Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #1951 on: Nov 22nd, 2010, 1:14pm »
Hey Swampy, I have a favor to ask. I was watching FOX news just now and they had a story about the head of the TSA saying that they are thinking of turning off cell phones in cars. They have the technology.....something......something....then he backed off of the comment. I looked all over the FOX website and can't find the story. I don't suppose you would have a look see? Crystal
Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #1952 on: Nov 22nd, 2010, 4:22pm »
Description with video:
lukemtait | November 19, 2010
Lets get the facts straight first. Before the video started the boy went through a metal detector and didn't set it off but was selected for a pat down. The boy was shy so the TSA couldn't complete the full pat on the young boy. The father tried several times to just hold the boys arms out for the TSA agent but i guess it didn't end up being enough for the guy. I was about 30 ft away so i couldn't hear their conversation if there was any. The enraged father pulled his son shirt off and gave it to the TSA agent to search, thats when this video begins.
******* THIS VIDEO OCCURRED AT SALT LAKE CITY INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT ON NOVEMBER 19TH AT AROUND THE TIME OF 12:00 PM **********
***Insertion of what happened after the video (full story)****
After I finished videotaping the incident I went through the check point myself. I collected my things and went over to talk to the father and son. Before I could get to them a man in a black suit who had been talking with the other TSA officials approached me. He asked to speak to me and I obliged, wondering what was to come. He then proceeded to interrogate me about why I was videotaping the "procedures of the TSA". I told him that I had never seen such practices before on a young child and decided to record it. The man being frustrated at this point demanded to know my plans with the video, of which I didn't respond. Repeatedly he asked me to delete the video, hoping his mere presence could intimidate me to obey, but I refused. By this point it became obvious that he felt TSA had done something wrong and that I caught it on tape. After the interview, I left for my gate. I called my brother who told me I should put the tape on YouTube because this had been a recent hot topic in the news. My gate was a long way off, but about 15 minutes after arriving 2 TSA agents came and sat 15 feet or so away from me. I stood up and moved so that they were in front of me and then took a picture. A 3rd and then a 4th agent came and sat down with the others. They would occasionally glance at me and talk on their walkie-talkies. I don't know why they were there or if it was a huge coincidence but they stayed for 30-45 minutes and left just before I boarded the plan. Interesting to say the least, intimidating? Maybe a little...
Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #1953 on: Nov 22nd, 2010, 6:24pm »
Look what I found.
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Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #1954 on: Nov 22nd, 2010, 6:57pm »
Ireland Impact: Single Euro Policy Urged 12:53am UK, Tuesday November 23, 2010
Paul Harrison, Sky correspondent, in Brussels
The former prime minister of Belgium has called for the eurozone to adopt "a single economic policy" to avoid countries like Ireland requiring multi-billion pound bailouts.
Guy Verhofstadt, now an MEP and president of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe said: "It's absolutely neccessary to strengthen the eurozone and that we have not only one single currency but one economic policy."
Speaking to Sky News at the futuristic Atomium, Mr Verhofstadt added: "In fact we are the only currency worldwide that has not one single government and one single economic policy behind it."
The comments come as fears mount that yet more eurozone countries may suffer the ignominy of an EU/IMF bailout.
But despite Ireland becoming the second country to receive tens of billions of pounds in funds, Mr Verhofstadt believes the economic contagion may now be under control.
"Let's hope that other countries are not affected and the best way to do that the fastest possible is to strengthen the structure of the eurozone."
Portugal is the country widely believed to be the next country to follow in Ireland's footsteps. Its debt level stands at more than 76% of of its GDP.
But Prime Minister Jose Socrates insists they're doing everything to avoid such an eventuality.
"I have no doubt that the confidence will return, because what we are doing is what should be done and Portugal doesn't need anyone's help.
"Portugal will solve their problems, using their own decisions."
But that's what Ireland said in the weeks before its sudden U-turn.
The fear is that if bigger countries such as Spain reach for the begging bowl, the funds may not be there.
Spain's economy may be too big to fail, but it may also be too big to save.
Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #1955 on: Nov 23rd, 2010, 08:38am »
New York Times
North and South Korea Exchange Fire, Killing Two By MARK McDONALD Published: November 23, 2010
People watched as smoke rose from South Korea’s Yeonpyeong Island after North Korea reportedly fired hundreds of rounds of artillery from its stronghold on the west coast.
SEOUL, South Korea — North and South Korea exchanged artillery fire on Tuesday after dozens of shells fired from the North struck a South Korean island near the countries’ disputed maritime border, South Korean military officials said. Two South Korean soldiers were killed, 15 were wounded and three civilians were injured, said Kiyheon Kwon, an official at the Defense Ministry.
The South Korean military went to “crisis status,” and fighter planes were put on alert but did not take off.
South Korean artillery units returned fire after the North’s shells struck South Korea’s Yeonpyeong Island at 2:34 p.m., said Mr. Kwon, adding that the North also fired numerous rounds into the Yellow Sea. Television footage showed large plumes of black smoke spiraling from the island, and news reports said dozens of houses were on fire.
The official North Korean news agency said in a brief statement Tuesday night that the South had started the fight when it “recklessly fired into our sea area.”
The South Korean deputy minister of defense, Lee Yong-geul, acknowledged that artillery units had been firing test shots on Tuesday afternoon close to the North Korean coast, from a battery on the South Korean island of Paeknyeongdo. But he denied Pyongyang’s charge that the shots had crossed the sea border.While skirmishes between the two countries have not been uncommon in recent years, the clash appeared to have been the most serious in decades and came amid heightened tensions over the North’s nuclear program. An American nuclear scientist who recently visited the North said he had been shown a secret and modern enrichment facility.
A spokesman for President Lee Myung-bak said Mr. Lee gathered his security-related ministers and senior aides at a crisis meeting in the underground situation room at the Blue House, the presidential office and residence.
“We will not in any way tolerate this,” Mr. Lee’s chief spokesman, Hong Sang-pyo, said after the meeting. “Any further provocation will get an immediate and strong response and the South Korean military will strongly retaliate if there is anything further.”
The United States condemned the attack and called on North Korea to “halt its belligerent action,” the White House said in a statement.
The attack on the island came as 70,000 South Korean troops were beginning an annual nationwide military drill called Safeguarding the Nation. The exercise has been sharply criticized by Pyongyang as “simulating an invasion of the North” and “a means to provoke a war.” The drill includes some United States forces, but a defense official said no American military personnel were on the island when it was hit.
A spokeswoman for the Unification Ministry in Seoul said Tuesday night that the South Korean Red Cross had indefinitely postponed a Thursday meeting with North Korean officials on further reunions between family members separated since the Korean War. She also said the ministry was “reviewing the security situation” for several hundred South Korean workers at the Kaesong Industrial Park, a jointly operated facility in North Korea.
The shelling also followed revelations of two new nuclear facilities in the North — a light water reactor under construction and a modern plant for enriching uranium that Pyongyang says is operational.
Yeonpyeong Island sits just two miles from the Northern Limit Line, the disputed sea border which the North does not recognize, and only eight miles from the North Korean coast. The island houses a garrison of about 1,000 South Korean marines, and the navy has deployed its newest class of “patrol killer” guided-missile ships in the Western Sea, as the Yellow Sea is also known.
About 1,600 civilians also live on the island, mostly fishermen, and local news reports said by late afternoon that some residents had fled the island on fishing boats.
In March, a South Korean naval vessel, the Cheonan, was sunk in the area and 46 sailors died. The incident badly frayed inter-Korean relations and Seoul blamed the sinking on a North Korean torpedo attack. The North has denied any role in incident.
In August, North Korea fired 110 artillery rounds near Yeonpyeong and another South Korean island, the Office of Joint Chiefs of Staff in Seoul said at the time.
Three weeks ago, the South Korean Navy fired warning shots at a North Korean fishing boat after the vessel strayed across the Northern Limit Line. The North Korean boat then reportedly retreated.
Previous naval skirmishes occurred in the western sea in 1999 and 2002. Reaction from governments involved in the six-party talks on disarmament was swift.
The Russian Foreign Ministry urged restraint and a non-military resolution, while the British Foreign Secretary William Hague condemned the “unprovoked attack” and urged Pyongyang to refrain from hostilities.
Chinese officials said they were “concerned” and called on both sides to resume six-party talks that have focused on persuading North Korea to give up its nuclear ambitions. “We hope the relevant the parties will do more to contribute to the peace and stability of the Korean peninsula,” a Foreign Ministry spokesman, Hong Lei, said at a regular briefing in Beijing.
Officials gave the impression, however, that China was in the dark about the attacks. “The situation needs to be verified,” Mr. Hong said, adding that “China is willing to stay close communication with the relevant parties concerning the Korean nuclear issue.”
The Japanese government called North Korea’s actions "unforgivable," Reuters reported.The shelling came just days after an American nuclear scientist who visited North Korea earlier this month said he had been shown a vast new facility built secretly and rapidly to enrich uranium.
The scientist, Siegfried S. Hecker, a Stanford professor who previously directed the Los Alamos National Laboratory, said in an interview that he had been “stunned” by the sophistication of the new plant, where he saw “hundreds and hundreds” of centrifuges that had just been installed in a recently gutted building and operated from what he called “an ultra-modern control room.” The North Koreans claimed 2,000 centrifuges were already installed and running, he said.
The development confronted the Obama administration with the prospect that North Korea country is preparing to expand its nuclear arsenal or build a far more powerful type of atomic bomb.
Whether the calculated revelation is a negotiating ploy by North Korea or a signal that it plans to accelerate its weapons program even as it goes through a perilous leadership change, it creates a new challenge for President Obama at a moment when his program for gradual, global nuclear disarmament appears imperiled at home and abroad.
Analysts were quick to see the shelling as a deliberate North Korean provocation.
“Deliberate, yes, and it’s a sign of North Korea’s increasing frustration,” said Choi Jin-wook, a North Korea expert at the Korea Institute for National Unification, a research institute in Seoul.
“Washington has turned a deaf ear to Pyongyang and North Korea is saying, “Look here. We’re still alive. We can cause trouble. You can’t ignore us.”
Mr. Choi said North Korea had become frustrated over the Obama administration’s refusal to remove a broad range of sanctions against the regime for its continuing nuclear efforts.
“They see that they can’t pressure Washington,” he said, “so they’ve taken South Korea hostage again.”
Mr. Choi said North Korea’s first and most urgent priority is for food aid, which has been largely denied by South Korea and strangled by international and United States sanctions.
“They’re in a desperate situation and they want food immediately, not next year,” he said.
“I can’t think of recent event in the past five or 10 years that approaches this magnitude,” said John Swenson-Wright, an expert with the Royal Institute for International Affairs, also known as Chatham House, a private policy organization in London. “Symbolically and practically, this is a serious escalation in provocation,” he said in a telephone interview.
Tuesday’s exchange is the sharpest clash since the North Korean leader, Kim Jong-il, in September positioned his youngest son, Kim Jong-un, as his successor to lead the secretive nation. The younger Mr. Kim was promoted on Sept. 28 to the rank of four-star general, a prerequisite for his ascendancy to power. The elder Mr. Kim, who is said to be in poor health after apparently suffering a stroke in 2008, has hurried the succession of Kim Jong-un in recent weeks.
But he Mr. Choi did not see Kim Jong-un’s hand in Tuesday’s attack.
“He is probably not part of this,” he said. “This is not a game for young boys.”
Other members of the Kim family and the leader’s inner circle also received new posts and promotions as the leadership hierarchy was reshuffled to provide Kim Jong-un with mentors and supporters as he solidifies his power.
Su-hyun Lee contributed reporting from Seoul, Kevin Drew from Hong Kong, Alan Cowell from Paris, Ian Johnson from Beijing, Clifford J. Levy from Moscow and J. David Goodman from New York.
Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #1956 on: Nov 23rd, 2010, 08:40am »
New York Times
November 23, 2010 Corporate Profits Were the Highest on Record Last Quarter By CATHERINE RAMPELL
The nation’s workers may be struggling, but American companies just had their best quarter ever.
American businesses brought in $1.66 trillion at an annual rate in the third quarter, according to a Commerce Department report released Tuesday. That is the highest figure recorded since the government began keeping track over 60 years ago, at least in nominal or non-inflation-adjusted terms.
Corporate profits have been going gangbusters for a while. Since their cyclical low in the fourth quarter of 2008, profits have grown for seven consecutive quarters at some of the fastest rates in history.
This breakneck pace over the last seven quarters can be partly attributed to strong productivity growth — which means companies have been able to make more with less — as well as the fact that some of the profits of American companies come from abroad. Economic conditions in the United States may still be sluggish, but many emerging markets like India and China are expanding rapidly.
Tuesday’s Commerce Department reports also showed that the nation’s output grew at a slightly faster pace than originally estimated last quarter. Its growth rate, of 2.5 percent a year in inflation-adjusted terms, is higher than the initial estimate of 2 percent. The economy grew at 1.7 percent annual rate in the second quarter.
Still, most economists say the current growth rate is far too slow to recover the considerable ground lost during the recession.
The increase in output in the third quarter was driven primarily by stronger consumer spending. Private inventory investment, nonresidential fixed investment, exports and federal government also grew. Growth in these areas was partially offset by a rise in imports, which are subtracted from the total output numbers the government calculates, and a decline in housing and other residential fixed investments.
Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #1957 on: Nov 23rd, 2010, 08:42am »
New York Times
November 22, 2010 Taliban Leader in Secret Talks Was an Impostor By DEXTER FILKINS and CARLOTTA GALL
KABUL, Afghanistan — For months, the secret talks unfolding between Taliban and Afghan leaders to end the war appeared to be showing promise, if only because of the appearance of a certain insurgent leader at one end of the table: Mullah Akhtar Muhammad Mansour, one of the most senior commanders in the Taliban movement.
But now, it turns out, Mr. Mansour was apparently not Mr. Mansour at all. In an episode that could have been lifted from a spy novel, United States and Afghan officials now say the Afghan man was an impostor, and high-level discussions conducted with the assistance of NATO appear to have achieved little.
“It’s not him,” said a Western diplomat in Kabul intimately involved in the discussions. “And we gave him a lot of money.”
American officials confirmed Monday that they had given up hope that the Afghan was Mr. Mansour, or even a member of the Taliban leadership.
NATO and Afghan officials said they held three meetings with the man, who traveled from in Pakistan, where Taliban leaders have taken refuge.
The fake Taliban leader even met with President Hamid Karzai, having been flown to Kabul on a NATO aircraft and ushered into the presidential palace, officials said.
The episode underscores the uncertain and even bizarre nature of the atmosphere in which Afghan and American leaders search for ways to bring the nine-year-old American-led war to an end. The leaders of the Taliban are believed to be hiding in Pakistan, possibly with the assistance of the Pakistani government, which receives billions of dollars in American aid.
Many in the Taliban leadership, which is largely made up of barely literate clerics from the countryside, had not been seen in person by American, NATO or Afghan officials.
American officials say they were skeptical from the start about the identity of the man who claimed to be Mullah Mansour — who by some accounts is the second-ranking official in the Taliban, behind only the founder, Mullah Mohammed Omar. Serious doubts arose after the third meeting with Afghan officials, held in the southern city of Kandahar. A man who had known Mr. Mansour years ago told Afghan officials that the man at the table did not resemble him. “He said he didn’t recognize him,” said an Afghan leader, who spoke on the condition of anonymity.
The Western diplomat said the Afghan man was initially given a sizable sum of money to take part in the talks — and to help persuade him to return.
While the Afghan official said he still harbored hopes that the man would return for another round of talks, American and other Western officials said they had concluded that the man in question was not Mr. Mansour. Just how the Americans reached such a definitive conclusion — whether, for instance, they were able to positively establish his identity through fingerprints or some other means — is unknown.
As recently as last month, American and Afghan officials held high hopes for the talks. Senior American officials, including Gen. David H. Petraeus, said the talks indicated that Taliban leaders, whose rank-and-file fighters are under extraordinary pressure from the American-led offensive, were at least willing to discuss an end to the war.
The American officials said they and officials of other NATO governments were helping to facilitate the discussions, by providing air transport and securing roadways for Taliban leaders coming from Pakistan.
Last month, White House officials asked The New York Times to withhold Mr. Mansour’s name from an article about the peace talks, expressing concern that the talks would be jeopardized — and Mr. Mansour’s life put at risk — if his involvement were publicized. The Times agreed to withhold Mr. Mansour’s name, along with the names of two other Taliban leaders said to be involved in the discussions. The status of the other two Taliban leaders said to be involved is not clear.
Since the last round of discussions, which took place within the past few weeks, Afghan and American officials have been puzzling over who the man was. Some officials say the man may simply have been a freelance fraud, posing as a Taliban leader in order to enrich himself.
Others say the man may have been a Taliban agent. “The Taliban are cleverer than the Americans and our own intelligence service,” said a senior Afghan official who is familiar with the case. “They are playing games.”
Others suspect that the fake Taliban leader, whose identity is not known, may have been dispatched by the Pakistani intelligence service, known by its initials, the ISI. Elements within the ISI have long played a “double-game” in Afghanistan, reassuring United States officials that they are pursuing the Taliban while at the same time providing support for the insurgents.
Publicly, the Taliban leadership is sticking to the line that there are no talks at all. In a recent message to his followers, Mullah Omar denied that there were any talks unfolding at any level.
“The cunning enemy which has occupied our country, is trying, on the one hand, to expand its military operations on the basis of its double-standard policy and, on the other hand, wants to throw dust into the eyes of the people by spreading the rumors of negotiation,” his message said.
Despite such statements, some senior leaders of the Taliban did show a willingness to talk peace with representatives of the Afghan government as recently as January.
At that time, Abdul Ghani Baradar, then the deputy commander of the Taliban, was arrested in a joint C.I.A.-ISI raid in the Pakistani port city of Karachi. Although officials from both countries hailed the arrest as a hallmark of American-Pakistani cooperation, Pakistani officials have since indicated that they orchestrated Mr. Baradar’s arrest because he was engaging in peace discussions without the ISI’s permission.
Afghan leaders have confirmed this account.
Neither American nor Afghan leaders confronted the fake Mullah Mansour with their doubts. Indeed, some Afghan leaders are still holding out hopes that the man really is or at least represents Mr. Mansour — and that he will come back soon.
“Questions have been raised about him, but it’s still possible that it’s him,” said the Afghan leader who declined to be identified.
The Afghan leader said negotiators had urged the man claiming to be Mr. Mansour to return with colleagues, including other Taliban leaders whose identities they might also be able to verify.
The meetings were arranged by an Afghan with ties to both the Afghan government and the Taliban, officials said.
The Afghan leader said both the Americans and the Afghan leadership were initially cautious of the Afghan man’s identity and motives. But after the first meeting, both were reasonably satisfied that the man they were talking to was Mr. Mansour. Several steps were taken to establish the man’s real identity; after the first meeting, photos of him were shown to Taliban detainees who were believed to know Mr. Mansour. They signed off, the Afghan leader said.
Whatever the Afghan man’s identity, the talks that unfolded between the Americans and the man claiming to be Mr. Mansour seemed substantive, the Afghan leader said. The man claiming to be representing the Taliban laid down several surprisingly moderate conditions for a peace settlement: that the Taliban leadership be allowed to safely return to Afghanistan, that Taliban soldiers be offered jobs, and that prisoners be released.
The Afghan man did not demand, as the Taliban have in the past, a withdrawal of foreign forces or a Taliban share of the government.
Sayed Amir Muhammad Agha, a onetime Taliban commander who says he has left the Taliban but who acted as a go-between with the movement in the past, said in an interview that he did not know the tale of the impostor.
But he said the Taliban leadership had given no indications of a willingness to enter talks.
“Someone like me could come forward and say, ‘I am a Talib and a powerful person,’ ” he said. “But I can tell you, nothing is going on.”
“Whenever I talk to the Taliban, they never accept peace and they want to keep on fighting,” he said. “They are not tired.”
Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #1958 on: Nov 23rd, 2010, 08:52am »
Digital Weapons Help Dissidents Punch Holes in China's Great Firewall By Vince Beiser November 2010
China maintains what is probably the world’s most advanced system for controlling digital communication -- authorities and opponents call it the Great Firewall. Illustration: Andrew Archer
The curt knock on the door of his hotel room woke Alan Huang with a start. He looked at the clock: 5:30 am. Huang had been in Shenzhen, China, for only a few days; who could be looking for him at this hour? He groggily undid the lock—and found a half-dozen police officers in the corridor. The cops were there, they said, because the 37-year-old software engineer was a follower of the Falun Gong spiritual movement. It was December 1999, and the Beijing government had outlawed the sect just months earlier.
In fact, that’s why Huang had left his home in Sunnyvale, California, to come to Shenzhen. A Chinese computer programmer who had long ago emigrated to the US, Huang was back in China to protest the government’s jailing of thousands of his fellow practitioners. He hadn’t expected to join them.
Huang ended up packed into a cold cell with 20 other men, sleeping on the floor in shifts and forced to clean pigpens every day. Huang’s wife, back in California with their 3-year-old daughter, was terrified. After a very long two weeks and the help of a few American politicians, Huang and two other US-based Falun Gong practitioners who had accompanied him were released. “I got lucky because I was a US resident,” he says. “Others were not so lucky.”
It was Huang’s first experience with prison, but not with Communist Party repression. When he was an electrical engineering student at Shanghai’s Fudan University in the 1980s, Huang marched in the pro-democracy protests that roiled China. But the heady days in the streets came to a bloody end when the government sent tanks into Tiananmen Square. Huang wasn’t arrested, but some of his acquaintances disappeared. And he was shocked by the way the government’s ensuing propaganda barrage convinced many Chinese that the protesting students were themselves to blame for the bloodshed. Disillusioned, Huang left China, got his graduate degree at the University of Toronto, and moved to Silicon Valley in 1992. He spent most of the 1990s quietly living the immigrant-American dream, starting a family and building a career. Along the way, he also became one of the Bay Area’s hundreds of Falun Gong practitioners, leading study sessions and group exercises. So when Beijing launched its crackdown on the sect, it felt to Huang like 1989 all over again: The government was brutalizing a peaceful movement while painting its adherents as dangerous criminals. This time, he was determined to fight back. His aborted trip to China and frightening weeks in jail only left him more resolute. “My experience told me that the persecution was more severe than what we can imagine,” Huang says in accented English. “I felt I needed to do something.”
Huang has hunched shoulders and a round face thatched with bushy black hair; his bashful mien occasionally retreats into a nervous giggle. He’s no charismatic revolutionary. But by 2002, he had assembled a dozen like-minded Falun Gong-practicing colleagues. In the small garage attached to his four-bedroom bungalow, they developed a digital weapon for their compatriots back in China: a program designed to foil government censorship and surveillance. Dubbed UltraSurf, it has since become one of the most important free-speech tools on the Internet, used by millions from China to Saudi Arabia.
A separate group of Falun Gong practitioners, it turned out, was working on something similar, and in 2006 the two groups joined forces as the Global Internet Freedom Consortium. Most GIFC members spend their days as cubicle-bound programmers and engineers at places ranging from Microsoft to NASA. But off the clock, at night and on weekends, they wage digital guerrilla warfare on the Chinese government’s cyberpolice, matching their technical savvy, donated computers, and home-office resources against the world’s second-largest superpower. Again and again, Beijing has attacked the firewall-beating programs; again and again, the scrappy band of volunteers has defeated those attacks.
The victories don’t come easily. Huang quit a lucrative job to devote all his time to the cause. He has drained almost all of his savings. He had to sell his home and move his family into a rental, where he now works out of a spare room, making ends meet with freelance consulting gigs. Most days he sits in an armless swivel chair, bent over computers set up on a folding table. But there is one major consolation. “More and more people are using our technology,” he says. “And that’s the force that will tear down the Great Firewall.”
China maintains what is probably the world’s most advanced system for controlling digital communication. Authorities and opponents call it the Great Firewall, and the Chinese take it extremely seriously. At least 72 Chinese citizens—more than in any other country—are currently locked up for things they said online. Firewalls typically block access to certain sites, but the centerpiece of the Chinese system, called Golden Shield, does much more. It’s essentially a national digital surveillance network that monitors China’s estimated 420 million online citizens. This titanic task is facilitated by the fact that all international Internet traffic passes through just a handful of state-run pipelines.
A censor—be it a government, school, or corporation—has several options for preventing people from visiting places on the web. The simplest is to block a site’s Internet protocol address, the numbers that identify the computer hosting the site. A similar trick is to block DNS names, the text versions of IP addresses. Both tactics place an entire website off-limits. More technically difficult is keyword filtering, which blocks any traffic—search request, URL, or email—containing specific words or phrases. The Golden Shield does all those things so well that China reportedly exports the technology to other authoritarian countries, including Cuba and Belarus. And it’s supplemented by thousands of human censors who scour blogs, chat rooms, and everything else for offending content. China even jams seditious text messages.
Programs designed to defeat those measures are called circumvention tools. That’s what UltraSurf is: Operating through a web browser, it drops search queries or emails into an encrypted tunnel that scrambles the data to make it unreadable. Then the data gets routed to a network of computers—proxy servers—located in the US or some other unrestricted country. Though the circuitous path slows the connection a bit, it also provides access to sites like CNN, YouTube, and Twitter and leaves no record on the user’s computer.
But building robust circumvention tools is tough—as David Tian, a researcher at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, knows well. Like Huang, Tian left China after narrowly avoiding arrest as a pro-democracy protester. He emigrated to the US and started practicing Falun Gong. Following the Beijing crackdown, at about the same time Huang started working on UltraSurf, Tian teamed up with a North Carolina programmer named Bill Xia and others via Falun Gong chat rooms. They planned to create a newsletter to counter Beijing’s propaganda, but they had to work carefully; six students and professors at Tsinghua University had been imprisoned in 2001 for posting Falun Gong materials. (Like all other GIFC members I met, Tian politely refused to let me see where he actually does his work. They’re a secretive bunch, afraid that the Chinese government might find out too much about them. Most don’t even want their names known. So despite the thumping midsummer humidity, we spoke at an outdoor lunch spot in the Maryland suburbs.)
Initially, Tian and company just gathered email addresses in China from relatives and friends and started sending out news items and commentary. The list grew quickly, and soon they were generating millions of emails a week. “That triggered the alarm,” Tian says. Subscribers said the messages weren’t getting through; China’s Internet-censoring apparatus was blocking them. So Tian’s group started coming up with tricks to sneak their emails in. They converted the text into images, for example, or scrolled it vertically rather than horizontally to make it unreadable to the censoring software. And they broke the address list into chunks that they parceled out to dozens of volunteers, rather than sending everything in one massive, readily spotted blast from a central server.
But simply helping Chinese citizens passively receive emails wasn’t enough. “We wanted to let people read Western media, Falun Gong sites, whatever they wanted, and to respond,” Tian says. His group ended up developing software very similar to UltraSurf—they called theirs Freegate—and released it around the same time Huang’s group released its version.
At first, the proxy servers that both groups used were just the private computers of volunteers who offered up spare bandwidth from their businesses, schools, and homes. Huang would set up a connection node on, say, a laptop in someone’s living room in San Jose and some UltraSurf user in Shanghai would be routed through it, traffic running invisibly in the background. Several thousand volunteered computers still carry such traffic, Huang says, but now he also rents bandwidth in server farms.
Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #1959 on: Nov 23rd, 2010, 08:58am »
Astronomers Find 'Rosetta Stone' for T-Dwarf Stars (Nov. 22, 2010)
An international team of astronomers have discovered a unique and exotic star system with a very cool methane-rich (or T-) dwarf star and a 'dying' white dwarf stellar remnant in orbit around each other. The system is a 'Rosetta Stone' for T-dwarf stars, giving scientists the first good handle on their mass and age.
An artist's impression of the binary as it might appear from a point in space near the methane dwarf. From here the distant white dwarf would appear as a bright star, only gently illuminating its cooling companion. (Credit: Andrew McDonagh)
The team, led by Dr Avril Day-Jones of the Universidad de Chile and including Dr David Pinfield of the University of Hertfordshire as well as astronomers from the University of Montreal, publish their results in the journal Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society.
The system is the first of its type to be found. The two stars are low in mass and have a weak mutual gravitational attraction as they are separated by about a quarter of a light year or 2.5 trillion km (to put this in context Neptune is only 4.5 billion km from the Sun). Despite the frailty of the system it has stayed together for billions of years, but its stars are cooling down to a dark demise.
Methane dwarfs are on the star / planet boundary and are about the size of the giant planet Jupiter. They have temperatures of less than 1000 degrees Celsius (in comparison the Sun's surface is at 5500 degrees Celsius). Methane is a fragile molecule destroyed at warmer temperatures, so is only seen in very cool stars and objects like Jupiter. Neither giant planets nor T-dwarf stars are hot enough for the hydrogen fusion that powers the Sun to take place, meaning that they simply cool and fade over time.
White dwarfs are the end state of stars similar to and including the Sun. Once such stars have exhausted the available nuclear fuel in their cores, they expel most of their outer layers into space forming a remnant planetary nebula and leaving behind a hot, but cooling core or white dwarf about the size of the Earth. For our Sun this process will begin about 5 billion years in the future.
In the newly-discovered binary, the remnant nebula has long since dissipated and all that is left is the cooling white dwarf and methane dwarf pair.
Dr Day-Jones puts this in context, commenting, "In about 6 billion years' time, when our Sun 'dies' and becomes a white dwarf itself, the stars in the newly-discovered system will have changed dramatically. The methane dwarf will have cooled to around room temperature, and the white dwarf will have cooled to 2700 Celsius or the temperature of the methane dwarf at the start of its life."
This binary is providing a crucial test of the physics of ultra-cool (temperatures less than 1000 degrees Celsius) stellar atmospheres because the white dwarf lets us establish the age of both objects. It calibrates properties of the methane dwarf such as its mass, making it a kind of 'Rosetta Stone' for similar stars with complex, hazy ultra-cool atmospheres.
The methane dwarf was identified in the UKIRT Infrared Deep Sky Survey (UKIDSS) as part of a project to identify the coolest objects in the galaxy. Its temperature and spectrum were measured by the Gemini North Telescope in Hawaii.
The team then found that the methane dwarf shares its motion across the sky with a nearby blue object catalogued as LSPM 1459+0857. They studied the blue object using the world's largest optical telescope, the European Southern Observatory's Very Large Telescope (VLT) in Chile. The new VLT observations revealed the blue object to be a cool white dwarf and companion to the methane dwarf. The objects were thus re-christened LSPM 1459+0857 A and B.
The two stars are today separated by at least 2.5 trillion km, but would have been closer in the past before the white dwarf was formed. Once the star that formed the white dwarf reached the end of its life and expelled its outer layers, the loss of mass weakened the gravitational pull between the stars, causing the methane dwarf to spiral outwards to create the gravitationally fragile system that we see today. But the current age of the white dwarf indicates that this system has survived for several billion years. So the new discovery shows that despite their fragility, such binaries are able to remain united even as they move through the maelstrom of the disc of our Galaxy.
"Binary systems like this provide vital information and allow us to better understand ultra-cool atmospheres and the very low-mass dwarfs and planets they enshroud" says Dr Pinfield. "The fact that these binaries survive intact for billions of years means that we could find many more lurking out there in the future."
Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #1962 on: Nov 23rd, 2010, 2:06pm »
That new incident along the boarder to North Korea is really concerning. Those maniacs play with fire again. Soldiers in any country, no matter if in the US, UK, China, Russia or North Korea should be aware of that they only should serve the people and their country and not an emperor.
The TSA pat downs are also quite disturbing. I somehow feel that they possibly could try to convince people to rather take the body scanners instead of the pat downs. But many people also refuse to go through the body scanners since it's already well known that they can cause cancer. I can imagine that many people now won't fly because of all that disgusting crap. You can't treat anybody like a criminal!