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White House sides with consumers on unlocked cellphones

The Obama administration issued its support Monday to reverse a recently enacted ban on unlocking cellphones, echoing many customers’ calls to allow mobile devices to be used across wireless carriers without risking penalties once any contract promise is fulfilled.

“If you have paid for your mobile device and aren’t bound by a service agreement or other obligation, you should be able to use it on another network,” wrote R. David Edelman, senior adviser for Internet, innovation and privacy at the White House, on WhiteHouse.gov.

His response was drafted after the White House received more than 114,000 petitions on its website in support of reversing the ban, which became effective Jan. 26.

“We believe the same principle should also apply to tablets, which are increasingly similar to smartphones,” he said. “It’s common sense, crucial for protecting consumer choice.”

Mobile phones in the U.S. are generally sold “locked,” making them usable only with service from the wireless carrier that is associated with the device, and are typically sold at a price subsidized by that carrier — unlike in most other countries. In the past, customers wishing to keep their device but switch carriers unlocked it themselves or with the help of an expert by punching in a code assigned to the device.

The wireless carrier industry has fought to ban the practice, arguing that unlocking phones violates the carriers’ copyright of the computer programs used to lock subsidized devices and are needed for carriers to be able to subsidize the upfront cost of the phone.

The Library of Congress, which largely oversees copyright issues and will implement the ban, sided with the industry by citing a section of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act that was passed in 1998.  Read More

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Obama returns to social media to re-energized young, less enthused voters

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FILE: June 2007: Then-presidential candidate Barack Obama greets a crowd of mostly young supporters at Howard University in Washington, D.C. (AP)

President Barack Obama’s campaign, needing an army of young supporters even more than it did four years ago, is out to re-energize a crucial voting bloc whose enthusiasm has flagged with the job market.

The Obama campaign is trying to reconnect with the legions of college students it recruited in 2008, seeking to register new ones and stressing issues that hit young pocketbooks—specifically, programs to keep down college-loan costs and provisions to let young adults stay on their parents’ health-care plans until the age of 26, according to The Wall Street Journal.

Young voters are critical in Obama’s tight race against Mitt Romney because other groups appear cooler to the president than they were four years ago.  Read More

Could the 2012 presidential race be the “apps election”?

It’s more than an accidental typo on an iPhone application. It’s a glaring distinction between his social-media presence and that of his rival, President Barack Obama.

From the beginning, Obama has ruled the political world of social media. He has the most fans, followers or likes onFacebook, on Twitter, Google+, YouTube, and even Myspace(although he hasn’t used it in a year, like the rest of us). The Obama 2012 app came out late last year and provides latest news about the campaign, photos and video, event listings and other information about the 2012 campaign. It also welcomes input from its users, as seen in the welcome message you receive soon after downloading it.

The fact that the Obama camp has already endorsed an app reinforces one of the president’s stronger overall selling points. Last week, he told government agencies that he wants all of them to establish apps in the next year:

“Americans deserve a government that works for them anytime, anywhere, and on any device.”

Let’s face it. The problems with Romney’s official app, With Mitt, didn’t end with “Amercia.” The biggest problem is it doesn’t do much, other than add filters to pictures (“Mittsagram” as one Democrat called it). And it doesn’t even include cool filters and frames, like Rise, Amaro or Hefe (whatever that is).  Read More

Secret colonial file on Barack Obama Sr. released by British

When the British Foreign Office released thousands of colonial-era files Wednesday, one name stood out – Barack H. Obama, father of the United States president.

The elder Obama was on a list of names in a secret file about Kenyans studying in the U.S., the Guardian of London reported. The file lists Kenyans, including “OBAMA, Barrack H,” who, at the age of 23, enrolled at the University of Hawaii.

In 1959, when Barack Obama Sr. had gone to study in Hawaii, U.S. officials told the British they worried that Kenyan students had a reputation for being “anti-American” and “anti-white,” the Guardian reported.

Colonial administrators in Nairobi claimed that Kenyans who studied abroad were “academically inferior” to those who studied in Africa. They also criticized the African American Students Foundation – supported by actor Sydney Poitier and baseball star Jackie Robinson – which gave Obama a grant to study.

In memos between the U.S. and Britain, colonial officials questioned the caliber of the students chosen, according to the BBC. A particularly frustrated British colonial official told Americans that the students had been personally selected by sponsors who had picked candidates from their tribal groups.  Read More

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