Daily Archives: October 28, 2011

Iraq vet comes home to get shot in the face by Oakland police with “projectile”


Scott Olsen was marching because he felt corporations and banks had too much government influence. He had served two tours in Iraq. PlanetEarthAwakens1 via YouTube

Iraq vet gets skull fractured during clash with cops at Occupy Oakland protest

Scott Olsen was marching because he felt corporations and banks had too much government influence. He had served two tours in Iraq.

ASSOCIATED PRESS | Oct 26, 2011

OAKLAND, Calif. — Among demonstrators injured during a clash between Oakland police and protesters is a 24-year-old Marine veteran who served two tours in Iraq.

Dottie Guy, of the Iraq Veterans Against the War, an advocacy group for vets, said member Scott Olsen suffered a fractured skull. A spokesman for Highland Hospital in Oakland says he was in critical condition.

Related

Olsen was hit by a projectile while marching toward City Hall. Guy said it was not immediately clear if he would need surgery.

She said Olsen was marching Tuesday because he felt corporations and banks had too much government influence.

The clash Tuesday came after officials complained about deteriorating safety, sanitation and health issues.

Occupy Protesters Rally Around Wounded Iraq Vet

Code of Mysterious German Secret Society the ‘Oculist Order’ Cracked Centuries Later


These are pages from the “Copiale Cipher,” a mysterious cryptogram, bound in gold and green brocade paper, that was finally cracked by an international team of cryptographers. CREDIT: Courtesy University of Southern California and Uppsala University

LiveSci | Oct 27, 2011

Charles Choi, LiveScience Contributor

A mysterious encrypted manuscript of a secret society, meticulously written in abstract symbols and Roman letters, has finally been deciphered more than three centuries after it was first handwritten, scientists now reveal.

The enciphered message, or cryptogram, revealed the rituals and political aims of an enigmatic 18th-century German fellowship, the “Oculist Order,” revealing the society had a fascination with eye surgery, though it seems members of the society were not eye doctors.

“This opens up a window for people who study the history of ideas and the history of secret societies,” said researcher Kevin Knight, a computer scientist at the University of Southern California. “Historians believe that secret societies have had a role in revolutions, but all that is yet to be worked out, and a big part of the reason, is because so many documents are enciphered.”

Cracking a cryptogram

The mysterious cryptogram, bound in gold-and-green brocade paper, dates back to a time between 1760 and 1780. Once hidden in the depths of the East Berlin Academy and uncovered after the Cold War, its 75,000 characters are written in 90 different cipher letters, including the 26 Roman letters as well as many abstract symbols.

Scientists crack mysterious secret society code

On its 105 yellowing pages, the only plain text is “Philipp 1866” on the flyleaf and “Copiales 3” at the end of the last page. “Philipp” is thought to have been an owner of the manuscript, while “Copiales” was used to give the secret writing its name: the Copiale Cipher.

To break the cipher, an international team of researchers tracked down the manuscript, now in a private collection, and transcribed a machine-readable version of the text.

The investigators began not even knowing the language of the encrypted document. At first they focused on the Roman and Greek characters sprinkled throughout the Copiale Cipher, isolating them from the abstract symbols and attacked it as the real text.

“It took quite a long time and resulted in complete failure,” Knight said.

Secret symbols

After trying 80 languages, the cryptography team realized the Roman characters were “nulls” intended to mislead readers, somewhat like how pig Latin adds the suffix “ay” to words in an attempt to confuse listeners. It was the abstract symbols that held the message.

“It was exciting to decode,” Knight recalled.

One idea that eventually bore fruit was that abstract symbols with similar shapes in the Copiale Cipher represented the same letter or groups of letters — for instance, the symbols with the circumflex “^” over them were actually the letter “E.” The researchers also detected an extraordinarily common three-symbol cluster, which they deduced represented the letters “cht,” a common trio in German. Eventually from these lines of attack, the first meaningful words of German emerged: “Ceremonies of Initiation,” followed by “Secret Section,” as translated.

“When you get a new code and look at it, the possibilities are nearly infinite,” Knight said. “Once you come up with a hypothesis based on your intuition as a human, you can turn over a lot of grunt work to the computer.”

These findings “may help trace the development of political ideas and the advancement of ranks within secret societies,” Knight told LiveScience. As to why this secret society might have focused on the eye, “the eye is part of the symbology of secret societies,” he explained.

More unsolved encryptions

Knight is now targeting other encrypted messages, including ciphers sent by the Zodiac Killer, a serial murderer who sent taunting messages to the press and has never been caught. He is also applying his computer-assisted decryption software to other famous unsolved codes such as the last section of “Kryptos,” an encrypted message carved into a granite sculpture on the grounds of the CIA headquarters, and the Voynich Manuscript, a medieval document that has baffled professional cryptographers for decades.

However, the trickiest puzzle of all for Knight may be everyday speech. He is one of the world’s leading experts on machine translation, teaching computers to turn Chinese into English, or Arabic into Korean.

“Translation remains a tough challenge for artificial intelligence,” said Knight, whose translation software has been adopted by Apple and Intel, among other companies.

Knight is approaching translation as a cryptographic problem. As such, research into cracking the ciphers of obscure secret societies could improve human language translation, and possibly lead to the ability to translate languages not currently spoken by humans, including ancient languages and animal communication. [Read: Dead Languages Reveal a Lost World]

“We are exploring how to make use of cryptographic techniques to make better language translation software,” Knight said.

The scientists detailed their work in June at a meeting of the Association for Computational Linguistics in Portland Ore.

. . .

Related

oc·u·list  (ky-lst) n.

1. A physician who treats diseases of the eyes; an ophthalmologist.
2. An optometrist.

[From Latin oculus, eye; see okw- in Indo-European roots.]

Cunning linguists in Sweden crack 300-year-old occult code


Two pages from The Copiale Cipher

Two Swedish linguists at Uppsala University have deciphered a handwritten manuscript dating from the mid-18th century, written by a secret society known as “the Occultists”, obsessed with eye surgery and spying on the Freemasons.

“Historians believe that secret societies have had a role in revolutions, but all that is yet to be worked out, and a big part of the reason is because so many documents are enciphered,” Knight said in a statement.

The Local | Oct 27, 2011

“The deciphered manuscript has forced us to question many old authorities on Freemasonry,” historian and Freemason-expert Andreas Önnerfors from Lund University told The Local.

The manuscript is known as “The Copiale Cipher” and is a 105-page long text which scientists have been trying to crack since its discovery at the East Berlin Academy at the end of the Cold War.

Apart from the the mark of the previous owner (Philipp 1866) and a scribbled note on the last page (Copiales3) the manuscript was completely in code.

The text included 90 different letters, with everything from Latin and Greek letters to diacritic signs and mystic symbols, called logograms.

“It felt a little like a Dan Brown novel,” one of the two linguists, Beata Megyesi, told the Swedish daily Aftonbladet.

The technique used in solving the cipher involved comparing the most common character combinations in the encrypted document with the most common letter combinations of the underlying language.

The computer programme used for the decryption was created by Kevin Knight at the Information Sciences Institute, University of Southern California.

“We did not even know what language was behind the cipher. After many experiments which didn’t bring us any closer, we guessed the German mark as the owner’s name Philipp in the book had German spelling and that the book, as far as we know, originated in Germany”, said Beata Megyesi, linguist at Uppsala University, in a statement.

But this spring, Megyesi, together with Uppsala colleague Christiane Schafer and Knight managed to combine their knowledge of computer science, lingusistics and language history to crack the code.

What they found has made quite a splash in the world of academic research.

“It was very exciting when the first pages started emerging. We realised the book had been written by a secret society and that it was describing their initiation rituals,” Megyesi said to the paper.

Further, the text turned out to contain previously unknown information about another secret society, namely the freemasons, which the Occultists had spent a lot of time and effort spying on.

“Historians believe that secret societies have had a role in revolutions, but all that is yet to be worked out, and a big part of the reason is because so many documents are enciphered,” Knight said in a statement.

The book is divided into three parts. The first describes the Occultists own rituals, the second gives an overview of Freemason activities and rituals during the 18th century and the third shows that previously unknown forms of Freemasonry existed at the time.

“The third part of the book actually proves that esoteric and political forms of Freemasonry flourished as early as the mid-18th century,” said Önnerfors to The Local.

Strippers earning up to $2,000 a night in North Dakota town thriving amid oil boom

In a North Dakota oil boomtown, there’s one job market that never goes bust: Stripping.

Daily News | Oct 26, 2011

BY Larry Mcshane

A pair of strip clubs in Williston, N.D., are drawing exotic dancers who can earn up to $2,000 a night thanks to the influx of well-paid oil workers in the remote region, CNN Money reported.

“My best girls would rather dance here than in Vegas, because they make more money here,” boasted Melissa Slapnicka, co-owner of the club Whispers.

Slapnicka, who says aspiring strippers from Alaska, Germany and the Czech Republic have applied for work at her club, said the patrons are quick to spread their oil money around.

The co-owner/bartender says her tips – once $50 a night – are now more like $200 each evening.

And it’s even better for the talent. One stripper told CNN that she was making more in a single night than she could earn in a week on the Las Vegas strip.

“We make more than doctors,” she said. “Back in the day, it was hard to make $200 a night. It was like pulling teeth. Now you can pull in $2,000 a night.”

The oil workers are making big bucks, and have few options in spending their cash. Many of the customers at Whispers and nearby Heartbreakers are married men who chased the oil money to North Dakota – and left their families at home.

“They’re just here for a little company, because they’re lonely,” the stripper told CNN Money. “Other places, (men) wait until Friday because it’s payday.

“But here, they don’t wait. It’s payday everyday.”

Study: Traffic cameras about profits and revenue at least as much as about safety


A red light camera set up in Los Angeles. One out of every five American lives in a community that outsources its enforcement of traffic violations caught by red light cameras to private vendors, according to a report by a consumer advocacy group. In many cases, those vendors a direct financial incentive to issue more tickets and to try to block alternative means of traffic enforcement. Nick Ut  /  AP

Caution: Study questions red-light camera use

Practice could end up putting profits ahead of safety and accuracy, group claims

Some red-light camera vendors have created and bankrolled organizations like the National Coalition for Safer Roads that appear to be grassroots civic groups, but which mainly promote greater use of red-light cameras, the report said.

MSNBC | Oct 27, 2011

By JOAN LOWY

WASHINGTON — One out of every five Americans lives in a community that pays a for-profit company to install and operate cameras that record traffic violations. A pro-consumer group says that practice could end up putting profits ahead of safety and accuracy.

Some contracts require cities to share revenue with camera vendors on a per-ticket basis or through other formulas as a percentage of revenue. Suffolk County, N.Y., for example, diverts half of the revenue from its red-light camera program to its vendor, according to the report being released Thursday by the U.S. Public Interest Research Group.

Another type of agreement — conditional “cost-neutral” contracts — also contain provisions that link payments to the number of tickets issued, although the payments are capped, the report said. Under these contracts, local governments pay a monthly fee to a camera vendor. If ticket revenues fail to cover the vendor’s fee in any given month, cities may delay payments. That gives vendors “an incentive to ensure a minimum (number) of citations are issued,” the report said.

As many as 700 communities, with a combined total of more than 60 million people, outsource their street and highway camera systems, the report found.

While vendors capture violations, police or other local officials approve which violations are issued tickets. Some contracts penalize cities if they don’t approve enough tickets, effectively setting a ticket quota, the report said. That can undermine the authority of local authorities to when to issue tickets, it said.

“Automated traffic ticketing tends to be governed by contracts that focus more on profits than safety,” said Phineas Baxandall, the report’s co-author.

Baxandall acknowledged that cash-strapped communities have a financial incentive to maximize the number of citations they issue even when they don’t use a vendor. But local governments are also accountable to voters, whereas private vendors aren’t, he said.

Red-light cameras have been effective at saving lives by deterring motorists from running lights, said Anne Fleming, a spokeswoman for the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.

An analysis by the institute showed they saved 159 lives from 2004 to 2008 in the 14 biggest U.S. cities with cameras. If cameras had been operating during that period in all cities with populations of more than 200,000, 815 fewer people would have died, the institute estimated.

But Baxandall said research on the effectiveness of the cameras is unsettled. Some studies, he said, show motorists who are aware of the cameras sometimes cause injuries by slamming on their brakes to avoid being caught running a light.

Bankrolling civic groups

Some red-light camera vendors have created and bankrolled organizations like the National Coalition for Safer Roads that appear to be grassroots civic groups, but which mainly promote greater use of red-light cameras, the report said.

David Kelly, president of the safer roads coalition, said the flaw in the research group’s study is that vendors don’t create traffic violations — motorists do.

Vendors “aren’t creating a market. The people running the red lights are creating the market,” he said.

“We have saved lives,” said Kelly, a former acting head of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration under President George W. Bush. “Do we want to have more people dying at intersections because they are running red lights, or do we want to do something about it?”

The move to privatize red-light camera and speed camera enforcement is part of a larger wave of outsourcing of government services, Kelly said.

“We have private industry all across traffic safety,” he said.

The traffic enforcement industry has amassed significant political clout that it uses to shape traffic safety regulation nationwide, the report said. Camera vendors are aggressively lobbying to expand authorization for private traffic law enforcement to more states, and are marketing enforcement systems to more communities, it said.

About half of states have authorized the use of red-light cameras.

Camera vendors employed nearly 40 lobbyists this year in Florida whose agenda included killing a bill that would have required communities to adopt longer yellow light times to increase intersection safety and killing a separate bill that would have banned red-light camera systems, the report said.

Kelly said the research group also lobbies.

Coca-Cola turns can white to help polar bears

MSNBC | Oct 26, 2011

PORTLAND, Ore. — Coca-Cola Co. is turning its red cans white to help draw attention to a campaign to protect polar bears and their habitats.

Coca-Cola is giving $2 million to the World Wildlife Fund to support its work on polar bear protection. The two organizations are encouraging consumers to donate $1 and the beverage maker has agreed to give another $1 million to match these contributions.

The company said 1.4 billion of the white cans, along with white bottle caps on several products, will hit store shelves Nov. 1. The white cans will feature an image of a mother polar bear and her two cubs.

The “Arctic Home” campaign is designed to encourage people to learn about and help protect the polar bear’s Arctic home. Funds raised will support the World Wildlife Fund’s polar bear conservation work, which includes working with local communities, supporting cutting-edge research and carrying out other conservation work.

Coca-Cola has made a push for several years to protect polar bears, which have been a part of their advertising for years. The company, based in Atlanta, donated $1 million to the World Wildlife Fund for polar bear conservation over the last four years.

Amarillo receives record breaking snow for Oct. 27


Amarilloans wake to find 2.5 inches of snow on the ground. Michael Schumacher /Amarillo Globe-News

amarillo.com | Oct 27, 2011

By BRITTANY NUNN

Amarillloans woke to about 2.5 inches of snow on the ground at about 7 a.m. this morning, which is more snow than usual for the month of October.

Meteorologists at the National Weather Service said they are still seeing light snow, but it is likely to die down by 3 p.m.

Meteorologist Sarah Johnson said a cold front swept through the region Tuesday, cooling down the atmosphere. The front end of a low-pressure system then brought precipitation, which started out as rain and turned to snow in some areas, she said.

According to the weather service’s preliminary snow totals, some parts of Amarillo have received almost five inches of snow. Johnson said Amarillo has received the most snow in the region.

Wildorado, Panhandle and Vega also have preliminary snow totals above two inches, she said.

Johnson said it is uncommon but not unheard of for Amarillo to receive snow in October. The average amount of snow received in October sits at at about .3 inches.

She said today’s amount breaks the record for amount of snow received on Oct. 27., which was previously set at 2.4 in 1911.

Temperatures are still hovering around freezing, and the National Weather Service is predicting a high of about 40 degrees in Amarillo.

Johnson said there is only a slight chance of precipitation this afternoon and only in the far southern Texas panhandle.

Tonight the temperatures will once again be dipping below freezing, so any water on the road can be expected to re-freeze, she said.

“For the most part, it looks like Amarillo has been the big winner so far,” Johnson said.