Boing Boing 

This is why your office feels too cold

There is no single definition of comfort. My newest column for The New York Times Magazine explores the different cultural definitions of pleasant living, how those traditions affect energy use in different countries, and how globalization changes both the culture and the fossil fuel consumption. Fun fact: Engineers have a unit of measurement that helps them account for clothing when they're trying to figure out what temperature an office building should be. It's called the Clo, and 1 Clo is equivalent to one full business suit. As I discovered, that fact has a big impact on women, business people in the tropics, and basically anybody who doesn't wear a suit to work.

World SF Travel Fund fund-raiser

Lavie Tidhar writes, "We are now running the second World SF Travel Fund fund-raiser. The Fund was established in 2011 to help bring one or two international persons involved in science fiction, fantasy or horror to travel to a major genre event. The first recipient was Charles Tan from the Philippines, who travelled to the US for World Fantasy Con, and in 2012 we helped Swedish authors Nene Ormes and Karin Tidbeck travel to Toronto for the same convention. This year, we hope to help bring over to World Fantasy Con in Brighton two more guests, Rochita Loenen-Ruiz, a writer from the Philippines now resident in the Netherlands, and Csilla Kleinheincz, a Hungarian-Vietnamese writer, editor and translator. We are looking to raise $3000 to help cover this and possibly next year."

In Israel, new insights on the science of medical Marijuana

A great piece in the NYT by Isabel Kershner on Tikkun Olam, a commercial medical marijuana plantation in Israel. The name is "a reference to the Jewish concept of repairing or healing the world," and while marijuana is illegal in this country, some of the most interesting scientific research into its healing properties is happening here. The last graf is the most amazing. (Thanks, Stoningham!)

Silicon Valley, meet Genome Valley

More than 100 biomedical and life science companies are clustered in Genome Valley, a research park in Hyderabad, India. (Via Joanne Manaster)

Science fiction of the world

Lavie Tidhar sez, "The Apex Book of World SF 2 is now officially released and available on Amazon and elsewhere. This is the second book in the international SF/F series collecting short stories from around the world, and the only current one of its kind. It particularly focuses on African and Latin American writers, alongside writers from Asia and Europe, and includes Clarke Award winner Lauren Beukes, World Fantasy Award winner Nnedi Okorafor, original fiction from Cuba, India, China and Peru and much more."

WIPO's Broadcasting Treaty is back: a treaty to end the public domain, fair use and Creative Commons

The UN's World Intellectual Property Organization's Broadcasting Treaty is back. This is the treaty that EFF and its colleagues killed five years ago, but Big Content won't let it die. Under the treaty, broadcasters would have rights over the material they transmitted, separate from copyright, meaning that if you recorded something from TV, the Internet, cable or satellite, you'd need to get permission from the creator and the broadcaster to re-use it. And unlike copyright, the "broadcast right" doesn't expire, so even video that is in the public domain can't be used without permission from the broadcaster who contributed the immense creativity inherent in, you know, pressing the "play" button. Likewise, broadcast rights will have different fair use/fair dealing rules from copyright -- nations get to choose whether their broadcast rights will have any fair dealing at all. That means that even if you want to reuse video in a way that's protected by fair use (such as parody, quotation, commentary or education), the broadcast right version of fair use might prohibit it.

Worst of all: There's no evidence that this is needed. No serious scholarship of any kind has established that creating another layer of property-like rights will add one cent to any country's GDP. Indeed, given that this would make sites like Vimeo and YouTube legally impossible, it would certainly subtract a great deal from nations' GDP -- as well as stifling untold amounts of speech and creativity, by turning broadcasters into rent-seeking gatekeepers who get to charge tax on videos they didn't create and whose copyright they don't hold.

And since the broadcast right is separate from copyright, permissive copyright licenses like Creative Commons would not apply. That means that if you made a CC-licensed video -- as tens of millions of creators have -- that the web-host, the cablecaster, the satellite company or the broadcaster that made it available to the public could essentially strip off the license you provided and go back to an all-rights-reserved model, with them in the driver's seat.

Thanks, WIPO, for showing us once again what a corrupt, anti-creator, anti-free-speech, economically backwards waste of time and space you are.

During the last hours of the meeting, the WIPO Committee pursued discussions that led to the adoption of a single text titled “Working document for a treaty on the protection of broadcasting organizations” (which has not been published as of today)3. This working document will constitute the basis of further discussions to be undertaken in November in Geneva, which WIPO hopes will conclude with a consensus document to be signed as a treaty early 2013. If WIPO convenes this conference it is because members have reached a decision and a new treaty may be born.

This procedural detail is a really important one — despite there being no international consensus, WIPO is pushing for a treaty to be signed quickly. This is actually a cruel trend in other WIPO negotiations. In the past, it has seemed like the WIPO bureaucracy has pushed for a conclusion of treaties just because they have been in negotiation for a long period of time. For example, another long-running negotiation led to the adoption of a treaty about performance rights that was opposed by many.

We urge country Members to say no to the WIPO Broadcasting treaty—as they have said in the past. We continue to believe the preferable model for addressing these issues is the narrower signal-based approach in the Brussels Satellite Convention.

Negotiations for a 2014 WIPO Broadcasting Treaty Are Back

TMBG wants your global help to make a new "Alphabet of Nations" video

Dana Cooper writes on behalf of They Might Be Giants: "They Might Be Giants is calling on fans across the globe to help create a music video for their new, bonus extended version of 'Alphabet of Nations,' and you can be part of the action! The band has asked fans from various countries to snap photos of their faces, their flags, and their culture, and post them to the band’s Tumblr or tag them with the hashtag #TMBGnation on Twitter. For full details, check out the band’s call-to-action video, and be sure to submit your photos by July 10th!"

Random history from Wikipedia

The Glasgow Ice Cream Wars lasted for years and ultimately took the lives of six people. The subsequent court case took two decades to resolve. (Via Danny Mears)

Harvey Pekar's last interview?

James Gill of Trick Coin says: "A month before Harvey Pekar died, Frank Young did a Skype interview with him for a series of articles Frank was writing about the creative processes of comic book creators. We think this may be the last interview that Harvey ever gave."

Harvey Pekar's Last Interview?

Four people dead on Mt. Everest, one still missing

A long line of climbers follow each other up Mt. Everest. Image: Ralf Dujmovits.

1996 was the deadliest year in the history of modern climbing on Mt. Everest. In one May weekend, eight people died when they were caught on the mountain in a storm. Over the course of the year, the death toll climbed to 15 total.

In the wake of that year, people tried to make sense of what had happened—particularly when it came to the May 10/11 deaths. All the reporting brought some internal mountaineering debates into the public eye in a big way for the first time. Is it really a good idea to treat Mt. Everest as an adventure-minded tourist attraction, suitable for anyone with a little climbing experience and enough money? What are the risks of having lots of inexperienced, guided trekkers up on the mountain at the same time? Do those climbers have enough climbing instincts to make the right decisions about going on or turning back when they're exhausted and under the influence of a low-oxygen environment? What can their guides do, under those circumstances, to force a right decision? Remember: This isn't a place where help is readily available if you get into trouble. Helicopters can only go so high up the mountain. And if you collapse, the chances of somebody else being able to carry you down are pretty slim.

These questions are likely to come back into the spotlight now. Between May 18th and 20th—last weekend—four people died on Mt. Everest. One is still missing. This time, there was no storm. Instead, the problems seem to be a combination of human error, "everyday" harsh conditions, and the fact that 300 people were trying to summit the mountain all at the same time.

Grayson Schaffer, an editor for Outside has been in the Everest Base Camp for the better part of a month. He's not attempting to climb up the mountain, himself. His story on the deaths is very much worth reading.

"THIS IS THE FIRST TIME I've seen it like this," says Onzchhu Sherpa, 31. Starting on the night of May 18 and going through the 20th, roughly 300 climbers, guides, and Sherpas crowded onto the upper slopes of Everest's Southeast Ridge. From the 19,000-foot shoulder of a neighboring peak, where I was watching, Everest appeared to be lit up like a Christmas tree with the headlamps of climbers converging from the mountain's north and south sides.

... What I can tell you is that the mood at Base Camp has been overridingly gloomy since the news of the mishaps first began trickling down the mountain. On the 19th the air may have been filled with the customary bell ringing that that signifies a team member has just radioed in from the summit, but later in the evening I heard loud sobs coming from the direction of the Korean camp. Even now, two days after the chaotic events, the details are foggy. That's because of inherently poor communications and the fact that many climbers are so exhausted and woozy from their efforts at altitude that they have a hard time even remembering what happened during their own climbs, let alone those of their teammates and strangers. With radio communications further hampered by geology and an endless stream of information that’s difficult to verify, it would be easier to report on a moon landing.

Read Grayson Shaffer's full account of the deaths on Mt. Everest

Earthquake and bombs in Italy: An eyewitness report from Jasmina Tesanovic


[Video Link.]

A weekend of fear and mourning in Italy.

Early this Sunday morning, an earthquake struck near Bologna: at least six killed (ceramic workers, and a hundred year old person), and big material damage in the region. The US Geological Survey heard the tremor: a magnitude-6.0 quake struck at 4:04 a.m. Sunday between Modena and Mantova, about 35 kilometers north-northwest of Bologna. Civil defence says that the quake was the strongest in the region since the 1300s. And the damaged building are valuable historical sites. In Italy such loss goes without saying.

We felt the earthquake in Torino, 260 kilometers from Modena at dawn. The apartment building shook and the late-night party people yelped with alarm in the streets. As I write this we hear the building crack and we tremble: I am checking on twitter. Yes, it' s an aftershock at 15.19.

Not unusual for Italy to deal with deadly earthquakes, but what comes afterward can be nearly as troublesome: state neglect and real estate speculation. Those who are not under earth may have the skies as a roof forever! The last big earthquake in Aquila in 2009 speaks about that.

Read the rest

Mexican drug cartels now using Claymore mines

Just after a horrific week of news about mounting body counts in Mexico from the drug war, Danger Room points to news that at least one narco arsenal was found to include Claymore Mines. The mines can be triggered with an electronic remote, and are capable of spewing 700 steel balls in any direction, with a wounding range of 50 yards. Here's a video.

Amara/Universal Subtitles gets $1MM from Mozilla and the Knight Foundation to internationalize Web video

Amara, the free/open subtitling/dubbing project that used to be called Universal Subtitles, has just landed $1,000,000 in funding from the Knight Foundation and the Mozilla Foundation. Amara is run by the Participatory Culture Foundation, a charitable nonprofit that produces technologies to increase and deepen the average person's ability to participate in the online world. Amara is a technology that lets people bridge linguistic barriers in the world of video. Here's TheNextWeb's Anna Heim on the announcement:

In other words, it is a great example of what crowdsourcing can achieve. According to its parent non-profit, Participatory Culture Foundation (PCF), the platform’s users have translated over 170,000 videos since its founding in 2010, including popular videos such as President Obama’s message to Sudan and KONY 2012.

However, it could expand into other territories, such as dubbing – hence its rebranding with a broader name, which may also help it capture the sense of community it is trying to create. This is undoubtedly one of the reasons why Mozilla was interested in supporting the platform, its executive director Mark Surman explains: “Mozilla’s global translation and localization communities have always been at the heart of who we are. For the first time, Amara lets us extend our community translation work to include video,” said Mark Surman, Executive Director of Mozilla. “We are proud to support Amara as they build a crucial part of the open web.”

Knight Foundation and Mozilla invest $1m in crowdsourced video translation project Amara

(Disclosure: I am proud to volunteer on the board of directors for the Participatory Culture Foundation)

Lenin and Stalin still have a posse

REUTERS/Denis Sinyakov

A Russian communist holds placards with portraits of Vladimir Lenin and Joseph Stalin during a rally to celebrate International Workers' Day, or Labor Day, in Moscow on May 1, 2012. Related: our large photo gallery of May Day demonstrations around the world.

Married With Children, all over the world


On Neatorama, Miss Cellania rounds up images from various international versions of Married... With Children from around the world (extracted from this Reddit thread. I featured the Bulgarian version last month, but that was just the tip of the iceberg. Above, Croatian Married with Croatian Children. Right:

Married… With Children Around the World

"My feelings could not be lifted but sunk down": Dispatches from Japan on the anniversary of the Tohoku earthquake

Ichiroya Kimono Flea Market is a company that sells vintage and new kimonos. I don't own any kimonos, and I don't expect to ever buy one. But I do subscribe to Ichiroya's email newsletter. Why? Because it's hands-down the best corporate communique I've ever had the pleasure of reading.

Honest, earnest, and unfiltered, the newsletter is written by Ichiro & Yuka Wada, who own and operate Ichiroya out of Osaka, Japan. The newsletters are not really about the company, per se. Sure, they discuss kimonos sometimes. But they're really more just a weekly personal letter from Japan. They're about life. And they're a pleasure to read, even when the life they're recording is incredibly sad.

I was turned onto the Ichiroya newsletters last month by science writer Shar Levine, who has been reading them for years. After the earthquake and tsunami struck Japan a year ago—and through the fear and madness that's followed the Fukushima nuclear meltdowns—Shar told me that the Ichiroya newsletters have been a powerful testament to how these disasters impacted the lives of everyday Japanese.

There are archives of some of the newsletters online. Unfortunately, I wasn't able to find an archive that contained the letters written since March 11, 2011. However, when I got the Ichiroya newsletter today, I knew I needed to share it with you. The entire thing is posted below the cut. It tells a story of terrible sadness, strength, and rebirth that needs to be read.

Read the rest

Border Town design jam

Madeline Ashby (whom you'll remember from such Boing Boing features as Surfaces - a short story for a thesis on border security sez, "This is an invitation to join a 2-day design jam in Toronto, focused on user experience problems common to international border crossings. I'll be there Friday to give a talk, but what I'm really excited about is what the other jammers will produce. The theme of the jam is 'Everyone Must Pass...' and the design challenge will be presented at the event. After that, teams will develop their own solutions to the problem. And all those solutions will be Commons licensed, so they can be shared with border towns around the world!"

TODAY IS THE DAY TO KILL ACTA

Today is the day of global protest against ACTA, the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement, a copyright treaty negotiated in secret (even parliaments and other legislatures weren't allowed to see the the working drafts), and which many governments (include the American government) are planning to adopt without legislative approval or debate. ACTA represents a wish-list of legislative gifts to the entertainment industry, and will seriously undermine legitimate users of the Internet. It imposes criminal sanctions -- with jail time -- for people who violate copyright, including remixers and other legitimate artists and creators. ACTA requires governments to shut down legitimate websites whose users "aid and abet" copyright infringement, creating a regime of fear and censorship for sites that accept comments and other media from users and curtailing discussion and debate in order to maximize entertainment industry profits.

The arts should always be on the side of free expression. Creative industries should always be against censorship. This secret, undemocratic agreement that seeks to "preserve the creative industries" by imposing censorship and surveillance on the whole Internet lacks all legitimacy and should be rejected. If the entertainment industry wants laws passed to its benefit, let it use the same democratic mechanisms that all bodies use in free societies. Smoke-filled rooms and crony capitalism have no place in a free society.

Here is the form to contact lawmakers all over the world and tell them to reject ACTA. Many European nations -- including, most recently, Germany -- have halted their involvement in ACTA. The tide is turning. We won the SOPA fight. We can win this one. It's time that laws affecting the whole Internet took the fate of the whole Internet into consideration, and rejected the narrow interests of a single industry body as trumping all concerns about human rights, free expression and freedom of assembly.

You can embed this form in your own website, too.

Stop ACTA & TPP: Tell your country's officials: NEVER use secretive trade agreements to meddle with the Internet. Our freedoms depend on it!

For European users, this form will email every MEP with a known email address.
Fight For The Future may contact you about future campaigns. We will never share your email with anyone. Privacy Policy

Tell the US Trade Rep: don't let Hollywood set America's foreign relations agenda

Katy from Public Knowledge sez,

It's Special 301 season at the office of the US Trade Representatvie, which means that the content industry gets its annual opportunity to tell the USTR which countries should be put on the naughty list for not doing enough to protect American IP. The first round of comments are due next Friday, February 10th, and Public Knowledge has just launched a petition regarding the USTR's blind acceptance of big content's claims about foreign countries' IP laws.

This is part of how the US pressures foreign governments to adopt more stringent and draconian IP measures, like the Ley Sinde in Spain, with little regard for free speech and due process. As the recent SOPA/PIPA outrage has proven, this kind of overreach is not acceptable. Here's the blog post our international expert and staff attorney Rashmi Rangnath wrote, and here is the petition.

Tell The USTR Not to Do Big Content’s Bidding

In former Soviet state of Georgia, an iPad knockoff for police

An employee demonstrates a "Police Pad" at the Algorithm factory in Tbilisi, Georgia, on January 11, 2012. Five thousand police officers will receive portable field computers, equipped with features that will assist them with their work, assembled at this factory, according to local media.

Update: An official response to this blog post from the government of Georgia is here. And a response from a Boing Boing reader who is a Georgian native is here.


From the Tbilisi-based Georgian language news organization Rustavi 2:

Five thousand police officers will be handed over portable computers. New police pads were produced in Georgia by the Algorithm Company. Minister of Interior Vano Merabishvili observe the process of police pad production in the factory personally. `I have an honor to inform Georgian society and the officers of the Ministry of Internal Affairs, that in a few days five thousand police officers will be equipped with such field computers, which will allow the citizens and the police officers to provide services offered by the ministry to our citizens more comfortably,` Minister said adding Georgian police would soon become the most developed and modernized police in the world.

Says a friend who travels to the region often: "100% guaranteed those crooked, fat, lazy cops will be using these devices primarily for porn and russian gambling services."

Update: A counselor from the Georgian embassy to the United States has contacted Boing Boing to express disappointment that the quote above was included in this article. The remark is unfair, the official says, and it's something of a sore point for a country that has done so much to address the issue in recent years. They direct our attention to the Georgian government's efforts to reform police and fight corruption—with results, they say, that are a global example of success for an emerging democratic state. We've invited the government of Georgia to share those comments in longer form, and we'll gladly post them here as a guest opinion piece in entirety. It should also be noted that the source of the critical quote in this article loves Georgia, its people, and its culture, and travels there frequently to this day. Some who applaud the success of reforms still argue there's more work left to do.

(photo: REUTERS/David Mdzinarishvili)

Patry's How to Fix Copyright: deftly argued, incandescent book on the evidence-free state of copyright law

William Patry is no copyright radical. He's the author of some of the major reference texts on copyright, books that most copyright lawyers would have on their bookcases, books like Patry on Copyright.

Read the rest

Global Chokepoints: new activist coalition monitors censorship through global copyright enforcement rules


A global coalition of activist groups including the Electronic Frontier Foundation have created "Global Chokepoints," a worldwide initiative to monitor censorship arising from copyright enforcement.

Global Chokepoints will document the escalating global efforts to turn Internet intermediaries into chokepoints for online free expression. Internet intermediaries all over the world—from Internet Service Providers (ISPs) to community-driven sites like Twitter and YouTube to online payment processors—are increasingly facing demands by IP rightsholders and governments to remove, filter, or block allegedly infringing or illegal content, as well as to collect and disclose their users' personal data.

At the same time, it's unclear whether and under what circumstances Internet intermediaries have liability for content posted by their users. Hotly contested court cases in Europe, Australia, and elsewhere are considering how copyright law fits with obligations to protect Internet users' rights of privacy, due process, and freedom of expression.

Global Chokepoints analyzes global trends in four types of copyright censorship: 1) three-strikes policies and laws that require Internet intermediaries to terminate their users' Internet access on repeat allegations of copyright infringement; 2) requirements for Internet intermediaries to filter all Internet communications for potentially copyright-infringing material; 3) ISP obligations to block access to websites that allegedly infringe or facilitate copyright infringement; and 4) efforts to force intermediaries to disclose the identities of their customers to IP rightsholders upon allegations of copyright infringement. The site includes links to digital rights organizations, consumer groups, law school clinics, and technology industry groups that are opposing the spread of overbroad copyright policing efforts, as well as national advocacy campaigns to protect the free and open Internet and citizens' fundamental rights.

New Global Chokepoints Project Tracks Censorship Around the World

Egypt police detain, beat, sexually assault US-based journalist Mona Eltahawy; other journalists also targeted

[video link] US-based Egyptian blogger, speaker, and journalist Mona Eltahawy was released today after spending 12 hours detained by Egyptian security forces in Cairo. According to her tweets, she was arrested by riot police while observing the ongoing protests in Tahrir Square, where thousands of Egyptian citizens are calling for the military junta SCAF to be disbanded, and a representative, democratically-elected leadership to take their place.

While she was held, Mona managed to tweet from a fellow detainee's Blackberry that she had been beaten and was in prison. When she was released, Mona tweeted more details: she had been sexually and physically assaulted, and sustained a broken arm and a broken hand from beatings inside the interior ministry in Cairo, in the early hours of Thursday morning.

"The whole time I was thinking about article I would write," she writes, "Just you fuckers wait."

A number of journalists and well-known voices from Twitter have been detained in the last few days, including Egyptian-American documentary maker Jehane Noujaim, and Maged Butter, shown below (WARNING: graphic image):

Read the rest

International human rights community vs SOPA

An enormous, diverse global coalition of press freedom and human rights groups have signed onto a letter (PDF) opposing America's Stop Online Piracy Act, the worst proposed Internet law in the USA's legislative history. Included signatories are as varied as India's Center for Internet and Society, the Church of Sweden, Colombia's Karisma, the UK Open Rights Group, and Reporters Without Borders. The letter itself is a great piece of writing: "This is as unacceptable to the international community as it would be if a foreign country were to impose similar measures on the United States." (Thanks, Alan!)

The most dangerous place to be a park ranger

This photo was taken in the Democratic Republic of the Congo's Virunga National Park, where the Nyamulagira volcano is currently erupting. The man in the photo is named Romeo. No last name given, and I can't help but wonder if that's for the same reason that he carries a rather large gun.

Romeo is a park ranger in Virunga. It's a very dangerous job. Virunga has lost more park rangers than any other protected site on Earth. That's due to several factors. For one thing, men like Romeo are in charge of protecting the Park's gorillas and other endangered wildlife from poachers. For another, political instability leaks into Virunga on a relatively regular basis. Back in January, three rangers and five Congolese soldiers were killed by members of the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR). Virunga borders Rwanda and members of this militia try to use the park as a hideout. In the process, they clear-cut the forest for charcoal. The January attack was thought to be in retaliation for rangers destroying a couple FDLR camps and cracking down on illegal forest destruction.

In fact, the job is dangerous enough that one of the fundraising campaigns the park is promoting is a program to care for the widows of dead rangers. You can donate online.

Who are the guys that put their lives on the line for a national park and a bunch of great apes? The park website also has some short statements by several of the rangers. Romeo isn't among them. But you can get an idea of who these guys are, and why they chose this job.

Surprisingly, despite all that, large parts of Virunga are safe enough for tourists. According to Wikipedia, the park gets 3000 visitors a year.

Via Brendan Maher

Russia dumps daylight savings

Most of Europe's clocks fell back by an hour last night, but not Russia, which will stay on "summer time" forevermore. Or until it changes its mind again.

Authors Guild declares war on university effort to rescue orphaned books

Back in June, I wrote about the Hathi Trust, which is rescuing orphaned literary works from the university libraries that Google has scanned. If they can't find an author for a book, and if it's not in print, they're going to make it available.

So, naturally, the Author's Guild, a DC lobbying outfit that represents a tiny handful of authors, is suing. These are the same people who think Amazon shouldn't be allowed to sell used books, mind.

A separate issue in the suit is an orphaned works project started by the Hathitrust that focuses on some of the works within this archive. The group is attempting to identify out-of-copyright books, and those where the ownership of copyright cannot be established. If attempts to locate and contact any copyright holders fail, and the work is no longer commercially available, the Hathitrust will start providing digital copies to students without restrictions. This has not gone over well. The executive director of the Australian Society of Authors, Angelo Loukakis, stated, "This group of American universities has no authority to decide whether, when or how authors forfeit their copyright protection. These aren’t orphaned books, they’re abducted books."

The authors' coalition would like to see everything grind to a halt—Google and the libraries kept from any further scanning, the HathiTrust's orphaned works project shuttered, and the digital copies on its servers impounded. The digital works wouldn't be deleted, but it wants to see "any computer system storing the digital copies powered down and disconnected from any network, pending an appropriate act of Congress." (Note that they want them shut down and unplugged, just to be sure.)

Authors' Guild sues universities over book digitization project

Coordinated multinational ATM fraud nets $13M in one night

Crooks who compromised Fidelity National Information Services's prepaid debit card database were able to draw out $13 million in one night, working with co-conspirators in several countries in one weekend night, after the banks had closed:
Apparently, the crooks were able to drastically increase or eliminate the withdrawal limits for 22 prepaid cards that they had obtained. The fraudsters then cloned the prepaid cards, and distributed them to co-conspirators in several major cities across Europe, Russia and Ukraine.

Sources say the thieves waited until the close of business in the United States on Saturday, March 5, 2011, to launch their attack. Working into Sunday evening, conspirators in Greece, Russia, Spain, Sweden, Ukraine and the United Kingdom used the cloned cards to withdraw cash from dozens of ATMs. Armed with unauthorized access to FIS’s card platform, the crooks were able to reload the cards remotely when the cash withdrawals brought their balances close to zero.

Coordinated ATM Heist Nets Thieves $13M

(Image: ATM in a cage, a Creative Commons Attribution Share-Alike (2.0) image from yuval_y's photostream)

Baby crocodiles, hatching

Caretakers display newly hatched Philippine crocodiles at a crocodile farm in Manila July 28, 2011. The Philippine crocodile, also known as the Mindoro crocodile, is a freshwater reptile considered to be among the endangered species. (REUTERS/Romeo Ranoco)

Japan: Fukushima sows sunflowers to soak up radiation

City officials in Fukushima, Japan sowed sunflower seeds Wednesday at a plaza in the city as part of efforts to remove radioactive materials from the soil following leaks and meltdowns at a nearby nuclear plant, following the March 11 earthquake and tsunami.