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August 10 2013

August 12, 2013




A Call for Cyber Diplomacy

By Joseph Marks

August 2, 2013


LAS VEGAS — If the United States’ goal is peace and security in cyberspace, officials should think less about cyberwar and more about cyber diplomacy, a scholar from the Atlantic Council said on Thursday.

For all of the talk about lightning attacks that come out of nowhere and the often inscrutable language of experts, cyber conflicts at the national level tend to mirror traditional conflicts much more than you’d expect, Jason Healey, director of the council’s Cyber Statecraft Initiative said during the Black Hat security convention here.

By the time a major attack, say, against the U.S. financial system is being dealt with at the top levels of government, the stakes and strategies are very similar to a traditional national security crisis, said Healey, who was director for cyber infrastructure protection at the White House from 2003 to 2005.

“What’s happening here is not that different from a coup in Pakistan,” he said. On a tactical level, government responders will be calling up bankers and trying to help secure their servers rather than securing embassy staff. But, at a strategic level, the response should be similar, he said.

That means “the president needs to get on the phone with Mr. Putin,” or whichever leader is likely behind the attack, and figure out a way to make it stop, he said.

Healey was editor of the Atlantic Council book A Fierce Domain: Conflict in Cyberspace, 1986 to 2012. While individual cyberattacks may happen with lightning speed, large cyber conflicts such as Russia’s 2007 attacks on Estonia and the Stuxnet attack, reportedly launched by the U.S. against Iranian nuclear facilities, tend to unfold over time and allow for thoughtful decision-making by top leaders.

Cyber diplomacy, he argued, can also be strategic and thoughtful. Some of this diplomacy has taken place in multilateral contexts, he said, such as recent discussions about whether the laws of war apply in cyberspace. More often, it will happen in a bilateral context such as the recent agreement between the U.S. and Russia to install a cyber hotline.


Surveillance scandal rips through hacker community

The good ol’ days of chummy games of “Spot the Fed” at Defcon are finished as hackers and security entrepreneurs plan next steps in the wake of government spying revelations.

by Seth Rosenblatt August 6, 2013 4:00 AM PDT



LAS VEGAS — It used to be that the playful Defcon contest of “Spot the Fed” gave hackers and the government agents tracking them a chance interact in a less serious manner.

Hackers who found a government agent among the conference attendees would wear with pride T-shirts that read, “I spotted the Fed.” The agent would be given a shirt that read, “I am the Fed.” And by flipping the cat-and-mouse dynamic for at least one weekend a year, the two groups more or less came to a greater understanding of each other.

The relationship had gotten friendly enough so that when Gen. Keith Alexander, the director of the National Security Agency, visited Defcon for the first last year, the conference’s founder Jeff Moss told CNET, “It’s eye-opening to see the world from their view,” and noted that he had wanted to score an official visit from the NSA since Defcon began.

It would go too far to say that the uneasy marriage of friendship between the two groups now lies torn asunder in an acrimonious divorce. Hackers, information security professionals, and security experts looking to turn their knowledge into businesses won’t stop working or communicating with the U.S. government. But the response to the scandal has driven many of them back to their more skeptical roots.

“What we need to realize that [Gen. Alexander] is asking us to destroy ourselves,” said Moxie Marlinspike, a well-known information security professional and entrepreneur who has had equipment seized and returned and been detained but never charged by the U.S. government.

“The types of programs that he’s developing are part of this trend of more efficient law enforcement, toward this world of 100 percent effective law enforcement,” said Marlinspike, who uses the alias to protect his legal name.

Marlinspike told CNET that he thinks the NSA is interested in hiring hackers because they tend to have an approach to critical thinking that produces an unusual mindset. Hackers are people, he said, who are “not always abiding by the letter of the law, but are not exactly harmful, either.”

“The problem is that he’s asking us to participate in the destruction of the zone where hackers exist,” Marlinspike said.


No single hacker voice on NSA

Information security professionals are not unified in their interpretation of Alexander’s attempt at a mea culpa at last week’s Black Hat conference here. Alex Stamos, a network infrastructure and security expert and the chief technical officer of Artemis, the company proposing the .secure top-level domain for a safer Internet, said that Alexander was actually aiming his talk not at independent security researchers but the security teams at security companies.

“If you’re a security researcher at a large cloud company, you have to include the NSA on your list of threats that you have to protect against,” he said. Stamos has done government security consulting in the past, although he told an audience at his Defcon session discussing professional ethics for “white hat” or “good guy” hackers that he would reconsider doing so in the future.

Christopher Soghoian, a senior policy analyst and principal technologist with the American Civil Liberties Union, agreed. “I think you’ve got an extra threat in your threat model, and that threat is the NSA.”

Marc Maiffret, a white hat hacker who narrowly avoided serious legal consequences for his teen hacking and has testified in front of Congress on security issues, said that the situation is more than a little ironic.

“We don’t want the NSA to monitor anything, but the whole goal of what [security professionals] do for the most part is to monitor everything. We should have the same safeguards to make sure that those abuses aren’t happening,” he said, referring to the recent surveillance revelations leaked by Edward Snowden.

The ACLU’s Soghoian said that the lack of public discussion is at the core of the problem and has impeded the government’s achieving its stated security-and-safety goals.

“The FBI has a unit now that does nothing but hack into people’s computers, extract documents, control Webcams,” he said. “The FBI’s role as an offensive cyber actor significantly undermines their cause. How can an agency warn people about malware when it’s using malware itself?”

One security start-up that had an encounter with the FBI was Wickr, a privacy-forward text messaging app for the iPhone with an Android version in private beta. Wickr’s co-founder Nico Sell told CNET at Defcon, “Wickr has been approached by the FBI and asked for a backdoor. We said, ‘No.'”

The mistrust runs deep. “Even if [the NSA] stood up tomorrow and said that [they] have eliminated these programs,” said Marlinspike, “How could we believe them? How can we believe that anything they say is true?”

Where does security innovation go next?

The immediate future of information security innovation most likely lies in software that provides an existing service but with heightened privacy protections, such as webmail that doesn’t mine you for personal data.


Wickr’s Sell thinks that her company has hit upon a privacy innovation that a few others are also doing, but many will soon follow: the company itself doesn’t store user data.

“[The FBI] would have to force us to build a new app. With the current app there’s no way,” she said, that they could incorporate backdoor access to Wickr users’ texts or metadata.

“Even if you trust the NSA 100 percent that they’re going to use [your data] correctly,” Sell said, “Do you trust that they’re going to be able to keep it safe from hackers? What if somebody gets that database and posts it online?”

To that end, she said, people will start seeing privacy innovation for services that don’t currently provide it. Calling it “social networks 2.0,” she said that social network competitors will arise that do a better job of protecting their customer’s privacy and predicted that some that succeed will do so because of their emphasis on privacy.

Abine’s recent MaskMe browser add-on and mobile app for creating disposable e-mail addresses, phone numbers, and credit cards is another example of a service that doesn’t have access to its own users’ data.

Stamos predicted changes in services that companies with cloud storage offer, including offering customers the ability to store their data outside of the U.S. “If they want to stay competitive, they’re going to have to,” he said. But, he cautioned, “It’s impossible to do a cloud-based ad supported service.”

Soghoian added, “The only way to keep a service running is to pay them money.” This, he said, is going to give rise to a new wave of ad-free, privacy protective subscription services.

The issue with balancing privacy and surveillance is that the wireless carriers are not interested in privacy, he said. “They’ve been providing wiretapping for 100 years. Apple may in the next year protect voice calls,” he said, and said that the best hope for ending widespread government surveillance will be the makers of mobile operating systems like Apple and Google.

Not all upcoming security innovation will be focused on that kind of privacy protection. Security researcher Brandon Wiley showed off at Defcon a protocol he calls Dust that can obfuscate different kinds of network traffic, with the end goal of preventing censorship.

“I only make products about letting you say what you want to say anywhere in the world,” such as content critical of governments, he said. Encryption can hide the specifics of the traffic, but some governments have figured out that they can simply block all encrypted traffic, he said. The Dust protocol would change that, he said, making it hard to tell the difference between encrypted and unencrypted traffic.

It’s hard to build encryption into pre-existing products, Wiley said. “I think people are going to make easy-to-use, encrypted apps, and that’s going to be the future.”

Longer-term solutions

Right now, the intersection of individual information security experts, governments, and private companies large and small is at a crisis point. How they untangle and compromise their competing interests could have far-reaching ramifications for all.

Maiffret, the teen hacker turned respected infosec expert both inside and outside the infosec community, thinks that the government is going to have to give up some ground.

“I think they know they need to say more. How do you say more, and not jeopardize things,” is the question, he said. “There is a better middle ground. It’s just like businesses accepting social media, it won’t happen overnight.”

Companies could face severe consequences from their security experts, said Stamos, if the in-house experts find out that they’ve been lied to about providing government access to customer data. You could see “lots of resignations and maybe publicly,” he said. “It wouldn’t hurt their reputations to go out in a blaze of glory.”

Perhaps not surprisingly, Marlinspike sounded a hopeful call for non-destructive activism on Defcon’s 21st anniversary. “As hackers, we don’t have a lot of influence on policy. I hope that’s something that we can focus our energy on,” he said.


One Kickstarter Could Revolutionize 3D Printing

By Rachel Feltman

August 2, 2013


One of the biggest obstacles to at-home 3D printing is the difficulty of designing objects to print, but the days of struggling to learn CAD or trawling for templates online may be over. Fuel3D, Inc has just launched (and, in one day, successfully funded) a Kickstarter for a handheld, point-and-shoot, full color 3D scanner. That means you can now print anything you can take a picture of—for about $1,000.

3D scanners aren’t new, but other handheld devices cost upwards of $15,000, according to Fuel3D (they can’t be too far off, since all our attempts to verify led to intimidating “call for pricing” pages.) The tech of this particular model was first developed for medical imaging at Oxford University, and unlike a traditional camera, which just captures enough data to provide the illusion of depth, the Fuel3D actually records the geometry of an object. It uses geometric stereo (capturing an image from two different locations to perceive depth) and photometric stereo (capturing an image under different lights to perceive depth) simultaneously.





States Consider Regulation of Drones in US Skies

Associated Press

By LISA CORNWELL Associated Press

CINCINNATI August 4, 2013 (AP)


Thousands of civilian drones are expected in U.S. skies within a few years and concerns they could be used to spy on Americans are fueling legislative efforts in several states to regulate the unmanned aircraft.

Varied legislation involving drones was introduced this year in more than 40 states, including Ohio. Many of those bills seek to regulate law enforcement’s use of information-gathering drones by requiring search warrants. Some bills have stalled or are still pending, but at least six states now require warrants, and Virginia has put a two-year moratorium on drone use by law enforcement to provide more time to develop guidelines.

Domestic drones often resemble the small radio-controlled model airplanes and helicopters flown by hobbyists and can help monitor floods and other emergencies, survey crops and assist search-and-rescue operations. But privacy advocates are worried because the aircraft can also carry cameras and other equipment to capture images of people and property.

“Right now police can’t come into your house without a search warrant,” said Ohio Rep. Rex Damschroder, who has proposed drone regulations. “But with drones, they can come right over your backyard and take pictures.”

Since 2006, the Federal Aviation Administration has approved more than 1,400 requests for drone use from government agencies and public universities wanting to operate the unmanned aircraft for purposes including research and public safety. Since 2008, approval had been granted to at least 80 law enforcement agencies.

But the FAA estimates that as many as 7,500 small commercial unmanned aircraft could be operating domestically within the next few years. A federal law enacted last year requires the FAA to develop a plan for safely integrating the aircraft into U.S. airspace by September 2015.

Damschroder’s proposed bill would prohibit law enforcement agencies from using drones to get evidence or other information without a search warrant. Exceptions would include credible risks of terrorist attacks or the need for swift action to prevent imminent harm to life or property or to prevent suspects from escaping or destroying evidence.

The Republican said he isn’t against drones but worries they could threaten constitutional protections against unreasonable searches and seizures.

“I don’t want the government just going up and down every street snooping,” Damschroder said.

The Ohio House speaker’s office says it’s too soon to comment on the chances for passage. But similar legislation has been enacted in Florida, Tennessee, Idaho, Montana, Texas and Oregon.

The sponsor of Tennessee’s bill said the law was necessary to ensure that residents can maintain their right to privacy.

“Abuses of privacy rights that we have been seeing from law enforcement recently show a need for this legislation,” said Republican Sen. Mae Beavers.

Beavers and Damschroder modeled their bills after one signed into law this year by Florida Gov. Rick Scott, who said then that “we shouldn’t have unwarranted surveillance.”

But the industry’s professional association says regulating law enforcement’s use of unmanned aircraft is unnecessary and shortsighted. It wants guidelines covering manned aircraft applied to unmanned aircraft.

“We don’t support rewriting existing search warrant requirements under the guise of privacy,” said Mario Mairena, government relations manager for the Arlington, Va.-based Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International.

The association predicts unmanned aircraft systems will generate billions of dollars in economic impact in the next few years and says privacy concerns are unwarranted.

In Maine, Gov. Paul LePage vetoed the state’s drone-regulating legislation, saying “this bill steps too far” and would lead to lawsuits and harm Maine’s opportunities for new aerospace jobs. He plans to establish guidelines allowing legitimate uses while protecting privacy.

The American Civil Liberties Union supports legislation to regulate drone use and require search warrants, but it would also like weapons banned from domestic drones and limits on how long drone-collected data could be kept, said Melissa Bilancini, an ACLU of Ohio staff attorney.

In North Dakota, Rep. Rick Becker’s bill to ban weapons from drones and require search warrants failed, but the Republican says he plans to try again because “we must address these privacy concerns.”

Democratic Rep. Ed Gruchalla, formerly in law enforcement, opposed Becker’s bill out of concern it would restrict police from effectively using drones.

“We are familiar with drones in North Dakota, and I don’t know of any abuses or complaints,” he said.

Drones can be as small as a bird or have a wingspan as large as a Boeing 737, but a program manager with the International Association of Chiefs of Police says most law enforcement agencies considering unmanned aircraft are looking at ones weighing around 2 pounds that only fly for about 15 minutes.

“They can be carried in the back of a car and put up quickly for an aerial view of a situation without putting humans at risk,” Mike Fergus said, adding that they aren’t suited for surveillance.

Medina County Sheriff Tom Miller in northeast Ohio says his office’s 2-pound drone is intended primarily for search-and-rescue operations and wouldn’t be used to collect evidence without a warrant.

Cincinnati resident Dwan Stone, 50, doesn’t have a problem with some limits.

“But I don’t oppose drones if there is a good reason for using them,” she said.

Chase Jeffries, 19, also of Cincinnati, opposes them.

“I don’t want the government being able to use drones to spy on people,” he said.



Senate Bill Could Further Delay UAS Integration


by Press • 5 August 2013

By Woodrow Bellamy III


FAA’s goal of integrating unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) into the National Airspace System by 2015 could be delayed by a provision in the Senate’s 2014 transportation bill.

The bill requires Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx to submit a detailed report on UAS integration’s privacy impact to lawmakers, prior to allowing FAA to issue final regulations on the integration of UAS into the NAS. The Senate’s privacy provision tasks the agency with yet another hurdle to clear in the already time consuming process of UAS integration, which requires complex technological analysis of how these aircraft will behave within civil airspace and fly in the same airspace as commercially operated passenger aircraft, among other measures. UAS industry experts, such as Ben Gielow, government relations manager and general counsel for the Association for Unmanned Vehicles Systems International (AUVSI), are concerned that the provision will further delay integration, as most industry advocates already believe FAA will miss its goal of integration by 2015. Integration will allow UAS to be operated across a wide variety of applications, including law enforcement and border control, weather monitoring, oil and gas exploration, disaster management and aerial imaging. –


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Unmanned Aircraft Demonstration Highlighted at Agronomy Field Day

by Press • 7 August 2013


One of the most exciting recent developments in agriculture is the use of small Unmanned Aircraft Systems to evaluate crop conditions.  Producers, agronomists and the public can view a demonstration of this new technology at the 2013 Agronomy Field Day on Aug. 16 at Kansas State University’s Agronomy North Farm.

The use of these unmanned aircraft systems equipped with aerial optical sensing technology has gained national press attention in recent months.  Kevin Price, K-State, professor of agronomy and geography, and Deon van der Merwe, associate professor ofveterinary medicine and head of the diagnostic laboratory toxicology section, are among the leading researchers in the nation on this technology.  They are working to develop systems that can be used by the agricultural community.

“We’ve had an incredible reception among consultants, producers, plant breeders and others when we’ve shown them what this technology can do.  It has the potential to make their jobs much easier and will help them make better recommendations in a more timely manner,” Price said.

“At the field day, I will be showing some of the kinds of things we can accomplish with these small Unmanned Aircraft Systems in field demonstrations,” he added.

This is just one of several new technologies featured at the field day by agronomy researchers.  Other demonstrations will show the work of Dave Mengel, professor and soil fertility specialist on optical sensors for nutrient recommendations; Vara Prasad, associate professor and crop physiologist on stress tolerance research; and Peter Tomlinson, assistant professor and environmental quality specialist and Chuck Rice, university distinguished professor of agronomy on techniques used to measure greenhouse gases.

The field day will begin with registration at 9 a.m. and wrap up at 2 p.m.  There is no charge to attend, and a complimentary lunch will be available.  Preregistration is requested so that a lunch count can be made. Those interested in attending can preregister by calling Troy Lynn Eckart at 785-532-5776. To preregister online, see:

Sessions include two concurrent one-hour tours in the morning, starting at 9:45 and 11 a.m. After lunch, there will be demonstrations on sUAS flights; analyzing and interpreting images from sUAS technology; and field checking of optical sensing readings for crop nutrient status.

In addition, there will be displays from commercial companies and K-State researchers in the shed near the registration area, along with the crop garden, forage garden, and weed garden for browsing.  Extension specialists will be available to answer questions.

For more information, interested persons can contact Dallas Peterson at 785-532-0405 or


Is the unmanned grass truly greener on the civil side?


by Keven Gambold • 9 August 2013

It has been an ‘interesting’ couple of years for Unmanned Experts (UMEX), a small team of ex-military UAS/RPAS operators who had spread their wings into the civilian sector. Initially a US-based company, personnel were hand-picked from retiring USAF, US Army, British Army and Royal Air Force to offer consultancy, training and managed services based on their substantial operational UAS expertise. The time seemed right to move into ‘civi street’: the rumors swirling around the uniformed crewrooms were ones of endless contracts, too few companies and a yearning need. This article is designed to give a ‘peek behind the curtain’ into the current civil UAS/RPAS scene.


From a CONUS-perspective, the culture shock was considerable: the far-reaching International Trade in Arms Regulations (ITAR) effectively prevents US-based firms from even discussing most UAS-based topics with non US-persons, especially when outside of the country. An enduring lack-of commitment by the Federal Aviation Authority (FAA), despite Congressional mandate to the contrary, has brought all commercial UAS operations in US airspace to a halt. If you read about a real-estate firm using unmanned aircraft to photograph properties, then that is likely illegal, and the FAA has prosecuted a number of such enterprises. This FAA reticence has been exacerbated by a set of knee-jerk State-sponsored Privacy legislations (40 out of 50 States have attempted to enact some form of restrictive regulations) which severely ham-strings Law Enforcement use of the platforms, and a number of UAVs currently sit on the shelves at Sheriff’s offices across the Nation. The still substantial DoD market is justifiably competitive especially with Big Government suffering its own ‘credit crunch’. Not much to rejoice about here.


So ‘change or die’ became the watchword, and UMEX started new companies in both England and Australia, where the respective CAA and CASA aerospace agencies have positively embraced UAS integration efforts (the UK currently has nearly 300 registered civilian commercial operators). Outside of the Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR limits data exchange on larger platforms i.e. 500kgs over 300km) there are few restrictions on providing international UAS services. Note that European or International airspace integration is woefully behind also, but some countries have ‘gone it alone’ to considerable success.


Unmanned Experts UK Ltd, drawing on over 25,000 hours of cutting-edge UAS operations and instruction, produced a comprehensive set of ground school courses ranging from one-day Career Workshops to 4-week UAS Maintenance Courses. Accreditation is an oft used, but little understood, concept but UMEX Courses are approved by George Mason University for CEUs, and we are tied to Southampton and Lincoln Universities in the UK. Since then, UMEX has run courses in the UK, US (for ASPRS amongst others) and Singapore with more planned for Turkey, the Middle East, India and Africa.


There is a growing demand for Consultancy and Managed Services in far-flung places as the utility of inexpensive SUAS comes to bear on a number of industries: open-cast mine mapping in Australia, anti-poacher patrols in Namibia, oil platform security in Iraq and search (& rescue) operations in Canada to name a few. An undercurrent of ‘good’ stories is emerging across the globe to show the true potential that UAS could bring to everyday lives. UMEX is fielding requests from an ever diversifying client base, and the future looks much brighter.


Bottom Line: the civil market is coming to life and the grass is sprouting, but in the US there’s more watering required.


Keven Gambold

Chief Operations Officer

Unmanned Experts




Washington Post to be sold to Jeff Bezos

Washington Post

By Paul Farhi, Monday, August 5, 4:33 PM


The Washington Post Co. has agreed to sell its flagship newspaper to founder and chief executive Jeffrey P. Bezos, ending the Graham family’s stewardship of one of America’s leading news organizations after four generations.

Bezos, whose entrepreneurship has made him one of the world’s richest men, will pay $250 million in cash for The Post and affiliated publications to the Washington Post Co., which owns the newspaper and other businesses.

Seattle-based Amazon will have no role in the purchase; Bezos himself will buy the news organization and become its sole owner when the sale is completed, probably within 60 days. The Post Co. will change to a new, still-undecided name and continue as a publicly traded company without The Post thereafter.

The deal represents a sudden and stunning turn of events for The Post, Washington’s leading newspaper for decades and a powerful force in shaping the nation’s politics and policy. Few people were aware that a sale was in the works for the paper, whose reporters have broken such stories as the Pentagon Papers, the Watergate scandals and disclosures about the National Security Administration’s surveillance program in May.

For much of the past decade, however, the paper has been unable to escape the financial turmoil that has engulfed newspapers and other “legacy” media organizations. The rise of the Internet and the epochal change from print to digital technology have created a massive wave of competition for traditional news companies, scattering readers and advertisers across a radically altered news and information landscape and triggering mergers, bankruptcies and consolidation among the owners of print and broadcasting properties.

“Every member of my family started out with the same emotion—shock—in even thinking about” selling The Post, said Donald Graham, the Post Co.’s chief executive, in an interview Monday. “But when the idea of a transaction with Jeff Bezos came up, it altered my feelings.”


Added Graham, “The Post could have survived under the company’s ownership and been profitable for the foreseeable future. But we wanted to do more than survive. I’m not saying this guarantees success but it gives us a much greater chance of success.”

The Washington Post Co.’s newspaper division, of which The Post newspaper is the most prominent part, has suffered a 44 percent decline in operating revenue over the past six years. Although the paper is one of the most popular news sources online, print circulation has dwindled, too, falling another 7 percent daily and Sundays during the first half of this year.

Ultimately, the paper’s financial challenges prompted the company’s board to consider a sale, a step once regarded as unthinkable by insiders and the Graham family itself.

With extraordinary secrecy, Graham hired the investment firm Allen & Co. to shop the paper, company executives said. Allen’s representatives spoke with a half-dozen potential suitors before the Post Co.’s board settled on Bezos, 49, a legendary tech innovator who has never operated a newspaper.

Bezos, in an interview, called The Post “an important institution” and expressed optimism about its future. “I don’t want to imply that I have a worked-out plan,” he said. “This will be uncharted terrain and it will require experimentation.”

He said, “There would be change with or without new ownership. But the key thing I hope people will take away from this is that the values of The Post do not need changing. The duty of the paper is to the readers, not the owners.”

Despite the end of the Graham family’s control of the newspaper after 80 years, Graham and Bezos said management and operations of the newspaper would continue without disruption after the sale.

Post publisher Katharine Weymouth—Graham’s niece and the fourth generation of her family involved in the newspaper—will remain as publisher and chief executive of the Bezos-owned Post; executive editor Martin Baron will continue in his job. No layoffs are contemplated as a result of the transaction among the paper’s 2,000 employees, who will be told of the sale at a company-wide meeting Monday afternoon.

Bezos said he would maintain his home in Seattle and would delegate the paper’s daily operations to its existing management. “I have a fantastic day job that I love,” he said.

In a note to Post employees on Monday, Weymouth wrote, “This is a day that my family and I never expected to come. The Washington Post Company is selling the newspaper that it has owned and nurtured for eight decades. ”

The new owner of The Post may be as much a surprise as the decision to sell the paper in the first place.

Throughout his storied business career, Bezos has been an empire builder but hasn’t shown any evident interest in the newspaper business. He has, however, maintained a long friendship with Graham, and both men have informally advised the other over the years. Graham, for example, advised Bezos about how to feature newspapers on the Kindle, Amazon’s popular e-reader.

A computer science and electrical engineering student at Princeton, Bezos used his tech savvy to rise rapidly at a New York hedge-fund company, becoming its youngest senior vice president.

He founded Amazon at 30 with a $300,000 loan from his parents, working out of the garage in his rented home in Bellevue, Wash. He called his creation Amazon in part to convey the breadth of its offerings; early promotions called the site “Earth’s Biggest Bookstore.”

Since Amazon’s founding, Bezos has devoted himself to building it into a retail behemoth that sells everything from diapers to garden equipment to data storage at rock-bottom prices with a click of a mouse. It rung up $61 billion in sales last year.


In the process, Amazon has wreaked havoc on traditional brick-and-mortar stores. Many retailers have expressed dismay, and resentment, at Amazon’s ability to sell the same products at a lower price, in part because of its efficiency but also because it wasn’t collecting sales tax in most states.

For long periods, however, Bezos frustrated investors and analysts who wanted Amazon to turn profits more quickly, or more regularly. Because of heavy investments in warehouses and new businesses, Amazon didn’t deliver a profit until the company’s ninth year of operation, and seven years after selling shares to the public.

At times, Bezos has been openly disdainful of Wall Street’s demands for ever-rising quarterly profits. He told Fortune magazine last year, “The three big ideas at Amazon are long-term thinking, customer obsession, and willingness to invent.”

Under Bezos, the company’s drive into new businesses has been relentless. To supplement its line of Kindle readers and tablets, for example, Bezos pushed Amazon into book publishing itself, upsetting rivals like Barnes & Noble and book agents alike. (Bezos himself is an avid newspaper reader; in addition to The Post, he said he reads the New York Times and Wall Street Journal.)

But Amazon’s breakneck growth has also come with a few stumbles. Among other investments, Bezos bought a majority stake in in 1999 and paid $60 million for a portion of, a delivery service. Both companies went out of business. An attempt to compete with in online auctions wasn’t successful.

As such, an investment in Amazon comes with the likelihood of erratic earnings—and sometimes no earnings at all. The company lost $39 million last year.

Ultimately, however, Amazon has rewarded patient believers. Amazon’s sales have increased almost tenfold since 2004 and its stock price has quadrupled in the past five years. “We believe in the long term,” Bezos told Fortune, “but the long term also has to come.”

Friends and competitors have described Bezos as cerebral, demanding, curious, and given to asking challenging questions. He shows little tolerance for those who are poorly prepared, but can be charming and quick to laugh. “If Jeff is unhappy, wait five minutes,” his wife has said of him.

Bezos’ personal ventures have also given no hint of any interest in the news business. He started a private company called Blue Origin in 2000 to develop a space vehicle, and has acquired land in west Texas as a rocket launch site, both part of a lifelong passion for space travel. He is also reportedly spending $42 million to develop a clock inside a mountain in Texas that is designed to last 10,000 years—a symbol of Bezos’ business philosophy of thinking long-term.

In naming Bezos its “Businessperson of the Year” in 2012, Fortune called him “the ultimate disrupter…[who] has upended the book industry and displaced electronic merchants” while pushing into new businesses, such as TV and feature film production.

His drive and business creativity have earned him favorable comparisons to the late Steve Jobs, Apple’s co-founder and a confidant of Don Graham and his late mother, Post Co. chairman Katharine Graham. Earlier this year, Harvard Business Review ranked Bezos as the second best-performing chief executive in the world during the past decade, following only Jobs, who died in 2011.

In a message to employees on Monday, Don Graham quoted billionaire investor Warren Buffett, a longtime advisor to the Post Co., calling Bezos “the ablest CEO in America.”

Bezos’ reputation and smarts made him attractive as a buyer of The Post, said Weymouth. “He’s everything we were looking for—a business leader with a track record of entrepreneurship who believes in our values and cares about journalism, and someone who was willing to pay a fair price to our shareholders,” she said.


Weymouth said the decision to sell The Post sprang from annual budget discussions she had with Graham, her uncle, late last year. “We talked about whether [the Washington Post Co.] was the right place to house The Post,” she said. “If journalism is the mission, given the pressures to cut costs and make profits, maybe [a publicly traded company] is not the best place for The Post.”

Any buyer, she said, “had to share our values and commitment to journalism or we wouldn’t sell it.”

The sale to Bezos involves The Post and its website (, along with the Express newspaper, the Gazette Newspapers and Southern Maryland Newspapers in suburban Washington, the Fairfax County Times, the Spanish-language El Tiempo Latino newspaper, and the Robinson Terminal production plant in Springfield. Bezos will also purchase the Comprint printing operation in Gaithersburg, which publishes several military publications.

The deal does not include the company’s headquarters on 15th St. NW in Washington (the building has been for sale since February), or Foreign Policy magazine,, the, the WaPo Labs digital-development operation or Post-owned land along the Potomac River in Alexandria.

The Post, founded in 1877, has been controlled since 1933 by the heirs of Eugene Meyer, a Wall Street financier and former Federal Reserve official. Meyer bought the paper for $825,000 at a bankruptcy auction during the depth of the Depression.

After years of financial struggle, Meyer and his successor as publisher of The Post, son-in-law Philip L. Graham, steered the paper into a leading position among Washington’s morning newspapers. They began enlarging the company, notably by acquiring TV stations and Newsweek magazine in 1963 (the company sold the magazine for a nominal fee to the late billionaire Sidney Harman in 2010 after years of losses). In later years, the company added cable TV systems and the Kaplan educational division, currently the company’s largest by revenue.

Upon Graham’s death in 1963, his widow (and Meyer’s daughter) Katharine Graham took over management of the company. Despite her inexperience as a corporate executive, Mrs. Graham ably led the company through a colorful and expansive period.

The newspaper rose to national stature under Benjamin C. Bradlee, whom Katharine Graham had hired from Newsweek in 1965 as a deputy managing editor and promoted to editor in 1968. Bradlee oversaw the opening of new reporting bureaus around the nation and the world, started the Style section, and ignited the paper’s long run of Pulitzer Prize-winning reporting.

The Post’s and New York Times’ publication in 1971 of stories based on the Pentagon Papers—a secret government study of American military and political involvement in Vietnam—led to a landmark legal case in which the Supreme Court prohibited the government from exercising “prior restraint,” or pre-publication censorship, against the newspapers.

The arrest of seven men accused of breaking into the Democratic National Committee’s headquarters at the Watergate office complex in 1972 triggered the newspaper’s unearthing of a series of illegal activities orchestrated by President Nixon and his closest advisers. The revelations eventually led to Nixon’s resignation. The events were memorialized by the movie “All the President’s Men,” which turned The Post—as well as Bradlee and reporters Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein—into household names.

Seven years after Nixon’s resignation, however, the paper suffered one of its darkest hours. It was forced to give back a Pulitzer Prize awarded to reporter Janet Cooke in 1981 after she admitted that her story about an eight-year-old heroin addict in Washington named Jimmy was a fabrication.

Katharine Graham, who died in 2001, was succeeded as Post publisher by her son, Donald, in 1979. He also succeeded her as chief executive of the Washington Post Co. in 1991.

During the 1990s and into the new century, under Bradlee’s successor, Leonard Downie Jr., the paper enjoyed arguably its most successful run in terms of profits, circulation and journalism. With little direct competition, the newspaper division’s revenue and profit soared. The Post won 25 Pulitzers under Downie, including six in 2008, the year he retired and was succeeded by Marcus Brauchli as editor.

The Grahams are among the last of a dwindling number of multigenerational family owners of metropolitan newspapers. Most major newspapers were once owned by local families with decades-long ties to their town or city, but that ownership profile has faded with succeeding generations and has largely disappeared in the Internet era.

Many of the heirs to great newspaper fortunes have sold their holdings to corporations or wealthy investors with little connection to the regions that the newspapers helped shape or, in some instances lately, to local businesspeople whose wealth was more recently acquired.

Over the past 20 years, the list of family-owned companies that have sold their newspapers holdings include the Chandlers (owners of the Los Angeles Times, among others), Cowles (Minneapolis Star Tribune), Copleys (San Diego Union-Tribune), and Bancrofts (Wall Street Journal).

The New York Times, controlled by the Sulzberger family, is among the last major dailies still operated by descendants of its early proprietor. It acquired The Boston Globe from members of the Taylor family in 1993 for $1.1 billion; it announced last week it was selling the paper for a mere $70 million to Boston businessman John W. Henry, a businessman who owns the Boston Red Sox.

Following the sale to Bezos, the Graham family will continue to control the renamed Washington Post Co. through its closely held stock, known as Class A shares. The A shares can’t be sold on the open market, but out-vote a second class of public stock, called Class B shares. The New York Times Co. has a similar stock structure, ensuring the Sulzbergers’ control.

Bezos, who ranks 11th on the Forbes 400 list of wealthiest individuals in America with a net worth of $23.2 billion, has given little indication of his ideological leanings over the years. He hasn’t been a heavy contributor to political campaigns, although he and his wife have regularly donated to the campaign of Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash). In years past, they had given modest contributions to a handful of Republican and Democratic senators.

Bezos’ political profile rose suddenly and sharply when he and his wife agreed last year to donate $2.5 million to help pass a referendum that would legalize same-sex marriage in Washington State, catapulting them to the top ranks of financial backers of gay rights in the country. The donation doubled the money available to the initiative, which was approved last November and made Washington among the first states to pass same-sex marriage by popular vote.

Perhaps the single biggest item on Amazon’s legislative agenda is a bill that would empower all states to collect sales tax from online retailers.

Amazon is only required to collect sales taxes in states where it maintains a physical presence such as a warehouse. But Amazon now is supporting the bill, which has passed the Senate and is pending in the House. State sales taxes no longer pose a real threat to Amazon: With an emphasis on same-day shipping, the company is building distribution warehouses across the country and would have to pay the tax anyway. Last month, the company announced it would hire 5,000 employees at these warehouses, an ambitious growth strategy that is hurting profits in the short run.

Bezos’ most notable charitable donations have been twin $10 million contributions to two Seattle-based institutions, the Museum of History and Innovation and the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center. The gift to the museum was for the creation of a center for innovation that would be situated a few blocks from a new Amazon headquarters campus.

Baron, the former editor of the Boston Globe who joined The Post as its editor in January, said he was surprised to learn last week that the newspaper was being sold.

But he added, “I’m encouraged that the paper will be in the hands of a successful business person who understands the world of technology as well as anyone. He’s expressed his commitment to the organization and to its continued independence…I came here because I wanted to join a great news organization, and it will continue to be one.”



OPM delays goal to eliminate pension claims backlog

Federal Times

Aug. 5, 2013 – 05:20PM | By SEAN REILLY | Comments


The Office of Personnel Management missed its goal last month of eliminating a backlog of new retirement claims and of processing most new retirees’ first full pension checks within 60 days.

The 7,724 new retirement claims processed last month marked an 11 percent drop from the June total and was down by almost half since February, when OPM processed more than 15,300 new retirement claims, according to statistics released by OPM Monday. The backlog of pending claims rose slightly last month to 25,601, up from 25,542 the previous month.

The drop reflects the continuing repercussions of a sequester-related budget crunch that forced OPM’s retirement services office to end employee overtime at the end of April.

In January 2012, then-OPM Director John Berry set a target for eliminating the existing claims backlog by last month and processing 90 percent of retirees’ first full pension checks with 60 days of leaving government service. At that point, OPM was taking more than 150 days to process the average new claim; that time has since fallen to about 90 days.

On Monday, OPM revised its schedule for achieving those goals. It now says it will eliminate the backlog by March and hit the 60-day processing target by next May on the assumption that the agency will be able to restart overtime for retirement services employees on Oct. 1 when the new fiscal year begins.

At present, however, it is far from certain whether Congress will approve the administration’s request for an 8 percent funding increase for OPM’s retirement services division in fiscal 2014.

In an interview Friday, Ken Zawodny, associate director for retirement services, could not say how the agency’s latest timetable to improve retirement claims processing will be affected if overtime cannot resume in October.

“I have to be optimistic that we will obtain our budget,” Zawodny said. He also said OPM has taken some steps on its own to improve performance, such as reorganizing retirement services employees, in order to cut the average claims processing time by 40 percent since the beginning of last year. In the updated plan, OPM cited U.S. Postal Service early-out programs that added more 20,000 claims to the agency’s workload a another reason for its failure to hit the 60-day processing goal.




Why Insiders, Not Hackers, Are the Biggest Threat to Cybersecurity



By Brian Fung

National Journal

June 10, 2013 0

The National Security Agency leaks by Edward Snowden will easily go down as one of the biggest revelations of the year, if not the decade. But the episode also raises new questions about the risk that insiders pose to government and corporate cybersecurity, in spite of the attention lavished on foreign hackers.

Snowden’s case is unique in that it uncovered a previously unknown surveillance apparatus that’s massive in size and scope.The way the whistle-blower did his deed, however, is not unique. Two-thirds of all reported data breaches involve internal actors wittingly or unwittingly bringing sensitive information to outsiders, according to industry analysts.

“It’s not an either-or proposition,” said Mike DuBose, a former Justice Department official who led the agency’s efforts on trade-secret theft. “But amidst all the concern and discussion over foreign hacking, what gets lost is the fact that the vast majority of serious breaches involving trade secrets or other proprietary or classified information are still being committed by insiders.”

DuBose is now the head of the cyber investigations unit at the risk-management firm Kroll Advisory Solutions. In February, his team authored a report warning that contractors, information-technology personnel, and disgruntled employees—all descriptors that fit Snowden pretty well—pose a greater threat than hackers, “both in frequency and in damage caused.”

Not everyone agrees. Even though insiders generally play an outsized role across all reported data breaches, their role in confirmed data breaches is rather small, according to an annual study by Verizon. In 2012, specifically, internal actors accounted for 14 percent of confirmed data breaches. Of those, system administrators were responsible for 16 percent.

“Our findings consistently show,” the Verizon report read, “that external actors rule.”

However common they are, cases like Snowden’s show how devastating one insider can be. The extent of the damage depends on what’s being exfiltrated and from where, and there aren’t many standards for calculating losses. Most companies estimate the value of their trade secrets based on how much money they sank into the research and development of that knowledge. But for the government, it’s the potential security impact that takes precedence—and that turns the question into a matter of subjective debate.

Last month, The Washington Post reported that Chinese spies compromised the designs for some of the Pentagon’s most sensitive weapons systems, including the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, the V-22 Osprey tiltrotor aircraft, and the Navy’s new Littoral Combat Ship.

If true, the report could have major consequences for national security. But Snowden’s case is equally consequential, if for different reasons, and it bolsters DuBose’s point about the relevance of insiders. Snowden may have rightfully uncovered evidence of government overreach, but if a mid-level contractor can steal top-secret information about the NSA and give it to the public in a gesture of self-sacrifice, someone else could do the same—but hand the intelligence to more nefarious actors.



DHS Set to Tap New Cybersecurity Leader

Phyllis Schneck’s Road to Deputy Undersecretary

By Eric Chabrow, August 7, 2013. Follow Eric @GovInfoSecurity


Phyllis Schneck, the next deputy undersecretary for cybersecurity at the Department of Homeland Security, comes to the job with a different set of experiences than her predecessors – and that could prove valuable.

Schneck will leave her job as chief technology officer for the public sector at security provider McAfee to become the top cybersecurity policymaker at DHS, a senior DHS official confirms.

Unlike her predecessors, Schneck has a strong academic and research background, having earned a Ph.D. in computer science from Georgia Tech. She holds three patents in high-performance and adaptive information security and has six research publications in the areas of information security, real-time systems, telecom and software engineering. Before becoming McAfee’s public sector CTO, Schneck served as the company’s vice president of threat intelligence.

“Her underpinning background is in security, which gives her credibility,” says Chris Buse, chief information security officer for the state of Minnesota. “She is very poised and is an excellent communicator [who] has experience dealing with the political processes, something that is vital to this job.”

Schneck will take over the job Bruce McConnell has held on an acting basis since April, when Mark Weatherford resigned to join the consultancy The Chertoff Group [see DHS’s Mark Weatherford Resign]. McConnell is leaving DHS at week’s end after four years as the department’s senior counselor on cybersecurity [see Another Senior Cybersecurity Leader to Exit DHS].


Awaiting Official Announcement

DHS has not officially announced Schneck’s appointment, first reported by The Hill newspaper. Schneck has not commented publicly on her new job. A spokeswoman for Schneck says she will not say “anything about any potential job change unless it were to be official.”

The appointment does not require Senate confirmation.

Schneck’s academic and research background reflects an out-of-the-box thinking about IT security. She champions, for example, developing IT security technology to emulate a human body with a strong immune system to battle infections.

“Just as your body defends against thousands of colds every year and you only maybe only get one, that’s what these systems are designed to do: push off the enemy and push off malicious traffic, without it having to have a name, and certainly without it having to have a signature – just understanding what is good or legitimate and what is not well intended or not needed and being able to defend against that and get smarter as you do so,” Schneck said in an interview with Information Security Media Group [see Infosec Evolution Mimics Immune Systems].


Hefty Curriculum Vitae

Her resume is filled with mostly private-sector jobs, but early in her career she worked at the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center and the University Of Maryland’s Department of Meteorology. Her corporate life has been consistently intertwined with government. As McAfee’s public sector CTO, she oversees the company’s technical vision for public-sector applications of security and global threat intelligence.

Schneck served as vice chair of National Institute of Standards and Technology’s Information Security and Privacy Advisory Board, a panel charged with identifying emerging managerial, technical, administrative and physical safeguard issues as they relate to cybersecurity and privacy. She was the working group co-chair for public-private partnership for the Commission on Cybersecurity for the 44th Presidency, a panel that produced a report that served as the outline for President Obama’s cyberspace policy.


“She has experience dealing with the political processes, something that is vital to this job,” Minnesota’s Buse says.

Dwayne Melancon, chief technology officer for risk-based security and compliance management solutions provider Tripwire, says Schneck’s experience should prove vital as DHS reconfigures itself. “Her technology background will be well-received by those in the information security industry – a kindred spirit is always more welcome,” he says.

And that spirit will be challenged as DHS implements Obama’s cybersecurity framework being developed by a public-private partnership under NIST’s auspices [ NIST Unveils Draft of Cybersecurity Framework ].


Major Challenge

Melancon says the public-private partnership is not fully realized, and that presents Schneck with one of her biggest challenges as she assumes her new role.

“This effort hasn’t yet delivered on its promise, and I believe our national security will pay the price if this isn’t solved,” Melancon says. “The problem isn’t the lack of capability – it’s our inability to actually get that capability delivered to the places where it’s most needed, which is securing our critical cyber-infrastructure in both the public and private sectors. … Dr. Schneck can’t just commission new efforts; she must also take a critical eye to existing programs and decommission those which aren’t delivering.”

Schneck comes aboard as the leadership within cybersecurity and infrastructure protection at DHS is in flux. Secretary Janet Napolitano, one of the administration’s chief spokespersons on cybersecurity, will leave in September, and the deputy secretary, Jane Holl Lute, resigned this spring. President Obama nominated Alejandro Mayorkas, director of DHS’s Citizenship and Immigration Services, to be deputy undersecretary, but his nomination is stalled in the Senate.

Rand Beers, undersecretary for the National Protection and Programs Directorate, is serving as DHS acting deputy secretary, and could become acting secretary if neither Mayorkas nor Napolitano’s successor is confirmed by the time she leaves. Beers will leave DHS when either the new secretary or deputy secretary is confirmed. Suzanne Spaulding, deputy undersecretary for infrastructure protection, has been nominated as undersecretary to replace Beers; she’s now serving as acting undersecretary. Schneck will report to Spaulding.


Making the Transition

Schneck’s presence at DHS could provide some stability to a department experiencing much tumult in its higher ranks in recent months [see Another Leadership Shakeup at DHS ]. But Eugene Spafford, executive director of the Center for Education and Research in Information Assurance and Security at Purdue University, wonders about Schneck’s adjustment to government bureaucracy, coming from McAfee, which he describes as a more diverse and security-focused environment than DHS.

“I’m not sure how much exposure she will have had to the kinds of pressures and trade-offs likely to be found in DHS, especially given some of the churn there in recent months,” Spafford says.

“Phyllis does like to get things done, so that could be a problem when inside DHS,” Spafford says. “Or, it could be a good thing – we will have to wait and see. If she is frustrated about getting things done, she’s not likely to stick around for a long time.”

If the Chinese army is trying to hack a Missouri water plant, what else is it infiltrating?


By Gwynn Guilford @sinoceros August 6, 2013


The question of whether the Chinese military is on a hacking offensive has largely been answered—and, despite Chinese government protestations, it sure looks like a pretty big “yes.” However, beyond the widely reported infiltration of foreign companies, the question of what else it’s hacking remains hazy.

But new research confirms one of the scarier possibilities: that the Chinese army isgoing after critical US infrastructure.

This all came out of a project by Kyle Wilhoit, a researcher at a security companycalled Trend Micro, that set up decoy “honeypots,” as decoy infrastructure systems are known, in 12 different countries. Wilhoit’s construction of a rural Missouri water plant honeypot attracted the notorious APT1, a crackerjack Chinese military hacking team sometimes known as Comment Crew, according to research he presented at the Black Hat security conference in Las Vegas. The group gained access in December 2012 through a Microsoft Word document containing malware unique to APT1.

“I actually watched the attacker interface with the machine,” he told the MIT Technology Review, referring to APT1. “It was 100% clear they knew what they were doing.”

Wilhoit noted to that systems like power grids and water plants are inherently vulnerable to hacking threats because they’re using outdated technology and don’t necessarily prioritize security. Of the “critical” honeypot attacks—meaning those that could have taken control of the system—half came from China. Examples include turning the pump’s water temperature to 130˚ Fahrenheit and shutting down the system.


This suggests that Chinese hackers are taking control of critical infrastructure. “These attacks are happening and the engineers likely don’t know,” Wilhoit told MIT Technology Review. Here’s a look at APT1′s past activity:



To date, the only publicly disclosed cyberattacks on US control systems have been on a factory and a state government building, both in New Jersey, reports MIT Technology Review. It’s unclear where those attacks originated.


Advice from the CIA: Keep your eye on your laptop…

Wed, 2013-08-07 05:14 PM

By: Jacob Goodwin

John Mullen, a longtime senior operations officer with the CIA, caught the attention of his audience at the SINET Innovation Summit in New York City on August 6 as he matter-of-factly recited the ways in which foreign intelligence services routinely steal industrial secrets and intellectual property from naïve traveling U.S. business people visiting their countries.

Mullen noted that advanced technologies have certainly helped these foreign intelligence services to steal valuable information from Americans (and other visiting travelers) but that their true advantage was what he dubbed “human frailty.” The naïve willingness of an ill-informed visitor to allow himself to be physically separated from his laptop, to willingly accept a computer file from his host, or to avail himself of computer services in the local market are the true Achilles Heels, Mullen suggested.

“Human frailty is often the weakest link in the chain,” he declared.

Mullen emphasized that unlike the U.S. Government, many foreign governments — he declined to name them — have identified as part of their national economic strategy a concerted effort to steal whatever intellectual property they can lay their hands on. To that end, these assertive governments “will manipulate your relationships and your friendships” to achieve their goals, he advised.

“When you’re on their turf,” said Mullen, “they own you.”

He said some foreign governments — as well as some foreign businesses, which work extremely closely with their own governments — will use mobile technologies to keep you under constant surveillance. “They’ll hot mic your cell phone,” said Mullen, “and they’ll track your movements.”

Some governments are not above blackmail to achieve their goals, he added. He told the group of cybersecurity professionals who gathered for a one-day conclave at Columbia University about one such instance he recalled. An employee of a U.S. software company was traveling on business overseas when he was seduced by a “femme fatale,” working for a foreign intelligence service. The U.S. traveler was filmed during his exploits and later blackmailed into sharing some of his proprietary information, for fear that the incriminating film would otherwise be made public.

Of course, said Mullen, people are still naively clicking on attachments to incoming email messages (some of which contain dangerous malware), and still beginning online relationships with people they’ve never met face-to-face. “Intelligence services don’t have to meet people to recruit them,” he warned. “They can meet them online.”

Mullen suggested that most of these techniques — and more — are practiced by many of the more-aggressive foreign governments. How does he know? Because he has practiced some of the same data gathering techniques himself over the years…on behalf of Uncle Sam.


Rasmussen Reports

What They Told Us: Reviewing Last Week’s Key Polls

Saturday, August 10, 2013


Who’ll be the next in line?

Hillary Clinton is the overwhelming favorite among Democratic voters for their party’s presidential nomination in 2016. New Jersey Governor Chris Christie holds a narrow lead among Republicans for the 2016 GOP nomination. 

But not so fast. Clinton was also the clear favorite in August 2005, three years before the 2008 Democratic National Convention. She subsequently lost in the primaries to Illinois Senator Barack Obama. Meanwhile, GOP voters who say Christie is the candidate they least want to see nominated outnumber those who support him by 10 percentage points.

History has shown us time and again that 2016 is not likely to end up as a matchup of the current front-runners, Clinton and Christie, Scott Rasmussen says in his latest weekly newspaper column. 

Democrats’ fortunes in 2016 – and in next year’s mid-term elections – are likely to be tied in large part to perceptions of how President Obama’s national health care law is working out.

Roughly half (48%) of all voters now want their governor to oppose implementation of the health care law in their state. Forty percent (40%) want their governor to support implementation. That’s a complete reversal from January when 47% wanted their governor to support implementation of the law and 39% were opposed.

The economy is sure to be in play in the upcoming national elections as well. Despite the continuing bad national job numbers, 52% of Americans believe it is still possible for anyone who really wants to work to find a job, but only a plurality (44%) now thinks it’s possible for just about anyone in the United States to work their way out of poverty

Sixty-five percent (65%) of working Americans consider themselves members of the middle class, but only a third of all Americans believe the economy is fair to the middle class

At the same time, consumer and investor confidence remain near their highest levels in several years. 

But  just 27% of voters say the country is heading in the right direction

Job approval ratings for the president himself have settled back to the levels seen during most of his first term in office after a surge just before – and for three or four months after – Election Day last November. 

Gun control was one of the top issues on the president’s agenda at the first of the year, but support for tougher anti-gun laws is down from just after the elementary school massacre in December. Americans now are evenly divided when asked if the United States needs stricter gun laws. 

When the National Rifle Association proposed armed guards in schools rather than more gun control, it was mocked by many in the media. But 62% of Americans with children of elementary or secondary school age would feel safer if their child attended a school with an armed security guard.

The president faced a couple of foreign policy flare-ups this past week, so we asked voters what they thought about them.

Following Obama’s decision to snub Russian President Vladimir Putin during an upcoming trip to Europe, U.S. voters’ views of Putin have worsened, but most think it’s unlikely the United States and Russia will reenter a Cold War period. Views of Russia are unchanged.

The Obama administration opted to temporarily close embassies and consulates in several Middle Eastern countries because of terrorist threats. Fifty percent (50%) of voters think U.S. involvement in Middle East politics is bad for America

Yet while 49% now believe most Muslims around the world view the United States as an enemy, just 19% think American Muslims living in this country are treated unfairly because of their religion and ethnicity

Fifty-eight percent (58%) think the Muslim-American U.S. Army officer now being tried for killing 13 of his fellow soldiers at Fort Hood, Texas should be sentenced to death if convicted, but that’s consistent with attitudes toward other suspected mass killers in recent years.

Republicans now hold a three-point lead over Democrats on the Generic Congressional Ballot.  This is the largest gap between the two parties since mid-April.

In other surveys last week: 

— Most voters continue to think gaining control of the border is more important than legalizing the status of undocumented workers already living in the United States. Only 32% believe that if a woman comes to the country illegally and gives birth to a child here, that child should automatically become a citizen. That’s the lowest finding measured since November 2011.

— One-in-four Americans (25%) think mass transportation in this country is not as safe as it was 10 years ago. Most Americans seldom, if ever use mass transit, but they still tend to believe the government should back mass transit projects as long as they don’t lose money.  

Sixty-three percent (63%) of voters believe global warming is at least a somewhat serious problem, including 35% who consider it a Very Serious one.  

— Fifty-eight percent (58%) of Americans, when given the choice, still prefer to read a printed version of a newspaper over the online version. But the number of adults who prefer print newspapers is the lowest measured in several years of tracking. Just 24% say they buy a print copy of their local paper every day or nearly every day, down from 31% four years ago.  

Detroit Tigers slugger Miguel Cabrera and veteran catcher Yadier Molina of the St. Louis Cardinals are the early fan favorites for MVP in the American and National leagues respectively.

— With the second half of the Major League Baseball season underway, the Tigers are now the favorite to win the World Series. 



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