Wednesday, June 29, 2005
Monday, June 27, 2005
---Supreme Irony, Billy Graham's Last Crusade, Mad Cow in U.S., Power shift in Iran, STS A-OK, Nicotine/Coffee, Voice of Tigger Dies, Surfing Blind
Lifelong terms + near-omnipotent power = absolutely no shame:
FOXNews.com - Politics - Supreme Court Rules on Ten Commandments
At the risk of repeating myself:
---From the "Guantanamo Standard Operating Procedures On Handling Korans That Are Provided To Detainees" http://www.usemb-tirana.rpo.at/pg1news/Guantanamo__instructions.pdf
“6. Korans are the property of the U.S. Government .... “ [my emphasis]
Korans for terrorists good. Public Biblical references for American citizens bad. Justices not retiring fast enough.
Billy Graham’s last U.S. Crusade
FOXNews.com - U.S. & World - Billy Graham Holding Last Event in the U.S.
BGEA: Billy Graham Evangelistic Association
The most influential Christian minister of the generation nears the end of his career.
Mad Cow reaches U.S.
FOXNews.com - U.S. & World - Tests Confirm New Mad Cow Case in U.S.
This is actually a fascinating disease, apart from the potential for harm to humans and their food supply. The infectious agent isn’t even as sophisticated as a virus, just a protein non-conformist called a “prion”. From what I see from the wikipedia listing, the agent doesn’t so much “replicate” itself as “recruit” other proteins with its amino acid sequence to adopt its 3D characteristics. Blessedly, the Mad Cow prion is unusual in its ability to pass as an active pathogen between different species--- cattle and humans. The protein which forms this prion is found in cell membranes. It seems like it wouldn’t even have to be directly pathogenic to destroy cells---just unable to maintain normal membrance function. This also makes me wonder if the transmission of this disease is as well understood as public health officials think.
Just when you think you know what’s going on out there....
Hard-liner reaches power in Iran:
FOXNews.com - U.S. & World - Hard-Liner Wins Iran's Presidential Election
If you were planning any further pretense to civilization, better do it now. Did I mention that they probably have nuclear weapons?
That’s what they said about...
Risk to Shuttle from Launch Debris Low, NASA Says
...the last 113 flights.
If they won’t let you light up...
Patent 6749882: Coffee having a nicotine composition dissolved therein
One of the most bizarre ideas in a catalog of bizarre ideas. If you’re in a restaurant or other places where you can’t smoke, the idea seems to go, you just drop a couple of pills containing your favorite addictive carcinogen into your coffee.
The Universe within 12.5 Light Years - The Nearest stars
An interesting look at our stellar neighborhood. Our nearest neighbor, the Centauri cluster---subject of many sci-fi stories and computer games---is actually three stars. Alpha is a closely-orbiting pair, while Proxima is almost a quarter of a light year out, orbiting in about a million years. Nobody’s talking about planets, though. Or mutant star-goats, amazons, or much else for that matter.
Tigger’s Voice Actor Dies:
FOXNews.com - Foxlife - Voice of Tigger, Paul Winchell, Dies at 82
The voice of one of the most recognizable animated characters of all time, and apparently a prolific inventor, leaves the stage.
Internet Users as Sitting Ducks:
Sunbeltblog: Annenberg study on how misinformed internet consumers are
...or insert the stationary-target-rich-environment metaphor of your choice. Who is trying to correct the ignorance of average computer consumers about the risks they face while online?---certainly not most of the people selling them the computers.
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Wednesday, June 22, 2005
---U-2 lost, Solar Sail fails, "Industrial" Hacking, Deep Impact Mirror Problems, Pacemaker Recall, Iranian runoffs, Driving Young, Saddam Settles In
FOXNews.com - U.S. & World - U.S. Spy Plane Crashes in Mideast
..or “southwest Asia”. Pilot killed. No word on exactly where, or possible cause of the crash.
Experimental Solar Sail Lost:
Russian Space Agency: Solar Sail Launch Failed
Looks like the 1st stage booster quit early, and nothing got to orbit. Earlier reports had some evidence of the final “kick” stage firing on time, but they must have been wishful thinking.
Intenet Hacking Goes “Industrial Strength”, Millions of Credit Card Holders Compromised by Deficient Processor:
FOXNews.com - U.S. & World - Britain Warns of Massive E-Mail Attacks
Coupled with reports of a “Guinness Book of World Records ”-level theft of credit card information:
"Security Breach Could Expose 40M to Fraud" FOXNews.com - Business - Security Breach May Put 40 Million Credit Card Holders at Risk
...which they assure us isn’t cataclysmic, only catastrophic:
FOXNews.com - Business - MasterCard: Only 68,000 at Higher Level in Breach
...and occurred largely because the processor was keeping unauthorized records in the first place:
FOXNews.com - Business - CardSystems: Shouldn't Have Kept Records
Anything that is useful to anybody---like a near-infinite supply of information or instant world-wide communications across nearly every cultural and national boundary, etc.---is going to be a target for a malicious feeding frenzy. In case you hadn’t noticed, or read about it somewhere, civilization doesn’t actually work. Another Space Mirror Flaw:
Space camera flaw traced to earthly mirror - Space News - MSNBC.com
From Oberg at MSNBC. The mission to vaporize a chunk of Comet Tempel 1 hit a snag when it was found that the critical imager wouldn’t focus clearly.Difference from the Hubble mirror fiasco? This is a pure focal-length flaw, so it can be corrected mathematically (deconvolution ”) without a Shuttle visit, unlike Hubble’s misfigured main mirror.
The Deep Impact mission seems to be getting back on target, and the first images of the cometary nucleus are now available.
These Recalls are Getting Tougher:
FOXNews.com - Business - Guidant Recalls 50,000 Cardiac Defibrillators
The manufacturer of implanted defibrillators has to take some of them back because of a problem with short circuits.I guess a casket recall would be less convenient.
Iran has Presidential Runoffs:
FOXNews.com - U.S. & World - Iran to Hold Runoff Presidential Elections
...which are almost entirely irrelevant.The country has two parallel governments;the nominal political one, and “the non-elected theocracy that can overrule the president or parliament.” with its sharia enforcers.The runoff will determine the face the outside world talks to, but it doesn’t seem that important.
Oh...and they probably have nuclear weapons. Is 21 old enough?
FOXNews.com - U.S. & World - Is 16 Too Young to Get a Driver's License?
Okay, so I was 14 when I started driving, and I was blessed with survival to adulthood anyway.Many thousands of American teenagers don’t make it every year.I’m tired of dodging children in expensive, overpowered sports cars they don’t have the brain development for.
Here in Houston, Texas they are planning a 22-lane freewayexpansion as part of a desperate, losing battle to keep the millions of cars that pass through the city every day moving at any speed. We could solve at least two major problems---eliminate the wholesale juvenile slaughter (along with the adults and younger children who are unfortunate enough to be in the way) and somewhat reduce the impossible and ever-increasing burden on our transportation systems---by raising the minimum driving age to 21. At least. Maybe institute a minimum psychological/mental standard for people who want to drive pickups or tractor-trailers while they’re at it.
Saddam: Former Dictator Makes Himself at Home:
FOXNews.com - U.S. & World - GIs Describe Guarding Saddam
Deprived of opportunities for mass murder and with his weapons programs hidden out of reach in Syria, Saddam has had to settle for DoritosTM and laundry folding, chatting up the guards about the Bushes and reading from his bullet-ridden, non-U.S.-Government-provided copy of the Koran.No kidding---just a regular guy.
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...sort of. Sitemeter lists the 100th reader of the HBL news page, since the counter was installed. It's a small victory, but it's something. No comments yet, though. I guess everyone agreed with me.
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Tuesday, June 14, 2005
---Titan Volcanoes, Religious Sensitivity, FBI Failed to Focus?, More on LANL Whistleblower Beating, Vulnerability Assessment Worms, and Other Stories
Cassini-Huygens: News-Press Releases-2005
Evidence suggests a possible active volcano on Titan. In the apparent absence of methane lakes or rain---which were expected as a cause for the methane in Titan’s atmosphere---methane-spewing volcanoes might account for it instead. I guess I haven't seen anything like that in a Dairy Queen parking lot--West Texas or otherwise.
Law Enforcement Religious Sensitivity Training:
FOXNews.com - Politics - Law Enforcement Considers Religious Sensitivities
In efforts to avoid misunderstandings with members of politically-expedient religions, various law enforcement groups are receiving special sensitivity training.
Of Course, U.S. Federal Courts Don’t Need No Stinkin’ Sensitivity Training:
...as we can all recall from this demonstration of what happens to the “cultural dignity” of the articles of non-politically-expedient religions. Does anyone happen to remember if the forklift driver treated the monument “as if it were a fragile piece of delicate art”?
---and was the monument U.S. Federal Government-funded property?
Koran-Kicking/Flushing Inquiry Concludes:
U.S. Southern Command Completes Inquiry on Quran Mishandling - US Department of State
I can’t really say much about the outcome, since I didn’t actually bother to read it.
Justice Department IG Exposes FBI Failures before 9-11:
FOXNews.com - Politics - Report: FBI Missed 5 Chances to Get Vital Intel About 9/11 Terrorists
From the Gorelick affair to evidence of massive intelligence failures by the CIA and FBI, there is obviously plenty of blame to go around. In the case of the FBI, though, I still have trouble believing the mere incompetence of a bloated government bureaucracy is entirely to blame. What was the FBI doing up to 9-10, just before American citizens were subjected to a catastrophic terrorist attack on their own soil that a playground full of 8-year-olds would have seen through? This isn’t a conspiracy theory by any means; I just think they were really, really busy with something they considered more important.
Whistleblower beating, revisited:
FOXNews.com - U.S. & World - Cops: Man's Beating Not Related to Whistleblower Status
Local law enforcement may be saying that the beating of a would-be LANL whistleblower might have been triggered by backing into a pedestrian rather than his free speech. At least, the investigation was “leaning” that way as of the time of this Fox News story. Here is another view of the incident.
Hacker of U.S. government networks resists extradition:
FOXNews.com - U.S. & World - Hacking Suspect Fighting Extradition
“McKinnon installed unauthorized software on computers used by NASA, the Defense Department, the Army, Navy and Air Force that permitted him to "completely control the computers." ”
“McKinnon discovered computer accounts with passwords the same as each employee's username then installed popular remote-control software called "RemotelyAnywhere." “
Apparently nothing of value was stolen, but he locked up the “U.S. Army's military district of Washington network ” in the process. He was caught because he used his girlfriend’s email address to order the “popular software”. What happens when somebody who’s doing more than just flexing his hacker-ness finds out that users of critical U.S. government networks don’t know how to make passwords?
Scanbots that report security weaknesses:
New Scientist Breaking News - Computer viruses become hacker informants
These “vulnerability assessment worms” can check for exploitable holes in a computer’s security, such as unpatched operating system flaws, and report them to the exploiter via IRC. Why they would choose to use a chat channel to relay these illegal reports is sort of mystifying.
Russians dream of taking over ISS:
Russia ready to take lead on space station - Space News - MSNBC.com
From Oberg at MSNBC. A collection of Russian daydreams about what they could do with ISS if the Americans give up. The plans involve their next-generation “Kliper” and “Parom” spacecraft, and generous contributions from the ESA. They have a “Kliper” mockup at the Paris Airshow, along with even more grandiose plans for the Moon and Mars!
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Wednesday, June 08, 2005
---U.S. Government-owned Korans Provided to Guantanamo Detainees, LANL Whistleblower Beaten Up, Defectors Rat Out the Chinese
U.S. Government Provides Korans for Detained Terrorists:
From the "Guantanamo Standard Operating Procedures On Handling Korans That Are Provided To Detainees":
In addition to stern warnings about not handling the books with the proverbial left hand, the document warns that:
“6. Korans are the property of the U.S. Government and as such will remain in the cells only to be removed at the JDOG Commander's decision. “
How were these US-Government-owned religion-specific documents paid for? Are Bibles also provided to the detained terrorists at U.S. taxpayer expense? Why am I wasting typeface and bandwidth with these obvious questions?
"If You Know What's Good For You, You'll Keep Your Mouth Shut.":
FOXNews.com - U.S. & World - Los Alamos Whistleblower Beaten
A chronic LANL complainer with a pending lawsuit against the University of California has been beaten up and left for dead.
There’s an important lesson here for all American citizens. Be quiet, do your job, collect your paycheck, and hope you can retire or die before they ask you to do or tolerate anything too obviously evil to live with yourself
And what does he think this is, a democracy?
But The Chinese Have Their Rats, Too:
FOXNews.com - U.S. & World - China Diplomat: Beijing Running Spy Ring
“China ran a ring of 1,000 spies in Australia involved in illegal activities including abducting Chinese nationals and smuggling them back to China. ”
A couple of Chinese defectors have complicated the Australian-Chinese negotiations for a “free trade agreement ” by telling the truth. There oughta be a law....
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Monday, June 06, 2005
---D-Day+61,Titan Bright Spot, Losing to AIDS, Koran-Kicking, Tianamen Anniversary, "Blue Brain", Hemorrhagic Fever Vaccine Tests, & Other Stories
Beyond watching the obligatory five minutes of "The Longest Day". what else? In spite of the terrible consequences graphically portrayed in historical documentaries and the faces and words of the veterans of this and other wars, we're still doing this---haven't really paused in doing it since then. Pray for us all.
A bright spot on Titan:
Obviously, the alien explorers weren’t able to finish their giant, desperate visual call for assistance before being forced to retreat to their protective dome.
Here, from there:
Earth, from the surface of Mars, imaged by the Opportunity rover , about an hour after local sunset on Mars.
The AIDS pandemic---Losing the battle....
FOXNews.com - Health - U.N. Official: Goal to Contain AIDS Unrealistic
...to stop an horrific, incurable, adaptive-antigen, venereal disease without making anyone feel bad.
Per Peter Piot, head of the U.N. AIDS campaign, the pandemic is “spreading much faster than efforts to rein it in crucial regions including Eastern Europe and Central America, and stopping the spread isn't realistic”.
“A few hours before Piot spoke, Secretary-General Kofi Annan warned the conference that the AIDS epidemic is accelerating on every continent.”
AIDS has been out of the news for a while, quietly decimating Africa and various other parts of the world while political discomfort often keeps it out of the Western headlines. Rest assured that if it was ever “in control”, it isn’t anymore.
While we’re on the subject:
This blog is a very graphic discourse on the consequences of homosexuality and its political tolerance in Massachusetts. I’m reviewing it carefully before adding a permanent link, but it certainly isn’t for the "sensitive" reader. If possible, take a deep breath, and go find out what’s going on.
Guantanamo Koran-kicking, etc.:
FOXNews.com - Politics - Pentagon: Soldier Kicked Koran at Gitmo
A whole army of Christian and/or conservative blogs have weighed in on the comparison with the Saudis' treatment of the Bible, so it probably isn't necessary to belabor the point here.
Spirit rover films Martian “dust devil”:
Mars Exploration Rover Mission: Press Release Images: Spirit
A QuickTimeTM movie of one of the Martian whirlwinds crossing Gusev Crater. This is a much clearer view than earlier shots. For a discussion of the role of “dust devils” in the Martian environment, see also: http://mars.jpl.nasa.gov/spotlight/kenEdgett.html
FOXNews.com - U.S. & World - Thousands Mark Tiananmen Square Anniversary in Hong Kong
How many still remember the man standing in front of a Chinese armored column?
How many people remember any Western government actually doing anything about it? How much of the world’s economy is based on cheap Chinese labor? Try going for a week without buying anything made in China. Somewhere out there, I still believe the bill for this duplicity is “in the mail”.
Opportunity finally unstuck:
NASA frees rover from Martian sand trap - Return to the Red Planet - MSNBC.com
The rover is moving again, after five weeks stuck in a dune.
More bad news for the Internet:
New Scientist Breaking News - Triple virus wears down computer defences
New Scientist Breaking News - New hack cracks 'secure' Bluetooth devices
New approaches to destroying our right to actually use our Internet connections for the things we bought them for.
Malware, Spyware and Other Ways to Ruin Your Day
A good summary of the current state of the “malware” problem.
“Blue Brain” on the drawing board:
New Scientist Breaking News - Mission to build a simulated brain begins
Is anybody else nervous at the prospect of humans building our own replacements?
Hemorrhagic fever vaccine advances:
New Scientist Breaking News - Marburg and Ebola vaccine success in monkeys
Revisiting the African hemorrhagic fever outbreaks; there has been some success in animal trials of vaccines using a different “live virus genetically modified to express a surface glycoprotein from either Ebola or Marburg. ”.
Genetically-engineered coffee crop destroyed:
New Scientist Breaking News - Coffee trial survives insects, but not vandals
A test crop of coffee “engineered” for insect resistance was wiped out---not the work of ecoterrorists, but apparently small, traditional coffee growers fearing competition.
You know you’ve overstayed your welcome when....
Fire Allegedly Set to Get Guests to Leave - Yahoo! News
...your host burns the house down to get rid of you.
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