Feds Drop a Child Porn Case Rather Than Give Up a Hack


FBI Headquarters

❝ The Department of Justice filed a motion in Washington State federal court…to dismiss its indictment against a child porn site. It wasn’t for lack of evidence; it was because the FBI didn’t want to disclose details of a hacking tool to the defense as part of discovery. Evidence in United States v. Jay Michaud hinged at least in part on information federal investigators had gathered by exploiting a vulnerability in the Tor anonymity network.

In other words, the feds are letting an alleged child pornographer free so that officials can potentially catch other dark-web using criminals in the future…

❝ For years now, federal investigators have used hacking tools to undermine the Tor anonymity network and identify suspects attempting to conceal their identities and actions. These Tor exploits help federal law enforcement agencies investigate serious crimes, particularly child porn rings on the dark web, that would otherwise be difficult to prosecute. But the DOJ will apparently go to extreme lengths to protect the disclosure of those exploits, raising new questions about the boundaries of investigative hacking…

❝ All that’s certain is that the feds have dropped a case against an alleged child pornographer, with some unknowable trade-off down the road.

Actually a tough question for law enforcement. Beyond the boundaries of the usual prosecutor. Interesting to see where this leads. If anywhere.

This beautiful new cloud – Asperitas – now officially in the International Cloud Atlas


Click to enlargeInternational Cloud Atlas/Kairo Kiitsak

❝ Gavin Pretor-Pinney, the London-based president of the Cloud Appreciation Society, first saw the unusual cloud in 2006. A member of the amateur cloud-spotting group in Cedar Creeks, Iowa emailed a photo of an oddly wavy cloud, and asked how it would be classified…

Its shape was similar to what the World Meteorological Organization would categorize as an undulatus formation, but was “more intense, more chaotic.” The WMO’s International Cloud Atlas, first published in 1896, didn’t include anything like it.

❝ Every six months or so, a similar image would arrive, maybe from Scotland, or Australia. The president and others began to feel that a new label was needed to fit the unfamiliar cloud. In 2008, the amateur cloud-spotting group proposed the name asperitas, Latin for “roughness,” and submitted the idea to the WMO.

Nearly 10 years after they floated the idea, the society’s efforts paid off: the WMO has added the asperitas to the updated International Cloud Atlas, released online earlier this week…

❝ Naming clouds, says Pretor-Pinney, builds a deeper connection to what’s visible in our atmosphere, “which also makes us care more about what we’re doing to it.”

I’ll second that emotion. RTFA for details on cloud-naming in disciplined scientific fashion. An enjoyable read. Lovely photographs.

Our Travel Industry Worries Over a ‘Lost Decade’ Under Trump


Click to enlargeAnadolu Agency/Getty Images

Keeping an eye on peaceful protestors, American style

❝ Like many Washington lobby groups, the U.S. Travel Association was quick to congratulate the new president on his victory last November…

But almost immediately, things started to go sideways. A steady drumbeat of news and policy proclamations seemed likely to damage America’s $250-billion travel industry and its roughly 15 million U.S. employees.

❝ Initial contacts between Trump and leaders of Australia, Germany, Mexico, and China didn’t go well, resulting in negative publicity in countries that send lots of travelers to America. Then came the majority Muslim nation travel bans, with protests and news coverage that made for a global public relations disaster…

Meanwhile, the White House has instituted an airline cabin restriction on electronic devices for people flying from airports in eight nations. And last week, a U.S. State Department policy was revealed that mandates extra vetting of visa applicants in nations where U.S.-bound travelers must apply for one. This includes inspection of social media accounts for some and is likely to make it more difficult for millions of people to travel to America…

❝ So for the USTA’s chief executive officer, Roger Dow, and the industry he represents, what looked like the beginning of a beautiful friendship became in just two months something bordering on adversarial. Even America’s closest ally and next-door neighbor is wavering on sending its kids across the border for a field trip…

The new visa rules may have been the last straw for the USTA. Last week, Dow’s group issued an almost plaintive statement: “Mr. President, please tell the world that while we’re closed to terror, we’re open for business. Imbalanced communication is especially susceptible to being ‘lost in translation’ — so let’s work together to inform our friends and neighbors, who could benefit from reassurance, not just who is no longer welcome here, but who remains invited.”

RTFA for a deeper understanding of the mediocrity and ignorance delivered upon businesses other than real estate developers by our new so-called president.

Mentally-Disturbed Copper Sheds Light On His Problem

An NYPD detective was arrested Sunday for fondling himself in front of the windows of Long Island homes…

Detective Robert Francis was arrested after one homeowner in Rockville Centre called 911 to report that a man was standing in the back yard masturbating…

Francis allegedly entered the back yards of more than one home and shined a flashlight inside until he got someone’s attention. Then, as the person was looking at him, Francis shined the light on himself to show he was fondling himself…

Police arrested Francis around 2:30 a.m. and charged him with public lewdness, endangering the welfare of a child and trespassing. It was not clear how many homes he allegedly targeted.

Whatever Detective Francis’ problem may be – hopefully he gets some treatment now. But, yes, I admit that – especially since no one was injured – it makes for a weird news item.

Are the Christians you know more like Jesus or Pharisees?

One of the common critiques leveled at present-day Christianity is that it’s a religion full of hypocritical people. A new Barna Group study examines the degree to which this perception may be accurate. The study explores how well Christians seem to emulate the actions and attitudes of Jesus in their interactions with others.

In this nationwide study of self-identified Christians, the goal was to determine whether Christians have the actions and attitude of Jesus as they interact with others or if they are more akin to the beliefs and behaviors of Pharisees, the self-righteous sect of religious leaders described in the New Testament…

Using…20 questions as the basis of analysis, the researchers created an aggregate score for each individual and placed those results into one of four categories, or quadrants…The four categories include:

• Christ-like in action and attitude
• Christ-like in action, but not in attitude
• Christ-like in attitude, but not action
• Christ-like in neither

The findings reveal that most self-identified Christians in the U.S. are characterized by having the attitudes and actions researchers identified as Pharisaical. Just over half of the nation’s Christians — using the broadest definition of those who call themselves Christians — qualify for this category (51%). They tend to have attitudes and actions that are characterized by self-righteousness.

On the other end of the spectrum, 14% of today’s self-identified Christians — just one out of every seven Christians — seem to represent the actions and attitudes Barna researchers found to be consistent with those of Jesus.

In the middle are those who have some mix of action and attitude. About one-fifth of Christians are Christ-like in attitude, but often represent Pharisaical actions (21%). Another 14% of respondents tend to be defined as Christ-like in action, but seem to be motivated by self-righteous or hypocritical attitudes.

The study is lots more interesting than I thought it would be. Read it to find and follow a great deal of detail, e.g., information broken out for self-identified evangelicals, Catholics, political ideology, age…And it appears to be sound in analysis, technique and style.

Hope our readers find it useful.

Donald, This I Will Tell You — You’re A Sucker…A Tool…You Got Played — Sincerely, Maureen

Dear Donald,

❝ We’ve known each other a long time, so I think I can be blunt.

You know how you said at campaign rallies that you did not like being identified as a politician?

Don’t worry. No one will ever mistake you for a politician.

After this past week, they won’t even mistake you for a top-notch negotiator…

❝ …You, Donald, are getting a reputation as a sucker. And worse, a sucker who is a tool of the D.C. establishment.

Your whole campaign was mocking your rivals and the D.C. elite, jawing about how Americans had turned into losers, with our bad deals and open borders and the Obamacare “disaster.”

And you were going to fly in on your gilded plane and fix all that in a snap…

❝ You promised to get the best people around you in the White House, the best of the best…Instead, you dragged that motley skeleton crew into the White House and let them create a feuding, leaking, belligerent, conspiratorial, sycophantic atmosphere. Instead of a smooth, classy operator like James Baker, you have a Manichaean anarchist in Steve Bannon.

❝ You knew the Republicans were full of hot air…and they have no aptitude for governing…You knew that Paul Ryan’s vaunted reputation as a policy wonk was fake news…Instead, you sold the D.O.A. bill the Irish undertaker gave you as though it were a luxury condo, ignoring the fact that it was a cruel flimflam, a huge tax cut for the rich disguised as a health care bill. You were so concerned with the “win” that you forgot your “forgotten” Americans, the older, poorer people in rural areas who would be hurt by the bill…

❝ You were humiliated right out of the chute by the establishment guys who hooked you into their agenda — a massive transfer of wealth to rich people — and drew you away from your own.

…You got worked over by the Republican leadership and the business community, who set you up to do their bidding.

They’re counting on you being a delusional dupe who didn’t even know what was in the bill because you’re sitting around in a bathrobe getting your information from wackadoodles on Fox News and then…peppering aides with the query, “Is this really a good bill?”

You got played

Sincerely, Maureen

There are times when Maureen Dowd really rocks. This is one of the best.

Click the link and RTFA. The whole enchilada. Worth it.

A win for working class families


Click to enlarge

Now it’s time to set the stage for single-payer Medicare for all. Improvements in the existing plan are always to be considered – if Republicans want to join Bernie’s side. If Democrats want to join Bernie’s side.

Nothing wrong with showing the flag for freedom, an end to healthcare as privilege instead of a Right. Let our Congress-critters know what’s coming.

Thanks, gocomics.org

Weather may just be weather; but — The North Atlantic may get its 1st-ever named storm in March next week

Just one hurricane has ever formed in the northern Atlantic Ocean, Caribbean Sea, or the Gulf of Mexico in the month of March — a time when the oceans are still cold from the winter months in the northern hemisphere. This occurred in 1908 with an unnamed hurricane that, according to the Atlantic Hurricane database, reached sustained winds of 100mph and caused damage in the Caribbean islands.

As the 1908 cyclone formed long before the National Hurricane Center existed, there has never been a “named” storm in March. That could change next week, as an area of low pressure may develop several hundred miles to the east of Florida, in the Atlantic Ocean. This storm system is unlikely to be a major threat to landmasses, with the possible exception of Bermuda. Due to the rarity of March cyclones, however, it would garner significant attention…

Forecast models indicate a low pressure system will develop early next week. It may reach a “peak” in strength by Tuesday or Wednesday, potentially with 40 to 60mph winds, which would exceed the 39mph threshold for a storm to get a name. In this case, the storm would be named “Arlene.”

If we get lucky, it might even drop a little rain or hail on MAR-A-LAGO.

A couple of big [unnamed] US tech companies were scammed out of $100 million

The Department of Justice just unsealed an indictment against a Lithuanian scammer who managed to trick two American tech companies into wiring him $100 million. The scammer, 48-year-old Evaldas Rimasauskas, did so by masquerading as a prominent Asian hardware manufacturer, according to court documents, and tricking employees into depositing tens of millions of dollars into bank accounts in Latvia, Cyprus, and numerous other countries. Rimasauskas was first indicted back in December, but the DOJ only unsealed the documents after arresting the man last week.

What makes this remarkable is not Rimasauskas’ particular phishing scam, which sounds rather standard in the grand scheme of wire fraud and cybersecurity exploits. Rather, it’s the amount of money he managed to score and the industry from which he stole it.

The indictment specifically describes the companies in vague terms. The first company is “multinational technology company, specializing in internet-related services and products, with headquarters in the United States,” the documents read. The second company is a “multinational corporation providing online social media and networking services.” Both apparently worked with the same “Asia-based manufacturer of computer hardware,” a supplier that the documents indicate was founded some time in the late ‘80s…

What’s more important is that representatives at both companies with the power to wire vast sums of money were still tricked by fraudulent email accounts. Rimasauskas even went so far as to create fake contracts on forged company letterhead, fake bank invoices, and various other official-looking documents to convince employees of the two companies to send him money.

Rimasauskas has been charged with one count of wire fraud, three counts of money laundering, and aggravated identity theft…

I can’t believe someone as detail-oriented as this dude appears to be didn’t plan on leaving home and establishing another identity on a planet in a galaxy far, far away. Did he think no one would come looking for the $100 million? At least move someplace without an extradition agreement with the USofA.

Thanks, Barry Ritholtz