Welcome! "The Evening Blues" is a casual community diary (published Monday - Friday, 8:00 PM Eastern) where we hang out, share and talk about news, music, photography and other things of interest to the community.
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This evening's music features r&b singer Hank Ballard. Enjoy!
Hank Ballard & The Midnighters - The Twist
“We cannot expect people to have respect for law and order until we teach respect to those we have entrusted to enforce those laws.”
-- Hunter S. Thompson
News and Opinion
Inside the NSA’s Secret Efforts to Hunt and Hack System Administrators
Across the world, people who work as system administrators keep computer networks in order – and this has turned them into unwitting targets of the National Security Agency for simply doing their jobs. According to a secret document provided by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden, the agency tracks down the private email and Facebook accounts of system administrators (or sys admins, as they are often called), before hacking their computers to gain access to the networks they control. ...
The classified posts reveal how the NSA official aspired to create a database that would function as an international hit list of sys admins to potentially target. Yet the document makes clear that the admins are not suspected of any criminal activity – they are targeted only because they control access to networks the agency wants to infiltrate. “Who better to target than the person that already has the ‘keys to the kingdom’?” one of the posts says.
The NSA wants more than just passwords. The document includes a list of other data that can be harvested from computers belonging to sys admins, including network maps, customer lists, business correspondence and, the author jokes, “pictures of cats in funny poses with amusing captions.” ... It is unclear how precise the NSA’s hacking attacks are or how the agency ensures that it excludes Americans from the intrusions. The author explains in one post that the NSA scours the Internet to find people it deems “probable” administrators, suggesting a lack of certainty in the process and implying that the wrong person could be targeted. It is illegal for the NSA to deliberately target Americans for surveillance without explicit prior authorization. But the employee’s posts make no mention of any measures that might be taken to prevent hacking the computers of Americans who work as sys admins for foreign networks. Without such measures, Americans who work on such networks could potentially fall victim to an NSA infiltration attempt.
Federal Judge Slams Govt Request for Email User Data as 'Repugnant to the Fourth Amendment"
A federal judge has delivered a harshly worded ruling that admonishes a government request for a warrant to search a user's email address, saying that it would be "repugnant to the Fourth Amendment" to issue it, and urged the government to stop submitting "unconstitutional warrant applications."
In his opinion delivered earlier this month, Magistrate Judge John Facciola denied the request, writing, "It is evident from the sealed affidavit that the government is really after e-mails from December to the present." ...
Facciola writes that the request in question follows a pattern in which the government's "applications ask for the entire universe of information tied to a particular account, even if it has established probable cause only for certain information."
"The government continues to submit overly broad warrants and makes no effort to balance the law enforcement interest against the obvious expectation of privacy e-mail account holders have in their communications."
"[It] persists in its entitlement to the entire e-mail account, without suggesting how the items that may be seized because there is probable cause to believe that they are evidence of a crime can be segregated from those that are not."
Harry Reid orders probe of alleged CIA computer hacking
The leader of the U.S. Senate strongly backed the head of the Senate Intelligence Committee on Thursday in a dispute with the Central Intelligence Agency, ordering an investigation into what he called an "indefensible" breach of the panel's computers by the CIA. ...
"The CIA has not only interfered with the lawful congressional oversight of its activities, but has also seemingly attempted to intimidate its overseers by subjecting them to criminal investigation," Reid said in a letter to Attorney General Eric Holder obtained by Reuters.
"These developments strike at the heart of the constitutional separation of powers between the legislative and executive branches," Reid, a Nevada Democrat, added. ...
Reid said he would have the Sergeant at Arms, the Senate's chief security officer, begin a forensic examination of computers assigned for exclusive use by Senate Intelligence staff. ...
Reid also wrote to John Brennan, the director of the CIA, asking for cooperation with the investigation of what Reid said would mark the third time since 2010 in which the agency acknowledged intruding into Intelligence Committee computer networks.
The CIA impunity challenge
The White House and the CIA are currently engaged in an unrelenting battle to cover up the George W. Bush administration’s torture program and to maintain a system of impunity for what are obvious war crimes. Disturbingly, they are even willing to break the law — again — to win that battle.
The historic testimony given by Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., on the Senate floor on March 11 laid bare the efforts of the Central Intelligence Agency to block the publication of a 6,300-page investigation by the Senate Intelligence Committee into the Bush-era interrogation program. She accused the CIA of violating both statutory laws and the Constitution. ...
The CIA shares blame for obstructing the Senate investigation with the White House. Despite repeated statements that he supports the release of the committee’s report, President Barack Obama, in the face of CIA objections, has refused to declassify it.
In addition, Obama has been unilaterally withholding “more than 9,000 top-secret documents” from the Senate inquiry, McClatchy reported on March 12. These “are separate” from documents that Feinstein referred to. The content of these documents is unknown, but one can only imagine what they reveal. Such unscrupulous secrecy is contrary to the promises of transparency and accountability that drove then-candidate Obama to the White House in 2008.
The coordinated attempts to cover up the controversial program should surprise no one, given what is at stake.
In 2007 the International Committee for the Red Cross concluded (PDF) that the treatment endured by detainees in CIA custody “amounted to torture” and constituted war crimes.
The new rules prevent the company from snooping on customers’ communications without first convincing two legal teams, independent of the internal investigation, that they have evidence sufficient to obtain a court order were one applicable. ...
John Frank, vice president and deputy general counsel at the firm, says that following coverage of the case in the Guardian and elsewhere, Microsoft wants “to provide additional context regarding how we approach these issues generally and how we are evolving our policies.
“Courts do not issue orders authorising someone to search themselves, since obviously no such order is needed,” he continues.
“So even when we believe we have probable cause, it’s not feasible to ask a court to order us to search ourselves. However, even we should not conduct a search of our own email and other customer services unless the circumstances would justify a court order, if one were available.”
As well as requiring an internal and external review of the evidence, Frank also promises to confine any future searches “to the matter under investigation and not search for other information”.
Kim Dotcom loses case to access US extradition evidence
Internet entrepreneur Kim Dotcom lost a ruling in New Zealand’s highest court on Friday as part of his legal battle to try and avoid extradition to the United States.
Dotcom founded the once-popular file-sharing site Megaupload, which US prosecutors shut down in 2012. Prosecutors accuse him and colleagues of racketeering by facilitating the widespread illegal downloading of songs and movies. Dotcom argues he can’t be held responsible for those who chose to use his site for illegitimate purposes.
In a 4-1 ruling, New Zealand’s supreme court denied a bid by Dotcom and three of his colleagues, who are also facing extradition, to have access to all the US evidence against them at their July extradition hearing. Chief Justice Sian Ellias cast the dissenting vote. ...
While the ruling effectively ended one legal argument for Dotcom, the supreme court may end up ruling on other aspects of the case.
Chelsea Manning petitioning Kansas court for legal name change
The army private who was tried and convicted as Bradley Edward Manning for leaking US secrets to WikiLeaks is petitioning a Kansas court for a name change to Chelsea Elizabeth Manning.
Leavenworth County District Court has scheduled an April 23 hearing on the request, according to a Leavenworth Times legal notice sent Wednesday to The Associated Press by a spokesman at Fort Leavenworth, where Manning is serving a 35-year sentence. The petition was filed January 27 and published 1 March after it was submitted by Manning’s lawyer, David Coombs of Providence, Rhode Island. ...
Manning has been diagnosed by at least two army behavioral health specialists with gender dysphoria, or gender identity disorder.
In addition to the name change, Manning has asked to receive hormone replacement therapy and live as a woman while incarcerated. She and Coombs have said they will go to court, if necessary, to obtain the hormone treatment.
Civilian federal prisons are required to provide such treatment, if deemed medically necessary, for inmates diagnosed with gender dysphoria. Unlike in military prisons, the policy also allows inmates who believe they are the wrong gender to dress and live accordingly as part of their individual treatment plans.
Russia completes Crimea annexation
President Vladimir Putin completed the annexation of Crimea on Friday, signing the peninsula into Russia at nearly the same time his Ukrainian counterpart sealed a deal pulling his country closer into Europe's orbit.
Putin said he saw no need to further retaliate against U.S. sanctions, a newly conciliatory tone reflecting an apparent attempt to contain one of the worst crises in Russia's relations with the West since the Cold War.
U.S. President Barack Obama on Thursday ordered a second round of sanctions against nearly two dozen members of Putin's inner circle and a major bank supporting them.
Moscow retaliated on Thursday by banning nine U.S. officials and lawmakers from entering Russia, but Putin indicated that Russia would likely refrain from curtailing cooperation in areas such as Afghanistan. ... Russia is expected to play a major role in the planned withdrawal of U.S. and other NATO forces from Afghanistan later this year by providing transit corridors via its territory, and Putin seemed to indicate that the Kremlin at this stage has no intention to shut the route in response to U.S. and EU sanctions.
[Ukraine] owes Russia $2 billion in overdue payments for natural gas supplies. Putin made it clear that Russia will further raise the heat on Ukraine by urging it to pay back a $3 billion bailout loan granted to Yanukovych in December.
In addition to that, Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev suggested that Russia should reclaim $11 billion in gas rebates it provided to Ukraine in exchange for a deal that extended Russia's lease on its navy base in Crimea until 2042.
Medvedev argued that since Crimea is part of Russia now, the deal is void and Russia should demand the money. Putin backed the proposal.
Bank Rossiya, Kremlin's favoured bank, to be 'frozen out of the dollar'
Bank Rossiya, the Russian bank best known for its close ties to top Kremlin figures, is to be "frozen out of the dollar", according to US officials, as part of the new wave of sanctions from Washington.
Shortly after Barack Obama signed off the measures on Thursday it emerged that rating agency Standard & Poors had warned on the outlook for the Russian economy amid escalating tensions over Ukraine.
"Heightened geopolitical risk and the prospect of US and EU economic sanctions following Russia's incorporation of Crimea could reduce the flow of potential investment, trigger rising capital outflows, and further weaken Russia's already deteriorating economic performance," S&P analysts said.
The remarks were made in anticipation of EU and US sanctions, but before the announcement of actions from the US Treasury Department, targeting 20 more Russian citizens and the nation's 17th largest bank with US asset freezes.
Hagel assured by Russian minister Moscow will not push beyond Crimea
The Pentagon says it has received assurances that Russian forces will not push further into Ukraine, despite Moscow massing thousands of troops on the border in what it describes as a military exercise.
US defense secretary Chuck Hagel spoke for an hour on Thursday with his counterpart, Russian defense minister Sergei Shoigu, in what was described as an occasionally blunt phone call.
Ukraine Coup Lawful, Crimea Referendum Unlawful
UNITED NATIONS, Mar 20 2014 (IPS) - U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, conscious of the stark ineffectiveness of the Security Council over the upheaval in Ukraine, is engaged in a round of shuttle diplomacy with Russian and Ukrainian leaders to help resolve the crisis in that region. ...
Norman Solomon, founding director of the Washington-based Institute for Public Accuracy, told IPS it is proper that “Ban Ki-moon should try to mediate the conflict, but it’s too bad his itinerary on this trip won’t also take him to Washington.” ...
“And if one takes seriously the unfortunate but very real dynamics that impel large nations to be concerned about spheres of influence – particularly in the vicinity of their borders – the U.N. secretary-general should be willing to confront President Obama as well as President Putin.” ... He said one of the ways that Ban could move toward defusing this crisis would involve urging a rollback of the expansion of NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organisation), along with an ironclad pledge from NATO to never seek membership from Ukraine.
“A secretary-general less subservient to the U.S. government might be willing to give it a try,” he said.
Michael Ratner, president emeritus of the Centre for Constitutional Rights, told IPS, “I don’t know what the U.N. secretary-general did while that coup was planned and carried out, but his actions certainly come too late now.”
It would be interesting if he stated the coup in Ukraine was just that, and condemned the West for its interference, he added.
“For U.S. officials and press to claim somehow that the coup which occurred in Ukraine, engineered by the West, complied with law, while the referendum in Crimea did not, is utter hypocrisy,” said Ratner, president of the Berlin-based European Centre for Constitutional and Human Rights.
On Iranian New Year, Russia Hints It May Swing Support to Tehran Over Crimea Sanctions: Juan Cole
Iran may have gotten a New Year’s gift via the Crimea crisis, as Russia threatens to play the Iran card over proposed US sanctions. As I argued in the New York Times, Russia and Iran are being driven closer to one another as both are now under a US and Western European sanctions regime. Russia had earlier wanted to avoid unnecessarily angering Washington over Iran, but is signalling that it no longer cares what the US thinks on this issue. ...
As the [negotiations with the five members of the UN Security Council plus Germany (P5 + 1) over its nuclear enrichment program] meeting was breaking up with a sense of accomplishment ... Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov unloaded a bombshell: Russia may cease complying with economic and financial sanctions on Iran over its nuclear enrichment program.”We wouldn’t like to use these talks as an element of the game of raising the stakes taking into account the sentiments in some European capitals, Brussels and Washington… But if they force us into that, we will take retaliatory measures here as well. The historic importance of what happened in the last weeks and days regarding the restoration of historical justice and reunification of Crimea with Russia is incomparable to what we are dealing with in the Iranian issue.”A lessening of Russian economic pressure on Iran at this juncture would weaken the Western hand in the negotiations and strengthen Iranian hard liners opposed to the talks and to any concessions to the West over Iran’s enrichment program. Iran maintains that it has a right to enrich and to close the fuel cycle under the terms of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. The treaty does make those guarantees, but the US manages to interpret it so as no to afford them to Iran, and Washington has gotten the UN Security Council to go along with it on this matter. A Russian defection from that consensus would be a game changer, especially since China already rejects unilateral US sanctions on Iran.
Hillary Clinton woos American Jewish Congress, promising military intervention in Iran is on the table
Commenting on the ongoing talks between Iran and the P5+1 nations over the nation's nuclear program and ongoing western sanctions, former Secretary of State and likely presidential candidate Hillary Clinton told a largely pro-Israel crowd on Wednesday that she is "personally skeptical" of Iran's stated commitments and that, in her eyes, "all options"—including military ones—should be part of U.S. policy towards Tehran if talks fail.
“Let’s be clear,” she said, “every other option does remain on the table.”
Two days of negotiations between Iran, the US, Russia, China, UK, France, and Germany concluded in Vienna on Wednesday with progress, but no final settlement as of yet. Some diplomats leaving the latest round expressed optimism about prospects for a final deal. But Clinton, from her vantage in New York, expressed her continued doubts that diplomatic efforts can succeed.
Washington Post Gets Iran Nukes Wrong--Again
In a March 20 article about a Hillary Clinton speech, the Washington Post reported that Iran is marching towards nuclear weapons--repeating an error the Post has had to correct at least two times already.
Philip Rucker's piece began with this:Hillary Rodham Clinton cast doubt on the interim nuclear agreement with Iran, saying in a muscular policy speech here Wednesday night that she is "personally skeptical" that Iran's leaders will follow through on a comprehensive agreement to end their march toward nuclear weapons.Whether or not the Post meant to attribute that claim to Clinton, it is false. Iran's nuclear program is the subject of significant controversy and intensive inspections; but there has not been any finding to confirm the claims that Iran is trying to build nuclear weapons.
The Post should know this, since it's made the same mistake before.
Turkey Twitter users flout Erdogan ban on micro-blogging site
Turkish users of Twitter - including the country's president - have flouted a block on the social media platform by using text messaging services or disguising the location of their computers to continue posting messages on the site.
Telecom regulators enforced four court orders to restrict access to Twitter on Thursday night, just hours after the prime minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, vowed to "eradicate" the micro-blogging platform in an election speech.
The disruption followed previous government threats to clamp down on the social media in Turkey and caused widespread outrage both inside and outside of Turkey. ...
Shortly after the Twitter ban came into effect around midnight, the micro-blogging company tweeted instructions to users in Turkey on how to circumvent it using text messaging services in Turkish and English. Turkish tweeters were quick to share other methods of tiptoeing around the ban, using "virtual private networks" (VPN) - which allow internet users to connect to the web undetected - or changing the domain name settings on computers and mobile devices to conceal their geographic whereabouts.
Some large Turkish news websites also published step-by-step instructions on how to change DNS settings.
Corporate 'Engine of Corruption' Destroying Global 'Public Good', says TED Prize Winner
The identity of the owners of anonymous companies who work behind closed doors against the "public good" should no longer be kept private, Charmian Gooch, co-founder of Global Witness, said Tuesday as she received the TED Prize at the TED2014 conference.
Anonymous companies, explained Gooch, are extremely cheap and easy to set up and are completely legal. In places like Delaware, for instance, it can be done online through a simple form and a small fee. The owner's name is easy to hide or at least keep out of public knowledge. And like Russian dolls, company owners hide multiple companies layered within one "shell" company structure, which can stretch across multiple countries.
"Each layer adds anonymity," said Gooch, and makes it more difficult for law enforcement and others to find out who the real owner is. "This truly is a scandal of epic proportions hidden in plain sight."
“It’s easy to think that corruption happens somewhere over there, carried out by a bunch of greedy despots,” said Gooch in her previous TED talk in 2013, which led to the award. “The reality is that the engine of corruption exists far beyond the shores of countries like Equatorial Guinea or Nigeria or Turkmenistan. This engine is driven by our international banking system, by the problem of anonymous shell companies, by the secrecy that we have afforded big oil, gas and mining operations and, most of all, by the failure of our politicians to back up their rhetoric.”
"My wish is for us to know who owns and controls companies so that they can no longer be used anonymously against the public good," Gooch said Tuesday. "Let's ignite world opinion, change the law, and together launch a new era of openness in business."
Fred Phelps in Hell!
Fred Phelps, the patriarch of the Westboro Baptist church who was notorious for his relentless campaign against America’s acceptance of homosexuality, has died at 84.
Steve Drain, an elder at the church, told the Guardian: “Fred Phelps died at about 11.15pm on Wednesday.” Phelps’s daughter Shirley told the Topeka Capital-Journal that her father died at a hospice in Topeka, Kansas, following a period of illness.
In a defiant post on its official blog, the church – from which Phelps had reportedly been excommunicated in recent years – declared that its controversial work would go on. ...
An era of intense national media coverage was kickstarted by their picketing the 1998 funeral of Matthew Shepard, a gay 21-year-old student from Wyoming, who was tortured and killed in what was said to be a hate crime. “Matt In Hell,” said one of Phelps’s signs.
After several years spent picketing more memorial services, including those of people who had died of Aids, Phelps and his church provoked even more widespread anger after the terrorist attacks of September 11, which Phelps described as a “glorious sight”.
The Evening Greens
CO2 on Path to Cross 400 ppm Threshold for a Month
Last year, atmospheric carbon dioxide briefly crossed 400 parts per million for the first time in human history. However, it didn’t cross that threshold until mid-May. This year’s first 400 ppm reading came a full two months earlier this past week and the seeming inexorable upward march is likely to race past another milestone next month.
“We’re already seeing values over 400. Probably we’ll see values dwelling over 400 in April and May. It’s just a matter of time before it stays over 400 forever,” said Ralph Keeling in a blog post.
Keeling runs a carbon dioxide monitoring program for Scripps Institute of Oceanography, a position he took over from his father who started it. The program takes daily measurements from the Mauna Loa Observatory in Hawaii, which sits at 11,141 feet on a volcano’s northern flank. Measurements have been recorded there continuously since March 1958. They’ve risen steadily since the first measurement of 313 ppm as humans have continued to burn more fossil fuels.
Radical U.N. Report Promotes Democratic Control of Food and an End to Corporate Domination
A new report (.doc) submitted to the United Nations Human Rights Council on the “Right to Food” took aim at the entire basis on which food is produced and distributed on a global scale. Reflecting the type of progressive analysis of our food system from experts like Vandana Shiva and Michael Pollan, report author Olivier De Schutter called for an undermining of large agribusinesses and an infusion of democratic control.
Although the report’s recommendations are revolutionary, news of its release went largely unreported in the major U.S. media.
De Schutter, the U.N. special rapporteur on the right to food, spent six years visiting more than a dozen countries and concluded that the world’s entire food system should be rebuilt, starting with the promotion of local, sustainable farming so that ordinary people have control over what they can grow and eat. This certainly does not sound radical to those of us in U.S. cities where there has been a rapid expansion of farmers markets and an explosion in backyard farming. But in poor American communities and in poor countries as a whole, it is a radical notion for food to be grown locally, sustainably and democratically.
The world’s food system is controlled by a handful of giant corporations, the majority of which are based in the U.S., such as ConAgra, Cargill and PepsiCo. These companies are a bottleneck through which most of the world’s food is forced, in order to feed most of the world’s people. Not only is this method environmentally unsustainable given its overreliance on chemical fertilizers, pesticides and fossil fuels, but it is also inefficient at actually feeding people. The World Food Programme estimates that there are 842 million hungry people worldwide.
Ohio: 5-inch break in pipe responsible for 10k gallon leak
Crews continued their efforts to clean up the mess and minimize the environmental effects Thursday. The work reached a milestone Monday night, as crews discovered the site of the leak. A 5-inch crack on the underside of the pipe caused approximately 10,000 gallons of oil to leak. Officials said they cannot tell how long the leak had been going on, but residents said that they had been smelling oil since late February.
Blog Posts of Interest
Here are diaries and selected blog posts of interest on DailyKos and other blogs.What's Happenin' Is On Hiatus
In case you ever happen to be in a country run by an autocratic dictator that suddenly decides that social media is not his friend...
A Little Night Music
Hank Ballard - Let's Go, Let's Go, Let's Go
Hank Ballard & Midnighters - Work With Me Annie
Etta James - Dance With Me Henry
Hank Ballard & The Midnighters - Annie Had A Baby
Hank Ballard & The Midnighters - Annie's Aunt Fannie
Hank Ballard & The Midnighters - Teardrops On Your Letter
Hank Ballard and The Midnighters - The Hoochie Coochie Coo
Hank Ballard and The Midnighters - Finger Poppin Time
Hank Ballard & The Midnighters - Tore Up Over You
Hank Ballard & The Midnighters I'm Going Back To The House On The Hill
Hank Ballard and the Midnighters - I'm gonna miss you
Hank Ballard and the Midnighters - Sexy Ways
Hank Ballard and the Midnighters - Sugaree
Hank Ballard & The Midnighters - Keep On Dancing
Hank Ballard & The Midnighters - The Coffee Grind
Hank Ballard - Do It Zulu Style
Hank Ballard - How You Gonna Get Respect
Hank Ballard & The Midnight Lighters - From The Love Side
Hank Ballard - Come On Wit' It
It's National Pie Day!
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Come on over and sign up so that we can send you announcements about the site, the launch, and information about participating in our public beta testing.
Why is National Pie Day the perfect opportunity to tell you more about us? Well you'll see why very soon. So what are you waiting for?! Head on over now and be one of the first!