60,000 Antelopes Died in 4 Days — And No One Knows Why

September 3rd, 2015

Via: Live Science:

It started in late May.

When geoecologist Steffen Zuther and his colleagues arrived in central Kazakhstan to monitor the calving of one herd of saigas, a critically endangered, steppe-dwelling antelope, veterinarians in the area had already reported dead animals on the ground.

“But since there happened to be die-offs of limited extent during the last years, at first we were not really alarmed,” Zuther, the international coordinator of the Altyn Dala Conservation Initiative, told Live Science.

But within four days, the entire herd — 60,000 saiga — had died. As veterinarians and conservationists tried to stem the die-off, they also got word of similar population crashes in other herds across Kazakhstan. By early June, the mass dying was over. [See Images of the Saiga Mass Die-Off]

Now, the researchers have found clues as to how more than half of the country’s herd, counted at 257,000 as of 2014, died so rapidly. Bacteria clearly played a role in the saigas’ demise. But exactly how these normally harmless microbes could take such a toll is still a mystery, Zuther said.

“The extent of this die-off, and the speed it had, by spreading throughout the whole calving herd and killing all the animals, this has not been observed for any other species,” Zuther said. “It’s really unheard of.”


Refugees Pour Into Budapest Train Station

September 3rd, 2015

If you’re going to run for your life, it’s best to do so before everyone else tries to do the same thing.

Via: Reuters:

Hungarian police allowed hundreds of migrants to pour into Budapest’s main railway station on Thursday but authorities canceled all trains to western Europe, triggering chaos and confusion.

Hundreds of people, many of them refugees from conflicts in the Middle East, stormed a waiting train, cramming children through open windows in the belief a two-day standoff with police had ended and they were being allowed to continue their journey west to Austria, Germany and beyond.

But signs in Hungarian said there were no west-bound trains. It was unclear why the police had suddenly withdrawn, having prevented over 2,000 migrants from entering for two days.

“There’s a German flag on this train so we though it went to Germany. So it’s not going to Germany?” a man clinging with one hand to the doors of a train told a Reuters journalist, declining to be named.

The standoff had become the latest symbol of Europe’s migration crisis, the continent’s worst since the Yugoslav wars of the 1990s.

Hundreds of thousands of refugees fleeing wars, as well as economic migrants escaping poverty, have been arriving in Europe by rickety boat across the Mediterranean or over land across the Balkan peninsula, straining the bloc’s asylum system to breaking point and confounding efforts to forge a united policy.


Long Exposure to Tiny Amounts of Monsanto’s Roundup May Damage Liver, Kidneys

September 2nd, 2015

Via: Russia Today:

Long-term intake of the Monsanto’s most popular Roundup herbicide, even in very small amounts lower than permissible in US water, may lead to kidney and liver damage, a new study claims.

The research, conducted by an international group of scientists from the UK, Italy and France, studied the effects of prolonged exposure to small amounts of the Roundup herbicide and one of its main components – glyphosate.

In their study, published in Environmental Health on August 25, the scientists particularly focused on the influence of Monsanto’s Roundup on gene expression in the kidneys and liver.

In the new two-year study, which extended the findings from one conducted in 2012, the team added tiny amounts of Roundup to water that was given to rats in doses much smaller than allowed in US drinking water.

Scientists say that some of the rats experienced “25 percent body weight loss, presence of tumors over 25 percent bodyweight, hemorrhagic bleeding, or prostration.”

Source: Transcriptome profile analysis reflects rat liver and kidney damage following chronic ultra-low dose Roundup exposure

Research Credit: Windhorse


The Surging Ranks of America’s Ultrapoor

September 2nd, 2015

Via: CBS:

By one dismal measure, America is joining the likes of Third World countries.

The number of U.S. residents who are struggling to survive on just $2 a day has more than doubled since 1996, placing 1.5 million households and 3 million children in this desperate economic situation. That’s according to “$2.00 a Day: Living on Almost Nothing in America,” a book from publisher Houghton Mifflin Harcourt that will be released on Sept. 1.

The measure of poverty isn’t arbitrary — it’s the threshold the World Bank uses to measure global poverty in the developed world. While it may be the norm to see families in developing countries such as Bangladesh and Ethiopia struggle to survive on such meager income, the growing ranks of America’s ultrapoor may be shocking, given that the U.S. is considered one of the most developed capitalist countries in the world.

“Most of us would say we would have trouble understanding how families in the county as rich as ours could live on so little,” said author Kathryn Edin, who spoke on a conference call to discuss the book, which she wrote with Luke Shaefer. Edin is the Bloomberg Distinguished Professor of Sociology at Johns Hopkins University. “These families, contrary to what many would expect, are workers, and their slide into poverty is a failure of the labor market and our safety net, as well as their own personal circumstances.”

Research Credit: Jb


On Average, People Who Obtain Degrees from Quarter of Colleges Never Recover Cost of Education

August 31st, 2015

Via: The New Yorker:

These types of studies, and there are lots of them, usually find that the financial benefits of getting a college degree are much larger than the financial costs. But Cappelli points out that for parents and students the average figures may not mean much, because they disguise enormous differences in outcomes from school to school. He cites a survey, carried out by PayScale for Businessweek in 2012, that showed that students who attend M.I.T., Caltech, and Harvey Mudd College enjoy an annual return of more than ten per cent on their “investment.” But the survey also found almost two hundred colleges where students, on average, never fully recouped the costs of their education. “The big news about the payoff from college should be the incredible variation in it across colleges,” Cappelli writes. “Looking at the actual return on the costs of attending college, careful analyses suggest that the payoff from many college programs—as much as one in four—is actually negative. Incredibly, the schools seem to add nothing to the market value of the students.”

If almost everybody has a college degree, getting one doesn’t differentiate you from the pack. To get the job you want, you might have to go to a fancy (and expensive) college, or get a higher degree. Education turns into an arms race, which primarily benefits the arms manufacturers—in this case, colleges and universities.

Related: 7 Million People Haven’t Made A Single Student Loan Payment In At Least A Year


Up to 90% of Seabirds Have Plastic in Their Guts

August 31st, 2015

Via: Guardian:

As many as nine out of 10 of the world’s seabirds are likely to have pieces of plastic in their guts, a new study estimates.

An Australian team of scientists who have studied birds and marine debris found that far more seabirds were affected than the previous estimate of 29%. Their results were published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

“It’s pretty astronomical,” said study coauthor Denise Hardesty, a senior research scientist at the CSIRO.

She said the problem with plastics in the ocean was increasing as the world made more of it. “In the next 11 years we will make as much plastic as has been made since industrial plastic production began in the 1950s.”

Birds mistook plastic bits for fish eggs so “they think they’re getting a proper meal but they’re really getting a plastic meal”, Hardesty said.

Some species of albatross and shearwaters seem to be the most prone to eating plastic pieces.

She combined computer simulations of garbage and the birds, as well as their eating habits, to see where the worst problems are.

Hardesty’s work found the biggest problem was not where there was the most garbage, such as the infamous patch in the central north Pacific Ocean.

Instead it was in areas with the greatest number of different species, especially in the southern hemisphere near Australia and New Zealand.


Microsoft Adding Windows 10 Style Spyware to Windows 7 and Windows 8

August 31st, 2015

Update: Several Windows 10 Privacy Tools

How many hosts is Microsoft phoning everything home to? Is it feasible to just block them all with an external firewall so a Windows box simply can’t reach Microsoft?

The article below says that Windows 10 is ignoring the hosts file and phoning home anyway, so it seems like an external firewall would be the way to go.

Of course, as soon as you get your Microsoft blacklist established, if you’re still pulling OS updates, Microsoft could just change the hosts that the telemetry apps are using, and you’re back to square one. You would have to use a packet sniffer, firewall log, etc and make a new catalog of hosts that Microsoft is using.

*pfft* It’s a shit sandwich, no doubt about it.

As bad as this situation is, my guess is that it’s overly optimistic to assume that 1% of Windows users even care. Of that 1%, maybe 1% of those users are able to run any sort of technical countermeasures. I hope this disaster doesn’t embolden Apple to screw its OSX users over in a similar manner.

Via: ghacks:

Windows 7 and 8 users have been plagued by “upgrade preparation” updates but left alone otherwise up until recently when it comes to this new level of data collecting.

This changed recently with the release of several updates for both operating systems that step up the game.

KB3068708 Update for customer experience and diagnostic telemetry – This update introduces the Diagnostics and Telemetry tracking service to existing devices. By applying this service, you can add benefits from the latest version of Windows to systems that have not yet upgraded. The update also supports applications that are subscribed to Visual Studio Application Insights. (Windows 8.1, Windows Server 2012 R2, Windows 7 Service Pack 1 (SP1), and Windows Server 2008 R2 SP1)
KB3022345 (replaced by KB3068708) Update for customer experience and diagnostic telemetry – This update introduces the Diagnostics and Telemetry tracking service to in-market devices. By applying this service, you can add benefits from the latest version of Windows to systems that have not yet been upgraded. The update also supports applications that are subscribed to Visual Studio Application Insights. (Windows 8.1, Windows Server 2012 R2, Windows 7 Service Pack 1 (SP1), and Windows Server 2008 R2 SP1)
KB3075249 Update that adds telemetry points to consent.exe in Windows 8.1 and Windows 7 – This update adds telemetry points to the User Account Control (UAC) feature to collect information on elevations that come from low integrity levels. (Windows 8.1, Windows RT 8.1, Windows Server 2012 R2, Windows 7 Service Pack 1 (SP1), and Windows Server 2008 R2 SP1)
KB3080149 Update for customer experience and diagnostic telemetry – This package updates the Diagnostics and Telemetry tracking service to existing devices. This service provides benefits from the latest version of Windows to systems that have not yet upgraded. The update also supports applications that are subscribed to Visual Studio Application Insights. (Windows 8.1, Windows RT 8.1, Windows Server 2012 R2, Windows 7 Service Pack 1 (SP1), and Windows Server 2008 R2 SP1)

If these updates are installed on the system, data is sent to Microsoft regularly about various activities on it.

Microsoft lists two host names in KB3068708 that data is received from and sent to:

vortex-win.data.microsoft.com
settings-win.data.microsoft.com

These, and maybe others, appear to be hardcoded which means that the Hosts file is bypassed automatically.


Maryland Man Fined $50 for Picking Berries in Park

August 30th, 2015

Via: Reason:

To me, nothing screams summer like picking and eating fresh berries. I know I’m not alone. Greg Visscher, head of the Montgomery County (Maryland) Young Republicans Club, has been picking berries with his family for years.

So it was with some degree of surprise that Visscher found himself confronted last month by a trio of county park police officers and handed a $50 ticket for “destroying/interfering with plants to wit: berries. Without a permit on park property.”


British Tabloids: Spy Found Dead in a Bag Hacked Into Secret U.S. Data on Bill Clinton

August 30th, 2015

Via: Daily Mail:

The British spy whose body was found padlocked inside a bag in his flat had illegally hacked into secret data on former U.S. president Bill Clinton, it has been revealed.

Gareth Williams, 31, was discovered in a holdall in the bath at his London home five years ago this month, but the mystery surrounding his death has never been solved.

Today, it has been revealed the spy had dug out a guest list for an event Clinton was due to attend as a favour for a friend.

The hack breached Mr Williams’ security clearance and this sparked anger among MI6 bosses as tensions rose with U.S. security services over the spy’s transatlantic work, The Sun on Sunday has reported.

A source said: ‘The Clinton diary hack came at a time when Williams’ work with America was of the most sensitive nature.

‘It was a diplomatic nightmare for Sir John Sawers, the new director of MI6 at the time.’

The paper has also reported that voicemail messages Mr Williams, a maths genius and expert cryptographer, left for family and friends were deleted shortly after his death.

Earlier this month, it was revealed that detectives who investigated the mysterious death believe he was murdered and that his killers then broke back in through a skylight to cover their tracks.

The claim centres on the revelation that part of the forensic equipment placed in the flat after the body was found was moved – despite the fact the building was under armed police guard.

The theory supports his family’s suspicions he was murdered by ‘agents specialising in the dark arts of the secret services’.

Main Source: The Sun: Clinton Secrets Hacked by Spy in Bag


Frederick Forsyth Reveals MI6 Spying Past

August 30th, 2015

Via: BBC:

The Day of the Jackal author Frederick Forsyth has revealed he was working for MI6 for more than 20 years.

The disclosure comes with the publication of the author’s autobiography The Outsider: My Life.

Fans have long suspected that Forsyth, 77, acclaimed for his highly realistic spy novels, may have been involved with British Intelligence.

He told the BBC it started when he was asked to send information from the Biafran War in Nigeria.


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