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Monthly Archives: December 2013

Computer pioneer and codebreaker Alan Turing has been given a posthumous royal pardon.It addresses his 1952 conviction for homosexuality for which he was punished by being chemically castrated.

The conviction meant he lost his security clearance and had to stop the code-cracking work that had proved vital to the Allies in World War Two.

The pardon was granted under the Royal Prerogative of Mercy after a request by Justice Minister Chris Grayling.’Appalling’ treatment”Dr Alan Turing was an exceptional man with a brilliant mind,” said Mr Grayling.He said the research Turing carried out during the war at Bletchley Park undoubtedly shortened the conflict and saved thousands of lives.Turing’s work helped accelerate Allied efforts to read German Naval messages enciphered with the Enigma machine. He also contributed some more fundamental work on codebreaking that was only released to public scrutiny in April 2012.

“His later life was overshadowed by his conviction for homosexual activity, a sentence we would now consider unjust and discriminatory and which has now been repealed,” said Mr Grayling.”Turing deserves to be remembered and recognised for his fantastic contribution to the war effort and his legacy to science. A pardon from the Queen is a fitting tribute to an exceptional man.”

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Six months after the first revelations appeared in The Washington Post and Britain’s Guardian newspaper, Snowden agreed to reflect at length on the roots and repercussions of his choice. He was relaxed and animated over two days of nearly unbroken conversation, fueled by burgers, pasta, ice cream and Russian pastry.

Snowden offered vignettes from his intelligence career and from his recent life as “an indoor cat” in Russia. But he consistently steered the conversation back to surveillance, democracy and the meaning of the documents he exposed.“For me, in terms of personal satisfaction, the mission’s already accomplished,” he said. “I already won. As soon as the journalists were able to work, everything that I had been trying to do was validated. Because, remember, I didn’t want to change society. I wanted to give society a chance to determine if it should change itself.”

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Samsung’s smart TVs are getting smarter next year.The Korean company announced todaythat it will showcase its 2014 Smart TV at the Consumer Electronics Show in January, which features improved voice interaction capability by focusing on the most frequently-used functions and taking usage patterns into consideration.Users can change their TV channel in one step by just saying the channel number, unlike Samsung’s 2013 Smart TV which requires a two-step channel change. When using voice interaction to search for information, a pop-up window appears on the bottom of the TV with search results, and users can move to the app and see the details.

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Sometimes, Mother Nature can be a dirty liar. Moths pretend to be dangerous spiders, antelopes deceive their mates, and carnivorous plants mimic harmless flowers to attract prey. There is astounding diversity in the deceptive strategies of plants and animals. But, as it turns out, many of these clever critters have a single origin: Australia. Down under, both the number of deceptive species and the variety of their behavioral strategies are disproportionately large.Take orchids, for instance. Orchids can be tricky plants; instead of offering up a delicious slurp of nectar, some species lure in unsuspecting male pollinators bymimicking female insects looking for a mate. And while Australia is home to only about five percent of the world’s orchid diversity, more than half of the known sexually deceptive orchid species on Earth evolved there.

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Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff (left) has raised strong objections to the NSA’s reported spying on oil company Petrobras. Today’s Times story once again raises the issue of spying for economic advantage.

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You probably know your phone can pinpoint your location for GPS, local search, or the weather. Hopefully, you also know that means your phone keeps track of everywhere you go, all the time. Don’t be alarmed—it’s the trade you make for the features you get. If it makes you uncomfortable, here’s how to opt-out.

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Business Insider Reports: The National Security Agency described for the first time a cataclysmic cyber threat it claims to have stopped On Sunday’s ’60 Minutes.’ Called a BIOS attack, the exploit would have ruined, or ‘bricked,’ computers across the country, causing untold damage to the national and even global economy. Even more shocking, CBS goes as far as to point a finger directly at China for the plot — ‘While the NSA would not name the country behind it, cyber security experts briefed on the operation told us it was China.’ The NSA says it closed this vulnerability by working with computer manufacturers. Debora Plunkett, director of cyber defense for the NSA: One of our analysts actually saw that the nation state had the intention to develop and to deliver — to actually use this capability — to destroy computers.

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During the Cold War, the US and the Soviet Union battled on many fronts to demonstrate their superior technical and scientific achievements. Some of these battles are well known and well documented, such as the race to put a human in space and then on the Moon.Others are much less well known. One of these battlefronts was in unconventional research—parapsychology (or psychotronics as the Soviets called it), mind control and remote influence and the such like. Some of the US work on these topics is now public and has famously become the basis for various books, TV documentaries and for the Hollywood film “The Men Who Stare at Goats”.

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IBM’s cooperation with a National Security Agency surveillance program caused sales in China to “abruptly halt” and the company’s stock price to decline, a shareholder lawsuit claims.In a complaint filed Thursday in Manhattan federal court, the Louisiana Sheriffs’ Pension and Relief Fund accuses the company of defrauding investors by concealing its involvement in the agency’s PRISM program led to a dramatic drop in sales in China. The program, which was revealed in classified documents leaked to the press by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden, allowed the agency to collect and process foreign intelligence that passed through servers belonging to US tech companies.

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News stories that are really big unfold over months or years, and tackling them can take almost constant media coverage. But all of that distilled information can start to feel overwhelming in itself, and that’s where the infographic recap comes in really handy.

And now there’s one for Bitcoin, which was just incredibly necessary. Having everything you need to know in a sort of visual map makes the info less intimidating and acts as a good memory aid for working things out. With Bitcoin there are so many areas to misunderstand, such as what Bitcoin is, how it works, where it came from, what its implications are for different markets and the international economy etc., that you may not know that you know nothing about it. Or you may be acutely aware. No worries! Brush up on the history aspect here so you at least have a solid foundation in place.  Read More »