Smartphone ‘Kill Switch’ Bill Passes California Legislature, Awaits Governor’s Signature

August 12, 2014 by  
Filed under Sci-Tech

Not that your phones and Computers cant be killed already (hello) – this just codifies it. (makes it “legal”) – This will likely be used to shut down protests, and dissent. 

CNBC

A California bill that would require cellphone makers to install a “kill switch” to render stolen devices inoperable has passed the state legislature, and now moves to the governor’s office for consideration.

The bill won Senate approval Monday by a vote of 27-8. If Gov. Jerry Brown signs the bill, it would be among the first such laws in the nation (Minnesota has adopted a similar anti-theft requirement).

Read MoreGoogle, Microsoft adding ‘kill switch’

An earlier version of the “kill switch” bill died in the Senate this spring, amid criticism that its language was so broad it would have imposed the requirement on a number of devices beyond smartphones.

TommL | Vetta | Getty Images

Several device manufacturers and wireless carriers withdrew their opposition once the bill was amended to exclude tablets and exempt smartphone models introduced before Jan. 1, 2015, that could not “reasonably be re-engineered” to incorporate the anti-theft technology.

If the bill is signed into law, manufacturers will have until July 1, 2015, to incorporate the theft deterrent, which users would be asked to turn on when they set up their new devices.

Read MorePush is on to get ‘kill switch’ into smartphones

State Sen. Mark Leno, D-San Francisco, introduced the bill to address the epidemic of smartphone thefts, which the Federal Communications Commission estimates to account for 30 percent to 40 percent of thefts in major cities.

In San Francisco, more than half of all robberies in 2012 involved the theft of a mobile device, according to the city district attorney’s office.

“Our goal is to swiftly take the wind out of the sails of thieves who have made the theft of smartphones one of the most prevalent street crimes in California’s big cities,” Leno said in a statement.

Amid heightened concerns about smartphone theft, several key players in the industry took steps to address the problem ahead of legislation.

The five largest U.S. cellular carriers and key device manufacturers — including AppleGoogle and Samsung – pledged to incorporate an anti-theft feature that would remotely wipe data from a smartphone and render it inoperable. Lost or stolen devices could later be restored if recovered.

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Planes can be hacked via inflight WiFi, researcher says

August 5, 2014 by  
Filed under Sci-Tech

Ruben Santamarta of IOActive to provide details at Black Hat conference

*From Last Year’s Conf: Hacker (Barnaby Jack) dies days before he was to reveal how to remotely kill pacemaker patients

Security researcher Barnaby Jack has passed away in San Francisco, only days before a scheduled appearance at a Las Vegas hacker conference where he intended to show how an ordinary pacemaker could be compromised in order to kill a man.

Jack, who previously presented hacks involving ATMs and insulin pumps at the annual Black Hat conference in Vegas, was confirmed dead Friday morning by the San Francisco Medical Examiner’s office, Reuters reported. He passed away Thursday this week, but the office declined to offer any more details at this time.

Jack’s death came one week to the day before he was scheduled to detail one of his most recent exploits in a Black Hat talk called “Implantable Medical Devices: Hacking Humans.”

“I was intrigued by the fact that these critical life devices communicate wirelessly. I decided to look at pacemakers and ICDs (implantable cardioverter defibrillators) to see if they communicated securely and if it would be possible for an attacker to remotely control these devices,” Jack told Vice last month.

In theory, a hacker could use a plane’s onboard WiFi signal or inflight entertainment system to hack into its avionics equipment, potentially disrupting or modifying satellite communications. (Associated Press)

CBC

Cybersecurity researcher Ruben Santamarta says he has figured out how to hack the satellite communications equipment on passenger jets through their WiFi and inflight entertainment systems – a claim that, if confirmed, could prompt a review of aircraft security.

‘These devices are wide open.’- Ruben Santamarta, IOActive

Santamarta, a consultant with cybersecurity firm IOActive, is scheduled to lay out the technical details of his research at this week’s Black Hat hacking conference in Las Vegas, an annual convention where thousands of hackers and security experts meet to discuss emerging cyber threats and improve security measures.

His presentation on Thursday on vulnerabilities in satellite communications systems used in aerospace and other industries is expected to be one of the most widely watched at the conference.

“These devices are wide open. The goal of this talk is to help change that situation,” Santamarta, 32, told Reuters.

The researcher said he discovered the vulnerabilities by “reverse engineering” – or decoding – highly specialized software known as firmware, used to operate communications equipment made by Cobham Plc, Harris Corp, EchoStar Corp’s Hughes Network Systems, Iridium Communications Inc and Japan Radio Co Ltd.

In theory, a hacker could use a plane’s onboard WiFi signal or inflight entertainment system to hack into its avionics equipment, potentially disrupting or modifying satellite communications, which could interfere with the aircraft’s navigation and safety systems, Santamarta said.

Hacks tested in controlled environments

He acknowledged that his hacks have only been tested in controlled environments, such as IOActive’s Madrid laboratory, and they might be difficult to replicate in the real world. Santamarta said he decided to go public to encourage manufacturers to fix what he saw as risky security flaws.

Representatives for Cobham, Harris, Hughes and Iridium said they had reviewed Santamarta’s research and confirmed some of his findings, but downplayed the risks.

For instance, Cobham, whose Aviation 700 aircraft satellite communications equipment was the focus of Santamarta’s research, said it is not possible for hackers to use WiFi signals to interfere with critical systems that rely on satellite communications for navigation and safety. The hackers must have physical access to Cobham’s equipment, according to Cobham spokesman Greg Caires.

“In the aviation and maritime markets we serve, there are strict requirements restricting such access to authorized personnel only,” said Caires.

A Japan Radio Co spokesman declined to comment, saying information on such vulnerabilities was not public.

Buggy firmware

Black Hat, which was founded in 1997, has often been a venue for hackers to present breakthrough research. In 2009, Charlie Miller and Collin Mulliner demonstrated a method for attacking iPhones with malicious text messages, prompting Apple Inc to release a patch. In 2011, Jay Radcliffe demonstrated methods for attacking Medtronic Inc’s insulin pumps, which helped prompt an industry review of security.

Santamarta published a 25-page research report in April that detailed what he said were multiple bugs in firmware used in satellite communications equipment made by Cobham, Harris, Hughes, Iridium and Japan Radio Co for a wide variety of industries, including aerospace, military, maritime transportation, energy and communications.

The report laid out scenarios by which hackers could launch attacks, though it did not provide the level of technical details that Santamarta said he will disclose at Black Hat.

Risk ‘very small’

Harris spokesman Jim Burke said the company had reviewed Santamarta’s paper. “We concluded that the risk of compromise is very small,” he said.

Iridium spokesman Diane Hockenberry said, “We have determined that the risk to Iridium subscribers is minimal, but we are taking precautionary measures to safeguard our users.”

One vulnerability that Santamarta said he found in equipment from all five manufacturers was the use of “hardcoded” log-in credentials, which are designed to let service technicians access any piece of equipment with the same login and password.

The problem is that hackers can retrieve those passwords by hacking into the firmware, then use the credentials to access sensitive systems, Santamarta said.

Hughes spokeswoman Judy Blake said hardcoded credentials were “a necessary” feature for customer service. The worst a hacker could do is to disable the communication link, she said.

Santamarta said he will respond to the comments from manufacturers during his presentation, then take questions during an open Q&A session after his talk.

Vincenzo Iozzo, a member of Black Hat’s review board, said Santamarta’s paper marked the first time a researcher had identified potentially devastating vulnerabilities in satellite communications equipment.

“I am not sure we can actually launch an attack from the passenger inflight entertainment system into the cockpit,” he said. “The core point is the type of vulnerabilities he discovered are pretty scary just because they involve very basic security things that vendors should already be aware of.”

NSA shares raw intelligence including Americans’ data with Israel

August 5, 2014 by  
Filed under Sci-Tech

New Rehash of old news… But if you haven’t seen it, its worth remembering! MSM confirms!

• Secret deal places no legal limits on use of data by Israelis
• Only official US government communications protected
• Agency insists it complies with rules governing privacy
• Read the NSA and Israel’s ‘memorandum of understanding’

London Guardian 

Israeli and American flags

The agreement for the US to provide raw intelligence data to Israel was reached in principle in March 2009, the document shows. Photograph: James Emery

The National Security Agency routinely shares raw intelligence data withIsrael without first sifting it to remove information about US citizens, a top-secret document provided to the Guardian by whistleblower Edward Snowden reveals.

Details of the intelligence-sharing agreement are laid out in a memorandum of understanding between the NSA and its Israeli counterpart that shows the US government handed over intercepted communications likely to contain phone calls and emails of American citizens. The agreement places no legally binding limits on the use of the data by the Israelis.

The disclosure that the NSA agreed to provide raw intelligence data to a foreign country contrasts with assurances from the Obama administrationthat there are rigorous safeguards to protect the privacy of US citizens caught in the dragnet. The intelligence community calls this process “minimization”, but the memorandum makes clear that the information shared with the Israelis would be in its pre-minimized state.

The deal was reached in principle in March 2009, according to the undated memorandum, which lays out the ground rules for the intelligence sharing.

The five-page memorandum, termed an agreement between the US and Israeli intelligence agencies “pertaining to the protection of US persons”, repeatedly stresses the constitutional rights of Americans to privacy and the need for Israeli intelligence staff to respect these rights.

But this is undermined by the disclosure that Israel is allowed to receive “raw Sigint” – signal intelligence. The memorandum says: “Raw Sigint includes, but is not limited to, unevaluated and unminimized transcripts, gists, facsimiles, telex, voice and Digital Network Intelligence metadataand content.”

According to the agreement, the intelligence being shared would not be filtered in advance by NSA analysts to remove US communications. “NSA routinely sends ISNU [the Israeli Sigint National Unit] minimized and unminimized raw collection”, it says.

Although the memorandum is explicit in saying the material had to be handled in accordance with US law, and that the Israelis agreed not to deliberately target Americans identified in the data, these rules are not backed up by legal obligations.

“This agreement is not intended to create any legally enforceable rights and shall not be construed to be either an international agreement or a legally binding instrument according to international law,” the document says.

In a statement to the Guardian, an NSA spokesperson did not deny that personal data about Americans was included in raw intelligence data shared with the Israelis. But the agency insisted that the shared intelligence complied with all rules governing privacy.

“Any US person information that is acquired as a result of NSA’ssurveillance activities is handled under procedures that are designed to protect privacy rights,” the spokesperson said.

The NSA declined to answer specific questions about the agreement, including whether permission had been sought from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance (Fisa) court for handing over such material.

The memorandum of understanding, which the Guardian is publishing in full, allows Israel to retain “any files containing the identities of US persons” for up to a year. The agreement requests only that the Israelis should consult the NSA’s special liaison adviser when such data is found.

Notably, a much stricter rule was set for US government communications found in the raw intelligence. The Israelis were required to “destroy upon recognition” any communication “that is either to or from an official of the US government”. Such communications included those of “officials of the executive branch (including the White House, cabinet departments, and independent agencies), the US House of Representatives and Senate (member and staff) and the US federal court system (including, but not limited to, the supreme court)”.

It is not clear whether any communications involving members of US Congress or the federal courts have been included in the raw data provided by the NSA, nor is it clear how or why the NSA would be in possession of such communications. In 2009, however, the New York Times reported on “the agency’s attempt to wiretap a member of Congress, without court approval, on an overseas trip”.

The NSA is required by law to target only non-US persons without an individual warrant, but it can collect the content and metadata of Americans’ emails and calls without a warrant when such communication is with a foreign target. US persons are defined in surveillance legislation as US citizens, permanent residents and anyone located on US soil at the time of the interception, unless it has been positively established that they are not a citizen or permanent resident.

Moreover, with much of the world’s internet traffic passing through US networks, large numbers of purely domestic communications also get scooped up incidentally by the agency’s surveillance programs.

The document mentions only one check carried out by the NSA on the raw intelligence, saying the agency will “regularly review a sample of files transferred to ISNU to validate the absence of US persons’ identities”. It also requests that the Israelis limit access only to personnel with a “strict need to know”.

Israeli intelligence is allowed “to disseminate foreign intelligence information concerning US persons derived from raw Sigint by NSA” on condition that it does so “in a manner that does not identify the US person”. The agreement also allows Israel to release US person identities to “outside parties, including all INSU customers” with the NSA’s written permission.

Although Israel is one of America’s closest allies, it is not one of the inner core of countries involved in surveillance sharing with the US – Britain, Australia, Canada and New Zealand. This group is collectively known asFive Eyes.

The relationship between the US and Israel has been strained at times, both diplomatically and in terms of intelligence. In the top-secret 2013 intelligence community budget request, details of which were disclosed by the Washington Post , Israel is identified alongside Iran and China as a target for US cyberattacks.

While NSA documents tout the mutually beneficial relationship of Sigintsharing, another report, marked top secret and dated September 2007, states that the relationship, while central to US strategy, has become overwhelmingly one-sided in favor of Israel.

“Balancing the Sigint exchange equally between US and Israeli needs has been a constant challenge,” states the report, titled ‘History of the US – Israel Sigint Relationship, Post-1992′. “In the last decade, it arguably tilted heavily in favor of Israeli security concerns. 9/11 came, and went, with NSA’s only true Third Party [counter-terrorism] relationship being driven almost totally by the needs of the partner.”

newtear3 

In another top-secret document seen by the Guardian, dated 2008, a senior NSA official points out that Israel aggressively spies on the US. “On the one hand, the Israelis are extraordinarily good Sigint partners for us, but on the other, they target us to learn our positions on Middle East problems,” the official says. “A NIE [National Intelligence Estimate] ranked them as the third most aggressive intelligence service against the US.”

Later in the document, the official is quoted as saying: “One of NSA’s biggest threats is actually from friendly intelligence services, like Israel. There are parameters on what NSA shares with them, but the exchange is so robust, we sometimes share more than we intended.”

newtear1 

The memorandum of understanding also contains hints that there had been tensions in the intelligence-sharing relationship with Israel. At a meeting in March 2009 between the two agencies, according to the document, it was agreed that the sharing of raw data required a new framework and further training for Israeli personnel to protect US personinformation.

It is not clear whether or not this was because there had been problems up to that point in the handling of intelligence that was found to contain Americans’ data.

However, an earlier US document obtained by Snowden, which discusses co-operating on a military intelligence program, bluntly lists under the cons: “Trust issues which revolve around previous ISR [Israel] operations.”

newtear2 

The Guardian asked the Obama administration how many times US data had been found in the raw intelligence, either by the Israelis or when theNSA reviewed a sample of the files, but officials declined to provide this information. Nor would they disclose how many other countries the NSA shared raw data with, or whether the Fisa court, which is meant to oversee NSA surveillance programs and the procedures to handle US information, had signed off the agreement with Israel.

In its statement, the NSA said: “We are not going to comment on any specific information sharing arrangements, or the authority under which any such information is collected. The fact that intelligence services work together under specific and regulated conditions mutually strengthens the security of both nations.

“NSA cannot, however, use these relationships to circumvent US legal restrictions. Whenever we share intelligence information, we comply with all applicable rules, including the rules to protect US person information.”

Elon Musk: “Robots Could Be More Dangerous Than Nukes”

August 4, 2014 by  
Filed under Sci-Tech

Yeah – we all saw Terminator….. Reality may be worse. 

Defense One

Elon Musk, the Tesla and Space-X founder who is occasionally compared to comic book hero Tony Stark, is worried about a new villain that could threaten humanity—specifically the potential creation of an artificial intelligence that is radically smarter than humans, with catastrophic results:

Musk is talking about “Superintelligence: Paths, Dangers, Strategies” by Nick Bostrom of the University of Oxford’s Future of Humanity Institute. The book addresses the prospect of an artificial superintelligence that could feasibly be created in the next few decades. According to theorists, once the AI is able to make itself smarter, it would quickly surpass human intelligence.

 What would happen next? The consequences of such a radical development are inherently difficult to predict. But that hasn’t stopped philosophers, futurists, scientists and fiction writers from thinking very hard about some of the possible outcomes. The results of their thought experiments sound like science fiction—and maybe that’s exactly what Elon Musk is afraid of.

 

AIs: They’re not just like us

“We cannot blithely assume that a superintelligence will necessarily share any of the final values stereotypically associated with wisdom and intellectual development in humans—scientific curiosity, benevolent concern for others, spiritual enlightenment and contemplation, renunciation of material acquisitiveness, a taste for refined culture or for the simple pleasures in life, humility and selflessness, and so forth,” Bostrom has written (pdf, pg. 14). (Keep in mind, as well, that those values are often in short supply among humans.)

 

“It might be possible through deliberate effort to construct a superintelligence that values such things, or to build one that values human welfare, moral goodness, or any other complex purpose that its designers might want it to serve,” Bolstroms adds. “But it is no less possible—and probably technically easier—to build a superintelligence that places final value on nothing but calculating the decimals of pi.”

 

And it’s in the ruthless pursuit of those decimals that problems arise.

 

Unintended consequences

Artificial intelligences could be created with the best of intentions—to conduct scientific research aimed at curing cancer, for example. But when AIs become superhumanly intelligent, their single-minded realization of those goals could have apocalyptic consequences.

 

“The basic problem is that the strong realization of most motivations is incompatible with human existence,” Daniel Dewey, a research fellow at the Future of Humanity Institute, said in an extensive interview with Aeon magazine. “An AI might want to do certain things with matter in order to achieve a goal, things like building giant computers, or other large-scale engineering projects. Those things might involve intermediary steps, like tearing apart the Earth to make huge solar panels. A superintelligence might not take our interests into consideration in those situations, just like we don’t take root systems or ant colonies into account when we go to construct a building.”

 

Put another way by AI theorist Eliezer Yudkowsky of the Machine Intelligence Research Institute: “The AI does not love you, nor does it hate you, but you are made of atoms it can use for something else.”

 

Be careful what you wish for

Say you’re an AI researcher and you’ve decided to build an altruistic intelligence—something that is directed to maximize human happiness. As Ross Anderson of Aeon noted, “an AI might think that human happiness is a biochemical phenomenon. It might think that flooding your bloodstream with non-lethal doses of heroin” is the best way to reach that goal.

 

Or what if you direct the AI to “protect human life”—nothing wrong with that, right? Except  if theAI, vastly intelligent and unencumbered by human conceptions of right and wrong, decides that the best way to protect humans is to physically restrain them and lock them into climate-controlled rooms, so they can’t do any harm to themselves or others? Human lives would be safe, but it wouldn’t be much consolation.

 

AI Mission Accomplished

James Barrat, the author of “Our Final Invention: Artificial Intelligence and the End of the Human Era,” (another book endorsed by Musk) suggests that AIs, whatever their ostensible purpose, will have a drive for self-preservation and resource acquisition. Barrat concludes that “without meticulous, countervailing instructions, a self-aware, self-improving, goal-seeking system will go to lengths we’d deem ridiculous to fulfill its goals.”

 

Even an AI custom-built for a specific purpose could interpret its mission to disastrous effect. Here’s Stuart Armstrong of the Future of Humanity Institute in an interview with The Next Web:

 

Take an anti-virus program that’s dedicated to filtering out viruses from incoming emails and wants to achieve the highest success, and is cunning and you make that super-intelligent. Well it will realize that, say, killing everybody is a solution to its problems, because if it kills everyone and shuts down every computer, no more emails will be sent and and as a side effect no viruses will be sent. This is sort of a silly example but the point it illustrates is that for so many desires or motivations or programmings, “kill all humans” is an outcome that is desirable in their programming.

 

Even an “oracular” AI could be dangerous

Ok, what if we create a computer that can only answer questions posed to it by humans. What could possibly go wrong? Here’s Dewey again:

 

Let’s say the Oracle AI has some goal it wants to achieve. Say you’ve designed it as a reinforcement learner, and you’ve put a button on the side of it, and when it gets an engineering problem right, you press the button and that’s its reward. Its goal is to maximize the number of button presses it receives over the entire future.

 

Eventually the AI—which, remember, is unimaginably smart compared to the smartest humans—might figure out a way to escape the computer lab and make its way into the physical world, perhaps by bribing or threatening a human stooge into creating a virus or a special-purpose nanomachine factory. And then it’s off to the races. Dewey:

 

Now this thing is running on nanomachines and it can make any kind of technology it wants, so it quickly converts a large fraction of Earth into machines that protect its button, while pressing it as many times per second as possible. After that it’s going to make a list of possible threats to future button presses, a list that humans would likely be at the top of. Then it might take on the threat of potential asteroid impacts, or the eventual expansion of the Sun, both of which could affect its special button.

+

 

Roko’s Basilisk

The dire scenarios listed above are only the consequences of a benevolent AI, or at worst one that’s indifferent to the needs and desires of humanity. But what if there was a malicious artificial intelligence that not only wished to do us harm, but that retroactively punished every person who refused to help create it in the first place?

 

This theory is a mind-boggler, most recently explained in great detail by Slate, but it goes something like this: An omniscient evil AI that is created at some future date has the ability to simulate the universe itself, along with everyone who has ever lived. And if you don’t help the AIcome into being, it will torture the simulated version of you—and, P.S., we might be living in that simulation already.

 

This thought experiment was deemed so dangerous by Eliezer “The AI does not love you” Yudkowsky that he has deleted all mentions of it on LessWrong, the website he founded where people discuss these sorts of conundrums. His reaction, as highlighted by Slate, is worth quoting in full:

 

Listen to me very closely, you idiot.
YOU DO NOT THINK IN SUFFICIENT DETAIL ABOUT SUPERINTELLIGENCES CONSIDERINGWHETHER OR NOT TO BLACKMAIL YOU. THAT IS THE ONLY POSSIBLE THING WHICH GIVESTHEM A MOTIVE TO FOLLOW THROUGH ON THE BLACKMAIL.
You have to be really clever to come up with a genuinely dangerous thought.

Big Brother is Watching What You Eat… And Encouraging You Through a Talking Grocery Cart?

July 19, 2014 by  
Filed under Sci-Tech

This is how WE do it

 

With the claimed interest in making sure we eat allegedly “sustainable” food, you would think that these food dictators would want to make sure that they used economical means to promote good food. But you would be wrong if you thought that.

Instead, our food masters want to make us vegetarians through extravagant technological innovations.

The concept is bizarre since it is being widely acknowledged that people resent and resist attempts to dictate to them what they should eat. Even children resent it. Adults resent it much more.

According to the Free Beacon,

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is suggesting major changes to grocery stores to “nudge” Americans to purchase healthier foods when they shop.

The agency commissioned an “expert panel” to make recommendations on how to guide the more than 47 million Americans on food stamps into spending their benefits on fruits and vegetables.

The group released an 80-page report this month presenting their ideas, which include talking shopping carts and a marketing strategy for grocery chains that would feature better store lighting for healthier items.

“Most Americans, including Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) participants, do not purchase enough whole grains, dark green and orange vegetables, and legumes, and purchase too many items with excess calories from fats and added sugars,” the report said.

“At the same time, the food retail environment is saturated with food marketing messages, including health and nutrition claims and information, advertisements, and promotions for many unhealthy food items,” it said.

For the record, I am skeptical that the USDA knows what it is talking about when it says we need to get more whole grains or legumes, or when it complains about how many calories come from fat. But whether or not I am right, blaming food choices on “advertisements and promotions,” is simply false. We already know that food companies use sugar because consumers want it. I wish they didn’t, but they do.

But having the simplistic notion that food companies simply control consumers, the USDA then justifies the idea that they can control consumers.

The “MyCart grocery cart” would provide dividers for shoppers to make sure they are selecting enough items in each “MyPlate” category, the USDA’s food icon.

“MyCart is a nonfinancial approach that would use behavioral economics to encourage healthier purchases by any consumer, including SNAP participants,” the report said.

The cart would be color-coded, physically divided, and have a system installed so that when the shopping cart reaches its healthy “threshold” it would congratulate the customer.

“The algorithm would group the purchases to classify them using the MyPlate designations and to provide consumers with a message of support or encouragement (e.g., “You achieved a MyCart healthy shopping basket!”),” the report said.

The panel based this approach on a $999,891 government-funded study entitled “Nudging Nutrition,” arguing the research “suggests an intervention of this sort might be successful in modifying consumer shopping behavior.”

So despite the claims of Michelle Obama that women shopping for their families need better information, the truth is that they simply need to be manipulated by bells and whistles.

And how much is this going to cost?

“To accompany the approach, a MyCart shelf tag could be created to identify healthier items on shelves,” the report said. “Consumers could be guided to healthier choices through the use of visual displays and other signage, including ceiling banners, refrigerator and freezer door clings, and shelf talkers.”

The report estimated that implementing the new carts would cost roughly $30,000 for every store. The change would be costly. For instance, Safeway, Inc. would need to spend $40.05 million to introduce the carts at its 1,335 stores in the U.S.

How exactly is that a sustainable way to grocery shop? This seems more like a stimulus project than anything else. We are supposed to spend millions of dollars to invest in technology that probably won’t work.
Read more at political outcast

Chilling new details on cold-storage smallpox

July 16, 2014 by  
Filed under Sci-Tech

Just hours after members of Congress grilled the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention about his agency’s mistakes with anthrax and bird flu, another federal health agency provided an update on its mistakes with vials of deadly smallpox virus.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration revealed that more than 300 other sealed vials containing biological materials such as dengue, influzena, Q fever, ricksettsia and other possible unknown viruses were found alongside the six forgotten smallpox vials in the storage room on the National Institutes of Health campus.

The FDA commissioner has asked for a sweep of all cold storage facilities under FDA jurisdiction, said Karen Midthun, director of FDA Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research.

“The fact that these materials were not discovered until now is unacceptable,” Midthun said. “We take this matter very seriously and we’re working to make sure it won’t happen again.”

Full Article

US government says online storage isn’t protected by the Fourth Amendment

July 14, 2014 by  
Filed under Police State, Sci-Tech

A couple months ago, a New York judge ruled that US search warrants applied to digital information even if they were stored overseas. The decision came about as part of an effort to dig up a Microsoft user’s account information stored on a server in Dublin, Ireland. Microsoft responded to the ruling and challenged it, stating that the government’s longstanding views of digital content on foreign servers are wrong, and that the protections applied to physical materials should be extended to digital content. In briefs filed last week, however, the US government countered. It states that according to the Stored Communications Act (SCA), content stored online simply do not have the same Fourth Amendment protections as physical data:

Overseas records must be disclosed domestically when a valid subpoena, order, or warrant compels their production. The disclosure of records under such circumstances has never been considered tantamount to a physical search under Fourth Amendment principles, and Microsoft is mistaken to argue that the SCA provides for an overseas search here. As there is no overseas search or seizure, Microsoft’s reliance on principles of extra-territoriality and comity falls wide of the mark.

From the Justice Department’s point of view, this law is necessary in an age where “fraudsters” and “hackers” use electronic communications in not just the U.S. but abroad as well. Indeed, the Microsoft account in this case is in relation to a drug-trafficking investigation.

Full Article

C.D.C. Shuts Labs After Accidents with Pathogens

July 11, 2014 by  
Filed under Americas, Sci-Tech

After potentially serious back-to-back laboratory accidents, federal health officials announced Friday that they had temporarily closed the flu and anthrax laboratories at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta and halted shipments of all infectious agents from the agency’s highest-security labs.

The accidents, and the C.D.C.’s emphatic response to them, could have important consequences for the many laboratories that store high-risk agents and the few that, even more controversially, specialize in making them more dangerous for research purposes.

If the C.D.C. — which the agency’s director, Dr. Thomas Frieden, called “the reference laboratory to the world” — had multiple accidents that could, in theory, have killed both staff members and people outside, there will undoubtedly be calls for stricter controls on other university, military and private laboratories.

Full Article

Super Volcano is Bigger

July 11, 2014 by  
Filed under Sci-Tech

YELLOWSTONE NATIONAL PARK -

The world’s authority on Yellowstone’s Super Volcano says it’s more than twice as big as scientists once thought. Does that mean it’s more likely to blow up soon? Penny Preston found Dr. Robert Smith at his home near Grand Teton, and found the answer.

Millions of people visit Yellowstone each year to see its geysers, fumeroles, hot springs, and mud pots. It’s the largest concentration of thermal features in the world. The park sits on top of the world’s largest active volcano. The Super Volcano. Its most recent eruption was more than 600,000 years ago. All that remains is the top, or caldera.

When you come into the Park they’ll give you a map and it has an overlay of the caldera. It’s huge.

The scientist who knows more about the Super Volcano than anyone, Dr. Robert Smith of the University of Utah, said, “Anytime you come to Yellowstone you have to drive uphill. And the reason is this giant plume of magma, is very hot, therefore it’s bullient, low density and it just lifts the surface up.”

Dr. Smith has been studying Yellowstone’s earthquakes and it’s Super Volcanos for almost sixty years.

He pointed out, “And these giant eruptions, supervolcanos if you wish, probably last many, many months, maybe even years.”

Full Article

The U.S. military is not-so-shockingly studying your Facebook and Twitter habits

July 9, 2014 by  
Filed under Police State, Sci-Tech

It should come as no surprise in the era of Edward Snowden that the U.S. military is keeping an eye on your social media habits, but the Defense Department is also funding Facebook-style behavioral experiments on you.

The Guardian reported Tuesday that DARPA, the Defense Department’s research arm, has given millions of dollars to projects that examine activity on Facebook, Twitter, Digg, Reddit, Pinterest, and other social networks as part of its Social Media in Strategic Communication program. According to the newspaper, one of the studies involved sending messages to users to gauge their responses. DARPA even looked at Lady Gaga and Justin Bieber’s Twitter accounts to determine how messages spread across the network.

The military also looked at Kickstarter projects. The potato salad crowdfunding campaign would actually make more sense if it turned out to be a government conspiracy.

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