Google News Aggregator Causes $1.14 billion loss

deeply concerning post, courtesy of slashdot.org.

Google News erroneously reprinted an old article from 2002 concerning United Airlines, which faced deep financial problems at the time. This caused a run on its NASDAQ-listed stock UAL, leading to its share price falling from $12 to $3, after which the stock was suspended from trading. This caused a drop in its market capitalisation of $1.14 billion. The stock has since recovered to over $10, but its market capitalisation is still down over $300 million from before the old article was published.

Google News regularly searches and indexes online news sites around the world. In turn, many other online news sites grab headline from Google News. The automated nature of this process provides many opportunities for false information to be widely disseminated.

With the growth of Social Bookmarking sites and News Aggregators, people wishing to manipulate the market, or spread any kind of propaganda now have a very powerful tool at their disposal.

Sydney North-West Metro under Axe

September 11, 2008 by · 1 Comment
Filed under: NSW News, NSW Politics 

In what must be an absolute surprise, the new Premier Nathan Rees stated in an interview with the Fairfax media that he is ‘pulling back’ from the much hyped North-West metro link. in light of the ‘surprise’ $1 billion budget shortfall discovered a few days ago after the cabinet reshuffle.

NSW State Government Turned Upside Down

September 8, 2008 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: NSW News, NSW Politics 

I really have little more to add to what has been reported in the media, but to recap recent events:

Following John Watkins resignation last Thursday, Premier Morris Iemma sacked Treasurer Michael Costa following the failed power privatisation bid. Iemma then resigned, after being challenged by newcomer Nathan Rees, who was appointed the new premier of NSW.

In one of his first acts as premier, Rees appointed a new cabinet, which resulted in the dumping of the highly unpopular planning minister, Frank Sartor.

All I can add is that I could not think of a more appropriate bunch of people to get rid of.

I do wish Mr Rees luck in his new job as he still has to face some major problems. NSW is in debt with no money to spend on vital infrastructure and its economy is in recession.

An obvious first step is to convince the Federal Government to give NSW its fair share of GST revenue. It has been previously reported in the media that GST revenue raised in NSW is being used to subsidise other states. Anecdotal reports suggest that this could provide up to $2 billion extra annually to the NSW budget.

Watkins does a Carr

September 4, 2008 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: NSW Politics, Sydney News 

Yesterday, the NSW Transport Minister, John Watkins, resigned from office partway into his term. He says he will be leaving politics to spend more time with his family and become the CEO of the Alzheimers Association of NSW.

His tenure will best be known for what he did not do:

  • Attempting to make Sydney trains run on time by reducing the frequency of rail services.
  • Repeatedly announcing plans for grandiose rail projects, e.g. new rail lines and high speed trains, then cancelling them
  • Failing to deliver a new Integrated Ticketing System after many years of delays
  • Not dealing with the systematic corruption and inefficiencies in Railcorp and related entities
  • Frequent media appearances to apologise for rail disruptions caused by poor maintenance

Good riddance.

Was Yahoo Mail Hacked by Chinese Spammers Over the Weekend?

August 25, 2008 by · 1 Comment
Filed under: IT News 

This morning, a colleague at work reported that someone had broken into his online Yahoo mail account over the weekend and sent a single spam email to all the people in his contact address book. The message advertised a website and asked people to buy the spammer’s goods.

He asked me to help work out how his account had been compromised.

The spam message remained in his sent box, so I examined the full headers. After doing a reverse lookup of the IP address, I found out that it was sent from a host located in China.

After doing a google search, I discovered that at least one other person had their account misused in the same way – as reported in this post on Yahoo answers dated 22nd August.

So far, I have not found any media coverage of any incident, so I am wondering how widespread this problem is. If you or anyone you know has had their Yahoo mail account misused in this way, please make a comment. Also, don’t forget to report this to Yahoo support.

2008 is the Coldest Year of the 21st Century

August 24, 2008 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: International News, Science 

I am sure that this does not come as a surprise to anyone living through the current Australian Winter, but this year, 2008,  has been the coldest this century. So reads a fantastic post at slashdot.

But does this reality make the anthropogenic global climate change believers start having some doubts?

Of course not! It appears that they now say that a combination of phenomena – the La Niña effect and “Atlantic Multidecadal Information” will buy us another decade or so of unusually cold temperatures – plenty of time to concoct a new explanation to resolve their past inconsistencies.

Arab Squatters Imprisoned After Defying Court Order to Vacate Property

The above could be the alternative headline for the emotionally-charged article written by Fairfax Middle-East correspondent, Jason Koutsoukis – “Crunch time as family fights to keep home from Jewish settlers

In summary, a Palestinian Arab man, Khalil Hanun, was imprisoned after refusing to vacate a property that a court ruled, was owned by somebody else. Oh, and the other party happened to be Jewish.

In any normal country, when a squatter or bad tenant refuses to leave following an eviction order, would this person not expect to be arrested, fined or imprisoned? And would this normally be considered newsworthy? No it wouldn’t, but standards are different when the action involves Israel.

The only valid, objective questions essential to resolving this matter are:

1. Did the group of Jewish people purchase the property from the Ottoman Turk authorities who were sovereign at the time? Yes or No?

2. Under what law or capacity did the UN Relief and Works Agency act when giving the Palestinian Arabs  possession of the land, considering that it was occupied by Jordan at the time?

The answers to these two questions are sufficient to determine the outcome of this case, without introducing emotive racist or nationalist arguments.

But if Mr Koutsoukis were truly interested in balance, he may also have wished to mention the following:

  • Jersualem was a united city until one half was captured by Jordan (formerly Transjordan) during the 1948 war, following their decision to take part in the Arab attack on the newly declared state of Israel. Jordan annexed the area in 1949, but this was not internationally recognised, except by Pakistan and Great Britain.
  • The area, Sheikh Jarrah, was historically a Jewish neighbourhood until Arab rioters drove them out in the 1920’s. Jordan drove out the Jewish inhabitants from the remaining part of Jerusalem under their control during the 1948 war.
  • Israel recaptured Jerusalem at the end of the 6-day war in 1967, many of the neighbourhoods that were rebuilt are in fact former Jewish areas.

I do not know all the facts, so I will keep an open mind. I wish Mr Koutsakis and his ilk would do the same.

Updated 8:09pm, 19-8-2008: Other sources on the net refer to them as the ‘Al-Kurd family’.

DSD Offers Pittance for Australian Cyber Defence

August 14, 2008 by · 3 Comments
Filed under: Australian News, Humour, IT News 

If you were a top notch IT security expert living in Sydney, would you be enticed by a job offering $52,000-$72,959 in remuneration so you can be subjected to a gruelling interview process that involves digging up your past, being analysed by shrinks, and if you succeed, having to move to Canberra to get bored out of your brain?

The Australian Department of Defence thinks so!

A short while ago, I logged into my gmail account and noticed a banner ad that really caught my eye

“DSD Tech Security Jobs – www.dsd.gov.au – Malicous IFRAMEs? Heap overflows? You’ll love what we do.”

The Australian Defence Signals Directorate (the equivalent of the American National Security Agency), who are a division of the Department of Defence, is recruiting experts to work in Cyber Operations.

The following is quoted from their FAQ:

I’m not sure what level I should apply for, what should I do?

If this is the case, you should apply for all three levels.  If you are a successful applicant you will be offered an APS Position (APS 4-6) commensurate with your performance during the selection process.  If you only wish to apply for a specific level, you must clearly state this on your application form.  

The current salary ranges are:

APS 4 – $52 009 – $57 094
APS 5 – $58 009 – $62 135
APS 6 – $63 550 – $72 595

These rates will increase by 3.1% on Christmas day (2008).  Superannuation is in addition to this!

We will be holding assessment centres in Canberra during the week of 8 September. The 2 day process will involve an individual technical assessment and interview, some group based exercises, some paperwork and an interview with our friendly psychologists. Don’t stress too much.

What other benefits are there in working for DSD?

  • Generous superannuation (15.4%)
  • Free gym
  • Free parking
  • Opportunities to salary package
  • Flexible working conditions
  • Generous study provisions and developmental opportunities.

OK, I was a bit too hasty – there is free parking, as we all know about the terrible shortage they have in Canberra. The gym is also good – when you’re bored of Canberra life, you can vent your frustration by pumping iron. Oh yes, and the job is secure.

But seriously, it troubles me that the sort of people are prepared to work for peanuts are going to be on the front lines of our country’s cyber defence. I know a number of programmers in Sydney who get over $90,000 (plus super) for far more trivial activities.

Furthermore, when I think of true security experts, I think of reformed hackers, like Kevin Mitnick and Kevin Poulsen. Would they pass a security clearance?

Of course, there may be a reason for the low pay. Perhaps our country is not really under threat, and the job consists of merely watching packet dumps scrolling down a monitor or playing network computer games? I really don’t know – it’s all classified.

Bangladeshi Editor May Be Executed for Advocating Ties with Israel

The Jerusalem Post reports – a Bangladeshi newspaper editor, Salah Choudhury, is on trial for sedition charges, largely for advocating ties with Israel. If he is found guilty, he may face the death penalty.

In November 2003, he was arrested at the airport, as he was leaving Bangladesh on his way to a conference in Israel promoting co-existence between Muslims and Jews, and has been imprisoned ever since.

His has been accused of being “anti-Islamic” and “defaming Bangladesh”. Anti-Israel sentiment is strong in this impoverished country, despite the fact that Bangladesh has little to do with Israel, neither sharing any borders, nor being an Arab country.

I hope those civil rights advocates in the mainstream media who rush to defend the rights of captured Al-Qaida members and other fanatics, may spare just a few words for Mr Choudhury.

Nurofen Plus to Remain on Sale

August 11, 2008 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Australian News, Medicine, Uncategorized 

The Australian reports that the popular over-the-counter pain reliever, Nurofen Plus, will remain on sale.

Earlier this year, there was talk that this medicine was going to be rescheduled as a prescription drug, due to reports that people were consuming whole packs to get high.

The active ingredients in Nurofen Plus are ibuprofen (a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory) and a small quantity of codeine (an opiate closely related to morphine). Taking a whole pack would deliver enough codeine to get one high, but the excessive dose of ibuprofen could lead to a number of adverse reactions, potentially harming parts of the digestive system.

Nonetheless, it is a very effective medicine for headaches and muscular pain and it would be wrong to deprive the vast majority of people due to a few idiots, who are always going to be around, so I fully support the decision to keep it over-the-counter.

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