Have a bit of spare time? — you can help out watching penguins!


Click to enlarge

British scientists who have set up a network of penguin-monitoring cameras in Antarctica are asking the public to help them carry out their research…

In “PenguinWatch 2.0“, people will be able to see the results of their online efforts to monitor and conserve Antarctica’s penguins colonies.

Lead researcher Dr Tom Hart is also encouraging school groups to adopt their own colony – following and monitoring its progress and “learning about Antarctica along the way.”…

The team now has more than 75 cameras all over Antarctica and sub-Antarctic islands.

Their monitoring work – including a collaboration with a penguin census that has been operated by US organisation Oceanites since 1994 – has already shown a link between climate change and a decline in Adelie and Chinstrap penguins on the Antarctic Peninsula.

But with their large camera network in place, and each camera automatically taking a picture every hour throughout the year, the researchers now have a backlog of hundreds of thousands of images they are yet to analyse.

“We can’t do this work on our own, and every penguin that people click on and count on the website – that’s all information that tells us what’s happening at each nest, and what’s happening over time,” said Dr Hart.

Worthwhile endeavor. My retirement time has beaucoup projects already in place, things I watch, things I report on and comment about. But, aiding scientists in a critical envirosphere like the Antarctic can always use your help. Contact PenguinWatch 2.0 here.

Thanks, Ursarodinia

World’s longest high-speed railway debuts in China


The world’s fastest trains ready to roll — Click to enlarge

The world’s longest high-speed rail line, which spans over half of China, began operating on Wednesday, further cementing the country’s high-speed railway development ambitions.

Two trains departed from stations in Beijing and Guangzhou at 9 a.m. and 10 a.m., respectively, to mark the opening of the 2,298-km line.

Running at an average speed of 300 km per hour, the new route cuts travel time between Beijing and Guangzhou from over 20 hours to about eight.

A total of 155 pairs of trains will run on the new line daily and alternative schedules have been made for weekends and peak travel times, according to the Ministry of Railways…

There will still be 183 pairs of trains running daily on the old Beijing-Guangzhou line that runs parallel to the high-speed line, allaying concerns that the new line will increase passengers’ travel costs.

A second-class seat on the new high-speed line costs $138 while a sleeper on the old line sells for around half that amount…

With the opening of the Beijing-Guangzhou high-speed line, China now has more than 9,300 km of high-speed rails in operation.

The new line is one of four north-south lines expected to serve as a backbone for the country’s planned high-speed railway network, which also features four east-west lines…

Research by the Development Research Center of the State Council showed that the Beijing-Zhengzhou section of the new high-speed line will add $44 billion to the country’s GDP by 2030…

The full operation of the Beijing-Guangzhou high-speed railway will accelerate China’s urbanization progress, as it will help large cities to better perform their role as central cities, boost the development of medium-sized cities along the route and foster the birth and development of new small cities and towns, said Sun Shuli, a chief engineer responsible for designing sections of the new line.

I’m a fan of any kind of railroad that runs quiet and reasonably fast. Our own shiny new railroad connecting north/south in central New Mexico is quiet, on time, and not especially fast. Though it has a roadbed capable of high speeds.

I sort of knew the opening run of the bullet trains was happening, yesterday [US time], from mentions on the news on CCTV9; but, wasn’t paying close attention. It was a kick when I switched to the channel mid-afternoon and realized I was watching a live feed of the train setting forth from Beijing’s central RR station. Cameras along the track and inside the engine and passenger cars showed the kind of excitement I know I would have felt to be on such a trip.

Obama and his administration have a clear idea of the benefits of high-speed rail to our economy and logistics in general. Congress and conservatives owned pretty much lock, stock and barrel by motor freight and fossil fuel industries couldn’t care less. I doubt if we’ll see any success at repairing existing infrastructure much less upgrades to our rail network – in this century.

Nuns start bus tour protesting Republican Ryan’s lies about poor people and Catholic teaching


Click on photo for more info – follow the tour
Daylife/AP Photo used by permission

A group of Roman Catholic nuns began a nine-state bus tour protesting proposed federal budget cuts Monday, saying they weren’t trying to flout recent Vatican criticisms of socially active nuns but felt called to show how Republican policies are affecting low-income families…

Sister Simone Campbell, Network’s executive director, said while the tour may appear to have been organized to counter recent criticism of social activist nuns by the Vatican and American bishops, it was not. The timing was in response to consideration of the federal budget in Congress, she said.

“We’re doing this because of what’s happening on the Hill,” she told The Associated Press in an interview. “We’re desperate to get the word out, that’s why we’re doing it now…”

While the nuns say they aren’t opposing any specific Republican candidate, they plan stops at the offices of several closely tied to the budget process, including House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio, and Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan, the architect of the House-passed budget…

The Vatican mandate to crack down on socially active nuns upset some church parishioners who turned out to support the nuns.

“They want to bully these nuns and shut them down and tell them: ‘Get back in your place, ladies.’ No, it’s not going to be that way anymore,” said Mary Ann McCoy, of Des Moines, who attends St. Ambrose Cathedral.

She said the Vatican and bishops speaking so harshly of nuns has split the church…“They’re women of courage,” McCoy said. “Back in the Old Testament they talked about prophets. A prophet is somebody who speaks for God and these are the things that God talked about — injustice, the poor, the marginalized, woman. Jesus was the greatest prophet when he went out and he shook things up a lot. Well, I think the sisters are walking the walk and talking the talk and that’s what’s important to us…”

Campbell said if the Vatican would talk to her group, she could explain that it was simply continuing the work on poverty and economic injustice that has been its focus for 40 years…

Father Michael Amadeo, who attended the rally and is pastor of Holy Trinity Church in Des Moines, said that although the Vatican may have issues with Women Religious, he doesn’t think the bus tour conflicts with church teachings…

Boehner’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the bus tour.

King’s office responded with an email faulting “Obama…blah, blah, blah and Nancy Pelosi…blah, blah, blah.

Ryan’s spokeswoman also did not mention the nuns when she responded to a request for comment…

Hypocrites and fools who choose greed and power instead of the ethics originally offered by many religions abuse those very religions when they make claims – as Ryan did – that his belief in an Ayn Rand-style triumph of the will represented how Catholicism helps the poor.

Ooh! I can feel that yardstick, now!

Pope pissed off at uppity American nuns — orders Inquisition!


You’re toast!

The Vatican has appointed an American bishop to rein in the largest and most influential group of Catholic nuns in the United States, saying that an investigation found that the group had “serious doctrinal problems.”

The Vatican’s assessment…said that members of the group, the Leadership Conference of Women Religious, had challenged church teaching on homosexuality and the male-only priesthood, and promoted “radical feminist themes incompatible with the Catholic faith.”

The sisters were also reprimanded for making public statements that “disagree with or challenge the bishops, who are the church’s authentic teachers of faith and morals.” During the debate over the health care overhaul in 2010, American bishops came out in opposition to the health plan, but dozens of sisters, many of whom belong to the Leadership Conference, signed a statement supporting it — support that provided crucial cover for the Obama administration in the battle over health care…

Word of the Vatican’s action took the group completely by surprise, Sister Annmarie Sanders said. She said that the group’s leaders were in Rome on Wednesday for what they thought was a routine annual visit to the Vatican when they were informed of the outcome of the investigation, which began in 2008.

“I’m stunned,” said Sister Simone Campbell, executive director of Network, a Catholic social justice lobby founded by sisters. Her group was also cited in the Vatican document, along with the Leadership Conference, for focusing its work too much on poverty and economic injustice, while keeping “silent” on abortion and same-sex marriage…

The verdict on the nuns group was issued by the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, which is now led by an American, Cardinal William Levada… He appointed Archbishop J. Peter Sartain of Seattle to lead the process of reforming the sisters’ conference, with assistance from Bishop Thomas J. Paprocki and Bishop Leonard Blair, who was in charge of the investigation of the group.

They have been given up to five years to revise the group’s statutes, approve of every speaker at the group’s public programs and replace a handbook the group used to facilitate dialogue on matters that the Vatican said should be settled doctrine. They are also supposed to review the Leadership Conference’s links with Network and another organization, the Resource Center for Religious Life.

Doctrinal issues have been in the forefront during the papacy of Benedict XVI, who was in charge of the Vatican’s doctrinal office before he became pope. American nuns have come under particular scrutiny. Last year, American bishops announced that a book by a popular theologian at Fordham University, Sister Elizabeth A. Johnson, should be removed from all Catholic schools and universities.

And while the Vatican was investigating the Leadership Conference, the Vatican was also conducting a separate, widespread investigation of all women’s religious orders and communities in the United States. That inquiry, known as a “visitation,” was concluded last December, but the results of that process have not been made public.

Just in case anyone wondered about transparency or democracy under a theocracy. The Pope and his henchmen bishops are making it clear that modern thought is anathema; equal civil rights for women are forbidden; any attempts to bring the Roman Catholic Church into the 20th or 21st Centuries will be met with an Inquisition and whatever penalties the men in charge deem necessary.

While you’re at it – if you’re a True Believer who dares to disagree with this Inquisition – then reconsider why you should be obeying Holy Monarchs in the first place. If you’re wandering the Web, reading and examining independent thought without following the rules of the official catechism – maybe you might find yourself capable of many more decisions on your own.

Nextdoor.com offers platform to form a neighborhood network

Looking for a last-minute baby sitter? Want to let your neighbors know about a break-in? Wondering whether anyone else received an unexpectedly high water bill?

A number of people are logging on to private neighborhood websites to ask questions like these, get advice and share information through an electronic version of the backyard fence.

A company called Nextdoor, which offers a free online platform that enables people to create social networks for their own neighborhoods has launched.

Today, more than 800 neighborhoods in 43 states plus the District of Columbia have set up local websites where they can communicate one-on-one, as well as with the people nearby. There are five Nextdoor websites here in New Mexico, including three for Santa Fe neighborhoods: Los Milagros, Sol y Lomas and Talaya Hill.

Each website includes a neighborhood map, member postings, a directory of residents (including brief profiles), links to resources and reports of interest, and photographs of community events…

Access to each Nextdoor website is password-protected, and only verified residents can become members, log on and post messages. No one else has access to the content, so that people can safely share information on neighborhood topics…

Neighbors log on to the site, using their own user ID and password, to read postings, but they can also elect to receive posts instantly via email…

There are currently no advertisements on the websites, but the revenue model calls for eventually working with local businesses to provide special offers to website members — Groupon meets Facebook — according to Nextdoor spokeswoman Whitney Swindells.

It all sounds useful, practical and positive.

Hermit that I am, I probably would remain mostly as unresponsive to dialogue in the neighborhood as I am at the blogs I contribute to. But, I can think of the few times that my curiosity while out and about – spotting someone I thought might be a gangster preparing to burglarize or vandalize someone – would be useful to everyone in the neighborhood. After I called the Sheriff.

T-Mobile — We already have a million+ iPhones on our network

As AT&T tries to swallow up the American wing of the German telekom, many have wondered whether Apple would allow T-Mobile to carry the iPhone. Apple’s answer so far is a no*, but that hasn’t stopped T-Mobile customers from adopting iPhones. In huge numbers.

In a meeting with T-Mobile spokespeople today ahead of the NYC Pepcom event, I received word that there are actively over a million Apple iPhones currently on T-Mobile’s network.

When asked for a breakdown, the spokesman said the majority were pre-iPhone 4 but that a significant amount of people had “taken the scissors” to their T-Mobile SIM cards. T-Mobile doesn’t currently offer a Micro-SIM solution for Apple’s iPhone 4 so people who want to use the iPhone 4 must modify their SIMs into MicroSIMs. Those using iPhone 4s also won’t receive T-Mobile’s 3G or 4G data speeds because of the radio differences between the networks.

When asked to elaborate further on Micro-SIMs, the spokesman told me they are in the works but there was no time frame for release. Why not wait until the deal with AT&T is done to make MicroSIMs? Perhaps we’ll have a little surprise come September?

Cripes. I may finally have an excuse to get my wife an iPhone.

Lockheed Martin network hacked – RSA tokens probably involved

SecurID key RSA

The computer network at the largest U.S. defense contractor is suffering what’s being described as a “major disruption”…according to a report from Reuters, and the word is that somehow, RSA SecurID tokens–those little keychain dongles that generate seemingly random strings of numbers every 60 seconds–are involved.

Remember, if you will, that RSA disclosed it was under what it described as an “extremely sophisticated attack” in March. Later in April, the EMC-owned security outfit disclosed some of the anatomy of the attack, though it didn’t say much about what information was taken.

A few days ago, Robert Cringely reported that a major U.S. defense contractor had a very bad weekend, as a network issue took down remote access, meaning that anyone who routinely worked remotely had to go instead into the nearest office. The way he tells it, the incident was followed by word that all employees using the tokens would be issued new ones and would be required to change their passwords. The tokens are used to provide two-factor authentication to the corporate network from outside the firewall that’s meant to keep outsiders out…

EMC isn’t commenting on the incident. But Reuters is quoting Steve Winterfeld of TASC, a company spun off from Northrop Grumman, as saying RSA hasn’t provided enough details on how its network was breached, and that this has led him to consider the RSA devices as no longer secure. People are, he says, “freaked out.”

He’s likely not alone. As of 2009, there were more than 40 million people either using RSA tokens or RSA number-generating software on their smart phones.

My only question is – how did Lockheed manage to waste so much time before deciding to, uh, change out the possible compromised RSA keys?

The smallish community bank I do business with made that decision within a day or so of learning of the breach at RSA. Maybe it cost them a few bucks extra to replace every SecurID key – because I doubt if RSA was willing to pick up the tab for their sloppiness – but, safety and security for your customers is worth a lot more.

European nations agree on offshore North Sea electric grid


The core of the proposed North Sea grid

Ministers from 10 European countries bordering the North Sea have agreed the construction of a new offshore electricity grid.

The grid will link countries across Europe and make it much easier for member states to trade energy.

It will also simplify the exploitation of the 140 Gigawatt offshore windfarm currently being planned in the North Sea…

The Memorandum of Understanding was signed by the governments of the UK, Ireland, Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway and Sweden.

The new grid would be used to connect European grids to a large offshore windfarm currently in planning for the North Sea. The project is part of a concerted effort by the European Union to live up to its emissions targets and integrate the energy infrastructure.

One such cooperation is already in place. Norway and the Netherlands [.pdf] use so-called “high-voltage direct-current” links to pump energy back and forth between the two countries…

The North Sea grid is a highly ambitious project but could prove an important boost to countries whose location gives them an excess of solar or wind energy.

This project confounds so many aspects of political life in these United States, my friends and family will likely be discussing it most of the weekend. Why? Because it would be damned near impossible for us to accomplish the same thing – as useful as it would be.

Ten years would be wasted on dealing with all the nutballs, from NIMBYs to organizations with vested interests in religions which claim the spirits of the dead will be affronted by electricity passing through cables underwater.

Then you get to politicians owned by competing interests, e.g. Big Coal, the Oil Patch Boys, a significant chunk of Congress. Add in the civilian organizations that front for the coal and oil brigade like the teabaggers and bought-and-paid-for skeptics. Then, consider trying to get ten coastal states to agree on anything that might benefit all equally – instead of providing largesse to a couple which may be best connected [pun admitted] and therefore presume they always deserve the most from any endeavor…you have a convoy of greed and self-interest that could sink the biggest flotilla in World War 2.

Thanks, Tom, for the NordNed link

Geek activists sniff Congresswoman’s Wi-Fi

We’re not sure what’s more humorous: That California Rep. Jane Harman, the ranking member of the House Intelligence Committee, maintains two unencrypted Wi-Fi networks at her residence, or that a consumer group sniffed her unsecured traffic in a bid to convince lawmakers to hold hearings about Google.

A representative for Consumer Watchdog…parked outside Harman’s and other lawmakers’ Washington-area residences to determine whether they had unsecured Wi-Fi networks that might have been sniffed by Google as part of the internet giant’s Street View and Google Maps program.

The group wants the House Energy and Commerce Committee, of which Harman is also a member, to haul Google executives before it, so they can publicly explain why, for three years, Google was downloading data packets from unencrypted Wi-Fi networks in neighborhoods in dozens of countries. Google has repeatedly said it didn’t realize it was storing snippets of payload data on unsecured Wi-Fi networks, until German privacy authorities began questioning what data Google was collecting.

Yup. We really need to spend taxpayer dollars to have Google state for the umpteenth time what they were doing. And why. And why they don’t do that anymore.

Consumer Watchdog’s wardriving unintentionally highlights the murky state of wiretapping laws in the United States. According to the text of the federal wiretapping statute, it’s not considered felony wiretapping “to intercept or access an electronic communication made through an electronic communication system that is configured so that such electronic communication is readily accessible to the general public.”

So even if had been deliberate, Google’s sniffing would arguably not have been illegal. For its part, Consumer Watchdog says it only grabbed frame data, not content, in order to enumerate the devices on Harman’s network…

Doesn’t seem especially murky to me. Either flavor.

Two unencrypted networks, Harmanmbr and harmantheater, according to the group, were discovered outside Harman’s residence.

Har!

Axcess Ontario brings high-speed broadband to rural New York

Government executives who are curious about the specific projects that are likely to result from the FCC’s National Broadband Plan might want to study Axcess Ontario, the county-established nonprofit deploying a fiber network in Ontario County, N.Y.

County officials met with the FCC, May 4, to explain their broadband strategy. The program, much of which is already implemented, focuses on snaking a 180-mile fiber backhaul throughout all municipalities in Ontario County. Any service provider will be free to extend its network equipment from the backhaul to provide services to homes and businesses.

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