2 weeks ago
Monday, June 13 Nine Circles of Hell!
The Nine Circles of Hell! – all the news that gives you fits in print – for Monday, June 13, 2011, are:
Another bank hacked, but Citigroup didn’t tell their customers
The Wall Street Journal
Citi Defends Delay in Disclosing Hacking
Citigroup Inc. waited as long as three weeks to notify credit-card customers of a hacking attack because it was conducting an investigation and producing replacement cards, according to a person familiar with the situation.
The internal investigation took 10 to 12 days and began within 24 hours of the discovery by Citigroup officials in early May that the New York bank’s systems had been breached, this person said. In some cases, Citigroup took action to protect accounts considered vulnerable to fraud.
Citigroup publicly disclosed the security attack last Thursday, saying it affected about 200,000 customers, or 1% of the company’s card users in North America. The company said it had referred the matter to law-enforcement authorities and planned to send replacement cards to a majority of the affected customers.
Some critics have accused Citigroup officials of dragging their feet in notifying customers that some of their data has been compromised. The Senate banking committee is planning hearings on data security. The breach follows other attacks that are fueling concerns among financial regulators and security experts that banks and other companies aren’t doing enough to protect themselves and their customers.
“Every minute that passes after a hacker gains access to customers’ confidential information means a greater risk of both monetary and identity theft,” said Mandeep Khera, an official at Cenzic Inc., an online-security firm in Santa Clara, Calif. Mr. Khera said Citigroup had “done a disservice” to customers because of the delay.
Other recent targets of similar attacks include Sony Corp. and Lockheed Martin Corp. Security experts say financial institutions are a top target. On Saturday, the International Monetary Fund said it had been hit by “a cybersecurity incident.”
Drought is another reason to question hydrofracking
Drought Threatens Texas Oil Boom
The worst Texas drought since record-keeping began 116 years ago may crimp an oil and natural- gas drilling boom as government officials ration water supplies crucial to energy exploration.
In the hardest-hit areas, water-management districts are warning residents and businesses to curtail usage from rivers, lakes and aquifers. The shortage is forcing oil companies to go farther afield to buy water from farmers, irrigation districts and municipalities, said Erasmo Yarrito Jr., the state’s overseer of water supplies from the Rio Grande River.
Concern over water usage is especially acute in southern Texas’s Eagle Ford Shale area because drilling there is more water-intensive than other regions, said Robert Mace, a deputy executive administrator of the Texas Water Development Board.
“It’s pretty dry down here and a lot of oil companies are looking for water,” Mace said.
The water crisis in Texas, the biggest oil- and gas- producing state in the U.S., highlights a continuing debate in North America and Europe over the impact on water supplies of a production technique called hydraulic fracturing. Environmental groups are concerned the so-called fracking method may pose a contamination threat, while farmers in arid regions like south Texas face growing competition for scarce water.
Earthquake, unemployment, rising prices means “anemic” global growth
Roubini Says “Perfect Storm” May Clobber Global Economy
A “perfect storm” of fiscal woe in the U.S., a slowdown in China, European debt restructuring and stagnation in Japan may converge on the global economy, New York University professor Nouriel Roubini said.
There’s a one-in-three chance the factors will combine to stunt growth from 2013, Roubini said in a June 11 interview in Singapore. Other possible outcomes are “anemic but OK” global growth or an “optimistic” scenario in which the expansion improves.
“There are already elements of fragility,” he said. “Everybody’s kicking the can down the road of too much public and private debt. The can is becoming heavier and heavier, and bigger on debt, and all these problems may come to a head by 2013 at the latest.”
Elevated U.S. unemployment, a surge in oil and food prices, rising interest rates in Asia and trade disruption from Japan’s record earthquake threaten to sap the world economy. Stocks worldwide have lost more than $3.3 trillion since the beginning of May, and Roubini said financial markets by the middle of next year could start worrying about a convergence of risks in 2013 …
Roubini is among analysts who predicted the global financial crisis of 2007-2009 that was triggered by a collapse in the value of U.S. mortgage securities.
Some of his other predictions haven’t panned out, including his call on July 4, 2010, for “market surprises on the downside” in ensuing months and a weakening in economic growth. The MSCI World Index rallied 23 percent in the second half of last year, while U.S. gross domestic product gains accelerated to 2.6 percent in the third quarter and 3.1 percent in the fourth quarter from 1.7 percent in the April-to-June period.
- Or as Yahoo! Finance sums up in, “Roubini Says ‘Perfect Storm’ May Clobber Global Economy”:
-The U.S.’s basket-case of an economy and budget deficit,
-A potential slowdown in China,
-European debt restructuring and
-Stagnation in Japan.
Roubini says there’s a one-in-three chance that these factors will clobber growth in 2013.
Now, that sounds terrifying, but it all means there’s a two-in-three chance that everything will be okay. (Roubini’s other two possible scenarios are “anemic growth” and “accelerating growth.”)
US creating stealth internet, cellphones systems overseas
Secret U.S. effort aims to help dissidents: report
The Obama administration is leading a global effort to establish “shadow” Internet and cellphone systems to help dissidents undermine authoritarian governments, the New York Times reported on Sunday.
The effort has quickened since former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak’s government shut down the country’s Internet in the last days of his rule, said the Times report, which cited planning documents, classified diplomatic cables and sources.
The Internet has been used in recent months by anti-government protesters in North Africa and the Middle East to help coordinate demonstrations. Some governments have responded by disabling Internet access.
In one project, the U.S. State Department and Pentagon have spent at least $50 million to create an independent cellphone network in Afghanistan using towers on military bases in the country, the Times said, citing unnamed U.S. officials.
The operation is aimed at counteracting the Taliban insurgency’s ability to shut down official Afghan services, the Times said.
The State Department is also financing creation of stealth wireless networks to enable activists to communicate beyond the reach of governments in countries like Iran, Syria and Libya, the Times said, citing participants in the projects.
FBI tells agents not to worry so much about citizens’ privacy
The New York Times
F.B.I. Agents Get Leeway to Push Privacy Bounds
The Federal Bureau of Investigation is giving significant new powers to its roughly 14,000 agents, allowing them more leeway to search databases, go through household trash or use surveillance teams to scrutinize the lives of people who have attracted their attention.
The F.B.I. soon plans to issue a new edition of its manual, called the Domestic Investigations and Operations Guide, according to an official who has worked on the draft document and several others who have been briefed on its contents. The new rules add to several measures taken over the past decade to give agents more latitude as they search for signs of criminal or terrorist activity.
The F.B.I. recently briefed several privacy advocates about the coming changes. Among them, Michael German, a former F.B.I. agent who is now a lawyer for the American Civil Liberties Union, argued that it was unwise to further ease restrictions on agents’ power to use potentially intrusive techniques, especially if they lacked a firm reason to suspect someone of wrongdoing.
“Claiming additional authorities to investigate people only further raises the potential for abuse,” Mr. German said, pointing to complaints about the bureau’s surveillance of domestic political advocacy groups and mosques and to an inspector general’s findings in 2007 that the F.B.I. had frequently misused “national security letters,” which allow agents to obtain information like phone records without a court order.
Israeli rights groups that cooperated with Goldstone may no longer get National Service volunteers
A new initiative could deprive Israeli human rights organizations that cooperated with the Goldstone Commission from benefiting from National Service civilian volunteers.
Behind the initiative is MK Israel Hasson (Kadima ), who recently asked Prof. Daniel Hershkowitz (Habayit Hayehudi), the minister responsible for the National Service administration, to formulate new criteria for determining which organizations in the country are eligible to receive National Service volunteers, as part of new legislation that will govern the activities of the National Service.
After conducting an initial investigation, Hershkowitz discovered that among those organizations that receive National Service volunteers are the Association for Civil Rights Israel (ACRI ), Amnesty Israel, The Public Committee Against Torture in Israel and Physicians for Human Rights Israel. Hasson’s initiative comes on the heels of similar attempts to impinge on the activities of Israeli organizations that provided information to the Goldstone Commission, while it was compiling its report on IDF activities in Gaza during Operation Cast Lead.
Ever since the Im Tirtzu movement published a list of such organizations, focusing in particular on support they received from the New Israel Fund, a number of MKs have put forward proposals aimed at cutting their funding …
The Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI) was not surprised by the new initiative. According to Hagai El-Ad, Executive Director, “Hasson’s initiative joins in with Yisrael Beitenu’s Parliamentary Inquiry Committees and other recent legislative initiatives, in a similar spirit. Several MKs have chosen the persecution of human rights NGOs as a goal – just because these organizations fulfill their societal roles – to criticize government policy when it harms human rights.” He added that “we will fight these anti-democratic initiatives while continuing our activities promoting equality, social justice, an end to the occupation, human rights and democracy.”
Israel to destroy 35 ‘illegal’ Bedouin villages
Israel to destroy ‘illegal’ Bedouin villages
Human rights groups have denounced an Israeli government plan to destroy 35 Bedouin villages that it has declared illegal in the Negev desert.
The move – reportedly planned to enable the building of homes for 10,000 people – threatens the livelihoods of Bedouins who have been living in the area for 60 years.
Anonymous hackers clash with Spanish police
Anonymous Hackers Claim Retaliatory Attack On Spain Police
A group of hackers tied to a series of security breaches on websites across the world said Sunday it attacked the Spanish police’s main website in retaliation for the recent arrest of three alleged members of the group.
In a statement sent to local media and posted on several websites, alleged representatives of the “Anonymous” group said they plan to keep the fight against Spain’s “corrupt” state.
They also rejected police claims that the three who were detained across Spain are in any way leaders of the movement, saying “Anonymous” has no leadership. Police released the three after being charged Friday.
“Our minds, ideas and words are our weapons. Police has no other obligation than protecting the people,” the statement written in Spanish said. “And the people can’t be protected from itself.”
The statement added that “Anonymous” attacked the police website at 2230 GMT, in a denial-of-service attempt to put the website offline. That attack came after police said it has no evidence that the detained were tied to a high-profile theft of Sony customers’ data earlier this year, but added the three tried to steal and publish what it called “sensitive data” about Spanish politicians and policemen.
Police also said the trio was looking to release the data on Web pages set up by sympathizers of ETA, the terrorist group that has been seeking Basque independence and suspected to have killed over 800 people over the last four decades. Earlier claims said that the three who were detained had helped to coordinate massive attacks on international websites.
In response, Anonymous said Sunday that it seeks to defend freedom of expression and transparency, from a pacifist standpoint. “We are not terrorists. We are citizens fighting for rights that have been coerced,” the statement said.
The detentions have caused a controversy in Spain, where many messages in support of the hackers have been posted in social networks and chat rooms. Many of these supporters criticized the police’s description of the detainees, mocking the idea that they are in any way leading Anonymous’ activities. The most prominent of these expressions of support came from Real Democracy Now, a loosely organized group that has been coordinating protests against political corruption and economic austerity measures.
US sends North Korean ship allegedly carrying missile technology home
The New York Times
U.S. Said to Turn Back North Korea Missile Shipment
The United States Navy intercepted a North Korean ship it suspected of carrying missile technology to Myanmar two weeks ago and, after a standoff at sea and several days of diplomatic pressure from Washington and Asia nations, forced the vessel to return home, according to several senior American officials.
Washington made no announcement about the operation, which paralleled a similar, far more public confrontation with North Korea two years ago. But in response to questions about what appears to be a growing trade in missiles and missile parts between North Korea and Myanmar — two of the world’s most isolated governments — American officials have described the episode as an example of how they can use a combination of naval power and diplomatic pressure to enforce United Nations sanctions imposed after the North’s last nuclear test, in 2009.
It was a rare victory: a similar shipment of suspected missile parts made it to Myanmar last year before American officials could act. Despite the Obama administration’s efforts to squeeze North Korea with both economic and trade sanctions, there are continuing reports of sophisticated missile technology exchanges, some of it by air, between North Korea and Iran, among other nations.
North Korea, aware that shipments leaving the country are under increased scrutiny, has found a profitable trading partner in the authoritarian government in Myanmar.
The extent of that trade is unclear to American intelligence agencies. Two years ago, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton publicly expressed suspicions that Myanmar was attempting to purchase nuclear weapons technology, but it recently said it was too poor to use such technology. And the evidence has been scant at best. (In 2009, India inspected a North Korean ship that was believed to be carrying equipment for a nuclear reactor to Myanmar, but quickly discovered that its contents were legal.)
The most recent episode began after American officials tracked a North Korean cargo ship, the M/V Light, that was believed to have been involved in previous illegal shipments. Suspecting that it was carrying missile components, they dispatched a Navy vessel, the destroyer McCampbell, to track it.
“This case had an interesting wrinkle: the ship was North Korean, but it was flagged in Belize,” one American official said, meaning it was registered in that Central American nation, perhaps to throw off investigators.
But Belize is a member of the Proliferation Security Initiative, an effort begun by President George W. Bush’s administration to sign up countries around the world to interdict suspected unconventional weapons. It is an effort that, like the military and C.I.A. drone programs, Mr. Obama has adopted, and one of the rare areas where he has praised his predecessor.
According to American officials, the authorities in Belize gave permission to the United States to inspect the ship.