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24 February 2009

Vleeptron closed for 1 week while we go to Caribbean / winter sucks / PIZZAQ! GUESS OUR ISLAND!

Click, map gets big.

Publicke Notice

Vleeptron will (maybe) be closed for 1 week.

(We're bringing the laptop, so who knows? Maybe I can post. I posted from Canada. Miracles happen.)

PIZZAQ! Guess my island! It's printed on the above map.

But this is such a tough question, the prize isn't an addition to your Pizza Account. If you guess my island, I will REALLY send you something! Really! I don't care where you are. I'll find a way to get your Prize to you. I promise.

(I sent fresh cooking spices to the XCalc guy in Norway -- the shipping costs were 12 x the cost of the spices.)

Tonight! Go outside! Look to the skies! Bring binoculars (or telescope)! The green Comet Lulin C/2007 N3 passes nearest to Earth!

Click for larger!

Go outside tonight! Find the constellation Leo, and the planet Saturn!

Telescope is nice, but the best aid is a good pair of binoculars.


NASA / National Aeronautics and Space Administration
(USA space agency)
Wednesday 4 February 2009

"Green Comet Approaches Earth"

In 1996, a 7-year-old boy in China bent over the eyepiece of a small telescope and saw something that would change his life--a comet of flamboyant beauty, bright and puffy with an active tail. At first he thought he himself had discovered it, but no, he learned, two men named "Hale" and "Bopp" had beat him to it. Mastering his disappointment, young Quanzhi Ye resolved to find his own comet one day.

And one day, he did.

Fast forward to a summer afternoon in July 2007. Ye, now 19 years old and a student of meteorology at China's Sun Yat-sen University, bent over his desk to stare at a black-and-white star field. The photo was taken nights before by Taiwanese astronomer Chi Sheng Lin on "sky patrol" at the Lulin Observatory. Ye's finger moved from point to point--and stopped. One of the stars was not a star, it was a comet, and this time Ye saw it first.

Comet Lulin, named after the observatory in Taiwan where the discovery-photo was taken, is now approaching Earth. "It is a green beauty that could become visible to the naked eye any day now," says Ye.

The comet makes its closest approach to Earth (0.41 AU) on Feb. 24, 2009. Current estimates peg the maximum brightness at 4th or 5th magnitude, which means dark country skies would be required to see it. No one can say for sure, however, because this appears to be Lulin's first visit to the inner solar system and its first exposure to intense sunlight. Surprises are possible.

Lulin's green color comes from the gases that make up its Jupiter-sized atmosphere. Jets spewing from the comet's nucleus contain cyanogen (CN: a poisonous gas found in many comets) and diatomic carbon (C2). Both substances glow green when illuminated by sunlight in the near-vacuum of space.

In 1910, many people panicked when astronomers revealed Earth would pass through the cyanogen-rich tail of Comet Halley. False alarm: The wispy tail of the comet couldn't penetrate Earth's dense atmosphere; even it if had penetrated, there wasn't enough cyanogen to cause real trouble. Comet Lulin will cause even less trouble than Halley did. At closest approach in late February, Lulin will stop 38,000,000 miles short of Earth, utterly harmless.

To see Comet Lulin with your own eyes, set your alarm for 3 am. The comet rises a few hours before the sun and may be found about 1/3rd of the way up the southern sky before dawn. Here are some dates when it is especially easy to find:

Feb. 6th: Comet Lulin glides by Zubenelgenubi, a double star at the fulcrum of Libra's scales. Zubenelgenubi is not only fun to say (zuBEN-el-JA-newbee), but also a handy guide. You can see Zubenelgenubi with your unaided eye (it is about as bright as stars in the Big Dipper); binoculars pointed at the binary star reveal Comet Lulin in beautiful proximity.

Feb. 16th: Comet Lulin passes Spica in the constellation Virgo. Spica is a star of first magnitude and a guidepost even city astronomers cannot miss. A finderscope pointed at Spica will capture Comet Lulin in the field of view, centering the optics within a nudge of both objects.

Feb. 24th: Closest approach! On this special morning, Lulin will lie just a few degrees from Saturn in the constellation Leo. Saturn is obvious to the unaided eye, and Lulin could be as well. If this doesn't draw you out of bed, nothing will.

Ye notes that Comet Lulin is remarkable not only for its rare beauty, but also for its rare manner of discovery. "This is a 'comet of collaboration' between Taiwanese and Chinese astronomers," he says. "The discovery could not have been made without a contribution from both sides of the Strait that separates our countries. Chi Sheng Lin and other members of the Lulin Observatory staff enabled me to get the images I wanted, while I analyzed the data and found the comet."

Somewhere this month, Ye imagines, another youngster will bend over an eyepiece, see Comet Lulin, and feel the same thrill he did gazing at Comet Hale-Bopp in 1996. And who knows where that might lead...?

"I hope that my experience might inspire other young people to pursue the same starry dreams as myself," says Ye.

- 30 -

(1.) the guy was barefoot (2.) the guy was barefoot (3.) the guy was barefoot (4.) the guy was barefoot (5.) the volcano is erupting

Click to see much bigger foot.
The erupting Soufriere Hills volcano also will get bigger.

Montserrat is an island in the Caribbean,
and one of the last actual overseas colonies of Britain.

In 1995, its central mountain, Soufriere Hills, woke up and identified itself as a violent, destructive volcano. Eventually a lahar -- a sudden river of mud -- killed 19 Montserratans. Most volcano deaths are from lahars.

The southern two-thirds of Montserrat are now a Forbidden Zone, people are forbidden from setting foot there. All human activity is restricted to the northernmost third of the island. There is one fairly small "Day Zone," from which people must leave each nightfall.

At the foot of the volcano is the MVO, the Montserrat Volcano Observatory, with a staff of Montserratans and volcano experts from around the world. Their primary job is to warn Montserratans when the volcano threatens to become dangerous again.

Most Montserratans are black descendants of sugar plantation slaves, and speak with an Irish lilt unlike any other Caribbean accent. If you close your eyes, you might think you're in Dublin.


The Montserrat Reporter
Friday 6 February 2009

MVO launches
"Living With Our Volcano"
outreach programme

Government officials, community leaders and school teachers and the media, convened at the Montserrat Volcano Observatory (MVO) on Thursday, 29 to witness the Observatory reveal its new logo and public education plan for the next two years.

In a Government Press Release it claims, that although the MVO had been involved in education and outreach activities from its inception, the new "Outreach Plan 2008-2010 marks the first time that the Observatory will deliver a comprehensive strategy for providing information on the Soufrière Hills Volcano (SHV)."

The Outreach Plan brands the programme Living with our Volcano as it promotes both safety and education.

Stacey Edwards of the UWI Seismic Research Centre, co-authored the Plan with Guillaume Levieux of the Institut de Physique du Globe de Paris (IPGP). "In developing this programme, our primary focus was to ensure that residents would be educated on the hazards posed by the volcano and that they would understand how to live safely with it," she said.

This programme comes thirteen and a half years later and under its relatively new and current joint management by the UWI Seismic Research Centre and the Institut de Physique du Globe de Paris.

Miss Edwards added, "However, it was also very important to us to include a component where Montserratians were encouraged to use the volcano as a learning opportunity.

The results from surveys and meetings with some stakeholders were used to identify target groups, develop messages and select communication tools for the programme. Highlights from the programme will include a refurbished MVO website, development of a SHV Educator's Guide for schools and MVO Information Kiosks.

The MVO also launched its new logo to symbolize the Observatory's evolution throughout its thirteen-year history. Designed by Levieux, the logo's green illustrates the living part of the Emerald Isle while the gray represents the volcano and ash.

Levieux explained: "The ash plume reminds that the volcano is active and the delta is an important part of the Montserratian landscape," while the red seismic signal symbolizes Science.

Edwards added, "This is an important day for the MVO and we look forward to partnering with our stakeholders to implement the Living with Our Volcano programme."

The Montserrat Volcano Observatory was established in 1995 shortly after the eruption began. It monitors the Soufrière Hills Volcano on Montserrat and provides the authorities with advice on volcanic activity and associated hazards. The MVO is a statutory authority of the Government of Montserrat, previously managed by the British Geological Survey (BGS), is now jointly managed by the UWI Seismic Research Centre and the Institut de Physique du Globe de Paris.

In its weekly report last Friday, after the escalated activity at the beginning of the new year, the MVO reported: "The lack of significant rockfalls and dome incandescence observable at night suggest that lava extrusion - if any- is minimal. Furthermore, there have been no signs of dome instability."

The Montserrat Reporter welcomes this new Outreach Program, as we believe that it is long overdue, with the hope that it will provide and bring more clarity to the many scientific pronouncement, release and statement, as they are made in regards to the Soufriere Hills volcano and its effects on the lives of the people of Montserrat.

- 30 -

reader comments

Picture please Posted: 2009-02-08 08:09:00 AM

Let's have a photo of Stacey too please, as she's obviously a very important part of this brilliant initative.

Re: MVO Photos Posted: 2009-02-09 3:54:00 PM
A picture is worth a 1000 words. We must let Mr. Levieux know with a loud voice that his way of dressing (Bare foot)is not acceptable. If you want respect you must give respect. We (Black People)cannot present ourselves that way in your country when addressing your people. Shameful, disrespectful and uncivilized.

RE: MVO photos Posted: 2009-02-09 5:11:00 PM
Good point. Maybe Sting used to look like this at AIR studios but this guy is not Sting. He's a government employee (indirectly) at an important public meeting.

You gotta be kidding Posted: 2009-02-10 08:08:00 AM
As a white guy in small town America, I submit that you couldn't show up at a town council meeting dressed like this without being jeered out of the room. Come on show some respect man.

the barefoot vulcanologist Posted: 2009-02-13 11:30:00 AM
I guess you can file this under "minority report" or "dissenting opinion." What people who live near an active volcano should want most from a vulcanologist isn't nice shoes. It's the stuff he or she has inside his/her head. When life-and-death decisions have to be made based entirely on the best scientific knowledge, who cares what the scientists are wearing on their feet? It's a "two cultures" thing -- the culture of professional scientists vs. the culture of government officials. We expect government employees to dress well, and we interpret this as a sign of respect. But as long as there've been scientists, they've been notoriously "informal" dressers. Scientists (even French ones like M. Levieux) have other things on their minds beside style and fashion -- and we should be grateful for this "different" set of priorities. It does not show disrespect to the community. Just the opposite -- they "dress" in knowledge, dedication, even risk and danger, to serve the community. P.S. I've been to Montserrat twice, hope to come back again and again. I wish everyone on Montserrat the very best.

YES, Bare foot Levieux Should leave!!!!
Posted: 2009-02-13 2:44:00 PM
That pompous Levieux should leave the Country. People with his attitude are not welcome here. Mr. Chief Minister, show some backbone, ask this man to please leave the Island. Volcano expert or not, GET OUT!!!! His presence is not doing anything for Montserrat. I am pretty sure there are other qualified, respectful people who wouldn't mind taking his place. He is a disgrace. Thank him for his services and send him packing. Let him go and study some other volcano.

Christians ? ? ? Posted: 2009-02-14 07:58:00 AM
Its amazing that so many people have rushed to judgement. If Jesus returns to minister to the masses and he is barefoot, whom among you shall cast the first stone.

Foolishness Posted: 2009-02-14 08:18:00 AM
The best director/acting director that has been on montserrat in the past 10 years and most of the foolish comments have nothing to do with his competance. Thanks to his intelligence, the foolishness that was imposed upon us by previous administrations did not happen in January. He made the courageous calls that allowed people to remain in their homes until there was significant activity and then he quickly allowed them to return after the event had passed. His value to Montserrat comes from what is on the inside not the superficial appearances on the outside. Be careful what you wish for people. The day may come when you want him back.

RE: The Barefoot (Mr.) Levieux Posted: 2009-02-14 2:53:00 PM
People with this mentality should not be around our young women. The French brought us French fries, French wine, French bread, French kissing and now the government has brought in French Aids.

RE: Foolishness Posted: 2009-02-15 8:54:00 PM
We thank Mr. Levieux for his work. Look at it this way, a person would not drink the clean contents in a glass if the outside of the glass is dirty. Appearance counts.

shallow minded Posted: 2009-02-15 10:43:00 PM
instead of thanking mr levieux for his good work, i can't believe that some people have the time to be so narrow minded and shallow. who cares whether or not he walk's around without no shoes on his feet,the most important thing is that he makes a good call and judgement when the volcano start acting up.he have done so the last the volcano act up safety is the most impotant and not what he wear's

RE: Christians ??? Posted: 2009-02-16 04:20:00 AM
A Christian = One who believes in the Trinity. The Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost. One of the Ten Commandments= Make no images of (Me) God. Throughout your life all the images you have seen are images of a white Jesus wearing slippers. The truth is Jesus was a Black Man and if He should return to minister the gospel without wearing his slippers you would be the first one to cast the first stone shouting crucify, crucify, crucify.

RE: Christians ??? Posted: 2009-02-16 04:46:00 AM
Should you find yourself walking at midnight around Runaway Ghaut and you hear a voice shouting out of the wilderness, “Wait for me I’m a ghost, I’m coming”, all of your hair on your head would stand up and you would run so fast you would not be able to turn the corner and you would run straight over the cliff and kill yourself.

RE; Appearance Counts Posted: 2009-02-16 06:40:00 AM
The same logic was used on order to enslave masses of people to work the sugar cane fields of Montserrat.

the barefoot vulcanologist (continued) Posted: 2009-02-16 04:05:00 AM
there used to be an old beat-up Fiat in the parking lot at the University of California in Berkeley, it had a bumper sticker: MY OWNER HAS A NOBEL PRIZE He was one of the people who invented the A-bomb. He dressed like the Fiat. When he made his greatest discovery, Archimedes ran through town not wearing any clothes at all. These people have other things on their minds.

shallow minds!!! Posted: 2009-02-16 2:09:00 PM
You people didn't even take the time to see the error in the article, like the small-minded people that we are, we just look for the simplest things we find to humiliate each other. For all those who’ve lived on Montserrat all these years (more so recently) this only shows that we don’t care about what is happening in this country volcano wise. Look at all those who commented on this photo, if you had some great interest in this little island then you would have been to enough MVO public meetings to know that this is not Mr Levieux, but no one seems to give a hoot about who this person is, we just rant on anyway, that is we culture. It seems like this man not wearing a pair of shoes is the major problem in this country. This man is much more highly qualified to do most of your jobs even if he chooses this one and one he is capable of doing very well. NEVER JUDGE A BOOK BY ITS COVER!!!!!!!

Respect Posted: 2009-02-16 2:20:00 PM
There is a right and wrong way of doing things,it seems like people from the islands get intimidated by people from bigger countries.Is like we no have a voice they come in and like take over the whole operation. People there like they been pushed in the back and these folks getting all the credits.what this guy display is no surprise,they all come to the carribean and they think that we don't have any law, nothing but when you go in there country forget it,if we stop act as if we no have sense and stand up for what and who we are they will think different.We are stronger than that yes we need help but we no have to act as if we so down and out that people could come in and take charge, and that Chief Minister he needs to just stay in the medical field which he so good at and leave this for the more experience guy!

Quite Simple Posted: 2009-02-17 12:09:00 AM
The gentleman whosoever he may be was in a public forum in a meeting and he was in a Tshirt, cargo shorts, barefoot and with sunglasses on his head, dressed for a day at the beach. No matter how smart he is or no matter what he is bringing to the table it is not the appropiate way to dress. Am I interested in what he has to say? Yes. Am I grateful for what he has done for the island? Yes. But at the end of the day this is not the way to dress. Plain and simple. Now stop de damn bickering and get back to work and the business of the day

To The Barefoot Vulcanologist (continued) Posted: 2009-02-17 5:02:00 PM
I was taught people who run around naked are called; madmen, savages, barbaric, lunatic, crazy, idiot and that they are mentally challenged. In America when someone is caught naked in public the police would catch them and put them in a straight jacket and take them immediately to a mental institution. I see you admire this man that invented such a destructive device that is threatening your own existence. Everyone is welcome to come to Montserrat,be aware going barefoot is acceptable but if you are caught naked in public our Royal Mounted Police will hunt you down and when they catch you they will take you to the hospital and put you in the mental ward and chain you to the bed. By the way, I think the presenter got the message he would not do it again. And yes, people who run around town naked have other things their minds.

RE: Shallow Minded Comment # 1 Posted: 2009-02-17 8:55:00 PM
I thank the presenter for donating his time and expertise to my people in M/rat for (free). Any one who risk his/her life every day for the safety of my family, friends and my welfare I consider him/her a hero. Much respect. I really do not care if the presenter chooses to walk around M/rat streets barefooted that is his choice. I'm only asking him to respect me and be properly dressed for the occasion. As brave as you are you and I know if you were about to board a plane and you see your pilot with his pants hanging off his butt and his appearance look as if he is going to the mountain you would not go up in his plane no mater how good a pilot your friend tell you he is.

To all comments, from the madman in barefoot
Posted: 2009-02-18 10:09:00 AM

Dear all, First, a very important clarification: the person with the cargo pants, sunglasses and barefoot is Nico Fournier, the MVO acting director at the time, NOT Guillaume Levieux (who was more conventionally dressed for the occasion). So please address all comments to Nico, not Guillaume. Secondly, I am Nico Fournier, so you can address any useful comments to me personally at: nicofournier.volcano (at) This will leave space on this page for some actual comments about the important education and outreach work that Stacey, Guillaume and the MVO are carrying out at the moment. Obviously, at least the person giving the very relevant and in-depth comments about the French may benefit from a little bit more exposure to education. Now, let's talk about the dressing code since this seems to be a major issue. I am actually glad that my dressing code is a major issue since it appears that there are no bigger problems in Montserrat at the moment, trivial matters such as education, economy, transport in and out Montserrat or the volcano. I take this as extremely good news and thank you for sharing this with me. I fully acknowledge that the lack of shoes may have embarrassed some, especially for that particular occasion and bearing the cultural context. What some people may want to realize though, is that at the MVO, our mandate is to make sure that everybody is safe. Yes, one could probably spend more time dressing up for occasion. Yes, one could most likely spend their time in the office and at meetings, well dressed-up. Keep in mind, though, that this is time not spent doing the actual important part of the job: monitoring the volcano. As you can guess, the choice is quite easily made on my side. Yes, inappropriate dress-code may be interpreted as a lack of respect. No, it is not a lack of respect. A lack of respect would have been to spend more time dressing up and enjoying nice dinners at night while the volcano was acting, instead of spending our time monitoring it. A lack of respect would have been to keep people in the haze when activity was escalating and not giving them - you - updated and straight information. A lack of respect would have been to deny responsibility when comes evacuation time. A lack of respect would have been to recommend that evacuated people stayed out of their home when activity allowed it, for the sake of simplifying our work. Respect is to give you my name so that at least you know who is addressing you. Respect is answering your questions in any context. Respect is going live on radio to get some feedback at times when you know that you will take some heat. One may want to think twice before jumping to conclusions. Funnily enough, I did not get any comments on my dressing code during public meetings last December and January when giving updates on the activity and trying our best to assess people safety. Sharp observers may even have spotted one or two coffee stains on my T-shirt after an all-nighter at the MVO. Clearly outrageous. Nor did I get any comments about me being barefooted when we were spending the nights at the MVO during the Christmas season to make sure that everybody was safe and could enjoy the end of the year celebrations with their family. Interesting how things matter differently at different times. I will be coming for the SAC meeting on the 10-12 March so some people will have the opportunity to direct their comments directly to me, in person, instead of here, anonymously. Thanks again for the superb information that Montserrat has no bigger issues to tackle than my dressing code. A few days after Valentine, when love is still all around, it is clearly a bright start for the day. Kind regards, Nico Fournier

Editor apologises Posted: 2009-02-18 10:21:00 AM
We wish to offer apologies to Guillaume Levieux, Volcanology Outreach Officer, IPGP at the Montserrat Volcano Observatory (MVO). This apology arises out of comments directed at Mr. Levieux as a result of the photographs which appear on line which show his name subscribed to different photographs, in the current story. The first photograph which shows his name is actually that of Nicolas Fournier, Research Fellow (Volcanology), who was the then acting Director at the MVO. We extend thanks to the individual who pointed out the obvious error on the story with two different pictures carrying the same name. Editor, TMR

Disrespect! Nico Posted: 2009-02-18 3:39:00 PM
No Mr Fournier - you should have stopped when you said "inappropriate dress-code may be interpreted as a lack of respect." You were representing the rest of your colleagues and and so you disrespected them and all Montserratians when you in your capacity addressed an audience to launch a communication outreach program. After-all you were carrying out a service for which you are being paid, not provided free, in other words you were not doing anyone a favour. There were some people who expressed appreciation for your service, I did also. The management knows who I am since although I didn't show my name I did leave my email address. Others may have gone beyond but I am sure they too appreciate the work of the MVO, but simply addressed the issue of your "inappropriate" dress. In my opinion, your attitude is totally wrong as exhibited in your response. And yes thank you for clearing up the matter of the identity. Respect

Identity problem Posted: 2009-02-18 7:27:00 PM
The photos suggest that all shaven-headed Frenchmen look alike. Could one of them please grow some hair or wear a wig to help us?

Time to cool it? Posted: 2009-02-18 2:33:00 PM
Nico, try not to sound so bitter about all the o****e coming your way. Ever since 1995 the rule on Montserrat has been that the only thing tougher than the volcano for MVO directors to handle is the islanders. There is a simple reason for this. Imagine France two thirds destroyed by a giant volcano and the remaining population squeezed into the remaining land, with only their memories of their beautiful and prosperous country in the past to console them. You are dealing with a population who have experienced things that nobody can be expected to endure unscathed. Yes, they are scratchy -- but so would you be if, say, Russian scientists directed the volcano observatory that protected what was left of your beloved France. Many previous MVO directors have endured similar personal and abusive criticism. This job is a classic one to recall the old saying, “If you can’t stand the heat, it’s time to get out of the kitchen”. The clear messages coming from all these comments are: (1) A formal event, such as launching a new outreach initiative, is seen by residents as the sort of time and place where everyone dresses neatly (as say for church or a law court). Montserrat is a democracy and therefore the public indirectly employ you and are entitled democratically to set the conventions for dress at such occasions. (2) Of course nobody expects the MVO scientists to dress formally when eruptive events are happening fast and they need to alternate between monitoring work and explaining to and advising government and worried residents. (3) Residents are extremely pleased with how the new MVO team is doing its monitoring work and also with their approach to the difficult issue of evacuations. Maybe it’s time for everyone to calm down and concentrate again on the main enemy, which is of course the volcano.

To the Editor Posted: 2009-02-18 7:48:00 PM
I suspect you may choose not to publish this. I find it strange that you offer apologies to Mr L and not to Mr F. Some of the comments go way beyond any concept of fair criticism or opinion. I am surprised you have not seen fit to exercise your stated "right to remove comments with profanity, personal attacks, ...". I wonder if you have an agenda here, Mr Editor. In all my experience in journalism, I have never seen a photograph cropped like that unless it was intended to provoke comment. Newspaper photographs of people are normally cropped tight around the face.

To The Barefoot Madman Posted: 2009-02-19 03:40:00 AM
God, I repeat God gives knowledge; money Mr. Foumier can give you a little more exposure to education. A person with knowledge knows your action (Being barefooted) speak louder than words but with you, an educated person, it is the reverse (Your comments).

The photo cropping is both fair and good Posted: 2009-02-19 07:19:00 AM
The journalist who posted at 7.48 PM yesterday says; “Newspaper photographs of people are normally cropped tight around the face.” That’s obviously not true. When did you last see such cropping of a football star scoring an acrobatic goal? What he/she means is that this usually happens at formal occasions, such as a political debate, conference or (dare I say it?) the unveiling to the residents and press of a new outreach initiative at somewhere like MVO. Of course the press anywhere would show different images from their usual head-and-shoulders views, if something merited it. What if Obama had been sworn in as President wearing scarlet flippers – would we have been denied all photos of his feet? The image above of Dr Fournier speaking barefoot at the formal launching of the new initiative is totally fair press pictorial comment. The other two “people” photos are also cropped just right for this particular event. Fr. Agger is reading a prayer and showing him doing so reminds everyone what a desperately serious business the eruption has been and remains. Tracey Edwards and Guillaume Levieux are shown around the symbol of modern communications, a computer screen. The entire set of images gives a very clear impression of how the event took place. Surely that’s good journalism?

re: The photo cropping is both fair and good Posted: 2009-02-19 12:11:00 AM
That is exactly my suggestion. The photo was cropped in way it was because the Editor wanted to make a point. Was Fr. Agger wearing any shoes?

Question for Editor Posted: 2009-02-19 07:33:00 AM
Here we go again! Why do you or who whoever allow these ....tic comments. It is beginning to sound like something else other than the issue. And to think that the xxxx suggests he is a journalist. Guess he will never make an editor or a very corritible one! How in the first place the photo or any of them was cropped. And if you are a journalist and knows, what kind are you? Do you know what goes into the production. The previous post shows a lot of understanding of journalism and he claims no knowledge of being one, but commonsense where did it go? Guess we just as bad as you to notice you, pity about freedom of speech how some of us abuse it. Why encourage that Mr. Editor? Trouble is I understand the answer. Ethics and Integrity. Keep it up, some of us understand, but you know some one did say early about taking the heat etc.

re: The photo cropping is both fair and good Posted: 2009-02-19 1:44:00 PM
My point is that a newspaper editor is entirely free to make points, if he/she judges them to be in the public interest (such as revealing Obama to be a flipper fetishist?). It may sound trivial to outsiders but Montserrat is one of innumerable countries where most people are still a bit old fashioned about such things as dress code at public and press presentations held somewhere “official”, like the government-funded MVO. It’s a manners thing.

RE: Good Luck To Dr. Foumier Posted: 2009-02-19 12:39:00 AM
Like America we can extend an olive branch but we have the arrows. Throughout the world Montserratians are known for their warmth and their friendliness. (Dr.) Mr. Foumier on your next visit to our beautiful Island come in peace, I hope you’ll come with a mended heart and enjoy our warmth and our friendliness. Most of the comments may not have been coming from the residents living on the Island. After all M/rat was ounce a colony of France. The spirit of Napoleon‘s Army may still be around but they are at rest. You’ll be working in Salem. Shalom, Salaam, Peace. Like you, I too felt hurt reading your comment “A little more exposure to education” but we all do need it and truly I appreciate your work knowing it affected me and I would not let your choice of dressing come between a friendship. You carried out your duties and your responsibilities well and our country appreciate you. Don’t blow it. Good Luck.

To the Madman Posted: 2009-02-19 6:56:00 PM
Nico, I sense your frustration in the long post. I do hope that residents appreciate the many many hours you and others at the MVO spend to ensure our safety. It was helpful that you included some details of what you do. Please do not be discouraged and keep up the good work. Oh and also, take 10 seconds to slip on some nice sandals for the next public meeting. We owe all of you at MVO a debt of gratitude. All you owe us is a modicum of respect.

olive branch and arrows Posted: 2009-02-21 5:43:00 PM
Dear all, Now that everybody - including me - had a chance to voice their grief, I hope that we can go back to productive comments indeed. Point taken regarding the appropriateness of the dressing code in various occasions. I hope that my message on the fact that the lack of shoes in that particular occasion was not meant to be disrespectful. Only a mere misunderstanding of some cultural differences and of the importance of some specific points. Leaving together is a learning experience. As much for the madman who loves an island and tries to get a grip on a local culture as for the local person who may have to bear with some inadequacy from the madman every now and then and tell him to do better next time in appropriate terms. Before closing all this on my side, just a clarification about my comment about education: the MVO Education and Outreach program is targeted towards sharing more of the MVO knowledge in volcanology since we believe it is an under-used source of knowledge in the domain on island and in the region. It is not meant to be about general education and so weren't my comments. With the exception of my reference to the French lover out there, obviously. Nobody's perfect. :-) Final point: we are eager to get some comments and ideas about the Education and Outreach plan. So please do not hesitate to drop us a line or come to the MVO if you have any suggestion. Stacey, Guillaume and the MVO are putting a tremendous effort on it and we all want it to be as good and adequate as possible. As hinted in the name of the plan, "Living with our volcano", it is all about Montserrat. So we need your feedback. Best regards and see you soon. With some shoes of some sort, I promise. Nico

17 February 2009

more US Army suicides than combat deaths in 2008 / highest Army suicide rate since Vietnam War

Click for larger.

NOTE: The Denver Post editorial "Mental Support for Our Troops" (2 February 09) was republished in my local newspaper (The Daily Hampshire Gazette, Northampton MA) on 17 February 09.


Letters to the Editor
The Denver Post

To the Editor:

Your editorial "Mental Support for Our Troops" (2 February) notes suicides among American troops have surpassed combat deaths for the first time since the Vietnam War, and The Post laudably calls for increased resources to respond to the emotional and psychiatric difficulties of military service in wartime.

The Post un-laudably misses Two Elephants who have been splashing around in America's Bathtub for seven years.

Of our two on-going wars, one was a "liars' and scoundrels' war" (as Congressman Abraham Lincoln called the Mexican War) -- revenge for the 9-11 attacks against a nation which had nothing to do with the 9-11 attacks. The Iraq War also targeted weapons of mass destruction which Saddam Hussein's Iraq did not possess.

To date, 4245 US servicewomen and servicemen have come back to Dover Air Force Base in flag-draped coffins from that war. The comparable number of US flag-draped coffins from the Afghanistan War is 651.

Our new commander-in-chief has expressed his intention to downsize our Iraq commitment and bulk up the war in Afghanistan, as the re-invigorated Taliban makes steady and significant combat and political gains throughout the country, including the heavily fortified capital Kabul.

Across the mountainous and porous border, our anti-terrorism ally Pakistan has just signed a truce with local Taliban-allied chieftains in the Swat Valley, near the capital Islamabad, which turns Swat into an enclave of Sharia (religious) law, and abandons government plans to provide schooling for girls comparable to schooling for boys. Pakistan's army will cease active anti-Taliban operations, and respond militarily only if attacked by Taliban guerrillas.

Into this confused, addled, lethal and wildly expensive meatgrinder -- a cannonball shackled to our drowning U.S. economy -- we continue to toss our neighbors' sons and daughters.

And now we express dismay and shock that these young men and women are ending their own lives at the highest rate in 35 years.

Our soldiers and marines do indeed need more and better mental health resources.

But far more important, our servicemen and women need to be brought home promptly and safeguarded from these ill-advised, naive, arrogant, dubiously lawful schemes.

Stop combat operations in Iraq and Afghanistan immediately. Bring the boys and girls home now, while they can still reclaim the rest of their young lives in the communities where they enlisted.

A stand-down day to review military suicides is a bandaid. Two foolish, corrupt, ignorant wars are the disease. Ending them is the cure.

Robert Merkin

SP5 US Army 1969-1971
Army Commendation Medal


The Denver Post (Colorado USA)

Monday 2 February 2009


Mental support for our troops

With the military stretched thin in Iraq and Afghanistan, we should make sure soldiers are getting the care they deserve.

By The Denver Post

Suicides among soldiers reached a three-decade high in 2008 — a grim and tearful reminder of the costs of fighting two wars.

The care of our soldiers — at war and when they come home — deserves the full attention of the new administration, especially as plans for an expansion in Afghanistan move forward.

At least 128 soldiers killed themselves last year, Army officials said last week. Another 15 deaths are still being investigated. The suicide rate of soldiers, which includes Army Reserve and National Guard, exceeded that of civilians for the first time since the Vietnam War.

Our military has been stretched too thin as we fight wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Tours of duty are being extended, and soldiers are being asked to go back again and again. And too many soldiers aren't getting the mental health care they need.

Army officials pointed to 15-month deployments to war zones as a contributor to post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, alcohol abuse and family problems, The Associated Press reported.

The Army says it is focusing on the problem and trying to improve mental health care as it prepares to re-focus on Afghanistan. But it concedes the remoteness of that country makes it more difficult for therapists to reach troops.

The Army said it would create a "stand down," or a day spent focused on evaluating soldiers, along with fostering a treatment-minded culture among troops. But forgive us if that idea seems far too simplistic. The day-to-day horrors of war require more than that.

Fort Carson, just south of Colorado Springs, recently has made efforts to improve its "wounded warrior" program, and has wisely re-shifted much of its thinking on caring for soldiers.

But this has been a protracted engagement, and we're reminded of reports from The Post's David Olinger that show that from 2003 to 2007, nearly 40,000 troops were diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder.

Olinger and former Post reporter Erin Emery reported last year that "spending for some pain medication, antidepressants, sleeping pills and even an epilepsy medicine used to treat post-traumatic stress disorder and brain injuries has grown by 62 percent to 400 percent since the Iraq war began."

The reporters found that those records are supported by military mental-health surveys that indicate nearly 20,000 deployed soldiers — more than 12 percent of the fighting force — have taken antidepressants or prescription sleeping pills.

Meanwhile, a report by the Pentagon's inspector general last week found that nearly 33,000 plates for body armor for troops wasn't properly tested and may not provide troops adequate protection. The plates are being recalled. The Army disputes the findings, but has voluntarily withdrawn plates for similar concerns.

If we can't even supply our troops with the needed equipment — remember the poorly armored Humvees? — how can we expect to give them adequate mental health care?

Our troops deserve the best. We urge President Barack Obama to see that they get it. His focus shouldn't be solely on getting the troops home quickly, but on making sure they are adequately cared for during their deployments and upon their return.

- 30 -


The New York Times
Saturday 30 January 2009

Suicides of Soldiers Reach High of Nearly 3 Decades

Suicides among soldiers in 2008 rose for the fourth year in a row, reaching the highest level in nearly three decades, Army officials said Thursday.

At least 128 soldiers killed themselves last year, and the Army suicide rate surpassed that for civilians for the first time since the Vietnam War, according to Army statistics. The suicide count, which includes soldiers in the Army Reserve and the National Guard, is expected to grow; 15 deaths are still being investigated, and the vast majority of them are expected to be ruled suicides, Army officials said.

Including the deaths being investigated, roughly 20.2 of every 100,000 soldiers killed themselves. The civilian rate for 2006, the most recent figure available, was 19.2 when adjusted to match the demographics.

“This is not business as usual,” said Gen. Peter W. Chiarelli, the vice chief of staff of the Army, who is leading suicide-prevention efforts. “We need to move quickly to do everything we can to reverse the very disturbing number of suicides we have in the U.S. Army."

The Army did not identify a specific reason for the increase, but officials said 15-month deployments to war zones played a role. These deployments, which have allowed for little time away from the battlefield, have contributed to post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, alcohol abuse and family problems. Seven suicides took place in Afghanistan and 31 in Iraq.

The most common factors in suicides were financial, personal and legal problems, as well as job-related difficulties, officials said.

Thirty percent of the suicides in the last four years took place during a deployment. Thirty-five percent took place after a deployment. The remaining 35 percent of those who killed themselves had never deployed.

“We all come to the table believing that stress is a factor,” General Chiarelli said.

In 2007, 115 soldiers killed themselves, compared with 106 in 2006.

At a news briefing, the secretary of the Army, Pete Geren, said the Army wanted to bolster its efforts to prevent suicide and was prepared to allocate the resources, “human and financial,” to do so. The Army had stepped up its efforts in the last two years as the numbers had begun to climb.

But, Mr. Geren cautioned, there are no easy answers. “Is there a silver bullet out there?” he said. “I’m confident there isn’t.”

The Army said that in the last year it had hired more general practitioners, often the first health care providers to come into contact with soldiers in distress. It also hired 250 more providers of mental health care, and wants to hire an additional 50.

“We are hiring, and we need your help,” said Col. Elspeth Ritchie, a psychiatric consultant to the surgeon general of the Army.

The Army announced it would conduct a “stand-down,” a day dedicated to recognizing signs of suicidal behavior and ensuring that soldiers get help, even if that means escorting the person to a clinic. The training day will be reinforced by a teaching program that extends from the top ranks to enlisted men and women, with an emphasis on seeking treatment. The Army is also introducing efforts to have chaplains become involved in suicide prevention programs.

Last October, the Army announced it would collaborate with researchers at the National Institute of Mental Health in a landmark five-year project to identify the causes of suicide. The study is expected to probe deeply into the role of combat, long deployments, family stress and other factors. Eighty-five of those who committed suicide last year were married.

Veterans’ and mental health advocates have been critical of the Army, saying it has been too slow to recognize and treat the tide of soldiers struggling with mental health problems after returning from Iraq or Afghanistan.

Despite some progress, problems remain widespread, the advocates say. There are still far too few providers of mental health and substance abuse services, the Army is often reluctant to send soldiers to civilian therapists off bases, and mental health screening remains perfunctory, they say. At the same time, a warrior culture that discourages treatment persists.

“The suicide numbers released today come as no surprise to veterans who have experienced firsthand the psychological toll of war,” said Paul Rieckhoff, the executive director of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, a nonpartisan organization that advocates for veterans. “Since the Iraq war began, suicide rates and other signs of psychological injury, like marital strain and substance abuse, have been increasing every year.”

As they prepare to shift more troops to Afghanistan this year, Army officials say they are focusing on how to improve mental health there. The challenges are greater because the fighting takes place in more remote places and it is difficult for mental health therapists to reach soldiers.

“We want to make sure we get ahead of it,” Colonel Ritchie said.

- 30 -

16 February 2009

Vleeptron Hardcore Punk Institute presents: "Jesus Was a Democrat" by Everclear (if this code/script works) / un-mute & pray



My Geiger Counter Basement & Garage Scientists List just mentioned the vodka brand called Everclear. It turns out it's 95 percent ethanol by volume (190 proof) and makes a great laboratory solvent.

The most lost and depraved adolescents and college-age kids I know just adore Everclear. (Also industrially fortified fruit and candy-flavored schnapps.)

Why don't they save their money and just stab themselves in the liver with a rusty knife?

Well, anyway, obviously as an homage, a famous punk band from Oregon named itself Everclear.

These are not Happy Campers, and they don't sing Valentines Day songs.

But they give away Free Music, and their website claims if I paste this code here, you can hear their hit "Jesus Was a Democrat" here.

If you can't hear it here, un-mute your speakers and go to Everclear's website
, and this fine song will begin playing for you immediately.

Maybe this is how all theology and politics should be distributed.
I get bored in church and in meeting and synagogue and fall asleep.

(I knew a girl whose parents sent her to Lutheran private school, and she'd fall asleep in chapel every day. Her teacher told her that the Devil tempts people to fall asleep in church. It's not that the thermostat was set too high.)

Big crowds of political freakazoids make me nervous. In Democracies, they do really weird things. In non-Democracies, they do even weirder things. Officially, Zimbabwe is a parliamentary democracy with elections.

But here's some theology and politics that's a real ear-opener, and probably won't put you to sleep. Here are the lyrics. If it ain't Ira Gershwin or Cole Porter, it has its own musical and lyrical virtues.

Jesus Was a Democrat

by Everclear

Jesus Christ didn't have blue eyes or blond hair
He looked just like all those people that you want to kill
Spin your hell into a heaven you can sell
Make it look like California with a bible belt
Jesus didn't look like the boy next door
Unless you live in Palestine
I wonder what you mean by the golden rule
I think it is a scary play on words
I wonder what they taught you back in Sunday school

I bet you think of him
As a nice clean long haired Republican, nah
He would be all locked up in Guantanamo Bay
If he were alive today
He would have been a revolutionary
Wanted by the CIA

I picture him in all the wrong places
Finding diamonds in the dirt
A star of David tattoo
And a Che t-shirt
Jesus Christ was a left wing radical Jew
Murdered by people like you

If Jesus was a Democrat like the bible says he was
I don't think he's going to want to take the blame
For all the awful things you say and do in his name

If Jesus was alive he would be sad to see
That it is no different than it used to be
Someday he's going to call you out
I am pretty god damned sure ......
He is going to be angry
He is going to be angry

You want to know what I think?.......

I think Jesus would have been a card carrying liberal
If he was a young man born in the USA

He would not be "fiscally conservative"
And he wouldn't vote for John McCain
All those so called Christians that you see on TV
Maybe they scare Jesus like they scare me
Kick you the hell out of my temple too
Too many elephants in the room

If Jesus was a Democrat like the bible says he was
I don't think he's going to want to take the blame
For all the awful things you people do and say in his name

If Jesus was alive today he would be sad to see
That it is no different than it used to be
Someday he's going to call you out
I am pretty god damned sure......
He is going to be....mad
He is going to be angry
He is going to be....mad
He is going to be....mad

You say Jesus loves the little children
And I say I know that's true
I say he loves all the Muslims and the Jews
All the addicts and the porn stars too
You say Jesus died to save us all from a fiery hell
I say Jesus died to save us
Save us from ourselves
Will you save me from myself?

If Jesus was a liberal like the red letters say he was
I know he would have big love for all the killers and the racists
And the bullies in this world

If Jesus was alive today
And you had a chance to meet him face to face
I'm pretty God-damned sure that you and your friends
Would find some way to kill him all over again
You would kill him all over again
Again and again and again
Just like you always do
You do just what you always do

Everclear upcoming concerts:

Friday 1 May 2009 8 PM
Kentucky Derby Festival
Fest-a-Ville Stage
Louisville, Kentucky USA
Free w/ $3 Pegasus Pin

Thursday 7 May 2009 7:30 PM
L’auberge du Lac Casino Pool
Lake Charles, Louisiana USA

the day after Valentines Day / la vie Anglais / youth chess or football might have prevented this / okay i like UK tabloids

Alfie Patten, 13, Chantelle Steadman, 15, 4-day-old 7lb 3oz / 3.26 kilogram Maisie Roxanne.

14 February 2009

Happy Valentines Day! / Romantic Love / chocolates / roses / diamonds & gold / ballroom dancing / economic recovery

Click, maybe good things happen.

Le ravissement de Psyché (1895)
William-Adolphe Bouguereau

oil on canvas / 209 x 120 cm / private collection

image courtesy of the Art Renewal Center

Celestial Cupid, her famed son, advanced,
Holds his dear Psyche sweet entranced,
After her wandering labours long,
Till free consent the gods among
Make her his eternal bride;
And from her fair unspotted side
Two blissful twins are to be born,
Youth and Joy; so Jove hath sworn.

-- John Milton

* * *

The government of Iceland has fallen, car dealers are practically giving new cars away for free, millions around the world have lost jobs and even their homes, there've been some ugly incidents with firearms in places where everybody always wears a suit and tie or an outfit from Talbotts.

Skyscrapers are dark, empty and boarded up with plywood when last year they were gleaming multi-elevatored beehives of globalized financial action, surplus currency and hot derivative paper were leaking out of 50th storey windows.

Planet Earth needs to start spending. A lot. Right now.

If you are reading this blog and Not Shopping, at a mall or on-line, then you are fucking everybody, you're hurting yourself, you're starving your neighbors and forcing them toward the Public Dole.

By your unwillingness to reach for your wallet, you are smashing your Western Wealth Center boots on an entire village in Micronesia. Illness will soon follow the malnutrition you have chosen to impose on them because you're nervous, anxious, worried, cautious and too cheap to buy new Nikes or Adidas. Demand plummetted and the factory closed. You did this.

Buy something. Now. Preferably a Big-Ticket Item, like a refrigerator (your old one is probably an energy-sucking ecological anti-Green vampire fester) or a new washer-dryer. (The Sears/Kenmore machines are actually manufactured by top-line companies you've heard of, but you pay a lot less if you're willing to let visitors read the KENMORE cachet on your appliances.)

It is an odd crisis, with a ghostly, evasive enemy you need a PhD in economics just to perceive.

This enemy can fuck you up every bit as much as a horde of Vandals or Vikings or the Mongol Horde.

It may not immediately ravish your womenfolk like the Vikings did.

But if we can't make this enemy retreat, the womenfolk -- of a startlingly liberal range of ages -- may start renting themselves out for cash. And the menfolk, and the boyfolk, and the childfolk.

(I stayed in a hotel in London whose neighborhood, historically, housed the city's Child Virgin Market. Having sex with a virgin was believed to be a cure for venereal disease.)

But instead of reaching for our firearms and battleaxes and crossbows and scimitars, the only weapons that can defend us and save us and see us through this Sack & Pillage are Discretionary Spending, Retail Buying, our credit cards, our checkbooks.

Fortunately for all of us, the crisis collides with this special calendar moment:

Happy Valentines Day!

This is all about Romantic Love -- and it ain't cheap.

* roses

* chocolate -- not Hershey bars or Three Musketeers, but stuff from Europe, individually wrapped in gold foil

* restaurant meal (not Fast Food Alley, but the place you take your Mom on her birthday)

* movie, concert, theatrical event

* fancy liquor or wine

* 1 - 5 live musicians during dinner

* bling from tasteful jeweler

* whoops, i almost forgot the Greeting Card, I always forget that

If each of us Celebrates Romantic Love tonight as we were supposed to anyway, this will be a major Kick-Start for the ailing financial organs of Planet Earth. February could end up reporting healthier, more prosperous numbers than January and the bleak Christmas shopping season.

Because you cared.

This is no time to explain to your Love Partner that you can't afford to Prove Your Love. That will do Negative Things for your Relationship, and cause nine strangers to lose their health insurance (if they're Americans, the only Western industrialized capitalist nation without national health).

Hannibal's At The Gates!

Reach for your MasterCard and head for the Whately Inn, reservations for 2 at 7:30! Oh go ahead, order the duck! And some champagne!

AND I Love You!

* * *

Everyone Says I Love You
from the movie "Horse Feathers" (1932)
by Bert Kalmar and Harry Ruby


Everyone Says I Love You
The great big mosquito when he stings you
The fly when he gets stuck on the fly paper too
says I Love You

Every time the cow says moo
She makes the bull-a very happy too
The rooster when he hollers cock-a-doodle-doodle-doo
says I Love You

Christopher Columbus he write
the Queen of Spain a very nice little note
He write "I Love You, baby"
and then he gets himself a great big boat
He's a wise guy.

What do you think Columbus do
When he come here in 1492
He said to Pocahontas "Acki Vachi Vachi Voo,
"That means "You little son of a gun, I Love You."


Everyone says I love you
But just what they say it for I never knew
It's just inviting trouble for the poor sucker who
says I love you.

Take a pair of rabbits who
Get stuck on each other and begin to woo
And pretty soon you'll find a million more rabbits who
Say I love you

When the lion gets feeling frisky
And begins to roar
There's another lion who knows just what he's roaring for

Everything that ever grew
The goose and the gander and the gosling too
The duck upon the water when he feels that way too

13 February 2009

Malware Prize: Drop a dime on the Conficker worm creep, win U$250,000

Click for larger, clearer.

Microsoft Collaborates
with Industry to Disrupt
Conficker Worm

Microsoft offers $250,000 reward
for Conficker arrest and conviction.

REDMOND, Wash., 12 February 2009 /PRNewswire-FirstCall/ -- Today, Microsoft Corp. announced a partnership with technology industry leaders and academia to implement a coordinated, global response to the Conficker (aka Downadup) worm. Together with security researchers, Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) and operators within the Domain Name System, Microsoft coordinated a response designed to disable domains targeted by Conficker. Microsoft also announced a $250,000 reward for information that results in the arrest and conviction of those responsible for illegally launching the Conficker malicious code on the Internet.

"As part of Microsoft's ongoing security efforts, we constantly look for ways to use a diverse set of tools and develop methodologies to protect our customers," said George Stathakopoulos, general manager of the Trustworthy Computing Group at Microsoft. "By combining our expertise with that of the broader community we can expand the boundaries of defense to better protect people worldwide."

As cyberthreats have rapidly evolved, a greater level of industry coordination and new tactics for communication and threat mitigation are required. To optimize the multiple initiatives being employed across the security industry and within academia, Microsoft helped unify these broad efforts to implement a community-based defense to disrupt the spread of Conficker.

Along with Microsoft, organizations involved in this collaborative effort include ICANN, NeuStar, VeriSign, CNNIC, Afilias, Public Internet Registry, Global Domains International Inc., M1D Global, AOL, Symantec, F-Secure, ISC, researchers from Georgia Tech, the Shadowserver Foundation, Arbor Networks and Support Intelligence.

"The best way to defeat potential botnets like Conficker/Downadup is by the security and Domain Name System communities working together," said Greg Rattray, chief Internet security advisor at ICANN. "ICANN represents a community that's all about coordinating those kinds of efforts to keep the Internet globally secure and stable."

"Microsoft's approach combines technology innovation and effective cross- sector partnerships to help protect people from cybercriminals," Stathakopoulos said. "We hope these efforts help to contain the threat posed by Conficker, as well as hold those who illegally launch malware accountable."

More information about how to protect yourself from Conficker can be found at Customers interested in learning more about staying safe online can visit

Microsoft's reward offer stems from the company's recognition that the Conficker worm is a criminal attack. Microsoft wants to help the authorities catch the criminals responsible for it. Residents of any country are eligible for the reward, according to the laws of that country, because Internet viruses affect the Internet community worldwide. Individuals with information about the Conficker worm should contact their international law enforcement agencies.

Founded in 1975, Microsoft (Nasdaq: MSFT) is the worldwide leader in software, services and solutions that help people and businesses realize their full potential.

SOURCE Microsoft Corp.



* Win32/Conficker.A (CA)
* W32.Downadup (Symantec)
* W32/Downadup.A (F-Secure)
* Conficker.A (Panda)
* (Kaspersky)
* W32/Conficker.worm (McAfee)

Conficker, also known as Downup, Downadup and Kido, is a computer worm
that surfaced in October 2008 and targets the Microsoft Windows operating system.[1] The worm exploits a known vulnerability in the Windows Server service used by Windows 2000, Windows XP, Windows Vista, Windows Server 2003 and Windows Server 2008.[2] Linux, FreeBSD, ReactOS, Haiku, Whitix, Solaris, AIX and Macintosh systems are unaffected as the virus only targets Windows software.

Origin of name

The name "Conficker" is a German pun, meaning "program that manipulates the configuration," and pronounced like the English word "configure." "Configuration" is typically abbreviated "config." Conficker is constructed from the first five letters of "configuration," while adding four letters to the end so as to end with "ficker", a vulgar nominalized form of the German transitive verb ficken, which is common German for the English "fuck".


The Conficker worm spreads itself primarily through a buffer overflow vulnerability in the Server Service on Windows computers. The worm uses a specially crafted RPC request to execute code on the target computer.[3]

When executed on a computer, Conficker disables a number of system services such as Windows Automatic Update, Windows Security Center, Windows Defender and Windows Error Reporting. It then connects to a server, where it receives further orders to propagate, gather personal information, and downloads and installs additional malware onto the victim's computer.[4] The worm also attaches itself to certain Windows processes such as svchost.exe, explorer.exe and services.exe.[5]


The A variant of Conficker will create an HTTP Server and open a random port between 1024 and 10000. If the remote machine is exploited successfully, the victim will connect back to the HTTP server and download a worm copy. It will also reset System Restore Points, and download files to the target computer.[6]

Symptoms of infection

* Account lockout policies being reset automatically.
* Certain Microsoft Windows services such as Automatic Updates, Background Intelligent Transfer Service (BITS), Windows Defender and Error Reporting Services are automatically disabled.
* Domain controllers respond slowly to client requests.
* System network gets unusually congested. This can be checked with network traffic chart on Windows Task Manager.
* On websites related with antivirus software, Windows system updates cannot be accessed.[7]

In addition, the worm launches a brute force dictionary attack against administrator passwords to help it spread through ADMIN$ shares, making choice of sensible passwords advisable.[8]


By January 16, 2009, antivirus software vendor F-Secure reported that Conficker had infected almost 9,000,000 PCs.[9][10] The New York Times reported that Conficker had infected 9,000,000 PCs by January 22, 2009, while The Guardian estimated 3,500,000 infected PCs.[11][12] As of January 26, 2009, Conficker had infected more than 15,000,000 computers, making it one of the most widespread infections in recent times.[13]

Another antivirus software vendor Panda Security reported that of the 2,000,000 computers analyzed through ActiveScan, around 115,000 (6%) were infected with this malware.[14][15]

Conficker is reported to be one of the largest botnets created because 30 percent of Windows computers do not have the Microsoft Windows patch released in October 2008.[16]

The U.K. Ministry of Defence reported that some of its major systems and desktops are infected. The worm has spread across administrative offices, NavyStar/N* desktops aboard various Royal Navy warships and Royal Navy submarines, and Hospitals across the city of Sheffield reported infection of over 800 computers.[17][18]

Experts say it is the worst infection since the SQL Slammer.[11]

As of February 13 2009, Microsoft is offering a $250,000 USD Reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the criminals behind the creation and or distribution of Conficker.[19]

Patching and removal

On 15 October 2008 Microsoft released a patch (MS08-067) to fix the vulnerability.[20] Removal tools are available from Microsoft,[21] Symantec[22] and Kaspersky Lab while McAfee[23] can remove it with an on demand scan.[24] Since the virus can spread via USB drives that trigger AutoRun, disabling the AutoRun feature for external media through modifying the Windows Registry is recommended.[25] While Microsoft has released patches for the later Windows XP Service Packs 2 and 3 and Windows 2000 SP4 and Vista, it has not released any patch for Windows XP Service Pack 1 or earlier versions (excluding Windows 2000 SP4), as the support period for these service packs has expired.

Technology industry collaboration to combat Conficker

On February 12, 2009, Microsoft announced the formation of a technology industry collaboration to combat the effects of Conficker. Organizations involved in this collaborative effort include Microsoft, Afilias, ICANN, Neustar, Verisign, CNNIC, Public Internet Registry, Global Domains International, Inc., M1D Global, AOL, Symantec, F-Secure, ISC, researchers from Georgia Tech, The Shadowserver Foundation, Arbor Networks and Support Intelligence.

Microsoft is trying to put some pressure on the criminals responsible for the worst Internet worm outbreak in years, offering a $250,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of Conficker's creators.[26]

Microsoft's reward offer stems from the company's recognition that the Conficker worm is a criminal attack. Microsoft wants to help the authorities catch the criminals responsible for it. Residents of any country are eligible for the reward, according to the laws of that country, because Internet viruses affect the Internet community worldwide. Individuals with information about the Conficker worm should contact their international law enforcement agencies.