Gigapan Imager used to craft 1,474 megapixel image of Obama’s inauguration

via Engadget by Darren Murph on 1/25/09

In theory, at least, we already knew that the Gigapan Imager was capable of some amazing things. This, friends, is proof. David Bergman strapped the device and his Canon G10 onto a rail at Barack Obama’s inauguration and snapped 220 images. After giving his MacBook Pro 6.5 hours to compile a two gigabyte image, he hosted it up on his website for people to zoom around on. We’ll caution you — you can easy kill a few hours checking out faces and such if you end up visiting the read link, but it’s totally worth it.

[Via Gadling]

Pentagon approves spy satellite program

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WASHINGTON – The Pentagon has approved plans to buy and launch two commercial-class imagery satellites to complement its classified constellation of spy satellites.

The Pentagon will also increase the amount of imagery purchased from private companies operating similar satellites already in the sky.

The decision last week caps months of wrangling between the Air Force, the National Reconnaissance Office, and the National Intelligence Directors Office and the Office of the Secretary of Defense over which agency would buy the satellites for about $1.7 billion. The satellites are to be launched around 2012. The NRO will head satellite acquisition, according to Pentagon documents obtained by The Associated Press.

But critics of the program say the Pentagon is spending billions to recreate and compete with private companies like GeoEye of Dulles, Va., and DigitalGlobe of Longmont, Colo., which are expected to put four new satellites into orbit by 2013. On its face the decision conflicts with the president’s national security space policy, which directs the government to buy as much commercial imagery as possible to help the companies withstand competition from subsidized foreign satellite companies.

Purchasing the imagery from the companies may also be less expensive. The GeoEye 1 satellite was launched on Sept. 6 for $502 million, including the satellite, launch, insurance and four ground stations, according to company spokesman Mark Brender. It is expected to begin taking 16-inch resolution imagery this weekend.

The Pentagon may decide to turn over operation of the new satellites to the private companies, the internal document notes.

The new satellites will comprise the Broad Area Space-Based Imagery Collection satellite system, or BASIC. They will also have 16-inch resolution. They could be used to spy on enemy troop movements, spot construction at suspected nuclear sites or alert commanders to militant training camps. Their still images would be pieced together with higher resolution secret satellites into one large mosaic.

The new satellite system is meant to bridge what intelligence agencies fear will become a gap caused by the cancellation in September 2005 of a major component of the Future Imagery Architecture system overseen by the National Reconnaissance Office. The primary contractor, The Boeing Co., headquartered in Chicago, ran into technical problems developing the satellite and spent nearly $10 billion, blowing its budget by $3 billion to $5 billion before the Pentagon pulled the plug, according to industry experts and government reports.

A single satellite can visit one spot on Earth once or twice every day. BASIC’s additional satellites will allow multiple passes over the same sites, alerting U.S. government users to potential trouble, humanitarian crises or natural disasters such as floods.

By PAMELA HESS Associated Press Writer

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What Does A Bank Run Look Like In 2008? A Lot Like 1912

via Consumerist by Meg Marco on 7/17/08

The FDIC was created in 1933 by the Glass-Steagall Act, and provides $100,000 of deposit insurance to checking and savings deposits. “Bank panics” used to be fairly common, and the FDIC was intended to instill confidence in the banking system after the Great Depression. The most recent big failure, that of California bank IndyMac, will cost the FDIC between $4 and $8 billion, and they estimate that about $1 billion of IndyMac’s deposits are “potentially uninsured,” meaning that the depositors had more than $100,000 on deposit. So what does a bank run look like these days?

Well, we took a peak at the Library of Congress’ photo collection and we realized that a bank run in 1912 looks a lot like a bank run in 2008, even though a much higher percentage of the modern day depositors will be leaving with smiles on their faces and their money in their pockets. Some things never change.

Photos: (Library of Congress, Run on East Side Bank, N.Y. 2/16/12)
(AP Photo/Kevork Djansezian)

Help! How Can I Make Sure My Money Is Covered By The FDIC!?

via Consumerist by Meg Marco on 7/17/08

The FDIC says there were over a billion dollars in assets at IndyMac that were not covered by the FDIC. Why not?

The FDIC says:

At the time of closing, IndyMac Bank, F.S.B. had about $1 billion of potentially uninsured deposits held by approximately 10,000 depositors. The FDIC will begin contacting customers with uninsured deposits to arrange an appointment with an FDIC claims agent on Monday. Customers can contact the FDIC for an appointment using the toll-free number above. The FDIC will pay uninsured depositors an advance dividend equal to 50 percent of the uninsured amount.

Does this sound like fun? No, it doesn’t. In order to prevent this from happening to you, we suggest you check out the FDIC’s Electronic Deposit Insurance Estimator (EDIE).

The FDIC says:

If you or your family has more than $100,000 at one insured institution, you can still be fully insured if your accounts meet certain requirements. You can use EDIE to determine your insurance coverage beyond the basic $100,000 amount.

Electronic Deposit Insurance Estimator (EDIE) [FDIC]

Google dangles $4.6 billion at the U.S. Government

Google dangles a $4.6 billion carrot by ZDNet‘s Garett Rogers — Google’s $4.6 dollar carrot comes in the form of a potential bid for spectrum in the upcoming 700mhz auction — but only if the U.S. Government meets all their demands. I am not an expert in the field, but I am guessing Google’s promised participation in this auction is gives them significant leverage. […]

Star Wars mailboxes coming, and, yes, stealing mailboxes is a federal offense

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Apparently the post office is staffed by a bunch of geeks, as they’ve decided to celebrate the 30th anniversary of Star Wars by tricking out some mailboxes to look like R2D2. Apparently the USPS really knows the Star Wars audience, as they’re not gonna place them on the street where obsessed fans can steal them in the dark of night. They’ll be placed indoors under the protective eye of our nations postal workers.

Think any other government agencies will be joining the anniversary celebration? Perhaps cops will start dressing like storm troopers, or maybe the people at the DMV will start issuing licenses to fly spaceships. Hoo boy, that would sure be great! Or, they could spend our tax dollars on being efficient, but that’s not really as fun.

Senate panel scrutinizes credit card practices

With the threat of new regulations looming, some credit card issuers on Wednesday promised lawmakers they would ease penalties and simplify tiny-print disclosures that few consumers read.

At a Senate hearing on credit-card practices, a top executive with JPMorgan Chase & Co.’s Chase Bank USA apologized to a 29-year-old Ohio man who repaid twice the amount of a $3,200 bill because of interest and fees.

“It just seemed like there was no end in sight,” Wesley Wannemacher told the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations.

Wannemacher, director of operations at his family-owned Double A Trailer Sales Inc. in Delphos, Ohio, said he was trapped in a cycle of ever-growing fees and penalties for wedding-related purchases. A few days ago, Chase erased another $4,400 he owed as of February 2007.

“Our policies failed, and we deeply regret it,” Richard Srednicki, chief executive of Chase Bank’s card services, said.

Democrat Carl Levin (news, bio, voting record), the Senate panel’s chairman, said legislation may be needed to stop what he called predatory practices by credit cards, such as when companies charge interest and fees on money that has already been repaid.

“Our investigation found that even accounts in good standing are socked unfairly by little known … practices that inflate interest charges,” Levin said.

The high-profile hearing was held a week after Citigroup, the third-largest card issuer, said it will stop automatically raising rates for people who default on payments not directly related to their credit card. The practice is known as “universal default.”

Bank of America Credit Card Services President Bruce Hammonds said his company has never used universal default.

Sen. Norm Coleman (news, bio, voting record) of Minnesota, the top Republican on the subcommittee, said he was concerned about some industry practices. Coleman praised Chase for erasing Wannemacher’s debts and eliminating a practice known as double-cycle billing, which includes tacking on fees based on two prior months.

Alys Cohen, a consumer advocacy attorney, said credit card practices are predatory because of the payment structures. “They can’t pay back the small amount of principal and they’re buried by the fees and interest,” she said.

Outstanding U.S. credit card debt amounted to more than $750 billion in November 2006, according to estimates based on Federal Reserve figures. The industry has more than 640 million credit cards in circulation.

The Federal Reserve is already working on new requirements for companies to disclose various payment and fee schedules, lawmakers and executives said.

“We believe it should be a priority to shorten and simplify disclosure language and to focus on the most relevant terms and conditions,” Bank of America’s Hammonds said.

Levin said he would work with the Senate Banking Committee on legislation to protect consumers from overzealous credit card companies.

U.S. official: Chinese test missile obliterates satellite

WASHINGTON (CNN) — China last week successfully used a missile to destroy an orbiting satellite, U.S. government officials told CNN on Thursday, in a test that could undermine relations with the West and pose a threat to satellites important to the U.S. military.

According to a spokesman for the National Security Council, the ground-based, medium-range ballistic missile knocked an old Chinese weather satellite from its orbit about 537 miles above Earth. The missile carried a “kill vehicle” and destroyed the satellite by ramming it.

The test took place on January 11.

• Chinese use a missile to ram and destroy an old, orbiting satellite
• Experts: China now may have ability to knock out U.S. GPS and spy satellites
• Washington issues formal diplomatic protest

Aviation Week and Space Technology first reported the test: “Details emerging from space sources indicate that the Chinese Feng Yun 1C (FY-1C) polar orbit weather satellite launched in 1999 was attacked by an asat (anti-satellite) system launched from or near the Xichang Space Center.”

A U.S. official, who would not agree to be identified, said the event was the first successful test of the missile after three failures.

The official said that U.S. “space tracking sensors” confirmed that the satellite is no longer in orbit and that the collision produced “hundreds of pieces of debris,” that also are being tracked.

The United States logged a formal diplomatic protest.

“We are aware of it and we are concerned, and we made it known,” White House spokesman Tony Snow said.

Several U.S. allies, including Canada and Australia, have also registered protests, and the Japanese government said it was worrisome.

“Naturally, we are concerned about it from the viewpoint of security as well as peaceful use of space,” said Yashuhisa Shiozaki, chief cabinet secretary. He said Japan has asked the Chinese government for an explanation.

Britain has complained about lack of consultation before the test and potential damage from the debris it left behind, The Associated Press reported.

The United States has been able to bring down satellites with missiles since the mid-1980s, according to a history of ASAT programs posted on the Union of Concerned Scientists Web site. In its own test, the U.S. military knocked a satellite out of orbit in 1985.

Under a space policy authorized by President Bush in August, the United States asserts a right to “freedom of action in space” and says it will “deter others from either impeding those rights or developing capabilities intended to do so.”

The policy includes the right to “deny, if necessary, adversaries the use of space capabilities hostile to U.S. national interests.”

Low Earth-orbit satellites have become indispensable for U.S. military communications, GPS navigation for smart bombs and troops, and for real-time surveillance. The Chinese test highlights the satellites’ vulnerability.

“If we, for instance, got into a conflict over Taiwan, one of the first things they’d probably do would be to shoot down all of our lower Earth-orbit spy satellites, putting out our eyes,” said John Pike of globalsecurity.org, a Web site that compiles information on worldwide security issues.

“The thing that is surprising and disturbing is that [the Chinese] have chosen this moment to demonstrate a military capability that can only be aimed at the United States,” he said.