US government planes collecting phone data

November 18th, 2014

- Remember the piece I posted not long ago entitled, “Crypto phones and dubious cell phone towers“, that was about unidentified cell towers scattered around the country soaking up data for unknown purposes?  

- Well, here’s another story along that line.

- dennis

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Devices that gather data from millions of mobile phones are being flown over the US by the government, according to the Wall Street Journal.

The “dirtbox” devices mimic mobile phone tower transmissions, and handsets transmit back their location and unique identity data, the report claims.

While they are used to track specific suspects, all mobile devices in the area will respond to the signal.

The US Justice Department refused to confirm or deny the report.

The Wall Street Journal said it had spoken to “sources familiar with the programme” who said Cessna aircraft fitted with dirtboxes were flying from at least five US airports.

The department said that it operated within federal law.

- More… :arrow:

 

Just a trio of stories from the passing river

November 12th, 2014

- So, here are three stories that I’ve gleaned from the river of passing news just today.  

- For all of you who think things are just fine, you should pull yourself up out of whatever obsessive thing it is you are doing and smell the coffee.  The smell has changed, my friends, and its got a serious stink to it.

- Story # 1 is about a man named Richard Berman who lobbies for the Oil Industry.

Secret oil industry strategies inadvertently revealed

- small point to glean here: these folks do not care if they ruin the world.  They are unabashedly out to confuse and manipulate you so they can massively profit from oil sales in the near term.  And they do not care about you or the long term.

- Story # 2 is about something called Asset Forfeiture.

Police Use Department Wish List When Deciding Which Assets to Seize

- small point to glean here: you do not have to be found guilty for them to seize your assets.  And, if you are found innocent later, it will still cost you a bundle to get your stuff back – if you ever do.

- Story # 3 is about a woman named Alayne Fleischmann.

Alayne Fleischmann exposes JPMorgan’s “massive criminal securities fraud”

- small point to glean here: these folks committed bigger crimes than most of us can even conceive of.  And none of them – none – have gone to jail for it.

- You should read all three stories and reflect that there’s more and more of this stuff going on around you all the time.  And that at some point, it is going to get rude enough and personal enough that it is going to intrude into your little world.

- The rich are out to take what you have.  And the police, whom you might think should be protecting you, are out to take what you have as well, if they can.  

- You’re just like a little mouse down in a safe corner and the only reason you are still safe is because the dogs from hell haven’t discovered you yet

- If I dipped my foot in the river again, I’m sure I could come up with another three stories, or 10 or 20.  The water’s running deep and fast out there in the river of news and information but you really need to turn away from your TV screen to see it because they damn sure are not going to put the real news on your screen to warn you.  That screen is there to sedate you.

- That there are big and growing problems in your world is not going to be a recognition you are going to want to have late in the game.  Earlier is always better when you want to reposition yourself out of harm’s way.

- U.S. friends – don’t think any of this is real, that it won’t entangle you and yours or that it won’t actually amount to anything?

- No problem.  At least you won’t be getting in anyone else’s way when they have woken up and are bailing out.

- dennis

 

 

Salt-Water Fish Extinction Seen By 2048

November 12th, 2014

- Nothing new here.  Just the same slowly approaching train wreck which is being widely ignored – as if that will make it all go away.  

- I really wonder about people in general.  Not just the obsessively greedy or power-minded but just the average Joe.  

- The scientists have been sounding the ‘end-of-the-world-as-we-know-it’ klaxons for some time now and everyone’s just changing the channel to sort it out for themselves.

- dennis

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The apocalypse has a new date: 2048.

That’s when the world’s oceans will be empty of fish, predicts an international team of ecologists and economists. The cause: the disappearance of species due to overfishing, pollution, habitat loss, and climate change.

The study by Boris Worm, PhD, of Dalhousie University in Halifax, Nova Scotia, — with colleagues in the U.K., U.S., Sweden, and Panama — was an effort to understand what this loss of ocean species might mean to the world.

The researchers analyzed several different kinds of data. Even to these ecology-minded scientists, the results were an unpleasant surprise.

“I was shocked and disturbed by how consistent these trends are — beyond anything we suspected,” Worm says in a news release.

“This isn’t predicted to happen. This is happening now,” study researcher Nicola Beaumont, PhD, of the Plymouth Marine Laboratory, U.K., says in a news release.

“If biodiversity continues to decline, the marine environment will not be able to sustain our way of life. Indeed, it may not be able to sustain our lives at all,” Beaumont adds.

Already, 29% of edible fish and seafood species have declined by 90% — a drop that means the collapse of these fisheries.

But the issue isn’t just having seafood on our plates. Ocean species filter toxins from the water. They protect shorelines. And they reduce the risks of algae blooms such as the red tide.

“A large and increasing proportion of our population lives close to the coast; thus the loss of services such as flood control and waste detoxification can have disastrous consequences,” Worm and colleagues say.

The researchers analyzed data from 32 experiments on different marine environments.

They then analyzed the 1,000-year history of 12 coastal regions around the world, including San Francisco and Chesapeake bays in the U.S., and the Adriatic, Baltic, and North seas in Europe.

Next, they analyzed fishery data from 64 large marine ecosystems.

And finally, they looked at the recovery of 48 protected ocean areas.

Their bottom line: Everything that lives in the ocean is important. The diversity of ocean life is the key to its survival. The areas of the ocean with the most different kinds of life are the healthiest.

But the loss of species isn’t gradual. It’s happening fast — and getting faster, the researchers say.

Worm and colleagues call for sustainable fisheries management, pollution control, habitat maintenance, and the creation of more ocean reserves.

This, they say, isn’t a cost; it’s an investment that will pay off in lower insurance costs, a sustainable fish industry, fewer natural disasters, human health, and more.

“It’s not too late. We can turn this around,” Worm says. “But less than 1% of the global ocean is effectively protected right now.”

Worm and colleagues report their findings in the Nov. 3 issue of Science.

- To the original article: :arrow:

Revolution or a Police State?

November 4th, 2014

 

The future is now

The future is now

- I’ve been saying for some time that the way things are going, the U.S. is going to end up either having a revolution or coalescing into a police state.  

- The major factor that contributes to my prognosis is the widening wealth gap.  

- Mr. Joe Six-Pack in the U.S. can still buy his six-pack and has a car and a big screen T.V. but he probably hasn’t noticed yet that he’s actually getting poorer year by year.

- The nation’s wealth, thanks to Neo-Liberalism, is inexorably moving up towards the 1%’ers.

- Here are two stories from other writers who have independently come to the same conclusion.  

- I’m sure that there are many more writers and pundits who see these futures; some of them published and others aware – but silent.  

- They know, as George Orwell once famously said: 

In a time of universal deceit – telling the truth is a revolutionary act.”  

- It also will become, in this writer’s opinion, a dangerous act that the privileged among us will want to suppress violently as the pressure rises.

- dennis

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STORY ONE:

The Pitchforks Are Coming… For Us, Plutocrats

From Nick Hanauer
To: My Fellow Zillionaires

You probably don’t know me, but like you I am one of those .01%ers, a proud and unapologetic capitalist. I have founded, co-founded and funded more than 30 companies across a range of industries—from itsy-bitsy ones like the night club I started in my 20s to giant ones like Amazon.com, for which I was the first nonfamily investor. Then I founded aQuantive, an Internet advertising company that was sold to Microsoft in 2007 for $6.4 billion. In cash. My friends and I own a bank. I tell you all this to demonstrate that in many ways I’m no different from you. Like you, I have a broad perspective on business and capitalism. And also like you, I have been rewarded obscenely for my success, with a life that the other 99.99 percent of Americans can’t even imagine. Multiple homes, my own plane, etc., etc. You know what I’m talking about. In 1992, I was selling pillows made by my family’s business, Pacific Coast Feather Co., to retail stores across the country, and the Internet was a clunky novelty to which one hooked up with a loud squawk at 300 baud. But I saw pretty quickly, even back then, that many of my customers, the big department store chains, were already doomed. I knew that as soon as the Internet became fast and trustworthy enough—and that time wasn’t far off—people were going to shop online like crazy. Goodbye, Caldor. And Filene’s. And Borders. And on and on.

Realizing that, seeing over the horizon a little faster than the next guy, was the strategic part of my success. The lucky part was that I had two friends, both immensely talented, who also saw a lot of potential in the web. One was a guy you’ve probably never heard of named Jeff Tauber, and the other was a fellow named Jeff Bezos. I was so excited by the potential of the web that I told both Jeffs that I wanted to invest in whatever they launched, big time. It just happened that the second Jeff—Bezos—called me back first to take up my investment offer. So I helped underwrite his tiny start-up bookseller. The other Jeff started a web department store called Cybershop, but at a time when trust in Internet sales was still low, it was too early for his high-end online idea; people just weren’t yet ready to buy expensive goods without personally checking them out (unlike a basic commodity like books, which don’t vary in quality—Bezos’ great insight). Cybershop didn’t make it, just another dot-com bust. Amazon did somewhat better. Now I own a very large yacht.

But let’s speak frankly to each other. I’m not the smartest guy you’ve ever met, or the hardest-working. I was a mediocre student. I’m not technical at all—I can’t write a word of code. What sets me apart, I think, is a tolerance for risk and an intuition about what will happen in the future. Seeing where things are headed is the essence of entrepreneurship. And what do I see in our future now?

I see pitchforks.

At the same time that people like you and me are thriving beyond the dreams of any plutocrats in history, the rest of the country—the 99.99 percent—is lagging far behind. The divide between the haves and have-nots is getting worse really, really fast. In 1980, the top 1 percent controlled about 8 percent of U.S. national income. The bottom 50 percent shared about 18 percent. Today the top 1 percent share about 20 percent; the bottom 50 percent, just 12 percent.

But the problem isn’t that we have inequality. Some inequality is intrinsic to any high-functioning capitalist economy. The problem is that inequality is at historically high levels and getting worse every day. Our country is rapidly becoming less a capitalist society and more a feudal society. Unless our policies change dramatically, the middle class will disappear, and we will be back to late 18th-century France. Before the revolution.

And so I have a message for my fellow filthy rich, for all of us who live in our gated bubble worlds: Wake up, people. It won’t last.

If we don’t do something to fix the glaring inequities in this economy, the pitchforks are going to come for us. No society can sustain this kind of rising inequality. In fact, there is no example in human history where wealth accumulated like this and the pitchforks didn’t eventually come out. You show me a highly unequal society, and I will show you a police state. Or an uprising. There are no counterexamples. None. It’s not if, it’s when.

Many of us think we’re special because “this is America.” We think we’re immune to the same forces that started the Arab Spring—or the French and Russian revolutions, for that matter. I know you fellow .01%ers tend to dismiss this kind of argument; I’ve had many of you tell me to my face I’m completely bonkers. And yes, I know there are many of you who are convinced that because you saw a poor kid with an iPhone that one time, inequality is a fiction.

Here’s what I say to you: You’re living in a dream world. What everyone wants to believe is that when things reach a tipping point and go from being merely crappy for the masses to dangerous and socially destabilizing, that we’re somehow going to know about that shift ahead of time. Any student of history knows that’s not the way it happens. Revolutions, like bankruptcies, come gradually, and then suddenly. One day, somebody sets himself on fire, then thousands of people are in the streets, and before you know it, the country is burning. And then there’s no time for us to get to the airport and jump on our Gulfstream Vs and fly to New Zealand. That’s the way it always happens. If inequality keeps rising as it has been, eventually it will happen. We will not be able to predict when, and it will be terrible—for everybody. But especially for us

***

The most ironic thing about rising inequality is how completely unnecessary and self-defeating it is. If we do something about it, if we adjust our policies in the way that, say, Franklin D. Roosevelt did during the Great Depression—so that we help the 99 percent and preempt the revolutionaries and crazies, the ones with the pitchforks—that will be the best thing possible for us rich folks, too. It’s not just that we’ll escape with our lives; it’s that we’ll most certainly get even richer.

Nick Hanauer is a Seattle-based entrepreneur.

- to the original: :arrow:

 

STORY TWO:

- The second story is quite long and it is written in three parts.  You can catch the drift of what it is about by reading the titles of the three sections, just below.

- Clicking on any of the three titles will take you to that section of the overall article.   And, these three sections are, themselves, excerpts from the book that David DeGraw is writing called, The Economics of Revolution.

1. Peak Inequality: The .o1% And The Impoverishment Of Society

2. Conditioned Consciousness: How The .01% Gets Away With Trillions

3. The Coming Revolution: Evolutionary Leap or Descent Into Chaos and Violence

- research thanks to Kathy G.

 

 

Pentagon: global warming will change how US military trains and goes to war

October 15th, 2014

“The Pentagon was first instructed by Congress in 2007 to incorporate climate change into its long-term security planning.

But Republicans in Congress have gone on to block the military from preparing for a warmer future, cutting funds for intelligence gathering or testing low-carbon jet fuels.”

As I’ve said, the climate change nay-sayers no longer have to just sow doubt about the scientific consensus, now they have to confront the world’s militaries and insurance industries – both of which don’t care a fig about political spin.  And both of which who have to ‘get it right’ or their very missions or survival are on the line.

- dennis

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Global warming is changing the way the US trains for and goes to war – affecting war games, weapons systems, training exercises, and military installations – according to the Pentagon.

The defence secretary, Chuck Hagel, will tell a high-level meeting of military leaders on Monday that the Pentagon is undertaking sweeping changes to operation systems and installations to keep up with a growing threat of rising seas, droughts, and natural disasters caused by climate change.

“A changing climate will have real impacts on our military and the way it executes its missions,” Hagel wrote in his introduction to a Pentagon report out today. “We are considering the impacts of climate change in our war games and defence planning scenarios.”

The Pentagon’s strategic planners have for years viewed climate change as a “threat multiplier”– worsening old conflicts and potentially provoking new clashes over migration and shortages of food and water in the Middle East, Africa and Asia, and opening up new military challenges in a melting Arctic.

But with Monday’s report, climate change moved from potential threat to an immediate factor in a wide range of operational and budgeting decisions.

“It makes it a reality that climate change indeed is a risk today, and we need to plan, programme and budget for it now and into the future,” said Sherri Goodman, chief executive of the military advisory board, a group of former generals and other high-ranking officers that studies US national security.

The report – unveiled at a meeting of more than 30 defence ministers from the Americas and Europe – also signalled US intention to take a lead role at international climate negotiations in Lima in December.

From now on, the military will factor climate change into a host of day-to-day decisions, a senior defence official told a conference call with reporters.

“It’s about being baked into things we are already doing, and incorporated into all the other things we are doing,” he said.

Those decisions could include war games, training exercises, and purchasing decisions – which could all be affected by conditions such as sea-level rise, heat waves, and drought.

War games scenarios would now factor in floods or storms instead of assuming optimal conditions, said Goodman. “You could make the game more complex with sea-level rise, and extreme weather events.”

She said the navy would have to test sonar and other systems under the changing ocean chemistry. The military will have to adapt to hotter temperatures.

One of the biggest and most costly decisions ahead is the location of some 7,000 US military sites.

As the report acknowledged, US military installations and personnel are already exposed to climate change. The Hampton Roads area in Virginia – which houses the biggest concentration of US forces – already floods during high tides and severe storms, and could see an additional 1.5 feet of sea level rise in the next 20 years.

Meanwhile, military bases in the south-west are coping with water and electricity shortages, under recurring droughts. Arctic land-based installations are shifting because of melting permafrost, while retreating sea ice is changing naval requirements.

The Pentagon is not planning a wholesale relocation of bases, the officials told the call. But they said the military was already bringing in sandbags and moving generators out of basements in low-lying areas. It was also shelving ideas for new construction on flood plains.

Other potential changes include cuts to outdoor training exercises – because of heat waves, or increased weapons maintenance costs and repairs because of heat and dust.

“As we think about changing weather patterns we have to think hard about where operations might be conducted and whether we need to change the assumptions about what kind of air breathing conditions … what kind of sea state we might expect in an operating environment, and what impact they might have.”

The report said troops could also be at greater risk of infectious diseases, which spread more rapidly in hotter temperatures.

Hagel in comments to reporters at the weekend said the Pentagon anticipated an increase in humanitarian missions, because of natural disasters and recurring famines.

He also said the Arctic presented a growing military challenge.

“We see an Arctic that is melting, meaning that most likely a new sea lane will emerge,” he said. “We know that there are significant minerals and natural deposits of oil and natural gas there. That means that nations will compete for those natural resources. That’s never been an issue before. You couldn’t get up there and get anything out of there. We have to manage through what those conditions and new realities are going to bring in the way of potential threats.”

The Pentagon was first instructed by Congress in 2007 to incorporate climate change into its long-term security planning.

But Republicans in Congress have gone on to block the military from preparing for a warmer future, cutting funds for intelligence gathering or testing low-carbon jet fuels.

Officials told the call that planning for the future would help bring down climate-related costs.

“There is a lot you can do to mitigate risk and lower the cost of risks if you acknowledge the risk exists,” the officials said.

- to the original:  :arrow:

 

Crypto phones and dubious cell phone towers

September 4th, 2014

HackedPhoneMysterious Phony Cell Towers Could Be Intercepting Your Calls

Every smart phone has a secondary OS, which can be hijacked by high-tech hackers

Like many of the ultra-secure phones that have come to market in the wake of Edward Snowden’s leaks, the CryptoPhone 500, which is marketed in the U.S. by ESD America and built on top of an unassuming Samsung Galaxy SIII body, features high-powered encryption. Les Goldsmith, the CEO of ESD America, says the phone also runs a customized or “hardened” version of Android that removes 468 vulnerabilities that his engineering team team found in the stock installation of the OS.

His mobile security team also found that the version of the Android OS that comes standard on the Samsung Galaxy SIII leaks data to parts unknown 80-90 times every hour.  That doesn’t necessarily mean that the phone has been hacked, Goldmsith says, but the user can’t know whether the data is beaming out from a particular app, the OS, or an illicit piece of spyware.  His clients want real security and control over their device, and have the money to pay for it.

To show what the CryptoPhone can do that less expensive competitors cannot, he points me to a map that he and his customers have created, indicating 17 different phony cell towers known as “interceptors,” detected by the CryptoPhone 500 around the United States during the month of July alone. Once the phone connects with the interceptor, a variety of “over-the-air” attacks become possible, from eavesdropping on calls and texts to pushing spyware to the device.

“Interceptor use in the U.S. is much higher than people had anticipated,” Goldsmith says.  “One of our customers took a road trip from Florida to North Carolina and he found 8 different interceptors on that trip.  We even found one at South Point Casino in Las Vegas.”

- More… :arrow:

- 16Sep14 – More on this story… :arrow:

Thoughts from friends

August 24th, 2014

- I have some excellent friends,   People whose thoughts and minds I admire for many reasons.   We do not always agree on all things but I always respect their thought processes and their integrity.

- I’ve occasionally posted things here on Samadhisoft that my friends have written to me in personal correspondence.  Today, I’m going to do so again. With a few changes to remove names and identifying E-Mail addresses, I should be able to publish their words and still leave the authors anonymous.

- To set the stage, the first E-Mail here was between myself and a friend who is from India but now lives in the U.S.  He and I are discussing the election of India’s newest Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, and other various subjects.  

- Later, I forwarded my Indian friend’s  E-Mail to another astute friend of mine, an American, and I found his comments to be highly interesting and thoughtful as well.

- All of it is good food for thought and I hope you find it so as well.

- dennis

= = = = = = = = = = = = =Round one  = = = = = = = = = = = =

This original thread began because I’d commented to my Indian friend on a story I’d seen in the UK’s Guardian newspaper.  It might help to read that article to place the following discussions in context.

http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2012/mar/14/new-india-gujarat-massacre

My friend’s response:

Hi Dennis,

Modi as Chief Minister of Gujarat…well, he is the product of RSS, a Hindu outfit which has existed for at least 70 years. There were riots, and Muslims died. Since then  the arguments rage if he really turned a blind eye to them. A Muslim MP, Ehsan Jaffri, in whose home many Muslims felt safe, was torched alive, and there was a massacre. His widow is still fighting it out in various courts.

But you have to understand a few things also. Hindus are in majority in India, and highly divided in their votes. Muslims, a minority,  are mainly used as vote banks by various “secular” political parties.

So the politicians promote the already existing cultural differences between the two religions. It is easy to fan flames because the formation of Pakistan in 1947 was a bloody carving out of Indian flesh, and thousand s died, and books like Tamas, and A train to Pakistan and various movies have kept the flames alive, and there are people still alive who have seen the carnage. Only when they are all dead, can this holocaust be forgotten.

To woo Muslims to use as election fodder, various political parties offer them freebies which are the cause of angst among Hindus. The Muslims don’t’ help either. They can marry Hindu girls after converting them to Islam, but woe betide the house in which a Hindu boy marries a Muslim girl! They can marry four times,bringing home 4 wives, –which is the origin of Modi’s statement “we five, breeding twenty five”. Hindus can marry only once, and there is a real fear that in time, Mulsims may outnumber Hindus.

Next, they are not so educated, preferring to go to work (like China’s home factories) and they fight everything modern. For instance, Polio drops, photographing humans and contraceptives are against their religion. Because the Holy Qoran says so!!! So say the Maulvis! Of course, Muslims don’t read the book to verify the statements. And can you imagine the living standard of a little educated household, having 5-6 children, and adults?

Then, the triple Talaq. Any man can divorce his wife just by saying Talaq thrice. No maintenance, no support  of any sort. And very few of their women are literate or have any skill except the domestic ones.

All these horrify us. Look, my family rented out two rooms on the ground floor to a Muslim couple. They mentioned kids, and we thought that it would be the normal 1-2. In two rooms, one kitchen and one bathroom, the couple, their four sons, two of them with wives, with four small kids of their own, live! Can you imagine that? We tried to get rid of them, by telling them to go, and raising their rent to triple the normal…no effect. Every Sunday when they hang out their washing, it looks like the laundry of a major hospital! They have no furniture, and when I step into their rooms, frankly everything stinks.

And whenever there is an India-Pakistan match, Muslims cheer for Pakistanis! In a war, they hope Pakistan wins! Every terrorist apprehended in India, (except the group responsible for the Samjhauta Train bombing) are Muslims–fighting a Holy War against their own country.

All the other religions here Hinduism, Buddhism, Sikhism and Jainism have originated here. Christianity and Islam have originated in the deserts of Israel and Arabia. We don’t relate to the stories–of deserts and tribes etc. But the Christians are doing good work–Mother Teresa, and many others here. Most of us have attended Christian churches and go to Christian hospitals.

The Muslims have spewed nothing but hatred. I have spent 12 years in Hyderabad, where there is a majority of Muslims, and I know what I am writing about. Many Hindu girls used to be kidnapped–and sold to Arabian Sheikhs.

A typical Hindu family consists of husband- wife, his parents, and their children–about one or two. Frankly we can’t afford more, because we have to educate the kids, build a home, look after our parents, and save for the future. We have to have furniture, all the modern gadgets, and a vibrant social life.

Well, previously, though tensions simmered, these problems were solved by walled cities within cities–the Hindu area, and the Muslim area. But since their home factories started manufacturing bombs–can you imagine, in a one and a half room apartment in Mumbai, a husband-wife, and their daughter and son put together bombs, and placed them in crowded areas in Mumbai, killing many people. The women wore the long black veil in trial court–they are too modest to show their faces, but not too modest to plant bombs!–sympathy for them has fast eroded.

We are in the majority, so we have to keep quiet–as human rights exist only for the minorities!

Now for the first time, there is a leader in India who is a Hindu, and proudly so.

Is he Hitler? Only time will tell!

But he is not corrupt personally–no personal life, no property, does not drink, smoke, is a vegetarian..and is highly popular in his home state which is the most developed one in the country–building canals across deserts, flyovers, a safe and single window clearance for investors…it is the only state where you can call up a government official over the phone and ask for information, and he will either let you know, or promise to research and call you back–and does that. ( I tried it). No corruption is tolerated in Gujarat.

And Modi is promising that for the rest of India…and even Muslims agree that development will include them.

There are other religions in India too. Parsees the fireworshippers, descendents of Zoroastrians, Jews, atheists..so silent that we don’t even realize that they are different….until they occupy the top posts…Field Marshal Sam Manekshaw, many army officers, bankers the Wadia family, the Tatas….they do good, always.

The Jews are on record stating that India is the only country where they have never been persecuted. In the Mumbai blasts, a synagogue was attacked and the young Rabbi family was killed–by Muslim terrorists from Pakistan.

We have had no problem with anyone because: they want the same thing every same person wishes for–to live in peace, in his or her own way. India, under Hindus has never attacked any other country in the last 10,000 years of its existence.

Muslims? They call all non-believers Kafirs. Their religion ensures Jannat (Paradise) for anyone who kills Kafirs. (This is not in the Holy Qoran–I read it.) But they believe all their Maulvis tell them. Kasab, the terrorist taken alive in Mumbai blasts, thought that the dead bodies of those who were ‘martyred’ while killing Kafirs–in Jihad (Holy War)– would never rot, but keep giving off a scent like roses. Till the Judgement Day, so that Allah can recognize them and reward them with Paradise. He broke down when he was shown the decomposing bodies of his comrades

They believe that all knowledge is in the Qoran. If it is not there, it is not knowledge, but the Shaitan (Satan) at work, gulling us.

Muslims used to work in the Gulf countries, and many other nations, as blue collar workers. In my childhood in Hyderabad, the richest people were Muslims, who sent home money in dollars.

Now they are welcome –nowhere. Non-Muslims in India–the educated workers employed in various industries in the whole world, are the ones doing well now. Many countries balk in issuing visas to Muslims and Pakistanis.

When a bill was moved in the parliament to settle alimony on a divorced Muslim woman, it was opposed. Unislamic!  Such women are a burden on their families, or forced into petty crime.

France is having trouble with the veil.

All of these are shaping the psyche of the youth. Many Muslim engineers are working to destabilize India–bombs, arson, cybercrime etc. It is just as though they could have been good , but something in their chromosomes does not let them be.

Of course, not all Muslims are bad.  But since all the bad guys are Muslims, this has cast a pall over them all.

- and thus ends my Indian friend’s E-Mail.

= = = = = = = = = = = Round two = = = = = = = = = = =

- And here begin my second friend’s comments:

Dennis, thanks for this.  I found [your friend’s] message interesting.  I don’t know a lot about Indian culture, but as you know I studied religion in college, and India is both crucible and carnival when it comes to religious beliefs, a birthplace and meeting place.  This has been true for millennia.

I share [your friend’s] leeriness when it comes to Islam.  Oh, not those Muslims who practice a watered-down version of their religion, as many do in the West — I fear the fundamentalists.  Actually I consider fundamentalists of any religious stripe dangerous.  I have always said religion is fine — as long as it is kept in a cage with all its teeth pulled out.

To the degree that religion addresses deep existential issues — “Why are we here?” — it is not just beneficial, but inevitable.  It answers a deep-seated need in people, and a society that relentlessly suppresses religion or outlaws it (the Soviets, the Nazis) at some point goes off the rails.

Americans in the U.S. have lived in a religiously pluralistic and tolerant society for so long, they don’t always keenly appreciate the dangers here, until there is a Waco compound incident.

If people relinquish control of their lives by handing themselves over, body and soul, to a religious paradigm, then they leave themselves vulnerable to the a-rational (and therefore potentially ir-rational) components of religion.

Religion is like alcohol — a moderate amount makes life more pleasant and is even good for you; too much is a scourge.

What I believe is that a society must be guided by a strong civic spirit, that civility is crowned queen of the virtues.  Why?  Because otherwise, we’re blowing up buses.  Religious fervor is not the only fuel for such evil — the Nazis were secular and they shoveled people into ovens — but religious fundamentalists are often troublesome.  I am not thinking of the Amish and Mennonite communities, which embrace a living-apart ethos; I’m thinking of those Muslims and Christians who, on the basis of their faith, feel compelled to violently re-make the world around them.  They disrupt civil society because they consider it sinful.  They do not want people to have freedom, because that freedom can only be used to veer away from God’s will (however that is defined).

This is why I am not in favor of unbridled pluralism: not all beliefs or views should be tolerated, but rather only those that are compatible with the ongoing health and welfare of society.  Do not harbor those who would destroy you!  Why should you?  Throw ‘em out!  Anyone who advocates violence or terrorism is a terrorist, regardless of the etiology of their beliefs.

In other words, I don’t care if you consider yourself a Muslim, Christian, Militant Taoist… if you advocate violence against people, your ideology and organization must be contained and disposed of, its leaders imprisoned, monitored, exiled, in rare cases perhaps executed (a dead person has no ability to act; their volition is utterly neutralized).  This is for the good of the whole.

If I were king, religious groups would be monitored. Those leaders preaching violent fundamentalism would literally be apprehended in the dark of night, along with their spouses and children, and processed out — assets frozen, imprisoned, documented, exiled, banned from the United States.  The phones of their friends and family would be tapped and they would be monitored. Those who crossed the line would face the same fate as their leaders.  Those found with bombs or weapons would be imprisoned and perhaps executed as enemies of a free society.

If this sounds like some paranoid, McCarthy-esque totalitarianism, I can only say that I think such an extreme response is merited by religious fundamentalists.  They’re dangerous.  Not because their beliefs are odd.  Strangeness of beliefs (virgin births, golden tablets buried in the Earth, alien overlords) are the stuff of religion.  It is the posture the religion takes towards greater society that is the issue. Those who prepare to make war must be treated as traitors and enemy combatants.  Because that’s what they are…

As for [your friend’s] comments… a world where radical Muslims are not welcome anywhere… where does that lead?  Either they abandon their beliefs in order to live more fulfilling lives, or they gravitate into increasingly hermetic, tightly-wound, and shrill communities, even more prone to violence.  The status quo is dangerous.  India should ban radical imams, mullahs, ulamas, and their madrassas, because they are just fuel for the fire.  You want to be a radical Muslim?  Move to Pakistan.  We don’t want you here in the world’s largest democracy; this place is for those who want to live in peace with each other.

I read a commentary a few weeks ago written by a Christian Pakistani, a medical student, who made it clear that Pakistan is an extreme and benighted society held back by its religious fundamentalism and intolerance.  So he fled to the West, and is now a med student at Columbia.  We have one more doctor, Pakistan took another step towards the 12th century. And you know what?  That’s their choice.  As long as they remember we have a nuclear knife at their throat and they better never mess with us, as long as they are afraid of us, I don’t care what they do. You don’t talk to crazy people, you contain them.

This is why borders still matter: they are more importantly boundaries of culture than boundaries of trade and resources.  And culture trumps.

- and so my second friend’s e-mail ends.

- The world is a complex place with so many points of view.   I strongly agree with the second writer; we should have no place for those who will not allow us our freedoms to live and let live and to respect each others beliefs.  I do not want to return to the past.
- dennis

U.S. censors what its military personel can read

August 22nd, 2014

- Ominous.

- I’ve thought for sometime now that the U.S. military would eventually try to block access by soldiers to social commentary and criticism so that they would remain motivated if they are asked to go out and suppress social unrest in the U.S. 

- To be fair, in this article they are suppressing a different kind of information. But the principle is the same and what we see here will be the thin edge of the wedge making its entry.

- The kind of unrest we’re talking about here is what will surface in the U.S. eventually, if the gap between the rich and poor keeps growing, if the weakening of the U.S. dollar keeps undermining the very fabric of people’s entire financial lives (even as the wealthy walk away with immense profits) and if the growing threats of climate change are not addressed and hundreds of thousands of people along the U.S. coastlines begin to find their lives, their futures and their properties vanishing beneath the rising waters.

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cyber_censorshipThe U.S. military is banning and blocking employees from visiting The Intercept in an apparent effort to censor news reports that contain leaked government secrets.

According to multiple military sources, a notice has been circulated to units within the Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marine Corps warning staff that they are prohibited from reading stories published by The Intercept on the grounds that they may contain classified information. The ban appears to apply to all employees—including those with top-secret security clearance—and is aimed at preventing classified information from being viewed on unclassified computer networks, even if it is freely available on the internet. Similar military-wide bans have been directed against news outlets in the past after leaks of classified information.

A directive issued to military staff at one location last week, obtained by The Intercept, threatens that any employees caught viewing classified material in the public domain will face “long term security issues.” It suggests that the call to prohibit employees from viewing the website was made by senior officials over concerns about a “potential new leaker” of secret documents.

The directive states:

We have received information from our higher headquarters regarding a potential new leaker of classified information.  Although no formal validation has occurred, we thought it prudent to warn all employees and subordinate commands.  Please do not go to any website entitled “The Intercept” for it may very well contain classified material.

As a reminder to all personnel who have ever signed a non-disclosure agreement, we have an ongoing responsibility to protect classified material in all of its various forms.  Viewing potentially classified material (even material already wrongfully released in the public domain) from unclassified equipment will cause you long term security issues.  This is considered a security violation.

A military insider subject to the ban said that several employees expressed concerns after being told by commanders that it was “illegal and a violation of national security” to read publicly available news reports on The Intercept.

“Even though I have a top secret security clearance, I am still forbidden to read anything on the website,” said the source, who spoke on condition of anonymity due to the sensitivity of the subject.  “I find this very disturbing that they are threatening us and telling us what websites and news publishers we are allowed to read or not.”

- Click the arrow for more of this story… :arrow:

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- Here’s another news article, below, that reveals that the Pentagon is preparing for mass civil insurrection in the U.S.   The combination of the information these two articles is interesting in it implications.

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Pentagon preparing for mass civil breakdown

Social science is being militarised to develop ‘operational tools’ to target peaceful activists and protest movements

30592minervaDOD_678x320_frontA US Department of Defense (DoD) programme is funding universities to model the dynamics, risks and tipping points for large-scale civil unrest across the world, under the supervision of various agencies. The multi-million dollar program is designed to develop immediate and long-term “warfighter-relevant insights” for senior officials and decision makers in “the defense policy community,” and to inform policy implemented by “combatant commands.”

Launched in 2008 – the year of the global banking crisis – the DoD ‘Minerva Research Initiative’ partners with universities “to improve DoD’s basic understanding of the social, cultural, behavioral, and political forces that shape regions of the world of strategic importance to the US.”

Among the projects awarded for the period 2014-2017 is a Cornell University-led study managed by the US Air Force Office of Scientific Research which aims to develop an empirical model “of the dynamics of social movement mobilisation and contagions.” The project will determine “the critical mass (tipping point)” of social contagians by studying their “digital traces” in the cases of “the 2011 Egyptian revolution, the 2011 Russian Duma elections, the 2012 Nigerian fuel subsidy crisis and the 2013 Gazi park protests in Turkey.”

Twitter posts and conversations will be examined “to identify individuals mobilised in a social contagion and when they become mobilised.”

Another project awarded this year to the University of Washington “seeks to uncover the conditions under which political movements aimed at large-scale political and economic change originate,” along with their “characteristics and consequences.” The project, managed by the US Army Research Office, focuses on “large-scale movements involving more than 1,000 participants in enduring activity,” and will cover 58 countries in total.

- Click the arrow for more of this story… :arrow:

Why the Security of USB Is Fundamentally Broken

August 11th, 2014

- If you liked what I posted yesterday, you’l love today.

- dennis

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Computer users pass around USB sticks like silicon business cards. Although we know they often carry malware infections, we depend on antivirus scans and the occasional reformatting to keep our thumbdrives from becoming the carrier for the next digital epidemic. But the security problems with USB devices run deeper than you think: Their risk isn’t just in what they carry, it’s built into the core of how they work.

That’s the takeaway from findings security researchers Karsten Nohl and Jakob Lell plan to present next week, demonstrating a collection of proof-of-concept malicious software that highlights how the security of USB devices has long been fundamentally broken. The malware they created, called BadUSB, can be installed on a USB device to completely take over a PC, invisibly alter files installed from the memory stick, or even redirect the user’s internet traffic. Because BadUSB resides not in the flash memory storage of USB devices, but in the firmware that controls their basic functions, the attack code can remain hidden long after the contents of the device’s memory would appear to the average user to be deleted. And the two researchers say there’s no easy fix: The kind of compromise they’re demonstrating is nearly impossible to counter without banning the sharing of USB devices or filling your port with superglue.

“These problems can’t be patched,” says Nohl, who will join Lell in presenting the research at the Black Hat security conference in Las Vegas. “We’re exploiting the very way that USB is designed.”

‘IN THIS NEW WAY OF THINKING, YOU HAVE TO CONSIDER A USB INFECTED AND THROW IT AWAY AS SOON AS IT TOUCHES A NON-TRUSTED COMPUTER.’

Nohl and Lell, researchers for the security consultancy SR Labs, are hardly the first to point out that USB devices can store and spread malware. But the two hackers didn’t merely copy their own custom-coded infections into USB devices’ memory. They spent months reverse engineering the firmware that runs the basic communication functions of USB devices—the controller chips that allow the devices to communicate with a PC and let users move files on and off of them. Their central finding is that USB firmware, which exists in varying forms in all USB devices, can be reprogrammed to hide attack code. “You can give it to your IT security people, they scan it, delete some files, and give it back to you telling you it’s ‘clean,’” says Nohl. But unless the IT guy has the reverse engineering skills to find and analyze that firmware, “the cleaning process doesn’t even touch the files we’re talking about.”

The problem isn’t limited to thumb drives. All manner of USB devices from keyboards and mice to smartphones have firmware that can be reprogrammed—in addition to USB memory sticks, Nohl and Lell say they’ve also tested their attack on an Android handset plugged into a PC. And once a BadUSB-infected device is connected to a computer, Nohl and Lell describe a grab bag of evil tricks it can play. It can, for example, replace software being installed with with a corrupted or backdoored version. It can even impersonate a USB keyboard to suddenly start typing commands. “It can do whatever you can do with a keyboard, which is basically everything a computer does,” says Nohl.

The malware can silently hijack internet traffic too, changing a computer’s DNS settings to siphon traffic to any servers it pleases. Or if the code is planted on a phone or another device with an internet connection, it can act as a man-in-the-middle, secretly spying on communications as it relays them from the victim’s machine.

Most of us learned long ago not to run executable files from sketchy USB sticks. But old-fashioned USB hygiene can’t stop this newer flavor of infection: Even if users are aware of the potential for attacks, ensuring that their USB’s firmware hasn’t been tampered with is nearly impossible. The devices don’t have a restriction known as “code-signing,” a countermeasure that would make sure any new code added to the device has the unforgeable cryptographic signature of its manufacturer. There’s not even any trusted USB firmware to compare the code against.

The element of Nohl and Lell’s research that elevates it above the average theoretical threat is the notion that the infection can travel both from computer to USB and vice versa. Any time a USB stick is plugged into a computer, its firmware could be reprogrammed by malware on that PC, with no easy way for the USB device’s owner to detect it. And likewise, any USB device could silently infect a user’s computer. “It goes both ways,” Nohl says. “Nobody can trust anybody.”

- More… :arrow:

 

Leaked docs show spyware used to snoop on US computers

August 10th, 2014

- Truly, I think we have less and less of a chance to keep our computers secure and our communications private.  If we haven’t been hacked, it is only because there are so many of us and so few hackers/criminals to go around.   Or it’s because we have not sufficiently irritated someone in the officialdom enclosing us.

- Personally, I am considering setting up from scratch (wipe the disk and install a virgin copy of the operating system) one specific computer for my essential banking and financial activities.   This machine would be only used for these activities and nothing else.  I’ll keep its anti-vius and malware defenses fully updated and, when I am not using it, it will be turned off and disconnected.   And, when I do use it, I will shut off and disconnect the other systems on my LAN in case they are infected.

- I’m also considering changing all my passwords as well.

- Paranoid or playing the odds?  I think it is hard to tell but the saying ‘better safe than sorry’ does come to mind.

- And should I not worry so much and simply assume that my government will look out for me?  

- I Don’t think so.  They are too busy doing the bidding the corporate world.  And I am irrelevant to the corporate world useless they can use me  somehow to increase their profits.

- Nope, other than me, nobody else has my back on this.  And those who think it isn’t so will eventually find out the truth the hard way.

- dennis

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imagesSoftware created by the controversial UK-based Gamma Group International was used to spy on computers that appear to be located in the United States, the UK, Germany, Russia, Iran, and Bahrain, according to a leaked trove of documents analyzed by ProPublica.

It’s not clear whether the surveillance was conducted by governments or private entities. Customer e-mail addresses in the collection appeared to belong to a German surveillance company, an independent consultant in Dubai, the Bosnian and Hungarian Intelligence services, a Dutch law enforcement officer, and the Qatari government.

The leaked files—which were posted online by hackers—are the latest in a series of revelations about how state actors including repressive regimes have used Gamma’s software to spy on dissidents, journalists, and activist groups.

The documents, leaked last Saturday, could not be readily verified, but experts told ProPublica they believed them to be genuine. “I think it’s highly unlikely that it’s a fake,” said Morgan Marquis-Bore, a security researcher who while at The Citizen Lab at the University of Toronto had analyzed Gamma Group’s software and who authored an article about the leak on Thursday.

The documents confirm many details that have already been reported about Gamma, such as that its tools were used to spy on Bahraini activists. Some documents in the trove contain metadata tied to e-mail addresses of several Gamma employees. Bill Marczak, another Gamma Group expert at the Citizen Lab, said that several dates in the documents correspond to publicly known events—such as the day that a particular Bahraini activist was hacked.

Gamma has not commented publicly on the authenticity of the documents. A phone number listed on a Gamma Group website was disconnected. Gamma Group did not respond to e-mail requests for comment.

The leaked files contain more than 40 gigabytes of confidential technical material, including software code, internal memos, strategy reports, and user guides on how touse Gamma Group software suite called FinFisher. FinFisher enables customers to monitor secure Web traffic, Skype calls, webcams, and personal files. It is installed as malware on targets’ computers and cell phones.

price list included in the trove lists a license of the software at almost $4 million.

The documents reveal that Gamma uses technology from a French company called Vupen Security that sells so-called computer “exploits.”

Exploits include techniques called “zero days” for “popular software like Microsoft Office, Internet Explorer, Adobe Acrobat Reader, and many more.” Zero days are exploits that have not yet been detected by the software maker and therefore are not blocked.

Vupen has said publicly that it only sells its exploits to governments, but Gamma may have no such scruples. “Gamma is an independent company that is not bound to any country, governmental organisation, etc.,” says one file in the Gamma Group’s material. At least one Gamma customer listed in the materials is a private security company.

Vupen didn’t respond to a request for comment.

Many of Gamma’s product brochures have previously been published by the Wall Street Journal andWikileaks, but the latest trove shows how the products are getting more sophisticated.

In one document, engineers at Gamma tested a product called FinSpy, which inserts malware onto a user’s machine, and found that it could not be blocked by most antivirus software.

Documents also reveal that Gamma had been working to bypass encryption tools including a mobile phone encryption app, Silent Circle, and were able to bypass the protection given by hard-drive encryption products TrueCrypt and Microsoft’s Bitlocker.

Mike Janke, the CEO of Silent Circle, said in an e-mail that “we have serious doubts about if they were going to be successful” in circumventing the phone software and that Silent Circle is working on bulletproofing its app.

Microsoft did not respond to a request for comment.

The documents also describe a “country-wide” surveillance product called FinFly ISP which promises customers the ability to intercept Internet traffic and masquerade as ordinary websites in order to install malware on a target’s computer.

The most recent date-stamp found in the documents is August 2, coincidung with the first tweet by a parody Twitter account, @GammaGroupPR, which first announced the hack and may be run by the hacker or hackers responsible for the leak.

On Reddit, a user called PhineasFisher claimed responsibility for the leak. “Two years ago their software was found being widely used by governments in the middle east, especially Bahrain, to hack and spy on the computers and phones of journalists and dissidents,” the user wrote. The name on the @GammaGroupPR Twitter account is also “Phineas Fisher.”

GammaGroup, the surveillance company whose documents were released, is no stranger to the spotlight. The security firm F-Secure first reported the purchase of FinFisher software by the Egyptian State Security agency in 2011. In 2012, Bloomberg News and The Citizen Lab showed how the company’s malware was used to target activists in Bahrain.

In 2013, the software company Mozilla sent a cease-and-desist letter to the company after a report by The Citizen Lab showed that a spyware-infected version of the Firefox browser manufactured by Gamma was being used to spy on Malaysian activists.

- To the original:  :arrow: