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Thursday, March 21, 2013

Egyptian Activists Defend Use of Force Against an Unreformed Police Force

A video commentary from activists in Cairo explains and defends ongoing clashes with the police.

In their latest video, “Why Riot” the activists of Cairo’s Mosireen film collective argue that violent resistance to an unreformed police force is not only justified, but necessary. They write, by way of introduction to the film: “Two years after the start of the January 25 revolution we still riot because the ruling elite still exploit us, because the police still torture, maim and kill us and none of them are brought to justice.”

As The Lede reported in 2011, one well-known Egyptian activist and blogger, Alaa Abd El Fattah, said in the aftermath of the revolution that the most important technology deployed in defense of the Tahrir Square sit-in that year was “rocks â€" rocks and clubs.”

In a series of Twitter updates that summer, as protesters in Spain were beaten by the police and clashes continued in Egypt, Mr. Fattah argued that a willingness to fight back against the abusive police force that drove Egyptians to revolt in the first place was an essential component of the protest movement.

Drone Cameras May Be High Worry, but They’re Not High Tech

The contrast between fast-moving technology and slow-moving laws was on full display on Wednesday at a hearing of the Senate Judiciary Committee on domestic use of drones. The issue was not arming them, because the Federal Aviation Administration bans weaponizing civil aircraft. (Several senators asked about drones outfitted with weapons, though, including nonlethal options like tear gas or stun grenades.)

Instead, the concern of the day was privacy, and the message was that the drones â€" or, more properly, unmanned aerial systems â€" raise new issues because they are small and unobtrusive and the technology they carry can be quite basic.

Harriet Pearson, a Washington lawyer who has specialized in privacy issues for 20 years, said it was time for a national conversation about the rules. “We have to say, how do we create the norms and the laws’’ she said. The debate now, she said, could resemble the one in the 1870s and 1880s when cameras became common and the question was asked, when was it appropriate to photograph

In that era, she said, a consensus emerged that what happened in public was fair game. This time it is slightly different â€" the definition of public is expanding, and the drones are so unobtrusive that people being videotaped may have no idea it is happening.

Intrusion by government agencies is governed by the Fourth Amendment protection against unreasonable search and seizure. (The Constitution is intended to protect against government abuses, not private abuses, and in any case does not explicitly contain a right to privacy.) Disputes involving drones operated by companies or private individuals would fall under common law, a body of precedent that goes back to English tort law.

“I’ll call this the possible renaissance of privacy tort law,’’ she said.

But how would the courts rule on such a case Senator Charles Grassley of Iowa, the ranking Republican member of the committee, and others pointed out that the Supreme Court ruled last year that police needed a warrant to attach a GPS tracker to a drug dealer’s car, because the device was a physical intrusion. A drone involves no such physical intrusion.

Nor do small drones even use technology that would be considered particularly novel nowadays.

In a New York Times video, aerial shots from a fixed-wing plane (a modified version of the Chinese-built HobbyKing plastic foam radio-controlled airplane) were shot with a GoPro Hero 3, which sells on Amazon for $300; shots captured from a hexacopter used an older model of the camera. The Times video journalist who produced the video, Erik Olsen, says both models are popular with extreme sports enthusiasts.

The hexacopter and the fixed-wing plane in the video, both belonging to Prof. Benjamin Trapnell of the University of North Dakota, have a maximum flight time of about 15 minutes, and run on electric power. Slightly larger drones with gasoline engines can fly for far longer periods, but many pilots of drones prefer the electric models because exhaust can obscure the camera’s view.

Benjamin Miller, of the Mesa County, Colo., sheriff’s office, brought to the Senate hearing a two-pound helicopter, a small, sleek plastic pod at the center of three arms; each arm carried two rotors. Arson investigators had used it, he said, to take pictures with “a point-and-click camera available at your neighborhood Walmart.”

Welcome back, Candid Camera.

I.B.M. Research Points to Circuits That Mimic the Brain’s Design

I.B.M. scientists said Thursday that they had developed a fluidic electronic system that mimics the circuits in the human brain and potentially offers a new direction for ultra-low-power microelectronics and artificial intelligence.

A group of researchers at the company’s Almaden Research Center in San Jose, Calif., reported in the journal Science that they had pioneered a novel mechanism for transforming an insulating material into a metallic conductor by placing it in contact with a charged fluid. In contrast to conventional semiconductors, which use electric currents to switch materials between insulating and conducting states, the new method uses what the researchers describe as “ionic currents” â€" mobile charged atoms rather than electrons â€" as a switching mechanism.

“I’m particularly excited by our findings,” said Stuart Parkin, a physicist and I.B.M. Fellow, “because a lot of how the brain operates is by the flow of ions and ion channels. In some sense what we want to do is mimic those components of the brain.”

While the individual components of the brain work far more slowly than modern microelectronic transistors, the brain’s circuits are arranged in three dimensions and operate in parallel. That allows the brain to do complex computing using only a fraction of the energy of today’s computers.

The I.B.M. researchers hope that their approach could be used to build more brain-like computers.

The advantage of the new method is that it is both nonvolatile â€" it requires only a small amount of electricity to change the materials from one state to another, and they then remain in that state â€" and is potentially reversible, meaning that it could be used to build a device like a transistor.

The researchers noted that while the switching speed of the new materials might never match the raw speed of today’s transistors, their biological-like qualities might make them appropriate for building a new generation of sensors or memories.

Although the initial I.B.M. results are based on simply exposing oxidized materials to fluids, the researchers said that if systems were built upon the new mechanism, they could exploit fields that are known as nano- or microfluidics. These technologies use tiny channels and pipes to control and mix fluids for a variety of industrial and scientific applications.

The next step for the I.B.M. research team would be to make “fluidic” circuits in which it would be possible to move the charged fluids over surfaces to change their properties, much as a conventional microelectronic semiconductor is switched “on” and “off.”

“We could form or disrupt connections just in the same way a synaptic connection in the brain could be remade, or the strength of that connection could be adjusted,” Dr. Parkin said.

Analysts said I.B.M.’s announcement was likely to touch off broader interest in the field within the scientific community.

“This could have applications from fluidics to nonvolatile electronics to chips that are immune from radiation,” said Richard Doherty, an analyst at the Envisioneering Group, a technology research firm.

Dr. Parkin said the I.B.M. scientists were still considering which direction to pursue with their new materials. “Probably initially we’ll build a small memory array or something like that,” he said.

The I.B.M. research is in a field known as correlated electron systems, which explores a wide range of materials that exhibit unusual electronic or magnetic behavior.

Highlights From Obama’s Speech in Israel

  • 12:44  Brushes Off Heckler

    Rabiyah Aid, a 24-year-old Arab-Israeli student from Haifa, told Ynet, an Israeli news site, that he had been removed from the hall after shouting, “Are you really here to promote the peace process or are you here to give Israel more weapons to kill the Palestinian people with”

  • 14:06  Outlines Speech

  • 17:29  On Hezbollah and Syria

  • 18:36  On Iran’s Nuclear Capabilities

  • 27:05  Path to Security

  • 28:40  Israel and the Arab World

  • 31:40  Palestinians and Settlements

  • 36:15  Palestinian Leadership

  • 40:41  Putting Pressure on Leaders

Read the complete transcript here.

Ask About the Supreme Court Hearings on Same-Sex Marriage

The Supreme Court will hear oral arguments next week in a pair of cases challenging laws relating to same-sex marriage. On Tuesday, lawyers will argue a challenge to California’s gay marriage ban, Proposition 8, and the next day, the justices will hear a challenge to the federal law known as the Defense of Marriage Act.

As Adam Liptak, The Times’s Supreme Court reporter, wrote in December, the decision to schedule the two cases together puts the court in “the middle of one of the most important social controversies of the day.”

The Times will be covering both cases and the court will release same-day recordings of the oral arguments. In the meantime, The Times wants to hear your questions about the cases, who brought them, who will be arguing in favor of and against the laws and how the two cases differ.

Post a comment below with your question or send us a message on Twitter using the hashtag #AskNYT. Our reporters and editors will answer your questions early next week.

Israeli Beauty Queen Next in Line to Press Obama to Release Spy

As my colleague Isabel Kershner explained they would, Israeli politicians have taken turns this week pressing President Obama to release Jonathan Pollard, a former United States Navy intelligence analyst serving a life term in a North Carolina prison for spying for Israel.

Immediately after his arrival at Tel Aviv’s Ben-Gurion Airport on Wednesday, Mr. Obama was introduced to Israel’s new housing minister, Uri Ariel, who shook the president’s hand and said, “Please free Pollard.” Video of the brief exchange showed Mr. Obama nodding and saying just “Good to see you” in reply before moving on. When it was her turn to shake the president’s hand, the culture and sports minister Limor Livnat â€" who once called his administration “awful” â€" said, “On behalf of the citizens of Israel, I ask you not to forget our brother Jonathan Pollard.”

At least three more people Mr. Obama was scheduled to meet reportedly planned to raise Mr. Pollard’s case: the leader of the opposition Labor Party, the mother of two men killed during service in the Israel Defense Forces and the Ethiopian-born former soldier just named Miss Israel. The beauty queen, Yityish Aynaw, emigrated to Israel at the age of 12 and was crowned last month. She said in an interview with Israel’s Channel 2 that she intended to tell Mr. Obama at Thursday night’s state dinner that he was a role model for her and “that he should free Pollard.”

An Israeli television interview with Miss Israel, Yityish Aynaw, last week.

If Ms. Aynaw does manage to raise the subject, she will be following in the footsteps of Israel’s most senior leaders, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and President Shimon Peres, who have repeatedly called on American presidents to free the convicted spy. After Mr. Pollard was arrested in 1985, Israel initially claimed that he was an actor in a rogue operation. But he was granted Israeli citizenship during Mr. Netanyahu’s first term in office in the late 1990s, when Israel officially recognized that Mr. Pollard had “acted as an Israeli agent” when he passed on classified information on Arab countries.

An online petition calling for Mr. Pollard’s freedom has garnered more than 175,000 signatures. His wife, Esther, visited Mr. Netanyahu’s office last week and recorded a personal appeal to Mr. Obama broadcast on Israeli television in which she asked the president to “let Jonathan come home” to Israel.

A message to President Barack Obama from Esther Pollard, the wife of a convicted spy.

Petitioners for Mr. Pollard’s release have complained that he is being treated more harshly than others convicted of spying for American allies, but sympathy for his case is not universal among supporters of Israel in the United States. Last year, Martin Peretz, the former editor-in-chief of The New Republic, wrote:

It is not the business of Israel, although it seems to be the business of the politicians of Israel, to hector and harass President Obama about the release of Jonathan Pollard, who served as a certified espionage agent of the Jewish state in and against its one truly reliable ally, the United States of America. Maybe Pollard’s sentence was a bit harsher than it should have been. But I don’t even concede that. In any case, there are probably hundreds of thousands of convicts now in jail who can argue that their prison sentence was not equable or even just in the first place. Of course, that’s what the Pollard enthusiasts are saying. Frankly, I find it disgusting that so many Israelis and so many American Jews, too, have the chutzpah to besiege Obama with urgent demands to release Pollard now.

Computer Networks in South Korea Are Paralyzed in Cyberattack

Computer Networks in South Korea Are Paralyzed in Cyberattacks

Ahn Young-Joon/Associated Press

Depositors trying to use Shinhan Bank A.T.M.’s on Wednesday in Seoul, South Korea, while the bank’s networks were down.

SEOUL, South Korea â€" Computer networks running three major South Korean banks and the country’s two largest broadcasters were paralyzed Wednesday in attacks that some experts suspected originated in North Korea, which has consistently threatened to cripple its far richer neighbor.

The computers of South Korea’s cable channel YTN were frozen during the attacks on Wednesday.

The attacks, which left many South Koreans unable to withdraw money from A.T.M.’s and news broadcasting crews staring at blank computer screens, came as the North’s official Korean Central News Agency quoted the country’s leader, Kim Jong-un, as threatening to destroy government installations in the South, along with American bases in the Pacific.

Though American officials dismissed those threats, they also noted that the broadcasters hit by the virus had been cited by the North before as potential targets.

The Korea Communications Commission said Thursday that the disruption originated at an Internet provider address in China but that it was still not known who was responsible.

Many analysts in Seoul suspect that North Korean hackers honed their skills in China and were operating there. At a hacking conference here last year, Michael Sutton, the head of threat research at Zscaler, a security company, said a handful of hackers from China “were clearly very skilled, knowledgeable and were in touch with their counterparts and familiar with the scene in North Korea.”

But there has never been any evidence to back up some analysts’ speculation that they were collaborating with their Chinese counterparts. “I’ve never seen any real evidence that points to any exchanges between China and North Korea, ” said Adam Segal, a senior fellow who specializes in China and cyberconflict at the Council on Foreign Relations,

Wednesday’s attacks, which occurred as American and South Korean military forces were conducting major exercises, were not as sophisticated as some from China that have struck United States computers, and certainly less sophisticated than the American and Israeli cyberattack on Iran’s nuclear facilities. But it was far more complex than a “denial of service” attack that simply overwhelms a computer system with a flood of data.

The malware is called “DarkSeoul” in the computer world and was first identified about a year ago. It is intended to evade some of South Korea’s most popular antivirus products and to render computers unusable. In Wednesday’s strikes, the attackers made no effort to disguise the malware, leading some to question whether it came from a state sponsor â€" which tend to be more stealthy â€" or whether officials or hackers in North Korea were sending a specific, clear message: that they can reach into Seoul’s economic heart without blowing up South Korean warships or shelling South Korean islands.

North Korea was accused of using both those techniques in attacks over the past three years.

The cyberattacks Wednesday come just days after North Korea blamed South Korea and the United States for attacks on some of its Web sites. The North’s official Korean Central News Agency said last week that North Korea “will never remain a passive onlooker to the enemies’ cyberattacks that have reached a very grave phase as part of their moves to stifle it.”

The South Korean government cautioned that it was still too early to point the finger for Wednesday’s problems at the North, which has been threatening “pre-emptive nuclear attacks” and other, unspecified actions against its southern neighbor for conducting the military exercises with the United States this month and for supporting new American-led United Nations sanctions against the North.

“We cannot rule out the possibility of North Korean involvement, but we don’t want to jump to a conclusion,” said Kim Min-seok, a spokesman for the Defense Ministry.

The military raised its alert against cyberattacks, he added, and the Korea Communications Commission asked government agencies and businesses to triple the number of monitors for possible hacking attacks. South Korea’s new president, Park Geun-hye, instructed a civilian-government task force to investigate the disruptions.

Nicole Perlroth contributed reporting from San Francisco, and David E. Sanger from Washington.

A version of this article appeared in print on March 21, 2013, on page A5 of the New York edition with the headline: Computer Networks in South Korea Are Paralyzed in Cyberattacks.

Daily Report: New Reasons to Change Light Bulbs

For use in the lamps and light sockets of your home, LED bulbs have been slow to arrive, mainly because of their high price.

That’s a pity, because LED bulbs last longer and use less power than older ones, and with prices falling, a change makes even more sense, David Pogue writes in The New York Times.

 LED bulbs are a gigantic improvement over incandescent bulbs and even the compact fluorescents, or CFLs, that the world spent several years telling us to buy. LEDs last about 25 times as long as incandescents and three times as long as CFLs; we’re talking maybe 25,000 hours of light. Install one today, and you may not own your house, or even live, long enough to see it burn out. (Actually, LED bulbs generally don’t burn out at all; they just get dimmer.)

You know how hot incandescent bulbs become. That’s because they convert only 5 to 10 percent of your electricity into light; they waste the rest as heat. LED bulbs are far more efficient. They convert 60 percent of their electricity into light, so they consume far less electricity. You pay less, you pollute less.

But wait, there’s more: LED bulbs also turn on to full brightness instantly. They’re dimmable. The light color is wonderful; you can choose whiter or warmer bulbs. They’re rugged, too. It’s hard to break an LED bulb, but if the worst should come to pass, a special coating prevents flying shards.

Yet despite all of these advantages, few people install LED lights. They never get farther than: “$30 for a light bulb That’s nuts!” Never mind that they will save about $200 in replacement bulbs and electricity over 25 years. (More, if your electric company offers LED-lighting rebates.)

Surely there’s some price, though, where that math isn’t so off-putting. What if each bulb were only $15 Or $10 Well, guess what We’re there. LED bulbs now cost less than $10.