Category Archives: Uncategorized

Mr. Fish: Lap Top Flyer


From Clowncrack, his blog of umbratilous umbrage:

BLOG Fish

Dan Piraro: Semantic monkeyshines


From the creator of the venerable Bizarroworld:

BLOG Monkeyshines

Just some random headlines. . .or are they?


First, from the London Telegraph:

Infants ‘unable to use toy building blocks’ due to iPad addiction

The Association of Teachers and Lecturers warn that rising numbers of children are unable to perform simple tasks such as using building blocks because of overexposure to iPads

Next, from the London Daily Mail:

Pregnant women who take SSRI antidepressants are three times more likely to have a child with autism

  • The effect of  the drugs is particularity pronounced during third trimester
  • Researchers suggest rising rates of autism and SSRI use may be linked

Next up, from the Los Angeles Times:

Household rat poison linked to death and disease in wildlife

Evidence of rat poison is found in a sickly puma whose territory includes Griffith Park. Researchers suspect a link between poisons and mange.

During nearly two decades of research in and around the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area, park service scientists have documented widespread exposure in carnivores to common household poisons. Of 140 bobcats, coyotes and mountain lions evaluated, 88% tested positive for one or more anticoagulant compounds. Scores of animals are known to have died from internal bleeding, researchers said.

The poisons also affect protected or endangered species including golden eagles, northern spotted owls and San Joaquin kit foxes.

And the Los Angeles Times again:

EPA drastically underestimates methane released at drilling sites

Drilling operations at several natural gas wells in southwestern Pennsylvania released methane into the atmosphere at rates that were 100 to 1,000 times greater than federal regulators had estimated, new research shows.

Using a plane that was specially equipped to measure greenhouse gas emissions in the air, scientists found that drilling activities at seven well pads in the booming Marcellus shale formation emitted 34 grams of methane per second, on average. The Environmental Protection Agency has estimated that such drilling releases between 0.04 grams and 0.30 grams of methane per second.

The study, published Monday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, adds to a growing body of research that suggests the EPA is gravely underestimating methane emissions from oil and gas operations. The agency is expected to issue its own analysis of methane emissions from the oil and gas sector as early as Tuesday, which will give outside experts a chance to assess how well regulators understand the problem.

Next, from the East Bay Express:

Environmental Activist Forcibly Removed from Chevron-Sponsored Event in Oakland for Mocking the Company’s ‘News’ Website

Security guards forcibly removed Paul Paz y Miño, an employee of the environmental group Amazon Watch, from a Chevron-sponsored event today in Oakland because he was carrying flyers that he said he had planned to distribute outside the building after the program. When Miño, who had paid $75 for a ticket to the public event, refused to leave, guards forcibly removed him.

Called the “Illuminating Ideas: ENERGY & Sustainability Summit,” the economic development event was held at the Oakland Marriott. It was organized by the Oakland Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce and primarily sponsored by Chevron. PG&E, Bank of America, and Merrill Lynch were also sponsors. The event offered several panel discussions on green infrastructure, energy smart cities, and private and public partnerships. The keynote speaker was Jon Wellinghoff, the immediate past president of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. Oakland Mayor Jean Quan was also a speaker at the event.

And them this, from VentureBeat:

The future of Silicon Valley may lie in the mountains of Afghanistan

The future of Silicon Valley’s technological prowess may well lie in the war-scarred mountains and salt flats of Western Afghanistan.

United States Geological Survey teams discovered one of the world’s largest untapped reserves of lithium there six years ago. The USGS was scouting the volatile country at the behest of the U.S. Department of Defense’s Task Force for Business and Stability Operations. Lithium is a soft metal used to make the lithium-ion and lithium-polymer batteries essential for powering desktop computers, laptops, smartphones, and tablets. And increasingly, electric cars like Tesla’s.

The vast discovery could very well propel Afghanistan — a war-ravaged land with a population of 31 million largely uneducated Pashtuns and Tajiks, and whose primary exports today are opium, hashish, and marijuana — into becoming the world’s next “Saudi Arabia of lithium,” according to an internal Pentagon memo cited by the New York Times.

Finally, from the New York Times:

The Environmentalist Who Decided It Was Too Late

After decades of fervent environmental activism, Paul Kingsnorth concluded that collapse is inevitable. So now what?

Okay, so maybe they’re not such random headlines after all.

Rather, they are examples that should stir a form of thinking that the late UC Santa Barbara ecologist Garrett Hardin called ecolacy, the much-needed complement to the more commonly cultivated skills of literacy and numeracy.

Hardin, who was tragically wrong about what he called “the tragedy of the commons” [mistaking what economists term a free-for-all for the community-engendered commons], was spot on in his formulation of his First Law of Human Ecology, which states with deceptive simplicity: “You cannot do only one thing.”

Many of the headlines we have cited are examples of Hardin’s law, proof that actions hailed as desirable in one context can be devastating in the second. . .as in children skilled at screens and inept at manipulating real world objects. . . and as mothers relieved of depression and rewarded with the depressing burden of autistic offspring. . .and as when posons designed to kills household vermnin spread to destroy the wildlife around us.

Another grouping reminds us of the distortion of information to suit the interests of the few at the peril of the many. . .as when producing a fuel touted as a way to cut greenhouse gases actually produces vastly more atmosphere-imperiling emissions that the corporateers would have us believe. . .and when a corporation that touts itself as a bastion of community responsibility censors those who proclaim otherwise. . .and when a glimpse is revealed of deeper causes behind devastating flag-draped bloodshed.

The last headline speaks for itself.

David Horsey: Portrait of a job creator


Parsing neoliberal semantics with the editorial cartoonist of the Los Angeles Times:

BLOG Job creator

Rising poverty accompanies the German boom


From RT’s Peter Oliver, a timely reminder that behind the rosy glow emanating from Europe’s economic powerhouse is a darker reality, with poverty dramatically on the rise:

‘When need is stronger than shame’: Charities are last hope for more Germans

Program notes:

European politicians are in high spirits, as the latest statistics show a modest recovery across the euro zone. Germany performed slightly better than expected in the last quarter. The country is seen as the main driver of the European economy, and yet the number of Germans living below the poverty line has actually risen in recent years.

Chart of the day: Geography of joblessness


From the Bureau of Labor Statistics, contrasting areas of above [red] and below [yellow] average unemployment rates. Click on the image to enlarge:

BLOG Jobless

Quote of the day: The Panopticon opportunity


From Alfred McCoy, a brilliant scholar of the world of spies, lies, and black ops, writing at TomDispatch:

For more than six months, Edward Snowden’s revelations about the National Security Agency (NSA) have been pouring out from the Washington Post, the New York Times, the Guardian, Germany’s Der Spiegel, and Brazil’s O Globo, among other places.  Yet no one has pointed out the combination of factors that made the NSA’s expanding programs to monitor the world seem like such a slam-dunk development in Washington.  The answer is remarkably simple.  For an imperial power losing its economic grip on the planet and heading into more austere times, the NSA’s latest technological breakthroughs look like a bargain basement deal when it comes to projecting power and keeping subordinate allies in line — like, in fact, the steal of the century.  Even when disaster turned out to be attached to them, the NSA’s surveillance programs have come with such a discounted price tag that no Washington elite was going to reject them.

For well over a century, from the pacification of the Philippines in 1898 to trade negotiations with the European Union today, surveillance and its kissing cousins, scandal and scurrilous information, have been key weapons in Washington’s search for global dominion. Not surprisingly, in a post-9/11 bipartisan exercise of executive power, George W. Bush and Barack Obama have presided over building the NSA step by secret step into a digital panopticon designed to monitor the communications of every American and foreign leaders worldwide.

Read the rest.

Headlines of the day I: Spies, Lies, Hacks, & Pols


Posting’s been slow of late, mostly because we’re into the eighth day of a nast respiratory bug.

But let’s get right to it, starting with this headline from Digital Trends:

NSA can gain complete access to iPhones, but Apple denies it helped install spyware

The National Security Agency can intercept the world’s Internet communications, tap Google’s and Yahoo’s corporate networks, collect revealing data on every phone call in America, and covertly divert new PC shipments to install monitoring software. And now, as newly revealed NSA documents show, we know it can take complete control over virtually anyone’s Apple iPhone.

Apple, for its part, says it knew nothing about the iPhone exploit, and has vowed to protect customers from any “malicious hackers.”

First revealed by security researcher Jacob Appelbaum and Germany’s Der Spiegel magazine, the NSA installs a piece of spyware called DROPOUTJEEP, which enables the agency to intercept SMS text messages; snag voicemail, geolocation data, cell tower location, and contact lists; capture conversations over the iPhone’s microphone; and snap pictures via the camera.

More from The Guardian:

Top secret program to target iPhones: Australian agencies may have known

  • Apple denies knowledge of the tool, saying it ‘has never worked with the NSA to create a back door in any of our products’

Australian intelligence agencies may have had knowledge of a top secret US National Security Agency program for targeting iPhones, according to newly-released documents.

The Guardian debunks:

President Obama claims the NSA has never abused its authority. That’s false

The facts that we know so far – from Fisa court documents to LOVEINT – show that the NSA has overstepped its powers

Digital Trends ironizes:

TURBOPANDA, RAGEMASTER, and 13 other NSA codenames that prove spies laugh, too

The National Security Agency gets a lot of flack for, you know, violating the entire world’s right to privacy and whatnot. But after seeing the codenames the NSA gives its spyware and other snooping tech, we’re starting to wonder if we’re thinking of these guys all wrong. They’re not clandestine cyberspies who seek to infiltrate every nook and cranny of the digital world – they’re just misunderstood comedians! Seriously, whoever thought “BANANAGLEE” was a good name for anything this side of a Lemon Party has a fantastic sense of humor.

Computerworld havests the Blue Screen of Death:

Unencrypted Windows crash reports give ‘significant advantage’ to hackers, spies

  • Microsoft transmits a wealth of information from Windows PCs to its servers in the clear, claims security researcher

Windows’ error- and crash-reporting system sends a wealth of data unencrypted and in the clear, information that eavesdropping hackers or state security agencies can use to refine and pinpoint their attacks, a researcher said today.

Not coincidentally, over the weekend the popular German newsmagazine Der Spiegel reported that the U.S. National Security Agency (NSA) collects Windows crash reports from its global wiretaps to sniff out details of targeted PCs, including the installed software and operating systems, down to the version numbers and whether the programs or OSes have been patched; application and operating system crashes that signal vulnerabilities that could be exploited with malware; and even the devices and peripherals that have been plugged into the computers.

From Wired, another gotcha:

Court Upholds Willy-Nilly Gadget Searches Along U.S. Border

A federal judge today upheld a President Barack Obama administration policy allowing authorities along the U.S. border to seize and search laptops, smartphones and other electronic devices for any reason.

The decision by U.S. District Judge Edward Korman in New York comes as laptops, and now smartphones, have become virtual extensions of ourselves, housing everything from email to instant-message chats to our papers and effects.

Reuters seeks enlightenment:

ACLU sues for details of U.S. surveillance under executive order

The American Civil Liberties Union filed a lawsuit on Monday, seeking to force the U.S. government to disclose details of its foreign electronic surveillance program and what protections it provides to Americans whose communications are swept up.

The lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court in New York, came three days after the ACLU lost a bid to block a separate program that collects the phone calls of millions of Americans.

The Verge has a body count:

Covert US targeted killings took 253 lives in 2013, report estimates

The Council on Foreign Relations has released its estimates on the year’s covert targeted killings in Yemen and Pakistan, carried out primarily by drones. The numbers are based on reports from The Bureau of Investigative Journalism, The Long War Journal, and The New America Foundation. Each source provides slightly different numbers, but the Long War Journal figures estimate a total of 54 strikes and 253 casualties, of whom 31 were civilians. The Council estimates a total of 3,520 casualties since the drone strike program began in 2004, of whom 457 have been civilians.

The numbers are only estimates, as data on civilian casualties is notoriously unreliable, but CFR is straightforward about its goals in releasing the report. “The current trajectory of US drone strike policies is unsustainable,” author Micah Zenko wrote in his initial report last year, to which these new numbers are an update. “Without reform from within, drones risk becoming an unregulated, unaccountable vehicle for states to deploy lethal force with impunity.”

USA TODAY has just the job for you:

Looking for a college major? How about drone technology

The controversial use of drones in business and everyday life is leading to more and more interest on an academic level

And from Deutsche Welle, another educational opportunity:

Master in Cyber Spying — Britain’s University for Secret Agents

Program notes:

If James Bond were to hit the books again, he’d likely attend the University of Buckingham in South East England. The private institution offers a Master’s degree in Security and Intelligence Studies. Cyber espionage is also part of the curriculum.

People come from around the world to study at the university’s Centre for Security and Intelligence Studies. Graduates hope to work in counter-terrorism or help businesses ward off cyber-attacks.

CBC affirms:

Vladimir Putin vows vengeance after Volgograd bus bombing

  • Police sweeps lead to detention of dozens in southern Russian city

Russian President Vladimir Putin on Tuesday vowed to annihilate “terrorists” following two deadly bomb attacks in less than 24 hours in the southern city of Volgograd that raised security fears ahead of the Winter Olympics.

The uncompromising remarks in a New Year’s Eve address were Putin’s first public comments since suicide bombers killed at least 34 people in attacks on a railway station and a trolleybus on Sunday and Monday.

The bombings raised fears of further attacks before Russia hosts the Winter Olympics in less than six weeks in the Black Sea resort of Sochi, a major prestige project for Putin.

Off to Asia, where crises are the order of the day, first with a very troubling headline from Want China Times:

Japan has enough plutonium to build 1,000 nuclear bombs: report

The real reason why Japan’s prime minister, Shinzo Abe, refuses to abandon nuclear power is because he wants to develop a nuclear weapons program, claims the Hong Kong-based Wen Wei Po, citing Koide Hiroaki, an assistant professor at the Kyoto University Research Reactor Institute.

There have been strong calls for Tokyo to reconsider its position on nuclear energy after the Fukushima nuclear incident in March 2011, when the Fukushima Daiichi plant north of Tokyo was hit by an earthquake and tsunami, triggering the world’s worst nuclear incident since Chernobyl.

Despite the risks, Hiroaki said that Tokyo is determined to develop a nuclear bomb. As Japan is not allowed to legally import weapons-grade plutonium, he says it is able to extract the plutonium it needs from the nuclear waste from the country’s power plants.

After the jump, the latest stunningly aggressive moves by the administration of Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, North Krean nightmares, American electoral insecurity, and the reinicarnation of Pepper Spraying Cop. . . Continue reading

Mr. Fish: Red Faced


From Clowncrack, his blog of gratulatory gorgeosity:

BLOG Fish

Mr. Fish: Board to Death


From his blog of fabulously frumuous bandersnatchery,  Clowncrack:

BLOG Fish

Chart of the day III: Targets of opportunity


Key targets of sigint [signals intelligence] operations are the fiber optic cables connecting us beneath the world’s oceans and seas, where they can be tapped out of sight to mortal eyes.

From National Programmes for Mass Surveillance of Personal Data in EU Member States and Their Compatibility with EU Law [PDF], a report from the European Parialment’s Directorate General for Internal Policies Department C: Citizens’ Rights and Constitutional Affairs, Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs. The document looks at large-scale surveillance programs in the UK, Sweden, France, Germany, and the Netherlands

Via Cryptome, click on the image to enlarge:

Microsoft Word - pe493032_en

Boxing match: A Ford gets stuck in a hole


Behold the front age box greeting folks in Toronto this morning, featuring Hizzoner’s belated confession. Having written thousands of print headlines and loving puns as we do, we’re simply stuporfied [via MediaWire]:

BLOG Mayor

Stunning video: Markets enter realm of chaos


With the advent of high frequency trading and the ability to buy and sell stocks in increasingly smaller minute factions of a second, investment has become a computer game, based on taking advantage of minuscule price movements instead of investing in companies deemed to be solid or holding great poential.

With the transformation of the marketplace from a forum ruled by analysts trained in reading spreadsheets into the equivalent of a high-speed computer game [with the Easter eggs in the form of massive profits], Wall Street became a magnet for a different kind of genius, spawned not by business schools but by the world’s leading scientific schools, we all became prey to the forces unleashed.

Now add another layer of complexity to a market already running at a pace measured in picoseconds — the creation of software that changes the prices in orders already entered and not yet completed to allow buyers to make the greatest possible profits on stock that may then be sold, well inside the same second in which it was purchased.

Now factor in that the market had already entered the realms of the complex system, in which cause can no longer be attributable to single events, which themselves can spring forth as wholly unpredictable emergent properties. The world of the linear no longer exists.

We’ve already seen near-catastrophic glitches, such as the Flash Crash of 6 May 2010, when computer-spawned orders drove the Down Jones down 1010 — the single largest drop in market history.

Regulators who investigated the crash attributed the debacle to “combined selling pressure from the sell algorithm.” In other words, a decision arising outside the scope of human consciousness.

We’re huge fans of Dutch public television’s VPRO Backlight documentaries, especially their investigations of the financial world, and their brilliant in-depth looks at high-speed trading [e.g., Quants: The Alchemists of Wall Street].

In their latest video, released today, director Marjie Meerman focuses on an exile from the Quant world, and his very disturbing explanation of just how perilous the financial realm has become.

From VPRO International:

The Wall Street Code [Marije Meerman, VPRO]

The program notes:

A thriller about a genius algorithm builder who dared to stand up against Wall Street. Haim Bodek, aka The Algo Arms Dealer.

From the makers of the much-praised Quants: the Alchemists of Wall Street and Money & Speed: Inside the Black Box. Now the long-awaited final episode of a trilogy in search of the winners and losers of the tech revolution on Wall Street. Could mankind lose control of this increasingly complex system?

Director: Marije Meerman
Research: Gerko Wessel

Charts of the day: Is it just me, or is it getting hot?


First, this from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration via Arctic News:

BLOG NOAA

And then there’s this, from GOP Deeply Divided Over Climate Change, a new report [PDF] from the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press:

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Chart of the day II: Good news for bibliophiles


With about 2500 books in our own library, we  definitely qualify. From The Digital Reader:

BLOG Bookstores

Chart of the day: USA! USA! We’re Number One!


Obesity rates in advanced economies, via the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development [PDF]:

BLOG Obese

Sincerity, a short film from Spain for hard times


From filmmaker Andrea Casaseca Ferrer:

The program notes:

After lunch, David must confess the news to his parents. What he still doesn’t know is the impact it will have in them.

H/T to Keep Talking Greece.

Chart of the day: The young, losing jobs


BLOG Young jobless

From Gallup, which reports:

Fewer Americans aged 18 to 29 worked full time for an employer in June 2013 (43.6%) than did so in June 2012 (47.0%), according to Gallup’s Payroll to Population employment rate. The P2P rate for young adults is also down from 45.8% in June 2011 and 46.3% in June 2010.

Wednesday night ‘Save Post Office’ benefit


Well worth attending for Bay Area readers!

BLOG Post office

Chart of the day: The tale of the numbers


From the Pew Research Center [PDF]:

[Title]