Daily Archives: March 4, 2011

Big Brother is DEFINITELY watching you: Shocking study reveals UK has one CCTV for every 32 people

No hiding place: A selection of the vast array of cameras that were installed under the last Labour Government

Daily Mail | Mar 3, 2011

It’s an astonishing statistic that is sure to send chills down the spines of freedom campaigners.

In Big Brother Britain there is an incredible one CCTV camera for every 32 citizens, a study has revealed.

The revelation that 1.85 million cameras are watching our every move confirms the shocking extent of surveillance in 21st century Britain.

Coming a day after it emerged tiny drones could be used to spy on Britons, the CCTV study is sure to add fuel to the debate that we have become a Big Brother state.

The research involved police community support officers counting every camera in Cheshire and extrapolating the results nationwide to provide a reliable estimate of the level of CCTV surveillance in the UK.

Officers counted 12,333 cameras in the area, according to a study published in CCTV Image magazine, the majority of which were inside premises, rather than facing public street.

The research also found that most CCTV cameras in the UK are likely to be privately owned, with only 504 of Cheshire’s cameras run by public bodies.

After the Cheshire results were extrapolated nationwide, taking into account urban and rural areas and transport networks, the number of cameras was adjudged to be 1,853,681 – enough for one camera for every 32 citizens in the UK.Despite the proliferation of CCTV cameras, police admit that just one crime is solved for every 1,000 cameras.

Deputy Chief Constable Graeme Gerrard, the lead on CCTV for the Association of Chief Police Officers said the latest numbers, based on a map of CCTV systems in Cheshire, were intended to ‘inject more rigorous figures into the debate’ over Britain as a surveillance state.

A widely quoted estimate of 4.2 million cameras in the UK was based on a 1.5km road in a busy shopping district and extrapolated out for the entire UK, he explained.

And the previous estimate that the ‘average Briton is caught on security cameras some 300 times a day was based on a fictional tour of CCTV hot-spots.

However, he admitted: ‘The figure of 1.85m is still a significant number of CCTV cameras.

‘I’m not saying for a minute that this doesn’t mean that we don’t have a lot of cameras.’

Mr Gerrard confirmed he was surprised to learn of other research which suggested the London underground network houses as many as 11,000 cameras.

Writing in CCTV Image, Mr Gerrard added: ‘Eight years after the 4.2 million figure was first published, we now have research that indicates that the figure is less than half this guesstimate.

‘We also know that unless you make a particular point of visiting as many CCTV hotspot areas as you can, you are unlikely to be captured on CCTV 300 times a day.’

He admitted the latest figures were still estimates, but said they showed the number of CCTV cameras in the UK to be around 1.85 million.

‘And the real figure for the number of times the average person is likely to be ‘caught’ on CCTV in a day is less than 70 – and most of these will be at your workplace or fleeting glimpses by cameras located in shops’.

However, Isabella Sankey, director of policy at the campaign group Liberty, said the figures would do little to allay concerns about surveillance in Britain.

‘Who cares if there is one camera or 10 on their street if that one camera is pointing into your living room?’ she asked the Guardian.

‘Concerns about CCTV are not a simple numbers game; what’s required is proper legal regulation and proportionate use.’

Blade Runner sequel planned 30 years on

A sequel to the classic science fiction film Blade Runner is being planned, thirty years after its initial release.

Blade Runner Final Cut trailer

Telegraph | Mar 3, 2011

By Nick Allen, Los Angeles

The production company Alcon Entertainment announced it was “final discussions” to acquire the franchise rights to make sequels or prequels to the 1982 cult movie.

The deal does not include rights to remake the original, which was directed by Ridley Scott and starred Harrison Ford as a futuristic police officer.

Alcon, which was behind the 2009 blockbuster “The Blind Side,” starring Sandra Bullock, is obtaining the rights from Bud Yorkin who was an executive producer on the original film.

In a statement the company said: “We recognise the responsibility we have to do justice to the memory of the original with any prequel or sequel we produce.

“We have long-term goals for the franchise, and are exploring multi-platform concepts, not just limiting ourselves to one medium only.”

The original movie was set in 2019 when humans have created clones called replicants, some of which rebel and are hunted down by Ford’s character.

There was no indication whether Ford would reprise his role.

Blade Runner flopped upon release in 1982 but has since become a cult classic, regularly polling among the best loved sci-fi films. A director’s cut released in 1992 contributed considerably to its later popularity.

Spielberg’s DreamWorks lines up WikiLeaks film

Leigh and Harding’s book charts Julian Assange’s life and times, from his itinerant childhood through to the creation of the WikiLeaks website in 2006. Photograph: Matt Dunham/AP

DreamWorks studio – founded by Spielberg, Katzenberg and Geffen – has bought the rights to WikiLeaks: Inside Julian Assange’s War on Secrecy

DreamWorks lines up WikiLeaks film based on Guardian book

guardian.co.uk | Mar 3, 2011

Steven Spielberg’s Hollywood studio looks set to oversee WikiLeaks: the Movie after securing the screen rights to WikiLeaks: Inside Julian Assange’s War on Secrecy, the book by Guardian journalists David Leigh and Luke Harding.

Reportedly conceived as an investigative thriller in the mould of All the President’s Men, the film will be backed by DreamWorks – the studio founded in 1994 by Spielberg, Jeffrey Katzenberg and David Geffen.

Leigh and Harding’s book charts Julian Assange’s life and times, from his itinerant childhood through to the creation of the WikiLeaks website in 2006. It also provides the inside story of Assange’s explosive partnership with the Guardian and the release, last December, of more than 250,000 secret diplomatic cables.

Alan Rusbridger, editor-in-chief of Guardian News & Media, said: “The Guardian’s unique collaboration with WikiLeaks led to what some have described as one of the greatest journalistic scoops of the last 30 years.”

Discussing the proposed film, he added: “It’s Woodward and Bernstein meets Stieg Larsson meets Jason Bourne. Plus the odd moment of sheer farce and, in Julian Assange, a compelling character who goes beyond what any Hollywood scriptwriter would dare to invent.”

One joke circulating on the internet was that Leigh, Guardian investigations editor, could be played by No Country for Old Men star and supposed lookalike Javier Bardem. In addition to snapping up the Leigh/Harding bestseller, DreamWorks has secured rights to Inside WikiLeaks, by Assange’s former colleague Daniel Domscheit-Berg. This has led insiders to speculate that DreamWorks executives are planning a heavily fictionalised thriller.

“A good template for what they are thinking is The Social Network, where Aaron Sorkin not only used the Ben Mezrich book The Accidental Billionaires as a resource, but gathered actual testimony from the lawsuits filed against Mark Zuckerberg that detailed the formation of Facebook and provided high drama,” said Mike Fleming of the industry website Deadline Hollywood.

The picture is the most prominent of a number of WikiLeaks movies at various stages of development. These include a documentary by award-winning film-maker Alex Gibney, director of Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room, and a mooted biopic based on a New Yorker article by Raffi Khatchadourian, co-produced by HBO and the BBC.

The embryonic DreamWorks version still requires a scriptwriter, a director and a cast. It may also need an ending. Reviled by his foes as a “high-tech terrorist”, Assange is currently fighting an extradition order to Sweden to face sexual abuse accusations.

This week he reportedly lashed out at his former collaborators at the Guardian, who, according to Private Eye editor Ian Hislop, he accused of being part of a “Jewish conspiracy” against him. Assange has denied this allegation. There seems little doubt that Assange’s life story provides enough red meat for dramatists. But the final act has surely yet to be written.

• This article was amended on 3 March 2011. The original said: “Steven Spielberg looks set to oversee WikiLeaks: the Movie”. This has now been corrected

Scientists May Create a “Zombie Apocalypse Virus”

Dead Head Infectious proteins called prions could shut down parts of the brain and leave others intact, creating a zombie.  iStock

We are looking for something a little in between Haiti and Hollywood: an infectious agent that will render its victims half-dead but still-living shells of their former selves.

Jay Fishman, director of transplant infectious diseases at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, proposes using a virus that causes encephalitis, an inflammation of the brain’s casing.

popsci.com | Feb 24, 2011

By Ryan Bradley

FYI: Could Scientists Really Create a Zombie Apocalypse Virus?

Maybe, but it’s not going to be easy. In West African and Haitian vodou, zombies are humans without a soul, their bodies nothing more than shells controlled by powerful sorcerers. In the 1968 film Night of the Living Dead, an army of shambling, slow-witted, cannibalistic corpses reanimated by radiation attack a group of rural Pennsylvanians. We are looking for something a little in between Haiti and Hollywood: an infectious agent that will render its victims half-dead but still-living shells of their former selves.

An effective agent would target, and shut down, specific parts of the brain, says Steven C. Schlozman, an assistant professor of psychiatry at Harvard University and author of The Zombie Autopsies, a series of fictional excerpts from the notebooks of “the last scientist sent to the United Nations Sanctuary for the study of ANSD,” a zombie plague. Schlozman explained to PopSci that although the walking dead have some of their motor skills intact—walking, of course, but also the ripping and tearing necessary to devour human flesh—the frontal lobe, which is responsible for morality, planning, and inhibiting impulsive actions (like taking a bite out of someone), is nonexistent. The cerebellum, which controls coordination, is probably still there but not fully functional. This makes sense, since zombies in movies are usually easy to outrun or club with a baseball bat.

The most likely culprit for this partially deteriorated brain situation, according to Schlozman, is as simple as a protein. Specifically, a proteinaceous infectious particle, a prion. Not quite a virus, and not even a living thing, prions are nearly impossible to destroy, and there’s no known cure for the diseases they cause.

The first famous prion epidemic was discovered in the early 1950s in Papua New Guinea, when members of the Fore tribe were found to be afflicted with a strange tremble. Occasionally a diseased Fore would burst into uncontrollable laughter. The tribe called the sickness “kuru,” and by the early ’60s doctors had traced its source back to the tribe’s cannibalistic funeral practices, including brain-eating.

Prions gained notoriety in the 1990s as the infectious agents that brought us bovine spongiform encephalopathy, also known as mad cow disease. When a misshapen prion enters our system, as in mad cow, our mind develops holes like a sponge. Brain scans from those infected by prion-based diseases have been compared in appearance to a shotgun blast to the head.

Now, if we’re thinking like evil geniuses set on global destruction, the trick is going to be attaching a prion to a virus, because prion diseases are fairly easy to contain within a population. To make things truly apocalyptic, we need a virus that spreads quickly and will carry the prions to the frontal lobe and cerebellum. Targeting the infection to these areas is going to be difficult, but it’s essential for creating the shambling, dim-witted creature we expect.

Jay Fishman, director of transplant infectious diseases at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, proposes using a virus that causes encephalitis, an inflammation of the brain’s casing. Herpes would work, and so would West Nile, but attaching a prion to a virus is, Fishman adds, “a fairly unlikely” scenario. And then, after infection, we need to stop the prion takeover so that our zombies don’t go completely comatose, their minds rendered entirely useless. Schlozman suggests adding sodium bicarbonate to induce metabolic alkalosis, which raises the body’s pH and makes it difficult for proteins like prions to proliferate. With alkalosis, he says, “you’d have seizures, twitching, and just look awful like a zombie.”

. . .


Psychiatrist’s Obsession With the ‘Undead’ Takes a Novel Turn
The novel takes the form of a series of stream-of-consciousness diary entries from the notebooks of Dr. Stanley Blum, a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) neuroscientist sent to a remote laboratory where still-breathing zombie specimens have been incarcerated. Most of the medical team there have already caught the airborne virus and are themselves going through the brutal 4-stage progression of becoming zombies.

Navy Wants Swarm of Semi-Autonomous Breeding Robots

Robots Building Robots via YouTube

popsci.com | Mar 3, 2011

By Clay Dillow

It’s one thing for humans to make robots, but the idea of robots making robots tends to conjure all those sci-fi scenarios wherein Arnold Schwarzenegger or Keanu Reeves have to save what’s left of humanity. Nonetheless, the U.S. military presses on. According to this proposal, as Danger Room points out, the Navy is pursuing technologies that would allow swarms of semi-autonomous ‘bots to interact, team up, and manufacture things via 3-D printing tech.

In other words, the Navy wants robots that can make, among other things, more robots. And it wants to give the robots the capability to do it quickly wherever they are operating, via rapid prototyping machines that can churn out parts assembly line style in a variety of materials, including “multi-functional materials, programmable materials, metamorphic materials, extreme materials, heterogeneous materials, synthetic materials, etc.”

Terminator 2 Teaser Endoskeleton Factory

As DangerRoom notes, things like “programmable” and “metamorphic” materials are very SkyNet indeed, but it what the Navy is really looking for from its robots is increased flexibility. According to the proposal:

Each micro-robot would perform a specific task, often a single rudimentary task, repeatedly. Collectively, these tasks would be choreographed in purposeful activities for manufacturing. A micro-robot swarm should be able to perform material synthesis and component assembly, concurrently.  The micro-robots could be designed to perform basic operations such as pick and place, dispense liquids, print inks, remove material, join components, etc. These micro-robots should be able to move cooperatively within a workspace to achieve highly efficient synthesis and assembly.

Such a self-contained robotic factory could be extremely useful aboard the Navy’s floating fortresses, for instance, allowing crippled vessels to manufacture critical parts to repair themselves or their constituents (like on-board aircraft) at sea or for the creation of mission-specific hardware on-demand, cutting down on the reliance on lengthy maritime supply chains.

But we should probably ready the electromagnetic pulse weapons. You know, just in case.

Could Charlie Sheen’s “breakdown” be an act?

Charlie Sheen with longtime friend, Alex Jones. “I’m a total freakin’ rock star from Mars. We are high priests, Vatican assassin warlocks.” Photo: infowars.com

With his incoherent ramblings, the star has reached a whole new level of fame. How much of it is calculated?

salon.com | Mar 3, 2011

By Mary Elizabeth Williams

Is Charlie Sheen crazy like a fox? It was just a week ago that the “Two and a Half Men” actor went stunningly rogue — even by Charlie Sheen standards — on Alex Jones’ radio show, seemingly decimating his career by ranting against Chuck Lorre, the “clown” responsible for his hit TV show. Cut to montage of what followed next: CBS and Warner Brothers shutting down production of the series, Sheen appearing on every single television and radio show in America  (I thought his “Wind Beneath My Wings” on “Idol” was a little flat), Sheen finally getting on Twitter, Sheen amassing over a million followers in one day, the words “tiger blood” officially entering the vernacular. I don’t know about you, but I’m exhausted.

Yet thanks to his flair for a colorful turn of phrase, in the span of a few days, Sheen has gone from being a mere garden-variety train wreck to the new mad prophet of the airwaves. His ability to turn drug dependency, repeated allegations of domestic abuse, public insults to his colleagues, and quite likely serious emotional problems into a potential career move surely proves that all the world loves a nut job – and that Jim Belushi is no longer the luckiest SOB in show business.


And as Sheen has continued to dominate the news — the early weeks of 2011 will go down forever in history for Wisconsin, Gadhafi and Charlie Sheen’s porn star girlfriends — both cynics and savvy media watchers have begun to wonder if this shambling wreck of a man who brags of recently “banging seven-gram rocks” is in fact just riding us all like a Sheen in a whorehouse. Patton Oswalt tweeted Wednesday that “Hate to pee on everyone’s @CharlieSheen foam party, but he’s using a service. Not him. Reliable source. ‘Night!” And indeed, while that Twitpic of him cheerfully holding a jug of chocolate milk is surely the real thing, the not-so-subtly drummed up hashtagging of “#winning and #tigerblood — along with his surprisingly self-aware bio as an “unemployed winner” — does seem a little contrived. Or as a friend mused yesterday, “He has got to have somebody writing this stuff for him.”

For a man who is the son of a famous actor, who has spent his entire life in the public eye, Sheen does seem to have developed a very sudden gift for bons mots. Even at the height of his wild man partying, even when he’s spouted the most wackadoo Truther nonsense,  he’s never before come up with a “Most of the time — and this includes naps — I’m an F-18, bro.” Until now, he’s managed to keep it under wraps that he’s “a total freakin’ rock star from Mars” and that “We are high priests, Vatican assassin warlocks. Boom. Print that, people.”

Print that they have….

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