Monday, September 1, 275760

Random Disclaimer: This is a blog.

9/23/14 EDIT: For in-depth video game information for various obscure RPGs, check out my gaming blog at

5/29/12 EDIT: I've just created a new blog exclusively for ponies and pony-related news, WITHOUT the stressful news articles on this blog.  It's no Equestria Daily, nor will it ever be, but it's still a pony blog. Feel free to check it out if you please...

This blog contains some controversial posts concerning certain political issues and depressing news stories. If you find some of the content on my blog too controversial for your liking, or you're simply interested in My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic, go to That is my DailyMotion channel, which is filled with (almost) every episode of My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic so far. If a new episode of MLP:FiM comes on, expect to see it on there within a few hours, unless I lose Internet access or my computer dies out on me, which tends to happen on occasion. It might help to take the edge off from hearing or seeing too much stressful stuff (i.e. some of the posts on my blog), and you may walk away with the realization that not ALL things pertaining to My Little Pony suck. In fact, in the case of FiM, it's AWESOME.

BTW, since DailyMotion absolutely ADORES putting ads all over the place, often ruining perfectly good videos by placing ads at the beginning, end, and occasionally, even the MIDDLE of many videos, please consider installing Adblock Plus for maximum pony enjoyment. DailyMotion can be a great deal better and more enjoyable than YouTube, but only if you use Adblock to get around the horribly annoying ads.

If you're interested in MLP:FiM, but you don't want to go to DailyMotion, either because of the annoying random ads or because the videos play slower there than on other sites, there are dozens, if not hundreds of channels on YouTube that have the entire first and second seasons uploaded to their channels, and they're all ad-free, too. I was planning on creating another YouTube channel to upload pony videos to, but it wouldn't allow me to upload videos past 15 minutes unless I gave a mobile phone number, and I don't have a mobile phone, and I'm NOT breaking these videos into parts.

If you're into ponies, but don't particularly feel like watching a pony episode at this point in time for some reason, or don't have the time to, there are still plenty of adorable pony pictures you can look at... I'll post a few links to pony image dumps immediately below.

Pony image dumps:
If ponies aren't your thing, I understand. At any rate, I cannot stress enough that there are PLENTY of depressing pieces of news and controversial opinions about certain subjects on here. But if you can get past this disclaimer, you might find that this blog is fairly interesting and informative. I do my best to post interesting articles from various news sources, many of which provide a glimpse into the harsh realities of the world. Some of them may be easily accessed by searching your favorite news site or clicking on CNN, FOX News, MSNBC, etc, whereas some other news stories are less known for various reasons.

BTW, I've noticed a few people have been searching for "Rainbow Dash Attack", basically a ponified version of the popular Adult Swim Flash game "Robot Unicorn Attack". If you want to play "Rainbow Dash Attack", follow the link below.

If you just want to play the original version, Robot Unicorn Attack, feel free to follow this link...

Saturday, December 31, 275555

A veritable encyclopedia of important links, including search engines, Pastebins, proxies, alternative news sources, etc.

Alternative Search Engines
009  (google)
011  (file search)
012  (library search engine)
019  (file search)
020 (free books)
021  (file search)
022 (file search)
025 (hide my ass)

Friday, January 3, 275000

A Comprehensive List of Suicide Crisis Hotlines across America

If you are feeling suicidal for any reason, please don't throw your life away. Instead, talk with someone you're close to or contact your local suicide hotline. Here is a comprehensive list of all the suicide hotlines across all 50 states.

 Information taken from . If you need more detailed information on the subject of suicide and how to deal with it, please go to the URL and check out any of the links on the left side of it. If you or a loved one or friend is expressing suicidal ideations or behavior, contact the hotline on the list that is nearest to you immediately. 

To find a particular suicide hotline or hotlines in your area, press Ctrl+F, and either type in your state of residence or the name of said hotline.

Thursday, March 6, 2025

CISA 2.0 (Cybersecurity Information Sharing Act) Frequently Asked Questions

What is CISA?

Lawmakers in Washington, D.C. love their acronyms. “CISA” is the Cybersecurity Information Sharing Act (CISA).

CISA is a bad bill. It would risk user privacy by encouraging companies to transfer private information. It also creates new risks by enabling the use of countermeasures or “hack backs,” which endanger the integrity of the internet and further risk exposure of private information. Yet, the bill seems to be a high priority for some members of Congress and we may see a floor vote within the next few months.

What does CISA do?

CISA’s primary mechanism is to facilitate the transfer of “cyber threat indicators,” which are defined broadly enough to include private information such as email content or personal identities.1 CISA even protects companies that transfer “cyber threat indicators” that other privacy laws would have protected.2 It also ensures that companies that pass on information will be protected against court action — liability limits that disincentivize companies from adequately protecting user privacy.
In addition, the bill does little to allow users to enforce their rights even when companies violate the few privacy protections found in the bill. Knowing when rights have been violated would pose its own challenge. CISA’s transparency provisions wouldn’t allow us to know the full impact on users (in fact, it exempts this information from disclosure under federal open government laws).

How can we stop CISA?

First off, you sign our petition.

Then, you can call or write your senators, particularly Intelligence Committee Chairman Richard Burr and Vice Chairman Dianne Feinstein, to express your concerns. You can also reach out to your local representative to let them know cybersecurity legislation should protect your rights.

Do they really need my personal information?

No, they don’t. Security experts have made clear that personal information need not be shared in order for us to maintain our cybersecurity. Alex Stamos, the Chief Information Security Officer at Yahoo! recently said that while information sharing is easy to discuss, it doesn’t fall into the top ten most effective things the government can do to protect users. Even if companies attempt to go beyond CISA’s requirements and remove private information, advanced analytics might still be used on the “cyber threat indicators” to gain access to identities.

What would companies be able to do with personal information after it is collected?

The bill does little to ensure companies would strip private information before passing “cyber threat indicators" to other companies and the government. CISA requires companies to review “cyber threat indicators” and remove what is known to be private at the time of transfer, however a company would not have to remove information it suspects to be private — or which may be used in conjunction with other information that can identify a user.3

But won’t CISA make the internet more secure?

CISA may actually make the internet less secure.

The bill contains a provision enabling the deployment of countermeasures, also referred to as “hack backs,” which enable a company to take action in response to threats to their network.4 While the bill enables countermeasures to protect the rights of a network owner, owners are only prohibited from intentionally destroying other systems. If they perceive that they are acting based on their rights, and they end up causing damage to other systems, they may not be liable. For instance, a malicious hacker may use a botnet, causing companies to use countermeasures that affect innocent users with no knowledge or intent to participate.

Will the National Security Agency (NSA) be involved?
CISA requires the direct transfer of “cyber threat indicators” to every appropriate agency, including the NSA. That would give the NSA immediate access to massive new datasets, even as Congress has so far failed to pass reforms in the wake of revelations about NSA surveillance.5

Is CISA already a law? Who’s behind it?

No. A draft of the bill was recently circulated to the U.S. Senate Select Committee on Intelligence by Chairman Burr. As of March 4, 2015, the bill has not yet been formally introduced. Vice Chairman Feinstein introduced a version of the bill last year, though it never made it to a vote by the full Senate. While this is the second iteration of CISA, there have been a number of information sharing bills floated around Congress, in this and previous sessions.

How does President Obama feel about the bill?

While President Obama twice threatened to veto the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act (CISPA), a similar bill from the House of Representatives, he never made the same threat against CISA, probably because it never made it to a Senate vote. The president did recently introduce his own legislative proposal, which, while not good, is not as bad as CISA.

But now that Sony and Anthem have been victims of high-profile hacks, and President Obama has hosted his own cybersecurity summit, there’s a lot of pressure on him to sign effective cybersecurity legislation. That legislation should not be CISA. President Obama should stand by his past opposition to CISPA and reject the similarly awful CISA.

Here is a letter from Access and a number of other privacy groups urging President Obama to pledge to veto the previous version of CISA.

How do other experts feel about the bill?

Access recently co-signed a joint letter to the Senate Intelligence Committee urging a rejection of the bill. It was signed by dozens of leading digital rights groups, academics, and technologists. You can read the letter here.

What are the alternatives to information sharing legislation?

The government should pass legislation that promotes proper digital hygiene, such as the use two-factor authentication and indicators of phishing attacks, and encourages companies to do the same. It could encourage the integration of digital security into education curriculums, so that students know how to protect themselves and learn about career opportunities. The government could also implement a federal bug bounty program to encourage individuals to find and report bugs.

Sunday, February 7, 2016

Sick mother searched online for pedophiles to rape her 6 year old daughter

A twisted mother placed ads online inviting men to rape her six year old daughter.

The 35-year-old woman has been found guilty of more than a dozen sex crimes including child rape and molestation by a jury in Washington, US.

The court heard how she and her husband searched for perverts online to visit them in their home and abuse the girl.

Officers who searched the house also found explicit photographs and video footage of a man assaulting the girl while the mother watched.

The parents have not been named to protect the identity of the victim and her younger brother - who were taken into care by Child Protective Services.

The woman, who wept as the guilty verdicts were handed down, faces 26 years in prison when she is sentenced in March.

Her husband pleaded guilty to three charges including first degree child rape last June and was sentenced to 27 years in jail.

63-year-old Ernie Mitchell of Fayette County, West Virginia - Arrested after trapping dog inside of crude wooden dog house

A 63-year-old man in West Virginia is facing a charge of animal cruelty after a dog was found nailed inside of a crude, wooden dog house, reported Thursday's WVNSTV News. The accused animal abuser has been identified as Ernie Mitchell of Fayette County.

Mitchell is facing one count of animal cruelty - according to the Fayette County Sheriff's Department, the cruel deed came to the department's attention thanks to tips from social media. Deputies were sent out to Mitchell's property on Gatewood Road to investigate after they reviewed photos of the dilapidated wooden dog house that had 2x4 boards securing Mitchell's dog inside.

Deputies arrested Mitchell and seized the dog, who was taken to the Fayette County Animal Shelter. If convicted of the cruelty charge, Mitchell could face a fine, and/or a short time in jail. The dog rescued from the wooden box is said to be "fine" despite the cruel ordeal.

64-year-old Thomas Richard Nash of Woodland, Washington, sentenced to nearly 10 years in prison for breaking into shop and fatally shooting dog

A 64-year-old man in Woodland, Washington, who shot and killed a Labrador retriever during a burglary last summer, has been sentenced to nearly 10 years in prison, reported Saturday's publication of The Daily News. After 64-year-old Thomas Richard Nash was found guilty of multiple charges, including animal cruelty and burglary, Cowlitz Superior Court Judge Michael Evans sentenced him to prison time, community custody and restitution fees.

Nash was arrested after breaking into a shop on property on Old Pacific Highway in June 2015. The dog, who was fatally injured, had been inside of the shop that Nash entered. According to The Columbian, the property owner went to the shop after hearing gun shots and discovered that the dog had been shot twice and was dead - the property owner alleged that Nash also tried to shoot at him.
Nash fled from the scene, but was arrested later. The dog's owner and Nash were said to have been "at odds" with one another over residency issues before the shooting and break-in.

18-Year-Old Leon Teague of Greater Grand Crossing, Chicago, Illinois - Charged With Animal Cruelty After Pouring Boiling Water On Cat In Facebook Video

A Greater Grand Crossing teenager faces animal cruelty charges after allegedly scalding a cat with hot water, filming his crime, and posting the video on Facebook.

Leon Teague, 18, posted the video around 10 p.m. on Feb. 2, and has since been charged with one felony count of animal torture and one misdemeanor count of depicting animal cruelty, according to a police statement.

Teague's video unfolded as follows, according to the Tribune:
In the video, a white cat with black spots meows near a blue litter box and a feeding tray outside the rear porch of a home. 
A man in the background yells, “Move, b----, move!”
The video shows someone behind the camera holding a black pot with hot water. The man makes noises to lure the cat and throws the water on it.
The cat starts howling loudly and runs away. The man behind the camera continues to yell. “Get the f--- from over here b---- and don’t come back,” he says.

This crime happened two days shy of Facebook’s twelfth anniversary, and it feels indicative of what the site’s evolution: from a popular site for young people to a place for catching felons who lack self-awareness.

Hasbro Sued For Font Piracy On My Little Pony Merchandise

Live by the copyright, die by the copyright, as I've said before. See, copyright protectionism is sort of like taking a moral stand: when someone asserts the importance of their copyright, they assert it for all copyrights. For most of us, this is not a problem, because we don't spend a great deal of time bashing others over the head with the copyright cudgel. But when you're Hasbro? Especially considering all of the many various actions taken by the company to shut down anything having to do with its My Little Pony property? Well, then it would be nice if the company might at least make sure it wasn't committing copyright infringement in selling that property as well.

But that appears to be asking too much. Hasbro is finding itself the subject of a copyright infringement action over the font it uses on basically everything My Little Pony.
According to Font Brothers, American toy multinational Hasbro did so when it started to use the “Generation B” font for its My Little Pony products, without permission. The Generation B font was created by Harold Lohner and is commercially exploited by Font Brothers. One of the best known uses of the font is for the popular My Little Pony toys and videos. However, according to a complaint filed at a New York federal court Hasbro failed to obtain a proper license, so My Little Pony is using a pirated font.
From the complaint itself, it appears Hasbro was not only using the font internally without a license, but was distributing it to third parties as well.
Upon information and belief, Defendant Hasbro has used or instructed others to use unauthorized copies of the GENERATION B Font in the creation of, but not limited to, all products, goods, merchandise, television and film properties, and advertising materials connected with the “My Little Pony” product line and by way of third party vendors authorized to sell “My Little Pony” branded goods bearing the term “My Little Pony” using the GENERATION B Font, showings of which are annexed hereto as Exhibit D.
Upon information and belief, Defendant Hasbro has not purchased the special license from Font Brothers which authorizes the use of the GENERATION B font software as a resource for use on goods for sale and for distribution to third parties or in the creation of its various HASBRO “My Little Pony” branded goods, products, and/or services.
Oops. The complaint goes on to note that Hasbro had repeatedly been made aware of the lack of license and authorization for the font, but that the company had failed to even bother to respond. Keep in mind that the company appears to have used this font on tons of products and merchandise, including on its own site. And distributed it as well. All while being aware that it was unathorized to do so. Sort of puts a couple of fan-made My Little Pony games into perspectrive, doesn't it?

And, lest you think that this is all some misunderstanding in which Hasbro used a different font that was somewhat simliar to GENERATION B:
While small differences can sometimes be tricky to prove that an unauthorized font is used, in this case it is also used on Hasbro’s website. The stylesheet of the website specifically mentions the Generation B and a copy of the font stored and distributed through Hasbro’s servers.
Hasbro has since removed all uses of the font from its website, which rings more as an admission at this point than complying with any requests. And, sure, maybe super-aggressive copyright protection over the use of fonts can be a little silly at times, but it's going to be hard to find any friends to fight in your corner when you've been beating everyone over the head with copyright all these years.

Former DHS Boss Puts University Of California Employees Under Secret Surveillance

Former DHS boss Janet Napolitano -- who once stated she "doesn't use email" (for many reasons, but mainly to dodge accountability) -- is now showing her underlings at the University of California why they, too, might not want to "use email": someone might be reading them over their shoulders.

UC professor Christopher Newfield has the inside details of the recently-exposed monitoring system secretly deployed by the University of California (and approved by school president Napolitano) to keep tabs on the communications, web surfing and file routing of its employees. The SF Chronicle has an article on the secretly-installed spyware behind its paysieve [try this link], but Newfield has the internal communications.

The installation of the third-party monitoring software was so secretive that even the university's campus information technology committee was forbidden from discussing it with other staff. The committee has now decided to go public.
UCOP would like these facts to remain secret. However, the tenured faculty on the JCCIT are in agreement that continued silence on our part would make us complicit in what we view as a serious violation of shared governance and a serious threat to the academic freedoms that the Berkeley campus has long cherished.

Some salient facts:

- The UCOP had this hardware installed last summer.

- They did so over the objections of our campus IT and security experts.

- For many months UCOP required that our IT staff keep these facts secret from faculty and others on the Berkeley campus.

- The intrusive hardware is not under the control of local IT staff--it sends data on network activity to UCOP and to the vendor. Of what these data consists we do not know.

- The intrusive device is capable of capturing and analyzing all network traffic to and from the Berkeley campus, and has enough local storage to save over 30 days of *all* this data ("full packet capture"). This can be presumed to include your email, all the websites you visit, all the data you receive from off campus or data you send off campus.
The official excuse for the installation of intrusive spyware is "advanced persistent threats" possibly related to a cyberattack on the UCLA Medical Center last summer. How monitoring staff emails plays into the thwarting of "threats" hasn't been explained. Now that the secret's out, the university is claiming it's all good because policies prevent the university from using any intercepted information/communications for "nonsecurity purposes."

The university may have a policy forbidding this activity, but that's not really the same thing as guaranteeing abuse of this surveillance will never happen. Its belated not-an-apology offers no contrition for keeping this a secret from a majority of its staff. And the statement does not name the third party in charge of the collection and monitoring.

While it certainly isn't unusual for employers to monitor employees' use of company computers and devices, it's normally clearly stated in policy manuals, rather than installed surreptitiously and cloaked in deep secrecy.

As Newfield points out, no one was apprised of the monitoring until after it was underway. Some heard a few weeks after the monitoring was put in place (August of last year) when the university updated its security policies following the medical center breach. Many more heard nothing until the first week of December. Following the wider exposure, staffers were assured by the school's vice president that the monitoring would cease and the software would be removed.

The VP said one thing and the school did another.
On Jan. 12, 2016, The Berkeley Joint Committee on Campus Information Technology (JCCIT) met with Larry Conrad and others. The committee was informed that contrary to the Dec. 21, 2015 statements, UCOP had decided to continue the outside monitoring and not disclose any aspects of it to students or faculty.
At this point, the decision was made to go public. A letter was drafted and sent to school administration. It was also sent to the New York Times. This prompted the generation of bullshit from the Executive VP's office.
On Jan. 19, 2016, UCOP Exec. VP and COO Rachael Nava sent a letter to those who signed the Jan. 15, 2016 letter. The original version was marked "CONFIDENTIAL: DO NOT DISTRIBUTE" and invoked "Attorney-Client privilege". After several recipients responded to her via email questioning who is the client and why her letter must be kept secret, a revised version of the letter was sent the next day removing that language, stating: "All: Please accept my apologies with regard to the confusion on the attorney client privilege language on the letter. It was a clerical error and was not intentional. Please find a revised version of the letter with the language removed."
The full letter contains some truly incredible statements.
With respect to privacy, the letter and structure of the University’s Electronic Communications Policy (ECP) reflect the principle that privacy perishes in the absence of security. While the ECP establishes an expectation of privacy in an individual’s electronic communications transmitted using University systems, it tempers this expectation with the recognition that privacy requires a reasonable level of security to protect sensitive data from unauthorized access.
Privacy does not "perish" in the absence of security. This conflation of the two is ridiculous. If a malicious party accesses private communications, that's a security issue. If an employer accesses these communications, that a privacy issue. Claiming to value privacy while secretly installing monitoring software (and then lying about removing said software) only serves to show the university cares for neither. By adding a third party to the monitoring process, the university has diminished the privacy protections of its staff and added an attack vector for "advanced persistent threats." It has effectively harmed both privacy and security and, yet, still hopes to claim it was necessary to sacrifice one for the other.

The other statement, tucked away as a footnote, absurdly and obnoxiously claims the real threat to privacy isn't the school, but people making public records requests.
Public Records Act requesters may seek far more intrusive access to the content of faculty or staff records than what the ECP permits for network security monitoring. The limits on the University’s own access to electronic communications under the ECP do not apply to Public Records Act requests.
Meanwhile, the school's tech committee has pointed out its IT staff is more than capable of handling the privacy and security of the network and, quite obviously, would show more respect for their colleagues' privacy while handling both ends of the privacy/security equation.

It's perfectly acceptable for entities to monitor employees' use of communications equipment. But you can't do it this way. You can't install the software secretly, swear certain employees to secrecy, not tell anyone else until the secret is out in the open, promise to roll it back and then secretly decide to do the opposite, etc. And when challenged, you can't play fast and loose with "security" and "privacy" as if they were both the same word spelled two different ways.

Comcast 'Only' Lost 36,000 Pay TV Subscribers Last Year, Prompting Renewed Cord Cutting Denial

Despite 2015 being a banner year statistically for cord cutting, you're going to see a renewed surge in cord cutting denial over the next few weeks. Why? Cable companies like Time Warner Cable and Comcast managed to eek out modest gains in pay TV subscribers in the fourth quarter.

Comcast's earnings indicate a net gain of 89,000 pay TV users in Q4, despite seeing a net loss of 36,000 video subscribers for the year. Despite still seeing a net loss, that's the best video performance the company has seen in eight years (which in and of itself speaks volumes). Time Warner Cable's earnings (pdf) note the cable provider added 54,000 TV subscribers in the fourth quarter, while only seeing a net gain of 32,000 TV subscribers for the year. That's the best Time Warner Cable has done since 2006, and it's a stark improvement when each year's subscriber numbers are put in graphical form:

We'll ignore for a second these companies continue to see impressive subscriber and revenue growth thanks to network improvements, despite claiming Title II would destroy the known universe (that's a different blog post). But the fact that these companies finally saw a modest turnaround after years of steep video subscriber losses was quickly used as evidence by the cable industry, some investment websites and a few analysts that cord cutting is "overblown":
Except these gains don't debunk cord cutting. Many of these additions are users that had previously fled to satellite TV and phone providers. For years, cable's subscriber losses were predominately to satellite and telco TV providers, whose set top boxes were notably more innovative (Dish's Hopper, for example). In the last few years Comcast and Time Warner Cable have dramatically bumped broadband speeds and updated their own set top boxes, moves that have won some former defectors back. As a result Verizon FiOS saw its worst video subscriber additions since 2006, while AT&T and DirecTV combined saw a 54,000 broadband user net loss and a net loss of 24,000 TV customers last quarter.

That's lateral subscriber movement between legacy pay TV providers, not evidence that cord cutting isn't real. And there's absolutely nothing in those numbers that suggests the very real trend of cord cutting has been "overblown" as a broader industry phenomenon.

There's another major reason cable companies are once again adding video subscribers: their growing monopoly over broadband markets. There are now hundreds of markets in which AT&T and Verizon (now focused almost solely on more profitable wireless) are actively trying to hang up on unwanted DSL customers via a one-two punch of price hikes and apathy. Those annoyed users are being forced to flee to cable if they want current generation broadband speeds. When those users arrive, companies like Comcast and Time Warner Cable are offering them TV and broadband bundles that are cheaper than what they'd pay for broadband alone in order to boost legacy TV subscriber rolls.

As a result, many of these subscribers may not have even wanted TV, and once the promotional rate expires may decide to simply leave again. That's of course where Comcast hopes that the use of usage caps comes in. The company is now exempting its own streaming service from usage caps in the hopes of preventing TV users from cutting the cord. Should they cut the cord anyway and embrace streaming alternatives, they run face-first into usage caps and overage fees. If cable is forced to compete on price for TV, it will be sure to seek its pound of flesh from your broadband bill.

Cord cutting continues unabated in the background of this tussle, like the drip, drip, drip of a leaking faucet nobody wants to fix. And while pay TV growth remains flat or in decline, it's important to remember the overall population and the housing market continue to grow, without a corresponding uptick in cable subscribers. That's a sign that younger people and many new homeowners simply don't think traditional cable is all that important, and the slow drip of cord cutting will, over time, become something more resembling a torrent as, quite bluntly, legacy TV's older audience dies. Cable can do something about this, but it's going to require seriously competing on price above and beyond short-term, subscriber roll boosting promotions.

Countries Sign The TPP... Whatever Happened To The 'Debate' We Were Promised Before Signing?

About an hour ago, representatives from 12 different nations officially signed the Trans Pacific Partnership (TTP) agreement in Auckland, New Zealand. The date, February 4th (New Zealand time) is noteworthy, because it's 90 days after the official text was released. There was a 90 day clock that was required between releasing the text and before the US could actually sign onto the agreement.
The stated purpose of this 90 day clock was in order to allow "debate" about the agreement.
Remember, the entire agreement was negotiated in secret, with US officials treating the text of the document as if it were a national security secret (unless you were an industry lobbyist, of course). So as a nod to pretend "transparency" there was a promise that nothing would be signed for 90 days after the text was actually released.

So... uh... what happened to that "debate"? It didn't happen at all. The TPP was barely mentioned at all by the administration in the last 90 days. Even during the State of the Union, Obama breezed past the TPP with a quick comment, even though it's supposedly a defining part of his "legacy." But there's been no debate. Because there was never any intent for an actual debate. The 90 day clock was just something that was put into the process so that the USTR and the White House could pretend that there was more "transparency" and that they wouldn't sign the agreement until after it had been looked at and understood by the public.

Of course, the signing is a totally meaningless bit of theater. The real fight is over ratification. The various countries need to ratify the TPP for the agreement to go into effect. Technically, the TPP will enter into force 60 days after all signers ratify it... or, if that doesn't happen, within two years if at least six of the 12 participant countries ratify it and those six countries account for 85% of the combined gross domestic product of the 12 countries. Got that? In short, this means that if the US doesn't ratify it, the TPP is effectively dead. The US needs a majority of both houses of Congress to approve it, similar to a typical bill. And that's no sure thing right now. Unfortunately, that's mainly because a group of our elected officials are upset that the TPP doesn't go far enough in helping big businesses block competition, but it's still worth following.

Inevitably, there will be some debate during the ratification process, though there are enough rumors suggesting that no one really wants to do it until after the Presidential election, because people running for President don't want to reveal that they're happy to sell out the public's interest to support a legacy business lobbyist agenda. But, even that debate will likely be fairly limited and almost certainly will avoid the real issues, and real problems, with the TPP.

Either way, today's symbolic signing should really be an exclamation point on the near total lack of transparency and debate in this process. The 90 day window was a perfect opportunity to have an actual discussion about what's in the TPP and why there are problems with it, but the administration showed absolutely no interest in doing so. And why should it? It already got the deal it wanted behind closed doors. But, at least it can pretend it used these 90 days to be "transparent."

A Tiny Cell With An Omnipresent Guard, Visitors Just Twice A Day: TAFTA/TTIP's German Transparency Room

One of the most problematic aspects of the TAFTA/TTIP negotiations is their lack of transparency. Although the European Commission, to its credit, has made available many of its initial offers and background papers, the key consolidated documents that show what's really happening in the negotiations -- and what deals are being cut -- are reserved for the inner circle. Even national politicians within the EU have been denied access to these, and that has really rankled, particularly in Germany. In an effort to defuse the anger there over this manifestly anti-democratic approach, a special reading room has finally been set up in the German Ministry of Economy. As this report from the non-profit investigative newsroom makes clear, it's very special:
MPs have to schedule an appointment as the room opens only twice a day for two hours. Before entering the room, they have to leave their mobile phones and any electronic device in a secure locker.

They can read the documents only on a computer screen which is not connected to the Internet. They may take notes but are not allowed to copy any quotes from the consolidated texts.
And if any of the children -- uh, politicians -- are naughty, the US will be very, very cross, and may be forced to withdraw the privileges it has granted:
In the case of unauthorised disclosure of information, the US "may withdraw its consent to the placement of TTIP consolidated texts in any or all of the member states reading rooms”. This means if an MP leaks or quotes any sensitive information, the parliament may be denied access to the documents.
To keep an eye on things, a guard is present at all times in the room, which is very small -- just 35 square meters in all (about 370 square feet). The War on Want site has a picture:
It also provides a handy translation of the room's "features":
Starting in the top left corner and moving clockwise, the signs translate as follows: Lockers (for mobile phones etc) -- Reference library (reference works) -- Work stations (maximum 8 people) -- Digital documents (negotiating language: English) -- Supervisor (official of Ministry for Economic Affairs) -- Computer (not networked) -- Confidentiality agreement (must be signed before use).
These may be standard conditions for viewing negotiation documents in the US, but they are likely to be regarded as pretty insulting to German politicians -- not least because all the documents are in English, and it has taken two and half years to achieve even this miserable level of transparency.

One of Hawaii's most wanted suspects killed in police shooting, female passenger critically injured

One of Hawaii’s most wanted criminals was shot and killed by police early Friday after he was spotted with a woman in a car at a shopping center, authorities said.

Ronald Barawis Jr., 38, of Kaliua-Kona, and a female passenger received multiple gunshot wounds at Puainako Center, according to Island Police. KHON2 News reported the incident started at 12:20 a.m. as police investigated the report of the sighting and later identified the individual as Barawis.

Police said he was spotted at a drive-thru and when officers approached him, he stepped on the accelerator and slammed into two police cars. Hawaii Police Assistant Chief Henry Tavares said police “discharged firearms at the vehicle accelerating towards the officer.”

One witness told the station police fired about a dozen shots at Barawis.

Those shots killed Barawis and injured the female passenger. The woman was flown to Queen’s Medical Center on Oahu where she was in critical but stable condition. Police haven’t released her identity and she wasn’t arrested, according to KHON2 News.

 Police said officers saw that Barawis had a shotgun, assault type rifle and semi-automatic handguns within his reach in the vehicle. Officers said they also saw a bulletproof vest on the backrest of the driver’s seat, according to KHON2 News.

Barawis was wanted on two outstanding warrants for a parole violation and contempt of court, as well as resisting an order to stop an automobile, reckless driving and reckless endangering. He was also being sought for questioning for his alleged involvement in an attempted murder incident in December 2015.

Barawis was also recently featured on a Crime Stoppers television show, according to Big Island Now.

The two officers involved in the shooting are under investigation by Hawaii police as is practice in any officer-involved shootings. The officers were placed on administrative leave, according to KHON2 News.

Click for more from KHON2 News.

New York officials to investigate leak at nuclear power plant

New York officials will investigate an upstate nuclear power plant after radioactive water leaked into the groundwater below the facility, the governor said Saturday.

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said the water was contaminated tritium in the groundwater at the Indian Point Energy Center located in Buchanan. Cuomo called for the investigation after he said Entergy Corp., the plant’s owner, reported “alarming levels of radioactivity” at three monitoring sites, according to The Journal News.

The facility said the contaminated water didn’t leak off site and didn’t pose an immediate threat to public health, according to the paper. Cuomo has insisted a full investigation to take place.

Jerry Nappi, a spokesman for Entergy, said in an email to The Journal News that drinking water sources onsite and offsite were not affected and that tritium levels are more than a thousand times below federal limits.

“While elevated tritium in the ground onsite is not in accordance with our standards, there is no health or safety consequence to the public,” Nappi added.

Buchanan Mayor Theresa Knickerbocker said Entergy told local officials Friday about the tritium scare. Residents were not informed about the finding because there was no threat to the public, Knickerbocker told the paper.

The Indian Point Energy Center has been under close watch by New York officials since December. Cuomo ordered an investigation into the plant after a series of unplanned shut downs. A month later, Entergy filed a lawsuit against Secretary of State Cesar Perales, seeking an order to toss out New York’s unwillingness to give the plant a certificate to operate in the Hudson River.

The plant was shut down several times in 2015 due to numerous malfunctions. Opponents of the
power plant have speculated the numerous shutdowns are a sign of the facility’s old infrastructure.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Click for more from The Journal News.

New York jail nurse charged with smuggling razors, marijuana to inmates

A nurse at a New York jail has been charged with smuggling razors and synthetic marijuana to inmates.

Chantiel Cox was arrested on charges of conspiracy and promoting prison contraband. She was arraigned Friday on Long Island.

Newsday reports Nassau County District Attorney Madeline Singas said the 25-year-old Cox delivered the contraband while dispensing medicine to inmates at the county jail. The Amityville resident worked for an outside company providing medical services there.

Cox's attorney, John LoTurco, denied the charges. He tells Newsday the nurse is being used as "a scapegoat" for institutional problems at the jail.

Two other women have been charged with supplying the contraband to Cox.

More than 3,100 pregnant women in Colombia infected with Zika virus, raising fears of spread

The president of Colombia said Saturday that more than 3,100 pregnant women in the country are infected with the mosquito-borne virus which has been linked to birth defects and has no vaccine or treatment.

Reuters reported that President Jaun Manuel Santos pointed out, however, that there has been no recorded cases of Zika-linked microcephaly, the birth defect that involves the fetus’ brain.

Meanwhile, Brazilian officials will soon decide whether to amend the South American nation's rigid procedures for sharing Zika samples, the Cabinet chief's spokeswoman said Friday, as officials announced that they were sending a set of samples to U.S. researchers amid complaints of hoarding.

The developments came on the heels of an Associated Press report earlier this week that revealed that international health officials were frustrated at Brazil's refusal to share enough viral samples and other information to answer the most worrying question about the outbreak: Whether the disease is truly causing a spike in babies born with abnormally small heads?

Cabinet chief Jaques Wagner planned to meet with the health minister and science and technology minister next Wednesday to craft a presidential decree to reform Brazil's biosecurity law, Sonia Abranches, a spokeswoman for Cabinet chief's office, told the AP.

Abranches said she could not provide more details on what the changes might look like or comment on whether Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff would enact the decree.

Flint, Michigan water crisis: Hundreds of prisoners given lead poisoned water, first official fired

A Flint official involved in causing the city’s water supply to be contaminated with high levels of lead has been fired, but scandals keep surfacing. An ex-prisoner says he served fellow Genesee County Jail inmates the poisonous stuff for months. 
Liane Shekter-Smith was already demoted from her former position as head of the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality’s Drinking Water and Municipal Assistance, but on Friday she became the first Flint official to be fired over the water crisis.

Shekter-Smith, as head of MDEQ’s DWMA, had claimed the federal rules dictating water treatment to prevent lead poisoning were misinterpreted. Released emails, however, reveal she knew the Environmental Protection Agency was worried about the lead in Flint’s water last summer. In July, the EPA denied her request for a written statement saying Flint was in compliance with federal standards.

“Putting the well-being of Michiganders first needs to be the top priority for all state employees,” Governor Rick Snyder wrote in a statement released Friday announcing Shekter-Smith was “officially terminated.”

“Anything less than that is unacceptable. The DEQ is working to change this culture and ensure mistakes that endanger our residents don’t occur again,” the statement continued, without specifically mentioning the water crisis.

Though the statement did not directly acknowledge the lead contamination of the public’s water, the issue keeps bubbling up, months after the situation was first acknowledged in October.

Jody Cramer walked out of Genesee County Jail this week after completing a two-month sentence and immediately took his story to the Democracy Now! program.

Cramer claimed that while working in the jail kitchen, he was tasked with cooking and cleaning with the lead-laced water, the same water used in showers by other inmates, until January 23, when bottled water was handed out for only five days. On the sixth day, the sheriff said a test found the water to be safe again, Democracy Now! reported.

Pregnant women were among the hundreds of inmates drinking the contaminated water for months, according to Cramer. Ingesting lead while pregnant can cause miscarriages, brain damage, or other permanent damages to the newborn’s nervous system or kidneys.

“Many inmates made complaints due to the fact that the deputies did not drink from the faucets,” Cramer said. “We were consistently told the water was good.”

Meanwhile, Snyder’s office has another MDEQ employee under review, which The Independent names as Steve Busch based on their sources. Busch has reportedly returned to work after seven days of suspension without pay, and is currently working with pay while the investigation continues.