Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Alabama town hit by tornadoes bans FEMA trailers

CORDOVA, Ala. -- James Ruston’s house was knocked off its foundation by tornadoes that barreled through town last month and is still uninhabitable. He thought help had finally arrived when a truck pulled up to his property with a mobile home from the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
Then he got the call: Single-wide mobile homes, like the FEMA one, are illegal in the city of Cordova.
The city’s refusal to let homeless residents occupy temporary housing provided by FEMA has sparked outrage in this central Alabama town of 2,000, with angry citizens filling a meeting last week and circulating petitions to remove the man many blame for the decision, Mayor Jack Scott. 


Mayor Jack Scott discusses the city’s decision to ban FEMA mobile homes as temporary housing for tornado survivors. Residents are angry about the decision partly because the city allowed its police headquarters to move into a mobile home similar to the FEMA rigs, and the temporary City Hall where Scott stands is in an even smaller trailer.


Ruston and many others view the city’s decision as heartless, a sign that leaders don’t care that some people are barely surviving in the rubble of a blue-collar town.
“People have to live somewhere. What’s it matter if it’s in a trailer?” asked Felicia Boston, standing on the debris-strewn lot where a friend has lived in a tent since a tornado destroyed his home on April 27.
Scott has heard all the complaints, and he isn’t apologizing. He said he doesn’t want run-down mobile homes parked all over town years from now.
“I don’t feel guilty,” he said. “I can look anyone in the eye.”
Located about 35 miles northwest of Birmingham, Cordova was hit by a pair of powerful tornadoes on April 27.
An EF-3 twister with winds of at least 140 mph slammed into the town around 5:30 a.m., knocking out power and damaging numerous buildings. An EF-4 with winds around 170 mph struck about 12 hours later, killing four people and cutting a path of destruction a half-mile wide through town.
Residents whose homes were destroyed assumed they would be able to live in one of the hundreds of long, skinny mobile homes that FEMA is providing as temporary housing for tornado victims. After all, the Cordova Police Department, a pharmacy, a bank and City Hall all have moved into similar trailers.
But the city enacted a law three years ago that bans the type of mobile homes provided by FEMA, called single-wide trailers. Older single-wide mobile homes were grandfathered in under the law and double-wide mobile homes are still allowed, Scott said, but new single-wides aren’t allowed and a tornado isn’t any reason to change the law, even temporarily. 


Monday, May 30, 2011

Phishing Sites Hosted on Google's Servers  —

Google Docs allows users to create documents, spreadsheets, et cetera at google.com (hosted in Google's cloud):  —  Spreadsheets can even contain functionality, such as forms, and these can be published to the whole world

Google Docs allows users to create documents, spreadsheets, et cetera at google.com (hosted in Google's cloud):

Spreadsheets can even contain functionality, such as forms, and these can be published to the whole world.

Unfortunately, that means we regularly see phishing sites via Google Docs spreadsheets and hosted on spreadsheets.google.com.

Here are some examples:

These are nasty attacks, as the phishing pages are hosted on the real google.com, complete with a valid SSL certificate.

While researching these, we ran into this Google spreadsheet form:

And for the life of us, we just can't figure out if this is phishing or if it's a valid page run by Google.

Initially, the page obviously looks like phishing: it's hosted on the public spreadsheets.google.com server where anyone can host forms. And it asks for your Google Voice number, your e-mail address and the secret PIN code.

But then, you can also find that apparent Google Employees are linking to the form.

So, we can't figure it out. Can you?

Here's the URL to the form:


We don't recommend using the form.

Updated to add: The consensus on Twitter seems to be that it's a phishing site. The jury's still out though.


Rapist penis 

cut off


"When he tried to rape her, the woman cut off his penis with a knife," said police chief Abul Khaer - © SXC (icon image)

A 40 - year-old woman in Bangladesh has cut off the penis of her rapist and taken to the police.

As the police announced on Monday, the married mother of three children was in her little house in Jhalakathi district about 200 kilometers south of capital Dhaka surprised by the offender in his sleep.

"When he tried to rape her, the woman cut off his penis with a knife"
Police said Abul Khaer the news agency AFP. "They grabbed him in cling film and put him as evidence to the police station." The alleged perpetrator is in the hospital for the time being, was brought charges against him. (APA)

Xray of dog drinking water

Ever wondered what that would look like, well here you go.


Adunok-M robot can hit targets at 800 meters

The Adunok-M, a remote-controlled observation and weapon system on display at the MILEX-2011 show in Minsk, was developed in Belarus. According to the design engineers, the system is intended to replace a soldier on the battlefield. The Adunok-M is a package of weapons and special devices mounted on a mobile six-wheel platform controlled by an operator from a distance. The system is capable of engaging and infantry at a distance of up to 800 meters. The robot is controlled by a trackball and a joystick. The former is used to lay out a general course, while the latter serves to make slight adjustments to its movement.



Sunday, May 29, 2011

Keeping the art of glassblowing alive

The art of glassblowing was invented nearly 5,000 years ago in Egypt. Today, much glassware is formed and produced mechanically; however, there still exist some masters of the art. One of these masters, Ryan Bledsoe, expresses his enthusiasm in glassblowing.- David Burghardt


Herpes virus kills elephants in Berlin Zoo


It hasn’t been a good year for Berlin Zoo. First celebrity polar bear Knut died suddenly in March, now a baby elephant has succumbed to a virus.

Two-year old female elephant Ko Raya died on Friday, after suffering from a type of elephant herpes. It is the same disease that killed her sister Shaina Pali just eight weeks ago.

Ko Raya had been under the weather for the past few days and on Friday morning she was fell over during a mud bath and died.

“Her mother wanted to get her to stand up,” eyewitness Sigrid H. (75) told mass-circulation paper
Bild. “Ko Raya didn’t have any more strength. Suddenly all the elephants started trumpeting together. I think they wanted to call for help.”

Veterinarian Dr. Andreas Ochs explained that although the zookeepers rushed to the elephant, it was too late. “She was already dead.”

The herpes virus can be fatal to Asian elephants and it has already killed two other animals at the zoo over the past few years. “The virus spreads through the blood,” Ochs explained to
Bild. “It attacks the internal organs, damaging the liver, intestines and heart muscles.”

Zoo Director Bernhard Blaskiewitz says the staff feel helpless in the face of the deadly disease which has left the zoo with just six elephants. “There is simply nothing we can do.”

The Local/DPA/smd


‘Green’ cars battle for eco-marathon title


It's a motor rally with a difference: souped-up "green" vehicles going head to head in an international eco-marathon to see who runs the longest on as little energy as possible.

Germany's Eurospeedway Lausitz, around 130 kilometres (80 miles) south of Berlin, is hosting the Shell Eco-marathon this week where nearly 3,000 participants are putting the world's most fuel-efficient vehicles to the test.

On three wheels or four, and running on solar power, electricity or standard fuels, the around 200 energy-efficient vehicles were designed and built by teams of school and university students from 26 countries.

The winner of the three-day rally, to be crowned on Saturday, will go the farthest using the least amount of energy.

The competition is divided into two categories: urban concept, in which the vehicles look fairly similar to existing cars, and prototypes, featuring futuristic new beasts of the road.

Some teams have been here all week, allowing them to test out their lean, mean, green machines on the track and find any dead weight or friction.

"It's a major concern all over the world, to reduce greenhouse gases and consumption of fuel and go for new modes of energy," said Farid Touati, representing the team from Qatar University.

"That is why we are here today: to participate, to learn from the expertise of teams from all over the world."

Touati said his team was also considering competing in to the next Shell Eco-marathon in Asia, in Kuala Lumpur from July 6 to 9, with their solar prototype and an urban concept.

Organizers say the aim is to give a dash of fun to what will be one of the fundamental challenges of industrialized societies in the coming years.

"A variety of fuels and techniques will be needed to meet the growing demand for mobility, while limiting CO2 emissions," said Peter Voser, chief executive of Anglo-Dutch energy giant Shell, which sponsors the rally.

"Innovation in technology is important in helping us to deliver smarter products, smarter use and smarter infrastructure."

Each vehicle has four tests over the three days. The prototypes complete eight laps (about 25 kilometres) and the so-called "urban concepts" six (around 20 kilometres).

On this basis, referees tally up how far they could have gone on a litre of petrol, or its equivalent in renewable energy.

"The Lausitz track is fantastic, and the temperature is ideal - between 20 and 25 degrees (Celsius, 68 to 77 degrees Fahrenheit) but there's too much wind for a record," said Philippe Maindru, teacher at the La Joliverie secondary school in western France.

But with the sun baking on the tarmac, "the temperature inside (the car) can rise to 50 degrees", said one of the students on the team, concerned about his friend who has just enough room to lie down in the cabin of his flying white arrow proudly emblazoned with the number one.

La Joliverie has held the world record since 2009 for the longest distance "travelled" on one litre of fuel: 3,771 kilometres, which would get the French students almost to Baghdad.

However the all-time record for the Shell Eco-marathon, launched in 1985 in southern France, was set last year by a team coached by Maindru using a prototype hydrogen fuel cell, which "travelled" 4,896 kilometres - nearly the distance from Paris to Tehran.

Mustering 3,682 kilometres using fuel and 4,397 kilometres using a hydrogen cell during the first of their four official tests, the students from Nantes have already set the bar high.

Maindru is convinced they could hit the 6,000-kilometre mark with the hydrogen cell prototype in less blustery conditions.

The urban concept vehicles, which are not as aerodynamic, post less flashy but still impressive records: 1,246 kilometres for a hydrogen-powered car from Norway, 589 kilometres for a petrol-driven car from Denmark.



Netherlands wants hashish Tourism stop



Foreigners are allowed to continue in the Dutch hashish Local no longer be served. So will the Conservative government in The Hague, the excavation drug tourism water. The implementation of the now agreed by the Cabinet Anti- Drugs However, measures should be initiated only after the summer, as the Justice Ministry confirmed on Saturday.

Then gradually all have around 670 coffee shops, which now is in the sale and consumption of marijuana, hashish and other soft drugs are tolerated officially transformed into a closed club. They can sell their hemp intoxicating products but to club members, but which foreigners are excluded.

For full-year-old Dutchman may be included as members, said Justice Minister Ivo Opstelten of the right-wing People's Party for Freedom and Democracy (VVD). You would have to continue membership card and show identification to be admitted. In addition, the number of members allowed per hashish Club between 1,000 and 1,500 limited.

The Government is clear that this visit will be fewer foreign tourists, the Netherlands, the minister said. The main objective was, however, the containment of organized crime, which has developed in recent years around the coffee shops. Opposition politicians warned that the measures will result in the illegal street trade blossoms with drugs again.


Iran Plans to Unplug Internet, Create Its Own

Tehran aims to put all citizens 

on internal network


Iran is waging war on open Internet. Looking to limit the cyber-infiltration of Western ideas, Iran's telecommunications chief claimed that, in two years time, all Iranians would be forced to use a state-censored, fully-internal Internet. About 60% of the nation's homes and businesses are expected to be on it much sooner than that, he added. Iran sees the move toward heightened online policing as a way to uphold Islamic moral values, though whether it can truly block the world's Internet remains an open question, the Wall Street Journal reports.
Iran has seen a proliferation of pro-democracy blogs and anti-regime activity made viral by Facebook and Twitter, and Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and other top officials support Internet regulation as a response to the "soft war" waged on them by the West. The country first plans to roll out its new network in parallel with the existing, open network, but expects to eventually make a full switch. The 11% of citizens who have Internet access will be forced to use a non-Microsoft operating system and a Google alternative called "Ya Hagh"

(Oh, Justice). Click to read about Hosni Mubarak's penalty for trying to unplug his nation.

Libya rebel airstrip


50 State Stereotypes 

(in 2 minutes)



Friday, May 27, 2011

Facebook Hires Former Bush Staffers

Facebook stepped up its Washington, D.C., presence, hiring two former Bush administration officials to fill out its office in the nation's capital. We discuss with Julia Angwin.

Secret G8 memo reveals outbreak of internet harmony

A private memo from within the G8 meeting on Thursday between internet chiefs and world leaders indicates strong levels of support from Barack Obama, David Cameron, Nicolas Sarkozy and co for the principles of internet freedom put forward by Facebook, Google and their peers.
The confidential document, seen by the FT, supports the
 internet’s role in furthering the distribution of knowledge and free speech, broadly accepting a light-touch, internationally harmonized approach to regulation.
This private view from inside the Deauville meeting – billed as a potential clash between internet entrepreneurship and a French president hell-bent on taming the web – suggests a much more friendly and positive exchange.
The leaked document sets out around a dozen of the G8 leaders’ responses to the presentation by Eric Schmidt of Google, Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook and Yuri Milner of DST Global, as well as France Telecom’s Stephane Richard, Rakuten’s Hiroshi Mikitani and Publicis Group’s Maurice Levy.
The very first item holds up the internet as a vehicle for the positive forces in society that helped bring about the end of the cold war. Although the web can scarcely have played much role of a in the fall of the Berlin wall, it’s an eye-catching comparison that puts the internet on an even bigger pedestal than the latest Arab spring may indicate.
Other items include advocating the faster deployment of fiber-optic broadband, greater cooperation on cyber security and “open data” principles for governments. Everyone in the room opposed internet censorship in any form, and said every nation has a role to play in keeping the web “open”.
There was even acknowledgement of the need to update some aspects of copyright – albeit more along the lines of the UK’s Hargreaves Review proposals to allow things like format-shifting, rather than the radical overhaul advocated by Lawrence Lessig and John Perry Barlow at the e-G8 Forum in Paris earlier this week.
On the crucial issue of privacy, the G8 leaders seem to have heeded Mr Zuckerberg’s plea not to conflate greater protection of personal information with a broad-brush regulation of social networks and other web services.
The very fact that a passage confirming the G8 leaders’ commitment to a “strong and flourishing internet” has been included in the public declaration is a great endorsement of the technology industry’s “essential” role in today’s society.
Both David Cameron and Barack Obama have made much of their internet-friendly approach to government. (Indeed, some have criticised Mr Cameron for being too close to Google.) And political smiles behind closed doors don’t always result in public action.
Nonetheless, the meeting must have given the internet delegation further confidence that it was worth making the short-notice trip to France. Perhaps we can expect to see an e-G8 every year.


second Texan Republic?

From Scotland to Quebec to … Texas? That’s right secessionism is alive and well on a number of points on the world map.
The people of Scotland seek secession through electoral politics by granting the SNP (Scottish National Party) solid control of the Scottish Parliament. Now the party plans to put forth a voter referendum to secede from the UK.
What if similar events unfolded in the United States? What is the Texas legislature elected a pro-secessionist party into the majority and were asked to vote on a referendum to secede from the Union? How would America respond?
After all Texas Governor Rick Perry himself has said that if Texas so chose the state reserved the right to secede and form an independent nation if it wanted to.
Radio host and Texas resident Alex Jones explained that the sentiment to seek independence in Texas is very strong and always has been. In fact, Texas was an independent republic prior to joining the United States.
“It’s known as the Lone Star State,” he said. “It’s codified, anytime Texas wants to pull out of the Union it can instantly. That’s the treaty, it’s on record.”
Based on common organic law and the founding principles of the US, Jones argued that all peoples have a right to seek self governance for the defense of their rights and liberties.
“Secession movements are growing worldwide because people don’t like big corrupt central corporate run empires running their lives,” Jones added.
He argued that the people want to remove themselves from higher forms of government that impose rules and a globalist agenda.
Texas would be better off independent, Jones argued, explaining that there is enough people and economic industry in the state that would it to be fully self sustaining.
“Texas has more resources, produces more wealth than California,” he noted. “There have been a lot of international studies done that Texas would be much better off.
The US government has become corrupt and the main concern for many in America – including Texans. Jones explained that he did not favor secession, but did desire to see the federal government return to a small government framework which feared the people.


‘Whisker Wars’



Block Big Brother’s Internet snoops

Online protections against the government’s unconstitutional Web searches are needed


Americans are moving more and more of our personal data onto the Internet. We send and save emails through Hotmail and Gmail. We share photos with Flickr and post videos on YouTube. We set up everything from our calendars to video rentals so they can be managed remotely from our cellphones and multiple computers.
What most Americans don’t realize is that if the government wants to read your emails, look at your pictures or gain access to any data that you have stored online for more than 180 days on sites including Yahoo! Google Docs and online backup sites, it can do so without a search warrant. Data saved online is not protected by the Fourth Amendment in the same way that information is protected if it is stored on a home computer, CD or detachable hard drive.
A new bill introduced by Sen. Patrick J. Leahy, Vermont Democrat, is a good step toward closing this huge loophole. The bill would extend due-process provisions against illegal wiretapping in the ancient and outdated 25-year-old Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA). It would update the ECPA to include personal files and information that is stored in online data centers owned and operated by third parties, known in tech circles as the “cloud.” Under Mr. Leahy’s bill, the government would be forced to secure a warrant if it wanted access to emails or other information you have stored online.
Right now, the law only protects the privacy of data while it’s moving across the network. It leaves vulnerable any information that might be saved in the thousands of data centers nationwide. These are virtual lockboxes, with no functional distinction from a home PC disk drive, which in turn has little functional distinction from a locked desk drawer. As online services and applications evolve and become more popular, it is critical that these privacy and due-process protections extend to data saved online. Public cloud infrastructure, applications and platforms are growing rapidly. A comScore study calculated that more than 153 million people visited Web-based email providers in November 2010 alone. And the International Data Corp. found that at the end of 2010, 34 percent of Internet users stored personal pictures online, 7 percent stored personal videos, 5 percent paid to store files and 5 percent backed up their hard drives by uploading data to websites. These numbers are all expected to grow.
Today, the government can access most of that personal data without even bothering to get a search warrant. And law enforcement agencies already have shown that they will take advantage of any lack of specific constitutional safeguards to access private data. Using the Patriot Act, the FBI demanded that phone companies turn over thousands of calling records of U.S. citizens in what amounted to a fishing expedition under the guise of the war on terror. The courts found this illegal. The new bill would codify this and require federal, state and local law enforcement agencies to provide a name, address and probable cause before demanding a search warrant for private phone records. The same would apply to Internet Protocol (IP) addresses and the geolocational information that cellphones and dashboard navigational devices collect.
This protection is badly needed. At the same time, the bill could be strengthened even more if, as the American Civil Liberties Union suggests, there were stricter reporting requirements about the use of online surveillance and greater safeguards against the use of “emergency exemptions” that could undermine the bill’s aims.
The current ECPA was passed in 1986 and is in desperate need of updating. It was written when communications were mostly done over land-line phones. The Internet was just in its infancy and still unknown to most. The Fourth Amendment delineates the right of citizens to be “secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects.” Our legal system needs to keep up with technology instead of giving government ways to use it for end runs around the Constitution.







Westboro Baptist Church “Thanks God” for Joplin Victims

The Westboro Baptist Church (WBC) has found a new group of people to rally against. The Kansas church, most infamous for its hatred of homosexuals, posted a document last Monday on its website celebrating the deaths of the Joplin, Missouri tornado victims.
“Thank God for 89 dead & counting in Joplin, Mo & 1 dead in Reading, KS!” the document declared in capital letters. “God’s whirlwind is pounding the enemies of Christ! WBC will picket your raging blasphemous stinky memorials!”


The members believe this tragedy in Joplin—and all other tragedies around the world—happened because God wants to punish people for homosexuality. The group plans to protest at the memorial service planned for Sunday, and will rally against President Barack Obama’s visit as well.
“Enter stage left Antichrist himself —Beast Barack Obama—with big-mouth trumpeting about Rebuilding,” a new document, posted yesterday, said.  “God’s promised you will not rebuild brutes!”
WBC has recently gained media attention by picketing at soldier funerals, and members claim Missouri Governor Jay Nixon has attacked them by supporting laws prohibiting protesting at these services.
But before WBC goes to Missouri, they plan to protest outside three high schools in Savannah, Georgia tomorrow. They protested outside several Savannah churches last Sunday.
To help promote unity within the town and to contrast Westboro’s message, community groups in Savannah held a candlelight vigil on Wednesday to promote peace.
“These people should be ashamed of themselves,” Chastity Bingham said in a comment on ozarksfirst.com. “If I was there I would definitely have a hard time not attacking them! These people disturb me deeply!”

The WBC group sometimes referred to as a cult, has previously praised Arizona Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords’ shooter, protested against Jews at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C. and has renamed Australia “Sodom.” The WBC also parodies songs by popular artists such as The Beatles and Lady Gaga.
WBC is led by Fred Phelps and about 85% of its followers are related by blood or marriage. More information about the church can be found on its website


Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg: Only Eating What He Kills



Mark Zuckerberg waged war on goats, lobsters, chickens and any other animal he develops a craving for. The Facebook CEO has announced, “The only meat I’m eating is from animals I’ve killed myself.”
As part of his diet Zuckerberg has been killing lobsters, goats, pigs and chickens but for the most part he says ”I’m eating a lot healthier foods. And I’ve learned a lot about sustainable farming and raising of animals,” he says. “It’s easy to take the food we eat for granted when we can eat good things every day.”
The goal was realized when he posted to his 800+ direct Facebook friends:
“I just killed a pig and a goat.”
Each year Zuckerberg focuses on a person goal, last year it was to learn Chinese and given his hunger to learn I wouldn’t be surprised if he’s already reached that goal.
Apparently Zuckerberg uses the most “humane” method for killing the animals, such as “cutting the goat’s throat” and he eats everything he kills, which in many ways is more economical and responsible then picking over the best pieces of meat in the supermarket. In fact Zuckerberg recently ate chicken heart and liver and all of the other parts that often get thrown away.
Before you make up your mind about Zuckerberg’s new practice check out this email he sent to Fortune:
To start, let me give you some background on what I’m doing. Every year in recent memory, I’ve taken on a personal challenge — something to learn about the world, expand my interests and teach myself greater discipline. I spend almost all of my time building Facebook, so these personal challenges are all things I wouldn’t normally have the chance to do if I didn’t take the time.
Last year, for example, my personal challenge was to learn Chinese. I blocked out an hour every day to study and it has been an amazing experience so far. I’ve always found learning new languages challenging, so I wanted to jump in and try to learn a hard one. It has been a very humbling experience. With language, there’s no way to just “figure it out” like you can with other problems — you just need to practice and practice. The experience of learning Mandarin has also led me to travel to China, learn about its culture and history, and meet a lot of new interesting people.
This year, my personal challenge is around being thankful for the food I have to eat. I think many people forget that a living being has to die for you to eat meat, so my goal revolves around not letting myself forget that and being thankful for what I have. This year I’ve basically become a vegetarian since the only meat I’m eating is from animals I’ve killed myself. So far, this has been a good experience. I’m eating a lot healthier foods and I’ve learned a lot about sustainable farming and raising of animals.
I started thinking about this last year when I had a pig roast at my house. A bunch of people told me that even though they loved eating pork, they really didn’t want to think about the fact that the pig used to be alive. That just seemed irresponsible to me. I don’t have an issue with anything people choose to eat, but I do think they should take responsibility and be thankful for what they eat rather than trying to ignore where it came from.
Zuckerberg started small with the Lobster before moving onto the chicken, next up? Twitter users and Google employees. All kidding aside, he’s eating the entire kill and taking the responsibility of that kill into his own hands, good for him.


China used prisoners in lucrative internet gaming work

Labor camp detainees endure hard labor by day, online 'gold farming' by night


Chinese prisoners were forced into 'gold farming' – building up credits on online games such as World of Warcraft.

As a prisoner at the Jixi labor camp, Liu Dali would slog through tough days breaking rocks and digging trenches in the open cast coalmines of north-east China. By night, he would slay demons, battle goblins and cast spells.
Liu says he was one of scores of prisoners forced to play online games to build up credits that prison guards would then trade for real money. The 54-year-old, a former prison guard who was jailed for three years in 2004 for "illegally petitioning" the central government about corruption in his hometown, reckons the operation was even more lucrative than the physical labor that prisoners were also forced to do.
"Prison bosses made more money forcing inmates to play games than they do forcing people to do manual labor," 
Liu told the Guardian. "There were 300 prisoners forced to play games. We worked 12-hour shifts in the camp. I heard them say they could earn 5,000-6,000rmb [£470-570] a day. We didn't see any of the money. The computers were never turned off."
Memories from his detention at Jixi re-education-through-labor camp in Heilongjiang province from 2004 still haunt Liu. As well as backbreaking mining toil, he carved chopsticks and toothpicks out of planks of wood until his hands were raw and assembled car seat covers that the prison exported to South Korea and Japan. He was also made to memorize communist literature to pay off his debt to society.
But it was the forced online gaming that was the most surreal part of his imprisonment. The hard slog may have been virtual, but the punishment for falling behind was real.
"If I couldn't complete my work quota, they would punish me physically. They would make me stand with my hands raised in the air and after I returned to my dormitory they would beat me with plastic pipes. We kept playing until we could barely see things," he said.
It is known as "gold farming", the practice of building up credits and online value through the monotonous repetition of basic tasks in online games such as World of Warcraft. The trade in virtual assets is very real, and outside the control of the games' makers. Millions of gamers around the world are prepared to pay real money for such online credits, which they can use to progress in the online games.
The trading of virtual currencies in multiplayer games has become so rampant in China that it is increasingly difficult to regulate. In April, the Sichuan provincial government in central China launched a court case against a gamer who stole credits online worth about 3000rmb.
The lack of regulations has meant that even prisoners can be exploited in this virtual world for profit.
According to figures from the China Internet Center, nearly £1.2bn of make- believe currencies were traded in China in 2008 and the number of gamers who play to earn and trade credits are on the rise.
It is estimated that 80% of all gold farmers are in China and with the largest internet population in the world there are thought to be 100,000 full-time gold farmers in the country.
In 2009 the central government issued a directive defining how fictional currencies could be traded, making it illegal for businesses without licenses to trade. But Liu, who was released from prison before 2009 believes that the practice of prisoners being forced to earn online currency in multiplayer games is still widespread.
"Many prisons across the north-east of China also forced inmates to play games. It must still be happening," he said.
"China is the factory of virtual goods," said Jin Ge, a researcher from the University of California San Diego who has been documenting the gold farming phenomenon in China. "You would see some exploitation where employers would make workers play 12 hours a day. They would have no rest through the year. These are not just problems for this industry but they are general social problems. The pay is better than what they would get for working in a factory. It's very different," said Jin.
"The buyers of virtual goods have mixed feelings … it saves them time buying online credits from China," said Jin.
The emergence of gold farming as a business in China – whether in prisons or sweatshops could raise new questions over the exporting of goods real or virtual from the country.
"Prison labour is still very widespread – it's just that goods travel a much more complex route to come to the US these days. And it is not illegal to export prison goods to Europe, said Nicole Kempton from the Laogai foundation, a Washington-based group which opposes the forced labour camp system in China.

Liu Dali's name has been changed


Civil society speaks out, condemns attempts to regulate Internet

Civil society representatives gave an unofficial news conference this morning in one of the conference rooms of the “e-G8” forum on Internet issues in Paris, voicing their opposition to attempts to regulate the Internet and criticizing the lack of representativeness of most of those who were invited by the French government to take part in the forum.
Participants in the news conference – improvised at the last minute and not part of the forum’s official program – included Reporters Without Borders secretary-general Jean-François Julliard, Jérémie Zimmerman of the French NGO Quadrature du Net, former ICANN board member Susan Crawford, US journalist Jeff Jarvis and Creative Commons founder Lawrence Lessig, a specialist in copyright.
Jarvis said he was “scared by those who are scared of the Internet.” Julliard said he was “extremely disappointed” by the course taken by discussions during the e-G8 forum, including the lack of a strongly-worded message to governments that target journalists, bloggers and cyber-dissidents.
“The free Internet must be defended before thought is given to regulating content,” Julliard said. “The priority for G8 governments should be defending the Internet.”
Julliard made similar comments when he took part in a panel discussion today on “Electronic Liberty: New Tools for Freedom,” an official part of the forum’s program. Other participants included Google representatives, Alec Ross of the US State Department, and journalists and activists from the Arab world.
“The G8 should say clearly that Internet access is a fundamental human right, before discussing anything else, whether economic development or copyright issues,” Julliard said.
He also accused certain democracies of saying one thing and doing another. He cited the US administration’s actions as regards WikiLeaks but said other democracies did not lag far behind. “It is easy to defend freedom of speech in Syria, but we should defend it in Italy, Australia and France as well.”

Joint appeal to e-G8 participants by more than 30 NGOs
25 May 2011
Reporters Without Borders is one of the signatories of the attached letter to the organizers and participants of the two-day “e-G8” forum on Internet issues which the French government began hosting in Paris yesterday ahead of the G8 summit that will begin in Deauville tomorrow.
The letter calls for issues involving online freedom of expression to be on the G8 summit agenda. Only two NGOs were invited to take part in the e-G8 forum: Reporters Without Borders and the Electronic Frontier Foundation. Reporters Without Borders is due to participate in a workshop at 11:30 a.m. today on “Electronic Liberty: New Tools for Freedom.”
The letter, whose 36 signatories also include Access Now, Attac and La Quadrature Du Net, asks the e-G8 participants and the G8 member states “to publicly commit to expanding internet access for all, combating digital censorship and surveillance, limiting online intermediary liability, and upholding principles of net neutrality.”
A press Conference is to be held at 11:00am on Wednesday 25 May at the e-G8 Networking Space (outside) with the participation of Jean Francois Julliard, Secretary-General, Reporters Without Borders, Jeremie Zimmerman, spokesperson, La Quadrature du Net, Susan Crawford, member of ICANN board of directors (2005-2008), to rally against calls for Internet regulation.
After French President Nicolas Sarkozy delivered his opening address to the forum yesterday, Reporters Without Borders secretary-general Jean-François Julliard was able to put a question to him about jailed bloggers and cyber-dissidents, especially in the Arab world. Julliard deplored the lack of support from France for these detainees and asked whether the democracies could not do something to help them.
President Sarkozy said in his reply that “all those who have tried to shut down the Internet in their country have put themselves in the camp of the dictators.” He added that “the Internet has become the watershed” between democracies and dictatorships.
In his speech, Sarkozy recognized the role that the Internet plays in “reinforcing democracy and social dialogue” but stressed that it has to accept “minimum values, and minimum rules.” He added: “Your actions must be part of the logic of civilization.”
Reiterating arguments used during the debates in France on the LOPPSI law (which introduced Internet content filtering as a way to combat online porn and paedophilia) and the HADOPI law (under which illegal downloaders can be deprived of an Internet connection), Sarkozy also called for “responsibility” from the forum’s participants.
“Don’t let the technology you created be used to attack children (…) spread evil, undermine security (…) and intellectual property rights,” he said.
France was added to the list of “countries under surveillance” in the report on “Enemies of the Internet” that Reporters Without Borders released on 11 March.






People of Walmart - Music Video 



Facebook Courting PayPal


After informing developers of the need to embrace OAuth and HTTPS (news a few developers didn’t enjoy), Facebook is now throwing developers a perk by allowing them to receive payments beyond Facebook Credits.
Starting today, developers signing up for Facebook Credits will have the option to use PayPal as a payout option. Adding PayPal offers more flexibility and choice for payouts and makes it even easier to monetize your app with Facebook Credits.
When signing up for Facebook Credits for the first time, you can now add an existing PayPal account in the onboarding flow. You can also sign up for a new PayPal account by securely repurposing all the information you entered for Credits Onboarding to create a PayPal account. (Facebook Developers Blog)
According to Facebook, over 250 developers upon 500 apps have embraced Facebook Credits, which although significant still seems small considering that the social giant boats thousands of apps.
By embracing PayPal, Facebook is able to attract more developers who might be weary of Facebook’s in house currency system, as well as expand in more countries where Facebook Credits is not an option.
For those of you who create apps upon Facebook, is the PayPal integration a blessing for your app? Also would you prefer another method besides PayPal and Facebook Credits?


Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Good Vibrations: U.S. Consumer Web Site Aims to Enhance Sex Toy Safety

Education and regulatory oversight for sex enhancement devices are in short supply. A new searchable database of consumers' product reports could be a valuable resource

We take it for granted that our hair dryers won't send us to the emergency room and our toothbrushes won't make us go numb. Unfortunately, the same can't be said about sex toys.
It's entirely possible that someone's favorite cyclotron vibrator can shell-shock nerves, penis rings might lead to a grievous case of penile gangrene or those little vibrating beads could slip upstream and become tragicomically lost in bodily cavities while still in the "on" position.
Not only is it possible, it happens. Yet the same manufacturers go on making the same poorly designed sex toys, and people go on using them in the same poorly informed ways. Education and regulatory oversight are in short supply.
Plus, there's the whole "Who, me?" issue.
"If somebody has an unsafe hair dryer, they aren't going to hesitate to call an attorney and sue about it," says Zach Biesanz, a class action litigation attorney in New York City and author of a 2007 paper, "Dildos, Artificial Vaginas and Phthalates: How Toxic Sex Toys Illustrate a Broader Problem for Consumer Protection," published in Law and Inequality: A Journal of Theory and Practice. "Nobody is embarrassed about using a hair dryer."
Not so for sexual-enhancement devices, which in several states are deemed "obscene devices" and banned from sale (although possessing them is perfectly legal).
Embarrassed or not, we're still buying them at unprecedented numbers. Devices that were previously available only from a doctor or shady "adult movie" store can now be found from well-known manufacturers at online retailers, in-home Tupperware-style parties, and in big-box stores. Condom-makers Durex, Trojan and LifeStyles all make personal vibrators. Even Walmart now sells penis rings. In North America alone sex toys are a $500-million-per-year industry—and growing.
But with increased use comes increased mishaps. An estimated 6,800 people showed up in U.S. hospitals between 1995 and 2006 with a sex toy emergency, according to a 2009 study published in the Journal of Sex & Marital Therapy—most often, people in their 30s who needed help retrieving their vibrator or dildo. In 2007 alone about 900 people had injuries severe enough that they were admitted to the hospital to remove a foreign body from their rectums.
These numbers only include people willing to recount to triage nurses their stories of erotic adventures gone awry; actual injury rates are likely much higher. And since 1998 even the published numbers have been steadily rising, the 2009 study found—perhaps not coincidentally after the "Rabbit" vibrator-homage episode of Sex and the City first aired.
In June 2010 two urology residents at University of California, San Francisco, alarmed at the number of preventable sex toy calamities they were treating, published an article in The Journal of Sexual Medicine to call physicians' attention to the issue.
"I don't know that the country is ready to address sex toys in a mature fashion, to make them something that's regulated," says Alan Shindel, co-author of the article and now an assistant professor of urology at the University of California, Davis.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration regulates medical device safety, yet most sex toy manufacturers make no medical claims for their products and often add "for novelty use only" disclaimers to dodge responsibility for erotic mishaps.
Even at the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, which oversees many everyday products, sex toys are lumped in with acupressure balls and wooden back-scratchers under "massage devices or vibrators," making sex-toy-specific statistics hard to find. There are no CPSC reports on sexual device safety, and specific product information is not publicly released.
Starting March 11, disgruntled sex toy users at least gained access to an empowering new outlet: a searchable public database for all kinds of products at SaferProducts.gov, run by the CPSC. Consumers are able to share tales of harm (or potential harm) from their dangerous sex gadgets. They can browse other consumers' experiences and read manufacturers' rebuttals.
"Sex toys are out there, they're being used, and for that reason it would be nice to have some kind of oversight," Shindel says. "But for the time being, people have to take charge and say, 'I'm not going to rely on a government agency to make sure the thing is safe for me. I'm going to learn about it myself.'"
Sexual chemistry
Perhaps the most obvious safe-sex-toy discussion starts with the question, "Exactly what chemicals am I exposing my nether regions to?" Sex toys come in a variety of materials—plastic, rubber, glass, wood and various combinations thereof. Glass just seems silly (although, in fact, what's used is supposedly shatterproof). But "safe" isn't always easy to define.
One possible villain: phthalates, a group of controversial plastic-softeners on California's Proposition 65 list of toxic chemicals, which has been linked with cancer, neurological and reproductive issues. In 2006 Greenpeace organizations in the Netherlands and U.K. called for the European Union to ban phthalates in sex toys.
Some shops, including Good Vibrations in San Francisco and Smitten Kitten in Minneapolis, have stopped carrying products with phthalates. Others, such as Babeland in Seattle, have started providing customers with information about products' materials and alternatives.
Yet research conducted by the Danish Environmental Protection Agency suggests a less-alarming story. Its experiments—involving simulated saliva, sweat and vaginal lubrication—found that using sex toys with phthalates was deemed to pose no excessive health risk, as long as use was limited to no more than one hour a day. (Pregnant and breast-feeding women were safe up to 15 minutes a week.) The study found other potentially toxic chemicals (such as cadmium and trimethyltin chloride) in a random selection of sex toys, but here also the exposure was too low to be dangerous.
Still, the easiest way to protect users from leaching chemicals (or just general dirt and germs) is to put a condom over the dildo or vibrator, experts say. Beyond that, choose lubricants wisely: In the Danish study, the leaching of chemicals was 100 times slower (and therefore less harmful) when used with water-based lubricants compared with oil-based ones.
Playing well
As any parent knows, a toy is only as safe as the crazy things its owner tries to do with it. Since many sexual devices do not come with instructions, here is some information to keep in mind:
Insertables: Losing one's grip is the biggest concern with internal devices. Vaginal toys cannot go too far astray, thanks to women's bumper-top cervix. But they can be difficult to retrieve, and can poke and tear tissue while lost. Best to use blunt, penis-shaped objects with a flared base, says gynecologist Leah Millheiser, director of the Female Sexual Medicine Program at Stanford University.
Anal objects, however, can easily get lost. During orgasm, powerful rectal muscles contract and can suck an object up and up, potentially obstructing the colon. A toy might be harmlessly flushed out, but it might also perforate tissue, leading to bleeding or infection. Use toys with a flared base or a string, Shindel says. Apply lots of lubricant, and choose toys designed for anal use because sharp ridges on vaginal dildos can tear more sensitive anal tissue. Hemorrhoid sufferers should be extra careful.
Size does matter: Gargantuan dildos might seem a fun idea but can tear delicate skin at the entrance to the vagina or anus, especially when enthusiastically inserted. In those moist environments wounds heal slowly, inviting re-injury or infection, Millheiser says.
External vibrators: These are not usually an emergency room affair, but unsafe clitoral stimulation is common. A 2009 Indiana University study published in the Journal of Sexual Medicine found that 53 percent of all women have used a vibrator, and 18 percent of those have had numbness, pain and other side effects. Known in the occupational-safety world as "vibratory strain injury," these problems may at first merely frustrate but can develop into chronic conditions.
To avoid vibrator fatigue, don't pay the clitoris too much direct attention, says Miriam Graham, a physical therapist in Rockville, Md., specializing in sexual issues. It's easy for the pudendal nerve (genitalia’s uplink to the brain) to be overwhelmed by constant vibration in such a small area and shut down.
Nerves like variety. One monotonous vibration—like hearing someone hum a single note endlessly—can tire them out quickly. Choose a vibrator with intensity settings and switch around, Graham says. Some devices even come with a repertoire of vibratory patterns that will keep nerves awake for longer.
And put up a barrier. After all, jackhammer workers use thick gloves to diffuse vibrations and prevent hand injury; vibrator users can put a sheet or underwear between the vibrator and clitoris as a barrier for protection, Graham says.
Penis rings: These account for only about 2 percent of sex toy ER visits, but when things go wrong, they can go really wrong, with rescue treatments sometimes involving firefighting equipment and partial amputation. 
Yet penile constriction devices (aka cock rings) can be safe if used correctly, Shindel says.
These rings are placed at the base of the penis and trap blood in the shaft during arousal, theoretically resulting in a firmer, longer lasting erection. The problem: tight rings trap too much blood, making them difficult to remove from the penis after ejaculation due to continued engorgement. In severe cases a lack of oxygen (medical term: "penile strangulation") can lead to blackened skin, gangrene or a urethral fistula, in which urine is diverted out into the penis through another passage.
Counterintuitively, soft rings—made of rubber or leather, for instance—can lead to more severe injuries, Shindel says, because it is tempting to fasten them too tightly. Trapped metal rings demand more heavy-machinery rescue techniques, but traumatic complications are usually milder. Also, tucking the scrotum as well as the shaft inside a ring seems to relieve compression on the penis and reduce injuries.
Leave them on for no more than one or two hours, Shindel says. Avoid drugs and alcohol: Many ER visits involve men who passed out after ejaculation only to wake up after it was too late. Men with diabetes or those taking blood thinners or aspirin should be extra careful.
Finally, know how to clean and store your toys. In the Indiana University study 14 percent of women admitted to never cleaning their vibrators—ever. Good sex shops will provide detailed information about sex toy materials and care—although explaining away the dildo in your dishwasher is left up to you.