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The bigger threat is the National Security Agency

Heart Bleed: the Internet is Alive and Well!

Some are calling it a "worst nightmare". There have been dire predictions that it represents the end of the Internet or that there is, in fact, no real Internet security or that Free and Open Source Software is dangerous to use.

One thing is sure. The week-old saga of the Heart Bleed flaw (or bug) and its potential exploits has shown more light on the Internet and its security issues than anything else in recent memory.

A threat the Free and Open Source movement handled perfectlyA threat the Free and Open Source movement handled perfectly

Like so much coverage of these security issues, however, this outcry is misdirected. In reality, the flaw gives us an excellent example of how the Internet works when it's at its best. How Free and Open Source software is developed, how prominent and important it is, how well its development system works and why security is, in fact, simple and possible.

It also shows how our government doesn't care about our security: ignoring major threats to the Internet and then apparently exploiting them to spy on us -- for as much as two years.

These are valuable lessons demanding that we understand what really happened.

50 Years Later

Brazil's 1964 Coup: What 'Communist Conspiracy'?

 
It all began with Cuba in 1959. That was a line in the sand for Tio Sam. Kennedy launched the Alliance for Progress in ‘61, and caudillos throughout South and Central America lined up for lessons on how to prevent their own homegrown communists from reproducing what Fidel and El Che had brought down from the Sierra Maestras. The School of the Americas’ manual of torture, originally drafted in Scotland and likely passed along during WWII to eager Yanks in the OSS, was in due course thumped like the bible into the hands of willing thugs in the pay of ruling elites from Guatemala to Chile. In Brazil, when the military grabbed the reins of government on April 1, 1964, the torture manual came off the shelf for immediate application to those who were obnoxious to the dictatorship ideologically, and with lethal consequences for some who fought from the more militant wings of the resistance.

Images from the 1964 coup; the man on the run was used to illustrate posters for a recent panel discussionImages from the 1964 coup; the man on the run was used to illustrate posters for a recent panel discussion

I was in Brazil at the time of the 1964 coup, spending a year at Rio’s exclusive Catholic University (PUC). I spent considerable time at first with a guy named Bud who worked for USIA, the “public” face of American overseas diplomacy. The agency operated cultural programs and libraries, also, back in D.C., Voice of America, where I worked part time as a Georgetown undergrad. My friend was a good guy, a kind of mentor twenty years my senior who welcomed me into his family as I slowly acclimated to the seductive lifestyle of the Brazilian gentry on the coattails of their sons and daughters, my classmates, who would invite me home for the hot sit-down midday meal, cooked and served by the black live-in empregadas. An American student was a novelty in those days, and, being short of funds, I was happy to eat out on it.

After a month I met Chris, an American my own age who’d been ski bumming in the Alps and drifted to Brazil to look up an uncle who held the second highest rank in the U.S. Embassy. Chris had just received his draft notice from home, and we got it in our heads to hitchhike to the Amazon where he’d hideout and avoid military service now that Vietnam was coming on with a vengeance. I don’t recall if we clued Bud in about the exact reason for our abrupt departure from Rio, but he very kindly provided contact info for other U.S. diplomats we could crash with as we made our way north along the coast. Our first stop was in Vitoria, a small coastal port for shipping ore from the neighboring but landlocked mineral rich state of Minas Gerais. The diplomat we stayed with in Vitoria, Bud had explained, was setting up a co-op to rival a similar effort influenced by the local communists who, by that time in Brazil, were organized into a mélange of currents on all sides of the Sino-Soviet split.

Surprise, surprise!

Government Exonerates FBI’s Lax Investigation of Suspected Boston Bomber

 

One thing that the FBI does really well is exonerate itself. As I wrote earlier, the bureau’s agents have shot 151 people over the course of the last two decades, killing more than half of them, yet in its own internal reviews, the FBI has exonerated those agents all 151 times -- a perfect record of blamelessness that even some of the country’s most gun-happy police departments (even in Albuquerque, NM) can’t claim.

Now another internal review, not by the FBI but by the Office of Intelligence Committee, an obscure unit which supposedly internally “oversees” the work of 17 intelligence agencies including the FBI, has smiled on the FBI’s seemingly lackadaisical investigation of Boston Marathon bomber suspect Tamerlan Tsarnaev, saying that its Boston office agents did an okay job in checking him out after Russian intelligence warned the US back in 2011 that he had linked up with Islamic militants while on a visit to his family in Dagestan.

The New York Times, in a report on the inspector’s findings, quotes an unidentified “senior American official” as saying that the OIC investigation “found that the Russians did not provide all the information that they had on him back then, and that based on everything that was available at the time, the FBI did all that it could.”

What that “everything” included was interviewing the elder Tsarnaev brother (now dead, killed in a hail of police bullets during a night-time chase following the Boston bombing last April), as well as his parents and friends at school. After that brief flurry of interviews, the bureau allegedly lost interest in Tsarnaev, concluding that he was more of a threat to Russia than to the US—an interesting turn of phrase that should suggest something else might have been afoot.

And indeed, there is something missing from that report that is troubling: namely news that the FBI also reportedly sought to enlist Tamerlan Tsarnaev as an informant during its 2011-12 investigation of his activities. If attorneys for Tamerlan’s younger brother Dzhokhar are correct, the FBI, after contacting and questioning the older brother, then at least attempted to pressure him to work for them by spying on the local Chechen community in Boston. It stands to reason they may have also been interested in having him work for the US against Russia, given the US’s long record of support for rebels in former Soviet republics like Chechnya and Dagestan who have been seeking to break away from Russia. Tsarnaev would have been vulnerable to such pressure, as he had been attempting to gain US citizenship, and because had certain assets that the FBI (and the CIA) wanted: knowledge of people in Dagestan and also fluency in Chechen and Russian (a Tsarnaev uncle, Ruslan Tsarni, was already reportedly working for the CIA, even for a time living in the home of, and married to the daughter of a ranking CIA official).
Many questions remain unanswered about Tamerlan Tsarnaev, his CIA-linked uncle Ruslan Tsarni, and the FBI slaying of his friendMany questions remain unanswered about Tamerlan Tsarnaev, his CIA-linked uncle Ruslan Tsarni, and the FBI slaying of his friend Ibragim Todashev

Surprise, surprise!

Government Exonerates FBI’s Lax Investigation of Suspected Boston Bomber

 

One thing that the FBI does really well is exonerate itself. As I wrote earlier, the bureau’s agents have shot 151 people over the course of the last two decades, killing more than half of them, yet in its own internal reviews, the FBI has exonerated those agents all 151 times -- a perfect record of blamelessness that even some of the country’s most gun-happy police departments (even in Albuquerque, NM) can’t claim.

Now another internal review, not by the FBI but by the Office of Intelligence Committee, an obscure unit which supposedly internally “oversees” the work of 17 intelligence agencies including the FBI, has smiled on the FBI’s seemingly lackadaisical investigation of Boston Marathon bomber suspect Tamerlan Tsarnaev, saying that its Boston office agents did an okay job in checking him out after Russian intelligence warned the US back in 2011 that he had linked up with Islamic militants while on a visit to his family in Dagestan.

The New York Times, in a report on the inspector’s findings, quotes an unidentified “senior American official” as saying that the OIC investigation “found that the Russians did not provide all the information that they had on him back then, and that based on everything that was available at the time, the FBI did all that it could.”

What that “everything” included was interviewing the elder Tsarnaev brother (now dead, killed in a hail of police bullets during a night-time chase following the Boston bombing last April), as well as his parents and friends at school. After that brief flurry of interviews, the bureau allegedly lost interest in Tsarnaev, concluding that he was more of a threat to Russia than to the US—an interesting turn of phrase that should suggest something else might have been afoot.

And indeed, there is something missing from that report that is troubling: namely news that the FBI also reportedly sought to enlist Tamerlan Tsarnaev as an informant during its 2011-12 investigation of his activities. If attorneys for Tamerlan’s younger brother Dzhokhar are correct, the FBI, after contacting and questioning the older brother, then at least attempted to pressure him to work for them by spying on the local Chechen community in Boston. It stands to reason they may have also been interested in having him work for the US against Russia, given the US’s long record of support for rebels in former Soviet republics like Chechnya and Dagestan who have been seeking to break away from Russia. Tsarnaev would have been vulnerable to such pressure, as he had been attempting to gain US citizenship, and because had certain assets that the FBI (and the CIA) wanted: knowledge of people in Dagestan and also fluency in Chechen and Russian (a Tsarnaev uncle was already reportedly working for the CIA, even for a time living in the home of, and married to the daughter of a ranking CIA official).

ThisCantBeHappening! radio interview of Prof. Harold Wanless on PRN.fm:

Climate Change is Much Worse than Even the IPCC Predictions

Dave Lindorff, host of the Progressive Radio Network program "ThisCantBeHappening!", interviews Professor Harold Wanless, chair of the Geology Department at the University of Miami and a leading climate change expert. Wanless talks about the latest Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report, explaining that as scary as that organization's latest predictions are concerning accelerating global warming, it is far too conservative.

This is because the IPCC does not factor in the feedback loops that are making things get worse faster — whether it’s the doubling of the pace of Greenland and Western Antarctic ice melt every seven years, or the future release of massive methane deposits locked in Arctic permafrost and undersea methyl cathrate deposits--a process that is already beginning.

If we don’t act quickly to significantly reduce the use of carbon fuels, Wanless warns, we could see a “baked in” 70-foot sea rise, perhaps in our children’s or grandchildren’s lifetimes, and even with a less apocalyptic sea rise, an end to human civilization--and that's just with the amount of carbon that we humans have already put in the atmosphere.

Miami University's Prof. Harold Wanless, and a view of Greenland's ice melt, showing how dirty the survacethat huge ice sheet isMiami University's Prof. Harold Wanless, and a view of Greenland's ice melt, showing how dirty the surface of that huge ice sheet has become from global pollution. Click on the photo to hear the podcast of this interview on PRN.fm

New Poem:

Shanghai Smog

 

There is a man reporting on how bad the smog is in China.
He is saying,
“See, right there,
at the end of this street that you don’t see
is the second tallest building in China.”
I squint. . . I don’t see anything!
“In fact”, he’s saying,
“the smog is so bad,
I’m actually standing right here in front of this camera,
so you wouldn’t have seen the building anyway,
but you can’t even see me!”
This guy is good!

Fury punches out early

Striking a Blow for Disarmament in Maine Shipyard

 

Let us pause to honor Charles Fury.

Hundreds of thousands of Americans have protested America’s bloated, out-of-control military, and millions more are outraged that the US spends upwards of $1 trillion a year on war and preparing for war. The protests and the opposition to military spending have had little effect, as the military continues to grow in size and cost, backed by a Congress whose members are bought by the arms industry, and a ruling elite that wants its global investments protected--at taxpayer expense.

Fury, 25, while perhaps not an opponent of the US military, with one little action, managed to do more to damage the US war machine than all those protesters and war opponents put together.

Reportedly suffering an anxiety attack in the cramped torpedo room of the USS Miami, a 361-foot-long nuclear attack submarine that he and a group of fellow maintenance workers were renovating at the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard in Kittery, Maine, and wanting to get sent home early, Fury, a civilian painter and sandblaster, lit a small pile of rags on fire. His plan was to create a small conflagration that would force an early end to work that day. Instead, the fire he set spread and raged out of control for 12 hours, destroying the whole forward section of the massive vessel. Only one man, who fell through an opening on the deck breaking a couple of ribs, was injured by the 2012 fire.

The sub was destroyed as effectively as if it had taken an enemy torpedo. There was talk of repairing all the damage, but in the end, Congress has decided it is not worth the estimated $750 million needed to fix everything, and so the Miami is being scrapped.

Arsonist Charles Fury and the destroyed nuclear sub Miami, ablaze in the Portsmouth Naval ShipyardArsonist Charles Fury and the destroyed nuclear sub Miami, ablaze in the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard

Humanity Versus a Corrupt State

Coups and Cash Machines in Rio de Janeiro

 
    One way to win the game is by making up at least part of the rules, something the rich do.
                    -From “Winning the Game” by Rubem Fonseca
 
 
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL — The sun was going down and the wide boulevard Rua Rio Branco was jam-full of screaming humanity backed up with banging drums and all sorts of waving signs and banners. It was a large unruly demonstration on the 1st of April recognizing the 50 year anniversary of the 1964 coup that led to over 20 years of brutal military rule in Brazil. The anniversary has been discussed in newspapers and in various forums in Rio leading up to this date.

Remembering the coup has become all wrapped up with the controversy over urban renewal efforts and costly construction projects associated with the June World Cup matches and the 2016 Olympics. Many in Brazil would prefer resources be used to improve education, medical care, transportation and other infrastructure areas. It's an eternal political struggle, especially in a place like Brazil, between the top and the bottom of society.

A writer colleague and I are in Rio focusing on this historical moment and what it might mean for the future of Brazil. The military government of the coup years featured all the usual incidents of beatings, tortures, disappearances and murders. The only thing that can be said of the Brazilian dictatorial period is that it was not as severe or as rotten as the one in neighboring Argentina, where they famously cleansed themselves of left-leaning individuals by kicking their naked, dead bodies like garbage out of planes over the Atlantic.

The usual image of Rio de Janeiro, the famous Copacabana BeachThe usual image of Rio de Janeiro, the famous Copacabana Beach

In the case of the Brazilian military dictatorship, after 20 years of governing it decided in the 1980s that it was tired of running things from out front and was ready to install a democratic government. Naturally, before it did that it self-established all sorts of amnesty programs for its generals and the torturers and killers who did their bidding. Those amnesties are now controversial, and young people have taken up painting signs on walls announcing that a torturer lives here. Sort of like identifying child molesters in US communities.

Cinelandia Plaza is the site of a famous cinema theater known as The Odean, which on April 1st was running a series of Brazilian films focused on the culture's African roots. The Plaza is surrounded by open-air restaurants and impressive buildings. When the moving mass of pissed-off humanity reached the Plaza, darkness had fallen and the dynamic became a cat-and-mouse game between cops from the Policia Militar dressed like Darth Vader's raiders and a rambunctious assemblage of youth, many with gas masks and willing to taunt the highly disciplined cops. Someone powerful had clearly made it known to these cops that there would be no “incidents” this night — or else. For instance, the well-protected cops received a few large rocks lobbed into their huddled midst without any kind of retaliation.

USAID caught using tweets to try and overthrow a government!

The Hummingbird Tweet: An Espionage Tale

 

For two years, starting in 2010, the United States Agency for International Development ran a social networking service -- similar to Twitter -- for the Cuban people. Its long-term objective was to forment popular revolt against the government and de-stabilize the country.

They called it "ZunZuneo" (Cuban slang for a hummingbird's "tweet") and launched it under absolute secrecy about who was really running it. “There will be absolutely no mention of United States government involvement,” according to a 2010 memo from one of the companies supposedly running the service. “This is absolutely crucial for the long-term success of the service and to ensure the success of the mission."

The "mission" was to reach a critical mass of Cuban users by offering tweets on sports, entertainment and light news over the service and signing recipients up through word of mouth -- you call a phone number and your phone is hooked up. With that critical mass in place, the tweets would start getting more political: inspiring Cuban citizens to organize “smart mobs” — mass gatherings called at a moment’s notice to spark a kind of a "Cuban Spring" or, as one USAID document put it, “renegotiate the balance of power between the state and society.”

The registration page for the ZunZuneo serviceThe registration page for the ZunZuneo service
 

At one point there were 40,000 Cubans getting ZunZuneo tweets but the project was abandoned in 2012 when the initial funding ran out and the people who own the real Twitter refused to take it on.

The story, an investigative report by the Associated Press, is probably not surprising to many people in this country. After the NSA revelations, what could possibly surprise us? And besides, it would not be the first time that USAID was found doing the nefarious work of the CIA and State Department of undermining democratic governments. But it is an embarrassing revelation about how our government is using the Internet and about how "hot" the Cold War still remains.

This week's 'ThisCantBeHappening!' Radio Program on the Progressive Radio Network:

The FBI Kills a Boston Bombing Witness, Excuses its Agent, and Moves On

 

Just after midnight on May 22, 2013, after 4 and a half hours of interrogation, and shortly after a potential witness was ordered from the scene by a second FBI agent, the FBI agent investigating a critical witness in the Boston Marathon bombing case shot and killed Ibragim Todashev in his own apartment in Orlando, Florida. The agent fired three bullets into Todashev’s back, apparently as he was trying to flee a brutal interview, and then, when he turned, possibly to surrender, he was shot in the arm and the heart, and hit with a coup de gras into the top of the head. Host Dave Lindorff reports on this story of an apparent FBI rub-out, and guest Elena Teyer, Todashev’s mother-in-law, offers her theory on why the Bureau may have arranged this killing.

To listen to this program on Progressive Radio Network (PRN.fm), just click on tbej photo above)To listen to this program on Progressive Radio Network (PRN.fm), just click on tbej photo above, showing Ibragim Todashev with his wife Reni Manukyan, and his body in the morgue, with the agent's shot to the head exposed.

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Live Stream of the Occupation of Wall Street! The Revolution will be filmed after all! (Courtesy of Globalrevolution)
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Fightin' Cock FlyerFightin' Cock Flyer

Listen as Chuck, John, Dave and Linn Join Prairie Radical Mike Caddell of the Fightin' Cock Flyer on Radio Free Kansas

Here's the link to prairie radio radical Mike Caddell's Radio Free Kansas program, where you can hear the podcast of the whole group interview that was conducted on Saturday, May 8.

Also, listen to Dave Lindorff on Chris Cook's Gorilla Radio on CFEV Radio in Victoria, Canada.

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by Dr. Radut