Wikinews:Briefs/June 16, 2010
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Today on Wikinews : General David Petraeus passes out while testifying before the US Senate; famed investor Warren Buffett auctions himself off on eBay and, today I learned about UVB-76, one of the mysterious numbers stations.
- Audio credit tcp d1 3 counting control irdial
Today is Wednesday, June 16th, 2010. I'm Dan Harlow and this is Wikinews.
While testifying before the Senate Armed Services Committee, General David Petraeus, head of the U.S. Central Command, passed out briefly while answering a question from Arizona Senator John McCain.
Petraeus was testifying on the Afghanistan War when he slumped over in mid-sentence and the hearing was immediately suspended while several people rushed over to assist him. Shortly after, Gen. Petraeus regained consciousness and walked from the hearing room under his own power.
The chair of the Senate Armed Services Committee, Michigan Senator Carl Levin shortly after said the general "appears to be doing very much better." The senator also said that Petraeus was eating and may have been dehydrated, and that the hearing might resume.
After a short time, Petraeus returned, smiling and sipping from a cup. Though the hearing was resumed briefly, given the circumstances, Levin postponed the hearing until Wednesday. As the hearing closed, McCain called the general one of the "nation's heroes" and also said "we're glad you have recovered and look forward to seeing you again tomorrow." As Levin sounded the gavel that closed the hearing for the day, applause broke out.
Some people have speculated that Petraeus passed out because of McCain's questions, however, Petraeus later said "It wasn't Sen. McCain's questions. I just got dehydrated."
Senator McCain is also in no way responsible for an incident where
dozens of people were been killed in Mexico after two separate prison riots broke out in the city of Mazatlan.
According to the Public Safety Secretary, in the first attack, which occurred Monday, twenty inmates of the jail were shot to death after members of a gang started shooting at a rival group. Jail security staff managed to regain control of the prison, and found two assault rifles inside.
Another inmate was hospitalized and later died; three policemen were also wounded, and one is in serious condition.
Eight hours afterwords, another clash erupted, this time when inmates were stabbed by fellow prisoners, according to Public Safety Department spokesman Angeles Moreno. He added that police are investigating the cause of the attacks.
Moving onto a story featuring a meal one would not find in a Mexican prison,
Billionaire Warren Buffett, Chief Executive of Berkshire Hathaway, auctioned lunch with himself on eBay for US$2.63 million.
Bidding, which started on eBay a few weeks ago, attracted nine bidders, offering huge sums for the opportunity to have a steak lunch with the man said to be a "legendary investor".
The winning bidder, an anonymous individual, also has the opportunity to bring along seven friends for the meal.
This, the latest of Buffett's charity auctions, is providing funds to the Glide Foundation, a charity that provides food, health care, housing and job training for San Francisco's homeless.
Over the last ten years, Buffett has netted $5.9 million in donations through such auctions.
As wealthy and influential as Mr. Buffett is, even he would have had to wait when
pre-orders of the recently announced iPhone 4 began Tuesday, overwhelming Apple and AT&T.
Many buyers experienced issues connecting to Apple's website and customer service line. Some had difficulty finishing their orders online, while others endured long waits at Apple's retail stores due to the online issues. Some customers reported that Apple had set a recording on their phone lines telling people to call back at a later time, and others tweeted about their experience.
Since the original iPhone was released in 2007, web servers for both Apple and AT&T have experienced issues at every new device launch. Today's glitches were apparently in the transaction authorization process, the point when Apple transfers information over to AT&T servers. Other retailers, including Best Buy and Radio Shack, did not appear to be having the same problems.
Representatives at several Apple Stores in the United States said that buyers should try again tomorrow. Neither company made any official statement about the technical issues.
The newest iPhone, iPhone 4 was introduced by Apple CEO Steve Jobs at the company's 2010 Worldwide Developer's Conference less than two weeks ago. It is slated for a U.S. release on June 24, starting at US$199. Ben Reitzes, with Barclays Capital, estimated that over eight million iPhones will have been sold by the end of the current financial quarter, which ends on June 26. Shares of Apple Inc. rose US$5.41 yesterday in regular trading, continuing their trend of having risen 23 percent this year.
Today I Learned (5:38) edit
- Music credit Spider Eyes
25 miles northwest of Moscow, near the village of Lozhki, sits the shortwave radio station UVB-76, better known as the Buzzer. Typically broadcasting on the frequency of 4625 kHz, the buzzer features a short, monotonous buzz tone, repeating at a rate of approximately 25 tones per minute, 24 hours a day.
Despite much speculation, the actual purpose of this station remains unknown, yet because of the nature of the broadcast and the fact that its transmitter location is rumored to be a communications hub of the General Staff of the army, UVB-76 is widely believed to be used to transmit encoded messages to spies.
Commonly, this type of transmitter is known as a numbers station which generally broadcast artificially generated voices reading streams of numbers, words, letters (sometimes using a spelling alphabet), tunes or Morse code. They are in a wide variety of languages and the voices are usually female, though sometimes male or children's voices are used.
The Buzzer has been observed since around 1982 and on rare occasions, the buzzer signal is interrupted and a voice transmission in Russian takes place, however only three to four such events have been noted.
Frequently, distant conversations and other background noises can be heard behind the buzzer: this suggests that the buzzing device is behind a live and constantly open microphone or that a microphone may have been turned on accidentally. One such occasion was on November 3, 2001, when a conversation in Russian was heard saying "[This is] 143. Not receiving the generator (oscillator)." "There's some work on the hardware."
Since the start of June 2010 the normal buzzing sound from UVB-76 has been replaced by a continuous high pitched noise, similar to that of a modem, with intermittent deeper tones like that of a foghorn.
While no government confirms the existence or use of these stations, in 2001, the United States tried the Cuban Five, five Cuban intelligence officers convicted of espionage for Cuba as well as conspiracy to commit murder and other crimes. Evidence showed that the group had received and decoded messages that had been broadcast from a Cuban numbers station.
It has also been reported that the United States uses numbers stations to communicate encoded information to persons in other countries.
Numbers stations appear and disappear over time (although some follow regular schedules), and their overall activity has increased slightly since the early 1990s. This increase suggests that, as spy-related phenomena, they were not unique to the Cold War. According to the notes of The Conet Project, a recording of many transmissions from these transmitters, numbers stations have been reported since World War I. If that is accurate, this would make numbers stations among the earliest radio broadcasts.
And those are the top headlines for Wednesday, June 16th, 2010
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