Archive for May, 2010

24
May
10

Google offers encrypted web search

Google began offering an encrypted option for Web searchers on Friday and said it planned to roll it out for all of its services eventually.

People who want to use the more secure search option can type “https://www.google.com” into their browser, scrambling the connection so the words and phrases they search on, and the results that Google displays, will be protected from interception.

The beta service of the secure Web search option begins in the United States on Friday and will be rolled out over the next few days to users around the world, said Murali Viswanathan, a Google search product manager.

Friday’s announcement makes Google the first major search engine to offer this privacy-protective feature. AOL, Yahoo, and Microsoft currently do not.

“Some users will want the extra privacy and security this feature will offer,” Viswanathan said in an interview with CNET. “But it’s not going to be the default option, at this point. There’s a lot of work to be done before we get there.”

The encryption protects only data in transit between an individual’s browser and the Google search server. When people click on a search result and are directed to another Web site, they leave the encrypted channel.

Offering encrypted connections to Google.com means that users in China and other regimes that engage in significant surveillance will — assuming the connection is not blocked in the first place — be able to conduct searches without governments knowing the search terms.

The protected Web search service will feature a customized logo that includes an icon of a lock and “SSL” which stands for Secure Sockets Layer, the technology used to encrypt the information as it travels between an individual’s computer and the Google search server.

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24
May
10

Columnist: GOP can’t just be party of no

Editor’s note: David Frum writes a weekly column for CNN.com. A special assistant to President Bush in 2001-02, he is the author of six books, including “Comeback: Conservatism That Can Win Again” and is the editor of FrumForum

Washington (CNN) — To understand the shape of the impending 2010 congressional elections, compare these two campaign ads from the recent special election in the 12th district of Pennsylvania. First, Republican Tim Burns:

Message: Send a protest message to Washington. Notice that the word “no” is spoken or viewed five times in 30 seconds. No cap and trade. No health care deal. No more taxes and spending.

Next, Democrat Mark Critz:

It opens: “Political TV ads always talk about what we’ve lost. Well I’m Mark Critz, and as Jack Murtha’s director of economic development, we always looked ahead.” Then followed five promises at least arguably related to job creation.

I don’t want to make too much of Mark Critz’s victory in Pennsylvania. It’s a historically Democratic district, heavily unionized. It voted for Clinton in 1992 and 1996, Gore in 2000 and John Kerry in 2004.

On the other hand, I don’t want to make too little of the victory either. If pro-Democratic, the district is not pro-Obama. It’s a district that mines coal for a living and hunts for fun, overwhelmingly white and socially conservative. John McCain carried the district in the 2008 presidential vote. In a strong Republican year like 2010, Burns, an effective candidate with deep personal roots in the district should have run strong here.

Instead Critz won handily, by a margin of more than 7 points.

Here is something for Republicans to consider:

Normally, challengers do not bother to develop much of a positive message in a recession year. “Things are awful — they’re in charge — vote for us” usually does the job.

But here’s the problem that Burns encountered:

In a historically Democratic district like PA-12, the kind of district that Republicans have to gain, the absence of a positive message leaves a door open to negative attacks.

Critz accused Burns of wishing to “privatize” Medicare and Social Security and “outsource” Pennsylvania jobs. Not true, said FactCheck.org. But politics abhors a vacuum, and with Burns refraining from specifying any agenda for himself, Critz specified his agenda for him.

Critz got away with it in large part because angry memories of George W. Bush and the congressional Republicans remain fresh. That represents a big difference between 2010 and 1994.

Little as they like Obama and the Democrats, the voters in PA-12 have not yet forgiven the Bush Republicans.

Only 28 percent of voters in the district told pollsters that Bush and the Republicans did a good job running the country in the 2000s; 63 percent said they did not.

As unpopular as Barack Obama is in PA-12, he did better than that: 35 percent said he was doing a good job. Only 22 percent said the congressional Republicans were doing a good job.

What this suggests is that a positive agenda may be more necessary than usual this year, if only as a way to inoculate Republicans against Democratic attacks on an anti-Medicare, anti-Social Security secret agenda.

Here may be the inner weakness of the Tea Party faction’s contribution to the GOP: It has enticed many Republicans into endorsing ultra-libertarian ideas not heard from a national party since the Barry Goldwater campaign of 1964.

Leave aside Rand Paul as an outlier.

How many Republicans from Karl Rove on down have praised Rep. Paul Ryan’s budget as an example of forward-looking Republican thinking? And that budget is built on radical cuts in Medicare benefits for everyone younger than 55. Americans do not know that today.

But they will by November – unless Republicans act early and decisively to give them something else to talk about: an agenda to vote for, not just against; some “yes” to go with all that “no.”

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of David Frum.

24
May
10

Sharp rise in existing home sales

Existing home sales soared in April as home buyers scrambled to claim the tax credit that expired at the end of the month, according to a real estate industry report released Monday.

The National Association of Realtors reported that existing home sales jumped 7.6% last month to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 5.77 million units, up from the upwardly revised rate of 5.36 million in March. Sales year-over-year were up 22.8%.

The gain was widely anticipated, but still beat forecasts. Analysts surveyed by Briefing.com were looking for resales in April to rise to an annual rate of 5.65 million units.

“The upswing in April existing-home sales was expected because of the tax credit inducement, and no doubt there will be some temporary fallback in the months immediately after it expires, but other factors also are supporting the market,” said Lawrence Yun, NAR chief economist. “For people who were on the sidelines, there’s been a return of buyer confidence with stabilizing home prices, an improving economy and mortgage interest rates that remain historically low.”

24
May
10

State of emergency declared in Kingston

Jamaican authorities declared a state of emergency in Kingston after gang members supportive of an alleged drug lord wanted by the United States attacked police stations and blockaded a large swath of the city.

Two police stations were evacuated after being hit with Molotov cocktails, while the status of a third was unclear.

Gang members blocked off a miles-long area of Jamaica’s capital city — mostly in West Kingston — using vehicles, sandbags, barbed wire and anything else they could find.

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The standoff revolves around attempts by the United States to extradite suspected drug kingpin Christopher “Dudus” Coke. Last year he was charged with conspiracy to distribute marijuana and cocaine and with conspiracy to illegally traffic in firearms in U.S. federal court.

On Friday, Jamaican Prime Minister Bruce Golding said citizens should “allow the courts to deal with the extradition matter,” the state-run Jamaica Information service reported.

07
May
10

Palin backs Fiorina, catches heat from tea partiers

Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin has made her Facebook page into a bully pulpit, issuing policy statements on such issues as nuclear proliferation and oil drilling. Now she’s learning that social media can be more than a one-way system of message delivery — thanks to an avalanche of comments from tea party supporters taking issue with her Facebook endorsement of Carly Fiorina in California’s upcomingGOP Senate primary.

Many of the supporters of the small-government tea party insurgency regard Fiorina, the former Hewlett-Packard CEO who stumped for the McCain-Palin ticket while serving as its adviser on financial issues in 2008, as a RINO, or “Republican in name only” — a term generally applied to pro-business moderates who don’t always support socially conservative positions.

That was very much a dominant sentiment in the hundreds of comments weighing in on Palin’s characterization of Fiorina as a “Commonsense Conservative.” (Spelling, punctuation and grammar in the originals are retained throughout.)

“Sarah, I am a huge fan of yours. I can forgive you for backing McCain, but..Carly Fiorino is no friend of yours,” writes one. “She didn’t support you when the MSM was attacking. Please rethink your position and support Chuck Devore. Jim DeMint is behind him, the Tea Party Express supports him and you should too.”

“We total understood why she endorsed McCain over J.D. Hayward (and secretly felt that she would be relieved when Hayward beat mcCain and then headed for a strong chance to win in the General Election),” writes another. “But Palin’s endorsement of Fiorna will backfire.”

Palin quickly updated her post to defend Fiorina’s social conservatism. Her original post chiefly praised Fiorina’s background as a businesswoman who, Palin argued, has what it takes to beat Democratic incumbent Barbara Boxer in November.

“I’d like to add a few things about my Carly endorsement because some reaction right out of the chute calls for more information,” Palin wrote. Palin touted Fiorina’s endorsement by anti-abortion groups and the NRA, and her opposition to “cap and tax” energy legislation and “amnesty” on immigration.

Palin encounted no pushback to speak of when she posted a similarFacebook endorsement of Minnesota  gubernatorial candidate Tom Emmer, who won the party primary last week — but that’s probably because tea party supporters had already lined up to back him. In California, however, the movement chose state Assemblyman Chuck Devore as its favorite in the crowded GOP primary field.

So why did she endorse Fiorina? Their shared background on the McCain campaign is almost certainly a factor — though that apparently hasn’t won Palin the same pass she got from tea party activists when she stumped for Sen. John McCain in Arizona against his tea-party-aligned primary challenger J.D. Hayworth in April.

07
May
10

Some optimism in jobs picture

WASHINGTON – The economy got what it needed in April: A burst of hiring that added a net 290,000 jobs, the biggest monthly total in four years.

The improving picture caused so many more people to pour into the labor force in search of employment that the jobless rate rose from 9.7 percent to 9.9 percent.

The hiring last month of 66,000 temporary government workers to conduct the census added to overall job creation. But private employers — the backbone of the economy — contributed the most: A surprisingly strong 231,000 jobs, the most since March 2006, theLabor Department said Friday.

The new jobs, generated by sectors across the economy, are the first sign that the recovery is adding significant numbers of new positions — even if not enough to absorb the influx of jobseekers. That’s why the unemployment rate rose.

The encouraging message in Friday’s report, though, is that employers are finally hiring again.

“Companies have a newfound confidence in the future of the economic recovery and on the part of their own business prospects,” said Joel Naroff, president of Naroff Economic Advisors. “The broad-based job gains are an indication that businesses are feeling more comfortable about expanding their work forces,” he said.

President Barack Obama called the addition of 290,000 jobs in April “very encouraging news.” But he said much remains to be done to get Americans back to work.

“This week’s jobs numbers comes as a relief to Americans who found a job,” Obama said. “But it offers obviously little comfort to those who are still out of work.”

03
May
10