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Thursday Watercooler

By: Kit OConnell Thursday July 31, 2014 8:27 pm


A USB drive designed to look like a sushi roll

USB powered sushi — and everything else using the USB standard — is vulnerable to hidden malware.

In tonight’s video, a small-scale cocoa bean farmer and his workers get to taste the end result of their work — chocolate — for the first time in their lives!

Farmer N’Da Alphonse grows cocao and has never seen the finished product. ‘To be honest I do not know what they make of my beans,’ says farmer N’Da Alphonse. ‘I’ve heard they’re used as flavoring in cooking, but I’ve never seen it. I do not even know if it’s true.’

Thanks to MyFDL’s KateCA for suggesting this video.

Be careful what you put in your computer. According to an article in Wired’s Threat Level, the security of USB devices is fundamentally broken.

Computer users pass around USB sticks like silicon business cards. Although we know they often carry malware infections, we depend on antivirus scans and the occasional reformatting to keep our thumbdrives from becoming the carrier for the next digital epidemic. But the security problems with USB devices run deeper than you think: Their risk isn’t just in what they carry, it’s built into the core of how they work.

That’s the takeaway from findings security researchers Karsten Nohl and Jakob Lell plan to present next week, demonstrating a collection of proof-of-concept malicious software that highlights how the security of USB devices has long been fundamentally broken. The malware they created, called BadUSB, can be installed on a USB device to completely take over a PC, invisibly alter files installed from the memory stick, or even redirect the user’s internet traffic. Because BadUSB resides not in the flash memory storage of USB devices, but in the firmware that controls their basic functions, the attack code can remain hidden long after the contents of the device’s memory would appear to the average user to be deleted. And the two researchers say there’s no easy fix: The kind of compromise they’re demonstrating is nearly impossible to counter without banning the sharing of USB devices or filling your port with superglue.

‘These problems can’t be patched,’ says Nohl, who will join Lell in presenting the research at the Black Hat security conference in Las Vegas. ‘We’re exploiting the very way that USB is designed.’

[...] They spent months reverse engineering the firmware that runs the basic communication functions of USB devices—the controller chips that allow the devices to communicate with a PC and let users move files on and off of them. Their central finding is that USB firmware, which exists in varying forms in all USB devices, can be reprogrammed to hide attack code. ‘You can give it to your IT security people, they scan it, delete some files, and give it back to you telling you it’s “clean,”‘ says Nohl. But unless the IT guy has the reverse engineering skills to find and analyze that firmware, ‘the cleaning process doesn’t even touch the files we’re talking about.’

Bonus: Samuel Beckett Motivational Cat Posters via Dangerous Minds

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Blood Moons for Amerisrael

By: Elliott Monday May 21, 2012 5:18 pm

I followed along last night as billmon tweeted “The Strange Case of Amerisrael,” I wanted to share it for those not on Twitter.

The Strange Case of Amerisrael

Click through to read it at Storify.


And I’ll top it off with this BLOOD MOONS treat I came upon via DSWright.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu embraces Pastor John Hagee

This happened July 21, 2014 at the Christians United for Israel Conference. I was going to say something about what a serpent Benjamin Netanyahu is pandering to the christianists, but the christianists could care less about Israel really, they are just hoping for Armageddon so they can rapture on up to Jesus – and to hell with the Jews. Looking at the summit’s speaker list, obviously this is a venal symbiotic relationship.

Published on Jul 31, 2014
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu embraces Pastor John Hagee, blood moon conspiracy theorist and End Times activist. Video clipped from Christians United for Israel conference and Christian TV. Uploaded by @LHFANG

As the blogsters say, “I can’t even… ”

Haunting the Conscience of the World

By: Isaiah 88 Thursday July 31, 2014 1:47 pm


Mohammed Omer . . .

In Gaza the nights are longer than any night in the world. Night in the world is supposed to be for sleep, but here the night is for horror.

The Guardian . . .

United Nations officials described the killing of sleeping children as a disgrace to the world and accused Israel of a serious violation of international law after a school in Gaza being used to shelter Palestinian families was shelled on Wednesday. At least 15 people, mostly children and women, died when the school in Jabaliya refugee camp was hit by five shells during a night of relentless bombardment across Gaza. More than 100 people were injured. Ban Ki-moon, the UN secretary general, said the attack was ‘outrageous and unjustifiable’ and demanded “accountability and justice”. The UN said its officials had repeatedly given details of the school and its refugee population to Israel.

1,422 Palestinians have been killed.

8,265 have been injured.

And Gaza’s long night is far from over.

We’re told that Israel has no choice but to defend itself. NBC keeps telling us that. ABC keeps telling us that. CNN and CBS keep telling us that, Fox keeps bellowing that dogma day in and day out, but their attempts to justify the IDF’s rampage in Gaza, their relentless efforts to blame Hamas for the carnage are not succeeding. Because of the reports of independent journalists, because of the courage of the people of Gaza and their use of social media, the world is seeing how Israel “defends itself”.

This is how . . .

Rashid Khalidi, The New Yorker . . .

What Israel is doing in Gaza now is collective punishment. It is punishment for Gaza’s refusal to be a docile ghetto. It is punishment for the gall of Palestinians in unifying, and of Hamas and other factions in responding to Israel’s siege and its provocations with resistance, armed or otherwise, after Israel repeatedly reacted to unarmed protest with crushing force. Despite years of ceasefires and truces, the siege of Gaza has never been lifted.

The siege, the blockade, a life sentence imposed by Israel, a life sentence for each unharmful, gentle soul misplaced inside that jail.

Bibi always peddles the same propaganda about Gaza . . .

Benjamin Netanyahu




He must think the world is blind. Well it’s not blind, hundreds of millions of people have seen who’s doing all the killing. The Prime Psychopath of Israel can point his finger at Hamas until it falls off, but the world has seen his guilt in the charred ruins of Gaza’s refugee shelters, in the twisted wreckage of schools and places of worship, in the bodies of children buried in the rubble of the world’s largest prison.

Netanyahu is a war criminal. I’m not telling you that, reality is telling you that, your own eyes are telling you that, the innocent blood staining the Star of David is telling you that, the images of horror haunting the conscience of the world are telling you that.

War crimes. Three weeks of Israeli war crimes, with more on the way. A nation of killers, that is what Israel has become.

This is a turning point, Israel has crossed all the red lines and the world will hold them accountable for it. This long night for the people of Gaza will end, the light of justice will finally shine on them, and there will be no more darkness. In the names of the slain, in the names of everyone who speaks out for those who have been silenced, in the names of the outcasts of Gaza, burning constantly at stake, the Chimes of Freedom are going to ring.

At long last, they are going to ring . . .

As Keystone XL Dominoes Fall, Time to Arrest Tar Sands Industry

By: Tom Weis Thursday July 31, 2014 9:15 am

Thanks to the courageous and indefatigable efforts of pipeline fighters everywhere, the tide has finally turned on Keystone XL.

We’ve got this.

Thanks to the courageous and indefatigable efforts of pipeline fighters everywhere, the tide has finally turned on Keystone XL. As it becomes increasingly clear that Keystone XL’s northern leg is not going through, it is time to set our sights on ending all tar sands exploitation.

The Obama administration’s latest election year delay on Keystone North is not a victory, but the dominoes continue to fall. Earlier this year, a citizen lawsuit denied TransCanada a route through Nebraska. Last month, it lost its permit through South Dakota. Now it faces a gauntlet of “Cowboys & Indians” vowing to stop it in its tracks.

We cannot let up until Keystone North is vanquished, but all signs point to President Obama nixing TransCanada’s cross-border permit after the November elections. Don’t just take my word for it.

On April 23, Rolling Stone contributing editor Jeff Goodell wrote: “I was told recently by members of the administration that the pipeline would, in fact, be rejected.” On June 18, former Vice President Al Gore wrote in this same magazine: “[Obama] has signaled that he is likely to reject the absurdly reckless Keystone XL-pipeline proposal.”

Both pronouncements come on the heels of former President Jimmy Carter pointedly warning the president that Keystone XL “will define your legacy on one of the greatest challenges humanity has ever faced – climate change.”

For a president who has suddenly decided to stake so much of his legacy on addressing the climate crisis, approving Keystone North would destroy any shred of credibility on this issue. It would also put an administration that prides itself on outreach to Native American communities in the position of violating the 1868 Fort Laramie Treaty.

I recently had the honor of viewing the Fort Laramie Treaty with Shane Red Hawk and his family in the National Archives vault. There wasn’t time to read every word of the hand-written document, but there was time to absorb the meaning of the “bad man” clause in Article I on the faded first page:

If bad men among the whites, or among other people subject to the authority of the United States, shall commit any wrong upon the person or property of the Indians, the United States will, upon proof made to the agent, and forwarded to the Commissioner of Indian Affairs at Washington city, proceed at once to cause the offender to be arrested and punished according to the laws of the United States.

Because Keystone North would cross treaty territory, its construction would blatantly violate the “bad man” clause, an arrestable offense the Great Sioux Nation will not abide. President Obama knows this because the presidents of the Oglala Sioux and Rosebud Sioux tribes declared on national television their people are “willing to die” to stop it. He also knows this because his Senior Counselor, John Podesta, visited the “Reject and Protect” tipi encampment on the National Mall in April where this declaration of nonviolent civil resistance was made.

As fate would have it, I found myself standing next to Mr. Podesta at this historic event. I thanked him for his public opposition to Keystone, then asked him to urge the president to use his bully pulpit to speak out against all tar sands exploitation (this includes preventing the tar sands barons from gaining a foothold in Utah’s pristine red rocks country).

U.S. Supplies the Munitions, Israel the Carnage: 1,371 Palestinians, 59 Israelis Die in Gaza Conflict

By: fairleft Saturday May 28, 2011 6:45 pm

Carnage at U.N. school as Israel pounds Gaza Strip

Israeli shelling killed at least 15 Palestinians sheltering in a U.N.-run school and another 17 near a street market on Wednesday, Gaza’s Health Ministry said, with no ceasefire in sight after more than three weeks of fighting.

Israel’s security cabinet decided to continue its offensive in the enclave and there was no sign of a halt to a 23-day conflict in which 1,346 Palestinians, mostly civilians, have died. On the Israeli side, 56 soldiers and three civilians have been killed. …

That Reuters figure for Palestinian casualties has since been updated at Aljazeera to 1,361, with 6,780 injured. Among the dead are 315 children. I’ve added the ten Palestinians killed in the West Bank Gaza-solidarity protests.

The latest post at the Aljazeera live blog will leave you speechless:

BREAKING UPDATE: Al Jazeera’s @PattyCulhane reports the #Pentagon confirms delivery of two types of munitions to #Israel in the last week: 120mm mortar rounds and 40mm grenades, while calling for a ceasefire in #Gaza

A must read corrective to Israeli and U.S. mainstream propaganda is From Gaza: I Would Rather Die in Dignity Than Agree to Living in an Open-Air Prison (July 28). Mohammed Suliman, Palestinian human rights worker in Gaza, opens by contrasting a bustling, lively but impoverished Gaza to what it’s like now, and closes with an eloquent explanation of ‘why we fight’:

… A ceasefire might be negotiated and agreed upon. Hamas might soon stop firing rockets, but then will Israel cease to exercise its violence against Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank on a daily basis? The reality is that if Palestinians stop resisting, Israel won’t stop occupying, as its leaders repeatedly affirm. The besieged Jews of the Warsaw ghetto had a motto ‘to live and die in dignity.’ As I sit in my own besieged ghetto, I think how Palestinians have honored this universal value. We live in dignity and we die in dignity, refusing to accept subjugation.

We’re tired of war. I, for one, have had enough of bloodshed, death and destruction. But I also can no longer tolerate the return to a deeply unjust status quo. I can no longer agree to live in this open-air prison. We can no longer tolerate to be treated as sub-humans, deprived of our most basic human rights. We are trapped here, trapped between two deaths: death by Israeli bombs and missiles, and death by Israel’s blockade of Gaza.

We want to be able to get in and out of Gaza freely, whenever we choose. Why should our students not be granted their right to study at universities of their own choice? Why should our patients be left for their own death as Israel deprives them of receiving medical treatment in hospitals outside of Gaza? Our fishermen want to fish in our sea waters without the prospect of being shot at and killed. We deserve the right to access clean water, electricity and our most basic needs. And yet we can’t because Israel occupies. It occupies not only our land but our bodies and our destinies. No people can tolerate this injustice. We, too, are humans.

I apologize, by the way, for not updating sooner (huge computer problems). Below is something from yesterday (another reminder of the huge “don’t you wish U.S. artists had cojones” file (Selena Gomez is an honorable exception), a statement by a hundred Spanish artists — the media has focused on Javier Bardem and Penelope Cruz — protesting the carnage and genocide (warning: translated by me and Google Translate):

Nick Turse: An East-West Showdown in the Heart of Africa?

By: Tom Engelhardt Monday July 18, 2011 6:08 pm

This article originally appeared at To receive TomDispatch in your inbox three times a week, click here.

A soldier directs a jeep across a dirt road in Africa.

AFRICOM may be part of a massive proxy war between East & West.

For the last two years, TomDispatch Managing Editor Nick Turse has been following the Pentagon and the latest U.S. global command, AFRICOM, as they oversaw the expanding operations of the American military across that continent: drones, a special ops surge, interventions, training missions, bases (even if not called bases), proxy wars.  Short of a major conflict, you name it and it’s probably happening.  Washington’s move into Africa seems connected as well to the destabilization of parts of that continent and the rise of various terror groups across it, another subject Nick has been following.  With rare exceptions, only recently have aspects of the Obama administration’s largely below-the-radar-screen “pivot” to Africa made it into the mainstream media.  Even more recently, global chaos from Afghanistan, Iraq, and Syria to Ukraine has driven it out again.  As a result, most Americans have no sense of how their future and Africa’s are being entwined in possibly explosive ways.

With this in mind, and with the support of the Nation Institute’s Investigative Fund (as well as the generosity of Adelaide Gomer), Nick has gone to Tanzania and South Sudan to explore the situation further himself.  Today, as the first fruits of that trip, TomDispatch has a major story on a development that has, until now, remained distinctly below the radar screen: the Africa-wide contest between the globe’s “sole superpower,” the U.S., and its preeminent rising economic power, China, over which will benefit most from the exploitation of that continent.

Over the next several months, there will be more pieces from Nick on America’s growing stake in and effect on Africa.  The next will address a looming crisis in the world’s youngest nation.  He offers a preview: “My aid agency contacts say that, in September, the United Nations will officially declare a famine in large swaths of South Sudan.  As one humanitarian worker here put it to me, add famine to war and you have a powder keg.  ‘It’s going to get worse,’ says another, ‘before it gets better.’”  Tom

China, America, and a New Cold War in Africa?
Is the Conflict in South Sudan the Opening Salvo in the Battle for a Continent?
By Nick Turse

[This story was reported in partnership with the Investigative Fund at the Nation Institute. Additional funding was provided through the generosity of Adelaide Gomer.]

Juba, South Sudan — Is this country the first hot battlefield in a new cold war?  Is the conflict tearing this new nation apart actually a proxy fight between the world’s two top economic and military powers?  That’s the way South Sudan’s Information Minister Michael Makuei Lueth tells it.  After “midwifing” South Sudan into existence with billions of dollars in assistance, aid, infrastructure projects, and military support, the U.S. has watched China emerge as the major beneficiary of South Sudan’s oil reserves.  As a result, Makuei claims, the U.S. and other Western powers have backed former vice president Riek Machar and his rebel forces in an effort to overthrow the country’s president, Salva Kiir.  China, for its part, has played a conspicuous double game.  Beijing has lined up behind Kiir, even as it publicly pushes both sides to find a diplomatic solution to a simmering civil war.  It is sending peacekeepers as part of the U.N. mission even as it also arms Kiir’s forces with tens of millions of dollars worth of new weapons.

While experts dismiss Makuei’s scenario — “farfetched” is how one analyst puts it — there are average South Sudanese who also believe that Washington supports the rebels.  The U.S. certainly did press Kiir’s government to make concessions, as his supporters are quick to remind anyone willing to listen, pushing it to release senior political figures detained as coup plotters shortly after fighting broke out in late 2013.  America, they say, cared more about a handful of elites sitting in jail than all the South Sudanese suffering in a civil war that has now claimed more than 10,000 lives, resulted in mass rapes, displaced more than 1.5 million people (around half of them children), and pushed the country to the very brink of famine. Opponents of Kiir are, however, quick to mention the significant quantities of Chinese weaponry flooding into the country. They ask why the United States hasn’t put pressure on a president they no longer see as legitimate.

How Worshiping The Market Can Bring Ebola to the US

By: spocko Tuesday December 14, 2010 2:11 pm

Anyone watching The Strain? It combines some real science with zombie/vampire stuff mixed in. What stuck me about the show was how realistic some parts were (like the first CDC team sweep of the plane) combined with a ridiculous number of people carrying the idiot ball. But the part that seems craziest is actually more realistic than people realize.

In this clip the CDC is overruled in a medical quarantine situation by the Director of Health and Human Services.

There is no way this would happen in real life in the US. I just can’t suspend my disbelief when they get stuff like this wrong. When it comes to people’s health the medical community always has the final say, like Bones had over Captain Kirk on the Enterprise.

But then I remembered when Christine Todd Whitman overruled the EPA and ignored the medical community and doctors’ advice regarding people working at ground zero after 9/11.

The EPA was not given full control over its press releases in the aftermath of the terrorist attacks. Administrator Whitman issued a memo on September 12 announcing that ‘all statements to the media should be cleared through the NSC [National Security Council] before they are released,’ and the New York Post reported that National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice was ‘the final decision maker’ regarding the release of information by the EPA.6 In addition the OIG report details how the White House Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) pressed the EPA to ‘add reassuring statements and delete cautionary ones’ from agency press releases. For example, information discussing the potential health risk for ‘sensitive populations’ from exposure to particulate matter was discouraged from inclusion in a press release by a CEQ official, and language discussing detected levels of asbestos was softened. The involvement of NSC and CEQ officials raises questions as to whether public health concerns were trumped by political and security priorities.

–World Trade Center Rescue Workers Believed EPA, Ended Up Sick
Union of Concerned Scientists.

What were Whitman’s motives for downplaying the risk? “Political and security priorities.” Now of course the circumstances in that case were extraordinary. But decisions like this are made all the time under less extraordinary circumstances.

Ebola outbreak: Liberia shuts most border points

We are focusing on Ebola because it is news. We won’t get Ebola here in the US for a number of reasons. One reason is Ebola doesn’t have a good lobbying and PR firm. When it comes to infectious diseases, it helps to have people in high places. People who want to describe their pathogen as “naturally occurring,” who delay life saving performance standards, dictate which words doctors can use to describe a condition and most astonishingly, convince everyone the burden of protection is on the victims in order to avoid responsibility for their problems.

People in the US are not dying from Ebola, however they are dying from Salmonella, Listeria, Norovirus, Campylobacter spp, E.Coli O157:H7, and host of other food-borne pathogens.

Our doctors know that protecting the lives of the people is more important than the parts of economy that might be negatively affected in the short term. But as we see in this fictional show and in real life, sometimes the doctors aren’t in charge when it comes to prevention and spread of disease. What would seem outrageous behavior if it happened with one infectious disease is considered the “industry standard” when it comes to another.

Paul Ryan’s New Poverty Plan Focuses on Opportunity, but Comes up Short

By: WI Budget Project Wednesday July 30, 2014 8:11 am

The changes recommended by Ryan would make it harder to respond to rising needs and would do little to expand opportunity.

Paul Ryan has a released a new poverty plan that advocates consolidating federal safety net programs and turning the money over to the states. It’s always worth taking a look at changes that could make anti-poverty program more effective, but Ryan’s approach would decrease opportunity for individuals living in poverty, not increase it.

Ryan frames his new proposal as aimed at giving low-income people the tools they need to make ends meet and lift themselves out of poverty. According to his proposal, Expanding Opportunity in America:

A key tenet of the American Dream is that where you start off shouldn’t determine where you end up. If you work hard and play by the rules, you should get ahead. But the fact is, far too many people are stuck on the lower rungs…There are many factors beyond public policy that affect upward mobility. But public policy is still a factor, and government has a role to play in providing a safety net and expanding opportunity for all.

Ryan believes that a fundamental redesign of how federal anti-poverty programs deliver services can help expand opportunity across the board. He calls for combining the resources for 11 different federal low-income programs into a single block grant, called the “Opportunity Grant,” which would be given to states to use in anti-poverty efforts.

Ryan’s plan also calls for:

  • Requiring states to implement work requirements and limits on the duration that individuals could receive assistance;
  • Revising federal mandatory sentencing guidelines so as to reduce prison time for non-violent low-level offenders and make it easier for them to re-integrate into their communities; and
  •  Improving the federal Earned Income Tax Credit for childless workers by expanding eligibility and increasing credit amounts.

It may be faint praise, but at least Ryan’s new proposal isn’t as extreme as his budget proposals in 2012 and 2013, which called for big tax cuts for the wealthy and changes that would result in deep cuts for assistance for the most vulnerable (“Paul Ryan Dusts off and Re-Introduces the Budget He Campaigned on,” March 12, 2013). Ryan’s new anti-poverty proposal would maintain the same level of overall anti-poverty funding for each state (in theory anyway – see more on that below), which represents a divergence from his previous approach. And some of Ryan’s proposals deserve a second look, especially his ideas about reforming sentencing and beefing up the EITC.

But despite a few bright spots, Ryan’s approach to anti-poverty programs would likely increase hardship, not decrease it. That’s because block grants, by design, are a poor choice to deliver anti-poverty funding. Reasons why include:

  • Policymakers can’t quickly adjust block grant amounts to respond to changing economic circumstances. Under Ryan’s proposal, the SNAP program, also known as food stamps, would change from “from an entitlement that responds automatically to increased need into part of a sweeping block grant that gives each state fixed funding for the year and, thus, cannot respond in the same way,” according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.
  • Block grants are susceptible to cuts. “History shows that block grants that consolidate a number of programs or may be used for a wide array of purposes typically shrink — often very substantially — over time,” according to CBPP.
  • New work requirements would add administrative costs. And since SNAP makes up the biggest share of federal anti-poverty funding, combining programs into a single block grant would mean that states might have to reduce SNAP benefits to cover those additional administrative costs.

Ryan’s proposal to expand the EITC is praiseworthy, but the expansion depends on cuts to other low-income programs to offset the costs. Ryan’s plan would pay for the EITC increase by cutting the Child Tax Credit, eliminating “a flexible funding source that helps states meet the specialized needs of their most vulnerable populations,” and ending a program that provides fresh fruits and vegetables primarily to children in schools in low-income areas, among other cuts. That’s not a successful pathway to reducing poverty.

We need to continue to talk about how to improve anti-poverty efforts. But the changes recommended by Ryan would make it harder to respond to rising needs and would do little to expand opportunity.

by Tamarine Cornelius