Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Vaccinations no longer CIA cover operations

Lisa Monaco U.S. Homeland Security Advisor has announced a White House policy change and vowed that the CIA will no longer be using vaccination programs as a cover for intelligence gathering such as the one implemented prior to the neutralisation of Osama bin Laden. The agency has also agreed not to use genetic material obtained through such programs.

The deals of 13 public health schools had written to President Obama in protest over the use of immunisation as a front for espionage. One such program was run by Dr. Shakil Afridi, who offered hepatitis vaccinations in Abbottabad, Pakistan as cover for his CIA-backed effort to obtain DNA samples from children at a compound where bin Laden was later eliminated. Afridi was convicted and sentenced by Pakistan to 33 years for treason. While later overturned, he now faces retrial. Later in 2012 the UN suspended polio vaccinations Pakistan after gunmen killed several health workers. Taliban militants accused health workers of being U.S. spies.

CIA Director John Brennan said earlier that his agency would "make no operational use of vaccination programs, which includes vaccination workers." A CIA spokesman said Director Brennan "took seriously the concerns raised by the public health community, examined them closely and took decisive action." Neither The White House or the CIA have not acknowledged any error in the decision to use the Pakistan vaccine program as a spying cover. The White House statement came three days after Pakistan acted to quell a growing polio crisis within its borders. Pakistan's Health Ministry recently announced that it would require that all travellers leaving the country first get a polio vaccination following the WHO's declaration that polio's spread was an international public health emergency, and identifying Pakistan, Syria and Cameroon as nations that had allowed polio to spread beyond their borders.

SPEARHEAD’s Assistant Commander for Intelligence and Information, Brigadier General “Whopper” Creedon expressed dismay at the decision. The General explained to a closed UNSC session on Monday, that the U.S. programme was one of the easier ways to root out “those not of us”. He explained that because “their” leaders have told “them” to conform to all that humans do so as to blend in, they had unwittingly supplied UNETIDA, now SPEARHEAD with data used to track, monitor and if necessary eliminate “them” for years. “Some of ‘them’ are very good at concealing their outer identity, but advances in science have allowed us to track 'them' from things like vaccination samples later found to be ‘not human’,” he continued. SPEARHEAD’s current intelligence efforts piggybacked off the U.S. intelligence operation for years and now Creedon may be faced with using his own agents embedded with U.S. and WHO efforts to gather such intel unless the operation is scrapped in favour of more conventional intelligence gathering, which is unlikely to benefit those in need of medical care.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Vampire unearthed in Poland

In Kamien Pomorski, northwestern Poland, archaeologists have made the gristly discovery of a vampiric grave. A 16th century body was unearthed during a dig in a marketplace. The excavation team found a number of unusual features which indicated the grave site was somewhat unnatural. The body's teeth had been removed, a fragment of rock had been inserted into the mouth and to be sure he could not rise as undead - his leg was staked deep into the ground.

Dig leader Slawomir Gorka explained: "A piece of brick rubble in the mouth and pierced thigh indicates that it is a vampire burial. This was done not for him, but for the community, who lived here." Gorka added that the same rituals were common in burials in the area between the 13th and 17th centuries.

The origin of the vampire legend dates back to ancient Greece and Egypt. Dr Tim Beasley-Murray, a Slavonic studies lecturer at UCL, told the press that the myth spread up through the Balkans into eastern Europe where it was fertile in the pre-Christian era.

Captain “Barnacle” Strakovski, SPEARHEAD Special Operations Commander said that a counter-undead unit was dispatched to Kamien Pomorski to investigate but they reported no credible threat. Brigadier General “Whopper” Creedon, SPEARHEAD Assistant Commander for Intelligence and Information said that while some legends are apocryphal, "vampires and the undead as a whole are quite real" and it’s one of his department’s "most important tasks to maintain international belief that it’s all nothing but folklore" while simultaneously subliminally preparing civilians for "encounters with the unliving". Creedon has been vocal against "nonsense" like the Twilight saga and The Vampire Diaries as they have served to portray vampires as “sexy and cool” and not the true danger they represent as in "the more fact-based" 30 Days of Night and Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter.

Source: The Guardian / The Daily Mail /

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Happy 70th George Lucas

Movie Mini-Reviews 14-05-14


Liam Neeson plays the role of a clinically depressed, alcoholic U.S. Marshal who’s career is on a knife edge, but when he receives a terrorist threat from someone on the plane he’s guarding he begins a dangerous and completely unsanctioned game of cat and mouse involving an extraordinarily convoluted and unnecessarily porous plot that is sure to incense and annoy the more intelligent of it’s audience.

Overall the movie is a steaming pile of shit but it’s pacing and acting even through even the most ridiculous of situations coupled with the insane dialogue make it somewhat enjoyable. I laughed in disbelief at how nonsensical some of the twists the story took and in the end I just had to accept it for what it was. Truly enjoyable crap.

Watch out for Anson Hell on Wheels Mount who is barely recognisable without his Corin Bohannan beard and Lupita Noyong’o who won an Oscar just 24 hours after I saw the movie and seems far too fine a calibre of actress to be anywhere near this nonsense unless you’re playing the Kevin Bacon game - is simply a token black stewardess here.

Not as good as Taken or even Passenger 57.

Whopper Rating: **1/2

300: Rise of an Empire

This is the not really that much anticipated sequel to Zack Snyder’s seminal 300, based on Frank Miller’s masterwork. As stylish as it’s predecessor with extra blood and dismemberment, 300: Rise of an Empire is a sort of parallel story to 300 focusing on everything but the battle of Thermopylae itself.

Sadly we seem to be entering a phase of cinema where the sequel isn’t actually better than the original. Since the 80’s I’ve been watching movies knowing that the inevitable sequel would be far superior to what spawned it. In a rare occasion, some like RoboCop, The Matrix, Transformers, Delta Force remained supreme but 300 is now added to the list.

Strike Back's Sullivan Stapleton is Themistocles and while he shows promise, he's not yet ready to carry the lead in a movie like this. The sultry Eva Casino Royale Green steals the show as the vicious Artemisia, who despite spitting half her dialogue through her teeth and takes part in what must have been an uncomfortable angry-sex scene - still manages to craft one of the most memorable characters of the genre.

If you enjoyed 300 then you'll be glad you saw this, but it's nowhere near as good.

Whopper Rating: ***1/2

Captain America: The Winter Soldier

As you've seen from the trailers this is a mash up of elements of Brubaker's Winter Soldier with some of the old 1988 Nick Fury Vs S.H.I.E.L.D. book thrown in - but the usual movie-universe differences prevail, such as - all of the characters on screen are in those books - they're just the same, somewhat different or completely different apart from their names.

It's a dark movie and almost devoid of the humour we've seen in all the other films, not a lot to laugh about here. While the original Cap flick had it's "mystical" elements with the Cosmic Cube, this is all hyper technology this time round and a lot less about Cap favouring more SHIELD. In fact there's a lot more SHIELD here than in all the previous Marvel movies together! I think if Tom Clancy had ever penned a superhero book, this is pretty much what it would be - more about technology, politics and weapons than a super-powered bad-ass.


Chris Evans is now seems completely comfortable in his character - but still projects that he's a man out of time, but adjusting. He's supported by Scarlett Johansson and Samuel L. Jackson reprising their roles as Black Widow and Nick Fury, franchise newcomer Anthony The Hurt Locker Mackie as Falcon and even Hollywood legend Robert Redford has a role.

Fan service here is monumental, depending on what you've read [or remember what you've read] over the years. You are rewarded for paying attention. Remember, one stinger during the credits - and a small one after all the credits have rolled. It was bit longer than I expected, but thankfully it didn't have the faffing middle bit like Iron Man 3 did. The Avengers is still the best Marvel movie, but this certainly does live up to the hype it's getting. Enjoy.

Whopper Rating: *****+

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

SPEARHEAD: 'Radio signal threat from space almost certain'

Some 3 years ago, astronomers detected a series of fleeting but powerful radio signals with the Parkes radio telescope in New South Wales, Australia. While initially unknown as to their origin, or even their existence, the Aricebo Observatory in Puerto Rico confirmed that they're real and originate outside the galaxy. In milliseconds, each of the radio bursts released as much energy as the sun emits in 300,000 years.

While the transient nature of the signals is not the main focus of discussion but instead just how far away they seem to be. Normally, radio waves travel at light speed so all the different wavelengths and frequencies of radio waves emitted by the same object should arrive on Earth in one big batch, but if something is sufficiently far away, this changes. Longer, lower frequency waves travelling through the cosmos have a trickier time getting here. The delay can only be theorised but it's allowing allowing astronomers to estimate that the waves are coming from something billions and billions of light-years away unlike most cosmic radio signals that originate in the Milky Way or a nearby neighbouring galaxy.

Arecibo Observatory By Jerry Valentin
There are a number of theories for the origin of the signals including blitzars [overweight neutron stars that resist the urge to become black holes], magnetars [neutron stars with strong magnetic fields], evaporating black holes and gamma ray bursts that involve a supernova. Cornell University astronomer James Cordes speculates that the bursts could be from an entirely new type of high-energy astrophysical event but SPEARHEAD warned the UNSC last week that it could be the result of either a mishap with some alien weapon of extraordinary power, or worse one that's working perfectly.

Lt. Gen. "Knuckles" McKenzie, Vice Commander, SPEARHEAD warned that any fully unexplained phenomenon in space is cause for alarm and that immediate UN funding be siphoned to SPEARHEAD to develop WMDs to defend the planet against from "a threat that we know not more than what we know". Cordes added fuel to McKenzie's concern adding that there was currently no way for use to even see all that is threatening the planet "Typically, telescopes only look at a very small patch of the sky at any one time, so you have to look for a long time before seeing many. This is why we have only detected a handful so far.” Cordes wrote in an article published in Science: "A Population of Fast Radio Bursts at Cosmological Distances."

Source: Mr. V / IO9 / Science