After the European satellite provider Eutelsat SA yanked Press TV off the air in a flagrant violation of freedom of speech, Iran’s English-language broadcaster has offered its viewers alterative means of watching its programs. As a result, Press TV will be still accessible in Europe through the following links:
- PressTV Watch Live
Press TV Smart Phone Applications
- Windows Phone
- Nokia Symbian
- Eutelsat set to take Iran satellite channels off air (alethonews.wordpress.com)
- Press TV correspondent killed in Syrian capital (alethonews.wordpress.com)
Elbit Systems is one of Israel’s largest defense contractors, something like Lockheed, General Dynamics and Boeing rolled into one. It has its tentacles in virtually every high-tech weapons system developed by and for the IDF. Like its American counterparts, it also has an extensive overseas customer base to whom it exports those weapons it’s developed for the IDF.
The Times of London has just broken a massive story detailing a secret lobbying campaign that brought Elbit a large share of a $1-billion helicopter contract awarded by the House of Commons. The campaign was orchestrated by Lt. Gen. Richard Applegate, former chief of army procurement. The details are so jaw-dropping, I’ll quote extensively from the article:
He boasted how he had pulled off a coup in a covert political lobbying campaign which had secured 500m for the benefit of his Israeli arms company client.
Applegate…admitted he had applied pressure by “infecting the system at every level” using politicians and former colleagues still serving in the forces.
…He…confided that he had persuaded MPs to ask questions in the Commons and arranged for the chairman of the defence select committee to raise the issue with the defense secretary in a move to shame the government into releasing the funds.
Applegate was pushing for an increase in MoD spending on helicopter safety systems, believing it would benefit Elbit Systems, the Israeli arms company he chairs in the UK.
The MoD earmarked 500m in June after months of lobbying by Applegate. He said he expected a substantial portion of the cash to trickle down to Elbit through the military supply chain.
Boasting about his success…he said: “There was no programme, there was no money and we had been sidelined. There is now a programme, there is now money and we have the ability to win and grow.”
He confided that he used Westminster Connection, a discreet lobbying firm with Israeli links as a “firebreak” to ensure “that my fingerprints weren’t over any of it.” It could gain access to anyone “from the prime minister down.” He said the firm, based in Victoria and co-owned by Scott Hamilton, a former Conservative staffer, had used links with Conservative Friends of Israel (CFI) to persuade MPs in the Commons to assist in his campaign.
The lobbying firm mentioned is co-owned by two leading Conservative staffers, one of whom, Stuart Polak, has been the director of CFI since 1989. The Jewish Chronicle lists him as one of the top 100 most influential Jews in the UK. He has led more than 50 such missions to Israel as the two mentioned in the passage above. So we can see that these junkets not only bring political benefit to Israel and its UK agenda, but they also can bring huge financial and trade benefits as well.
The Times expose notes that two well-connected MPs carried water for the project, asking pointed questions on the floor and in committee. These members of parliament were sent to Israel by CFI on two separate junkets during which they visited the Elbit headquarters and were briefed on its UK projects.
I hate to say it but Applegate’s full court press makes Aipac look like pikers by comparison:
The former procurement chief claimed his lobbying campaigns operate “at every level,” so by the time he had inspired a minister to ask his advisers about an issue they [the adviser] had been prepped to give the right answer. “I like the minister to be asking the questions [of] the person down here who’s his expert. The expert knows about it, is comfortable with it and you know in terms of, if he doesn’t like it, you make sure he’s no longer the expert…and you position someone else in there to give a different story.”
The entire campaign is one of breathtaking cynicism, but also breathtaking ambition and precision. You have to hand it to Applegate and Elbit. They show you how a master lobbyist does his job. In fact, when he retires Applegate should write a book about it. It would be bound to become the lobbyists’ bible.
Unfortunately, the Times story doesn’t outline Applegate’s direct financial stake in the Elbit deal. Given that it involved $1-billion and a substantial portion would eventually flow to the Israeli arms dealer, one has to assume that the former general would himself earn a substantial fee. How much we don’t know.
In case anyone wonders whether such a system of legalized graft works in Israel, it certainly does. Every retired general joins an Israeli arms or security consulting company. Ehud Barak managed to become a millionaire several times over after he became a private citizen. Even Meir Dagan joined two such U.S. based companies on his retirement.
Unlike the other UK generals caught in the Times sting, Applegate is the only one who hasn’t lost his job. That’s because he was the only one working for an Israeli firm. The others made the mistake of working for UK defense contractors who have to consider the appearance of matters described in the expose. Elbit has no such compunctions. You’ll never hear about the wheeling and dealing it engages in around the world because such shenanigans are accepted and even embraced in the security Wild West that Israel has become.
Anger and worry prevails amongst the people of Umm Al-Hayran, a Palestinian village in the Negev Desert following a decision by the Israeli Building Council to expel villagers in order to build a settlement for extremist Jews. An appeal by the humanitarian groups on behalf of the villagers was refused last week by the Israeli National Council for Planning and Construction.
Around 1,000 people will be affected by the latest bout of Israeli ethnic cleansing of Palestinians from their land. The District Committee for Planning and Construction in Beersheba has approved a proposal for a Jewish settlement called “Hayran” on the land belonging to Umm Al-Hayran village. This will not be the first time that the families in Umm Al-Hayran have been expelled by the Israelis. They used to live in the Zebala Valley in the Negev from where they were expelled by the nascent Israeli state; in 1956 they were uprooted again and forced to move to the site of Umm Al-Hayran. The current threat first arose in 2004, when the Israeli state accused the villagers of living illegally on state land.
Israel doesn’t “recognise” villages occupied by around 90,000 Bedouin living in Southern Palestine. As a result, their homes are regarded as “illegal” by the state and they can be demolished at any time.
Residents of such “unrecognised” villages do not receive any basic services or amenities provided by the state, including electricity, proper roads, health facilities, schools or water supplies.
Commenting on the latest decision, lawyer Suhad Beshara of the Legal Centre for Arab Minority Rights in Israel (Adala) said that the decision made by the appeal committee is part of the official policy of confiscating Bedouin land in the Negev. The intention is not only to provide land for Jews but also to be able to gather together the Bedouin communities in one place. According to Ms. Beshara, the authorities’ decision confirms that the villagers of Umm Al-Hayran have no rights in the village to which the Israeli government itself moved them in 1956.
The Palestinian law specialist clarified that the village of Umm Al-Hayran was established in its current location by order of the Israeli military authorities in 1956 after the army expelled its people by force from their homes in the area of Zebala valley. “They have established themselves with proper homes,” she said, “and they have invested all their efforts in order to resume their social and tribal lives which were shaken every time they were expelled from their land.” Today, a hundred and fifty families, totalling one thousand people, live in the village, all from the Abu Alqean tribe.
“We’re ready to die defending our land,” said the Mayor of the village, Saleem Abu Alqeaan. “They want to expel us and claim that our buildings are illegal, and they deprive us of all services; they even denied us drinking water in order to push us to leave the village and expel us.”
Mayor Abu Alqean added that the villagers refuse to accept the decision and that they will not leave their land even if the Israelis use force to expel them: “We have sworn to die on this land and we will not leave it this time, like previous times, and we will defend our land and our village with all our might and with all our means, because if they succeed in getting us out, the same tactics will be applied to other villages in the Negev which are not recognised by Israel.”
Commenting on the decision of the Israelis to name the proposed settlement “Hayran”, the mayor accused the Israeli government of trying to hijack Palestinian history in the area. “They want to make it look as if there is an old Israeli presence in the Negev,” he added.
Knesset Member Ibrahim Sarsoor, the head of the United Arab Bloc for Reform, condemned the government’s move. “This is yet another attack on the Arab presence in the Negev of the kind which has been taking place since the establishment of the Israeli state in 1948,” said Sarsoor. “It poses a serious threat to the already poor relations between Jews and Arabs in Israel.”
He pointed out that there is a systematic Israeli policy of uprooting the Arab presence in the Negev Desert. The latest decision, he insisted, shows how the Israeli government can act against its Arab citizens with impunity and with no just, legal or moral reason.
Stressing that the expulsion decision is “the biggest witness to the racism of Israeli governments’ policies towards the Arabs”, Sarsoor said that it confirms that ethnic cleansing of the indigenous population is an integral part of Israel’s Zionist ideology. “In short,” he concluded, “it is a policy of apartheid, pure and simple.”
- EU support for Israeli crimes makes it unworthy of Nobel Peace Prize (altahrir.wordpress.com)
- New Palestinian Nakba in Umm Al-Hieran village in the Negev (occupiedpalestine.wordpress.com)
Imagine a searchable database that would enable police or federal agents to instantly track everywhere you’ve ever driven in your car, like a “Google search” of your location over a period of months or even years. According to a law enforcement data manager speaking at a 2010 National Institute of Justice conference, that’s where the government is headed.
A driver location “Google search” is not available to police today because there aren’t enough license plate readers to ensure total information awareness about our driving habits. But if the federal government’s seed funding of the surveillance camera boom over the past ten years is any indication of where we are headed with license plate readers—and we have evidence to suggest a similar process is unfolding—we will get there soon enough.
The police are preparing for it, too. Dale Stockton, Program Manager of the “Road Runner” project at the Automated Regional Justice Information System in San Diego spoke on a panel on license readers at the 2010 conference and explained to police and prosecutors in attendance how best to share license plate data. Mind you, he was talking about the location information of people never accused of any crime.
Aware that a “centralized national giant bucket of license plate reader data…probably wouldn’t stand the court of public opinion,” he suggested a number of backdoor alternatives that would grant the government the same power to spy on us retroactively and with frightening precision. No such centralized data system exists and probably won’t, he said, but he described other paths towards total information awareness regarding license plate data, among them a “regional sharing capability” that in 2010 already existed in San Diego and L.A. Another option is informal data sharing between police departments, Stockton said, encouraging “anyone involved in LPR in the interim to establish an e-mail group and do an e-mail blast when you have a vehicle of interest. This is working in the southwest area of the United States,” he said.
But the regional data sharing and the informal e-mail systems Stockton described pale in comparison to the real endgame, what he called “something akin to a Google.” Not “a storage unit” per se—because remember, such a centralized database “wouldn’t stand the court of public opinion”—but a “pointer system” that would enable agencies to store their own data locally while making it readily available to police departments and federal agencies nationwide at the click of a button.
Central storage of data vs. distributed storage indexed via a pointer system? When it comes to privacy, that’s a distinction without a difference.
As license plate scanners proliferate nationwide, boring questions regarding data retention and sharing take on great importance. Unfortunately, it appears as if the government is taking us in precisely the wrong direction, from the top, down.
We’ve been making a lot of noise about location tracking of late. License plate readers rank high among the technologies that are threatening our privacy with respect to our travel patterns. Where we go says a lot about who we are, and law enforcement agencies nationwide are increasingly obtaining detailed information about where we go without any judicial oversight or reason to believe we are up to no good. Stockton says we have nothing to worry about with respect to license plate reader data and privacy, that that’s all “hocus pocus.” But he’s wrong.
We must ensure license plate readers do not become license plate trackers.
Law enforcement’s advancement of the position that agencies should be able to access data willy-nilly from other departments illustrates precisely why we’ve been worried about this technology. Perhaps we shouldn’t be surprised to read such a position on the Department of Justice’s website; after all, it’s the same DOJ that told a court last week that Americans have “no privacy interest” in our location information as it pertains to our cellphones.
We disagree, and we intend to make sure that a license plate data system “akin to a Google” doesn’t take shape. Nothing less than our freedom on the open road is at stake.
- License-plate readers create ‘massive intelligence database’ (gazette.com)
- License plate readers and the rise of a surveillance industry (theverge.com)
- Smile! You’re being photographed by a license plate reader (digitaltrends.com)
- ACLU files suit for information on automatic license plate readers (jurist.org)
“Venezuela Elections ‘Free, But Not Fair’”, was Germany’s Spiegel Online headline on a piece about Venezuela’s October 7 presidential poll, won by socialist President Hugo Chavez by more than 55% of the vote. “Chavismo wins, Venezuela loses”, was The Wall Street Journal’s take.
Compared with such headlines, the Sydney Morning Herald’s reprint of a New York Times article “Socialist Chavez hangs onto Power in Venezuela” by William Neuman might seem a reasonably balanced report. It is not.
Note that politicians in Australia or the US get re-elected, but if you’re a socialist in Latin America you “hold onto power”.
Then there is the article’s very first clause, where we learn that Chavez is a “fiery foe of Washington”. Although no doubt a badge of honour for many, this language still paints Chavez as impassioned rather than considered.
This, along with the article’s other main Chavez descriptor of “polarising”, conveys an image of him being unreasonably confrontational and divisive in a way that the also accurate “a democratic leader who has withstood Washington orchestrated violence and sabotage” does not.
And then there is the assumption that the first thing to mention in an article about a Venezuelan election is Washington. The pitfalls of your reportage coming from the New York Times perhaps.
The article does convey a sense of joy on the street following Chavez’s re-election, but it’s always “his … revolution”, “his version of socialism”.
That a large section of the population feel some kind of ownership over the process of social transformation in Venezuela is never acknowledged. The Venezuelan people have agency in Neuman’s writing only if they’re part of the opposition.
Moreover, in selecting quotes and comments about Chavez “reigning forever”, “guns being fired into the air” and Chavez being a “former soldier”, some sense of violence and dictatorship is still conveyed. This comes straight after Chavez and his supporters once again peacefully won what in any other Western country would be referred to as a landslide electoral victory.
By contrast, we are informed of the opposition’s “democratic temperament” via the one full quote the re-elected president is afforded in the article.
What about a quote interpreting the election result and the future for Venezuela? Well there is one, just not from Chavez. It’s from Henrique Capriles, the opposition candidate who was resoundingly defeated.
After the election, we’re told Chavez is “ailing and politically weakened”, despite being re-elected for a fourth presidential term by 11 percentage points and holding a majority in the National Assembly.
It is said the opposition “raised the possibility that an upset victory was within reach”. To what extent the opposition relied on reprints of biased NYT articles about Venezuela to raise this sense of “possibility” is difficult to quantify.
Chavez, we’re told, will now move forward “even more aggressively … although his pledges were short on specifics”. For Neuman, the specifics detailed in the million or so copies of the 39-page plan for deepening popular participation and human-centred development over the next six years that were distributed for mass discussion, amendment and ratification by the Venezuelan National Assembly early next year do not count.
And how specific was the opposition’s plan? Capriles’ pledge to maintain the Chavez government’s social programs ― the same ones the opposition have violently opposed for a decade, but now pledge to improve.
We are informed, as always, that Chavez’s “health is a question mark”. Maybe he is going to die soon! And maybe the mainstream media will start showing some human decency and ease up on the celebrations when an elected leader gets cancer, but I would not hold my breath for either.
“Facing pressure from Mr Capriles,” Neuman says, “[Chavez] pledged to … pay more attention to the quality of government programs such as education.”
In reality, the popularity of the government’s social programs is such that Capriles had to publicly say the opposition was in favour of them, but leaked opposition documents revealed his plan to dismantle them.
Capriles had to pitch himself as a leftist and the opposition was forced to accept the election results due to the painstaking efforts to institute a transparent electoral system with unprecedented international supervision. But we are told it was Capriles who pressured Chavez.
And better still, the same opposition that denigrated the literacy and other mass education campaigns of the past decade is said to have forced the government “to pay attention to quality education”.
We are told Chavez spent much of the year insulting “Capriles and his followers” as “squalid good-for-nothings, little Yankees and fascists”. Left out is the opposition’s regular jibes about Chavez’s African facial features, his “common” way of speaking or his hilarious cancer-induced baldness.
And anyway, was it really the “Yankee and fascist” credentials of the opposition (that is, organising a fascist coup and getting funding from Washington) that “represented nearly half the electorate” as Neuman claimed? Or did those that voted for Capriles do so for a range of other reasons, not least among them that the private media sold him as a progressive left-wing candidate?
At any rate, Chavez’s insults, we’re told, “seemed to lose their sting” as the campaign went on (he can’t even insult effectively!) under the weight of the opposition’s growing “momentum”. The Chavez campaign filling Caracas’s seven major avenues with almost certainly the largest demonstration in Venezuela’s history three days before the vote clearly does not constitute momentum worth mentioning for Neuman.
Through selection of evidence, biased language, omission, and unsubstantiated claims, Neuman paints a false picture ― and this is an article that, by comparison with other Western media coverage, is relatively generous towards the Bolivarian process that has halved poverty in Venezuela.
Serious journalism regarding Venezuela requires covering the significant social achievements of the revolution and an informed discussion of its many shortcomings. Unfortunately, if Neuman’s article is anything to go by, the liberal corporate media will not provide you with either.
- Chavez Wins Venezuelan Presidential Election with 54% of the Vote (alethonews.wordpress.com)
- A Hall of Shame for Venezuelan Elections Coverage (alethonews.wordpress.com)
A new cyber espionage program linked to the notorious Flame and Gauss malware has been detected by Russia’s Kaspersky Lab. The anti-virus giant’s chief warns that global cyber warfare is in “full swing” and will probably escalate in 2013.
The virus, dubbed miniFlame, and also known as SPE, has already infected computers in Iran, Lebanon, France, the United States and Lithuania. It was discovered in July 2012 and is described as “a small and highly flexible malicious program designed to steal data and control infected systems during targeted cyber espionage operations,” Kaspersky Lab said in a statement posted on its website.
The malware was originally identified as an appendage of Flame – the program used for targeted cyber espionage in the Middle East and acknowledged to be part of joint US-Israeli efforts to undermine Iran’s nuclear program.
But later, Kaspersky Lab analysts discovered that miniFlame is an “interoperable tool that could be used as an independent malicious program, or concurrently as a plug-in for both the Flame and Gauss malware.”
The analysis also showed new evidence of cooperation between the creators of Flame and Gauss, as both viruses can use miniFlame for their operations.
“MiniFlame’s ability to be used as a plug-in by either Flame or Gauss clearly connects the collaboration between the development teams of both Flame and Gauss. Since the connection between Flame and Stuxnet/Duqu has already been revealed, it can be concluded that all these advanced threats come from the same ‘cyber warfare’ factory,” Kaspersky Lab said.
High-precision attack tool
So far just 50 to 60 cases of infection have been detected worldwide, according to Kaspersky Lab. But unlike Flame and Gauss, miniFlame in meant for installation on machines already infected by those viruses.
“MiniFlame is a high-precision attack tool. Most likely it is a targeted cyber weapon used in what can be defined as the second wave of a cyber attack,” Kaspersky’s Chief Security Expert Alexander Gostev explained.
“First, Flame or Gauss are used to infect as many victims as possible to collect large quantities of information. After data is collected and reviewed, a potentially interesting victim is defined and identified, and miniFlame is installed in order to conduct more in-depth surveillance and cyber-espionage.”
The newly-discovered malware can also take screenshots of an infected computer while it is running a specific program or application such as a web browser, Microsoft Office program, Adobe Reader, instant messenger service or FTP client.
Kaspersky Lab believes miniFlame’s developers have probably created dozens of different modifications of the program. “At this time, we have only found six of these, dated 2010-2011,” the firm said.
‘Cyber warfare in full swing’
Meanwhile, Kaspersky Lab’s co-founder and CEO Eugene Kaspersky warned that global cyber warfare tactics are becoming more sophisticated while also becoming more threatening. He urged governments to work together to fight cyber warfare and cyber-terrorism, Xinhua news agency reports.
Speaking at an International Telecommunication Union Telecom World conference in Dubai, the anti-virus tycoon said, “cyber warfare is in full swing and we expect it to escalate in 2013.”
“The latest malicious virus attack on the world’s largest oil and gas company, Saudi Aramco, last August shows how dependent we are today on the Internet and information technology in general, and how vulnerable we are,” Kaspersky said.
He stopped short of blaming any particular player behind the massive cyber attacks across the Middle East, pointing out that “our job is not to identity hackers or cyber-terrorists. Our firm is like an X-ray machine, meaning we can scan and identify a problem, but we cannot say who or what is behind it.”
Iran, who confirmed that it suffered an attack by Flame malware that caused severe data loss, blames the United States and Israel for unleashing the cyber attacks.
- Stuxnet, Flame…Gauss: New spy virus found in Middle East (alethonews.wordpress.com)