Border Patrol loses thousands of license plate photos at Canadian border

Hackers have stolen thousands of photos of travelers and their license plates from a subcontractor of Customs and Border Protection, the agency announced on Monday. A source told the Washington Post that the data was collected at a particular port of entry on the Canadian border…

❝ CBP says it learned of the breach on May 31, and the organization stated that its own network was not compromised. The agency says that the subcontractor violated agency policies when it copied the photos to its own network, making them more vulnerable to hacking.

“CBP takes its privacy and cybersecurity responsibilities very seriously and demands all contractors to do the same,” the agency said.

It just does a crap job of checking to see if “responsible” standards are implemented and maintained.

UPS Driver Snaps Photos of Dogs on his Route

❝ Jason Hardesty is a self-proclaimed “easily entertained UPS driver” with a collection of furry friends. Since starting a new route in New Orleans two years ago, Jason has had the chance to meet with many adorable dogs — and get some quality photo ops out of their interactions. His heart-melting canine snaps continue to grow in popularity, resulting in over 36,000 followers on his Instagram account…

❝ Jason doesn’t have a dog of his own, so playing around with these pups brings him (and the dogs’ owners) a lot of happiness. “

RTFA and then click through the boxes with question marks at the bottom of the article – and see more dogs along his route.

First landing on comet — photo history


Rosetta selfie with Comet 67/P in the background

History was made yesterday as a spacecraft the size of a fridge executed the first successful landing on a comet. The European Space Agency confirms that at about 16:00 GMT the unmanned Philae space probe touched down on the surface of comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko at the landing site known as Agilkia. The comet and spacecraft are 510 million km from Earth, so the news of the landing took 28 minutes and 20 seconds to reach mission control in Darmstadt, Germany.

The day before the landing, the 100 kg Phiale was turned on and its batteries charged for the first time since leaving Earth. There were some initial glitches as the batteries warmed more slowly than anticipated, but the spacecraft soon warmed up to its operational temperature. As the Rosetta mothership carrying Philae maneuvered into position, mission control carried out flight checks on the two spacecraft, sent command updates to Philae that allowed it to navigate autonomously to the landing site, and cleared the landing maneuver after a series of go/no decisions with the lander declared ready for separation at 02:35 GMT.

Despite a transient fault in the cold gas thruster aboard Philae, at 07:35 GMT Rosetta completed its final maneuver and the final permission was given to proceed with landing. At 09:03 Philae separated from Rosetta. During course correction maneuvers, communications with Earth were interrupted from either spacecraft, so they were programmed to operate autonomously…


First photo from Philae lander

…Since its arrival on August 6, the orbiter has been mapping the comet in search of a suitable landing site for the Philae lander.

…The landing…was based on a window where there would be enough sunlight to power the lander, but not so much as to make the comet dangerously active. Meanwhile, the site was chosen based on a balance between the scientific value of the area against the safety of the lander. Agilkia has very little slope, few boulders, and abundant sunlight, yet contains many features of interest.

ESA says that Philae has begun taking panoramic images as part of a two-and-a-half day science mission using its suite of 10 instruments, which could be extended if its solar panels are able to charge its batteries.

Bravo. Kudos to ESA for having the foresight and dedication to basic science and research required to fund and manage this project.

Click through to the article and more than 2 dozen photos from the history of the Rosetta project.

Thanks, Ursarodinia, Mike – GMTA

The NSA is collecting millions of faces – our faces – from the Web


Understand why politicians from Obama to Bloomberg to McCain hate what Snowden reveals

The National Security Agency is harvesting huge numbers of images of people from communications that it intercepts through its global surveillance operations for use in sophisticated facial recognition programs, according to top-secret documents.

The spy agency’s reliance on facial recognition technology has grown significantly over the last four years as the agency has turned to new software to exploit the flood of images included in emails, text messages, social media, videoconferences and other communications, the N.S.A. documents reveal. Agency officials believe that technological advances could revolutionize the way that the N.S.A. finds intelligence targets around the world, the documents show. The agency’s ambitions for this highly sensitive ability and the scale of its effort have not previously been disclosed.

The agency intercepts “millions of images per day” — including about 55,000 “facial recognition quality images” — which translate into “tremendous untapped potential,” according to 2011 documents obtained from the former agency contractor Edward J. Snowden. While once focused on written and oral communications, the N.S.A. now considers facial images, fingerprints and other identifiers just as important to its mission of tracking suspected terrorists and other intelligence targets, the documents show…

“Just as important” means the NSA still considers keeping an eye on all of us as mission critical.

It is not clear how many people around the world, and how many Americans, might have been caught up in the effort. Neither federal privacy laws nor the nation’s surveillance laws provide specific protections for facial images. Given the N.S.A.’s foreign intelligence mission, much of the imagery would involve people overseas whose data was scooped up through cable taps, Internet hubs and satellite transmissions.

Because the agency considers images a form of communications content, the N.S.A. would be required to get court approval for imagery of Americans collected through its surveillance programs, just as it must to read their emails or eavesdrop on their phone conversations, according to an N.S.A. spokeswoman…

Sophistry designed to protect governmental pimps who want rubber stamp approval for data mining the world.

The F.B.I. is developing what it calls its “next generation identification” project to combine its automated fingerprint identification system with facial imagery and other biometric data…The State Department has what several outside experts say could be the largest facial imagery database in the federal government, storing hundreds of millions of photographs of American passport holders and foreign visa applicants. And the Department of Homeland Security is funding pilot projects at police departments around the country to match suspects against faces in a crowd.

The N.S.A., though, is unique in its ability to match images with huge troves of private communications.

RTFA for examples of everything from individual tales of criminal penetration of privacy – through hints here and there of the abuse of technology for political ends. All liberally slathered with copouts from Congress and the usual rationales about Homeland security.

There is nothing here that dictators haven’t hungered for in the history of tyranny. Ours is the generation that awarded the freedom to spy on absolutely everyone in the Land of the Free – to the politicians in charge.

Thanks, Mike

Fail selfie of the week!

Selfie with squirrel

A photo op with a squirrel that went awry has left a teenager flustered but unhurt.

Seventeen-year-old Brian Genest, of Auburn, said Thursday he saw what appeared to be a friendly squirrel on a hand rail while walking through John Chestnut Park near Tampa, Florida. He was on a trip looking at colleges.

Genest took a selfie of himself and the squirrel. But the flash and noises from his camera phone scared the squirrel, which climbed under his shirt and hung onto his back before scampering back out…

Genest’s mother, Paula Wright, snapped photos of the hoopla, originally posted to his Instagram feed along with his selfie.

Mom was laughing so hard she could hardly take the picture – much less help rid him of the squirrel. 🙂

In pictures: Top ten green buildings in the United States


New Norris house, Tennessee

The American Institute of Architects announced its top ten green buildings in the US for 2013 on Monday (Earth Day, uncoincidentally). It’s a diverse list, containing a cheese factory, senior citizens’ apartments, school buildings, and a smattering of LEED certificates. There’s only one net zero building on the list, though it’s worth remembering that it’s much easier to build a net zero home than it is a net zero office or factory.

Step inside for a short profile of each of the buildings, or head straight to the gallery for the architectural eye candy.

I love this stuff. In most cases there is little premium added to the cost of construction – and sensible design can more than compensate.

The two of us live in 1200 sq.ft. designed and built on a tiny budget – and don’t use all the space we have.

Hotels “help” geeks through their holiday without a hookup

With the advent of smartphones we’ve become used to being constantly connected, even when we’re on the road or on vacation. But now a growing number of hotels are adding “digital detox” packages to their roster of offerings.

Detox packages are nothing new. For decades, hotels and vacation retreats have enticed guests to “clean out,” often with the help of a specialized diet plan and fitness regimens (with a massage thrown in for good measure). These days, the concept is being pushed to help us disconnect from technology. The World Travel Market Global Trends Report even listed digital detox as one of the next big trends to hit the hospitality industry in the coming year…

“We’ve witnessed the increased dependency people now have on their electronic devices,” notes Andrew Henning, the general manager at The Westin Dublin, in Ireland.

In March, the hotel introduced a digital detox package to combat this gadget addiction – recently classified in the media as “nomophobia”. Guests that partake in the package stash their electronic devices in a safe, and in exchange get a detox survival kit, which includes a board game, a walking map, a tree-planting kit, and other reminders that life exists beyond the confines of an iPad.

Via Yoga, a company that hosts yoga retreats in Mexico and Costa Rica, feels so strongly about the need for its guests to unplug that it decided to offer a 15% discount as an incentive for anyone willing to give up their iPhone…

Via Yoga’s detox package is popular, but other venues offering similar packages admit that while there’s interest, they’re not flooded with bookings.

The Hotel Monaco Chicago provides guests with a “black-out” option, whereby they surrender their gadgets to reception upon checking in.

“We were constantly hearing from guests how they loved that the Monaco was an escape from the hustle and bustle of the city,” says Marco Scherer, the hotel’s general manager. “We decided to allow our guests the option to experience the ultimate seclusion by voluntarily forfeiting all methods of electronic communication at check-in.”

Though guests are intrigued by the package, Scherer says very few actually opt to give up their devices…”Most guests prefer our free wi-fi,” he admits.

Cripes. Neurotics worrying about being neurotic.

Electronic gadgets serve useful functions. It’s why cameras were invented. Same goes for the apps, If you have no control over your life, paying someone else to “help” you with the problem – during a holiday stay – is absurd. Unless you’re spending your money to head off on a therapy holiday.

Probably cost less to get your therapy while maintaining your normal daily life.

Dumb crooks of the day!


NOT the way to bring up your kids!

Police in North Port, Fla., say a man was arrested for robbery after uploading pictures of himself on Facebook posing with the loot and a gun linking him to the crime, the Sarasota Herald-Tribune reports.

Jovan Cummings, 24, and his girlfriend, Nicole Catherine Eaton, 22, were arrested for allegedly robbing a Dollar General in March of $3,000 after assaulting one store employee and binding him with duct tape.

The newspaper says a detective looking at surveillance video thought the robbers looked like Cummings and Eaton, who had previously had run-ins with the law.

A check of photos on Cumming’s Facebook page showed him holding a wad of cash and also wearing what police said was “the exact same hat” as the store robber.

There was also a video of him brandishing a handgun like the one used in the robbery, the newspaper says, quoting police.

Same as it ever was. You don’t spend time committing armed robbery because you have the highest IQ on the block.