Kenya to switch off illicit mobile phones

Kenya has confirmed that a switch-off of counterfeit mobile phones will take place at the end of the month.

In addition, networks will be forbidden from activating new “fake” devices bought after 1 October.

Government officials said the move was designed to protect consumers from hazardous materials and to safeguard mobile payment systems.

They added it should also help them track users and limit violence ahead of March’s general election.

The action had originally been scheduled to take place at the end of 2011, but was twice delayed to give subscribers a chance to replace their devices. However, the Ministry of Information and Communications has said this would not happen again.

The Communications Commission of Kenya defines fake handsets as “copies of popular brands and models made from sub-standard materials” that have not been licensed by the organisation.

They are sourced from China and other parts of Asia, as well as Nigeria and South Africa…

Law enforcement agencies had…complained that some of the devices used duplicated IMEI (International Mobile Equipment Identifier) codes, making it difficult to track down users suspected of using their handsets to plan crimes…

In addition, when the government publicised the switch-off in June it also linked the move to efforts to restrict fraud.

“In this era of mobile banking, use of counterfeit devices, which are manufactured without due consideration to the recognised security standards, may expose our mobile money systems as well as the wider banking and financial system to unnecessary risks,” said the communications secretary Dr Bitange Ndemo…

Another set of great reasons for government regulation and oversight of communications equipment. After all the blather about economics and freedom, the main product needed to be removed from the network is cheap crap which can erode communications and even endanger users.

Aporkalypse Now?

Bacon fans felt a blood pressure spike earlier this week after a British group said a rise in the cost of pig feed would cause an “unavoidable” drop in pork product production next year.

But the U.S. Department of Agriculture said there was plenty of frozen pork on hand, and experts say a 5 percent drop of hog production in the European Union likely wouldn’t ripple across the Atlantic.

“There may be some shortages of pork in Europe, but there will be no shortages in the U.S.,” economist Erin Borror of the U.S. Meat Export Federation told the Des Moines Register.

Most notably, European pig farmers will grapple with new EU regulations banning the use of pig crates — the tiny stalls where pregnant sows are housed — which begin in 2013.

The stalls have already been phased out in several U.S. states…

The high cost of pig feed could fatten your grocery bill, though.

On average, a pound of bacon was 25 cents more expensive in August than in July, but still 10 cents cheaper than a year ago…

The cost of pig feed has risen mostly as a result of droughts throughout the Midwest this year…

Pork producers spreading alarmist rumors to jack up prices? Shock and amazement!

Army general charged with rape, forcible sodomy

Brig. Gen. Jeffrey A. Sinclair, who served five combat tours in Iraq and Afghanistan, faces possible courts martial on charges that include forced sex, wrongful sexual conduct, violating an order, possessing pornography and alcohol while deployed, and misusing a government travel charge card and filing fraudulent claims…

Defense officials spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to provide details on the case.

Sinclair, who served as deputy commander in charge of logistics and support for the 82nd Airborne Division in Afghanistan, was sent home in May because of the allegations, the officials said…

The charges were announced at a brief news conference Wednesday at Fort Bragg, the sprawling U.S. Army base in North Carolina that is home to the 82nd Airborne.

After reading a prepared statement, base spokesman Col. Kevin Arata refused to take questions. Reporters were told all questions would have to be made in writing and that no response was likely to come until the following day.

The next step will be an Article 32 investigation, including a preliminary hearing to determine if the matter should go to trial. No date has been set for the hearing, which Arata said would be open to the public…

Sinclair…who has been in the Army for 27 years, was serving his third deployment to Afghanistan. He had also served two tours in Iraq, as well as a tour in the first Gulf war.

It’s rare for an Army general to face court martial. There have been only two cases in recent years.

Was this behavior something new – has he been taking advantage of rank to protect himself for years?

The biggest problem with courts martial of officers ranking this high is that they can demand a jury exclusively of their peers by rank. So, the pool is small and dispersed around the globe. And I would wonder about their willingness to bash fellow brass.

Game bots’ artificial intelligence passes the Turing test

An artificially intelligent virtual gamer created by computer scientists at The University of Texas at Austin has won the BotPrize by convincing a panel of judges that it was more human-like than half the humans it competed against.

The competition was sponsored by 2K Games and was set inside the virtual world of “Unreal Tournament 2004,” a first-person shooter video game.

“The idea is to evaluate how we can make game bots, which are nonplayer characters (NPCs) controlled by AI algorithms, appear as human as possible,” said Risto Miikkulainen, professor of computer science in the College of Natural Sciences. Miikkulainen created the bot, called the UT^2 game bot, with doctoral students Jacob Schrum and Igor Karpov…

The bot that is scored as most human-like by the human judges is named the winner. UT^2, which won a warm-up competition last month, shared the honors with MirrorBot, which was programmed by Romanian computer scientist Mihai Polceanu.

The winning bots both achieved a humanness rating of 52 percent. Human players received an average humanness rating of only 40 percent…

The victory comes 100 years after the birth of mathematician and computer scientist Alan Turing, whose “Turing test” stands as one of the foundational definitions of what constitutes true machine intelligence. Turing argued that we will never be able to see inside a machine’s hypothetical consciousness, so the best measure of machine sentience is whether it can fool us into believing it is human…

“In the case of the BotPrize,” said Schrum, “a great deal of the challenge is in defining what ‘human-like’ is, and then setting constraints upon the neural networks so that they evolve toward that behavior.

This is Alan Turing’s centenary year. A time worth reflecting on genius and freedom — and a man who led the way down one road and was denied the other by bigots.