US Government Giving Military Contracts to Known Fraudsters

On August 18, 2014, First RF Corporation announced a new $2.2 million contract with the US Navy “to develop enabling RF technologies for future Navy and Marine Corps systems.”

Less than a month later, on October 24, the Justice Department announced that First RF agreed to repay $10 million to resolve allegations of fraud stemming from a 2005 contract with the Army. First RF provided the Army with antennas used to combat Improvised Explosive Devices but gouged the government on the price.

“Specifically, the United States alleged that First RF knowingly submitted false data to the Army that misrepresented First RF’s cost to manufacture the antennas, and thereby inflated the price for the antennas and the payments First RF received for them,” reads the press release.

A search of a database of US government contracts issued for First RF in 2005 returns three contracts related to “electrical and electronic equipment components” totaling $21,622,308 as well as 11 contracts for “research and development” totaling $3,227,028.

The Center for Effective Government website also indicates the contracts for electrical components were not competitively bid on, while the research and development contracts were. With First RF returning $10 million, the US Army either received $11.6 million worth of goods and services, is taking the $11.6 million as a loss, or a combination of the two.

The money continues to roll in

This has not kept the government from continuing to pour money into First RF. The company has received $2.2 million in SBIR contracts for 2014 alone. SBIR’s are effectively government grants financed by federal agencies such as the Department of Defense, EPA, Department of Agriculture, and others. Continue reading

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Data Encryption and the FBI. Crying Wolf in the Digital Age

Apple announced that data on their new iPhone operating system would be encrypted by default, and Google quickly followed suit. Privacy advocates cheered while law enforcement groaned. What’s followed has been a full-court press by government officials to try to pressure the tech giants into changing their mind.

What Difference Does Encryption Make?

Without getting technical, encryption means that data is more secure and more difficult to access by third parties. Only the person who has the password can access the information.

The data now being encrypted by default includes the content of text messages and emails as well as the content of communications in third-party applications. Photos, documents, contacts, voicemail, and notes are also protected.

The idea is that now not even Apple or Google can access this information without a password.

So what’s the problem

This presents a conundrum to law enforcement who have, in part, relied on access to this information to track down and convict criminals. The Director  of the FBI James Comey recently presented his agency’s view on the new data encryption to the Brookings Institution. And according to him, well, the sky is falling and criminals can now use their phones to aid them in committing crimes with impunity.

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Tip of the Day: Don’t get on an airplane if you’ve treated someone with Ebola

Nurse Amber Joy Vinson treated the Dallas man who recently died of Ebola. She was running a slight fever. She got on a plane anyway.

What is wrong with this lady?

First and foremost, the US government should bear a lot of the blame for allowing this woman to get on two flights after treating Thomas Eric Duncan, who recently died of Ebola. The fact that they knew about her plans to fly and said “yeah sure no problem” lacks any sort of common sense, especially when they were aware she had a slight fever. Continue reading

Twitter Inadvertently Released Some U.S. Government Surveillance Information

Twitter is suing the government for the right to publish information regarding how many requests it receives for user data and, in the process, revealed the upper limit of the amount of requests it received.

In the lawsuit, Twitter introduces exhibit 5, a copy of a letter it received from the DOJ outlining what it could and could not say.

It noted, for example, that Twitter could

explain that only an infinitesimally small percentage of its total number of active users was affected by [government surveillance by] highlighting that less than 250 accounts were subject to all combined national security process…”

So, while this makes it way through the courts, we can rest easy knowing that the privacy of no more than 249 people using Twitter has been compromised by government snooping.

Twitter Suing US Govt Over Surveillance Gag Order

Twitter is seeking to publish more information regarding how many and what types of surveillance requests it receives from the US government. The Department of Justice effectively told them to keep their mouths shut and Twitter, on October 7, decided to sue the DOJ and the FBI for the right to publish the information.

You can view the whole lawsuit here.

Case Background

When the government wants a user’s information from a website like Twitter, Google, Yahoo, etc. they issue what are known as National Security Letters (NSL’s) to the provider which compels them to disclose “subscriber information and toll billing records information,” which are records of who a person is communicating with. The company that’s been served an NSL is legally prohibited from disclosing “to any person … that the FBI has sought or obtained access to information or records.” They are effectively compelled to cooperate and, at the same time, prohibited from talking about it.

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Gay Marraige: Now Nearly As American as Apple Pie

The Supreme Court decided Monday not to hear cases on whether or not gay people have the right to marry. Instead they let stand the previous decisions that were being appealed, all of which favored same-sex marriage. This brings the total number of states allowing gay marraige to 30.

The dark grey states are set to legalize same-sex marriage as a result of SCOTUS indecision Image Source: Time

Image Source: Time

And it’s not looking good for the hold-out naysayers.

By deciding not to decide, the justices have placed the decision not so much on states as on federal circuit courts.

Regardless of your position on the issue, it looks as though the sun is setting on “one man one woman” as the definition of marriage.

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Pennies Cost 1.6 Pennies to Make. It’s Time to Ditch them Altogether

The price of Zinc is rising, taking the production price of a penny with it. With each coin costing 1.6 cents to make, the U.S. Mint stands to lose $55 million this year.

It’s time to get rid of them altogether.

Source: USA Today / U.S. Mint

Other countries have done so. The most recent of which was our Northern neighbor, Canada, who stopped making one cent coins in 2012 because they cost 1.6 Canadian cents to make. New Zealand, Australia, Finland, and The Netherlands have also eliminated their once cent coins (or stopped circulating one cent Euros.)

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