Stories for Nov. 26, 2013
In Brief

The New York Times has published further details of an NSA operation that involves spying on the fiberoptic cables running between the data centers of companies such as Google and Yahoo. The piece highlights the role played by Level 3, the company that runs such cables for Google and Yahoo. Level 3 has already been identified as one of the telecommunications firms working with the UK’s NSA partner, GCHQ. These fiber connections are crucial to the affair, as they may provide a way for the NSA and GCHQ to effectively tap into major web firms’ systems without their cooperation.

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Stories for Nov. 25, 2013
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In Brief

Google just added another major retailer to distribute its Chromecast streaming stick: Walmart started selling Chromecast in its stores as well as online Monday. The addition of Walmart comes just days after news broke that Chromecast now also sells at Staples as well as via Verizon’s and Motorola’s websites, and in time to make the device a big seller this holiday season.

In Brief

Big changes at BlackBerry continue: On Monday, the company announced that COO Kristen Tear and CMO Frank Boulben are leaving. BlackBerry recently replaced its CEO with John Chen following in the footsteps of Thorsten Heins, making for a full executive sweep of late. After watching its handset market share erode and failing to sell the company, Chen has his work cut out for him. There are no quick-fixes likely available, although the company is sure to continue pushing its services, even as large organizations consider alternatives: Earlier this month it was reported the Pentagon is distancing itself from using BlackBerry.

On The Web

Editas Medicine, a startup that wants to enable “molecular surgery”  to cut out bad genes before they can manifest themselves, has $43 million in Series A funding from Polaris Partners, Flagship Ventures and Third Rock Ventures.  Co-founder Dr. J.Keith Joung, who is also director of molcular pathology at Mass General Hospital, told The Boston Globe that the idea is to “make changes to DNA … if there’s a defect, you can fix it; if there’s a missing piece you can put the missing piece in.”

HTC One gold

HTC today announced a new gold variant of the HTC One. Unlike the 18-carat version introduced last month, this phone is merely gold-colored. Read more »

On The Web

Ben Thompson maps out the symbiotic relationship between Social & Communications. It dovetails nicely with my news & analysis about why Instagram is launching messaging. It can be summed up by this tweet of mine: “Most modern applications need a layer of communication – comments, lightweight signals such as likes & messaging.” This in-turn led to a fun twitter conversation with contributions from John Lilly, Josh Williams, Adam Besvinick, Charles Ying and Semil.

In Brief

Like Sony before it, it seems that Microsoft is benefitting from next-gen hype: the company said that more than a million Xbox One consoles were sold in less than 24 hours after launch last Friday — a feat that apparently shatters the initial sales record of the Xbox 360. However, its important to note that the Xbox One had a worldwide release while the similar sales numbers of the PlayStation4 were limited to the U.S. and Canada. But the strong reception both consoles have already received is a sign that next-gen fever will hit holiday shoppers hard.

In Brief

500 workers at Amazon’s German logistics centers have walked out in protest at the company’s working conditions, and in support of better pay. This is the fourth strike by German Amazon workers this year, and union Verdi says more are coming. Meanwhile in the UK, a BBC investigation has also uncovered Amazon distribution center conditions than one stress expert described as “all the bad stuff at once”, with workers suffering increased risk of mental and physical illness. This is one way to offer market-beating prices, as is not paying very much in the way of taxes. 

In Brief

The Dutch publication NRC has published claims, based on Edward Snowden’s leaks, that more than 50,000 computing networks around the world have been infected with NSA or GCHQ malware, Belgacom-style, in order to siphon off information. The New York Times has revealed the NSA’s plans for grabbing more powers in future, in a report that also mentions a fascinating NSA data visualization tool called Treasure Map. And journalist Glenn Greenwald has challenged assertions by the Norwegian intelligence service that it only spied on Norwegians outside the country.

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