Covers the period:
2017-01-01 .. 2017-03-29
(SPIDs: [586..633]) --martyb
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The U.S. Department of the Treasury has designated Venezuelan vice president Tareck El Aissami a "Specially Designated Narcotics Trafficker pursuant to the Foreign Narcotics Kingpin Designation Act (Kingpin Act) for playing a significant role in international narcotics trafficking":
Venezuela's powerful vice president on Tuesday called his blacklisting by the United States on drug charges an "imperialist aggression" in the first flare-up between the two countries under new U.S. President Donald Trump. "We shall not be distracted by these miserable provocations," said Tareck El Aissami, the most senior Venezuelan official yet sanctioned by the United States.
[...] The U.S. Department of Treasury on Monday labeled El Aissami a drug "kingpin," accusing him of facilitating shipments by air and sea, and having links to drug gangs in Mexico and Colombia. El Aissami joined a sanctions list that already includes a half-dozen other Venezuelan officials or former officials. The designation allows the Treasury Department to freeze assets in the United States and prevents them from conducting financial transactions through the United States.
[...] El Aissami, whom local media say is of Syrian and Lebanese descent, grew up poor in the Andean state of Merida. He was a lawmaker, interior minister and state governor for the ruling Socialist Party before becoming vice president last month. A long-time confidant and member of Chavez's and Maduro's inner circles, El Aissami was given wider powers as vice president in a decree last month and is being touted in some circles as a possible future president.
Kim Jong-un's estranged half-brother has reportedly been killed:
The half-brother of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un has been killed in Malaysia, South Korean and Malaysian sources say. Kim Jong-nam, 45, is said to have been targeted at the airport in Kuala Lumpur, the capital. A source close to the Malaysian PM's office told the BBC that Mr Kim was killed in the city, saying his body was now undergoing an autopsy.
Kim Jong-nam was the eldest son of former North Korean leader Kim Jong-il.
In a story filed at 23:22 GMT 2017-02-14, China-based SINA reports
[...] South Korea's TV Chosun, a cable television network, said that Kim was poisoned at Kuala Lumpur airport by two women believed to be North Korean operatives, who were at large, citing multiple South Korean government sources.
However, Selangor Police chief Abdul Samah Mat was reported to have said that a woman had approached Kim Jong-nam at the airport departure lounge and covered the victim's head with a cloth which contained an unidentified liquid.
[...] In 2001, Kim Jong-nam was caught at an airport in Japan traveling on a fake passport, saying he had wanted to visit Tokyo Disneyland.
He was known to travel to Hong Kong, Macao and the Chinese mainland. He said several times over the years that he had no interest in leading his country.
Numerous North Koreans of influence who were suspected of less than total loyalty to the regime have been killed, apparently at the order his brother, the dictator. It appears that this latest death was simply tying up a loose end.
Earlier reports of poisoned needles or sprayed poison appear to lack credibility.
HP Inc. today introduced the first of a series of global initiatives to elevate awareness of the security risks facing businesses and consumers. It kicks off with award-winning actor Christian Slater and the premiere of the newly launched HP Studios' web series, The Wolf, highlighting how corporate networks can be hacked and what companies must do to protect themselves. Watch and share the trailer and web series at www.hp.com/TheWolf. View "The Wolf" online press kit click here and link to the live press kit.
In the series, Slater systematically hacks a company - from the mailroom to the boardroom - through overlooked vulnerabilities and poorly secured printers and PCs. This first installment reinforces that security is no longer just the responsibility of the network or something at the perimeter, but it's a concern for everyone.
Elon says it, so it must be true:
Humans must become cyborgs and develop a direct high-bandwidth connection with machines or risk irrelevance and obsolescence, says Tesla and SpaceX founder Elon Musk.
Musk's latest cheery thoughts were imparted at the World Government Summit in the UAE. "Over time I think we will probably see a closer merger of biological intelligence and digital intelligence," Musk said, according to CNBC.
The main thrust of Musk's argument seems to hinge on the limited bandwidth and processing power of a single human being. Computers can ingest, transfer, and process gigabytes of data per second, every second, forever. Meatbags, however, are severely limited by an input/output rate—talking, typing, listening—that's best measured in bits per second. Thus, to risk being replaced by a robot or artificial intelligence, we need to become machines.
Microsoft's President Brad Smith is calling for a Digital Geneva Convention:
Microsoft is calling for a Digital Geneva Convention, as global tensions over digital attacks continue to rise. The tech giant wants to see civilian use of the internet protected as part of an international set of accords, Brad Smith, the company's president and chief legal officer, said in a blog post.
The manifesto, published alongside his keynote address at the RSA conference in San Francisco on Tuesday, argued for codifying recent international norms around cyberwarfare and for establishing an independent agency to respond to and analyze cyberattacks.
From the blog post:
Just as the Fourth Geneva Convention has long protected civilians in times of war, we now need a Digital Geneva Convention that will commit governments to protecting civilians from nation-state attacks in times of peace. And just as the Fourth Geneva Convention recognized that the protection of civilians required the active involvement of the Red Cross, protection against nation-state cyberattacks requires the active assistance of technology companies. The tech sector plays a unique role as the internet's first responders, and we therefore should commit ourselves to collective action that will make the internet a safer place, affirming a role as a neutral Digital Switzerland that assists customers everywhere and retains the world's trust.
A physicist is using a theory he advanced to explain how EmDrive could work to explain how dwarf galaxies can be held together without the requirement of dark matter:
British physicist Dr Mike McCulloch, who previously used quantised inertia to explain how the controversial electromagnetic space propulsion technology EmDrive works, says that he has new evidence showing his theory can also explain galaxy rotation, which is one of physics' biggest mysteries. McCulloch, a lecturer in geomatics at Plymouth University's school of marine science and engineering, says he now has even more evidence that his "new physics theory" about quantised inertia works, and that it makes it possible to explain why galaxies are not ripped apart without using theory of dark matter.
[...] There are 20 dwarf galaxies in existence from Segue-1 (the smallest) to Canes Venatici-1 (the largest), and dark matter is only meant to work by spreading out across a wide distance, but it is still used to explain dwarf galaxies, even though this requires dark matter to be concentrated within these systems, which is implausible. Instead, McCulloch asserts that quantised inertia can be used to explain how galaxies rotate without using dark matter, and he has written a paper that has been accepted by the bi-monthly peer reviewed journal Astrophysics and Space Science.
Reprint of the IBT link here.
From the abstract of Low-acceleration dwarf galaxies as tests of quantised inertia (DOI not yet published):
Dwarf satellite galaxies of the Milky Way appear to be gravitationally bound, but their stars' orbital motion seems too fast to allow this given their visible mass. This is akin to the larger-scale galaxy rotation problem. In this paper, a modification of inertia called quantised inertia or MiHsC (Modied inertia due to a Hubble-scale Casimir effect) which correctly predicts larger galaxy rotations without dark matter is tested on eleven dwarf satellite galaxies of the Milky Way, for which mass and velocity data are available. Quantised inertia slightly outperforms MoND (Modied Newtonian Dynamics) in predicting the velocity dispersion of these systems, and has the fundamental advantage over MoND that it does not need an adjustable parameter.
Previously: Study Casts Doubt on Cosmic Acceleration and Dark Energy
Dark Matter Beats its Latest Challenge
Emergent Gravity and the Dark Universe
Space Race 2.0: China May Already be Testing an EmDrive in Orbit
Milky Way is Not Only Being Pulled—It's Also "Pushed" by a Void
For centuries, various cultures have fixated on the rare four-leaf clover, a tradition that "began when superstitions, myths and legends were strong," reported the New York Times in 1990. "According to English folklore, if someone dreams of clover, it means a happy marriage filled with wealth and prosperity." According to another way of thinking, "the clover has magical qualities, because it is in the form of a cross, which was supposed to guard the possessor from evil spirits." How did the four-leaf clover get associated with magic and luck? No doubt because of its rarity. After all, you can knock on wood any time, but finding a four-leaf clover takes considerable effort. White clover naturally grows three leaflets per leaf in about 9,999 out of every 10,000 plants.
Recently scientists have begun to explain why the four-leaf brand is so rare. The theory, as in so many other genetic cases, is that leaf count reflects a combination of factors. "The genetics have to be there," said Wayne Parrott, a plant geneticist at the University of Georgia. "Then if the genetics are there, the environment determines whether the four leaves show up or not." But Parrott said that even after his studies, he's still not sure what triggers the growth of that extra leaflet.
Part of what makes searching for the cause of the fourth leaf so complicated is that each clover plant has four copies of each chromosome, instead of the standard two in animals. Each pair comes from a different ancestor species, a sort of genetic swapping that is impossible in animals but happens without much fuss in plants, where species hybridize much more easily. Usually, hybrids are sterile, since chromosomes need to pair up perfectly for cells to replicate, and chromosomes from different species don't match up quite right. But plants can occasionally leapfrog this problem by duplicating their entire genome, ending up with four copies—two matched pairs—of each chromosome.
-- submitted from IRC
A 21-member committee of bioethicists, lawyers, patient advocates, biotech entrepreneurs, and others have recommended that heritable gene editing in human embryos be allowed at some point in the future, but only after more research, and only to prevent certain diseases or disabilities:
Scientists could be allowed to make modifications in human DNA that can be passed down through subsequent generations, the National Academy of Sciences and the National Academy of Medicine say. Such a groundbreaking step should only be considered after more research and then only be conducted under tight restrictions, the academies write in a highly anticipated report [open, DOI: 10.17226/24623] [DX] released Tuesday. Such work should be reserved to prevent serious diseases and disabilities, it says.
The academies determined that new gene-editing techniques had made it reasonable to pursue such controversial experiments down the road, though not quite yet. "It is not ready now, but it might be safe enough to try in the future," R. Alta Charo, a bioethicist at the University of Wisconsin-Madison who co-chaired the committee, said. "And if certain conditions are met, it might be permissible to try it."
That conclusion counters a long-standing taboo on making changes in genes in human sperm, eggs or embryos because such alterations would be inherited by future generations. That taboo has been in place partly because of fears that mistakes could inadvertently create new diseases, which could then become a permanent part of the human gene pool.
Society is operating under the illusion that governments and corporations are taking rational choices about computer security, but the fact of the matter is that we're drowning under a sea of false positive, bad management, and a false belief in the power of technology to save us.
"The government is very reactive," said Jason Truppi, director of endpoint detection and response at security firm Tanium and a former FBI investigator. "Over time we've learned it wasn't working - just being reactive, not proactive."
Truppi said we need to puncture the belief that government and industry are working together to solve online threats. In reality, he says, the commercial sector and government are working to very different agendas and the result is a hopeless mishmash of confusing loyalties.
On threat intelligence sharing, for example, the government encourages business to share news of vulnerabilities. But the subsequent investigations can be wide-ranging and lead to business' people being charged for unrelated matters. A result companies are increasingly unwilling to share data if it exposes them to wider risks.
The fact of the matter is that companies don't get their own infosec problems and don't care that much. Truppi, who has now moved to the commercial sector, said that companies are still trying to hire good network security people, but bog them down in useless false alerts and management panics.
-- submitted from IRC
The Wall Street Journal has reported that the White House is considering a proposal to send a manned mission to repair and upgrade the Hubble Space Telescope for a sixth time. The mission would use a Sierra Nevada Dream Chaser Space System miniature space shuttle and could act as an "insurance policy" in case of issues with the launch and deployment of the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST). The JWST will be located at the Earth-Sun L2 point, over 2,700 times further away from Earth than Hubble.
NASA's recent trend of partnering with private companies will continue under President Trump:
NASA will continue tapping the private sector to fund space exploration efforts under President Trump, marking a continuation in policy that first began under former president Barack Obama. "Public-private partnerships are the future of space exploration," Dava Newman, a former NASA deputy administrator who resigned before Trump took office, told CNBC on Tuesday. "I call it the new NASA."
In total, 22 companies—all American—have won contracts with the agency across a diverse range of sectors, from in-space manufacturing to engine development. Boeing and Elon Musk's SpaceX will be delivering NASA astronauts to international space stations, while Orbital ATK, Sierra Nevada and SpaceX will transport NASA cargo to space stations, said Newman, who is now chair of the Apollo Program at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
The European Space Agency is partnering with NASA on a 2021 orbital mission around the Moon.
Environmental pollutants have gathered in the deepest parts of Earth's oceans:
Chemicals banned in the 1970s have been found in the deepest reaches of the Pacific Ocean, a new study shows. Scientists were surprised by the relatively high concentrations of pollutants like PCBs and PBDEs in deep sea ecosystems. Used widely during much of the 20th Century, these chemicals were later found to be toxic and to build up in the environment.
[...] The team led by Dr Alan Jamieson at the University of Newcastle sampled levels of pollutants in the fatty tissue of amphipods (a type of crustacean) from deep below the Pacific Ocean surface. The animals were retrieved using specially designed "lander" vehicles deployed from a boat over the Mariana and Kermadec trenches, which are over 10km deep and separated from each other by 7,000km.
[...] In their paper, the authors say it can be difficult to place the levels of contamination found below the Pacific into a wider context - in part because previous studies of contamination gathered measurements in different ways. But they add that in the Mariana trench, the highest levels of PCBs were 50 times greater than in crabs from paddy fields fed by the Liaohe River, one of the most polluted rivers in China. Dr Jamieson commented: "The amphipods we sampled contained levels of contamination similar to that found in Suruga Bay [in Japan], one of the most polluted industrial zones of the northwest Pacific."
Bioaccumulation of persistent organic pollutants in the deepest ocean fauna (open, DOI: 10.1038/s41559-016-0051) (DX)
The border guards demanded he turn over his government-issued NASA phone and its PIN and held him in their detention area.
Bikkannavar also was interviewed by The Verge:
"It was not that they were concerned with me bringing something dangerous in, because they didn't even touch the bags. They had no way of knowing I could have had something in there," he says. "You can say, 'Okay well maybe it's about making sure I'm not a dangerous person,' but they have all the information to verify that."
Bikkannavar says he's still unsure why he was singled out for the electronic search. He says he understands that his name is foreign — its roots go back to southern India. He didn't think it would be a trigger for extra scrutiny, he says. "Sometimes I get stopped and searched, but never anything like this. Maybe you could say it was one huge coincidence that this thing happens right at the travel ban."
Land of the free? Home of the brave?
Wired reports that data sets from NASA - mainly those related to climate - that used to be publicly available have started to disappear and that a group of "diehard coders" at UC Berkeley and other places worked over the weekend to "tag and bag" this data with the Internet archive:
[...] 200 adults had willingly sardined themselves into a fluorescent-lit room in the bowels of Doe Library to rescue federal climate data.
Like similar groups across the country—in more than 20 cities—they believe that the Trump administration might want to disappear this data down a memory hole. So these hackers, scientists, and students are collecting it to save outside government servers.
But now they're going even further. Groups like DataRefuge and the Environmental Data and Governance Initiative, which organized the Berkeley hackathon to collect data from NASA's earth sciences programs and the Department of Energy, are doing more than archiving. Diehard coders are building robust systems to monitor ongoing changes to government websites. And they're keeping track of what's already been removed—because yes, the pruning has already begun.
[...] Starting in August, access to Goddard Earth Science Data required a login. But with a bit of totally legal digging around the site (DataRefuge prohibits outright hacking), Tek found a buried link to the old FTP server. He clicked and started downloading. By the end of the day he had data for all of 2016 and some of 2015. It would take at least another 24 hours to finish.
The non-coders hit dead-ends too. Throughout the morning they racked up "404 Page not found" errors across NASA's Earth Observing System website. And they more than once ran across databases that had already been emptied out, like the Global Change Data Center's reports archive and one of NASA's atmospheric CO2 datasets.
And this is where the real problem lies. They can't be sure when this data disappeared (or if anyone backed it up first).
[Ed. - emphasis added by submitter]
This is on the heels of a December 2016 article in The Washington Post, titled "Scientists are frantically copying U.S. climate data, fearing it might vanish under Trump", that details several additional initiatives along the same lines.
Alarmed that decades of crucial climate measurements could vanish under a hostile Trump administration, scientists have begun a feverish attempt to copy reams of government data onto independent servers in hopes of safeguarding it from any political interference.
The efforts include a "guerrilla archiving" event in Toronto, where experts will copy irreplaceable public data, meetings at the University of Pennsylvania focused on how to download as much federal data as possible in the coming weeks, and a collaboration of scientists and database experts who are compiling an online site to harbor scientific information.
"Something that seemed a little paranoid to me before all of a sudden seems potentially realistic, or at least something you'd want to hedge against," said Nick Santos, an environmental researcher at the University of California at Davis, who over the weekend began copying government climate data onto a nongovernment server, where it will remain available to the public. "Doing this can only be a good thing. Hopefully they leave everything in place. But if not, we're planning for that."
[...] At the University of Toronto this weekend, researchers are holding what they call a "guerrilla archiving" event to catalogue key federal environmental data ahead of Trump's inauguration. The event "is focused on preserving information and data from the Environmental Protection Agency, which has programs and data at high risk of being removed from online public access or even deleted," the organizers said. "This includes climate change, water, air, toxics programs."
So Soylentils, are there any US .gov public databases that you don't want to see disappear?
Researchers have proposed a cross-browser fingerprinting technique that uses OS and hardware-level features. The researchers claim to have successfully identified 99.24% of users in their dataset compared to 90.84% for the state of the art of single-browser fingerprinting.
Researchers have recently developed the first reliable technique for websites to track visitors even when they use two or more different browsers. This shatters a key defense against sites that identify visitors based on the digital fingerprint their browsers leave behind.
State-of-the-art fingerprinting techniques are highly effective at identifying users when they use browsers with default or commonly used settings. For instance, the Electronic Frontier Foundation's privacy tool, known as Panopticlick, found that only one in about 77,691 browsers had the same characteristics as the one commonly used by this reporter. Such fingerprints are the result of specific settings and customizations found in a specific browser installation, including the list of plugins, the selected time zone, whether a "do not track" option is turned on, and whether an adblocker is being used.
Until now, however, the tracking has been limited to a single browser. This constraint made it infeasible to tie, say, the fingerprint left behind by a Firefox browser to the fingerprint from a Chrome or Edge installation running on the same machine. The new technique—outlined in a research paper titled (Cross-)Browser Fingerprinting via OS and Hardware Level Features—not only works across multiple browsers. It's also more accurate than previous single-browser fingerprinting.
The answer, my friend, is blowin' in the wind:
Wind turbines across the Great Plains states produced, for the first time, more than half the region's electricity Sunday.
The power grid that supplies a corridor stretching from Montana to the Texas Panhandle was getting 52.1 percent of its power from wind at 4:30 a.m. on Sunday, Little Rock, Arkansas-based Southwest Power Pool Inc. said in a statement Monday.
As more and more turbines are installed across the country, Southwest Power has become the first North American grid operator to get a majority of its supply from wind. That beats the grid's prior record of 49.2 percent and the 48 percent that a Texas grid operator reached in March, Derek Wingfield, a spokesman, said in an e-mail.