Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Cat 'arrested' for break-in at Brazilian prison

The confiscated items strapped to the cat's body included drill bits, files, and a mobile phone

A cat has been detained in the grounds of a jail in Brazil with contraband goods for prisoners strapped to its body with tape.

The white cat was apprehended crossing the main prison gate.

The incident took place at a jail in Arapiraca city, 250km (155 miles) south-west of Recife in Alagoas state.

The confiscated items included drill bits, files, a mobile phone and charger, plus earphones The cat was taken to a local animal centre.

The jail holds some 263 prisoners.

A prison spokesperson was quoted by local paper Estado de S. Paulo as saying: "It's tough to find out who's responsible for the action as the cat doesn't speak."

Officials said the items could be used to effect a means of escape or for communicating with criminals on the outside.

The incident took place at New Year, but the photo has only recently been released.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

How to pet cats and dogs

via Happy Place

Investments: Orlando is the cat's whiskers of stock picking

Ginger moggy beats the professionals and a team of students in the Observer's share portfolio challenge

Orlando's share-picking skills were purr-fect. Photograph: Jill Insley

The Observer's panel of stock-picking professionals has been undone in our 2012 investment challenge by a ginger feline called Orlando who spent time paw-ing over the FT.

The Observer portfolio challenge pitted professionals Justin Urquhart Stewart of wealth managers Seven Investment Management, Paul Kavanagh of stockbrokers Killick & Co, and Schroders fund manager Andy Brough against students from John Warner School in Hoddesdon, Hertfordshire – and Orlando.

Each team invested a notional £5,000 in five companies from the FTSE All-Share index at the start of the year. After every three months, they could exchange any stocks, replacing them with others from the index.

By the end of September the professionals had generated £497 of profit compared with £292 managed by Orlando. But an unexpected turnaround in the final quarter has resulted in the cat's portfolio increasing by an average of 4.2% to end the year at £5,542.60, compared with the professionals' £5,176.60.

While the professionals used their decades of investment knowledge and traditional stock-picking methods, the cat selected stocks by throwing his favourite toy mouse on a grid of numbers allocated to different companies.

The challenge raised the question of whether the professionals, with their decades of knowledge, could outperform novice students of finance – or whether a random selection of stocks chosen by Orlando could perform just as well as experienced investors.

The result indicates that the "random walk hypothesis", popularised in economist Burton Malkiel's book A Random Walk Down Wall Street, is perhaps truer than we thought. Burkiel's book explores the idea that share prices move completely at random, making stock markets entirely unpredictable.

"It's time to crack open the Whiskas," said a good-humoured Justin Urquhart-Stewart. "The cat's got talent." To celebrate his success, Orlando's owner, former Cash editor Jill Insley, has bought him a red collar in the style of Urquhart-Stewart's omnipresent red braces.

All but one of Orlando's stocks (Morrisons) rose during the last three months of the year, including specialist plastics and foam company Filtrona, which Orlando had hastily swapped for under-performing Scottish American Investment Trust in September.

By contrast, the professionals refused to swap any stocks at the end of the third quarter and paid the price. British Gas fell by 19% and Imagination Technologies dropped by 16.8%, dragging their portfolio down by an average 7.1%.

The students may have finished last, but displayed the best performance of all the teams in the final quarter, their portfolio increasing by an average 5.4%, including a fantastic performance of 17.4% for property company Savills.

Their trading decisions were key: at the end of the final quarter they swapped Mulberry for Aviva and Betfair for Tesco. In the final quarter, Aviva's share price increased by 17% (compared with a rise of only 6.6% for Mulberry during that time) and Tesco rose by 1.2% (far superior to a fall in the Betfair share price of 5.4%).

Nigel Cook, deputy headteacher at John Hoddesdon School, said: "The mistakes we made earlier in the year were based on selecting companies in risky areas. But while our final position was disappointing, we are happy with our progress in terms of the ground we gained at the end and how our stock-picking skills have improved."

A spokeswoman for Orlando said he was not available to give an interview because of a claws in his contract.

via The Observer | Thanks to Alexandros Kamarineas

Friday, January 11, 2013

The Japanese cat that holds the clues to an internet prankster

When a real life feline becomes part of the cat-and-mouse game between hackers and authorities, a global audience is assured.

There is a hacker terrorising Japan with a computer virus, bomb threats and riddles. Meanwhile, a stray cat wandering a small island near Tokyo holds important clues on its collar. This is no movie. This happened this week. An unnamed hacker in Japan really did leave a memory card on a stray cat's collar, and journalists and authorities really did have to crack a few riddles to locate said ownerless feline.

If befuddled agents of the NPA (National Police Agency) didn't already get the point, they should now: they are being toyed with, and the lack of headway they've made after months of taunting is more than a little embarrassing. This is after the NPA "extracted" what appears to be false confessions from four suspects, who have been recently released. The hacker is clearly trying to paint authorities as inept, and succeeding.

So far, according to Wired, Japanese authorities have only been able to identify two things about the hacker: one, he or she programs in the popular programming language C#, and two, he or she knows how to use proxies so they can post on the largest text-based forum on the internet, 2channel. While western audiences might not be familiar with 2channel, its US equivalent 4chan should ring a bell .

All the authorities have on the hacker is information that could describe any internet prankster in the digital era – be it Anonymous activists or YouTube trolls. Even the decision to leave an important clue on a cat leaves the tell-tale scent of internet culture on the case. The hacker's taunting tactics are nothing out of the ordinary for internet pranksters, either. Any time Anonymous defaces a website, they make sure to rub the site owners face in it with codified language, in the form of seemingly random slogans and weird music videos featuring Rick Astley or Oprah Winfrey. They would say they are in it for the lulz, or the act of confusing and enraging their foe.

There has always been a cat-and-mouse game between authorities and hackers, with one trying to wrestle control and assert superiority over the other. This dance is not just about evading your hunter, but also humiliating them. One of the most well-known hackers, Kevin Mitnick, was famous for how well he played this game. Mitnick went as far as tapping into cellphone networks to monitor when FBI agents were closing in on him, only to clean his apartment of evidence – except for a box of donuts in his fridge labelled"FBI donuts".

Gabriella Coleman, author of Coding Freedom: the Ethics and Aesthetics of Hacking, describes it bluntly: "If you are being pursued, to humiliate your hunter is pretty sweet, no? I mean, escaping your hunter is great but evading him/her is truly the cherry on top. The hunt becomes a very public game." The publicness of the Japan hacker's game is worth repeating: he or she sent both the media and the authorities riddles (much like the Batman villain the Riddler), effectively ensuring that his or her pranks get their fair share of press coverage.

No motive for this hacker has surfaced yet, but the possibility that this is a big protest against the country's new anti-piracy law – a measure that went into effect in October 2012 that means offenders can be imprisoned for up to two years – can't be ruled out. Of course, this could just be a teen flexing his or her cyber muscles and trying to make a name for themselves, an always important cause to a young internet citizen.

Given the international press the stunt with the cat has received, future pranks will likely become larger and more complicated, whatever the motive. Either way, this hacker currently has the world as a stage. Pranksters, like most performers, need an audience to survive.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Offbeat way to stop your two cats from fighting | by Paulette Cooper & Paul Noble

O sole me-ow. Music may prevent two cats from fighting! What kind works best?

One woman with two constantly bickering cats kept classical music on for them all day while she was away and found it was the only thing that stopped them from fighting.

Another cat owner, who also also found that music diminished her cat's aggressiveness, found that classical harp music worked the best.

Here are some more off-beat facts about music and your cat.

A certain key may make kittens defecate and older cats become sexually aroused. (We'll tell you the note if you promise not to test it out for yourself: It's E in the fourth octave. Don't write us about the results. We don't want to know.)

Cats may respond to some music, for example, becoming happy when they hear the theme song of a TV show. (Some cats are also attracted to mice who sing offkey. Bet you didn't even know that they sang on key.)

And if you start singing off key, your cat may meow in distress. (As will other people around you.)

From 277 Secrets Your Cat Wants You to Know by Paulette Cooper and Paul Noble.

Sunday, January 6, 2013


Muezza (or Muʿizza) (Arabic: معزة‎) is said to have been the Islamic prophet Muhammad's favorite cat.

According to the legend, Muhammad awoke one day to the sounds of the Adhan, the Muslim daily call to prayer. Preparing to attend, he began to dress himself; however, he soon discovered his cat Muezza sleeping on the sleeve of his prayer robe. Rather than wake her, he used a pair of scissors to cut the sleeve off, leaving the cat undisturbed. When he returned from the Mosque, Muhammad received a bow from Muezza in gratitude. He then stroked his beloved cat three times. The accuracy of this story is not clear, as no references to it are made in the Quran or the Hadith, but rather by historical sources not considered religious text in Islam.