March 2012 -

Mar 12

Baltimore Maryland Lottery Winner Tom Kreft Tricks Media Into Reporting He Won Mega Millions

(Thomas Dishaw) Tom Kreft an aspiring film producer tricks media into reporting that he won the Mega Millions jackpot.

Just a day short of April Fools day  Kreft plays one of the biggest media hoax of 2012. After hearing the winner was from Baltimore County Maryland, Kreft decided to put his Photoshop skills to work and create a winning ticket.tom kreft wins mega millions

First posting the story to Facebook  Kreft received feedback that  the story was a hoax. “They didn’t believe me so I put my picture with the ticket and the power of social media picked it up” Kreft explained. “A friend of a friend who knows an employee at  the Wall Street Journal put it on Twitter, after that it took off like wildfire. My parents were woken by a  reporter at 6 am wanting to talk to me.” said Kreft.

“This is just a further proof you should not trust Twitter as a reliable news source. 140 characters or less is not a news story” Kreft explained.  The London Guardian and The Miami Herald also reported Kreft as the winner.



Mar 12

Starbucks Admits To Using Beetle Extract In Popular Drink Coloring

(NaturalNews) For being a multinational corporate food and beverage giant, Starbucks has actually been among the most proactive in ridding its offerings of toxic additives and artificial colors, and switching to natural alternatives. But the company’s recent decision to change its Strawberries & Creme Frappuccino blended beverage formula has the vegan community in an uproar, as ground-up beetles now constitute part of the drink’s natural coloring components.

According to reports, Starbucks switched its formula back in January, replacing a formerly-vegan coloring agent with the beetle-derived agent. And a vegan Starbucks barista reportedly captured a photo of the beverage’s ingredients list recently, which is not posted on the Starbucks corporate website, and sent it, a vegan news blog devoted to animal rights issues.

You can view a picture of the Strawberries & Creme Frappuccino ingredients list at:

The ingredient in question is cochineal extract, which is made from the ground-up bodies of cochineal beetles. This primarily South American and Mexican insect naturally produces a substance known as carminic acid that can be extracted, mixed with either aluminum or calcium salts, and turned into carmine dye.

Even though carmine extract is technically considered to be natural, the U.S.Food and Drug Administration(FDA) ruled that the additive must be properly labeled on foods, a mandate that went into effect in early 2011. Prior to that ruling, cochineal extract and other bug-derived additives had to be labeled as either “artificial colors” or “color added,” according to theChicago Sun-Times.


Vegans have long enjoyed Strawberries & Creme Frappuccinos precisely because they have always contained only vegan ingredients, which is why there is currently a groundswell of customer backlash. Starbucks says it made the switch as part of ongoing efforts to make its food and beverages healthier, but in the process, it failed to properly disclose this information to the public.

Daelyn Fortney, co-founder, is now pushing for Starbucks to revert back to vegan natural colorings like red beet, black carrots, or purple sweet potatoes, which are commonly used to create red colors in natural foods. Going one step further than this, Michael Jacobson, Executive Director of theCenter for Science in the Public Interest(CSPI), says Starbucks should just use strawberries to color its strawberry beverages.

Sources for this article include:


Mar 12

Biden: “We Want To Create A Global Minimum Tax”

(Real Clear Politics)  “For years, American manufacturers have faced one of the highest tax rates in the world. We want to reduce that by over 20%. We want to drop the rate, particularly, for high-tech manufacturers like you, Mr. President, even further than the 20%,” Vice President Joe Biden said at a manufacturing plant in Davenport, Iowa this week.

“We want to create (what’s called) a global minimum tax, because American taxpayers shouldn’t be providing a larger subsidy for investing abroad than investing at home,” Biden said at a campaign event.


Mar 12

Canada Kills The Penny

(Ottawa)  There may still be pennies from heaven, but they won’t be coming from the mint much longer.

The humble one-cent piece is set to disappear from Canadian pockets, a victim of inflation.

Thursday’s federal budget said the Royal Canadian Mint will strike the last of the little coins this fall.

The budget says the cost of minting a penny has risen to 1.6 cents or $11 million a year. Its purchasing power has fallen to a 20th of its original value.

“Some Canadians consider the penny more of a nuisance than a useful coin,” the budget documents said.

And so the coin will go the way of the old 25-cent shinplaster.

“The penny is a currency without any currency in Canada,” Finance Minister Jim Flaherty said at a news conference.

It’s nothing but a nuisance for business, he added.

Pennies will still be legal tender, but as they slowly vanish from circulation, prices will have to be rounded up or down.

If the customer has the pennies, they can use them. Payments with debit or credit cards or cheques can also be to the penny. But if the customer is paying cash and doesn’t have the pennies, the total will go up or down to the nearest nickel. For example, $1.02 will become $1 and $1.03 will be $1.05.

The budget said experience in other countries that have dropped low-denomination coins suggests that rounding will be fair and there will be no impact on inflation.

As for those jars, boxes and bags of pennies sitting in countless drawers across the country, the government suggests people donate them to charities.

The penny has been under fire for years. New Democrat MP Pat Martin has introduced private member’s bills over the years to kill it.

The disappearing penny will likely have little economic impact, but it may require some cultural adjustments.

Penny candy? A relic of the past. The penny arcade? Already gone.

And some old adages will likely fade away, too.

What are people going to pinch?

Will thoughts now cost a nickel?

See a penny? Leave it.

Penny-wise? Just foolish.

Take care of the nickels and the dollars will take care of themselves?

A penny saved is … not much.


Mar 12

Controversial Pesticide Linked To Bee Collapse

(Brandon Keim)  A controversial type of pesticide linked to declining global bee populations appears to scramble bees’ sense of direction, making it hard for them to find home. Starved of foragers and the pollen they carry, colonies produce fewer queens, and eventually collapse.

The phenomenon is described in two new studies published March 29 in Science. While they don’t conclusively explain global bee declines, which almost certainly involve a combination of factors, they establish neonicotinoids as a prime suspect.

“It’s pretty damning,” said David Goulson, a bee biologist at Scotland’s University of Stirling. “It’s clear evidence that they’re likely to be having an effect on both honeybees and bumblebees.”


Neonicotinoids emerged in the mid-1990s as a relatively less-toxic alternative to human-damaging pesticides. They soon became wildly popular, and were the fastest-growing class of pesticides in modern history. Their effects on non-pest insects, however, were unknown.

In the mid-2000s, beekeepers in the United States and elsewhere started to report sharp and inexplicable declines in honeybee populations. Researchers called the phenomenon colony collapse disorder. It was also found in bumblebees, and in some regions now threatens to extirpate bees altogether.

Many possible causes were suggested, from viruses and mites to industrial beekeeping practices and climate change. Pesticides, in particular neonicotinoids, also came under scrutiny.

Leaked internal reports by the Environmental Protection Agency showed that industry-run studies used to demonstrate some neonicotinoids’ environmental safety were shoddy and unreliable. Other researchers found signs that neonicotinoids, while they didn’t kill bees outright, affected their ability to learn and navigate.


‘Anything that makes bees even a little bit worse at navigating or learning could be a disaster.’

Those results came from laboratory situations, with no guarantee of real-world applicability, but they were troubling.


“Bees’ ability to navigate is very important. When they leave their nest, they fly miles to gather food. Anything that makes them even a little bit worse at navigating or learning could be a disaster in those circumstances,” said Goulson. “The research suggested effects on their learning ability, but it was all done in confined situations. What we and the French group did is something more natural.”

In the first study, led by biologist Mickaël Henry of INRA, a French agricultural research institute, free-roaming honeybees were tagged with RFID chips that allowed researchers to track their movements. When dosed with a neonicotinoid, bees were more than twice as likely as non-dosed controls to die outside their hives. They seemed to get lost.

When the researchers added their results to computer simulations of honeybee dynamics, the model populations crashed.

Penn State entomologist James Frazier, who was not involved in the study, called it “the best study to date” on neonicotinoids’ real-world effects on foraging.”

The result dovetailed with the findings of Goulson’s group, who exposed developing bumblebees to varying neonicotinoid levels and set them loose to forage in an enclosed field. Measured after six weeks of growth, pesticide-dosed colonies were stunted, weighing about 10 percent less and producing 85 percent fewer queens.

“Nests have annual cycles. They start with a single queen, and the nest grows through the season. If it doesn’t get big enough, it doesn’t have the resources to pour into rearing queens,” Goulson said. “The French study shows that exposure to neonicotinoids make honeybees less likely to find their nest. That’s likely the mechanism that led to our nests growing more slowly.”

However, biologist Jerry Bromenshenk of the University of Montana was critical of the results. Goulson’s results were interesting but the researchers weren’t careful enough in verifying the doses given to their bees, and Henry’s group administered an unrealistically high dose, said Bromenshenk.

The latter’s dosing “is not what I would consider to be a field-relevant, low dose,” wrote Bromenshenk in an email, citing another recent study that used RFIDs to track bees given what he considers a more realistic dose. “At truly field representative, sublethal doses — no effect,” Bromenshenk wrote.

A comparison of bee queen production in colonies treated (middle, right) and untreated (left) with a neonicotinoid pesticide. Image: Whitehorn et al./Science

Both Goulson and Mace Vaughn, pollinator program director at the Xerces Society, an invertebrate conservation group, said neonicotinoids won’t be the only cause of colony collapse disorder.

“If it was as simple as that, the answer would have been discovered a long time ago,” said Goulson. “I’m sure it’s a combination of things. I’m sure that disease is a part of it, and maybe the two interact.” He noted a study in which honeybees exposed to neonicotinoids were especially vulnerable to a common bee parasite. Another study found that neonicotinoids dramatically increase the toxicity of fungicides.

Vaughn raised the issue of industrial-scale beekeeping practices, which have also been linked to bee declines. “We’ve potentially created a situation where behavioral impacts, compounded with a lack of genetic diversity and the food they eat, results in something like colony collapse disorder,” he said.

“My only caution is that farmers use neonicotinoids for a reason,” said Goulson. “If they were banned, farmers would have to use something else. The question is, what would that be? Would it be better? Would it also have harmful effects?”

While it’s unlikely that neonicotinoids will be banned outright in the United States, where they’re now used on more than 100 million crop acres and an unknown area of home gardens and urban vegetation, Vaughn said they could be used differently.

“I would call for a ban on their use without a demonstrated pest threat. If you have corn rootworm, and need to address that, then use neonicotinoid-coated seeds,” he said. “But if it’s a vague threat that you haven’t identified, you shouldn’t be using them. Maybe it makes you a few bucks, and certainly makes the seed companies a lot of money, but it’s potentially killing bees across the country.”

Heather Pilatic of the Pesticide Action Network recommended a return to pest management strategies used widely through the 1990s, when the rise of pesticide-treated seeds and genetically modified crops allowed farmers to change their growing strategies.

“When you plant the same crop, year after year, you’re creating the conditions for a pest infestation,” Pilatic said. “In the mid-1990s, we were doing a really good job of pest management with corn in particular. With the introduction of treated seeds, and in particular of genetically engineered corn, it all unraveled. But we know how to do it. We were doing it 20 years ago.”

Penn State’s Frazier said that the Environmental Protection Agency, which recently received a 1.25 million-signature-strong petition to ban neonicotinoids, is slowly becoming better at risk assessment, though the agency is still heavily influenced by chemical companies and opaque in its workings.

The fundamental problem isn’t neonicotinoids, but our society’s relationship to chemicals, said Frazier. “We’re making ourselves the guinea pigs,” he said. “I don’t think that’s what a rational society should be doing.”


Mar 12

Department Of Homeland Security Is Buying 450 Million Rounds Of Bullets

(Eloise Lee)  The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and its Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) office is getting an “indefinite delivery” of an “indefinite quantity” of .40 caliber ammunition from defense contractor ATK.

U.S. agents will receive a maximum of 450 million rounds over five years, according to a press release on the deal.

The high performance HST bullets are designed for law enforcement and ATK says they offer “optimum penetration for terminal performance.”

This refers to the the bullet’s hollow-point tip that passes through barriers and expands for a bigger impact without the rest of the bullet getting warped out of shape: “this bullet holds its jacket in the toughest conditions.”

We’ve also learned that the Department has an open bid for a stockpile of rifle ammo. Listed on the federal business opportunities network, they’re looking for up to 175 million rounds of .223 caliber ammo to be exact. The .223 is almost exactly the same round used by NATO forces, the 5.56 x 45mm.

The deadline for earlier this month was extended because the right contractor just hadn’t come along.

Looks like the Department of Homeland Security means business.


Mar 12

Displaced C.I.A. Spy Uses Twitter To Blast Agency

(Eli Lake0)  The Twitter feed belonging to Lynnae Williams at first glance looks like most Twitter feeds. There are tweets about what she is reading (“Uncle Tom’s Cabin,” “Madame Bovary”); tweets about politics (leans towards the Occupy movement); and tweets about food (tuna casserole, carrot-cake muffins).

But on closer inspection, the feed features something rare for Twitter and even the Internet: detailed disclosures about the CIA. On Tuesday for example, Williams tweeted, “The #Farm is #CIA’s training center near #Williamsburg, Virginia. I think it’s the Kisevalter Center or something.”

In other tweets, Williams, who in 2009 spent nearly four months training to be a CIA spy, details her own experiences with CIA case officers, psychiatrists and the special security division of the agency that serves as the CIA’s police force. In short, Lynnae Williams since late February has been disclosing details of her brief CIA career in 140 characters or less.


I caught up with the 35-year-old would-be spy on Wednesday at the Washington mission for the Palestine Liberation Organization. She was interviewing for a job there in government and press relations. “The interview went well,” she said, even though “I don’t have substantial knowledge in the area. I don’t speak the language.” Williams, who does speak Japanese, added, “I don’t know enough about the [Arab-Israeli] conflict, but I hope they resolve it.”

Williams says she began tweeting because she wanted an outlet to tell the world about her disputes with the CIA and what she calls a pattern of corruption at the agency. She also publishes a blog called CIA corrupt. “I wanted to start the Twitter account with my blog to get out my message,” she says.

A spokesman for the CIA declined to comment for this story. Another U.S. intelligence officer, who was not authorized to speak to the press, told The Daily Beast that the agency is aware of the Twitter feed and that Williams is a hot topic on classified social networking, such as the classified intelligence community version of Facebook known as A-Space. Williams has disclosed her official medical records on her blog and other personal documents related to her time in the intelligence community.


Lynnae Williams
Lynnae Williams. , Eli Lake



Williams’s main grievance with the agency revolves around her termination. Williams says that as a trainee in the agency’s national clandestine service, she was sent to Dominion Hospital, a public mental-health facility in northern Virginia. Williams referred to the hospital in the interview and her Twitter feed as the CIA’s “psychological prison.” She said the place had white walls and inedible food, and that doctors there urged her to take Risperdal, a drug commonly prescribed to schizophrenics and Lithium, a drug prescribed to manic depressives.

Williams says she refused and eventually her parents drove up from Atlanta and discharged her. “They wanted to keep me for observation,” she said. “It’s not a nice place, it’s dilapidated. It’s called a hospital, but it’s a prison, you can’t get out unless they let you out.”

All told, by Williams’s account, she spent one night at Dominion Hospital in 2009 and then another five days in the hospital’s outpatient program.

Williams say she first applied to work at the CIA in 2006, while she was earning her masters degree at the Georgetown University School of Foreign Service. She landed a job instead at the Defense Intelligence Agency as an analyst. At first, Williams says, she worked on counter-terrorism projects, then on studies of China’s leadership. In 2007, she says, she was shipped out to a clandestine facility in Iraq, where she worked as an Arabian Peninsula analyst.

In July 2009, Williams says she was transferred to the CIA’s national clandestine service training program, where she took the “field tradecraft course.” Williams says her life changed permanently on Oct. 27, 2009 when a colleague reported her to CIA security for what she says was “bizarre and inappropriate behavior,” such as looking on classified computers for information about herself and telling colleagues that she was being followed.  She had a meeting with a CIA psychiatrist that day, who ordered her to take a medical exam, with urine samples, and inquired about her self-acknowledged attention deficit disorder. “She asked me about my family’s mental health history,” Williams says of the CIA psychiatrist. “My aunt has schizophrenia, I did not tell her that.” Later that evening, Williams had an auto accident and says she was cited by Washington, D.C. police for leaving the scene. After that, Williams says, the CIA ordered her to Dominion Hospital.

Since her time there, Williams has been fighting a largely losing battle with the agency. In 2010, she says, her security clearance was suspended and the agency stopped paying her salary. She is pursuing legal redress against the CIA for wrongful termination, but her odds don’t look good. On Wednesday, Williams posted on Twitter a response from the American Civil Liberties Union declining to take up her case.

Mark Zaid, a national security attorney who regularly represents intelligence officers in legal actions against the U.S. intelligence community, said, “Based on the current state of the law, unfortunately the judiciary will not adjudicate adverse clearance decisions, no matter how abusive, incorrect or absurd they may have been.”

Zaid says that medical issues at the CIA can at times “be used as weapons,” adding “I have had CIA clients sent to alcohol and drug treatment. The agency has spent thousands of dollars for people to get treatment and then they fire them, which doesn’t make any sense to me.”

Without a security clearance, Williams will not likely be able to find employment with intelligence contractors, as many retired intelligence officers do. Nonetheless, she says she will continue to apply for jobs in foreign affairs. She also intends to continue tweeting. “I did not think of myself as a whistle blower.” But on further reflection, Williams acknowledges, “I suppose it would be an appropriate term.”


Mar 12

‘KillZimmerman’ Twitter Advocates Violence Against Martin’s Killer

(David Martosko)  On March 24 a “KillZimmerman” Twitter account began publishing calls for violence against George Zimmerman, the self-appointed neighborhood watch captain who shot and killed 17-year-old Trayvon Martin on Feb. 26.

Five days later, the account is still on its crusade to avenge Martin.

The sender’s initial tweets made his or her aims clear: “No Justice No Peace!!!!!!!!!! #KILLZIMMERMAN #KILLZIMMERMAN #KILLZIMMERMAN,” they read.

The account’s image is a photo of gun-sight crosshairs superimposed on Zimmerman’s picture.

“This Page Is 4 Da Ppl Who Believe Zimmerman Should Be Shot Dead In The Street,” the Twitter account’s description reads, “The Same Way TRAYVON Was. No Justice No Peace.”

In response to one tweeted complaint on March 24 that the account “is advocating murder,” the account holder replied: “we should just all get up and #killzimmerman ourselves; fuck the system. #AintNoJustice”

“I Think They Should Shoot Zimmerman Dead In His Head Jail Ain’t Enough,” read another message the same day.

“Don’t get me wrong I would be happy if he go to jail,” another tweet read, “but I rather see a bitch shoot him in his fuckin face.”

On March 27, the account tweeted: “Leave All The Violence Shit To Us Coz If They Don’t Put Em In Jail We Gone Get His Ass.”

“We don’t comment on specific users or the status of accounts for privacy reasons,” Twitter spokesperson Rachael Horwitz told The Daily Caller. She did not indicate whether Twitter intends to take action to suspend the account, but provided TheDC with a Web address where users can report “an abusive user.”

It’s clear from the account’s tweets on Wednesday that some Twitter users are taking advantage of that option.

“All these racist motherfuckers tryin to get me deleted like I did something wrong,” one tweet read. “Bitch zimmerman killed #TRAYVON he the one wrong.”

Calls for violence directed at Trayvon Martin’s killer are not restricted to Twitter alone.

The New Black Panther Party has issued a “dead or alive” bounty for Zimmerman’s capture. Its value was originally $10,000. On Wednesday that amount was increased dramatically — to $1 million.

On Facebook, groups named “I want George Zimmerman dead,” “Kill George Zimmerman bitch azz,” “Kill Zimmerman” and “Kill George Zimmerman” have appeared, some with approximately 100 members.

The “Kill Zimmerman” Twitter profile had 162 followers at 1 p.m. EDT Thursday, a number likely to increase because The Drudge Report posted a link to the page.

George Zimmerman remains in hiding from vigilante threats. Absent a fringe element calling for retaliatory violence, the vast majority of Martin’s supporters seek only Zimmerman’s arrest and prosecution


Mar 12

Police Can Hack Your Phone In 2 Minutes

(Andy Greenberg)  Set your iPhone to require a four-digit passcode, and it may keep your private information safe from the prying eyes of the taxi driver whose cab you forget it in. But if law enforcement is determined to see the data you’ve stored on your smartphone, those four digits will slow down the process of accessing it by less than two minutes.

Here’s a video posted last week by Micro Systemation, a Stockholm, Sweden-based firm that sells law enforcement and military customers the tools to access the devices of criminal suspects or military detainees and siphon off their personal information.

As the video shows, a Micro Systemation application the firm calls XRY can quickly crack an iOS or Android phone’s passcode, dump its data to a PC, decrypt it, and display information like the user’s GPS location, files, call logs, contacts, messages, even a log of its keystrokes.

Mike Dickinson, the firm’s marketing director and the voice in the videos, says that the company sells products capable of accessing passcode-protected iOS and Android devices in over 60 countries. It supplies 98% of the U.K.’s police departments, for instance, as well as many American police departments and the FBI. Its largest single customer is the U.S. military.  ”When people aren’t wearing uniforms, looking at mobile phones to identify people is quite helpful,” Dickinson says by way of explanation.

With smartphone adoption rocketing around the world, Dickinson says Micro Systemation’s “business is booming.” The small company has grown close to 25% in revenue year-over-year, earned $18 million in revenue in 2010 up from $12 million the year before, and doubled its employees since 2009.

“It’s a massive boom industry, the growth in evidence from mobile phones,” says Dickinson. “After twenty years or so, people understand they shouldn’t do naughty things on their personal computers, but they still don’t understand that about phones. From an evidential point of view, it’s of tremendous value.”

“If they’ve done something wrong,” he adds.


XRY works much like the jailbreak hacks that allow users to remove the installation restrictions on their devices, Dickinson says, though he wouldn’t say much about the exact security vulnerability that XRY exploits to gain access to the iPhone. He claims that the company doesn’t use backdoor vulnerabilities in the devices created by the manufacturer, but rather seeks out security flaws in the phone’s software just as jailbreakers do, one reason why half the company’s 75 employees are devoted to research and development. “Every week a new phone comes out with a different operating sytems and we have to reverse engineer them,” he says. “We’re constantly chasing the market.”

After bypassing the iPhone’s security restrictions to run its code on the phone, the tool “brute forces” the phone’s password, guessing every possible combination of numbers to find the correct code, as Dickinson describes it. In the video above, the process takes seconds. (Although admittedly, the phone’s example passcode is “0000″, about the most easily-guessed password possible.)

Dicksinson acknowledges that users who set longer passcodes for devices can in fact make the devices far tougher to crack. “The more complex the password, the longer and harder it’s going to be to access the phone,” he says. “In some cases, it takes so long to brute force that it’s not worth doing it.” That may have been the situation, for instance, in one recent case involving the phone of Dante Dears, a paroled convict accused of running a prostitution ring known as “Pimping Hoes Daily” from his Android phone; The FBI, apparently unable or unwilling to crack the phone, asked Google to help in accessing it.



Mar 12

Scientists Suggest That Eating Placenta Is Good For You

(Jamie Condliffe)  The entire animal kingdom does it, but most humans become squeamish and pull their faces at the very notion. But now, scientists are suggesting that mothers—and perhaps even fathers—would benefit from eating parts of the placenta following child birth. Yum.

A team of researchers from the University at Buffalo has been studying afterbirth ingestion in other species to work out why they do it—and why it might be beneficial for humans. They point out that eating the placenta provokes an increase in mother-child interaction, promotes hormone release that stimulates caring instincts, attenuates pain—in both sexes— and even increases the possibilities for future fertilization.

Mark Kristal, one of researchers, intends to conduct a full-blown trial to investigate the positive effects of eating afterbirth. Don’t worry, though—the results might mean we can get around the need to eat the stuff. “The outcome of such a quest need not be an exhortation for women to eat afterbirth, but for scientists to isolate and identify the molecule or molecules that produce the beneficial effect and use it to design pharmacological tools,” Kristal explained to EurekAlert!.