Archive for the ‘And Now for Something Completely Different’ Category

Rare elements … and yours truly

Wednesday, September 14th, 2011

– Not many people, other than my close friends, know that I’ve been putting together a collection of the elements of the Periodic Table for a long time.  

– Hence, my interest in the British Geological Survey Risk List 2011 of the world’s rare and expensive elements in the original article.  

– This next table, however, is about my personal collection and indicates which elements I’ve got in my collection now. 

– Key:

Red       – I’ve got it
White   – I don’t 
Blue      – It’s a gas
Yellow – Radioactive 

– dennis

– And now to the original article…

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A new supply risk index for chemical elements or element groups which are of economic value

The risk list gives a quick indication of the relative risk in 2011 to the supply of the chemical elements or element groups which we need to maintain our economy and lifestyle. The position of an element on this list is determined by a number of factors which might impact on supply. These include the abundance of elements in the Earth’s crust, the location of current production and reserves, and the political stability of those locations.

The risk list highlights a group of elements where global production is concentrated in a few countries. The restricted supply base combined with the relatively low political stability ratings for some major producing countries significantly increase risk to supply. The list highlights economically important metals which are at risk of supply disruption including rare earths, platinum group metals, niobium and tungsten. The list also shows the current importance of China in production of many metals and minerals.

As demand for metals and minerals increases, driven by relentless growth in the emerging economies in Asia and South America, competition for resources is growing. Human factors such as geopolitics , resource nationalism, along with events such as strikes and accidents are the most likely to disrupt supply. Policy-makers, industry and consumers should be concerned about supply risk and the need to diversify supply from Earth resources, from recycling more and doing more with less, and also about the environmental implications of burgeoning consumption.

The list focuses on risks to supply and does not include any assessment of factors that influence demand, such as criticality of an element to a particular technology or how easy it is to substitute that element with another.

Download the Risk list 2011 publication.

– To the Original…

 

 

The U.S. Budget simplified…

Wednesday, August 24th, 2011

– I don’t know if this is really accurate – but I enjoyed it.

– dennis

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The U.S. Congress sets a federal budget every year in the trillions of dollars.  Few people know how much money that is so here is a breakdown of federal spending in simple terms.

 Let’s put the 2011 federal budget into perspective:

    U.S. Income:                   $  2,170,000,000,000

    Federal budget:            $  3,820,000,000,000

    New debt:                         $  1,650,000,000,000

    National debt:              $14,271,000,000,000

    Recent budget cut:   $38,500,000,000 (about 1 percent of the budget)

 It helps to think about these numbers in terms that we can understand.  

Therefore, let’s remove eight zeros from these numbers and pretend this is the household budget for the “Jones” family:

    Total annual income for the Jones family:         $ 21,700

    Amount of money the Jones family spent:         $ 38,200 

    Amount of new debt added to the credit card: $ 16,500 

    Outstanding balance on the credit card:              $142,710

    Amount cut from the budget:                                      $ 385

Yep, that about sums it up.

– research thanks to Van

What Are We Capable Of – THIS IS ANONYMOUS!

Wednesday, August 17th, 2011

 

Anonymous

Anonymous

– The other day, I posted what Truthout is all about.  I liked what they identified as the problems we’re facing.

Anonymous is another favorite of mine.   I’m not sure if they can carry off their aims but the truth is that I’ve become pretty discouraged that anyone else is going to rise up and try to put things right.   Big Pharma’s not going to give up their obscene profits, nor are the multinationals that profit from war.   The U.S. government is not going to turn the clock back to the Jimmy Stewart and “Mr. Smith goes to Washington” period.   It just isn’t going to happen.   The powerful rarely, if ever, give up their power and privileges voluntarily.

– But we still need something to change desperately.   We’re gambling our ecology away, we’re gambling away the futures of our children, we’re allowing vast numbers of people to live in systems where the good of profits trumps the good of people – and that’s simply not right.

– Maybe Anonymous has a way forward.  I’m willing to take a look.

– Check out this video.   There’s a lot more like it on YouTube.

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Click –> here <–

– Also, check this out, while it’s still on-line…

– Research thanks to Mike S.

 

Stop Coddling the Super-Rich

Tuesday, August 16th, 2011

– From the New York Times – an Op-Ed by Warren Buffett.

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OUR leaders have asked for “shared sacrifice.” But when they did the asking, they spared me. I checked with my mega-rich friends to learn what pain they were expecting. They, too, were left untouched.

While the poor and middle class fight for us in Afghanistan, and while most Americans struggle to make ends meet, we mega-rich continue to get our extraordinary tax breaks. Some of us are investment managers who earn billions from our daily labors but are allowed to classify our income as “carried interest,” thereby getting a bargain 15 percent tax rate. Others own stock index futures for 10 minutes and have 60 percent of their gain taxed at 15 percent, as if they’d been long-term investors.

These and other blessings are showered upon us by legislators in Washington who feel compelled to protect us, much as if we were spotted owls or some other endangered species. It’s nice to have friends in high places.

Last year my federal tax bill — the income tax I paid, as well as payroll taxes paid by me and on my behalf — was $6,938,744. That sounds like a lot of money. But what I paid was only 17.4 percent of my taxable income — and that’s actually a lower percentage than was paid by any of the other 20 people in our office. Their tax burdens ranged from 33 percent to 41 percent and averaged 36 percent.

If you make money with money, as some of my super-rich friends do, your percentage may be a bit lower than mine. But if you earn money from a job, your percentage will surely exceed mine — most likely by a lot.

To understand why, you need to examine the sources of government revenue. Last year about 80 percent of these revenues came from personal income taxes and payroll taxes. The mega-rich pay income taxes at a rate of 15 percent on most of their earnings but pay practically nothing in payroll taxes. It’s a different story for the middle class: typically, they fall into the 15 percent and 25 percent income tax brackets, and then are hit with heavy payroll taxes to boot.

Back in the 1980s and 1990s, tax rates for the rich were far higher, and my percentage rate was in the middle of the pack. According to a theory I sometimes hear, I should have thrown a fit and refused to invest because of the elevated tax rates on capital gains and dividends.

I didn’t refuse, nor did others. I have worked with investors for 60 years and I have yet to see anyone — not even when capital gains rates were 39.9 percent in 1976-77 — shy away from a sensible investment because of the tax rate on the potential gain. People invest to make money, and potential taxes have never scared them off. And to those who argue that higher rates hurt job creation, I would note that a net of nearly 40 million jobs were added between 1980 and 2000. You know what’s happened since then: lower tax rates and far lower job creation.

Since 1992, the I.R.S. has compiled data from the returns of the 400 Americans reporting the largest income. In 1992, the top 400 had aggregate taxable income of $16.9 billion and paid federal taxes of 29.2 percent on that sum. In 2008, the aggregate income of the highest 400 had soared to $90.9 billion — a staggering $227.4 million on average — but the rate paid had fallen to 21.5 percent.

The taxes I refer to here include only federal income tax, but you can be sure that any payroll tax for the 400 was inconsequential compared to income. In fact, 88 of the 400 in 2008 reported no wages at all, though every one of them reported capital gains. Some of my brethren may shun work but they all like to invest. (I can relate to that.)

I know well many of the mega-rich and, by and large, they are very decent people. They love America and appreciate the opportunity this country has given them. Many have joined the Giving Pledge, promising to give most of their wealth to philanthropy. Most wouldn’t mind being told to pay more in taxes as well, particularly when so many of their fellow citizens are truly suffering.

Twelve members of Congress will soon take on the crucial job of rearranging our country’s finances. They’ve been instructed to devise a plan that reduces the 10-year deficit by at least $1.5 trillion. It’s vital, however, that they achieve far more than that. Americans are rapidly losing faith in the ability of Congress to deal with our country’s fiscal problems. Only action that is immediate, real and very substantial will prevent that doubt from morphing into hopelessness. That feeling can create its own reality.

Job one for the 12 is to pare down some future promises that even a rich America can’t fulfill. Big money must be saved here. The 12 should then turn to the issue of revenues. I would leave rates for 99.7 percent of taxpayers unchanged and continue the current 2-percentage-point reduction in the employee contribution to the payroll tax. This cut helps the poor and the middle class, who need every break they can get.

But for those making more than $1 million — there were 236,883 such households in 2009 — I would raise rates immediately on taxable income in excess of $1 million, including, of course, dividends and capital gains. And for those who make $10 million or more — there were 8,274 in 2009 — I would suggest an additional increase in rate.

My friends and I have been coddled long enough by a billionaire-friendly Congress. It’s time for our government to get serious about shared sacrifice.

– Research thanks to Rolf A.

Truthout

Monday, August 15th, 2011

– I like what Truthout is about.  Sometimes, they deluge me with so much stuff I just have to step away for a bit but I always find what they’ve got to say interesting and closely aligned to my own view of the world.

– This morning, I made a donation to their organization because they sent me a message summarizing what they are about and what the big issues are, globally, and I found I really resonated with what they had to say.

– Below , is the text of their  message:

– dennis

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We’re deep in the battle over the fate of the United States. Will we solidify our government as a plutocracy – a late-stage empire that can serve only the interests of the super-rich? Will we continue to pursue policies around the globe that destroy the environment in pursuit of profits? Or will we retrench, and work to heal our bleeding political system before it’s too late?

The rest of the world is rising up against the cult of unrestrained free-market capitalism and money-power. From Tunisia to Egypt to Spain to Portugal to France to Germany to Greece to Israel to Chile to the UK, anti-austerity movements are on the rise, and the fight is playing out in chaotic, unpredictable and often tragic ways.

Everyone is asking why such a revolt isn’t happening here in the US.

One answer is simple – the US has invested billions of dollars in institutions that promote and protect consumerism-as-culture, both here and abroad. But activists around the country – whose hopes for change were dismantled over the past three years – are reuniting. The fight is coming here; it’s just a matter of time.

Our country is the epicenter of backwards, self-destructive, consumption-driven thinking. But it’s also the birthplace of amazing transformative struggles that have changed the world. Which side are you on?

– If you want to donate…

Telex to help defeat web censors

Wednesday, August 3rd, 2011

Developed by US computer scientists the software, called Telex, hides data from banned websites inside traffic from sites deemed safe.

The software draws on well-known encryption techniques to conceal data making it hard to decipher.

So far, Telex is only a prototype but in tests it has been able to defeat Chinese web filters.

Outside in

Telex was developed to get around the problem that stops other anti-censorship technologies being more effective, said Dr Alex Halderman, one of the four-strong team that has worked on Telex since early 2010.

Many existing anti-censorship systems involve connecting to a server or network outside the country in which a user lives.

This approach relies on spreading information about these servers and networks widely enough that citizens hear about them but not so much that censors can find out and block them.

Telex turns this approach on its head, said Dr Halderman.

“Instead of having some server outside the network that’s participating we are doing it in the core of the network,” he said.

Telex exploits the fact that few net-censoring nations block all access and most are happy to let citizens visit a select number of sites regarded as safe.

When a user wants to visit a banned site they initially point their web browser at a safe site. As they connect, Telex software installed on their PC puts a tag or marker on the datastream being sent to that safe destination.

Net routers outside the country recognise that the datastream has been marked and re-direct a request to a banned site. Data from censored webpages is piped back to the user in a datastream disguised to resemble that from safe sites.

– More…

Anonymous speaks: the inside story of the HBGary hack

Sunday, February 20th, 2011

– Smashing stuff.   Absolutely top notch.  Anonymous has truly taken the stuffed shirt out of these folks.   And good on them for doing it. – dennis

– Check out the two posts previous to this one:   and as well.

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It has been an embarrassing week for security firm HBGary and its HBGary Federal offshoot. HBGary Federal CEO Aaron Barr thought he had unmasked the hacker hordes of Anonymous and was preparing to name and shame those responsible for co-ordinating the group’s actions, including the denial-of-service attacks that hit MasterCard, Visa, and other perceived enemies of WikiLeaks late last year.

When Barr told one of those he believed to be an Anonymous ringleader about his forthcoming exposé, the Anonymous response was swift and humiliating. HBGary’s servers were broken into, its e-mails pillaged and published to the world, its data destroyed, and its website defaced. As an added bonus, a second site owned and operated by Greg Hoglund, owner of HBGary, was taken offline and the user registration database published.

Over the last week, I’ve talked to some of those who participated in the HBGary hack to learn in detail how they penetrated HBGary’s defenses and gave the company such a stunning black eye—and what the HBGary example means for the rest of us mere mortals who use the Internet.

– Please, read more…

-Research thanks to Alan T.

Anonymous victim HBGary goes to ground

Friday, February 18th, 2011

– Great follow up story to my previous one.  Got to love the Anonymous folks – speaking truth to power.  – dennis

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The computer security company hacked by members of activist group Anonymous has gone to ground as further revelations about its activites leak online.

HBGary has cancelled its appearances at public events, saying that members of staff had been threatened.

It follows the release of internal documents which appear to show the firm offered to smear Wikileaks’ supporters.

HBGary officials said the online messages could have been altered prior to publication.

The company’s founder, Greg Hoglund had been scheduled to give a talk at the RSA Security conference in San Francisco this week, but pulled out at the last minute.

The company also withdrew from an associated exhibition.

“In an effort to protect our employees, customers and the RSA Conference community, HBGary has decided to remove our booth and cancel all talks,” it said in a statement posted on its website.

According to e-mails that Anonymous claims to have taken from HBGary’s servers, the company had proposed a plan to undermine Wikileaks.

At the time, the whistleblowing website was planning to release documents relating to Bank of America.

The leaked emails also suggest that HBGary had discovered evidence that US officials were attempting to monitor visitors to websites affiliated to al Qaeda.

These messages have been posted online via the Anonymous-supported site Anonleaks.ru.

– More…

Hackers find plan to attack WikiLeaks

Tuesday, February 15th, 2011

– Least anyone wonder, I fully support what Assange’s done.   Governments, and I mean the U.S. especially here, keep far too much secret.   Democracy should be as transparent as it can be consistant with security but most governments err far over that mark.

– So, I applaude Anonymous and their efforts to make the control and suppresdsion of information painful for those who participate in it. – dennis

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LONDON – The computer hackers’ collective Anonymous has uncovered a proposal by a consortium of private contractors to attack and discredit WikiLeaks.

Last week Anonymous volunteers broke into the servers of HB Gary Federal, a security company that sells investigative services to companies, and posted thousands of the firm’s emails on to the internet.

The attack was in revenge for claims by the company’s chief executive Aaron Barr that he had successfully infiltrated the shadowy cyber protest network and discovered details of its leadership and structure.

Hacktivists, journalists and bloggers have since pored over the emails and discovered what appears to be a proposal that was intended to be pitched to the Bank of America to sabotage WikiLeaks and discredit journalists who are sympathetic to the whistle-blowing website.

The PowerPoint presentation claims a trio of internet security companies – HB Gary Federal, Palantir Technologies and Berico Technologies – are already prepared to attack WikiLeaks which is rumoured to be getting ready to release a cache of potentially embarrassing information on the Bank of America.

– more…

Privacy – not!

Thursday, February 3rd, 2011

– Ever worry about your personal privacy?   Like to keep your address secret?   Love how cute your kids are but would, perhaps, not care to let the entire world know where such cute kids live?   Ever posted pics of your jewelery?    Yes?   Well, I hope you don’t shoot your pics with an iPhone because if you do, you’ve just gotten a whole bunch more to worry about in your life.

– Check out this video:  

– Wonder if such an amazing thing could be true?    It is.   I checked it out with my iPhone and every photo I’ve ever shot has the GPS coordinates of where I shot it embedded in the information that travels with the photo.   Damn!   You’d think on  feature like that, Apple would have set it to ‘off’ unless someone understood the risks and made a conscious decision to turn it “on”.

– dennis

– research thanks to Carol S.