Smartphone over-dependence

Forget what’s in your wallet — beware your smartphone. It’s becoming one of your most dangerous possessions.

CNN business reporter Blake Ellis warns us about how our do-everything smart phones might get us into trouble, especially if they are stolen:

If your phone was stolen a few years ago, the thief could make prank calls and read your text messages. Today, that person can destroy your social life — you said what on Facebook?! — and wreak havoc on your finances.

Now that smartphones double as wallets and bank accounts — allowing users to manage their finances, transfer money, make payments, deposit checks and swipe their phones as credit cards — they are very lucrative scores for thieves. And with 30% of phone subscribers owning iPhones, BlackBerrys and Droids, there are a lot of people at risk.

“It’s crazy the amount of information on that phone — it’s like carrying a mini-computer around with you, except that more people know the settings on their computer than they do on their phones at this point,” said Nikki Junker, social media coordinator and victim advisor at Identity Theft Resource Center. “People are incredibly at risk as technology improves.”

via Your smartphone could be your most dangerous possession – Jan. 11, 2011.

Patrick Henry College in the news

I work at Patrick Henry College, where I am a literature professor and the provost, in charge of both the academic program and student life.  Once again, we won the national moot court championship (in which teams of two argue a case against another team before a panel of judges in a pretend-appeals court hearing).  Virtually all of these winners, including the amazing Harris brothers, are or have been my students, and I’m very proud of them:

Building on an increasingly formidable legacy of success in collegiate legal debate, Patrick Henry College traveled to New Orleans, January 14-15, and brought home the College’s fifth national moot court championship in the past seven years. The victory at the ACMA 2011 National tournament at Tulane University Law School was PHC’s third championship in a row, eclipsing the only other time an ACMA competitor has won back-to-back championships—PHC itself, in 2005 and 2006, when the College won its first two national titles.

First place this past weekend went to the College’s already high-profile team of Alex and Brett Harris, best-selling authors of Do Hard Things and co-founders of The Rebelution.com, competing in their first year of formal collegiate moot court. The Harris brothers defeated the team of Willem Daniel and Rachel Shonebarger from the College of Wooster, PHC’s stiff perennial competition at nationals. . . .

Third place went to Jonathan Carden and Joanna Griffith, who, interestingly, beat the Harris brothers in the qualifying regional tournament in Tampa, Florida. Two other PHC teams, Blake Meadows and Kayla Griesemer and Bridget Degnan and Tate Deems, made it to the “Sweet Sixteen” quarterfinals, the latter duo losing to the eventual second-place team from the College of Wooster. . . .

Another PHC tournament highlight was the outstanding individual orator performances of freshman Blake Meadows and junior Bridget Degnan, who won first and third place speaking trophies, respectively. Meadows won the top speaker trophy with a record-breaking 396.83 points out of a potential 400 points, while Degnan also broke the previous record with 386 points.

via Patrick Henry College.

And yet this news on our campus yesterday was somewhat overshadowed in the public eye by the further news that the 2011 Miss America, Teresa Scanlan, is one of our recently-admitted applicants and will be attending here once her “reign” is over.  (Our web site got 25,000 hits, once Miss Scanlan, or I should say Miss America, told reporters after her coronation that she was coming here.)

Cyberwar against Iran

The New York Times reports on an Israeli-American collaboration that apparently created a computer worm that may have set back Iran’s attempts to build a nuclear weapon for years.  You’ve got to read this story.  A sample:

Behind Dimona’s barbed wire, the experts say, Israel has spun nuclear centrifuges virtually identical to Iran’s at Natanz, where Iranian scientists are struggling to enrich uranium. They say Dimona tested the effectiveness of the Stuxnet computer worm, a destructive program that appears to have wiped out roughly a fifth of Iran’s nuclear centrifuges and helped delay, though not destroy, Tehran’s ability to make its first nuclear arms. . . .

Though American and Israeli officials refuse to talk publicly about what goes on at Dimona, the operations there, as well as related efforts in the United States, are among the newest and strongest clues suggesting that the virus was designed as an American-Israeli project to sabotage the Iranian program. . . .

In interviews over the past three months in the United States and Europe, experts who have picked apart the computer worm describe it as far more complex — and ingenious — than anything they had imagined when it began circulating around the world, unexplained, in mid-2009. . . .

The worm itself now appears to have included two major components. One was designed to send Iran’s nuclear centrifuges spinning wildly out of control. Another seems right out of the movies: The computer program also secretly recorded what normal operations at the nuclear plant looked like, then played those readings back to plant operators, like a pre-recorded security tape in a bank heist, so that it would appear that everything was operating normally while the centrifuges were actually tearing themselves apart.

via Stuxnet Worm Used Against Iran Was Tested in Israel – NYTimes.com.

HT:  tODD

Madness

More details come out about the Tucson shooter Jared Loughner’s insanity.  I was struck with this paragraph in a description of his delusions (none of which were apparently related to politics, despite what is still being said):

Slowly but steadily, his intelligence warped into a distorted, disconnected series of obsessions. He developed an illogical fascination with logic. Math, grammar, logic – the systems civilization has developed to make sense of the world became the means through which he expressed the confusion and pain in his increasingly lost mind.

via Friends, teachers tell of Loughner’s descent into world of fantasy.

This reminds me of G. K. Chesterton’s comment in Orthodoxy that a madman is not someone who has lost his reason, but someone who has lost everything but his reason.  Chesterton pointed out that madmen often carry a kind of logic to its extreme–circular reasoning, seeing evidence of conspiracies everywhere, closely analyzing ordinary occurrences and finding sinister meanings–but they lack normal human feelings and perspectives.

How bad is the flooding in Australia?

Sharks spotted swimming through flood-hit streets of Australian town.

I worry what the flooding will mean for the habitat of Queensland’s salt water crocodiles–affectionally known as “salties”–one of the most dangerous creatures on earth.

And we mustn’t forget the even deadlier floods in Brazil, which have, by last count, killed more than 500 people.

The “I have a dream” speech

Happy Martin Luther King Day!

Clarence Jones, an aide to Martin Luther King, Jr., recounts the background of the famous “I have a dream” speech, which really is a spectacular piece of oratory.  According to his account, Dr. King worked on a policy-type speech, showing it to a number of different individuals and getting their input.  But when he actually got up there at the Lincoln Memorial to speak, the great gospel singer Mahalia Jackson was in the crowd and said, “tell them about the dream!”  Dr. King then improvised the speech, turning it into a sermon, which gave it its power.

See On Martin Luther King Day, remembering the first draft of ‘I Have a Dream’.

I remember, growing up in small town Oklahoma in the 1950s and 1960s, seeing side-by-side water fountains, one with a sign for “whites” and one with a sign for “coloreds.” The town swimming pool was only open to black people on Wednesdays, after which the water would be changed for white people to swim in the rest of the week. I don’t know if black people were allowed to vote, but they certainly were not in much of the South.

I also remember the Civil Rights Movement and the change in the sentiments of that small town. It was, first of all, an application of transcendent morality to the treatment of black people. I recall vividly the appeal to Christian ethics and how churches of all stripes were exerting leadership. I remember how moved people were by Dr. King’s principles of non-violence and non-resistance. The Civil Rights Movement triumphed by simply winning people over.

The Civil Rights Movement led by Dr. King was not just a political fight; rather, it was a moral crusade. It changed both political parties. It was predicated on moral principles being objectively valid. Churches exerted moral authority.

So Martin Luther King Day is a holiday that conservatives, as well as liberals, can celebrate.


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