Thursday, April 17, 2014

WATCH: America’s Most Gullible Women Compete to Marry “Prince Harry”

WATCH: America’s Most Gullible Women Compete to Marry “Prince Harry”

WATCH: America’s Most Gullible Women Compete to Marry “Prince Harry”

Posted: 17 Apr 2014 11:40 AM PDT

Fox just released the trailer for its latest epic prank reality show I Wanna Marry Harry, which is about a bunch of women who think they’re going to marry Prince Harry and more importantly, become Kate Middleton’s sister-in-law. Unless they’re in on the joke. (Please let them be in on the joke.)

Now, for the conceit of the show to be real — to be crystal clear, it ISN’T — there would have been a royal conversation that might have gone something like this:

Her Majesty the Queen: Harry, it is high time to find you a suitable bride for the good of the realm.

Prince Harry: C’mon, Grandma!

(Harry blushes, which is extra visible because of his adorable ginger complexion.)

Her Majesty: Cressida Bonas is far from appropriate. Burning Man is no place for the future mother of the future King George’s cousin.

Harry: But I just gave her swipe access to the palace!

Her Majesty: There’s only one thing left to do. We’ll go to America, hold auditions for the best looking and most delusional women in the colonies and then videotape them as they claw each other’s eyes when presented with a totally unrealistic offer to join the British royal family.

Harry: Brilliant. Shall we invite Snooki?

Her Majesty: It’s the only way to find someone dignified. We don’t want to end up with riffraff like Kate again.

What could be better than watching women believe outrageous lies in the name of finding love? Oh, and money, and a crown, and a big wedding, and fancy jewelry that belonged to Princess Diana. It’s genius, because gullible women trying to get a ring on their finger is practically uncharted territory in modern reality television!

I Want to Marry “Harry” premieres on Fox on May 27.


11 Terrifying Bunnies That Will Totally Freak You Out Before Easter

Posted: 17 Apr 2014 11:39 AM PDT

Facebook Adds a Feature That Lets People See Your Location — But It’s Optional, Optional, Optional

Posted: 17 Apr 2014 11:20 AM PDT

Facebook is announcing a new feature for its iPhone and Android apps called Nearby Friends. If you choose to turn it on, and have friends who do likewise, you’ll get notified when you’re in the same vicinity — so you could discover you’re both at the same movie theater, for instance, or both happen to be attending the same conference.

In broad strokes, at least, Nearby Friends is conceptually similar to Highlight and other ambient social-networking apps. The category was hot, very briefly, a couple of years ago — at the time, Facebook bought one such app, Glancee — but didn’t turn out to be the next big thing after all.

One reason the idea didn’t truly take off is that many folks aren’t instinctively thrilled by the notion of an app automatically sharing their location with other people. Facebook gets that: It mentions that Nearby Friends is optional in the headline on the blog post announcing the feature, then stresses that it’s turned off by default and only works if both you and other friends have chosen to enable it. You can also choose to restrict your visibility to a specific list of friends, such as family members or close friends.

At the other end of the location-sharing spectrum, it sounds like Nearby Friends never shares your whereabouts with anyone who’s not on your friends list; that’s a fundamental distinction between it and Highlight, which aims to enable serendipitous connections between people who don’t already know each other. That should remove some of the potential privacy-invading creepiness factor, since strangers being able to determine where you are isn’t on the table.

Facebook’s blog post says that you’ll be notified of nearby pals “occasionally” — I’m not sure if that means you sometimes won’t be alerted to their presence, or simply that you won’t be pelted with so many notifications that it becomes irritating. The post also doesn’t specify the how large a geographic radius the feature covers, which has a big impact on what the experience is like. (Here in San Francisco, I might have dozens of friends within a mile or so of me at any given time — but probably only a few, or none at all, within a hundred miles.)

In a rational world, Nearby Friends would be uncontroversial. If the idea appealed to you, you’d switch it on, and if it didn’t, you’d leave it turned off. I’ll be interesting to see how people react as the option shows up in Facebook’s iPhone and Android apps, which the company says will happen in the “coming weeks.”

The Rapture of the Nerds

Posted: 17 Apr 2014 11:02 AM PDT

In the backyard of a cottage here overlooking the water, two poles with metal slats shaped like ribcages jut out from the ground. They look indistinguishable from heat lamps or fancy light fixtures.

These are satellite dishes, but they aren't for TV. They're meant for dispatching "mindfiles," the memories, thoughts and feelings of people who wish to create digital copies of themselves and fling them into space with the belief that they'll eventually reach some benevolent alien species.

Welcome to the future. Hope you don't mind E.T. leafing through your diary.

The beach house and the backyard and the memory satellites belong to 31-year-old Gabriel Rothblatt, a pastor of Terasem, a new sort of religion seeking answers to very old kinds of questions, all with an abiding faith in the transformative power of technology.

"Technology does feel and smell and look and act like a God.”Beneath the cottage is a basement office where the mindfile operation is headquartered. Next door is an ashram, an airy glass building with walls that slide away to reveal a backyard home to a telescope for stargazing and a space to practice yoga. Tucked behind a shroud of greenery, most neighbors don't even know this house of worship exists.

The name Terasem comes from the Greek word for “Earthseed,” which is also the name for the futuristic religion found in the Octavia Butler sci-fi novel Parable of the Sower that helped inspire Gabriel's parents, Bina and Martine Rothblatt, to start their new faith. Martine founded the successful satellite radio company Sirius XM in 1990. (Martine was originally known as Martin. She had sex reassignment surgery 20 years ago.)

Organized around four core tenets—"life is purposeful, death is optional, God is technological and love is essential"–Terasem is a "transreligion," meaning that you don't have to give up being Christian or Jewish or Muslim to join. In fact, many believers embrace traditional positions held by mainstream religions—including the omnipotence of God and the existence of an afterlife—but say these are made possible by increasing advancements in science and technology.

"Einstein said science without religion is lame. Religion without science is blind," Martine Rothblatt tells TIME. "Bina and I were inspired to find a way for people to believe in God consistent with science and technology so people would have faith in the future."

Sure, it's easy to dismiss people who think they can somehow cheat death with a laptop. But Terasem is a potent symbol of a modern way of life where the digital world and the emotional one have become increasingly entwined. It is also a sign, if one from the fringe, of the always evolving relationship between technology and faith. Survey after survey has shown the number of Americans calling themselves "religious" has declined despite the fact that many still identify as "spiritual." People are searching, and no longer do they look to technology to provide mere order for their lives. They also want meaning. Maybe, it's time to hack our souls.

While there may seem nothing so new-fangled as thousands of people broadcasting their innermost thoughts to outer space, technology has always played a role in shaping religious practice and belief.

“Technology does feel and smell and look and act like a God, at least sometimes," says John Modern, a Professor of Religious Studies at Franklin & Marshall College. "So it’s certainly logical that someone would see the power of technology and locate their faith in it.”

Some believers in Terasem are motivated by a longing similar to one shared by followers of more familiar faiths–a desire to be reunited with people who have passed. Linda Chamberlain, cofounder of the cryogenics company Alcor Life Extension Foundation and an active Terasemian, anticipates that one day in the future she'll be reanimated alongside her husband Fred, who passed away a few years ago, and they can explore space together. Giulio Prisco, an Italian physicist who practices Terasem, says he hopes he'll finally be reunited with his mother.

Though from the outside Terasem might look a little kooky, some ideas at its center resonate with Silicon Valley's mainstream where millions of dollars are being spent to research how technology can alter the end of life and beyond. People like Google's Larry Page and PayPal cofounder Peter Thiel are investing in projects focused on life extension and rejuvenation.

Bina and Martine Rothblatt
A portrait of Bina and Martine Rothblatt (left to right) photographed in April 2010. George Tolbert

Portraits on the wall of Terasem’s Florida headquarters show people who have attended the organization’s meetings in the past, some of whom are among the tech industry’s most radical thinkers. Marvin Minsky, who helped start MIT's artificial intelligence lab, is there. So is Google engineer Ray Kurzweil, one of the world's most prominent proponents of transhumanism, an intellectual movement that shaped Terasem and animates many avant garde ideas in Silicon Valley.

Born nearly a century ago with a spike in popularity in the 1990s, transhumanism advocates for the ethical use of technology to transcend biology and enhance humanity's physical and intellectual abilities. Google Glass, artificial limbs—even birth control, as one transhumanist told me—are ways in which we can harness technology to upgrade our biology. And one day, if the mindfile system works the way it's supposed to, we just might be able to leave our physical bodies behind and transmit our brains into computerized vessels.

Johnny Depp puts a face, or at least a voice, to that far-out vision with the release of Transcendence Friday. Depp plays a terminally ill artificial intelligence researcher who uploads his consciousness into a computer, a plot that will land many of the ideas behind Terasem in movie theaters around the world.

"Some folks have seen this coming for 40 or 50 years," says director Wally Pfister, who won an Oscar as the cinematographer for Christopher Nolan’s mind-bender Inception. "The moment they saw the power of computing they said, 'Okay, at a certain point this is going to get to the point where we can either transcend the human mind or merge the human mind or build it into something greater, and that's fascinating."

The ability to control the universe like some sort of galaxy genie probably isn't going to happen no matter how many times you watch The Matrix, and even if it does, it's not going to be any time soon. But though the majority of transhumanists identify as atheists or agnostics, some have flocked to new religions like Terasem, which satisfy a yen for a spiritual sustenance in people whose lives are increasingly devoted to technology.

Terasem counts its Florida cottage and a solar-powered cabin in Lincoln, Vermont as its primary homes. It's in Vermont that the Rothblatts keep a robot named BINA48. The machine is modeled after Martine's wife, Bina, and was built to see just how precisely a robot loaded with mindfiles can resemble a living, breathing human being.

Roboterdame Bina48
Bina48 talks to her designing engineer Bruce Duncan at a press date in Wetzlar, Germany, March 15, 2013. Frank Rumpenhorst—DPA/AP

Terasem's followers are dedicated to studying and raising awareness about what they call "personal cyberconciousness"—the creation of mindfiles. They believe that by ritualistically recording your thoughts and feelings with great detail, you can ultimately assemble a digital copy of yourself, available for future use.

To start, you write down or record a video of you talking about a thought, memory or feeling, and upload it to a website. You can also choose to have each mindfile beamed out into the universe—hence the satellites. So far more than 32,000 people have created free mindfile accounts.

The mindfiles are stored on servers located in both Vermont and Florida, and by using Terasem's services you accept their promise that they will protect those files for the long-term future, making it possible for some not-yet-invented software to organize those files into an approximation of your consciousness so they can be uploaded into an artificial body 50, 100, 500 years from now.

"A lot of people have problems digesting" the idea, Gabriel says. "Instead of saying 'mindfiling,' I say 'digital scrapbooking."

The basement of the Rothblatts' cottage is the heart of Terasem's CyBeRev project, housing servers where users' files are stored and the desk of a full-time programmer who keeps the shop up and running.

The cottage is also where Lori Rhodes, who helps run Terasem Movement Inc., the group's educational non-profit, and Nikki Knudsen, Martine's personal accountant, have their offices. The irony that people who smoke cigarettes make up a significant part of the staff for a movement dedicated to life extension isn't lost on them.

Both Knudsen and Rhodes came to Terasem by happenstance: Knudsen, 38, was introduced through Rhodes' sister, and Rhodes, 51, who had previously worked as a paralegal, found Terasem in 2005 through an online job advertisement for a compliance manager.

"Most people say, 'Oh, it looks like a cult,'" Rhodes says. "My older sister did. When she first looked at it, she told me, 'Don't work for that organization. It looks like a cult and you'll be blacklisted in the legal community."

"But any religion starts with just a few members," Rhodes says. "And I guess organized religion is cultish."

Until 2011, Gabriel was a manager at a local pizza restaurant. Now, he spends most of his time running for Congress in a longshot campaign to get on the Democratic ballot to challenge Rep. Bill Posey this fall.

One afternoon this winter, Gabriel set up a small table advertising his candidacy at a home and garden expo. The crowd was made up of mostly white, upper-middle class baby boomers searching for the perfect garden hose or a nice new backsplash for their freshly renovated kitchen.

"When we can joyfully all experience techno immortality, then God is complete.”In a district that went 59 percent for Posey, a Republican, in 2012, Gabriel's status as a Democrat may be just as much a stumbling block as Terasem. “He's probably for Obamacare,” said one man as he walked by Gabriel’s table.

“My opponent has already begun using Terasem against me,” Gabriel tells me one night over dinner about Corry Westbrook, a former legislative director for the National Wildlife Foundation. “She says I’m inexperienced and bizarre…that I’m part of a cult.” Later, after giving me a tour of the ashram, he says that Westbrook has taken to telling people he “worships computers." (Westbrook did not return requests for comment.)

Though one of Terasem's core tenants is "God is technological," Gabriel insists that's not to be taken literally—instead, it's meant to convey the notion that the way that you envision God directly influences your life.

It's not exactly difficult to see how someone could misinterpret a bold statement like "God is technological." It just sounds kind of nuts. Plus, a religion governed by a zealous devotion to technology is bound to attract critics.

Rhodes puts it more bluntly: "Some people call it the rapture of the nerds."

"For us God is in-the-making by our collective efforts to make technology ever more omnipresent, omnipotent and ethical," Martine says. "When we can joyfully all experience techno immortality, then God is complete." (Martine, who rarely speaks to the press, answered questions sent by e-mail.)

When you possess this amount of reverence—and, yes, faith—in the power of science, it starts to mirror religious belief, particularly when the possibilities you believe future technologies will have—like omnipotence and the ability to resurrect the dead—are similar to ones mainstream religions ascribe to God. This is how technology becomes religion, and how God becomes a computer.

Now, in 2014, technology can do almost everything for us—alleviate loneliness, send taxis and hairstylists and groceries to our doorstep, even make people resigned to a life of silence hear again—but it can't bring the people we love back from the beyond.

At least, the Terasemians say, not yet.

Almost Earth: A Newly Discovered Planet Could Be a Lot Like Ours

Posted: 17 Apr 2014 11:01 AM PDT

When a faulty aiming device crippled the Kepler space telescope last year, NASA officials reluctantly declared the orbiting observatory’s planet-hunting days over—but they also said that Kepler would keep finding planets. That’s not as crazy as it sounds: the probe had made so many observations since its launch in 2009 that scientists hadn't come close to processing them all. There were sure to be spectatcular discoveries still lurking in those terabytes of stored data, said Kepler's founding father, William Borucki, of the NASA Ames Research Center.

Turns out he was right: a team of astronomers has just announced the discovery of a planet almost identical in size to Earth, orbiting in the habitable zone of its star—the region where water in liquid form, an essential ingredient for life as we know it, could plausibly exist. Kepler has found Earth-size planets before, and habitable-zone planets, but nobody has ever found a single planet that falls into both of these crucial categories.

"We've had a handful of candidates that looked good in the past," says Elisa Quintana, of NASA Ames, lead author of the paper describing the discovery, which appears in Science. "But we always took them with a grain of salt." That's because false-positive detections are always possible in the planet-hunting game. Kepler finds planets by watching for the almost imperceptible dimming of stars as an orbiting world passes in front of them. But other things can cause a very similar signal. The star itself might flicker, or a dark sunspot might slide across its face. Another possibility: a pair of mutually orbiting stars could be sitting almost directly behind the target star, increasing the total amount of starlight that reaches Kepler. When one of these background stars moves in front of the other, the collective incoming light dips—just as it would if a planet eclipsed a single star.

Every candidate planet goes through tests to rule out these possibilities, and in the end, all of those possible habitable-zone Earth-size planets failed. But this planet, called Kepler 186f, passed with honors. "Statistically," says Quintana, "we're 99.98% certain that this is in fact a planet.”

They're also reasonably sure, although not quite as certain, that the planet is made mostly of rock, just like the actual Earth. It wasn’t possible to conduct the definitive observations that would make this a slam-dunk—that is, measuring how much the planet's gravity makes the star wobble back and forth with each full orbit. If the astronomers could do that, they'd know the planet's mass, not just its size. Dividing mass by size would have given them Kepler 186f's density, and thus its composition.

At nearly 500 light-years away, however, Kepler 186f is too distant for that sort of measurement. Still, the best available planet-formation models suggest that the new world is too small to be made of anything but rock. The discovery last fall of Kepler 78b, a somewhat bigger planet that is close enough for the wobble test and is definitively rocky, lends credence to the idea that 186f is too.

Still, there's one thing about the new planet that's decidedly non-Earthlike: it orbits an M-dwarf, a dim, reddish star with only about half the mass of the Sun. As recently as a decade ago, few astronomers would have considered such a star a good place to look for life-friendly planets. One reason is that M-dwarfs tend to have lots of violent flares and magnetic storms that spew charged particles out into space. And because these small stars put out less energy than the Sun, their habitable zones are much closer in, exposing planets to a more severe bath of radiation (Kepler 186f, for example, has a "year" that lasts just 130 days, putting it closer to its star than Venus is to our Sun).

Those closer orbits can also place M-dwarf planets at risk of becoming tidally locked to their stars, just as the Moon is to Earth. That means they'll always show one face to the star; the bright side can therefore be far warmer than the dark side, which could create violent weather that would make life hard to sustain.

But planet hunters have been rethinking all of these factors, and new theoretical studies suggest they might not necessarily deal-breakers. And in this case, they may not even apply: the star that is home to Kepler 186f is relatively massive and bright for an M-dwarf, putting a habitable-zone planet far enough away to be outside the danger zone. Plus, says Quintana, the star has relatively little flare activity. The true measure of Earthiness, of course, would be if Kepler 186f has water on its surface, and more than that, if the water has helped give rise to life. But there’s no way of knowing that from the current observations.

The good news is that there are ridiculous numbers of M-dwarfs in the Milky Way—far more than there are Sun-like stars. There are so many, in fact, that a study concluded last year that if only six percent of them had an Earthlike planet, and if they were spread evenly through the galaxy, that would put the nearest one a mere 13 light-years away. "Astronomically speaking," said the study's lead author Courtney Dressing, of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, at the time that study came out, "this is like a stroll across the park."

The even better news is that a newly approved mission called the Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite, scheduled for a 2017 launch, could find such nearby planets in droves—and the James Webb Space Telescope, which could go up as early as 2018, could follow up by probing their atmospheres, looking for the chemical byproducts of living organisms.

Kepler scientists, meanwhile, are still looking for a more elusive quarry: a true Mirror Earth, the size and composition of our own planet, orbiting in the habitable zone of a Sun-like star. "Kepler 186f," says Quintana, "is more of an Earth cousin than an Earth twin." While scientists can theorize all day about whether life might be possible in the reddish light of an M-dwarf, they know for certain it's possible on a world like Earth bathed by yellow-white light. "We're still working hard to find one," Quintana says. And the fact that Kepler died nearly a year ago isn't slowing them down even a little bit.

This is the Weird Thing Women Are Doing to Their Eyebrows

Posted: 17 Apr 2014 10:58 AM PDT

We’re officially obsessed with hair. But instead of talking about ways of getting rid of hair—don’t pretend you didn’t read about society reaching “Peak Beard or debate the politics of the full-bush Brazilian—we’ve started to talk about adding follicles to our faces.Women are now paying for eyebrow transplants to refresh foreheads that previously resembled plucked chickens, in the hopes of channelling their inner Brooke Shields and sporting bigger, fuller brows. And they don’t trust an eyebrow pencil to do the trick.

Harper’s Bazaar spoke to Dr. Robert Dorin, a NYC Hair Restoration Specialist (because yes, this is 2014 and that is a real thing), about the “technically-demanding procedure.” While Dorin says he has been performing the procedure for 12 years, he’s noticed an uptick in demand recently. He says the permanent procedure, which is meant to jumpstart growth and can take up to 10-12 months for a full renewal, is often requested by women who have over-groomed, along with a number of other reasons.

The rise of the full brow, which has been dubbed the “Power Brow” by news outlets like the Daily Mail and the Telegraph, is no shock. In fact, let’s just call it the Cara Delevingne effect. The British model of the moment is everywhere, alongside fellow bushy-browed beauties like Lily Collins and Kate Upton. Even Michelle Obama was spotted with fuller follicles earlier this year. Miley Cyrus and Lady Gaga may have gone full bleach recently, but both pop stars often pose with dark brows in contrast to their platinum locks. In 2012, Dr. Jeffrey Epstein told the New York Post that women are paying up to $8,000 for “the Megan,” an eyebrow style inspired by starlet Megan Fox, so it’s fair to say that this trend has been on the make for quite awhile.

Every few years, the fashion and beauty industries announce an eyebrow revolution after several years of overplucking. Just think of the 1990s, which were full of sex symbols like Gwen Stefani and Pamela Anderson, who tweezed their brows into oblivion. So it’s plausible to think that in a year or two, we’ll be back to Drew Barrymore levels. Either way, we’ll be talking about it. Because if eyes are the windows to our souls, eyebrows are the very important curtains.

Indonesia Tries to Save the Orangutan

Posted: 17 Apr 2014 10:51 AM PDT

This orangutan was rescued near the Langkat district on April 15 with air gun metal pellets in his body, the victim of a worsening poaching crisis in a country where primate habitats are shrinking due to the land being converted to palm oil plantations.

Indonesia’s ministry of forestry personnel and the Orangutan Information Center have rescued and cared for hundreds of critically-endangered orangutans from palm oil plantations, poachers and pet owners. Over 200 have been reintroduced into the wild.

Top Diplomats Agree on Path Out of Ukraine Crisis

Posted: 17 Apr 2014 10:22 AM PDT

Top diplomats meeting in Geneva, Switzerland Thursday agreed on a joint roadmap to ease tensions in eastern Ukraine.

Representatives from the U.S., the European Union, Ukraine and Russia agreed after seven hours of discussion to establish a national dialogue regarding Ukraine, while also calling for illegal militant groups to be disarmed and for all parties to refrain from intimidation or violence, the AP reports. The deal will include amnesty for pro-Russian protesters except those found guilty of capital crimes.

“Our most urgent task is to de-escalate the tension in Ukraine,” U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said in a press conference following the meeting. “The parties agreed that all sides must refrain from violence.”

The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, which counts Russia as one of its members, will help monitor compliance with the deal.

The arrangement could ease a global political showdown over Ukraine that has pitted Russia against the U.S. and the EU which escalated last month after Russia annexed the southern region of Crimea. It also may put on hold additional planned U.S. economic sanctions targeting Russia, though Secretary of State John Kerry said Thursday the U.S. will have “no choice” but to impose the sanctions if the deal falls through.

Tensions have spiked recently amid clashes in eastern Ukraine between pro-Russian protesters and the new pro-Western government. Russia has amassed troops along the border with Ukraine and pledged to protect the large Russian minority in the region from the new pro-Western government despite threats from the U.S. and the EU.

U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said earlier Thursday the U.S. would provide more nonlethal military aid to Ukraine amid concerns of a Russian incursion, though the White House has not offered lethal military aid to the country.

[Associated Press]

Report Slams Government’s Cybersecurity Fix

Posted: 17 Apr 2014 10:14 AM PDT

A new study calls the threat of catastrophic cyber-security failures overblown and says the government’s plan for fixes will ultimately make the Internet less secure.

"This is a really complex and dynamic system," said the study's lead author Eli Dourado, a tech policy research fellow at George Mason University's Mercatus Center, a libertarian-leaning think tank. "What they're trying to do is just beyond the capacity of humans to plan and control."

The study lambasts the Commerce Department's "Cybersecurity Framework," which was released in February and recommends a series of voluntary measures to help "operators of critical infrastructure"—like power plants, phone networks, financial services—develop better defenses against cyber-attacks. The framework, implemented by President Barack Obama through an executive order, seeks to impose a bit of order on the historically anarchic and ad hoc processes by which the Internet has been secured in the decades since it came into being.

"The framework would replace this creative process with one rigid incentive toward compliance with recommended federal standards," the study says. In short, the authors argue it would shift the emphasis to complying with a federal standard rather than "the spontaneous, creative sources of experimentation and feedback that drive Internet innovation."

The plan for a federally sponsored, public-private partnership to establish a national cyber-security protocol grew out of the fear that human society, ever more digitized and interconnected, sits tenuously on the precipice of disaster should the machines ever stop working. The fear of collapse has been stoked by the likes of former Defense Secretary Leon Panetta—who has warned of a possible "cyber-Pearl Harbor"—and intelligence chief James Clapper, who asserted that cyber-threats "cannot be overstated."

"There's not really any good evidence for cyber doom scenarios, the digital pearl harbor that everyone talks about," Dourado said. "There's people who benefit, of course, from the perception that there could be cyber doom scenarios, such as government contractors and people who have hitched their wagons to this idea that we need huge programs in order to stop these things from happening."

Dourado concedes there may be evidence to support "cyber doom" alarmism that is classified. "If it exists it should be declassified," he said. "This isn't the cold war. We can have an open conversation about this."

Among the authors' recommendations for improving web security in lieu of the Cybersecurity Framework—which they believe, not without reason, may someday become compulsory—is addressing this issue of over-classification.

MORE: Should President Obama be on the 2014 Time 100? Vote now.

The study notes that, according to one research group, 2013 was the worst year ever for data breaches, but not of the sort that might send a wall of water crashing through an incapacitated Hoover Dam. Rather, the U.S. has seen more of the smaller scale security failures like customer credit card data being stolen or the IRS losing track of employee records. The study recommends jump-starting the development of a market for cyber-threat insurance to mitigate the damage from those incidents in addition to more narrowly defining what constitutes "critical infrastructure"

"We're not saying 'Stop securing our resources,'" Dourado said. "We're just saying we need to think about this as a system that can't be controlled or planned by the government."

3 Little Words That Will Completely Kill Your Productivity

Posted: 17 Apr 2014 10:09 AM PDT

This post is in partnership with Fortune, which offers the latest business and finance news. Read the article below originally published at

Dear Annie: I work in an office that used to be a “cube farm,” which was noisy and distracting enough, but now we’ve gone to an “open plan” layout where there are no walls at all between workstations. This is supposed to make collaboration and teamwork easier, but some people seem to think it means they can bother coworkers at any time with any dumb little question or the latest tidbit of office gossip or whatever.

The problem is, with the constant flood of emails, texts, phone messages, and now in-person interruptions, it’s almost impossible to concentrate for more than a minute or two. I like my boss, but he’s the biggest distraction, dropping by my desk five or six times a day to, as he says, “check in.” Can you suggest any way to tell people (especially the boss) to buzz off, without being rude about it? — At Wit’s End

Dear A.W.E.: You’re not the only one struggling with this. Consider: Almost 70% of senior managers say “the overwhelmed employee” — bombarded with information and interruptions all day long — is an “urgent” or “very important” drag on productivity, according to the 2014 Human Capital Trends Study from Deloitte Consulting. Drawing on a poll of about 2,500 managers in 90 countries, the report says that only about 4% of companies have so far come up with any kind of policy or program to address this.

MORE: The real economy is now doing better than the money economy

Since your employer doesn’t seem to be one of those few, it’s up to you. “When someone calls or drops by and says, ‘Got a minute?’ it seems so reasonable,” notes Ed Brown, author of a forthcoming book, The Time Bandit Solution: Recovering Stolen Time You Never Knew You Had.“But once your train of thought has been disrupted, it’s very hard to get that momentum back. Often, you have to start a task over from the beginning, which is a big waste of time and causes even more stress.”

Brown is co-founder of Cohen Brown Management Group, which has done time-management consulting for financial services industry clients like Merrill Lynch, Citibank (C), and Prudential. He says that at many big companies between 40% and 60% of people’s time gets frittered away on distractions, especially from colleagues he calls time bandits. “Bosses are often the worst offenders,” Brown observes, “because you feel you can’t say no.”

Or can you? Since it’s a safe bet that most, if not all, of your coworkers would also like to cut down on distractions, Brown suggests you all get together and agree on a system of what he calls Time Locks — blocks of time at specific hours during the day (say, 2 p.m. to 4 p.m.) when you can focus on the work you’re supposed to be doing.

Getting everyone to agree to this takes some negotiation, Brown acknowledges. But convincing your office mates to make up a schedule with blocks of interruption-free time is often “a simple matter of going over the benefits to each of you,” he says. Brown has seen teams and departments try it for a week or two and get so much more productive, and less stressed-out, that they’ve made Time Locks a permanent fixture.

Moreover, Brown says, getting your boss on board and persuading him to limit his “check ins,” as you say, “is not as risky as people think it’s going to be. The key is to emphasize that, if you can focus exclusively on your work during certain hours of the day, you’ll be more productive, and it will help him meet his own deadlines. Time Locks are really to the benefit of managers, because bosses pay for the interruptions they cause, whether they realize it or not.”

What if he keeps “checking in” anyway? Then it’s time for Plan B, described in detail (with a script, no less) in The Time Bandit Solution. Suggest a time to get together and talk after you’ve finished what you’re working on. Brown’s own subordinates, all Time Lock devotees, usually make appointments to sit down with him, saying something like, “I’ll be working on the Ostrich project until 4 o’clock. Is it okay if I call you then?” As a manager, he says, “it would be foolish of me to interfere with their productivity.”

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Maybe so, but Brown acknowledges that he’s seen a few bosses who just can’t or won’t honor Time Locks. If yours is one of them, “unless you’re independently wealthy, simply drop what you’re doing and say, ‘How can I help?’”

One more thought: Taking back control of your time may mean changing some of your own habits. Deloitte’s research shows that the average attention span among businesspeople now is about seven minutes — in part because the average person checks his or her cell phone almost 150 times a day. If you decide to try Brown’s approach to banishing interruptions, you might want to turn off your phone during your Time Locks, too. It’s worth a try.


Asim Shaikh said...

I have been checking out a few of your stories and i can state pretty good stuff. I will definitely bookmark your blog
I have been checking out a few of your stories and i can state pretty good stuff. I will definitely bookmark your blog
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