14,000-acre Southern California ‘Crown Fire’ at 82% containment, evacuation orders lifted

">
14,000-acre Southern California ‘Crown Fire’ at 82% containment, evacuation orders lifted

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Antelope Valley, California — The Crown Fire that has burned through 13,980 acres in the High Desert of Southern California since 2:32 pm (2232 UTC) Thursday was at 82% containment Saturday evening, according to the Los Angeles County Fire Department.

On Friday high winds caused the fire to jump the California Aqueduct and spread into the city of Palmdale. Over 2,000 residents of Leona Valley, Ana Verde, and Rancho Vista were given mandatory evacuation orders. The sky was blanketed with thick orange pyrocumulus clouds and falling ash, making the air hard to breathe.

State Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger arrived in Palmdale on Friday to survey the burned areas. “We were very fortunate to not have fires for quite some time because the air temperature was cool and we didn’t have the experiencing of dry weather and all the winds and so on, but all of a sudden the fire season kicked in as if, ‘Here we are,'” Schwarzenegger said during a press conference. “But we are ready and we have luckily distributed resources all over the state of California, so we are ready at any given time.”

The fire has so far destroyed one house and three mobile homes, damaging the roof of another and burning car garages, horse stables, and other outbuildings. Most of the more seriously threatened homes were constructed recently from fire-proof materials, with walls coated in stucco, and fire-resistant plants in the yards. Although some roads are still closed to all traffic, all existing evacuation orders were lifted late Friday night and 500 residents of Rancho Vista were told to “shelter in place” until further notice. Despite the absence of mandatory evacuation orders, over 2,000 houses, 60 commercial buildings, and 100 outbuildings are still under threat.

Throughout the night, fire crews have been battling the wildfire, assisted by cooler temperatures and lighter-than-expected winds which have enabled them to establish containment lines. “Crews went out [Friday] night and did some great work trying to complete more lines and also trying to take care of what we call ‘cat eyes’ which are embers within the perimeter of the fire, so there will be much more work being done there today,” said LACFD Captain Roland Sprewell. “But of course we’re not going to rest on our laurels today…we’re going to be vigilantly watching the winds, especially in the ridge and down in the valleys.”

At the height of the fire, 1,700 firefighters from all over California were battling the flames, although as of 12:00 pm Saturday afternoon, it has been reduced to around 1,350 personnel. 16 fire camp crew have also assisted. 250 fire engines and four bulldozers have been used. In the air, 4 Boeing 747 supertankers, 1 McDonnell Douglas DC-10 tanker, and 6 modified Sikorsky UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters known as “Firehawks” have been dropping water and red Phos-Chek slurry. The Los Angeles Sheriffs Department also increased its presence in the Antelope Valley by bringing in response teams from stations outside the AV. This afternoon, the deployment has been scaled back to three teams as the fire stabilizes and further evacuation orders become unlikely.

Three firefighters have been injured battling the fire, although all injuries are minor. One sheriff deputy was also hospitalized for smoke inhalation but has since been released.

No Comments | Filed under Uncategorized

How To Make Your Own Homemade Halloween Costume

By Brian Lehr

Lets face it, with the economy going the way it is, more and more families are searching for ways to save a few dollars here and there. And now, with the fall season upon us, we are approaching three main festivals that require the spending of money halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas. Wouldnt it be great if we could get a few ideas to help us save some money during these times, instead of spending more?

Well, I’ve got great news for you! Why not take some time to make your own homemade Halloween costume. This will not only save you some money, but it can be a great family activity for you and your children. And in this day and age, we could always use a little more quality family time.

Most of us aren’t very creative, so here are four ideas to get you started in making your own homemade Halloween costume:

1. Clothes from Your Closet

YouTube Preview Image

Old prom dresses or bridesmaid dresses can turn into a brides gown or a beauty pageant costume for a little girl. Or raid dads closet and dress like a Nerd or Businessman. If you dig deep enough into your closet, you might even be able to pull off a last-minute Punk Rocker or Hippie costume.

2. Headbands

Many costumes require little more than a headband and a hot glue gun. If you have those two items at home, look around your house for items to start gluing on. If you have some tulle, a doily, lace, or any piece of fabric, you can make a veil. Add flowers to really fancy it up. Cut some felt pieces and glue them on to make ears (bunny ears, cat ears, dog ears, or any other animal you can imagine). You can even quickly make antennae to be an alien or bug by simply gluing some pipe cleaners onto a headband.

3. Sweatsuits

A white sweatsuit can easily become a cow or Dalmatian. Simply take a Black Sharpie and draw spots onto the fabric. Then put a little black on your childs nose. (Add ears if you have time, using a headband and felt see above.)

4. Cardboard Boxes

Got a large cardboard box laying around? Cut holes for your head and arms, and then create any number of costumes in minutes. For example, your child can be a TV just take a black marker and draw a screen and some buttons onto the front. You can even take an old cord and glue it to the back of the box. How about a computer? Same idea — draw a screen on the front, and then glue a computer mouse (or even a furry mouse as a joke) to the side of the box. Or my favorite — a washing machine. Make an opening on top of the box (in front of the child’s head), or on the front of the box. Inside this opening you can glue a smaller box or bag, and this can be where everyone places the child’s candy when he goes trick or treating.

You don’t have to spend a lot of money to create a fun, inexpensive homemade Halloween costume. Just look around the house and use a little imagination, and your child will soon be wearing one of the best costumes in the neighborhood!

About the Author: Brian Lehr has put together a fun Halloween site, filled with helpful resources to make this Halloween the best ever for you and your family. Visit

homemadehalloweencostume.myreviewsandtips.com

to discover this world of family fun!

Source:

isnare.com

Permanent Link:

isnare.com/?aid=310443&ca=Arts+and+Crafts

No Comments | Filed under Arts And Crafts

New Zealand government denies financial assistance for Overlander

">
New Zealand government denies financial assistance for Overlander

Monday, September 25, 2006

The New Zealand government today has announced that they will not provide financial assistance to the Overlander train service between Auckland and Wellington, which is set to stop service on September 30, if no assistance is forthcoming. ONTRACK will retain the North Island main trunk line, while looking for tourism operators to start a tourist rail service.

Trevor Mallard, acting Finance Minister, said: “In making this decision… Cabinet recognised that there was no prospect of the current Overlander service becoming commercially viable. It was not a fuel-efficient operation and at an average passenger rate of 50 passengers each way per day, it was used by relatively few people.”

It is cheaper and faster to travel either by bus or plane rather than the 12-hour train journey. “The fares already overlap with airfares, and the reality is that the service is just not well-used. It can not compete with low-priced air travel and coaches. Cabinet considered the regional implications of ceasing the Overlander service and accepted that the current bus services run by the InterCity Group met the needs of those communities,” Mallard said.

There has been numerous petitions from the public and from the Green Party of New Zealand to continue the Overlander train service, including one petition signed by 16,000 people presented at the Parliament Buildings on September 14, 2006. “While there have been a number of propositions about retaining the Overlander service, all of the propositions would require government funding in one form or another,” said Mallard.

Mallard said that the government will only support rail services if it significantly benefitted the community.

The Government estimates that financial assistance to the Overlander train service would cost NZ$1.75 million a year.

“Finally, the government does recognise and value the importance of a viable and efficient rail network in New Zealand’s transport infrastructure. This was a critical factor in the government’s decision to buy the rail network back from Tranz Rail. The government has also committed $200 million to upgrade the national rail network between 2004/05 and 2007/08. A further $600 million has been provided to upgrade the Auckland rail network between 2005/06 and 2009/10.”

No Comments | Filed under Uncategorized

Baby Pushchair Considerations}

Submitted by: Roy Dovaston

So youre having a baby and its time to start searching for everything that you need, but where do you start your search? Most couples choose to start their search on the high street or shopping centre but it will not surprise you to learn that the internet has a huge amount of choice and quite often you can save money too. Having a baby in a recession means its times like this that make everyone start looking for the best deals to save an extra few pennies. There are so many things to consider when buying everything that you need for the arrival of your baby that its hard to know where to begin. In fact, shopping on the high street or in shopping centres is quite an easy task because nearly every town has a baby shop although be prepared to shop around because pricing varies from shop to shop.

A consideration that lots of buyers have to make is whether or not to go with the widely recognised brand. This in itself is a safe bet as safety is paramount for your child. Talking to other mums will no doubt provide invaluable as they have the real life experience of everything required.

Heres a basic check list of 5 things to look out for when buying a stroller on the internet:

YouTube Preview Image

1. Compare at least 3 shops to make sure you are getting the best deal. So many internet shops are competing with each other that this is usually a major benefit to the buyer. You can save vast amounts of money which can be well spent on other things you will need.

2. Does your chosen stroller, pushchair or travel system have a rain cover or parasol included? Lots of shops are offering incentives to buy which come in different forms. Some shops offer free shipping whilst others will offer a free rain cover or a parasol. Look out for shops who offer free gifts when spending over a certain amount because its likely youll fall into this customer bracket due to the slightly higher value.

3. Does your chosen stroller or travel system have good reviews in todays culture everyone is an expert and none more so than people who have previously bought, used or own the product.

4. If buying from the internet how long will your order take to arrive its common that orders are shipped quickly but email or phone ahead of placing your order and ask. A quick and simple phone call can avoid any disappointment if you are expecting it to arrive the following day. Lots of online baby shops take a few days to process your order which is perfectly normal.

5. Look at the photos of the pushchair and read through the product description for key elements such as weight, manoeuvrability and size. You will most definitely want to be able to manoeuvre the pushchair with ease and lots of pushchairs come in different, shapes, weights and sizes dependant on their features of purpose.

The key to finding your perfect pushchair or travel system is research. The more you do the more familiar youll become with your choice before making your purchase.

About the Author:

Obaby Zezu

|

Obaby Tour

|

Obaby Pushchair

Source:

isnare.com

Permanent Link:

isnare.com/?aid=1359581&ca=Parenting }

No Comments | Filed under Retail

Scenario for impeachment of Lula raised in Brazil

">
Scenario for impeachment of Lula raised in Brazil

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

São Paulo, Brazil — The government of the Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva and his party, the Workers’ Party are the target of several serious accusations of corruption.

This is the most severe political crisis since Brazilians first attained their right to vote for a President in 1989, the former President Fernando Collor de Mello was elected.

The ruling Workers’ Party has not succeeded in its defense against the accusations. The Brazilian deputy Roberto Jefferson said that the ruling party bought the support of some Brazilian deputies, paying 30 thousand Brazilian Reals (US$ 12 thousand) each, every month. Although Jefferson said that he had no proof of this, he gave a very detailed description of the alleged corruption scheme.

The testimonies of other witnesses and the investigation that is being made by police gave support for some of the Jefferson’s claims. Independent investigation being made by newspapers and magazines, and the publication of documents and other evidences, expose the government and Workers’ Party more and more.

Popular support for the President is deteriorating. Except for the Workers’ Party and the Communist Party of Brazil (PCdoB) which are part of the government, there is not another political party in Brazil denying the accusations. All newspapers and magazines publish stories every day related to the scandal. The Workers’ Party itself is divided: some members believe that the accusations are true and that something went wrong, others prefer to deny the evidences and they argue that the party is innocent.

A great part of the work of the Brazilian parliamentarians is related to the investigation of the scandals. Besides the Votes-for-cash scandal dennounced by Jefferson, there are the Bingo’s scandal, the Post Office scandal and the Brazilian Reinsurance Institute (IRB) scandal. All of these scandals are being submited to investigation by Brazilian parliamentarians.

One important question is whether President Lula knew about the alleged scandals in his government or not. If he knew and he did nothing he was conniving or he participated, it is the worst. If he didn’t know, someone can say that he was very incompetent because he didn’t see something so big under his nose.

Today, the authority and the efficiency of the President is being questioned. Some people say that it was the former Minister José Dirceu who actually took great part of the decisions in Lula’s government. The politicians say that President Lula must take control of his government, that he should do a major reform of his government and that he should get away from the people who are involved in the scandals.

Besides the corruption dennounciations, the government of President Lula is being criticized by his weak social agenda. The programme called “Zero Hunger” has showed little results and many people accuse it of being just a marketing strategy.

The management of the economy has being praised by some analysts. However, critics, even inside the government like the Vice-President José Alencar have already criticized it, because of the high interest rates. There is not severe inflation, but unemployment is high, and salaries are low.

The next days or the next month may be decisive to the future of Lula. He must show that he is not involved in the corruption scandals, he must reform the government and he must prove that he is competent. The positive factor are that the Brazilian economy is not seriously contaminated by the political crisis until now, the population is perplexed but calm and the politicians are not envolving the President in the denunciations, although they demand the investigation of all corruption allegations. However, nobody knows how much this situation will remain or if it will remain until the end of the government of President Lula in 2006.

This article features first-hand journalism by Wikinews members. See the collaboration page for more details.
This article features first-hand journalism by Wikinews members. See the collaboration page for more details.

Posted: August 30th, 2017 by XY8onvzs

No Comments | Filed under Uncategorized

Rebel leader, 56 inmates escape from East Timorese jail

">
Rebel leader, 56 inmates escape from East Timorese jail

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

East Timorese rebel leader Alfredo Reinado and other 56 inmates escaped last night from Dili‘s mail jail.

Australian and Portuguese forces initiated a massive manhunt for the escapees, which with their escape, created a new crisis for international security forces in East Timor. Australian SAS troopers using Black Hawk helicopters and night-vision goggles were involved in the search.

GNR‘s liaison officer, Lieutenant Cabrita told the Portuguese Rádio Renascença news agency that the prisoners took advantage of the relieve of guard to escape. “The evasion happened during the relieve of the forces that were serving in the jail’s security, having the escapees used vehicles for their escape”.

Later Australian police liaison officers confirmed the escape of the rebel leader. “It is understood 57 prisoners are currently unaccounted for, one of those being Mr Alfredo Reinado,” an Australian police spokesman said.

Alfredo Reinado is a former East Timorese Army officer who deserted and led a rebel group during the unrest in May, being blamed for some of the country’s violence during the security crisis. Him and other 14 soldiers of his rebel group were arrested on July by Australian troops for illegal possession of firearms after an GNR patrol found them with pistols, hundreds of ammunition and grenades in a house during a routine operation.

Of the other 56 prisoners unaccounted for, 16 are believed to be former Timorese police and soldiers accused of crimes committed during East Timor’s security crisis, and five prisoners convicted for homicide.

According to Becora’s prison warden Carlos Sarmento, the inmates had escaped by breaking down several walls on the prison’s east wing.

The East Timorese Justice Minister, Domingos Sarmento, blamed the international security forces for the jailbreak and told the Lusa news agency that the New Zealand forces in charge of the security of the prison’s exterior left the prison without informing the Timorese government.

“There was an agreement in which the forces of New Zealand would be in charge of the outside security of the prison, but about a week ago they left the location and didn’t inform us”, Domingos Sarmento said.

Domingos Sarmento said that he contacted the Australian-led forces so that the security outside the prison could be restored, but was told that the forces’ removal from the prison were due to the necessity of deploying troops in other points of the city.

The Minister recognized that the absence of police and military forces on the prison’s outside and the fact that the guard were unarmed contributed to facilitate the escape of the prisoners. Also recognizing that the use of weapons by the guards would improve the security in the jail, he noticed that the internal regulation doesn’t allow that use.

Posted: August 30th, 2017 by XY8onvzs

No Comments | Filed under Uncategorized

USPTO partially confirms validity of Amazon “1-click patent”

">
USPTO partially confirms validity of Amazon “1-click patent”

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Today, the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) issued an office action, which confirmed the patentability of claims 6 to 10 of the Amazon 1-Click patent, US 5,960,411. The patent examiner, however, rejected claims 1 to 5 and 11 to 15. Amazon now has up to six months to amend the rejected claims to overcome the examiner’s rejection, provide arguments to demonstrate that the examiner is in error and/or provide evidence to demonstrate the patentability of their claims. During this period, the entire patent is still considered valid under US patent law.

The USPTO is reconsidering the patentability of the claims due to a request for reexamination filed by New Zealander Peter Calveley. Mr. Calveley used internet archives to show that defunct company Digi Cash used a similar technique prior to Amazon. Despite costing a substantial sum of cash and requiring donations to prepare and file the request for reexamination, Calveley said he did it as a game and hopes that his success inspires others to play the same game.

“One Click” shopping is an ecommerce technique, which allows a customer to purchase products via the Internet without repeatedly entering personal information such as name and address. At the time it was introduced it eased the frustration of on-line shopping.

Amazon filed the patent application for 1-click shopping in early 1997 and was granted the patent in September 1999. 23 days later Amazon sued rival Barnes & Noble for alleged infringement by its “Express Lane” ordering which was introduced in 1998. In December 1999 Amazon won an interim injunction against Barnes & Noble but the USA Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit lifted this injunction in February 2001. The parties then settled their dispute for undisclosed terms. Amazon has since successfully licensed the technique to other e-sellers such as Apple.

Posted: August 29th, 2017 by XY8onvzs

No Comments | Filed under Uncategorized

Teen Chat Rooms Peer Pressure Statistics

By Amy Cainfield

If youve seen the recent Frontline special on PBS, as a parent you understand the frustrations many parents go through when trying to raise a child who is growing up online.

Many of the shocking statics regarding teens and online chat reveal some very disturbing trends that parents should take to hart.

A parent’s internet monitoring study done in Canada found that:

Over half (51%) of parents either do not have or do not know if they have software on their computer(s) that monitors where their teenager(s) go online and with whom they interact.

42% of parents do not review the content of what their teenager(s) read and/or type in chat rooms or via instant messaging.

Teenagers who Instant Message use chat lingo to communicate and parents dont know the meanings of some of the most commonly used phrases. 57% don’t know LOL (Laughing Out Loud), 68% don’t know BRB (Be Right Back), and 92% don’t know A/S/L (Age/Sex/Location).

95% of parents couldnt identify common chat room lingo that teenagers use to warn people theyre chatting with that their parents are watching. Those phrases are POS (Parent Over Shoulder) and P911 (Parent Alert).

YouTube Preview Image

Nearly three out of 10 (28%) of parents dont know or are not sure if their teens talk to strangers online.

30% of parents allow their teenagers to use the computer in private areas of the house such as a bedroom or a home office. Parents say they are more vigilant about where their teen(s) go online if the computer is in a public area of the household.

58% of parents surveyed say they review the content of what their teenager(s) read and/or type in chat rooms or via Instant Messaging; 42% do not.

And more statistics on teen peer pressure, cyber bullying, and sexually explicit internet use:

Approximately one in five received a sexual solicitation or approach over the Internet in the last year.

One in thirty-three received an aggressive sexual solicitation a solicitor who asked to meet them somewhere; called them on the telephone; sent them regular mail, money, or gifts.

One in four had an unwanted exposure to pictures of naked people or people having sex in the last year.

One in seventeen was threatened or harassed.

Approximately one quarter of young people who reported these incidents were distressed by them.

Less than 10 percent of sexual solicitations and only 3 percent of unwanted exposure episodes were reported to authorities such as a law-enforcement agency, an Internet Service Provider, or a hotline.

About one quarter of the youth who encountered a sexual solicitation or approach told a parent. Almost 40 percent of those reporting an unwanted exposure to sexual material told a parent.

Only 17 percent of youth and approximately 10 percent of parents could name a specific authority, such as the Federal Bureau of Investigation, CyberTipline, or an Internet Service Provider, to which they could make a report, although more said they had “heard of” such places.

In households with home Internet access, one third of parents said they had filtering or blocking software on their computer at the time they were interviewed.

We hope that after taking a minute to read these statistics that you will re evaluate your teens use of the internet and chat rooms, and discuss these statistics with your teen.

About the Author: Amy Cainfield is Technology Director for

software for parents

, such as the

Teen Chat Decoder online acronym decoder

, and

PC Tattletale Internet Monitoring Software

.

Source:

isnare.com

Permanent Link:

isnare.com/?aid=220579&ca=Family+Concerns

Posted: August 27th, 2017 by XY8onvzs

No Comments | Filed under Public Relations

Facebook hired PR firm to discredit Google, reveals leaked correspondence

">
Facebook hired PR firm to discredit Google, reveals leaked correspondence

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Facebook hired a public relations firm to systematically discredit Google by paying two journalists to plant negative pieces in U.S. newspapers, leaked correspondence discloses. The new revelations are likely to increase tension between the two companies, which are already fierce rivals.

The social network has confirmed the validity of the leaked emails, seen by Wikinews, which suggest executives at the social networking giant hired Burson-Marsteller, a high profile PR and communications firm, to discredit Social Circle, a rival website run by Google. Burson-Marsteller then recruited two journalists — Jim Goldman and John Mercurio — to push editors at The Washington Post and USA Today to publish editorials criticising Social Circle over its privacy settings. The story was exposed after Burson-Marsteller approached a blogger to publish the propaganda, but the blogger posted the correspondence online.

Burson-Marsteller has been forced to apologize for taking on Facebook as a client, admitting the orders to discredit Google violated company policy. “The assignment on those terms should have been declined,” a spokesperson said. The revelations are likely to be incredibly damaging for the firm, who have represented a number of controversial clients in the past. Facebook, however, said the allegations against Google were valid, insisting there were genuine privacy concerns with Social Circle. Google has declined to comment on the issue.

Posted: August 27th, 2017 by XY8onvzs

No Comments | Filed under Uncategorized

ACLU, EFF challenging US ‘secret’ court orders seeking Twitter data

">
ACLU, EFF challenging US ‘secret’ court orders seeking Twitter data

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Late last month, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) filed objections to the United States Government’s ‘secret’ attempts to obtain Twitter account information relating to WikiLeaks. The ACLU and EFF cite First and Fourth amendment issues as overriding reasons to overturn government attempts to keep their investigation secret; and, that with Birgitta Jonsdottir being an Icelandic Parliamentarian, the issue has serious international implications.

The case, titled “In the Matter of the 2703(d) Order Relating to Twitter Accounts: Wikileaks, Rop_G, IOERROR; and BirgittaJ“, has been in the EFF’s sights since late last year when they became aware of the US government’s attempts to investigate WikiLeaks-related communications using the popular microblogging service.

The key objective of this US government investigation is to obtain data for the prosecution of Bradley Manning, alleged to have supplied classified data to WikiLeaks. In addition to Manning’s Twitter account, and that of WikiLeaks (@wikileaks), the following three accounts are subject to the order: @ioerror, @birgittaj, and @rop_g. These, respectively, belong to Jacob Apelbaum, Birgitta Jonsdottir, and Rop Gonggrijp.

Birgitta is not the only non-US citizen with their Twitter account targeted by the US Government; Gonggrijp, a Dutch ‘ex-hacker’-turned-security-expert, was one of the founders of XS4ALL – the first Internet Service Provider in the Netherlands available to the public. He has worked on a mobile phone that can encrypt conversations, and proven that electronic voting systems can readily be hacked.

In early March, a Virginia magistrate judge ruled that the government could have the sought records, and neither the targeted users, or the public, could see documents submitted to justify data being passed to the government. The data sought is as follows:

  1. Personal contact information, including addresses
  2. Financial data, including credit card or bank account numbers
  3. Twitter account activity information, including the “date, time, length, and method of connections” plus the “source and destination Internet Protocol address(es)”
  4. Direct Message (DM) information, including the email addresses and IP addresses of everyone with whom the Parties have exchanged DMs

The order demands disclosure of absolutely all such data from November 1, 2009 for the targeted accounts.

The ACLU and EFF are not only challenging this, but demanding that all submissions made by the US government to justify the Twitter disclosure are made public, plus details of any other such cases which have been processed in secret.

Bradley Manning, at the time a specialist from Maryland enlisted with the United States Army’s 2nd Brigade, 10th Mountain Division, was arrested in June last year in connection with the leaking of classified combat video to WikiLeaks.

The leaked video footage, taken from a US helicopter gunship, showed the deaths of Reuters staff Saeed Chmagh and Namir Noor-Eldeen during a U.S. assault in Baghdad, Iraq. The wire agency unsuccessfully attempted to get the footage released via a Freedom of Information Act request in 2007.

When WikiLeaks released the video footage it directly contradicted the official line taken by the U.S. Army asserting that the deaths of the two Reuters staff were “collateral damage” in an attack on Iraqi insurgents. The radio chatter associated with the AH-64 Apache video indicated the helicopter crews had mistakenly identified the journalists’ equipment as weaponry.

The US government also claims Manning is linked to CableGate; the passing of around a quarter of a million classified diplomatic cables to WikiLeaks. Manning has been in detention since July last year; in December allegations of torture were made to the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights regarding the conditions under which he was and is being detained.

Reports last month that he must now sleep naked and attend role call at the U.S. Marine facility in Quantico in the same state, raised further concern over his detention conditions. Philip J. Crowley, at-the-time a State Department spokesman, remarked on this whilst speaking at Massachusetts Institute of Technology; describing the current treatment of Manning as “ridiculous and counterproductive and stupid”, Crowley was, as a consequence, put in the position of having to tender his resignation to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

Despite his native Australia finding, in December last year, that Assange’s WikiLeaks had not committed any criminal offences in their jurisdiction, the U.S. government has continued to make ongoing operations very difficult for the whistleblower website.

The result of the Australian Federal Police investigation left the country’s Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, having to retract a statement that WikiLeaks had acted “illegally”; instead, she characterised the site’s actions as “grossly irresponsible”.

Even with Australia finding no illegal activity on the part of WikiLeaks, and with founder Julian Assange facing extradition to Sweden, U.S. pressure sought to hobble WikiLeaks financially.

Based on a State Department letter, online payments site PayPal suspended WikiLeaks account in December. Their action was swiftly followed by Visa Europe and Mastercard ceasing to handle payments for WikiLeaks.

The online processing company, Datacell, threatened the two credit card giants with legal action over this. However, avenues of funding for the site were further curtailed when both Amazon.com and Swiss bank PostFinance joined the financial boycott of WikiLeaks.

Assange continues, to this day, to argue that his extradition to Sweden for questioning on alleged sexual offences is being orchestrated by the U.S. in an effort to discredit him, and thus WikiLeaks.

Wikinews consulted an IT and cryptography expert from the Belgian university which developed the current Advanced Encryption Standard; explaining modern communications, he stated: “Cryptography has developed to such a level that intercepting communications is no longer cost effective. That is, if any user uses the correct default settings, and makes sure that he/she is really connecting to Twitter it is highly unlikely that even the NSA can break the cryptography for a protocol such as SSL/TLS (used for https).”

Qualifying this, he commented that “the vulnerable parts of the communication are the end points.” To make his point, he cited the following quote from Gene Spafford: “Using encryption on the Internet is the equivalent of arranging an armored car to deliver credit card information from someone living in a cardboard box to someone living on a park bench.

Continuing, the Katholieke Universiteit Leuven (KUL) expert explained:

In the first place, the weak point is Twitter itself; the US government can go and ask for the data; companies such as Twitter and Google will typically store quite some information on their users, including IP addresses (it is known that Google deletes the last byte of the IP address after a few weeks, but it is not too hard for a motivated opponent to find out what this byte was).
In the second place, this is the computer of the user: by exploiting system weaknesses (with viruses, Trojan horses or backdoors in the operating system) a highly motivated opponent can enter your machine and record your keystrokes plus everything that is happening (e.g. the FBI is known to do this with the so-called Magic Lantern software). Such software is also commercially available, e.g. for a company to monitor its employees.
It would also be possible for a higly motivated opponent to play “man-in-the-middle”; that means that instead of having a secure connection to Twitter.com, you have a secure connection to the attacker’s server, who impersonates Twitter’s and then relays your information to Twitter. This requires tricks such as spoofing DNS (this is getting harder with DNSsec), or misleading the user (e.g. the user clicks on a link and connects to tw!tter.com or Twitter.c0m, which look very similar in a URL window as Twitter.com). It is clear that the US government is capable of using these kind of tricks; e.g., a company has been linked to the US government that was recognized as legitimate signer in the major browsers, so it would not be too large for them to sign a legitimate certificate for such a spoofing webserver; this means that the probability that a user would detect a problem would be very low.
As for traffic analysis (finding out who you are talking to rather than finding out what you are telling to whom), NSA and GCHQ are known to have access to lots of traffic (part of this is obtained via the UK-USA agreement). Even if one uses strong encryption, it is feasible for them to log the IP addresses and email addresses of all the parties you are connecting to. If necessary, they can even make routers re-route your traffic to their servers. In addition, the European Data Retention directive forces all operators to store such traffic data.
Whether other companies would have complied with such requests: this is very hard to tell. I believe however that it is very plausible that companies such as Google, Skype or Facebook would comply with such requests if they came from a government.
In summary: unless you go through great lengths to log through to several computers in multiple countries, you work in a clean virtual machine, you use private browser settings (don’t accept cookies, no plugins for Firefox, etc.) and use tools such as Tor, it is rather easy for any service provider to identify you.
Finally: I prefer not to be quoted on any sentences in which I make statements on the capabilities or actions of any particular government.

Wikinews also consulted French IT security researcher Stevens Le Blond on the issues surrounding the case, and the state-of-the-art in monitoring, and analysing, communications online. Le Blond, currently presenting a research paper on attacks on Tor to USENIX audiences in North America, responded via email:

Were the US Government to obtain the sought data, it would seem reasonable the NSA would handle further investigation. How would you expect them to exploit the data and expand on what they receive from Twitter?

  • Le Blond: My understanding is that the DOJ is requesting the following information: 1) Connection records and session times 2) IP addresses 3) e-mail addresses 4) banking info
By requesting 1) and 2) for Birgitta and other people involved with WikiLeaks (WL) since 2009, one could derive 2 main [pieces of] information.
First, he could tell the mobility of these people. Recent research in networking shows that you can map an IP address into a geographic location with a median error of 600 meters. So by looking at changes of IP addresses in time for a Twitter user, one could tell (or at least speculate about) where that person has been.
Second, by correlating locations of different people involved with WL in time, one could possibly derive their interactions and maybe even their level of involvement with WL. Whether it is possible to derive this information from 1) and 2) depends on how this people use Twitter. For example, do they log on Twitter often enough, long enough, and from enough places?
My research indicates that this is the case for other Internet services but I cannot tell whether it is the case for Twitter.
Note that even though IP logging, as done by Twitter, is similar to the logging done by GSM [mobile phone] operators, the major difference seems to be that Twitter is subject to US regulation, no matter the citizenship of its users. I find this rather disturbing.
Using 3), one could search for Birgitta on other Internet services, such as social networks, to find more information on her (e.g., hidden accounts). Recent research on privacy shows that people tend to use the same e-mail address to register an account on different social networks (even when they don’t want these accounts to be linked together). Obviously, one could then issue subpoenas for these accounts as well.
I do not have the expertise to comment on what could be done with 4).
((WN)) As I believe Jonsdottir to be involved in the Icelandic Modern Media Initiative (IMMI), what are the wider implications beyond the “WikiLeaks witchhunt”?
  • Le Blond: Personal data can be used to discredit, especially if the data is not public.

Having been alerted to the ongoing case through a joint press release by the ACLU and EFF, Wikinews sought clarification on the primary issues which the two non-profits saw as particularly important in challenging the U.S. Government over the ‘secret’ court orders. Rebecca Jeschke, Media Relations Director for the EFF, explained in more detail the points crucial to them, responding to a few questions from Wikinews on the case:

((WN)) As a worse-case, what precedents would be considered if this went to the Supreme Court?
  • Rebecca Jeschke: It’s extremely hard to know at this stage if this would go to the Supreme Court, and if it did, what would be at issue. However, some of the interesting questions about this case center on the rights of people around the world when they use US Internet services. This case questions the limits of US law enforcement, which may turn out to be very different from the limits in other countries.
((WN)) Since this is clearly a politicised attack on free speech with most chilling potential repercussions for the press, whistleblowers, and by-and-large anyone the relevant U.S. Government departments objects to the actions of, what action do you believe should be taken to protect free speech rights?
  • Jeschke: We believe that, except in very rare circumstances, the government should not be permitted to obtain information about individuals’ private Internet communications in secret. We also believe that Internet companies should, whenever possible, take steps to ensure their customers are notified about requests for information and have the opportunity to respond.
((WN)) Twitter via the web, in my experience, tends to use https:// connections. Are you aware of any possibility of the government cracking such connections? (I’m not up to date on the crypto arms race).
  • Jeschke: You don’t need to crack https, per se, to compromise its security. See this piece about fraudulent https certificates:
Iranian hackers obtain fraudulent httpsEFF website.
((WN)) And, do you believe that far, far more websites should – by default – employ https:// connections to protect people’s privacy?
  • Jeschke: We absolutely think that more websites should employ https! Here is a guide for site operators: (See external links, Ed.)

Finally, Wikinews approached the Icelandic politician, and WikiLeaks supporter, who has made this specific case a landmark in how the U.S. Government handles dealings with – supposedly – friendly governments and their elected representatives. A number of questions were posed, seeking the Icelandic Parliamentarian’s views:

((WN)) How did you feel when you were notified the US Government wanted your Twitter account, and message, details? Were you shocked?
  • Birgitta Jonsdottir: I felt angry but not shocked. I was expecting something like this to happen because of my involvement with WikiLeaks. My first reaction was to tweet about it.
((WN)) What do you believe is their reasoning in selecting you as a ‘target’?
  • Jonsdottir: It is quite clear to me that USA authorities are after Julian Assange and will use any means possible to get even with him. I think I am simply a pawn in a much larger context. I did of course both act as a spokesperson for WikiLeaks in relation to the Apache video and briefly for WikiLeaks, and I put my name to the video as a co-producer. I have not participated in any illegal activity and thus being a target doesn’t make me lose any sleep.
((WN)) Are you concerned that, as a Member of Parliament involved in the Icelandic Modern Media Initiative (IMMI), the US attempt to obtain your Twitter data is interfering with planned Icelandic government policy?
  • Jonsdottir: No
((WN)) In an earlier New York Times (NYT) article, you’re indicating there is nothing they can obtain about you that bothers you; but, how do you react to them wanting to know everyone you talk to?
  • Jonsdottir: It bothers me and according to top computer scientists the government should be required to obtain a search warrant to get our IP addresses from Twitter. I am, though, happy I am among the people DOJ is casting their nets around because of my parliamentary immunity; I have a greater protection then many other users and can use that immunity to raise the issue of lack of rights for those that use social media.
HAVE YOUR SAY
Do you believe the U.S. government should have the right to access data on foreign nationals using services such as Twitter?
Add or view comments
((WN)) The same NYT article describes you as a WikiLeaks supporter; is this still the case? What attracts you to their ‘radical transparency’?
  • Jonsdottir: I support the concept of WikiLeaks. While we don’t have a culture of protection for sources and whistleblowers we need sites like WikiLeaks. Plus, I think it is important to give WikiLeaks credit for raising awareness about in how bad shape freedom of information and expression is in our world and it is eroding at an alarming rate because of the fact that legal firms for corporations and corrupt politicians have understood the borderless nature of the legalities of the information flow online – we who feel it is important that people have access to information that should remain in the public domain need to step up our fight for those rights. WikiLeaks has played an important role in that context.I don’t support radical transparency – I understand that some things need to remain secret. It is the process of making things secret that needs to be both more transparent and in better consensus with nations.
((WN)) How do you think the Icelandic government would have reacted if it were tens of thousands of their diplomatic communications being leaked?
  • Jonsdottir: I am not sure – A lot of our dirty laundry has been aired via the USA cables – our diplomatic communications with USA were leaked in those cables, so far they have not stirred much debate nor shock. It is unlikely for tens of thousands of cables to leak from Iceland since we dont have the same influence or size as the USA, nor do we have a military.
((WN)) Your ambassador in the US has spoken to the Obama administration. Can you discuss any feedback from that? Do you have your party’s, and government’s, backing in challenging the ordered Twitter data release?
  • Jonsdottir: I have not had any feedback from that meeting, I did however receive a message from the DOJ via the USA ambassador in Iceland. The message stated three things: 1. I am free to travel to the USA. 2. If I would do so, I would not be a subject of involuntary interrogation. 3. I am not under criminal investigation. If this is indeed the reality I wonder why they are insisting on getting my personal details from Twitter. I want to stress that I understand the reasoning of trying to get to Assange through me, but I find it unacceptable since there is no foundation for criminal investigation against him. If WikiLeaks goes down, all the other media partners should go down at the same time. They all served similar roles. The way I see it is that WikiLeaks acted as the senior editor of material leaked to them. They could not by any means be considered a source. The source is the person that leaks the material to WikiLeaks. I am not sure if the media in our world understands how much is at stake for already shaky industry if WikiLeaks will carry on carrying the brunt of the attacks. I think it would be powerful if all the medias that have had access to WikiLeaks material would band together for their defence.
((WN)) Wikinews consulted a Belgian IT security expert who said it was most likely companies such as Facebook, Microsoft, and Google, would have complied with similar court orders *without advising the ‘targets*’. Does that disturb you?
  • Jonsdottir: This does disturb me for various reasons. The most obvious is that my emails are hosted at google/gmail and my search profile. I dont have anything to hide but it is important to note that many of the people that interact with me as a MP via both facebook and my various email accounts don’t always realize that there is no protection for them if they do so via those channels. I often get sensitive personal letters sent to me at facebook and gmail. In general most people are not aware of how little rights they have as users of social media. It is those of uttermost importance that those sites will create the legal disclaimers and agreements that state the most obvious rights we lose when we sign up to their services.
This exclusive interview features first-hand journalism by a Wikinews reporter. See the collaboration page for more details.
((WN)) Has there been any backlash within Iceland against US-based internet services in light of this? Do you expect such, or any increase in anti-American sentiments?
  • Jonsdottir: No, none what so ever. I dont think there is much anti-American sentiments in Iceland and I dont think this case will increase it. However I think it is important for everyone who does not live in the USA and uses social services to note that according to the ruling in my case, they dont have any protection of the 1st and 4th amendment, that only apply to USA citizens. Perhaps the legalities in relation to the borderless reality we live in online need to be upgraded in order for people to feel safe with using social media if it is hosted in the USA. Market tends to bend to simple rules.
((WN)) Does this make you more, or less, determined to see the IMMI succeed?
  • Jonsdottir: More. People have to realize that if we dont have freedom of information online we won’t have it offline. We have to wake up to the fact that our rights to access information that should be in the public domain is eroding while at the same time our rights as citizens online have now been undermined and we are only seen as consumers with consumers rights and in some cases our rights are less than of a product. This development needs to change and change fast before it is too late.

The U.S. Government continues to have issues internationally as a result of material passed to WikiLeaks, and subsequently published.

Within the past week, Ecuador has effectively declared the U.S. ambassador Heather Hodges persona-non-grata over corruption allegations brought to light in leaked cables. Asking the veteran diplomat to leave “as soon as possible”, the country may become the third in South America with no ambassadorial presence. Both Venezuela and Bolivia have no resident U.S. ambassador due to the two left-wing administrations believing the ejected diplomats were working with the opposition.

The U.S. State Department has cautioned Ecuador that a failure to speedily normalise diplomatic relations may jeapordise ongoing trade talks.

The United Kingdom is expected to press the Obama administration over the continuing detention of 23-year-old Manning, who also holds UK citizenship. British lawmakers are to discuss his ongoing detention conditions before again approaching the U.S. with their concerns that his solitary confinement, and treatment therein, is not acceptable.

The 22 charges brought against Manning are currently on hold whilst his fitness to stand trial is assessed.

Posted: August 27th, 2017 by XY8onvzs

No Comments | Filed under Uncategorized