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 veryhotthread  Author  Topic: Stuff & Nonsense  (Read 112429 times)
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« Reply #9165 on: Sep 22nd, 2013, 09:15am »

Associated Press

Chinese politician Bo Xilai gets life sentence

By DIDI TANG and CHRISTOPHER BODEEN
— Sep. 22 8:24 AM EDT

JINAN, China (AP) — A court sentenced Bo Xilai to life in prison for corruption Sunday, burying the career of one of China's most up-and-coming politicians and lowering the curtain on a scandal that exposed a murder and illicit enrichment among the country's elite.

The former Politburo member and Chongqing city party leader was convicted of bribery, embezzlement and abuse of power Sunday in a case set in motion by his wife's poisoning of a British business associate in late 2011. It also was widely regarded as a political prosecution and a sign that top leaders had turned against the charismatic populist.

The Jinan Intermediate People's Court deprived Bo of political rights for life and confiscated all his personal assets. A lawyer with direct knowledge of the case said Bo indicated that the verdict was unjust and was expected to appeal, but observers say he has little chance of success. He has 10 days to appeal.

"It's a political death sentence for him," said Dali Yang, a political scientist at the University of Chicago. "As long as the current circumstances stay, he cannot come back."

Despite fears of public strife or brutal political infighting spearheaded by Bo's supporters within the leadership, there has been no major groundswell of backing for Bo, either within the Communist Party or in the public — although he remains popular among many Chinese.

The party deftly managed the potential aftershocks of the case partly by keeping the charges focused on Bo's corruption and keeping politics out of the trial, said Jonathan Holslag, a research fellow at the Institute for Contemporary China Studies at the University of Brussels.

"The leadership has been successful because it had a clear criminal case against Bo, because it deterred Bo's entourage from politicizing the trial, and because it matched Bo's populism with its own promises to rip out corruption, boost growth and build a strong country," Holslag said.

In a departure from the choreographed proceedings of other recent political trials, Bo had launched an unusually vigorous defense while on the stand last month. He denied all charges and blamed the corruption on others in his inner circle, including his wife, forgoing the leniency customarily given in Chinese courts when a defendant expresses contrition.

The charges had likely been tailored to offer a lighter sentence had Bo cooperated with prosecutors, but he declined to play along, said Willy Lam, an expert on Communist Party politics at Chinese University in Hong Kong.

"He was punished for his disobedience and defiance," Lam said.

Bo also became the highest-level politician convicted for corruption under Chinese President Xi Jinping, who has staked his reputation on combatting graft among Communist Party members and cleaning up their image of luxurious lifestyles that has angered the Chinese public.

"The leadership wants to send a signal that this is a serious matter," Yang said.

In keeping with the trial's high profile — and the remarkable degree of transparency in which the court proceedings took place — state broadcaster CCTV ran a special bulletin on the verdict and sentence at the top of the nationwide noon news report.

In its coverage, it showed Bo wearing a white dress shirt and slacks as he stood in court with a resigned smile, flanked by two burly police officers. He was led out in handcuffs following the sentencing, which was announced on the court's microblog shortly before 11 a.m.

The court sentenced Bo to life in prison on the bribery charges, 15 years for embezzlement and seven years for abuse of power.

The court rejected Bo's defense that he did not know about the $3.5 million in bribes from two business associates in the form of cash and valuable gifts to his family — including a French villa, expenses-paid trips and fancy delicacies such as abalone. However, the court said a small portion of the bribes alleged by prosecutors, about $160,000, were not proven in court.

The court also found that Bo embezzled $160,000 from a secret government project in the northern city of Dalian.

The trial proceedings had been publicized through partial transcripts that gave a measure of legitimacy to a trial seen by many observers to have a foregone conclusion of guilt because of the party's control over the court system.

"This is a big victory for Xi Jinping's leadership, because you cannot say this is a secretive trial. It is at least a semi-open trial," said Li Cheng, an expert of elite politics at Brookings Institute. "Bo's political career is zero, and the trial really transformed Bo from a charismatic leader to a self-indulging person."

Han Deqiang, a Beijing university professor and a supporter of Bo, expressed his disappointment with the verdict, saying it negated Bo's policies aimed at narrowing the wealth gap in China.

"If the gap continues to widen, the left will only become stronger," Han said. "He has no chance to come back under the current political system, but how long can the current political system last? Then, he may have a chance."

Bo is still popular in the regions where he served, especially in Chongqing, where he was party chief from 2007 to 2012. Bo had campaigned against organized crime, built affordable housing, and promoted Maoist songs and mass gatherings as a way of building his popularity among the city's 30 million residents.

His popularity was seen as a challenge to the party's leadership as they sought to guide Xi and party No. 2, Li Keqiang, into power while retaining influence for now-retired leaders.

Bo's downfall was set in motion in February 2012 when his former top aide attempted to defect to a U.S. consulate with information about his wife's murder of British businessman Neil Heywood, just as leaders were preparing the once-a-decade leadership transition.

Bo had been seen as a contender in the transition for China's top leadership panel, the Politburo Standing Committee, but he also had unnerved many colleagues in the leadership with self-promotion seen as running counter to their brand of consensus rule.

Prosecutors later accused Bo of interfering with the probe into the murder, as well as unrelated corruption uncovered by investigators. Bo's wife, Gu Kailai, confessed to the murder and was handed a suspended death sentence last year that will likely be commuted to life imprisonment.

Bo's disappearance into custody in March 2012 sparked huge public fascination with the scandal, along with wild speculation about coups and assassination attempts.

Both Bo and the party leadership stuck "to a large part of the script, so to speak," steering clear of larger political issues during the trial, said Joseph Cheng, an expert on Chinese politics at the City University of Hong Kong.

There was no mention of intra-party power struggles, Bo's attempts to challenge the central leadership, or any attempts to implicate other senior leaders, Cheng said.


Bodeen reported from Beijing. Associated Press writer Louise Watt in Beijing contributed to this report.


http://bigstory.ap.org/article/chinese-court-set-hand-down-verdict-bo-case

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« Reply #9166 on: Sep 22nd, 2013, 09:19am »






UFO Sightings Over New Zealand, Best UFO Sightings

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« Reply #9167 on: Sep 23rd, 2013, 09:17am »

Guardian

Muslim Brotherhood banned by Egyptian court

Court rules that Islamist party's assets should be confiscated as crackdown escalates on supporters of Mohamed Morsi

Associated Press in Cairo
Monday 23 September 2013 08.34 EDT

An Egyptian court has banned the Muslim Brotherhood and ordered its assets confiscated in a dramatic escalation of a crackdown by the military-backed government against supporters of the ousted Islamist president Mohamed Morsi.

Egyptian state TV said the court issued its ruling on Monday.

The Brotherhood was outlawed for most of its 85 years in existence. But after Hosni Mubarak was ousted in 2011 it was allowed to work openly, formed a political party and rose to power in a string of post-Mubarak elections. In March it registered as a recognised non-governmental organization.

The ruling, which can be appealed against, opens the door for authorities to track down the group's elaborate network of social services, dealing a deadly blow to its pillars of grassroots support.

http://www.theguardian.com/world/2013/sep/23/muslim-brotherhood-egyptian-court

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« Reply #9168 on: Sep 23rd, 2013, 09:21am »

Dallas News

Texas UFO reports among ‘strongest cases’ of ’12
By JAMES RAGLAND

Staff Writer

Published: 23 September 2013 12:01 AM

The night was clear, a perfect backdrop for the strange, floating object that lit up the sky.

Two witnesses, jailers at the Johnson County Correctional Facility in Cleburne, described it as triangular in shape with a dark surface and a series of circular lights. They said it hovered above them as they talked in the parking lot.

“The object flew over them very slowly, appearing to be going only about 5 mph,” according to an account released by the California-based Mutual UFO Network, a nonprofit group of UFO sleuths.

That sighting, another in North Texas and one in Central Texas were among the “strongest 10 cases” from 2012 that a MUFON science review board determined “cannot be identified as any known object.”

But the peculiar sightings aren’t just cropping up in our own backyard — the whole Lone Star State is a hotbed of UFO activity.

“Texas is one of the top five states every month for UFOs,” said Roger Marsh, a MUFON spokesman.

He attributed the high volume of sightings to the state’s large population and its many airports and military installations. Most sightings turn out to be readily identifiable, sometimes even a Chinese lantern.

Across the country, MUFON reported a record 7,182 sightings of unidentified flying objects last year — a 27 percent increase over the year before. Texas trailed only California in the number of sightings.

The other two strong Texas cases identified by MUFON occurred in the Milam County town of Milano in Central Texas, and in Van Alstyne, near the Texas-Oklahoma border.

All involved triangular or pentagon-shaped objects with mysterious lights hovering above.

The Johnson County case was reported about 3 a.m. on March 25, about 50 miles southwest of Dallas.

“The primary witness said that as they walked through the parking lot, the lights over them turned on. The object then sped up and was gone north in a second,” the MUFON report said.

The witness, 45-year-old Kerry Snell, said in an interview last week that he was taken aback by what he saw.

“You could plainly and clearly see this thing — a huge triangle with no lights, no sound,” Snell said. “There was no interaction. I didn’t feel frightened. I didn’t feel scared.

“I was just soaking in all the information. I’m just sitting there looking up at it.”

The review board, made up of scientists with degrees in physics, geology, chemistry and electrical engineering, was formed last year to help MUFON take a closer look at the most intriguing UFO sightings and draw attention to them.

Their expertise and earnestness notwithstanding, the board and MUFON still face an uphill battle in getting folks to treat their body of work seriously.

They’re often met with skepticism — and giggles.

And media portrayals often make the UFO buffs, even the ones with impressive credentials, look like crackpots, they say.

“It’s constant,” said Robert Powell, 59, a retired engineering manager from Austin who serves as director of the eight-member scientific body. “The media wants something that’s way out there.

“So they are not interested in dry facts of unexplained objects. They want to interview the guy with the alien on the back porch.”

Two members of the review board are so worried about public perception that they don’t even want their names disclosed, Powell said.

“It could actually hurt their career,” he said.

Countless sightings go unreported, Powell said, because people don’t want to be labeled “crazy,” he said.

Still, the public remains fascinated, and UFO authorities are steadfast in their effort to determine if otherworldly creatures actually exist.

“When TV shows [about UFOs] come on like National Geographic, reporting goes up. People will send in reports from years and years ago,” Powell said.

Although there have been scattered reports of mysterious flying or floating objects for centuries, the UFO phenomenon really took off after World War II.

“If you go back when this started, no one thought you were crazy for reporting something,” Powell said. “That didn’t start until about the ’70s.”

Powell said the federal government, apparently weary of being accused of hiding extraterrestrials in secret locations and of refusing to divulge information to the public, “actually had a program to debunk UFOs through the public and media.”

And many a crackpot played right into their hands. “You have enough people who come up with this crazy, stupid stuff,” Powell said.

Bogus reports, which still crop up periodically and, these days, go viral on the Internet, “make it that much more difficult” for the general public to accept authentic sightings of the unusual.

“The level of hoax is probably down to about 1 percent,” Powell said.

Most UFO sightings turn out to be readily identifiable aircraft, meteors or other celestial objects, sometimes seen at weird angles that rouse suspicion, experts say.

For example, Powell said, a security camera in Florida captured a mysterious light beaming down on a swimming pool.

“That turned out to be a drop of water on a camera lens,” Powell said. “They didn’t fake it. They thought they had something there and it was just moisture on the lens.”

Steve Hudgeons, MUFON’s national director of investigations, said most sightings are explainable. “But there’s a percentage that remain unknown,” he said.

Hudgeons, who lives in Fort Worth, said he believes “most of this stuff that’s flying around here that we call unknown is our own government’s” aircraft.

Snell, the Johnson County jailer, said what he saw in Cleburne last year was unlike any commercial or military aircraft he’s ever seen. And he still has no clue what it was.

“It’s a little frustrating,” he said.

_______________________

AT A GLANCE: LONE STAR SIGHTINGS

The Mutual UFO Network included three reported sightings in North and Central Texas in its list of the strongest 10 cases that “cannot be identified as any known object.”

Case 36765

When: March 25, 2012

Where: Near the Johnson County Correctional Facility in Cleburne

Sighting: Two officers reported seeing a dark triangular object about 3 a.m. flying 4,000 to 6,000 feet above ground. It had a series of dim circular lights, they said.

Case 41918

When: July 14 and Dec. 20, 2012

Where: Along State Highway 36 near the Milam County town of Milano

Sighting: Two men reported seeing a pentagon-shaped black object with lights about 5:20 a.m. hovering over the highway about 30 feet above their vehicle. Two more witnesses reported seeing a similar object Dec. 20 along the same stretch of road. The main witness said the object was about 100 feet across with five sides and flashing lights on each corner.

Cases 37562, 37585, 37604

When: April 17-19, 2012

Where: Van Alstyne

Sighting: Three different witnesses reported seeing a triangular object with white lights hovering near the Texas-Oklahoma border. In the center was a ruby-colored light, they said.


http://idmn.dallasnews.com/local-and-state/20130923-texas-ufo-reports-among-strongest-cases-of-12.ece

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« Reply #9169 on: Sep 23rd, 2013, 09:24am »

Scientific American

Wild Animals of All Stripes Are Adapting to the Cityscape and Thriving

The new science of urban ecology reveals a surprising trend of wildlife adapting to the cityscape

By Jesse Greenspan
22 September 2013

Cities are often viewed as environmental wastelands, where only the hardiest of species can eke out an existence. But as scientists in the fledgling field of urban ecology have found, more and more native animals are now adjusting to life on the streets.

Take America's biggest metropolis. As recently as a few decades ago, New York City lacked white-tailed deer, coyotes and wild turkeys, all of which have now established footholds. Harbor seals, herons, peregrine falcons and ospreys have likewise returned in force, and red-tailed hawks have become much more common. Meanwhile the first beaver in more than two centuries turned up in 2007; river otters last year ended a similar exile.

What's happening in New York is by no means an anomaly. Experts say that the adaptation of wildlife to urban areas is ramping up worldwide, in part because cities are turning greener, thanks to pollution controls and an increased emphasis on open space.

In North America, the phenomenon is perhaps best exemplified by the coyote, which colonized cities roughly 15 to 20 years ago. A recent study of the Chicago area found that urban pups had survival rates five times higher than their rural counterparts. “Coyotes can absolutely exist in even the most heavily urbanized part of the city, without a problem,” says Stan Gehrt, a wildlife ecologist at Ohio State University. “They learn the traffic patterns, and they learn how stoplights work.”

Other studies have found animals from hawks to opossums reaping benefits from urban life. “We need to be careful about thinking of cities as places that don't really have interesting biodiversity,” says Seth Magle, director of the Urban Wildlife Institute at the Lincoln Park Zoo in Chicago. “Our urban areas are ecosystems, with just as many complex interactions as the Serengeti or the outback of Australia.”

http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=wild-animals-of-all-stripes-are-adapting-to-the-cityscape-and-thriving

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« Reply #9170 on: Sep 23rd, 2013, 09:47am »






Published on Sep 22, 2013

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« Reply #9171 on: Sep 23rd, 2013, 09:57am »

Groundreport.com

Retired CIA spook says Roswell UFO incident really happened

by Robert Tilford
Posted: 09/22/2013 at 5:50PM

Chase Brandon, a well respected 25-year Central Intelligence Agency veteran, claims the UFO crash at Roswell was real.

Brandon served as a spy and undercover covert operations officer in the CIA’s infamous Clandestine Service for 25 years and claims the CIA has information on the Roswell UFO incident that proves “it’s real” and happened exactly the way it was first reported when the Army announced it had captured a UFO back in 1947.

He claims the information is housed in a special section of CIA headquarters in Langley, Va., called the Historical Intelligence Collection room.

“It was a vaulted area and not everybody could get in it,” Brandon told The Huffington Post recently.

“One day, I was looking around in there and reading some of the titles that were mostly hand-scribbled summations of what was in the boxes. And there was one box that really caught my eye. It had one word on it: Roswell”, he said.

“I took the box down, lifted the lid up, rummaged around inside it, put the box back on the shelf and said, ‘My god, it really happened!”

“Some written material and some photographs, and that’s all I will ever say to anybody about the contents of that box,” he said.

“But it absolutely, for me, was the single validating moment that everything I had believed, and knew that so many other people believed had happened, truly was what occurred” (see article: ‘It was a craft that did not come from this planet’: CIA agent speaks out on 65th anniversary of Roswell ‘UFO’ landings

Chase Brandon, a 35-year CIA veteran, claims the UFO crash at Roswell was real.

Brandon served as a spy and undercover covert operations officer in the CIA’s infamous Clandestine Service for 25 years and claims the CIA has information on the Roswell UFO incident that proves “it’s real” and happened exactly the way it was first reported when the Army announced it had captured a UFO back in 1947.

He claims the information is housed in a special section of CIA headquarters in Langley, Va., called the Historical Intelligence Collection room.

“It was a vaulted area and not everybody could get in it,” Brandon told The Huffington Post recently.

“One day, I was looking around in there and reading some of the titles that were mostly hand-scribbled summations of what was in the boxes. And there was one box that really caught my eye. It had one word on it: Roswell”, he said.

“I took the box down, lifted the lid up, rummaged around inside it, put the box back on the shelf and said, ‘My god, it really happened!”

“Some written material and some photographs, and that’s all I will ever say to anybody about the contents of that box,” he said.

“But it absolutely, for me, was the single validating moment that everything I had believed, and knew that so many other people believed had happened, truly was what occurred” (see article: ‘It was a craft that did not come from this planet’: CIA agent speaks out on 65th anniversary of Roswell ‘UFO’ landings http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-2170831/Roswell-UFO-landing-CIA-agent-Chase-Brandon-speaks-65th-anniversary.html#ixzz207g4YldT ).

Not surprisingly the CIA didn’t respond to emails requesting conformation of the Roswell file in the Historical Intelligence Collections room.

http://groundreport.com/retired-cia-spook-says-roswell-ufo-incident-really-happened/

Crystal

Thanks to Chris Augustin for tweeting this story:
https://twitter.com/aliensthetruth


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« Reply #9172 on: Sep 24th, 2013, 09:49am »

Der Spiegel

Return of the Lion: Former Warlord Preps for Western Withdrawal

By Christian Neef
September 23, 2013 – 06:28 PM

While the West is trying to extricate itself from the war zone in Afghanistan as quickly as possible, old warlords like Ismail Khan are preparing for a post-withdrawal period that many anticipate will be violent.

Ismail Khan abruptly gets up from his armchair. "I understood the question," he says. "So you want to know whether now, 12 years after Western troops arrived, every village finally has electricity." Afghanistan's minister of water and energy walks over to a map on the wall on which rebuilt hydroelectric power plants, new solar plants and modern wind turbines are marked.

Khan grabs a pointer, taps it onto an area west of Herat and says: "This is where I came across the border from Iran with 17,000 men in 1996, during the Taliban era. Then we continued through Faryab and Mazar to Faizabad and back to Herat." He drags the pointer to the north and then to the east, sweeping it across all the wind turbines and power plants, as if they were nothing but hindrances. "My militias fought bravely everywhere," says Khan.

This minister doesn't want to talk about water and electricity, or about what his ministry has been up to since the Taliban was ousted. All he wants to talk about is the past, about fighting the Soviets, about the regime of former President Mohammad Najibullah and about the Islamists after they assumed power in Afghanistan.

But when he mentions the Taliban, he is also talking about the future. He foresees a return of the fundamentalist Taliban, the collapse of the government in Kabul and the eruption of a new war between ethnic groups. He sees a future in which power is divided between the clans as it was in the past, and in which the mujahedeen, the tribal militias seasoned by battles against the Soviets and later the Taliban, remain the sole governing force.

Khan's advisors sit at a respectful distance from the minister. Some have dozed off -- it's afternoon during Ramadan, the holy month of fasting, and their strength is waning. But now they are nodding their approval. Filled with reverence, they gaze at their boss, a diminutive Tajik with a magnificent white beard, who always wears an equally white pajama-like outfit known as a Perahan Tunban, together with a black turban.

The 'Lion of Herat'

In truth, the 65-year-old minister is still what he was 30 years ago: a mujahed, or warlord, although he doesn't like the latter term. "The Americans and English tried to discredit us with that word, until they realized that they couldn't do without us in their fight against al-Qaida and the Taliban," Khan, now an older, more peaceful man, says with a smile.

But he is also a man who had entire armies march across the Hindu Kush Mountains in the 1980s to fight the Soviets. He was one of the commanders in the ensuing civil war, in which Afghanistan's ethnic groups -- the Tajiks, Hazara, Uzbeks and Pashtuns -- massacred one another and laid waste to the capital Kabul.

Khan, governor of the most important province in western Afghanistan until 2004, was known as the "Lion of Herat." He still prefers to be addressed by his former title of Emir. But then he became too powerful for the Americans and President Hamid Karzai, so they removed Khan from office and brought him to Kabul to keep a closer eye on him. He was finally given the somewhat laughable position of water and energy minister, despite his feeling that he should have been offered the job of defense or interior minister instead. "I'm not in this position voluntarily," says Khan.

His office is now in a dilapidated building on the street leading to the Darul Aman Palace on the outskirts of Kabul, a stately building that once housed the parliament and was reduced to a ruin in the country's civil war. Khan, who has been water and energy minister for eight years, dedicates power plants, solicits bids for the construction of power lines and attends cabinet meetings. His ministry is not important in Kabul, and yet both the Americans and Karzai are afraid of him -- especially Karzai.

The year 2014 is approaching, and with it the withdrawal of NATO troops. When Khan appears in public today, it is with the demeanor of the mujahed. "We cannot allow Afghanistan to be destroyed once again," he said publicly late last year. He has also said that government forces are powerless in large parts of the country, that Afghans should arm themselves once again, new recruits should enlist and the command structures of the former militias ought to be reestablished.

The international coalition "has taken away our artillery and tanks and turned them into scrap metal. Instead, they have brought Dutch, German, American and French girls to our country, along with white soldiers from Europe and black soldiers from Africa, who were supposed to bring security to Afghanistan. They have failed," Khan said in a speech at a rally in Herat.

Mujahedeen Comeback?

more after the jump:
http://www.spiegel.de/international/world/afghan-warlords-like-ismail-khan-prepare-for-western-withdrawal-a-924019.html

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« Reply #9173 on: Sep 24th, 2013, 09:51am »

Wired

How a Crypto ‘Backdoor’ Pitted the Tech World Against the NSA

By Kim Zetter
09.24.13
6:30 AM

In August 2007, a young programmer in Microsoft’s Windows security group stood up to give a five-minute turbo talk at the annual Crypto conference in Santa Barbara.

It was a Tuesday evening, part of the conference’s traditional rump session, when a hodge-podge of short talks are presented outside of the conference’s main lineup. To draw attendees away from the wine and beer that competed for their attention at that hour, presenters sometimes tried to sex up their talks with provocative titles like “Does Bob Go to Prison?” or “How to Steal Cars – A Practical Attack on KeeLoq” or “The Only Rump Session Talk With Pamela Anderson.”

Dan Shumow and his Microsoft colleague Niels Ferguson titled theirs, provocatively, “On the Possibility of a Back Door in the NIST SP800-90 Dual Ec Prng.” It was a title only a crypto geek would love or get.

The talk was only nine slides long (.pdf). But those nine slides were potentially dynamite. They laid out a case showing that a new encryption standard, given a stamp of approval by the U.S. government, possessed a glaring weakness that made an algorithm in it susceptible to cracking. But the weakness they described wasn’t just an average vulnerability, it had the kind of properties one would want if one were intentionally inserting a backdoor to make the algorithm susceptible to cracking by design.

For such a dramatic presentation — by mathematicians’ standards — the reaction to it was surprisingly muted. “I think folks thought, ‘Well that’s interesting,’ and, ‘Wow, it looks like maybe there was a flaw in the design,’” says a senior Microsoft manager who was at the talk. “But there wasn’t a huge reaction.”

Six years later, that’s all changed.

Early this month the New York Times drew a connection between their talk and memos leaked by Edward Snowden, classified Top Secret, that apparently confirms that the weakness in the standard and so-called Dual_EC_DRBG algorithm was indeed a backdoor. The Times story implies that the backdoor was intentionally put there by the NSA as part of a $250-million, decade-long covert operation by the agency to weaken and undermine the integrity of a number of encryption systems used by millions of people around the world.

The Times story has kindled a firestorm over the integrity of the byzantine process that produces security standards. The National Institute of Standards and Technology, which approved Dual_EC_DRBG and the standard, is now facing a crisis of confidence, having been forced to re-open the standard for public discussion, while security and crypto firms scramble to unravel how deeply the suspect algorithm infiltrated their code, if at all. On Thursday, corporate giant RSA Security publicly renounced Dual_EC_DRBG, while also conceding that its commercial suite of cryptographic libraries had been using the bad algorithm as its default algorithm for years.

But beneath the flames, a surprising uncertainty is still smoldering over whether Dual_EC_DRBG really is backdoored. The Times, crypto experts note, hasn’t released the memos that purport to prove the existence of a backdoor, and the paper’s direct quotes from the classified documents don’t mention any backdoor in the algorithm or efforts by the NSA to weaken it or the standard. They only discuss efforts to push the standard through committees for approval.

Jon Callas, the CTO of Silent Circle, whose company offers encrypted phone communication, delivered a different rump session talk at the Crypto conference in 2007 and saw the presentation by Shumow. He says he wasn’t alarmed by it at the time and still has doubts that what was exposed was actually a backdoor, in part because the algorithm is so badly done.

“If [NSA] spent $250 million weakening the standard and this is the best that they could do, then we have nothing to fear from them,” he says. “Because this was really ham-fisted. When you put on your conspiratorial hat about what the NSA would be doing, you would expect something more devious, Machiavellian … and this thing is just laughably bad. This is Boris and Natasha sort of stuff.”

Indeed, the Microsoft presenters themselves — who declined to comment for this article — didn’t press the backdoor theory in their talk. They didn’t mention NSA at all, and went out of their way to avoid accusing NIST of anything. “WE ARE NOT SAYING: NIST intentionally put a back door in this PRNG,” read the last slide of their deck.

The Microsoft manager who spoke with WIRED on condition of anonymity thinks the provocative title of the 2007 presentation overstates the issue with the algorithm and is being misinterpreted — that perhaps reporters at the Times read something in a classified document showing that the NSA worked on the algorithm and pushed it through the standards process, and quickly took it as proof that the title of the 2007 talk had been right to call the weakness in the standard and algorithm a backdoor.

But Paul Kocher, president and chief scientist of Cryptography Research, says that regardless of the lack of evidence in the Times story, he discounts the “bad cryptography” explanation for the weakness, in favor of the backdoor one.

“Bad cryptography happens through laziness and ignorance,” he says. “But in this case, a great deal of effort went into creating this and choosing a structure that happens to be amenable to attack.

“What’s mathematically creative [with this algorithm] is that when you look at it, you can’t even prove whether there is a backdoor or not, which is very bizarre in cryptography,” he says. “Usually the presence of a backdoor is something you can prove is there, because you can see it and exploit it…. In my entire career in cryptography, I’ve never seen a vulnerability like this.”

more after the jump:
http://www.wired.com/threatlevel/2013/09/nsa-backdoor/all/

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« Reply #9174 on: Sep 24th, 2013, 09:53am »

Science Daily

Math Explains History: Simulation Accurately Captures the Evolution of Ancient Complex Societies

Sep. 23, 2013 — The question of how human societies evolve from small groups to the huge, anonymous and complex societies of today has been answered mathematically, accurately matching the historical record on the emergence of complex states in the ancient world.

Intense warfare is the evolutionary driver of large complex societies, according to new research from a trans-disciplinary team at the University of Connecticut, the University of Exeter in England, and the National Institute for Mathematical and Biological Synthesis (NIMBioS). The study appears this week as an open-access article in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

The study's cultural evolutionary model predicts where and when the largest-scale complex societies arose in human history.

Simulated within a realistic landscape of the Afro-Eurasian landmass during 1,500 BCE to 1,500 CE, the mathematical model was tested against the historical record. During the time period, horse-related military innovations, such as chariots and cavalry, dominated warfare within Afro-Eurasia. Geography also mattered, as nomads living in the Eurasian Steppe influenced nearby agrarian societies, thereby spreading intense forms of offensive warfare out from the steppe belt.

The study focuses on the interaction of ecology and geography as well as the spread of military innovations and predicts that selection for ultra-social institutions that allow for cooperation in huge groups of genetically unrelated individuals and large-scale complex states, is greater where warfare is more intense.

While existing theories on why there is so much variation in the ability of different human populations to construct viable states are usually formulated verbally, by contrast, the authors' work leads to sharply defined quantitative predictions, which can be tested empirically.

The model-predicted spread of large-scale societies was very similar to the observed one; the model was able to explain two-thirds of the variation in determining the rise of large-scale societies.

"What's so exciting about this area of research is that instead of just telling stories or describing what occurred, we can now explain general historical patterns with quantitative accuracy. Explaining historical events helps us better understand the present, and ultimately may help us predict the future," said the study's co-author Sergey Gavrilets, NIMBioS director for scientific activities.

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/09/130923155538.htm

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« Reply #9175 on: Sep 24th, 2013, 09:56am »








Published on Sep 19, 2013


Join Dark Journalist and historian Richard Dolan as they examine the UFO coverup and its far reaching implications of a breakaway civilization. In this presentation they will cover Dolan's 20 years of research into the black budget, underground bases, ET history, MJ12, alien contact, advanced technology, off-world space programs, and much more! In the interview, Dolan discusses his off-the-record conversation with a prominent scientist who confirmed to him that he had worked on reverse-engineered alien technology...

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« Reply #9176 on: Sep 25th, 2013, 10:16am »

International Business Times

UFO Sightings: Diamond-Shaped UFO Spotted in Nebraska, Related to UFO Sighting in Colombia? [VIDEOS]

By Jenalyn Villamarin
September 24, 2013 5:16 PM EST

On September 4, the Towercam of ABC's KLKN television affiliate captured a flickering diamond-shaped UFO that appeared over Nebraska. The UFO sighting has sparked curiosity after previous reports revealed similar sightings that happened in Colombia.

The diamond-shaped UFO with changing colors appeared for 45 minutes in the sky as KLKN's meteorologist Sean McMullen reported about it live until the unidentified flying object vanished at sunrise. "I have never seen anything like this before. I even say that several times while I'm on air describing the object, because I want to let people know even I don't know what this is, so I can't exactly tell you what it is," meteorologist Sean McMullen stated in the story posted by KLKN reporter Jenn Schanz.

"We'd been watching this for quite some time -- it has this acorn shape to it, black striations in the middle. At times, it seemed to have tethers hanging from it, but I really think that's just an artifact -- I think its light being refracted through the dome that covers our lens. I think that's really just a star, but I haven't really seen that before," Mr Mc Mullen further stated.

The news team continued to investigate on the diamond-shaped UFO. According to KLKN reporter Jenn Schanz, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) had no reports of strange activity in the air last September 4.

The reporter even revealed that she spoke with Timothy Gay, a physics professor at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, about the UFO sighting that occurred. "He says he can guarantee that extraterrestrials do not exist, and suspects our towercam footage was a government aircraft of some sort or a reflection of our lens," Jenn Schanz stated.

As for meteorologist Sean McMullen, he is still intrigued with the strange object captured on the towercam. "As of right now, we have no idea where this is going, but our goal is to do everything possible to identify whatever was recorded in the skies above Lincoln on the morning of Sept. 4th. If I'm going to have a UFO experience on-air, then I'm gonna take you with me," Mr McMullen posted on his Facebook page.

Some people suggested that the diamond-shaped UFO sighting could be a government aircraft or only a camera lens reflection, but this is not the first diamond-shaped UFO sighting reported. In Bogota, Colombia, the UFO Sightings Daily report claimed as well that a diamond-shaped object floating above has been captured on camera on July 1 which created both curiosity and doubt to the people who witnessed the strange activity in the sky.

videos after the jump:
http://au.ibtimes.com/articles/508492/20130924/ufo-sightings-diamond-shaped-spotted-nebraska-related.htm#.UkL9W5Dn-1s

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« Reply #9177 on: Sep 25th, 2013, 10:19am »

Reuters

Exclusive: Hundreds of U.S. security clearances seen falsified

By Tabassum Zakaria

WASHINGTON
Wed Sep 25, 2013 9:22am EDT

(Reuters) - Federal prosecutors have documented at least 350 instances of faulty background investigations done by private contractors and special agents for the U.S. Office of Personnel Management in recent years, illustrating what some lawmakers call systemic weaknesses in the granting of federal security clearances.

Reuters calculated the total by reviewing court documents and press releases from prosecutors for 21 cases resulting in convictions that involved the making of false statements from December 2004 to March 2012.

These are the cases government officials have cited to assert that action is taken against investigators who falsely claim to have reviewed records or done interviews for background checks submitted to OPM. Not all the cases identified a specific number of fabrications.

The 350 falsified reports represent only a small percentage of the number of background investigations conducted each year, either by OPM's own investigators or a handful of private contractors it uses for most of the work.

The Government Accountability Office testified to a congressional committee in June that OPM received over $1 billion to conduct more than 2 million background investigations for government employees in fiscal 2011.

But the details of the cases show how cracks in the system may allow employees to obtain clearances without proper vetting.

In one case, a private contractor investigator, who pleaded guilty to making a false statement, reported interviewing a person who had died more than a decade earlier. Another investigator was found guilty of making false statements in checks for applicants seeking "top secret" clearances for jobs in the Air Force, Army, Navy and U.S. Treasury.

The highest number of convictions, 11, involved special agents for OPM. Another seven convictions were of employees of USIS, a Virginia-based company that has come under scrutiny for its role in vetting former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden and more recently, Washington Navy Yard shooter Aaron Alexis.

Two of those USIS investigators had the highest number - more than four dozen each - of flawed background check reports sent to OPM, court documents showed.

USIS faces an ongoing investigation by OPM's inspector general. The company declined to comment for this story and OPM's inspector general's office would not comment on its probe.

The most severe punishment was given to an investigator who did not take a plea agreement and instead went to trial. This investigator was found guilty of six counts of making false statements and sentenced to 27 months in prison.

Those who entered plea agreements generally received sentences of probation and community service, courts records show.

ALEXIS, SNOWDEN CLEARANCES

In a statement last week after 13 people died in shootings at the Navy Yard, including shooter Alexis, the U.S. Attorney's Office for the District of Columbia said, "In light of recent events, we plan to step up our efforts to investigate and prosecute the individuals and companies who risk our security by cutting corners and falsifying information in background checks."

In pressing the cases, prosecutors have required defendants to pay more than $1.5 million in restitution to the U.S. government to recover the costs of redoing improper background investigations.

The screening process for security clearances has came under heightened scrutiny this year since Snowden, working as a contract employee assigned to the National Security Agency, used his "top-secret" clearance to access documents on the agency's electronic eavesdropping that he later gave to the news media.

The issue resurfaced last week with reports that Alexis held a "secret" security clearance despite violent episodes before and after he received it.

A secret clearance generally lasts 10 years. Ongoing checks are needed because "in five to 10 years stuff happens and people change," a Senate aide said on condition of anonymity.

OPM contracts out for most of the background check work. But the decision to grant security clearances rests with the government agency that intends to employ the individual.

USIS conducts about 65 percent of the background checks done by private contractors, and more than half of all the investigations conducted by the OPM, according to a statement issued last week by the office of Senator Claire McCaskill, a Missouri Democrat who is a co-sponsor of legislation aimed at boosting oversight of the security clearance process.

Investigators for other government contractors, including CACI International Inc, were also convicted of making false statements in reports for security clearance background checks. CACI did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

A Senate aide said the USIS investigation by OPM's inspector general revolves around systemic problems in the company's procedures and does not focus on individual investigators.

The inspector general also is investigating the background check done for Alexis before he received clearance to work for the Navy.

In 2012, there were 3.5 million federal employees and 1.1 million contractors who held a "secret" or "top secret" clearance and OPM's security clearance and background investigations cost about $1 billion, McCaskill's office said.

The OPM inspector general's office told Reuters it has 68 open cases related to OPM's background investigations program. It did not say how many of those involve report falsifications.

The inspector general's office said it has referred 22 former background investigators for debarment, but no decisions have been reached by OPM. A debarment is usually for a specific time period and means the person cannot contract with another federal agency.

The Senate Homeland Security Committee has scheduled an October 1 hearing on government clearances and background checks.

(Reporting by Tabassum Zakaria; Editing by Marilyn W. Thompson and Tim Dobbyn)

http://www.reuters.com/article/2013/09/25/us-usa-security-clearances-idUSBRE98O04Z20130925

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« Reply #9178 on: Sep 25th, 2013, 10:23am »

Associated Press

US borrowing authority to be exhausted by Oct. 17

By ANDREW TAYLOR
Sep. 25 11:10 AM EDT

WASHINGTON (AP) — Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew said Wednesday the government will have exhausted its borrowing authority by Oct. 17, leaving the United States just $30 billion cash on hand to pay its bills.

That's a slightly worse financial position than Treasury predicted last month and adds to the pressure on Congress to increase the government's borrowing cap to avert a first-ever U.S. default on its obligations.

In a letter to top congressional leaders, Lew warned that a repeat of the debt brinksmanship of 2011 could inflict great harm on the economy and that "if the government should ultimately become unable to pay all of its bills, the results could be catastrophic."

The government reached its $16.7 trillion debt limit in May. Since then, it has been using "extraordinary measures" such as suspending U.S. investments in federal employee trust funds to create about $300 billion in additional borrowing room.

But on the 17th the government will be left with only its cash cushion and daily receipts to pay its bills. Lew warned that before long it would not be able to meet all of its obligations. Economists and financial market experts warn that the stock market could plummet and that investors would demand higher returns on Treasury notes, which could raise interest rates and harm the economy.

It's generally assumed that Treasury would make sure that the government wouldn't default on Treasury notes held by investors, including foreign countries like China, If it did default on such debt obligations it could be a catastrophe for the economy.

A House-passed stopgap spending measure pending before the Senate contains a GOP-backed provision that would give Social Security recipients and bondholders priority in receiving payments from the government.

Lew again warned that President Barack Obama would not negotiate with Republicans over the debt limit.

"The president remains willing to negotiate over the future direction of fiscal policy, but he will not negotiate over whether the United States will pay its bills for past commitments," Lew wrote. Extending borrowing authority does not increase government spending; it simply allows the Treasury to pay for expenditures Congress has already approved."

Republicans want to add budget cuts and other legislation like a one-year delay of "Obamacare." House leaders hope to bring a debt limit increase to the floor by the end of this week but they haven't released any details yet.

http://bigstory.ap.org/article/treasury-us-borrowing-authority-expires-oct-17

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« Reply #9179 on: Sep 25th, 2013, 10:27am »






Strange lights over Stamford Lincolnshire

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