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Archive for September, 2011|Monthly archive page

Britain leaps to secure Libya contracts

In Europe News, World News on September 29, 2011 at 7:42 pm

By PressTV

The UK government has dispatched its economic authorities to Libya to be the first to win lucrative deals to rebuild the ruins of NATO aerial campaign.

Britain, as the perpetrator of a Western-led attack on Libya under the guise of protecting the country’s civilian population, is seeking to secure more business contracts with the new Libyan government.

British Trade Minister Stephen Green launched business talks in Libya, claiming UK firms are eager to participate in the rebuilding of the North African country.

Green said that he had several meetings with the Libyan businessmen and members of National Transitional Council (NTC) and talked about future contracts between the two countries.

However, he told reporters in Tripoli that Britain will not take strategic decisions with Libya until the country creates a new constitution and an elected government is chosen by the Libyan people.

Britain formerly sent a team of negotiators to Tripoli to begin talks with the NTC officials and to sign lucrative oil deals.

The news was then confirmed by Senior Whitehall officials, revealing that British Trade and Investment was planning to renew its oil contracts in Libya quickly, amid rising fears that…

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Al-Qaida calls on Ahmadinejad to end 9/11 conspiracy theories

In Americas, World News on September 29, 2011 at 7:42 pm

By Saeed Kamall Dehghan

Al-Qaida has sent a message to the Iranian president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, asking him to stop spreading conspiracy theories about the 9/11 attacks.

Iranian media on Wednesday reported quotes from what appears to be an article published in the latest issue of the al-Qaida English language magazine, Inspire, which described Ahmadinejad’s remarks over the 11 September attacks as “ridiculous”.

In his UN general assembly speech last week, Ahmadinejad cast doubt over the official version of the 2001 attacks.

“The Iranian government has professed on the tongue of its president Ahmadinejad that it does not believe that al-Qaida was behind 9/11 but rather, the US government,” the article said, according to Iranian media. “So we may ask the question: why would Iran ascribe to such a ridiculous belief that stands in the face of all logic and evidence?”

Ahmadinejad said in New York that the “mysterious September 11 incident” had been used as a pretext to attack Afghanistan and Iraq. He had also previously expressed scepticism at the US version of events.

“By using their imperialistic media network which is under the influence of colonialism, they threaten anyone who questions the Holocaust and the September 11 event with sanctions and military actions,” said Ahmadinejad.

The al-Qaida article insisted it had been behind the attacks and criticised the Iranian president for discrediting the terrorist group.

“For them, al-Qaida was a competitor for the hearts and minds of the disenfranchised Muslims around the world,” said the article published in the Inspire magazine. “Al-Qaida … succeeded in what Iran couldn’t. Therefore it was necessary for the Iranians to discredit 9/11 and what better way to do so? Conspiracy theories.”

Al-Qaida also accused Iran of hypocrisy over…

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Which telecoms store your data the longest? secret memo tells all

In Americas, Big Brother on September 28, 2011 at 11:33 pm

By David Kravets

The nation’s major mobile-phone providers are keeping a treasure trove of sensitive data on their customers, according to a newly released Justice Department internal memo that for the first time reveals the data retention policies of America’s largest telecoms.

The single-page Department of Justice document, “Retention Periods of Major Cellular Service Providers,” (PDF) is a guide for law enforcement agencies looking to get information—like customer IP addresses, call logs, text messages and web surfing habits—out of US telecom companies, including AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile and Verizon.

The document, marked “Law Enforcement Use Only” and dated August 2010, illustrates there are some significant differences in how long carriers retain your data.

Verizon, for example, keeps a list of everyone you’ve exchanged text messages with for the past year, according to the document.  But  T-Mobile stores the same data up to five years. It’s 18 months for Sprint, and seven years for AT&T.

That makes Verizon appear to have the most privacy-friendly policy. Except that Verizon is alone in retaining the actual contents of text messages. It allegedly stores the messages for five days, while T-Mobile, AT&T, and Sprint don’t store them at all.

The document was unearthed by the American Civil Liberties Union of North Carolina via a Freedom of Information Act claim. (After the group gave a copy to Wired.com, we also discovered it in two other places on the Internet by searching its title.)

“People who are upset that Facebook is storing all their information should be really concerned that their cell phone is tracking them everywhere they’ve been,” said Catherine Crump, an ACLU staff attorney. “The government has this information because it wants to engage in surveillance.”

The biggest difference in retention surrounds so-called cell-site data. That is information detailing a…

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Inside Scientology’s super power building: Where worshippers will become superhuman

In Big Brother, World News on September 28, 2011 at 11:32 pm

By Daniel Miller

These space-age images show the inside of the Church of Scientology’s new $90m (£57m) training centre where devotees of the controversial religion will be told they can develop superhuman abilities. The Super Power Building in Clearwater, Florida, is due to finally open later this year after being beset by a long series of delays, which saw construction halt and costs spiral. The imposing structure, a bizarre cross between a Mediterranean-style hotel and the Starship Enterprise, boasts 889 rooms, an indoor running track and Nasa-style training equipment to help worshippers boost their ‘theta’ power.

Modern: The building contains 889 rooms and has an indoor running track on the sixth floor

The building contains specially-developed equipment, which the church claims,’expands on the technology developed by Nasa to train astronauts’.

Among the most bizarre contraptions is the antigravity simulator – a gyroscope that spins a person around while blindfolded to improve their perception of compass direction.

Trainees will also be instructed to watch a special video screen that moves back and forth while flashing images to hone their abilities to identify subliminal messages.

It is not yet known how much super power training will cost. Some higher-level Scientology training courses are priced in tens of thousands of dollars.

The images, which were leaked on to the web, are believed to show artists’ impressions of what the building will look like.

The project, which had an original budget of $24m (£15m), was…

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Aid agency withdrew Pakistan staff after CIA fake vaccination scheme

In World News on September 28, 2011 at 11:32 pm

By Declan Walsh

Save the Children, which was not linked to the scheme, flew workers out of the country after US warnings about their safety.

Fears that a fake CIA vaccination scheme created to hunt Osama bin Laden has compromised the operations of aid agencies in Pakistan have intensified after it emerged that a major NGO was forced to evacuate its staff following warnings about their security.

Save the Children flew eight expatriate aid workers out of Pakistan in late July after receiving a warning from US officials at the Peshawar consulate. Two senior local staff were moved into five-star hotels in Islamabad.

Western and Pakistani officials say there were fears that Save the Children staff could be picked up by Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) over alleged links to Dr Shakil Afridi, the Pakistani doctor at the heart of the covert CIA vaccination scheme that helped locate Bin Laden.

Save the Children vehemently denies any links to the CIA scheme, which the Guardian first reported in July, and said it was the victim of a broader crackdown on aid agencies in Pakistan caused by CIA tactics.

“Dr Afridi never worked for Save the Children and his alleged activities were not in any way connected with us. We did not have a vaccination programme in Abbottabad,” said a spokeswoman, Ishbel Matheson, in London.

The charity did have a passing connection with…

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Facebook is scaring me

In Big Brother, Tech, World News on September 26, 2011 at 4:48 pm

By Dave Winer

Yesterday I wrote that Twitter should be scared of Facebook. Today it’s worse. I, as a mere user of Facebook, am seriously scared of them.

A picture named lucyCharlieFootball.gifEvery time they make a change, people get angry. I’ve never myself been angry because I have always assumed everything I post to Facebook is public. That the act of putting something there, a link, picture, mini-essay, is itself a public act.

This time, however, they’re doing something that I think is really scary, and virus-like. The kind of behavior deserves a bad name, like phishing, or spam, or cyber-stalking.

What clued me in was an article on ReadWriteWeb that says that just reading an article on their site may create an announcement on Facebook. Something like: “Bull Mancuso just read a tutorial explaining how to kill a member of another crime family.” Bull didn’t comment. He didn’t press a Like button. He just visited a web page. And an announcement was made on his behalf to everyone who follows him on Facebook. Not just his friends, because now they have subscribers, who can be total strangers.

Now, I’m not technically naive. I understood before that the Like buttons were extensions of Facebook. They were surely keeping track of all the places I went. And if I went to places that were illegal, they would be reported to government agencies. Bull Mancuso in the example above has more serious things to worry about than his mother finding out that he’s a hitman for the mob. (Both are fictitious characters, and in my little story his mom already knows he’s a hitman.)

There could easily be lawsuits, divorces, maybe even arrests based on what’s made public by Facebook.

People joke that privacy is over, but I don’t think they imagined that the disclosures would be so proactive. They are seeking out information to report about you. That’s different from showing people a picture that you posted yourself. If this were the government we’d be talking about the Fourth Amendment.

Also, I noted that I had somehow given access to my Facebook account to ReadWriteWeb. That’s puzzling because I have no memory of having done that. And when I went to…

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Tony Blair’s six secret visits to Gaddafi

In Europe News, World News on September 26, 2011 at 4:47 pm

By Robert Mendick

Tony Blair’s close relationship to Colonel Muammar Gaddafi has come under fresh scrutiny after it emerged he had six private meetings with the dictator in the three years after he left Downing Street.
Five of those meetings took place in a 14-month period before the release of Abdelbaset al-Megrahi, the Lockerbie bomber.

Mr Blair is coming under increasing pressure to make public details of all his meetings and discussions with Gaddafi. It follows the disclosure in The Sunday Telegraph last week that on at least two occasions Mr Blair flew to Tripoli on a private jet paid for by the Libyan regime.

Among the new meetings uncovered by this newspaper is a visit to Gaddafi in January 2009, when JP Morgan, the US investment bank which pays Mr Blair £2  million a year as a senior adviser, was trying to negotiate a deal between the Libyan Investment Authority (LIA) and a company run by the Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska, a friend of Lord Mandelson. The multi-billion dollar deal, which later fell through, would have seen the LIA provide a loan to Rusal, the world’s largest aluminium producer.

JP Morgan’s involvement in the deal is revealed in an email sent to the LIA by the bank’s vice-chairman, Lord Renwick, in December 2008, in which he sought to “finalise the terms of the mandate concerning Rusal before Mr Blair’s visit to Tripoli”.

JP Morgan said Mr Blair had no knowledge of the Rusal proposal. A spokesman added: “JP Morgan declined to participate on such a transaction and thus Mr Blair was never involved, and it was never discussed with him.”

A spokesman for Mr Blair said: “Neither Tony Blair nor any of his staff raised any issue to do with a Russian aluminium company.” He added that the “bulk of the conversations” with Gaddafi had been about Africa and how Libya could develop infrastructure. While Gaddafi raised the issue of Megrahi’s release, Mr Blair always repeated that…

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Faster than light neutrinos – Q&A

In Tech, World News on September 26, 2011 at 4:47 pm

By Alok Jha

Tentative new evidence suggests Einstein’s rule that nothing can travel faster than the speed of light may be wrong. What are the implications for our understanding of the world?

What has been discovered?

A fundamental subatomic particle, the neutrino, seems to be capable of travelling faster than the speed of light (that is, the speed of a photon through a vacuum).

Why do physicists believe nothing can go faster than light speed?

At the turn of the 20th century, Albert Einstein used earlier work by the physicist James Clerk Maxwell to show that the speed of light, c, is a fundamental constant and that it is also the maximum speed that anything can travel. In practice, the only things that do travel at this speed are photons (particles of light) moving through a vacuum.

Einstein encapsulated c in his special theory of relativity, which says that the laws of physics are the same regardless of who is observing or experiencing them. To accommodate the invariance of the speed of light, Einstein had to modify Newton’s laws of motion so that time and space became stretchy concepts – as an object moves faster, its size contracts and the time it experiences slows down. Special relativity also leads to Einstein’s most famous equation, E = mc2 (where E is energy and m is mass), which shows that energy and matter are equivalent.

Where on the scale of amazing/surprising is this finding?

If the Gran Sasso results are proved correct, scientists would have reason to believe that the current formulation of special relativity is wrong. This is troubling, since the theory has been tested countless times in experiments and has not been disproved. It is a cornerstone of our understanding of the universe.

The speed limit of light is also the basis of cause and effect: effects always follow causes. If that does not always hold, the basic laws of physics might have to be rewritten.
What exactly did the physicists do?
Scientists at the Opera (Oscillation Project with Emulsion-tRacking Apparatus) experiment in Gran Sasso, Italy, found that beams of neutrinos…

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Internet surveillance described

In Big Brother, Tech on September 25, 2011 at 12:55 pm

By John Briggs

Jeff Chester, who heads the Center for Digital Democracy in Washington, D.C., was in Burlington on Thursday to deliver a warning that our personal data and our personal habits are being systematically collected and marketed for corporate and political gain.

“Powerful forces,” he said, “are shaping the future of the Internet and other digital media.”

Chester was invited to town for two talks, one at noon Thursday at the First Congregational Church and an evening presentation at Champlain College. Sponsors were the Center for Media and Democracy and organizations including Seven Days, the American Civil Liberties Union, Champlain College, the University of Vermont Libraries, Vermont Commons, Front Porch Forum, United Way of Chittenden County and the Vermont Library Association.

Chester warns that money-making pressures are making the Internet perilous for individuals’ privacy. “The technology is Orwellian,” he said.

As that technology collects information minute by minute on each Internet excursion on one’s computer or on social media or mobile phones, it provides insights about our political beliefs and practices, he said.

“We need to understand it,” Chester told a noontime luncheon audience of about 60.

“Surfing” the Web, a description from a decade or so ago, has become an outworn metaphor, as Chester describes today’s digital surveillance world. Surfers leave no trail, we do. Every online key-stroke leaves a trail of websites visited and personal preferences across the spectrum, from entertainment to pornography to medical and financial issues.

Search engines, Web sites, online marketing companies, all “know in real time,” Chester said, individuals’ interests “yesterday, today and tomorrow,” and personally tailored ads can be delivered to users at their computer and soon on TV “in a millisecond.”

A key question, Chester says, is who…

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Engineered Epidemic

In Big Brother, Europe News, World News on September 25, 2011 at 12:54 pm

By Jay Van Liere

Positive forensic evidence has surfaced indicating that the e. coli superstrain that recently ravaged Europe, was created by humans.

Science has proved that the bacteria is resistant to 8 different types of antibiotics and possesses DNA sequences from plague bacteria, a combination utterly unprecedented in nature, which has many authorities theorizing it was created in a lab and either released purposefully (with, perhaps, the intent to control global food and health), or accidentally into the food supply.

This distinct e. coli variation is part of the 0104 strain, and these strains are essentially never (under natural circumstances) resistant to antibiotics.  To acquire this capacity they must be repetitively exposed to antibiotics in order to incite the “mutation pressure” that nudges them toward complete drug immunity.  To unveil the origins of such a strain, science basically reverse-engineers the genetic code of the e. coli to determine which antibiotics it was exposed to during its development.  Decoding the genetic makeup of the 0104 strain, scientists at Germany’s Robert Koch Institute discovered it to be immune to all the following classes and combinations of antibiotics: 1) penicillins 2) tetracycline
3) nalidixic acid 4) trimethoprim-sulfamethoxazol 5) cephalosporins 6) amoxicillin / clavulanic acid
7) piperacillin-sulbactam 8 ) piperacillin-tazobactam.

Bacterial resistance to a single antibiotic is common; but the creation of a strain of e. coli that’s immune to 8 different classes of antibiotics defies the laws of genetic permutation and combination in nature.

Also, antibiotics are not used in vegetables, so the bacteria most likely was not exposed to even one form, much less 8.  If one chooses to believe that this superbug evolved separate of human intervention in the wild, this would be an even more alarming scenario: for it would mean this octobiotic superstrain developed randomly of its own accord, and that other similar superbugs could simply appear anywhere, anytime, without cause.  This would then simply be Mother Nature creating a 12 Monkeys scenario – far scarier, yet quite impossible in the opinion of most of the scientific community.

The real scheme at work here appears to be “problem, reaction, solution,” as pointed out…

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