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Thursday, July 31, 2008

Gary McKinnon, British computer hacker, loses appeal over US extradition

Gary McKinnon

(David Bebber/The Times)

Gary McKinnon claimed he had hacked into the Pentagon to look for information on UFOs

Gary McKinnon stands accused of becoming the most accomplished computer hacker in history by crashing the United States army network, but claims only to have been pursuing a fascination with aliens.

The 42-year-old unemployed systems analyst, who broke into US military computers from his bedroom in Wood Green, North London, faces at least ten years in a US jail. He has always claimed that he was seeking information on UFOs and aliens.

He lost his final appeal against extradition yesterday after the law lords were told that he rejected a plea bargain in which he was offered a shorter prison sentence of three or four years in return for pleading guilty. The law lords dismissed Mr McKinnon’s claim that threats made against him by US prosecutors amounted to an abuse of process and refused to quash extradition procedings against him.

Mr McKinnon admits accessing 97 US military and Nasa computers. US prosecutors also allege that he shut down and rendered inoperable 300 computers at a US navy weapons station at a critical time, immediately after the terror attacks of September 11, 2001. His only hope is to persuade the European Court of Human Rights to put a “stay” on proceedings, pending consideration of his case.

Mr McKinnon said last night that he was sorry for his actions but felt the US reaction was disproportionate. He described his actions as “misguided” but said it felt “like a moral crusade”. He said he had not damaged the computer systems, as the US claimed, but had highlighted security problems.

He told BBC Radio 5 Live: “I’m extremely sorry I did it, but I think the reaction is completely overstated. I should face a penalty in Britain and I’d gladly do my time here. To go from, you know, perhaps a year or two in a British jail to 60 years in an American prison is ridiculous.”

Karen Todner, his solicitor, said: “Gary McKinnon is neither a terrorist, nor a terrorist sympathiser. His case could have been properly dealt with by our own prosecuting authorities. Instead, we believe that the British Government declined to prosecute him to enable the US Government to make an example of him. American officials involved in this case have stated that they want to see him ‘fry’.”

The law lords heard that under the plea bargain he would serve six to twelve months and then be returned to Britain to serve the rest of his sentence. Lord Brown of Eaton-under-Heywood said that, in all, he might serve eighteen months to two years. However, if he were extradited and convicted, he might expect a sentence of between eight and ten years, possibly longer, and would not be repatriated at all.

Original here

Al Gore Places Infant Son In Rocket To Escape Dying Planet

Young Gore sets out for his new home, where the sky is clear, the water is clean, and there are no Republicans.

EARTH—Former vice president Al Gore—who for the past three decades has unsuccessfully attempted to warn humanity of the coming destruction of our planet, only to be mocked and derided by the very people he has tried to save—launched his infant son into space Monday in the faint hope that his only child would reach the safety of another world.

"I tried to warn them, but the Elders of this planet would not listen," said Gore, who in 2000 was nearly banished to a featureless realm of nonexistence for promoting his unpopular message. "They called me foolish and laughed at my predictions. Yet even now, the Midwest is flooded, the ice caps are melting, and the cities are rocked with tremors, just as I foretold. Fools! Why didn't they heed me before it was too late?"

Al Gore—or, as he is known in his own language, Gore-Al—placed his son, Kal-Al, gently in the one-passenger rocket ship, his brow furrowed by the great weight he carried in preserving the sole survivor of humanity's hubristic folly.

"There is nothing left now but to ensure that my infant son does not meet the same fate as the rest of my doomed race," Gore said. "I will send him to a new planet, where he will, I hope, be raised by simple but kindly country folk and grow up to be a hero and protector to his adopted home."

As the rocket soared through the Gore estate's retractable solar-paneled roof—installed three years ago to save energy and provide emergency rocket-launch capability in the event that Gore's campaign to save Earth was unsuccessful—the onetime presidential candidate and his wife, Tipper, stood arm-in-arm, nobly facing their end while gazing up in stoic dignity at the receding rocket, the ecosystem already beginning to collapse around them.

In the final moments before the Earth's destruction, Gore expressed hope that his son would one day grow up to carry on his mission by fighting for truth, justice, and the American way elsewhere in the universe, using his Earth-given superpowers to become a champion of the downtrodden and a reducer of carbon emissions across the galaxy.

"Perhaps he will succeed where I have failed," Gore said.

Despite the child's humble beginnings, experts predict the intergalactic journey may have some extraordinary effects on Kal-Al's physique, eyesight, and, potentially, his powers of quiet, sensible persuasion.

"On his new planet, Kal-Al's Earth physiology will react to the radiation of a differently colored sun, causing him to develop abilities far beyond those of mortal men," political analyst Sig Schuster said. "He will be faster than a speeding Prius, stronger than the existing Superfund program, and able to leap mountains of red tape in a single bound. These superpowers will sustain him in his never-ending battle against conservatives, wealthy industrialists, and other environmental supervillains."

Although Gore and his wife voiced regrets that they could not accompany their son on his journey, they tried their best to equip Kal-Al for life on his new planet, providing the infant with a Keynote slide-show presentation of all human knowledge, a self-growing crystal fortress from which to monitor glacier shrinkage, and a copy of Al Gore's 1992 bestseller, Earth In The Balance.

The baby was also wrapped in a blanket emblazoned with the Gore family crest, which, because it is made of Earth materials, will be invulnerable on the new planet. It is hoped that one day it will be fashioned into a colorful costume for the boy to wear while fighting wrongdoers.

"In brightly hued tights, it will be harder for people there to ignore him when he takes on his new planet's lobbyists, auto manufacturers, and enemies of justice," Schuster said. "A bold and eye-catching unitard will give Kal-Al, last son of Earth, a formidable tool for protecting his new planet, a power more awesome than any his father could have dreamed of: the power of charisma."

Original here

Ouch!

Dead Monster Washes Ashore in Montauk

No, Lizzie Grubman's still alive. This is an actual monster, some sort of rodent-like creature with a dinosaur beak. A tipster says that there is "a government animal testing facility very close by in Long Island," but unless the government is trying to design horrible Montauk monsters that will eat IEDs and fart fire at bad Iraqis, we're not sure why they would create such an unthinkable beast. Our guess is that it's viral marketing for something. Ali Lohan's new album perhaps. Click thru for larger dino-damage.

Original here

Police reject candidate for being too intelligent

A US man has been rejected in his bid to become a police officer for scoring too high on an intelligence test.

Robert Jordan, a 49-year-old college graduate, took an exam to join the New London police, in Connecticut, in 1996 and scored 33 points, the equivalent of an IQ of 125.

But New London police interviewed only candidates who scored 20 to 27, on the theory that those who scored too high could get bored with police work and leave soon after undergoing costly training.

Mr Jordan launched a federal lawsuit against the city, but lost.

The 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New York upheld a lower court's decision that the city did not discriminate against Mr Jordan because the same standards were applied to everyone who took the test.

He said: "This kind of puts an official face on discrimination in America against people of a certain class. I maintain you have no more control over your basic intelligence than your eye color or your gender or anything else."

He said he does not plan to take any further legal action and has worked as a prison guard since he took the test.

The average score nationally for police officers is 21 to 22, the equivalent of an IQ of 104, or just a little above average.

Original here

Tot-Tanic: Too soon?