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Submission + - Meet the Carolina Butcher, a 9-Foot Crocodile That Walked on Two Legs

HughPickens.com writes: Science News reports on the Carolina Butcher, a giant, bipedal reptile that looked a lot like living crocodiles — except it walked on two legs, not four. Carnufex carolinensis is one of the oldest and largest crocodile ancestors identified to date. Its size and stature also suggest that for a time, the Carolina Butcher (named for its menacing features), was one of the top predators in the part of the supercontinent Pangaea that became North America. Past fossil finds show that cousins of ancient crocodiles were vying with the earliest bipedal dinosaurs, called theropods, for the title of top predator in the southern regions of Pangaea but the Carolina Butcher's reign probably ended 201 million years ago when a mass extinction event wiped out most large, land-based predators, clearing the way for dinosaurs to fully dominate during the Jurassic period. Carnufex is one of the most primitive members of the broad category of reptiles called crocodylomorphs, encompassing the various forms of crocs that have appeared on Earth. "As one of the earliest and oldest crocodylomorphs, Carnufex was a far cry from living crocodiles. It was an agile, terrestrial predator that hunted on land," says Lindsay Zanno. "Carnufex predates the group that living crocodiles belong to." Transported back to the Triassic Period, what would a person experience upon encountering this agile, roughly three metre-long, about 1.5 metre-tall beast with a long skull and blade-like teeth? "Abject terror," says Zanno.

Submission + - Urine Trouble: Chemists Warn that Peeing in the Pool is Dangerous 1

Hugh Pickens DOT Com writes: Everybody does it and even celebrated Olympic swimmers Michael Phelps and Ryan Lochte admit they do it too. "It's kind of a normal thing to do with swimmers," says Phelps. "You know, when we're in the water for two hours we don't really get out, you know, to pee."

Now Julie Beck writes that It turns out that it's a pretty bad idea, for more reasons than just the ick factor as a new study published in the American Chemical Society's journal Environmental Science & Technology, has looked at the chemistry of what happens when urine meets chlorine, and it's not pretty. When researchers mixed uric acid, found in both urine and sweat, with chlorine, they found that both trichloramine and cyanogen chloride form within an hour. "We know that there are associations between some of these chemicals and adverse human health outcomes, so we're motivated to understand the chemistry behind their formation and decay," says Ernest Blatchley III.

Exposure to trichloramine has been linked to respiratory problems (PDF), and cyanogen chloride can adversely affect the lungs, central nervous system, and cardiovascular system. Another issue is if a lot of people are peeing in the pool, there's the potential for a lot of cyanogen chloride to form, depleting the chlorine in the pool. While the cyanogen chloride would normally decay quickly, less chlorine means it might stick around longer, and that could be a real problem. All of this is to say that peeing in the pool is not harmless, despite Phelps' and Lochte's claims that it's normal and everybody does it. "There's a lot of people in the swimming community who look up to these people and listen to what they have to say," says Blatchley "[Phelps and Lochte] are not chemists and shouldn't be making statements that are that false."

Submission + - JP Morgan in massive lawsuit over 'fraudulent' IT (computerworlduk.com)

DMandPenfold writes: JP Morgan Chase, Bank of America and Wells Fargo are being sued by the US Attorney General over an allegedly restrictive and inaccurate database that may have resulted in unfair foreclosures for many home buyers.

The banks, which are some of the largest in America, are accused of creating and controlling access to a database of mortgage holders in ways that enabled them to deceive courts and fraudulently foreclose homes for people struggling to pay their mortgage. At the same time, they avoided $2 billion in processing fees. They have not yet commented on the claims.

The electronic mortgage registry, known as MERS, was created in 1995 to simplify the recording of mortgage sales and to allow banks to more easily sell on the loans. The system was created in 1995, and contains 70 million loans, including those written by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. Nearly half of the loans in the system are currently active.

But as well as being used fraudulently, the database was also "plagued with inaccuracies and errors", according to the complaint.

US Attorney General Eric Schneidermann said that employees and agents of the bank used the system to "repeatedly" submit court documents on mortgage holders, "containing false and misleading information that made it appear that the foreclosing party had the authority to bring a case when in fact it may not have [had]".

A large number of the 13,000 foreclosure filings in court, based on the system's data, were invalid because they misrepresented the claimants as having the authority to foreclose, said the lawsuit. The system even automatically generated erroneous documents that only served to mislead and confuse homeowners and the courts, it said.

Merscorp, the company created to run the system, is also named alongside the three banks in the lawsuit, as well as the bank's loan subsidiaries BAC Home Loans Servicing, Chase Home Finance, EMC Mortgage Corporation, and Wells Fargo Home Mortgage.

The MERS system stored information in a private database, which "effectively eliminated homeowners' and the public's ability to track property transfers through the traditional public records system," according to the Attorney General's office.

"The banks created the MERS system as an end-run around the property recording system, to facilitate the rapid securitisation and sale of mortgages," said Schneiderman.

"Once the mortgages went sour, these same banks brought foreclosure proceedings en masse based on deceptive and fraudulent court submissions, seeking to take homes away from people with little regard for basic legal requirements or the rule of law."

The lawsuit is intended to show that there is "one set of rules for all, no matter how big or powerful the institution may be," he said.

It calls for damages, if won, to be calculated according to all the fees and profits allegedly fraudulently collected, as well as for a $5,000 payment to the state for each instance of law breaking. The lawsuit also asks the judge for a court order to resolve any incorrect foreclosures as a result of MERS.

Meanwhile, the banks are looking to sign a $25 billion nationwide agreement with the US government, which could release them from further liability over unfair foreclosures. It remains unclear to what extent that agreement could be blocked by the lawsuit.


Submission + - State of SCADA Security 'Laughable', Experts Say (threatpost.com)

Trailrunner7 writes: For people who follow the developments in the security and research communities, it's easy to get discouraged by the current state of affairs, given the rash of serious hacks on certificate authorities, military networks and companies such as RSA and VeriSign. But, if you think things are bad there, you may not want to look at what's happening in the ICS and SCADA communities. It's getting ugly early.

During talks on SCADA security problems at the Kaspersky-Threatpost Security Analyst Summit here Friday, several researchers talked about the serious issues inherent in these ICS installations, and the picture they painted is one of systemic problems and a culture of naivete about security in general. Terry McCorkle, an industry researcher, discussed a research project he did with Billy Rios in which they went looking for bugs in ICS systems, hoping to find 100 bugs in 100 days. That turned out to be a serious underestimation of the problem.

"It turns out they're stuck in the Nineties. The SDL doesn't exist in ICS," McCorkle said. "There are a lot of ActiveX and file format bugs and we didn't even bother looking at problems with services. Ultimately what we found is the state of ICS security is kind of laughable."

Submission + - UK declares independance from US. Freecycle UK wants representation (guardian.co.uk)

achapman writes: Moderators of UK Freecycle groups have become so frustrated with US centric policies and the refusal of the US run organisation that they have declared independance. Today a large number of UK Freecycle groups have seceded to form Freegle.
The US had been replacing any UK moderators that dared to disagree with US Freecycle policies, regardless of the degree of support they had in the UK. Since the UK organises 27% of Freecycle activities it is scandalous that the US management refuses to listen to contributions from its UK members.

Data Storage

Submission + - HDD Pricewatch: How the Thai Floods Have Affected Prices (techspot.com) 1

jjslash writes: The hard disk drive supply chain was hit hard late last year when a series of floods struck Thailand. The Asian country accounts for about a quarter of the world's hard drive production, but thousands of factories had to close shop for weeks as facilities were under water, in what is considered the world's fourth costliest natural disaster according to World Bank estimates. That's on top of the human cost of over 800 lives. TechSpot has monitored a number of mobile and desktop HDDs to get a better overview of how the situation has developed in the last three months.

Submission + - Dell execs in massive insider trading probe (computerworlduk.com)

DMandPenfold writes: Two former Dell employees, including a former investor relations manager, were part of a $62 million record-breaking insider trading scam, involving the company's shares as well as Nvidia stock, according to the FBI.

The news comes as the US authorities step up their pursuit of inside traders. Two months ago, Galleon hedge fund founder Raj Rajaratnam was sentenced to 11 years in jail for his role in a scam involving AMD, IBM and 3Com stock.

Yesterday, Sandeep Goyal, an employee at Dell's US headquarters between 2006 and 2007 before becoming a financial analyst, was arrested. An unnamed co-conspirator in Dell's investor relations department from 2007 to 2009 is also alleged to have been part of the scam. The co-conspirator has not been arrested, it is understood.

Goyal allegedly made $175,000 by providing inside information about Dell to a hedge fund. He has pleaded guilty to charges of securities fraud.

Jesse Tortura, a former analyst at Diamondback, and Spyridon Adondakis, formerly at Level Global, have also pleaded guilty.

Seven men in total are allegedly implicated in the scam, including Todd Newman, a senior manager with the Diamondback Capital Management hedge fund, and Anthony Chiasson, a co-founder at Level Global investors. Newman oversaw IT stock investments at Diamondback. Chiasson's Level firm principally trades in IT and finance shares. Both were arrested yesterday.

Jon Horvath, an employee at hedge fund Sigma Capital Management, and Danny Kuo of Whittier Trust, were also allegedly part of the scam. Both hedge funds trade in a range of share types.

All seven were charged with conspiracy to commit securities fraud, relating to profits made from trading Dell and Nvidia stock in 2008 and 2009.

Authorities even produced an email from Kuo to Adondakis, Tortura and Horvath, in which he openly states that he is providing insider information.

In one instance of profit from the scam, Level Global allegedly made $57 million from a tip ahead of Dell's results – which authorities branded as the largest single profit ever from inside information.

Dell said in a statement that it "has cooperated with government authorities". It added: "All Dell employees are required annually to complete training on the company's Code of Conduct, which includes a section on insider trading. Violations of these policies are treated seriously, and violations result in disciplinary action up to and including termination."

FBI assistant director Janice Fedarcyk said: "The FBI has arrested more than 60 people in 'Operation Perfect Hedge' [the hedge fund insider trading probe] to date, and this initiative is far from over.

"If you are engaged in insider trading, what distinguishes you from the dozens who have been charged is not that you haven't been caught; it's that you haven't been caught yet."


Submission + - Slashdot Told You Romney Didn't Win in Iowa

Hugh Pickens writes writes: "Two weeks ago Slashdot was one of the few news outlets to get it right by pointing out that there was no way that Mitt Romney won the caucus in Iowa because his margin of or 0.007 percent of the total number of caucus votes was orders of magnitude less than the error rate in counting the votes — around 0.5 to 1 percent — making the election a tie no matter what the ballot counting said. But pundits and journalists like to choose winners so now the Republican Party has declared Rick Santorum the winner of the Iowa caucuses with a 34 vote margin after late returns have trickled in, upending frontrunner Mitt Romney who was originally shown to have won the first-in-the-US presidential nomination vote two weeks ago. The the flip-flop result — Romney had been declared winner by a microscopic eight votes in the January 3 caucuses — is a black eye for Iowa, which for decades has prided itself on holding the country's first vote in the long march toward choosing presidential nominees. "We've had two early state contests with two winners — and the narrative that governor Romney and the media have been touting of 'inevitability' has been destroyed," said Santorum spokesman Hogan Gidley. Wrong as it may have been, Romney consistently touted his unofficial win in Iowa, and went on to win the New Hampshire primary by a decisive margin the following week. But voters may be in for another surprise in South Carolina this week as Romney, long touted as the frontrunner in the race, could lose to former House speaker Newt Gingrich who has closed in on Romney in opinion polls following a strong debate performance."

Submission + - Anti-shopping drug discovered (dailymail.co.uk)

An anonymous reader writes: As we wind up this Christmas season and look forward to all the junk we're going to give/get, it is notable that scientists may have discovered a drug that treats shopoholism. This may be great news for the anti-consumerist critique of Christmas: everything from Reverend Billy's Church of Life After Shopping to the yet-to-catch-on Buy Nothing Day to the sardonic Sir Spendalot to the counter-consumerist Kwanzaa to Jon Stewart's War On Christmas. Who needs anti-consumerism campaigns when there's a pill for that?

Submission + - Bell Canada to end throttle (huffingtonpost.ca)

inject_hotmail.com writes: I just caught wind of a story over at the Huff. Bell Canada has written a letter to the CRTC indicating that it will end traffic shaping on March 1, 2012. Although Bell says that this is due to "increasing popularity of streamed video and other traffic" and "P2P file-sharing, as a proportion of total traffic, has been diminishing", it's far more likely that they are interested in higher revenue. In all likelihood, the change of heart is based on the fact that Bell has moved most of their customer base to, and offer no alternative to, low-usage-cap UBB packages, which would ultimately generate more income or deter full usage of their service (and thus require less infrastructure investment).

Submission + - Is IIS disappearing from the web? (netcraft.com)

blanford_robinson writes: I have been watching market share among web servers for many years now. It seems as though enthusiasm for the Microsoft platform on the web has fallen to critical lows. The web appears to be migrating to a uniform standard of dynamic type dominated by php, python, ruby, and perl. Might we expect that the Microsoft web platform consisting of IIS, .NET, and MS SQL Server will drop below 5% in the near future?

Submission + - MythBusters: Savage and Hyneman detonate truthines (theregister.co.uk)

gearystwatcher writes: MythBusters' Jamie Hyneman's been developing blast-resistant, light-weight armor for use on US military vehicles in Iraq and Afghanistan based on his work with show co-host Adam Savage. "We had a lot of experience in the show dealing with explosives, obviously in ways and situations that are outside the norm. This is very revealing, because when you see something outside the norm you get to see what the boundaries of the phenomenon are," Hyneman tells The Reg during an interview for the new MythBusters' season.

Submission + - Your Brain on Politics (www.cbc.ca)

bityz writes: The CBC's Neil Morrison brings us a story called Your Brain on Politics. We like to think we make voting decisions based on logical, rational reasoning. But new research suggests that our subconscious reactions to the faces of candidates may play a substantial role in shaping how we vote.

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