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"The future masters of technology will have to be lighthearted and intelligent. The machine easily masters the grim and the dumb." -- Marshall McLuhan, 1969

The Life and Death of Bills
Topic: Politics and Law 10:43 am EDT, May 26, 2009

What happened to the thousands of bills that were introduced during the 110th session of Congress? Over the course of two years thousands of bills were introduced, but by the end only 442 laws were enacted. What happened to the rest?

The Life and Death of Bills

Network Attack Weapons Emerge | AVIATION WEEK
Topic: Military Technology 12:10 pm EDT, May 22, 2009

Devices to launch and control cyber, electronic and information attacks are being tested and refined by the U.S. military and industry in preparation for moving out of the laboratory and into the warfighter's backback.

This particular network attack prototype has a display at the operator's position that shows a schematic of the network of interest and identifies its nodes.

"You could be talking about thousands and thousands of nodes being involved in a single mission," says a second network attack researcher. "Being able to visualize that without a tool is practically impossible."

A touch-screen dashboard beneath the network schematic display looks like the sound mixing console at a recording studio. The left side lists cyberattack mission attributes such as speed, covertness, attribution and collateral damage. Next to each attribute is the image of a sliding lever on a long scale. These can be moved, for example, to increase the speed of attack or decrease collateral damage.

Each change to the scales produces a different list of software algorithm tools that the operator needs. "Right now, all that information is in the head of a few guys that do computer network operations and there is no training system," says the first specialist.

The arms race advances as the Cold CyberWar rages on...

Network Attack Weapons Emerge | AVIATION WEEK has launched
Topic: Politics and Law 12:05 pm EDT, May 21, 2009

The purpose of is to increase public access to high value, machine readable datasets generated by the Executive Branch of the Federal Government. Although the initial launch of provides a limited portion of the rich variety of Federal datasets presently available, we invite you to actively participate in shaping the future of by suggesting additional datasets and site enhancements to provide seamless access and use of your Federal data. Visit today with us, but come back often. With your help, will continue to grow and change in the weeks, months, and years ahead.

In addition, The Sunlight Foundation has launched the second Apps For America competition:

Apps for America is a special contest we're putting on this year to celebrate the release of! We're doing it alongside Google, O'Reilly Media, and TechWeb and the winners will be announced at the Gov2.0 Expo Showcase in Washington, DC at the end of the Summer. has launched

Feingold Presses DHS Secretary About Laptop Seizure Policy |
Topic: Civil Liberties 7:42 pm EDT, May 18, 2009

WASHINGTON - May 6 - During a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing today on Department of Homeland Security (DHS) oversight, U.S. Senator Russ Feingold questioned DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano about the new administration's policy on customs officials searching travelers' laptops. Last year, Feingold introduced the Travelers Privacy Protection Act in response to a Department of Homeland Security policy allowing customs agents to seize laptops for an unspecified period of time to "review and analyze" their contents "absent individualized suspicion." Feingold has held off on reintroduction of the legislation in order to give the new administration a chance to address the privacy issues raised by the policy.

Feingold Presses DHS Secretary About Laptop Seizure Policy |

porn - Wolfram|Alpha
Topic: Technology 12:48 pm EDT, May 18, 2009

I'm sure WolframAlpha will save my ass when I'm desperately searching for an obscure formula, but for everything else it appears to be mostly useless.

All the results are images. When you find some bit of information you are looking for, you have to manually copy it, thwarting one of the main reasons we've been working so hard to get reference materials out of books and onto the net.

It doesn't provide information about the authoritative source for any of the information it provides in results. That means that if you are going to use any of the information, you must cite WolframAlpha as the authoritative source. That doesn't fly when there are regularly errors in the results. I wasn't there in 1961, but I'm pretty sure there was porn, and people called it porn..

This is half baked. It could wind up being really helpful if they would at least attribute sources for the information.

porn - Wolfram|Alpha

Teenage Bomb Threat Suspect Was Internet Prank-Call Star | Threat Level
Topic: Security 7:08 pm EDT, May 11, 2009

It turns out I was right to be suspicious of this story. This turns out to be a text book case of sensational journalism that a large number of people took at face value. Apparently Amanda Lamb doesn't like fact checking.

Much of the online fury was triggered by Lundeby’s incorrect claim — uncritically reported by the station — that the boy was being held without any legal rights on the authority of the 2001 USA Patriot Act. In truth, making telephone bomb threats has been a federal crime since 1939. The teenager is being held without bail in Indiana, but he’s been formally charged, has a court-appointed attorney, and has already made three appearances in front of a judge. The case is sealed because the suspect is a minor.

Responding to the internet outrage on Thursday, the U.S. attorney’s office for the Northern District of Indiana issued a press release (.pdf) emphasizing the the teenager is not being held on terrorism charges. The case “alleges a violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 844(e), which prohibits sending false information about an attempt to kill, injure or intimidate any individual or to unlawfully to damage any building through an instrument of interstate commerce,” the prosecutors wrote.

The kid is _not_ being held on Patriot Act charges or being denied any due process. The kid's mother is completely full of shit.

The kid was taking money on Paypal to call in bomb threats to schools:

The case came to a head on March 4, when Tyrone made a series of rapid-fire bomb threats against five different schools around the United States. Bennett recorded the calls.

“This is a warning to every staff, student and anybody else who may be in the school tomorrow afternoon at 11:00 a.m.,” the caller is heard saying in a voicemail message for Mill Valley High School in Shawnee, Kansas.

“There are twelve bombs located throughout the entire campus at the school,” the caller continues (.mp3). “They are in random lockers throughout the school — I will not tell you which lockers they are located in. There are also two in the bathroom and there is one in the gym. You have exactly one hour after 11:00 a.m. to find and disarm the bombs. That is all I have to say. All will be cleansed.”

I bet one of the reasons they are holding him without bail is because his mother is completely delusional and they can't rely on her recognizance.

Teenage Bomb Threat Suspect Was Internet Prank-Call Star | Threat Level

US teen, 16, held under patriot act
Topic: Security 8:40 pm EDT, May  3, 2009

This could be an example of some seriously federal law enforcement over-reaction and abuse of powers... There are only two local news outlets that have any coverage at all, and it's all got that sensational feel that makes details seem questionable.

This news outlet (WRAL) posted the story on the 29th, last Wednesday. It's making the rounds around the net now.. Hopefully we can get some more in-depth reporting about what's going on. If this is what it looks like on it's face, something must be done.

Here are the bits that provide useful information:

But according to the United States government, the tenth-grade home-schooler is being held on a criminal complaint that he made a bomb threat from his home on the night of Feb. 15.

Around 10 p.m. on March 5, Lundeby said, armed FBI agents along with three local law enforcement officers stormed her home looking for her son. They handcuffed him and presented her with a search warrant.

Lundeby told the officers that someone had hacked into her son's IP address and was using it to make crank calls connected through the Internet, making it look like the calls had originated from her home when they did not.

Her argument was ignored, she said. Agents seized a computer, a cell phone, gaming console, routers, bank statements and school records, according to federal search warrants.

Ashton now sits in a juvenile facility in South Bend, Ind. His mother has had little access to him since his arrest. She has gone to her state representatives as well as attorneys, seeking assistance, but, she said, there is nothing she can do.

Lundeby said the USA Patriot Act stripped her son of his due process rights.

Because a federal judge issued a gag order in the case, the U.S. attorney in Indiana cannot comment on the case, nor can the FBI. The North Carolina Highway Patrol did confirm that officers assisted with the FBI operation at the Lundeby home on March 5.

Some sunshine needs to come down on this situation...

US teen, 16, held under patriot act

Venezuela to give island to New Jersey -
Topic: International Relations 7:56 pm EDT, Apr 23, 2009

Venezuela will give a 300-acre island in the Delaware River to the state of New Jersey, the governor's office announced.

The Venezuelan-owned Citgo Petroleum Corp. had bought Petty's Island -- between Camden, New Jersey, and Philadelphia, Pennsylvania -- to use as a fuel storage facility.

The island is home to a pair of American bald eagles as well as several great blue herons and state-endangered black-crowned night herons, New Jersey Gov. Jon S. Corzine said in a news release Wednesday.

Venezuelan leader Hugo Chavez announced the island's transfer as part of Wednesday's Earth Day celebrations. Plans are being finalized for the transition, which will not occur before 2020, Corzine's office said.

Activities on the island will be limited to hiking and bicycle riding, the governor's office said.


Venezuela to give island to New Jersey -

The Great Brazilian Sat-Hack Crackdown
Topic: Security 2:32 pm EDT, Apr 22, 2009

On the night of March 8, cruising 22,000 miles above the Earth, U.S. Navy communications satellite FLTSAT-8 suddenly erupted with illicit activity. Jubilant voices and anthems crowded the channel on a junkyard's worth of homemade gear from across vast and silent stretches of the Amazon: Ronaldo, a Brazilian soccer idol, had just scored his first goal with the Corinthians.

It was a party that won't soon be forgotten. Ten days later, Brazilian Federal Police swooped in on 39 suspects in six states in the largest crackdown to date on a growing problem here: illegal hijacking of U.S. military satellite transponders. null

This is so ridiculously and awesomely Gibson-esque. Hordes of low tek from The Sprawl hacking military satellites with homebrew gear and hacker know-how.

Unbelievably Excellent!

The Great Brazilian Sat-Hack Crackdown

Stephen Hawking hospitalized, reported very ill
Topic: Physics 7:51 pm EDT, Apr 20, 2009

Stephen Hawking, the British mathematician and physicist famed for his work on black holes, was rushed to a hospital Monday and was seriously ill, Cambridge University said. Hawking has been fighting a chest infection for several weeks and was being treated at Addenbrooke's Hospital in Cambridge, the university city northeast of London, the university said.

"Professor Hawking is very ill," said Gregory Hayman, the university's head of communications. "He is undergoing tests. He has been unwell for a couple of weeks."

Hopefully he pulls through.

Stephen Hawking hospitalized, reported very ill

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