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John Kerry To Visit Paris, But He's In No Hurry

Jan 12, 2015 | 3:54 PM

January 12, 2014 - The Cavalcade of Idiots, also known as The Obama Administration, can't help acting, well, idiotically. Embarrassed by their no-show at yesterday's million-plus anti-terror march in Paris, in a show of unity against Islamist terror, John Kerry will make a clumsy (and too-late) trip to make it look like the Administration cares about the recent victims of Islamist terror. Nobody should be fooled by this act of insincerity. If they really cared, they would have sent someone. The US was officially represented at the march by Jane Hartley, our ambassador to France. But she was already there and she's not a national leader.

The fact that over 40 foreign dignitaries managed to gather in Paris on the same day, and with relatively short notice, is impressive. However, the so-called leader of the free world, the President of the United States, was conspicuously absent. Sure, Barack Obama's a busy guy. But it's safe to say that those heads of state also have a lot on their plates, yet they were able to rearrange their schedules to pay respect to the slain, show their defiance of terrorism, support free speech, and represent their own nations in a respectable manner.

Jane Hartley, US Ambassador to France
US Ambassador Jane Hartley
attended the Paris march
That was too much to ask of Barack Obama, it seems. He couldn't even send a cabinet member to represent him - and the United States - at the solemn event. Not even Secretary of State John Kerry could be bothered to fly to Paris from India, where he met with Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Sunday to discuss stronger economic ties "and set the stage for President Obama’s visit" on January 26.

Kerry will travel to Paris, reports The Daily Mail (UK), "after the U.S. government was shamed for not joining a rally yesterday for victims of the French terror attacks attended by 40 world leaders and a million people." The Daily Mail report says that Kerry tried to explain the absence of a major US official by saying, "I really think that this is sort of quibbling a little bit in the sense that our Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland was there and marched, our ambassador was there and marched, many people from the embassy were there and marched."

Kerry's lame response - that a handful of minor US officials attended the march - seems to demonstrate a lack of understanding of the importance of public relations. It might also indicate an actual disregard for the tragedy of the 17 deaths at the hands of Islamist gunmen last week.

Canadian Public Safety Minister Steven Blaney
Canada's Public Safety Minister
Steven Blaney attended the march
Image: CTV
Attorney General Eric Holder was in Paris on Sunday, but he "skipped out early," as the Daily Mail notes in a story with this scorching headline: "America snubs historic Paris rally: Holder was there but skipped out early, Kerry was in India, Obama and Biden just stayed home." He met with European security and terror experts in Paris on Sunday, but Holder did not even go to the march, reports The Telegraph (UK).

Even more incredibly, Kerry won't go directly to Paris until later this week. He'll arrive there on Thursday after stopping in Bulgaria and Switzerland, and then only stay for a part of Friday.

But the US was not the only nation that failed to send a major leader to Paris. Canada's Public Safety Minister Steven Blaney was his nation's only representative at the march. Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper, pulled an Obama, but at least Harper takes a gutsier public stance against terrorists.

On Saturday, Blaney laid a wreath outside the offices of Charlie Hebdo, and met with RCMP and Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) agents who are working with French security agencies there. On Sunday, Blaney attended an international terrorism meeting, which Eric Holder also attended. Unlike Holder, however, Blaney attended the unity rally march on Sunday.

Also See:
List of leaders who attended Paris rally Times of India
America betrays its values by not sending top U.S. officials to Paris unity rally Daily News
French Officials Defend Obama Amid Questions About Paris Rally Absence Christian Post
Why is Obama Unable to Call Terrorist Attacks Islamic Terrorism? The Blaze
Stephen Harper Is Right To Name The Enemy Toronto Sun
Charlie Hebdo attack: The Paris trap India Express
3:54 PM | 0 comments | Read More

Hoodie Emergency In Oklahoma, Fines and Prison

Jan 4, 2015 | 2:54 PM

Hooded and Intimidating:
Wearing this $3,480 mink coat could
get you arrested in Oklahoma.
January 4, 2015 - Oklahoma may soon clarify and strengthen an existing ban on wearing hoods in public. Violators could be fined from $50 to $500 for wearing a hoodie (a hooded sweatshirt), if one state senator has his way. As if that wasn't strange enough, he actually wants to declare an emergency to deal with hoodies.

The law is Senate Bill 13, and it's intended as an amendment to an existing law that already bans the wearing of hoods and other types of disguises while committing a crime. Oklahoma has had a partial ban on hoods since the early 1920s. According to Oklahoma City NBC affiliate KFOR, the law was "originally drafted to help combat crimes from the Klu-Klux-Klan."

But now, State Senator Don Barrington, (Republican, District 31; bio), is sponsoring a bill that would almost completely ban hoodies in public if if passes in February this year. Barrinnton's bill is actually intended to amend "21 O.S. 2011, Section 1301, which relates to masks, hoods and disguises; modifying certain restrictions; and declaring an emergency."

Yes, it says "declaring an emergency."  We'll come back to that but first let's see what Barrington's bill says in Section 1.

It shall be unlawful for any person in this state:
A. To wear a mask, hood or covering, which conceals the identity of the wearer during the commission of a crime or for the purpose of coercion, intimidation or harassment; or

B. To intentionally conceal his or her identity in a public place by means of a robe, mask, or other disguise.

The problem with that, as pointed out by Daily Caller, "is that the immediately preceding paragraph in the existing law, titled 21 OS 1301, makes it illegal for anyone 'to wear a mask, hood or covering, which conceals the identity of the wearer during the commission of a crime' or for 'coercion, intimidation or harassment'."

Civil rights advocates, reports Daily Caller, "worry that the two clauses read together could give police the authority to arrest someone for wearing a simple hooded sweatshirt."

Allow us to point out another problem: Interpretation by cops. How will this law will be enforced by law enforcement officers? Even handedly among all age groups, races and sexes? Reality suggests that such would not be the case.

If a cop sees somebody wearing a hoodie sweathshirt or hooded parka, or a ski mask, scarf or other "covering," how in hell can he/she know -- as that person walks down the street or sits in a diner -- if their "purpose" is coercion, intimidation or harassment? To know that would require being able to know someone's intentions, and unless Oklahoma has perfected mind reading, that's not possible.

The law makes exceptions, of course: They include kids being kids on Halloween, people going to or from masquerade parties, protection from the weather, and to those participating in the parades or exhibitions of minstrel troupes, circuses, sporting groups, mascots or other amusements or dramatic shows. (There are more exceptions detailed in the proposed bill.)

As for the emergency declaration in Section 2 of Barrington's bill:
It being immediately necessary for the preservation of the public peace, health and safety, an emergency is hereby declared to exist, by reason whereof this act shall take effect and be in full force from and after its passage and approval.

This is apparently such an urgent and widespread problem in Oklahoma that Barrington wants to declare an emergency and implement the law the moment it passes (if it passes) in February. Time's a wasting, you know, because even now someone might be wearing a ski mask as he tries to walk from the strip club to his car without being recognized by his neighbors. God forbid. The horror.

It's not OK: State Sen. Don Barrington
Barrington, chair of the Senate's Public Safety Committee, says that "The intent of Senate Bill 13 is to make businesses and public places safer by ensuring that people cannot conceal their identities for the purpose of crime or harassment," he says.

Really? Imagine this: A man wearing a hooded sweatshirt is in a restaurant. It's a cold day, and he keeps his "hoodie" over his head while eating. His meal is not satisfactory, however, and he complains firmly but civilly to his server. The server takes offense, calls the cops, and accuses the customer of harassment while hooded.

Punishment for violating the law would be "by a fine of not less than Fifty Dollars ($50.00) nor more than Five Hundred Dollars ($500.00), or by imprisonment in the county jail for a period of not exceeding one (1) year, or by both such fine and imprisonment."

Constitutional issues are unavoidable with laws pertaining to what we can and cannot wear. Think Progress reminds us that "CNN legal analyst Sunny Hostin took on the issue when an Indiana mall banned the garment in March" of last year. Hostin said that a ban on hoodies "is about the pretext of being able to stop young African-American males,” she said. "Hoodie is code for ‘thug’ in many places and I think businesses shouldn’t be in the business of telling people what to wear. The Fourteenth Amendment protects us from this."

In theory, maybe, but 10 other states have similar bans on masks and head coverings, Fourteenth Amendment be damned.

Also See: State Codes Related To Wearing Masks
2:54 PM | 0 comments | Read More

North Korean Nuke Report (Updated)

Jan 1, 2015 | 9:30 PM

Kim Jong-un (ABC News)
Kim Jong-un (ABC News)
Updated January 1, 2015 - Disturbing videos (below) about North Korea's nuclear weapons and how it threatens to use them. An opinion piece in the Chicago Tribune today reminds us that the threat from North Korea should not be laughed off. Rather, it should be taken as deadly serious:

"While the world's attention focuses on North Korea's cyber war with Sony, the Hermit Kingdom is rapidly increasing its stockpile of nuclear weapons material, with little real pushback from the United States," wrote Josh Rogin and Eli Lake for the Chicago Tribune. "North Korea is estimated to have 30 to 34 kilograms of weapons-grade plutonium now, enough for around nine nuclear weapons, depending on the size of each bomb. Last year it conducted its third nuclear weapons test."

The Tribune opinion piece raises this disturbing question: "Why does a targeted cyber-hack draw a tougher response from Obama than the amassing of a small nuclear arsenal?" and notes that "The message that sends to Pyongyang is that it can threaten the entire region with nuclear weapons, just so long as it doesn't touch Hollywood."

The first video is from 2009 when Kim Jong-Il was still alive and in power. The second video below, from 2013, shows how his son Kim Jong-Un continues the madness. The third video here, from 2014, reports that "North Korea might have a nuclear weapon that's small enough to be placed on a missile." And that's no joke, as Lora Moftah points out in an excellent report at International Business Times. Moftah makes it very clear just why North Korea is a threat to be taken very seriously. As recent as August [2014], North Korea threatened to attack the U.S. with nuclear force in response to a joint military exercise with South Korea. The threat was preceded a few weeks earlier with a direct warning by Pyongyang that it would fire nuclear-armed rockets on the White House and the Pentagon." Really, no joke.

9:30 PM | 0 comments | Read More

Israel Wiped Off The Map, Literally

January 1, 2015 - A publisher in the U.K. has accomplished what Arab nations, Muslims and anti-Semites have dreamed of since 1948. They wiped Israel off the map.

HarperCollins omits Israel from its mapIsrael was left off a map published by Collins Bartholomew, a subsidiary of publishing giant HarperCollins. "The country is not labelled on the map - bought by English-speaking schools in the majority-Muslim Gulf, while Gaza and Jordan are clearly marked," notes The Daily Mail. The publisher is based in Edinburgh, Scotland.

The atlas, distributed in English-speaking schools in the United Arab Emirates and neighboring countries, shows the West Bank next to Gaza but with Israel not labelled.

A report on December 31st by The Tablet, a weekly Catholic newspaper based in the UK, says that The Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales "accused HarperCollins of harming peace efforts in the Middle East through its production of atlases that omit Israel from their maps. Collins Middle East Atlases, which are sold to English-speaking schools in the Muslim-majority Gulf, depict Jordan and Syria extending all the way to the Mediterranean Sea."

Incredibly, Collins Bartholomew actually admitted to The Tablet that they bowed to "local preferences" by omitting Israel. In a region filled with enemies who have vowed to years to destroy the Jewish nation, inclusion of Israel on the map would have been "unacceptable" to customers in region.

The Tablet also reported that "customs officers in one Gulf nation" would only allow school atlases "to reach their intended recipient only once Israel had been struck out by hand."

To put it simply, Collins Bartholomew willingly published an inaccurate map for school children just to satisfy the political demands of paying customers. For the publisher, apparently, reality is less important than profit. Customs officers in Third World countries seem to be editors emeritus for Collins Bartholomew.

The story immediately received big media attention. Busted, embarrassed and called out for their act of deliberate regional revisionism, parent company HarperCollins apologized on Facebook: Commenters on Facebook, however, were not buying the apology.

The apology is hollow. After all, had there not been an outcry over this, Collins Bartholomew would still be happily selling their fantasy maps sans Israel. And commenters on Facebook were not buying it:
  • "Did you actually think you could get away with such revisionism and that nobody would notice? I am certain you only regret that your reprehensible actions were exposed for what they are." 
  • "Apart from your appalling decision to facilitate racists, the fact remains the Rhodesia is Zimbabwe now, Ceylon is Sri Lanka and like it or not, Israel is the name of the country that you have deliberately ommited!"
  • "Would you have made a map for the Gulf states with Al-Andalus replacing Spain and Portugal? If they want imaginary maps, they should have to make their own."
  • "WOW, what a stupid decision. Enjoy the backlash!"
And the backlash has only just begun. One commenter provided the URL of HarperCollins authors as a list of "Books not to buy. Suggest authors move their trade elsewhere." A number of commenters are threatening to boycott of HarperCollins.

Whether or not you agree with a boycott, it seems clear now that anything - anything- published by HarperCollins or any of its subsidiaries must be questioned for accuracy - and honesty. Perhaps the best comment was made by Rick Moran in his post at American Thinker today: "The publisher had little choice - except to abandon a lucrative market or comply. I think there are some business decisions that may cost a company money, but allow it to hang on to its soul. This is one of those times."

Also See:
HarperCollins erases Israel from atlases Times of Israel
Sin of omission? HarperCollins leaves Israel off the map Al Bawaba
The Fake Map Of ‘Lost Palestinian Territory’ The Muslim Issue
UAE's Etihad Airways denies omitting Israel from in-flight map Haaretz
How Putin Manipulates Russians Using Revisionist History Forbes
Russia Propaganda Rises Again: Fake Maps Depict a Much Smaller Ukraine Daily Signal
11:15 AM | 0 comments | Read More

Drones Deliver Mail and Packages In France

Dec 30, 2014 | 4:34 PM

December 30, 2014 - When Benjamin Franklin was postmaster of Philadelphia in 1737 (way before he was an American revolutionary), he probably never imagined letters and packages being delivered in flying machines. "Air mail" is old news to us some 200 years later, and no longer considered special. In 2014, France's postal service LaPoste is testing mail delivery by six-propeller drones, which are unmanned flying robots.

Drone by GeoPost for package delivery in France
Six-propeller drone by GeoPost can deliver
or medicines to remote areas in France 
 "This week, LaPoste, France’s postal service, announced that its package-delivery subsidiary, GeoPost, had successfully completed initial tests of a service to deliver lightweight mail and packages via drone. The tests were conducted by CEEMA or the Centre d’√Čtudes et d’Essai pour Mod√®les Autonomes (the Center for Autonomous Model Testing and Studies), which is part of the company helping to build the drone." ~

That's cool, but only in concept. The average French citizen is still a long way from receiving mail via drone. VentureBeat notes that in recent tests, "the drone demonstrated it could reliably carry a package up to 2 kilograms in ranges up to 1.2 kilometers." But then again, this project is still very experimental and not intended to replace large-scale mail delivery-by-humans.

Robots in the sky may not soon be delivering packages to remote French villas. "The drone delivery possibilities are still be explored at this point," says  Slashgear, "but the idea behind it all is that rural and otherwise remote locations -- or regions temporarily blocked by things like flooding -- can have needed medical supplies and such delivered at faster rates than by vehicle."

Benjamin Franklin
Ben Franklin went
postal years ago
The French drone tests were conducted "in collaboration with the company Atechsys at La Poste's special test site in the Var, southern France, used a six-propeller drone able to carry loads of up to 16 inches by 12 inches by eight inches in size and weighing up to nine pounds in all weathers and terrains within a 12-mile radius," reports The Telegraph (UK).

For the near future, French drones will deliver mail only in rural areas. French law does not allow drones to fly over heavily populated areas.

French drone could deliver parcels to remote areas
French drone delivers parcels to remote areas
Limited though the drones may be, this is actually a great idea, even if the drones do not seem suited to replace human postal carriers on any large scale. But the real purpose, says The Telegraph, "is to be able to fly the drones in remote areas or places difficult to reach by car – up very steep roads, down hillsides and areas with few roads and over water." GeoPost says the mechanical mailmen can "reach isolated zones very rapidly," which would be valuable for "urgent medical needs or blood deliveries."

The U.S. Postal Service (USPS) has nightmarish budget problems, and unpaid robots delivering the mail might seem like an idea whose time has come. President Obama has said that the USPS should replace human mail carriers with drones or face being shut down.

“Postal Carriers in the United States bring home an hourly wage of $18.25 to $25.82 per hour,” Obama said at a conference in July. “These men and women bring home anywhere from $37,950.00 to $53,700.00 annually. It is no wonder the price of our postage is on a consistent increase.”

“Persons living in the United States today cannot afford to feed their families,” Obama continued. “While they are stuck working on minimum wage salaries. Why should the government be paying so much to mail carriers, when their neighbors cannot afford to eat?” He adds that he feels it is a waste for the Federal Government to be paying these workers this much money when a drone from WIT can do the same job and cost a lot less to operate."

Obama did not address the fact that humans replaced by drones would no longer be able to afford to feed their own families because their neighbors' welfare checks are being delivered by robots.

Also See:
France's La Poste develops drone to deliver parcels Telegraph (UK)
Obama Gives USPS Ultimatum To Deliver Mail By Drones Wyoming Institute of Technology 
FAA Poised To Miss Deadline For Drone Regulations Daily Caller
No Roads? There's a drone for that Andreas Raptopoulos
4:34 PM | 0 comments | Read More

North Korean Internet Outage Probably Caused By Hackers, Not US (Updated)

Dec 23, 2014 | 7:06 PM

December 23, 2014 - North Korea's internet was disrupted over the weekend, and finally went down completely on Monday. It came back online, but then it went down two more times. And tonight, reports Yonhap News Agency, "some major North Korean websites remained blocked Wednesday [Korea time] for the second straight day amid growing speculation over cyber warfare between Washington and Pyongyang. Since going down Monday evening, the website of the North's main propaganda organ, Uriminzokkiri, remained inaccessible as of early Wednesday."

North Korea's Kim Jong-un, digital dictator
UPDATE, 27 Dec 2014 - North Korea's Internet and 3G mobile network 'paralyzed,' according to Reuters: "Internet connectivity had not returned to normal as of 21:30 local time [Saturday night], Xinhua reported, citing reporters in the country that had confirmed the situation over fixed telephone systems. The report comes after the North Korean government called Obama a 'monkey' and blamed the United States for enduring instability in the country's internet infrastructure, after the U.S. blamed North Korea for hacking attack on Sony Studios."

But was it the work of the U.S. seeking revenge for the cyber attack on Sony Pictures? Some security experts "say the attack that temporarily knocked the isolated nation offline looks more like the work of hacker pranksters than a vengeful U.S. government," says

The network was not down very long (about 10 hours), which indicates that the outages were probably not the retaliation promised by President Obama as for the devastating cyber attack on Sony Pictures on November 24.  Sure, it seems the outages are continuing, and it seems impressive that an entire nation's internet access was taken down. Right? Well, no, not really. Read on to find out why that's not true in the strange case of North Korea.

The FBI and Obama have blamed North Korea for penetrating Sony's computer system, stealing massive amounts of information, and then rendering the computers useless. Many in the info security business are skeptical of the accusations against North Korea, however, and some even say it might have been in inside job.

The mainstream assumption is that a film called "The Interview" pissed off North Korea's leader, Kim Jong-un by - among other things - depicting him as a douchebag and dying in a fiery explosion. Some say that the depiction of Kim in the film could have caused damage to his prestige if any of his generals or other privileged persons were able to access it, say on a black market DVD or even on the Internet.

On December 19, Obama vowed that the U.S. would "respond proportionally" against North Korea. If the most recent outage/s was caused by an Obama-authorized cyber attack on North Korea's interwebs, then it's a lame response. It certainly was not a proportionate response, considering the enormous, yet to be fully determined, financial losses of Sony Pictures. After all, to simply cause a disruption of less than 24 hours to a very few elite North Koreans probably did not cause any great hardships or damage.

Poster for "The Interview"
I think most of us are wishing for Obama to order up the crippling of Pyongyang's power grid. That would not only deny the North Koreans access to the Internet (no power, no computers), it would also force the artificially privileged of the capital city to live in the same desperate poverty that the rest of the country suffers. A simple EMP blast in the sky over Pyongyang ought to do the trick. Of course, that would cause more public relations problems than it's probably worth.

"North Korea's circle of internet users is so small that the country has only 1,024 IP addresses for 25 million people," reports Vox, "whereas the US has billions of IP addresses for 316 million people. While it's impossible to infer a specific number of internet-connected devices from this, it is safe to say that the number is very, very small." Kim Jong-un's regime has turned Internet access into "something that exists almost purely to cement his government's rule and to reward himself."

"The internet in North Korea is not a public good, nor even a good that the public is aware of," notes Vox. " It is purely and solely used as a government tool, for serving such ends as propaganda and hacking, and as a luxury good for the elites who run the government." The biggest inconvenience that an Internet outage might cause for North Korea would be the inability of their professional hackers and propagandists to operate.

This could pose a threat to Kim Jong-un's prestige. Who cares if the peasants never hear of "The Interview?" Theoretically, the elites could stream the film via their unfiltered Internet access or obtain the film on DVD.

If the elite watch "The Interview," it could hurt Kim's prestige and damage respect for the little dictator. It wouldn't change things immediately, says Rand Corporation senior defense analyst Bruce Bennett, "but the elite in North Korea aren’t happy with Kim Jong Un." Bennett says Kim is "purging people right and left, in far extreme of what his father did. He’s inducing instability in the country…You never know what’s going to change things."

Dyn Research in March 2013 that "the four networks of North Korea are routed by a single Internet service provider, Star JV (AS 131279), which has two international Internet service providers: China Unicom (AS 4837) and Intelsat (AS 22351)."

Taking down North Korea's access to the Internet for a few hours would be an inconvenience for Pyongyang and Kim Jong-un. But it would not impart any proportional damage (relative to the Sony losses) unless it also fried all of the computers connected to it. (There are other computers in North Korea, such as in schools, but they are connected to the state-run intranet, not to the internet. And so headlines referring to "Massive North Korea Internet Outages" are amusing because there is nothing "massive" about Internet access in North Korea.)

Then again, taking it down for a prolonged period of time (a very, very long time measured in years) would cripple North Korea's hacking program, which they use as a substitute for their weak military. A 62-year old defector from North Korea told Aljazeera that there are five reasons why Pyongyang loves cyber warfare, which can all be summed up briefly this way: Cyber warfare can be highly effective, low risk and relatively inexpensive.

While this recent outage might be an attack [by the U.S.], Dyn Research notes that "it’s also consistent with more common causes, such as power problems. Point causes such as breaks in fiberoptic cables, or deliberate upstream provider disconnections, seem less likely because they don’t generate prolonged instability before a total failure. We can only guess. The data themselves don’t speak to motivations, or distinguish human factors from physical infrastructure problems."

It shouldn't be surprising to learn that North Korea has had Internet outages in the past, and they've been on the receiving end of cyber attacks too: Uriminzokkiri, for example, was hacked back in April, 2013. North Korea has blamed those past outages and attacks on the U.S. But they were more likely the symptoms of a lousy infrastructure. Or the actions of playful hackers.

Also See:
Did North Korea Hack Sony? Bruce W. Bennett, Rand
The Sony saga: 10 reasons why the FBI is wrong IT Pro Portal
Obama Vows a Response to Cyberattack on Sony New York Times
Were hackers behind North Korea outage? Politico
North Korea’s Internet Outage Is Probably Due To Pranksters,Not U.S. ‘Cyberwar’ Fusion
It's Alarmingly Easy To Take North Korea's Internet Offline Business Insider UK
How to bring North Korea to its cyber-knees Matthew Gault
How North Korea, one of the world's poorest countries, got so good at hacking Vox
7:06 PM | 0 comments | Read More

FBI Still Blames North Korea for Sony Hack (Updated)

Dec 19, 2014 | 2:16 PM

December 19, 2014 - The FBI blamed North Korea today for the unprecedented computer hacking attack of Sony Pictures Entertainment (SPE) in late November. It is widely believed that the cyber attack was North Korea's retaliation for Sony's film "The Interview." The film depicts a fictional CIA-sponsored assassination of N. Korea's young dictator Kim Jong-unUPDATED, 30 December: New Evidence.....

Kim Jong Un 'death scene' from The Interview
- MirrorNinja (watch video)
The Interview was released to theaters on Christmas Day, despite earlier threats of terrorism that caused Sony to pull the film's release.

The attack on Sony was devastating. In it's statement, the FBI said that "the destructive nature of this attack, coupled with its coercive nature, sets it apart." The statement said that the FBI is confident that the North Korean government "is responsible for these actions."

Experts Doubt North Korea's Role:
Was North Korea really behind the attack on Sony Picture's computers? Or was is one or more former Sony employees, possibly working as a paid contractor for North Korea?

On Dec. 29, Hollywood Reporter: "Security firm Norse claims it has evidence that shows the Sony hack was perpetrated by six individuals, including two based in the U.S., one in Canada, one in Singapore and one in Thailand. Norse senior vp Kurt Stammberger told the Ledger, a security industry news website, that among the six was one former Sony Pictures employee, a 10-year veteran of the company with a very technical background who was laid off in May following restructuring. Norse used human resources documents that were leaked as part of the hack to first identify and then track the former Sony employee's online activity at least since May, when the person left the company."

Dec. 27, CNN: "It's clear to us, based on both forensic and other evidence we've collected, that unequivocally they are not responsible for orchestrating or initiating the attack on Sony," said Sam Glines, who runs the cybersecurity company Norse.

Dec. 29, Dark Matters: "Norse Investigation Focusing on a Small Group, Including Sony Ex-Employees"

Dec. 30, Daily Beast: "Stammberger said that Norse’s analysis is now pointing toward an attack against Sony by disgruntled employees that was conducted in stages and over the course of several months, beginning as early as July, and that North Korea opportunistically praised the attack only after it was discovered."

From the FBI's December 19 press release:

Today, the FBI would like to provide an update on the status of our investigation into the cyber attack targeting Sony Pictures Entertainment (SPE). In late November, SPE confirmed that it was the victim of a cyber attack that destroyed systems and stole large quantities of personal and commercial data. A group calling itself the “Guardians of Peace” claimed responsibility for the attack and subsequently issued threats against SPE, its employees, and theaters that distribute its movies.

....The attacks also rendered thousands of SPE’s computers inoperable, forced SPE to take its entire computer network offline, and significantly disrupted the company’s business operations.
....Sony’s quick reporting facilitated the investigators’ ability to do their jobs, and ultimately to identify the source of these attacks.
....the FBI now has enough information to conclude that the North Korean government is responsible for these actions. While the need to protect sensitive sources and methods precludes us from sharing all of this information, our conclusion is based, in part, on the following:

- Technical analysis of the data deletion malware used in this attack revealed links to other malware that the FBI knows North Korean actors previously developed. For example, there were similarities in specific lines of code, encryption algorithms, data deletion methods, and compromised networks.

- The FBI also observed significant overlap between the infrastructure used in this attack and other malicious cyber activity the U.S. government has previously linked directly to North Korea. For example, the FBI discovered that several Internet protocol (IP) addresses associated with known North Korean infrastructure communicated with IP addresses that were hardcoded into the data deletion malware used in this attack.
- Separately, the tools used in the SPE attack have similarities to a cyber attack in March of last year against South Korean banks and media outlets, which was carried out by North Korea.

....the destructive nature of this attack, coupled with its coercive nature, sets it apart. North Korea’s actions were intended to inflict significant harm on a U.S. business and suppress the right of American citizens to express themselves. Such acts of intimidation fall outside the bounds of acceptable state behavior.... (read the full press release here.)

Also See:
U.S. suspects North Korea had help attacking Sony Pictures Reuters (29 Dec)
New Evidence Points to Inside Job, Security Experts Say Hollywood Reporter (Dec 29)
No, North Korea Didn’t Hack Sony Daily Beast (30 Dec)
FBI Fixated on North Korea for Sony Hack Despite New Evidence Daily Beast (30 Dec)
Hackers Make New Demands On Sony Pictures TMZ
Obama pledges proportional response to Sony hack AP/Watertown Public Opinion
Hack Attack Spurs Call For More North Korea Sanctions AP/Atlanta Daily World
Watch the Kim Jong-un Death Scene from The Interview MirrorNinja
Sony Pictures hack: Timeline of revelations from unprecedented cyber-attack IBTimes
Sony Pictures proves Hollywood is a land of cowards New York Post
George Clooney: Hollywood must push for release of The Interview  The Telegraph (UK)
North Korea’s Secret Movie Bootleggers Daily Beast
2:16 PM | 0 comments | Read More

Obama Calls Himself a Dictator. Or King. Or Emperor.

Nov 18, 2014 | 12:51 PM

November 18, 2014 - Barack Obama once said that preventing deportation of illegal immigrants without the involvement of Congress would be dictatorial. Western Journalism's Norvell Rose notes that even Obama's natural allies in the liberal media are serving up scathing criticism of his tendencies to act more like a king than president.

Dictator Obama, Heir to Stalin
Obama, heir to Stalin
Rose wrote that the New York Times "aptly points out" Obama has said on multiple occasions that acting on his own to curb the deportation of millions of illegals without an act of Congress "would amount to nothing less than the dictates of a king, not a president." 

A better analogy might be that Obama's penchant for acting without the peoples' elected representatives in Congress amounts more closely to the dictates of a despotic tyrant. There have been, after all, kings who have been more cooperative with their parliaments or congresses than Obama has been.

WJ's Rose gives us three examples from the NYT piece, "Using Executive Order on Immigration, Obama Would Reverse Long-Held Stance" of  "Obama’s own, very clear and specific words to explain that a president cannot simply move forward on this kind of domestic front without congressional authority," and they are damning:

  • In a Telemundo interview in September 2013, Mr. Obama said…I’ll be ignoring the law in a way that I think would be very difficult to defend legally,” Mr. Obama told Jose Diaz-Balart in the interview. “So that’s not an option.”
  • …during a Google Hangout in February 2013…“This is something that I have struggled with throughout my presidency,” Mr. Obama said. “The problem is, is that I’m the president of the United States, I’m not the emperor of the United States. My job is to execute laws that are passed.”
  • In an immigration speech in San Francisco last November…Mr. Obama…insisted that only Congress had the authority to do what they [immigration protestors] wanted. “The easy way out is to try to yell and pretend like I can do something by violating our laws,” he said.

The NYT is not the only leftist newspaper of note to sling Obama's words back at him. Two editorials in The Washington Post point out Obama's hypocrisy and willingness to sabotage democracy: "In Mr. Obama’s own words, acting alone is ‘not how our democracy functions" on November 17, and from August 5, "Frustration over stalled immigration action doesn’t mean Obama can act unilaterally."

Also See:
Even the Democrats Want Obama to Slow Down on Immigration Executive Action PJ Media
Dems press Obama to wait on immigration The Hill
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Apple's New iPad Air 2: Slimmer, More Powerful

Oct 16, 2014 | 9:46 PM

October 16, 2014 - Apple's iPad Air 2 tablet (also known as the iPad 6) looks familiar but has a thinner body than last year's iPad Air. Needless to say, Apple added new features and updated most of the others. And because size does matter, the iPad Air 2 is only 6.1mm thick, less than half the thickness of the original iPad. It's thin enough that Apple calls it the world's thinnest tablet.

Apple's iPad Air 2
iPad Air 2 from Apple (click to enlarge)
Nice price: Although it's got lots of improvements, the iPad Air 2 price is the same as its predecessor. "The iPad Air 2 starts at $500 for the 16GB version," writes reviewer Eric Limer at Gizmodo today, "the same price the original Air debuted at. Bigger storage sizes come in $100 increments up to 64GB, with an additional $130 premium for LTE versions. Meanwhile the original Air is getting $100 lopped off its price, and now starts at $400."

The Verge's Jacob Kastrenakes writes that the tablet will be offered in gold, silver, and gray beginning at $499 for a 16GB, Wi-Fi only model. Apple is also offering models with additional storage, selling 64GB for $599 and 128GB for $699. A version of the tablet with LTE is also available, with each model being sold at a $130 premium to the Wi-Fi version."

Check out the video review from Mashable, below. More after the video..... 

The iPad Air 2 has an exciting new camera, too. It's now got an 8 megapixel sensor with 1.12 micron pixels and a lens with an f2.4 aperture, reports The Verge.  "It's able to record 1080p video and slow-motion video, camera panoramas, take photos in burst mode or time lapse mode — all of which have been previously introduced on iPhones. The front camera has a new sensor too and a larger aperture of f2.2."

Another exciting new feature: The touch ID fingerprint sensor. It seems that it will allow authentication of your identity only for online purchasing and cannot be used in brick-and-mortar stores. It can also be used to lock your iPad Air 2, sign in to secure apps, approve purchases from iTunes, iBooks, and the App Store, and more.

Pre-orders for the iPad Air 2 begin tomorrow (October 17), and will begin shipping out next week.

Also See:
Samsung Galaxy Note 4 camera shootout versus iPhone 6 Plus, LG G3 CNET
Apple fields iPad Air 2 to breathe new life into tablet sales CNET
iPad Air 2 Vs iPad Air: What's The Difference? Forbes
9:46 PM | 0 comments | Read More

Dutch Motorcycle Gang Members Join Kurds Against ISIS

October 16, 2014 - The Netherlands, also known as Holland, has some bad-ass biker dudes. One of them, a notorious band of brothers called "No Surrender," has already branched out internationally. The Dutch bikers (citizens of Holland are called Dutch, for those of you who don't know) are just itching to bash ISIS and bring some tough justice to Syria and Iraq.

Posted to Twitter by @KoerdenNL, October 9
Three members of  No Surrender who have military backgrounds already went to Iraq and Syria last week to help Kurdish troops fight Islamic State (IS). That would have been illegal just days ago, but their government has given them a green light. This is not an official No Surrender action, however.

BBC News reports that No Surrender's leader, Klaas Otto, says the men went to fight on their own, independently of their club. 

Otto told Dutch broadcaster Omroep Brabant, "They are trained guys with lots of experience - with foreign missions," and that the three volunteer fighters "are extremely disciplined. They don't drink any alcohol, not even on club evenings." Of their motivation, he said, "They wanted to do something when they saw the pictures of the beheadings."

"The story emerged after photos began circulating on social media," says BBC (see photo above,  video below). "One shows a man dressed in green military fatigues, clutching a Kalashnikov, sitting alongside a Kurdish fighter."

AFP reports that Holland's public prosecutor spokesman Wim de Bruin said, "Joining a foreign armed force was previously punishable, now it's no longer forbidden," public prosecutor spokesman Wim de Bruin told AFP
Klaas Otto, No Surrender

"You just can't join a fight against the Netherlands," he told AFP after reports emerged that Dutch bikers from the No Surrender gang were fighting IS insurgents alongside Kurds in northern Iraq.
The head of No Surrender, Klaas Otto, told state broadcaster NOS that three members who traveled to near Mosul in northern Iraq were from Dutch cities Amsterdam, Rotterdam and Breda.

It's illegal for citizens of Holland to join ISIS (Islamic State) because it's considered to be a terrorist organization. And it is still against the law for Dutch citizens to join the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) because it's considered to be a terrorist organization by Holland and many other countries. De Bruin pointed out that Dutch citizens fighting on the Kurdish side could still be in serious legal trouble if they commit crimes such as torture or rape. "But this is also happening a long way away and so it'll be very difficult to prove," said De Bruin. (Wink, wink.)

No Surrender is not the first motorcycle club whose members have fought against ISIS in Syria, however. 

Also See: 
6:17 PM | 0 comments | Read More

CDC Lets Feverish Ebola Nurse Board Commercial Flight From Cleveland to Dallas

From Caretaker to Patient: Nurse Amber Vinson
Ebola Nurse and Victim:
Amber Vinson
October 16, 2014 - Nurse Amber Vinson, 29, the second nurse to contract Ebola in Dallas, TX was told by a federal health staffer that it was okay to board a commercial in Cleveland on October 13. Vinson told the staffer at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), that she was running a fever of 99.5 Fahrenheit.  The CDC staffer considered that to be non-threatening.

According to WSBTV Atlanta, CDC spokesman David Daigle said that Vinson spoke with a CDC official responsible for monitoring her health before she boarded the flight Monday. In other words, the CDC person that Vinson spoke to knew that she was one of the people who had cared for Thomas Eric Duncan, the Liberian man who died of Ebola eight days ago at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital in Dallas.  

Reuters reports that "a federal source" said that Vinson "was not told not to fly" because her slight fever was below 100.4F, the CDC's temperature threshold that would indicated infectious Ebola. But CBS News Medical Correspondent Dr. John LaPook reports that Vinson called the CDC several times before boarding the plane concerned about her fever. "Nurse Vinson,  did in fact call the CDC several times before taking that flight and said she has a temperature, a fever of 99.5, and the person at the CDC looked at a chart and because her temperature wasn’t 100.4 or higher she didn’t officially fall into the category of high risk," said Dr. LaPook on the CBS Evening News.

How could the CDC not consider Vinson to be high risk, knowing that she'd had close contact with a man who just days ago died of Ebola -- and one of her own co-workers had also contracted the virus? It makes us wonder just how incompetent the CDC actually is. The CDC is now trying to contact all of the passengers who flew with Vinson on Frontier Airlines flight 1143 from Cleveland to Dallas/Fort Worth on Monday evening.

Fine, but why did the CDC let Vinson travel out of Dallas in the first place? Should she, and her coworkers at the Dallas hospital, have been told to not travel and been monitored during the 21-day Ebola incubation period just in case they did become infected? Which, of course, at least two did. Nina Pham, another nurse at the Dallas hospital, is currently being treated for Ebola after helping care for Duncan.

"While in Ohio," reports CBS, "Vinson visited relatives, who are employees at Kent State University.  The university is now asking Vinson’s three relatives stay off campus and self-monitor per CDC protocol for the next 21 days out of an 'abundance of caution'."

If the CDC had followed it's own  protocol, they would not now be frantically hunting down the potentially hundreds of people (the 132 on Flight 1143 plus those in airport terminals, etc.) who came in contact with Vinson  while she had a "slight fever." The CDC official displayed anything but an abundance of caution. For that matter, Nurse Vinson acted recklessly as a healthcare professional who should have acted more responsibly.

Click to enlarge
About that fever: It's a symptom of infection. The CDC official should have told Vinson to report to the nearest suitable hospital for isolation and observation. The media, in their usual, sloppy way, are reporting that Vinson boarded Frontier flight 1143 "before she became symptomatic" even as they note her fever. But fever is a symptom, so she was already symptomatic on Monday when she boarded the plane in Ohio.

NBC News reports that the CDC staffer who spoke with Vinson "looked on the agency's website for guidance," according to a spokesperson. "The category for 'uncertain risk' had guidance saying that a person could fly commercially if they did not meet the threshold of a temperature of 100.4." The spokesperson also told NBC that, "These two nurses who are infected as well as the others who cared for Duncan but were wearing protective gear — a lot of them are falling into the category of 'uncertain risk'", the spokesperson said. "She represents uncharted water for us ... She did not fall into a clear category." 

Say what? "Uncertain risk?" Not a "clear category?" A nurse, who just days ago was caring for a man dying of Ebola, projectile vomiting and highly contagious says she has a fever, but THAT'S not a "clear category?" "Medical records provided to The Associated Press by Duncan's family show Vinson inserted catheters, drew blood, and dealt with Duncan's body fluids before he died last week," says WLTX Atlanta. "It's not clear how she contracted the virus."

The Director of the CDC, Dr. Tom Frieden, said that Vinson should not have gotten on Flight 1143. CNN reports that he said, "The CDC guidance in this setting outlines the need for what is called controlled movement. That can include a charter plane, a car, but it does not include public transport," and, "We will from this moment forward ensure that no other individual who is being monitored for exposure undergoes travel in any way other than controlled movement."

A suggestion for Dr. Frieden: From this moment forward, please ensure that your staff -- and every damned hospital in America -- understands those guidelines. Frieden on Wednesday said because she had been exposed to the virus and had a low fever, she shouldn’t have boarded the flight. "So by both of those criteria, she should not have been on that plane," he said. True, but by other criteria all CDC staffers should have known this before Amber Vinson was given permission to get on that plane.  

CDC news conference, October 12, 2014

But here's the real kicker: Frieden himself is somewhat guilty of incompetence. On Sunday, the day before feverish Amber Vinson got CDC permission to fly on a commercial flight, Frieden said that the CDC "is deeply concerned" to learn that "a breach in protocol" at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital Dallas resulted in nurse Nina Pham becoming sick with Ebola. Frieden referred to "a breach in protocol," but it seems there were multiple breaches at Presbyterian.

"At some point, there was a breach in protocol," Dr. Frieden said at an Atlanta press conference on Monday. "And that breach in protocol resulted in [Nina Pham's] infection." Yes, Dr. Frieden, and your breaches have resulted in another infected nurse from that hospital getting on a plane with 132 passengers. "It is possible that other individuals were exposed," Frieden said. That was Monday. Amber Vinson flew on Monday evening. (Watch the full Oct. 12 Frieden CDC press conference.)

Knowing that the Dallas hospital violated protocol, why did Frieden not make certain that all CDC staff were up to speed on that protocol? Why did CDC not immediately track down and isolate all 50 people who known to have had contact with Duncan from the time of his first ER visit and while he was symptomatic. "There were seven other patients in the ER at Presbyterian Hospital when Duncan was first examined that are now under observation," reports "Normal hygiene and good fortune may have prevented any of these people from contracting Ebola."

Amber Vinson was flown from Dallas to Atlanta on Wednesday evening for treatment at Emory University Hospital. Pray for Vinson that the staff at Emory is more competent than the fools at Texas Health Presbyterian in Dallas, which should probably be renamed "Texas Breaches of Protocol." While we're at it, let's rename the CDC the "Competence Deficiency Center."

Also See:
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