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.
Just about anything goes, but attacks and pie fights are not welcome here. This is a community diary and a friendly, peaceful, supportive place for people to interact.
Everyone who wants to join in peaceful interaction is very welcome here.
Hey! Good Evening!
This evening's music features Chicago bluesman Willie Kent. Enjoy!
Willie Kent - How Long
“The real miracle here, or stunning thing to me, is that Angela Merkel thought that she could talk on a cellphone and no one would be listening to her, allies or foes.”
-- Joe Trippi
News and Opinion
NSA Intercepting Laptops Bought Online to Install Spy Malware
The NSA's TAO hacking unit is considered to be the intelligence agency's top secret weapon
Germany's Der Spiegel is reporting Sunday that the US National Security Agency (NSA), working with the CIA and FBI, has been intercepting laptops and other electronics bought online before delivery to install malware and other spying tools.
According to Der Spiegel, the NSA diverts shipping deliveries to its own "secret workshops" to install the software before resending the deliveries to their purchasers.
Elite hackers working for the NSA's Tailored Access Operations (TAO) division are considered to be the intelligence agency's top secret weapon.
The NSA's TAO reportedly has backdoor access to many hardware and software systems from major tech companies such as Cisco, Dell, and Western Digital and others. The NSA exploits Microsoft Windows error reports to find weak spots in compromised machines in order to install Trojans and other viruses.
Inside TAO: Documents Reveal Top NSA Hacking Unit
Sometimes it appears that the world's most modern spies are just as reliant on conventional methods of reconnaissance as their predecessors.
Take, for example, when they intercept shipping deliveries. If a target person, agency or company orders a new computer or related accessories, for example, TAO can divert the shipping delivery to its own secret workshops. The NSA calls this method interdiction. At these so-called "load stations," agents carefully open the package in order to load malware onto the electronics, or even install hardware components that can provide backdoor access for the intelligence agencies. All subsequent steps can then be conducted from the comfort of a remote computer.
These minor disruptions in the parcel shipping business rank among the "most productive operations" conducted by the NSA hackers, one top secret document relates in enthusiastic terms. This method, the presentation continues, allows TAO to obtain access to networks "around the world."
Shopping for Spy Gear: Catalog Advertises NSA Toolbox
When it comes to modern firewalls for corporate computer networks, the world's second largest network equipment manufacturer doesn't skimp on praising its own work. According to Juniper Networks' online PR copy, the company's products are "ideal" for protecting large companies and computing centers from unwanted access from outside. They claim the performance of the company's special computers is "unmatched" and their firewalls are the "best-in-class." Despite these assurances, though, there is one attacker none of these products can fend off -- the United States' National Security Agency.
Specialists at the intelligence organization succeeded years ago in penetrating the company's digital firewalls. A document viewed by SPIEGEL resembling a product catalog reveals that an NSA division called ANT has burrowed its way into nearly all the security architecture made by the major players in the industry -- including American global market leader Cisco and its Chinese competitor Huawei, but also producers of mass-market goods, such as US computer-maker Dell.
These NSA agents, who specialize in secret back doors, are able to keep an eye on all levels of our digital lives -- from computing centers to individual computers, and from laptops to mobile phones. For nearly every lock, ANT seems to have a key in its toolbox. And no matter what walls companies erect, the NSA's specialists seem already to have gotten past them. ...
The specialists at ANT, which presumably stands for Advanced or Access Network Technology, could be described as master carpenters for the NSA's department for Tailored Access Operations (TAO). In cases where TAO's usual hacking and data-skimming methods don't suffice, ANT workers step in with their special tools, penetrating networking equipment, monitoring mobile phones and computers and diverting or even modifying data. Such "implants," as they are referred to in NSA parlance, have played a considerable role in the intelligence agency's ability to establish a global covert network that operates alongside the Internet.
Judge on NSA Case Cites 9/11 Report, But It Doesn’t Actually Support His Ruling
In a new decision in support of the NSA's phone metadata surveillance program, U.S. district court Judge William Pauley cites an intelligence failure involving the agency in the lead-up to the 9/11 attacks. But the judge's cited source, the 9/11 Commission Report, doesn't actually include the account he gives in the ruling. What’s more, experts say the NSA could have avoided the pre-9/11 failure even without the metadata surveillance program. ...
In his decision, Pauley writes: "The NSA intercepted those calls using overseas signals intelligence capabilities that could not capture al-Mihdhar's telephone number identifier. Without that identifier, NSA analysts concluded mistakenly that al-Mihdhar was overseas and not in the United States."
As his source, the judge writes in a footnote, "See generally, The 9/11 Commission Report." In fact, the 9/11 Commission report does not detail the NSA's intercepts of calls between al-Mihdhar and Yemen. As the executive director of the commission told us over the summer, "We could not, because the information was so highly classified publicly detail the nature of or limits on NSA monitoring of telephone or email communications.”
To this day, some details related to the incident and the NSA's eavesdropping have never been aired publicly. And some experts told us that even before 9/11 -- and before the creation of the metadata surveillance program -- the NSA did have the ability to track the origins of the phone calls, but simply failed to do so.
Would NSA surveillance have stopped 9/11 plot?
On Friday in New York, Judge William H. Pauley III ruled that NSA's bulk collection of American telephone records is lawful. He cited Alexander's testimony and quoted him saying, "We couldn't connect the dots because we didn't have the dots."
But is it really the case that the U.S. intelligence community didn't have the dots in the lead up to 9/11? Hardly.
In fact, the intelligence community provided repeated strategic warning in the summer of 9/11 that al Qaeda was planning a large-scale attacks on American interests.
Here is a representative sampling of the CIA threat reporting that was distributed to Bush administration officials during the spring and summer of 2001:
- CIA, "Bin Ladin Planning Multiple Operations," April 20
- CIA, "Bin Ladin Attacks May Be Imminent," June 23
- CIA, "Planning for Bin Ladin Attacks Continues, Despite Delays," July 2
- CIA, "Threat of Impending al Qaeda Attack to Continue Indefinitely," August 3
The failure to respond adequately to these warnings was a policy failure by the Bush administration, not an intelligence failure by the U.S. intelligence community.
Who Is Michael Hayden...I Mean, Really?
[Ray McGovern suggests an introduction for Michael Hayden's interview on Face the Nation:]
“Let me also welcome former Gen. Michael Hayden. Gen. Hayden was the first director of NSA to violate his oath to the U.S. Constitution by acquiescing in the Bush administration’s order to violate the Fourth Amendment, which, until then, had served as the ‘First Commandment’ at NSA.
“On May 8, 2006, former NSA Director Adm. Bobby Ray Inman stated publicly that what Hayden did was in clear violation of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA). Another former NSA director, Army Gen. William Odom, told an interviewer on Jan. 4, 2006, that Hayden ‘should have been court-martialed.’
“This sad reality was known to CBS and our mainstream media colleagues before Hayden was confirmed as CIA director on May 18, 2006, but we were successful in deep-sixing it, keeping it out of the public debate.
“We also are grateful to both the Bush and the Obama administrations for making it possible to have Gen. Hayden with us in the studio here today rather than having to speak with him via Skype from a federal prison where he assuredly belongs for his eavesdropping crimes at NSA. Hayden and the enabling giant telecoms escaped accountability via the Bush-pushed 2006 law holding all harmless for these violations of law.
“As for President Obama, had he not decided to ‘look forward and not backward’ and thus avoid prosecuting Bush administration criminals, Hayden might be locked away today for crimes against the Constitution and international law. As CIA director, he was a staunch defender of ‘enhanced interrogation techniques,’ including waterboarding.
“Gen. Hayden also has been one of the harshest critics of Edward Snowden, hinting broadly that Snowden should be put on the President’s Kill List, a motion that was immediately seconded by House Intelligence Chair Mike Rogers. So, our thanks to Presidents Bush and Obama for enabling Gen. Hayden’s presence here today, and thanks also for the rest of you for being here this morning.”
Feinstein endangers Silicon Valley prosperity
It's not a good feeling when your congressional representatives dip into your pocketbook, but that's how thousands of California's tech workers feel today. ... We're taking about the FISA Improvements Act, Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein's Patriot Act for the next decade.
After National Security Agency whistle-blower Edward Snowden's revelations began to steadily appear in the U.K. Guardian, California's Silicon Valley heard the reverberations loud and clear. ... That is why six leading technology companies (Yahoo, Apple, Google, Microsoft, Facebook and AOL) took the virtually unprecedented step earlier this month of imploring the government for more regulation - of the government. ...
California's senior senator, the chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee, is working overtime to destroy the Internet as we know it. Her FISA Improvements Act improves blanket and indiscriminate scooping up of enormous quantities of data by making sure the questionable legality of the NSA programs is enshrined into law - and the programs are expanded. ...
Silicon Valley's own senator is killing the goose that laid the golden egg.
I worked on the US drone program. The public should know what really goes on
Few of the politicians who so brazenly proclaim the benefits of drones have a real clue how it actually works (and doesn't)
Whenever I read comments by politicians defending the Unmanned Aerial Vehicle Predator and Reaper program – aka drones – I wish I could ask them a few questions. I'd start with: "How many women and children have you seen incinerated by a Hellfire missile?" And: "How many men have you seen crawl across a field, trying to make it to the nearest compound for help while bleeding out from severed legs?" Or even more pointedly: "How many soldiers have you seen die on the side of a road in Afghanistan because our ever-so-accurate UAVs [unmanned aerial vehicles] were unable to detect an IED [improvised explosive device] that awaited their convoy?" ...
What the public needs to understand is that the video provided by a drone is not usually clear enough to detect someone carrying a weapon, even on a crystal-clear day with limited cloud and perfect light. This makes it incredibly difficult for the best analysts to identify if someone has weapons for sure. One example comes to mind: "The feed is so pixelated, what if it's a shovel, and not a weapon?" I felt this confusion constantly, as did my fellow UAV analysts. We always wonder if we killed the right people, if we endangered the wrong people, if we destroyed an innocent civilian's life all because of a bad image or angle. ...
I may not have been on the ground in Afghanistan, but I watched parts of the conflict in great detail on a screen for days on end. I know the feeling you experience when you see someone die. Horrifying barely covers it. And when you are exposed to it over and over again it becomes like a small video, embedded in your head, forever on repeat, causing psychological pain and suffering that many people will hopefully never experience. UAV troops are victim to not only the haunting memories of this work that they carry with them, but also the guilt of always being a little unsure of how accurate their confirmations of weapons or identification of hostile individuals were.
At least 15 Palestinians have starved to death in Syrian refugee camp
At least 15 Palestinians have died of hunger since September in a besieged refugee camp in the Syrian capital Damascus, the UN agency for Palestinian refugees told AFP on Monday.
“Reports have come in over the weekend that at least five Palestinian refugees in the besieged refugee camp of Yarmuk in Damascus have died because of malnutrition, bringing the total number of reported cases to 15,” UN Relief and Works Agency spokesman Chris Gunness told AFP.
He warned of a deteriorating situation in the camp, where some 20,000 Palestinians are trapped, with limited food and medical supplies.
“Since September 2013 we have been unable to enter the area to deliver desperately needed relief supplies,” Gunness said.
“The continued presence of armed groups that entered the area at the end of 2012 and its closure by government forces have thwarted all our humanitarian efforts.”
Fannie Mae settles with Wells Fargo as mortgage review ends
Wells Fargo & Co will pay a net $541 million to Fannie Mae to settle claims over defective home loans, completing the government-controlled mortgage company's efforts to have banks buy back troubled loans made before the financial crisis.
Fannie Mae said on Monday it has reached settlements worth roughly $6.5 billion over loan buybacks with eight banks, including Wells Fargo, the nation's largest mortgage lender and fourth-largest bank by assets. ...
In the Wells Fargo settlement, the San Francisco-based bank will pay Fannie Mae $541 million in cash after adjusting for credits from prior repurchases. Before adjustments, the settlement totaled $591 million. ...
Wells Fargo agreed in September to pay a net $780 million to the smaller Freddie Mac to resolve similar repurchase claims. It said it had set aside sufficient funds for the Fannie Mae settlement. ...
Banks can be forced to buy back home loans if representations and warranties concerning the underwriting and whether borrowers could afford to make payments prove false.
Fifty Is the New 65: Older Americans Are Getting Booted From Their Jobs - and Denied New Opportunities
In every corner of America, millions of people are terrified of losing their jobs and falling into financial ruin. Men and women with impressive professional achievements and credentials are being let go, nudged out and pushed aside. They are pounding the pavement and scouring the job sites, but find themselves turned away even for the most basic retail jobs. Not because they aren’t competent. Not because they lack skills. But simply because they have a gray hair or two. ...
When it comes to financial stress, older Americans say that job insecurity is their number-one concern, according to a recent survey. Many people over 50 find themselves hanging on to their jobs for dear life, aware that they are perceived as obsolete and not as valuable as younger workers, despite their vast experience and institutional knowledge. According to a 2013 AARP survey report, "more than one-third of older workers are not confident that they would find another job right away without having to take a pay cut or move (37%). Of those, about one in five (19%) say the reason they are not confident is due to age discrimination and 21 percent identify age limitations, such as feeling they are 'too old' or limited in some way because of their age." ...
We live in an era of planned obsolescence, in which designers deliberately make a thing limited in its useful life. Now this planned obsolescene includes human beings. Is it really an efficient use of our human capital to turn experienced workers into Walmart greeters?
The Evening Greens
Homeless Japanese Being 'Recruited' To Clean Up Fukushima Disaster
Investigation reveals systematic exploitation of homeless by big business and organized crime
Private labor contractors in Japan are "recruiting" homeless individuals throughout the country, luring them to perform clean-up work in the areas near the destroyed nuclear power plant at Fukushima for less than minimum wage.
That's the finding of a new special Reuters investigation which says that shady business operators are employing men like Seiji Sasa to "prowl" train stations and other places throughout the country targeting "homeless men" who are "willing to accept minimum wage for one of the most undesirable jobs in the industrialized world: working on the $35 billion, taxpayer-funded effort to clean up radioactive fallout across an area of northern Japan larger than Hong Kong."
The investigation found a shady but systematic labor scheme—much of it run by organized crime but also involving some of the nation's top construction firms—in which day laborers are exploited by contractors receiving state funds to clean up areas near the plant.
"We're an easy target for recruiters," said 57-year-old Shizuya Nishiyama, a homeless man recruited at a train station in the city of Sendai. "We turn up here with all our bags, wheeling them around and we're easy to spot. They say to us, are you looking for work? Are you hungry? And if we haven't eaten, they offer to find us a job."
In exchange for bringing workers to the sites, the middlemen receive a cut of their wages.
Fukushima radiation hits San Francisco
This shocking video was taken December 23rd 2013 with a quality Geiger Counter at Pacifica State Beach (Surfers Beach), California.
Coal Trains Run into Stiff Resistance in U.S.
Citizens and activists in the U.S. Pacific Northwest are fighting three different proposed coal terminals, including one in Oregon and two in Washington.
Meanwhile, three formerly proposed coal terminals have already been defeated. Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal Campaign recently cited these defeats as signs of progress in the broader campaign to retire the use of coal plants across the U.S. altogether. ...
On May 8, energy company Kinder-Morgan abandoned plans to build a massive export terminal near Clatskanie, Oregon along the Columbia River, which would have exported 15 to 30 million tonnes of coal overseas each year from the Powder River Basin.
On Apr. 1, energy company Metro Ports, the last remaining investor in a proposed Coos Bay Terminal, in Coos Bay, Oregon, allowed its negotiating contract to expire.
International investors Mitsui & Co. of Japan and the Korean Electric Power Corporation had already withdrawn from negotiations. This terminal would have allowed for the shipment of eight to 10 million tonnes of coal each year.
The third victory for activists occurred last August, when Rail America withdrew plans for a coal terminal at the Port of Greys Harbor in Hoquiam, Washington, that would have transported about five million tonnes of coal each year.
The terminals still pending include a two-port plan called Morrow Pacific, in Morrow and St. Helens, Oregon; the Millennium Bulk Terminal at the Port of Longview, Washington; and the Gateway Pacific Terminal in Bellingham, Washington.
Blog Posts of Interest
Here are diaries and selected blog posts of interest on DailyKos and other blogs.What's Happenin' Is On Hiatus
A Little Night Music
Willie Kent - A Man and the Blues
Willie Kent - I had a dream
Lil' Ed Williams & Willie Kent - Newspaper Blues
Willie Kent - Ain't It Nice
Willie Kent & Billy Branch - Sweet Home Chicago
Willie Kent & Willie James Lyons - Nineteen Years Old
Willie Kent - Willie Mae
Tail Dragger, AC Reed, Willie Kent + Big Mojo Elem - Sky Is Crying/Sweet Home
It's National Pie Day!
The election is over, it's a new year and it's time to work on real change in new ways... and it's National Pie Day. This seemed like the perfect opportunity to tell you a little more about our new site and to start getting people signed up.
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!