Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #4216 on: Jun 8th, 2011, 12:28pm »
Battlestar Galactica fans, today only on Amazon:
Geek Deal: ‘Battlestar Galactica: The Complete Series’ For 60% Off Posted on Wednesday, June 8th, 2011 by Germain Lussier
So say we all. Whether you’ve seen Battlestar Galactica before, or have been meaning to see it, today is the day to pull the trigger. Wednesday’s Amazon Gold Box Deal of the Day is 60% off Battlestar Galactica: The Complete Series either on DVD or Blu-ray, which means they’re only $77 or $114 respectively. What the frak are you waiting for? This will sell out quick.
Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #4218 on: Jun 8th, 2011, 3:59pm »
Australia's UFO files missing, sighted, found
Bill Chalker, in his blog TheOzFiles, claimed he has "the case of the 'missing' Australian DOD 'X-Files'" solved, non-mysteriously -- simply by knowing how to search the National Archives of Australia on the topic. The DOD destroyed some of the documents in housecleaning sweeps, some were preserved by researchers and many were transferred to the NAA, where searching for "flying saucers" works best, Chalker explained.
Research, investigations & commentary from Bill Chalker
Monday, June 06, 2011
The Australian Department of Defence "lost" UFO files - where are they?
The Sydney Morning Herald reported today that "the Department of Defence has "lost" its X-Files." In response to the newspaper's FOI request after a 2 month search the department's FOI assistant director advised they could only find a very limited amount of files. The search included the Canberra National Archives of Australia (NAA)facility.
When Herald journalist Melissa Davey contacted me yesterday about the story I suggested that it could not have been a very thorough search, simply because a large part of the "missing files" are in fact located at the Canberra NAA facility. Indeed many of them are available to be "found" via anybody's computer internet search of the NAA site via digital copies. Some files are indeed missing but these seem to be due to shortsighted "house cleaning" activities by the DOD. The decision to destroy UFO (or UAS) files is completely out of step with equivalent organisations in other countries such as Britain and France. Fortunately many of the impressive cases that were in the destroyed files were preserved by researchers like myself. I copied many of these files during my research visits to the Russell Offices of the Department of Defence during the period 1982 and 1984.
Incidentally a computer search of the NAA records is best served by using the word "Flying saucers." Many of these file series can be read at your leisure via the digitised versions of the same files.
So the case of the "missing" Australian DOD "X-Files" has been solved. In fact the majority of the files were never "lost" just not found by the DOD FOI official who did not know the history of the DOD's relationship with the UFO "problem."
Only a little research would have been needed to determine where the files actually were.
The bigger question is why the Department of Defence decided to destroy some of their UFO files, for what seems to be little more reason than house cleaning activities. Back in 1984 I directed a letter to the Director of Air Force Intelligence stating that the DOD UFO/UAS files should be preserved for posterity because of their value to UFO researchers, historians, and to many other disciplines. When the National Archives started storing many of these files, and ultimately digitising some of them I felt that preservation of the files was reasonably assured. Problem is you can't always count on efficient follow through. Incredibly myopic decisions were made within DOD around 2004 to destroy some of the UFO files still present in the DOD archives.
The FOI decision maker at that time was Group Captain G. MacDonald, Director of Co-ordination - Air Force. More than 8 years of sighting files from 1974 to 1982 appear to have been destroyed. I hope that the process was not continued to any further extent. That is a matter that needs to be further examined.
Fortunately a great deal of the DOD UFO files exist via their presence in the National Archives.
At least a substantial part of the Australian DOD UFO legacy has been preserved for future historical consideration.
Super 8 Details Official Site: http://www.super8-movie.com/ Directed by: J. J. Abrams Written by: J. J. Abrams Featuring: Kyle Chandler, Elle Fanning and AJ Michalka Plot: After witnessing a mysterious train crash, a group of friends in the summer of 1979 begin noticing strange happenings going around in their small town, and begin to investigate into the creepy phenomenon.
Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #4224 on: Jun 9th, 2011, 07:04am »
New York Times
June 9, 2011, 5:41 am Citigroup Card Customers’ Data Hacked By CHRIS V. NICHOLSON
Citigroup acknowledged on Thursday that unidentified hackers had breached its security and gained access to the data of hundreds of thousands of its bank card customers.
“During routine monitoring, we recently discovered unauthorized access to Citi’s account online,” the bank said in an e-mailed statement. “We are contacting customers whose information was impacted.”
The giant bank said about 1 percent of its bank card holders had been affected, putting the total count of customers exposed in the hundreds of thousands, based on its annual report for 2010, which said its card business had about 21 million customers in North America.
While information concerning customers’ names, account numbers, addresses and e-mail addresses was exposed, the bank said that data like “social security number, date of birth, card expiration date and card security code were not compromised.”
“Citi has implemented enhanced procedures to prevent a recurrence of this type of event,” the bank said. “For the security of these customers, we are not disclosing further details.”
The Financial Times broke the story early Thursday.
Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #4225 on: Jun 9th, 2011, 07:07am »
Case against ex-NSA manager accused of mishandling classified files narrows By Ellen Nakashima, Published: June 8
Federal prosecutors will withdraw key documents from their case against a former National Security Agency manager charged with mishandling classified material, a move that experts say could signal the unraveling of one of the Obama administration’s most prominent efforts to punish accused leakers.
Prosecutors informed U.S. District Judge Richard Bennett this week that they would withhold documents they had planned to introduce as evidence to keep from disclosing sensitive technology. Former NSA executive Thomas A. Drake is charged with unlawfully retaining classified information at a time when he was in touch with a Baltimore Sun reporter who later chronicled mismanagement at the agency.
The government has used the 1917 Espionage Act, which has been criticized as vague and overbroad, to charge Drake, one of five such cases against alleged leakers under the Obama administration. Drake is not accused of spying, but the law’s provisions criminalize the unauthorized retention of classified material. The trial is set to begin Monday.
The government’s decision to withhold certain documents may complicate prosecutors’ efforts to prove a violation of the act, suggesting that the government may have overreached in using an espionage law to target a suspected leaker.
“By withdrawing several of the exhibits, at least a couple of the counts against Drake will almost certainly need to be dismissed,” said Steven Aftergood, a national security expert with the Federation of American Scientists who has followed the case closely since Drake was indicted last year. “It changes the whole dynamic of the prosecution and may even set the stage for settlement or dismissal.”
Prosecutors “gambled that the court would permit them to submit unclassified substitutions for this information,” Aftergood said. “The case isn’t over, but this is clearly a setback for the prosecution.”
Transparency activists and media experts warn that such prosecutions could stanch the flow of information the public needs to judge policy, and George W. Bush administration officials see the prosecutions as selective — ignoring high-level officials who release sensitive information to advance their personal or policy agendas.
Justice Department spokesman Laura Sweeney declined to comment on the case.
Drake, 54, could face 35 years in prison if convicted of “willful retention of national defense information.” He is not charged with a leak.
Drake has said that he is a whistleblower who is facing a politically motivated reprisal for drawing attention to the NSA’s inefficiencies. “I will never plea-bargain with the truth,” he told friends last year.
Drake was a senior executive at the NSA — a “senior change leader” — who professed an ambition to change the agency’s insular culture. He became disillusioned with the agency’s handling of major technology programs and concerned that the NSA was needlessly violating Americans’ privacy through a massive surveillance program adopted after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. He raised concerns with officials and the inspector general, and later with the reporter, before leaving the agency in 2008.
According to people following the case, the government may have to drop two Espionage Act counts that relate to information that Drake submitted to the Defense Department inspector general between 2002 and 2004 to buttress colleagues’ complaints about waste, fraud and abuse of a bungled NSA data-sifting program, Trailblazer. He and his former NSA colleagues thought the complaints were confidential.
The evidence for those two counts is contained in Exhibits 42 and 43, according to the sources. Prosecutor William M. Welch II, in a letter Sunday to Bennett, a U.S. District Court judge in Baltimore, said those exhibits will be withdrawn. The letter was first reported by Politico.
Another exhibit, numbered 41, also consisting of information Drake submitted to the inspector general, is intended to support a third Espionage Act count, which may also be dropped, the sources said. That exhibit will be redacted, the prosecution has said.
Two remaining Espionage Act charges relate to information that Drake possessed but that had been published on the NSA’s in-house intranet. Legal experts said Drake could contend that the material was unclassified information that was widely available to tens of thousands of agency employees.
The rest of the charges — one count of obstruction of justice and four counts of making a false statement — are less important, legal experts said.
Prosecutors decided to withdraw and redact the documents after Bennett ruled that they could not substitute unclassified language without harming Drake’s ability to mount a defense.
In his letter, Welch, who led the unsuccessful corruption prosecution of the late senator Ted Stevens (R-Alaska), stated he was withdrawing four exhibits and redacting two more to remove any reference to a “particular telecommunications technology.”
“In short, no reference to the technology will be made,” Welch said. “This will allow continued protection of the details of NSA’s efforts in this area, while simultaneously protecting the defendant’s constitutional ability to present his defense.”
The case against Drake is already leaner than initially planned. Welch’s predecessor, Steven Tyrrell, had wanted to charge Drake with leaking classified documents to a reporter and being part of a conspiracy, according to an early draft of the indictment that Welch inadvertently sent to the defense team.
Leak prosecutions under the Espionage Act had been relatively rare until the Obama administration. Daniel Ellsberg, who gave the Pentagon Papers to a reporter, was the first leaker indicted under the law, but his case ended with a mistrial after government misconduct.
The Obama administration is presiding over five cases involving the act, including those against Pfc. Bradley Manning, a former Army intelligence analyst accused of passing State Department and military war data to the anti-secrecy Web site WikiLeaks; Stephen Kim, a former State Department analyst accused of leaking to a television reporter; and Jeffrey Sterling, a former CIA analyst accused of passing classified information to author and New York Times reporter James Risen.
“Obama is prosecuting whistleblowers who made the kinds of disclosures that he said he wants — contractors bilking the government of billions of dollars,” said Jesselyn Radack, a former Justice Department whistleblower and director of national security at the Government Accountability Project. “That’s what Drake did.”
Staff researcher Julie Tate contributed to this report.
Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #4226 on: Jun 9th, 2011, 07:17am »
Wired Danger Room
Army Seeks Social Media Gurus to Save Afghan War By Spencer Ackerman June 8, 2011 | 4:53 pm Categories: Info War
photo US Army
Know how to Tweet? Or how to put words into the mouths of foreign security functionaries? If so, the U.S. Army wants you to help un-quagmire the Afghanistan war.
A new solicitation from the Army seeks communications experts to run the full spectrum of outreach and messaging for the war effort. A new “Web Content/Social Media Manager” will work with the U.S. military command in Afghanistan, known by the acronym USFOR-A, to spruce up and maintain “the command’s official website and related social media platforms, such as Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Flickr.” (PDF) Other officials will dig into the Afghan security ministries to advise key officials how to convince people they’re competent, energetic and not at all corrupt.
To non-Afghan eyes, USFOR-A’s got a pretty robust social media presence. Check out how often it tweets its messaging into the ether. Its YouTube channel is filled with positive videos, and its Facebook page — folded into the NATO command’s page — has nearly 80,000 Likes. Is the war won yet?
Evidently not. The solicitation sees the Taliban doing a better communications job than the U.S.: ”To date, the Insurgents (INS) have undermined the credibility of USFOR-A, the International Community (IC), and Government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan (GIRoA) through effective use of the information environment, albeit without a commensurate increase in their own credibility.” Guess the Army thinks the Taliban’s recent English-language tweeting and SMS terror campaign is having an impact. Or that Gen. Stanley McChrystal’s 2009 plea to revamp the war’s communications apparatus didn’t have the desired effect.
That problem’s magnified when it comes to the Afghan government, which is so corrupt that Ryan Crocker, Obama administration’s nominee for ambassador to Kabul, compared its perfidies to a “second insurgency” on Wednesday. The answer? “[C]ulturally-astute and culturally-attuned communication and public affairs advisement” to mouthpieces for the ministries of Defense and Interior.
What will those advisers do? The short answer is teach them how to spin. The long answer: “better align media reporting and public perception and proactively engage opinion-shapers, from media to key leaders, in order to bring these attributes of the information landscape into alignment.”
This is only partially about gaining or keeping Afghan support. The bolstered social media push needs to have rapid translation into Dari and Pashto, as well as ceaselessly nimble translations of the local press so the military gets feedback, the solicitation says. But it’s primarily to “inform key audiences” — that is, “media and civilian populations internationally and within the region” about USFOR-A spin. And when the best that the smooth diplomat Crocker can tell the Senate about the war is that it’s “not… hopeless,” it’s no wonder that the Army thinks USFOR-A needs all the communications help it can get.
Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #4227 on: Jun 9th, 2011, 07:20am »
U.S. can't justify its drug war spending, reports say
Government reports say the Obama administration is unable to show that billions of dollars spent in the anti-drug efforts in Latin America have made a significant difference.
By Brian Bennett, Los Angeles Times June 9, 2011 Reporting from Washington
As drug cartels wreak murderous havoc from Mexico to Panama, the Obama administration is unable to show that the billions of dollars spent in the war on drugs have significantly stemmed the flow of illegal narcotics into the United States, according to two government reports and outside experts.
The reports specifically criticize the government's growing use of U.S. contractors, which were paid more than $3 billion to train local prosecutors and police, help eradicate fields of coca, operate surveillance equipment and otherwise battle the widening drug trade in Latin America over the last five years.
"We are wasting tax dollars and throwing money at a problem without even knowing what we are getting in return," said Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.), who chairs the Senate subcommittee that wrote one of the reports, which was released Wednesday.
"I think we have wasted our money hugely," agreed Bruce Bagley, who studies U.S. counter-narcotics efforts and chairs international studies at the University of Miami at Coral Gables, Fla. "The effort has had corrosive effects on every country it has touched."
Obama administration officials strongly deny that U.S. efforts have failed to reduce drug production or smuggling in Latin America.
White House officials say the expanding U.S. counter-narcotics effort occupies a growing portion of time for President Obama's national security team even though it garners few headlines or congressional hearings in Washington.
The majority of U.S. counter-narcotics contracts are awarded to five companies: DynCorp, Lockheed Martin, Raytheon, ITT and ARINC, according to the report for the contracting oversight subcommittee, part of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee.
Counter-narcotics contract spending increased 32% over the five-year period, from $482 million in 2005 to $635 million in 2009. DynCorp, based in Falls Church, Va., received the largest total, $1.1 billion.
Among other jobs, the U.S. contractors train local police and investigators, provide logistical support to intelligence collection centers and fly airplanes and helicopters that spray herbicides to eradicate coca crops grown to produce cocaine.
The Department of Defense has spent $6.1 billion since 2005 to help detect planes and boats heading to the U.S. with drug payloads, as well as on surveillance and other intelligence operations.
Senate staff members described some of the expenses as "difficult to characterize." The Army spent $75,000 for paintball supplies for training exercises in 2007, for example, and $5,000 for what the military calls "rubber ducks." The ducks are rubber replicas of M-16 rifles that are used in training exercises, a Pentagon spokesman said.
The Defense Department described its own system for tracking those contracts as "error prone," according to the Senate report. The report also said the Defense Department doesn't have reliable data about how successful its efforts have been.
A separate report last month by the U.S. Government Accountability Office, the investigative arm of Congress, concluded that the State Department "does not have a centralized inventory of counter-narcotics contracts" and said the department does not evaluate the overall success of its counter-narcotics program.
"It's become increasingly clear that our efforts to rein in the narcotics trade in Latin America, especially as it relates to the government's use of contractors, have largely failed," McCaskill said.
Vanda Felbab-Brown, an expert on U.S. drug policy at the Brookings Institution think tank in Washington, said the U.S. military and other government agencies, not private contractors, should take the lead in training foreign armies and police in drug eradication and control.
"But unless we are able to resource our government properly, that is the only way we can do it," Felbab-Brown said.
The latest assault on the United States' counter-narcotics strategy comes a week after a high-profile group of world leaders called the global war on drugs a costly failure.
The group, which included former U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan and past presidents of Mexico, Brazil and Colombia, recommended that regional governments try legalizing and regulating drugs to help stop the flood of cash going to drug mafias and other organized crime groups.
But James Gregory, a Pentagon spokesman, said the Defense Department's efforts against the drug trade "have been among the most successful and cost-effective programs" in decades. He cited the U.S. success in the 1980s in stopping cocaine shipments from Colombia that had been inundating Florida, and the efforts in the 1990s at helping Colombia overcome a drug-fueled insurgency.
"By any reasonable assessment, the U.S. has received ample strategic national security benefits in return for its investments in this area," he said.
Administration officials say that the counter-narcotics program is producing more recent benefits as well.
Along the Mexican border, increased patrols and other efforts have helped seize 31% more drugs, 75% more cash and 64% more weapons during the first 21/2 years of the Obama administration than in the previous 21/2 years, the Homeland Security Department says.
After a decade of U.S. assistance to Colombia and years of using U.S. contractors there, annual cocaine production in Colombia has fallen 60% since 2001, according to the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy. Some of that cocaine production has shifted to Peru, however.
Backed by the U.S., Mexico's stepped-up offensive against drug cartels similarly has had the unintended effect of pushing them deeper into Central America, especially Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador. Violence has soared in those countries.
One result has been a new emphasis on surveillance technology and intelligence collection.
In particular, the U.S. effort has focused on improving efforts to intercept cellphone and Internet traffic of drug cartels in the region, according to two U.S. officials who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly.
During a visit to El Salvador in February, the head of the State Department's counter-narcotics programs, William Brownfield, opened a wiretapping center in San Salvador, as well as a regional office to share fingerprints and other data with U.S. law enforcement. El Salvador is the hub for U.S. law enforcement efforts in Central America.
Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #4228 on: Jun 9th, 2011, 07:25am »
'Super 8': What's at Stake 3:19 PM 6/8/2011 by Jay A. Fernandez
How J.J. Abrams' first nonfranchise film could impact his next projects.
When Super 8 writer-director J.J. Abrams took the stage at the MTV Movie Awards on June 5 with producer Steven Spielberg and actors Elle Fanning and Joel Courtney, he seemed to hint at the grudging necessity of the stunt by reiterating that he prefers to keep secrets. With box office tracking soft -- and attention distracted by flashier fare -- the director and studio are working to pump up buzz ahead of its June 10 release.
More is riding on the film's success for Abrams than for Paramount. The studio spent only $50 million on the throwback sci-fi adventure, and the next installment in its billions-grossing Transformers franchise, Dark of the Moon, hits theaters June 29. Paramount has been home since 2006 to Abrams' Bad Robot, whose first-look deal runs through 2013. So he's on the hook to produce the Brad Bird-directed tentpole Mission: Impossible -- Ghost Protocol for a holiday release and a Star Trek sequel due in summer 2012.
But what of Abrams' other, more personal projects? Super 8 is his first solo writing-directing gig, and it's his first film as a director that can't rely on the prebranding his first two features, Mission: Impossible III ($398 million in worldwide box office) and Star Trek ($386 million), enjoyed. If it underperforms with Spielberg's added star power, Abrams might feel the sting in terms of his ability to push forward features that don't come with high-profile pre-awareness.
Among these are Boilerplate, adapted from a period graphic novel; Let the Great World Spin, adapted from the Colum McCann novel; a Little Darlings remake; and Mystery on Fifth Avenue, a family film based on a New York Times article. Bad Robot's previous outing, the romantic comedy Morning Glory, grossed just $59 million worldwide in 2010 -- a disappointment with stars Harrison Ford, Diane Keaton and Rachel McAdams.
Paramount is shrewdly lowering expectations for Super 8, telling THR it will be happy with a $25 million to $30 million opening. That would set it up for a theatrical run in the black because, despite a hefty marketing spend to open in summer, it cost about a third of recent tentpoles Thor and X-Men: First Class. But if opening-weekend audiences decide they aren't interested in a nostalgic creature feature, the real mystery will be whether Abrams will find himself back helming franchise fare -- perhaps in the captain's chair on the Starship Enterprise.