Archive | August 5, 2013

NSA pays £100m in secret funding for GCHQ

gchq-logoNSA has been funding the UK’s largest intelligence agency to the tune of $100 million over the past three years…

Nick Hopkins and Julian Borger report for the Guardian.

Via The Guardian:

The US government has paid at least £100m to the UK spy agency GCHQ over the last three years to secure access to and influence over Britain’s intelligence gathering programmes.

The top secret payments are set out in documents which make clear that the Americans expect a return on the investment, and that GCHQ has to work hard to meet their demands. “GCHQ must pull its weight and be seen to pull its weight,” a GCHQ strategy briefing said.

The funding underlines the closeness of the relationship between GCHQ and its US equivalent, the National Security Agency. But it will raise fears about the hold Washington has over the UK’s biggest and most important intelligence agency, and whether Britain’s dependency on the NSA has become too great.

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A Coincidence Theorist’s Guide to Political Assassinations

The assassination of William McKinley

Via orwellwasright:

If there’s one thing Americans seem to enjoy, it’s killing their politicians: since 1825, at least 30 have been assassinated. Four of these were Presidents. But does this peculiar trait come from a cultural proclivity for psychopaths or a disgruntled, violently predisposed electorate, or is there an overarching conspiracy in place, something which ties these political assassinations to something more tangible than the “lone gunmen” explanations offered by “Official History”?

Here are some interesting correlations to be found when analyzing the economic policies and observations of some of these assassinated politicians – since correlation does not imply causation, consider this a “coincidence theorist’s” guide…

Andrew Jackson

President Jackson is widely remembered (by those who remember him) as a strong opponent of the National Bank. This was an early attempt to bring the US under the wings of the central banks which dominated European finance.… Read the rest

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Eating A Stem Cell Burger

Somehow I can’t see carnivores wanting to eat stem cell burgers, and I can’t see vegetarians deciding they are acceptable either! Nonetheless Melissa Hogenboom investigates the taste of these lab grown meat concoctions for BBC News:

The first lab-grown burger has now been cooked in a frying pan and tasted by two food writers. But did it live up to all its hype?

The event certainly did. It had the surreal vibe of a live TV food show rather than a science press conference, with presenter Nina Hossain fielding questions.

Chef Richard McGeown was tasked with frying the patty. He commented on its “fantastic colour” and its “nice inviting aroma”, but from where the media team sat, there was not a whiff of burger reaching our nostrils.

“It’s literally like cooking any other burger I’ve experienced before, a nice and pleasant aroma but very subtle at this stage,” added McGeown.

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Rise to the Call for Real American Media

Screen Shot 2013-08-05 at 2.19.40 PMRemember when corporate owned mainstream media was relevant? Me either. Not to any meaningful extent anyway. Of course, there are a few good exceptions. “60 Minutes” is not so bad. We always have “The Daily Show” and “Colbert Report” to fall back on. Some crazy percentage of people get their news from these Comedy Central shows. Jon Stewart still refuses to admit he is a news reporter of any kind. Is he embarrassed to be a part of that once proud profession? Has it gotten so bad that a stigma is now permanently attached to the field? Or do people just prefer comedy with their news? After all, a spoonful of sugar does make the medicine go down. Stewart and Colbert are masterful at that, and deserve their warehouse full of Emmys.

The two remaining examples of relevant mainstream news are essentially mirror images, now largely overlooked remaining bastions of a bygone era in which the everyman felt he could connect with the powers that be.… Read the rest

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Superman is a Rocker: Robert Pollard and the Third Mind

PenetratingAbout six months ago, I spontaneously started contemplating the nature of using the cut up technique popularized by William S. Burroughs and Brion Gysin to tap into what they referred to as the “third mind”. This automatic introspection occurred while I was perusing through the incredibly brilliant re-assembled art books of Robert Pollard. Anyone who knows me knows that I’ve been a Guided By Voices nut for quite some time, but I’ve never honestly written about this particular obsession or where it stemmed from before, and so I had an idea of combining these two things into one utterly bizarre piece of music writing.

Vivian, the editor of Redefine didn’t really get it, and neither did I consciously, but it was something I felt compelled to hash out nonetheless. Truth be told, I just don’t think any other writer did the band’s 2012 reunion albums justice, or had accused them of practicing a sort of unconscious witchcraft for that matter.… Read the rest

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The FBI Can Remotely Activate The Microphone In Your Android Phone

android

The Wall Street Journal reports on the amazing capabilities of your smartphone:

The FBI develops some hacking tools internally and purchases others from the private sector. With such technology, the bureau can remotely activate the microphones in phones running Google Inc.’s Android software to record conversations, one former U.S. official said. It can do the same to microphones in laptops without the user knowing, the person said. Google declined to comment.

Court documents and interviews with people involved in the programs provide new details about the hacking tools used by federal agencies, including spyware delivered to computers and phones through email or Web links—techniques more commonly associated with attacks by criminals.

The FBI has been developing hacking tools for more than a decade, but rarely discloses its techniques publicly in legal cases.

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Leading A Meaningful Life Better For Health Than Leading A Happy One

happiness

People who report leading happy but meaningless lives experience unhealthy genetic changes similar to those found in the chronically stressed. Via the Atlantic, Emily Esfahani Smith writes:

Many studies have noted the connection between a happy mind and a healthy body — the happier you are, the better health outcomes we seem to have.

But a new study, just published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, challenges that picture. It specifically explored the difference between a meaningful life and a happy life, on the biological level.

Researchers Cole and Fredrickson found that people who are happy but have little to no sense of meaning in their lives have the same gene expression patterns as people who are responding to and enduring chronic adversity. That is, the bodies of these happy people are preparing them for bacterial threats by activating the pro-inflammatory response. Chronic inflammation is, of course, associated with major illnesses like heart disease and various cancers.

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We Don’t Torture People

Psychologists for Social Responsibility is an independent, non-profit organization that applies psychological knowledge and expertise to promote peace, social justice, human rights, and sustainability. Members are psychologists, students, and other advocates for social change in the United States and around the world. Appalled by the torture program at Guantanamo Bay, they are appealing to other health care professionals to join them in signing a letter of protest addressed to President Obama (below).

One of the main signatories is Martha Davis, director of Doctors of the Dark Side, who has just released this video of actress Mercedes Ruehl and attorney Kristine Huskey in a reprise of ex-CIA Director George Tenet’s extraordinary argument about torture with Scott Pelley of 60 Minutes:

Dear Colleagues,

Attached and pasted below is a letter to President Obama that is being sponsored by Psychologists for Social Responsibility (PsySR).

Because the hunger strike at Guantanamo is a medical emergency, and the result of intolerable delays in closing the detention facility, health care professionals and human rights advocates bring a special voice to this crisis.

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Death of the Burbs

Markham-suburbs aerial-edit2The end of suburbia is nigh, according to Leigh Gallagher (The End of the Suburbs: Where the American Dream Is Moving) in conversation with Jonathan O’Connell for the Washington Post:

O’Connell: Could you start by telling us why you think the suburbs are in decline?

Gallagher: The suburbs were a great idea that worked really well for a long time, but they overshot their mandate. We supersized everything in a way that led many people to live far away from where they needed to be and far away from their neighbors, and that has far-reaching implications, no pun intended. People have turned away from that kind of living. Add in the demographic forces that are reshaping our whole population, and the result is a significant shift. Census data shows that outward growth is slowing and inward growth is speeding up.

The early millennials are just getting into their mid-30s.

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Pet Psychics Offer Telepathic Communication With Living Or Dead Pets

pet psychicWho says the mystical isn’t alive in America? ABC News profiles a Los Angeles-based pet psychic:

What if somebody told you that a parrot knows he’s beautiful? Or that a Chihuahua has trust issues? These are the insights of Melissa Bacelar.

Bacelar has always felt connected to animals and, after seeking the services of a pet psychic herself, she realized she could hone her psychic ability to communicate with one of her dogs. She then took classes to further focus her visions.

Bacelar is primarily a dog whisperer, but claims she can communicate with any species — though animals that spend more time with people give her more vivid visions and are easier to communicate with than wild animals.

Bacelar insists that pet owners know she’s the real deal because her clients are people that know and love their pets, “so it’s going to be something that I say that lets them know that I’m talking to their pet.”

She currently charges $100 to $200 per session, but charges more for reaching animals who have passed away, “because it’s a little bit more difficult and sometimes it takes a little more time on my part.”

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