Sunday, January 28, 2018

Last Call For Hitting The Jackpot

The "mild-mannered ATM spitting out cash on unsuspecting people" is a gag played for effect in hidden camera shows and the occasional movie, but it turns out cyber-criminals are actually making a mint off robbing ATMs this way.

Diebold Nixdorf Inc and NCR Corp, two of the world’s largest ATM makers, have warned that cyber criminals are targeting U.S. cash machines with tools that force them to spit out cash in hacking schemes known as “jackpotting.”

The two ATM makers did not identify any victims or say how much money had been lost. Jackpotting has been rising worldwide in recent years, though it is unclear how much cash has been stolen because victims and police often do not disclose details.

The attacks were reported earlier on Saturday by the security news website Krebs on Security, which said they had begun last year in Mexico.

The companies confirmed to Reuters on Saturday they had sent out the alerts to clients.

NCR said in a Friday alert that the cases were the first confirmed “jackpotting” losses in the United States. It said its equipment had not been targeted in the recent attacks, but that it was still a concern for the entire ATM industry.

“This should be treated by all ATM deployers as a call to action to take appropriate steps to protect their ATMs against these forms of attack,” the alert said.

Diebold Nixdorf said in a separate Friday alert that U.S. authorities had warned the company that hackers were targeting one of its ATM models, known as Opteva, which went out of production several years ago.

A confidential U.S. Secret Service alert sent to banks said the hackers targeted stand-alone ATMs typically located in pharmacies, big box retailers and drive-thru ATMs, Krebs on Security reported.

So is just taking the money easier or harder than just taking the entire ATM?

Challenging Both Stars And Minds

For 80's kids like me, there was nothing more shocking growing up than this day 32 years ago when the space shuttle Challenger exploded a minute after launch.  Across the country kids were watching live as the first teacher in space entered orbit, and I remembered being pretty excited at the fact that we would be getting science lessons from space.

The excitement turned to horror pretty quickly.  But the good news is 32 years later, those lessons from space will finally be taught.

McAuliffe's lessons have remained untaught and forgotten, until now. Astronauts will film some of her original lessons on the International Space Station, continuing McAuliffe's legacy 32 years after they were initially planned. 
It's fitting that the two astronauts, Joe Acaba and Ricky Arnold, are both former educators. Acaba is currently on the space station, and Arnold will launch in March.
Arnold tweeted that he, Acaba and former educator astronauts Barbara Morgan and Dorothy Metcalf-Lindenburger were honored to help celebrate the legacy of Challenger, and the Teacher in Space Mission. Morgan was McAuliffe's back-up for the Challenger mission. She went on to become the first educator astronaut in 2007. 
It's part of NASA's Year of Education on Station and the original lessons, as well as new ones modified for the space station's unique environment features, will be "STEMonstrations." 
The lessons will touch on liquids in zero gravity, Newton's law, effervescence (bubbles or fizz in liquid) and chromatography, or the separation of a mixture. 
"Filming Christa McAuliffe's lessons in orbit this year is an incredible way to honor and remember her and the Challenger crew," said Mike Kincaid, associate administrator for NASA's Office of Education. "Developed with such care and expertise by Christa, the value these lessons will have as new tools available for educators to engage and inspire students in science, technology, education and math is what will continue to advance a true legacy of Challenger's mission." 
Once the lessons are filmed, the videos and lesson plans will be available through the Challenger Center's website. The Challenger Center, which has 40 learning centers that include simulated environments, was created to honor the Challenger crew and works with students in the US, Canada and the UK to encourage STEM activities. 

I'll definitely want to tune in once these are ready.  I want to see what I missed in class three decades ago.  I'll bet I'm not the only one, either.

Sunday Long Read: Music At The Narco

The Winter 2017 issue of Oxford American covers Kentucky's rich musical history, and author Rebecca Gayle Howell's story of how Lexington's Federal Medical Center, then known as the United States Narcotic Farm, played a crucial role in the rise of rock 'n' roll in the 20th century is a story I didn't know, and want to share.

In Lexington, where I’m from, a federal medical prison stands on the town’s west side. Far off the main road, it does not ask our attention as we drive home from the Kroger’s or Goodwill—another sight among many in our urban pastoral. Not so long ago, this building held the nation’s attention as the world’s leading drug rehabilitation center, constructed to save civilization from the addict, and the addict from himself. Though, if the United States Narcotic Farm is today known for anything other than its eventual failure, it’s for the legendary figures who came there. Alongside average, nameless men recovered the likes of Sammy Davis Jr., William S. Burroughs, William S. Burroughs Jr., Clarence Cooper Jr., Barney Ross—and then there were the jazz musicians: Sonny Rollins, Tadd Dameron, Jackie McLean, Chet Baker, Sam Rivers, Wilbur Ware, Bill Caffey, Sonny Stitt, Red Rodney, Peter Littman, Elvin Jones, Ray Charles, Lee Morgan. The list is dizzying.

Patients, as they all were called, could arrive as incarcerated felons or check themselves in to take the Lexington Cure. Invoking a kind of Jeffersonian modernism, the Cure insisted a soul’s sobriety is what was needed, that a junkie must be healed from the spirit out. The doctors prescribed fresh air, and so the United States Narcotic Farm was indeed a farm—a thousand-acre self-sustaining community, right down to the milk it served. Honest work was to be learned and enjoyed as therapy. Other than farming, patients were given the opportunity to acquire skills such as auto repair and woodworking—skills that could finance their lives on the outside, without crime. Honest play was also logged as therapy, and among sports like baseball, tennis, softball, and bowling were chances to paint, dance, perform theater, and play music. Instruments were offered to the patients, and they were encouraged to practice nearly six hours a day. Soon enough, the doctors understood that, for an artist, practice is not leisure; it’s the only job that matters.

Although the presiding administration built Narco assuming its success, in only fifteen years the New York Times swung from announcing the institution’s messianic qualities to publishing its embarrassments, exposing that the treatment methods did not promote sobriety outside the prison’s walls. Ninety percent of patients returned. Though, it was only from one vantage that Narco failed; by the 1940s, from the addict’s perspective, Narco had become a one-stop network of professional users and criminals, the world’s best place to learn how to get higher.

Still yet, for the jazz musician, Narco became an elite artist’s workshop, a three-month retreat where hours of creative cross-pollination were sponsored by the federal government. Some checked in just so they could learn from the masters. Heroin helped an otherwise severely competitive stage of prodigies relax into their most concentrated Jungian state, that under-mind from which improvisation springs. But at Narco, competition for gigs vanished. The musician no longer needed to worry about food or housing or nightclub owners. All he had to do was arrange for his fix and endure his convalescence. Have an outsider visit you with a gift. Have an outsider throw a packet over the wall. Sleep, wake, eat, get what you need, and play.

Soon, a theater seating a thousand was made available for their purpose. Patients, nurses, doctors, and guards all came together on Saturday nights for the show. The town, too. These concerts, free and open to the public, made Narco the best underground night spot in Lexington. The phenomenon struck a chord with metropolitan jazz-heads and before long they began flying into our then hangar of an airport for a one-night fix of mind-altering music. History has called it “The Greatest Band You’ve Never Heard,” as all recordings, even the one made when Narco patients played Johnny Carson’s Tonight Show, have been disregarded, destroyed, lost among the years.

Lexington has always had an unexpected bent toward the avant-garde. In these same years Ralph Eugene Meatyard, the now famously wild-eyed Southern gothic photographer, worked quietly among us as an optician in his little nondescript shop. His friend, the eminent peace activist and first hermit of the American Trappists, Thomas Merton, would catch a ride into town for parties, disguised as a tobacco farmer. James Herndon, known to us as Sweet Evening Breeze or Miss Sweets, was our churchgoing, cross-dressing neighbor, a landmark civil rights activist who today might have called herself black trans, who took an evening promenade through town daily, not only unafraid but celebrated, visiting with beloved friends who honked and waved as they passed. Rock Hudson was among the crowd, Bear Bryant, Henry Faulkner, as was my own father, playing on Coach Rupp’s JV basketball team, learning to drink at the old Saratoga, and earning a BA that he might enter the Marine Corps an officer.

So it is not a shock for me to imagine our 1940s, 1950s, 1960s barflies and college students, artists and athletes, driving out to the country for a big night at the prison. Merton was fever-sick for jazz. The only time I saw Dad happy was when he danced. Anyone might have been at Narco on a Saturday night, and I mean anyone—or: all of us, together.

It must have been a hell of a show.

Donny Orders The Facism And Chips

America's "special relationship" with London is coming apart at the seams, and the vast majority of the growing rift between Washington and one of our oldest allies is the fact that Theresa May cannot stand Donald Trump's Ugly American act.

Over a meal of blue cheese salad and beef ribs in the White House banqueting room, Trump held forth on a wide range of topics. “The president had strong views on all of them,” recalls Chris Wilkins, then May’s strategy director, who was among the aides around the table. “He said Brexit’s going to be the making of us. It’s going to be a brilliant thing.”

Trump turned to May and told her he believed there were parts of London that were effectively “no-go areas” due to the number of Islamic extremists. May chose to speak up to “correct him,” Wilkins said.

Trump also discussed his British golf courses and his hopes that the relationship with May would be stronger than the Thatcher-Reagan alliance. “It was an hour of the president holding court and the PM being very diplomatic and not many other people saying anything,” Wilkins said.

It shows the contrast in personalities that make for an unusual relationship, albeit one still underpinned by enduring strategic military cooperation and cultural links. As one British official observed, Trump is a larger than life character and May is almost the complete opposite.

During formal phone calls between the two leaders, May finds it almost impossible to make headway and get her points across, one person familiar with the matter said. Trump totally dominates the discussion, leaving the prime minister with five or ten seconds to speak before he interrupts and launches into another monologue.

In one phone conversation during 2017, Trump complained to May over the criticism he’d been getting in British newspapers. Amid warnings that Trump would face protests in the streets when he arrived, he told the prime minister he would not be coming to the U.K. until she could promise him a warm welcome.
May responded to say such treatment was simply the way the British press operate, and there wasn’t much she could do. In the secure bunker underneath the prime minister’s office, her advisers listened in to the call in astonishment at Trump’s demand.

British officials suspect Trump’s displeasure still lingers. The president canceled a planned trip to London next month for the official opening of the new U.S. embassy building. He claimed he disapproved of a deal to sell the old U.S. diplomatic headquarters. Some in May’s team now regret their “nightmare” decision to offer Trump a state visit.

While the offer of a state visit still stands, British officials don’t expect him to take it up any time soon, or perhaps ever.

“The relationship has taken some knocks,” said Peter Westmacott, a former British ambassador to the U.S. “But there is so much substance to the relationship—commercial, defense, intelligence, foreign policy, cyber, culture, language and shared values—that we all have an interest in ensuring that it remains strong.”

It'll take decades for America to repair the diplomatic damage from Trump, especially due to the fact we were still repairing the damage from Dubya.  Why would anyone trust us with leaders like that, and a populace they know would happily elect somebody as odious as Donald Trump?

No wonder the rest of the world is moving forward without us, leaving America, and millions of potential jobs, behind.

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