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Thursday, October 31, 2013

EU calls for suspension of multi-billion ‘Safe Harbor’ deal over NSA spying

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US President Barack Obama (L) and EU Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso (AFP Photo/Tim Sloan)
US President Barack Obama (L) and EU Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso (AFP Photo/Tim Sloan)
 
EU leaders are calling for the suspension of a trade pact with the US worth billions of dollars over NSA spying. The 28-nation bloc suspects the so-called ‘Safe Harbor’ deal is being undermined by US espionage and has demanded safeguards for EU citizens.
The EU’s top politicians have slammed Washington for a “breakdown of trust” and seek guarantees for the safety of EU customer data.

“For ambitious and complex negotiations to succeed there needs to be trust among the negotiating partners,” EU Justice Commissioner Viviane Reding said Wednesday in a speech at Yale University.

The Safe Harbor agreement has been in place for 13 years and it allows over 4,300 American companies to collect and process sales, emails and photos from EU customers. In order for firms to be able to collate this information they have to comply with seven directives to prevent data loss and disclosure.

However, EU officials believe the system is flawed and can be manipulated by the NSA.

“If you look at the US legal environment, there is no adequate legal protection for EU citizens,” said the European Parliament’s leading data protection lawmaker Jan Philipp Albrecht after talks with officials in Washington.

In the light of the spy scandal the EU has threatened to suspend the treaty pending stipulated changes that would sure up security. EU leaders are expected to urge the US to strengthen its privacy laws to allow European citizen more control over how their private data is used.

If the ‘Safe Harbor’ pact is suspended it could have a massive knock-on effect, costing the US and EU billions of dollars in trade. Moreover, the pact allows US companies to get around the lengthy approval procedure by the European data protection authorities, without it some US firms would be forced to stop doing business in the EU.

“I don’t think the US government can be convinced by arguments or outrage alone, but by making it clear that American interests will suffer if this global surveillance is simply continued,”
said Peter Schaar, the head of Germany’s data protection watchdog.

Free trade deal


If Washington fails to comply with the EU’s demands then it could further endanger a free trade deal which could add an estimated $138 billion a year to each economy’s gross domestic product.

Reding warned that if changes were not made to US privacy regulations, negotiations for the free trade agreement could easily be “derailed.”

Negotiations on the conditions of the transatlantic agreement are due to resume in December and a decision is likely to be reached by the end of the year.

The revelations of the NSA’s spying activities in Europe scandalized the 28-nation bloc. Security leaks released by former CIA worker Edward Snowden revealed that the NSA taps millions of phone calls across the continent and stores the collected information in its data banks.

Furthermore, the security disclosures indicate the NSA not only monitors citizens it suspects are involved in terrorism, but also businessmen and high-profile politicians.

In the wake of the scandal the White House has launched an inquiry into its intelligence-gathering practices.  

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

‘Extremism propaganda’: Siberian region bans Halloween in schools

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Young people wearing makeup for Halloween celebration in Moscow. (RIA Novosti / Ramil Sitdikov)
Young people wearing makeup for Halloween celebration in Moscow. (RIA Novosti / Ramil Sitdikov)
 
 
Authorities in Russia’s Omsk region in Siberia have prohibited Halloween celebrations in local schools on the grounds it “promotes extremism” and a “death cult” that can harm the moral health of children.
The Education Ministry in the Omsk region sent letters to local state schools telling them to take measures to curb any events marking Halloween, which is celebrated on October 31, the eve of All Hallows’ Day.
The move is aimed at the prevention of the development of extremism among children and young people, the ministry said in a statement. The decision followed an appeal from a public organization called “Omsk Parents’ Council”. 
Educational institutions must carry out activities “based on cultural values of Russian people,” believes the regional Education Minister, Sergey Alekseyev, the body quotes. He said the ministry will improve “methodological support” in the organization of students’ leisure activities. Also, plans are afoot to impose tougher controls over the planning of celebrations in schools.
The ministry cites studies by two institutes affiliated with the Russian Academy of Education, which found that celebrating Halloween has a negative impact on students as well as the teaching process. Because of “elements of mystics” and the “propaganda of death cult” in the celebrations, they can lead to “devastating consequences for the spiritual and moral health of students,” experts stated.
The ministry provides no information about the names of the authors of the research, or the title of the study, conducted by the institutes which are not among Russia’s top establishments.
Moscow schools will not celebrate Halloween either, according to newsru.com. Even though the capital’s authorities have given no instructions on the matter this year, local schools are following directives issued by Moscow’s Education Department several years ago. It recommended refraining from having any kind of festive activities on this day. 

A kid holds a pumpkin during a flashmob marking Halloween celebrations at St. Petersburg's Palace Square. (RIA Novosti / Olga Maltseva)
A kid holds a pumpkin during a flashmob marking Halloween celebrations at St. Petersburg's Palace Square. (RIA Novosti / Olga Maltseva)
Authorities in the Krasnodar region in southern Russia also think that local school children should not take part in the celebrations, reported the local eparchy website, citing the regional education minister. Events were banned last year and the ban remains in place. 
According to many scientists – psychologists and psychiatrists – Halloween is dangerous for children. Children who have taken part in such events often feel fear, depression, aggression and a suicidal mood,” the Ekaterinodar and Kuban Eparchy quotes a letter by the ministry.
Halloween, which has its origins in an ancient Celtic festival, for decades has been celebrated in North America, but has also gained popularity among Russian youth in recent years. While some see the holiday as just a masquerade and a way to have fun, opponents consider such an “alien” festival as a threat to Russian traditional culture.
One would think what’s wrong about this pumpkin with holes? But in fact it is simply hidden Satanism,” a priest from Vladivostok, Father Tikhon told RIA Novosti. He urged everyone to hold back from Halloween, “to run away from it”. 
Senior Orthodox Church official Archpriest, Vsevolod Chaplin, has also warned against joining the festivities. “Dark forces” often try to make a person believe that they do not exist and “kind of play with them”.
But evil spirits always wins in their games. So, in reality it only seems to people that [this game] is only a fun and a harmless gag,” the cleric said. “Dark forces think otherwise and will definitely ‘make fun’ of you so that you won’t be happy about that at all.
Organizers of Halloween events totally disagree, saying that the festival – which has both historic and religious roots – has now turned into a fancy dress party.
Youth all over the world actively celebrate this holiday. Many say that it’s their favorite one after the New Year,” an organizer of a Halloween party at one of Moscow’s cinemas, Elena Preobrazhenskaya, told Mir24.tv. She said they had their party earlier this week, but it appeared to be so popular that it was decided to hold another one, as well as a separate party for children.
A fancy ball gives you an opportunity to think of a carnival image, a costume, unusual make-up and have fun,” Preobrazhenskaya said.
Children love Halloween a lot more than adults, “they are not interested in just watching from sidelines, they want to participate,” in this “bright and unusual festival” that is growing in popularity.  

Japan to scrutinize lenders after Mizuho gangster link

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A woman walks in front of a signboard of Japan's Mizuho Financial Group in Tokyo (AFP Photo / Kazuhiro Nogi)
A woman walks in front of a signboard of Japan's Mizuho Financial Group in Tokyo (AFP Photo / Kazuhiro Nogi)
 
 
Japan’s Financial Services Agency (FSA) plans to inspect the country’s biggest banks, after the second largest lender Mizuho was accused of allowing above 200 million yen ($2 million) in loans to organized crime.
Among the Japanese banks in the firing line are the country’s biggest lender by assets Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi UFJ, Mizuho Financial Group and No. 3 bank Sumitomo Mitsui Bank, Associated Press reports.
The inspection by the FSA will be carried out next week and focus on compliance and risk management.
The move comes after an independent panel reported on Monday that its probe found Mizuho lax in cleaning up more than 200 million yen ($2 million) in lending, mostly auto loans, to clients associated with "anti-social" elements, a byword for organized crime.
Last month the FSA demanded Mizuho presented a strategy of "improvements" to its lending business. Japan's second largest lender has pledged to end the loans, step up anti-mob screening of incoming business, tighten corporate governance, and improve internal awareness of preventing dealings with those linked to organized crime.
On top of that the Mizuho Financial Group said on Monday the chairman of its banking business and two other top executives will resign. Bank President Yasuhiro Sato, will remain at his post but give up six months of pay. The bank is also appointing Tatsuo Kainaka, a former prosecutor and Supreme Court judge with a reputation for toughness, to be its chief compliance officer. 
Complying with a gesture which is widespread in corporate Japan Sato and other top executives bowed deeply in apology.
"We caused a great deal of trouble and I want to express my deepest apologies,'" Sato said.  "I am aware there are various opinions about this, but this is what was decided in this case," Sato said when asked if the penalties were too weak.
Mizuho troubles reflect the difficulties financial corporations across the country face trying to avoid dealings with Japanese gangs, known as the “yakudza.” They are entrenched in many areas of the economy despite efforts to freeze them out of the financial system.
 

Russia to invest $1.5bn in Ecuador energy

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Ecuadorean President Rafael Correa shows his oil-covered hand at Aguarico 4 oil well in Aguarico, Ecuador (AFP Photo / Rodrigo Buendia)
Ecuadorean President Rafael Correa shows his oil-covered hand at Aguarico 4 oil well in Aguarico, Ecuador (AFP Photo / Rodrigo Buendia)
 
 
Russia plans to invest up to $1.5 billion into new domestic energy projects in Ecuador, making the South American country a key partner in the region, President Vladimir Putin said at a meeting with Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa in Moscow.
The two countries have several ongoing energy projects, including state-owned Gazprom’s alliance with Ecuador’s state-run oil company Petroamazonas. The Latin American country hopes to buy less and less oil and gas from abroad, and to develop its own natural gas reserves and become more energy self-sufficient.
The smallest oil producer in the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), has proven oil reserves of 8 billion barrels, about 1 percent of the world’s total. Ecuador exports roughly 500,000 barrels per day.
Ecuador will open up its hydrocarbon resources to Russia’s state-owned companies Gazprom and Rosneft in cooperation with Ecuador state run Rosegelogia. Both company’s CEOs were present at the meeting between Correa and Putin at the Kremlin on Tuesday.
“Of course we are interested in the participation of Gazprom, as it is the largest gas company in the world,” Correa said.
Currently, Russian companies are taking part in other energy projects. Roseximbank, Russia's state-owned  import-export bank ,agreed to loan $195 million to finance a thermoelectric plant which will be built by Russian firm Inter Rao, and is expected to begin operations in 2016.
Russian and Ecuador signed another $1.2 billion agreement to finance two hydroelectric plants. In 2011, Roseximbank loaned Ecuador $123 million to build two hydroelectric plants which are due to open in 2015.
Correa also said Ecuador is interested in buying Russian military equipment in the form of helicopters and trucks.
Ecuador and Russia have been strategic economic partners, and trade between the countries reached a record $1.3 billion in 2012.
Russia imported about $1.2 billion in bananas, seafood, and flowers from the country. Ecuador imported roughly $116 million in medical equipment, mineral fertilizers, and paper from Russia.
The Ecuadorian President plans to visit Moscow’s Skolkovo start-up hub on Wednesday. While in St. Petersburg on Monday, Correa invited the city’s scientists to visit Ecuador and help contribute to a new science city that will specialize in bio and nanotechnologies, information systems, and textiles.
The Ecuadorian president will also stop in Belarus and France.

Venezuela's neighbor

Correa has ramped up oil output since 2010, when all joint-venture partners were forced to become service contractors as well.
Last year, Ecuador signed a memorandum agreement with Gazprom to explore drilling opportunities in the muddy natural gas field in the Gulf of Guayaquil. The gas giant has also been involved in exploration in the Urumaco blocks, which have reserves of about 100 billion cubic meters.
Last year Correa authorized oil drilling in the Amazon rainforest, at Yasuni National Park.
Rosneft already has a joint venture with Ecuador’s more much oil rich neighbor Venezuela. Rosneft partnered with PDVSA, the country’s market dominating national oil company. Russian companies are already involved in 5 oil projects in Venezuela, the world’s fifth largest oil exporter, with proven reserve of almost 300 billion barrels, by BP statistics.
CEO Igor Sechin frequently visits Venezuela, and plans to invest $10 billion in oil and gas projects

Japan govt considers assuming Fukushima decontamination – media

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Tokyo is reportedly considering stripping the Fukushima nuclear operator of the responsibility to decontaminate the devastated station and passing it under full government control. That would imply assuming TEPCO’s massive current clean-up expenditures.
The ruling Liberal Democratic party’s committee overseeing the government bailout of TEPCO finalized on Tuesday the proposal to nationalize decontamination works at Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant by splitting TEPCO’s activities, Japanese media reports.
The proposed spin-off could leave TEPCO concentrating on maintenance and the operability of its three nuclear power plants, while decontamination and reactor decommission at the Fukushima nuclear power plant would fall under full government control, with the possible creation of an independent administrative governmental agency.
"We need to have a prompt conclusion to create a clear and realistic organization,” said the draft proposal, according to Reuters.
The move means many billions of Japanese taxpayers’ dollars might be channeled to cleaning up the Fukushima facility after two-and-a-half years of TEPCO proved unsuccessful in taking the situation at the disaster-prone facility under control.
“Personally, I don’t feel it’s right to say that all responsibility belongs with TEPCO,” Taro Aso, Japan’s Finance Minister, told reporters.
The Japanese government has been backing the Fukushima operator since 2011, promising massive financial aid - up to 5 trillion yen (roughly $50 billion) - for decontamination and compensation payments to 160,000 evacuated residents that used to live around the Fukushima nuclear power plant.
But what have been lacking in the scheme are positive results in damage control and recovery, as TEPCO failed to prevent accidents with radioactive waste leakages at the station.
Since the Japanese government nationalized TEPCO last year with a taxpayer-funded rescue, there has been constant argument about how largely the authorities should be involved, both administratively and financially, in eliminating the consequences of the Fukushima incident.
Since the disaster on March 11, 2011, Japanese government has been expecting TEPCO to bring tangible results in clean-up at Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, but great expectations proved to be in vain.

The inside of the No. 4 reactor building is seen at Tokyo Electric Power Co.'s (Tepco) Fukushima Dai-Ichi nuclear power plant in Okuma Town, Fukushima Prefecture on May 26, 2012. (AFP Photo / Toshiaki Shimizu)
The inside of the No. 4 reactor building is seen at Tokyo Electric Power Co.'s (Tepco) Fukushima Dai-Ichi nuclear power plant in Okuma Town, Fukushima Prefecture on May 26, 2012. (AFP Photo / Toshiaki Shimizu)
In early September, after Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe claimed the situation at Fukushima is under control, a senior TEPCO official had to contradict PM, saying that the radioactive water leakage at the crippled Fukushima plant continues.
But probably the incident that ended the government’s patience was in late October, when a Fukushima cleanup worker-turned-whistleblower exposed the plant’s chaotic system of subcontractors, their alleged yakuza organized crime connections, and the super-exploitation of indigent workers doing dangerous work.
What has been infuriating the Japanese public and lawmakers alike is the policy of total concealment of the scale of the disaster and disavowal to acknowledge impotence to fight the emergency at the TEPCO Company.
On Monday Niigata Prefecture Governor Hirohiko Izumida accused TEPCO of “institutionalized lying” practices in an interview to Reuters.
Initially, TEPCO promised to finish the clean-up at Fukushima facility in a matter of months. Now it appears that the complete decontamination of the facility will take three decades and cost up to $100 billion, Reuters reports.
TEPCO has already lost $27 billion since the Fukushima disaster occurred and, after all of the Japanese nuclear power facilities were shut down, has lost its sole source of revenue. That is why the company has announced plans to restart its Kashiwazaki Kariwa power plant - the world’s biggest nuclear complex - in Niigata Prefecture next spring, which has already raised concerns among the public and local authorities.
In December it will be 1,000 days since the Fukushima nuclear disaster occurred, becoming the worst since the Chernobyl catastrophe in 1986. But more and more news about new leakage of highly radioactive waste at the facility come on a regular basis, which means Japanese government has huge work ahead to curb the consequences better than TEPCO has been doing

Monday, October 28, 2013

American WWII veteran and candy maker, 87, died after mugging by teens

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Shine Thornton (Photo from Facebook.com/DeltaHotTamaleFestival
Shine Thornton (Photo from Facebook.com/DeltaHotTamaleFestival
 
A World War II veteran well known and loved by his local community in Mississippi was attacked by four teens in a mugging, and died two days later.
Lawrence E. “Shine” Thornton, an 87-year-old widower, was targeted after the four muggers recognized him as king of the second annual Delta Hot Tamale Festival, which was just drawing to a close on October 18 in Greenville.
The four teens, all aged 18 and 19, “pushed him down and stole his wallet,” local police told the Delta Democrat Times. The incident took place at 5:30pm on Thornton’s driveway. After emergency services arrived, Thornton was airlifted to the University of Mississippi Medical Center in Jackson, where he died two days later. 

Reuters/Erich Schlegel
Reuters/Erich Schlegel
The suspects were arrested and charged variously with capital murder, robbery and conspiracy to commit robbery. This followed the community setting up a reward for the arrest of those that attacked their neighbor. 
Bail was set variously for three of the suspects at $2.5 million to $3 million. For one, Terrence Morgan, 19, bail was denied altogether. 
The attack took place just hours after Thornton was crowned for the second time as the Delta Hot Tamale Festival king. Hot tamale is a type of spicy cinnamon candy, and Thornton had his own recipe. 

Photo from Facebook.com/RoddyThornton
Photo from Facebook.com/RoddyThornton
But more than just a Tamale entrepreneur, Thornton also ran a liquor store while being employed by the Delta Electric Co. for 37 years; this followed a two-year stint as Fireman First Class aboard the minesweeper USS Herald.
The alcoholic beverage store had become a side business over the years – something he kept to support the family, and one he switched to in 1984, after losing his job at Delta Electric.
In the same year he also started experimenting with his special hot tamale recipe, something that eventually turned into a successful business. His wife, Mary, Sicilian by origin, was the inspiration for his brand, “Maria’s Famous Hot Tamales.”

The Facebook page of the festival, which held its second annual event Oct. 17-19, posted Thornton’s picture, along with a statement expressing shock at his killing. “[Y]ou will forever be our King Shine,” it said.
Thornton’s death comes a little less than three months after two teens were suspected of fatally stabbing another WWII veteran, 88 year-old former US infantryman, Delbert Belton, in Spokane, Washington state, near the Canadian border. The suspects were aged 16 and 19 and appeared not to have known Belton. 

 

Worst storm in decade lashes Britain, France

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Large waves break against barriers on the seafront in Brighton, southern England on October 27, 2013 as a predicted storm starts to build 
London (AFP) - Britain faced travel chaos on Monday and some 75,000 homes were without electricity in northern France as one of the worst storms in years battered the region, sweeping at least one person out to sea.
Britain's national weather centre the Met Office warned of falling trees, damage to buildings and disruption to power supplies and transport as the storm hit England's southwest coast late Sunday.
Between 20 and 40 millimetres (0.8 to 1.6 inches) of rain were predicted to fall within six to nine hours as the storm tracked eastwards across Britain, with a chance of localised flooding.
Wind gusts of up to 99 miles (159 kilometres) per hour whipped across southern England and south Wales on Monday, forecasters said.
The Met Office issued an "amber" wind warning for the region, the third highest in a four-level scale, and urged people to delay their Monday morning journeys to work to avoid the worst of the bad weather.
In northern France the storm left some 75,000 homes without power early Monday, according to the ERDF distribution network, after wind gusts reached 139 kilometres (86 miles) in some areas knocking down power lines.
The rough conditions led to rescuers suspending the search for a 14-year-old boy who was washed out to sea from a beach in East Sussex on England's south coast.
London looked set for a chaotic rush-hour after train companies First Capital Connect, C2C, Greater Anglia, Southern and Gatwick Express services all said they would not run services on Monday until it was safe to do so. That is unlikely to be before 9:00 am (0900 GMT), according to forecasts.
Robin Gisby from line operator Network Rail warned commuters to expect severe disruption.
"If we get through this in the morning, restore the service during the afternoon and are able to start up a good service on Tuesday morning, in the circumstances I'll be pretty pleased," he added.
Major airports also warned of disruption to flights with London hub Heathrow expecting approximately 30 cancellations.
Cross-channel train service Eurostar said it would not be running trains on Monday until 7:00 am, meaning delays to early services.
Several ferry operators said they had cancelled some cross-Channel services and Irish Sea crossings.
Forecaster Helen Chivers told AFP the expected damage was likely to be comparable with a storm seen in October 2002.
Prime Minister David Cameron received an update from officials on contingency planning in a conference call on Sunday, amid fears of similar damage wrought by the "Great Storm" of October 1987.
That left 18 people dead in Britain and four in France, felled 15 million trees and caused damages worth more than £1 billion ($1.6 billion or 1.2 billion euros at current exchange rates) as winds blew up to 115 miles (185 kilometres) an hour.
Martin Young, chief forecaster at the Met Office, said: "While this is a major storm for the UK, we don't currently expect winds to be as strong as those seen in the 'Great Storm' of 1987 or the 'Burns Day storm' of 1990.
"We could see some uprooted trees or other damage from the winds and there's a chance of some surface water flooding from the rainfall -- all of which could lead to some disruption."
Veteran weather forecaster Michael Fish also said Sunday's storm was unlikely to be as severe as 26 years ago, although his comments will be taken with a pinch of salt in Britain.
Fish was the BBC's main television weatherman in 1987 but famously denied that a major storm was on its way just hours before it hit.
This year's storm has been named St Jude after the patron saint of lost causes, whose feast day is on Monday.

 

12yo Canadian pleads guilty to hacking govt sites, trading info to Anonymous for video games

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AFP Photo / Philippe Huguen
AFP Photo / Philippe Huguen
 
A fifth grader has admitted of being the mastermind behind hacker attacks that took down government websites during the 2012 Quebec student protests and passing some of the hacked data to the Anonymous group in exchange for video games.
The 12-year-old Canadian boy has pleaded guilty to causing three incidents that paralyzed a number of government websites including that of the Quebec Institute of Public Health, and the Chilean government.

Some sites were out of service for as long as two days, the Toronto Sun reports, while thousands of students were rallying against tuition fee hikes in Quebec in 2012, clashing with police and disturbing public order.

Police estimate that the child caused $60,000 in damages, as he appeared before the court accompanied by his father and a lawyer on Thursday.

In court, the lawyer had told the judge that the 12-year-old's actions were not politically motivated.

"He saw it as a challenge, he was only 12 years old,"
his lawyer said. "There was no political purpose," as quoted by Toronto Sun.

The boy, who has been in hacking since the age of nine, was practicing three basic types of attacks, a police expert told the court.

Reuters / Thomas Peter
Reuters / Thomas Peter
Distributed denial of service (DDoS) attack was one of the methods used by the fifth grader to break the government servers by flooding them with traffic and rendering them ineffective.

Another way the young Montreal hacker disabled the systems was by altering information and making it appear as a homepage with his own information. In such an attack, known as website defacement, the hacker gets access to a web server of the target and replaces the original page with a fake one.

The child also exploited security holes to access database servers. The boy allegedly had managed to mine personal information belonging to the sites' administrators and users, and sent some of the mined information to the hacktivist group Anonymous in exchange for video games.

Others involved in the hacking attack have reportedly been arrested but it was the boy who opened the way.

“And he told others how to do it,” explaining it was easy to hack, but not so easy to remain untraced, a police expert testified in Montreal court on Thursday.

According to the paper, a detailed report into the allegations will be handed over next month when the 12-year-old is expected to be sentenced.

It is not the first time in Quebec’s history that a minor has plead guilty to hacking charges.

In 2001, a 17-year-old Canadian hacker was sentenced to an eight month juvenile term for crippling several web sites when he was 15-years-old, including that of Amazon, eBay, Yahoo and  CNN, causing an estimated $1.7 million in damage.

Known as the "Mafiaboy," the teenager pleaded guilty to more than 50 charges related to the attacks. The judge in Montreal also banned the teenager from owning any non-commercial computer and talking to other hackers.

In his book, "Mafiaboy: A Portrait of the Hacker as a Young Man" published in 2001, Michael Calce (Mafiaboy's real name), said that his attacks in 2000 were "illegal, reckless and, in many ways, simply stupid."

 

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Cash-for-bitcoins: World’s first palm scan-activated bitcoin ATM to open in Canada

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Robocoin, first real bitcoin ATM. (Still from YouTube video uploaded by Robocoin)
Robocoin, first real bitcoin ATM. (Still from YouTube video uploaded by Robocoin)
 
 
The world’s first bitcoin ATM will open in Vancouver, Canada, next week – dispensing Canadian dollars in exchange for the anonymous crypto-currency. But only if your palm scan matches the ATM’s records, that is.
The machine will be set up near downtown Vancouver coffee house Waves, is one of five ATMs bought by Canadian firm Bitcoiniacs from Nevada-based producer Robocoin. 

Still from YouTube video uploaded by Robocoin
Still from YouTube video uploaded by Robocoin
The machine will exchange bitcoins for Canadian dollars via Canada’s VirtEx exchange. The transactions themselves will be anonymous, the vendor says, but clients will have to identify themselves via a palm scanner first.
This is done to enforce Canadian anti-money laundering laws, due to which the ATM will only allow transactions of up to 3,000 Canadian dollars (around $2,700) per day per customer.
The four other ATMs will be rolled out in Canadian cities such as Toronto, Montreal, Calgary or Ottawa in December, the company says.
"Basically, it just makes it easier for people to buy and sell bitcoins," Mitchell Demeter, founder of Bitcoiniacs and co-owner of Robocoin, told CBC.
Bitcoin is an internet-based currency designed to exist without any centralized regulatory authority. New Bitcoins are generated by spending computer processing time to conduct complex calculations, and the process is limited by a maximum of about 21 million bitcoins that can exist.
The currency has long been a fad among online privacy activists, financial futurists and shady dealers, but is so far little known to the general public. It lately hit the headlines after the FBI bust of the Silk Road website that US authorities say facilitated the trade in illegal goods and services, from drugs to assassinations.

 

At least 42 killed in series of Baghdad bomb blasts

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Iraqis look at the remains of a vehicle following an explosion at a small bus station on October 27, 2013, in the the Mashtal district of the capital Baghdad (AFP Photo / Sabah Arar)
Iraqis look at the remains of a vehicle following an explosion at a small bus station on October 27, 2013, in the the Mashtal district of the capital Baghdad (AFP Photo / Sabah Arar)
 
Ten car bombs ripped through the Iraqi capital, Baghdad, killing at least 42 and wounding dozens more, officials said. It was the latest in a series of coordinated attacks that have killed hundreds of people a month and inflamed sectarian tensions.
Nine of the blasts targeted predominantly Shiite Muslim districts over the course of half an hour, police said.

The deadliest blast occurred in the town of Nahrawan, south of the capital, where two back-to-back car bombs exploded near a busy market, killing seven people and injured 15 others.

Attacks in the northern Shaab and southern Abu Dshir neighborhoods killed six people each. Other explosions hit the neighborhoods of Mashtal, Baladiyat and Ur in eastern Baghdad and the northern Sab al-Bor and Hurriyah districts.

Six medical officials confirmed the casualty figures to AP. All spoke on condition of anonymity as they were not authorized to speak to the press.


Iraqis look at the remains of a vehicle following an explosion at a small bus station on October 27, 2013, in the the Mashtal district of the capital Baghdad (AFP Photo / Sabah Arar)
Iraqis look at the remains of a vehicle following an explosion at a small bus station on October 27, 2013, in the the Mashtal district of the capital Baghdad (AFP Photo / Sabah Arar)
There was no immediate claim of responsibility, although such coordinated attacks have in the past been a hallmark of The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant – al-Qaeda's local branch.

On Friday, a series of nine bombs detonated by remote control killed 16 people across the country as Shiite Muslims commemorated the religious festival of Al-Gadeer. Last week, a suicide bomber killed at least 38 people outside a cafe in a mainly Shiite Muslim district of Baghdad.

Violence has spiked in Iraq since April, when tensions between Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's Shiite dominated government and Sunni groups claiming to be the victims of discrimination boiled over.
Iraq is seeing its worst year of violence since 2008, when bloodshed leveled off following two years of intense sectarian violence which some scholars characterized as civil war. But while the upward spike in violence is universally recognized, determining exact causality figures in the country remains an inexact science.
According to AP, today's attacks bring the death toll across the country this month to over 500. Iraq Body Count, meanwhile, which did not include Sunday’s violence in its tally, placed October’s death toll at 904.

An Iraqi woman walks across the debris following an explosion at a bus center on October 27, 2013, in the the Mashtal district of the capital Baghdad (AFP Photo / Sabah Arar)
An Iraqi woman walks across the debris following an explosion at a bus center on October 27, 2013, in the the Mashtal district of the capital Baghdad (AFP Photo / Sabah Arar)
 

Blasts hit city of Patna in eastern India ahead of opposition rally, at least 1 killed

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Image from maps.google.com
Image from maps.google.com
 
 
Several small explosions have hit the city of Patna in eastern India. At least one person has been killed and several others injured. The blasts happened just hours before a major opposition rally.
The first blast happened Sunday morning at a railway station in the city, the capital of the Indian state of Bihar.
The explosive went off in a toilet in the station, which Indian police said was detonated with a crude timer device.
It was followed by more blasts, as bombs exploded near the Elphinstone Cinema and Twins Tower. Five blasts have been reported in the city in total by local media.
Initial reports say that at least one person has been killed and five others injured in the attacks.
The explosions happened a few hours before a rally called in support of Narendra Modi, a candidate for Indian prime minister from the Hindu nationalist BJP party.

Gujarat state Chief Minister and the Bharatiya Janata Party's (BJP) prime ministerial candidate, Narendra Modi (AFP Photo / Sajjad Hussain)
Gujarat state Chief Minister and the Bharatiya Janata Party's (BJP) prime ministerial candidate, Narendra Modi (AFP Photo / Sajjad Hussain)
All the explosions happened not far from Gandhi Maidan, a park in Patna named for Indian independence campaigner Mahmatma Gandhi, where the rally was scheduled to take place. The rally was expected to be attended by thousands of Modi’s supporters.
The party said it would continue with its rally plans despite the blasts.
"Even after this lawlessness following the blasts, we are ready for the rally. Narendra Modi-Ji will address the rally," NDTV cited BJP leader Rajiv Pratap Rudy as saying, using the honorific form of Modi’s surname.

 

Thursday, October 24, 2013

New China H7N9 strain gives kick to mutant bird flu research

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Dutch scientists hidden away in a top-security laboratory are seeking to create mutant flu viruses, dangerous work designed to prepare the world for a lethal pandemic by beating nature to it.
The idea of engineering viral pathogens to be more deadly than they are already has generated huge controversy, amid fears that such viruses could leak out or fall into the wrong hands.
But with China braced for scores more cases of a deadly new strain of H7N9 bird flu, Ron Fouchier and Ab Osterhaus say the benefits of this gene mutation research far outweigh the risks.
The experiments, designed to explore H7N9's potential to develop drug resistance and find which genetic modifications might enhance its ability to spread, could offer the know-how to halt a lethal flu pandemic, they say.
That could be with well-timed new vaccines or other therapies tuned to the pandemic strain's genes.
"We're bracing for what's going to happen next. If H7N9 becomes easily transmissible between humans, yes, the case fatality ratio may go down a little from where it is now, but we'd still be talking about millions of people dying," says Osterhaus, the head of a highly bio-secure laboratory in the Netherlands which will lead some of the H7N9 mutation work.
"This is a critical question - what does this virus really need to become transmissible? It is of extreme importance to being able to understand what's going on."
As things stand, 45 of the 136 people known to have contracted H7N9 bird flu in China and Taiwan have died - giving a case fatality rate of around 30 percent.
Fouchier, who has already done so-called "gain of function" experiments with another strain of bird flu, H5N1, says we need to get ahead of the game with H7N9 since its pandemic risk would rise "exponentially" if it gained in nature what he aims to give it in the lab - the ability to spread easily among people.
"OUTRAGEOUS CHUTZPAH"
So far, however, their drive to find out as much as they can about the genetics of bird flu risks rarely wins these world-renowned virologists thanks. More often, it elicits accusations of putting scientific self-interest over security.
Steven Salzberg, a professor of medicine and biostatistics from John Hopkins School of Medicine, accused them of "an outrageous display of chutzpah" and says Fouchier "is deeply confused about the possible benefits of this work", which Salzberg argues are marginal at best.
"The notion of 'gain of function' research on pathogens is very, very dangerous," he told Reuters.
The H7N9 outbreak, which began in February when the first cases of this flu strain previously unknown in humans emerged, flared up in April and May and dwindled over the summer months.
But news last week that a 35-year-old from China's eastern Zhejiang province is in a critical condition in hospital with the virus reawakened fears that it could come back hard as temperatures drop and the flu season returns.
So, hidden away in an un-signposted corner of the campus of the Erasmus Medical Centre in the port city of Rotterdam, a handful of top security-cleared researchers are selecting, deleting and adding genes to strains of the H7N9 virus to check what it might be capable of in a worst-case scenario.
The studies aim to genetically modify the virus to see what it needs to give it more of a deadly pandemic kick. That could mean making it more virulent, more pathogenic and, crucially, more transmissible - capable of passing easily in droplets through the air from one mammal to another.
Naturally, it's not the sort of work that can be done just anywhere.
The Erasmus team has one of Europe's most secure laboratories - a so-called Enhanced BSL3, or Bio-Safety Level 3, lab - the highest level of biosecurity for academic research and a facility in which agents can be studied that cause "serious or lethal disease" but don't ordinarily spread between people and for which treatments or preventives exist.
The highest level, BSL4, requires military guard and applies to pathogens for which there are no preventives or treatments.
SECURITY LAYERS
Fouchier, one of only six people with security clearance to enter the Rotterdam lab, says that despite the presence of mutant viruses, he feels safer there than walking in the street.
"You need special keys to get in. You go though various changes of clothes and through all sorts of interlocked rooms," he explained during a Reuters visit to the campus.
"There are personal pin codes and additional security measures to get through the next series of doors. And there are cameras all over the place, watching you all the time, 24/7."
Needless to say, media access to the laboratory itself is strictly forbidden.
Fouchier spent several years shuttling back and forth across the Atlantic arguing his case for conducting and publishing similar work on H5N1 bird flu, which so alarmed the U.S. National Science Advisory Board for Biosecurity (NSABB) that it took the unprecedented step of trying to censor publication.
The NSABB had said it feared details of the work could fall into the wrong hands and be used for bioterrorism.
A year-long moratorium on such research followed while the World Health Organisation (WHO), U.S. security advisers and flu researchers sought ways to ensure the highest safety controls.
With those in place, the WHO satisfied and U.S. research funders broadly agreed, Fouchier and 22 other scientists announced in August that they planned to end the moratorium, and the Dutch team say now is the time to get going.
"The easiest thing would be to back off and say 'OK, we won't touch this any more'. But that's not the right way to behave," said Osterhaus. "As a scientist you have a responsibility towards the public. And if we can prevent a pandemic from happening, that could save millions of lives."

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

White House staffer fired for notorious anti-administration Twitter account

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AFP Photo / Saeed Khan
AFP Photo / Saeed Khan
 
 
A senior US National Security Council staffer has been fired for using an anonymous Twitter account to send hundreds of messages criticizing the Obama administration from inside the White House.
Jofi Joseph, a director in the nuclear non-proliferation team inside the NSC, was let go a week ago after administration officials spent months investigating who was tweeting from @natsecwonk. The account opened in February 2011 and lasted until last week, sending thousands of tweets critical of Obama’s policies, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and various high level officials in the interim.
Two sources in the administration confirmed to The Daily Beast that Joseph, 40, was behind the account. The staffer was a member of the NSC team that sat across the negotiating table from Iran in Istanbul earlier this year.
“Is it just me, or with the Jews celebrating Rosh Hashanah tonight, is Twitter much quieter?” he once wrote.
What’s so disturbing about the Hillary dancing photo is the high-def resolution of Ben Rhodes’ balding pate. And Jake Sullivan behind him,” another read, referencing US President Obama’s deputy national security advisor and speechwriter as well as Vice President Joe Biden’s national security advisor.
One tweet said simply: “Has shitty staff #ObamaInThreeWords.”
Authorities’ search for @natsecwonk truly heated up when Joseph began espousing doubt over the official account regarding the September 11, 2011 attack on the US consulate in Benghazi, Libya.
The Daily Beast reported that he was fired at about the time the Twitter feed shutdown last week.
Joseph also took aim at prominent Republicans, once tweeting: “So when will someone do us the favor of getting rid of Sarah Palin and the rest of her white trash family? What utter useless garbage…”
Vitriol against @AriFleischer entirely justified,” one said. “He married a woman a decade younger than him – and she’s as ugly as he is! #jackass
The now-former staffer previously refused to tell Politico reporter Glenn Thrush whether he was the one behind the account, calling the question “ridiculous” and that the conversation could hurt his ability to get a new job.
It has been a privilege to serve in this administration and I deeply regret violating the trust and confidence placed in me,” Joseph told Politico. “What started out as an intended parody account of DC culture developed over time into a series of inappropriate and mean-spirited comments. I bear complete responsibility for this affair and I sincerely apologize to everyone I insulted.”


 

Monday, October 21, 2013

Bacteria found in breast milk sold on Internet

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Human breast milk is sold for babies on several online sites for a few dollars an ounce, but a new study says buyer beware: Testing showed it can contain potentially dangerous bacteria including salmonella.
The warning comes from researchers who bought and tested 101 breast milk samples sold by women on one popular site. Three-fourths of the samples contained high amounts of bacteria that could potentially sicken babies, the researchers found. They did not identify the website.
The results are "pretty scary," said Dr. Kenneth Boyer, pediatrics chief at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago, who was not involved in the study. "Just imagine if the donor happens to be a drug user. You don't know."
The research published in medical literature cites several cases of infants getting sick from strangers' milk.
Breast milk is also provided through milk banks, whose clients include hospitals. They also charge fees but screen donors and pasteurize donated milk to kill any germs.
With Internet sites, "you have very few ways to know for sure what you are getting is really breast milk and that it's safe to feed your baby," said Sarah Keim, the lead author and a researcher at Nationwide Children's Hospital in Columbus, Ohio. "Because the consequences can be serious, it is not a good idea to obtain breast milk in this way."
The advice echoes a 2010 recommendation from the federal Food and Drug Administration.
"When human milk is obtained directly from individuals or through the Internet, the donor is unlikely to have been adequately screened for infectious disease or contamination risk," the FDA says. "In addition, it is not likely that the human milk has been collected, processed, tested or stored in a way that reduces possible safety risks to the baby."
The researchers believe theirs is the first study to test the safety of Internet-sold milk, although several others have documented bacteria in mothers' own milk or in milk bank donations. Some bacteria may not be harmful, but salmonella is among germs that could pose a threat to infants, Boyer said.
Sources for bacteria found in the study aren't known but could include donors' skin, breast pumps used to extract milk, or contamination from improper shipping methods, Keim said.
The study was published online Monday in the journal Pediatrics.
There are many milk-sharing sites online, including several that provide milk for free. Sellers or donors tend to be new mothers who produce more milk than their own babies can consume. Users include mothers who have difficulty breast-feeding and don't want to use formula and people with adopted infants.
Breanna Clemons of Dickinson, N.D., is a donor who found a local woman who needed breast milk through one of the online sites where milk is offered free.
"A lot of people are like, 'Ewww, it's weird,' but they haven't been in a situation where they didn't want their child to have formula," or couldn't produce enough milk, Clemons said. She said she shared her medical history with the recipient.
Clemons is breast-feeding her 7-month-old and stores excess milk in her freezer. Every few weeks, she meets up with the recipient and gives her about 20 6-ounce bags. Clemons said the woman has a healthy 9-month-old who "loves my milk."
Keim said it's unclear if milk from sites offering donated milk would have the same risks because donors might be different from those seeking money for their milk. And in a comparison, the researchers found more bacteria in breast milk purchased online than in 20 unpasteurized samples donated to a milk bank.
Bekki Hill is a co-founder of Modern Milksharing, an online support group that offers advice on milk donation. She said there's a difference between milk sellers and donors; milk donors "don't stand to gain anything from donating so they have no reason to lie about their health."
Hill, of Red Hook, N.Y., used a donor's milk for her first two children and plans to do so for her third, due in February, because she doesn't produce enough of her own.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Old Why do Christians eat pork?

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I've noticed that most Christians eat pork while its forbidden in the Bible
"And the swine, because it divideth the hoof, yet cheweth not the cud, it is unclean unto you: ye shall not eat of their flesh, nor touch their dead carcase." Deuteronomy 14:8, while muslims and jews don't eat pork, I've always wondered why do Christians do the opposite?

Old Punishment For Women Who Wear UNGODLY ATTIRE! [Weaves, Nails, Braids, Makeup]

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This WOMEN OF GOD lays it on the line as she preaches about women wearing UNGODLY ATTIRE. According to the King James Version Bible, if you wear weaves, braids, get your nails done, wear makeup or earrings and if you drink or smoke, YOU ARE GOING TO HELL!

She heard from the Lord of the Christians on this.


Punishment for Women with UNGODLY ATTIRE in HELL - Linda Ngaujah [From SIERRA LEONE] - YouTube

Do you believe her?

---------------------------------------------------------------
Today's Anointed Word = "You Either Become a Christian Or I Will Torture You Saith The Lord!"
Revelation 9:5
And to them it was given that they should not kill them, but that they should be tormented five months: and their torment was as the torment of a scorpion.
Jesus is LOVE! Accept Him NOW! Or, God WILL KILL you LATER!

The doors to the church are now open, come to Jesus Or God Will Kill You!

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Canada's Alice Munro wins Nobel literature prize

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CORRECTED: Books and stories by Nobel Laureate Alice Munro 
 
If there were a literary award bigger than the Nobel Prize, Alice Munro would probably win that, too."Among writers, her name is spoken in hushed tones," fellow Canadian author Margaret Atwood once wrote. "She's the kind of writer about whom it is often said — no matter how well known she becomes — that she ought to be better known."
Munro, 82, was awarded literature's highest honor Thursday, saluted by the Nobel committee as a thorough but forgiving chronicler of the human spirit, and her selection marks a number of breakthroughs.
She is the first winner of the $1.2 million prize to be fully identified with Canada. Saul Bellow won in 1976, but though he was born in Canada, he moved to the U.S. as a boy and is more closely associated with Chicago.
Munro is also the rare author to win for short stories.
"When I began writing there was a very small community of Canadian writers and little attention was paid by the world. Now Canadian writers are read, admired and respected around the globe," Munro said in a statement issued by her publisher, Alfred A. Knopf. She said she hopes the Nobel "fosters further interest in all Canadian writers" and "brings further recognition to the short story form."
Her books having sold more than 1 million copies in the U.S. alone, she has long been an international ambassador for the short story, proof that the narrative arc and depth of characterization expected from a novel can be realized in just 30 to 40 pages.
Critics and peers have praised her in every way a writer can be praised: the precision of her language; the perfection of detail; the surprise and logic of her storytelling; the graceful, seamless shifts of moods; the intimacy with every shade of human behavior.
Her stories are usually set in Ontario, her home province. Among her best-known is "The Bear Came Over the Mountain," about a woman who begins losing her memory and agrees with her husband that she should be put in a nursing home. Canadian actress-director Sarah Polley adapted the story into the 2006 film "Away from Her," starring Julie Christie.
The narrative begins in a relatively tender, traditional mood. But we soon learn that the husband has been unfaithful in the past and didn't always regret it — "What he felt was mainly a gigantic increase in well-being." The wife, meanwhile, has fallen for a man at the nursing home.
In the story "Dimensions," Munro introduces a chambermaid named Doree, who needs to take three buses for a visit to a "facility" outside Clinton, Ontario. Munro explains that Doree is happy in her work, that she has been told she is "young and decent looking" and that her picture was once in the newspaper, in the days when her spiked blonde hair was wavy and brown.
"Dimensions" begins in close-up, then steadily pulls back. With every page, the story darkens, and terrifies. The "facility" is an institution where Doree's husband is held. Doree's picture was in the paper because her husband murdered their children.
"In all the time since what had happened, any thought of the children had been something to get rid of, pull out immediately like a knife in the throat," Munro writes.
Munro won a National Book Critics Circle prize in 1998 for "The Love of a Good Woman" and was a finalist in 2001 for "Hateship, Friendship, Courtship, Loveship, Marriage." She is also a three-time winner of the Governor General's prize, Canada's highest literary honor.
Any further awards are likely to honorary. She told Canada's National Post in June that she was "probably not going to write anymore."
Her most recent collection, "Dear Life," came out in 2012.
Starting in the 1960s, when she was first published, she has often contrasted her youth in Wingham, a conservative town west of Toronto, and her life after the social upheaval of the '60s. Munro herself lived out the fears, and celebrated the liberation, of the educated housewives in Betty Friedan's "The Feminine Mystique."
In an interview with The Associated Press in 2003, she described the '60s as "wonderful."
"Because, having been born in 1931, I was a little old, but not too old, and women like me after a couple of years were wearing miniskirts and prancing around," she said.
The daughter of a fox farmer and a teacher, she was born Alice Anne Laidlaw, a literary person in a nonliterary town, concealing her ambition like a forbidden passion.
She received a scholarship to study at the University of Western Ontario, majoring in journalism, and was still an undergraduate when she sold a story to CBC radio in Canada. She dropped out to marry a fellow student, James Munro, had three children and became a full-time housewife. By her early 30s, she was so confined, frightened and depressed that she could barely write a full sentence.
Her good fortune was to open a bookstore with her husband, in 1963. Stimulated by everything from the conversation of adults to simply filling out invoices, she saw her narrative talents resurface but her marriage collapse.
Her first collection, "Dance of the Happy Shades," came out in 1968 and won the Governor General's prize.
At least in her work, Munro is among the least political of Nobel winners, who in recent years have included Latin America's Mario Vargas Llosa and British novelist Doris Lessing. In 2003, she told the AP she was not inspired by current events but by memories, anecdotes, gossip. The stories themselves have few topical references or famous names.
"I don't do a lot of indicators where you can tell what time it is, because that would impinge on me too much. Somebody writing about now would have to have Iraq in it. They need to have the right music and right celebrities and right style of clothes," she said.
"In ordinary life I am a fairly active, political person. I have opinions and join clubs. But I always want to see what happens with people underneath; it interests me more."
The 2013 Nobel announcements continue Friday with the Nobel Peace Prize, followed by the economics prize on Monday.
 

Munro,'master of the short story', wins Nobel literature prize

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Canada that made her what the award-giving committee called the "master of the contemporary short story".
"Some critics consider her a Canadian Chekhov," the Swedish Academy said, comparing her to the 19th-century Russian short story writer in a statement on its website.

File picture of Canadian writer Munro
.


Munro, 82, started writing stories in her teens. She is mainly known for her short stories and has published many collections over the years. Her works include "The View from Castle Rock" in 2006 and "Too Much Happiness" three years later.
"Her texts often feature depictions of everyday but decisive events, epiphanies of a kind, that illuminate the surrounding story and let existential questions appear in a flash of lightning," the Academy said.
Munro, who was awarded the prize of 8 million crowns ($1.25 million by the committee, lives in Clinton, not far from her childhood home in southwestern Ontario, Canada.
In 2009, she revealed that she had undergone coronary bypass surgery and been treated for cancer. She is known to be averse to publicity and rarely gives interviews.
The literature prize is the fourth of this year's crop of prizes, which were established in the will of Swedish dynamite inventor Alfred Nobel and awarded for the first time in 1901.
SHORT STORY VERSUS NOVEL
The short story, a style more popular in the early 20th century, has long taken a back seat to novels. Short stories tend to be set in a more concentrated time frame with a limited number of characters.
Munro herself spoke of the phenomenon in an interview with the New York Times in July. Her short stories have often been called 'novels in miniature'; a notion she rejects.
"While working on my first five books, I kept wishing I was writing a novel," she said.
"I thought until you wrote a novel, you weren't taken seriously as a writer. It used to trouble me a lot, but nothing troubles me now, and besides there has been a change. I think short stories are taken more seriously now than they were."


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