A significant production problem with new high-tech $100 bills has caused government printers to shut down production of the new notes and to quarantine more than one billion of the bills in huge vaults in Fort Worth, Texas and Washington, CNBC has learned.Read the rest here.
Initially scheduled for release in February of 2011, the new bills were announced with great fanfare by officials at the Treasury Department and the Federal Reserve in April.
At the time, officials announced the new bills would incorporate sophisticated high-tech security features, including a 3-D security strip and a color-shifting image of a bell designed to foil counterfeiters.
But the production process is so complex, it has instead foiled the government printers tasked with producing billions of the new notes.
An official familiar with the situation told CNBC that 1.1 billion of the new bills have been printed, but they are unusable because of a creasing problem in which paper folds over during production, revealing a blank unlinked portion of the bill face.
A second person familiar with the situation said that at the height of the problem, as many as 30 percent of the bills rolling off the printing press included the flaw, leading to the production shut down.
The total face value of the unusable bills, $110 billion, represents more than ten percent of the entire supply of U.S. currency on the planet, which a government source said is $930 billion in banknotes. For now, the unusable bills are stored in the vaults in "cash packs" of four bundles of 4,000 each, with each pack containing 16,000 bills.
Officials don’t know exactly what caused the problem. "There is something drastically wrong here," a person familiar with the situation said. "The frustration level is off the charts."
December 6th, 2010
By Shailagh Murray
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, December 6, 2010; 7:02 PM
President Obama and congressional Republicans agreed Monday to a tentative deal that would extend for two years all the Bush-era income tax breaks set to expire on Dec. 31, continue unemployment benefits for an additional 13 months and cut payroll taxes for workers to encourage employers to start hiring.
The deal has been in the works for more than a week and represents a concession by Obama to political reality: Democrats don't have the votes in Congress to extend only the expiring income tax breaks that benefit the middle class. The White House estimates that the proposed agreement would prevent typical families from facing annual tax increases of about $3,000, starting Jan. 1.
Obama was able to extract an agreement from GOP leaders to support an additional 13 months of jobless benefits, a 2 percent employee payroll tax cut and extensions of several tax credits aimed at working families that were included in the stimulus bill.
The deal also would revive the estate tax, but it would exempt inheritances of up to $5 million for individuals and $10 million for couples. Democrats on Capitol Hill are strongly opposed to setting the cap at that high a level and to the 35 percent rate discussed by Obama and Republicans that would apply to the taxable portion of estates.
In brief remarks Monday evening, Obama said he was disappointed that the deal would extend breaks for the wealthiest households, but he warned Democrats not to make good on threats to allow all the cuts to expire, as an expression of the party's opposition to preserving the top-rate cuts. "Sympathetic as I am to those who would prefer a fight to compromise, it would be the wrong thing to do," the president said. "The American people didn't send us here to wage symbolic battles."
The White House is preparing for significant opposition from Democrats and will send Vice President Biden to meet with Senate Democrats on Tuesday. Later on Tuesday, House Democrats are scheduled to discuss the proposed deal.
NOTE: "We will prevent, we will provide..." Another classic Obama Freudian slip...
December 6th, 2010
December 6, 2010
Dozens of websites have been secretly harvesting lists of places that their users previously visited online, everything from news articles to bank sites to pornography, a team of computer scientists found.
The information is valuable for con artists to learn more about their targets and send them personalized attacks. It also allows e-commerce companies to adjust ads or prices — for instance, if the site knows you've just come from a competitor that is offering a lower price.
Although passwords aren't at risk, in harvesting a detailed list of where you've been online, sites can create thorough profiles on its users.
The technique the University of California, San Diego researchers investigated is called "history sniffing" and is a result of the way browsers interact with websites and record where they've been. A few lines of programming code are all a site needs to pull it off.
Although security experts have known for nearly a decade that such snooping is possible, the latest findings offer some of the first public evidence of sites exploiting the problem. Current versions of the Firefox and Internet Explorer browsers still allow this, as do older versions of Chrome and Safari, the researchers said.
The report adds to growing worry about surreptitious surveillance by Internet companies and comes as federal regulators in the U.S. are proposing a "Do Not Track" tool that would prevent advertisers from following consumers around online to sell them more products.
The researchers found 46 sites, ranging from smutty to staid, that tried to pry loose their visitors browsing histories using this technique, sometimes with homegrown tracking code. Nearly half of the 46 sites, including financial research site Morningstar.com and news site Newsmax.com, used an ad-targeting company, Interclick, which says its code was responsible for the tracking.
Interclick said the tracking was part of an eight-month experiment that the sites weren't aware of. The New York company said it stopped using the technique in October because it wasn't successful in helping match advertisers to groups of Internet users. Interclick emphasized that it didn't store the browser histories.
Morningstar said it ended its relationship with Interclick when it found out about the program, and NewsMax said it didn't know that history sniffing had been used on its users until The Associated Press called. NewsMax said it is investigating.
The researchers studied far more sites — a total of the world's 50,000 most popular sites — and said many more behaved suspiciously, but couldn't be proven to use history sniffing. Nearly 500 of the sites studied had characteristics that suggested they could infer browsers' histories, and more than 60 transferred browser histories to the network. But the researchers said they could only prove that 46 had done actual "history hijacking."
"Browser vendors should have fixed this a long time ago," said Jeremiah Grossman, an Internet security expert at WhiteHat Security Inc., which wasn't involved in the study. "It's more evidence that we not only needed the fix, but that people really should upgrade their browsers. Most people wouldn't know this is possible."
The latest versions of Google Inc.'s Chrome and Apple Inc.'s Safari have automatic protections for this kind of snooping, researchers said. Mozilla Corp. said the next version of Firefox will have the same feature, adding that a workaround exists for some older versions as well.
Microsoft Corp. noted that Internet Explorer users can enable a private browsing mode that prevents the browser from logging the user's history, which prevents this kind of spying. But private browsing also strips away important benefits of the browser knowing its own history, such as displaying Google links you've visited in different colors than those you haven't.
"It's surprising, the lifetime that this fundamental a privacy violation can stick around," said Hovav Shacham, an assistant professor of computer science and engineering at UC San Diego and one of the paper's authors.
Internet companies are obsessed with tracking users' behavior so they can target their ads better. Uproar has prompted the Federal Trade Commission to propose rules that would limit advertisers' ability to track Internet users to show them advertisements. The "Do Not Track" tool the commission is proposing could eventually take the form of a browser setting that tells advertisers which visitors are off limits; such a setting, though, wouldn't necessarily block history sniffing.
History sniffing is essentially a side-by-side comparison of Web pages you've already visited with Web pages that a particular site wants to see if you've visited. If there's a match, users likely would never know, but the site administrators would learn a lot about their audiences.
For instance, a popular porn site was checking its visitors' histories to see if they'd visited 23 other pornography sites, and the code used on the Morningstar and NewsMax.com sites looked for matches against 48 specific Web pages, all related to Ford automobiles.
Sites can carry on this kind of inspection very quickly. Grossman said modern programs can check as many as 20,000 Internet addresses per second.
December 6th, 2010
Monday, December 06, 2010
December 6th, 2010
Two teenagers have been arrested for negligence for their alleged part in starting a huge, deadly forest fire on Mount Caramel in Israel, but the fact that fires are continuing to be set in various locations gives credibility to those who believe the fire was an act of terrorism. Today Al Qaida stepped forward to claim credit for starting the fire which has killed at least 41 people. And there are many questions why Israel was so poorly prepared to fight the fire.
Haifa (AsiaNews / Agencies) – The terrorist organization Al Qaeda has claimed responsibility for the fire that has devastated the forests of Mount Caramel, the most serious environmental disaster in the history of Israel. Although the local police authorities attribute the blaze to negligence and the prolonged drought that is affecting the region.
Today, a new terrorist group, which claims links to Al Qaeda, posted a video message on jihadist forums, the same used by Osama Bin Laden, declaring to be behind the fire. The group, which calls itself “Lions of the mujahideen in Palestine” claims to have set fire to the trees of Mount Carmel, triggering the inferno which is still raging. “The lions of the mujahideen in Palestine” say they carried out the arson attack on the night between Thursday and Friday – “performing a holy and heroic expedition within the territory of the usurpers on occupied Mount Caramel setting fire to its trees, causing the deaths of more than 40 people and wounding dozens, as recognized by the enemy itself”.
The terrorist group, whose credibility has not yet been independently confirmed, also thanked “the wind, which was one of the soldiers of Allah, for his help, by expanding the flames to where we never thought, so that the enemy was not able to subdue it and was forced to seek help from foreign forces. ” The message then points out that ” this blessed expedition is part of the series of expeditions undertaken against the Jewish occupier to avenge the blood of Muslims killed, first of all Muhamman al- Namnam and the brothers Islam and Muhammad Yasin and other Palestinian Salafi jihadist. The enemy knows that the children of monotheism are not asleep and are capable of teaching them a lesson. ” The reference is to the three members of the Palestinian jihadist group “Army of Islam”, an acronym related to al-Qaeda in theGaza Strip, killed in recent weeks, in two different Israeli air raids.
But according to the Israeli authorities the fire on Mount Caramel, the most serious environmental disaster in the history of Israel, was not caused by arson but by negligence: according to Israeli police spokesman, Micky Rosenfeld, without giving further details. The fire caused at least 42 deaths, the evacuation of 17 thousand people and destroyed acres of forest in addition to many homes: despite the intervention of fire fighting aircraft sent from abroad, the flames are not yet under control and the strong wind has further fueled the fire, which now threatens some suburbs of Haifa. More international aid has arrived in Israel to help in the battle against the vast fire. Two huge Russian aircraft with a capacity of 42 tons of water, are already working on site, together with the 6 planes sent from France, Turkey, Greece and Cyprus. Fire brigade spokesman, Yoram Levy said that with international help it may be possible to “extinguish the fire by tonight”, a blaze that has consumed 4 million trees over an area of 3,400 hectares.
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