The Obama administration issued misleading figures about terrorist plots foiled by the National Security Agency’s warrantless mass-collection of records of Americans’ every phone call, NSA chief Gen. Keith Alexander admitted to lawmakers Wednesday.
“There is no evidence that [bulk] phone records collection helped to thwart dozens or even several terrorist plots,” Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy, told Gen. Alexander of the 54 cases that administration officials have cited as the fruit of the NSA’s controversial domestic snooping.
“These weren’t all plots, and they weren’t all foiled,” he said.
The Vermont Democrat asked the general to admit that only 13 of the 54 cases had any connection at all to the United States, “Would you agree with that, yes or no?”
“Yes,” replied Gen. Alexander, who is both director of NSA and commander of the U.S. military’s Cyber Command. In response to a follow-up question, Mr. Alexander also acknowledged that only one or two of the cases cited by senior officials at previous hearings had actually been foiled by the NSA’s vast database.
“The American people are getting left with an inaccurate impression of the effectiveness of NSA programs,” Mr. Leahy said. . .
So, how soon does Snowden get amnesty to testify to Congress? - Greg Pollowitz
Louisiana’s leading health insurance company reports that not one person has yet successfully enrolled in a new health care plan offered through the Affordable Care Act.
Since the marketplaces opened to much fanfare Tuesday (Oct. 1), many of the state’s potential customers have been stalled on the website, unable to move past the portion ofHealthCare.gov that instructs them how to set up their profile.
“It’s a situation that we are coping with,” said John Maginnis, vice president of corporate communications for Blue Cross Blue Shield of Louisiana, one of four companies offering products through the marketplace.
The company spent three years and $60 million preparing for Tuesday’s opening, so the lack of momentum seemed a bit of a letdown. Sales agents were getting plenty of calls from people seeking information, Maginnis said, but the agency is not able to sell a policy to anyone without a functioning HealthCare.gov website. . .
Here's hoping to a much better day today. Maybe they'll get 3 or, knock on wood, 4 people to sign up? - Greg Pollowitz
In what should have been D-Day for Obamacare, it appears that the health exchanges have opened with a whimper rather than a bang. As my fellow Apothecary blogger, Josh Archambault, notes, technical bugs and errors have led to only a handful of states having their exchanges up and running on time: Colorado, Connecticut, D.C., Kentucky, Massachusetts, Oregon, Rhode Island, and Vermont.
My colleague Yevgeniy Feyman and I did a quick survey on Healthcare.gov, and none of the federal exchanges are running either – anyone trying to purchase insurance on the federal exchange is (at least as of noon) receiving a message notifying them that they are overloaded with visitors and the website is down.
You’d think that one of the first and most basic tests of the federal exchange infrastructure would be to make sure their servers can take the traffic expected on the first day of the much-hyped launch of federal websites, so this is very disappointing and appears to vindicate critics concerns that the exchanges are really an unfinished product.
(In a bit of cosmic irony, Rockstar Games Grand Theft Auto V is also going online today, and also seems be very glitchy. My guess, however, is that the video-game maker – with a very active and vocal fan base – will fix their glitches faster than the government contractors can fix the exchanges.). . .
Not ready for prime-time, to say the least. - Greg Pollowitz
I'm still having the same issue as yesterday, but with an added twist. When going to Healthcare.gov with Chrome, I get the message, "We have a lot of visitors on the site right now. Please stay on this page." Using IE, I'm able to go right to the site, but then I hit "Step 3" -- again -- where the drop-down menus for the security questions are blank. Maybe tomorrow. . . - Greg Pollowitz
A new fighter plane built by China is drawing more snickers than raves from aviation experts, and the People’s Army is now saying the jet was really ticketed for export all along.
The J-31 “Falcon Hawk,” likely designed by reverse-engineering a downed U.S. stealth fighter, was supposed “to become China’s next generation of carrier-based aircraft” and take its place next to the U.S.-made F-35 Lightning II as the gold standard in air force weaponry, according to a report last month in People’s Daily . But now it looks like China, which has exactly one aircraft carrier, has scaled back the hype and will peddle the aircraft to second-tier air forces like Brazil, Pakistan and some Middle East countries.
“It’s probably likely that the technology was not originally created for export but built for their own use and it did not work out too well,” Stephen Biddle, a political science professor at George Washington University and senior defense policy fellow at the Council for Foreign Relations told FoxNews.com. . .
While the title of this article might seem like a silly question, it won’t sound so far-fetched when you hear what Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. executive producer Joss Whedon has to say. In the real world, the big news of today has been the U.S. government shutdown, which means many government workers will be furloughed without pay.
Of course, the Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. operate in the fictitious Marvel Universe. However, Whedon has gone on record stating that he specifically set the Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. in present time, because he wanted to be able to address real world events on the series.
“There was talk about doing it in the past, but we wanted the show to be current,” said Whedon. “Not just because we wanted to keep current with the Marvel Universe and the movies, but because we want to be able to talk about the world, be able to talk about now. Because even though it’s a superhero show and even though it’s there to entertain, we want to be able to say something about what human beings are going through right now in the world, in the country.”
The big thing going on right now in the country is the government shutdown, which means it would likely be exactly the type of topic that Whedon would want to address the show. However, there is some debate over exactly where the paychecks for the agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. are coming from. In the comics, S.H.I.E.L.D. has been portrayed as working for the United Nations. In the cinematic and TV universe, the “H” stands for Homeland, and the organization has been portrayed as a U.S. government organization. . .
Nah. S.H.I.E.L.D. is totally an essential organization. -
Los Angeles school officials have taken back iPads from students at Westchester and Roosevelt high schools and possibly other campuses as well until further notice, the latest fallout from student hacking of the devices.
The move is another complication in efforts to provide aniPad to every student as part of a $1-billion technology plan in the nation’s second-largest school system.
The first devices are going to 47 schools, a process that has involved working out more kinks than expected.
Staff at Roosevelt in Boyle Heights and students at Westchester confirmed that the $700 tablets were taken back Friday by school officials. But a Roosevelt teacher said only about two-thirds of about 2,100 devices were immediately returned by students.
A week ago, L.A. Unified School District administrators were scrambling to respond when they learned that students skirted security measures that were intended to block free browsing of the Internet. In interviews, students said they had been disappointed at their inability to get to social networking and music streaming sites. Their work-around involved a couple of clicks — and soon hundreds of students were reaching any website they wanted.
The district tally of hackers was 260 students at Roosevelt, 10 students from Angelou Community High School in South Park and 70 at Westchester High. The numbers could be higher, based on reports from students and employees at the campuses.
District officials last week expressed some admiration for the students’ ingenuity, and they discussed the possibility of enlisting students’ help on an anti-hacking committee.
At the schools, however, students reported a less sanguine response, with some expressing concern about threats of discipline. District technicians had been able to tell immediately which devices had bypassed the security filter. . .
That last line is the key: the district had the ability to monitor what the kids were doing in real time. The privacy concerns alone should have been reason enough to never go through with this plan. -
JOLIET TOWNSHIP — Hours after trying out for a spot on the “Family Feud” game show, a Joliet Central High School security guard shot his new wife to death early Monday and then turned the gun on himself, sources said.
Marcus T. Crosby and family members tried out for the popular game show on Sunday, but his wife, Kearra Hosey did not, according to a source with knowledge of the investigation. A person at the couple’s home, who did not want to be identified, confirmed the tryout. A spokeswoman for “Family Feud” said production staffers were in transit Monday and could not confirm the appearance. . .
Eek. There's gotta be more to this story. - Greg Pollowitz
[GP] I tried to open an Obamacare account today and ran into a problem on Step 3 — answering the security questions. There are three questions to answer, each having its own drop-down box. But the boxes are blank, which means you can’t sign-up online. Here’s the “live chat” transcript about the issue:
[06:58:02 am]: Thanks for contacting Health Insurance Marketplace Live Chat. Please wait while we connect you to someone who can help.
[06:59:57 am]: Please be patient while we’re helping other people.
[07:00:58 am]: Please be patient while we’re helping other people.
[07:01:58 am]: Please be patient while we’re helping other people.
[07:04:57 am]: Please be patient while we’re helping other people.
[07:09:55 am]: Please be patient while we’re helping other people.
[07:10:54 am]: Please be patient while we’re helping other people.
[07:11:59 am]: Please be patient while we’re helping other people.
[07:12:55 am]: Please be patient while we’re helping other people.
[07:13:55 am]: Please be patient while we’re helping other people.
[07:18:57 am]: Please be patient while we’re helping other people.
[07:19:59 am]: Please be patient while we’re helping other people.
[07:20:54 am]: Please be patient while we’re helping other people.
[07:22:55 am]: Please be patient while we’re helping other people.
[07:23:54 am]: Please be patient while we’re helping other people.
[07:24:54 am]: Please be patient while we’re helping other people.
[07:25:56 am]: Please be patient while we’re helping other people.
[07:26:59 am]: Please be patient while we’re helping other people.
[07:27:59 am]: Please be patient while we’re helping other people.
[07:29:00 am]: Please be patient while we’re helping other people.
[07:29:06 am]: Welcome! You’re now connected to Health Insurance Marketplace Live Chat.
Thanks for contacting us. My name is Teresa. To protect your privacy, please don’t provide any personal information, like Social Security Number, or any other sensitive medical or personal information.
[07:29:30 am]: Teresa
Welcome to the Health Insurance Marketplace Live Chat, before we get started may I have your state?
[07:30:54 am]: greg
I’m on the security questions page while trying to create an account and none of the drop down menus work.
[07:30:54 am]: greg
[07:30:54 am]: greg
[07:31:58 am]: Teresa
Thank you, how may I help you?
[07:32:23 am]: Teresa
Sorry , I see you stated your problem above.
[07:32:42 am]: Teresa
The problem you are experiencing is a known issue. We apologize for any inconvenience this may be causing, we are currently working to resolve the issue. You will need to call into the Marketplace for assistance with creating an account or applying online. We are available to help you 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. You can reach us toll free at 1-800-318-2596. Hearing impaired callers using TTY technology can reach us at 1-855-889-4325. In addition to English and Spanish, we can provide assistance in a number of languages through an interpretation service. We are closed on Memorial Day, Independence Day, Labor Day, Thanksgiving Day, and Christmas Day.
[07:34:48 am]: Teresa
Anything else I can help you with?
[07:36:01 am]: Teresa
Have a great day!
[07:36:01 am]: Teresa
Thank you for contacting Health Insurance Marketplace Live Chat. We are here to help you 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
[07:36:07 am]: ’Teresa’ has left the chat session.
[07:36:14 am]: Your chat session is over. Thanks for contacting us, and we hope we’ve answered your questions. Have a great day.
[07:36:14 am]: 10/1/2013
Thanks for wasting 30 minutes of my day with a "known issue." Good luck with the rest of your big roll-out Mr. President. - Greg Pollowitz
Yes, I know @barackobama is no longer the Twitter account of the president, but shouldn't the clowns from OFA running the account at least attempt to make sure tweets from this account achieve even a modest level of respectability? - Greg Pollowitz
SPOILER ALERT: This blogpost is about the final episode of Breaking Bad (series five, episode 16). If you want to avoid spoilers, don’t read on.
Each week, the fan show Talking Bad discusses details of the preceding episode of Breaking Bad with cast, crew and celebrity fans. Naturally, for the last ever installment, Vince Gilligan was the star guest, offering up insights and revelations about the series finale. Here are some choice anecdotes. . .
Click on the link above for the spoiler-filled post. -
Wedged into the blotter on Mike Farah’s desk at the Funny or Die studios in Hollywood is an index card with a list — wrangling talent, polishing scripts and arranging shoots — long enough to keep the comedy website executive fully occupied. But these tasks are part of a different quest: the campaign to ensure the success of President Obama’s healthcare law.
While the GOP-led House passed a spending bill Friday that would strip federal funding for the Affordable Care Act and force a confrontation with the Senate that could shut down the government, Farah and his team were developing as many as 20 projects involving the healthcare law. The first will go live on Sept. 30, the day before Americans are supposed to be able to enroll in the new health insurance marketplaces.
Efforts of allies like Farah in Hollywood — which could be key in reaching the critical enrollment target of 18-to-35-year-olds — are just one small piece of a broad-reaching campaign by the Obama administration and the consortium of industry and nonprofit groups working to get at least 7 million Americans enrolled in the next six months. . .
And they made fun of "Green Eggs and Ham?" - Greg Pollowitz
The theme of a national gang summit on the Far South Side — organized by a California pastor with Chicago roots — was “the village is here.” But the village wasn’t there Saturday at the sparsely attended National United Summit Review.
The Rev. Gregory Tatum had hoped hundreds of current and former gang members would fill the seats at the House of Hope, but he said squabbles about his street cred might have kept people away.
Tatum said he believes Chicago pastors didn’t support him because they didn’t know him.
“They kept saying, ‘Well, we don’t think it’s a good idea. It was done before. You’re from California. Even though you lived here many years ago, things have changed,’ ” Tatum said. “But overall, they didn’t know anything about me. I think that was the greatest fear, not knowing who I am.”. . .
43 rebel groups fighting on the outskirts of Damascus have merged to form a new front against President Bashar al-Assad. They are calling themselves the Islam Army.
The group will be the biggest operating in the area, leaving the Free Syrian Army, the military wing of the internationally recognised National Coalition of opposition parties, more isolated than ever.
Al Jazeera’s Hashem Ahelbarra explains. . .
And to think, a few weeks ago we were getting ready to help these guys. - Greg Pollowitz