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US Picks New Nuclear Warhead Design March 2, 2007

Posted by Dan in News, Politics, Technology, War.
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Agm-86-Alcm Xxl

From the BBC:
The Bush administration has selected the design for America’s first new nuclear warhead in nearly two decades.

US officials say the warhead will not add to the country’s nuclear arsenal, but will replace existing missiles.

Critics, though, argue this sends the wrong signal at a time when the White House is leading efforts to curb Iran and North Korea’s nuclear ambitions.

The chosen design was developed in a Californian laboratory and is based on a warhead already tested in the 1980s.

That will satisfy the US Congress, which signed off on the idea of a new warhead on the basis that there would not be any fresh missile tests.

Senior US officials, meanwhile, are stressing that this is not the start of a new arms race.

They say the warheads will simply replace older, less reliable ones with a safer version that is due to be operational in five years’ time.

But, at a moment when the White House is trying to stop North Korea and Iran from developing their nuclear programmes, some see the decision to press ahead with a new US warhead as sending an unfortunate mixed message.

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Anatomy of an IED (Improvised Explosive Device) February 10, 2007

Posted by Dan in Middle East, News, Technology, War.
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Sure… we hear all about the IEDs that Iraqi insurgents are using to target our troops as they move throughout the country. But, how many of us actually know what that means? The New York Times created this graphic, in concert with the U.S. Army, to visually show what the IEDs are designed to do…

 Images 2007 02 10 World 0210-For-Webweapons

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Web 2.0 in Five Minutes – Video February 8, 2007

Posted by Dan in Main, Science, Snipets, Technology, Video.
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This video is amazing. Its both a description and a demonstration of how the Internet is changing the way we interact as a species.

“The machine is Us/ing Us” is deeply profound conclusion, and one in which I find no fault. We both drive the forces behind the Internet and are driven by them. We share a common language that transcends all borders, even those of reality: Binary. This video is really just the tip of an iceberg so large it stretches all the way to our core. Within the next 10 years, humanity will undergo a transition unlike anything we have been through before. As barriers between communication are broken down, we will find that the only way for us to exist is as a united species.

More on that next time….

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Microsoft Vista’s Real Features February 8, 2007

Posted by Dan in Funny, News, Snipets, Technology.
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This, from The Onion, I thought was particularly funny for all of those considering to upgrade…..

Microsoft released its new operating system, Vista, on Jan. 30. Here are some of its features:

  • Microsoft Word’s helpful paper-clip icon now blinks at rate of normal humans
  • Enhanced graphics on “System Is Not Responding” pop-up window
  • Five new card-back designs for Solitaire
  • Something that Apple would never, ever dream up in a billion years
  • Microsoft Vista Released
  • 4,391 security flaws to be patched over next 15 years
  • Promise of broad, open-minded future or some bullshit
  • Lists blocked wireless connections with greater speed and accuracy
  • New operating system, same old Microsoft Paint

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Humans ‘Very Likely’ Cause of Global Warming, Report Warns February 2, 2007

Posted by Dan in Main, Must Read, News, Politics, Science, Technology.
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NY Times Reporter Andrew C. Revkin brings some great insight:

PARIS, France (AP) — The world’s leading climate scientists, in their most powerful language ever used on the issue, said global warming is “very likely” man-made, according to a new report obtained Friday by The Associated Press.

The report provides what may be cold comfort in slightly reduced projections on rising temperatures and sea levels by the year 2100. But it is tempered by a flat pronouncement that global warming is essentially a runaway train that cannot be stopped for centuries.

“The observed widespread warming of the atmosphere and ocean, together with ice-mass loss, support the conclusion that it is extremely unlikely that global climate change of the past 50 years can be explained without external forcing, and very likely that is not due to known natural causes alone,” said the 20-page report.

Human-caused warming and rises in sea-level “would continue for centuries” because the process has already started, “even if greenhouse gas concentrations were to be stabilized,” said the 20-page report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

The report by a group of hundreds of scientists and representatives of 113 governments contains the most authoritative science on the issue. It was due for official release later Friday morning in Paris.

The phrase “very likely” translates to a more than 90 percent certainty that global warming is caused by man.

What that means in layman’s language is “we have this nailed,” said top U.S. climate scientist Jerry Mahlman, who originated the percentage system.

It marked an escalation from the panel’s last report in 2001, which said warming was “likely” caused by human activity. There had been speculation that the participants might try to up the ante to “virtually certain” man causes global warming, which translates to 99 percent chance.

On sea levels, the report projects rises of 7-23 inches by the end of the century. That could be augmented by an additional 4-8 inches if recent surprising polar ice sheet melt continues.

The 2001 report projected a sea level rise of up to 35 inches.

Many scientists had warned that this was being too cautious and said sea level rise could be closer to 3 to 5 feet because of ice sheet melt.

But despite losing on that battle, scientists said the report is strong.

“There’s no question that the powerful language is intimately linked to the more powerful science,” said one of the study’s many co-authors, Andrew Weaver of the University of Victoria, who spoke by phone from Canada. He said the report was based on science that is rock-solid, peer-reviewed, conservative and consensus.

“It’s very conservative. Scientists by their nature are skeptics.”

The scientists wrote the report, based on years of peer-reviewed research; government officials edited it with an eye toward the required unanimous approval by world governments.

In the end, there was little debate on the strength of the wording about human activity most likely to blame.

“That is a big move. I hope it is a powerful statement,” said Jan Pretel, head of the department of climate change at the Czech Hydrometeorological Institute.

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Subternet – An Insider’s Guide to the Web’s Secret Underbelly February 1, 2007

Posted by Dan in Main, Must Read, Science, Technology.
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Recently, one of my readers mentioned the possibility of a kind of “black market” internet. Its a place where freedom of information and anonymity run hand in hand… a secret web called the “Subternet.”

If you’ve ever heard the term “terrorist chatter,” then you’ve got all the proof you need that a secret international program dubbed Project ECHELON is monitoring global electronic communications. This is far from conspiracy theory, however, as this is a fairly well documented system for a covert project. In fact, it is estimated that the National Security Agency (NSA), located in Ft. Meade, Maryland (just down the road from where I grew up) captures enough digital information to fill the Library of Congress every hour! Even with today’s highest speed supercomputers, that is a massive amount of information to crunch. Hence the term terrorist chatter: The system is able to monitor the quantity of terror related communications, but not necessarily the contents of those messages.

What does this mean for you? Well, suppose you were curious about how Nuclear Weapons are constructed… you might visit a website like this one, detailing the design of several kinds of nuclear bombs. RED FLAG. You have probably accidentally alerted internet monitoring systems in place to scan for terrorist activity. Not to worry though, as I said before, the system is most likely not capable of investigating every single curious web hit, and barring an extended history of online communications with the Middle East, you’re probably fine. But…. computers are getting faster.

In the near future, ECHELON’s successor will do an in depth check into all suspicious communications activity, meaning your web traffic, cell calls, and even credit card purchases will all be monitored, cross-referenced and recorded, within the next decade. Some of you might be wondering how something like this even possible? “The Internet is a global system. I know my employer can watch what I do online, but if I’m not browsing the web from within the NSA, then how do they know which pages I’m visiting?” The answer lies in the foundation of the Internet.

If you’ve been browsing for any period of time, you’ve probably run into the term DNS or Domain Name System, but you might not know what it is. In a nutshell, the internet actually runs on numbers. When you type a website into your address bar (something like http://www.webmerica.org), you’re actually asking a computer to convert that text into an IP address (example. That IP address is what you’re really connecting to, almost like a phone number. Now here’s the catch… the main DNS computers, from which the rest of the world just duplicates, are owned and operated by the U.S. Department of Commerce. Every time you visit a website, you’re actually asking the USDOC to send you that site. Tying in to those communications would be child’s play for the National Security Agency.

So, how can you avoid this kind of an intrusion into your personal life? By staying one step ahead of current monitoring techniques. There are various programs that will route your web traffic through a “proxy.” In other words, as far as the outside world is concerned, your online activity is coming from that “proxy” server and not your own computer. However, I recommend the beta program known as The Onion Router (TOR). Originally developed with the US Naval Research Laboratory, a TOR network relays your internet communication amongst several random, encrypted servers, before finally reaching the website you requested. However, the program is still in its infancy, and I do not suggest it for serious internet anonymity (such as to avoid a hostile government which has placed restrictions on the web inside their own countries). The program is growing though, and I feel its the “one to watch” for the next couple of years. Right now, hiding your web activity from Government Anti-Terror programs is probably a little extreme. But in a couple of years, it may become necessity.

The Subternet:

Ever since the beginnings of the web, with 14.4 modems and AOL dial-up, there has been a “black market” to the Internet. However, what once was found only in WAREZ IRC chat rooms, private rationed ftp sites, and other innovative comm systems like KDX, Hotline, and Carracho, has progressed through Napster and on into BitTorrent. Although, unlike most forms of black market, when it comes to the internet, “free” is the key. Everything today is about the free distribution of information (copyrighted or not), and the collaborative effort to disseminate that information. With a program like BitTorrent, each person downloads specific portions of a file from a single host, which they then send to everyone else in the swarm who hasn’t received that portion yet, thereby distributing the required bandwidth between every downloader, and reducing the load upon the server.

In other words, the black market of the Internet has begun to move off of the web and onto our own computers (which then speak directly to one another). This is the foundation of Peer-to-Peer communications. Already, torrent tracker sites are requiring users to register, creating closed file-sharing systems mostly isolated from the Internet at large. This isolation will only greaten as it increases protection from Anti-copyright infringement agencies. As a result, the black market will move further away from the web at large. It is only a matter of time before private DNS servers will allow “Internets” that remain isolated from the web as a whole. These “Subternets” will have to be patrolled by governments seeking monitoring rights, and their monitoring will necessarily become “active” (compared to the “passive” monitoring systems we see today). It will mean the true birth of both the “web-cop” and the “underground network.”

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Iran’s Space Program Built on North Korean Tech January 28, 2007

Posted by Dan in Middle East, Must Read, News, Space, Technology, Video, War.
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The Iranians have recently stepped up their space program, with the aim of launching their first satellite into orbit atop a modified ballistic missile. While the exact launch vehicle is unknown, it is believed to be a derivation of the liquid-fueled 800-1,000 mi range Shahab-3 called the IRSL-X-2 or the IRIS. The missile version, equipped with a nuclear warhead, could reach Israel, Saudi Arabia, the entire Persian Gulf and as far west as Turkey. However, the “space aimed” upgraded model could represent the beginnings of an Iranian Intercontinental Ballistic Missile (ICBM) with a range of approximately 2,500 mi. Such a weapon could place a nuclear warhead as far as Central Europe, or well into Russia, China or India.

The U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency has told Congress that Iran may be capable of developing a 3,000 mi range ICBM by 2015 making it able to hit as far away as London. What’s worse is that there is evidence to suggest that the recent Iranian launch vehicle is a copy of North Korea’s Taepodong-2C/3 ICBM that failed in a launch attempt last July 4th. In fact, cooperation between the two governments has been going on for quite some time now, [GlobalSecurity.org] which would shed some light on how Iran could’ve released this tech so quickly. The implication of this conglomerate is devastation on a global scale. While North Korea maintains its weapons serve a deterrent purpose, their blind hatred towards the west leaves that to be seen.

With the recent test of a Chinese anti-satellite weapon, the White House must be in a frenzy. Bush has made space a priority of his, but actual funding has been scant. We can not afford to loose our hold on space exploration and technology. And yet, all of this has the stale scent of Cold War about it. Once again, the Communist world, partnering with Islamic factions in the middle east, is building up nuclear weapons and ICBMs with their sights set firmly on Western Democracy.

Someone needs to defuse this situation, and quickly. I don’t see any of this ending well.

Because I know this is pretty heavy stuff: Jay Leno on Iran’s space program…

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China Carries Out Space Weapons Test – First in 20 Years – Video January 20, 2007

Posted by Dan in Must Read, News, Politics, Science, Space, Technology, War.

The United States is demanding answers after Beijing reportedly carried out a weapons test in space last week. The weapon, however, was not “space based.” It is thought the Chinese used a ground-based, medium-range ballistic missile to destroy a defunct Feng yun 1C Polar Orbit weather satellite. If confirmed, the test represents the first known satellite intercept in more than 20 years.

The US, though officially opposed to placing weapons in space, has been reportedly researching such devices, particularly in the last several years. Space based weapons, or devices that orbit the Earth with the sole purpose of providing attack capability to their controllers, have generally been frowned upon by the global community.

You may remember Reagan’s Star Wars Missile Defense System, a planned space based weapons array capable of eliminating ballistic missiles in flight by heating them with lasers. Such “defensive” platforms, aimed at ground based weapons, have traditionally garnered modicums of support, while weapons designed to specifically target objects in space have largely been scorned.

However, I deeply hope that we are developing such weapons in secret. No one country should be allowed possession of such large scale destructive forces. Weapons aimed at eliminating satellites would provide our now or future enemies with the capabilities to cripple the world’s telecommunications systems, amongst others like GPS, Satellite TV, and even XM radio. The effects on the globe would be devastating and widespread.

Unfortunately, if the cold war has taught us anything, it is that the theory of Mutually Assured Destruction (MAD), whereby if you launch, I launch, has successfully kept the world from all out nuclear war, despite some very close calls. In other words, it may not be perfect, but it worked. Looking for further proof? Despite the some odd 20,000 nuclear weapons in the possession of both the United States and Russia, none has ever been used maliciously since the 1945 bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki proved so completely horrific.

The bottom line is this: If other countries are developing new weapons capable of destruction on the global scale, we must follow suit.

CNN’s reports on the consequences of China’s Space Weapons:

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New Yorkers to get Picture Mail 911 January 20, 2007

Posted by Dan in News, Technology, Video.
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Here’s a story thats long overdue. In fact, when countries like Japan have phones that work like wireless ATM cards, its hard to imagine that we’d be on the forefront of a major development in cell phone tech. Yet, New York has a novel idea that is just that. Their 911 emergency services centers will soon be able to receive picture and video messages from caller’s cell phones. The aim: to allow operators to prioritize calls based on footage of the incident.

Video report:

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The End of Bush’s Domestic Wire Tapping Program January 18, 2007

Posted by Dan in News, Politics, Technology, War.
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In a victory for law and civil rights, the Bush Administration has conceded jurisdiction of their domestic wire-tap program to the US Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court. This means that, once again, law enforcement agencies will be forced through the long, encumbering process of seeking a warrant.

Yes, the “fighting” Fourth Amendment seems to have made a come-back, requiring probable cause in order to listen-in on an American’s phone call…. or at least for any evidence garnered under such circumstances to be admissible in court.

Below are scans of the document Attorney General Alberto Gonzales composed to notify the Senate Judiciary Committee of the reversal in policy.


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