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Dec 29, 2014


"Get your facts first, then you can distort them as you please."
Mark Twain

Yup - it’s cold

Temperatures dropped over the Christmas period, and dozens of coach passengers and drivers in Yorkshire were stranded on Boxing Day after snowfall swept parts of the UK making some roads impassable. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-30609371 The coming week promises more cold and icy weather as temperatures remain around zero. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-30610567  

The film farce

The #SonyHack debacle dominated the news last week and over the weekend. To recap, Sony were due to release a movie this Christmas called “The Interview”, a comedy which lampoons Kim Jong-un, the North Korean leader. But a few days before the launch, a group calling themselves the “Guardians of Peace” hacked into Sony Media’s corporate network, temporarily disabling it, and stole lots of private information, including passwords, embarrassing emails by Sony execs and personal information. Sony blamed North Korea for being behind the attack, citing previous threats it had received over the film. Sony then publicly cancelled the planned screenings, and hence the launch of the film. North Korea denied they had anything to do with the attack, but referred to it as a “righteous deed.”
President Obama joined in the fray and decried Sony’s decision to pull the plug. He also blamed North Korea, saying the FBI had evidence, although many technical experts dispute that the alleged evidence stands up to scrutiny http://www.cnn.com/2014/12/27/tech/north-korea-expert-doubts-about-hack/ with some experts suggesting the hack was most likely an inside job.
As all this was going on, North Korea’s access to the internet was being severely disrupted for hours at a time early last week, assumedly due to cyber attacks. On Saturday, North Korea publicly blamed the US for the attacks and compared President Obama to a "monkey”.  A statement published by North Korea’s official news agency, KCNA, said, "Obama always goes reckless in words and deeds like a monkey in a tropical forest." The US denied the attack. http://www.businessinsider.com/r-north-korea-blames-the-us-for-internet-outages-2014-12
Under pressure from Obama and vocal public support, Sony then agreed to release the movie, first on Dec 24 to rent or buy online, and then at movie theatres on Dec 25. The movie which cost around $80 million to produce, took around $1 million in ticket sales on Christmas day, and probably a fair bundle from online sales. Interestingly, Sony only made the movie available online in the US, despite the worldwide attention. That didn’t stop others from watching it though, as more than 750,000 people also downloaded the movie illegally for free from various torrent sites, with some links to downloads even being blatantly posted on Twitter. http://techcrunch.com/2014/12/25/the-interview-torrent/ The question is – will it ever make it to DVD?

Gamers disrupted

Sony were doubly unlucky in the hacking stakes, as Sony’s Playstation Network as well as Microsoft’s Xbox Live online gaming network went down last week due to cyber attacks, meaning thousands of unhappy gamers. One of them was internet entrepreneur Kim Dotcom, who reached out to the attackers, “Lizard Squad” via Twitter, and promised them free accounts on his online service if they stopped the attack. http://venturebeat.com/2014/12/26/psn-is-still-down-xbox-live-isnt-maybe-because-of-kim-dotcom/ They did, and Kim is now a hero in certain gaming quarters.But that doesn’t seem to be the end of it as more news surfaced that hackers had stolen private details (including credit card numbers) of more than 13,000 people from online accounts such as Amazon, Walmart, EA and Xbox. http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/technology-science/technology/playstation-xbox-amazon-leaks-hackers-4881326


That’s probably not good news, considering…

Shoppers use fingers

This year’s holiday season has seen a marked difference in the way people are shopping for gifts with more people shunning the high street and instead shopping online, with mobile taking the lead for the first time, i.e. using the internet capabilities of a phone to place an order either via the phone’s web browser, or an app. According to Amazon, nearly 60% of their customers shopped using their smartphones (as opposed to their computers), and on Cyber Monday (Dec 1), mobile internet orders averaged more than 18 toys per second.  http://www.businessinsider.com/amazon-christmas-shopping-release-2014-12

The next generation

School kids to combat cyber crime

With all of this going on it’s perhaps not surprising to hear that UK Government-funded organisations, GCHQ and the National Crime Agency (NCA), are planning to give school kids lessons in combating cyber terrorism, and even incorporating material into next years GCSE exams. http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2888770/Cyber-terror-curriculum-School-pupils-taught-GCHQ-protect-Britain-hacking-hostile-states.html

World news

Air disaster fears

Indonesia AirAsia flight QZ8501 went missing on Sunday shortly after leaving Surabaya in Indonesia. The Airbus A320-200 was carrying 162 people on their way to Singapore, including a British man and his daughter. Searches were ongoing as of Sunday night, with no sign of the plane. It’s been a terrible year for air disasters with this latest one following on from Malaysia Airlines two previous flights, MH370 and MH17, going down earlier in the year with the loss of 537 lives.

School tragedy perpetrator killed

Various news sites reported on the death of a Taliban Commander known as “Saddam” who was said to be one of the main men behind the horrific December 16 attack on the school in Peshawar that left 132 children dead. He was killed in a gunfight last Wednesday in Jamrud, about five miles from where the school attack had taken place. http://www.nbcnews.com/storyline/pakistan-school-massacre/taliban-commander-who-helped-plan-pakistan-school-attack-killed-n275101

Ukraine woes

The problems in the Ukraine continue as the country suffered two bomb attacks on Saturday leaving two people dead http://mashable.com/2014/12/27/ukraine-blasts/

Sweet dreams

Husband alleges wife shot him in bed

And for those of you unhappy with your home life, spare a thought for Kenneth Dearden, who on November 14, 2013, was apparently shot in the head by his wife as he lay sleeping in bed. That he survived is one thing, but he continued to live with her in the same house for the following year, supposedly in constant fear that she might try to finish him off. His wife, Emily Dearden, who works for the NYPD, admits having an affair with another man, but denies the attack, claiming somebody broke in. They are now living apart and going through the courts. http://bigstory.ap.org/article/1dbb6408ffa040749d69628e3c3f3c27/ny-man-says-wife-shot-him-avoid-messy-divorce Divorce lawyer, Raoul Felder commented on the incident, saying that using a gun is "definitely one way to end a marriage, but I don't think it's a good alternative." (albeit, possibly a bit cheaper?)

 

and then...

"Do not take life too seriously. You will never get out of it alive."

Elbert Hubbard

 

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