Archive for August, 2011

America in Decline

Friday, August 5th, 2011

This is a repost of the beginning of a piece by Noam Chomsky that appeared today on truthout.

– An excellent piece – especially given that the U.S. lost its AAA credit rating today and the world’s stock markets are in tummult and falling for the last two days.

– I strongly encourage my readers to read it.

– dennis

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Noam Chomsky

Noam Chomsky

“It is a common theme” that the United States, which “only a few years ago was hailed to stride the world as a colossus with unparalleled power and unmatched appeal is in decline, ominously facing the prospect of its final decay,” Giacomo Chiozza writes in the current Political Science Quarterly.

The theme is indeed widely believed. And with some reason, though a number of qualifications are in order. To start with, the decline has proceeded since the high point of U.S. power after World War II, and the remarkable triumphalism of the post-Gulf War ’90s was mostly self-delusion.

Another common theme, at least among those who are not willfully blind, is that American decline is in no small measure self-inflicted. The comic opera in Washington this summer, which disgusts the country and bewilders the world, may have no analogue in the annals of parliamentary democracy.

The spectacle is even coming to frighten the sponsors of the charade. Corporate power is now concerned that the extremists they helped put in office may in fact bring down the edifice on which their own wealth and privilege relies, the powerful nanny state that caters to their interests.

Corporate power’s ascendancy over politics and society – by now mostly financial – has reached the point that both political organizations, which at this stage barely resemble traditional parties, are far to the right of the population on the major issues under debate.

For the public, the primary domestic concern is unemployment. Under current circumstances, that crisis can be overcome only by a significant government stimulus, well beyond the recent one, which barely matched decline in state and local spending – though even that limited initiative probably saved millions of jobs.

For financial institutions the primary concern is the deficit. Therefore, only the deficit is under discussion. A large majority of the population favor addressing the deficit by taxing the very rich (72 percent, 27 percent opposed), reports a Washington Post-ABC News poll. Cutting health programs is opposed by overwhelming majorities (69 percent Medicaid, 78 percent Medicare). The likely outcome is therefore the opposite.

The Program on International Policy Attitudes surveyed how the public would eliminate the deficit. PIPA director Steven Kull writes, “Clearly both the administration and the Republican-led House (of Representatives) are out of step with the public’s values and priorities in regard to the budget.”

The survey illustrates the deep divide: “The biggest difference in spending is that the public favored deep cuts in defense spending, while the administration and the House propose modest increases. The public also favored more spending on job training, education and pollution control than did either the administration or the House.”

– More…

Telex to help defeat web censors

Wednesday, August 3rd, 2011

Developed by US computer scientists the software, called Telex, hides data from banned websites inside traffic from sites deemed safe.

The software draws on well-known encryption techniques to conceal data making it hard to decipher.

So far, Telex is only a prototype but in tests it has been able to defeat Chinese web filters.

Outside in

Telex was developed to get around the problem that stops other anti-censorship technologies being more effective, said Dr Alex Halderman, one of the four-strong team that has worked on Telex since early 2010.

Many existing anti-censorship systems involve connecting to a server or network outside the country in which a user lives.

This approach relies on spreading information about these servers and networks widely enough that citizens hear about them but not so much that censors can find out and block them.

Telex turns this approach on its head, said Dr Halderman.

“Instead of having some server outside the network that’s participating we are doing it in the core of the network,” he said.

Telex exploits the fact that few net-censoring nations block all access and most are happy to let citizens visit a select number of sites regarded as safe.

When a user wants to visit a banned site they initially point their web browser at a safe site. As they connect, Telex software installed on their PC puts a tag or marker on the datastream being sent to that safe destination.

Net routers outside the country recognise that the datastream has been marked and re-direct a request to a banned site. Data from censored webpages is piped back to the user in a datastream disguised to resemble that from safe sites.

– More…

Lulz Security hackers target Sun website

Wednesday, August 3rd, 2011

A group of computer hackers has tampered with the website of the Sun, owned by News International.

A group of computer hackers has tampered with the website of the Sun, owned by News International.

At first, readers were redirected to a hoax story which said Rupert Murdoch had been found dead in his garden.

A group of hackers called Lulz Security, which has previously targeted companies including Sony, said on Twitter it was behind the attack.

Visitors to the Sun website were then redirected to the group’s Twitter page, before News International took it down.

News International said it was “aware” of what was happening but made no further comment.

Readers trying to access were taken to and a story entitled “Media mogul’s body discovered”.

It suggested that Mr Murdoch had been found after he had “ingested a large quantity of palladium”.


After that site stopped working, the Sun’s address was re-directing to LulzSec’s Twitter account, which claimed to be displaying “hacked internal Sun staff data” in one entry.

In another, the group said: “Arrest us. We dare you. We are the unstoppable hacking generation…”

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Governments, IOC and UN hit by massive cyber attack

Wednesday, August 3rd, 2011

IT security firm McAfee claims to have uncovered one of the largest ever series of cyber attacks.

It lists 72 different organisations that were targeted over five years, including the International Olympic Committee, the UN and security firms.

McAfee will not say who it thinks is responsible, but there is speculation that China may be behind the attacks.

Beijing has always denied any state involvement in cyber-attacks, calling such accusations “groundless”.

Speaking to BBC News, McAfee’s chief European technology officer, Raj Samani, said the attacks were still going on.

“This is a whole different level to the Night Dragon attacks that occurred earlier this year. Those were attacks on a specific sector. This one is very, very broad.”

Dubbed Operation Shady RAT – after the remote access tool that security experts and hackers use to remotely access computer networks – the five-year investigation examined information from a number of different organisations which thought they may have been hit.

“From the logs we were able to see where the traffic flow was coming from,” said Mr Samani.

“In some cases, we were permitted to delve a bit deeper and see what, if anything, had been taken, and in many cases we found evidence that intellectual property (IP) had been stolen.

“The United Nations, the Indian government, the International Olympic Committee, the steel industry, defence firms, even computer security companies were hit,” he added.

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Data of Sun website users stolen

Tuesday, August 2nd, 2011

Thousands of people who entered competitions on The Sun website have been warned that their personal information may have been stolen.

The paper’s publisher, News Group, said the data was taken when the site was hacked on 19 July.

Some of the details, including applications for the Miss Scotland contest, have been posted online.

The company said it had reported the matter to the police and the Information Commissioner.

News International, News Group’s parent company, issued a statement that said: “We take customer data extremely seriously and are working with the relevant authorities to resolve this matter.

“We are directly contacting any customer affected by this.”

Miss Scotland

The stolen information is believed to include names, addresses, dates of birth, email addresses and phone numbers.

No financial or password data was compromised, the company said.

A sampling of the stolen details was posted on the document sharing site Pastebin.

The file contained the names and mobile numbers of 14 applicants to the 2010 Miss Scotland contest.

It also included lengthy biographies written by the women, outlining why they should be selected.

One entrant, who did not want to be named, told BBC News: “I’m not happy at all. I’m kind of worried – because that’s everything about me.

“[This data] should have been locked up, this was last year’s, so they didn’t need to keep my details.”

– More…