Archive for July, 2008

I like these people

July 24, 2008

Your PB&J Impact

Each time you have a plant-based lunch like a PB&J you’ll reduce your carbon footprint by the equivalent of 2.5 pounds of carbon dioxide emissions over an average animal-based lunch like a hamburger, a tuna sandwich, grilled cheese, or chicken nuggets. For dinner you save 2.8 pounds and for breakfast 2.0 pounds of emissions

Now if I can just wean myself from those special peanuts air-shipped from madagascar and ground in a nuclear-powered peanut press.


So who will take their place

July 24, 2008

E-Gold cops to e-money laundering | The Register

Online payment service E-Gold and three of its principals have pleaded guilty to criminal money-laundering charges following accusations they knowingly allowed child pornographers, investment scammers and other internet-based criminals to transfer funds related to their misdeeds.

In an indictment handed down in April 2007, prosecutors accused E-Gold of knowingly offering services to a host of the net’s most reviled actors. The company, which also did business under the name Omnipay, marketed itself as being outside the reach of US law enforcement, allowed customers to open accounts with names such as “Mickey Mouse” and “No Name,” and made no requirements that customers not use the service for criminal activity.

On “numerous occasions,” employees with the firm made notations in database records indicating the types of crime customers engaged in, including entries such as “child porn,” “Scammer,” and “CC fraud,” according to the indictment. The company required law enforcement officials to send subpoenas to an address in Bermuda to give the impression the operation was based outside the US when in fact it was located in Florida.

I’m betting all the banks in subprime trouble need more cash flow than even the global underworld can supply.

People like you bought whatever we’re pushing this week

July 24, 2008

Tesco causes couple condom catastrophe | The Register

“I couldn’t believe what I saw when I logged onto my Tesco account,” said Newby. “It gives a list of everything bought on a club card and there at the top of the list was a packet of Mates condoms. I knew I hadn’t bought them so I went in and accused Andy, who had no idea what I was talking about.”

Tesco admitted its grievous love-endangering rubbery fubar and sent the couple £100, along with a letter of apology from Chief Exec Sir Terry Leahy saying that the mistake was “completely unacceptable”.

Tezza explained that the um, cock-up was the fault of a new member of marketing staff who was pushing the bed balloons as a promotional item. This would have been fine, but nothing explaining the promotional status of the item showed up when it snuck onto Allot’s faves and blended in with his own choices.

I’ve always had my suspicions about the various lists at shopping sites or on my Tivo that purport to suggest what I might be interested in based on my selections so far and the ones of people like me, But this incident pretty much makes it clear how far a company is willing to go to push product regardless of user preference.

(And of course these lists are also accessible to third parties either as marketing partners or as the result of court orders, so just watch the fun.)

Making the police state’s job just a bit harder

July 23, 2008

Police told: Delete old criminal records | The Register

he Information Tribunal has told five police forces to remove old, minor criminal records from their databases.

Some of the cases date back 30 years. They include a person under 18 who was fined £15 for stealing a 99p packet of meat in 1984; a girl under 14 cautioned for a minor assault who was told her record would not be deleted until she was 100; and a person fined £25 for a theft over 25 years ago.

The five forces – Humberside, Northumbria, Staffordshire, Greater Manchester and the West Midlands Police were originally told by the Information Commissioner’s Office in November to delete the records, but they appealed the decision. The Information Tribunal upheld the ICO decision.

In a further blow for police database ambitions a Home Office advisory group – The Ethics Group – is calling for the removal of records from the DNA database for people not convicted of any crime.

The National DNA Database contains some 4.2m records, including those of 100,000 children and half a million people who have never been convicted or even cautioned for any offence.
Ian Readhead, Deputy Chief Constable of Hampshire and ACPO lead on data Protection and Freedom of Information said:

“We are very disappointed with the decision of the Information Tribunal today, which could have far-reaching implications for the police service as a whole

Now that we know about 13-locus matches in DNA databases, the idea of storing everyone forever and just arresting the first one that pops up when there’s a crime seems a little less attractive.

Single needle, double helix

July 22, 2008

RSC Press Release: DNA sewing machines

The team use optical tweezers – tightly focused laser beams – to control the Z-shaped micro hook and pick up a single DNA “thread”. The hook is barbed like an arrow, so the thread can’t escape. When caught on the hook, the DNA can be accurately moved around by refocusing the lasers to new positions.

But just like thread in a sewing machine, a long DNA chain can be unwieldy – so the researchers built micro “bobbins” to wind the chain around. The lasers move one bobbin around another, winding the DNA thread onto a manageable spindle.

The idea of things that can catch hold of a piece of DNA is to me not nearly as remarkable as the idea that you can then move those things around with optical tweezers and thread the DNA through whatever you want.

We’re more closely related than you think

July 21, 2008

How reliable is DNA in identifying suspects? – Los Angeles Times

The search went ahead in January 2007. The system did not go down, nor was Maryland expelled from the national database system.

In a database of fewer than 30,000 profiles, 32 pairs matched at nine or more loci. Three of those pairs were “perfect” matches, identical at 13 out of 13 loci.

People have been talking about this pretty much since the first DNA profiles were done, because no one knows how many people match at how many points. And the first generation of criminals convicted with DNA profiles had matches at maybe 7 loci, max. (Yeah, and the FBI was arguing that the odds were billions to one against another person having the same alleles back then too.)

Not only is it, I believe, criminally (as in deliberate obstruction of justice) irresponsible of the FBI to be throwing up lies in an attempt to block these kinds of searches, it’s also an affront to the very science DNA profiling is based on. Knowing how many close matches there are among members of a sample that big could tell us all kinds of things about the human race.

(And what’s worse yet, all the lies about odds of trillions to one don’t really help a prosecution that’s made its case properly. Even if there are a million other possible suspects based on DNA, that doesn’t produce reasonable doubt unless the prosecution is unable to show that none of those suspects were at the crime scene.)

A solution looking for a problem

July 18, 2008

Low-Fat Fried Food? — Food Chemist Develops Protein-Based Batter for Healthier Frying

Understanding the bittersweet fondness for fried cuisine, Kelleher invented a way to cook low-fat, fried food.

The protein solution is extracted from fish muscle. When coated onto the fish it forms a barrier, locking in taste and moisture, but blocking out fat and carbohydrates. “These protein molecules after we treat them and extract them the way we do, they form these very, very, micro-thin films that — when they are sprayed onto the surface — become this invisible, impenetrable, film that forms on the surface,” Kelleher says.

Of course, if you cook fried food properly, the steam escaping from the surface keep the oil from penetrating. But if you’re an industrial processor trying to cut costs by mass batch cooking without decent controls, go for it…

Yep. it’s all about the gadget

July 18, 2008

Students Who Use ‘Clickers’ Score Better On Physics Tests

Hand-held electronic devices called clickers are helping college students learn physics, according to a series of research studies.

Ohio State University students who used the devices to answer multiple-choice questions during physics lectures earned final examination scores that were around 10 percent higher – the equivalent of a full-letter grade — than students who didn’t.

The clickers also appear to level the playing field between male and female students. In clicker classes, male and female students performed equally well. In the traditional, non-clicker classes, male students outperformed female students.

What this seems to do is make it easy for teachers to run spot quizzes and immediate reviews of the material they just taught. The “clicker” is a nice tool for that, especially in a huge faceless lecture with hundreds of students, but that seems to me to say more about the huge faceless lecture as a teaching method than about cute new technology.

Where will the data havens be?

July 18, 2008

Swedes call on Human Rights Court to review snoop law | The Register

CFR believes the law remains unclear about way the information will be gathered, monitored, used, shared and stored. The scope of the FRA Act is not of sufficient clarity, “as the purposes for monitoring (can) range from international terrorism to ecological imbalances and interest rate and currency speculation. For an individual, it is impossible to foresee its consequences.” All that matters is that the communication crosses the Swedish border, CFR says. “Essentially, this Act endorses secret mass surveillance which affects millions of people all over the world.”

Sweden’s vote on the law last month angered many in Sweden and abroad, including former members of SÄPO (the Swedish FBI) and the Justice Department and the European Federation of Journalists. Political representatives have received more than six million protest emails since the law was passed in mid-June. Opposition leader Mona Sahlin has promised that a next government will most certainly “tear up the law”.

Denmark, Finland and Norway last week also voiced concerns about the new law in Sweden. Danish citizens’ rights group TI-Politisk Forening demanded “an end to the Swedes’ surveillance of the world’s internet traffic”. In Norway, the national telecom agency said it will look into the new law.

Finnish-Swedish telecoms operator TeliaSonera has already moved its servers from Sweden to Finland and Google is considering a similar move, according to a letter published by the heads of eight leading mobile phone service providers in the Dagens Nyheter newspaper.

Do the math

July 18, 2008

Perfume spraying incident leads to arrest | | The Thibodaux Daily Comet | Thibodaux, LA

HOUMA – The cologne-wafting woman local police believe caused at least two men to feel ill and light-headed was arrested Thursday, after being pulled over near the Hollywood Video parking lot on Martin Luther King Boulevard.

The woman admitted to spraying cologne on a man Thursday and to spraying cologne under the nose of an 18-year-old last month in front of a Grand Caillou Road restaurant, [Maj. Malcolm Wolfe, Terrebonne Parish Sheriff’s Office spokesman] said.

But Wegmann also contends she did not intentionally hurt anyone.

“She claims she thought she was selling legitimate perfume and didn’t know it was harmful,” Wolfe said.

So she’s been spraying perfume on guys for a month, and during that time, two of the guys she sprays get kinda sick, each with different symptoms some minutes or hours after being sprayed. She’s a witch! BURN HER! Because no other sample of (one assumes, if she’s doing her job at all) several dozen guys would ever include two who felt kinda sick.