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Posts Tagged ‘IT’

China: State censors block all Google services

June 25th, 2009 admin No comments

Spotted via tweets from friends in Tibet and China last night: news that China’s government blocked access to Google (and related apps like Google Calendar and Gmail). The broad display of censorship capabilities lasted from one hour to more than a day, depending on who you ask in China and what ISP they’re using. Some are reporting that the delay is still ongoing at the time of this blog post. Snip from Guardian:

271px-National_Emblem_of_the_People's_Republic_of_China.pngEarlier in the day, the main state and communist party media – Xinhua and People’s Daily – condemned Google for providing links to pornographic websites through its search engine. Last week, the government ordered the US company to halt foreign website searches as a punishment.

Many Chinese netizens believe the move is intended to distract attention away from the domestic controversy over Green Dam censorship software, which must be sold with all new computers from 1 July.

In a rare move, the US has lodged a complaint over the tightening of censorship rules. Google agreed to self-censor in compliance with requests by local officials after setting up a China subsidiary and locally hosted website in 2005. One reason for this controversial decision was that its services were frequently being disrupted or slowed. That has been rare since.

China blocks Google services (Guardian, via @rmack)


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World’s Oldest Functioning Planetarium

June 25th, 2009 admin No comments

Dylan Thuras is a guest blogger on Boing Boing. Dylan is a travel blogger and the co-founder of the Atlas Obscura: A Compendium of the World’s Wonders, Curiosities, and Esoterica, with Joshua Foer.

4511057a-i1.0.jpg

While traveling in Eastern Europe last year I stumbled on the globe museum in Vienna, Austria. It had some beautiful orreries and tellurions (an astronomical instrument depicting the movement of the earth around the sun) but none of them came close to the impressiveness of the Eisinga Planetarium

Aside from a plaque that reads, “Planetarium,” one would hardly be able to tell that inside this seemingly cozy, Dutch house lives the oldest, accurate moving model of our solar system. What is harder to believe still is that the model, built in 1781, is still functioning to this day!

Eise Eisinga, a wood carver and amateur astronomer living in Franeker, Netherlands, decided to build the model in 1774 after a mass panic occurred among the Dutch following an alignment of the planets earlier that year. People were terrified that a plantary collision was imminent. Eisinga hoped his model would help prove that nothing of the sort was going to happen.

The model was built from oak wood, nine weights, a pendulum clock, and over 10,000 hand-forged nails. Each planet continues to orbit the Sun at an appropriate speed (i.e. Earth, once a year, and Saturn, every 29 years). The museum is also home to a variety of old astronomical instruments as well as modern day astronomy equipment.

More on the planetarium here, on the globe museum here, and to the Atlas category “Astounding Timepieces” here.


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Cute/Ridiculous Animal Thing Of The Day: Kitten In A Wine Glass (VIDEO)

June 25th, 2009 admin No comments

Via Cute Overload, we find this amazing pic of a calico kitten curled up in a wine glass. Just when you think the world is going to hell, this happens.

More on Animals


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Bernanke Testimony: Says He Didn’t Pressure Bank of America To Buy Merrill

June 25th, 2009 admin No comments

WASHINGTON (AP) — Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke told Congress Thursday he didn’t pressure Bank of America into acquiring Merrill Lynch in a deal that ultimately cost taxpayers $20 billion.

Bernanke, in prepared testimony to a House committee investigating the matter, said he did not threaten action against Bank of America’s CEO Kenneth Lewis or the bank’s board members if they decided to abandon the takeover.

“I did not tell Bank of America’s management that the Federal Reserve would take action against the board or management” if they decided to invoke a clause in the acquisition contract in an attempt to stop the deal, Bernanke told the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee. “Moreover, I did not instruct anyone to indicate to Bank of America that the Federal Reserve would take any particular action under those circumstances.”

Earlier this month, Lewis testified that his job was threatened after he expressed second thoughts about the deal. Lewis said then-Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson and federal regulators made clear that if Charlotte-N.C.-based Bank of America Corp. reneged on its promise, that he and the bank’s board members would be ousted.

Bernanke said no member of the Fed ever urged Bank of America to keep quiet about Merrill Lynch’s financial problems. Not divulging that information would have violated Lewis’ fiduciary duty to the bank’s shareholders.

Neither I nor any member of the Federal Reserve ever directed, instructed or advised Bank of America to withhold from public disclosure any information relating to Merrill Lynch, including its losses, compensation packages or bonuses or any other related matter,” the Fed chief said.

It marked Bernanke’s first public comments since the House committee launched an investigation earlier this year into whether he or other government officials bullied Bank of America to stick with its plan to combine the two financial powers after Lewis found out about Merrill’s financial woes.

Bank of America received $45 billion from the government’s financial bailout program, $20 billion of which was linked to its acquisition of New York-based Merrill Lynch.

Bernanke defended the deal and government bailout, saying the action was needed to avoid another blow to the financial system, which at the time was in distress.

If Bank of America had decided to abandon the deal, it “might have triggered a broader systemic crisis that could well have destabilized Bank of America as well as Merrill Lynch,” Bernanke said.

The government helped orchestrate the deal at a time when the country’s economic and financial landscape was especially fragile. Lending, the lifeblood of the economy, had come to a near halt and the financial system was on the brink of a meltdown.

The transaction was hammered out over the same weekend in September that another investment bank, Lehman Brothers, went under, leading to the biggest corporate bankruptcy in U.S. history and plunging financial markets worldwide into crisis. Bank of America completed its purchase of Merrill Lynch on Jan. 1.

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More on Merrill Lynch


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Eric Margolis: Iran: Electronic Warfare Versus the Islamic Republic

June 25th, 2009 admin No comments

Iran’s political crisis continues to blaze. It’s still impossible to say which leaders or factions will emerge victorious. However, one thing seems certain: the earthquake in the Islamic Republic that is shaking the Mideast and deeply confusing everyone, including the US government, is hardly the black and white morality drama between democracy and repression breathlessly portrayed by Western media.

A prime indicator of the complexity of the Iranian crisis was provided by the head of Israel’s intelligence agency, Meir Dagan. The Mossad director reportedly expressed his hope that Iran’s embattled president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, would remain in office.

On the surface, that sounds absurd, since Ahmadinejad is Israel’s Great Satan, the man that supporters of Israel claim intends to inflict a second Holocaust on the Jewish people.

According to Dagan, if Ahmadinejad’s supposedly `moderate’ rival, Mir Hossein Mousavi, came to power, it would be harder for Israel to keep up its intense propaganda war against Iran over its nuclear program even when prime minister, Mousavi championed Iran’s nuclear development.

That recalls Yasser Arafat’s quip that the only reason Israel had not assassinated him was that he looked so ugly, and thus served as a wonderfully negative stereotype of Palestinians.

Besides, added the veteran Mossad chief, the devil you know is better. What new devils might emerge from the wreckage of the Islamic Republic if it falls?

Meanwhile, we have been watching an intensifying western propaganda campaign against Iran, mounted by the US and British governments. We almost exclusively hear highly colored commentary and analysis that comes from bitterly anti-regime Iranian exiles, `experts’ with an ax to grind, and US neocons yearning for war with Iran. Wishful thinking and cheerleading has largely supplanted news reporting in the American and British media.

In viewing the Muslim world, Westerners keep listening to those who make a profession of telling them what they want to hear, rather than the facts. We are at it again in Iran.

President Barack Obama’s properly stated he would refrain from being seen to `meddle’ in Iran’s internal affairs in spite of calls by hard-line Republicans for American action – whatever that might be.

Obama also did the right thing by apologizing for the US/British coup that overthrew Iran’s democratic Mossadegh government in 1953, for which Iranians are still furious. They also bitterly resent the West for Britain’s invasion of Persia in 1941, and Anglo-American encouragement and support of Saddam Hussein’s aggression against Iran in 1980 that caused one million Iranian casualties.

But Obama’s pledge of non-interference is not the whole story. Washington has been attempting to overthrow Iran’s Islamic government since the 1979 revolution and has lately accelerated such efforts.

The US has laid economic siege to Iran for 30 years, blocking desperately needed foreign investment, preventing technology transfers, and disrupting Iranian trade. In recent years, the US Congress voted $120 million for anti-regime media broadcasts into Iran, and $60-75 million funding opposition parties, violent underground Marxists like the Mujahidin-i-Khalq, and restive ethnic groups like Azeris, Kurds, and Arabs under the so-called `Iran Democracy Program.’

The arm of Iran’s Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, remains withered from a bomb planted by the US-backed Mujahidin-i-Khalq, who were once on the US terrorist list.

Pakistani intelligence sources put CIA’s current spending on `black operations’ to subvert Iran’s government at $400 million.

According to an ABC News investigation, President George Bush signed a `finding’ that authorized an accelerated campaign of subversion against the Islamic Republic. Washington’s goal was `regime change’ in Tehran and installation of a pro-US regime of former Iranian royalist exiles.

While the majority of protests we see in Tehran are genuine and spontaneous, Western intelligence agencies and media are playing a key role in sustaining the uprising and providing communications, including the newest electronic method, via Twitter. These are covert techniques developed by US intelligence during recent `flower’ revolutions in Ukraine and Georgia that brought pro-US governments to power.

The Tehran government made things worse by limiting foreign news reports and arresting prominent politicians. Its leadership is increasingly – and dangerously – split over how to handle the protests. For the first time, some senior regime supporters are backing charges of vote-rigging.

We also hear a flood of hypocrisy from Western capitals. Washington, London and Paris piously accused Iran of improper electoral procedures while utterly ignoring the total lack of democracy in their authoritarian Mideast allies such as Egypt, Morocco, and Saudi Arabia, that never hold elections and throw political opponents into prison and torture them. Compared to them, Iran, for all its faults, is almost model of democratic governance.

The US, France and Saudi Arabia just cooperated to rig Lebanon’s recent elections, dishing out millions in bribe money to ensure victory of the pro-US faction. The US and Britain staunchly backed and financed Pakistan’s recent military dictatorship. Those Pakistanis opposing it were often branded, `terrorists.’

France’s President Nicolas Sarkozy had the chutzpah to rebuke Iran for improper election procedures after returning from the funeral of Gabon’s dictator, Omar Bongo, a key French ally who had ruled for 41 years and supplied France with cheap oil.

When Hamas won a fair and square democratic election in Gaza, the US and Israel swiftly moved to mount a coup against the new Palestinian government.

US senators, led by John McCain, blasted Iran for not respecting human rights. That’s pretty rich after Republicans and many Democrats just voted to bar the public release of ghastly torture photos from US prisons in Iraq, and want other secret CIA prisons kept open.

Sen. Lindsey Graham, one of the dimmest bulbs in the weak-wattage Republican ranks, called for US intervention in Iran. Graham was one of the arch supporters of the Iraq fiasco and remains a proud defender of torture. Let’s air assault the warlike senator into downtown Tehran.

There are many questions about Iran’s vote, of which incumbent President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad won by 60%. Voter turnout was an amazing 84%, putting to shame the US and Europe, where less than half of voters exercise their right. Pre-election polls that showed Ahmadinejad headed for a big win were right. All those foreigners praying for his defeat and the collapse of the Islamic government were deeply disappointed.

But it also appears there were significant -though as far as we so far know – not decisive irregularities. Iran’s government has admitted that some ballot boxes were stuffed, and the speaker of the Majils (parliament), the capable Ali Larijani, rebuked certain unnamed clerics for trying to rig results. This was extremely stupid, as Ahmadinejad was way ahead in pre-election polls anyway, and very popular.

Washington is in a quandary. President Obama sincerely wants to enter into talks with Iran over its nuclear program and try to convince Tehran to give up enrichment. But hardliners in his cabinet and Congress are urging Obama to seize the opportunity to further destabilize Iran.

Bad idea. A stable Iran is essential to a stable Mideast. Mossad chief Dagan knows what he’s talking about. US and British efforts to subvert Iran’s government could yet blow up in our faces. And do we really need another monster crisis after `liberating’ Afghanistan, and Iraq, or after the messes in Pakistan and Palestine?

Meanwhile, other Mideast nations allied to the US will look at Iran and conclude that giving any democratic rights can be downright dangerous and must be avoided at all costs.

After all, it may also be possible to use cell phone and the internet to rouse crowds of protesters in Cairo, Amman, Casablanca and Riyadh, all pillars of the US Mideast Raj. Or even in Tunisia, whose military leader won his last `election’ with 94.5% of the vote, to Washington’s hearty approval.


Bob Inglis, Clinton Attacker, To GOP: Lose The "Stinking Rot Of Self-Righteousness"

June 25th, 2009 admin No comments

South Carolina Rep. Bob Inglis made a name for himself in the late 1990s as one of Bill Clinton’s most zealous pursuers, an impeachment “manager” who attacked the moral failings of the president with a gusto that earned him a devoted following in the staunchly conservative “Upstate” of conservative South Carolina.

But with his governor now felled by similar temptations, Inglis sees an opening for the Republican Party, a chance to “lose the stinking rot of self-righteousness” and “to understand we are all in need of some grace.”


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World’s Oldest Functioning Planetarium

June 25th, 2009 admin No comments

Dylan Thuras is a guest blogger on Boing Boing. Dylan is a travel blogger and the co-founder of the Atlas Obscura: A Compendium of the World’s Wonders, Curiosities, and Esoterica, with Joshua Foer.

4511057a-i1.0.jpg

While traveling in Eastern Europe last year I stumbled on the globe museum in Vienna, Austria. It had some beautiful orreries and tellurions (an astronomical instrument depicting the movement of the earth around the sun) but none of them came close to the impressiveness of the Eisinga Planetarium

Aside from a plaque that reads, “Planetarium,” one would hardly be able to tell that inside this seemingly cozy, Dutch house lives the oldest, accurate moving model of our solar system. What is harder to believe still is that the model, built in 1781, is still functioning to this day!

Eise Eisinga, a wood carver and amateur astronomer living in Franeker, Netherlands, decided to build the model in 1774 after a mass panic occurred among the Dutch following an alignment of the planets earlier that year. People were terrified that a plantary collision was imminent. Eisinga hoped his model would help prove that nothing of the sort was going to happen.

The model was built from oak wood, nine weights, a pendulum clock, and over 10,000 hand-forged nails. Each planet continues to orbit the Sun at an appropriate speed (i.e. Earth, once a year, and Saturn, every 29 years). The museum is also home to a variety of old astronomical instruments as well as modern day astronomy equipment.

More on the planetarium here, on the globe museum here, and to the Atlas category “Astounding Timepieces” here.


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DOE loans Tesla $465M to build "Model S" – Ford got $4.9B, Nissan $1.6B under same program

June 25th, 2009 admin 1 comment

tesla.jpg

Via Wired’s Autopia blog:

The Obama Administration will lend Tesla Motors $465 million to build an electric sedan and the battery packs needed to propel it. It’s one of three loans totaling almost $8 billion that the Department of Energy awarded today to spur the development of fuel-efficient vehicles.

Feds Lend Tesla $465 Million to Build Model S (Wired: Autopia, via @timoreilly)

More coverage: NYT, SJ Merc, NPR.
Related: Tesla’s Fantasy Valuation (Reuters)


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Chris Anderson responds to plagiarism blog-storm over "Free"

June 25th, 2009 admin No comments

Chris Anderson, author and Wired magazine editor-in-chief, responded on his blog to a web-tempest that blew up yesterday after Waldo Jaquith at the VQR rightly pointed out that some passages in his new book “Free” were improperly cited.

All the web loves a blogtroversy and a public takedown, and many sites covering the matter invoked the p-word: plagiarism.

In my opinion, Anderson handled the situation honorably: he responded directly, candidly, and immediately. He publicly took responsibility for the “screwup” first, and explained what had happened in more detail later, without backtracking on the failure(s) and why they matter. Read the whole thing, but here’s one graf of note:

Also note the VQR is not saying that all the highlighted text is plagiarism; much of is actually properly cited and quoted excerpts of old NYT times articles and other historical sources. And as you’ll see, in most cases I did do a writethrough of the non-quoted Wikipedia text, although clearly I didn’t go nearly far enough and too much of the original Wikipedia authors’ language remained (in a few cases I missed it entirely, such as that short Catholic church usury example, which was a total oversight). This was sloppy and inexcusable, but the part I feel worst about is that in our failure to find a good way to cite Wikipedia as the source we ended up not crediting it at all. That is, among other things, an injustice to the authors of the Wikipedia entry who had done such fine research in the first place, and I’d like to extend a special apology to them.

Corrections in the digital editions of Free (longtail.com)


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World War II + Twitter = Propaganda Hilarity

June 25th, 2009 admin No comments
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