Sci-Friday VIDEO

Forbidden love, magic and chicks with really long tongues. The newest Jet Li

We all have our flaws. Some love too quickly. Some love too deeply. Some love the wrong species. It happens.

And in China, there is an old story about a scholar and a mystical white snake who fall in love. This story has apparently evolved over the years into many different interpretations, including horror stories (the scholar is unaware that his love is the White Snake) and classical Romeo and Juliet meets Snakes on a Plane love story.

I’m not at all sure which interpretation, if either of those, is represented by Jet Li’s newest venture. Which ever one is most appropriately adorned with explosions and kick-ass kung-fu ass whoopin, I presume. Either way, the trailer promises lots of action, lots of Cirque du Soleil style colorfulness and a lot of feminine tongues of extraordinary length. All things considered, this seems like a potential win for the horny and the high. Speaking of which, don’t forget to tell the Democrat and Chronic(le) you’d be OK with voting to legalize weed:



Pound of flesh: in light of China’s “baby pills,” a history of European medical cannibalism

News just this past week out of South Korea was that they need to start cracking down on pills made of dried infant flesh, said to cure diseases and boost male sexual performance. Who knew this was a thing?

But before we get our harumph on about the crazy shit they do in Asia, lets review quickly the article on European medical cannibalism:

“The question was not, ‘Should you eat human flesh?’ but, ‘What sort of flesh should you eat?’ ” says Sugg. The answer, at first, was Egyptian mummy, which was crumbled into tinctures to staunch internal bleeding. But other parts of the body soon followed. Skull was one common ingredient, taken in powdered form to cure head ailments. Thomas Willis, a 17th-century pioneer of brain science, brewed a drink for apoplexy, or bleeding, that mingled powdered human skull and chocolate. And King Charles II of England sipped “The King’s Drops,” his personal tincture, containing human skull in alcohol. Even the toupee of moss that grew over a buried skull, called Usnea, became a prized additive, its powder believed to cure nosebleeds and possibly epilepsy. Human fat was used to treat the outside of the body. German doctors, for instance, prescribed bandages soaked in it for wounds, and rubbing fat into the skin was considered a remedy for gout.

Lets not forget also that Europe has a tradition of binding books in leather made of human flesh. Uses include many medical tomes, but also as a special fuck-you to one of the conspirators in the Gunpowder Plot immortalized by Guy Fawkes Day. The list of offenses by Father Henry Garnet was bound in a book made of… his face.

So yeah. Claim it as ancient history if you prefer. Just don’t call it unheard of.

Politics Technology

The Largest Global Cyber-Espionage Case in History

A single quote says just about everything about the sheer scale of this recently-discovered global hack:

“In fact, I divide the entire set of Fortune Global 2000 firms into two categories: those that know they’ve been compromised and those that don’t yet know.”

Global cyber-espionage operation uncovered | InSecurity Complex – CNET News.

The cyberattack, dubbed Operation Shady RAT (Remote Access Tool), affected no less than 70 organizations, public and private, across 14 countries. The United Nations, defense contractors, the US Department of Energy, businesses and “every company in every conceivable industry with significant size and valuable intellectual property and trade secrets.”

The list of countries affected includes the United States and several Southeast Asian nations. But the targets notably do not include China, suggesting to many that the perpetrator of this massive hack was the Chinese government. In addition to the scale of the attack and list of targeted countries, The Register also notes that one target in particular points the way:

“The interest in the information held at the Asian and Western national Olympic Committees, as well as the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and the World Anti-Doping Agency in the lead-up and immediate follow-up to the 2008 Olympics was particularly intriguing and potentially pointed a finger at a state actor behind the intrusions, because there is likely no commercial benefit to be earned from such hacks,” writes Mitri Alperovitch, McAfee’s VP of threat research.

Researchers at McAfee have managed to gain control of one of the Command and Control servers, but says more are out there. Therefore, it is probably too soon to say for sure what the complete list of affected companies and organizations is.

This malware-fueled global breach may go down as the largest transfer of intellectual property in the history of the Internet. It differs from the relatively automated attacks carried out by #Anonymous and #LulzSec because once computers were compromised with malware, they would then be controlled by a human operator who continued to widen the permissions of the affected machine to access even more sensitive data.

The attack is not over, either. And experts already measure the loss of data in petabytes.

More reading:


The #NSA and #FBI investigating the #Google #China hack claims

From CNet Security today we learn that the FBI and the NSA (at minimum, there are doubtless other agencies involved) are looking into the Google claim that a phishing scam of Chinese origin was targeting US government officials. Google’s claim also specifies journalists and activists have also been targeted, though this article does not specifically deal with those claims:

Feds investigate alleged attacks on Gmail accounts | Security – CNET News.

The official statement from the National Security Agency is a bit of a dodge, actually:

“Speaking on behalf of the U.S. government, we’re looking into these reports and seeking to gather the facts,” Caitlin Hayden, deputy spokesperson for the National Security Agency, told CNET today. “We have no reason to believe that any official U.S. government e-mail accounts were accessed.”

Notice that official government email accounts would not be administered by Google or gMail, so of course they would not be directly affected. That is not the same thing as saying that US officials with private email accounts didn’t get hacked, or that the information they shared with others on that account isn’t of a sensitive nature.

For its part, China seems to be acting rather punchy, especially considering the fact that Google’s statement does not imply any specific government involvement in the hack. In fairness, though, announcements of hacking attempts don’t normally include the specific city and country of origin. So the question becomes what, if any, Chinese government buildings are in Jinan, China?

Add to this the official Pentagon announcement that it will declare cyberattacks to be acts of war and you’ve got a somewhat scary escalation in the Internet realm. Not that I think cyberattacks will escalate to full-scale war, but a purely network-based “cold war” could tie up billions of dollars of Internet trade, which is not good news for economy.


WSJ: How Did They Know That?

The Wall Street Journal has an interesting article today about China’s announcement that it plans on controlling the inflation rate in that country and raise the standard of living. But they do so with curiously unsupported language:

Chinas Leaders Vow to Lift Livelihoods –

Looking to head off the kind of anger that is reshaping the Middle East, China’s leaders pledged to boost incomes for its less wealthy citizens and to tame inflation, goals accompanied by the mobilization of police to snuff out online appeals for antigovernment protests.

Protests and antigovernment websites are not anything new to China. Why does the Wall Street Journal think that what has happened in the Middle East should have any effect at all on their country?


Google in China: Its Not About Censorship

I should be less surprised to have to say this than I am: Google’s trials in China have nothing whatsoever to do with censorship. In spite of the often breathless accounts of Google’s fight against the Empire, this is not a David and Goliath hero story. When the issue was censorship or the Great Firewall of China, Google made their choice: sell, sell, sell.

I’m not as altogether opposed to that decision as I know many on both the Right and the Left are. I am of a persuasion that believes that the more money and the more power flows through a society, the more inevitably free that society becomes. At least, to a point. It is certainly self-evident in China’s case that controlling information is a cornerstone of a closed society.

But that is all water under the bridge. The issue before us now is not one of censorship, but of politico-industrial espionage. Threatening to lower the firewalls on’s service is merely Google’s way of putting pressure on the Chinese government where it hurts. Google found evidence it claims as fairly indisputable that China launched attacks on the email accounts of Gmail users as well as 34 other companies. The Gmail users were apparently dissidents within and without China’s borders.

For Google, this is a classic pocketbook issue: maintaining the security of Gmail accounts is paramount to maintaining the viability of that revenue source. It is also true that Gmail accounts are tied to a host of other Google products, from Google Docs to Google Talk, iGoogle and many others. The security issue flows well outside the email system and compromises Google’s entire empire right down to the fledgling Android OS.

For the US, currently catching heat from the press for remaining silent on the issue, this is an extremely complex issue for which rash, Bush-era responses are ill-fitted. While many in this country would like to consider China an enemy and weave paranoid stories of conquest, the truth is much stickier. They are certainly a chief rival in a world with a sizable power vacuum – political and economic. They could quickly become an enemy, but for now and in public, they are not.

Plus, every country worth it’s salt is messing around with Cyber-spying. We can’t possibly have clean hands, nor really is it in our national interest to be so driven-snow pure. Throwing stones is not in anyone’s interest, either. Let’s not forget that the Internet’s first iteration was the ARPANet, a wholly military-scientific enterprise of the United States’ design.

But I think that, in the wake of an eight-year administration, our media gets used to a certain way of doing things at the White House. Doubtless the Bush Administration would have had some bellicose words about “Freedom” and “Democracy” within moments of hearing of the suspected attack. I think we can all agree, upon reflection, that’s just stupid.


Beijing Olympics: Things are Getting Nutty

Some events really paint a picture of the world we live in.  One such event may regrettably be the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games.  As the games get closer, all the problems come home to roost and things are getting plenty nutty over there.  The Chinese seem barely capable of keeping things together.

First of all, the story I’ve been tracking in the News blog for some time now, the smog.  It seems that many countries including the U.S. are opting to train and keep their athletes miles away from Beijing, where they can be safe.  I saw a report last night where a marathon cyclist described experiencing athsma-like symptoms while training in-country.  The Chinese have taken the unusual and totalitarian step of shutting down highway traffic, industrial production and all things smog related while the games commence, but it is of little use.

At the same time, a group of Internet freedom activists have developed a suite of tools that Chinese crackers can use to bypass The Great Firewall of China, the name given to the highly-restricted control of the Internet that China employs on its people.  And in seemingly unrelated news, . .

The ethnic Uighars, an often seperatist group of predominantly Muslim people living within the Chinese borders, yesterday began attacks they vow to continue and escalate during the games.  In response, the Chinese police quarantined the province and cut off Internet connections.  They’re also in the habit of beating up journalists who stray too far into restricted territories, it seems.  Other groups have claimed to have successfully planted and detonated some small explosive devices in Yunan province.

And when’s the last time you recall surface-to-air missles deployed to an Olympic Games?  I’m sure its happened before, but I’ve never heard about it.


Shanghai Cooperation Organization

Did anyone even know there was such a thing as the Shanghai Cooperation Organization?  I certainly didn’t.  It seems the Organization is yet another multi-national pacts, though this one is less like the EU and more like NATO.

Well, it turns out that this group includes China (duh), Russia, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, and Uzbekistan.  Nations looking to join this group include our buddies Iran and Pakistan.  The admission or denial of these states is at least one item on the agenda for their current meeting, happening right now.  There are concerns, as one might expect, about the United States’ response to adding those members in what is at least on paper an alliance of military proportions.

It might be illuminating, when viewing world affairs, to keep this coalition in mind.  For a start, it’s worth considering the fact that neither Iran nor Pakistan feels compelled to join in any similar coaltions with Middle Eastern nations. . .  because of course, they are ethnically and historically separate regions.


More Disaster in China

As if Myanmar hadn’t already stretched relief efforts to the brink, as if the storms in the Mid West United States had not occupied our minds enough, now an earthquake in China has buried 900 students in a tremor that rocked all of Asia.  Scary times.  Say a prayer for the stricken.


Feel the Burn. . .

You can survive for one hour. One hour only, but that aught to be enough. We’ve got scientists crunching the numbers.

“Oh, smashing news,” you say. “Hang on. Survive where? The moon?” No, Beijing, the world’s most polluted city, which is hosting the Olympic Games. Now, get out there and compete:

Athletes safe in Beijing air for up to an hour: IOC | Reuters

International Olympic Committee scientists have proved that Beijing’s air will present no health risk to athletes competing for up to an hour at the 2008 Games, IOC chief inspector Hein Verbruggen said on Wednesday.


How “Stocks” Beat “Sex”

China Daily is trumpeting the recent Google China statistics that point out that on the search giant’s Chinese language site, the names of a few banks and the keyword “stocks” beat out the word “sex.” Isn’t that a hoot?:

“Stock” beats “sex” on Google China | Top News |

“On the Chinese mainland, it was money and technology that took the honors last year,” the China Daily said, pointing out that “sex” was the most popular keyword for Google users in some other countries.

Really? Hmm. Wonder if in “some other countries,” Google filters results or reports search queries to the government? Because I’m thinking that might have something to do with the statistical differences. . .