Scottish Referendum: Voters to Reject Independence

September 18th, 2014

Via: BBC:

Scotland will vote to stay in the United Kingdom after rejecting independence, the BBC has predicted.

With 26 out of the country’s 32 council areas having declared after Thursday’s vote, the “No” side has a 54% of the vote, with the “Yes” campaign on 46%.

By 05:15 BST (06:15 GMT), the “No” campaign had more than 1,397,000 votes, with “Yes” on just over 1,176,000.

A total of 1,852,828 votes is needed for victory. The vote is the culmination of a two-year campaign.

The BBC is predicting on the basis of the result declared so far that the “No” side will win the referendum with 55% of the vote while “Yes” will secure 45% of the vote.

This margin of victory is some three points greater than that anticipated by the final opinion polls.

Google to Build Airport and City?

September 18th, 2014

Via: The Verge:

As if self-driving cars, balloon-carried internet, or the eradication of death weren’t ambitious enough projects, Google CEO Larry Page has apparently been working behind the scenes to set up even bolder tasks for his company. The Information reports that Page started up a Google 2.0 project inside the company a year ago to look at the big challenges facing humanity and the ways Google can overcome them. Among the grand-scale plans discussed were Page’s desire to build a more efficient airport as well as a model city. To progress these ideas to fruition, the Google chief has also apparently proposed a second research and development lab, called Google Y, to focus on even longer-term programs that the current Google X, which looks to support future technology and is headed up by his close ally Sergey Brin.

Concrete Evidence of Widespread Forced Labor Among Foreign Migrant Workers in Malaysian Electronics Industry

September 18th, 2014

Via: Verité:

You might think about debt bondage in relation to making bricks in South Asia or building skyscrapers in the Middle East, not putting together the pieces of your newest mobile phone or laser printer in Malaysia. But if you are reading this on a tablet, smartphone or computer monitor, then you may be holding a product of forced labor. Verité’s two-year study of labor conditions in electronics manufacturing in Malaysia found that one in three foreign workers surveyed in Malaysian electronics was in a condition of forced labor. Because many of the most recognizable brands source components of their products from Malaysia, this means that virtually every device on the market today may have come in contact with modern-day slavery.

Verité interviewed more than 500 male and female workers across all major producing regions, electronics products, and foreign worker nationalities. Malaysian nationals were also surveyed. The results of these extensive interviews indicate that forced labor is present in the Malaysian electronics industry in more than just isolated cases, and that the problem is indeed widespread.

“Verité’s study is the most comprehensive look at forced labor in the Malaysian electronics sector to date,” Dan Viederman, CEO of Verité, remarked. “Our report provides a clear sense of the scope of the problem in the industry, as well as the root causes underlying this egregious form of abuse, which center on unlawful and unethical recruitment practices.”

The report identifies the top factors responsible for making this sector prone to human rights abuses. According to Verité’s study, the widespread reliance on third-party agents for the recruitment, management and employment of foreign workers limits their protections and blurs accountability for labor conditions. Other top factors identified by the research as contributors to forced labor include unlawful passport retention, high and hidden recruitment fees resulting in widespread indebtedness that can trap workers in their jobs, deceptive recruitment practices, highly constrained freedom of movement, poor living conditions, fines and other penalties that prevent workers from being able to resign, and inadequate legal protections.

Diplomatic Car Belonging to Vatican Stopped at French Border Carrying Four Kilos of Cocaine Worth an Estimated £500,000

September 18th, 2014

Via: DailyMail:

A diplomatic car belonging to the Vatican has been stopped at a French checkpoint carrying four kilos of cocaine with an estimated street value of £500,000.

Two Italian citizens were arrested in a grace and favour Jaguar allocated to Cardinal Jorge Melia.

The 91-year-old Argentinian officially the Vatican’s emeritus librarian is recovering from a heart attack.

The Cardinal’s secretary gave the car to the two men so that they could service it, it is claimed.

They allegedly took advantage of car’s Vatican registration plates, driving to Spain, imagining that they would be able to pass all check points with diplomatic immunity.

But the pair were stopped at a toll station near Chambery in the French Alps, where police found the cocaine hidden in suitcases, along with 150g of cannabis.

Research Credit: winstonsmith

Sydney Beheading Plot Accused Was a Small-Time TV Actor

September 18th, 2014

Let me get this straight: “The Terrorists” talk about beheading people on the phone?

Everyone knows about mass surveillance except, “Australia’s most senior Islamist militant,” and his TV actor minion?

Mmm hmm.

Via: New Zealand Herald:

The 22-year-old Sydney man arrested in the nation’s largest counter-terrorism operation allegedly conspired with Australia’s most senior Islamist militant to launch a deadly attack on a random passerby, court documents show.

According to the documents, police intercepted a phone call between the arrested Omarjan Azari and Mohammad Ali Baryalei – who is alleged to have recruited half of the 60 Australians fighting in the Middle East – two days ago.

The account said Baryalei ordered him to carry out an attack which Sydney Central Local Court heard was “clearly designed to shock, horror and terrify the community”.

Before it emerged this month that Baryalei had become a senior Islamic State militant, he worked as a bouncer in Sydney’s Kings Cross nightclub district and had also played a bit part in the TV series Underbelly.

Azari today appeared in court charged with a conspiracy to prepare a terrorist attack on Australian soil. He is the only man charged so far after police arrested 15 people in raids earlier today.

Air Force Funds Pocket-Sized Drone for Surveilling Tight Spaces

September 18th, 2014

Via: Ars Technica:

The US Air Force has awarded a contract to CyPhy Works, a Danvers, Massachusetts-based startup led by CEO (and iRobot co-founder) Helen Greiner. CyPhy will design and deliver a pocket-sized drone for use in search and rescue operations in collapsed buildings, tunnels, and other confined spaces and steep grades that may be difficult for crawling robots to negotiate. The drone, called the Extreme Access Pocket Flyer, will also provide a way to search for improvised explosive devices and conduct surveillance of tunnels and other spaces without the use of radio frequency controls.

The Pocket Flyer will carry a panoramic camera that provides both a 360-degree view from the drone. The tiny hexacopter, which measures about seven inches across when fully configured, is based on technology already demonstrated in CyPhy Works’ Extreme Access System for Entry (EASE) and Persistent Aerial Reconnaissance and Communications (PARC) flying robot (a tethered, self-flying quadrocopter that provides both remote-controlled high-resolution video and a wireless communications relay capability).

Russia: Don’t Panic

September 17th, 2014

Via: BBC:

Russian authorities urged people not to panic on Tuesday as the rouble fell to a new all-time low against the US dollar amid concerns about the effect of sanctions on the country’s economy.

The rouble fell about 1% to 38.71 per dollar, the weakest it has been since the currency was restructured in 1998.

Last week, the US and Europe introduced further sanctions against Russia for its actions in Ukraine.

“Don’t panic,” said deputy finance minister Alexei Moiseyev.

Ordinary Russians are concerned the fall in the rouble could drive up the already high rate of inflation.

In early September annual inflation was 7.7% as the weaker rouble increased the cost of foreign imports and Moscow’s food import ban reduced competition.

The central bank aims to reduce inflation to 4.5% next year and Mr Moiseyev said authorities would act to curb any further increases.

His reassurance came as Russia’s central bank said on Tuesday that it would take action to boost liquidity in the banking sector.

The move aims to help the banks overcome their limited access to foreign capital due to the impact of sanctions.

“These operations are aimed at strengthening the capacity of credit institutions to manage their own short term currency liquidity,” the central bank said in a statement.

Former finance minister Alexei Kudrin had earlier warned that sanctions would have a material impact on the Russian economy.

“The sanctions that have been imposed are going to have an effect for the next one or two years because they have limited opportunities for investment in this uncertain environment,” he said, according to Interfax news agency.

New sanctions imposed on Friday last week targeted Russia’s state finances, energy and arms sectors.

Russian state banks are now excluded from raising long-term capital in the European Union, export bans have been extended, while future EU-Russia arms deals are also banned.

The EU has also followed the US in targeting more individuals in President Putin’s inner circle, as well as some major companies.

The West accuses Russia of supporting Ukrainian pro-Russian rebels in their conflict with government forces. Russia denies any direct involvement.

John Key Concedes Edward Snowden May Well Be Right, While Repeating Absurd Denials

September 16th, 2014

Thanks, Captain.

Captain Obvious

Via: New Zealand Herald:

Prime Minister John Key acknowledged today that NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden’s claim that New Zealanders’ data is accessible through the controversial XKeyscore system “may well be right”.

However, he maintained that information will not have been gathered under any Government Communications Security Bureau (GCSB) mass surveillance programme as the agency doesn’t have that capability.

During Monday night’s Kim Dotcom sponsored “Moment of Truth” Mr Snowden claimed that as an NSA (National Security Agency) analyst stationed in Hawaii some years ago, he regularly came across New Zealanders’ data held in the agency’s XKeyscore system.

Mr Snowden claimed at least some of that information was gathered via mass surveillance programmes the GCSB was involved with.

Speaking on Radio New Zealand this morning, Mr Key said there were a number of devices and programmes used by the GCSB but he would not go into details.

“However, what I can say in terms of those kinds of Five Eyes databases… yes New Zealand will contribute some information but not mass, wholesale surveillance as people might say.”

Los Angeles Unified School District’s Armored Vehicle and Grenade Launchers

September 16th, 2014

Via: CBS:

Los Angeles Unified School District police officials are considering whether they need the armored vehicle and grenade launchers they received from the U.S. military.

The military hardware at the disposal of LAUSD police officers includes a 20-foot-long, 14-ton armored transport vehicles, much like the ones used to move Marines in Iraq combat zones. The armored vehicle is worth $733,000, and the school district’s police force got it from the government for free.

How would LAUSD use such a vehicle?

“For us? That vehicle would be used for extraordinary circumstances,” LAUSD police Chief Steve Zipperman said.

The armored vehicle, which is stored at a secret location, has been in the department’s possession since July.

“It’s something that we believe is a life-saving vehicle,” Zipperman said. “And certainly we realize we need to take a look, is this the best alternative right now for us until we find something else that is more conducive to a police-type of rescue.”

The district is also in possession of grenade launchers, which it received for free from the military after 9/11. Neither the armored vehicle nor the grenade launchers have ever been used. But the district doesn’t plan on keeping them.

“It’s a piece of equipment that’s not essential for our mission, so we will be disposing of those,” Zipperman said.

EMP Hardened Data Centers

September 16th, 2014

Via: Computerworld:

In Boyers, Pa., a recently opened 2,000-sq.-ft. data center has been purpose-built to protect against an electromagnetic pulse (EMP), either generated by a solar storm or a nuclear event.

The company that built the facility isn’t disclosing exactly how the data center was constructed or what materials were used. But broadly, it did say that the structure has an inner skin and an outer skin that use a combination of thicknesses and metals to provide EMP protection.

There are other data centers that protect against electromagnetic pulses, which can be generated by solar storms or high-altitude nuclear blasts. Underground data centers, in particular, advertise this capability. And some vendors offer containers and cabinets that shield IT equipment from EMPs, which can fry circuits.

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