September 30, 2010

Globalist Fueled Revolutions Spread Across Europe

Chaos Spreads Across Europe as Tens of Thousands Strike Over Spending Cuts in the EU

September 30, 2010
  • Tens of thousands march on EU's Brussels headquarters
  • Strikes and protests in Greece, Portugal, Ireland, Slovenia and Lithuania
  • French government unveils budget cuts of £34 billion
  • Demonstrator drives cement truck into gates of Irish parliament
Daily Mail - Strikes and demonstrations caused chaos across Europe yesterday as rioters clashed with police and cities were brought to a standstill.

Tens of thousands of people marched through Brussels in a protest against spending cuts in the European Union.

In Barcelona, a general strike turned violent, with officers firing rubber bullets after being attacked by a mob who set police cars on fire.

Thousands of Britons were caught up in the chaos as the Spanish strikers grounded hundreds of flights. Among those affected were Manchester United fans travelling to Valencia for their team’s Champions League clash last night.

Other left-wing demonstrations against austerity measures were held in Italy, Greece, Portugal, Ireland and Latvia.

Fears that widespread industrial action could spread to Britain are growing, with the Government intent on slashing spending by up to 25 per cent in some areas.

New Labour leader Ed Miliband insisted in his speech to the party conference this week that he would not back ‘irresponsible’ strikes. However, he has previously voiced support for the right to strike.

Yesterday’s Brussels march was organised by the European Trade Union Confederation, whose general secretary is John Monks, former leader of the TUC in Britain.

An estimated 100,000 demonstrators in bright red, green and blue union jackets marched through Brussels toward European Union buildings, aiming to reinforce the impact of Spain’s first nationwide strike in eight years. Shops and banks were barricaded and about 150 people were detained, some in scuffles with police.

In Athens, the metro system was shut down by a rail workers’ walk-out and doctors at state hospitals went on a 24-hour strike.

In Dublin, a 41-year-old man was arrested after blocking the gates of the Irish parliament with a cement truck to protest against the massive bailout of the Anglo Irish Bank.

Greece has already been suffering from two weeks of protests by truck drivers who have made it difficult for businesses to get supplies.

Many supermarkets are seeing shortages, while producers complaining they are unable to export their goods.

Greece's government has imposed stringent austerity measures, including cutting civil servants' salaries, trimming pensions and hiking consumer and income taxes.

Several other EU nations are also planning actions.

In Dublin, a man blocked the gates of the Irish parliament with a cement truck to protest the country's expensive bank bailout. Written across the truck's barrel in red letters were the words: 'Toxic Bank' Anglo and 'All politicians should be sacked.'

The union anger was fuelled by the EU’s proposal to penalise member states that have run up deficits.

Union leaders have pledged tough action against the austerity measures, claiming EU workers are becoming the biggest victims of the financial meltdown set off by bankers and traders.

The British Government is on a collision course with Brussels over the radical plans, with the Treasury saying the EU does not have the power to impose fines.
‘The UK is exempt from all sanctions by EU law,’ a Treasury spokesman said.
Mr Monks said:
‘There is a great danger that the workers are going to be paying the price for the reckless speculation that took place in financial markets.’
At least 40 people were arrested in Spain, where protesters set fire to a police car in Barcelona and tourists watched in horror as demonstrators clashed with riot police.

Ryanair axed 69 flights between the UK and Spain, while easyJet cancelled around half its flights.

In flames: A police car burns during riots in Barcelona as Spanish workers stage a general strike to protest austerity measures

In flames: A police car burns during riots in Barcelona as Spanish workers stage a general strike to protest austerity measures


Target: Anti-capitalist protesters vandalize a police car during riots in Barcelona

Bleeding: A demonstrator reacts angrily after being hit by riot police during protests in Barcelona

Bleeding: A demonstrator reacts angrily after being hit by riot police during protests in Barcelona


A protester shows a victory sign during a Solidarity trade union demonstration against budget cuts, in front of the Polish government office, in Warsaw

Mobilised: Picketers march through central Valencia during today's nationwide general strike in Spain

Mobilised: Picketers march through central Valencia during today's nationwide general strike in Spain

Civil unrest: Police officers coral picketers in Valencia on a strike called by Spanish labour groups, including the two largest unions CCOO and UGT

Civil unrest: Police officers coral picketers in Valencia on a strike called by Spanish labour groups, including the two largest unions CCOO and UGT

Greek tragedy: Strikers clash with riot police during a rally in Athens in April - more protests are expected today

Greek tragedy: Strikers clash with riot police during a rally in Athens in April - more protests are expected today

Attack: The cement mixer didn't make it past the gates of the parliament building in Dublin

Attack: The cement mixer didn't make it past the gates of the parliament building in Dublin


Written across the truck's barrel in red letters were the words: 'Toxic Bank' Anglo and 'All politicians should be sacked'


Demonstrators hold banners as they march down a main boulevard in Brussels


A Spanish Civil Guard officer in full riot gear stands in front of a burning barricade blocking the A-8 highway in the northern Spanish village of Muros del Nalon


A passenger sleeps on a luggage trolley at the airport after many scheduled flights were cancelled as some air traffic controllers and ground crews honored the general strike call

Combatting Homegrown Terrorism With Fusion Centers and Terror Watch Lists

Combatting Homegrown Terrorism With Fusion Centers

September 23, 2010

The Washington Independent - Secretary Janet Napolitano and other officials from the Department of Homeland Security testified today on the growing threat of homegrown terrorists and small-scale attacks.

There’s a growing chorus from the homeland security community on this trend, and Napolitano testified that although for many years Al Qaeda and its allies seemed to be waiting for the opportunity to stage an attack on the dramatic scale of 9/11, these days, a looser network of groups is more willing to resort to tactics like planting IEDs:
It is clear that the threat of al Qaeda-style terrorism is not limited to the al-Qaeda core group, or organizations that have close operational links to al Qaeda. While al Qaeda continues to threaten America directly, it also inspires its affiliates and other groups and individuals who share its violent ideology and seek to attack the United States claiming it is in the name of Islam – a claim that is widely rejected.
One of the ways DHS is approaching this threat is by beefing up the country’s network of fusion centers — groups that fuse local law enforcement work with national-level intelligence. Napolitano has made the centers a major focus of the department’s FY11 grant cycle. The idea is, as Napolitano said today, is that
“In an environment where operatives may not have close links to international terrorist organizations – and where they may, in fact, be based within this country – these levels of law enforcement may be the first to notice something suspicious.”
Fusion centers don’t have the strongest records of keeping their focus on international terrorist organizations, though. As G.W. Schulz reports for the Center for Investigative Reporting:
One of the nation’s oldest fusion centers, known as the El Paso Intelligence Center, accidentally caused a California couple that owns a flight training school to be falsely held at gunpoint by police for the second time. Twice now EPIC has failed to clean up incorrect data that led authorities to believe a plane owned by the pair was stolen.
In Maryland, a fusion center and DHS ended up labeling a peace group as terrorists. Anti-abortion activists have also come under suspicion.

Despite these sorts of missteps, the number of fusion centers is only growing: there are currently 72 scattered across the country.

Mission Creep: TSA to Implement “Secure Flight” On November 1

September 29, 2010 - On November 1, boarding an aircraft in the United States will become more intrusive. That’s when the Department of Homeland Security’s Transportation Security Administration will begin enforcing something called “Secure Flight.”

In June, DHS boss Janet Napolitano announced that:

“100 percent of passengers traveling within the United States and its territories are now being checked against terrorist watchlists through the Transportation Security Administration’s (TSA) Secure Flight program,” as recommended by the 9/11 white wash commission.

Under the program, destined to be a bureaucratic nightmare, TSA goons wearing blue latex gloves will prescreen a passenger’s name, date of birth, and gender against government watchlists for domestic and international flights, according to a TSA press release.

“Individuals found to match watchlist parameters will be subjected to secondary screening, a law enforcement interview or prohibition from boarding an aircraft, depending on the specific case.”

If you think only Muslims and shady characters from Yemen or Pakistan will be double checked, think again. Recall the nightmare experienced by Jan Adams and Rebecca Gordon, two peace activists who were detained in San Francisco in September, 2002, a couple weeks after the first anniversary of the day we were told cave-dwelling Muslims made NORAD stand down. The pair were searched and interrogated after the TSA claimed their names resembled “those of suspected criminals or terrorists,” the San Francisco Chronicle reported son September 27, 2010.

“One detainment forced a group of 20 Wisconsin anti-war activists to miss their flight, delaying their trip to meet with congressional representatives by a day. That case and others are raising questions about the criteria federal authorities use to place people on the list — and whether people who exercise their constitutional right to dissent are being lumped together with terrorists,” the newspaper also reported.

Meanwhile, supposed terrorists are allowed to board planes, for instance Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, the fizzle pants non-bomber. It was no secret Abdulmutallab had “multiple communications” with Islamic extremists in Londonistan, the home base of MI6 groomed patsies, dupes, and mental deficeints.

Abdulmutallab was also allowed to get a visa, just like Sheikh Omar Abdul-Rahman, the blind Egyptian cleric who was on a terrorist watch list at the time and would later as a star patsy be convicted in the first WTC bombing case. In 2006, investigative reporters discovered that the CIA and the Defense Intelligence Agency specialized in deliberately keeping some suspected terrorists off the US international no-fly list. In order to make sure its dupes and patsies are allowed to travel unrestricted, the CIA has operatives inside the Federal Air Marshal Service.

It is not a coincidence the absurdly over-hyped fizzle pants non-bombing was staged on Christmas day over Detroit as Congress was talking about reforming the Constitution nullifying Patriot Act. Moreover, in the months following the orchestrated event, the government’s no-fly list doubled, from about 3,400 people to about 6,000 people, a senior intelligence official told USA Today in March.

The TSA also used the Times Square non-bombing to tweak its no-fly list procedures.

“The Transportation Security Administration has implemented a new rule requiring airlines to check the no-fly list within two hours after being notified of a special update,” Fox News reported after Faisal Shahzad’s cobbled together barbeque canister bomb failed to explode.

The Secure Flight program was not designed to prevent terrorists from boarding planes. It will be implemented next month as part of an effort to expand the government control grid and get commuters acclimated to submitting to absurd mandates that are obviously unconstitutional.

As Paul Joseph Watson noted earlier today, the government is moving forward in its efforts to impose its police state control and submission grid on the American people. It has now moved its naked body scanner technology from airports to the streets and highways of America.

“Body and vehicle scanners are just one tool authorities plan to implement on a widespread basis as part of our deepening decline into a hi-tech militarized police state,” writes Watson. “The implementation of ‘Checkpoint USA’, where citizens are routinely stopped, searched and radiated by federal VIPER teams is further evidence of how America is crumbling into a Soviet-style police state where the presumption of innocent until proven guilty is abolished and the 4th amendment eviscerated.”

Secure Flight is yet another step in that direction. It may appear innocuous, but is in fact designed to get citizens accustomed to government officials micromanaging every aspect of their daily lives, be it at the airport or at the local mall.

Cloud Computing: Who Owns Your Files?

Who Owns Your Data in the Cloud?

January 13, 2010

GigaOM - Increasingly, individuals and businesses are entrusting data to to the cloud. As computing moves inexorably from the desktop to the web, more of our information — from emails and personal documents to financial information and even our current whereabouts — sits in the cloud. Gmail, Google Docs, Zoho, Facebook, Basecamp, Flickr, Twitter, Mozy — so much of our data is now kept online. Most people don't stop to think about where that data is stored or how it might be accessed or used. So, who owns your data and who has access to it? How much privacy can you expect?

Who Owns Your Personal Data?

July 19, 2010

E&T - Attracting users to social networking sites and cloud computing sites is all about building trust. However, if recent news is anything to go by, consumers would be right to consider that the trust they have put into the Internet companies that run these services has been betrayed.

In recent months, it seems that not a day has gone by without another revelation that the private and personal data, the currency of these websites, has been compromised, misused or surreptitiously collected without the owner of the data's permission.

There has also been a concern that these companies have flouted strict data protection legislation that exists in many territories -- and the veil of secrecy surrounding this organisation's business practices are being challenged by politicians, law enforcement and the judiciary in many countries.


Between 2006 and the beginning of 2010, search engine giant Google started a project to map and digitally photograph every road in every major city in more than 30 countries for its product Google Streetview. This car soon became a symbolic hate symbol among privacy and civil rights advocates, who claimed that Google were pushing the envelope on what type of information you could collect and publish on the Internet.

But images, it appears, is not all that the Streetview cars collected. It now turns out that Google collected over 600 Gigabytes of data from users of public and unprotected Wi-Fi access routers -- which included Web pages visited and emails. All this was collected without the prior knowledge or permission of the router owners

All this only came to light when German data privacy regulators investigated Google's Streetview project -- and Google had to admit to collecting the data -- although the company claimed that they were not aware of their own data collection activities until the request was received and that none of this data was used in Google's search engine or other services. Google has said it will not destroy the data until permitted by regulators.

After an audit requested by Germany, in May of this year Google acknowledged that for years it had been mistakenly collecting personal data sent by consumers over wireless networks.

From Australia to the UK to back home in the US, there are now a number of parallel investigations being carried out after customers and consumer advocacy groups voiced concerns over privacy to police authorities and data protection regulators.

In each case Google said it would cooperate with any investigation. But Google is not the only company under scrutiny.


Even consumer tech companies such as Apple cannot escape criticism from the eagle-eyed German regulators.

Apple must 'immediately make clear' what data it collects from users of its products and for what purposes, Germany's justice minister was quoted as saying by Der Spiegel magazine.

'Users of iPhones and other GPS devices must be aware of what kind of information is being collected,' Sabine Leutheusser-Schnarrenberger told the German weekly.
The minister's criticism was aimed at changes Apple has made in its privacy policy whereby the company can collect data on the geographic location of the users of its products -- albeit anonymously.

Leutheusser-Schnarrenberger said she expected Apple to 'open its databases to German data protection authorities' and clarify what data it was collecting and how long it was saving the data.

Germany has some of the toughest data protection laws in the world due to its experience with state surveillance systems once put in place by the Nazis and the former East German Stasi secret police.

The justice minister said it would be 'unthinkable' for Apple to create personality- or location-based user profiles.
'Apple has the obligation to properly implement the transparency so often promised by (CEO) Steve Jobs,' she said.

Microblogging service Twitter recently agreed to a settlement with the US Federal Trade Commission over charges it put its customers privacy at risk by failing to safeguard their personal information.

This agreement stems from a series of attacks last year on Twitter, the service that lets people send short messages to groups of followers.

Lapses in Twitter's security allowed hackers to send out fake tweets pretending to be from US President Barack Obama and Fox News. Hackers also managed to take administrative control of Twitter and gain access to private tweets, or short messages of 140 characters or less.

Between January and May 2009, hackers were "able to view non-public user information, gain access to direct messages and protected tweets, and reset any user's password" and send tweets from any user account, according to the original FTC complaint.

Twitter acknowledged 45 accounts were accessed by hackers in January last year and 10 in April 2009 'for short periods of time'.

Twitter claims the January attack resulted in 'unauthorised joke tweets' from nine accounts. But the company also admitted that the hackers may also have accessed data such as email addresses and phone numbers.

In April, when another incident occurred, Twitter claims to have cut off the hacker's administrative access within 18 minutes of the attack and quickly informed affected users.
'When a company promises consumers that their personal information is secure, it must live up to that promise,' David Vladeck, director of the FTC's Bureau of Consumer Protection, said in a statement following the ruling.
'And if a company allows consumers to designate their information as private, it must use reasonable security to support that designation,' he added.
Under the terms of the settlement, Twitter will be barred for 20 years from 'misleading consumers about the extent to which it maintains and protects the security, privacy, and confidentiality of nonpublic consumer information'.

Twitter must also establish a comprehensive security program that 'will be assessed by a third party every year for ten years', according to the FTC.


But most criticism surrounding data privacy is currently reserved for Facebook, which has faced the wrath of a consumer backlash when millions of users suddenly found their private details exposed and searchable on Google, Bing and Yahoo.

Facebook, whose privacy policies have come under attack both at home and abroad, now faces a stiff fine from Germany's Hamburg Commissioner for Data Protection and Freedom of Information for storing non-users' personal data without their permission. Founder Mark Zuckerberg appears to be relenting and is now beefing up security.

The issue came to the fore in recent months amid concern that Facebook's confusing privacy settings were making it possible for Internet stalkers, cyber criminals and even nosy neighbours to gain a wealth of information about its users without their knowledge or permission.

Facebook has now started to roll out changes that would give users more powerful tools to prevent personal information from being accessed by others.

For instance, Facebook will allow users to block all third parties from accessing their information without their explicit permission. It will also make less information available in its user directory and reduce the number of settings required to make all information private from nearly 50 to less than 15.

Even still, Facebook's default settings will continue to make it easy for users to obtain information about each other as its business walks a tightrope between protecting its user's privacy and promoting social networking. Users will have to opt out of default policies by which much of their data is publicly available.

The nonprofit Electronic Privacy Information Center, which has asked the US government to investigate Facebook's privacy policies, said that the new efforts do not go far enough.

'We think it's time for Congress to update the privacy laws. We can't be dependent on Facebook to decide on how much privacy people on the Internet will have. That's something that has to be established in law,' said EPIC executive director Marc Rotenberg.
Consumer power

What all these companies deal in is trust. Without trust, we would not allow them access to our private information. Therefore, it's important that they maintain our trust.

The tech companies that are least trusted at the moment are the social networking companies, according to a recent poll in the US. Most Americans trust technology heavyweights such as Apple, Google and Microsoft more than social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter, according to the poll.

Nearly half of 2,100 adults questioned in a Zogby Interactive survey, said they trusted the big three technology firms 'completely' or 'a lot', compared to 8 per cent for Twitter and 13 per cent for Facebook.

Young adults aged 18 to 29 had slightly higher trust levels in Facebook with 20 per cent and Twitter with 15 per cent, compared to the levels of adults of all ages which were 7 per cent lower for both companies.

The back tracking by Internet companies on how they use our private data has demonstrated that they cannot take our trust for granted. If social networking becomes increasingly important to companies such as Google, Apple and Microsoft, they will have to be careful not to violate their users' trust in the future.

Computing in the Cloud: Who Owns Your Files?

August 21, 2008

NPR - Do you have a Yahoo e-mail account? Maybe a Gmail account? Do you put up pictures on Flickr? Perhaps you've started keeping your schedule online. If so, then you are using cloud computing — that's what tech companies call it when people work and store information on the Internet.

Because it enables users to access their documents anywhere, cloud computing is very convenient. But it's also creating a whole new set of worries.

Abel Habtegeorgis, 23, learned recently how it can all go wrong. Habtegeorgis is pretty typical for someone his age; he stores the most important documents of his life — from family photos to conversations with his mother — online using Gmail and Flickr.
"It's easier in a lot of ways," says Habtegeorgis. "It's so amazing to have access to so many pictures and everything. Pretty much my life is up there."
Until it wasn't: One day, Habtegeorgis typed in his password and found that it didn't work.
"I type [the password] again and again and again, and I realize something is wrong with the company itself or the server or the e-mail account," he says.
Habtegeorgis couldn't get to his photos of his nephew. He tried to reach someone at Google, but couldn't. Suddenly, he realized that he had no idea what kinds of rights he had over those e-mails, because he never did read that user agreement when he signed up.
"Nobody reads the user agreements," he says with a laugh. "You don't read that 90-page document."
(After NPR mentioned his problem to Google, Habtegeorgis finally got back into his account. The company says there was some sort of security issue.)

Business On The Cloud

Habtegeorgis isn't alone in his reliance on the cloud; Yahoo alone boasted 261 million active e-mail users in the month of June, and the company's photo sharing site, Flickr, reports that it hosts 2.5 billion photographs.

Increasingly, Internet companies are offering online services that appeal not just to individuals, but also to businesses. Samantha Sullivan is part of Scary Cow, a small film company in the San Francisco Bay Area. The company can't afford its own offices, so everyone works from home with help from Google's growing number of Internet applications, including online schedules for setting up meetings, shared spreadsheets for budgets, and Google documents for script collaboration.

The applications allow the employees to work together in real time. But despite the fact that her company stores crucial documents — including scripts, video footage and working documents — online, Sullivan laughingly admits to never having read the user agreement.

Harry Lewis, a computer science professor at Harvard, says what's in those agreements may turn out to be no laughing matter. He warns that most online companies reserve the right to shut users down if they are accused of storing something illegal — whether or not the accusation is justified.
"If it's easier for them to just kill your account than it is to fight back against this complaint ... they might just find it easier to make you go away," Lewis says.
Lewis says that part of the problem is that there aren't any rules governing life on the cloud.
"We're all kind of used to the idea that if you don't pay your telephone bill, you know they're not going to shut off your phone while you're off on vacation. There are laws about how quickly they can shut off your telephone service," he says. "But [for] your cloud storage service, there's no rules."
The contents of the user agreement that most people don't read can be surprising. For example, when you put up your Facebook page, you pretty much give the company the right to do whatever they want with it. According to the user agreement, Facebook can "use, copy, publicly display, publicly perform, reformat, excerpt and distribute it."

The March Toward The Cloud

Despite potential problems, tech companies see consumers inevitably marching towards cloud computing. Several companies, including Hewlett Packard, are making cheap portable notebook computers with small hard drives that will rely on the cloud for storage. Microsoft, Amazon and Apple now all provide online services.

Sam Schillace, part of the team designing online applications at Google, waxes on enthusiastically about the convenience it provides.
"The data's always where you can find it," he says. "Your laptop crashes, the hard disc gets erased — your data's still fine."
Life on the cloud can be wonderful — except when it's not. Recently, 20,000 paying customers of a small cloud storage company called Linkup lost large amounts of information when the company shut down. But for most companies, Schillace says, cloud computing is too important to mess up.
"It's something we have to get right, or the model won't actually work," he says. "It's got to be your data that follows you around when you give your credentials to a Web site. You've got to be able to do what you want to do with your data on that Web site."
As we turn on our BlackBerrys, iPhones and laptops and expect the convenience of having our information anywhere we are, cloud computing seems unstoppable. Just be sure to read that user agreement before you click the "accept" button.

An introduction to cloud computing

Copenhagen Climate Treaty & Climategate

Texas Sues EPA Over Global Warming Regulations

September 21, 2010

CBN News - The state of Texas has taken the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to court over the issue of global warming.

The Austin-American Statesman newspaper reported Texas officials are trying to prevent the the federal regulation of greenhouse gasses.

They have also accused the EPA of relying on flawed science to write those regulations.

However, the EPA stated that its findings were based on work by the U.S. Global Climate Research Program, the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, and the National Research Council, which combines thousands of studies to give a consensus on what scientific literature shows about climate, according to the agency.
"(The EPA) outsourced the scientific basis for its greenhouse gas regulation to a scandal-plagued international organization that cannot be considered objective or trustworthy," said Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott.
The suit was first filed in February by Texas and other states.

Abbott warned that if the new regulations go into effect, they could cost the state tens of thousands of lost jobs along with higher energy costs.

The Reckless Mess Created by The Fed

September 1, 2010

The International Forecaster - ... An Albemarle County Circuit Court judge has set aside a subpoena issued by Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli to the University of Virginia seeking documents related to the work of climate scientist and former university professor Michael Mann. Judge Paul M. Peatross Jr. ruled that Cuccinelli can investigate whether fraud has occurred in university grants, as the attorney general had contended, but ruled that Cuccinelli's subpoena failed to state a "reason to believe" that Mann had committed fraud.

The ruling is a major blow for Cuccinelli, a global warming skeptic who had maintained that he was investigating whether Mann committed fraud in seeking government money for research that showed that the earth has experienced a rapid, recent warming. Mann, now at Penn State University, worked at U-Va. until 2005.

According to Peatross, the Virginia Fraud Against Taxpayers Act, under which the civil investigative demand was issued, requires that the attorney general include an "objective basis" to believe that fraud has been committed. Peatross indicates that the attorney general must state the reason so that it can be reviewed by a court, which Cuccinelli failed to do.

Peatross set the subpoena aside without prejudice, meaning Cuccinelli could give the subpoena another try by rewriting the civil demand to better explain the conduct he wishes to investigate. But the judge seemed skeptical of Cuccinelli's underlying claim about Mann, noting that Cuccinelli's deputy maintained in a court hearing that the nature of Mann's fraud was described in subsequent court papers in the case.
"The Court has read with care those pages and understands the controversy regarding Dr. Mann's work on the issue of global warming. However, it is not clear what he did was misleading, false or fraudulent in obtaining funds from the Commonwealth of Virginia," Peatross wrote.
Additionally, the judge said Cuccinelli could only ask about one of five grants issued to Mann that the attorney general has been seeking to investigate. That's because the other four involved the use of federal, not state, funds.

In a statement, Cuccinelli said he will take the judge's ruling into account and rewrite the civil investigative demand. Spokesman Brian Gottstein said Cuccinelli is also examining the ruling to decide whether to appeal.
"While this was not an outright ruling in our favor, I am pleased that the judge has agreed with my office on several key legal points and has given us a framework for issuing a new civil investigative demand to get the information necessary to continue our investigation into whether or not fraud has been committed against the commonwealth," he said.
Mann, meanwhile, said he was pleased with the judge's ruling.
"I'm very pleased that the judge has ruled in our favor," he said in a statement. "It is a victory not just for me and the university, but for all scientists who live in fear that they may be subject to a politically-motivated witch hunt when their research findings prove inconvenient to powerful vested interests.
"I'm looking forward now to trying to get back full time to the things I really care about: doing research and extending the forefront of our scientific understanding of the science of climate and climate change, teaching and advising students and postdoctoral scholars, and doing the best I can to communicate to the public important scientific findings," he said.
A spokeswoman for the University of Virginia said a statement from the university would be forthcoming.

Civil Liberties, Health, Food Policies

MRSA in Meat: Why No Recall?

September 16, 2010

Huffington Post - Next week, Congress will hold hearings on the recent recall of more than half a billion eggs infected with salmonella -- all of them from two factory farms in Iowa. That recall, though voluntary, was essential: Salmonella can make you very sick, though if treated on time, it is rarely fatal.

But that's not the case for MRSA (Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus), or drug-resistant staff infection. In 2005, U.S. hospitals treated more than 278,000 MRSA cases. Nearly 100,000 people faced life threatening illness and 18,650 died: 50 percent more than the number of AIDS death that year.

This evolving superbug sprang from the overuse of antibiotics -- not only in hospital settings, but also in animal agriculture, which consumes an estimated 70 percent of all antibiotics sold in this country. Most of those drugs are given at low dose to promote animal growth and prevent disease, a practice that encourages the emergence of multi-drug resistant bacteria.

Now MRSA is showing up in random samples of raw pork sold in supermarkets, and to a lesser extent in beef and chicken. Yet these potentially deadly cuts of meat -- unlike the salmonella-tainted eggs -- have never been yanked off the shelves.

Why not? Because no government inspector has ever tested live animals or meat for MRSA.

Fortunately, other people have stepped in where government has failed. A University of Iowa study published last year found that one Midwestern hog factory farm was a nonstop breeding pool for the deadly disease: More than a third of all adult swine and 100 percent of the younger pigs aged 9 and 12 weeks were carriers, as were 64 percent of the workers. A second hog factory had zero MRSA infections.
"Our results show that colonization of swine by MRSA was very common in one of two corporate swine production systems," said lead author Tara Smith, adding that MRSA transmission on hog factories, "could complicate efforts to reduce MRSA transmission statewide and beyond."
The infected herd, incidentally, had twice as many hogs as the uninfected one, and ALL of those little piggies, presumably, went to market.

Meanwhile in the Netherlands, one-in-five human MRSA cases were caused by a "livestock associated" strain of the bug, and one study of 26 Dutch pig farmers found a MRSA rate 760 times greater than among patients admitted to Dutch hospitals.

But what about meat sold in stores? Last year, researchers at Louisiana State University tested samples obtained from Baton Rouge supermarkets and found that 5.5 percent of the pork and 3.3 percent of the beef was positive for MRSA. Five out of the six infected pork samples were "chain-branded meats." Equally unsettling, even more samples tested positive for non-methicillin resistant staph: 20 percent of the beef and a whopping 45.6 percent of the pork.

Eating meat with nonresistant staph can cause food poisoning from "heat-stable" toxins, the paper said, while "the presence of MRSA in meats may pose a potential threat of infection to individuals who handle the food."

Does the "presence of MRSA in meats" come directly from the presence of MRSA in factory farm animals? It would be reasonable to assume so, but surprisingly, the LSU study said that probably wasn't the case.

Most animals are infected with a very specific "livestock associated" strain of MRSA, but the meat samples in the stores were found with human-related MRSA, and not the livestock strain.

And even though pigs can also carry the same human-associated strains of MRSA found in the retail pork, the authors concluded that "humans, not animals, are the likely contamination source. They added that efforts are needed "to prevent the introduction of MRSA from human carriers onto the meats they handle."

Really? Just blame the workers? I'm not so convinced.

To begin with, LSU is part of the "Land Grant University System," which receives millions of dollars for agricultural research from the pro-agribusiness USDA and from agribusiness itself. Moreover, the study was "limited in geographical region, survey period and sample size," the authors said.
"Further studies at the farm and retail levels involving larger sample sizes over time are needed."
But looking at it from a human health point of view, does it really matter where the MRSA came from? It's there, and the government is doing nothing to stop it.

So why all the fury over salmonella in eggs, but no recalls of meat with MRSA?

I asked that question of the FDA: They don't regulate meat, they said, I should ask the USDA. I asked the USDA -- repeatedly -- and they never got back to me. Then I wrote to the National Pork Producers Council, and they referred me to a study out of Canada.

The MRSA rates in Canadian retail meat were quite high: 13 percent of the pork chops (nearly 1-in-7) and 6.3 percent of the ground pork was contaminated, along with 5.6 percent of the beef and 1.2 percent of the chicken.

But like the LSU study, this paper also found only human-related bacteria in the meat, and not the livestock associated strain.
"If MRSA in meat is a direct reflection of MRSA in food animals, frequent isolation of (livestock-associated) strains would be expected," the Canadian study said.
Again, workers, and not factory farm animals, were likely to blame, this study asserted:
"The potential role of slaughterhouse and food-processing personnel, and the food processing environment require consideration."
It was funded in part by the (U.S.) National Pork Board.

Meanwhile, the authors wrote that bacteria counts were generally low, though they added that, "while low levels may be less concerning, they should not be dismissed." The risk from eating contaminated meat was also low, "although it is plausible that ingestion could result in gastrointestinal colonization and the potential for subsequent infection or transmission." Moreover, touching one's nose after handling the meat "could plausibly result in nasal colonization," and contact with skin sores "could potentially result in infection."

MRSA is not always serious. A healthy person can be infected without showing symptoms, which usually appear as small pimple-like bumps that become painful, pus-filled boils. Most cases remain on the skin and respond to treatment. But nastier strains are evolving; they are more invasive, rapidly infect organs, and can induce system-wide sepsis, toxic shock and "flesh-eating" pneumonia.

So why shouldn't contaminated meat be recalled? I wrote again to the pork producers' council for further comment, and here is what I was told:
You have the study, which should answer your questions. And while your questions may be simple, the answers are not. Besides, you have an agenda. I thought your name was familiar; I read your book.

Dave Warner
Director of Communications
National Pork Producers Council
He's right, I do have an agenda. My agenda is that consumers should not have to worry about bringing home any food contaminated with a drug-resistant superbug that could possibly result in system-wide sepsis, toxic shock and flesh-eating pneumonia.

MRSA Superbug Nearly Nonexistent in Norway—Here's Why

January 4, 2010

Gaia Health - MRSA is a scourge in virtually all modern hospitals in every industrialized country, with the exception of Norway. While tens of thousands of American and European patients die each year from MRSA, it's a rare occurrence in Norway. How are they doing it? In the most simple of ways. In Norway, the problem was faced head-on. The cause—overprescription of antibiotics—was acknowledged. So they stopped overprescribing.

People didn't start dying from lack of antibiotics, but they did stop dying from MRSA.

MRSA, Methicillin Resistant Staphylococcus Aureus, is a drug-resistant and virulent mutation of staphylococcus. It results from overuse of antibiotics, and exists because of their casual use. As with so many other microorganisms, the life cycle is very short. Many life-cycles can occur in a matter of hours. Any DNA mutation that results in drug resistance becomes the one most likely to survive in a host who's treated with drugs. Drug resistant bacterial infections are a natural result of routinely relying on antibiotics to resolve infections.

A Brief History of Drug Resistant Bacteria

Penicillin, of course, began the antibiotic revolution. Discovered by the Scotsman Alexander Fleming in 1928, it wasn't widely used until mass production was achieved in the mid-forties. It was first used on a wide scale towards the end of World War II for wounded US military personnel during the invasion of Normandy in 1944. By 1946, penicillin was widely used by non-military doctors.

Penicillin was quickly followed by a wide range of other antibiotics, such as streptomycin, chloramphenicol tetracycline, sulfa drugs, and anti-tuberculosis drugs.

It didn't take long for bacteria to develop drug resistance. Some strains of staphylococcus developed resistance almost immediately after penicillin's mass use by civilian doctors. By 1953, an outbreak of dysentery resulted in a strain of Shigella dysenteriae resistant to four drugs: chloramphenicol, tetracycline, streptomycin and all of the sulfonamides.

The Continuation of the Cause

In the face of the known problem of drug resistance, the medical profession simply increased its use of antibiotics, throwing them at virtually every illness or sniffle, no matter how mild, even when the infection had nothing to do with bacteria. They became used routinely as preventatives. Even dentists prescribe them before dental procedures.

Now, when MRSA deaths exceed AIDS deaths in the US, doctors routinely overprescribe. I hate to think of all the people I've spoken with recently, in both the US and UK, whose doctors have given them antiobiotics for colds, a mild viral condition that is completely immune to any antibiotic.

Norway's Solution

Obviously, the medical profession has largely hidden its collective heads in the sand. Norway, though, faced the problem head-on about 25 years ago in the 1980s.

They didn't try to throw studies at it. They didn't look for a technological fix. Instead, they addressed the cause: overuse of antibiotics. The rational decision to drastically limit their use was made. A rigorous program was instituted to isolate anyone diagnosed with MRSA, require that medical personnel who've come into contact with it stay home, track each case, and test anyone who's come into contact with the patient.

The result has been a near end to MRSA, with the exception of people who enter the country with it. And refusing to use antibiotics except when absolutely necessary hasn't harmed Norwegians' health. The UN's statistics indicate that Norwegians' longevity is 14th in the world, while the UK's is 22nd, and the US's is 38th.

MRSA is a mutation of staph infections. In Norway, the percent of MRSA staph infections is now about 1 percent. In Japan, it's about 80 percent.

Is It Too Late for the Rest of the World?

In 2004, microbiologist Lynne Liebowitz instituted a program of limited antibiotics use at Queen Elizabeth Hospital at King's Lynn in the UK. The program set up was for targeted use. That is, broad-range antibiotics were largely eliminated, and only narrow-spectrum ones that target only the specific bacteria involved in a disease were used. As Dr. Liebowitz stated,

Treating any patient with an antibiotic kills off all the bacteria that are sensitive to that particular drug, while allowing resistant strains to multiply and spread
Most antibiotic use was limited to critical care, terminally ill, and surgical patients.

In six months, the number of MRSA cases was cut by 75 percent.

Dr. Liebowitz's comment about her success at Queen Elizabeth Hospital and four others where her methods have been initiated is:
It's really very upsetting that some patients are dying from infections which could be prevented. It's wrong.
The problem couldn't be stated more clearly. One must wonder how many of the people who've died from MRSA would be alive today if the medical profession hadn't been so gung-ho to keep prescribing antibiotics when they're either useless or unnecessary.

The MRSA problem in hospitals is clearly resolvable. Because of doctors' insistence on continuing to prescribe antibiotics recklessly, thousands of people have died and the problem has spread outside hospitals. When will the medical profession take the simple steps required to end this scourge?

Biometric National ID/Voter ID and National Electronic Payment Systems

Dubai's Simage Launches Converged Mobile Payments, Biometric ID Platform

September 27, 2010

Contactless News - Dubai’s Simage Technologies has announced the launch of a new converged platform for ID, mobile payments and contact/contactless payments across multiple sectors, including financial services, the public sector and transport.

According to Simage, the platform supports multi-factor authentication and biometrics in end-user and transaction verification, allowing for a wide array of ID based applications and services, including national ID, voter ID and national payment systems.

The platform’s biometric functions may include fingerprint scan, facial recognition, iris scan and vein scan, depending on the service provider requirements.

The platform also features a centralized management system that keeps track of end-user trends across multiple market segments, enabling service providers to improve their service offerings and customer satisfaction, as well as streamline their processes and operations, says Simage.

September 29, 2010

RFID, GPS Technology and Electronic Surveillance

Who Is Watching You? Nine Industries That Know Your Every Move

September 24, 2010

Daily Finance - Don't kid yourself. Real privacy no longer exists in this country.

We've long had government organizations collecting data that paints a pretty clear picture of what we do with our time. The Internal Revenue Service knows everything about what you earn and any major transactions you make. It can access every bit of information it needs to determine how much money you should be sending on April 15.

The most important gatherer of personal information in the country is the Federal Bureau of Investigation. It keeps a database of over 90 million fingerprints, which can be accessed by other law enforcement agencies. It also has an extensive database of DNA, the most specific marker of personal identity. The bureau's ability to collect information expanded following the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. It now tracks a large portion of mail, cell phone traffic and Internet activity of people it deems suspicious.

Thanks to advances in technology, however, there are also now numerous private enterprises that track and record your every move. Although they don't usually give out this information, there are often worrisome leaks and security breaches where they inadvertently release sensitive information about their customers. Taken together, these industries have data on where you are, who you are communicating with, how you are earning your money, how you are spending that money, as well as the hobbies and interests you are pursuing.

We examined a large number of organizations to find the most intrusive firms and industries. Here they are, ranked by the number of people they track:
  1. Credit Rating Agencies

    With each firm having files on over 200 million people, the three credit bureaus -- Equifax (EFX), Experian (EXPGY), and TransUnion -- know not only your credit history, but also have the data to project your credit future. The companies collect a history of all credit use by an individual, including payment of bills, mortgages, and credit cards. The agencies also track the frequency with which a person applies for credit. That information is used to determine a person's credit risk through a credit score. These scores are produced using secret algorithms, ensuring that the bureaus know much more about you than you know about them.

  2. Cell Phone Service Providers

    As cell phone popularity has increased and technology has evolved, cell phone companies have come to possess a wealth of information about their customers. Covering over 90% of the American population, cell phone providers can tell who you call, when you call, how often you call certain people and what you say in your text messages. With GPS, they also now know where you are whenever you have your phone. As smartphones become the equivalent of miniature computers, cellular companies can also track personal behavior, such as use of multimedia and wireless e-commerce transactions.

  3. Social Media Companies

    In its ascent to Internet superpower, social enterprise Facebook has amassed an enormous amount of user information. Who your friends are, what you like, and what photos you are in are all information that the company has access to. That, however, is not the full extent of it. Facebook also tracks which profiles you view, who you communicate with most often, companies and causes you support, your personal calendar, and a great deal of personal information about your friends and family. Perhaps most surprising, Facebook can access much of the information you may have deleted, including photos and status updates, from their servers.

  4. Credit Card Companies

    There are currently 610 million credit cards owned by U.S. consumers. In an economy dominated by credit, the amount of power held by credit card companies, such as Visa (V), MasterCard (MA) and American Express (AE), should not be surprising. They know their customers' credit scores, credit histories, what they buy, when they buy, and when they are likely to default on their payments. The interest rates charged for credit fluctuates based on their analysis of individuals' ability to pay back the debts they incur. Some of the information kept by credit card companies can help consumers, however. Algorithms that study buying patterns, for instance, are used to detect fraud.

  5. Search Engines

    Every search you perform on Google (GOOG) goes into the Internet giant's database, which it uses to keep a profile of your habits and interests. The search engine also keeps track of which links you click on during your search and which advertisers you visit. Google uses your interest profile and search history to place targeted ads in your browser. Perhaps most disturbingly, Google uses its Gmail service to monitor the content of your email in order to place targeted advertising in your email account. Google also keeps records of account and credit card information for everyone who uses their "Checkout" service, tracks which videos people watch on YouTube, where people are planning to visit, and what they plan to do there. Google's location-based map systems also allow the search company to know where people are in real time through the use of smartphones and other GPS-enabled devices.

  6. Retail Chains

    Walmart (WMT) uses data-mining services to collect and store information for all its customers in a central location. This allows it to determine the purchasing behavior of people who shop in its stores or on its website. It also optimizes inventory distribution by determining which products people are most likely to buy in the future. In August, Walmart began installing Radio Frequency Identification Devices (RFID) in their underwear and jeans, which lets them track items and customers around the store. This means they are able to determine how much time someone who buys a specific pair of pants spends in each aisle. Walmart plans to use this data to reorganize displays and further control inventory. The retail giant also sell this information to thousands of other businesses, who use consumer profiles for advertising and demographic research.

  7. Casinos

    Casinos like the Wynn Resorts (WYNN) are increasingly using "loyalty cards" to monitor the behavior of their patrons. The Wynn "red" cards are used in place of tokens, and allow the casino to keep track of which machines and tables each gambler visits on a regular basis, the path they take during their visits (using RFID chips), and even how often and how much they are willing to lose before giving up. When a slot machine in Wynn detects a gambler is close to his breaking point, it will issue a small payout in order to keep him spending money.

  8. Banks

    Large banks, such as Bank of America (BAC), Chase (JPM) and Citibank (C), have access to customer account information, which includes savings, employer payroll deposits, and the time and date of ATM and teller visits. They track transfers made by account holders to third parties. A bank also knows your income, your salary, and your balance, moment-by-moment. Perhaps among the most confidential data a bank keeps is how often people move money in and out of accounts. Banks know how much you save each month, and often exactly how those savings are invested. Banks use this information to assess the risk of giving you a mortgage or loan, and they are legally allowed to use data-mining companies to check your website activity.

  9. Life Insurance Companies

    About 140 million households currently have life insurance. In order to apply for life insurance, applicants generally must disclose their health history. This includes incidence of heart disease, height, weight, smoking habits, and often includes full records from your doctors. Perhaps more invasive, life insurers seek disclosure of hospitalization for mental illness, use of illegal drugs, and whether or not you have had to file for bankruptcy. Insurance companies use a national prescription database to determine whether or not you have ever been prescribed medication. And certain high-risk professions and hobbies usually have to be disclosed.

September 28, 2010

Collapse of the U.S. Economy

Things Are Coming Apart Before Our Eyes

September 27, 2010

Financial Sense - ...We have officially been in a recession (make that a depression) since the last quarter of 2007. Now we are being informed that the “economic dislocation” (what a lovely — and innocuous — way to describe our mess, don’t you TH*NK?) ended July of 2009, well over a year ago.

The Federal Government and the Federal Reserve Bank had sewn a few TRILLION here and there into the major money center banks, the investment banks, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the US insurance giant AIG, and the US automakers.

Not much — as in nothing — had been divided out to main street America — nothing except increasing the time to draw unemployment to 99 weeks!

We have been, and are being, inundated with numbers, graphs, and stats that support their claimed recovery. Do you feel this first downturn of the 21st century is behind us? I sure don’t....

Unemployment figures “improved” to a 9.5% rate — until this Thursday that is. Everybody knows the real number is at between 22% and 24% when you figure in the underemployed, those whose benefits have lapsed, and those who have given up looking. Housing is stagnant. Foreclosures have stalled only because of glitches in who is actually holding the valid title to the packaged mortgages.

The most recent “good news” was that housing (construction) starts increased in August. What we were told only in the micro-footnotes was that “the new construction” included rental construction, not just single family homes. As more people lose their homes, they had two choices — move in with family or become renters.

From Reuters, September 17, 2010:

Henderson Global Investors has launched a new $1.1 billion fund targeting the U.S. apartment market. The fund manager is targeting an initial equity raise of $100 million by end-2010, and a total of $400 million. It will target properties with 200-plus units in suburban and urban areas with strong economic trends. "Apartments are anticipated to have the most favorable occupancy and rent growth conditions of all asset classes," Henderson said in a statement. It believes newly acquired, unleveraged apartments can offer net total returns of 7-9 percent over a five-year horizon, adding it expects tax-exempt bond financing to provide the lowest-cost means of financing apartment investments. "Apartments have historically proven less volatile than other property sectors, and core apartments are likely to offer attractive total returns with a strong income component." [See Social Engineering is Forcing People into Cities Because It is Easier to Track and Control an Urban Population.]

Our troops have been moved out of Iraq to next door Kuwait, except for the 100,000 or so advisors, instructors, and paid private mercenaries. Afghanistan has a “new” commander, General Petraeus, who has vowed their will be no graceful exit next July (as we have been promised).

These “truths” of our real situation are being reflected in the changing poll results and predictions for the coming mid-term elections in November. It is likely that the Republican Party will regain control of the House of Representatives. Fifteen US Senate seats are now in play.

October is known for its surprises. I wish I could predict what is coming at US/us first. An Israeli (US) attack on Iran, Gaza, Jordan, Syria…? A major stock market “correction” of greater than 20 percent? A significant downward spiral of the Dollar revaluation to other world currencies? An outbreak of war on the Korean peninsula? The Federal Reserve being forced to purchase all the failed rollovers of maturing US government debt instruments? Inflation? Deflation?

What will become the rock foundation for this elusive recovery? Will we see any changes for the better? I TH*NK about a hymn that we just sang in church: “Upon this solid rock I stand… all other things are sinking sand… all other things are sinking sand.” Sinking sand? Humm… Time will tell…

I’m Fred Cederholm and I’ve been thinking. You should be thinking, too.

September 27, 2010

Solar Storms and EMP Threats

‘Very Few People Understand How Great and Imminent the EMP Threat Is’

September 23, 2010 - The following videos are a brief overview of EMPact America, Inc.’s September 2009 conference. The conference featured guest speakers and attendees that included EMP experts, scientists, Congressmen, and military personnel from around the country.

The topic of discussion?

The very real threat of EMP and its consequences:

Very few people still really understand how great and imminent the EMP threat is, or that there is a readily actionable plan that is inexpensive and at hand, and that it just takes political will at this point to get it done….

An electromagnetic pulse, or EMP, is a super energetic radio wave that’s immediately harmless to people, but it’ll burn out all the critical electronic systems that sustain human economic activity and human life across vast areas, including the entire continental United States.

-Dr. Peter Vincent Pry, President, EMPact America

The idea that this is some science fiction that has no basis in reality denies and defies what a bipartisan EMP commission agreed that it did represent -- and that is a serious threat to the safety and security of every single American.

-Mike Huckabee, former Governor of Arkansas

It’s not a secret. You can’t do anything about something that’s this broad in impact and still secret. So in order to get anything done you actually have to acknowledge we have a weakness. And, we worried about the fact that if we acknowledged that we had a weakness, how damaging will that be since we will inform our adversaries. We came to the conclusion that our adversaries are really quite well informed already.

-Robert Hermann, Commissioner, Congressional EMP Commission

I have believed for a long time that EMP or electromagnetic pulse may be the greatest strategic threat we face, because without adequate preparation its impact would be so horrifying that we would, in fact, basically lose our civilization in a matter of seconds.

-Newt Gingrich, Former Speaker of the House of Representatives

The following two-part video is a short 15 minute overview of the conference. You can watch the conference in full by visiting EMPact America.

Sun Storm to Hit with 'Force of 100 Million Bombs,' Could Wipe Out Planet's Power Grid

August 26, 2010 - After 10 years of comparative slumber, the sun is waking up — and it's got astronomers on full alert.

This week several US media outlets reported that NASA was warning the massive flare that caused spectacular light shows on Earth earlier this month was just a precursor to a massive solar storm building that had the potential to wipe out the entire planet's power grid.

NASA has since rebutted those reports, saying it could come "100 years away or just 100 days", but an Australian astronomer says the space community is betting on the sooner scenario rather than the latter.

Despite its rebuttal, NASA's been watching out for this storm since 2006 and reports from the US this week claim the storms could hit on that most Hollywood of disaster dates — 2012.

Similar storms back in 1859 and 1921 caused worldwide chaos, wiping out telegraph wires on a massive scale.

The 2012 storm has the potential to be even more disruptive.

"The general consensus among general astronomers (and certainly solar astronomers) is that this coming Solar maximum (2012 but possibly later into 2013) will be the most violent in 100 years," astronomy lecturer and columnist Dave Reneke said.

"A bold statement and one taken seriously by those it will affect most, namely airline companies, communications companies, and anyone working with modern GPS systems.

"They can even trip circuit breakers and knock out orbiting satellites, as has already been done this year."

Regardless, the point astronomers are making is it doesn't matter if the next Solar Max isn't the worst in history, or even as bad as the 1859 storms. It's the fact that there hasn't been one since the mid-80s. Commodore had just launched the Amiga and the only digital storm making the news was Tetris.

No one really knows what effect the 2012-2013 Solar Max will have on today's digital-reliant society.

Dr Richard Fisher, director of NASA’s Heliophysics division, told Mr Reneke the super storm would hit like "a bolt of lightning”, causing catastrophic consequences for the world’s health, emergency services, and national security unless precautions are taken.

US government officials earlier this year took part in a "tabletop exercise" in Boulder, Colorado, to map out what might happen if the Earth was hit with a storm as intense as the 1859 and 1921 storms.

The 1859 storm was of a similar size to that predicted by NASA to hit within the next three years — one of decreased activity, but more powerful eruptions.

NASA said that a recent report by the National Academy of Sciences found that if a similar storm occurred today, it could cause “$1 to $2 trillion in damages to society's high-tech infrastructure and require four to 10 years for complete recovery”.

Staff at the Space Weather Prediction Center in Colorado, which hosted the exercise, said with our reliance on satellite technology, such an event could hit the Earth with the magnitude of a global hurricane or earthquake.

The reason for the concern comes as the sun enters a phase known as Solar Cycle 24.

All the alarming news, building around the event, is being fueled by two things:

  1. The first is a book by disaster expert Lawrence E. Joseph, Guilty of Apocalypse: The Case Against 2012, in which he claims the "Hurricane Katrina for the Earth" may cause unprecedented planet-wide upheaval.

  2. The second is a theory that claims sunspots travel through the sun on a "conveyor belt" similar to the Great Ocean Conveyor Belt which controls weather on Earth. The belt carries magnetic fields through the sun. When they hit the surface, they explode as sunspots. Weakened, they then travel back through the sun's core to recharge.

    It all happens on a rough 40-50-year cycle, according to solar physicist David Hathaway of the National Space Science and Technology Center in the US.

    He says when the belt speeds up, lots of magnetic fields are collected, which points to more intense future activity.
    "The belt was turning fast in 1986-1996," Prof Hathaway said. "Old magnetic fields swept up then should reappear as big sunspots in 2010-2011."
Most experts agree, although those who put the date of Solar Max in 2012 are getting the most press.

They claim satellites will be aged by 50 years, rendering GPS even more useless than ever, and the blast will have the equivalent energy of 100 million hydrogen bombs.
“We know it is coming but we don’t know how bad it is going to be,” Dr Fisher told Mr Reneke in the most recent issue of Australasian Science.

Systems will just not work. The flares change the magnetic field on the Earth and it’s rapid, just like a lightning bolt.

"That’s the solar effect.”

NASA Scientists Braced for 'Solar Tsunami' to Earth

The earth could be hit by a wave of violent space weather as early as Tuesday after a massive explosion on the sun, scientists have warned.

August 2, 2010

Telegraph - The solar fireworks at the weekend were recorded by several satellites, including NASA’s new Solar Dynamics Observatory, which watched its shock wave rippling outwards.

Astronomers from all over the world witnessed the huge flare above a giant sunspot the size of the Earth, which they linked to an even larger eruption across the surface of Sun.

The explosion, called a coronal mass ejection, was aimed directly towards Earth, which then sent a “solar tsunami” racing 93 million miles across space.

Images from the SDO hint at a shock wave traveling from the flare into space, the New Scientist reported.

Experts said the wave of supercharged gas will likely reach the Earth on Tuesday, when it will buffet the natural magnetic shield protecting Earth.

It is likely to spark spectacular displays of the aurora or northern and southern lights.

"This eruption is directed right at us," said Leon Golub, of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics (CfA).

"It's the first major Earth-directed eruption in quite some time."

Scientists have warned that a really big solar eruption could destroy satellites and wreck power and communications grids around the globe if it happened today.

NASA recently warned that Britain could face widespread power blackouts and be left without critical communication signals for long periods of time, after the earth is hit by a once-in-a-generation “space storm”.

The Daily Telegraph disclosed in June that senior space agency scientists believed the Earth will be hit with unprecedented levels of magnetic energy from solar flares after the Sun wakes “from a deep slumber” sometime around 2013.

It remains unclear, however, how much damage this latest eruption will cause the world’s communication tools.

Dr Lucie Green, of the Mullard Space Science Laboratory, Surrey, followed the flare-ups using Japan's orbiting Hinode telescope.

"What wonderful fireworks the Sun has been producing,” the UK solar expert said.

“This was a very rare event — not one, but two almost simultaneous eruptions from different locations on the sun were launched toward the Earth.

"These eruptions occur when immense magnetic structures in the solar atmosphere lose their stability and can no longer be held down by the Sun's huge gravitational pull. Just like a coiled spring suddenly being released, they erupt into space.”

She added:

"It looks like the first eruption was so large that it changed the magnetic fields throughout half the Sun's visible atmosphere and provided the right conditions for the second eruption.

"Both eruptions could be Earth-directed, but may be traveling at different speeds.

“This means we have a very good chance of seeing major and prolonged effects, such as the northern lights at low latitudes."

A NASA spokesman was unavailable for comment.

Northern Lights hit 100-year low point

Internet Censorship

The Obama administration is drawing up legislation to make it easier for US intelligence services to eavesdrop on the Internet, including email exchanges and social networks. The White House intends to submit a bill before Congress next year that would require all online services that enable communications to be technically capable of complying with a wiretap order, including being able to intercept and unscramble encrypted messages. Federal law enforcement and national security officials are seeking the new regulations, arguing that extremists and criminals are increasingly communicating online rather than using phones. Officials from the White House, Justice Department, National Security Agency, FBI and other agencies have been meeting in recent months to craft the proposals. - AFP, U.S. Seeks to Ease Internet Wiretaps, September 27, 2010

U.S. Would Make Internet Wiretaps Easier

September 27, 2010

AP – Broad new regulations being drafted by the Obama administration would make it easier for law enforcement and national security officials to eavesdrop on Internet and e-mail communications like social networking Web sites and BlackBerries, The New York Times reported Monday.

The newspaper said the White House plans to submit a bill next year that would require all online services that enable communications to be technically equipped to comply with a wiretap order. That would include providers of encrypted e-mail, such as BlackBerry, networking sites like Facebook and direct communication services like Skype.

Federal law enforcement and national security officials say new the regulations are needed because terrorists and criminals are increasingly giving up their phones to communicate online.
"We're talking about lawfully authorized intercepts," said Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) general counsel Valerie Caproni. "We're not talking expanding authority. We're talking about preserving our ability to execute our existing authority in order to protect the public safety and national security."
The White House plans to submit the proposed legislation to Congress next year.

The new regulations would raise new questions about protecting people's privacy while balancing national security concerns.

The Times said the Obama proposal would likely include several requires:
  • Any service that provides encrypted messages must be capable of unscrambling them.

  • Any foreign communications providers that do business in the U.S. would have to have an office in the United States that's capable of providing intercepts.

  • Software developers of peer-to-peer communications services would be required to redesign their products to allow interception.
The Times said that some privacy and technology advocates say the regulations would create weaknesses in the technology that hackers could more easily exploit.

U.S. Tries to Make It Easier to Wiretap the Internet

September 27, 2010

New York Times - Federal law enforcement and national security officials are preparing to seek sweeping new regulations for the Internet, arguing that their ability to wiretap criminal and terrorism suspects is “going dark” as people increasingly communicate online instead of by telephone.

Essentially, officials want Congress to require all services that enable communications — including encrypted e-mail transmitters like BlackBerry, social networking Web sites like Facebook and software that allows direct “peer to peer” messaging like Skype — to be technically capable of complying if served with a wiretap order. The mandate would include being able to intercept and unscramble encrypted messages.

The bill, which the Obama administration plans to submit to lawmakers next year, raises fresh questions about how to balance security needs with protecting privacy and fostering innovation. And because security services around the world face the same problem, it could set an example that is copied globally.

James X. Dempsey, vice president of the Center for Democracy and Technology, an Internet policy group, said the proposal had “huge implications” and challenged “fundamental elements of the Internet revolution” — including its decentralized design.
“They are really asking for the authority to redesign services that take advantage of the unique, and now pervasive, architecture of the Internet,” he said. “They basically want to turn back the clock and make Internet services function the way that the telephone system used to function.”
But law enforcement officials contend that imposing such a mandate is reasonable and necessary to prevent the erosion of their investigative powers.
“We’re talking about lawfully authorized intercepts,” said Valerie E. Caproni, general counsel for the Federal Bureau of Investigation. “We’re not talking expanding authority. We’re talking about preserving our ability to execute our existing authority in order to protect the public safety and national security.”
Investigators have been concerned for years that changing communications technology could damage their ability to conduct surveillance. In recent months, officials from the F.B.I., the Justice Department, the National Security Agency, the White House and other agencies have been meeting to develop a proposed solution.

There is not yet agreement on important elements, like how to word statutory language defining who counts as a communications service provider, according to several officials familiar with the deliberations.

But they want it to apply broadly, including to companies that operate from servers abroad, like Research in Motion, the Canadian maker of BlackBerry devices. In recent months, that company has come into conflict with the governments of Dubai and India over their inability to conduct surveillance of messages sent via its encrypted service.

In the United States, phone and broadband networks are already required to have interception capabilities, under a 1994 law called the Communications Assistance to Law Enforcement Act. It aimed to ensure that government surveillance abilities would remain intact during the evolution from a copper-wire phone system to digital networks and cellphones.

Often, investigators can intercept communications at a switch operated by the network company. But sometimes — like when the target uses a service that encrypts messages between his computer and its servers — they must instead serve the order on a service provider to get unscrambled versions.

Like phone companies, communication service providers are subject to wiretap orders. But the 1994 law does not apply to them. While some maintain interception capacities, others wait until they are served with orders to try to develop them.

The F.B.I.’s operational technologies division spent $9.75 million last year helping communication companies — including some subject to the 1994 law that had difficulties — do so. And its 2010 budget included $9 million for a “Going Dark Program” to bolster its electronic surveillance capabilities ...