The FBI Is Very Excited About This Machine That Can Scan Your DNA in 90 Minutes

November 21st, 2014

Via: Mother Jones:

Robert Schueren shook my hand firmly, handed me his business card, and flipped it over, revealing a short list of letters and numbers. “Here is my DNA profile.” He smiled. “I have nothing to hide.” I had come to meet Schueren, the CEO of IntegenX, at his company’s headquarters in Pleasanton, California, to see its signature product: a machine the size of a large desktop printer that can unravel your genetic code in the time it takes to watch a movie.

Schueren grabbed a cotton swab and dropped it into a plastic cartridge. That’s what, say, a police officer would use to wipe the inside of your cheek to collect a DNA sample after an arrest, he explained. Other bits of material with traces of DNA on them, like cigarette butts or fabric, could work too. He inserted the cartridge into the machine and pressed a green button on its touch screen: “It’s that simple.” Ninety minutes later, the RapidHIT 200 would generate a DNA profile, check it against a database, and report on whether it found a match.

The RapidHIT represents a major technological leap—testing a DNA sample in a forensics lab normally takes at least two days. This has government agencies very excited. The Department of Homeland Security, the Department of Defense, and the Justice Department funded the initial research for “rapid DNA” technology, and after just a year on the market, the $250,000 RapidHIT is already being used in a few states, as well as China, Russia, Australia, and countries in Africa and Europe.

“We’re not always aware of how it’s being used,” Schueren said. “All we can say is that it’s used to give an accurate identification of an individual.” Civil liberties advocates worry that rapid DNA will spur new efforts by the FBI and police to collect ordinary citizens’ genetic code.


Congressman Suggests Moat Around White House

November 21st, 2014

I just finished reading, Wolf in White Van by John Darnielle, so I naturally have to suggest that the regime should build a trace italienne for itself.

By the way, I only recommend Wolf in White Van for older nerds who also enjoyed The Stranger by Albert Camus.

You’ll find yourself internally screaming, “Why!?”

If you need there to be an answer, look for a different novel.

Via: Marketwatch:

Faced with an increasing number of White House intrusions that led to the resignation of a Secret Service director, a congressman on Wednesday suggested that maybe a moat should be erected around the president’s home.

The suggestion was made by Rep. Steve Cohen, a Tennessee Democrat, at a House Judiciary Committee hearing.

With hand gestures, Cohen suggested a moat roughly six-feet wide may be “attractive” and “effective.”

Joseph Clancy, the acting director of the Secret Service, didn’t dismiss the suggestion out of hand.

“Sir, it may be,” he said. Clancy said the Secret Service and the National Park Service were discussing ways to ensure security along with access to the White House for the American people.

Research Credit: alvinroast


Amazon Robots Prepare for Christmas

November 19th, 2014

Via: Marketwatch:

In its latest bid to boost productivity and speed delivery, Amazon.com Inc. is deploying a robot army.

The Seattle online retailer has outfitted several U.S. warehouses with squat, orange, wheeled robots that move stocked shelves to workers, instead of having employees seek items amid long aisles of merchandise, according to people familiar with the matter. At a 1.2-million-square-foot warehouse in Tracy, Calif., about 60 miles east of San Francisco, Amazon AMZN, +0.50% this summer replaced four floors of fixed shelving with the robots, the people said.

Now, “pickers” at the facility stand in one place and wait for robots to bring four-foot-by-six-foot shelving units to them, sparing them what amounted to as much as 20 miles a day of walking through the warehouse. Employees at some robot-equipped warehouses are expected to pick and scan at least 300 items an hour, compared with 100 under the old system, current and former workers said.

The robots are the fruits of Amazon’s 2012 purchase of Kiva Systems Inc. for $775 million. In May, Amazon Chief Executive Jeff Bezos told investors at Amazon’s annual meeting that he planned to deploy 10,000 Kiva robots by year-end, up from 1,400 at the time.


Crime-Fighting Robots Go On Patrol In Silicon Valley

November 19th, 2014

Get your barf bag ready.

Via: CBS:

A new kind of security guard is on patrol in Silicon Valley: crime-fighting robots that look like they’re straight out of a sci-fi movie.

At first glance, the K5 security robot looks like a cartoonish Star Wars character.

“The vast majority of people see it and go, ‘Oh my God, that’s so cute.’ We’ve had people go up and hug it, and embrace it for whatever reason,” said Stacy Stephens, co-founder of Knightscope, headquartered in Mountain View.

They are unarmed, but they are imposing: about 5 feet tall and 300 pounds, which very likely will make someone think twice before committing a crime in their presence.


Bill Gates Looks at LENRs as Future Energy Source

November 19th, 2014

Via: New Energy Times:

Bill Gates, pioneer in the digital world, is exploring low-energy nuclear reactions (LENRs), the frontier of energy research.

On Wednesday, he visited a small laboratory on the sprawling campus of a government lab in Frascati, just outside of Rome, Italy. The lab is one of several large ones under the Italian National Agency for New Technologies, Energy and the Environment.


Michael Brown Case: Missouri National Guard Activated

November 17th, 2014

Via: CBS:

Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon signed an executive order activating the Missouri National Guard on Monday afternoon.

According to a news release, the role of the National Guard is to “…support law enforcement during any period of unrest that might occur following the grand jury’s decision concerning the investigation into the death of Michael Brown.”

“As part of our ongoing efforts to plan and be prepared for any contingency, it is necessary to have these resources in place in advance of any announcement of the grand jury’s decision,” Nixon said in the release.

Nixon’s order also established that the Missouri State Highway Patrol, St. Louis County Police Department and St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department will operate as a unified command to keep members of the public safe and protect property, while allowing citizens to exercise their constitutional rights.

Under the executive order, the St. Louis County Police Department will have command and operational control over security in the city of Ferguson in areas of protests and acts of civil disobedience, should such activities occur.

Related: Police Nationwide Brace for Protests After Ferguson Decision


Life

November 16th, 2014

I have a baby with chickenpox, an order shipping deadline on another business and the power is out.

Back in a bit…


Landmark 20-Year Study Finds Pesticides Linked to Depression In Farmers

November 16th, 2014

Via: Modern Farmer:

There’s a significant correlation between pesticide use and depression, that much is very clear, but not all pesticides. The two types that Kamel says reliably moved the needle on depression are organochlorine insecticides and fumigants, which increase the farmer’s risk of depression by a whopping 90% and 80%, respectively.


U.S. Navy Deploys Its First Laser Weapon in the Persian Gulf

November 14th, 2014

Via: Bloomberg:

The U.S. Navy has deployed on a command ship in the Persian Gulf its first laser weapon capable of destroying a target.

The amphibious transport ship USS Ponce has been patrolling with a prototype 30-kilowatt-class Laser Weapon System since late August, according to officials. The laser is mounted facing the bow, and can be fired in several modes — from a dazzling warning flash to a destructive beam — and can set a drone or small boat on fire.


Dragnet Surveilance: Americans’ Cellphones Targeted in Secret Spy Program, Fake Cell Towers Attached to Aircraft

November 13th, 2014

There was a lot of coverage about fake cell towers several weeks ago. I wasn’t quite sure what to make of that because all of the coverage seemed to point at an attempt by an alleged “secure” smartphone company to drum up sales. I didn’t want to give that company any additional advertising, because I don’t think there’s any such thing as a smartphone that’s not spying on you all the time, despite what those guys claim.

But now this…

Via: PCWorld:

The U.S. Department of Justice is putting devices that emulate cellphone towers in Cessna aircraft and flying them around the country to track the locations of cell phones, a practice that targets criminal suspects but may also affect thousands of U.S. citizens, according to a news report Thursday.

The program is run by the Department of Justice’s U.S. Marshals Service and has been in operation since at least 2007, according to the report in the Wall Street Journal, which cited two unnamed sources. The aircraft are flown out of at least five metropolitan-area airports and can cover most of the U.S. population, it said.

Cell phones are programmed to connect to whichever nearby cell tower has the strongest signal. The fake cell towers trick phones into thinking they have the strongest signal, then read the devices’ unique registration numbers when they connect, the Journal report says.

The goal is to locate cell phones linked to people under investigation for crimes like selling drugs, but in the process the program collects data about people not suspected of any crime, the report says. The fake cell towers determine which phones belong to criminal suspects and “let go” of those that aren’t.

The Journal quoted a representative of the American Civil Liberties Union who called it an inexcusable “dragnet surveillance program.”

A DOJ official wouldn’t confirm or deny the program but said Justice Department agencies “comply with federal law, including by seeking court approval,” the Journal said.

A side effect is that the towers can sometimes cause cell phone calls to be dropped. “Authorities have tried to minimize the potential for harm, including modifying the software to ensure the fake tower doesnt interrupt anyone calling 911 for emergency help,” one source told the Journal.


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