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I just got an alert on my iPhone 4S that said “Carrier Settings Updated”. My Fiancé said she got it too on her iPhone 5 and we joked about it being the Government.
Well, guess what? It is. That uninformative little message means there is now a new hook into your iPhone by the same Government that brought you the PRISM system to spy on millions of people without probable cause. What I believe has not been leaked yet is that both your front and back facing cell phone cameras and the audio is being captured along with your location.
Modern smartphones have the ability to display emergency alerts pushed out by government agencies. These include notifications about dangerous weather, unsafe situations or Amber Alerts for missing children and seniors. Carriers must enable the features on specific phones and until today, iPhone users on AT&T were not invited to the party. Now, AT&T is pushing out an update that enables governmental and Amber alerts on iPhone 4S and 5 phones runing iOS 6.1 or later. When the update comes, you’ll see a notification on your iPhone’s screen that reads: Carrier Settings Updated New settings required for your device have been installed. Your only option is an OK button – this is not an update you can decline. You can, however, turn off most of the updates if you prefer not to see them. Go into Settings > Notifications and scroll to the bottom. You’ll see separate toggles for Government and Amber alerts.
The FCC provides some details on its website about the types of alerts that are delivered through what’s called the Wireless Emergency Alert service, or WEA:
Pre-authorized national, state or local government may send emergency alerts regarding public safety emergencies, such as evacuation orders or shelter in place orders due to severe weather, a terrorist threat or chemical spill, to WEA.
And . . .
Alerts from WEA cover only critical emergency situations. Consumers will receive only three types of alerts:
- Alerts issued by the President
- Alerts involving imminent threats to safety or life
- Amber Alerts
You can turn off everything but the “alerts issues by the President”. And you may want to leave on the “imminent threats to safety or life” alerts, since they often involve bad weather. They were used during the recent tornadoes in the Midwest. And it is, after all, hurricane season here in the Gulf states . . .
If you’re in an office or some other place where a lot of people have smartphones, you’ve likely heard a bunch of alerts go off at once. That’s the WEA system at work. Now, AT&T iPhone users will be among those joining the cacophony.
And if your iPhone isn’t yet running on iOS 6.1 or later, you’ll get the alert the next time you upgrade….
Damn it. I believe a crime is being committed by this administration under the disguise of protecting people. Show us the evidence that this only sends information TO our phones. Show me the evidence that they can’t now shut down all the phones in an area to prevent citizens from reporting crimes. Recall that we were told one of the Boston bombers ran over and killed the other in a suicide pact, then we found out what really happened from witnesses: the guy was purposefully run over by a police van. People in the area were told to turn off their cell phones because they might accidentally detonate a bomb. I believe that was a lie, that what this is about is the ability to kill people and get away with it, the ability to silence witnesses on a mass scale. Government out of my goddamn cell phone! What can we do? Complain to AT&T? They have ignored my complaints about data throttling, so I already know that’s a waste of time. Cancel your service? I would… but I enjoy the constant connection to friends and family. We shouldn’t have to make that choice.
… A recent meta-analysis published in the journal Neurology6, examined data from 104 studies published between 1975 and 2011, in search for a potential link between pesticides and Parkinson’s disease. As many previous studies, it found one… Parkinson’s disease is a neurological disorder in which neurons in a region within your brain responsible for normal movement begin to die, causing the telltale shaking and rigidity associated with the disease. There’s currently no known cure, which makes preventing the disease all the more important. Mounting evidence suggests avoiding pesticides is an important part of prevention. As reported by Reuters7:
“In 2011, a study of US farm workers from National Institutes of Health found some pesticides that are known to interfere with cell function were linked to the development of Parkinson’s disease. Another study that was published in 2012 also reported that people with Parkinson’s disease were more likely to report exposure to pesticides, compared to people without the condition.”
In this latest analysis, exposure to pesticides was linked to a 58 percent increased risk of developing Parkinson’s. Some pesticides were clearly worse than others. Paraquat (a non-selective plant killer) and two fungicides, maneb and mancozeb, were found to double your risk. One of the study’s authors told Reuters that8:
“[T]he study’s results suggest that people should avoid contact with pesticides or – at least – wear proper protection when handling the chemicals. The use of protective equipment and compliance with suggested, or even recommended, preventive practices should be emphasized in high-risk working categories (such as farming).”…
The insect’s efficiency – combined with hackable biology (less moving parts – i.e., neurons) compared to any mammal big or small – makes the dragonfly an alluring organism to study the neural underpinnings of a basic but still complex behavior like prey capture.
Intrigued by the dragonfly, biologist Anthony Leonardo and colleagues from Intan Technologies and Duke University set about creating the instrumentation that will enable the researchers to monitor the activity of a group of brain cells in the speciesLibellula lydia that appear to be essential for guiding the hunt. This summer, Leonardo’s group at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Janelia Farm Research campus in Virginia wants to demonstrate what happens in the dragonfly’s nervous system during the course of carrying out a complex behavior – zooming in for the kill – over the second or so that it unfolds. “The dragonfly catches moving flies in the air,” Leonardo says. “In the process of doing that, it has to think of a moving fly or mosquito and think about where it’s going, where it is now, where it’s going to be in the future how its own body works and that kind of goal is constantly changing.”
Carrying out these experiments requires both tracking the dragonfly and devising the necessary instrumentation to monitor the 16 neurons hypothesized to steer the insect’s movements as it closes in on aDrosophila. The team was able to successfully outfit dragonflies with a set of small reflective balls on the head and wings to track them as they move through an insect version of the Roman Coliseum where they feast away on fruit flies.
The hard part is yet to come during coming months when the insects will be equipped with backpacks that can record signals from brain cells when going after a fly and then transmit them by a radio signal to a computer for analysis. A dragonfly weighs 400 milligrams, less than half the weight of a paper clip, so building a backpack that would not pin the insect to the ground or radically change its behavior is a major challenge.
The smallest practical battery for the telemetry in the backpack would have totaled about a third the weight of the dragonfly, and might have dampened the insect’s ardor for the hunt. So Leonardo and team designed a 50-milligran backpack that is powered by energy from radio waves. By doing so, they can record from the insect’s steering neurons that guide it during prey capture – the garb should enable monitoring other groups of neurons as well. The backpack has tiny wires, miniature sensors, that connect to the ventral nerve cord, the dragonfly equivalent of a spinal cord. The backpack should be able to transmit 5 megabits per second of information about what the insect’s brain cells are doing as it descends upon its lunch.
If these tests go as planned, this work will provide new insights into how circuits operate during dynamic brain processes that take in sensory information and process it to make decisions about future actions. “Our hope is that what we learn about the dragonfly will be broadly applicable to how neurons solve problems in general, Leonardo says. “This is a broad class of computation problems that nervous systems have to solve – and in some what they’ve evolved to solve.” …
“Leonardo and team designed a 50-milligran backpack that is powered by energy from radio waves …The backpack should be able to transmit 5 megabits per second”.
50 miniature grannies on the back of a friggin’ dragonfly… Transmitting data at 5 Mbps … With no battery! That’s crazy.
Maurits Cornelis Escher was born in 1898 in Leeuwarden, in the northern part of the Netherlands, and spent most of childhood in perpetual uncomfort due to a reoccurring skin rash. His grades in primary school were lackluster, yet he found solace in drawing and carpentry. After surviving secondary school, he went on to study architecture and decorative arts, and decided to travel throughout Europe before settling down.
It was during this period that he became enchanted with the intricate architectural legacy of the Moors and with the Italian countryside; this was also the time when he fell in love with his future-wife. The two of them settled in Rome in the 1930s, unfortunately just in time to experience the development of Italian fascism. So Escher, his wife, and their sons moved first to Switzerland, then to Belgium, and finally back to the Netherlands – the cold and wet location where most of his greatest works were produced.
Escher was not a formal mathematician by any means (he only had a high school education in the subject), but he was fascinated by the visual identity of mathematical concepts. Working mostly in lithographs and woodcuts, Escher explored the relationships between shape and space, interlocking figures in multi-dimensional planes and eternally spiraling spaces. He developed a serious obsession with impossible objects like the Necker Cube and the Penrose Triangle, as well as with ordered arrangements and absolute symmetry.
Throughout his career, Escher created an outstanding amount of work while lecturing and furthering his understanding of mathematical concepts like topology and the Mobius Strip. In his later life, Escher moved to a retirement home for artists in the Netherlands, where he died in 1972 at the age of 73. …
A group of 7-Eleven store in New York and Virginia were taken into custody by federal authorities Monday as part of a criminal immigrant employment investigation that the Department of Homeland Security is describing as one of the largest in history.
Fourteen stores were raided Monday and nine individuals — eight men and one woman — were indicted on allegations that store owners helped smuggle workers into the U.S. The immigrant workers are believed to be from Pakistan, the Associated Press reports. The New York raids were centered on Long Island.
The nine were charged with conspiring to commit wire fraud, stealing identities, and concealing and harboring dozens of illegal immigrants, according to an Immigration and Customs Enforcement statement. The workers were equipped with more than 20 identities stolen from U.S. citizens, were housed at properties owned by the store owners and had large portions of their wages stolen by managers, the statement also alleges.
The defendants “not only systematically employed illegal immigrants, they concealed their crimes by raiding the cradle and grave to steal the identities of children and even the dead,” U.S. Attorney Loretta Lynch said in a statement.
The employers housed them in illegal boarding rooms, “in effect creating a modern day plantation system,” Lynch added.
The defendants are to appear in court later Monday at courthouses in Central Islip, New York, and Norfolk, Va., and face up to 20 years in prison if convicted of conspiracy.
Homeland Security Investigations Special Agent-in-Charge James T. Hayes, Jr. said the alleged criminal employement had gone on for more than a decade.
“The 7-11 franchises seized today will be better known for their big fraud than their Big Gulp. As alleged, the franchise owners knowingly and repeatedly employed an illegal workforce and abused and exploited that workforce for more than 13 years,” he said. “This charged criminal scheme had a vast detrimental effect on both the employees who were overworked and cheated out of wages, as well as the more than 25 American citizens whose lives were upended by the theft of their identities in furtherance of the scheme.”
The identities, according to court documents, allegedly came from people in seven states, including a child, three dead people and a Coast Guard cadet.
Court filings indicate the government is pushing to forfeit the franchise rights to ten 7-Eleven stores in New York and four 7-Eleven stores in Virginia, in addition to five New York homes worth more than $1.3 million.
“According to the Department of Homeland Security, the case announced today constitutes the largest criminal immigration forfeiture in its history,” the ICE statement said. …
There’s a lot of buzz at Washington State University over work to develop the first sperm bank for honeybees.
Entomologist Steve Sheppard and his crew are using liquid nitrogen to preserve semen extracted from the industrious insects that pollinate much of the nation’s food supply but face environmental threats. The goal is to preserve and improve the stock of honeybees and to prevent subspecies from extinction.
“We do that frequently with horses and cattle and chickens,” said Susan Cobey, a research associate on the project. “Finally, we have the capability to do it with bees.”
Honeybees are serious business. Washington’s $1 billion apple crop, for instance, needs 250,000 colonies of bees each year to pollinate the orchards. California almond growers need 1 million colonies per year to pollinate their crop.
As a result, there is incentive to find ways to strengthen bee colonies. …
NSA leaker Edward Snowden scoffed Monday at the notion he’s a spy for China, saying that he would be living like royalty if he were.
“If I were a Chinese spy, why wouldn’t I have flown directly into Beijing? I could be living in a palace petting a phoenix by now,” a writer who identified himself as Snowden said in an online question-and-answer session hosted by The Guardian newspaper.
The Guardian says Snowden was taking questions “with the help of Glenn Greenwald” but did not explain what role Greenwald, a reporter who broke the story on NSA phone surveillance, played in the session.
Snowden, 29, called speculation that he might give secrets to China in exchange for asylum “a predictable smear … intended to distract from the issue of U.S. government misconduct.”
Former Vice President Dick Cheney has questioned whether Snowden had ties to China before he left Hawaii for Hong Kong ahead of published reports on U.S. surveillance programs that were based on documents he claims he leaked.
“Being called a traitor by Dick Cheney is the highest honor you can give an American,” Snowden wrote in the Q-and-A, which The Guardian said was conducted over a secure Internet connection.
The former Booz Allen Hamilton employee, who says he was a contractor for the National Security Agency, is the target of a federal criminal investigation.
In a moment of virtual fist-pounding, he intimated that prison is not the worst thing that could happen to him.
“All I can say right now is the US Government is not going to be able to cover this up by jailing or murdering me. Truth is coming, and it cannot be stopped,” he wrote.
One commenter asked what advice Snowden would give to others who could leak classified information “that could improve public understanding of the intelligence apparatus of the USA and its effect on civil liberties?”
“This country is worth dying for,” he replied.
Snowden unmasked himself a week ago as the contractor who leaked documents and information to The Guardian and Washington Post about the U.S. government’s collection of citizens’ phone and Internet data — programs that officials say are legal, don’t infringe on civil liberties and have thwarted terrorist plots.
Since then, the South China Morning Post reported that Snowden also exposed hacking by the United States in Hong Kong and China. And the Guardian reported Monday that documents he provided reveal a British agency hacked into foreign diplomats’ phone and emails during summits in London.
Snowden struck several themes during the online session: his claim that the U.S. is accessing Americans’ and foreigners’ data without cause, his belief that wide-net surveillance is unconstitutional and unethical, and his disillusionment with the Obama administration.
Asked to provide more specific details about how so-called “direct access” to private databases worked, Snowden said those would come later. But in general, he claimed, analysts from an alphabet soup of federal agencies “can enter and get results for anything they want. Phone number, email, user id, cell phone handset id (IMEI), and so on – it’s all the same.”
He said that if he were to target a foreign email address “and that email address sent something to you, Joe America, the analyst gets it. All of it. IPs, raw data, content, headers, attachments, everything. And it gets saved for a very long time.”
Snowden made it clear he’s not only opposed to the U.S. collecting data from Americans: “The “US Persons” protection in general is a distraction from the power and danger of this system. Suspicionless surveillance does not become okay simply because it’s only victimizing 95% of the world instead of 100%.” …
… News about the NSA and FBI’s surveillance programs doesn’t just have privacy advocates wringing their hands in consternation; IT security analysts have raised the critical question as to how a 29-year-old government contractor was able to surreptitiously abscond with sensitive classified documents, share them with two media outlets, and escape the country unmolested.
It turns out Edward Snowden didn’t need to employ any clever hacking tricks to carry out the data heist. He didn’t have to lower himself into a secured server room via the air ducts, deftly avoiding infrared beams, to snag a disc containing the files. He simply plugged in a USB thumb drive, snagged the files off a server, and smuggled the device out of the NSA office in Hawaii, an unnamed investigatortold the Los Angeles Times.
This bit of trivia should concern any IT admin worth his or her salt, because USBs have long been the bane of security professionals: They provide a perfect mechanism for malicious insiders to make off with sensitive data, and they are a tool for infecting target networks with all manner of nasty malware. (Any USB device poses a potential security threat, even an innocent-looking mouse.)
Ironically, the NSA is aware of the threat to the point that it has instituted a ban on thumb drives. The problem: “There are always exceptions” to the ban, a former NSA official told the Los Angeles Times. “There are people [particularly network admins] who need to use a thumb drive, and they have special permission. But when you use one, people always look at you funny.”
Remember, we’re talking about the NSA here, an agency charged with protecting sensitive information — moreso than many of us realized. Yet not only did the NSA enable a third-party contractor to access and copy classified files to his own personal, portable storage device, but his actions didn’t trigger any automated alerts….
As I was saying, they collect credit card numbers and transactions, so how do I know that my number wasn’t leaked to organized crime for a price by an underpaid NSA member? Sure, fraud detection catches it and I don’t have to pay for the items, but I do have to pay with my time and its a pain in the ass. The police never tell me how criminals get my number in the first place. I still have my card and my bank wasn’t hacked. Most places I use my card it goes into an electronic system and the cashiers can’t even see the number after the transaction. Am I wrong about that part?
… Scientists are just now beginning to understand how traumatic early-life experiences can alter how genes are expressed. A developing field of study, known as epigenetics, examines how environmental factors like stress and parental attachment can turn genes regulating the brain’s stress response system on or off.
So writes Rebecca Ruiz, the author of this extensive article that offered much more than mere human interest element and peek into resiliency. She is a NBC News contributor and reporter who was able to research her subjects (tragedy survivors and scientists both) and produce her findings with the support of a Rosalyn Carter Fellowship for Mental Health Journalism.
Ruiz states, “Emerging research on the biology of resilience” (that elusive ability to “bounce back” and move fluently through transition) “…suggests [that] a person’s ability to recover – or risk spiraling into depression” — depends not on the nature/nurture axis alone, but indeed “on an elusive combination of early life experiences, genetics and brain chemistry,” all.
This more than suggests brain chemistry is starting to be seen as a third spoke, mitigated by what our ancestors gave us but also what our early family life was like. For example, the brain genetically predestined to be in a normal range of stress functioning might organically be newly molded, negatively, by the happenings under the roof of one’s family home. Or vice-versa, a genetic proclivity toward mental illness within the actual brain structure might be structurally tempered by a nurturing home-life with adults who physically express love and model effective coping strategies toward stress.
The work of Dr. Tallie Z. Baram, a neurobiologist at University of California, Irvine, is presented in Ruiz’s article.
[Baram] has studied how resiliency or vulnerability is shaped in early life. She has found that consistent nurturing parental care in rodents silences a gene that activates a key part of the body’s stress response system. “If the gene is repressed, that lowers your gear or the rev, so you are less sensitive to stress and therefore less vulnerable to stress-related disorders,” Baram said.
Ruiz’s reporting concludes, for now, that “[I]t’s not yet possible… to detect these changes in the brains of patients. Scientists at the National Institute of Mental Health are developing brain-imaging technologies to visualize the chemical markers that attach to genes, but there is not yet a practical biomarker or tool that could be used in a clinical setting.” But research (and likely Ruiz’s continued scholarship and reportage) should provide hope for individuals looking for advancements in mental health.
Think early life experiences shaping brain chemistry is provocative? Look for the second in this two-part series, dealing with brain chemistry as altered by later life experiences….