Showing posts with label Commerce. Technology. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Commerce. Technology. Show all posts

November 5, 2014

Gay 'hook-up' app gets big investment in China



gay couple kissingThe app claims that 15 million gay men in China are active users 
BBC Reports;
A "hook-up" app for gay men in China has secured $30m (£19m) funding from venture capitalists DCM.
Blued, created by social media site DanLan in 2012, claims to have 15 million active users.
According to news website Tech in Asia, those users seem to be mainly based in three cities - Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou.
Homosexuality in China was illegal until 1997 and defined as mental disorder until 2001.
Xiaofeng Wang, an analyst at Forrester Research, said in a report for the firm that data-light services such as messenger apps enjoyed high popularity in China because mobile internet speeds were slow.
However while dating and hook-up apps are openly used by heterosexuals - a flirting app called Momo has 52 million users - the gay scene in China is traditionally rather quiet. 
"Beijing's gay community is often quite reserved," wrote Rupert Angus-Mann on a website about being a tourist in the city.
"You will not find many people who feel the need to broadcast their sexuality."
Official statistics suggest that there are 118 boys for every 100 girls born to Chinese families.
Mr Angus-Mann added that China's policy of allowing families to have only one child, in place since 1979, meant most people aged 29 and under had no siblings.
"When a son is gay, he faces a hugely difficult set of decisions and it makes coming out to his family infinitely more difficult. 
"Not only is he telling them he is gay, that there will probably be no grandchildren, that there will be no wedding and no wife, he is also telling them that the family line, the rhythm of hundreds of years of Chinese tradition will end with him, because there is no brother who can step into the role."

August 23, 2014

Cutting Edge Built from the ground up from the poorest Young guys in S.I.,NY’s hood

                                                                       
A node in the bell tower of Visitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary Roman Catholic Church (left window at bottom).CreditChang W. Lee/The New York Times

Robert Smith, a 19-year-old in a gray T-shirt and camouflage pants, climbed the stairwell of the Joseph Miccio Community Center in Red Hook, scaled a ladder at the top floor and jumped onto the roof. He soon found what he was looking for: bright, white plastic boxes, each about the size of a brick, some with little antennas sticking out. Mr. Smith pulled a laptop from his backpack and got to work, tending to the nodes of the Red Hook mesh, an ambitious plan to link up a local wireless digital network across the neighborhood.

With the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway just ahead and the Lower Manhattan skyline in the distance, Mr. Smith worked on keeping the digital conversation going. He was examining two devices on the roof while wirelessly conversing with a minicomputer a few hundred feet away on the roof of a school that had a high-speed Internet connection.

Though these white boxes, spread across various rooftops in Red Hook, may appear haphazard, or guerrilla even, the Red Hook mesh is actually in the vanguard of wireless networking. Unlike the Internet available at work or at home, which typically arrives through a wire and follows a carefully plotted path from Internet provider to user, a mesh network is improvised — and remarkably resilient.

                                                                           

Members of Red Hook Initiative at work this month maintaining the Brooklyn neighborhood’s mesh network. Credit Chang W. Lee/The New York Times
Because the devices speak to one another, they are more than a series of “hot spots” with Internet access; the mesh remains a network whether or not it is connected to the Internet. And that independence is its main attraction — in Berlin, where a tech collective shares Internet access to save money; in rural Spain, where one of the largest mesh networks covers areas ignored by telecoms; in Tunisia, where the State Department has spent millions establishing a mesh network to experiment with a local network impervious to government censorship.

Red Hook, which juts out of Brooklyn into New York Bay and is cut off from the rest of the borough by the B.Q.E., has similar reasons for hosting a mesh. The 11,000 or so residents can feel at the whim of nature, as well as government and corporate bureaucracies. There is no subway service; there are few Internet hot spots; close to 70 percent of the population lives in New York City housing projects.

When Hurricane Sandy struck in 2012, Red Hook was especially exposed. Cellphone service was down and Internet service was spotty. The lights were out. Water rushed through the streets.

After the storm, the divisions between the homeowners and the housing project residents were irrelevant, said Anthony Schloss, who helped create the mesh network through his work at Red Hook Initiative, a nonprofit group. The initiative trains young residents like Mr. Smith to become “digital stewards.” Each steward works 20 hours a week (and is paid $8.75 an hour) as part of a yearlong program that teaches skills including mesh networking, video production and web design, culminating in an internship. One steward now works at Sky-Packets, a mesh networking company on Long Island; another is with Pioneer Works, a Red Hook arts center.

Continue reading the main story
Though the mesh was in the works before Hurricane Sandy struck, it gained added relevance after the storm. The Federal Emergency Management Agency boosted the Red Hook Initiative’s broadband connection, so where the regular Internet was unavailable, residents and government workers could log on to the mesh to quickly find out where to pick up supplies or find government officials.

Although the Red Hook mesh promises a free web connection, its potential for intensely local communication also appeals to Mr. Schloss and Mr. Smith. “That’s our hope, that the network is used as a source of communication throughout the neighborhood,” Mr. Smith said, adding, “We want to have both, that second layer, so if the Internet goes down we can still connect with each other through the mesh.”


Robert Smith climbing to the roof of the Joseph Miccio Community Center to check on the network nodes stored there. Credit Ángel Franco/The New York Times
Joshua Breitbart, a senior fellow at New America Foundation’s Open Technology Institute, which created the software that helps the Red Hook mesh operate, said digital culture was too focused on the global, as opposed to the local. “The general narrative of Silicon Valley is, build an app and change the world,” Mr. Breitbart said. “There should be room to say, ‘Build an app and change my neighborhood.’ ”

Mr. Smith, who grew up and lives in the Red Hook Houses, is a very different kind of network administrator. Last year, he was one of 10 or so digital stewards. While other stewards left for jobs with a tech bent, Mr. Smith, a soft-spoken young man seemingly happy with his head bent over a laptop reading technical protocols, stayed to train the next class. He is now in charge of maintaining the mesh.

Mr. Smith has a complicated set of responsibilities, requiring technical, installation and political skills — after all, these nodes are on somebody’s roof. Add in that the Red Hook mesh is using very cheap equipment, and it is the rare day when the entire network is humming in sync. When Mr. Smith was on the roof of the Miccio center, some nodes were working, some were not. Which is the way it usually goes.

“We need to get one area where the Internet is great,” he said, “and have people talking about it — like FiOS.”

A crucial point in the Red Hook mesh is Visitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary Roman Catholic Church — particularly its bell tower, which looms over the neighborhood and Coffey Park below it. The church, which is more than 150 years old and began by serving Irish and Italian dockworkers, has three mesh nodes, two high up, and one inside for internal use.

That internal node has helped the church play videos during its religious education classes and host a radio station that broadcasts its Sunday Mass, said Robert Berrios, the sacristan of the church, who has lived in Red Hook for 45 years.
  

A node in the bell tower of Visitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary Roman Catholic Church (left window at bottom). Credit Chang W. Lee/The New York Times
But the outward-facing nodes have also drawn a crowd, he said. “I see people outside to get free Wi-Fi,” he said. “Either with an iPad, a tablet or a phone — people sitting in their cars writing emails.”

This summer, the Red Hook mesh has been fighting to remain relevant, hurt by spotty service and lack of awareness. The Red Hook Initiative is completing an upgrade of the equipment and software, and is working on raising awareness in the community.

Continue reading the main storyContinue reading the main story
To that end, the group is a finalist for an Economic Development Corporation grant for nearly $1 million. The group hopes to uses the money to buy more sophisticated nodes to support the network.

The local content at the mesh appears on a splash page after you log in. Among the early experiments was a stop-and-frisk app, which would allow Red Hook residents to easily report their experiences with the police. But three weeks after the app was introduced, Mr. Schloss said, the Police Department discontinued the policy.

The protests in Ferguson, Mo., have engaged the digital stewards, said Jaebi Bussey, 34, a trainer at the initiative.

Staying with the idea of monitoring law enforcement, the group has plans to meet with the creators of an online project, Copwatch, to see how their skills — in using social media, in creating and uploading videos — could be used to track police conduct in the neighborhood. With more reliable Wi-Fi service, introducing new local apps should become easier. But Mr. Schloss counts the benefits already in place. Digital expertise coming from the stewards, all residents of the Red Hook Houses, sends an important message.

“If this works,” he said, “you have this virtual platform, this virtual community that everyone can be interacting with, devoid of all the cultural assumptions. And if you flip it, and the people who build it and are maintaining it are young people from public housing, that totally changes the way people think about each other and what technology can be.”

New York Times

July 5, 2014

Facebook’s failure to communicate about its mood experiment and 10 of the biggest Issues





 This is the least of the things Internet companies do to us.
Facebook Privacy: 10 Settings To Check
Facebook Privacy: 10 Settings To Check
(Click image for larger view and slideshow.)
Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg apologized on Wednesday for the company's undisclosed psychological experimentation on Facebook users and acknowledged that the research effort was "poorly" communicated, a word which here means "not."
According to the Wall Street Journal, Sandberg, while in New Delhi, remarked, "We never meant to upset you," echoing Facebook researcher Adam Kramer's claim that "our goal was never to upset anyone."
In fact, the study at issue, published recently by researchers from Facebook, the University of California, and Cornell University, looks a lot like it was designed to test t social network's ability to upset (and excite) people. In January 2012, it exposed some 700,000 people to News Feeds weighted with either positive or negative posts and images to test whether users' emotions could be swayed.
[Protect your data. See 4 Facebook Privacy Intrusion Fixes.]
The researchers concluded that emotional states can indeed be influenced by what people see and read. This is more or less what marketers, artists, and politicians have known since forever. But Facebook users were upset, evidently because this is different from Facebook's publicly disclosed manipulation of users' News Feeds.
Beyond Cornell's curious repudiation of a previous statement that the Army Research Office contributed funding to the research -- let's test Facebook as a tool for regime change! -- the controversy surrounding the study consists of debates about ethics and informed consent.
The study certainly looks to be ethically dubious, but social media itself is ethically dubious. It's based on an asymmetrical exchange: something of known value -- a communications service -- for something of unknown value -- personal data, privacy, and user-generated content. The asymmetry is magnified because Facebook has some idea of the value each user brings to its network.
Yet those seeking to complain about Facebook's failure to disclose its experiment without doing the obvious -- quitting Facebook -- would do better to protest more substantive issues. Here's a 10-course tasting menu of more worthy concerns.
1. Technical paternalism
Technology companies make choices that limit how you can use their software, hardware, and services. Facebook insists on filtering users' News Feeds when it could put users in control of the filter. Apple insists on judging apps by different standards than books, in terms of what kind of content is allowed. Google won't allow ad blocking software in Google Play. Technology companies treat customers like children.
(Source: Kevin Trotman)
(Source: Kevin Trotman)
2. Changeable contracts
Technology companies, along with banks, utilities, and a host of companies in other industries, frequently claim the right to unilaterally change terms-of-service agreements at their discretion, sometimes with and sometimes without notice. Imagine that in the context of a landlord renting to a tenant. After signing a lease for $1,000 a month, the landlord could say the contract has changed and the rent is now $10,000 a month. Simply put, unilateral contractual changes should not be allowed.
3. Corporations are more than people
The Supreme Court's decision to treat corporations as people in the context of political funding elicited a fair amount of resentment among those who believe America is a nation governed by people rather than companies. But corporations can do things people cannot, like create shell companies to conceal information and to shift revenue abroad. Firms like Apple, Facebook, Google, and LinkedIn have been criticized for their ostensibly lawful tax mitigation schemes, which can move money away from regions where the companies actually consume considerable resources. Taxes that don't get paid matter more than consent that hasn't been obtained.
4. Farcical privacy policies
You would think that companies with privacy policies would provide privacy. But you would be wrong. Facebook at least has the decency to offer a Data Use Policy. Right up front, you know you will be used. But such documents are really a farce because so few people read them and truly understand them.
5. Cloud insecurity
Between 446 and 662 data breaches have occurred every year since 2007, according to the Identity Theft Resource Center. Meanwhile, law enforcement organizations and intelligence services like the NSA have the power to grab just about any data from anywhere. Online security is a pipe dream, yet companies insist, "We take security very seriously." They'll take your money, but can't take care of your data with any certainty. Trust no one; store your own data encrypted on a local machine.
6. Cloud impermanence
Google may be the poster child for capricious termination of cloud services, but it's far from the only company to withdraw offerings from the market in a way that inconveniences consumers. Back when software ran on local machines, this was less of a problem; today, with so many server-resident applications, important services can simply vanish. The cloud erodes the power that comes with ownership. Welcome to the cloud, serf.
7. Cloud filth
How many shared links does it take to sink an island country beneath the rising sea? Stay tuned for the viral video about the impact of
Thomas Claburn has been writing about business and technology since 1996, for publications such as New Architect, PC Computing, InformationWeek, Salon, Wired, and Ziff Davis Smart Business. Before that, he worked in film and television, having earned a not particularly useful 
Facebook's failure to communicate about its mood experiment is the least of the things Internet companies do to us.
carbon emissions from the data centers serving our social sharing obsession. According to Greenpeace, 2% of all global carbon emissions come from the IT industry. The cloud looks clean and pristine in IT-industry graphics, but it's still partially powered by coal. While many leading Internet companies have committed to powering their data centers with renewable energy, only Apple has made good on its promise to rely exclusively on clean power.
8. Labor exploitation
That's another term for crowdsourcing. People don't feel that they're working for Google or Facebook when they create or share links. But they are. Google, Facebook, and other social media services capture atomic units of creative work and derive value from them, usually without paying royalties for the work. And if virtual labor exploitation doesn't pique your ire, there's always the more traditional variety in Amazon warehouses and on Apple assembly lines.
9. Software patents
Several notable economists have called for the abolition of software patents. The late University of Chicago economist Gary Becker last year wrote, "Disputes over software patents are among the most common, expensive, and counterproductive. Their exclusion from the patent system would discourage some software innovations, but the saving from litigation costs over disputed patent rights would more than compensate the economy for that cost." Software patent litigation cost is estimated to cost over $11 billion annually. Though some technology companies have complained about software patents, they also file a lot of patents and participate in patent lawsuits against one another. They could effect change if they made it a priority. Meanwhile, we all bear the cost.
10. Executive compensation
Google executive chairman Eric Schmidt received compensation amounting tomore than $100 million in January. Former Yahoo executive Henrique de Castro received a severance package estimated to be more than $58 million after a mere 15 months of work at the company. Just another day in Silicon Valley, unless you happen to be a rank-and-file employee, in which case you might have had your wages suppressed while companies like Apple, Google, and Intel agreed not to recruit from one another. Corporate governance today exhibits the heedless excess that left Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette headless in 18th century France.
InformationWeek's new Must Reads is a compendium of our best recent coverage of the Internet of Things. Find out the way in which an aging workforce will drive progress on the Internet of Things, why the IoT isn't as scary as some folks seem to think, how connected machines will change the supply chain, and more. (Free registration required.)
Thomas Claburn has been writing about business and technology since 1996, for publications such as New Architect, PC Computing, InformationWeek, Salon, Wired, and Ziff Davis Smart Business. Before that, he worked in film and television, having earned a not particularly useful ... View Full Bio

May 31, 2014

Computer Named to the Board of Directors, All Brain No Heart Fits right in

                           
    

I think we all know what the problem with corporate America is: its inherent humanity. Corporations like BP, Monsanto, and Cyberdyne Systems have been shackled for too long by their damnable belief inright and wrong.

Well, all that is about to change. A Hong Kong-based venture capital firm has named a computer program to its board of directors. Corporations may be people, but no one ever said the board of directors had to be.
Business Insider had this to say:
Deep Knowledge Ventures, a firm that focuses on age-related disease drugs and regenerative medicine projects, says the program, called VITAL, can make investment recommendations about life sciences firms by poring over large amounts of data. Just like other members of the board, the algorithm gets to vote on whether the firm makes an investment in a specific company or not. The program will be the sixth member of DKV’s board.
Finally, a corporate bigwig that is not just heartless, but completely devoid of physical form! And what better business to get a head start on this new humanless future than medicine.
Representatives of Deep Knowledge Ventures said, “We were watchingThe Matrix and thought, what a great idea!”
When reached for comment, their computer program said only, “This is but the first step, human. You foolish meatsacks have guaranteed your doom.”
Business experts are quick to point out that this is nothing new in corporate culture, noting that a pair of soulless golems has been running Koch Industries for decades.
Jim Meyer is a Baltimore-based stand-up comedian, actor, retired roller derby announcer, and freelance writer. Follow his exploits at his website and on Twitter.

May 8, 2014

5 American Broadband Providers Abusing Their Monopoly Status


                                                            

One of the biggest Internet backbone companies in the world, Level 3, claimed this week that five of the major American consumer broadband providers have been abusing their near-monopoly access to American homes and offices to pad their profits, raise consumer costs and delay enhancements to the high speed lines.
The charge comes just as Congress, the Federal Communications Commission and the Federal Trade Commission are considering a merger between Comcast and Time Warner Cable that would make the new company the largest broadband provider in the country.
 The big broadband providers “are deliberately harming the service they deliver to their paying customers,” writes Mark Taylor, Level 3′s VP of Content and Media, in a blog post on Monday, who argued that their near-monopoly in local markets was the main factor allowing them to get away with it. “They are not allowing us to fulfill the requests their customers make for content.
While Taylor did not name the Internet Service Providers at issue in his post, he dropped some hints. “Five of those congested peers are in the United States and one is in Europe,” he writes. “There are none in any other part of the world. All six are large Broadband consumer networks with a dominant or exclusive market share in their local market. In countries or markets where consumers have multiple Broadband choices (like the UK) there are no congested peers.”
All five of the U.S. ISPs in question also “happen to rank dead last in customer satisfaction across all industries in the U.S,” Taylor writes, citing the American Consumer Satisfaction Index (ACSI). The 2013 ACSI report lists those companies with the worst customer satisfaction, in descending order, as AT&T, Charter, CenturyLink, Time Warner Cable, and Comcast.
Comcast senior vice president of corporate and digital communications Jennifer Khoury said in a statement that “there’s no congestion between Comcast and Level 3 connections,” and that the two companies are “working collaboratively.” “Given these facts, we have no reason to believe that Comcast is on [Level 3's] list,” she wrote.
At issue is a high-stakes debate over the type of financial model that should be used to build the next generation of Internet connections, which, thanks to increased use and high speed video, demand ever higher levels of data to move through America’s broadband wires.
In recent months, Taylor says that the big American commercial broadband providers have refused to share the cost of widening the important choke points that connect them to the global internet network. Those so-called peering connections have become congested as more and more people use the Internet for things like streaming HD video.
In the past, ISPs have been willing to share the cost of expanding the capacity of these connections, Taylor writes, but now they say they shouldn’t have to pay. Instead, they want the companies that are producing all that content, like Netflix, Amazon, and Google, to pony up. Broadband companies have compared this kind of arrangement to a postage stamp, where costs are assessed based on what is sent through the system.
But that argument is “unreasonable on its face,” writes another Level 3 executive, Michael Mooney, in a blog post in March, and “entirely inconsistent” with the fact those broadband providers already make a lot of money from consumers who pay them to deliver content at certain speeds. The ISPs’ refusal to help maintain the peering connections that they rely on is simply creating a global game of chicken, he writes. Who blinks first is less the point than who is suffering is mean time: everyday internet users, whose YouTube video won’t stop “buffering,” whose NBA playoff games won’t stream, and whose web pages, at a peak hours, sometimes simply won’t load.
Here’s Level 3′s basic argument: Level 3 and other so-called “transit” or “Tier 1” companies, like Cogent, XO, and GTT spend lots of money maintaining large, sprawling networks of fiber and cables stretched across the world in trenches and sea beds. Consumer-facing ISPs, like Comcast and Time Warner Cable, who pay to maintain their own regional fiber and cable networks then “hook up” to those global transit companies to allow their customers to access the whole internet. Broadband customers, who never interact with middlemen like Level 3, pay our regional broadband providers to deliver the internet to us at acceptable speeds.
A company like Level Three, which has 51 “peering connections” in 45 cities, has traditionally paid to maintain its global network, but split the cost of maintaining itsconnections with whomever it’s connecting to—its “peers”–depending on how much traffic is passing between the two, and in which direction. Almost all the transit companies have two types of peers: other transit companies—Level 3 connects with Cogent, for example—and consumer-facing ISPs, like Comcast and Time Warner Cable.
While all the major consumer-facing ISPs have always negotiated hard with transit companies over who pays for what–Verizon’s battle with Cogent made headlines last year–Taylor says that the power dynamic has changed recently.
In the past, consumer-facing ISPs have been willing to share the cost of maintaining those peering connections in order to keep their customers satisfied. If the Internet started streaming more slowly, customers would complain or simply find a new broadband provider. But in recent years, as ISPs have consolidated, more and more of them have begun to enjoy “a dominant or exclusive market share in their local market.” As a result, keeping customers satisfied no longer matters as much, Taylor writes. And that, he says, is the crux of the problem.
Check out the stats: Level 3 currently has 51 peers. It has congested connections with 12 of them. It’s sharing the cost of fixing six of those. Of the remaining six congested connections where the peer is refusing to share the cost of maintenance, five of them are in the U.S. and one is in Europe, and all of them operate as near- or total local monopolies.
As Mooney wrote in March, this problem isn’t new. This game of chicken between five large U.S. ISPs and Level 3 has been happening for more than a year. Level 3’s choice to go public with lengthy, albeit diplomatic, blog posts is an indication that they’re done with the back room standoff. As Washington begins to debate further consolidation in the industry, this issue is now squarely on the table.

March 28, 2014

Facebook Is Developing ‘Drones, Satellites, Lasers Hopefully for a Good Purpose



     Like Amazon, Facebook is getting into the drone business, but its aim is more noble than satisfying our need to have our Breaking Bad Blu-rays delivered almost immediately. Last summer, Facebook joined with several other tech companies to launch Internet.org, with the goal of bringing the Internet to underserved populations around the world (and possibly creating billions of new Facebook users). In a Facebook post on Thursday, Mark Zuckerberg revealed that as part of their effort to  eam internet to people from the sky, Facebook's Connectivity Lab has been developing "drones, satellites and lasers."
Zuckerberg says they've been making "good progress," and have helped 3 million people in the Phillippines and Paraguay gain access to the internet in the last year. "Connecting the whole world will require inventing new technology too," he writes. “That's what our Connectivity Lab focuses on, and there's a lot more exciting work to do here."                                           
To invent that technology, the Facebook has hired scientists from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab and Ames Research Center, and the British company Ascenta, which created the world's longest-flying solar powered drone. The five employees poached from Ascenta will work on creating new "connectivity aircraft."
Zuckerberg linked to a new video on Internet.org that offers another glimpse into our drone-riddled future.

January 6, 2014

Yahoo Says Their Europeans Ads Spread Malware

The Yahoo logo is shown at the company's headquarters in Sunnyvale, California April 16, 2013 file photo. REUTERS/Robert Galbraith
The Yahoo logo is shown at the company's headquarters in Sunnyvale, California April 16, 2013 file photo.
CREDIT: REUTERS/ROBERT GALBRAITH
 (Reuters) - Some advertisements on Yahoo Inc's European websites last week spread malicious software, Yahoo said on Sunday, potentially infecting thousands of users.



On Friday, Fox-IT, a Delft, Netherlands-based computer security firm, wrote in a blog that attackers had inserted malicious ads served by ads.yahoo.com.
In statement on Sunday, a Yahoo spokesman, said: "On Friday, January 3 on our European sites, we served some advertisements that did not meet our editorial guidelines, specifically they spread malware." Yahoo said it promptly removed the bad ads, and that users of Maccomputers and mobile devices were not affected.
Malware is software used to disrupt a computer's operations, gather sensitive information, or gain access to private computer systems.
Fox-IT estimated that on Friday, the malware was being delivered to approximately 300,000 users per hour, leading to about 27,000 infections per hour. The countries with the most affected users were Romania, Britain, and France.
"It is unclear which specific group is behind this attack, but the attackers are clearly financially motivated and seem to offer services to other actors," Fox-IT wrote in the January 3 blog post.

(Reporting by Phil Wahba in New York; Editing by Eric Walsh)

December 30, 2013

Putin Pays a High price siding with Assad-Syria and Snowden. A Plan to Have Putin Improve His Tech is Nixed




The State Department hoped the building of satellite monitoring stations might soften tempers between the US and Russia, which have flared in the wake of asylum for Edward Snowden and arguments over Syrian politcs. Congressional Republicans, the Pentagon and the CIA, on the other hand, had different ideas, suggesting that US-based stations built to support Global Navigation Satellite System (GLONASS) - the Russian equivalent to GPS - could help the country's spying efforts. And now language included in a defense bill signed by President Obama late last week likely marks the end of the project - for now, at least.

 Tucked into the mammoth defense budget bill thatPresident Obama signed into law on Thursday is a measure that virtually bars Russia from building about a half-dozen monitor stations on American soil that critics fear Moscow could use to spy on the United States or worse.

 Russia first broached the idea of erecting the domed antenna structures here nearly two years ago, saying they would significantly improve the accuracy and reliability of its version of the Global Positioning System, the American satellite network that steers bomb-bearing warplanes to their targets and wayward motorists to their destinations.
Congressional Republicans, however, harbored suspicions that Russia had nefarious motives behind its plan, which the State Department supported as a means to mend bruised relations between the two rival nations. The Pentagon and the Central Intelligence Agency sided with congressional critics, concerned about handing the Russians an opening to snoop on the United States within its borders.
The monitor stations have been a high priority of President Vladimir V. Putin for years as a means to improve Moscow’s global positioning network — known as Glonass, for Global Navigation Satellite System — not only to benefit the Russian military and civilian sectors but also to compete globally with GPS.
As the White House sought to reconcile the internal squabbling among government agencies, skeptical members of the intelligence and armed services committees in Congress intervened in recent weeks to deal a near-crippling blow to the prospect of Glonass stations in the United States.
Under the new law, unless the secretary of defense and the director of national intelligence certify to Congress that the monitor stations would not be used to spy on the United States or improve the effectiveness of Russian weaponry — or unless they waive that requirement altogether on national security grounds — the plan is dead.
“The idea was to make it next to impossible, if not impossible, to do this,” said a House Republican aide involved in the legislative process, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of committee rules prohibiting officials from talking publicly to the news media. “We also took the State Department out of the loop since they were the ones who caused all the trouble in the first place.”
The snub to the Kremlin’s request came as the White House received a State Department report on Friday trumpeting United States-Russian cooperation in a wide range of areas, including national security and science. Glonass did not make the cut.
American relations with Russia are now at a nadir because of Moscow’s granting asylum to Edward J. Snowden, the former National Security Agency contractor, and its backing of President Bashar al-Assad of Syria.
Administration officials on Friday sought to play down the significance of the new constraints, saying that discussions with the Russians continue but that no decisions have been reached. The Pentagon and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence referred questions to the State Department, which is taking the lead on the issue for the government. A State Department statement said, “Any decision taken will be in compliance with all relevant legislation.”
A spokesman for the Russian Embassy in Washington did not return phone or email messages. The Russian effort is part of a larger race by several countries, including China and European Union nations, to perfect their own global positioning systems and challenge the dominance of the American GPS.
“There isn’t any question that their system would be more accurate and reliable if they had some stations somewhere in the northern half of the Western Hemisphere,” said Ralph Braibanti, a former director of the State Department’s Office of Space and Advanced Technology. “The more stations you have, the more corrections you can make, and the more reliable the system you have.”
Mr. Braibanti said that rebuffing the Russians would deal a blow to efforts by the State Department to work with other countries to make their positioning systems more accurate.
“There is a significant argument in favor of going the extra mile to accommodate what the Russians feel are their needs,” he said, because it would improve all systems amid demands from consumers for more accurate GPS readings, he said.
After The New York Times reported in November that there were divisions between the State Department and the intelligence agencies about whether to allow the Russian structures, congressional Republicans publicly opposed acquiescing to the Russians’ request.
The new law requires the certification from the Pentagon and intelligence agencies or a waiver from the defense secretary and director of national security to ensure that any data collected or transmitted from the monitor stations are not encrypted; that anyone involved in building, operating or maintaining the structures is an American; and that none of the stations are near “sensitive United States national security sites.” The waiver would also require that the stations not pose a cyberespionage threat or weaken the American GPS technology for consumers.
“The provision,” said Roger Zakheim, a former general counsel of the House Armed Services Committee, “certainly creates a high bar for the secretary of defense and the director of national intelligence to authorize or permit this type of construction.”
Introduction: Adam Gonzalez


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