Thursday, September 30, 2010

Prosecutors plan to unveil charges against more than 60 defendants allegedly involved in a global cybercrime

U.S. Department of Homeland Security Official ...Image via Wikipedia
Prosecutors plan to unveil charges against more than 60 defendants allegedly involved in a global cybercrime scheme that used the Zeus Trojan and other Internet viruses to steal millions of dollars from U.S. bank accounts.


The charges will be announced later Thursday by federal and state law enforcement officials including U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara in New York, Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr, and officials from the FBI and Department of Homeland Security, according to press statements from prosecutors.


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Wednesday, September 29, 2010

One in five of the world's 380,000 plant species is threatened with extinction

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One in five of the world's 380,000 plant species is threatened with extinction and human activity is doing most of the damage, according to a global study published on Wednesday.

Scientists from Britain's Botanic Gardens at Kew, London's Natural History Museum and the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN), found that more than 22 percent of species were endangered, critically endangered or vulnerable.
"The single greatest threat is conversion of natural habitats to agricultural use, directly impacting 33 percent of threatened species," the report said.
The findings were released ahead of a United Nations summit scheduled for mid-October in Nagoya, Japan where governments are due to set new targets for trying to conserve more of the world's plants and animals.
"We cannot sit back and watch plant species disappear -- plants are the basis of all life on earth, providing clean air, water, food and fuel. All animal and bird life depends on them and so do we," said Stephen Hopper, Kew's director.
The scientists used data analyzed in a five-year study to draw up what they called a "Sampled Red List Index for Plants" which will be added to a series of IUCN "Red Lists" that are designed to help monitor the changing status of the world's major groups of plants, fungi and animals.
As this was the first time a global analysis of the threat to the world's plants had been undertaken, the scientists said it would serve as a baseline to measure conservation efforts.


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Tuesday, September 28, 2010

If federal law enforcement groups have their way your Facebook, BlackBerry and Skype conversations will be more easily intercepted via a wiretap, according to reports

If federal law enforcement groups have their way your Facebook, BlackBerry and Skype conversations will be more easily intercepted via a wiretap, according to reports.


The New York Times reports that the Obama administration is prodding Congress to require all Internet communications—social networking and peer-to-peer conversations—to be technically able to comply with a wiretap order. According to the Times, messages would be intercepted and unencrypted.

Here are the two sides of the argument:

National security officials want wiretap ability. After all, wiretaps have been available for years and are an important investigative tool.

On the flip side, lawmakers want the Internet to act like the telephone system. That move could hurt innovation and privacy.
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world's leading social network is debuting Oct. 1, with a comic book to follow in December

Quel ricco sfondato di Mark Zuckerberg, founde...Image via Wikipedia
At this rate, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg is going to see lunchboxes with his face on it.

Maybe not, but the reality is that a movie about the founder of the world's leading social network is debuting Oct. 1, with a comic book to follow in December.
The Social Network, a Hollywood film written by West Wing writer Aaron Sorkin and directed by Fight Club master David Fincher, chronicles Zuckerberg's controversial creation of Facebook, which started in a Harvard University dorm and now has 500 million-plus users worldwide.
The film, based on Ben Mezrich's nonfiction novel The Accidental Billionaires, portrays Zuckerberg as a conniving back-stabber who did everything he could to coopt Facebook, casting aside friends and business partners to get his way.
Now publisher Bluewater Productions is treating the Zuckerberg's legend with a biographical comic book called Mark Zuckerberg: Creator of Facebook.




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Monday, September 27, 2010

Malicious cyber-criminals aren't just targeting Twitter users; LinkedIn members are in their crosshairs, as well

Image representing LinkedIn as depicted in Cru...Image via CrunchBase
Malicious cyber-criminals aren't just targeting Twitter users; LinkedIn members are in their crosshairs, as well.


LinkedIn members were reportedly deluged with spam e-mail messages masquerading as connection requests from the career-oriented social networking site Sept. 27.
Clicking on these requests sent users to a Website that displayed "PLEASE WAITING...4 SECONDS" before redirecting them to Google. During those 4 seconds, the Website downloaded Zeus data-theft malware onto their PCs, according to Cisco Systems.
Zeus, which embeds itself in the victim's Web browser and captures personal information such as online banking credentials, is widely used by criminals to pilfer from commercial bank accounts.

These messages accounted for as much as 24 percent of all spam sent within a 15-minute interval in the morning of Sept. 27, Cisco said. Cisco recommends that IT administrators warn users to delete connection requests, especially if they do not know the name of the contact.

Social networks are increasingly becoming a target for cyber-criminals. Twitter was hit over the weekend by a worm associated with a "WTF" tweet and a link, as well as the cross-scripting exploit that crippled Twitter.com the week of Sept. 20. Facebook users have not been immune, either.

Spam remains a popular form of attack, as with the "Here You Have" e-mail worm that wreaked havoc earlier in September. Cisco expects to see more spam messages containing malware sent to organizations to collect personal information.

LinkedIn has not yet publicly acknowledged the spam attack, nor warned users about the messages.


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Sony Ericsson announces it is dropping Symbian for the open-source Android OS

Image representing Symbian Foundation as depic...Image via CrunchBase
Google's Android OS gets a boost as Sony Ericsson announces it is dropping Symbian for the open-source Android OS. In the latest blow to its attempt to hang onto the top position for mobile phone operating systems, Sony Ericsson announced it would no longer support the Symbian operating system.
"We have no plans for the time being to develop any new products to the Symbian Foundation standard or operating system," company spokesman Aldo Liguori told Bloomberg.com. Sony Ericsson plans to move toward Google’s open-source Android, which has been gaining traction in the smartphone OS marketplace. Symbian OS is best known as one of Nokia's mobile operating systems for mobile devices and smartphones.
Liguori told the news organization despite dropping support for Symbian, the company would remain a member of the Symbian Foundation and noted Android would become an important, if not exclusive, part of Sony Ericsson’s strategy going forward. The Symbian Foundation is a non-profit organization that stewards the Symbian platform and was founded by Nokia, Sony Ericsson, NTT DoCoMo, Motorola, Texas Instruments, Vodafone, LG Electronics, Samsung Electronics, STMicroelectronics and AT&T.


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Sunday, September 26, 2010

The Parti Québécois, environmental groups and citizen organizations are now calling for a temporary moratorium on shale gas exploration

Quebec is sitting on trillions of cubic feet of untapped natural gas locked inside shale rock, which could create thousands of jobs and billions of dollars in royalties for the province. But the environmental impacts of developing shale gas are sparking concern in a province that also prides itself on its green image. The Parti Québécois, environmental groups and citizen organizations are now calling for a temporary moratorium on shale gas exploration.

The fledgling industry in Quebec is driven by new technology that allows developers to tap into previously inaccessible stores of natural gas, primarily through a process called hydraulic fracturing, or fracking. The process involves pumping a mixture of water, sand and various chemicals underground at extremely high pressures to flush gas to the surface. But fracking is under intense scrutiny in the U.S., where shale gas development is more advanced, for contaminating drinking water.
British Columbia and Alberta are also developing shale reserves, whereas oil and gas drilling is relatively new for Quebec. And it is making many residents nervous. "We're not calling for a moratorium forever," says Steven Guilbeault, co-founder of Montreal-based environmental group équiterre. "We're asking for a pause in the development so we can study this."


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Workers painted walls and mopped rain water at the Commonwealth Games Village as India

Usain Bolt in celebration after his 100m victo...Image via Wikipedia
Workers painted walls and mopped rain water at the Commonwealth Games Village as India raced on Sunday to address complaints about dirty and unhygienic facilities one week before the start of the showpiece event.

The Games were supposed to enhance India's image as a rising power, but shoddy construction, dirty accommodation and security fears raised governance and accountability issues in Asia's third largest economy.
Several top athletes, including world champion sprinter Usain Bolt, pulled out, removing some of the shine from the event held every four years for former British colonies.
Two more Australian athletes, cyclist Travis Meyer and table tennis player Stephanie Sang, pulled out on Sunday. This comes a day after Britain's number one tennis player Elena Baltacha withdrew because of concerns about disease and hygiene.
On Sunday, Indian organizing committee officials met to review the work at the Games Village where masons plastered walls while workers dried out the basement of the Village which sits on the flooded plains of the Yamuna river.
"All finishing work is going on in full swing," said Dalbir Singh, mayor of the Games Village where the athletes will stay.
"It's a world class facility with some minor issues and work is going on to fix those problems."
Most of the 34 apartment blocs are gleaming and spacious and fitted with Italian marble. But much of what is good about the facility was overshadowed by athletes' complaints of dirtiness and unfinished work in some of the living quarters.


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Saturday, September 25, 2010

Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg announced a $100 million gift

Image representing Mark Zuckerberg as depicted...Image via CrunchBase
Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg announced a $100 million gift to the beleaguered public schools of Newark, New Jersey, to help improve public education in a city he has no connection to.

The billionaire announced the grant on Friday on the Oprah Winfrey television show. He denied suggestions the timing was aimed at deflecting attention from a movie that depicts the 26-year-old in an unflattering light.
"I've had a lot of opportunities in my life, and a lot of that comes from ... having gone to really good schools. And I just want to do what I can to make sure that everyone has those same opportunities," Zuckerberg told Winfrey about his gift to a city once the backdrop for Philip Roth novels but more recently struggling with crime, corruption and decay.
On a conference call for reporters with Newark Mayor Cory Booker and New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, Zuckerberg said he chose Newark -- a city to which he has no tangible connection -- after meeting Booker at a conference this summer.
He said he was simply impressed by the mayor's plans.
The gift brings together two of the Garden State's rising political stars from opposite sides of the political divide.
Youthful Democrat Booker is a former Rhodes scholar and Yale Law School graduate whose first run for mayor was shown in the Oscar-nominated documentary "Street Fight."
In less than a year as governor, Republican Christie has earned a reputation as a tough-talking politician who will do whatever it takes to get New Jersey's fiscal house in order, pushing through his agenda despite a Democrat-controlled legislature.
During Friday's conference call Christie called Newark "a city in desperate need of transformation."


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Department of Justice Sept. 24 said it struck an antitrust settlement with Google, Apple, Adobe Systems, Intel, Intuit and Pixar

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The Department of Justice Sept. 24 said it struck an antitrust settlement with Google, Apple, Adobe Systems, Intel, Intuit and Pixar that prevents them from agreeing not to poach each other's employees for the next 5 years.


The DOJ, which has investigated practices by the six technology companies for the last year, filed a civil antitrust complaint concurrent with the settlement deal in U.S. District Court.

At issue for the antitrust division for the DOJ was the so-called practice of "cold calling," where companies enter into agreements with rivals to refrain from calling employees who were on "do not call" lists compiled by their rivals.

These employees tended to be top guns at the companies they worked for, possessing not only special skills but deep knowledge of their current employers that would prove valuable for rival companies if they left to join them.

Google, which entered into at least three such agreement covered in the DOJ's investigation, said it started this practice in 2005 to maintain a "good working relationship with these companies," which included Apple, Intel and Intuit.


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Friday, September 24, 2010

The smart-grid market in the United States will grow 70 billion by 2015 percent to $9.6

Cropped version:A worker climbing down an elec...Image via Wikipedia
The smart-grid market in the United States will grow 70 billion by 2015 percent to $9.6, according to a Sept. 24 forecast from GTM Research analyst David Leeds. The market research company currently pegs the market at $5.6 billion.


The term smart grid refers to a next-generation electricity delivery network designed to monitor household and business consumption and automate control mechanisms. Rather than depending on a single technology, smart grids consist of a web of networks allowing real-time communication between users and power providers.

The expansion will be driven by federal grants for utility modernization, competition between utilities companies and investments in smart-grid technology by large IT companies, according to GTM Research. For example, utilities can submit their plans and budgets for approved smart-grid projects by Sept. 30 to qualify for a share of the $3.4 billion in federal stimulus grants.

GTM Research analysts calculated the 2015 forecast by compiling outlooks in four core technology sectors: advanced metering infrastructure, distribution automation, home area networks and smart utility enterprise.


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Facebook's Sept. 23 outage was caused by a software flaw that crippled its database clusters

This is icon for social networking website. Th...Image via Wikipedia
Facebook's Sept. 23 outage was caused by a software flaw that crippled its database clusters, the company confirmed. The downtime was the worst at the social network in four years.

The outage that darkened Facebook for two and a half hours Sept. 23 was caused by a software flaw in its database clusters, the company confirmed.
Facebook went down—the company called it the "worst outage we've had in over four years"—around 1:30 p.m. EDT Thursday and didn't go back up until 4 p.m. EDT.
Some of the 500 million-plus Facebook users tweeted about the event on Twitter, wondering what they would do without access to their photos, links, videos and other content they shared on the massive social network.


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Thursday, September 23, 2010

loss of renewable natural resources, including forests, fresh water, fish and fertile soils, can drive political instability

Retired USMC General Anthony Zinni speaking at...Image via Wikipedia
Environmental degradation and waning natural resources threaten U.S. security in the 21st century, in a shift from "kinetic" security threats, defense experts told a Capitol Hill briefing Wednesday.

The loss of renewable natural resources, including forests, fresh water, fish and fertile soils, can drive political instability and conflict in the developing world, according to the briefing.
"We can't just send in the Army and the Marines and the Air Force and the Navy to resolve these problems, and they can't all be security problems," said retired General Anthony Zinni, former chief of U.S. Central Command.
"Whether it is climate change, whether it is disruption of the environment in other ways ... we're going to see more failed and incapable states."
Zinni cited a report from the non-profit Center for a New American Security that linked depletion of fish stocks off Somalia, the drop in water and oil resources in Yemen, frequent droughts in Afghanistan and scarce and polluted water in Pakistan to instability and security.
Lieutenant Colonel Shannon Beebe, a senior Army Africa analyst, contrasted the traditional threats to U.S. and global security with those posed by environmental woes and natural resource problems. He noted that he offered his personal opinion, not that of the U.S. Defense Department.
"An American security narrative is very much based on the kinetics ... planes, tanks, guns, armed forces," Beebe said, saying these kinetic threats would be replaced by "creeping vulnerabilities."
"You think we're going to continue to face state-based threats?" he asked rhetorically. "Might I remind you of the two greatest attacks on the United States at the beginning of the 21st century, and neither of those was from a state-based threat: 911 and Hurricane Katrina."
Both men cited their own experience in the Europe, Asia and Africa with defense leaders who recognized that integrating environmental problems into security policy was essential. Beebe said the United States has yet to understand that a coordinated narrative on this is key.


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Wednesday, September 22, 2010

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Smut peddlers are needing a part time job

As executive director of the Free Speech Coalition, a Los Angeles-based lobby group for the porn business, Duke, who previously worked for Planned Parenthood, leads many of the industry's anti-piracy efforts. She admits it's difficult to convince the average consumer to feel guilty about cheating pornographers. For many viewers, it feels far less immoral if they've "happened upon" the material rather than paying for it. But that doesn't change the fact it's stolen property. This spring, her organization released a public service announcement warning: "If no one is willing to pay for the movies we make, they won't exist."

Predicting the extinction of an eons-old industry may seem hyperbolic, but the prognosis for the skin trade is indeed bleak. Smut peddlers once bragged their business was recession-proof; now they face tumbling profits, layoffs and salary cuts. Established producers report revenue has fallen by as much as 80% in the past three years. Playboy, the industry's patrician grandfather, lost $1 million in the first quarter of this year and has shed more than 12% of its workforce. Vivid Entertainment, famed for its celebrity sex tapes, saw a 30% drop in its revenue last year, having once claimed $100 million in annual sales. Performers who commanded $2,000 for a single scene now make closer to $1,200. "Between 1986 and 2008, pornography could be a full-time job," says Nina Hartley, an actress who started in 1984. "You could work full-time as performer, or in shipping, or in makeup. But we're all hurting. It's going back to being a part-time job."


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Tuesday, September 21, 2010

The first genetically modified animal aimed at consumers' dinner plates faces an uncertain future

The first genetically modified animal aimed at consumers' dinner plates faces an uncertain future following a federal advisory panel on Monday that gave a mixed assessment on whether such food -- a salmon -- is safe to eat.

A number of the Food and Drug Administration's panelists raised concerns about the fast growing fish, made by Aqua Bounty Technologies Inc, saying there was not enough data to answer key questions about allergens and other potential risks.
"There are questions that have not been answered by the data that has been presented," panelist James McKean, a veterinarian and professor at Iowa State University, said.
But other panel members argued there was no difference between the altered salmon and its natural counterpart.
"I would not feel alarmed about eating this kind of fish," said Gary Thorgaard, a professor and fish researcher at Washington State University.

Aqua Bounty is seeking U.S. approval to market its engineered Atlantic salmon, which contains a gene from another fish species to help it grow twice as fast as normal.

If approved, Aqua Bounty's salmon would be the first genetically altered animal for human consumption in the United States. The FDA has already allowed modified animals as pets or to help produce biologic medicines. Genetically engineered vegetables such as corn have been on the market for years.

Both FDA staff and the company have said the genetically spliced fish appears to be the same as normal Atlantic salmon and poses little threat to the environment or diners.


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Audi MedCup Yacht Race from Sardinia

PALMA DE MALLORCA, SPAIN - AUGUST 07:  Yacht s...
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Monday, September 20, 2010

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Former President Bill Clinton hopes that pledges to help quake-devastated Haiti at his philanthropic "summit" this week

Bill Clinton - yes, I took this photoImage by Creativity+ Timothy K Hamilton via Flickr
Former President Bill Clinton hopes that pledges to help quake-devastated Haiti at his philanthropic "summit" this week will push governments to fulfill promises of billions of dollars in reconstruction.

Clinton, who is the U.N. special envoy for Haiti, will hold a special session on the recovery of the impoverished Caribbean nation with Haitian President Rene Preval and Prime Minister Jean-Max Bellerive at the Clinton Global Initiative.
More than 1,000 people including heads of state like U.S. President Barack Obama, business leaders including Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates, humanitarians and celebrities will attend the meeting in New York, starting on Tuesday.
Putting a spotlight on Haiti "might help shake loose some of the donor commitments from the governments," Clinton told Reuters in an interview.
"There is a lot of money that has been promised to Haiti, but not much has been given. Almost all that has been given has been for the emergency phase. Now we're into rebuilding ... but we need the donors to come up with the money," he said.
In March, international donors pledged more than $5 billion over two years to rebuild Haiti after a January 12 quake killed up to 300,000 people, devastated the country's economy and infrastructure and left more than a million people homeless.
"How fast we can move depends in large measure on whether these commitments will be honored that have been made, but I'm hopeful," said Clinton.


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BP said payouts to people affected by its Gulf of Mexico oil spill had dramatically increased

Kenneth FeinbergImage via Wikipedia
BP said payouts to people affected by its Gulf of Mexico oil spill had dramatically increased since it surrendered authority for dispensing funds to an independent administrator.

BP said the Gulf Coast Claims Facility (GCCF), the $20 billion fund it set up to compensate fishermen, hoteliers and retailers whose business was hit by the spill, had paid out 19,000 claims totaling over $240 million.
The total cost of the spill response has hit $9.5 billion, Europe's second-largest oil company by market value said in a statement late on Sunday.
The GCCF is run by lawyer Kenneth Feinberg, formerly the Obama Administration's executive pay Czar. BP said on September 3 that the fund had paid out $38.5 million since it began operating on August 23. This represented a rate of around $3.5 million per day, broadly in line with the rate at which BP had previously been disbursing funds.
Since September 3, the amount of money being paid out has risen to an average of over $12.5 million.
Just over a week ago, Bob Dudley, who will take over as BP's Chief Executive on October 1, told analysts that he expected the $20 billion fund to more than cover the total valid claims for compensation.


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Sunday, September 19, 2010

Twitter inundated with tornado-photo hoaxes

Image representing Twitter as depicted in Crun...Image via CrunchBase
September 18, 2010 11:38 AM PDT


Twitter inundated with tornado-photo hoaxes

Oops! This tornado photo is real, but it's also almost 35 years old.

(Credit: Time, screen grabbed by The Huffington Post) I'm not exaggerating here--for a brief while on Thursday evening in New York, the weather felt so apocalypse-by-way-of-Hollywood that I wouldn't have been a bit surprised if I had spotted Godzilla stomping down Sixth Avenue from the vantage point of the midtown Starbucks where I'd taken refuge from the intense wind and pummeling cloudbursts. There were, in fact, two tornadoes making mischief in the neighboring boroughs of Brooklyn and Queens that evening.
So when an impressive photo showing a tornado in ominous proximity to the Statue of Liberty began making the rounds on Twitter, it was perfectly reasonable that one would take it as the real thing--including a Time magazine blogger who posted it after seeing it in a Twitter post, and started broadcasting the link. Unfortunately, it wasn't a fuzzy cell phone camera picture--it was from a tornado that terrorized New York in 1976, and is archived on the National Weather Service's Web site. The Twitter user who originally posted it admitted to a Huffington Post writer that the whole thing was "merely to mess with friends." The Time blogger ran a correction.


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Saturday, September 18, 2010

In a case with free-speech and Net-neutrality implications, T-Mobile has been sued

Image representing WeedMaps as depicted in Cru...Image via CrunchBase
In a case with free-speech and Net-neutrality implications, T-Mobile has been sued by a text-message marketing company for allegedly blocking access to the T-Mobile network because of a client that provided information on medical marijuana.

Ez Texting, a New York-based company that helps businesses send marketing text messages to large numbers of people, filed the suit Friday with the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York. The company is one of those that provide the behind-the-scenes infrastructure for the type of ad that asks consumers to text a specific word to a specific number to get more information on a product--"Text 'jeans' to 313131," for example.
In its suit, Ez Texting says that last week, T-Mobile cut off access to its network after learning of an Ez client of which T-Mobile "did not approve": legalmarijuanadispensary.com, aka WeedMaps, which describes itself as "a community where medical marijuana patients connect with other patients in their geographic region to freely discuss and review local cannabis co-operatives, dispensaries, medical doctors, and delivery services."



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Intel is investigating how a master key for the High-bandwidth Digital Content Protection

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Intel is investigating how a master key for the High-bandwidth Digital Content Protection [HDCP] protocol used to protect digital content made its way to the Internet.

Developed by Intel, the HDCP protocol is used to protect video and audio content as it is transmitted between devices such as Blu-ray players and high-definition televisions [HDTVs] and to verify the device receiving the content is licensed to do so.
The master key is used to generate keys meant for consumer devices. On Sept. 14, it was reported that a secret master key for HDCP had been posted on the Internet. Intel confirmed the key was legitimate Sept. 16.


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Friday, September 17, 2010

World leaders will next week consider a target for halting extinctions of animals and plants by 2020

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World leaders will next week consider a target for halting extinctions of animals and plants by 2020 that many experts rate impossibly ambitious given mounting threats such as climate change and loss of habitats.

"Biodiversity losses are accelerating," said Anne Larigauderie, executive director of the Paris-based Diversitas Secretariat, which groups international scientists and reckons the goal laid out in a draft U.N. plan is out of reach for 2020.
At the United Nations headquarters in New York on September 22, nations will discuss how to protect the diversity of plants and animals -- vital to everything from food to fresh water -- after failing to reach a goal set in 2002 of a "significant reduction" in losses by 2010.
The world has made some progress since 2002, such as in expanding protected areas for wildlife. But U.N. studies say extinction rates are running up to 1,000 times higher than those inferred from fossil records in the worst crisis since the dinosaurs were wiped out 65 million years ago.
Larigauderie said scientists had been largely left out of defining new goals. "Until we have an organized process we will continue to have these sort of feel-good objectives that we are going to miss again," she said of halting losses by 2020.
A draft U.N. strategic plan for 2020, to be formally adopted at U.N. talks in Japan in October, calls for "effective and urgent action" either "to halt the loss of biodiversity by 2020" or "toward halting the loss of biodiversity" with no deadline.


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