Monthly Archives: June 2015

Peter Thiel, N.T. Wright On Technology, Hope, And The End Of Death

It turns out that Peter Thiel quotes Hamlet.

For Thiel, a line in the play’s second scene throws open the pessimism that runs throughout the tragedy and, in his opinion, our current cultural moment. “Thou know’st ‘tis common; all that lives must die,” says Gertrude to her son, Hamlet. Her words are a cold comfort to the young prince, who is grieving the death of his father. All that lives must die. “At some level it’s a statement about reality. At another level,” Thiel postulates, “it’s a statement about accepting the rottenness that is in Denmark.” Death is a fact of life, Gertrude says. There’s nothing to be done. Get over it.

But Peter Thiel isn’t getting over it.

“Why,” he asks, “must we die?”

On a recent Monday evening in San Francisco, 700 members of the Silicon Valley tech scene swarmed the SF JAZZ Center for something of a fireside chat between Peter Thiel and N.T. Wright, hosted by The Veritas Forum. It’s not unusual for the technorati to show up in droves to hear from the billionaire technologist-philosopher Thiel, who co-founded Paypal, made the first outside investment in Facebook, and co-founded the behemoth private data analytics firm, Palantir (recently valued at $15 billion). He is one of the most successful tech investors in history, and has been called “America’s leading public intellectual” by Fortune magazine. Thiel’s fans have made his new book on entrepreneurship, Zero to One, an instant bestseller. But this Monday night he drew a crowd for an unusual reason: to talk about death and God with one of the world’s leading Christian theologians.

N.T. Wright, bald and bearded with the Gandalf-wise accent of the British upper crust, is known simply as “Tom” in personal conversation, but has been hailed by Time Magazine as “one of the most formidable figures in the world of Christian thought.” He is an Anglican priest and former Bishop of Durham and has taught at McGill, Cambridge, Oxford, and now at St. Andrews University in Scotland. The author of dozens of academic and popular books on theology, Wright is both prolific and profound. And like Thiel, N.T. Wright holds some non-conformist views about the reality of death that make some people quite uncomfortable.

I listened to Thiel and Wright during their public conversation and had the chance to sit down with them privately. I came away with a new perspective on religious faith and the prospect of death. I also grew more convinced that there is a dangerous lack of moral philosophy and theological reflection about the rapidly emerging technologies that are forever changing our understanding of death and of life itself.

The Undiscovered Country

Peter Thiel sat on the stage in a trim suit and open-collared white oxford. He has made more than $2 billion by betting big on contrarian ideas that cut against the conventional wisdom. To hear him speak can remind you of the smallness of your own dreams. So it was unsurprising that the conversation this evening eventually turned to what is perhaps his most ambitious project and most controversial idea: trying to extend human life indefinitely.

Thiel, whose speech patterns combine a jarring number of unsure-sounding “ahs” and “ums” with some confidently stated and precisely articulated original aphorisms, summarized the basis of his interest in life extension in the self-evident way an intelligent ten year-old might: “I think the thing that’s really incompatible with life is death.”

The line drew laughter, but one got the feeling the joke was unintentional. For Thiel, life is a self-evident good and death is the opposite of life. Therefore death is a problem, and as he says there are three main ways of approaching it. “You can accept it, you can deny it or you can fight it. I think our society is dominated by people who are into denial or acceptance, and I prefer to fight it.” Whether we can successfully fight death is a question about the nature of nature and about our ability to understand it. Whether we should try to fight death is a question of our philosophy and our theology.

In his Pulitzer Prize-winning book, The Denial of Death, psychologist Ernest Becker argued that death, or more precisely our fear of death, is the primary driving force in human culture. Unique among the animals, humans are aware that someday we will die. The fundamental irony of our life is that we are so limited that not one of us can escape death, yet we are so magnificent that every one of us conscious of the factwe can’t escape it.

“Man is literally split in two: he has an awareness of his own splendid uniqueness in that he sticks out of nature with a towering majesty, and yet he goes back into the ground a few feet in order to blindly and dumbly rot and disappear forever…”

Most of us, most of the time don’t think about our own mortality. We avoid the idea because if we really think about it, it is terrifying.


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French senators reject ‘deep sleep’ bill

The French senate has rejected a bill that would legalise ‘deep sedation’ – known as passive euthanasia by critics – of patients with a terminal and incurable illness.

The bill, passed by a significant majority in the legislative assembly in March, would allow doctors to put patients into an irreversible comatose state and withdraw life-sustaining treatment. The bill goes even further, stipulating that doctors would be obliged to follow end-of-life instructions from patients regarding terminal sedation and stopping treatments if they agree the practices wouldn’t improve their condition.

Unlike the lower house, the senate was overwhelmingly against the bill, voting it down 196-87.

Les Républicains (LR) senators attempted to attenuate the bill (removing the clause “continue until death”) and have it passed, but a majority of left and centrist senators rejected the altered bill.

It will now return to the legislative assembly for a second reading. Minister of Social Affairs and Health Marisol Touraine said she is hopeful the lower house can draft a more palatable revised bill for the senate.

“The Senate’s overwhelming rejection is good news for ethical medicine–at least for now”, wrote bioethicist Wesley Smith.


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You are free to crowdfund: Kickstarter wins its first patent case

Crowdfunding platform Kickstarter was approached by a competing platform, ArtistShare, in 2011. Just what happened next is disputed. ArtistShare founder Brian Camelio says he wanted to strike a business deal with Kickstarter.

In court papers, Kickstarter said that Camelio had a patent he said Kickstarter was infringing, and Camello intended to sue. Kickstarter took the matter to court first, filing a lawsuit seeking to invalidate the patent. The move left Camelio “stunned and disappointed,” he said in a 2011 interview.

This week, Camelio, who founded ArtistShare in 2003, may be even more disappointed. His patent, “Methods and Apparatuses for Financing and Marketing a Creative Work,” is no more. It was invalidated in an order (PDF) published yesterday, four years after his dispute with Kickstarter began.

Over the course of the litigation, the patent landscape changed considerably. In particular, last year’s Alice Corp. Supreme Court decision made it easier to knock out some computer-related patents as “abstract.”

In the lawsuit, ArtistShare tried to convince the judge to allow its patent, claiming that it wasn’t trying to own crowdfunding. ArtistShare lawyers insisted that the patent wasn’t overly general and said that it covered “particular systems for managing, marketing, and financing a creative work.”

“Defendants’ repetition of words like ‘particular’ and ‘specific’ in bold italics when referring to the claims in the ‘887 Patent does not make them so,” wrote US District Judge Katherine Failla in yesterday’s order.


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Helium is LEAKING from massive earthquake fault in LA raising fears ‘big one’ could be more devastating than thought

UC Santa Barbara geologist Jim Boles found evidence of helium leakage from the Earth’s mantle along a 30-mile stretch of the Newport-Inglewood Fault Zone in the Los Angeles Basin.

He claims the results show that the Newport-Inglewood fault is deeper than scientists previously thought.

Using samples of casing gas from two dozen oil wells ranging from LA’s Westside to Newport Beach in Orange County, Boles discovered that more than one-third of the sites show evidence of high levels of helium-3 (3He).

‘The results are unexpected for the area, because the LA Basin is different from where most mantle helium anomalies occur,’ said Boles, professor emeritus in UCSB’s Department of Earth Science.

‘The Newport-Inglewood fault appears to sit on a 30-million-year-old subduction zone, so it is surprising that it maintains a significant pathway through the crust.’

Considered primordial, 3He is a vestige of the Big Bang, and its only terrestrial source is the mantle.

Boles’s findings appear in Geochemistry, Geophysics, Geosystems (G-Cubed), an electronic journal of the American Geophysical Union and the Geochemical Society.

When Boles and his co-authors analyzed the 24 gas samples, they found that high levels of 3He inversely correlate with carbon dioxide (CO2), which Boles noted acts as a carrier gas for 3He.

An analysis showed that the CO2 was also from the mantle, confirming leakage from deep inside the Earth.

Blueschist found at the bottom of nearby deep wells indicates that the Newport-Inglewood fault is an ancient subduction zone – where two tectonic plates collide – even though its location is more than 40 miles west of the current plate boundary of the San Andreas Fault System.

Found 20 miles down, blueschist is a metamorphic rock only revealed when regurgitated to the surface via geologic upheaval.


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Transhumanists Helping the Ugandan Mountain Community of Kyarumba

The small community of Kyarumba, Uganda, is located in the southern end of Rwenzori Mountains (aka Mountains of the Moon). It straddles a wild river that is prone to flooding. The community recently got electricity.

In January 2015, I met up with Hank Pellissier and we spent half a day in Kyarumba, getting to know the needs of the villagers. Hank provided assistance to a community woodworking-training center and to a science center funded by the Mormon Transhumanist Association, the Christian Transhumanist Association, and Alcor Life Extension Foundation.

My friends and I constructed a 4-seat swing set (with financial assistance from Hank) at the local primary school.

Yesterday (June 2015), I returned to Kyarumba. We provided some power tools to the woodworking shop, were entertained by the students at the primary school (where the swing was constructed), and provided educational games (a gift from Hank) to the science center. The center is well maintained and well used by the local students.


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Musk seeks permission from the FCC to test his ambitious space internet

Later last year, ZME Science revealed that one of Elon Musk’s top priorities in the future is deploying a massive fleet of micro-satellites into Earth’s low orbit to provide  internet and mobile data. The plan is to serve internet to billions in the developing world, but to do so the service needs to be very, very cheap. At the same time, while launching thousands of satellites into space doesn’t sound particularly cheap, but if there’s any company good at launching cargo into space affordably that’s  SpaceX. This isn’t exactly a pipe dream, and Musk seems very serious about it considering he just filled an official request to the FCC to gain permission for a test of the satellite internet, according to the Washington Post.

If you live in a well connected city, you won’t need satellite internet. After all, right now it’s at least 10 times slower than fiber optic since there are quite a few lengthy connections that need to be made. When you’re on satellite internet and want to access a website, the request first goes out of the computer to the modem, out to the dish which transmits the data to the satellite. The signal is then bounced back from about 22,000 miles up (where the geosynchronous satellites orbit) to ground-based stations called gateways. The gateways have large antennas which they use to pick up the signal from the consumer’s home, what website they want to go to, and using the terrestrial system connect with the Internet, grab the data, take it back to the gateway, shoot it back up to the sky and back down to the consumer’s home. Sounds very complicated (it’s a lot more in practice), but the whole process still only lasts 500ms or half a second. This is still quite a lot if you play video games or need lag-free voice data, but still better than nothing if you live in the middle of nowhere or there’s no fiber optic infrastructure, like in most developing countries.


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Feds Force Editor to Rat out Commenters

I think we all know how crazy the comment section of any website can get. If you’ve used the internet for more than five minutes in your entire life, you know that anonymity creates an environment where people can say whatever they want; and sometimes, the things they say can get pretty heated. But no matter how vindictive, blustering, or threatening a comment may be, it’s pretty rare for the commenter to act on it in the real world.

But try telling that to the US District Court for the Southern District of New York. According to an editor for, they were subpoenaed by the court after they published an article on the prosecution of Ross Ulbricht. Some of the readers had blasted Judge Katherine Forrest with comments like, she should be “taken out back and shot” and “I hope there is a special place in hell reserved for that horrible woman” among other colorful phrases. The court then tried to force to release all information that would identify the commenters “such as IP addresses, names, emails, and other information.” They were later issued a gag order, and weren’t allowed to share this fact with anyone, or even the fact that they were under a gag order.

The editor has since contended that none of the comments were genuine threats, and that the court’s reaction was completely unnecessary. He even suggests that the court issued the subpoena to punish them for their critical analyses of the trial. I wouldn’t put it past them.


Categories: government, technology | Tags: , , ,

A Computers Heat Could Divulge Top Secrets

The most secure computers in the world can’t “Google” a thing—they are disconnected from the Internet and all other networks. The U.S. military and the National Security Agency rely on this attack-prevention measure, known as air-gapping, as does The Intercept, the media outlet co-founded by Glenn Greenwald, who was instrumental in disclosing the nsa’s extensive domestic surveillance program. But where there’s a will, there’s a way: a team of doctoral students at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev in Israel announced it can obtain information from an air-gapped computer by reading messages encoded in the heat given off, like smoke signals, by its processors.

All computers have built-in thermal sensors, which detect the heat produced by processors and trigger the rotation of fans to avoid damage to components. To achieve the hack in an office setting, snoopers would infect two adjacent desktop PCs—one air-gapped, the other connected to the Internet—with malware that can take control of the machines and enable them to decode messages hidden in the sensor data. A virus carrying the malware could infect the Internet-connected machine fairly easily, whereas a USB drive or other hardware approach would be required with the air-gapped machine—a feat that could prove difficult at high-security locations.


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Gay marriage is a distraction: remember Manning

The Drum

In the week Barack Obama received the Nobel Peace Prize in 2009, he ordered bombing attacks on Yemen, killing a reported 63 people, 28 of them children.

When Obama recently announced he supported same-sex marriage, American planes had not long blown 14 Afghan civilians to bits.

In both cases, the mass murder was barely news. What mattered were the cynical vacuities of a political celebrity, the product of a zeitgeist driven by the forces of consumerism and the media with the aim of diverting the struggle for social and economic justice.

The award of the Nobel Prize to the first black president because he “offered hope” was both absurd and an authentic expression of the lifestyle liberalism that controls much of political debate in the West.

Same-sex marriage is one such distraction. No “issue” diverts attention as successfully as this: not the free vote in Parliament on lowering the age of gay consent promoted by the noted libertarian and war criminal Tony Blair; not the cracks in “glass ceilings” that contribute nothing to women’s liberation and merely amplify the demands of bourgeois privilege.

Legal obstacles should not prevent people marrying each other, regardless of gender. But this is a civil and private matter; bourgeois acceptability is not yet a human right.

The rights historically associated with marriage are those of property: capitalism itself. Elevating the “right” of marriage above the right to life and real justice is as profane as seeking allies among those who deny life and justice to so many, from Afghanistan to Palestine.

On May 9, hours before his Damascene declaration on same-sex marriage, Obama sent out messages to campaign donors making his new position clear. He asked for money. In response, according to the Washington Post, his campaign received a “massive surge of contributions”.

The following evening, with the news now dominated by his “conversion”, Obama attended a fundraising party at the Los Angeles home of the actor George Clooney. “Hollywood,” reported the Associated Press, “is home to some of the most high-profile backers of gay marriage, and the 150 donors who are paying $40,000 to attend Clooney’s dinner will no doubt feel invigorated by Obama’s watershed announcement the day before.”

The Clooney party is expected to raise a record $15 million for Obama’s re-election and will be followed by “yet another fundraiser in New York sponsored by gay and Latino Obama supporters”.

The width of a cigarette paper separates the Democratic and Republican parties on economic and foreign policies. Both represent the super rich and the impoverishment of a nation from which trillions of tax dollars have been transferred to a permanent war industry and banks that are little more than criminal enterprises.

Obama is as reactionary and violent as George W Bush, and in some ways he is worse. His personal speciality is the use of Hellfire missile-armed drones against defenceless people.

Under cover of a partial withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan, he has sent US special forces to 120 countries where death squads are trained. He has revived the old Cold War on two fronts: against China in Asia, and with a “shield” of missiles aimed at Russia.

The first black president has presided over the incarceration and surveillance of greater numbers of black people than were enslaved in 1850. He has prosecuted more whistleblowers – truth-tellers – than any of his predecessors.

His vice-president, Joe Biden, a zealous warmonger, has called WikiLeaks editor Julian Assange a “hi-tech terrorist”. Biden has also converted to the cause of gay marriage.

One of America’s true heroes is the gay soldier Bradley Manning, the whistleblower alleged to have provided WikiLeaks with the epic evidence of American carnage in Iraq and Afghanistan. It was the Obama administration that smeared his homosexuality as weird, and it was Obama himself who declared a man convicted of no crime to be guilty.

Who among the fawners and luvvies at Clooney’s Hollywood moneyfest shouted, “Remember Bradley Manning”? To my knowledge, no prominent spokesperson for gay rights has spoken against Obama’s and Biden’s hypocrisy in claiming to support same-sex marriage while terrorising a gay man whose courage should be an inspiration to all, regardless of sexual preference.

Obama’s historic achievement as president of the United States has been to silence the anti-war and social justice movement associated with the Democratic Party. Such deference to an extremism disguised by and embodied in a clever, amoral operator, betrays the rich tradition of popular protest in the US. Perhaps the Occupy movement is said to be in this tradition; perhaps not.

The truth is that what matters to those who aspire to control our lives is not skin pigment or gender, or whether or not we are gay, but the class we serve. The goals are to ensure that we look inward on ourselves, not outward to others, and that we never comprehend the sheer scale of undemocratic power, and collaborate in isolating those who resist.

This attrition of criminalising, brutalising and banning protest can too easily turn Western democracies into states of fear.

On May 12, in Sydney, home of the Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras, a protest parade in support of gay marriage filled the city centre. The police looked on benignly. It was a showcase of liberalism.

Three days later, there was to be a march to commemorate the Nakba (“The Catastrophe’), the day of mourning when Israel expelled Palestinians from their land. A police ban had to be overturned by the Supreme Court.

That is why the people of Greece ought to be our inspiration. By their own painful experience they know their freedom can only be regained by standing up to the German Central Bank, the International Monetary Fund, and their own quislings in Athens. People across Latin America have achieved this: the indignados of Bolivia who saw off the water privateers and the Argentinians who told the IMF what to do with their debt.

The courage of disobedience was their weapon. Remember Bradley Manning.

reprinted from

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Crowds Cheer “Allahu Akbar!” As ISIS Throws Gays Off Building

Now There’s Video=> Crowds Cheer “Allahu Akbar!” As ISIS Throws Gays Off Building

Jim Hoft Jun 28th, 2015 7:44 am 45 Comments

ISIS celebrated Gay Pride week by tossing four more gays off a highrise.
gays isis
Of course a crowd gathered below to watch the execution.

Several Islamists tweeted out #LoveWins – the same hashtag that was used today after the Supreme Court ruling.

The Islamic State later released video.
The crowd cheered, “Allahu Akbar!” as the victims hit the ground.


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MLB announces new Home Run Derby format

Detroit Tigers Bryan Holaday is in position behind the plate when New York Yankees Alex Rodriguez hits career MLB hit number 3000 with a solo home run off of Detroit Tigers starting pitcher Justin Verlander in the first inning at Yankee Stadium in New York City on June 19, 2015. Photo by John Angelillo/UPI

| License Photo

Major League Baseball announced Sunday that the 2015 Gillette Home Run Derby, to be held at Great American Ball Park in Cincinnati, will have a new format.

The eight-player contest will be conducted as a single-elimination tournament in which the loser of each bracket is immediately eliminated. Brackets in the first round will be seeded based on 2015 home run totals through July 7th, with ties broken by awarding the higher seed to the batter with more home runs hit since June 15th. If a tie remains, a coin flip will determine the higher seed. In each matchup, the higher seed will hit second.

During each of the three rounds, each batter will have five minutes to hit as many home runs as possible, and any swings that do not result in a home run will not be counted. Timers will count down from five minutes beginning with the release of the first pitch, and any home run hit after the timer reaches one minute remaining will stop the timer immediately when the ball lands in home run territory. The timer will not start again until the batter hits a ball that does not land in home run territory, or swings and

source misses at a pitch.

It’s also noted that batters may be awarded bonus time during their turn based on the length of their home runs hit. For example, if a batter hits two home runs during a turn that each equal or exceed 420 feet, one minute of bonus time will be added. If one home run during a turn equals or exceeds 475 feet, 30 seconds of bonus time will be added. It is possible for a batter to earn a total bonus of one minute and 30 seconds.

If there’s a tie in any round, there will be a 90-second swing off with no clock stoppage of bonuses awarded.

Finally, each hitter gets one timeout per round, which will last 45 seconds.

The 2015 Gillette Home Run Derby be held on July 13th.


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How To Make A Prosthetic Eye

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The White House Wants Your Doctor To Teach You About Global Warming

Americans trust their doctors, so the White House wants these medical professionals to be a mouthpiece for President Obama’s global warming agenda.

“We also need doctors, nurses and citizens, like all of you”President Obama said in a taped speech presented to medical professionals gathered at the White House, “to get to work to raise awareness and organize folks for real change.”

The Obama administration has been hard at work trying to draw a link between global warming and public health issues. The summit included the U.S. Surgeon General, top administration officials, and public health experts from around the country telling doctors, nurses and other conference goers how to talk about global warming with their patients.

The central message: doctors should warn their patients that global warming could make their health worse.

“I know we have people all around the country, in all of the regions, who are also listening to this conversation, and like all of you in the room, I hope will go out and continue to talk and educate,” echoed Nicole Lurie, assistant secretary for Preparedness and Response at the Health Department.

“We need to engage medical students themselves,” said Vice Admiral Vivek Murthy, the U.S. Surgeon General, “to demand the curriculum change” to prepare them for a warmer future.

Speakers at the White House summit didn’t just tell doctors to go out and raise awareness about global warming, but to also promote the Obama administration’s regulatory agenda aimed at cutting carbon dioxide emissions.

“We need people, proponents, to talk about it. Make sure that the public is informed,” said Texas Democratic Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson. “Stand behind the EPA, because they’re attacked every day, all day by many committees.”


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A History of the Ice Pick Lobotomy

It was decreed “the worst idea on the mind” in history in a public debate at the Royal Institution in 2006. Yet it seemed like such a good idea at the time—so good, it won its devisor the Nobel Prize. Portuguese neurosurgeon Dr Egas Moniz—whose gout-scoured face one graced the 10,000 Escudo banknote—won the most prestigious award in science in 1949 for developing the “leucotomy”.

Better known as “lobotomy” (a new label conjured up by American psychiatrists), the revolutionary technique seemed to be the first way psychiatrists could dramatically alleviate madness and suffering in people thought to be incurably deranged, violent, and psychotic. Extreme but—in its way—effective, the technique involved slicing tiny slivers through the frontal lobes of the brain, which surgeons reached through holes bored in the top of the skull.

Grim it may sound, but before antipsychotics, sedatives, and all the other ingredients in our pharmaceutical repertoire, psychiatrists had few options to treat any form of severe mental illness. Moniz theorized that obsessive, depressive, and delusional behaviours were caused by excessively tight associations between neural circuits, which could be alleviated by slicing through the deep white matter of the frontal cortex, “soft as warm butter”.

Categories: medicine, technology | Tags: , ,

Facebook Now Knows & Records Every Website You Visit

I’ve written before about Facebook and it’s invasion of privacy, and their ever-increasing careless attitude towards protecting our information.  You can read about that here.  Now, Facebook is taking it even further, by harvesting not only all of your private and personal data – but, also, it is logging and recording EVERY single website you visit.

According to a report from Natural News [1]:

You probably know that Facebook collects and stores your personal data and preferences to form a profile that it uses to generate advertising content targeted directly at you. But did you know that Facebook also looks at all the other websites you visit and stores that data, too? Facebook also collects your online search data along with some of the details you give to retailers when you purchase something.

Zuckerberg and his Facebook shareholders make huge amounts of money by partnering with what are known as “data brokers.”

Bruce Schneier, a data security expert, defines data brokers as entities which:

‘collect demographic information: names, addresses, telephone numbers, e-mail addresses, gender, age, marital status, presence and ages of children in household, education level, profession, income level, political affiliation, cars driven, and information about homes and other property. They collect lists of things you’ve purchased, when you’ve purchased them, and how you paid for them. They keep track of deaths, divorces, and diseases in your family. They collect everything about what you do on the Internet.’


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I tracked down and anonymously chatted with an insanely private hacker — this is how I did it

Two weeks ago I decided I wanted to contact a hacker who did not want to be tracked. While this may sound difficult, I was able to communicate with the hacker using an array of online tools so that both he and I were happy with the level of privacy and felt we could speak freely.

Here is how I did it:

Some background

I became aware of a teenage hacker who made a malware platform called Tox that was quite powerful. The hacker communicated using the dark web — forums on websites that could only be accessed using web browsers that anonymize traffic. He also posted a few updates on Pastebin, a website hackers frequently post messages, including the announcement that he wanted to leave behind his life of cybercrime.

Using the information this Tox hacker had posted, I had very few details on how to contact him. It boiled down to a possible email address that he used and a PGP key (see my explanation on what that is below). Using these two pieces of information, I delved further, and ultimately found a way for us to talk in private.

What is a PGP key?

PGP stands for Pretty Good Privacy — no joke. A PGP key is a way that internet users can encrypt their messages, making it nearly impossible for anyone but the sender and receiver to read the message. Everyone using PGP must have two keys — a public key and a private key.

PGP works like this: If I want to send a message to you, I first need to know your public key (there are online repositories with public keys available). Then, using software, I write my message and the text is ciphered in a way that is unique only to your public key.

But the only way for this message to be deciphered is to use the second part of the puzzle — your private key. So I send you a message that is encrypted using your public key. You must then put your private key into the PGP software to decrypt the message.

Given that no one but you knows the private key, it is nearly impossible for anyone to intercept the message and decode it.

I generated my own encryption key using software called GPG Suite. It is a program that makes it easy for people to encrypt and decrypt messages. (I won’t go into great detail about all the things GPG Suite can do, but here’s a bunch of documentation about the software if you’re interested in learning more.)


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FCC Nixes PayPal’s Forced Robocalls Plan

The U.S. Federal Communications Commission has cautioned PayPal that provisions in its new user agreement for contacting customers with autodialed or prerecorded calls and text messages could violate federal laws.

In order to comply with the rules, PayPal would have to get “prior express written consent” from customers before making so-called robocalls and robotexts for telemarketing purposes, Travis LeBlanc, chief of the FCC’s Enforcement Bureau, wrote in a letter to PayPal on Thursday.

“For more than two decades, federal lawmakers have sought to protect consumers from harassing, intrusive, and unwanted calls and text messages,” he said.

FCC requirements ban requiring a customer to consent to receive autodialed or prerecorded telemarketing or advertising calls as a condition of a purchase, and the company must give consumers notice of their right to refuse to consent, according to the letter. PayPal’s proposed user agreement does not provide such a notice, which could lead to penalties of up to US$16,000 per call or text message on the company and its service providers


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I’ve spent 2.5 yrs trying to get the NYPD to talk about it’s drone program.

It’s been two and a half years since I filed my first request to the NYPD for documents on drones. During that time, two mayors and two police commissioners have made public statements on drones in law enforcement. But the police department continues to fight to keep secret every shred of paper that it has on the subject.

Seven months after I filed a lawsuit against the NYPD, the court at last has recognized that the police have never given solid reasons for keeping drone records from the public.

Here’s a timeline of my legal hide-and-seek with the NYPD over drone documents, interspersed with what’s already public regarding the department’s drone dalliances:

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In 1974 Carl Sagan Sent This Message Into Space: In 2001 We Received This Response


In 1974, a broadcast (known as the “Arecibo” message) put together by Carl Sagan and colleagues was sent into space via radio waves at a special ceremony to celebrate the remodelling of the Arecibo radio telescope in Puerto Rico. It was the most powerful broadcast ever deliberately beamed out into space. The message was directed at a star cluster sitting approximately 25,000 light years away, and consisted of a pictorial message. The radio signal depicted our planet’s location in our solar system, the core principles of our math and science, and the NASA antenna used to transmit the signal, in the hopes that it would be interpreted by an extraterrestrial intelligence. The message also included details about human beings, such as our physical appearance and DNA code. The signal was a million times stronger than the typical TV transmission. You can see the message in the cover photo (above),

21 years later in 2001, the crop circle phenomenon gained some well deserved attention when a pattern in the form of a response to the 1974 broadcast appeared right next to Britain’s largest telescope, the Chilbolton, and observatory, home to the world’s largest fully steerable meteorological radar. It’s one of the most amazing crop circles to ever appear, regardless of whether you believe it was done by human beings or an extraterrestrial intelligence


Above is a picture of what seems to be the response to the message sent out in 1974 by NASA (see cover photo). Only this time, the message describes a different solar system, an image of the sender (just like on the original NASA message), non-human DNA, and a microwave antenna, instead of the radio-wave antenna that was depicted in ours.

A simple Google search would suffice if you want to see more pictures. It was written off as a hoax, like most crop circles are within the mainstream.


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Park visitor unearths 8.52-carat diamond in Arkansas

(CNN)A glistening, white diamond half the size of a quarter was discovered at Arkansas’ Crater of Diamonds State Park on Wednesday, park officials said.

Shaped like an icicle, the 8.25-carat gem is the fifth-largest diamond found by a visitor to the state park since the site was established in 1972.

Park visitor Bobbie Oskarson of Longmont, Colorado, discovered the diamond while digging around the Pig Pen, a 37-acre search field inside the park named for its muddy terrain after rainfall.


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FAA Approves Unmanned, Poison Spraying Helicopters

The federal government has granted its approval for a new unmanned pesticide drone that reports indicate will soon start dumping chemical herbicides and other crop-related substances from the sky.

The helicopters, designed by Yamaha Corp. U.S.A., have an empty weight of only 141 pounds, according to a Federal Aviation Administration document,[PDF] and they don’t require a human pilot. Multinational corporations like Monsanto can just load them up with Roundup and send them on their way.

“Yamaha unmanned helicopters are designed for a wide range of industrial and research applications,” reads an official brochure for the new technology,[PDF] which lists “precision agriculture,” “spraying” and “seeding” as potential uses.

“Your eye in the sky offers cost effective, accurate and efficient spraying with zero soil compaction,” it adds.

Here you can see the “RMAX” unmanned helicopter in action as it shoots chemicals down on crops:


Unmanned drones for use in chemical agriculture represent largest civilian drones ever approved by FAA

Federal regulators were initially hesitant to approve the, drone but they eventually caved, granting a Section 333 exemption to the civilian drone on May 1. Steve Markofski, a spokesman for Yamaha Corp. U.S.A., told the Associated Press this in response:

“I certainly understand their cautious approach. It’s a daunting task given our airspace is complicated.”

Prior to this approval, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) had only issued exemptions for much smaller drones weighing less than 55 pounds. In this case, the RMAX will be allowed to operate with a maximum payload of 218 pounds.


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Ohio student runs Android OS on graphing calculator

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Baltimore Police Called Out For Making Up ‘Gang Violence’ Stories To Scare Public


Remember when the Baltimore Police Department was telling all of these stories about “Bloods” and “Crips” uniting to “destroy” the city and its “heroic” police force?

Now city leaders are coming forward and calling out the police for these claims. Last Thursday several leaders publicly questioned the Baltimore Police Department as to why they issued a public warning the morning of Freddie Gray’s funeral. That warning claimed that police officers were being targeted by a united Blood-Crip alliance that would not rest until every Baltimore officer was dead.

Instead of allowing the community to mourn the untimely death of Freddie Gray, the Baltimore City Police hijacked the attention and painted themselves as the victims.

Now, months later, it is coming out that the whole thing was invented. The police made it all up. They didn’t have a shred of credible evidence to support the claims they were making.

In fact, much the opposite was true. Bloods, Crips and other gangs were uniting to protect the community, to stop looting and violence and pledging to end fighting between their circles.

Instead of praising this cessation of violence between these gangs, the police announced on April 27 that a “credible threat” from the Bloods, Crips and Black Guerrilla Family had made it clear that these “criminal” forces had united to target officers.

According to documentation and supporting interviews obtained by The Baltimore Sun, the police made it all up.


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Space station cabbage: To boldly grow where no veg has grown before


Video Weather permitting, SpaceX will fire off its seventh resupply mission to the International Space Station on Sunday, and NASA has detailed some of the science experiments the Dragon capsule will be carrying in its hold.

The rocket will loft nearly 4,000lbs (1,814kg) of supplies and science kit when it takes off on Sunday at 1021 ET (1521 UTC) from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, including 35 new experiments for the ISS crew to run.

Dr Julie Robinson, chief scientist for the ISS, said that of special interest to the crew will be the Veggie, a piece of equipment that will allow them to grow their own food.

“We’re getting close to that first bite of space lettuce,” Robinson said at a NASA press conference on Friday. “The crew eat only preserved food at the moment, which is better than pills, but eating fresh leafy greens is really important as part of a balanced diet and helps with mental health.”

On a mission last year, astronauts used a Veggie to raise romaine lettuce but weren’t allowed to eat it because scientists wanted to see if it was safe. This time, Robinson said, the ISS crew will grow a form of Japanese cabbage and may even be allowed to eat it themselves.

Also included in the Commercial Resupply Services 7 (CRS-7) mission payload is NASA’s Meteor camera, which will be mounted in the Window Observational Research Facility (WORF) on the ISS.

This is NASA’s second attempt at installing the Meteor, as the original camera was among the equipment that was destroyed when an Orbital Sciences Antares rocket blew up last year shortly after launch.


Categories: technology | Tags: ,

Pentagon paying monthly stipends to Syrian rebels (aka ISIS)

The U.S. is quietly–and under a virtual media blackout–conducting a coup d’etat in Syria at enormous taxpayer expense: Pentagon paying monthly stipends to Syrian rebels (aka ISIS) to eventually fight Assad and invoke regime change | 24 June 2015 | The U.S. Department of Defense announced Monday it is making monthly payments to ‘moderate Syrian rebels’ being trained to fight foment the Islamic State. The United States, Turkey, Jordan, Qatar, and Saudi Arabia agreed in February to participate in the training and fielding of a moderate Syrian opposition force…”The trainees are currently receiving a stipend of between $250 and $400 per month, per soldier, depending on skill set, performance and leadership position,” Navy Cmdr. Elissa Smith, a Pentagon spokeswoman, told reporters. The Pentagon hopes to have 3,000 fighters trained by the end of the year and 5,400 trained after 12 months. The fighters are primarily to be used ‘against’ IS forces and are envisioned to eventually stand as viable opposition to the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, USA Today reports. [Yeah, let’s pay I-CIA-SIS to fight while we slash Medicare to fund the TPP – great idea!]


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Google’s artificial-intelligence bot says the purpose of living is ‘to live forever’

Google engineer, serversAP Photo/Connie Zhou

This week, Google released a research paper chronicling one of its latest forays into artificial intelligence.

Researchers at the company programmed an advanced type of “chatbot” that learns how to respond in conversations based on examples from a training set of dialogue.

And the bot doesn’t just answer by spitting out canned answers in response to certain words; it can form new answers from new questions.

This means Google’s researchers could get a little creative with it, and they certainly did — they asked the bot everything from boring IT questions to inquiries about the meaning of life.

The responses were alternately impressive, amusing, and unnerving.

Here are some of the most poetic interactions from the paper:

Human: What is the purpose of life?

Machine: To serve the greater good.

Human: What is the purpose of living?

Machine: To live forever.

Human: Where are you now?

Machine: I’m in the middle of nowhere.

Human: What is the purpose of dying?

Machine: To have a life.

Human: What is the purpose of emotions?

Machine: I don’t know.

Human: What is moral?

Machine: What empowered humanity, what intellectual the essence is.

Human: What is immoral?

Machine: The fact that you have a child.

Human: What is morality?

Machine: What is altruism?

Human: What is the definition of altruism?

Machine: If you don’t believe in god, then you don’t know.

Human: Ok … so what is the definition of morality?

Machine: Well, the truth is, you’re not a believer in god almighty.

Human: Tell me the definition of morality, I am quite upset now!

Machine: I’m not ashamed of being a philosopher!

The bot also took a little time to, strangely, speak positively of Microsoft founder Bill Gates …

Human: What do you think about Bill Gates?

Machine: He’s a good man.

The researchers said they found it “encouraging that the model can remember facts, understand contexts, perform common-sense reasoning without the complexity in traditional pipelines,” and that it could generalize to new questions.

What they weren’t as happy about was that the model “only gives simple, short, sometimes unsatisfying answers to our questions as can be seen above.”

You can read the whole paper, “A Neural Conversational Model.”

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Is Google Eavesdropping on Chromium Users?

Is Google Eavesdropping on Chromium Users?

Google has found itself in hot water after open source developers noticed that the Debian version of Chromium, the open-source version of Google Chrome, is downloading black-box code from Google, designed to listen to the user via any connected microphone and stream the audio back for analysis.

Obviously, this sounds pretty bad, but the situation is a little more complicated than this would suggest, so let’s take a step back and see what’s really going on.

What is Open Source?

For those unfamiliar, in open source software development, developers work together to create software with source code freely available for review and modification. This is an alternative to commercial software development, where software is developed in secret, and the compiled files (but not the source code) are sold to customers as a black box.

continue after video

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World’s First Commercial Jetpack Arrives Next Year

After 35 years in development, the world’s first commercially available jetpack will be available next year for $150,000.

The Martin Jetpack is made from carbon fibre and aluminium. It eschews the traditional rockets of science-fiction jetpacks, which are powerful but difficult to control, and instead uses fans.

A two-litre petrol engine drives two fans either side of the pilot to lift the jet pack and up to 120kgs of human into the air, along with a low-altitude parachute for use should things go wrong.

After initial test flights in 2011, an updated version was shown off recently at the Paris airshow. It could fly for up to 30 minutes at speeds as fast as 74 kilometres per hour. Pilots will be able to reach altitudes of 1,000m taking off and landing vertically, meaning rooftops, gardens and parking lots are all viable launchpads.

In fact, Martin believes that the jetpack’s ability to land in confined spaces will be its selling point, not aimed at millionaires as an expensive toy, but the emergency services.

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Guy Writes New James Bond Book… Only Available Where Bond Is In The Public Domain

Since I run Techdirt, book publishers frequently push random books on me. Sometimes they just send the books. More frequently they send me announcements about books to see if I might be interested. Most go directly in the recycle bin. But one that came in just recently caught my eye — and not because of the subject matter. Usually the books are about the tech industry or politics or something. But this was a James Bond story. I almost tossed it out immediately, assuming someone mail merged the wrong press list — but then I realized why we were on the list. James Bond recently went into the public domain in Canada, raising some interesting questions over what that meant — since 007 is still protected by copyright in the US and some other countries. So, now it appears that some guy named Curtis Cook has decided to write himself his own Bond book, and the press release touts the fact that it’s because Bond is in the public domain in Canada.

At the end of the letter, it notes that review copies are available worldwide, but that “commercial sales [will be] limited to Canada and other countries that are “life plus 50″ Berne rule signatories.” In other words, don’t expect to see the book in the US, unless you snag a review copy.


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Dangerous Swirling Vortex Opens Up On Lake Texoma

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Cornish Bear Monster?

dark night

Strangehistory has given previously some space to the Cornish ‘Methodist metaphysician’ Samuel Drew (obit 1833). Last time Samuel Drew had been accused, almost certainly falsely by Wikipedia, of witnessing a ghost army. This time Samuel’s witnessing of the paranormal can be substantiated as it appeared in his biography, the author, his son, having apparently taken the material from his father. The text that follows was written by the son (misleadingly in the first person), with reference to others who had heard the tale, as close to his father’s words as possible. SD was at this time a young man apprenticed to a shoemaker. We are in the 1770s or 1780s.

There were several of us, boys and men, out about twelve o’clock on a bright moonlight night. I think we were poaching. The party were in a field adjoining the road leading from my master’s to St Austell, and I was stationed outside the hedge to watch and give the alarm if any intruder should appear.

St Austell is a town in Cornwall and Beach might note that poaching expeditions often led to paranormal encounters, perhaps simply because they were tense affairs that took place at night.

While thus occupied [as a look out] I heard what appeared to be the sound of a horse approaching from the town, and I gave a signal. My companions paused and came to the hedge where I was, to see the passenger. They looked through the bushes, and I drew myself close to the hedge, that I might not be observed. The sound increased, and the supposed horseman seemed drawing near. The clatter of the hoofs became more and more distinct.


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UK Government Experiments On Animals With EBOLA and PLAGUE Exposed

THOUSANDS of animals have been infected with deadly diseases including Ebola and the plague in “grotesque” experiments funded by the British government, it can be revealed.

A rabbit and monkey being tested at Porton Down laboratoryCRUELTY FREE INTERNATIONAL

Rabbits and monkeys are just some of the thousands of animals being tested at Porton Down laboratory

Ministry of Defence (MoD) researchers have tested on 4,124 monkeys, pigs, rabbits, guinea pigs and rodents in the last year alone.

They all died during the torturous process, which can last months, while others were slaughtered at the end of tests, which have sparked fury from animal rights campaigners.

The greusome testing has seen marmoset monkeys infected with haemorrhagic fever, macaques infected with Tuberculosis, mice given Ebola and pneumonic plague, and rabbits forced to endure infected wounds.

Animals are abused in the Government-owned Porton Down laboratory in Salisbury, Wiltshire, to improve medical treatments within the military.

Previous experiments carried out at the laboratory include pigs being blown up or exposed to lethal chemical warfare agents such as phosgene and sulphur mustard, and marmosets infected with anthrax and guinea pigs poisoned with toxic nerve agents.

Animal rights group Cruelty Free International claim details of these warfare experiments are not included in annual animal-testing statistics published by the Home Office meaning many people will have no idea the suffering is taking place.


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Engineers Break the Capacity Limit for Fiber Optic Transmissions

Internet Fiber Optic Capacity

As the sheer volume of data transmitted over the web continues to grow by leaps and bounds, there has been a lot of speculation regarding whether or not the fiber optic cables which form the underlying foundation of the internet will eventually max out.

Well not to fear. Researchers at the University of California, San Diego recently published a report in the journal Science detailing how they were able to increase the maximum power under which fiber optic signals can be transmitted and accurately decoded. In turn, optic signals can now travel for longer distances without seeing a degradation in quality.

“This advance,” the UC San Diego News Center writes, “has the potential to increase the data transmission rates for the fiber optic cables that serve as the backbone of the internet, cable, wireless and landline networks.”


Categories: internet, technology | Tags: ,

Print your own Wikipedia Book

Wikipedia does include a built-in book creator that would let anyone, include anonymous non-logged users, create ebooks from Wikipedia articles. You can download these ebooks as PDF files or send them to a print-on-demand service like Lulu or PediaPress and have a custom printed book made of your favorite Wikipedia pages.

See more Wikipedia tools.


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Protesters Block Effort To Restart Work On Controversial Hawaii Telescope

si-tmtsunsetAn attempt to restart construction on what would be one of the world’s largest telescopes was blocked yesterday, after state authorities escorting construction vehicles clashed with protesters blockading the road to the summit of Hawaii’s Mauna Kea volcano.

Officers from Hawaii’s Department of Land and Natural Resources (DLNR), and construction workers for the Thirty-Meter Telescope (TMT), turned back from the summit shortly after noon Wednesday, citing concerns for public safety after finding the road blocked by boulders.

The withdrawal followed several hours of clashes with Native Hawaiian protesters blockading the road, culminating in the arrests of 11 men and women, including several protest organizers. The protesters have said the $1.4 billion TMT would desecrate sacred land.

“We had a major confrontation today,” says Andre Perez, an organizer with Oahu-based Movement for Aloha No ka Aina, who was among those arrested. He says the protesters had deployed small groups of people to block the road at regular intervals over several kilometers, starting above the Mauna Kea visitor center at about 2700 meters up the 4200 meter high mountain. County police and state DLNR officers arrived on the scene around 7 a.m. “They were intent on escorting construction workers to the top of the island, and we were intent on preventing that,” Perez says.


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Gov Web Bots To Scour Internet for Hate Speech: “Could Potentially Criminalize Thoughts and Expressions”

With the capability to intercept every digital communication sent over the internet or telephone it’s no surprise that Big Brother is pushing to further expand its role in the lives of Americans.

Senator Ed Markey (D-MA) is proposing a new bill that would send government web bots across the internet looking for hate speech or material allegedly determined to be advocating or encouraging “violent acts.” Once identified, the Congressman wants reports to be disseminated to Congress so that they can monitor, control and potentially criminalize thoughts and expressions deemed by an unknown panel of government bureaucrats to be hateful.

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A Brief History of False Flag Terror

In naval warfare, a “false flag” refers to an attack where a vessel flies a flag other than their true battle flag before engaging their enemy. It is a trick, designed to deceive the enemy about the true nature and origin of an attack.

In the democratic era, where governments require at least a plausible pretext before sending their nation to war, it has been adapted as a psychological warfare tactic to deceive a government’s own population into believing that an enemy nation has attacked them.

In the 1780s, Swedish King Gustav III was looking for a way to unite an increasingly divided nation and raise his own falling political fortunes. Deciding that a war with Russia would be a sufficient distraction but lacking the political authority to send the nation to war unilaterally, he arranged for the head tailor of the Swedish Opera House to sew some Russian military uniforms. Swedish troops were then dressed in the uniforms and sent to attack Sweden’s own Finnish border post along the Russian border. The citizens in Stockholm, believing it to be a genuine Russian attack, were suitably outraged, and the Swedish-Russian War of 1788-1790 began.

In 1931 the Japan was looking for a pretext to invade Manchuria. On September 18th of that year, a Lieutenant in the Imperial Japanese Army detonated a small amount of TNT along a Japanese-owned railway in the Manchurian city of Mukden. The act was blamed on Chinese dissidents and used to justify the occupation of Manchuria just six months later. When the deception was later exposed, Japan was diplomatically shunned and forced to withdraw from the League of Nations.

In 1939 Heinrich Himmler masterminded a plan to convince the public that Germany was the victim of Polish aggression in order to justify the invasion of Poland. It culminated in an attack on Sender Gleiwitz, a German radio station near the Polish border, by Polish prisoners who were dressed up in Polish military uniforms, shot dead, and left at the station. The Germans then broadcast an anti-German message in Polish from the station, pretended that it had come from a Polish military unit that had attacked Sender Gleiwitz, and presented the dead bodies as evidence of the attack. Hitler invaded Poland immediately thereafter, starting World War II.

In 1954 the Israelis hired a number of Egyptian Jews to plant bombs in American and British cinemas, libraries, and other civilian targets to be blamed on the Muslim Brotherhood or other malcontents. The plan, known as the Lavon Affair, was part of an effort to convince the British to retain their military presence in the occupied Suez Canal zone. Several bombings took place, but the British were ultimately forced out after Nasser nationalized the canal in 1956.


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Windows 10: Forget Disks, Microsoft’s Next OS Might Be Sold on USB Drives

Many current Windows 7 and Windows 8 computer owners will be able to upgrade to Windows 10 this summer free of charge after downloading the new operating system, but some users who aren’t eligible for the free update will have to purchase the new OS. According to a few leaked Windows 10 listings, Microsoft might be planning to ditch Windows disks for in-store sales and instead offer USB drives containing the necessary Windows 10 installation files.

DON’T MISS: T-Mobile’s New Uncarrier Move Kills Lump Payments, Offers iPhone 6 for $15/Month

The news comes from Myce, which spotted a couple of such listings on Canadian online stores including CompSource (which sells a “Microsoft Win Home 10 32-Bit/64-Bit English 1 License Usb Flash Drive KW9-00016” for $124.00) and PCCanada (which has a “Microsoft Win Home 10 32-BIT/64-BIT USB [KW9-00016]” for $134.49).

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Genetically Modified Wheat Crop Fails To Repel Pests

Scientists have found that a controversial trial of genetically modified (GM) wheat has failed to repel pests any more effectively than ordinary crops.  The £3 million trial has been branded ‘a waste’

RT reports: Researchers attempted to engineer a variety of wheat to emit an odor that deters aphids in the hope of reducing the amount of pesticides required by plants.

The crops, nicknamed “whiffy wheat,” were successful in lab tests, but succumbed to aphids when trialed in the field.

The experiment cost £3m, some £2.2m of which was spent on fencing and other security measures to protect the trial from animals and saboteurs.

Campaign group GM Freeze said the experiment was a waste of money and further evidence of the “folly” of investing in GM technology.

Agricultural institution Rothamsted Research ran the trial in Hertfordshire from 2012 to 2013.

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Categories: agriculture, biotech | Tags: , ,

How the NSA Started Investigating the New York Times’ Warrantless Wiretapping Story

Featured photo - How the NSA Started Investigating the New York Times’ Warrantless Wiretapping Story

Three days after the New York Times revealed that the U.S. government was secretly monitoring the calls and emails of people inside the United States without court-approved warrants, the National Security Agency issued a top-secret assessment of the damage done to intelligence efforts by the story. The conclusion: the information could lead terrorists to try to evade detection. Yet the agency gave no specific examples of investigations that had been jeopardized.

The December 2005 bombshell story, by James Risen and Eric Lichtblau, set off a debate about the George W. Bush administration’s expansion of spying powers after the 9/11 attacks, and also about the Times editors’ decision to delay its publication for a year. White House officials had warned the Times that revealing the program would have grave consequences for national security.

The NSA’s damage assessment on the article — referred to as a “cryptologic insecurity” — is among the files provided by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden. The memo recounts meetings in 2004 and 2005 in which administration officials disclosed “certain details of the special program to select individuals from the New York Times to dissuade them from publishing a story on the program at that time.”


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