Sacre Bleu! – Er, Make That Red White And Bleu!

“Fight Against Stupidity And Bureaucracy”

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sacre bleu cartoon

There has been a lot of activity in France lately concerning the United States government spying on three French Presidents.

The current President of France even called an emergency meeting of the Conseil de la Défense, the country’s highest national security forum to discuss the emergence of documents that appear to implicate the US National Security Agency (NSA) – now who’da guessed that? –  spying on Jacques Chirac and Nicolas Sarkozy, who ruled France from 1995 to 2012.

The documents further indicate that the NSA may have also targeted the personal communications of Francois Hollande, France’s current head of state.

The files were published by WikiLeaks, which described them as “top secret intelligence reports and technical documents”, detailing NSA spying operations against the French presidency, as well as espionage directed at several French government ministers and at France’s ambassador to the US.

French President Francois Hollande at meeting to discuss Wikileaks revelations

The documents include intelligence briefs, which detail the thoughts and diplomatic maneuvers by French presidents and other senior officials, on subjects such as the Greek economic crisis, the Israeli-Palestinian dispute, and the United Nations.

This is further evidence of more disgraceful and arrogant behavior by US spy agencies.

The thing is, however, no one is surprised any more.

Since Edward Snowden’s revelations the world has come to expect illegal and bad behavior from Americans. It is as simple as that. And for the reputations of Americans it is as bad as that. Which is a great pity because these activities do not represent in any way the vast majority of the American people.

So, if they aren’t a surprise to anyone, will the latest revelations cause trouble between America and France? I think the undoubted answer is “Oui”, but only a “petit oui”.

As befits normal protocol in these kinds of things, the American ambassador to France was summoned for what was called ‘an official protest’, but little or nothing more happened apart from President Obama getting on the phone with the French President, groveling and apologizing and assuring him in no uncertain terms “that the US is no longer spying on France”.

No, I don’t believe him either, but there it is.

President Obama on phone

There was no need for America’s snooping. As with Germany, French and American intelligence agencies cooperate with each other regularly. They jointly monitor international issues of mutual concern, such as what is happening in Syria, Iraq, the Ukraine, Libya, and even the financial catastrophe that is Greece.

For now that will continue, but the road ahead looks bumpy.

Wikileaks has already made good on its promise that its “French readers can expect more timely and important revelations in the near future”.

The latest release from the whistleblower website contains more documents that indicate that the National Security Agency (NSA), under orders from Washington, were tasked with collecting secret information not only about the economic policies of the French government and the country’s financial sector, but on export contracts by French companies.

In fact every French-registered company involved in negotiations for international projects or other sales contracts valued at over $200 million, like car makers Peugeot and Renault and financial institutions like BNP Paribas and the agricultural credit union, were also subjected to US government secret snooping.

Washington’s pathetic statements that none of this information is ever used to benefit American companies competing for international contracts rings mighty hollow with the French, and the rest of the world come to that.

This latest information is a lot more damning and may necessitate a much stronger response from the French – even if it is just to save face.

Like their attitude over the invasion of Iraq, I think any further reaction would include little or no cooperation in any future American interventions in the Middle East and maybe the use of a veto or two in the United Nations.

We might be at the start of a new meaning to the term “non” cooperation?

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non merci button

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First The Yanks, Now The Canucks! Where Will It All End?

“Fight Against Stupidity And Bureaucracy”

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First it was the Americans.

Now the Canadians want in on the act too.

What act?

The act of handing more powers to its intelligence agencies.

Canadian SIS

Yes, the Canadian government has passed a controversial anti-terrorism Bill, 183 votes to 93, to extend the powers of the country’s spy agencies.

It’s all in the interests of national security of course. The excuse or cover being used is the recent – and first ever – terrorist attack on Canadian soil last October, in which a gunman attacked the country’s parliament, shot a soldier on ceremonial guard duty and was subsequently killed himself.

The new legislation gives Canada’s spooks the ability to make preventative arrests. In other words, like America’s controversial ‘extraordinary rendition’, the Canadian Intelligence Service will be able to take “measures to reduce threats to the security of Canada, including measures that are authorized by the Federal Court”. And they can do it inside Canada as well as in other countries.

All well and good.

But tacked on to the legislation is the Security of Canada Information Sharing Act, which hands government agencies “increased information disclosure powers”, which is a nice way of saying they can snoop on almost anyone and everyone as and when they want to.

canada-spying

 

They are going to keep Canadians safe by listening to their phone calls and reading their emails, just like they do in America.

Doesn’t it give you a nice warm feeling of security?

Nope, me neither!
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What Is The German Word For Hypocrite?

“Fight Against Stupidity And Bureaucracy”

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hypocrite definition

Remember the big furor a while ago when Edward Snowden revealed that American intelligence agencies had been spying on their friends and allies as well as their enemies? I even commented on it myself here and there.

One of the politicians most outraged by the unwanted and unnecessary snooping was German Chancellor Angela Merkel. “Spying among friends, that’s not all right at all,” she said very publicly in 2013. And in July last year in an unprecedented move she expelled, from Germany the CIA station chief, who in plain language is the top American spy in the country.

The German media jumped all over it too, with heavy moralizing tones and whipping up the German public’s natural reaction against what America had been caught doing.

Angela Merkel with phone

Hmmmm.

That was good stuff.

At least it would have been, but for more recent revelations that Germany’s own spy agency, the BND, have for years been collaborating with America’s National Security Agency (NSA) in spying on Germany’s friends in Paris and Brussels.

What???

Yes, you read it correctly.

While Merkel was whining on about privacy this, and privacy that, her spooks were operating hand in glove with the Americans to spy on supposed friends. And Merkel knew it. As Chancellor she is in charge of overseeing what the BND is up to.

German BND

And specifically what the NSA was up to was using the electronic eavesdropping facilities of the BND in Bad Aibling, a town in Bavaria, by giving the Germans phone numbers, search terms or internet addresses they wanted to monitor. The scale of the snooping was huge. In 2013 alone, the Americans snooped in on 690,000 phone numbers and 7.8m search terms.

As investigations and revelations continue we will no doubt hear phrases like “national security’ and ‘terrorist threats’ being cited as the reasons for all this snooping being necessary. That would be fine if it were true. But it isn’t.

The thing that negates all the good elements that those who have been caught red-handed and red-faced will try to emphasize now that the proverbial cat is out of the bag are revelations that the American snoops were also targeting certain commercial companies which, if true is industrial espionage and nothing to do with terrorism.

Airbus, the European aircraft maker and chief rival to America’s Boeing, has already filed a criminal suit with German prosecutors and demanded clarification from the German government.

Airbus logo

Of course that doesn’t mean they’ll get it. Since these revelations a lot of ass-covering has started. Several investigations are apparently underway, investigations that will find whatever the government wants them to find. In other words they will only reveal what they think they have to and little else.

So to answer the question posed in the title of today’s post, ‘Heuchler’ is apparently the German word for hypocrite. So ‘Heuchlers’ they are!

Auf Wiedersehen.

Until tomorrow.

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Watch This Space!

“Fight Against Stupidity And Bureaucracy”

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classified space shuttle mission

Have you ever wondered what all those space shuttle flights were about? Not the headline grabbing ones, but all the others. Everybody is at it, the US, Russia, China, the EU….

That’s the ones we know about. There have been many others that are never publicized.

And then there is the question of what happens to whatever it is they put up there when they have served whatever purpose they were originally sent up there to do. They call that bit “space junk”. Except sometimes it isn’t junk at all. It only looks like it.

space junk

For example, the Russian government says it recently detected a group of satellites that are spying on Russia while orbiting the Earth camouflaged as “space junk”.

They made the announcement rather appropriately on April 12, which ever since 1961 is known as “Space Day”, when Russia commemorates Yuri Gagarin’s pioneering voyage into outer space.

There wasn’t so much junk about in his day. Now it is estimated that there are 100,000 objects orbiting planet Earth on any given day. So plenty of cover to hide your spies.

spy satellite

Apparently these ‘disguised-as-junk’ spy satellites are designed to collect signals from Russian telecommunications and other electronic systems.

So far the Russians aren’t saying who these junk satellites belonged to, or whether it had tried, or was going to try, to shoot them down or disable them.

Chinese junk

It would be rather appropriate given the name ‘junk’ if they turned out to be Chinese, but with America’s recent record for snooping on the whole world you’d find it hard to rule them out of the silent running.

Watch this space!

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Were YOU Part Of The Secret Facebook Experiment?

“Fight Against Stupidity And Bureaucracy”

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subliminal advertising

Many years ago subliminal advertising was banned by law because it manipulated how people thought – brainwashed them to a degree. Since then the practice has been frowned upon, but, with the popularity of social media, are some people, particularly in some government agencies, trying to secretly manipulate us again?

In January 2012, Facebook ran a secret experiment on 689,000 of its users.

The purpose of that experiment was to see if the company could change those peoples’ moods by altering their news feeds.

The scary thing is that it worked.

The study found that by manipulating the News Feeds displayed to 689,003 Facebook users, it could affect the content which those users posted to Facebook. More negative News Feeds led to more negative status messages, and more positive News Feeds led to more positive statuses.

This means, as the report on the experiment stated, “that emotional states can be transferred to others via emotional contagion, leading people to experience the same emotions without their awareness.” To put it another way, it is the manipulation of the herd, or zombie, mentality.

Facebook-apologizes-for-manipulating-emotions

Such mass manipulation is only possible now with the immediacy and vast scale of social networks such as Facebook. Now, because of the numbers of people involved, even minor manipulations in how they think can have far reaching consequences.

One of the groups funding the experiment was the US Army which flags up big question marks over their motives and over Facebook’s place as an independent commercial operation.

The fact that government agencies are experimenting as to how they can influence people online has been known for some time, but you have to search for the evidence because they never tell you what they are up to.

The mass surveillance that whistleblower Edward Snowden highlighted is only the first step in a more sinister process. The big question everyone should be asking is, once the government and its agencies have gathered all of that information on us, what are they going to use it for? There must be some end goal. You can be sure that just leaving terrabytes of data languishing in remote computer server farms is not it.

The most obvious use of that information is to manipulate people, which is essentially what the Facebook experiment tells us. Only the moronically naïve or dumb would think otherwise.

In the commercial online world where everyone is used to free services paid for by advertising, information can be used to manipulate consumers into becoming indirect paying customers by simply turning their private information into cash. The more personal, detailed and intimate the data on you is, the more valuable it is to the company collecting and selling it, either directly, or indirectly via targeted advertising especially for you. Yes, what you see when you go to a Google search page is not what I see!

Secret Facebook Experiment

In the world of government control, some of their spy agencies will collect information just for the bureaucratic hell of it. Don’t believe that the NSA, that Snowden highlighted, is the only government data-thief. It may well be the biggest and best funded, but there are many others busy snooping away. And not just in the USA, but in Britain, China, Russia, and many other powerful countries too.

These groups will justify their unwanted intrusions into our private lives by hanging a ‘national security’ sign on it, it’s the excuse they always use. To an extent that is true at the moment since they use information collected by these snooping techniques to smear the reputations of what are deemed to be ‘enemies of the state’. They used to do much the same via planted news reports and information given to friendly newspaper journalists to disseminate. At the moment ‘enemies of the state’ are terrorist groups, particularly Islamic terrorists like ISIS. But in the future, who knows?

Increasingly government agencies will use the manipulation of social media to influence the general population and thereby bring about outcomes that suit their needs.

George Orwell had the right idea about what would happen. His only problem was that he chose the wrong title for his book. By 1984 technology had not caught up with the aspirations of those who wish to exert such control.

Now it is almost here.

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Thinking Of Buying A Smart Phone?

“Fight Against Stupidity And Bureaucracy”

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We all know that one of Steve Jobs favorite things was selling people well designed goods at vastly over inflated prices. People who were obsessed by having the latest gimmicks, bought his stuff in droves at whatever price Jobs put on them and in the process made Apple one of the richest companies in the world.

That’s what you call business, not quite ethical perhaps, but if you can get away with it and you can find people who are silly enough to pay far too much for your goods then why not?

What the creation of this ‘new’ market also did was spawn clones or look-a-likes from companies wanting to cash in on the windfall initially created by Apple.

Many of these are quite legitimate, like the Samsung Galaxy models which have become just as popular as the iPhones and are just as good, if not better, IMHO.

But what has also happened is that the same success has spawned a series of non-legitimate clones – from China – which look the same and provide many of the same functions, although the build quality as with much of the junk emanating from China is very poor.

smart phones
Apple Iphone, Samsung Galaxy S5, Star N9500

So, getting back to the question posed in the title of this post, if you are thinking of buying yourself a smart phone – and you are also thinking of saving a bit of money and buying one of those iPhone or Samsung Galaxy look-a-likes from China – think again.

This week a German firm called ‘G Data’ (which has a US subsidiary) released information that a popular brand of Chinese-made smart phone, the ‘Star N9500’, which is sold internationally by several major retailers, including Amazon.com, has been found to contain pre-installed monitoring software – that’s spy software to you and me.

G Data said it discovered the spy software hidden deep inside the proprietary software found on the Star N9500, which is a cheap smart phone based on the popular Samsung Galaxy S4.

malware

The hidden software contained within the phone’s operating system includes applications that could allow a third party to access and steal the telephone user’s personal information.

There are also secret applications that could permit a hacker to place calls from the telephone, or utilize the device’s microphone and camera without the consent of its owner.

And malware like this can not only allow hackers to access the telephone, but also any computers connected to it.

spy software

It was also discovered that the stolen data was being sent to a server based in, where else, China.

Adding to the intrigue, G Data’s team of experts and several journalists tried for “over a week” to track down the manufacturer of the Star N9500 by contacting several companies located in China’s southern province of Shenzhen, known as the center of the country’s telecommunications industry, but were unable to do so.

This isn’t the first time hidden spyware has been discovered in the operating software of telecommunications hardware made in China, and it probably won’t be the last.

But don’t get completely paranoid just because you read this post or other articles like it.

Just realize that the convenience that this latest technology provides, also provides criminals (which includes spying governments, you listening ennn esss ey?) easier access to your personal information.

And act accordingly.

Phone Spy Software

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