Monthly Archives: March 2019

‘Smart Referer’ Firefox Extension Blocks Google Two-Factor Authentication

The other day I echoed recommendations on Hardening Firefox that I got from an article by Keith Axline. Since then, however, I’ve learned two things.

First, Axline has changed his recommendations from HTTPS Everywhere to Smart HTTPS for the reasons given in this thread.

Second, I discovered that when I had Smart Referer on, I wasn’t able to use Google two-factor authentication.  Instead,  when google asked me to authenticate via my phone, I got timeouts instantly.

Disabling the Smart Referer extension temporarily (which is easy as it creates a button on the toolbar) allowed me to log in, and things seem to work fine if I re-enable Smart Referer immediately after I log in to my Gmail.  But that may be more annoyance than most people want, especially given that Google two factor authentication is more annoyance than most people want.

Posted in Software, Sufficiently Advanced Technology | 1 Comment

We Robot 2019 – Read the Papers, Register for the Conference

Full text of the papers to be presented at We Robot 2019 are now available on our Program page. If you are attending We Robot you should read the papers before the conference.

We Robot doesn’t work like ordinary conferences: other than on panels, most authors do not present their papers. Rather, we assume everyone has done their homework, and go straight to the response by our expert discussants. What’s more, the discussants only speak for a short time, and then we open it up to your questions and comments. his makes for a much more interesting and engaging events, and takes advantage of the terrific people who come to We Robot – but it does mean that if you haven’t read the papers, you won’t be ready to take full part.

If you want to attend We Robot, please don’t forget to register.

Posted in Robots | Comments Off on We Robot 2019 – Read the Papers, Register for the Conference

Let’s Hope They’re Not On the Move

‘Thousands’ of poisonous Bufo toads are ‘besieging’ Palm Beach gardens, a neighborhood a bit over two hours drive north of me. CBS 5 has the details (warning: audio pops up immediately).

Bufo toads secrete a ‘milky substance’ from their heads that is highly toxic to people — and especially likely to get into your pets. (No word yet if these are the type whose poison has psychoactive properties. I just imagine spring breakers rubbing toads on their bodies and getting run over…)

We’ve had floods, tornadoes, now frogs. Biblical plagues anyone?

Posted in Miami | Comments Off on Let’s Hope They’re Not On the Move

Thoughts on the Upcoming 2019 Coral Gables Elections

On April 9 Coral Gables will have an election for Mayor and for one of the Commission seats. Coral Gables uses a City Manager system, so the Mayor is only a bit more than first-among-equals, with a substantial ceremonial role. Oddly, Commissioners get a four-year term, but the Mayor only gets a two-year term.

Coral Gables Mayor

The Mayoral race pits incumbent Raul Valdes-Fauli against challenger and former Commissioner Jeannett Slesnick. Slesnick lost by 187 votes the last time they went head-to-head.

I think this is a pretty easy call.

Continue reading

Posted in Coral Gables | 4 Comments


Today’s NYT has a long obituary of “Rafi Eitan, Israeli Spymaster Who Caught Eichmann

It contains this utterly arresting (at least to me) paragraph:

He played important roles in the surgical strike on Iraq’s Osirak nuclear reactor in 1981; the theft in the late 1960s of at least 100 pounds of highly enriched uranium from a nuclear fuel plant in the Pittsburgh area that helped Israel’s atomic bomb program; and the assassinations of the Palestinian commandos who carried out the massacre of Israeli athletes at the Munich Olympics in 1972.

Wait a minute. [T]he theft in the late 1960s of at least 100 pounds of highly enriched uranium from a nuclear fuel plant in the Pittsburgh area that helped Israel’s atomic bomb program.??? First I heard of it.

Apparently it’s called the Apollo Affair and there’s some dispute if it was measurement error or an Israeli spy ops. Wikipedia is neutral, and quotes Seymour Hersh — never one to err on the side of there being no cover-up — as concluding that Zalman Shapiro, the company’s president, did not divert any uranium; rather “it ended up in the air and water of the city of Apollo as well as in the ducts, tubes, and floors of the NUMEC plant.” On the other hand, the free-standing website on the NUMEC Affair thinks the Israelis did it:

After the AEC and its Oak Ridge office calculated the processing losses based on NUMEC’s records, they determined that the fate of about 100 kilograms of U-235 in the form of HEU remained unexplained. NUMEC paid for the missing material, but later disputed the AEC calculations, maintaining that the unexplained 100 kgs could be attributed to other processing losses. After decommissioning of the Apollo plant, more than 330 kgs of U-235 in the form of HEU were unaccounted for, with most of that deficit occurring while NUMEC ran the plant.

For decades there have been allegations and suspicions that foreign agents, perhaps aided by American citizens, diverted a significant fraction of NUMEC’s unexplained uranium deficits to Israel for its nuclear-weapons program. Because of the high stakes involved, the affair has been clouded in denial and concealment for nearly a half century.

And there is this:

In 2009 The FBI released a detailed statement that was made in 1980 by a former NUMEC employee who said he started work at Apollo in February 1965 and was fired in October 1978 by the present owner, Babcock and Wilcox, Inc., for job abandonment following an alleged job-related illness. The former employee said he encountered armed strangers on the uranium plant’s loading dock one night in early 1965. He said they were loading what appeared to be canisters of HEU onto a truck in racks that he had not seen before. He also saw a shipping manifest that said the material was heading to a ship bound for Israel on the Zim-Israel shipping line. He said that a NUMEC manager later threatened him to keep his mouth shut about what he had seen.

I suppose this claim might be retaliation by a disgruntled former employee – in particular the shipping manifest part sounds a bit suspect (why would they be open about this in a way he could see?). And the official US position is that nothing was proved. But stil.. Did everyone except me know about this?

Posted in Politics: International | Comments Off on The WHAT?

Battle Stations!

Special Counsel Robert Mueller has delivered a report to the Justice Department

This is the report about possible crimes. What we don’t know is whether there will be a second report direct to Congress on the (arguably more important?) counter-intelligence project about foreign attempts to influence the election, and perhaps even more reports.

Posted in Law: Criminal Law, National Security, The Scandals | Comments Off on Battle Stations!