Joke of the Day

As you well know, some of us have been known to have had brushes with the authorities on our way home from an occasional social session over the years.bugs daffy

A couple of nights ago, I was out for an evening with friends and had a couple of cocktails and some rather nice red wine.

Knowing full well I may have been slightly over the limit, I did something I’ve never done before ~ I took a cab home. Sure enough, I passed a police road block but, since it was a cab, they waved it past.

I arrived home safely without incident, which was a real surprise; as I have never driven a cab before and am not sure where I got it or what to do with it now that it’s in my garage.

France Taxes the Rich

Socialists are socialists, the world around.

Legendary actor Gerard Depardieu is to give up his French passport in protest of huge tax hikes imposed by the country’s Government.

Depardieu, 63, star of films including Green Card and Cyrano de Bergerac, is furious at socialist French President Francois Hollande for several of his policies aimed at taking money away from the rich, including a top rate of income tax of 75 per cent.

The actor is now set to move to Belgium after putting his £40million ($65 million)mansion on Paris’s Left Bank up for sale.

Leaving: French actor Gerard Depardieu has put his Paris mansion up for sale and will leave France in protest at tax hikes imposed by the government  French actor Gerard Depardieu has put his Paris  mansion up for sale and will leave France in protest at tax hikes imposed by the  government

In an open letter to prime minister Jean-Marc Ayrault today, Mr Depardieu said: ‘I am leaving because you consider that success, creation, talent, anything different, must be punished.’

Mr Depardieu said he has paid 85 per cent of his income to the Government this year, and estimated that he had paid more than £130 million ($211 million) in total since he started work on leaving school aged  14.

New financial measures: French President Francois Hollande has imposed a top rate of income tax of 75 per centFrench President Francois  Hollande has imposed a top rate of income tax of 75 per cent

Mr Ayrault had earlier branded Mr Depardieu ‘pathetic’ and ‘unpatriotic’, but the actor wrote in an open letter in the  Journal de Dimanche: ‘Who are you to judge me like this, Mr Ayrault? I ask you, who are you?’

‘Despite my excesses, my appetite and my love of life, I am a free man.’

‘I am not asking to be approved of, but I could at least be respected. All of those who have left France have not been insulted as I have been.’

‘At no time have I failed in my duties. The historic films in which I took part bear witness to my love of France and its history.’

The actor is not the first wealthy French resident to signal their intention to leave since Mr Hollande came to power back in May.

Bernard Arnault, chief executive of the luxury goods group LVMH and France’s richest man, is among those who have applied for Belgian residency, although the billionaire denies it is for tax reasons.

It came as an Ifop poll released in France over the the weekend put Mr Hollande’s public approval rating at just 37 per cent, with Mr Ayrault on 35 per cent.

MailOnline reported last week how Depardieu had moved to a new ‘tax exile’ mansion just 800 yards from the French border in Belgium.

The actor’s lavish home in the village of Nechin – on a street known as Millionaire’s Row – is less than two minutes drive from the French town of Roubaix.

Attribution: Steve Nolan, Mail Online

Your TV may be Watching You

Samsung’s Smart TV could be used by hackers to watch everything that happens in your living room by gaining access to the device’s built-in camera and microphone, it has been claimed.

Malta-based security firm ReVuln posted a video showing how its researchers had learned to crack the television to access its settings – including any personal information stored on it.

‘We can install malicious software to gain complete root access to the TV,’ they claim in the video.

Vulnerable: Samsung's Smart TV can be penetrated by hackers who can install malicious software on to the device to record whatever is picked up by its built-in microphones and camerasSamsung’s Smart TV can be penetrated by  hackers who can install malicious software on to the device to record whatever  is picked up by its built-in microphones and cameras

With such malware installed, hackers could use the Smart TV’s built-in microphones and camera to hear and see everything in front of it.

Samsung’s Smart TV can be used to browse the  internet, use social networks, watch net-based commercial film streaming services and play online games, among other things, from the comfort of your sofa.

The devices can also be controlled by voice commands and gestures, using their microphones and cameras to detect what is happening in front of them.

However, while the Smart TV’s are connected to the internet they are vulnerable to hackers who can access the device and access files stored on them.

Luigi Auriemma, co-founder of ReVuln, says he has found a way to track down the IP address of the device and gain access to seize control and scour any drives connected to it.

The video appears to show that he is able to access remote files and information like the viewing history, as well as siphon data from USB drives attached to a compromised set.

Mr Auriemma told Ars  Technica: ‘At this point the attacker has complete control over the device.

‘So we are talking about applying custom firmwares, spying on the victim if camera and microphone are available, stealing any credential and account stored… on the device, using his own certificates when accessing https websites, and tracking any activity of the victim (movies,  photos, music, and websites seen) and so on.

‘You become the TV.’

Personal information: A video posted by Malta-based security company ReVuln reveals how once their researcher gained access to the Smart TV he was able to scour all connected drives and read data from them A video posted by Malta-based  security company ReVuln reveals how once their researcher gained access to the  Smart TV he was able to scour all connected drives and read data from them

The research raises the possibility that owners of consumer devices connected to the Internet are exposing themselves to similar kinds of security threats that are faced by users of personal computers, Ars Technica notes.

Devices from lighting systems to air conditioners to computer games consoles now rely on online functionality, but their operating systems often do not have the same kinds of security measures now commonly deployed on Microsoft and Apple powered devices.

At the moment, ReVuln’s exploit only works once hackers have managed to breach the network which the television is connected to. As such, Mr Auriemma told NBC  News, he expects the main danger is of hackers targeting specific companies or individuals.

‘In our opinion, it’s more interesting and realistic to think about attacks [against] specific targets reached via open/weak/hacked Wi-Fi or compromised computers of a network, instead of mass-exploiting via the Internet,’ he said.

‘That’s interesting due to the effects of the vulnerability (retrieving information and the possibility of monitoring) which are perfect for targeted attacks, from a specific person with a TV at home to a company with TVs in its offices.’

Revuln plans to sell information on the vulnerabilities to the highest bidder, the Register reported, claiming this will  ‘speed up’ fixes faster than merely reporting them to the  manufacturer.

The company would not go into details about the flaws it has discovered.

The possibilities of such vulnerabilities are worrying with increasing numbers of consumer electronics devices being equipped with sensors, cameras and microphones to detect what is happening around them.

Earlier this month it emerged that U.S. cable provider Verizon has applied to patent a set-top box technology that can observe what’s going on in the room and show viewers adverts based on what it  detects.

In U.S. Patent Application 20120304206 the company suggests it could detect when people are ‘cuddling’ then show ‘a  commercial for a romantic getaway vacation, a commercial for a contraceptive, a commercial for flowers […] etc.’.

Nick Pickles, director of privacy campaign group Big Brother Watch, said of that device: ‘Smart TVs with in-built cameras  and microphones are a privacy nightmare waiting around the corner.

‘It is only a matter of time before technology using facial recognition, audio analysis and monitoring what you  watch is common place.

‘What is essential is that consumers know exactly what they are buying and where the data is going.’

A spokesman for Samsung said: ‘We have discovered that only in extremely unusual circumstances a connectivity issue arises between Samsung Smart TV’s released in 2011 and other connected devices. We assure our customers that our Smart TVs are safe to use.

‘We will release a previously scheduled  software patch in January 2013 to further strengthen Smart TV security. We  recommend our customers to use encrypted wireless access points, when using  connected devices.

Attribution: Damien Gayle, Daily Mail

Concealed Carry Savior

Citizen With Concealed Carry Permit May Have Saved Lives During Oregon Mall Shooting

The shooting last week at the mall in Clackamas, Oregon has been overshadowed by the tragedy that unfolded Friday morning at an elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut. In Oregon two innocent human beings lost their lives, but perhaps the carnage would have been worse if not for Nick Meli, who has a concealed carry permit and was in the mall when the gunman opened fire. Meli pulled his weapon, but did not shoot the gunman because there were bystanders who could have been injured. The gunman saw Meli, an armed citizen, and rather than shoot more innocents he pointed his weapon at himself.

“He was working on his rifle,” said Meli.  ”He kept pulling the charging handle and hitting the side.”

The break in gunfire allowed Meli to pull out his own gun, but heportland_oregon_mall_shooting never took his eyes off the shooter.

“As I was going down to pull, I saw someone in the back of the Charlotte move, and I knew if I fired and missed, I could hit them,” he said.

Meli took cover inside a nearby store.  He never pulled the trigger.  He stands by that decision.

“I’m not beating myself up cause I didn’t shoot him,” said Meli.  “I know after he saw me, I think the last shot he fired was the one he used on himself.”

Oregon mall shooting victimsWe don’t know how many lives Meli may have saved by pulling his weapon and making the shooter aware that he wasn’t the only person in the mall with a gun. But something tells me the left won’t be giving Meli any medals. Heck, I wouldn’t be surprised to see them demand he be prosecuted. But it’s quite possible (probable) that Meli saved lives that day.

We need more law abiding, level headed citizens like Meli walking among us, not fewer of them.

Via Instapundit, and more thoughts on this from the Bulletproof Patriot and The Truth About Guns.

More Christmas Decor

Brooklyn, New YorkBrooklyn, New York

Buecken, Lower Saxony, GermanyBuecken, Lower Saxony, Germany

christmas lights - house in Melksham, Wiltshire, EnglandMelksham, Wiltshire, England

Ocala, FloridaOcala, Florida

Queens borough of New YorkQueens borough of New York

Richmond, VirginiaRichmond, Virginia

Unable to compete with her neighbour, Kristina Green opted to decorate her home with an illuminated Ditto sign and an arrow pointing to Eric Cyr's 20,000-light Christmas display, in Maricopa, ArizonaUnable to compete with her neighbor, Kristina Green opted to decorate her home with an illuminated Ditto sign and an arrow pointing to Eric Cyr’s 20,000-light Christmas display, in Maricopa, Arizona

Attribution: UK Telegraph

The Newtown Massacre

by: the Common Constitutionalist

Tragedy struck in Newtown Connecticut Friday. Actually it wasn’t tragedy that struck, but a whacked out twenty year old young man.

It’s not to say that the situation is tragic, it is. As a parent, I can’t imagine what the parents and siblings of the little victims are going through. No parent should ever have to bury a child and certainly not like this.

I was in my office when I first heard the news. I didn’t feel sadness as much as anger. Inewtown-shooting recall feeling the same way when I heard of the movie theater shootings in Colorado, the Columbine massacre and even 9-11.

As the day progressed and the body count grew, we began to reflect on the unspeakable act. Toward the end of the day a few in my office and I discussed the situation.

The overall theme was of course sadness for the loss of life and the poor kids that will have to live with the memory.

The over-arching question was how could anyone do such a thing, why would they?

The easy and cowardly reactions of those like New York Mayor Bloomberg and countless others are both loathsome and all too typical. Blame the guns. Call for stricter gun controls. The president claimed now (the day of the shooting) was not the time for stricter action. (Update: The Columbine shootings occurred during the previous assault weapons ban. That did a lot of good).

With now a few days gone by, the president and virtually all left-leaning outlets are in fact out rightly calling for or intimating stricter gun control.

If we just take away the guns there will be no situations such as this and if we just took away all the hammers, no one would ever smash their thumbs and the world will be safe.

Normally, when someone commits murder I don’t care why he or she did it, just that they did. Let justice be served and hope they get what they deserve. However, as I told the folks in my office, there is a pattern forming and it needs to be examined.

Columbine, Colorado, Connecticut and others. What do these massacres have in common? shooterOver the past several years, relatively young men have perpetrated most if not all of these mass killings.

I contend these incidences are all a product of the “Chickification” of our society. A society that teaches children that self-esteem is more important than anything else. Little Johnny is taught that 2+2 = 5, if it makes him feel better. We don’t keep score at children’s sporting events any longer, or the outcome is always a tie. Win or lose, every child gets a trophy. The use of red ink to correct schoolwork is being done away due to it’s “negative” effect on poor little Johnny. More and more schools are doing away with the graduation valedictorian and salutatorian. You see, it makes the average children uncomfortable. We can’t have that.

Well, we’ve all heard the saying “life isn’t fair”. There are, in fact, winners and losers. If your team loses the game you don’t get a trophy and you must deal with it. If you’re not the smartest or most popular kid in school, deal with it. So you’re not the valedictorian; most are not. Deal with it.

For decades now children haven’t just been nurtured, they’ve been coddled. Parents, teachers and society in general attempt to insulate our kids from reality. We attempt to shield them from every conflict or negative encounter. They must not know disappointment, not at a young age.

Well then, what happens when our children bump up against it (disappointment) later in life? The answer is, they have no idea how to handle it.

A small problem to any well-adjusted person is escalated into a massive calamity, in their mind, because they’ve never been taught to deal with that inefficacy.

This is why, in my estimation, we’ve seen the senseless violence in recent years. That and the desire to be famous just to be famous; the Kardashian effect, as it were.

The government can enact all the idiotic, knee-jerk laws it wants. That won’t solve the problem. It will just disarm the good people.

But hey, that’s what Hitler and Stalin did and that worked out great!

Deep Space Fly-By

A Chinese spacecraft has carried out a deep space fly-by on an asteroid four and a half million miles away from the Earth.

The Chang’e-2 probe successfully conducted the mission to scan the surface of the asteroid Toutatis.

It happened on December 13 at 16.30om Beijing Time, the State Administration of Science, Technology and Industry for National Defense announced today.

The Chinese space probe flew got around two miles away from the asteroid Toutatis, officials saidThe Chinese space probe flew got around two miles away  from the asteroid Toutatis, officials said

At 2.7 miles long and 1.5 miles wide, astronomers say it is considered a potentially hazardous asteroid  because it  makes repeated passes by the Earth, about every four years.

In comparison, the asteroid that is thought to have destroyed the dinosaurs was approximately 10 km (6 miles) wide.

The flyby was the first time an unmanned spacecraft launched from Earth has taken such a close viewing of the asteroid, named after a Celtic god.

China followed in the footsteps of the U.S.,  the European Union and Japan by using an spacecraft to examine an asteroid.

Chang’e-2 came as close as 2 miles from Toutatis and took pictures of the asteroid at a relative velocity of 10.73km per second, the SASTIND said in a statement.

Sources with the administration told the Xinhua news agency that Chang’e-2 is continuing its deep space travel and will reach a distance of more than six million miles away from Earth in January next  year.

Chang’e-2 was launched on October 1, 2010,  from Xichang Satellite Launch Center and later orbited the moon in a more ambitious mission than its predecessor Chang’e-1.

Chang’e-2 left its lunar orbit for an  extended mission to the Earth-Sun L2 Lagrangian point on June 9, 2011, after  finishing its lunar objectives, which collected data for a complete lunar  map.

Here is a graphic showing the moment the spacecraft passed within two miles of the asteroid ToutatisHere is a graphic showing the moment the spacecraft  passed within two miles of the asteroid Toutatis
Chang'e-2 was launched on October 1, 2010, from Xichang Satellite Launch Center. Here is mission controlChang’e-2 was launched on October 1, 2010, from Xichang  Satellite Launch Center. Here is mission control
China claims it was the first to closely observe the asteroid Toutatis, although other space missions have pictured itChina claims it was the first to closely observe the  asteroid Toutatis, although other space missions have pictured it

The probe departed from L2 this year and  began its mission to Toutatis.

Since its blast-off, Chang’e 2 has become the first to capture full coverage map of the moon with a resolution of seven meters.

full coverage map of the moon

China claims it was also the first object ever to reach the L2 point directly from lunar orbit; and being the first to closely observe the asteroid Toutatis.

China early this year published a full coverage map of the moon, as well as several high-resolution images of the celestial body, captured by Chang’e-2. The resolution of the images is 17 times  greater than those taken by Chang’e-1.

‘The success of the extended missions also  embodies that China now possesses spacecraft capable of interplanetary flight,’  said Wu Weiren, chief designer of China’s lunar probe program.

Chang’e-2’s extended missions, which were conducted millions of miles away from Earth, have tested China’s spacecraft tracking and control network, including two newly built measuring and control  stations in the northwest Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region and northeast  Heilongjiang province, according to the SASTIND.

However, China still belongs to the second  tier in lunar probe internationally, said Ouyang Ziyuan, chief scientist for  China’s lunar orbiter project, adding that the U.S. and Russia are still leading  nations in this field.

Wu Weiren stressed the need for international cooperation in lunar probe mission, saying it is a shared responsibility of  world scientists to work together in lunar and deep space exploration for the  common good of the human race.

Attribution: Leon Watson, Daily Mail

A Population Crisis

The US Population Crisis Will Be Worse Than We Thought

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by: at Godfather Politics

There is a real population crisis. Too few people are being born.

Back in 2008, when demographers projected trends and predicted the make  future age breakdowns of the population in the United States in the near future,  they calculated a rather grim outlook.

But now  it seems that their expectations were too optimistic. Birthrates in 49 out  of 50 states have been flat-lined or declining. The only exception was North  Dakota (which, in raw numbers, is minute compared to the deficit in other  states).

birthrate“The recession has had a drastic impact on US  birth rates, and there are also fewer immigrants. Both these things have brought  down population projections substantially, according to the latest population  projection from the Census Bureau. This has far-reaching implications for  already unwieldy programs such as Social Security, where fewer and fewer workers  will be tasked with paying for a comfortable retirement for Baby Boomers.”

There are other causes as well.

“Mark Mather of the Population Reference Bureau,  a research outfit, notes that couples have been getting married ever later in  life; in 2011 the median age at first marriage was 28.7 and 26.5 for men and  women respectively, the highest on record. A rising share of women in their  early 40s are childless. In this respect America may bsocial-securitye following the experience  of Europe.”

It is amazing that we get admission like this from the government and even in  the mainstream news, and then it simply gets forgotten for a few years while we  hear massive amounts of propaganda about how bad it is that people all over the  world are having babies. This is especially insane since the United States, like  most other Western Nation-States, has taught citizens to depend on a pension  (Social Security) for retirement. How can that possibly work when the old  outnumber younger workers.

Worse, this sort of shift in customs is not easily reversible. Even if our  liberal culture would allow a policy that encouraged more children (which would  be a miracle by itself!), the evidence we have is that getting people to change  back to a previous generation’s form of behavior probably  won’t work. The government of Singapore got the idea it needed to Singapore birthratereduce  population, and started a program of propaganda, legal (perhaps even rewarded)  abortion, and financial and legal incentives to stop women from having as many  babies. They were so effective they realized they were destroying the country  and tried to reverse course with laws and incentives going the other way.

They didn’t work. As Jonathan Last wrote  in the Weekly Standard, “Despite all the incentives, all of the public  campaigns, all of the pleading, the average woman in Singapore can barely be  bothered to have a single child.”

As is true of its economy, the United States’ demographics look good compared  to Europe. But that is not worth feeling good about. We have depopulated  ourselves and we still won’t acknowledge how foolish we have been.