Summary: The number of requests to Google for user information from Australian government and law enforcement agencies has increased fivefold between 2009 and the end of 2013.
Australian law enforcement and government agencies have ramped up their requests to Google for user information since Google began disclosing the number requests it receives in 2009 by a factor of five.
In the latest transparency report statistics released by the internet giant overnight, the number of times Australian government agencies that requested user information for criminal investigations was up to 780 requests relating to 944 accounts for the six months ending December 31, 2013.
This is up from 645 requests for 807 accounts in the previous six-month period.
Google handed over some information from those requests in the last six months of 2013 around 70 percent of the time, the company said.
Accessing information from Google is increasingly becoming a tool used by law enforcement agencies in Australia, with the number of requests over the past four years increasing fivefold from 155 requests in the six months to December 31 2009, up to 780 in the last six months of 2013.
The figure puts Australia well above the average for the increase in government requests. Broadly,Google reported today that there had been a 120 percent increase in requests to Google from governments across the globe since 2009.
Google's legal director for law enforcement and information security, Richard Salgado, said in a blog postthat while the rise in the number of Google users in that time period could explain some of the rise in requests, it was undeniable that governments were increasingly exercising their authority to make requests to Google for user information. He said Google continues to fight against governments demanding broad personal information.
"We consistently push back against overly broad requests for your personal information, but it's also important for laws to explicitly protect you from government overreach. That's why we’re working alongside eight other companies to push for surveillance reform, including more transparency."
It comes as the parliament is reviewing the access Australian government agencies have to telecommunications customer data. Law enforcement agencies and the Attorney-General's Department have argued that telecommunications companies should be required to keep customer information for up to two years, with some even arguing for browsing history to be retained for criminal investigations.
Privacy advocates and ISPs have, however, argued that such a regime would be a breach of personal privacy, and would potentially put ISPs in breach of the new Australian Privacy Principles in the Privacy Act.
FAIRBANKS—A University of Alaska Fairbanks parish priest has been arrested on charges of driving under the influence and misdemeanor drugs and weapons offenses.
Father Sean P. Thomson, 52, was stopped Monday at 228 Mile Parks Highway near McKinley Village, according to a criminal complaint filed against him Tuesday. He pleaded not guilty at an initial court hearing and has been released on $5,000 bail. Thomson remains a priest for the Catholic Diocese of Fairbanks but has been placed on administrative leave, said Ronnie Rosenberg, legal coordinator and the director of human resources for the diocese.
Thomson was driving a blue 2002 GMC Sierra pickup truck that was weaving, crossing the center line and speeding 79 mph in a 65 zone, trooper Christopher Bitz wrote in the criminal complaint. Bitz said Thomson seemed disoriented and produced a receipt when asked for his vehicle registration. Asked if he had any weapons, Thomson mentioned a .357 in the back seat but neglected to mention a 9mm pistol in his back pocket, Bitz said. Thomson had a bag with a small quantity of marijuana in the pocket of his hoodie sweatshirt, Bitz said.
Thomson registered a breath-alcohol content of 0.247 on a handheld preliminary breath alcohol test machine. That figure is three times the 0.08 level that is one legal standard for intoxication. At the Healy trooper post Thomson refused to take a more-accurate Datamaster test because "(he) said he was drunk and did not feel the test was necessary," Bitz said.
Thomson was charged with DUI, refusal to take to a chemical alcohol test, drugs misconduct and two counts of weapons misconduct for both possessing a firearm while intoxicated and failing to immediately inform troopers he was carrying a firearm.
The Diocese of Fairbanks plans to fill in at the university parish with other priests and lay staff during Thomson's suspension. There may be changes to the service schedule, but that usually happens anyway at the beginning of the summer, Rosenberg said.
Thomson's next court date is Friday morning at the Rabinowitz Courthouse in Fairbanks.
JUNEAU, Alaska - The Senate Judiciary Committee has moved a resolution calling for a convention of states to amend the federal constitution.
House Joint Resolution 22, sponsored by Rep. Tammie Wilson, requests the U.S. Congress to call a convention to consider limiting jurisdiction of the federal government, term limits for federal offices and fiscal restraints to be imposed upon the federal budget.
Thirty-four states must pass such a resolution before Congress is required to call such a convention. Afterward, it would take 38 states to ratify the amendments passed by such a convention.
Wilson says Georgia is the only state that has passed such a resolution.
The resolution was moved to the Senate Rules Committee.
WASHINGTON (AP) - Public support for President Barack Obama's health care law is languishing at its lowest level since passage of the landmark legislation four years ago, according to a new poll.
The Associated Press-GfK survey finds that 26 percent of Americans support the Affordable Care Act. Yet even fewer - 13 percent - think it will be completely repealed. A narrow majority expects the law to be further implemented with minor changes, or as passed.
"To get something repealed that has been passed is pretty impossible," said Gwen Sliger of Dallas. "At this point, I don't see that happening."
Sliger illustrates the prevailing national mood. Although a Democrat, she's strongly opposed to Obama's signature legislation. But she thinks "Obamacare" is here to stay.
"I like the idea that if you have a pre-existing condition you can't be turned down, but I don't like the idea that if you don't have health insurance you'll be fined," said Sliger.
The poll was taken before Thursday's announcement by the White House that new health insurance markets have surpassed the goal of 6 million sign-ups, so it did not register any of the potential impact of that news on public opinion. Open enrollment season began with a dysfunctional HealthCare.gov website last Oct. 1 but will end Monday on what looks to be a more positive note.
Impressions of the health care rollout while low, have improved slightly.
While only 5 percent of Americans say the launch of the insurance exchanges has gone very or extremely well, the number who think it has gone at least somewhat well has improved from 12 percent in December to 26 percent now. The exchanges offer subsidized private coverage to people without a plan on the job.
Of those who said they or someone in their household tried signing up for coverage, 59 percent said there were problems.
Repealing the health care law is the rallying cry of Republicans running to capture control of the Senate in the fall congressional elections. The Republican-led House has already voted more than 50 times to repeal, defund or scale back "Obamacare," but has been stymied in its crusade by Democrats running the Senate.
Thursday, five Democratic senators and one independent - three facing re-election - introduced a package of changes to the law that seems calibrated to public sentiment. One of their major proposals would spare companies with fewer than 100 employees from a requirement to provide coverage to their workers. The current cutoff is 50.
The poll found that 7 in 10 Americans believe the law will be implemented with changes.
Forty-two percent think those changes will be minor, and 30 percent say they think major changes are in store.
Combining the 42 percent who see minor changes coming and 12 percent who say they think the law will be implemented as passed, a narrow majority of 54 percent see either tweaks in store, or no changes at all.
Larry Carroll, 64, a church deacon from Cameron, W.Va., says he would like to see major changes - but he doesn't have high hopes.
"I think it's much too big a thing for the country to be taking on," said Cameron, who's strongly opposed to the overhaul.
"I don't see repeal," he added. "The federal bureaucracy simply seems to be too strong. The federal bureaucracy is like an anaconda."
Teresa Stevens, a factory supervisor from Jacksonville, Fla., said her two adult sons shopped for coverage on the health insurance exchanges and found it too expensive.
"There are so many different things they say about (the law) that are not true," she said. "It's not affordable."
A supporter of former Democratic President Bill Clinton, Stevens said the economy has soured for working people under Obama. "Everything is so expensive, not just health care," she said.
The poll found that much of the slippage for the health care law over the last four years has come from a drop in support, not an increase in opposition.
In April of 2010, soon after the law passed, 50 percent of Americans said they were opposed to it, while 39 percent were in favor. Ten percent were on the fence.
Now, just 26 percent say they are in favor, a drop of 13 percentage points. Forty-three percent say they are opposed, a drop of 7 percentage points since that poll four years ago. But the number who neither support nor oppose the law has tripled, to 30 percent.
The 26 percent in favor in the AP-GfK poll is not significantly different from the 27 percent registered in January and December.
The AP-GfK Poll was conducted March 20-24 using KnowledgePanel, GfK's probability-based online panel designed to be representative of the U.S. population. It involved online interviews with 1,012 adults and has a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 3.4 percentage points for all respondents.
Respondents were first selected randomly using phone or mail survey methods and were later interviewed online. People selected for KnowledgePanel who didn't otherwise have access to the Internet were provided with the ability to access the Internet at no cost to them.
Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
03/28/2014 Spring brings increased risk of ozone danger
In addition to causing health problems, air pollution in WNC impairs the mountain views that help draw millions of tourists to the area.
As spring weather returns to Asheville, so does the risk of dangerous levels of ozone pollution. To raise awareness and help notify the public when ozone levels become hazardous, environmental agencies will start issuing daily air quality forecasts Tuesday, April 1, for Asheville and other metropolitan areas across the state.
“It helps people impacted by ozone plan their day,” said Director of the N.C. Division of Air Quality Sheila Holman, who was in Asheville March 27 for an “Ozone Season Kickoff” event. Ozone, a highly reactive form of oxygen, can be unhealthy to breathe — particularly for children, people with respiratory problems or heart disease, and even healthy adults who work or exercise outdoors, according to the agency. Over time, exposure to high ozone levels can cause the development of asthma. It also causes millions of dollars in tree and crop damage, and it impacts the mountain views that draw millions of tourists to Western North Carolina every year.
Ozone is North Carolina's most widespread air quality problem, particularly during the warmer months. High ozone levels generally occur on hot sunny days with little wind, when pollutants such as nitrogen oxides and hydrocarbons react in the air, according to the N.C. Division of Air Quality.
Ozone levels in Asheville have been declining since 2000. Last year was “the best ozone season on record,” with no days that reached levels the state agency considers “unhealthy,” said Holman. A major factor in keeping the pollution levels down was the unusually cool and rainy weather, she said.
The 2002 Clean Smokestacks state law required coal burning power plants to reduce emissions. That, as well as rising fuel standards have played major roles in bringing ozone levels down over the last decade, Holman said.
Duke Energy’s local coal-fired power plant has reduced its emissions of nitrogen oxide 77 percent since 2002, said Jason Walls, district manager.
The Clean Smokestacks law, which was championed by recently deceased Buncombe County Sen. Martin Nesbitt, resulted in Duke investing in “a multi-billion dollar modernization campaign,” Walls said at the ozone season kickoff event. “Our company has made tremendous strides, all while keeping costs below the national average to costumers.”
However, Bill Eaker, senior environmental planner at the Land of Sky Regional Council, says that despite the progress, it’s no time for clean-air advocates to start resting on their laurels.
Next year, the Environmental Projection Agency is likely to reduce the level of ozone it considers hazardous to human health. And in the years ahead, development could cause levels to rise, said Eaker.
“Our region is continuing to grow and with this growth will come more cars and trucks on our roads, more homes and buildings to heat and cool, not to mention all the lawnmowers and weed eaters and blowers we use on a weekly basis,” he explained. “So to keep up with this growth, we must continue to take action to reduce our energy consumption, find cleaner sources of power, and reduce emissions for our vehicles and equipment.”
View the N.C. Division of Air Quality's daily ozone forecasts here. source
New Jersey lost 3,700 jobs in February as the jobless rate stayed the same at 7.1 percent in another demonstration that the state's economy is struggling.
The state lost 4,900 private-sector jobs while adding 1,200 government posts, according to the monthly employment report released by the New Jersey Department of Labor and Workforce Development.
The jobless rate of 7.1 percent in January is still higher than the national level of 6.7 percent.
The lackluster report was bolstered by an upward revision of the state's January employment picture, showing that the state added 4,200 jobs instead of the previously announced loss of 3,900 jobs.
The state has added 500 jobs in the first two months of the year. The state added 18,800 jobs in all of 2013, well below the 43,900 added the previous year.
"The winter has clearly affected the state's job market," said Charles Steindel, chief economist for the New Jersey Department of Treasury. "The large and welcome upward revision for January suggests that in these conditions the preliminary numbers may be less reliable than usual. We anticipate that the numbers should get better with the weather."
The biggest February losses came in the leisure and hospitality sector, which shed 4,800 jobs, and financial activities, which lost 3,200. The construction sector declined by 2,000 jobs.
The biggest increase came in the trade, transportation and utilities area, which added 3,400 jobs, and professional and business services, which gained 2,700 jobs.
Paterson woman charged with practicing unlicensed dentistry
PATERSON — A city woman was arrested Thursday and charged with practicing dentistry in her home without a license and illegal possession of prescription drugs, authorities said.
Helena Correa, 60, who allegedly ran the dental practice in her home at 998 E. 25th St., had an unauthorized dental X-ray machine, an autoclave for sterilizing instruments and a dental operating chair, according to Passaic County Prosecutor Camelia M. Valdes.
Valdes said Correa also was in possession more than 100 doses of prescription drugs normally used in dental procedures, such as lidocaine, a topical pain killer.
The arrest was the result of an investigation by the Enforcement Bureau of the Division of Consumer Affairs of the state Attorney General’s Office and the White Collar Crimes Division of the Passaic County Prosecutor’s Office, Valdes said..
Unlicensed practice of dentistry is punishable by three to five years in prison, and illegal possession of more than 100 doses of prescription drugs is punishable by five to 10 years’ imprisonment, Valdes said.
The investigation was continuing, the prosecutor said.
A young man who carjacked a woman's car at gunpoint Thursday apparently didn't know how to drive a manual transmission.
The carjacker sat in the vehicle near 50th and Charles Streets for several minutes after taking a Dodge Caliber from a woman who lives nearby.
The carjacker didn't run away until police arrived at the scene.
After a brief foot chase, the 17-year-old was caught near 51st Street and Happy Hollow Boulevard. Police later identified him as Mganga Mganga. He was booked on suspicion of robbery.
The carjacking was reported about 7 a.m. Melissa Peters, 48, was walking to her car after shutting her garage door. She was going to take her 13-year-old son, Robert, to the bus stop and then head to work.
The young man came up and pointed a gun at her.
“He didn't say anything,” Peters said afterward. Peters, did, though: “'Oh, my God, he's got a gun!'”
“My first priority is, of course, my kid,” she said.
She went around to the car's passenger side where her son was sitting. “I opened the door. He got out. We started running. I was hollering up a storm.”
Peters said she had seen the young man about the same time Wednesday morning, in the alley across from their house.
“He was not facing me. He never looked my way.
“When I was pulling out of the garage (Wednesday), I looked his way. I noticed he was gone.” She called her husband, Theo, to alert him to the young man in the alley.
Thursday morning, Peters said, she looked in the alley to make sure no one was there. She didn't see anyone until the teen approached her
Beth Meiches, a neighbor, said she heard Peters' screams and called police.
The young man “must have put it in neutral,” Meiches said. The car, she said, “rolled up into their side yard because he could not figure how to drive a stick.”
“The lights were going off and on” in the Dodge, she said. “He was trying to start it. He didn't know how.”
Meiches said she watched as he tried unsuccessfully to get the car into gear.
“He just stayed in that car forever,” Meiches said. “I was on the phone with the dispatcher.”
Police established a perimeter in the area with four to five cruisers while an officer pursued him on foot. A “help an officer'' call was put out during the foot chase but was quickly canceled.
At one point during the pursuit, he tossed aside a handgun that officers retrieved.
“I just thank God I'm still alive,” Peters said. “Thank God that he didn't shoot. He could have shot us.”
Mganga has been charged with three counts of robbery and three counts of use of a deadly weapon to commit a felony in connection with incidents on Oct. 21, Nov. 7 and Jan. 13. A bail of $10,000 -- 10 percent of $100,000 -- was posted on his behalf on March 14. Wednesday, a judge denied a motion to transfer the cases against Mganga to juvenile court. source