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  1. Who would have thunk it: A company that installs slides into its office buildings is a fun place to work? Fortune this week has released its annual list of the best companies to work for, and Google has once again taken the top slot. Fortune says that 2013 was particularly sweet for Google employees because they all own shares in the company’s stock, which saw its price rise to well over $1,000 per share by the end of the year. Google also topped Fortune’s list of best places to work last year due to its extensive employee perks that include free massages, shuffle ball courts and horseshoe pits among many, many others. Source
  2. By Veit Medick and Annett Meiritz 15 Jan 2014 Berlin wants a deal with the US that prohibits trans-Atlantic spying, but Washington seems uninterested. DPA Last summer, German Chancellor Angela Merkel promised her citizens a pact which would prohibit US spying on German citizens. But since then, Washington has shown little interest in pursuing such a treaty. Now, officials in Germany fear the deal is dead. Failed talks? Hardly. The negotiations "are continuing," says Germany's foreign intelligence service, the Bundesnachrichtendienst (BND). "We are still talking," says the German government. In other words, nothing has yet been decided. The No-Spy deal is still alive. But the statements coming out of Berlin and Pullach, where the BND is headquartered, reek of forced optimism. Nobody wants it to look as though efforts have been abandoned toward a deal which would see the US agree to swear off spying operations in Germany. Yet despite the assertions, most of those involved are slowly coming to the realization that a surveillance deal between Washington and Berlin isn't likely to become reality. The US government is still digging in its heels. On Tuesday, the German daily Süddeutsche Zeitung quoted one source who is familiar with the talks as saying "we won't get anything." The paper also reported that the US is refusing to promise that it won't monitor members of the German government and other politicians in the future. Interactive Graphic: The NSA Spy Catalogue The current gloominess is a stark shift from the confidence on display in the middle of last year. To be sure, Germany was in the middle of a general election campaign. But in the summer of 2013, National Security Agency head Keith Alexander had told his German counterpart, BND chief Gerhard Schindler, that a far-reaching deal was possible, though he also acknowledged that it was ultimately up to the White House to give the green light. German officials began speaking of the treaty as though it were a done deal. Legal Action? Since then, however, news broke that the US had monitored Chancellor Angela Merkel's mobile phone and that the US undertakes far-reaching surveillance activities from the roof of its embassy in Berlin. Washington has thus far refused to tell Berlin exactly when it tapped into Merkel's phone and has denied German experts access to its roof-top spying operation. The German government has informed Washington that it considers the surveillance post to be a violation of the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations and it is considering taking legal action. The mood, in short, has dramatically worsened, and US stonewalling on a No-Spy deal isn't helping. "The Americans lied to us," one high-ranking official told the Süddeutsche in reference to the treaty. It is an extremely uncomfortable situation for German Chancellor Angela Merkel. For months, her staff, together with high-ranking officers within German security agencies, have sought to move the project forward. Sources in the government now believe that a thin declaration of intent, in which both countries pledge to obey the laws of the other, is the most that can be hoped for. Merkel will have to take charge of the issue if she wants to achieve anything at all. She will have the opportunity to speak personally with US President Barack Obama in Washington next week. It seems likely that the chancellor will do all she can to return with something concrete. Should the two NATO allies not be able to reach agreement on a treaty preventing them from spying on one another, it would be the clearest indication yet that trans-Atlantic relations are in trouble. And it would be embarrassing for her domestically. After all, her pledge to work towards a No-Spy deal was key to ensuring that the swelling debate over the American National Security Agency's mass surveillance practices didn't derail her re-election campaign last year. It was a message to voters that she and her conservatives were doing all they could to protect the data of German citizens. Both her then-chief of staff, Ronald Pofalla, and then-Interior Minister Hans-Peter Friedrich used every chance they got to promise as much. Should she fail, it will be a black mark on her credibility and make clear just how little influence Merkel has in Washington. Overstepping Its Bounds The revelations of widespread NSA surveillance in Europe and Germany have already hurt Merkel. Since the affair began last June, the Chancellery has been in the awkward position of not really knowing what is coming next and has seemed helpless. Interior Minister Friedrich, for his part, complained of "anti-Americanism" spoke of a "super basic right of security," and, in an interview with SPIEGEL, seemed extremely eager to counter concerns that the US was overstepping its bounds. German government representatives seeking answers returned home from Washington empty handed and questions sent to Washington have been ignored or returned with unsatisfying responses. Domestically this week, the issue has returned. The opposition has placed NSA surveillance and the No Spy treaty on the parliamentary agenda for Wednesday and difficult questions are sure to be asked. Members of the governing coalition, which pairs Merkel's Christian Democrats with the center-left Social Democrats, are becoming concerned as well. Stephan Meyer, domestic affairs expert for Merkel's conservatives in parliament, has even suggested that economic sanctions should be considered. "It is time," he said. "The US has to be candid." Thomas Oppermann, floor leader for the SPD, also said that "a failure of the treaty would be unacceptable." Still, he insists that he remains optimistic. "I am hopeful that the chancellor's visit to the US will help us achieve a deal in the end." His meaning, though, is clear. Merkel must deliver. http://www.spiegel.de/international/germany/us-german-no-spy-deal-in-danger-of-failure-a-943614.html
  3. by Jon Brodkin - Jan 29 2014, 9:21am AUSEST Average speed improved in nearly every state (sorry, Ohio). Despite Internet speed improvements in nearly every state, most US residents are still surfing the Web at less than 10Mbps, according to Akamai's latest State of the Internet Report. Drawing data from Akamai's globally distributed network of servers, the report covering Q3 2013 put the US in 9th place worldwide in the proportion of residents with "high broadband," or at least 10Mbps average download speeds: Regular broadband is defined as 4Mbps—75 percent of US connections hit that mark. Akamai's data from its Internet content delivery network includes 158.5 million unique IP addresses in the US, and many millions more in countries around the world. "The global average connection speed continued its upward trend in the third quarter of 2013, climbing 10 percent over the previous quarter to 3.6Mbps," Akamai said in a press release. "A total of 122 countries/regions that qualified for inclusion saw average connection speeds increase during the third quarter, with growth ranging from 0.5 percent in Namibia (to 1.1Mbps) to a 76 percent increase in Nepal (to 3.6Mbps)." Akamai measured both the average speed of Internet connections and the average peak speed, which may not be representative of typical experience but is "more representative of Internet connection capacity." "Global average peak connection speeds showed a slight decline in the third quarter of 2013, dropping 5.2 percent to 17.9Mbps," Akamai said. "Seven of the top 10 countries/regions saw increases in average peak connection speeds during the quarter, ranging from 0.5 percent in Hong Kong (to 65.4 Mbps) to 19 percent in South Korea (to 63.6 Mbps). Meanwhile, Romania, Latvia and Belgium saw declines of 4.4, 3.3, and 3.6 percent to 45.4, 43.1, and 38.5Mbps, respectively." Average connection speed in the US was 9.8Mbps, while average peak speed was 37Mbps. Globally, just seven countries have average (not peak) speeds over 10Mbps. Massachusetts, it turns out, is home both to the World Series Champion Boston Red Sox and the highest broadband speeds of any state in the US: Massachusetts and New Jersey led the way in the percentage of residents with high broadband speeds: There's good news for nearly all states, though. "Across the whole country, average connection speeds were up in all states but Ohio, which saw a surprisingly large 20 percent quarter-over-quarter decline to 7.5Mbps," Akamai said. Average peak connection speeds rose in 44 states. Akamai analyzed mobile connection speeds separately. "Average connection speeds on surveyed mobile network operators during the third quarter of 2013 ranged from a high of 9.5Mbps to a low of 0.6Mbps, while average peak connection speeds ranged from 49.8Mbps to 2.4Mbps. Eighteen operators showed average connection speeds in the broadband (>4 Mbps) range," Akamai said. The 9.5Mbps average was achieved by a Russian provider. In the US, four mobile carriers were measured at average speeds of 2.1Mbps to 8.4Mpbs, and average peak speeds of 6.3Mbps to 24.5Mbps. Akamai did not identify which carrier was which, listing them only as "US-1," "US-2," and so on. An Akamai spokesperson told Ars that "we aren't permitted to identify the carriers listed in the report." Akamai also provided an update on IPv6 adoption and Internet attacks. Romania led the way in IPv6 adoption with 7.3 percent of traffic attributed to IPv6. The US was fifth at 4.2 percent. Regarding security, China was the leading source of traffic Akamai was able to identify as "attack traffic." "China, which originated 35 percent of observed attacks, returned to the top spot this quarter after having been unseated by Indonesia in the second quarter," Akamai said. "Indonesia, meanwhile, dropped back to second place after originating 20 percent of observed attacks—slightly more than half of the volume seen in the second quarter. The United States remained in third place as it originated 11 percent of observed attacks during the third quarter, up from 6.9 percent in the previous quarter." http://arstechnica.com/information-technology/2014/01/two-thirds-of-americans-surf-the-web-at-less-than-10mbps
  4. Published time: January 20, 2014 22:58 The overwhelming majority of Americans said that President Obama’s recent speech regarding changes to the National Security Agency had little to no effect on their opinion on the surveillance programs, according to a poll released Monday. In a highly anticipated speech last Friday, Obama said that the NSA would continue to collect metadata on millions of Americans, but the agency would need a judge’s approval and would also have to turn the information over to a third party instead of storing it in the NSA’s databases. A poll conducted by the Pew Research Center and USA Today has found that Obama’s speech, which came after an intelligence review board recommended the NSA discontinue the collection of phone metadata immediately, did little to change their opinion. Of the 1,504 adults polled between January 15 and 19, half said they had heard nothing about the President’s proposed changes and another 41 percent said they only heard “a little bit.” A mere eight percent said they heard a lot about potential changes. Researchers also found that fewer US citizens are in favor of the agency’s mass surveillance than when Edward Snowden first leaked classified documents in June of last year. In July, just weeks after the first Snowden documents were published by the Guardian and the Washington Post, 50 percent of Americans said they were in favor of the measures, believing they were necessary to fight terrorism. Now, though, 40 percent approve of the far-reaching programs and 53 percent disapprove. The NSA review board previously suggested in December that the intelligence agency turn over the phone metadata to a phone company or other third party to reduce the risk of government abuse. It also recommended that the NSA be required to seek approval from a judge in order to sift through that information. Obama said Friday that those suggestions will be the new basis for his NSA reforms. But nearly half of the citizens polled, 48 percent, say there are still not sufficient safeguards on what internet and phone data the government is permitted to collect. Even fewer, just 41 percent, said that there are adequate limits on the data collection as a whole. Support for the NSA program was clearer when researchers examined party lines. In June 2013 45 percent of Republicans approved of the surveillance while 51 percent disapproved. Seven months later, 37 percent approved and 56 percent disapproved. Democrats, perhaps out of loyalty to the Obama administration, said in June that they approved of the NSA by 58 percent, with only 38 percent speaking against the policies. By January, the number who approve had fallen to 46 percent while the number who disapproved jumped to 48 percent. “Among those that did hear about the proposals, large majorities of Republicans (86%) and independents (78%) say these changes will not make much difference when it comes to protecting people’s privacy,” the Pew Research Center wrote Monday. “Among Democrats who have heard of the changes, 56% say they won’t make much difference.” http://rt.com/usa/obama-nsa-speech-trust-doubt-917 :)
  5. By Matthew O'Brien Jan 26 2014, 9:00 AM ET The top 1 percent aren't killing the American Dream. Something else isif you live in the wrong place. Here's what we know. The rich are getting richer, but according to a blockbuster new study that hasn't made it harder for the poor to become rich. The good news is that people at the bottom are just as likely to move up the income ladder today as they were 50 years ago. But the bad news is that people at the bottom are just as likely to move up the income ladder today as they were 50 years ago. We like to tell ourselves that America is the land of opportunity, but the reality doesn't match the rhetoricand hasn't for awhile. We actually have less social mobility than countries like Denmark. And that's more of a problem the more inequality there is. Think about it like this: Moving up matters more when there's a bigger gap between the rich and poor. So even though mobility hasn't gotten worse lately, it has worse consequences today because inequality is worse. But it's a little deceiving to talk about "our" mobility rate. There isn't one or two or even three Americas. There are hundreds. The research team of Raj Chetty, Nathaniel Herndon, Patrick Kline, and Emmanuel Saez looked at each "commuting zone" (CZ) within the U.S., and found that the American Dream is still alive in some parts of the country. Kids born into the bottom 20 percent of households, for example, have a 12.9 percent chance of reaching the top 20 percent if they live in San Jose. That's about as high as it is in the highest mobility countries. But kids born in Charlotte only have a 4.4 percent chance of moving from the bottom to the top 20 percent. That's worse than any developed country we have numbers for. You can see what my colleague Derek Thompson calls the geography of the American Dream in the map below. It shows where kids have the best and worst chances of moving up from the bottom to the top quintileand that the South looks more like a banana republic. (Note: darker colors mean there is less mobility, and lighter colors mean that there's more). So what makes northern California different from North Carolina? Well, we don't know for sure, but we do know what doesn't. The researchers found that local tax and spending decisions explain some, but not too much, of this regional mobility gap. Neither does local school quality, at least judged by class size. Local area colleges and tuition were also non-factors. And so were local labor markets, including their share of manufacturing jobs and those facing cheap, foreign competition. But here's what we know does matter. Just how much isn't clear. 1. Race. The researchers found that the larger the black population, the lower the upward mobility. But this isn't actually a black-white issue. It's a rich-poor one. Low-income whites who live in areas with more black people also have a harder time moving up the income ladder. In other words, it's something about the places that black people live that hurts mobility. 2. Segregation. Something like the poor being isolatedisolated from good jobs and good schools. See, the more black people a place has, the more divided it tends to be along racial and economic lines. The more divided it is, the more sprawl there is. And the more sprawl there is, the less higher-income people are willing to invest in things like public transit. That leaves the poor in the ghetto, with no way out for their American Dreams. They're stuck with bad schools, bad jobs, and bad commutes if they do manage to find better work. So it should be no surprise that the researchers found that racial segregation, income segregation, and sprawl are all strongly negatively correlated with upward mobility. But what might surprise is that it doesn't matter whether the rich cut themselves off from everybody else. What matters is whether the middle class cut themselves off from the poor. 3. Social Capital. Living around the middle class doesn't just bring better jobs and schools (which help, but probably aren't enough). It brings better institutions too. Things like religious groups, civic groups, and any other kind of group that keeps people from bowling alone. All of these are strongly correlated with more mobilitywhich is why Utah, with its vast Mormon safety net and services, is one of the best places to be born poor. 4. Inequality. The 1 percent are different from you and methey have so much more money that they live in a different world. It's a world of $40,000 a year preschool, "nanny consultants," and an endless supply of private tutors. It keeps the children of the super-rich from falling too far, but it doesn't keep the poor from rising (at least into the top quintile). There just wasn't any correlation between the rise and rise of the 1 percent and upward mobility. In other words, it doesn't hurt your chances of making it into the top 80 to 99 percent if the super-rich get even richer. But inequality does matter within the bottom 99 percent. The bigger the gap between the poor and the merely rich (as opposed to the super-rich), the less mobility there is. It makes intuitive sense: it's easier to jump from the bottom near the top if you don't have to jump as far. The top 1 percent are just so high now that it doesn't matter how much higher they go; almost nobody can reach them. 5. Family Structure. Forget race, forget jobs, forget schools, forget churches, forget neighborhoods, and forget the top 1or maybe 10percent. Nothing matters more for moving up than who raises you. Or, in econospeak, nothing correlates with upward mobility more than the number of single parents, divorcees, and married couples. The cliché is true: Kids do best in stable, two-parent homes. It's not clear what, if any, policy lessons we should take from this truism. As my colleague Jordan Weissmann points out, we don't really have any idea how to promote marriage. We can try telling people how great it is to get hitched. We can even get rid of the marriage penalties some low-income couples face. But these won't, and haven't, been making more people exchange till-death-do-us-parts. And should we even want to? Steve Waldman points out that poor women know better than upper-middle-class people yelling at them to get married whether they should or not. They know whether their boyfriend would make a good husband, a good father, a good teacher. And they know that marriage is important. That they're not getting married tells us something. Sometimes no match is better than a bad match. *** Flat mobility is the defining Rorschach test of our time. Conservatives look at it, and say, see, we shouldn't worry about the top 1 percent, because they're not making the American Dream any harder to achieve. But liberals look at it, and say see, we should care about inequality, because it can make the American Dream harder to achieveand it raises the stakes if you don't. But both want to increase upward mobility. It's not enough to keep it where it was 50 years ago. We need to actually become the land of opportunity. The American Dream is alive in Denmark and Finland and Sweden. And in San Jose and Salt Lake City and Pittsburgh. But it's dead in Atlanta and Raleigh and Charlotte. And in Indianapolis and Detroit and Jacksonville. Fixing that isn't just about redistribution. It's about building denser cities, so the poor aren't so segregated. About good schools that you don't have to live in the right (and expensive) neighborhood to attend. And about ending a destructive drug war that imprisons and blights the job prospects of far too many non-violent offendersfurther shrinking the pool of "marriageable" men. Because the American Dream is dead in too much of America. http://m.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2014/01/why-is-the-american-dream-dead-in-the-south/283313 Also see NYT Interactive Map of Poverty in US with video in this link: http://www.nsaneforums.com/topic/202059-nyt-interactive-map-of-poverty-in-us/?hl=%2Bpoverty+%2Bmap#entry720410
  6. The PlayStation Vita TV has been on sale in Japan and Asia since last year, but Sony will be bringing it to North America and Europe under the name PlayStation TV. The gadget has the PS Vita hardware inside and can play Vita, PlayStation Portable and PS One games using the bundled DualShock 3 controller. It can also stream a game running on a PlayStation 4 in a different room thanks to its Wi-Fi and Ethernet connectivity. The PlayStation TV will also support PlayStation Now as soon as the service is available in Europe. Now is a streaming service that lets you play PlayStation 3 games by streaming them from Sony services. The mini console will cost $99 in the US and Canada and €99 in Europe. It comes with one DualShock 3 controller (but supports DS4 if you have them too), 8GB a memory card and an HDMI cable. Source
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