Wednesday, April 20, 2011

How Apple tracks your location without consent, and why it matters

Source: Ars Technica

Two security researchers have discovered a simple way to map out where you've been almost anywhere in the world—without any hacking involved. The information comes from a location cache file found within your iPhone's backups on your Mac or PC, bringing out serious privacy concerns and opening the door for a jealous spouse, thief, or even a crafty trojan to take a detailed look at your whereabouts. And it's information that no one should have access to—not even law enforcement, barring a court order.

This is a Suspicious News Brief. Read more at Ars Technica.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Japan to Release Low-Level Radioactive Water Into Ocean


Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) said Monday that it would release almost 11,500 tons of water contaminated with low levels of radiation from the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant into the Pacific Ocean as workers struggle to contain the increasing amounts of dangerous runoff resulting from efforts to cool the plant’s damaged reactors. The water to be released is being dumped to make storage room available for water with more dangerous levels of radiation.

TEOCO has been pumping hundreds of tons of water into four of the six reactors at Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station to cool the nuclear fuel in the reactor core and in spent fuel storage pools. While much of that water is evaporating, a significant amount has also been discovered in various parts of the plant, which was crippled by the 9.0 magnitude earthquake and tsunami that struck northeast Japan on March 11.

TEPCO has said it has little choice but to pump more water into the reactors at the moment, since the normal cooling systems at the plant are inoperable and extensive amounts of radioactive material would be released if the reactors melted down fully or if the rods caught fire.

Earlier on Monday, workers’ efforts to plug a leak of contaminated water from the nuclear plant by using sawdust, shredded newspaper and an absorbent powder appeared to be failing. Water with high amounts of radioactive iodine has been leaking directly into the Pacific Ocean from a large crack discovered Saturday in a six-foot-deep pit next to the seawater intake pipes at the No. 2 reactor.

Experts estimate that about seven tons an hour of radioactive water is escaping the pit. Safety officials have said that the water contains one million becquerels per liter of iodine 131, or about 10,000 times the levels normally found in water at a nuclear plant.

This is a Suspicious News Brief.
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Sunday, April 3, 2011

The New Jim Crow: Mass Inceration of African American Men

Source: LA Progressive

“More African American men are in prison or jail, on probation or parole than were enslaved in 1850, before the Civil War began,” Michelle Alexander told a standing room only house at the Pasadena Main Library this past Wednesday, the first of many jarring points she made in a riveting presentation. Alexander, currently a law professor at Ohio State, had been brought in to discuss her year-old bestseller, The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness.

Growing crime rates over the past 30 years don’t explain the skyrocketing numbers of black —and increasingly brown —men caught in America’s prison system. “Most of that increase is due to the War on Drugs, a war waged almost exclusively in poor communities of color,” she said, even though studies have shown that whites use and sell illegal drugs at rates equal to or above blacks.

In some black inner-city communities, four of five black youth can expect to be caught up in the criminal justice system during their lifetimes. As a consequence, a great many black men are disenfranchised, said Alexander —prevented because of their felony convictions from voting and from living in public housing, discriminated in hiring, excluded from juries, and denied educational opportunities.

The War on Drugs is like America’s other war addiction. It wont be easy to reduce the spending. We have built a massive war machine —one bigger than all the other countries in the world combined —with millions of well-paid defense industry jobs and billions of dollars at stake. “If we were to return prison populations to 1970 levels, before the War on Drugs began,” she said. “More than a million people working in the system would see their jobs disappear.”

Part two of this series of articles focuses on what is driving the growth in the prison population and prison-based gerrymandering.

Prison Population Growth

Many of the people who read Dick’s article questioned whether the natural growth in the U.S. population could explain the growth of the prison population. The Justice Department released a report that makes it clear that the rate of growth in the prison population far exceeds the rate of growth in the U.S. population.

ABC News ran a report in response to the Justice Department’s announcement that the United States had 2.3 million inmates in custody. Speaking of the Justice Department report, ABC News said:

The report provides a breakdown, noting “of the 2.3 million inmates in custody, 2.1 million were men and 208,300 were women. Black males represented the largest percentage (35.4 percent) of inmates held in custody, followed by white males (32.9 percent) and Hispanic males (17.9 percent).”

The United States leads the industrialized world in incarceration. In fact, the U.S. rate of incarceration (762 per 100,000) is five to eight times that of other highly developed countries, according to The Sentencing Project, a criminal justice think tank.

Prison-Based Gerrymandering

Census residence rules require that people who are incarcerated be counted at their places of incarceration on Census Day as opposed to their home addresses while, at the same time, almost without exception these people do not have the right to vote. Most prisons are constructed in rural areas yet most people who are incarcerated come from urban areas. The shift in population from urban to rural increases the political clout of rural communities while decreasing the political clout of urban communities.

The NAACP Legal Defense fund reports: This residence rule skews the balance of political power by inflating the population counts of communities where prisons are located by including the non-voting prison populations in these districts during the redistricting process. Over the last several decades, the percentage of Americans incarcerated in prisons has increased four-fold. Incarcerated persons are often held in areas that are geographically and demographically far removed from their home communities. For instance, although non-metropolitan counties contain only 20% of the national population, they host 60% of new prisons.

In addition, because Latinos and African Americans are incarcerated at three to seven times the rate of Whites, where incarcerated people are counted has tremendous implications for how African-American and Latino populations are reflected in the census, and, consequently, how these communities are impacted through redistricting.

This is a Suspicious News Brief. Read more at LA Progressive.
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Earth Getting Mysteriously Windier

Source: National Geographic

The world has gotten stormier over the past two decades—and the reason is a mystery, a new study says.

In the past 20 years, winds have picked up around 5 percent on average. Extremely strong winds caused by storms have increased even faster, jumping 10 percent over 20 years, according to the new analysis of global satellite data.

The study, the first to look at wind speeds across such a large swath of the planet, bolsters some earlier findings, according to study leader Ian Young, of the Swinburne University of Technology in Melbourne, Australia. "Some regional studies had found similar results, so we suspected there may be an increasing trend," Young said.

This is a Suspicious News Brief. Read more at National Geographic.
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Friday, April 1, 2011

MIT's artificial leaf is ten times more efficient than the real thing

Source: Wired UK

An advanced solar cell about the size of a playing card is as much as ten times more efficient at carrying out photosynthesis than a natural leaf. It is made of widely available materials --like silicon, electronics and chemical catalysts. With a single gallon of water, the chip could produce enough electricity to power a house in a developing country for an entire day. Provide every house on the planet with an artificial leaf and we could satisfy our 14 terrawatt need with just one gallon of water a day.

This is a Suspicious News Brief. Read more at Wired UK.
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