The terrible war on terror ain’t cheap

The Pentagon says it has spent at least $1 trillion prosecuting the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and defending the U.S. homeland, according to newly released Defense Department figures through April 30.

Spending growth on Afghanistan operations helped push the Pentagon over the $1 trillion mark, increasing to $6.2 billion per month in April from $4.3 billion in the first two months of fiscal 2011 that began Oct. 1. Afghanistan spending in fiscal 2009, as Barack Obama became president, averaged $3.9 billion per month.

The spending total includes war-related operations, transportation, special combat pay and benefits, food, medical services, maintenance, replacement of lost combat equipment and building the Iraq and Afghanistan security forces.

Still, the $1 trillion does not include about $95 billion in funds appropriated but still to put on contract or paid to personnel to cover operational costs over the rest of the fiscal year as well as procurement of replacement weapons systems and construction that take years to spend, said Amy Belasco, a Congressional Research Service budget expert.

It also does not include about $100 billion the Pentagon excludes as not ‘war-related,’ such as intelligence, Belasco said. Nor does it include long-term costs for Veterans Administration care, disability costs for wounded Iraq and Afghanistan veterans, or all reconstruction funding for the war- damaged countries.

via Pentagon Crosses $1 Trillion Threshold in War on Terror Spending – Bloomberg.

Fake Sounds to Help Humans

The secret static on your Skype call

A less obvious bit of artificial sound that you probably hear every day is called comfort noise. Lots of modern telephone systems as well as software like Skype employ noise reduction techniques. Unfortunately, that can result in total silence at quiet points in a conversation and leave you wondering if the call has stopped entirely.

That’s where comfort noise comes in. To fill those lulls, the software adds artificial noise at a barely audible volume. While you won’t consciously notice it, it prevents you from feeling like you’re talking into a void.

Comfort noise isn’t a new concept either. During the siege of Leningrad, the Soviets broadcast the beat of a metronome to reassure citizens that the radio network was still up and running. Radio stations today add comfort noise to broadcasts during quiet periods such as the minute’s silence on Remembrance Day.

via Humans Invent | Innovation, Craftsmanship & Design.

Global Weirding

Sceptics argue that there have always been droughts and floods, freak weather, heatwaves and temperature extremes, but what concerns most climate scientists and observers is that the extreme weather events are occurring more frequently, their intensity is growing and the trends all suggest long-term change as greenhouse gases steadily build in the atmosphere.

Killer droughts and heatwaves, deeper snowfalls, more widespread floods, heavier rains, and temperature extremes are now the “new normal”, says Nikhil da Victoria Lobo of the giant insurance firm Swiss Re, which last month estimated losses from natural disasters have risen from about $25bn a year in the 1980s to $130bn a year today. “Globally, what we’re seeing is more volatility,” he says.

People in the most affected areas are certainly not waiting for climate scientists to confirm climate change is happening before they adapt. In Nepal, where the rain is heavier than before, flat roofs are giving way to pitched roofs, and villagers in the drought-prone Andes are building reservoirs and changing crops to survive.

New analysis of natural disasters in 140 countries shows that climate is becoming more extreme. Last month, Oxfam reported that while the number of “geo-physical” disasters – such as earthquakes and volcanic eruptions – has remained more or less constant, those caused by flooding and storms have increased from around 133 a year in 1980s to more than 350 a year now.

“It is abundantly clear that weather-related disasters have been increasing in some of the world’s poorest countries and this increase cannot be explained fully by better ways of counting them,” says Steve Jennings, the report’s author. “Whichever way you look at the figures, there is a significant rise in the number of weather-related disasters. They have been increasing and are set to get worse as climate change further intensifies natural hazards.

“I think that global ‘weirding’ is the best way to describe what we’re seeing. We are used to certain conditions and there’s a lot going on these days that is not what we’re used to, that is outside our current frame of reference,” says climate scientist Katharine Hayhoe of Texas Tech University.

from Warning: extreme weather ahead | World news | The Guardian.

Nuclear fuel has melted through base of Fukushima plant

Nuclear fuel has melted through base of Fukushima plant

The nuclear fuel in three of the reactors at the Fukushima Dai-Ichi nuclear plant has melted through the base of the pressure vessels and is pooling in the outer containment vessels, according to a report by the Japanese government.

The findings of the report, which has been given to the International Atomic Energy Agency, were revealed by the Yomiuri newspaper, which described a “melt-through” as being “far worse than a core meltdown” and “the worst possibility in a nuclear accident.”

A spokesman for Tokyo Electric Power Co. said the company is presently revising the road-map for bringing the plant under control, including the time required to achieve cold shutdown of the reactors.

In a best-case scenario, the company says it will be able to achieve that by October, although that may have to be revised in light of the report.

Water that was pumped into the pressure vessels to cool the fuel rods, becoming highly radioactive in the process, has been confirmed to have leaked out of the containment vessels and outside the buildings that house the reactors.

Tepco said it is trying to contain the contaminated water and prevent it from leaking into the sea, but elevated levels of radiation have been confirmed in the ocean off the plant.

The radiation will also have contaminated the soil and plant and animal life around the facility, making the task of cleaning up more difficult and expensive, as well as taking longer.

The experts have also yet to come up with a plan for decommissioning the ruined plant. Studies have estimated that the cost of the accident at Fukushima may rise as high as $250 billion over the next 10 years.

via Nuclear fuel has melted through base of Fukushima plant – Telegraph.

Domesday Reloaded

Really enjoying browsing the BBC’s Domesday Reloaded

25 years ago, the BBC published the Domesday Project. The project was probably the most ambitious attempt ever to capture the essence of life in the United Kingdom. Over a million people contributed to this digital snapshot of the country.

People were asked to record what they thought would be of interest in another 1000 years.

The original data was stored and released on laser-disc!

Here’s a gem from the Portsmouth entry:

A DAY IN THE LIFE OF MARK

After assembly we go to
Environmental Studies, which is my
favourite subject. At the end of the
lesson I go out to play,which lasts
for 20 minutes. We do Environmental
Maths until lunchtime at 12.00. Then
we do some work on the Domesday
Project.
Whilst I’m at school my mum goes
to work at the Hyperstore,so I have to
let myself in with a key, then I take
my dog out for a walk. When my mum
comes home I have my tea and go out to
play tennis. I come in at about 7.30pm
and get ready for bed. Then I have a
choice of three things:
a)Watch T.V.
b)Play a game on my computer (like
‘Elite’)
c)Watch a video or tape something.
Then I start a new day.

North China is dying – China’s Water Crisis

A chronic drought is ravaging farmland. The Gobi Desert is inching south. The Yellow River, the so-called birthplace of Chinese civilization, is so polluted it can no longer supply drinking water. The rapid growth of megacities — 22 million people in Beijing and 12 million in Tianjin alone — has drained underground aquifers that took millenniums to fill.

Not atypically, the Chinese government has a grand and expensive solution: Divert at least six trillion gallons of water each year hundreds of miles from the other great Chinese river, the Yangtze, to slake the thirst of the north China plain and its 440 million people.

The engineering feat, called the South-North Water Diversion Project, is China’s most ambitious attempt to subjugate nature. It would be like channeling water from the Mississippi River to meet the drinking needs of Boston, New York and Washington. Its $62 billion price tag is twice that of the Three Gorges Dam, which is the world’s largest hydroelectric project. And not unlike that project, which Chinese officials last month admitted had “urgent problems,” the water diversion scheme is increasingly mired in concerns about its cost, its environmental impact and the sacrifices poor people in the provinces are told to make for those in richer cities.

Three artificial channels from the Yangtze would transport precious water from the south, which itself is increasingly afflicted by droughts; the region is suffering its worst one in 50 years. The project’s human cost is staggering — along the middle route, which starts here in Hubei Province at a gigantic reservoir and snakes 800 miles to Beijing, about 350,000 villagers are being relocated to make way for the canal. Many are being resettled far from their homes and given low-grade farmland; in Hubei, thousands of people have been moved to the grounds of a former prison.

“Look at this dead yellow earth,” said Li Jiaying, 67, a hunched woman hobbling to her new concrete home clutching a sickle and a bundle of dry sticks for firewood. “Our old home wasn’t even being flooded for the project and we were asked to leave. No one wanted to leave.”

via Plan for China’s Water Crisis Spurs Concern – NYTimes.com.

Fukushima Water Has More Radiation Than Released Into Air

105 million litres of it…

The water level in basements and trenches at Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s Fukushima plant rose and may contain more radiation than is known to have been released into the atmosphere in the worst nuclear crisis since Chernobyl.

The amount of contaminated water rose to about 105 million liters (28 million gallons) from 100 million liters on May 18, and may start overflowing after June 20, the company known as Tepco said in a statement today. Radiation in the water is estimated at 720,000 terabecquerels, general manager Junichi Matsumoto said at a media briefing in Tokyo.

Tepco has pumped millions of liters of water to cool three reactors that melted down at the Fukushima Dai-Ichi station after the March 11 earthquake and tsunami knocked out power and backup generators, crippling its cooling systems. With Japan’s rainy season in full swing, heavy downpours threaten to flood the plant and leak more radiation into the sea, soil and air.

“The risk of overflow is as serious as the meltdown of reactor fuel rods that’s already happened,” Tetsuo Ito, the head of the Atomic Energy Research Institute at Kinki University in western Japan, said in a phone interview. “Tepco should’ve acknowledged this risk weeks ago and could’ve taken any urgent measures.”

A water de-contamination unit being built at the plant will start operating after June 15 and an underground tank capable of holding 10 million liters will be ready by the middle of August, Tepco said in today’s statement.

via Fukushima Water Has More Radiation Than Released Into Air – BusinessWeek.

Weekend Walk 26 – Petersfield to Queen Elizabeth County Park – Hangers Way

This morning I walked the remainder of the Hangers Way, a 21 mile path from Alton in Hampshire to the South Downs at the Q.E. Country Park. A sunny June morning, it was a hot walk and I was glad of the stiff breeze and the shaded sections. Petersfield was busier than normal. I found out this was because of the Petersfield Festival of Food & Drink (which at first I thought was just an extension of the usual market). The walk took me through the town and the mobile homes park. It’s got to be the neatest mobile homes park I’ve seen. Each garden was immaculately looked after. Then I headed south, getting a bit off track leaving the park, before picking up the Way along kind of a dyke, which lead down to Buriton. Buriton is such a sweet little village, with the pond as its main feature. I was surprised no one was there visiting. One lady in a garden, one walking her dog, that’s it. On the south edge of the village a team of Community Service workers were maintaining the cemetery. One local was stood in his doorway looking rather concerned at these tattood and stern faced men trimming hedges and strimming and repainting gates. Under the railway, then it was up onto the higher ground of the South Downs, but wooded hill here, mainly planted in the 1930s. It was busy there with hikers and cyclists, picnickers and families.

So, that’s the Hangers Way. Still two days left on the South Downs Way from last year to do, and I’ll soon tackle something like the Pilgrims Way or Staunton Way.

LulzSec Hacks

Security is an illusion. Corruption is everywhere.

LulzSec have been busy. Recent hacks include Fox.com, the UK ATM database, PBS.org, SonyPictures.com, Nintendo.com, and now FBO-related http://infragardatlanta.org. This latest because the USA now consider hacking to be an ‘act of war’. 180 usernames and passwords were obtained, all FBI-related, and thousands from the other organisations.

Dear Internets,

It has come to our unfortunate attention that NATO and our good friend Barrack
Osama-Llama 24th-century Obama have recently upped the stakes with regard to hacking.
They now treat hacking as an act of war. So, we just hacked an FBI affiliated website
(Infragard, specifically the Atlanta chapter) and leaked its user base. We also took
complete control over the site and defaced it, check it out if it’s still up: http://infragardatlanta.org/

While not very many logins (around 180), we’d like to take the time to point out that all
of them are affiliated with the FBI in some way. Most of them reuse their passwords in other places,
which is heavily frowned upon in the FBI/Infragard handbook and generally everywhere else too.

One of them, Karim Hijazi, used his Infragard password for his personal gmail, and the gmail of
the company he owns. “Unveillance”, a whitehat company that specializes in data breaches and botnets,
was compromised because of Karim’s incompetence. We stole all of his personal emails and his company
emails. We also briefly took over, among other things, their servers and their botnet control panel.

After doing so, we contacted Karim and told him what we did. After a few discussions, he offered to
pay us to eliminate his competitors through illegal hacking means in return for our silence. Karim,
a member of an FBI-related website, was willing to give us money and inside info in order to destroy
his opponents in the whitehat world. We even discussed plans for him to give us insider botnet information.

Naturally we were just stringing him along to further expose the corruption of whitehats.
Please find enclosed Karim’s full contact details and a log of him talking to us through IRC.
Also, enjoy 924 of his internal company emails – we have his personal gmail too, unreleased.

We call upon journalists and other writers to delve through the emails carefully, as we have
uncovered an operation orchestrated by Unveillance and others to control and assess Libyan
cyberspace through malicious means: the U.S. government is funding the CSFI to attack Libya’s
cyber infrastructure. You will find the emails of all 23 people involved in the emails.

Unveillance was also involved in a scheme where they paid an Indian registrar $2000 to
receive 100 domains a month that may be deemed as botnet C&Cs. Shameful ploys by supposed “whitehats”.

We accept your threats, NATO. Game on, losers.

Now we are all sons of bitches,

Lulz Security