Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Predator UAV's hacked by Iraqi insurgents | NYCAviation Discusson Forums • Planespotting Information, Aviation Photos and Airline Industry News

Predator UAV's hacked by Iraqi insurgents | NYCAviation Discusson Forums • Planespotting Information, Aviation Photos and Airline Industry News: "Iraqi insurgents have reportedly intercepted live video feeds from the U.S. military's Predator drones using a $25.95 Windows application that allows them to track the pilotless aircraft undetected.
Hackers working with Iraqi militants were able to determine which areas of the country were under surveillance by the U.S. military, The Wall Street Journal reported Thursday, adding that video feeds from drones in Afghanistan also appear to have been compromised.
Meanwhile, a senior Air Force officer said Wednesday that a wave of new surveillance aircraft, both manned and unmanned, were being deployed to Afghanistan to bolster 'eyes in the sky' protection for the influx of American troops ordered by President Obama.
This apparent security breach, which had been known in military and intelligence circles to be possible, arose because the Predator unmanned aerial vehicles do not use encryption in the final link to their operators on the ground.

- Sent using Google Toolbar"


Providentia: "May 25, 2010
Barking Woman Declared Unfit for Trial

A 43-year old Suffolk, Virginia woman has been declared unfit for trial following a bizarre assault . Lillian Beasley was charged following an incident in March when Beasly had apparently gotten into a physical confrontation with the woman she had attacked. According to the police report, Beasley had been on the property earlier and told to leave. After returning she became verbally abusive and, when the victim put up her hands defensively, Beasley bit one of her fingers and almost tore it off her hand. Police found Beasley throwing herself into the mud and barking in the victim's front yard and charged her with malicious wounding and trespassing.

At her appearance in General District Court, the forensic psychiatrist testified that Beasley was unable to assist in mounting a defense. The case will be re-evaluated in November.

For more information.

Posted at 08:00 AM in Forensic Matters | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)

Reblog (0) | | Digg This | Save to |
May 23, 2010
Selling Popcorn
It began when media researcher, James Vicary held a news conference on September 12,1957. An early pioneer in media psychology, Vicary had made a name for himself with several studies using psychophysiological measures such as eye-blink reaction to test emotional tension relating to buying decisions. Working as a media consultant for various companies including J.L. Hudson and Benson & Benson, Vicary had established himself as a bit of a showman in promoting the use of psychological techniques in advertising.

During the news conference, Vicary reported that he had placed a tachistoscope in the projection booth of a movie theatre in Fort Lee, New Jersey to flash virtually undetectable advertising slogans on movie screens to audiences. During screenings of the movie, 'Picnic', Vicary reportedly flashed slogans such as 'Hungry? Eat popcorn' and 'Drink Coca Cola' at regular intervals and for only 1/3000 of a second each time. He claimed that, as a result, concession sales during intermission increased dramatically with 57 % more popcorn and 18 % more soft drinks being sold. He later stated that these results had been successfully replicated across multiple screenings with a total sample of 45,000 moviegoers. In holding the press conference, Vicary also announced forming a new company, the Subliminal Projection Company to exploit the new marketing technology (he was a major shareholder, by the way).

Strictly speaking, there was nothing new about subliminal research. The earliest studies into non-conscious perception of sensory stimuli began in the 1800s and the venerable tachistoscope had been around for decades. Researchers also questioned Vicary's motives in giving a press conference rather than publishing his findings in a refereed journal. As a result, there was little available information concerning basic points such as sample size, use of control groups, replicability of findings, etc. In 1958, the American Psychological Association issued a statement declaring that subliminal ads were 'confused, ambiguous, and not as effective as traditional advertising'.

Whatever Vicary intended with his news conference, he likely didn't anticipate the reaction that he eventually received. Although he had been more modest in his claims about what subliminal advertising could do, the mainstream media was not so guarded. While some journalists covering the story were skeptical about Vicary's claims (one reporter for the Wall Street Journal pointed out that 'precise details the scheme works, how much it will cost, and the validity of its ability to sell popcorn or soda pop, are shrouded in secrecy because of problems involving the company's patent application'), other journalists were alarmed by subliminal messages being used in manipulating people making buying decisions. An editorial by Normal Cousins captured this alarm when he wrote that: 'Question: if the device is successful for putting over popcorn, why not politicians or anything else? If it is possible to prompt the subconscious into making certain judgments of human character, why wouldn't it be possible to use invisible messages for the purpose of annihilating a reputation or promoting it?'.

Not long after Vicary's press conference, a pop-culture book, The Hidden Persuaders, was published. Written by Vance Packard, the book described the potential dangers of media psychology and subliminal messages to trick customers into buying products and even affecting how they voted in elections. While advertisers denounced Packard as a huckster and conspiracy theorist, his book sold millions of copies and the notion of subliminal advertising sparked an outcry (although Packard never actually used the term). It probably didn't help that Aldous Huxley came out with Brave New World Revisited in 1958. In this sequel to his classic 1931 novel, Huxley suggested that subliminal messaging technology was a 'powerful instrument for the manipulation of unsuspecting minds'. He also added that 'The scientific dictator of tomorrow will set up his whispering machines and subliminal projectors in schools and hospitals..., and in all public places where audiences can be given a preliminary softening up by suggestibility increasing oratory or rituals'.
Conspiracy theorists accused governments and corporations of manipulating popular opinion through 'brainwashing'. The National Association of Broadcasters formally banned subliminal advertising in 1958 and all American television networks quickly followed suit. Legislation banning subliminal advertising was later passed in the U.K. and Australia and civil rights groups pounced on all suspected uses of subliminal messages in ads (real or imagined).

On the other hand, researchers who tried to replicate Vicary's research weren't getting the same results. Vicary had been extremely ambiguous about the actual methodology that he used made which true replication of his method impossible. It also didn't help that operational definitions of what could be considered 'subliminal stimuli' varied widely . In an attempt at replicating his own results, Vicary carried out a 1958 study using a Canadian television broadcast in which the words 'Telephone now' were flashed 352 times during a half-hour show. There was no noticeable increase in telephone use during or after the broadcast (although the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation did get thousands of letters from viewers guessing at the nature of the subliminal message, nobody got the right answer). Other research studies were just as inconclusive. Vicary's Subliminal Projection Company quickly went out of business and he returned to being a media researcher for Dunn and Bradstreet. In a 1962 interview, Vicary admitted that the news conference and his research findings had been nothing more than a 'gimmick'. As he ruefully added in the interview, 'All I accomplished, I guess,...was to put a new word into common usage. And for a man who makes a career out of picking the right names for products and companies, I should have my head examined for using a word like subliminal'.

Despite Vicary's confession, the supposed dangers of subliminal advertising still lurk in the popular imagination and has taken on the status of an urban legend. While there is no actual evidence that subliminal messaging works, anecdotes about its supposed effectiveness abound. Not only are 'subliminal' self-help tapes still being sold, but opinion surveys have shown that belief in subliminal advertising is widespread. This belief is especially apparent in allegations of 'backward masking' of satanic messages in rock music, a claim that is still a common staple in conservative circles. A 1990 trial in Reno, Nevada was held in which the parents of two teenagers blamed their suicides on subliminal messaging in a Judas Priest album. The parents lost the case but the resulting publicity added to the 'anecdotal evidence' of subliminal advertising's widespread use.

Meanwhile, laws against subliminal advertising remains on the books in many countries and research still continues (albeit without conclusive results). Despite the lack of success, the subliminal tape industry continues to do good business as well. Such is the power of advertising.

- Sent using Google Toolbar"

A New Type of Phishing Attack « Aza on Design

A New Type of Phishing Attack « Aza on Design: "A New Type of Phishing Attack
Sponsored by

The web is a generative and wild place. Sometimes I think I missed my calling; being devious is so much fun. Too bad my parents brought me up with scruples.

Most phishing attacks depend on an original deception. If you detect that you are at the wrong URL, or that something is amiss on a page, the chase is up. You’ve escaped the attackers. In fact, the time that wary people are most wary is exactly when they first navigate to a site.

What we don’t expect is that a page we’ve been looking at will change behind our backs, when we aren’t looking. That’ll catch us by surprise.

How The Attack Works

1. A user navigates to your normal looking site.
2. You detect when the page has lost its focus and hasn’t been interacted with for a while.
3. Replace the favicon with the Gmail favicon, the title with “Gmail: Email from Google”, and the page with a Gmail login look-a-like. This can all be done with just a little bit of Javascript that takes place instantly.
4. As the user scans their many open tabs, the favicon and title act as a strong visual cue—memory is malleable and moldable and the user will most likely simply think they left a Gmail tab open. When they click back to the fake Gmail tab, they’ll see the standard Gmail login page, assume they’ve been logged out, and provide their credentials to log in. The attack preys on the perceived immutability of tabs.
5. After the user has entered their login information and you’ve sent it back to your server, you redirect them to Gmail. Because they were never logged out in the first place, it will appear as if the login was successful.

We’ll call this new type of phishing attack “tabnabbing“.

Targeted Attacks

There are many ways to potentially improve the efficacy of this attack.

Using my CSS history miner you can detect which site a visitor uses and then attack that site (although this is no longer possible in Firefox betas). For example, you can detect if a visitor is a Facebook user, Citibank user, Twitter user, etc., and then switch the page to the appropriate login screen and favicon on demand.

[*] Think looking for the exact error thrown when embedding

A memory expert's inexpungible past. - By William Saletan - Slate Magazine

A memory expert's inexpungible past. - By William Saletan - Slate Magazine: "In the fall of 1991, Elizabeth Loftus sat in her office at the University of Washington, listening to a tape-recorded story. The storyteller, a 14-year-old boy named Chris Coan, was describing a visit to the University City shopping mall in Spokane, Wash., when he was 5. 'I think I went over to look at the toy store, the Kay-Bee toys,' he recalled. 'We got lost, and I was looking around and I thought, 'Uh-oh. I'm in trouble now.' ' He remembered his feelings: 'I thought I was never going to see my family again. I was really scared, you know. And then this old man, I think he was wearing a blue flannel, came up to me.' The man, old and balding with glasses, helped Chris find his parents.
Print This ArticlePRINTDiscuss in the FrayDISCUSSEmail to a FriendE-MAILGet Slate RSS FeedsRSSShare This ArticleRECOMMEND...Single PageSINGLE PAGE
Yahoo! Buzz
Facebook FacebookPost to MySpace!MySpaceMixx MixxDigg DiggReddit del.icio.usFurl Ma.gnoliaSphere SphereStumble UponStumbleUponCLOSE

It was a vivid story, told with sincerity and emotion. But the events Chris described had never happened. Chris's elder brother, Jim, had made it up as an assignment for Loftus' cognitive psychology class. Jim, pretending the story was real, had fed Chris the basics—the name of the mall, the old man, the flannel shirt, the crying—and Chris, believing his brother's fabrication, had filled in the rest. He had proved what Loftus suspected: If you were carefully coached to remember something, and if you tried hard enough, you could do it.

And this was just the beginning. In the years to come, Loftus and her colleagues would plant false memories of all kinds—chokings, near-drownings, animal attacks, demonic possessions—in thousands of people. Their parade of brainwashing experiments continues to this day.


Forty years ago, when Loftus came out of graduate school, most people thought of memory as a recording device. It stored imprints of what you had experienced, and you could retrieve these imprints when prompted by questions or images. Loftus began to show that this wasn't true. Questions and images didn't just retrieve memories. They altered them. In fact, they could create memories that were completely unreal.

Most of the time, this didn't matter. If Uncle Pete hadn't really caught that 18-inch trout, so what? But in court, it mattered. Men were going to jail based on contaminated eyewitness testimony. Families were being ruined by charges of incestuous abuse drawn from memories concocted in therapy.

Loftus set out to prove that such memories could have been planted. To do so, she had to replicate the process. She had to make people remember, as sincerely and convincingly as any sworn witness, things that had never happened. And she succeeded. Her experiments shattered the legal system's credulity. Thanks to her ingenuity and persistence, the witch hunts of the recovered-memory era subsided.

But the experiments didn't stop. Loftus and her collaborators had become experts at planting memories. Couldn't they do something good with that power? So they began to practice deception for real. With a simple autobiographical tweak—altering people's recollections of childhood eating experiences—they embarked on a new project: making the world healthier and happier.

It was almost a kind of forgetting. You start doing something to show how dangerous it is. Pretty soon, you're good at it. It becomes your craft, your identity. You begin to invent new applications and justifications for it. In changing others, you change yourself.

To understand Elizabeth Loftus, I spent many hours reading her work and talking with her. I came away impressed by her thoughtfulness and curiosity. I was shaken, as others have been, by her research on memory's fallibility. But I was struck even more by Loftus herself. Something has happened to her. She is grappling with something nobody has fully confronted before: the temptation of memory engineering.

This is the story of a woman who has learned how to alter the past as we know it. It's a fantastic power: exciting to some, frightening to others. What will we do with it? How will it change us? In her story, we can begin to see what awaits us.

- Sent using Google Toolbar"

Andrew Wakefield, doctor who pushed vaccine-autism link, loses license - David Knowles - Paradigms Lost - True/Slant

Andrew Wakefield, doctor who pushed vaccine-autism link, loses license - David Knowles - Paradigms Lost - True/Slant: "Andrew Wakefield, doctor who pushed vaccine-autism link, loses license
LONDON, ENGLAND - JANUARY 28: Dr Andrew Wakef...

Image by Getty Images via @daylife

Say it with me: There is no scientific evidence that shows ANY link whatsoever between childhood vaccines and an increased risk of developing autism.

None. Zero. It’s a myth.

Today, the person most responsible for having spread that falsehood (save, perhaps, for Jenny McCarthy) can no longer practice medicine in the United Kingdom.

The U.K.’s General Medical Council today stripped Dr. Andrew Wakefield of his title. In February, The Lancet, the journal where Wakefield had published his bogus study, retracted the research, saying it was utterly false.

Yes, the internet took Wakefield’s claim and ran with it. As a result, vaccination rates have plummeted. So, spread the word, hysteria won round one. Perhaps reason will now mount a comeback.

- Sent using Google Toolbar"

Sir Ken Robinson: Bring on the learning revolution! | Video on

Sir Ken Robinson: Bring on the learning revolution! | Video on "About this talk

In this poignant, funny follow-up to his fabled 2006 talk, Sir Ken Robinson makes the case for a radical shift from standardized schools to personalized learning -- creating conditions where kids' natural talents can flourish.
About Ken Robinson

Creativity expert Sir Ken Robinson challenges the way we're educating our children. He champions a radical rethink of our school systems, to cultivate creativity and acknowledge multiple types… Full bio and more links

- Sent using Google Toolbar"

The Last Psychiatrist: What The Miss USA Pageant Says About Us

The Last Psychiatrist: What The Miss USA Pageant Says About Us: "- Sent using Google Toolbar"

May 25, 2010

What The Miss USA Pageant Says About Us

missusa-sidebyside.jpgi am completely disgusted that she would do this for free


And that's why it is ridiculously obvious that when the Miss USA Organization, co-owned by Trump and NBC television, released a racy video lingerie photo shoot of this year's contestants... the sole purpose was to pump up the ratings for this Sunday night's telecast of the 2010 pageant on NBC.


miss usa ratings.JPGThis past pageant got 6.6M, which is the same as last year.

You may be tempted to think that these scandals are blown up in the media in order to boost ratings for the pageant. Yet while everyone knows about the controversies, you can't find one person (other than me) who actually watched the pageant. The marketing has all failed, from Vanessa Williams to Carrie Prejean. Why would they think seeing half naked women in lingerie would entice me to want to watch them fully clothed? Whoops?


The photos seemed designed to generate controversy and buzz about the pageant, TODAY's Matt Lauer suggested to pageant president Paula Shugart. "Yes, to some degree it's marketing," Shugart admitted

Wrongolongoria. The controversy isn't to get viewers to watch the Pageant, the controversy is to get viewers to watch the Today Show.

Shows don't operate on their own, they're soldiers in a standing army. Miss USA is run by the Miss Universe Organization, owned by Donald Trump and NBC Universal, which is co-owned by GE and Vivendi. That means the Miss USA pageant can be enjoyed as a loss leader for MSNBC, NBC, USA Network, Bravo, A&E, Hulu, Activision/Blizzard, and Universal Studios.

And rival media is free to capitalize on it if they want. Oh, is she Muslim? Then off to Fox News and Glen Beck and etc. You think CBS is talking about it because they want to boost NBC's ratings?

Whenever someone talks about a television's show's ratings as if they have valuable information, punch them in the mouth.


Small aside: if the game is eyeballs, then it becomes less relevant that they get the facts straight once you are watching; only that you watch.

fox miss usa.JPG

Is this what the Miss USA represents? It used to be all -American girls, the leaders of the future. These are the leaders of the future?

If you're watching this Fahrenheit 500 deliver the business news from a bar, you're probably not worried about accuracy. Why do I suddenly want a drink and a plane ticketplane ticket?


CBS News, unaffiliated with the pageant but hey, it's news, right? gets to ask, "Are Rima Fakih's Sexy Shots [of her in the stripping contest] Any Worse Than The Lingerie Photos?"

The answer, obviously, is yes, they are worse, they are much worse, and by worse I mean much better. If I have only one click left, I wanna see the stripper pole. Lingerie? What is this, the set of Falcon Crest? Bring on the pole.

"Americans are a puritanical lot that can't handle sexuality." Oh, no, they handle it just fine, otherwise it wouldn't be everywhere. They just can't handle it when they're with other people.

When you're by yourself and the sex scene in a rated R movie comes on, do you change the channel? "It seems wrong to watch the expression on her face change as she mounts him. I choose to turn away."

But with every passing year of marriage those scenes frustrate, you try to avoid them. Not when you're Alone, of course, but when you're watching with your spouse: you worry it is reminding them how inadequate you have become.

It happens also when you're with people you're not intimate with. Are they watching how you are watching it? If you're too interested, will they think you're a pervert, and if you appear bored, will they think you're a prude? So there's dead silence as everyone in the room pretends they're not pretending.

The word for all of this is shame.

It's perfectly normal to feel this way. But you chose this world, this is the one you wanted. What kind of a world is it where we want sexuality in everything, have normalized sexuality in everything, but are ashamed to be caught looking at it?

A world that prefers to be alone, of course.


A quick word on the homosexualization of public sexuality, or, what's up with all the naked guys in ads and movies nowadays? Is everyone gay? No. Otherwise it wouldn't work.

When a guy gets caught watching a naked girl in a movie, he's got some pretending or explaining to do. When a guy gets caught looking at a naked guy in a movie, he still gets the signifier of sexuality to use any way he wants, but without the shame. That the ladies might like it is an added plus.

david beckham Armani.jpgSon of a bitch... Posh Spice is smoking hot


There's a simple reason why the stripping pics are "worse" than the lingerie pics: she was told to pose in lingerie; she chose to strip on her own.

If there is one thing that makes Americans-- or at least the media, which both reflects and creates American tastes-- nervous, it isn't sex, but sex that it can't control.

Maybe it's a uniquely American thing, maybe not: as long as sex/iness comes with a price tag, we're ok with it. Controlled, manufactured, artificial-- safe. Lingerie shoot? "She had to do that for the pageant." Oh, so that's the answer. It's not real.

But if she's caught stripping for fun, then... what does that say about me?

The feminist argument is it sets a standard for women that they are forced to at least wonder about. "How can I compete?" But it's worse for men. Playboy is fine. Girls Gone Wild drives us bananas. "They do it... for nothing? They're willing to get naked on camera for nothing... yet every time I try to be nice and buy one of them a drink, they won't even look at me... I don't get it, I don't get it..."

Wanton displays of sexuality leave no room for rationalizations. "That kind of girl only wants a rich guy." But she did it for free. So?

America tends to be deferential to prostitutes and porn stars, because it understands them. It's powerless against sluts.

Which is why we call them sluts in the first place.

The Pentagon's 26-Page Brownie Recipe: See What's In It

The Pentagon's 26-Page Brownie Recipe: See What's In It: "The Pentagon's 26-Page Brownie Recipe: See What's In It

Huffington Post | Heeseung Kim First Posted: 05-25-10 03:02 PM | Updated: 05-25-10 06:04 PM
facebook Twitter stumble reddit
Read More: 26-Page Brownie Recipe, Brownies, Brownies Recipe, Combat Feeding Directorate, Mres, Pentagon, Pentagon Brownie Recipe, Pentagon Brownies, Pentagon Brownies Recipe, Pentagon Food, Recipes, Slidepollajax, Food News

The Pentagon's updated recipe for war-ready brownies, to be consumed by the military, has been baffling bloggers. The recipe and all the details are packaged into a hefty 26-page document, which not only covers how to bake 'COOKIES, OATMEAL; AND BROWNIES; COCOLATE [sic] COVERED', but also lists specifications on a number of standards and guidelines, such as the type of ingredients to be used and the dimensions of the finished product (which, for brownies, 'shall not exceed 3-1/2 inches by 2-1/2 inches by 5/8 inch' and for oatmeal cookies 'shall not exceed 3-1/2 by 2-1/2 inches and shall not exceed 7/16 inch thickness').

Jeremy Whitsitt at the Department of Defense Combat Feeding Directorate -- yes, the Combat Feeding Directorate -- explains to NPR host Guy Raz why all the fuss:

'One thing we like to say is, 'What would happen if you cooked a meal, stored it in a stifling hot warehouse, dropped it out of an airplane, dragged it through the mud, left it out with bugs and vermin, and ate it three years later?'' If it were a military meal, Whitsitt says, it would still be edible and maybe even tasty.

The brownies, if baked in accordance to the 'specification ... approved for use by by all Departments and Agencies of the Department of Defense,' are made to last years, if necessary. But how tasty are the hardy treats? Penny Karas, owner of the bakery Hello Cupcake in Washington, D.C., made the brownies for NPR's 'All Things Considered' and concluded: 'It's not so great.' Guy Raz concurred: 'Yeah. They're awful.'

For not-at-all-awful brownies, your better bet would be to try HuffPost blogger Claire Thomas' recipe for beer brownies, or at least check out the scrumptious photos.

- Sent using Google Toolbar"

wronging rights: Pissed Off By Kristof

wronging rights: Pissed Off By Kristof:

"Sorry about the light posting lately, folks. My day job is taking up a ton of mental energy these days, as are my attempts to arrange a new day job for when this one ends in September.

I think Nicholas Kristof definitely missed me, because two days ago he dangled this irresistible Amanda-bait on the NY Times Op-Ed page:

There’s an ugly secret of global poverty, one rarely acknowledged by aid groups or U.N. reports. It’s a blunt truth that is politically incorrect, heartbreaking, frustrating and ubiquitous:

It’s that if the poorest families spent as much money educating their children as they do on wine, cigarettes and prostitutes, their children’s prospects would be transformed. Much suffering is caused not only by low incomes, but also by shortsighted private spending decisions by heads of households.

In a pleasing turn of events, Mr. Kristof actually has a legitimate source to cite for this, in addition to his usual anecdotes and photos of Miserable African Children. Well, sort of:

Two M.I.T. economists, Abhijit Banerjee and Esther Duflo, found that the world’s poor typically spend about 2 percent of their income educating their children, and often larger percentages on alcohol and tobacco: 4 percent in rural Papua New Guinea, 6 percent in Indonesia, 8 percent in Mexico. The indigent also spend significant sums on soft drinks, prostitution and extravagant festivals.

File this one under 'things that make you go 'hmmm.'' For one thing, Duflo & Banerjee say exactly nothing about spending on prostitution in their article, which makes the last line of that paragraph extremely misleading. (They don't specifically discuss soft drinks, either, but do spend a while discussing sugar and other empty calories, so I suppose I can give him a pass on that.)

And while you're at it, file it under 'RYFSM,' too. (That would be 'Read Your Fucking Source Material.') Kristof seems to have done some awfully targeted reading of the article in question. While it is true that Duflo and Banerjee did find that the poor in many countries spent significant sums on alcohol and tobacco, this is in fact what they had to say about spending on education:

The extremely poor spend very little on education. The expenditure on education generally hovers around 2 percent of household budgets: higher in Pakistan (3 percent), Indonesia (6 percent), and Cote d’Ivoire (6 percent), but much lower in Guatemala (0.1 percent), and South Africa (0.8 percent). [...] This low level of expenditure on education is not because the children are out of school. In 12 of the 13 countries in our sample, with the exception of Cote d’Ivoire, at least 50 percent of both boys and girls aged 7 to 12 in extremely poor households are in school. In about half the countries, the proportion enrolled is greater than 75 percent among girls, and more than 80 percent among boys.

The reason education spending is low is that children in poor households typically attend public schools or other schools that do not charge a fee. In countries where poor households spend more on education, it is typically because government schools have fees, as in Indonesia and Cote d’Ivoire. However, mounting evidence, reported below, suggests that public schools in these countries are often dysfunctional, which could explain why even very poor parents in Pakistan are pulling their children out of public schools and spending money to send them to private schools.

So, not so much the 'ubiquitous problem' Kristof describes, then: most poor parents are sending their children to school, and the low education expenditure is at least partly a good sign, because it's the result of free or heavily-subsidized primary education. Kristof is, presumably, in favor of that. Did he stop reading before he got to that paragraph, or what?

Moreover, as xpostfactoid notes, Duflo & Banerjee's study didn't include data from the Congo Republic, from whence Kristof draws this week's Miserable African Child anecdotes. However, if one did want to draw an inference from the article's findings, and if the schools there do all charge fees, as Kristof claims, then the more reasonable inference to draw would be that spending on primary education there is probably higher than the 2% average, and closer to the 6% observed in Cote D'Ivoire and Indonesia. (Not to mention that, if the schools were charging fees when they were supposed to be free, then they were either (a) corrupt, (b) critically under-resourced, or (c) all of the above. None of which are necessarily a good sign with regard to the quality of education on offer there.)

In fact, far from concluding that an exchange of spending on food for spending on education would 'transform' children's prospects, Duflo & Banerjee are hardly complimentary about the education available to poor children:

The low quality of teaching in public schools has clear effect on learning levels as well. In India, despite the fact that 93.4 percent of children ages 6–14 are enrolled in schools (75 percent of them in government schools), a recent nationwide survey found that 34.9 percent of the children age 7 to 14 cannot read a simple paragraph at second-grade level (Pratham, 2006). Moreover, 41.1 percent cannot do subtraction, and 65.5 percent cannot do division. Even among children in grades six to eight in government schools, 22 percent cannot read a second-grade text.

In countries where the public provision of education and health services is particularly low, private providers have stepped in. In the parts of India where public school teacher absenteeism is the highest, the fraction of rural children attending private schools is also the highest (Chaudhury, Hammer, Kremer, Muralidharan, and Rogers, 2005). However, these private schools are less than ideal: they have lower teacher absenteeism than the public schools in the same village, but their teachers are significantly less qualified in the sense of having a formal teaching degree.

And, in considering why the poor don't seek out better education for their children:

One reason is that poor parents, who may often be illiterate themselves, may have a hard time recognizing that their children are not learning much. Poor parents in Eastern Uttar Pradesh in India have limited success in predicting whether their school-age children can read (Banerjee et al., 2006). Moreover, how can parents be confident that a private school would offer a better education, given that the teacher there is usually less qualified than the public school teachers? After all, researchers have only discovered this pattern in the last few years. As for putting pressure on the government, it is not clear that the average villager would know how to organize and do so.

Huh. I didn't see anything in there about 'maybe if they spent less on booze and hookers,' did you?

Kristof doesn't spend much time imagining why people might want to spend money on things like alcohol or tobacco - or cell phone credit, which he mysteriously places in the same category. He clearly assumes that they are luxury items that ought to be cut from the budget. However, I'm not sure that's reasonable. A cell phone might be a luxury here in New York, where residents have myriad other reliable communications systems to choose from. (USPS, land lines, FedEx, Interwebs...) But without knowing why the people he interviewed spend that much on credit each month, I can't begin to speculate about whether it should be considered a luxury, a necessity, or somewhere in between. Likewise, while alcohol and tobacco are not the healthiest of products, how can Kristof be sure that a dollar spent on beer is buying the beer, and not some less-tangible good, like the social standing in the community that comes of buying your friends a drink? And that kind of social standing isn't necessarily a luxury item. Also from the Duflo & Banerjee article:

In principle, social networks can provide informal insurance. For example, Udry (1990) shows that poor villagers in Nigeria experience a dense network of loan exchanges: Over the course of one year, 75 percent of the households had made loans, 65 percent had borrowed money, and 50 percent had been both borrowers and lenders. Almost all of these loans took place between neighbors and relatives. Both the repayment schedule and the amount repaid were affected by both the lender’s and the borrower’s current economic conditions, underlining the role of these informal loans in providing insurance. Munshi and Rosenzweig (2005) argue that the same process happens in India through the jati or subcaste networks.

Gosh, I wonder if access to that sort of informal social insurance is affected by one's relationships with others in the community. Like, perhaps, how often one socializes with others, possibly in contexts that involve buying the occasional beer or cigarette? Or how fully one participates in important festivals, 'extravagant' or otherwise? Yeah, you're right. Probably not.

And, finally: how is it acceptable to insist that poor people sacrifice the few small pleasures within their reach in order to comply with a random American journalist's view of what is Really Important? That kind of supercilious morality seems to me to be a particularly judgmental form of cruelty. Color me unimpressed. (Texasinafrica too, apparently.)

- Sent using Google Toolbar"

BBC News - Seven atom transistor sets the pace for future PCs

BBC News - Seven atom transistor sets the pace for future PCs: "Seven atom transistor sets the pace for future PCs

Page last updated at 11:01 GMT, Monday, 24 May 2010 12:01 UK

* E-mail this to a friend
* Printable version

Atomic transistor, AFP Prof Simmons and her colleagues have swapped silicon atoms for phosphorus

Researchers have shown off a transistor made from just seven atoms that could be used to create smaller, more powerful computers.

Transistors are tiny switches used as the building blocks of silicon chips.

If the new atomic transistor can be made in large numbers it could mean chips with components up to 100 times smaller than on existing processors.

The Australian creators of the transistor hope it is also a step towards a solid-state quantum computer.

The transistor is not the smallest ever created as two research groups have previously managed to produce working single-atom transistors.

However, the device is many times smaller than the components found in chips in contemporary computers. On chips where components are 22 nanometres in size, transistor gates are about 42 atoms across.

The working transistor was created by replacing seven atoms in a silicon crystal with phosphorus atoms.

'Now we have just demonstrated the world's first electronic device in silicon systematically created on the scale of individual atoms,' said Professor Michelle Simmons, lead researcher on the project at the University of New South Wales.

Moore's Law predicts that the amount of memory that can fit on a given area of silicon, for a fixed cost doubles every 12-18 months. The limit of this prediction is being tested as components get ever smaller and their computationally useful properties become less reliable.

If an entire chip could be made with every one of its billions of transistors made from the silicon crystals, it could mean an 'exponential' leap in processing power, said Professor Simmons.

The researchers are a long way from a commercial process because the tiny transistor they created was handmade. The team used a scanning tunnelling microscope to move the phosphorus atoms into place.

The work on the tiny transistor is being carried out as part of a larger project to create a quantum computer.

The research team revealed their results in the journal Nature Nanotechnology.

- Sent using Google Toolbar"

Quote (and Photo Tip) of the Day | Digital Photography insights

Quote (and Photo Tip) of the Day | Digital Photography insights: "- Sent using Google Toolbar"

Quote (and Photo Tip) of the Day

The great thing about this camera is you don’t need permits because nobody knows you’re shooting” – Monte Hellman, the 77 year old director of ‘Road to Nowhere’ commenting in a New York Times interview on how he shot the entire film using a Canon 5D Mark II.

Hellman, whose directing credits include ‘Two-Lane Blacktop’ (1971) found the 5D Mark II invaluable for reasons other than its stealthiness. “It has the capability of shooting high-def movies. On a little flashcard. You can shoot 12 minutes at a time, which is more than what you can shoot on 35mm; a 35mm reel is 10 minutes. It’s fantastic. And it looks like a still camera!” Hellman also credits the Mark II as being partially responsible for keeping the production costs of ‘Road to Nowhere' under 5-million dollars.

And do keep in mind: this is coming from someone who built his first camera out of a soup can and a cigar box when he was 10 years old.

Your rating: None Average: 5 (1 vote)


0 points

I seem to remember that not too long ago NY City wanted anyonewho was shooting with a tripod and any type of still camera on any city property (sidewalks, etc) to take out one million dollars in insurance. The city was trying to claim that anyone one with a tripod must be a 'professional' photographer and therefore should be held to the same liability requirements. After a lot of fight that decision was repeeled, thankfully. The thing is - this director may have made his comment in the NY Times - but furthering this type of commentary (ie. spreading it around the internet) only makes me wonder when the city will try again. Maybe this time they can try to enforce that anyone shooting with a DSLR in public must purchase insurance. While what he says is true - Not so sure I'd be tossing around this brilliant quote. I, for one, am sick of being held up by movie sets walking around the city. And, really can you hide the movie crew/actors, etc as easily as you can disguise the camera? Eventually somebody's going to catch on and the rest of us will get to pay for it everytime we want a snapshot on the great streets of old NY.

Post new comment

The content of this field is kept private and will not be shown publicly.

BH Insights

BH Insights: "- Sent using Google Toolbar"

Hang Tough: Furniture & Mounts To Support Your Skinny TV

Now that your new HDTV has become a member of the family, it's time to reevaluate how well it fits its assigned space. There are practical and stylish options to consider from wall mounts that save floor space to furniture that puts the TV on top while accommodating source components underneath. Some mounts secure the TV flush against the wall while others also enable the TV to be extended outward and swiveled around.

Enduro GH-Series Gimbal Heads

When Cliff Hausner of MACGroupUSA greets me in the hallowed halls of B&H Photo with his familiar "Al-you-gotta-see-this..." it's usually for good cause. This time it was to show me the new gimballed tripod heads from Induro, which are designed to make working with longer focal-length optics smoother and easier.

Unlike traditional pan and ballhead designs, Induro's gimbal heads cradle your lens in a way that greatly reduces the balancing act that's part & parcel of shooting with longer, heavier telephoto lenses.

It's Getting Funky at B&H!

If you could travel back to the year 1953, what would you do once you arrived? I don't know about you, but I'd immediately try to purchase some classic microphones. The desire to go back in time to buy recording equipment is what pushes the microphone manufacturer Telefunken. They're well-known for making some of the world's best sounding recreations of classic mics, and for producing new models that draw heavily on their vintage expertise. That's why we're proud to announce that B&H has become a Telefunken dealer!

Sunday in the Park with Flip Video's SlideHD

Flip Video turned the camcorder industry on its head by proving that minimal hardware features sell, especially when tightly integrated with easy-to-use software for your computer. Now, Flip has introduced its most ambitious model yet, the Slide HD, with a 3-inch touchscreen that slides out at a 45-degree angle to show your videos. The camera embeds 16-Gigabytes of memory for storing up to 4 hours of high-def video.

Rules of Thumb - 'Check Thy Camera Settings'

In Allan Weitz's recent hands-on review of Sony's new NEX-series digicams, he made mention of how due to an oddity in the camera's playback sequencing, he thought a co-worker had inadvertently erased a morning's worth of still images. Luckily, the 'missing' images were safe and sound, but it reminded me of the time I spent a whole day shooting snapshots at ISO 3200 on a bright, sunny day. (Ouch!)

Dr. Fritz Sennheiser Dies at 98

Fritz Sennheiser was two years short of his centennial when he died on May 17 in Germany, where he was born. He founded Sennheiser electronic GmbH & Co. KG in 1945. Over the decades the name Sennheiser became synonymous worldwide with quality audio products, especially microphones and headphones for use by filmmakers, broadcasters, audiophiles, and consumers. For the latter group, the brand became associated with earphones for MP3 players and noise reduction headphones on airplanes.

Audio Snakes on a Plane!

Getting on an airplane is always a little scary; but when you're taking lots of production equipment with you, it's downright terrifying! Traveling with gear requires preparation. Without the necessary cases, packing, and precautions, your equipment may not survive the trip. Join me as I pack for a flight to Detroit, on a mission to record some tracks with one of the best drummers I know. The fate of my favorite gear is uncertain.

Who Knew? Main Squeeze

One of my earliest memories was arranging clothespins on a windowsill by a clothesline overlooking a courtyard in Boro Park, Brooklyn. It gave a 3-year-old a sense of productivity and a lesson in hand-eye coordination. It also gave me a lifelong love of spring-loaded wood, those uniform legions of easy-on, easy-off fasteners that are as all-purpose as Duct Tape but without the sticky residue. And they're reusable.

Bigger Is Better

The trend in cameras for many years has been towards smaller sizes. Small is good when you want a camera you can carry at al times in a pocket or purse. But, when it comes to image quality, in almost every case bigger is better.

Consider detail resolution. It’s often expressed in megapixels or numbers like 1920 x 1080. There doesn’t seem to be any particular size associated with either; they’re just numbers. A camera with a 4/3-inch-format sensor and one with a 1/3-inch-format sensor seem to have the same resolution if they have the same numbers.

Lights, Camera, Baby!

We’ve all sat through bad baby videos. The poor lighting, shakiness, and choppy sound -- UGH! That’s no way to welcome a new bundle of joy into the world. Whether you’ve decided to film the birth or capture your tike’s first words crazy sounds at home, here are 5 shooting tips to make your home videos enjoyable, memorable, and fun!

24 Hours with Sony's NEX-3 & NEX-5

When trying out a new camera – especially a new system camera such as Sony’s latest NEX-series cameras, it’s important to maintain an objective perspective by consciously filtering our thoughts through the objectively-oriented right side of our brains. This is especially true when toying with a system that has been declared by some as being a game-changer weeks before it even hits the streets.

Avidly Monitor Your Productions with RM1's

Digidesign RM1 Nearfield Studio Monitor Some people make a point of purchasing "industry standard" equipment. While it's arguable if the term "industry standard" has any concrete meaning at all, if you use DigiDesign's RM1 near field monitors in your studio, you can at least make the case that you're using "Pro Tools approved" speakers. Okay, so the term "Pro Tools approved" doesn't really have any meaning either, but hey, it sounds good! If you want to sound great, check out these awesome RM1 bundle deals...

A Conversation with Philp Bloom

You can’t talk about the video DSLR revolution without mentioning Philip Bloom. A British director and director of photography , Bloom launched his blog almost 3 years ago. Designed to get the attention of potential clients, the site has evolved into one of the leading forums for DSLR video discussion and education. On a recent trip to New York, Philip Bloom sat down with David Flores to discuss education, work, and the latest equipment.

Quote (and Photo Tip) of the Day

The great thing about this camera is you don’t need permits because nobody knows you’re shooting” – Monte Hellman, the 77 year old director of ‘Road to Nowhere’ commenting in a New York Times interview on how he shot the entire film using a Canon 5D Mark II.

The Leica D-Lux 4. Is it still a good option for a compact camera?

Hi there! My name is Steve Huff and this is my very first post to the B&H Insights blog. While usually busy running my own photo site at, I am happy to announce that I will also be writing articles right here for B&H Photo.

I have been a passionate photographer for 15 years and in that time I have shot with, owned, or tested almost every digital camera ever made. Today I shoot with Leica and in future posts I will explain why I do, and also try to share my thoughts on Leica cameras in general like what makes them so unique and why they are so crazy expensive!