Falun Gong plays with fraud and artificial faces on Facebook

” Facebook has taken down a well-financed campaign that used dozens of artificially generated faces to spread pro-Trump and anti-Chinese government messages, the company and outside researchers said on Friday.

Researchers from New York-based Graphika and the Digitial Forensics Research Lab, an arm of the Washington-based Atlantic Council, said it was the first time they had seen the large-scale use of computer-generated faces to spread disinformation on social media…

” Facebook said 610 Facebook accounts, 89 Pages, 156 Groups and 72 Instagram accounts were involved in the network. The social media giant said those behind the operation had spent upward of $9 million on advertising to promote their content, which touched on hot-button issues such as “impeachment, conservative ideology, political candidates, elections, trade, family values and freedom of religion…”

Facebook said its investigation linked the activity to U.S.-based Epoch Media Group and individuals in Vietnam working on its behalf, though the accounts more openly associated with The BL, for the Beauty of Life…

” The Epoch Times was set up as a print publication by followers of the Falun Gong spiritual movement, banned in China, before moving heavily online. Its output has tended to steer toward support for Trump and attacks on his opponents.

The content removed by Facebook had the same tilt. Groups identified by the outside researchers bore names such as “America Needs President Trump,” “TRUMP MAGA 2020,” or “WE STAND WITH TRUMP & PENCE!”

Phew! Some heavy lifting on both attack and defense inside this one. Or maybe not. Maybe this crap is getting easier to pull off – especially on profit-at-all-cost sites like Facebook. Maybe this crap is getting easier to fund to the tune of million$ if you’re working for thugs like our Fake President.

Canadian Airport Coppers find 5000 leeches in a suitcase


Regis Duvignau/Reuters

The beagle patrolling Toronto Pearson International Airport was prowling for the subtle scents of contraband when an unexpected odor tickled its olfactory receptors. The source was the luggage of a Canadian man who had just returned from Russia.

The dog knew what to do next and plonked down next to the traveler—sending a signal to Canada Border Services Agency personnel that something was amiss.

Officials peered inside the man’s bags and found hundreds of containers filled with slimy, writhing objects — 5,000 live leeches. It was October 17, 2018, and the trusty beagle had helped authorities snag Canada’s first known leech “smuggler.”…

The incident, revealed here for the first time, is not yet part of the public record. The man was charged with illegally importing an internationally regulated species without the required permits, says André Lupert, manager of intelligence for the Wildlife Enforcement Directorate at Environment and Climate Change Canada…the man is awaiting a court hearing next month in the greater Toronto area. To protect his privacy and because the investigation is ongoing, the Canada Border Services Agency said they can’t share his name or other details of the incident—including the dog’s name or even the dog’s sex.

He has an excuse. He says he wasn’t trying to hide the fact he had a suitcase full of leeches. They are the sort of leeches used [rarely] for medical purposes; but, those are regulated and typically require an import permit.

How to build what you need – from metal that falls from the sky


The boiler for this home sauna fell from the sky

❝ In the isolated fishing villages of northwestern Russia, commuting distance from the top of the world, residents get by with the help of things that fall from the sky.

The things are hardly manna from heaven. They’re space junk. Specifically, rocket parts: the fuselage, fuel containers and highly toxic spent boosters of missiles launched from the Plesetsk Cosmodrome, a Cold War-era base in the Arkhangelsk Oblast more than 200 miles to the south that is one of the most active launch sites on earth.

❝ The space trash ends up in the remote Mezensky District, whose northernmost town is less than 20 miles from the Arctic Circle. Residents in villages nestled amid forests, rivers and stretches of tundra recycle fuselages for hunting sleds and boats and scrape precious metals like gold and titanium from wrecks to sell on the black market. They will even use the odd sculptural piece of rocket as yard art…

Or part of their sauna.

Republican Bigots Pretend a Gay Prime Minister Didn’t Bring His Husband to the G7 Summit


Click to enlargeFirst Spouses

❝ The White House Facebook page failed to acknowledge First Gentleman of Luxembourg Gauthier Destenay, married to Prime Minister Xavier Bettel, in a post featuring the spouses of world leaders attending this week’s G7 summit in Sicily. The photo caption included the names of every other spouse, all of them wives, beginning with: “First Lady Melania Trump poses with Belgium’s Queen Mathilde, center, and other spouses of NATO leaders.”

❝ The omission of Destenay’s name in the official White House post remained for at least six hours on Saturday before Daily Beast editor Scott Bixby shared a screenshot on Twitter, writing: “Is there a reason the White House didn’t include the First Gentleman of Luxembourg in this photo caption? Like, a non-homophobic one?”

The Republican Party – regardless of Trump’s occasional hypocritical denial – plays a significant role in the international Axis of Bigotry. Putin’s United Russia Party, the Saudi Arabian Royal Family and their Wahabi jihadists are a perfect match for today’s Republican Party. Under the thumb of Tea Party nutballs – whether through cowardice or ideological unity – the last-named bastion of bigotry serves only the worst characteristics of American political history.

Hackers Came — The French Were Ready For Them

Everyone saw the hackers coming…The National Security Agency in Washington picked up the signs. So did Emmanuel Macron’s bare-bones technology team. And mindful of what happened in the American presidential campaign, the team created dozens of false email accounts, complete with phony documents, to confuse the attackers.

❝ The Russians, for their part, were rushed and a bit sloppy, leaving a trail of evidence that was not enough to prove for certain they were working for the government of President Vladimir V. Putin but which strongly suggested they were part of his broader “information warfare” campaign…

But that outcome was hardly assured on Friday night, when what was described as a “massive” hacking attack suddenly put Mr. Macron’s electoral chances in jeopardy. To French and American officials, however, it was hardly a surprise.

❝ …The staff at Mr. Macron’s makeshift headquarters in the 15th Arrondissement at the edge of Paris didn’t need the N.S.A. to tell them they were being targeted: In December, after the former investment banker and finance minister had emerged as easily the most anti-Russian, pro-NATO and pro-European Union candidate in the presidential race, they began receiving phishing emails.

Even before then, the Macron campaign had begun looking for ways to make life a little harder for the Russians, showing a level of skill and ingenuity that was missing in Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign and at the Democratic National Committee, which had minimal security protections and for months ignored F.B.I. warnings that its computer system had been penetrated.

❝ “We went on a counteroffensive,” digital director, Mounir Mahjoubi said. “We couldn’t guarantee 100 percent protection” from the attacks, “so we asked: what can we do?” Mr. Mahjoubi opted for a classic “cyber-blurring” strategy, well known to banks and corporations, creating false email accounts and filled them with phony documents the way a bank teller keeps fake bills in the cash drawer in case of a robbery…

Mr. Mahjoubi refused to reveal the nature of the false documents that were created, or to say whether, in the Friday document dump that was the result of the hacking campaign, there were false documents created by the Macron campaign.

But he did note that in the mishmash that constituted the Friday dump, there were some authentic documents, some phony documents of the hackers’ own manufacture, some stolen documents from various companies, and some false emails created by the campaign.

❝ “It’s clear they were rushed,” Mr. Hultquist said. “If this was APT28,” he said, using the name for a Russian group believed to be linked to the GRU, a military intelligence agency, “they have been caught in the act, and it has backfired for them.”

Russian hackers were dealing with not only a better educated populace; but, a more sophisticated audience than American voters. LePen and her populist campaign had to walk away from the most backwards aspects of campaigns her father would have run twenty or thirty years ago. She could not substitute anti-Semitism for Trump’s anti-Mexican slurs – as her father would have.

Trump’s dalliance in misogynist assaults might have cynical appeal to fools in France – as they do in the United States. But, Trump’s contempt for physically-handicapped wouldn’t play – for example – in a nation where until recently public transport still reserved front seats for victims of war.

The French shrugged off Big Lies because they knew from experience what the population in general was gifted by populist liars – and their supporters, domestic or foreign.

Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward celebrate the White House Press Corp

❝ Before comedian Hasan Minhaj got up to poke fun at the assembled White House press corps…Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein got up to celebrate it.

The legendary Watergate duo gave a speech evoking their investigative reporting of the Nixon administration and calling on the current generation of journalists to practice careful, thorough and relentless reporting on the current White House.

RTFA – the complete text – if you missed some point or want to copy it down. Worth listening to, remembering.

Golden showers? Russia knows nothing about America’s sex habits

❝ Dear Vlad,

You don’t mind if I call you, Vlad, do you? I wanted to write you about your close relationship with our president-elect, Donald J. Trump.

❝ I read recently that your intelligence agents had collected some “compromising and salacious personal information” on The Donald. A memo about this was said to be generated by a former agent of MI-6, one of Britain’s premier spook agencies, so our US news media has taken this allegation seriously.

But, really, golden showers? You say the “perverted sexual acts” worthy of blackmailing a US president consisted of renting a hotel room in Moscow where Trump hired some prostitutes to “perform a golden showers (urination) show in front of him” on the bed that president and Mrs. Obama supposedly slept in?

❝ Vlad, by your own admission in an interview with Bloomberg News, you clearly have no understanding of American culture or domestic political life…

❝ This is a country that endorses gay marriage. It celebrates the freedom of choosing your own gender. One of our most decorated male athletes at the age of 66 decided he was in fact she and ended up on the cover of Vanity Fair in a corset. We are having so much oral sex that throat cancer rates among men have shot up. Our young people publicly declare themselves to be polyamorous (Vlad, that means they sleep with lots of different people, with consent). Way back in the 1990s one of our most popular female vocalists released a coffee-table book called Sex that showed bondage, full nudity, scenes with a dog, and scenes from a New York sex club…

If the best dirt you’ve got on a our highest elected official is he hired a bunch of girls to pee on a bed, we’ve got nothing to worry about. You don’t understand freedom and democracy enough to upset it.

❝ Sincerely,

Joe Q. Public

Vlad mistakenly accepts the hypocrisy so beloved of our priests, pundits and politicians as somehow representative of what private life may decide is participatory sport in bedrooms ranging from home grown to Trumpkins. Tain’t so.

How Russian cyberwar hackers invaded the U.S.


A filing cabinet broken into in 1972 as part of the Watergate burglary sits beside a computer server that Russian hackers breached during the 2016 presidential campaign

❝ When Special Agent Adrian Hawkins of the Federal Bureau of Investigation called the Democratic National Committee in September 2015 to pass along some troubling news about its computer network, he was transferred, naturally, to the help desk.

His message was brief, if alarming. At least one computer system belonging to the D.N.C. had been compromised by hackers federal investigators had named “the Dukes,” a cyberespionage team linked to the Russian government…

❝ Yared Tamene, the tech-support contractor at the D.N.C. who fielded the call, was no expert in cyberattacks. His first moves were to check Google for “the Dukes” and conduct a cursory search of the D.N.C. computer system logs to look for hints of such a cyberintrusion. By his own account, he did not look too hard even after Special Agent Hawkins called back repeatedly over the next several weeks — in part because he wasn’t certain the caller was a real F.B.I. agent and not an impostor…

❝ It was the cryptic first sign of a cyberespionage and information-warfare campaign devised to disrupt the 2016 presidential election, the first such attempt by a foreign power in American history. What started as an information-gathering operation, intelligence officials believe, ultimately morphed into an effort to harm one candidate, Hillary Clinton, and tip the election to her opponent, Donald J. Trump.

❝ Like another famous American election scandal, it started with a break-in at the D.N.C. The first time, 44 years ago at the committee’s old offices in the Watergate complex, the burglars planted listening devices and jimmied a filing cabinet. This time, the burglary was conducted from afar, directed by the Kremlin…instead of Republican President Richard Nixon.

RTFA. Journalism from the NY TIMES mostly unadulterated by editorial requirements. Well done tale of the level of cyber-ignorance common to much of our government, a significant chunk of the global corporate world.

A worthwhile read for you and me – long before the movie comes out. And it will.