It’s Friday, when we usually cover a different jazz genre. But we’re playing these sorry cards we’ve been dealt this week and observing the passing of a great artist.
We’ll probably all be sick of seeing this same video, but it is one of the very few of Prince available for embedding with appropriate intellectual property rights preserved. It’s a result of Prince’s tenacious control over his artistic product that we won’t have ready access to his past performances, but this same tenacity taught many artists how to protect their interests.
It’s worth the hour and a quarter to watch the documentary Prince in the 1980s; the enormity of his talent can’t be understood without reactions by professionals to his abilities.
The way his voice slides easily into high registers at 05:44, his guitar playing beginning at 06:53, offer us just the smallest glimpses of his spectacular gifts.
Good night, sweet Prince, may flights of angels sing thee to thy rest.
Great Google-y moogley
Under Not-Google: Opera browser now has free built-in VPN
A lesser-known browser with only 2% of current market share, Opera is a nice alternative to Chrome and Firefox. Its new built-in free VPN could help boost its market share by offering additional privacy protection. It’s not clear this new feature will protect users against censorship tools, though — and this could be extremely important since this Norwegian software company may yet be acquired by a Chinese company which placed a bid on the firm a couple of months ago.
Definitely Not-Google: Apple cracker cost FBI more than $1 million
Can’t swing an iPad without hitting a report on FBI director James Comey’s admission at the Aspen Security Forum this week in Londn that cracking the San Bernardino shooter’s work iPhone cost “more than I will make in the remainder of this job, which is 7 years and 4 months,” or more than $1 million dollars. Speaking of exorbitant expenses, why was Comey at this forum in London? Oh, Comey was the headliner for the event? Isn’t that interesting…wonder if that speaking gig came with speaker’s fee?
That’s it for this week’s morning roundups. Hope you have a nice weekend planned ahead of you!
Did you know the tango evolved into a Finnish subgenre? Me neither, and I’m part Finn on my mother’s side of the family. Both my grandmother and great-grandmother spoke Finn at home after their immigration to the U.S., but apparently never passed the language or Finnish music on to my mother and her siblings. The Finnish tango became so popular a festival — the Tangomarkkinat — was established to celebrate it.
The tango makes its way back again, nearly 9000 miles from its origin to Finland, in this music video. The performer featured here is a very popular Argentine tango singer, Martin Alvarado, singing in Spanish a popular Finnish tango, Liljankukka, written by Toivo Kärki. If you search for the same song and songwriter in YouTube, you’ll trip across even more Finnish tango.
Police raid in Belgium today
There were more arrests in Belgium today in connection to Paris attack in November. Not many details yet in the outlets I follow, suggesting information is close to the vest; there was more information very early, which has now moved off feeds, also suggesting tight control of related news. A raid in the southern Brussels suburb of Uccle resulted in the arrest of three persons now being questioned. This raid follows the arrest last Friday of Mohamed Abrini, who has now admitted he is the man seen in security camera video as the ‘man in the hat’ observed just before the bombing of the Brussels’ airport. Thus far, intelligence gathered from suspects and locations indicates a second attack had been planned, attacking the Euro 2016 football championship. Worth noting the media has now been reporting only the given name and a family name first initial for some of those arrested recently.
Up All Night growing, annoying some Parisians
This Occupy movement subset called ‘Up All Night’ or ‘Night Rising’ (Nuit debout) has been rallying during evening hours, protesting austerity-driven labor reforms, France’s continued state of emergency after November’s terrorist attacks, and more. The number of protesters has grown over the last 12 days they have taken to the streets, driven in part by the Panama Papers leak. The crowd has annoyed those navigating the area around the Place de la Republique where the Nuit debout gather. (More here on video.)
Upset over Burr-Feinstein draft bill on encryption continues
The Consumer Technology Association (CTA) issued a statement last night conveying their displeasure with this proposed bill which would mandate compliance with law enforcement access to encrypted digital content. The CTA’s 2200 members include Apple, Google, Microsoft, and any consumer electronic technology manufacturer featured at the annual Consumer Electronics Show each year. This formal statement follows a wave of negative feedback from technology and privacy experts since the draft bill was revealed late last week.
Odds and ends
That’s it, off to mix up my tango with a whiskey foxtrot. See you tomorrow morning!
I am the eye in the sky
Looking at you
I can read your mind
I am the maker of rules
Dealing with fools
I can cheat you blind
— excerpt, Eye in the Sky by Alan Parsons Project
It’s not like I wanted to haul out all my high school and college music, but they sure seem to work well this week.
Speaking of the eye in the sky…
FBI and DHS circle overhead a LOT
Buzzfeed published its findings after looking into FBI and DHS surveillance flight records, finding a lot of planes circling over mosques. The results also looked at flights immediately after the San Bernardino shooting. You know what would be interesting? Comparing that information against the handling timeline for the Apple iPhone issued to Syed Farouk by his employer.
U.S. dealerships sue Volkswagen – but expand on Dieselgate
Not only are three family-owned dealerships suing VW for its fraudulent use of an emissions control defeat system in their diesel passenger vehicles — they are suing because of VW’s financing practices, which steered money away from dealership’s preferred financing while leaving the dealerships stuck with rapidly depreciated business value. The potential losses to VW just swelled by another magnitude.
Iceland’s new PM expects elections this fall
Rather than dissolving the government, the former Prime Minister Sigmundur David Gunnlaugsson’s coalition partners negotiated the appointment of Sigurdur Ingi Johannsson as his replacement after Gunnlaugsson’s Panama Papers-driven resignation. Johannsson said the coalition expects elections this autumn while continuing to focus on working on stability. That’s a nice way of saying the Progressive Party and the Independence Party are stalling for time to avoid a likely rout if elections were held today. Polling indicates the Pirate Party would stomp the other three major parties if a vote was held now.
MP and Official spokesperson of the Pirate Party Birgitta Jónsdóttir was interviewed by Democracy Now! about Iceland’s current political climate. Jonsdottir, a possible contender for PM, explained her country’s reaction to the Panama Papers’ revelations:
…What is in particular disturbing about the prime minister’s conduct in this matter is that the day before new laws took effect in Iceland about how you declare and how tax havens are dealt with, because Iceland is a part of a sort of a campaign, international campaign, to stop tax havens being a part of a solution on how to get away from participating in paying tax in your own country. He signed—his sold his wife his share for one dollar the day before the laws took effect. And that, in itself, seems highly dubious. And then, he has actually been using his wife as a shield and saying that people that are criticizing him are attacking his wife. I actually think that this guy is in some sort of meltdown, because his behavior in the last few days has been so outrageous that it seems like we are stuck in a satire by Dario Fo, you know, in a complete theater of the absurd. And I’m just so deeply humiliated on behalf of my nation that this is what the outside world is looking at. …
The feeling of betrayal is palpable. It’s a good read, do check it out in its entirety.
Wow. It’s coffee break time already? Have at it. Catch you tomorrow morning!
When a problem comes along you must whip it
Before the cream sits out too long you must whip it
When something’s going wrong you must whip it
— excerpt, Whip It by Devo
Can’t tell you how many times I’ve thought of this song in the last couple of days.
Panama Papers fallout
Still not as much reporting showing up in global media as one might expect from a collaborative effort the size of that mustered by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) and German news outlet Süddeutsche Zeitung (SZ) around the leaked Panama Papers. But there is a slowly building debris field accumulating in the leak’s wake.
What will today bring?
Related? Pfizer and Allergan nix their merger
Proposed changes to Treasury Department rules are blamed for the breakup of this corporate marriage, in which Pfizer would have moved its headquarters to Allergan’s location in Ireland to avoid U.S. tax rates. Public sentiment about offshoring after the Panama Papers leak may have clinched this split.
Hollywood hospital paid ransom — $17K in bitcoin, not millions
See the official statement linked in this updated report. Speed and efficiency drove the payment. Given the difference between the original amount reported and the amount paid in ransom, one might wonder if there was a chaining of devices, or if many less important devices will be bricked.
Laser pointed at Pope Francis’ plane over Mexico
Someone pointed a laser at the Pope’s flight just before it landed in Mexico City yesterday, one of the highest profile incidences of “lasering” to date. The incident follows an international flight forced back to Heathrow on Monday after one of its pilots suffered eye injury from a laser. Thousands of laserings happen every year; it’s illegal in the U.S. and the U.K. both, but the U.S. issues much stiffer penalties including fines of $10,000 and prison time. If Mexico doesn’t already treat lasering firmly, it should after this embarrassing and threatening incident.
Air strike on Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières’ Syrian hospital spurs call for investigation
It’s absolutely ridiculous how many MSF medical facilities have been hit air strikes over the last year, the latest west of Aleppo in Syria. MSF has now called for an independent investigation into this latest attack which killed nine medical personnel and more than a dozen patients. This particular strike is blamed on the Syrian government-led coalition, but Russia and the U.S. have also been blamed for attacks on MSF facilities this year, including the hospital in Kunduz, Afghanistan last October. You’d think somebody had it out for MSF specifically.
Is China rousing over Korean peninsula escalation?
Tension spawned by North Korea’s recent nuclear test, missile and satellite launches, as well as South Korea’s pull back from Kaesong industrial complex and U.S. F-22 flyovers have increased rhetoric in media.
Just as it is in the U.S., it’s important to note the origin and politics of media outlets covering China. GBtimes, for example, covers Chinese stories, but from Finland. ~head scratching~
All Apple, all the time
A huge number of stories published over the last 24 hours about Judge Sym’s order to Apple regarding unlocking capability on San Bernardino shooter Syed Farook’s iPhone.
I wonder if this is really a Third Amendment case, given the lack of daylight between the FBI and the U.S. military by way of Joint Terrorism Task Force involvement, and the case at hand in which a non-U.S. citizen’s illegal activities (Farook’s wife Tashfeen Malik) may have triggered related military counterterrorism response. Has the U.S. government, by demanding Apple create code to permit unlocking the shooter’s iPhone, insisted on taking private resources for government use? But I’m not a lawyer. What do I know?
That’s it for now. Thursday, February 18th is also “Teen Missed the Bus Day”; ‘Agapitos’ he is not at the moment. Kid’s going to owe me some time helping with the next morning post.
Drug makers struggle with ‘supply and demand’ concept
Speaking of trouble, the World Economic Forum meets at Davos, Switzerland this week to engage in its annual circus of the wealthy. Big Pharma piped up and said it wants money to develop antibiotics to replace/augment their current lineup to which bugs have become resistant. Extortion, much?
Hello? Your drugs don’t work any longer, which means sales will go down. They don’t work because you oversold them, jackasses. You don’t get to change ‘supply and demand’. Your incentive is and always has been profits, which only happen if you sell a working product. Too bad you screwed your golden goose — and us.
Here’s an idea: in the meantime, the U.S. government should fund a competing government-owned drug research and manufacturing facility the way it funds DARPA. The public will benefit directly from the research it bought, and if private drug companies can do better, even using freely available public research, they can knock themselves out.
Still want incentives? Sure. We get a chunk of the company in exchange for a handout, just like General Motors. Now beat it and get back to research or bean counting, whatever it is you really do.
Speaking of drugs, Chinese caught spying on pharmaceutical firm GlaxoSmithKline
Along with four others, a senior-level manager and biotechnology expert based at Glaxo’s Pennsylvania facility was charged with conspiracy, wire fraud, money laundering, and theft of trade secrets. An interesting spin on this story is the involvement of a twin sibling used in money laundering. Glaxo has been at the heart of a couple other corruption stories in China, including reports of bribery and industrial espionage. These Glaxo-related stories all read like telenovela scripts.
Hey, look! A leaky backdoor built into encrypted phone calls
Shocking, just SHOCKING, that a backdoor might be so flawed that a single master key could allow the holder access to ALL phone calls in an encrypted system. It’s not shocking that GCHQ is pushing this system’s security protocol it developed in-house.
Android phones used for banking may be infected with two-factor defeating malware
Wow. This is pretty creepy. You’d think your voice would be your bond in banking, but it can be used to access your account even though your voice is part of a two-factor authentication system. Android.bankosy is the bug in question; better read this article because it’s pretty complex stuff.
That’s enough trouble for now. Make some of your own.
Video popularity in Facebook’s ‘walled garden’ means change for news outlets
This is not good. This is AOL’s model come full circle. Increasingly Facebook is shutting down access from outside, forcing news outlets to move inside, and to produce video instead of text content in order to fight for attention. Numerous outlets are affected by this trend, including the former AOL (now Huffington Post). The capper is Facebook’s persistent tracking of any users, including those who click on Facebook links. What will this do to general election coverage? Facebook really needs effective competition — stat.
Weather and bad flu season raised French deaths above WWII’s rate
Wow. I knew the flu was bad last year, but this bad? Ditto for Europe’s weather, though the heat wave last summer was really ugly. Combined, both killed more French in one year than any year since the end of World War II, while reducing overall life expectancy.
FDA issues guidelines on ‘Postmarket Management of Cybersecurity in Medical Devices’ for comment
Sure hope infosec professionals jump all over this opportunity to shape policy and regulation. Imagine pacemakers being hacked like a Chrysler 300, or reprogrammed without customer knowledge like a VW diesel, or surveilling user like a Samsung smart TV…
UK’s Cameron says one thing, UK’s arms dealers another with sales of £1Bn arms to Saudi Arabia
Can’t. Even. *mumbles something about pig porker*
“The day after the prime minister [David Cameron] claimed to be ‘trying to encourage a political process in Yemen’ and declared ‘there is no military solution in Yemen’, official figures reveal that in just the three months July to September, the government approved the sale of over £1bn worth of bombs for the use of the Royal Saudi Air Force. …
[Source: The Guardian]
Lack of transparency problematic in fatal French drug trial
Like talking to a brick wall to get answers about the drug involved in one death and five hospitalizations after 94 subjects were given an experimental drug. On the face of it, simultaneous rather than staggered administration may have led to multiple simultaneous reactions.
Canadian immigrant helped two Chinese soldiers attempt theft of U.S. military aircraft plans
You want to know how ‘chaining’ works? Here’s a simple real world example allegedly used to spy on U.S. military aircraft: Identify a key node in a network; identify the node’s key relationships; sniff those connections for content and more key nodes. A Chinese immigrant in aircraft biz, located in Vancouver, shares email addresses of key individuals in the industry with Chinese officers. They, in turn, attempt to hack accounts to mine for plans, which their contact in Vancouver vets.
Now ask yourself whether these key individuals are in or related to anyone in the Office of Personnel Management database.
Ugh. Keep whacking those moles.
Saudi Arabia may sell shares in oil producer Aramco
Listing Aramco could create the most valuable company in the world, worth over a trillion in U.S. dollars. The move may raise cash to pay down some of the Saudi government’s debt, but it opens the oil producer to public scrutiny. Would it be worth the hassle?
With Russia increasingly eating into Aramco’s market share of China, and OECD countries’ oil consumption falling, selling shares in Aramco may not raise enough cash as its revenues may remain flat. Prices for utilities have already been raised within Saudi Arabia, shifting a portion of expenses to the public. What other cash-producing moves might Saudi Arabia make in the next year?
Detroit’s annual Autoshow brings VW’s CEO for more than a visit to tradeshow booth
Looks like Volkswagen’s Matthias Mueller will be tap dancing a lot next week — first at the 2016 North American International Auto Show, which unofficially opens Sunday, and then with the Environmental Protection Agency.
What’s the German word for “mea culpa”? Might be a nice name for a true “clean diesel” vehicle.
Data breaches now so common, court throws out suit
You’re going to have to show more than your privacy was lost if you sue a company for a data breach. Judge Joanna Seybert for U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York dismissed a class action suit against craft supplies retailer Michael’s last week, writing that lead plaintiff “has not asserted any injuries that are ‘certainly impending’ or based on a ‘substantial risk that the harm will occur.” Whalen’s credit card had been used fraudulently, but she wasn’t liable for the charges.
Annoyingly, Clapper v Amnesty International USA was used as precedent, much as it had been in last summer’s suit against Home Depot for a data breach. At this rate, retailers will continue to thumb their noses at protecting their customers’ data, though identity theft-related losses amount to more than all other property theft losses combined [pdf].
Don’t forget China: DOJ raids Chinese hoverboard company’s stall at CES 2016
I can’t find any previous examples of law enforcement conducting a raid at a trade show — if you know of one, please share in comments. The Department of Justice’s raid yesterday on Changzhou First International Trade Co.’s booth at CES 2016 doesn’t appear to have precedent. Changzhou’s hoverboard product looks an awful lot like Future Motion’s Onewheel, which had been the subject of a Kickstarter project. The Chinese hoverboard was expected to market for $500, versus the Onewheel at $1500.
Makes me wonder if there are other examples of internet-mediated crowd-funded technology at risk of intellectual property theft.
Pass the Patron. I’m declaring it tequila-thirty early today.
China halts stock trading after market sinks more than 7%
Second time this week trading has been suspended in China, with free fall blamed on Chinese currency, lower oil prices, economic slowdown. Some also blame North Korea’s nuclear test, but anecdotes from Pacific Rim region suggest news about the test did not receive the same level of attention across Asia as in U.S. Not much feedback at the time this post was written in news media about response to market by China’s leadership.
Richard Perle’s long tail seen in North Korea
Worth revisiting an analysis on North Korea’s nuclear program written last January by Siegfried Hecker of Stanford University’s Center for International Security and Cooperation (CISAC). I agree with Hecker’s assessment, only surprised he didn’t name Richard Perle specifically for the cascade of diplomatic fail on North Korea that began under the Bush administration.
Self-driving cars, now self-driving passenger drones?
At CES 2016, China’s Ehang Inc. showed off a single-passenger drone, launched by commands entered on a tablet. The drone has no backup controls, which sounds scary as hell for a passenger flying 1000-1600 feet above the ground at +60 miles per hour. I can hear George Jetson screaming, “Jane! Stop this crazy thing!” even now. FAA would be insane to permit these devices in the U.S.
Unnamed sources say VW may buy back polluting cars sold in U.S.
This report could be a trial balloon floated by Volkswagen to see if a buy-back or a hefty discount on a new car will appease U.S. owners of so-called “clean diesel” vehicles. Is this really a satisfactory remedy to fraud?
Rethinking Saudi Arabia’s future in a time of cheap oil
Another worthwhile read, if a bit shallow. It’s time to model not only Saudi Arabia’s future, but a global economy no longer dependent on oil; what risks are there for OPEC countries if they cannot depend on increasing oil revenues? Could political instability spread across Central and South America as it has in the Middle East and Africa? How will climate change figure into the equation, as it has in Syria? And then back to economic unease in China, where the market has reacted negatively to lower oil prices.
I’m out of pocket this morning, will check in much later. Talk amongst yourselves as usual.
Yesterday evening, an Antares rocket built and operated by Orbital Sciences Corporation exploded shortly after liftoff. The rocket was intended to ferry supplies and equipment to the International Space Station. Orbital and Spacex have taken over some of the duties supplying the space station since the termination of NASA’s shuttle program.
In the early aftermath of the explosion, word came out that the crash site had to be secured because sensitive cryptographic equipment was on board:
The Cygnus mission was non-military, but the company’s Antares program manager, Mike Pinkston, said the craft included “some classified cryptographic equipment, so we do need to maintain the area around the debris in a secure manner”.
That initially struck me as odd. The International Space Station has a large number of cooperating countries, including Russia. It’s hard to imagine that the US would put sensitive equipment into the hands of cosmonauts right now, given the cool state of US-Russian relations. Of course, it would make sense for ISS communications to be encrypted in order to prevent meddling by hackers, but movement all the way to classified (and presumably military or NSA-level) encryption seems to be excessive.
This morning, we are seeing walk-back on the presence of classified equipment:
Shortly after the explosion, CNN quoted a launch director as saying that the spacecraft contained classified “crypto” equipment, but early Wednesday a NASA spokesman said by email that “We didn’t have any classified items on board.”
In trying to make sense of what could have been behind these strange statements, I ran across this interesting announcement of a new cryptographic technology that European scientists have proposed evaluating in an experiment on the space staion:
A team of European researchers have proposed a series of experiments that, if successful, could turn the International Space Station into a key relay for a quantum communications network.
The key basis of physics underlying quantum communications is entanglement. Entangled particles are connected in a way that pretty much defies common sense. If you change the spin of one of the particles, the spin of its entangled counterpart will change – even if they’re miles apart. And that change happens nearly instantaneously – at least four orders of magnitude faster than the speed of light, according to a recent experiment.
Another remarkable aspect of this technology that sounds almost too good to be true is its potential security. After noting that quantum networks are quite fragile, the Forbes article continues:
But why bother with these networks at all if they’re so fragile? The answer is pretty simple – because they’re almost perfectly secure. Here’s how it works. Let’s say that I want to send a message to New York City. My message is going to travel through normal channels, but it will be encrypted with a key. That key is transmitted via the entangled photons – so the changes I make to entangled particles on my end almost instantly show up in the particles in New York. We then compare the measurements of what I changed in my photons to those states in New York City.
Those measurements then comprise an encryption key for our communications. So even if our communications are bugged, nobody can read them without knowing that encryption key. And here’s the important thing: if somebody were to try to eavesdrop on the quantum entanglement, they would alter the spin of the photons. So the measurements I make and the measurements made in New York would be out of sync – thus letting us know that we have an eavesdropper. It also prevents us from creating an encryption key, so we don’t send any communications. Theoretically, a quantum encrypted network is almost perfectly secure. (That said, they’re not perfect, and there are some exploits.)
The announcement from the European group that they wished to carry out the experiment based on what Einstein called “spooky action over a distance” came last April. Then, in June, it was announced that China had carried out a key demonstration of concept experiment back in 2010 but waited four years to publish the result.
With China announcing progress on the technology, one would think that the West would want to accelerate its work in the area, so it would not be at all surprising if equipment for the European experiment was among the items lost when the rocket exploded. Further, one would expect that Orbital would have been told that security for that equipment would be of the very highest level. In discussing the issue of sensitive equipment among the Antares wreckage, PCWorld this morning mentioned the incident of China perhaps examining the wreckage of the US stealth helicopter that was left behind after the mission to kill Osama bin Laden. It could well be that for this crash site, keeping the debris away from prying eyes from China is behind the call for security. Note also that the experiment quite likely would have been coordinated by the European Space Agency on behalf of the European scientists, so NASA’s claim that “We didn’t have any classified items on board” could be parsed as not applying to any classified items that ESA might have had on the rocket.