The last JFK murder mystery: where is the grassy knoll film?

A still from the Nix film, showing Jackie Kennedy craddling John F Kennedy after he had been shot. Photograph: AP

A still from the Nix film, showing Jackie Kennedy craddling John F Kennedy after he had been shot. Photograph: AP

Orville Nix’s original footage of John F Kennedy’s assassination – filmed facing the grassy knoll – was last seen in 1978, before going missing. Now his granddaughter is suing the US government for its return.

The Nix film is the Betamax of JFK assassination movies. Historically, it has been overshadowed by Abraham Zapruder’s film, which captured the 1963 shooting in horrific detail, and yet Orville Nix’s home movie could actually reveal more – at least for conspiracy theorists. This week, the Nix film itself became part of those conspiracy theories, when Nix’s granddaughter, Gayle Nix Jackson, took the step of suing the US government for $10m for the return of the original film. Where is it? Er, nobody knows.

What makes Nix’s film so special is that it was shot from the opposite side of the president’s motorcade to Zapruder’s (if you enhance the images, you can actually see Zapruder in it). Thus, it captures the famous “grassy knoll”, the area where sceptics believe JFK’s real killer was concealed, as opposed to Lee Harvey Oswald up in the Texas School Book Depository.

Read the complete article on The Guardian newspaper site here.

Dell does a Superfish, ships PCs with easily cloneable root certificates

In a move eerily similar to the Superfish debacle that visited Lenovo in February, Dell is shipping computers that come preinstalled with a digital certificate that makes it easy for attackers to cryptographically impersonate Google, Bank of America, and any other HTTPS-protected website.

The self-signed transport layer security credential, which was issued by an entity calling itself eDellRoot, was preinstalled as a root certificate on at least two Dell laptops, one an Inspiron 5000 series notebook and the other an XPS 15 model. Both are signed with the same private cryptographic key. That means anyone with moderate technical skills can extract the key and use it to sign fraudulent TLS certificates for any HTTPS-protected website on the Internet. Depending on the browser used, any Dell computer that ships with the root certificate described above will then accept the encrypted Web sessions with no warnings whatsoever.

Seeing is believing

Joe Nord, a self-described programmer, told Ars that he visited this HTTPS test site, which was created by security expert Kenn White using the private key contained in the Dell certificates. Nord said the Google Chrome and Microsoft Edge and Internet Explorer browsers established an encrypted Web session with no warnings, even though the certificate was clearly fraudulent. Fortunately, Firefox generated an alert warning that the certificate was not trusted. Kevin Hicks, the other Dell customer known to be affected, reported the same findings.

Read the complete article on Ars Technica web site here.

A reservation town fighting alcoholism, obesity and ghosts from the past

 A shredded American flag at a grave site in Blackwater, Arizona. Photograph: Steve Craft for the Guardian

A shredded American flag at a grave site in Blackwater, Arizona. Photograph: Steve Craft for the Guardian

According to the US census bureau’s American community survey 2008-2012 of communities of more than 1,000 people – the latest statistics available at the time of reporting – the median household income in Blackwater was just $9,491 a year. Nationally it was $53,915 in 2012. It has improved more recently to $12,723, but is still less than a quarter of the national average. It is the final stop in a series of Guardian dispatches about the lives of people trying to make a life in places that seem the most remote from the American Dream.

“I was picking cotton in the fields at five years old,” said Lidya, who would only give her first name. She was one of the women working at a centre in Blackwater that provides free lunches for elderly people. “You had this long sack and you had to fill it with cotton. This wasn’t 1868, it was 1968. The casinos changed a lot of things. We’re dependent on them now but there is still that poverty out there. The majority of people here struggle to get by.”

Blackwater sits at the southern end of the 580 square miles designated by the US Congress in 1859 as a home for two tribes – the Akimel O’odham tribe (also known as the Pima) and the Pee Posh (also known as the Maricopa).

The area around the town of little more than 1,000 people – 94% Native American – is mostly farmland and desert. The dried-up bed of the Gila river, which was once the tribes’ lifeblood, is at the town’s eastern flank with the San Tan mountains as backdrop.

Facilities in Blackwater are few beyond tribal offices. No cafes, bars or restaurants. The new houses paid for by the casino revenues, clustered together in their own neighbourhoods, stand out from the crumpled homes that have endured decades of desert winds.

The Wild Horse Pass casino, which brings in millions for the reservation every year. Photograph: Sean Smith for the Guardian

The Wild Horse Pass casino, which brings in millions for the reservation every year. Photograph: Sean Smith for the Guardian

The reservation’s northern tip reaches almost to the city limits. It is the geography of this small corner that has delivered the promise of a different future. The tribal council has taken advantage of a 1987 US supreme court ruling that recognised a degree of sovereignty for Native American reservations as “domestic dependent nations”. Gila River joined the band of Indian communities that got into the casino businesses after the justices said state governments had no authority to stop or regulate them.

The reservation spent $200m building the Wild Horse Pass casino and hotel, the largest in the state when it was completed. The luxury resort now includes a concert venue, golf course and a motorsports race track. The tribal council, as on other reservations, won’t reveal how much it makes from the Wild Horse and two other casinos on Gila River but estimates put it at around $250m a year.

The high-priced cocktails and luxury cars – and the wads of cash lost on the turn of a card – reflect a lifestyle those who live in Blackwater only glimpse if they trouble to venture to the other end of the reservation.

 Ira Hayes and other US marines raise the American flag on Mount Suribachi, on the Pacific island of Iwo Jima in 1945. Photograph: Joe Rosenthal/AP

Ira Hayes and other US marines raise the American flag on Mount Suribachi, on the Pacific island of Iwo Jima in 1945. Photograph: Joe Rosenthal/AP

Gila River reservation has had its fleeting moments of fame – and infamy. It was the site of an internment camp for thousands of Japanese Americans during the second world war, over the objections of the tribes.

Towards the war’s end, Ira Hayes’s return from Japan brought a more welcome kind of attention. He is in the far left of the photograph as the American flag is lifted over Iwo Jima during the battle with the Japanese for the island. Within days, three of the six soldiers in the picture were dead.

Years later, his life story was told in a film, The Outsider, where a white man, Tony Curtis, played the Native American hero. It also inspired a Johnny Cash hit, The Ballad of Ira Hayes, with lyrics touching on a bitter legacy that is the source of many of the reservation’s problems to this day:

The water grew Ira’s people’s crops

’Til the white man stole the water rights

And the sparklin’ water stopped.

Hayes was hailed by presidents and feted across the country. But his decline into alcoholism – he was arrested dozens of times for drunken behaviour – and drink-related death at the age of 32 was often portrayed as a consequence of life on the reservation, although the toll of war and fame may have had more to do with it.

Read the complete article on the Guardian newspaper website here.

Goodbye privacy, hello ‘Alexa’: Amazon Echo, the home robot who hears it all

The Guardian has an article on the latest Amazon device to snoop on your privacy, which Amazon calls ‘Amazon Echo’. Here is part of the article. The full article is available at the link at bottom of page.

It was not that Alexa seemed human, exactly, or evoked the operating system voiced by Scarlett Johansson in the film Her, but that it – she – seemed to merit respect. Yes, partly out of anthropomorphism. And partly out of privacy concerns. Don’t mess with someone who knows your secrets.

The device, after all, was uploading personal data to Amazon’s servers. How much remains unclear. Alexa streams audio “a fraction of a second” before the “wake word” and continues until the request has been processed, according to Amazon. So fragments of intimate conversations may be captured.

A few days after my wife and I discussed babies, my Kindle showed an advertisement for Seventh Generation diapers. We had not mooched for baby products on Amazon or Google. Maybe we had left digital tracks somewhere else? Even so, it felt creepy. Quizzed, the little black obelisk in the corner shrugged off any connection. “Hmm, I’m afraid I can’t answer that.”

With dozens of daily interactions recorded in the app’s history it grows to quite an archive, giving the dates and times I asked Alexa, for instance, to play John Lennon, or add garlic to the grocery list, or check on the weather in Baja California, where I was planning a vacation. Banal footnotes to life, mostly, but potentially lucrative intelligence for a retail behemoth dubbed the “everything store”.

In the app settings you can delete specific voice interactions, or the whole lot. But doing so, the settings warn, “may degrade your Alexa experience”. It is unclear if deleting audio purges all related data from the company’s servers.

This was on a lengthy list of questions I had for the people who designed the Echo and run its servers. Amazon initially seemed open to granting the interviews, then scaled it down to one interview with a departmental vice-president in October. October came and went and Amazon’s press representative went silent, killing the interview without explanation.

Which, to paraphrase Alexa, was not very nice to do.

You may read the full article on The Guardian newspaper site here.


2015 Digital Publishing Survey Infographic PDF

Data Conversion Laboratory (DCL) and Bowker asked about your digital publishing plans for 2016. As the demand increases for materials of all types to be available on mobile devices, publishers and authors are challenged with providing a quality eBook experience while managing costs and standards.

The 2015 Digital Publishing Survey infographic is in PDF format and available for download here:


Gasoline prices around the world

There’s a web site which daily posts the price of gasoline in a country, and which allows visitors to choose the size in US gallon, the UK gallon or the litre and the price in the currency of any country.

Below is a small snapshot of a much larger list of countries with the price per litre of gasoline on November 16, 2015:


The site also has information on diesel and LPG prices, weighted average of gasoline prices in 100 countries that consume over 90 percent of the world oil products, articles and data you might find interesting.

Visit the global gasoline price site by clicking here.

Why Canada Can Safely Meet Its Refugee Commitments

When evaluating security threats, Canadians would do well to look at the evidence. All of the identified attackers from Paris appear to be Belgian or French nationals, yet no politician has suggested increased screening of European visitors or immigrants to Canada. Studies out of the University of British Columbia, the University of Toronto and Harvard University link an increase in immigration to a decrease in crime.

Statistics Canada data suggests that the percentage of new immigrants in Toronto and Montreal neighbourhoods is inversely proportional to all types of violent crime.

In Canada, despite the objective lack of connection, politicians began sounding off “security concerns” related to incoming Syrian refugees. Saskatchewan’s Premier Brad Wall called for a delay in resettling Syrian refugees. Premier Christy Clark of British Columbia stated the obvious: that the government needs to ensure that security checks are done on every refugee. These statements demonstrate a clear lack of understanding by government officials of Canada’s process for resettled refugees.

Contrary to the influx of migrants crossing into Europe over the past months, Canada is resettling pre-screened refugees who have been approved for permanent residency by a Canadian visa officer abroad. The process is thorough and involves international and national law enforcement agencies.

Refugees who may be eligible for resettlement are first identified by the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), primarily on the basis of their vulnerability. International refugee law is clear that those responsible for serious criminal and terrorist acts will not benefit from refugee protection. Only one to two per cent of individuals registered with the UNHCR get referred into the potential resettlement pool. Anyone with a hint of criminal or terrorism connections is simply not placed into the pool for further assessment.

Next, a UNHCR officer conducts a file analysis. Officers in the Beirut UNHCR office are exceptionally knowledgeable about the events in Syria, the various factions and the timeline of the conflict. This allows for a robust credibility assessment of the facts alleged by the individual. At this point, anyone who the officer identifies as having security or criminal concerns would again be filtered out.

If a file progresses onwards, in general, a UNHCR officer is then tasked with conducting a “refugee status determination.” This includes an interview where the truth of their allegations and their background is fulsomely assessed.

If facts related to criminality or terrorism come to light after the interview, the UNCHR also has a process for cancelling refugee status.

If an individual passes this assessment, the UNHCR can refer the file to a Canadian visa officer who will again interview the person. In each case, the visa officer will assess whether the person meets the definition of a refugee.

The individual is then screened for “admissibility” to Canada. Medical and criminal screening is mandatory. A security review involves, at a minimum, the coordination of Canada Border Services Agency, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and the Canadian Security Intelligence Service. Information is often sought from third party states, international organizations and searches conducted in international databases.

Read the complete article on The Tyee here.