(2) Mercenary army outsourcers Controversial private security contractor firm Blackwater is gearing up for disaster in the Gulf, as Hurricane Gustav approaches. Snip from a "help wanted" ad on the firm's website:
Blackwater is compiling a list of qualified security personnel for possible deployment into areas affected by Hurricane Gustav. Applicants must meet all items listed under the respective Officer posting and be US citizens. Contract length is TBD.
This morning I've stumbled across a good number of online resources for Hurricane Gustav and New Orleans and thought it would be good to start a list here to keep track of them. Feel free to add any in the comments and I'll try to keep this list updated with any links posted.
This is the wiki for information relating to Hurricane Gustav and its approach to the northern Gulf coast. It's intended to be centralized site for links to information everywhere else on the web; please publicize it far and wide. Information will be moved here as time progresses from the similar wiki built during and after Hurricane Katrina's landfall 3 years ago. Please be polite and patient in working with the wiki and the community it attracts, to the extent that you can, and hopefully, everyone will get through this one in one piece.
The creator of that Wiki, Andy Carvin, is asking Google Map gurus to help him create a comprehensive Gustav map mashup:
We should build a map - or work with google to do so - that plots out as much data as possible re: evac centers, storm route, damage, flood reports, etc. If Google or someone else is doing it already, great; let's embed it. If not, we need to find some Google Map gurus to figure out how to get started.
(7) About a quarter of all crude oil production in the United States takes place in the Gulf region. And nearly 100% of the oil-related activity in this region has now been shut down. What will happen to the price of oil?
(8) Video: Anatomy of a Hurricane, embedded at the bottom of this BB post. An educational film produced in 1996 by the US Department of the Interior. "Hurricanes are beautifully organized storms of destruction... An average hurricane releases heat equivalent to the total electrical energy consumed annually in the United States." (from The Open Video Project, via Siege)
A little guide to New Orleans radio & other Hurricane Gustav sources. If you’re using a regular over-the-air-type radio, and you’re within 750 miles or so of New Orleans, tune in 870am to hear WWL. It’s one of the original (literal) clear channel stations. In the old days you’d get them from coast to coast at night, but in recent years the FCC has chosen to allow new stations to clutter the AM band at night (when signals skip off the ionosphere). But still, worth a check if you’re within range. WWL also has a hurricane coverage network of other stations in the area.
(10) New Orleans Metblog contributor Craig, who owns a restaurant called Janitas on Magazine street, has decided to stay put and liveblog whatever happens. It sounds like he is a former broadcast industry professional. He finds lulz in these hard hours, with news crews pouring in as residents pour out:
Being the only restaurant open on lower Magazine kinda made us The Place To Be. The ONLY Place to be. It was good to share some “do you know?” time with folks in my former profession and to talk a little of what used to be shop. Some white SUV drove by with a big “TV” plastered on it in black electrical tape. Given the deserted streets, I felt like I was in Beirut or someplace. Some ningnong TV guy was just on the tube, still wearing his cap and damp rain gear, facing the camera and intoning, “Tonight, New Orleans is a city holding it’s breath…” Puh-leeze. Folks like you are part of the reason why I’m not in that business anymore.
I snapped this photo of a passive millimeter wave scan machine set up in the main entrance hall at Denver International Airport on Friday evening. The machine was swiveling back and forth, searching people who didn't even know they were being scanned. I'm sure some of the people scanned weren't passengers; they were simply coming to pick up or drop off friends and relatives.
I wanted to see if they would scan my 11-year-old daughter as she walked by so I walked over to the desk with the computer monitor on it. I got a peek at the monitor for a second or two before one of the bald guys to the left of the TSA agent jumped in front of me and said I wasn't allowed to look. I couldn't tell which person was undressed on the monitor.
If federal agents set up this system at a shopping mall, would people care?
The TSA's blog states that the scanner's monitor be placed in a "remote location":
A couple of bloggers have advocated for the officer viewing the image to be out in the public area. We specifically require the remote location to protect the privacy of passengers using the machine. We just don’t think it’s appropriate for other passengers, airport, airline employees or just anybody walking by to see the images, much less snap a photo with a camera phone or anything else and post that image to TMZ.com or who knows where. That’s also why officers are not allowed to bring anything, including phones, bags or other items into the remote viewing location.
The USDA tests 1% of cattle of mad cow disease. Kansas-based Creekstone Farms Premium Beef exporters wants to test 100% of its cattle for mad cow disease. But the Bush administration took Creekstone to court, and a US federal appeals court ruled that the USDA has the authority to stop meatpackers from testing more than 1% of its cattle.
The dispute pits the Agriculture Department, which tests about 1 percent of cows for the potentially deadly disease, against a Kansas meat packer that wants to test all its animals.
Larger meat packers opposed such testing. If Creekstone Farms Premium Beef began advertising that its cows have all been tested, other companies fear they too will have to conduct the expensive tests.
The AP reports that "The Bush administration says the low level of testing reflects the rareness of the disease." The Bush administration should apply the same logic to the TSA. Terrorists are extremely rare, so only 1% of passengers ought to be checked by airport security. Link
Akino Kondoh is a Japanese contemporary artist who makes neat black-and-white video art. This one is called Ladybirds' Requiem. She uses pencil, pastel, and acrylic for the original illustrations, combines them on Photoshop, and then adds motion using After Effects. The music was created just for this piece by Toshiaki Chiku, former member of a band called Tama. Kondoh started off doodling pencil drawings as a kid; during high school, she drew a comic book series called Memoirs of a High School Girl. "I've been drawing in black and white since childhood," she says.
Graham Linehan sez, "Geoffrey Perkins died yesterday. Terrible loss, but I think of interest to Boing Boing readers because of his importance in the 'Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy' story...he produced the radio series, and after working with him on 'Father Ted', I feel confident in saying that he was probably one of the reasons it became such a huge success. He was an incredibly influential figure in British television comedy--something his skeletal Wikipedia entry doesn't quite communicate--and I just thought people should know that we lost someone very important yesterday."
Geoffrey was the man who found our early ‘Ted’ script, (at that time, written as a mock-documentary) and suggested we turn it into a sitcom. He was the man who chose the house that became our iconic central location (poring over a pile of location photographs, stabbing it with his finger and saying “That’s the one”). He also persuaded us to use Neil Hannon’s ‘Songs of Love’ as our theme music.
This last one was a sticking point for a while. Arthur and I preferred a song by Neil that would later become ‘A Woman of the World’ off the ‘Casanova’ album. That song was jaunty and silly and to us perfect in that it seemed to be subtly making fun of the form we were working in.
A golden age of firefighting was upon us in February, 1931, when Modern Mechanix magazine ran this article on Germany's bizarre portable shower for firefigters:
IT’S a far cry from the old bucket brigade to modern fire-fighting efficiency. Even now the American fireman is known as a “smoke-eater,” but that term would hardly fit the present day fire laddie in Germany, for with the new portable sprinkler system adopted by some of the larger cities of that country a fireman may approach quite close to the flames without becoming singed.
The outfit, which looks like a deep sea diver’s uniform is equipped with a sprinkler helmet which operates off a connection attached to the nozzle of the hose. The fireman can control the spray by a simple movement of a hand lever.
Someone – and apparently it was just one person – felt like the existing biography wasn't appropriate for a vice-presidential candidate. On Friday, 15 minutes before the rumor that John McCain had picked Palin as his running mate, a Wikipedia editor discovered 30 mostly favorable changes had been made to the Alaska governor's profile.
She was called "a politician of eye-popping integrity" and sections on her participation in a beauty pageant and her alleged use of influence to get her former brother-in-law fired were diminished.
Glenn Greenwald at Salon.com reports that protesters in Minneapolis, where the Republican National Convention will soon begin, have been subjected to massive, pre-emptive police raids. Those arrested include members of Food not Bombs, and a group calling itself the "RNC Welcoming Committee," and a group that uses video to protect civil liberties by documenting police activity at first amendment events. Snip:
[They have been targeted by a series of highly intimidating, sweeping police raids across the city, involving teams of 25-30 officers in riot gear, with semi-automatic weapons drawn, entering homes of those suspected of planning protests, handcuffing and forcing them to lay on the floor, while law enforcement officers searched the homes, seizing computers, journals, and political pamphlets. Last night, members of the St. Paul police department and the Ramsey County sheriff's department handcuffed, photographed and detained dozens of people meeting at a public venue to plan a demonstration, charging them with no crime other than "fire code violations," and early this morning, the Sheriff's department sent teams of officers into at least four Minneapolis area homes where suspected protesters were staying.
Jane Hamsher and I were at two of those homes this morning -- one which had just been raided and one which was in the process of being raided. Each of the raided houses is known by neighbors as a "hippie house," where 5-10 college-aged individuals live in a communal setting, and everyone we spoke with said that there had never been any problems of any kind in those houses, that they were filled with "peaceful kids" who are politically active but entirely unthreatening and friendly. Posted below is the video of the scene, including various interviews, which convey a very clear sense of what is actually going on here.
In the house that had just been raided, those inside described how a team of roughly 25 officers had barged into their homes with masks and black swat gear, holding large semi-automatic rifles, and ordered them to lie on the floor, where they were handcuffed and ordered not to move. The officers refused to state why they were there and, until the very end, refused to show whether they had a search warrant. They were forced to remain on the floor for 45 minutes while the officers took away the laptops, computers, individual journals, and political materials kept in the house. One of the individuals renting the house, an 18-year-old woman, was extremely shaken as she and others described how the officers were deliberately making intimidating statements such as "Do you have Terminator ready?" as they lay on the floor in handcuffs. The 10 or so individuals in the house all said that though they found the experience very jarring, they still intended to protest against the GOP Convention, and several said that being subjected to raids of that sort made them more emboldened than ever to do so.
Glenn's Salon item also points to blog posts from the targeted protest groups, including this one from I-Witness. This group previously "videotaped police behavior at the 2004 GOP Convention in New York and helped get charges dismissed against hundreds of protesters who were arrested." The post excerpted below was published while the police raid was happening today:
The house where I-Witness Video is staying in St. Paul has been surrounded by police. We have locked all the doors. We have been told that if we leave we will be detained. One of our people who was caught outside is being detained in handcuffs in front of the house. The police say that they are waiting to get a search warrant. More than a dozen police are wielding firearms, including one St. Paul officer with a long gun, which someone told me is an M-16. We are suffering a preemptive video arrest. For those that don't know, I-Witness Video was remarkably successful in exposing police misconduct and outright perjury by police during the 2004 RNC. Out of 1800 arrests, at least 400 were overturned based solely on video evidence which contradicted sworn statements which were fabricated by police officers. It seems that the house arrest we are now under and the possible threat of the seizure of our computers and video cameras is a result of the 2004 success.
The Fall issue of Buddhadharma magazine has a feature-length profile I wrote of Tendzin Choegyal. He is the Dalai Lama's youngest brother and was once an influential member of the Tibetan government-in-exile in Dharamsala. Choegyal is a highly intelligent, worldly guy who isn't afraid to say "bullshit" and "reincarnation" in the same sentence, all the while showing great reverence for his famous brother and Tibetan Buddhism. One of the highlights of reporting this story was that I got to ask the Dalai Lama about his family life.
“My brother…,” the Dalai Lama says, an amused look on his face. He then does something he rarely
does in public: he rewinds his memory back to the day he was born, and talks about each of his siblings.
You can read an excerpt here or to read the full story. Also, here's a link to a shorter Q&A I did with him for Giant Robot.
Update: Adam Savage retracted this statement and says that the segment wasn't killed by TI or the credit-card companies.
Check out the first two minutes of this clip of Mythbusters' Adam Savage telling the folks at the HOPE hackercon about how the Discovery Channel was bullied by big credit-card companies out of airing a program about how crappy the security in RFID tags is.
Arphid Watch: Mythbusters and RFID
ZDNet's Dancho Danchev has a nice little investigative piece about the underground economy in cheapo Indian data-centers that break CAPTCHAs for spammers all day long:
Data processing as a mentality is visible in all the applications a human CAPTCHA solver is using. Basically, there’s no indication which service’s authentication model they’re currently abusing, CAPTCHA breaking is replaced with CAPTCHA solving making it look like it’s a some sort of a challenge that they have to solve.
Recruitment of the people that would be later tested for whether on not they quality for the job by exposing them to CAPTCHAs from different services, and a timer running in the background, is mainly done through advertisements like the following :
* easy work
* no learning needed
* no investment needed
* weekly payout
* work from home
* work when you want
* flexible working hours
* highest rates in the industry
Disaster Dioramas: a collection of free, downloadable papercraft depicting great historical disasters. The Hindenberg and the Titanic are presently available and more are to come.