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The Internet being used for spying purposes? What’s next, a photo of whoever comes to your front door?

The city council of Austin, Texas, unanimously approved exploring the idea of deputizing citizens to be “meter maids” using an iPhone app allowing anyone with an Android, Blackberry or iPhone to download a “parking ticket app,” according to Legal Blogwatch.

The concept is this: “If they see a vehicle that is parked in a handicapped parking spot, the ‘deputy’ would then take three photographs (of the license plate, the windshield and the car in the handicapped parking [space]). The software from Parking Mobility then transmits the photos and the GPS location to the city so it can issue a ticket.”

Thenewspaper.com reported that the city council meeting “was attended by disabled advocates trying to guarantee easier parking and others who were just interested in writing the $511 tickets. Some attendees even asked if the city would provide them with smart phones.”

Next, might someone be assigned to your neighborhood to follow you around and report to “the authorities?”

Re: Net neutrality. Did we fail?

Did we the people not do enough to convince the U.S. Senate that we don’t want the Federal Communications Commission’s “Net neutrality” regulations?

Apparently not, or as Jack Abramoff, former lobbyist would say, other forces brought more pressure to bear than we did. Elected officials represent those who apply the most pressure and money.

The controversial Net neutrality rule intended to “preserve open Internet access” will remain intact, thanks to the U.S. Senate, which voted last week to keep it in place. And it will remain so, at least until a lawsuit now pending in the D.C. Court of Appeals could make the 52-46 victory in the Democrat-controlled Senate short-lived.

Seton Motley, editor of Stop Net Regulations, wrote: “These 52 Senators stood down and allowed regulators – who are only supposed to enforce law that these Senators write and pass – to illegally make up law themselves. This isn’t how a representative constitutional epublic does things – this is dictatorial authoritarianism. These 52 Senators had an opportunity to stop it – and they refused to do so.”

He added, “If these 52 Senators don’t want to do their jobs, why did they ask their constituents to give them the honor and opportunity? These egregious misrepresentations are easily correctable. And We the People will begin doing so – starting next November.”

Meanwhile, Grassfire Nation and Patriot Action Network tea-party patriots are not sitting still for this latest action, instead kicking off a petition campaign titled “Occupy the FCC”: “The truth is Net neutrality will be used as a weapon to silence both conservatives and tea-party Americans – the last remaining obstacles to the left’s implementation of their socialist agenda.”

Get more information here on how you can protest the ruling.

And by the way, have you heard that India last month formally proposed a government takeover of the Internet?

Disabled voters cast ballots on iPads

Imagine if you could vote from the comfort of your home. No long lines, no Black Panther voter intimidation.

Many Oregon residents did exactly that: voted from home using an Apple iPad to cast their ballots. It’s a pilot project that was used in five counties in last week’s special primary election to replace U.S. Representative David Wu – who resigned amid a sex scandal – and if successful, the Apple tablet could be implemented statewide for all voters with disabilities to vote in private.

The completed ballot is printed out and mailed in or taken to an official ballot box, according to an Associated Press report. Now imagine if citizens across the country were afforded that same capability?

The Black Panthers’ intimidation attempts at voting polls would be all for naught, wouldn’t it?

Attention, bloggers!

If you’re a typical blogger, you check your traffic stats every day (sometimes several times daily!). No matter the tally, you’d like to increase the number of viewers and hits to your site. What do you do?

On the other hand, publishers are looking for cheap, but well written and interesting content they can use on their pages that can be turned into more clicks on their sites for ad revenue.

The solution? Tidal.

You sign up, and Tidal’s platform pulls out your best posts that match what its advertisers are looking for. If yours is among them, it will be delivered to editors who’ll cull through them before determining them worthy and sending them off to sites like Teen Vogue or Bob Vila Nation.

The sites are willing to pay Tidal because the crowd-sourced content draws traffic but is cheaper than paying writers or hiring an editor to go find content.

A word to the wise: If you’re a blogger and want to be fast tracked through the approval process, sign up at http://tid.al/ using the code “techcrunch” without the quotes.

It was a flop

Last week’s failed test of the National Emergency Alert System for television and radio carriers was deemed “unacceptable” by the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee.

And FEMA put out this statement on its blog.

So now that the test has occurred, we know many of you may be wondering … what next?

Well, first, we’ll be spending the next few weeks gathering test result data from the test’s participants and feedback from all of our stakeholders. Under the FCC’s rules, test participants have 45 days from the date of the test to analyze their data and provide a full report to the FCC on the scope and reach of the test. In the meantime, FEMA is also interested in hearing from any stakeholders who want to share feedback about how the test worked and ways we can continue to improve it. We encourage you to email us at ipaws@dhs.gov with any tips, suggestions or input you may have.

And looking ahead, this test was just the beginning of our much larger efforts to strengthen and upgrade our nation’s public alert and warning system.

As we work to build a more modern system, we will continue to test the other newer technologies and communications tools that are also going to be part of our public alert and warning networks, such as cell phones, smart phones, the Internet and social media networks.

Read the entire statement here.

Think twice before you Tweet once

With more than eight million “followers” (8,316,852 to be precise), heart throb Ashton Kutcher, uh … stepped in it last week when he tweeted about the firing of Penn State coach Joe Paterno without knowing the full story.

Upon realizing his gaffe, Kutcher wasted no time securing a team to manage his Twitterings and then tapped out an apology on his blog:
“I assumed that the university had let him go due to football related issues. With that assumption (how dare I assume) I posted a tweet defending his career. I then when about my evening, had some dinner, did a little work and about an hour later turned on ESPN, where I got the full story. I quickly went back on my Twitter account and found a hailstorm of responses calling me an ‘idiot’ and several other expletives that I’ve become accustom to hearing for almost anything I post. I quickly retracted and deleted my previous post; however, that didn’t seem enough to satisfy people’s outrage at my misinformed post. I am truly sorry.”

It’s like the old adage: “Measure twice, cut once.”

Google reaches out to returning vets

Vet Connect, a YouTube and Google+ project, is helping returning veterans support each other upon their assimilation back into civilian life. The website Google for Veterans and Families is the project’s hub.

Veterans create their own video to talk to other veterans about their personal experiences of returning home from war. It is believed that this type of one-on-one communication via YouTube will let veterans know they are not alone.

According to Google spokeswoman Carrie Laureno, Vet Connect’s goal is to have a database of stories for vets to turn to when they come back home from Iraq and Afghanistan.

In a post on Google’s official blog Laureno wrote: “This single interface brings together Google products and platforms for service members and their families. We believe it will be useful to all veterans, whether still in the service, transitioning out or on a new path in their civilian lives.”

What does veteran Todd want civilians to know? Watch.

Head to China, young man – Michael Dell

Ask Michael Dell, founder of Dell Computers, where he’d go if he had it to do all over again, and he says he’d start his business in … China!

“It’s a much better environment,” says the tech entrepreneur of the Red Communist nation.

Dell made his remarks at the opening of the Ernst & Young 25th Anniversary Strategic Growth Forum in Palm Springs, Calif. During a one-on-one interview with TV host Charlie Rose, Dell advised young entrepreneurs to look to China to start their companies. Dell’s third-quarter sales of its PCs has dropped over seven percent, compared to Apple’s gains of 21 percent.

According to research by Boston Consulting Group, China’s online shopping market could reach 2 trillion RMB, or $315 billion, by 2015, which would surpass the United States.

Meanwhile, according to a Bloomberg report, China Telecom Corp., the largest wireline telecom and broadband service provider, will offer wireless service in the U.S. in 2012 to attract Chinese Americans who spend time in both countries. China Telecom also is the world’s largest CDMA mobile operator. At the end of the first quarter, it had more than 66 million wireline broadband subscribers and more than 100 million mobile subscribers.

Facebook settles up on privacy. Slow down in changes?

I’ve mentioned before in this column that no sooner do I get used to a Facebook feature, FB changes it, tweaks it or eliminates it altogether. Always adding new features that are not particularly user-friendly or intuitive, the constant changes are frustrating, maddening and oftentimes confusing. Well, all those rapid changes might be slowing down to a manageable level for FB users. Here’s why.

According to Tech Crunch, Facebook reached an agreement with the Federal Trade Commission to make all future changes to privacy settings opt in: “The Wall Street Journal wrote that the social network was nearing a settlement on the issue, and now its Marketplace editor Dennis K. Berman says that settlement is for new privacy controls to be opt in. The agreement could limit Facebook’s ability to drive adoption of new features, as they won’t be able to immediately go viral. Users rarely visit their privacy settings, so Facebook will need to devise a way to get them to do so.”

Seven indicted in Internet “click hijacking” fraud scheme.

“Manhattan U.S. Attorney Charges Seven Individuals for Engineering Sophisticated Internet Fraud Scheme That Infected Millions of Computers Worldwide and Manipulated Internet Advertising Business – Malware Secretly Re-Routed More Than 4 Million Computers, Generating at Least $14 Million in Fraudulent Advertising Fees for the Defendants.”

So reads the lengthy title of an FBI report that lays out how these not-so-magnificent seven infected millions of computers with a virus-like program that, according to a Los Angeles Times piece on the report, “tricked users’ Web browsers into navigating to phony pages stocked with ads.”

Using a method called “click-jacking”, it works like this: “Embedded malicious software waited for users to click on links to popular sites like Apple’s iTunes or Netflix.com, and then quietly redirected their browsers to similar-looking sites larded with online ads – ads that allegedly earned the defendants cash each time they were displayed.”

The seven – six Estonians and one Russian – managed to “earn” up to $14 million before getting caught.

Bits & Bytes

Honey, I’m home! – I have arrived.

Looking for work? LinkedIn has been “Identified”. Check out the website.

Twiter now No. 1 in photo sharing service. Click this!

Shooting video with iPhone just got better. This will have you spinning! Or swiveling!

Downloadable gifts – a new trend in gift shopping

We’ve gone from homemade, handmade gifts to store-bought. Then we discovered that gift cards were the perfect solution for hard-to-buy-for friends and family members. Next, with the advent of the Internet, we began ordering online and enjoying the convenience of direct shipping from the online retailer. No muss, no fuss, no wrapping or trips to the post office. Now our gift-giving has stepped up to the next level: E-books and apps that can be purchased for that special someone.

“You can still buy bestsellers for loved ones who have swapped their paperbacks for an e-reader such as Amazon.com’s Kindle, Barnes & Noble’s Nook and Sony’s Reader,” according to a published report.

Or how about using Giftly? Here’s where you choose the dollar amount you want to give, specify up to three places the giftee can redeem the gift, and then send the Giftly via Facebook or email. Giftlys are redeemed via a smart phone app – you just tap a button and your credit card gets credited with the amount of the gift.

Similar gift purchasing online services include Giftiki and for those who enjoy dining out, there’s Treatful. Great alternatives for that special someone who lives miles and miles away, or your next door neighbor!

The Time Capsule

1945 – 20 Nazi leaders face charges at Nuremberg trials

1960 – Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries, or OPEC, forms

1968 – The Heidi Bowl: Oakland vs. Jets

1973 – Nixon authorizes Alaskan oil pipeline construction

1978 – Guyana: 914 dead, including 276 children, in People’s Temple mass suicide

1969 – Apollo 12 lands second NASA crew on moon: Pete Conrad, Alan Bean

1991 – U.S. demands Libya turn over intel officers indicted in Lockerbie bombing

2003 – John Allen Muhammad convicted as D.C. sniper; may face death penalty

Now playing at the Princess Theater, Urbana, Ill.

Congratulations to WND readers David Haines, Lake County, Fla., and Terry and Jean Quinn (no locale given) and Tim Kerlin of Watervliet, Mich., who were among the first to correctly guess actor George C. Scott in his portrayal of Gen. George S. Patton in the 1970 movie “Patton.”

The film depicted the World War II phase of the controversial American general’s career.

The quote was: “We’re gonna keep fighting. Is that clear? We’re gonna attack all night, we’re gonna attack tomorrow morning. If we are not victorious, let no man come back alive!”

The movie was tied to last week’s Surfin’ Safari Time Capsule item about General George Smith Patton Jr.’s birth in 1885 in California.

This week’s quote: “There was a fever over the land. A fever of disgrace, of indignity, of hunger. We had a democracy, yes, but it was torn by elements within. Above all, there was fear. Fear of today, fear of tomorrow, fear of our neighbors and fear of ourselves.”

Name the movie, the actor and the character. Send your answer to me at the email address below. Please be sure to add your town and state. Good luck!

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