Making Unique Observations in a Very Cluttered World

Tuesday, 8 January 2013

US Mint Sells Massive 3.9 Million Ounces Of Silver Coins In First Few Days Of 2013, Triple December's Total -

US Mint Sells Massive 3.9 Million Ounces Of Silver Coins In First Few Days Of 2013, Triple December's Total - 

Just a few days ago we noted the massive surge in physical gold coin sales from the US Mint, with silver surprisingly lagging. Today, we see an even more dramatic surge in the sales of physical Silver Coins in the first week of January, which in a few short days hit 3.94 million oz, already surpassing the entire December total of 1.64 million ounces. It seems that the paper-to-physical currency rotation is gathering pace even as, or thanks to the trillion dollar platinum coin mercifully ending its 15 minutes of page-clicking, ad revenue infamy. In the secondary market, inventories (via APMEX) of Silver coins remain negligible, if any: American Eagles are available as follows: 2013s may be available 1/18, maybe not; 2012 - 0; 2011 - 0; 2010 - 0; 2009 - 0; 2008 - 0; 2007 - 0; 2006 - 0; 2005 - 0; 2004 - 0; 2003 - 0; 2002 - 0. They do have some 2000, 2001 and 2007, all about $5-6 over spot! It seems ever more people are getting nervous about the impact of currency wars on their "money"... or perhaps just want to make Silver shirts to attract the females?


U.S. Congress less popular than Root Canals, Cockroaches... - and more popular than EBOLA VIRUS, GONORRHEA... -

U.S. Congress less popular than Root Canals, Cockroaches... - and more popular than EBOLA VIRUS, GONORRHEA... - 

new poll shows that Congress is less popular than carnies, root canals and colonoscopies, but more popular than the ebola virus, meth labs and gonorrhea.
Those findings are in a Public Policy Polling (PPP) survey released Tuesday showed that 9 percent of the respondents held a favorable opinion of Congress, while 85 percent held an unfavorable view.
"We all know Congress is unpopular," said Dean Debnam, PPP president. "But the fact that voters like it even less than cockroaches, lice and Genghis Kahn real shows how far its esteem has fallen with the American public over the last few weeks."
On the bright side, Congress came out of the survey in higher standing than North Korea, the Kardashian family, and actress Lindsay Lohan, as well as Cuba's Fidel Castro and former Sen. John Edwards.
On the not-so-bright side, it lost out in the popularity contest to the rock band Nickelback, real estate magnate Donald Trump, NFL replacement refs and France.
The survey of 830 voters was performed between Jan. 3 and Jan. 6 and has a 3.4 percent margin of error. The results of the poll can be found here.

Read more: http://www.washingtontimes.com/blog/inside-politics/2013/jan/8/poll-congress-less-popular-root-canal-cockroaches/

Unwitting Sensors: How DoD is Exploiting Social Media -

Unwitting Sensors: How DoD is Exploiting Social Media - 

Consider a selection of tweets posted one day last month. Some were humorous, like those of Steven Colbert (@StephenAtHome) hawking his latest book: “For a free sample of my writing,” he quipped, “see this tweet.” Tiffany’s (@TiffanyAndCo) tweeted a costly tip: “Layer silver and gold pendants for an eclectic look.”

And supporters of Somalia’s al-Shabaab militant group used the Twitter handle @HSMPress to boast of three blasts in Mogadishu: “The third explosion occurred at the city’s former police station where the apostate militia were preparing to occupy.”

On any given day, 400 million short messages are typed or thumbed onto Twitter, and that’s just a fraction of the total communications sent through a social media universe that includes Facebook, Google+, chat rooms, bulletin boards and many other electronic forums. The messages are as diverse as all the conversations in the world, at least those parts where there are computers, smartphones and iPads. And the effort to extract important data points and patterns from this digital cacophony has become one of the biggest growth areas in intelligence.

“The face of ISR has changed,” says Joshua Hartman, a former senior Defense Department intelligence official who is CEO of Horizon Strategies Group. “Open-source and crowd-sourcing information is a critical component of ISR.”

The potential products of such tools are endless, and reach from the tactical and immediate to the strategic and global — not just to find out, say, who is “following” or retweeting the al-Shabaab postings, but to be able to query where anti-government sentiment may be clustered in Pakistan or what expat Iranians living in Dubai feel about the ayatollahs back home and at what time of day they feel that way. Is the riot in Cairo about food prices or about a video offensive to the prophet Mohammed?

Barry Costa, a senior program engineer at the federally funded MITRE Corp., recently coined the term “population-centric intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance.” It’s gradually replacing another term MITRE came up with: “social radar.”

Costa says it’s not metaphor: “Sonar was invented back in the 1900s to let us see through the water. Radar was to see through the air. Infrared lets us see through the dark. And social radar or population-centric technologies let us see the human environment.”

Along the way, though, there is some unease, in privacy rights groups and even social media proponents, about the intelligence community exploiting these rich new streams of data: They may be open source, but the public communications of American citizens are all swept into the wash, sifted through and monitored by the technology.

Anyone can sign up for Twitter and follow a dozen or a hundred or a thousand fellow tweeters, but for a comprehensive analysis of all 400 million daily messages, you need to pay. What Twitter Inc. calls “the full Twitter Firehose” is a specific product that includes everything except private messages, and what the company calls “protected” tweets. Gold to marketing and brand analysts, the Firehose contains a stew of confessions, tastes and passions, a directory of people and their links to each other and what they are thinking about at any moment.

Among the small group of companies that buys the Firehose is Attensity Corp., a Palo Alto, Calif., company that sucks in Twitter and many other social media and then markets a vast amount of data and analysis.

“We have a massive-scale social media feed,” said Michelle de Haaff, Attensity’s vice president of strategy and corporate development. “150 million sources across 32 languages, and we sell the feed along with the analytics. And we sell that to the government and to commercial entities.”

Twitter’s Firehose is one of the stars in the Attensity showcase. “We have a contract directly with Twitter,” de Haaff said. “We get everything across every language. We are pulling the whole thing. We are able to sense, understand and find signals: sentiments, hot spots, trends, actions, intent.”

In countries where people use Twitter, she said, the company culls rich information.

“In Libya,” she said, “we were able to track everything: where the arms were, where the rebels were moving. We had on a map where everything was going.”

Among Attensity’s early and crucial investors was In-Q-Tel, the Central Intelligence Agency venture capital fund that backs technologies of potential use to intelligence agencies.

From the beginning, the CIA was not just an investor but also a customer.

“As part of their investment, the CIA gets the software. They get a license,” de Haaff said. “I can confirm they are still a customer, but that’s all I can do.”

Most of Attensity’s government sales are handled through a “reseller” called Inttensity, a social-media-analysis company based in Catonsville, Md. A paper on Inttensity’s website underlines the company’s “pre-negotiated access to the Twitter Firehose” and similar agreements “with social media aggregators for content to discussion boards, forums and blogs from around the world.”

In 2010, Inttensity won a Defense Intelligence Agency contract to provide a combination of the Inxight ThingFinder and Attensity Server text-extraction systems. (Inxight is another analytical system funded by the CIA’s investment arm.) That contract didn’t mention social media.

But two years later, the State Department awarded a $142,000 contract to Inttensity for a “social media command center,” according to the Federal Procurement Data System.

A source close to Inttensity said it’s an effort “to better understand foreign populations and what they really think.”

Last year, the company hosted a “federal social media summit” at the Pentagon City Ritz Carlton in Arlington, Va. Federal officials from various agencies packed the ballroom. One of the speakers was 30-year-old Dan Zarrella, a kind of social media scientist who had focused on commercial exploitation of the technology. He’d never realized the military and intelligence agencies were pursuing it as well.

“The thing that surprised me at the Inttensity conference is how much interest the federal government has and how far along they are in recognizing the power that’s there,” he said.

One of the efforts on this front has been driven by the Office of Naval Research, which doesn’t just fund MITRE’s social media research, but also coordinated a Lockheed Martin program to predict crises using traditional open-source media. An official from the office was a keynote speaker at the Inttensity event.

A Pentagon spokeswoman, U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Melinda Morgan, declined an interview but emailed a response to questions about population-centric ISR. She said traditional ISR could detect a crowd’s activities but not a crowd’s intent.

“Population-centric ISR consists of technologies and techniques that allow us to see and understand the human environment,” she said. “Population ISR gives us a capability to determine narratives that drive behavior and allows us to more effectively communicate with audiences with whom we would engage. Population-centric ISR gives us a global and persistent indications and warnings capability that complements and enhances conventional sensors.”

At the GEOINT 2012 Symposium in Orlando, Fla., in October, several of the exhibitors were hawking social-media analytic products.

Among the companies was Aptima, which developed E-Meme software under a $750,000 contract with ONR’s Human Social, Cultural and Behavior Modeling Program. E-Meme stands for “Epidemiological Modeling of the Evolution of Messages,” and Aptima says it tracks the spread of ideas on the Internet in various countries. There’s an intriguing twist: “We are using the metaphor of it spreading like a disease,” explained Robert McCormack, associate director of Aptima’s analytics, modeling and simulation division. “We are looking at dynamics of transmission of ideas. For it to spread from person to person, you have to have some kind of contact between the people. And then you have to actually transmit the disease. Same thing here: The idea has to be transmitted.”

McCormack said the company doesn’t use Twitter at this point, just blogs and news sites. And he said it’s all still in the development stage.

Another company hoping to become a player in this realm is Booz Allen Hamilton, whose website claims the firm offers “the most powerful and sophisticated tools for extracting value from Social Data.”

At GEOINT, a program manager who asked that his name not be used showed off OSIRIS, one of the company’s social-media analysis programs, to display tweets published over the last 24 hours in Syria. “I look right here,” he said, using the mouse to move his cursor, “and we see a large spike take place. I can drill down into it and actually see the individual Twitter messages that took place.”

One tweet on the screen says “Smoke rising.” Another, heavily retweeted, message says, “three families have been wiped out in Hama, 54 people killed.”

Susan Kalweit, a principal in Booz Allen’s geospatial business, said the Twitter Firehose — which her company accesses via contract with DataSift, one of the big warehousers of this type of data in the commercial world — presents unique challenges. Much of Twitter’s content isn’t thumbed in by people, but generated by machines. And while U.S. tweets contain geographic location in their metadata, many foreign tweets don’t.

Kalweit said OSIRIS compensates for the lack of geographic metadata with software that recognizes place names and other hints about location, then attaches a latitude and longitude to the message. “We’ve been using Metacarta,” a geointelligence software system, “which we found is pretty good at getting definitely to the city level and often below the city level in some of these — not tourist — locations. So that’s really helpful when people talk about the city or about neighborhoods.”

Kalweit said social media presents new methods of obtaining intelligence from people who may see or comment on events in real time.

“I think that there is a construct of [the] human being as a sensor,” she said. “Human beings now are ground sensors.”

For all of its value to intelligence agencies, population-centric ISR raises privacy concerns. There is no “Firehose minus tweets from U.S. citizens.” Public tweets, no less than Internet postings of all sorts, are caught in the wash and monitored.

MITRE’s Costa points out that this is all public data that people posted to open forums. “We take active steps to ensure the privacy of the data. We buy publicly available data from public sellers,” he said. “When you look at Twitter, it is not one tweet that you care about; it is about 100 million tweets. It’s very rare you get to the individual Twitter level.”

Tweets, except the ones users have marked as private, are open for all to see. Indeed, the Library of Congress has said it plans to archive all public tweets for historians.

CIA spokesman Todd Ebitz emailed that “The CIA focuses exclusively on the collection of foreign intelligence. In fulfilling this mission, the agency is vigilant about the protection of American citizens’ civil liberties and privacy rights.”

And the Pentagon’s Morgan emailed that “all research is conducted strictly within the privacy guidelines set by law and DoD policies.” She added that the focus of population-centric ISR is overseas and that the programs “are designed to support Combatant Commanders with areas of operation outside the U.S.”

But even if each tweet and bulletin board posting is for public consumption, no more private then a scrawled message on a bathroom wall or graffiti on a bridge, there is unease about systematic government monitoring.

Rainey Reitman of the Electronic Frontier Foundation said that technically, it is indeed all legal, but she emphasized that people don’t really understand how their random thoughts, disclosures or opinions on social media may be exploited.

“I think people don’t realize when they sign up for these sites that the government is going to be routinely monitoring and sifting through this data,” she said.

“If Coca-Cola is reading all my tweets,” Dan Zarrella points out, “it’s not as scary as if the DOD is reading all my tweets, right?”


Australia adds new color to temperature maps as heat soars... -

Australia adds new color to temperature maps as heat soars... - 

Australian Bureau of Metereology temperature map

Australian Bureau of Metereology temperature map - with a new colour for 52-54C. Photograph: BOM. Click the image to see a larger version

Forecast temperatures are so extreme that the Bureau of Meteorology has had to add a new colour to its scale. It is a sign of things to come

Global warming is turning the volume of extreme weather up, Spinal-Tap-style, to 11. The temperature forecast for next Monday by Australia's Bureau of Meteorology is so unprecedented - over 52C - that it has had to add a new colour to the top of its scale, a suitably incandescent purple.

Australia's highest recorded temperature is 50.7C, set in January 1960 in South Australia. The record for the hottest average day across the nation was set on Monday, at 40.3C, exceeding a 40-year-old record. "What makes this event quite exceptional is how widespread and intense it's been," said Aaron Coutts-Smith, the weather bureau's climate services manager. "We have been breaking records across all states and territories in Australia over the course of the event so far." Wildfires are raging across New South Wales and Tasmania.

Australia's prime minister Julia Gillard said: "Whilst you would not put any one event down to climate change, weather doesn't work like that, we do know over time that as a result of climate change we are going to see more extreme weather events and conditions."



Children glued to TV and computer screens at increased risk of cancer and obesity -

Children glued to TV and computer screens at increased risk of cancer and obesity - 

Doctors warn EVEN if kids get daily exercise, long hours in front of a screen puts them at a much higher risk of getting cancer in adult life

With the sort of technology now available, children are spending more time in front of a screen than ever.

And experts warn that even if youngsters get daily exercise, the increasing hours sat watching TV, playing computer games or surfing the internet could put them at a much higher risk of getting cancer in adult life.

Doctors fear long spells of inactivity while glued to a screen may lead to childhood obesity and the associated health dangers.

And they are now calling on parents to restrict the amount of time kids watch telly or play computer games to less than two hours a day and delay the age they start allowing toddlers to become viewers.

Experts have long been concerned about inactive children and obesity, but the World Cancer Research Fund has issued a fresh warning over kids who exercise and still turn to games and the TV.

The charity’s head of health information Kate Mendoza said: “People often assume sedentary behaviour is the same as physical inactivity.

"But someone can do the ­recommended amount of daily physical activity and still be sedentary.

"Children may well get plenty of physical activity at school through sports or playing but if they spend a lot of time sitting down at home they might develop habits which could increase their risk of diseases like cancer, heart disease and diabetes in the future.

"By reducing their sedentary time children will lessen their chances of becoming obese.”

Read more -