Widespread outages leave Verizon customers without upgrades and online payments

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Verizon Wireless is suffering widespread downtime across the country. The outages aren’t affecting calls or data service, but customers are reporting that the carrier’s online systems have been unavailable for well over 24 hours. Complaints about the disruption continue to flood Twitter; subscribers are currently unable to make online bill payments, and the carrier’s upgrade / activation system also appears to be inaccessible as a result — at least in some areas. (Trying to purchase an iPhone upgrade through Apple, for instance, returns an error message.)

Calls placed to Verizon Wireless retail stores confirm that the carrier is dealing with major problems at the moment. Customers can’t activate new phones or upgrade devices in-store at…

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The NSA just posted its first full transparency report

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The National Security Agency has posted its first full transparency report. Posted on the official agency Tumblr, the report breaks out the total number of orders for 2013, broken out into FISA orders, National Security Letters, and government requests for business records. The office of the Director of National Intelligence said the report was part of a larger push for transparency within the agency, and would continue in the future. “We are releasing information related to the use of these important tools,” the office said, “and will do so in the future on an annual basis.”

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Facebook Home’s original development team has reportedly disbanded

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Facebook ambitious plan to take over your smartphone hasn’t panned out, and apparently, the original team behind it has moved on. According to The New York Times Bits blog, Facebook has disbanded the team that was initially responsible for developing Facebook Home, an Android skin that it released last year, which overhauled a phone to display Facebook photos on its lock screen and provide easy access to chat messages and status updates. Bits doesn’t say that work on Home has necessarily ended for good, but it suggests the chances of it moving forward aren’t very high either.

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Xbox One achievements and game clips coming to Xbox.com next week

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It’s been more than six months since Microsoft launched its Xbox One console, and the company is now planning to refresh its Xbox.com service to bring some much needed features to the web. While Xbox.com has worked for Xbox One owners to sign in and view profiles, it has never been optimized for the new friend features, achievements, game clips, and activity feed. That’s all changing next week with a big feature update that includes some visual tweaks to the site.

The regular Xbox One activity list will be viewable from Xbox.com, alongside a new profile page that lists game clips that have been uploaded or saved. Xbox Live achievements will also be viewable, with options to compare achievements between friends. Visually the site looks…

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Modern Meadow Raises $10 Million To Make Bioprinted Leather

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Screen Shot 2014-06-27 at 10.48.38 AM In the future your sexy black biker jacket may be bioprinted. The New York-based Modern Meadow was originally known for its work in producing bioprinted meat – meat that is cultured in a vat and not grown on a cow – but just raised a $10 million Series A to begin printing cultured leather, a biomaterial that can be used in clothing and other applications. The company has $12.5… Read More

A New App Called “Moment” Shows You How Addicted You Are To Your iPhone

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Screen Shot 2014-06-27 at 10.05.33 AM Some of us jokingly say that we’re addicted to our iPhones. A newly released app called “Moment” will show us just how true that statement may be. Designed to promote a healthier balance between our real lives and those lived through the small screens of our digital devices, Moment tracks how much you use your phone each day, helps you create daily limits on that usage,… Read More

Shopping App Wish Raises $50 Million

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wish Wish, a social shopping site and mobile application, raised $50 million in new funding in a round led by Founders Fund, with participation from existing investors Formation 8, GGV Capital, Yahoo co-founder Jerry Yang, Legend Capital and others. In April, the company announced $19 million in funding from the same investors, minus Founders Fund. However, that round actually happened in… Read More

Apple To Cease Development Of Aperture And Transition Users To Photos For OS X

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img_0059 With the release of OS X Yosemite later this year, Apple will cease the development of its ‘pro’ photo editing app Aperture. Users of that program will be transitioned to Photos, a new app that was introduced during the WWDC keynote and that will be released next year. Photos integrates many of the advanced photo editing features that were previously found in Aperture and will… Read More

Backed By Science Inc., FreeGameCredits.com Offers Exactly What Its Name Suggests

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freegamecredits Startup FreeGameCredits.com doesn’t have the problem of an ambiguous name — just as you’d guess, it allows mobile game developers to run promotions offering in-game credits. The company is announcing today that it has raised an undisclosed amount of seed funding from Los Angeles-based “startup studio” Science Inc. It’s also launching its first promotion… Read More

US Gov Releases First NSA Transparency Report

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5635864242_8880e8831f_o This morning the Director of National Intelligence (DNI) released a report detailing its use of various legal authorities in 2013 to execute surveillance, and the number of targets impacted by each method. The move was hinted at in March of this year, when NSA Deputy Director Rick Ledgett said that the government was “actually working on a proposal right now to be transparent and to… Read More

Apple Updates Final Cut Pro X, Motion, Compressor and MainStage Pro Apps

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In what is surely a release timed (at least partially) to reassure pro users that they are still paying attention to them, Apple has released updates to its Final Cut Pro X, Motion, Compressor and MainStage apps. Earlier today, Apple announced that it was discontinuing Aperture, its pro photo editing app, in favor of the Photos app in the upcoming OS X Yosemite release. As a part of the apps… Read More

SWAT teams claim to be private mercenaries, immune to open records laws

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The ACLU reports [PDF] that when it made Freedom of Information requests for Massachusetts SWAT team records, the SWATs claimed that because they were organized as “law enforcement councils” (jointly owned by many police departments, with additional federal funding) that they were not government agencies at all, but rather private corporations, and not subject to open records laws.

SWATs are the white-hot center of the increasingly brutal and militarized response of US police forces, which have outfitted themselves with ex-Afghanistan/Iraq military materiel and have deployed it in an escalating violent series of attacks, largely as part of the war on drugs. As Radley Balko writes in the Washington Post, the SWATs’ claim to be private companies doesn’t pass the giggle test: they are funded by the government, pay government employees, and do the government’s business.

The argument boils down to this: we are not the police, we are private mercenaries armed with automatic weapons and military-grade vehicles and equipment, and when we attack and kill in the streets of American cities, we do so as private soldiers who happen to be funded by the police departments’ budgets.

The ACLU is suing the North Eastern Massachusetts Law Enforcement Council to challenge this ruse, but even if they win, this should be setting off alarm bells for anyone who believes in good government and responsible policing. The cornerstone of democratic legitimacy is a duty to the public, with all the transparency and respect that implies. When police forces up and down the state structure themselves to create and exploit a loophole that lets them obscure the details of their most violent, most spectacular screw-ups — which generally result in gruesome injuries and deaths to innocent members of the public — there is no way they can claim to be acting in the public interest.

The fact that the city governments that oversee these departments and the federal agencies that fund the LECs have been complicit in this suggests that this isn’t a matter of police overreach, but rather is a policy that goes literally all the way to the top of the policing regulatory structure in America.

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