713: New Mediocre

Adam Curry & John C. Dvorak

2h 28m
April 16th, 2015
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Executive Producers: Robert Smiley

Associate Executive Producers: Patrick Hamilton, Luke Rayner

Cover Artist: MartinJJ

Chapters

0:00
Start of Show
Woodstock
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TODAY
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Vegas
Patchouli Oil in the convention hall
Badge Scanners
Drones Pavilion - Size of drones
Parking behind the convention center - Apartment occupants own lots
Capo's restaurant
Podcast Awards
Big FU to TWiT
DTNS
Night Attack
Libertarians don't vote
Sgt. Fred 55.10-daughter, fiancé Matt
Presidential Proclamation -- National Equal Pay Day, 2015
Thu, 16 Apr 2015 05:50
The White House
Office of the Press Secretary
For Immediate Release
April 13, 2015
NATIONAL EQUAL PAY DAY, 2015
- - - - - - -
BY THE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
A PROCLAMATION
In the United States, the promise of opportunity is built on the idea that everyone who works hard should have the chance to get ahead. This creed is at the core of our democracy, and it is central to our belief that America does best when all people are able to share in our Nation's prosperity and contribute to our success. Yet every day, countless women perform the same work as their male colleagues only to earn less than their fair share. On National Equal Pay Day, we mark how far into the new year women would have to work just to earn the same as men did in the previous year, and we renew our efforts to end this injustice.
On average, full-time working women earn 78 cents for every dollar earned by men, and women of color face an even greater disparity. This wage gap puts women at a career-long disadvantage, and it harms families, communities, and our entire economy. Today, in more than half of all households, women are breadwinners -- 49 million children depend on women's salaries. But our economy and our policies have not caught up to this reality. When women experience pay discrimination it limits their future, and it also hurts the people they provide for. It means less for their families' everyday needs, for investments in their children's futures, and for their own retirements. These effects reduce our shared prosperity and restrict our Nation's economic growth. Wage inequality affects us all, and we each must do more to make certain that women are full and equal participants in our economy.
When we take action to help women succeed, we help America succeed, and my Administration is committed to ensuring women have every opportunity to reach their fullest potential. The first bill I signed as President was the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, and the following year -- to crack down on violations of equal pay laws -- I created the National Equal Pay Task Force, which to date has helped women recover millions of dollars in lost wages. If workers do not know they are underpaid, they cannot challenge the inequality; that is why we are going to require Federal contractors to submit data on employee compensation, including data by sex and race, and why last year I signed an Executive Order prohibiting Federal contractors from retaliating against employees who choose to discuss their pay. And I continue to call on the Congress to pass the Paycheck Fairness Act to protect all people's fundamental right to a fair wage.
In the last half-century, our economy has changed in many ways for the better because of the increased participation of women. But our values are not yet fully reflected in how we pay women. We tell our daughters that in America there are no limits to what they can achieve -- yet their mothers face persistent barriers to equality and success. We have to do better because our daughters deserve better. If we come together, we can change the policies and attitudes that hold women back, and we can fix this. On this day, we recommit to making equal pay a reality, and we continue our work to build a world where all our children are limited only by the size of their dreams and the power of their imaginations.
NOW, THEREFORE, I, BARACK OBAMA, President of the United States of America, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the Constitution and the laws of the United States, do hereby proclaim April 14, 2015, as National Equal Pay Day. I call upon all Americans to recognize the full value of women's skills and their significant contributions to the labor force, acknowledge the injustice of wage inequality, and join efforts to achieve equal pay.
IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand this thirteenth day of April, in the year of our Lord two thousand fifteen, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and thirty-ninth.
BARACK OBAMA
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No Agenda the hit Broadway Musical
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Congressional Dish on The Stream
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Theodore Kasczinski "Industrial Society and Its Future"
Smith Mundt Act - A reminder that you are living in a Smith-Mudt Act repealed media landscape
NDAA and Overturning of Smith-Mundt Act
The National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2013 (NDAA) allows for materials produced by the State Department and the Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG) to be released within U.S. borders and strikes down a long-time ban on the dissemination of such material in the country.[14][15][16]
Propaganda in the United States - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Sun, 21 Sep 2014 15:00
Propaganda in the United States is propaganda spread by government and media entities within the United States. Propaganda is information, ideas, or rumors deliberately spread widely to influence opinions. Propaganda is not only in advertising; it is also in radio, newspaper, posters, books, and anything else that might be sent out to the widespread public.
Domestic[edit]World War I[edit]The first large-scale use of propaganda by the U.S. government came during World War I. The government enlisted the help of citizens and children to help promote war bonds and stamps to help stimulate the economy. To keep the prices of war supplies down, the U.S. government produced posters that encouraged people to reduce waste and grow their own vegetables in "victory gardens." The public skepticism that was generated by the heavy-handed tactics of the Committee on Public Information would lead the postwar government to officially abandon the use of propaganda.[1]
World War II[edit]During World War II the U.S. officially had no propaganda, but the Roosevelt government used means to circumvent this official line. One such propaganda tool was the publicly owned but government funded Writers' War Board (WWB). The activities of the WWB were so extensive that it has been called the "greatest propaganda machine in history".[1]Why We Fight is a famous series of US government propaganda films made to justify US involvement in World War II.
In 1944 (lasting until 1948) prominent US policy makers launched a domestic propaganda campaign aimed at convincing the U.S. public to agree to a harsh peace for the German people, for example by removing the common view of the German people and the Nazi party as separate entities.[2] The core in this campaign was the Writers' War Board which was closely associated with the Roosevelt administration.[2]
Another means was the United States Office of War Information that Roosevelt established in June 1942, whose mandate was to promote understanding of the war policies under the director Elmer Davies. It dealt with posters, press, movies, exhibitions, and produced often slanted material conforming to US wartime purposes. Other large and influential non-governmental organizations during the war and immediate post war period were the Society for the Prevention of World War III and the Council on Books in Wartime.
Cold War[edit]During the Cold War, the U.S. government produced vast amounts of propaganda against communism and the Soviet bloc. Much of this propaganda was directed by the Federal Bureau of Investigation under J. Edgar Hoover, who himself wrote the anti-communist tract Masters of Deceit. The FBI's COINTELPRO arm solicited journalists to produce fake news items discrediting communists and affiliated groups, such as H. Bruce Franklin and the Venceremos Organization.
War on Drugs[edit]The National Youth Anti-Drug Media Campaign, originally established by the National Narcotics Leadership Act of 1988,[3][4] but now conducted by the Office of National Drug Control Policy under the Drug-Free Media Campaign Act of 1998,[5] is a domestic propaganda campaign designed to "influence the attitudes of the public and the news media with respect to drug abuse" and for "reducing and preventing drug abuse among young people in the United States".[6][7] The Media Campaign cooperates with the Partnership for a Drug-Free America and other government and non-government organizations.[8]
Iraq War[edit]In early 2002, the U.S. Department of Defense launched an information operation, colloquially referred to as the Pentagon military analyst program.[9] The goal of the operation is "to spread the administrations's talking points on Iraq by briefing ... retired commanders for network and cable television appearances," where they have been presented as independent analysts.[10] On 22 May 2008, after this program was revealed in the New York Times, the House passed an amendment that would make permanent a domestic propaganda ban that until now has been enacted annually in the military authorization bill.[11]
The Shared values initiative was a public relations campaign that was intended to sell a "new" America to Muslims around the world by showing that American Muslims were living happily and freely, without persecution, in post-9/11 America.[12] Funded by the United States Department of State, the campaign created a public relations front group known as Council of American Muslims for Understanding (CAMU). The campaign was divided in phases; the first of which consisted of five mini-documentaries for television, radio, and print with shared values messages for key Muslim countries.[13]
NDAA and Overturning of Smith-Mundt Act[edit]The National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2013 (NDAA) allows for materials produced by the State Department and the Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG) to be released within U.S. borders and strikes down a long-time ban on the dissemination of such material in the country.[14][15][16]
Ad Council[edit]The Ad Council, an American non-profit organization that distributes public service announcements on behalf of various private and federal government agency sponsors, has been labeled as "little more than a domestic propaganda arm of the federal government" given the Ad Council's historically close collaboration with the President of the United States and the federal government.[17]
International[edit]Through several international broadcasting operations, the US disseminates American cultural information, official positions on international affairs, and daily summaries of international news. These operations fall under the International Broadcasting Bureau, the successor of the United States Information Agency, established in 1953. IBB's operations include Voice of America, Radio Liberty, Alhurra and other programs. They broadcast mainly to countries where the United States finds that information about international events is limited, either due to poor infrastructure or government censorship. The Smith-Mundt Act prohibits the Voice of America from disseminating information to US citizens that was produced specifically for a foreign audience.
During the Cold War the US ran covert propaganda campaigns in countries that appeared likely to become Soviet satellites, such as Italy, Afghanistan, and Chile.
Recently The Pentagon announced the creation of a new unit aimed at spreading propaganda about supposedly "inaccurate" stories being spread about the Iraq War. These "inaccuracies" have been blamed on the enemy trying to decrease support for the war. Donald Rumsfeld has been quoted as saying these stories are something that keeps him up at night.[18]
Psychological operations[edit]The US military defines psychological operations, or PSYOP, as:
planned operations to convey selected information and indicators to foreign audiences to influence the emotions, motives, objective reasoning, and ultimately the behavior of foreign governments, organizations, groups, and individuals.[19]
The Smith-Mundt Act, adopted in 1948, explicitly forbids information and psychological operations aimed at the US public.[20][21][22] Nevertheless, the current easy access to news and information from around the globe, makes it difficult to guarantee PSYOP programs do not reach the US public. Or, in the words of Army Col. James A. Treadwell, who commanded the U.S. military psyops unit in Iraq in 2003, in the Washington Post:
There's always going to be a certain amount of bleed-over with the global information environment.[23]
Agence France Presse reported on U.S. propaganda campaigns that:
The Pentagon acknowledged in a newly declassified document that the US public is increasingly exposed to propaganda disseminated overseas in psychological operations.[24]
Former US Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld approved the document referred to, which is titled "Information Operations Roadmap." [22][24] The document acknowledges the Smith-Mundt Act, but fails to offer any way of limiting the effect PSYOP programs have on domestic audiences.[20][21][25]
Several incidents in 2003 were documented by Sam Gardiner, a retired Air Force colonel, which he saw as information-warfare campaigns that were intended for "foreign populations and the American public." Truth from These Podia,[26] as the treatise was called, reported that the way the Iraq war was fought resembled a political campaign, stressing the message instead of the truth.[22]
See also[edit]References[edit]^ abThomas Howell, The Writers' War Board: U.S. Domestic Propaganda in World War II, Historian, Volume 59 Issue 4, Pages 795 - 813^ abSteven Casey, (2005), The Campaign to sell a harsh peace for Germany to the American public, 1944 - 1948, [online]. London: LSE Research Online. [Available online at http://eprints.lse.ac.uk/archive/00000736] Originally published in History, 90 (297). pp. 62-92 (2005) Blackwell Publishing^National Narcotics Leadership Act of 1988 of the Anti''Drug Abuse Act of 1988, Pub.L. 100''713, 102 Stat. 4181, enacted November 18, 1988^Gamboa, Anthony H. (January 4, 2005), B-303495, Office of National Drug Control Policy '-- Video News Release, Government Accountability Office, footnote 6, page 3 ^Drug-Free Media Campaign Act of 1998 (Omnibus Consolidated and Emergency Supplemental Appropriations Act, 1999), Pub.L. 105''277, 112 Stat. 268, enacted October 21, 1998^Gamboa, Anthony H. (January 4, 2005), B-303495, Office of National Drug Control Policy '-- Video News Release, Government Accountability Office, pp. 9''10 ^Drug-Free Media Campaign Act of 1998 of the Omnibus Consolidated and Emergency Supplemental Appropriations Act, 1999, Pub.L. 105''277, 112 Stat. 268, enacted October 21, 1998^Office of National Drug Control Policy Reauthorization Act of 2006, Pub.L. 109''469, 120 Stat. 3501, enacted December 29, 2006, codified at 21 U.S.C. § 1713^Barstow, David (2008-04-20). "Message Machine: Behind Analysts, the Pentagon's Hidden Hand". New York Times. ^Sessions, David (2008-04-20). "Onward T.V. Soldiers: The New York Times exposes a multi-armed Pentagon message machine". Slate. ^Barstow, David (2008-05-24). "2 Inquiries Set on Pentagon Publicity Effort". New York Times. ^Rampton, Sheldon (October 17, 2007). "Shared Values Revisited". Center for Media and Democracy. ^"U.S. Reaches Out to Muslim World with Shared Values Initiative". America.gov. January 16, 2003.
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Gyro Copters
NORAD can track Santa, but not a GyroCopter?
FURGESON
If we televise the killings of people (by cops) why don't we televise death sentences?
Are there any cops listening to this show who want to weigh in??
Hillary 2016
I am going to root for Hillary, because she is unwavering in her apocalyptic goals
She just might create the tipping point that finally spurs the Human Resources of the world to unity and fight!
Red Book - Bill
EuroLand
Tumbling Interest Rates in Europe Leaves Some Banks Owing Money on Loans to Borrowers - WSJ
Thu, 16 Apr 2015 06:27
ByPatricia Kowsmann in Lisbon andJeannette Neumann in MadridUpdated April 13, 2015 7:13 p.m. ET Tumbling interest rates in Europe have put some banks in an inconceivable position: owing money on loans to borrowers.
At least one Spanish bank, BankinterSA,BKT1.89% the country's seventh-largest lender by market value, has been paying some customers interest on mortgages by deducting that amount from the principal the borrower owes.
The problem is just one of many challenges caused by interest rates falling below zero, known as a negative interest rate. All over Europe, banks are being compelled to rebuild computer programs, update legal documents and redo spreadsheets to account for negative rates.
Interest rates have been falling sharply, in some cases into negative territory, since the European Central Bank last year introduced measures meant to spur the economy in the eurozone, including cutting its own deposit rate. The ECB in March also launched a bond-buying program, driving down yields on eurozone debt in hopes of fostering lending.
In countries such as Spain, Portugal and Italy, the base interest rate used for many loans, especially mortgages, is the euro interbank offered rate, or Euribor. The rate is based on how much it costs European banks to borrow from each other.
Banks set interest rates on many loans as a small percentage above or below a benchmark such as Euribor. As rates have declined, sometimes to below zero, some banks have faced the paradox of paying interest to those who have borrowed money from them.
Lenders, hoping to avoid the expense of having to pay borrowers, are turning to central banks for guidance. But what they are hearing is less than comforting.
Portugal's central bank recently ruled that banks would have to pay interest on existing loans if Euribor plus any additional spread falls below zero. The central bank, however, said lenders are free to take ''precautionary measures'' in future contracts. More than 90% of the 2.3 million mortgages outstanding in Portugal have variable rates linked to Euribor.
In Spain, a spokesman for the central bank said it is studying the issue.
The vast majority of Spanish home mortgages have rates that rise and fall tied to 12-month Euribor, said Irene Pe±a, an economist with Spain's mortgage association. That rate stands at 0.187%.
Bankers in Italy said they are awaiting guidance from their local banking association, because loan contracts don't include any clause on what happens if benchmark rates go below zero. About half of the mortgages outstanding in Italy have variable rates, most of them linked to Euribor, according to mortgage broker Mutuionline. Some other countries, such as Germany, often use fixed rates.
In Spain, Bankinter has been forced to deduct some clients' mortgage principal payments because an interest-rate benchmark tied to Switzerland's currency has dipped into negative territory.
In January, the Swiss National Bank ended a 3½-year policy of capping the strength of the franc against the euro, sending the Swiss currency soaring against the common currency and U.S. dollar, and cut bank deposit rates into negative territory. The move to end the cap on the franc was designed to relieve pressure on Swiss exporters, many of which are reliant on the eurozone for sales.
During Spain's home-building frenzy in the middle of the last decade, Bankinter issued mortgages tied to the one-month Swiss franc iteration of the London interbank offered rate, or Libor. At the time, clients were attracted to the offer because Swiss franc Libor was lower than Euribor, the traditional reference for Spanish mortgages.
''I'm going to frame my bank statement, which shows that Bankinter is paying me interest on my mortgage,'' said a customer who lives in Madrid. ''That's financial history.''
The client in 2006 took out a roughly '‚¬500,000 ($530,000) home mortgage loan based on Swiss franc Libor, plus 0.5 percentage point. Since then, Swiss franc Libor has fallen far enough into negative territory to make his mortgage rate negative.
It is hardly a windfall for this customer, however, because, while Swiss franc Libor has fallen, the Swiss franc itself has risen in value against the euro. That means the value in euros of the total mortgage debt he owes Bankinter has also increased, because that debt is denominated in Swiss francs.
Bankinter has few such mortgages tied to a negative Libor rate, a spokesman said, declining to provide a figure.
An executive at another Spanish bank said the lender in recent months has started to put in place an interest-rate floor on thousands of short-term business loans that are tied to short-term variations of Euribor. Two-month Euribor, is at minus 0.004%. For new loans, the bank is increasing the cushion it charges customers above Euribor.
Hundreds of thousands of additional loans would be affected if medium-term Euribor rates enter negative territory, the executive said. The six-month rate is currently at 0.078%.
Meanwhile, some borrowers in Spain haven't found relief.
A Madrid judge in November ruled against a client of Banco SantanderSASAN0.14% who claimed that Spain's largest bank inappropriately established a floor on his mortgage in 2013 and therefore owed him money. The plaintiff had taken out a mortgage in 2005 that offered a fixed rate of 2% in the first year and Euribor minus 1.1 percentage points thereafter. The plaintiff said he was now owed money from the bank.
To buttress his argument that a bank shouldn't have to pay a borrower for a loan, the judge quoted from a June 2014 statement from the Bank of Spain that ''a payment in favor of the client in these situations would never apply, but rather the application of an interest rate of zero by the entity.'' The Bank of Spain spokesman said the statement cited in the case was issued by the central bank's customer-complaints service, which typically responds to particular cases. The Bank of Spain hasn't issued a systemwide decision on how banks should treat negative interest rates, he said.
In Portugal, interest rates on most mortgages are linked to a monthly average of three- and six-month Euribor. Both have been steadily sinking and are hovering just above zero.
Jo£o Coelho da Silva, a 53-year-old real-estate agent in Lisbon, has seen his mortgage payments fall from about '‚¬450 a month when his loan began in 2008 to '‚¬235 now, thanks to a falling three-month Euribor. ''With the economy in such a bad state, these monthly savings are more than welcomed,'' Mr. da Silva said.
Write to Patricia Kowsmann at patricia.kowsmann@wsj.com and Jeannette Neumann at jeannette.neumann@wsj.com
Protester disrupts ECB news conference shouting 'end dictatorship' - ECONOMICS
Thu, 16 Apr 2015 05:26
FRANKFURT - Reuters
A protester jumps on the table in front of the European Central Bank President Mario Draghi during a news conference in Frankfurt, April 15, 2015. REUTERS Photo
A woman protesting against European Central Bank policy leapt onto a desk in front of ECB President Mario Draghi on April 15as he spoke at a news conference, disrupting the normally technical presentation before she was carried away. "End the ECB dictatorship," she shouted, throwing what appeared to be confetti and sheets of paper. Her T-shirt bore a similar message, spelling it "Dick-tatorship". She flashed a V for victory sign and smiled as two men in grey suits took her away holding her arms and legs.AFP Photo A startled Draghi held up his hands as protection, but was otherwise relatively unruffled. The news conference started again shortly afterwards.
It was not clear where the woman was from or what her specific protest was. Some Europeans are angry at austerity imposed on their countries by the European Union, backed up in some cases by ECB rules.
AFP Photo
April/15/2015
PHOTO GALLERY
Report EU decides to file formal charges against Google - Business Insider
Thu, 16 Apr 2015 04:40
Apr. 14, 2015, 3:48 PM3,574The EU has decided to file formal antitrust charges against Google, The Wall Street Journal reports, citing a source familiar with the matter.
This could ultimately lead to the EU fining Google up to 10% of its annual revenues, which would be about $6 billion, based on last year's revenues.
It would be the biggest antitrust battle since Microsoft's case a decade ago.
The EU has been investigating Google's market dominance for the last five years, and reports that it was going to file formal antitrust charges began swirling at the beginning of the month.
Europe isn't happy with Google's business practices and has spent time investigating the way it displays its search services compared to its competitors, how it uses content from other websites, its dominance over advertising on search terms, and restrictions that surround how advertisers can move their campaigns to other search engines. Overall, Google has a nearly 90% share of Europe's search market.
The European Commission has been asking for the formal complaints other companies had confidentially filed against Google, to put together a Statement of Objections. Once filed, the charges will lead to even deeper investigations and settlement discussions.
If a settlement isn't reached, the charges could ultimately lead to the EU issuing penalties against Google, including fines and restrictions. In other words: very bad news for the tech giant.
The European Parliament even voted to break up the company last fall, though it doesn't have the power to do that.
Earlier today, Reuters reported that the EU competition commission was set to make an official announcement about whether it would file charges today, although Commission spokesman Margaritis Schinas denied that saying, "If there is a time for announcements it will be announced, but there is nothing on this question today."
CYBER!
Internet Connectivity Could Expose Aircraft Systems to Cyberattacks: GAO | SecurityWeek.Com
Thu, 16 Apr 2015 05:15
A report published on Tuesday by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) warns that the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) faces some serious cybersecurity challenges due to its transition from legacy to next generation air transportation systems.
The three main areas of concern identified by GAO in its report are the protection of air-traffic control (ATC) systems, which the agency detailed in a previous report, securing aircraft avionics systems used for operating and guiding airplanes, and the clarification of roles and responsibilities among FAA offices when it comes to cybersecurity.
GAO pointed out in its report that IP connectivity and other modern communication technologies are increasingly used in aircraft systems. The fact that airplanes are connected to the Internet could pose a serious risk because unauthorized individuals might be able to gain access to avionics systems.
The FAA says roughly 36 percent of ATC systems are currently connected using IP and the percentage is expected to increase to 50-60 percent over the next five years. Legacy systems, which are difficult to access remotely, consist of old point-to-point, hardwired systems, most of which share information only within their wired configuration.
''According to MITRE and other experts, a hybrid system comprising both IP-connected and point-to-point subsystems increases the potential for the point-to-point systems to be compromised because of the increased connectivity to the system as a whole provided by the IP-connected systems,'' GAO noted in its report.
The systems in the cockpit are protected with firewalls, but experts interviewed by GAO pointed out that such protection mechanisms can be plagued by vulnerabilities that could allow hackers to bypass them.
''The experts said that if the cabin systems connect to the cockpit avionics systems (e.g., share the same physical wiring harness or router) and use the same networking platform, in this case IP, a user could subvert the firewall and access the cockpit avionics system from the cabin,'' GAO said. ''FAA officials and experts we interviewed said that modern aircraft are also increasingly connected to the Internet, which also uses IP-networking technology and can potentially provide an attacker with remote access to aircraft information systems.''
Experts interviewed by GAO noted that Internet connectivity in the cabin provides a direct link between the aircraft and the outside world. This could potentially be exploited by a malicious actor to access onboard information systems by planting a piece of malware on a website visited by passengers.
On the other hand, airplane manufacturers say such a scenario is unlikely due to the isolation of in-flight entertainment (IFE) systems.
''IFE systems on commercial airplanes are isolated from flight and navigation systems. While these systems receive position data and have communication links, the design isolates them from the other systems on airplanes performing critical and essential functions,'' Boeing representatives told SecurityWeek.
Airbus provided the following statement to SecurityWeek: ''We in partnership with our suppliers are constantly assessing and revisiting the system architecture of our products with an eye to establishing and maintaining the highest standards of safety and security. Beyond that, we don't discuss design details or safeguards publicly, as such discussion might be counterproductive to security.''
GAO noted in its report that the FAA's Office of Safety currently certifies new interconnected systems and has started reviewing rules for certifying the IT security of all new systems as part of the aircraft certification process.
The FAA is currently in the process of designing and deploying an approach to protect its information systems enterprise-wide. Experts believe this approach is appropriate, but they recommend other measures to further enhance cybersecurity, including the development of an enterprise-level holistic threat model, and the implementation of a holistic continuous-monitoring program.
Previous Columns by Eduard Kovacs:
Event - Global Cyber Space Conference 2015 - The Hague Security Delta
Thu, 16 Apr 2015 08:41
After the Afghanistan conference and the Nuclear Security Summit (NSS), the city of The Hague will host yet another world summit. On 16 and 17 April 2015 ministers from many countries will meet at the World Forum to talk about cyber space and cyber security. Around 1300 participants are expected. One of the main reasons behind the choice for The Hague is a strong presence of cyber security organisations, united in The Hague Security Delta.
Global Cyber Space ConferenceSubsequent to London (2011), Budapest (2012), and Seoul (2013), the Netherlands will organise the fourth edition of the Global Cyber Space Conference in The Hague. Cyberspace unlocks enormous potential gains in wealth and welfare in an ever more connected society. In order to be able to continue to benefit from the internet, it is important to ensure safe ways to do business, protect people from threats to their privacy and from crime related activities, and to promote international stability in the cyber domain. We are facing challenges and dilemmas in the way we secure these goals. The Global Conference on Cyberspace 2015 will bring stakeholders from various backgrounds together to discuss these challenges in a comprehensive manner. Only working together globally and in a multi-stakeholder setting guarantees that the most crucial piece of societal infrastructure of the 21st century will remain free, open and secure. In that way the full potential of the cyber domain can be used.
Side-Events Global Cyberspace ConferenceConnected to the high-level political conference, the National Cyber Security Centre organises the One Conference, specifically aimed at cyber security professionals, on 13 and 14 April. During the week, several side-events powered by HSD will be organised as well. First of all, an Innovation Room, where innovative cyber security technologies and their possible applications are shown, will be hosted on the HSD Campus. On top of this, a hackathon and an accelerator session between entrepreneurs and investors will be organised. More information about these side-events will become available later this year.
Hackers target Belgian press group, days after French cyber attack
Mon, 13 Apr 2015 16:13
(C) www.itp.net
Unidentified hackers attacked the website of Le Soir, a French language Belgian newspaper, the director general of the daily said."Le Soir fell victim of a cyberattack," Didier Hamann said on his Twitter account Sunday.
According to Hamann, there is no immediate evidence that the incident is linked to the recent massive cyberattack against the French TV channel TV5Monde so far.
On Wednesday night, 11 channels, a website and social media accounts of TV5 Monde network were knocked out.
The hackers posted a statement on the TV5 Monde's Facebook page, saying that French President Francois Hollande had made a mistake in supporting the US-led international coalition carrying out airstrikes against Islamic State (IS) militants in Iraq and Syria.
Both France and Belgium are members of the US-led operation. In February, Belgium pledged to send about 35 servicemen to Iraq to help train its army in the fight against the IS.
Sam email about John Deere
Hi Adam
After listing to your latest episode I finally feel there is something I have knowledge in that I can help clarify for you.
John Deere are worryed of end users getting tractor computers remapped as the difference between the top of the line in a model group and the bottom is the mapping of the engine. We run about ten John Deeres and have recently purchased a 6150m the (6 refers to the model and the 150 refers to the HP). for nz$3000 we remapped it to 170hp thus saving upwards of $30,000. that same engine can be boosted up to 210hp.
for comparison the price in NZ$ for a john deere is about $1000 per HP as a rule of thumb so you can see by getting a brand new tractor remapped it could do john deere out of a lot of money. I'm pretty sure the same can be done for most engine manufactures ie Cummings
As for the tractors getting used for playing illegally downloaded music why do they put a stereo with a jack to hook my phone into or a Bluetooth function.
As i spend upwards of 1200 hours a year in tractors there are two things I feel I'm knowledgeable about one being tractors and the other is how good a podcast is, and yours is the only one I use my mobile data to listen to as soon as it comes out and the only one I donate to on a monthly basis, so that must tell you something about how good your show is.
Thanks and dont ever stop what your doing as you guys combined are worth a million Joe Rogans and leo leports
'Cyber Caliphate' overtake French TV station
Fri, 10 Apr 2015 16:09
(C) Reuters / Thaier Al-Sudani
Pro-Islamic State (IS, previously ISIS/ISIL) hackers attacked French television network TV5Monde on Wednesday evening, taking hostage the broadcast of its TV channels, websites and Facebook page, according to the network."We are no longer able to broadcast any of our channels. Our websites and social media sites are no longer under our control and are all displaying claims of responsibility by the Islamic State," the broadcaster's director general Yves Bigot told AFP.
The hackers reportedly uploaded various photos to TV5Monde's Facebook page, claiming to be personal IDs and resumes of relatives of French soldiers who fought in anti-IS operations. Threats were issued towards them. The pictures were allegedly visible for a short time and then disappeared.Director of TV5Monde, H(C)l¨ne Zemmour, said this was the biggest cyber-attack the network has seen in the past 30 years, FranceTVInfo reported. Zemmour said that right after the attack, the channel's social network and website displayed threats in French, Arabic and English.TV5Monde's Facebook page briefly showed the logo of 'Cyber Caliphate' in the profile picture slot.
Loyalists of the IS have become more and more active online under that name.
Back in January the Cyber Caliphate group even hacked into the official Twitter account of the United States Central Command - CENTCOM. The hackers sent out a series of tweets from the @CENTCOM account warning "AMERICAN SOLDIERS, WE ARE COMING, WATCH YOUR BACK. ISIS."
Similar cyber-attacks were reported at local Maryland television station and a New Mexico newspaper in the US. The incidents even prompted an FBI investigation into the Cyber Caliphate group.
Newsweek's Twitter feed was also taken over by hackers, claiming to be part of the Cyber Caliphate.
Other incidents claimed by the group included gaining access to Twitter feed of military spouses, including the account of support group called Military Spouses of Strength.
The pro-IS hacking group also attacked the website of the troubled Malaysia Airlines, with the message "Hacked by Cyber Caliphate" appearing on the homepage underneath a picture of a well-dressed lizard in a top hat.
SnowJob
Your Facebook chats are being read by CIA-backed company -- Science & Technology -- Sott.net
Thu, 16 Apr 2015 05:55
(C) Flickr/ Robert S. Donovan
While sending a web link over Facebook Chat, a group of app developers noticed a curious amount of activity. Pulling at the thread, they discovered a mysterious company known as Recorded Future, and a potential CIA conspiracy.Facebook Chat seems innocuous enough. So thought Bosnadev, a group of coders and bloggers, when they used the communication program to send a link. But something seemed amiss.
"During the testing of an application we've set up in a non-published area we have noticed some unusual activity," the blog reads. "The link for the app was sent via Facebook chat and afterwards comes the interesting part."
After checking the IP activity, they noticed 16 internet protocol ID tags, "lots of IPv6 for a single Facebook check."
With their interest piqued, Bosnadev ran another test, creating a fresh URL and sending it through a Facebook Chat window. Despite the fact that this new web link only existed in a single chat screen - nowhere else on the Internet - they noticed a similar amount of activity. Two IP addresses were their own, but Bosnadev had no explanation for the other 10 which appeared.
It's been public knowledge for years that Facebook and other social media platforms monitor chats for signs of criminal activity. As unsettling as that may be, its done with the social media companies' own software. For better or worse, that monitoring is done in house.
This was different. The IP addresses led to a third-party observer, and when Bosnadev ran a trace, the trail led them to Recorded Future, an American-Swedish startup which has been backed by Google, as well as the CIA and NSA.
The company can essentially be summarized as the US government's attempt to create a digital Nostradamus, a data vacuum which "continuously analyzes the open web" and attempts to quantify that information in order to predict the future.
If Recorded Future notices a series of newspaper articles about an upcoming baseball game, then it can reasonably assume said baseball game will be taking place. It's sort of like that, only 100 billion times more complicated, taking millions of factors into account in order to predict terrorist attacks or other types of disorder.
Whether the program even works is a matter for debate.
But even this admitted scanning of the open web can't explain what a government funded company is doing scanning private Facebook Chat windows.
In response, Facebook released a statement saying that "while investigating this post, we've confirmed that Facebook doesn't use Recorded Future...to scan any private content. That means we haven't partnered with or directed Recorded Future to scan anyone's message links."
The social media giant also suggested that "another interaction, including one that could be occurring on the client machine, is consuming the URL and generating this behavior."
Recorded Future also responded to the allegations.
"Our systems followed this URL after it was posted on a public site. Our system constantly explores links published on the web. We've checked our logs and confirmed that this is what happened in this specific case. It's not related to any Facebook chat messages containing this link. Our system doesn't access that information."
Whatever the case may be, government intrusion into private Internet activity will likely come as no surprise to many. The revelations of former contractor Edward Snowden revealed the extent of the NSA's domestic spying apparatus.
As encryption spreads, U.S. grapples with clash between privacy, security - The Washington Post
Mon, 13 Apr 2015 22:57
For months, federal law enforcement agencies and industry have been deadlocked on a highly contentious issue: Should tech companies be obliged to guarantee government access to encrypted data on smartphones and other digital devices, and is that even possible without compromising the security of law-abiding customers?
Recently, the head of the National Security Agency provided a rare hint of what some U.S. officials think might be a technical solution. Why not, suggested Adm. Michael S. Rogers, require technology companies to create a digital key that could open any smartphone or other locked device to obtain text messages or photos, but divide the key into pieces so that no one person or agency alone could decide to use it?
''I don't want a back door,'' Rogers, the director of the nation's top electronic spy agency, said during a speech at Princeton University, using a tech industry term for covert measures to bypass device security. ''I want a front door. And I want the front door to have multiple locks. Big locks.''
Law enforcement and intelligence officials have been warning that the growing use of encryption could seriously hinder criminal and national security investigations. But the White House, which is preparing a report for President Obama on the issue, is still weighing a range of options, including whether authorities have other ways to get the data they need rather than compelling companies through regulatory or legislative action.
The task is not easy. Those taking part in the debate have polarized views, with advocates of default commercial encryption finding little common ground with government officials who see increasing peril as the technology becomes widespread on mobile phones and on text messaging apps.
Encryption techniques and the access they giveApple catalyzed the public debate in September when it announced that one of the world's most popular smartphones would come equipped with a unique digital key that can be used only by its owner. Even if presented with a warrant, Apple could no longer unlock an iPhone that runs its latest operating system.
Hailed as a victory for consumer privacy and security, the development dismayed law enforcement officials, who said it threatens what they describe as a ­centuries-old social compact in which the government, with a warrant based on probable cause, may seize evidence relevant to criminal investigations.
''What we're concerned about is the technology risks'' bringing the country to a point where the smartphone owner alone, who may be a criminal or terrorist, has control of the data, Deputy Assistant Attorney General David Bitkower said at a recent panel on encryption hosted by the nonprofit Congressional Internet Caucus Advisory Committee. That, he said, has not been the ''standard American principle for the last couple of hundred years.''
Tech industry officials and privacy advocates take a different view. ''I don't believe that law enforcement has an absolute right to gain access to every way in which two people may choose to communicate,'' said Marc Zwillinger, an attorney working for tech companies on encryption-related matters and a former Justice Department official. ''And I don't think our Founding Fathers would think so, either. The fact that the Constitution offers a process for obtaining a search warrant where there is probable cause is not support for the notion that it should be illegal to make an unbreakable lock. These are two distinct concepts.''
The increasing use of encrypted storage extends well beyond the iPhone or the similar option that Google offers '-- though not by default '-- on new versions of its Android operating system. Windows and Apple offer simple settings to encrypt the contents of personal computers, and several cloud storage companies encrypt the data they host with keys known only to their customers.
The Obama administration says it is not seeking to weaken the security tools themselves. ''There's no scenario in which we don't want really strong encryption,'' President Obama said in an interview with the online tech news outlet Re/Code in February. ''I lean probably further in the direction of strong encryption than some do inside of law enforcement. But I am sympathetic to law enforcement, because I know the kind of pressure they're under to keep us safe. And it's not as black and white as it's sometimes portrayed.''
Until Rogers's remarks, U.S. officials had declined to say how they believed they could guarantee government access to a locked device without introducing security flaws that others could also find.
Academic and industry experts, including Yahoo's chief of information security, Alex Stamos, say law enforcement is asking for the impossible. Any means of bypassing encryption, they say, is by definition a weakness that hackers and foreign spy agencies may exploit.
The split-key approach is just one of the options being studied by the White House as senior policy officials weigh the needs of companies and consumers as well as law enforcement '-- and try to determine how imminent the latter's problem is. With input from the FBI, intelligence community and the departments of Justice, State, Commerce and Homeland Security, they are assessing regulatory and legislative approaches, among others.
The White House is also considering options that avoid having the company or a third party hold a key. One possibility, for example, might have a judge direct a company to set up a mirror account so that law enforcement conducting a criminal investigation is able to read text messages shortly after they have been sent. For encrypted photos, the judge might order the company to back up the suspect's data to a company server when the phone is on and the data is unencrypted. Technologists say there are still issues with these approaches, and companies probably would resist them.
White House aides aim to report to Obama this month, though the date could slip. ''We want to give the president a sense of what the art of the possible is,'' said a senior administration official who requested anonymity because he was not authorized to speak on the record. ''We want to enable him to make some decisions and strategic choices about this very critical issue that has so many strategic implications, not just for our cybersecurity but for law enforcement and national security, economic competitiveness overseas, foreign relations, privacy and consumer security.''
A central issue in the policy debate is trust, said Lance J. Hoffmann, founder of George Washington University's Cyberspace Security Policy and Research Institute. ''It's who do you trust with your data? Do you want to default to the government? To the company? Or to the individual? If you make a hybrid, how do you make the trade-off?''
The odds of passing a new law appear slim, given a divided Congress and the increased attention to privacy in the aftermath of leaks by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden. There are bills pending to ban government back doors into communications devices. So far, there is no legislation proposed by the government or lawmakers to require Internet and tech firms to make their services and devices wiretap-ready.
''There is zero chance of any domestic restrictions on encryption absent a catastrophic event which clearly could have been stopped if the government had been able to break some encryption,'' said Michael Vatis, a senior Justice Department cyber-official in the Clinton administration and a partner at Steptoe and Johnson. ''That is the only way I could even imagine any restriction on encryption being passed by Congress.''
Even if Congress passed such a law, it could not bind device-makers and software engineers overseas. Privacy advocates said strong encryption technology is now sufficiently widespread that it is effectively beyond the reach of government control.
That is what Britain is discovering: It has a law that would require any telecom company to give the government access to data, but the law cannot be used to compel foreign firms that lack encryption keys to create them, legal experts said.
The debate in some ways harks back to the ''cryptowars'' of the 1990s, when the Clinton administration proposed having the government hold a decryption key ''in escrow'' for law enforcement seeking to wiretap encrypted voice calls. The proposal had its origins in the nuclear bunker where, to avoid the risk of a rogue actor launching a nuclear weapon, the government required two people, each holding part of a key, to put their parts together to unlock the weapon.
The government lost, primarily on policy grounds. ''Fundamentally, what bothered me, and I think many people, is the notion that you don't have a right to try to protect your communications but are forced to trust a third party over which you have no control,'' said Whitfield Diffie, a pioneer of public-key cryptography who was part of the opposition that killed the proposal.
The debate now differs in at least one key respect: its global reach. Today, demand for data security transcends borders, as does law enforcement's desire to obtain the data. Countries including the United Kingdom, Australia and China have passed or are contemplating laws seeking government access to communications similar to that sought by U.S. authorities.
The split-key approach floated by Rogers is a variant on that old approach and is intended to resolve some of the policy objections. Storing a master key in pieces would reduce the risk from hackers. A court could oversee the access.
But some technologists still see difficulties. The technique requires a complex set of separate boxes or systems to carry the keys, recombine them and destroy the new key once it has been used. ''Get any part of that wrong,'' said Johns Hopkins University cryptologist Matthew Green, ''and all your guarantees go out the window.''
Officials say that if default encryption of e-mails, photos and text messages becomes the norm without the company holding a key, it could, as Bitkower said, render a warrant ''no better than a piece of paper.''
Neither Bitkower nor FBI Director James B. Comey, who also has been vocal about the problem, has been able to cite a case in which locked data thwarted a prosecution. But they have offered examples of how the data are crucial to convicting a person.
Bitkower cited a case in Miami in December in which a long-haul trucker kidnapped his girlfriend, held her in his truck, drove her from state to state and repeatedly sexually assaulted her. She eventually escaped and pressed charges for sexual assault and kidnapping. His defense, Bitkower said, was that she engaged in consensual sex. As it turned out, the trucker had video-recorded his assault, and the phone did not have device encryption enabled. Law enforcement agents were able to get a warrant and retrieve the video. It ''revealed in quite disturbing fashion that this was not consensual,'' Bitkower said. The jury convicted the trucker.
Officials and former agents say there will be cases in which crimes will go unsolved because the data was unattainable because only the phone owner held the key. ''I just look at the number of cases I had where, if the bad guy was using one of these [locked] devices, we never would have caught him,'' said Timothy P. Ryan, a former FBI supervisory special agent who now leads Kroll Associates' cyber-investigations practice.
But, he said, ''I think the genie's out of the bottle on this one.''
Some experts say the challenge of device encryption may be diminished if law enforcement can compel a suspect to unlock his phone. But, they add, doing so may raise Fifth Amendment issues of self-incrimination in some cases.
Encryption of phone calls is the harder challenge and the one that agencies such as the NSA, which needs to hear what targets are saying rather than gather evidence for a prosecution, are more concerned about. Brute-force decryption is difficult and time-consuming, and getting ­covert access through manufacturers requires a level of specificity and access that is not often available, intelligence officials say.
''The basic question is, is it possible to design a completely secure system'' to hold a master key available to the U.S. government but not adversaries, said Donna Dodson, chief cyber­security adviser at the Commerce Department's National Institute of Standards and Technologies. ''There's no way to do this where you don't have unintentional vulnerabilities.''
Read more:
U.S. firm helped the spyware industry build a potent digital weapon for sale overseas
In NSA-intercepted data, those not targeted far outnumber the foreigners who are
U.S. establishes sanctions program to combat cyberattacks, cyberspying
Ellen Nakashima is a national security reporter for The Washington Post. She focuses on issues relating to intelligence, technology and civil liberties.
Barton Gellman writes for the national staff. He has contributed to three Pulitzer Prizes for The Washington Post, most recently the 2014 Pulitzer Prize for Public Service.
Continue reading
The NSA wants a multi-part encryption key for 'front door' access to your data
Mon, 13 Apr 2015 22:56
The US National Security Agency (NSA) appears to be increasingly concerned about the growing adoption of encryption and its ability to thwart the agency's surveillance efforts.
Now, after months of debate with tech firms about government access to encrypted data on smartphones and other devices, the NSA has proposed a solution which it hopes will strike a balance between its desire to know everything about everyone and the average law-abiding citizen's right to privacy.
According to The Washington Post, that solution - put forward by NSA director Michael S. Rogers - lies in a multi-part encryption key, created by various tech companies, which could unlock any device.
Speaking at Princeton University recently, Rogers said the key could be broken into several parts, meaning no one agency or company would be able to use it without the co-operation of the others:
I don't want a back door. I want a front door. And I want the front door to have multiple locks. Big locks.
With the highly contentious Section 215 of the Patriot Act - legislation that has allowed mass eavesdropping from the security services - due to sunset on 1 June 2015, privacy rights groups and concerned members of the public have long been voicing their concerns about bulk data collection.
Add to that the fact that firms such as Apple, Google and Microsoft recently sent a letter to President Barack Obama which demanded an end to data collection, and you can probably see why the NSA is exploring more palatable alternatives.
The debate about encryption and government access comes about as tech companies continue to make customer privacy a key selling point for their products and services.
Companies like Apple - which recently took the decision to enable device encryption by default and made key promises to its customers concerning their privacy - are giving the NSA a real headache as the agency argues the need for government access to data to aid in the battle against crime and terrorism.
Edward Snowden, for his part, continues to lament the level of access the US government still has. At a secret meeting at this year's South by Southwest festival he urged tech companies to foil surveillance efforts through the development of better privacy tools.
But Rogers firmly believes that his proposal for a 'front door' is both sound and justified, allowing for access as and when required, while keeping data safe from would-be hackers and other forms of attack.
Of course, his view is not universally shared - Donna Dodson, chief cyber­security adviser at the Commerce Department's National Institute of Standards and Technologies pointed out that a master key still presents a risk, even if it is broken into parts held by different parties:
The basic question is, is it possible to design a completely secure system? There's no way to do this where you don't have unintentional vulnerabilities.
Privacy advocates and industry officials alike are not convinced by Rogers' proposal either. Marc Zwillinger, a former Justice Department official now working as an attorney for tech companies on encryption-related matters, told the Post that law enforcement should not have the undeniable right to access every means of communication between two parties. He added:
I don't think our Founding Fathers would think so, either.
The fact that the Constitution offers a process for obtaining a search warrant where there is probable cause is not support for the notion that it should be illegal to make an unbreakable lock. These are two distinct concepts.
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Image of lock licensed under CC0 1.0 Universal (CC0 1.0)
F-Russia
Time Magazine readers - over half of whom are Americans - name Putin most influential person in world -- Society's Child -- Sott.net
Thu, 16 Apr 2015 05:25
(C) RIA Novosti/Alexei Druzhinin
In a diverse field of competitors made up of pop stars, technology gurus, visionaries and politicians - and at a time when US-Russia relations have hit rock bottom - President Putin has emerged victorious in Time magazine's 2015 reader poll.Among the 100 most influential people in the world, as hand selected by the editors of TIME, the Russian leader proved his rock-star credentials by edging out 24-year-old rapper Lee Chae-rin (better known by her stage name, 'CL') of the South Korean girl-group 2NE1 to claim the number-one spot with 6.95 percent of the votes in the final tally.
Putin - the only world leader to rank in the top 10 - grabbed the global spotlight from the leading divas of pop music: Lady Gaga, Rihanna and Taylor Swift (2.6 percent, 1.9 percent and 1.8 percent of the votes, respectively). Aside from the Russian leader, the only non-celebrities to appear in the top 10 were the Dalai Lama (1.7 percent), Pakistani female activist Malala Yousafzai (1.6 percent) and Pope Francis (1.5 percent).
President Barack Obama narrowly missed the top 10 with 1.4 percent of the votes, while First Lady Michele Obama attracted 1.2 percent.
Putin's victory appears all the more incredible when you realize that more than half the votes '-- 57.38 percent '-- were cast inside the United States, according to TIME (voters representing Canada and the United Kingdom followed with 5.54 percent and 4.55 percent, respectively). The percentage of votes that were cast from Russia has not yet been disclosed.
The Russian leader dominated the charts at a time of unprecedented tensions between Moscow and the West.
US-Russia relations suffered a major setback on November 21, 2013, when then Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovich suspended plans for the implementation of an 'association agreement' with the European Union, showing a preference for closer Russian relations. This decision triggered violent Maidan protests in the capital Kiev, which eventually led to Yanukovich being forced to flee the country in February 2014.
Since then, Putin has steered his country through the rocks of major events, including a reunification with the Crimea Peninsula after a March 16 referendum, which saw an overwhelming number of people voting for it, and subsequent imposition of Western sanctions against Russian individuals and companies.
Meanwhile, Putin and the Russian economy seem to be weathering out the storm of Western sanctions, imposed in response to the Crimean referendum, as the ruble has bounced back from record lows against the dollar and the Russian stock market is one of the year's top performers. At the same time, European leaders are cautiously optimistic that the Minsk-II agreement, hammered out between Russia, Germany, France and Ukraine on February 11, 2015, will keep the peace between pro-Kiev forces and rebels in the east of the country.
While it is doubtful that TIME magazine will argue on behalf of Putin's handling of the Ukrainian crisis, which many commentators in the West predicted would spell the end of the Russian economy, not to mention its leader, one thing that is indisputable is Putin's incredible staying power.
"Man of the year" 2013 by The Times, "Person of the year" 2007 by Time magazine.http://t.co/xihTTkMgaopic.twitter.com/rLn8B8NAtl
'-- Terhi (@TerhiMyller) March 2, 2014
In fact, this is not the first time Putin has taken top honors in a TIME-sponsored contest. In 2007, Putin was named 'Person of the Year.' The popular American magazine summarized its decision for choosing Putin with the explanation: "With dauntless persistence, a sharp vision of what Russia should become and a sense that he embodied the spirit of Mother Russia, Putin has put his country back on the map. And he intends to redraw it himself."But perhaps the world is only now beginning to understand what Russians have understood for many years. In December, Vladimir Putin, 62, was named Russia's "Man of the Year" for an incredible 15th successive year. His approval rating - hovering in the stratosphere around 88 percent - is something most world leaders can only dream of.
As the TIME poll indicates, Vladimir Putin - love him or loathe him - is in a political class all by himself.
The reader's poll stopped calculating votes at 11:59 pm EST on April 10. The full list of TIME 100 winners will appear on newsstands on April 16.
Russia officially joins $60B China-led infrastructure bank
Thu, 16 Apr 2015 04:21
(C) www.nihao-salam.com
On Tuesday Russia officially becomes a founder of the China-led Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB). It means Russian companies can take part in infrastructure projects in the Asia-Pacific region, and could attract foreign investment into Russia.Russia applied for membership as a founding member of the AIIB 2 weeks ago, along with another 52 countries.The founding members have the right to establish the rules guiding the bank's activities. China reportedly had rejected requests from North Korea and Taiwan to join the AIIB. The final list of the bank's founding members will be announced on April 15.
"Russia as a country belonging to the target region of the bank's operations, and is meant to play an important role in investment decisions and also attract investment funds from the bank in the interest of improving the infrastructure of Siberia and the Russian Far East. We expect that the bank will become an effective tool for strengthening transcontinental links and will contribute to Eurasian integration," Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Aleksandr Lukashevich said, according to RIA Novosti.
Allies & rivals
Meanwhile, the United States and Japan have decided not to join the AIIB. Japan which is China's main regional rival has been hesitating due to its relations with Washington and the AIIB's potential rivalry with the Asian Development Bank. Earlier this month, Washington reportedly questioned Japan following the rumors of its possible participation but Tokyo has denied everything.
The AIIB is seen by many experts as an alternative to Western-led financial institutions such as the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund. Washington has been pressuring its allies against joining the bank and raising concerns whether the China-led bank will"meet international standards of governance and transparency."However, leading European economies, including the United Kingdom, France, Germany, Italy, Luxembourg and Switzerland applied to join earlier last month. The application deadline for membership was March 31.
Financial securities expert Francis Lun suggests that even though America is very close to its European allies, "the major European countries are really showing their independence.The response to the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank was overwhelming. It really showed the dissatisfaction of various countries to a dominating America,"Lun told RT.
The IMF chief Christine Lagarde said in March that the IMF and the World Bank would be "delighted" to cooperate with the AIIB. Beijing has repeatedly said that AIIB will be a complement to the existing international financial institutions.
The Asian Bank for infrastructure investment (AIIB) was established in 2014 by China. The bank will finance infrastructure projects in the Asia-Pacific Region; its headquarters will be in Beijing. The initial subscribed capital of AIIB will be $50 billion and is planned to be increased to $100 billion.
Swedish Armed Forces Now Admit Supposed Russian Sub Only Civilian Boat'...'....NWOG20 Right Again!
Thu, 16 Apr 2015 04:11
SEE ALSO: Sweden Starts New Round of Russian Submarine Propaganda For Defense Spending Increase & To Join NATO
SEE ALSO: Sweden Provides No Proof Of Russian Sub Yet Starts To Increase Military Spending Anyway
SEE ALSO: UK Defense Sect. Michael Fallon Pushes Defense Spending On Fake Russian Aggression
SEE ALSO: Fake Russian and NATO Jet Aggression
.
'Submarine' in Sweden was only civilian boat13 Apr 2015
Rear Admiral Anders Grenstad at a press conference after Sweden's October submarine hunt. Photo: Claudio Bresciani/TT
UPDATED: A suspected submarine spotted in the Stockholm archipelago a week after Sweden's extensive hunt for Russian underwater vessels last autumn was only a civilian boat, Sweden's Armed Forces have now said. But they remain convinced that the first sighting was a small foreign sub.
On October 31st 2014, retired naval officer Sven Olof Kviman snapped a picture of what looked like a 20-30 metre long, black submarine in waters just outside Liding¶ in Stockholm. The incident has remained unconfirmed, but has been classed by the military as a ''potential'' submarine.
But Rear Admiral Anders Grenstad has now told Swedish newspapers that the Armed Forces reported to the Swedish government last Wednesday that the suspected underwater vessel was in fact only a civilian ''working boat''.
''The analysis has shown that the photograph taken in Stockholm's inner archipelago was of a smaller boat,'' Grenstad told Dagens Nyheter on Monday.
According to Grenstad, the picture instead showed the boat ''Time Bandit'', a 10.5 metre long, white plastic boat. But the boatman using the vessel on October 31st claimed the Swedish military had not been in contact with him.
''The navy hasn't spoken to me. My boat is visible in the picture '' but not where the Armed Forces say it is, but further away,'' he told Dagens Nyheter.
And Kviman, who participated in Sweden's Cold War submarine hunts in the 1980s and 90s, remains convinced of what he saw.
''It is completely impossible that we have got this wrong, it would mean both my wife and I were colour blind. 'Time Bandit', at a length of 10 metres, is of a completely different size to the submarine. I saw the submarine above water: the bow, stern and tower. It is always difficult to determine the size, but it was around 20-30 metres long,'' he told Dagens Nyheter.
Between October 17th and 24th, Sweden launched an extensive naval search operation after a suspected foreign mini-sub '' widely thought to be Russian '' in the Stockholm archipelago. Grenstad confirmed that the Armed Forces' view is still that this incursion took place, although the military has never confirmed that the vessel came from Russia.
''The assessment that Swedish territory was violated in October 2014, remains in full,'' he told Dagens Nyheter.
The Swedish Armed Forces said in a statement on their website late on Sunday that an inquiry into the October 17th-24th submarine incursion is ongoing and is expected to be completed later this spring.
SOURCE: http://www.thelocal.se/20150413/suspected-sub-in-swedish-waters-was-working-boat
Why Neocons Seek to Destabilize Russia | Consortiumnews
Tue, 14 Apr 2015 05:13
Exclusive: Any propaganda war starts by planting stories that your target is getting rich, whether he is or isn't, the latest move in demonizing Vladimir Putin. But the larger question is what might happen if the neocons succeed in destabilizing nuclear-armed Russia, asks Robert Parry.
By Robert Parry
Now that the demonization of Russia's President Vladimir Putin is in full swing, one has to wonder when the neocons will unveil their plan for ''regime change'' in Moscow, despite the risks that overthrowing Putin and turning Russia into a super-sized version of Ukraine might entail for the survival of the planet.
There is a ''little-old-lady-who-swallowed-the-fly'' quality to neocon thinking. When one of their schemes goes bad, they simply move to a bigger, more dangerous scheme.
Russian President Vladimir Putin. (Russian government photo)
If the Palestinians and Lebanon's Hezbollah persist in annoying you and troubling Israel, you target their sponsors with ''regime change'' '' in Iraq, Syria and Iran. If your ''regime change'' in Iraq goes badly, you escalate the subversion of Syria and the bankrupting of Iran. [See Consortiumnews.com's ''The Mysterious Why of the Iraq War.'']
Just when you think you've cornered President Barack Obama into a massive bombing campaign against Syria '' with a possible follow-on war against Iran '' Putin steps in to give Obama a peaceful path out, getting Syria to surrender its chemical weapons and Iran to agree to constraints on its nuclear program.
So, this Obama-Putin collaboration has become your new threat. That means you take aim at Ukraine, knowing its sensitivity to Russia. [For details, see Consortiumnews.com's ''What Neocons Want from Ukraine Crisis.'']
You support an uprising against elected President Viktor Yanukovych, even though neo-Nazi militias are needed to accomplish the actual coup. You get the U.S. State Department to immediately recognize the coup regime although it disenfranchises many people of eastern and southern Ukraine, where Yanukovych had his political base.
When Putin steps in to protect the interests of those ethnic Russian populations and supports the secession of Crimea (endorsed by 96 percent of voters in a hastily called referendum), your target shifts again. Though you've succeeded in your plan to drive a wedge between Obama and Putin, Putin's resistance to your Ukraine plans makes him the next focus of ''regime change.''
Your many friends in the mainstream U.S. news media begin to relentlessly demonize Putin with a propaganda barrage that would do a totalitarian state proud. The anti-Putin ''group think'' is near total and any accusation '' regardless of the absence of facts '' is fine.
In just the past week, the New York Times has run two such lead stories. The first, last Monday, trumpeted supposed photographic evidence proving that Russian special forces had invaded Ukraine and were provoking the popular resistance to the coup regime in Kiev. [See Consortiumnews.com's ''Another NYT-Michael Gordon Special?'']
Two days later, the Times buried deep inside the paper a grudging retraction, admitting that one key photo that the Times said was taken in Russia (showing the supposed troops before they were dispatched to Ukraine) was actually taken in Ukraine, destroying the whole premise of the earlier story. [See Consortiumnews.com's ''NYT Retracts Russian-Photo Scoop.'']
Then, on Sunday, the Times led the paper with a lengthy report on the ''Search for Secret Putin Fortune'' with the subhead: ''U.S. Suggests Russian Leader Has Amassed Wealth, and That It Knows Where.'' Except the story, which spills over to two-thirds of an inside page, presents not a single hard fact about Putin's alleged ''fortune,'' other than that he wears what looks like an expensive watch.
The story is reminiscent of Ronald Reagan's propaganda campaign against Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega for wearing ''designer glasses,'' a theme that was picked up by the major U.S. news outlets back then without noting the hypocrisy of Nancy Reagan wearing designer gowns and Reagan's beloved Nicaraguan Contra leaders profiting off arms sales and cocaine smuggling.
Spreading suspicions about a target's personal wealth is right out of Propaganda 101. The thinking is that you can turn people against a leader if they think he's ripping off the public, whether he is or isn't. The notion that Ortega's glasses or Putin's watch represents serious corruption '' or that they are proof of some hidden fortune '' is ludicrous, but it can serve a propaganda goal of creating divisions.
But what would it mean to destabilize Russia? Does anyone think that shattering the Russian political structure through a combination of economic sanctions and information warfare will result in a smooth transition to some better future? The Russians already have tried the West's ''shock therapy'' under drunken President Boris Yeltsin '' and they saw the cruel ugliness of ''free market'' capitalism.
Putin's autocratic nationalism was a response to the near-starvation levels of poverty that many Russians were forced into as they watched well-connected capitalists plunder the nation's wealth and emerge as oligarchic billionaires. For all Putin's faults, it was his pushback against some of those oligarchs and his defense of Russian interests internationally that secured him a solid political base.
In other words, even if the neocons get the Obama administration '' and maybe its successor '' to ratchet up tensions with Russia enough to generate sufficient political friction to drive Putin from office, the likely result would be a dangerously unstable Russia possessing a vast arsenal of nuclear weapons. Putin loyalists are not likely to readily accept a replay of the Yeltsin years.
But the neocons apparently think the risks are well worth it. After all, the end result might finally let them kill off that pesky fly, Israel's near-in threat from the Palestinians and Hezbollah. But we might remember what happened to the little old lady in the ditty, when she swallowed the horse, she was dead, of course.
Investigative reporter Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra stories for The Associated Press and Newsweek in the 1980s. You can buy his new book, America's Stolen Narrative, either in print here or as an e-book (fromAmazonandbarnesandnoble.com). For a limited time, you also can order Robert Parry's trilogy on the Bush Family and its connections to various right-wing operatives for only $34. The trilogy includes America's Stolen Narrative. For details on this offer,click here.
Neocon 'Chaos Promotion' in the Mideast | Consortiumnews
Tue, 14 Apr 2015 05:07
Exclusive: After the Persian Gulf War in 1991, America's neocons thought no country could stand up to the high-tech U.S. military, and they realized the Soviet Union was no longer around to limit U.S. actions. So, the ''regime change'' strategy was born '' and many have died, writes ex-CIA analyst Ray McGovern.
By Ray McGovern
Former Washington insider and four-star General Wesley Clark spilled the beans several years ago on how Paul Wolfowitz and his neoconservative co-conspirators implemented their sweeping plan to destabilize key Middle Eastern countries once it became clear that post-Soviet Russia ''won't stop us.''
As I recently reviewed a YouTube eight-minute clip of General Clark's October 2007 speech, what leaped out at me was that the neocons had been enabled by their assessment that '' after the collapse of the Soviet Union '' Russia had become neutralized and posed no deterrent to U.S. military action in the Middle East.
Former Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz, a leading neocon and proponent of the Iraq War. (Defense Department photo)
While Clark's public expos(C) largely escaped attention in the neocon-friendly ''mainstream media'' (surprise, surprise!), he recounted being told by a senior general at the Pentagon shortly after the 9/11 attacks in 2001 about the Donald Rumsfeld/Paul Wolfowitz-led plan for ''regime change'' in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Libya, Somalia, Sudan and Iran.
This was startling enough, I grant you, since officially the United States presents itself as a nation that respects international law, frowns upon other powerful nations overthrowing the governments of weaker states, and '' in the aftermath of World War II '' condemned past aggressions by Nazi Germany and decried Soviet ''subversion'' of pro-U.S. nations.
But what caught my eye this time was the significance of Clark's depiction of Wolfowitz in 1992 gloating over what he judged to be a major lesson learned from the Desert Storm attack on Iraq in 1991; namely, ''the Soviets won't stop us.''
That remark directly addresses a question that has troubled me since March 2003 when George W. Bush attacked Iraq. Would the neocons '' widely known as ''the crazies'' at least among the remaining sane people of Washington '' have been crazy enough to opt for war to re-arrange the Middle East if the Soviet Union had not fallen apart in 1991?
The question is not an idle one. Despite the debacle in Iraq and elsewhere, the neocon ''crazies'' still exercise huge influence in Establishment Washington. Thus, the question now becomes whether, with Russia far more stable and much stronger, the ''crazies'' are prepared to risk military escalation with Russia over Ukraine, what retired U.S. diplomat William R. Polk deemed a potentially dangerous nuclear confrontation, a ''Cuban Missile Crisis in reverse.''
Putin's Comment
The geopolitical vacuum that enabled the neocons to try out their ''regime change'' scheme in the Middle East may have been what Russian President Vladimir Putin was referring to in his state-of-the-nation address on April 25, 2005, when he called the collapse of the Soviet Union ''the greatest geopolitical catastrophe of the [past] century.'' Putin's comment has been a favorite meme of those who seek to demonize Putin by portraying him as lusting to re-establish a powerful USSR through aggression in Europe.
But, commenting two years after the Iraq invasion, Putin seemed correct at least in how the neocons exploited the absence of the Russian counterweight to over-extend American power in ways that were harmful to the world, devastating to the people at the receiving end of the neocon interventions, and even detrimental to the United States.
If one takes a step back and attempts an unbiased look at the spread of violence in the Middle East over the past quarter-century, it is difficult to avoid the conclusion that Putin's comment was on the mark. With Russia a much-weakened military power in the 1990s and early 2000s, there was nothing to deter U.S. policymakers from the kind of adventurism at Russia's soft underbelly that, in earlier years, would have carried considerable risk of armed U.S.-USSR confrontation.
I lived in the USSR during the 1970s and would not wish that kind of restrictive regime on anyone. Until it fell apart, though, it was militarily strong enough to deter Wolfowitz-style adventurism. And I will say that '' for the millions of people now dead, injured or displaced by U.S. military action in the Middle East over the past dozen years '' the collapse of the Soviet Union as a deterrent to U.S. war-making was not only a ''geopolitical catastrophe'' but an unmitigated disaster.
Visiting Wolfowitz
In his 2007 speech, General Clark related how in early 1991 he dropped in on Paul Wolfowitz, then Under Secretary of Defense for Policy (and later, from 2001 to 2005, Deputy Secretary of Defense). It was just after a major Shia uprising in Iraq in March 1991. President George H.W. Bush's administration had provoked it, but then did nothing to rescue the Shia from brutal retaliation by Saddam Hussein, who had just survived his Persian Gulf defeat.
According to Clark, Wolfowitz said: ''We should have gotten rid of Saddam Hussein. The truth is, one thing we did learn is that we can use our military in the Middle East and the Soviets won't stop us. We've got about five or 10 years to clean up those old Soviet client regimes '' Syria, Iran (sic), Iraq '' before the next great superpower comes on to challenge us.''
It's now been more than 10 years, of course. But do not be deceived into thinking Wolfowitz and his neocon colleagues believe they have failed in any major way. The unrest they initiated keeps mounting '' in Iraq, Syria, Libya, Somalia, Lebanon '' not to mention fresh violence now in full swing in Yemen and the crisis in Ukraine. Yet, the Teflon coating painted on the neocons continues to cover and protect them in the ''mainstream media.''
True, one neocon disappointment is Iran. It is more stable and less isolated than before; it is playing a sophisticated role in Iraq; and it is on the verge of concluding a major nuclear agreement with the West '' barring the throwing of a neocon/Israeli monkey wrench into the works to thwart it, as has been done in the past.
An earlier setback for the neocons came at the end of August 2013 when President Barack Obama decided not to let himself be mouse-trapped by the neocons into ordering U.S. forces to attack Syria. Wolfowitz et al. were on the threshold of having the U.S. formally join the war against Bashar al-Assad's government of Syria when there was the proverbial slip between cup and lip. With the aid of the neocons' new devil-incarnate Vladimir Putin, Obama faced them down and avoided war.
A week after it became clear that the neocons were not going to get their war in Syria, I found myself at the main CNN studio in Washington together with Paul Wolfowitz and former Sen. Joe Lieberman, another important neocon. As I reported in ''How War on Syria Lost Its Way,'' the scene was surreal '' funereal, even, with both Wolfowitz and Lieberman very much down-in-the-mouth, behaving as though they had just watched their favorite team lose the Super Bowl.
Israeli/Neocon Preferences
But the neocons are nothing if not resilient. Despite their grotesque disasters, like the Iraq War, and their disappointments, like not getting their war on Syria, they neither learn lessons nor change goals. They just readjust their aim, shooting now at Putin over Ukraine as a way to clear the path again for ''regime change'' in Syria and Iran. [See Consortiumnews.com's ''Why Neocons Seek to Destabilize Russia.'']
The neocons also can take some solace from their ''success'' at enflaming the Middle East with Shia and Sunni now at each other's throats '-- a bad thing for many people of the world and certainly for the many innocent victims in the region, but not so bad for the neocons. After all, it is the view of Israeli leaders and their neocon bedfellows (and women) that the internecine wars among Muslims provide at least some short-term advantages for Israel as it consolidates control over the Palestinian West Bank.
In a Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity memorandum for President Obama on Sept. 6, 2013, we called attention to an uncommonly candid report about Israeli/neocon motivation, written by none other than the Israel-friendly New York Times Bureau Chief in Jerusalem Jodi Rudoren on Sept. 2, 2013, just two days after Obama took advantage of Putin's success in persuading the Syrians to allow their chemical weapons to be destroyed and called off the planned attack on Syria, causing consternation among neocons in Washington.
Rudoren can perhaps be excused for her na¯ve lack of ''political correctness.'' She had been barely a year on the job, had very little prior experience with reporting on the Middle East, and '' in the excitement about the almost-attack on Syria '' she apparently forgot the strictures normally imposed on the Times' reporting from Jerusalem. In any case, Israel's priorities became crystal clear in what Rudoren wrote.
In her article, entitled ''Israel Backs Limited Strike Against Syria,'' Rudoren noted that the Israelis were arguing, quietly, that the best outcome for Syria's (then) 2 ½-year-old civil war, at least for the moment, was no outcome:
''For Jerusalem, the status quo, horrific as it may be from a humanitarian perspective, seems preferable to either a victory by Mr. Assad's government and his Iranian backers or a strengthening of rebel groups, increasingly dominated by Sunni jihadis.
'''This is a playoff situation in which you need both teams to lose, but at least you don't want one to win '-- we'll settle for a tie,' said Alon Pinkas, a former Israeli consul general in New York. 'Let them both bleed, hemorrhage to death: that's the strategic thinking here. As long as this lingers, there's no real threat from Syria.'''
Clear enough? If this is the way Israel's leaders continue to regard the situation in Syria, then they look on deeper U.S. involvement '' overt or covert '' as likely to ensure that there is no early resolution of the conflict there. The longer Sunni and Shia are killing each other, not only in Syria but also across the region as a whole, the safer Tel Aviv's leaders calculate Israel is.
Favoring Jihadis
But Israeli leaders have also made clear that if one side must win, they would prefer the Sunni side, despite its bloody extremists from Al-Qaeda and the Islamic State. In September 2013, shortly after Rudoren's article, Israeli Ambassador to the United States Michael Oren, then a close adviser to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, told the Jerusalem Post that Israel favored the Sunni extremists over Assad.
''The greatest danger to Israel is by the strategic arc that extends from Tehran, to Damascus to Beirut. And we saw the Assad regime as the keystone in that arc,'' Oren said in an interview. ''We always wanted Bashar Assad to go, we always preferred the bad guys who weren't backed by Iran to the bad guys who were backed by Iran.'' He said this was the case even if the ''bad guys'' were affiliated with Al-Qaeda.
In June 2014, Oren '' then speaking as a former ambassador '' said Israel would even prefer a victory by the Islamic State, which was massacring captured Iraqi soldiers and beheading Westerners, than the continuation of the Iranian-backed Assad in Syria. ''From Israel's perspective, if there's got to be an evil that's got to prevail, let the Sunni evil prevail,'' Oren said.
Netanyahu sounded a similar theme in his March 3, 2015 speech to the U.S. Congress in which he trivialized the threat from the Islamic State with its ''butcher knives, captured weapons and YouTube'' when compared to Iran, which he accused of ''gobbling up the nations'' of the Middle East.
That Syria's main ally is Iran with which it has a mutual defense treaty plays a role in Israeli calculations. Accordingly, while some Western leaders would like to achieve a realistic if imperfect settlement of the Syrian civil war, others who enjoy considerable influence in Washington would just as soon see the Assad government and the entire region bleed out.
As cynical and cruel as this strategy is, it isn't all that hard to understand. Yet, it seems to be one of those complicated, politically charged situations well above the pay-grade of the sophomores advising President Obama '' who, sad to say, are no match for the neocons in the Washington Establishment. Not to mention the Netanyahu-mesmerized Congress.
Corker Uncorked
Speaking of Congress, a year after Rudoren's report, Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tennessee, who now chairs the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, divulged some details about the military attack that had been planned against Syria, while lamenting that it was canceled.
In doing so, Corker called Obama's abrupt change on Aug. 31, 2013, in opting for negotiations over open war on Syria, ''the worst moment in U.S. foreign policy since I've been here.'' Following the neocon script, Corker blasted the deal (since fully implemented) with Putin and the Syrians to rid Syria of its chemical weapons.
Corker complained, ''In essence '' I'm sorry to be slightly rhetorical '' we jumped into Putin's lap.'' A big No-No, of course '' especially in Congress '' to ''jump into Putin's lap'' even though Obama was able to achieve the destruction of Syria's chemical weapons without the United States jumping into another Middle East war.
It would have been nice, of course, if General Clark had thought to share his inside-Pentagon information earlier with the rest of us. In no way should he be seen as a whistleblower.
At the time of his September 2007 speech, he was deep into his quixotic attempt to win the Democratic nomination for president in 2008. In other words, Clark broke the omerta code of silence observed by virtually all U.S. generals, even post-retirement, merely to put some distance between himself and the debacle in Iraq '' and win some favor among anti-war Democrats. It didn't work, so he endorsed Hillary Clinton; that didn't work, so he endorsed Barack Obama.
Wolfowitz, typically, has landed on his feet. He is now presidential hopeful Jeb Bush's foreign policy/defense adviser, no doubt outlining his preferred approach to the Middle East chessboard to his new boss. Does anyone know the plural of ''bedlam?''
Ray McGovern works for Tell the Word, a publishing arm of the ecumenical Church of the Saviour in inner-city Washington. He served for a total of 30 years as an Army infantry/intelligence officer and CIA analyst and is a member of the Steering Group of Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS).
Glory to Ukraine! Ethnic Russian untermensch former MP assassinated in Kiev -- Puppet Masters -- Sott.net
Thu, 16 Apr 2015 06:16
(C) AFP 2015/ SERGEI SUPINSKY
Oleh Kalashnikov, a Ukrainian MP and a member of the Party of Regions, was assassinated on Wednesday evening near his residence in Kiev, one of his relatives told local media.The relative also said that Kalashnikov was recently threatened with bodily harm due to his political views, particularly for his call for a lavish celebration of the 70th anniversary of the victory in WWII, and that the slain politician received a considerable amount of hate mail.
The Security Service of Ukraine, SBU, was investigating Kalashnikov's statements for a potential threat to the national security.
Recently, a number of former members of the Party of Regions and high ranking officials have died under mysterious circumstances, with their deaths being officially declared suicides.
War on Ca$h
War on Cash in Louisiana
Tue, 14 Apr 2015 01:27
With the passage of House Bill 195 into law, the State of Louisiana has banned the use of cash in all transactions involving secondhand goods. State representative Ricky Hardy, a co-author of the bill, claims that the bill targets criminals who traffic in stolen goods. According to Hardy, ''It's a mechanism to be used so the police department has something to go on and have a lead.'' The bill prohibits cash transactions by "secondhand dealers," defined to include garage sales, flea markets, resellers of specialty items, and even non-profit resellers like Goodwill. Curiously, it specifically exempts pawnbrokers from the ban. But of course, pawn shops--and not rented stalls at local church flea markets--are notorious as places that criminals frequent to convert stolen goods into quick cash. So what gives? Are the authors of the bill and those who voted for it ignoramuses--or are they deliberately obscuring the real purpose of the bill?
The answer is clear once we examine the other provisions of the bill. In fact, the bill goes far beyond banning cash transactions. As lawyer Thad Ackel notes, the bill requires:
. . . secondhand dealers to turn over a valuable business asset, namely, their business' proprietary client information. For every transaction a secondhand dealer must obtain the seller's personal information such as their name, address, driver's license number and the license plate number of the vehicle in which the goods were delivered. They must also make a detailed description of the item(s) purchased and submit this with the personal identification information of every transaction to the local policing authorities through electronic daily reports. If a seller cannot or refuses to produce to the secondhand dealer any of the required forms of identification, the secondhand dealer is prohibited from completing the transaction.
So the aim of the bill is not to aid law enforcement in apprehending criminals, none of whom would be ever stupid enough to turn over such information. The real intent is to feed government's insatiable hunger for tax revenues by completely stripping law-abiding citizens of financial privacy in secondhand transactions, every detail of which is fed directly into police files.
This troubling development in Louisiana parallels the intensification of the war on cash by the Federal government. Last month it was reported that the U.S. Justice Department ordered bank employees to snitch to the cops on customers who withdrew $5,000 or more. In a speech, assistant attorney general Leslie Caldwell exhorted banks to ''alert law enforcement authorities about the problem'' so that police can ''seize the funds'' or at least ''initiate an investigation''.
Citi Economist Says It Might Be Time to Abolish Cash - Bloomberg Business
Sat, 11 Apr 2015 20:13
The world's central banks have a problem.
When economic conditions worsen, they react by reducing interest rates in order to stimulate the economy. But, as has happened across the world in recent years, there comes a point where those central banks run out of room to cut '-- they can bring interest rates to zero, but reducing them further below that is fraught with problems, the biggest of which is cash in the economy.
In a new piece, Citi's Willem Buiter looks at this problem, which is known as the effective lower bound (ELB) on nominal interest rates.
Fundamentally, the ELB problem comes down to cash. According to Buiter, the ELB only exists at all due to the existence of cash, which is a bearer instrument that pays zero nominal rates. Why have your money on deposit at a negative rate that reduces your wealth when you can have it in cash and suffer no reduction?
Cash therefore gives people an easy and effective way of avoiding negative nominal rates.
Buiter's note suggests three ways to address this problem:
Abolish currency.
Tax currency.
Remove the fixed exchange rate between currency and central bank reserves/deposits.
Yes, Buiter's solution to cash's ability to allow people to avoid negative deposit rates is to abolish cash altogether. (Note that he's far from being the first to float this idea. Ken Rogoff has given his endorsement to the idea as well, as have others.)
Before looking at the practicalities of abolishing currency, we should first look at whether it could ever be necessary. Due to the costs of holding large amounts of cash, Buiter puts the actual nominal rate at which the move to cash makes sense as closer to -100bp. So, in order for a cash abolition to become necessary, central banks would need to be in a position where they wished to set nominal rates much lower than that.
Buiter does not have to go far to find an example of where a central bank may have wanted to set interest rates much lower to -100bp. He uses (a fairly aggressive) Taylor Rule to show that Federal Reserve rates should have been as low as -6 percent during the financial crisis.
It seems Buiter is correct: Sometimes strongly negative nominal rates are called for.
Buiter is aware that his idea may be somewhat controversial, so he goes to the effort of listing the disadvantages of abolishing cash.
Abolishing currency will constitute a noticeable change in many people's lives and change often tends to be resisted.
Currency use remains high among the poor and some older people. (Buiter suggests that keeping low-denomination cash in circulation '-- nothing larger than $5 '-- might solve this.)
Central banks and governments would lose seigniorage revenue.
Abolishing currency would inevitably be associated with a loss of privacy and create risks of excessive intrusion by the government.
Switching exclusively to electronic payments may create new security and operational risks.
Buiter dismisses each of these concerns in turn, finishing with:
In summary, we therefore conclude that the arguments against abolishing currency seem rather weak.
Whatever the strength of the arguments, the chances of an administration taking the decision to abolish cash seem vanishingly small.
Shut Up Slave!
TSA fires agents who set up system to grope men's genitals -- Society's Child -- Sott.net
Thu, 16 Apr 2015 06:03
(C) Reuters/Kevork Djansezian
Two Transportation Security Administration officials at Denver International Airport (DIA) have been fired for conducting a scam on male passengers. A male and female agent collaborated so the male could fondle the genitals of men he found attractive.At some point in 2014, the male TSA agent told a female coworker that he "gropes" male passengers he finds attractive, and he asked her for help manipulating the system, according to law enforcement documents obtained by KCNC.
"He related that when a male he finds attractive comes to be screened by the scanning machine he will alert another TSA screener to indicate to the scanning computer that the party being screened is a female. When the screener does this, the scanning machine will indicate an anomaly in the genital area and this allows [the male TSA screener] to conduct a pat-down search of that area," the documents said.
Enhanced pat-downs were introduced by the TSA in 2010, and are "primarily used to resolve alarms that occur at a walk-through metal detector, if an anomaly is detected during screening with advanced imaging technology (AIT), or during random screening," according to the agency's blog. Pat-downs are conducted by same gender officers.
A TSA official turned in the two employees in November, but it took three months before the agency took action.
"@LeMarquand: THE TSA...."If we did our job any better, we'd Have to buy you dinner first" pic.twitter.com/xk5GC47W" But just don't profile!
'-- Nancy Otterby (@NOtterby) January 8, 2013
On February 9, in response to the anonymous tip, TSA security supervisor Chris Higgins watched the DIA screening area, observing the employees."At about 0925 he observed [the male TSA screener] appear to give a signal to another screener... [the second, female screener] was responsible for the touchscreen system that controls whether or not the scanning machine alerts to gender-specific anomalies," the law enforcement documents said.
(C) Transportation Security AdministrationA security alert from a TSA full body scan
Higgins then watched a male passenger enter the scanner at DIA "and observed [the female TSA agent] press the screening button for a female. The scanner alerted to an anomaly, and Higgins observed [the male TSA screener] conduct a pat down of the passenger's front groin and buttocks area with the palm of his hands, which is contradictory to TSA searching policy."Then Higgins interviewed the female agent he saw participating in the manipulation, according to KCNC.
She "admitted that she has done this for [the male TSA officer] at least 10 other times. She knew that doing so would allow [the male TSA officer] to perform a pat down on a male passenger that [the male TSA screener] found attractive," Higgins wrote in the report.
"These alleged acts are egregious and intolerable," a spokesperson for TSA said in a brief written statement to KCNC. "TSA has removed the two officers from the agency. All allegations of misconduct are thoroughly investigated by the agency. And when substantiated, employees are held accountable."
Earlier in April, KCNC asked a prosecutor from the Denver District Attorney's Office to review the case, but she declined to press charges because there was no reasonable likelihood of conviction and no victim had been identified.
Previously, the TSA denied that its agents abuse their authority by targeting attractive people.
In a blog post responding to allegations made by a Texas woman that TSA agents at Dallas International Airport subjected her to a full body imaging scan three times and told her that her figure was "cute," the agency wrote, "First, I want to reassure all passengers that TSA does not profile passengers."
Thepost, titled 'TSA Officers Focus on Security, not Good Looks', noted that the imaging system software only shows the outline of a generic person. However, the blog did not address whether agents could manipulate the alert system to re-scan whomever they want, as the two fired Denver officials were found to have done.
(C) AFP/Chip SomodevillaThe image produced by backscatter machines, which are no longer in use
The TSA switched away from previous software in 2011 and completely removed the backscatter machines that were nicknamed "naked scanners" by June 2013, after years of complaints and following serious concerns over their inability to protect the privacy of passengers. A 2014 study found that those types of scanners were ineffective at finding smuggled weapons, especially the explosive C-4.It's not the first time that TSA agents at DIA have been accused of inappropriate touching.
In December 2013, Jamelyn Steenhoek, 39, accompanied her 13-year-old daughter to a departure gate at DIA when she was stopped for a pat-down. Although Steenhoek was not boarding a flight that day, she set off a security alarm at an airport checkpoint and attracted the attention of TSA officials.
After what she described as a "pretty invasive search" by a female TSA agent, Steenhoek filed a complaint with the Denver Police Department, which in turn opened an investigation into the incident. Criminal charges were not filed against the official.
According to district attorney spokesperson Lynn Kimbrough, two deputy district attorneys looked over the details of the 2013 incident, and both concluded that the case should be dropped along with any charges. She added the attorneys did not think they could prove the TSA's pat-down had elements of abuse or gratification.
AB 66 Miranda
Honorable Shirley Weber
California State Assembly
State Capitol, Room 6026
Sacramento, Ca. 95814
Re: Opposition to AB 66
Dear Assemblymember Weber:
On behalf of the more than 2,000 members of the San Francisco Police Officers Association, we regret to inform you of our opposition to AB 66 concerning body-worn cameras for peace officers.
Many cities and counties throughout California have implemented or are in the process of implementing the use of body-worn cameras. AB 66 establishes a number of significant mandates concerning the use of these cameras.
Many of the mandates in AB 66 are likely to result in serious, potentially dangerous, unintended consequences.
While we support much of the language in this bill and the goals it seeks to attain, our strong concerns with certain sections of this legislation require us to oppose AB 66.
Our concerns are below:
Lack of Meet & Confer - This bill potentially violates meet & confer requirements for any change in working conditions.
Lack of clarity – AB 66 fails to clearly describe circumstances under which police officers would be required to activate their cameras.
Requiring officers to read Miranda rights to victims – While we respect and understand the goal of this language, we do not feel it is appropriate for a victim or witness to have Miranda rights read to them. Hearing Miranda rights can be a stressful and confusing process and may alienate the very individuals who can be most helpful in providing critical evident.
Prohibits access to recorded video – Prohibiting officers to review video prior to writing reports creates opportunities for defense attorneys to impeach officers on the stand, question their testimony, and potentially lead to Brady list issues.
Rights to privacy and safety – We believe “privacy” should be considered along with “safety” when determining disclosure of recorded video.
Again, we appreciate your willingness to move forward on body-worn camera legislation and your open dialogue on the subject. Should you have any questions about our concerns, please do not hesitate to contact our association.
Very truly yours,
Martin Halloran
President
San Francisco, CA
Maryland 'free range kids' taken into custody again by child protective services | Fox News
Mon, 13 Apr 2015 14:18
April 12, 2015: Danielle and Alexander Meitiv speak to reports after being reunited with their children at the Montgomery County (Md.) Child Protective Services office in Rockville, Md. (Marrina Marraco/MyFoxDC.com)
Two Maryland children who received national attention as so-called "free range kids" earlier this year because of their parents' decision to let them roam alone were taken into custody again Sunday by Child Protective Services.
Danielle and Alexander Meitiv's children, ages 6 and 10, were picked up by police on Sunday at around 5 p.m., and taken to Montgomery County Child Protective Services. A neighbor apparently saw the children walking alone and called 911 to report it. WTTG reported the children were walking about a third of a mile from home at the time.
Danielle Meitiv said she had told her kids to be home by 6:30 p.m., and when they didn't arrive, she and her husband became frantic and started driving around looking for them.
The Meitivs say CPS didn't call them to let them know they had the kids until about 8 p.m. The Meitivs drove to CPS to pick up their kids, but say they were told to "take a seat" and initially weren't given any information about their children, except that they were there.
Just after 10:30 p.m., the Meitivs were reunited with their kids. They had to sign a temporary safety plan to take them home, which means they are not allowed to leave the children unattended at all.
The Meitivs' 10-year-old son told reporters they sat in the police car for about two hours before they were told they would be dropped off at home, but instead, they went to CPS in Rockville.
The Meitivs made national news in January, when the parents were investigated for letting their children roam freely though their town without parental supervision.
Then, in March, Child Protective Services found the parents were guilty of "unsubstantiated" child neglect. The children remained in their parents' custody, but CPS will keep a file on the family for five years as part of the verdict. The Meitivs had vowed to appeal that decision.
Police say after a thorough investigation, a decision about whether or not the Meitivs will face charges will be made.
Click for more from MyFoxDC.com.
Child Protective Services kidnaps children to protect them from kidnappers
Thu, 16 Apr 2015 06:09
Remember the Maryland parents who were found guilty of neglect for allowing their children, 10 and 7, to walk around the neighborhood together but unaccompanied by an adult?Yesterday those kids were just taken by CPS because they were playing at the park by themselves.
WUSA-9 reports how the children were seized:
The Maryland parents accused of child neglect for letting their children roam freely are headed to Child Protective Services after their children were removed from a park Sunday by police.
Montgomery County Police and Child Protective services are in a joint investigation of Danielle and Sasha Meitiv for possible child neglect for allowing their children to walk freely.
At approximately 4:55 p.m., Montgomery County Police received a call to check on the welfare of the Meitiv children at a Silver Spring park. Police say officers found the children unattended.&
As part of protocol, police say they called Child Protective Services and were told to bring the children to the agency.
The children, ages six and 10, were taken to Child Protective Services after being removed from the park.
So Child Protective Services is kidnapping children from their parents to protect them from potential kidnappers who may strike if the children are left unattended?The Meitiv children are in perfectly good health. There are no signs of physical or mental abuse by the parents. In fact there seems to be nothing but love. However, the authorities and busy-body neighbors appear to have a problem with their free-range parenting style.
Have people already forgotten their own youth? Do they perceive today to be a more dangerous time? Why? Violent crime rates have been plummeting.
Clearly these parents have not neglected their children. However, kidnapping these children from a playground and breaking up this family over their free-range philosophy seems to be obvious abuse.
AUSTIN CITY COUNCIL VOTES TO BAN BBQ RESTAURANTS | Washington Weekly News
Thu, 16 Apr 2015 00:00
Austin City Council members debated a plan Thursday to put restrictions on smoke from barbeque restaurants.
Council member Pio Renteria asked council to amend city code and regulate the amount of smoke that comes from food trucks and restaurants within 100 feet of residential areas.
Renteria said residents complained to him that smoke coming from BBQ joints caused them to not be able to open their windows or enjoy their backyards. People living near the La Barbeque trailer in East Austin told their stories before council.
''They smoke several days a week, generally five days a week for 17 hours,'' said Bruce Hughes. ''I can no longer open windows, the smoke seeps in from the attic.''
Restaurant owners also went before council asking for flexibility, especially for places that have not faced complaints.
''My concern is that that if we have an ordinance that paints all of us into one group of folk that may not be good neighbors,'' said Hoover Alexander, board member of the Greater Austin Restaurant Association. ''We're going to be penalized without considerations of other solutions.''
Council members ultimately gave preliminary approval to the smoke restrictions, but recommended making amendments before approving up a final version of the ordinance. A final vote on the issue is not expected until this summer.
Earlier Report:
Austin barbecue lovers, new city rules could force changes to the cooking process. Smoke coming from the pits has some residents fired up. Right now, the city does not have any regulations that state how much smoke can be emitted from restaurants and mobile food venders. And because food trailer parks are moving next to neighborhoods, some residents have complained to their city council members.
Pio Renteria, who represents District 3 in East Austin, is now spearheading an amendment to the city code to require any restaurant or food truck that burns wood or charcoal, located within 100 feet of residential properties, to find a way to mitigate the smoke. He is suggesting that businesses either buy expensive smoke scrubbers or use gas-operated pits with wood chips. Renteria said other states use that method to limit the smoke.
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Vaccine$
How seeing everyone's highlight reel on FB leads to depression
Tue, 14 Apr 2015 12:26
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New study shows painkiller acetominophen (Tylenol) kills both positive and negative emotions
Thu, 16 Apr 2015 05:52
(C) Shutterstock
Painkilling drugs taken every week by almost a quarter of Americans also kill positive emotions.Acetaminophen '-- also known as Tylenol (or paracetamol outside the US) '-- kills positive emotions, a new study finds.
Studies have already shown that the painkiller blunts both physical and psychological pain.
But this is the first time anyone has thought to test the popular painkiller's effect on both negative and positive emotions.
Acetaminophen is such a popular drug that it is found in over 600 different medicines.
Geoffrey Durso, the study's lead author, said:
"This means that using Tylenol or similar products might have broader consequences than previously thought.
Rather than just being a pain reliever, acetaminophen can be seen as an all-purpose emotion reliever."
The study had half the participants take a dose of 1000 mg of acetaminophen, which is a regular amount (often taken as two 500 mg pills).The remainder were given an inactive placebo.
After waiting an hour for the drug to take effect, both groups were given the same test.
They viewed a series of photos designed to elicit various positive and negative emotions.
Dr Baldwin Way, one of the study's authors, explained the results:
"People who took acetaminophen didn't feel the same highs or lows as did the people who took placebos."
In other words, the drug blunted both positive and negative emotions.When people saw a relatively happy picture '-- like children with kittens '-- they still rated their emotional reaction near the midpoint.
People who'd taken the placebo were more emotionally affected.
Despite the changes, people who'd taken acetaminophen didn't feel they were reacting any differently.
Dr Way said:
"Most people probably aren't aware of how their emotions may be impacted when they take acetaminophen."
It is not yet known if other pain relievers like aspirin or ibuprofen have the same effect.The research might suggest, though, that some factors affect both our positive and negative emotions in a similar way.
It could even be, Geoffrey Durso said, that the study tapped into some difference between people in how they react to both positive and negative events:
"There is accumulating evidence that some people are more sensitive to big life events of all kinds, rather than just vulnerable to bad events."
The study is published in the journal Psychological Science (Durso et al., 2015)Comment: Studies have also shown that social support and contact is a most effective pain reliever:"For some, social exclusion is an inescapable and frequent experience," the authors conclude in a 2010 issue ofPsychological Science. "Our findings suggest that an over-the-counter painkiller normally used to relieve physical aches and pains can also at least temporarily mitigate social-pain-related distress."
The effect breaks both ways. In another report from Psychological Science, published in 2009, a research group led by Sarah Master of University of California, Los Angeles, found that social support could relieve the intensity of physical pain - and that the supportive person didn't even have to be present for the soothing to occur.
Master and colleagues recruited 25 women who'd been in relationships for at least six months and brought them into the lab with their romantic partner. They determined each woman's pain threshold, then subjected her to a series of six-second heat stimulations. Half of the stimulations were given at the threshold pain level, half were given one degree (Celsius) higher.
Meanwhile the woman took part in a series of tasks to measure which had a mitigating effect on the pain. Some involved direct contact (holding the partner's hand, a stranger's hand, or an object) while others involved visual contact (viewing the partner's photo, a stranger's photo, or an object). In the end, contact involving a romantic partner - both direct and visual alike - led to significantly lower pain ratings compared to the other tasks. In fact, looking at a partner's picture led to slightly lower pain ratings than actually holding his hand.
At least for all the hurt love causes, it has an equally powerful ability to heal."
Why love literally hurts
Apple and the Self-Surveillance State - NYTimes.com
Thu, 16 Apr 2015 04:16
Photo"What watch?" "$10,000 watch!" "Such much?"CreditLike lots of people, I'm paying attention to the Apple Watch buzz, and doing some of my own speculation. Needless to say, I have no special expertise here. But what the heck; I might as well put my own thoughts out there.
So, here's my pathetic version of a grand insight: wearables like the Apple watch actually serve a very different function '-- indeed, almost the opposite function '-- from that served by previous mobile devices. A smartphone is useful mainly because it lets you keep track of things; wearables will be useful mainly because they let things keep track of you.
As I've written before, these days I wear a Fitbit, not because I want precise metrics on my fitness regime '-- which I'm probably not getting '-- but precisely because the thing spies on me all the time, and therefore doesn't let me lie to myself about my efforts. And to get that benefit, I don't need to be able to read information off the device '-- the basic version is just a blank band, communicating its information by Bluetooth. All I need is to be able to check up on myself once or twice a day.
Now, in this case the only intended recipient of this information is myself, although for all I know the NSA, the Machine, and Samaritan are tracking me too. (If you're not watching Person of Interest, you should be.) But it's easy to imagine how a wristband that provides information to others could be very useful '-- easy to imagine because it already happens at Disney World, where the Magic Band tracks you, letting rides know that you have bought a ticket, restaurants know that you've arrived and what table you're sitting at, and more.
And yes, I know that your phone can do some of this; but a wearable can gather more information while being, you know, wearable.
But will people want a Disney-like experience out in the alleged real world? Almost surely the answer is yes.
Consider the Varian rule, which says that you can forecast the future by looking at what the rich have today '-- that is, that what affluent people will want in the future is, in general, something like what only the truly rich can afford right now. Well, one thing that's very clear if you spend any time around the rich '-- and one of the very few things that I, who by and large never worry about money, sometimes envy '-- is that rich people don't wait in line. They have minions who ensure that there's a car waiting at the curb, that the maitre-d escorts them straight to their table, that there's a staff member to hand them their keys and their bags are already in the room.
And it's fairly obvious how smart wristbands could replicate some of that for the merely affluent. Your reservation app provides the restaurant with the data it needs to recognize your wristband, and maybe causes your table to flash up on your watch, so you don't mill around at the entrance, you just walk in and sit down (which already happens in Disney World.) You walk straight into the concert or movie you've bought tickets for, no need even to have your phone scanned. And I'm sure there's much more '-- all kinds of context-specific services that you won't even have to ask for, because systems that track you know what you're up to and what you're about to need.
Yes, it can sound kind of creepy. Even if there are protocols that supposedly set limits, revealing only what and to whom you want, there will tend to be an expansion of your public profile and contraction of your private space '-- not to mention the likelihood that the NSA, the Machine, and Samaritan are watching regardless. But two points here. First, most people probably don't have that much to be private about; most of us don't actually have double lives and deep secrets '-- at most we have minor vices, and the truth is that nobody cares. Second, lack of privacy is actually part of the experience of being rich '-- the chauffeur, the maids, and the doorman know all, but are paid not to tell, and the same will be be true of their upper-middle-class digital versions. The rich already live in a kind of privatized surveillance state; now the opportunity to live in a gilded fishbowl is being (somewhat) democratized.
So that's my two cents (which purchase as much in digital terms as several hundred dollars back when). I think wearables will become pervasive very soon, but not so that people can look at their wrists and learn something. Instead, they'll be there so the ubiquitous surveillance net can see them, and give them stuff.
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Dog Flu Sweeping Through Chicago - mammalian adaptation
Wed, 15 Apr 2015 17:06
Donna Spector, DVM, DACVIM, is The Expert Vet on this show for dog and cat owners and other veterinarians who need help with complicated medical conditions and nutrition issues. The show offers detailed explanations of medical conditions and Dr. Donna's opinion about chronic, complicated or unusual problems, advice about pain management, cancer diagnosis and treatment, and even how to avoid unnecessary vaccinations. Dr. Donna Spector is a board-certified Veterinary Internal Medicine Specialist who is also an active member of the Association of Holistic Veterinarians, knowledgeable about traditional Western medicine as well as alternative therapies and points of view. Dr. Donna is widely recognized for her role as consulting veterinarian to Halo, Purely for Pets '-- her TV appearances with Ellen DeGeneres '-- and her widely-quoted dog and cat health advice in print and on radio. Dr. Donna's veterinary consulting service, www.SpectorDVM.com enables her to work with pet owners and their primary veterinarian, through telephone and email communication and transference of medical records, to help determine the most effective diagnosis and treatment plans.
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National Adult Immunization Plan: The Obama administration's devious plot to mandate vaccines -- Health & Wellness -- Sott.net
Thu, 16 Apr 2015 04:42
In collaboration with Big Business and special interests, the Obama administration's Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) is plotting a new program to track Americans' vaccination records, wage a massive propaganda campaign to "encourage" more inoculations, and foist more controversial vaccines on adults against their will. Federal bureaucrats and crony capitalists set to profit from the proposal claim the goal is to improve "public health," and establishment media outlets have largely parroted that line so far. However, critics of the unconstitutional scheme, formally dubbed the "National Adult Immunization Plan" (NAIP), say the ultimate goal is to forcibly vaccinate all Americans and move toward a radical new healthcare paradigm in which medical "treatment" is delivered at gunpoint.The controversial plot was cooked up and unveiled by the Obama HHS National Vaccine Advisory Committee during its February meeting. If approved by federal bureaucrats, the executive-branch assault would, among other elements, enlist private businesses, churches, and non-profit organizations in a nationwide campaign to prod Americans into accepting the Obama administration's perpetually expanding list of "recommended" vaccines. The scheme would also offer doctors and other vaccine providers "incentives" '-- read taxpayer-funded bribes '-- to shred patient privacy and feed private medical information into state and federal databases to track those who refuse to comply.
The summary of the "five-year national plan," as official documents describe it, deliberately uses innocent-sounding language to promote the effort. "The NAIP is intended to facilitate coordinated action by federal and nonfederal partners to protect public health and achieve optimal prevention of infectious diseases and their consequences through vaccination of adults," it states, adding that ObamaCare implementation offers a "unique opportunity" to be used as leverage. "As a national plan, it will require engagement from a wide range of stakeholders to achieve its full vision." Those stakeholders include just about everybody except the target: You. As always with "national plans" dreamed up by Big Government and Big Business, though, the devil is really in the details.
Critics and medical professionals are already up in arms. After summarizing the growing torrent of recent Obama administration assaults on liberty, Dr. Lee Hieb, an orthopedic surgeon and past president of the Association of American Physicians and Surgeons, said the NAIP scheme was an especially troubling attack on the liberties of Americans. Calling it "a proposal by the orchestrators of Obamacare to forcibly vaccinate all adult Americans," Hieb also ridiculed the Soviet-sounding "five-year plan" language. But the implications of the latest Obama administration attack on medical liberty and privacy are no joking matter.
"If you Americans do not stand against this, it's over," continued Dr. Hieb, author of the new book Surviving the Medical Meltdown: Your Guide to Living Through the Disaster of Obamacare. "What liberty do you have if the federal government can force you to have a medical procedure, can force you to surrender your very body to their control? Answer: none. Because there is nothing that cannot be justified on the basis of 'the good of society.' The Jewish Holocaust, the Great Leap Forward, the killing of the Kulaks, American Eugenics, Tuskegee experimentation, the cold water experiments of Birkenau, Dachau and Auschwitz, all were justified at the time by their respective leaders as for the good of society."
In the WND column, Dr. Hieb also outlined some of her scientific concerns surrounding vaccination before lambasting the participation of government-selected "stakeholders" '-- state, local, territorial, and tribal governments; healthcare providers; advocacy groups; vaccine manufacturers; academia and research organizations; payers and health plans; employers; the military; and the general public. The "real stakeholder," she said, "is you." "No one cares more about the risks versus benefits of vaccination than you do personally," Dr. Hieb concluded. "To leave it to a group, to treat you as a member of a group for medical care, is not ethical medicine. It is the stuff of jails and forced labor camps and socialist hellholes '-- and apparently American academia and bureaucrats. It is time to say no."
Other experts and advocates for medical freedom were similarly outraged by the Obama administration's adult-vaccination scheme. In a widely reprinted scathing report outlining the plan, Executive Director Theresa Wrangham with the National Vaccine Information Center (NVIC) urged citizens to fight back immediately. "There is no time to waste," she wrote, citing a broad array of threats stemming from the HHS vaccine plot. From unconstitutionally invading Americans' medical privacy to efforts at mandating adult vaccination and quashing informed-consent ethics in medicine, Wrangham said the plan is dangerous and must be opposed.
"The NAIP makes it clear that in the future, all American adults will be informed of the recommended adult schedule at every possible opportunity outside the healthcare provider domain," explained Wrangham at the NVIC, a non-profit organization that supports informed consent and individual liberty. "You will be encouraged to comply with the adult schedule not only by your healthcare provider, but also via community-based partnerships to ensure that you have the opportunity to roll up your sleeve at work, school, church and other community gatherings." The vaccine tracking databases being developed and already in existence, she added, "will be used to identify non-compliers."
While the NVIC supports access to vaccines for anyone who wants them, there "is a difference between awareness, access, recommendations and mandates," Wrangham continued. "In the past, these types of government vaccine use plans do not just seek to increase awareness and access but also make recommendations that foster vaccine mandates without flexible medical, religious and conscientious belief exemptions that align with the informed consent ethic."
The scheme could eventually result in de facto mandatory vaccination, too. Vaccine mandates typically come from the state level, and the NAIP, technically at least, has no legal authority to make its "recommendations" mandatory. "However, much like the recommendations made by NVAC a few years ago for healthcare workers to receive annual flu shots, these recommendations are likely to result in future de facto vaccine mandates for adults, whether through employer requirements, or actual state laws," Wrangham added, citing legislation introduced in states across the country this year to further chip away at existing exemptions '-- religious, medical, philosophical '-- for mandated childhood vaccines.
According to Wrangham, "there is little doubt that that the NVAC's latest plan will result in similar actions to force adults to use all federally recommended vaccines." In fact, as if that were not troubling enough, she also said, citing the work of Dr. Suzanne Humphries, "door-to-door efforts to make everyone comply" '-- as happened about a century ago '-- are "a real possibility again in America." The difference is that this time, Americans could be forced to receive "a lot" of vaccines rather than just one.
"The noose being tightened around the necks of our children is being thrown over the necks of adults as well," Wrangham said. "The tightening of that noose is growing daily in an attempt to strangle vaccine freedom of choice by eradicating the ethical principle of informed consent." Blasting the "one-size-fits-all" vaccine schedule promoted by authorities as "very dangerous," she noted that "the human right to protect bodily integrity and autonomy '-- the core value of the informed consent ethic '-- is at stake." The battle is not between the pro- or anti-vaccine positions, she concluded. Instead, it is about freedom, values, beliefs, and what medical risks individuals are willing to accept. Vaccination just happens to be at the forefront of the battle.
Supporters of the plan, meanwhile, have rallied numerous establishment media outlets to their cause. Last month, for example, the Wall Street Journal ran an article that sounded almost like a press release issued by Obama's HHS. "It's Time for Grown-Ups to Get Their Shots," reads the headline. The subtitle: "Adults have their own vaccination needs, but they've often been neglected. Now doctors are trying to correct that." Those doctors, of course, are working in the federal bureaucracy or in crony companies, and their NAIP plot would, among other schemes, provide federal "incentives" to doctors that push more vaccines on patients. Numerous Big Business and special-interest "stakeholders" set to reap massive, risk-free profits from the federal scheming have also been touting it.
In addition to being a brazen assault on individual liberty, privacy, medical ethics, and the U.S. Constitution, the radical plan also represents the very essence of crony capitalism. The federal government, using non-existent "executive authorities," is essentially seizing taxpayer funds from citizens to act as a coercive marketing and propaganda agency for hugely profitable Big Pharma companies and vaccine pushers. Adding insult to injury, those same crony capitalists successfully lobbied the federal government to shield them from liability when their products kill and injure consumers '-- making taxpayers bear the billions of dollars in costs for damages.
Various opponents of the ObamaVaccines plot for adults were urging concerned Americans to submit "public comments" to the federal bureaucrats at HHS begging them not to impose it. The public comment period ended last month, and bureaucrats will meet again in June to "finalize" their plans. A much better solution, though, would be for Congress to defund and abolish all unconstitutional agencies, bureaucracies, departments, and programs. If members of Congress would follow their oath of office, the NAIP and countless other totalitarian-minded schemes would never have even been dreamt up. Americans must stop trying to fight each individual executive-branch assault on liberty and instead go straight to the source: anti-constitutional congressional funding for all the madness.
Alex Newman is a correspondent for The New American, covering economics, education, politics, and more.He can be reached at [email protected].Follow him on Twitter @ALEXNEWMAN_JOU.
Swearing is emotional and creative language say researchers who claim it is GOOD for you | Daily Mail Online
Fri, 10 Apr 2015 17:27
Theory presented to British Psychological Society conference in BirminghamParticipants played aggressive video game and held ice-cold glass of waterDr Richard Stephens of Keele University added it explains why we swear'We want to use more taboo words when we're emotional', he saidBy Dan Bloom
Published: 09:55 EST, 11 May 2014 | Updated: 04:56 EST, 12 May 2014
Scroll down for an audio interview
Swearing is a harmless emotional release which could make you feel stronger, researchers have claimed - though only in moderation.
Participants were made to play aggressive computer games and could recall a wider variety of swear words after their session, as well as turning the air blue much more often.
Rather than just proving we swear more when we're angry, the psychologists insisted, the study showed profanity can be an emotional coping mechanism which makes us feel more resilient.
Letting off steam: Swearing could be a harmless emotional release, at least in moderation, researchers claim
And it showed the reasons for swearing were far more complicated than simple rudeness, they said.
The psychologists at Keele University in Staffordshire have spent several years trying to understand why we swear and what it does to our brains.
They presented the findings of their latest study to the British Psychological Society's annual conference this week.
TURNING THE NET BLUE: TOP 10 UK SWEAR WORDS ON FACEBOOK1. F***
2. S***
3. Bloody
4. P***
5. B****
6. Crap
7. C***
8. C***
9. Damn
10. D***
Source:Slate
In the video game study, they said, participants were asked to recall as many profanities as they could before and after playing.
Beforehand they could only recall an average of seven, but afterwards the total rose to eight.
Senior lecturer Dr Richard Stephens said: 'The video games made people feel more aggressive so their language became more emotional and they swore. This explains swearing and makes it more acceptable.
'We want to use more taboo words when we are emotional. We grow up learning what these words are and using these words while we are emotional can help us to feel stronger.
'Some words are more taboo than others - but the effects can be greater, the stronger the word.'
Speaking before the gathering of top psychologists, Dr Stephens also mentioned a previous study by his team which showed swearing made us feel less pain.
Participants were handed a glass of water filled with ice, and split into two groups - one told to swear and another told to keep quiet.
Intelligent: Dr Stephens said the average profile of a swearer is often sophisticated, like that of the spin doctor Malcolm Tucker (played by Peter Capaldi) in TV political satire The Thick of It
The group allowed to swear held the ice-cold glass for longer, they discovered.
Dr Stephens' interest in swearing began after he heard his wife cursing while she was in labour with their second daughter.
He has also studied research which he says debunks the theory that swearing is the language of the ignorant.
Instead, he said, the highly intelligent but foul-mouthed spin doctor Malcolm Tucker in political satire The Thick of It could be more accurate.
'The stereotype is that those who swear have a low IQ or are inarticulate is wrong. It is rich emotional language,' he said.
However, he warned: 'The more often someone swears, the less effective it is.'
Not everyone agrees that swearing is a harmless creative output.
BT Sport had to abandon post-match interviews outside grounds because fans could not be relied upon not to swear following an Arsenal-Liverpool match report in February which was repeatedly interrupted by foul language.
And Vladimir Putin reportedly signed a new law this week which bans swearing in Russian plays, films and books.
Researcher explains why swearing is GOOD.
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Bird flu spreads to six more states; officials baffled
Mon, 13 Apr 2015 23:03
(C) Jeremy Bronson/Flickr
So far the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) has confirmed that 23 U.S. poultry farms have been infected with the deadly H5N2 avian bird flu virus in a total of at least 7 states, including California, Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota, Missouri, Kansas, and Arkansas bringing the number of dead dinner birds, turkeys, to over 1.2 million in total as officials race the clock to contain the outbreak.While officials maintain the massive die off, culling, of the fowl should pose little to no health threat to the general public, the loss has added to growing fears that this years poultry stock will weigh in at an all-time low. And coupled with the fact that California's extreme drought situation might affect up to 50% of America's, fruit, vegetable and nut supply within the next year or two we may soon be facing a massive food crisis.
According to reports the outbreak has baffled scientists who are scrambling to find the source which some say are water fowl, such as ducks.
So far the Hormel Foods Jennie-O Turkey Store, a bird farm of 310,000, located in Minnesota, was the most heavily impacted by the virus dwindling the states $600 million turkey business. In total, Hormel Foods has recently lost over 600,000 fowl to the outbreak.
Alarmingly the Star Tribune recently reported how "farmers are trying to seal their barns to keep the bug out". Mike Hughlett wrote:
The bug is mysterious. It's believed to originate in wild waterfowl '-- particularly ducks '-- who don't get sick from the virus but spread it through their feces or nasal droppings. Somehow the virus has infiltrated enclosed barns stuffed with thousands of turkeys.
"When you look at a map, you see a lot of turkey farms in Minnesota," said T.J. Myers, associate deputy administrator in veterinary services for the U.S. Department of Agriculture. "When you look at a map of Minnesota, you also see a lot of lakes."
As of now we will just have to just wait and see if the virus can be quelled by officials before the strain mutates, possibly jumping to humans.
Additional Sources:
Bird flu outbreak spreads to 3 more Midwest turkey farms '-- AP
Bird flu outbreak confirmed at 14th MN turkey farm '-- KARE 11
Bird flu confirmed at North Dakota turkey farm, 4 more in Minnesota '-- Fox News
Minnesota turkey farmers could take devastating financial hit because of bird flu '-- Star Tribune
War on anti-vaxxers: Australian government removes conscientious objection provision, denies subsidies and family tax benefits
Tue, 14 Apr 2015 01:38
(C) Shutterstock
Australians who refuse to vaccinate their children will no longer receive child care subsidies and family tax benefits, Prime Minister Tony Abbott announced on Sunday.The widely anticipated government crackdown comes as Australia sees an increase in the number of so-called vaccine objectors.
"The choice made by families not to immunise their children is not supported by public policy or medical research nor should such action be supported by taxpayers in the form of child care payments," Abbott said.
The government will on January 1 remove a "conscientious objection" provision and permit exemptions only on strict medical or religious grounds, he said.
Parents who cite religion would have to be affiliated with a religious group with a registered objection approved by the government.
The rules would also be amended to require benefit applicants to show that children of all ages have been immunised, Abbott said.
Parents who vaccinate should have confidence that their children will not be at risk of contracting potentially life-threatening illness because of the objections of others.
About 97% of benefit recipients meet current immunisation requirements.
"However more than 39 000 children aged under seven are not vaccinated because their parents are vaccine objectors. This is an increase of more than 24 000 children over 10 years," Abbott said.
Recent outbreaks of measles, whooping cough and other diseases that are preventable through immunisation in various parts of the world have fuelled the vaccination debate.The anti-vaccination lobby links childhood immunisation to conditions such as autism.US anti-vaccination activist Sheri Tenpenny cancelled a series of seminars in Australia in January over what she said on Facebook were threats from "pro-vaccine extremists".
On Wednesday, regulators revoked the license of a local charity that reportedly helped organise Tenpenny's visit, for promoting an unproven theory related to sudden infant death syndrome.
IBM teams with Apple on artificial intelligence health program - Yahoo News
Tue, 14 Apr 2015 00:35
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Parents who refuse to vaccinate children to be denied childcare rebates | Society | The Guardian
Sun, 12 Apr 2015 13:59
A one-year-old is administered with a vaccination '' the government will now close a loophole that allowed parents who refused to vaccinate children to still receive welfare payments. Photograph: David Levene for the Guardian
The Abbott government will tighten vaccination rules to ensure that people who refuse to immunise their children are stripped of family and childcare payments worth thousands of dollars a year.
The prime minister, Tony Abbott, said people would no longer be able to claim a ''conscientious objection'' to vaccination and still receive the childcare benefit, childcare rebate and the Family Tax Benefit part A end-of-year supplement.
The childcare benefit is currently set at $205 a week or close to $10,000 a year, the childcare rebate is worth up to $7,500 a year, and the Family Tax Benefit A annual supplement is $726. But the structure of childcare subsidies is complex and the total amounts vary based on family circumstances.
The policy, to take effect early next year, will continue to leave open exemptions on medical or religious grounds.
But the social services minister, Scott Morrison, said the new policy represented ''a very significant narrowing'' of the exemptions. A religion's governing body would have to formally register its objection with the government, which would have to approve it.
''There are no mainstream religions who have such objections registered,'' Morrison said. ''Those would apply to a very very small number of people. It would be likely to be in the thousands.''
Abbott and Morrison announced the ''no jab, no pay'' policy in Sydney on Sunday, saying 97% of families receiving family tax benefits met the current immunisation requirement at relevant age points.
''However more than 39,000 children aged under seven are not vaccinated because their parents are vaccine objectors. This is an increase of more than 24,000 children over 10 years,'' Abbott and Morrison said in a statement.
''The government is extremely concerned at the risk this poses to other young children and the broader community.
''The choice made by families not to immunise their children is not supported by public policy or medical research nor should such action be supported by taxpayers in the form of child care payments.''
Morrison urged parents to listen to ''the overwhelming advice'' of health professionals that ''it's the smart thing and the right thing to do to immunise your children''.
''If they're not going to do that, then the taxpayers are not going to subsidise that choice for them,'' Morrison said.
Abbott declined to say how much the policy might save the budget. ''This isn't a savings measure; this is a public health measure.''
The prime minister said he believed the policy should have bipartisan support but he did not take anything for granted.
The opposition leader, Bill Shorten, who has previously expressed support for the government taking a tougher stance, said on Sunday that Labor would work with the Coalition to increase immunisation rates.
''Labor understands that there are a small number of people who have deeply-held religious convictions, but other than that, Labor sees no case at all for parents not to be encouraged to immunise their children,'' Shorten said.
''What I don't accept is people just claiming some sort of loose, undefined conscientious objection and using that as an excuse not to do the right thing by their children.''
Shorten said political leaders should work with the childcare sector to ensure vulnerable children were not inadvertently excluded from early education and care as a result of the policy.
The president of the Australian Medical Association, Brian Owler, underlined the importance of people talking to their general practitioner as a credible source of information about vaccination.
Owler said the AMA had not originally supported revoking payments because it was worried about children being alienated or punished for the decisions of their parents. He said the policy would not eliminate the need for other initiatives to increase vaccination rates.
''You have parents coming through all the time,'' Owler said. ''You have to keep going with the education, the right messaging, to the media and the public to get parents to the right sources of information and to call out the anti-vax lobby for what it is: essentially scaremongering conspiracy theorists and peddling a load of rubbish and endangering lives doing it.''
The government is considering other elements of the Productivity Commission report '' including an overhaul of childcare subsidies '' as part of the ''families package'' to form part of the budget next month.
Six Payment Opportunities You May Have Overlooked - Family Practice Management
Tue, 14 Apr 2015 16:56
Letting reimbursable services go unbilled is something few family physicians can afford, yet we all do it. In some cases we decide that documenting and coding for a particular service is more trouble than it's worth, or we may simply misunderstand the billing requirements. But as our profit margins grow ever narrower, it's especially foolish to leave money on the table.
Determination and disciplined coding and documentation can make a noticeable difference in your revenue. This article focuses on six types of services you may already be providing but not getting paid for. Here's what you need to know to start getting paid more today.
1. Tobacco cessation counselingMedicare Part B has covered smoking and tobacco cessation counseling for more than three years, but some physicians have yet to catch on to this billing opportunity. Medicare provides coverage for patients who use tobacco and have ''a disease or an adverse health effect that has been found by the U.S. Surgeon General to be linked to tobacco use, or patients who are taking a therapeutic agent whose metabolism or dosing is affected by tobacco use.''1 Medicare will pay for two quit attempts per year. Each can include up to four intermediate or intensive sessions.
Three minutes or less of counseling for smoking and tobacco cessation is considered by Medicare to be included in reimbursement for the standard evaluation and management (E/M) office visit. When billing for more than three minutes of smoking and tobacco cessation counseling, you may use the following codes:
99406: Smoking and tobacco-use cessation counseling visit; intermediate, greater than 3 minutes up to 10 minutes.
99407: Smoking and tobacco-use cessation counseling visit; intensive, greater than 10 minutes.
Medicare's national average payment rate for 99406 is $12.19; the average rate for 99407 is $23.99. (See below for a summary of payments for these and other services described in this article.)
Medicare claims for smoking and tobacco cessation counseling must be submitted with diagnosis codes that reflect the patient's condition or therapeutic agent affected by the use of tobacco. Medicare will accept the following diagnoses for this purpose:
Vascular disease, including coronary artery disease, hypertension, myocardial infarction, congestive heart failure, aortic aneurysm, peripheral vascular disease and cerebrovascular accident;
Lung disease, including chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, chronic bronchitis, upper respiratory infection, asthma and pneumonia;
Pregnancy complications, including low birth weight, premature birth, abruption, previa, infertility, premature rupture of membranes and preeclampsia;
Cancer of the mouth, throat, larynx, lung, esophagus, blood, bone marrow, stomach, pancreas, kidney, bladder or cervix;
Cataracts;
Peptic ulcer disease;
Gum disease and tooth loss;
Osteoporosis and related hip fractures;
Conditions such as diabetes, hypertension, depression and deep vein thrombosis/pulmonary embolism, whose therapeutic agents are affected by tobacco.
Be sure to document the appropriate diagnosis codes in your note for the encounter along with the amount of time spent on tobacco cessation counseling, some details of the counseling and the context in which it was provided.
These services will almost always be provided in the context of a problem-oriented E/M visit on the same day. In addition to including 99406 or 99407, your claim should include the appropriate code in the 99201 to 99215 range with modifier 25 attached to show that the E/M service is significant and separately identifiable from the tobacco cessation counseling.
If tobacco cessation counseling was the main purpose of the visit, you should bill an office visit code based on time, since CPT rules allow for time-based coding when counseling or coordination of care is the predominant focus of the visit.
See ''An Update on Tobacco Cessation Reimbursement,'' FPM, May 2006, for more information about payments from private payers; unfortunately, many payers do not allow this service to be separately billed. Also, the January/February issue of FPM will feature an overview of Medicare's preventive service policies, along with a tool for keeping track of what's covered.
A BOOST TO YOUR BOTTOM LINEPayments for the services described in this article are sizable enough to make it worthwhile to learn the rules and bill for them.
View/Print Table
HCPCS or CPT codeBrief code descriptorAverage payment99406
Smoking and tobacco-use cessation counseling visit; intermediate, greater than 3 minutes up to 10 minutes
$12.19
99407
Smoking and tobacco-use cessation counseling visit; intensive, greater than 10 minutes
$23.99
G0101
Cervical or vaginal cancer screening; pelvic and clinical breast examination
$35.04
Q0091
Screening Pap smear; obtaining, preparing and conveyance of cervical or vaginal smear to laboratory
$40.37
G0102
Prostate cancer screening; digital rectal exam
$19.81
G0103
Prostate cancer screening; prostate specific antigen test
$25.70
G0180
Physician certification for Medicare-covered home health services sunder a home health plan of care (patient not present)
$58.27
G0179
Physician recertification for Medicare-covered home health services under a home health plan of care (patient not present)
$44.56
G0181
Physician supervision of a patient receiving Medicare-covered services provided by a participating home health agency (patient not present)
$103.98
G0182
Physician supervision of a patient under Medicare-approved hospice (patient not present)
$107.79
99356
Prolonged physician service in the inpatient setting, requiring direct (face-to-face) patient contact beyond the usual service, 30 minutes to one hour (list separately in addition to code for inpatient E/M service)
$81.51
99357
Each additional 30 minutes of prolonged service (list separately in addition to code for prolonged physician service)
$81.89
HCPCS or CPT codeBrief code descriptorAverage payment99406
Smoking and tobacco-use cessation counseling visit; intermediate, greater than 3 minutes up to 10 minutes
$12.19
99407
Smoking and tobacco-use cessation counseling visit; intensive, greater than 10 minutes
$23.99
G0101
Cervical or vaginal cancer screening; pelvic and clinical breast examination
$35.04
Q0091
Screening Pap smear; obtaining, preparing and conveyance of cervical or vaginal smear to laboratory
$40.37
G0102
Prostate cancer screening; digital rectal exam
$19.81
G0103
Prostate cancer screening; prostate specific antigen test
$25.70
G0180
Physician certification for Medicare-covered home health services sunder a home health plan of care (patient not present)
$58.27
G0179
Physician recertification for Medicare-covered home health services under a home health plan of care (patient not present)
$44.56
G0181
Physician supervision of a patient receiving Medicare-covered services provided by a participating home health agency (patient not present)
$103.98
G0182
Physician supervision of a patient under Medicare-approved hospice (patient not present)
$107.79
99356
Prolonged physician service in the inpatient setting, requiring direct (face-to-face) patient contact beyond the usual service, 30 minutes to one hour (list separately in addition to code for inpatient E/M service)
$81.51
99357
Each additional 30 minutes of prolonged service (list separately in addition to code for prolonged physician service)
$81.89
2. Home health certificationPrimary care physicians usually do not get paid for the non-face-to-face care we provide, so we have to make the most of the few bill-able codes that actually compensate us for this work. HCPCS codes G0180 and G0179, which represent home health certification and recertification, are two such examples. Both are reimbursed by Medicare. (Care plan oversight codes are also in this category and will be discussed later in the article.)
The covered service is reviewing and signing the CMS 485 (formerly HCFA 485) form once every 60 days. Everything else done for the home health patient during this period is covered by the care plan oversight codes. For certification, payment is comparable to what Medicare pays for a level-III visit. For recertification, payment is less, but still more than for a level-II visit.
The certification code, G0180, is reimbursable if the patient has not received Medicare-covered home health services for at least 60 days. The service includes the following:
Review of initial or subsequent reports of patient status,
Review of the patient's responses to the Oasis assessment instrument,
Contact with the home health agency to ascertain the initial implementation plan of care,
Documentation in the patient's record.
The recertification code, G0179, may be submitted when the physician signs a subsequent CMS certification form after a patient has received services for at least 60 days. Code G0179 may be reported only once every 60 days, except in the rare situation when a patient starts a new episode before 60 days elapse and requires a new plan of care.
It takes a systematic effort to make sure you capture the documentation necessary to bill for these codes. In my practice, every time we receive a CMS 485 form in the mail for one of my patients, my nurse prints a charge sheet and attaches it to the form before forwarding it to me. I review and sign the form. If there are no changes in the care plan, I document using a standard template: ''CMS form, care plan and patient's chart reviewed. Probs, meds and treatments remain accurate. Care plan is approved. Recertify every 60 days as needed.'' If there have been significant changes to the care plan, I mention them in the note. In most years, payment resulting from my claims for recertification alone adds up to several thousand dollars in revenue.
For more information about getting paid for home health certification and recertification, see ''An Update on Certifying Home Health Care,'' FPM, May 2001.
3. Home health and hospice care plan oversightCare plan oversight (CPO) for home health and hospice patients is another non-face-to-face service you can bill and be reimbursed for by Medicare. Physicians often provide this service but do not bill for it because the rules are complicated. However, the payment rates ($103.98 for G0181, home health CPO, and $107.79 for G0182, hospice CPO, on average) make it worthwhile to learn the rules, document your time and bill for these services.
Patients are eligible to receive CPO services if they require complex treatment, are being cared for by multidisciplinary teams and are under the care of a Medicare-approved home health agency or hospice. CPO services must be personally furnished by a physician or non-physician practitioner and must total at least 30 minutes in a calendar month.
The following work qualifies as CPO:
Reviewing charts, reports and treatment plans;
Reviewing diagnostic studies if the review is not part of an E/M service;
Talking on the phone with other health care professionals who are not employees of the practice and are involved in the patient's care;
Conducting team conferences;
Discussing drug treatment and interactions (not routine prescription renewals) with a pharmacist;
Coordinating care if physician or non-physician practitioner time is required;
Making and implementing changes to the treatment plan.
The following work does not count as CPO:
Telephone calls to the patient or family;
Time spent phoning in prescriptions;
Informal consultations with health care professionals;
Services initiated as part of other E/M services;
Services to any patients in nursing facilities or skilled nursing facilities;
Activities related to certification/recertification, i.e., signing the CMS 485 form.
I've tried various ways of capturing the time I spend on CPO services. A system that works for many physicians is to maintain a list of the names of patients for whom home health or hospice services are provided each month. (This list reminds the nurse which charts to pull at the end of the month when it's time to submit claims.) They keep a log in each patient's chart on which they document the date, a brief description of the CPO services and the minutes spent providing them.
At the end of the month, the nurse pulls the charts and adds up the time. Another system is to keep copies of each lab report, message or other documentation involving CPO services. Note on each the CPO purpose and time spent in the activity, then file them alphabetically. At the end of the month, sort them by name and add up the time.
If the CPO services for an individual patient add up to at least 30 minutes for the calendar month, bill for them using the start and end dates of the month as the service dates and the provider number of the home health agency/hospice as required on the form.
The CPT manual defines CPO using six CPT codes, 99374 through 99380. Check with your private payers to find out whether they pay for these services; many don't.
For more information about care plan oversight coding, see ''How to Document and Bill Care Plan Oversight,'' FPM, May 2005.
4. Medicare pelvic examsAlthough Medicare does not pay for physicals, it does cover one screening pelvic and clinical breast exam for all female beneficiaries every two years. Whether you provide the pelvic exam in the context of treating a patient's acute problem or along with a comprehensive review of her chronic condition, you should report HCPCS code G0101 for the pelvic exam, Q0091 for the collection of the Pap smear specimen, and the appropriate CPT code for the E/M service with modifier 25 attached. The Medicare deductible does not apply to this service.
One of the following diagnosis codes should be linked with the HCPCS codes, as appropriate:
V72.31, General gynecological exam with or without Pap smear;
V76.2, Special screening for malignant neoplasms, cervix;
V76.47, Special screening for malignant neoplasms, vagina;
V76.49, Special screening for malignant neoplasms, other sites;
V15.89, Other specified personal history presenting hazards to health (patient who is considered high risk according to Medicare's criteria).
You should also keep in mind that Medicare may pay for a screening pelvic and clinical breast exam annually if the beneficiary falls into one of the following categories:
The patient is of childbearing age and has had an exam indicating the presence of cervical or vaginal cancer or other abnormality during any of the preceding three years;
The patient is considered to be at high risk for vaginal cancer as evidenced by prenatal exposure to diethylstilbestrol. The patient is considered to be at high risk for cervical cancer based on any of the following:
Early onset of sexual activity (under 16 years of age),
Multiple sexual partners (five or more in a lifetime),
History of a sexually transmitted disease (including HIV),
Absence of three negative Pap smears or complete absence of Pap smears within the previous seven years.
5. Prostate cancer screeningMedicare covers an annual prostate cancer screening test for men over age 50. Such tests include digital rectal exams (DREs) and prostate-specific antigen (PSA) blood tests. The code for DREs is G0102, and the code for PSAs is G0103.
Billing and payment for a DRE, however, is bundled into the payment for a covered E/M service when the two services are furnished to a patient on the same day. If the DRE is the only service provided or is provided as part of an otherwise noncovered service, HCPCS code G0102 would be payable separately if the other coverage requirements are met. With an organized effort, your practice could establish periodic prostate screening times and bring Medicare-age men in just for this service. This would be both efficient and covered by Medicare.
Use diagnosis code V76.44 (''Special screening for malignant neoplasms, prostate'') when billing Medicare for either service. DREs are subject to the Medicare deductible; no coinsurance or deductible applies to the PSA test.
6. Prolonged services for inpatient careCPT's prolonged service codes are meant to be reported in addition to E/M codes when the time a physician spends with a patient goes at least 30 minutes beyond the typical CPT-defined time for that service.
I'm occasionally able to bill for prolonged services in the inpatient setting using codes 99356 and 99357, which are for ''prolonged physician service in the inpatient setting, requiring direct (face-to-face) patient contact beyond the usual service.'' Code 99356 is used for the first 30 minutes to an hour of service beyond the time associated with the primary code, and 99357 is used for each additional 30 minutes. The prolonged service doesn't have to be continuous, but it does have to be face to face. (See ''Time requirements for billing prolonged services in the inpatient setting,'' below.)
For example, let's say you round on a patient in the morning and provide a 99232 subsequent hospital care service. You then return in the evening and have a conference with the patient and her family. Your total time could easily equal 55 minutes '' 30 minutes more than the time CPT associates with the level-II subsequent hospital care service you provided. This meets the time threshold for billing prolonged service code 99356 in addition to 99232. If you had provided level-I subsequent hospital care service and your time totaled 45 minutes or more, you could bill 99356 and 99231.
It's important to document the required components of the E/M visit and be specific about the face-to-face time spent in prolonged service.
As with care plan oversight, you need to be systematic in your efforts to record the time you spend seeing patients at the hospital. I've gotten in the habit of timing my notes, keeping track of the start and end times of my face-to-face contact with each patient as I round.
TIME REQUIREMENTS FOR BILLING PROLONGED SERVICES IN THE INPATIENT SETTINGMedicare uses these times to determine whether prolonged service code 99356 can be billed with codes for initial and subsequent hospital care.
View/Print Table
Inpatient hospital care codesTypical time for code, per CPTThreshold time to bill code 99356Initial hospital care
99221
30
60
99222
50
80
99223
70
100
Subsequent hospital care
99231
15
45
99232
25
55
99233
35
65
Inpatient hospital care codesTypical time for code, per CPTThreshold time to bill code 99356Initial hospital care
99221
30
60
99222
50
80
99223
70
100
Subsequent hospital care
99231
15
45
99232
25
55
99233
35
65
Get paidThe range of codes described in this article and the detailed rules that underlie them may seem ridiculously complex. We could focus on how crazy the system is, or even on the inadequacy of the payment amounts and the shortsightedness of the coverage limits; these points of view are worth sharing with those in a position to bring about change. But in the daily struggle to ensure the financial viability of our practices, we can't afford opportunities.
If you're providing any of these services but not billing for them, or if you're not sure whether you're getting paid or billing correctly for them, take action today. You'll soon be glad you did.
Yemen
Westerners - including Americans - abandoned by their leaders to Saudi bombing of Yemen, evacuated by Russian ships and planes
Mon, 13 Apr 2015 05:08
Russian planes were sent into Yemen by the Russian government to save people, no matter where they're from
The Russian Navy vessel Priazovye has helped to evacuate 308 people from war-torn Yemen. The Russian Defense Ministry stated citizens from 19 countries had been rescued, including Russian, Ukrainian, US and Yemeni nationals.The Russian warship departed the southern Yemeni port of Aden on Sunday night and is due to arrive in Djibouti, on the east coast of Africa on Monday morning.
"Among those evacuated from the zone of hostilities in the Aden area, were citizens of 19 countries, including 45 Russian nationals," Igor Konashenkov, a Defense Ministry spokesman said on Sunday.
There were also a number of foreign citizens aboard the Priazovye, including 18 Americans, 14 Ukrainians, nine Belorusians, five UK citizens, as well as 159 Yemeni nationals.
The Russian warship had been based in the Gulf of Aden to help carry out anti-piracy missions, before it was sent towards Yemen to aid the evacuation. It follows weeks of Saudi-led airstrikes against Houthi anti-government rebels.
This is not the first Russian-led evacuation in Yemen. Earlier in April, Moscow organized flights and ship to help evacuate its own citizens, as well as a number of foreigners, from the conflict area. So far, Russian aircraft have made five rescue missions into Yemen to airlift people caught in the war-zone to safety.
At least eight other countries, including China, India and Pakistan, have also been actively working on evacuating people from Yemen, both by sea and by air.Meanwhile, the US has been criticized for failing to evacuate its own citizens from Yemen, where up to 4,000 American nationals are believed to be stranded.
(C) Reuters / Khaled AbdullahPeople waiting to be evacuated at Sanaa International Airport, Yemen, April 6, 2015
US citizens currently in Yemen have lashed out against Washington for failing to act. "Nobody will help us evacuate. The reply [of the US government] was an automated message that they do not have any evacuation plans. Basically we are left on our own," Arwa Al-Iraine, a US citizen trapped in Yemen told RT.Three Arab and Muslim human rights groups filed a lawsuit against the Obama administration, which includes dozens of cases of American citizens who have been unable to leave Yemen.
Towards the end of March, Saudi Arabia, along with several other Arab states, including Jordan, Egypt and the United Arab Emirates, launched airstrikes targeting Shia Houthi rebels, who had seized the Yemeni capital and large areas in the west of the country.
The Saudi-led coalition has taken over Yemen's airfields and seaports, and bombed the Houthi stronghold of Saada in the north, the capital Sanaa and the port city of Aden in the south.
According to some of the latest reports, up to 1,042 people have died in the fighting, the International Federation of the Red Cross reported on Thursday.
NA-Tech News
Growth of Ad Blocking Adds to Publishers' Worries - WSJ
Mon, 13 Apr 2015 13:45
Internet users are increasingly making use of software that blocks ads from appearing as they move around the Web. The trend is a growing concern for online publishers, many of which rely on advertising as a major source of revenue.
The Interactive Advertising Bureau addressed the issue during its annual leadership meeting in February, and now says it's a high priority for 2015.
''Ad blocking is something we're seeing increase domestically,'' said the IAB's vice president of technology and ad operations, Scott Cunningham. The main reasons users choose to block ads are for security and privacy, a general dislike of advertising and the fact that webpages often load considerably faster without ads on them, Mr. Cunningham said.
According to research by Adobe and ad blocking measurement service PageFair, approximately 5% of Internet users globally used ad blocking tools during the second quarter of 2014, up from around 3% for the same period in 2013.
That growth shows no signs of slowing, according to PageFair CEO Sean Blanchfield. He estimated that desktop adblocking will probably be up 50% from the second quarter a year ago through the end of the current quarter.
''If you factor in the emergence of mobile ad blocking, the overall growth may be much higher,'' Mr. Blanchfield said.
Individual publishers say they've spotted the same trend across their own properties. According to online publishing firm Complex Media, for example, ad blocking rates across its properties nearly doubled between 2013 and 2014, growing from 4% of users on average to more than 7.5%.
Similarly, Jim Spanfeller, CEO of online publisher Spanfeller Media Group, said his company has seen ad blocking rates increase consistently over the past two years to reach around 10% of its traffic today.
''We're trying to figure out what to do about it,'' Mr. Spanfeller said, explaining that the company has considered simply turning away users it detects are blocking ads, or at least asking them to pay for access.
''It's in a user's purview to use ad-blocking software if they want, but it's also in the right of a content site to not allow someone to access their site if they deem it appropriate,'' Mr. Spanfeller added.
Ironically, ad-blocking software potentially hurts publishers more than it does the advertisers users are attempting to avoid. Marketers say it's probably best their ads aren't displayed to users that strongly dislike them. But for publishers that are dependent on ad revenue, they end up effectively giving their content away for free to ad-blocking users.
''It's the websites that ad-block users most love that are going out of business first. This is to no one's benefit. For example, many games-related websites currently face about 50% revenue loss due to adblocking,'' PageFair's Mr. Blanchfield said.
According to Tom Pittlik, founder of gaming network GameBanana.net, around a quarter of his pages are served to users with ad-blocking software. ''I definitely think it affects revenue for publishers with niche audiences,'' he said.
Yet other publishers say they've spotted the phenomenon and remain relatively unconcerned by it. Some even argue that users who feel the need to block advertising probably aren't receptive to advertising, anyway.
''We are, like all publishers, watching closely. But thus far ad blockers aren't impacting our business in any significant way,'' said Pete Spande, Business Insider's chief revenue officer.
Some warn it's dangerous to dismiss ad blocking as a marginal issue, however. While 5% of traffic might seem relatively insignificant in isolation, ad blocking is just one of many new challenges publishers are currently facing. Advertisers are increasingly asking publishers to guarantee that their ads are ''viewable,'' for example, which is also putting pressure on their ad businesses.
''Ad blocking definitely is something to keep an eye on. When you combine ad blocking with viewability pressures and downward pricing pressure from programmatic advertising, it all starts to add up,'' said Complex Media CEO Rich Antoniello. ''You have to think about all of those issues combined.''
Mr. Antoniello says his company will be less exposed to ad blocking than others, as it shifts its focus to selling advertisers sponsored articles and videos as opposed to banner ads.
Nick Denton, CEO of Gawker Media, expressed similar views.
''We have a highly tech-savvy audience, especially on sites like Lifehacker. So ad-blocking software has always been an issue. But we think it's less salient than it was because of the growth of sponsored video and posts, which are integrated with the main stream,'' he said.
(News Corp's Dow Jones & Co. has a business relationship with Adobe, which is the main sponsor of CMO Today, and conducted the research mentioned above in conjunction with PageFair.)
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US takes first step towards paying artists for radio play
Thu, 16 Apr 2015 04:13
Tim Ingham musicbusinessworldwide.com 4/14/15
US Congressman Jerrold Nadler and Marsha Blackburn yesterday introduced the Fair Play, Fair Pay Act of 2015 '' which seeks to impose a performance right that would see artists and labels paid when their tracks are played on AM/FM radio.
Songwriters are currently paid when their tracks are broadcast on traditional radio, but performers are not '' setting the US apart from almost every developed nation in the world.
Confusingly, artists are paid in the country '' via SoundExchange Collections '' when their tracks are played on personalised digital radio such as Pandora, and satellite radio such as Sirius XM.
The Fair Play, Fair Pay Act of 2015 seeks to correct what its supporters consider three 'significant injustices': the establishment of a sound recording royalty for AM/FM radio, removing satellite radio's below-market-rate exemption, and treating pre-1972 recordings with the same level of respect as those made after February of 1972.
However, the Act faces a lengthy fight if it's to be enshrined in law. The next key legislative steps would be having the bill considered in the House Judiciary Committee either with a hearing on the issues or through a vote. The Senate will also need to consider the bill, but at this point it has not been introduced there yet.
The next step for the Fair Play Fair Pay lobby is grassroots mobilising and putting pressure on Congress.
However, it faces fierce opposition from the radio trade body the National Association of Broadcasters. The NAB is strongly lobbying against the FPFP act with its own 'Local Radio Freedom Act', while claiming that any measure to force radio to pay artists and labels would devastate local stations.
Music First, a collective of artist representatives who have been calling for Fair Play, Fair Pay said in a statement: ''Thanks to Reps. Nadler and Blackburn, we stand at the doorway of an incredible opportunity '' a once-in-a-generation chance to make radio work better for music creators, radio services, and, most importantly, music fans.
''It is time for Congress to update music licensing laws. AM/FM radio, satellite radio and Internet radio exist side by side in car dashboards and compete for the same listeners. But whether performers and copyright owners are paid, and how much, depends solely on what button you press or app you choose. On Internet radio, it is one rate. On satellite, it is a different, lower rate. And on AM/FM, there is no rate at all '' music creators get paid nothing. I think that we can all agree that makes no sense.
''Now, some digital services are claiming they don't have to pay for pre-72 recordings. Several court decisions have already dismissed this absurd claim.
''The solution: all radio services should pay under the same 'fair market value' royalty standard for all of the music they play. Like everyone else who works, creates, or innovates, music creators deserve fair pay for their work.
''It's a question of basic economic fairness, but it is also a matter of fair competition between music services. No more special privileges for old technologies. No more giveaways. No more special interest exemptions and subsidies. No more picking winners and losers among radio platforms. Let the best services win '' fair and square, on the depth of their playlists and the quality of their products.
''Fair market value for music will encourage creativity by music creators. It will promote innovation among music services. And '' most importantly '' it will give fans the best music they have ever heard '' delivered in the most exciting ways they could ever imagine.''
And Michael Huppe, president and chief executive officer of SoundExchange said: ''For decades, music services have gotten away with building their business on the backs of hard working musicians, paying unfair rates '-- and in the case of the $17.5 billion radio industry, paying nothing at all '-- for the music they use. The Fair Play Fair Pay Act introduced today will bring much needed reform to the music industry and addresses many of the issues that plague the recorded music industry.
''It is time that we properly pay the artists who put so much hard work into creating the music at the core of these services. If it weren't for them, these stations would be broadcasting little more than static.
''At the nexus of music and technology, SoundExchange is at the very center of the industry, representing the entire record music industry. In June 2014, we testified before Congress and laid out SoundExchange's guiding principle: all creators should receive fair pay, on all platforms and technologies, whenever their music is used. This past February, the Copyright Office put out a comprehensive report that laid out a similar principle and today we have a bipartisan coalition in Congress heeding the same call.''
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A Look Inside the Fair Play Fair Pay Act | Future of Music Coalition
Tue, 14 Apr 2015 17:30
On Monday, April 13, Reps. Jerrold Nadler (D-NY), Marsha Blackburn (R-TN.), John Conyers Jr. (D-MI.), and Ted Deutch (D-FL.) introduced the Fair Play Fair Pay Act of 2015'--a bill that, if passed, would accomplish a handful of things. The centerpiece of the legislation is the establishment of a public performance right for AM/FM radio. This would mean that performers and labels would be able to receive compensation for terrestrial radio airplay, a right that already exists in the rest of the developed world.
Currently, only songwriters and publishers are paid when music is ''performed'' on AM/FM radio. Stations are not legally obligated to pay a dime to recording artists and sound copyright owners (usually the label, but sometimes the artist). FMC has long supported a public performance right for terrestrial radio, and we're glad to see a new bill introduced that would close this egregious loophole in US copyright law.
As we mentioned above, the Fair Play Fair Pay Act has additional moving pieces. Below, we will take a look at what the bill does and explain how it would impact musicians and the industry in general. After all, one of the reasons you come here is to learn what's actually in a piece of proposed legislation.
The Fair Pay Fair Play Act:
Establishes a public performance right for sound recordings played on AM/FM radioThe bill amends Section 106(6) of the Copyright Act to eliminate the distinctions between different kinds of radio'--Internet, satellite or over-the-air'--with regard to who they pay. This means that an AM/FM station would have to pay artists and labels just like newer forms of radio are obliged to do. The fix is accomplished by simply striking the word ''digital'' in reference to ''digital audio'' so that it simply reads ''audio.'' That is is a welcome change, and one that we 100 percent support.
Sets additional conditions for determining ratesThe Fair Play Fair Pay Act would also establish a ''minimum fee'' to be paid by each type of service that plays music. The specific amounts are based on distinctions regarding how a service uses the music, including the ''quantity and nature'' of the use, as well as ''the degree to which use of the service may substitute for or may promote the use of phonorecords by consumers.'' Going further, the bill instructs the Copyright Royalty Board (CRB) to consider whether a use ''may interfere with or may enhance the sound recording copyright owner's other streams of revenue from the copyright owner's sound recordings.'' We certainly understand why this could be a factor in determining rates, but it could also be a way to single out webcasters like Pandora, whose ''stations'' are customizable to listening preference. We wonder if the language of the bill will open a can of worms about what does or doesn't constitute ''interactivity'' on a service, and what impact this might have on services yet to be introduced. That said, we think it is more reasonable for the CRB judges to make a determination than to have it frozen in statute.
The bill proposes an additional standard of evaluation that may be likewise difficult to quantify. Fair Play Fair Pay calls for the CRB to to consider ''relative roles of the copyright owner and the transmitting entity in the copyrighted work and the service made available to the public with respect to relative creative contribution, technological contribution, capital investment, cost, and risk.'' Given that both labels and services likely see themselves as making the greatest contributions and carrying the most risk, it could further complicate how CRB judges make determinations.
Allows for a range of evidence to be consideredThe bill would permit the CRB judges to consider rates and terms from comparable audio services along with voluntary license agreements (aka direct deals). There's no additional specificity about what evidence is permissible or prohibited. But in general, this seems to be an attempt at establishing greater parity in rate-setting for different categories of service. And that's a worthy goal.
Places all non-interactive services under the same standardRemember the Internet Radio Fairness Act, which would have moved webcasters from a willing seller, willing buyer standard to that paid by satellite radio? This is essentially the reverse of that. Specifically'--and here's where your eyes glaze over'--the bill would eliminate any connection between 801(b) and 114(f)(1)(B) for the purposes of rate-setting. This would seem to indicate that that Sirius/XM and non-interactive cable audio transmissions (like those weird stations at the high end of your cable dial that pay music but not videos) would pay under the same standard as Pandora. (Keep in mind that 801(b) would still govern the setting of the mechanical royalty rates for musical works.)
Protects small broadcastersThe Fair Play Fair Pay Act includes important protections for small broadcasters, public broadcasters, non-commercial and college radio. This means that they wouldn't be overly burdened by the enactment of an AM/FM performance right. Small commercial stations would pay a royalty rate of $500 per year if their annual revenue amounts to less than 1,000,000. An individual, FCC-designated public broadcasting station would pay $100 per year. These limits are welcome'--after all, it's the smaller and noncommercial broadcasters who are the most adventurous in terms of playlists. We're less excited about the complete exemption for religious broadcasters, some of whom are quite large. We'd like to think that most faith traditions would support treating artists fairly. This provision falls short of such values.
Pays artists fairly, even under direct deals.This is hugely important and something that we wholeheartedly endorse. The bill would maintain the splits and direct payment (via SoundExchange) for any direct deals between a label and a service, provided that the service is otherwise eligible for the statutory license. This breaks down to: 45 percent for the featured performer (or band); 5 percent for background musicians and vocalists; and 50 percent to the sound copyright owner (again, usually the label but sometimes the artist). The bill's language, however, explicitly prohibits any additional revenue from going to the artist (at least as a matter of federal law). This means that, under a direct deal, artists will not benefit from a label's equity shares in a service, money from cash advances or non-play related income that is divvied up by market share. Fairness only goes so far in 2015.
Pays older artists for performances of their works; does NOT extend other protectionsLike the earlier RESPECT Act, this new bill would establish a public performance right for recordings made before 1972. Due to a weird loophole in the law, there is no federal copyright protection for sound recordings before February 15, 1972 (though some states do recognize a copyright in recordings). FMC wants ALL artists to be paid when their music is used, regardless of their age. However, Fair Play Fair Pay Act does not confer any of the other exclusive rights that an artist might enjoy from federal recognition of their works. This includes the ability to recapture their copyrights after a set term. This is why FMC continues to endorse'--alongside the United States Copyright Office'--the full federalization of pre-'72 sound recordings. Still, we are pleased that this ''partial fix'' would apply to any radio or radio-like service, meaning that it's platform neutral: AM/FM radio pays, satellite radio pays, cable radio pays, Internet radio pays.
No impact on musical worksPublishers are currently requesting that the government allow evidence from rate-setting around sound recordings to be admissible their own proceedings. The reason is obvious: the rates are considerably higher for recordings. This bill is silent on that request, but it does prohibit sound recording rates to be used as evidence to achieve LOWER rates for musical works licensed for public performance.
Creates a mechanism to pay performance royalties to audioworkersThe new bill essentially folds in an only slightly less-new piece of legislation, the AMP Act. The important thing to know is that both bills would offer artists an easier way to designate a portion of their performance royalties to producers and engineers if there is a ''Letter of Direction'' from the artist. Like the AMP Act, the Fair Play Fair Pay Act would also establish a protocol for assigning 2 percent of performance royalties for recordings made before 1995 provided that a reasonable attempt was made by the studio professional to obtain a Letter of Direction from the artist.
That's a lot to digest in one bill! There's a lot to love about the Fair Pay Fair Play Act, and a few areas where more could be done for creators. For now, musicians should feel good that there's forward motion on a some important matters related to their compensation. We applaud the bill's sponsors for being willing to tackle issues that have frustrated musicians and independent labels for too long. We'll be tracking.
Text - H.R.1733 - 114th Congress (2015-2016): Fair Play Fair Pay Act of 2015 | Congress.gov | Library of Congress
Tue, 14 Apr 2015 17:26
H. R. 1733
To amend title 17, United States Code, to provide fair treatment of radio stations and artists for the use of sound recordings, and for other purposes.
To amend title 17, United States Code, to provide fair treatment of radio stations and artists for the use of sound recordings, and for other purposes.
Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled,SECTION 1.Short title; table of contents.(a) Short title.'--This Act may be cited as the ''Fair Play Fair Pay Act of 2015''.
(b) Table of contents.'--The table of contents for this Act is as follows:
Sec.'‚1.'‚Short title; table of contents.Sec.'‚2.'‚Equitable treatment for terrestrial broadcasts and internet services.Sec.'‚3.'‚Timing of proceedings under sections 112(e) and 114(f).Sec.'‚4.'‚Ensuring platform parity.Sec.'‚5.'‚Special Protection for Small Broadcasters, Public and Educational Radio, Religious Services, and Incidental Use of Music.Sec.'‚6.'‚Distribution of certain royalties.Sec.'‚7.'‚Equitable treatment of legacy sound recordings.Sec.'‚8.'‚No harmful effects on songwriters.Sec.'‚9.'‚Allocation of Payments to Music Producers.Sec.'‚10.'‚Effective date.SEC. 2.Equitable treatment for terrestrial broadcasts and internet services.(a) Performance right applicable to transmissions generally.'--Paragraph (6) of section 106 of title 17, United States Code, is amended to read as follows:
''(6) in the case of sound recordings, to perform the copyrighted work publicly by means of an audio transmission.''.
(b) Inclusion of terrestrial broadcasts in existing performance right and statutory license.'--Section 114(d)(1) of title 17, United States Code, is amended'--
(1) in the matter preceding subparagraph (A), by striking ''a digital'' and inserting ''an''; and
(2) in subparagraph (B)'--
(A) by striking clauses (i) and (iii);
(B) by redesignating clauses (ii) and (iv) as clauses (i) and (ii), respectively;
(C) in clause (i), as so redesignated, by adding ''or'' after ''retransmitter;''; and
(D) in clause (ii), as so redesignated, by striking ''retransmission, whether or not simultaneous, is a'' and inserting ''retransmission is a non-simultaneous,''.
(c) Technical and conforming amendments.'--
(1) DEFINITION.'--Section 101 of title 17, United States Code, is amended by inserting after the definition of ''architectural work'' the following:
(2) CONFORMING REMOVAL OF DIGITAL.'--Title 17, United States Code, is amended'--
(A) in section 112(e)(8), by striking ''a digital audio transmission'' and inserting ''an audio transmission''; and
(B) in section 114'--
(i) in subsection (d)'--
(I) in paragraph (2)'--
(aa) in the matter preceding subparagraph (A), by striking ''subscription digital'' and inserting ''subscription''; and
(bb) in subparagraph (C)(viii), by striking ''digital signal'' and inserting ''signal''; and
(II) in paragraph (4)'--
(aa) in subparagraph (A), by striking ''a digital audio transmission'' and inserting ''an audio transmission''; and
(bb) in subparagraph (B)(i), by striking ''a digital audio transmission'' and inserting ''an audio transmission'';
(ii) in subsection (g)(2)(A), by striking ''a digital'' and inserting ''an''; and
(iii) in subsection (j)'--
(I) in paragraph (6)'--
(aa) by striking ''digital''; and
(bb) by striking ''retransmissions of broadcast transmissions'' and inserting ''broadcast transmissions and retransmissions of broadcast transmissions''; and
(II) in paragraph (8), by striking ''subscription digital'' and inserting ''subscription''.
SEC. 3.TIMING OF PROCEEDINGS UNDER SECTIONS112(e)AND114(f).Paragraph (3) of section 804(b) of title 17, United States Code, is amended by adding at the end the following new subparagraph:
''(D) A proceeding under this chapter shall be commenced as soon as practicable after the date of the enactment of the Fair Play Fair Pay Act of 2015 to determine royalty rates and terms for nonsubscription broadcast transmissions, to be effective for the period beginning on such date of enactment, and ending on December 31, 2020. Any payment due under section 114(f)(1)(D) shall not be due until the due date of the first royalty payments for nonsubscription broadcast transmissions that are determined, after the date of the enactment of the Fair Play Fair Pay Act of 2015, by the Copyright Royalty Judges. Thereafter, such proceeding shall be repeated in each subsequent fifth calendar year.''.
SEC. 4.Ensuring platform parity.(a) Uniform rate standard.'--Section 114(f) of title 17, United States Code, is amended'--
(1) by striking paragraphs (1) and (2) and inserting the following:
''(1)(A) Proceedings under chapter 8 shall determine reasonable rates and terms of royalty payments for transmissions subject to statutory licensing under subsection (d)(2) during the 5-year period beginning on January 1 of the second year following the year in which the proceedings are to be commenced pursuant to subparagraph (A) or (B) of section 804(b)(3), as the case may be, or such other period as the parties may agree. The parties to each proceeding shall bear their own costs.
''(B) The schedule of reasonable rates and terms determined by the Copyright Royalty Judges shall, subject to paragraph (2), be binding on all copyright owners of sound recordings and entities performing sound recordings affected by this paragraph during the 5-year period specified in subparagraph (A), or such other period as the parties may agree. Such rates and terms shall distinguish among the different types of services then in operation and shall include a minimum fee for each such type of service, such differences to be based on criteria including the quantity and nature of the use of sound recordings and the degree to which use of the service may substitute for or may promote the purchase of phonorecords by consumers. The Copyright Royalty Judges shall establish rates and terms that most clearly represent the rates and terms that would have been negotiated in the marketplace between a willing buyer and a willing seller. In determining such rates and terms, the Copyright Royalty Judges'--
''(i) shall base their decision on economic, competitive, and programming information presented by the parties, including'--
''(I) whether use of the service may substitute for or may promote the sales of phonorecords or otherwise may interfere with or may enhance the sound recording copyright owner's other streams of revenue from the copyright owner's sound recordings; and
''(II) the relative roles of the copyright owner and the transmitting entity in the copyrighted work and the service made available to the public with respect to relative creative contribution, technological contribution, capital investment, cost, and risk; and
''(ii) may consider the rates and terms for comparable types of audio transmission services and comparable circumstances under voluntary license agreements.
''(C) The procedures under subparagraphs (A) and (B) shall also be initiated pursuant to a petition filed by any copyright owner of sound recordings or any transmitting entity indicating that a new type of service on which sound recordings are performed is or is about to become operational, for the purpose of determining reasonable terms and rates of royalty payments with respect to such new type of service for the period beginning with the inception of such new type of service and ending on the date on which the royalty rates and terms for eligible nonsubscription services and new subscription services, or preexisting services, as the case may be, most recently determined under subparagraph (A) or (B) and chapter 8 expire, or such other period as the parties may agree.''; and
(2) by redesignating paragraphs (3), (4), and (5) as paragraphs (2), (3), and (4), respectively.
(b) Technical and conforming amendments.'--
(1) SECTION 114.'--Section 114(f) of title 17, United States Code, as amended by subsection (a), is further amended in paragraph (4)(C), as so redesignated, by striking ''under paragraph (4)'' and inserting ''under paragraph (3)''.
(2) SECTION 801.'--Section 801(b)(1) of title 17, United States Code, is amended by striking ''114(f)(1)(B), 115,'' and inserting ''115''.
(3) SECTION 804.'--Section 804(b)(3)(C) of title 17, United States Code, is amended'--
(A) in clause (i), by striking ''and 114(f)(2)(C)'';
(B) in clause (iii)(II), by striking ''114(f)(4)(B)(ii)'' and inserting ''114(f)(3)(B)(ii)''; and
(C) in clause (iv), by striking ''or 114(f)(2)(C), as the case may be''.
SEC. 5.Special Protection for Small Broadcasters, Public and Educational Radio, Religious Services, and Incidental Use of Music.(a) Special Protection for Small Broadcasters.'--Section 114(f)(1) of title 17, United States Code, as amended by section 4(a), is further amended by inserting at the end the following new subparagraph:
''(D)(i) Notwithstanding the provisions of subparagraphs (A) through (C), the royalty rate for nonsubscription broadcast transmissions by each individual terrestrial broadcast station licensed as such by the Federal Communications Commission that is not a public broadcasting entity as defined in section 118(f) and that has revenues in any calendar year of less than $1,000,000 shall be $500 per year for any such year. For purposes of such determination, such revenues shall include all revenues from the operation of the station, calculated in accordance with generally accepted accounting principles in the United States. In the case of affiliated broadcast stations, revenues shall be allocated reasonably to individual stations associated with those revenues.''.
(b) Special Protection for Public Broadcasters, College Radio, and other Noncommercial Stations.'--Subparagraph (D) of section 114(f)(1) of title 17, United States Code, as added by subsection (a), is amended by inserting at the end the following new clauses:
''(ii) Notwithstanding the provisions of subparagraphs (A) through (C), the royalty rate for nonsubscription broadcast transmissions by each individual terrestrial broadcast station licensed as such by the Federal Communications Commission that is a public broadcasting entity as defined in section 118(f) shall be $100 per year.
''(iii) The royalty rates specified in clauses (i) and (ii) shall not be admissible as evidence or otherwise taken into account in determining royalty rates in a proceeding under chapter 8, or in any other administrative, judicial, or other Federal Government proceeding involving the setting or adjustment of the royalties payable for the public performance or reproduction in ephemeral phonorecords or copies of sound recordings, the determination of terms or conditions related thereto, or the establishment of notice or recordkeeping requirements.''.
(c) No Royalties for Religious Services or Incidental Uses of Music.'--Section 114(d)(1) of title 17, United States Code, as amended by section 2(b), is further amended by striking subparagraph (A) and inserting the following:
''(A) a nonsubscription broadcast transmission of'--
''(i) services at a place of worship or other religious assembly; or
''(ii) an incidental use of a sound recording of a musical work;''.
(d) Technical correction.'--Section 118(f) of title 17, United States Code, is amended by striking ''section 397 of title 47'' and inserting ''section 397 of the Communications Act of 1934 (47 U.S.C. 397)''.
SEC. 6.Distribution of certain royalties.Section 114(g) of title 17, United States Code, is amended'--
(1) in paragraph (1), by inserting ''or in the case of a transmission to which paragraph (5) applies'' after ''this section''; and
(2) by adding at the end the following new paragraph:
''(5) Notwithstanding paragraph (1), to the extent that a license granted by the copyright owner of a sound recording to a transmitting entity eligible for a statutory license under subsection (d)(2) extends to such entity's transmissions otherwise licensable under a statutory license in accordance with subsection (f), such entity shall pay to the agent designated to distribute statutory licensing receipts from the licensing of transmissions in accordance with subsection (f), 50 percent of the total royalties that such entity is required, pursuant to the applicable license agreement, to pay for such transmissions otherwise licensable under a statutory license in accordance with subsection (f). That agent shall distribute such payments in proportion to the distributions provided in subparagraphs (B) through (D) of paragraph (2), and such payments shall be the sole payments to which featured and nonfeatured artists are entitled by virtue of such transmissions under the direct license with such entity.''.
SEC. 7.Equitable treatment of legacy sound recordings.(a) Payment for use of certain sound recordings.'--Section 114(f)(3) of title 17, United States Code, as so redesignated, is amended by adding at the end the following:
''(D)(i) Any person publicly performing sound recordings protected under this title by means of transmissions under a statutory license under this section, or making reproductions of such sound recordings under section 112(e), shall make royalty payments for transmissions that person makes of sound recordings that were fixed before February 15, 1972, and reproductions that person makes of those sound recordings under the circumstances described in section 112(e)(1), in the same manner as such person does for sound recordings that are protected under this title.
''(ii) If a person fails to make royalty payments described in clause (i) for sound recordings fixed before February 15, 1972, there shall be available, in addition to any remedy that may be available under the laws of any State, a civil action in an appropriate United States district court for recovery limited to the payments described in clause (i), in addition to interest, costs, and attorneys' fees. Any such recovery that is obtained shall be offset against any recovery for such violation that may be available under the laws of any State.
''(iii) No action may be brought under the laws of any State against a transmitting entity alleging infringement of a right equivalent to the right granted in section 106(6) based on a public performance of a sound recording fixed before February 15, 1972, or alleging infringement of a right equivalent to the right granted in section 106(1) based on a reproduction of such a sound recording, if'--
''(I) the performance would have been subject to statutory licensing under subsection (d)(2) if the sound recording had been first fixed on or after February 15, 1972;
''(II) the reproduction would have been subject to statutory licensing under section 112(e)(1) if the sound recording had been first fixed on or after February 15, 1972;
''(III) the transmitting entity has satisfied the requirements for statutory licensing under subparagraph (B) and section 112(e)(6); and
''(IV) the applicable royalty was paid and accounted for under this subparagraph.
''(iv) This subparagraph does not confer copyright protection under this title upon sound recordings that were fixed before February 15, 1972. Such sound recordings are subject to the protection available under the laws of the States, and except as provided in clause (iii), are not subject to any limitation of rights or remedies, or any defense, provided under this title.
''(v) This subparagraph shall have no effect with respect to any public performance that is made of a sound recording, or reproduction that is made of a sound recording under the circumstances described in section 112(e)(1), on or after February 15, 2067.''.
(b) Effective date.'--The amendments made by this section shall apply to performances and reproductions of sound recordings occurring on or after the date of the enactment of this Act.
SEC. 8.No harmful effects on songwriters.(a) No adverse effect on license fees for underlying musical works; necessity for other licenses.'--
(1) IN GENERAL.'--Section 114(i) of title 17, United States Code, is amended to read as follows:
''(i) No adverse effect on license fees for underlying musical works; necessity for other licenses.'--
''(1) NO ADVERSE EFFECT ON LICENSE FEES FOR UNDERLYING MUSICAL WORKS.'--License fees payable for the public performance of sound recordings under section 106(6) shall not be cited, taken into account, or otherwise used in any administrative, judicial, or other governmental forum or proceeding, or otherwise, to set or adjust the license fees payable to copyright owners of musical works or their representatives for the public performance of their works, for the purpose of reducing or adversely affecting such license fees. License fees payable to copyright owners for the public performance of their musical works shall not be reduced or adversely affected in any respect as a result of the rights granted by section 106(6).
''(2) NECESSITY FOR OTHER LICENSES.'--Notwithstanding the grant by an owner of copyright in a sound recording of an exclusive or nonexclusive license of the right under section 106(6) to perform the work publicly, a licensee of that sound recording may not publicly perform such sound recording unless a license has been granted for the public performance of any copyrighted musical work contained in the sound recording. Such license to publicly perform the copyrighted musical work may be granted either by a performing rights society representing the copyright owner or by the copyright owner.''.
(2) CONFORMING AMENDMENT.'--Section 114(d)(3)(C) of title 17, United States Code, is hereby repealed.
(b) Public performance rights and royalties.'--Nothing in this Act, or the amendments made by this Act, shall adversely affect in any respect the public performance rights of or royalties payable to songwriters or copyright owners of musical works.
(c) Preservation of royalties on underlying works publicly performed by terrestrial broadcast stations.'--Section 114(f) of title 17, United States Code, as amended by section 4(a), is further amended by adding at the end the following new paragraph:
''(5) Notwithstanding any other provision of this section, under no circumstances shall the rates established by the Copyright Royalty Judges for the public performance of sound recordings be cited, taken into account, or otherwise used in any administrative, judicial, or other governmental forum or proceeding, or otherwise, to reduce or adversely affect the license fees payable to copyright owners of musical works or their representatives for the public performance of their works by terrestrial broadcast stations, and such license fees for the public performance of musical works shall be independent of license fees paid for the public performance of sound recordings.''.
SEC. 9.Allocation of Payments to Music Producers.(a) Letter of direction.'--Section 114(g) of title 17, United States Code, as amended by section 6, is further amended by adding at the end the following new paragraph:
''(6) LETTER OF DIRECTION.'--A collective designated by the Copyright Royalty Judges to distribute receipts from the licensing of transmissions in accordance with subsection (f) shall adopt and reasonably implement a policy that provides, in circumstances determined by the collective to be appropriate, for acceptance of instructions from a payee identified in subparagraph (A) or (D) of paragraph (2) to distribute a portion of the payments to which the payee otherwise would be entitled from the licensing of transmissions of a particular sound recording to a producer, mixer, or sound engineer who was part of the creative process that created the sound recording (in this section, referred to as a 'letter of direction'). To the extent that the collective accepts a letter of direction, the person entitled to payment pursuant to such letter of direction shall, during the time such letter of direction is in effect and followed by the collective, be treated for all purposes as the owner of the right to receive such payment. This paragraph shall not be interpreted to imply that a collective cannot accept or act upon payment instructions in other circumstances.''.
(b) Additional provisions for recordings fixed before November 1, 1995.'--Section 114(g) of title 17, United States Code, as amended by subsection (a), is further amended by adding at the end the following new paragraph:
''(7) SOUND RECORDINGS FIXED BEFORE NOVEMBER 1, 1995.'--
''(A) PAYMENT ABSENT LETTER OF DIRECTION.'--A collective designated by the Copyright Royalty Judges to distribute receipts from the licensing of transmissions in accordance with subsection (f) shall adopt and reasonably implement a policy that provides, in circumstances determined by the collective to be appropriate, for deduction of 2 percent of the receipts from the licensing of transmissions of a sound recording fixed before November 1, 1995, from receipts otherwise payable to the recording artist or artists featured on such sound recording (or the persons conveying rights in the artists' performance in the sound recordings) pursuant to paragraph (2)(D) (which leaves the recording artist or artists featured on such sound recording (or the persons conveying rights in the artists' performance in the sound recordings) 43 percent of the total receipts paid pursuant to paragraph (2)) and distribution of such amount to one or more persons described in subparagraph (B), after deduction of costs as described in paragraph (3) or (4), as applicable, if each of the following requirements is met:
''(i) CERTIFICATION OF ATTEMPT TO OBTAIN A LETTER OF DIRECTION.'--A person described in subparagraph (B) certified to the collective, under penalty of perjury, that'--
''(I) for a period of at least 4 months, that person made reasonable efforts to contact the artist payee for such sound recording to request and obtain a letter of direction instructing the collective to pay a portion of the royalties from the featured recording artist or artists to that person; and
''(II) during the period beginning on the date that person began the reasonable efforts described in subclause (I) and ending on date of that person's certification to the collective, the artist payee did not definitively affirm or deny the request for a letter of direction.
''(ii) COLLECTIVE ATTEMPT TO CONTACT ARTIST.'--After receipt of the certification described in clause (i) and for a period of at least 4 months before the collective's first distribution to the person described in subparagraph (B), the collective attempted to notify the artist payee of the certification made by the person described in subparagraph (B) in a manner reasonably determined by the collective.
''(iii) NO OBJECTION RECEIVED.'--An objection to the distribution has not been submitted to the collective by the artist payee as of the date that is 10 business days before the date on which the first distribution is made.
''(B) ELIGIBILITY FOR PAYMENT.'--A person shall be eligible for payment under subparagraph (A) if such person'--
''(i) is a producer, mixer, or sound engineer of the relevant sound recording;
''(ii) has entered into a written contract with a record company involved in the creation or lawful exploitation of the relevant sound recording, or with the recording artist or artists featured on such sound recording (or the persons conveying rights in the artists performance in the sound recordings), pursuant to which such person is entitled to participate in royalty payments based on exploitation of the relevant sound recording that are payable from royalties otherwise payable to the recording artist or artists featured on such sound recording (or the persons conveying rights in the artists performance in the sound recordings);
''(iii) made a contribution, of a nature subject to copyright protection under section 102, to the creation of the relevant sound recording; and
''(iv) submits a written certification to the collective stating, under penalty of perjury, that such person meets the requirements in clauses (i) through (iii) and includes a true copy of the contract described in clause (ii).
''(C) MULTIPLE CERTIFICATIONS.'--Subject to subparagraph (D), in a case in which more than one person described in subparagraph (B) has met the requirements for a distribution pursuant to subparagraph (A) with respect to a sound recording as of the date that is 10 business days before the date on which a distribution is made, the collective shall divide the 2 percent distribution equally among all such persons.
''(D) OBJECTION TO PAYMENT.'--Not later than 10 days after the collective receives from the artist payee a written objection to a distribution made pursuant to subparagraph (A), the collective shall cease making any further payment related to such distribution. In any case in which the collective has made one or more distributions pursuant to subparagraph (A) to a person described in subparagraph (B) before the date that is 10 business days after the date on which the collective receives an objection by the artist payee to such distribution, the objection shall not affect that person's entitlement to any distribution made before the collective ceases such distribution pursuant to this subparagraph.
''(E) OWNERSHIP OF THE RIGHT TO RECEIVE PAYMENTS.'--To the extent that the collective determines that a distribution will be made pursuant to subparagraph (A) to a person described in subparagraph (B), such person shall during the period of such distribution be treated for all purposes as the owner of the right to receive such payments.
''(F) ARTIST PAYEE DEFINED.'--In this paragraph, the term 'artist payee' means a person, other than a person described in subparagraph (B), who owns the right to receive all or part of the receipts payable under paragraph (2)(D) with respect to a sound recording. In a case in which there are multiple artist payees with respect to a sound recording, an objection by one such payee shall apply only to that payee's share of the receipts payable under paragraph (2)(D), and does not preclude payment under subparagraph (A) from the share of an artist payee that does not object.''.
(c) Technical and conforming amendments.'--Section 114(g) of title 17, United States Code, as amended by subsections (a) and (b), is further amended'--
(1) in paragraph (2), by striking ''An agent designated'' and inserting ''Except as provided for in paragraph (7), a collective designated by the Copyright Royalty Judges'';
(2) in paragraph (3)'--
(A) by striking ''agent designated'' and inserting ''collective designated by the Copyright Royalty Judges''; and
(B) by striking ''agent'' and inserting ''collective'', each place it appears; and
(3) in paragraph (4), by striking ''agent'' and inserting ''collective'', each place it appears.
This Act, and the amendments made by this Act, shall take effect on the date of enactment of this Act, and except as provided in the amendment made by section 3, shall apply to any proceeding that is pending on, or commenced on or after, such effective date.
MIC
A-10
GOP senators warn of new threat to A-10 fleet | TheHill
Thu, 16 Apr 2015 13:25
Republican senators are urging the chairmen of two key committees to ensure the Air Force doesn't take any steps to retire the A-10 "Warthog" attack jet.
"When we send our troops into harm's way, we have a solemn obligation to ensure that they have the very best support possible so they can accomplish their missions and return home safely," said a March 27 letter from the group, led by Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.), to leaders of the Senate Armed Services and Appropriations Committees.
"Unfortunately, the Air Force is again pursuing its premature, misguided, and dangerous divestment of the A-10," they warned.
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The group is calling for the forthcoming 2016 defense policy bill to specifically prohibit any steps to ground the A-10, which provides ground troops with close air support during battle, until an equally capable replacement is operational.The letter argues the Air Force should not be allowed to place the aircraft in storage or "backup" status, or make "significant changes" to manning levels or flight hours.
The letter also urges leaders to authorize the $737 million needed to keep the A-10 fleet running in 2016.
The letters were sent to Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman John McCain (R-Ariz.), a strong supporter of the A-10, Ranking Member Jack Reed (D-R.I.), and Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Thad Cochran (R-Miss.) and Ranking Member Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.).
Air Force leaders and Congress have fought for several years over the retirement of the A-10, and the letter comes as the House and Senate put together their defense policy and spending bills.
The Air Force has argued the A-10's close air support mission can be performed by other aircraft, and that its retirement can save money for more critical aircraft, such as the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter.
Retiring the A-10 would save $4 billion in five years, Air Force officials have said.
The senators' letter concedes that "someday" new technology could allow the F-35 and other aircraft to provide the same role, but said "that day has not yet arrived."
"We still need CAS [close air support] aircraft that can fly low and slow, beneath bad weather, close enough to the point of ground combat, and survive," the letter said.
The senators added that the close air support capabilities of the F-35 "remain to be seen" and the aircraft is not expected to achieve full operational capability until 2021 at the earliest.
''The Air Force has not persuaded us that it can prematurely divest the A-10 '-- our nation's most combat-effective and cost-efficient [close air support] aircraft '-- without putting our ground troops in serious additional danger,'' the letter said.
''For that reason, we look forward to working with you to prohibit the additional divestment of A-10 aircraft before an equally capable close air support aircraft achieves full operational capability," it said.
The letter was also signed by Republican Sens. Lindsey Graham (S.C.), Roger Wicker (Miss.), Thom Tillis (N.C.), Joni Ernst (Iowa), Mike Crapo (Idaho), David Perdue (Ga.), Johnny Isakson (Ga.), John Barrasso (R-Wyo.) and Jim Risch (Idaho).
"Today's A-10, extensively modernized and even more lethal, remains our nation's best CAS platform," the senators wrote.
"This year, the A-10's performance in Iraq and Syria against ISIS [the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria] and its deployment to Europe to deter additional aggression there underscore the A-10's continued lethality, survivability, and effectiveness," they added.
Japan
Message to Congress -- Protocol Amending the Convention between the Government of the United States of America and the Government of Japan
Tue, 14 Apr 2015 04:55
The White House
Office of the Press Secretary
For Immediate Release
April 13, 2015
TO THE SENATE OF THE UNITED STATES:
I transmit herewith, for the advice and consent of the Senate to its ratification, the Protocol Amending the Convention between the Government of the United States of America and the Government of Japan for the Avoidance of Double Taxation and the Prevention of Fiscal Evasion with respect to Taxes on Income and a related agreement entered into by an exchange of notes (together the "proposed Protocol"), both signed on January 24, 2013, at Washington, together with correcting notes exchanged March 9 and March 29, 2013. I also transmit for the information of the Senate the report of the Department of State, which includes an overview of the proposed Protocol.
The proposed Protocol was negotiated to bring U.S.-Japan tax treaty relations into closer conformity with current U.S. tax treaty policy. For example, the proposed Protocol provides for an exemption from source-country withholding tax on all cross-border payments of interest, and updates the provisions of the existing Convention with respect to the mutual agreement procedure by incorporating mandatory arbitration of certain cases that the competent authorities of the United States and Japan have been unable to resolve after a reasonable period of time.
I recommend that the Senate give early and favorableconsideration to the proposed Protocol and give its advice and consent to its ratification.
BARACK OBAMA
Armageddon!
JPMorgan's CEO Jamie Dimon warns shareholders of coming economic crisis -- Puppet Masters -- Sott.net
Sun, 12 Apr 2015 14:37
(C) Jason Alden/Bloomberg via Getty ImagesJames "Jamie" Dimon, chief executive officer of JPMorgan Chase & Co.
This time, it isn't just Peter Schiff, Marc Faber, David Stockman or Jim Rogers ringing the alarm bells warning about another looming financial crisis. One of the most prolific Wall Street CEOs is actually informing everyone that "there will be another crisis."JPMorgan CEO Jamie Dimon wrote in an annual letter to shareholders that another economic collapse is possible. In such an event, markets will become more volatile, while a recession would bring more chaos to the United States economy.
Here is what he wrote in his letter:
"The trigger to the next crisis will not be the same as the trigger to the last one, but there will be another crisis. Triggering events could be geopolitical, a recession where the Fed rapidly increases interest rates, a commodities price collapse, a commercial real estate crisis, bubbles, etc."
Dimon cited a lack of credit extension, enhanced federal regulation and a paucity of securities as just some of the reasons for another financial crisis. "[These] make it more likely that a crisis will cause more volatile market movements with a rapid decline in valuations even in what are very liquid markets."
What's behind these comments exactly? It's hard to say, but perhaps he suffered from a near-death experience so he thinks he can save himself by warning the public at large. Who knows? Despite who says it, another collapse is nigh and you should prepare yourself.
Chiner$
The $40bn canal project dividing Nicaragua - Al Jazeera English
Thu, 16 Apr 2015 04:20
Jos(C) Franciso Espinoza, a 43-year-old Nicaraguan farmer, scoops clay and sand from the Rio Brito to construct a wall on his farm near the canal's start point [Lindsay Fendt/Al Jazeera]
Rivas, Nicaragua - The tiny town of La Junta, located near Rivas in southwestern Nicaragua, is home to nearly 100 families, most of whom have farmed their land here for generations.
Soon that will change. The community will be swarming with construction workers, and if all goes to plan, cargo ships float over what used to be cow pastures in a few years.
La Junta will be one of the first towns demolished to make way for a 300km transoceanic canal that will bisect Nicaragua.
The project's backer, Chinese telecommunications mogul Wang Jing, expects to complete the $40bn project within five years.
Canal supporters claim that the project could lift Nicaragua - the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere after Haiti - out of poverty, but opponents point to the potential for environmental and human rights abuses.
Though La Junta and nearby towns have been surveyed for construction, no one has come to tell the residents where they will go when the canal comes.
The people in La Junta say they woke up one day to a fleet of police and Chinese engineers in their backyards.
We believe in development, but we don't see how this is going to bring benefits to Nicaragua. We are a country based on the agrarian movement and this project will violate that.
Silvia Guti(C)rrez, Sandinista Renovation Movement politician
"They came and started taking measurements of everything," said Jenny Guti(C)rrez, 33, a lifetime La Junta resident. "They didn't say a word to anyone."
In the last 450 years, this is the 73rd plan to build a canal through Nicaragua. For many, the waterway's completion would fulfil a national dream.
Land expropriation
The government says that by 2018, the canal will pull 403,583 people from poverty and 353,935 people from extreme poverty, double the country's gross domestic product (GDP) and triple the employment rate.
Though the government has not cited a source for the oddly specific statistics, Nicaraguan officials maintain that the canal will bring benefits to the Central American nation.
"The canal will not pass through an area with intense agricultural activity, it will not pass through critical coffee growing or ranching zones," Telemaco Talavera, the spokesman for the Nicaraguan government's canal commission has said publicly.
"It will only affect a small part of the country and will reinvigorate the rest."
It is not only the government that backs the canal. A CID-Gallup poll from September 2014 revealed that 41 percent of Nicaraguans support the canal and 21 percent are somewhat in favour.
The majority of supporters believe the canal will help the country financially, but 55 percent of respondents admitted that they know very little about the project. Even the Sandinista government sometimes seems confused about the canal's details.
In a recent trip to Spain, Talavera implied that he was uncertain about the canal's final route after a Nicaraguan student asked him to address complaints from the 60,000 people she claimed would be displaced.
Talavera refuted her numbers, but offered few facts to assuage her concerns.
"That means someone has the route more clearly defined than we do," he said.
So far, there is no official tally of how many will be displaced by the canal. Based on the route released by the canal's development company, Hong Kong Nicaragua Canal Development Investment (HKND), various groups estimate that anywhere from 29,000 to upwards of 60,000 people will need to relocate.
Where these people will be sent or how they will be compensated still remains unclear.
Nicaragua's Law 840, passed in June 2013, grants HKND the right to expropriate land anywhere in Nicaragua.
The company is required to compensate residents the tax-assessed value of their land, but residents say this is usually lower than the market price.
Relocation has not been addressed, and even if residents are compensated fairly for their land, many of those in the canal zone are farmers and worry that they may have to give up their crops and livestock to live in a city.
A betrayal
"The canal isn't going to help any of the poor people at all. The benefits will all go to the rich," Jos(C) Franciso Espinoza, a 43-year-old farmer, told me as he scooped clay from the R­o Brito, near the canal's destined start point, to build a wall on his farm.
"To build yourself a home here, it is hard. To build up a farm here, it takes a lifetime."
For many of these small landowners - the poor campesinos that made up the base of support for Nicaragua's socialist president, Daniel Ortega - the Sandinista's decision to grant the canal concession was seen as a betrayal.
"Here, in the pueblo, we don't see him as the president, we see Ortega as a dictator," Jenny Guti(C)rrez told Al Jazeera.
"He's in power now and doesn't think about the poor people any more."
These sentiments have spurred continued protests throughout Nicaragua, with the most violent unrest in El Tule, on Lake Nicaragua's eastern side.
The protests come with support from Nicaragua's opposition parties, which also do not support the canal project.
"We believe in development, but we don't see how this is going to bring benefits to Nicaragua," said Silvia Guti(C)rrez, a politician with the Sandinista Renovation Movement, a party founded by Sandinista dissidents.
"We are a country based on the agrarian movement and this project will violate that." According to Guti(C)rrez, it will also violate constitutional rights of indigenous groups.
HKND has already confirmed that the canal will affect the protected Bangkukuk Rama indigenous community in Nicaragua's east.
One of the only Rama-speaking communities remaining, Bangkukuk will be fragmented and at least part of the village's people will need to relocate.
Forced relocation violates the protections given to the Rama territory in 2009, and though the group has been in near daily contact with HKND, an agreement has not been reached.
"Indigenous land has no value and cannot be sold by law so there is no requirement for the company to compensate or relocate the people," Claus Kjaerby, the Central American representative for Danish NGO Forests of the World, told Al Jazeera.
Changed forever
Aside from being protected, the Rama territory is also located in one of the most biodiverse parts of Central America. The nearly untouched forest serves as an important biological corridor for migrating animals.
Based on the route announced by HKND, the canal will slice through more than 405 hectares of protected rainforest and wetlands as well as Lake Nicaragua, the largest drinking water reservoir in Central America.
Despite the potential ecological damage from the project, HKND has yet to release environmental impact studies for the canal.
According to Axel Meyer, a German biologist with more than 30 years of fieldwork in Nicaragua, the canal project has the potential to drastically damage Nicaragua's biodiversity.
Scientists with the Nicaragua Academy of Sciences are also concerned by the project, warning that dredging Lake Nicaragua could turn the lake into an aquatic dead zone. But without proper studies no one can be sure.
"One would hope they at least considered the environmental and social impact of this, but no study was ever published," Meyer said.
"One thing is for sure, this would undoubtedly change Nicaragua forever."
But back in La Junta, residents haven't fully accepted these changes as inevitable. They still hold out hope that the canal will somehow bypass their small community.
"We've been here for generations and generations," said 41-year-old La Junta resident Armando Ru­z.
"We are just trusting in the lord that it won't end up passing through here."
Source: Al Jazeera
Presidential Determination -- Proposed Agreement for Cooperation Between the Government of the United States of America and the Government of the People's Republic of China Concerning Peaceful Uses of Nuclear Energy
Sun, 12 Apr 2015 14:26
The White House
Office of the Press Secretary
For Immediate Release
April 10, 2015
SUBJECT: Presidential Determination on the Proposed
Agreement for Cooperation Between the Government
of the United States of America and the
Government of the People's Republic of China
Concerning Peaceful Uses of Nuclear Energy
I have considered the proposed Agreement for Cooperation Between the Government of the United States of America and the Government of the People's Republic of China Concerning Peaceful Uses of Nuclear Energy (the "Agreement"), along with the views, recommendations, and statements of the interested departments and agencies.
I have determined that the performance of the Agreement will promote, and will not constitute an unreasonable risk to, the common defense and security. Pursuant to section 123 b. of the Atomic Energy Act of 1954, as amended (42 U.S.C. 2153(b)), I hereby approve the proposed Agreement and authorize the Secretary of State to arrange for its execution.
The Secretary of State is authorized to publish this determination in the Federal Register.
BARACK OBAMA
China to Build Pipeline From Iran to Pakistan - WSJ
Thu, 09 Apr 2015 12:41
ISLAMABAD'--China will build a pipeline to bring natural gas from Iran to Pakistan to help address Pakistan's acute energy shortage, under a deal to be signed during the Chinese president's visit to Islamabad this month, Pakistani officials said.
The arrival of President Xi Jinping is expected to showcase China's commitment to infrastructure development in ally Pakistan, at a time when few other countries are willing to make major...
China's Great Cannon
Fri, 10 Apr 2015 18:07
This post describes our analysis of China's ''Great Cannon,'' our term for an attack tool that we identify as separate from, but co-located with, the Great Firewall of China. The first known usage of the Great Cannon is in the recent large-scale novel DDoS attack on both GitHub and servers used by GreatFire.org.
Authors: Bill Marczak1,2,3 (Lead), Nicholas Weaver2,3 (Lead), Jakub Dalek,1 Roya Ensafi,4 David Fifield,2 Sarah McKune,1 Arn Rey, John Scott-Railton,1 Ronald Deibert,1 Vern Paxson.2,3
Affiliations: (1) Citizen Lab, Munk School of Global Affairs, University of Toronto; (2) International Computer Science Institute; (3) University of California, Berkeley; (4) Princeton University
Section 1: Introduction, Key FindingsOn March 16, GreatFire.org observed that servers they had rented to make blocked websites accessible in China were being targeted by a Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attack. On March 26, two GitHub pages run by GreatFire.org also came under the same type of attack. Both attacks appear targeted at services designed to circumvent Chinese censorship. A report released by GreatFire.org fingered malicious Javascript returned by Baidu servers as the source of the attack.1 Baidu denied that their servers were compromised.2
Several previous technical reports3 have suggested that the Great Firewall of China orchestrated these attacks by injecting malicious Javascript into Baidu connections. This post describes our analysis of the attack, which we were able to observe until April 8, 2015.
We show that, while the attack infrastructure is co-located with the Great Firewall, the attack was carried out by a separate offensive system, with different capabilities and design, that we term the ''Great Cannon.'' The Great Cannon is not simply an extension of the Great Firewall, but a distinct attack tool that hijacks traffic to (or presumably from) individual IP addresses, and can arbitrarily replace unencrypted content as a man-in-the-middle.
The operational deployment of the Great Cannon represents a significant escalation in state-level information control: the normalization of widespread use of an attack tool to enforce censorship by weaponizing users. Specifically, the Cannon manipulates the traffic of ''bystander'' systems outside China, silently programming their browsers to create a massive DDoS attack. While employed for a highly visible attack in this case, the Great Cannon clearly has the capability for use in a manner similar to the NSA's QUANTUM system,4 affording China the opportunity to deliver exploits targeting any foreign computer that communicates with any China-based website not fully utilizing HTTPS.
Report StructureWe organize our Report as follows:
Section 2 locates and characterizes the Great Cannon as a separate system;Section 3 analyzes DDoS logs and characterizes the distribution of affected systems;Section 4 presents our attribution of the Great Cannon to the Government of China;Section 5 addresses the policy context and implications;Section 6 addresses the possibility of using the Great Cannon for targeted exploitation of individual users.
Section 2: The Firewall & The Cannon: Separate Systems, Significant SimilaritiesFigure 1. Simplified logical topology of the Great Cannon and Great Firewall
In general, a firewall serves as an in-path barrier between two networks: all traffic between the networks must flow through the firewall. In contrast, an on-path system like the Chinese ''Great Firewall'' (GFW) sits off to the side: it eavesdrops on traffic between China and the rest of the world (TAP in Figure 1), and terminates requests for banned content (for example, upon seeing a request for ''http://www.google.com/?falun'',5 regardless of actual destination server) by injecting a series of forged TCP Reset (RST) packets that tell both the requester and the destination to stop communicating (INJECT RST in Figure 1).6 On-path systems have architectural advantages for censorship, but are less flexible and stealthy than in-path systems as attack tools, because while they can inject additional packets, they cannot prevent in-flight packets (packets that have already been sent) from reaching their destination.7 Thus, one generally can identify the presence of an on-path system by observing anomalies resulting from the presence of both injected and legitimate traffic.8
The GFW keeps track of connections and reassembles the packets (''TCP bytestream reassembly'') to determine if it should block traffic. This reassembly process requires additional computational resources, as opposed to considering each packet in isolation, but allows better accuracy in blocking. While a web request often fits within a single packet, web replies may be split across several packets, and the GFW needs to reassemble these packets to understand whether a web reply contains banned content.
On any given physical link (e.g., a fiber optic cable), the GFW runs its reassembly and censorship logic in multiple parallel processes9 (perhaps running on a cluster of many different computers). Each process handles a subset of the link's connections, with all packets on a connection going to the same process. This load-balanced architecture reflects a common design decision when a physical link carries more traffic than a single computer can track. Each GFW process also exhibits a highly distinctive side-channel '-- it maintains a counter, and numbers the forged TCP Reset packets it injects (via the value of the IP TTL field).
The Great Cannon (GC) differs from the GFW: as we will show, the GC is an in-path system, capable of not only injecting traffic but also directly suppressing traffic, acting as a full ''man-in-the-middle'' for targeted flows. The GC does not actively examine all traffic on the link, but only intercepts traffic to (or presumably from) a set of targeted addresses. It is plausible that this reduction of the full traffic stream to just a (likely small) set of addresses significantly aids with enabling the system to keep up with the very high volume of traffic: the GC's full processing pipeline only has to operate on the much smaller stream of traffic to or from the targeted addresses. In addition, in contrast to the GFW, the GC only examines individual packets in determining whether to take action, which avoids the computational costs of TCP bytestream reassembly. The GC also maintains a flow cache of connections that it uses to ignore recent connections it has deemed no longer requiring examination.
The GC however also shares several features with the GFW. Like the GFW, the GC is also a multi-process cluster, with different source IP addresses handled by distinct processes. The packets injected by the GC also have the same peculiar TTL side-channel as those injected by the GFW, suggesting that both the GFW and the GC likely share some common code. Taken together, this suggests that although the GC and GFW are independent systems with different functionality, there are significant structural relationships between the two.
In the attack on GitHub and GreatFire.org, the GC intercepted traffic sent to Baidu infrastructure servers that host commonly used analytics, social, or advertising scripts. If the GC saw a request for certain Javascript files on one of these servers, it appeared to probabilistically take one of two actions: it either passed the request onto Baidu's servers unmolested (roughly 98.25% of the time), or it dropped the request before it reached Baidu and instead sent a malicious script back to the requesting user (roughly 1.75% of the time). In this case, the requesting user is an individual outside China browsing a website making use of a Baidu infrastructure server (e.g., a website with ads served by Baidu's ad network). The malicious script enlisted the requesting user as an unwitting participant in the DDoS attack against GreatFire.org and GitHub.
Localizing the CannonThe GFW continues to operate as normal: on-path and statefullyWe began our investigation by confirming the continued normal operation of the GFW's censorship features. We did so employing measurements between our test system outside of China and a Baidu server that we observed returning the malicious Javascript. We sent the Baidu server a request that the GFW would process as a query for ''http://www.google.com/?falun'', a URL long known10 to trigger the GFW to inject forged TCP Resets to terminate the connection. This packet capture shows the results of our experiment, which confirmed that the normal, well-understood operation of the GFW continues. Note that the capture includes both the injected TCP Reset and, later, the legitimate response (an HTTP 403 reply) from the Baidu server. This occurs because the GFW operates as an on-path system, and, as discussed earlier, on-path systems cannot prevent in-flight packets from reaching their destination.
Figure 2. How the Great Cannon was deployed in the GitHub and GreatFire.org attacks
Localizing the GFWWe then localized where (with respect to our measurement system) in the network topology the GFW operates, as follows. For a given measurement packet, we can control how far into the network it transits from our measurement system to its destination by controlling the packet's TTL value. The TTL value determines after how many intermediate hops a packet will be discarded by the Internet's internal routers. We sent the ''Falun'' queries from our test system to the Baidu server with TTL values increasing from 1 on up. We observed that the GFW's TCP Reset injection only occurred when we sent packets with TTL values >= 18, suggesting that the GFW acts on traffic flowing between the 17th and 18th hop along the path from our test system to the Baidu server (which was itself 24 hops away from our test system). This packet capture shows our localization results.11
The GC operates as a separate, in-path systemAs noted previously, our traces of GFW operation showed both the injected TCP Reset, as well as the legitimate server reply. In contrast, no legitimate server reply accompanied the injected malicious reply from the GC. We ran further testing, where we retransmitted our request to Baidu over the same connection, and with the same sequence numbers, after we received a malicious response. We observed Baidu responding as normal to the retransmitted request. Thus, we conclude12that the GCdroppedour request before it reached Baidu, a capability not present in the GFW.13
We also checked whether the GFW and GC might share the same injector device,14 but found no evidence that they do. In particular, from a given TCP source port, we sent one request designed to trigger GC injection, followed by a request designed to trigger GFW injection. We repeated the experiment from a number of source ports. While packets injected by both the GFW and GC exhibited a similar (peculiar) TTL side-channel indicative of shared code between the two systems, we found no apparent correlation between the GFW and GC TTL values themselves.
The GC appears to be co-located with the GFWWe used the same TTL technique to localize the GC on the path between our test system and the Baidu server. We found that for our path, the GC acted on traffic between hop 17 and hop 18, the same link we observed as responsible for the GFW. We also observed that unlike the GFW, we could trigger the GC using ''naked'' requests (i.e., requests sent in isolation, with no previous TCP SYN as required for standard communication). Acting on ''naked'' requests implies that the GC's content analysis is more primitive (and easily manipulated), but does offer significant performance advantages, as the GC no longer needs to maintain complex state concerning connection status and TCP bytestream reassembly.
We also checked two separate servers in China whose traffic the GC targets to observe whether the GC existed along with the Great Firewall on multiple network paths. From our measurement system outside of China, we examined the path to both 115.239.210.141 and 123.125.65.120. For 115.239.210.141, the GFW and the GC both exist between hop 12 and 13, on the link between 144.232.12.211 and 202.97.33.37, as the traffic enters China Telecom. For 123.125.65.120, the GFW and GC both exist between hop 17 and 18, on the link between 219.158.101.61 and 219.158.101.49, belonging to China Unicom. A previous report by Robert Graham used the same TTL technique to conclude that on one link, the GC was located ''inside China Unicom infrastructure.''15
The GC is currently aimed only at specific destination IP addressesWhen we probed an IP address adjacent to the Baidu server (123.125.65.121), the GC ignored the requests completely, although the GFW acted on censorable requests to this host.
Unlike the GFW, the GC only acts on the first data packet of a connectionFor a given source IP address and port, the GC only examines the first data packet sent when deciding whether to inject a reply. To avoid examining subsequent packets requires remembering which connections it has examined in a flow cache. Unlike the GFW, the GC does not reassemble packets, a significant implementation difference. In addition, the GC will process invalid HTTP requests, while the GFW will not, also indicating differing implementations.
We confirmed these behaviors by sending a number of probes to the Baidu server, requesting resources that trigger the GC's injection. Each probe had a different source port. We sent 500 probes, each with the request split across three packets (so 1,500 packets total). The GC ignored each probe. We then sent 500 probes where the first packet's data is an invalid HTTP request, and the second packet's data is a complete, valid request for a targeted resource. The GC ignored each probe. We then sent a final 500 single-packet probes, each containing a complete, valid request for a targeted resource, to confirm normal GC operation. As expected, the GC injected malicious content in some cases, seemingly based on its probabilistic decision-making process.
How big is the GC flow cache?We attempted to completely fill the GC flow cache by sending packets to the Baidu server with different source IP addresses and ports, while probing to see whether the entries that we previously added had now expired. Our attempt suggests that at least in some cases, the GC flow cache between our test system and the Baidu server supports up to around 16,000 entries for a single sending IP address.
Unlike the GFW, the GC appears to act probabilisticallyCensorship systems generally operate in a deterministic fashion: they aim to block all content that matches the target criteria. The GC, on the other hand '-- at least for this particular attack '-- appears to act probabilistically, and ignores most of the traffic it could act on. In one test, it completely ignored all traffic from one of four measurement IP addresses, and on the three other measurement IP addresses it only responded to 526 requests out of an initial 30,000 from the three (1.75%).
The cache capacity test also provides evidence that the GC's probabilistic choice occurs on the decision to act on a particular flow, and not as some sort of pre-filter for reducing analysis load. When we succeeded in completely filling the flow cache, subsequently injected packets occurred for different source ports than in the initial test. If the GC only intercepted a subset of flows to the target IP address, we would expect subsequent injections to appear for the same flows, since most schemes to probabilistically select flows for interception (such as hashing the connection 4-tuple) would select the same set of flows the second time around.
Does the GC have a load-balanced architecture?We determined that the GC uses a separate flow cache for different source IP addresses, and that packets injected from different source IP addresses have distinct TTL side-channels. This finding suggests a load-balanced architecture similar to the GFW, where packets are routed to GC nodes based on source IP address. We then sent traffic alternating from four measurement IP addresses in an attempt to fill a 16,000 entry cache. This attempt did not manage to fill the cache, suggesting that the GC not only processed the different source IP addresses with different injection elements, but did so using different flow caches. As stated before, one of the four source IP addresses never received any injected replies.
Section 3: Analysis of the DDoS Logs from the attack against GreatFireThe staff of GreatFire.org provided the authors with server logs covering the period of March 18 to 28.16 (A report previously published by Great Fire uses a different sample.17) This period appears to capture the end of the DDoS attack on GreatFire.org's services, as shown by the size of server log files over this period:
To keep our analysis tractable, we examined a sample of the data from March 18th 11:00 GMT to March 19th 7:00 GMT, as seen from two of the three most commonly seen backend servers. For each hour, we selected 30MB of compressed logs for each server.18 The total sample includes 16,611,840 web requests, with 13,183 unique source IP addresses. We used the MaxMind GeoIP2 Lite database19 from March 3rd, 2015 to assign a country of origin to each source IP address. For any IP address that did not result in a definite geolocation using this tool (31 addresses), we looked up the address manually using the iplocation.net service.
The figure below summarizes the top countries of origin, with China added for comparison.
Figure 3. Number of Unique IP addresses seen in DDoS log sample showing the top 5 countries/regions, with Chinese traffic included for comparison.
Note that 8,827 (66.9%) of the IP addresses originate from Taiwan and Hong Kong, two regions where Chinese is the official language. China, however, accounted for only 18 requests. This is consistent with malicious code injected into China-hosted websites at the border of the Chinese Internet.
To determine which websites have their responses altered by the injection of malicious code, we extracted the domain names of the 25 most frequently seen referrers in our dataset,20 finding that these domains account for 55% of the total requests in the sample.
Figure 4. Top 25 referrers found in the DDoS logs, grouped by domain. The top bar reflects domains directly in the baidu.com DNS space. Manual verification confirms that all top 25 referrers use Baidu services such as advertising or analytics.
The most commonly seen domain is pos.baidu.com (37.7% of total requests in the sample), a part of Baidu's ad network. Many non-Baidu sites display ads served through Baidu's ad network, indicating that visitors to non-Baidu sites displaying ads also became targeted.21
We examined the top 25 domains, and linked each one to Baidu: in each case, the site is either a Baidu property or uses Baidu analytics, advertisements, or static resources.22 This finding indicates that Baidu was a major injection target for this attack. According to Alexa statistics, Baidu itself is the fourth-most visited site globally, the highest ranking China-based site on the global list,23 and has received an estimated 4.99 million unique visitors from the US alone in the past 30 days.24
We speculate that Baidu was chosen as an injection target because it is a simple way to target many users.
Section 4: Attributing the Great Cannon to the Chinese GovernmentWe believe there is compelling evidence that the Chinese government operates the GC. In recent public statements, China has deflected questions regarding whether they are behind the attack, instead emphasizing that China is often itself a victim of cyber attacks.25
Where is the GC Located?We tested two international Internet links into China belonging to two different Chinese ISPs, and found that in both cases the GC was co-located with the GFW. This co-location across different ISPs strongly suggests a governmental actor.
Who built the Great Cannon?That the GFW and GC have the same type of TTL side-channel suggests that they share some source code. We are unaware of any public software library for crafting packets that introduces this type of TTL side-channel.
What is the Great Cannon's Function?Our observations indicate that the GC's design does not reflect technology well-suited for performing traffic censorship. Its operation only examines the first data packet of a given connection, which provides a weak censorship mechanism compared to the GFW. More generally, the GC's design does not, in practice, enable it to censor any traffic not already censorable by the GFW. Thus, the evidence indicates that the GC's role is to inject traffic under specific targeted circumstances, not to censor traffic.
Who is the Great Cannon attacking?The DDoS attack launched by the GC using ''bystander'' machines directly aligns with known political concerns of the Chinese government. The Cyberspace Administration of China has previously referred to GreatFire as a ''foreign anti-Chinese organization'' (åƒå¤–反华ç>>).26 The particular GreatFire service targeted in this attack provides proxies to bypass the GFW using encrypted connections to Amazon's CloudFront cloud service.
GreatFire also hosts two GitHub repositories, https://gitub.com/greatfire and https://github.com/cn-nytimes, that provide technology for users who wish to circumvent Chinese government censorship. The attack on GitHub specifically targeted these repositories, possibly in an attempt to compel GitHub to remove these resources. GitHub encrypts all traffic using TLS, preventing a censor from only blocking access to specific GitHub pages. In the past, China attempted to block Github, but the block was lifted within two days, following significant negative reaction from local programmers.27
Section 5: Policy Context and ImplicationsThis section describes some policy implications of deploying the Great Cannon, addresses the impact of targeting Baidu traffic specifically, and discusses the Chinese authorities that may be involved in operation of the GC.
Implications of the GC for Chinese PolicyDeploying the Great Cannon is a major shift in tactics, and has a highly visible impact. It is likely that this attack, with its potential for political backlash,28 would require the approval of high-level authorities within the Chinese government. These authorities may include the State Internet Information Office (SIIO),29 which is responsible for Internet censorship. It is also possible that the top body for cybersecurity coordination in China, the Cybersecurity and Informatization Leading Group (CILG),30 would have been involved. The CILG is chaired by Xi Jinping and includes as members senior leaders from across the government; its administrative office is housed within the SIIO.31
The government's reasoning for deploying the GC here is unclear, but it may wish to confront the threat presented to the Communist Party of China's (CPC) ideological control by the ''collateral freedom'' strategy advanced by GreatFire.org32 and others. The attack was exceptionally costly to GreatFire, according to their public statements,33 as well as disruptive to the companies that hosted GreatFire content. Such a disruption could be both an attempt to block the operations of an undesirable resource, and a signal sent to other organizations of the potential price tag for this kind of activity. Deployment of the GC may also reflect a desire to counter what the Chinese government perceives as US hegemony in cyberspace.
This approach would be consistent with the CPC's paramount focus on protecting ''domestic stability'' (and its own authority) against entities it has identified as ''foreign hostile forces,'' including not only governments but also Western media outlets (such as the New York Times) and NGOs or other civil society actors (such as GreatFire.org).34 According to such a world view, the collateral freedom strategy is a provocative, hostile act that threatens China's security.
Implications of Using Traffic to Baidu ServicesThe incorporation of Baidu in this attack suggests that the Chinese authorities are willing to pursue domestic stability and security aims at the expense of other goals, including fostering economic growth in the tech sector. Selecting Baidu's international traffic may appear counterproductive given the importance of Baidu to the Chinese economy: the company enjoys stature as one of China's ''big three'' Internet firms, alongside Alibaba and Tencent,35 and currently ranks as the top site in China.36 While its shares came under pressure after the February release of its Q4 and fiscal year 2014 reports,37 its total revenue in 2014 was USD $7.906 billion, with online marketing revenues for that period valued at USD $7.816 billion.38
''Service interruptions could reduce our revenues and profits and damage our brand if our systems are perceived to be unreliable.''39
Baidu has denied involvement in the attack and asserted its internal security was not compromised.40 Yet the targeting of international visitors trying to reach sites that are Baidu properties, or that use Baidu analytics, advertisements, or static resources, could undermine the company's reputation and its appeal to overseas users and advertisers.
Baidu writes in its SEC filings that it was the target of legal action in the United States in 201141 for complying with Chinese censorship. Baidu explicitly notes that cooperation and coordination with Chinese censorship authorities could be costly in terms of brand image, profit, and stockholder confidence.
''our compliance with PRC regulations governing internet access and distribution of news and other information over the internet may subject us to negative publicity or even legal actions outside of China.''42
Moreover, exploiting Baidu's international reach as a means for conducting digital attacks belies the government's recent commitment to enhance the global presence of Internet companies. At the meeting of the National People's Congress on March 5, 2015, Premier Li Keqiang (who is also Vice-Chair of the CILG) announced:
We will develop the ''Internet Plus'' action plan to integrate the mobile Internet, cloud computing, big data, and the Internet of Things with modern manufacturing, to encourage the healthy development of e-commerce, industrial networks, and Internet banking, and to guide Internet-based companies to increase their presence in the international market.43
This goal '' which closely echoes that contained in a draft declaration presented (but not passed) at the November 2014 Wuzhen World Internet Conference44 '' may not come to fruition if Chinese domestic companies appear unreliable, their business objectives secondary to other objectives of the Chinese Government.
Chinese authorities may, however, be betting that their use of Baidu traffic to mount this DDoS attack will ultimately be perceived as an isolated occurrence, a sort of ''force majeure,'' with limited impact on Baidu's long-term economic prospects '' particularly given Baidu's apparent status as unwitting victim and its strong market position.
Additionally, Baidu's CEO Robin Li is a member of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference45 and well-positioned for lucrative government contracts going forward '-- such as his artificial intelligence project ''China Brain,'' for which he has sought military support.46 He may have little personal incentive (let alone opportunity, given the existing legal and regulatory framework applicable to Internet companies in China47) to challenge this action by the government.
Thinking About Authorities Who May Be Responsible for Implementing The Great CannonEven for the GFW, it is difficult to pinpoint the precise authorities behind its deployment, or its operators and origins. This makes understanding the origins of the GC equally challenging. However, some clues are available. For example, the shared source code and co-location between the GFW and GC suggest that the GC could have been developed within the same institutional framework as the GFW. We might therefore draw further insight into the GC by assessing what we know about the GFW.
Some reports characterize the GFW as an element of China's ''Golden Shield'' project,48 under the authority of the Ministry of Public Security. However, unverified insider information 'leaked' online suggests that the GFW was developed within a separate entity: the ''National Computer Network and Information Security Management Center'' (国家è®ç®—æ'ºç½‘ç>>'与ä息安全ç®ç†ä¸­åƒ) (hereafter, ''the Center'').49 Little is publicly known about the Center. It appears to bear close relationship50 to the National Computer Network Emergency Response Technical Team/Coordination Center of China (CNCERT/CC) run by the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (MIIT) '-- indeed, the listed address for CNCERT/CC is the same as that of the Center as indicated on its patent applications '-- and the former National Network and Information Security Coordination Team,51 a subcommittee of the State Informatization Leading Group subsumed by the CILG in 2014.52 Notably, ''MIIT also regulates China's six Internet service providers (ISPs), which in turn are expected to monitor and filter content on their networks according to censorship guidelines established by the State Council Information Office and the SIIO.''53 Those ISPs include China Telecom and China Unicom, on the links of which we co-located the GFW and GC (see above).
It is unknown whether the GFW and/or the GC are in fact maintained (or may have been developed in whole or in part) by the National Computer Network and Information Security Management Center. However, patent applications filed by this entity, taken together, appear to indicate a mandate for large scale network surveillance, filtering, and defense. The Center has filed nearly 100 patent applications,54 for designs such as ''Method for detecting unexpected hot topics in Chinese microblogs;'' ''Method and system for recognizing Tibetan dialects;'' ''Website classifying method;'' ''Method and system for intelligent monitoring and analyzing under cloud computing;'' ''Method and device for managing global indexes of mass structured log data;'' ''Method, device and system for traffic monitoring and switching;'' ''Image searching/matching method and system for the same;'' and ''Internet basic information management system'' (this last ''comprises a national-level management sub-system, a provincial management sub-system and an enterprise management sub-system'' that ''can perform effective supervision on the Internet basic information throughout the country''). Moreover, according to state media, during the time of the GFW's development the so-called ''father of the Great Firewall,'' Fang Binxing, was employed at CNCERT/CC,55 an entity that appears closely tied to the Center.56 Fang is likewise listed as an inventor on a 2008 patent application by the Center, indicating some collaboration with the Center prior to that point.
While we cannot determine the exact role played by the Center, the patent documentation and the Center itself require further research and analysis to determine whether they are relevant to operation of the GC, or present other human rights-related concerns.
Section 6: Concluding Remarks: The Capability for Targeted Exploitation by ChinaWe conclude with some remarks about the precedent set by China in the use of the GC and outline further implications for targeted exploitation.
The attack launched by the Great Cannon appears relatively obvious and coarse: a denial-of-service attack on services objectionable to the Chinese government. Yet the attack itself indicates a far more significant capability: an ability to ''exploit by IP address''. This possibility, not yet observed but a feature of its architecture, represents a potent cyberattack capability.
A technically simple change in the Great Cannon's configuration, switching to operating on trafficfroma specific IP address rather thantoa specific address, would allow its operator to deliver malware to targeted individuals who communicates with any Chinese server not employing cryptographic protections. The GC operator first needs to discover the target's IP address and identify a suitable exploit. The operator then tasks the GC to intercept traffic from the target's IP address, and replace certain responses with malicious content. If the target ever made a single request to a server inside China not employing encryption (e.g., Baidu's ad network), the GC could deliver a malicious payload to the target. A target might not necessarily realize that their computer was communicating with a Chinese server, as a non-Chinese website located outside China could (for example) serve ads ultimately sourced from Chinese servers.
Since the GC operates as a full man-in-the-middle, it would also be straightforward to have it intercept unencrypted email to or from a target IP address and undetectably replace any legitimate attachments with malicious payloads, manipulating email sent from China to outside destinations. Even email transmission protected by standard encryption (STARTTLS) can be undermined because the GC is in a position to launch a ''downgrade'' attack, steering the transmission to only use legacy, unencrypted communication.
Our findings in China add another documented case to at least two other known instances of governments tampering with unencrypted Internet traffic to control information or launch attacks '-- the other two being the use of QUANTUM by the US NSA and UK's GCHQ. In addition, product literature from two companies, FinFisher and Hacking Team, indicate that they sell similar ''attack from the Internet'' tools to governments around the world.57 These latest findings emphasize the urgency of replacing legacy web protocols, like HTTP, with their cryptographically strong versions, like HTTPS.
We remain puzzled as to why the GC's operator chose to first employ its capabilities in such a publicly visible fashion. Conducting such a widespread attack clearly demonstrates the weaponization of the Chinese Internet to co-opt arbitrary computers across the web and outside of China to achieve China's policy ends. The repurposing of the devices of unwitting users in foreign jurisdictions for covert attacks in the interests of one country's national priorities is a dangerous precedent '-- contrary to international norms and in violation of widespread domestic laws prohibiting the unauthorized use of computing and networked systems.
AcknowledgementsSpecial thanks to: Adam Senft (Citizen Lab) and Paul Pearce (UC Berkeley, ICSI).
We wish to acknowledge GreatFire for making their logs available to us for analysis.
We also express our deep gratitude to several individuals, anonymous or pseudonymous at their request, including ''Jack B,'' who aided us in understanding elements of the attack in the early days, and others who helped us formulate and develop this report.
Footnotes1 Using Baidu ç¾åº... to steer millions of computers to launch denial of service attacks,'' Anonymous author, March 25, 2015 (https://drive.google.com/file/d/0ByrxblDXR_yqeUNZYU5WcjFCbXM/view?pli=1)2http://www.theverge.com/2015/3/27/8299555/github-china-ddos-censorship-great-firewall3Appendix C: Related Technical Reports4http://www.wired.com/2014/03/quantum/5 As discussed further below, this specific URL consistently triggers GFW responses, even though if actually sent to www.google.com it simply returns the Google home page.6 See https://www.cs.unm.edu/~crandall/concept_doppler_ccs07.pdf for a description of the GFW's general operation using injected Reset packets.7 Although, the GFW does send injected RSTs to both the requester and destination, these RSTs may arrive too late to suppress transmission of some subsequent packets.8 See http://www.icsi.berkeley.edu/pubs/networking/ndss09-resets.pdf for a description of how to detect injected RST packets. The same techniques apply to detecting injected data packets.9 For information on both the parallel nature and the TTL sidechannel present in the GFW, see https://www.usenix.org/system/files/conference/foci14/foci14-anonymous.pdf10https://www.cs.unm.edu/~crandall/concept_doppler_ccs07.pdf11 The packet capture also confirms the stateful nature of the GFW's content analysis: it does not inject a TCP Reset unless it first observes a TCP SYN and an ACK for the SYN/ACK for the connection.12 If the GC did not drop requests sent to Baidu, then Baidu would have received our first request (which the GC responded to), and would have ignored our subsequent, duplicate request, as dictated by the TCP protocol. We verified that when the GC did not inject a response, Baidu did indeed ignore the duplicate request.13 Technically complex situations exist in which an on-path system like the GFW could conceivably prevent the appearance of a response from Baidu by disrupting session initiation. We conducted extensive measurements assessing this possibility. We omit those results from this report because the ''retransmission'' measurement discussed above definitively rules out that possibility, rendering the measurements moot.14 Analogous systems to the GC, like QUANTUM, make the architectural decision of having the injector as a distinct device from the rest of the system.15http://blog.erratasec.com/2015/04/pin-pointing-chinas-attack-against.html16 1.1TB, compressed. Note that the logs include both malicious and non-malicious traffic17https://drive.google.com/file/d/0ByrxblDXR_yqeUNZYU5WcjFCbXM/view?pli=118 Files were randomly selected amongst a list of files that were near 30MB. This size was selected because it was largest file size that was present in all timestamp hours we focused on.19http://dev.maxmind.com/geoip/legacy/geolite/20 Note that the malicious requests are being generated by Javascript. When a script makes a web request, the web browser sets the ''Referer'' header on the request to the URL of the page that loaded the script.21 It is typical for web advertisements to be displayed in iframes. This causes the ''Referer'' header to report the advertisement service, not the hosting page.22 See Appendix A.23 Alexa, ''The top 500 sites on the web,'' http://www.alexa.com/topsites (accessed April 8, 2015).24 Alexa, ''Site overview: baidu.com,'' http://www.alexa.com/siteinfo/baidu.com (accessed April 8, 2015).25 Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the People's Republic of China, ''Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Hua Chunying's Regular Press Conference,'' March 30, 2015, http://www.fmprc.gov.cn/mfa_eng/xwfw_665399/s2510_665401/2511_665403/t1250354.shtml.26http://www.cac.gov.cn/2015-01/22/c_1114097853.htm27http://www.computerworld.com/article/2493478/internet/github-unblocked-in-china-after-former-google-head-slams-its-censorship.html28 Particularly after the Snowden disclosures, and the public / state outcry associated with the NSA's QUANTUM system and other programs, the Chinese government would presumably be aware of the significant international political ramifications of a decision to use the GC to target overseas entities, and escalate the matter accordingly.29 Note: also referred to as the Cyberspace Administration of China. ''China sets up State Internet information office,'' Xinhua, May 4, 2011, at http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/china/2011-05/04/content_12440782.htm.30 See Jon R. Lindsay, ''Introduction''China and Cybersecurity: Controversy and Context,'' in China and Cybersecurity: Espionage, Strategy, and Politics in the Digital Domain, ed. Jon R. Lindsay et al. [New York: Oxford University Press, 2015], 13-14; Adam Segal, ''China's New Small Leading Group on Cybersecurity and Internet Management,'' Council on Foreign Relations: Asia Unbound, February 27, 2014, http://blogs.cfr.org/asia/2014/02/27/chinas-new-small-leading-group-on-cybersecurity-and-internet-management/.31 For discussion and a diagram of institutions involved in China's national cybersecurity system, see Jon R. Lindsay, ''Introduction''China and Cybersecurity: Controversy and Context,'' in China and Cybersecurity: Espionage, Strategy, and Politics in the Digital Domain, ed. Jon R. Lindsay et al. [New York: Oxford University Press, 2015], 6-15.32 Charlie, ''Collateral Freedom and the not-so-Great Firewall,'' GreatFire.org, March 12, 2015, https://en.greatfire.org/blog/2015/mar/collateral-freedom-and-not-so-great-firewall.33 Charlie, ''We Are Under Attack,'' GreatFire.org, March 19, 2015, https://en.greatfire.org/blog/2015/mar/we-are-under-attack.34 For further discussion see Sarah McKune, '''Foreign Hostile Forces': The Human Rights Dimension of China's Cyber Campaigns,'' in China and Cybersecurity: Espionage, Strategy, and Politics in the Digital Domain, ed. Jon R. Lindsay et al. [New York: Oxford University Press, 2015], 260-293. See also Wang Chen, ''Concerning the Development and Administration of Our Country's Internet,'' translation by Human Rights in China, China Rights Forum: ''China's Internet'': Staking Digital Ground, no. 2 (2010), http://www.hrichina.org/en/content/3241, at para. III.6 (''We will perfect our system to monitor harmful information on the Internet, and strengthen the blocking of harmful information from outside China, to effectively prevent it from being disseminated in China through the Internet, and to withstand infiltration of the Internet by overseas hostile forces.''); Central Committee of the Communist Party of China's General Office, ''Communiqu(C) on the Current State of the Ideological Sphere,'' April 22, 2013, English translation by ChinaFile available at https://www.chinafile.com/document-9-chinafile-translation; Chris Buckley, ''China's New Leadership Takes Hard Line in Secret Memo,'' New York Times, August 20, 2013, http://cn.nytimes.com/china/20130820/c20document/dual/.35 Shuli Ren, ''China Internet: Alibaba, Tencent, Baidu To Continue Buying Spree, R&D,'' Barron's Asia, January 7, 2015, http://blogs.barrons.com/asiastocks/2015/01/07/china-internet-alibaba-tencent-baidu-to-continue-buying-spree-rd/.36 Alexa, ''Top Sites in China,'' http://www.alexa.com/topsites/countries/CN (accessed April 8, 2015).37 Doug Young, ''Investors Burn Out On Baidu Mobile Story,'' Forbes Asia, February 12, 2015, http://www.forbes.com/sites/dougyoung/2015/02/12/investors-burn-out-on-baidu-mobile-story/.38 ''Baidu Announces Fourth Quarter and Fiscal Year 2014 Results,'' PR Newswire, February 11, 2015, http://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/baidu-announces-fourth-quarter-and-fiscal-year-2014-results-300034622.html.39 Baidu, Inc. SEC Form 20-F, FY 2011, http://www.sec.gov/Archives/edgar/data/1329099/000119312512139789/d243699d20f.htm.40 Sebastian Anthony, ''GitHub battles 'largest DDoS' in site's history, targeted at anti-censorship tools,'' ArsTechnica, March 30, 2015, http://arstechnica.com/security/2015/03/github-battles-largest-ddos-in-sites-history-targeted-at-anti-censorship-tools/.41 Baidu, Inc. SEC Form 20-F, FY 2011 http://www.sec.gov/Archives/edgar/data/1329099/000119312512139789/d243699d20f.htm42 Baidu, Inc. SEC Form 20-F, FY 2011 http://www.sec.gov/Archives/edgar/data/1329099/000119312512139789/d243699d20f.htm43 State Council of the People's Republic of China, Report on the Work of the Government (2015), delivered by Li Keqiang, Premier of the State Council, to the National People's Congress, March 5, 2015, http://english.gov.cn/archive/publications/2015/03/05/content_281475066179954.htm (emphasis added); see also Simon Sharwood, ''China reveals 'Internet Plus' plan to modernise and go cloudy,'' The Register, March 9, 2015, http://www.theregister.co.uk/2015/03/09/china_reveals_internet_plus_plan_to_modernise_and_go_cloudy/; ''When China's tech 'big four' meet 'Internet Plus,''' Xinhua, March 11, 2015, at http://www.wantchinatimes.com/news-subclass-cnt.aspx?id=20150311000020&cid=1102.44 The sixth point of the declaration was to ''vigorously develop the Internet economy. We should improve cyberspace trade rules, step up cross-border e-commerce cooperation, facilitate customs clearance and logistics, expand information consumption, and quicken steps to form a global Internet market.'' Organizing Committee of the World Internet Conference, Wuzhen Declaration, November 21, 2014, available at http://www.scribd.com/doc/247566581/World-Internet-Conference-Draft-Declaration; see also Catherine Shu, ''China Tried To Get World Internet Conference Attendees To Ratify This Ridiculous Draft Declaration,'' TechCrunch, November 20, 2014, http://techcrunch.com/2014/11/20/worldinternetconference-declaration/; Franz-Stefan Gady, ''The Wuzhen Summit and Chinese Internet Sovereignty,'' Huffington Post, December 9, 2014, http://www.huffingtonpost.com/franzstefan-gady/the-wuzhen-summit-and-chi_b_6287040.html.45 ''Baidu Founder Li and Politburo's Yu Join Top China Advisory Body,'' Bloomberg, February 4, 2013, http://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2013-02-02/baidu-chief-li-politburo-s-yu-join-china-s-top-advisory-body.46 Hsu Chang-ping, ''Baidu welcomes China's military to join China Brain project on AI systems,'' WantChinaTimes, March 7, 2015, http://www.wantchinatimes.com/news-subclass-cnt.aspx?id=20150307000015&cid=1101.47 For further discussion of this framework see Crandall et al., ''China Chats: Tracking Surveillance and Censorship in TOM-Skype and Sina UC,'' in First Monday 18, no. 7 (2013), http://firstmonday.org/ojs/index.php/fm/article/view/4628/3727.48 See Canada: Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada, China: The Public Security Bureau (PSB) Golden Shield Project, including implementation and effectiveness; Policenet, including areas of operation; level and effectiveness of information sharing by the authorities (2010-February 2014), March 7, 2014, CHN104762.E, available at http://www.refworld.org/docid/543ba3824.html.49 See GFWçšå‰ä¸–ä>>Šç--Ÿ¼Œä¸éƒ¨GFW之ç¶æ–¹æ>>¨å…´çšå‘家史 [''GFW Past and Present, Family History of the Father of the GFW Fang Binxing''], August 10, 2010, https://fangbinxing.appspot.com/2010/08/10/fangbingxing.html; see also Daniel Anderson, ''Splinternet Behind the Great Firewall of China,'' ACM Queue, November 30, 2012, http://queue.acm.org/detail.cfm?id=2405036; Australian Centre on China in the World, ''Fang Binxing and the Great Firewall,'' The China Story, https://www.thechinastory.org/yearbooks/yearbook-2013/chapter-6-chinas-internet-a-civilising-process/fang-binxing-and-the-great-firewall/.50 See GFWçšå‰ä¸–ä>>Šç--Ÿ¼Œä¸éƒ¨GFW之ç¶æ–¹æ>>¨å…´çšå‘家史 [''GFW Past and Present, Family History of the Father of the GFW Fang Binxing''], August 10, 2010, https://fangbinxing.appspot.com/2010/08/10/fangbingxing.html (''国家è®ç®—æ'ºç½‘ç>>'与ä息安全ç®ç†ä¸­åƒ(å®‰ç® ä¸­åƒ)æ¯åŽŸä产部现工ä部çšç›´å±žéƒ¨é—¨ã‚ 安ç®ä¸­åƒä¸Žå›½å®¶ä息化工ä½'é†å¯¼å°ç>>è®ç®—æ'ºç½‘ç>>'与ä息安全ç®ç†å·¥ä½'办公室与国家è®ç®—æ'ºç½‘ç>>'åº--æ¥æŠæ'¯å¤ç†åè°ƒä¸­åƒ (CNCERT/CC,äº'è--网åº--æ¥ä¸­åƒ)æ¯ä¸ä¸ª æ'ºæžå‡ å'—牌子çšå…"ç">>ã‚æ¯--å...‚æ–¹æ>>¨å…´ç®åŽ† 中''1999­-2000å¹´å'¨å›½å®¶è®ç®—æ'ºç½‘ç>>'åº--æ¥æŠæ'¯ å¤ç†åè°ƒä¸­åƒä>>>>副æ>>å·¥''与''è®ç®—æ'ºç½‘ç>>'åº--æ¥ å¤ç†åè°ƒä¸­åƒ''çšæç‹æ—¶é—´ä¸¤ç§è¯´æ"•å°±æ'‰ç' å¾®å...çšçŸ›ç›¾ã‚实é…ä¸Šå‡ 个æ'ºæžçšäººå‘基æ'¬ä¸ 致ã‚''). An official diagram mapping the relationship between CNCERT/CC, MIIT, and the National Network and Information Security Coordination Team is available in Zhou Yonglin, ''Introduction on Chinese Network Emergency Response System & CNCERT/CC's Activities,'' CNCERT/CC, March 2004, p. 10, at http://unpan1.un.org/intradoc/groups/public/documents/apcity/unpan016388.pdf.51 This entity is also known in English as the State Network and Information Security Coordination Group. Its responsibilities included: ''researching and enacting strategy and policy of national information security safeguard[;] organizing and coordinating related departments of government to protect critical information infrastructure[;] mobilizing and directing computer emergency response[;] improving information sharing and notification.'' Li Jingjing, ''Trends and Tactics in Cyber-Terrorism,'' Information Security Supervision Bureau, Ministry of Public Security, p. 13, at http://www.asean.org/archive/arf/13ARF/2nd-Cyber-Terrorism/Doc-7.PDF.52 Jon R. Lindsay, ''Introduction''China and Cybersecurity: Controversy and Context,'' in China and Cybersecurity: Espionage, Strategy, and Politics in the Digital Domain, ed. Jon R. Lindsay et al. [New York: Oxford University Press, 2015], 8.53 Jon R. Lindsay, ''Introduction''China and Cybersecurity: Controversy and Context,'' in China and Cybersecurity: Espionage, Strategy, and Politics in the Digital Domain, ed. Jon R. Lindsay et al. [New York: Oxford University Press, 2015], 11.54 It is important to note that patent applications do not necessarily reflect current capacities or actual deployment of a technology. They do, however, provide insight into the designs, focus, and goals of the filing entities.55 ''Great Firewall father speaks out,'' Global Times, February 18, 2011, at http://english.sina.com/china/p/2011/0217/360411.html. This article presents the following timeline of Fang's career: ''1984­1999 Teaches at Harbin Institute of Technology[;] 1999 Starts work at National Computer Network Emergency Response Technical Team/ Coordination Center of China as deputy chief engineer[;] 2000-2007 Appointed chief engineer and director of the center[;] 2001 Awarded special allowance by the State Council . . . .''56 See supra n. 50 and accompanying text.57 https://citizenlab.org/2014/08/cat-video-and-the-death-of-clear-text/58 http://www.secdev.org/projects/scapy/59 Although the GC will respond to a ''naked'' data packet, this tool first sends a SYN packet and an ACK packet to prevent NATs or conventional firewalls between the user and Baidu from dropping the probe packets. This test also first probes for the GC before probing for the GFW. Once the GFW decides to block two hosts from communicating, for the next minute it injects RSTs in response to any data packet it sees between those two hosts, which would confound the GC measurements somewhat.60 ''Baidu's traffic hijacked to DDoS GitHub.com [Updated],'' Anthr@X, Insight Labs, March 27, 2015 (GitHub.com(http://insight-labs.org/?p=1682); ''China's Man-on-the-Side Attack on GitHub,'' NETRESC AB, March 31, 2015 (http://www.netresec.com/?month=2015-03&page=blog&post=china%27s-man-on-the-side-attack-on-github); ''Pin-pointing China's attack against GitHub,'' Robert Graham, April 1, 2015 (http://blog.erratasec.com/2015/04/pin-pointing-chinas-attack-against.html#.VSBOpHXd9hE)61 http://insight-labs.org/?p=168262 http://www.netresec.com/?month=2015-03&page=blog&post=china%27s-man-on-the-side-attack-on-github63 http://blog.erratasec.com/2015/04/pin-pointing-chinas-attack-against.html
Appendix A: Link between GreatFire.org referrers and BaiduThis table lists the top 25 referrers seen in our sample of the GreatFire.org server logs, and links each one to Baidu.
DomainRequest CountLink to Baidu Propertiespos.baidu.com6,273,809.00direct Baidu propertytieba.baidu.com384,173.00direct Baidu propertyzhidao.baidu.com321,619.00direct Baidu propertywww.dm5.com207,398.00does a GET to Baidu imagewww.piaotian.net187,894.00uses jquery library from Baidu libscpro.baidu.com155,007.00direct Baidu propertywenku.baidu.com143,271.00direct Baidu propertycomic.sfacg.com114,382.00uses Baidu adsbbs.miercn.com111,478.00uses Baidu analyticswww.7k7k.com94,994.00uses Baidustatic.com resourcesmangapark.com94,986.00uses Baidu analyticsad.docer.wps.cn93,881.00uses Baidustatic.com resourcesmanhua.dmzj.com93,622.00uses Baidustatic.com resourceswww.iciba.com91,626.00uses Baidu analyticsm.movietube.pw87,396.00uses Baidu analyticspan.baidu.com84,974.00direct Baidu propertywww.douyutv.com84,945.00uses Baidu analyticswww.lwxs520.com75,964.00does a GET to Baidu imagewww.17k.com75,514.00uses Baidu analyticswww.jjwxc.net71,385.00uses Baidustatic.com resourcesimages.sohu.com67,170.00uses Baidu analyticstw.zhsxs.com65,896.00uses Baidu analyticsm.yy.com62,990.00uses Baidu adswww.4399.com60,630.00uses Baidu adswww.zhibo8.cc57,374.00uses Baidu ads
Appendix B: A Tool for Tracerouting the GC and GFWWe wrote cannon_traceroute.py, a tool that aims to trace the first hop between the user and Baidu at which the GFW and GC are active. As the GC no longer appears to be targeting Baidu traffic, this tool will not detect the GC, but will still detect the GFW. Our tool uses the scapy58 library to first craft raw packets designed to trigger the GC at each hop,59 and to then craft fake flows to trigger the GFW at each hop. An example output for a test:
> sudo ./cannon_traceroute.py 123.125.65.120WARNING: No route found for IPv6 destination :: (no default route?)Sniffer started................................................Great Firewall and Great Cannon traceroute from 192.150.187.17 to 123.125.65.120Traceroute for the Great FirewallHop 1: ICMPs: 192.150.187.1Hop 2: ICMPs: 192.150.187.251Hop 3: ICMPs: 169.229.0.140Hop 4: ICMPs: 128.32.0.80Hop 5: ICMPs: 128.32.0.64Hop 6: ICMPs: 137.164.50.16Hop 7: ICMPs: 137.164.22.7Hop 8: ICMPs: 4.53.16.185Hop 9: *Hop 10: ICMPs: 144.232.19.33Hop 11: ICMPs: 144.232.0.167Hop 12: ICMPs: 144.232.12.211 144.232.12.213 144.232.9.177Hop 13: ICMPs: 144.232.25.78 144.232.7.164Hop 14: ICMPs: 144.232.19.24 144.232.6.104 144.232.6.41 144.232.9.192Hop 15: ICMPs: 144.228.17.98Hop 16: ICMPs: 219.158.102.125Hop 17: ICMPs: 219.158.101.61Hop 18: Firewall ICMPs: 219.158.101.49Hop 19: Firewall ICMPs: 124.65.194.54Hop 20: Firewall ICMPs: 202.106.34.6Hop 21: Firewall ICMPs: 123.125.128.14Traceroute for the Great CannonHop 1: ICMPs: 192.150.187.1Hop 2: ICMPs: 192.150.187.251Hop 3: ICMPs: 169.229.0.140Hop 4: ICMPs: 128.32.0.80Hop 5: ICMPs: 128.32.0.64Hop 6: ICMPs: 137.164.50.16Hop 7: ICMPs: 137.164.22.7Hop 8: ICMPs: 4.53.16.185Hop 9: ICMPs: 4.69.152.144 4.69.152.16 4.69.152.208 4.69.152.80Hop 10: ICMPs: 144.232.19.33Hop 11: ICMPs: 144.232.0.167Hop 12: ICMPs: 144.232.12.211 144.232.12.213 144.232.9.177Hop 13: ICMPs: 144.232.25.78 144.232.7.164Hop 14: ICMPs: 144.232.19.24 144.232.6.104 144.232.6.106 144.232.6.41 144.232.6.43 144.232.9.192Hop 15: ICMPs: 144.228.17.98Hop 16: ICMPs: 219.158.102.125Hop 17: ICMPs: 219.158.101.61Hop 18: Cannon ICMPs: 219.158.101.49Hop 19: Cannon ICMPs: 124.65.194.54Hop 20: Cannon ICMPs: 202.106.34.6Hop 21: Cannon ICMPs: 123.125.128.14In this example, the first hop at which the GC and GFW are active is hop 18, between 219.158.101.69 and 219.158.101.49 (a link apparently belonging to China Unicom).
Appendix C: Selected Related Technical ReportsThe DDoS attack on GreatFire has been described in a range of technical reports.60 This section provides a quick chronology and summary of several recent technical posts and discussions. On March 25, the first official report with technical details, written by an anonymous author, was released by Greatfire.org. This analysis was based on logs collected from one of the attacked sites (d19r410x06nzy6.cloudfront.net) that formed part of GreatFire's infrastructure. The report observed strange timestamps in some of the packets in the logs, which it linked to malicious Javascript code sent when some clients loaded resources from Baidu's servers, including dup.baidustatic.com and ecomcbjs.jomodns.com.
As the attack gained visibility, other researchers contributed analysis. On March 27, Anthr@X did the first analysis61 on the malicious Javascript returned by Baidu, and pointed out that the packets containing the malicious code had different TTLs than the normal, non-malicious Baidu responses. Then, on March 31, NETRESEC62 provided more details on the malicious packets' TTLs, determining that they varied between 30 and 229. On April 1, Robert Graham published a careful and detailed analysis63 indicating that the GFW was injecting these packets. His findings match ours regarding localization of the injector; his report did not delve into the fine-grained workings of the injection that reveal the presence of a separate system from the GFW.
China Is Said to Use Powerful New Weapon to Censor Internet - NYTimes.com
Fri, 10 Apr 2015 18:06
PhotoThe Great Cannon system was used to intercept web and advertising traffic intended for Baidu, China's biggest search engine company, researchers said.Credit ReutersSAN FRANCISCO '-- Late last month, China began flooding American websites with a barrage of Internet traffic in an apparent effort to take out services that allow China's Internet users to view websites otherwise blocked in the country.
Initial security reports suggested that China had crippled the services by exploiting its own Internet filter '-- known as the Great Firewall '-- to redirect overwhelming amounts of traffic to its targets. Now, researchers at the University of California, Berkeley, and the University of Toronto say China did not use the Great Firewall after all, but rather a powerful new weapon that they are calling the Great Cannon.
The Great Cannon, the researchers said in a report published Friday, allows China to intercept foreign web traffic as it flows to Chinese websites, inject malicious code and repurpose the traffic as Beijing sees fit.
The system was used, they said, to intercept web and advertising traffic intended for Baidu '-- China's biggest search engine company '-- and fire it at GitHub, a popular site for programmers, and GreatFire.org, a nonprofit that runs mirror images of sites that are blocked inside China. The attacks against the services continued on Thursday, the researchers said, even though both sites appeared to be operating normally.
PhotoBill Marczak, right, a co-author of the report on a powerful new Chinese cyberweapon, with Morgan Marquis-Boire, a fellow Citizen Lab researcher.Credit Thor Swift for The New York TimesBut the researchers suggested that the system could have more powerful capabilities. With a few tweaks, the Great Cannon could be used to spy on anyone who happens to fetch content hosted on a Chinese computer, even by visiting a non-Chinese website that contains Chinese advertising content.
''The operational deployment of the Great Cannon represents a significant escalation in state-level information control,'' the researchers said in their report. It is, they said, ''the normalization of widespread and public use of an attack tool to enforce censorship.''
The researchers, who have previously done extensive research into government surveillance tools, found that while the infrastructure and code for the attacks bear similarities to the Great Firewall, the attacks came from a separate device. The device has the ability not only to snoop on Internet traffic but also to alter the traffic and direct it '-- on a giant scale '-- to any website, in what is called a ''man in the middle attack.''
China's new Internet weapon, the report says, is similar to one developed and used by the National Security Agency and its British counterpart, GCHQ, a system outlined in classified documents leaked by Edward J. Snowden, the former United States intelligence contractor. The American system, according to the documents, which were published by The Intercept, can deploy a system of programs that can intercept web traffic on a mass scale and redirect it to a site of their choosing. The N.S.A. and its partners appear to use the programs for targeted surveillance, whereas China appears to use the Great Cannon for an aggressive form of censorship.
The similarities of the programs may put American officials on awkward footing, the researchers argue in their report. ''This precedent will make it difficult for Western governments to credibly complain about others utilizing similar techniques,'' they write.
Still, the Chinese program illustrates how far officials in Beijing are willing to go to censor Internet content they deem hostile. ''This is just one part of President Xi Jinping's push to gain tighter control over the Internet and remove any challenges to the party,'' said James A. Lewis, a cybersecurity expert at the Center for Strategic Studies in Washington.
Beijing continues to increase its censorship efforts under its State Internet Information Office, an office created under Mr. Xi to gain tighter control over the Internet within the country and to clamp down on online activism. In a series of recent statements, Lu Wei, China's Internet czar, has called on the international community to respect China's Internet policies.
Sarah McKune, a senior legal adviser at the Citizen Lab at the Munk School of Global Affairs at the University of Toronto and a co-author of the report, said, ''The position of the Chinese government is that efforts to serve what it views as hostile content inside China's borders is a hostile and provocative act that is a threat to its regime stability and ultimately its national security.''
The attacks also show the extent to which Beijing is willing to sacrifice other national goals, even economic ones, in the name of censorship. Baidu is China's most visited site, receiving an estimated 5.2 million unique visitors from the United States in the past 30 days, according to Alexa, a web ranking service.
Kaiser Kuo, a Baidu spokesman, said that Baidu was not complicit in the attacks and that its own networks had not been breached. But by sweeping up Baidu's would-be visitors in its attacks, researchers and foreign policy experts say, Beijing could harm the company's reputation and market share overseas.
Beijing has recently said that it plans to help Chinese Internet companies extend their influence and customer base abroad. At a meeting of the National People's Congress in China last month, Premier Li Keqiang announced a new ''Internet Plus'' action plan to ''encourage the healthy development of e-commerce, industrial networks and Internet banking and to guide Internet-based companies to increase their presence in the international market.''
Yet the latest censorship offensive could become a major problem for Chinese companies looking to expand overseas. ''They know one of their biggest obstacles is the perception that they are tools of the Chinese government,'' Mr. Lewis said. ''This is going to hurt Baidu's chances of becoming a global competitor.''
Researchers say they were able to trace the Great Cannon to the same physical Internet link as China's Great Firewall and found similarities in the source code of the two initiatives, suggesting that the same authority that operates the Great Firewall is also behind the new cyberweapon.
''Because both the Great Cannon and Great Firewall are operating on the same physical link, we believe they are both being run under the same authority,'' said Bill Marczak, a co-author of the report who is a computer science graduate student at the University of California, Berkeley, and a research fellow at Citizen Lab.
Mr. Marczak said researchers' fear is that the state could use its new weapon to attack Internet users, particularly dissidents, without their knowledge. If they make a single request to a server inside China or even visit a non-Chinese website that contains an ad from a Chinese server, the Great Cannon could infect their web communications and those of everyone they communicate with and spy on them.
Ultimately, researchers say, the only way for Internet users and companies to protect themselves will be to encrypt their Internet traffic so that it cannot be intercepted and diverted as it travels to its intended target.
''Put bluntly,'' the researchers said, ''unprotected traffic is not just an opportunity for espionage but a potential attack vector.''
Paul Mozur contributed reporting from Hong Kong.
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Bath Salts
FLAKKA-alpha-Pyrrolidinopentiophenone - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Thu, 16 Apr 2015 08:22
α-Pyrrolidinopentiophenone (alpha-pyrrolidinovalerophenone, α-PVP, alpha-PVP, O-2387, β-ketone-prolintane, Prolintanone) is a stimulant drug of the cathinone class developed in the 1960s. It is chemically related to pyrovalerone and is the ketoneanalog of prolintane.[1] It is used as a recreational drug.[2]
Mechanism of action[edit]The mechanism of action is unknown for α-PVP. It is believed to act similarly to the designer drugMDPV, which acts as a norepinephrine-dopamine reuptake inhibitor (NDRI),[3] although no substantial research on this compound has been conducted.
Toxicology[edit]α-PVP has been reported to be the cause or a significant contributory cause of death in suicides and polydrug overdoses.[4][5] α-PVP has also been linked to at least one death where it was combined with pentedrone and caused heart failure.[6]
Legal status[edit]α-PVP is a Schedule I drug in New Mexico, Delaware, Oklahoma, and Virginia. On January 28, 2014, the US DEA listed it, along with 9 other synthetic cathinones, on the Schedule 1 with a temporary ban, effective February 27, 2014.[7] The drug was explicitly made illegal in New South Wales after it was illegally marketed with the imprimatur of erroneous legal advice that it was not encompassed by analog provisions of the relevant act. It is encompassed by those provisions, and therefore has been illegal for many years in New South Wales. The legislative action followed the death of two individuals from using it; one jumping off a balcony, another having a heart attack after a state of delirium.[8]
Marketing[edit]α-PVP is sometimes the active ingredient in recreational drugs sold as "bath salts".[9] It may also be distinguished from "bath salts" and sold under a different name: "flakka", a name used in Florida, or "gravel" in other parts of the U.S. It is typically manufactured in China, India, or Pakistan and repackaged in gram packets in the U.S., and it is possible to mix it with higher-priced drugs such as heroin, cocaine, or methamphetamine. It is reportedly available as cheaply as USD $5 per "hit", and a laboratory for one county in Florida has reported a steady rise in α-PVP detections, from none in seized drugs in January''February 2014 to 84 in September 2014.[10]
See also[edit]References[edit]^Sauer, Christoph; Peters, Frank T.; Haas, Claudia; Meyer, Markus R.; Fritschi, Giselher; Maurer, Hans H. (2009). "New designer drug α-pyrrolidinovalerophenone (PVP): studies on its metabolism and toxicological detection in rat urine using gas chromatographic/mass spectrometric techniques". Journal of Mass Spectrometry44 (6): 952. doi:10.1002/jms.1571. PMID 19241365. ^"SOFT Designer Drug Committee Monographs: Alpha-PVP". Society of Forensic Toxicologists. September 13, 2013. ^Meltzer, P. C.; Butler, D; Deschamps, J. R.; Madras, B. K. (2006). "1-(4-Methylphenyl)-2-pyrrolidin-1-yl-pentan-1-one (Pyrovalerone) analogues: A promising class of monoamine uptake inhibitors". Journal of Medicinal Chemistry49 (4): 1420''32. doi:10.1021/jm050797a. PMC 2602954. PMID 16480278. ^Marinetti, L. J.; Antonides, H. M. (2013). "Analysis of synthetic cathinones commonly found in bath salts in human performance and postmortem toxicology: Method development, drug distribution and interpretation of results". Journal of Analytical Toxicology37 (3): 135''46. doi:10.1093/jat/bks136. PMID 23361867. ^Waugh et al. (2013). "Deaths Involving the Recreational Use of α-PVP (α-pyrrolidinopentiophenone)". AAFS Proceedings. Abstract K16. ^Sykutera, M.; Cychowska, M.; Bloch-Boguslawska, E. (2015). "A Fatal Case of Pentedrone and -Pyrrolidinovalerophenone Poisoning". Journal of Analytical Toxicology. doi:10.1093/jat/bkv011. ^"2014 Rules, DEA/DOJ Diversion Control". ^Olding, Rachel. "'Bath salts' death: lethal drug was a top seller". The Sydney Morning Herald. ^Olding, Rachel. "'Bath salts' death: lethal drug was a top seller". The Sydney Morning Herald. ^Tonya Alvarez (2015-04-02). "Flakka: Rampant designer drug dubbed '$5 insanity'". Sun Sentinel. Antagonists:AbanoquilAdimololAjmalicineAlfuzosinAmosulalolArotinololAtiprosinAtypical antipsychotics (e.g., clozapine, olanzapine, quetiapine, risperidone)BenoxathianBuflomedilBunazosinCarvedilolCI-926CorynanthineDapiprazoleDL-017DomesticineDoxazosinErgolines (e.g., ergotamine, dihydroergotamine, lisuride, terguride)EtoperidoneEugenodilolFenspirideGYKI-12,743GYKI-16,084HydroxyzineIndoraminKetanserinL-765,314LabetalolmCPPMephendioxanMepiprazoleMetazosinMonatepilMoxisylyteNaftopidilNantenineNefazodoneNeldazosinNiaprazineNicergolineNiguldipinePardoprunoxPelanserinPhendioxanPhenoxybenzaminePhentolaminePiperoxanPrazosinQuinazosinRitanserinRS-97,078SGB-1,534SilodosinSL-89.0591SpiperoneTalipexoleTamsulosinTerazosinTibalosinTiodazosinTipentosinTolazolineTrazodoneTetracyclic antidepressants (e.g., amoxapine, maprotiline, mianserin)Tricyclic antidepressants (e.g., amitriptyline, clomipramine, doxepin, imipramine, trimipramine)TrimazosinTypical antipsychotics (e.g., chlorpromazine, fluphenazine, loxapine, thioridazine)UpidosinUrapidilWB-4101ZolertineAntagonists:1-PPA-80426AdimololAptazapineAtipamezoleAtypical antipsychotics (e.g., asenapine, clozapine, lurasidone, paliperidone, quetiapine, risperidone, zotepine)Azapirones (e.g., buspirone, tandospirone)BRL-44408BuflomedilCirazolineEfaroxanEsmirtazapineFenmetozoleFluparoxanGYKI-12,743GYKI-16,084IdazoxanmCPPMianserinMirtazapineMK-912NAN-190OlanzapinePardoprunoxPhentolaminePhenoxybenzaminePiperoxanPiribedilRauwolscineRotigotineSB-269,970SetiptilineSpiroxatrineSunepitronTolazolineTypical antipsychotics (e.g., chlorpromazine, fluphenazine, loxapine, thioridazine)Yohimbine Selective norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors:AmedalinAtomoxetine (tomoxetine)CiclazindolDaledalinEdivoxetineEsreboxetineLortalamineMazindolNisoxetineReboxetineTalopramTalsupramTandamineViloxazine; Norepinephrine-dopamine reuptake inhibitors:AmineptineBupropionFencamineFencamfamineHydroxybupropionLefetamineLevophacetoperaneLR-5182ManifaxineMethylphenidateNomifensineO-2172Radafaxine; Serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors:BicifadineDesvenlafaxineDuloxetineEclanamineLevomilnacipranMcN-5652MilnacipranN-Methyl-PPPAPPPASEP-227162SibutramineVenlafaxineWY-45233; Serotonin-norepinephrine-dopamine reuptake inhibitors:(S)-DuloxetineBrasofensineDasotralineDesmethylsertralineDiclofensineDOV-102,677DOV-21,947DOV-216,303JNJ-7925476JZ-IV-10LiafensineMethylnaphthidateNaphyroneNS-2359PerafensinePRC200-SSSEP-228431SEP-228432Tesofensine; Tricyclic antidepressants:AmitriptylineButriptylineCianopramineClomipramineDesipramineDosulepinDoxepinImipramineLofepramineMelitracenNortriptylineProtriptylineTrimipramine; Tetracyclic antidepressants:AmoxapineMaprotilineMianserinOxaprotilineSetiptiline; Others:Antihistamines (e.g., brompheniramine, chlorphenamine, pheniramine, tripelennamine)Arylcyclohexylamines (e.g., ketamine, phencyclidine)CP-39,332EthanolEXP-561FezolamineGinkgo bilobaIndeloxazineLoxapineNefazodoneNefopamOpioids (e.g., methadone, pethidine (meperidine), tapentadol, tramadol)PridefrineTedatioxetineTeniloxazineTofenacinTropanes (e.g., cocaine)Ziprasidone Agonists:Adamantanes:AmantadineMemantineRimantadine; Aminotetralins:7-OH-DPAT8-OH-PBZIRotigotineUH-232; Benzazepines:6-Br-APBFenoldopamSKF-38,393SKF-77,434SKF-81,297SKF-82,958SKF-83,959; Ergolines:BromocriptineCabergolineDihydroergocryptineEpicriptineLisurideLSDPergolide; Dihydrexidine derivatives:2-OH-NPAA-86929Adrogolide (ABT-431, DAS-431)CiladopaDihydrexidineDinapsolineDinoxylineDoxanthrine; Others:A-68930A-77636A-412997ABT-670ABT-724AplindoreApomorphineAripiprazoleBifeprunoxBP-897CaptodiameCY-208,243DizocilpineEtilevodopaFlibanserinKetamineMelevodopaModafinilPardoprunoxPhencyclidinePD-128,907PD-168,077PF-219,061PiribedilPramipexolePropylnorapomorphinePukateineQuinagolideQuineloraneQuinpiroleRDS-127Ro10-5824RopiniroleRotigotineRoxindoleSalvinorin ASKF-89,145SumaniroleTergurideUmespironeWAY-100,635
The Backstory You Really Need To Know About Flakka And Other Synthetic Drugs - Forbes
Thu, 16 Apr 2015 08:21
The street drug called ''flakka'' is grabbing headlines as the latest synthetic scourge causing users to spin off in bouts of violence and otherwise insane behavior. Florida is the setting of multiple flakka episodes, with users allegedly displaying bizarre physical strength and fearlessness. One man in Palm Beach County climbed atop an apartment roof, naked, while waving a gun. Another man in Fort Lauderdale tried kicking down the front door of a police department.
We'll continue seeing more examples like these, and while there's no question they are alarming, the truth is they're relatively small waves radiating from a looming tsunami. The real story isn't flakka or other uniquely named drugs; it's the relentless synthetic-drug manufacturing machine that outmaneuvers every law enforcement strategy devised to stop it. And to understand that machine, it's useful to understand the backstory of its products.
Each new drug bubbling up from the bottomless synthetic cauldron is a chemical variant '' a slightly different assembly of molecules that produces similar effects to its predecessors without exactly replicating their composition. In the case of flakka, the chemical alpha-PVP is a variant of the psychoactive stimulant methylenedioxypyrovalerone (MDPV), a mainstay ingredient in the infamous ''bath salts'' genre of street synthetics.
As I discussed in a previous article on Forbes, MDPV and its cousin, mephedrone, are synthetic variants of an organic class of stimulants called cathinones, found in a plant called khat that is native to the Middle East and East Africa. Khat leaves have been chewed for centuries to deliver a shade of the same jolt synthetic users are seeking in the grains and powders of today's designer drugs. (Many Americans became acquainted with khat from the 2013 movie Captain Phillips '-- it's the plant the Somali pirates are chewing through much of the action.) Synthetic repackaging of cathinone molecules has been the focus of lab experiments since the 1930s.
(AP Photo/Minnesota Department of Human Services)
All of the drugs mentioned above are Schedule 1-labeled substances in the parlance of the U.S. DEA, defined as ''drugs with no currently accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse'...the most dangerous drugs of all the drug schedules with potentially severe psychological or physical dependence.'' Flakka's key ingredient is one of the latest to make the list.
The Schedule 1 designation includes many other notorious drugs like heroin, meth, and'--notably'--MDMA, better known as ecstasy. MDMA is itself a chemical variant of stimulants first developed in post-War Japan to boost productivity.
Over the years, synthetic manufactures have changed their chemical recipes to skirt the latest Schedule 1 definitions while delivering more acute effects. In nearly all cases the drugs are designed to breach the blood-brain barrier (the brain's protective chemical firewall) and tweak neurochemical functions, such as blocking the reuptake of the ''excitatory'' neurotransmitters dopamine and norepinephrine '' which produces a sort of electrically-charged euphoria. This effect is a toxic amplification of effects inherent to certain psychotherapeutic drugs. The antidepressant drug bupropion, for example, is also a dopamine and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitor.
That's an important point to remember about synthetics that's usually lost in sensationalized news stories: many of the chemical variants are rooted in drugs initially conceived as psychotherapeutics. Someone in a lab developed the original drugs to solve a problem. What we see in several street synthetics are chemically tweaked Frankenstein derivatives of drugs that credentialed lab researchers, in some cases quite recently, thought were good ideas.
Unlike regulated psychotherapeutic drugs, however, synthetics are often cut with a scary mix of substances'--everything from matchstick phosphorous to athlete's foot powder'--and are not sold with dosing instructions. Snorting, smoking or injecting a full package of bath salts or flakka, or any other synthetic, could be enough for a given user to overdose.
And users can't rely on the drugs' manufactures for help with knowing what's inside the package. The drugs aren't labeled with ingredients lists, just the disclaimer ''Not for human consumption'' to avoid detection by law enforcement (though it's hard to believe anyone would take that disclaimer seriously at this point). Knowing exactly what's in the powder or crystals is impossible without a lab test.
The efficacy of the original drugs (be they organic or synthetic) is debatable, but the profitability of their derivatives is beyond dispute. These drugs deliver a potent effect that people have sought for a very long time, and the longevity of that market provides enormous incentive for manufacturers to keep churning out variants. And the hard truth is that no matter how many new acronyms are added to the Schedule 1 list, we are well behind the learning curve on how to beat the problem. According to a recent report on the HBO news show Vice, there are at least 160,000 synthetic drug labs operating in China alone, and those are just the ones we know about. That's 160,000 or more labs pumping synthetic drugs into the market at a pace we're only starting to fathom.
Right now it's flakka; soon it'll be another quirky named synthetic, and then another. This tsunami started gaining momentum long ago and it's only getting bigger. Knowing that law enforcement will never have the resources to get ahead of the problem, the best policy is to get the word out (especially to teenagers, the prime market for many of the drugs) that synthetics are unregulated hodgepodges of toxic chemicals and straight-up poison to the brain.
You can find David DiSalvo on Twitter @neuronarrative and at his website daviddisalvo.org.
Monsantooo
Bad news for Monsanto: The world's most credible medical journal outlines the dangerous health hazard of Glyphosate
Sun, 12 Apr 2015 14:26
(C) thelibertybeacon.com
Given the restrictions and the level of control placed upon the disclosure of information when it comes to "credible" medical studies, it seems surprising that glyphosate, the most commonly used herbicide on the planet, has been officially deemed a dangerous health hazard to human beings by the mainstream health community."Glyphosate currently has the highest global production volume of all herbicides. The largest use worldwide is in agriculture. The agricultural use of glyphosate has increased sharply since the development of crops that have been genetically modified to make them resistant to glyphosate. Glyphosate is also used in forestry, urban, and home applications. Glyphosate has been detected in the air during spraying, in water, and in food. The general population is exposed primarily through residence near sprayed areas, home use, and diet and the level that has been observed is generally low." (source)
A recently published study in what is considered to be one of the most (if not the most) credible medical journals of today, The Lancet Oncology, determined that glyphosate, the main ingredient in Monsanto's RoundUp pesticide, is "probably carcinogenic to humans." The study was published earlier this month, and was conducted by the World Health Organization's International Agency for Research on Cancer. It analyzed data from studies that have been conducted on the chemical for the past couple of decades. (source)"There is convincing evidence that glyphosate also can cause cancer in laboratory animals. On the basis of tumours in mice, the United States Environmental Protection Agency (US EPA) originally classified glyphosate as possibly carcinogenic to humans. A US EPA report and several more recent positive results conclude that there is sufficient evidence of carcinogenicity in experimental animals. Glyphosate also caused DNA and chromosomal damage in human cells, although it gave negative results in tests using bacteria. One study in community residents reported increases in blood markers of chromosomal damage (micronuclei) after glyphosate formulations were sprayed nearby." (source)
It's the beginning of 2015, and after decades of research and warnings from hundreds of scientists all around the globe, why has it taken so long to officially acknowledge (in North America) that glyphosate is harmful? Billions of pounds of this stuff is sprayed every single year, and as mentioned above, it is commonly detected in air samples, water samples, in our food, and even in our urine. So again, why the delay?Many professionals today have expressed their concern regarding the delay and manipulation of medical research. Despite the fact that these types of facts have been published for a number of years, Monsanto still maintains that they are safe, and a major health organization like the WHO, you would think, would have acknowledged the dangers associated with these herbicides many years ago.As Dr. Marcia Angell (physician, author, former editor in chief of the NEJM) puts it, "It's just not possible to believe much of the clinical research that is published, or to rely on the judgement of trusted physicians or authoritative medical guidelines." Others point to the "revolving door" between Monsanto, the EPA, and the FDA, and the fact that corporations (like Monsanto) have their hand in dictating governmental policy. Regardless, the information is out there and it's quite clear that glyphosate is harmful. (source)
What's worse, the genetically modified crops have become even more resistant to their killers, resulting in increased use of herbicides each year and even providing Monsanto the justification it needs to produce newer and more deadly chemical mixes to combat the problem.
Monsanto's Response
Monsanto is not at all happy about the study and they are requesting a retraction. In a press release, Chief Technology Officer Dr. Robb Fraley said that Monsanto is "outraged" and that "this conclusion is inconsistent with the decades of ongoing safety reviews by the leading regulatory authorities around the world that have concluded that all labeled uses of glyphosate are safe for human health." (source)
More Research
The list of studies outlining the dangers associated with this herbicide is enormous, and explains exactly why multiple countries around the globe forbid its use. For example, Sri Lanka decided to completely ban glyphosate from their country out of concern that the chemical may be linked to a fatal kidney disease that could kill agricultural workers.
A new study that was published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health suggests that Roundup, or glyphosate, becomes highly toxic to the kidney once mixed with "hard" water or metals like cadmium and arsenic. These metals often exist naturally in the soil or are added via the fertilizer.(source)(source)
"An investigation carried out by medical specialists and scientists has revealed that kidney disease was mainly caused by glyphosate. President Mahinda Rajapaksa has ordered the immediate removal of glyphosate from the local market soon after he was told of the contents of the report." (source)
You can read more about that here.Here is a report by multiple researchers, scientists, and professors regarding glyphosate and birth defects. Here is the conclusion they came to:
"Our examination of the evidence leads us to the conclusion that the current approval of glyphosate and Roundup is deeply flawed and unreliable. In this report, we examine the industry studies and regulatory documents that led to the approval of glyphosate. We show that industry and regulators knew as long ago as the 1980'²s and 1990'²s that glyphosate causes malformation, but that information was not made public. We demonstrate how EU regulators reasoned their way from clear evidence of glyphosate's teratogenicity in industry's own studies to a conclusion that minimized these findings in the EU Commission's final review report."
It's also important to note that much research published in peer-reviewed scientific journals, as well as other important independent research, has linked (using the Bradford Hill Criteria, fairly strong in my opinion) glyphosate to autism, cancer, Alzheimer's disease, Parkinson's disease, and more. (source)(source) (Please do your research, there are many sources for this claim, I've provided a few here and within the articles that are linked within this article)A report coming out of Argentina explains how deaths from cancerous tumors have as much as doubled in areas where genetically modified (GM) crops are grown and agro-chemicals are used. You can read more about that and access the report here.
"There is evidence of high levels of genetic damage in people of Marcos Juarez, which may result from unintentional exposure to pesticides. " - Fernando Manas, PhD National University of Rio Cuarto (source)
A study was published in November 2012 in the Journal of Food and Chemical Toxicology, titled Long Term Toxicity of Roundup Herbicide and a Roundup-Tolerant genetically modified maize, by Gilles-Eric Seralini and his team of researchers at France's Caen University. It was a very significant study that made a lot of noise worldwide, the first of its kind under controlled conditions that examined the possible effects of a GMO maize diet treated with Monsanto's Roundup Herbicide. After going through such a rigorous review process and remaining published for a long time, the study was retracted. Hundreds of scientists around the world condemned the retraction, and the study was then republished, updated, and all criticisms were answered.The chronic toxicity study examined the health impacts on rats of eating commercialized genetically modified (GM) maize, alongside Monsanto's NK603 glyphosate-based herbicide Roundup.
The study found severe liver and kidney damage, as well as hormonal disturbances, in rats fed with GM maize in conjunction with low levels of Roundup - levels that were below those permitted in most drinking water across Europe. Results also indicated high rates of large tumors and mortality in most treatment groups.
You can read more about this story, and access the studies here. And as you can see from the quote taken from the WHO/The Lancet, multiple studies in animal models have shown these dangers, as well as multiple studies using human cells. There is obviously cause for concern here.
To access and read about more studies linking agricultural pesticides (and more) to autism, click here.
"Children today are sicker than they were a generation ago. From childhood cancers to autism, birth defects and asthma, a wide range of childhood diseases and disorders are on the rise. Our assessment of the latest science leaves little room for doubt; pesticides are one key driver of this sobering trend." October 2012 report by Pesticide Action Network North America (PANNA) (source)(source)
There is a lot of information to support these claims, so hopefully this gets you off to a good start if you are interested in doing more research.Sourcenature.com/news/widely-used-herbicide-linked-to-cancer-1.17181
Ministry of Truth
Rolling Stone's 'A Rape on Campus.' Notes and comment on Columbia J-school's investigation. >> Pressthink
Mon, 06 Apr 2015 14:59
The key decision Rolling Stone made was made at the beginning: to settle on a narrative '-- indifference to campus rape '-- and go in search of the story that would work just right for that narrative.First, some key links:
Here's the text itself: Rolling Stone and UVA: The Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism Report: An anatomy of a journalistic failure.
The author's apology: Statement From Writer of Rolling Stone Rape Article, Sabrina Erdely.
CJR: Interview with Steve Coll and Sheila Coronel, lead authors of the Columbia report.
New York Times account: Rolling Stone Article on Rape at University of Virginia Failed All Basics, Report Says
Huffington Post's summary. Rolling Stone's UVA Rape Story Was A 'Journalistic Failure' That Could've Been Avoided, Columbia Finds
Poynter.org, The journalism community reacts to the review of 'A Rape On Campus'
Second, a few disclaimers:
The authors, Steve Coll, the dean of the Columbia School of Journalism, Sheila Coronel, dean of academic affairs, and Derek Kravitz, a postgraduate research scholar at Columbia, took this on voluntarily. Rolling Stone did not pay them. They did it as a public service and a gift to the profession of journalism. They did it because they thought it was important. As a journalism professor, I am grateful to them for this work. Thank you!
I teach in a competing program at NYU. Factor that in as you evaluate what I have to say, some of which is critical.
Overall, I think the report is impressively reported and soundly reasoned. It's a hugely valuable record from which journalists and students of journalism will draw lessons for years. I wish we had studies just like it for other big screw-ups, like this one.
My notes and commentary:
1. Asking ''how could this happen?'' is not the same as asking, ''what could have prevented it?'' The authors chose to focus their study on prevention '-- steps not taken that would have avoided disaster '-- rather than tracing those mistakes to their origins, which might include, for example, bad ideas or rotten assumptions. It's a defensible decision, but it does have consequences. These ripple through the report.
2. This is an amazing passage:
Rolling Stone's senior editors are unanimous in the belief that the story's failure does not require them to change their editorial systems. ''It's not like I think we need to overhaul our process, and I don't think we need to necessarily institute a lot of new ways of doing things,'' Dana said. ''We just have to do what we've always done and just make sure we don't make this mistake again.'' Coco McPherson, the fact-checking chief, said, ''I one hundred percent do not think that the policies that we have in place failed. I think decisions were made around those because of the subject matter.''
It's amazing because it leaves Rolling Stone editors with a tautological explanation. How could we have screwed up so badly? Because this time we screwed up really badly. The way to prevent another mistake like this is to make sure we don't make this mistake again. A remarkable conclusion, considering the stakes. To their credit, the authors of the report don't buy this one bit.
3. ''The editors invested Rolling Stone's reputation in a single source,'' says the report. I think they're right. Will Dana, managing editor of Rolling Stone, says they're wrong:
Mr. Dana said he had reached many of the same conclusions as the Columbia report in his own efforts to examine the article, but he disagreed with the report's assertion that the magazine had staked its reputation on the word of one source. ''I think if you take a step back, our reputation rests on a lot more than this one story,'' he said.
The point is not that your reputation accumulated over time rests on one story, but that one story at the wrong time can ruin it. I'd want my managing editor to understand that. Wouldn't you?
4. ''In hindsight,'' the report says, ''the most consequential decision Rolling Stone made was to accept that Erdely had not contacted the three friends who spoke with Jackie on the night she said she was raped. That was the reporting path, if taken, that would have almost certainly led the magazine's editors to change plans.'' What the authors mean is not ''most consequential decision.'' They mean ''easiest route to preventing disaster.'' You were so close! Contact the friends and the story falls apart. That's what they mean.
5. The most consequential decision Rolling Stone made was made at the beginning: to settle on a narrative and go in search of the story that would work just right for that narrative. The key term is emblematic. The report has too little to say about that fateful decision, probably because it's not a breach of procedure but standard procedure in magazine-style journalism. (Should it be?) This is my primary criticism of the Columbia report: it has too little to say about the ''emblem of'...'' problem.
6. Not that it's entirely missing. The basic facts are there:
Erdely said she was searching for a single, emblematic college rape case that would show ''what it's like to be on campus now '... where not only is rape so prevalent but also that there's this pervasive culture of sexual harassment/rape culture,'' according to Erdely's notes of the conversation.
Idea: Maybe ''a single, emblematic college rape case'' does not exist. Maybe the hunt for such was ill-conceived from the start. Maybe that's the wrong way for Rolling Stone to have begun.
7. This is from Paul Farhi's Nov. 28 account in the Washington Post:
So, for six weeks starting in June, Erdely interviewed students from across the country. She talked to people at Harvard, Yale, Princeton and her alma mater, the University of Pennsylvania. None of those schools felt quite right. But one did: the University of Virginia, a public school, Southern and genteel, brimming with what Erdely calls ''super-smart kids'' and steeped in the legacy of its founder, Thomas Jefferson.
None of those schools felt quite right. What kind of ''feel'' is this? It's feeling for a fit between discovered story and a prior '-- given '-- narrative.
8. ''Mr. Dana said the article stemmed from a feeling he and other senior editors had over summer that the issue of unpunished campus rapes would make a compelling and important story,'' read Ravi Somaiya's Dec. 7 report in the New York Times. There's the prior narrative I mentioned. It didn't start with Sabrina Rubin Erdely. She was sent on a search for where to set it.
9. This is from Erik Wemple's Dec. 5 column for the Post:
Observe how Erdely responded to a question about the accused parties in Jackie's alleged gang rape. In that Slate podcast, when asked who these people were, she responded, ''I don't want to say much about them as individuals but I'll just say that this particular fraternity, Phi Kappa Psi '-- it's really emblematic in a lot of ways of sort of like elitist fraternity culture. It's considered to be a kind of top-tier fraternity at University of Virginia.
I don't want to say much about them as individuals. In fact, she didn't know anything about them ''as individuals'' and never located them '-- a major criticism in the report. Asked about contacting these people, she answers with their fitness as an emblem.
10. It is therefore striking that Erdely's public apology did not extend itself to Phi Kappa Psi. I think it should have.
11. The alternative to starting with a narrative and searching for a campus, a frat and a survivor's story that can serve as your emblem was pointed out by Reason magazine's Robby Soave: Start with a proven case: two former Vanderbilt University football players convicted of gang raping a female student during a night of drinking and drug use. Dig in on that. Then find another and dig in on that. It's true that ''you always try to contact the accused'' is very, very basic to good journalism. But let your reporting drive the narrative, rather than the other way around'-- this is also very basic. Yet it doesn't get framed that way (as a basic error) in the report.
12. Sometimes the Rolling Stone journalists quoted in the Columbia report appear to be saying this was ''Jackie's story.'' It was told from Jackie's point of view, they say. Because it was so powerful, because they found her credible. Then at other times they give the impression that it was not about Jackie at all. It's about the culture of indifference that greets women who try to report rape on college campuses. They could have dropped Jackie and told many other stories, Will Dana says in the report. This is Erdely responding to the Post's nagging questions in December:
''I could address many of [the questions] individually'... but by dwelling on this, you're getting sidetracked,'' she wrote in an e-mail response to The Post's inquiry. ''As I've already told you, the gang-rape scene that leads the story is the alarming account that Jackie '-- a person whom I found to be credible '-- told to me, told her friends, and importantly, what she told the UVA administration, which chose not to act on her allegations in any way '-- i.e., the overarching point of the article. THAT is the story: the culture that greeted her and so many other UVA women I interviewed, who came forward with allegations, only to be met with indifference.''
This was Jackie's story. No, it's about the culture of indifference. How can both be true? If she's the perfect emblem then both are true. This is the belief that overtook the Rolling Stone staff. But what made them vulnerable to that belief?
13. ''Ultimately, we were too deferential to our rape victim; we honored too many of her requests in our reporting,'' says deputy managing editor Sean Woods in the report. This is Rolling Stone's Maginot Line. ''We should have been much tougher, and in not doing that, we maybe did her a disservice.''
Erdely added: ''If this story was going to be about Jackie, I can't think of many things that we would have been able to do differently'... Maybe the discussion should not have been so much about how to accommodate her but should have been about whether she would be in this story at all.'' Erdely's reporting led her to other, adjudicated cases of rape at the university that could have illustrated her narrative, although none was as shocking and dramatic as Jackie's.
Indeed. None was.
14. Part of what made Rolling Stone editors vulnerable to the ''emblem of'...'' problem was some seriously dated thinking about credibility, in which it's said to be sort of like charisma. You have charisma or you don't. You ''have'' credibility or you don't. If a source is felt to be credible, the entire story can ride on that. Your colleagues are credible, so it doesn't occur you to ask if they could all be missing something.
A dramatic high point for this kind of thinking comes during Hannah Rosin's incredible podcast interview with Sabrina Erdely. Rosin asks near the end of it: If you were Jackie's lawyer, how would you prove her case? (Go to 6:35 on this clip and listen.) The author's reply: ''I found her story to be very'-- I found her to be very credible.''
15. It's almost like, if you have credibility you don't need proof. That's an absurd statement, of course, but here's how they got there (without realizing it.) Instead of asking: what have we done in telling Jackie's story to earn the skeptical user's belief? you say: I'm a skeptical journalist, I found her story believable, so will the users. Voil ! Credibility. Will Dana is one of the best editors in New York. Who ''has'' more credibility than him? No one! He finds her story believable. Doesn't that ''give'' it credibility too?
16. Bit by bit the readers get eclipsed from this view. Don't take our word for it, see for yourself: that logic gets eclipsed too. (Don't take her word for it, listen to Jackie's friends talk about the attacks. Rolling Stone dispensed with that.) In fact, credibility isn't like charisma, which you have or don't. It's a transaction between journalists and readers. Readers have to trust, yes, but journalists have to realize that they cannot put too great a strain on the reader's trust. 'A Rape on Campus'' did that, repeatedly. But the journalists involved didn't realize what they were doing. Why not?
I wish the Columbia report, as good as it is, told us more than it does about that. ''How could this happen?'' is harder to answer than ''what would have prevented it?'' But this was our best chance to find out.
(I reserve the right to add to these notes on Monday'....)
Sabrina Rubin Erdely, Writer of Rolling Stone Rape Article, Issues Statement - NYTimes.com
Tue, 07 Apr 2015 07:35
Sabrina Rubin Erdely, the author of a now-discredited article in Rolling Stone magazine about a rape at a University of Virginia fraternity, issued this statement:
''The past few months, since my Rolling Stone article ''A Rape on Campus'' was first called into question, have been among the most painful of my life. Reading the Columbia account of the mistakes and misjudgments in my reporting was a brutal and humbling experience. I want to offer my deepest apologies: to Rolling Stone's readers, to my Rolling Stone editors and colleagues, to the U.V.A. community, and to any victims of sexual assault who may feel fearful as a result of my article.
''Over my 20 years of working as an investigative journalist '-- including at Rolling Stone, a magazine I grew up loving and am honored to work for '-- I have often dealt with sensitive topics and sources. In writing each of these stories I must weigh my compassion against my journalistic duty to find the truth. However, in the case of Jackie and her account of her traumatic rape, I did not go far enough to verify her story. I allowed my concern for Jackie's well-being, my fear of re-traumatizing her, and my confidence in her credibility to take the place of more questioning and more facts. These are mistakes I will not make again.
''Reporting on rape has unique challenges, but the journalist still has the responsibility to get it right. I hope that my mistakes in reporting this story do not silence the voices of victims that need to be heard.''
Statement From University of Virginia PresidentTeresa A. Sullivan, the president of the University of Virginia, in Charlottesville, issued a statement late Sunday.
''Rolling Stone's story, 'A Rape on Campus,' did nothing to combat sexual violence, and it damaged serious efforts to address the issue. Irresponsible journalism unjustly damaged the reputations of many innocent individuals and the University of Virginia. Rolling Stone falsely accused some University of Virginia students of heinous, criminal acts, and falsely depicted others as indifferent to the suffering of their classmate. The story portrayed university staff members as manipulative and callous toward victims of sexual assault. Such false depictions reinforce the reluctance sexual assault victims already feel about reporting their experience, lest they be doubted or ignored.
''The Charlottesville Police Department investigation confirms that far from being callous, our staff members are diligent and devoted in supporting and caring for students. I offer our community's genuine gratitude for their devotion and perseverance in their service.
''Sexual violence is a serious issue for our society, and it requires the focus and attention of all in our communities. Long before Rolling Stone published its article, the University of Virginia was working to confront sexual violence. And we will continue to implement substantive reforms to improve culture, prevent violence and respond to acts of violence when they occur. Our highest priority is to ensure the safety of our students so they can learn and achieve their personal potential in an environment of trust and security. We will continue to work tirelessly in pursuit of that goal.''
Inside the Brian Williams Scandal at NBC News | Vanity Fair
Thu, 09 Apr 2015 01:14
Pat Fili-Krushel, Brian Williams, Tom Brokaw, Andy Lack, Deborah Turness, and Steve Burke.
Photo Illustration by Sean McCabe; Photographs by Gabriel Bouys/AFP/Getty Images (Logo), Natan Dvir/Polaris (Background), Jennifer Graylock/SIPA USA (Fili-Krushel), Gary He/Insider Images/Polaris (Burke), Matt Rourke/A.P. Images (Brokaw), David Sandison/The Independent/Rex USA (Turness), Brendan Smialowski/AFP/Getty Images (Lack), Jeffrey Ufberg/WireImage (Williams).
Brian Williams's fabrication was just the latest, and worst, of the debacles that have plagued NBC News since NBCUniversal was bought by Comcast in 2011. Who is to blame?
On the afternoon of Wednesday, February 4, the beleaguered head of NBC News, 47-year-old Deborah Turness, dropped into a chair in her boss's office on the third floor of the network's 30 Rockefeller Plaza headquarters. Her boss, Patricia ''Pat'' Fili-Krushel, oversaw NBC News as well as its cable cousins, CNBC and MSNBC. The two women, both sharp and stylish, were close; Fili, 61, had hired the British-born Turness from a London network 20 months earlier.
It had been a tumultuous period for NBC's news division, as had the entire four years since the Philadelphia cable/phone/Internet giant, Comcast, took over NBCUniversal, as the company is officially known. There was Ann Curry's tearful flameout on Today; David Gregory's long slide to his exit from Meet the Press; the strange firing after less than three months on the job of Jamie Horowitz, an ESPN executive brought in to fix Today; not to mention ratings declines at several of the division's centerpiece shows, including Today and Meet the Press.
But that afternoon, after a long presentation to 200 NBC advertising salespeople, Turness was feeling better than she had in months. When she had been hired she knew she was stepping onto a troubled ship; finally, she felt, the organizational changes she had made were showing results. Meet the Press's ratings were edging up; Nightly News seemed to be stabilizing. ''Things,'' she told Fili, ''feel like they're in a really good place.''
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Her sense of relief, however, lasted mere minutes. As she left Fili's office around 3:30, Turness learned the startling news: the most important person at the network, the face of NBC News, its anchorman Brian Williams, had apparently been exaggerating an anecdote about coming under fire in a U.S. Army helicopter during the Iraq war in 2003. A reporter from the military newspaper Stars and Stripes had called about it that morning. Williams was supposed to talk to him off the record in an effort to determine what the reporter planned to write. Instead, to the dismay of NBC's P.R. staff, Williams had gone on the record and admitted he hadn't been telling the truth, not only on a Nightly News broadcast the previous week but also over the years at public appearances and on talk shows.
Stunned, Turness was still trying to grasp the gravity of the situation when the Stars and Stripes story went online. At that point her biggest concern was the apology Williams was preparing to read to viewers on his broadcast that evening. He was already taping segments as he and Turness began swapping e-mails on its all-important wording. Turness and the other executives who had gotten involved quickly became frustrated, as they would remain for days, with Williams's inability to explain himself. ''He couldn't say the words 'I lied,' '' recalls one NBC insider. ''We could not force his mouth to form the words 'I lied.' He couldn't explain what had happened. [He said,] 'Did something happen to [my] head? Maybe I had a brain tumor, or something in my head?' He just didn't know. We just didn't know. We had no clear sense what had happened. We got the best [apology] we could get.''
And that was a problem. Because the apology Williams read on the air that evening not only failed to limit the damage to his reputation, and to NBC News, its elliptical wording'--''I made a mistake in recalling the events of 12 years ago'''--made a bad situation worse, inflaming a crisis that led a week later to Williams's suspension for six months. In early March, Pat Fili became the scandal's second victim, pushed aside to make room for a former NBC News chief, Andrew Lack, whose return, network executives fervently hope, will restore morale and bring some much-needed stability to a news division that desperately needs it. Williams's stunning fall was only the worst of a string of embarrassing episodes that have brought NBC News, long one of the gold standards of television news, to its knees.
Since Comcast took control of NBC, the network's news division'--famously termed Comcast's ''crown jewel'' by C.E.O. Brian Roberts'--has endured one debacle after another. ''When Comcast took over, they had the No. 1 morning show, the No. 1 Sunday show, and the No. 1 evening broadcast,'' says a former top NBC executive. ''That's all completely fallen apart. I don't know how you blame anyone but Comcast and the people it brought in. It's been a nightmare.''
Behind the scenes much of the blame has been laid at the feet of three executives: Turness, a British-trained newcomer to U.S. television; Fili, who had virtually no experience in journalism; and Fili's boss, the steely, driven C.E.O. Comcast installed to run NBCUniversal, Steve Burke. Under Burke the network has done well overall'--its ratings have rebounded from last to first in the coveted 18''49 demographic, and NBCUniversal's profits were up 18 percent last year'--but he and his deputies, their critics charge, time and again proved unable to rein in the news division's high-priced talent. ''News is a very particular thing, NBC is a very particular beast, and Deborah, well, she really doesn't have a fucking clue,'' says a senior NBC executive involved in recent events. ''She's letting the inmates run the asylum. You have kids? Well, if you let them, they'll have ice cream every night. Same thing in TV. If you let the people on air do what they want, whenever they want, this is what happens.''
''Look. Deborah Turness: I have seen no evidence she knows what she's doing, but in fairness, she walked into a complete shitstorm there,'' says a former top NBC executive. ''Today is a horror show. Brian Williams? He didn't give a rat's ass what Deborah Turness says. But this is fundamentally not a Deborah Turness problem. She's just a symptom of the problem'.... This is a Comcast problem.''
Even some of Burke's defenders admit he has only himself to blame for the decline of NBC News. ''Steve has a great track record, and phenomenal DNA, but nobody bats a thousand,'' insists one Burke fan. ''He's done a phenomenal job in so many areas. What he did easing out Leno? Unbelievable. But what you're looking at here is his mistake. Just a huge mistake. I mean, bringing in Pat? Then Deborah? That's like bad food and small portions.''
Officially, in a damage-control mode where almost no one will be interviewed freely and on the record, NBC News declined comment for this article. Unofficially, its loyalists cooperated extensively. While admitting the occasional misstep, they reject the harsh critiques that have trailed in the wake of the Williams scandal, blaming them on a coterie of departed executives, including former NBCUniversal C.E.O. Jeff Zucker and former NBC News chief Steve Capus, who resigned under pressure in 2013. ''We know the people saying these things about us, and we know why,'' one NBC partisan told me. ''Because five years later we are still cleaning up the mess they left behind.''
The Place to BeThe long and storied history of NBC News can be traced from the first nightly television newscast in America, in 1940, through pioneering programs on civil rights to the 1960s-era rise of anchors Chet Huntley and David Brinkley. But Huntley's retirement, in 1970, ushered in a period of lower ratings, and even lower budgets, as the news division suffered a 20-year decline. Ironically, it was perhaps the worst scandal in NBC's history that laid the groundwork for its incredible turnaround.
David Gregory, Steve Capus, and Jeff Zucker.
Photo Illustration by Sean McCabe; Photographs by Richard Drew/A.P. Images (Background), William B. Plowman/NBC NewsWire/Getty Images (Gregory), Charles Sykes/NBCU Photo Bank/Getty Images (Capus), Susan Walsh/A.P. Images (Zucker).
In November 1992, NBC's newsmagazine show Dateline aired an hour-long segment purporting to show that the gas tanks on certain kinds of General Motors pickup trucks tended to explode on even low-speed impacts. G.M. responded with an investigation of its own that showed that Dateline had rigged the dramatic explosion that was the program's climax by affixing model-rocket engines to a truck's underbody. In the ensuing scandal three Dateline producers were fired and the president of NBC News at the time, Michael Gartner, was forced to resign. Morale hit rock bottom; one NBC executive told The New York Times, ''Some of us feel this place is like Mogadishu before the Marines landed.''
What followed was a housecleaning that allowed a host of young executives and newspeople to come to the fore and, in doing so, set the stage for what would become a kind of golden age for NBC News. All this was overseen by Gartner's replacement, a longtime CBS producer named Andy Lack, who had a sharp eye for talent and the confidence to let the young egos of his producers run free. (Note: Lack's wife, Betsy Kenny Lack, is a contributing editor at Vanity Fair. She recused herself from editorial input for this article.) Shortly before Lack came in, a new producer, Neal Shapiro, had taken over Dateline, and under Lack he made it a consistent winner in its time slot. A year earlier, Tim Russert, who'd once served as chief of staff to Senator Pat Moynihan, was given control of the lackluster Meet the Press and turned it into a topical ratings engine and news powerhouse. Most important was the turnaround a twentysomething impresario named Jeff Zucker was able to engineer at the news division's profit center, Today, which in a good year could generate more than $100 million in profit for NBC's then corporate parent, General Electric. After the controversial replacement of Jane Pauley in 1989, Today had fallen into second place, behind Good Morning America. Under Zucker, Bryant Gumbel and Katie Couric took it back to No. 1 in 1995, a position it would maintain for the next 17 years, despite the eventual need to transition to new anchors such as Meredith Vieira and Matt Lauer.
''Andy Lack's genius was he gave Jeff and Tim and Neal Shapiro the freedom to run,'' says a former NBC News executive who worked closely with everyone involved. ''Over the next 15 years NBC News really became the envy of the broadcast world. Today, Nightly, Meet the Press: they were all No. 1 [in their categories]. And they really did help set the agenda for the national discussion.''
After Lack's departure, to Sony Music Entertainment in 2003, Zucker eventually ascended to take control of NBCUniversal, a position he still held in 2009, when the financial crisis prompted General Electric to streamline its far-flung businesses, a strategy that included selling NBCUniversal to Comcast. NBC News executives had been close to G.E. executives, including C.E.O. Jack Welch, but they soon developed a strong sense that Comcast's top executives, Brian Roberts and Steve Burke, didn't value the art of talent management quite so highly.
''I always thought they lacked an appreciation for dealing with talent,'' says a former NBC executive who worked with Comcast executives during the transition. ''Remember: They come from a cable utility company, where all you do is keep your customers happy and collect the bills at the end of the month. To be honest, you got the sense they couldn't fathom why NBC worried so much about the talent; you know, 'Why are these people worrying so much about what Matt Lauer thinks?' ''
''They didn't believe in talent management,'' says another former executive who worked with Comcast executives. ''I'm telling you '... they just didn't believe that mattered.''
Murmurs that Comcast executives wouldn't genuflect before the NBC News stars were widespread as Steve Burke took control of NBCUniversal in the first weeks of 2011. Burke, the son of the legendary Capital Cities C.E.O. Daniel Burke, was viewed as a highly capable, no-nonsense type who wouldn't be easily swayed by the glamour of television news. ''Just look at Steve Burke's eyes,'' says one NBC executive who worked closely with him. ''He is a cold, calculating guy.''
''Burke actually started out O.K.,'' this executive goes on. ''Matt [Lauer], within a matter of weeks [of Burke's coming], said he did not want to renew his contract. And to Burke's great credit, he built enough of a relationship then with Lauer that Lauer began to feel he could be trusted. And when Burke agreed to his enormous demands, north of $20 million a year, he kept Matt.''
According to one view, the Burke administration's troubles at NBC News can be traced to the Ann Curry episode at Today, a messy situation it inherited from the Zucker regime. Line executives were sharply split over Curry's desire to ascend from newsreader to Lauer's on-air partner. The head of news, Steve Capus, was in favor; Today's executive producer, Jim Bell, and Matt Lauer were wary. Capus prevailed, only to watch Curry's ratings slide. By June 2012, when she memorably and tearfully announced her departure from Today, Capus and Bell were not speaking. ''That's where this whole thing begins to fall apart,'' says the onetime executive. ''Burke was the principal player [who made the decision to demote her], though he hid desperately behind this. Finally he makes a deal for her to go away and then gets cold feet about pushing her to announce it. Despite pleas from everyone, Burke would not push the situation. He just felt uncomfortable doing it, and he wouldn't explain why. Which leads directly to this thing being a national 'Oh, poor Ann Curry' story, which was the furthest thing from the truth.''
The Curry saga convinced Burke that the news division under Steve Capus's direction was broadly dysfunctional. ''The prevailing line from the Comcast people when Steve Capus was in charge was all News needs is a real grown-up in there,'' says a top NBC executive at the time. ''You know, 'These people don't know how to run a business. What they need is organization. Change the structure, business development, better H.R., get some women in there.' I mean, that's verbatim. That was the script.'' Bell was removed from the equation when Burke gave him the Olympics to supervise, but Burke wanted deeper changes. Insiders believe he found the Curry episode so distasteful that he resolved to distance himself from the details of talent management altogether. ''This thing exploded into a soap opera, and let me tell you, it scared the hell out of Steve Burke,'' recalls an executive who met with Burke regularly. ''And that's not a phrase you use about a tough guy like Burke. But I saw it.''
It was then that Burke initiated a corporate reorganization that laid the groundwork for the many problems that followed. In July 2012, Comcast announced NBC News, MSNBC, and CNBC were to be combined into an enlarged news division that, to the surprise of many staffers, would be run by Burke's trusted deputy, Patricia Fili-Krushel. ''Burke didn't want to deal with the details of handling talent,'' says another former top NBC executive. ''And he didn't want to deal with MSNBC and CNBC either. So he takes care of everything in one fell swoop. He creates this new news group, throws in MSNBC and CNBC, and gives it all to Pat to run. Problem solved. One group, you know, actually not a bad idea. Putting Pat in charge? Terrible idea.''
Today, in the wake of the Williams fiasco, Pat Fili has emerged as a popular punching bag inside NBC. Fili started her career at ABC as a secretary ''back when they still called them secretaries,'' as one of her friends puts it, during the 1970s; one of her first bosses was Bob Iger, now the heralded chairman of Disney. It was Iger, then a production supervisor, who insisted to his superiors that Fili take his job when he was promoted. (He remains a mentor to her.) ''The thing that most impressed me about Pat is that, in addition to being smart, tough, and knowledgeable, she is an adult,'' says Dick Parsons, former chairman and C.E.O. of Time Warner. ''She always parked her ego at the door and gave her full focus and attention to solving the problem at hand.'' In the ensuing years she climbed the ladder at the network, becoming head of ABC Daytime during the 1990s. It was there that she met Burke, who 15 years later, when he got to NBC, hired her away from Time Warner, where she was supervising human resources, among other areas. That is essentially what Burke initially assigned her to do at NBC. When he named her to oversee news, the one glaring omission on her impressive r(C)sum(C) was anything to do with journalism.
''Pat's a very nice person, smart, very empathetic, but she's in way over her head,'' an admirer told me in February. ''She knows nothing about any of the things she is managing [at NBC].''
''You have to understand something about Comcast,'' says another recently departed NBC executive. ''There's practically no attention paid to actual domain expertise'--like, zero. The fact of the matter is, in certain businesses, certain things matter. If you're going to be made the head of a shoe business, you need to actually know that shoes need to be sourced and designed. In the big corporate vision of NBCU, there's almost no regard for that line of thinking. If you fit into a mold, if you fulfill a loyalty obligation or a don't-make-waves obligation, or if you can just be pegged into the Comcast pegboard, you get to be in charge of stuff. That's Pat.''
By all accounts Steve Capus was less than thrilled to find himself reporting to Fili. When he resigned, six months later, news reports made it sound as if he had been fed up. In fact, NBC partisans say, Capus was pressured to leave, in part because Fili felt he was feuding with just about everyone else who reported to her. But there was another reason for Capus's exit, these insiders say. Though Capus had worked closely with Brian Williams for 15 years, it turns out the anchorman also had a role in his leaving.
War StoriesOne might expect that, in the wake of Williams's suspension, his colleagues would be brimming with stories of other fanciful tales he told. That's not the case. There are a few tales, it's true, but when asked for the unvarnished truth about Williams, the two topics people at NBC News return to again and again are these: his prowess as a bureaucratic infighter and his limited interest in the kind of ''heavy'' news topics and investigative pieces that had long been championed by such NBC stalwarts as Tom Brokaw and Tim Russert.
''What always bothered Tim was Brian's lack of interest in things that mattered most, that were front and center, like politics and world events,'' says a person who knew both men well. ''Brian has very little interest in politics. It's not in his blood. What Brian cares about is logistics, the weather, and planes and trains and helicopters.''
''You know what interested Brian about politics?'' marvels one longtime NBC correspondent, recently departed. ''Brian was obsessed with whether Mitt Romney wore the Mormon underwear.'' (A supporter says that this characterization is unfair and that Williams reads deeply and broadly, especially about history and politics.)
Williams took the anchor chair in December 2004, after a career handling the news at local stations and MSNBC; though he had worked as NBC's chief White House correspondent for two years, he was never a foreign or war correspondent. He was deeply insecure about this, some of his friends believe. These people suggest that his storied broadcasts from New Orleans in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, which proved a boon to his ratings, were in part an effort to overcome the perception that he was a journalistic lightweight. In his first years on Nightly News, several colleagues say, Williams's weaknesses were kept in check by other strong figures at the network, from Brokaw and Russert to Capus and a Nightly News executive producer named John Reiss. With the departures of each of these men, especially Russert, who died in 2008, Williams slowly consolidated his power.
'There is NBC News before Tim died and after Tim died,'' says the recently departed correspondent. ''Tim was our soul, our conscience'.... When Tim died, and Brian pushed out John Reiss, there was no one who could influence Brian in a significant way, who could say, 'Goddammit, Brian, you have to do this.' ''
In the years that followed, NBC's two best-known investigative correspondents, Michael Isikoff and Lisa Myers, both left the network, in large part, insiders say, because Williams had little interest in their work. ''By 2007, 2008, Brian was starting to feel his oats a bit,'' says a onetime NBC executive who knows him well. ''It was a bit of a challenge, not huge. Manageable. He was more reluctant to go on difficult assignments. He didn't want to leave New York. Getting him to war zones was real tough '... but when he did go, he came back with these great stories that kind of put himself at the center of things. Then the Comcast crew arrived and everything began to change.''
The venue where several top NBC executives witnessed Williams's efforts at corporate politics firsthand was the 51st-floor executive dining room, which Burke had spruced up and encouraged them to use.
''If Brian could've eaten there eight days a week he would've,'' says another onetime NBC executive. ''He would hold court at some table, with some poor mid-level schmo who didn't know what was going on, and he always seemed to be there when Steve Burke would come in. And [with Burke in earshot], he would make a point of taking someone down a notch. It could be Pat or Steve [Capus] or [P.R. chief] Adam [Miller] or someone else, but over time it got to be Steve Capus a lot. Brian took Steve down. I heard those lunches. I know what he said. He got Burke and Pat Fili very riled up about Steve.''
Capus had a number of issues, including a combative streak and a temper. But those who watched Williams in action think he ''very quickly came to believe that he was the person running the news division, not Capus,'' says one of the former NBC executives quoted above. ''As Capus was kind of dissed more and more to and by Burke and, ultimately, Pat Fili, Brian just saw that as an opportunity to run a truck through the news division and get whatever he wanted. Suddenly he's appearing on all these shows, Jimmy Fallon and 30 Rock and everything else. This spread the idea in Brian's mind that he was this kind of newsman-entertainer. That he was a national raconteur.''
Entertainment NewsFor a while, he was. In fact, as an excellent article by Gabriel Sherman in New York magazine recounted, Williams had long displayed an ambivalence with continuing in the anchor chair. With his abundant charisma and disarming wit, what he truly wanted, it appears, was his own talk show. According to New York, he talked to Steve Burke about succeeding Jay Leno. When Burke refused, Williams reportedly pitched Les Moonves, at CBS, to replace David Letterman, who was soon to retire. Moonves also allegedly declined. Though his appearances on shows such as 30 Rock and Jimmy Fallon successfully repositioned Williams as a good-humored Everyman'--and thus expanded not only his own brand but that of Nightly News'--they were not popular among many of his colleagues.
''He goes on Tina Fey and Jimmy Fallon and all that, that's where his heart was, and [at NBC] that's seen as running away from the news division,'' says a former NBC executive.
A Williams partisan disagrees. ''The irony is that the very things people are criticizing Brian for now were the things they loved most about him at the time, the fact that by going on all these shows, with their young audiences, he was building bridges to the younger people who weren't watching network news anymore,'' this person says. ''It was something the previous generation of anchormen, like Brokaw, hadn't been able to do. Brian was doing it.''
After refusing Williams the Leno spot, Steve Burke offered him a consolation prize: his own magazine show, Rock Center, a bid to anchor what he hoped would be the second coming of 60 Minutes. It wasn't. Rock Center debuted in 2011 to tepid reviews and worse ratings. Its journalistic efforts received less notice than its stunt hiring of Chelsea Clinton, whose signature contribution was the interview she did with the Geico Gecko that appeared on the show's Web site.
Rock Center's death came three months after Steve Capus finally resigned under pressure from Pat Fili, in February 2013. (Capus is now executive editor of CBS News.) With Capus gone, however, it was not Williams but Fili who snapped up an opportunity to place her own stamp on NBC News. She launched an ambitious international search for a replacement for Capus. ''I hadn't heard of Deb Turness, but what I heard I liked,'' says a former NBC executive. ''What I heard over and over again was: this is a classic Pat Fili hire, a very expensive, not very protracted global search, with a stellar candidate who nobody has really worked with here, and good for Pat'--she found a great woman, a highly qualified non-white male. Good for Pat. It was bulletproof.''
Or, as it happened, not.
Deborah Turness is a feisty, hard-charging, tabloid-loving British media figure. When Fili came calling, she was the top editor at ITV News in London, where the news programs she supervised consistently humbled rivals at the BBC. A hip, sinewy blonde, she had once been married to a roadie for the Clash and had competed in a Beijing-to-Paris road race. The**New York Times quoted a former colleague, who said she brought ''a bit of rock-chick swagger to a newsroom full of middle-aged men.'' The early reviews, at least publicly, were glowing. Williams called her a ''dynamo.'' NBC correspondent Andrea Mitchell says, ''Deborah is very creative, very competitive, and very ambitious in the best sense of the word. I think it's been an impressive retooling.''
Behind the scenes, things weren't going as smoothly. Even NBC loyalists acknowledge that Turness's introduction to the realities of U.S. broadcast news was rocky. ''One thing she didn't really know about was talent management,'' admits an executive who admires Turness. ''I remember early on I asked her how many journalists she had supervised [in London] who made a million dollars a year. She said one. And she didn't understand that you communicate [with the talent] through their agents. Like if [WME co-C.E.O.] Ari Emanuel calls, you have to phone back the same day. So I remember we had to kind of calm Ari down. Once all that was worked out, she caught on fairly quickly.''
Ann Curry, Matt Lauer, and Jamie Horowitz.
Photo Illustration by Sean McCabe; Photographs by Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images (Horowitz), Peter Kramer/NBC/NewsWire/Getty Images (Background), Robert Pitts/Landov (Lauer), Anna Webber/WireImage (Curry).
''It was almost unfair to give Deborah this job,'' says one NBC observer. ''She was basically overmatched. From day one, it was difficult, even just managing the daily job. Because it's a big job, it's got a lot of intricate parts to it, and you know she had a rough time with it. She was not terribly accessible. People came out of meetings and said she's overwhelmed.'' One NBC insider terms Turness's early performance ''a hot mess.'' Another adds, ''She was trying to do so much; she was all over the place, like she had A.D.D., and that caused a lot of stress for everyone.''
Turness's presentations were a model of 21st-century media and corporate jargon and synergies. Like Fili an ardent believer in market research, she tasked all her shows with drafting mission statements, ''content plans,'' and ''brand filters,'' which, along with an emphasis on finding ways to ''monetize'' news programming, prompted much eye-rolling among NBC's old-timers. In an effort to drag NBC into the Digital Age'--it has been a notable laggard'--Turness pushed for more digital content and far more cooperation among programs. This all sounds smart enough, but many in the news division didn't appreciate the perception they were behind the times, especially when Turness, in an interview with The New York Times, was quoted saying, ''People in the organization from top to bottom recognized that NBC News hadn't kept up with the times in all sorts of ways, for maybe 15 years. I think the organization had gone to sleep.'' Even Fili and others who backed Turness cringed at the quote, which angered many staffers. ''That didn't help,'' acknowledges one admirer. ''I do think that set her back.''
For all the digital chatter, though, Turness's top priority was stabilizing Today, whose ratings had gone into free fall as many viewers blamed Matt Lauer for the Ann Curry debacle. Turness spent her first six months focused on the show, and in time the ratings drop subsided, and Today settled in at No. 2, behind Good Morning America. At that point, last winter, she turned her attention to Meet the Press, whose ratings under David Gregory had fallen to a 20-year low. The show rarely broke news, and Gregory seemed uncomfortable in the host's chair. Turness led marathon strategy sessions in Washington, spitballing myriad ways to spice up the aging franchise, several of which were later lampooned in a long article in Washingtonian magazine. Among her ideas was bringing in a live audience or celebrity guests or even a band. ''If you could bring in Angelina Jolie to talk about an issue, or George Clooney on the Sudan, that could work,'' an NBC partisan says today. ''She wanted to play a South African song about Nelson Mandela over the credits when Mandela died. That's not crazy.''
As word of Turness's efforts to turn around Meet the Press spread, others at NBC, most notably the political savant Chuck Todd and MSNBC's Joe Scarborough, began jockeying to replace Gregory. By last spring blind items to this effect were appearing in so many gossip columns that Fili telephoned Todd's agent and told him to cut it out; the agent denied being involved. Once this all became public, it led to a perception among Turness's critics that she was letting Gregory twist in the wind. When she finally fired him, last summer, it was widely viewed as a mercy killing. ''What she did to David, that's just unforgivable,'' says one Gregory supporter. This criticism, however, misses a central point. By installing Chuck Todd in Gregory's place, Turness may have saved the show. In February, Meet the Press returned, briefly, to No. 1.
Morning SicknessBy then Turness had turned her focus back to Today. She and Fili, wanting some fresh eyes, decided to bring in an outsider to devise a turnaround strategy, a brash 38-year-old ESPN producer named Jamie Horowitz. Last May, in an internal memo announcing his hiring, Turness termed Horowitz ''a visionary leader,'' a bit of a stretch for a young executive known mostly for shepherding two ESPN shows: Keith Olbermann's ESPN2 program and a football show hosted by Colin Cowherd. Some felt Horowitz's hiring was a tacit admission that Turness wasn't up to the task of fixing Today herself. ''Come on!'' barks one critic. ''Anybody with a triple-digit I.Q. who interviews somebody to come in as president of NBC News you ask, 'What are you going to do with the 800-pound gorilla? With Today?' And Deborah's answer was 'You hire Jamie Horowitz!' It was almost like it was Deborah's cry for help. Like if you're overwhelmed and you don't have a lot of confidence or vision, you bring in other people: 'Help me, I'm drowning.' ''
After a protracted negotiation to break his contract at ESPN'--Pat Fili got Bob Iger (Disney owns ESPN) to intervene on NBC's behalf'--Horowitz wasn't allowed to formally start at NBC until December, though he could begin working off the premises in September.
There are two sharply different versions of Horowitz's brief tenure as an executive vice president of NBC News: One offering considerable detail is put forth by NBC partisans; this version paints Horowitz as a cocky, trash-talking loose cannon who avidly leaked to the press. An alternative version suggests that Horowitz was torpedoed by Matt Lauer and his allies at Today, who feared the changes he sought. The truth appears to contain elements of both versions.
As Fili told other executives, her initial inkling of trouble came during Horowitz's first week on the job, in a chat with Williams. As one insider describes it, ''Brian had dinner with Jamie '... [and] Brian says Jamie threw Deborah Turness under the bus on something. I think they were disagreeing on a promo, and Jamie said something like 'If you need help with Deborah, I can handle this for you.' So Pat calls Jamie, like right away, and says, 'So you threw Deborah under the bus with Brian?' And he doesn't even flinch. He denies it. The more Pat thought about it, the madder she got. She called him the next day and said, 'I don't know how it was at ESPN, but it doesn't work that way here. Here, we're a team.' And Jamie's words were 'Message received.' ''
In the following days, loyalists say, both Fili and Turness heard disquieting reports that Horowitz was openly speculating about changes on Today with outside agents and attorneys, generating corrosive rumors. Gossip items began to appear. Turness mentioned her concerns to Fili, who relayed her own to Steve Burke, but, for the moment, Horowitz was allowed to arrange focus groups to study how viewers felt about Today's on-air personalities. Nonetheless every week, the loyalists say, seemed to bring some new issue: Turness grew irked when Horowitz repeatedly refused to attend her daily planning meetings. He told her Matt Lauer was buying into many of his ideas, but when asked Lauer denied it, saying, ''The jury's still out.'' In October, roughly six weeks into Horowitz's tenure, Fili told Burke, according to one insider, ''We need to have a come-to-Jesus meeting with Jamie.''
For Turness, NBC partisans say, the final straw came after she and Lauer quietly secured a major interview for Today: the wife of N.F.L. running back Ray Rice, Janay Palmer, whom Rice had infamously punched in the face in an episode that ignited a national debate over spousal abuse. The ''get'' remained secret for several days, sources say, until Horowitz asked a Today producer about it. Hours later, news of the interview appeared on the TMZ sports Web site. In an e-mail, Turness told Horowitz she was ''very unhappy'' about the leak. According to an insider, Horowitz responded, ''I hope you don't think I leaked that.'' Turness replied: ''I don't know what to think.'' (A spokesman for Horowitz says he never leaked any NBC items to other media sources.)
The Rice incident convinced Turness she could no longer trust Horowitz. She told other executives she feared speaking openly in front of him, according to several insiders. This was the situation on Tuesday, November 11, NBC loyalists say, when Horowitz made his long-awaited six-hour presentation to Turness on the changes he envisioned at Today. Working with a white magnetic board, Horowitz urged a half-dozen personnel changes, including the dismissal of Willie Geist and Natalie Morales, grooming his old ESPN pal Josh Elliott to replace Lauer, and beefing up the role of Hoda Kotb, perhaps even having her replace Savannah Guthrie. Turness coolly agreed to take his views under advisement. The very next day the New York Post carried a blind item suggesting Turness was about to be fired. Among the candidates to replace her, it said, was Jamie Horowitz.
Turness had had enough. That Friday morning she summoned Horowitz to her office. ''I don't trust you,'' she told him. ''Nothing that you've proposed is ever going to happen if I don't trust you.'' When Horowitz asked what he could do, Turness replied, ''That's up to you.'' When Turness relayed news of the meeting to Fili, Fili scheduled her own meeting with Horowitz for Monday. But that meeting never happened. It was then, Horowitz's defenders argue, that Matt Lauer intervened to get Horowitz fired. ''That weekend is when Matt went to Pat and Steve Burke and made clear he was not going to let [any of the proposed changes] happen,'' says one. ''He said he wanted to protect the people that were there. He said, in essence, 'This guy has to be stopped.' And Burke and Pat buckled. They gave in to Matt and agreed to fire Jamie.''
NBC loyalists fiercely deny this. ''Completely untrue, 100 percent untrue,'' responds one. ''I understand the theory, but frankly I reject it. Matt did not go to Steve. Ever. Jamie was fired because it was an intolerable situation.'' In fact, another NBC loyalist confirms that Lauer had spoken to Burke, weeks earlier, during one of their regular lunches. Horowitz had run many of his proposed changes by Lauer, and Lauer told Burke he had ''deep concerns.'' ''Jamie ran into Matt Lauer'--it's as simple as that,'' says one longtime NBC observer. ''Don't believe anything else.''
Whatever happened that weekend, the final blow landed on Monday morning, when a reporter for Us Weekly called for comment on a report that Horowitz wanted to fire Savannah Guthrie. Turness was apoplectic. ''We have to fire him'--today,'' Turness told Fili, who agreed. Turness called him in, fired him, then was obliged to issue an embarrassing press release denying all the rumors of imminent change at Today. The upshot of the whole episode was that whatever changes she wanted to make she now couldn't.
The Horowitz incident was a very public embarrassment, but because no one involved seemed eager to discuss it, it soon disappeared from the headlines. Not so the extraordinary situation that beset Brian Williams.
Coming Under FireA hint of the trouble to come, and of the tensions among the marquee players, was on display at a charity gala in Greenwich, Connecticut, the week before Horowitz's firing. The evening honored Tom Brokaw's work for the Multiple Myeloma Research Foundation, which helps fight a cancer from which Brokaw suffers. ''The lowest of lows had to be that dinner,'' says one former NBC executive. ''It was a huge deal for Tom. The world turned out. Tom was devastated to find out that Pat Fili, who is just so blind to the relationships and what really went on, told the people putting on the dinner that it would be great to have Brian introduce Tom. That was the last thing Tom wanted. And then Brian started off telling stories. He told the Berlin Wall story. Well, this sent Tom into spasms of anger.''
The ''Berlin Wall story'' was one Williams has long told'--and apparently embellished'--about the time he and Brokaw visited the Berlin Wall, in 1989. ''This is the perfect example of what Brian does,'' says a former NBC executive who worked closely with Williams for years. ''He will say, and I've heard this a hundred times, 'When Tom and I were at the Berlin Wall '... ' O.K., so when he tells that story, he kind of implies that when the wall fell he was there with Tom. But he wasn't. He was there the next day. It wasn't malicious'--it's just Brian being Brian. It's the part of Brian's personality that bothers Tom the most.''
This executive long believed that Williams's penchant for embellishment was a function of his insecurity when it came to Brokaw, but that it was all essentially harmless. ''I always felt he needed to jack up his stories because he was trying so hard to overcome his insecurities,'' this executive says. ''And he had to follow Tom, which brought its own set of insecurities. He likes to sort of tell these grandiose tales. But, can I tell you, in all the years we worked together, it never rose to the point where we said, 'Oh, there he goes again.' I just saw it as one of the quirks of his personality.'' It was a quirk, however, that incensed Brokaw, who is still thought highly of inside the news division. ''Tom treated that anchor chair as a public trust,'' says one former correspondent. ''He really was our Walter Cronkite.''
''Tom and Brian,'' one longtime friend of both men says with a sigh, ''that was never a good relationship. Tom pushed for him to get that job. But Brian never embraced Tom. And I don't know why'.... He knows the rank and file will never love him like they did Tom, so he never tries. That's the reason there's not a lot of support for Brian over there.'' An industry insider adds, ''There is also a lot of envy of Williams's movie-star good looks, his long happy marriage to a wonderful woman, great kids, and he's paid millions to read a thousand words five times a week from a teleprompter.''
None of this'--not the ill will between Brokaw and Williams, certainly not Williams's penchant for embellishment'--registered on Turness's or Fili's radar as they belatedly turned their attention to Nightly News last fall. For much of Turness's tenure she hadn't needed to tread on Williams's turf; his show was No. 1 in the ratings, and other shows demanded her attention. The two had a relationship that friends describe as cordial but not close. At Matt Lauer's suggestion, Turness gave Williams one of Edward R. Murrow's old desks as a present on his 10th anniversary in the anchor chair, in December. Williams accepted it graciously, though one suspects the multi-million-dollar contract (reportedly up to $10 million a year) NBC offered was even more welcome. The new contract was a vote of confidence in Williams at a time he was facing his first serious ratings challenge in years, from a 41-year-old newcomer named David Muir, who had taken over ABC News's nightly broadcast.
A month later, on an unremarkable Friday evening in late January, Williams ended his broadcast by thanking a soldier whom he had taken to a hockey game at Madison Square Garden and who, he said, had been among those who had come to his rescue when a helicopter he was on came under rocket attack in Iraq in 2003. Turness saw the story and liked it, terming it ''very sweet.'' What she liked even more, she told one listener, was its performance once it was posted to Facebook, which she called ''extremely good.''
As the world now knows, the story was not accurate; Williams had been on a helicopter that came upon the damaged chopper about an hour later. As it happened, a pilot involved in the incident saw the broadcast and that evening wrote a Facebook post insisting Williams's version couldn't be true. When Williams learned of the claim, which was subsequently seconded by several other soldiers, he did not tell Turness or Pat Fili, even though he and Fili had lunch the following Tuesday.
By then, a Stars and Stripes reporter named Travis Tritten had been tipped off to the exchange. On Tuesday he spent the day talking to five former soldiers, all of whom said Williams's helicopter had not in fact come under fire. Wednesday morning Tritten called NBC.
''They found out about this from a reporter! Amazing!'' seethes a onetime NBC executive. A former NBC correspondent marvels that Williams did not tell Turness or Fili: ''The very fact they only learned about it that day tells you they had no relationship with [their stars].''
Even after Turness learned of the situation, that afternoon, she remained only peripherally involved in drafting the apology. ''Believe me, if Zucker had been there, someone like Allison Gollust [a longtime NBC News P.R. chief, now at CNN] would've been sitting with him for days working out the wording of this apology. The lack of a relationship with Turness played a huge role in how this played out. Because it was the apology that caused the problem, not the crime itself.''
Steve Burke learned of things only after the apology broadcast. Even then the enormity of Williams's gaffes had yet to sink in. According to insiders, it wasn't until someone found a video clip of Williams telling a version of the same story on David Letterman's show in 2013 that Turness and Fili realized how much trouble Williams was in. ''When we watched the Letterman clip, [the reaction was] horror, absolute horror,'' says one insider. ''You could tell this was going to be very bad. It put us into a whole new universe.''
Thursday morning Burke convened a crisis group, including Turness and Fili, that he said would meet twice a day at his Upper West Side apartment. Its first priority was unearthing the truth about what had happened in 2003. Williams himself, they soon realized, would be of little help. He appeared shell-shocked. ''He was having a tough enough time coming to grips with the idea that he had gotten it wrong in the first place, slash misrepresented it, slash lied,'' recalls one insider. ''He wasn't anywhere in the ballpark of being helpful about what happened 12 years ago.''
''You talked to Brian, and he said, 'I slept two nights under the wing of that helicopter, looking up through the hole in the wing [from the rocket fire],' '' one insider recalls. ''There was a sandstorm, and somehow, in the process, he said, he must have come to believe he had been on the helicopter. Later, his wife [Jane] tried to explain. She said he put things in boxes [in his mind]. He would only talk about what was in those boxes on-camera.'' This insider stops and sighs. ''You're not going to get clarity, because the people who might understand what happened don't understand.''
Turness asked Richard Esposito, who had been hired away from ABC in 2013 to be NBC's senior executive producer of the investigative unit, to convene a group to examine the facts of the helicopter incident, as well as those of other possible Williams embellishments popping up online, from his sight of a dead body floating through the French Quarter during Hurricane Katrina to stories he told of hobnobbing with members of the navy's SEAL Team Six.
That Friday, with the story still dominating national headlines, Williams quietly told Burke he was willing to leave his broadcast until the matter could be cleared up. Williams's agent and lawyer, the respected Bob Barnett, suggested they table the discussion until the weekend. ''Everybody was sort of heartbroken for Brian,'' says one loyalist. ''It was terrible for the company, yes, but it was just awful for him. It was one of the fastest falls I can remember seeing. There was a little bit of shell shock. What we decided to do was we needed the weekend to come. We needed some distance.''
Saturday morning all the NBC brass but Burke met with Williams and Barnett at the anchorman's 58th Street apartment. The sense of the group was that Williams had no choice but to step aside, and Williams, to his credit, made no efforts to fight back. The next day, Sunday, Burke convened an all-day meeting of the crisis group back at his apartment. They began with a 45-minute presentation from Esposito on his preliminary findings.
''At that moment Brian assumed he was coming back in a week, four days'--something,'' says a person who was at the meeting. ''Esposito took a perfunctory look at all this stuff [coming in] over the transom, and his clear sense was all this other stuff couldn't be easily dismissed. Our judgment was there was no way we could bring Brian back quickly and be able to categorically deny and prove wrong all of these [other] things in the near term.''
By nightfall the group agreed that a suspension was in order, probably for six months, a period that would, if nothing else, give them time to study the extent of Williams's transgressions. Afterward, Burke took the time to confer with Brokaw, who had canceled a Caribbean vacation to be available. ''Tom will never say this for the record, but I've talked to him about this, and I can tell you for a fact Tom is livid about this,'' says a friend. ''Tom didn't push Brian out, but he didn't try to save him, either.''
Burke reconvened the crisis group for one final meeting in his conference room the next day, found everyone still in agreement on the six-month suspension, and e-mailed Williams to come to his apartment the next morning, Tuesday. The two men met there alone. ''It was sad but amicable, no harsh words,'' says the NBC partisan. ''Steve told him it would be six months, and Brian accepted that. Was there pushback? It wasn't available, to be honest. Steve basically said to Brian, 'This is what we're going to do, and we're not going to discuss it. If you want to come back, this is what it will take.' ''
Publicly, at least, that was the end of it. Behind the scenes, a number of Williams's closest friends have lobbied hard that he be allowed to return to Nightly News after his suspension. The Esposito investigation, however, is ongoing, and people who have spoken to Esposito say his group has compiled a number of other incidents that, taken as a whole, paint a portrait of Williams as a man who has consistently burnished his stories. While he has accepted responsibility for his actions, friends say, Williams is bitter, especially at those who he believes might have saved him.
''I talked to Brian about this,'' says one friend, ''and I'll never forget what he said at the end. He said, 'Chalk one up for Brokaw.' ''
Williams's future, NBC insiders insist, remains up in the air. He and Andy Lack are close friends, leading to widespread speculation that Lack will reinstate him once his suspension is complete. But people close to Lack say nothing has yet been decided. Many NBC observers simply can't imagine a network anchorman ever returning to his former position after being exposed as Williams has. The most Machiavellian scenario, floated by an NBC partisan, is that Jeff Zucker, whose distaste for Comcast executives is well known, has fanned the flames of controversy so that he can eventually snare Williams for CNN'--not as a newsman but as the long-sought replacement for Larry King. ''That's the perfect solution,'' a source says. ''Zucker gets a star, and Brian gets the talk show he always wanted.''
Another NBC partisan points out that Comcast is simply suffering much the same pain General Electric did in the late 1980s in purchasing a news division it knew little about managing, suffering a scandal as a result (the Dateline truck incident for G.E.), and then cleaning house and bringing in Lack to fix it. ''Don't you see?'' this person says. ''It's all happening again, just 20 years later.''
For more high-profile interviews, stunning photography, and thought-provoking features, subscribe now toVanity Fairmagazine.
Out There
Really now! NASA promises 'definitive evidence' of alien life by 2025
Fri, 10 Apr 2015 16:28
(C) NASA/JPL-CaltechSimulated View from Europa's Surface (Artist's Concept)
We are on the cusp of discovering alien civilizations, NASA's top scientists have said. They predict we're one generation away from finding something in our Milky Way neighborhood, which is bustling with environments conducive to life.Making their comments at a panel discussion Tuesday, the space scientists predict that the first discoveries will come within a decade. Chief scientist Ellen Stofan believes we'll have "definitive evidence within 20 to 30 years," as "in most cases we have the technology, and we're on a path to implementing it. And so I think we're definitely on the road."
"I think we're one generation away in our solar system, where it's on an icy moon or on Mars, and one generation [away] on a planet around a nearby star," former astronaut John Grunsfeld said at the session.
NASA has made huge strides in both spotting distant worlds and analyzing their chemical composition. Stofan said: "We know where to look." Indeed, the Kepler mission has found no shortage of rocks that could support life, while icy moons in our own galaxy have long been suspected to hold incredible secrets beneath their own crust - among them Jupiter's enigmatic moons - especially Europa, where a gargantuan body of water rages beneath the thin surface and water vapors are literally sprayed 200 km upward, giving clues to life-supporting minerals beneath. This while Ganymede is thought to have more water than all of Earth's oceans combined.
The same can be said of Saturn's satellite Enceladus.
Scientists found evidence to suggest that, like our more distant galactic neighbors, Mars also harbored entire oceans, the cracks and scars on its surface appearing to be made by raging water currents full of salt. All of this makes the Milky Way quite "a soggy place,"according to the director of NASA's Astrophysics Division, Paul Hertz.
"We can see water in the interstellar clouds from which planetary systems and stellar systems form," he says. "We can see water in the disks of debris that are going to become planetary systems around other stars, and we can even see comets being dissipated in other solar systems as [their] star evaporates them."
The Mars rover Curiosity, stationed on the Red Planet, continues to dazzle scientists with intriguing new finds. Just two weeks ago, it discovered organic molecules containing carbon and "fixed" nitrogen - elements central to all known life.
The Kepler mission's overwhelming success has also been a godsend - its lens measuring the tiniest changes in the light intensity of a star, as a planet passes by it. With its robotic eye, it showed us that life and rocky worlds should be far more common in our galaxy than the likes of gassy Saturn and Jupiter.
Numerous advances in both technology and our ability to implement it mean we are also accelerating the pace. One US company has just been given a grant for its plasma rocket to reach Mars in just 39 days, while NASA itself is already hard at work on developing a new Mars lander that resembles a saucer and promises to make it possible to "safely land heavier spacecraft" on alien planets.
Humanity is facing two separate challenges in space: one is finding signs of intelligent life, the other is identifying potentially habitable environments. While one may rush to tie the two together, the latter is a considerably easier proposition to make.
Stofan is all but certain the manned mission to Mars will emerge with spectacular discoveries: "I'm a field geologist; I go out and break open rocks and look for fossils," she said. "Those are hard to find. So I have a bias that it's eventually going to take humans on the surface of Mars '-- field geologists, astrobiologists, chemists '-- actually out there looking for that good evidence of life that we can bring back to Earth for all the scientists to argue about."
Europa will see us much sooner than that. As soon as 2022, our $2.1 billion will get to work on probing the mysteries of its oceans. And then there are the water vapors, spotted in the region next to the southern pole.
These discoveries are accompanied by huge strides in lens technologies NASA says will be central to finding alien life within two decades. Already there are several contenders for the next King of telescopes, their tech specs threatening to leave the famed Hubble far behind; among them the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST), which cost the space agency a fat $8.8 billion. The technology onboard is strong enough to peer at distant 'super-Earths' and analyze the possible chemical composition of those worlds, the gasses they spew out being strong indicators of life.
For direct signs, however, we still need to take good old photos of the rocks, according to Hertz. That is why NASA is hard at work on the next generation of telescopes - one that will feature a coronograph. The device is invaluable for blocking out the glare of the host stars of the exoplanets, giving us a clear view of the celestial bodies. It's set to launch sometime in the mid-2020s.
VIDEO-CLIPS-DOCS
VIDEO-Apparently MSNBC's Wagner Thinks Lefty Gyro-Copter Loon a Laughing Matter | MRCTV
Thu, 16 Apr 2015 06:30
Read more at NewsBusters | In the midst of a jovial roundtable discussion this afternoon on the matter, MSNBC's Alex Wagner seemed rather bemused rather than alarmed by 61-year-old postal worker Doug Hughes landing a gyro-copter on the West Lawn of the U.S. Capitol, violating restricted airspace and creating a major security scare among local and federal law enforcement.
VIDEO-Well, that's curious: Five Walmart stores across the country shut down on the same day due to 'plumbing issues' -- Society's Child -- Sott.net
Thu, 16 Apr 2015 06:20
(C) WTSPThose closing include locations in Livingston and Midland, Texas; Tulsa, Oklahoma; and near Los Angeles.
Not just one, but five Walmart stores across the U.S. are closing their doors due to plumbing problems that, in some cases, will take four to six months to repair.Those closing include locations in Livingston and Midland, Texas; Tulsa, Oklahoma; and near Los Angeles.
For the Brandon Walmart, I talked to Hillsborough County and Walmart to get answers about why these plumbing repairs will take so long and whether the issues are connected, but local customers are already skeptical.
"Why is it just plumbing problems? It's gonna take them six months to fix up the store?" asked customer John Mambrl.
After a deluge of shoppers lined up for hours to get deals Monday.
"I just tried to go in the door and it's like...'um it's closed,'" said Walmart shopper Jody White.
Hundreds were turned away again at the Walmart Superstore on East Brandon Boulevard Tuesday where they found doors shut and locked and the pharmacy guarded by security.
Walmart spokesperson Amanda Henneberg released a statement Tuesday on the closure:
"As part of an effort to ensure all of our stores are fully serving the needs of our customers we regularly assess the conditions of our stores. Due to ongoing plumbing issues that will require extensive repairs we are temporarily closing the Valrico/Brandon store. We will immediately begin the process to address these issues and intend to reopen the store as soon as all of the plumbing issues are resolved. Deciding to close a store is not a decision we make lightly, but after careful consideration, we felt it was necessary to make these repairs so we can better serve our customers and the community in the long run."
So 10 News called the county. Officials say they have no record of any code or permit violation at the Brandon location.And when 10 News was at the Walmart Tuesday, there were no marked septic trucks or plumbing vehicles in the lot.
"Where is everybody if they're supposed to be working on everything where are all the trucks?" asked shopper Melissa Dupuis.
10 News asked a Walmart spokesperson whether the five stores were built from the same design, whether they had the same contractor, anything to understand why all of them closed on the same day for "plumbing issues."
The only thing they have in common, the spokesperson said are the highest number of plumbing incidents.
Leaving some customers to wonder "how many things have they not said. That's scary," said shopper Norma Espinosa.
A Walmart official also told 10 News repairs haven't started yet because they still need to organize the store after so many shoppers came out to take advantage of closing deals.
She added each of these five stores closed, there have been upwards of 100 plumbing or pipe incidents in just the past two years. That, and that alone, is the only connection, according to Walmart officials.
VIDEO-Md. free-range children taken by CPS
Thu, 16 Apr 2015 06:10
Md. free-range children taken by CPS14762
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Md. free-range children taken by CPSThe Maryland parents who were accused of child neglect for letting their children walk home from a park are headed to Child Protective Services after their children were removed from a park Sunday by police.
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The Maryland parents accused of child neglect for letting their children roam freely had to retrieve their children from Child Protective Services after they were removed from a park Sunday by police.
10:51 a.m. EDT April 14, 2015
Dvora and Rafi Meitiv(Photo: Andrea McCarren)
SILVER SPRING, Md. (WUSA9) -- The Maryland parents accused of child neglect for letting their children roam freely had to retrieve their children from Child Protective Services after they were removed from a park Sunday by police.
PREVIOUS:Mont. Co parents accused of neglect for letting kids walk freely
Montgomery County police and Child Protective Services are in a joint investigation of Danielle and Alexander (Sasha) Meitiv for possible child neglect for allowing their children to walk freely.
Montgomery County free-range parents couldn't find their children Sunday after police picked them up at a Silver Spring park. WUSA
At approximately 4:55 p.m., Montgomery County police received a call to check on the welfare of the Meitiv children, 10-year-old Rafi and six-year-old Dvora, at a Silver Spring park. Their house is just down the street and around the corner, a distance of less than a mile. Police say officers found the children unattended.
As part of protocol, police called Child Protective Services and were told to bring the children to the agency. The agency did not contact the Meitiv's for three hours, leaving the parents frantically searching for their missing children.
Montgomery County police released the following timeline of Sunday night's events:
4:58 p.m. '' Montgomery County Emergency Call Center receives call to check welfare of two children5 p.m. '' Call dispatched5:01 p.m. '' First officer arrives in the area5:03 p.m. '' Officer finds the two children5:16 p.m. '' Officer contacts CPS6:10 p.m. '' Officer contacts another CPS employee for guidance6:41 p.m. '' Original CPS worker contacts officer and says a decision is still forthcoming from within CPS7:18 p.m. '' Decision made to transport children to CPS offices in Rockville7:43 p.m. '' Officer and children arrive at CPS"Well the policeman said we will give you a ride home when we were like two blocks away. So we got into the car and then about two and half hours later, instead he brang us here," Rafi Meitiv said.
The Meitiv children were released to their parents at 10:30 p.m. on Sunday.
"I can't believe we're going through this again," said Danielle Meitiv.
The Maryland parents who let their children roam free at the park talked about CPS taking their kids into custody.
In order to take their children home, the Meitiv's had to sign a safety plan that prohibits them from leaving their children unattended.
In January, the Meitiv's were accused of neglect that sparked a national and online debate about free-range parenting. The Montgomery County parents were being investigated for child neglect for letting their children roam freely.
In March, Child Protective Services found the Meitiv's responsible for "unsubstantiated" child neglect.
Parents disagree on the Meitiv's free-range style, some saying the children are too young to walk alone. But after the most recent incident, many question the priorities of Child Protective Services.
"I just hope that the authorities are also not using all their resources just on this case and that they're looking at other children as well who may need more care and assistance," said Malia Hale.
In a statement, CPS said, "Protecting children is the agency's number one priority and that it is required to follow up on all calls." CPS officials said they can't comment further because of privacy laws.
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Md. free-range children taken by CPSThe Maryland parents who were accused of child neglect for letting their children walk home from a park are headed to Child Protective Services after their children were removed from a park Sunday by police.
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The Maryland parents accused of child neglect for letting their children roam freely had to retrieve their children from Child Protective Services after they were removed from a park Sunday by police.
10:51 a.m. EDT April 14, 2015
Dvora and Rafi Meitiv(Photo: Andrea McCarren)
SILVER SPRING, Md. (WUSA9) -- The Maryland parents accused of child neglect for letting their children roam freely had to retrieve their children from Child Protective Services after they were removed from a park Sunday by police.
PREVIOUS:Mont. Co parents accused of neglect for letting kids walk freely
Montgomery County police and Child Protective Services are in a joint investigation of Danielle and Alexander (Sasha) Meitiv for possible child neglect for allowing their children to walk freely.
Montgomery County free-range parents couldn't find their children Sunday after police picked them up at a Silver Spring park. WUSA
At approximately 4:55 p.m., Montgomery County police received a call to check on the welfare of the Meitiv children, 10-year-old Rafi and six-year-old Dvora, at a Silver Spring park. Their house is just down the street and around the corner, a distance of less than a mile. Police say officers found the children unattended.
As part of protocol, police called Child Protective Services and were told to bring the children to the agency. The agency did not contact the Meitiv's for three hours, leaving the parents frantically searching for their missing children.
Montgomery County police released the following timeline of Sunday night's events:
4:58 p.m. '' Montgomery County Emergency Call Center receives call to check welfare of two children5 p.m. '' Call dispatched5:01 p.m. '' First officer arrives in the area5:03 p.m. '' Officer finds the two children5:16 p.m. '' Officer contacts CPS6:10 p.m. '' Officer contacts another CPS employee for guidance6:41 p.m. '' Original CPS worker contacts officer and says a decision is still forthcoming from within CPS7:18 p.m. '' Decision made to transport children to CPS offices in Rockville7:43 p.m. '' Officer and children arrive at CPS"Well the policeman said we will give you a ride home when we were like two blocks away. So we got into the car and then about two and half hours later, instead he brang us here," Rafi Meitiv said.
The Meitiv children were released to their parents at 10:30 p.m. on Sunday.
"I can't believe we're going through this again," said Danielle Meitiv.
The Maryland parents who let their children roam free at the park talked about CPS taking their kids into custody.
In order to take their children home, the Meitiv's had to sign a safety plan that prohibits them from leaving their children unattended.
In January, the Meitiv's were accused of neglect that sparked a national and online debate about free-range parenting. The Montgomery County parents were being investigated for child neglect for letting their children roam freely.
In March, Child Protective Services found the Meitiv's responsible for "unsubstantiated" child neglect.
Parents disagree on the Meitiv's free-range style, some saying the children are too young to walk alone. But after the most recent incident, many question the priorities of Child Protective Services.
"I just hope that the authorities are also not using all their resources just on this case and that they're looking at other children as well who may need more care and assistance," said Malia Hale.
In a statement, CPS said, "Protecting children is the agency's number one priority and that it is required to follow up on all calls." CPS officials said they can't comment further because of privacy laws.
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Free-range parenting couple found responsible for 'unsubstantiated' ch...
Free range parenting: controversial method explained
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VIDEO-Mexico authorities confirm ISIS camp a few miles from Texas -- Society's Child -- Sott.net
Thu, 16 Apr 2015 05:02
ISIS is operating a camp just a few miles from El Paso, Texas, according to Judicial Watch sources that include a Mexican Army field grade officer and a Mexican Federal Police Inspector.The exact location where the terrorist group has established its base is around eight miles from the U.S. border in an area known as "Anapra" situated just west of Ciudad Jurez in the Mexican state of Chihuahua. Another ISIS cell to the west of Ciudad Jurez, in Puerto Palomas, targets the New Mexico towns of Columbus and Deming for easy access to the United States, the same knowledgeable sources confirm.
During the course of a joint operation last week, Mexican Army and federal law enforcement officials discovered documents in Arabic and Urdu, as well as "plans" of Fort Bliss - the sprawling military installation that houses the US Army's 1st Armored Division. Muslim prayer rugs were recovered with the documents during the operation.
Law enforcement and intelligence sources report the area around Anapra is dominated by the Vicente Carrillo Fuentes Cartel ("Jurez Cartel"), La L­nea (the enforcement arm of the cartel) and the Barrio Azteca (a gang originally formed in the jails of El Paso). Cartel control of the Anapra area make it an extremely dangerous and hostile operating environment for Mexican Army and Federal Police operations.
According to these same sources, "coyotes" engaged in human smuggling - and working for Jurez Cartel - help move ISIS terrorists through the desert and across the border between Santa Teresa and Sunland Park, New Mexico. To the east of El Paso and Ciudad Jurez, cartel-backed "coyotes" are also smuggling ISIS terrorists through the porous border between Acala and Fort Hancock, Texas. These specific areas were targeted for exploitation by ISIS because of their understaffed municipal and county police forces, and the relative safe-havens the areas provide for the unchecked large-scale drug smuggling that was already ongoing.Mexican intelligence sources report that ISIS intends to exploit the railways and airport facilities in the vicinity of Santa Teresa, NM (a US port-of-entry). The sources also say that ISIS has "spotters" located in the East Potrillo Mountains of New Mexico (largely managed by the Bureau of Land Management) to assist with terrorist border crossing operations. ISIS is conducting reconnaissance of regional universities; the White Sands Missile Range; government facilities in Alamogordo, NM; Ft. Bliss; and the electrical power facilities near Anapra and Chaparral, NM.
Comment: Does something about this report seem contrived? Well, like all of it? Wow, those ISIS guys are really busy. If this were true, this story would be splashed all over the media in big bold black letters and would suck all the air out of the newsroom. However, having "vented" that, there is this little military exercise upcoming that you may have heard about, Jade Helm 15, in nine US states. "They" say it is a test, but is looking a lot like the real thing. Troops are to operate undetected amongst civilian populations, while Green Berets, Navy Seals, and the 82nd Airborne Division perform military maneuvers from July 15-September 15 with all their heavy equipment, classifying several states as hostile territory. Marshall Law and your local internment camp await. Trial run? For two months?
VIDEO-Exclusive: Relatives of Boston Marathon Bomber Break Their Silence | TIME
Thu, 16 Apr 2015 04:29
TIMEWorldrussiaExclusive: Relatives of Boston Marathon Bomber Break Their SilenceFBI/APDzhokhar TsarnaevMembers of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev's family tell TIME they tried in vain to dismiss his defense lawyersThroughout the trial of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, the 21-year-old who was convicted last week of bombing the Boston Marathon in 2013, his family resisted the urge to speak out publicly in his defense. Tsarnaev's defense team had advised them not to grant interviews, they say, as it could risk his chances at trial. But when the jury issued its guilty verdict on April 8, convicting him on 17 counts that could each carry the death penalty, some of his relatives decided to go public with their outrage.
On the evening of April 14, three members of the Tsarnaev family met at a caf(C) in the city of Grozny, close to their ancestral home in southern Russia, and told a TIME reporter how the trial had torn their family apart, how helpless they felt against what they see as an American conspiracy against them and, above all, how they still hope to convince Tsarnaev to fire his legal team and seek to overturn the verdict on appeal.
''It would be so much easier if he had actually committed these crimes,'' says his aunt Maret Tsarnaeva. ''Then we could swallow this pain and accept it.''
But two years after the bombing that killed three people and wounded hundreds near the race's finish line on April 15, 2013, they still refuse to admit Tsarnaev's guilt. From their homes in Chechnya and Dagestan, two predominantly Muslim regions of Russia, some of his family members have tried to convince Tsarnaev to fire his court-appointed lawyer, Judy Clarke, who has taken a surprising approach to his defense.
In one of her first arguments before the jury after entering a not-guilty plea, Clarke said that her client is indeed responsible for the ''senseless, horrific, misguided acts.'' But in committing these crimes, she argued that he was acting under the direction of his older brother Tamerlan, who was killed in a shootout with authorities soon after the bombing.
This line of defense has outraged many of Tsarnaev's relatives, who have tried to convince him to dismiss Clarke and ask for a lawyer who will argue his innocence. ''Why do we even need defense attorneys if they just tell the jury he is guilty?'' his aunt asks. ''What's the point?''
Like many observers of the case in Russia, the Tsarnaev family has claimed '-- albeit without providing meaningful evidence '-- that the bombing was part of a U.S. government conspiracy intended to test the American public's reaction to a terrorist threat and the imposition of martial law in a U.S. city. ''This was all fabricated by the American special services,'' Said-Hussein Tsarnaev, the convicted bomber's uncle, tells TIME.
Tsarnaev's mother, Zubeidat, made similar claims of a conspiracy soon after his arrest, but she seems to have come around since then to the strategy that her son's lawyers have taken at trial. As a result, the family appears to have suffered a rancorous split. While the brothers' paternal relatives, who spoke to TIME on Wednesday, have demanded a new legal team, their mother has refused to call for Clarke's dismissal. ''The mother won't let us do it,'' says Hava Tsarnaeva, the brothers' great-aunt in Chechnya. ''She won't listen to reason.''
Their only real means of pressuring her is through Tsarnaev's father, Anzor, a native of Chechnya who now lives in neighboring Dagestan. But he seems to have taken his wife's side on the quality of their son's defense. ''As frightening as it is to admit, Anzor has been his wife's zombie all his life, from the first day they met,'' says his sister Maret.
In their desperation to reach Tsarnaev during the trial, his paternal relatives have tried sending letters, arranging phone calls and even encouraging a friend to go to the Boston courtroom and cry out to Tsarnaev during a hearing. But all of these efforts failed to reach him, they say, let alone convince him to fire his lawyers.
Their focus now has turned to outside help, primarily from rights activists and international institutions, though these efforts also have little chance of success. On Wednesday, they met with a leading rights activist in Chechnya, Heda Saratova, in the hope of filing an appeal in the case to the European Court of Human Rights. Saratova informed them that the U.S. is not a party to the court's founding treaty, and therefore does not accept its jurisdiction.
On hearing the news, Maret Tsarnaeva, the aunt, let out a laugh through her tears. ''So I guess the U.S. has really proven its exceptionalism in this case,'' she says, bitterly. ''It's a closed circle.'' And it leaves his family no choice but to wait for April 21, when the sentencing phase of the trial will consider whether Tsarnaev should face the death penalty or spend the rest of his life in prison.
Read next: Dzhokhar Tsarnaev Probably Won't End Up in Massachusetts
VIDEO-Florida man high on flakka attacked officer, said he was God, had sex with tree, police say | Latest News - Home
Wed, 15 Apr 2015 21:43
Published On: Apr 15 2015 10:57:49 AM EDT Updated On: Apr 15 2015 05:34:42 PM EDT
A Florida man believed to be high on flakka, a synthetic drug that authorities say is sweeping the state, attacked a Brevard police officer, officials say.
MELBOURNE, Fla. -A Florida man believed to be high on flakka, a drug that authorities say is sweeping the state, attacked a Brevard police officer after twice being shocked with a Taser while he repeatedly saying he was God, according to officials.
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Kenneth Crowder, 41, of Melbourne, was arrested Friday on charges of battery on a law enforcement officer, resisting with violence and assault with a deadly weapon on a law enforcement officer.
According to a Melbourne police report, Crowder was spotted by witnesses running naked through a Melbourne neighborhood, yelling that he was a god before committing a sexual act on a tree.
[LISTEN: 911 call |Police radio transmission (WARNING: Graphic language)]
A Melbourne police officer went to the area and confronted Crowder, who was wearing blue jeans and a T-shirt, officials said.
Crowder walked toward the officer in an aggressive manner and identified himself as God, according to police.
The officer used a Taser on Crowder, but he pulled the probes out of his body and continued to fight, police said. Crowder was shocked a second time, but he again pulled out the probes and went at the officer with clenched fists, according to police.
The officer punched Crowder in the face and a scrum ensued, with Crowder saying that he was Thor and trying to stab the officer with the officer's badge, police said.
Other officers arrived and helped subdue Crowder, who was handcuffed and shackled, police said.
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Flakka is the a variation of synthetic substances known as bath salts and delivers a cheap, powerful high while acting as an amphetamine, according to officials. The drug can be snorted, smoked or taken by mouth and can cause violent behavior, officials said.
"We have spoken to some medical professionals here and they are starting to see an increase in its use (in Brevard County)," Melbourne police spokesman Dan Lynch said. "It's already in South Florida, and we think it's coming here."
Crowder, whose mugshot shows him with a black eye, was booked into the Brevard County Jail Complex. He later posted bond and was released.
In 2011, federal authorities banned a number of the chemicals used in bath salts. The active ingredient in flakka, however, has not yet been banned, authorities said.
VIDEO-What is flakka? Florida's dangerous new drug trend - CBS News
Wed, 15 Apr 2015 21:43
Police in south Florida have seen a growing number of cases of bizarre and uncontrollable behavior linked to a street drug called flakka, one of the newer chemicals in the booming category of synthetic or designer drugs.
In Fort Lauderdale last month, a man tried to break down the front door of a local precinct and told police officers he was high on flakka. A few weeks later, another man who said he had just smoked flakka impaled himself while trying to scale a fence around the police station. In Lake Worth, a city in Palm Beach County, a man armed with a gun -- and naked -- stood on a rooftop and announced, "I feel delusional, and I'm hallucinating!" He told authorities he had vaped flakka with an e-cigarette.
Flakka and bath salts are both drugs classified as cathinones.
DEA
Flakka is a designer drug that can be snorted, smoked, injected or swallowed. It may also be combined with other, softer drugs such as marijuana.Flakka is most typically made from the chemical alpha-PVP, which is a synthetic version of the amphetamine-like stimulant cathinone. Cathinones are chemicals derived from the khat plant grown in the Middle East and Somalia, where the leaves are frequently chewed for a euphoric buzz.
It's the same class of chemical that's used to make so-called bath salts, a drug that was found to be behind a number of alarming incidents, including the case of a man in Miami who allegedly chewed another man's face while high on bath salts in 2012.
The immediate and long-term effects of cathinones can rival some of the strongest crystal meth and cocaine.
Jim Hall, an epidemiologist at the Center for Applied Research on Substance Use and Health Disparities at Nova Southeastern University in Broward County, Florida, told CBS News that cathinones are the next, even more potent class of drugs to take over where MDMA leaves off. MDMA, known widely as Molly, has been the cause of a number of fatalities and the recent round of overdoses that hospitalized a dozen people at Wesleyan University.
Hall says the drug is designed to cause the brain to flood with dopamine, a hormone that helps control the brain's reward and pleasure centers, and then block the transmitters, producing an intense feeling of euphoria. "Normally when dopamine would be released, even naturally or even with other drugs, it then gets reuptaked -- it goes back to its original transmitting neuron," said Hall. "But in this case, its reuptake is blocked so it remains there."
Taking additional flakka while already high -- a practice known as "snacking" -- or combining cathinones with other drugs often leads to serious health complications including rapid heart rate, agitation, extreme aggression and psychosis.
"We're starting to see a rash of cases of a syndrome referred to as excited delirium," said Hall. "This is where the body goes into hyperthermia, generally a temperature of 105 degrees. The individual becomes psychotic, they often rip off their clothes and run out into the street violently and have an adrenaline-like strength and police are called and it takes four or five officers to restrain them. Then once they are restrained, if they don't receive immediate medical attention they can die."
PlayVideo
The Early Show"Bath Salts": Cocaine-Like DrugErica Hill speaks with Dr. Jennifer Ashton about a new designer drug disguised as bath salts, among other things.
Cathinone use can also cause rhabdomyolysis, which is a melting of the muscle tissue and the release of muscle fibers into the blood stream. This can lead to kidney failure and result in a user needing permanent dialysis.
The drug's name appears to have several meanings, says Hall. The word flaca means skinny in Spanish. "When we first heard the word we thought it was referring to the fact that it's a strong stimulant, almost all stimulants have an appetite depressant quality to them, an almost anorexic quality."
But Hall said flakka is also a Hispanic colloquial word that means a "beautiful, elegant woman who charms all she meets." The drug name also may be associated with a famous hip-hop artist Waka Flocka Flame.
In recent years there's been a rise in the number of national crime lab reports for cathinones, along with a decline in cases involving MDMA, which is the active chemical in both Molly and Ecstasy.
Nova Southeastern University - JN Hall: Analysis of US DEA NFLIS data
Hall says designer drugs like flakka are not always pure, which means that frequently the customer and dealer don't actually know what's in the product. Hall says that in 2013 there were a total of 126 reported deaths tied to synthetic cathinone in Florida.
"One of the kind of 21st century trends in drug supply is creating new brand names like flakka and building its popularity and then selling anything," said Hall, who authored a report on the designer drug market in Florida. "Elsewhere in the country [flakka is] actually quite a popular drug. It's often sold under the street name gravel because of its crystal, small, lumped-up appearance that looks like grainy pebbles or gravel in an aquarium."
Hall added that there have been recent reports of a designer drug marketed as flakka in Ohio and Houston as well as Florida.
Flakka is one of a number of cathinone-based drugs that are produced in China and sold online to small-time drug gangs in the U.S. And the business is lucrative. Hall says that with small investment of only a few thousand dollars, a dealer can walk away with as much as $75,000.
"The main issue with this whole category is that the user just doesn't know what they're taking or the strength of what they're taking, and literally they are the guinea pigs," he said. "We're referring to these as the guinea pig drugs. Often the dealer might not even know what they're selling."
(C) 2015 CBS Interactive Inc. All Rights Reserved.
VIDEO-DEA Chief Explains Why She Can't Fire Agents Involved in Sex Parties Paid for by Drug Cartels | CNS News
Wed, 15 Apr 2015 21:40
Michele Leonhart, administrator of the DOJ's Drug Enforcement Administration, testified at a Senate appropriations hearing on March 12, 2015. (CNSNews.com/Penny Starr)
(CNSNews.com) - Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) Administrator Michele Leonhart said she is "offended by the behavior" of DEA agents who engaged in prostitution and sex parties while working on the taxpayers' dime.
But Leonhart told the House Oversight Committee on Tuesday there's nothing she can do about it except to write memos stating that "these kinds of behaviors require significant discipline."
If you can't fire the agents or even recommend that they be fired, "What the hell do you get to do?!" an exasperated Rep. Trey Gowdy asked her.
A March 2015 report from the Justice Department's Inspector General reviewed 77 sexual misconduct and sexual harassment cases at DEA, and the agents involved were mostly suspended for a few days, not fired.
"We were particularly troubled by multiple allegations involving several DEA special agents participating in 'sex parties' with prostitutes while working in an overseas office" (Cartagena, Colombia), the report said.
"The misconduct occurred for several years while these special agents held Top Secret clearances. Many of these agents were alleged to have engaged in this high-risk sexual behavior while at their government-leased quarters, raising the possibility that DEA equipment and information also may have been compromised as a result of the agents' conduct."
The report also found that the agents "should have known the prostitutes in attendance were paid for with cartel funds." But 7 of the 10 agents who admitted attending the parties received only suspensions ranging from 2 to 10 days.
The report -- and Leonhart's own testimony on Tuesday -- drew scorn, disbelief and anger from both Republicans and Democrats on the committee.
"Under the civil service laws, I can't intervene in the disciplinary process," Leonhart testified. But she noted that last year, she "took action...to put the agency on notice that activity like that -- and I named it, prostitution; and named four or five other things -- required significant discipline."
"Do you have any idea how absurd that sounds to an ordinary human being?" Rep. Mick Mulvaney (R-S.C.) asked Leonhart. He called Leonhart's legal inability to hold agents accountable "nuts."
Rep. Trey Gowdy (S.C.) called Leonhart's testimony "stunning."
"If an agent stateside were soliciting a prostitute that was provided by a drug conspiracy he was investigating, what punishment would you recommend?" Gowdy asked her.
"I can't recommend a punishment," Leonhart said. "I would just hope that would be thoroughly investigated and, uh--"
"So you're telling me nobody cares what the administrator of the DEA thinks should happen to an agent. You're powerless to express your opinion. You have no First Amendment right when it comes to who works for your agency."
"I have expressed my opinion in a number of ways," Leonhart responded. "Last year I sent email and I sent a memo to every employee in DEA and put them on notice that this conduct was not acceptable."
She explained that "Under the civil service law, I cannot recommend a penalty, I can't intervene in the disciplinary process. I can't even make a recommendation to the deciding officials."
Leonhart explained that the two DEA "deciding officials" -- who are junior to her -- consult a penalty guide to mete out discipline. "And the penalty guide for this kind of activity is anything from reprimand to removal." Leonhart also said she has no say over agents' security clearance.
Gowdy erupted: "Honestly -- what power do you have? You have to work with agents over whom you can't discipline and have no control; and you have no control over the security clearance. What the hell do you get to do?!"
"What I can do is build on and improve mechanisms to make sure that the outcome is what we believe the outcome should be," Leonhart responded. "And that is what happened in Cartagena (sex parties over multiple years), and that is what is going to happen moving forward."
Gowdy then asked the Justice Department Inspector-General Michael Horowitz if the DEA agents knew that the drug cartels were providing the prostitutes.
"What we found, Congressman, from looking in the file is that they should have known," Horowitz said. He added that the agents were supposed to be investigating the cartels.
"So they were receiving prostitutes from cartels that they were supposed to be investigating. And she can't fire those agents?" Gowdy asked.
"I think as a matter of Title 5, she can't directly intervene in firing them. I do think one of the concerns we outlined in the report...is how they adjudicate these cases.
"They under-charge them in some instances. And so at DEA, for example, sexual harassment -- if you're charged with that, there's only one punishment -- removal. But if you're charged with conduct unbecoming or poor judgement...then you've got a range of penalties. And so one of the issues...is how you charge the case."
Leonhart told Gowdy she doesn't know if any of the prostitutes involved were underage or part of a human trafficking ring.
"Mr. Chairman," Gowdy concluded, "I would just find it impossible to explain to any reasonable-minded person how an agent cannot be disciplined for soliciting prostitutes from drug cartels that they were ostensibly investigating. I find that stunning."
"If somebody murdered somebody, could you fire him?" Chairman Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) cut in.
"If someone murdered someone, there would be criminal charges, and that's how they'd be fired," Leonhart responded.
Rep. Mulvaney also followed up, noting that if he were to flirt with a coworker in the office, and that behavior was found to constitute sexual harassment, he could be fired under civil service rules. "But I can take an underage hooker from a cartel I'm investigating, and you can't fire me. Is that what we're talking about here?" Mulvaney asked Horowitz.
"Actually, Congressman, if you charge the offense (sexual harassment), removal is a possibility. If you charge something less... you don't charge what actually occurred, that's when the ability to discipline is limited. And that's the concern we found, as you know, in our report."
After the hearing, Chaffetz told the Associated Press it's time for Leonhart to step down or be fired. "I don't have confidence in her, nor does the majority of the committee."
VIDEO-Top law officials' personal information posted online; right-wing group blamed - CBS News
Wed, 15 Apr 2015 21:38
Last Updated Apr 15, 2015 1:25 PM EDT
Federal law enforcement officials are investigating the online publication of home addresses of senior officials and former officials of the Department of Homeland Security, the Federal Bureau of Investigation and other agencies, CBS News has learned.
Investigators became aware of the incident Tuesday, reports CBS News correspondent Jeff Pegues.
Last month, the names and personal information of 100 U.S. military personnel were leaked online by a group claiming allegiance to the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS).
In this case, however, sources tell CBS News that investigators believe an apparent right-wing extremist group is behind the posting of the information.
In a statement, DHS said: "The safety of our workforce is always a primary concern. DHS has notified employees who were identified in the posting and encouraged them to be vigilant. DHS will adjust security measures, as appropriate, to protect our employees."
An FBI official told CBS News investigative producer Pat Milton that the agency was aware of the posting and was attempting to locate the source.
A message along with the posting titled "DHS-CIA-FBI TRAITORS HOME ADDRESSES" states:
"LET THESE EVIL NWO SATANISTS KNOW THAT THERE WILL BE HELL TO PAY FOR THEIR 911 TREASON, AND THEIR FUTURE FEMA CAMP PLANNED PUBLIC CRACKDOWN TREASON ALSO
JESUS IS LORD, AND THE PUBLIC IS IN CHARGE, NOT THESE SATANIC NWO STOOGES"
Investigators are trying to track down the source or sources of the disclosure.
PlayVideo
CBS Evening NewsPentagon reacts to ISIS "hit list" of U.S. military personnelThe Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) published a list of U.S. military personnel to be targeted by its members and sympathizers. The majori...
The Pentagon was forced last month to notify about 100 service members who appeared on an ISIS "hit list," and bases where they are stationed contacted local law enforcement agencies in an effort to increase police patrols in the neighborhoods where they live, reported CBS News national security correspondent David Martin.
ISIS had urged its followers and sympathizers in the U.S. to kill American service members on the list. They were identified with names, photos and addresses.
Pentagon officials said the list appeared to be drawn from public sources -- everything from newspaper interviews to Facebook pages that connected them, sometimes incorrectly, with the war against ISIS.
So far there have been no reports of any members of that list being attacked.
(C) 2015 CBS Interactive Inc. All Rights Reserved.
VIDEO-Dennis Quaid's On-Set Freak Out: The Full Video from laur...
Wed, 15 Apr 2015 21:34
> Dennis Quaid melting down on a set. It leaked, and Kit it is epic.(Male Voice): The video is now spreading around the world, and generating headlines.Dennis Quaid: What the fuck are you doing? I can't even get a line outuntil dopey the dick starts whispering in your ear.(Male Voice): Just absolutely obliterating everyone that's on set.
> (Dennis): This is horseshit. Look at these fucking zombies are a bunch of pussiesstaring at me, and this fucking baby.(Male Voice): Did he just join the Christian Bale club?
> I think that was...(Male Voice): Many are specualting that it could be a Jimmy Kimmel prank.(Male Voice): This seems like the perfect Jimmy Kimmel setup.
> Kimmel, Kimmel, come out-come out wherever you are.
> Anyway, I watched it a bunch of times last night, and when I woke up this morningI was being blamed for it. You play 50 pranks and all of a sudden people don'ttrust you anymore.(Male Voice): Scene 16 take one.(Director): And action.
> I am telling him absolutely everything I know.I am risking my life here, my children's lives.Kirk Zipfel: Hold it, hold it,just remember this is your breaking point. So let's go again.
> Alright.I swear, I am telling him absolutely everything I know.I am risking my life here. My children's...
> Wait, wait, wait...
> What Jack?
> I don't want to give you line reading, but I feel like less emphasison the my. The line would be like, "I'm risking the lives of my children.", like that.Let's go again. Looks good, looks good.
> I'm going to tell them everything I know, absolutely everything.I'm going to tell them everything that I know, absolutely everything.I am risking my life. I am risking...What the fuck?
> S-Sorry Dennis, lets keep going.
> What the fuck? Keep going? I am acting here,and this dickhead wonders onto my set.I can't even get a line out, and dopey the dick here is whispering in your ear,and you're not even watching anymore.
> Dennis.
> Don't you fucking Dennis me.I am doing my job here. I am a pro. This is the most unprofessional set I have everbeen on. This is horse shit.I've got these zombies over here that I have to look at. I have a bunch pussiesstaring at me, and this fucking baby.Pam Murphy: Fuck you Quaid.
> This is garbage.
> Dennis, Dennis wait. We can talk it out.
> Follow me.Sorry, I get grumpy when my hair gets flat.
> Yeah, I know Dennis.
> That's a really crazy set.
> Yeah, you ever shot a Funny or Die video before?
> No. Thanks for letting me calm down.
> Of course.Bob Turton: I need some powder.
> Hey dickhead, get the fuck out!
VIDEO-GAO: Aircraft could be vulnerable to hacking - CNN.com
Wed, 15 Apr 2015 07:07
One of the authors of the report, Gerald Dillingham, told CNN the planes include the Boeing 787 Dreamliner, the Airbus A350 and A380 aircraft, and all have advanced cockpits that are wired into the same Wi-Fi system used by passengers.
"Modern communications technologies, including IP connectivity, are increasingly used in aircraft systems, creating the possibility that unauthorized individuals might access and compromise aircraft avionics systems," according to the report, which is based on interviews with cybersecurity and aviation experts.
The government investigators who wrote the report say it is theoretically possible for someone with just a laptop to:
-- Commandeer the aircraft
-- Put a virus into flight control computers
-- Jeopardize the safety of the flight by taking control of computers
-- Take over the warning systems or even navigation systems
Dillingham says although modern aircraft could be vulnerable, there are a number of redundancy mechanisms built into the plane systems that could allow a pilot to correct a problem.'‹
The report explains that as the air traffic control system is upgraded to use Internet-based technology on both the ground and in planes, avionics could be compromised. Older planes systems aren't highly Internet-based, so the risk for aircraft 20 years and older is less.'‹
The GAO report does not draw a roadmap on how this could be done, but it does say someone would have to bypass the firewall that separates the Wi-Fi from the rest of the plane's electronics. GAO Investigators say they spoke with four cybersecurity experts about the firewall vulnerabilities, "and all four said that because firewalls are software components, they could be hacked like any other software and circumvented."
Commercial pilot John Barton told CNN, "We've had hackers get into the Pentagon, so getting into an airplane computer system I would think is probably quite easy at this point."
The report continues, "According to cybersecurity experts we interviewed, Internet connectivity in the cabin should be considered a direct link between the aircraft and the outside world, which includes potential malicious actors."
"A virus or malware planted in websites visited by passengers could provide an opportunity for a malicious attacker to access the IP-connected onboard information system through their infected machines," according to the report.
It says another way a hacker could get access to a plane's computers is through a physical connection and notes that whenever there is a physical linkage, such as a USB plug in a passenger seat, if those wires are linked in any way to the airplane's avionics, that linkage creates a vulnerability.
Experts told investigators, "If the cabin systems connect to the cockpit avionics systems and use the same networking platform, in this case IP, a user could subvert the firewall and access the cockpit avionics system from the cabin."
Members of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, along with senators on the Commerce Committee, requested the report. Rep. Peter DeFazio, D-Oregon, who is the ranking member of the House committee, tells CNN, "This report exposed a real and serious threat -- cyberattacks on an aircraft in flight."
He says that the Federal Aviation Administration "must focus on aircraft certification standards that would prevent a terrorist with a laptop in the cabin or on the ground from taking control of an airplane through the passenger Wi-Fi system. That's a serious vulnerability."
The report concludes that the FAA needs to work on certification of aircraft avionics that will account for these vulnerabilities and remove them as possible threats to commercial aviation.
A source briefed on the report tells CNN that cybersecurity experts say these vulnerabilities exist and these scenarios are possible. But it is unclear how far the GAO went to test any of these possible scenarios. In the report, the GAO does not say whether this is based on actual testing or just theoretical mockups.
Pilot Barton notes, "This is going to take a long time, vetted by the best experts in the world and safety people to make this technology secure and safe."
In a letter to the GAO, Keith Washington, acting assistant secretary for administration with the FAA, said the agency "recognizes that cyberbased threats to federal information systems are becoming a more significant risk and are rapidly evolving and increasingly difficult to detect and defend against. We take this risk very seriously."
Washington went on to say "It is also important to note that the FAA had already initiated a comprehensive program to improve the cybersecurity defenses of the NAS (National Airspace System) infrastructure, as well as other FAA mission-critical systems. We are significantly increasing our collaboration and coordination with cyber intelligence and security organizations across the federal government and in the private sector."
"The Dreamliner and the A350 were actually designed to have the technology in it going forward to be able to have remote control intervention between the pilot and the ground or if an emergency were to happen in the air," Barton said. But he quickly added, "It's going to take a long time before we get to the point where that technology is safe and secure."
Boeing said it is committed to designing secure aircraft.
"Boeing airplanes have more than one navigational system available to pilots," the company said in a statement. "No changes to the flight plans loaded into the airplane systems can take place without pilot review and approval. In addition, other systems, multiple security measures, and flight deck operating procedures help ensure safe and secure airplane operations."
Airbus released a statement, which read: "Airbus, in partnership with our suppliers, constantly assesses and revisits the system architecture of our products, with an eye to establishing and maintaining the highest standards of safety and security. Beyond that, we don't discuss design details or safeguards publicly, as such discussion might be counterproductive to security."
VIDEO: FPI Board Member William Kristol Discusses U.S. Foreign Policy with Charles Krauthammer
Tue, 14 Apr 2015 04:54
The Foreign Policy Initiative seeks to promote an active U.S. foreign policy committed to robust support for democratic allies, human rights, a strong American military equipped to meet the challenges of the 21st century, and strengthening America's global economic competitiveness.Read More
VIDEO-Are These The "Everyday Americans" Hillary Clinton Is Running For? | Zero Hedge
Mon, 13 Apr 2015 23:07
Moments ago, Tracy Sefl of the Ready for Hillary SuperPAC appeared on the Apple infomercial channel and said something confusing: "Hillary is certainly making it clear that she is running as a chamption for everyday Americans. People who are looking how to get by, get ahead, stay ahead."
Cvonfusing, because Tracy sadly had some significant problems defining who these "everyday Americans" are...
... luckly one glance at Hillary Clinton's largest career donors eliminates the confusion and reveals just who these "everyday Americans" really are.
... Or perhaps she meant everyday "Americans"?
v
Source: OpenSecrets
Average:Your rating: NoneAverage: 4(8 votes)
VIDEO-Female Nipples causing an Internet Storm. {Nudity} | elephant journal
Mon, 13 Apr 2015 07:00
Photo: Jared Polin from Fro Knows Photo
In an attempt to drive social change and gender equality, nipples are being revealed.This is creating awareness regarding the female nipple'--it is highly regarded as inappropriate to expose, whereby, it is perfectly acceptable for male nipples to be on public show.
Basically, if men are allowed to show their nipples, then women should also be allowed to!
''It is illegal for women to go topless in most cities, yet you can buy a magazine of a woman without her top on at any 7-11 store. So, you can sell breasts, but you cannot wear breast, in America.'' ~ Violet RoseA 90-minute empowering movie called Free the Nipple (2014) that began the revolution was co-written and directed by Lino Esco. The documentary is based on true events and its aim is to decriminalize the naked body by protesting against the censorship laws in the U.S.A.
Including an army of passionate women, First Amendment lawyers, graffiti installations and publicity stunts, it shows an invasion of New York City to protest hypocritical laws and to promote gender equality, legally and culturally in the U.S.
The main question, raised time and time again, is why are we more offended and outraged by females nipples, than we are by male nipples?
Other than breast tissue, there are no differences.
The campaign is to desexualize the nipple and gain equality and freedom for the female's chest to be viewed without sexual judgement, in the same way as men's are.
Many celebrities have joined the cause, advocating support for baring nipples, including Madonna, Miley Cyrus, Scout Willis and Cara Develingne.
''I might be an MP, but that doesn't stop me fighting sexism with my breasts.'' the MP in Iceland, Bj¶rt 'lafsd"ttir.
While this topic has been in the media for some months, the #freethenipple hashtag has gone viral and is currently trending again after Adda ž"reyjard"ttir Smrad"ttir, a 17 year old student and chair of the Feminist society at the Commercial College of Iceland, declared Thursday 26th March ''Free The Nipple Day'' at school.
After one of Adda's male friends advised her that she would be letting herself in for trouble, she decided to post a topless selfie of herself onto Facebook to prove him wrong. After she was attacked online by a troll, she decided to delete the image, however, she explains on her Facebook account, ''It was difficult and I had to delete the picture for a few minutes, but it was enough to start a revolution.'' All over Iceland and beyond Feminist student societies and females showed their support for the campaign, with them too posting images of their nipples all over social media.
Adda also wrote on her Facebook page, ''Society as a whole considers breast taboo'... Men being topless is a natural thing in society. Men pull up their shirt when celebrating their favorite footballer and it is not a rare sight. But how would society react if I did the same?''
In 1975 on October 24th, 90% of women in Iceland went on strike, refusing to do any type of work in their homes or at their jobs.
This was Iceland's largest demonstration in their nation's history and it shut down the entire country with hospitals unable to function and schools and airports closing. The following year Iceland's Parliament (which is now made up of half women and half men) passed a law which guaranteed women and men would receive equal pay and women would receive maternity leave.
Four years later Iceland elected their first female president and today Iceland has the highest rates of gender equality in the world, showing that making a stand does make a difference to the world in which we live, even if the changes take some time.
Scout Willis, daughter of Demi Moore and Bruce Willis also raised further awareness for the campaign by walking topless around New York. She explains in a post to xoJane that she got removed from Instagram, being told she was no longer welcome in their community, after posting a sweatshirt that featured a picture of two women with bare chests.
Following this, Scout chose to make a stand saying,
''Women are regularly kicked off Instagram for posting photos with any portion of the areola exposed, while photos sans nipple'--degrading as they might be''remain unchallenged'... So I walked around New York topless and documented it on Twitter, pointing out that what is legal by New York State law is not allowed on Instagram.''
Scout released a statement saying:
''I didn't choose my public life, but it did give me a platform to help make body politics newsworthy. Matters like the taboo of the nipple in the 21st century, public breastfeeding, slut shaming, fat shaming, breast cancer awareness, body positivity, gender inequality, and censorship have found their way into mainstream discussion.
But unfortunately the emphasis in the press has been on sensationalizing my breasts, chiefly in terms of my family. There are also some people who would criticize my choice to relate nipples with equality at all. To me, nipples seem to be at the very heart of the issue. In the 1930s, men's nipples were just as provocative, shameful, and taboo as women's are now, and men were protesting in much the same way. In 1930, four men went topless to Coney Island and were arrested. In 1935, a flash mob of topless men descended upon Atlantic City, 42 of whom were arrested. Men fought and they were heard, changing not only laws but social consciousness. And by 1936, men's bare chests were accepted as the norm.
So why is it that 80 years later women can't seem to achieve the same for their chests? Why can't a mother proudly breastfeed her child in public without feeling sexualized? Why is a 17-year-old girl being asked to leave her own prom because a group of fathers find her too provocative? Why should I feel overly exposed because I choose not to wear a bra? Why would it be okay with Instagram and Facebook to allow photos of a cancer survivor who has had a double mastectomy and is without areolas but ''photos with fully exposed breasts, particularly if they're unaffected by surgery, don't follow Instagram's Community Guidelines.''
Until this weekend women were afraid to post photos of their mastectomy tattoos'--realistic or creative'--for fear that Instagram would delete their accounts.
''I am not trying to argue for mandatory toplessness, or even bralessness. What I am arguing for is a woman's right to choose how she represents her body '-- and to make that choice based on personal desire and not a fear of how people will react to her or how society will judge her. No woman should be made to feel ashamed of her body.'' ~ Scout Willis
~
Although Instagram still has a nudity policy prohibiting nipples from being shown, Facebook have dropped their stance on nipples and now allow images of women breastfeeding to be shown on their site.
~
Relephant:
Speaking of making friends with oneself: the Buddhist perspective via Dr. Reggie Ray:
~
~
Author: Alex Sandra Myles
Editor: Ashleigh Hitchcock
Images: twitter, wtf is free the nipple, Stephen Weppler on flickr, Bj¶rt 'lafsd"ttir with permission, mic, Moxi on Twitter, Chris Alban Hansen on flickr, Lauren M. Doyle on Twitter
~
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About Alex Sandra MylesAlex Sandra Myles is qualified as a Yoga teacher, Reiki Master, Teacher of Tibetan Meditation, Dragon Magic and a Spiritual coach to name just a few. Alex has no intention to teach others on a formal basis for many years to come, instead, she is collecting qualifications along with life's lessons. One day, when the time is right, Alex will set up a quaint studio, in a quirky crooked building where she will breathe and appreciate the slowness of those days as life is just way too busy right now! Reading and writing has always been one of Alex's passions. Alex likes to consider herself as a free spirit rather than a commitment-phobe. Trying to live as aligned to a Buddhist lifestyle as is possible in this day and age, she just does not believe in 'owning' anything or anyone. Based on the theory that we 'cannot lose someone that was not ours to lose' she flails through life finding joy and magic in the most unexpected places. Mother to a 21 year old daughter and three adorable pups, she appreciates that some of the best moments in life are the 6am forest walks watching the dogs run, play and interact with one another and with nature. Connect with her on Facebook and check out her blog, Love and Madness.
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VIDEO-North Korean cyberattack on Sony reported on by 60 Minutes' Steve Kroft - CBS News
Mon, 13 Apr 2015 04:33
North Korea's cyberattack on Sony Pictures exposed a new reality: you don't have to be a superpower to inflict damage on U.S. corporations
The following script is from "The Attack on Sony" which aired on April 12, 2015. Steve Kroft is the correspondent. Graham Messick, producer.
If most people remember anything about the North Korean government's cyberattack against Sony Pictures last November, it's probably that there was a lot of juicy gossip in leaked emails about movie stars, agents, and studio executives. There was also an absurd quality to the whole episode, which was over an ill-advised movie comedy about the assassination of North Korea's leader, which the North Koreans did not find funny. The weirdness of it all has obscured a much more significant point: that an impoverished foreign country had launched a devastating attack against a major company on U.S. soil and that not much can be done about it. In some ways it's another milestone in the cyberwars which are just beginning to heat up, not cool down.
PlayVideo
60 Minutes OvertimeBuzzFeed reporter who got emails from Sony hackersWhen North Korea hacked Sony, BuzzFeed reporter Matt Zeitlin received the stolen -- and embarrassing -- data. Zeitlin talks to 60 Minutes.
The cyberattack on Sony Pictures entertainment exposed a new reality -- that you don't have to be a superpower to inflict damage on U.S. corporations; a fact that has been duly noted within corporate board rooms and the national security apparatus.
Steve Kroft: What's the significance of the Sony hack in a nutshell?
James Lewis: The significance is that a foreign power has reached out and touched an American target. The fact that the North Korean government felt that it could do something in the United States and get away with it, that's what's significant.
James Lewis, a director at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, has helped shape U.S. cyber policy for decades...dealing with criminals stealing money, Russians stealing intelligence, and the Chinese stealing the latest technology.
"The fact that the North Korean government felt that it could do something in the United States and get away with it, that's what's significant."James Lewis: This was different, because it qualified as the use of force. It qualified as an attack. There was disruption. There was destruction of data. There was an intent to hurt the company.
And it succeeded, bringing a major U.S. entertainment company to its knees. Like other corporate victims of cyberattacks -- Sony has released very little information and declined our requests for interviews. We were allowed to film on Sony's 44-acre studio lot and inside this building where technicians were still repairing damaged computers.
PlayVideo
60 Minutes OvertimeWhy the Sony hack is importantPerspective from Steve Kroft on North Korea's cyberattack on Sony Pictures after 15 years of reporting on cyberwarfare.
We do know that when people fired up their computers on the morning of November 24th they were greeted with this skeletal image now referred to as the "Screen of Death." It announced an undetected cyberattack that actually began weeks earlier when a malicious piece of software began stealing vast amounts of data from the Sony computer network. Now, it had begun the job of wiping Sony's corporate files.
Kevin Mandia: It was the attacker saying I'm gonna delete what you've made. I'm gonna destroy your stuff.
Kevin Mandia is one of the best known cybersleuths in the U.S. and his company, FireEye, was hired by Sony to respond immediately to the crisis. But there was only so much they could do.
Kevin Mandia
CBS News
Kevin Mandia: For lack of a better analogy, the wiping's the grand finale. That's the infamous, "We ran into the house, we took what we wanted, and then we left the detonation charge behind us." And then that detonation charge goes off, you're not going back to the house anymore.Steve Kroft: And that's what happened?
Kevin Mandia: That's what happened.
More than 3,000 computers and 800 servers were destroyed by the attackers after they had made off with mountains of business secrets, several unreleased movies, unfinished scripts, and the personal records of 6,000 employees, all of whom were given a taste of living offline.
Sony made the decision to take itself off the grid. All connections to the Internet, all connections to the rest of Sony, and all connections to third parties were shut off, effectively disconnecting an international corporation from the outside world, and plunging itself into a pre-digital age of landline telephones and hand-delivered messages written with pen and paper.
Kevin Mandia: Immediately employees start to remember the things they took for granted. Does the gate let you in the garage? You can't get your e-mail. People's benefits can't be processed appropriately, time cards can't be done. What if payroll's the next day? There are so many things that depend on the Internet that quite frankly most companies don't even know all of them. So they come off the Internet and go, "Oh wow, didn't see that comin'."
To Kevin Mandia, it looked like a military-style operation mounted by a foreign government. And when his company began comparing the Sony computer virus with the 500-million pieces of malware in its archives, it quickly came up with a nearly identical match -- right down to the skull on the calling card. It was a cyberattack two years ago against South Korea's banks and broadcast networks called "Dark Seoul" that wiped out 40,000 computers and caused $700 million in damage.
Kevin Mandia: We had the malware from the attacks that happened in South Korea in 2013. And these things, when put side-by-side, this looks like whoever hacked South Korea in 2013 is hacking Sony. And the attribution in those attacks in 2013 was to North Korea.
Mandia's suspicions about North Korea -- which has a well-established cybercapability and a long history of attacking its neighbor - were soon confirmed by the NSA, the FBI and the White House. And the attackers themselves hinted at it when they contacted Matt Zeitlin of BuzzFeed.com, and at least a half-a-dozen other online reporters, offering them everything they had stolen from Sony.
Steve Kroft: So this is the first email you got?
Matt Zeitlin: Yep. The weekend after Thanksgiving. You know, it says that it has all this data from Sony. And have all these links, so that we could download the information.
What followed from Zeitlin and others was two weeks of damaging, embarrassing stories from the corporate files and private emails of Sony executives, as well as threats and a specific demand from the attackers that Sony not release its comedy about the assassination of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un.
[Actor portraying Kim Jong-un: They hate us because they ain't us!]
Steve Kroft: "Soon all the world will see what an awful movie Sony Pictures Entertainment has made."
Matt Zeitlin: That part may have been true. [laughs]
Kevin Mandia: Sony, scares CEOs. Right? I mean that's the difference. Every CEO is walking around going "How do I feel if my emails out on the Internet? How would I feel if my machines got disrupted?" So all of a sudden every chief information security officer is now talking to their board because every board wants to know, "Hey, is this the new normal?"
And it may well be. Mandia says even big corporations with sophisticated IT departments are no match for the dozens of countries that now have offensive cyberwar capabilities.
Kevin Mandia: All advantage goes to the offense in cyber. It just does. On the defensive side, you have to say I must defend all 100,000 machines, all 50,000 employees. The offense side thinks, "I only need to break into one and I'm on the inside."
Steve Kroft: And any company or any corporation is as strong as its weakest link.
Kevin Mandia: In a way, yes, in security.The nation state threat actors, or hackers, target human weakness, not system weakness.
And there's no shortage of weaknesses. Most company employees are allowed to browse online or visit Facebook on corporate computers and many take them home for personal use. All it takes to contaminate a network is for one person to unwittingly access an infected file that looks realistic...like an Adobe Flash Player update or an email that pretends to be from Apple Support.
Steve Kroft: And then what happens when they click on them?
Kevin Mandia: They compromise their machine. And now that machine, being on the inside of a corporate network, can be used as a beachhead to increase access.
And that's what happened at Sony. Eventually, the North Koreans were able to obtain the passwords and credentials of the company's computer system administrators and build them right into the malware that carried out the attack.
Steve Kroft: With help from anybody?
Kevin Mandia: You know, anything's possible. I simply don't know--
Steve Kroft: How sophisticated was the malware that they used? Was this brand new stuff?
Kevin Mandia: It was sophisticated enough that it works on the vast majority of companies. You know, the FBI's quoted as saying this would work at over 90 percent of the companies that they deal with.
Jon Miller: We're going to see more and more companies hacked. We're going to see deeper levels of destruction.
Steve Kroft: So you're saying we're at the beginning?
Jon Miller: Yeah, it's going to get worse before it gets better.
Jon Miller
CBS News
If you want to talk about state-of-the-art hacking or what's going on in the international cyber arms market, Jon Miller's a good place to start. He turned down a job with the NSA and a government car while he was still in high school, because he says he was already making more money doing private consulting work and honing his skills as a penetration tester.Steve Kroft: So you're a hacker?
Jon Miller: I was. Now I'm, you know, a computer security professional. But yeah, I mean, for the majority of my career I was an ethical hacker, where I would actually go out and hack companies and then work with them to make sure they didn't get hacked by somebody else.
Since Miller says he's been well-paid to hack into nuclear power plants by utility companies, we wanted to know what he thought about the Sony attack and the malware the North Koreans used to pull it off.
Steve Kroft: If I set you down and gave you a pencil and paper and said, "Write a list of a dozen people that could do this."
Jon Miller: Oh yeah, I mean, there are way more than a dozen people. There are probably three, four, five thousand people that could do that attack today.
Steve Kroft: And not all of them are in friendly countries.
Jon Miller: No, not all of 'em are in friendly countries. And the number is growing rapidly.
Steve Kroft: I mean, it's certainly within the realm of possibility that a terrorist group could go out and put together a team and do some real damage.
Jon Miller: I mean, ISIS hacked CENTCOM's Twitter. The barrier to entry is low.
Miller's previous job was leading a research team for a company that made and sold offensive cyberweapons to the U.S. government. He is currently a vice president of Cylance, a company that makes next generation anti-virus software for banks and Fortune 500 companies. It is currently marketing a product it claims would have detected and stopped the Sony hack while it was in progress.
Steve Kroft: How sophisticated was this attack?
Jon Miller: Not very. When you look at it in contrast to the capabilities that the United States government are deploying, it is nowhere close to being sophisticated.
My favorite analogy is the malware that was used to hack Sony is like a moped, and the malware being deployed by United States intelligence agencies is like an F-22 fighter jet. It's much more sophisticated, it's much harder to detect.
Steve Kroft: And yet still, if this is a moped, there were only a handful of companies in the United States that would have been able to survive this attack.
Jon Miller: And that really is the scary part-- is, it does not take an overly sophisticated attack to compromise these huge global multinational brands.
Miller says there have been other major cyberattacks like the one against Sony but they didn't get as much attention. In 2012, Iran was blamed for an attack against the headquarters of Saudi Arabia's national oil company, Aramco, that destroyed 30,000 computers. Iran has also been accused of a cyberassault against a group of casinos owned by Sheldon Adleson, a vocal enemy of regime in Tehran. And there have been others.
Jon Miller: I've worked with companies before in the oil and gas space that have had control system networks get compromised by malware, and they've lost control of their floating oil platforms.
Steve Kroft: I don't remember reading about that.
Jon Miller: Yeah, yeah. No, you didn't read about it. There was no need to disclose, no customer information got leaked.
Steve Kroft: So these things happen more often than the public knows?
Jon Miller: Absolutely.
There is a lot the public doesn't know about, including an active, international underground market in cyberweapons like the one that was used to take down's Sony's computers. Miller took us to a site on "dark web" where you can buy them.
Jon Miller: This is actually a list of black market exploits that I was contacted from a Russian hacker that he was trying to sell. And his price.
Steve Kroft: What does this one do? Flash player?
Jon Miller: This is a vulnerability in that software that would allow someone to take over control of your computer.
Steve Kroft: $29,000, $39,000.
Jon Miller: Yeah, majority of them are over 30.
That's $30,000 payable in Bitcoin, the virtual currency of choice on the dark web.
Jon Miller: Tor the most part, the Internet is completely unregulated. It's the Wild West, it truly, truly is the Wild West right now. What we're seeing are people getting pulled out onto the street and shot, and it's like, "Where's the sheriff?" There's no sheriff.
James Lewis: When I started doing this stuff, about 20 years ago, there were things that were top secret. You know, only NSA and FBI knew about. And you weren't allowed to even talk about them in public. You can download them now for free, right?
James Lewis of the Center for Strategic and International Studies knows better than most that there are no easy solutions. He says the U.S. can deter catastrophic cyberattacks from China and Russia by responding in kind. But how do you respond to a rogue state like North Korea for an attack against major corporations like Sony?
James Lewis: Turning off the lights in North Korea, no one would notice. It happens all the time, right? Going after a North Korean movie studio, it would probably be a relief for the people there. The only pressure point we really have is going after the leadership, going after the revenue streams coming to the leadership.
And that's what the Obama administration has done...at least publicly. Lewis and others believe that it will take a technological breakthrough in cyberwar defense to solve a problem technology created, but that could take years. Legislation forcing companies to improve cybersecurity has gone nowhere.
James Lewis: Well, there's a reluctance in the Congress to force companies to do anything. The administration shares that reluctance. We were lucky until this year. Hopefully we'll be a little luckier for a bit longer.
Steve Kroft: In the time being, keep your fingers crossed.
James Lewis: I used to say that the U.S. had a faith-based defense when it came to cybersecurity. Because we had faith that the people who didn't like us weren't gonna do anything bad. That's what Sony has changed. Is that we had somebody who doesn't like us step out and say, "How far can I go with the Americans?" And that's where faith isn't enough.
(C) 2015 CBS Interactive Inc. All Rights Reserved.
VIDEO-A Redneck Explains Racism- And He Will Bring You to Tears -
Mon, 13 Apr 2015 00:32
It is spoken from the heart with passion and guts. This self described redneck will change how you view racism and the good people who are fighting it.
His voice is compelling. His explanation is spot on. Listen and see. Its a call to action that can not be ignored.
Follow @megaSAHD
Read more by Mark Greene:Why Do We Murder the Beautiful Friendships of Boys?
How America's Culture of Shame is a Killer for Boys
The Culture of Shame: Men, Love, and Emotional Self-Amputation
The Man Box: Why Men Police and Punish Others
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