Sunday, January 9, 2011

Last Call

The article about the poor women in the video depressed me, so I'm ending the night on a lighter note.

PEARL, Mississippi (Reuters) – Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour freed two sisters on Friday from a state prison where they were serving life sentences for an $11 armed robbery on condition that one donate a kidney to the other.

Sure, it was a gimmick for publicity (Barbour may be considering a run in 2012).  But the two sisters, who had no prior criminal records and were the focus of many campaigns to release them from prison, get their second chance.  16 years seems long enough.

In Berlin, a baby penguin escaped from its quarters in the zoo and wandered into the lion's den.  Lucky for the cute little penguin, the cold had driven the lions into their shelter and zoo staff captured the penguin and returned it to its proper home.  I repeat, no penguins were harmed in the filming of this episode of Whew, That Was Close.

There, I feel better. I hope you do as well.

The Worst Thing I've Heard All Year: Part II

(CNN) -- Police arrested a suspect believed to be one of four men shown in a video apparently sexually assaulting disabled women in a care home and other places, authorities said in a statement.

Another suspect took a disabled woman to Las Vegas and married her.  He then brought her back to the care center, where she was assaulted repeatedly by other men.  Thirteen DVDs, containing over one hundred hours of sexual assaults, were mailed in by an anonymous person.  The taped assaults show at least ten perpetrators, and at least eight severely disabled women.  

This is the dirty secret of the health care industry.  It's incredible what people have suffered at the hands of unsupervised employees. This is one of those times I hope prison offers its worst, and the men who took advantage of the innocent and the powerless suffer without hope of relief.

When governments continue to cut corners, this is only going to get worse.  

Civil Stupidity: Wikileaks Connection Gets A Big Fat Subpoena For Twitter

And so it begins.  At what level is our activity monitored, and at what level is it protected?  How is protection of our information or enforcement of breaches going to be handled?  A reader implied in an earlier comment that if you're not a criminal that you shouldn't have anything to hide.  Not so. I am completely legal and aboveboard, but I do like having the right to my privacy.  This is one of many similar stories.  Not only is it interesting from a legal point of view, but from a social standpoint.  The outcome of these growing pains will define our future.

The US Department of Justice has subpoenaed Twitter, a top social-media site, for information pertaining to certain persons and accounts linked to WikiLeaks, according to media reports. The action comes after Attorney General Eric Holder indicated last year that the Justice Department was looking at options for prosecuting those involved in WikiLeaks’s release of secret US documents.
As for the Twitter subpoena, the Department of Justice is demanding a sizable amount of information: “It includes all mailing addresses and billing information known for the user, all connection records and session times, all IP addresses used to access Twitter, all known email accounts, as well as the ‘means and source of payment,’ including banking records and credit cards,” details Salon. The information to be produced is supposed to go back to Nov. 1, 2009, Salon says. 

That really is quite a bit of information.  It's why we should be concerned with online privacy and how our personal information is stored, and for how long it is stored.  It doesn't really matter if it's a hacker or a telemarketer, our information is sold or stolen regularly.  If the Department of Justice can demand this information, we should be setting protective guidelines and overseeing security protocols, and establishing liability for when our information is used without our permission.  It is naive to think that the law will only use our private data for good and noble purposes, and it is plain stupid to think that even our right to private conversations are safe.  Who is protecting us from those who would abuse this access?  Surely not the same guys who benefit from that access... right?

Epic E Equals MC Double Helixed Win

Hong Kong students are proving that biostorage works for saving and storing data safely.

In 2007, a team at Japan's Keio University said they had successfully encoded the equation that represents Einstein's theory of relativity, E=MC2, in the DNA of a common soil bacterium.

They pointed out that because bacteria constantly reproduce, a group of the single-celled organisms could store a piece of information for thousands of years.

But the Hong Kong researchers have leapt beyond this early step, developing methods to store more complex data and starting to overcome practical problems which have lent weight to sceptics who see the method as science fiction.

The group has developed a method of compressing data, splitting it into chunks and distributing it between different bacterial cells, which helps to overcome limits on storage capacity. They are also able to "map" the DNA so information can be easily located.

This opens up the way to storing not only text, but images, music, and even video within cells.

As a storage method it is extremely compact -- because each cell is minuscule, the group says that one gram of bacteria could store the same amount of information as 450 2,000 gigabyte hard disks.

They have also developed a three-tier security fence to encode the data, which may come as welcome news to US diplomats who have seen their thoughts splashed over the Internet thanks to WikiLeaks.

"Bacteria can't be hacked," points out Allen Yu, another student instructor.

"All kinds of computers are vulnerable to electrical failures or data theft. But bacteria are immune from cyber attacks. You can safeguard the information."

Pretty damned amazing if I say so myself, storing data in bacterial DNA like that.  That's nothing short of amazing.  I wonder how long it will take to make this technology viable commercially.

Imagine an e. Coli barcterium with the Library of Congress encoded into its DNA.  Totally new frontier here for a number of applications.

Insert your own computer virus jokes here, too.


Head In The Sand Alexander

This morning on CNN's State of the Union, Tennessee GOP Sen. Lamar Alexander found his culprit for yesterday's shooting.

Well, Candy, I think you’re responsible, by bringing this up, of doing the very thing you’re trying to condemn. You’re making and implying a direct connection between Sarah Palin and what happened. You’re picking out a particular incident. Well, I think the way to get away from it is for you not to be talking about it.

To recap, It's perfectly fine to put crosshairs on congressional districts as a political figure because that's free speech.  But talking about the people who do that is irresponsible and should be stopped, and if the media simply stops reporting on dangerous rhetoric, the problem will magically vanish, so reporting on that should be prohibited speech.

I believe our sensationalist Village does share in the blame, but it's because they refused to attach any possible danger to irresponsible hyperbolic rhetoric like this, not because they are doing so now.

There's a difference, and Lamar Alexander should know better.

Dave Weigel meanwhile explains the Palin angle:

Among the people who gave the impression that these were targets: Sarah Palin. When she announced the list in a tweet, she wrote "don't retreat, instead - RELOAD!" Jonathan Martin points out that after the election, Palin tweeted about her success (18 of the seats went to the GOP) by saying "remember months ago 'bullseye' icon used 2 target the 20 Obamacare-lovin' incumbent seats?" Throughout 2010, when Palin was criticized for the target map, she either didn't respond or mocked the "lamestream media" for interpreting her gun metaphors as calls for violence. At the Southern Republican Leadership Conference, for example, she got big applause when she said "Don't retreat, reload -- and that is not a call for violence!" The media wasn't going to force her to stop using the gun line.

Palin doubled down, and she had a lot of support from conservatives for doing so, because a lot of them considered the "target map" criticism a bad faith attack on her. Were some of the attacks in bad faith? Maybe. But Gabrielle Giffords had specifically raised her concerns about the target map. Palin had many, many months to stop using the "reload" line, or to identify the targets as "surveyor's symbols," and she didn't do that.

No she didn't.  Neither did Sharron Angle, Michele Bachmann, or Steve King, or the GOP leadership.  And that's the problem.  They are quick to condemn this rhetoric now.  They should have been doing that years ago.

Sherman, Set The Wayback Machine For April 2009

Back when conservatives threw a fit because of a Homeland Security report that warned of anti-government extremist violence.  Here's what I said back then:

These same people told us we had to have this oppressive gulag-era secret police wiretapping and security apparatus in place to protect us from the Great Beturbaned Brown Horde. The fact that the apparatus still exists is a problem, of course. But it's now it's feeling out the same whackos that gave birth to it.

Only now, in the last 24 hours, is this all a bad thing to these idiots. They didn't care if Bush used it on Americans, as long as those Americans weren't conservative Republicans, the rest of the effing country was fair game. Anyone who wasn't a conservative Republican was of course a suspect Muslim terrorist sympathizer.

The mere possibility that the tables have been turned and Bushenstein's Monster has turned on its creators had never, ever, ever, occurred to them.

More importantly we were told that the notion that anti-government lunatics who resented the government enough to want to resort to violence was all just Obama administration propaganda from a deeply paranoid administration who hated the Constitution and hated veterans and hated rule of law and should accept the eliminationist rhetoric as free speech and shut up already.

Except that, you know, the report was right.

And it wasn't the first time, either.

Pipe Dream

In other news, the Trans-Alaskan oil pipeline has a leak somewhere.

Only a fraction of the oil that normally courses through the Trans Alaska pipeline was flowing early Sunday after operators discovered a leak near Prudhoe Bay, a company spokeswoman said.

Crews making a routine inspection "found oil in the basement of a booster pump building" around 9 a.m. Saturday, according to Aleyeska Pipeline Service. Company spokeswoman Michelle Egan, who said flow has been reduced by 95%.

On a typical day, 642,261 barrels of oil would pass through the pipeline.

"Crews are currently onsite to assess the situation and isolate the source of the leak," a company statement said..

Well that's good, I suppose.  If it's leaking in building perhaps it can be cleaned up, and maybe it won't get into the water table near there.   Still, could be hundreds of thousands of barrels worth of mess.  We'll see.
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