Thursday, March 13, 2008

'Ants have algorithms'

Natural selection has found these same principles time and time again and included them in different systems in different ways, but fundamentally the principles are the same. I think this is a growing new area of research; we are really trying to build across these different systems.

Ants have algorithms. If you think about an ant colony, it's a computing device; there's some wonderful work by Jean-Louis Deneubourg in Brussels and his collaborators that really started this field in a way with Ilya Prigogine and later on Jean Louis Deneubourg looking at the ways in which social insect colonies can interact. One example would be—it sounds trivial, but if you think about it, it is quite difficult—how can a colony decide between two food sources, one of which is slightly closer than the other? Do they have to measure this? Do they have to perform these computations?

We now know that this is not the case. Chris Langton and other researchers have also investigated these properties, whereby individuals just by virtue of the fact that one food source is closer, even if they are searching more or less at random, have a higher probability of returning to the nest more quickly. Which means they lay more chemical trail, which the other ants tend to follow. You have this competition between these sources. You have an interaction between positive feedback, which is the amplification of information—that's the trail-laying behavior—and then you have negative feedback because of course if you just have positive feedback, there is no regulation, there is no homeostasis, you can't create these accurate decisions.

~ more... ~

Bush and God: their chat log

The private conversation with George W. happens a full year later, which would have been in the summer of 1986—after Bush had spent nearly a year attending a weekly men's Community Bible study group in the basement of the First Presbyterian Church in Midland every Monday night.

Other evidence suggests that Bush's religious turn really began 15 months earlier. If someone planted a mustard seed, it was likely not Billy Graham in 1985-6 but Arthur Blessitt in April 1984. Blessitt—yes, that is his real name—is an evangelical preacher who has walked throughout the world lugging a 12-foot tall, 70-pound cross. His website boasts that he holds the Guinness World Record for the world's longest walk, most recently tallied at 37,352 miles.

Blessitt keeps a careful diary. On April 3, 1984, he noted: "A good and powerful day. Led Vice President Bush's son to Jesus today. George Bush Jr.! This is great! Glory to God." Over the previous week, thousands of people had been coming to hear Blessitt tell stories of dragging his cross through the Amazon at a sports stadium in Midland. Bush heard Blessitt's sermons, which were carried live on local radio, while driving. Though he didn't feel comfortable coming to the Chaparral Center, Bush arranged through an oilman friend named Jim Sale for the two of them to meet with Blessitt and talk about Jesus. In an empty restaurant at the Midland Holiday Inn, Bush looked Blessitt in the eye and said: "I want to talk to you about how to know Jesus Christ and how to follow Him."

~ more... ~

Another call to pull plug on Drug War

Drug prohibition is stupid. Even stupider is a ban on a product because it's related to one implicated in the idiotic Drug War. Reason Foundation's Skaidra Smith-Heisters has a new study on the environmental and economics benefits of industrial hemp.

"There are numerous environmental advantages to hemp," says Smith-Heisters. "Hemp often requires less energy to manufacture into products. It is less toxic to process. And it is easier to recycle and more biodegradable than most competing crops and products. Unfortunately, we won't realize the full economic and environmental benefits of hemp until the crop is legal in the United States."

The study also points out

Not only has the government banned hemp production in the U.S., it is also directly subsidizing other crops that the study shows to be "environmentally inferior." Corn farmers received $51 billion in subsidies between 1995 and 2005; wheat farmers were given $21 billion; cotton farmers fleeced taxpayers for $15 billion; and tobacco farmers were handed $530 million in taxpayer-funded subsidies. 

The full study, Illegally Green: Environmental Costs of Hemp Prohibition, is available here. A short summary of the report can be found here.

~ from Reason Magazine Blog ~

Pe'ter Bauer on Hungarian populism

In Hungary, a referendum held last Sunday in which government reforms of the health and education systems were rejected is being described as a step backwards. Economist Peter Bauer is even more pessimistic. He sees the referendum as a consequence of the populism of the last decade: "Until now we thought we were living in a parliamentary democracy, but we must have been mistaken. The voters can reverse decisions made by the parliament they themselves elected whenever they come at a price. ... The referendum is not only a step backwards: we've lost an entire decade and also the hope of creating a more pragmatic and just country in the near future. The opposition has managed to generate such intense feelings of anti-capitalism and anti-competition and revive the idea of the strong state that takes care of anything, that now Hungary cannot fail to lag behind other countries in the region."

~ link ~

BerkShares: an alternative to US dollar from western Massachussetts

Since September of 2006 some colorful money has been circulating in the region around Great Barrington, Massachusetts. A nonprofit there has spearheaded an alternative currency to the U.S. dollar, and it's now accepted at about 300 businesses in the southern Berkshire area.

Known as BerkShares, the bills come in denominations of 1, 5, 10, 20, and 50. They have the equivalent value in dollars when used to pay for something and can be exchanged at any of five banks in the area. But when they are bought or exchanged at one of the banks, they value 90 cents. That is, you can buy one BerkShare for 90 cents but use it to buy something valued at a dollar. So you can earn a one-time 10 percent discount. Businesses that accept BerkShares can either keep them in circulation (using them to buy something that is the equivalent of a dollar) or exchange them for 90 cents on the dollar at a bank (effectively absorbing that 10 percent discount).

Why would anyone go to the effort of creating such a currency, or actually use it or accept it? It's all part of nurturing a vibrant local economy.

When a business or individual accepts BerkShares, they are committing to either use those BerkShares themselves, which means supporting one of the local businesses that accepts them, or exchanging them at the bank for dollars, which means essentially giving locals who use them a 10-percent discount.

Susan Witt, executive director of the E.F. Schumacher Society, the nonprofit behind the currency, has said, "Goods produced in a region and consumed in a region...require a low level of fossil fuels, provide jobs, and allow people to know the story of a product, everything from where it comes from to how the workers who produce it are treated."

The bills also help to forge a regional identity and pride. They are beautifully designed by local artists and feature images that celebrate local heroes such as W.E.B. DuBois, who was born in Great Barrington; Herman Melville, who lived in Pittsfield; and Norman Rockwell, who lived in Stockbridge. The one-BerkShare bill features a portrait of one of the Berkshires' first settlers, the Mohicans, and the 10-BerkShare bill features Robyn Van En, founder of the country's first community-supported agriculture (CSA) project in South Egremont.

~ source: Forget the Benjamins—in the Berkshires It's All About the Rockwells ~

Labeled a 'genius', first Salesian to own computer develops healing science

When the present UPS campus was set up in 1965, at Piazza Ateneo Salesiano, Fr Ronco had the latest professional computer of the time for his statistical calculations.

It was an Olivetti ELEA 6001 with transistors, resistants and condensors filling an entire room. It`s 10kb memory consisted of small iron rings, each one forming a bit. It had no monitor (screen) and the in-put had to be done on perforated cards. The data was stored on magnetic tapes. There were no hard discs then.

It cost a fortune, the cost of building a house in today`s terms, about Euro 330,000.oo.

[ ... ]

An expert in Fortran programmer, Prof Ronco prepared all programmes needed for research, administration and education in these 42 years.
Prof Ronco`s computer aided research assistance to doctoral students doing empirical research, both from UPS and elsewhere, still continues from his office under the new library.

Roncography, Fr Ronco`s Science

Fr. Ronco`s genius goes beyond the realm of philosophy, psychology, statistics and computer programming to spirituality. Roncography is as good as X-ray or magnetic resonance. He is able spot the negative energies afflicting a person or a place and transpose it or rectify it.

It is very similar to divination, distance healing or faith healing and the sort. One needs to see it, to believe.

~ full article ~

'My Life as a Fake'

Frederick C. Ewing, "I, Libertine." In the mid 1950s, legendary New York radio personality Jean Shepherd, who turned listeners on to Beat poet Lawrence Ferlinghetti and many other emerging writers, urged listeners to go to their local bookstores to demand "I, Libertine," the story of a 17th century English rake by a noted expert of 18th century erotica. Neither the book nor the author existed, but Shepherd's gag created a sensation, writes Eric Fettman at www.sniggle.net. "A Columbia student submitted a review of 'I, Libertine' as his thesis -- a B-plus. A Rutgers professor returned one meticulously footnoted paper on the fictitious Ewing with a note commending the student on his 'superb research.' " The book was banned in Boston, and "New York Post gossip columnist Earl Wilson published a blurb, claiming he'd 'had lunch with Freddy Ewing yesterday,' " Fettman writes. The Wall Street Journal uncovered the hoax several weeks later, but Shepherd got the last laugh: He and a friend were paid by Ballantine Books to write the book, which came out in 1956.

~ from Memorable Literary Hoaxes ~

'Are suicide-bombers funny?'

“I'm fascinated by the fact that I'm so British that I say 'sorry' when someone bumps into me,” smirks the 42 year old British-Iranian. “I've had that very British politeness instilled in me.” Although proud to be British, Djalili is intrigued by the evident duality of British society. Britons are arguably some of the most polite people on earth, yet, he claims, “at the same time, this country has the most dreadful football hooligans who get appallingly drunk and beat up foreigners. I've always been very interested in that dichotomy.”

Discussing immigration, hooliganism and terrorism, Djalili broaches contemporary sensitivities, often deemed inappropriate or taboo, and treats them with light-hearted triviality. He claims at one point in his set that Britain has a new motto: “Welcome to Poland.” It is this social mockery which explains why some critics have accused Djalili of offensive shock-tactics.

Djalili offstage is as tongue-in-cheek as he is onstage. As he outlines to me his new material, he says: “I'll be asking what terrorists really want and underlining the mistakes they have made. Crashing that car into Glasgow Airport, for instance, was a serious blunder. Trying to drive through revolving doors is never going to work is it? It's basic physics.”

His jokes regarding suicide bombers have, rather unsurprisingly, received the most negative criticism. When this is put to him, Djalili acknowledges it, but maintains that he seeks to entertain audiences, not cause upset. “My show deals with the big issues of today, and unfortunately, terrorism is one of them. By joking about it, we go some way towards removing the fear about it. I'm not saying, 'I'm a great healer, I helped all these people get back on the tube,' but I do think we need to talk about it. And in no way am I taking away from the tragedy of people who have suffered. I try to be very respectful and responsible in what I joke about.” He adds playfully, “I'm often unsuccessful.”

Despite a small proportion of negative responses, Djalili's sophisticated humour is widely appreciated and readily accepted by his audiences. He humbly claims to have “whittled [his] audience down to 14 to 16 year old Pakistani boys from Kingston upon Thames,” but the reality is much more impressive. His current tour has already sold out in numerous venues, following the success of his self-titled BBC 1 television show, which has just been comissioned for a second series. He has previously been awarded the Time Out and EMMA awards for Best Comedian, and starred opposite Whoopi Goldberg in a recent HBO television special.

~ full article ~

'Granny could have been part of a nursing home sleeper cell of al-Qaeda'

As I stood well back of the infamous "red line", waiting for my turn to be humiliated, I watched granny get the "come-on" hand gesture that signals it's your turn to shuffle through the "arches of death."

Suddenly, there was such a beeping and honking I thought for a minute we were on a submarine preparing to dive. That poor little old soul was immediately swarmed by a pack of voracious wand wavers. She was ordered to take off her shoes and unbuckle her belt, all the time standing with her wobbly arms spread out like a frightened bungee jumper poised to leap.

The wands passed over her head, under her arms, between her legs, through her hair, all the while screeching like a stuttering smoke alarm. Granny began scanning the crowd for sympathetic faces, but we all averted our eyes, not wanting to be associated with a known saboteur.

My frequent flyer line mates were now growing restless. Someone muttered something about a bomb. They may have been discussing CBC television cancelling more shows but I doubt it.

A disembodied voice at the back said "Some of us have planes to catch!" This timely reminder didn't seem to deter the wand wavers in their zeal to smoke out a terrorist on the always-dangerous Ottawa to Val d'Or run. And so, on they went, zapping granny's shoes, belt and wallet, confiscating her keys, coins and liquids. They ran her through the cavity search, the bend-over and cough exam, the lie detector, the double-blind taste test, the CAT scan and, for good measure, gave her a few shots with the Taser (a recent Canadian airport security innovation). Now, Mr. Minister, I'm sure you would tell me there was an outside chance that granny could have been part of a nursing home sleeper cell of al-Qaeda, who might possibly be recruiting and brainwashing elderly widows to storm the Dash 8 cockpit and, with their bus passes held to the throats of the pilots, make them fly the plane into the Peace Tower.

~ from We're winning the war on old ladies ~


Sea snails face the Matrix, opt for blue pill as MIT team turns them into batteries

MIT is touting the work of a research team led by Angela Belcher that has helped turn studies of sea snails and their shells into a new nano-materials-based battery technology.

Belcher, the Germeshausen professor of materials science and engineering and biological engineering at MIT -- who was named a Mass High TechWomen to Watch in 2005 -- has developed a material that combines organic and inorganic parts to create a film that resembles plastic food wrap.

Belcher created a nanoscale rechargeable battery composed of a virus that she and her colleagues engineered to attach to cobalt oxide. The resulting film is transparent and efficient, according to MIT, and could be applied as a coating on whatever object it's powering.

~ from MIT research team turns snails, shells into batteries ~

The Geometry of Music

" ... Borrowing some of the mathematics that string theorists invented to plumb the secrets of the physical universe, he has found a way to represent the universe of all possible musical chords in graphic form. "He's not the first to try," says Yale music theorist Richard Cohn. "But he's the first to come up with a compelling answer."

Tymoczko's answer, which led last summer to the first paper on music theory ever published in the journal Science, is that the cosmos of chords consists of weird, multidimensional spaces, known as orbifolds, that turn back on themselves with a twist, like the Möbius strips math teachers love to trot out to prove to students that a two-dimensional figure can have only one side. Indeed, the simplest chords, which consist of just two notes, live on an actual Möbius strip. Three-note chords reside in spaces that look like prisms--except that opposing faces connect to each other. And more complex chords inhabit spaces that are as hard to visualize as the multidimensional universes of string theory.

But if you go to Tymoczko's website music.princeton.edu/~dmitri) you can see exactly what he's getting at by looking at movies he has created to represent tunes by Chopin and, of all things, Deep Purple. In both cases, as the music progresses, one chord after another lights up in patterns that occupy a surprisingly small stretch of musical real estate. According to Tymoczko, most pieces of chord-based music tend to do the same, although they may live in a different part of the orbifold space. Indeed, any conceivable chord lies somewhere in that space, although most of them would sound screechingly harsh to human ears.

The discovery is useful for at least a couple of reasons, says Tymoczko. "One is that composers have been exploring the geometrical structure of these maps since the beginning of Western music without really knowing what they were doing." It's as though you figured out your way around a city like Boston, for example, without realizing that some of your routes intersect. "If someone then showed you a map," he says, "you might say, 'Wow, I didn't realize the Safeway was close to the disco.' We can now go back and look at hundreds of years of this intuitive musical pathmaking and realize that there are some very simple principles that describe the process." ... "

~ full article ~

We have damaged ourselves --- and it was avoidable

From The Times Online :

" ... Oddly enough, I doubt it is the Iraqi people who suffered the greatest avoidable damage. Iraq was just an artificial state and a toxic mess, beyond our capabilities to cure.

We bobbed uncomprehending on the angry surface of currents we had not created, but only unleashed. History would have done so later, anyway.

The damage we did ourselves, however, was avoidable. The casualties have been heartbreaking. Domestic trust in our political class has haemorrhaged. Good faith has been questioned. A premiership has been ruined. Billions have been squandered. Our Armed Forces have been put on the rack in an unpopular war. Afghanistan has been neglected. European relations have been soured.

Britain's credit in the Middle East has been spent. Our American ally has overreached and discredited itself.

And — and this you bloody well know, David — al-Qaeda, which at the start had little to do with Iraq, have been enabled to take root among Muslims everywhere, including Britain. The dishonesty of conflating Islamic fundamentalism with the Iraqi conflict, and the dishonesty of Blair's pitch on WMD, still make my blood boil.

I thought they did yours, too, David. On February 2, 2003, you wrote (in The Observer) “I don't believe Saddam is a major backer of al-Qaeda.”

Ten weeks later, in The Guardian, you wrote: “If nothing is eventually found, I — as a supporter of the war — will never believe another thing that I am told by our Government, or that of the US ever again. And, more to the point, neither will anyone else. Those weapons had better be there somewhere.”

What happened to your argument? ... "

Consequences of war in space loom large as prospect turns realistic

It does not take much imagination to realize how badly war in space could unfold. An enemy — say, China in a confrontation over Taiwan, or Iran staring down America over the Iranian nuclear program — could knock out the U.S. satellite system in a barrage of anti-satellite weapons, instantly paralyzing American troops, planes and ships around the world.

Space itself could be polluted for decades to come, rendered unusable.

The global economic system would probably collapse, along with air travel and communications. Your cell phone would not work. Nor would your ATM and that dashboard navigational gizmo you got for Christmas. And preventing an accidental nuclear exchange could become much more difficult.

"The fallout, if you will, could be tremendous," said Daryl G. Kimball, executive director of the Arms Control Association in Washington.

The consequences of war in space are in fact so cataclysmic that arms control advocates like Kimball would like simply to prohibit the use of weapons beyond the earth's atmosphere.

But it may already be too late for that.

In the weeks since an American rocket slammed into an out-of-control satellite over the Pacific Ocean, officials and experts have made it clear that the United States, for better or worse, is already committed to having the capacity to wage war in space. And that, it seems likely, will prompt others to keep pace.

~ read on... ~

Space weapons agreements, treaties, and politics

" ... DeSutter pointed out that the US used to believe, as a matter of doctrine, that no nation would ever sign an arms control agreement with the intention of violating it. We now know better. As long as US military power depends on a massive, complex, and expensive set of defenseless space assets, the incentive for any potential foe to develop ways of attacking them is too great to be over come by any international agreement. If, however, the US can be constrained from developing and deploying effective countermeasures thanks to such an agreement, they have every reason to pressure Washington limiting its own actions.

Being a diplomat DeSutter, of course, had to speak diplomatically. She said that “there is no—I repeat, no—on-going arms race in space.” This is like watching the horses warm up for the Kentucky Derby and then saying “there is no on-going horse race here”: true enough, but hardly relevant. There was no space race before the USSR launched Sputnik in October 1957, but there were lots of ongoing space programs.

Part of the problem is due to the lack of transparency and good faith that surrounds this issue. When the US complains about others who seem to be hiding their space weapons efforts from international scrutiny a lot of people, some of them Americans, question whether the “black budget” is hiding US space weapons projects. This objection should be dismissed out of hand, since the secret budget has to be approved by bipartisan congressional committees and a politically controversial program such as that would never be allowed to get through the process. In any case, leaks are a way of life in Washington and there have been no reliable leaks about this in Aviation Week or elsewhere. ... "

~ full article ~

NSA's Domestic Spying Grows,As Agency Sweeps Up Data

Five years ago, Congress killed an experimental Pentagon antiterrorism program meant to vacuum up electronic data about people in the U.S. to search for suspicious patterns. Opponents called it too broad an intrusion on Americans' privacy, even after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

But the data-sifting effort didn't disappear. The National Security Agency, once confined to foreign surveillance, has been building essentially the same system.

The central role the NSA has come to occupy in domestic intelligence gathering has never been publicly disclosed. But an inquiry reveals that its efforts have evolved to reach more broadly into data about people's communications, travel and finances in the U.S. than the domestic surveillance programs brought to light since the 2001 terrorist attacks.

~ read on... ~

After 5 years, still Iraq War apathy

The fifth anniversary of the Iraq War is next Wednesday, March 19, but some in the NYU community say that the conflict has largely fallen from the public eye.

Whether they support the war or resist it, whether they participate in prominent demonstrations or prefer educational discussions, many NYU students and activists seem to think that the Iraq war is no longer receiving the coverage or attention that it warrants.

"People are tired of hearing about the war," said Farah Khimji, a member of NYU's Students for a Democratic Society. "Most people probably don't even think about the fact that we're at war right now."

[ ... ]

Professor Antoon agreed, adding that the war disproportionately affects populations that are under-represented at NYU.

"It's because the people who are dying in this war are the barbarians, the Iraqis, and the poorer, the darker Americans. The middle class is largely unaffected by the war," he said. "Sadly, unless there are middle class bodies piling up, the war will not stop, it will go on."

~ full article ~



Bush vetoes anti-torture measure

From the Sydney Morning Herald :

George Bush has vetoed legislation meant to ban the CIA from using so-called waterboarding and other harsh interrogation tactics because it "would take away one of the most valuable tools on the war on terror".

"This is no time for Congress to abandon practices that have a proven track record of keeping America safe," Mr Bush said.

Congress approved an intelligence authorisation bill that contains the waterboarding provision on slim majorities, far short of the two-thirds needed to override a presidential veto.

Mr Bush's long-expected veto reignites the Washington debate over the proper limits of the US interrogation policies and whether the CIA has engaged in torture by subjecting prisoners to severe tactics, including waterboarding, a type of simulated drowning.

Mr Bush argued on Saturday that the agency needed to use tougher methods than the US military to wrest information from terrorism suspects.

"Limiting the CIA's interrogation methods to those in the Army Field Manual would be dangerous because the manual is publicly available and easily accessible on the internet … If we were to shut down this program and restrict the CIA to methods in the field manual, we could lose vital information from senior al-Qaeda terrorists, and that could cost American lives," Mr Bush said.

The legislation would have limited the CIA to using 19 less-aggressive interrogation tactics outlined in the manual.

Besides ruling out waterboarding, that restriction would in effect ban temperature extremes, extended forced standing and other harsh methods that the CIA used on al-Qaeda prisoners after the September 11 attacks.

"Monetizing the anarchy" - Music industry eyes surcharge on ISPs

Having failed to stop piracy by suing internet users, the music industry is for the first time seriously considering a file sharing surcharge that internet service providers would collect from users.

In recent months, some of the major labels have warmed to a pitch by Jim Griffin, one of the idea's chief proponents, to seek an extra fee on broadband connections and to use the money to compensate rights holders for music that's shared online. Griffin, who consults on digital strategy for three of the four majors, will argue his case at what promises to be a heated discussion Friday at South by Southwest.

"It's monetizing the anarchy," says Peter Jenner, head of the International Music Manager's Forum, who plans to join Griffin on the panel.

Griffin's idea is to collect a fee from internet service providers -- something like $5 per user per month -- and put it into a pool that would be used to compensate songwriters, performers, publishers and music labels. A collecting agency would divvy up the money according to artists' popularity on P2P sites, just as ASCAP and BMI pay songwriters for broadcasts and live performances of their work.

The idea is controversial but -- as Griffin and Jenner point out -- hardly without precedent. The concept of collecting a fee for unauthorized use of music was developed in France in 1851 as a way of reimbursing composers whose work was being performed without their permission in cafes and the like.

~ from Music cartels propose piracy surcharge on ISPs ~

'Combustible Caucasus'

While most of the world was watching the elections-cum-coronation in Russia earlier this month, in a far corner of the former Soviet empire, the fallout of another fraudulent poll left at least eight dead and over a hundred injured. Sadly, the violence in the wake of Armenia's presidential election, though a first in the streets of the capital Yerevan, follows a dangerous pattern now all too familiar in the South Caucasus.

The oft-repeated scenario goes like this: First, irregularities and allegations of fraud mar elections. Then, the opposition organizes mass demonstrations in protest. Finally, the police are sent out and use excessive force to beat protesters off the streets. This has become such a routine in Armenia and Azerbaijan that the parties facing the polls now seem to spend as much time preparing for the post-election showdown as campaigning for votes. The same also appears to be underway in the run-up to May's parliamentary elections in Georgia, where a government crackdown on peaceful protests in November set the scene for January's presidential poll.

Few in the region believe they can change the government peacefully through the ballot box. Too many elections have been spoiled by bad or very bad counting, intimidation of opposition activists, ballot-stuffing, multiple voting, biased election commissions, use of state resources to support the government-backed candidate, and skewed media coverage during the campaign. Rather then fully investigate claims of election-related violations, the country's elections bodies and courts dismiss them.

This was not the post-Soviet reality many had hoped for. After the South Caucasus republics won their independence following the Soviet Union's collapse, everyone spoke of their transition to democracy. Several wars and many sham elections later, the transition seems stalled at best.

~ read on... ~

Cult of the Dead Cow, their Goolag Scanner and finding 'Pron' in Chinese Web servers

Press Release from Goolag.Org :

CULT OF THE DEAD COW CATCHES THE COMMIES PUBLISHING
PORNOGRAPHY ON THEIR WEBSERVERS

NOT SAFE FOR WORK: Chinese Government Web Servers Loaded With Kiddie Porn
Graphics, Sex Toys, And Good Old-Fashioned Pron. Western Government Web
Servers, No Pron But Plenty Of Holes.

Lubbock, TX - March 4th, 2008 - CULT OF THE DEAD COW (cDc), the world's most
attractive hacker group, announced today that it has discovered terabytes of
pornographic content on Chinese government Web servers. The sexually explicit
images were exposed with Goolag Scanner, a Web auditing tool that uses Google
search to reveal Web site vulnerabilities. Goolag Scanner was released on
February 20th by the cDc and has one hundred thousand downloads to date.

"This suggests two things," said cDc spokes-model Oxblood Ruffin. "One,
Adult content is out of control with Chinese Communist Party (CCP) middle-
management types; and, two, Web site security on government and military Web
servers in China is stronger than in the West. Because apart from loads of
dubious wanking material, we didn't find the same kind of vulnerabilities that
we discovered in the U.S., Canada, the U.K., and France just for starters. In
fact, we were so concerned about some of the holes we found in the U.S. that
we had our attorney forward some of this data to the Department of Homeland
Security."

HOW GOOLAG SCANNER WORKS
Goolag Scanner is an automated "Google hacking" application. Google hacking
is a form of Web site auditing that takes advantage of "dorks," or extended
search queries, that look for very specific kinds of data (credit card
information, mp3 files, passwords, IP configuration data, etc.). There are
approximately 1500 dorks in circulation. Goolag Scanner searches whatever it
is asked to search: a specific Web site, or a vast network. It will do
whatever it is asked to do. And then it will return the results...
 

Bulgarians commemorate protests that saved Jewish countrymen

Ceremonies are being held in Bulgaria Monday to commemorate the massive protests that saved the country's Jews from deportation to Nazi death camps during the Second World War.

The laying of flowers at memorials in the capital of Sofia and other large cities is to mark the 65th anniversary of protests by Bulgarian clergymen, intellectuals, politicians and others.

In 1943, the pro-fascist government of Germany's ally, Bulgaria, signed a secret agreement with the Nazis to deport 20,000 Jews to death camps in Poland.

This plan was partially put into effect, with more than 11,000 Jews of the Bulgarian-administered territories of Macedonia and Thrace being sent to the death camps.

But thanks to the efforts of the then vice-president of parliament, Dimitar Peshev, the deportation of some 48,000 Bulgarian citizens of Jewish origin was prevented.

~ more... ~


Disillusioned with the US, Navratilova defects again

Martina Navratilova has regained Czech nationality more than 30 years after fleeing a Communist regime she now compares favourably to that of her adopted country America under President George Bush.

The nine-time Wimbledon champion and one of the world's greatest ever tennis players, Ms Navratilova was born in Prague. She fled in 1975 at the height of the Cold War after being denied the right to compete in professional tennis in the US, where most major tournaments were then played and to where she later moved.

After angering the Communist authorities and living in America for six years, she became a US citizen.

Yesterday, however, she told a press conference in Tokyo that she now has her home citizenship back. "I lost it at the time I defected. I got it back on 9 January," she said.

The widely respected star had previously spoken of her disdain of the government of her adopted nation. "The thing is that we elected Bush," she told the Czech newspaper Lidove Noviny. "That is worse. Against that, nobody chose a Communist government in Czechoslovakia."

~ read on... ~

The Spoils of War in Peaceable Sweden

It's hard to find anyplace in Europe today, even here in peaceable Sweden, where people aren't squabbling over cultural property and the spoils of war. For some time, it turns out, a handful of nationalist Danes have been loudly barking about booty that the Swedes nabbed 350 years ago in a war with Denmark. The cache includes an ornate canopy from Kronborg Castle, of Hamlet lore, and recently people in Skane, a region in the south of Sweden that was ceded by Denmark in 1658 after losing the war, said they wanted the canopy handed over.

In other words, one part of Sweden claimed restitution from, well, the rest of Sweden. An Internet poll by a Swedish newspaper revealed that a majority of residents in the region apparently still harbor dreams of Danish citizenship and resent their calm, polite, democracy-loving Swedish masters. On Valentine's Day, a Danish newspaper went so far as to run a front-page headline accusing Ikea, the furniture giant founded by a Swede, which Danes have long loved to hate, of “bullying Denmark” by giving comfy sofas and shiny tables Swedish and Norwegian place names while assigning Danish names to doormats and rugs.

“I don't think this can be a coincidence,” a Danish professor is quoted as saying on The Local, an English-language Swedish Web site (thelocal.se). He called it “cultural imperialism.”

~ read on... ~

Anger over 'racist eviction' of Aboriginals from hostel

A backpacker hostel in Alice Springs faces possible legal action after allegedly evicting a group of Aboriginal people because of their race.

The 16 women and children had travelled 120 miles from the desert community of Yuendumu. Six were to train as lifeguards for their town's new swimming pool but soon after arriving at the Haven Backpacker Resort they were all asked to leave because other guests were scared of them.

"The manager came out and told me that we weren't suitable to stay there... I felt like I wanted to cry because it made me feel like I wasn't an Australian," said Bethany Langdon, one of the ousted guests.

The action was condemned by Australia's Indigenous Affairs Minister, Jenny Macklin, and the Northern Territory's Chief Minister, Paul Henderson. He urged the women to lodge a formal complaint.

~ more... ~

Auditor wants CIA accounting

From UPI:

With less than a week left as the top U.S. auditor, David Walker is asking Congress again for a review of finances of the CIA and other intelligence agencies.

Walker, whose 10-year term as comptroller general concludes Wednesday, is backing legislation that would give the Government Accountability Office access to the last major area of the federal government not subject to its audits and investigations.

Walker said he is fighting powerful legislative patrons of intelligence agencies who have resisted examinations of how taxpayer dollars are spent.

"Everybody's for accountability in Washington until they're the ones subjected to it," Walker told The Washington Post. "There are a lot of forces that are vested in the status quo."

The Justice Department issued a ruling in the early 1990s that restricted oversight of the CIA to House and Senate select committees on intelligence.

Another New GAO Study Says Bush Follows Through on Signing-Statement Announcements of Intent to Violate Law

From AfterDowningStreet.Org:

Here's the new report.

Here's Dan Froomkin:

Signing Statements Watch

One of the most underexplored aspects of Bush's unprecedented use of signing statements has been the practical consequences.

A year ago, the Government Accountability Office found that, indeed, federal officials had not complied with at least some of the provisions that Bush objected to in signing statements.

In testimony to a House committee yesterday, GAO general counsel Gary L. Kepplinger announced the results of another study, this one of provisions in the 2008 defense authorization, which found more of the same. The GAO examined how 21 agencies executed 29 different provisions of the law that Bush asserted his right not to follow -- and found that in nine cases "the agencies had not executed the provisions as written."

As with the earlier study, the specific examples are less than compelling -- the investigation, for instance, avoided "a close examination of provisions involving national security, intelligence, or foreign relations matters, because of our limited access to such information and the time constraints on our work."

Nevertheless, it does seem like there's some fire under the smoke. And Kepplinger recommended "careful" Congression oversight of the provisions to which Bush has objected.

~ more... ~

The China Panic Year

It's official. 2008 isn't just the Year of the Rat and the Beijing Olympics. It's also China Panic Year. The sleeping dragon awakens, so everyone's trying to shoot it down before it wipes the gunk out of its eyes.

[ ... ]

China executes more citizens than the rest of the world put together: shameful, brutal and a sign of defeat. But seek factual reportage and cool analysis and you find the Cold War language of the 1960s. I don't recall China being responsible for the deaths of a million Iraqis, but the colonialist subtext is that we fiendish orientals don't value human life the way cuddly westerners do.

The protester who breached security in order to place smog masks on the Terracotta Warriors at the British Museum must've forgotten just who's been pumping carbon into the atmosphere since the Industrial Revolution. Let alone who's encouraging the rainforests to be destroyed in order to grow palm oil to keep their Humvees on the road.

Expect China Panic to increase in 2008 with the Beijing Olympics shoving the nation's superior economy down everyone's throat and turning us all into green-eyed monsters. It must be terrible growing up believing you were destined to rule the world forever, and then discovering you don't.

~ more... ~

Eco-Compare the Candidates

See at a glance where the U.S. presidential contenders stand on climate and energy issues here.

PR for the Killing Machine



'Rise' - Disturbed

Corporate Malfeasance Wiki

Crocodyl - Collaborative Research on Corporations
http://crocodyl.org/

Crocodyl is a collaboration sponsored by CorpWatch, the Center for Corporate Policy and the Corporate Research Project. Our aim is to stimulate collaborative research among NGOs, journalists, activists, whistleblowers and academics from both the global South and North in order to develop publicly-available profiles of the world's most powerful corporations. The result is an evolving compendium of critical research, posted to the public domain as an aid to anyone working to hold corporations increasingly accountable.

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