Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #2775 on: Feb 2nd, 2011, 08:07am »
New York Times
February 2, 2011 Transportation Stymied as Storm Marches Eastward By MICHAEL COOPER and MONICA DAVEY
CHICAGO — A ferocious winter storm continued to barrel eastward across the United States on Wednesday morning, snarling travel by road, air and rail as it blanketed wide swaths from the Great Plains to the Midwest in deep snow and left a brittle skin of ice over large sections of the Northeast.
Icy, snow-covered roads were closed throughout the Midwest. Air travel continued to be an iffy proposition in many parts of the country: by 7:30 a.m. more than 4,892 flights — or around 16 percent of the nation’s flights — had already been canceled, according to FlightAware.com, a Web site that tracks flights. Amtrak suspended service on its Northeast corridor between New York and Philadelphia because of problems on its line.
The National Weather Service, in a 4:31 a.m. warning that a “crippling and potentially killer blizzard” would continue through the morning in the Chicago area, was blunt about the risks travelers there faced. The weather service noted that there had been many reports of cars off roadways, in weather so severe that people could not see past the hoods of their cars, and rescuers were having a difficult time reaching them. Then it issued a stern warning.
“Before considering getting on the roads this morning,” it said, “ask yourself if getting to your destination is worth risking your life.”
By morning some 17.1 inches of snow had fallen in Chicago, making it the city’s fifth biggest snowstorm even as flakes continued to fall, said Paul Walker, a senior meteorologist with AccuWeather. Wind gusts there topped 50 miles an hour. Oklahoma was still digging out from a major snowstorm. Freezing rain and sleet were covering much of Pennsylvania in ice. And the snow continued to move across northern New York State into New England.
“It’s been a wide expanse of snow over a large portion of the country,” Mr. Walker said. “Many states have been affected by this storm, from the southern plains to New England — some pretty heavy snow amounts.”
In the New York area, the ice storm caused the Long Island Rail Road to operate on a weekend schedule. On Metro North, riders on the New Haven Line were warned to expect crowded trains and delays because of what it called “severe and ongoing weather-related equipment shortages.” About 1,500 flights were canceled in New York’s three airports, said Daniel Baker, the chief executive of FlightAware.com.
American Airlines was hit particularly hard by the storm, since it closed one hub in Dallas-Ft. Worth on Tuesday, and then effectively closed another, at Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport, overnight and into Wednesday morning. “What are the odds?” Mr. Baker asked.
All told, 12,630 flights have been canceled so far this week, and Mr. Baker said that the number could rise to as many as 20,000.
Chicago was among the worst-hit places.
The main problem here was not just a lot of snow, but fierce, swirling winds (some with gusts of 50 and 60 miles per hour) that howled ominously all night, sending the snow into giant drifts in some places and making it almost impossible to see anything in front of you. In wide open areas, people struggled to keep from being swept away by wind, and some were seen clinging to light poles downtown. And in some places in the city, the snow was still falling.
Any thought of a rush hour commute was all but impossible. State highway officials had a simple message: all roads were bad. But some were worse, and Lake Shore Drive, a central thoroughfare along Lake Michigan in Chicago, was closed Tuesday evening, as snow piled up, at least one city bus got stuck across three lanes, and the high winds sent waves flying off the lake.
Hundreds of motorists were stranded there, before it shut down, and some of them were there, stranded and unable to move, all night. Some of the drivers had left their offices at 5 p.m. Tuesday, and had been waiting more than 12 hours for help. By Wednesday morning, fire trucks could be seen making their way up and down Lake Shore Drive, still trying to rescue people.
Chicago Public Schools were closed. More than 70,000 residents in Chicago and the suburbs were without power by Wednesday morning, thanks to the high winds and heavy snow. At Wrigley Field, home of the Chicago Cubs, a small section of roof flew off in the high winds.
In Tulsa, which got a record 14 inches of snow, The Tulsa World said that it would not be able to print the newspaper for the first time in its 106-year history, so it published a free electronic edition. “SNOWED IN,” read the giant headline. “Storm Paralyzes City.”
Reporting was contributed by Monica Davey and Emma Graves Fitzsimmons in Chicago, A. G. Sulzberger in Kansas City and Malcolm Gay in St. Louis.
Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #2776 on: Feb 2nd, 2011, 08:10am »
By Rob Taylor CAIRNS, Australia Wed Feb 2, 2011 5:46am EST
CAIRNS, Australia (Reuters) - Australian police turned people away from jammed evacuation shelters on Wednesday as a huge cyclone neared the northeast coast, leaving many to wait outside in the open, praying police will relent and squeeze them in before the storm arrives.
Cyclone Yasi is the most dangerous cyclone to come ashore in Australia in a century, forcing tens of thousands of people to evacuate their homes and overwhelm cyclone shelters which are already refuge to more than 10,000.
At a shopping centre which serves as a shelter in Cairns, a tourist city destined to feel Yasi's wrath within hours, Selwyn Hughes stood with his family in the uncovered carpark and said his only comfort for the moment was in numbers.
"There are so many of us here. Surely they have to do something, find somewhere safer to move us to before it arrives," Hughes said, squatting on a pink suitcase with his five children, aged two to 13.
The family's only possessions were a small box of food, including a tin of powdered milk, and clothes and a pram for two-year-old daughter Minoota.
Around them 80 others sat on the ground and shared advice or sympathy.
At a steel barrier gate, four police guarded entry to a ramp up to a cinema complex being used as a rooftop entry point to the makeshift cyclone shelter, as grey clouds swirled and winds whistled over fences and rooftops.
"It's making it very difficult. We're disappointed we can't take any more people in, but I've been through in there and it's just not safe," said acting police inspector John Bosnjak.
Inside, more than 2,000 people lay in front of shuttered shops and foodcourts, or sat on empty tables, while children played on moving walkways.
All seven evacuations centres set up in the region have reached capacity ahead of Yasi's arrival, filled also by hundreds of foreign backpackers sent away from usually thriving waterfront hostels.
Around 30,000 people in low-lying suburbs evacuated their homes and poured into the centres when doors opened at about 6 am, or bunkered down in the homes of friends at the urging of the government, helping ease the strain on shelters.
Others joined a stream of traffic heading south.
Cairns Mayor Val Schier advised residents to batten down in their own homes, while last-minute preparations were also being made to open an eighth shelter and move people there by bus.
The last category 5 cyclone to hit the Queensland coast was in 1918. That storm killed almost 90 people.
Sitting near Hughes, Morgana Bartlett watched over her bronze and green pet Rainbow Lorikeet, named Pumpkin, which like other pets was not allowed inside the centre, even in a cage.
"If they don't take her, they don't take me," she said.
Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #2777 on: Feb 2nd, 2011, 08:21am »
Report: Efforts to Secure Nation’s Power Grid Ineffective By Kim Zetter February 1, 2011 | 3:46 pm Categories: Cybersecurity
Photo of U.S. grid courtesy U.S. Commerce Dept.
The official government cybersecurity standards for the electric power grid fall far short of even the most basic security standards observed by noncritical industries, according to a new audit.
The standards have also been implemented spottily and in illogical ways, concludes a Jan. 26 report from the Department of Energy’s inspector general (.pdf). And even if the standards had been implemented properly, they “were not adequate to ensure that systems-related risks to the nation’s power grid were mitigated or addressed in a timely manner.”
At issue is how well the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, or FERC, has performed in developing standards for securing the power grid, and ensuring that the industry complies with those standards. Congress gave FERC jurisdiction in 2005 over the security of producers of bulk electricity — that is, the approximately 1,600 entities across the country that operate at 100 kilovolts or higher. In 2006, FERC then assigned the North American Electric Reliability Corporation (NERC), an industry group, the job of developing the standards.
The result, according to the report, is deeply flawed.
The standards, for example, fail to call for secure access controls — such as requiring strong administrative passwords that are changed frequently. or placing limits on the number of unsuccessful login attempts before an account is locked. The latter is a security issue that even Twitter was compelled to address after a hacker gained administrative access to its system using a password cracker.
The report is particularly timely in light of the discovery last year of the Stuxnet worm, a sophisticated piece of malware that was the first to specifically target an industrial control system — the kind of system that is used by nuclear and electrical power plants.
The security standards, formally known as the Critical Infrastructure Protection, or CIP, cybersecurity reliability standards, were in development for more than three years before they were approved in January 2008. Entities performing the most essential bulk electric-system functions were required to comply with 13 of the CIP requirements by June 2008, with the remaining requirements phased in through 2009.
The report indicates that this time frame was out of whack, since many of the most critical issues were allowed to go unaddressed until 2009. For example, power producers were required to begin reporting cybersecurity incidents and create a recovery plan before they were required to actually take steps to prevent the cyber intrusions in the first place — such as implementing strong access controls and patching software vulnerabilities in a timely manner.
The standards are also much less stringent than FERC’s own internal security policy. The standards indicate passwords should be a minimum of six characters and changed at least every year. But FERC’s own, internal security policy requires passwords to be at least 12 characters long and changed every 60 days.
One of the main problems with the standards seems to be that they fail to define what constitutes a critical asset and therefore permit energy producers to use their discretion in determining if they even have any critical assets. Any entity that determines it has no critical assets can consider itself exempt from many of the standards. Since companies are generally loathe to invest in security practices unless they absolutely have to — due to costs — it’s no surprise that the report found many of them underreporting their lists of critical assets.
“For example, even though critical assets could include such things as control centers, transmission substations and generation resources, the former NERC Chief Security Officer noted in April 2009 that only 29 percent of generation owners and operators, and less than 63 percent of transmission owners, identified at least one critical asset on a self-certification compliance survey,” the report notes.
This is particularly troublesome, the report indicates, because entities connected to the power grid are dependent on one another, and “a breach at one entity could potentially have a negative impact on other entities and the power grid as a whole.”
Joe Weiss, an expert on security issues in the energy sector, has been trying to get the industry to address this issue for a while.
“If you don’t have any critical assets as defined by CIP, you don’t have to do anything for cyber,” he told Threat Level. “It turns out that more than 70 percent of the power plants in this country, including nuclear, are not considered to be CIP critical assets.”
In a response attached to the report, FERC chairman Jon Wellinghoff defended the agency’s efforts as providing a “baseline” for cybersecurity. Before the standards were enacted, “there were no mandatory reliability standards at all for cybersecurity,” he wrote.
The report, Wellinghoff argues, “minimizes the complexities inherent in imposing, for the first time, mandatory cybersecurity standards on the diverse entities that make up the users, owners and operators of the the bulk electric system.”
Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #2778 on: Feb 2nd, 2011, 08:26am »
Mubarak's foes, supporters clash in Cairo
Some injuries are reported. Egypt's military calls for demonstrators to go home. Yemen's president promises to leave office before the next election.
By Laura King and Borzou Daragahi 5:24 AM PST, February 2, 2011 Reporting from Cairo
Scattered but violent clashes erupted Wednesday in central Cairo between supporters of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak and the protesters now in the ninth day of calling for his ouster.
A large group of pro-Mubarak forces pushed their way for the first time into Tahrir Square, which had been dominated by peaceful anti-Mubarak protests. Scuffles, shouts and fisticuffs broke out as the rival camps faced off .
One man staggered away with blood running down his face after apparently being hit by a rock. Other men brandished wooden clubs and glass bottles.
The clashes came hours after the military called for demonstrators to go home, but soldiers were not involved in the clashes, which came a day after Mubarak pledged not to run for reelection later this year. Most of the soldiers were simply manning parked tanks..
The push into the square by pro-Mubarak forces appeared highly organized, concentrated on a few key access routes. The anti-Mubarak protesters have accused the Egyptian leader's allies of paying people to rally in his support — and use force to intimidate the demonstrators.
Salma al Tarzi, an anti-Mubarak protester on the ground, told Al Jazeera English: Mubarak "wants it to seem that the people are fighting each other so he has an excuse" to crack down.
Reuters news agency reported at least 10 injuries.
The clashes broke out shortly after the army called on protesters to abandon their campaign. Many of the anti-Mubarak forces were unaware of that call — and said they would disregard it in any event.
"We're not leaving. We'll sit under the tanks if the army tries to stop us," said Omar Adli. Then he broke off speaking to run toward a nearby knot of men who had begun shoving one another and throwing punches.
Meanwhile, in continuing fallout from demands for change throughout the Arab world, the longtime leader of Yemen vowed to leave office before elections in 2013. President Ali Abdullah Saleh, under pressure from a boisterous coalition of relatively well-organized opposition groups, announced that neither he nor his son would stand for office and that he would pull back proposed constitutional changes that would make him ruler for life, according to news agencies.
"No to hereditary rule and no to life presidency," Saleh told parliament, according to Agence France-Presse.
In the Egyptian capital, protesters spent another chilly night in Tahrir Square, some sleeping in tents that were a signal of determination to maintain a presence in the plaza that has become an icon of their movement.
By midmorning, hundreds of new arrivals had trekked to the square, but not in numbers nearly as large as the previous day, when hundreds of thousands flooded the country's streets to demand Mubarak's immediate departure.
The military's announcement on state television was a clear signal that it has not abandoned Mubarak, who late Monday night announced that he would not run for reelection in September but made a plea to hold onto power in the interim.
"You are the ones capable of returning normal life to Egypt," military spokesman Ismail Etman said. "Your message has arrived; your demands have become known."
"The armed forces call on the protesters to go home for the sake of bringing back stability," said another televised statement.
Protest organizers appeared to be searching for ways to keep the crowd engaged and energized; what sounded like a very little boy led the crowd in a back-and-forth chant by megaphone. "Leave! Leave!" they chanted, in reference to Mubarak.
To keep warm after waking up, men began jogging around the square while chanting, "Down with Mubarak." Others walked from encampment to encampment, offering tea and ful, a traditional Egyptian dish and made of beans.
Protesters have set up a large projection screen in the square where they can watch television channels, including Al Jazeera, which has been officially banned in Egypt and had some sources of its signal jammed.
The political upheaval, ignited by a popular uprising that drove Tunisian President Zine el Abidine ben Ali from power Jan. 14, has shaken the Arab world's most populous nation and galvanized calls for change across the region, including in Jordan, Syria, Algeria, Sudan and Yemen.
A day before making his announcement, the Yemeni leader's government approved emergency financial handouts for 500,000 families and reduced tuition payments for students in an effort to placate those angry over the economy. A large anti-government rally is scheduled in the Yemeni capital tomorrow.
But in Egypt, the continued political crisis, fueled in part by economic grievances, has exacerbated day-to-day difficulties for many ordinary people. Businesses in the city center, together with banks across the country, remained closed for a fourth day Wednesday. The cash crunch is intensifying, especially because the shutdown coincided with the month's end, and almost no one has been able to lay hands on a paycheck.
But in a sign of increased confidence, the government on Wednesday restored Internet service, which had been cut several days ago in an apparent effort to keep opposition demonstrators from coordinating.
Nations all over the world have dispatched charter flights to evacuate their nationals from the country, draining Egypt of much-needed foreign currency. Tourism, an economic pillar in the nation of pyramids, has all but died.
In a televised address late Tuesday, Mubarak said he would stand down from office within months while implementing reforms and paving the way for a transition, but he ruled out going into exile like Ben Ali. His statement followed calls by the Obama administration to begin an orderly transfer of power. The U.S. provides Egypt annually with $2 billion in foreign aid.
Washington's move against Mubarak enraged some Israelis, who see Mubarak as a bulwark against Islamic radicalism. Egypt is one of only two Arab states that host Israeli embassies.
"I think the Americans still haven't realized the catastrophe they have plunged the Middle East into," Binyamin Ben-Eliezer, a former Israeli defense minister, told Israeli army radio.
Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #2779 on: Feb 2nd, 2011, 08:32am »
Forensic Breakthrough: Recovering Fingerprints on Fabrics Could Turn Clothes Into Silent Witnesses
ScienceDaily (Feb. 2, 2011) — Forensic experts at the University of Abertay Dundee and the Scottish Police Services Authority (SPSA) are leading the way in the research of new ground-breaking forensic techniques within the field of fingerprints.
A 21-day sample on nylon demonstrating palmar flexion creases. (Credit: University of Abertay Dundee/Scottish Police Services Authority)
The new research seeks to recover fingerprint ridge detail and impressions from fabrics -- a technique that has up until now proved difficult. It is the first time in more than 30 years that fingerprints on fabrics have been a major focus for research and the team have already had a number of successes.
A technique known as vacuum metal deposition (VMD) that uses gold and zinc to recover the fingerprint mark is being investigated as part of the research project. VMD is a highly sensitive technique already used to detect fingerprint marks on smooth surfaces such as carrier bags, plastics and glass.
The current research study by the University of Abertay Dundee and SPSA forensic experts is exploring its use in the examination of clothing and the potential value it could bring to a police investigation.
Joanna Fraser, a forensic sciences researcher at the University of Abertay Dundee, said: "The research uses fine layers of metals to display fingerprints people may have left on fabrics, something which is far harder to do with soft surfaces. The technique has been around since the 1970s and is used on many surface but was never widely used on fabrics.
"We take these fabrics, place them in a vacuum chamber, then heat up gold to evaporate it and spread a fine film over the fabric. We then heat up zinc, which attaches to the gold where there are no fingerprint residues. This helps reveal the fingerprint -- where contact has been made we see the original fabric, where there was no contact we're left with the grey colour of the metal film."
She added: "One way of explaining it is like a photographic negative, where colours show up as their opposites. Here the fingerprint ridges show through as clear fabric, but where there are no ridges we see the distinctive grey colour of the metal.
"Previously it had proved difficult to reveal a clear fingerprint on fabric, but we've shown that this is now possible. This is great, but the challenge is to develop this further and confirm its effectiveness."
Paul Deacon, fingerprint unit manager at the Scottish Police Services Authority (SPSA) and one of the experts on the project said: "Fingerprints have been used as a means of identification for over 100 years but recovering fingerprints from fabrics has always proven to be fairly difficult. We wanted to change that.
"The research is still in its early stages but we are starting to see results. We have shown that fabrics with a high thread count are best for revealing a print and have recovered identifiable fingerprints on a number of fabrics including silk, nylon and polyester."
Only 20 per cent of the public are classed as "good donors" for leaving fingerprints, so while the success rate is still low for recovering a full fingerprint from items of clothing, the researchers have had great success in revealing the shape of a handprint on a number of fabric types.
Paul Deacon added: "Such an impression could help the police piece together a timeline of events and could be used to provide evidence in cases where someone was pushed, or grabbed, in a particular area of their clothing.
"For example, an impression of a palm print on the back of someone's shirt might indicate they were pushed off a balcony, rather than jumping. Fingerprints left on fabric and other surfaces can leave DNA traces, so it can also help forensic scientists to visualise the best area to target on an item of clothing to recover DNA evidence."
Director of SPSA Forensic Services Tom Nelson said: "Used on its own fingerprints and impressions recovered on fabrics will not necessarily convict a criminal but used alongside other evidence it will present a more robust case to the court.
"I am determined that we continue to balance the consolidation of the core forensic support we provide to the police and the Crown, with new innovations and techniques. This is just one such innovation we are pursuing as we strive to ensure that forensics makes an even greater contribution to convicting the guilty and protecting the public."
Astonishing Photos of One of Earth's Last Uncontacted Tribes
I wonder if they might think that their gods just showed up or something.
Discovering the Largest Cave on Earth
Like a castle on a knoll, a rock formation shines beneath a skylight in Hang Son Doong. A storm had just filled the pool, signaling that exploring season was coming to an end.
“It is still caving, it's just, it's unlike caving anywhere else on the planet.” Mark Jenkins
His feet move over limestone as sharp as razor blades yet invisible to the naked eye. The darkness is like pitch in the cavernous space, but the smell of moist air given off by the cave and jungle hangs heavily in the air.
To explorer Mark Jenkins, it feels like being inside a mountain. In the silence he can hear water dripping onto limestone and rocks, but whatever his senses tell him, one thing is clear: he is deep in the bowels of the earth, in the largest cave known to man. This is the story of Vietnam's Hang Son Doong, and the extraordinary journey Jenkins undertook to be among the first to fully explore this massive natural wonder.
To put things in perspective about the size of the cave, one section is almost 800 ft high and more than 300 ft wide. You could park a Boeing 747 there or fit a block of skyscrapers 40 stories tall in it. There is space enough for whole villages in this underground expanse.
Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #2788 on: Feb 2nd, 2011, 2:22pm »
The Event returns by James Hibberd Categories: Television, The Event, TV Biz
NBC’s has set a return date for The Event, and has tapped an A-list cinematographer to direct one pivotal episode.
EW has exclusively learned The Event is coming back on Monday, March 7, with a two-hour presentation, followed by the return of Parenthood. After that, there’s 10 more Event episodes to finish out the show’s first season.
Also, Janusz Kaminsk — the cinematographer behind a score of Steven Spielberg classics as Saving Private Ryan, Schindler’s List and War of the Worlds — has been tapped to direct episode 15. Could #15 be when fans finally learn what “The Event” is?
Producers said last year that the title reference will be revealed in the latter half of the first season. Also, they’ve assured the season finale will conclude the current storylines in a satisfying manner (a different strategy than, say, ABC’s V, which is going for a cliffhanger).
Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #2789 on: Feb 2nd, 2011, 6:03pm »
Jerusalem UFO Spottings Over Islamic Landmark Surface Spark Debate (VIDEO)
Posted: 02/02/11 04:04 PM
Dueling clips of a purported UFO hovering over Dome of the Rock, an Islamic shrine, on Jerusalem's Temple Mount, have created an online ruckus since surfacing online.
Not surprisingly, AOL is reporting on the blogosphere's ongoing debate over the legitimacy of the videos, which show round, bright objects hovering over the landmark's iconic dome before rocketing upwards. The videos, which include audio of the inspired reactions of spectators, were reportedly shot over the weekend.