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Security

Malware Found On Brand-New Windows Netbook 250

An anonymous reader alerts us to an interesting development that Kaspersky Labs stumbled across. They purchased a new M&A Companion Touch netbook in order to test a new anti-virus product targeted at the netbook segment, and discovered three pieces of malware on the factory-sealed netbook. A little sleuthing turned up the likely infection scenario — at the factory, someone was updating Intel drivers using a USB flash drive that was infected with a variant of the AutoRun worm. "Installed along with the worm was a rootkit and a password stealer that harvests log-in credentials for online games such as World of Warcraft. ... To ensure that a new PC is malware-free, [Kaspersky] recommended that before users connect the machine to the Internet, they install security software, update it by retrieving the latest definition file on another computer, and transferring that update to the new system, then running a full antivirus scan."
Cellphones

Verizon Tells Cops "Your Money Or Your Life" 593

Mike writes "A 62-year-old man had a mental breakdown and ran off after grabbing several bottles of pills from his house. The cops asked Verizon to help trace the man using his cellphone, but Verizon refused, saying that they couldn't turn on his phone because he had an unpaid bill for $20. After an 11-hour search (during which time the sheriff's department was trying to figure out how to pay the bill), the man was found, unconscious. 'I was more concerned for the person's life,' Sheriff Dale Williams said. 'It would have been nice if Verizon would have turned on his phone for five or 10 minutes, just long enough to try and find the guy. But they would only turn it on if we agreed to pay $20 of the unpaid bill.' Score another win for the Verizon Customer Service team."
United States

Biden Reveals Location of Secret VP Bunker 550

Hugh Pickens writes "Fox News reports that 'Vice President Joe Biden, well-known for his verbal gaffes, may have finally outdone himself, divulging potentially classified information meant to save the life of a sitting vice president.' According to the report, while recently attending the Gridiron Club dinner in Washington, an annual event where powerful politicians and media elite get a chance to cozy up to one another, Biden told his dinnermates about the existence of a secret bunker under the old US Naval Observatory, which is now the home of the vice president. Although earlier reports had placed the Vice-Presidential hide-out in a highly secure complex of buildings inside Raven Rock Mountain near Blue Ridge Summit, Pennsylvania, Fox News reports that the Naval Observatory bunker is believed to be the secure, undisclosed location former Vice President Dick Cheney remained under protection in secret after the 9/11 attacks. According to the report, Biden 'said a young naval officer giving him a tour of the residence showed him the hideaway, which is behind a massive steel door secured by an elaborate lock with a narrow connecting hallway lined with shelves filled with communications equipment.' According to Eleanor Clift, Newsweek magazine's Washington contributing editor 'the officer explained that when Cheney was in lock down, this was where his most trusted aides were stationed, an image that Biden conveyed in a way that suggested we shouldn't be surprised that the policies that emerged were off the wall.' In December 2002, neighbors complained of loud construction work being done at the Naval Observatory, which has been used as a residence by vice presidents since 1974. The upset neighbors were sent a letter by the observatory's superintendent, calling the work 'sensitive in nature' and 'classified' and that it was urgent it be completed on a highly accelerated schedule."
Security

Work Resumes On Virtual Fence With Mexico 259

Hugh Pickens writes "Work resumed this week on the five-year project to link a chain of tower-mounted sensors and other surveillance equipment over most of the 2,000-mile border with Mexico. The network of cameras, radar, and communications gear is intended to speed deployment of US Border Patrol officers to intercept illegal immigrants, drug smugglers and other violators, yielding greater 'operational control' over the vast and rugged area. A $20M pilot project for the Secure Border Initiative, or 'SBInet,' carried out in the Bush administration, was generally considered a colossal IT failure. Since that time the DHS has given the prime contractor, Boeing, another $600M. The government says it has learned many lessons and made many changes in the program since the previous pilot rushed off-the-shelf equipment into operation without testing. The Obama administration has lowered the cost estimate for the 5-year project by $1.1B, to $6.7B, mainly by deferring work on the most difficult 200 miles of the border, in southwest Texas."
Earth

Antarctic Ice Is Growing, Not Melting Away, At Davis Station 633

schwit1 writes "A report from The Scientific Committee on Antarctic Research says that Antarctic ice is growing, not melting away. Ice core drilling in the fast ice off Australia's Davis Station in East Antarctica by the Antarctic Climate and Ecosystems Co-Operative Research Centre shows that last year, the ice had a maximum thickness of 1.89m, its densest in 10 years. The average thickness of the ice at Davis since the 1950s is 1.67m. A paper to be published soon by the British Antarctic Survey in the journal Geophysical Research Letters is expected to confirm that over the past 30 years, the area of sea ice around the continent has expanded."
Books

Amazon Culls "Offensive" Books From Search System 470

Miracle Jones writes "Amazon has instituted an overnight policy that removes books that may be deemed offensive from their search system, despite the sales rank of the book and also irrespective of any complaints. Bloggers such as Ed Champion are calling for a 'link and book boycott,' asking people to remove links to Amazon from their web pages and stop buying books from them until the policy is reversed. Will this be bad business for Amazon, or will their new policies keep them out of trouble as they continue to grow and replace bookstores?"
Biotech

Doctors Will Test Gene Editing On HIV Patients 263

Soychemist writes "Some people have a mutation that makes them highly resistant to HIV, and scientists think that they can give that immunity to anyone with a new type of gene therapy. The first human trials will start at the University of Pennsylvania this week. Researchers will draw blood from people with drug-resistant HIV, clip the CCR5 gene out of their T-cells with a nuclease enzyme, grow the modified cells in a dish, and then return 10 billion of them to the patient's bloodstream. Those cells will be immune to the virus, and they will keep the patient's T-cell count up even if the rest are destroyed. 'We will see if it is safe and if those cells inhibit HIV replication in vivo,' said the lead researcher. 'We know they do in the test tube.'"
The Media

BBC's iPlayer Chief Pushes Tiered Charging For ISPs 172

rs232 writes with a link to a story at The Register which begins: "The executive in charge of the BBC iPlayer has suggested that internet users could be charged £10 per month extra on their broadband bill for higher quality streaming." The article suggests (perhaps optimistically) that "after years of selling consumers pipes, not what they carry, [tiered, site-specific pricing] would be tough to pull off."
Biotech

Resurrecting the Mighty Mammoth, Cheaply 322

somanyrobots writes with an interesting followup in the New York Times to the earlier-reported substantial reconstruction of the woolly mammoth genome: "Scientists are talking for the first time about the old idea of resurrecting extinct species as if this staple of science fiction is a realistic possibility, saying that a living mammoth could perhaps be regenerated for as little as $10 million. The same technology could be applied to any other extinct species from which one can obtain hair, horn, hooves, fur or feathers, and which went extinct within the last 60,000 years, the effective age limit for DNA." (The Washington Post article linked from the earlier post was much more skeptical, calling such an attempt "still firmly the domain of science fiction." The New York Times article, while describing the process in similar terms, also calls attention to recent advances in sequencing DNA, as well as recoding DNA for cloning.)
Sci-Fi

Ray Kurzweil Wonders, Can Machines Ever Have Souls? 630

Celery writes "There's an interview with Ray Kurzweil on silicon.com talking up the prospects of gene therapy as a means to reverse human aging, discussing different approaches to developing artificial intelligence, and giving his take on whether super intelligent machines could ever have souls. From the interview: 'The soul is a synonym for consciousness ... and if we were to consider where consciousness comes from we would have to consider it an emerging property. Brain science is instructive there as we look inside the brain, and we've now looked at it in exquisite detail, you don't see anything that can be identified as a soul — there's just a lot of neurons and they're complicated but there's no consciousness to be seen. Therefore it's an emerging property of a very complex system that can reflect on itself. And if you were to create a system that had similar properties, similar level of complexity it would therefore have the same emerging property.'"
Books

Which Computer Books For Prisoners? 257

Brian D. writes "I've recently begun working with a group that sends books to prisoners in federal and state prisons. We try to match their requests as well as we can. One request that we consistently have trouble filling is for computer books. This is not for lack of books, but because the prisoners' requests tend to be vague and their computer resources are obviously severely limited. Keep in mind that we send prisoners all types of books — from gardening and landscaping to cooking and sailing — about topics they don't have the resources to experiment with. With basically one shelf devoted to books on computing, what types of books should I tell them we should keep? What are the best types of books to send a prisoner who requests a book on 'computer repair?'"
Education

Royal Society "Creationist" Resigns 658

Chris_Keene writes in to let us know that the Prof. Michael Reiss, who recently caused a storm with comments about teaching creationism in schools, has resigned from his post as director of education at the Royal Society in the UK. This news coincides with word out of the Anglican church that it is ready to apologize to Charles Darwin, 150 years after it poured scorn on his theory of evolution by natural selection. "The Church of England will concede in a statement that it was over-defensive and over-emotional in dismissing Darwin's ideas. It will call 'anti-evolutionary fervor' an 'indictment' on the Church."

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