Wednesday, November 30, 2011

#OccupyMINDS Undercover operation exposed | Rob Evans

Undercover operation exposed | Rob Evans:

Two police spies exposed after infiltrating Canadian protest groups to gather intelligence on summit demonstrations

It's worth catching up with a story which has broken across the Atlantic. It has a familar ring to it.

A court case in Canada has revealed how two undercover police officers infiltrated activist groups in that country.

The pair were named last week as Bindo Showan and Brenda Carey. They posed as activists for 18 months, but were exposed during a somewhat unsuccessful attempt to prosecute activists.

Accounts of the affair can be found here and here.

It is interesting to see the aim of the undercover operation. The two police spies were sent to gather information about protests which were being planned against the G20 summit in Toronto last year.

Meetings of world leaders at G20 and G8 summits have long been a target of protests by the global justice movement, environmentalists, anti-capitalists, and other progressive activists. Therefore intelligence about these protests beforehand is at a premium for police forces.

It is noticeable that Mark Kennedy, who spent seven years undercover in the environmental movement, devoted much effort to collecting intelligence on the protests against the G8 summit in Gleneagles in 2005. Kennedy says that the intelligence was so "invaluable" that he got a commendation for it. "I was told information I provided was passed straight to Tony Blair's desk," he told the Mail on Sunday earlier this year.

There are of course similarities in the undercover operations here in Britain and in Canada. For instance, one of the Canadian undercover officers reportedly had a white van and drove activists around. He is also reported to have played up divisions between activists.

But he proved to be a bit incompetent - activists became suspicious about him because he kept his receipts. Mmm, wonder why he was doing that ? © 2011 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved. | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds

To the Rescue: Central Banks Slam Liquidity Into Banks; Stocks Take Moon Shot

To the Rescue: Central Banks Slam Liquidity Into Banks; Stocks Take Moon Shot:

After a near collapse of global stock markets in recent weeks on fears of a European Debt collapse, central banks took action this morning to rescue the system:

Stocks soared in morning trading Wednesday after major central banks acted together to support the global financial system by cutting short-term borrowing rates.

The Dow Jones industrial average jumped more than 400 points in early trading Wednesday, and was up 392 hour after the opening bell.

The central banks of Europe, the U.S., Britain, Canada, Japan and Switzerland eased banks’ access to dollars by reducing their borrowing rates. They were responding to fears that a European country will default, touching off a credit crunch similar to what followed the 2008 collapse of Lehman Brothers.

Banks need dollars to fund their daily operations. Their access dried up as U.S. money market funds reduced their lending to European banks.

Source: Associated Press

Thus, now we know why stock markets around the world are soaring. Financial pundits seem to think that all of those underlying issues facing the too-big-to-fail mega banks exposed to the unpayable sovereign debt of European countries have somehow been resolved as of this morning. As his been the case for the last two years, this is nothing more than a 24 to 72 hour news cycle maneuver to suck even more money from unsuspecting investors.

Forget what the central banks did this morning. None of that matters. What matters is this:

Via the AP article cited above:

The move by central banks does not address the fundamental problem posed by heavily indebted European nations. European finance ministers in Brussels have been meeting since Tuesday but have failed to deliver a clearer sense of how the currency union will proceed.

Nothing has changed from last week when Europe faced what Polish finance minister Radoslaw Sikorski referred to as nothing short of an “apocalyptic” breakup of the Euro Zone. Echoing the seriousness of the crisis on Monday, OECD Chief Economist Pier Carlo Padoan warned that a Euro collapse would have “highly devastating outcomes.” Same story, different week, despite what equity markets are doing, because remember that the problem is not with stocks (right now), it’s a problem with massive amounts of debt that cannot be repaid.

The best insight we have into what’s really going on is that the last several weeks have seen major lenders unloading their positions in European debt holdings, which is effectively a run on the banks in the sense that investors are liquidating their positions – tens of billions of dollars worth. This is why we have seen stock markets dropping up until this week. The smart money has been heading for the hills for weeks!

The world’s lenders are increasingly deciding that it’s better to be safe than sorry, and they’re pulling their money out of Europe.

Importantly, once runs like this get started, they can accelerate fast

Source: The Daily Sheeple

Today’s moves by central banks changes nothing except the ticks on the Dow Jones. The debt is still there. The people are still broke. The system is still collapsing.

Believe the mainstream hype at your peril.

Why Your Business Should Be on Google+

Why Your Business Should Be on Google+:

Guest post by Matt Polsky, social media director for Veterans United Home Loans

By now, many of us have already started setting up our Google+ business pages, and have noticed that there’s nothing overly special about these business pages yet, since they currently lack a vanity URL, have no setting for multiple admins and closely resemble a personal page. However, they will be connected back to Google’s search engine in a way that removes the noise made by competitors.

Towards the end of October, I did a simple search using the + operator, which has long been used as a way of identifying words that are required to appear in the desired results. Instead of receiving my query, I was given an error message saying, “The + operator has been replaced. To search for an exact word or phrase, use double quotation marks.”

So where did the + operator go, and why would they replace it? Simply put, the + operator has been assigned a new job – directly send users to a business’ Google+ page. Google refers to this as Google+ Direct Connect and gives every business a reason to have a Google+ page.

For traditional searches, Google+ pages will show up in the SERPs like any other page and will not be weighted any more different than any other page, to comply with anti-trust regulations. However, when a user searches with a “+” in front of a business’ name, they will go directly to that business’ Google+ page, and will not see any other search results.

This feature could be extremely advantageous for brands, making them able to funnel users directly to the information they want show, removing the presence of other sites that get in the way.

Google+ Direct Connect is still in its beta phase and won’t work for every Google+ page just yet. As Google experiments with Direct Connect, they will establish a stronger algorithm and will make it more widely available. As of now, a page’s eligibility for Direct Connect is determined by signals that determine relevancy and popularity, such as social signals, a link between your Google+ page and your website as well as the number of actual searches for that particular brand.

So after the addition of branded pages, will Google+ become the next Facebook or Twitter? Well that is up to Google. They most certainly have the resources, but they lack providing value that is different from Facebook or Twitter, which has caused users to refrain from repeatedly using their service.

At Pubcon 2011, a premier online marketing conference, one of the speakers asked a room of 300 social media specific marketers, who uses Google+ and nearly every hand went up. The next question was who uses Google+ on a daily basis and only four hands went up.

While Google+ may be lacking in stickiness as of now, you must still consider that Google, the premier search engine, is in control of this social network and in the past months, social signals have had a strong effect on the SERPs. In addition to this, remember that Google+ has only been live just over 120 days, yet holds over 40 million users.

As Google sorts out how to provide value different from other social networks, the only remaining problem for businesses is finding the right strategy to persuade customers to use the new + operation and bypass other brands results.

Google loves change and to keep people guessing, which means I feel we can all expect to see Google+ go through a metamorphosis in the upcoming months to a platform that will make it a true competitor with Facebook. With all that being said, what features would you like to see Google add to Google+?

Matt Polsky works in Search and Social Media Marketing and is the Social Media Director for Veterans United Home Loans, the nation’s leading dedicated provider of VA home loans. Connect with Matt on Twitter @mattpolsky.



A buzzword used by management and those who aspire to become management. It used to describe an advantage gained by using a tool. Later it became a term used to describe corporate debt. For example, a leveraged buy-out is one where the buyer has to borrow money in order to buy the other company.

After much mis-use, the word leverage no-longer describes anything or have any meaning to anyone who has ever worked in an office.

in business circles this word is most commonly used in place of the word 'use'.

Steve: Can we take this off-line, I'm hungry. I'm going to leverage a sandwich.

Paula: Great idea, I could also leverage some food.

Steve: Come on then, we can leverage my car to get to the sandwich leverager.

Paula: Good leverage, we should leverage your leverage so we'll leverage

Steve: Leverage

(Non)predictions for 2012

(Non)predictions for 2012:

With 2011 waning, people are contemplating what 2012 will bring for technical communication. Our profession is changing rapidly, so intelligent conversations about the future of tech comm are essential.

All that smart talk has absolutely nothing to do with this post.

Instead, prepare to be underwhelmed by my lack of precognition as I offer these humble (non)predictions for 2012:

Fortune teller in the Musee Mecanique (San Franscisco)

  1. A tech comm team without any budget will implement DITA because it’s “free”—and will spend countless hours configuring (and complaining about) the PDF plugin in the DITA Open Toolkit.

  2. A technical writer (not communicator) will lose respect by demanding it.

  3. An IT department will insist that SharePoint is suitable for managing modular XML content.

  4. If there is a new release of FrameMaker, it will have some promising features—and at least one (non)feature that causes long-time users to howl obscenities.

  5. A tech comm team will have their request to implement <shiny new tool or technology> rejected because they offer no business case for the change.

  6. There will be lengthy discussions about punctuation consistency within online help that nobody reads because better information is in unofficial forums riddled with, punctuation inconsistencies.

  7. Technical writers will cry, “I just want to write!” when faced with the task of compiling metrics that could ultimately justify their jobs.

  8. A consultant or XML tool vendor will shamelessly peddle DITA as the cure-all for tech comm ills.

  9. A fervent supporter of a particular tool or technology will take criticism of said tool or technology as an ad hominem attack. (Blame Sarah O’Keefe for this prediction.)

  10. An article about the power of online media will be distributed in print and a three-column PDF file. (Please mail your comments to Simon Bate.)

  11. I will write a blog post with nearly toxic levels of snark. (Mission accomplished, and it’s not even 2012 yet!)

What does your crystal ball have to say about 2012? Leave your (non)predictions in the comments section. The person who posts the best (worst?) prediction will receive a free EPUB version of Scriptorium’s State of Structured Authoring report, which sells for $49.99. The contest will close on Thursday, December 8, and I’ll contact the winner the next day.

Printers Can Be Hacked to Catch on Fire

Printers Can Be Hacked to Catch on Fire:

Two researchers at Columbia University in New York say they've found a flaw in ordinary office printers that lets hackers hijack the devices to spy on users, spread malware and even force them to overheat to the point of catching fire.


New Startup Romotive Turns Your Smartphone Into A Robot (video)

New Startup Romotive Turns Your Smartphone Into A Robot (video):

The open source platform allows users to come up with their own apps, such as the devious "Spy Robot App."

How awesome is Romo the Smartphone Robot? Without knowing anything about it, you simply have to look at the robot’s Kickstarter page. The pledge goal was $32,000. The robot has raised $114,796.

I’d say these guys are on to something.

The guys – Peter Seid and Phu Nguyen – have turned your smartphone into a robot. They’ve built a robotics platform that uses a smartphone for a brain to control a mobile, two-track base. Just attach your smartphone to the base, plug a cord into the earphone jack, download the apps, and using another smartphone, iPad, or computer to control it – you’ve got a robot! The guys are only just getting started, but already they’ve made a “Spy Robot” app that allows you to drive Romo around while seeing the world through the smartphone camera. It can track objects with a color tracking app. Another app turns Romo into a doodler. Just make your drawing on the smartphone touchscreen and Romo follows the pattern, driving around and turning your pixel drawing into a real one. You can also have a conversation with Romo, which makes sense since it has a phone for a head.

Seid and Nguyen’s genius was to recognize that you don’t have to build a robot from the ground up. With their self-admitted nerdyness, the two longed to create a functional robot but without the millions of dollars it takes to create the beast that is Honda’s Asimo, they recognized that supercomputer robotic brains had already been built that are cheap and are everywhere. They built Romo and founded the company Romotive to build more.

The beauty of having a smartphone for a brain is that it is limited only by its apps. Seid and Nguyen, and the growing number of Romo users, are hard at work coming up with new applications, which means the sky’s the limit. They encourage hackers to take Romo apart, to find new ways to interface the smartphone and hardware. And they’re working on an SDK of their own that will run on iOS and Android to make programming easier and more flexible. A forum on their website provides a place where hackers can share their innovations with others. Given the obvious enthusiasm, I see their apps library growing quickly, becoming the smartphone equivalent to the Robot Operating System applications library for robots. Yet another example of the power of open source.

Just $78 gets you a Romo (smartphone not included, duh). An iPod Touch can also be used with the platform. Controls are sent over Wi-Fi, so you can potentially play with Romo over half a world away.

Romo isn’t the first robot to use a smartphone for a brain. iRobot’s AVA turns smartphones, tablets or notebooks into mobile robots. With laser range finders and accelerometers and other major league hardware, AVA’s obviously the superior telepresence robot. But Romo’s our robot, the one we can actually get our hands on and program. Smartphones were already awesome, but Romo takes them to a whole new level. And now that Romotive has got some serious startup funds, the mobile robot could very soon leave your brand new 4S in the dust.

[image credits: Kickstarter]

[video credits: phanloc23291 via YouTube]

images: Romo

video: Romo

Senator Pushes For “Flag” Button to Report “Terrorist” Blogger Content

Senator Pushes For “Flag” Button to Report “Terrorist” Blogger Content:

When government Fusion centers, email sniffers, mobile phone locator systems, and web data aggregation systems aren’t enough it’s time to turn to individual users on the internet for spying and reporting on each other.

Senator Joe Lieberman, who in the 2000 election was a heartbeat away from being a heartbeat away from the Presidency as Al Gore’s running mate, sent an alarming email to Google executives last week calling for the search and applications behemoth, used by hundreds of millions of web users globally, to introduce a flagging system for terrorist content across all of its user-based platforms.

In a November 22nd letter to Google CEO Larry Page (published in full below), Lieberman Writes:

On Saturday, the New York Police Department arrested Joe Pimental for constructing a pipe bomb to be used against U.S. military service members. Pimental allegedly used the Internet to access instructions to make bombs and share his support for violent Islamist extremism.

Pimental’s Internet activity – both his spreading of bomb-making instruction links and his hate-filled writings – were hosted by Google. On his site, Pimental stated, “People have to understand that America and it allies are all legitimate targets in warfare. This includes facilities such as army bases, police stations, political facilities, embassies, CIA and FBI buildings, private and public airports, and all kinds of buildings where money is being made to help fund the war.” As demonstrated by this recent case, Google’s webhosting site, Blogger is being used by violent Islamist extremists to broadcast terrorist content. Pimental’s site is just one of the many examples of homegrown terrorists using Google-hosted sites to propagate their violent ideology.

In September 2008, in response to a previous request that YouTube not allow terrorist content on its servers, Google changed its YouTube Community Guidelines to expressly ban terrorist conent. In November 2010, Google introduced a “flag” button for terrorist content on YouTube. I continue to appreciate and commend these important first steps but I am disappointed that Google has not developed a consistent standard throughout its many platforms. Unlike YouTube’s Community Standards, Blogger’s Content Policy does not expressly ban terrorst content nor does it provide a “flag” feature for such content.

Google sets its own standards for materials allowable on its servers. Through your updated YouTube standards, Google has affirmatively stated that terrorist content will not be permitted on some of your sites. I strongly believe that Google should expand that standard to include your other platforms. The private sector plays an important role in protecting our homeland from the preeminent threat of violent Islamist extremism, and Google’s inconsistent stanrds are adversely affecting our ability to counter violent Islamist extremism online.

Original document image provided by TPM

Resources: Stan Deyo, End of the American Dream, TPM

An Honorable Challenge: 200 Thunderbird Geo Art

An Honorable Challenge: 200 Thunderbird Geo Art:

The 200 Thunderbird Geo Art geocaches create a crystal clear picture that geocaching can extend beyond searching for a container outside. Geocaching means different things to different people. To many, geocaching is a reason to get outdoors, explore, and stay active. To others, geocaching is a challenge, a puzzle, or a creative outlet. To some, it is a venue for memorializing a certain event, location, or person. The 200 Thunderbird caches are a combination of all of the above.

200 Thunderbird Geo Art trail, birds-eye view

Developed by timtreinen, X$r, Johnny Rango, and Danzilla, four cachers from southern Idaho, the 200 Thunderbird is Geo Art compiled of 200 caches. The trail is located near the Mountain Home Air force Base (AFB) in Mountain Home, Idaho and forms the shape of an F-16 Thunderbird fighter plane in honor of the men and women who have served on the base over the years.

The Mountain Home AFB has been open since August of 1943 and has played a significant role in United States history. Cache developer timtreinen writes, “While we chose to do the F-16 as a nod to Mountain Home AFB and its men and women, we wanted the art to be part of something larger. We wanted it to be something our local area cachers would not only enjoy but be proud of, something they would want to invite their friends, locally and nationally, to come and enjoy with them.”

Thunderbirds in flight

After extensive research and preparation, the four cache creators spent ten hours placing all 200 caches in a single day. The plan was to have the entire Geo Art project ready in order to be introduced at the Western Idaho 11/11/11 Event. The event was orchestrated primarily by Johnny Rango and the League of Idaho Geocachers.

According to timtreinen the plan worked, “By 11/11/11, we were ready. More than 75 people showed up from all over Idaho and neighboring states to enjoy the fun of launching this new Geo Art. Many of them braved the dark, wind, and cold that night to start caching the art. ”

200 Thunderbird Crew

Here’s the catch – this Geo Art is more than an organized compilation of traditional caches. Included in the 200 Thunderbird Geo Art are 15 Wherigo Caches, 12 Letterbox-hybrid Caches, 22 Multi-Caches, and 151 Traditional Caches. The effect of using different cache types creates a color-coordinated design.

The Geo Art covers close to 5 square miles and is 5.7 miles long from top to bottom. Timtreinen states that, so far, “at least half a dozen others have finished the art with times ranging from 8 to 23 hours.”

According to timtreinen, “Judging by the participation, it seems evident that we have accomplished our purpose to create something cachers can enjoy.”

If you’re interested in popular existing  Geo Art designs, make sure to check out: Head Alien #01, PEACE SIGN SERIES #1: Can you feel the Peace?, and CREW Rookery #09 – Clyde Butcher (JP136).

Seamless Topographic USGS maps

Seamless Topographic USGS maps:

A few months ago we showed you Matt Fox's excellent topographic maps of New Zealand, which were quite impressive. Over the years he's had many requests to create similar maps with seamless USGS topographic data, and now he's starting to roll them out on his site.


As you can see from the image above, the maps are remarkably sharp. The are distributed through a rather unique system; rather than just downloading a KMZ file, you download an installation program that adds the maps to your PC as Super Overlays. To try it for yourself, Matt is offering a free download of the San Francisco area, available here.

For comparison, you can check out our "best topo map interface" post from 2006. While they were impressive five years ago, the new maps are significantly higher quality.


For more, be sure to visit Google Earth Library and read Matt's full blog entry.

Occupy Wall Street As Pong #OccupyMINDS

Occupy Wall Street As Pong:

From MK12, the opening animation for a special Occupy Wall Street screening, curated by Zero Film Festival in NYC. Here’s how to win at life:

Storing Wind Energy As Hydrogen

Storing Wind Energy As Hydrogen:

From EarthTechling's Pete Danko:

The idea of storing excess wind energy as hydrogen is picking up steam in Germany, with a second pilot program popping up -- this one from the big power company E.On. But there's a key difference between the two projects: In Herten, Germany, the company Hydrogenics plans to use power from a wind plant to electrolyze water to produce hydrogen that will be stored and later used in fuel cells to provide power. E.On also intends to use wind to produce hydrogen by electrolysis, but then the hydrogen "will be fed into the Ontras gas pipeline system and be used like normal natural gas," the company said.

One of the challenges with wind power is that maximum production often comes overnight, when power demand is low. Energy developers are taking stabs at different ways to efficiently store that energy. In West Virginia, a big battery system is being employed; and pumped storage is getting increasing attention, including by E.On, which said it was expanding its investments in that area. (With pumped storage, excess wind power is used to move water to a higher elevation, where it can then be stored for later use -- with the assistance of gravity -- to create hydropower.)

"We need new storage capacities so that we can further increase the share of weather-dependent wind power in our generation portfolio in coming years," Professor Klaus-Dieter Maubach, E.On's marger for Technology & Development, said in a statement. "Using the existing gas infrastructure to store hydrogen is a promising approach in the long run, enabling us to combine our strengths as a power and gas company."

E.On said it was spending more than five million Euros ($6.8 million) to develop the pilot plant in Falkenhagen, in northeast Germany. The company said using power from renewable energy sources, the plant will produce about 360 cubic-meters of hydrogen per hour beginning in 2013 through electrolysis.

"At present," the company said, "up to 5 percent hydrogen can be added to the natural gas grid without any problems, and in the medium term experts expect up to 15 percent. This means that today’s entire renewable power output could be stored in the German gas grid. Demand for capacity on this scale will, however, only arise over the next decades, when most of generated power is coming from renewable energies."

Related Stories From EarthTechling

Fuel Cell Could Smooth Wind-Power Gusts

Wind Energy, Storage Combined In Coal Country

Renewables Promised Big Backing In Germany

Illinois Wind Farm On Trail To Completion

More Wind Power For The Windy City


Wind Farms, Coming To a High-Rise Rooftop Near You

Wind Farms, Coming To a High-Rise Rooftop Near You:

Eastern Wind Power (EWP) is a Cambridge, Mass.-based startup that has developed a 50-kilowatt (kW) vertical-axis wind turbine (VAWT) called the Sky Farm. The VAWT is designed specifically to be mounted on the roofs of high-rise buildings. The company has partnered with Siemens to develop its small wind generator and inverter system. The company erected its first prototype Sky Farm at the Martha’s Vineyard Airport in 2010. The turbine is now grid-connected, and producing power for the airport.

Freshness Update + Social Media = Happy Users

Freshness Update + Social Media = Happy Users: Interestingly, Google made two big announcements right around the same time and one clearly overshadowed the other as far as attention from the press goes. On November 7th 2011, Google announced Google+ Pages for Business, which got everyone excited. But then Google also made a very significant...

Please visit Search Engine Land for the full article.

Anonymous and Team Poison Join Forces For OpRobinHood to Target Banks and Give to Charities [Video]

Anonymous and Team Poison Join Forces For OpRobinHood to Target Banks and Give to Charities [Video]:
Two hacking groups, Anonymous and Team Poison, have joined forces to take on the banks, steal money and donate it to charities and protests. Reclaiming the "99 per cent's money back". More »