Wednesday, December 18, 2013

NSA, Bitcoins, and Chicago heroin (link round-up 12/18/13)

Let's play compare and contrast:

Snowden: NSA’s indiscriminate spying ‘collapsing’
The documents revealed Brazil is the top NSA target in Latin America, with spying that has included the monitoring of Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff’s cellphone and hacking into the internal network of state-run oil company Petrobras.

The revelations enraged Rousseff, who in October canceled an official visit to Washington that was to include a state dinner. She’s also pushing the United Nations to give citizens more protections against spying.

In his letter, Snowden dismissed U.S. explanations to the Brazilian government and others that the bulk of metadata gathered on billions of emails and calls was more “data collection” than surveillance.

“There is a huge difference between legal programs, legitimate spying ... and these programs of dragnet mass surveillance that put entire populations under an all-seeing eye and save copies forever,” he wrote. “These programs were never about terrorism: they’re about economic spying, social control, and diplomatic manipulation. They’re about power.”
Merkel compared NSA to Stasi in heated encounter with Obama
Livid after learning from Der Spiegel magazine that the Americans were listening in to her personal mobile phone, Merkel confronted Obama with the accusation: "This is like the Stasi."

The newspaper also reported that Merkel was particularly angry that, based on the disclosures, "the NSA clearly couldn't be trusted with private information, because they let Snowden clean them out."

Snowden is to testify on the NSA scandal to a European parliament inquiry next month, to the anger of Washington which is pressuring the EU to stop the testimony.

In Brussels, the chairman of the US House select committee on intelligence, Mike Rogers, a Republican, said his views on the invitation to Snowden were "not fit to print" and that it was "not a great idea".
Chicago Bitcoin kiosk to be up by spring, local entrepreneur hopes
Gatz said he wants Windy City Bitcoins to be the "guinea pig" that brings Chicago into the bitcoin landscape. But while Robocoin's proprietary software will be compliant with federal regulations, state policies on bitcoin-to-cash exchanges range from murky to nonexistent across the U.S.

That's the case in Illinois, too.

Sue Hofer, a spokeswoman for the state's Department of Financial and Professional Regulation, said Gatz is right that state regulation's haven't yet caught up with technology.

"It's something we've been looking at," Hofer said. "Our transmission of money and our ATM laws are both in need of some review as technologies change. And depending on how he sets it up, it could be an ATM, it could be a currency exchange matter, and none of those laws were written in the 21st century."

As for bitcoin-related state policy as a whole, Hofer said it is "on our radar, but we do not have new regulations about how it could work in Illinois."
Bitcoin plummets as China's largest exchange blocks new deposits
The price of bitcoin has plummeted following an announcement from China's largest bitcoin exchange that it would no longer be accepting new yuan deposits.

BTC China said that due to action by a third-party payment provider, YeePay, it could no longer accept deposits in the Chinese currency, although it would still be able to process withdrawals. BTC's chief executive, Bobby Lee, said that YeePay gave notice on Wednesday morning Shanghai time that it would no longer provide services.

Lee blamed government regulation for the decision. China's central bank warned in early December that bitcoin was not legally protected and had no "real meaning", and barred financial institutions from using the currency.

On Tuesday, the central bank extended that ban to payment companies like YeePay, and gave them until Chinese New Year, which begins on 31 January, to comply.
How heroin—and dealers—moved from Chicago to eastern Iowa
"I must say it was a surprise after leaving Chicago," she says. "In Chicago, they're on the streets hollering for you. There, it was word of mouth. You know, when you do that, you can tell when [other] people have done it. You say, where did you get that?"

Authorities say the heroin trade in Waterloo was controlled at that time by Appling and several underlings, most of them originally from Chicago, who saw a business opportunity.

Officials say Appling started out dealing small amounts of heroin himself, then hired others to distribute ever-greater quantities for him. Many of his sellers were users who needed to pay for their habits, and who knew Appling or his family through community ties in Chicago. Two sisters who bought from him had gone to high school with his parents.

Dealing didn't work the same way it did in Chicago. Rather than standing on the corner waiting for customers, heroin sellers met new customers through trusted acquaintances, who were usually paid in drugs for making the referral, known as "middling." Orders were placed by speaking in code or abstraction on phone calls and text messages.
On buying heroin on the South Side of Chicago
Though I was personally very fond of Earvin and he had proven to be an occasionally reliable source—he even managed to score a gram of raw heroin for me for which I paid $170 and which I ended up going through over the course of about 4 hours, after which I awakened in a cold sweat on the floor of my kitchen, a giant bruise on my forehead and a mound of vomit next to my face—my habit was becoming too demanding for a part-time hustler. It was around this time that I was walking along King Dr. one early evening when I was approached by a diminutive kid with Lil Wayne dreads who abruptly said, “I got what you come here for and I don’t fuck around; I wake up early in the morning and will deliver straight to you.” At which point he dropped a sample blow on the ground between us and gave me his phone number. Entering the number in my phone, I asked, “What’s your name?” He responded, “Little Man.”

One hot as fuck late-summer night I had become intolerably frustrated with Earvin and his repeated failures to keep the promises he made. I called Little Man and when he answered the phone I began to explain that I was David, the white dude from Hyde Park, and he cut me off, saying, “I know who this is.” I asked if he would be able to meet me near my apartment and he assented, saying he’d be there in about 15 minutes. Though I would eventually learn that sometimes with Little Man “15 minutes” meant three hours, this first time he arrived promptly. He invited me to sit in the passenger seat of his Dodge Charger and asked what I was looking for. I told him I had $50, which I gave him, and he quickly dropped five blows in my lap. I hurried impatiently to my apartment, knowing instinctively that I would never look to buy dope from Earvin or anyone other than Little Man, if I could help it.
A junkie's guide to Chicago's West Side heroin trade, and its residual criminal aspects
This is how it usually works. The real estate along the blocks that run perpendicular to Pulaski from roughly 30th Street to North Avenue is extremely valuable to drug dealers. Especially valuable are the blocks immediately surrounding certain train stops, most notably the Green Line train stops running along Lake Street. The Pulaski Green Line stop is so hot it sizzles. At any given time, three or four different groups of dealers may be working the intersection of Lake and Pulaski, and the police seem to know it.

Some blocks, like the 4000 block of West Monroe, may not have a permanent presence of dealers. I’ve been told that the shorties on this particular block are especially hated by cliques on other blocks, and that for this reason, there are more guns on the 4000 block of West Monroe than most blocks on the West Side. But if you walk down the street today, it appears to be totally vacant.

The shorties will be there soon. The shorties are the risk-takers. You see them at the more transient dope spots. All it takes is one resident.
Ta-Nehisi Coates on Chicago gang violence
What people who have never lived in these neighborhoods must get, is that, like the crooks, killers, and gangs, the police are another violent force that must be negotiated and dealt with. But unlike the gangs, the violence of the police is the violence of the state, and thus unaccountable to North Lawndale. That people who represent North Lawndale laugh at the idea of handing over more tools of incarceration to law enforcement is unsurprising.

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