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Sunday, April 03, 2011

FBI wants public help solving encrypted notes from murder mystery

The FBI is seeking the public's help in breaking the encrypted code found in two notes discovered on the body of a murdered man in 1999.

The FBI says that officers in St. Louis, Missouri discovered the body of 41-year-old Ricky McCormick on June 30, 1999 in a field and the clues regarding the homicide were two encrypted notes found in the victim's pants pockets.

The FBI says that despite extensive work by its Cryptanalysis and Racketeering Records Unit (CRRU), and the American Cryptogram Association, the meanings of those two coded notes remain a mystery and McCormick's murderer has never been found.

From the FBI: "The more than 30 lines of coded material use a maddening variety of letters, numbers, dashes, and parentheses. McCormick was a high school dropout, but he was able to read and write and was said to be 'street smart.' According to members of his family, McCormick had used such encrypted notes since he was a boy, but apparently no one in his family knows how to decipher the codes, and it's unknown whether anyone besides McCormick could translate his secret language. Investigators believe the notes in McCormick's pockets were written up to three days before his death."

"Standard routes of cryptanalysis seem to have hit brick walls," said CRRU chief Dan Olson in a statement. To move the case forward, examiners need another sample of McCormick's coded system-or a similar one-that might offer context to the mystery notes or allow valuable comparisons to be made. Or, short of new evidence, Olson said, "Maybe someone with a fresh set of eyes might come up with a brilliant new idea."

If you have an idea how to break the code, have seen similar codes, or have any information about the Ricky McCormick case, write to CRRU at the following address:

FBI Laboratory
Cryptanalysis and Racketeering Records Unit
2501 Investigation Parkway
Quantico, VA 22135
Attn: Ricky McCormick Case

There is no reward being offered, just the knowledge that you may be solving an intriguing murder mystery, the FBI stated.

Friday, March 04, 2011

Thief pillages flight via toilet

An ingenious thief has swiped almost a quarter million dollars on a flight in the Caribbean after sneaking into the cash-laden cargo hold via the toilet, police say.

A Brink's security employee placed three sacks of cash containing a total 1.2 million euro in the hold of the Air Antilles plane before it headed from the French island of Guadeloupe to the Franco-Dutch island of Saint Martin.

The security guard took his seat on the ATR-42 turboprop plane but when the flight landed 40 minutes later it was discovered that 172,000 euro ($236,000) were missing from the sacks.

Police are seeking a man who complained he felt ill and spent most of the journey in the toilet. In fact, he was removing panels to gain access to the hold in the rear of the plane.

Shortly before landing, the unnamed man - who was travelling with a woman who appeared concerned about his health - asked a hostess for an ambulance to meet him on the tarmac, witnesses said.

When the ambulance arrived, the man said he suddently felt better and walked out of the airport without having to go through the normal security checks and disappeared, police said.

Cleaners who found bundles of notes in the toilet raised the alarm. The woman travelling with him was questioned in the baggage arrival hall but did not have any of the missing money.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Family move into house to test latest low-energy gadgets

A family of three are moving into a green technology-packed home to test life in an energy-constrained future.

As the federal government puts the finishing touches to its new climate change policy, one Sydney family is embarking on a year-long experiment to live in an energy-constrained home of the future.

Clare Joyce, Michael Adams and their daughter Ava will live rent free for a year in a house in Newington crammed with solar technology and gadgets designed to slash greenhouse gas emissions and water use.

The garden has a semi-transparent solar pergola, which generates electricity and provides shade, rooftop photovoltaic panels, a miniature power plant and other energy- and water-saving devices, courtesy of EnergyAustralia and the state government's climate change fund.

"We have an ordinary family moving into an extraordinary house to put it to the test," said the Energy Minister, Paul Lynch.

The family would write a blog about their time in a high-tech fishbowl and the information would be used to help design energy policy, the government said. ''It will be a learn-as-we-go experience, testing different approaches and trying to understand exactly where all our energy is going,'' Ms Joyce said.

''We wanted to do something (about sustainability) on an individual level. There are lots of things in this world where you don't think you can have an impact but the individual has to contribute otherwise the collective never will.''

The family is moving to the new home week. Mr Adams said they did not know what to expect but Ava, 4, had been in training with copies of the futuristic 1960s cartoon The Jetsons.

''She watched pretty much all of the second series on DVD and she'll probably be disappointed that she doesn't get to have a flying car,'' Mr Adams said.

EnergyAustralia said the family was chosen from 160 applicants, including some from as far afield as New York and Sweden.

"We'll see warts and all what works and what doesn't,'' said the managing director of EnergyAustralia, George Maltabarow.

The company is awaiting news from the federal government this week, with cabinet examining options for an energy-efficiency plan that could include a scheme to encourage providers to cut consumption.

What makes this house low-energy?

Pergola with semi-transparent solar panels generates up to 0.5 kilowatts of electricity.
Kitchen bench top sand floor made from bamboo and recycled paper and rubber.
Meters for individual taps.
Recycled water for us in toilets and washing machine.
LED "chandelier" uses 25 per cent of energy needed by conventional downlights.
Garden with 20 types of native plants will never need watering once established.
Kitchen appliances can be turned of and off remotely via the internet.
Ceramic fuel cell generates electricity from natural gas.
Extra power from rooftop solar panels.
Energy-saving heat-exchange air-conditioner.
Heat pump clothes dryer.

.. from smh

Friday, July 09, 2010

Election 2010

Monkeys catapult to freedom over fence

TOKYO: Monkeys at a research institute in Japan have used the branches of trees to catapult themselves over an electric fence.

A group of 15 monkeys at Kyoto University's primate research institute in Aichi Prefecture escaped from their forest home, which is encased by a five-metre-high electric fence. The monkeys made their break for freedom by bending and releasing tree branches to fling themselves over the fence.

Despite the intelligence demonstrated by their great escape, the primates appeared unsure what to do with their freedom: they remained by the gates of the centre and were lured back by scientists with peanuts.

''We think that maybe there was some kind of dispute among the monkeys in the forest and so this group decided to leave,'' Hirohisa Hirai, the deputy head of the institute, said. ''Fortunately, they stayed by the fence after escaping as they probably wanted to stay near to the other monkeys.''

Scientists have cut the trees in order to prevent a repeat escape.

The Kyoto institution is one of the world's leading primate research centres, which has produced a series of studies exploring the social interaction, behaviour and evolution of primates.

Telegraph, London

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