Current

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About da Plane (MH 17)

A lot of hyperventilating over this one. But a lot of unanswered questions - many of them concerning the west. After so many comparisons to KAL 007 and Iran Air 655 one needs to ask the Obama administration: Where is your evidence?

Every day the administration tells the public that there is significant amounts of evidence pointing to Russia and the separatist rebels in the Donetsk region as the responsible parties. We are told Russia either gave or trained a missile crew on the SA-11/Buk missile system. We are told the launch had to have come from that region and must have been done by either the separatists/rebels/terrorists (depending whom you ask) or Russian military personnel inside Ukraine. Never mind that the Ukrainian military has used the Buk system as well or that some Ukrainian military elements have switched sides.

But it does smell, doesn't it? In 1983, it only took a few days before the Reagan administration publicized audio of the Russian side of the KAL event. Forty years later, at a time when the NSA collects everything in the world and the NRO operates satellites which can identify just about anything on the ground day or night, the Obama administration has failed to release one byte of hard evidence related to the missile launch, yet alone who was responsible.

Whether this is out of an abundance of caution or a lack of evidence is unknown. It is hard to really put credence in either view. If it is caution, why has the administration from the first moment blamed the separatists and Russia? If it is for lack of evidence, again why are they casting blame and further, why draw attention to an unmitigated intelligence failure? It is simply not possible given the long running events in that region as well as the relative proximity to Afghanistan that the US was not gathering significant quantities of signals, masint and satint.

We leave you with this excerpt from Wikipedia about the downing of Siberia Air 1812 in 2001 by the Ukrainian military :
Russian officials initially dismissed the American claim as "unworthy of attention," and Russian President Vladimir Putin told the press the next day that "the weapons used in those exercises had such characteristics that make it impossible for them to reach the air corridor through which the plane was moving." Ukrainian military officials initially denied that their missile had brought down the plane; they reported that the S-200 had been launched seawards and had successfully self-destructed. Indeed, Defense Ministry spokesman Konstantin Khivrenko noted that "neither the direction nor the range (of the missiles) correspond to the practical or theoretical point at which the plane exploded."

However, Ukrainian officials later admitted that it was indeed their military that shot down the airliner. Ukraine, reportedly, banned the testing of Buk, S-300 and similar missile systems for a period of 7 years following this incident.

Prior

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June NFP "Boom"

It really does grow tiresome to have to correct reports made by so-called professional journalists. Today we will pick on MarketWatch.com's Jeffry Bartash, a man who clearly is challenged when it comes to reading BLS labor statistic tables. Let's be clear though, he is hardly the only reporter to sugar coat the headline number and ignore the unpleasant details.

The US economy produced another big batch of jobs in June.... as more people entered the labor force and found work
True or false? Both. Not seasonaly adjusted figures show a drop of 92,000 persons in the civilian labor force, June 2014 vs June 2013. On a SA basis, that Y/Y drop increases to a loss of 128,000 persons in the labor force. On a month to month basis, June vs May 2014 saw a NSA increase of 1.156M persons and on a SA basis, the gain is only 81K. So in reality, the best that can be said is the civilian labor force is treading water at a level close to what it was this time in 2013.
The strong jobs report suggests the economy continues to gain momentum ...... Professional jobs increased by 67,000, just 15% of which were temp workers.
Really? Hmm. How did we get to that +288K headline figure? Lets check. On a SA basis, full time workers dropped from 118.727M to 118.204M, a loss of 523K jobs. On the other hand, part-time workers increased from 27.219M to 28.018M, a gain of 799K. Granted, those figures are from the hosuehold survey. But they net to a gain of 276K jobs, very much in-line with the payroll headline number.

Further to both of the above, the number of persons "Not in labor force" has grown both on a NSA Y/Y basis (up 2.354M) and a SA M/M basis, (up 111K).

But actually combing through the data thoroughly before writing the story would be too difficult and would interfere with the meme that job growth is just booming and the economy is gangbusters good!

Prior(2)

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Bring Back the Information Minister!

If the Iraqi leadership knows what is good for them they will bring back Muhammed Saeed al-Sharaf to put a good scare into ISIS.


Prior(3)

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Firefox Gross Privacy Violation

I typically run Firefox nightlies and noticed that things were getting sluggish again. Last week I discovered the disk cache was no longer working but today I found something entirely shocking. A new "feature" making the rounds in alpha, beta and nightly versions of Firefox appears to be a gross violation of user privacy.

Now in the profile directory is a sqlite database called netpredictions.sqlite. A look into this file shows it to be an NSA like vacuum of your browsing history. Reading it with a sqlite browser displayed records of 1,236 hosts and 5,584 pages visited, with last load times on all!!! There are other keys with even more records.

What on earth is Mozilla thinking? Clearing the browser cache does not empty the database. The only way to make it go away is to manually change the following preference in about:config to

network.seer.enabled FALSE

and then deleting the file from your profile directory.

I'll leave it to someone else to determine if this spy gathers data when in private browsing mode - I would not be at all surprised if it does. I've used Mozilla browsers since Netscape 0.96b but that run may be coming to an end. Opera, can you hear me?

Etcétera

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QDB

If you have ever spent some time on IRC then you will appreciate the Quote Database, qdb.us The site can at times be a bit slow and does toss out the odd php or database error but nothing can bring back your memories of IRC better. QDB is a repository of funny IRC conversation snippets submitted by users and gives viewers the option of rating each one as good or bad. Many of them are a bit off-color (too much so for here!) but here is one example:



(myst) so what about you? anything interesting?
(Joshua) i'm writting a book and i just left a naked lady in her bed seconds before her roommates came home.
(Joshua) it was like *pulls on pants* *roommates walk in*
(myst) what's your book about?
(Joshua) lol!
(Joshua) yup, you're a chick
(myst) lol
(myst) rofl

§

Kavli Institute for Theoretical Physics

Just found quite the treasure trove of physics/astronomy related podcasts. The Kavli Institute for Theoretical Physics at U. California Santa Barbara has a very nice site up including podcasts of many of their conferences, public lectures and colloquia. If the handful of podcasts we have opened so far are any indication, there are a limited number of still photos of blackboards and the like embedded with the audio. Good stuff!

§

3D Ski Maps

Here is an interesting site for the snowboard and ski crowd: 3dskimaps.com It is surprising nobody has managed to do something like this before now (maybe they have and we just don't know). 3dskimaps shows the mountain map(s) not just with the trails but in 3d perspective with color coding to indicate trail steepness. This is a great thing to print out and bring with you on your trip and tuck in your jacket pocket to answer the inevitable 'how steep do you think that really is?' Only a limited number of mountains so far but hopefully more soon.

Reading List

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On Scala

Scala In Depth by J. Suereth ISBN 978-1935182702 ©2012
This was purchased after finishing the Coursera class on functional programming taught by Martin Odersky. Odersky developed the Scala language and gives an introduction to this text of 284 pages. If you are new to either Scala or functional programming, this may not be the book for you, and in fact was probably not my best choice either. While some say Odersky's own book is either outdated or could better cover some more recent features, it is most certainly the better choice for the newbie or light intermediate Scala programmer. However, this text is certainly worth having once you have some Scala under your belt. It might be better titled "Scala, a Practioner's Guide" as it really does highlight the many traps and mistakes one can make in Scala development. The advice it gives is also far more real world applicable than that of the typical programming language text. Recommended but for the appropriate audience.

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Iran in Photos

Inside Iran by Mark Edward Harris ISBN 978-0811863308 ©2008
This is a medium sized coffee table photo book which is quite certain to piss off any neocon friends just by its presence. About 200 pages long, it groups the photos by regions within Iran and gives a short introduction at the start of each. Leaving aside the politics, there are some truly stunning images in this book and given its low cost (found in a bargain bin) it is worth picking up.

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Cold War Intrigue

Spy Wars: Moles, Mysteries, and Deadly Games by Tennent H. Bagley ISBN 978-0300121988

This fascinating book proved great medicine while we were laid up with a cold over the recent holidays. The author was a counterintelligence officer at CIA in the 1950s and 60s, eventually rising to chief of counterintelligence for the Soviet Russia ("SR") Division and Division Deputy Director. While the book looks into many historical Tsarist and Soviet intel operations, the prime focus is on the case of a notorious KGB Soviet defector, Yuri Nosenko which the author was directly involved. The author also spends considerable time on the efforts (cover up?) by the CIA and others to rehabilitate Nosenko's bona fides as a genuine and valuable defector.

The bottom line is this - if you take the author at his word concerning the interviews and documents he was involved in, as well as those of others, there is no way one can see Nosenko as anything but a false defector. However, the question in my mind is why they would willingly send someone so blatantly unprepared - certainly they thought better of CIA than that? I have to wonder if the actual decision to 'defect' was in fact Nosenko's - he was a drunk and womanizer and going no where fast at KGB. His 1962 Geneva trip was probably a real KGB operation, but the subsequent trip could have seen Nosenko go off reservation figuring he had a ticket to a better life (ultimately) in the US if he defected rather than work in place as a 'double' as per KGB orders. This would have put KGB in quite the difficult situation.

Anyone interested in intelligence operations, especially those of the cold war period should read this book. We can only hope now that Nosenko is dead that the CIA will release *all* the files, at least those that were not destroyed in the late 1960s.

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