the human genome. Now, though the reported work was preliminary and not completely successful, researchers will have to contend with a challenging set of questions about this newly-opened genetic frontier.

In the research, published a week ago in the journal Protein and Cell, the scientists used a powerful new DNA-editing method called CRISPR/Cas9 to replace the genes that cause a potentially deadly blood disorder. If the edit had been successful, the new genes would have manifested in every new cell as the embryo developed. (The embryos used in the study would never have reached term, because they had been fertilized with two sperm each.) Because only a small number of the 86 cells in the trial survived and carried on the material, the experiment was abandoned. The study’s lead author, Junjiu Huang of Sun Yat-sen University in Guangzhou, told Nature News, “If you want to do it in normal embryos, you need to be close to 100%. That’s why we stopped, we still think it’s too immature.”

The technique Huang and his co-investigators used, CRISPR/Cas9, allows researchers to snip out and insert specific segments of genetic code. Discovered in 2012, the technique is the subject of a lot of excitement and trepidation in the cell sciences (and its inventors are already being suggested as candidates for a Nobel Prize). Relative to other gene editing techniques, CRISPR/Cas9 is easy to use, and it seems to work in just about every living organism. That means it could, among other possibilities, hold the key to personalized medical therapies, new drugs, and (as the Chinese scientists attempted) human genetic modification.

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