Posted by Charles II on October 3, 2015
James Bamford, The Intercept (excerpts, not necessarily in order):
According to previously undisclosed documents from the Snowden archive, NSA has a long history of tapping into Olympic Games, both overseas and within the U.S.
The key to the operation was hijacking a particular piece of software, the “lawful intercept” program. Installed in most modern telecom systems, it gave a telecom company the technical capability to respond to a legal warrant from the local government to monitor a suspect’s communications. Vodafone’s central switching equipment was made by Ericsson, the large Swedish company, and on January 31, 2002, Ericsson delivered to Vodafone an upgrade containing the lawful intercept program, a piece of software known as the Remote Control Equipment Subsystem (RES).
On March 4, after weeks of investigation, Ericsson notified Vodafone that it had discovered a sophisticated piece of malware, containing a hefty 6,500 lines of code — evidence of a large bugging operation. The company also turned up the target phone numbers of the prime minister and his wife, the mayor of Athens, members of the Ministerial Cabinet, and scores of high officials, as well as the numbers for the shadow phones and the metadata describing when the calls were made.
In his testimony, Ericsson’s managing director for Greece, Bill Zikou, laid out the “how,” describing the method by which the bugging was accomplished. “What happened in this incident,” he said, “is that a complex, sophisticated, non-Ericsson intruder piece of software was planted into the Vodafone Greece network,” which by activating the RES function “thus made illegal interceptions possible.”
Sitting in his apartment overlooking Athens’ Plaka, John Brady Kiesling could make little sense of it all. “I don’t see a shred of evidence that this wiretapping did the U.S. government any good,” he said. “I think it’s just important to underscore that intelligence gathering is never free. It always comes at a human and political cost to someone. In this case it was paid by an innocent Vodafone technician [Costas Tsalikidis, who apparently uncovered the mass wiretap].”
Posted in crimes, international, NSA eavesdropping | Leave a Comment »
Posted by Charles II on September 26, 2015
Hat tip to Thurb at Eschaton. Rupert Neate, The Guardian:
John German has barely had time to catch his breath all week between appearances on TV news channel and radio phone-in shows. He’s … a grey-haired automotive engineer…
German earns a modest salary as US co-lead of the International Council on Clean Transportation (ICCT) a small nonprofit organisation dedicated to helping to reduce vehicle emissions and has an annual budget of just $12m.
German explained that the idea to carry out the test, which he described as “very ordinary”, came from Peter Mock, a colleague in Europe, who noticed discrepancies in the emissions of the diesel VW Passat and VW Jetta.
Then German sourced a Passat, Jetta and a BMW X5 (which also showed emissions discrepancies in Europe) and “had a drive around”. “The VWs were massively exceeding their official emissions readings in normal driving conditions…”
Arvind Thiruvengadam, a research assistant professor at WVU, who conducted the tests said: “We were doubting ourselves and our procedures and making sure to double check that we were not doing anything wrong.
German published the research in May 2014 and handed it over to the Environment Protection Agency (EPA). …“We did send a courtesy copy to VW…”
There was no response from the EPA either, but keen-eyed German noticed an EPA press release in which VW agreed to recall almost 500,000 vehicles in December 2014 to reinstall software, which it said would solve the higher-than-expected emissions.
German said it was unclear how the defeat device software worked, but the software could work by detecting periods when the steering column wasn’t turning but the wheels were which would indicate the car was on dynamo-meters for testing, or could also test for the precise uniform temperature that the tests are carried out at.
Posted in corruption, crimes, environment | Leave a Comment »
Posted by Charles II on September 19, 2015
This was a story I ran across yesterday and hope is getting traction.
Rupert Neate, The Guardian:
The US government has ordered Volkswagen to recall almost 500,000 cars after discovering that the company deployed sophisticated software to cheat emission tests allowing its cars to produce up to 40 times more pollution than allowed.
The Environment Protection Agency (EPA) on Friday accused VW of installing illegal “defeat device” software that dramatically reduces nitrogen oxide (NOx) emissions – but only when the cars are undergoing strict emission tests.
“Put simply, these cars contained software that turns off emissions controls when driving normally and turns them on when the car is undergoing an emissions test,” Cynthia Giles, an EPA enforcement officer said. “We intend to hold Volkswagen responsible.
The EPA and Carb discovered the “defeat device” software following independent analysis by researchers at West Virginia University, who were promoted into action by the International Council on Clean Technology, an NGO.
It does take a special kind of depravity to pull off this sort of crime. We could fix our engine so it works well even with emissions controls, or we come up with a trick to let is pollute. And they choose the stupid solution.
And what a statement about our government, that it didn’t detect the fraud.
Capitalism as cancer… in this case, quite literally.
Posted in abuse of power, capitalism as cancer, crimes | Leave a Comment »
Posted by Charles II on August 28, 2015
Lisa O’Carroll, The Guardian:
The Crown Prosecution Service is considering bringing corporate charges against Rupert Murdoch’s British newspaper publisher over phone hacking, it has emerged.
The Metropolitan police handed over a file of evidence on News International – now renamed News UK – to the CPS for consideration after an investigation stretching back to 2011, when the News of the World was closed at the height of the scandal.
“We have received a full file of evidence for consideration of corporate liability charges relating to the Operation Weeting phone-hacking investigation,” a spokeswoman confirmed.
Posted in crimes, Fox Noise, media, Rupert Murdoch | 1 Comment »
Posted by Charles II on June 30, 2015
Tom Moran, Star-Ledger editorial board:
Most Americans don’t know Chris Christie like I do, so it’s only natural to wonder what testimony I might offer after covering his every move for the last 14 years.
My testimony amounts to a warning: Don’t believe a word the man says.
If you have the stomach for it, this column offers some greatest hits in Christie’s catalog of lies.
Don’t misunderstand me. They all lie, and I get that. But Christie does it with such audacity, and such frequency, that he stands out.
[Christie] told [public workers] their pensions were “sacred” to him.
“The notion that I would eliminate, change, or alter your pension is not only a lie, but cannot be further from the truth,” he wrote them. “Your pension and benefits will be protected when I am elected governor.”
He then proceeded to make cutting those benefits the centerpiece of his first year in office.
• In May, Christie told Megyn Kelly of Fox News that the Bridgegate scandal was basically over:
“The U.S. Attorney said in his press conference a few weeks ago there will be no further charges in the bridge matter. He said it affirmatively three or four times.”
Not even close. U.S. Attorney Paul Fishman said the investigation continues, and that the two indicted Christie aides could wind up pleading guilty, which would yield a new trove of evidence.
“It’s like the end of Downton Abbey,” Fishman said. “You have to wait for a whole ‘nother season.”
• In March, Christie told a conservative gathering in Washington that he cut money to Planned Parenthood because he was “unapologetically” pro-life.
That was probably true. The lies came earlier, when he fended off criticism in pro-choice New Jersey by repeatedly saying the state’s financial pinch forced him to cut “worthy” programs like this one.
•In February, Christie claimed that he was a personal friend of the King of Jordan, which would allow him to accept gifts without limit, like a sumptuous weekend with his extended family in a desert resort enjoyed at the king’s expense.
Christie and his clan ran up a hotel bill of $30,000. He had met the king once, at a political dinner.
•Two weeks ago, Christie bragged to a national TV audience about his success with pension reform.
Supporting the pension reform? The court found those reforms to be unconstitutional.
He is a remarkable talent with a silver tongue. But if you look closely, you can see that it is forked like a serpent’s.
I would add, the louder he talks, the more he’s covering up. The ruder he is, the more closely people should examine what he’s saying. I hate to equate human beings to a deadly disease, as I have done implicitly with the category this is filed under. Really, it is the sort of shameless lying Christie engages in that is the disease. He’s just a corrupt, self-righteous, pompous, incompetent who happens to have that horrible and disfiguring disease.
Posted in corruption, crimes, Republicans as cancer | Comments Off on Preserved for posterity: the lies of Chris Christie
Posted by Charles II on June 24, 2015
Added: To be clear, the point is that evil doesn’t look any different than what we see every day. The face of evil is found in someone exulting in being a slumlord, in the easy acceptance with which the Tea Party–of which many chapters have close links to the Conservative Citizens Council– has met with the media, and in the refusal of this country to recognize the mass murder in Charleston as being the result of something embedded in our national DNA, namely the “original sin” of slavery. This sin can only be removed by genuine repentance, which means de-normalizing racism in whatever form it appears. As long as a guy like Earl Holt III is normal, the whole nation is polluted.
Via David Nir, DK.
Earl Holt III is a white supremacist, radio personality on WGNU, and leader of the Council of Conservative Citizens. He has replaced the fortunately late Gordon Baum as the president of that organization. Why a man like this was allowed to use the public airwaves is beyond me.
This is how Earl Holt III describes himself in FEC filings:
This is the face of evil, ca. 1990 (From Lindsay Bever of the WaPo):
[Holt] preferred, he said, “to contribute directly to conservative Republican candidates, ONLY, because we do not trust the RNC to spend our money as wisely as we would. Moreover, if it occurs to us to mention it, we also indicate our preference for Tea Party-endorsed candidates, to whom we have been quite generous the last few election cycles.”
And this is the face of evil now:
(Via Hinterland Gazette)
And here is the list of politicians who happily accepted contributions from a self-described slumlord:
Rep. J.D. Hayworth of Arizona
Senator Ted Cruz of Texas
ex-Rep. Charles Djou of Hawaii
Senator Ben Sasse of Nebraska
As the Rev. William Barber said, The perpetrator [of the Charleston massacre] has been arrested, but the killer is still at large.
Posted in Congress, conservativism, crimes, racism, Republicans as cancer | Comments Off on The face of evil
Posted by Charles II on October 2, 2014
I had five minutes to read Hillary Clinton’s book, Hard Choices, so I skimmed 10 pages on Latin America. Although I knew where she stood on Honduras, reading her explanation about that and the ongoing Cuban embargo made me realize how much contempt she has for Latin America.
I’m not a fan of Fidel Castro. Read Havana Nocturne (T.J. English) and see if it doesn’t raise questions in your mind about his character. I do recognize that he has done some good things, both in ending extreme poverty in Cuba and in terms of opposing apartheid and elevating world health. But I recognize that he’s done it through undemocratic means. That’s Realpolitik: understanding why leaders can be bad people yet popular, or at least more popular than the alternative.
But the embargo against Cuba–which was just extended for a year–is not just a “relic of the Cold War.” It is a flagrantly and increasingly illegal act, condemned by the entire world. Not even the U.K., not even Japan, not even Poland stands with us (Israel does). But Hillary Clinton goes along with the US line that we have to continue to isolate ourselves in order to force the Cuban government to democratize.
Even though it hasn’t worked for 52 years.
Even though the only people really hurt by it are the Cuban people.
And, according to Hillary, any Latin American country that sees the embargo not as a quaint “relic”, one that we can keep around out of fondness for the death and misery it causes, but as U.S. bullying (not to mention arrogance and stupidity) must be a commie creep like that Chaaavez fellow.
That is not leadership, Madame Secretary. That is contempt for Latin America and for the intelligence of your readers.
And then there’s Honduras. And Nicaragua. And Venezuela. And Brazil (!) All of whom are/were run by “strongmen.” Manuel Zelaya of Honduras is even the “caricature of a strongman.”
No, Madame Secretary. You’re a caricature of American arrogance and blindness. And your justification for your actions during the Honduran coup is transparently dishonest. You tell us that Oscar Arias (correctly) told you that a military coup against a democratically-elected leader could have a “domino effect” throughout a region that had been plagued by coups and dictatorship. You were most entertained by this “novel interpretation” (if I recall your phrase correctly) of the domino theory.
FFFFFFF. If this is the sort of contempt for Latin America that you display in public, what you must feel in your heart!
No more fake Democrats, please.
Posted in Brazil, Chavez, Cuba, Honduras, impunity, Latin America, Venezuela | 6 Comments »
Posted by Charles II on June 24, 2014
Lisa O’Carroll and Patrick Wintour, The Guardian:
Rebekah Brooks, his [Andy Coulson’s] predecessor in the job [editor of the News of the World}, walked free from the Old Bailey after she was cleared of all four of the charges she faced in the eight-month trial.
[Brooks husband] Charlie [Brooks], [secretary Cheryl] Carter and News International’s head of security, Mark Hanna, were all cleared of one count each – conspiracy to pervert the course of justice.
The News of the World’s former managing editor Stuart Kuttner was also found not guilty on phone-hacking charges, but the jury have not reached unanimous verdicts on two further charges faced by Coulson and one charge faced by the News of the World’s former royal editor Clive Goodman.
Brooks’s acquittal will provide some relief for Rupert Murdoch, who once described the woman who rose to be chief executive of his London based News International operation his “top priority” when the phone hacking crisis first broke in the summer of 2011.
The only Murdoch employee found guilty was Andy Coulson, David Cameron’s former head of communications.
This follows a familiar pattern: criminality is rampant at a corporation, but the boss didn’t have the slightest knowledge; jail time for the small fry, not even a slap on the wrist for the people who–however cleverly and deniably– ordered the deeds. How different things would be, I think, if the law held the boss responsible for whatever was done by a corporation.
Posted in corruption, impunity, Media machine, Rupert Murdoch | Comments Off on Justice dismayed
Posted by Charles II on May 20, 2014
Citizens for Tax Justice:
American Fortune 500 corporations are likely saving about $550 billion by holding nearly $2 trillion of “permanently reinvested” profits offshore. Twenty-eight of these corporations reveal that they have paid an income tax rate of 10 percent or less to the governments of the countries where these profits are officially held, indicating that most of these profits are likely in offshore tax havens.
While congressional hearings over the past few years have focused attention on the tax avoidance strategies of technology corporations like Apple and Microsoft, this report shows that a diverse array of companies are using offshore tax havens, including U.S. Steel, the pharmaceutical giant Eli Lilly, the apparel manufacturer Nike, the supermarket chain Safeway, the financial firm American Express, and banking giants Bank of America and Wells Fargo.
These 28 companies are not alone in shifting their profits to low-tax havens—they’re only alone in disclosing it. A total of 301 Fortune 500 corporations have disclosed, in their most recent financial reports, holding some of their income as “permanently reinvested” offshore profits. At the end of 2013, these permanently reinvested earnings totaled a whopping $1.95 trillion.
The only way to have both balanced budgets and low taxes on the middle class is to tax deadbeat corporations. Everyone else, especially those many corporations which do pay taxes (notably, corporations whose operations are all in the US), should be in favor of this.
Posted in impunity, taxes, The Plunderbund | 4 Comments »