Xenophilia (True Strange Stuff)

Blog of the real Xenophilius Lovegood, a slightly mad scientist

Archive for April 11th, 2012

Report finds UC police should not have used pepper spray on students

Posted by Anonymous on April 11, 2012

Our overriding conclusion can be stated briefly and explicitly. The pepper spraying
incident that took place on November 18, 2011 should and could have been
prevented.
On November 18, 2011, University of California, Davis, police officers used pepper spray
on students sitting in a line in the midst of a protest and “occupation” on the campus
quad. Viral images of the incident triggered immediate and widespread condemnation of
the police action.
To assist the Task Force with fact finding and the identification of best practices in
policing, the University engaged Kroll, Inc., an internationally known risk management
firm. Kroll completed the final draft of its report on Feb. 22, 2012 (the “Kroll Report”).
The Kroll Report describes at length the events leading up to this incident. In brief, at
approximately 3:00 p.m. on Thursday, November 17, 2011, tents were erected on the
Quad at the Davis campus. The Administration decided to remove the tents, instructing
police to do so at 3:00 p.m. on Friday, November 18, 2011. While attempting to remove
tents, the police arrested several individuals. Subsequently, in the midst of a growing
group of people, the police officers employed pepper spray to remove several students
linking arms in a line across a walkway in the Quad.
The UC Davis protest focused on and drew strength from widespread discontent among
students about the increase in tuition and fees at the University of California. The
incident also took place against the backdrop of worldwide student protests, including
demonstrations by the Occupy Wall Street movement, which triggered similar events
across the nation. These protests presented challenges for all affected universities and
municipalities in attempting to balance the goals of respecting freedom of speech,
maintaining the safety of both protesters and non-protesters, and protecting the
legitimate interests of government and the non-protesting public.
In the immediate aftermath of the UC Davis incident, University of California President
Mark G. Yudof announced the appointment of former California Supreme Court Justice
Cruz Reynoso to chair a Task Force to address the pepper spraying of UC Davis students.
This was a result of a request from Chancellor Katehi for an independent investigation to
review the incident and report findings and recommendations to enable peaceful and
nonviolent protests. All Task Force members are either currently or were once affiliated
with UC Davis and most were nominated by relevant campus organizations.

A. There Was a Failure to Investigate Whether or Not “Non-Affiliates” in the UC
Davis Occupy Encampment Were Present …

B. The Administration Decided to Deploy Police to Remove the Tents on Nov. 18
before Considering Other Reasonable Alternatives …

C. The Scope of the Police Operation to Remove the Tents Was Ineffectively
Communicated, Not Clearly Understood by Key Decision-Makers, and,
Accordingly, Could Not Be Adequately Evaluated as to Its Costs and
Consequences …

D. There Were No Clear Lines Delineating the Responsibility for Decision-Making
between Civilian Administrators and Police …

E. There Was Confusion as to the Legal Basis for the Police Operation …

F. The Leadership Team’s Informal, Consensus-Based Decision-Making Process
Was Ineffective for Supporting a Major Extraordinary Event …

A. The UCDPD Failed to Plan for the Intended Action According to Standard
Operating Procedures …

B. Notwithstanding the Deficiencies in the Operations Plan, the Incident Was Not
Managed According to the Plan …

C. The Decision to Use Pepper Spray Was Not Supported by Objective Evidence and
Was Not Authorized by Policy …

D. The Pepper Spray Used, the MK-9, First Aerosol Projector, Was Not an
Authorized Weapon for Use by the UCDPD …

E. There is a Breakdown of Leadership in the UCDPD …

A. The Chancellor Bears Primary Responsibility for the Decision to Deploy the
Police at 3 p.m. Rather than During the Night or Early Morning, Which is a
Tactical Decision Properly Reserved for Police Authorities…

B. The Chancellor Bears Primary Responsibility for the Failure to Communicate
Her Position that the Police Operation Should Avoid Physical Force …

C. Many Members of the Leadership Team, Including the Chancellor, Vice
Chancellor Meyer, and Vice Chancellor Wood, Share Responsibility for the
Decision to Remove the Tents on Friday and, as a Result, the Subsequent Police
Action Against Protesters …

D. Chief Spicuzza Bears Individual Responsibility for Failing to Challenge the
Leadership Team’s Decision on the Time of the Police Operation and for Not
Clarifying the Role the Police were Expected to Play During the Operation. She is
also Responsible for Numerous Deviations from Best Police Practices Both
Before and During the Operation as Detailed in the Kroll Report …

E. (Officer P) Bears Individual Responsibility for Abdicating his Duties as
Incident Commander …

F. Lt. Pike Bears Primary Responsibility for the Objectively Unreasonable Decision
to Use Pepper Spray on the Students Sitting in a Line and for the Manner in
Which the Pepper Spray Was Used …

Posted in human rights, Politics | 1 Comment »

Another Runaway General: Army Deploys Psy-Ops on U.S. Senators

Posted by Anonymous on April 11, 2012

Sen. John McCain walks with Lt. Gen. William Caldwell at Camp Eggers in Kabul, Afghanistan on January 6, 2009.

The U.S. Army illegally ordered a team of soldiers specializing in “psychological operations” to manipulate visiting American senators into providing more troops and funding for the war, Rolling Stone has learned – and when an officer tried to stop the operation, he was railroaded by military investigators.

The orders came from the command of Lt. Gen. William Caldwell, a three-star general in charge of training Afghan troops – the linchpin of U.S. strategy in the war. Over a four-month period last year, a military cell devoted to what is known as “information operations” at Camp Eggers in Kabul was repeatedly pressured to target visiting senators and other VIPs who met with Caldwell. When the unit resisted the order, arguing that it violated U.S. laws prohibiting the use of propaganda against American citizens, it was subjected to a campaign of retaliation.

“My job in psy-ops is to play with people’s heads, to get the enemy to behave the way we want them to behave,” says Lt. Colonel Michael Holmes, the leader of the IO unit, who received an official reprimand after bucking orders. “I’m prohibited from doing that to our own people. When you ask me to try to use these skills on senators and congressman, you’re crossing a line.”

The list of targeted visitors was long, according to interviews with members of the IO team and internal

documents obtained by Rolling Stone. Those singled out in the campaign included senators John McCain, Joe Lieberman, Jack Reed, Al Franken and Carl Levin; Rep. Steve Israel of the House Appropriations Committee; Adm. Mike Mullen of the Joint Chiefs of Staff; the Czech ambassador to Afghanistan; the German interior minister, and a host of influential think-tank analysts.

The incident offers an indication of just how desperate the U.S. command in Afghanistan is to spin American civilian leaders into supporting an increasingly unpopular war. According to the Defense Department’s own definition, psy-ops – the use of propaganda and psychological tactics to influence emotions and behaviors – are supposed to be used exclusively on “hostile foreign groups.” Federal law forbids the military from practicing psy-ops on Americans, and each defense authorization bill comes with a “propaganda rider” that also prohibits such manipulation. “Everyone in the psy-ops, intel, and IO community knows you’re not supposed to target Americans,” says a veteran member of another psy-ops team who has run operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. “It’s what you learn on day one.”

… Congressional delegations – known in military jargon as CODELs – are no strangers to spin. U.S. lawmakers routinely take trips to the frontlines in Iraq and Afghanistan, where they receive carefully orchestrated briefings and visit local markets before posing for souvenir photos in helmets and flak jackets. Informally, the trips are a way for generals to lobby congressmen and provide first-hand updates on the war. But what Caldwell was looking for was more than the usual background briefings on senators. According to Holmes, the general wanted the IO team to provide a “deeper analysis of pressure points we could use to leverage the delegation for more funds.” The general’s chief of staff also asked Holmes how Caldwell could secretly manipulate the U.S. lawmakers without their knowledge. “How do we get these guys to give us more people?” he demanded. “What do I have to plant inside their heads?” …

via Another Runaway General: Army Deploys Psy-Ops on U.S. Senators | Politics News | Rolling Stone.

 

Posted in Mind, Politics, War | Leave a Comment »

Mass study aims to change the world’s dreams

Posted by Anonymous on April 11, 2012

…For the past year I have been working with app developers YUZA to develop Dream:ON. The idea is simple. Before you go to bed you decide when you would like to wake up and what type of dream you would like to have (perhaps a stroll in the countryside or relaxing on a sun kissed beach).

You then place the iPhone on your mattress and it monitors your movements 20 minutes before your desired wake up time. When the app detects a lack of movement – which is indicative of you dreaming – it quietly plays a carefully selected soundscape that has been designed to influence your dream (think birds tweeting and waves gently lapping against the shore).

The app then gently wakes you up and prompts you to send in a brief description of your dream. The app also shows you a graph of your sleep levels throughout the night, and includes an intelligent alarm to help ensure you wake up from shallow sleep.

Will it be possible to influence your dreams? If so, can we get people all over the world to enjoy wonderful dreams and wake up feeling happier?

I would love you to take part. Both the app, and soundscapes needed for the experiment are free (it is possible to purchase additional soundscapes if you want). To discover more, and download the app, please visit the project website here.

via Big announcement – Mass study aims to change the world’s dreams! « Richard Wiseman.

Posted in Mind, Technology | 2 Comments »

Treasure hunter finds ancient gold jewellery in bog in Northern Ireland

Posted by Anonymous on April 11, 2012

This 3,000-year-old gold torc was discovered in a bog in Northern Ireland.A treasure hunter with a metal detector has unearthed a 3,000-year-old piece of ornate gold jewellery from a bog in Northern Ireland.

Ronald Johnston first thought the Bronze Age torc was an old car spring, he told the BBC.

The coiled metal, typically worn around the neck or waist, would actually have belonged to a Celt who had “access to extreme wealth,” said Armagh County Museum’s Andrea Kennedy.

Johnston had cleaned the mysterious metal and stuffed it in a drawer in his home in Enniskillen until he saw a photograph of another Celtic torc in a magazine. His brother Charlie Johnson took it to the museum.

“I really can’t believe it’s a valuable and ancient object. We didn’t know what it was,” Charlie Johnston told the BBC.

The torc would date from 1300 to 1100 B.C., Kennedy said.

A symbol of the Celts’ “delight in gaudy ostentation,” according to the ancient Greek philosopher Poseidonius, torcs carried distinctive designs created by local blacksmiths. The word torc comes from the Latin for “to twist” or torque.

Ribbon torcs such as the one found by Johnston were typical of north Ulster and north Connaught.

It is only the second one discovered on the Irish isle that is coiled like a spring as well as carrying the distinctive ribbon twist design, said Kennedy. Stretched out, it’s unusually large — 47 inches or 119 centimetres — so it would likely have been worn around the waist rather than the neck.

“Perhaps it was buried when the owner died and the coiling was a type of decommissioning so that it could no longer be worn,” she said.

“Alternatively it could have been an offering to the gods.”

via World News: Treasure hunter finds ancient gold jewellery in bog in Northern Ireland – thestar.com.

Posted in Archaeology | Leave a Comment »

Social rank ‘linked to immunity’

Posted by Anonymous on April 11, 2012

A study of rhesus macaque monkeys may have solved a long-standing puzzle on a link between social rank and health.

A study of 10 social groups of macaque females showed that the activity level of an individual’s immune genes was an accurate predictor of her social rank.

In a paper in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the team also showed that the monkey’s immunity changed when social rank was altered.

The work suggests that status drives immune health, rather than vice-versa.

A great many studies have shown associations in both humans and non-human primates between social environment and biological markers of health.

In previous studies of rhesus macaques, the so-called dominance rank has been correlated to levels of the stress-linked glucocorticoid hormones, sex hormones, the brain chemicals serotonin and dopamine, and white blood cell counts.

But one unanswered question concerns cause and effect: does a compromised immunity or imbalance of some chemical cause a particular social rank, or does taking on a particular social rank set the immune system and neural dials?

… They found that on the basis of those levels of circulating immune cells alone, they could predict an individual female’s social rank with 80% accuracy.

Further studies that investigated the degree to which hundreds of immunity-related genes were “switched on” also showed increased immune activity in higher-ranking females.

What is more, the team found that as rank shifted among seven of the females, the data corresponding to gene activity was again enough to guess an individual’s new rank with an accuracy of 85%.

“The current results support the idea that changes in gene regulation help to explain links between the social environment and physiology, potentially supplying an important piece to the puzzle of how social effects ‘get under the skin’,” the team wrote.

Though the findings might seem to suggest that low social rank, or a decrease in social rank, can lead to reduced immune health, the team said it was “encouraging” that the effects can be counteracted by a change in the social environment. …

via BBC News – Social rank ‘linked to immunity’.

Posted in Health, Mind | Leave a Comment »

iBrain can ‘read your mind’; enlists Stephen Hawking

Posted by Anonymous on April 11, 2012

A team of California scientists have developed the world’s first portable brain scanner, and it may soon be able to “read a person’s mind,” playing a major role in facilitating medical breakthroughs.

“This is very exciting for us because it allows us to have a window into the brain. We’re building technology that will allow humanity to have access to the human brain for the first time,” said the project’s leader, Phillip Low.

KGTV reports that the device, created by San Diego-based NeuroVigil, and dubbed the iBrain, fits over a person’s head and measures unique neurological patterns connected to specific thought processes.

Low says the goal is to eventually have a large enough database of these brainwaves that a computer could essentially read a person’s thoughts out loud. One person who has already tried out the iBrain is famed physicist Dr. Stephen Hawking.

“We’d like to find a way to bypass his body, pretty much hack his brain,” said Low. This past summer, Low traveled to Cambridge, England, where he met with Hawking, who was asked to think “very hard” about completing various tasks while wearing the device.

NeuroVigil says the device could be used at home by individuals and worn during sleep. It comes equipped with a USB port for transferring the recorded data to a local computer.

Beyond so-called mind reading, the device has potential medical applications, such as enlisting the iBrain to help doctors prescribe the correct levels of medication based on a person’s brainwave responses. In addition, Low says the iBrain could be used to help treat sleep disorders, depression and even autism.

“This is the first step to personalized medicine,” Low said.

via iBrain can ‘read your mind’; enlists Stephen Hawking | The Sideshow – Yahoo! News.

I’d try it, but not if I have to wear those black panties on my head.

Posted in Mind, Technology | Leave a Comment »

Medical device hack attacks may kill, researchers warn

Posted by Anonymous on April 11, 2012

Human heartKaren Sandler has a big heart. And that’s not just because she is head of the Gnome Foundation – a non-profit community group dedicated to making and giving away free software for PCs.

She has an enlarged heart thanks to an inherited medical condition known as hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (HCM) that makes the walls of her heart very thick so the organ is bigger and stiffer than normal. It also puts her at risk of sudden death.

Every year, she said, there is a 2-3% chance that her heart would stop beating. The risk is cumulative so the older she gets the greater her chance of HCM proving fatal. Thankfully, medical science can head off the growing threat it poses.

Dealing with HCM involves implanting a defibrillator that will shock the heart into activity if it stops working.

Ms Sandler’s unique skills made the process of getting an implant trickier than it might be for others. Ms Sandler is a lawyer, a programmer and a passionate advocate of open source software.

Open source software, as its name implies, can be inspected by anyone to see how it is put together.

That ideological bent meant she was keen to find out about the computer code running on any device that might be inserted in her body.

Unfortunately, she told the BBC, the implant’s maker would not reveal its software. Its reassurances about the code’s integrity did not help.

“Knowing what I know about software I’m sure it’ll have bugs,” she said.

Ms Sandler was also worried about the fact that increasing numbers of implants broadcast information all the time. That wireless link was a step too far for her.

“We’re just trusting these computers though there’s greater access to them than ever before,” she said.

Ms Sandler chose an older defibrillator that communicates via magnetic coupling and only gives up data when interrogated directly.

“I will know if someone is changing it,” she said.

“Knowing that something has to be put on my skin to do that is a lot more reassuring.” …

The research of Prof Kevin Fu suggests her fears might be well grounded. As a computer scientist at the University of Massachusetts Amherst he has carried out research for the US government on the trustworthiness of the code in medical devices and implants.

“Without software many medical treatments could not exist,” he said, “and implants do help patients lead more normal and healthy lives but software brings with it inconvenient risks.”

Many “preventable deaths” had occurred, he said, because the code inside medical devices at bedsides in hospitals or inside patients was not stringently checked. Safety and security were too often an afterthought, he added.

In one case, he said, too high a dosage of a drug was administered via an infusion pump because the fields denoting hours, minutes and seconds were not labelled on a control screen.

A subsequent update labelled the fields correctly. Increasingly, Prof Fu said, such code faults were only being caught when they caused problems. …

Researcher Barnaby Jack at security firm McAfee has shown that this open communication poses risks. In just two weeks of work, Mr Jack found the radio signal used by an well-known insulin pump and discovered how to hijack them to compromise the device.The result is an attack tool that could scan a crowd for people fitted with pumps and then transmit a signal that told any implant to dump its entire cartridge of insulin into its host’s bloodstream.

The huge dose of insulin would likely prove fatal, said Mr Jack. He also discovered a way to over-ride the safeguards in the pump that make it vibrate when insulin is being delivered.

“It would be hard for them to know what’s going on,” he said.

By adding radio links to insulin implants, the manufacturers had massively increased the “attack surface” available for exploitation.

“They are low power and and have little code on them so there’s no real room to implement any encryption or authentication,” he said. …

Professor Panos Vardas, president elect of the European Society of Cardiology, said the proprietary protocols used by implants protected against interference.

He described the likelihood of an illegal manipulation as being “extremely remote”.

“We are not aware of any security breaches involving patients implanted with cardiac devices,” he said. …

via BBC News – Medical device hack attacks may kill, researchers warn.

Posted in Survival, Technology | Leave a Comment »

Rio’s love motels to help fix UN summit bed shortage

Posted by Anonymous on April 11, 2012

Room at the Hawaii motelRio de Janeiro motel owner Secundino Lema is gearing up for a different kind of guest in June when thousands of visitors will be in his city to discuss the future of the planet.

The erotic chairs that usually grace the rooms in his three establishments, Hawaii, Skorpios and Serramar are going.

But the mirrors on the ceiling and jacuzzis are staying.

Mr Lema, along with other owners of Rio’s 320 “love hotels”, is stepping in to help the authorities fill a huge need in the Brazilian city – the chronic lack of accommodation.

It is estimated that some 50,000 people, including world leaders, will be in Rio de Janeiro for the UN Conference on Sustainable Development, but there are only 30,000 rooms available in what might be termed more conventional hotels.

All Mr Lema’s rooms are booked for the conference which gets under way on 13 June, with the main event running from 20-22 June.

He agreed to charge $160 (£100) a night, much less than what is now being asked by the few hotels still with rooms available.

It is also less than he would expect to earn from the couples who usually pay to rent his rooms for periods of four, six or 12 hours.

Mr Lema, who says he is doing this “for the city”, also agreed with the authorities that he would not offer rooms by the hour while the UN summit was on.

That means turning down the 2,000 guests he would normally put up in his 170 bedrooms.

“It will be awkward not being able to receive our usual clients during this period, but I hope they understand the need to host people from abroad,” Mr Lema said.

The “love hotel” business boomed in Rio over the past few decades as somewhere discreet for couples to go but in recent years has seen a decline.

Antonio Cerqueira, vice-president of Rio’s hotel, bar and restaurant association (SindRio), links this to more liberal attitudes to sex developing in a still somewhat conservative Brazil.

“Habits are changing. Young people used to crave turning 18 so they could go to a motel, but now even when they are 16 they sleep over at their boyfriend’s or girlfriend’s. Parents now allow it because they consider it safer.” …

via BBC News – Rio’s love motels to help fix UN summit bed shortage.

Posted in Politics, Strange, Travel | Leave a Comment »

‘Time machine’ will study the early universe

Posted by Anonymous on April 11, 2012

http://keckobservatory.org/images/press_images/MOSFIRE-1st-Lite.jpgA new scientific instrument, a “time machine” of sorts, built by UCLA astronomers and colleagues, will allow scientists to study the earliest galaxies in the universe, which could never be studied before.

The five-ton instrument, the most advanced and sophisticated of its kind in the world, goes by the name MOSFIRE (Multi-Object Spectrometer for Infra-Red Exploration) and has been installed in the Keck I Telescope at the W.M. Keck Observatory atop Mauna Kea in Hawaii.

MOSFIRE gathers light in infrared wavelengths — invisible to the human eye — allowing it to penetrate cosmic dust and see distant objects whose light has been stretched or “redshifted” to the infrared by the expansion of the universe.

“The instrument was designed to study the most distant, faintest galaxies,” said UCLA physics and astronomy professor Ian S. McLean, project leader on MOSFIRE and director of UCLA’s Infrared Laboratory for Astrophysics. “When we look at the most distant galaxies, we see them not as they are now but as they were when the light left them that is just now arriving here. Some of the galaxies that we are studying were formed some 10 billion years ago — only a few billion years after the Big Bang. We are looking back in time to the era of the formation of some of the very first galaxies, which are small and very faint. That is an era that we need to study if we are going to understand the large-scale structure of the universe.”

With MOSFIRE, it will now become much easier to identify faint galaxies, “families of galaxies” and merging galaxies. The instrument also will enable detailed observations of planets orbiting nearby stars, star formation within our own galaxy, the distribution of dark matter in the universe and much more.

“We would like to study the environment of those early galaxies,” said McLean, who built the instrument with colleagues from UCLA, the California Institute of Technology and UC Santa Cruz, along with industrial sub-contractors. “Sometimes there are large clusters with thousands of galaxies, sometimes small clusters. Often, black holes formed in the centers of galaxies.”

Light collected by the Keck I Telescope was fed into MOSFIRE for the first time on April 4, producing an astronomical image. Astronomers are expected to start using MOSFIRE by September, following testing and evaluation in May and June.

MOSFIRE allows astronomers to take an infrared image of a field and to study 46 galaxies simultaneously, providing the infrared spectrum for each galaxy. Currently, it can take three hours or longer to obtain a good spectrum of just one galaxy, McLean noted.

McLean built the world’s first infrared camera for wide use by astronomers in 1986 and since then has built eight increasingly sophisticated infrared cameras and spectrometers — which split light into its component colors — as well as helping on a few others.

McLean and Charles Steidel, the Lee A. DuBridge Professor of Astronomy at the California Institute of Technology, led the project to build MOSFIRE from scratch over seven years. Harland Epps, a UC Santa Cruz professor of astronomy and astrophysics, designed the optics for the instrument. A team of nearly two dozen people helped, including Kristin Kulas and Gregory Mace, UCLA graduate students in physics and astronomy who work in McLean’s laboratory; Keith Matthews, an instrument designer from Caltech; and Sean Adkins, an engineer who is the instrument program manager for the Keck Observatory in Hawaii. Most of the mechanical parts for MOSFIRE were built at UCLA and Caltech. The slit unit that enables 46 objects to be isolated was manufactured in Switzerland. The computer programming was led by UCLA.

“My father, who was an engineer, called me an astronomer by inclination, a physicist by training and an engineer by default,” McLean said. “I’m an applied physicist and an astronomer.”

MOSFIRE cost $14 million and likely would have cost at least twice as much if the scientists had not built it themselves, McLean estimates.

via ‘Time machine’ will study the early universe.

Posted in Space, Technology | Leave a Comment »

New Technology Tracks Sparrow Migration

Posted by Anonymous on April 11, 2012

Using tiny tags to track a bird’s location, biologists from PRBO Conservation Science (PRBO) have unlocked the mystery of where Golden-crowned Sparrows, whichoverwinter in California, go to breed in the spring. Published this week in the journal PLoS ONE, the study reveals for the first time the exact migration route of this small songbird to its breeding sites in coastal Alaska.

During a time when birds are experiencing the negative impacts of climate and land-use changes, being able to pinpoint the most important breeding and stopover places is critical to prioritizing conservation investments.

PRBO scientists attached small tags that record day length to Golden-crowned Sparrows wintering in and near Point Reyes National Seashore before they headed north on spring migration. When the birds returned the following fall, four tagged birds were safely recaptured, the tags were removed, and the data downloaded to a computer.

“This study is helping to unravel the mystery of bird migration and answer the age-old question of where birds go, which helps protect habitat along their entire migratory journey,” said lead author, PRBO’s Dr. Nat Seavy. …

via PRBO Conservation Science: New Technology Tracks Sparrow Migration.

Posted in Biology | Leave a Comment »

 
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