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First POST: Cockamamie and Catastrophic

BY Micah L. Sifry | Wednesday, April 9 2014

Cockamamie and Catastrophic

  • Testifying before Congress yesterday, USAID administrator Rajiv Shah denied that ZunZeno, the ill-fated "Cuban Twitter" project it funded, was neither covert nor intended to influence political conditions or spur opposition movements in Cuba. ""The purpose of the program was to support access to information and to allow people to communicate with each other," Shah told Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT). Leahy said the project was "cockamamie" and not adequately described to Congress.

  • Meanwhile, the AP's Jack Gillum, Desmond Butler and Peter Orsi reported that some of the draft messages produced for ZunZeneo were overtly political.

  • Emily Parker writes for Reuters that while the Internet is starting to transform lives in Cuba, "foreign government intervention to help Cuban bloggers can often do more harm than good. Independent bloggers who express critical opinions or try to fight for a better country are now in greater danger of being labeled as U.S.-funded subversives."

  • Alan Gross, the USAID contractor who was arrested while working in Cuba on a project seeking to increase internet access and connectivity at Cuban synagogues and sentenced to 15 years in prison, has started a hunger strike, saying the "Cuban Twitter" case was the "final straw."

  • Testifying by video-link before the Council of Europe, Edward Snowden said that the NSA has spied on human rights groups like Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch.

  • Snowden tells Vanity Fair that the claim that he leaked 1.7 million NSA documents is “simply a scare number based on an intentionally crude metric: everything that I ever digitally interacted with in my career.” He also says that unlike Julian Assange, "I am not anti-secrecy."

  • Ace security researcher Jacob Applebaum reports that the Jesselyn Radack email to Glenn Greenwald (noted here yesterday) was probably decrypted by a third-party that somehow fooled Radack or her PGP mail client into including it in the email thread.

  • Change your passwords, says Bruce Schneier about the Heartbleed bug. This one is "catastrophic."

  • The Google security researcher, Neel Mehta, who discovered the Heartbleed bug has donated his $15,000 bounty to the Freedom of the Press Foundation, which will use it to help fund the development of more secure communications tools for journalists.

  • Politico reporter Alex Isenstadt says that Sean Eldridge, "the 27-year-old husband of Facebook co-founder Chris Hughes has turned his congressional campaign for New York's 19th District into a multimillion-dollar start-up" -- creating a venture capital fund "that has provided millions in loans and equity lines to local companies" and using that record to buttress his claim to represent the district.

  • Writing on the White House blog, Erie Meyer, a senior advisor in the Office of Science and Technology Policy, describes "The Impact of Open Data" entirely in terms of its uses by entrepreneurs and businesses in sectors like education, transportation, energy, consumer finance and consumer products. Remember when Obama thought open data would also "strengthen our democracy" and produce a more accountable government? Ah, good times.

  • Sarah Kliff reports on Charles Gaba and his Obamacare data project, for Vox, and somehow never manages to mention his relationship to the community.

  • Inside Climate News has put together a nifty infographic on the modern environmental movement, which collectively has 15 million members, 2,000-plus staffers and annual budgets of more than a half billion. Second biggest, in membership terms: CredoMobile, with 3.4 million.

  • Correction: Turns out we fell for the April Fool's Day hoax about Beyonce paying interns with selfies.