Society's Child

Cell Phone

New app reveals how your smartphone can spy on you without permission

© Reuters/Eddie Keogh
Your Android phone can be turned into a microphone without your permission or knowledge. All that's needed are the gyros in your phone that measure orientation. Stanford researchers have shown how to rewire them to pick up sound waves.

Together with the defense firm Rafael, they created an Android app called Gyrophone, which shows just how easy it is to get the vibrating pressure plates used by the gyroscope to pick up vibrations of sound at frequencies in the 80-250Hz range - the base frequencies of the human voice.

"We show that the MEMS gyroscopes found on modern smartphones are sufficiently sensitive to measure acoustic signals in the vicinity of the phone. The resulting signals contain only very low-frequency information (< 200 Hz). Nevertheless we show, using signal processing and machine learning, that this information is sufficient to identify speaker information and even parse speech. Since iOS and Android require no special permissions to access the gyro, our results show that apps and active web content that cannot access the microphone can nevertheless eavesdrop on speech in the vicinity of the phone," the scientists say on the Stanford Security Research website, where they also offer the Android application as a free download.
Control Panel

Climate of despair: Psychological problems faced by disappointed alarmists

Psychological Problems faced by disappointed alarmists
The Sydney Morning Herald has published an article describing the psychological problems alarmists are experiencing, in the wake of their Copenhagen 2009 disappointment.

Ask most alarmists and they will insist they are winning the debate - that the world is about to embrace green orthodoxy, that carbon trading schemes are rising, that "deniers" are more marginalised than ever before.

The article in the SMH tells a very different story - rising despair, despondency, disengagement, and in some cases delusional behaviour, in the wake of serial climate disappointments.

According to environmental scientist Nicole Thornton; "It's strange. Sometimes you just don't feel you're making headway in the time you've got, before it's too late for the planet," Thornton says. "All these little things weigh you down, and then the big stuff breaks you."

The article goes on to describe more serious cases - for example, "Six years ago, a dehydrated 17-year-old boy was brought into the Royal Children's Hospital, refusing to drink water. He believed having a drink would somehow contribute to the global shortage of potable water, and became the first diagnosed case of "climate change delusion".

Comment: Psychiatrists identify first case of "climate change delusion"

Life Preserver

'Freedom flotilla' reset to sail against Israel's blockade on Gaza

3mast ship to gaza
One ship in "Gaza's Ark."
Following Israel's latest military assault on Gaza, civil society groups from around the world say they are moving forward with plans to break the blockade on this besieged strip by sailing a "freedom flotilla" into Gaza Port.

At a meeting in Istanbul, Turkey this week, the international Freedom Flotilla Coalition (FFC) and numerous other groups came to the conclusion that "it is the responsibility of civil society worldwide to sail to Gaza," according to a press statement. They committed to making the voyage during 2014, which has been coined by the United Nations as the "International Year of Solidarity With the Palestinian People."

Comment: The U.N. has done this every year since 2004 - one day per year. They have now increased it from International DAY of Solidarity with the Palestinian People to the International YEAR...perhaps they needed more time to ponder genocide than a few messages before and after lunch?

While the group did not publicly disclose a launch location or date, they announced that they expect participation from civil society organizations across the globe - from Greece to South Africa to Jordan to Malaysia - as a counter to "the complicity of world governments" in the blockade on Gaza.

"Calls to end the blockade of Gaza need to move from words to actions," said Ann Ighe, chairperson of Ship to Gaza and member of the FFC. "We invite all interested citizens worldwide to participate in this initiative in any way you can."
Israel's month-long military assault on Gaza, currently stalled by a tenuous ceasefire, has left at least 1,939 Palestinians dead, 9,886 wounded, over 200,000 displaced, and more than 10,000 Palestinian housing units destroyed or severely damaged. United Nations officials estimate that at least three-fourths of Palestinians killed in Gaza are civilians and one third are children.

Comment: The peaceful challenges of the Israeli blockade of Gaza started in 2008 in the form of boats, financed by civilians and NGOs worldwide, that sailed from Cyprus, Greece and Turkey to Gaza. After the first few missions reached Gaza, Israel fiercely attacked the boats and the activists on board. The violence Israel was showing reached new criminal heights on May 31, 2010, when it killed nine (10, 1 was an American) activists on the Mavi Marmara in cold blood. It was a completely illegal act; Israel had no right to board the ship. The rest of the over 600 people on the flotilla boats were taken to Israel and deported home.

Israel stopped Freedom Flotilla 2, the Freedom Waves initiative and the Estelle which sailed at the end of 2012, continuing its long history of targeting peaceful, non-violent direct action with violence and sabotage. Gaza's Ark was/is again the evolution of the flotilla movement.

The Al Mezan Center for Human Rights notes that "it is common for the (Israeli) navy to open fire on fishermen, pursue them in Gazan waters, and destroy and confiscate their equipment, including their nets and boats. Such acts constitute flagrant violations of Israel's legal obligations as an occupying power under international law, and violate the fishermen's rights to life and work."

With the siege, Israel has also enforced no-go zones in Gaza's sea, to which Palestinians, under the Oslo accords, have the right to fish as far as 20 nautical miles from the coast. Fishermen and human rights groups report that the Israeli navy shoots on, harasses and abducts Palestinians as close at times as less than a mile from Gaza's coast, killing or injuring numerous fishermen while shooting at their boats. The act of the blockade is an act of collective punishment, which is outlawed under the Fourth Geneva Convention.

What is annoyingly dangerous to Israel is a peaceful project, supported by thousands of normal individuals, that will expose its lies and sidetrack its agenda. A flood of independent thinking and action won't float Israel's boat, thus it had to destroy Gaza's Ark.


Activists delay docking of Israeli ship at Oakland Port

© Unknown
San Francisco Bay Area Palestine activists have declared their first victory in attempting to prevent the offloading of an Israeli cargo vessel at the Oakland Port. Originally planning to show up at 5:00 am Saturday morning to block the ship, activists sent word out late last night that the meeting time had been moved up to 3:00pm, as the ship had delayed its arrival at Oakland in an apparent attempt to avoid the protest.

Activist Mohamed Shehk told The Electronic Intifada that the organizers have been tracking the vessel Zim Piraeus, and realized last night that it had stopped before reaching its Oakland destination, spending the night at sea.

"This delay is seen as a victory for us. It shows how much Zim is trying to avoid our protest, and it shows how effective we can be when we can organize these types of actions," Shehk said.

High school band gets crop-dusted with toxic pesticides

crop dusting
© Teo/Flickr
More than 350 members of a Texas high school's marching band were sent home and told to thoroughly shower and sanitize their instruments after a plane flying overhead doused them with pesticides. Reports indicate that the students, who attend Pearland High School near Houston, were outside practicing when a city plane flew by, dumping chemicals meant for mosquito extermination.

According to reports, the incident happened around 8 a.m. on August 7, when a plane from the Brazoria County Mosquito Control District (BCMCD) flew over a parking lot next to the school's football stadium. When administrators figured out what was going on, they told band members to go inside. But it was too late, as the toxins had already been released.

Police use rubber bullets and tear gas in attempt to quell Ferguson riots - New witness says Michael Brown was shot while 'backing away with hands up'

ferguson riots
© Reuters/Mario Anzuoni
A protester throws back a smoke bomb while clashing with police in Ferguson
As anger over black teenager's death escalates, Barack Obama has been criticised for staying away on holiday

Police have begun using tear gas, stun grenades and rubber bullets on those protesting the shooting of an unarmed black teenager in Ferguson, Missouri, as another witness said Michael Brown was backing away with his hands up as an officer repeatedly fired at him.

The situation in the suburb of St Louis has rapidly deteriorated following largely peaceful vigils on Tuesday night, and has led to calls for Barack Obama to cut short his golfing holiday to Martha's Vineyard in Massachusetts.

Last night some protesters were seen hurling rocks at the heavily-armed and camouflage-wearing police units, while there were reports of young men preparing what appeared to be petrol bombs in a bus shelter.

Angry protests have taken place in Ferguson every night since Saturday, when the 18-year-old was shot to death in what police say was a struggle over a gun in a police car.

A new witness, Tiffany Mitchell, told CNN she was watching when Mr Brown and an officer, who has not been named, were "tussling through the window".

Ms Mitchell said the officer was pulling the teen in as he struggled to get away, and then "a shot was fired through the window".

"The kid finally gets away and he starts running. As he runs, the police get out of his vehicle and he follows behind him shooting," Mitchell said, adding that Brown turned around and put his hands in the air.

"The cop continued to fire until he just dropped down to the ground and his face just smacks the concrete."

Washington Post reporter Wesley Lowery gives harrowing account of his Ferguson arrest

Washington Post reporter Wesley Lowery was detained by police on Wednesday while reporting on the unrest in Ferguson, Mo., following the fatal shooting of unarmed teen Michael Brown by police over the weekend.

For the past week in Ferguson, reporters have been using the McDonald's a few blocks from the scene of Michael Brown's shooting as a staging area. Demonstrations have blown up each night nearby. But inside there's WiFi and outlets, so it's common for reporters to gather there.

That was the case Wednesday. My phone was just about to die, so as I charged it, I used the time to respond to people on Twitter and do a little bit of a Q&A since I wasn't out there covering the protests.

As I sat there, many armed officers came in - some who were dressed as normal officers, others who were dressed with more gear.

Initially, both Ryan Reilly of the Huffington Post and I were asked for identification. I was wearing my lanyard, but Ryan asked why he had to show his ID. They didn't press the point, but one added that if we called 911, no one would answer.

Then they walked away. Moments later, the police reemerged, telling us that we had to leave. I pulled my phone out and began recording video.

An officer with a large weapon came up to me and said, "Stop recording."

I said, "Officer, do I not have the right to record you?"

He backed off but told me to hurry up. So I gathered my notebook and pens with one hand while recording him with the other hand.
Bizarro Earth

What world peace? There are only 11 countries in the world that are actually free from conflict

As new wars and civil unrests seem to be flaring up every week, we look for the only countries in the world that could be considered 'conflict-free'

With the crisis in Gaza, the rise of Islamist militants in Iraq and Syria and the international stand-off ongoing in Ukraine, it can sometimes feel like the whole world is at war.

But experts believe this is actually almost universally the case, according to a think-tank which produces one of the world's leading measures of "global peacefulness" - and things are only going to get worse.

It may make for bleak reading, but of the 162 countries covered by the Institute for Economics and Peace's (IEP's) latest study, just 11 were not involved in conflict of one kind or another.

Worse still, the world as a whole has been getting incrementally less peaceful every year since 2007 - sharply bucking a trend that had seen a global move away from conflict since the end of the Second World War.

The UK, as an example, is relatively free from internal conflict, making it easy to fall to thinking it exists in a state of peace. But recent involvement in foreign fighting in the likes of Afghanistan, as well as a fairly high state of militarisation, means Britain actually scores quite poorly on the 2014 Global Peace Index, coming 47th overall.
global peace index internal
The Global Peace Index chart for internal conflicts, showing the countries defined as having 'no conflict' in dark green
Then there are countries which are involved in no actual foreign wars involving deaths whatsoever - like North Korea - but which are fraught by the most divisive and entrenched internal conflicts.
Light Saber

In protest of Gaza genocide, 150 people squeeze into tiny boxes opposite Parliament

© Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images
More than 150 men, women and children squeezed into tiny wooden boxes opposite Parliament this morning to put pressure on the Government to help lift the blockade on Gaza.

The protest sought to show the conditions Palestinians were currently living in, and kicked off a national campaign of action by the charity.

Oxfam released a statement saying: "Under the blockade, the entirety of Gaza's civilian population is being punished for acts for which they bear no responsibility.

"This constitutes collective punishment and is illegal under international law."

It, along with other members of the Disasters and Emergency Committee, is delivering urgent humanitarian aid to the area after weeks of conflict in the region, with rocket fire and air strikes destroying towns and killing more than 1,000 people.

Oxfam said now more than ever the seven-year blockade should be lifted, with a huge reconstruction effort needed.
No Entry

Albania: Five illegal immigrants detained with Ebola symptoms

Albanian police have detained 40 illegal immigrants from Africa today, five of whom are currently under quarantine after exhibiting symptoms of Ebola, Macedonian newspaper Vecer has reported. Police suspect the five are of Eritrean origin, having arrived illegally in Europe via Greece.

They are currently being tested for carrying the Ebola virus in hospital in the Albanian city of Vlore, less than 86 miles from Italy's closest port. The news comes after one person was quarantined in Montenegro earlier today under suspicion they may be infected with Ebola.

The possible victim entered Montenegro from a West African country with an epidemic of the disease, according to the public health institute. In an attempt to prevent the spread of Ebola, Serbian authorities have currently put 14 people under medical surveillance, each hailing from either Liberia, Sierra Leone, Guinea or Nigeria, Bulgarian newspaper Standart reported. They will remain under watch for the 21-day incubation period of the Ebola virus.

If confirmed, the cases would constitute the first uncontrolled instances of Ebola in Europe. A Spanish priest became the first European victim of the disease on Tuesday after contracting the disease in Liberia after being flown to a hospital in Madrid.