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October 10th, 2013
09:11 AM ET

What happened to Lavabit?

Why did the secure e-mail service Lavabit suddenly shut down in August?

It was widely believed that the U.S. government wanted access to the Lavabit account of NSA leaker Edward Snowden.

Lavabit's owner, Ladar Levison, posted a message blaming a secret U.S. court battle. He also vowed to keep fighting while adding this warning:

"This experience has taught me one very important lesson: without congressional action or a strong judicial precedent, I would _strongly_ recommend against anyone trusting their private data to a company with physical ties to the United States."

Last week, some court documents were unsealed and made public. A review of the files on NewYorker.com says, "These disclosures fall short of the ideal of open justice, but they do give Levison’s ordeal a public shape."

Regular News Stream contributor Nicholas Thompson edited the New Yorker piece. I spoke to him about what the documents reveal.

He tells me, "What we are seeing from these court documents is that most e-mail providers - when the FBI came to them during the NSA (episode) – said, 'Here it is.'"

"But here's the one guy who said, 'No. I'm going to fight you tooth and nail, no matter what way I can.'"

Listen on to learn how Levison resisted U.S. government demands to turn over the Lavabit encryption key (including the use of an 11-page printout in 4-point type) and what the aggressive pursuit of Lavabit reveals about the psyche in Washington.

October 10th, 2013
08:32 AM ET

What's a space walk really like?

Say what you will about the science. The movie "Gravity" makes you feel like you're in space.

Of course, only a few people know that feeling firsthand. NASA astronaut Michael Massimino is one of them.

Massimino flew on two Hubble Space Telescope servicing missions. And he has logged more than 30 hours across four space walks.

That's exactly what the movie's main characters are doing when everything goes wrong.

So, what's it really like to spacewalk?

"You have to be methodical about what you do. You don't want to move too quickly," Massimino says. "You have to be very, very slow. You have to think about what you're doing. Work with your teammates, both outside the spaceship, inside the spaceship and the people on the ground."

Massimino admits it can be scary. But he adds, "I can't think of anything better to do for a living than go out and spacewalk and work out there in the beauty of space."

Find out what Massimino thinks of the movie, and George Clooney in particular, in the full interview above.

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Filed under: Movies • Space
October 4th, 2013
07:56 AM ET

Is Qatar abusing migrant workers?

Qatar's new World Cup facilities will be constructed by thousands of migrant laborers toiling in extreme heat.

And human rights groups say that many already working in the country are being severely mistreated.

Gulf migrant researcher for Amnesty International James Lynch tells me the exploitation of workers in Qatar is far too commonplace.

"We've met workers who have been in severe distress having not been paid for months at at time, not able to leave the country, and living in dire conditions," he says.

"And add to that the very long working hours that go beyond the legal limits and the exterme heat as well."

The head of the Qatar 2022 Supreme Committee tells CNN the country is committed to workers' safety.

But Hassan al-Thawadi also acknowledged that it takes time to develop and enforce labor rights laws in Qatar.

International scrutiny is growing and the pressure is on. Both Qatar and FIFA, which is currently holding an executive crisis meeting on the 2022 World Cup, are being urged to act.

October 3rd, 2013
02:07 PM ET

What is Twitter's true value?

Twitter is widely expected to make public its IPO documents this week.

All the talk about a Twitter float got us thinking about the fundamental value of Twitter.

What is its true purpose? Who uses it... really? And just how will it make money?

I hit all those points with News Stream contributor Nicholas Thompson, editor of the NewYorker.com. He points out that Twitter is not as titanic as it's often made out to be.