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TBR News November 13, 2017

Nov 13 2017

The Voice of the White House

Washington, D.C., November 13, 2017:”The words ‘Climate Change’ are bandied about like ‘El Nino’ and ‘Polar Vortex’ and are subject to many varied and often opposing, views. There is a serious climate change for certain. The polar ice caps and global glaciers are melting, raising the sea levels. What is causing this, no one knows. Ideas, theories and lunatic visions abound but no person or agency can state the reasons for this. And as the heavy ice caps melt, the global plates readjust and we have major earthquakes across the planet. In addition to these happenings we also have overpopulation. The reasons for this are known but ought not to be discussed on a site that might be read by children. Overpopulation depletes the food supply, causes eruptions of mindless violence such as mass shootings at schools or churches and eventually, some disease that is endemic in humanity will suddenly become deadly and there will be an extensive die-off of the human population and we can start over again. Interested persons seeking to learn more about this, do not need to listen to the uneducated guessing but, instead, can read Calhoun’s articles on rat population.”

 

Table of Contents

  • What Craziness Is Going on in Saudi Arabia?
  • Bitcoin licking its wounds after losing nearly a third of its value
  • Security Breach and Spilled Secrets Have Shaken the N.S.A. to Its Core
  • Earthquake hits Iraq-Iran border, leaves hundreds dead, thousands injured
  • Copenhagen Airport shuts 10 gates after threat against Turkish airline’s planes
  • Roy Moore threatens to sue Washington Post over sexual misconduct report
  • Global Warming’s Great Hiatus Gets Another Debunking
  • Ricin: What is it?

 

What Craziness Is Going on in Saudi Arabia?

November 11, 2017

by Eric Margolis

The Unz Review

What’s going on in Saudi Arabia? Over 200 bigwigs detained and ‘illegal profits’ of some $800 billion confiscated.

The kingdom is in an uproar. The Saudi regime of King Salman and his ambitious 32-year old son, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, claim it was all part of an ‘anti-corruption’ drive that has Washington’s full backing.

Utter nonsense. I’ve done business in Saudi Arabia since 1976 and can attest that the entire kingdom, with its thousands of pampered princes and princesses, is one vast swamp of corruption. In Saudi, the entire nation and its vast oil revenues are considered property of the extended Saudi royal family and its hangers-on. A giant piggy bank.

The late Libyan leader Muammar Khadaffi told me the Saudis are ‘an incredibly rich bunch of Bedouins living behind high walls and scared to death of their poorer neighbors.’

We have just witnessed a palace coup in Riyadh caused by the violation of the traditional desert ruling system which was based on compromise and sharing the nation’s riches.

Young Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s appointment as heir apparent by his ailing father, King Salman, who is reportedly suffering from cognitive issues, upset the time-proven Saudi collegial system and provoked the current crisis. Among the people arrested so far were 11 princes and 38 senior officials and businessmen, including the nation’s best-known and richest businessman, Prince Alwaleed bin Talal, who owns important chunks of Apple, Citigroup and Twitter. He’s being detained at Riyadh’s swanky Ritz Carlton Hotel.

Also arrested was Bakr bin Laden, chairman of the largest Saudi construction firm, The Binladen Group, and former Crown Prince Mohammed bin Nayef, a bitter rival to the new Crown Prince Mohammed.

Interestingly, there are no reports of senior Saudi military figures being arrested. The Saudi military has always been kept weak and marginalized for fear it could one day stage a military coup like the one led by Colonel Khadaffi who overthrew Libya’s old British stooge ruler, King Idris. For decades the Saudi army was denied ammunition. Mercenary troops from Pakistan were hired to protect the Saudi royals.

The Saudis still shudder at the memory of British puppets King Feisal of Iraq and his strongman, Nuri as-Said, who were overthrown and murdered by mobs after an Iraqi army colonel, Abd al-Karim Qasim, staged a coup in 1958. Nuri ended up hanging from a Baghdad lamppost, leading Egypt’s fiery strongmen, Abdel Nasser, to aptly call the new Iraqi military junta, ‘the wild men of Baghdad.’

More mysteries arose this tumultuous week. One of Saudi’s most influential princes, Mansour bin Muqrin, died in a mysterious crash of his helicopter, an ‘accident’ that has the smell of sabotage. Another key prince, Miteb, was ousted. He was commander of the famed ‘White Guard,’ the Saudi Bedouin tribal army designed to protect the monarchy and a former contender for the throne. Meanwhile, three or four other Saudi princes were reportedly kidnapped from Europe and sent home, leading to rumors that Saudi’s new ally, Israel, was involved.

It appears that Prince Mohammed and his men have so far grabbed at least $800 billion from those arrested to refill the war-depleted Saudi coffers. Call this a traditional Arab tribal raid – except that no women or horses were seized.

But behind all this lies the stalemated Saudi war against wretched Yemen, the Arab world’s poorest, most backwards nation. Saudi Arabia has been heavily bombing Yemen for over two years, using US-supplied warplanes, munitions, including cluster bombs and white phosphorus, and US Air Force management. A Saudi blockade of Yemen, aided by the US, has caused mass starvation and epidemics such as cholera.

When I first explored Yemen, in the mid 1970’s, it was just creeping out of the 12th century AD. Today, it’s been bombed back into the 6th Century.

In spite of spending over $200 million daily (not including payoffs to `coalition’ members like Egypt) the Saudis are stuck in a stalemated conflict against Yemen’s Shia Houthi people. The US and Britain are cheerfully selling bombs and weapons to the Saudis. President Donald Trump has been lauding the destruction of Yemen because he mistakenly believes Iran is the mainstay of the anti-Saudi resistance.

Yemen is a horrible human rights disaster and scene of widespread war crimes. It reminds me of the savagery inflicted on Afghanistan by the Soviets in the 1970’s.

The Saudis were fools to become involved in Yemen. Prince Mohammed was going to show the tough Yemeni tribes who was boss. Now he knows, and it’s not the Saudis.

The Saudis appear to be planning military provocations against bad neighbour Iran. These may include attacks in Lebanon against Hezbollah – which might open the way for US attacks on Iran and its allies. The Saudis are enraged over their defeat in Syria and want revenge.

Is this the beginning of the collapse of the House of Saud? Or a Saudi renaissance led by Prince Mohammed as he claims? Stay tuned.

 

Bitcoin licking its wounds after losing nearly a third of its value

November 13, 2017

RT

The largest cryptocurrency by market cap slightly rebounded on Monday after a series of losses wiped out more than $2,300 from the value of bitcoin in just a few days.

The price of bitcoin has increased almost four percent to $6,550 after it plunged as low as $5,519 on Sunday. It marked a 30 percent drop from last week’s record high of $7,882.

While it was a hard end of the week for bitcoin, its offspring bitcoin cash doubled in value within 24 hours, hitting a high of $1,856 according to figures from CoinMarketCap.

This made it surge past the $30 billion mark and temporarily ousted ethereum as the second-largest cryptocurrency. The surge was followed by a 22 percent drop to $1,139.

The fall of bitcoin and the rise of bitcoin cash comes at the time when people behind the original cryptocurrency are considering changes to the software to increase bitcoin’s block size and thus make transactions faster.

The move, called SegWit2x, or simply “2x”, has been met skeptically by some cryptocurrency enthusiasts.

Jiang Zhuoer, founder of bitcoin mining pool BTC.Top, told CoinDesk that 2x is forcing miners to flee bitcoin and switch to bitcoin cash. “BTC is going to die,” Zhuoer said.

“I think more and more bitcoin holders are starting to understand what is the real bitcoin,” Hapio Yang, CEO of mining pool operator ViaBTC told CoinDesk.

Bitcoin cash split off from bitcoin this summer after a minority of developers decided to implement an upgrade that increased the block size to eight megabytes from one megabyte. The SegWit2x upgrade would have raised the block size to two megabytes.

 

Security Breach and Spilled Secrets Have Shaken the N.S.A. to Its Core

A serial leak of the agency’s cyberweapons has damaged morale, slowed intelligence operations and resulted in hacking attacks on businesses and civilians worldwide.

November 12, 2017

by Scott Shane, Nicole Perlroth and David E. Sanger

The New York Times

WASHINGTON — Jake Williams awoke last April in an Orlando, Fla., hotel where he was leading a training session. Checking Twitter, Mr. Williams, a cybersecurity expert, was dismayed to discover that he had been thrust into the middle of one of the worst security debacles ever to befall American intelligence.

Mr. Williams had written on his company blog about the Shadow Brokers, a mysterious group that had somehow obtained many of the hacking tools the United States used to spy on other countries. Now the group had replied in an angry screed on Twitter. It identified him — correctly — as a former member of the National Security Agency’s hacking group, Tailored Access Operations, or T.A.O., a job he had not publicly disclosed. Then the Shadow Brokers astonished him by dropping technical details that made clear they knew about highly classified hacking operations that he had conducted.

America’s largest and most secretive intelligence agency had been deeply infiltrated.

“They had operational insight that even most of my fellow operators at T.A.O. did not have,” said Mr. Williams, now with Rendition Infosec, a cybersecurity firm he founded. “I felt like I’d been kicked in the gut. Whoever wrote this either was a well-placed insider or had stolen a lot of operational data.”

The jolt to Mr. Williams from the Shadow Brokers’ riposte was part of a much broader earthquake that has shaken the N.S.A. to its core. Current and former agency officials say the Shadow Brokers disclosures, which began in August 2016, have been catastrophic for the N.S.A., calling into question its ability to protect potent cyberweapons and its very value to national security. The agency regarded as the world’s leader in breaking into adversaries’ computer networks failed to protect its own.

“These leaks have been incredibly damaging to our intelligence and cyber capabilities,” said Leon E. Panetta, the former defense secretary and director of the Central Intelligence Agency. “The fundamental purpose of intelligence is to be able to effectively penetrate our adversaries in order to gather vital intelligence. By its very nature, that only works if secrecy is maintained and our codes are protected.”

With a leak of intelligence methods like the N.S.A. tools, Mr. Panetta said, “Every time it happens, you essentially have to start over.”

Fifteen months into a wide-ranging investigation by the agency’s counterintelligence arm, known as Q Group, and the F.B.I., officials still do not know whether the N.S.A. is the victim of a brilliantly executed hack, with Russia as the most likely perpetrator, an insider’s leak, or both. Three employees have been arrested since 2015 for taking classified files, but there is fear that one or more leakers may still be in place. And there is broad agreement that the damage from the Shadow Brokers already far exceeds the harm to American intelligence done by Edward J. Snowden, the former N.S.A. contractor who fled with four laptops of classified material in 2013.

Mr. Snowden’s cascade of disclosures to journalists and his defiant public stance drew far more media coverage than this new breach. But Mr. Snowden released code words, while the Shadow Brokers have released the actual code; if he shared what might be described as battle plans, they have loosed the weapons themselves. Created at huge expense to American taxpayers, those cyberweapons have now been picked up by hackers from North Korea to Russia and shot back at the United States and its allies.

Millions of people saw their computers shut down by ransomware, with demands for payments in digital currency to have their access restored. Tens of thousands of employees at Mondelez International, the maker of Oreo cookies, had their data completely wiped. FedEx reported that an attack on a European subsidiary had halted deliveries and cost $300 million. Hospitals in Pennsylvania, Britain and Indonesia had to turn away patients. The attacks disrupted production at a car plant in France, an oil company in Brazil and a chocolate factory in Tasmania, among thousands of enterprises affected worldwide.

American officials had to explain to close allies — and to business leaders in the United States — how cyberweapons developed at Fort Meade in Maryland came to be used against them. Experts believe more attacks using the stolen N.S.A. tools are all but certain.

Inside the agency’s Maryland headquarters and its campuses around the country, N.S.A. employees have been subjected to polygraphs and suspended from their jobs in a hunt for turncoats allied with the Shadow Brokers. Much of the agency’s arsenal is still being replaced, curtailing operations. Morale has plunged, and experienced specialists are leaving the agency for better-paying jobs — including with firms defending computer networks from intrusions that use the N.S.A.’s leaked tools.

“It’s a disaster on multiple levels,” Mr. Williams said. “It’s embarrassing that the people responsible for this have not been brought to justice.”

In response to detailed questions, an N.S.A. spokesman, Michael T. Halbig, said the agency “cannot comment on Shadow Brokers.” He denied that the episode had hurt morale. “N.S.A. continues to be viewed as a great place to work; we receive more than 140,000 applications each year for our hiring program,” he said.

Compounding the pain for the N.S.A. is the attackers’ regular online public taunts, written in ersatz broken English. Their posts are a peculiar mash-up of immaturity and sophistication, laced with profane jokes but also savvy cultural and political references. They suggest that their author — if not an American — knows the United States well.

“Is NSA chasing shadowses?” the Shadow Brokers asked in a post on Oct. 16, mocking the agency’s inability to understand the leaks and announcing a price cut for subscriptions to its “monthly dump service” of stolen N.S.A. tools. It was a typically wide-ranging screed, touching on George Orwell’s “1984”; the end of the federal government’s fiscal year on Sept. 30; Russia’s creation of bogus accounts on Facebook and Twitter; and the phenomenon of American intelligence officers going to work for contractors who pay higher salaries.

One passage, possibly hinting at the Shadow Brokers’ identity, underscored the close relationship of Russian intelligence to criminal hackers. “Russian security peoples,” it said, “is becoming Russian hackeres at nights, but only full moons.”

Russia is the prime suspect in a parallel hemorrhage of hacking tools and secret documents from the C.I.A.’s Center for Cyber Intelligence, posted week after week since March to the WikiLeaks website under the names Vault7 and Vault8. That breach, too, is unsolved. Together, the flood of digital secrets from agencies that invest huge resources in preventing such breaches is raising profound questions.

Have hackers and leakers made secrecy obsolete? Has Russian intelligence simply outplayed the United States, penetrating the most closely guarded corners of its government? Can a work force of thousands of young, tech-savvy spies ever be immune to leaks?

Some veteran intelligence officials believe a lopsided focus on offensive weapons and hacking tools has, for years, left American cyberdefense dangerously porous.

“We have had a train wreck coming,” said Mike McConnell, the former N.S.A. director and national intelligence director. “We should have ratcheted up the defense parts significantly.”

America’s Cyber Special Forces

At the heart of the N.S.A. crisis is Tailored Access Operations, the group where Mr. Williams worked, which was absorbed last year into the agency’s new Directorate of Operations.

T.A.O. — the outdated name is still used informally — began years ago as a side project at the agency’s research and engineering building at Fort Meade. It was a cyber Skunk Works, akin to the special units that once built stealth aircraft and drones. As Washington’s need for hacking capabilities grew, T.A.O. expanded into a separate office park in Laurel, Md., with additional teams at facilities in Colorado, Georgia, Hawaii and Texas.

The hacking unit attracts many of the agency’s young stars, who like the thrill of internet break-ins in the name of national security, according to a dozen former government officials who agreed to describe its work on the condition of anonymity. T.A.O. analysts start with a shopping list of desired information and likely sources — say, a Chinese official’s home computer or a Russian oil company’s network. Much of T.A.O.’s work is labeled E.C.I., for “exceptionally controlled information,” material so sensitive it was initially stored only in safes. When the cumulative weight of the safes threatened the integrity of N.S.A.’s engineering building a few years ago, one agency veteran said, the rules were changed to allow locked file cabinets.

The more experienced T.A.O. operators devise ways to break into foreign networks; junior operators take over to extract information. Mr. Williams, 40, a former paramedic who served in military intelligence in the Army before joining the N.S.A., worked in T.A.O. from 2008 to 2013, which he described as an especially long tenure. He called the work “challenging and sometimes exciting.”

T.A.O. operators must constantly renew their arsenal to stay abreast of changing software and hardware, examining every Windows update and new iPhone for vulnerabilities. “The nature of the business is to move with the technology,” a former T.A.O. hacker said.

Long known mainly as an eavesdropping agency, the N.S.A. has embraced hacking as an especially productive way to spy on foreign targets. The intelligence collection is often automated, with malware implants — computer code designed to find material of interest — left sitting on the targeted system for months or even years, sending files back to the N.S.A.

The same implant can be used for many purposes: to steal documents, tap into email, subtly change data or become the launching pad for an attack. T.A.O.’s most public success was an operation against Iran called Olympic Games, in which implants in the network of the Natanz nuclear plant caused centrifuges enriching uranium to self-destruct. The T.A.O. was also critical to attacks on the Islamic State and North Korea.

It was this arsenal that the Shadow Brokers got hold of, and then began to release.

Like cops studying a burglar’s operating style and stash of stolen goods, N.S.A. analysts have tried to figure out what the Shadow Brokers took. None of the leaked files date from later than 2013 — a relief to agency officials assessing the damage. But they include a large share of T.A.O.’s collection, including three so-called ops disks — T.A.O.’s term for tool kits — containing the software to bypass computer firewalls, penetrate Windows and break into the Linux systems most commonly used on Android phones.

Evidence shows that the Shadow Brokers obtained the entire tool kits intact, suggesting that an insider might have simply pocketed a thumb drive and walked out.

But other files obtained by the Shadow Brokers bore no relation to the ops disks and seem to have been grabbed at different times. Some were designed for a compromise by the N.S.A. of Swift, a global financial messaging system, allowing the agency to track bank transfers. There was a manual for an old system code-named UNITEDRAKE, used to attack Windows. There were PowerPoint presentations and other files not used in hacking, making it unlikely that the Shadow Brokers had simply grabbed tools left on the internet by sloppy N.S.A. hackers.

Some officials doubt that the Shadow Brokers got it all by hacking the most secure of American government agencies — hence the search for insiders. But some T.A.O. hackers think that skilled, persistent attackers might have been able to get through the N.S.A.’s defenses — because, as one put it, “I know we’ve done it to other countries.”

The Shadow Brokers have verbally attacked certain experts, including Mr. Williams. When he concluded from their Twitter hints that they knew about some of his hacks while at the N.S.A., he canceled a business trip to Singapore. The United States had named and criminally charged hackers from the intelligence agencies of China, Iran and Russia. He feared he could be similarly charged by a country he had targeted and arrested on an international warrant.

He has since resumed traveling abroad. But he says no one from the N.S.A. has contacted him about being singled out publicly by the Shadow Brokers.

“That feels like a betrayal,” he said. “I was targeted by the Shadow Brokers because of that work. I do not feel the government has my back.”

The Hunt for an Insider

For decades after its creation in 1952, the N.S.A. — No Such Agency, in the old joke — was seen as all but leakproof. But since Mr. Snowden flew away with hundreds of thousands of documents in 2013, that notion has been shattered.

The Snowden trauma led to the investment of millions of dollars in new technology and tougher rules to counter what the government calls the insider threat. But N.S.A. employees say that with thousands of employees pouring in and out of the gates, and the ability to store a library’s worth of data in a device that can fit on a key ring, it is impossible to prevent people from walking out with secrets.

The agency has active investigations into at least three former N.S.A. employees or contractors. Two had worked for T.A.O.: a still publicly unidentified software developer secretly arrested after taking hacking tools home in 2015, only to have Russian hackers lift them from his home computer; and Harold T. Martin III, a contractor arrested last year when F.B.I. agents found his home, garden shed and car stuffed with sensitive agency documents and storage devices he had taken over many years when a work-at-home habit got out of control, his lawyers say. The third is Reality Winner, a young N.S.A. linguist arrested in June, who is charged with leaking to the news site The Intercept a single classified report on a Russian breach of an American election systems vendor.

Mr. Martin’s gargantuan collection of stolen files included much of what the Shadow Brokers have, and he has been scrutinized by investigators as a possible source for them. Officials say they do not believe he deliberately supplied the material, though they have examined whether he might have been targeted by thieves or hackers.

But according to former N.S.A. employees who are still in touch with active workers, investigators of the Shadow Brokers thefts are clearly worried that one or more leakers may still be inside the agency. Some T.A.O. employees have been asked to turn over their passports, take time off their jobs and submit to questioning. The small number of specialists who have worked both at T.A.O. and at the C.I.A. have come in for particular attention, out of concern that a single leaker might be responsible for both the Shadow Brokers and the C.I.A.’s Vault7 breaches.

Then there are the Shadow Brokers’ writings, which betray a seeming immersion in American culture. Last April, about the time Mr. Williams was discovering their inside knowledge of T.A.O. operations, the Shadow Brokers posted an appeal to President Trump: “Don’t Forget Your Base.” With the ease of a seasoned pundit, they tossed around details about Stephen K. Bannon, the president’s now departed adviser; the Freedom Caucus in Congress; the “deep state”; the Alien and Sedition Acts; and white privilege.

“TheShadowBrokers is wanting to see you succeed,” the post said, addressing Mr. Trump. “TheShadowBrokers is wanting America to be great again.”

The mole hunt is inevitably creating an atmosphere of suspicion and anxiety, former employees say. While the attraction of the N.S.A. for skilled operators is unique — nowhere else can they hack without getting into legal trouble — the boom in cybersecurity hiring by private companies gives T.A.O. veterans lucrative exit options.

Young T.A.O. hackers are lucky to make $80,000 a year, while those who leave routinely find jobs paying well over $100,000, security specialists say. For many workers, the appeal of the N.S.A’s mission has been more than enough to make up the difference. But over the past year, former T.A.O. employees say an increasing number of former colleagues have called them looking for private-sector work, including “graybeards” they thought would be N.S.A. lifers.

“Snowden killed morale,” another T.A.O. analyst said. “But at least we knew who he was. Now you have a situation where the agency is questioning people who have been 100 percent mission-oriented, telling them they’re liars.”

Because the N.S.A. hacking unit has grown so rapidly over the past decade, the pool of potential leakers has expanded into the hundreds. Trust has eroded as anyone who had access to the leaked code is regarded as the potential culprit.

Some agency veterans have seen projects they worked on for a decade shut down because implants they relied on were dumped online by the Shadow Brokers. The number of new operations has declined because the malware tools must be rebuilt. And no end is in sight.

“How much longer are the releases going to come?” a former T.A.O. employee asked. “The agency doesn’t know how to stop it — or even what ‘it’ is.”

One N.S.A. official who almost saw his career ended by the Shadow Brokers is at the very top of the organization: Adm. Michael S. Rogers, director of the N.S.A. and commander of its sister military organization, United States Cyber Command. President Barack Obama’s director of national intelligence, James R. Clapper Jr., and defense secretary, Ashton B. Carter, recommended removing Admiral Rogers from his post to create accountability for the breaches.

But Mr. Obama did not act on the advice, in part because Admiral Rogers’s agency was at the center of the investigation into Russia’s interference in the 2016 election. Mr. Trump, who again on Saturday disputed his intelligence agencies’ findings on Russia and the election, extended the admiral’s time in office. Some former intelligence officials say they are flabbergasted that he has been able to hold on to his job.

A Shadow War With Russia?

Lurking in the background of the Shadow Brokers investigation is American officials’ strong belief that it is a Russian operation. The pattern of dribbling out stolen documents over many months, they say, echoes the slow release of Democratic emails purloined by Russian hackers last year.

But there is a more specific back story to the United States-Russia rivalry.

Starting in 2014, American security researchers who had been tracking Russia’s state-sponsored hacking groups for years began to expose them in a series of research reports. American firms, including Symantec, CrowdStrike and FireEye, reported that Moscow was behind certain attacks and identified government-sponsored Russian hacking groups.

In the meantime, Russia’s most prominent cybersecurity firm, Kaspersky Lab, had started work on a report that would turn the tables on the United States. Kaspersky hunted for the spying malware planted by N.S.A. hackers, guided in part by the keywords and code names in the files taken by Mr. Snowden and published by journalists, officials said.

Kaspersky was, in a sense, simply doing to the N.S.A. what the American companies had just done to Russian intelligence: expose their operations. And American officials believe Russian intelligence was piggybacking on Kaspersky’s efforts to find and retrieve the N.S.A.’s secrets wherever they could be found. The T.A.O. hackers knew that when Kaspersky updated its popular antivirus software to find and block the N.S.A. malware, it could thwart spying operations around the world.

So T.A.O. personnel rushed to replace implants in many countries with new malware they did not believe the Russian company could detect.

In February 2015, Kaspersky published its report on the Equation Group — the company’s name for T.A.O. hackers — and updated its antivirus software to uproot the N.S.A. malware wherever it had not been replaced. The agency temporarily lost access to a considerable flow of intelligence. By some accounts, however, N.S.A. officials were relieved that the Kaspersky report did not include certain tools they feared the Russian company had found.

As it would turn out, any celebration was premature.

On Aug. 13 last year, a new Twitter account using the Shadow Brokers’ name announced with fanfare an online auction of stolen N.S.A. hacking tools.

“We hack Equation Group,” the Shadow Brokers wrote. “We find many many Equation Group cyber weapons.”

Inside the N.S.A., the declaration was like a bomb exploding. A zip file posted online contained the first free sample of the agency’s hacking tools. It was immediately evident that the Shadow Brokers were not hoaxsters, and that the agency was in trouble.

The leaks have renewed a debate over whether the N.S.A. should be permitted to stockpile vulnerabilities it discovers in commercial software to use for spying — rather than immediately alert software makers so the holes can be plugged. The agency claims it has shared with the industry more than 90 percent of flaws it has found, reserving only the most valuable for its own hackers. But if it can’t keep those from leaking, as the last year has demonstrated, the resulting damage to businesses and ordinary computer users around the world can be colossal. The Trump administration says it will soon announce revisions to the system, making it more transparent.

Mr. Williams said it may be years before the “full fallout” of the Shadow Brokers breach is understood. Even the arrest of whoever is responsible for the leaks may not end them, he said — because the sophisticated perpetrators may have built a “dead man’s switch” to release all remaining files automatically upon their arrest.

“We’re obviously dealing with people who have operational security knowledge,” he said. “They have the whole law enforcement system and intelligence system after them. And they haven’t been caught.”

 

Earthquake hits Iraq-Iran border, leaves hundreds dead, thousands injured

A 7.3-magnitude earthquake struck the mountainous border region between the two countries late on Sunday. More than 400 people have been killed, mostly in Iran.

November 13, 2017

DW

At least 400 people have died and more than 6,500 been injured in Iran after an earthquake shook the border region with Iraq, authorities said. In neighboring Iraq, officials confirmed eight people had died and more than 500 were injured.

The hardest-hit region was western Iran’s Kermanshah province, which lies in the Zagros mountains dividing Iraq and Iran.

In the town of Sarpol-e Zahab in Kermanshah province, 15 kilometers (10 miles) from the Iraqi border, at least 236 were killed.

Iran’s emergency services chief Pir Hossein Koolivand said it was “difficult to send rescue teams to the villages because the roads have been cut off… there have been landslides.”

Most of the region is rugged mountain terrain populated by farmers, with many pictureque villages made out of earthen bricks clinging to hillsides.

A 7.3-magnitude earthquake struck the mountainous border region between the two countries late on Sunday. More than 400 people have been killed, mostly in Iran.

As daylight broke, the extent of the destruction became clearer as concern mounted about civilians trapped under rubble in remote villages in the area. Iranian officials said the death toll was likely to rise.

The Iranian government sent 30 Red Crescent teams to the quake zone, parts of which were without power. Three emergency relief camps were being set up by Iranian officials.

Quake felt across region

The Iraqi ministry of health said seven people had died and 321 taken to hospitals in the semi-autonomous region of Kurdistan. Four people reportedly died in the town of Darbandikhan and two — including a child and an elderly person — died in the town of Kalar, about 70 kilometers (45 miles) south of Darbandikhan.

In nearby Halabja, residents fled their homes and many slept outside out of fear of the earthquake and potential aftershocks, local teacher Warzer Ali told DW reporter Chase Winter via social media.

“Many people slept out in the street, others left the town and slept in fields,” Ali said, adding that aftershocks were felt.

The Turkish Red Crescent and the national disaster response agency, AFAD, sent aid and rescue teams to the disaster area in Iraqi Kurdistan.

According to the US Geological Survey (USGS), the earthquake had a 7.3 magnitude and hit at 9:18 p.m. local time (1818 UTC) around 30 kilometers (19 miles) southwest of Halabja. The quake was felt as far away as southeastern Turkey and Baghdad.

The area along the border of Iraq and Iran sees frequent seismic activity due to the 1,500 kilometer faultline between the Arabian and Eurasian tectonic plates. In 2003, some 31,000 people were killed by a catastrophic tremor that struck the Iranian city of Bam.

Also late on Sunday, a strong quake struck near Costa Rica, killing at least two people.

 

 

Copenhagen Airport shuts 10 gates after threat against Turkish airline’s planes

November 13, 2017

RT

Copenhagen police are investigating a threat made against planes belonging to Turkish airline Atlasglobal. The city’s airport closed 10 gates after being alerted of the threat by police.

“Copenhagen police have said there is a threat against all Atlasglobal’s planes in Europe,” a Copenhagen Airport spokesman said, as quoted by Reuters.

One airplane was prevented from taking off due to the incident. It was moved to a remote part of the airport while police carried out their investigation.

Copenhagen Airport tweeted at the time that gates C30-C39 had been closed amid a “police investigation.” It later said the airport was “back to normal” and operating with minimal delays.

A spokesman for Atlasglobal told Reuters that the airline was unable to immediately provide comment. He said it will likely release a statement later on Monday.

Atlasglobal is a Turkish airline headquartered in Istanbul, which operates domestic and international passenger services and charter flights. It operated under the name Atlasjet until March 2015.

 

Roy Moore threatens to sue Washington Post over sexual misconduct report

  • Alabama Senate candidate reportedly had sexual contact with 12-year-old
  • White House aide: ‘special place in hell’ for those guilty of such allegations

November 13, 2017

The Guardian

On the day the White House director of legislative affairs said there was “a special place in hell” for those guilty of what Roy Moore is alleged to have done, the Alabama Senate candidate said he would file a lawsuit over the Washington Post report that alleged he had sexual contact with a 12-year-old girl four decades ago.

Moore is a hardline conservative and former state supreme court justice twice removed from the bench for unconstitutional behaviour. As pressure on him to quit the Senate race intensified from within the establishment wing of the Republican party, Moore told supporters on Sunday night at a gym in Huntsville, Alabama, neither Democrats nor Republicans want to see him win on 12 December.

The Post story, he said, was “fake news” and “a desperate attempt to stop my political campaign”.

Moore said allegations that he was involved with a minor were “untrue” and said the newspaper “will be sued”, drawing applause. He also questioned why such allegations would be levelled for the first time so close to the special election, despite his decades in public life.

“Why would they come now? Because there are groups that don’t want me in the United States Senate,” he said, naming the Democratic party and the Republican establishment and accusing them of working together. He added: “We do not plan to let anybody deter us from this race.”

The Post story quoted four women by name, including the woman who alleged the sexual contact at 14, and had two dozen other sources.

Moore has tried to raise money from the controversy, writing in a fundraising pitch on Sunday that the “vicious and sleazy attacks against me are growing more vicious by the minute”. The pitch told supporters: “I’m counting on you to stand with me at this critical moment by chipping in a donation to help me bust through the vicious lies and attacks and get the truth out to as many voters as possible before 12 December.”

On Sunday another Republican senator, Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania, joined the chorus urging Moore to drop out of the race. He said Moore’s explanations regarding the Post piece were inadequate and that Republicans should consider Luther Strange as a write-in candidate. Strange, who was endorsed by Donald Trump, lost the Republican primary to Moore in September.

Even if Moore were to step aside, his name would probably remain on the ballot. Any effort to add Strange as a write-in candidate would probably divide the Republican vote and give the Democratic candidate a greater chance of winning. The polls have tightened since the Post story was published. On Monday morning, the realclearpolitics.com average gave Moore a two-point lead, putting the race in a deep red state into unlikely toss-up territory.

Toomey did not rule out the possibility that Senate Republicans might refuse to work with Moore if he wins against Democrat Doug Jones.

“You know, this is a terrible situation, nearly 40-year-old allegation, we’ll probably never know for sure exactly what happened,” Toomey said on NBC. “But from my point of view, I think the accusations have more credibility than the denial. I think it would be best if Roy would just step aside.”

The White House, pointedly noting that Trump did not back Moore during the primary – after it he deleted tweets in support of Strange and made favourable comments about Moore – said the president would probably weigh in when he returns from Asia later this week.

On Air Force One on Saturday Trump referred reporters to press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders’ original statement on Moore, which said he should step aside if the allegations were proven to be true. The president also claimed he did not know about Moore’s case because he did “not watch much television”.

White House legislative aide Marc Short told NBC on Sunday: “I think there’s a special place in hell for those who actually perpetrate these crimes. But, having said that, he hasn’t been proved guilty. We have to afford him the chance to defend himself.”

Trump himself has been accused by least 16 women of sexual misconduct or assault. He has denied the allegations and Sanders said last month all the women were lying.

Moore is an outspoken Christian conservative who has said “homosexual conduct should be illegal” and who claimed the 9/11 attacks were a case of divine retribution. He was removed from the Alabama supreme court in 2003, for refusing to remove a biblical monument from the state judicial building, and in 2016, for refusing to follow the US supreme court ruling that legalised same-sex marriage.

The Post reported last Thursday that he had sexual contact with a 14-year-old girl and pursued three other teenagers decades earlier. While he called the allegations “completely false and misleading” in an interview with conservative radio host Sean Hannity on Friday, Moore did not wholly rule out dating teenage girls when he was in his early 30s.

Asked if that would have been usual for him, Moore said: “Not generally, no.”

He also said: “With regard to the other girls, you understand this is 40 years ago and, after my return from the military, I dated a lot of young ladies.” He added that he did not “remember ever dating any girl without the permission of her mother”.

The story stirred concern among Republican officials in Washington in a key race to fill the Senate seat once held by Jeff Sessions, now the US attorney general. Losing the special election would imperil the slim GOP majority in the Senate, which is hoping to pass a tax overhaul later this year.

 

Global Warming’s Great Hiatus Gets Another Debunking

Scientists had struggled to understand a slowdown in the world’s warming starting 15 years ago. A new study says it never happened. 

by Katherine Bagley,

InsideClimate News

The long-debated hiatus or pause in global warming, championed by climate denialists who tried to claim it proved scientists’ projections on climate change are inaccurate or overblown, probably did not happen at all.

A new study by researchers at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration finds that the world’s warming never really stalled during the last 15 years—it was just masked by incomplete data records that have been improved and expanded in recent years.

“The rate of temperature increase during the last half of the 20th century is virtually identical to that of the 21st century,” said Tom Karl, director of NOAA’s National Centers for Environmental Information and lead author of the study.

The research, published in the peer-reviewed journal Science this week, is just the latest in a growing number of studies refuting the idea of a slowdown or stop in global warming.

“Tom Karl and colleagues have done solid work here, but they’ve mostly just confirmed what we already knew,” said Michael Mann, a climate scientist and director of the Earth System Science Center at Pennsylvania State University. “There is no true ‘pause’ or ‘hiatus’ in warming.”

Global temperature trends are calculated using measurements from weather stations on land and by ships at sea. Until recently, stations in regions including Asia, South America and Africa were scarce. Ships collecting temperatures did so first by gathering water either in wooden buckets, in canvas buckets, by thermometers positioned near engine intake valves, and later buoys—resulting in temperature measurements that varied slightly by collection method and requiring correction.

Previous calculations estimated the world had warmed 0.113 degrees Celsius per decade from 1950 to 1999, and 0.039 degrees Celsius per decade from 1998 to 2012, according to the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Global surface temperature “has shown a much smaller increasing linear trend over the past 15 years [1998-2012] than over the past 30 to 60 years,” the IPCC concluded in its Fifth Assessment report.

Within the last decade, thousands of new weather stations have been built in previously under-reported areas on land and a vast network of buoys have been deployed that more accurately measure sea surface temperatures. Karl and colleagues reanalyzed global temperature trends with the new data and corrected for ocean temperature discrepancies.

The NOAA scientists found that the world warmed 0.086 degrees Celsius per decade between 1998 and 2012, more than double the previous estimates. When the researchers included 2013 and 2014—when record-breaking heat spread across the globe—warming per decade jumped to 0.116 degrees Celsius.

The “newly corrected and updated global surface temperature data from NOAA’s NCEI do not support the notion of a global warming ‘hiatus,'” wrote the study authors.

The scientists argue the findings even underestimate the world’s warming because they don’t consider what has happened in the Arctic, where temperatures have increased rapidly in recent decades, but where there is a limited number of weather recording stations.

“The fact that such small changes to the analysis make the difference between a hiatus or not merely underlines how fragile a concept it was in the first place,” said Gavin Schmidt, a climate scientist and director of the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies who was not involved in the research.

Mann said the study doesn’t prove that warming never slowed, but rather that when it did, it was short-lived, localized and had little impact on the world’s overall warming trend over the last century.

“There was definitely a slowdown in warming from around 2000-2012 centered in the Pacific, but leading to a slowing of warming over the Northern Hemisphere,” said Mann. That local event barely impacted the global mean temperature at the time.

“There certainly is variability from year to year, and one can find periods in the record where there are small changes,” but over the long term, the world is still warming at an alarming rate, Karl said.

Scientists aren’t holding their breath that the findings published this week will sway climate denialists from claiming there is a hiatus or pause in warming.

“There will be a very predictable chorus of ‘data manipulation’ and ‘fraud’ as they see a talking point disappear, and so it will just continue as before,” said Schmidt. “Just remember, their objections have little or nothing to do with science.”

 

Ricin: What is it?

Centers for Disease Control

Ricin toxin from Ricinus communis (castor beans)

 

What ricin is

  • Ricin is a poison found naturally in castor beans. If castor beans are chewed and swallowed, the released ricin can cause injury. Ricin can be made from the waste material left over from processing castor beans.
  • It can be in the form of a powder, a mist, or a pellet, or it can be dissolved in water or weak acid.
  • It is a stable substance under normal conditions, but can be inactivated by heat above 80 degrees centigrade (176 degrees Fahrenheit).

Where ricin is found and how it is used

  • Castor beans are processed throughout the world to make castor oil. Ricin is part of the waste “mash” produced when castor oil is made.
  • Ricin has been used experimentally in medicine to kill cancer cells.

How you could be exposed to ricin

  • It would take a deliberate act to make ricin and use it to poison people. Unintentional exposure to ricin is highly unlikely, except through the ingestion of castor beans.
  • If made into a partially purified material or refined into a terrorist or warfare agent, ricin could be used to expose people through the air, food, or water.
  • In 1978, Georgi Markov, a Bulgarian writer and journalist who was living in London, died after he was attacked by a man with an umbrella. The umbrella had been rigged to inject a poison ricin pellet under Markov’s skin.
  • In the 1940s the U.S. military experimented with using ricin as a possible warfare agent. In some reports ricin has possibly been used as a warfare agent in the 1980s in Iraq and more recently by terrorist organizations.
  • Ricin poisoning is not contagious. Ricin-associated illness cannot be spread from person to person through casual contact. However, if you come into contact with someone who has ricin on their body or clothes, you could become exposed to it.

How ricin works

  • Ricin works by getting inside the cells of a person’s body and preventing the cells from making the proteins they need. Without the proteins, cells die. Eventually this is harmful to the whole body, and death may occur.
  • Effects of ricin poisoning depend on whether ricin was inhaled, ingested, or injected.

Signs and symptoms of ricin exposure

  • The major symptoms of ricin poisoning depend on the route of exposure and the dose received, though many organs may be affected in severe cases.
  • Initial symptoms of ricin poisoning by inhalation may occur as early as 4- 8 hours and as late as 24 hours after exposure. Following ingestion of ricin, initial symptoms typically occur in less than 10 hours.
  • Inhalation: Within a few hours of inhaling significant amounts of ricin, the likely symptoms would be respiratory distress (difficulty breathing), fever, cough, nausea, and tightness in the chest. Heavy sweating may follow as well as fluid building up in the lungs (pulmonary edema). This would make breathing even more difficult, and the skin might turn blue. Excess fluid in the lungs would be diagnosed by x-ray or by listening to the chest with a stethoscope. Finally, low blood pressure and respiratory failure may occur, leading to death. In cases of known exposure to ricin, people having respiratory symptoms should seek medical care.
  • Ingestion: If someone swallows a significant amount of ricin, he or she would likely develop vomiting and diarrhea that may become bloody. Severe dehydration may be the result, followed by low blood pressure. Other signs or symptoms may include seizures, and blood in the urine. Within several days, the person’s liver, spleen, and kidneys might stop working, and the person could die.
  • Skin and eye exposure: Ricin is unlikely to be absorbed through normal skin. Contact with ricin powders or products may cause redness and pain of the skin and the eyes. However, if you touch ricin that is on your skin and then eat food with your hands or put your hands in your mouth, you may ingest some.
  • Death from ricin poisoning could take place within 36 to 72 hours of exposure, depending on the route of exposure (inhalation, ingestion, or injection) and the dose received.

How authorities confirm cases of suspected ricin poisoning

  • If authorities suspect that people have inhaled ricin, a potential clue would be that a large number of people who had been close to each other rapidly developed fever, cough, and excess fluid in their lungs. These symptoms would likely be followed by severe breathing problems and possibly death.
  • If in suspected situations where ricin may have been disseminated, preliminary environmental testing by public health or law enforcement authorities detects ricin in powders or materials released into the immediate environment. Persons occupying such areas may initially be observed for signs of ricin poisoning.
  • CDC can assess selected specimens on a provisional basis for urinary ricinine, an alkaloid in the castor bean plant. Only urinary ricinine testing is available at CDC or the LRN.

How ricin poisoning is treated

  • Because no antidote exists for ricin, the most important factor is avoiding ricin exposure in the first place.
  • If exposure cannot be avoided, the most important factor is then getting the ricin off or out of the body as quickly as possible.
  • Symptomatic ricin poisoning is treated by giving victims supportive medical care to minimize the effects of the poisoning. The types of supportive medical care would depend on several factors, such as the route by which victims were poisoned (that is, whether poisoning was by inhalation, ingestion, or skin or eye exposure). Care could include such measures as helping victims breathe, giving them intravenous fluids (fluids given through a needle inserted into a vein), giving them medications to treat conditions such as seizure and low blood pressure, flushing their stomachs with activated charcoal (if the ricin has been very recently ingested), or washing out their eyes with water if their eyes are irritated.

How you can protect yourself, and what to do if you are exposed to ricin

  • Get fresh air right away by leaving the area where the ricin was released. ◦If the ricin release was outside, move away from the area where the ricin was released.

◦If the ricin release was indoors, get out of the building.

  • If you are near a release of ricin, emergency coordinators may tell you to either evacuate the area or to “shelter in place” inside a building to avoid being exposed to the chemical. For more information on evacuation during a chemical emergency, see Facts About Evacuation. For more information on sheltering in place during a chemical emergency, see Facts About Sheltering in Place.
  • If you think you may have been exposed to ricin, you should remove your clothing, rapidly wash your entire body with soap and water, and get medical care as quickly as possible.
  • Removing your clothing: ◦Quickly take off clothing that may have ricin on it. Any clothing that has to be pulled over the head should be cut off the body instead of pulled over the head.

◦If you are helping other people remove their clothing, try to avoid touching any contaminated areas, and remove the clothing as quickly as possible.

  • Washing yourself: ◦As quickly as possible, wash any ricin from your skin with large amounts of soap and water. Washing with soap and water will help protect people from any chemicals on their bodies.

◦If your eyes are burning or your vision is blurred, rinse your eyes with plain water for 10 to 15 minutes. If you wear contacts, remove them and put them with the contaminated clothing. Do not put the contacts back in your eyes (even if they are not disposable contacts). If you wear eyeglasses, wash them with soap and water. You can put your eyeglasses back on after you wash them.

  • Disposing of your clothes: ◦After you have washed yourself, place your clothing inside a plastic bag. Avoid touching contaminated areas of the clothing. If you can’t avoid touching contaminated areas, or you aren’t sure where the contaminated areas are, wear rubber gloves, turn the bag inside out and use it to pick up the clothing, or put the clothing in the bag using tongs, tool handles, sticks, or similar objects. Anything that touches the contaminated clothing should also be placed in the bag. If you wear contacts, put them in the plastic bag, too.

◦Seal the bag, and then seal that bag inside another plastic bag. Disposing of your clothing in this way will help protect you and other people from any chemicals that might be on your clothes.

◦When the local or state health department or emergency personnel arrive, tell them what you did with your clothes. The health department or emergency personnel will arrange for further disposal. Do not handle the plastic bags yourself.

  • For more information about cleaning your body and disposing of your clothes after a chemical release, see Chemical Agents: Facts About Personal Cleaning and Disposal of Contaminated Clothing.
  • If someone has ingested ricin, do not induce vomiting or give fluids to drink.
  • Seek medical attention right away. Consider dialing 911 and explaining what has happened.

How hard is it to make ricin?

Not hard at all. There’s no shortage of ricin recipes online, and you don’t have to dig too deeply to find them—a quick Google search will pull up dubious-looking forums with detailed (and mostly accurate) instructions on how to make ricin at home. Ricin is found naturally in castor beans, and the toxin can be extracted from the pulp left over after the oil has been squeezed out. The general procedure involves first removing or softening the outer coat of the castor beans (some recipes suggest soaking them) and cooking the beans. Next, the beans are mashed and filtered. Then solvents are added to extract the ricin from the solution … and congratulations, you’ve just made ricin.

The entire process can be done in your kitchen, with everyday materials such as coffee filters, mason jars, and solvents found at hardware stores. Castor bean seeds are widely available online. The plant grows wild all over the United States and is also grown in gardens. Not only is it easy to obtain a recipe for ricin, it’s also easy to obtain all the needed ingredients and materials to make it.

Ricin comes in several forms, including powder, mist, and pellets. It can also be dissolved in water. And the tiniest amount is all that’s needed to be fatal. Michael P. Allswede, a toxicologist at the Center for Biosecurity at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, told the New York Times in 2006 that a “speck of pure ricin the size of a grain of salt is enough to kill if it is injected or swallowed.” Exposure is often fatal and occurs within days. Most notably, in 1978, Bulgarian journalist Georgi Markov died from ricin poisoning after another man (possibly a KGB agent) used an umbrella to shoot the toxin into his leg. The first symptoms of ingested ricin include nausea and vomiting, which rapidly progress to kidney and liver failure. The first symptoms of inhaling ricin include difficulty breathing, chest tightness, and a cough, and rapidly progress to respiratory failure. There is no antidote for ricin.

Pure ricin is highly dangerous. But home-brewed ricin might not be as pure—and therefore less harmful. Someone without technical training could make ricin at home, but it’s much harder to effectively purify and concentrate ricin without more knowledge. To purify ricin, there are “special, technically difficult processes that might not be readily available,” notes the CDC. Bottom line: High-quality ricin is hard to make, and it’s difficult to produce a powder form that is easy to inhale. That doesn’t stop people from trying. In 2008, Roger von Bergendorff was found comatose in his Las Vegas hotel room after he had accidentally inhaled ricin he had produced. After he woke up from his coma, he was sentenced to three years in prison

 

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