Obama admits CIA ‘tortured some folks’ but stands by Brennan over spying

  • President says US crossed a line after 9/11 attacks
  • Obama supports CIA director under fire over Senate report
  • CIA admits spying on Senate staffers
  • Trevor Timm: Brennan lied, so fire him

President Barack Obama on Friday starkly criticised the CIAs past treatment of terror suspects, saying he could understand why the agency rushed to use controversial interrogation techniques in the aftermath of 9/11 but conceding: We tortured some folks.

In some of the most expansive and blunt remarks on the CIAs programme of rendition and detention he has made since coming to office, Obama said the country crossed a line as it struggled to react to the threat of further attacks by al-Qaida. However, he also said it was important not to feel too sanctimonious, adding that he believed intelligence officials responsible for torturing detainees were working during a period of extraordinary stress and fear.

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This cool device lets you order a Domino’s pizza with just the push of a button

If the inconvenience of ordering a pizza is getting on your nerves, check out this cool device – it lets you order a Domino’s pizza with just the push of a button. It’s seriously fuss-free: all you have to do is turn the dial to the number of pizzas you want, push the button, and a pizza delivery man miraculously appears in due time.

Called PiePal, the device was created by iStrategyLabs using SketchUp and printed out on a 3D printer Makerbot Replicator 2. It uses the Domino’s API and is powered by a combination of Raspberry Pi & Arduino.

Head on to the PiePal site if you want to be a beta-taster (presumably only available in the US though).

Whoa! Piepal Lets You Order Pizza with the Push of a Button [iStrategyLabs]

Headline image via Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Ukraine forces launch counter-attack to end occupation in eastern city

Residents in Slaviansk told to stay indoors and keep away from windows as government announces ‘anti-terrorist’ operation

Ukrainian security forces have launched an “anti-terrorist” operation to end the grip of separatists on an eastern town, the country’s interior minister said on Sunday.

As the White House said that vice-president Joe Biden would travel to Kiev on April 22 to show support for the Ukrainian government, residents in the eastern city of Slaviansk have been told to stay indoors in anticipation of clashes between pro-Russian militants who have seized official buildings and Ukrainian security forces.

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US imposes visa restrictions on Russian officials as Obama signs sanctions order

Obama orders restrictions on top Russian officials as Crimean parliament announces referendum to join Russia

Paul LewisDan RobertsIan TraynorShaun Walker

Channel 4 to broadcast footage of 9/11 New York attacks filmed from space

Video, filmed by an astronaut from the International Space Station, shows huge plume of smoke from World Trade Centre

Video footage of the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks on New York filmed from space is to be broadcast in full on British TV for the first time by Channel 4 later this month.

The footage, in which a huge plume of smoke is seen stretching from the site of the devastated World Trade Centre towers, was captured from the International Space Station by astronaut Frank Culbertson.

Hours after the attack Culbertson went on to discover his friend Chic Burlingame was one of the pilots killed during the 2001 attacks when his airliner was hijacked by terrorists.

In the Channel 4 film, part of a season of programmes about space which detail the realities of astronauts’ lives, he is shown playing the Taps bugle call – which signals the end of the day for US military personnel – on a trumpet in tribute to his friend later that day.

The channel’s Live From Space season next week will feature documentaries about astronauts, building up to a two-and-a-half-hour live broadcast from the ISS and Mission Control in Houston, Texas, which will feature a full 90-minute orbit of earth.

The live programme, Live From Space: Lap Of the Planet, will be screened on Sunday 16 March, presented by Dermot O’Leary and veteran astronaut Mike Massimino, whose achievements have included fixing the Hubble telescope.

Short clips from the film of the attacks on New York were released by Nasa to mark the tenth anniversary in 2011, but the film has not been seen in full with Culbertson’s commentary and his bugle call.

The creative director of the Channel 4 project, Tom Brisley, said: “Not every frame has been seen before, so every frame that was shot on that day is in the show.”

Executive producer Sally Dixon said: “It’s the first time we have had it in that form with Frank talking us through it. If that had been in a movie you’d have gone, ‘oh come on, that guy’s got a trumpet?’. But reality is stranger than fiction sometimes.”

It will feature in the documentary Astronauts: Houston We Have A Problem for which programme-makers have been given access to Nasa footage of some of the difficulties in space over the years.

They include film of Italian astronaut Luca Parmitano, who was close to drowning when his helmet filled with water during a space walk and he had to feel his way back to the airlock to decompress before he was able to remove the helmet, causing colleagues to fear for his life.

During other filming for the documentary – to be screened on Thursday 13 March – there was an emergency on the station when a cooling system failed, forcing the crew to make two space walks to fix it.

Dixon said: “Suddenly a valve went on a coolant pump outside and they had to shut down power to half the station to power down a lot of equipment, so we were there filming our general stuff and they let us in on meetings of all these various teams.

“They work out how will they do the space walk, people are practising in the big pool with a model of the space station underwater because it’s very like microgravity.

“It was just an amazing coincidence that we happened to be filming – no space walks were filmed for Rick (Mastracchio), Koichi (Wakata) and Mike’s (Hopkins) mission. It was incredible to see the teamwork that went on to work out what needed to be done and how they would do it.

Another film, Living In Space, to be shown on Wednesday, looks at the impact on the astronauts and their families and how they cope.

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BillGuard launches for iPhone to combat the ‘$14bn’ lost by credit card users to hidden-fees and errors

CreditCards 520x245 BillGuard launches for iPhone to combat the $14bn lost by credit card users to hidden fees and errors

Launched in the US back in April 2010, BillGuard sells itself as the world’s first ‘people-powered antivirus system for bills’.

In a nutshell, BillGuard’s predictive algorithms alert users of unexpected charges such as hidden fees, billing errors, scams and fraud on credit card bills. It also issues alerts when a similar dubious charge has been flagged by other users, or receives a complaint elsewhere on the Web. As such, the ‘BillGuard brain’ becomes more accurate over time.

However, BillGuard has thus far been a Web-based entity – until today, that is.

The iPhone app was actually soft-launched back in March as a beta test to garner feedback, but was subsequently pulled from the App Store a few weeks ago when the beta-phase came to a close. From today though, the BillGuard app is live for anyone in the US.

How it works

When you first launch the app you’ll be prompted to log-in, or set up an account if you don’t already have one. You’ll also need to include a 4-digit passcode.

a14 220x330 BillGuard launches for iPhone to combat the $14bn lost by credit card users to hidden fees and errors

b12 220x330 BillGuard launches for iPhone to combat the $14bn lost by credit card users to hidden fees and errors

Next, you’ll need to choose which cards and accounts you want to integrate if you’re setting things up for the first time.

Bear in mind this is a US-only service, and works with the likes of Chase, Bank of America, Wells Fargo and so on. Though you can also add your American Express, PayPal and Amazon cards too. It supports 5,000 different accounts in total.

c13 220x330 BillGuard launches for iPhone to combat the $14bn lost by credit card users to hidden fees and errors

d11 220x330 BillGuard launches for iPhone to combat the $14bn lost by credit card users to hidden fees and errors

You can see a basic at-a-glance overview of all your connected cards, including balances and total amount spent.

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f3 Sidebar With Multiple Cards 220x390 BillGuard launches for iPhone to combat the $14bn lost by credit card users to hidden fees and errors

Push notifications tell you whenever a transaction is made on one of your accounts, and you can dig deeper to see exactly what it was and, indeed, whether it’s kosher.

The ‘smart inbox’ lets you swipe through charges in an email-style interface, while you can also contact merchants directly through the app to resolve disputes.

g1 App Notification 220x390 BillGuard launches for iPhone to combat the $14bn lost by credit card users to hidden fees and errors

h7 SmartSwipe Feature 220x390 BillGuard launches for iPhone to combat the $14bn lost by credit card users to hidden fees and errors

BillGuard says it’s looking to combat the billions of dollars lost by American cardholders each year to so-called grey charges – basically deceptive or otherwise unexpected charges.

Indeed, to coincide with today’s launch, BillGuard is also releasing an industry report on grey charges, claiming that American cardholders were hit with $14.3 billion in deceptive or unexpected charges in 2012. The most prominent type of grey charge is “free-to-paid”, for example when a consumer takes receipt of goods for a free trial period, but then is automatically charged a fee if they don’t return it within a specified timeframe.

BillGuard is a pretty ingenious idea for sure, insofar as users essentially help each other by flagging rogue charges, which help others recognize anything awry with their own accounts. When a charge is repeatedly disputed across the board, it is prioritized for all cardholders who can review it themselves.

“We have built the largest crowdsourced transaction monitoring community in the world,” says BillGuard co-founder and CTO Raphael Ouzan.

“As consumers ourselves, we realized early on that bill checking for most people is a long arduous task that most would prefer to avoid,” he continues. “So we set out to develop a tool that would make bill checking fast, fun and exceptionally effective, with a little help from some very sophisticated algorithms and millions of fellow cardholders.”

We’re told that BillGuard has eked out more than $50m in grey charges so far and, as you’d expect, they’re keen to get everyone on board. “Our data shows that if every American cardholder used the BillGuard iPhone app, the total annual savings in grey charges could top $7 billion,” adds Ouzan.

BillGuard actually added support for Apple’s Passbook application last year, before it even had an iOS app. So this has been a long-time coming.

Pricing

While BillGuard does have a free tier, the premium price for the full service costs $45/year, or $4.99/month, which gives access to more than two cards. Though, as part of the launch campaign, they’re offering premium access for a one-time fee of $9.99 until the end of August.

BillGuard for iOS is available to download now. And we’re told an Android version is currently in the works, with an expected launch some time in Q4.

BillGuard | App Store

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Feature Image Credit – Thinkstock

Entrepreneurs gather in Eden for the first Summit Outside

6 480x245 Entrepreneurs gather in Eden for the first Summit Outside

Last Friday, my friend Shak pathed, “Productivity at tech companies must be low today. Half the folks are headed to Utah while the other half are looking for an ice cream truck.”

Told to pack for a camping trip but not much else, 850 like-minded individuals showed up in Eden, Utah last Friday for the first Summit Outside event, hosted by the Summit Series team famous for its weekend retreats like Basecamp and Summit-at-Sea. For Outside, attendees were encouraged to disconnect, with the promise of “finding a better connection.”

Without WiFi or outlets, a group of the world’s most Internet-addicted human beings found immense freedom letting go of the digital world and reconnecting with nature.

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It was the first major event held in Eden, Utah since the 45-person team purchased Powder Mountain for $40 million earlier this year. Weekend tickets started at $2,000 and went up to $12,000 depending on housing options like a 10-person dome, quad tent or air-conditioned RV.

Summit donated a portion of ticket sales to local nonprofits and attendees made optional donations at registration. In total, Summit Outside raised nearly $100,000 for Ogden Valley and Weber County nonprofits, including the Weber School Foundation, Ogden Valley Land Trust, Weber Pathways, Weber County Fire Officers Association and The Nature Conservancy.

When the mountain purchase was announced, there were several complaints from local townspeople who were dubious of the team’s ability to preserve the mountain’s old-fashioned charm. Change is still a thing you should believe in, as the event drove more than $2 million dollars into the local economy and resulted in over 300 local jobs.

nest by hannes wingate 520x346 Entrepreneurs gather in Eden for the first Summit Outside

Upon arrival, attendees geared up for the weekend with free Nike Fuelbands, headlights, tin cups and camouflage backpacks for carrying around their new Tom’s sunglasses. After chucking bags into tents and strapping on hiking boots, attendees were delighted by surprises at every turn like a sonic meditation deck, a late-night noodle truck, a flash sale of coconuts and LeWeb founder Loic LeMeur giving office hours in the middle of a forest.

office hours w loic le meur 520x346 Entrepreneurs gather in Eden for the first Summit Outside

Attendees stopped by the activity tent to sign up for paint ball, hiking, horse-back riding and mountain bike riding – or a knot tying workshop with Philippe Petit, the man featured tightrope-walking between the World Trade Center towers in the documentary Man on Wire.

Somewhat retired, Petit decided to climb the stage at the event’s closing plenary instead.

philip petit gives speech from an unexpected place 520x346 Entrepreneurs gather in Eden for the first Summit Outside

Each morning on Powder Mountain, we practiced yoga on The Lotus Deck, overlooking Ogden valley. Teachers included Sasha Bahador, Founder of ShaktiLife and Kenneth Von Roenn III, Creator of Skanda Yoga.

DSC 0030 520x346 Entrepreneurs gather in Eden for the first Summit Outside

Just a 5-minute walk down the hill, Taylor Kuffner’s robotic orchestra, known as “The Gamelatron” was tied to trees in a forest of hammocks, providing an oasis of relaxation for weary Summiteers.

DSC 0089 520x346 Entrepreneurs gather in Eden for the first Summit Outside

One of the more popular surprises was the Duck Pond, a hedonistic escape from the killer content and outdoor adventure experiences. Aerated and perfectly clean for swimming in, the Duck Pond served as an ideal cool down during the 90 degree days. Summit’s Chief Reconnaissance Officer Thayer Walker says the Duck Pond will be a permanent structure for the years to come.

DSC 0052 520x346 Entrepreneurs gather in Eden for the first Summit Outside

As entrepreneurs do, the Summit team members are building a permanent community that didn’t exist before, a home they’re proud to live in, and one they can call their own. “Our goal is to create a center of gravity for the innovators, entrepreneurs, and thought-leaders of the world,” says Summit co-founder Jeremy Schwartz, pictured below with fellow co-founder Brett Leve. “We hope Summit Eden will become a community built around a shared ethos that emphasizes collaboration as tool to drive positive, multidisciplinary output.”

 Entrepreneurs gather in Eden for the first Summit Outside

Many will compare Summit Series to TED, Davos or even Burning Man, but lining up such energetic entities side-by-side is boring. While there were quite a few speakers at Summit Outside who have also spoken in Long Beach, and people important enough to fly to Switzerland each year, and a lot of dust and dancing in The Electric Forest, what’s more interesting is why events like this exist, and how The Summit Series team has brought such magical experiences to life that are shaping a generation of change-makers.

Content

The Summit Team offered content and activities ranging from a 3-hour mountain biking tour to a discussion of the female hormonal system to an hour-long talk about the recent Trayvon Martin trial. When asked to reflect on a high point from the weekend, Shervin Pishevar, Co-founder and Managing Partner of Sherpa Ventures, answered:

“The Trayvon talk. Cheeraz [Gorman]’s tears opened a flood gate of love and truth. It changed hearts and minds and planted the seeds of a new social justice movement. Our nation still needs a process of reconciliation. There’s too much locked within our hearts. We need to get in that circle we formed in the forest and widen to all so we can all feel what we did that day.”

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Humans weren’t the only ones leaving Powder Mountain with new flight patterns. Summit partnered with Earthwings, a raptor nonprofit, to release two rehabilitated birds of prey into the wild at the event.

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Summit also partnered with Pack and Pounce, a local animal shelter to create a puppy pen where attendees could adopt puppies destined to be put down. 9 puppies were adopted and saved.

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The event could’ve been called the “Summit of Love” – not because of the plethora of mountain-top sessions – but because love was on everyone’s lips, particularly speaker and therapist Esther Perel, who wins the award for giving the most talks in a 48-hour period.

As entrepreneurs, we are used to giving all of ourselves to our companies and careers, then we come home at night with just leftover scraps of our energies for our loved ones. How will we ever have as successful relationships as we do careers if we keep carrying on like this? Esther didn’t have all of the answers, but she made us realize that if its a fulfilling love life we want, we need to explore the possibilities of adjusting our current priorities.

esther perel 520x346 Entrepreneurs gather in Eden for the first Summit Outside

Production

The Summit team’s production talents are extraordinary. On Saturday night, attendees were invited to have dinner around a quarter-mile long picnic table in a field. The walk to dinner was led by jazz musician Jonathan Batiste.

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For many photo-takers, this visual feat and delightful feast was a highlight of the weekend.

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The Summit team knows how to throw a party too. After dinner, the electronica ensemble Thievery Corporation played a 2-hour set before 50 fans jumped on stage for a late-night dance party. There were all dozens of artists and DJs, like Big Boi, RAC, Sean Glass and DJ Equal, who played until the wee hours of the morning for sparkly-pantsed dancers. To listen to all of the artists who performed this weekend, SoundCloud’s David Noel made a playlist for you.

Curation

While Summit is often knocked for being exclusive, its curated community creates an environment for some of the world’s most ambitious people to open up professionally, emotionally and physically. “It’s going to be a place on Earth that becomes a sacred space for growth and development,” says Nicole Patrice De Member, the Founder of Toi and the woman responsible for introducing Summit to Greg Mauro, the entrepreneur and Eden, UT resident who brought the Powder Mountain opportunity to the team. “The people who need love will end up here. We want the world to be a part of this. It’s not a secret journey, but you still have to go on that journey to get here.”

Summit designed the event with serendipity built-in so that porch-front dinner conversations, afternoon walks down dusty Main Street, or late night discussions in the tea hut became places where we shared journeys of success, failure and personal hardship. “No matter where I went or what I did, I stumbled upon some of the most amazing, interesting people I’ve ever met. It’s a magical experience unlike any other,” says Summit first-timer Ryan Matzner, Fueled’s Director of Strategy.

The first night of Summit Outside I stood next to a stranger as we waited for our camp mates. I said “Hi” and gave him a warm hug the way you might a friend. He said, “Thank you, I really needed that.” He then told me his father had just passed away that morning. And instead of canceling plans to be with his immediate family, he decided that his first step towards healing was to be with his Summit family. In a place so loving, empowering and supportive, I understood.

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Summit Outside was the team’s first big event on Powder Mountain – and for most in attendance, those 72-hours were a transformational experience. The Summit Team’s passion shines through everything it touches, and they’ve fortunately chosen to build their home in one of the most beautiful settings on Earth. In Eden, once again, we feel like we’re just at the beginning of it all…