The U.S. National Security Agency has figured out how to hide spying software deep within hard drives made by Western Digital, Seagate, Toshiba and other top manufacturers, giving the agency the means to eavesdrop on the majority of the world’s computers, according to cyber researchers and former operatives.
That long-sought and closely guarded ability was part of a cluster of spying programs discovered by Kaspersky Lab, the Moscow-based security software maker that has exposed a series of Western cyberespionage operations.
Kaspersky said it found personal computers in 30 countries infected with one or more of the spying programs, with the most infections seen in Iran, followed by Russia, Pakistan, Afghanistan, China, Mali, Syria, Yemen and Algeria. The targets included government and military institutions, telecommunication companies, banks, energy companies, nuclear researchers, media, and Islamic activists, Kaspersky said. (reut.rs/1L5knm0)
The firm declined to publicly name the country behind the spying campaign, but said it was closely linked to Stuxnet, the NSA-led cyberweapon that was used to attack Iran’s uranium enrichment facility. The NSA is the agency responsible for gathering electronic intelligence on behalf of the United States.
A former NSA employee told Reuters that Kaspersky’s analysis was correct, and that people still in the intelligence agency valued these spying programs as highly as Stuxnet. Another former intelligence operative confirmed that the NSA had developed the prized technique of concealing spyware in hard drives, but said he did not know which spy efforts relied on it.
At least 400 non-existent Borak rockets loaded with Sarin nerve gas were secretly purchased and destroyed by the CIA in 2005 and 2006, despite Saddam Hussein’s regime, as we all know, having been merely pretending to possess undeclared WMDs as a bluff.
New York Times:
The Central Intelligence Agency, working with American troops during the occupation of Iraq, repeatedly purchased nerve-agent rockets from a secretive Iraqi seller, part of a previously undisclosed effort to ensure that old chemical weapons remaining in Iraq did not fall into the hands of terrorists or militant groups, according to current and former American officials.
The extraordinary arms purchase plan, known as Operation Avarice, began in 2005 and continued into 2006, and the American military deemed it a nonproliferation success. It led to the United States’ acquiring and destroying at least 400 Borak rockets, one of the internationally condemned chemical weapons that Saddam Hussein’s Baathist government manufactured in the 1980s but that were not accounted for by United Nations inspections mandated after the 1991 Persian Gulf war.
The effort was run out of the C.I.A. station in Baghdad in collaboration with the Army’s 203rd Military Intelligence Battalion and teams of chemical-defense and explosive ordnance disposal troops, officials and veterans of the units said. Many rockets were in poor condition and some were empty or held a nonlethal liquid, the officials said. But others contained the nerve agent sarin, which analysis showed to be purer than the intelligence community had expected given the age of the stock.
The buying of nerve-agent rockets from an Iraqi seller in 2006 was the most significant recovery of chemical weapons until that point in the Iraq War.
A New York Times investigation published in October found that the military had recovered thousands of old chemical warheads and shells in Iraq and that Americans and Iraqis had been wounded by them, but the government kept much of this information secret, from the public and troops alike.
–HL Mencken, Prejudice: Second Series, 1920 “The Cultural Background, The Need for an Aristocracy” also available in A Mencken Chrestomathy, edited by Terry Teachout.
What chiefly distinguishes the daily press of the United States from the press of all other countries pretending to culture is not its lack of truthfulness or even its lack of dignity and honor, but its incurable fear of ideas, its constant effort to evade the discussion of fundamentals by translating all issues into a few elemental fears, its incessant reduction of all reflection to mere emotion. It is, in the true sense, never well-informed. It is seldom intelligent, save in the arts of the mob-master. It is never courageously honest. Held harshly to a rigid correctness of opinion by the plutocracy that controls it with less and less attempt at disguise, and menaced on all sides by censorships that it dare not flout, it sinks rapidly into formalism and feebleness. Its yellow section is perhaps its most respectable section for there the only vestige of the old free journalist survives. In the more conservative papers one finds only a timid and petulant animosity to all questioning of the existing order, however urbane and sincere – a pervasive and ill-concealed dread that the mob now heated up against the orthodox hobgoblins may suddenly begin to unearth hobgoblins of its own, and so run amok.”
Jon Ronson describes, in the Sunday Times Magazine, how the enforcement of political correctness on Twitter via public shaming has sometimes had real consequences.
In the early days of Twitter, I was a keen shamer. When newspaper columnists made racist or homophobic statements, I joined the pile-on. Sometimes I led it. The journalist A. A. Gill once wrote a column about shooting a baboon on safari in Tanzania: “I’m told they can be tricky to shoot. They run up trees, hang on for grim life. They die hard, baboons. But not this one. A soft-nosed .357 blew his lungs out.” Gill did the deed because he “wanted to get a sense of what it might be like to kill someone, a stranger.”
I was among the first people to alert social media. (This was because Gill always gave my television documentaries bad reviews, so I tended to keep a vigilant eye on things he could be got for.) Within minutes, it was everywhere. Amid the hundreds of congratulatory messages I received, one stuck out: “Were you a bully at school?”
Still, in those early days, the collective fury felt righteous, powerful and effective. It felt as if hierarchies were being dismantled, as if justice were being democratized. As time passed, though, I watched these shame campaigns multiply, to the point that they targeted not just powerful institutions and public figures but really anyone perceived to have done something offensive. I also began to marvel at the disconnect between the severity of the crime and the gleeful savagery of the punishment. It almost felt as if shamings were now happening for their own sake, as if they were following a script.
Eventually I started to wonder about the recipients of our shamings, the real humans who were the virtual targets of these campaigns. So for the past two years, I’ve been interviewing individuals like Justine Sacco: everyday people pilloried brutally, most often for posting some poorly considered joke on social media. Whenever possible, I have met them in person, to truly grasp the emotional toll at the other end of our screens. The people I met were mostly unemployed, fired for their transgressions, and they seemed broken somehow — deeply confused and traumatized. …
I met a man who, in early 2013, had been sitting at a conference for tech developers in Santa Clara, Calif., when a stupid joke popped into his head. It was about the attachments for computers and mobile devices that are commonly called dongles. He murmured the joke to his friend sitting next to him, he told me. “It was so bad, I don’t remember the exact words,” he said. “Something about a fictitious piece of hardware that has a really big dongle, a ridiculous dongle. . . . It wasn’t even conversation-level volume.”
Moments later, he half-noticed when a woman one row in front of them stood up, turned around and took a photograph. He thought she was taking a crowd shot, so he looked straight ahead, trying to avoid ruining her picture. It’s a little painful to look at the photograph now, knowing what was coming.
The woman had, in fact, overheard the joke. She considered it to be emblematic of the gender imbalance that plagues the tech industry and the toxic, male-dominated corporate culture that arises from it. She tweeted the picture to her 9,209 followers with the caption: “Not cool. Jokes about . . . ‘big’ dongles right behind me.” Ten minutes later, he and his friend were taken into a quiet room at the conference and asked to explain themselves. Two days later, his boss called him into his office, and he was fired.
“I packed up all my stuff in a box,” he told me. (Like Stone and Sacco, he had never before talked on the record about what happened to him. He spoke on the condition of anonymity to avoid further damaging his career.) “I went outside to call my wife. I’m not one to shed tears, but” — he paused — “when I got in the car with my wife I just. . . . I’ve got three kids. Getting fired was terrifying.”
The woman who took the photograph, Adria Richards, soon felt the wrath of the crowd herself. The man responsible for the dongle joke had posted about losing his job on Hacker News, an online forum popular with developers. This led to a backlash from the other end of the political spectrum. So-called men’s rights activists and anonymous trolls bombarded Richards with death threats on Twitter and Facebook. Someone tweeted Richards’s home address along with a photograph of a beheaded woman with duct tape over her mouth. Fearing for her life, she left her home, sleeping on friends’ couches for the remainder of the year.
Next, her employer’s website went down. Someone had launched a DDoS attack, which overwhelms a site’s servers with repeated requests. SendGrid, her employer, was told the attacks would stop if Richards was fired. The next day she was publicly let go.
Jacopo Bassano, St Valentine Baptizing St Lucilla, 1575, oil on canvas, Museo Civico, Bassano del Grappa
The popular customs associated with Saint Valentine’s Day undoubtedly had their origin in a conventional belief generally received in England and France during the Middle Ages, that on 14 February, i.e., half way through the second month of the year, the birds began to pair. Thus in Chaucer’s Parliament of Foules we read:
For this was sent on Seynt Valentyne’s day
Whan every foul cometh ther to choose his mate.
For this reason the day was looked upon as specially consecrated to lovers and as a proper occasion for writing love letters and sending lovers’ tokens. Both the French and English literatures of the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries contain allusions to the practice. Perhaps the earliest to be found is in the 34th and 35th Ballades of the bilingual poet, John Gower, written in French; but Lydgate and Clauvowe supply other examples. Those who chose each other under these circumstances seem to have been called by each other their Valentines.
In the Paston Letters, Dame Elizabeth Brews writes thus about a match she hopes to make for her daughter (we modernize the spelling), addressing the favoured suitor:
And, cousin mine, upon Monday is Saint Valentine’s Day and every bird chooses himself a mate, and if it like you to come on Thursday night, and make provision that you may abide till then, I trust to God that ye shall speak to my husband and I shall pray that we may bring the matter to a conclusion.
From Robert Chambers, The Book of Days, 1869: Feast Day: St. Valentine, priest and martyr, circ. 270.
ST. VALENTINE’S DAY
Valentine’s Day is now almost everywhere a much degenerated festival, the only observance of any note consisting merely of the sending of jocular anonymous letters to parties whom one wishes to quiz, and this confined very much to the humbler classes. The approach of the day is now heralded by the appearance in the print-sellers’ shop windows of vast numbers of missives calculated for use on this occasion, each generally consisting of a single sheet of post paper, on the first page of which is seen some ridiculous coloured caricature of the male or female figure, with a few burlesque verses below. More rarely, the print is of a sentimental kind, such as a view of Hymen’s altar, with a pair undergoing initiation into wedded happiness before it, while Cupid flutters above, and hearts transfixed with his darts decorate the corners. Maid-servants and young fellows interchange such epistles with each other on the 14th of February, no doubt conceiving that the joke is amazingly good: and, generally, the newspapers do not fail to record that the London postmen delivered so many hundred thousand more letters on that day than they do in general. Such is nearly the whole extent of the observances now peculiar to St. Valentine’s Day.
At no remote period it was very different. Ridiculous letters were unknown: and, if letters of any kind were sent, they contained only a courteous profession of attachment from some young man to some young maiden, honeyed with a few compliments to her various perfections, and expressive of a hope that his love might meet with return. But the true proper ceremony of St. Valentine’s Day was the drawing of a kind of lottery, followed by ceremonies not much unlike what is generally called the game of forfeits. Misson, a learned traveller, of the early part of the last century, gives apparently a correct account of the principal ceremonial of the day.
‘On the eve of St. Valentine’s Day,’ he says, ‘the young folks in England and Scotland, by a very ancient custom, celebrate a little festival. An equal number of maids and bachelors get together: each writes their true or some feigned name upon separate billets, which they roll up, and draw by way of lots, the maids taking the men’s billets, and the men the maids’: so that each of the young men lights upon a girl that he calls his valentine, and each of the girls upon a young man whom she calls hers. By this means each has two valentines: but the man sticks faster to the valentine that has fallen to him than to the valentine to whom he is fallen. Fortune having thus divided the company into so many couples, the valentines give balls and treats to their mistresses, wear their billets several days upon their bosoms or sleeves, and this little sport often ends in love.’
St. Valentine’s Day is alluded to by Shakespeare and by Chaucer, and also by the poet Lydgate (who died in 1440).
The origin of these peculiar observances of St. Valentine’s Day is a subject of some obscurity. The saint himself, who was a priest of Rome, martyred in the third century, seems to have had nothing to do with the matter, beyond the accident of his day being used for the purpose. Mr. Douce, in his Illustrations of Shakespeare, says:
“It was the practice in ancient Rome, during a great part of the month of February, to celebrate the Lupercalia, which were feasts in honour of Pan and Juno. whence the latter deity was named Februata, Februalis, and Februlla. On this occasion, amidst a variety of ceremonies, the names of young women were put into a box, from which they were drawn by the men as chance directed. The pastors of the early Christian church, who, by every possible means, endeavoured to eradicate the vestiges of pagan superstitions, and chiefly by some commutations of their forms, substituted, in the present instance, the names of particular saints instead of those of the women: and as the festival of the Lupercalia had commenced about the middle of February, they appear to have chosen St. Valentine’s Day for celebrating the new feast, because it occurred nearly at the same time.”
February 14th, prior to 1969, was the feast day of two, or possibly three, saints and martyrs named Valentine, all reputedly of the Third Century.
The first Valentine, legend holds, was a physician and priest in Rome, arrested for giving aid to martyrs in prison, who while there converted his jailer by restoring sight to the jailer’s daughter. He was executed by being beaten with clubs, and afterwards beheaded, February 14, 270. He is traditionally the patron of affianced couples, bee keepers, lovers, travellers, young people, and greeting card manufacturers, and his special assistance may be sought in conection with epilepsy, fainting, and plague.
A second St. Valentine, reportedly bishop of Interamna (modern Terni) was also allegedly martyred under Claudius II, and also allegedly buried along the Flaminian Way.
A third St. Valentine is said to have also been martyred in Roman times, along with companions, in Africa.
Because of a lack of historical evidence, the Roman Catholic Church dropped the February 14th feast of St. Valentine from its calendar in 1969.
I was recently contacted by a graduate student at the University of Valencia who is writing a dissertation which explores the question of whether reading blogs makes you more active politically.
He would like NYM’s readers to take a survey (linked here and in the right-hand column).
My name is Juan Sánchez and I am a PhD Marketing student at the University of Valencia (Spain). I am currently developing my doctoral thesis, which focuses on the existing relationship between Internet interactivity and the adoption of a more participative political position.
I would like to ask your collaboration to complete the empirical part of my thesis. In this respect, I need you to click on the link below in order to complete a brief and simple online survey.
As you will see, the questionnaire is easy to answer and can be completed in no more than 8-12 (real-time) minutes. The survey displays several statements on different elements related to blog reading and political participation.
My research has no commercial purpose whatsoever and all the collated information will remain totally anonymous. No previous relevant academic background is required and there are no right and wrong answers. What are truly important and relevant are the freely-expressed opinions on the matters raised.
Please click on the following link to participate:
“A Montana grizzly bear attempts to retrieve an electrically charged, road-killed deer. The deer is electrified as an experiment to protect hunters’ game kills and, in turn, to minimize bear-human encounters.”
Another prominent member of the international community of fashion offers ethical instruction to the rest of us in a manner combining canting sanctimony with extreme exhibitionism, reports the Telegraph.
For a woman who readily admits to being afraid of fish, a giant tuna seems to be the most unlikely of Valentine’s dates.
However, Helena Bonham Carter overcome her phobia to pose naked with this magnificent specimen in support of the Blue Marine Foundation, which is campaigning for marine reserves to protect endangered species around the world.
The 48-year-old actress, who split from director Tim Burton last December, was persuaded to undertake the project by her friend Greta Scacchi.
Having said that, I conquered my fears and by the end of the morning we’d truly bonded. He will be my Valentine.’
The fish in question was a Bigeye tuna, which belongs to the wider mackerel family Scombridae.
The actress appears nude while embracing a Bigeye Tuna in a series of photos in a rather unusual show of support for the Blue Marine Foundation.
Model Lizzie Jagger and actress Emilia Fox have also posed nude for Fishlove.
Béziers Billboard:”From now on, the municipal policeman has a new friend.”
Robert Ménard, the conservative mayor of Béziers, a town in Languedoc in the south of France, has again upset the French establishment leftist clerisy by announcing that, starting at the beginning of this month, his municipal police will all be packing heat.
(Ménard had previously introduced several measures thought to be directed at Muslim immigrants which provoked passionate left-wing opposition, including a ban on drying laundry on balconies and a ban on the installation of satellite dishes on the sides of buildings, the prohibition of spitting in the street, and a curfew for minors.)
The Telegraph quotes French newspapers, detailing the cries of indignation at this kind of Americanization of French “surrender monkey” culture.
A controversial far-right mayor in France has been accused of turning the local police force into “Dirty Harry” after a poster campaign trumpeted their “new friend”: a 7.65-calibre handgun.
Billboards throughout central Béziers, southwestern France, feature large pictures of the semi-automatic weapon with the caption: “From now on, the municipal police has a new friend.”
Municipal police in France are allowed to carry arms, but the campaign has been criticised for promoting gun culture.
“Béziers, it’s the wild west, with its cowboys,” wrote one Twitter user, Sofia.
Another, called Loljak, tweeted: “Béziers cops have turned into Dirty Harry”, referring to the 1971 film starring Clint Eastwood as detective “Dirty” Harry Callahan.
Bernard Cazeneuve, the interior minister, called the posters “deliberately provocative”. He said: “The best friends of the police are not their weapons … but the French citizens who respect republican values.”
The decision to arm local police followed a national debate on whether all French police should be armed with lethal weapons after Clarissa Jean-Philippe, an unarmed municipal officer, was gunned down by Islamist terrorists during the Paris attacks in January that killed 17 people.
All this fuss over cops carrying a Beretta 92 chambered in the antiquated and anemic .32 ACP/7.65 Browning cartridge.