Sunday, November 25, 2012


Though palm trees evoke an idyllic desert oasis, that's hardly the case for frustrated residents of Mesa, Ariz. That's because a "palm tree" set to be planted in the Phoenix suburb isn't what it seems: It's a camouflaged cellular tower. Cell phone tower palm tree Fon Farall | Photodisc | Getty Images Cell Phone tower disguised as a Palm tree to blend in. In late October, the Federal Communications Commission ordered service provider AT&T to construct the now-infamous "cell phone tower palm" on a vacant lot in a residential neighborhood of East Mesa in order to fill gaps in the community's service coverage. To make the tower less obtrusive, AT&T plans to disguise it as a palm tree (like the tower pictured) -- except that, at 70 feet tall and with no actual palms around it, it would be obvious that it's not a real tree. Residents liken the action of disguising the tower to "putting lipstick on a pig." "We live in a residential area of one-story homes, and our nearby commercial area has buildings with a maximum height of 30 feet," David M. Brown, a six-year Mesa resident, told AOL Real Estate. "They say they want to contextualize this palm-tree tower by putting three or four actual palm trees around it. But real palm trees aren't anywhere near 70 feet tall, and [it would] take years before they'd reach that height. It would literally tower above the community." The brouhaha in East Mesa spotlights ongoing battles around the country over the construction of cell phone towers in residential areas. Aside from cell towers being considered "eyesores," some residents and experts argue that they are dangerous. Long-term exposure to radiation from cell towers is suspected by some of causing cancer and other maladies, though the American Cancer Society says that most scientists view that as unlikely. But any possible health risk from the cell tower has further stoked the oppostion from Mesa residents, who said they are outraged because they were given little warning or information before the plan to erect the cell phone tower was finalized. An AT&T spokesperson said, however, that the company strictly followed the City of Mesa's notification requirements. Residents received a letter in the mail from the site acquisition firm, the FM Group, on behalf of AT&T [T 34.36 0.51 (+1.51%) ] on Oct. 29 informing the community that a final decision would be reached by Nov. 13. Due to severe backlash from residents, the vote was delayed indefinitely by the Mesa Board of Adjustment until a community meeting was to be held, currently scheduled for early December. It's a delay that gives residents more time to protest the construction of the tower -- even though many recognize the demand for better service coverage in the area. "I do realize that AT&T needs this cell-phone tower -- we're not against the tower itself. It just doesn't need to be so close to our homes," said East Mesa resident Cory Barham, who lives about 400 yards from the site of the proposed cell tower. "Apart from the tower being so tall, we all feel that property values will go down if they build it so close. Most people I know wouldn't want to buy a house near a cell phone tower." RELATED LINKS Utility Bills: How to Estimate Costs for a New Home Adding Home Insulation to Your Rental Green Real Estate: Homes Made Mostly From Recycled Materials According to Barham and Brown, plummeting real estate values is one of the biggest concerns of East Mesa residents, and local Realtors agree. "I would predict that the real estate market in Mesa would take quite a hit if they were to go ahead and build the tower," said Realtor Carole Wilson, who is based in Maricopa County, which includes Phoenix and Mesa. "So I absolutely understand the concern." Particularly in a lower-middle-class area like East Mesa, which already has been hit hard by the housing crisis (resale home values in the area have plunged up to 60 percent), throwing an obtrusive and potentially dangerous cell tower into the mix would be like "twisting the knife," residents said. "My feeling is that most of our community is against the building of this cell phone tower," added Barham. "We don't want it anywhere near our homes and our families." According to the project's architect, Michael Fries, three alternative locations for the tower have been examined in the wider Mesa area, but either zoning was not possible in those locations or the owner of the lot declined to negotiate. 'Who Knows What's a Safe Level?' Amid forceful community backlash, AT&T defended itself, saying that it is continually working with the East Mesa community to listen to and allay residents' concerns. AT&T has been especially focused on pacifying widespread concern regarding an alleged link between cell phone towers and diseases such as cancer. The service provider continues to reassure worried residents such as Barham that studies on the topic remain inconclusive and that all necessary health and safety regulations set by the FCC will be strictly adhered to. "AT&T operates its networks in compliance with FCC-required emission standards," AT&T spokesman Dave Cieslak told AOL Real Estate. "And this proposed site will also be operated within FCC standards for health and safety." But these FCC standards, according to Dr. Joel Moscowitz, director of the Center for Family and Community Health at the University of California, are based upon findings that are both outdated and limited in scope. According to Moscowitz, the health and safety regulations implemented by the FCC are based on research conducted in 1996 and only take into account the thermal effects of "microwave radiation" disseminated by cell transmission towers. They do not take into account non-thermal effects of exposure, Moscowitz said. "Though it's harder to make causal inferences with cell towers [versus cell phone usage], a fair amount of studies show that long-term exposure around cell towers increases the risk of health problems that are largely neurological in nature," said Moscowitz. "For example, ringing of ears, headaches, memory problems, allergy-like symptoms, increased electro-sensitivity and potentially a greater risk of cancer." more @

Friday, November 23, 2012

Luke Skywalker

Luke Skywalker to be Primary Focus of New STAR WARS Trilogy

All of us Star Wars fans are incredibly excited to see what awaits us in this new Star Wars trilogy that will give us Episodes 7, 8 and 9 of George Lucas' epic story. Today, MarketSaw is reporting some details of those films, and one of the main things revealed is that Luke Skywalker will be a primary focus of these movies! MarketSaw has a very solid inside source feeding them this information. It was the same source that revealed earlier this year that episodes 7, 8 and 9 were coming so it's hard not to believe what is being reported here. What I'm trying to say is, that this is a solid source, and I believe it.

Here's what their source says:

"Disney now has the power to make STAR WARS films, and everything else in the Lucasfilm archives. The movies I told you about are indeed the primary focus. Luke Skywalker is a primary focus, as are many of the original trilogy cast. Disney also realised that George Lucas and STAR WARS are one and the same, so George will certainly have a voice on any angle taken, in fact I believe it's one of many stipulations. However he will no longer have creative control, and as I said before George was already looking at other creative talents to bring his canon to life back before Disney and Lucasfilm really started negotiating (or at least to the best of my knowledge)..." 

Thursday, November 22, 2012


Mozilla engineering manager Benjamin Smedberg has asked developers to stop nightly builds for Firefox on 64-bit versions of Windows. A developer thread posted on the Google Groups discussion board, titled "Turning off win64 builds" by Smedberg proposed the disabling of the Windows 64-bit nightly builds for Firefox. Citing reasons that Firefox 64-bit is a "constant source of misunderstanding and frustration," the engineer wrote that the builds often crash, many plugins are not available in 64-bit versions, and hangs are more common due to a lack of coding which causes plugins to function incorrectly. In addition, Smedberg argues that this causes users to feel "second class," and crash reports between 32-bit and 64-bit versions are difficult to distinguish between for the stability team. Although willing to shelve the idea for a time if proven controversial -- as some developers disagreed with the idea -- Smedberg later said that: "Thank you to everyone who participated in this thread. Given the existing information, I have decided to proceed with disabling windows 64-bit nightly and hourly builds. Please let us consider this discussion closed unless there is critical new information which needs to be presented." The engineer then posted a thread titled "Disable windows 64 builds" on Bugzilla, asking developers to "stop building windows [sic] 64 builds and tests." These include the order to stop building Windows 64-bit nightly builds and repatriate existing Windows 64-bit nightly users onto Windows 32-bit builds using a custom update. In order to stave off argument, even though one participant suggested that 50 percent of nightly testers were using the system, perhaps as an official 64-bit version of Firefox for Windows has never been released, Smedberg said it was "not the place to argue about this decision, which has already been made."

Cybercrime moves

Cybercrime moves to the cloud

Researchers say criminals are moving their malware heavy lifting from end user PCs to servers in the cloud.

The same flexibility and freedom companies get from having their software and services hosted in the cloud is enabling cybercriminals to conduct highly automated online banking theft -- without doing much of the necessary information processing on their victims' own computers.

Security and privacy experts have long worried that criminals would launch attacks on the servers storing the data in cloud environments. But, a report released this week from McAfee and Guardian Analytics shows that criminals are now using the cloud infrastructure itself to get more capability out of their campaigns.

"They are leveraging the cloud," Brian Contos, senior director of emerging markets at McAfee, said in an interview. "This is the first time we've ever seen this."

Basically, what researchers uncovered was a series of highly sophisticated campaigns designed to siphon money out of high balance bank accounts in Europe, the U.S. and South America through automated transfers. Like most online consumer bank fraud, the attacks started off with a phishing e-mail, typically pretending to be from a victim's bank and urging the recipient to click a link to change the account password. Once the link is clicked, a Trojan -- in this case Zeus or SpyEye -- was downloaded onto the victim's computer, in early versions of the attacks. In later versions the malware is operating from a server.

When the victim goes to log into the bank site, the malware would use a so-called Web inject technique to overlay what looks like the bank Web page in the victim's browser. However, behind the scenes and totally transparent to the victim, something entirely different is happening. While the victim thinks he or she is transferring money from a savings account into a checking account, for instance, the malware is actually transferring any amount of money the criminals specify into their own account.

Traditionally, banking malware like this will handle the processing from the victim's PC. But in this case, the heavy lifting of the malware is being done on the server in the cloud, according to Contos. In the operations McAfee and Guardian Analytics uncovered the servers were located in eastern European countries, he said. The servers are located mostly at "bullet proof" ISP that have lax policies and are re-located frequently to avoid discovery.

"The servers are sitting within ISPs that are designed specifically to take part in fraud," he said, adding that the criminals in these campaigns even managed to bypass two-factor authentication systems commonly used in European consumer online banking. For instance, not only does a consumer type in a username and password to a site, but also swipes a card into a special card reader attached to the PC that provides additional data proof that the legitimate user is accessing the account.

The log-in or authentication "information is taken from the malware (on the PC) and redirected to the server in real time, Contos said. "That server takes that data and authenticates against the victim's bank account, all within seconds."

The servers -- at least 60 were used in these operations -- provided the criminals with the ability to fully automate the attacks, so less manual intervention is needed on the part of the attacker to do things like adjust the amount to steal that will be below fraud detection levels.

"The server is the brains that does all the transactions in the bank account," he said. Rather than having the malware residing on the victim's computer take charge of the attack functions, like stealing the data and sending it off somewhere, the attack itself is performed by the server.

"All the intelligence is sitting on the server side that they are putting in the cloud," he said. "The criminals don't have to change anything on the end user side. They can make modifications on the server side. They still have malware on the user's machine, but it can be smaller and much less intelligent than in the past."

The malware on the victim's computer can stay simple and doesn't need to be updated to change the functionality of the attack; that can be done on the server side."It's all designed to make (the attack) scalable and agile," Contos said. "This also allows criminals to keep attacks alive as long as possible" because there is less activity on the end user's computer that can be detected.

Contos predicts this is the future of malware operations, much like many online business operations have moved to the cloud to save time and resources for companies. Once the malware is on an end user's computer, criminals can use those computers for a multitude of operations and attacks.

"We will see people repurposing malware for this purpose," he said. "They will use the install base (of an existing botnet, for example) and ride that wave and set up their own servers" to use the victim computers for theft.

more @;topStories


Coders Behind the Flame Malware Left Incriminating Clues on Control Servers
The attackers behind the nation-state espionage tool known as Flame accidentally left behind tantalizing clues that provide information about their identities and that suggest the attack began earlier and was more widespread than previously believed. Researchers have also uncovered evidence that the attackers may have produced at least three other pieces of malware or variants of Flame that are still undiscovered. The information comes from clues, including four programmers’ nicknames, that the attackers inadvertently left behind on two command-and-control servers they used to communicate with infected machines and steal gigabytes of data from them. The new details about the operation were left behind despite obvious efforts the attackers made to wipe the servers of forensic evidence, according to reports released Monday by researchers from Symantec in the U.S. and from Kaspersky Lab in Russia. Flame, also known as Flamer, is a highly sophisticated espionage tool discovered earlier this year that targeted machines primarily in Iran and other parts of the Middle East. It’s believed to have been created by the United States and Israel, who are also believed to be behind the groundbreaking Stuxnet worm that aimed to cripple centrifuges used in Iran’s nuclear program. The new clues show that work on parts of the Flame operation began as early as December 2006, nearly six years before Flame was discovered, and that more than 10,000 machines are believed to have been infected with the malware. Although the 2006 date refers to the development of code used in the command-and-control servers and doesn’t necessarily mean the malware itself was in the wild all of this time, Vikram Thakur, a researcher with Symantec Security Response, says the details are still troubling. “For us to know that a malware campaign lasted this long and was flying under the radar for everyone in the community, it’s a little concerning,” he says. “It’s a very targeted attack, but it’s a very large-scale targeted attack.” The two security firms conducted the research in partnership with BUND-CERT, the federal computer emergency response team in Germany, and ITU-IMPACT, the cybersecurity arm of the United Nation’s International Telecommunications Union. Although the attackers clearly were part of a sophisticated nation-state operation, they made a number of mistakes that resulted in traces of their activity being left behind. According to data gleaned from the two servers the researchers examined: At least four programmers developed code for the servers and left their nicknames in the source code. One of the servers communicated with more than 5,000 victim machines during just a one-week period last May, suggesting the total victims exceed 10,000. The infections didn’t occur at once, but focused on different groups of targets in various countries at different times; one server focused primarily on targets in Iran and Sudan. The attackers stole massive amounts of data – at least 5.5 gigabytes of stolen data inadvertently left behind on one of the servers was collected in one week. The four pieces of malware used different custom protocols to communicate with the servers. The attackers used a number of means to secure their operation as well as the data they stole – although they left behind gigabytes of purloined data, it was encrypted using a public key stored in a database on the servers and an unknown private key, preventing the researchers and anyone else without the private key from reading it. The attackers, perhaps suspecting that their operation was about to be uncovered last May, attempted a cleanup operation to wipe the Flame malware from infected machines. Flame was discovered by Kaspersky and publicly disclosed on May 28. Kaspersky said at the time that the malware had targeted systems in Iran, Lebanon, Syria, Sudan, Israel and the Palestinian Territories, as well as other countries in the Middle East and North Africa. Kaspersky estimated at the time that the malware had infected about 1,000 machines. The malware is highly modular and can spread via infected USB sticks or a sophisticated exploit and man-in-the-middle attack that hijacks the Windows Update mechanism to deliver the malware to new victims as if it were legitimate code signed by Microsoft. Once on machines, Flame can steal files and record keystrokes, as well as turn on the internal microphone of a machine to record conversations conducted over Skype or in the vicinity of the infected computer. Previous research on Flame conducted by Kaspersky found that Flame had been operating in the wild undetected since at least March 2010 and that it might have been developed in 2007. But the new evidence indicates that development of code for the command-and-control servers – servers designed to communicate with machines infected with Flame – began at least as early as December 2006. It was created by at least four programmers, who left their nicknames in the source code. The Flame operation used numerous servers for its command-and-control activities, but the researchers were able to examine only two of them. The first server was set up on March 25 and operated until April 2, during which it communicated with infected machines from 5,377 unique IP addresses from more than a dozen countries. Of these, 3,702 IP addresses were in Iran. The country with the second largest number was Sudan, with 1,280 hits. The remaining countries each had fewer than 100 infections. The researchers were able to uncover the information, because the attackers had made a simple mistake. “The attackers played with the server settings and managed to lock themselves out of it,” says Costin Raiu, senior security researcher for Kaspersky. Left behind on the locked server were the http server logs, showing all of the connections that came in from infected machines. Researchers also found about 5.7 gigabytes of data stored in a compressed and encrypted file, which the attackers had stolen from victims’ machines. “If their collection of 6 gigabytes of data in a span of ten days in March is indicative of how prevalent their campaign was for multiple years in the past, they probably have terabytes of information that they collected from thousands and thousands of people across the globe,” says Symantec’s Thakur. The second server was set up on May 18, 2012, after Kaspersky had discovered Flame, but before the company had publicly disclosed its existence. The server was set up specifically to deliver a kill module, called “browse32,” to any infected machine that connected to it, in order to delete any trace of Flame on the machine. It may have been set up after the attackers realized they’d been caught. Raiu says the attackers may have realized Flame had been discovered after a honeypot machine belonging to Kaspersky reached out to the attackers’ server. “Around the 12th of May, we connected a virtual machine infected by Flame to the internet, and the virtual machine connected to the [attackers'] command-and-control servers,” he says. Five hours after the server with the kill module was set up on the 18th, it received its first hit from a machine infected with Flame. The server remained in operation only about a week, communicating with a few hundred infected machines, says Symantec. Four Coders The four programmers who developed code for the servers and left their nicknames in the source code, were part of a sophisticated operation that likely included multiple teams – a coordinating team tasked with choosing the specific targets to attack and examining all of the stolen data that came in from them; a team responsible for writing the malware and command modules; and a team of operators for setting up and maintaining the command-and-control servers, sending command modules out to infected machines and managing the stolen data once it came in. Symantec and Kaspersky have redacted the nicknames of the four coders and identified them only by the first initial of their nicknames – D, H, O, and R. Thakur said he’s never seen nicknames left in malware except in low-level malware that’s unsophisticated. But the coders in the Flame operation were clearly a higher caliber than this. “Maybe they just never expected their server to reach the wrong hands,” he says. “But considering that Flamer has links to Stuxnet and DuQu, we would have expected not to see these names. But, at the end of the day, they’re human.” Of the four coders, “D” and “H” were the more significant players, since they handled interactions with infected computers, and were responsible for creating two of the four protocols the servers used to communicate with malware on infected machines. But “H” was the most experienced of the group, responsible for some of the encryption used in the operation. Raiu calls him a “master of encryption,” and notes that he was responsible for implementing the encryption of data stolen from victim machines. “He coded some very smart patches and implemented complex logic,” Kaspersky writes in its report. “We think [he] was most likely a team lead.” “O” and “R” worked on a MySQL database used in the operation ,as well as the development of cleanup files that were used to wipe data from the servers. Based on timestamps of activity on the servers, Symantec thinks the coders were based in Europe, the Middle East or Africa. Command-and-Control Server Setup The command-and-control servers hosted a custom web application the programmers developed — called NewsforYou — to communicate with infected machines. Through the application’s control panel, the attackers could send new modules to infected clients and retrieve stolen data. The password for the control panel was stored as an MD5 hash, which the researchers were unable to crack. The control panel was disguised to resemble a content management system that a news organization or a blog publisher might use, so that any outsider who gained access to the panel wouldn’t suspect its real purpose. While command-and-control servers used by cybercriminal groups generally have showy control panels with the words “bot” or “botnet” clearly labeled on them, making their malicious purpose immediately apparent, the control panel used in the Flame operation was bare-bones in design and used euphemistic terms to conceal its real purpose. For example, file directories for storing malicious modules to send to infected machines were named “News” and “Ads.” The “News” directory held modules meant to be sent to every machine, while “Ads” held modules intended only for select machines. Data purloined from infected machines was stored in a directory called “Entries.” The attackers also used a number of security features to prevent an unauthorized party who gained control of the server from sending arbitrary commands to infected machines or reading stolen data. Often, criminal control panels use a simple point-and-click menu of options for the attackers to send commands to infected machine. But the Flame operation required the attackers to create a command module, place it in a file with a specially formatted name and upload it to the server. The server would then parse the contents of the file, and place the module in the appropriate location, from where it could be pushed out to infected machines. Symantec said this complicated style, which prevented server operators from knowing what was in the modules they were sending to victims, had the hallmarks of “military and/or intelligence operations,” rather than criminal operations. Similarly, data stolen from victim machines could only be decrypted with a private key that was not stored on the server, likely so that server operators could not read the data. The researchers found evidence that the command-and-control servers were set up to communicate with at least four pieces of malware. The attackers refer to them, in the order they were created, as SP, SPE, FL, IP. “FL” is known to refer to Flame, a name that Kaspersky gave the malware back in May, based on the name of one of the main modules in it (Symantec refers to the same malware Flamer). IP is the newest malware. Aside from Flame, none of the other three pieces of malware have been discovered yet, as far as the researchers know. But according to Raiu, they know that SPE is in the wild because a handful of machines infected with it contacted a sinkhole that Kaspersky set up in June to communicate with machines infected with Flame. They were surprised when malware that was not Flame contacted the sinkhole as soon as it went online. They only recently realized it was SPE. The SPE infections came in from Lebanon and Iran. Each of the four pieces of malware uses one of three protocols to communicate with the command-and-control server – Old Protocol, Old E Protocol, or SignUp Protocol. A fourth protocol, called Red Protocol, was being developed by the operators but had not been completed yet. Presumably, the attackers planned to use this protocol with yet a fifth piece of malware. Clean-Up and Coding Gaffes The attackers took a number of steps to delete evidence of their activity on the servers, but made a number of mistakes that left telling clues behind. They used a script called to disable certain logging services and delete any logs already created by those services. At the end of the script, there was even an instruction to delete the LogWiper script itself. But the researchers discovered the script contained an error that prevented this from occurring. The script indicated that a file named should be deleted, not, leaving the script behind on the server for the researchers to find. They also had a script designed to delete temporary files at a regularly scheduled time each day, but the script had a typo in the file path, so that it couldn’t find the tool it needed to erase the files.


Nintendo's $300 Wii U goes on sale November 18 in U.S

NEW YORK/TOKYO (Reuters) - Nintendo Co's Wii U will hit U.S. store shelves November 18 starting at just under $300, as the creator of Super Mario looks to regain the lead in gaming from Sony and Microsoft, and fend off tablet and smartphone makers led by Apple Inc.

The new version of the console that took the industry by storm six years ago comes with a built-in DVR that will allow users to watch and record live television like a cable set-top box.

It will go on sale in Japan on December 8 for about $340 (26,250 yen).

Executives have said it will stream video from Netflix Inc, Inc, Google Inc's YouTube, and Hulu. It will also come with touch-screen controllers - helping to push its price tag above rival consoles.

Nintendo is fielding the successor to the Wii in the busy year-end holiday shopping season, going up against Sony's PlayStation 3 and Microsoft's Xbox 360. They start at $250 and $200, respectively.

The original Wii became the world's biggest selling home console shortly after its 2006 launch, with motion-controlled gaming and a slew of software titles that appealed to users beyond traditional gamers.

What became a 100 million-machine bonanza for Nintendo is waning. In the three months to June 30, sales of its Wii more than halved to 710,000 from 1.56 million a year earlier.

Supporting two "GamePad" controllers designed to look and function like tablets, the first new console from Nintendo in six years will come with a gamer's social network function called "Miiverse." It will be its first machine in 16 years to launch with a dedicated "Super Mario" game title.

In addition to the basic 8 gigabyte model costing $299.99, Nintendo will sell a "deluxe" 32 GB version for $349.99 in the United States and 31,500 yen in Japan.


Repeating the Wii's success, however, will be tough as Nintendo battles not only with Microsoft and Sony, but tackles tablet and smartphone makers led by Apple that are eating into the $78 billion gaming market.

Apple on Wednesday revealed its latest iPhone with a bigger screen, better definition and a wireless function that allows users to view their smartphone images and games on TVs equipped with an Apple TV receiver.

For now, Nintendo, which began in 1889 making playing cards in the back streets of Kyoto, has a big enough cash pile built up during the Wii boom -- about $14 billion -- to stick with its hardware strategy.

However, if the Wii U fails to win over gamers amid a flood of tablets and smartphones, it may, analysts say, have to consider leveraging its software assets by letting Super Mario roam across devices built by other companies.

The console, unveiled in June, is available in black and white and has a 6.2-inch touch screen that includes a stylus. The GamePad controller has traditional buttons with left and right analog sticks.

Nintendo has said 23 new Wii U titles, including Nintendo Land, are in development. Third-party titles include Mass Effect 3 from Electronic Arts, Darksiders II from THQ and Ubisoft's exclusive Wii U title Zombi.

($1 = 77.8700 Japanese yen)

(Reporting by Tim Kelly in Tokyo and Nayak Malathi in New York; Editing by Michael Watson and Maureen Bavdek)


FTC offers $50,000 to robocall killers

A menace to business and consumer alike, robocall removal is now under the eye of the Federal Trade Commission.

The Federal Trade Commission is offering a cash reward of $50,000 to whoever develops a solution to block robotic calling on both landlines and mobiles.
In 2009, the FTC banned automatic commercial telemarketing calls -- but solicitation is still a problem as advanced technology makes illegal, irritating calls more difficult to block.
The FTC Robocall Challenge site says that anyone who wants to take on the war with robo-marketeers can submit their idea from October 25 to January 17.
The FTC is asking these basic questions: does it work? Is it easy to use? And can it be rolled out?
If you want to take part, your idea will be marked based on a number of set criteria. The solution has to be tailored for illegal robocalls, and so must permit legal calls including being reached out to by political parties, charities, and health care providers. It must not block reverse-911 calls.

In addition, your idea will be marked on ease of customer use, the variety of consumer phones that can be protected, and whether it can be used by those with disabilities. The flexibility of an idea is also important, as the FTC wants to know how easily robocallers could adapt or counter a scheme if it were rolled out nationwide.
From a commercial perspective, ideas will gain hefty points if they are compatible with today's marketplace -- in other words, would an idea require changes to all phone switches worldwide -- or could it simply be distributed by line providers?
Entries can be in the form of idea proposals, fully functional solutions, and proofs of concept. The winner will get $50,000 and a trip to D.C, where the creator or team will present the winning solution. Runners up are given the Federal Trade Commission Technology Achievement Award, but no cash prize.
Entrants keep the intellectual property rights of their submission.

more @$50000-to-robocall-killers/


100 things that you did not know about Africa

 The human race is of African origin. The oldest known skeletal remains
of anatomically modern humans (or homo sapiens) were excavated at sites
in East Africa. Human remains were discovered at Omo in Ethiopia that
were dated at 195,000 years old, the oldest known in the world.

 Skeletons of pre-humans have been found in Africa that date back
between 4 and 5 million years. The oldest known ancestral type of
humanity is thought to have been the australopithecus ramidus, who lived
 at least 4.4 million years ago.

3. Africans were the
first to organise fishing expeditions 90,000 years ago. At Katanda, a
region in northeastern Zaïre (now Congo), was recovered a finely wrought
 series of harpoon points, all elaborately polished and barbed. Also
uncovered was a tool, equally well crafted, believed to be a dagger. The
 discoveries suggested the existence of an early aquatic or fishing
based culture.

4. Africans were the first to engage in
mining 43,000 years ago. In 1964 a hematite mine was found in Swaziland
at Bomvu Ridge in the Ngwenya mountain range. Ultimately 300,000
artefacts were recovered including thousands of stone-made mining tools.
 Adrian Boshier, one of the archaeologists on the site, dated the mine
to a staggering 43,200 years old.

5. Africans pioneered
 basic arithmetic 25,000 years ago. The Ishango bone is a tool handle
with notches carved into it found in the Ishango region of Zaïre (now
called Congo) near Lake Edward. The bone tool was originally thought to
have been over 8,000 years old, but a more sensitive recent dating has
given dates of 25,000 years old. On the tool are 3 rows of notches. Row 1
 shows three notches carved next to six, four carved next to eight, ten
carved next to two fives and finally a seven. The 3 and 6, 4 and 8, and
10 and 5, represent the process of doubling. Row 2 shows eleven notches
carved next to twenty-one notches, and nineteen notches carved next to
nine notches. This represents 10 + 1, 20 + 1, 20 - 1 and 10 - 1.
Finally, Row 3 shows eleven notches, thirteen notches, seventeen notches
 and nineteen notches. 11, 13, 17 and 19 are the prime numbers between
10 and 20.

6. Africans cultivated crops 12,000 years
ago, the first known advances in agriculture. Professor Fred Wendorf
discovered that people in Egypt’s Western Desert cultivated crops of
barley, capers, chick-peas, dates, legumes, lentils and wheat. Their
ancient tools were also recovered. There were grindstones, milling
stones, cutting blades, hide scrapers, engraving burins, and mortars and

7. Africans mummified their dead 9,000 years
ago. A mummified infant was found under the Uan Muhuggiag rock shelter
in south western Libya. The infant was buried in the foetal position and
 was mummified using a very sophisticated technique that must have taken
 hundreds of years to evolve. The technique predates the earliest
mummies known in Ancient Egypt by at least 1,000 years. Carbon dating is
 controversial but the mummy may date from 7438 (±220) BC.

 Africans carved the world’s first colossal sculpture 7,000 or more
years ago. The Great Sphinx of Giza was fashioned with the head of a man
 combined with the body of a lion. A key and important question raised
by this monument was: How old is it? In October 1991 Professor Robert
Schoch, a geologist from Boston University, demonstrated that the Sphinx
 was sculpted between 5000 BC and 7000 BC, dates that he considered

9. On the 1 March 1979, the New York
Times carried an article on its front page also page sixteen that was
entitled Nubian Monarchy called Oldest. In this article we were assured
that: “Evidence of the oldest recognizable monarchy in human history,
preceding the rise of the earliest Egyptian kings by several
generations, has been discovered in artifacts from ancient Nubia” (i.e.
the territory of the northern Sudan and the southern portion of modern

10. The ancient Egyptians had the same type of
tropically adapted skeletal proportions as modern Black Africans. A 2003
 paper appeared in American Journal of Physical Anthropology by Dr Sonia
 Zakrzewski entitled Variation in Ancient Egyptian Stature and Body
Proportions where she states that: “The raw values in Table 6 suggest
that Egyptians had the ‘super-Negroid’ body plan described by Robins
(1983). The values for the brachial and crural indices show that the
distal segments of each limb are longer relative to the proximal
segments than in many ‘African’ populations.”

11. The
ancient Egyptians had Afro combs. One writer tells us that the Egyptians
 “manufactured a very striking range of combs in ivory: the shape of
these is distinctly African and is like the combs used even today by
Africans and those of African descent.”

12. The
Funerary Complex in the ancient Egyptian city of Saqqara is the oldest
building that tourists regularly visit today. An outer wall, now mostly
in ruins, surrounded the whole structure. Through the entrance are a
series of columns, the first stone-built columns known to historians.
The North House also has ornamental columns built into the walls that
have papyrus-like capitals. Also inside the complex is the Ceremonial
Court, made of limestone blocks that have been quarried and then shaped.
 In the centre of the complex is the Step Pyramid, the first of 90
Egyptian pyramids.

13. The first Great Pyramid of Giza,
 the most extraordinary building in history, was a staggering 481 feet
tall - the equivalent of a 40-storey building. It was made of 2.3
million blocks of limestone and granite, some weighing 100 tons.

 The ancient Egyptian city of Kahun was the world’s first planned city.
Rectangular and walled, the city was divided into two parts. One part
housed the wealthier inhabitants – the scribes, officials and foremen.
The other part housed the ordinary people. The streets of the western
section in particular, were straight, laid out on a grid, and crossed
each other at right angles. A stone gutter, over half a metre wide, ran
down the centre of every street.

15. Egyptian mansions
were discovered in Kahun - each boasting 70 rooms, divided into four
sections or quarters. There was a master’s quarter, quarters for women
and servants, quarters for offices and finally, quarters for granaries,
each facing a central courtyard. The master’s quarters had an open court
 with a stone water tank for bathing. Surrounding this was a colonnade.

 The Labyrinth in the Egyptian city of Hawara with its massive layout,
multiple courtyards, chambers and halls, was the very largest building
in antiquity. Boasting three thousand rooms, 1,500 of them were above
ground and the other 1,500 were underground.

Toilets and sewerage systems existed in ancient Egypt. One of the
pharaohs built a city now known as Amarna. An American urban planner
noted that: “Great importance was attached to cleanliness in Amarna as
in other Egyptian cities. Toilets and sewers were in use to dispose
waste. Soap was made for washing the body. Perfumes and essences were
popular against body odour. A solution of natron was used to keep
insects from houses . . . Amarna may have been the first planned ‘garden

18. Sudan has more pyramids than any other
country on earth - even more than Egypt. There are at least 223 pyramids
 in the Sudanese cities of Al Kurru, Nuri, Gebel Barkal and Meroë. They
are generally 20 to 30 metres high and steep sided.

 The Sudanese city of Meroë is rich in surviving monuments. Becoming the
 capital of the Kushite Empire between 590 BC until AD 350, there are 84
 pyramids in this city alone, many built with their own miniature
temple. In addition, there are ruins of a bath house sharing affinities
with those of the Romans. Its central feature is a large pool approached
 by a flight of steps with waterspouts decorated with lion heads.

 Bling culture has a long and interesting history. Gold was used to
decorate ancient Sudanese temples. One writer reported that: “Recent
excavations at Meroe and Mussawwarat es-Sufra revealed temples with
walls and statues covered with gold leaf”.

21. In
around 300 BC, the Sudanese invented a writing script that had
twenty-three letters of which four were vowels and there was also a word
 divider. Hundreds of ancient texts have survived that were in this
script. Some are on display in the British Museum.

In central Nigeria, West Africa’s oldest civilisation flourished between
 1000 BC and 300 BC. Discovered in 1928, the ancient culture was called
the Nok Civilisation, named after the village in which the early
artefacts were discovered. Two modern scholars, declare that “[a]fter
calibration, the period of Nok art spans from 1000 BC until 300 BC”. The
 site itself is much older going back as early as 4580 or 4290 BC.

 West Africans built in stone by 1100 BC. In the Tichitt-Walata region
of Mauritania, archaeologists have found “large stone masonry villages”
that date back to 1100 BC. The villages consisted of roughly circular
compounds connected by “well-defined streets”.

24. By 250 BC, the foundations of West Africa’s oldest cities were established such as Old Djenné in Mali.

 Kumbi Saleh, the capital of Ancient Ghana, flourished from 300 to 1240
AD. Located in modern day Mauritania, archaeological excavations have
revealed houses, almost habitable today, for want of renovation and
several storeys high. They had underground rooms, staircases and
connecting halls. Some had nine rooms. One part of the city alone is
estimated to have housed 30,000 people.

26. West Africa had walled
 towns and cities in the pre-colonial period. Winwood Reade, an English
historian visited West Africa in the nineteenth century and commented
that: “There are . . . thousands of large walled cities resembling those
 of Europe in the Middle Ages, or of ancient Greece.”

 Lord Lugard, an English official, estimated in 1904 that there were 170
 walled towns still in existence in the whole of just the Kano province
of northern Nigeria.

28. Cheques are not quite as new
an invention as we were led to believe. In the tenth century, an Arab
geographer, Ibn Haukal, visited a fringe region of Ancient Ghana.
Writing in 951 AD, he told of a cheque for 42,000 golden dinars written
to a merchant in the city of Audoghast by his partner in Sidjilmessa.

 Ibn Haukal, writing in 951 AD, informs us that the King of Ghana was
“the richest king on the face of the earth” whose pre-eminence was due
to the quantity of gold nuggets that had been amassed by the himself and
 by his predecessors.

30. The Nigerian city of Ile-Ife
was paved in 1000 AD on the orders of a female ruler with decorations
that originated in Ancient America. Naturally, no-one wants to explain
how this took place approximately 500 years before the time of
Christopher Columbus!

31. West Africa had bling culture
 in 1067 AD. One source mentions that when the Emperor of Ghana gives
audience to his people: “he sits in a pavilion around which stand his
horses caparisoned in cloth of gold: behind him stand ten pages holding
shields and gold-mounted swords: and on his right hand are the sons of
the princes of his empire, splendidly clad and with gold plaited into
their hair . . . The gate of the chamber is guarded by dogs of an
excellent breed . . . they wear collars of gold and silver.”

 Glass windows existed at that time. The residence of the Ghanaian
Emperor in 1116 AD was: “A well-built castle, thoroughly fortified,
decorated inside with sculptures and pictures, and having glass

33. The Grand Mosque in the Malian city of
Djenné, described as “the largest adobe [clay] building in the world”,
was first raised in 1204 AD. It was built on a square plan where each
side is 56 metres in length. It has three large towers on one side, each
 with projecting wooden buttresses.

34. One of the
great achievements of the Yoruba was their urban culture. “By the year
A.D. 1300,” says a modern scholar, “the Yoruba people built numerous
walled cities surrounded by farms”. The cities were Owu, Oyo, Ijebu,
Ijesa, Ketu, Popo, Egba, Sabe, Dassa, Egbado, Igbomina, the sixteen
Ekiti principalities, Owo and Ondo.

35. Yoruba metal
art of the mediaeval period was of world class. One scholar wrote that
Yoruba art “would stand comparison with anything which Ancient Egypt,
Classical Greece and Rome, or Renaissance Europe had to offer.”

 In the Malian city of Gao stands the Mausoleum of Askia the Great, a
weird sixteenth century edifice that resembles a step pyramid.

 Thousands of mediaeval tumuli have been found across West Africa.
Nearly 7,000 were discovered in north-west Senegal alone spread over
nearly 1,500 sites. They were probably built between 1000 and 1300 AD.

 Excavations at the Malian city of Gao carried out by Cambridge
University revealed glass windows. One of the finds was entitled:
“Fragments of alabaster window surrounds and a piece of pink window
glass, Gao 10th – 14th century.”

39. In 1999 the BBC
produced a television series entitled Millennium. The programme devoted
to the fourteenth century opens with the following disclosure: “In the
fourteenth century, the century of the scythe, natural disasters
threatened civilisations with extinction. The Black Death kills more
people in Europe, Asia and North Africa than any catastrophe has before.
 Civilisations which avoid the plague thrive. In West Africa the Empire
of Mali becomes the richest in the world.”

40. Malian
sailors got to America in 1311 AD, 181 years before Columbus. An
Egyptian scholar, Ibn Fadl Al-Umari, published on this sometime around
1342. In the tenth chapter of his book, there is an account of two large
 maritime voyages ordered by the predecessor of Mansa Musa, a king who
inherited the Malian throne in 1312. This mariner king is not named by
Al-Umari, but modern writers identify him as Mansa Abubakari II.

 On a pilgrimage to Mecca in 1324 AD, a Malian ruler, Mansa Musa,
brought so much money with him that his visit resulted in the collapse
of gold prices in Egypt and Arabia. It took twelve years for the
economies of the region to normalise.

42. West African
gold mining took place on a vast scale. One modern writer said that: “It
 is estimated that the total amount of gold mined in West Africa up to
1500 was 3,500 tons, worth more than $****30 billion in today’s market.”

 The old Malian capital of Niani had a 14th century building called the
Hall of Audience. It was an surmounted by a dome, adorned with
arabesques of striking colours. The windows of an upper floor were
plated with wood and framed in silver; those of a lower floor were
plated with wood, framed in gold.

44. Mali in the 14th
century was highly urbanised. Sergio Domian, an Italian art and
architecture scholar, wrote the following about this period: “Thus was
laid the foundation of an urban civilisation. At the height of its
power, Mali had at least 400 cities, and the interior of the Niger Delta
 was very densely populated”.

45. The Malian city of
Timbuktu had a 14th century population of 115,000 - 5 times larger than
mediaeval London. Mansa Musa, built the Djinguerebere Mosque in the
fourteenth century. There was the University Mosque in which 25,000
students studied and the Oratory of Sidi Yayia. There were over 150
Koran schools in which 20,000 children were instructed. London, by
contrast, had a total 14th century population of 20,000 people.

 National Geographic recently described Timbuktu as the Paris of the
mediaeval world, on account of its intellectual culture. According to
Professor Henry Louis Gates, 25,000 university students studied there.

 Many old West African families have private library collections that go
 back hundreds of years. The Mauritanian cities of Chinguetti and Oudane
 have a total of 3,450 hand written mediaeval books. There may be
another 6,000 books still surviving in the other city of Walata. Some
date back to the 8th century AD. There are 11,000 books in private
collections in Niger. Finally, in Timbuktu, Mali, there are about
700,000 surviving books.

48. A collection of one
thousand six hundred books was considered a small library for a West
African scholar of the 16th century. Professor Ahmed Baba of Timbuktu is
 recorded as saying that he had the smallest library of any of his
friends - he had only 1600 volumes.

49. Concerning
these old manuscripts, Michael Palin, in his TV series Sahara, said the
imam of Timbuktu “has a collection of scientific texts that clearly show
 the planets circling the sun. They date back hundreds of years . . .
Its convincing evidence that the scholars of Timbuktu knew a lot more
than their counterparts in Europe. In the fifteenth century in Timbuktu
the mathematicians knew about the rotation of the planets, knew about
the details of the eclipse, they knew things which we had to wait for
150 almost 200 years to know in Europe when Galileo and Copernicus came
up with these same calculations and were given a very hard time for it.”

50. The Songhai Empire of 16th century West Africa had a government position called Minister for Etiquette and Protocol.

 The mediaeval Nigerian city of Benin was built to “a scale comparable
with the Great Wall of China”. There was a vast system of defensive
walling totalling 10,000 miles in all. Even before the full extent of
the city walling had become apparent the Guinness Book of Records
carried an entry in the 1974 edition that described the city as: “The
largest earthworks in the world carried out prior to the mechanical

52. Benin art of the Middle Ages was of the
highest quality. An official of the Berlin Museum für Völkerkunde once
stated that: “These works from Benin are equal to the very finest
examples of European casting technique. Benvenuto Cellini could not have
 cast them better, nor could anyone else before or after him . . .
Technically, these bronzes represent the very highest possible

53. Winwood Reade described his visit to
the Ashanti Royal Palace of Kumasi in 1874: “We went to the king’s
palace, which consists of many courtyards, each surrounded with alcoves
and verandahs, and having two gates or doors, so that each yard was a
thoroughfare . . . But the part of the palace fronting the street was a
stone house, Moorish in its style . . . with a flat roof and a parapet,
and suites of apartments on the first floor. It was built by Fanti
masons many years ago. The rooms upstairs remind me of Wardour Street.
Each was a perfect Old Curiosity Shop. Books in many languages, Bohemian
 glass, clocks, silver plate, old furniture, Persian rugs, Kidderminster
 carpets, pictures and engravings, numberless chests and coffers. A
sword bearing the inscription From Queen Victoria to the King of
Ashantee. A copy of the Times, 17 October 1843. With these were many
specimens of Moorish and Ashanti handicraft.”

54. In
the mid-nineteenth century, William Clarke, an English visitor to
Nigeria, remarked that: “As good an article of cloth can be woven by the
 Yoruba weavers as by any people . . . in durability, their cloths far
excel the prints and home-spuns of Manchester.”

55. The
 recently discovered 9th century Nigerian city of Eredo was found to be
surrounded by a wall that was 100 miles long and seventy feet high in
places. The internal area was a staggering 400 square miles.

 On the subject of cloth, Kongolese textiles were also distinguished.
Various European writers of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries
wrote of the delicate crafts of the peoples living in eastern Kongo and
adjacent regions who manufactured damasks, sarcenets, satins, taffeta,
cloth of tissue and velvet. Professor DeGraft-Johnson made the curious
observation that: “Their brocades, both high and low, were far more
valuable than the Italian.”

57. On Kongolese metallurgy
 of the Middle Ages, one modern scholar wrote that: “There is no
doubting . . . the existence of an expert metallurgical art in the
ancient Kongo . . . The Bakongo were aware of the toxicity of lead
vapours. They devised preventative and curative methods, both
pharmacological (massive doses of pawpaw and palm oil) and mechanical
(exerting of pressure to free the digestive tract), for combating lead

58. In Nigeria, the royal palace in the
city of Kano dates back to the fifteenth century. Begun by Muhammad
Rumfa (ruled 1463-99) it has gradually evolved over generations into a
very imposing complex. A colonial report of the city from 1902,
described it as “a network of buildings covering an area of 33 acres and
 surrounded by a wall 20 to 30 feet high outside and 15 feet inside . . .
 in itself no mean citadel”.

59. A sixteenth century
traveller visited the central African civilisation of Kanem-Borno and
commented that the emperor’s cavalry had golden “stirrups, spurs, bits
and buckles.” Even the ruler’s dogs had “chains of the finest gold”.

60. One of the government positions in mediaeval Kanem-Borno was Astronomer Royal.

 Ngazargamu, the capital city of Kanem-Borno, became one of the largest
cities in the seventeenth century world. By 1658 AD, the metropolis,
according to an architectural scholar housed “about quarter of a million
 people”. It had 660 streets. Many were wide and unbending, reflective
of town planning.

62. The Nigerian city of Surame
flourished in the sixteenth century. Even in ruin it was an impressive
sight, built on a horizontal vertical grid. A modern scholar describes
it thus: “The walls of Surame are about 10 miles in circumference and
include many large bastions or walled suburbs running out at right
angles to the main wall. The large compound at Kanta is still visible in
 the centre, with ruins of many buildings, one of which is said to have
been two-storied. The striking feature of the walls and whole ruins is
the extensive use of stone and tsokuwa (laterite gravel) or very hard
red building mud, evidently brought from a distance. There is a big
mound of this near the north gate about 8 feet in height. The walls show
 regular courses of masonry to a height of 20 feet and more in several
places. The best preserved portion is that known as sirati (the bridge) a
 little north of the eastern gate . . . The main city walls here appear
to have provided a very strongly guarded entrance about 30 feet wide.”

 The Nigerian city of Kano in 1851 produced an estimated 10 million
pairs of sandals and 5 million hides each year for export.

 In 1246 AD Dunama II of Kanem-Borno exchanged embassies with
Al-Mustansir, the king of Tunis. He sent the North African court a
costly present, which apparently included a giraffe. An old chronicle
noted that the rare animal “created a sensation in Tunis”.

 By the third century BC the city of Carthage on the coast of Tunisia
was opulent and impressive. It had a population of 700,000 and may even
have approached a million. Lining both sides of three streets were rows
of tall houses six storeys high.

66. The Ethiopian city
 of Axum has a series of 7 giant obelisks that date from perhaps 300 BC
to 300 AD. They have details carved into them that represent windows and
 doorways of several storeys. The largest obelisk, now fallen, is in
fact “the largest monolith ever made anywhere in the world”. It is 108
feet long, weighs a staggering 500 tons, and represents a
thirteen-storey building.

67. Ethiopia minted its own
coins over 1,500 years ago. One scholar wrote that: “Almost no other
contemporary state anywhere in the world could issue in gold, a
statement of sovereignty achieved only by Rome, Persia, and the Kushan
kingdom in northern India at the time.”

68. The
Ethiopian script of the 4th century AD influenced the writing script of
Armenia. A Russian historian noted that: “Soon after its creation, the
Ethiopic vocalised script began to influence the scripts of Armenia and
Georgia. D. A. Olderogge suggested that Mesrop Mashtotz used the
vocalised Ethiopic script when he invented the Armenian alphabet.”

 “In the first half of the first millennium CE,” says a modern scholar,
Ethiopia “was ranked as one of the world’s greatest empires”. A Persian
cleric of the third century AD identified it as the third most important
 state in the world after Persia and Rome.

70. Ethiopia
 has 11 underground mediaeval churches built by being carved out of the
ground. In the twelfth and thirteenth centuries AD, Roha became the new
capital of the Ethiopians. Conceived as a New Jerusalem by its founder,
Emperor Lalibela (c.1150-1230), it contains 11 churches, all carved out
of the rock of the mountains by hammer and chisel. All of the temples
were carved to a depth of 11 metres or so below ground level. The
largest is the House of the Redeemer, a staggering 33.7 metres long,
23.7 metres wide and 11.5 metres deep.

71. Lalibela is
not the only place in Ethiopia to have such wonders. A cotemporary
archaeologist reports research that was conducted in the region in the
early 1970’s when: “startling numbers of churches built in caves or
partially or completely cut from the living rock were revealed not only
in Tigre and Lalibela but as far south as Addis Ababa. Soon at least
1,500 were known. At least as many more probably await revelation.”

 In 1209 AD Emperor Lalibela of Ethiopia sent an embassy to Cairo
bringing the sultan unusual gifts including an elephant, a hyena, a
zebra, and a giraffe.

73. In Southern Africa, there are
 at least 600 stone built ruins in the regions of Zimbabwe, Mozambique
and South Africa. These ruins are called Mazimbabwe in Shona, the Bantu
language of the builders, and means great revered house and “signifies

74. The Great Zimbabwe was the largest of these
 ruins. It consists of 12 clusters of buildings, spread over 3 square
miles. Its outer walls were made from 100,000 tons of granite bricks. In
 the fourteenth century, the city housed 18,000 people, comparable in
size to that of London of the same period.

75. Bling
culture existed in this region. At the time of our last visit, the
Horniman Museum in London had exhibits of headrests with the caption:
“Headrests have been used in Africa since the time of the Egyptian
pharaohs. Remains of some headrests, once covered in gold foil, have
been found in the ruins of Great Zimbabwe and burial sites like
Mapungubwe dating to the twelfth century after Christ.”

 Dr Albert Churchward, author of Signs and Symbols of Primordial Man,
pointed out that writing was found in one of the stone built ruins:
“Lt.-Col. E. L. de Cordes . . . who was in South Africa for three years,
 informed the writer that in one of the ‘Ruins’ there is a
‘stone-chamber,’ with a vast quantity of Papyri, covered with old
Egyptian hieroglyphics. A Boer hunter discovered this, and a large
quantity was used to light a fire with, and yet still a larger quantity
remained there now.”

77. On bling culture, one
seventeenth century visitor to southern African empire of Monomotapa,
that ruled over this vast region, wrote that: “The people dress in
various ways: at court of the Kings their grandees wear cloths of rich
silk, damask, satin, gold and silk cloth; these are three widths of
satin, each width four covados [2.64m], each sewn to the next, sometimes
 with gold lace in between, trimmed on two sides, like a carpet, with a
gold and silk fringe, sewn in place with a two fingers’ wide ribbon,
woven with gold roses on silk.”

78. Southern Africans
mined gold on an epic scale. One modern writer tells us that: “The
estimated amount of gold ore mined from the entire region by the
ancients was staggering, exceeding 43 million tons. The ore yielded
nearly 700 tons of pure gold which today would be valued at over
$******7.5 billion.”

79. Apparently the Monomotapan
royal palace at Mount Fura had chandeliers hanging from the ceiling. An
eighteenth century geography book provided the following data: “The
inside consists of a great variety of sumptuous apartments, spacious and
 lofty halls, all adorned with a magnificent cotton tapestry, the
manufacture of the country. The floors, cielings [sic], beams and
rafters are all either gilt or plated with gold curiously wrought, as
are also the chairs of state, tables, benches &c. The
candle-sticks and branches are made of ivory inlaid with gold, and hang
from the cieling by chains of the same metal, or of silver gilt.”

 Monomotapa had a social welfare system. Antonio Bocarro, a Portuguese
contemporary, informs us that the Emperor: “shows great charity to the
blind and maimed, for these are called the king’s poor, and have land
and revenues for their subsistence, and when they wish to pass through
the kingdoms, wherever they come food and drinks are given to them at
the public cost as long as they remain there, and when they leave that
place to go to another they are provided with what is necessary for
their journey, and a guide, and some one to carry their wallet to the
next village. In every place where they come there is the same

81. Many southern Africans have indigenous
 and pre-colonial words for ‘gun’. Scholars have generally been
reluctant to investigate or explain this fact.

Evidence discovered in 1978 showed that East Africans were making steel
for more than 1,500 years: “Assistant Professor of Anthropology Peter
Schmidt and Professor of Engineering Donald H. Avery have found as long
as 2,000 years ago Africans living on the western shores of Lake
Victoria had produced carbon steel in preheated forced draft furnaces, a
 method that was technologically more sophisticated than any developed
in Europe until the mid-nineteenth century.”

83. Ruins
of a 300 BC astronomical observatory was found at Namoratunga in Kenya.
Africans were mapping the movements of stars such as Triangulum,
Aldebaran, Bellatrix, Central Orion, etcetera, as well as the moon, in
order to create a lunar calendar of 354 days.

Autopsies and caesarean operations were routinely and effectively
carried out by surgeons in pre-colonial Uganda. The surgeons routinely
used antiseptics, anaesthetics and cautery iron. Commenting on a Ugandan
 caesarean operation that appeared in the Edinburgh Medical Journal in
1884, one author wrote: “The whole conduct of the operation . . .
suggests a skilled long-practiced surgical team at work conducting a
well-tried and familiar operation with smooth efficiency.”

85. Sudan in the mediaeval period had churches, cathedrals, monasteries and castles. Their ruins still exist today.

 The mediaeval Nubian Kingdoms kept archives. From the site of Qasr
Ibrim legal texts, documents and correspondence were discovered. An
archaeologist informs us that: “On the site are preserved thousands of
documents in Meroitic, Latin, Greek, Coptic, Old Nubian, Arabic and

87. Glass windows existed in mediaeval Sudan.
 Archaeologists found evidence of window glass at the Sudanese cities of
 Old Dongola and Hambukol.

88. Bling culture existed in
 the mediaeval Sudan. Archaeologists found an individual buried at the
Monastery of the Holy Trinity in the city of Old Dongola. He was clad in
 an extremely elaborate garb consisting of costly textiles of various
fabrics including gold thread. At the city of Soba East, there were
individuals buried in fine clothing, including items with golden thread.

 Style and fashion existed in mediaeval Sudan. A dignitary at Jebel Adda
 in the late thirteenth century AD was interned with a long coat of red
and yellow patterned damask folded over his body. Underneath, he wore
plain cotton trousers of long and baggy cut. A pair of red leather
slippers with turned up toes lay at the foot of the coffin. The body was
 wrapped in enormous pieces of gold brocaded striped silk.

 Sudan in the ninth century AD had housing complexes with bath rooms and
 piped water. An archaeologist wrote that Old Dongola, the capital of
Makuria, had: “a[n] . . . eighth to . . . ninth century housing complex.
 The houses discovered here differ in their hitherto unencountered
spatial layout as well as their functional programme (water supply
installation, bathroom with heating system) and interiors decorated with

91. In 619 AD, the Nubians sent a gift of a giraffe to the Persians.

 The East Coast, from Somalia to Mozambique, has ruins of well over 50
towns and cities. They flourished from the ninth to the sixteenth
centuries AD.

93. Chinese records of the fifteenth century AD note that Mogadishu had houses of “four or five storeys high”.

 Gedi, near the coast of Kenya, is one of the East African ghost towns.
Its ruins, dating from the fourteenth or fifteenth centuries, include
the city walls, the palace, private houses, the Great Mosque, seven
smaller mosques, and three pillar tombs.

95. The ruined mosque in the Kenyan city of Gedi had a water purifier made of limestone for recycling water.

 The palace in the Kenyan city of Gedi contains evidence of piped water
controlled by taps. In addition it had bathrooms and indoor toilets.

 A visitor in 1331 AD considered the Tanzanian city of Kilwa to be of
world class. He wrote that it was the “principal city on the coast the
greater part of whose inhabitants are Zanj of very black complexion.”
Later on he says that: “Kilwa is one of the most beautiful and
well-constructed cities in the world. The whole of it is elegantly

98. Bling culture existed in early Tanzania. A
Portuguese chronicler of the sixteenth century wrote that: “[T]hey are
finely clad in many rich garments of gold and silk and cotton, and the
women as well; also with much gold and silver chains and bracelets,
which they wear on their legs and arms, and many jewelled earrings in
their ears”.

99. In 1961 a British archaeologist, found
 the ruins of Husuni Kubwa, the royal palace of the Tanzanian city of
Kilwa. It had over a hundred rooms, including a reception hall,
galleries, courtyards, terraces and an octagonal swimming pool.

 In 1414 the Kenyan city of Malindi sent ambassadors to China carrying a
 gift that created a sensation at the Imperial Court. It was, of course,
 a giraffe.


Atlanta Hawks fan loves cheerleader

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Star Trek Into Darkness

If you’re looking forward to Star Trek Into Darkness, then you’re going to want to check out The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey when it hits theaters next month. It’s already been announced that a nine-minute prologue of J.J. Abrams’ Star Trek sequel is going to hit theaters before IMAX 3D screenings of The Hobbit, and now we’ve learned that a regular trailer is going to debut Dec. 14 before all the non-IMAX versions of the film (including those at 48 frames-per-second). has the news, and adds that this will be a standard theatrical movie trailer. That means it won’t be a condensed version of the prologue, and also won’t be a wimpy teaser. The theatrical trailer is supposed to show scenes from many parts of the new movie. The site also caught up with leading man Chris Pine and asked if he could tease any of the prologue footage that we have to look forward to. As it turns out, he’s clueless about the whole thing. “The thing with J.J. [Abrams] is that he’s like the master puppeteer, so it’s like none of us know anything,” Pine said. “I didn’t know that it was going to be shown, I don’t know what the footage is, what’s exciting for that for me is that I get excited so I want to go to the theatre to just to check it out. I’m excited for people to see this movie, it’s bigger than the last one, we have a great villain, I can’t wait until it’s released.” Written by Damon Lindelof, Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman, Star Trek Into Darkness sees the return of Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto, Simon Pegg, Karl Urban, Zoe Saldana, Anton Yelchin, John Cho and Bruce Greenwood. Sherlock star Benedict Cumberbatch joins the cast as the still-unnamed villain.

Thursday, November 15, 2012


Here's What Female Porn Stars Get Paid For Different Types Of Scenes Most people have heard the name Ari Emanuel — the WME super agent who inspired Jeremy Piven's Ari Gold character on HBO's hit show, "Entourage." The name Mark Spiegler, a top talent agent in a different billion dollar entertainment industry, may not ring as many bells. That's because Spiegler represents porn stars. While Emanuel, 51, represents talent such as Charlize Theron and Steven Spielberg; Spiegler, 54, represents top adult female stars with names like Skin Diamond, Chanel Preston and Asa Akira. Spiegler's boutique firm, Spiegler Girls, represents a small group of elite women and is regarded as one of the industry's top agencies in the Hollywood of porn: The San Fernando Valley. "We are the buffer — so the girl doesn't look bad. We take the heat," Spiegler told The Hollywood Reporter in their article "Inside the Risky Business of Porn Star Agents." But while many aspects of the business are changing — from the just-passed L.A. County measure requiring condom use in adult movies to shrinking profits — 40 million to 50 million people in the U.S. are reportedly still regularly watching pornography on the Internet. "While a decade ago the average female performer would make about $100,000 a year," Spiegler told THR "she now might make as little as $50,000 — all while juggling responsibilities such as social-media outreach and personal appearances." But for the select few females who make it to the top of the industry, paychecks can be "upward of $350,000 a year, while top male performers can make more than $100,000 annually." According to Dan Miller, executive managing editor of industry trade magazine XBIZ, there are about 250 "in-demand" women (called "models") who work regularly, shooting between 100 and 150 scenes per year. "A popular girl is going to work a minimum of 10 times per month," he tells THR. According to Spiegler, there is a relatively straightforward scale for performances by an in-demand actress: $800 for a girl-girl scene $1,000 for a guy-girl scene $1,200 or more for anal sex $4,000 or more for "double penetration" According to THR, "guy-on-guy pornography has a separate pay scale; most agents in the mainstream straight porn world, including Spiegler, do not represent gay men." But for each gig Spiegler books for his girls, he takes 10 to 15 percent, receiving the larger percentage if he also handles transportation for the client. None of the agents THR spoke with would reveal how much money they personally make in a year, but sources told the trade that top agents can rake in around $250,000 a year from their 10 to 15 percent takes. "It's very competitive, and the well-known agencies do control most of the talent," added Dan Miller. "It's just like Hollywood in that regard." And agents don't just handle the financial aspect of a deal, they also help clients set up personal websites, advise them on plastic surgery procedures, arrange for transportation to and from film sets and make sure the actors are staying on top of their mandatory drug and STD testing regimens. But when it's all said and done, shooting the actual porn films is just a small percentage of an adult film star's job. According to XBIZ's Miller, "about 70 to 80 percent of an actress' annual revenue is derived from movies, and the remaining 20 to 30 percent could be generated by everything from exotic dancing to sex-toy sales and personal website subscriptions." One of the most famous adult film stars of all time, Jenna Jameson, earned an estimated $30 million per year hawking her own brand of sex toys until she sold her popular website ClubJenna to Playboy for an undisclosed fortune in 2006. While Jameson has managed to parlay her career into a mainstream market, other adult film stars argue the pay is simply better on the other side of the 'biz. Porn star Sunny Leone, a new Bollywood sensation, was paid a lower SAG scale rate for her work on the 2010 Will Ferrell-produced comedy "The Virginity Hit" but made about $250,000 for her role in the adult film "Jism 2." Now watch porn stars and their agents discuss the 'biz in their own words in this behind-the-scenes video shoot from The Hollywood Reporter: more @

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Two Porn Stars Open Up About Their Work

Black Friday

Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving regarded as one of the biggest shopping days of the year, may be dramatically different this year. Organizers are planning a nationwide strike against Walmart, the largest retailer in the world, and are banking on a new strategy: online organizing. Labor organizers are working with social action nonprofit Engage Network as well as corporate watchdog nonprofit Corporate Action Network to pull off what they are calling a "viral" -- meaning national and spreading online -- strike. Walmart workers interested in joining the day of action are directed to this website, either to find a store near them with an organized strike or to "adopt an event" at a store near them. Brian Young, cofounder of the Corporate Action Network, said on a conference call coordinated by the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) union Thursday, that organizers cannot cover the roughly 4,000 Walmarts across the country, but enabling self-appointed leaders online has widened and decentralized the campaign. Supporters can also sponsor a striking worker, who may be losing wages in order to strike, by donating grocery gift cards. The campaign has raised more than $13,500 worth of donations toward grocery gift cards since Oct. 15 -- a figure that doesn't include significant funds raised through mailed-in checks, Jamie Way, of the UFCW, told HuffPost. The campaign is also mobilizing strikers and supporters through a Facebook app, multiple Facebook pages, a Tumblr and Twitter with the hashtag #walmartstrikers. "This online mobilization, in addition to traditional on-the-ground organizing, has allowed the campaign to reach into the rural corners of the country that might have otherwise been overlooked," Marianne Manilov, cofounder of the Engage Network, said on the conference call. She pointed to a group of renegade workers in Oklahoma who mobilized in October. "A completely unorganized set of workers in Oklahoma spontaneously went out on strike and held their own type of action without any organizer or … connection with the broader organization," she said. "This is what organizing looks like in the age of Occupy." The outreach leading up to Black Friday follows a series of unprecedented actions taken by Walmart workers against their employer and working conditions. In October, for the first time in the company's 50-year history, more than 70 workers at multiple Los Angeles-area Walmart stores walked off the job, even though their jobs are not protected by an official union. The strike had a ripple effect, causing strikes in 12 other cities, in large part through online organizing. The success of these strikes, as well as one over the summer touted as the largest ever protest against the company, and a six-day pilgrimmage of warehouse workers in September, would not have been possible without Facebook, Twitter and other web sites, Young said. "Making Change at Walmart," which organized the demonstrations and is a campaign affiliated with the UFCW union, has over 25,000 supporters on Facebook. Although it does not officially represent Walmart workers, OUR Walmart, organized by the Making Change campaign, acts like a union to fight for the rights of Walmart workers. OUR Walmart, which was founded last year with 100 members, now has over 14,000 supporters on Facebook. Corey Parker, a Walmart worker from Mississippi, said on the conference call that he became active with OUR Walmart after finding out about it through a HuffPost article on Facebook. Now, he has mobilized workers at his store to strike on Black Friday because, he said, he realized that "not being able to make a living was not just an issue at my store." Adding fuel to movement, Walmart announced Thursday that it will kick off its Black Friday sale at 8 p.m. on Thanksgiving, its earliest start ever. "Lots and lots of Walmart workers are going to be forced to not have Thanksgiving because they're going to be preparing all day for the busiest shopping day of the year," Dan Schlademan, director of Making Change at Walmart, said on the conference call. "This essentially cancels Thanksgiving for hundreds of thousands of workers." "It's not like Walmart is financially hurting. It's not like they're not making unbelievable sums of money. The price of this is really decimating an important family day in our country." But Walmart spokesman Steven Restivo said of the sale, "Last year, our highest customer traffic was during the 10 p.m. hour and, according to the National Retail Federation, Thanksgiving night shopping has surged over the past three years." "Most of our stores are open 24 hours and, historically, much of our Black Friday preparations have been done on Thanksgiving, which is not unusual in the retail industry," he said, adding that the strikes planned for Black Friday, will not "have any impact on our business." Regarding the action over the last few months, Restivo said, "While the opinions expressed by this group don’t represent the views of the vast majority of more than 1.3 million Walmart associates in the U.S., when our associates bring forward concerns, we listen." In September, dozens of Walmart-contracted warehouse workers in Southern California's Inland Empire walked off the job and went on a six-day, 50-mile pilgrimage to protest working conditions and retaliation for speaking up. More than a month later, the warehouse company NFI responded to some of the strikers' working condition requests. "Just in the last week, we've seen the warehouse operators scrambling to replace broken and unsafe equipment, they've rented fans to increase ventilation, and they've added more water coolers," Elizabeth Brennan, communications director for Warehouse Workers United, said on the conference call. However, the strikers who returned to work have continued to face retaliation, many times getting their hours cut from 35 down to eight, she said. Some of these warehouse workers will join striking Walmart workers on Black Friday, Brennan said. Excluding the retaliation, organizers hope to see that type of positive response after Black Friday. And with an online system open to anyone who wants to start a strike in his or her local Walmart, Manilov hopes both the demonstration and response will be broad-reaching. "This is one of the first labor campaigns to really fully embrace the potential of online-to-offline labor organizing," she said. "As this captures fire, its potential is limitless."

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Woman refuses to tip for pizza so the delivery man urinates on her door on

Woman refuses to tip for pizza so the delivery man urinates on her door on Next time Chloe Teply orders a pizza maybe she'll budget a few extra dollars to tip the delivery driver. Teply learned the hard way delivery men don't like being stiffed when a Des Moines, Iowa, Pizza Hut employee urinated on her doorstep in retribution for the denied tip. 'It's just one of those things where unfortunately, I don't have the money,' Teply told KCRG. She forgot about it the delivery until a few hours later when she opened the door and saw a yellow puddle. 'I was like 'Hmmm who was at my door that might be upset with me' and it kind of hit me that it was the pizza delivery guy,' she said. Security cameras posted around the apartment complex confirmed it. In one view of Teply's front door, the delivery man can be seen to walk back down the stairway from her apartment then pausing, setting his bag down, and going back up to her door. After stopping with his back to the camera and legs spread, the anonymous delivery man can clearly be seen tucking his shirt back in and zipping up his pants as he goes to leave. Apartment manager Sheri Larson called the Pizza Hut to complain and the driver was then fired. But his job wasn't enough for Tiply. 'I mean is he going to come back and clean it up? I didn't expect him to, but maybe I should make a few phone calls and see what he's doing,' she said. She suspeted the driver was struggling financially but didn't think stiffing him on the tip should have earned her a puddle at her door. 'If you're going to be really upset about things like that then maybe you shouldn't be a pizza delivery driver at all,' she said. After the story broke on Des Moines television, the delivery man called her to apologize then returned to clean up the mess.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Obama / Romney

Back on stump after Sandy, Obama says Romney's 'bet is on cynicism' Posted by CNN White House Producer Adam Aigner-Treworgy Green Bay, Wisconsin (CNN) – President Obama kicked off the final push towards Election Day with what sounded like a closing argument meant to reassure voters that by voting for him, they know what they're getting. After four days away from the campaign trail spent overseeing the federal government's response to Hurricane Sandy, the president began his remarks here at Austin Straubel Airport on Thursday morning with a small taste of the nonpartisan tone that has dominated the week. First he thanked one of his introducers, Green Bay Packers safety Charles Woodson, for announcing a $100,000 donation to the American Red Cross. – Follow the Ticker on Twitter: @PoliticalTicker – Check out the CNN Electoral Map and Calculator and game out your own strategy for November. "When disaster strikes we see America at its best," the president said. "All the petty differences that consume us in normal times all seem to melt away. There are no Democrats or Republicans during a storm. There are just fellow Americans, leaders of different parties working to fix what's broken. Neighbors helping neighbors cope with tragedy." But the campaign rhetoric was soon back in full force, as Obama sought to convince Wisconsin voters that while he continues to fight for the change he promised in 2008, his opponent would reverse it. Calling Mitt Romney a talented "salesman," the president said that Romney is trying to "dress up" the policies of the Bush administration and is "offering them up as change." "He is saying he is the candidate of change," Obama said of Romney. "Well, let me tell you Wisconsin – we know what change looks like and what the governor is offering sure ain't change." In an attempt to portray Romney as a risky bet for voters looking for something different, Obama reassured the crowd of 2,600 gathered in the Wisconsin cold that he was the real safe choice in this election. "After four years as president you know me by now," Obama said. "You may not agree with every decision I have made. You may be frustrated at the pace of change, but you know what I believe. You know where I stand. You know I am willing to make tough decisions even when they are not politically convenient, and you know I will fight for you and your families every single day as hard as I know how. You know that." While his opponents' "bet is on cynicism," the president said, his bet "is on the decency and good sense of the American people because despite all the resistance, despite all the setbacks we have won some great fights." From here, Obama goes onto to Nevada and Colorado, beginning a whirlwind tour of swing states with at least 17 stops in the final five days before polls close on Tuesday. More than half of those stops will be in states often considered part of the Obama campaign's Midwestern firewall, and more than one third will be in the crucial state of Ohio.

iOS 6.0.1

Apple releases iOS 6.0.1 with over-the-air update tool Here comes a bug fix update to iOS 6 that corrects an installation issue on the iPhone 5 as well as a nasty Exchange meeting bug. Apple has rolled out the first bug fix update to iOS 6 since the software's release in mid-September. Version 6.0.1, which went out as a free update this morning, fixes a handful of bugs, including one that Apple says kept iPhone 5 users from installing over-the-air software updates. Apple's fix includes installing a special "iOS updater" app to help the process along, which is removed from the device after 6.0.1 is installed. Also included in the update is a fix for a nasty Exchange bug that could delete a meeting for all invited attendees if one user declined an invitation. The issue could be so bad that some companies put into place specific workarounds, warning those with iOS 6 devices to keep from declining invites and use a computer instead. Here's the full change log: Fixes a bug that prevents iPhone 5 from installing software updates wirelessly over the air Fixes a bug where horizontal lines may be displayed across the keyboard Fixes an issue that could cause camera flash to not go off Improves reliability of iPhone 5 and iPod Touch (5th generation) when connected to encrypted WPA2 Wi-Fi networks Resolves an issue that prevents iPhone from using the cellular network in some instances Consolidated the Use Cellular Data switch for iTunes Match Fixes a Passcode Lock bug that sometimes allowed access to Passbook pass details from lock screen Fixes a bug affecting Exchange meetings more @