Author Archives: Kestrel

Looking back at the domestication of animals.

It is from Darwin that we inherit the ideas that domestication involved isolation of captive animals from wild species and total human control over breeding and animal care.

But animal management in this industrial setting has been applied too broadly in time and space, said Fiona Marshall, PhD, professor of anthropology at Washington University in St. Louis. It is not representative of the practices of the Neolithic herders who first domesticated animals nor—for that matter—of contemporary herders in nonindustrial societies.

It’s good that somebody investigated this.

Alexander Yakovlev, a former United Nations procurement officer who was convicted of fraud during the oil-for-food scandal, has gotten a brusque thumbs-down after he demanded that the U.N. pay his way back to Russia after he served time for his decades-old crimes.

On Monday, a U.N. dispute tribunal rejected what it called a “vexacious” claim by Yakovlev, a key figure in the scandal. Yakovlev claimed that the U.N. owed him separation benefits — including air fares, moving allowances and a “repatriation grant”– given to regular U.N. employees when they end their service.

Yakovlev said that he had been unable to claim those benefits within a two-year allowable window after he left the U.N. due to “force majeure” — circumstances beyond his control.

In his case, the circumstances amounted to his arrest, detention, and subsequent sentencing in a New York court for his role in the biggest procurement scandal in U.N. history, after a Fox News story in 2005 uncovered his secret offshore bank account — illegal under U.N. rules.

Yakovlev abruptly resigned from the U.N. little more than a day after the story appeared — a move that kept him from having to testify to U.N. investigators.

Good idea.

Kidney stones represent a major medical problem in the western and developing world. If left untreated, apart from being particularly painful, they can lead to renal failure and other complications. In many patients treated successfully, stone recurrence is also a major problem. Clearly a more effective pathological approach to diagnosis and treatment needs to be identified to ensure successful eradication of stones. …

… By crystallographic techniques Dominique Bazin, Director of Research at Université Paris-Sud 11, France (now at LCMCP-College de France), and co-workers were able to understand how some of the methods employed to medically treat the stones have different effects on the stone, from reducing the size of both nanocrystals and crystallites to changing the shape and space occupied by the crystallites at the macroscale.

A planet similar to earth?

The first Earth-sized exoplanet orbiting within the habitable zone of another star has been confirmed by observations with both the W. M. Keck Observatory and the Gemini Observatory. The initial discovery, made by NASA’s Kepler Space Telescope, is one of a handful of smaller planets found by Kepler and verified using large ground-based telescopes. It also confirms that Earth-sized planets do exist in the habitable zone of other stars.

“What makes this finding particularly compelling is that this Earth-sized planet, one of five orbiting this star, which is cooler than the Sun, resides in a temperate region where water could exist in liquid form,” says Elisa Quintana of the SETI Institute and NASA Ames Research Center who led the paper published in the current issue of the journal Science. The region in which this planet orbits its star is called the habitable zone, as it is thought that life would most likely form on planets with liquid water.

First Heartbleed arrest.

Canadian police have arrested and charged a 19-year-old man who allegedly exploited the Heartbleed bug to steal personal data from the Canadian Revenue Agency’s website.

The arrest of Stephen Arthuro Solis-Reyes, who allegedly grabbed 900 social insurance numbers (SINs) over a period of six hours, marks the first time that authorities have apprehended someone in relation to the bug in OpenSSL. …

… The RCMP treated this breach of security as a high priority case and mobilized the necessary resources to resolve the matter as quickly as possible. Investigators from National Division, along with our counterparts in “O” Division have been working tirelessly over the last four days analyzing data, following leads, conducting interviews, obtaining and executing legal authorizations and liaising with our partners.

Making it look easy

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Probably not the best way to ‘make your case’.

Luis de la Garza was a longtime community and business leader in North Texas, a man who in 2008 voiced opposition to a proposed ordinance by the Farmers Branch City County that would restrict undocumented immigrants from renting in the city where he lived.

A television executive, he quickly established himself as one of the most dynamic Latino leaders in North Texas.

But de la Garza also had a darker side, one that involved robbing banks in North Texas.

On Thursday afternoon, the man the FBI dubbed the “Mesh Mask Bandit” was sentenced to 20 years in a federal prison for robbing 18 North Texas banks and attempting to hold up up two others with a BB gun. He was given that name for the masks he wore to carry out the bank robberies.

Day by Day

Defining inflation down.

That the official rate of inflation doesn’t reflect reality is obvious to anyone paying college tuition and healthcare out of pocket. The debate over the accuracy of the official consumer price index (CPI) and personal consumption expenditures (PCE–the so-called core rate of inflation) has raged for years, with no resolution in sight.

The CPI calculates inflation based on the prices of a basket of goods and services that are adjusted by hedonics, i.e. improvements that are not reflected in the price of the goods. Housing costs are largely calculated on equivalent rent, i.e. what homeowners reckon they would pay if they were renting their house.

The CPI attempts to measure the relative weight of each component:

Over regulated.

I’m not sure how stopping this auction can help.

Following protests by two Jewish groups, a Paris auction house canceled an auction of Nazi objects.

The Maison Vermont de Pas auction house nixed the April 26 sale on Monday following the protests by the National Bureau for Vigilance against Anti-Semitism, or BNVCA, and the CRIF umbrella group of French Jewish communities. The objects included passports and books that were collected from a residence of Adolf Hitler.

BNVCA President Sammy Ghozlan said his group was satisfied with the decision. His group has asked French government officials to urge those in possession of Nazi objects from the 1930 and 1940s to give them to police.

Good idea – graphene.

A team of researchers at China’s Nanjing University of Aeronautics and Astronautics, studying graphene properties, has discovered that the act of dragging saltwater over a piece of graphene can generate electricity. In their paper published in the journal Nature Nanotechnology, the team describes how in seeking to turn the idea of submerging carbon nanotubes in a flowing liquid to generate a voltage on its head, they came upon the idea of simply dragging water droplets across graphene instead.

How A Chinese Company 3-D Printed 10 Houses In A Day

The WinSun Decoration Design Engineering Co. (link in Chinese) designed the printer that made the walls. The buildings’ roofs weren’t printed because of technological limitations.

The printer used to build the houses is 500 feet long, 33 feet wide, and 20 feet high.

Couple of items on WWII history for today.

On this day in 1942, French General Henri Giraud, who was captured in 1940, escapes from a castle prison at Konigstein by lowering himself down the castle wall and jumping on board a moving train, which takes him to the French border.

On this day in 1945, U.S. Lieutenant Colonel Boris T. Pash commandeers over half a ton of uranium at Strassfut, Germany, in an effort to prevent the Russians from developing an A-bomb.

Geez …

Here’s a lesser-known function of your hard-earned money: providing backing for people in other countries to buy things from America.

Come again? Yes, that’s right. Let’s say Air China wants to purchase some Boeing jets. To encourage that purchase, America’s Export-Import Bank could loan Air China the money. If Air China were to default on the loan, U.S. taxpayers would be left on the hook.

Put simply, taxpayers should not be financing this kind of “bank”—which is “little more than a fund for corporate welfare,” as candidate Barack Obama described it in 2008.

What could go wrong?

The FBI is building a massive facial recognition database that could contain as many as 52 million images by 2015, according to information obtained by the EFF via a freedom of information request.

The agency’s Next Generation Identification (NGI) system is an update to its existing fingerprint database – which itself contains over 100 million records – and has been in development for years.

In addition to photos, it also includes biometric data such as iris scans and palm prints.

Why can’t they see this coming?

It is quite possible that the ACA is shaping up as the greatest act of fiscal irresponsibility ever committed by federal legislators. Nothing immediately comes to mind as comparable to it. Certainly no tax legislation is, because tax rates rise and fall frequently, such that one Congress’s tax cut can be (and often is) undone by a later tax increase. The same is true for legislation affecting appropriated spending programs. But the ACA is a commitment to permanently subsidize comprehensive health insurance for millions who could not otherwise afford it, which the federal government has no viable plan to finance. Moreover, experience shows that it is very difficult to scale back such spending once large numbers of Americans have been made dependent on it.

He’s made his point.

Now it is time to pay his taxes. He should try to negotiaate a deal.

Shooting in Gaza.

The prime minister of the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip on Tuesday praised a shooting that killed an Israeli and wounded his wife and son as they drove through the West Bank the previous evening en route to a Seder, the traditional Passover meal that starts the weeklong Jewish holiday.

Speaking in Gaza, Ismail Haniyeh said the attack outside the city of Hebron “brought back life to the path of resistance” against Israel and warned of more attacks in the territory. No one claimed responsibility for the attack, the latest incident to threaten peace talks with the Palestinians.

That’s a little like not giving out the medicine to see if the patient still survives.

Obama leaves loophole open for NSA to exploit zero-day vulnerabilities

Slideshow

This one’s political.

When you boil it down …

… the answers show up in the numbers.

Statistical Frauds of the Left

If I was borrowing 40 cents on every dollar I spent I would be cautious too.

A debate over reauthorizing the Export-Import Bank is threatening to deepen tensions between House conservatives and the Republican leadership, prompting Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) to tread carefully after striking a deal with Democrats in 2012.

The authorization for the bank expires at the end of September, but the chairman of the Financial Services Committee, Rep. Jeb Hensarling (R-Tex.), is already trying to rally conservatives against the move after watching the leadership sidestep his committee on a flood insurance bill earlier this year.

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Cantor, meanwhile, has privately told members he does not intend to get involved this time around, a message that some see as an indication that he is wary of battling conservatives angered by a number of his recent legislative moves.

Good idea.

Alzheimer’s disease, the primary cause of dementia in the elderly, imposes a tremendous social and economic burden on modern society. Unfortunately, it has proven very difficult to develop drugs capable of ameliorating the disease. After a tremendous burst of progress in the 1990s, the pace of discoveries has slowed. Part of the difficulty is the inadequacy of current mouse models to replicate the real conditions of Alzheimer’s disease and allow an understanding of the underlying mechanisms that lead to neurodegeneration. Scientists have now reported the creation of two new mouse models of Alzheimer’s disease that may potentially revolutionize research into this disease.

Another suggestion for paswords.

This Simple Trick Could Solve All Of Your Password Problems

For example, you might want to think of a movie that reminds you of one of your best friends to help you create a strong Facebook password. Grab the most memorable line from that movie.

Could work.

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