Saturday, July 27, 2013
Sequestration means a herky-jerky start to the school year for about 84,000 kids on military bases.
Although the 200 schools run by the Defense Department plan to make the start of the year as smooth as possible, students will be out of school for five days between the start of classes and Sept. 21 because of employee furloughs that affect teachers, principals, and other school employees.
Thursday, July 25, 2013
The U.S. government has demanded that major Internet companies divulge users' stored passwords, according to two industry sources familiar with these orders, which represent an escalation in surveillance techniques that has not previously been disclosed.
If the government is able to determine a person's password, which is typically stored in encrypted form, the credential could be used to log in to an account to peruse confidential correspondence or even impersonate the user. Obtaining it also would aid in deciphering encrypted devices in situations where passwords are reused.
"I've certainly seen them ask for passwords," said one Internet industry source who spoke on condition of anonymity. "We push back."
A second person who has worked at a large Silicon Valley company confirmed that it received legal requests from the federal government for stored passwords. Companies "really heavily scrutinize" these requests, the person said. "There's a lot of 'over my dead body.'"
Some of the government orders demand not only a user's password but also the encryption algorithm and the so-called salt, according to a person familiar with the requests. A salt is a random string of letters or numbers used to make it more difficult to reverse the encryption process and determine the original password. Other orders demand the secret question codes often associated with user accounts....
Wednesday, July 24, 2013
WASHINGTON — A senior member of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence urged fellow legislators Tuesday to rein in sweeping data collection programs before they become an irreversible part of American society.
Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., made the plea in a speech at the Center for American Progress, a liberal Washington think tank, as senior intelligence community officials visited Congress to lobby against a proposal that could be voted on as soon as Wednesday that would cut funding for the National Security Agency’s collection of cellphone records and would place limits on the amount of data the NSA could collect.
Army Gen. Keith Alexander, the NSA’s director, met with several members of the House of Representatives, and he and NSA Deputy Director John Inglis were later seen going in to a closed-door meeting with the Senate Intelligence Committee.
Although bipartisan support makes the passage of the limitations possible in the House, the chances of their making it through the Senate are slim. Senate Intelligence Committee Chairwoman Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., and ranking committee member Saxby Chambliss, R-Ga., defended the surveillance program and encouraged legislators to continue its funding....
-bth: throttling spending is the only option left as normal legal restraints have been circumvented in the last decade.
...“Water shortages will severely limit thermal power capacity additions,” said Charles Yonts, head of sustainable research at brokerage CLSA Asia-Pacific Markets in Hong Kong. “You can’t reconcile targets for coal production in, say, Shanxi province and Inner Mongolia with their water targets.”
Coal industries and power stations use as much as 17 percent of China’s water, and almost all of the collieries are in the vast energy basin in the north that is also one of the country’s driest regions. By 2020 the government plans to boost coal-fired power by twice the total generating capacity of India.
About half of China’s rivers have dried up since 1990 and those that remain are mostly contaminated. Without enough water, coal can’t be mined, new power stations can’t run and the economy can’t grow. At least 80 percent of the nation’s coal comes from regions where the United Nations says water supplies are either “stressed” or in “absolute scarcity.”...
The water that does exist is mostly polluted. A government survey published in February shows that only about a quarter of the groundwater in the North China Plain -- an area that’s bigger than Greece and includes Beijing and Tianjin, the province of Hebei and parts of Henan and Shandong -- is fit for human consumption....
Severe water pollution affects 75 percent of China’s rivers and lakes and 28 percent are unsuitable even for agricultural use, according to the 2012 book “China’s Environmental Challenges,” by Judith Shapiro, director of the Masters program in Natural Resources and Sustainable Development at the School of International Service at American University in Washington....
-bth: well worth reading in full. So water throttles coal production in China.
Tuesday, July 23, 2013
The U.S. military in Afghanistan spent $32 million to prevent Improvised Explosive Device attacks after more than 600 troops were killed, but brass has no proof the pricey effort was effective — or even implemented.
A shocking investigation by the top U.S. watchdog in Afghanistan discovered the military doesn’t know if the anti-IED devices are functioning or were even installed.
These “culvert denial systems” are supposed to safeguard U.S. troops and Afghan civilians from the explosive devises, but a report by the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction said “it is unclear whether or not culvert denial systems are functioning or, in some cases, where even installed.”
The IG already found two Afghan contractors who billed the U.S. government $1 million for the installation of 250 such devices, but then never completed the work or did it haphazardly.
There are at least 2,500 places where the prevention devices were supposed to be installed, the IG said, but a lack of documentation and oversight means no one’s certain if they ever actually were.
“It is important to know where culvert denial systems have been installed and what condition they are in to prevent any further loss of life from the placement of IEDs in roadside culverts,” the report said.
An estimated 600 U.S. troops have been killed, and almost 5,000 wounded from IED explosions in Afghanistan since 2001, according to data from the Pentagon and the think-tank Center for Strategic and International Studies....
On August 7, he could also be known for being sentenced to 25 years in a federal prison.
Brooks, 58, owner of a Pompano Beach-based company that made bullet-proof vests designed to save the lives of U.S. Marines in Iraq, is scheduled to be told on that day how he’ll pay for convictions on a litany of charges, including fraud, insider trading and obstruction of justice.
The multi-millionaire, who used to throw bat mitzvahs with Aerosmith, Tom Petty and The Eagles as the featured entertainers, is accused of reaping illegally $200 million from his schemes.
And to prepare for his sentencing, Brooks is spending big bucks on an all-star legal team that includes former Claus Von Bulow defender Alan Dershowitz; Miami legal eagle David Goldstein, who recently secured a $3.4 million judgment against rapper Lil Wayne; and New York criminal law guru Jerry Shargel.
Already, according to federal court records, the dream teamers have gone to work.
They’ve alleged a government cover up and legal errors. They wrote in a motion that the term of the grand jury that indicted Brooks was expired when it rendered its indictment.
There’s also a hint of misconduct from the part of the prosecutors, who said the case against Brooks was about “naked greed.”
Hoping for 10 years
Goldstein declined comment ahead of the sentencing.
A source in Brook’s camp who asked to remain anonymous, however, said Brooks is hoping for a 10-year sentence — although he’s facing up to 25 years.
At the head of DHB Industries, Brooks was the leading supplier of body armors for the U.S. Military. But he was found guilty of using the company’s coffers as his personal piggy, and conspiring to inflate the value of the company.
-bth: apologies to Mr Lambiet for carrying his article in full. But I've been after Brooks for 8 or 9 years ever since he got away with making bad body armor at DHB and before the information became public he dumped his stock before his investors found out. Then when it went public the stock crashed, but he had his cash. So the government went after him on financials instead of the failure in QA on body armor that caused the problem in the first place. Did marines die over this? Likely. A few years ago his brother was caught moving duffle bags of cash through safety deposit boxes in London. Ten years for $200 million. Crime pays I guess. With bad body armor though, marines pay for your transgression. I hope this bastard rots in jail for the rest of his life.
...“Clearly six months into his second term there’s been falloff across the board. It’s not like one group bailed on him,” said Lee Miringoff, director of the Marist Institute for Public Opinion at Marist College in New York, which conducted the poll.
About his only solace is that the approval rating of congressional Republicans, who control the House of Representatives, sank to 22 percent. One-third of registered voters approved of congressional Democrats’ performance.
The dismal Washington numbers reflect “the ongoing, cumulative effect of those issues which have not been resolved” and no solution is in sight, Miringoff said. Lawmakers remain at odds over how to trim federal deficits or write a federal budget for the fiscal year that starts Oct. 1, and Congress plans to leave Aug. 2 for a five-week recess.
Adding to the feeling of political inertia has been the distractions of other issues.
“When (Obama) gets away from talking about the economy, numbers have a tendency to slide,” Miringoff said....
-bth: Americans view them as weak leaders, no longer willing to fight for the middle class and so do not trust them.
...What has America’s 12-year engagement in Afghanistan helped achieve? Quite a lot, according to the State Department’s Special Representative for Afghanistan, James Dobbins.
“Life expectancy has gone from 44 years to 60 years. Afghanistan has gone from having the worst literacy rate in the entire world, maybe 15 percent, to 33 percent literacy today. Going from one TV station that was government-owned to 75, nearly all independent. Going from 40,000 telephones to 18 million telephones. Cell phone coverage going from zero to 90 percent of the country. These are pretty remarkable outcomes," said Dobbins......
BAGHDAD — Hundreds of extremists were feared to be on the run in Iraq on Monday after al-Qaeda’s affiliate in the country launched a major assault on the infamous Abu Ghraib prison, offering a fresh boost to the group’s resurgent fortunes in Iraq and in Syria.
Iraq’s Interior Ministry said in a statement that an unspecified number of prisoners had escaped from Abu Ghraib but none from a second facility that also came under assault. In Washington, U.S. officials closely monitoring the jailbreak said the number of escapees was thought to be 500 to 600, including a significant number of al-Qaeda operatives.
Members of the Iraqi parliament who said they had been briefed by security officials asserted that the escapees included some top “emirs,” or leaders, of the al-Qaeda in Iraq franchise, many of whom had been captured by U.S. troops....
The 'female Schindler' who saved 2,500 Jewish children but died wishing she'd rescued more -- DailyMail
She smuggled out the children in suitcases, ambulances, coffins, sewer pipes, rucksacks and, on one occasion, even a tool box.
Those old enough to ask knew their saviour only by her codename "Jolanta".
But she kept hidden a meticulous record of all their real names and new identities - created to protect the Jewish youngsters from the pursuing Nazis - so they might later be re-united with their families.
Her finest hour: Irena Sendler rescued thousands of Jewish children
By any measure, Irena Sendler was one of the most remarkable and noble figures to have emerged from the horrors of World War II. But, until recently, her extraordinary compassion and heroism went largely unrecorded.
When the Germans finally caught her, the Roman Catholic social worker had managed to save 2,500 Jewish babies and toddlers from deportation to the concentration camps.
She had spirited them out of the heavily-guarded Jewish ghetto in Warsaw, and hidden their identities in two glass jars buried under an apple tree in her neighbour's garden.
She was beaten, tortured and sentenced to death by the Gestapo - who even announced her execution. But Irena survived, her spirit unbroken, her secrets untold.
She died last week, in her modest Warsaw apartment, aged 98. What a woman she was. For once, the term "heroine" is no exaggeration, though such plaudits did not sit easily with her.
She said: "I was brought up to believe that a person must be rescued when drowning, regardless of religion and nationality.
"The term 'heroine' irritates me greatly. The opposite is true. I continue to have pangs of conscience that I did so little."...
-bth: worth reading in full.
...Ono said that an estimated 1,972 plant workers, or 10 percent of those checked, had thyroid exposure doses exceeding 100 millisieverts – a threshold for increased risk of developing cancer – instead of the 178 based on checks of 522 workers reported to the World Health Organization last year.