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 veryhotthread  Author  Topic: Stuff & Nonsense  (Read 70549 times)
WingsofCrystal
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« Reply #7065 on: Jul 24th, 2012, 09:09am »

Wired

Spy Satellite Companies Form Space Monopoly
By Robert Beckhusen
July 24, 2012 | 6:30 am
Categories: Spies, Secrecy and Surveillance

Earlier this year, the spy satellite industry was hit hard by defense budget cuts. For the top two commercial satellite companies, which survive largely by providing imagery to the Pentagon and U.S. intelligence agencies, the cuts left only enough money for one to survive. Now budget austerity has forced the companies to merge together and create a new space monopoly with control over what we see from orbit.

On Monday, Colorado-based satellite firm DigitalGlobe announced it’s merging with Virginia-based competitor GeoEye in a stock and cash deal worth $900 million. The merger works out in DigitalGlobe’s favor, which keeps its name intact and whose shareholders will control 64 percent of the new company. DigitalGlobe will also take over GeoEye operations. Best known for providing imagery for applications like Google Earth, the companies combined provide more than three-quarters of the U.S. government’s satellite images.

The company also has somewhat of a codependent relationship with the Pentagon. For one, the companies help serve a need for satellite images that the government’s own aging fleet of satellites can’t always fulfill. Meanwhile, the companies are dependent on funding from Congress and the Pentagon’s National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA) in order to stay afloat. This year, that funding got cut — severely.

Earlier this year, the Pentagon announced it was pushing “significant reductions” for commercial satellite imagery for fiscal year 2013. Although the total amount the government spends on reconnaissance satellites is kept secret, analysts expected losses up to 50 percent. This served as the catalyst for an austerity-driven merger war.

A week before the budget dropped in February, GeoEye launched a failed hostile takeover bid for DigitalGlobe, offering to acquire the company for $792 million. DigitalGlobe called GeoEye’s bluff, saying GeoEye’s offer “substantially undervalue[d] the company in relation to DigitalGlobe’s standalone business and financial prospects” — i.e., their company’s ability to withstand a body-blow brought on by defense cuts.

Then in late June, doubts emerged whether GeoEye’s funding would continue. The NGA diced into two parts GeoEye’s share of the agency’s 10-year, $7.3 billion EnhancedView program, which provides funds for imagery and helps develop satellite technology.

The agency gave GeoEye two options: either renew the contract for EnhancedView for three months or nine months instead of a full year. It was a worrying sign the agency was looking for a way out of the contract. If the agency renewed with GeoEye for a full year, the agency’s cost would come out of a budget that might get cut. If Congress was set to cleave apart that budget, the NGA might not have the means for pay for it.

GeoEye’s stock plunged. There was speculation the company wouldn’t be able to secure lending from banks — already considerably difficult for companies that depend on a static defense budget for contracts.

But competitor DigitalGlobe also had a share of the EnhancedView contract, and it wasn’t touched. With its competitor now on the ropes, DigitalGlobe was set up to consume it.

Of course, with the merger, that means DigitalGlobe is now the main player in the satellite industry. The company plans to continue with launching its former competitor’s premiere satellite project, the GeoEye-2, sometime in the next two years. The GeoEye-2, though not as zoomable as the governments’ top secret spy satellites, is expected to be able to photograph the ground at higher resolutions than the best current commercial satellites. A second satellite, the WorldView-3, is being kept grounded for now as a spare.

DigitalGlobe expects the merger will allow net savings of up to $1.5 billion, saving taxpayers money while allowing the company to diversify. But with most of the U.S.’s geospatial intelligence now absorbed by one company, it’s worth wondering what that will do to satellite costs over the long term. It’s not difficult to factor that monopolies distort the marketplace, and exclude competitors which work to keep down prices.

It also means more and more space imagery will be the preserve of one company. Like it or not, that means DigitalGlobe will control an increasing amount of what we can — or can’t — see from space.

http://www.wired.com/dangerroom/2012/07/satellite/

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« Reply #7066 on: Jul 24th, 2012, 09:13am »






Published on Jul 23, 2012 by commando602

UFO Spotted in Phoenix Dust Storm July 21, 2012

This UFO was spotted by a youtube viewer whilst watching my video that I uploaded titled "MONSTER DUST STORM".

Original video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7W7Op5ZKkVE
Original video was uploaded July 21, 2012

Thanks to the youtube user stand4ever1 for being very
observant and noticing the U.F.O.

In the first video clip the UFO was filmed through a car windshield.
Second clip was filmed outside of car.

Buckeye, Arizona
July 21, 2012
1814 HOURS
Look Angle East
UFO spotted East/North East Sky

When the video was filmed, Moon phase is "Waxing Moon"
and at 6:00 P.M when the video was filmed the moon was in the Western sky. The video was filmed pointing towards the Eastern sky. Object was in the East/North East...

~

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« Reply #7067 on: Jul 24th, 2012, 10:27am »

Good morning Crystal, beautiful lady smiley

I am glad I don't live there. I sat through a couple of dust storms like that when I lived on the east coast of Australia... its just horrible. That dust gets into everything... a housewife's nightmare!!

Have a great day smiley

Luvey

on Jul 24th, 2012, 09:13am, WingsofCrystal wrote:



Published on Jul 23, 2012 by commando602

UFO Spotted in Phoenix Dust Storm July 21, 2012

This UFO was spotted by a youtube viewer whilst watching my video that I uploaded titled "MONSTER DUST STORM".

Original video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7W7Op5ZKkVE
Original video was uploaded July 21, 2012

Thanks to the youtube user stand4ever1 for being very
observant and noticing the U.F.O.

In the first video clip the UFO was filmed through a car windshield.
Second clip was filmed outside of car.

Buckeye, Arizona
July 21, 2012
1814 HOURS
Look Angle East
UFO spotted East/North East Sky

When the video was filmed, Moon phase is "Waxing Moon"
and at 6:00 P.M when the video was filmed the moon was in the Western sky. The video was filmed pointing towards the Eastern sky. Object was in the East/North East...

~

Crystal
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~ In every action there is an equal and opposite reaction ~
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« Reply #7068 on: Jul 24th, 2012, 12:14pm »

on Jul 23rd, 2012, 12:21pm, Swamprat wrote:
Retired Marine stuns crowd:


http://www.youtube.com/v/I0fQd858cRc%26hl=en_US%26feature=player_embedded%26version=3


You gotta watch those Marines. wink


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« Reply #7069 on: Jul 24th, 2012, 12:17pm »

on Jul 24th, 2012, 10:27am, Luvey wrote:
Good morning Crystal, beautiful lady smiley

I am glad I don't live there. I sat through a couple of dust storms like that when I lived on the east coast of Australia... its just horrible. That dust gets into everything... a housewife's nightmare!!

Have a great day smiley

Luvey



Hello Luvey,

When I was growing up in Arizona they were a nightmare. If you get caught on the road in one it makes your hair stand straight up trying to drive and not plow into someone or follow tailights off into a ditch! And boy you are right about it getting into everything! tongue

Crystal



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« Reply #7070 on: Jul 24th, 2012, 2:37pm »

My mom grew up in the Dust Bowl in southwestern Kansas in the thirties. She used to say when they woke up in the morning, you couldn't see the pattern on the quilt because of the dust.

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« Reply #7071 on: Jul 25th, 2012, 10:07am »

on Jul 24th, 2012, 2:37pm, Swamprat wrote:
My mom grew up in the Dust Bowl in southwestern Kansas in the thirties. She used to say when they woke up in the morning, you couldn't see the pattern on the quilt because of the dust.

Swamp


Good morning Swamp,

I've seen photos that curled my hair. Your Mom must be one tough cookie after living through that.

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« Reply #7072 on: Jul 25th, 2012, 10:13am »

Reuters

North Korea confirms mystery woman is leader's wife

By Ju-min Park

SEOUL | Wed Jul 25, 2012 10:20am EDT

SEOUL (Reuters) - North Korea's new young leader, Kim Jong-un, is married, state media said on Wednesday, putting an end to speculation over the relationship with a woman seen at his side during recent events.

The announcement, which fits a trend the upbeat Kim has followed to break out of the dour management style of his late father, Kim Jong-il, came just two weeks after he was seen at a gala performance accompanied by the woman, with rumors swirling as to whether she was his wife, lover or sister.

"Kim Jong-un's move appears to give the youth hoping for change, especially young women, a favorable impression of him although it can make conservative old North Koreans uncomfortable," said Cheong Seong-chang, a senior fellow at the Sejong Institute think tank.


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North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un (2nd L) and an unidentified woman visit the Rungna People's Pleasure Ground,
which is nearing completion, in Pyongyang in this undated picture released by the North's KCNA on July 25, 2012.
Credit: Reuters/KCNA



"Although Kim Jong-un continues a one-man dictatorship, he is expected to have a more open attitude in culture than in the Kim Jong-il era."

Some observers in South Korea speculated she was a singer, Hyon Song-wol, he dated years ago before his father put a stop to it, but who was now back on the scene.

But the North Korean state broadcaster named his wife as Ri Sol-ju, without giving details. It is not clear when the two tied the knot.

Recent TV footage showed the two laughing with each other, touching a child's hair together and clapping while watching a performance featuring western show tunes and Mickey Mouse.

"While a welcoming song was playing, our party and people's supreme leader, Marshal Kim Jong-un, came out from a ceremony of the completion (of a 'pleasure ground') with wife, Ri Sol-ju," it said.

Kim, in his late-20s, took over the family dynasty last December with the death of his father, whose rule took North Korea deeper into isolation, abject poverty and large-scale political repression.

KIM DID IT HIS WAY

Since then he has taken a more glitzy approach, at least on the surface, to ruling a country which is locked in a stand-off with the West over its nuclear weapons program.

Once the official mourning period was over, the youngest Kim to rule North Korea was seen laughing with fusty old generals, gesticulating in delight at a military parade and, the biggest shock of all, speaking. Most North Koreans went to their graves never having seen Kim the elder speak.

Kim the younger has steadily worked to impose his own stamp on the top leadership of North Korea, and on Sunday ousted Vice Marshal Ri Yong-ho, the country's leading military figure, who was seen as close to Kim Jong-il.

Kim was named marshal of the army in a move that adds to his glittering array of titles and cements his power. He already heads the Workers' Party of Korea and is First Chairman of the National Defense Commission.

He is also gearing up to experiment with agricultural and economic reforms after purging Ri Yong-ho for opposing change, a source with ties to both Pyongyang and Beijing told Reuters earlier.

This month's unusual gala performance, where Kim was seen with his wife, featured Walt Disney's "It's A Small World", a thumping rock version of the theme tune to "Rocky" and Frank Sinatra's "My Way", a song that might have particular appeal to the Kim family, whose word is law in North Korea.

Bizarrely for a state which frequently voices its loathing for all things American, it featured a cast of Disney characters, including Winnie the Pooh and Minnie Mouse.

The family does have a previous Disney connection: the ruler's elder brother, Kim Jong-nam, said he was on his way to Tokyo Disneyland when he was caught illegally entering Japan in 2001.

(Editing by Nick Macfie)

http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/07/25/us-korea-north-kim-idUSBRE86O0TF20120725

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« Reply #7073 on: Jul 25th, 2012, 10:19am »

Wired

Reverse-Engineered Irises Look So Real, They Fool Eye-Scanners
By Kim Zetter
July 25, 2012 | 6:00 am
Categories: Black Hat Conference, Cybersecurity


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Researchers reverse-engineered iris codes to create synthetic eye images that tricked an iris recognition system into thinking they were authentic.
Can you tell if this is the real image or the synthetic one?
All images courtesy of Javier Galbally.



LAS VEGAS — Remember that scene in Minority Report when the spider robots stalk Tom Cruise to his apartment and scan his iris to identify him?

Things could have turned out so much better for Cruise had he been wearing a pair of contact lenses embossed with an image of someone else’s iris.

New research being released this week at the Black Hat security conference by academics in Spain and the U.S. may make that possible.

The academics have found a way to recreate iris images that match digital iris codes that are stored in databases and used by iris-recognition systems to identify people. The replica images, they say, can trick commercial iris-recognition systems into believing they’re real images and could help someone thwart identification at border crossings or gain entry to secure facilities protected by biometric systems.

The work goes a step beyond previous work on iris-recognition systems. Previously, researchers have been able to create wholly synthetic iris images that had all of the characteristics of real iris images — but weren’t connected to real people. The images were able to trick iris-recognition systems into thinking they were real irises, though they couldn’t be used to impersonate a real person. But this is the first time anyone has essentially reverse-engineered iris codes to create iris images that closely match the eye images of real subjects, creating the possibility of stealing someone’s identity through their iris.

“The idea is to generate the iris image, and once you have the image you can actually print it and show it to the recognition system, and it will say ‘okay, this is the [right] guy,’” says Javier Galbally, who conducted the research with colleagues at the Biometric Recognition Group-ATVS, at the Universidad Autonoma de Madrid, and researchers at at West Virginia University.

more after the jump:
http://www.wired.com/threatlevel/2012/07/reverse-engineering-iris-scans/all/

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« Reply #7074 on: Jul 25th, 2012, 10:23am »

AP News

EYES ON LONDON: Baffled cabbies, NKorea, UFO odds

By The Associated Press on July 24, 2012

LONDON (AP) — Around the 2012 Olympics and its host city with journalists from The Associated Press bringing the flavor and details of the games to you:

___

NERVOUS CABBIES

Special Olympic road lanes don't open until Wednesday, but some cab drivers are already baffled and fearing the worst. "If I go into a bus lane, I'll get fined 100 pounds ($155). If I go into an Olympic lane I'll get fined 130 pounds ($200). If I turn right where I'm not supposed to, it's 60 pounds ($93)," said Rahmid Mohamed, slamming on his breaks to avoid an angry cabbie who swerved in front of him to avoid white barricades.

—Paisley Dodds — Twitter http://twitter.com/paisleydodds

___

WATCHING IN PYONGYANG?

It must be one of the last frontiers for Olympics fever.

The chief of Asia's broadcasting union is in North Korea on Tuesday for talks on providing the country with TV and radio coverage of this year's games.

During the 2010 soccer World Cup in South Africa, North Korean state television aired unprecedented coverage of three matches as well as snippets from the opening ceremony — but not the games played by wartime enemies South Korea and the United States.

—From AP staff in Pyongyang, North Korea

___

THE LONDON BUZZ

Standing in front of the official Olympics countdown clock to soak up the atmosphere, Robin Marsh from Bromley in Kent is looking forward to the games.

"There is a real buzz. Everyone is really excited," says the 18-year-old graphic designer.

Marsh is going to the athletics with his whole family. But what about his friend who couldn't get tickets to see anything he wanted?

"I think if you live in the greater London region, there is just a great feeling for something historic," said Danny Vance, 18, a Christian minister, also from Kent. "This is only going to happen once in your lifetime, so there is definitely a sense that we are involved with something very important for our country. And you can feel that."

—Fergus Bell — Twitter http://twitter.com/fergb

___

NICE VIEW AT LEAST

Traffic jams are building up across London — and the skies are pretty clogged, too. An incoming plane from Mexico circled the city repeatedly just now as the pilot waited for an available runway. But it was a stroke of luck. With sunny skies, passengers enjoyed a unique view of London's monuments.

—Luis Ruiz

___

AIRLINE SAYS: DON'T FLY

British Airways doesn't want your money — unless you're flying INTO the country. The airline has been calling on the British people to stay home, sing the national anthem and get behind Team GB.

Their ads are on TV and on billboards around London. One broadcast ad shows a plane taxiing through the streets of London, picking up fans to take them to the games.

—Alon Bernstein

___

FAMILY REUNION

On Friday in London, sprinter Jeneba Tarmoh will meet her half brother for the first time. It's been in the works since she made the U.S. Olympic team as a member of the relay pool.

Tarmoh says her brother John Mannah was born in Sierra Leone and moved to London with his father when he was 8 years old. Her mother ended up relocating to San Jose, Calif., where Tarmoh grew up.

Although she's never met him, Tarmoh has talked to her sibling on the phone. He's 15 years older than her.

Her plan: to catch up over dinner at his house.

"It's going to be great running and meeting my brother for the first time, having my nieces and nephews watch me in my element," Tarmoh says.

—Pat Graham — Twitter http://twitter.com/Pgraham34

___

ODDS — ON ANYTHING!

What are the odds of a UFO sighting during the opening ceremony? Or of the final torch bearer tripping as they ascend to light the flame? Or would you prefer a more traditional wager on who will win gold? London betting houses are offering odds on almost anything and the industry expects to handle a record 100 million pounds ($155 million) in wagers over the next three weeks or so. Will aliens make an appearance on Friday night? You can get odds of 1,000 to 1 on that. Do they know something we don't?

http://www.businessweek.com/ap/2012-07-24/eyes-on-london-nkorea-a-reunion-and-ufo-odds

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« Reply #7075 on: Jul 25th, 2012, 10:35am »

Science Daily

New Class of Synthetic Vaccines Explored
ScienceDaily (July 25, 2012)

— In a quest to make safer and more effective vaccines, scientists at the Biodesign InstituteÒ at Arizona State University have turned to a promising field called DNA nanotechnology to make an entirely new class of synthetic vaccines.

In a study published in the journal Nano Letters, Biodesign immunologist Yung Chang joined forces with her colleagues, including DNA nanotechnology innovator Hao Yan, to develop the first vaccine complex that could be delivered safely and effectively by piggybacking onto self-assembled, three-dimensional DNA nanostructures.

"When Hao treated DNA not as a genetic material, but as a scaffolding material, that made me think of possible applications in immunology," said Chang, an associate professor in the School of Life Sciences and a researcher in the Biodesign Institute's Center for Infectious Diseases and Vaccinology. "This provided a great opportunity to try to use these DNA scaffolds to make a synthetic vaccine."

"The major concern was: Is it safe? We wanted to mimic the assembly of molecules that can trigger a safe and powerful immune response in the body. As Hao's team has developed a variety of interesting DNA nanostructures during the past few years, we have been collaborating more and more with a goal to further explore some promising human health applications of this technology."

The core multidisciplinary research team members also included: ASU chemistry and biochemistry graduate student and paper first author Xiaowei Liu, visiting professor Yang Xu, chemistry and biochemistry assistant professor Yan Liu, School of Life Sciences undergraduate Craig Clifford and Tao Yu, visiting graduate student from Sichuan University.

Chang points out that vaccines have led to the some of the most effective public health triumphs in all of medicine. The state-of-the-art in vaccine development relies on genetic engineering to assemble immune system stimulating proteins into virus-like particles (VLPs) that mimic the structure of natural viruses -- minus the harmful genetic components that cause disease.

DNA nanotechnology, where the molecule of life can be assembled into 2-D and 3-D shapes, has an advantage of being a programmable system that can precisely organize molecules to mimic the actions of natural molecules in the body.

"We wanted to test several different sizes and shapes of DNA nanostructures and attach molecules to them to see if they could trigger an immune response," said Yan, the Milton D. Glick Distinguished Chair in the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry and researcher in Biodesign's Center for Single Molecule Biophysics. With their biomimicry approach, the vaccine complexes they tested closely resembled natural viral particles in size and shape.

As proof of concept, they tethered onto separate pyramid-shaped and branched DNA structures a model immune stimulating protein called streptavidin (STV) and immune response boosting compound called an adjuvant (CpG oligo-deoxynucletides) to make their synthetic vaccine complexes.

First, the group had to prove that the target cells could gobble the nanostructures up. By attaching a light-emitting tracer molecule to the nanostructures, they found the nanostructures residing comfortably within the appropriate compartment of the cells and stable for several hours -- -long enough to set in motion an immune cascade.

Next, in a mouse challenge, they targeted the delivery of their vaccine cargo to cells that are first responders in initiating an effective immune response, coordinating interaction of important components, such as: antigen presenting cells, including macrophages, dendritic cells and B cells. After the cargo is internalized in the cell, they are processed and "displayed" on the cell surface to T cells, white blood cells that play a central role in triggering a protective immune response. The T cells, in turn, assist B cells with producing antibodies against a target antigen.

To properly test all variables, they injected: 1) the full vaccine complex 2) STV (antigen) alone 3) the CpG (adjuvant) mixed with STV.

Over the course of 70 days, the group found that mice immunized with the full vaccine complex developed a more robust immune response up to 9-fold higher than the CpG mixed with STV. The pyramid (tetrahedral) shaped structure generated the greatest immune response. Not only was immune response to the vaccine complex specific and effective, but also safe, as the research team showed, using two independent methods, that no immune response triggered from introducing the DNA platform alone.

"We were very pleased," said Chang. "It was so nice to see the results as we predicted. Many times in biology we don't see that."

With the ability to target specific immune cells to generate a response, the team is excited about the prospects of this new platform. They envision applications where they could develop vaccines that require multiple components, or customize their targets to tailor the immune response.

Furthermore, there is the potential to develop targeted therapeutics in a similar manner as some of the new generation of cancer drugs.

Overall, though the field of DNA is still young, the research is advancing at a breakneck pace toward translational science that is making an impact on health care, electronics, and other applications.

While Chang and Yan agree that there is still much room to explore the manipulation and optimization of the nanotechnology, it also holds great promise. "With this proof of concept, the range of antigens that we could use for synthetic vaccine develop is really unlimited," said Chang.

The work was supported by funding from the Department of Defense and National Institutes of Health (National Cancer Institute, National Institute of Drug Abuse).

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/07/120725100056.htm

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« Reply #7076 on: Jul 26th, 2012, 08:50am »

Washington Post

Skype makes chats and user data more available to police

By Craig Timberg and Ellen Nakashima
Published: July 25

Skype, the online phone service long favored by political dissidents, criminals and others eager to communicate beyond the reach of governments, has expanded its cooperation with law enforcement authorities to make online chats and other user information available to police, said industry and government officials familiar with the changes.

Surveillance of the audio and video feeds remains impractical — even when courts issue warrants, say industry officials with direct knowledge of the matter. But that barrier could eventually vanish as Skype becomes one of the world’s most popular forms of telecommunication.

The changes to online chats, which are written messages conveyed almost instantaneously between users, result in part from technical upgrades to Skype that were instituted to address outages and other stability issues since Microsoft bought the company last year. Officials of the United States and other countries have long pushed to expand their access to newer forms of communications to resolve an issue that the FBI calls the “going dark” problem.

Microsoft has approached the issue with “tremendous sensitivity and a canny awareness of what the issues would be,” said an industry official familiar with Microsoft’s plans, who like several people interviewed for this story spoke on the condition of anonymity because they weren’t authorized to discuss the issue publicly. The company has “a long track record of working successfully with law enforcement here and internationally,” he added.

The changes, which give the authorities access to addresses and credit card numbers, have drawn quiet applause in law enforcement circles but hostility from many activists and analysts.

Authorities had for years complained that Skype’s encryption and other features made tracking drug lords, pedophiles and terrorists more difficult. Jihadis recommended the service on online forums. Police listening to traditional wiretaps occasionally would hear wary suspects say to one another, “Hey, let’s talk on Skype.”

Hacker groups and privacy experts have been speculating for months that Skype had changed its architecture to make it easier for governments to monitor, and many blamed Microsoft, which has an elaborate operation for complying with legal government requests in countries around the world.

“The issue is, to what extent are our communications being purpose-built to make surveillance easy?” said Lauren Weinstein, co-founder of People for Internet Responsibility, a digital privacy group. “When you make it easy to do, law enforcement is going to want to use it more and more. If you build it, they will come.’’

Skype was slow to clarify the situation, issuing a statement recently that said, “As was true before the Microsoft acquisition, Skype cooperates with law enforcement agencies as is legally required and technically feasible.”

But changes allowing police surveillance of online chats had been made since late last year, a knowledgeable industry official said Wednesday.

In the United States, such requests require a court order, though in other nations rules vary. Skype has more than 600 million users, with some in nearly every nation in the world. Political dissidents relied on it extensively during the Arab Spring to communicate with journalists, human rights workers and each other, in part because of its reputation for security.

Skype’s resistance to government monitoring, part of the company ethos when European engineers founded it in 2003, resulted from both uncommonly strong encryption and a key technical feature: Skype calls connected computers directly rather than routing data through central servers, as many other Internet-based communication systems do. That makes it more difficult for law enforcement to intercept the call. The authorities long have been able to wiretap Skype calls to traditional phones.

The company created a law-enforcement compliance team not long after eBay bought the company in 2005, putting it squarely under the auspices of U.S. law. The company was later sold to private investors before Microsoft bought it in May 2011 for $8.5 billion.

The new ownership had at least an indirect role in the security changes. Skype has endured periodic outages, including a disastrous one in December 2010. Company officials concluded that a more robust system was needed if the company was going to reach its potential.

Industry officials said the resulting push for the creation of so-called “supernodes,” which routed some data through centralized servers, made greater cooperation with law enforcement authorities possible.

The access to personal information and online chats, which are kept in Skype’s systems for 30 days, remains short of what some law enforcement officials have requested.

The FBI, whose officials have complained to Congress about the “going dark” problem, issued a statement Wednesday night saying it couldn’t comment on a particular company or service but that surveillance of conversations “requires review and approval by a court. It is used only in national security matters and to combat the most serious crimes.”

Hackers in recent years have demonstrated that it was possible to penetrate Skype, but it’s not clear how often this happened. Microsoft won a patent in June 2011 for “legal intercept” of Skype and similar Internet-based voice and video systems. It is also possible, experts say, to monitor Skype chats as well as voice and video by hacking into a user’s computer, doing an end run around encryptions.

“If someone wants to compromise a Skype communication, all they have to do is hack the endpoint — the person’s computer or tablet or mobile phone, which is very easy to do,” said Tom Kellermann, vice president of cybersecurity for Trend Micro, a cloud security company.

Some industry officials, however, say Skype loses some competitive edge in the increasingly crowded world of Internet-based communications systems if users no longer see it as more private than rival services.

“This is just making Skype like every other communication service, no better, no worse,” said one industry official, speaking on the condition of anonymity. “Skype used to be very special because it really was locked up. Now it’s like Superman without his powers.”

http://www.washingtonpost.com/business/economy/skype-makes-chats-and-user-data-more-available-to-police/2012/07/25/gJQAobI39W_story.html?hpid=z1

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« Reply #7077 on: Jul 26th, 2012, 08:53am »

International Business Times

Wednesday, July 25, 2012 3:10 PM EST

Recent UFO Sightings in Canada and Australia Mean Need for Further Studies - Researchers

By Arlene Paredes

A study of unidentified flying objects in Canada shows a record high number of sightings in 2011, prompting researchers to suggest further studies into the subject.

Ufology Research, which has recorded UFO sightings in Canada since 1989, said there were 986 sighting reports in 2011. This figure is close to the 1,004 sightings recorded in 2008.

Ontario has the most number of sightings, with 406.

The study notes only 11 per cent of the sightings could not be explained. The rest were determined to be regular lights in the sky.

"Results of this study show many people continue to report unusual objects in the sky, and some of these objects do not have obvious explanations. Many witnesses are pilots, police and other individuals with reasonably good observing capabilities and good judgement," the study notes.

However, none of these sightings were linked to alien contacts.

"Popular opinion to the contrary, there is no incontrovertible evidence that some UFO cases involve extraterrestrial contact."

The study recommends a deeper look into the UFO phenomenon by social, medical and physical scientists.

UFO sightings in Australia

In Australia, there also appears to be an increase in UFO sightings. Fifty-one-year old Jane Pooley is one of the latest UFO witnesses to come out in the news.

For his part, Australian UFO investigator Doug Moffett says people should see the scientific possibility of alien UFOs. He laments that many people typically deem UFO sightings to be unworthy of further studies.

At least one of the June 2012 sightings in Australia remains inexplicable.

UFO confusion and hoaxes

Some UFO observations are misidentified conventional objects or natural phenomena, according to studies. Aircraft, balloons, noctilucent clouds, nacreous clouds often create illusions to the naked eye, making one believe that a strange unidentified object is flying across the sky.Meteors and bright planets are also mistaken for UFOs. On top of these typical mistakes, there are people deliberately creating UFO hoaxes for attention and publicity.

http://au.ibtimes.com/articles/366486/20120725/ufo-canada-ontario-research-studies.htm

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« Reply #7078 on: Jul 26th, 2012, 09:00am »

Wired

Shiver Me Nanotubes! Carbon-Fiber Boat Body Protects Against Pirates
By Keith Barry
July 26, 2012 | 6:15 am
Categories: Marine, Safety


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Photo: Zyvex Marine


A new boat designed to escort cargo ships through pirate-infested waters is the first vessel of its kind to take advantage of nanocomposite materials.

The LRV-17 is the creation of Zyvex Marine, a division of nanotechnology company Zyvex Technologies. It’s the first crewed boat to be built from Arovex, a carbon-fiber reinforced plastic that’s enhanced with carbon nanotubes. Based on the unmanned Piranha, a similarly constructed boat from Zyvex which debuted in 2010, the LRV-17 is sort of the Crown Vic of the high seas — a spacious mode of transit for law enforcement.

Unlike the dearly departed Police Interceptor, the 57-foot boat’s carbon-fiber nanocomposite construction means it’s extremely lightweight and nimble. Weighing in at only 17,900 pounds, it has an operating range of more than 1,500 nautical miles and a top sprint speed of over 40 knots. It also has some of the lightest and most durable doors and hatches on the water, which come in handy both on rough seas and during a firefight.

Thanks to a gyroscopic stabilizer, the boat requires less attention from crew, who can then turn their focus toward spotting and defending against pirate attacks. According to Zyvex, it’s possible to crew the LRV-17 with just two people — though it has enough shock-absorbing seats for six.

For now, it’ll be crewed by specialists from private security contractor Global Maritime Security Systems (GMSS), an Abu Dhabi-based company that escorts merchant vessels through dangerous areas such as the Gulf of Aden. No word on what kind of firepower will be on board, but we suspect it’ll be significant enough to intimidate those who would otherwise commandeer a ship.

According to GMSS managing director Rhynhardt Berrange, the mere presence of the LRV-17 alongside valuable cargo is expected to help deter piracy attempts.

“The new LRV-17 boats are game-changers in maritime security missions because they are the only vessels capable of long range escort and high speeds to deal with multiple pirate threats,” said Berrange. “They need only small security teams to effectively operate.”

The first LRV-17s will be deployed in the waters off the Horn of Africa.

http://www.wired.com/autopia/2012/07/carbon-fiber-boat-pirates/

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« Reply #7079 on: Jul 26th, 2012, 09:06am »

Scientific American

Drought Devastates U.S. Maize and Soya Crops

The impact on food prices is likely to be felt around the world

By Natasha Gilbert and Nature magazine
Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Scorching temperatures and scarce rainfall has left large swathes of the United States in drought, with the 'breadbasket states', such as Iowa and Indiana, among the worst affected. The extreme weather conditions have wreaked havoc with the nation’s crop production, particularly maize (corn) and soya beans. Given that the country is the world’s top exporter of maize and one of the largest growers of soya beans, Nature explains how the drought could have ramifications for global food supplies, and what science is doing to help.

How extreme are the weather conditions?

Average temperatures on the US mainland in June peaked at 21.8 °C, which is 1.1 °C above the twentieth-century average, according to the National Climatic Data Center at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) in Silver Spring, Maryland. The June temperatures meant that the first half of 2012 was one of the warmest on record, and contributed to the warmest 12-month period in the United States since records began in 1895. On average, just 5.8 centimetres of rain fell in June — 1.6 cm less than normal, making June 2012 the tenth driest on record, says NOAA. As of 3 July, more than half of the 48 contiguous US states had seen drought conditions, the largest percentage for the past 12 years, according to the US Drought Monitor service, run by the National Drought Mitigation Center in Lincoln, Nebraska.

And there is not much relief in sight. Dry weather is expected to continue into August in the southern to central Plains, across the Gulf coast and along the west coast, according to NOAA.

How much damage has been done?

On 18 July, nearly 1,300 counties across 29 states were declared “natural disaster areas” by the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) as a result of crop damage and loss caused by the drought and heat.

The USDA also cut its maize and soya bean estimates for the year on 11 July. The projected US maize yield is down 1.3 tonnes per hectare to 3.7 tonnes per hectare, a total of 45 million tonnes less than was predicted in June. Estimates of total US soya bean production are also down by 4.2 million tonnes to 83 million tonnes compared with June, contributing to a sizeable overall drop in predicted US oilseed production for 2012–13.

“Persistent and extreme June dryness across the central and Eastern corn belt and extreme late June and early July heat from the central Plains to the Ohio River Valley have substantially lowered yield prospects across most of the major growing regions,” says the July issue of the USDA's monthly report, World Agricultural Supply and Demand Estimates.

How have the crop losses affected prices?

The United States exports 53% of the world's maize and almost 43% of soya beans globally, so any change in the US supply of these crops will affect prices worldwide. The price of maize last week hit a record US$8.16 per bushel ($321 per tonne), and traders think that prices could rise above $9 per bushel by early August unless there is a significant change in the weather. That seems unlikely at the moment, says Maximo Torero, a food-market and trade analyst at the International Food Policy Research Institute in Washington DC. Prices of soya beans are also up by almost 30% since the beginning of June, and by almost 60% since the end of last year, he says.

How does this compare to the food crisis in 2008?

The prices of soya beans and maize have passed the 2008 peak. But wheat, rice and oil prices have not matched their 2008 highs, so that will help to stave off a similar crisis, says Torero. There is also no sign of the export restrictions that were put in place in 2008 that further exacerbated prices.

Who will feel the effects most?

The direct impact of the increase in maize and soya bean prices will be felt in net importing countries such as Mexico and China. The price hikes are unlikely to affect sub-Saharan Africa directly, because people there tend to consume locally produced maize and are not major consumers of soya beans, says Torero.

How can science help?

Researchers are investigating how certain crop varieties — including sorghum and pearl millet, which originated in Africa — are able to withstand heat and drought conditions, says Mitchell Tuinstra, an agronomist at Purdue University in West Lafayette, Indiana. Many scientists are trying to unravel the complex crop genetics that allows these crops to tolerate environmental extremes, and they hope to use conventional breeding methods to create varieties that perform even better. There has already been some success with sorghum, which has shown improved productivity in drought conditions that occur late in the growing season in temperate and tropical environments, says Tuinstra.

Plant breeders are also working to improve the performance of maize under environmental stress, using both conventional breeding and genetic modification. The seed company Pioneer Hi-Bred in Johnston, Iowa, last year commercialized a conventionally bred drought-tolerant hybrid variety, and Missouri-based Monsanto expects to commercialize a genetically engineered variety soon.

In the meantime, some are turning to alternative solutions. “If I had a rain prayer or a rain dance I could do, I would do it,” US agriculture secretary Tom Vilsack told reporters last week.

This article is reproduced with permission from the magazine Nature. The article was first published on July 26, 2012.

http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=drought-devastates-us-maize-soya-crops

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