The Sydney monorail will be shut down Sun 30 June 2013 and will be demolished next year.

End of the circle as last ride nears for monorail

Twenty-five years ago, Michael Sweeney was glad to nab a seat on Sydney’s monorail in its first week of operations.

About 9.30pm on Sunday, the emotions will be mixed as Mr Sweeney again hops on board the monorail, having won a ballot for one of 25 sets of tickets to be on its last circle of Ultimo, Darling Harbour, the CBD and back again.

Mr Sweeney has never been a train-spotter, but he has been an enthusiast for the monorail, something he has ”just always liked”.

Michael Sweeney, from mount Wilson who will be going on the last monorail ride this Sunday being chosen from an online ballot.Big fan: Michael Sweeney, one of the first to get on the monorail, will also hop on its last ride. Photo: Ben Rushton

”I was one of the first people to get on it – not the first – but one of the first,” Mr Sweeney said.


”And whenever I come back to Sydney, I still get on it.”

A self-funded retiree from the jewellery trade, Mr Sweeney, 52, now lives in Mount Wilson in the Blue Mountains. But he has lived in Ultimo and worked in the city, and estimates he would have been on the monorail on hundreds of occasions over the years.

”It was sort of something, and I’ve always enjoyed it, taking my nephews and nieces on it,” he said. ”The kids absolutely love it. They really did love it.”

In the past few weeks, as Sunday’s closure of the monorail has edged closer, many others across the city have replicated Mr Sweeney’s sense of nostalgia.

The state government, which bought the monorail last year to close it, said there had been a 15 per cent increase in patronage in the past three weeks against the same period last year.

The government is encouraging residents to grab a last ride. All revenue raised this weekend will go to charity.

The monorail will be demolished next year, and its 1500 tonnes of steel and 400 cubic metres of concrete will be used as scrap and for recycling.

Use a USB Flash Drive to create Windows Password Reset Disk in Windows 7

How to create and use a Password Reset Disk in Windows 7 using a USB Flash Drive rather than a CD or floppy disk.

Do you have an old 128MB or 256MB USB Flash Drive in the back of your desk drawer gathering dust? If so, you can put that dusty old drive to use again as a Password Reset Disk for Microsoft Windows 7.

In this edition of the Windows Desktop Report, I’ll show you how to create and use a Password Reset Disk in Windows 7. As I do, I’ll show you how to use a USB Flash Drive rather than a CD or floppy disk.

(Keep in mind that the same procedure can be used in Windows Vista.)

This blog post is also available in PDF format in a TechRepublic download.

The USB Flash Disk

Before I show you how to create a Password Reset Disk, let’s take a moment to talk about the USB Flash Drive. Now the reason that I’m spotlighting your old, small-capacity USB Flash Drive is that it is really too small to be of much use in today’s world due to that fact that portable storage needs are now in the GB range. However, since the Password Reset file weighs in at only 2KB, it is the perfect use for an old USB Flash Drive.

To get started, insert your USB Flash Drive and wait for it to be initialized and assigned a drive letter. If there is any data on it, you may want to remove it. Now to make sure that the disk is in the best shape that it can be, you should format it. Right-click on the drive letter in Computer and select the Format command. When you see the Format dialog box, as shown in Figure A, just click the Start button.

Figure A

You should format the USB Flash Drive before you use it as a Password Reset Disk.

Creating a Password Reset Disk

Creating a Password Reset Disk is a pretty straightforward procedure. Once the drive is ready to use, click the Start button and type User Accounts in the Start Search box. Then, press [Enter] or click User Accounts in the results panel. Either way, you’ll see the User Accounts window and will need to locate and click Create a Password Reset Disk in the Tasks panel, as shown in Figure B.

Figure B

When the User Accounts window appears, click Create a Password Reset Disk in the Tasks panel.

When you see the Forgotten Password Wizard’s Welcome screen, take a look at the information and click Next. When you see the next screen, you’ll be prompted to choose your USB Flash Drive’s drive letter, as shown in Figure C. To continue, just click Next.

Figure C

Choose the drive letter assigned to your USB Flash Drive.

On the next screen, you’ll be prompted to type your password, as shown in Figure D. Then, click Next.

Figure D

When prompted, you’ll type in your password.

As soon as you do, you’ll see a progress bar that will move rapidly along to 100 percent. You’ll then click Next and will see the last screen in the Forgotten Password Wizard. To complete the operation, click Finish.

You should then click the Safely Remove Hardware and Eject Media icon, choose your USB Flash Drive’s drive letter, and then, when prompted to do so, remove the drive. You should label the drive and put it away in a safe place.

Now, you may be tempted to label the drive “Password Reset.” However, since anyone who happens upon this drive can use it to bypass your password and break in to your computer, I suggest a more subtle label — something that will help you recognize the drive but that isn’t so obvious.

Stay on top of the latest Microsoft Windows tips and tricks with TechRepublic’s Windows Desktop newsletter, delivered every Monday and Thursday.

Using a Password Reset Disk

If you ever forget and type in an incorrect password, the login screen will change and an error message will appear like the one shown in Figure E. To continue, you will have to click OK.

Figure E

At this point, the only thing you can do is click OK.

You’ll then return to the login screen and will see a message appear below the Password box, as shown in Figure F. At this point, you’ll insert your USB Flash Drive and wait for it to be initialized and assigned a drive letter. Then, to launch the Password Reset Wizard, you’ll click the Reset Password message.

Figure F

To launch the Password Reset Wizard, you’ll click the Reset Password message.

When you see the Password Reset Wizard’s Welcome screen, take a look at the information and click Next. In the next screen, you’ll be prompted to choose your USB Flash Drive’s drive letter, as shown in Figure G. To continue, just click Next.

Figure G

Choose the drive letter assigned to your USB Flash Drive.

Once you select the drive, the Password Reset Wizard will open the saved file, read your saved password, and perform a few operations in the background. The wizard will then prompt you to create a new password, confirm it, as well as create a new hint, as shown in Figure H.

Figure H

You’ll need to create a new password, confirm it, and create a new hint.

Once you’ve filled in the text boxes, click Next. You’ll then see the success screen and will need to click Finish to complete the operation. You can now use the new password to log on to your Windows 7 system.


As soon as you use the Password Reset Wizard to change your password, the information in the password reset file on the USB Flash Drive will be outdated. Therefore, as soon as you log back in to Windows, you should run the Forgotten Password Wizard again and create a new password reset file.


a social welfare organisation, conducted the study to gauge the demographic of kiln labourers and the brick kiln industry in the region.

SAHIWAL: Around 31,000 children between the ages of 5 and 14 work at 730 brick kiln industries as child labourers in Sahiwal Division alone, according to the Insan Dost Association (IDA) in a recently study conducted in three districts – Pakpattan, Sahiwal and Okara (the three districts make up Sahiwal Division).

The IDA, a social welfare organisation, conducted the study to gauge the demographic of kiln labourers and the brick kiln industry in the region.

Significantly, hardly any brick kiln industry is registered with either the local labour or social security department. IDA Exective Director Anjum Matu told that around 11,000 children are working in Sahiwal district, 13,000 in Okara district and 7,000 in Pakpattan district. The survey also revealed that most of these children are working at kilns along with their families.

Essentially, these families are bonded labourers. Matu explained that poverty forces kiln labourers’ parents to include their children in the work. He added that 30 per cent of our country’s total population lives below the poverty line with people depriving of basic necessities like clothing, shelter, food, education and medication. “It is the children of these people who are forced to become workers in order to survive,” he stressed.

The IDA executive director further said that an education system divided along class lines was another reason for the high levels of child labour in the region. Around 30 per cent of children were forced into labour in Southern Punjab, which is the highest ratio of child workers in Pakistan.

One problem identified by the IDA in rectifying this state of affairs is the non-implementation of laws meant to root out child labour in Pakistan.

Matu emphasised that it was a high time to curb child labour as it was not only a constitutional obligation of the government but also an international commitment under various UN conventions. He added that although Pakistan passed the Bonded Labour Abolition act in 1993, it has still not been implemented at brick kiln industries.

An earlier version of this story stated that child labourers are working at 7,300 brick kiln industries in Sahiwal whereas the correct figure is 730. The error is regretted.

Ten percent of the world’s education deprived primary-aged children live in Pakistan.

Published 2013-06-11 18:44:07

Ten percent of the world’s education deprived primary-aged children live in Pakistan. This sad reality persists even after the amended constitution (Article 25A, 18th amendment) declared education free and compulsory for children between the ages of 5 and 16.

The first budget of the new government in Pakistan will be presented on June 12. Within a short span of a few weeks, the newly elected government has to shift gears from promising the world to the electorate to delivering on those promises. In a resource constrained economy where the tax revenue and exploitable natural resources are in short supply, the newly elected government of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has to invest strategically to get the highest rates of returns on public sector investments.

While many demands would compete for the government’s investments in the new budget, nothing, however, is more important than the need to invest in education. And whereas many would campaign for investments in higher education, the Sharif government should realise that investment in primary education has a higher social rate of return than the rest.*

It was only a few weeks ago when the Nawaz League promised the voters that if elected, they will increase the education budget from under 2 per cent of the GDP to 4 per cent by 2018. The Pakistan Peoples Party pledged even a higher share of 4.5 per cent of the GDP for education by 2018. Imran Khan’s party pledged to increase the education budget by five-fold. This is, however, not the first time that political parties campaigned to increase investment in education. The post-election reality of severely constrained tax revenue, huge obligatory payments for debt servicing and the armed forces, and the lack of commitment to education, often result in even lower investment in education than before.

Despite the promises for increased education spending in Pakistan, the abysmal state of literacy, let alone education, has persisted. Estimates suggest that no fewer than 7 million primary-aged children are out of school. The enrollment rates are lower for Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) than the other provinces. And even within KP, far fewer girls than boys are enrolled in schools. UNESCO reported that the net enrollment ratio for primary-age children was 72 per cent (2011) against the regional average of 89 per cent. The gross enrollment ratio for secondary education is 35 per cent (2011) against the regional average of 60 per cent. And finally the gross enrollment ratio for tertiary education is 8 per cent (2011) against 18 per cent in the region.

At the same time, UNESCO estimates some 50 million Pakistanis are illiterate. How is it possible that every incoming government promises more spending on education, and yet one finds millions of illiterate in Pakistan?

The federal government, after the 18th constitutional amendment, is responsible for tertiary or higher education. Provinces have been devolved the responsibility for education up to grade 12. Primary and secondary education in fact falls under the purview of district governments. This creates an interesting challenge in Pakistan where primary education has been devolved to local governments who are the most cash-strapped level of government, given their inability to generate buoyant sources of tax revenue.

Despite the fact that primary education receives the highest share of education spending in Pakistan (34 per cent of total education spending), the demand for primary education services far exceeds the supply. The result is obvious. Poor quality and an inadequate primary school system has failed to meet the demand for primary education, resulting in a large number of school-aged being not in school.

Given the poor quality of infrastructure and teaching in government-operated primary schools (read FAFEN’s report on the poor state of school infrastructure), middle- and upper-class households no longer send their children to government-run primary or secondary schools. A parallel universe of for-profit primary and secondary schools has emerged in Pakistan. These schools charge exorbitant tuition fees, which are often beyond the reach of middle-class households, let alone the lower middle-class and low-income households.

This has resulted in a multi-tier education landscape in Pakistan where the children of high-income earners are being educated at high-quality private schools, while lower middle-class children and others are condemned to government-run public schools. And the very poor in Pakistan are simply out of luck since their children are not in the school system.

UNESCO has documented the huge disparities in education attainment between the rich and the poor in Pakistan. For both rural and urban households, the number of years of schooling is much higher for the top earners in Pakistan, the bottom earners; females belonging to the lowest 20 per cent earners in rural households reported the least years of schooling.

The Social Rate of Return on Primary Education

A World Bank study from 1986 estimated that for developing countries, social rate of return to higher education, estimated as an increase in wages resulting from higher education, are lower by 13 per cent than those to lower levels of education. This suggests that the biggest bang for the buck is delivered by the investment in primary education rather than in higher education. The Sharif government, however, has the restricted mandate to invest in higher education alone.

This is not to suggest that there are no benefits of investing in higher education. In fact, a subsequent critique of the World Bank report appeared in 1996 in the journal Economics of Education Review in which the author argued that the measures of social rates of return ignore other unmeasured social benefits, which support investments in higher education.

There are, however, several other concerns about investing aggressively in higher education in Pakistan that merit some debate. Writing in the same space earlier, I had argued that the higher education spending on research has not served the immediate needs of the nation. Pakistan-based academics are busy researching problems that do not offer immediate reprieve to the masses. I wrote:

“The following graph is a pictorial representation of the subject areas used to categorise the 7,151 doctoral dissertations. The size of each subject area is in proportion to how frequently it appeared in the list thus revealing Chemistry and other basic sciences along with Islamic studies and Urdu being the most common research areas for doctoral dissertations in Pakistan. Education and agronomy are rare examples of frequent research topics that address immediate needs in Pakistan.

“When one thinks of the grave challenges Pakistan has faced in the past three decades, Chemistry, Zoology and Urdu literature do not come to mind. One sees poverty, income inequality, food security, water shortages, infrastructure deficits, illiteracy, violence, wars, religious fundamentalism and sectarianism as some of the challenges that threaten the survival of the society and the State.”

Investing in research in higher education makes sense if the academics align their research priorities with the needs of the nation. With over 800 million rupees allocated to research in 2010-11 budget alone, one wonders how much of the funds were spent on research in poverty alleviation, improving literacy, and improved access to water, sanitation, and affordable power.

The other big concern about investing in higher education is that the government subsidises all who attend institutes of higher learning by not charging as tuition fees the cost of operating universities. The subsidy is thus extended to both deserving and underserving students. Furthermore, a large number of those who pay a fraction of what it costs to train doctors and engineers leave Pakistan for opportunities abroad, thus depriving the nation of the opportunity to reap the benefits of investments in human capital.

Many will argue that investment in research and development is necessary for economic development of the nation. While this is true for advanced economies, the same does not necessarily apply to Pakistan. Consider that the advanced research in nuclear weapon program has produced hundreds, if not thousands, of highly trained physicists, yet it has no impact on the nation’s ability to overcome power and water shortages. In fact, Amatul R. Chaudhry and others in Pakistan Journal of Commerce and Social Sciences in 2009 observed that in the case of Pakistan “higher education does not cause economic growth.” Their empirical tests suggest that the unidirectional causality runs from economic growth to higher education.

The impact of higher education on economic growth perhaps is observable only in the long run. Saima Riasat and others writing in the journal Educational Research in December 2011 demonstrate the point that “education expenditures have a significant impact on long-run economic growth.” However, a review of studies exploring the relationship between education expenditure and economic growth in India failed to find a “robust relation between education expenditure and growth.” Sayatan Ghosh Daastidar and others at the University of Dundee in a discussion paper made the observation that “expenditure on education is a necessary, but not a sufficient condition for growth.” The impact depends more upon the labour market and economic conditions. They observed that it was only after India opened its economy to the world in 1991 that the effect of education expenditure was felt on growth.

The education budget for Pakistan

If the Sharif government is serious about using education as a vehicle to increase growth, it has to make smart investments in the education sector. Increased spending on education without due consideration may have adverse impacts. The financial planners toiling with the budget should consider the following.

  1. The Federal government cannot confine its role to higher education, thus leaving primary education to the cash-strapped local governments. The federal government has to pump significant funds into primary and secondary education, while the operation of schools can still be left to local governments. The federal government can establish a task force to monitor, benchmark, and document the efficacy of funds transferred to lower tiers of government to improve primary and secondary education.
  2. The higher education spending has to be primarily spent on research and development on problems that require solutions in the short-term. A solution for power shortages, water scarcity, stagnant crop yields, preventing against the devastating impact of natural disasters, e.g., floods and earthquakes, and improving law and order are some examples of research priorities.
  3. The public sector universities should charge adequate tuition fees to cover operating costs for the undergraduate degrees. This would eliminate the practice of subsidising even those who do not qualify. Need-based scholarships be offered to those who would demonstrate financial need after qualifying for higher education. This would free-up significant funds that could be made available for research.
  4. A grass root campaign be launched to mobilise Pakistani youth to improve literacy by teaching basic literacy to adults. Similar plans in the past turned into gimmicks. This could be done better by engaging celebrities in Pakistan to lead the initiatives.

A literate Pakistan will be able to meet challenges better. If millions are left out of schools, and an increasingly disproportionate number of girls remain illiterate or semi-literate, the resulting workforce in Pakistan will not be able to compete globally.

The new government should therefore set meaningful targets. Promising an increase in the education budget is not a smart goal. Instead the Sharif government should set the target of achieving 100 per cent literacy for primary-age children by 2018. By leaving no child behind, Pakistan can move forward.

Psacharopoulos, G., Tan, J. and Jimenez, E. (1986). *Financing education in developing countries. Washington, DC. The World Bank.

Murtaza Haider, Ph.D. is the Associate Dean of research and graduate programs at the Ted Rogers School of Management at Ryerson University in Toronto.

Engaged children lead successful lives

Engaged children lead successful lives

Interested in learning ...Interested in learning … Photo: Getty Images

Children’s interest and engagement in school influences their prospects of educational and occupational success 20 years later, over and above their academic attainment and socioeconomic background, researchers have found.

The more children felt connected to their school community and felt engaged, rather than bored, the greater their likelihood of achieving a higher educational qualification and going on to a professional or managerial career.

The study from researchers at Menzies Research Institute Tasmania is published in the British Educational Research Journal.

The researchers used data from the Childhood Determinants of Adult Health study, which collected health-related data from school children aged nine to 13 years, and again 20 years later when they were young adults.


The research team created a “school engagement index” using questionnaire items on school enjoyment and boredom, including items such as motivation to learn, sense of belonging, participation in school or extra-mural activities and enjoyment of physical activity.

They found that each unit of school engagement was independently associated with a 10% higher chance of achieving a post-compulsory school education at some point during the next 20 years, including as a mature age student.

And those who were engaged at school were more likely to go on to a professional, semi-professional or managerial career.

Lead author Joan Abbott-Chapman, University Associate at the Menzies Research Institute Tasmania, said the study was an important confirmation for teachers and educators that what happens in school has life-long consequences.

“If students can be engaged by curriculum, through the mode of delivery, through a rich variety of learning experiences and through the way teachers relate with students, then this is going to pave the way for achievement in adulthood,” she said.

Parents also have an enormous influence over their child’s educational participation, Dr Abbott-Chapman said, but they could take heart that even students from socioeconomically disadvantaged backgrounds could be encouraged to achieve success.

“If parents are able to co-operate with schools and teachers to help to promote student engagement, then this is likely to provide a springboard, if you like, for future achievement in school and in employment right through to adulthood,” she said.

Improving engagement

Senior Lecturer at Flinders University Dr Susan Krieg said the study reinforced the importance of school curricula to promote active, rather than passive learning styles that engage both the mind and body, and involve humour, music and movement.

“It is important to recognise that the patterns of engagement begin very early, much earlier than formal schooling,” Dr Krieg added.

Professor of Global Health at the University of Melbourne Rob Moodie agrees.

“The notion that a school should be about sports, music, drama – not only numeracy and literacy – is really important. They enjoy it, they enjoy being there.”

Professor Moodie said the link between educational and occupational outcomes also extended to better health outcomes and well-being later in life.

Levelling the playing field at school

Dr Fiona Mensah, Postdoctoral Research Fellow at Murdoch Childrens Research Institute, said children who become marginalised at school often have very negative outcomes.

“Disengagement is strongly predictive of school dropout, delinquency and problem substance use in adolescence and early adulthood – emphasising how critical it is that children remain engaged during schooling as they transition to adulthood,” she said.

The next step for this type of research, according to Louise Newman, Professor of Psychiatry at Monash University, is to look at whether a school environment can function as a protective environment for children who are at risk of disengagement.

“So that would look at things like children with family difficulties or children with attachment problems, or children from low socioeconomic areas, or children where a family might not promote or value education.”

“Can the school – and to what extent – provide an environment for those children so they can still develop those sorts of positive attitudes?”

This article is republished from The Conversation, an independent source of analysis, commentary and news from the university and research sector.

Written by Fron Jackson-Webb

World Day against Child Labour

World Day against child labour

‘Enslavement and exploitation of children must end’

By Ahtesham Azhar

KARACHI: With similar renewed pledges as of yesteryears to eliminate exploitation of child labour, their empowerment and granting them their due rights, the global Child Labour Day was observed on Wednesday (CLD).

The world have been observing the day since 2002 after recognised by the United Nation.

Every year on June 12, the day brings together governments, employers and workers organisations, civil society, as well as millions of people from around the world to highlight the plights facing child labourers and measures to eliminate them.

However, despite the day being observed for almost a decade, it is the ever increasing issue in Pakistan particularly in urban areas of the country such as Karachi.

Throughout the city, a large numbers of children are engaged in paid or unpaid domestic work in homes, besides working on shops and factories on daily wages. These children are mostly vulnerable
to exploitation.

Talking to Daily Times, SPARC National Head, Rashid Aziz said, “Child Labour Day objective is to eliminate the issue.” Children working as domestic servants in households are increasingly becoming victims at the hands of their employers and government should pay urgent attention to their woes, he said.

He was of the view, “From 2010 to 2013, almost 40 cases have been reported out of which around 30 children have met death and in last six months of 2013, another 13 cases have been reported out of we have lost nine more lives.”

He was of the view that, alike population census, last child labour survey was conducted in 1996 which estimated that around 3.3 million underage labourers working in Pakistan. Children working in households are currently not covered under the Employment of Children Act of 1991.

While the International Labour Organisation (ILO) reports the number of child labourers in Pakistan above 12 million now, UNICEF estimates the number to be around 10 million.

According to the Child Rights Movement, approximately 9.86 million children and adolescents between the ages of 10 and 19 are an active part of the labour force in Pakistan. Around 2.58 million of these children are aged between 10 and 14. Child Labour Act only covered formal sector, which means agriculture sector and domestic child workers do not come under this law, Aziz asserted. “Need of the hour is to introduce multi strategies to tackle the situation.”

“SPARC’s priority is to urge government to impose ban on domestic child labour as it is not only child labour but a new and modern slavery system in our society.”

Aziz further said, “Cases of child abuse and tortures have been reported too often in a last few years. “Therefore, our top priority and demand is to impose a complete ban on child domestic labour,” he said.

He urged the provincial governments to legislate on child labour laws, which should comprehensively ban underage labour in all formal and informal economic sectors.

The government should give legal status to these camps and arrange for the provision of clean drinking water, durable shelter, electricity, health and educational facilities to get freed bonded peasants.

There was no existence of Child Labour Act in Pakistan but it was copied from India in 1991, however, the need of the hour is to revise it and government should impose ban on domestic child labour, which is the worst sector against society. There is no mechanism to protect domestic child labour, he concluded.






How Web mail providers leave door open for NSA surveillance

How Web mail providers leave door open for NSA surveillance

Protecting users’ e-mail privacy from the National Security Agency and other intelligence services means using encryption. But with the exception of Google, few companies do everything they can.

Declan McCullagh

June 21, 2013 5:30 AM PDT

One of Google's massive data centers. The company supports e-mail encryption whenever it can.One of Google’s massive data centers. The company supports e-mail encryption whenever it can.

(Credit: Google/Connie Zhou)

Billions of supposedly private e-mail messages a day flow through unsecured links, where they can be snared in digital dragnets operated by the National Security Agency and other intelligence services.

Recent revelations about NSA surveillance — including a top-secret document discussing “collection of communications on fiber cables and infrastructure as data flows past” — have highlighted the ease with which government eavesdroppers can exploit the Internet’s infrastructure. Another classified document, which the Guardian published Thursday, mentions network-based surveillance of Hotmail servers.

Over the last decade or so, Web mail providers began to turn on encryption to armor the connections between users’ computers and Gmail, Yahoo Mail, Hotmail and other services. That form of protection against surveillance, which typically appears in a Web browser as an “https” connection accompanied by a padlock image, is viewed as generally secure and is used by banks as well. Google has offered it since 2004, and Yahoo finally followed suit this year.

Gmail supports server-to-server email encryption, but many other companies don’t. Click for larger image.

(Credit: Ashkan Soltani)

But during the next step, when those e-mail messages are transferred from one company’s servers to another’s, they’re rarely encrypted. An e-mail message that a Facebook user addresses to a Yahoo Mail user, for instance, will be delivered in an unencrypted form through a server-to-server connection that provides no protection against surveillance.

“The incentives aren’t really there for companies to try to implement it,” says Ashkan Soltani, an independent security consultant who has highlighted some of these security shortcomings on Twitter. That’s the case even though, he says, enabling encryption is “a really easy thing to do.”

A survey of top mail providers shows that Google is alone in using strong encryption, known as SMTP-TLS, to fully armor e-mail connections for its users, as long as the other company’s server is willing to encrypt as well. SMTP-TLS also protects employee e-mail at security-conscious companies, large law firms, and sensitive government agencies including the NSA, the White House, and the Department of Homeland Security. (You can check on your own provider by typing in your e-mail address at

“My sense is that Google is the one large company that has demonstrated it cares about crypto. We think [encryption] should obviously be supported by all these mail servers.”
–Dan Auerbach, staff technologist, EFF

Unfortunately, those are the exceptions. Facebook, Hotmail, Yahoo Mail, and AOL Mail do not accept incoming e-mail in SMTP-TLS encrypted form, meaning hundreds of millions of users’ private communications are vulnerable to monitoring. Both the sending and receiving servers must have encryption turned on for a secure connection to happen.

“My sense is that Google is the one large company that has demonstrated it cares about crypto,” says Dan Auerbach, a staff technologist at the Electronic Frontier Foundation in San Francisco. “We think [encryption] should obviously be supported by all these mail servers.”

One reason why so many mail providers don’t encrypt server-to-server mail links using SMTP-TLS is that, unlike browser encryption, this security precaution would be invisible to users. And the fat pipes that backbone providers provide have historically been viewed as safe. (SMTP-TLS stands for Simple Mail Transfer Protocol Transport Layer Security. TLS was published as an Internet protocol in 1999.)

Adam Langley, a software engineer at Google, told CNET that “we do support TLS” for both inbound and outbound exchanges between mail servers. But, diplomatically, he declined to speculate on why many other companies do not. The company even offers its Google Apps users the high security choice of rejecting non-encrypted connections.

A Facebook spokesman said: “Facebook currently supports user-to-server encryption, but does not currently support server-to-server encryption as we have not seen wide adoption of the protocol. We are open to adoption to this or other protocols in the future as they are used by more services.” A Yahoo representative said: “At Yahoo, we invest heavily in the security of our users and we’re continually looking to enhance the security capabilities of our products.” AOL did not respond to queries.

The Obama administration, a newly leaked directive from Attorney General Eric Holder shows, has authorized the NSA to vacuum up domestic and international e-mail, though American citizens aren't supposed to be "targeted."The Obama administration, a newly leaked directive from Attorney General Eric Holder shows, has authorized the NSA to vacuum up domestic and international e-mail, though American citizens aren’t supposed to be “targeted.”

The potential privacy risks of server-to-server e-mail deliveries have been thrown into sharp relief by surveillance-related disclosures over the last two weeks from Edward Snowden, the former NSA contractor, and U.S. government officials. Snowden said in a Guardian online chat this week that e-mail and other Internet communications inside the United States are “ingested” by the intelligence agency’s immense collection apparatus and that “Americans’ communications are collected and viewed on a daily basis on the certification of an analyst rather than a warrant.”

Web companies have offered blanket denials of allegations that they provided NSA eavesdroppers with “direct access” to their servers, and Google even challenged the U.S. government this week before the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court in a bid to clear its name.

A leaked NSA slide talking about “upstream” data collection from “fiber cables and infrastructure as data flows past” suggests that those companies are telling the truth: the NSA instead is tapping into Internet backbone links operated by companies such as AT&T, CenturyLink, XO Communications, Verizon, and Level 3 Communications — and using that passive access to vacuum up unencrypted communications. Additional evidence comes from the classified directives released Thursday that discuss surveillance procedures and were signed by Attorney General Eric Holder.

Documents that came to light in 2006 in a lawsuit brought by the Electronic Frontier Foundation offer insight into the spy agency’s relationship with Tier 1 Internet providers. Mark Klein, who worked as an AT&T technician for over 22 years, disclosed (PDF) that he witnessed domestic voice and Internet traffic being surreptitiously “diverted” through a “splitter cabinet” to secure room 641A in one of the company’s San Francisco facilities. The room was accessible only to NSA-cleared technicians.

The New York Times revealed in 2009 that a secret NSA database, code-named PINWALE, archived foreign and domestic e-mail messages that analysts could search through “without warrants” as long as Americans’ correspondence did not amount to more than 30 percent of any database search. PINWALE is the the NSA’s main database for intercepted communications, while metadata is stored in a separate database called MAUI, and initial sorting is performed by a program called XKEYSCORE, according to the recent book “Deep State: Inside the Government Secrecy Industry.”

Other mail providers that do not appear to permit SMTP-TLS links for e-mail delivery include AT&T, Earthlink, and Comcast. Apple, which did not respond to a request for comment, does not appear to support SMTP-TLS for server-to-server iCloud e-mail, though it does for user-to-server links. and Hushmail do support SMTP-TLS for automatic encryption of incoming mail. Oddly, the FBI does not for its own employees’ incoming e-mail.

Yahoo, Microsoft, and Apple protect their own internal correspondence more carefully than they do their users’ communications: their separate employee mail servers support incoming encrypted messages.

A Microsoft representative said the company does not support server-to-server SMTP-TLS for consumer products including and (Microsoft finished switching users from Hotmail to Outlook last month.)

Microsoft does enable encryption in some other situations. Those include Exchange ActiveSync, or when users choose the “SMTP send” option from, which was announced last month. SMTP send allows you to log in to, but actually send the message using your Yahoo Mail or Gmail account.

In addition, Microsoft enables server-to-server encryption for paying customers, including those using Office 365. The Department of Homeland Security, which has a 10-year relationship with Microsoft for technology services, has outsourced its mail to the server, which does enable SMTP-TLS.

Even if a company don’t support SMTP-TLS encryption between servers, other technologies exist to make data unreadable to government snoops. One is called S/MIME, but it’s hardly popular. End-to-end encryption in the form of PGP or GnuPG is another choice. Those are viewed as some of the most secure options, but are also the most difficult to use.

“We don’t know the extent to which the NSA or other intelligence agencies are reading people’s mail,” says Auerbach, EFF’s staff technologist. “Companies not supporting encryption for the sending of e-mail leaves the door wide open for these agencies to do it, were they inclined to do so.”

Disclaimer: McCullagh is married to a Google employee not involved with this issue.

Last updated at 9:15 a.m. PT with additional details

7-Eleven raids: Feds seize 14 stores in ID theft case

Nine owners and managers of 7-Eleven stores across Long Island and in Virginia were charged Monday with making tens of millions of dollars by exploiting immigrants from Pakistan and the Philippines, in part by paying them using the stolen Social Security numbers of a child and three dead people while stealing most of their wages.

Most of the defendants were arrested early Monday as federal authorities raided 14 franchise stores. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents were executing search warrants at more than 40 other stores across the country suspected of similar infractions, authorities said at a Brooklyn news conference.

“These nine defendants created a modern-day plantation system, with themselves as overseers, with the immigrant workers as subjects, living in their version of a company town,” U.S. Attorney Loretta Lynch told a news conference in Brooklyn.

Four defendants who hold both U.S. and Pakistani citizenship belong to a family that has participated in social events with Pakistan’s former military ruler Pervez Musharraf, prosecutors said in court papers as they highlighted foreign ties while successfully arguing against bail for most defendants. Another defendant is a citizen of the Philippines. The government said the defendants pocketed tens of millions of dollars in the scheme, hiding some money.

Federal indictments naming eight men and one woman allege that since 2000 they employed more than 50 immigrants who didn’t have permission to be in the U.S. They tried to conceal the immigrants’ employment by stealing the identities of about two dozen people — including those of the child, the dead and a Coast Guard cadet — and submitting the information to the 7-Eleven payroll department.

When 7-Eleven’s headquarters sent the wages for distribution, the employers stole up to 75 percent of the workers’ pay, authorities said. The defendants also forced the workers to live in houses they owned and pay them rent in cash, they added.

“This case came to light because some of these defendants, despite their lack of legal status, came forward to report the exploitation,” Lynch said.

Lynch said stolen identifications were “recycled from store to store and state to state” in a case driven by greed among defendants who bought big houses.

The government seized the franchise rights of 10 stores in New York and four stores in Virginia. The stores will remain open under the parent company’s operation. Authorities said the stores had generated $182 million in profits shared by the defendants and 7-Eleven.

In a statement, 7-Eleven, Inc. said it has cooperated with the investigation and will take “aggressive actions” to audit the employment status of all its franchisees’ employees. It said it was also taking steps to assume corporate operation of the stores involved in the action.

Immigration officials detained 18 workers, including some who first notified authorities about the alleged fraud in 2010. Lynch said the workers would be processed through the system, with some who served as whistleblowers being able to remain in the country while the case is prosecuted.

The defendants appeared in court on Long Island and Norfolk, Va., facing wire fraud conspiracy, identity theft and alien harboring charges. They face up to 20 years in prison if convicted of conspiracy and other charges.

Three men arrested in Virginia were ordered held until a Thursday bail hearing.

Robert Del Col, attorney for Malik Yousaf, the general manager for 14 7-11 stores on Long Island, said his client denies the charges.

“To allege this systematic conspiracy, I don’t think it’s borne out in the documentary evidence,” he said after his client pleaded not guilty and was detained after an appearance in federal court in Central Islip. “These people came in looking for jobs.”

Those arrested also included a married Long Island couple who owned, co-owned or controlled a more than dozen 7-Eleven franchise stores on Long Island and Virginia. The couple bought their first franchise license in 1988. Attorney Steve Politi, who represents Bushra Baig, said his client is a 49-year-old mother. “It’s nonsense,” he said of the charges against her. “I would be surprised if they can prove that she had any knowledge of enslavement. She doesn’t run anything.”

Jennifer Kwiecinski, 36, who lives across the street from an Islip Terrace store that’s part of the investigation, said she’s known the “always nice” owners since she was a child.

The government said the franchises were licensed by Dallas-based 7-Eleven Inc., the U.S. subsidiary of Seven & I Holdings, which operates, licenses or franchises 49,000 convenience stores worldwide, including 7-Eleven stores in 16 countries.

The case reflects stepped-up enforcement against employers using bogus documentation for immigrant workers. In the past two years, federal authorities have brought similar charges against more than 500 business-owners and managers, said James Hayes, head of Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s

New York office.

“There’s real teeth to these laws, and we’re using them now more than ever before,” Hayes said.

Hayes said the workers in the 7-Eleven cases were not innocent victims in the scheme but also were exploited by bosses who paid them a fraction of what they were owed for working up to 100 hours a week.

Chipotle Mexican Grill Inc. also came under investigation in recent years for hiring workers who were in the country illegally. Last year, federal prosecutors charged a Minneapolis man who ran a company that provides labor to large poultry farms with transporting and harboring illegal immigrants.

Haeyoung Yoon, senior staff attorney for the National Employment Law Project, said that low-wage employers are more prone to not having the proper documentation for their workers. Once the fraud is exposed, the workers typically end up getting fired on the spot and sometimes deported, Yoon said.

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Refugee Cricketer Fawad Ahmed Khan gets Citizenship soon

Fawad Ahmed Khan (Pashto/Urdu: فواد احمد; born 5 February 1982) is a Pashtun Australian cricketer born in Pakistan who is currently contracted to the Melbourne Renegades in the Big Bash League, having been granted Australian permanent resident status in November 2012.

The Pakistan-born asylum-seeker is waiting on amendments to the Citizenship Act, which The Australian understands will pass through the Senate today. Once that happens, Ahmed, who played in the recent Australia A match against Ireland, will qualify to play for Australia — there are less stringent citizenship requirements for the A team.

Leg-spinner Fawad Ahmed has cleared the final hurdle to be eligible for the looming Ashes series in England after legislation that allows him to be granted a passport successfully passed through the Senate on Thursday afternoon.

Cricket Record:

PAKISTANI asylum seeker Fawad Ahmed is on the brink of a baggy green after amendments to the Citizenship Act were passed through the Senate today – but still faces tricky obstacles to make a dream Test debut.