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How the NSA (Sorta) Won the (Last) Iraq War | The Daily Beast

Bob Stasio never planned to become a cyber warrior. After he graduated high school, Stasio enrolled at the University at Buffalo and entered the ROTC program. He majored in mathematical physics, studying mind-bending theories of quantum mechanics and partial differential equations. The university, eager to graduate students steeped in the hard sciences, waived the major components of his core curriculum requirements, including English. Stasio never wrote a paper in his entire college career.

Stasio arrived at Fort Lewis, Washington, in 2004, when he was 22 years old. His new brigade intelligence officer took one look at the second lieutenant’s résumé, saw the background in math and physics, and told Stasio, “You’re going to the SIGINT platoon.” [Read more]

Berlin’s digital exiles: where tech activists go to escape the NSA | The Guardian

It’s the not knowing that’s the hardest thing, Laura Poitras tells me. “Not knowing whether I’m in a private place or not.” Not knowing if someone’s watching or not. Though she’s under surveillance, she knows that. It makes working as a journalist “hard but not impossible”. It’s on a personal level that it’s harder to process. “I try not to let it get inside my head, but… I still am not sure that my home is private. And if I really want to make sure I’m having a private conversation or something, I’ll go outside.”

Poitras’s documentary about Edward Snowden, Citizenfour, has just been released in cinemas. She was, for a time, the only person in the world who was in contact with Snowden, the only one who knew of his existence. Before she got Glenn Greenwald and the Guardian on board, it was just her – talking, electronically, to the man she knew only as “Citizenfour”. Even months on, when I ask her if the memory of that time lives with her still, she hesitates and takes a deep breath: “It was really very scary for a number of months. I was very aware that the risks were really high and that something bad could happen. I had this kind of responsibility to not fuck up, in terms of source protection, communication, security and all those things, I really had to be super careful in all sorts of ways.” [Read more]

Tech, social media, drones threaten privacy | az central

During a conference on privacy last week, Kevin Ashton flashed a map on a giant screen showing the addresses where dozens of cats live with their owners in north Scottsdale, within a few miles of the posh resort where the conference was taking place.

The point: to illustrate how much information — some benign, some highly sensitive — is floating around the Internet or contained in databases to which parties from aggressive marketers to outright criminals have access.

Ashton zeroed in on a photo of a black, white and orange feline living in the 10000 block of East Mirasol Circle. [Read more]

Yes, Isis exploits technology. But that’s no reason to compromise our privacy | The Guardian

A headline caught my eye last Tuesday morning. “Privacy not an absolute right, says GCHQ chief”, it read. Given that GCHQ bosses are normally sensibly taciturn types, it looked puzzling. But it turns out that Sir Iain Lobban has retired from GCHQ to spend more time with his pension, to be followed no doubt, after a discreet interval, with some lucrative non-exec directorships. His successor is a Foreign Office smoothie, name of Robert Hannigan, who obviously decided that the best form of defence against the Snowden revelations is attack, which he mounted via an op-ed piece in the Financial Times, in the course of which he wrote some very puzzling things.

Much of his piece is a rehearsal of how good Isis has become at exploiting social media. Its members “use messaging and social media services such as Twitter, Facebook and WhatsApp, and a language their peers understand. The videos they post of themselves attacking towns, firing weapons or detonating explosives have a self-conscious online gaming quality. Their use of the World Cup and Ebola hashtags to insert the Isis message into a wider news feed, and their ability to send 40,000 tweets a day during the advance on Mosul without triggering spam controls, illustrates their ease with new media. There is no need for today’s would-be jihadis to seek out restricted websites with secret passwords: they can follow other young people posting their adventures in Syria as they would anywhere else.” [Read more]

Social media security: Is our online privacy officially dead? |

A FEW months ago on a Sunday morning, I was in my car at a set of traffic lights in Sydney’s Potts Point, when Biggest Loser trainer Michelle Bridges and her on/off boyfriend, Steve ‘Commando’ Willis, came out of a cafe with a group of friends. They were holding hands and looked like any normal couple going about their day.

What made the event remarkable was that not more than 10 metres away was a paparazzo with a digital SLR and a zoom lens the size of a large delicatessen salami, snapping off a succession of shots. Surely Bridges and Willis were entitled to have a Sunday breakfast with friends without appearing in a tabloid magazine? It wasn’t like they were getting up from a meal with the Beckhams. For a fleeting moment, I felt sorry for them. [Read more]

UD student’s 9-foot Edward Snowden statue at DCCA | Washington Times

When Business Insider wrote about University of Delaware graduate student Jim Dessicino’s statue of Edward Snowden appearing in New York’s Union Square Park last month, the reporter noted that none of the dozen passers-by they talked to could identify who the statue depicted.

For Dessicino, a 29-year-old Atlantic City, New Jersey, native, it could have been a blow to his confidence as an artist, having spent months creating the 9-foot, 220-pound figure out of gypsum cement, clay, steel and foam. [Read more]

Related Article – Michael’s Blog

Chinese President Xi Jinping told Hong Kong’s leader the nation supports the city’s democratic development “within the law,” Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying said, as pro-democracy demonstrations entered a seventh week.

The “Occupy” protests have impacted Hong Kong’s rule of law, while also reflecting the different views on electoral reforms, Leung said today while meeting Xi in Beijing. Xi reiterated the nation “unwaveringly” supports Hong Kong’s democratic development in accordance with the law. [Read more] – Michael’s Blog

Nothing brings a family together like a new baby. The tiny, fragile miracle that once was merely an idea becomes a reality and starts to grow and develop. All who are connected to it guard and nurture the new creation as it grows, marvelling together at every milestone. Their mutual love and concern is a sturdy glue that helps bond their relationships to one another as strongly as their attachment to the child

The State of Israel has long played the role of beloved common project for North American Jewish communities.

Support and concern for it has brought together Jewish communities. They may have been divided between Reform, Conservative and Orthodox, in prayer, and between those who choose day school and those who send their children to public schools when it comes to Jewish education. But they have traditionally come together to rally and stand together for Israel, to raise money for emergency campaigns to help distressed Jewish immigrants settle there or rebuild after war and strife took its toll. Their precise views on Israel may not have been identical, but basic underlying support of the state of Israel was something most everyone in the family of Jews could agree on. [Read more] – Michael’s Blog

Hindsight can be cruel. In 1932, amid a global economic slump, the impoverished Saudis came to London looking for a loan. They also had an offer: would Britain like to try drilling for oil? A disdainful Foreign Office mandarin gave the fateful reply, writes Matthew Teller – no loan, and no drilling.

In the spring of 1932, King Abdulaziz – widely known as “Ibn Saud” – was ready to declare the foundation of a new united Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. To get the message out and to secure the support of the global superpower – Great Britain – he sent his son, Faisal, on a European tour including London.

Faisal arrived at Dover on Saturday 7 May and was soon installed in London’s fashionable new Dorchester Hotel. After a Monday morning audience with George V, he spent most of his visit at leisure, including visits to a Surrey stud farm and RAF Hendon. [Read more] – Michael’s Blog

Dr. Robert Fuller didn’t hesitate to go to Indonesia to treat survivors of the 2004 tsunami, to Haiti to help after the 2010 earthquake or to the Philippines after a devastating typhoon last year. But he’s given up on going to West Africa to care for Ebola patients this winter.

He could make the six-week commitment sought by his go-to aid organization, International Medical Corps. But the possibility of a three-week quarantine afterward adds more time than he can take away from his job heading UConn Health Center’s emergency department.

“I’m very sad that I can’t go, at this point,” said Fuller, who’s helping instead by interviewing other prospective volunteers. Nine weeks or more “gets to be a pretty long time to think about being away from your family and being away from your job.” [Read more] – Michael’s Blog

President Obama has announced that he is sending 1,500 troops to Iraq to bolster the international efforts against ISIL. These troops will be used to “train, advise and assist” Iraqi and Kurdish forces, and will bring the total of US forces there to 2,900.

Naturally, Fox News seized on the “assist” portion of their mission: [Read more] – Michael’s Blog

Barack Obama, in his post-election press conference yesterday, announced that he would seek an Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF) from the new Congress, one that would authorize Obama’s bombing campaign in Iraq and Syria—the one he began three months ago. If one were being generous, one could say that seeking congressional authorization for a war that commenced months ago is at least better than fighting a war even after Congress explicitly rejected its authorization, as Obama lawlessly did in the now-collapsed country of Libya.

When Obama began bombing targets inside Syria in September, I noted that it was the seventh predominantly Muslim country that had been bombed by the U.S. during his presidency (that did not count Obama’s bombing of the Muslim minority in the Philippines). I also previously noted that this new bombing campaign meant that Obama had become the fourth consecutive U.S. President to order bombs dropped on Iraq. Standing alone, those are both amazingly revealing facts. American violence is so ongoing and continuous that we barely notice it any more. Just this week, a U.S. drone launched a missile that killed 10 people in Yemen, and the dead were promptly labeled “suspected militants” (which actually just means they are “military-age males”); those killings received almost no discussion. [Read more] – Michael’s Blog

Thousands of Israeli Arab protesters massed Saturday afternoon and evening along the main street of the Galilee town Kafr Kanna, protesting what they said was state terror in the death of 22-year-old local man Kheir Hamdan on Friday night. The town mayor called the incident “murder in cold blood.”

Demonstrators carried posters bearing Hamdan’s picture which read “His only crime was being Arab,” and chanting “Zionists, get out of our lives.” They waved Palestinian flags, and called for the dismissal of the police officers involved in Friday night’s shooting, senior police chiefs, and Public Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovitch. They decried the police’s “light trigger finger” which they said led to Hamdan being shot and killed. [Read more] – Michael’s Blog

According to new numbers published by WWF Scotland this week, wind turbines generated enough electricity in October to power 3,045,000 homes in the U.K. — more than enough for all the homes in Scotland.

Referring to it as a “bumper month” for renewable energy, WWF Scotland’s director Lang Banks said in a statement that “while nuclear power plants were being forced to shut because of cracks, Scotland’s wind and sunshine were quietly and cleanly helping to keep the lights on in homes across the country.” [Read more] – Michael’s Blog

Despite their size and intelligence, elephants are some of the most endangered species on the planet. The more we learn about the sentience of these gentle giants, the more deplorable the damage that humans have wrought on their species seems. Every fifteen minutes an elephant is killed for their ivory tusks. Every year up to 50,000 African elephants succumb to poachers. Sadly, poaching is not the only threat facing the elephant species, they are also endangered by habitat loss, the tourism trade, and the entertainment industry. Almost single handedly, humans have decimated the elephant species, and if we don’t take drastic action to protect them, it is likely elephants will go extinct from the wild within our lifetimes.

As instrumental as humans have been in the destruction of the elephant, we now must be in the conservation and revitalization of this species. More and more people are waking up to the fact that the choices they make can have an impact on elephants. By choosing not to attend circuses, boycotting the zoo, and not purchasing ivory, we are slowly making a difference. Capitalizing on the idea that everyone can use their power as individuals to make a positive change for elephants, Artists Against Ivory is raising awareness for the ivory trade through wearable art. [Read more] – Michael’s Blog


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