2013: The year of Edward Snowden and the National Security Agency


Edward Snowden, N.S.A. (photo by Digitial Journal - fair use)

Edward Snowden, N.S.A. (photo by Digitial Journal – fair use)

It was militia intelligence officer Paul Revere who warned Americans the British were coming; it was NSA contractor Edward Snowden who warned the United States is watching the world.

by Donald Allen, Founder – The Independent Business News Network – Minneapolis, Minn.(Originally posted in AllVoices with over 8000 hits).

The actions taken by former Central Intelligence Agency technical worker Edward Snowden are to be commended. Snowden single-handedly dismantled a system filled with lies, deceit and benign neglect for the right to privacy for the American people. He made the world aware that the NSA is watching us, spying on us and listening to every word in cell phone conversations. US citizens with non-government cell phone accounts through Sprint, Verizon and T-Mobile and other carriers learned we are helpless when it comes to the power of the federal government and their need to control our private data. The US continues to violently disrespect the American right for a reasonable amount of privacy, but lucky for us, something happened inside Edward Snowden that unlocked his moral compass that moved him to purposely leak documents and data about the men and women who work for the United States’ most top-secret organization, the National Security Agency, better known as the NSA

Snowden told the Guardian: “I don’t want to live in a society that does these sort of things … I do not want to live in a world where everything I do and say is recorded.”

The world has learned it is not little green men from outer space or blue men from Mars spying on us, it’s the NSA and private government contractors who have circumvented due process and replaced it with contempt prior to investigation for the American people. Conspiracy theorists across the globe have been validated in their suspicions that “black helicopters” and the US government spying on its people and other countries is real.

In June 2013, Guardian journalist Glenn Greenwald reported the US (NSA) is collecting the telephone records of millions of Verizon customers under a top secret court order granting the government unlimited authority to obtain communications data for a three-month period. Although the liberal mainstream media in the United States was given its marching orders to report Snowden as a low-level government contract worker gone rogue (Fox News caught on immediately about Snowden), it became fully evident that this “low-level government contractor” was a well-paid government contractor making well over six figures a year and the US government had something to hide: A man named Edward Snowden, the NSA whistle-blower and technical mastermind behind the NSA information breach.

The documents leaked by Snowden show that the NSA created and spread a flawed formula for generating random numbers to create a “back door” in encryption products by rolling it into a software tool called BSAFE that is used to enhance security in personal computers and many other products. The BSAFE tool is widely used by developers to enhance security protocol setting up firewalls and so on. Essentially, what they have done is opened a doorway, in your home, on your personal PC or Apple product for easy access to any and all information saved on any computer with a downline program that can track, assess and report a user’s current keystrokes.

Many foreign news agencies, including the Guardian and the BBC-UK reported that the NSA is accessing the systems of US Internet giants, including Google and Facebook, and collecting data under a previously undisclosed surveillance program called PRISM. International Business Times reporter Ryan W. Neal wrote, “Microsoft helped the NSA circumvent Microsoft’s own encryption software to intercept users’ private communications. Microsoft launched the Outlook.com portal to the public in February 2012, just two months after coming up with the solution. Microsoft also allowed PRISM to access Hotmail, Live and Outlook.com emails before they got encrypted.” Now we know why front end users of Microsoft only use Window’s Explorer to download Firefox and Google Chrome.

The most unfortunate and heartbreaking reality about the NSA’s spying is that throughout history, Americans have been assassinated for even suggesting the government spied on its citizens. To this point, the NSA’s actions is the same type of illegal data collection done by the FBI in the 1993 clash in Waco, Texas. Agents secretly monitored and infiltrated the Branch Davidian complex that turned into a violent and unnecessary loss of innocent life. This was one of the many tests that took place on American soil against her people under the rule of the governments version of a reasonable amount of privacy. If American citizens have rights to a reasonable amount of privacy, the US government has now moved on to bigger things to include twisting the constitution in their favor under the guise of Homeland Security. The search for data that is not there also leads to many missteps by authorities including the government’s increasing “kill switch” powers regarding web servers inside the Department of Justice and Homeland Security’s ICE. If you recall, this cybercrime and countermeasures concept has been an ongoing challenge for many years over the powers granted to government agencies and how they use the Internet “kill switch.” In 2011, the government shut down 84,000 sites in a case of mistaken identity according to WIRED.com.

Recently, the New York Times published a story how the NSA has implanted software in nearly 100,000 computers around the world that allows the United States to conduct surveillance on those machines and can also create a digital highway for launching cyber attacks. The article states, “While most of the software is inserted by gaining access to computer networks, the NSA has increasingly made use of a secret technology that enables it to enter and alter data in computers even if they are not connected to the Internet, according to NSA. documents, computer experts and American officials.”

Many critics, especially those in the Tea Party, feel the Obama Administration has bastardized the Fourth Amendment: “The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.” If the NSA, RSA Security, big data and Microsoft can circumvent your personal privacy settings, the American people have a true challenge in defining the meaning of the Constitution as it pertains to the Fourth Amendment. Did Snowden prove beyond a reasonable doubt the US has rejected the rights of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers and effects?

The short answer would be: Yes!

After the Edward Snowden leak began to snowball in June 2013, President Barack Obama rang in on Snowden attempting to save face and made a directive by saying, “The US government surveillance programs strike ‘the right balance’ between security and privacy and are closely overseen by Congress and the courts.” Of course, the truth about the balance of Obama’s truth was light years away from any form of the truth and fell into to fiction. America clearly understood the president’s statement and is aware of Obama’s sizable scale of domestic surveillance under his administration. In mid-January, leaders of Congress’ intelligence committees said, Obama surveillance idea won’t work. This in response to a chief element of Obama’s‘s attempt to overhaul US surveillance. Congress is pushing back against the idea that the government should cede control of how Americans’ phone records are stored.

Snowden made it very clear; the land of the free and the home of the brave is the country of the watched, tracked and monitored by the US government. This mass (and what some call a constitutionally illegal, or contempt prior to investigation) data collection is not limited to keystrokes on your computer. Social media aggregators, are key services used by the NSA and other big data government contractors to build a profile that can tell big brother when you use the bathroom, to what kind of cheese you buy at the local grocery story and the current balance of your beloved Target card.

Regardless of President Obama wanting to charge Snowden with espionage and give him a long prison term, Edward Snowden stands firm as a true patriot who let his moral conscious take the lead. We really could use an Edward Snowden in the White House.

Certainly Snowden will go down in history as one of America’s most consequential whistle-blowers, alongside Daniel Ellsberg and Bradley Manning. He is responsible for handing over material, and continues to deliver damaging evidence about one of the world’s most secretive organizations.

Because of Edward Snowden’s actions, he becomes part of American history as the one who dared to define just how much the American people continue to lose their constitutionally given rights for a reasonable amount of privacy at the hand of a very few people.

Making it a requirement for the NSA to get permission when there is no crime on data collection on US citizens is much like a pack of wolves asking permission to eat sheep.

The Internet killed the printed-paper Novel


Judy, I can always listen to the Wizard of Oz on my iPad." (photo: D. Allen - Wax Museum Branson, MO.)

“Judy, I can always listen to the Wizard of Oz on my iPad.” (photo: D. Allen – Wax Museum Branson, MO.)

Opening a book has been replaced by the erotic voyeurism of watching a screen.

by Don Allen

The innovations inside and outside of social media and the Internet have helped connect people to electronic devices 24 hours a day, seven days a week. It is a seamless endeavor to check an email, contact a friend via text, Facebook, Twitter or use a simple iPhone 5 Siri “dial or call” voice command to contact friends, family members and search the Internet for relevant information about anything.

Rapid growths of Internet communications have made devices like the landline telephone in the home a relic of the past. In the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s, if you wanted to connect with something or someone, it was more than likely you waited until that person went to a payphone (another relic of the past), or arrived at a destination to use their house phone. Today, a voice command in a pocket-sized data transmitter can tell you everything from the time in London, to the next local movie showing of “Thor.”

Using examples that most people understand is meant to turn on the light switch of the mind. This is the nexus of understanding the evolution of the Internet and how a faster moving society can delete the printed novel exchanging  it for the digital media platform of ebooks.

Once-useful items: telephone books, encyclopedias, calendars,  note pads and the printed-paper novel have surrendered to technology without a fight now replaced by iPads, smart phones and tablets in a time when the world is moving at a very fast pace. The rule in today’s world: Delivery of  information  and access is determined by the fastest and easiest platforms. In all cases, the Internet wins. Talking into a device to make an appointment versus using a pen and paper for writing down your information was the vision of the original “Star Trek” series. The touchpad has replaced the human engagement of pen in hand. As quiet as it is kept, we now live in the world of “Star Trek” as it pertains to data sharing; the spaceship is optional.

Access to the Internet is affecting the way students and educators look at the genre of the printed-paper novel. The novel, for the most part has become extinct as the dinosaur, moving into the realm of clumsy and awkward paper relics. This damning prediction of a time arrived is part of an economic electronic evolution that will run its course and add to history its mark on paper text, especially the classic novel in a world that only likes to watch.

Just recently my wife giggled at the fact that she was able to read two books over a weekend. I was a little taken aback and stated it was not a big deal. When she told me she “listened” to the books via Audible®, (a very profitable audio eBook download website and son of the powerful Amazon.com), troubled,  it occurred a decision must be made on whether or not  listening to novels the same as reading the same novel in print? Is this the end of having novels on the bookshelf, with the exception of the Holy Bible and “Roots?”

It is clear – you do not need to have a printed version of any novel.

The new Xbox One is a fine example of how technology connected with the Web is making it very easy to sit at your desk, or on the living room couch in front of the television and simply “wave your hand” to download or turn a page via open-air motion sensors on your television screen. Advanced technology advances experiences – but it also creates an uptick in the lack of human-to-human personal connections.  The Internet, like a politician, has an agenda, one controlled by the popularity and keystrokes of a trillion users. The Internet is a double-edged sword in that regard. Despite the negative ramifications being called out in this narrative by forward thinkers  on the novel’s life expectancy beyond 2013, the Internet has also made it much easier for people to publish on demand. Traditional manuscripts bulk mailed at library rates cannot compete with the attach and send button of email.

 According to WIRED Magazine, after centuries in which books and the process of publishing them barely changed, the digital revolution has thrown the entire business up for grabs. But with the shift to eBooks—which now represent upwards of 20 percent of big publishers’ revenue, up from 1 percent in 2008—every aspect of the existing framework is now open to debate: how much books will cost, how long they’ll be, whether they’ll be edited, who will publish them and whether authors will continue to be paid in advance to write them.

Writer Evan Hughes, in a story published on WIRED Magazine contends eBooks continue to gain ground, but the healthiness of the profit margins is unclear. J. K. Rowling’s latest book helps illustrate this bind. At a rumored advance of $7 million, Little, Brown and Company essentially backed up an armored car to Rowling’s house to pay her before seeing a nickel in revenue.

How does the medium of the novel and unpopularity of printed-paper literary genres affect college students? Continue reading

North Minneapolis Nonprofit ready to shut its doors


The Neighborhood Hub is a lifeline to community members that have nowhere else to turn. 

The Neighborhood Hub (photo: The Hub)

The Neighborhood Hub (photo: The Hub)

Minneapolis, Minn. – It’s nine o’clock Thursday morning. Julianne Lynum Leerssen, executive director of the Neighborhood Hub has just arrived in her office and starts the coffee brewing and waits for other staff members to arrive. Like magic, bananas, strawberries, granola bars and orange juice appear on the table – there for anyone who wants it.

This is an important morning for the Hub located on the corner of Oliver and Lowry Avenues north, in the basement of and old Lutheran church. A 9-year-old boy was found dead, hung on clothesline in a back yard less than a mile from the Neighborhood Hub.  Leerssen is expecting community members to discuss the latest incident of violence on the north side.

The church where the Neighborhood Hub is located, Calvary Lutheran, is abuzz with members, including their pastor Mellissa Pollman. Rev. Pollman is concerned about the children living in the Northside Achievement Zone – an area covering approximately two square miles in North Minneapolis.  The short, high school age looking pastor can easily be lost in the crowd of community members. She too is a resident of north Minneapolis.

“I hear shots late at night and people walking the streets at ungodly hours. I know there has been a lot of money dumped into north Minneapolis over the years – but I don’t see any results,” said Rev. Pollman.

The pastor has just found out she’s been transferred from the small church in north Minneapolis to be the main pastor at the church in downtown Minneapolis. “I don’t feel as if my work is done here. It makes me sad. I’ve seen the horrors first hand. This is not how people should live, she said.

The Neighborhood Hub in north Minneapolis provides a wide range of services from counseling, to feeding community members and offering computer classes in an area of Minneapolis that Leerssen calls an “economic dead zone.” Continue reading

The winter blues are around the corner


The time is coming again to participate in all manners of brilliant chilly-weather amenities. Thoughts of hot chocolate, peppermint mochas, home-baked cookies, time off from school and work, and cheesy sweaters almost make permanent hoodie weather bearable.

 

Despite all the festivities and fun times, winter can take a hard toll on our emotional stability, even before the piles of snow and below-freezing temperatures. Feelings of fatigue and moodiness could be the winter blues sneaking up to zap your energy and put a restraint on your holiday spirit.

 

“Winter is my favorite time of year,” sophomore Nina Chase said. “I love the snow, but I do feel down some days when I really miss the warm sun on my face, and my tan skin. To beat the sadness I focus on Christmas, my favorite holiday. And I love to go skating.”

 

Seasonal Affective Disorder, also known as SAD, is a type of depression that can creep on every year around the wintertime, and gets you into a winter rut according to the Mayo Clinic. It can especially affect those in Minnesota because of our traditionally nine-month winter season. It happens when the weather starts to fade into gray skies, and cold temperatures and we start spending more time indoors.

 

Unfavorable effects are likely due to a lack of sunlight, and disruptions to daily schedules.

 

Some scientists believe it may be a revolution response to hibernation that allows us to guard a diet change and from below-freezing temperatures.

 

Symptoms of SAD include having a hard time waking up and a tendency to oversleep. Overeating could be a sign. Also, if you have a lack of energy and motivation, or feelings of anxiety, insomnia and loss of appetite could all be signs of SAD.

 

“I have heard of some people using vitamin D lamps because of seasonal depression,” Chase said. “I think that is such a good idea. I am thinking of buying one for the winter to see how I like it.”

 

Some other ways to avoid the cold weather blues: Take vitamin D supplements daily and melatonin to sleep better.

Good news, is the SAD doesn’t stick around forever. It usually ends around springtime when the snow melts, and the birds fly home. Another good tip to avoid keeping your room or living space dark; bright lights have been proven to help.

 

 

Maintaining a consistent light source according to the day and night cycles, keeps your natural clock in sync and will brighten your mood during the dreary Minnesota winter.

 

It is my suggestion to stay active during these hibernation months. It will make you feel better about yourself, and is especially effective against fighting depression. So get those endorphins flowing, the blood pumping and hit the gym.

 

“As a fitness coach, I highly recommend joining a gym in the winter. It will help from gaining the infamous winter fat, and will give people a goal to work at. I find it helps with moral.” Fitness instructor and martial arts coach Marsha Bishop said.

 

Don’t let the winter bring you down this year, take some steps to making it a pleasurable experience for you and your loved ones. Enjoy the snow, and the holidays this winter.

Social media conference at Hamline University


On Wednesday November 20, 2013 a social media conference moderated by Professor David Hudson occurred at Hamline University.  Three social media social media professionals made up the panel.  They each gave their own presentation and after they all sat down together and answered questions from the audience.

The three panelists were Phillip Nieman, Graham Lampa, and Maura Youngman.  They all were Hamline University students at one point.

Niemann holds his Certificate in International Journalism from Hamline.  Niemann now works at a research center on multi-model online campaigning in Germany.

Lampa is a 2005 graduate of Hamline’s College of Liberal Arts, majoring in Global Studies and German.  Lampa is now a Strategic Planning Officer for Under Department of State.

Youngman received her BA in Communication Studies and her Certificate International Journalism from Hamline University.  She is currently a graduate student at the University of Michigan – Ann Arbor.

Nieman, who graduated from the University of Trier, now works within German State Elections.  In his occupation he uses social media everyday in order to call attention to people running for government positions.

“Almost never will someone Google search for a political party’s website,” said Newman.  They use social media sites to call attention to citizens to a political party website.  Using social media in the German government also helps get the attention of young people via Twitter and Facebook.

By calling attention to the young people in the nation they are able to easily spread political messages.  It also gives the government a chance for anonymous and honest feedback.

Lampa also uses social media everyday in his job inorder to call attention to state websites.  Although he also works a lot over sees but he works with the U.S. State Department.

Lampa and Nieman both said that they believe the main key for social media in government is to encourage participation from citizens.

“There are over 1,000 people around the world doing social media in one way or another for the government,” said Lampa.  “When we stopped our Twitter feed in Japan on the day that a U.S. Ambassador had a meeting with the Japanese leader, many people in Japan got very upset,” said Lampa showing that there are many countries that look to U.S. social media for news and updates even in their own country.

Youngman talked mainly about social media in Russia were she had spent some time studying/working.  In Russia there is a government internet block called the blacklist.  The Blacklist is a government list of many different sites that it is illegal to go onto.

The three panelists all had a lot of experience to share and information about not only social media in the government but also around the world.

Social media: a tool for propaganda


By Gino Terrell

Hamline’s International Education Week featured a panel of experts in social media talking about its use in corporations; one even said they used Facebook for propaganda in foreign countries with censorship, November 14 at Hamline University’s Anderson Center.

That week Hamline featured three panels with different speakers discussing social media.

The event was organized by Hamline’s faculty: including English professor David Hudson, global studies professor Leila DeVries, communication professor Suda Ishida, and anthropology professor Van Dusenbury.

The goal for this panel was to give students an idea of how businesses use social media.

“I want to show our students what CIJ graduates are doing in the real world, so they know that they have options in the workforce,” Ishida said.

In the final panel Hamline alum and former reporter for The Oracle, Graham Lampa, explained how he uses social media on a daily basis in the work field.

Lampa works for the Minnesota State Department of Public Diplomacy and said that Facebook has been one of the ways they’ve been able to bypass censorship in foreign countries to tell America’s side in news stories.

“Keeping in contact with civil society,” Lampa said was one of his company’s duties with social media.

He explained that the company had over 400 Facebook accounts, 300 Twitter accounts and 200 YouTube accounts all in effort to communicate with different countries.

He explained that Facebook messages were effective because they were able to post a picture and a small description for the news they posted. He said it helped with readership because it caught their eye and was short for them to read and convenient being that it was posted on a social media source.

At the presentation Lampa showed that their accounts had over a million likes to prove how big their reach was.

He explained that the media in Pakistan is negative towards the US when it comes to news, however, their Facebook posts helps them communicate to citizens in Pakistan.

He explained that with the variety of cultures around the world it makes a difference which social media outlet they use.

Lampa explained that Indonesia typically don’t accept friend request on Facebook because of the cultural difference of what a friend is. He explained that someone could know someone there whole life and in America what we’d call a friend isn’t a label that they use so much.

He said that was important because they needed to study different cultures in order to understand the best means to communicate with them.

Lampa’s main claim was that by using social media as a news outlet to bypass laws of censorship and blacklist they were seeking propaganda for foreign countries.

A Hamline student, junior Alexander Renshaw, said his favorite speaker at the panels was Lampa. He really understood the techniques that his company used and astounded by the impact that social media had on foreign countries.

“I really liked the crowd sourcing technique to reach out to global audiences through social media,” Renshaw said.

Social Media’s Growing Role Creates Uncertainty On Global Scale


Reporter: Jack Zustiak

Social media has been steadily gaining the power to both interact with and shape the public opinion, but how governments worldwide are using it varies wildly, revealing underlying the ideals that each culture has.

On November 14, Hamline University held a panel discussion regarding the role of social media in international affairs. The panel featured speakers Phillip Niemann, Graham Lampa, and Maura Youngman, who discussed social media’s relationships with Germany, the United States, and Russia respectively.

For the German people, politics and social media just aren’t a strong mix.

Niemann explained that despite content producers aiming to get Germans involved in political social media, the country’s overall participation is low. According to his studies, only 42% of Germans used Facebook and 3% used Twitter in 2011.

Even Germans who do use social networking sites are unlikely to participate in political outreach, as most consider websites like Facebook to be private. Making political statements in that fashion clashes with the mindset of the German people.

“It’s really in opposition to the whole political culture in Germany,” Niemann said. “Generally, [in Germany] we see a passive social media usage. They’re reading, but not participating.”

Germany’s tale is a stark contrast to the reception of social media in America, however.

Lampa’s speech discussed how the United States government is working to use social media as a means for digital diplomacy.

“Public diplomacy involves people to people engagement,” Lampa says, and he believes that social media is “a natural extension of our work.”

He mentioned that his department has created multiple Facebook pages in order to spread awareness for social issues and directly invite participation. Lampa noted that the Facebook page “Global Conversations: Our Planet,” run by his department, had over 2.7 million people participating.

“We put out a lot of content, and then try to engage people in the conversation,” Lampa said.

One of the more interesting uses of social media was when Japan began to follow the US Ambassador’s Twitter account during its tsunami crisis. Many Japanese citizens chose to use this account because they saw it as unfiltered information, something they could trust over their own government.

“People flipped out when he stopped communicating,” Lampa mentioned.

In many ways, the United States is trying to use social media to both rally its people as well as involve itself with other cultures. However, while the United States is actively using social media as an outreach method, Russia seems to be closing itself off.

Russia’s policy on social media is one of cautious censorship. Youngman noted that two pieces of legislation have helped shape Russia’s internet: An internet blacklist law, and what’s being called the “Russian SOPA.”

The internet blacklist law is a potentially powerful use of censorship. If a website meets one of four broadly defined categories, then it can be either removed or blocked from all Russian IPs by the government.

Similarly, the “Russian SOPA” gives copyright holders greater control over their intellectual property, which in turn gives them greater control over what shows up on the internet.

“These legislations have widespread implications for internet in the country,” Youngman said.

Youngman gave examples of major websites that have been blacklisted, mentioning that Facebook has been banned for third party advertising and Wikipedia for articles about illegal drugs.

She then mentioned that Russia has even gone as far to consider creating a private Russian internet. This would allow them to better regulate content, as well as prevent information from leaking in or out of their country.

In her conclusion, Youngman stated that “this presentation isn’t an attempt to draw conclusions, but paint a landscape.”

The landscape painted shows three very different perspectives on the global role of social media. Whether countries choose to embrace or deny it, social media will only become a stronger resource as the world continues to use it.

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