Later On

A blog written for those whose interests more or less match mine.

Archive for May 8th, 2017

Trump is responsive, just not in a good way: Trump call for Muslim ban deleted from site after reporter’s question

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Mallory Shelbourne reports in The Hill:

President Trump’s campaign appears to have scrubbed the 2015 press release calling for a halt on Muslim immigration to the United States following a reporter’s question on Monday — as well as all its other campaign statements.

“Minutes after we asked the WH why the President’s campaign website still calls for a Muslim ban, it appears the statement was deleted,” ABC News’s Cecilia Vega wrote on Twitter.  . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

8 May 2017 at 8:00 pm

Email to NY Times Public Editor, subject line: “I STRONGLY advise you to read a post”

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Body of email:

And I’m a NY Times subscriber, FWIW.

I think this requires both a correction and a comment and a warning to Bret that the next time he pulls a stunt like this, he’ll be fired. And I mean that. This is NOT up to NY Times standards. It is purely deceptive.

Isn’t the NY Times above this sort of thing? I had thought so, but I seem to have been wrong.

Written by Leisureguy

8 May 2017 at 7:44 pm

Posted in NY Times

Why your next Echo command should be: ‘Disconnect me from the internet’

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Tim Johnson writes at McClatchy:

Dr. Herbert Lin, one of the nation’s pre-eminent thinkers on cybersecurity policy, shuns the internet-connected devices that fill some American homes.

He’ll have nothing to do with “smart” refrigerators, hands-free home speakers he can call by name, intelligent thermostats and the like.

“People say to me, ‘How can you have a doctorate in physics from MIT and not trust in technology?’ And I look at them and say, ‘How can I have a doctorate in physics from MIT and trust technology?’ ” Lin said.

Part of what he distrusts is the “internet of things,” and the ease with which hackers can penetrate “smart” devices with digital worms and shanghai them into massive robotic networks to launch crippling digital attacks or generate ever greater quantities of spam.

It is a mistrust based on mathematics. Internet-enabled devices are exploding in number. Gartner, a research giant in technology, says the devices will climb from 6.4 billion at the end of last year to 25 billion by 2020. Such growth sharply augments the power of hidden robotic networks, or botnets.

[RELATED: If the NSA can be hacked, is anything safe?]

Now, an unseen battle unfolds. Weaponized digital worms are entering the scene and infecting masses of devices that obediently await instructions from a remote master to spring to action, possibly a new botnet attack.

The threat from botnets is so serious that FBI Director James Comey brought them up at a Senate hearing last week, saying the “zombie armies” created from internet devices can do tremendous harm.

(RELATED: This new Amazon device can give you fashion advice. But, warns UNC prof, what else it is finding out?)

“Last month, the FBI – working with our partners, with the Spanish national police – took down a botnet called the Kelihos botnet and locked up the Russian hacker behind that botnet,” Comey said. “He’s now in jail in Spain, and the good people’s computers who had been lashed to that zombie army have now been freed from it.”

Further botnet attacks are inevitable. . .

Continue reading.

Do read the entire article. One feels a sense of urgency. Later in the article:

Now a new worm, dubbed Hajime – Japanese for “beginning” – is spreading.

The Moscow-based Kaspersky Lab estimated in late April that the Hajime worm had already penetrated 300,000 devices worldwide and could rally them into a botnet army at a moment’s notice.

Written by Leisureguy

8 May 2017 at 7:09 pm

Addendum to the Sally Yates hearing today

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Senator Jeff Sessions questions Sally Yates during her confirmation hearing:

Written by Leisureguy

8 May 2017 at 5:28 pm

It’s not just the Trump EPA: Science seems to be out for Trump Justice Department as well

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Radley Balko writes in the Washington Post:

Over at Scientific American, six scientists who have worked on various forensics reform efforts have written an essay on Attorney General Jeff Sessions’s recent policy changes at the Justice Department. After noting the federal government has finally gotten the ball rolling toward addressing how science is presented and used in the courtroom, they write . . .

This progress is now in danger of being undone. On April 10, the Justice Department, under the leadership of Attorney General Sessions, refused to extend the term of the NCFS. The demise of the NCFS is a tremendous missed opportunity for the progress of forensic science and criminal justice. The NCFS brought together diverse stakeholders including forensic scientists, judges, lawyers, victims’ advocates, law enforcement, and practicing independent scientists. NCFS was the only formal link between mainstream science and the communities that support and consume the products of forensic science, most notably the criminal justice system. During the four years in which it operated, the NCFS made considerable progress in bridging the scientific and legal disciplines . . .

Even more importantly, the NCFS recommended that all forensic techniques should be independently validated before being used in criminal investigations. Some have been; but too many others have not. Bite mark evidence is one example; despite lacking any scientific foundation, it is incredibly is still being admitted into the courts. Last year the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology identified latent fingerprints, firearms identification and footwear analysis as also lacking scientific validity.

Medical therapies, airplanes and electrical devices are tested by independent entities before they can be used routinely; the public demands it and takes for granted that this has occurred . . .

The Justice Department now proposes to improve forensic science by moving its oversight and development to an office within the department. This is precisely the opposite of what was recommended by the National Academy of Sciences report and the NCFS. It is a step backwards, because it reinforces the conditions that contributed to the current problems, namely, placing this discipline within the control of law enforcement and prosecutors. The Justice Department is home to many dedicated public servants including scientists whose passion for justice is unquestioned. However, DOJ is not a scientific body, and it is difficult to see how forensic science can become a true science in that environment. Science flourishes when free and independent; only then can the tools and technology that it creates be truly reliable.

The notion that the Justice Department handles all of this internally (which, incidentally, was also the position of Sessions’s predecessor Loretta Lynch) is particularly problematic when you consider the fact that the FBI crime lab has been the source of some of the more wide-reaching forensic scandals of the past few decades, including advancing at least two fields (a method of hair fiber analysis and bullet composition analysis) that tainted thousands of cases and have no scientific support at all.

Written by Leisureguy

8 May 2017 at 2:42 pm

The great British Brexit robbery: how democracy was hijacked

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Carole Cadwalladr writes in the Guardian:

“The connectivity that is the heart of globalisation can be exploited by states with hostile intent to further their aims.[…] The risks at stake are profound and represent a fundamental threat to our sovereignty.”
Alex Younger, head of MI6, December, 2016

“It’s not MI6’s job to warn of internal threats. It was a very strange speech. Was it one branch of the intelligence services sending a shot across the bows of another? Or was it pointed at Theresa May’s government? Does she know something she’s not telling us?”
Senior intelligence analyst, April 2017

In June 2013, a young American postgraduate called Sophie was passing through London when she called up the boss of a firm where she’d previously interned. The company, SCL Elections, went on to be bought by Robert Mercer, a secretive hedge fund billionaire, renamed Cambridge Analytica, and achieved a certain notoriety as the data analytics firm that played a role in both Trump and Brexit campaigns. But all of this was still to come. London in 2013 was still basking in the afterglow of the Olympics. Britain had not yet Brexited. The world had not yet turned.

“That was before we became this dark, dystopian data company that gave the world Trump,” a former Cambridge Analytica employee who I’ll call Paul tells me. “It was back when we were still just a psychological warfare firm.”

Was that really what you called it, I ask him. Psychological warfare? “Totally. That’s what it is. Psyops. Psychological operations – the same methods the military use to effect mass sentiment change. It’s what they mean by winning ‘hearts and minds’. We were just doing it to win elections in the kind of developing countries that don’t have many rules.”

Why would anyone want to intern with a psychological warfare firm, I ask him. And he looks at me like I am mad. “It was like working for MI6. Only it’s MI6 for hire. It was very posh, very English, run by an old Etonian and you got to do some really cool things. Fly all over the world. You were working with the president of Kenya or Ghana or wherever. It’s not like election campaigns in the west. You got to do all sorts of crazy shit.”

On that day in June 2013, Sophie met up with SCL’s chief executive, Alexander Nix, and gave him the germ of an idea. “She said, ‘You really need to get into data.’ She really drummed it home to Alexander. And she suggested he meet this firm that belonged to someone she knew about through her father.”

Who’s her father?

“Eric Schmidt.”

Eric Schmidt – the chairman of Google?

“Yes. And she suggested Alexander should meet this company called Palantir.”

I had been speaking to former employees of Cambridge Analytica for months and heard dozens of hair-raising stories, but it was still a gobsmacking moment. To anyone concerned about surveillance, Palantir is practically now a trigger word. The data-mining firm has contracts with governments all over the world – including GCHQ and the NSA. It’s owned by Peter Thiel, the billionaire co-founder of eBay and PayPal, who became Silicon Valley’s first vocal supporter of Trump.

In some ways, Eric Schmidt’s daughter showing up to make an introduction to Palantir is just another weird detail in the weirdest story I have ever researched.

A weird but telling detail. Because it goes to the heart of why the story of Cambridge Analytica is one of the most profoundly unsettling of our time. Sophie Schmidt now works for another Silicon Valley megafirm: Uber. And what’s clear is that the power and dominance of the Silicon Valley – Google and Facebook and a small handful of others – are at the centre of the global tectonic shift we are currently witnessing.

It also reveals a critical and gaping hole in the political debate in Britain. Because what is happening in America and what is happening in Britain are entwined. Brexit and Trump are entwined. The Trump administration’s links to Russia and Britain are entwined. And Cambridge Analytica is one point of focus through which we can see all these relationships in play; it also reveals the elephant in the room as we hurtle into a general election: Britain tying its future to an America that is being remade – in a radical and alarming way – by Trump.

There are three strands to this story. How the foundations of an authoritarian surveillance state are being laid in the US. How British democracy was subverted through a covert, far-reaching plan of coordination enabled by a US billionaire. And how we are in the midst of a massive land grab for power by billionaires via our data. Data which is being silently amassed, harvested and stored. Whoever owns this data owns the future.

My entry point into this story began, as so many things do, with a late-night Google. Last December, I took an unsettling tumble into a wormhole of Google autocompletesuggestions that ended with “did the holocaust happen”. And an entire page of results that claimed it didn’t.

Google’s algorithm had been gamed by extremist sites and it was Jonathan Albright, a professor of communications at Elon University, North Carolina, who helped me get to grips with what I was seeing. He was the first person to map and uncover an entire “alt-right” news and information ecosystem and he was the one who first introduced me to Cambridge Analytica.

He called the company a central point in the right’s “propaganda machine”, a line I quoted in reference to its work for the Trump election campaign and the referendum Leave campaign. That led to the second article featuring Cambridge Analytica – as a central node in the alternative news and information network that I believed Robert Mercer and Steve Bannon, the key Trump aide who is now his chief strategist, were creating. I found evidence suggesting they were on a strategic mission to smash the mainstream media and replace it with one comprising alternative facts, fake history and rightwing propaganda.

Mercer is a brilliant computer scientist, a pioneer in early artificial intelligence, and the co-owner of one of the most successful hedge funds on the planet (with a gravity-defying 71.8% annual return). And, he is also, I discovered, good friends with Nigel Farage. Andy Wigmore, Leave.EU’s communications director, told me that it was Mercer who had directed his company, Cambridge Analytica, to “help” the Leave campaign.

The second article triggered two investigations, which are both continuing: one by the Information Commissioner’s Office into the possible illegal use of data. And a second by the Electoral Commission which is “focused on whether one or more donations – including services – accepted by Leave.EU was ‘impermissable’”.

What I then discovered is that Mercer’s role in the referendum went far beyond this. Far beyond the jurisdiction of any UK law. The key to understanding how a motivated and determined billionaire could bypass ourelectoral laws rests on AggregateIQ, an obscure web analytics company based in an office above a shop in Victoria, British Columbia.

It was with AggregateIQ that Vote Leave (the official Leave campaign) chose to spend £3.9m, more than half its official £7m campaign budget. As did three other affiliated Leave campaigns: BeLeave, Veterans for Britain and the Democratic Unionist party, spending a further £757,750. “Coordination” between campaigns is prohibited under UK electoral law, unless campaign expenditure is declared, jointly. It wasn’t. Vote Leave says the Electoral Commission “looked into this” and gave it “a clean bill of health”.

How did an obscure Canadian company come to play such a pivotal role in Brexit? . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

8 May 2017 at 8:42 am

Wee Scot, D.R. Harris Marlborough shave stick and aftershave, and the iKon stainless slant

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It shows some faith in the brush to use a shave stick: to a degree, you rely on the brush to hold sufficient lather for the shave (though you can in fact reload the brush if needed by brushing the shave stick), which is why I wouldn’t use a new boar brush with a shave stick: new boar brushes don’t hold lather well and in fact seem to destroy it.

With the Wee Scot, I had no qualms about using a shave stick, and D.R. Harris shave sticks are really excellent: packaged well for travel with a screw-off lid and a twist-to-extend soap, plus the wonderful D.R. Harris lather. This morning is a good example: I rubbed the shave stick soap against the grain over all my beard (guys with extremely dense and tough beards generally rub the stick only on the Van Dyke area, else they end up with too much soap on the face), and then I brushed briskly with the damp Wee Scot: loads of lather quickly arose, and the Wee Scot held plenty for this shave and, if I could preserve it, the next as well.

This stainless slant is the first slant iKon made. It’s good but, for me, somewhat nicky, so I used a Derby Extra blade. I note that this slant tends to get tea stains on the inside from some rusting of the blade, and I would be that’s why iKon now coats this slant (the B1 coating nowadays, though earlier iKon used a Diamond-Like Carbon coated version of this same head, which I have) and also a motivation for moving to aluminum-alloy heads (the Shavecraft line, which include the 102 and X3 slants).

The shave was excellent and close, though I still got two very tiny nicks—mere dots. One was in the WTG pass and the other later. My Nik Is Sealed took care of that and a good splash of the Marlborough aftershave finished the job to start the week on a very nice note.

Written by Leisureguy

8 May 2017 at 8:33 am

Posted in Shaving

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