Thursday, January 23, 2014

The Blackphone: Spy-proof phone coming to the market

Anti-NSA Phone Coming To Market

A new encrypted smartphone might quickly become your best ally against the NSA’s far-reaching draconian powers. The Blackphone is being marketed as a device unlike other phones, in that it’s firstly a security-minded electronic device and secondly a communications apparatus.
Despite Obama’s assurances about NSA reforms, most Americans continue to be skeptical of the agency’s marketed commitment to protecting privacy where it can. So, there’s definitely a market for this kind of thing.
Silent Circle, the encryption firm behind the Blackphone, is familiar with the public’s desire for privacy as they once were one of the biggest providers of encrypted email. That is, before they had to shut their doors when the FBI came pounding on the door with a security breach request…
In partnership with Geeksphone, an independent, Spain-based phone manufacturer responsible for Firefox OS developer devices, Silent Circle hopes to “provides users with everything they need to ensure privacy and control of their communications, along with all the other high-end smartphone features they have come to expect.”
Though not much is known about its non-functional specs — whether you’ll be able to take pretty pictures with it, for instance — the Blackphone will allow users to make secure phone calls, video chats, text exchanges, and file transfers independent of existing vendors and carriers.
If you can’t wait to get a hold of the Blackphone, mark Feb. 24 on the calendar. On that day, the phone will be officially unveiled to the world at the Mobile World Congress (MWC) in Barcelona. Who knows how long before it’ll hit stores and render the NSA irrelevant?

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Monday, January 20, 2014

UK Govt could be considering compulsory English language skills for welfare beneficiaries

English, do you speak it? UK govt mulls tightening welfare benefits for immigrants

Published time: January 20, 2014 03:28
Reuters / Stefan Wermuth
Reuters / Stefan Wermuth
The UK government reportedly plans to effectively strip welfare benefits from those immigrants who cannot speak English. Under the draft law taxpayer-funded translators and welfare documentation will not be available in other languages but English.
In order to encourage newcomers to learn English the British government wants to get rid of the foreign language information manuals designed for immigrants to claim government benefits. The Prime Minister also wants the UK government offices to save money and stop paying translators, as the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) spends roughly £5 million per year on translation services for claimants.

In 2011 DWP used interpreters 271,695 times, statistics released under the Freedom of Information Act show. Most of the taxpayers’ money, some £3.5 million, was paid into the Big Word account, an outsourced company responsible for providing translation services in more than 140 languages, including Vietnamese, Urdu and Gujarati. Statistics also revealed that claimants use phone interpreters up to 22,000 times per month while face-to-face translators are used 13,000 times a year.

The measures, authored by Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith, were to be announced on Monday, the Daily Mail reports.
Reuters / Eddie Keogh
Reuters / Eddie Keogh

However, the announcement has reportedly been postponed due to a dispute with Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg. Conservatives hope the changes will be confirmed later this week if the Liberal Democrats can be persuaded.

Currently the inability of immigrants to speak English does not bar them obtaining benefits. Translation services are available in local councils and at all Job centres.

The vast majority of voters will think this idea is plain common sense. It is unreasonable to expect taxpayers to spend huge sums on translators when people should be learning to read and write English,”one Tory insider told the Daily Mail.

“The principle is a good one but it needs to be introduced in a way that’s fair and reasonable,” Liam Fox, the former Defence Secretary said. “If it is, it will meet with general public approval. The ability to speak English is one of the most empowering tools in the labour market and we should be encouraging as many people as possible to learn it.”

According to a recent poll by the Ipsos Mori, 63 percent of Britons supported tightening the welfare system. In general, however, British people do not seem to mind migrants coming to the UK, if they learn English, get a job, pay taxes and become part of their local community. According to the poll 72 percent of people aged between 35 and 44 support migrants’ right to come to the UK