Sunday, April 20, 2014

It's Sunday

And Easter Sunday at that, for all you Christians


I know, I know.  I'm going to Hell.  Yeah, yeah.

And, happy bunny day to you pagans:

Vintage creepy Easter bunny photos.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Snowden Responds to Criticism of His Putin Question

In answer to my speculation about whether Edward Snowden asked his security question of Russia’s President Putin merely to get an answer on the record, today, the Guardian has a post from Snowden himself.
The question was intended to mirror the now infamous exchange in US Senate intelligence committee hearings between senator Ron Wyden and the director of national intelligence, James Clapper, about whether the NSA collected records on millions of Americans, and to invite either an important concession or a clear evasion.


[If] we are to test the truth of officials' claims, we must first give them an opportunity to make those claims.


In his response, Putin denied the first part of the question and dodged on the latter. There are serious inconsistencies in his denial – and we'll get to them soon – but it was not the president's suspiciously narrow answer that was criticised by many pundits. It was that I had chosen to ask a question at all.


[J]ournalists might ask for clarification as to how millions of individuals' communications are not being intercepted, analysed or stored, when, at least on a technical level, the systems that are in place must do precisely that in order to function. They might ask whether the social media companies reporting that they have received bulk collection requests from the Russian government are telling the truth.

Hopefully, Mr. Snowden will be receiving offers of asylum from and legal passage to other countries soon, because I have a feeling he won’t be getting an extension from Russia now.

Brave and/or foolhardy.

No Need to Curb Environmental Practices That Lead to Global Warming

Astronomers have discovered what they say is the most Earth-like planet yet detected — a distant, rocky world that's similar in size to our own and exists in the Goldilocks zone where it's not too hot or cold to sustain life.


The newfound object, dubbed Kepler-186f, circles a red dwarf star 500 light-years from Earth in the constellation Cygnus. A light-year is almost 6 trillion miles.


The planet is about 10 percent larger than Earth and may very well have liquid water — a key ingredient for life — on its surface, scientists said. That is because it resides at the outer edge of the habitable temperature zone around its star — the sweet spot where lakes, rivers or oceans can exist without freezing solid or boiling away.

The planet probably basks in an orange-red glow from its star and is most likely cooler than Earth, with an average temperature slightly above freezing, "similar to dawn or dusk on a spring day," Marcy said.

Well, there you go. By the time global warming has ruined the earth, what’s left of mankind can head off to New Earth. Party on, Garth.

Fukushima FUBAR

The manager of the stricken Fukushima nuclear power plant has admitted not having full control of the facility. Contrary to the statements of the Japanese PM, TEPCO’s [Tokyo Electric Power Co] Akira Ono said attempts to plug the leaks of radioactive water had failed.

"It's embarrassing to admit, but there are certain parts of the site where we don't have full control," Ono told reporters touring the plant this week, reported Reuters. Last year, the Japanese PM attempted to assure the world that the situation at the stricken nuclear power plant was under control.

”[We] were pressed to build tanks in a rush and may have not paid enough attention to quality. We need to improve quality from here.”


“The ultimate purpose is to prevent contaminated water from going out to the ocean, and in this regard, I believe it is under control,” Ono said. But a series of leaks have obliged officials to “find better ways to handle the water problem.”
Mmmm…where is the leaking water going?
In the latest blunder at the plant, TEPCO mistakenly flooded the Fukushima facility’s basements with radioactive cooling-tank water. Earlier this week the Japanese newspaper the Asahi Shimbun reported that around 200 tons of water had found its way into waste disposal facilities under the power plant. TEPCO said they were working to fix the leakage as soon as possible.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Privatizing the Water Supply

As you know, the world banking industry has its hands in most third world countries' economies, making loans on the condition that the countries introduce extreme austerity and privatization of public resources, including water supplies.

This article will explain the water privatization issue and its obvious problems. The money quote  (pun unintended, but you are welcome to it) for me:
In addition, financing by the IFC, which is both investor and adviser on these projects, poses a conflict of interest. On the one hand, the IFC is advising governments to privatize the sector; on the other, it’s investing in the corporations getting those contracts. “It’s self-dealing: setting up a project that it’s in a position to profit from,” Naficy told me. When the IFC was established in 1956, it was expressly prohibited from purchasing corporate equity to avoid this sort of conflict, but the board amended this rule a few years later, allowing these kinds of deals.

See any problem there?...but hey, do what you will anyway.

And There Will Be More

A new email service that protects its users from the prying eyes of the NSA and other spy agencies has gone online. The service’s creators say it will make encrypted messaging accessible to all and curtail internet snooping.

Germany-based Lavaboom was inspired by Lavabit, the encrypted email service that was believed to have been used by whistleblower Edward Snowden before it shut down its operations in August last year. The service pioneers a new system called “zero-knowledge privacy”, which allows users to personally encrypt and decrypt their mail from their browsers using JavaScript codes.

“Key handling is a very sensitive issue," Lavaboom said in a technical FAQ section on its website. "We let you download your keypair during registration. This is to ensure that your key remains in your possession.”

In this way, the service only acts as a carrier for already encrypted messages which will prevent government agencies from extracting information. It will also mean Lavaboom will be unable to handover unencrypted mails and codes to government agencies if they request them.

Lavaboom is currently in its beta stage of development and plans to offer users free accounts with 250MB of storage space, while subscribers will receive 1GB for around $11 a month.


This Will Have the Heads Screaming

Edward Snowden phoned in via video conference to Russia's President Putin's conversation with the public. He asked if Russia conducts mass surveillance on its citizens. Putin told him they didn't, he hoped they never do, they don't have the money and technical resources that the US has for this type of surveillance anyway, and it's against their law: by law their intelligence services are only allowed to target specific individuals under investigation, and they have to have a court order to do so.

Hey, I think that's the same with us, isn't it?

Perhaps Snowden was just getting the man on record denying it, for future reference if necessary.  At any rate, this will have the intelligence community in the US, including its congressional supporters (both parties) out in force with their panties in a bunch.  He has to know that.

...but hey, do what you will anyway.

UPDATE 4/18:  Snowden responds

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Tangling with the Feds? Get a Lawyer, Early

A federal appeals court has upheld a contempt citation against the founder of the defunct secure e-mail company Lavabit, finding that the weighty internet privacy issues he raised on appeal should have been brought up earlier in the legal process.

The decision disposes of a closely watched privacy case on a technicality, without ruling one way or the other on the substantial issue: whether an internet company can be compelled to turn over the master encryption keys for its entire system to facilitate court-approved surveillance on a single user.


Levison resisted the order on the grounds that he couldn’t comply without reprogramming the elaborate encryption system he’d built to protect his users’ privacy. He eventually relented and offered to gather up the email metadata and transmit it to the government after 60 days. Later he offered to engineer a faster solution. But by then, weeks had passed, and the FBI was determined to get what it wanted directly and in real time.


The government promised it wouldn’t use the key to spy on Lavabit’s other 400,000 users, which the key would technically enable them to do.


[C]ourt filings suggest strongly that the target was indicted NSA leaker Edward Snowden, Lavabit’s most famous user.


Levison turned over the keys as a nearly illegible computer printout in 4-point type. In early August, Hilton – who once served on the top-secret FISA court – ordered Levison to provide the keys instead in the industry-standard electronic format, and began fining him $5,000 a day for noncompliance.

After two days, Levison complied, but then immediately shuttered Lavabit altogether.


[T]he appeals court today said that the bulk of Levison’s arguments couldn’t be considered, because he hadn’t clearly raised them in the lower court, where he represented himself without a lawyer for much of the proceedings.

The 4th Circuit panel wasn’t terribly sympathetic to the privacy issues during oral arguments in the case. So today’s ruling on a procedural technicality is probably for the best. And the next time a secure e-mail provider tangles with the feds, you can bet it will get a lawyer earlier on in the process.

"The privacy issue."  You don't need privacy.  You need authority.

...but hey, do what you will anyway.

Wisconsin Republicans Wastng Time and Taxpayer Money

Wisconsin Republicans will vote next month on whether they support allowing the state to secede from the United States of America. Last month, one of the Republican caucuses in the state passed a resolution asserting the state's right to secede.

Go ahead. Maybe Canada will annex you.

Texas probably had a better chance of making a go of secession. At least they have oil fields.

...but hey, do what you will anyway.

Developments in the Spy on Your Co-worker Program

An executive order signed by President Barack Obama in October 2011 mandated that the government establish an interagency Insider Threat Task Force “for deterring, detecting and mitigating” future potential risks like the one posed a year earlier by Chelsea Manning.


Speaking last week before the Senate, [US Senator Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa)] said that the intelligence community has to confront the “issue of distinguishing a true insider threat from a legitimate whistleblower.”


Grassley said last Thursday that he asked the Federal Bureau of Information for Insider Threat Program training materials four months ago, but was told to schedule a hearing instead to have his questions answered. That event was eventually scheduled for the week prior to last Thursday’s comments, but Grassley now says that not only did the FBI fail to bring the materials he requested to that hearing, but that his attempts to ask the bureau for details directly from the officials in charge of the program quickly fell apart after mere minutes.

“Unfortunately, neither my staff nor Chairman Leahy’s staff was able to learn more, because only about ten minutes into the briefing, the FBI abruptly walked out,” Grassley said. “FBI officials simply refused to discuss any whistleblower implications in its Insider Threat Program and left the room. These are clearly not the actions of an agency that is genuinely open to whistleblowers or whistleblower protection.”

Walked out on a Congressional hearing?  Is that not actionable as contempt?
Indeed, one of the only details he was able to divulge from the director of the Insider Threat Program was a bizarre attempt at reassuring Sen. Grassley that federal whistleblowers are, contrary to his concerns, able to speak up about alleged government malfeasance without fearing they’d be treated as an insider threat or, as WikiLeaks source Chelsea Manning found out, sentenced to decades in prison for publishing state secrets.

According to Grassley, the head of the Insider Threat Program told the staff at the Senate hearing earlier this month ahead of his spontaneous exit “that there was no need to worry about whistleblower communications.”

“He said whistleblowers had to register in order to be protected, and the Insider Threat Program would know to just avoid those people,” Grassley recalled.
Oh, right. I’m gonna register as a whistleblower so I’m easier for the government to tag and bag.
“Those that fight waste, fraud, and abuse in government should be lauded for their patriotism,” [Grassley] said.
Instead of persecuted and prosecuted like Thomas Drake.

...but hey, do what you will anyway.