(Sean Powers/WILL)
June 25, 2013

News-Gazette Charging for Online Material

The Champaign News-Gazette is now charging readers who read a certain number of articles on its website.

Those who click on the newspaper’s own material - reading more than eight of what it calls ‘premium articles’ in a month’s time - will now require a paid subscription. 

Amounts vary depending on whether someone already subscribes to the print edition.

Publisher John Foreman calls this additional source of revenue needed in an industry that is under a lot of financial pressure. He said this is a logical way to recoup some costs, and he does not expect a backlash from those already using the paper.

“The idea that a subscriber would pay a dollar or two more to also have the online access is pretty widely accepted," he said. "And then most papers pick up a few thousand new subscribers who subscribe to online only – and we’ve structured it in such a way that somebody who glances at us casually now and again is not going to incur any costs.”

Those who receive the print edition, and pay via debit card are now charged $1.49 a month for full online access to the paper, while all other print subscribers will pay a dollar more. 

Non-subscribers are charged $7.99 a month for the online edition.

Foreman said the newspaper does noy have a specific financial goal for the online content. 

"It helps us to maintain the strength of our journalistic enteprise, no question," he said. "Whether it contributes $1,000 of the bottom line or $10,000 of the bottom line, we hire a lot of professional journalists. We like to keep them on the payroll, and hope they will produce good journalism for the community.  Will it contribute to that?  Yes indeed it will."

Foreman said almost as many come to the website per day as the News-Gazette has print subscribers.

Edward Snowden
(The Guardian)
June 23, 2013

Snowden Arrives In Moscow From Hong Kong

The US intelligence fugitive Edward Snowden has arrived in Moscow on a flight from Hong Kong.

But he is only thought to be in transit before leaving for Venezuela or Ecuador, via Cuba.

The US wanted him extradited from Hong Kong but the government said Washington had failed to meet its requirements.

Mr Snowden, an intelligence contractor, fled to Hong Kong in May after revealing extensive internet and phone surveillance by US intelligence.

The Aeroflot Airbus, flight SU213, landed at Moscow's Sheremetyevo Airport at 17:10 local time (13:10 GMT).

Russian media say he was picked up at the airport by either a Venezuelan or Ecuadorean embassy car.

A source at the airline company was quoted as saying that he would fly on to Cuba, and from there to Venezuela. Both countries are believed unlikely to comply with any US extradition request.

It has been suggested he may travel on from Venezuela to Ecuador.

Wikileaks founder Julian Assange is currently sheltering in the Ecuadorean embassy in London after being granted asylum last year.

Wikileaks issued a statement saying that it has helped to find Mr Snowden "political asylum in a democratic country".

No legal basis'

Mr Snowden's departure from Hong Kong casts further uncertainty over the prospect of him facing justice in the US.

On Saturday, the White House contacted Hong Kong to try to arrange his extradition. But the territory's administration, in a statement issued on Sunday, said the documents submitted by Washington did not "fully comply with the legal requirements under Hong Kong law".

As a result, Hong Kong says it requested further information from the US government.

However, the statement goes on: "As the HKSAR Government has yet to have sufficient information to process the request for provisional warrant of arrest, there is no legal basis to restrict Mr Snowden from leaving Hong Kong."

The US Justice Department has said it will seek cooperation from whichever country Mr Snowden arrives in.

We will continue to discuss this matter with Hong Kong and pursue relevant law enforcement cooperation with other countries where Mr. Snowden may be attempting to travel," Nanda Chitre, a spokeswoman for the justice department said in a statement.

University of Hong Kong law professor Simon Young expressed surprise at the Hong Kong authorities' decision on extradition.

He said that under local law, a very low threshold is required before a provisional warrant can be put in place.

The US government will wonder why the Hong Kong government feels the surrender paperwork needs to be fully in place before the provisional warrant can be obtained," he said.

Mr Snowden left the US after leaking details of his work as an NSA (National Security Agency) analyst and the extensive US surveillance programme to Britain's Guardian newspaper and the Washington Post.

He has been charged in the US with theft of government property, unauthorised communication of national defence information and wilful communication of classified communications intelligence.

Each of the charges carries a maximum 10-year prison sentence. The complaint is dated 14 June although it was made public only on Friday.

The leaks have led to revelations that the US is systematically seizing vast amounts of phone and web data under an NSA programme known as Prism.

Mr Snowden said earlier that he had decided to speak out after observing "a continuing litany of lies" from senior officials to Congress.

US officials have since defended the practice of gathering telephone and internet data from private users around the world.

They say Prism cannot be used to intentionally target any Americans or anyone in the US, and that it is supervised by judges.

US Supreme Court Justices
Wikimedia Commons
June 19, 2013

Durbin: US Supreme Court Should Provide Live Audio

Sen. Dick Durbin wants the U.S. Supreme Court to provide live audio broadcasts of its proceedings.

The Illinois Democrat sent a letter to Chief Justice John Roberts on Tuesday.

Durbin says many high-profile proceedings are scheduled for the coming weeks. He says live audio broadcasts ``would greatly expand the Court's accessibility to average Americans.''

Durbin also says the broadcasts would provide "greater accountability, transparency, and understanding of our judicial system.''

The court decided recently to release same-day transcripts and end-of-the-week audio of oral arguments and opinion announcements. Durbin applauded that decision but said the court should take another step.

The court is expected to issue opinions soon on two closely watched same-sex marriage cases. This week the court struck down a law requiring would-be voters to prove they are citizens.

Libyan presenters work at the studio of Radio Zone in Tripoli, Libya, in 2012.
June 18, 2013

Libyan Radio Station Promotes Democracy, One Rap At A Time

Many of the militia fighters who rose up and ousted former dictator Moammar Gadhafi in 2011 have refused to lay down their arms and are still challenging the post-revolutionary government.

Yet the militias are facing a challenge of their own. They now come under verbal attack on one of Libya's newest radio stations, Radio Zone.

Bassem Arady, a presenter at the station, says pretty much whatever's on his mind. He's unafraid of militiamen, government officials or his boss, who sits nearby on a recent day, quietly laughing as Arady makes fun of members of congress, who were caught with whiskey and women the night before.

It's quite a scandal in this conservative Arab nation.

Arady uses the colloquial Libyan dialect instead of the formal Arabic typically used in television and radio newscasts. It's as if he's talking to a friend, and he invites his listeners to call in and voice their opinions.

But his work is about more than informing the public, he says.

"I'm doing this for Libya, for my people," he says. "So if anybody have any problems with me, please, he's more than welcome."

Arady says he wants people to know that there's no reason to be afraid to speak out about the problems in Libya and against violence. He names names and doesn't worry about the fallout.

The owners of Radio Zone are no strangers to threats. One of them, Nabil al-Shebani, has been kidnapped twice for criticizing the armed groups.

Shebani says it's incidents such as his kidnappings that give this new station a cause: to make sure his kid's generation doesn't think that guns are the answer.

Radio Zone is only about a year old; the studios are still being built. The staff members, mostly 20-somethings, broadcast in one room while construction goes on in the other.

A young, tattooed composer sits in the offices downstairs putting together tracks.

He goes by the stage name Pixie, and he's working on a new song that uses gangster rap to rap against what he sees as the gangster behavior of Libya's militias. The lyrics were written for his musical partner, Yousef al-Shebani, whose father is Nabil, the Radio Zone co-owner.

The 13-year-old Yousef shot to fame during Libya's revolution with the song "We Want to Live in Freedom."

"We want the darkness to go away and justice to prevail," he sings. Yousef's father wrote the lyrics, which the older Shebani says still hold true today.

"We need a life as a human being," Nabil al-Shebani says.

Ali al-Abbar, the co-owner of Radio Zone, is in charge of the music side of things. He's working on bringing Libyan artists with a social message to the station. It's music, he says, that will lure young people, rather than lectures about gun control and violence.

"We present ... Libyan music, but Libyan music in a modern way," he says. "When you hit a message to any generation, a young generation, you have to hit it by the way they like, to satisfy and deliver your message in a clear way."

Abbar and Pixie, the young Libyan composer, got together after the revolution. Pixie had worked with international hip-hop stars in Turkey, where he grew up. Now he's home, hoping to make a mark in his own nation.

In many ways, Abbar says, Libya is a mess. But despite all the difficulties, Libyans now have the right to speak freely.

"Before, we were controlled," Abbar says. "But now we can do whatever we want."


Edward Snowden
(The Guardian)
June 17, 2013

Snowden: NSA Collects 'Everything,' Including Content Of Emails

Self-described NSA leaker Edward Snowden has made some stunning allegations during a live chat with The Guardian today.

Snowden, who leaked classified documents revealing the existence of the NSA PRISM program, which U.S. officials say mines Internet data from foreigners, contradicted both what the big tech companies have said and what American officials have said in front of Congress.

Snowden said the NSA "likes to use 'domestic' as a weasel word." That is, while the government insists the program is all about foreigners, a lot of domestic communication gets dragged in while acquiring that data, he said. Snowden used a specific example:

"If I target for example an email address, for example under FAA 702 [a law that allows the gathering of electronic information on someone believed to be outside the U.S.], and that email address sent something to you, Joe America, the analyst gets it. All of it. IPs, raw data, content, headers, attachments, everything. And it gets saved for a very long time — and can be extended further with waivers rather than warrants."

Snowden was also asked if he stood by his original assertion that he could "wiretap anyone" as an intelligence employee. He said:

"Yes, I stand by it. US Persons do enjoy limited policy protections (and again, it's important to understand that policy protection is no protection — policy is a one-way ratchet that only loosens) and one very weak technical protection — a near-the-front-end filter at our ingestion points. The filter is constantly out of date, is set at what is euphemistically referred to as the "widest allowable aperture," and can be stripped out at any time. Even with the filter, US comms get ingested, and even more so as soon as they leave the border. Your protected communications shouldn't stop being protected communications just because of the IP they're tagged with."

The NSA chief, Gen. Keith Alexander, said during a hearing last week on Capitol Hill that he knew of no way to do that.

As far as the denials from Google, Microsoft and others, Snowden said they were "misleading and included identical, specific language across companies."

We'll update this post with highlights of the Internet chat, so make sure to refresh this page.

Update at 12:35 p.m. ET. On Why He Leaked:

When asked why he waited to leak the documents he did, Snowden responded:

"Obama's campaign promises and election gave me faith that he would lead us toward fixing the problems he outlined in his quest for votes. Many Americans felt similarly. Unfortunately, shortly after assuming power, he closed the door on investigating systemic violations of law, deepened and expanded several abusive programs, and refused to spend the political capital to end the kind of human rights violations like we see in Guantanamo, where men still sit without charge."

Update at 1:07 p.m. ET. Not A Chinese Spy:

On a couple of occasions, Snowden was asked if he was a Chinese spy. "If I were a Chinese spy, why wouldn't I have flown directly into Beijing?" he said. "I could be living in a palace petting a phoenix by now."

He was asked if he ever had contact with Chinese officials. He said:

"No. I have had no contact with the Chinese government. Just like with the Guardian and the Washington Post, I only work with journalists."

Update at 1:10 p.m. ET. More On His Reasoning:

Snowden was asked if a single moment made him decide to go public with the surveillance programs. He said:

"It was seeing a continuing litany of lies from senior officials to Congress - and therefore the American people - and the realization that that Congress, specifically the Gang of Eight, wholly supported the lies that compelled me to act. Seeing someone in the position of James Clapper - the Director of National Intelligence - baldly lying to the public without repercussion is the evidence of a subverted democracy. The consent of the governed is not consent if it is not informed."

Snowden seems to be referring to testimony Clapper gave the Senate Intelligence Committee in March. He was asked if the government collected data on millions or hundreds of millions of Americans.

Clapper said no — "not wittingly."

Edward Snowden
(The Guardian)
June 09, 2013

Newspaper Reveals Source For NSA Surveillance Stories

The Guardian newspaper says a 29-year-old former CIA adviser is responsible for the leaks on secret U.S. surveillance activity.

The U.K. newspaper broke the story of the NSA's acquisition of phone metadata and monitoring of Internet data through a program called PRISM. On Sunday, The Guardian revealed Edward Snowden, who now works for Booz Allen Hamilton, is the source of the classified leaks.

The newspaper says Snowden asked that his name be made public as the source of the leaks.

In a video that is part of the Guardian's story, Snowden talks about his decision to come forward.

"I don't want to live in a society that does these sorts of things," he says in the video, dated June 6.

"I have no intention of hiding who I am because I know I have done nothing wrong," Snowden says.

He says he's been a systems engineer, systems administrator, senior adviser for the Central Intelligence Agency and a solutions consultant.

"When you're in positions of privileged access like a systems administrator, for some of these intelligence community agencies, you're exposed to a lot more information on a broader scale than the average employee," he says in the video. "Because of that, you see things that may be disturbing."

Snowden says felt compelled to become a whistleblower because "these things need to be determined by the public, not just someone who was hired by the government."

The Guardian writes:

"In a note accompanying the first set of documents he provided, he wrote: 'I understand that I will be made to suffer for my actions,' but 'I will be satisfied if the federation of secret law, unequal pardon and irresistible executive powers that rule the world that I love are revealed even for an instant.'

"Despite his determination to be publicly unveiled, he repeatedly insisted that he wants to avoid the media spotlight. 'I don't want public attention because I don't want the story to be about me. I want it to be about what the US government is doing.'"

The newspaper reports that three weeks ago, while Snowden was still working at the NSA office in Hawaii, he copied "final documents" that he intended to disclose and informed his supervisor that he "needed to be away from work for 'a couple of weeks'" for medical treatment of his epilepsy.

The report says he boarded a flight to Hong Kong on May 20, where he has remained since.

"He chose the city because 'they have a spirited commitment to free speech and the right of political dissent,' and because he believed that it was one of the few places in the world that both could and would resist the dictates of the U.S. government," the newspaper says.

Chicago Sun-Times protest
(M. Spencer Green/AP)
June 06, 2013

Protesters Rally Against Chicago Sun-Times Photo Layoffs

Local reporters, photographers and labor leaders gathered with picket signs outside the Chicago Sun-Times building Thursday, a week after the entire photography department at the newspaper was let go.

Cars driving by the rally beeped their horns as around 150 supporters chanted “quality, not cuts” and “no more layoffs.”  Many of the faces in the crowd matched the bylines and names from the newspaper: Longtime Sun-Times columnist Mark Brown carried a sign that said, “John H. White - ‘nuf said.” White, a Pulitzer Prize-winning photographer, marched just a few steps behind him, along with other former Sun-Times photogs.

Craig Rosenbaum, executive director of the Chicago Newspaper Guild, said they have filed a complaint with the National Labor Relations Board that said the layoffs violate federal law. The Guild represents 20 of the photographers who were laid off.

“This is one of the few cities that has two papers, the Tribune and the Sun-Times,” he said. “And how are you going to be able to compete with the competition when you don’t have two professional photojournalists?”

Rosenbaum said the Guild is planning another rally for next week.

A statement from the Sun-Times Media group after the layoffs said the decision was “difficult,” but noted the media business is changing rapidly, and audiences want more video content with their news.

Meanwhile, many of the former Sun-Times photographers say they’re trying to move on to freelancing and other projects.  Rob Hart, who started at the Sun-Times over a decade ago, said he was serving dual roles at the protest Thursday morning: marching alongside his former colleagues, and photographing the protest for a freelance assignment.

May 30, 2013

Chicago Sun-Times Lays Off Photo Staff

The Chicago Sun-Times has laid off its entire full-time photography staff.

Sun-Times Media released a statement Thursday to The Associated Press confirming "the very difficult decision" to do away with the positions at the city's tabloid newspaper and its suburban sister publications.

The statement noted that the "business is changing rapidly" and audiences are "seeking more video content with their news."

The newspaper company's statement cited its efforts to bolster reporting capabilities with video and other multimedia elements and said the resulting restructuring of multimedia goes "across the network."

Steve Buyansky, a photo editor for three of the group's suburban newspapers, says about 30 photographers heard from Sun-Times editor Jim Kirk that they were laid off at a mandatory meeting Thursday morning.

He says the photographers are "in shock."

Attorney General Eric Holder
(J. Scott Applewhite/AP)
May 30, 2013

Holder Plan for Off-The-Record Meetings Hits Snag

A plan by Attorney General Eric Holder to hold meetings with news organizations about guidelines governing investigations that involve reporters has run into snags over the terms of discussions.

The Justice Department wants the meetings to be off the record. The Associated Press issued a statement saying it wants any meeting to be on the record, meaning it could be the subject of news stories. And The New York Times said it won't attend because of the department's off-the-record ground rules.

The review of the guidelines called for last week by President Barack Obama come as the Justice Department deals with an outcry over its secret gathering of AP reporters' phone records and the emails of a Fox News journalist.

AP media relations manager Erin Madigan White said that if the session is not on the record, the news cooperative will offer its views in an open letter on how Justice Department regulations should be updated.

If the AP's meeting with the attorney general is on the record, AP Executive Editor Kathleen Carroll will attend, White said. She said AP expects its attorneys to be included in any planned meetings between the attorney general's office and media lawyers on the legal specifics.

New York Times Executive Editor Jill Abramson said in a statement: "It isn't appropriate for us to attend an off the record meeting with the attorney general. Our Washington bureau is aggressively covering the department's handling of leak investigations at this time."

The planned meetings are to take place over the coming weeks. The department said Holder plans to engage with news media organizations, including print media, wire services, radio, television, online media and news and trade associations. Discussions are to include news media executives and general counsels as well as government experts in intelligence and investigative agencies.

The initial meetings over the next two days are to be with several Washington bureau chiefs of national news organizations.

Obama has asked Holder to report to him on any recommended policy changes by July 12.

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