Brown publishes first national security strategy

Britain faces an unprecedented array of threats, from ambitious terrorist plots and cyber-spies stealing national secrets to diseases and flooding, the country’s first security strategy has concluded.Gordon Brown delivered a stark warning over the complexity and scale of the risks faced by Britain, saying that nowhere was safe from the impact of terrorism, war, instability, climate change, poverty, mass population movements and international crime.

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Israel, U.S. commanders test ‘extreme’ scenarios in joint drill

The Israel Defense Forces and the United States European Command (EUCOM) completed a military headquarters training exercise in Tel Aviv on Wednesday night.The exercise was part of Juniper Falcon, an ongoing series of training exercises conducted by the U.S. Air Force in Europe and Israel.

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Study finds 98% of child drug trials lack independent safety checks

· Research highlights adverse effects of tests
· ‘Surprise’ at lack of monitoring committees

Only a tiny minority of drug trials on children have an independent safety monitoring committee to pick up potentially dangerous side-effects, a study has revealed.Researchers from Nottingham University found that under 2% of the 739 international drug trials published between 1996 and 2002 had such committees of independent experts who would scrutinise data and warn, if necessary, that it was not safe to carry on.

Among the 2%, six trials had to be stopped early because of toxic effects on the child patients.

“We were very surprised by the low level of trials that had independent safety monitoring committees and are urging pharmaceutical companies to include these in all future trials involving children,” said Dr Helen Sammons, associate professor of child health at Nottingham and lead author of the paper, published in the child health journal Acta Paediatrica.

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Investment banks are borrowing from Fed

NEW YORK (Reuters) – Investment banks Goldman Sachs Group Inc , Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc and Morgan Stanley are testing a new program that allows investment banks to borrow directly from the Federal Reserve, according to people at the banks.In a bid to stabilize jittery markets, the Fed said on Sunday that it would allow investment banks to borrow from its discount window using a wide range of investment-grade securities as collateral.

(Hey, hey lets spend all our money and then just ask Uncle Bernanke for a few more billions.
Come on guys lets do that. Uncle Bernanke can print a few billions for us if we are broke.
Good to have him around. Life is so good. – The Infinite Unknown
)

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Indonesia: Rampant bird flu raises pandemic risks

JAKARTA, Indonesia (AP) – Efforts to contain bird flu are failing in Indonesia, increasing the possibility that the virus may mutate into a deadlier form, the leading U.N. veterinary health body warned.The H5N1 bird flu virus is entrenched in 31 of the country’s 33 provinces and will cause more human deaths, the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization said in a statement released late Tuesday.

“I am deeply concerned that the high level of virus circulation in birds in the country could create conditions for the virus to mutate and to finally cause a human influenza pandemic,” FAO Chief Veterinary Officer Joseph Domenech said.

Indonesia “has not succeeded in containing the spread of avian influenza,” Domenech said, adding that there must be “major human and financial resources, stronger political commitment and strengthened coordination.”

The H5N1 virus has killed at least 236 people in a dozen countries worldwide since it began ravaging poultry stocks across Asia in 2003. It has been found in birds in more than 60 countries, but Indonesia has recorded 105 deaths, almost half the global tally, according to the World Health Organization.

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Pentagon’s Mind-Reading Computers Replicate

Augmented Cognition,” the Darpa program to build computer interfaces that adapt to their users’ brains, has officially run its course.  But efforts to build mind-reading PCs continue throughout the military establishment.  Augmented Cognition relies on the idea that people have more than one kind of working memory, and more than one kind of attention; there are separate slots in the mind for things written, things heard and things seen. By monitoring how taxed those areas of the brain are, it should be possible to change a computer’s display to compensate. If people are getting too much visual information, send them a text alert. If they reading too much at once, present some of the data visually — in a chart or map.

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The Air Force has tapped Design Interactive, Inc. to build a battlefield command-and-control system that works along these lines.  It’s supposed to use EEG and eye-tracking monitors to “assess the operator’s actual cognitive state.”  That way, the system can play around with its “information display” to “avoid cognitive bottlenecks before they occur.”  And that’s just the start.  Eventually, the company wants the program to “anticipate future mission state and operator functional state ahead of time,” too.

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Pentagon’s Cyborg Insects All Grown Up

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For years, now, Pentagon-backed researchers have been trying to create cyborg insects that could serve as living, remote-controlled spies. The problem is, those modified bugs never survived long enough to be useful. Now, Georgia Tech professor Robert Michelson says he’s managed to get the bug ‘borgs to live into adulthood.

DARPA’s Hi-MEMS program aims to implant place micro-mechanical systems [MEMS] “inside the insects during the early stages of metamorphosis,” the agency explains. That way, as the bugs get older, tissues grow around — and fuse together with — the tiny machines.

Flight International reports that, in his latest work, Michelson truncated a Manduca moth’s thorax “to reduce its mass.” Then he put in “a MEMS component… where abdominal segments would have been, during the larval stage.”

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States Hand Over the DNA of Newborns to DHS

Unknown to most new parents, or those who became parents in the last ten or so years, DNA of newborns has been harvested, tested, stored and experimented with by all 50 states. And all 50 states are now routinely providing these results to the Homeland Security Department.

No doubt we can all see the benefits in testing for genetic disorders or genetic traits and tendencies that could be more adequately dealt with, in some cases actually deterring the onset of life-time illness, but that seems not to be the real thrust of these programs. It may have been initially….but not now.

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House OK’s bill limiting use of radio tracking devices

CONCORD – Privacy advocates overturned a Commerce Committee vote and won House approval of a bill yesterday limiting the use of radio tracking devices in consumer products.HB 686 bans the implantation of RFID (radio frequency identification ) chips in humans and requires a notification label on any product that contains them. It also bars the state from using the devices in drivers licenses, license plates and E-ZPass transponders.

RFID’s are readable from a distance of up to 20 yards, and are currently used mostly for inventory. Those who wanted strict limits on their use said the technology can be used to link consumer products to the individuals who buy them.

“It’s no one’s business where New Hampshire people go or don’t go. Protect your inventory, Mr. Retailer, but don’t follow the customers,” Rep. Neal Kurk, R-Weare, said.

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Venezuela’s state-run oil company begins demanding payment in euros as US dollar weakens

CARACAS, Venezuela: Venezuela’s state-run oil firm is starting to demand payment in euros a measure aimed at protecting revenues from a weakening U.S. dollar, Venezuela’s oil minister said Tuesday.

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