Mitt Romney’s Weird Power Trips
We all make mistakes in our youth, drinking, drugs, and wild parties. But have you ever dressed up like a policeman and pulled people over? We thought it was strange when a young man reported a 2011 incident in California where Romney approached him on the beach and asked that he stop smoking marijuana and drinking in public. Apparently the man felt Romney was about to initiate a “citizen’s arrest” for his public display of illegal activities – a bit of a power trip for sure.
It got even weirder when we heard reports of some strange Romney behavior during his college days. Romney, who claims to have only drank and smoked a cigarette one time, apparently liked to dress up like a policeman and pull people over for random violations. According to TV producer Robin Madden, a former friend of Romney during his time at Stanford:
He told us that he had gotten the uniform from his father, George Romney, then the Governor of Michigan, whose security detail was staffed by uniformed troopers. He told us that he was using it to pull over drivers on the road. He also had a red flashing light that he would attach to the top of his white Rambler. We thought it was all pretty weird. We all thought, ‘Wow, that’s pretty creepy.’ And after that, we didn’t have much interaction with him.
Romney has not confirmed this report of his strange behavior.
Undersea Network Cables Mysteriously Cut
Nearly 100% of the global Internet traffic is dependent upon deep-sea networks of fiber-optic cables that cover the ocean floor. As much as ¾ of the international communications between the Middle East and Europe are carried by two undersea cables: SeaMeWe-4 (which stands for South East Asia Middle East West Europe) and FLAG Telecom’s FLAG Europe-Asia cable. On January 30, 2008, both of these cables were cut, severely disrupting Internet and telephone traffic from India to Egypt. A few days later, on February 1, 2008, another undersea cable was cut in the Persian Gulf and two days after that, on February 3, 2008, another Middle East cable was cut. On February 4, 2008, a report was issued indicating two more cables had been cut. Five high-speed submarine communication cables had been cut which caused disruptions and slowdowns for users in the Middle East and India. And nobody was sure how or why the cables were cut.
The Fiber-Optic Network
The network of intercontinental cables has grown and improved during the last century. Present day trans-continental cables use “fiber optic” cabling to provide optimal clarity in the signal. Repeaters (laser amplifiers), powered by a constant direct current passed down the conductor near the center of the cable, serve to strengthen, recondition, and dispatch the signal into the next length of cable. There are many such “repeaters” located in each cable circuit and they are protected by nothing more than the millions of tons of water they lie beneath.
How were the Cables Cut?
Speculations began circulating that ship anchors may have cut the cables. It was later learned that no ships had been in the areas of the damaged cables. Experts noted that cable cuts are not uncommon and that as many as a few dozen per year result from shifting cables on the ocean floor. But for so many to break in just one week, in the same geographic area, cables that provided critical communication facilities for much of the Middle East, seemed suspect. The cable cuts lead to widespread Internet outages in Middle Eastern Muslim nations, areas that proved troublesome for the United States during their “war on terror”.
Some speculated that the United States military had purposely cut the cables in an “ears and mouth” operation intended to install cutoff switches and network monitoring devices. Installation of such devices, or purposeful destruction and disruption of their service, has been conducted in the past, especially during wartime efforts. In Operation Ivy Bells (1971), the United States and National Security Agency (NSA) succeeded in placing wire taps on Soviet underwater communication lines. Using a specially built submarine, the U.S. raised the cable and wrapped monitoring devices around the cable. The devices were designed to easily break off if the cable was raised for repair. They were eventually discovered and removed (after a U.S. citizen defected and provided the devices whereabouts to the KGB).
But modern day cable is fiber optic. To install such devices would potentially require splicing in (or attaching) a device into the fiber-optic cable network, and using the cable’s direct current to power the device (potentially a repeater could be replaced but would be more easily discovered). Fiber optic cable is much more difficult to work with than traditional cable and would require noticeable downtime on the network while the modifications (and repairs) were made. Cutting the cables in one location, and installing the devices in another location on the route while the network is down, would certainly suffice to meet the needs of the United States expanded intelligence gathering efforts during the post 9/11 hysteria.
To date, no official explanation has been released for the cause of the cable cuts.
Chronology of the Cable Cuts
The chronology of the events is sketchy with differing reports on exactly which cables were cut, where they were cut, when they were cut, and how many cuts each cable was damaged by.
1/30/2008 – SEA-ME-WE 4 and FLAG Telecom cables in the Mediterranean Sea – connects several countries in Middle East ( Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, Bangladesh, India, Sri Lanka, Pakistan, United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Egypt, Italy, Tunisia, Algeria and France), the United States, and India.
2/1/2008 – FALCON cable cut again near Dubai. Possibly FEA and two other cables cut this day.
2/3/2008 – DOHA-HALOUL cable cut near UAE – connects Qatar to the United Arab Emirates
2/4/2008 – SEA-ME-WE 4 cable cut again.
12/19/2008 – , FLAG FEA, GO-1, SEA-ME-WE 3, and SEA-ME-WE 4 cables reported as cut.
An inquiry by Congressional Representative Edward Markey (D-Mass) has revealed that the number of requests wireless carriers receive from US law enforcement for information about their customers has increased steadily, but just how often the police use mobile phones to track individuals’ whereabouts remains unclear.
Markey, who is co-chair of the Congressional Bi-partisan Privacy Caucus, launched his inquiry in response to an article that appeared in The New York Times on 1 April 2012, which claimed that hundreds of US local police departments have been aggressively tracking citizens’ mobes, often “with little or no court oversight.”
“We cannot allow privacy protections to be swept aside with the sweeping nature of these information requests, especially for innocent consumers,” Markey said in a statement . “Law enforcement agencies are looking for a needle, but what are they doing with the haystack? We need to know how law enforcement differentiates between records of innocent people, and those that are subjects of investigation, as well as how it handles, administers, and disposes of this information.”
To that end, Markey sent letters dated 2 May 2012 to nine American mobile carriers, including AT&T, C Spire Wireless, Cricket Communications, MetroPCS, Sprint Wireless, T-Mobile, TracFone Wireless, U.S. Cellular, and Verizon Wireless. All of the carriers responded by the end of that month, and Markey made the responses public on his website on Monday.
According to the information Markey received, federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies issued some 1.3 million requests for phone records to US wireless carriers in 2011.
Most of the carriers reported that the number of requests from law enforcement had increased each year for the past five years. Verizon estimates it has seen about 15 per cent annual growth, while T-Mobile reckoned 12 to 16 per cent.
All of the carriers said they distinguished between emergency and non-emergency situations when considering requests. In general, carriers are quicker to comply with law enforcement requests when “exigent circumstances” are present, such as when someone’s life is in immediate danger.
Several of the carriers said they did collect fees to make up for the cost of complying with surveillance requests, but most were quick to note that they were not entitled to actually profit from services to law enforcement. AT&T says it does not believe the fees it currently charges cover its actual costs. All of the carriers denied actively marketing their provision of information to law enforcement as a feature of their services, but all said they complied with any valid requests as required by law.
Riseup Networks, Devin Theriot-Orr, 206-708-8740, email@example.com
May First/People Link, Jamie McClelland, 917-509-5734, firstname.lastname@example.org
ECN: Isole Nella Rete, email@example.com
Attack on Anonymous Speech
On Wednesday, April 18, at approximately 16:00 Eastern Time, U.S. Federal authorities removed a server from a colocation facility shared by Riseup Networks and May First/People Link in New York City. The seized server was operated by the European Counter Network (“ECN”), the oldest independent internet service provider in Europe, who, among many other things, provided an anonymous remailer service, Mixmaster, that was the target of an FBI investigation into the bomb threats against the University of Pittsburgh.
“The company running the facility has confirmed that the server was removed in conjunction with a search warrant issued by the FBI,” said May First/People Link director Jamie McClelland. “The server seizure is not only an attack against us, but an attack against all users of the Internet who depend on anonymous communication.”
Disrupted in this seizure were academics, artists, historians, feminist groups, gay rights groups, community centers, documentation and software archives and free speech groups. The server included the mailing list “cyber rights” (the oldest discussion list in Italy to discuss this topic), a Mexican migrant solidarity group, and other groups working to support indigenous groups and workers in Latin America, the Caribbean and Africa. In total, over 300 email accounts, between 50-80 email lists, and several other websites have been taken off the Internet by this action. None are alleged to be involved in the anonymous bomb threats.
“The FBI is using a sledgehammer approach, shutting down service to hundreds of users due to the actions of one anonymous person,” said Devin Theriot-Orr, a spokesperson for Riseup. “This is particularly misguided because there is unlikely to be any information on the server regarding the source of the threatening emails.”
“We sympathize with the University of Pittsburgh community who have had to deal with this frightening disruption for weeks. We oppose such threatening actions. However, taking this server won’t stop these bomb threats. The only effect it has is to also disrupt e-mail and websites for thousands of unrelated people,” continues Mr. Theriot-Orr. “Furthermore, the network of anonymous remailers that exists is not harmed by taking this machine. So we cannot help but wonder why such drastic action was taken when authorities knew that the server contained no useful information that would help in their investigation.”
The FBI purportedly seized the server because it was hosting an anonymous remailer called Mixmaster. Anonymous remailers are used to send email anonymously, or pseudonymously. Like other anonymizing services such as the Tor network, these remailers are widely used to protect the identity of human rights activists who place themselves and their families in grave danger by reporting information about abuses. Remailers are also important for corporate whistle blowers, democracy activists working under repressive regimes, and others to communicate vital information that would otherwise go un-reported.
The Mixmaster software is specifically designed to make it impossible for anyone to trace the emails. The system does not record logs of connections, details of who sent messages, or how they were routed. This is because the Mixmaster network is specifically designed to resist censorship, and support privacy and anonymity. Unfortunately, some people misuse the network. However, compared to the rate of legitimate use, the abuse rate is very low. There is therefore no legitimate purpose for the FBI to seize this server because they will not be able to obtain any information about the sender. This is plainly extra-judicial punishment and an attack on free speech and anonymity on the internet and serves as a chilling effect on others providers of anonymous remailers or other anonymous services.
In absence of any other leads, the FBI needs to show that they are making progress in this case, and this has meant seizing a server so they can proudly demonstrate they are taking some action. But what this incident shows is they are grasping at straws and are willing to destroy innocent bystanders for the sake of protecting their careers.
About the organizations involved
MayFirst/People Link (mayfirst.org) is a politically-progressive member-run and controlled organization that redefines the concept of “Internet Service Provider” in a collective and collaborative way. May First/People Link’s members are organizers and activists who elect a Leadership Committee to direct the organization. Like a coop, members pay dues, buy equipment and then share that equipment for websites, email, email lists, and other Internet purposes.
Riseup Networks (riseup.net) provides online communication tools for people and groups working on liberatory social change. Riseup creates democratic alternatives and practices self-determination by controlling our own secure means of communications.
ECN (European Counter Network – ecn.org) is the oldest independent service provider in Europe providing free email accounts, mailing lists, and websites to organizations, activists, and movements that are involved in human rights, freedom of speech and information in Italy and Europe. ECN is anti-fascist and works towards a just and equal society. Years ago, before sites like Youtube and Vimeo existed, ECN created a platform called NGV where people could upload and share independent video of human rights violations. Nowadays ECN works primarily with anti-fascist and anti-Nazi movements in all of Europe, providing space and resources to political and social centers.
Questions / further reading
Q: Doesn’t Mixmaster/anonymous remailers enable criminals to do bad things?
A: Criminals can already do bad things. Since they’re willing to break laws, they already have lots of options available that provide better privacy than mixmaster provides. They can steal cell phones, use them, and throw them in a ditch; they can crack into computers in Korea or Brazil and use them to launch abusive activities; they can use spyware, viruses, and other techniques to take control of literally millions of Windows machines around the world.
Mixmaster aims to provide protection for ordinary people who want to follow the law. Only criminals have privacy right now, and we need to fix that.
Some advocates of anonymity explain that it’s just a tradeoff — accepting the bad uses for the good ones — but there’s more to it than that. Criminals and other bad people have the motivation to learn how to get good anonymity, and many have the motivation to pay well to achieve it. Being able to steal and reuse the identities of innocent victims (identify theft) makes it even easier. Normal people, on the other hand, don’t have the time or money to spend figuring out how to get privacy online. This is the worst of all possible worlds.
So yes, criminals could in theory use mixmaster, but they already have better options, and it seems unlikely that taking mixmaster away from the world will stop them from doing bad things. At the same time, mixmaster and other privacy measures can fight identity theft, physical crimes like stalking, and so on. Please see the tor FAQ on abuse for more information.
Q: How does Mixmaster / Anonymous remailers work?
A: Anonymous remailers work by connecting to other anonymous remailers in a chain, and every one in that chain removes the mail header information making it impossible to find the real sender. The Tor project maintains a list of typical users of this and other anonymity systems, and the Mixmaster home page.
The March 6, 2012 arrest of six Anonymous/LulzSec members included a public release of the sworn affidavits and indictments. These are posted below. The following is a synopsis of the facts obtained from those released documents and is an excellent example of how the FBI conducts criminal computer investigations (and how they utilize informants).
Claims against Hector Xavier Monsegur (aka Sabu)
The arrest of Hector Xavier Monsegur was the most significant as many surmised that Monsegur turned informant to assist the FBI in the investigation against the other hackers. The documents filed against Monsegur claim that Hector Xavier Monsegur (known as “Sabu” in Anonymous circles) acted as the rooter and assisted the groups in gaining unauthorized access to the systems by identifying vulnerabilities and providing infrastructure support (servers and routers) which could be used to launch the attacks. Whether the “infrastructure support” mentioned in the documents was unauthorized use of his company’s hardware, the purchase of hardware using stolen credit cards, or simply acting as a LIOC client/agent or Tor exit node is not specified. Oddly, the indictment specifically mentions that the group supported Wikileaks and its founder, Julian Assange, a stab at Wikileaks that seems much out of place.
Specific attacks that Sabu allegedly participated in included the December 2010 DDOS attacks against Visa, MasterCard, and PayPal, the early 2011 attacks against the governments of Tunisia, Algeria, Yemeni, and Zimbabwe, and attacks against HBGary Federal, Fox Broadcasting Company, ACS Law, PBS, Nintendo, and Sony PlayStation Network.
One interesting accusation included a 2010 hack of an automobile parts company (no specific company name given in the document) whereby Sabu “fraudulently caused” the shipment of four automobile engines to his New York, New York home. This one falls outside the lines of the other supposed attacks and if true, could have been the undoing of Sabu given how easy it would have been to tie the shipment, and therefore the system intrusion, directly to Monsegur himself.
The document also claims that credit card numbers and bank account numbers were obtained by Sabu and used to purchase items and pay bills. The kicker – the document reveals their objective of forcing Monsegur to forfeit his own property to pay for these items.
Nowhere in the case against Monsegur does it mention that he may have turned state evidence against his fellow hackers. But, there are many clues that Sabu was pressured into turning including a Summer arrest and an obvious change in behavior (some fellow hackers noted that in retrospect, it seemed as if Sabu was covertly hinting that the other members should not trust him).
Claims against Ryan Ackroyd (United Kingdom), Jake Davis (United Kingdom), Darren Martyn (Ireland), and Donncha O’Cearrbhail (Ireland)
The indictment claims against Ryan Ackroyd, Jake Davis, Darren Martyn, and Donncha O’Cearrbhail hint that all were members of Anonymous and/or the Internet Feds hacking groups. The document claims that they carried out a campaign of “online destruction, intimidation, and criminality”. Specific attacks mentioned parallel the claims against Monsegur and include the hacks against HBGary and Fox Broadcasting Company. The supposed cyber attacks involved deleting data, stealing confidential information, decrypting confidential information (or “de-encrypting” as the Feds put it) including passwords, publicly disclosing the stolen information by dumping the data on public websites, hijacking email and Twitter accounts, defacing websites, doxing personal information (publishing private, personal details about a person), installing backdoors on the penetrated systems, intimidating the victim, and subjecting the victim to harassment. The document pointedly mentions their association with “Sabu” (aka Hector Xavier Monsegur), and other hackers identified as “Tflow”, and “Avunit”.
The documents notes the specific roles of each defendant claiming that Ryan Ackroyd identified and penetrated systems while Jake Davis acted as the “spokesman” for the group. The hack on Fox Networks notes that personal information, including names, birth dates, telephone numbers, email addresses, and home addresses, of 70,000 X-Factor contestants was stolen.
Logs of IRC discussions are playing a critical role too – especially logs of conversations that were purposefully initiated and led by the FBI and/or FBI informant(s). Screen names and subtle personal information the hackers revealed in the chats were used to tie the screennames to the real person (although the feds specifically point out the obvious – that they used proxy servers to cloak their IP addresses). Davis, the “spokesman”, told Avunit on IRC channel #hq, “I’m happy to talk to press on IRC/Skype, have done so for months. Have talked to maybe 150 journalists.” This one statement alone was likely considered justification for tagging Davis as the “spokesman” for the groups.
It is also interesting to note that Ryan Ackroyd and Jake Davis had been charged previously for alleged participation in a hacking spree during the Spring of 2011. The claims mentioned above lead to further charges against the two.
The Sealed Complaint against Jeremy Hammond
Jeremy Hammond of Chicago was already a noted activist and hacker who had previous brushes with the law. Hammond is also known to have given a Defcon speech on electronic civil disobedience and has even been profiled by Chicago Magazine. His reputation precedes him.
The case against Jeremy Hammond, aka Anarchaos, sup_g, burn, yohoho, POW, tylerknowsthis, crediblethreat) comes from a deposition of Milan Patel (an eight-year FBI Special Agent veteran) where he notes that in December 2011, Hammond sent stolen credit card information to “a computer located in the Southern District of New York (supposedly the computer of Hector Xavier Monsegur). The credit card information was stolen from the comprised network of Strategic Forecasting Inc., an Austin, Texas based company (known as Stratfor). The deposition claims that one “co-conspirator” received a chat message from Hammond stating that he had broken into the network of Strategic Forecasting and that the stolen data had been uploaded to a server in the “southern district of New York” to a second “co-conspirator”.
The affidavit notes that the credit card information stolen from Strategic Forecasting was used to purchase at least $700,000 worth of goods. On December 29, 2011, a document titled “antisec teaser 12/29 (legit)” was posted on pastebin. It said:
It’s time to dump the full 75,000 names, addresses, CCs and md5 hashed passwords to every customer that has ever paid Stratfor. But that’s not all: we’re also dumping ~860,000 usernames, email addresses, and md5 hashed passwords for everyone who’s ever registered on Stratfor’s site. We call upon all allied battleships, all armies from darkness, to use and abuse these password lists and credit card information to wreak unholy havoc upon the systems and personal email accounts of these rich and powerful oppressors.
The deposition reveals little specifics since it is intended only to prove probable cause. It does mention specific technologies though which gleans some insight into how Anonymous operated and hid their identities. Technological terms such as ip address and MAC address hint that log files and pentraps were used to gather evidence in the cases. IRC and Jabber are described hinting that chat logs were used. The affidavit goes into a lengthy description of TOR (the Onion Router) which implies that the TOR network was used by Anonymous and LulzSec in an attempt to hide their true IP addresses (it also describes files “found on a .onion server”).
In addition to the technical details listed, simple personal details that the hackers revealed were strung together to narrow down the list of suspects. The affidavit notes that in one chat log, the defendant stated, “some comrades of mine were arrested in st louis a few weeks ago… for midwest rising tar sands work” (a protest held in St. Louis, Missouri on August 15, 2011). Arrest reports were pulled and the list of arrestees included Hammond’s twin brother and another good friend of Hammond’s. In another chat log, sup_g states that he was arrested in 2004 during the Republican National Convent in New York City. A list of people arrested during the convention included “Jeremy Hammond”. These details (and many more examples that were provide din the affidavit), combined with the fact that Hammond had previously been arrested for computer intrusion, led the FBI to set up surveillance on him and on March 1, 2012, to install a pen trap to collect addressing and signal information from his home. The pen trap further revealed that Hammond was sending a significant amount of data through the TOR network and combined with the personal surveillance, was used to tie Hammond to specific screen names (they could tell that certain chat sessions conducted under certain screen names ended each time Hammond left his home).
The amended complaint against Donncha O’Cearrbhail
Aliases used by O’Cearrbhail included palladium, polonium, and anonsacco. The affidavit claims that in early 2012, the personal GMail accounts of two National Police Service (Ireland) officers was compromised by a hacker. Via this hacked email account, messages were obtained by the hackers that gave the telephone number and passcode of a scheduled police conference call discussing the Anonymous investigation. Anonsacco, via a private chatrom, chatted with the informant about the information he had obtained.
Hi mate. Could I ask you for help? I need to intercept a conference call wich would be a very good leak. I have acquired info abou the time, phone number, and pin number for the conference call. I just don’t have a good VOIP setup for actually calling in to record it. If you could help me, I am happy to leak the call to you solely. I guarantee it will be of interest!
The conference call recording was later posted online and tied to one of the screen names.
The anonsacco screen name was then cleverly tied to other aliaes (primarily via personal details revealed during the conversation), including palladium, which linked O’Cearrbhail with other hacks. O’Cearrbhail was arrested for another computer intrusion and released. His later conversations regarding the first arrest were also used to tie him to other screen names and hacking activity. It also appears as if O’Cearrbhail’s IP address was easily tied to some of the breakins. In addition, his cloaked IRC login ID was tied to several screen names.
As far as I can tell, the names of the accomplices are not listed but there are hints in the documents that one or two co-conspirators assisted the FBI in the investigation. Later news leaked that a 124 year sentence was threatened if the informant did not cooperate with the FBI (a sentence which struck many as out of proportion to the alleged crimes).
One particular statement in the affidavit notes that the informant, with encouragement from the FBI, provided an upload bin on a server in the southern district of New York. This is the only notable fact and could hint that the unnamed co-conspirator was Hector Xavier Monsegur. But nowhere is Monsegur specifically labeled an informant. The affidavit does note that one of the members of LulzSec was arrested (during the Summer of 2011) and agreed to cooperate in return for receiving a reduced sentence. The affidavit also points out that this person was located in New York, New York while he was working for the FBI and that this person has already plead guilty to various charges. In retrospect, many Anonymous members noted a marked change in Monsegur’s behavior (oh how a “safe word” used in the chats could have saved the day).
The affidavit describes how the FBI used the informant to further trap other Anonymous members. For instance, the FBI directed the snitch to provide storage space for the attackers. During the Stratfor hack, the informant provided Hammond and the others a computer server in New York, New York which they could use to store data. This was used to gather additional evidence against the other Anonymous members.
In addition, the snitch recorded chat logs that were used to derive the attackers various aliases and tie them to other crimes. Here’s a sample of a logged conversation:
sup_g: I was thinking we order some servers with them stolen credit card numbers. Lots of servers with big hard drives and make four of five mirror .onions with them. A few will go down right away, a few might not.
informant: can you get an offshore server with one of those verified credit cards? I’ll try it too.
sup_g: since web/onion is really the most practical way to browse the mails and clearspace. Torrent is damn impractical, no one will download. We might want to offer it anyway but even so, focus on web viewing.
And in this exchange, notice how the informant refers to the hacker by different aliases to ensure he responds in kind to each one.
informant: yo you
sup_g: hey homeboii
sup_g: It’s all real good = )
informant: took a na
sup_g: hooking it up with custom script to parse them things as we speak.
informant: how’s the news looking?
sup_g: I been going hard all night.
informant: I heard we’re all over the newspapers. You mother fuckers are going to get me raided.
sup_g: we put out 30k cards, the it.stratfor.com dump, and another statement. Dude, it’s big…
informant: if I get raided anarchaos your job is to cause havok in my honor.
sup_g: it shall be so
The Anonymous and LulzSec (Lulz Security) indictment documents are available for download on scribd. See embedded versions below.
Indictment against Hector Xavier Monsegur filed in the United States District Court Southern District of New York:
Indictments filed in the United States District Court Southern District of New York against Ryan Ackroyd, Jake Davis, Darrent Martyn, and Donncha O’Cearrbhail.
Sealed complaint against Jeremy Hammond.
Amended complaint against Donncha O’Cearrbhail.
Hector Xavier Monsegur Waiver of indictment in return for cooperating with the government
What is ACTA?
ACTA, short for Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement, is a treaty for the purpose of defining the standards for the enforcement of intellectual property rights. Its intent is to establish a legal framework within which all countries can operate to enforce intellectual property rights. It was signed into agreement in October 2011 by Australia, Canada, Japan, Morocco, New Zealand, Singapore, South Korea and the United States. In January 2012, the European Union and 22 of its member states signed as well, bringing the total number of signatories to 31. The public first became aware of ACTA after Wikileaks leaked information about the treaty to the public in 2008. To date, the governments have released no information about the treaty citing “national security” as the reason to keep the details secret. FOIA (Freedom of Information Act) requests to disclose details have been flatly denied by the United States government. As Forbes magazine put it, “If You Thought SOPA Was Bad, Just Wait Until You Meet ACTA”.
The treaty has been secretly negotiated behind the scenes by the governments with virtually no public input. Critics claim that the ACTA bypasses the laws of the participating nations and forces ISP’s across the world to act as a sort of “Internet police”. In addition, it opens up holes allowing it to go much further than the Internet and can include the enforcement of generic drugs, food patents, and more.
According to the EFF (Electronic Frontier Foundation), there are “other plurilateral agreements, such as the Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPP), which contains a chapter on IP enforcement that would have state signatories adopt even more restrictive copyright measures than ACTA. Similarly, negotiations over TPP are also held in secret and with little oversight by the public or civil society. These initiatives, negotiated without participation from civil society or the public, are an affront to a democratic world order. EFF will remain vigilant against these international initiatives that threaten to choke off creativity, innovation, and free speech, and will stand with EDRi, FFII, La Quadrature du Net and our other EU fellow traveler organizations in their campaign to defeat ACTA in the European Parliament in January.”
Laws like TPP and ACTA must be watched by the public. After all, SOPA nearly passed unopposed until the American public heard about it and steadfastly opposed.
The OccupyWallStreet movement, spearheaded by OccupyTogether is gaining momentum. Youth are taking to the streets in droves, rejecting the current economic order rooted in corporate and political greed, and are seeking to redefine the future of the United States. As the Guardian explained:
We are watching the beginnings of the defiant self-assertion of a new generation of Americans, a generation who are looking forward to finishing their education with no jobs, no future, but still saddled with enormous and unforgivable debt. Perhaps, it’s not surprising. It’s becoming increasingly obvious that the real priority of those running the world for the last few decades has not been creating a viable form of capitalism, but rather, convincing us all that the current form of capitalism is the only conceivable economic system, so its flaws are irrelevant. As a result, we’re all sitting around dumbfounded as the whole apparatus falls apart. It’s clear that the rich are determined to seize as large a share of the spoils as remain, tossing a whole generation of young people to the wolves in order to do so.
And the purpose of OccupyX? Their agenda is not clear cut (to be expected with a new movement like this) but according to Piers Morgan (CNN), the majority of Americans agree with their demands. OccupyX explains their agenda as such:
Through a direct democratic process, we have come together as individuals and crafted these principles of solidarity, which are points of unity that include but are not limited to:
- Engaging in direct and transparent participatory democracy;
- Exercising personal and collective responsibility;
- Recognizing individuals’ inherent privilege and the influence it has on all interactions;
- Empowering one another against all forms of oppression;
- Redefining how labor is valued;
- The sanctity of individual privacy;
- The belief that education is human right;
- and Endeavoring to practice and support wide application of open source.
Download link to PDF versions (much clearer) located below each thumbnail picture.
More than 1,100 women are raped every day in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), making sexual violence against women 26 times more common than previously thought, a study has concluded.
More than 400,000 women and girls between the ages of 15 to 49 were raped in the war-ravaged country in central Africa during a 12-month period in 2006 and 2007, according to the study published in the American Journal of Public Health on Wednesday. That is 26 times more than the 15,000 women that the United Nations has reported were raped there during the same 12 months.
Amber Peterman, lead author of the study, said.
“Our results confirm that previous estimates of rape and sexual violence are severe underestimates of the true prevalence of sexual violence occurring in the DRC.”
Even these new, much higher figures still represent a conservative estimate of the true prevalence of sexual violence because of chronic underreporting due to stigma, shame, perceived impunity, and exclusion of younger and older age groups as well as men.
The study, which gathered data from 2007, did not capture sexual violence among girls younger than 15 years or women older than 49 years and did not include sexual violence among boys and men.
The study noted:
“Although the burden of sexual violence among these groups is uncertain, a review of the records of 4,133 women attending Panzi Hospital in Sud Kivu showed that six per cent were younger than 16 years and 10 per cent were older than 65 years.”
In addition, Human Rights Watch reported that sexual violence in 2009 doubled in comparison with 2008. If this assessment is accurate, then the current prevalence of sexual violence is likely to be even higher than our estimates suggest.
Source: Al Jazeera
According to MSNBC:
The Supreme Court refused to review the case of a high school cheerleader who was kicked off the squad for refusing to cheer for the basketball player she said had raped her. And as a lovely parting gift, the girl’s family must now repay the school $45,000 in legal fees for what a lower court termed as a frivolous lawsuit.
You probably remember the Silsbee High School (Texas) cheerleading case. A then-cheerleader for the school was dismissed from the squad for refusing to cheer for the basketball player she said had raped her. H.S., as she is identified, is now in college, but she appealed the school’s ruling all the way to the Supreme Court. And on Monday the Court declined to review her appeal, nearly two years after the original incident.
Rakheem Bolton was accused of sexually assaulting the 16-year-old at a party. He was eventually convicted of misdemeanor assault, and got probation, a fine, and had to attend anger management classes.
H.S. said that the school at first told her to avoid Bolton and to refrain from attending homecoming activities, which she refused to do. She had been booted off the cheerleading squad for refusing to cheer for Bolton by name during a basketball game. The specific cheer was: “Two, four, six, eight, ten, come on, Rakheem, put it in.” No, I’m not making that up.
She was dismissed from the team for her actions. “As a team, I cheered for them as a whole. When he stepped up to the free-throw line, it didn’t feel right for me to have to cheer for him after what he did to me,” she said.
A federal appeals court ruled in September that the cheerleader was speaking for the school, not herself, and had no right to remain silent when called on to cheer the athlete by name.
The Supreme Court denied review of the case Monday without comment.
The family’s lawyer, Laurence Watts, said the ruling means students who try to exercise their right of free speech can be punished for refusing to follow “insensitive and unreasonable directions.”
And as a reward for trying to stick up for herself and not buckle to the pressures of authority, bureaucracy and male chauvinism, the girl’s parents receive a $45,000 bill for legal expenses. It’s a terrific byproduct of our legal system, wherein victims are cowered into keeping quiet by the prospect of negative publicity and extreme financial hardship. I guess that’s what it means when people say our freedom isn’t free.
After the dust settled and the United States celebrated the death of Osama bin Laden, many wondered how successful bin Laden really was. What was his true objective? What did he want to accomplish and did he indeed reach his goals? All we have to do is look to Bin Laden’s previous major success – Afghanistan.
The Washington Post noted:
According to counterterrosism expert, Gartenstein-Ross, Osama bin Laden had a strategy that we never bothered to understand, and thus that we never bothered to defend against. What he really wanted to do — and, more to the point, what he thought he could do — was bankrupt the United States of America. After all, he’d done the bankrupt-a-superpower thing before. And though it didn’t quite work out this time, it worked a lot better than most of us, in this exultant moment, are willing to admit.
Osama Bin Laden was crucial part of the resistance to the Soviet Union’s attempt to conquer Afghanistan in the 1980’s. He provided not only firepower but military and strategic knowledge that helped the resistance fighters hold back the Superpower. The notoriety Bin Laden gained from his successes in Afghanistan propelled Bin Laden from his rich, wealthy Saudi Arabian family to the terrorist mastermind we came to know him as. What many fail to see though, is that his success in Afghanistan not only repelled the Soviet invasion but contributed to the communist superpower’s economic collapse a few years later.
The lesson Bin Laden learned was that superpowers fall when their economies collapse, not when they are defeated on the battlefield. Bin Laden understood that Superpowers will do anything and everything to win a war, including throwing billions of dollars towards the effort. Superpowers know that if their military dominance is ever in question, they lose a significant component of their economic domination – the ever present threat to force opponents to bend to their economic demands. Bin Laden used the lessons learned in Afghanistan to formulate his United States policy, a policy to promote the economic collapse of the world’s richest country.
“He has compared the United States to the Soviet Union on numerous occasions — and these comparisons have been explicitly economic,” Gartenstein-Ross argues in a Foreign Policy article. “For example, in October 2004 bin Laden said that just as the Arab fighters and Afghan mujaheddin had destroyed Russia economically, al Qaeda was now doing the same to the United States, ‘continuing this policy in bleeding America to the point of bankruptcy.’ ”
According to the Washington Post:
Nobel laureate Joseph Stiglitz estimates that the price tag on the Iraq War alone will surpass $3 trillion. Afghanistan likely amounts to another trillion or two. Add in the build-up in homeland security spending since 9/11 and you’re looking at yet another trillion. And don’t forget the indirect costs of all this turmoil: The Federal Reserve, worried about a fear-induced recession, slashed interest rates after the attack on the World Trade Center, and then kept them low to combat skyrocketing oil prices, a byproduct of the war in Iraq. That decade of loose monetary policy may well have contributed to the credit bubble that crashed the economy in 2007 and 2008.
Then there’s the post-9/11 slowdown in the economy, the time wasted in airports, the foregone returns on investments we didn’t make, the rise in oil prices as a result of the Iraq War, the cost of rebuilding Ground Zero, health care for the first responders and much, much more.
But it isn’t quite right to say bin Laden cost us all that money. We decided to spend more than a trillion dollars on homeland security measures to prevent another attack. We decided to invade Iraq as part of a grand, post-9/11 strategy of Middle Eastern transformation. We decided to pass hundreds of billions of dollars in unpaid-for tax cuts and add an unpaid-for prescription drug benefit in Medicare while we were involved in two wars. And now, partially though not entirely because of these actions, we are deep in debt.
In retrospect, Osama Bin Laden may not have won, but he did cost the United States dearly, even if we’re not smart enough to recognize it…