Sunday, January 30, 2011

Military Intelligence At Work

Investigators have concluded that Army commanders ignored advice not to send to Iraq an Army private who's accused of downloading hundreds of thousands of sensitive reports and diplomatic cables that ended up on the WikiLeaks website.

Pfc. Bradley Manning's direct supervisor warned that Manning had thrown chairs at colleagues and shouted at higher ranking soldiers in the year he was stationed at Fort Drum, N.Y., and advised that Manning shouldn't be sent to Iraq, where his job would entail accessing classified documents through the Defense Department's computer system.

But superior officers decided to ignore the advice because the unit was short of intelligence analysts and needed Manning's skills, two military officials familiar with the investigation told McClatchy.

After Three Years, Another Rat In Downing Street

It looks like British prime minister David Cameron has a new group of foes to contend with.  According to sources, they have cunning, stealth and a strong desire to force their way into the famous Downing Street home in London.

It's not the opposition Labor Party worrying the British leader, but rats-- larges ones seen scuttling outside the door of his official residence.  The rodents have twice been filmed by TV news crews in recent days, prompting Cameron to bring in a specialist rat-catcher and consider whether Downing Street needs a new pet cat.  Previous prime ministers have appointed a "Chief Mouser", with the last holder of the office (a male cat called Humphrey) retiring in 1997.

The last known rat at 10 Downing Street was known to have vacated the premises in June of 2007.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Barack's Got Hosni's Back

I watched Aljazeera coverage of the Egyptian protests this morning (really the best coverage in the U.S. if you can get it).  But it struck me that no where in this mess do you see Obama exerting much leadership.  Where was good ol' Uncle Sam during all this time?  Sitting on the sideline while military forces that it funded in Egypt turned their hoses and tear gas weapons on anti-dictatorship protesters who were exerting their freedom of speech rights against an authoritarian regime.  Using good ol' fashioned American technology, Mubarak cut off the mobile phone networks and all internet traffic.  But despite a plethora of well-intentioned words, Obama essentially stood by the Egyptian dictator-- and in the near future, pictures of the Big O will adorn millions of posters from anti-American political parties across north Africa.

That's right-- the people of the Muslim world finally are standing up for themselves and for freedom, just like King George Bush wanted.  But unfortunately, the United States of America is not joining them.  Yes, yes, yes-- the White House promises there will be a “review” of our relations with the Mubarak regime in the “coming days, but it will be too late.  Egyptians have already stuck their necks out and the U.S. wasn't there.  Credibility gone.  More propaganda for the Muslim Brotherhood.

Friday, January 28, 2011

CNN Manufactures Phony Political News

Almost under the radar, MSNBC's Rachel Maddow has been breaking an incredible news story this week. According to her report (below) CNN has been working with Sal Russo (a GOP consultant from the firm Russo Marsh & Rogers) to create phony political events under the umbrella of the "Tea Party Movement". First was the placement of "embedded" CNN reporters on Russo's made-up "Tea Party Express" bus tour (giving credibility to the bus tour and Fox-like publicity to CNN). Coming up (in the near future) will be a "first-of-its-kind Tea Party presidential primary debate" jointly hosted by CNN.

But what broke the story was the Michelle Bachmann–delivered "Tea Party movement official response" to Obama's state-of-the-union speech. Why was it "official"? Because CNN, who appear to have helped create it, said it was. The speech by wingnut Michelle Bachmann was covered by NO ONE in the news media (as a valid political event) except for CNN-- which had Wolf Blitzer breathless hyping the "event" all during its Tuesday night coverage. CNN commentators and pundits refused to fall for the bullshit-- but each time they called out CNN for its coverage of the phony "response", Wolf changed the subject and segued into a quickie promo of the speech.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Come For The Pyramids, Stay For The Beatings

Police brutality in Egypt is "routine and pervasive" and the use of torture so widespread that the Egyptian government has stopped denying it exists, according to leaked cables released today by WikiLeaks. The police use brutal methods mostly against common criminals to extract confessions, but also against demonstrators, certain political prisoners and unfortunate bystanders.

Under Hosni Mubarak's presidency there had been "no serious effort to transform the police from an instrument of regime power into a public service institution", one cable said. The police's ubiquitous use of force had pervaded Egyptian culture to such an extent that one popular TV soap opera recently featured a police detective hero who beat up suspects to collect evidence.

Some middle-class Egyptians did not report thefts from their apartment blocks because they knew the police would immediately go and torture "all of the doormen." Another cable cited one source who said the police would use routinely electric shocks against suspected criminals, and would beat up human rights lawyers who enter police stations to defend their clients. Women detainees allegedly faced sexual abuse. Demoralized officers felt solving crimes justified brutal interrogation methods, with some believing that Islamic law also sanctioned torture, the cable said.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Ousted Tunisian Government Used Rogue Software To Hijack Protestors' Online Accounts

Malicious code inserted into Tunisian versions of Facebook, Gmail, and Yahoo! stole login credentials of users critical of the North African nation's authoritarian government, according to security experts and news reports.

The rogue JavaScript, which was individually customized to steal passwords for each site, worked when users tried to login without using secure sockets layer protection designed to prevent such "man-in-the-middle" attacks. It was found injected into Tunisian versions of Facebook, Gmail, and Yahoo! in late December-- around the same time that protestors began demanding the ouster of Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali, the president who ruled the country from 1987 until his ouster in mid-January.

According to Danny O'Brien, internet advocacy coordinator for the Committee to Protect Journalists, the script was most likely planted using an internet censorship system that's long been in place to control which internet pages Tunisian citizens can view. Under this theory, people inside Tunisian borders were directed to phony pages that were perfect facsimiles of the targeted sites except that they included the extra forty extra lines of code that stole users' login credentials.

He said similar phishing attempts targeting Tunisian protestors date back to June, and possibly much earlier.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Creating Jobs, GOP Style

When the GOP won back the house last November, they kept saying the first order of business would be to focus on jobs.  Turns out it was pure crap.

First, they staged a pointless "repeal" of the health care law-- which was quickly forgotten, since most Americans favor the policy changes ushered in by that legislation.

The next order of business for the GOP was to monitor everyone's internet usage.  They are now reviving legislation that would require internet providers to maintain 2 years' worth of browsing history for later review by police.

But that's not enough.  Before they tackle job growth, the Republicans want to focus on gay marriage.  They will next pursue new legislation that would reinstate a ban on gay marriage in Washington, DC.

If you're looking to the GOP for a job, all you're going to get is a snow job.

U.S. Can't Link Private Manning To Wikileaks . . . Too Bad!

According to NBC, the U.S. Govt can't link Army private Bradley Manning to Wikileaks, so the bogus case against Assange will ultimately fall apart.  Hopefully, that will turn out to be the case.  From Jim Miklaszewski:

U.S. military officials tell NBC News that investigators have been unable to make any direct connection between a jailed army private suspected with leaking secret documents and Julian Assange, founder of the whistleblowing website WikiLeaks.

The officials say that while investigators have determined that Manning had allegedly unlawfully downloaded tens of thousands of documents onto his own computer and passed them to an unauthorized person, there is apparently no evidence he passed the files directly to Assange, or had any direct contact with the controversial WikiLeaks figure.

The other charge still dogging Assange is the highly questionable sexual misconduct case (frequently misstated as "rape" by the U.S. media).  There are still concerns that if the U.K. folds under Swedish pressure for extradition, the Wikileaks founder would be promptly sent by the conservative Swedes to the U.S. for espionage prosecution.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Remembering JFK

Like Gawker says, insincere college admission essays have been an American tradition since 1935.  Here's what JFK wrote on his Harvard application:

The reasons that I have for wishing to go to Harvard are several. I feel that Harvard can give me a better background and a better liberal education than any other university. I have always wanted to go there, as I have felt that it is not just another college, but is a university with something definite to offer. Then too, I would like to go to the same college as my father. To be a "Harvard man" is an enviable distinction, and one that I sincerely hope I shall attain.

Here's what he had to say on his Princeton application:

My desire to come to Princeton is prompted by a number of reasons. I feel that it can give me a better background and training than any other university, and can give me a true liberal education. Ever since I entered school, I have had the ambition to enter Princeton, and I sincerely hope I can reach my goal. I feel the environment of Princeton is second to none, and cannot but help having a good effect on me. To be a "Princeton Man" is indeed an enviable distinction.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Drastic Measures In Thailand To Save Reefs

Some of Thailand’s most popular diving sites are now off-limits to tourists: Thai officials announced on Thursday that they were restricting access to seven marine national parks for up to a year to prevent further harm to coral reefs severely damaged by a long period of elevated sea temperatures last year.

Reefs are plentiful in Thailand and serve as a major tourist draw, and the announcement met with opposition from some hotel and tourism operators.

More than 80 percent of the corals at 18 dive sites have undergone bleaching, a symptom of severe stress caused by excessively warm water temperatures. Sea surface temperatures in some areas that were damaged were more than seven degrees Fahrenheit above the long-term average last April and May. It is possible for corals to recover from bleaching-- but if the stress is too acute, they die.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Berlusconi Bashing

Bawdy Berlusconi sweats it out
Sex columnist Dan Savage (and editor of the Seattle newsweekly "The Stranger") has written a hilarious send-up of Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi which is now posted on Foreign Policy's website. In the piece ("Confessions of a Sexaholic"),  an anonymous philanderer ("Confused Italian Approaching Obsolescence") tells of his numerous problems-- pesky federal investigators, an ungracious ex-wife,  talkative ex-lovers and young women who are trying to extort money from him to keep their shenanigans on the down low.  Jealous of his powerful friends and wondering whether the teachings from his Catholic upbringing were in fact correct, the writer is concerned that he has lost his "magic touch",  and pens a letter to "Savage Love" asking for advice.   Some choice pearls of wisdom from Savage:
Many social conservatives believe that being gay is a choice. If they're correct, CIAO, and the ladies disappear -- or if you should ever find yourself in a place where there are no ladies (pirate ship, Vatican City, Italian federal prison) -- you will have options.

. . .

Henry Kissinger famously observed that power is the ultimate aphrodisiac. I'm shocked that a man in your position -- you built your own media company, you have the world's seventh-largest GDP at your disposal -- has to pay for it. Bill Clinton and Fran├žois Mitterrand managed to attract "extracurricular women" without having to pay-for-play. Either you're living in a place where there are no women aroused by power (Vatican City?), or you're not nearly as powerful as you think you are (seventh largest? You sure?).

. . .

Your luck, like your wife, stuck around for a long time, CIAO, and things might have stayed as they were, if you hadn't come to see your good fortune as the natural state of things. Once a man does that, CIAO, he can begin to take his luck for granted and to presume upon it. And we all know what happens to men who get overconfident: They get sloppy, they get caught, they get indicted, and sometimes they wind up getting sent places where there are no ladies.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

More Racist Crap From Rick Santorum

Remember Rick Santorum, the Pennsylvanian bigot who was voted out of the Senate in 2006?  Well, he's still making the rounds with hateful shit like the following:

"The question is — and this is what Barack Obama didn't want to answer — is that human life a person under the Constitution? And Barack Obama says no. Well if that person — human life is not a person, then — I find it almost remarkable for a black man to say, 'we're going to decide who are people and who are not people.'"


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