World
What’s Really Happening with China’s Great Firewall
China is blocking three services Golden Frog, Astrill and StrongVPN, which provide "Virtual Private Networks," or VPNs to view otherwise-censored content 
 
Three popular services that allow users in China to view otherwise-censored content have experienced outages over the past few days, a sign of increasing government efforts to limit what Chinese users can read on the Internet.
 
The companies, Golden Frog, Astrill and StrongVPN, which provide "Virtual Private Networks," or VPNs, have all publicly acknowledged experiencing problems. The problems seem to affect students and personal users. It does not seem that large businesses have been affected. An employee working in the Chinese office of a large American financial firm confirmed to ProPublica that their corporate VPN still works.
 
Such VPN services were not previously the subject of blocking, and became popular ways for tech-savvy Chinese users, especially young people, to circumvent censorship.
 
Astrill's message to customers specified that the VPN disruption is limited to iPhones and iPads, which are not as prevalent in China as they are in the U.S., and the Washington Post reported that Astrill's service "still functions on laptops, albeit intermittently."
 
According to Reuters, "Almost all foreign and many domestic companies in China use VPNs to conduct business relatively unimpeded by disruptions to web services. The services that have seen disruptions recently are widely used by individuals, largely affecting mobile devices."
 
Last November, ProPublica began tracking whether the homepages of 18 international news organizations are accessible in China.
 
Censorship in China isn't limited only to whether Chinese users can access foreign websites. It also dictates what they can and can't say online, especially on websites owned by Chinese companies. In 2013, ProPublica published 527 user-posted images that were deleted by censors at Sina Weibo, China's closest equivalent to Twitter. In an effort to discover what causes a user's posts to be censored, ProPublica also found that the lives of users or their families were sometimes threatened because of material they had posted online.
 
More about the Great Firewall: Every day since Nov. 17, 2014, ProPublica has been testing whether the homepages of international news organizations are accessible to browsers inside China. See the results.
 
Courtesy: ProPublica.org
 

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One rank, one pension: Parrikar assures early implementation

The defence minister had told a delegation of ex-servicemen that he is working hard on 'one rank, one pension' scheme and the Ministry will send its views to the Finance Ministry by 17th February

 

Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar has assured the ex-servicemen of early implementation of the ‘one rank, one pension’ scheme, saying his Ministry has fast-tracked the work on it.
 
The assurance came when a 27-member delegation of the ex-servicemen called on Parrikar at Kota House, his residence for the time-being.
 
The ex-servicemen, seeking early implementation of the scheme, also held a rally in Delhi.
 
Defence sources said Parrikar assured the ex-servicemen of rolling it out at the earliest.
 
He said he is working hard on it and the Ministry will send its views to the Finance Ministry by 17th February.
 
Parrikar underlined that there are lot of calculations and complications involved and he is working towards solving them. “I will do my work,” he was quoted as telling the delegation.
 
Maj Gen Satbir Singh (retd), Chairman of Indian Ex-Service Movement, said the meeting with Parrikar was “positive“.
 
He said that the Minister has given assurances to the delegation on four major issues relating to the scheme, including “getting approval from the Finance Ministry before the Budget this month“.
 
One rank, one pension scheme has been a long-standing demand of the over two million ex-servicemen in the country.
 
It seeks to ensure that a uniform pension is paid to defence personnel who retire at the same rank with the same length of service, irrespective of their date of retirement.
 

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The Verizon 'Edge' of Deception
When a promise of big savings goes up in a puff of smoke
 
The world of mobile phone monthly charges is a murky place at best, with fees and data plans, talking, texting, taxes and gigabytes. It’s already confusing. But recently we received a reader complaint about Verizon’s seemingly simple $140-a-month mobile phone plan. 
 
We’ve been seeing similar promotions for the plan, indeed just around the corner from us at the Verizon store. So we took a stroll there to get a closer look and we found this sign:
 
 
Four lines with 10 gigs of shared data for only $140? Hey, that’s a killer deal — especially if you’re already a Verizon customer and want to upgrade your plan’s data allowance.
 
But the sign does not tell the whole story; namely, that in order to achieve this monthly rate for four smartphones you have to purchase four smartphones from Verizon through a 24-month financing plan.
 
There’s no way around it. Simply put, the so-called Verizon Edge financing plan is what gets you to the $140 per month, as it awards a $25 discount toward each smartphone’s monthly access line fee, which usually runs $40 per phone:
 
Want to keep your current phone or pay cash to purchase a new device? No $140 price for you. In fact, it’ll cost more than $200 for line and data access.
 
But even if you finance the cost of four new smartphones, and pay monthly for two years, your monthly bill won’t add up to $140. You see, that’s just for “access” to the network. The figure does not include what you have to pay monthly as part of the Verizon Edge financing plan. That separate cost is added to your bill (For example, if you finance four iPhone 6s, it would be $27.08 each, or more than $100 per month). So while Verizon promotes a savings of $100 per month, the savings are cancelled out by the cost of the financed phones.
 
Related story: Oh, Verizon
 
After a few days of trading emails with Verizon, TINA.org on Friday asked spokesperson Debra Lewis why all relevant charges weren’t disclosed in its More Everything with Edge plan signage. We have yet to hear back.
 
For more of our coverage on mobile phones, click here
 

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