Sunday, September 11, 2011

Canadian Internet Service Providers Ordered To Cough Up IP Addresses In Hurt Locker Copyright Lawsuits

"Canadian Internet users are getting a taste of the P2P lawyering that had previously been confined to the US and UK, as Hurt Locker lawsuits have begun moving up to the Great White North. Three ISPs have already been ordered to disclose the identities of users accused of downloading the film, and if the ISPs decide to comply, there could be plenty more lawsuits.

As noted by University of Ottawa law professor Michael Geist, the producers behind Hurt Locker, Voltage Pictures, filed suit against a number of John and Jane Does in Quebec towards the end of August. The suit accuses the anonymous users of downloading, copying, and distributing the film via P2P networks—the users are only identified by IP address, and the Voltage Pictures maintains that the only way to proceed with the case is to obtain names and addresses from their ISPs.
http://www.blogger.com/img/blank.gif
On August 29, the Federal Court in Montréal issued an order to the three ISPs in question—Bell Canada, Cogeco Cable, and Videotron—giving them two weeks to cough up the identities of the users associated with those IPs. Those two weeks expire next Monday, September 12, and the ISPs have yet to give any sort of signal that they won't comply."

"Among other things, the accused have argued that their routers—identified by a single IP address—are used by numerous guests or simply that they don't even know how to download illegal music or movies. Though the claims are difficult to vet, it's clear that using an IP address in an attempt to pinpoint a single individual is problematic to say the least."
ars technica - No, Canada! ISPs ordered to out users in Hurt Locker case

Monday, June 27, 2011

Is Washington Collecting Cell-Phone Data?

"There seems to be a consensus among privacy advocates that the government is using the very latest technological advancements to sweep up, among other things, the locations of cell phones.

Your cell phone continuously pings your service providers' towers and base stations in order to maintain a signal for you to use. By recording the precise time and angle of a cell's data arriving at multiple base stations, providers can calculate the location of your phone about as accurately as a GPS unit — which means down to a single room in a building, at least in cities crowded with cell towers."

"Kevin Bankston, an attorney with the Electronic Frontier Foundation, thinks the government is demanding that cell companies provide the location data as well as other call-data records in bulk form in order to mine the data. "My guess is these 215 orders are being used to collect massive amounts of communications data without any direct connection to terrorism targets," Bankston said."

New Patriot Act Controversy: Is Washington Collecting Your Cell-Phone Data?

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There is a very serious problem in our society. We have become a surveillance culture.

Police and governments (not to mention marketing agencies) are trying to get more and more access to personal information. Often under dubious "preventative" auspices.

As free people we need to be concerned as our freedom from being watched is stripped away.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

"WHO agency warns cellphone use ‘possibly carcinogenic’ "

Globe and Mail - "The world’s leading authority on cancer research has declared the radiofrequency electromagnetic fields emitted by devices such as cellphones are possibly carcinogenic, a major step that is raising new questions about cellphone safety.

The International Agency for Research on Cancer, which is part of the World Health Organization, made the announcement on Tuesday after 31 leading experts from 14 countries met in France to review the existing evidence.

The panel concluded that radiofrequency electromagnetic fields are possibly carcinogenic “based on an increased risk for glioma, a malignant type of brain cancer, associated with wireless phone use.” Numerous other substances are considered “possibly carcinogenic,” including gasoline, some pesticides and occupational exposure from dry cleaning and firefighting.

Although there are many sources of radiofrequency electromagnetic fields, such as near transmitters, cellphones are the highest source of exposure for most people because they are held directly to the head, allowing the body to absorb radiation.

But the group is also warning consumers not to panic because there is not enough scientific evidence to say that cellphones pose a serious health risk."
Globe and Mail - WHO agency warns cellphone use ‘possibly carcinogenic’

Friday, May 20, 2011

U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention "Urges People To Prepare For Zombie Apocalypse -- And Other Disasters Too"...

"The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention wants citizens to use their brains lest they get eaten by packs of marauding zombies.

Well, sort of.

This week, the CDC launched a slick new media campaign that uses the tongue-in-cheek hypothetical scenario of a zombie apocalypse to teach the basics of emergency preparedness.

"There are all kinds of emergencies out there that we can prepare for. Take a zombie apocalypse for example," reads a note on the CDC's website. "You may laugh now, but when it happens you'll be happy you read this, and hey, maybe you'll even learn a thing or two about how to prepare for a real emergency."

Talking Points Memo - CDC Urges People To Prepare For Zombie Apocalypse -- And Other Disasters Too

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Wired: Criminal-Profiling Trick Used to Combat Disease

"A technique that helps crime fighters zoom in on a serial killer’s whereabouts may help scientists prevent deaths of a different sort — those caused by infectious diseases.

The widely used criminology technique, called geographic profiling, helps investigators narrow a search by pinpointing high-priority targets among thousands of potential locations. In an upcoming International Journal of Health Geographics, researchers demonstrated the technique’s usefulness by identifying the sources of a recent malaria outbreak in Cairo and reconstructing an infamous cholera outbreak in Victorian London. Applying the technique to infectious diseases could help focus interventions, perhaps preventing the spread of disease while saving time and money."

"The math behind geographic profiling also incorporates the idea that all distances are not created equal — highways are easier to traverse than a congested downtown. All these measures then generate a map of places the offender is likely to live, which is overlaid on a map of a search area. Unlike geospatial techniques that designate a central point from which a search radiates equally outward, geographic profiling pinpoints highly probable locations, even if they are at opposite ends of the search area.

Le Comber and his colleagues applied geographic profiling to a recent malaria outbreak in Cairo. Of 59 water bodies where mosquito larvae were found, only eight contained those species that are the most dangerous carriers of the disease. Knowing only the locations of the outbreak’s 139 malaria cases, geographic profiling correctly put six of these eight sites in the most infectious 2 percent of the 59."

Wired - Criminal-Profiling Trick Used to Combat Disease

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This is an example of the two edged sword that is data mining. The same kinds of data mining techniques that can make Project Gaydar a threat to privacy can also help save lives in a non-intrusive way.

As a society we need to think carefully about the rules surrounding how we allow data mining and their impact on privacy and, frankly, democracy and freedom. Universities have long understood that these lines exist. That is why they have ethics committees that review the ethical practices and questions surrounding research.

Our society needs to have a larger conversation, rather than simply allowing the quest for profit and power (often the same thing) to be the guiding for in an *anything goes* world.

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Just for the record - the above excerpt about malaria might be interesting if exteded to something like mosquito control in urban areas in Canada (like Winnipeg in the summer). These techniques might allow for less use of insecticides. It might also work for controlling rat populations and allow for less poisons to be used in that exercise.

It could also be used by those in power to stamp out demonstrations and resistance. Think about the use of techniques like this if you treated demonstrations like disease and modelled them. Think about Iran and its repression. Think about the G20 summit and how these kinds of techniques could be used to stop legitimate protest. Then apply these techniques to electoral strategy - especially governments that don't care about getting a mandate in a first-past-the-post electoral system - governments that only care about eking out a plurality based victory that gives them more than half the seats in the house...

Think about it.

Zombie Proof House Designed In Poland

In keeping with my last off-topic post:

"A Polish architectural firm has designed the world’s first zombie-proof house called the “safe House”, reports said.

The house is not really inspired by the walking dead but has got plenty of interest as the world celebrates its fifth annual zombie awareness month in May.

The house features Rubik’s cube-type movable parts and folds in on itself completely at the end of the day to seal off outside dangers."

International Business Times - A zombie-proof ‘safe-house’ to survive the apocalypse

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Lots of pictures:

All That Is Interesting - The First Zombie Proof House

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Navy Times - Detailed Description Of Bin Laden Raid - New Information

"As three of the SEALs reached the top of the steps on the third floor, they saw bin Laden standing at the end of the hall. The Americans recognized him instantly, the officials said.

Bin Laden also saw them, dimly outlined in the dark house, and ducked into his room.

The three SEALs assumed he was going for a weapon, and one by one they rushed after him through the door, one official described.

Two women were in front of bin Laden, yelling and trying to protect him, two officials said. The first SEAL grabbed the two women and shoved them away, fearing they might be wearing suicide bomb vests, they said.

The SEAL behind him opened fire at bin Laden, putting one bullet in his chest, and one in his head.

It was over in a matter of seconds"

"As the SEALs began photographing the body for identification, the raiders found an AK-47 rifle and a Russian-made Makarov pistol on a shelf by the door they’d just run through. Bin Laden hadn’t touched them."

Navy Times - Sources: Raiders knew mission a one-shot deal

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Read the whole story - it is very interesting. The element that interests me the most (after the fact that Bin Laden is dead - a blessing for the world in my opinion) is the difference that a few degrees of temperature made in the outcome of the mission. That what a person would assume is a small factor loomed large over success or failure - and the lives of the soldiers who undertook the raid.

Friday, May 6, 2011

"USB stick-sized computer runs web, email, costs $25"

"David Braben, British game developer and co-founder of Frontier Developments, has created an ultra-low cost computer the size of a USB stick called Raspberry Pi. The expected price would be a measly $25 for a fully-configured system. He says he’s developed the PC in order to encourage the pursuit of computer programming in children.

But what can you expect from a system that comes for less than the cost of a video game? The tiny PC sports an HDMI port at its head and a USB port at its tail, giving it the ability to be plugged into a TV, hooked up to a USB keyboard or combined with a touch screen for a low cost tablet. The computer packs a 700MHz ARM11 processor with 128MB of SDRAM. As far as graphics go, it runs OpenGL ES 2.0 and has 1080p output."

Yahoo News - David Braben develops $25 PC for schoolchildren

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Glad someone is doing it - i would have built it myself if i had a whack of cash

Here is an open hardware version of the same kind of computer - the ben nanonote - a class of computer also called nanonotebooks, or palmtop...



http://en.qi-hardware.com/wiki/Ben_NanoNote

My son has a nanonote and i am intending to buy one soon. The ben nanonote is intended entirely for hardcore nerds - it's not a fun and configurable toy like a cellphone. The website says the following:

"本: běn. The Chinese character 本 signifies an origin or the beginning place; It signifies exactly what the first version of the NanoNote is: a beginning.

The 本 version of NanoNote is an ultra small form factor computing device. The device sports a 336 MHz processor, 2GB of flash memory, microSD slot, head phone jack, USB device and 850mAh Li-ion battery. It boots Linux out of the box and also boots over USB. It’s targeted squarely at developers who see the promise of open hardware and want to roll their own end user experience. It’s the perfect companion for open content; we envision developers turning the device into a music or video player for Ogg or an offline Wikipedia or MIT OpenCourseWare appliance. Or you can simply amaze your friends by creating an ultra small handheld notebook computer. You choose the distribution. The 本 Nanonote is the first in a line of products that will see the addition of other hardware capabilities"


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Order them online. My son got his in about 2 weeks from China.

https://sharism.cc/

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

CBC: "Sony data breach update reveals 'bad practices'"

"Cybersecurity specialists are asking pointed questions about the way Sony manages customers' sensitive information, based on new details about its massive data breach.

Chester Wisniewski, a Vancouver-based senior security advisor with the computer security firm Sophos, said Wednesday that he was shocked when Sony disclosed Tuesday that an "outdated" 2007 database of credit and debit card data was among the information that may have been stolen from players of the EverQuest duology, Free Realms, and other massively multiplayer online games in the company's Sony Entertainment Online division."

CBC - Sony data breach update reveals 'bad practices'

Thursday, April 21, 2011

TPM: "iSpy Conspiracy: Your iPhone Is Secretly Tracking Everywhere You've Been"

"It turns out that your iPhone is keeping a record of everywhere you've been since June. This data is stored on your phone (or iPad) and computer, easily available to anyone who gets their hands on it. Why? Apple won't say. We're creeped out.

The enormous privacy startle, apparently enabled by this summer's iOS 4 release, was discovered by two security researchers, one of whom claims he was an Apple employee for five years. They're equally puzzled and disturbed by the location collection: "By passively logging your location without your permission, Apple have made it possible for anyone from a jealous spouse to a private investigator to get a detailed picture of your movements," they explain. All it would take to crack the information out of your iOS device is an easy jailbreak. On your computer, the information can be opened as easily as JPEG using the mapping software that the security experts have made for download"

TPM - iSpy Conspiracy: Your iPhone Is Secretly Tracking Everywhere You've Been

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It's well past 1984. And the government is tracking you less than marketing firms...

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

TPM: "Phone Sex Company Controls Nearly 25% Of 1-800 Numbers "

"A Philadelphia company called PrimeTel Communications has, over the past 13 years, acquired nearly a quarter of all 1-800 numbers in the U.S. and Canada, according to a report by the Associated Press. PrimeTel now controls 1.7 million 1-800 numbers, more than any other company, and, the AP says, many of those numbers redirect to a phone-sex service run by a company with close ties to PrimeTel."

TPMMuckraker - Phone Sex Company Controls Nearly 25% Of 1-800 Numbers
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"Records obtained by The Associated Press show that over the past 13 years, a little-known Philadelphia company called PrimeTel Communications has quietly gained control over nearly a quarter of all the 1-800 numbers in the U.S. and Canada, often by grabbing them the moment they are relinquished by previous users. As of March, it administered more 800 numbers than any other company, including Verizon and AT&T.

And many, if not most, of those 1.7 million numbers appear to be used for one thing: redirecting callers to a phone-sex service.

Dial 1-800-Chicago and instead of reaching a tourism hotline for the Windy City, you will hear a woman offering "one-on-one talk with a nasty girl" for $2.99 per minute. A similar thing happens if you punch in the initial digits of 1-800-Metallica, 1-800-Cadillac, 1-800-Minolta, 1-800-Cameras, 1-800-Worship or 1-800-Whirlpool."

"PrimeTel appears to have benefited by grabbing numbers associated with famous names, like 1-800-Beatles, or numbers that have recently been canceled but are still advertised widely.

From the late 1980s until around 2005, teenagers who dialed the national hotline used by Teens Teaching AIDS Prevention would reach a call center in Kansas City, Mo., where other youths were waiting to answer questions about the disease. When that program ended, the number was soon routed to one of National A-1's sex lines. But the AIDS hotline number is still publicized by public health groups.

When New York City's Fire Department relinquished its toll-free fire safety hotline a few years ago because of an administrative slip-up, PrimeTel grabbed it the moment it became available. Soon enough, 1-800-FIRETIP was ringing into one of National A-1's phone-sex lines.

The same thing happened to the Cook County Jail in Chicago when it canceled its toll-free inmate information line, and to rape counseling hotlines in Maine and New Mexico.

The Republican National Committee once printed a fundraising mailer with a toll-free calling code and was publicly embarrassed when the calls began ringing in to one of National A-1's chat lines."

"Over the years, though, PrimeTel has been hit with lawsuits and complaints alleging that it is violating federal rules banning toll-free service providers from hoarding digits. Federal Communications Commission rules say that "routing multiple toll-free numbers to a single toll-free subscriber" is usually considered hoarding.

The FCC has never taken formal action against PrimeTel or National A-1, although federal authorities have expressed renewed interest lately in companies that handle toll-free numbers. In the fall, authorities sent subpoenas to several, including PrimeTel, asking for information on how they acquire numbers and why."

AP IMPACT: Porn Company Is Amassing 1-800 Numbers

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In an active regulation scenario (which I lean toward) this kind of behaviour would have been caught some time ago.

This is one more example of the ridiculous outcomes of the notion "business should regulate itself".

The FCC does as little to regulate in the U.S. as the CRTC does here in Canada. Most often when they do regulate it is on behalf of the interests of the companies they are regulating, not in the interests of the general public who really own the airwaves and communications policy.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Reuters/Talking Points Memo: "Japan finds plutonium in soil at stricken nuclear plant"

"TOKYO (Reuters) - Plutonium found in soil at the Fukushima nuclear complex heightened alarm on Tuesday over Japan's battle to contain the world's worst atomic crisis in 25 years, as pressure mounted on the prime minister to widen an evacuation zone around the plant."

"In the latest blow to hopes authorities were gradually getting the plant under control, operator Tokyo Electric Power Co said plutonium was found at low-risk levels in soil samples at the facility.

A by-product of atomic reactions and also used in nuclear bombs, plutonium is highly carcinogenic and one of the most dangerous substances on the planet, experts say.

They believe some of the plutonium may have come from spent fuel rods at Fukushima or damage to reactor No. 3, the only one to use plutonium in its fuel mix.

Japan's Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency said while the plutonium levels were not harmful to human health, the discovery could mean the reactor's containment mechanism had been breached.

"Plutonium is a substance that's emitted when the temperature is high, and it's also heavy and so does not leak out easily," agency deputy director Hidehiko Nishiyama told a news conference.

"So if plutonium has emerged from the reactor, that tells us something about the damage to the fuel. And if it has breached the original containment system, it underlines the gravity and seriousness of this accident.""

Reuters/Talking Points Memo: "Japan finds plutonium in soil at stricken nuclear plant"

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More of that nuclear safety in action...

Because remember - disasters only happen one at a time - it's inconceivable that an earthquake and a tsunami would happen at the same time... good thing there was no typhoon to go with it...

And the nuclear industry says that everything is still safe because no-one could have predicted this would have ever happened - therefore all the other plants are safe - because they are supposed to be safe from all other known disaster possibilities (of course the fact that over 40 plants in the U.S. haven't even met regulations published in 1975 related to fire safety after an earthquake might make a person sceptical [but i'll publish that one in a little while]).

I'm especially thrilled with all the charts that circulated in the days after this disaster showing that more people through history have died from coal fired power plants than nuclear accidents. I think it misses the point. Even if people have died from coal related issues - we won't be glowing green and growing a third eye for 50,000 years after the dust hits the ground.

The story cited above also says "Beyond the evacuation zone, traces of radiation have been found in tap water in Tokyo and as far away as Iceland."

Of course coal and hydrocarbons will have quite an interesting long term effect what with the climate of the entire planet being altered courtesy of emissions...

Monday, March 28, 2011

Christian Science Monitor: "Traces of Japanese radiation detected in 13 US states"

"Radiation has been detected in the air or water in 13 states, but 'far below levels of public health concern.' Rainwater is called safe to drink. Massachusetts is monitoring milk supply."

"Elevated yet still very low levels of radiation from the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear crisis have now been detected in the air or water in more than a dozen US states and three territories, federal and local authorities say.

Higher than usual levels of radiation were detected by 12 monitoring stations in Alaska, Alabama, California, Guam, Hawaii, Idaho, Nevada, Saipan, Northern Mariana Islands, and Washington State over the past week and sent to Environmental Protection Agency scientists for detailed laboratory analysis, the agency said in a release Monday.

Unusual, yet still very low “trace amounts” of radiation, were also reported in Massachusetts rain water and by state officials and nuclear power plant radiation sensors in Colorado, South Carolina, North Carolina, Florida, and Pennsylvania, the Associated Press and Reuters reported."

"One key area being watched is the US milk supply. After the Chernobyl meltdown in 1986, it was found that cows had eaten grass tainted by radioactive fallout from the reactor. Concentrated radioiodine in the milk was blamed later for causing health problems in humans who drank it."

Christian Science Monitor - Traces of Japanese radiation detected in 13 US states

Friday, March 25, 2011

Wired: How Much Money Do Spammers Make?

"After deleting the 10,000th Viagra offer from your inbox, you might wonder, does anyone actually make money off this crap? Chris Kanich and his colleagues at UC San Diego and the International Computer Science Institute wondered too—so they hijacked a botnet to find out. Kanich’s team intentionally infected eight computers with a middleman virus, software they found in the wild that was relaying instructions between a botmaster computer and the network of computers it had secretly turned into spam-sending zombies. Then they changed the orders, effectively zombifying the botnet for their own research. Instead of sending hapless rubes to the botmaster’s website, spam ads would instead funnel them to a site built by Kanich’s team. It looked like an authentic Internet pharmacy, but instead of taking credit card numbers in return for a bottle of sugar pills (or worse), the site coughed up an error message and counted the clicks. Then the researchers calculated an estimate of how much money the spammer grossed per day: about $7,000."

Wired - Equation: How Much Money Do Spammers Rake In?

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Christian Science Monitor: "Reports: Lax oversight, 'greed' preceded Japan nuclear crisis"

"Reports are emerging that both the United Nations' nuclear watchdog agency and the Japanese government failed to properly ensure the safety of country's nuclear power industry.

The reports are challenging the recent refrain that the world's No. 3 economy couldn't have done better and once again highlighting how poor government oversight of an industry that allegedly cut corners to turn higher profits can spawn an environmental disaster."

"Dr. Andreev said the sequence of events at Japan's Fukushima I suggested that the plant's owner, Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO), may have put profit before safety. The fire that broke out Tuesday in reactor No. 4's fuel storage pond may have been caused by a desire to conserve space and money, he suggested.

"The Japanese were very greedy and they used every square inch of the space. But when you have a dense placing of spent fuel in the basin you have a high possibility of fire if the water is removed from the basin," Andreev told Reuters.

TEPCO has come under fire in the past for falsifying safety records at the Fukushima Daiichi plant. In 2002, according to The Wall Street Journal, TEPCO admitted to the Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency that it had falsified the results of safety tests on the No. 1 reactor.

This was only one in a string of scandals and coverups to mar the Asia's biggest utility company. In 2007, the company initially said there was no release of radiation after an earthquake damaged its Kashiwazaki-Kariwa plant, but later admitted that radioactive water spilled into the Sea of Japan.

And less than a year ago, on June 17, a reactor at Fukushima I lost electricity and saw a dangerous drop in cooling water, Bloomberg reported. TEPCO's president failed to adequately investigate to prevent the current crisis, said Iwaki City council member Kazuyoshi Sato."

Christian Science Monitor - Reports: Lax oversight, 'greed' preceded Japan nuclear crisis

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This is the same kind of cozy inspection relationship between the banks and regulators and inspectors that caused the world economy to melt down a few years ago, hey?

Unless there is a fierce independence between inspectors and the inspected these sorts of events will happen.

Self-regulation does not work.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Japan Nuclear: Spent Fuel Containment Pool May Be Open To Atmosphere; Sattellite Images Appear To Show Missing Roof

"...the total amount of long-lived radioactivity in the pool is at least five times that in the reactor core..."

"The spent fuel produced by reactors has been a challenge since the dawn of the nuclear industry, with most reactor operators opting to store it in pools of cooling water on site. At the 40-year-old Fukushima plant, which was built by General Electric, the fuel rods are stored at a pool about three stories up, next to the reactor. Satellite photos raise concerns that the roof of the building housing the pool has been blown off, says Robert Alvarez, a senior scholar at the Institute for Policy Studies and a senior policy adviser to the secretary of energy and deputy assistant secretary for national security and the environment from 1993 to 1999. He and other experts are now warning that any release of radioactivity from the spent-fuel pool could make the releases from the reactors themselves pale in comparison."

"The pools “contain very large concentrations of radioactivity, can catch fire, and are in much more vulnerable buildings,” he warns. If the pools lose their inflow of circulating cooling water, the water in the pools will evaporate. If the level of water drops to five or six feet above the spent fuel, Alvarez calculates, the release of radioactivity “could be life-threatening near the reactor building.” Since the total amount of long-lived radioactivity in the pool is at least five times that in the reactor core, a catastrophic release would mean “all bets are off,” he says."

The Daily Beast - The Japan Nuke Problem No One's Talking About

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OK - my usual motif is to toss a story out and then editorialise on the story. So here's my editorialisation:

"So, how's that nuclear safety workin' for ya?"

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"Moreover, in the spent fuel pools usually situated next to nuclear power plants, there are large numbers of additional fuel rods, used ones, disposed of as waste. There must be constant water circulation in the spent fuel pools. In what is labeled a “loss-of-water’ accident in a spent fuel pool, the zirconium cladding of the fuel rods is projected as exploding—sending into the environment the lethal nuclear poisons in a spent fuel pool……."


nuclear-news
latest news on the uranium/nuclear industry
Technical information on the Fukushima nuclear loss of coolant


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Image Credit:

nuclear-news
latest news on the uranium/nuclear industry
Technical information on the Fukushima nuclear loss of coolant

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

U.S. Supreme Court: Corporations Do Not Have Personal Privacy Rights

"“The protection in FOIA against disclosure of law enforcement information on the ground that it would constitute an unwarranted invasion of personal privacy does not extend to corporations,” Chief Justice John Roberts wrote in a 12-page decision.

He added: “We trust that AT&T will not take it personally.”"

"Corporations do not enjoy a right to personal privacy that would prevent disclosure of certain embarrassing documents under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), the US Supreme Court ruled on Tuesday.

The unanimous decision came in a case examining whether telecommunications giant AT&T could claim an exemption from required disclosure under FOIA because government release of its documents to competitors would cause the corporation to suffer an “unwarranted invasion of personal privacy.”

Lawyers for AT&T argued that the company was a private corporate citizen with personal-privacy rights that protect it from government disclosure of embarrassing documents."

Christian Science Monitor: Supreme Court: Corporations do not enjoy personal privacy rights

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While I haven't been a fan (to say the least) of recent U.S. Supreme Court decisions regarding Corporate Rights ™, I am pleased that they got this one right.

Corporations are not persons. They should not have human rights. They should not be allowed to contribute to political campaigns (neither should unions in my mind).

Intelligent beings have "human rights" not the legal fiction we call corporations (this is where we veer into my personal feeling that a number of "higher animals" - thinking and self-aware species like dolphins, whales, and elephants [an example list, not a complete one] - should have essentially "human" rights).

Corporations are an economic and legal fiction created to allow people to pool resources in an ordered manner.

They have no more inherent rights than than a copy of valley of the dolls. They are a set of rules not a person, and should not be a vehicle to allow those who control them to use the benefits of asset pooling to further the narrow agenda of those very same people who control those corporations.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Christian Science Monitor: "Walking cactus discovered in China"

"Walking cactus: Scientists have discovered what researchers are calling the missing link in China. The strange-looking walking cactus is thought to be the link between worm-like creatures and arthropods like spiders."

"Fossils of a 10-legged wormy creature that lived 520 million years ago may fill an important gap in the history of the evolution of insects, spiders and crustaceans.

The so-called walking cactus belongs to a group of extinct worm-like creatures called lobopodians that are thought to have given rise to arthropods. Spiders and other arthropods have segmented bodies and jointed limbs covered in a hardened shell.

Before the discovery of the walking cactus, Diania cactiformis, all lobopodian remains had soft bodies and soft limbs, said Jianni Liu, the lead researcher who is affiliated with Northwest University in China and Freie University in Germany."
Christian Science Monitor: "Walking cactus discovered in China"

Monday, February 21, 2011

TPMMuckraker: "Patriot Act Extension Passes On Simple Majority Vote"

"An extension of several provisions of the PATRIOT Act, which failed to pass the House last week under a procedural motion which required a two-thirds super-majority, passed on Monday [Feb 14, 20011] night under a simple majority vote.

The vote to extend several key provisions of the Act which had been set to expire was 275 -144. There were 27 Republicans who voted against the bill and 65 Democrats who voted in favor. President Barack Obama supports the renewal of the provisions."

TPMMuckraker: "Patriot Act Extension Passes On Simple Majority Vote"

Sunday, February 20, 2011

TPM: "Apple developing smaller, cheaper iPhones: report"

"Apple is developing a new lines of smaller and cheaper iPhones and overhauling its software to facilitate users' access to entertainment, photos and video, The Wall Street Journal reported Sunday.

The new device -- code-named "N97" -- will be about half the size of the iPhone 4 and cost about half as much as Apple's main line of iPhones, the Journal said, citing a person who saw a prototype of the new gadget several months ago."
TPM: "Apple developing smaller, cheaper iPhones: report"

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Talking Points Memo: "Japan eclipsed by China as world's second economy"

"Japan lost its 42-year ranking as the world's second-biggest economy to China in 2010, with data out Monday showing a contraction in the last quarter due to weak consumer spending and a strong yen.

While Japan was expected to fall behind a surging China in the year, the data underlined the weak state of a Japanese economy burdened by deflation, soft domestic demand and pressured by the industrialised world's biggest debt.

"It is difficult for the deflation-plagued Japanese economy to achieve self-sustained growth," said Naoki Murakami, chief economist at Monex Securities.

While China's leap forward reflects a shift in economic power as the country transforms itself from poverty-hit communist state to global heavyweight, it highlights the need for shrinking Japan to energise its economy, analysts said.

Japan's post-war "economic miracle" put it at number two behind the United States for more than four decades, but stagnation after the Japanese property bubble burst in the 1990s helped put booming China on course to supplant its neighbour.

However, Japan remains around 10 times richer on a per-capita basis, according to the International Monetary Fund.

Predictions vary as to when China may overtake the United States as number one economy, but it should happen by 2025, according to estimates by the World Bank, Goldman Sachs and others."

Talking Points Memo: "Japan eclipsed by China as world's second economy"

Friday, February 18, 2011

Ars Technica, Wired: "The Real Internet Censors: Unaccountable ISPs?"

"...a new report suggests that nations are slowly turning ISPs into the off-duty information cops of the world. Eager to placate politicians in order to achieve their own goals (like the selective throttling of data), networks are cooperating with governments looking for easy, informal solutions to difficult problems like copyright infringement, dangerous speech, online vice, and child pornography.

Network and content providers are ostensibly engaging in “self-regulation,” but that’s a deceptive phrase, warns the European Digital Rights group. “It is not regulation — it is policing — and it is not ’self-’ because it is their consumers and not themselves that are being policed,” EDR says."

"...Bottom line: 70 percent of the providers in the experiment took down the content without scrutinizing either it or the complainant.

All this is central to the censorship ecosystem that European Digital Rights fears, and it worries that this sort of extrajudicial censorship could get much larger in the near future. The group wants more debate “to assess the scale of the policing measures being entrusted to Internet intermediaries, the cost for the rule of law and for fundamental rights, as well as the cost for effective investigation and prosecution of serious crimes in the digital environment.”"

Ars Technica, Wired - "The Real Internet Censors: Unaccountable ISPs?"

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Image credit: neweurasia.net - Internet censorship: Kyrgyzstan blocks independent web-sites

Monday, February 14, 2011

New Giant Planet Hidden In Our Solar System? We Might Need A New Kind Of Planet Classification To Describe It

"There's a giant planet right here, hiding in our solar system. One that nobody has ever seen, even while it is four times larger than Jupiter and has rings and moons orbiting it. At least, that's what two astrophysicists say.

The name of the planet is Tyche. The scientists are John Matese and Daniel Whitmire, from the University of Louisiana at Lafayette. According to them, the giant planet is hiding in the Oort Cloud—the asteroid beehive that forms the outer shell of our solar system."

Gizmodo - The Mystery of the Giant Planet Hidden In Our Solar System

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"The fate of Tyche (and even if it will end up getting called Tyche) will be decided by the all powerful International Astronomical Union (IAU). They are the dudes who demoted our beloved Pluto.

The IAU will decide ‘officially’ if Tyche exists and what it will be called. There is even some conjecture that they may even make it a whole new classification of planet."

NewsWarped.com - New planet Tyche four times bigger than Jupiter

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"The first tranche of data is to be released in April, and astrophysicists John Matese and Daniel Whitmire from the University of Louisiana at Lafayette think it will reveal Tyche within two years. "If it does, John and I will be doing cartwheels," Professor Whitmire said. "And that's not easy at our age."

Once Tyche has been located, other telescopes could be pointed at it to confirm the discovery.

Whether it would become the new ninth planet would be decided by the International Astronomical Union (IAU). The main argument against is that Tyche probably formed around another star and was later captured by the Sun's gravitational field. The IAU may choose to create a whole new category for Tyche, Professor Matese said.

The IAU would also have the final say about the gas giant's name. To the Greeks, Tyche was the goddess responsible for the destiny of cities. Her name was provisionally chosen in reference to an earlier hypothesis, now largely abandoned, that the Sun might be part of a binary star system with a dim companion, tentatively called Nemesis, that was thought responsible for mass extinctions on Earth. In myth, Tyche was the good sister of Nemesis. "

The Independent - Up telescope! Search begins for giant new planet

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

U.S. "House rejects measure that would extend key Patriot Act provisions through December" (for now...)

"A measure to extend key provisions of the Patriot Act counterterrorism surveillance law through December failed the House Tuesday night, with more than two-dozen Republicans bucking their party to oppose the measure."

"The measure would have extended three key provisions of the Patriot Act that are set to expire on Monday, Feb. 28, unless Congress moves to reauthorize them. One of the provisions authorizes the FBI to continue using roving wiretaps on surveillance targets; the second allows the government to access "any tangible items," such as library records, in the course of surveillance; and the third is a "lone wolf" provision of the Intelligence Reform and Terrorist Prevention Act that allows for the surveillance of targets who are not connected to an identified terrorist group"

"The House measure, which was sponsored by Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner (R-Wis.) and required a two-thirds majority for passage, failed on a 277-to-148 vote. Twenty-six Republicans voted with 122 Democrats to oppose the measure, while 67 Democrats voted with 210 Republicans to back it. Ten members did not vote."

and yay Democratic Rep. Dennis Kucinich!

""The 112th Congress began with a historic reading of the U.S. Constitution," Kucinich said. "Will anyone subscribe to the First and Fourth Amendments tomorrow when the PATRIOT Act is up for a vote? I am hopeful that members of the Tea Party who came to Congress to defend the Constitution will join me in challenging the reauthorization.""

Washington Post - House rejects measure that would extend key Patriot Act provisions through December

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"Only 26 Republicans voted against the bill, and there are 52 members of the Republican Tea Party Caucus, whose chairperson, Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn) voted for reauthorization along with most of the rest of her caucus. As Slate's Dave Weigel points out, only eight of the 26 were Republican freshmen elected last November. One hundred and twenty-two Democrats voted against reauthorization, I suspect most of them just because they could.

So how did the bill fail? Basically Republicans were trying to pass the bill under "suspension of the rules," which is considered the process for passing "noncontroversial" legislation. You need a two thirds majority of those present to pass bills that way. For one brief night, Republicans in the House learned what it was like to be a Democrat in the Senate.

Sadly, the revolt probably won't last, as there are more than the 218 votes needed to pass reauthorization under normal procedures. What's uncertain is whether the reauthorization will contain mild oversight provisions, and when the provisions will actually sunset."

Washington Poat - Newsflash: Tea Party didn't kill Patriot Act

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"Neither party could muster the votes needed to pass an extension of the Patriot Act, the country’s counterterrorism law. In a 277-148 vote, the House of Representatives fell a few votes short of the two-thirds majority necessary to extend several key provisions of the law.

The provisions of the act, which has been something of a legislative hot potato since it was first passed in the wake of Sept. 11, deal with roving wiretaps, granting authorities wider access to records and property during terrorism investigations, and so-called “lone wolf” provision, which approvesurveillance of suspected terrorists not linked to a specific terrorist organization.

Republican leaders said they plan to hold another vote on the measure before the end of the month."

ABC News - The Note: Patriot Games: Congressional Leaders Blindsided By Failed Vote

My personal objections to the so-called "Patriot Act" is that it allows government agents to do almost anything they want without oversight.

For example, the U.S. authorities have been given power under the act to subpoena business records that are "relevant" to a terrorism investigation, without seeking a court warrant. I would far rather have to have them persuade a judge than to just act on their own.

No oversight, no reports, no transparency, no accountability.

Remember what happened to Stacy Bonds in that Ottawa jail cell when she theoretically had rights? When the officers knew there were cameras?

How about those school officials remotely activating webcams on kids computers while they were at home?

Or the "...nationwide database of so-called “suspicious activity reports” that describe possible evidence of terrorist attack planning. Reports will be submitted not just by state and local police and agencies within the Department of Homeland Security, but also private corporations that control economic and infrastructure assets considered high-profile targets for terrorists."

Remember Sean Bruyea? "Sean Bruyea told CTV’s Question Period that two months after he first testified against a controversial change to veterans’ disability payments, Veterans Affairs Canada attempted to discredit him by hospitalizing him and making his advocacy a psychological issue."

And in Bruyea's case that was bureacrats trying to have him bundled off to a metal hospital - think about what national security types do - the about "extraordinary rendition" - that's what they call kidnapping someone...

We all know what humans are capable of when acting without restraints.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Ars Technica: "Sorry about that! Canada reverses metered Internet decision"

"Oops! Terrified by a critical mass of enraged broadband consumers, Canada's government is telling its telecom regulator to rescind its approval of metered or "usage based" billing, or else. Industry Minister Tony Clement is now insisting that Canada's Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) has to undo the ruling.

Most Canadian newspapers are getting the same message from the top. The CRTC "should be under no illusion—the Prime Minister and Minister of Industry will reverse this decision unless the CRTC does it itself," a member of Canada's conservative government told the Toronto Star on Wednesday.

"Frankly, a decision like this is clearly not in the best interest of consumers," the unnamed senior official added. "This is a bread-and-butter issue.""


Ars Technica - Sorry about that! Canada reverses metered Internet decision

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"OTTAWA—A controversial CRTC decision that effectively imposed usage-based Internet billing on small service providers will be reversed, the Toronto Star has learned.

“The CRTC should be under no illusion — the Prime Minister and minister of Industry will reverse this decision unless the CRTC does it itself,” a senior Conservative government official said Wednesday.

“If they don’t reconsider we will reverse their decision.”

The promise to reverse the ruling comes as CRTC Chair Konrad von Finckenstein is scheduled to explain the decision Thursday before the House of Commons industry committee.

While the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission is an independent agency, its decision can be overturned by cabinet. The Star was told that could happen as early as next week. "


the Star - Ottawa to reverse CRTC Internet billing decision

Egypt Internet Back Online

"“All major Egyptian ISPs appear to have readvertised routes to their domestic customer networks in the global routing table…The rebooted Egyptian table is smaller than it was a week ago, but that’s mostly because of a normal process called “reaggregation” (the deletion of very small, specific customer routes that are partially or totally redundant with existing announcements, generally for purposes of traffic engineering). That’s to be expected: the Egyptian table had gotten pretty dense with redundancy in the week leading up to the takedown, and it’s been cleaned up in the process of being brought back.

“It wasn’t totally smooth; a few larger network blocks belonging to the Egyptian Universities Network (AS2561) were still missing. Unfortunately, these included the address space that hosts the .eg top level domain servers. The routes have since recovered.”"


Egypt Internet Restored; Cairo Protests Turn Violent

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"To restore the country's connections, Egyptian Internet service providers (ISPs) re-configured their core routers so that they once again announced their presence, letting upstream providers and other networks reestablish data pathways.

"It was pretty much similar, except reversed, to what happened last week," said Andree Toonk, the founder and lead developer of BGPmon, an open-source tool for monitoring BGP, or "border gateway protocol."

BGP is the protocol at the heart of the Internet's routing mechanism, and is used by routers to share information about the paths data traffic uses to "hop" from one network to another as it moves from a source to its destination.

The speed with which the networks reconnected was evidence that rather than physically plugging in cables, Egypt's ISPs simply began advertising their availability to other networks' routers using BGP, said Toonk.

"That, and the fact that it all happened at the same time shows the disconnect was probably not physical," said Toonk. Nor was the restoration today. "Everything was restored in about half an hour," he said.

According to Toonk's monitoring, the first BGP announcements for Egypt began at 9:30 a.m. UTC, or 11:30 a.m. local time. The start time Toonk cited was 4:30 a.m. ET and 1:30 a.m. PT in the U.S.

Internet monitoring company Renesys also pegged the reconnect time for the bulk of Egypt's networks at around 30 minutes."


ComputerWorld - Egypt reverses 'kill switch' to restore Internet access

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A good rundown with links to a number of stories around the internet restoration:

ComputerWorld - Egypt Internet returns; violent protests continue

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"It appears Internet service is making a comeback in the embattled nation of Egypt, according to posts which lit up social networks such as Twitter today.

Early this morning, Google tweeted, "Good news: Internet access being restored in Egypt." The search giant also linked to its Transparency Report, a web tool which allows anyone to view Google's traffic on platforms such as Google Search, Blogger, and YouTube.

Egypt Google traffic has risen dramatically today, after days of little Egyptian web activity registering on Google platforms.

Top and rising search terms in Egypt during the past 7 days - including days the Internet was blocked and today, when Internet access was re-established - include "demonstrations", "constitution", "Al Jazeera", "news", "photos", and "Facebook"."


New York Times - Egypt Internet back; info-hungry Egyptians Google Al Jazeera and Facebook, report chaos on Twitter

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"...today, the Internet crackled to life in Egypt for the first time in more than four days. "No traffic blocks are in place, DNS answers are clean, IP addresses match, no funny business," reported Renesys, the Internet tracking firm that had first reported last week that Egypt had largely been disconnected from the Internet.

What gives? That concurrent tightening of the political scene and rediscovered Internet openness in Egypt is indeed a little puzzling. Does the Mubarak regime have some sort of savvy master plan to harness the Internet to their benefit, giving them a way to sell their version of events to the world? Or perhaps use it to track protesters? Or is the Mubarak administration that might be in its last throes just flailing about wildly here? What's going on here?"

techPresident - Why'd a Battle-Ready Mubarak Turn Egypt's Internet Back On?

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

China Censoring Egypt News; Visuals Might Be Too Close To Tiananmen ?



Global Voices Advocacy - China: Bridging news on Egypt (Author - Oiwan Lam)
"The filtering of search result and the blocking of search term “Egypt” in social media websites is to prevent certain interpretation of the political situation in Egypt. The scenes of Tanks moving into the city center, the confrontation between the people and the soldiers are very likely to recall Chinese people's memory of the June 4 incident back in 1989 and the criticism of the authoritarian government in Egypt can easily turn into a political allegory in China. The propaganda department certainly has to issue censorship alert to web-portal and social media websites, where opinions can spread rapidly and become mainstream public discourses in a few hour time."

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"BEIJING (Dow Jones)--Chinese authorities have blocked the word "Egypt" from searches on Twitter-like microblogging sites in an indication of concern among Communist Party leaders that the unrest there could encourage similar calls for political reform in China.

Internet censors also appeared Sunday to have deleted almost all of the comments posted beneath the few limited reports on the unrest - mostly from the state-run Xinhua news agency - that have been published on Chinese news sites in the past few days.

The strict online controls illustrate the party's concern that the Internet is providing China's citizens with a new means of information and organization that could challenge its monopoly on power, as has happened with other authoritarian governments in recent years.

Chinese authorities also stepped up their efforts to control the Internet after the "color revolutions" in the former Soviet Union in 2003-05, and the pro-democracy protests in Iran in 2009. They completely shut down Internet access in the northwestern Chinese region of Xinjiang for several months after riots there in 2009.

China now appears to be tightening media and Internet restrictions in the run-up to once-a-decade leadership succession next year, when President Hu Jintao and six other top leaders are expected to retire from their party posts."

NIKKEI.com - China Blocks Egypt Protest Reports

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"The widespread use of the Internet is a relatively new development in China, but Goldkorn says the government has moved to limit access to information about other recent global events.

"There was a similar type of censorship when there were the so-called color revolutions going on in Eastern Europe, and I think that the reasons are fairly obvious - that the government would prefer that the people don’t draw parallels to what is going on in Egypt with anything that could go on in China," Goldkorn added.

Renmin University international relations professor Shi Yinhong echoes that thinking.

"Above all, their (the Chinese government’s) first priority is to maintain social and political stability," Shi said.

Shi says the government has been concerned with public unrest since it cracked down on pro-democracy demonstrations around the country in 1989. He describes this kind of nervousness as China’s current political culture.

"This kind of political culture will shape China for a long time. So, within China, everyone knows that our government is extremely concerned about weiwang," Shi added.

"Weiwang" means maintaining social stability.

Peking University International relations professor Zhu Feng describes efforts to control Web access to information about Egypt as a "preventative countermeasure.""

VOA - China Blocks Some Internet Reports on Egypt Protests

Monday, January 31, 2011

UPDATE: Noor Networks The Last Egyptian ISP Online Has Been Shut Down

"2226 GMT: The government has cut off the last Egyptian ISP providing internet to citizens - Noor. With Noor's disconnection which follows the disconnection of all the other ISPs in the country, Egypt becomes the first country to be completely shut off from the rest the web by its regime in the history of internet."

"2145 GMT: Multiple sources are reporting that Egyptian authorities have closed the last Internet "window", Noor Online, in Egypt.

Noor was kept open during the shutdown of Web services on Friday, possibly because the provider was used by vital financial and corporate interests, including the Egyptian Stock Market."

Egypt (and Beyond) LiveBlog: So What is an "Orderly Transition"?

How The Egyptian Regime Cut Off Internet Access


Picture Credit: TechWorld - Egypt cut off from Internet as government cracks down on protest

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"The Egyptian government has been able to cut off most of the country's internet access simply by shutting down the various DNS servers used by Egyptian internet service providers. As such, any requests for web pages initiated from inside Egypt have been unsuccessful since there aren't any available DNS servers to facilitate the hand-offs, and any requests for websites located inside Egypt coming from computers anywhere else in the world haven't worked either.

While this has affected most of Egypt's internet traffic, some people are able to work around the issue by manually using DNS servers that haven't been taken offline—similar to the method I used when Comcast's DNS server went down. BGPmon.com is reporting that 88% of Egypt's internet traffic has been knocked offline, which seems to indicate that 12% of those who are still able to access the internet there are either using alternative DNS servers or haven't had their DNS servers taken offline yet (apparently some dial-up internet connections are still able to get through, for instance)."

"While images of a big red button housed inside a Plexiglass case that can only be unlocked by two simultaneous key twists of top government officials seem to fit the idea of how such an internet kill switch would work, the reality is far more mundane. In Egypt's case, the internet service providers that operate within the country agree to let the government shut down the commonly-used DNS servers if they see fit to do so.

The BBC reports that one of Egypt's big internet service providers, Vodafone, issued an e-mail statement simply stating that the company was instructed to shut down its DNS servers. "Under Egyptian legislation the authorities have the right to issue such and order and we are obliged to comply with it," said the statement.

The same order was almost certainly issued to all the other internet service providers operating inside Egypt and, just like that, the internet went down."

Time Online (Techland) - How Egypt Cut Off the Internet (and How a U.S. 'Kill Switch' Might Work)

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"Renesys found that: "At 22:34 UTC (00:34am local time), Renesys observed the virtually simultaneous withdrawal of all routes to Egyptian networks in the internet's global routing table. Approximately 3,500 individual BGP [Border Gateway Protocol] routes were withdrawn, leaving no valid paths by which the rest of the world could continue to exchange internet traffic with Egypt's service providers. Virtually all of Egypt's internet addresses are now unreachable, worldwide.""

"An analysis by Renesys, which provides real-time monitoring of internet access, says that "every Egyptian provider, every business, bank, internet cafe, website, school, embassy and government office that relied on the big four Egyptian ISPs for their internet connectivity is now cut off from the rest of the world. Link Egypt, Vodafone/Raya, Telecom Egypt, Etisalat Misr, and all their customers and partners are, for the moment, off the air."

That has caused concern among observers who believe that internet access – which the Egyptian government limited earlier this week by cutting off social networks – is essential to ensure that government acts responsibly towards its citizens. Tim Bray, an engineer at Google, tweeted: "I feel that as soon as the world can't use the net to watch, awful things will start happening.""

guardian.co.uk - Egypt cuts off internet access
Most of the major internet service providers in Egypt are offline following week-long protests


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"Our new observation is that this was not an instantaneous event on the front end; each service provider approached the task of shutting down its part of the Egyptian Internet separately.

* Telecom Egypt (AS8452), the national incumbent, starts the process at 22:12:43.
* Raya joins in a minute later, at 22:13:26.
* Link Egypt (AS24863) begins taking themselves down 4 minutes later, at 22:17:10.
* Etisalat Misr (AS32992) goes two minutes later, at 22:19:02
* Internet Egypt (AS5536) goes six minutes later, at 22:25:10.

First impressions: this sequencing looks like people getting phone calls, one at a time, telling them to take themselves off the air. Not an automated system that takes all providers down at once; instead, the incumbent leads and other providers follow meekly one by one until Egypt is silenced."

Renesys - Egypt Leaves the Internet

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"The cut-off happened just after midnight, local time, according to Internet monitoring firm Renesys, when the largest Internet Service Providers operating out of the country stopped providing the Border Gateway Protocol (BGP) routing information used to connect the rest of the world with computers in the Egypt."

"Similar widespread outages have been blamed on cuts to undersea fibre optic cables, but that doesn't seem to be what happened this time around, said Paul Ferguson, a researcher with security firm Trend Micro. An outage on a cable would not just effect Egypt, it would cut off all of sub-Saharan Africa." he said. "This is apparently a deliberate blackout.""

"But Egypt's Internet isolation is not complete. One service provider, Noor Data Networks, the provider used by the Egyptian Stock Exchange, is unaffected."
TechWorld - Egypt cut off from Internet as government cracks down on protest

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Phone Menu Hell Re-created For Phone Company In TV Prank (Very Funny Video)

"Belgium's much-reviled phone company Mobistar was elaborately pranked by a program on VRT Belgium; the pranksters hid themselves in a steel container, which they had dropped directly in front of the gates of a large Mobistar office at 5AM. The container had a prominent customer service number printed on the side of it -- a number which rang the pranksters inside the container -- that was promptly called by a series of Mobistar employees who wanted to get the container moved off before 2,000 Mobistar employees reported for work and found the parking lot blocked off.

The pranksters proceed to put the Mobistar employees through a high-art comedic phone hell, disconnecting them, subjecting them to terrible hold music (performed live from within the container on a little synthesizer), gradually ratcheting the misery up in a Dante-worthy re-enactment of every terrible, awful mobile phone company experience.

The program was a huge hit in Belgium (be sure to watch it all the way through for the a killer punchline), and has been captioned in English for those of us in the anglosphere to enjoy."

"Elaborate televised prank on Belgium's terrible phone company"

This post stolen in entirety from BoingBoing - give them a click through for the advertising revenue, please - and more importantly - go there to watch the video

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Video Cameras Proposed For Wyoming Classrooms To FIlm Teachers For "Evaluation" Purposes

Big Brother at Wyoming schools? Legislature considers filming teachers.

Wyoming lawmakers propose installing video cameras to help evaluate teachers' performance. But educators are concerned about privacy issues, among other things."

"Teachers in Wyoming might someday have to add an extra step to their lesson plans: Smile for the camera.

State lawmakers have proposed installing video cameras and taping lessons to help evaluate teachers’ performance.

The occasional videotaped class has long been a tool for training and self-reflection. But the notion of tying recorded lessons to high-stakes evaluations raises a host of thorny issues.

Schools would have to consider who would be evaluating the taped lessons, what criteria they’d use, and how student and teacher privacy would be respected."


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A camera in every classroom, a camera in every cubicle, what more could we ask for?

In our surveillance society.

How long until those cameras are used to harass staff? Harass students? Or whatever else?

Remember my post on what happened with those remotely activated webcams on student computers?

Read it again:

School District Remotely Activated Webcams On Students Computers While They Were At Home; Some Partially Dressed; Lawsuit Settled For $610K