Friday, February 09, 2007
Lie detector meet brain scan

"The research breaks controversial new ground in scientists' ability to probe people's minds and eavesdrop on their thoughts, and raises serious ethical issues over how brain-reading technology may be used in the future."

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posted by MindSquash the Brain Worm @ 3:31 PM   1 comments
Sunday, February 04, 2007
How do you like your burger, from a cow, clone, or Petri dish?

Unfortunately, like the many genetically modified organisms (GMOs) which can now be found in just about every food or beverage product we American's consume (ex. corn, high fructose corn syrup, and soy), your desired preference is irrelevant. Chances are pretty slim that these new meat products will ever receive any type of special labeling, so how would you even know what kind you're eating? The future of meat looks delicious.

Test-tube meat: Science's next leap
"The idea may be stomach-turning, but the science for making pork in a petri dish already exists."

Cloneburgers won't come with warnings
"When the government approves food from cloned animals, expected in the next year, the Food and Drug Administration doesn't plan special labels."

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posted by MindSquash the Brain Worm @ 6:56 AM   0 comments
Sunday, January 14, 2007
Where does that come from?
An Unofficial History of Social Networking Websites: Part 1

Today's installment: MySpace Genesis



Persons of Interest
Chris DeWolfe: CEO of MySpace
Tom Anderson: President of MySpace
Brad Greenspan: former CEO and Chairman of eUniverse
Andrew Wiederhorn: CEO of Fog Cutter Capital Group

Companies of Interest
Xdrive Technologies, Inc.
MySpace.com
ResponseBase, LLC
Fog Cutter Capital Corp
eUniverse
Intermix Media
News Corp

1999
- Chris DeWolfe (currently the CEO of MySpace) and Tom Anderson (currently the president of MySpace) met while working together at Xdrive Technologies, Inc. (one of those internet storage sites which allow users free internet disk space in exchange for the right to sell your personal information to all bidders and the privilege to track and travel with you on all your wonderful interweb adventure...like a little super-secret sidekick...aka Spyware).

- There are said to be backups of some version of MySpace at the Internet Archive going back to at least 1999, but the current owners have blocked the Internet Archive from accessing the site. At this point MySpace (formerly freediskpace.com) is believed to have been operating as a 'free' internet storage site.

2001
- With the internet bubble burst of 2001, Chris DeWolfe, then Vice President of Sales and Marketing at Xdrive Technologies, Inc., is laid off along with his entire marketing department, including Tom Anderson. Tom, along with several former Xdrive employees responsible for the development of an email-based 'newsletter' called "Intelligent X" go on to join Chris DeWolfe's new internet startup ResponseBase, LLC.

- MySpace becomes ResponseBase, LLC and begins sending out its "Freebies, Deals, and Discounts" 'newsletters' to 'interested parties' including a list of nearly 8 million email addresses purchased from Xdrive Technologies, Inc.

2002
- ResponseBase, LLC is purchased by eUniverse (the official spyware and adware provider behind the peer-to-peer file sharing network Kazaa). At the time of purchase, ResponseBase has upwards of 30 million e-mail addresses at their disposal.

- Chris DeWolfe is named director of the Fog Cutter Capital Group, joining former high school classmate, later convicted felon, and CEO of Fog Cutter Capital Group Andrew Wiederhorn. Wiederhorn's wife, Tiffany, joins the Board of Directors for eUniverse.

2003
- According to MySpace CEO Chris DeWolf, "the general MySpace site" is launched. Recognizing the potential of the Friendster concept, a plan is hatched to quickly develop a site which will mimic the appealing features of Friendster, re-brand it as MySpace, and then out-market Friendster using eUniverse's resources. The very first version of MySpace, as we know it, is ready for launch within ten days. As part of the internal testing and promotion of the site, the company holds a contest to see who can sign up the most people. The hope being that if all 250 eUniverse employees bring on 10 friends, they will have a starting user base of 2,500.

- Brad Greenspan, the founder, CEO, and Chairman of eUniverse, is ousted by those who he refers to as "eUniverse executives who allied with venture capitalists to protect their own jobs". He remains the single largest individual shareholder.

2004
- eUniverse becomes Intermix Media.

- Armed with email addresses of over 50 million people and over 18 million monthly web users, Intermix Media continues to grow the MySpace concept by cannibalizing some of Intermix's valuable existing pay-to-play websites like CupidJunction.com.

2005
- Intermix Media is sued by the State of New York for installing malicious spyware over the internet. Just before the spyware investigation is announced, Intermix's primary investors sell $25 million worth of Intermix stock at roughly $8 per share. Former CEO Brad Greenspan accuses these primary investors of insider trading. When the attorney general announces the investigation, Intermix stock falls to $4 per share. Intermix Media settles out of court with the State of New York, agreeing to pay $7.5 million.

- DeWolfe leaves Fog Cutter Capital Group just before News Corp's purchase of Intermix Media.

- Intermix Media is purchased by Rupert Murdoch's News Corp for $580 million ($327 million the value attributed to MySpace alone).

- MySpace begins censoring links and references to competitive websites by disabling links to content hosted by YouTube. Eventually, under pressure from its users, MySpace eventually re-enables the YouTube links. As a result, MySpace reportedly turns off a MySpace blog forum where MySpace users are discussing the censorship issues.

2006
- MySpace begins banning links to Revver, another video swapping site, but relent, again as a result of user complaints. To this, Revver co-founder Oliver Luckett responds, "References to his service were banned because MySpace saw it as competition".

- Brad Greenspan launches a website and publishes "The Free MySpace Report" that calls for the SEC, the DoJ, and the U.S. Senate Committee on Finance to investigate News Corp’s acquisition of MySpace as "one of the largest merger and acquisition scandals in U.S. history". The report's main allegation is that News Corp. should have valued MySpace at $20 billion rather than $327 million, and had, in effect, defrauded Intermix shareholders through an unfair deal process.

- Brad Greenspan files a lawsuit in Federal District Court in Los Angeles thru his LiveUniverse company, accusing News Corp's MySpace of ramping up the practice of censoring Myspace users from using or even mentioning the name on their profile pages of products or websites that News Corp deems to be competitive or a source of information adverse to News Corp. The lawsuit makes use of the law in the United States to protect companies and consumers from the attempts by MySpace to illegally create a monopoly and extend its dominance of the internet social networking market. MySpace blocks usage of the products it deems competitive and goes a step further by effectively slapping gags on the mouths of the over 100 million MySpace users by replacing any attempts by users to type the url of sites like 'stickam.com' or 'vidilife.com' into a blog or profile with '.....' .

- On the CensorSpace.com website, a video link featuring Mike McGuire, a former MySpace investor expressing concerns about the News Corp's acquisition of MySpace is posted in order to demonstrate how MySpace is censoring third party video links. Anyone with a MySpace personal profile who attempts to link this video to their MySpace profile will be able to see how MySpace is censoring such third party video content links.

Glossary (from Wikipedia.com)
Internet Archive: a non-profit organization dedicated to maintaining an archive of Web and multimedia resources. Located at the Presidio in San Francisco, California, this archive includes "snapshots of the World Wide Web" (archived copies of pages, taken at various points in time), software, movies, books, and audio recordings (including recordings of live concerts from bands that allow it). To ensure the stability and endurance of the archive, a complete copy is also maintained at Bibliotheca Alexandrina. The Archive makes the collections available at no cost to researchers, historians, and scholars.

Spyware: computer software that collects personal information about users without their informed consent. Personal information is secretly recorded with a variety of techniques, including logging keystrokes, recording Internet web browsing history, and scanning documents on the computer's hard disk. Purposes range from overtly criminal (theft of passwords and financial details) to the merely annoying (recording Internet search history for targeted advertising, while consuming computer resources). Spyware may collect different types of information. Some variants attempt to track the websites a user visits and then send this information to an advertising agency. More malicious variants attempt to intercept passwords or credit card numbers as a user enters them into a web form or other applications.

Venture Capital: a type of private equity capital typically provided by outside investors for financing of new, growing or struggling businesses. Venture capital investments generally are high risk investments but offer the potential for above average returns and/or a percentage of ownership of the company. A venture capitalist (VC) is a person who makes such investments. A venture capital fund is a pooled investment vehicle (often a partnership) that primarily invests the financial capital of third-party investors in enterprises that are too risky for the standard capital markets or bank loans.

Sources:
ValleyWag
WikiNews
BusinessWeek
Wikipedia
FreeMySpace
WikiNews (2nd link)

Next Up: Facebook and the CIA connection

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posted by MindSquash the Brain Worm @ 5:44 AM   0 comments
Sunday, July 30, 2006
Witness McCain's Amazing Shriveling Cojones


I like some of you, used to hold out hope that there were at least a couple of relatively "good" Republicans. I find now that I was merely disillusioned.

If it wasn't already official, the Straight-Talk Maverick is officially dead, born is the new Wacko-Pandering John McCain. Hurray!!!

First it was Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee Arlen Specter and now it appears that they (the DeLay wing of the Republican party) have gotten to McCain as well. They probably threatened to hold back the nut job (Robertson, Falwell, Dobson) conservative support in his bid for the Presidency in '08, if his recent address to Falwell's New School graduating class is any indication.

Today we find out that McCain is essentially pulling his support for a bill which once bore his name. The McCain-Feingold bill was born of the problems surrounding convicted Republican Super Lobbyist Jack Abramoff, disgraced House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, convicted Republican Congressman Randall "Duke" Cunningham, embattled Republican Chairman of the House Appropriations Committee Jerry Lewis, and really the whole lot of 'em. The bill's intent was an attempt to clean up the way Republican's do politics and it is still desperately needed. Over the past decade, the Republican party (and in particular the hard-core conservative whack jobs) has essentially funded itself by selling off 'favors' - and out the American people - to it's friends in industry. Here's how it would work:

- Company "A", a lobbyist representing Company "A", or a lobbyist representing Company "A"'s industry, would meet with several of the Republican members (rarely though in some cases Industry-friendly Democrats as well) of a particular committee either to discuss legislation before it affecting Company "A"'s industry, to propose new legislation affecting Company "A"'s industry, or to guarantee Company "A" a contract discussed in a particular piece of legislation.

- Shortly thereafter, these Republican committee members would receive campaign contributions (often times at the $2000 max, sometimes illegally more - see Duke Cunningham and Katherine Harris) from Company "A" or employees of Company "A".

- Next, through some strange coincidence, Company "A" would find that, in lets say a new spending bill, they had received an earmark guaranteeing Company "A" dollars for an upcoming project, or that legislation which if passed - though protecting the people or ensuring a better way of life for the people - would cost Company "A" millions of dollars, was held up in committee never to see the floor to be voted on.

Now this isn't to suggest that this deviates from past practice, it doesn't in principal, what's new is how embolden this scum has become and how reckless we know find them with their use of earmarks and blatant rejection and authorization of certain legislation (see the "gift to the credit card companies" as the new Bankruptcy bill is referred, as just one example). Apparently to McCain this problem, which he acknowledged as a significant problem about a year ago when he co-sponsored the McCain-Feingold bill, is no longer a problem. I wonder what happened that could have possibly changed his mind. I guess like all significant problems it just went away.

It's too bad, he used to be a straight shooter, somebody we could count on to, for the most part, do what he felt was the right. But alas, McCain appears to have drank the Kool-Aid just like the rest of 'em.

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posted by MindSquash the Brain Worm @ 2:30 PM   0 comments
Sunday, May 14, 2006
Where Does Wilkes' Money Lead?
Well, much has happened in recent weeks on the "Duke" Cunningham / Brent Wilkes / Mitchell Wade scandal front, primarily related to the CIA business end. Related to that we discovered that the Chairman of the powerful House Appropriations committee Jerry Lewis (R-CA) is currently being quite carefully looked at. Indicted Republican super-lobbyist Jack Abramoff used to refer to Lewis' committee as the "favor factory" for all the earmarks he was able to finagle for his clients. This will go in several directions. Obviously the Cunningham direction, but also the Abramoff direction, and at least one other, that of the direction of former Republican congressman Bill Lowery (CA), who is considered to be Wilkes' mentor.

But where will Wilkes' trail lead?

From the AP:
Prosecutors allege Wilkes paid Cunningham, a former member of the House Appropriations Defense Subcommittee and the Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, more than $626,000 in bribes between 2000 and 2004 to win government contracts for his companies. But it's Wilkes' links to other lawmakers, lobbyists and government officials that has dramatically expanded the case.

"It's all about Wilkes paying people to get contracts,'' said Melanie Sloan, a former federal prosecutor in Washington and executive director of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington. "Anybody who Brent Wilkes has been making substantial contributions to, they're going to be looking at. They'd have to.''

Here is a list of members of congress who have received at least $10,000 from Wilkes and his wife Regina since 1995. The sums reflect money directed not only to the candidates campaign, but also the candidate's PAC. From OpenSecrets.com:

Tom DeLay (R-TX) = $25,000
Former House Majority Leader, and member of the House Appropriations Committee

Randall "Duke" Cunningham (R-CA) = $19,500
A former member of the House Appropriations Committee, the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, and the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Defense

Jerry Lewis (R-CA) = $18,000
Chairman of the House Appropriations Committee

John Doolittle (R-CA) = $15,000
Member of the House Appropriations Committee, and the House Resources Committee

Duncan Hunter (R-CA) = $13,200
Chairman of the House Armed Services Committee

Bob Livingston (R-NJ) = $10,000
Former Chairman of the House Appropriations Committee

Billy Tauzin (R-LA) = $10,000
Former Chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee



The top Wilkes-earner amongst Democrats was Charles S. Robb (D-VA) who "coincidentally" co-chaired the Robb-Silbermann Commission which was tasked by the White House to look into pre-Iraq War intelligence failures. One of the commissions reccomendations going forward was to invest heavily in the super-secret CIFA (Counter-intelligence Field Activity) which contracts out billions of dollars worth of work to companies like Wilkes' ADCS and fellow co-conspirator Mitchell Wade's MZM, Inc.

Robb received a total of $6,000 from Wilkes from 1995 to Wilkes' indictment last year. It is also interesting to note that a total of three employees from MZM (Mitchell Wade's former company) sat on the Robb-Silbermann Commission, including the current President and CEO (though the name of the company has been changed to Athena Innovative Solutions, Inc. since being purchased by Veritas Capital).


Fun Fact: With the exception of John Doolittle, who is quite likely one of the most corrupt members of congress, among the California congressmen listed above all hail from the Southern California area (San Diego/San Bernardino) including former congressman Bill Lowery who was essentially squeezed out of congress in 1992 when districts were redrawn following the the 1990 census and Cunningham moved in to "share" the district. Don't feel sad for him though, Bill has done quite well in the meantime as a Washington DC based lobbyist.
posted by MindSquash the Brain Worm @ 7:17 AM   0 comments
Sunday, April 30, 2006
2006 NFL Draft Day 2: Broncos on three. 1, 2, 3, Broncos!!!
Day 2

Well the Broncs started off somewhere they should have stayed far from, Wide Receiver. It is my contention that this position should be avoided in drafts like the plague. For Denver this is usually how it works: WR gets drafted, WR spends a couple years on the developmental squad, WR fades away. Unless that receiver is drafted in the first couple of rounds. Then this is the scenario: WR gets drafted, WR spends a couple years on the bench seeing limited action, WR fades away. But I suppose you can't always count on an undrafted free-agent who played QB in college to spend a year on the developmental squad and then tirelessly work to become the greatest WR your franchise has ever seen (Rod Smith).

Anyway, the Broncos grabbed a couple of former Safties (though they both did play WR to end their college careers) to develop into some future bench warmers and practice squad guys. Both are tall and fairly quick. Central Florida WR Brandon Marshall is 6'4", 230 lbs, and runs a 4.57/40 and may end up being a TE conversion since he is apparently nowhere near as fast as his 40 time would indicate. The other would be Akron WR Domenik Hixon who comes in at 6'2", 192 lbs, and runs a sub-4.4/40. Not a whole lot on him, other then that he is a former saftey. Like I said, these guys are most likely destined to flounder on the Broncos bench.

The teams third 4th round selection (though in terms of actual order, it would have been their 2nd 4th round pick) was the shortest. At 5'11", Louisville DE Elvis Dumervil appears to be packed full of upside, although he's apparently kinda lazy. I've always wanted an Elvis, now we've got one.

The Broncos finished off the draft by selecting a couple of Offensive Lineman. These guys will spend a couple of years in development before at least one of them becomes a perennial all-pro. Will it be North Dakota G Chris Kuper or Outland Trophy winner Minnesota C Greg Eslinger?

Hopefully both.

posted by MindSquash the Brain Worm @ 12:52 PM   0 comments
2006 NFL Draft Day 1: Broncos on three. 1, 2, 3, Broncos!!!
Day 1

Shannahan stunned just about everybody in football land by trading up (yet even further) to take Vanderbilt QB Jay Cutler at the number 11 pick. Many believed that Shannahan was trying to position himself for Maryland TE Vernon Davis (#6-SF), but Shannahan rarely drops hints and typically keeps his cards pretty close to his chest, so Cutler was probably the guy he had targeted when he started making all these moves which eventually led to securing the no. 11 pick. I'm not sure how I feel about this. I'm a pretty big supporter of Plummer, who continues to improve under a competent coaching staff (unlike what he was forced to deal with in AZ), and at the age of 31, has plenty of football still left in him. Last year his ints were down drastically, he led his team to the AFC Championship game, where they were handily defeated by a superior Pittsburgh team (let me officially go on record as stating that Roethlisberger is all man as evidenced by the ease at which he picked us apart in just his 2nd year as a pro), and he was selected to the Pro Bowl. There are only two ways he could have possibly topped what he did last year. One, win the league MVP. Two, win the Super Bowl. Now, of course, I trust Lord Shannahan wholey (except when it comes to drafting WRs), but this is quite a gamble considering what talent was bypassed in exchange for a pick of choice rather then need, not to mention the investment in how much Cutler's going to count against the cap in years to come. Three years from now, the Broncos will not be able to afford to keep both Cutler and Plummer, and a no. 11 pick will no doubt be given the opportunity to start several games before being sent off somewhere. So unless Cutler gets those starts filling in for an injured Jake Plummer, it's quite likely that Plummer's days here in Denver are numbered. Let's hope Cutler develops into the talent which Shannahan believes he is. If he does not, Shannahan should either be restricted from selecting in the first round from here on out, or limit the options for that first pick to Linebackers and D-line (where he is stellar).

In the second round, Shannahan grabbed Western Michigan TE Tony Sheffler. This definately addresses a need. With Sharpe behind a desk on Sundays, Putzier seeking greener pastures, and the nearly fatal car accident involving Dwayne Carswell, we severly need a pass catching TE. At 6-5, 255, with 4.6 speed, I like the direction. It would have been cool to get CU grad Joe Klopfenstein, but he went about 15 spots before the Broncs had their 2nd pick.

Then there was the trade. Javon Walker for a second round pick. What are you kidding me!?! What a freakin' steal. A couple of years ago (prior to the ACL injury) this was a Pro Bowler and the most dangerous deep threat in the NFL (and I include Holt in that), and you snatch him up for one 2? All the guy does is catch TDs. Lots of TDs. Long TDs. This is even better then the Bailey trade. Hail Lord Shannahan!

I tell you what kids, with the signing of Plummer a few years ago, the Bailey trade a couple of years ago, the acquisition of the Browns D-line last year, and now this Walker robbery, Shannahan has been on fire in the off-season.

posted by MindSquash the Brain Worm @ 10:54 AM   0 comments
Sunday, April 16, 2006
Sen Coburn: Expect Seven Legislators to be Off to Jail
Fresh out of Oklahoma, Sen Tom Coburn told a town hall meeting yesterday (via TPM) that he expects 7 lawmakers to end up in jail as a result of the Jack Abramoff and other congressional scandals. Six from the House and one Senator. The Senator is a no-brainner (not intended to be a rip on Mr. Burns' limited mental capacity), Sen Conrad Burns (R-MT), but lets see if we can figure out who the six House members are that he speaks of, shall we?


First, the obvious ones:

1.) Randall "Duke" Cunningham (R-CA)
he's already been sentenced for the over $2.4 million in cash and prizes that he banked from defense contractors, so this isn't even a guess, it's an observation (come on No Whammies, No Whammies, No Whammies......STOP! Dammit!)

2.) Tom DeLay (R-TX)
already indicted on charges somewhat unrelated to Abramoff, however 2 of his former aides (Michael Scanlon and Tony Rudy) have flipped for the prosecution in the indicted lobbyists' complex of scandal and a third, Ed Buckham, is expected to flip shortly (remember, if DeLay goes to jail, the terrorists win)

Next, the only-slightly-less-obvious, except to those of us who have been following this quite closely:

3.) John Doolittle (R-CA)
this guy's in it up to his frickin' earholes (so too is his lovely wife, Julie, who receives 15% of all contributions to her husband and his PAC), not only is he involved with Jack Abramoff, but he's got some ties to Duke Cunningham co-conpirators Mitchell Wade of MZM, Inc. and Brent Wilkes of ADCS, Inc. as well (a 'slam dunk' as Medal of Freedom recipient George Tenet would say)

4.) Robert Ney (R-OH)
he's been implicated in three seperate indictments (Scanlon, Abramoff, and Rudy) and a former aide, Neil Volz, is well within the prosecutor's sites (say it! say it! "Dead Man Walking")

5.) William Jefferson (D-LA)
his problems are unrelated to either Jack Abramoff or "Duke" Cunningham, he's more of an independent freelance crook in that regard as he's got his own connects to corruption (could've been a Republican if he just wasn't quite so, oh what's the word, black)

And finally, wild speculation for the 6th:

6?) Katherine Harris (R-FL) or Virgil Goode Jr. (R-VA)
both of these members of congress accepted hefty sums of money (some illegal) from Cunningham co-conpirator Mitchell Wade and his company MZM, Inc. (over $100K to Goode since 1995, and $50K to Harris since 2001) , and we know that Cunningham was wearing a wire for the feds right about the time he was indicted (i'd be willing to bet that Harris is the less careful of the two members, though if you remove Jefferson from the list, there's room for 'em both)

6?) J.D. Hayworth (R-AZ)
one of the slickest politicians on the market today, so I'd say it's unlikely that he goes down, but he was the biggest winner in the Jack Abramoff sweepstakes collecting over $90K (to him and his TEAM PAC) from Abramoff and Abramoff's clients from 1999-2004

6?) Ernest Istook (R-OK)
Mr. Istook is from the same state that Sen Coburn represents so Coburn may have some inside info here, but as far as I can tell, what Ernie's done pales in comparison to some others in congress, so I'd be suprised (a shot in the dark)

Any other guesses for a possible sixth? Or any other interpretations of what Coburn meant when he said 'Abramoff and others'?

[UPDATE 4/17/06 6:38a] Okay, after conversing with some folks around the internets and some further reflection, I've got a couple of additions to the list which were previously overlooked:

6?) Richard Pombo (R-CA)
yet another dirty California Republican with his hands in many pots

6?) Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA)
and another dirty California Republican, goodness gracious

There are more candidates to select from, but these are probably the ones most likely to be headed off to the big house.

My revised list looks like this:
S1.) Burns (R-MT)
H1.) Cunningham (R-CA)
H2.) DeLay (R-TX)
H3.) Doolittle (R-CA)
H4.) Ney (R-OH)
H5.) Jefferson (D-LA)
H6.) Pombo (R-CA)

We shall see.

[CORRECTION 4/22/06 2:08p] I previously had Jefferson listed as a Republican here in the updated list. Jefferson is in fact a Democrat.
posted by MindSquash the Brain Worm @ 6:57 AM   0 comments

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