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Bush Nixes Public Access to EPA Libraries

Posted on August 29th, 2006 at 21:31 by Michael in category: ¿ʞɔnɟ ǝɥʇ ʇɐɥʍ, News


What has been termed, “positively Orwellian”, by PEER Executive Director Jeff Ruch, is indeed frightening.

It seems that the self-appointed “Decider”, George W. Bush, has decided to “end public access to research materials” at EPA Regional libraries without Congressional consent.

In an all out effort to impede research and public access, Bush has implemented a loosely covert operation to close down 26 technical libraries under the guise of a budgetary constraint move.

Scientists are protesting, but at least 15 of the libraries will be closed by Sept. 30, 2006.

“Public access to EPA libraries and collections will end as soon as possible”, according to a report found online at PEER, an acronym for Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility.

All total, nearly 80,000 documents, not in digital format, are being boxed up and placed in infinite limbo status by the Bush Administration.

The scene from the Raiders of the Lost Ark, where the Ark of the Covenant was wheeled into a massive sea of identical box crates, inside an enormous warehouse, comes vividly to mind.

Read the rest here.

(via j-walk)

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  1. You need a /i here somewhere

  2. fixed.

Gavyn Davies does the maths

Posted on August 29th, 2006 at 17:28 by John Sinteur in category: News


By 1941-42, the allies knew that US and even British tanks had been technically superior to German Panzer tanks in combat, but they were worried about the capabilities of the new marks IV and V. More troubling, they had really very little idea of how many tanks the enemy was capable of producing in a year. Without this information, they were unsure whether any invasion of the continent on the western front could succeed.

One solution was to ask intelligence to guess the number by secretly observing the output of German factories, or by trying to count tanks on the battlefield. Both the British and the Americans tried this, but they found that the estimates returned by intelligence were contradictory and unreliable. Therefore they asked statistical intelligence to see whether the accuracy of the estimates could be improved.

The statisticians had one key piece of information, which was the serial numbers on captured mark V tanks. The statisticians believed that the Germans, being Germans, had logically numbered their tanks in the order in which they were produced. And this deduction turned out to be right. It was enough to enable them to make an estimate of the total number of tanks that had been produced up to any given moment.

The basic idea was that the highest serial number among the captured tanks could be used to calculate the overall total. The German tanks were numbered as follows: 1, 2, 3N, where N was the desired total number of tanks produced. Imagine that they had captured five tanks, with serial numbers 20, 31, 43, 78 and 92. They now had a sample of five, with a maximum serial number of 92. Call the sample size S and the maximum serial number M. After some experimentation with other series, the statisticians reckoned that a good estimator of the number of tanks would probably be provided by the simple equation (M-1)(S+1)/S. In the example given, this translates to (92-1)(5+1)/5, which is equal to 109.2. Therefore the estimate of tanks produced at that time would be 109

By using this formula, statisticians reportedly estimated that the Germans produced 246 tanks per month between June 1940 and September 1942. At that time, standard intelligence estimates had believed the number was far, far higher, at around 1,400. After the war, the allies captured German production records, showing that the true number of tanks produced in those three years was 245 per month, almost exactly what the statisticians had calculated, and less than one fifth of what standard intelligence had thought likely.

Emboldened, the allies attacked the western front in 1944 and overcame the Panzers on their way to Berlin. And so it was that statisticians won the war – in their own estimation, at any rate.

Maybe these statisticians could be resurrected to tell the TSA how many terrorists actually want to blow up an airplane with hair gel. Surely they have serial numbers on bottles of hair gel.

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Details on the British Terrorist Arrest

Posted on August 29th, 2006 at 17:18 by John Sinteur in category: News, Security


Details are emerging:

  • There was some serious cash flow from someone, presumably someone abroad.
  • There was no imminent threat.
  • However, the threat was real. And it seems pretty clear that it would have bypassed all existing airport security systems.
  • The conspirators were radicalized by the war in Iraq, although it is impossible to say whether they would have been otherwise radicalized without it.
  • They were caught through police work, not through any broad surveillance, and were under surveillance for more than a year.

What pisses me off most is the second item. By arresting the conspirators early, the police squandered the chance to learn more about the network and arrest more of them — and to present a less flimsy case. There have been many news reports detailing how the U.S. pressured the UK government to make the arrests sooner, possibly out of political motivations. (And then Scotland Yard got annoyed at the U.S. leaking plot details to the press, hampering their case.)

My initial comments on the arrest are here. I still think that all of the new airline security measures are an overreaction (This essay makes the same point, as well as describing a 1995 terrorist plot that was remarkably similar in both materials and modus operandi — and didn’t result in a complete ban on liquids.)

As I said on a radio interview a couple of weeks ago: “We ban guns and knives, and the terrorists use box cutters. We ban box cutters and corkscrews, and they hide explosives in their shoes. We screen shoes, and the terrorists use liquids. We ban liquids, and the terrorist will use something else. It’s not a fair game, because the terrorists get to see our security measures before they plan their attack.” And it’s not a game we can win. So let’s stop playing, and play a game we actually can win. The real lesson of the London arrests is that investigation and intelligence work.

from the comments section in the link:

What I don’t understand is that the alleged explosive du jour — now HMTD rather than TATP — is not merely insanely difficult to assemble in an airplane toilet, but rather basically impossible to so prepare. A homebrew recipe for HMTD is here:


Apparently in needs to be dried out, and the usable form is a dry precipitate.

So tell me again, why can’t we bring liquids onto airplanes any more?

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  1. I’ve just flown back from Slovenia to London Stansted where not only were we allowed liquids on board, but a man right infront of me was allowed through airport security with a small knife (which he told the security about, they just said “it’s not a problem”). Another reason why this crap at British airports is a load of farce. If i was a terrorist i would hold up a plane going to the UK from the EU. Why bother with having to sneak Ribena through British “security”?

BPI demands action on pirate CDs

Posted on August 29th, 2006 at 16:39 by John Sinteur in category: Intellectual Property


UK record companies have demanded stronger action on CD piracy, saying 37m pirated CDs were sold last year.

The British Phonographic Industry (BPI) says intellectual property crime should be “higher on the police’s agenda”.

Fine. I think it is fair to insist that the BPI first tells us exactly what crimes should be positioned lower on the priority list to make resources available.

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Universal backs free music offer

Posted on August 29th, 2006 at 16:26 by John Sinteur in category: Intellectual Property


Vivendi Universal, the world’s biggest music group, has signed a deal to make its music catalogue available on a free legal downloads service.

Under the agreement, Spiralfrog will offer Universal’s songs online in the US and Canada.

New York-based Spiralfrog will launch its service in December and make its money by carrying adverts on the site.

Spiralfrog aims to take on market leader Apple’s iTunes service, which charges 99 cents per song in the US.

“Offering young consumers an easy-to-use alternative to pirated music sites will be compelling,” Spiralfrog Chief Executive Robin Kent said.

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Rumsfeld: Terrorists manipulating media

Posted on August 29th, 2006 at 9:40 by John Sinteur in category: ¿ʞɔnɟ ǝɥʇ ʇɐɥʍ, Mess O'Potamia


Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld said Monday he is deeply troubled by the success of terrorist groups in “manipulating the media” to influence Westerners.

“That’s the thing that keeps me up at night,” he said during a question-and-answer session with about 200 naval aviators and other Navy personnel at this flight training base for Navy and Marine pilots.

That’s the thing that keeps you up at night!?

Of all the clusterfucks that have occurred in the last six years, thousands of Americans dead, countless Iraqi and Afghan civilians…this is what bothers you?

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  1. He’s upset troops are being blamed for civilian deaths and that this is published. He is clearly in denial about his failures and like all despots wants to squash the opposition. And what about the manipulation of the FOX News sort. This does not seem to bother him.

  2. The fact that the Bush, Rumsfeld, Cheney, etc. group can’t control every possible image, news item, and point of view about the “war on terrorism” is what really keeps him awake at night.


Posted on August 29th, 2006 at 9:19 by John Sinteur in category: Cartoon


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Journalists sued over iPod story

Posted on August 29th, 2006 at 6:56 by John Sinteur in category: Apple


A Chinese court has frozen the personal assets of a reporter and an editor at a Shanghai newspaper after Apple iPod manufacturer Foxconn sued the pair for 30 million yuan (US$3.77 million) for allegedly damaging its reputation over reports of substandard work conditions.

Foxconn’s subsidiary in Shenzhen reportedly petitioned the city’s Intermediate People’s Court on July 10 to freeze the property of Wang You, a reporter for China Business News, and Weng Bao, an editor at the newspaper. The locked-up assets include apartments, a car and bank accounts.

The company also filed a lawsuit against the journalists, seeking 20 million yuan from Wang and 10 million yuan from Weng. The case is the biggest of its kind on the Chinese mainland in terms of the size of the compensation claim.

Foxconn is the trade name of Taiwan-based information technology manufacturer Hon Hai Precision Industry Co. It is owned by Terry Guo, one of Taiwan’s richest men.

The lawsuit charges that a story written by Wang tarnished the company’s reputation.

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