Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #9241 on: Oct 10th, 2013, 09:01am »
Edward Snowden's father arrives in Moscow hoping to visit his son
by Shaun Walker in Moscow Thursday 10 October 2013 09.08 EDT
Edward Snowden's father landed in Moscow on Thursday morning and said he hoped to visit his son, who has not been seen in public since he was granted asylum in Russia in August.
The former NSA contractor, who leaked information about US surveillance programmes to the Guardian, was given the right to remain in Russia for a year after spending five weeks in limbo at Moscow's Sheremetyevo airport over the summer.
Lon Snowden arrived at the same airport early on Thursday morning and was escorted through the VIP terminal by Anatoly Kucherena, his son's lawyer. Kucherena has been the only channel to Snowden since the 30-year-old whistleblower left the airport, and has refused to give any details about his location, citing security concerns. Snowden is wanted in the US on espionage charges.
"I am his father, I love my son and ... I certainly hope I will have an opportunity to see my son," said Lon Snowden in brief remarks to Russian television crews at the airport. "I am not sure my son will be returning to the US again," he said.
Edward Snowden arrived in Moscow on a flight from Hong Kong in June and apparently intended to board an onward flight bound for Latin America. However, US authorities cancelled his passport and he remained stuck at the airport for five weeks, before Russia granted him political asylum.
On Thursday, Lon Snowden spoke of his "extreme gratitude that my son is safe and secure and he's free", words that were run repeatedly during the morning on Russian news channels.
President Vladimir Putin, himself a former KGB spy, does not have much sympathy for whistleblowers and has described Snowden as "a strange guy", but said that Russia had no choice but to offer him asylum.
Before Snowden was given asylum, Putin said that Russia would offer it only on the condition that the whistleblower stopped his leaks. Lon Snowden said on Thursday he understood his son had not been involved in the publication of new information since his arrival in Russia and is "simply trying to remain healthy and safe".
Some have suggested it is likely that Snowden is being held under guard of the FSB, Russia's security service, but the Russians have insisted that they have neither received, nor attempted to extract, any of Snowden's secrets.
Kucherena has previously said that Snowden does have security, but declined to say whether it is provided by the Russian state or a private firm. He said that Snowden has been able to travel around Russia without being recognised and is busy reading books about the country's history and learning the language.
The website Life News, which has close links to the Russian security services, published what it claimed was the first photo of Edward Snowden in Russia earlier this week, which showed a man resembling the former NSA contractor wheeling a supermarket trolley piled with plastic bags of shopping. There has been no confirmation that the photograph is genuine.
Kucherena said that Lon Snowden planned to hold a press conference "soon", and added that other members of the Snowden family plan to visit Moscow in the near future.
Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #9242 on: Oct 10th, 2013, 09:06am »
Beeing There: The Search for Pesticides’ Effect on Declining Bee Colonies Moves to the Fields
Scientists are gaining a more sophisticated understanding of the role of toxins in worldwide bee declines as lab studies of single insects are superseded by research on hives in the field
By Francie Diep 10 October 2013
A honeybee's brain is hardly bigger than the tip of a dog's whisker, yet you can train a bee just as Pavlov got his pups to drool on hearing their dinner bell. Using a sugar solution as a reward, you can teach the insect to extend its little mouthparts in response to different scents.
Several Pavlovian lab studies of individual worker honeybees, however, found that those fed small amounts of pesticides—especially a class called neonicotinoids—do not learn which scents lead to a sweet reward as quickly as their pesticide-free peers do. Yet, until recently, it wasn't clear what these and other lab studies meant for the health of entire bee colonies, which might have strategies to mitigate the overall impact of problems with particular hive members. "Just because you see the effect in the bee in the lab, strapped into this lab apparatus, [doesn’t mean you know] how does this translate into a colony in a field?" says Reed Johnson, an entomologist at The Ohio State University who studies pesticides' effects on honeybees.
To probe the colony question, academic research on neonicotinoids and other pesticides is moving from studies in labs to the outdoors—examining both the effects on entire honeybee or bumblebee hives as well as those on solitary bees nesting near crops. Such studies could help determine how and to what extent pesticides are behind the accelerated rate at which honeybee hives are dying. They also seek to answer whether pesticides are harming other bee species that are important to agriculture.
Since 2006 U.S. honeybee-keepers have reported they lose 30 percent of their hives on average after every winter. Before then, beekeepers would usually lose 5 or 10 percent of their hives after winter. The immediate reasons keepers report their hives are dying seem ordinary enough—winter starvation, pests such as the varroa mite and problems with queen bees such as premature deaths—but researchers are trying to understand why these seemingly normal problems are now happening at an extraordinarily higher rate. Pesticides could be one answer.
So far, honeybee-keepers have replaced lost hives through breeding, but experts worry that in the future bees won't be able to sustain such a high replacement rate. Populations could decline below what U.S. agriculture needs to pollinate America's nuts, fruits, vegetables and even livestock feed.
What do we know?
The field studies entomologists repeatedly cite include ones that found different neonicotinoids reduced the number of honeybee foragers that return to their hive as well as reduced the population growth and queen bee production of bumblebee colonies. Another study found that the neonicotinoid imidacloprid, when applied in combination with another popular, non-neonicotinoid pesticide called lambda-cyhalothrin, increased the likelihood that bumblebee hives will fail. "I do think it is pretty clear that neonics interfere with bees' ability to forage effectively," says David Goulson, a bumblebee researcher with the University of Sussex in the U.K. and an author of the bumblebee population growth study cited above. "For bumblebees, the evidence is overwhelming."
Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #9243 on: Oct 10th, 2013, 09:08am »
Wait, The CW is developing TWO Mars-set sci-fi series?
by Trent Moore Thursday, October 10, 2013 - 9:18am
It looks like The CW will be doubling down on Mars in the next pilot season.
The network has put its second Mars-set sci-fi series into development, which will join Red — a show that kind of sounds like Firefly meets Defiance.
The new series is dubbed Colony, and will take a page out of the classic Roanoke Colony legend of the 16th century British settlement that disappeared seemingly without a trace and baffles historians to this day. Yeah, that actually sounds pretty cool.
The pilot is being written by Ian Goldberg (Once Upon A Time), and is described as “a thriller about a group of explorers sent to colonize Mars, willing to leave their lives behind to brave the dangers of another planet, and the terrifying reality they discover.”
From Arrow, to The Tomorrow People, The CW has been making a major push into the sci-fi genre the past few years (along with stalwarts like Supernatural), and it’s nice to see that trend continue. We’re also wondering what this means for Red — do you think there’s room for two trips a week to the red planet on The CW schedule?
Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #9244 on: Oct 10th, 2013, 09:13am »
NSA’s Own Hardware Backdoors May Still Be a “Problem from Hell”
Revelations that the NSA has compromised hardware for surveillance highlights the vulnerability of computer systems to such attacks.
By Tom Simonite on October 8, 2013
In 2011, General Michael Hayden, who had earlier been director of both the National Security Agency and the Central Intelligence Agency, described the idea of computer hardware with hidden “backdoors” planted by an enemy as “the problem from hell.” This month, news reports based on leaked documents said that the NSA itself has used that tactic, working with U.S. companies to insert secret backdoors into chips and other hardware to aid its surveillance efforts.
That revelation particularly concerned security experts because Hayden’s assessment is widely held to be true. Compromised hardware is difficult, and often impossible, to detect. Hardware can do things such as access data in ways invisible to the software on a computer, even security software. The possibility that computer hardware in use around the world might be littered with NSA backdoors raises the prospect that other nations’ agencies are doing the same thing, or that groups other than the NSA might find and exploit the NSA’s backdoors. Critics of the NSA say the untraceable nature of hardware flaws, and the potential for building them into many systems, also increases the risk that intelligence agencies that place them will be tempted to exceed legal restrictions on surveillance.
“Hardware is like a public good because everybody has to rely on it,” says Simha Sethumadhavan, an associate professor at Columbia University who researches ways to detect backdoors in computer chips. “If hardware is compromised in some way, you lose security in a very fundamental way.”
Despite a few allegations against various governments, there are no publicly confirmed cases of backdoors in computer hardware being deployed. However, in recent years security researchers have repeatedly demonstrated the power and stealth of compromised hardware, mostly by embedding backdoors into the firmware of PC components. One presentation at the Black Hat security conference last year showed off a way to backdoor a new PC so that even switching the hard drive won’t close the door (see “A Computer Infection That Can Never Be Cured”).
U.S. officials and policy makers have also spoken strongly about the possibility that such tactics might be in use by China, citing that government’s attitude toward the U.S. and the fact that a large proportion of all computer hardware is manufactured in the country (see “Why the U.S. Is So Afraid of Huawei”). However, until the recent reports, including a major piece in the New York Times earlier this month, there had never been specific public claims that a government was inserting secret vulnerabilities into computer hardware.
The Times report says, however, that the NSA inserted backdoors into some encryption chips that businesses and governments use to secure their data, and that the agency worked with an unnamed U.S. manufacturer to add backdoors to computer hardware about to be shipped to an overseas target.
“There has always been a lot of speculation and hinting about hardware being backdoored,” says Steve Weis, CTO and cofounder of PrivateCore, a startup whose software for cloud servers can offer protection against some kinds of malicious hardware. “This builds the case for that being right.” Weis believes that many companies in the U.S. and elsewhere will now think again about where their hardware comes from, and who has access to it. But scoping out potential problems is not straightforward for many companies, which now put data, software, and hardware in third-party locations to be run by cloud-hosting providers.
PrivateCore’s software for servers powering cloud services offers some protection against malicious hardware by encrypting data in a system’s RAM, or short-term memory. Data there is not usually encrypted, making RAM a good place for bad hardware attached to a system to covertly copy data and send it back to an attacker.
Weis says that in internal tests his technology defeated hardware attached to a server that attempted to copy data and send it out over the Internet, and that these results have been validated by rigorous tests commissioned from an outside security firm. However, the protection has its limits. “The one component we trust is an Intel processor,” says Weis. “We can’t really get around that today.”
Compromised chips are the most covert of backdoors, says Columbia’s Sethumadhavan. There is essentially no way for the buyer of a completed chip to check that it doesn’t have a backdoor, he says, and there are a multitude of ways that a design can be compromised.
Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #9245 on: Oct 10th, 2013, 09:23am »
New York Times
North Korean Leader Tightens Grip with Removal of Top General
By CHOE SANG-HUN Published: October 10, 2013
SEOUL — North Korea’s state media on Thursday confirmed the removal of a hard-line general as its military chief, the latest sign of a military overhaul in which the country’s supreme leader, Kim Jong-un, has replaced nearly half of his country’s top officials in the past two years, according to South Korean officials.
The firing of Gen. Kim Kyok-sik and the rise of Gen. Ri Yong-gil to replace him as head of the general staff of the North’s Korean People’s Army was the latest in a series of high-profile reshuffles that Kim Jong-un has engineered to consolidate his grip on the North’s top elites.
Since taking power upon the death of his father, Kim Jong-il, in late 2011, Kim Jong-un has replaced 44 percent of North Korea’s 218 top military, party and government officials, the South’s Ministry of Unification said in a report. He engineered this and other reshuffles to retire or sideline the old generals from his father’s days and promote a new set of aides who will owe their loyalty directly to him.
The reordering of top jobs has accelerated since July last year, when Vice Marshal Ri Yong-ho, one of the most powerful men under Mr. Kim’s father, was suddenly fired as chief of the general staff of the North Korean military. He was replaced by Vice Marshal Hyon Yong-chol. Mr. Hyon didn’t last long either as he was soon demoted and replaced by Gen. Kim Kyok-sik in May.
Gen. Kim, 74, had been one of the oldest aides of Kim Jong-il still holding a top job even after Kim Jong-un promoted younger generals. South Korean officials believed that General Kim commanded units responsible for sinking one of South Korea’s warships and shelling a South Korean border island in 2010, attacks that killed 50 South Koreans.
But his name disappeared from the North’s state media after the Central Military Commission of the ruling Workers’ Party met in August to discuss personnel matters.
Little is known about Ri Yong-gil, who is in charge of the field operations of the North Korean military as chief of its general staff. He gained the attention of outside analysts when North Korean media reported that he was one of the generals who advised Mr. Kim this spring when North Korea threatened the United States and South Korea with nuclear strikes.
South Korean officials believed that General Ri was appointed military chief during the August meeting of the Central Military Commission.
But North Korean media mentioned his new title for the first time on Thursday in dispatches listing those who accompanied Mr. Kim while visiting a Pyongyang mausoleum where his father and his grandfather, the founding President Kim Il-sung, lie in state. Thursday was the 68th anniversary of the Workers’ Party.
General Ri joins Gen. Jang Jong-nam, who became minister of the armed forces in May, and Vice Marshal Choe Ryong-hae, the military’s top political officer, as Kim Jong-un’s top three military aides.
Among the three, Vice Marshal Choe, director of the General Political Department of the North Korean People’s Army, was considered the most powerful. He appeared with Mr. Kim in North Korean media more often than any other member of the North Korean elite. Mr. Choe, a former party secretary, had never served in the army and South Korean analysts see his sudden rise in the military ranks under Mr. Kim as a sign that Mr. Kim was letting the party reassert its influence over the military as he vowed to channel more national resources into the rebuilding of the economy.
Meanwhile, North Korean media late Wednesday showed Mr. Kim inspecting a housing project together with his wife, Ri Sol-ju, who has been a focus of lurid gossip in the region in recent weeks.
In August, the conservative daily Chosun Ilbo in South Korea reported that Mr. Kim ordered the executions of a dozen North Korean performers, including the singer Hyon Song-wol, who the paper said was Mr. Kim’s former girlfriend, for making videos of themselves performing sex acts and then selling the recordings.
Then, last month, Japan’s daily Asahi Shimbun reported that Mr. Kim ordered the executions to prevent the spreading of rumors that his wife was also engaged in similar acts when she was a singer.
North Korea called the reports “an unpardonable hideous provocation hurting the dignity of the supreme leadership” and promised a “stern punishment.”
Nam Jae-joon, director of South Korea’s National Intelligence Service, told lawmakers in Seoul that his agency was aware of the executions but had no information on Ms. Ri’s reported involvement.
Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #9247 on: Oct 11th, 2013, 09:15am »
The secret government bunker hidden under a luxury hotel stocked with 30 years of supplies to keep America’s most influential alive in a nuclear fallout
By James Nye
PUBLISHED: 01:00 EST, 11 October 2013 UPDATED: 04:25 EST, 11 October 2013
It is the 'Day After' nuclear war with the Soviet Union and the government of the United States convenes to try and steer the nation through the apocalyptic aftermath - but this is not Washington D.C.
Instead Congress are meeting in a secret bunker built under the luxurious Greenbrier Hotel in White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia, protected by 3-foot-thick concrete walls and an air-intake system designed to filter out dangerous radioactive fall-out.
Secretly constructed under the luxurious hotel five hours away from the capital by order of President Eisenhower from 1958 to 1962, the bunker was codenamed 'Project Greek Island' and was built as scions of America's political classes such as the Kennedy's and even the Duke and Duchess of Windsor vacationed above.
Finally complete in 1962, the bunker was the size of a Walmart store and boasted rations for 30 years and 1,100 beds, assigned individually to a serving member of the United States government.
Built under the guise of completing a new west wing to the famous retreat, the 112,000-square-foot bunker, deep under the posh Greenbrier resort boasted an 'Exhibit Hall' 89 feet (27 m) by 186 feet (57 m) beneath a ceiling nearly 20 feet (6.1 m) high and supported by 18 support columns.
Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #9248 on: Oct 11th, 2013, 09:30am »
A Cure for Urban GPS: a 3-D Antenna
GPS readings in cities and indoors can be terrible. One startup has found a novel solution.
By Tom Simonite on October 9, 2013
A new antenna design being tested by the U.S. Air Force could make GPS significantly more reliable and able to function in dense urban areas where GPS accuracy is weak. It might even allow the technology to work indoors in some cases.
Good GPS readings are hard to get in cities because of the multipath phenomenon: signals from positioning satellites bounce off buildings and other structures. That confuses GPS receivers, which calculate their location by knowing exactly how long it took for signals to arrive from satellites overhead.
A signal that has bounced takes longer to arrive than it would if it had traveled directly, muddying a receiver’s math and sending location readings off by tens or hundreds of meters. Smartphones and in-car GPS units often have to work out their true location by analyzing maps and by getting a series of readings over time.
The Air Force Institute of Technology is now trying to tackle that problem with an antenna able to recognize and ignore multipath GPS signals. The project builds on a design invented by Locata, a company based in Canberra, Australia. The institute is testing the company’s soccer-ball-sized proof-of-concept prototype, and plans to adapt it into versions that could conform with the frame of a Humvee or aircraft, or be built into helmets.
As the U.S. military tries to automate aircraft and other vehicles, it must rely on GPS to know where they are. Nunzio Gambale, cofounder and CEO of Locata, says that what the Air Force develops stands a good chance of trickling down to civilians, since most GPS technology in smartphones and navigational aids originated with the military.
“The requirements of the military are now converging with the requirements of Apple and Google,” he says. “Everyone wants to use these location tracking-devices indoors and in urban areas where people say GPS will never work.”
Locata’s antenna has many different elements that can be activated individually. In the current prototype there are 80 such elements positioned around a sphere. Switching on each element individually for about one millisecond makes it possible for a receiver to sense not only the strength but also the direction of incoming signals, by comparing what is detected by the elements on different parts of the antenna.
That makes it possible to ignore GPS signals that have bounced in favor of pure ones coming directly from a satellite. “It’s like the blinders coming off,” says Gambale. He believes that in some circumstances the new antenna design could even allow GPS readings indoors, where multipath effects are extremely strong and the signals from positioning satellites are extremely weak.
Constructing antennas from multiple elements isn’t a new idea. But such designs traditionally had each element controlled by its own radio, causing different elements to interact with one another in ways that required complex additional processing to clean up. In Locata’s design, all elements connect to a single radio. The sequence of signals it produces from different antenna elements can be processed relatively easily.
Todd Humphreys, a professor at the University of Texas geopositioning lab, says that Locata’s design shows promise because it can be so much cheaper than previous attempts to address the multipath problem. However, he cautions that this approach to antenna design requires a large receiver, so for now it will be practical only in military applications.
Locata is leaving it up to the Air Force to work out how practical the 3-D antenna can be. Gambale says his company is instead focused on using the technology to improve a competing technology to GPS: a system of ground-based location beacons that allows location readings to within centimeters (see “Ultra-Fine Location Fixes”). Last year the U.S. Air Force commissioned a Locata system for the White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico. Locata is also working to sell systems to companies that operate mines and warehouses.
Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #9250 on: Oct 11th, 2013, 09:38am »
Amid NSA Outrage, Big Tech Companies Plan to Track You Even More Aggressively
By Ryan Tate 10.11.13 6:30 AM
Thanks to former NSA man Edward Snowden, we now know a fair amount about the NSA’s ability to collect data about what people do online, and it’s all rather disturbing.
But the future looks even more worrisome. Some of the biggest companies in tech are assembling new forms of online tracking that would follow users more aggressively than the open technologies used today. Just this week, word arrived that Microsoft is developing such a system, following, apparently, in the footsteps of Google.
The new data troves are to be used for advertising, not government surveillance, and only made available to authorized third parties. Yet the NSA has proven adept at co-opting large pools of data for its own ends.
“Users did not have much control in the cookie era,” says Marc Rotenberg, executive director of the Electronic Privacy Information Center, a nonprofit advocacy group in Washington. “But the problem is about to get much worse — tracking techniques will become more deeply embedded and a much smaller number of companies will control advertising data.”
Rotenberg says potential NSA use of the next-generation tracking data is all the more reason to move away from behavioral tracking. And he points out that there’s already evidence that ad data could have been used by government spies. NSA documents published by the Guardian earlier this month appear to postulate that cookies set by the pervasive Google-owned ad network DoubleClick could be used to spot internet users who also use the Tor anonymity system.
The NSA Tor attack could only work on people who made mistakes using what is otherwise a strong system. But yesterday, Ad Age reported that Microsoft is developing a system that has intimate tracking at its core, following people as they hop from the web to apps and from PCs to tablets to phones to videogame consoles. By shoving aside cookies for an unspecified new identification technology built into devices at a lower level, Microsoft and its authorized partners would gain detailed tracking ability — though the report also says that the system could lock out non-authorized parties, who are harder to exclude from the data flow in cookie-based tracking.
That may sound like a good thing, but keep in mind that Snowden’s documents indicate that the NSA has previously helped itself to big company data, with authorization or without.
Under Microsoft’s system, web “search data could inform TV-style ads within streaming video apps on Xbox,” Ad Age wrote. “Microsoft’s cookie replacement would essentially be a device identifier, meaning consumers could give permission for its advertising use when opting in to a device’s regular user agreement or terms of service.” Requiring an opt-in is better than not, but the reality is that most people opt in to such things, simply because services require or encourage them to do so.
Asked about the reported tracking system, a Microsoft spokesperson passed along the following written statement: “Microsoft believes going beyond the cookie is important. Our priority will be to find ways to do this that respect the interests of consumers. We have nothing further to share.” It’s not clear whether Microsoft’s system could be curbed by systems like the Tor Browser, which is designed to thwart older tracking strategies based on open standards.
Google is reportedly developing a similar cookie replacement scheme known as AdId. Indeed, large internet companies appear to be locked in something of a tracking arms race in an effort to sell increasingly targeted ads. Facebook, for example, has added advertisements based on searches and web surfing conducted outside of Facebook and even based on what groceries you buy. Still, it has relied on old, longstanding tracking techniques for which many blocking options exist. Microsoft and Google are contemplating closely held systems that could be much harder to fight.
Right now, ordinary internet users are more angry than they’ve ever been about the government sweeping their private data into big, concentrated surveillance databases. At the same time, large corporations are eagerly improving their ability to sweep private data into big, concentrated advertising databases. At the very least, Microsoft and Google will have to walk a fine line to deploy these systems. But perhaps this time, the protests will be louder — and more effective.
Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #9254 on: Oct 12th, 2013, 09:31am »
Hammer brings together Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee yet again under the direction of Terence Fisher ("The Horror of Dracula" & "The Mummy") for a Gothic yarn which manages to channel Greek mythology. A Medusa-like creature is turning locals to stone in a small, European village.