Thursday: Hotter than Hell

Have a little indie synthpop if your day isn’t hot enough. The artist Dua Lipa lives in London; she originally moved to the United Kingdom in the 1990s with her parents who are Kosovar-Albanian. Imagine a UK to which artists like Lipa cannot easily immigrate.

Money, money, money

  • HSBC’s global head of Forex trading in London arrested at JFK on Tuesday (Bloomberg) — Mark Johnson was picked up before his flight by the feds; his counterpart, Stuart Scott, HSBC’s former head of currency trading in Europe, has also been charged with Johnson for conspiracy to manipulate currency based on insider information. The transaction on which the case is based took place in 2011, earning HSBC $8 million on a $3.1 billion deal. Gee, I wonder if these guys worked the pre- and post-Brexit fall of the pound.
  • Mastercard snaps up UK’s VocaLink for $920M (Businesswire) — Should probably keep a tally of UK businesses bought while pound is still down from pre-referendum highs. VocaLink gives Mastercard huge reach in payroll and household bill processing across UK and access to a substantive majority of UK consumer data.
  • Subzero bond yields: who’d have predicted this? (Bloomberg) — Analysis of overall trends this year, including flights to safety and their effect on the market. Still trying to wrap my head around subzero bond yields; does this make sense to pay for safekeeping without expectation of increase in value at the end? What might this do to consumption and growth?

Daily dose of cyber

  • Forbidden Research: fixing “leaky” cellphones (MIT Media Lab) — Electrical engineer/hacker Andrew “bunnie” Huang and NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden published a paper presented at today’s MIT’s Forbidden Research event, outlining their work countering surveillance abuse by law enforcement. Journalists in particular are targets for surveillance; their cellphones “leak” all kinds of information about them and their location which airplane mode does not shield. Huang and Snowden propose a method for monitoring radio transmissions by a cellphone, including GPS, and a means for killing the transmissions. Abstract here, and the paper itself here. Very straightforward reads even for the non- to low-tech audience.
  • Dead man’s prints brought back from the dead (Fusion) — Law enforcement approached a Michigan State University professor Anil Jain and his PhD student Sunpreet Arora and asked them to recreate a dead man’s fingerprints in order to unlock his phone. There are few details disclosed about the case — not even which law enforcement agency made the ask — but the phone belonged to a murder victim and may contain information about his murderer. Or so the story says.
  • UK’s largest internet provider suffers two days of massive outages (TechRadar) — Outages have been blamed on power failures, but no additional information offered on reasons for power loss. Coincidentally, a C1 solar flare which began on July 17 caused radio disruption and aurora over the last 15-24 hours — might have made the situation worse.
  • France’s National Data Protection Commission says Microsoft Windows 10 operating system gathers too much personal data (Libération + BetaNews) — Surprised La Commission nationale de l’informatique et des libertés (CNIL) haven’t cuffed up Microsoft sooner given every version of Windows “phoned home” within information about its users and devices when patching and updating. Why is it Windows 10 in particular doesn’t comply with their Data Protection Act — is it the sniffing of users’ navigation data? Microsoft responded to CNIL’s complaint, not denying the claim but only saying it will work with CNIL on a solution. Right, then.

Tonight’s dinner and a movie: Jujubes and Ghostbusters. Yum. Stay cool, look after elderly neighbors and pets who need a reprieve from the heat.

Blogger since 2002, political activist since 2003, geek since birth. Opinions informed by mixed-race, multi-ethnic, cis-female condition, further shaped by kind friends of all persuasions. Sci-tech frenemy, wannabe artist, decent cook, determined author, successful troublemaker. Mother of invention and two excessively smart-assed young adult kids. Attended School of Hard Knocks; Rather Unfortunate Smallish Private Business School in Midwest; Affordable Mid-State Community College w/evening classes. Self-employed at Tiny Consulting Business; previously at Large-ish Chemical Company with HQ in Midwest in multiple marginalizing corporate drone roles, and at Rather Big IT Service Provider as a project manager, preceded by a motley assortment of gigs before the gig economy was a thing. Blogging experience includes a personal blog at the original blogs.salon.com, managing editor for a state-based news site, and a stint at Firedoglake before landing here at emptywheel as technology’s less-virginal-but-still-accursed Cassandra.
35 replies
  1. bloopie2 says:

    On the Huang and Snowden research, The Intercept has a longer article that explains quite well the basic concept of the technology they are hoping to use. I find it fascinating (and scary) that there are so many of these issues/problems involved—this particular problem being, the fact that there is malware around that can disable your “airplane mode” function so that you can’t really turn off all the “radios” that your smartphone uses to communicate—and thus they can still track you.
    .
    https://theintercept.com/2016/07/21/edward-snowdens-new-research-aims-to-keep-smartphones-from-betraying-their-owners/

  2. bloopie2 says:

    “Recreate a dead man’s fingerprints in order to unlock his phone”. Great cite, thank you. And, “yikes”. We have known for some time now that a fingerprint good enough to unlock a device can be created from a photograph of the finger. But take it one step farther: Should the cops be allowed, under the fourth Amendment, to recreate your finger from their booking fingerprints (technology as old as the hills), and then unlock your phone without your consent? The argument would be, of course, that you knew that it could be done, and you still chose to enable the “fingerprint unlocking” feature. Takeaway: For now, plain old, hard to guess passwords are still the best. Some examples.
    .
    https://theintercept.com/2016/02/18/passcodes-that-can-defeat-fbi-ios-backdoor/
    .
    https://www.eff.org/deeplinks/2016/07/new-wordlists-random-passphrases
    .
    .https://theintercept.com/2015/03/26/passphrases-can-memorize-attackers-cant-guess/

    • bloopie2 says:

      Good, agree. I should have noted that these guys seem to be searching for a solution that allows you to simultaneously (1) turn off all the radios so you can’t be tracked and (2) continue doing the non-radio things you can do with your smartphone–take photographs, record video or audio, take notes, compose text, use certain maps, manage schedules–many of which you can’t do when your phone’s in the bag (or, for that matter, when You are half in the bag). Would only be needed for a certain subset of your time, but still could be a potentially useful trick.

    • earlofhuntingdon says:

      Yep. Faraday bags, wallets, envelopes and brief cases are excellent for cell phones, computers, wireless access and rfid credit cards. They block gps as well as cell signals, which, of course, reappear when the device is removed for use. The on/off pattern, however, may lead to the device or sim card numbers being logged as suspicious. Still, it deprives listeners of foot-by-foot movement from gps. When used for credit cards, they prevent rfid chip readers in stores from listening in.

  3. rugger9 says:

    I find it interesting that the banksters did not respond to the shot across their bow after 2008’s self-inflicted meltdown. A less arrogant person would realize just how good a deal AG Holder gave them and laid low. However, it seems personal stacks of money is an ego issue for these guys and so no amount will ever be enough or delivered quickly enough.
    *
    I’m sure they are profiting (even now) from the Brexit convulsions. Scum.

  4. rugger9 says:

    I keep seeing Senator Professor Warren being touted as HRC’s VP choice. On policy terms she would be an excellent choice and would keep HRC on the left track, but she needs to stay in the Senate as a Senator for two reasons:
    1. The GOP governor of MA gets to replace her (probably with Scott Brown), making it harder to gain control of the Senate,
    2. The VP is not a member of the Senate, just the President of the Senate only allowed to cast tiebreaking votes. It is much better to have SPW on CSPAN roasting the various toadies of the banking “industry” about their ripoffs, manipulations and Ponzi schemes with some hope that legislation might get passed to fix this fundamental flaw in capitalism.
    *
    Kaine and Vilsack are poor choices, for various reasons (Vilsack ejected one of his Ag department officials based on doctored videos, and she refused to come back to work for a spineless weasel; Kaine is a Wall Street toadie) but I don’t know enough about some of the others (Perez?). While Indiana’s governor gorilla Pence was allegedly a “safe” corporate choice with “base credibility”, it’s clear from the lesson Bernie (and SPW) taught us that the “safe” incremental slow change idea is not going to fly in 2016.
    *
    If Cruz was better liked by his colleagues perhaps the 2016 snub would translate to 2020 traction. However, the only real reason “Tailgunner” chickenhawk Ted snubbed Herr Drumpf was that the Donald went after Ted’s wife and father and Cruz is one that holds a grudge. He’s just as fundamentally unprincipled otherwise as the rest of the GOP if it profits him. Watch this guy, he does have very strong political acumen for organizing a campaign, even if his message is antediluvian.

  5. rugger9 says:

    Perhaps Laura’s radio show needs to be trolled with callers responding to her salute as the average Jugend would.
    *
    If you look at the full picture, Trump is making the salute as well on the video board and she’s responding to that.

  6. omphaloscepsis says:

    Re subzero bond yields (understand the arithmetic, will never comprehend the financial part):

    http://www.latimes.com/business/la-fi-negative-interest-rates-20160219-story.html

    “29 February 2016

    Negative interest rates for certain funds already is the new normal in some of the most advanced economies. Since 2012, central banks in Denmark, Switzerland, Sweden and the 19-nation Euro-zone have cut rates below zero, meaning commercial banks must pay them to park the cash they hold for clearing purposes and to meet minimum reserve requirements.

    Last month, the Bank of Japan joined the club, adopting a minus 0.1% rate on commercial bank deposits.

    How well negative interest rates have worked is debatable, but most economists think they’ve had some success in Europe. Lowering rates below zero has helped to stem the appreciation of Swedish and Swiss currencies and significantly push down the value of the euro against the dollar, a boost for exporters in the single-currency zone.”

    http://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2016-06-26/brexit-adds-380-billion-to-global-negative-yielding-bond-pile

    “June 26, 2016

    A flight to safer assets by global investors after Britain’s decision to the quit the European Union has added $380 billion to the pile of negative-yielding government bonds.

    There are now $8.73 trillion of securities with yields below zero globally, according to the Bloomberg World Sovereign Bond Indexes, up from $8.35 trillion before the vote. In the euro-area, German benchmark bonds with maturities out to 10 years are negative, while Japanese 10-year yields reached a record-low of minus 0.215 percent on Friday.

    German 10-year yields fell to as low as minus 0.17 percent on Friday, the lowest since Bloomberg began collecting the data in 1989, while two-year yields dropped to a record minus 0.74 percent. The 10-year yield was at minus 0.08 percent as of 7:40 a.m. London time on Monday.”

    http://blogs.wsj.com/moneybeat/2015/02/02/why-all-the-talk-of-negative-bond-yields/

    “Feb 2, 2015

    As much as €1.5 trillion ($1.7 trillion) of euro area debt maturing in more than a year now pays a negative yield, according to J.P. Morgan. That compares to none whatsoever a year ago.

    Central banks have reacted to deflation fears by aggressively easing monetary policy, such as cutting deposit rates into negative territory. This has helped the stockpile of negative-yielding bonds to balloon worldwide to $3.6 trillion – or 16% of global government bond markets.

    http://www.ft.com/negative-interest-rates

    Note the growth in less than a year and a half, $3.6 T to $8.7 T.

  7. bevin says:

    ” The artist Dua Lipa lives in London; she originally moved to the United Kingdom in the 1990s with her parents who are Kosovar-Albanian. Imagine a UK to which artists like Lipa cannot easily immigrate…”

    So what does this mean? Neither Serbia or Albania were EU members when Lipa moved to the UK. I suspect that her parents were political refugees so the procedures for their entry had nothing to do with the EU.
    This obsession on your part with ‘Brexit’ is unhealthy. If you have any substantive arguments to make (Lanchester’s current article in the LRB has a few) let us hear them but please spare us these constant and not very sensible references to the matter.

    • bevin says:

      “…There are, and will continue to be, many implications of the momentous Brexit vote; but one implication that has got less media coverage than it deserves is how it further impedes and complicates TTIP negotiations. In an article for one of the most influential organisations in the UK, the Royal Institute for International Affairs (or Chatham House), Geo-Economics Fellow, Marianne Schneider-Petsinger, admits that the Brexit vote is a “serious blow” to the chances of TTIP being concluded in the immediate future. Petsinger argues that as Britain was one of greatest advocates for TTIP within the EU, the US has lost an important partner who shares Washington’s fervour for corporate fascism. Petsinger adds that even though a British exit from the EU will severely delay negotiations, TTIP will still survive the vote…..”

      So that’s good isn’t it?
      It may even start a movement that will make the TPP hard to impose on a reluctant public.

      • wayoutwest says:

        I think you are mistaking this non binding vote that may never be acted on for real political power. It has upset the PTB in Europe but the same elites are and will be making the decisions about what’s best for the proles and themselves.

        If the Exit voters donned Guy Fawkes masks and rolled barrels of gunpowder under the House of Commons they might get some respect but that’s not likely so they will be hung out to dry.

        • John Casper says:

          You wrote, “If the Exit voters donned Guy Fawkes masks and rolled barrels of gunpowder under the House of Commons they might get some respect but that’s not likely so they will be hung out to dry.”

          25. Are you you encouraging or condoning violence?

          Regardless, you should apologize. You should request it be deleted.

  8. Porsupah says:

    Re the BT outage, from https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=12127707:

    “It’s a power outage in Telecity Harbour Exchange, from the LINX mailing list this morning:

    08:12
    – We are currently experiencing an outage impacting some of our equipment located at Telecity/Equinix Harbour Exchange in London. It is impacting both the Juniper and Extreme LANs.
    – We are still investigating to get further information, but we have lost all management access to the devices at the moment.

    08:45
    – We have had confirmation from Telecity/Equinix that there was indeed a partial loss of power impacting one of the power feeds.
    – Power failed at 07:55 BST and was restored at 08:17 BST for the majority of our equipment.
    – Unfortunately one of our edge routers (edge4-tch) on the Juniper LAN is still down at the moment.

    09:33
    – Power to edge4-tch has also been restored now. The router has been back up since 9:15 BST.
    – All member services should be restored.
    – We have an engineer on site and are working with Telecity/Equinix to understand why we lost all power to that device.
    – We are also waiting for a full report from Telecity/Equinix about the cause of the power failure.”

  9. Rayne says:

    bevin — Policing what any contributor at this site writes: Fuck off. We write what we want to write. Don’t like it? Make use of the back button.

  10. Rayne says:

    Porsupah (8:06) — Thanks much for the Ycomb link, the user’s post of links to history of BT outages at bottom of page is very interesting. If I ever manage a little free time I may try to map those on a timeline against solar storm events.

    Funny how inadequate the explanation of outages’ (plural) root causes — a faulty UPS and a tripped circuit breaker. What happened to failover power sources and parallel redundant systems?

    And why did the failures happen first thing in the morning, when overall grid power consumption is lower compared to later in the day?

    Still doesn’t add up.

    • rugger9 says:

      I’m sure there’s redundancy built in to the grid, since in the long term unreliability gets punished by the market. With that said, systems designed and built by humans will fail on occasions and its a fundamental tenet of chaos theory as well as the reason for the Keep It Simple engineering maxim. Back when I ran nuclear power plants we had ABTs for circuit transfer when buses lost power, which would sometimes hold up between disconnect and reconnect just long enough to cause subsequent problems. Not unsafe, but very annoying and due to a simple mechanical fault. One also covers the load centers in dusty areas such as the “Arabian” Gulf (we weren’t allowed to use the word Persian then in official descriptions), because you’d get fires if you didn’t. One last example of fate jumping is comes from my second civilian job, where during an audit a squirrel blew itself up in the site transformer right next to the building where cages to prevent squirrel access were manufactured. So, in spite of our best design efforts, nature will remind us that we aren’t perfect, or that we covered every possibility.
      *
      A more modern example is in the self-driving vehicles we have in Silly-con Valley which while technologically interesting are still constrained by detection issues, so that a mall robot ran over a toddler last week (dents only).
      *
      As for the low power timing it appears counterintuitive until one understands the many ways a signal-to-noise trigger can be set (such as a percentage rise or a specific voltage or current shift, which can be magnified in low load situations). It reminded me of something years ago, where there were shutdowns on a critical power system that were due to the signal issued by a routine bus transfer that in the middle of the night stood out while during the day the voltage blip was buried under the rest of the power flow.
      *
      So, while the infrequent, random occurrence is no particular cause for alarm, patterns do need to be tracked and root causes examined. This is what should be looked for, wherever it leads.

  11. Rayne says:

    omphaloscepsis (5:47) — The cost of securing cash makes obvious sense — vaults aren’t free, and losses on investments can be written off here — but at what point is stashing the cash more expensive than investment? Entire situation says something about overall economic condition when investors find more value in sitting on cash than investing in equities.

    • wayoutwest says:

      Rayne, you can’t actually think that this ‘cash’ being discussed is actual paper currency needing vaults for its storage. Cash of this type has long been nothing more than numbers on a computer screen, paper cash is what little people use and that is growing rarer.

      Charging for storing these numbers is just an indicator of the deflationary spiral the world economy is trapped in today. Sitting on cash even if there is a charge may also show that these large investors know what is coming and always happens to stock market bubbles. Mort Zukerman was asked about his investments not long after the ’08 collapse and he replied that he had converted most of his investments into ‘cash’ before the bubble burst.

      • John Casper says:

        You wrote, “Rayne, you can’t actually think that this ‘cash’ being discussed is actual paper currency needing vaults for its storage.”

        “Why Interest Rates Could Fall as Low as Negative 0.50%
        Rates could go as low as -0.5% before investors start hoarding cash in vaults around the world.”

        “The Bank of Canada estimates that the true lower bound for interest rates is actually negative 0.5%. That is to say that at any negative rate above negative 0.5% per year, cash-rich institutions would prefer to store cash in negative-yielding government bonds or bank accounts than keep it in a vault.

        The bank went on to say that “[c]ash storage costs, including direct costs of storage and insurance costs, are approximately equivalent to 25 to 50 bps per year. Wholesale storage pricing does not vary much with denomination; instead, it is largely driven by insurance costs.”

        http://www.fool.com/investing/2016/07/19/why-interest-rates-could-fall-as-low-as-negative-0.aspx

        • wayoutwest says:

          I forgot about the one huge industry that might need the Bankster’s vaults to store their laundered paper cash, that would be the illicit Drug Industry and the security and other agencies who enable and profit from that trade. They are also investors who some people say propped up the banks after the ’08 crash until the bailout was implemented.

          Catherine Austin Fitts estimates this is at least a $500 Billion a year cash-flow into US banks alone, every year.

          • John Casper says:

            26. Did you, forget, about writing, “Rayne, you can’t actually think that this ‘cash’ being discussed is actual paper currency needing vaults for its storage,” too?
            .
            Per the 1:53 link, you’re wrong. It’s being “discussed.”

  12. Rayne says:

    wayoutwest (1:20) — Actually, yeah, I do — not all capital is locked up in vaults, hello Bitcoin, tankers filled with oil floating off Indonesia’s coast, and real estate, so on — but there was an NPR piece within the last 48 hours where they talked about actual vaults. Still need them for gold, currency, bearer bonds, gems, so on.

  13. Rayne says:

    John Casper (1:53) — Gonna’ be some serious pressure on cash-generating businesses if rates continue to fall, no matter what the cost to institutions. Wonder how many more forms of gambling will pop up near term? Or more illegal drugs?

  14. Rayne says:

    rugger9 (12:45) — They’d better do more about the root cause analysis not just with the failures but the lack of prompt failover. I worked for a Fortune 100 company which would not have tolerated this kind of sustained outage and was adequately prepared not to do so. Why should so many affected customers tolerate such a lack of transparency and inadequate communication?

    It does say something that we don’t see these kinds of repeated outages with the same provider in U.S., in comparison with BT which had at least (8) major outages inside two years. Our internet here may be gawdawful slow, but our biggest ISPs have stable uptime.

  15. rugger9 says:

    8 major outages would for me qualify as a pattern of low competence as well as a systemic set of root causes (1 or more). Now the question is whether it is intentional policy (of sabotage or neglect) or gross negligence. I’ll offer two examples here.
    *
    The first is in the PG&E trial where institutional neglect (maximizing their bonuses on the executive level, aided by a captured PUC) created the conditions where the city of San Bruno blew up and PG&E has been dodging accountability ever since. So, they are in a criminal trial (the company, not the executives) with a fine hanging over their heads that will of course be paid by the ratepayers whether or not it’s officially blessed (e.g. no clawback of the bonuses). This at the moment classifies in my constitutionally protected opinion as an official policy of neglect from what has been reported for evidence (most of the worst was suppressed in pre-trial motions as inflammatory).
    *
    The second is the Flint water situation where the Emergency Manager imposed by Governor Snyder (a conscious decision) changed water sources for Flint in spite of warnings, clear evidence of problems and a cheaper alternative that would have avoided the outcome (all conscious choices, the last the worst since cost was the SOLE reason to switch in the first place), which (IMCPO) classifies this as an act of sabotage. Whether Snyder and his cronies go to trial for murder is unknown but not likely because IOKIYAR always applies.
    *
    The Romans had the saying (IIRC): “Let justice be done, though the heavens fall”. We’ll see if there is political will to have real accountability.

  16. rugger9 says:

    Speaking of IOKIYAR, imagine if HRC had left NATO twisting in the wind like Drumpf did, because the GOP likes to think of themselves as tough guys standing up to the Reds / Muslims / Chinese / boogeyman-du-jour evenas they elect chickenhawks to Congress. The s&^%$$$&tshow would be like in a Grateful Dead concert with its “wall of sound” for months on end. Whether alternative states of awareness would be needed to make sense of the message I’ll leave to your imagination, but we can agree that the Trumpies live in an alternate but unreal universe. One of the more damaging legacies of the Shrub administration (I’m not sure if it was Darth Cheney or Rummy that said it) was the idea that the WH could “create its own reality”, and that’s the principle they operated under with disastrous effects for America.

  17. wayoutwest says:

    This ‘paper cash’ storage story is interesting and may inadvertently have exposed a darker story linked to who needs to store paper money in quantities that require vaults. Large paper cash flow businesses don’t need to store that cash most of it just flows through the system and the profits should be turned into regular deposits which are used by writing checks or doing transfers all sans paper cash. This type of business is one of the main conduits for laundering illicit drug and possibly arms sales profits through cooperative banks and this piling up of actual cash in storage vaults may indicate that the laundering process is overloaded and the final stage of turning illegal cash into legal investment funds is stalled.

    The need to store gold or other valuables in vaults is easily understood but legally obtained cash is too easy to convert into deposits and use in the normal electronic transfer system so something stinks about this cash stuffed into vaults. These stories seem to be mostly about bonds, national and corporate which I doubt are often actually printed on paper like US savings bonds so the mention of the cash in vaults seems strange.

    • John Casper says:

      You wrote, “This ‘paper cash’ storage story is interesting and may inadvertently have exposed a darker story linked to who needs to store paper money in quantities that require vaults.”

      27. So, you’re admitting that what you wrote at 1:20 pm, “Rayne, you can’t actually think that this ‘cash’ being discussed is actual paper currency needing vaults for its storage,” was completely wrong?

  18. omphaloscepsis says:

    One story on a large cash transfer is in this 2007 memo by Henry Waxman (no longer accessible from the House Committee website):

    http://www.globalsecurity.org/military/library/congress/2007_hr/070206-memo.pdf

    “Between March 19,2003, when U.S. forces invaded Iraq, and June 28,2004, when the
    U.S.-run Coalition Provisional Authority turned power over to the interim Iraqi government, U.S. officials disbursed or obligated nearly $20 billion in Iraqi funds, including nearly $12 billion in cash. . . .

    Nearly half of the currency shipped into Iraq under U.S. direction — more than $5
    billion — flowed into the country in the final six weeks before control of Iraqi funds was returned to the interim Iraqi government on June 28, 2004. In the week before the transition, CPA officials ordered urgent disbursements of more than $4 billion in U.S. currency from the Federal Reserve, including one shipment of $2.4 billion — the largest shipment of cash in the bank’s history. In total, more than 281 million individual bills — including more than 107 million $100 bills — weighing 363 tons were shipped to Iraq.”

    If you open Waxman’s memo and scroll down, there’s a photo on pg. 6 of a geezer guarding some of the cash. Each pallet contains $64,000,000.

    “A standard pallet of U.S. currency contains 640 bundles of 1,000 bills and weighs 1,500 pounds.”

    • wayoutwest says:

      There were reports about much of that cash being syphoned off and flown out of Iraq to banks around the world to be laundered and converted into clean deposits and investment funds. I would imagine the Treasury knows where at least some of this cash reentered the system and what banks were involved.

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