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Anti-Net Neutrality Bill Gets Leaked From Waxman’s Office Rep. Henry Waxman, Chairman of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce, the committe that oversees telecommunications was leaked on yesterday. Now we have a copy of Waxman’s plan to subvert Net Neutrality. Copy of the leaked Bill (in legalese) not yet submitted to congress. Leak Source is techdailydose.nationaljournal.com
Let’s say the internet is made of tubes. This bill gives the tube companies license to start selling premium tubes. Big shiny tubes. However anyone with the misfortune not to partner with the tube company will find themselves stuck in the smaller, collapsing tube system.
For example, Google partnered with the Verizon tube company to use it’s new tubes. Anyone trying to compete with Google, simply won’t be able to.
Waxman, is teaching Republicans a thing or two about whoring for Telecom money. Waxman’s bill would prevent the FCC from enforcing the most important part of net neutrality, that is, standard tube size. The corporate johns, pumping Waxman up with corporate cash, know that there is money to be made here. (Fire Dog Lake)
Sen. Inhofe: Basis for Senate's Ban on Drudge Report Was Bogus, We Encourage People to Visit Drudge Sen. Jim Inhofe (R.-Okla.) said there was no evidence that the Drudge Report had been responsible for viruses appearing on Senate computers and said he was encouraging people to read the Drudge Report. - “We would encourage people to continue to use Drudge. That’s a great source,” Sen. Jim Inhofe (R.-Okla.) told CNSNews.com Tuesday after his staff on the Environment and Public Works Committee received an email informing them that the Senate Sergeant at Arms believed the Drudge Report and whitepages.com had been responsible for infecting Senate computers with viruses and advising Senate personnel not to visit the Web sites.
When CNSNews.com asked Inhofe if there was any evidence that a virus had gotten into Senate computers as a result of people visiting Drudge, Inhofe said: “None, whatsoever.” Inhofe is the ranking Republican member of the Environment and Public Works Committee. (CNS News)
EXCLUSIVE-Cyber bill would give U.S. emergency powers * Tech companies skeptical of costs, requirements
* Senate majority leader pushing cybersecurity proposal
* Cybersecurity expert says bill is "pretty vanilla stuff" - Proposed cybersecurity legislation circulating on Capitol Hill would give the president the power to declare an emergency in the case of big online attacks and force some businesses to beef up their cyber defenses and submit to scrutiny.
The draft bill, a copy of which was obtained by Reuters, allows the president to declare an emergency if there is an imminent threat to the U.S. electrical grid or other critical infrastructure such as the water supply or financial network because of a cyber attack.
Industries, companies or portions of companies could be temporarily shut down, or be required to take other steps to address threats.
The emergency declaration would last for 30 days, unless the president renews it. It cannot last more than 90 days without action from Congress.
The draft is a combination of two cybersecurity bills which were merged into one at the urging of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid. "It (the draft bill) is something that we hope to be able to pass before the end of the year, if we can," Reid spokeswoman Regan Lachapelle told Reuters. (Reuters)
Dubai Rejects Full-Body Scanners Because They 'Contradict Islam' Dubai airports will not use hi-tech full-body scanners because they "contradict Islam" and violate passengers' privacy, according to reports — even though the scanners can detect terrorist threats like those posed by the Christmas Day bomber.
Neither of Dubai's two airports will use the scanners "out of respect for the privacy of individuals and their personal freedom," the head of airport security for the emirate told Al-Bayan daily, AFP reported.
"The scanners will be replaced with other inspection systems that preserve travelers' privacy," said Dubai police's Brigadier Pilot Ahmad Mohammad Bin Thani, the AFP reported. (Fox)
Attempted bombing of Flight 253: Terror Suspect Kept Visa to Avoid Tipping off Larger Investigation The State Department didn't revoke the visa of foiled terrorism suspect Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab because federal counterterrorism officials had begged off revocation, a top State Department official revealed Wednesday.
Patrick F. Kennedy, an undersecretary for management at the State Department, said Abdulmutallab's visa wasn't taken away because intelligence officials asked his agency not to deny a visa to the suspected terrorist over concerns that a denial would've foiled a larger investigation into al-Qaida threats against the United States. (Global Research)
Napolitano pitches plan for air security to 190 nations The U.S. Homeland Security chief will urge 190 nations today to improve aviation security with body scanners and other innovations to stop terrorists from carrying plastic and powdered explosives onto airplanes.
Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano said the push aims to counter terrorists who might use international flights for attacks by smuggling explosives through overseas metal detectors. Such devices can't stop suicide bombers from hiding unconventional weapons under their clothes. A Nigerian man is under federal indictment for trying to blow up an international flight headed for Detroit in December by igniting powdered explosives in his underwear.
"We need to move to the next stage of screening," Napolitano told USA TODAY. Terrorists "have kind of figured out the magnetometer business." (USA Today)
Engineers Slam Internet 'Censorship' Bill Under Review by Senate Internet entrepreneurs are in a panic over a Senate bill they say will censor the Web, stifle Silicon Valley startups, damage the United States' credibility on free speech and ultimately trigger the creation of an alternate-universe Internet.
The West Coast engineers say they were blindsided last Monday when the Combating Online Infringement and Counterfeits Act was introduced in the Senate Judiciary Committee. The bill has a bipartisan roster of co-sponsors who say it will be a tool for stopping the worst offenders in the world of online piracy.
The bill would give the attorney general new powers to shut down websites deemed dedicated to counterfeit material -- by going through the courts and by encouraging service providers to go after sites the Justice Department puts on a public blacklist.
According to the bill, a website would have to be "dedicated to infringing activities" to trigger the enforcement. (Fox)
Royal Society issues new climate change guide that admits there are 'uncertainties' about the science The UK’s leading scientific body has been forced to rewrite its guide on climate change and admit that it is not known how much warmer the Earth will become.
The Royal Society has updated its guide after 43 of its members complained that the previous version failed to take into account the opinion of climate change sceptics.
Now the new guide, called ‘Climate change: a summary of the science’, admits that there are some ‘uncertainties’ regarding the science behind climate change.
And it says that it impossible to know for sure how the Earth's climate will change in the future nor what the possible effects may be.
The 19-page guide says: ’It is not possible to determine exactly how much the Earth will warm or exactly how the climate will change in the future, but careful estimates of potential changes and associated uncertainties have been made.
‘Scientists continue to work to narrow these areas of uncertainty. Uncertainty can work both ways, since the changes and their impacts may be either smaller or larger than those projected.’ (UK Daily Mail)
Climate change: a summary of the science Changes in climate have significant implications for present lives, for future generations and for ecosystems on which humanity depends. Consequently, climate change has been and continues to be the subject of intensive scientific research and public debate.
2 There is strong evidence that the warming of the Earth over the last half-century has been caused largely by human activity, such as the burning of fossil fuels and changes in land use, including agriculture and deforestation. The size of future temperature increases and other aspects of climate change, especially at the regional scale, are still subject to uncertainty. Nevertheless, the risks associated with some of these changes are substantial. It is important that decision makers have access to climate science of the highest quality, and can take account of its findings in formulating appropriate responses.
3 In view of the ongoing public and political debates about climate change, the aim of this document is to summarise the current scientific evidence on climate change and its drivers. It lays out clearly where the science is well established, where there is wide consensus but continuing debate, and where there remains substantial uncertainty. The impacts of climate change, as distinct from the causes, are not considered here. This document draws upon recent evidence and builds on the Fourth Assessment Report of Working Group I of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), published in 2007, which is the most comprehensive source of climate science and its uncertainties. (The Royal Society)
Royal Society launches new short guide to the science of climate change The Royal Society, the UK’s national academy of science, has today launched a new short guide to the science of climate change. The guide has been written to summarise the evidence and to clarify the levels of confidence associated with the current scientific understanding of climate change. It makes clear what is well-known and established about the climate system, what is widely agreed but with some debate about details, and what is still not well understood.
Climate change: a summary of the science, describes how and why the earth is currently warming, and explains the wide range of independent measurements and observations which underpin this understanding. It shows that there is strong evidence that over the last half century, the earth’s warming has been caused largely by human activity. It also explains the uncertainty involved in predicting the size of future temperature increases. There are many potentially serious consequences of climate change, so that important decisions need to be made. The guide concludes that, as in many other areas, policy choices will have to be made in the absence of perfect knowledge, but that the scientific evidence is an essential part of public reasoning in this complex and challenging area.
John Pethica, Vice-President of the Royal Society and Chair of the working group that wrote the document said: “Climate change is an important issue affecting everyone. Much of the public debate on climate change is polarised at present, which can make it difficult to get a good overview of the science. This guide explains where the science is clear and established, and also where it is less certain. It is not a simple guide, as this is not a simple issue. This summary has been produced for all who want to understand the full range of the scientific evidence.”
The guide has been prepared by leading international scientists, mostly drawn from the Fellowship of the Society, and it is based on very extensive published scientific work. The working group drew on input from a wide range of experts and the document was reviewed by both Fellows and others with a broad range of relevant expertise and experience. (The Royal Society)
Computer worm attacking Iran's nuclear facilities 'includes Biblical link to Israel' Israel has been linked to a complex worm currently attacking computers in Iran, which experts claim may have been designed to target the country's nuclear facilities.
The Stuxnet worm, supposedly aimed at slowing Iran's desire to create a nuclear arsenal, appears to include a reference to a Biblical story in which Jews pre-empt a Persian plot to destroy them.
The New York Times reports a file inside the Stuxnet code is named 'Myrtus' - a reference to the Hebrew word Esther, the same name as the Old Testament book in which the story appears. (UK Daily Mail)
Feds deploy mobile X-ray fleet to radiate, scan Americans The encroaching Big Brother nightmare has escalated even further with a recent announcement that the U.S. government has purchased mobile X-ray vans to scan people and vehicles at sporting events, road stops and even at random. The initiative is part of alleged counter-terror efforts that include improving the ability to detect bombs, weapons and other contraband that may potentially be used in a terrorist attack.
The custom-made radiation vans are produced by American Science & Engineering, a Billerica, Mass.-based company that has already sold more than 500 Z Backscatter Vans, or ZBVs, to both U.S. and foreign governments. The radiating technology installed in the vans is the same as that found in full-body airport scanners, which were also fuel for recent controversy over their encroachment of personal freedoms. (Natural News)
DNI may win expanded shield from FOIA The Office of the Director of National Intelligence appears to be on the verge of prevailing in an attempt to put some information it receives from other intelligence agencies beyond the reach of Freedom of Information Act requests.
The Intelligence Authorization Act passed by the Senate Monday night contains a FOIA-related provision ODNI sought on the grounds that it would encourage the CIA and other agencies to be more willing to share data with the National Counterterrorism Center.
Section 208 of the bill provides that the so-called operational files exemption which four agencies have for some records (CIA, NSA, NRO and NGA) will protect information those agencies share with ODNI from being provided under FOIA. However, there is an important caveat: U.S. citizens and green card holders can still request information about themselves.
National Counterterrorism Center Director Michael Leiter requested the operational files exemption in a classified letter sent to the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence earlier this month, an official said. Leiter mentioned the issue in passing at a Senate Homeland Security Committee hearing last week. (Politico)
Administration Seeks Easy Access To Americans' Private Online Communications: Executive Branch Spying Powers Already Too Broad, Says ACLU The Obama administration is seeking to expand the government’s ability to conduct invasive surveillance online, according to a report in The New York Times today. According to the report, the administration is expected to submit legislation to Congress early next year that would mandate that all online communications services use technologies that would make it easier for the government to collect private communications and decode encrypted messages that Americans send over texting platforms, BlackBerries, social networking sites and other “peer to peer” communications software.
The administration has argued that it is simply hoping to emulate the Communications Assistance to Law Enforcement Act (CALEA), which mandated that telephone companies rework their networks to be wiretap-ready. The administration’s proposal, however, differs from CALEA as it would require reconfiguring of the Internet to provide easier access to online communications. This is particularly problematic because many of the privacy protections that governed the government’s wiretapping powers when CALEA passed in 1994 no longer exist or have been significantly weakened. (American Civil Liberties Union)
Big Brother Obama: US to spy on Internet messaging -- Regulations to target Skype, Facebook, Blackberry The Obama White House is backing new regulations that would compel popular Internet messaging services like Facebook, Skype and Blackberry to open up their systems to FBI surveillance, the New York Times reported Monday, citing federal law enforcement and national security officials.
The threat to democratic rights goes far beyond anything envisioned by the Bush administration. The goal is to make all forms of electronic communication that use the Internet subject to wiretapping and interception by federal police agencies.
In the past few years there has been a large-scale shift from conventional telephone communication to Internet-based messaging, which is both cheaper and more secure. - The Times article gave two examples of government efforts to intercept encrypted or peer-to-peer communications that ran into technical obstacles, one involving a drug cartel, the other related to the failed Times Square bombing earlier this year. These examples were chosen to support the claim by the Obama administration that the buildup of surveillance is part of a struggle against crime and “terrorism.”
However, the Obama administration has defined “terrorism” so widely that the term now covers a vast array of constitutionally protected forms of political opposition to the policies of the US government, including speaking, writing, political demonstrations, even the filing of legal briefs. (World Socialist Web Site)
Wiretapping the Internet On Monday, The New York Times reported that President Obama will seek sweeping laws enabling law enforcement to more easily eavesdrop on the internet. Technologies are changing, the administration argues, and modern digital systems aren't as easy to monitor as traditional telephones.
The government wants to force companies to redesign their communications systems and information networks to facilitate surveillance, and to provide law enforcement with back doors that enable them to bypass any security measures.
The proposal may seem extreme, but -- unfortunately -- it's not unique. Just a few months ago, the governments of the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia and India threatened to ban BlackBerry devices unless the company made eavesdropping easier. China has already built a massive internet surveillance system to better control its citizens. (Bruce Schneier)
Congress Mulls Stiff Crypto Laws The encryption wars have begun.
For nearly a decade, privacy mavens have been worrying that a terrorist attack could prompt Congress to ban communications-scrambling products that frustrate both police wiretaps and U.S. intelligence agencies.
Tuesday's catastrophe, which shed more blood on American soil than any event since the Civil War, appears to have started that process.
Some politicians and defense hawks are warning that extremists such as Osama bin Laden, who U.S. officials say is a crypto-aficionado and the top suspect in Tuesday's attacks, enjoy unfettered access to privacy-protecting software and hardware that render their communications unintelligible to eavesdroppers.
In a floor speech on Thursday, Sen. Judd Gregg (R-New Hampshire) called for a global prohibition on encryption products without backdoors for government surveillance. (Wired)
Certified Lies: Detecting and Defeating Government Interception Attacks Against SSL This paper introduces the compelled certificate creation attack, in which government agencies may compel a certificate authority to issue false SSL certificates that can be used by intelligence agencies to covertly intercept and hijack individuals’ secure Web-based communications. Although we do not have direct evidence that this form of active surveillance is taking place in the wild, we show how products already on the market are geared and marketed towards this kind of use--suggesting such attacks may occur in the future, if they are not already occurring. Finally, we introduce a lightweight browser add-on that detects and thwarts such attacks. (Christopher Soghoian and Sid Stamm)
BlackBerrys pose 'security risk' say UAE authorities The United Arab Emirates (UAE) has said that it could move to restrict or monitor BlackBerry mobile phones, as they pose a "national security risk".
The region's telecoms regulator said "BlackBerry operates beyond the jurisdiction of national legislation" as it stores its data offshore.
It said it was concerned that misuse may have "serious social, judicial and national security repercussions".
Critics branded the moves as "repressive".
The media freedom watchdog Reporters Without Borders told BBC News that while the UAE was playing a "technological leadership role in the Arab world" this was backed by "repressive laws" and a "general trend of intensified surveillance". (BBC)
United Arab Emirates to block key features on BlackBerrys Citing national security concerns, the United Arab Emirates said Sunday that it will block key features on BlackBerry smartphones because the devices operate beyond the government's ability to monitor. An official in neighboring Saudi Arabia indicated that it will follow suit.
The decision could prevent hundreds of thousands of users in the UAE from accessing e-mail and the Web on their devices starting Oct. 11, putting the Middle Eastern federation's reputation as a business-friendly commercial and tourism hub at risk.
BlackBerry transmissions are encrypted and routed overseas, and the measure could be motivated in part by government fears that the messaging system might be exploited by terrorists or other criminals who cannot be monitored by local authorities.
However, analysts and activists also see it as an attempt to more tightly control the flow of information in the conservative country, a U.S. ally that is home to the Persian Gulf business capital Dubai and the oil-rich emirate of Abu Dhabi. (Washington Post)
U.S. says UAE BlackBerry ban sets dangerous precedent The United States said it was disappointed that the United Arab Emirates planned to cut off key BlackBerry services, noting that the Gulf nation was setting a dangerous precedent in limiting freedom of information.
"We are committed to promoting the free flow of information," said State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley. "We think it's integral to an innovative economy."
The UAE said over the weekend that it would suspend Research In Motion's BlackBerry Messenger, email and Web browser services from October 11 until the government could get access to encrypted messages.
Crowley said the United States was seeking additional information from the UAE about its security concerns, but urged the country to allow BlackBerry services to aid the free flow of information.
"It's about what we think is an important element of democracy, human rights and freedom of information and the flow of information in the 21st century," Crowley said, adding that the United States makes the same argument to Iran and China. (Reuters)
DOJ Budget Details High-Tech Crime Fighting Tools: New Surveillance Programs Look Ahead as FBI Seeks to Overcome Past Criticism The release of the 2010 budget request has shed more light on some FBI surveillance programs the bureau is currently developing and testing.
While the FBI has been criticized at times for its slow reforms after the 9/11 attacks, which revealed the FBI did not have adequate computer resources, some of the new programs sound like something out of a high-tech cloak and dagger film.
The budget request shows that the FBI is currently developing a new "Advanced Electronic Surveillance" program which is being funded at $233.9 million for 2010. The program has 133 employees, 15 of whom are agents.
According to the budget documents released Thursday, the program, otherwise known as "Going Dark," supports the FBI's electronic surveillance intelligence collection and evidence gathering capabilities, as well as those of the greater Intelligence Community.
"The term 'Going Dark' does not refer to a specific capability, but is a program name for the part of the FBI, Operational Technology Division's (OTD) lawful interception program which is shared with other law enforcement agencies," an FBI spokesman said. (ABC)
Fmr. Intelligence Director: New Cyberattack May Be Worse Than 9/11 Speaking at the Washington Ideas Forum at the Newseum in Washington, D.C., former Director of National Intelligence and Director of the National Security Agency Mike McConnell said that the U.S. is unprepared for a cyberattack and must overhaul its defenses.
"The warnings are over. It could happen tomorrow," he said of a large-scale cyberattack against the U.S., which could impact the global economy "an order of magnitude surpassing" the attacks of September 11. McConnell, in a panel with Bush administration Homeland Security Adviser Fran Townsend and Washingtonian reporter Shane Harris, called cybersecurity "the wolf at the door." (The Atlantic)
UNCLASSIFIED REPORT ON THE PRESIDENT'S SURVEILLANCE PROGRAM
In the weeks following the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, the President authorized the National Security Agency (NSA) to conduct a classified program to detect and prevent further attacks in the United States. As part of the NSA's classified program, several different intelligence activities were authorized in Presidential Authorizations, and the details of these activities changed over time. The program was reauthorized by the President approximately every 45 days, with certain modifications. Collectively, the activities carried out under these Authorizations are referred to as the "President's Surveillance Program" or "PSP."l
One of the activities authorized as part of the PSP was the interception of the content of communications into and out of the United States where there was a reasonable basis to conclude that one party to the communication was a member of al-Qa'ida or related terrorist organizations. This aspect of the PSP was publicly acknowledged and described by the President, the Attorney General, and other Administration officials beginning in December 2005 following a series of articles published in The New York Times. The Attorney General subsequently publicly acknowledged the fact that other intelligence activities were also authorized under the same Presidential Authorization, but the details of those activities remain classified. (Offices of Inspectors General of the Department of Defense, Department of Justice, Central Intelligence Agency, National Security Agency, Office of the Director of National Intelligence)
U.S. Tries to Make It Easier to Wiretap the Internet Federal law enforcement and national security officials are preparing to seek sweeping new regulations for the Internet, arguing that their ability to wiretap criminal and terrorism suspects is “going dark” as people increasingly communicate online instead of by telephone.
Essentially, officials want Congress to require all services that enable communications — including encrypted e-mail transmitters like BlackBerry, social networking Web sites like Facebook and software that allows direct “peer to peer” messaging like Skype — to be technically capable of complying if served with a wiretap order. The mandate would include being able to intercept and unscramble encrypted messages.
The bill, which the Obama administration plans to submit to lawmakers next year, raises fresh questions about how to balance security needs with protecting privacy and fostering innovation. And because security services around the world face the same problem, it could set an example that is copied globally. (New York Times)
Counter-Terror Operation Stops Trucks On I-20 A team of federal agents stopped tractor-trailers on Interstate 20 just west of Atlanta, inspecting each truck as it passed through a weigh station, and Channel 2 has learned its part of a counter-terrorism operation.
Channel 2's Linda Stouffer reported a flashing sign on the interstate directed the trucks to pull into a state-owned inspection station near Lee Road in Douglas County at the height of the evening commute. (WSBTV)
Following EPIC FOIA Lawsuit, US Senators Raise Questions About Retention of Body Scanner Images The Chairman and Ranking Member of the Homeland Security Committee, along with four other Senators, have sent a letter to the head of the US Marshal Service to ask why the federal agency stored more than 35,000 images from whole body imaging scans taken at the Orlando federal courthouse. The letter follows a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit, filed by EPIC, in which the Marshal Service was forced to disclose the fact that it had stored body scanner images. EPIC has also filed an emergency motion in federal court to suspend the program, pending a thorough review of the airport body scanner program. For more information, see EPIC: Whole Body Imaging Technology and EPIC v. DHS (Suspension of Body Scanner Program). (Electronic Privacy Information Center)
Feds admit storing checkpoint body scan images For the last few years, federal agencies have defended body scanning by insisting that all images will be discarded as soon as they're viewed. The Transportation Security Administration claimed last summer, for instance, that "scanned images cannot be stored or recorded."
Now it turns out that some police agencies are storing the controversial images after all. The U.S. Marshals Service admitted this week that it had surreptitiously saved tens of thousands of images recorded with a millimeter wave system at the security checkpoint of a single Florida courthouse.
This follows an earlier disclosure (PDF) by the TSA that it requires all airport body scanners it purchases to be able to store and transmit images for "testing, training, and evaluation purposes." The agency says, however, that those capabilities are not normally activated when the devices are installed at airports.
Body scanners penetrate clothing to provide a highly detailed image so accurate that critics have likened it to a virtual strip search. Technologies vary, with millimeter wave systems capturing fuzzier images, and backscatter X-ray machines able to show precise anatomical detail. The U.S. government likes the idea because body scanners can detect concealed weapons better than traditional magnetometers. (CNet News)
"ZBV": Z Backscatter Van Mobile Screening System A breakthrough in X-ray detection technology, AS&E's Z Backscatter Van (ZBV) is a low-cost, extremely maneuverable screening system built into a commercially available delivery van. The ZBV allows for immediate deployment in response to security threats, and its high throughput capability facilitates rapid inspections. The system's unique "drive-by" capability allows one or two operators to conduct X-ray imaging of suspect vehicles and objects while the ZBV drives past.
The ZBV can also be operated in stationary mode* by parking the system and producing X-ray images of vehicles as they pass by. Screening can also be accomplished remotely while the system is parked. Remote operation allows scanning to be done safely, even in dangerous environments, while maintaining low-profile operation. The system is unobtrusive, as it maintains the outward appearance of an ordinary van.
The ZBV employs AS&E's patented Z Backscatter technology, which reveals contraband that transmission X-rays miss - such as explosives and plastic weapons - and provides photo-like imaging for rapid analysis. The ZBV is also capable of identifying low levels of radioactivity from both gamma rays and neutrons with optional Radioactive Threat Detection (RTD) technology. The ZBV is ideal for counterterrorism applications, as it can detect dirty bombs and nuclear WMD, in addition to conventional explosives.
The ZBV also combats crimes of smuggling at ports and borders, such as trade fraud. Trade fraud is the deliberate misrepresentation of legal goods to avoid paying duties. The ZBV's photo-like imaging clearly shows whether or not the contents of a vehicle or container match the description on the manifest.
The Z Backscatter Van is used in port and border security, force protection, urban surveillance, and other critical security applications. The system is maneuverable, mobile and affordable. Simply put, the ZBV is faster, more effective, and less expensive than any mobile X-ray screening solution in the marketplace today. (American Science & Engineering)
Full-Body Scan Technology Deployed In Street-Roving Vans s the privacy controversy around full-body security scans begins to simmer, it’s worth noting that courthouses and airport security checkpoints aren’t the only places where backscatter x-ray vision is being deployed. The same technology, capable of seeing through clothes and walls, has also been rolling out on U.S. streets.
American Science & Engineering, a company based in Billerica, Massachusetts, has sold U.S. and foreign government agencies more than 500 backscatter x-ray scanners mounted in vans that can be driven past neighboring vehicles to see their contents, Joe Reiss, a vice president of marketing at the company told me in an interview. While the biggest buyer of AS&E’s machines over the last seven years has been the Department of Defense operations in Afghanistan and Iraq, Reiss says law enforcement agencies have also deployed the vans to search for vehicle-based bombs in the U.S.
“This product is now the largest selling cargo and vehicle inspection system ever,” says Reiss. (Forbes)
Pentagon Hopes to ID People by Way They Walk Watch your step! The Pentagon is developing a radar-based device that can identify people by the way they walk, for use in a new antiterrorist surveillance system.
Operating on the theory that an individual's walk is as unique as a signature, the Pentagon has financed a research project at the Georgia Institute of Technology that has been 80 to 95 percent successful in identifying people.
If the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, or DARPA, orders a prototype, the individual "gait signatures" of people could become part of the data to be linked together in a vast surveillance system the Pentagon agency calls Total Information Awareness. (Fox)
Technology identifies troubled individuals Imagine using the same technology to locate a lone bomber before he carries out his terrorist act and to identify a troubled veteran or first responder ground down by tragedies and violence.
Some 120 local first responders from law enforcement and other agencies, the military and mental health professionals gathered Friday to hear firsthand about an advanced computer program that can accomplish those two seemingly different tasks.
The presentation was part of the International First Responder-Military Symposium held at Hilbert College in the Town of Hamburg.
A Swiss professor working with a Massachusetts Institute of Technology scientist who heads the Mind Machine Project there outlined how this program operates through computerized scanning of phone calls and electronic messages sent through e-mail and social networking mechanisms.
“Suppose you know there’s a threat to the president when he is visiting, say, Texas. Through information obtained by the National Security Agency, we have the tools to go through huge quantities of data obtained from that area,” said professor Mathieu Guidere of the University of Geneva. (The Buffalo News)
CIA backed by military drones in Pakistan The CIA is using an arsenal of armed drones and other equipment provided by the U.S. military to secretly escalate its operations in Pakistan by striking targets beyond the reach of American forces based in Afghanistan, U.S. officials said.
The merging of covert CIA operations and military firepower is part of a high-stakes attempt by the Obama administration to deal decisive blows to Taliban insurgents who have regained control of swaths of territory in Afghanistan but stage most of their operations from sanctuaries across that country's eastern border.
The move represents a signification evolution of an already controversial targeted killing program run by the CIA. The agency's drone program began as a sporadic effort to kill members of the al-Qaeda terrorist network but in the past month it has been delivering what amounts to a cross-border bombing campaign in coordination with conventional military operations a few miles away.
The campaign continued Saturday amid reports that two new CIA drone strikes had killed 16 militants in northwest Pakistan, following 22 such attacks last month. (Washington Post)
Assistant attorney general blogs against gay student body president For nearly six months, Andrew Shirvell, an assistant attorney general for the state of Michigan, has waged an internet campaign against college student Chris Armstrong, the openly gay student assembly president at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor.
Using the online moniker "Concerned Michigan Alumnus," Shirvell launched his blog in late April.
"Welcome to 'Chris Armstrong Watch,'" Shirvell wrote in his inaugural blog post. "This is a site for concerned University of Michigan alumni, students, and others who oppose the recent election of Chris Armstrong -- a RADICAL HOMOSEXUAL ACTIVIST, RACIST, ELITIST, & LIAR -- as the new head of student government." (CNN)
Travel alert issued for U.S. citizens in Europe The U.S. State Department has issued a travel alert for U.S. citizens in Europe, based on information that suggests that al Qaeda and affiliated organizations continue to plan terrorist attacks.
Americans are warned to be aware of their surroundings and protect themselves when traveling, especially when they are in public places like tourist sites, airports or when they are using public transportation.
The alert does not warn U.S. citizens against travel to Europe.
Britain's Home Office has not raised its threat level. A statement released Sunday confirms that British authorities are keeping their threat level at "'severe," which means than an attack is highly likely.
But, the UK's Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) has changed its travel advisory for British citizens in France and Germany from a "substantial" threat of terrorism to a "high" threat. The FCO said it does not comment on intelligence matters and thus can't specify whether the change is related to the U.S. travel alert. (CNN)
How marijuana became legal: Medical marijuana is giving activists a chance to show how a legitimized pot business can work. Is the end of prohibition upon us? When Irvin Rosenfeld, 56, picks me up at the Fort Lauderdale airport, his SUV reeks of marijuana. The vice president for sales at a local brokerage firm, Rosenfeld has been smoking 10 to 12 marijuana cigarettes a day for 38 years, he says.
That's probably unusual in itself, but what makes Rosenfeld exceptional is that for the past 27 years, he has been copping his weed directly from the United States government.
Every 25 days Rosenfeld goes to a pharmacy and picks up a tin of 300 federally grown and rolled cigarettes that have been sent there for him by the National Institute of Drug Abuse (NIDA), acting with approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
Rosenfeld smokes the marijuana to relieve chronic pain and muscle spasms caused by a rare bone disease. When he was 10, doctors discovered that his skeleton was riddled with more than 200 tumors, due to a condition known as multiple congenital cartilaginous exostosis. Despite seven operations, he still lives with scores of tumors in his bones. (CNN)
Odds of Life on Newfound Earth-Size Planet '100 Percent,' Astronomer Says An Earth-size planet has been spotted orbiting a nearby star at a distance that would makes it not too hot and not too cold — comfortable enough for life to exist, researchers announced today (Sept. 29).
If confirmed, the exoplanet, named Gliese 581g, would be the first Earth-like world found residing in a star's habitable zone — a region where a planet's temperature could sustain liquid water on its surface. (SPACE.com)
C.I.A. Steps Up Drone Attacks on Taliban in Pakistan The C.I.A. has drastically increased its bombing campaign in the mountains of Pakistan in recent weeks, American officials said. The strikes are part of an effort by military and intelligence operatives to try to cripple the Taliban in a stronghold being used to plan attacks against American troops in Afghanistan.
As part of its covert war in the region, the C.I.A. has launched 20 attacks with armed drone aircraft thus far in September, the most ever during a single month, and more than twice the number in a typical month. This expanded air campaign comes as top officials are racing to stem the rise of American casualties before the Obama administration’s comprehensive review of its Afghanistan strategy set for December. American and European officials are also evaluating reports of possible terrorist plots in the West from militants based in Pakistan.
The strikes also reflect mounting frustration both in Afghanistan and the United States that Pakistan’s government has not been aggressive enough in dislodging militants from their bases in the country’s western mountains. In particular, the officials said, the Americans believe the Pakistanis are unlikely to launch military operations inside North Waziristan, a haven for Taliban and Qaeda operatives that has long been used as a base for attacks against troops in Afghanistan. Some Pakistani troops have also been diverted from counterinsurgency missions to help provide relief to victims of the country’s massive flooding. (New York Times)
Monkeys See Selves in Mirror, Open a Barrel of Questions Monkeys may possess cognitive abilities once thought unique to humans, raising questions about the nature of animal awareness and our ability to measure it.
In the lab of University of Wisconsin neuroscientist Luis Populin, five rhesus macaques seem to recognize their own reflections in a mirror. Monkeys weren’t supposed to do this.
“We thought these subjects didn’t have this ability. The indications are that if you fail the mark test, you’re not self-aware. This opens up a whole field of possibilities,” Populin said. (Wired)
COLLATERAL COSTS: INCARCERATION’S EFFECT ON ECONOMIC MOBILITY Currently 2.3 million Americans are behind bars, equaling more than 1 in 100 adults. Up from just 500,000 in 1980, this marks more than a 300 percent increase in the United States’ incarcerated population and represents the highest rate of incarceration in the world.
Over the last four years, The Pew Charitable Trusts has documented the enormous expense of building prisons and housing inmates that is borne by states and the federal government. Indeed, in the face of gaping budget shortfalls, more than half of the states are now seeking alternative sentencing and corrections strategies that cost less than prison, but can protect public safety and hold offenders accountable. A less explored fiscal implication of incarceration is its impact on former inmates’ economic opportunity and mobility.
Economic mobility, the ability of individuals and families to move up the income ladder over their lifetime and across generations, is the epitome of the American Dream. Americans believe that economic success is determined by individual efforts and attributes, like hard work and ambition, and that anyone should be able to improve his or her economic circumstances.
Incarceration affects an inmate’s path to prosperity. Collateral Costs quantifies the size of that effect, not only on offenders but on their families and children. Before being incarcerated more than two-thirds of male inmates were employed and more than half were the primary source of financial support for their children.7 Incarceration carries significant and enduring economic repercussions for the remainder of the person’s working years. This report finds that former inmates work fewer weeks each year, earn less money and have limited upward mobility. These costs are borne by offenders’ families and communities, and they reverberate across generations.
People who break the law need to be held accountable and pay their debt to society. Prisons can enhance public safety, both by keeping dangerous criminals off the streets and by deterring would be offenders. However, virtually all inmates will be released, and when they do, society has a strong interest in helping them fulfill their responsibilities to their victims, their families and their communities. When returning offenders can find and keep legitimate employment, they are more likely to be able to pay restitution to their victims, support their children and avoid crime. - INCARCERATION IS CONCENTRATED AMONG MEN, THE YOUNG, THE UNEDUCATED AND RACIAL AND ETHNIC MINORITIES—ESPECIALLY AFRICAN AMERICANS.
• One in 87 working-aged white men is in prison or jail, compared with 1 in 36 Hispanic men and 1 in 12 African American men.
• More young (20 to 34-year-old) African American men without a high school diploma or GED are currently behind bars (37 percent) than employed (26 percent). (Pew Charitable Trusts)
One in 28 US kids has a parent in prison: study The US's exceptionally high rate of incarceration is causing economic damage not only to the people behind bars but to their children and taxpayers as a whole, a new study finds.
The study (PDF) from the Pew Research Center's Economic Mobility Project, released Tuesday, reports that the US prison population has more than quadrupled since 1980, from 500,000 to 2.3 million, making the US's incarceration rate the highest in the world, beating former champions like Russia and South Africa.
This means more than one in 100 Americans is in prison, and the cost of prisons to states now exceeds $50 billion per year, or one in every 15 state dollars spent -- a figure the study describes as "staggering."
According to the authors, one in every 28 children in the US has a parent behind bars -- up from one in 125 just 25 years ago. This is significant, the study argues, because children of incarcerated parents are much likelier to struggle in life.
A family with an incarcerated parent on average earns 22 percent less the year after the incarceration than it did the year before, the study finds. And children with parents in prison are significantly likelier to be expelled from school than others; 23 percent of students with jailed parents are expelled, compared to 4 percent for the general population. (The Raw Story)
The Budgetary Impact of Ending Drug Prohibition State and federal governments in the United States face massive looming fiscal deficits. One policy change that can reduce deficits is ending the drug war. Legalization means reduced expenditure on enforcement and an increase in tax revenue from legalized sales.
This report estimates that legalizing drugs would save roughly $41.3 billion per year in government expenditure on enforcement of prohibition. Of these savings, $25.7 billion would accrue to state and local governments, while $15.6 billion would accrue to the federal government.
Approximately $8.7 billion of the savings would result from legalization of marijuana and $32.6 billion from legalization of other drugs.
The report also estimates that drug legalization would yield tax revenue of $46.7 billion annually, assuming legal drugs were taxed at rates comparable to those on alcohol and tobacco. Approximately $8.7 billion of this revenue would result from legalization of marijuana and $38.0 billion from legalization of other drugs. (CATO Institute)
Vermont Benefits Corporation Act as of this writing, it appears that S.263, the “Vermont Benefits Corporations Act”, will become law and establish a new corporate form in Vermont. The House amended S. 263 but it is likely the Senate will concur in the House amendments and that Governor Douglas will sign the bill. If that occurs, Vermont will be the second state (after Maryland) to adopt “benefit” corporation legislation. The incubator of this legislation in B Lab, a Philadelphia based non-profit which has developed the “B” corporation rating system (not to be confused with a benefit corporation which is a creature of statute), which evaluates companies on social, environmental and workplace criteria. (Merritt & Merritt & Moulton)
Maryland Passes 'Benefit Corp.' Law for Social Entrepreneurs Maryland today became the first state to legally create a new corporate form known as a “benefit corporation” that will let social entrepreneurs codify their missions in their corporate charters.
The law is modeled on proposals by B-Lab, a Berwyn, Pa.-nonprofit that certifies socially responsible companies. The law lets entrepreneurs commit their for-profit ventures to a specific public good, and requires them to report on contributions to that goal and submit to auditing of their impact. Having official “benefit corporation” status allows entrepreneurs to consider stakeholders like employees, communities, or the environment in business decisions. Under existing corporate law, company directors can face lawsuits if considering outside stakeholders is seen to damage the financial interest of shareholders. (Bloomberg)
Muhammad Yunus is a Bangladeshi banker, economist and Nobel Peace Prize recipient. He previously was a professor of economics where he developed the concepts of microcredit and microfinance. These loans are given to entrepreneurs too poor to qualify for traditional bank loans. Yunus is also the founder of Grameen Bank. In 2006, Yunus and the bank were jointly awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, "for their efforts to create economic and social development from below." Yunus himself has received several other national and international honors. He is the author of Banker to the Poor and a founding board member of Grameen America and Grameen Foundation. In early 2007 Yunus showed interest in launching a political party in Bangladesh named Nagorik Shakti (Citizen Power), but later discarded the plan. He is one of the founding members of Global Elders. Yunus also serves on the board of directors of the United Nations Foundation, a public charity created in 1998 with entrepreneur and philanthropist Ted Turner’s historic $1 billion gift to support United Nations causes. The UN Foundation builds and implements public-private partnerships to address the world’s most pressing problems, and broadens support for the UN. (Wikipedia)
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