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Comment Re:Rebels released the chemical weapons. (Score 1) 203

There appears to be much evidence that it was in fact the rebels that used the chemical weapons which were supplied by the Saudis

Your "source" is a bunch of TV broadcasts by Syrian TV, which is controlled by the Syrian government. That's not actually a news outlet, it's just the propaganda wing of the Assad regime. They're going to say whatever they need to say to keep Assad in power.

The thing to keep in mind here is the scale of these attacks. You could see the rebels launching an attack on a small scale, maybe. But the attacks were actually launched against three different areas near Damascus, and used rockets and chemical weapons, and killed something like 1400 people and injured more. This kind of large, coordinated attack takes a large, well-trained, well-organized military with heavy weapons in the form of rockets and large chemical weapon stockpiles. The rebels are a bunch of disorganized factions with assault rifles; they just don't have the weapons or organizational ability to do that.

As for why would Assad use chemical weapons? Well, why wouldn't he? He'd previously sent in tanks and soldiers to put down demonstrations. He'd sent paramilitary groups in to murder civilians in their beds. He'd used artillery against civilians. He'd previously used chemical weapons on a small scale. He'd killed 100,000 people. All the while, the U.S. had done nothing, and Putin stood up for him and was going to veto any UN resolution. Assad had already gotten away with so many atrocities, he drew the conclusion that he'd get away with this one as well. And so far, no one's proven him wrong...

Comment Re:So... (Score 2) 203

Apparently we should use 'cyber' weapons; but not against the finances of the guy we accuse of killing ~100k people; because the poor, poor, banks might get weepy or something. What kind of bullshit is this? Sure, target the Syrian electrical grid (it's "dual use"!) but don't touch the financial markets, they have feelings too(and apparently financial markets aren't "dual use" much to the confusion of money launderers, mercenaries, and plundering kleptocrats worldwide?)

As tempting as it would be to attack the finances of the Assad regime, it would be a really, really bad idea. Let's say we hack into his bank accounts and where it says "$37 billion" we change a few decimal places and all of a sudden, it's 37 cents, or maybe we write a $37 billion dollar check to that charity that buys cows for people in Africa. Then the regime collapses because he can't pay for supplies or buy the loyalty of his cronies. This might be effective, but it creates a nasty precedent. During the next conflict, maybe someone decides to attack finances in the U.S. If bank accounts are vulnerable, everyone is going to start panicking and withdrawing their funds trying to put it somewhere safe, and people will be reluctant to loan money, and you'll have a financial panic on your hands like in 1939 or 2008. And of course, everyone's connected to everyone else. U.S. firms borrow money from Germany and China... if those firms suddenly go belly-up that's going to cause a global panic.

Comment Re:!Seems likely (Score 1) 203

the funny thing about this "war", is that the "facts" come from the same people that the Democrats discredited during the Iraq war. Now that Obama wants a war to distract everyone from his other disastrous wars (like Egypt, Benghazi, ...), the press is willing to forget their claims against these sources. Anything for Obama, and the Democrats.

It's night and day. You can go on Youtube and see the victims of the chemical weapons yourself- children suffering seizures, row after row of men, women and children laid out on concrete floors without any signs of physical injury. Medecins sans Frontiers came out and said that the doctors treating the wounded described symptoms consistent with nerve gas. Some of the people treating the victims got enough exposure that they fell ill and some of them died. Tissue samples taken by doctors have tested positive for Sarin gas. The British recently came out and said that it's chemical weapons. So we have US intelligence, British intelligence, and a French NGO all saying it's chemical weapons. And the Syrian Army is the only group in the area that has the weapons and capability to launch 3 different attacks and kill 1400 people. The accounts indicate that the attack was launched using rockets; the rebels don't have heavy weapons.

Comment Re:No (Score 2) 203

A war over the Internet is the current nuclear option. We don't want it, and we can't survive it, but it is one heck of a powerful weapon.

One problem with cyberwarfare is that the US is heavily dependent on the internet, whereas the dictatorships we're facing off against aren't. North Korea is a good example of this. The North Korean regime is supposed to have invested heavily in offensive cyberwarfare as a deterrent weapon. If hostilities were to break out with the U.S., North Korea could try to disrupt our civilian infrastructure and economy, but they'd be almost invulnerable to counterattack, since the country doesn't depend on the internet. They are about the worst opponent you could face- Russia and China would have more formidable offensive capabilities, but they would also have their own vulnerabilities so you could at least hit back.

Syria is a different issue. Assad's regime did invest heavily in technology to monitor the internet but doesn't seem to have any serious offensive cyberwarfare capabilities. The "Syrian Electronic Army" is just a bunch of pro-Assad hackers hacking websites. So far they've managed to hack the Twitter feed of BBC Weather, the Onion, the Marines web page... the most serious thing they managed to do was hack the AP and post a story about the White House had been bombed, which caused the stock market to take a dive (before just as quickly rebounding). This is advanced mischief, not serious cyberwarfare of the type that can cause major economic damage. It's possible that the Syrian regime has some sort of weapon hidden up their sleeve, but I doubt it. As Dr. Strangelove says, the whole point of a deterrent weapon is lost if you keep it a secret. The bigger issue is how effective cyberwarfare will be against the Syrians.

Israel was able to use cyberwarfare against them effectively when they bombed the Syrian nuclear plant- they hacked into the air defense system. The Syrian air defense radars actually detected the inbound Israeli F-15s, but the screens showed clear skies. The first clue the Syrians had they were under attack was when their nuclear bomb program blew sky high. But currently the fight is brutal and low-tech. It's being fought by soldiers with guns, with artillery, and with paramilitary groups. The communications of the regime might be more vulnerable to attack but overall any cyberattack would probably have a psychological and propaganda effect rather than really altering the military equation.

Comment Re:One more reason that such systems make no sense (Score 1) 308

Here in the UK Oxford and Cambridge have entrance exams, and some courses at other universities will require applicants to sit an entrance exam or submit an assignment to gain entrance. These are in addition to the exams sat at the end of secondary education and, certainly in the case of Oxford and Cambridge, owe more to tradition than to any serious requirement for additional assessment.

Comment Re:One more reason that such systems make no sense (Score 1) 308

Here in the UK there are national exams at the end of secondary school (A-Levels in England and Wales, Highers (IIRC) in Scotland) that are set and assessed by national bodies independently of the schools. Papers are graded by independent examiners, usually in a double-blind assessment. In some subjects these do include course work assessment by the teachers but each year work from a random sample of students are audited to check that the grading by the teacher is in line with national standards. Teachers who tend to grade too high or too low are given feedback (usually copied to their head of department and head teacher) and the work regraded. The size of the sample will depend on the length of experience and how good the teacher has been in past years so experienced teachers who are usually very close will have only a small sample audited but new teachers or teachers who have a record of being off the mark may find every assignment they graded being audited. Similarly a sample of the independently assessed papers are audited.

Comment Re:CEOs are overrated (Score 2) 692

It should also be noted that the 'iconic' white ear buds soon made the iPod users an identifiable target for muggers, pick pockets and other thieves who figured why mug someone for what may be a £20 MP3 player with zero trade in value when you can mug someone advertising that they have a £399 iPod that can be traded in for £120 at many high street and backstreet vendors of second hand electronics. As a result many iPod users switched from the 'iconic' white ear buds to more ubiquitous headphones.

Comment Re:Despite all of the complaining about it... (Score 1) 627

I've seen it happen. On the payroll server. The morning of the day the monthly payroll for about 20,000 staff was to be run (he was supposed to be clearing out the /tmp filesystem so the server wouldn't run out of space for the tempfiles the payroll system would create as it ran but not clear up after itself).

Comment Re:The law is a ass. (Score 3, Insightful) 287

That's nothing more than cultural bias.

Plus there's always context. This wasn't just some teenager worried about not being asked to the prom. This was a kid that was facing having is entire life destroyed apart by the government.

That kind of situation is quite often NOT portrayed as a sign of mental illness when the result is suicide. (even in the West)

The plea deal offered by the government was six months in jail and a felony conviction. Yes, the punishment is out of all proportion to the crime. It's wrong. It's a bullshit deal. It's six months more than anyone on Wall Street served after they blew up the banking system and destroyed the world's economy. But most people, faced with the choice of being unjustly convicted and losing six months of your life, and losing the entire rest of your life, will take six months. It wasn't the end of everything. After six months for trying to liberate the entire contents of JSTOR, he would have come out of prison a martyr and a hero. Serving time for an idealistic, altruistic act like that would have given him a credibility that no other activist had. He would have had the rest of his life to use his notoriety to push for internet freedom.

But that's the kind of optimistic, lemons-into-lemonade kind of thinking you just can't manage when you're severely depressed.

Comment Re:The law is a ass. (Score 1) 287

Theodp is the one being an ass here. Ortiz said:

My understanding is that some issues about a year and a half ago came up regarding his mental illness and they were addressed at the arraignment.

Theodp wrote:

On Thursday, Ortiz insisted Swartz — who she now characterizes as 'mentally ill' — received fair and reasonable treatment from the DOJ.

While similar, the phrases "mental illness" and "mentally ill" have different implications. A 'mental illness' is something you have. It is something that you possess, it doesn't define or negate what you are. 'Mentally ill' is something you are, it defines who and what you are. Theodp is misquoting Ortiz, and putting words in her mouth. He is the one using the phrase 'mentally ill' to label Swartz, not Ortiz, making it sound like she's being callous and dismissing him when she's not. I'm not sure if he's just a really sloppy writer, or deliberately trolling Slashdot, but the post should be corrected, because this quote is inaccurate.

Whatever you may think of her other behavior as a prosecutor, in this case Ortiz is being professional. Swartz did suffer from mental illness. He himself vividly and honestly described his struggles with depression. Not a few bad days. Not struggles with grief, or stresses from major life setbacks. He wrote about severe depression of the sort where even when everything is going right, everything still feels wrong, and you just can't feel any joy. I think Swartz would have been the first to admit that this was mental illness.

Comment Re:This is truly a difficult situation (Score 3, Insightful) 369

It's called the Office of Special Counsel [osc.gov]. The Office of Special Counsel provides "a safe conduit for the receipt and evaluation of whistleblower disclosures from federal employees, former employees, and applicants for federal employment."

The law protects whistleblowers, the question is whether Manning is a whistleblower. A whistleblower is someone who tells the public or the authorities about corrupt or illegal behavior. Little if any of what Manning exposed qualifies as corrupt or criminal, so he's not protected as a whistleblower. Even the most famous release, the "collateral murder" video of an Apache attack helicopter slaughtering journalists in Iraq, wouldn't qualify because it was an accidental killing; it doesn't even qualify as negligence, since the pilots and the military can argue that when journalists are embedded with heavily armed insurgents carrying AK-47s and RPGs, they can hardly be expected to recognize them as press. I do think Manning did a real service in releasing this video- it shows the real costs of war in the most horrifying possible way, something we should remember before we decide to plan another invasion. But unless humanity gets together and decides to outlaw war and make civilian casualties illegal, exposing the brutality and tragedy of warfare does not qualify as whistleblowing.

Even if that incident or other incidents did qualify as whistleblowing, it wouldn't get him off the hook however. Snarky comments made by U.S. diplomats don't qualify as corrupt or illegal, so there is no chance that his lawyer can argue that releasing those cables was justified under a whistleblower law. I sympathize with his aims and his treatment may be excessive, but it doesn't change the fact that he broke the law.

Comment Re:I find this denial very truthful... (Score 2) 52

The location of the computers targeted by Flame tells you a lot about the people behind it. When initial reports came out about Flame, it was revealed that it primarily targeted Iran (189 infections), with additional infections in Israel/Palestine (89), Sudan (32), Syria (30) and Lebanon (18). The focus on Iran suggests the U.S. and/or Israel as being behind Flame. However, the remainder of the list focuses on countries that pose a threat to Israel, as opposed to countries that would be of more interest to U.S. security (Pakistan, Afghanistan). That always made me suspect Israel, but one thing never made sense. Why the interest in Sudan, of all places?

Recent events shed some light on this. The missiles used by Hamas to attack Israel are manufactured by Iran, and then smuggled via Egypt into Gaza. But how do they get from Iran into Egypt? Through Sudan. And Israel appears to have been working actively to stop this. On October 28, eight Israeli Air Force F-15s flew 1200 miles into Sudanese airspace, supported by a tanker and a jamming plane, and dropped four 1,000 pound bombs on a weapons factory. That's the kind of operation where you need good intelligence to find your targets and assess their defenses.

So up to now, the evidence points squarely at Israel as being the people behind Flame. The possibility exists that the U.S. had a hand in developing it, but the targets have been people of interest to Israel. I can't figure out why on earth they would target Sarkozy, but it seems far more likely to me that the Israelis would target him for some devious scheme of theirs, than that Obama would risk alienating a fellow NATO member and an ally.

Comment Re:no (Score 4, Informative) 637

What's really really obvious is that if you take a human and raise them in isolation or in a primitive tribe, they might have a much lower IQ than if the exact same human was raised by the finest minds and educators in the modern world.

NPR ran a story on this on their "Planet Money" economics show. They talked about research looking at the effects of preschool education on child development, and the discoveries were really shocking. They took a group of poor children, then randomly selected half of them to recieve a top-notch, free, pre-school education, then followed both groups. The kids who got pre-school tested higher on child IQ tests, but what's more, the differences stuck with them all the way into young adulthood. There were also major differences in terms of better earning potential, lower teen pregnancy rates, higher rates of attending college, with the pre-school group doing better than the control group on all of these fronts.

So yes, smart parents tend to raise smart kids. But a big part of that is that if your parents raised you well and taught you well, you raise your kids well and teach your kids well.

It's worth a listen- it's one of the best shows on NPR, and this is one of their best episodes in my opinion: http://www.npr.org/blogs/money/2012/10/19/163256866/episode-411-why-preschool-can-save-the-world

Comment Re:It ain't expensive to build a stealth plane... (Score 2) 161

Also how could they? Do they have direct access to the planes?

They don't need direct access. The People's Liberation Army hacked into the networks of American defense contractors and stole blueprints and data http://cnsnews.com/news/article/chinese-hackers-stole-plans-americas-new-joint-strike-fighter-plane-says-investigations. If anyone had any questions who was behind these attacks, the fact that features of the F-22 and F-35 are now showing up in Chinese planes pretty much eliminates all doubt.

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