Author Archives: Kestrel

I’ve always wondered about this.

Sex? It all started 385 million years ago (w/ Video)

Good idea.

On Friday, MasterCard and Oslo, Norway-based Zwipe announced the launch of a contactless payment card featuring an integrated fingerprint sensor. Say goodbye to PINs. This card, they said, is the world’s first contactless payment card featuring an integrated fingerprint sensor.

Welcome to the 21st Century.

Women are more driven to seek wealth and status than they are to reproduce, a new study suggests. The research says although low fertility may seem to go against traditional ideas about evolutionary success, a woman will delay and reduce her fertility if it brings her opportunities for higher status. The findings are based on interviews with 9,000 women in Mongolia, a country that underwent a sudden transition from a Soviet-style state to mass privatization.

Apple has something uniquely new. It’s about time.

Apple didn’t just unveil its new iPads on Thursday — it announced a separate, less advertised product that could mean trouble for wireless carriers.
With its new iPad Air 2, Apple customers will have the option of buying a cellular version loaded with the company’s new “Apple SIM” card, as Dan Frommer at Quartz points out.

A SIM card is that tiny piece of plastic in your phone that allows you to connect to a carrier’s wireless network.

Typically, a SIM card is programmed to work with one specific carrier. So, if you buy a phone on a two-year contract from AT&T, it’ll come with an AT&T SIM card inside. If you wanted to use that same phone on Verizon, you would have to buy a SIM card from Verizon and put it in that phone.

But Apple wants to change how that model works. Apple’s SIM card works with multiple carriers, so you wouldn’t have to purchase an iPad or SIM card from a carrier. To be clear, this isn’t like simply buying an AT&T SIM card directly from Apple instead of AT&T. With Apple’s SIM card, you can switch carriers whenever you please without having to commit to a two-year contract or make any purchases directly through the carrier.

Well this is crazy.

Average person has 19 passwords – but 1 in 3 don’t make them strong enough

I have three different passwords. And I rotate a new one in about every year.

Fortunately ‘chip and pin’ are on the way.

That, would only clear a few of these. Human errors and stupidity are a large part.

Five shocking Internet hacks

This might be easier if they didn’t do so many things wrong.

FBI Director James Comey has launched a new “crypto war” by asking Congress to update a two-decade old law to make sure officials can access information from people’s cell phones and other communication devices.

The call is expected to trigger a major Capitol Hill fight about whether or not tech companies need to give the government access to their users.

“It’s going to be a tough fight for sure,” Rep. James Sensenbrenner (R-Wis.), the Patriot Act’s original author, told The Hill in a statement.
He argues Apple and other companies are taking the privacy of consumers into their own hands because Congress has failed to pass legislation in response to public anger over the National Security Agency’s surveillance programs.

Day by Day

Geez … ya think?

Mortgage Loans Loosening Lending Limits a Repeat of Housing Market Crisis Looming?

Maybe officials, the Federal Housing Agency (FHA) and conventional lenders have forgotten, but just in 2008 hundreds of subprime lenders, and A minus lenders collapsed like a house of cards. The Wall Street Journal has released a series of articles regarding the reduction of minimum credit scores needed, and loosening restrictions from the largest lenders across the nation. It seems counterproductive, when one steps back to realize how bad the housing market still is. It will never have the spit and shine as it did in the late 90s and early 2000s, rather it appears the nation is seemingly ready to create another collapse.

Students loans already burgeon at astonishing rates. The Institute for College Access & Success posted statistics in 2012 regarding the debt, showing an astounding 71 percent of all graduates hold debt. When the housing market collapsed in 2008, many flocked to colleges to grow their education, and America now sits with a near college bubble ready to burst.

That train has already left.

Government-controlled mortgage companies Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, are close to an agreement with their regulator and lenders that could expand mortgage credit while helping lenders protect themselves from charges of making bad loans, The Wall Street Journal reported.

Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac have recouped tens of billions of dollars in penalties from lenders in recent years over claims that the lenders made underwriting mistakes on loans they sold to the mortgage giants. Lenders have blamed those penalties for tight credit conditions and for prompting them to make loans only to borrowers with near-pristine credit.

Going just as planned.

Health-care cancellation avalanche hits Colo. Democrats weeks before election

Almost 2 years in orbit.

Progress on batteries.

Smartphone and electric vehicle batteries may someday soon charge to 70 percent in just five minutes and last for 20 years, a landmark in energy cell technology that Nanyang Technological University researchers are pushing into fruition with a new gel-like substance.

The “ultrafast charging” batteries forgo the graphene and graphite used in lithium-ion cells in favor of a gel-like substance created from titanium dioxide.

Tesla Motors has been rumored to be attempting to develop a graphene battery that would double the range of its electric vehicles and draw the masses away from gasoline-powered automobiles. But with the work of researchers Chen Xiaodong, a NTU professor, and Tang Yuxin, a Ph.D. student at the university, electric vehicle refueling times will mirror those at the pumps and the cost of maintaining the automobiles will plummet.

Oi prices

U.S energy policies came into sharp focus last week as the price of crude oil fell to a two-year low.

The tumbling oil price has a real impact on Americans’ lives. The good: prices at the pump are at a historic low, dipping below $3 in some states. The bad: Stock market volatility hurts investors, raises questions about the robustness of the economic recovery and places severe pressure on domestic oil producers.

Prices rebounded on Friday, holding above $80 a barrel. But that did not dull the questions about America’s ability to maintain the pace of the oil boom that has blossomed in recent years.

Because we needed it done right away.

Contracts valued at $184 million were awarded by the health insurance exchange of California without the standard practice of competitive bidding. The deal was struck between the exchange and a company whose employees are well-known to the executive director of the exchange. Oversight and competitive bidding are standard practices adopted by state governments.

The no-bid contracts awarded to Covered California encompass a plethora of services, which range from the public relations to the paying of ergonomic adjustments for the work stations. The information was extracted as per the review made by Associated Press for the contracting records. The records were obtained via the Public Records Act of state.

Previously known

A number of such contracts, worth about $4.2 million, were sent to The Tori Group, a consulting firm. The founder of the group has entrenched professional ties to Peter Lee, the Executive Director of the agency. Other contracts were given to the health care subsidiary of the company, of which he was once the leader.

I think that this money could be better spent.

Only Francois can reduce the spending.

If Sarko had tried this they would have dusted off the guillotine.

Tens of thousands of people marched across France against the latest austerity budget of President Francois Hollande, as multiple elements appear to be converging into a social crisis. France’s 2015 budget includes more than 20 billion euros in austerity cuts, but it appears very likely that it will be rejected by Brussels for not going far enough.

Three years of right- wing economic austerity has produced total economic stagnation, record unemployment and increased inequality, so many in France are dumbfounded that they could be told to suffer even more. Neoliberal proponents continue to insist on so-called “labor market reform” in France, which means reducing the rights, wages and working conditions of workers. An EU budget rejection, also a possibility for Italy, would be unprecedented. The question is: will Hollande stand firm on an already brutal budget, or will a rejection be used as a premise for even more cuts to social services and economic pain. A major showdown with Brussels is looming, and demonstrators here are asking “who is looking out for their needs”? If the past is any indication, the loyalties of President Hollande and the Socialist government have been made quite clear.

You’ll need an ID to vote in Texas.

The Supreme Court will allow Texas to use its controversial new voter identification law for the November election, despite a lower court’s ruling that the law unfairly targets minorities.

By a 6-3 vote in a rare Saturday morning order, the majority of justices rejected emergency appeals from the Justice Department and civil rights groups to prohibit requiring voters to produce certain forms of photo identification in order to cast ballots in the state.

This si one of those where you say ‘BRING IT ON”.

Houston to pastors: Forget your sermons, now we want your speeches

There should probably be a new level of caution here:

Despite the outbreak of Ebola, it is still possible to get a visa from the three West African countries at the heart of the outbreak, and a key congressman is demanding to know why.

Rep. Ed Royce, R-Calif., chairman of the House Foreign Relations Committee, sent a sternly worded letter to Secretary of State John Kerry about the Obama administration’s handling of the Ebola epidemic in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone.

Royce said he was “deeply concerned” U.S. embassies in those countries were continuing to process visas for non-U.S. nationals despite the outbreak of the deadly disease.

An estimated 100 people per day are applying for U.S. visas at the three embassies, according to Royce. “Of course,” he added, “once these individuals are issued a visa by the embassy, they are free to travel to the United States.”

This could slow things down.

As medical personnel and public health officials are responding to the first reported cases of Ebola Virus in the United States, many of the safety and treatment procedures for treating the virus and preventing its spread are being reexamined. One of the tenets for minimizing the risk of spreading the disease has been a 21-day quarantine period for individuals who might have been exposed to the virus. But a new study by Charles Haas, PhD, a professor in Drexel’s College of Engineering, suggests that 21 days might not be enough to completely prevent spread of the virus.

Finally getting to the bottom of it.

We’re about to learn a lot more about the extent of the terrorist plot behind the attack on the U.S. diplomatic facility in Benghazi.

On Tuesday, a grand jury in Washington, D.C., handed down 17 new charges against Abu Ahmed Khattalah, so far the only man arrested in the murders of the four Americans in the facility that night, including U.S. Ambassador to Libya Christopher Stephens. Khattalah, who was arrested in June and arraigned in July, could face the death penalty if convicted.

According to The Washington Times, the charges confirm what was clear to most of the U.S. government—from the State Department to the Pentagon to the CIA on the ground in Libya—that the attackers who destroyed the U.S. constulate in Benghazi on Sept. 11, 2012, were well-orchestrated and well-armed and were led by a man with a clear mission in mind.

How the US first agreed and then refused to help locate a missing IDF soldier

… The attempt to secure information via the soldier’s Facebook account was just one of the multiple efforts being made by the IDF but deemed a “worthy shot” by a senior Israeli military official. So as these other efforts were under way, time was ticking away on the Israeli request to the FBI to get vital Facebook server information on the Hamas terrorists who had either kidnapped Oron or seized his remains. The more time elapsed, the less the odds of finding the soldier.

But the next day, July 22, the US Attorney’s Office received a startling response from the FBI: “Thank You for your effort, input and assistance. I regret to inform you we have been denied approval to move forward with legal process.

Marc returns home – a surprise visit.

Ousted Malagasy President Marc Ravalomanana gambled big when he flew home under the political – and also, presumably, the military – radar on Sunday.

For a moment it looked like his gamble had backfired badly when he was detained within hours of arrival. And the success of his brinkmanship still hangs in the balance. But it just may turn out to have been an inspired gambit which will both end his five years in exile and also free the continuing logjam in Madagascar’s messy politics.

Quite how he did it is not yet clear. His passport is being held by South African authorities on the orders of the North Gauteng High Court where he has been charged under South Africa’s International Criminal Court Act for alleged complicity in the shooting of demonstrators against his regime just before he was ousted in a coup in March 2009. So it seems he did not pass through any immigration.

He was also supposed to be under surveillance by South African intelligence. But he somehow gave them the slip, in circumstances which have aroused some suspicion of complicity by the authorities, which they deny. A private intelligence source said he travelled to Pietermaritzburg to visit his son at school there; drove to Durban’s King Shaka airport; flew to Lanseria airport, and from there to Skukuza airport in Kruger National Park. After that a private charter ferried him to a disused military airstrip south of Madagascar’s capital Antananarivo.

South Africa’s ambassador Gert Grobler was surprised to receive a call from Ravalomanana on Monday morning, announcing his return and thanking President Jacob Zuma and the government for hosting him for five years.

He then materialised in public, calling a press conference to announce that he had come home to seek peace and democracy and to fight poverty.

This might be handy.

Heads up, all you privacy-hugging Facebook haters!

Unless you change your Facebookless ways, then the next time Dr. Evil’s about to feed you to “sharks with frickin’ lasers” strapped to their heads, you’re going to miss out on the chance to alert your friends and family that you are definitely Not OK.

That’s because on Thursday, the citizens of Facelandia were graced with a new tool called Safety Check that lets users tell friends if they’re OK when disaster strikes.

(One assumes that if Facebook users aren’t OK, they’re doing more constructive things than posting updates on Facebook. Like, say, calling the police or the Navy SEALs, or, perhaps, yelling.)

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