Indian academic medal winner waits six decades for his award

Dinanath Malhotra was awarded a gold medal for his MA from Punjab University in Lahore in 1944. But the partition of the sub-continent into India and Pakistan in 1947 prevented him from receiving the medallion until now.

Mr Malhotra is the owner of the popular Indian publishing house, Hind Pocket Books, in Delhi.

“In those days topper in MA was awarded a gold medal and I won it in the year 1944,” Mr Malhotra told the BBC. “These medals were made in England so at the convocation we were given dummy medals and we had to wait for the original gold medal to be awarded later.”

But the wait in Mr Malhotra’s case got a bit longer – 68 years to be precise.

India was partitioned in 1947 and Lahore became part of Pakistan. Mr Malhotra shifted to India and forgot about the medal.

A few years ago, he casually mentioned it in a meeting of the Indian Publishers Union with a senior official in the Human Resources Development Ministry. The official pursued the matter with the vice-chancellor of Punjab University and it was agreed that the medal would be awarded to Mr Malhotra in Lahore…

Mr Malhotra was all set to travel to Lahore when Mumbai came under attack from extremists in November 2008 and the trip was cancelled.

The medal was finally awarded at the Pakistani High Commission in Delhi on Friday. Mr Malhotra is happy that he has his medal but he also feels he missed an opportunity to visit Lahore, the city of his youth.

“I keep remembering the life at Lahore. People had great love for each other and we used to hug each other whenever we met,” he said.

“This is great. I had never dreamed that I could get this medal back. This is a great honour, not only for me but for the academic circle both in India and Pakistan.”

Bravo! The greatest sadness is the history of partition that has denied opportunities for a normal communal life in the subcontinent.

The NSA Is building our nation’s biggest spy center

Today Bluffdale, Utah, is home to one of the nation’s largest sects of polygamists, the Apostolic United Brethren, with upwards of 9,000 members…But new pioneers have quietly begun moving into the area, secretive outsiders who say little and keep to themselves…They are focused on deciphering cryptic messages that only they have the power to understand…a massive complex so large that it necessitated expanding the town’s boundaries. Once built, it will be more than five times the size of the US Capitol.

Rather than Bibles, prophets, and worshippers, this temple will be filled with servers, computer intelligence experts, and armed guards. And instead of listening for words flowing down from heaven, these newcomers will be secretly capturing, storing, and analyzing vast quantities of words and images hurtling through the world’s telecommunications networks. In the little town of Bluffdale, Big Love and Big Brother have become uneasy neighbors.

Under construction by contractors with top-secret clearances, the blandly named Utah Data Center is being built for the National Security Agency. A project of immense secrecy, it is the final piece in a complex puzzle assembled over the past decade. Its purpose: to intercept, decipher, analyze, and store vast swaths of the world’s communications as they zap down from satellites and zip through the underground and undersea cables of international, foreign, and domestic networks. The heavily fortified $2 billion center should be up and running in September 2013. Flowing through its servers and routers and stored in near-bottomless databases will be all forms of communication, including the complete contents of private emails, cell phone calls, and Google searches, as well as all sorts of personal data trails—parking receipts, travel itineraries, bookstore purchases, and other digital “pocket litter.” It is, in some measure, the realization of the “total information awareness” program created during the first term of the Bush administration—an effort that was killed by Congress in 2003 after it caused an outcry over its potential for invading Americans’ privacy.

But “this is more than just a data center,” says one senior intelligence official who until recently was involved with the program. The mammoth Bluffdale center will have another important and far more secret role that until now has gone unrevealed. It is also critical, he says, for breaking codes. And code-breaking is crucial, because much of the data that the center will handle—financial information, stock transactions, business deals, foreign military and diplomatic secrets, legal documents, confidential personal communications—will be heavily encrypted. According to another top official also involved with the program, the NSA made an enormous breakthrough several years ago in its ability to cryptanalyze, or break, unfathomably complex encryption systems employed by not only governments around the world but also many average computer users in the US. The upshot, according to this official: “Everybody’s a target; everybody with communication is a target…”

…The NSA has turned its surveillance apparatus on the US and its citizens. It has established listening posts throughout the nation to collect and sift through billions of email messages and phone calls, whether they originate within the country or overseas. It has created a supercomputer of almost unimaginable speed to look for patterns and unscramble codes. Finally, the agency has begun building a place to store all the trillions of words and thoughts and whispers captured in its electronic net. And, of course, it’s all being done in secret. To those on the inside, the old adage that NSA stands for Never Say Anything applies more than ever.

There’s a casual political shorthand among world-class spies. They say the CIA are liberals, the FBI are conservatives. And the NSA? They’re the real Nazis.

Just as Goebbels’ agitprop depended to a large extent on an eavesdropping, wiretapping operation seen on a national scale for the first time – the NSA began to be scaled up to provide information for ideology under Ronald Reagan and the scum who surrounded him. They were brought back into power by George W – and though you might be inclined to kid yourself that a Democrat in power makes life better in every possible way – understand that [1] foreign policy never changed; and [2] the willingness to spy on ordinary citizens is too big a temptation for politicians to pass up.

Our government just made spying easier — spying on us!

Daylife/Getty Images used by permission
Yes – we stopped George W. Bush from doing this – but, you can trust us!

The Obama administration is moving to relax restrictions on how counterterrorism analysts may retrieve, store and search information about Americans gathered by government agencies for purposes other than national security threats.

Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. on Thursday signed new guidelines for the National Counterterrorism Center, which was created in 2004 to foster intelligence sharing and serve as a terrorism threat clearinghouse.

The guidelines will lengthen to five years — from 180 days — the amount of time the center can retain private information about Americans when there is no suspicion that they are tied to terrorism, intelligence officials said. The guidelines are also expected to result in the center making more copies of entire databases and “data mining them” using complex algorithms to search for patterns that could indicate a threat…

The changes are intended to allow analysts to more quickly identify terrorism suspects. But they also set off civil-liberties concerns among privacy advocates who invoked the “Total Information Awareness” program. That program, proposed early in the George W. Bush administration and partially shut down by Congress after an outcry, proposed fusing vast archives of electronic records — like travel records, credit card transactions, phone calls and more — and searching for patterns of a hidden terrorist cell.

But national security officials…cited safeguards to protect against abuse, including audits of searches. The same rules apply to access by other federal agencies involved in counterterrorism…Feeling safer, now?

The center has developed a priority list of databases it wants to copy entirely, but he and other officials declined to say which ones they were. “We’re all in the dark, and for all we know it could be a rerun of Total Information Awareness, which would have allowed the government to make a computerized database of everything on everybody,” said Kate Martin, the director of the Center for National Security Studies, who criticized the administration for not making the draft guidelines public for scrutiny ahead of time…

The new guidelines are intended to allow the center to hold on to information about Americans for up to five years…let’s say that, again: The new guidelines are intended to allow the center to hold on to information about Americans for up to five years — information about you that has absolutely nothing to do with national security even though that’s the excuse.

This is the government that hauls Google, Apple and Facebook before Congressional panels who swear they’re going to protect our privacy from being sold to advertisers – and couldn’t care less about protecting our privacy from government spies.

Humbug! Just as I beefed to my elected representatives when Bush the Little tried to foist Total Information Awareness upon us – I will do so, again. I don’t care which political party is in charge of spying on me. Both flavors suck!

EU approves attacks on Somali pirates on land as well as at sea

Royal Marines board a pirate skiff after an attack on a Spanish fishing boat
Daylife/Reuters Pictures used by permission

The European Union has agreed to expand its mission against Somali pirates, by allowing military forces to attack land targets as well as those at sea. In a two-year extension of its mission, EU defence ministers agreed warships could target boats and fuel dumps…

Up to 10 EU naval ships are currently on patrol off the Horn of Africa. They have policed shipping routes and protected humanitarian aid since 2008. The extension means they will stay until at least December 2014.

An EU official said the new mandate would allow warships or helicopters to fire at fuel barrels, boats, trucks or other equipment on beaches…Spanish Foreign Minister Jose Manuel Garcia-Margallo told reporters: “The EU plan is to allow attacks on land installations when ships are assaulted at sea,” adding that “much care” would be taken to avoid civilian deaths.

A two-decade war has wrecked Somalia, leaving it without a proper government. The transitional government only controls the capital Mogadishu, while al-Shabab militants, who recently joined with al-Qaeda, hold large swathes of territory.

The EU says the main tasks of the mission are the protection of vessels of the World Food Programme delivering food aid to displaced people in Somalia, and the fight against piracy off the Somali coast…

Brussels also said the Somali government [what there is of it] had told the UN secretary general that it accepted its new offer of collaboration.

You might think the US government or one of our surrogates like NATO might upgrade to this level of backbone.

On one hand, President Obama is trying to appear less than impetuous in the face of Republican electioneering that wants us to remain cops of the world. On the other hand, permission for anything like this might require support from Congress and they aren’t likely to approve anything other than their salaries.

Lethal combination of chemicals and disease is producing the world’s decline in honeybees

The sudden drop in honeybees in recent years has led to widespread debate over the cause, with many blaming intensive farming methods that use more pesticides. However this was dismissed by other studies that found disease is just as damaging.

Now a French study, published in the journal Scientific Reports, suggests that it could be a combination of both, as pesticides weaken honeybees and they then die of disease.

I’m not surprised. We’re building the premises of our self-destruction if we don’t resume the fight for a clean environment.

The decline in honeybees first hit the headlines around 10 years ago with the mysterious death of whole hives in America, known as Colony Collapse Disorder or CCD. It is now believed that the US has fewer managed pollinators than at any time in the past 50 years. Many countries in Europe have also seen a decline and honeybee numbers in the UK have halved in the past 25 years…

In the latest study a laboratory at Université Blaise Pascal in France studied bees infected with a disease known as nosemosis and bees exposed to an insecticide known as fipronil. Neither of the case studies resulted in many deaths. However when the bees were exposed to both the disease and the insecticide, in any combination, a large number died.

Nicolas Blot, who led the study, said only “multi-factors” could explain the worldwide decline. He said the world community now has to work on how to minimise the stress on insects.

There are a few more details in the article. Problem is – we can’t even get a commitment to relieve or reduce stresses on human society much less insects. The first steps in any solution is throwing about 99% of all politicians out of office and removing 99% of the laws which only serve to keep lawyers employed.

Former DARPA/NASA scientist gets 13 years in espionage case

Frame from hidden video of Nozaette trying to sell the farm
Daylife/AP Photo used by permission

A former government space scientist was sentenced Wednesday to 13 years in prison after admitting he tried to sell space and defense secrets to Israel in what turned out to be an FBI sting operation.

Appearing in federal court in a prison jumpsuit, Stewart Nozette said he is “paying for a fatal lack of judgment…I accept full responsibility,” Nozette told U.S. District Judge Paul Friedman…

Nozette had high-level security clearances during decades of government work on science and space projects at NASA, the Energy Department and the National Space Council in President George H.W. Bush’s administration.

Nozette pleaded guilty to one count of attempted espionage, admitting he tried to provide Israel with top secret information about satellites, early warning systems, methods for retaliating against large-scale attack, communications intelligence information and major elements of defense strategy.

At the time of Nozette’s arrest for attempted espionage in 2009, he was awaiting sentencing on fraud and tax evasion charges…

Nice guy.

Nozette was known primarily as a defense technologist who had worked on the Reagan-era missile defense shield effort, nicknamed “Star Wars” and formally called the Strategic Defense Initiative…

One of Nozette’s lawyers, Bradford Berenson, called the espionage case “vindictive” and an illustration of “overreaching government conduct” at a time when Nozette was already enmeshed in the tax and fraud case.

The government suspected Nozette might be interested in spying after a search of his Chevy Chase, Md., home in February 2007 in the tax and fraud probe…

The search of his home turned up classified documents, though Nozette’s lawyers said in his defense Wednesday that they were not marked as such. Nozette was not allowed to have unsecured classified documents in his home.

Agents also discovered Nozette sent an email in 2002 threatening to sell information about a classified program he was working on to Israel or another country. The FBI decided to conduct an undercover operation to see how serious he was…

Nozette also was ordered to pay $217,800 in restitution for fraudulent claims he made to the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory in Washington, D.C., the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency in Arlington, Va., and NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md.

Sounds like he was ready to turn all of his work for the United States into a private profit center.

God Bless America — and Apple TV

My partly shiny and black Apple TV arrived late this afternoon. Hooked up in a flash and the original settings on my universal remote [Logitech One] still worked like a champ. Don’t need to get accustomed to the new Apple remote.

Able to watch our favorite IPTV shows from the Web on the living room TV again – and streaming worked as advertised. Watched goodies from Revision 3 and CNET for a spell. Then, being the movie nut I am, I just watched about an hour-and-a-half of trailers before heading off to sleep, tonight.

This is one of my new favorites: