Blog Archives

UN Team to Begin Syria CW Site Inspections ‘Within Next Week’

The Organisation for Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) is reviewing additional information received from Syria about its chemical weapons stockpiles, a United Nations spokesperson has said, ahead of onsite inspections and initial disabling of equipment which could start as early as next week. The OPCW Technical Secretariat, which together with the UN forms the team tasked with overseeing the destruction of Syria’s chemical weapons production facilities, received information that was “additional to the disclosure on its chemical weapons program which Syria submitted on September 21,” UN spokesperson Martin Nesirky told reporters at UN Headquarters in New York on Friday.

Not Even NSA Can Crack State Department’s Totally Anonymous Network

A far-flung group of geeks, supported by the U.S. State Department, has built a tool for anonymous communication that’s so secure that even the world’s most sophisticated electronic spies haven’t figured out how to crack it.

That’s the takeaway from the latest revelations from National Security Agency leaker Edward Snowden. The NSA has used aggressive computer attack techniques to monitor people using the Tor network, a service that’s funded by the U.S. government and allows users to remain anonymous when they’re connected to the Internet. But the agency has not been able to undermine the core of the Tor system, which was developed by the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory in 2002. It remains a viable means for people to connect to the Internet anonymously. Although Tor’s complete reliability has been called into question in light of the NSA’s efforts — which may have begun as early as 2006, according to the Washington Post — for now it’s State Department 1, NSA 0, in the anonymity wars.

3D Printed Smart Phone Nanocopter

Hex is a completely open source nanocopter kit made by a community of makers from around the world. It’s also the world’s first consumer electronic product that uses 3D printing technology to achieve personalization.

Formula for Creating Billion-Dollar (Internet) Companies

“We often think of (how) the Internet enables you to do new things,” Ev Williams told a recent XOXO conference in Portland, Oregon. “But people just want to do the same things they’ve always done.”

Williams, in cofounding Blogger, Twitter, and Medium, has helped make much of the Internet we know today, and he has come to the realization that the Internet is “a giant machine designed to give people what they want.”

In this way, he says, organizing your startup around the Next Big Idea isn’t nearly as useful (or profitable) as taking a Very Old Problem and solving it in A New Way

Twitter Makes Its I.P.O. Plans Known

Twitter has taken the cover off its initial public offering, making public its prospectus and setting the clock on one of the most anticipated stock sales of the year, Vindu Goel and Michael J. de la Merced report.

Twitter’s prospectus — whose filing was initially disclosed in a 135-character post on its own service last month — offers the fullest look yet at the privately held company. But while its growth is as high as had been anticipated in some ways, the document reflects a company that is still relatively small compared to its rivals.

Based on an internal valuation of its shares from Aug. 5, Twitter is worth about $9.7 billion.

India Flooding World with Tainted Drugs, and Getting Away with It

Each time we take medicine, we assume that the manufacturer did its best to produce a quality product. Evidence is mounting, however, that some pharmaceutical manufacturers in countries like India cut corners and send low-quality products to major, developed markets. Worse still, they may have separate production lines for drugs they sell in developing markets like Africa, where poor quality is more likely to go unnoticed.

In mid-2013, India’s largest drugmaker, Ranbaxy, pleaded guilty in a U.S. court to several criminal offenses relating to the fraudulent manufacture and sale of adulterated drugs. (The United States is the biggest importer of generic Indian drugs.) Among other revelations, Ranbaxy’s executives acknowledged that “more than 200 products in more than 40 countries” are affected by “elements of data that were fabricated to support [Ranbaxy’s] business needs.” In other words, Ranbaxy made up facts and figures to demonstrate product safety for myriad drugs, including critical HIV medicines paid for by U.S. tax dollars and destined for the poor in Africa. As a consequence, the company was fined $500 million.

Meet Abu Omar: Al Qaeda Busted Him Out of Abu Ghraib. Now He Fights in Syria

Waiting for the tram in the southern Turkish city of Gaziantep, Abu Omar is on his way to the mall. No groceries today, his shopping list includes a Turkish-made tablet computer and a small GPS navigation device loaded with digital maps of the Middle East.

“It’s nothing special,” says Abu Omar, an Iraqi national, as he puts the goods in his rucksack. “But this stuff might come in handy after I make it to Syria.”

Abu Omar, a handsome young man with long black hair, is not the only one making the trek to Syria. Hundreds of Iraqi prisoners, mostly suspected or convicted jihadists, were freed in July after al Qaeda-linked militants staged a deadly jailbreak at the notorious Abu Ghraib prison near Baghdad. At the time, Iraqi and Western authorities feared that some of those men would travel to Syria, helping to fuel the rise of extremist groups there. Those fears have now become a reality.

Shabaab Plot to Attack London Planned to be ‘Similar to…Mumbai’

A document found after Somali troops killed Fazul Abdullah Mohammed, al Qaeda’s former leader in East Africa and a senior Shabaab commander, details a plot to conduct multiple Mumbai-like attacks that target civilians in London. The plot highlights how al Qaeda and Shabaab seek to strike civilian targets outside Somalia, and foreshadowed Shabaab’s attack on the Eastgate Mall in Kenya this week.

The document and several others found in Fazul’s possession after he was killed by Somali troops at a checkpoint in Mogadishu in June 2011 were obtained by the Toronto Star. A copy of the document was also obtained by The Long War Journal. The Canadian newspaper reported that “dozens of documents, Internet frame grabs and media reports in English, Arabic, Somali and Swahili, along with more than 50 video clips” were also found in Fazul’s car.

Google Alters Search Algorithm to Handle More Complex Queries

Google on Thursday announced one of the biggest changes ever to its search engine, a rewriting of its algorithm to handle more complex queries that affects 90 percent of all searches.

The change represents a new approach to search for Google and required the biggest changes to the company’s search algorithm since 2000. Now, the world’s most popular search engine will focus more on trying to understand the meanings of things and the relationships among them, as opposed to the company’s original strategy of matching keywords.

The company made the changes, executives said, because Google users are asking increasingly long and complex questions and they are searching Google more often on mobile phones with voice search.

Google’s Gmail Keyword Scanning Might Violate Wiretap Law, Judge Finds

A federal judge today found that Google may have breached federal and California wiretapping laws for machine-scanning Gmail messages as part of its business model to create user profiles and provide targeted advertising.

The decision by U.S. District Judge Lucy Koh was rendered in a proposed class-action alleging Google wiretaps Gmail as part of its business model. Google sought to have the federal case in California dismissed under a section of the Wiretap Act that authorizes email providers to intercept messages if the interception facilitated the message’s delivery or was incidental to the functioning of the service in general.