Microchips May Haunt Tombstone Thieves

A private company in South Africa has created “Memorial Alert,” a microchip-based technology designed to thwart tombstone robberies. There recently has been a spate of these crimes in Johannesburg.

The microchip is inserted into a memorial. When it is disturbed, it will sound an alarm and send a text message to relatives and integrated security companies.

Thieves reportedly are lifting an estimated 20 marble tombstones from cemeteries per month. They pawn them to stonemasons who recycle the materials, simultaneously staking their claim to a seat in the underworld.

[Source: The Associated Press]

PlayStation 4 Sees Strong Early Sales

A cool million units of the new PlayStation 4 console sold within 24 hours of going on sale in the U.S. and Canada, Sony reported.

The console was released in North America on Nov. 15, and will go on sale in Europe and Latin America in a couple weeks.

Sony is in a head-to-head grudge match with Microsoft and its new Xbox One console, which goes on sale Nov. 22. Sony apparently wants to sell 5 million PS4 units — priced at US$399 a pop — by the end of March.

[Source: Reuters]

Google Earth Used to Track Deforestation

A University of Maryland geographer has partnered with Google Earth to map the planet’s forests and visualize global deforestation.

The geographer, Matthew Hansen, processed more than 600,000 images taken by NASA satellites over the past decade, creating a series of time-lapse maps and an interactive mapping tool.

While cool, the project is also sobering: Earth reportedly lost nearly 900,000 square miles of forest between 2000 and 2012 — more or less the size of the U.S. east of the Mississippi.

It would have taken his computer 15 years to compile the images, Hansen said, so Google gets at least a hat-tip for the effort.

[Source: Science and Slate]

China Now Blocking Reuters

The powers that be in China are now blocking domestic access to Reuters’ Chinese website.

Beijing apparently was ticked off by an article discussing JPMorgan Chase’s link to the daughter of former Chinese Prime Minister Wen Jiabao.

The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times also have had their websites blocked in China.

The website that first discovered the Reuters blockade,, which tracks China’s so-called Great Firewall, is offering a mirror site for Reuters China. GreatFire claims that its mirror site can be accessed without any of the circumvention tools — proxy servers, VPNs and the like — that are needed to access other forbidden content in China.

GreatFire created the mirror site by using “a subpath of Amazon and Google’s domains that support HTTPS access,” according to The Next Web. Therefore, in order to block the mirror site, Beijing would apparently have to block entire domains — and, in the process, take down potentially thousands of other sites.

[Source: The Next Web]

Database for Censored Photos

In other Chinese censorship news, U.S.-based investigative journalism outfit ProPublica set out to create a database of images deleted from Sina Weibo, a Twitter-esque — but heavily censored — social media platform in China.

Teaming with the University of Hong Kong, ProPublica created software that stores posts from a group of 100 users. Said users had had material removed in the past, and most had a significant number of followers.

The study, carried out over two weeks, revealed that the 100 users had a total of 527 images removed. The images included shots of a yawning politician, archive images from the Korean War, shamed former Communist Party big wig Bo Xilai, human rights advocates, and long passages of text.

[Source: BBC]

David Vranicar is a freelance journalist and author ofThe Lost Graduation: Stepping off campus and into a crisis. You can check out hisECT News archive here, and you can email him at david[dot]vranicar[at]newsroom[dot]ectnews[dot]com.

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