Daily Archives: May 20, 2011

‘Too creepy even for Google’: Search engine boss warns governments against facial recognition technology

Daily Mail | May 19, 2011

Controversial: Facial recognition could gather people's personal details

The executive chairman of Google has warned governments against facial recognition technology – saying it is ‘too creepy’ even for the search engine.

Eric Schmidt said that the technology has advanced rapidly in recent years and that it could be rolled out across the internet.

But the controversial technique has angered privacy campaigners who claim that it would be a further erosion of privacy and civil liberties.

Now Schmidt has dispelled any suggestions that internet giant Google would be the first company to employ the system.

But he warned that there were likely to be other organisations who might ‘cross the line’ and use facial recognition.

Speaking today at Google’s Big Tent conference on internet privacy, technology and society, in Hertfordshire, Schmidt said that the accuracy of such technology was ‘very concerning’.

Facial recognition would work by scanning in a photograph of somebody’s face in order to potentially reveal personal information about them.

Crime fighters argue that it could be used to trace suspects who have been recorded on CCTV. But civil liberties groups say it is an invasion of privacy.

Mr Schmidt said that Google, which has been criticised in the past for gathering information, was ‘unlikely’ to employ facial recognition programs.

Schmidt was responding to a question about coining the phrase ‘crossing the creepy line’ which he came up with for privacy issues.

But he said ‘some company by the way is going to cross that line’. Commentators suggested that Schmidt may have been referring to Facebook.

The social-networking site was recently embroiled in controversy after it emerged that it paid PR chiefs to start a smear campaign against Google.

Facebook also used facial recognition programs which allow users to ‘tag’ photos of people that are uploaded to the site.

Mr Schmidt warned lawmakers not to prevent such services as it could hamper creativity and innovation.

‘Hopefully the French or any other country won’t pass laws that are so foolish they force Google to not be able to operate in those countries,’ he said according to the Telegraph.

‘Well-meaning people in government write something which is pretty broad and you have to be careful when you do this kind of regulation.’

Google has been criticised for its Street View service which has photographed hundreds of thousands of residential roads for its online map service.

A number of people were unwittingly captured in compromising positions and many more were upset that their photographs had been published online.

It also emerged last year that while the notorious black cars were driving around they gathered information about people’s personal internet connections.

Google apologised for the breach in privacy and said that the data would be deleted.

British Prime Minister: No need for inquest into Dr David Kelly’s suspicious death

Uniquely for a suspicious death, no coroner’s inquest has been held. Instead, the public inquiry into his death chaired by Lord Hutton found he committed suicide by taking painkillers and cutting his wrist with a blunt knife.

No need for inquest on Dr Kelly says PM, leading to anger as Cameron appears to pre-judge review

Daily Mail | May 19, 2011

By James Slack and Miles Goslett

David Cameron has said that he didn’t believe a full inquest into the death of weapons expert Dr David Kelly was necessary.

The Prime Minister – apparently pre-empting the findings of an official review of the Kelly file by the Attorney General – said he did not think it was ‘necessary to take that case forward’.

His comments were criticised by doctors campaigning for a proper inquest into Dr Kelly’s apparent suicide.

Dr Michael Powers, QC, said: ‘The opinion of David Cameron on whether there should be a fresh inquest into the death of Dr Kelly is irrelevant. It is not a political matter. It is a question of law.’

If Attorney General Dominic Grieve decides against holding an inquest, the doctors could mount a legal challenge to the decision, on the grounds that Mr Cameron has pre-judged the outcome.

Dr Kelly is said to have killed himself in woods near his Oxfordshire home in July 2003 after being named as the prime source of a BBC report accusing the Labour government of lying to take Britain into war in Iraq.

Uniquely for a suspicious death, no coroner’s inquest has been held. Instead, the public inquiry into his death chaired by Lord Hutton found he committed suicide by taking painkillers and cutting his wrist with a blunt knife.

Dr Kelly had made plans to see friends the following week and, on the morning of his death, booked a return ticket to Iraq in connection with his work.

In Opposition, Mr Grieve told at least two fellow MPs that he had misgivings about the case.

Last June, after the Coalition was formed, he asked anyone with new information to send it to him. Over the past nine months he has been told of several pieces of material evidence which were not raised at the Hutton Inquiry.

Mr Grieve’s decision on whether to hold an inquest is due within weeks. Yesterday, at Prime Minister’s Questions, Tory MP Sir Peter Tapsell asked Mr Cameron: ‘Now that there is to be a full investigation into the abduction or murder of Madeleine McCann, isn’t there a much stronger case for a full investigation into the suicide or murder of Dr David Kelly?’

Mr Cameron replied: ‘Firstly, on the issue of Madeleine McCann, I think it is welcome that the Metropolitan Police have decided to review the case and review the paperwork.

‘On the issue of Dr David Kelly, I thought the results of the inquest [the Hutton Inquiry] that’s been carried out and the report into it were fairly clear and I don’t think it’s necessary to take that case forward.’

Last night, Dr Andrew Watt, a clinical pharmacologist who has written to Mr Grieve raising questions about the suicide finding, said: ‘The possibility that Dr Kelly was murdered is clear in new evidence which I and others have presented to the Attorney General in recent months.

‘It is essential that an inquest be held which meets the requirements of the Coroners Act 1988. No such inquest has been held.’

Campaigners for an inquest say there were no fingerprints on five items found with Dr Kelly’s body and that his death could not have been caused or even hastened by an overdose of painkillers.

Last week, the Daily Mail revealed how a helicopter  – hired by Thames Valley police – mysteriously landed at the scene of Dr Kelly’s death 90 minutes after the body was found.

The aircraft only remained on the ground at Harrowdown Hill in Oxfordshire for five minutes before leaving, suggesting it either deposited or collected somebody or something.

A spokesman for Mr Grieve’s office said: ‘The Attorney General is still considering representations made and we will be making a decision in due course. He has not consulted any of his Cabinet colleagues on the issue.’

China: New IMF Leadership Should Reflect New World Order

imarketnews.com | May 19, 2011

BEIJING (MNI) – The new IMF leadership needs to reflect changes in the world economic order and be more representative of emerging market economies, Chinese central bank governor Zhou Xiaochuan said Thursday in his first public comments since the arrest of Dominique Strauss-Kahn.

“The senior management team of the IMF should better reflect changes in world economic patterns and should be more representative of emerging market economies,” he said.

Zhou also said he regretted Strauss-Kahn’s decision to resign as the Managing Director of IMF.

“The current world economy is recovering slowly from the financial crisis and the European sovereign debt crisis is at a key stage. A powerful IMF support is needed to overcome current difficulties facing Europe and ensure world economic developments are on a robust, sustainable and balanced track,” Zhou added.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel reiterated earlier today that the next head of the International Monetary Fund should be a European again.

Nazi collaboration stirs Belgian rift

World War II back as issue between feuding Dutch-speaking Flemish and Francophones

MSNBC | May 19, 2011

By RAF CASERT

Belgium Justice Minister Stefaan de Clerck said that it might be time to "forget" about collaboration. Cliff Owen / AP

BRUSSELS — As Belgium struggles with its yearlong government crisis, a 65-year-old issue is suddenly adding to the animosity between the feuding Dutch-speaking Flemish and Francophone politicians.

Almost by stealth, the extremist Flemish Interest party pushed a bill on amnesty for World War II collaboration with Nazis to the senate floor last week. All at once, old wounds on both sides of the linguistic divide that cuts through Belgium opened again.

“Linguistic war over amnesty,” headlined the De Standaard newspaper Thursday. “Amnesty heightens linguistic tensions,” echoed the French-speaking Le Soir.

Many in Francophone Wallonia, the southern region of the country, see collaboration with the Nazi occupier as having been primarily a flaw of the Flemish, cultural cousins to the Germans. But in Flanders, fingers are pointed in the direction of Leon Degrelle, a Walloon agitator and Belgium’s best-known collaborator.

Belgium was occupied by Nazi Germany from 1940 to 1944, and there was active collaboration with the Nazis in persecuting Jews.

Some 50,000 Jews lived in Belgium in the 1930s and about half were killed during the Holocaust. In 2002, Prime Minister Guy Verhofstadt apologized to the Jewish community for Belgium’s role in the Holocaust.

But more recently, collaboration, repression and amnesty had been largely confined to history books and library shelves. The topics almost never came up in bars or newspapers.

Until this week.

“The issue was not alive anymore. What is this about? About nothing,” said Flemish legislator and historian Luckas Vander Taelen, who has worked extensively on World War II.

Beyond the proposal of the right-wing Flemish Interest party, the issues were hotly debated again in the House of Representatives after Justice Minister Stefaan De Clerck said Sunday that it might be time to “forget” about collaboration.

A few days later he argued he had never meant to say it and argued anything linked to World War II should always hold lessons for the present. But the damage had been done.

International Jewish organizations were shocked by De Clerck’s advice to “forget” something so closely linked to the Holocaust.

“There is a strong undercurrent amongst certain European officials that the Holocaust should just recede into history and De Clerck is giving a voice to that,” Moshe Kantor, the president of the European Jewish Congress, said Thursday.

The Simon Wiesenthal Center, an organization that works for former Nazis to be brought to justice, called for De Clerck to be fired.

De Clerck said he would have a meeting with Belgian Jewish organizations next week.

“I understand that the word ‘forget,’ a word I used, gave rise to much emotion,” De Clerck told the legislature late Wednesday. “I had no intention to use these words.” A Dutch-speaker, he said he had been struggling to speak in French on such a delicate issue.

“In no way can it be the intention to forget,” he said.

The increased divisiveness comes at a bad time, as the major parties on both sides of the linguistic border are trying to end an 11-month stalemate on forming a government. Deliberations on who collaborated more with the Nazis seem unlikely to improve the already tense atmosphere.

“I already have enough problems to solve in the present. It is a debate I would not like to add on to that,” said Bart De Wever, leader of the N-VA Flemish nationalists who emerged as the biggest party in the nation after the June 13 election.

“It will lead to nothing,” he said. “It never did and never will.”

World Bank: A New World Order emerging through global wealth redistribution

“In short, a new world order with a more diffused distribution of economic power is emerging–thus the shift toward multi- polarity.”

World Bank: A new world order emerging

freemalaysiatoday.com | May 19, 2011

MANILA:  Emerging economies in the Asia Pacific region would continue to post growth rates that would exceed those of the developed countries, making it possible for the world’s total production being equally divided among the rich and the emerging markets by 2025.

It was among the highlights of the latest report of the World Bank, entitled “Global Development Horizons 2011–Multi-polarity: The New Global Economy”, reports Yonhap news agency Thursday.

The report forecasted that emerging economies could grow by an average of 4.7 percent this year until 2025, while the industrialised nations are only projected to expand by an average of 2.3 percent. Because of this, the developing economies will eventually catch up with the rich nations in terms of contributions to global output, the report added.

“One of the most visible outcomes of this transformation is the rise of a number of dynamic emerging market countries to the helm of the global economy,” the World Bank said.

The World Bank noted that emerging markets now account for two- thirds of the world’s foreign exchange reserves–a reversal of the picture of the previous decade when industrialized countries owned the bulk of the reserves.

China has the biggest share of the global reserves among emerging markets at US$3 trillion.

“In short, a new world order with a more diffused distribution of economic power is emerging–thus the shift toward multi- polarity,” the World Bank report.

The rising role of emerging markets would eventually diminish the primacy of the US dollar in international trade and finance. Eventually, countries would keep almost equal shares of the US dollar, the euro and the renminbi in their foreign exchange reserves, the bank added.

“Over the next decade or so, China’s size and the rapid globalization of its corporations and banks will likely mean a more important role for the renminbi. The most likely global currency scenario in 2025 will be a multi-currency systm centered around the dollar, the euro, and the renminbi,” the report said.

After the worst global financial crisis, which peaked in 2009, industrialised nations like the United States and those in Europe have posted only moderate growths, some of them cannot even be sustained, according to some economic analysts.

The United States is battling with its growing debt. Some members of the European Union are also trying to cope with their debt woes.

On the other hand, emerging economies grew significantly last year and are expected this year to again outperform rich countries in terms of growth rates.

The report highlights the diversity of potential emerging economy growth poles, some of which have relied heavily on exports, such as China and South Korea, and others that put more weight on domestic consumption, such as Brazil and Mexico.

With the emergence of a substantial middle class in developing countries and demographic transitions underway in several major East Asian economies, stronger consumption trends are likely to prevail, which in turn can serve as a source of sustained global growth.

“In many big emerging economies, the growing role of domestic demand is already apparent and outsourcing is already under way.

This is important for the least developed countries, which are often reliant on foreign investors and external demand for their growth,” the bank said.

The Philippine government earlier said that the economy grew by 7.3 percent last year. But President Benigno Aquino III said last Wednesday that after all the data have been gathered by the Department of Finance, the country’s economy actually grew by 7.6 percent in 2010.

CDC Recommends Preparing for A Zombie Apocalypse

In the event of zombies you should have an emergency plan that includes evacuation plans and a safe place to get away from the zombies.

According to the CDC blog, if a zombie apocalypse breaks out, the CDC will investigate the event just like they would any other disease outbreak. CDC investigation and assistance would include “consultation, lab testing and analysis, patient management and care, tracking of contacts, and infection control.

yahoo | May 18, 2011

by Tamara L. Morris

Brooklyn Bowen has fake blood applied by Robin Bodily prior to the filming of a commercial to promote the upcoming Zombie Prom, at the Ogden Union Station in Ogden, Utah, May 13, 2011. The third annual Zombie Prom will be held on September 9, 2011 with the proceeds benefiting the Juvenile Diabetes Research Center. REUTERS/Jim Urquhart (UNITED STATES - Tags: SOCIETY ODDLY)

Normal natural disasters are floods, tornadoes, hurricanes and earthquakes and being prepared for disaster means being ready for any type of emergency — including zombies. On Monday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention blogged about preparing for disaster and reminded readers that in the event of a zombie apocalypse, basic preparedness will help even if there are flesh-eaters roaming.

The CDC recommends that planning ahead for zombies is really no different than preparing for other types of disaster. The same basic principles apply.

Planning ahead for any type of disaster or emergency requires the same basic items: Food (nonperishable of course) and water (one gallon per day per person), medications (both over the counter and prescription medications), tools and supplies (basic stuff like utility knives, duct tape, radio, flashlights, batteries, etc.), sanitation and hygiene (soap, shampoo, bleach, feminine products, towels and lots of toilet paper), clothing and bedding (extra clothes for every family member, blankets), important documents (copies of birth certificates, social security cards, driver’s licenses, insurance cards, etc.), first aid supplies.

As with any other emergency, in the event of zombies you should have an emergency plan that includes evacuation plans and a safe place to get away from the zombies.

According to the CDC blog, if a zombie apocalypse breaks out, the CDC will investigate the event just like they would any other disease outbreak. CDC investigation and assistance would include “consultation, lab testing and analysis, patient management and care, tracking of contacts, and infection control (including isolation and quarantine).” Just like any other disease outbreak, the CDC would try to determine where and how the outbreak started and would make every effort to determine how to best deal with an outbreak of zombies.

Learning the source of the infection would include discovering if a virus or toxin caused the outbreak and if there is any treatment or cure.

The CDC encourages citizens to be prepared for any emergency event–whether it is zombies or the more common hurricanes, tornadoes, floods and earthquakes. Emergency planning for zombies will also suffice in the event of such natural disasters but as always the CDC urges everyone to be ready for whatever might a hazard and disruption of our daily lives.

It is good to know the CDC is willing to take the time to address the concerns of the public rather than scoff at the idea of a zombie apocalypse. Even more so, anyone who is prepared to face zombies is ready to deal with whatever Mother Nature chooses to throw their way, so it’s all good.

Tamara L. Morris is certified as a Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) member and is a trained Skywarn Stormspotter through the National Weather Service. She has received interpretive training regarding the New Madrid Seismic Zone through EarthScope — a program of the National Science Foundation. She researches and writes about earthquakes, volcanoes, tornadoes and other natural phenomena.

‘Rapture Parties’ Planned to Celebrate Doomsday Saturday May 21

LiveScience.com | May 18, 2011

by Robert Roy Britt

With the end of the world looming this Saturday (May 21), non-believers are planning “Rapture parties” to poke a little fun at the Doomsday prediction and also raise awareness for other causes.

Harold Camping, 89-year-old leader of the ministry Family Radio Worldwide, has predicted that a five-month destruction of humanity will commence Saturday with a Rapture, in which believers will ascend to heaven. “Whereas this five-month period will be an enormous horror story for those who have not been raptured, it will be a time of great joy and wonder for those who are raptured,” according to the Family Radio website. [Infographic: A Brief History of Doomsday]

Camping uses a mathematical formula linked to prophecies in the Bible. He once predicted Sept. 6, 1994 as Judgment Day, but that math didn’t quite work out. This time around, Camping’s organization took out an ad in Reader’s Digest, stating: “The Bible guarantees the end of the world will begin with Judgment Day May 21, 2011.”

A Web group called TalkAndAct.com is sponsoring a Rapture party because “skeptics, activists, comedians and others don’t believe his apocalyptic warning for one second,” organizers said in a statement Wednesday. The live streaming “Judgment Day Party” will start at 00:00:01 on May 21 and run until midnight, other events permitting, of course.

In Tacoma, Wash., producers of a local talk show “Ask the Atheist” will sponsor a Rapture party themed “Countdown to Backpedaling: The End is Nah!”

A group called American Atheists has a short list of Rapture parties occurring in a handful of other cities.

Might the world really begin to end this weekend? Even many Christians aren’t buying it.

“There are a long line of brilliant people who, through intricate calculations, have made predictions about the end of the world,” Pastor Joseph Fuiten with Cedar Park Assembly of God Church in Bothell, Wash., told the Seattle Times. “Unfortunately they have overlooked the obvious words of Jesus: ‘You do not know the day or the hour’ of such events.”