David Kirkpatrick

September 30, 2009

Beating denial of service attacks

Interesting cyber security research.

The release:

Denial of service denial

New filtering system could protect networks from zombies

A way to filter out denial of service attacks on computer networks, including cloud computing systems, could significantly improve security on government, commercial, and educational systems. Such a filter is reported in the Int. J. Information and Computer Security by researchers from Auburn University in Alabama.

Denial of Service (DoS) and distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attacks involve an attempt to make a computer resource unavailable to its intended users. This may simply be for malicious purposes as is often the case when big commercial or famous web sites undergo a DDoS attack. However, it is also possible to exploit the system’s response to such an attack to break system firewalls, access virtual private networks, and to access other private resources. A DoS attack can also be used to affect a complete network or even a whole section of the Internet.

Commonly, attack involves simply saturating the target machine with external internet requests. In the case of a DDoS attack the perpetrator recruits other unwitting computers into a network and uses a multitude of machines to mount the attack. The result is that the resource, whether it is a website, an email server, or a database, cannot respond to legitimate traffic in a timely manner and so essentially becomes unavailable to users.

Methods for configuring a network to filter out known DoS attack software and to recognize some of the traffic patterns associated with a mounting DoS attack are available. However, current filters usually rely on the computer being attacked to check whether or not incoming information requests are legitimate or not. This consumes its resources and in the case of a massive DDoS can compound the problem.

Now, computer engineers John Wu, Tong Liu, Andy Huang, and David Irwin of Auburn University have devised a filter to protect systems against DoS attacks that circumvents this problem by developing a new passive protocol that must be in place at each end of the connection: user and resource.

Their protocol – Identity-Based Privacy-Protected Access Control Filter (IPACF) – blocks threats to the gatekeeping computers, the Authentication Servers (AS), and so allows legitimate users with valid passwords to access private resources.

The user’s computer has to present a filter value for the server to do a quick check. The filter value is a one-time secret that needs to be presented with the pseudo ID. The pseudo ID is also one-time use. Attackers cannot forge either of these values correctly and so attack packets are filtered out.

One potential drawback of the added layer of information transfer required for checking user requests is that it could add to the resources needed by the server. However, the researchers have tested how well IPACF copes in the face of a massive DDoS attacks simulated on a network consisting of 1000 nodes with 10 gigabits per second bandwidth. They found that the server suffers little degradation, negligible added information transfer delay (latency) and minimal extra processor usage even when the 10 Gbps pipe to the authentication server is filled with DoS packets. Indeed, the IPACF takes just 6 nanoseconds to reject a non-legitimate information packet associated with the DoS attack.

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“Modelling and simulations for Identity-Based Privacy-Protected Access Control Filter (IPACF) capability to resist massive denial of service attacks” in Int. J. Information and Computer Security, 2009, 3, 195-223

Moving molecules

Filed under: Science, Technology — Tags: , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 11:27 pm

A nanotech breakthrough.

The release:

Step forward for nanotechnology: Controlled movement of molecules

IMAGE: In a step forward for nanotechnology, scientists are reporting an advance that allows the controlled movement of individual molecules without help from outside forces. Shown is a model of the…

Click here for more information.

Scientists in the United Kingdom are reporting an advance toward overcoming one of the key challenges in nanotechnology: Getting molecules to move quickly in a desired direction without help from outside forces. Their achievement has broad implications, the scientists say, raising the possibility of coaxing cells to move and grow in specific directions to treat diseases. It also could speed development of some long-awaited nanotech innovations. They include self-healing structures that naturally repair tears in their surface and devices that deliver medication to diseased while sparing healthy tissue. The study is scheduled for the October issue of ACS Nano, a monthly journal.

Mark Geoghegan and colleagues note long-standing efforts to produce directed, controlled movement of individual molecules in the nano world, where objects are about 1/50,000ththe width of a human hair. The main solutions so far have involved use of expensive, complex machines to move the molecules and they have been only partially successful, the scientists say.

The scientists used a special surface with hydrophobic (water repelling) and hydrophilic (water-attracting) sections. The region between the two sections produced a so-called “energy gradient” which can move tiny objects much like a conveyor belt. In lab studies, the scientists showed that plastic nanoparticles (polymer molecules) moved quickly and in a specific direction on this surface. “This could have implications in many technologies such as coaxing cells to move and grow in given directions, which could have major implications for the treatment of paralysis,” the scientists said.

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RTICLE #1 FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
“Directed Single Molecule Diffusion Triggered by Surface Energy Gradients”

DOWNLOAD FULL TEXT ARTICLE http://pubs.acs.org/stoken/presspac/presspac/full/10.1021/nn900991r

What is COBRA?

With all the talk about health insurance and ongoing unemployment, COBRA gets tossed around a lot in news and conversation. Here’s a quick overview of COBRA from WeCompareInsurance.

From the first link:

previous article covered how the recent government stimulus plan, known as the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA), affects COBRA, but the more simple question is, “What is COBRA?”

COBRA stands for Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act and was passed by Congress in 1986 to provide health benefit provisions that provide continuation of group health coverage that would end, such as employer-provided health insurance for an employee who loses his or her job. COBRA amended the Employee Retirement Income Security Act, the Internal Revenue Code and the Public Health Service Act. If you qualify for COBRA you can keep your group health insurance for a period of time, but you do have to continue paying for your policy.

The following is taken directly from the Department of Labor’s website on COBRA on exactly what COBRA does:

What does COBRA do?

COBRA provides certain former employees, retirees, spouses, former spouses, and dependent children the right to temporary continuation of health coverage at group rates. This coverage, however, is only available when coverage is lost due to certain specific events. Group health coverage for COBRA participants is usually more expensive than health coverage for active employees, since usually the employer pays a part of the premium for active employees while COBRA participants generally pay the entire premium themselves. It is ordinarily less expensive, though, than individual health coverage.

You must meet a number of criteria to qualify for COBRA coverage, but if you do qualify make certain to complete your application and other paperwork within required deadlines. These deadlines do change – as in the ARRA event in 2009 – so it’s in your best interest to do some research and find out the current deadlines and requirements for COBRA. Currently typical COBRA lasts up to 18 months after the qualifying event, e.g., losing your job, and a qualifying disability can extend that coverage up to another 11 months.

Head to the Department of Labor’s COBRA FAQ page for employees for more information on its continuation of health insurance benefits.

Raining rocks

Filed under: et.al., Science — Tags: , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 8:33 pm

The universe is an amazing place even in simulation and informed guesswork. Sounds like this planet requires a ultra-duty umbrella.

From the link:

Not so the atmosphere of COROT-7b, an exoplanet discovered last February by the COROT space telescope launched by the French and European space agencies

According to models by scientists at Washington University in St. Louis, COROT-7b’s atmosphere is made up of the ingredients of rocks and when “a front moves in,” pebbles condense out of the air and rain into lakes of molten lava below.

The work, by Laura Schaefer, research assistant in the Planetary Chemistry Laboratory, and Bruce Fegley Jr., Ph.D., professor of earth and planetary sciences in Arts & Sciences, appears in the Oct. 1 issue of The Astrophysical Journal.

Astronomers have found nearly 400 extra-solar planets, or exoplanets, in the past 20 years. But because of the limitations of the indirect means by which they are discovered, most are Hot Jupiters, chubby gas giants orbiting close to their parent stars. (More than 1,300 Earths could be packed inside Jupiter, which has 300 times the mass of Earth.)

COROT-7b, on the other hand, is less than twice the size of Earth and only five times its mass.

It was the first planet found orbiting the star COROT-7, an orange dwarf in the constellation Monoceros, or the Unicorn. (This priority is designated by the letter b.)

Microsoft offers free antivirus

A great, and necessary idea, but really at least 15 years too late. With the sheer bloat of Microsoft’s offerings, antivirus should have been standard equipment before even the Melissa virus hit ten years ago.

From the first link:

Microsoft Corp. says its new computer security program can be downloaded starting on Tuesday.

Microsoft Security Essentials, as the free antivirus software is called, has been available in a beta test version since June.

The economy wasn’t quite as bad as thought for Q2

More of that, “Well, the news still isn’t good, but it is better than we thought.” There’s a lot of looking for any ray of positive economic news still going on.

From the link:

The U.S. economy contracted at slower pace than previously thought in the second quarter as improved consumer and business spending cushioned the impact of a record decline in inventories, according to a government report on Wednesday.

The Commerce Department’s final estimate showed gross domestic product fell at a 0.7 percent annual rate instead of the 1.0 percent decline reported last month.

Analysts polled by Reuters had forecast GDP, which measures total goods and services output within U.S. borders, slipping at a 1.2 percent rate in the second quarter after dropping 6.4 percent in the January-March period.

This will probably mark the last quarter of decline in output for the U.S. economy, which slipped into recession in December 2007. The economy is believed to have rebounded in the July-September quarter.

With the second-quarter contraction, the country’s real GDP has shrunk for four straight quarters for the first time since government records started in 1947.

Tiger Woods tops $1B …

Filed under: Business, Sports — Tags: , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 4:51 pm

… in career earnings. And barring any major injuries, he has a long way to go before that career ends.

This is one fast optical transmission

Filed under: Science, Technology — Tags: , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 4:43 pm

Via KurzweilAI.net — Just wow.

Bell Labs breaks optical transmission record, 100 Petabit per second kilometer barrier

PhysOrg.com, Sept. 29, 2009

Bell Labs scientists have set a new optical transmission record of 15.5 Terabits per second over 7,000 kilometers, using 155 lasers, each operating at a different frequency and carrying 100 Gigabits/second of data.

The researchers also increased capacity by interfacing advanced digital signal processors with coherent detection, a new technology that makes it possible to effectively increase capacity by increasing the number oflight sources introduced into a single fiber yet still separate the light into its constituent colors when it reached its destination.

Read Original Article>>

September 29, 2009

Congress, the federal government and internet security

Filed under: Media, Politics, Technology — Tags: , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 10:19 pm

I’m sympathetic to reality of cyberattack against the government, but I’m guessing it’s needless to say I’m against any form of government control over internet traffic.

From the link:

There is no kill switch for the Internet, no secret on-off button in an Oval Office drawer.

Yet when a Senate committee was exploring ways to secure computer networks, a provision to give the president the power to shut down Internet traffic to compromised Web sites in an emergency set off alarms.

Corporate leaders and privacy advocates quickly objected, saying the government must not seize control of the Internet.

Lawmakers dropped it, but the debate rages on. How much control should federal authorities have over the Web in a crisis? How much should be left to the private sector? It does own and operate at least 80 percent of the Internet and argues it can do a better job.

“We need to prepare for that digital disaster,” said Melissa Hathaway, the former White House cybersecurity adviser. “We need a system to identify, isolate and respond to cyberattacks at the speed of light.”

So far at least 18 bills have been introduced as Congress works carefully to give federal authorities the power to protect the country in the event of a massive cyberattack. Lawmakers do not want to violate personal and corporate privacy or squelching innovation. All involved acknowledge it isn’t going to be easy.

September 28, 2009

Bill Safire, RIP

Filed under: Media, Politics — Tags: , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 3:42 pm

Regardless of what you thought about his politics, Safire was one the great op-ed columnists for over 30 years. Political discourse and the civil media lost a little yesterday.

From the link:

William Safire, a speechwriter for President Richard M. Nixon and aPulitzer Prize-winning political columnist for The New York Times who also wrote novels, books on politics and a Malaprop’s treasury of articles on language, died at a hospice in Rockville, Md., on Sunday. He was 79.

The cause was pancreatic cancer, said Martin Tolchin, a friend of the family.

There may be many sides in a genteel debate, but in the Safire world of politics and journalism it was simpler: There was his own unambiguous wit and wisdom on one hand and, on the other, the blubber of fools he called “nattering nabobs of negativism” and “hopeless, hysterical hypochondriacs of history.”

September 26, 2009

Ichiro ejected …

Filed under: Sports — Tags: , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 6:17 pm

… for the first time in his career — US or Japanese.

Is one pollster cooking the books?

Filed under: Politics, Science — Tags: , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 4:31 pm

Maybe. This would rock the polling industry and how it gets its results published if true. Think about it, groups pay for polls all the time and the media dutifully reports those results comparing them to other results. Those polls might even get aggregated into trend lines at places like Pollster.com.

Statistician Nate Silver of 538 has long had issues with polls from Strategic Vision because they wouldn’t release their methodology, which is pretty much standard within the industry, and now he’s found very possible evidence the company is purely creating polling results out of whole cloth.

Stats aren’t very sexy, and polling is, as they say, an inexact science, but this allegation is very serious and Silver wouldn’t put his budding punditry on the line if he weren’t pretty sure of it’s veracity.

From the second link:

I posed that question largely as a hypothetical yesterday. But today, I pose it much more literally. Certain statistical properties of the results reported by Strategic Vision, LLC suggest, perhaps strongly, the possibility of fraud, although they certainly do not prove it and further investigation will be required.

The specific evidence in question is as follows. I looked at all polling results reported by Strategic Vision LLC since the beginning of 2005; results from 2008 onward are available at their website; other polls were recovered through archive.org. This is a lot of data — well over 100 polls, each of which asked an average of about 15-20 questions.

Like I said, very serious allegations. If you are interested in the gritty details, here’s a link to the original post Silver alluded to in the excerpt, and a follow-up post.

From the “follow-up post” link above:

Bottom line: It is highly unlikely, in my opinion, that the distribution of the results from the Strategic Vision polls are reflective of any sort of ordinary and organic, mathematical process.

That does not necessarily mean that they simply made these numbers up.

September 25, 2009

Right wing bloggers vote for most influential GOPers

Filed under: Media, Politics — Tags: , , , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 5:26 pm

And it takes nine slots to get to the first elected official — Jim DeMint. Sarah Palin clocks in at number two behind Rush Limbaugh.

There really is no mystery why the GOP is becoming so marginalized. Angry volume and right wing media exposure do not mean legislative or electoral success.

To illustrate the marginalization consider this:

In 1987 comedian David Brenner bombed in syndication with about 2.5 million viewers at midnight — which is roughly what Fox, the leading network for political talk shows, averages in prime time.

(Hat tip: NewMajority)

Iran’s leadership between rock and hard place

Filed under: Politics — Tags: , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 4:38 pm

The secret nuke plant revelations coupled with the continued domestic Green Wave revolution puts the whole group of tyrants under the gun. Ahmadinejad’s little performance at the UN didn’t help matters, and Russia’s joining Western denouncers only adds to Iran’s misery. Good riddance for a bunch of  election thieves.

From the link:

A week ahead of crunch talks on Iran’s nuclear program, the leaders of the U.S., France and the U.K. on Friday accused Tehran of building a covert uranium enrichment facility, a development they said directly challenges the world’s non-proliferation rules.

Later in the day, Iran publicly confirmed and strongly defended the nuclear fuel facility.

Speaking at an overflowing news conference in New York Friday afternoon, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said his country has complied with rules of the U.N. nuclear agency that requires Tehran inform it of any new enrichment facility six months before any such facility becomes operational, the Associated Press reported.

Shortsighted CEOs

Filed under: Business — Tags: , , , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 4:30 pm

Or was it nearsighted? Or maybe just plain blind as bats. At any rate this is a humorous, and sad, collection of quotes from erstwhile kings of Wall Street.

From the link:

Richard Fuld, Lehman Brothers: “Our core franchise and our culture are strong. Our capital and liquidity positions have never been stronger.”—June 16, 2008, on a conference call with analysts

What happened next: With clients pulling their money from Lehman accounts, the firm ran short of cash. Fuld reportedly turned down a financing offer from Warren Buffett, perhaps because he thought a government bailout—like that of Bear Stearns—would come with better terms. But no bailout materialized, and Lehman filed for bankruptcy on Sept. 15, 2008.

September 22, 2009

The next shoe? Option ARM mortgages

Filed under: Business, Politics — Tags: , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 5:42 pm

I’ll have to admit, this is one mortgage vehicle I’ve never heard of, and it sounds pretty bad. I thought I was ahead of the curve 0n commercial paper, but clearly the insanity at all levels of real estate are going to reverberate for quite some time.

From the first link:

The federal government and states are girding themselves for the next foreclosure crisis in the country’s housing downturn: payment option adjustable rate mortgages that are beginning to reset.

“Payment option ARMs are about to explode,” Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller said after a Thursday meeting with members of President Barack Obama‘s administration to discuss ways to combat mortgage scams.

“That’s the next round of potential foreclosures in our country,” he said.

Option-ARMs are now considered among the riskiest offered during the recent housing boom and have left many borrowers owing more than their homes are worth. These “underwater” mortgages have been a driving force behind rising defaults and mounting foreclosures.

In Arizona, 128,000 of those mortgages will reset over the the next year and many have started to adjust this month, the state’s attorney general, Terry Goddard, told Reuters after the meeting.

“It’s the other shoe,” he said. “I can’t say it’s waiting to drop. It’s dropping now.”

September 21, 2009

New America Foundation supports the latest in net neutrality

Hot from the inbox and this blog:

Chief Technologist, Robb Topolski, Applauds FCC Net Neutrality Announcement

Washington, DC, September 21, 2009 – Today, Federal Communications Commission Chairman Julius Genachowski announced his intention to pursue concrete Network Neutrality policies and rules governing American’s Connections to the Internet.
“We applaud that the FCC will be taking the necessary steps to continue freedom and openness for all Internet users,” said Robb Topolski, Chief Technologist at the New America Foundation’s Open Technology Initiative. In 2007, Topolski, then a network products developer, discovered Comcast Corporation secretly blocking his peer-to-peer transfers of public domain barbershop quartet music and memorabilia. His testing and results were independently reproduced by the Associated Press and the Electronic Frontier Foundation, reigniting the Net Neutrality debate.  Following an investigation, the FCC ordered Comcast to disclose all of its network management techniques and to stop blocking peer-to-peer file transfers of lawful content.
To preserve and encourage freedom, openness, and investment, the Chairman proposed:
1) Adopting the four principles defined in the 2005 Internet Policy Statement into rules
2) Adding two new principles including:  A fifth principle stating that broadband providers cannot discriminate against particular Internet content or applications and a sixth principle requiring that providers of broadband Internet access be transparent about their network management practices
3) A determination that these principles apply to the Internet however accessed (wired or wireless).
The FCC’s move is expected to encourage investment in both Internet infrastructures and applications.  For example, Venture Capitalists will not have to wonder if they’ll need the permission of the nation’s ISPs to develop applications on the Internet.  “ISPs won’t be able to cut costs by blocking traffic, nor will they be able to generate revenues by degrading everything else,” explained Topolski, referring to the capabilities now available to ISPs such as Deep-Packet Inspection (DPI) devices to monetize traffic on last-mile Internet connections.  “This means that investment dollars will return to real infrastructure upgrades that produce actual bandwidth improvements.”
The Open Technology Initiative of the New America Foundation formulates policy and regulatory reforms to support open architectures and open source innovations and facilitates the development and implementation of open technologies and communications networks. OTI is a founder of measurementlab.net, a platform that helps users test their broadband connections and helps researchers analyze trends from the data.  Consumers and researchers are invited to use www.measurementlab.net.


About the New America Foundation
The New America Foundation is a nonprofit, nonpartisan public policy institute that invests in new thinkers and new ideas to address the next generation of challenges facing the United States.

A look at the Big Bang

Filed under: Science — Tags: , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 4:12 pm

Via KurzweilAI.net

Probe gets clearest glimpse yet of cosmic dawn

New Scientist Space, Sept. 17, 2009

The Planck spacecraft has obtained its first peek at the cosmic microwave background afterglow of the big bang, revealing it in unprecedented detail that may contain hints of hidden extra dimensions or multiple universes, as well as providing clues to what caused a brief, early period of incredibly rapid cosmic expansion.


(ESA/LFI/HFI Consortia/Axel Mellinger)

Read Original Article>>

The latest on net neutrality

Net neutrality is a good thing, and here’s the latest on the topic from D.C.

From the second link:

The top U.S. communications regulator plans to unveil proposals Monday for ensuring Web traffic is not slowed or blocked based on its content, sources familiar with the contents of the speech said on Friday.

Federal Communications Commission Chairman Julius Genachowski will announce plans to ask his fellow commissioners to adopt as a rule net neutrality and four existing principles on Internet access issued by the agency in 2005, one of the sources said.

Net neutrality pits open Internet companies like Google Inc against broadband service providers like AT&T Inc, Verizon Communications Inc and Comcast Corp, which oppose new rules governing network management.

Advocates of net neutrality say Internet service providers must be barred from blocking or slowing traffic based on its content.

But service providers say the increasing volume of bandwidth-hogging services, like video sharing, requires active management of their networks and some argue that net neutrality could stifle innovation.

“He is going to announce rulemaking,” said one source familiar with the speech due to be delivered at the Brookings Institution, a public policy think tank.

The rule proposal will also try to seek greater clarity into what constitutes “reasonable” network management by Internet providers.

The FCC could formally propose the rule aimed at both wireless and landline Internet platforms at an open meeting in October.

Getting carbon nanotubes under control

Filed under: Science, Technology — Tags: , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 3:47 pm

An important aspect of creating nanotubes is controlling their atomic-level structure. Looks like these researchers have found a solution to the issue.

From the link:

Single‐walled carbon nanotubes, made of a cheap and abundant material, have so much potential because their function changes when their atomic‐level structure, referred to as chirality, changes.

But for all their promise, building tubes with the right structure has proven a challenge.

A pair of Case Western Reserve University researchers mixed metals commonly used to grow nanotubes 
and found that the composition of the catalyst can control the chirality.

In a letter to be published Sept. 20 in the online edition of Nature Materials, R. Mohan Sankaran, an assistant professor of chemical engineering at the Case School of Engineering, and Wei‐Hung Chiang, who received his doctorate degree in chemical engineering in May, describe their findings.

“We have established a link between the structure of a catalyst and the chirality of carbon nanotubes,” 
Sankaran said. “Change the catalyst structure by varying its composition, and you can begin to control the chirality of the nanotubes and their electrical and optical properties.”

The chirality of a single‐walled  describes how a lattice of carbon  is rolled into a tube. The rolling can occur at different angles, producing different structures that exhibit very different properties.

Nanotubes are normally grown in bulk mixtures. When using a nickel catalyst, typically one‐third of those grown are metallic and could be used like metal wires to conduct electricity. About two‐thirds are semiconducting nanotubes, which could be used as transistors, Chiang explained. But, separating them according to properties, “is costly and can damage the nanotubes.”

Silicon ink solar cells

Filed under: Business, Science, Technology — Tags: , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 3:41 pm

Created with via inkjet and fairly efficient. Looks like all the solar innovations announced over the last few years are beginning to bear real-world fruit.

From the link:

A California company is using silicon ink patterned on top of silicon wafers to boost the efficiency of solar cells. The Sunnyvale, CA, firm Innovalight says that the inkjet process is a cheaper route to more-efficient solar power. Using this process, the company has made cells with an efficiency of 18 percent.

Inkjet solar: The inkjet printing process allows Innovalight to make silicon wafers that are thin enough to bend.
Credit: Innovalight

Innovalight has partnered with solar-cell manufacturerJA Solar, headquartered in Shanghai, which plans to integrate the inkjet printing technology into its manufacturing lines. The resulting solar cells should be on the market by next year.

It’s possible to increase the efficiency of solar cells by patterning silicon in a way that improves the absorption of high-energy, short-wavelength light. But this usually requires adding several etching steps to the manufacturing process, and this type of cell architecture “costs a lot of money to make using standard procedures,” says Homer Antoniadis, chief technology officer at Innovalight.

September 19, 2009

Americans are $2T wealthier

Filed under: Business — Tags: , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 3:42 pm

At least on paper for Q2 against Q1. All thanks to a stock market recovery.

From the link:

After nearly two years of declines, the net worth of Americans rose by $2 trillion to an estimated $53.1 trillion in the second quarter compared with the first three months of the year.

The soaring stock market accounted for much of the gain. Stock holdings rose by 22% to $6.3 trillion, while mutual funds’ value jumped 15% to $3.7 trillion, according to a Federal Reserve report released Thursday.

To be sure, these are not exactly flush times for many people. Unemployment stands at 9.7%, the highest level in 26 years. And many people have yet to see their home values and portfolios recover from their recent trouncing.

Since only half of Americans own stocks, with even fewer having significant holdings, only a narrow group of people benefited from Wall Street’s springtime gains. The Dow Jones industrial average and the Nasdaq had their best performances since 2003 and the broader S&P 500 since 1998.

Homeowners, who make up about two-thirds of the population, also saw a little relief. Real estate rose in value for the first time since the end of 2006, climbing 2% to $18.3 trillion.

Still, Americans have a long way to go before they recover the wealth they once had. U.S. net worth peaked at $65.3 trillion in the third quarter of 2007. That’s 18.7% higher than the current level.

Torture and George W. Bush: an indictment

Filed under: Politics — Tags: , , , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 2:39 pm

Andrew Sullivan has been among the loudest voices in the blogosphere, or anywhere for that matter, on the subject of torture during the Bush 43 Administration’s execution of its “war on terror.” In the October 2009 Atlantic magazine he wrote a fairly long letter to President Bush asking him to help erase the stain this policy has tainted the United States with, and described his essay as “conciliatory.”

At least one Daily Dish reader disagrees with Sullivan and describes the essay as an excellent final summation that, “tried, convicted and sentenced them (Bush Administration officials) all in one grand piece.”

The essay is quite long as web reading standards go, and it is worth the time spent to read the entire piece. It’s fair, thorough, chilling and is filled with not a little sadness of what this nation lost under Bush’s policies.

I’ve done plenty of blogging on this topic and I have Sullivan and others to thank for one, exposing what was happening to the Constitution, our rights and our standing in the world; and two, for keeping this difficult topic in front of minds and eyeballs that would most likely prefer to ignore and move on.

If you believe the torture was only done to “others” who are out to get Americans and don’t deserve any rights, I’ll excerpt what happened to a United States citizen — stripped of all rights, all dignity and in the end humanity. If you cherish your rights and the Constitution of the United States, this tale outlines in detail why you should fear the George W. Bush presidency and the idea its precepts could ever return in any form.

From the Andrew Sullivan essay, “Dear President Bush,”:

I want to mention one other human being, an American, Jose Padilla. I do not doubt that Padilla had been a troubled youth and had disturbing and dangerous contacts with radical Islamists. You were right to detain him. But what was then done to him—after a charge (subsequently dropped) that he was intent on detonating a nuclear or “dirty” bomb in an American city—remains a matter of grave concern. This was a U.S. citizen, seized on American soil at O’Hare Airport and imprisoned for years without a day in court. He was sequestered in a brig and, his lawyers argued,

was tortured for nearly the entire three years and eight months of his unlawful detention. The torture took myriad forms, each designed to cause pain, anguish, depression and, ultimately, the loss of will to live. The base ingredient in Mr. Padilla’s torture was stark isolation for a substantial portion of his captivity.

Among the techniques allegedly used on American soil against this American citizen were isolation (sometimes for weeks on end) for a total of 1,307 days in a nine-by-seven-foot cell, sleep deprivation effected by lights and loud music and noise, and sensory deprivation. He was goggled and earmuffed to maintain a total lack of spatial orientation, even when being treated for a tooth problem. He lost track of days and nights and lived for years in a twilight zone of pain and fear. His lawyer Andrew Patel explained:

Mr. Padilla was often put in stress positions for hours at a time. He would be shackled and manacled, with a belly chain, for hours in his cell. Noxious fumes would be introduced to his room causing his eyes and nose to run. The temperature of his cell would be manipulated, making his cell extremely cold for long stretches of time. Mr. Padilla was denied even the smallest, and most personal shreds of human dignity by being deprived of showering for weeks at a time, yet having to endure forced grooming at the whim of his captors …

After four years in U.S. custody, Padilla was reduced to a physical and mental shell of a human being. Here is Patel’s description of how Padilla appeared in his pretrial meetings:

During questioning, he often exhibits facial tics, unusual eye movements and contortions of his body. The contortions are particularly poignant since he is usually manacled and bound by a belly chain when he has meetings with counsel.

Mr. President, if you heard of a citizen of Iran being treated this way by the Iranian government, what would you call it?

September 18, 2009

The future of technology looks pretty bright

Filed under: Business, Science, Technology — Tags: , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 6:23 pm

I’ve blogged on all three of the technologies — OLEDs and nanowires pretty extensively — but this is a very nice thumbnail sketch of what’s at the edge of the real-world horizon, if not already here.

From the last link:

Have a look at just three technologies that have the ability to completely revolutionize IT from the ground up: memristors, nanowires and OLEDS.

Memristors are transistor-like devices made out of titanium dioxide that can remember voltage state information. They hold the potential for completely revolutionizing storage and processing technologies because they erase the distinction between processing and storage (you can do both/and on the same chip). More prosaically, they make it possible to create storage devices that require no power. How will that affect your data center?

Then there are nanowires: tiny wires no more than a single nanometer in width that can be conductors, insulators or semiconductors (albeit with weird quantum properties). These can form the basis for embedded intelligent networks — sensor and control networks that are actually built into the materials and devices they control. (Take that, smart grids!)

Finally, there are organic LEDs, which have the interesting property that they can be printed onto things such as wallpaper at relatively low cost. Sony has developed OLED monitors, and GE is looking into OLED wallpaper. So in a couple of years, your new office (or home office) may come equipped with wallpaper that, at the touch of a button, can turn into a floor-to-ceiling high-resolution display. (Think of the bandwidth requirements).

Each of these technologies holds the possibility of completely reshaping IT within the next few years. And the conjunction of all three could make the conjunction of the transistor and fiber optics look like a warm-up act.

Data storage breakthrough

Via KurzweilAI.net — A three-fer from today’s newsletter.

Super-dense data stores cool down

New Scientist Tech, Sept. 17, 2009

A material that could allow super-dense (125 gigabytes per square inch) “millipede”-style data storage systems to work at room temperature (and thus be a viable commercial product) has been developed by researchers at Pohang University of Science and Technology in Kyungbuk, Korea.

The system uses a “baroplastic” — a hard polymer that becomes soft when placed under pressure — and the tip of an atomic force microscope (AFM) to etch the kind of tiny pits that store data.

Read Original Article>>

Quantum electric motor

Filed under: Science — Tags: , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 5:25 pm

Via KurzweilAI.net — Man that thing is cool.

Blueprint for a Quantum Electric Motor

the physics arXiv blog, Sept. 18, 2009

Two atoms trapped in a ring-shaped optical lattice driven by an alternating magnetic field can create the smallest electric motor, University of Augsburg researchers have discovered.

Read Original Article>>

New equation for extrasolar life

Filed under: Science — Tags: , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 5:18 pm

Via KurzweilAI.net — An updated Drake equation. Ah, aliens …

New ‘Drake equation’ for alien habitats

Cosmos, Sept. 17, 2009

A new equation under development by planetary scientists at the Open University in Milton Keynes, England aims to develop a single index for habitability elsewhere in our galaxy based on the presence of energy, solvents such as water, raw materials like carbon and whether or not there are benign environmental conditions.

Read Original Article>>

SEC to ban flash orders

Filed under: Business, Politics — Tags: , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 5:06 pm

Want a peek into the dirty world of high finance and get a more detailed picture of the total fail of the Securities and Exchange Commission? Check out this NYT article.

From the link on how flash orders were abused:

Critics say flash orders favor sophisticated, fast-moving traders at the expense of slower market participants. Using lightning-quick computers, high-frequency traders often issue and then cancel orders almost simultaneously and get an early peek at how others are trading.

And getting a bit more granular on the abuse:

Getting flashed an order offers traders a distinctive edge. When buy and sell orders come into an exchange, they are first flashed to those paying to see them for 30 milliseconds — 0.03 seconds — before they are available to everyone else. In the blink of an eye, the systems can detect patterns and get a jump on other investors. Before others even sees the order, high-frequency traders swoop in and then out.

Chrome 3.0 is out

Filed under: Business, Media, Technology — Tags: , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 4:32 pm

Actually it’s been out for a few days. I downloaded Google’s Chrome 3.0 browser immediately and I like it. I did a Chrome experiment a few weeks ago and haven’t looked back. Within the first week I made it my default browser, and yesterday had to get into IE for to troubleshoot some tech problems I was having with WordPress and realized I’d already become completely comfortable with the stripped-down and very fast Chrome interface.

From the first link:

HTML5 Support

image of iPassConnect for BlackBerry Icon

Google Chrome 3.0 offers support for HTML5 capabilities, including the “video” and “audio” tags for integrated embedding of multimedia elements. With those options, multimedia content can be featured and played in pages without the need for any plugins or external utilities.

Ready to give the new Chrome a whirl for yourself? If you have an older version of the browser already installed, you should be prompted to update soon. Or, you can visit the official Chrome page to download it manually now.

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