The problem with the Uganda viral video, update on the Marysville tornado 'stuff' story, hockey's life lessons in St. Cloud, the nature of contemplation and introverts, and the photon torpedo that hit us overnight.
Posted at 9:50 AM on March 8, 2012
by Jon Gordon
Filed under: Tech
As host of the old "Future Tense" program, one of my favorite topics to cover was cyber warfare. If I brought any bias to the topic, it was on the side of those who maintained that much of the predictive writing was alarmist. But in Foreign Policy, John Arquilla of the U.S. Naval Postgraduate School makes a good case that there's no longer a debate how real the threat is.
"Cyberwar is here, and it is here to stay," writes Arquilla.
He cites a couple of examples.
The 2007 cyberwar against Estonia, apparently arising out of ethnic Russian anger over removal of a World War II monument, offered a clear example. The attack was initially highly disruptive, forcing the government to take swift, widespread measures to install security patches, improve firewalls, and make strong encryption tools available to the people. Estonia is small, but one of the world's most wired countries; 97 percent of its people do all their banking online. Costs inflicted by the attacks -- from business interruption and disruption to the need to erect new defenses -- are estimated in the many millions of euros. A scaled-up version of this kind of cyberwar, to America-sized attacks, would cause damage in the hundreds of billions of dollars.
When Russian tanks rolled into Georgia in 2008, their advance was greatly eased by cyberattacks on Tbilisi's command, control, and communications systems, which were swiftly and nearly completely disrupted.
The Stuxnet worm, which struck directly at Iranian nuclear-enrichment capabilities, is another example of strategic cyberattack -- what I prefer to call "cybotage." But will it achieve the larger goal of stopping Iranian proliferation efforts? Not on its own, no more than the Israeli air raid on the Osirak nuclear reactor 30 years ago ended the Iraqi nuclear program. Iraq's pursuit of nuclear technology simply became more covert after the Osirak attack, and the same will surely hold true for Iran today.
While arguing that cyber ware is very real, Arquilla writes that cyber war on its own is not likely to be effective:
Engaging in disruptive cyberattacks alone is hardly a way to win wars. Think about aerial bombing again: Societies have been standing up to it for the better part of a century, and almost all such campaigns have failed. Civilian populations are just as likely, perhaps even more so, to withstand assaults by bits and bytes. If highly destructive bombing hasn't been able to break the human will, disruptive computer pinging surely won't.
But Arquilla also sees bigger battles in the cyber wars ahead:
...smaller-scale cyberwar exploits might eventually scale up, given the clear vulnerability of advanced militaries and the various communications systems that cover more of the world every day. This is why I think cyberwar is destined to play an increasingly prominent role in future wars. Yes, some cyberweapons do require substantial investment of resources and manpower, as Rid suggests. But once created, they can be used in ways that easily overcome existing defenses. Even for those exploits that don't require significant resources, like the campaign against Estonia, the lesson remains clear: The advantage lies with those who take the offensive.
Anyone who's read James Michener's novel "Space" probably shares my fear of solar storms. Michener writes about a final Apollo mission that ends badly because a solar fare erupts while astronauts are exploring the surface of the moon. So the headline "Massive solar storm speeds toward Earth" makes me want to drape myself in lead foil.
And it makes me wonder about the safety of the crew aboard the International Space Station, notwithstanding a NASA spokesman's pronouncement that the space agency isn't taking any extra precautions.
A NASA website, though, is more reassuring. An article titled "Who's afraid of a solar flare?" explains that a flare ejects not just radiation but also hunks of magnetic field, which somehow deflect the radiation. So a solar storm actually reduces the radiation hitting the ISS. Even so, it's not a good time for a space walk:
"No astronaut wants to encounter a swarm of high-energy solar protons. Severe storms are literally sickening; exposure causes vomiting, fatigue and low blood counts. Without medical attention, an astronaut suffering from radiation sickness could die. Now for the good news: few solar protons are able to penetrate the hulls of NASA spaceships. As long as astronauts stay inside, they're safe."
This is comforting. But isn't "safe astronaut" a contradiction in terms?
-- Eric Ringham(4 Comments)
Posted at 2:30 PM on March 8, 2012
by Paul Tosto
If you've been looking for signs the economy is really improving for the unemployed, Minnesota's latest job vacancy data offered some encouraging news: Employers reported 49,900 openings during the last quarter of 2011, 48 percent more than the 33,800 openings a year earlier.
The numbers, however, aren't as shiny after you unpack the data, as Ron Wirtz with the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis found.
He writes that 42 percent of the job vacancies were for part-time jobs and another 13 percent were for temporary or seasonal work. "The median wage offer for all job vacancies was $10.89 an hour--slightly lower than median wages seen in the same quarter of 2007 and 2008."
Sectors with the greatest growth and largest number of job openings are also the ones that generally offer the lowest wages, he added. (Click on the chart for a larger view).
"Industry sectors like retail and accommodation employ many workers, are generally low-paying and typically see high turnover, which means they are perpetually looking for workers," Wirtz adds.
It's not bad news. Compared to other states Minnesota's economic data lately has been looking decent.
The vacancies data, though, reminds us that Minnesota is still struggling to add the kinds of jobs that the state needs for the economy's long-run health.
The boycott against talk-radio host Rush Limbaugh has some unexpected beneficiaries: nonprofits getting more ad time on his show. The United Negro College Fund, Big Brothers Big Sisters and the American Heart Association are among the organizations that had ads air yesterday during Limbaugh's program...
Win McNamee/Getty Images
Dozens of companies have pulled ads, including Minnesota-based Select Comfort.
Media Matters is tracking, one commercial break at a time, whose ads are appearing on Limbaugh's program in the wake of Limbaugh's remarks about a Georgetown University student. A majority of the ads seem to be coming via the Ad Council, which distributes public service announcements.(4 Comments)
Posted at 12:41 PM on March 8, 2012
by Paul Tosto
The Associated Press this afternoon writes:
One of the strongest solar storms in years engulfed Earth early Thursday, but scientists say the planet may have lucked out.Hours after the storm arrived, officials said were no reports of problems with power grids, GPS, satellites or other technologies that are often disrupted by solar storms.
I'm coming for you!
We do really like talking about our flare. Experts say the solar storm is off to a 'benign' start so far: apne.ws/x8RnFZ -EF— The Associated Press (@AP) March 8, 2012
Posted at 2:56 PM on March 8, 2012
by Paul Tosto
On Wednesday, the publisher of the Blooming Prairie Times in southern Minnesota apologized for "inexcusable" plagiarism in columns by the paper's managing editor, Jon Flatland, who "quickly and quietly left town" after being confronted.
Small town ethics breach by a journalism neophyte? No.
Flatland, a "former president of the North Dakota Newspaper Association and one-time newspaper owner, has been exposed as a serial plagiarist," according to the Poynter Institute, a journalism training and ethics group.
It's not clear yet how often and how many pieces Flatland plagiarized over a nearly 30 year career. But the Blooming Prairie publisher says he has discovered, "virtually nothing in Flatland's weekly columns is his own original work.
"After doing some digging, we discovered Flatland makes a weekly habit of ripping off humor columns from a wide range of other writers-from independent bloggers to columnists at major daily newspapers such as the Dallas Morning News."
Posts this afternoon reveal some brazen behavior.
Dave Fox, a writer out of Singapore and Flatland target, wrote today how he stumbled across Flatland's plagiarism.
In Googling several of my stories to see where they ranked on search engines, I discovered a humor column I had written in 2001 had been published under Flatland's byline in 2005 in the Steele County Press and the Benson County Farmers Press in North Dakota.Three days later, I searched further and discovered that three months ago, Flatland had again taken credit for the same story in the Times in Blooming Prairie, Minnesota. Flatland had been the managing editor at the Times since last November.
At this point, I sensed there was something bigger than the simple plagiarism of one story. I began Googling random phrases in Flatland's other columns. For almost all of them, I quickly found nearly identical articles by other writers. I contacted all of the writers I could locate and asked if their work had been plagiarized. Every one of them confirmed this was the case.
Humor columns under Flatland's name often appeared in rural papers that typically do not aggregate their work online, "so someone will have to type in parts of columns into Google from newspaper hard copies to find if they were stolen, Charles Memminger, a Hawaii-based columnist, wrote today on the National Association of Newspaper Columnists site.
Even more bizarre, Flatland apparently deceived his daughter, a North Dakota newspaper editor. Says Memminger:
Interestingly, the editor of the Steele County Press is Flatland's daughter Lindsie. She was upset to learn of Flatland's plagiarism and said she would conduct her own investigation of his past columns. In a note to me saying she intended to investigate this matter and write about it in her paper, she also said: "Oh and please do not continue to call him my dad. As I said before, I would like to keep business and personal separate."(2 Comments)