Category Archives: Europe

Digital amnesia: Diagnosing a new disorder

Yep, it seems that we humans are forgetting to remember, thanks to all those digital devices on which we have grown to depend.

From BBC News:

An over-reliance on using computers and search engines is weakening people’s memories, according to a study. It showed many people use computers instead of memorising information.

Many adults who could still recall their phone numbers from childhood could not remember their current work number or numbers of family members. Maria Wimber from the University of Birmingham said the trend of looking up information “prevents the build-up of long-term memories”.

The study, examining the memory habits of 6,000 adults in the UK, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxembourg, found more than a third would turn first to computers to recall information.

The survey, conducted for Kaspersky Lab, is available here [PDF].

Where once folks used to commit things to memory, the new approach might be dubbed Google-and-forget.

In addition, many of us no longer memorize critical information from our own daily lives, relying instead on the memories of our cell phones as revealed in this chart from the report:

Numbers respondents can remember without looking up: Samples for each confined to those for whom the category was relevant, such as parents, employed, in a relationship etc. *Based on parents in the 35–44, 45–54 and 55+ age groups. For the purposes of this study it was assumed that parents in younger age groups were unlikely to have children old enough to own and use a mobile phone

Numbers respondents can remember without looking up: Samples for each confined to those for whom the category was relevant, such as parents, employed, in a relationship etc.
*Based on parents in the 35–44, 45–54 and 55+ age groups. For the purposes of
this study it was assumed that parents in younger age groups were unlikely to have children old enough to own and use a mobile phone

Map of the day: Europe’s two/country divide

From Eurostat [PDF], and click on the image to enlarge:

Mall för pressemeddelande

Chart of the day: The European Union’s jobless

The latest numbers f[PDF] rom Eurostat reflect rates for individual nations of the EU, as well as [dark bars} the overall rates for the 28-nation EU and the smaller 19-member common currency [euro] zone. Click on the image to enlarge

BLOG Eurojobs

Map of the day: Europe’s bilingual children

From Eurostat [PDF], a map show the country-by-country percentages of European gradeschoolers learning a second language in the classrooms:

BLOG Lingua

Many European who learn a second language don’t stop there, picking up a third, fourth, or even still more tongues. When we lived in Napa, the clerk at the pharmacy we favored was a native of Greece, and she had mastered no fewer than seven languages — making her an ideal employee to deal with the customers who come to the Napa Valley from all over the world.

Learning another language typically happens most readily and most completely when introduced at the earliest possible stage — even when the child is learning a first language. And when one additional language is learned, a second or third comes more readily.

In addition, noted language education scholar Therese Sullivan Caccavale and then-president of the National Network for Early Language Learning in 2007:

Children who learn a foreign language beginning in early childhood demonstrate certain cognitive advantages over children who do not. Research conducted in Canada with young children shows that those who are bilingual develop the concept of “object permanence” at an earlier age. Bilingual students learn sooner that an object remains the same, even though the object has a different name in another language. For example, a foot remains a foot and performs the function of a foot, whether it is labeled a foot in English or un pied in French.

Additionally, foreign language learning is much more a cognitive problem solving activity than a linguistic activity, overall. Studies have shown repeatedly that foreign language learning increases critical thinking skills, creativity, and flexibility of mind in young children. Students who are learning a foreign language out-score their non-foreign language learning peers in the verbal and, surprisingly to some, the math sections of standardized tests. This relationship between foreign language study and increased mathematical skill development, particularly in the area of problem solving, points once again to the fact that second language learning is more of a cognitive than linguistic activity.

A 2007 study in Harwich, Massachusetts, showed that students who studied a foreign language in an articulated sequence outperformed their non-foreign language learning peers on the Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System (MCAS) test after two-three years and significantly outperformed them after seven-eight years on all MCAS subtests.

Furthermore, there is research that shows that children who study a foreign language, even when this second language study takes time away from the study of mathematics, outperform (on standardized tests of mathematics) students who do not study a foreign language and have more mathematical instruction during the school day. Again, this research upholds the notion that learning a second language is an exercise in cognitive problem solving and that the effects of second language instruction are directly transferable to the area of mathematical skill development.

At the very least, instead of bashing immigrants we should be learning from them.

And now for something completely different

It’s the hot new energy drink now sweeping Japan and poised to flood the world.

It’s. . .Fukushima Water™ — enriched with radioactive Cesium 137 to give you that extra zing.

And if all this sounds surreal, that’s because it is, a creation of German art directors aimed at focusing attention on those ongoing leaks of radioactive water from the earthquake-demolished reactor complex that have been such a headache for TEPCO and government officials struggling to contain the leaks, which periodically escape into the ocean and contaminate the soil.

From Fukushima Water:

Fukushima Water – The all-new energy-drink from Japan

Program notes:

Four years after the disaster of Fukushima-Daichii a brand-new energy drink conquers the Japanese beverage market and quickly becomes a cult product in all age groups: Fukushima Water. With a perfidious marketing strategy, the drink advertises itself as “energy water” – a natural mineral water with an artificial additive. Just a bad advertising stunt of a japanese beverage company or the most absurd product in the world?

Chart of the day: Europe’s stalled industry recovery

From Eurostat [PDF]:

BLOG Eurocon

InSecurityWatch: Cops, spies, hacks, terror, pols

We begin with a positive development, via CNN:

Ferguson police chief resigns, says it’s ‘hard pill to swallow’

Embattled Ferguson Police Chief Thomas Jackson resigned Wednesday, a week after a scathing Justice Department report slammed his department. Jackson and the city “have agreed to a mutual separation,” Ferguson officials announced.

“It’s a really hard pill to swallow,” Jackson said in a text message responding to CNN’s request for comment. He also confirmed his resignation in a letter to Ferguson’s mayor.

“It is with profound sadness that I am announcing I am stepping down from my position as chief of police for the city of Ferguson, Missouri,” Jackson said, adding that serving the city as police chief “has been an honor and a privilege.”

From BuzzFeed News, young-uns quick on the trigger:

Younger Police Officers Are More Likely To Shoot People Than Older Ones

Research shows that younger officers are more likely to be involved in shootings, even though age is rarely mentioned as a factor in the aftermath. “It’s a dirty little secret that we’re hiring police officers too young,” a veteran Boston officer said.

The age of an officer is perhaps the least-discussed factor in a fatal encounter with police, and the maturity of an officer rarely comes up in news conferences after an incident. Age wasn’t mentioned in the Justice Department’s deep, 86-page analysis of Brown’s fatal shooting released last week.

Yet research shows that younger officers are more likely to be involved in shootings, and that the risk of shootings declines as officers age. That may be because younger officers are more likely to be working on the street than behind a desk, according to researchers, but it could also be that younger officers are predisposed to react with deadly force.

Unions for the Ferguson Police Department, New York City Police Department, and Cleveland Police Department did not respond to requests for comment.

What’s a little snooping between friends?, via the Guardian:

Australian spy officer was sent to New Zealand to lead new surveillance unit

  • New revelations also show NZ’s spy agency, GCSB, had access to NSA program to hack phones and computers of targets in the Asia-Pacific

Australia’s defence intelligence agency sent an officer to work with New Zealand’s spy agency to help them develop their cyber capabilities and lead a new operational unit, new documents from NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden reveal.

On Wednesday the New Zealand Herald and the Intercept published new revelations about the role of New Zealand’s spy agency, the Government Communications Security Bureau (GCSB) which disclose new details about its role gathering intelligence from Vietnam, China, India, Pakistan, Japan, South Pacific nations and other countries.

The disclosures also reveal that the GCSB had access to an NSA program codenamed WARRIORPRIDE used to access phones and computers that “can collect against an Asean target”. A March 2013 report describes New Zealand working towards improving its cyber capabilities to improve detection, discovery of new tools and disruption of the source of intrusions.

From the Verge, flying high to get the downlow:

The CIA helped develop planes that scrape cell phone data

The US may be using cellphone-sniffing planes to find suspects across the world, according to a new report from The Wall Street Journal. In November, the Journal revealed the US Marshal’s secret program to locate specific fugitive through airplane equipped to mimic cell towers. Flying over an urban area, the planes can pinpoint the location of a single number amid a million or more phones. The new report shows the technology first originated with the CIA, which guided the initial deployment of the planes by the Marshal Service. Furthermore, Journal sources say continues to be used to locate intelligence targets overseas.

If true, the report unveils a powerful weapon in US intelligence efforts abroad, but also reveals a troubling trend of foreign intelligence tools used for domestic law enforcement purposes. The plane-mounted cellphone detector is a potentially ingenious tool for intelligence gathering, but it seems to have moved from CIA intelligence work to domestic fugitive tracking with little to no oversight, a troubling reminder of how easily tools designed for the War on Terror can be put to domestic ends. Electronic privacy advocates have already raised doubt about the practice. “There’s a lot of privacy concerns in something this widespread, and those concerns only increase if we have an intelligence agency coordinating with them,” the EFF’s Andrew Crocker told the Journal.

Norse cops busted for doing what American cops — and spooks — do routinely, via

Norway police broke law with fake base stations

Norway’s Police Security Service (PST) persistently violated the law as it established a network of fake mobile phone base stations across Oslo last year, Norway’s Aftenposten has revealed.

According to the paper, police and PST deliberately ignored a requirement that they should inform the country’s telecoms authority before setting up ‘IMSI catchers’, which mimic mobile base stations, allowing their operators to intercept and eavesdrop on mobile phone calls made nearby.

The newspaper last December identified a series of “fake base stations” outside Norway’s parliament, outside its government headquarters, and outside the residence of the prime minister, using a German CryptoPhone 500 to identify them.

It now appears that many, if not all of the devices, were set up by Norway’s own security services.

From Agence France-Presse, a Dutch metadata and email collection defeat:

Dutch court nixes data storage law, says privacy breached

A Dutch court on Wednesday struck down a law requiring telecoms and Internet service providers to store their clients’ private phone and email data, saying it breached European privacy rules.

“The judge ruled that data retention is necessary and effective to combat serious crime. Dutch legislation however infringes on the individual’s right to privacy and the protection of personal data,” the Hague district court said.

“The law therefore contravenes the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union,” the court said in a statement. Seven groups and organisations including privacy watchdog Privacy First and the Dutch Association of Journalists dragged the Dutch state to court last month over the issue.

From SecurityWeek, don’t phone it in:

Dropbox Android SDK Flaw Exposes Mobile Users to Attack: IBM

IBM researchers discovered a flaw in Dropbox’s Android SDK which can leave mobile users vulnerable to attack.

The issue was not in the Dropbox service or the mobile app itself, but rather in the company’s SDK that third-party developers include to let users easily connect to their Dropbox files, Michael Montecillo, director of security intelligence at IBM Security, told SecurityWeek.

The vulnerability (CVE-2014-8889) was present in the SDK versions 1.5.4 through 1.5.1.

From the Associated Press, Cold War 2.0 intensifies:

Ukraine’s neighbor Poland to test resilience to attack

Poland will hold an exercise this year to test its resilience to a “crisis” like the conflict in neighboring Ukraine, President Bronislaw Komorowski said Wednesday.

Komorowski spoke to reporters during an annual meeting of army commanders and the defense minister that examines Poland’s defense potential and outlines key security tasks.

He said the nation needs to raise its defense potential in the face of threats, including the armed conflict that involves Poland’s two neighbors, Russia and Ukraine.

More casualties in the Forth Estate, via Fox News Latino:

2 Journalists murdered in Guatemala

Two journalists, one who worked for the daily Prensa Libre and another employed by Radio Nuevo Mundo, were murdered in front of a government office building in Suchitepequez, a province in Guatemala, emergency services officials said.

Danilo Lopez and Federico Salazar were gunned down on Tuesday in the city of Mazatenango’s central park by two individuals riding a motorcycle.

Lopez, a reporter for Prensa Libre, was pronounced dead at the scene, while Salazar, who worked for Radio Nuevo Mundo, died at a hospital in the city.

From RT, the Hexagon at high alert:

France to keep 10,000 troops on streets as terror threat remains high

As the threat of attacks by Islamist extremists remains high in France, President Francois Hollande has decided to continue the deployment of 10,000 troops on the streets across the country.

“The threat of terrorist attack against our country remains high. The head of state has decided to maintain the level of the army on the national territory at 10,000 troops in support of security forces from the Interior Ministry,” Hollande’s office said in a statement after a meeting of senior ministers, AFP reported.

A total of 7,000 troops will be monitoring and protecting religious buildings that are “particularly threatened,” the statement added.

From, ISIS insanity:

Italian police: ‘Isis flag’ was jacket in tree

Police called to investigate an alleged Isis flag hanging outside an apartment building in Italy made a surprise discovery, finding what they feared may be extremist propaganda was, in fact, a resident’s washing put out to dry.

Police were called to an apartment block in Porto Recanati, on Italy’s eastern coast, after locals raised the alarm that an Isis sympathizer may be within their midst.

The officers searched the building and questioned residents, but were unable to recover the mystery black cloth spotted hanging from a tree next to the apartment block.

On further investigation police discovered that the supposed propaganda tool was nothing more than a jacket, swept into the trees after being hung out to dry, Corriere della Sera reported on Wednesday.

From Agence France-Presse, Britain’s NSA goes all how-to:

UK spies write ‘how to catch a terrorist’ guide

Secrecy is a cornerstone of spycraft, but Britain’s GCHQ communications agency has gone public with a guide on how to catch a “terrorist” as the government calls for increased online snooping powers.

In an apparent effort to make the secret services more transparent, the five-step guide illustrated with the image of an old-school spy in a trenchcoat was published on the monitoring agency’s website.

Entitled “How does an analyst catch a terrorist?”, it takes readers through the ways in which GCHQ analysts identify a suspicious stranger spotted overseas.

Under the scenario, the guide says an MI6 source based overseas spots  a leader of the Islamic State group handing a stranger a message containing information “that will cause carnage across London”.

After the jump, the Saudi/Swedish schism widens after a denunciation and an arms deal ended, on to the ISIS battlefront, first with another archaeological assault, ISIS on the brink of losing Tikrit while another city threatens to fall under ISIS guns, America’s top general voices concerns of events after an ISIS collapse, Washington frets over its own anti-Assad forces, hundreds of medics killed in the Syrian conflict, the UN’s plan to send Syrian refugees to northern Europe, and ISIS hacks Japanese websites while Anonymous down an ISIS social network, it’s on the the Boko Haram front and the claim of hundreds slain, France pledges more troops to the effort, and the U.S. backs a U.N. call for a regional anti-Boko Haram command, Indonesian fears of an ISIS insurgency and Indonesia threatens to flood Australia with refugees, Chinese island-building draws a Philippine demand, Japan mulls extending North Korean sanctions, the U.S. Marine commandant frets an Okinawan base relocation, and after Ringling Brothers retires its elephants, the Pentagon ponders using them as bomb detectors. . . Continue reading