Tuesday, February 11, 2014

  • The Day We Fight Back: Activism Sweeps the Internet with Global Action Against Mass Surveillance


    Nearly a decade after the George W. Bush administration’s warrantless spying program came to light, the issue of mass government surveillance has again sparked a global outcry with the disclosures of whistleblower Edward Snowden. Leaks of National Security Agency files have exposed a mammoth spying apparatus that stretches across the planet, from phone records to text messages to social media and email, from the internal communications of climate summits to those of foreign missions and even individual heads of state. Today privacy advocates are holding one of their biggest online actions so far with "The Day We Fight Back Against Mass Surveillance." Thousands of websites will speak in one voice, displaying a banner encouraging visitors to fight back by posting memes and changing their social media avatars to reflect their demands, as well as contacting their members of Congress to push through surveillance reform legislation. The action is inspired in part by the late Internet open-access activist Aaron Swartz, who helped set a precedent in January 2012 when more than 8,000 websites went dark for 12 hours in protest of a pair of controversial bills that were being debated in Congress: the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and the PROTECT IP Act (PIPA). The bills died in committee in the wake of protests. We discuss today’s global action with Rainey Reitman, activism director at the Electronic Frontier Foundation and co-founder of the Freedom of the Press Foundation.

  • The Sixth Extinction: Elizabeth Kolbert on How Humans Are Causing Largest Die-Off Since Dinosaur Age


    In the history of the planet, there have been five known mass extinction events. The last came 65 million years ago, when an asteroid about half the size of Manhattan collided with the Earth, wiping out the dinosaurs and bringing the Cretaceous period to an end. Scientists say we are now experiencing the sixth extinction, with up to 50 percent of all living species in danger of disappearing by the end of the century. But unlike previous extinctions, the direct cause this time is us — human-driven climate change. In "The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History," journalist Elizabeth Kolbert visits four continents to document the massive "die-offs" that came millions of years ago and those now unfolding before our eyes. Kolbert explores how human activity — fossil fuel consumption, ocean acidification, pollution, deforestation, forced migration — threatens life forms of all kinds. "It is estimated that one-third of all reef-building corals, a third of all fresh-water mollusks, a third of sharks and rays, a quarter of all mammals, a fifth of all reptiles, and a sixth of all birds are headed toward oblivion," Kolbert writes. "The losses are occurring all over: in the South Pacific and in the North Atlantic, in the Arctic and the Sahel, in lakes and on islands, on mountaintops and in valleys."

  • Bridgegate Scandal Grows as NJ Lawmakers Issue 18 Subpoenas to Christie’s Office, Port Authority


    New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie’s "Bridgegate" continues to unfold, as a legislative panel investigating the scandal has issued 18 more subpoenas. They include one for the head of the state’s police aviation unit, who could offer details about whether Christie shared a helicopter with David Wildstein on the same days Wildstein oversaw the closures of traffic lanes leading to the George Washington Bridge for four days in September. Wildstein was Christie’s former Port Authority appointee. A photograph taken on the third day the lanes were blocked shows Christie walking with Wildstein and other close allies at the authority. Christie has denied having any knowledge of the closures as they happened, saying he only found out when the scandal broke open last month. But last week, Wildstein said "evidence exists" that Christie was aware at the time, contrary to his public statements. We speak with Elizabeth Kolbert, whose recent article for The New Yorker, "Red Light," looks at the Port Authority’s evolution from progressive government experiment to patronage mill stacked with Christie loyalists.