Sunday, February 28, 2010

Autopsy finds Hamas leader was drugged, suffocated

Jerusalem (CNN) -- The killers of Hamas leader Mahmoud al-Mabhouh first injected him with a muscle relaxant and then suffocated him, Dubai police said Sunday.
Toxicology tests on the Hamas leader found significant amounts of succinylcholine, a drug that is used to relax muscles during surgery or as an anesthetic.

"The assassins used this method so that it would seem that his death was natural," Maj. Gen. Al Mazeina said.
But signs indicated that al-Mabhouh resisted his attacker as they suffocated him, police said.
The latest determination are in line with what police disclosed earlier and told al-Mabhouh's relatives.

Family members were told that police had found blood on the pillow. Authorities have also said the killers left some of al-Mabhouh's medicine next to his bed in an apparent effort to suggest his death was not suspicious.
Al-Mabhouh, a founding member of Hamas' military wing, was found dead in his hotel room in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, on January 20.

Police believe he was killed the night before and suspect the Mossad, the secretive Israeli foreign intelligence unit, was behind his slaying.
Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman has said only "media reports" link Israel to al-Mabhouh's death.

A total of 26 suspects have been identified by Dubai police. The suspects are believed to have acquired faulty passports to arrive in Dubai for the killing and then fled to other far-flung locations, police said.
The 26 named suspects do not include two Palestinians previously arrested in Jordan and returned to the UAE.
Twelve of the suspects used British passports, police said.

Six suspects used Irish passports, four used French passports, three used Australian and one used a German passport.
On Sunday, the British Embassy in Israel said it plans to talk to the British nationals whose identities were stolen and passports used.

"We have made contact with six of the individuals and look to locate the remaining six for the fraudulent use of their identities," an embassy official said Sunday.
The meetings will take place at the embassy, the UK Serious Organised Crime Agency said.
"We are arranging to speak to them as potential witnesses to a crime," a spokesman for the agency said.

Friday, February 26, 2010

17 killed in Kabul suicide blasts

Kabul, Afghanistan (CNN) -- Deadly blasts targeting foreigners in the Afghan capital Friday killed at least 17 people and wounded many others.

Authorities were trying to determine how many people died and the nationalities of those slain.
Kabir Al-Amiri, an employee at Kabul hospital, said eight Indians and one Pakistani national were among the dead. Afghan Interior Ministry officials said an Italian was killed, and the Indian Embassy said four Indians were killed in the attack.

The Taliban claimed responsibility for the attacks near the Safi Landmark Hotel in the neighborhood of Shahr-E-Naw, where there are a number of government buildings and U.N. offices as well as supermarkets, banks, diplomatic facilities and villas for well-to-do Afghans.

The force of the first explosion -- at about 6:30 a.m. (9 p.m. Thursday ET) -- shook parts of the Afghan capital as windows shattered and smoke billowed. The sound of gunfire filled the air.
The attack started with a suicide car bomb and four suicide bombers with explosive-laden vests, said Taliban spokesman Zaidullah Mujahid. Three of the bombers were killed, he said.
About 20 minutes later, a second large explosion occurred.
Afghan police blocked off roads leading to the area of the blasts.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Breaking: Explosions rock Kabul

(CNN) -- Two huge explosions shook Afghanistan's capital early Friday, wounding at least five people, a hospital coordinator said.

The blast erupted near the Safi Landmark Hotel in the neighborhood of Shahr-E-Naw, where there are a number of government buildings and U.N. offices as well as supermarkets, banks, diplomatic facilities and villas for well-to-do Afghans.
The force of the first explosion -- which struck about 6:30 a.m. (9 p.m. Thursday ET) was so strong that it shook CNN correspondent Ben Wedeman awake, he said.
"We saw smoke rising over the area and heard a fair amount of gunfire -- automatic and single shot," he said from north-central Kabul.

The blast erupted near the Safi Landmark Hotel in the neighborhood of Shahr-E-Naw, where there are a number of government buildings and U.N. offices.

A few minutes later, a second large explosion occurred, he said. Sporadic gunfire was continuing, he said.
Afghan police blocked off roads leading to the area. Windows were shattered in nearby buildings.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Deep Mole: Hamas founder's son worked for Israel as spy.


(CNN) -- The son of a Hamas official worked for Israeli intelligence and was the Jewish state's "most valuable source in the militant organization's leadership," a news report said Wednesday.

The Israeli newspaper Haaretz said Mosab Hassan Yousef, 32, son of the Palestinian Islamic movement Hamas founder Sheikh Hassan Yousef, was an informant for Israel's domestic security service known as the Shin Bet, beginning in 1997. He had been recruited while serving time in prison.

The information Yousef passed on was considered so important and saved so many lives that his Shin Bet handlers gave him the nickname "The Green Prince," a reference to his relation to the Hamas founder and the color of the movement's flag.
Yousef was instrumental in the arrest of a number of top Palestinian officials, including Fatah leader Marwan Barghouti and Hamas military wing members Abdullah Barghouti and Ibrahim Hamid, the report said.

The report is based on Haaretz's interview with Yousef and on excerpts from his soon-to-be-released memoir called "Son of Hamas."

In 2007, Yousef left the region for the United States and spoke publicly about his conversion to Christianity and his renunciation of Hamas.
In the Haaretz article, a former Israeli handler described Yousef as being so valuable that he deserved to win the Israel security prize.

"His grasp of intelligence matters was just as good as ours -- the ideas, the insights," said the handler identified as Capt. Loai in Yousef's book, Haaretz reported. "One insight of his was worth 1,000 hours of thought by top experts," he is quoted as saying.

Gideon Ezra, a former Shin Bet chief who stepped down before Yousef was reportedly recruited, said it was unusual for one informant to pass on information "on so many acts of terror" and characterized the case as an exception.
"I don't know anyone who was in the Hamas and who became a Christian. But only because he went to the United States and became a Christian did he write such a book. Because I don't think an agent here would do the same," Ezra said.

Ezra said the Shin Bet -- also known as the Shabak -- has hundreds of agents providing information. "I don't think that he is the only one who helped the Shabak," he said.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's office, which speaks publicly for the Shin Bet, refused to comment.
In a phone interview, Yousef told Haaretz that he was speaking out about his informant activities as a means of sending a message of peace to Israel.

"Hamas cannot make peace with the Israelis," Yousef is quoted as saying, "That is against what their God tells them. It is impossible to make peace with infidels. ... The Hamas leadership is responsible for the killing of Palestinians, not Israelis."
Yousef also expressed regret that much of his work with the Shin Bet could be undone by a deal to release Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit, whom Hamas captured in 2006.

"I wish I were in Gaza now," the paper quotes him. "I would put on an army uniform and join Israel's special forces in order to liberate Gilad Shalit. If I were there, I could help. We wasted so many years with investigations and arrests to capture the very terrorists that they now want to release in return for Shalit. That must not be done."


Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Predator C "Gray Eagle" slated to begin tests at Edwards


By Guy Nor

General Atomics-Aeronautical Systems (GA-ASI) expects to get the go-ahead from FAA to start tests of the stealthy, turbofan-powered unmanned Predator C Avenger at the U.S. Air Force’s Edwards Air Force Base test range in California.

“We anticipate receiving approval from the FAA in the immediate future to fly into the Edwards AFB range so that we may complete full envelope flight testing,” says GA-ASI Chairman and CEO Neal Blue. The V-tailed, swept-wing vehicle first flew on April 4 last year and, according to GA-ASI at the time, was provisionally slated to undertake a test program lasting up to three months.

Despite what appears to be a longer-than-expected evaluation, Blue adds that “flight tests of the Predator C Avenger are progressing as expected, with routine issues being addressed as the testing process continues.”

Up until now, Avenger flight tests have been undertaken in relatively restricted airspace close to the company’s test facilities in the Mojave Desert; the transfer to the Edwards range will allow tests at higher altitudes and speeds. The Avenger’s operational altitude is up to 60,000 feet, and the Pratt Whitney Canada PW545B engine is expected to give the vehicle a top speed “considerably greater” than 400 knots, according to GA-ASI. Blue adds that a second aircraft is due to be completed later this year.

The transition of the Predator C to the range comes as initial tests wrap up on the two latest variants of the current Predator for the U.S. Army and Customs and Border Protection Service. Weapons tests of the U.S. Army’s MQ-1C Sky Warrior, a heavily modified derivative of the Predator A, were successfully completed earlier this month following the last live firings of nine Hellfire P+ missiles. The version of the Lockheed Martin Hellfire II is the first to be specifically developed for a UAV and is designed with a full 360-degree targeting capability.


Pain in the air: Special Ops Gunships To Get Pain-Inducing Weapons

The Pentagon has been researching nonlethal pain rays since the mid-’90s, but finding a vehicle to carry them has proven to be a challenge. Researchers have mounted these microwave weapons—which repel people by heating water molecules just under the skin, reportedly without damaging tissue—on trucks, guard towers and Humvees, but the U.S. military has never deployed them for real-world use. (Using such weapons on civilians in Iraq or Afghanistan is not seen as a good way to win hearts and minds.)

Undaunted, the Air Force is now trying to install pain rays on Special Operations gunships, which are 98-foot-long AC-130 aircraft originally designed to haul cargo. The Airborne Active Denial System would require a beam generator of unprecedented size, says Diana Loree, manager of the program at the Air Force Research Lab.

Megawatt microwave generators (called gyrotrons) already exist, producing intense heat in plasma-research laboratories and factories that need to melt glass or composite materials, but the military program requires a generator twice as large as any existing model. AFRL staff hope to demonstrate a giant gyrotron during ground tests in 2014, Loree says. Special Ops forces might welcome an overhead nonlethal weapon that disperses mobs or stops people from advancing on downed aircraft. Also, the use of an energy weapon during a clandestine mission would be less prone to public outcry.


Red Flag Revs Up

More than 70 warplanes will be taking off and landing at Nellis Air Force Base twice a day during another Red Flag air combat training exercise .

The increased flight activity from the base to the 15,000-square-mile range north of Las Vegas Valley began Monday and runs through March 5. The activity could cause more aircraft noise over Southern Nevada than normal

Base officials said departures will occur in the early afternoon and again about 7 p.m. They said the aircraft will return after training missions that last up to four hours.

The 414th Combat Training Squadron hosts Red Flag exercises. This one will involve planes from New Mexico, Texas, South Carolina, Washington, Arizona, California, Oklahoma, New York, Georgia, Nebraska and Washington, D.C., and Australia and the United Kingdom.

Car tries to crash gate at Luke AFB- one killed - another injured.

One man was killed and another man injured late Monday when they drove a stolen car through the Luke Air Force Base security gate and were shot by guards there, officials said.

The stolen vehicle broke through the gate about midnight and was about to cross a bridge that connects the two parts of the base when the shooting occurred, said Capt. Jerry Gonzalez, a spokesman for Luke. Base security had set up a barricade on the bridge and at least one of the guards opened fire when the vehicle drove toward the security personnel, authorities said.

Authorities said the two men were headed to the operational side of the military base, including where aircraft training is carried out.

"We take security very seriously here," Gonzalez said. "These guys made a mistake by stumbling into the base.

"Without knowing what their intentions were, our security forces personnel reacted to it and took care of it."

The men were believed to be connected somehow to another stolen another vehicle that Maricopa County Sherriff's deputies had pulled over minutes earlier near Litchfield and Cactus Roads, said Glendale police Officer Karen Gerardo.

An unknown number of passengers were in the first vehicle and they were arrested without incident by deputies, Gerardo said.

The second vehicle with the two men was not pursued by law enforcement and continued on, at some point turning into Luke for reasons that were unclear, Gerardo said.

It was unknown how long ago the vehicles had been reported stolen, or the status of the first vehicle's occupants.

The Air Force base is currently not locked down, but Gonzalez said Glendale police are continuing their investigation.

Hackers use Elvis to show passport scanners are stupid.

London, England (CNN) -- In the name of improved security a hacker showed how a biometric passport issued in the name of long-dead rock 'n' roll king Elvis Presley could be cleared through an automated passport scanning system being tested at an international airport.

Using a doctored passport at a self-serve passport machine, the hacker was cleared for travel after just a few seconds and a picture of the King himself appeared on the monitor's display.
Adam Laurie and Jeroen Van Beek, who call themselves "ethical hackers," say the exercise exposed how easy it is to fool a passport scanner with a fraudulent biometric chip.

The Presley test was carried out at Amsterdam's Schiphol airport in September 2008 -- by Laurie and Van Beek -- to highlight potential security shortcomings.
Passports, and the ability to fake them, are back in the spotlight after the apparent use of false documents during the gang assassination of a Hamas militant in Dubai in January.

Van Beek said: "What we did for that chip is create passport content for Elvis Presley and put it on a chip and sign it with our own key for a non-existent country. And a device that was used to read chips didn't check the country's signatures."
Fingerprint scans, eye scans and digital photographs are now frequently used with passports to check a traveler's biometrics -- unique physical characteristics that can identify a specific individual

In the current state, I think they [scanners] have actually made the borders weaker, not stronger.

Biometric passports -- with data stored on embedded chip -- are now standard issue in Europe, the U.S. and a number of other countries.
Laurie and Van Beek use their knowledge of IT security and hacking to show that biometric passports remain vulnerable to fraud.

"I think [fraud] is 100 percent possible," said Laurie. "The passport bit is the more difficult. You would have to buy one from a professional forger or some means, but adding the chip is something we could do ourselves using off the shelf equipment using $100 investment."

The problem, in part, is that each country has its own security signature for verifying its own biometric passports. While some share that information, many countries do not, making it easy to exploit the loopholes, said Laurie.
"I probably couldn't produce a fake UK passport that would successfully cross into the UK because I'm sure the UK is actually able to check its own signatures," Laurie said.

"But I may be able to produce a passport from some other country and use it on an automated system to enter the UK and the UK wouldn't be able to check the signatures because they don't have them."

An international system coordinating the various security signatures is needed, said Van Beek.
"If you want to make the system more secure then all countries need to have access to a list of all certificates of all countries all over the world. If that's in place, if that list is used by all countries and all inspection systems, that might help to detect non-genuine documents and non-genuine chips," said Van Beek.

"But if that system is not there, it's really difficult to increase the security level with the technology that's currently used. So, implementing a central security system with all lists from around the world, that's something that needs to be done before you can trust the system," he added.

Most countries rely on a combination of automated passport scanning by computers and border control officers. But Laurie and Van Beek fear an over-reliance on the automated scanning.

"If they [the scanners] are checking a facial image, they look at the picture of the person standing there. They check it against the data stored on the chip and if they match and that person isn't on a stop list, then they let you through," explained Laurie. "In the current state, I think they've actually made the borders weaker, not stronger."

But Britain's Home Office maintains that its biometric passports are some of the most secure in the world.
"We remain confident that the British passport is one of the most secure documents of its kind -- fully meeting rigorous international standards," said a Home Office spokesperson.

"Since 2006 biometric passports issued by the British government biometrically link an individual to their passport through their photograph contained in an electronic chip.

"Even if an individual's photograph on the document is changed the photograph in the chip cannot be without border control officers becoming aware that the passport chip has been tampered with."
But Laurie and Van Beek insist that confidence in technology could be misplaced, because biometric passports can be faked, with pictures and chips that match.

Mysterious sounds and shaking ground continue in Pelham

By Terry Date

PELHAM — Cracking ice, earth tremors or tractor-trailers bouncing off frost heaves. None explain the all-hour booms and earthshaking in northern Pelham the past several weeks, according to residents who reported them. Neither do blasting, power lines arcing nor frost cracking or snow thunder.

Maj. Tim Acerno of New Hampshire Fish and Game said freezing ice that expands to the shore and has nowhere to go can cause a sharp sound like a gunshot, but it does not cause the ground to quake.

Besides, several people who reported the incidents said Beaver Brook is the only water nearby.

Resident Bill McDevitt said he does not think freezing brook water drove him and his wife from bed at 4 a.m. on Feb. 2.

Massachusetts Institute of Technology seismology professor Stephane Rondenay said the source is not likely earthquakes. Typically, they cause shaking, but not bangs.

In any event, the U.S. Geological Survey has not registered ground-shaking seismic events in the past 30 days in the area.

Some people have suggested that an empty tractor-trailer or one loaded with steel might make a loud noise when it hits a frost heave.

Roger Chiodi of Tallant Road has heard the noises before and they were not what he and his wife experienced three weeks ago about 3 p.m. He was outside, working on his snowmobile. His wife was inside the house.

They both felt the ground rattle. His wife ran outside, fearing the snowmobile had fallen on top of him.

Then, on Feb. 11, about the same time of day, he and his wife were both inside the house when they felt the house rattle.

It scared their dog, who was "barking like crazy," he said.

Jay Levine, supervisor for the Interstate 93 widening project, said blasting is not allowed at night. And the Pelham location is a long way from I-93 for people to be hearing loud noises, he said.

The director of planning in Pelham knows of no commercial blasting at these times. He has conferred with the fire chief, who would know if blasting was taking place, and there has been none.

The mystery has both of them perplexed and intrigued.

"It's really interesting and I'm baffled," planner Jeff Gowan said. "It's so strange."

Pelham fire Chief Jim Midgley said he received an e-mail from someone on Thursday who wondered if shorts in power lines were causing arcing and booms.

Some people who have heard the noise describe it as being like a transformer exploding or an airplane breaking the sound barrier.

David Graves, a spokesman for National Grid, said there have been no reports of arcing or power outages in that area.

New Hampshire climatologist Mary Stampone said the cracking of frozen ground might explain ground shaking and loud noises, if they were happening in very cold places like Alaska or Russia.

Snow thunder can be loud, but the weather was cold and dry earlier in the month, she said. Stampone said one thing to consider is that noise carries differently in the winter during cold, dry weather.

"When the air is still, you can hear things from farther away," Stampone said.

There is less vegetation to buffer sound in the winter, as well.

Yet, the mystery remains.

"It's fun to speculate, but I haven't heard anybody with a reasonable explanation," McDevitt said.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Chuckle - snort!

Shortly after it was installed on the International Space Station, fighting broke out among the astronauts over who got the office with the window.

; )

Space Station Gets Room With A View

NASA’s Room With a View
Published: February 20, 2010

Ten years after astronauts first moved into the International Space Station, they finally installed a picture window last week to take in the neighborhood.

The Italian-built “cupola,” delivered by the shuttle Endeavour, has seven large windows centered on a 30-inch central pane. NASA calls the cupola “the largest window ever built for space.” Until now, space travelers have had to be content with the view from portholes.

NASA refers to the cupola as a control tower, and it does resemble an early 1930s airport control tower. Its primary role is functional. It will provide astronauts with a view of the space station’s exterior robotic arm and of visiting spacecraft docking with the space station. But the $27 million cupola also provides a panoramic view of Earth and the surrounding cosmos.

Last Wednesday, the protective shutters covering the windows were opened for the first time. Africa’s Sahara Desert filled the view. “The astronauts who are accustomed to views that you and I cannot really describe were moved to tears when they looked out the windows of the cupola for the first time,” Bob Dempsey, the NASA flight director for the mission, said.

Windows have always been important to astronauts. In “The Right Stuff,” Tom Wolfe told of how the first American astronauts had to beg for a window in their tiny capsules.

Engineers hate windows. They are vulnerable to micrometeorite strikes. They admit sunlight that increases the heat load when, in the space station’s case, it orbits through the day half of the earth. The seals can deteriorate after years of enduring the drastic temperature changes in space.

To address some of those dangers, the cupola’s windows come with shutters.

Julie Robinson, a space station scientist, said in a NASA news release that “crews tell us that Earth-gazing is important to them. The astronauts work hard up there and are away from their families for a long time. Observing the Earth and the stars helps relax and inspire them.”

The new window is reminiscent of dramatic round windows in classical buildings, like the duomo in Florence or Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello. It also resembles the cupola-like cockpit of the Millennium Falcon, Han Solo’s spaceship in “Star Wars,” and Captain Nemo’s giant porthole in the study of the submarine Nautilus in “20,000 Leagues Under the Sea.” The cupola attaches to a new section of the station with waste-processing equipment, exercise gear and some living quarters, including more comfortable sleep stations. It used to be known as Node 3. Now it is named Tranquility.

It is late in the game for the window to arrive. The station is almost complete. Only four more shuttle flights are scheduled. The station was originally supposed to be vacated after 2015, although President Obama has proposed extending its life to 2020. Adding the cupola now has a bit of the feel of a suburban home owner trying to spruce up his dull tract house by installing a bay window in the family room.

But the view is to kill for.

Tough road ahead in Afghanistan

CNN) -- As coalition and Afghan forces entered the second week of a major offensive against the Taliban in southern Afghanistan, the head of U.S. Central Command warned that the potential loss of lives among U.S. forces in the operation "will be tough."

Gen. David Petraeus said the losses could be comparable to those seen after the 2007 surge of U.S. troops into Iraq.
"They'll be tough. They were tough in Iraq," Petraeus said on NBC's "Meet the Press."
From the time the U.S. surge in Iraq began in January 2007 until its official end in July 2008, 1,125 U.S. troops died -- more than a quarter of the total 4,379 Americans who have died in the Iraq war.
"The reality is that it's hard, but we are [in Afghanistan] for a very, very important reason, we can't forget that," he added.

"We're in Afghanistan to ensure that it cannot once again be a sanctuary for the kinds of attacks that were carried out on 9/11."

Despite stiff Taliban resistance to Operation Moshtarak in Helmand province, Petraeus said that the militants are "a bit disjointed at this point in time."

"When we go on the offensive, when we take away sanctuaries and safe havens from the Taliban and other extremist elements that we and our Afghan and coalition partners are fighting in that country, they're going to fight back," he added. "And we're seeing that in Marjah, we will see that in other areas, but we are going after them across the spectrum."
Petraeus noted that the offensive is just the "initial salvo" of what will be a 12- to 18-month military campaign, but results are being seen already.

"We have more of our special operations forces going in on the ground, and you've seen the results, you've heard some of the initial results of that with more ... Taliban shadow governors being captured, more of the high-value targets being taken down."
See more Afghanistan coverage at Afghanistan Crossroads blog

The Central Command chief also addressed his group's assessment of al Qaeda, following a dust-up a week ago between former Vice President Dick Cheney and current Vice President Joe Biden.
Biden had argued that another massive terror attack against the United States, like the one on September 11, 2001, was "unlikely."

But Cheney called that analysis "dead wrong," and said the biggest threat facing the United States now is a potentially huge terror attack with nuclear weapons or biological agents.
Petraeus said the assessment of the U.S. Central Command is that al Qaeda has been "diminished" in the past year.

"But ... al Qaeda is a flexible, adaptable -- it may be barbaric, it may believe in extremist ideology as it does -- but this is a thinking, adaptive enemy and we must maintain pressure on it everywhere."

Saturday, February 20, 2010

FBI probe reveals web-cam was used to spy on students.

(CNN) -- The FBI has opened an investigation into allegations that a Pennsylvania school official remotely monitored a student at home, a law enforcement official with knowledge of the case told CNN on Saturday.

The official, who asked not to be identified, said the FBI became involved in the case after a family filed a lawsuit against the Lower Merion School District, located outside of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

The family accused an assistant principal at Harriton High School of watching their son through his laptop's webcam while he was at home and unaware he was being watched. The family also says the school official used a photo taken on a laptop as the basis for disciplining the student.

In a statement issued late Friday, District Superintendent Christopher McGinley rejected the allegations.

"At no time did any high school administrator have the ability or actually access the security-tracking software," he said. "We believe that the administrator at Harriton has been unfairly portrayed and unjustly attacked in connection with her attempts to be supportive of a student and his family. The district never did and never would use such tactics as a basis for disciplinary action."

A school official said it was a mistake not to make families aware of a feature allowing the school to monitor the computer hardware.

The law enforcement official with knowledge of the case told CNN that the FBI will try to determine whether federal wiretap or computer intrusion laws were violated.

But FBI spokesman J.J. Klaver said he could not disclose the existence of an investigation.

In a lawsuit seeking class-action status filed Wednesday in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, Michael and Holly Robbins of Penn Valley are suing the school district, its board of directors, and the superintendent. They claim that the district unlawfully used its ability to remotely access a webcam on their son's laptop computer, which was issued by the district.

The lawsuit says that on November 11, 2009, the plaintiff's son was told by the assistant principal at Harriton High School that he was caught engaging in "improper behavior" in his home which was captured in an image via the webcam. According to the Robbins' complaint, neither they nor their son were informed of the school's ability to remotely access the webcam. It is unclear what the boy was doing in his room or if any punishment was given out.

Doug Young, spokesman for the Lower Merion School District, told CNN that the district would only remotely access a laptop if it was reported lost, stolen or missing.

If that happened, the district would first have to request access from its technology and security department and receive authorization, he said. Then it would use the built-in security feature to take over the laptop and see whatever was in the webcam's field of vision, potentially allowing them to track down the missing computer.

During the 2009-2010 school year, 42 laptops were reported lost, stolen or missing, and the tracking software was activated by the technology department in each instance, according to McGinley's statement. A total of 18 laptops were found or recovered.

"Despite some reports to the contrary, be assured that the security-tracking software has been completely disabled," McGinley said in the statement.

"This feature was limited to taking a still image of the computer user and an image of the desktop in order to help locate the reported missing, lost, or stolen computer (this includes tracking down a loaner computer that, against regulations, might be taken off campus)."

In order to receive the laptop, the family had to sign an "acceptable-use" agreement. In order to take the laptop home, the family would also have to buy insurance for the computer.

In the "acceptable-use" agreement, the families are made aware of the school's ability to "monitor" the hardware, Young said, but it stops short of explicitly explaining the security feature. He said that was a mistake.

Young told CNN that the district is very proud of the laptop program and its ability to close the technology gap between students who have computers at home and those who don't. He acknowledged that the schools have to take a step back to re-evaluate the policies and procedures surrounding the program.

Multiple requests for further comment from the lawyer for the Robbins', Mark Haltzman of Lamm Rubenstone LLC, went unanswered.

CSETI ET Hoax Revealed - too easily I might add.

Every once in awhile I am given a challenge. These challenges come in the form of digital photographs either purporting to be of new secret black project aircraft or UFOs.

I relish these tests. I just love taking a photo apart (down to the pixel level) and discovering if it is the real deal, or a combination of Photoshop technique and (or) Adobe AfterEffects used to create that (on the surface) looks very much like an incredible capture but in reality is a hoax.

Recently with the availability of inexpensive (but sophisticated) image editing software, good looking fakes are proliferating through the Internet and unfortunately many (including the mainstream media) are falling for them without as much as a taking a second glance or considering the source of the material.

Case in point being the now infamous "Iran you suck at PhotoShop" images where a photo of an Iranian missile test was Photoshopped (quite clumsily) to portray they successfully launched more missile than they really did.

Many top news agencies and media outlets fell for this one, including, The Los Angeles Times, The Financial Times, The Chicago Tribune and several other newspapers as well as many major news Web sites, including, BBC News, MSNBC and Yahoo! News.

Now today - comes in my e-mail, a photo purporting to be of a visitation of an extraterrestrial being at an annual "training event in Joshua Tree National Park to contact extraterrestrial civilizations."

The attached photo showed what looked like two lawn chairs illuminated by moonlight and to the left some kind of amorphous blog supposedly the extraterrestrial being in question.

My first impression was it was just another blurry photograph, possibly a tree or someone standing close to the camera out of focus - and didn't look at all like any of the aliens we've come accustomed to on TV or in movies.

Intrigued - I decided to read the back story - and man what a back story! I won't rehash it here, but even at the risk of sending more traffic to their website I'll post a link HERE.

Note: Before you read the article, make sure you click on each image ( to enlarge) and save them to your hard drive before they are quickly replaced with new ones (that do not include the EXIF data) because that is where the hoaxer went wrong.

Although in the story "The provenance of the photograph is not in doubt. Raven Nabulsi is a long-standing, trusted member of the CSETI team. Moreover, in 2009, she had asked the ETs to allow her to photograph them, even when not seen with the naked eye." the truth is the photo is a fake and it can be proved very easily by just looking at the included EXIF data.

What is EXIF data?

EXIF was created by the Japan Electronic Industries Development Association (JEIDA). Version 2.1 of the specification is dated June 12, 1998, and the latest, version 2.2 dated April 2002, is also known as Exif Print.

This data is embedded in a file by the camera and attached (invisibly) to each image. Digital cameras will record the current date and time and save this in the metadata, along with camera settings and type. This includes static information such as the camera model and make, and information that varies with each image such as orientation (rotation), aperture, shutter speed, focal length, metering mode, and ISO speed information. A thumbnail for previewing the picture on the camera's LCD screen, in file managers, or in photo manipulation software.

This EXIF data is what trips up most hoaxers. They aren't aware the data even exists. All one has to do is download one of the many free EXIF data reading programs (such as EXIF VIEWER) but it is also included in later versions of Photoshop.

However, some hoaxers (the good ones) have learned how to change the EXIF data, but apparently not "Raven Nabulsi"

In any event, before doing a forensic analysis of any photograph, I first look at the EXIF data to see the truth about the exposure, date, type camera, etc and see how it jives with description given by the poster.

Low and behold - the EXIF reveals all.

The primary image was taken at the time and date the article states, but layered on top of that image is the data for another image taken in 2003 - more than enough information to prove the image is fake, fake, fake.

But don't take my word for it - do the work yourself. Read the EXIF data on all the photos, including the reference photos which were taken on a Nikon D-40 in 2010.

Do it soon - though, before photos missing their EXIF data replace the ones that are posted as of this writing.

Let me know if they are, because I have the originals

Sorry Dr. Greer - The truth is out there -but this ain't it!


Friday, February 19, 2010

Passengers who flew with accused underwear bomber speak out

The weeks have passed and, in most cases, their nerves have calmed. What began as shock, that they were almost victims of an in-flight terrorist attack, has morphed for many into contemplation. There are those who are still talking about what happened to them on Christmas Day, and there are others who are determined to put the incident behind them.

The passengers of Northwest Flight 253 may have been one faulty explosive away from disaster.
The suspect in that incident, Nigerian-born Umar Farouk AbdulMutallab, 23, pleaded not guilty in January to six federal terrorism charges. And he has been talking to authorities, thanks to help from his own family members.

But what if the passengers could be part of that conversation? What would they want to know or say to AbdulMutallab, the government, the world? CNN reached out by phone and e-mail to find out.
More than anything, if they could sit down with AbdulMutallab they would simply ask: Why? How did a young man who grew up with privilege, education and exposure to the greater world end up accused of attempting a terrorist attack?

"For me, these are the burning questions," said Roey Rosenblith, 27, who co-founded Village Energy, a company in Uganda that hopes to help bring solar electricity to the 80 percent of Africans who have no electrical power. "I've never had someone try to murder me, much less someone I didn't even know. So I'm very interested in finding out more about [his] motives so that we might possibly figure out how to avert others from traveling down the same path."

Could the fact that AbdulMutallab is talking to officials signal he has regret, Rosenblith wonders. If not, if he is a "lost cause," Rosenblith said he wouldn't care to waste breath speaking to him.
Interactive: Hear passengers on plane

"I don't spend a lot of time seeking out conversations with Holocaust deniers, Islamic fundamentalists or religious fanatics of any stripe," he said. "I guess I've decided that people that are beyond the pale of reason are simply that and nothing I say will convince them otherwise."
Melinda Dennis, 31, was sitting about an arm's length from AbdulMutallab when he was taken up to first class after the incident. She stared at him, and his blank expression. Now she says she'd rather speak to others considering the path he is accused of taking.

"No matter what nationality we are or religion we choose, we are still people. I am a human being, a person that faces each day trying to make myself better and enrich the lives of people who know me," said Dennis, who's lived the past year-and-a-half in Rotterdam, Netherlands, where she works as a manufacturing project manager. "Whether I live or die should not be decided on the whim of a person that wishes to brand all Americans as evil people. I am not defined by my nationality, but I believe in the goodness that resides in the people of every country."


2001 Anthrax attack was work of lone nut says FBI.

Washington (CNN) -- The FBI announced that it has concluded its investigation into the 2001 anthrax mailings, saying Friday that a biodefense researcher carried out the attacks alone.
The anthrax letters killed five people and sickened 17 shortly after the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. The letters, filled with bacterial spores, were sent to Senate Democratic leaders and news organizations.

"By 2007, investigators conclusively determined that a single spore-batch created and maintained by Dr. Bruce E. Ivins at the United States Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases (USAMRIID) was the parent material for the letter spores," said a report released Friday by the FBI.
"Evidence developed from that investigation established that Dr. Ivins, alone, mailed the anthrax letters."

In September and October 2001, at least five envelopes were mailed to Sen. Patrick Leahy and then-Sen. Tom Daschle, as well as to news organizations in New York and in Boca Raton, Florida.

Each envelope contained a photocopy of a handwritten note.
The five who died included two Washington postal workers, a New York hospital worker, a supermarket tabloid photo editor in Florida and a 94-year-old woman in Connecticut.

The investigation into the anthrax mailings, code-named "Amerithrax," was one of the largest and most complex in the history of law enforcement, according to the FBI.

Ivins, 62, committed suicide in July 2008 as federal agents were closing in on him, police said.


"Beast of Kandahar" spotted in Korea?

By Bill Sweetman.AVWK

The Beast of Kandahar gets around. The hitherto-classified Lockheed Martin RQ-170 Sentinel unmanned air vehicle (UAV), its existence disclosed after our enquiries in December, has been sighted outside Afghanistan.

A Korean newspaper report - overlooked when it appeared in December - has now surfaced and states that the UAV had been flying for several months from a South Korean base - probably Osan, where the USAF currently operates U-2s - before it was disclosed.

This revelation points directly to an answer to one of the puzzling questions about the Beast: why would you use a stealthy aircraft to spy on the Taliban? The answer is that you don't, but Afghanistan and South Korea have a common feature: they are next door to nations with missile development programs.

Most likely, therefore, the Beast's current tasking is to gather intelligence on missile launches and (possibly) to test missile-tracking equipment. It's possible - although the photos seen so far are inconclusive - that one or both of the top-mounted fairings carries an electro-optical sensor system. One fairing could cover a satcoms antenna. Alternatively, the aircraft could be gathering telemetry intelligence (TELINT).

There is also the possibility that the Beast's debut has to do with more than ISR. The Missile Defense Agency disclosed last summer that it had been working - under its "black" budget - on airborne infrared missile tracking, using two platforms and stereoscopic techniques to provide interception-grade tracking without radar. The MDA has now issued a request for information covering an Airborne Infrared (ABIR) sensor on a UAV.


North Korea bent on being destroyed in future nuclear holocaust.

(CNN) -- North Korea vowed Friday not to dismantle its nuclear program -- not even in exchange for economic aid -- as long as the United States continues a "hostile policy."

"It was none other than the U.S. that pushed [North Korea] to acquiring nuclear deterrence and it is, therefore, wholly to blame for the nuclear issue on the Korean peninsula," the official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) said.
North Korea will never abandon its nuclear program, "even if the earth is broken to pieces unless the hostile policy towards [North Korea] is rolled back and the nuclear threat to it removed," the agency said.
The United States believes that North Korea has enough weapons-grade plutonium to build a half dozen nuclear bombs.

The reclusive Communist nation last year cut off six-party talks involving the United States, China, South Korea, Japan and Russia, in anger over international criticism of its nuclear and missile tests.
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton previously said the United States was willing to meet bilaterally with North Korea but only within the framework of the six-party talks. She also has warned that the United States will not normalize ties with Pyongyang or lift sanctions unless North Korea takes irreversible steps toward dismantling its nuclear program.
North Korea has made it clear it is no rush to resume the stalled talks aimed at persuading the country to give up its nuclear weapons arsenal, according to Lynn Pascoe, the U.N. envoy to the country.

Speaking after a recent visit to Pyongyang, Pascoe said he and North Korean officials had "a frank and open discussion back and forth on a variety of issues." But, he said, "They are not eager to return to the six-party talks."
Pascoe said the North Koreans said they do not like the United Nations sanctions slapped on their nation.
Observers have said that the North Korea's dire economic conditions, including a severe food shortage, could bring it back to the bargaining table.

But North Korea said Friday that it feels no obligation to barter based on food, fuel or funding.
"Those who talk about an economic reward in return for the dismantlement of its nuclear weapons would be well advised to awake from their daydream," KCNA said.

Iran Launches New Destroyer.

(CNN) -- Iran has launched a new guided missile destroyer Friday, Iran's state-run news agencies reported.
The announcement comes at a time when nuclear watchdogs have accused Iran of working to develop a nuclear warhead for a missile.

The new vessel, called Jamaran, has the capacity to carry about 120 people and is armed with surface-to-air missiles, torpedoes and modern naval cannons, Iran's Press TV reported.

The ship is constitutes a major leap in Iran's naval technology and is the first in a class of ships that are being constructed, Press TV reported.

The announcement comes a day after the head of the United Nations' nuclear watchdog agency said Iran may be working secretly to develop a nuclear warhead for a missile. The assertion was part of a draft report

Editors Note: In news of the future - "Israel sinks Iranian Guided Missile Destroyer." ; )

Another Skyquake - this time East Coast.

Mystery in the air in Pelham, New Hampshire

Updated: Thursday, 18 Feb 2010, 12:21 PM EST
Published : Thursday, 18 Feb 2010, 12:21 PM EST

PELHAM, N.H. (FOX25, myfoxboston) - A mysterious noise in one New Hampshire town has residents confused.

A startling sound has been waking some Pelham residents up from sleep since November. Others have reported hearing the loud boom in the afternoon.

Police have received reports from neighborhoods around Mammoth and Nashua roads.

The New Hampshire National Guard said they are not holding training missions. The Department of Transportation, Raytheon and BAE said they do not have any middle of the night projects going on.

Meanwhile, police say the will continue to investigate calls from concerned residents.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Texas man burns home, leaves note and crashes plane into IRS building in Austin

CNN) -- An Austin, Texas, resident with an apparent grudge against the Internal Revenue Service set his house on fire Thursday and then crashed a small plane into a building housing an IRS office with nearly 200 employees, officials said.
Federal authorities identified the pilot of the Piper Cherokee PA-28 as Joseph Andrew Stack, 53.

Two people were injured and one person was missing, local officials said. There were no reported deaths.
A message on a Web site registered to Stack appears to be a suicide note.

"If you're reading this, you're no doubt asking yourself, 'Why did this have to happen?' " the message says. "The simple truth is that it is complicated and has been coming for a long time."
In the lengthy, rambling message, the writer rails against the government and, particularly, the IRS.
The building into which the airplane crashed is a federal IRS center with 199 employees.

See text of the note (PDF)

"I saw it written once that the definition of insanity is repeating the same process over and over and expecting the outcome to suddenly be different," the online message says. "I am finally ready to stop this insanity. Well, Mr. Big Brother IRS man, let's try something different; take my pound of flesh and sleep well."
Video: Pilot targets Texas building Video: Plane into Texas building Video: Plane 'exploded into fireball' Video: Plane crashes into building

Two people were transported to University Medical Center Brackenridge, said hospital spokeswoman Matilda Sanchez. She could not provide additional information.
University Medical Center Brackenridge is the only Level 1 trauma center for adults in Austin.
St. David's Medical Center, the other major hospital in the area, said it had not received any patients.
Austin Mayor Lee Leffingwell said one person remained unaccounted for Thursday afternoon.
He tried to calm any concerns residents could have about the crash and the huge fire, which he said was mostly contained.
"It is an isolated incident," the mayor said. "The people of Austin, the people of the nation, are in no danger whatsoever."
He added that "there is evidence that the gas tank was just about full. ... That amount of gasoline ... can do a lot of damage."
Witnesses described an infernal scene that shook nearby buildings and sent fire and smoke bellowing into the sky.
"I just saw smoke and flames," said CNN iReporter Mike Ernest. "I could not believe what I was seeing. It was just smoke and flames everywhere."

The crash occurred around 10 a.m. (11 a.m. ET).
Firefighters used two ladder trucks and other equipment to hose down the blaze at the Echelon office building, which police said is in the 9400 block of Research Boulevard.
The flames seemed mostly extinguished about 75 minutes later.

The FAA said preliminary information indicated the plane departed Georgetown Municipal Airport north of Austin about 9:40 a.m. CT.

Jack Lillis, an attendant at Georgetown airport, said initial indications are that the flight originated there but there were conflicting reports and he could not verify that information.

The pilot evidently did not file a flight plan, the FAA said. No flight plan was required because the pilot was flying under visual flight rules, or VFR.

Two F-16 fighter jets were sent from Houston as a precaution, but federal authorities said preliminary information did not indicate any terrorist connection to the crash.

"We do not yet know the cause of the plane crash," the Department of Homeland Security said in a release. "At this time, we have no reason to believe there is a nexus to terrorist activity. We continue to gather more information, and are aware there is additional information about the pilot's history."


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