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A contract uncovered by the New York Times shows that the C.I.A. is paying AT&T more than $10 million per year to access the company’s phone records for aid in counterterrorism efforts. The CIA, which is forbidden by law from from spying on Americans, is accessing phone records of foreigners under a voluntary contract with AT&T. Some of the records represent calls into or out of the U.S., raising the possibility that the agency is indeed engaged in domestic spying; AT&T claims, however, it “masks” the records of Americans.

In Brief

Apple’s free OS update, Mavericks, has gone along fairly swimmingly — except for Gmail users who use the desktop Mail app for communications. But the bugs that caused improper syncing and general problems are now fixed, as TechCrunch reports that the Cupertino company’s latest patch will solve those woes. “Mail Update 1.0″ is a patch, released today, that improves syncing with Gmail and works better with custom mail settings, along with miscellaneous stability fixes for the OS itself. The patch itself is bare-bones, but will do the trick to remedy those atrocious email-related migraines.

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Just a month after the original SilkRoad shut down, SilkRoad 2.0 has emerged in its place, according to VentureBeat. The new SilkRoad is helmed by a new Dread Pirate Roberts, and offers the same underground black market experience with added security to boot. Meanwhile, the old Dread Pirate Roberts, Ross Ulbricht, is in the middle of answering charges of drug trafficking, money laundering and hacking. But it shows that when it comes to Tor, one Dark Web resource will always rise in the shadow of an old one.

In Brief

Time to say a bittersweet goodbye to the video store. Dish Network has announced that it will be closing the remaining 300 Blockbuster franchise stores, as well as the company’s DVD by mail service, by early 2014, MarketWatch reported. The 28-year-old company has finally finished its slow decline after filing for bankruptcy in 2010 and undergoing debt acquisition by Dish Network in 2011. Blockbuster is slated to live on as a Dish On-Demand video service, called Blockbuster@Home, which is currently available for eligible subscribers — overdue returns and bad summer jobs are not included.

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In Brief

Less than a week after announcing their partnership, Lavabit and Silent Circle have taken to Kickstarter for their latest initiative, the Dark Mail Alliance, TechCrunch reports. The group is seeking exactly $196,608 to fund their Dark Mail protocol as well as a compatible client, and backers have already donated nearly $45,000 as of this writing. The campaign also sheds some light on what Dark Mail actually intends to be — a “newly developed messaging protocol… designed to provide end-to-end encryption of both the message itself and the email in transit.”

In Brief

If you’ve been interested in activity tracking but have yet to spring for a wristband that will do so, Nike’s free Nike+ Move app will give the iPhone 5S Fuelband functionality. The app, which was shown onstage at the iPhone 5S debut, uses the phone’s M7 coprocessor to convert movement into NikeFuel — the company’s metric for representing users’ activity. Users can track averages, “win” hours by engaging in more activity, track walking and challenge friends.  For those who prefer the wristband, the app also pairs with the forthcoming Fuelband SE to make activity tracking more social with training groups.

In Brief

In yet another amendment to its S-1, Twitter has raised the price range of its shares from $17-$20 to $23-25. The bump would allow Twitter to raise around $1.75 billion, and boost the company’s value from $10.9 billion to $14 billion. This is still a long way off of Facebook’s introductory IPO share price of $38.00 (currently, that stock is trading around $49), but the increase does jive with the company’s previous amendment that signaled increasing revenue in Q3. The company is expected to list its shares on Thursday.

NoMoreRack has secured $40 million in a Series B round, led by Oak Investment Partners and HTV Industries, in order to expand its discount-focused ecommerce website, according to TechCrunch. The money will go to bolstering the company’s top sales categories — including jewelry, apparel, and home — which helped […] Read more »

In Brief

According to PatentlyApple, Apple has filed yet another solar panel patent. While this is the eighth patent for the Cupertino, Calif.-based company in an effort to make proprietary solar technology, the “Power Management for a system having non-volatile memory” has eliminated the need for a power converter to turn the solar power into electronic energy. In practical applications, this means that a solar panel could be attached directly to the Magsafe port of a computer or onto the back of a phone.  It’s just a concept now, but it could mean that solar power won’t come at the cost of slimness and style.

In Brief

Maybe indie is popular after all. Gaming company Valve announced today via email that its independent-focused platform Steam experienced 30 percent user growth in the past year, pushing the total active accounts to 65 million — more than Xbox Live. Microsoft estimates that its platform has 48 million accounts, while Sony’s Playstation Network claims 110 million.  Valve will enter with a broad user base into 2014, where it hopes to convert those fans into loyal Steam Machine buyers. But it’s a sign that PC gaming isn’t as ailing as everyone expects.

In Brief

Want to see the curves of the Earth from a small pod hooked up to a massive balloon? Well, now it’s legally possible, as the FAA has approved the operations of  World View. According to Forbes, the Tuscon-based company offers rides in its pressurized, six-person capsule that floats to 100,000 feet for $75,000. The FAA deemed the company legal due to its short jaunt to the stratosphere, and it could be up and running in as little as three years. So feel free to sign up, as long as Gravity didn’t freak you out too much.

On The Web

Facebook has received plenty of resistance in its piece-by-piece effort to open up more user information for use in features and advertisements. Each time Facebook changes its policy, a predictable cycle occurs: initial user anger, followed by the company’s soothing words that privacy is still important. Privacy scholar Michael Zimmer has launched The Zuckerberg Files to unlock Mark Zuckerberg’s “philosophy of information” — and track his ever-changing stance on privacy. Though it’s a bit involved for an ivory-tower dweller, it is interesting to see the Facebook CEO get tracked for a change.

In Brief

Hulu seems to love getting its leadership from its parent companies. Just weeks after it announced Mike Hopkins, a former executive at Fox, would take over as CEO after Jason Kilar left the position in January, the streaming video company has confirmed via blog post that former Disney executive Elaine Paul will join the team as CFO. Like Hopkins, Paul also has a history with Hulu: She was involved in Disney’s original investment in the company.

In Brief

When it comes to endangering teenage drivers, texting has become a bigger threat than alcohol. But there’s no consensus on a prohibitive punishment that keeps texting while driving to a minimum, according to a series of infographics by Mother Jones.

The most punitive state is Alaska, which slaps texting drivers a $10,000 fine and one year in jail. On the other hand, California’s fine to punish texting is just $20. What’s more, four states — Arizona, Montana, South Carolina and South Dakota — don’t even have a ban. These vast differences show that most people still aren’t aware of the dangers of texting behind the wheel.

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