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Just Following Orders

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“In a democracy people get the leaders they deserve.” (Joseph de Maistre)

The President recently reversed his own decision to separate children from their parents after crossing into the United States, an action that the United Nations office of human rights condemned as a violation of basic human rights of children. They weren’t alone. The Pope spoke out citing such a disgraceful policy as contrary to Catholic values, and immoral. The Methodist Church called it child abuse and racism. Other religious leaders echoed this sentiment. Business leaders spoke out publicly condemning it. All five living first ladies spoke out against it. It was clear to the world that the United States, under the direction of the Donald Trump administration, was committing violations of human rights of children. Yes, it was disgusting and disgraceful, and the world was ashamed of us. Yes, I blame the Trump administration as the root cause of it. I also blame the people that carried it out, who all too often get away with no accountability.

Such a mandate to violate human rights should have never gotten past the awful leadership call. The problem is that any nation is, to some degree, a reflection of society. Many of the problems we see in our current administration are merely a mirror image of at least a portion of our population, and this was proof of that. When it comes to acts that intentionally cause lasting psychological damage to children, such as those that were reported when this hit mainstream media, it was only possible because there were people willing to follow those orders. Government employees on payroll, with mortgages, living in our neighborhoods – willing to follow orders to do what were later condemned by many as human rights violations. We should be in sackcloth and ashes as a nation over this.

We’ll likely never see those people prosecuted. jailed, or even named, and with the President’s executive order to reverse this policy, the bleeding is beginning to stop. This brief window into ICE / CBP / DHS, however showed us something about our own government and some of the people in it. There are many great people working in our government. There are clearly also many willing to violate human rights when given orders to. Lots of them, in fact. It begs the question of what other crimes against human rights are they willing to commit if given the order?

The child separation policy was a test of our grit as Americans. I’m very proud that so many stood up against it, and I am sure that there are many good men and women in law enforcement who did too. It was, however, also a test of our inner government agencies to see how far they could push their own employees to commit such acts, and we know that many did follow their orders. Those that did not refuse such orders and quit their job failed an important test of their character, and have no business serving the people. Next time, the orders may be worse. Agents that follow such orders and keep telling themselves, “next time” will always follow those orders: the line just keeps moving until it is no longer visible.

Over my time working with government, I’ve come to know many amazing human beings who do good work and keep us safe. The people who forcefully ripped children away from their parents and locked them in cages were not deserving of the badge. Those people should, in my opinion, be charged and prosecuted for crimes against human rights, to set an example that America won’t stand for this kind of behavior. We should all take this as a serious warning that there are those in our society who are capable of such things, and rectify the situation before it gets worse. America should not be capable of this. Yet we have been, historically. If left unchecked and unrepentant, we may one day find ourselves not far from repeating the atrocities of our own history as a country.

This exercise should have been a wakeup call that we are in a potentially dangerous place.

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jimwise
1 day ago
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Elon Musk in Company-Wide Email: Tesla Employee Conducted ‘Extensive and Damaging Sabotage’

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Elon Musk, in a company-wide email:

The full extent of his actions are not yet clear, but what he has admitted to so far is pretty bad. His stated motivation is that he wanted a promotion that he did not receive. In light of these actions, not promoting him was definitely the right move.

However, there may be considerably more to this situation than meets the eye, so the investigation will continue in depth this week. We need to figure out if he was acting alone or with others at Tesla and if he was working with any outside organizations.

As you know, there are a long list of organizations that want Tesla to die. These include Wall Street short-sellers, who have already lost billions of dollars and stand to lose a lot more. Then there are the oil & gas companies, the wealthiest industry in the world — they don’t love the idea of Tesla advancing the progress of solar power & electric cars. Don’t want to blow your mind, but rumor has it that those companies are sometimes not super nice. Then there are the multitude of big gas/diesel car company competitors. If they’re willing to cheat so much about emissions, maybe they’re willing to cheat in other ways?

This story is crazy.

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jimwise
4 days ago
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(!)
reconbot
3 days ago
I believe it
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Tracking Scripts Make The Verge 6 Times Slower

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Marcel Freinbichler, from the same thread on Twitter:

The Verge shows a tracking-consent message when visiting the site from the EU. Most people will click “I Accept” to make it go away, but if you don’t and hide the message via CSS, you won’t be tracked and the site is way faster:

32 vs 5 secs load time

61 vs 2 JS files

2 vs 1 MB

Brutal.

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jimwise
6 days ago
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Lol
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‘Do You Know What Fernet Is? It’s a Terrible Thing.’

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I laughed my way through this interview with my friend Lê, owner of Hop Sing Laundromat, by Philly Mag’s Victor Fiorillo:

One spirit I cannot stand… is — wait a minute. You’re trying to get me in fucking trouble. I already get enough hate mail. [Another off-the-record-conversation]. OK. OK. One spirit I cannot stand is any stupid thing that is praised by a quote-unquote mixologist. Make sure you put the quote-unquote around that word. They are fucking idiots. Anybody who calls themselves a mixologist is a fucking idiot. And any spirit that a “mixologist” likes to use fucking sucks. Fernet. Fernet. Do you know what Fernet is? It’s a terrible thing. Fuck that shit. These “mixologists” don’t even know what it is. They drink it because it’s cool. Anything that makes people look cool — or that they think makes them look cool — I fucking hate that shit.

Don’t get him started on the Rocky statue, either. I say we all go into Hop Sing for the next few weeks and ask Lê if he has anything with Fernet on the menu.

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jimwise
10 days ago
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lol
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Russian Censorship of Telegram

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Internet censors have a new strategy in their bid to block applications and websites: pressuring the large cloud providers that host them. These providers have concerns that are much broader than the targets of censorship efforts, so they have the choice of either standing up to the censors or capitulating in order to maximize their business. Today's Internet largely reflects the dominance of a handful of companies behind the cloud services, search engines and mobile platforms that underpin the technology landscape. This new centralization radically tips the balance between those who want to censor parts of the Internet and those trying to evade censorship. When the profitable answer is for a software giant to acquiesce to censors' demands, how long can Internet freedom last?

The recent battle between the Russian government and the Telegram messaging app illustrates one way this might play out. Russia has been trying to block Telegram since April, when a Moscow court banned it after the company refused to give Russian authorities access to user messages. Telegram, which is widely used in Russia, works on both iPhone and Android, and there are Windows and Mac desktop versions available. The app offers optional end-to-end encryption, meaning that all messages are encrypted on the sender's phone and decrypted on the receiver's phone; no part of the network can eavesdrop on the messages.

Since then, Telegram has been playing cat-and-mouse with the Russian telecom regulator Roskomnadzor by varying the IP address the app uses to communicate. Because Telegram isn't a fixed website, it doesn't need a fixed IP address. Telegram bought tens of thousands of IP addresses and has been quickly rotating through them, staying a step ahead of censors. Cleverly, this tactic is invisible to users. The app never sees the change, or the entire list of IP addresses, and the censor has no clear way to block them all.

A week after the court ban, Roskomnadzor countered with an unprecedented move of its own: blocking 19 million IP addresses, many on Amazon Web Services and Google Cloud. The collateral damage was widespread: The action inadvertently broke many other web services that use those platforms, and Roskomnadzor scaled back after it became clear that its action had affected services critical for Russian business. Even so, the censor is still blocking millions of IP addresses.

More recently, Russia has been pressuring Apple not to offer the Telegram app in its iPhone App Store. As of this writing, Apple has not complied, and the company has allowed Telegram to download a critical software update to iPhone users (after what the app's founder called a delay last month). Roskomnadzor could further pressure Apple, though, including by threatening to turn off its entire iPhone app business in Russia.

Telegram might seem a weird app for Russia to focus on. Those of us who work in security don't recommend the program, primarily because of the nature of its cryptographic protocols. In general, proprietary cryptography has numerous fatal security flaws. We generally recommend Signal for secure SMS messaging, or, if having that program on your computer is somehow incriminating, WhatsApp. (More than 1.5 billion people worldwide use WhatsApp.) What Telegram has going for it is that it works really well on lousy networks. That's why it is so popular in places like Iran and Afghanistan. (Iran is also trying to ban the app.)

What the Russian government doesn't like about Telegram is its anonymous broadcast feature­ -- channel capability and chats -- ­which makes it an effective platform for political debate and citizen journalism. The Russians might not like that Telegram is encrypted, but odds are good that they can simply break the encryption. Telegram's role in facilitating uncontrolled journalism is the real issue.

Iran attempts to block Telegram have been more successful than Russia's, less because Iran's censorship technology is more sophisticated but because Telegram is not willing to go as far to defend Iranian users. The reasons are not rooted in business decisions. Simply put, Telegram is a Russian product and the designers are more motivated to poke Russia in the eye. Pavel Durov, Telegram's founder, has pledged millions of dollars to help fight Russian censorship.

For the moment, Russia has lost. But this battle is far from over. Russia could easily come back with more targeted pressure on Google, Amazon and Apple. A year earlier, Zello used the same trick Telegram is using to evade Russian censors. Then, Roskomnadzor threatened to block all of Amazon Web Services and Google Cloud; and in that instance, both companies forced Zello to stop its IP-hopping censorship-evasion tactic.

Russia could also further develop its censorship infrastructure. If its capabilities were as finely honed as China's, it would be able to more effectively block Telegram from operating. Right now, Russia can block only specific IP addresses, which is too coarse a tool for this issue. Telegram's voice capabilities in Russia are significantly degraded, however, probably because high-capacity IP addresses are easier to block.

Whatever its current frustrations, Russia might well win in the long term. By demonstrating its willingness to suffer the temporary collateral damage of blocking major cloud providers, it prompted cloud providers to block another and more effective anti-censorship tactic, or at least accelerated the process. In April, Google and Amazon banned­ -- and technically blocked­ -- the practice of "domain fronting," a trick anti-censorship tools use to get around Internet censors by pretending to be other kinds of traffic. Developers would use popular websites as a proxy, routing traffic to their own servers through another website­ -- in this case Google.com­ -- to fool censors into believing the traffic was intended for Google.com. The anonymous web-browsing tool Tor has used domain fronting since 2014. Signal, since 2016. Eliminating the capability is a boon to censors worldwide.

Tech giants have gotten embroiled in censorship battles for years. Sometimes they fight and sometimes they fold, but until now there have always been options. What this particular fight highlights is that Internet freedom is increasingly in the hands of the world's largest Internet companies. And while freedom may have its advocates -- ­the American Civil Liberties Union has tweeted its support for those companies, and some 12,000 people in Moscow protested against the Telegram ban­ -- actions such as disallowing domain fronting illustrate that getting the big tech companies to sacrifice their near-term commercial interests will be an uphill battle. Apple has already removed anti-censorship apps from its Chinese app store.

In 1993, John Gilmore famously said that "The Internet interprets censorship as damage and routes around it." That was technically true when he said it but only because the routing structure of the Internet was so distributed. As centralization increases, the Internet loses that robustness, and censorship by governments and companies becomes easier.

This essay previously appeared on Lawfare.com.

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jimwise
10 days ago
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The new internet interprets censorship as a financial opportunity and routs toward it :-/
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1 public comment
jepler
10 days ago
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"Telegram's role in facilitating uncontrolled journalism is the real issue."
Earth, Sol system, Western spiral arm

Country Time will cover illegal lemonade stand fines and fees this summer

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The makers of Country Time Lemonade are running a unique promotion this summer. If you’re the parent of a child 14 or younger who has incurred a fine for running an unlicensed lemonade stand or who has paid for a permit, Country Time will “cover your fine or permit fees up to $300”. This video explains (ok, I lol’d at “tastes like justice”):

Open to legal residents of the 50 U.S. (including D.C.), who are the parents or legal guardians of a child 14 years of age or younger operating a lemonade stand. Program ends 11:59pm ET on 8/31/18 or when $60,000 worth of offers have been awarded, whichever comes first.

In a related promotion, Domino’s Pizza is working to fix potholes in streets around the US.

I guess it’s nice of these companies to step in here, but it’s sad that America’s crumbling infrastructure and antiquated legal system have become promotional opportunities for massive multinational corporations that spend millions each year trying to avoid paying local, state, and federal taxes that might conceivably go towards fixing problems like this in a non-ad hoc way. But hey, pizza and lemonade, mmmmmm.

Tags: food   legal   video
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MotherHydra
10 days ago
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Brilliant marketing.
Space City, USA
jimwise
11 days ago
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:-)
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