Making Unique Observations in a Very Cluttered World

Monday, 16 December 2013

61.5 percent of all website traffic now comes from non-human visitors -

61.5 percent of all website traffic now comes from non-human visitors - 

The internet is a sprawling and mysterious place, as anyone who's spent two minutes on Google — and certainly anyone involved with web publishing — can attest. It's a thrumming hive filled with vast amounts of data, knowledge, commerce, and media and an equally vast number of gloriously bizarre arguments, grumpy cats, and adorable sloths. Also, bots. Lots and lots of bots.

Bots are software applications built to perform automated tasks. They can be valuable, as with search engines crawling and indexing websites. They can also be malicious, like those used by hackers and spammers.

A report released recently by Incapsula, a cloud-based web-security service, found that 61.5 percent of all website traffic now comes from these non-human visitors. If you're reading this and you're human, you're apparently in the minority.

Incapsula based its findings on 1.45 billion bot visits, over a 90-day period, to 20,000 sites on its own network. That network may not be perfectly representative of the entire web, but it offers a sense of who, or what, is out there.

Bot traffic is up by a fifth from last year, according to Incapsula. Most of that growth comes from "good bots," like those from analytics companies and search engines that are crawling sites more frequently. Legitimate bot activity has jumped 55 percent, which Incapsula suggests is largely the result of new online services and increased crawling by search engines seeking the timeliest results. Those search engines and other good bots account for 31 percent of web traffic.

Another 30.5 percent of traffic comes from malicious bots, including "scrapers," which look to steal content or email addresses; "hacking tools"; a shrinking pool of spammers; and a growing group of what Incapsula calls "other impersonators" and describes as "unclassified bots with hostile intentions."

Malicious bot traffic as a percentage of overall traffic hasn't changed, but the specific kinds of bot activity has shifted, Incapsula said. Spam bots have decreased from two percent of traffic in 2012 to 0.5 percent this year. "The most plausible explanation for this steep decrease is Google's anti-spam campaign," the report said.

Activity by more sophisticated impersonator bots — "the tools of top-tier hackers who are proficient enough to create their own malware" — has risen, though. These impersonators are usually custom-made for a specific activity that involves penetrating a website's security, according to the report. "The 8 percent increase in the number of such bots highlights the increased activity of such hackers," Incapsula said, "as well as the rise in targeted cyber-attacks."

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GM's CEO rejects repaying Feds for bailout losses - says the government took a risk like any other investor -

GM's CEO rejects repaying Feds for bailout losses - says the government took a risk like any other investor - 

The General Motors bailout may have cost the government $10 billion, but GM CEO Dan Akerson rejects any suggestion that the company should compensate for the losses.

He says Treasury officials took the same risk assumed by anyone who purchases stock.

"I would not accept the premise that this was a bad deal," Akerson said during a question-and-answer session at the National Press Club in Washington. He also said the government's $49.5-billion aid to GM helped save billions of dollars in tax revenue and government social services.

Akerson spoke in the wake of Treasury announcement last week that it sold its last shares in GM and Akerson's decision to retire in January. The automaker's board of directors named Mary Barra, the company's first CEO, to succeed Akerson.

The speech also came as GM announced it is investing $1.2-billion in five U.S. plants, which Akerson said is a recognition that after 15 straight profitable quarters the automaker can't rest on its success.

"We are in a capital-intensive business that demands steady and significant investment," Akerson said, as he discussed many of the changes that had to be made to the automaker's corporate structure after exiting a "quick rinse" bankruptcy in 2009.

Akerson said it fell to him and his team to restore GM's good name, transform operations and "put quality and the customer back at the center" of the company's decision-making, a process he called "the biggest cultural change we've been able to infuse into the new GM."

He said GM's bloated and overly complex operations have been streamlined, products are better and, with the government's help, a crushing debt was reduced.

"We've been trying to fix this airplane while in the air," he said.

Akerson said that GM repaid all the debt issued by the government beginning in December 2008 when George W. Bush was still president and extending into the first year of Barack Obama's presidency. He added that it was the Treasury's decision -- though one he clearly supported -- to take an ownership stake in the form of company shares.

Asked whether GM should pay the difference between the amount the government provided the company and the return from the sale of the shares, Akerson said the "die was cast" by Treasury when it decided to take shares. For GM to make up for any shortfall could result in lawsuits from other shareholders. Those investors expect the company to resume paying a dividend for the first time since it exited bankruptcy in July 2009.

He also defended the deal as one that saved millions of jobs, saying "net-net, it was a positive for the U.S. economy."

Now, it will be up to Barra to continue GM's success. Monday's news that the automaker is upgrading and expanding facdtories in Flint, Detroit-Hamtramck and Romulus; as well as others in Toledo, Ohio, and Bedford, Ind., was meant to demonstrate that momentum.

"This will bring the four-year total of investments in our U.S. plants to more than $10 billion," Akerson said. He said about 7,500 people already work in those five plants and today's announcements will create or retain more than 1,100 jobs.


Kidney 'grown from stem cells'... -

Kidney 'grown from stem cells'... - 

Australian scientists grow world's first kidney from stem cells in a breakthrough that could alleviate the demand for organ transplants

Scientists in Australia have grown the world's first kidney from stem cells – a tiny organ which could eventually help to reduce the wait for transplants.
The breakthrough, published in the journal Nature Cell Biology, followed years of research and involved the transformation of human skin cells into an organoid – a functioning "mini-kidney" with a width of only a few millimetres.
Scientists are hoping to increase the size of future kidneys and believe the resulting organs will boost research and allow cheaper, faster testing of drugs. Within the next three to five years, the artificial organs could be used to allow doctors to repair damaged kidneys within the body, rather than letting diseases develop before proceeding with a transplant.
"This is the first time anybody has managed to direct stem cells into the functional units of a kidney," Professor Brandon Wainwright, from the University of Queensland, told The Telegraph.
"It is an amazing process – it is like a Lego building that puts itself together."

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Doctors Sew Severed Hand to Man's Ankle in Attempt to Save It... -

Doctors Sew Severed Hand to Man's Ankle in Attempt to Save It... - 

After a man lost his right hand in a work place accident in November, doctors in Changsha, Hunan province successfully reattached the limb by grafting it to his ankle for a month. 
The man, Xiao Wei, said that at the time of the accident he "was just shocked and frozen to the spot, until colleagues unplugged the machine and retrieved my hand and took me to the hospital. I am still young, and I couldn't imagine life without a right hand."
Doctors, opted to graft the hand to Wei's ankle to prevent it from dying while they worked on his other extensive injuries. The doctors told Rex Features: “His injury was severe. Besides ripping injuries, his arm was also flattened. We had to clear and treat his injuries before taking on the hand reattachment surgery.”
Roughly a month later, Wei has recovered sufficiently such that he can undergo reattachment surgery. Doctors say he will require several other procedures but remain hopeful that he will regain full function of his hand.  


Confidential Obamacare Navigator training manual uploaded online -

Confidential Obamacare Navigator training manual uploaded online - 

“INFORMATION NOT RELEASABLE TO THE PUBLIC UNLESS AUTHORIZED BY LAW: This information has not been publicly disclosed and may be privileged and confidential. It is for internal government use only and must not be disseminated, distributed, or copied to persons not authorized to receive the information. Unauthorized disclosure may result in prosecution to the full extent of the law.”

That is the warning at the bottom of every page of the 217-page confidential Obamacare Navigator training manual sitting online for anyone to come across –and as Watchdog.org reports, that’s exactly what someone did.

Tammy Duffy, a radiation health physicist from New Jersey, was talking with Obamacare Navigators one day and asked a question regarding people who are self-employed, in which they could not provide an answer. She then asked for a copy of the manual, which they would not give her since it’s not meant to be available to the public.

“I asked the nice ladies for a copy and they said I could not have it because it was a government document not for the public. So I thought maybe there is an outline or shorter version that is for the public. I went to Google and typed in ‘healthcare insurance marketplace Navigator SOP,” Duffy said.

Sure enough, a Google search of “Healthcare insurance marketplace Navigator SOP” yields a link back to the “Health Insurance Marketplace Navigator Standard Operating Procedures Manual.” The manual is labeled as “restricted distribution” by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and threatens prosecution to anyone authorized to view it who ultimately disseminates it to unauthorized people — and it’s online for everyone to see. - http://www.healthreformgps.org/wp-content/uploads/navigator-SOP-manual-8-26.pdf

Dogs licking poisonous toads to get high -

Dogs licking poisonous toads to get high - 

Queensland dogs addicted to hallucinogenic sweat found on the backs of toads are hunting down the creatures to get their fix.

Vets warn that some dogs are risking their lives for the cheap thrill, with an increasing number of repeat offenders – dubbed "serial lickers" – treated for cane toad poisoning several times a year.

And with the wet season approaching, dog owners are being urged to help their pets kick the deadly addiction before it's too late. Nikita Den Engelse, 27, of Hemmant, is one such owner, after she found her best friend frothing at the mouth and trembling on two separate occasions. 

"The vet told me dogs will lick toads because it gives them hallucinations from it," she said. "I pretty much cried the whole time. I was thinking 'oh God'. I was concerned he was going to die." The dog is now in diversion therapy, being kept inside, as he recovers from his latest overdose. 

While it is impossible to say whether a dog or cat is having a hallucination, some tell-tale signs include vacant staring and unprovoked responses, Jonathon Cochrane from the University of Queensland's School of Veterinary Science explained. 

Owners are encouraged to keep serial lickers indoors, especially at night and when it is raining.

Queensland dogs are getting high by licking the poison off cane toads.
Vets are warning some pooches may become addicted to the hallucinogenic and are risking their lives trying to get their next toad fix.
It's being reported the dogs have worked out how to lick the toad just enough to get high.
"This phenomenon of animals deliberately getting intoxicated by cane toads, it's fascinating," says veterinarian Megan Pickering. "It just seems unbelievable that an animal will go back for a second try.

"But nevertheless we do have many documented cases of patients who deliberately - on a regular basis - will seek out a toad and they seem to be able to lick the toad in such a way that they seem to get a very small dose."
Ms Pickering claims the dogs become addicts, putting their lives at serious risk.
One dog was recently found frothing and trembling.
The serial licking was first reported in the Northern Territory in 2005. But no one really listened. Now it has spread to Queensland and is back in the headlines.
Vets insist it's a true story and a real problem – they're warning dog owners to keep their loved ones inside, away from temptation.

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Yoga Classes -- With Dogs... - It’s called doga -

Yoga Classes -- With Dogs... - It’s called doga - 

There’s new meaning to the term “downward dog.”  More and more yoga lovers are sharing their mats with their pooch.  3 On Your Side Health Reporter Stephanie Stahl has more on what some are calling doga.

Panting exercises in this yoga class are taken to a whole new level.  It’s called doga.

“Really comes from your diaphragm, so you connect with your dog’s breath,” said Mahny Djahanguiri, a doga instructor.

It’s a yoga class for dog lovers and their best friend, that mixes massage, poses and chanting.  Some claim it reduces anxiety for both owners and their dogs.

“They’re getting their yoga, their human yoga, while the dog feeds off from their calm,” said Mahny.

Dogs can either take part in the stretching or act as a weight.

“It’s your yoga class with your dog, and your dog helps you to find yourself,” said Mahny.

Niki Roe loves doing yoga with her dog Mindy.  She says the class can help tame problematic pets.

“For your dog to listen to you, you need to be calm.  And this is the best way to be calm with your dog,” said Niki.

So both can reach that desire for inner peace and healthy bodies.

Experts say the relaxed bonding time can also have some cardiovascular benefits for the dog, but your pet still needs some regular exercise.

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