globaltimes.cn / By Yang Jing / December 9, 2013
Baidu Jiasule, an online service offering protection for websites, announced over the weekend on its website that in a bid to protect customers and control the risks from using Bitcoin, it will suspend the acceptance of Bitcoin as payment.
The announcement [...]
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The hunt for an effective, reversible, and socially acceptable male birth control continues. The newest target: The smooth muscle that makes up the tubes connecting the testes to the urethra. This needs to contract in order for sperm to reach their final destination. Now, scientists have shown that you can make mice sterile by eliminating their ability to contract that muscle. The result: A mouse with a dry ejaculation but which is still "pelvis thrusting with appropriate vigor and frequency".
This is a long way from becoming reversible treatment for human gentlemen, though. Right now, probably the most promising male birth control is RISUG, in which a clear polymer gel is injected into the vas deferens. The gel doesn't block the tube up completely, but it does seem to prevent sperm from successfully reaching the urethra and being capable of fertilizing an egg. RISUG is in Phase III clinical trials in India, but, even then, there are still safety questions about it and, so far, it's only been proven to be reversible in tests on non-human primates.
businesstech.co.za / December 9, 2013
While opinion remains divided about the future of Bitcoin, analysts believe that cyber currency is here to stay, whether it is through the experimental Bitcoin exchange or a future clone.
The digital currency, which enables instant payments to anyone across the globe, has seen rather wild fluctuations in recent weeks [...]
That’s according at least to one of the former senior CIA officials who spoke with Los Angeles Times journalist Ken Dilanian for an article published on Sunday about the agency’s “non-official cover,” or “NOC” roles. Those are instances in which CIA agents were sent abroad to pose as business executives in order to collect intelligence for their bosses back at headquarters near Washington, DC, such as the case of former spy Valerie Plame, whose first-hand account of her experience was turned into the best-selling book, then movie, Fair Game.
Dilanian reported that the CIA spent at least $3 billion on the Global Deployment Initiative — which administered NOC roles — in the years after the September 11 terrorist attack, while the number of specially trained spies grew from the dozens into the hundreds. As they were routinely sent time and time again overseas to collect intelligence, however, their efforts rarely if at all proved to be productive, sources told the Times.
According to this week’s report, language barriers and large liabilities kept many undercover agents from properly infiltrating target demographics, such as Al Qaeda and other extremist groups, and instead the CIA spent billions trying unsuccessfully to milk foreign targets for valuable information.
“[T]oo few spoke Urdu, Pashto, Dari or other necessary languages, or could disappear in local cultures,” former CIA officers told the Times.
Other times, sources said, undercover agents were easily identified. Although the operatives would often be sent overseas with fake identities and backstories, they were rarely able to rope in targets, who the CIA had hoped would be tricked into submitting secret information to the undercovers.
Fake companies and operatives in Iran, for example, did little to fool those involved in the nation’s nuclear and missile procurement networks, Dilanian reported. Those spies were ultimately sent back to CIA headquarters following unsuccessful missions.
Others, a former chief of the CIA’s Europe division said, weren’t even deployed to the right arena. Some, Joseph Wippl told the Times, were posted “a zillion miles from where their targets were located.”
The Global Deployment Initiative’s billion-dollar budget is now being cut, the Times reports, but not after what Dilanian claims to be a failure in which “inexperience, bureaucratic hurdles, lack of language skills and other problems” plagued a program whose successes could be counted on one hand.
The “colossal flop” sentiment supplied by one former official, Dilanian wrote, was echoed by around one dozens others who offered to provide the paper with details on the NOC roles, albeit anonymous.
One former agent — who did provide the paper with permission to use his name — said that he was only aware of three successful NOCs during his 20-plus years within the CIA.
"They were absolute nightmares for the administrative bureaucracy of the agency," the CIA vet, John Maguire, told the Times.
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Will Jessop is a systems administrator for 37signals and he runs the North West Ruby User Group in Manchester. I bumped in to him recently and discovered he was working on a personal project with a Raspberry Pi. The aim of the project is to solve the problem of ping pong balls on the floor at the 37signals office in Chicago. The solution is a web-enabled robot with mounted camera allowing people to collect balls in to a basket.
The original version of the robot used the Custard Pi breakout, and then I suggested he looked at the MotorPiTX motor controller developed by Jason Barnett. He ordered one and joined Manchester Hackspace and began working on building or otherwise sourcing all the parts needed for the robot.
Finding the new motor board much neater sitting on the original chassis, Will proceeded to design and 3D print motor mounts, caterpillar track mounts, a new base, a ball basket, and then added a mounted picamera with fish-eye lens.
With a neat little camera robot, Will looked at options for battery powering it so it could roam free. Looking at power requirements and testing its usage while running the motors and streaming video over wireless, Will opted for a 5000mAh 7.4V lithium battery. He also added a lifter arm to the chassis, controlled independently of the robot itself.
All the software on the Pi is written in Go, which Will sees as a great language for the Raspberry Pi as it creates small, efficient, statically compiled binaries that easily fit within the resource limits of the Pi. This runs alongside Will’s gamepad library (in C, available as a Ruby gem) on a laptop. Will also wrote a power control script to aid clean Pi shutdown via the MotorPiTX.
With the robot roaming free on its new battery, controlled by an xbox controller, the camera feed streaming over wifi, and the lifter arm functional, it was ready to present at the 16th Manchester Raspberry Jam! On a tour of the Manchester Hackspace during the Jam, Eben, Liz and Pete got to see it in action. Eben got hold of the controller and took it round picking up ping pong balls by watching the video stream on the laptop.
Will then took the robot to Miami to show it off at RubyConf, where many Rubyists got to have a play with it.
Robot picking up ping pong balls:
Robot’s eye view:
Check out the series of posts on Will’s blog. Thanks to Manchester Hackspace and Jason Barnett for helping to facilitate the project. The robot’s not been placed in the 37signals office yet, but when web access to it is available, we’ll be sure to post the link so you can all have a go!
The sock monkey above is called "Rooster Monkburn," and he was created by Phillis May, who makes a sells sock monkeys. When Ms May and her husband traversed the TSA checkpoint at SEA-TAC, an eagle-eyed TSA operative noticed that Rooster was sporting a sub-two-inch toy pistol, which she seized, threatening to call police. Altogether, now, everyone: U! S! A! U! S! A! U! S! A!
May said the TSA agent went through the bag, through the sewing supplies and found the two-inch long pistol.
“She said ‘this is a gun,’” said May. “I said no, it’s not a gun it’s a prop for my monkey.”
“She said ‘If I held it up to your neck, you wouldn’t know if it was real or not,’ and I said ‘really?’” said May.
The TSA agent told May she would have to confiscate the tiny gun and was supposed to call the police.
“I said well go ahead,” said May. “And I said really? You’re kidding me right, and she said no it looks like a gun.”
“She took my monkey’s gun,” said May, who has retained her sense of humor.
TSA agent confiscates sock monkey's toy pistol [Susan Wyatt/King 5 News]
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