Wednesday, April 28, 2010

stephen hawking warns over making contact with aliens

hawking: extraterrestrials are almost certain to exist;
if we encounter them, chances are we're f*cked

stephen hawking warns over making contact with aliensfrom bbc: Aliens almost certainly exist but humans should avoid making contact, Professor Stephen Hawking has warned. In a series for the Discovery Channel the renowned astrophysicist said it was "perfectly rational" to assume intelligent life exists elsewhere.

But he warned that aliens might simply raid Earth for resources, then move on. "If aliens visit us, the outcome would be much as when Columbus landed in America, which didn't turn out well for the Native Americans," he said.

Prof Hawking thinks that, rather than actively trying to communicate with extra-terrestrials, humans should do everything possible to avoid contact. He explained: "We only have to look at ourselves to see how intelligent life might develop into something we wouldn't want to meet."

related: nasa announces wednesday media teleconference about search for extraterrestrial life & ice on asteroid suggests earth's water came from space

study: fair use contributes trillions to US economy

study: fair use contributes trillions to US economyfrom threat level: One study after another purports to chronicle how much intellectual property piracy hurts the economy, and contributes to every societal ill from terrorism to child porn & slavery.

A new study unveiled Tuesday sets out to examine intellectual property in a different light: How fair use — which doesn’t require permission from the copyright holder — actually benefits the economy.

The trade group, Computer & Communications Industry Association, in a follow-up to its 2007 report, asks: “What contribution is made to our economy by industries that depend on the limitations to copyright protection when engaged in commerce?

For the year 2007, the fair-use economy accounted for $4.7 trillion in revenue (.pdf)  and $2.2 trillion in value added, roughly one-sixth the total gross domestic product of the United States, according to the study. The fair-use economy also employed more than 17 million people with a $1.2 trillion payroll.

Fair-use-dependent industries include educational institutions, search engines, web hosting providers, software developers and device manufacturers, among others.

To be sure, the government urges caution when analyzing the economics of intellectual property. Still, we thought we’d throw this study into the mix because of its novel approach.

The protection afforded by fair use and other limitations and exceptions has been a major contributing factor to these economic gains, and will continue to support growth as the U.S. economy becomes even more dependent on information industries,” the study said.

The association’s membership includes Microsoft, Google, eBay, AMD, Yahoo, Oracle and others. Under the Copyright Act, fair use is not copyright infringement. In the software context, for example, software development depends on making temporary copies of copyrighted software to facilitate the programming of interoperability.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

cia head panetta says 'cyber attack could be next pearl harbor'

cyberwar & repression: corporatist synergy made in hell
from sacramento press: Central Intelligence Agency director Leon Panetta told 300 Sacramento Metro Chamber Cap-to-Cap delegates that the next “Pearl Harbor” is likely to be an attack on the United States’ power, financial, military and other Internet systems.

Panetta addressed the Sacramento delegation that includes 43 elected officials and hundreds of business and civic leaders who are in Washington D.C. for the annual program that advocates for the region’s most pressing policy issues. He spoke on Monday, April 19, during the Cap-to-Cap opening breakfast.

Cyber terrorism” is a new area of concern for the CIA, Panetta said. The United States faces thousands of cyber attacks daily on its Internet networks. The attacks are originating in Russia, China, Iran and from even hackers.

The next Pearl Harbor is likely to be a cyber attacking going after our grid… and that can literally cripple this country,” Panetta said. “This is a whole new area of threat.”

But cyber terrorism is just one of four primary missions for Panetta, who took over directing the CIA last year after appointment by President Obama. The CIA is also focusing on counter-terrorism, reducing the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and fighting narcotics trafficking.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

webcamgate expands as lawyers say 1000s of pictures taken

school secretly snapped 1000s of students at home
webcamgate expands as lawyers say 1000s of pictures taken
from threat level: A webcam spying scandal at a suburban Philadelphia school district is broadening, with lawyers claiming the district secretly snapped thousands of webcam images of students using school-issued laptops without the pupils’ knowledge or consent.

Some of the images included pictures of youths at home, in bed or even “partially dressed,” according to a Thursday filing in the case. Pupils’ online chats were also captured, as well as a record of the websites they visited.

When the story first broke in February, the district said the cameras were activated only handful of times when a laptop was reported stolen or missing — an assertion lawyers suing the district say is false.

Discovery to date has now revealed that thousands of webcam pictures and screen shots (.pdf) have been taken from numerous other students in their homes, many of which never reported their laptops lost or missing,” attorney Mark Haltzman wrote in a Thursday federal court filing.

In February, the Lower Merion School District deactivated the webcam-tracking program secretly lodged on 2,300 student laptops...

Thursday’s filing, which claims 400 images of Robbins were taken during a two-week period last fall, also says that an IT administrator at the district “may be a voyeur.” Lawyers suing the district are urging a federal judge presiding over the case to grant a forensic examination of administrator’s personal computer.

The lawsuit said the administrator, who has been placed on paid leave, “invokes the Fifth Amendment to every question asked of her, including a question asked as to whether she had ever downloading (sic) pictures to her own computer, including pictures of students who were naked while in their home.”

The lawsuit seeks class-action status to represent all the district’s 2,300 high school students.

Proposed legislation announced late Thursday by Sen. Arlen Specter (D-Pennsylvania) would make it a federal felony to remotely spy on private residences and hotel rooms with video cameras.

Monday, April 19, 2010

pentagon's cybercom says civilian infrastructure a 'legitimate' target

pentagon's cybercom says civilian infrastructure a 'legitimate' targetfrom antifascist calling: When U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates launched Cyber Command (CYBERCOM) last June, the memorandum authorizing its stand-up specified it as a new "subordinate unified command" under U.S. Strategic Command (STRATCOM), one that "must be capable of synchronizing warfighting effects across the global security environment as well as providing support to civil authorities and international partners."

As Antifascist Calling reported at the time, Gates chose Lt. General Keith Alexander, the current Director of the National Security Agency (NSA), to lead the new DOD entity. The agency would be based in Ft. Meade, Maryland, where NSA headquarters are located and the general would direct both organizations.

In that piece I pointed out that STRATCOM is the successor organization to Strategic Air Command (SAC). One of ten Unified Combatant Commands, STRATCOM's brief includes space operations (military satellites), information warfare, missile defense, global command and control, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR), as well as global strike and strategic deterrence, America's first-strike nuclear arsenal. Designating CYBERCOM a STRATCOM branch all but guarantees an aggressive posture.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

yahoo beats feds in email privacy battle

yahoo beats feds in email privacy battlefrom threat level: Yahoo prevailed Friday over Colorado federal prosecutors in a legal battle testing whether the Constitution’s warrant requirements apply to Americans’ e-mail.

Saying the contested e-mail “would not be helpful to the government’s investigation,” (.pdf) the authorities withdrew demands for e-mail in a pending and sealed criminal case. For the moment, the move ends litigation over the hotly contested issue of when a warrant under the Fourth Amendment is required for Yahoo and other e-mail providers to release consumer communications to the authorities.

The brouhaha concerned a 1986 law that already allows the government to obtain a suspect’s e-mail from an internet service provider or webmail provider without a probable-cause warrant, once it’s been stored for 180 days or more. The government contended, and then backed off Friday, that it could get e-mail less than 180-days old if that e-mail has been read by the owner, and that the Constitution’s Fourth Amendment protections don’t apply.

Yahoo was backed (.pdf) by the Electronic Frontier Foundation, Google and the Center for Democracy & Technology in challenging the government’s position. It defied a court order to turn over those e-mails to the feds in a Colorado criminal probe that is under seal. Litigation over the topic ensued, and the government blinked in a legal standoff highlighting antiquated privacy laws.

Had the courts adopted the government’s position, (.pdf) the vast majority of Americans’ e-mail would be accessible to the government without probable cause, whenever law enforcement believes the messages would be relevant to a criminal investigation, even if the e-mail’s owner was not suspected of wrongdoing.

Still, the government’s move does not resolve the privacy issue, but merely instead delays it for a later day.

flashback: fcc loses net neutrality battle against comcast

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

avoiding death by uploading your brain

avoiding death by uploading your brainfrom allgov: Ken Hayworth, a postdoctoral fellow at Harvard, has come up with an unusual potential form of immortality by preserving the human brain in a computer. Most theories of extending life, such as using experimental supplements or super-sensitive health monitoring, work with a person’s existing body. Hayworth suggests that it might be possible to copy your brain, complete with all its thoughts, memories and learned abilities, for use in a form other than the body you have used all your life.

Theoretically, human thoughts can be copied and loaded onto a hard drive, Hayworth insists, which is why he’s seeking funding for a Brain Preservation Technology Prize which would solicit solutions for his hypothesis. The process would likely entail freezing or preserving the brain shortly before death, then slicing it into nanometer thin wafers, scanning it and uploading it onto a computer.

flashback: ted williams' severed head abused in cryonics lab

Sunday, April 11, 2010

intel shows off 'mind-reading' brain-scan technology

intel shows off 'mind-reading' brain-scan technologyfrom ap: Mind reading may no longer be the domain of psychics and fortune tellers – now some computers can do it, too.

Software that uses brain scans to determine what items people are thinking about was among the technological innovations showcased Wednesday by Intel Corp., which drew back the curtain on a number of projects that are still under development.

The software analyzes functional MRI scans to determine what parts of a person's brain is being activated as he or she thinks. In tests, it guessed with 90 percent accuracy which of two words a person was thinking about, said Intel Labs researcher Dean Pomerleau.

Eventually, the technology could help the severely physically disabled to communicate. And Pomerleau sees it as an early step toward one day being able to control technology with our minds.

"The vision is being able to interface to information, to your devices and to other people without having an intermediary device," he said.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

microsoft patents 'guardian angel' as intelligent personal agent

would microsoft 'guardian angel' turn our brains to mush?
microsoft patents 'guardian angel' as intelligent personal agentfrom nick eaton: I was reading TechFlash's piece on Microsoft's new "guardian angel" patent, and it stirred up a creepy feeling inside of me. In the time I've been covering Microsoft for, I've had this strange shudder a handful of times. And I'm wondering if other people feel it, as well.

TechFlash reported that Microsoft has been granted a patent on an "intelligent personal agent" that could predict a user's wants and actions. If the user is at a shopping mall and the software's artificial intelligence knows it's lunchtime, the "guardian angel" could search for nearby restaurants that serve the user's preferred foods, choose a cuisine based on the user's recent meals, check for seating availability, and make lunch reservations.

This is an example laid out in Microsoft's 2006 patent application, which lists Bill Gates and Ray Ozzie as two of the inventors.

But I know of an existing device that already has this function. It's called the human brain. Call me pessimistic if you want, but do we really need the artificial intelligence of a digital guardian angel to supplant the organic intelligence of our own selves?

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

fcc loses net neutrality battle against comcast

court: fcc had no right to sanction comcast for p2p blocking
fcc loses net neutrality battle against comcastfrom washington post: Comcast on Tuesday won its federal lawsuit against the Federal Communications Commission in a ruling that undermines the agency's ability to regulate Internet service providers just as it unrolls a sweeping broadband agenda.

The decision also sparks pressing questions on how the agency will respond, with public interest groups advocating that the FCC attempt to move those services into a regulatory regime clearly under the agency's control.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, in a 3-0 decision, ruled that the FCC lacked the authority to require Comcast, the nation's biggest broadband services provider, to treat all Internet traffic equally on its network.

That decision -- based on a 2008 ruling under former FCC chairman Kevin Martin -- addresses Comcast's argument that the agency "failed to justify exercising jurisdiction" when it ruled Comcast violated broadband principles by blocking or slowing a peer-sharing Web site, Bit Torrent.

But it also unleashed a broader debate over the agency's ability to regulate broadband service providers such as AT&T, Comcast and Verizon Communications.

The judges focused on whether the FCC has legal authority over broadband services, which are categorized separately from phone, cable television and wireless services. The agency currently has only "ancillary authority" over broadband services, a decision made by past agency leaders in an attempt to keep the fast-moving Internet services market at an arm's distance from the agency.

update: undaunted by comcast court victory,
fcc moves ahead with broadband plans

Monday, April 5, 2010

decrypted video from wikileaks shows collateral murder

wikileaks releases video of civilians killed by US in baghdad
decrypted video from wikileaks shows collateral murderfrom sunshine press: Wikileaks has obtained and decrypted this previously unreleased video footage from a US Apache helicopter in 2007. It shows Reuters journalist Namir Noor-Eldeen, driver Saeed Chmagh, and several others as the Apache shoots and kills them in a public square in Eastern Baghdad. They are apparently assumed to be insurgents. After the initial shooting, an unarmed group of adults and children in a minivan arrives on the scene and attempts to transport the wounded. They are fired upon as well. The official statement on this incident initially listed all adults as insurgents and claimed the US military did not know how the deaths ocurred. Wikileaks released this video with transcripts and a package of supporting documents on April 5th 2010 on

leaked video of collateral murder - long version

Sunday, April 4, 2010

air force space plane: military launching robotic space vehicle

air force space plane: military launching robotic space vehiclefrom ap: After a decade of development, the Air Force this month plans to launch a robotic spacecraft resembling a small space shuttle to conduct technology tests in orbit and then glide home to a California runway.

The ultimate purpose of the X-37B Orbital Test Vehicle and details about the craft, which has been passed between several government agencies, however, remain a mystery as it is prepared for launch April 19 from Cape Canaveral, Fla.

"As long as you're confused you're in good shape," said defense analyst John Pike, director of "I looked into this a couple of years ago – the entire sort of hypersonic, suborbital, scramjet nest of programs – of which there are upwards of a dozen. The more I studied it the less I understood it."

The quietly scheduled launch culminates the project's long and expensive journey from NASA to the Pentagon's research and development arm and then to a secretive Air Force unit.

Hundreds of millions of dollars have been spent on the X-37 program, but the current total has not been released.

The launch date, landing sites and a fact sheet were released by Air Force spokeswoman Maj. Angie I. Blair. She said more information would be released soon, but questions on cost and other matters submitted by e-mail weren't answered by Friday.