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Hezbollah, an ignored danger

It has been around for a while. There has been a clear view on how we perceive things, it is in part fuelled by the media and in part through governments that use the flim flam artist approach of ‘watch here‘ whilst the action has been ‘there‘. We have seen a larger growth of anti-Semitic and even anti-Saudi ‘presentations’ and articles. Even though there has been a clear issue with several sides towards the ‘unnatural ending’ of Jamal Khashoggi, the media was way too eager to merely use Turkish innuendo, whilst to a larger extent no verifiable evidence has been produces, even some of the claims have been contradictive. This does not mean that Saudi Arabia is innocent in this, but the critical questions had remained absent to a much larger degree and that too is being swept under the carpet. Yet there is a lot more in all this and it’s important to look at one of the larger puppets Hezbollah. You see, they are very much connected in all this.

Historical

For me personally there is history, I was never part of UNIFIL, yet I was part of the United Nations Security Council and I knew people who were part of UNIFIL, so when I was exposed to ”One year later, following a comprehensive operation by the institute and due to growing international attention to UNIFIL’s failures – and despite EU pressure to prolong the UNIFIL commander’s term – his term was discontinued“, as well as ““The European continent has turned into the lifeline – the oxygen line – for Hezbollah’s terrorist activities,” said Prosor. “If Germany, and then the European Union, would designate all of Hezbollah as a terrorist entity, it would suffocate part of the organization’s ability to function.” For more than a year, the institute researched and produced an investigative documentary on Hezbollah activity in Germany. The film was produced entirely in the German language and with German and international experts“, I was decently shocked. The Jerusalem Post gave us in addition: “the lack of professional background of the commander who was leading the force and his blind eye toward Hezbollah’s violations on the Israel-Lebanon border, deeming them as activities of “shepherds and hunters.”“, the fact that there was this level of complacency was just unheard of. The fact that the other media is seemingly ignoring parts of this is just way too weird. Now, we can consider that the Jerusalem Post is biased, yet when we consider both The documentary was first shown at the 2018 International Conference on Counter-Terrorism and at the presentation to the German Parliament at the end of this month, we should realise that this is a much bigger issue, in addition UN Nikki Haley publicly criticized UNIFIL at the UN, one would think that this is due more visibility then we have so far seen, and when we also see: “while it seems obvious in Israel and America that Hezbollah’s military and political arms are both sponsors of terrorism, in Europe this is not so obvious. There, they make an artificial differentiation between the military arm – a designated terrorist group – and the political arm“, It is almost like the entire IRA issues we saw in Europe in the 80’s and 90’s and whilst Europe remained cautious in regards to the IRA, it is seemingly willing to embrace the political arm of Hezbollah that is every bit as dangerous as its military counterpart.

A facilitating gravy train

There are two additional parts here. The first is less than a day old when we are ‘treated’ to: ‘Hezbollah money laundering has a ‘safe home in Germany”, again from the Jerusalem Post, that even whilst we are given “Lax German illicit terror finance policies permitted Hezbollah to run a vast enterprise to raise funds through a money laundering operation in Europe and South America. French prosecutors put 15 members of the criminal organization on trial last week in Paris. According to three German media outlets – NDR, WDR and the Süddeutsche Zeitung – two of the accused men lived in the German state of North Rhine-Westphalia and an additional two men who were charged lived near the city-state of Bremen in northern Germany“, I could not find any references in other large media (outside of Germany and France). If they have it, it was hidden pretty efficiently. It seems to me (very speculative) is that there is optionally a growing link between the political branch of Hezbollah and the secular press as the Americans call it and that is pretty dangerous. When we consider that Hezbollah is directly engaged in Yemen, the ignoring of such events is a lot more damaging than you could imagine.

There are additional sides in this, yet most of this is given in opinion pieces, which is a factor that we must take into consideration. The first comes from the Khashoggi family (aka The Washington Post), who (at https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/global-opinions/to-rescue-yemen-the-us-must-end-all-military-support-of-the-saudi-coalition/2018/11/12/aca29358-e6ad-11e8-b8dc-66cca409c180_story.html) gives us ‘To rescue Yemen, the U.S. must end all military support of the Saudi coalition‘, now, it is a viewpoint that a person should be allowed to have. I do not think it is a realistic one, apart from the fact that ‘Houthi’ is mentioned twice and Hezbollah does not get any mention and they are both firing missiles into civilian areas of Saudi Arabia (and that is all besides the absence of Iranian activity fuelling it all). Yet the passing of a ‘blogger aficionada‘ (aka Journalist) takes front seat to a setting where that person should not really be an issue to the degree he is shown. The stage gives us “in which more than 16,000 civilians have been killed or injured“, yet the mention of 50,000+ deaths from disease, famine and other means where Houthi’s are allegedly using Hezbollah tactics does not get any mention either.

It is that filtered view that is giving light to a behind the curtains support setting to Palestine and Hezbollah. Now, to be fair, a person should be allowed to be pro-Palestinian, if people are Pro-Israel, the other should not be denied, yet Pro-Hezbollah, to be in support of a terrorist organisation is a much bigger issue and that hidden part is becoming a lot more visible, especially when the news is shown to be so unbalanced, even when it is ‘fronted’ as an opinion piece. so when we see the links (as an image), whilst it is almost all openly ‘anti-Saudi’, yet the fact that the atrocities that Houthi and Hezbollah have been largely the cause of, that absence is making the news not democratic, but a shadowy version of niche events presented as factual truth, whilst the given view on the larger scale shows this absence to be close to utterly unethical, especially for a paper like the Washington Post, whether they are now staff-1 or not.

1982 kilometres from Beirut

So how should we react to: “Even U.N. Secretary General Antonio Guterres submitted evidence to the Security Council that Iran was supplying ballistic missiles to Houthi rebels in defiance of U.N. resolution 2231“, which links to a 2014 article, yet the truth is that this has been ongoing and even as Western Europe is puckering up towards Iran to a much larger degree, leaving the political response against Hezbollah unanswered and more important Mohammed Ali al-Houthi is not seen as the guilty party he should be seen as. It is often stated that any aspiring tyrant will consider peace on the eve of defeat and that is what we see now. Even as we are treated to ‘Arab coalition to allow Al Houthi medical evacuations from Yemen: UK‘, we also see ‘Wounded Al Houthi rebels to be evacuated‘, yet what about the 80,000 children on the brink of death due to famine? Even as some might applaud the Saudi Coalition victory, seen though: “Recent high-ranking defections among erstwhile allies of Al Houthis signal further such splits as the Iran-aligned militia suffers setbacks at the hands of the Saudi-led coalition, experts said. This week, Abdul Salam Jaber, who had served as the information minister for Al Houthis, defected from the militia and fled the Al Houthi-controlled capital Sana’a for Riyadh. He said the rebels were “breathing their last”“, the biggest responsibility should be to the Yemeni civilian population in such distress through famine and disease alone. Even Deutsche Welle reported ‘Yemen Houthis seek truce with Saudi coalition‘, yet nothing on those starving to death and even as the Deutsche Welle gives us “The three-and-a-half-year-war has pitted forces loyal to President President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi, backed by the Saudi-led bombing, against Houthi rebels associated with Tehran. Saudi-led coalition has recently intensified the bombing in the key strategic area of Hodeida. A blockade of the port city could trigger unprecedented famine“. Even as the blockade might be tactical, the fact that food has been withheld from the civilian population to a much larger degree through the Houthi whether or not employing Hezbollah tactics is also absent here.

For me the problem is a lot larger, as we clearly see the impact of Hezbollah and the absence in the media, the media is becoming less and less reliable, especially as the stories remain one sided. There is a larger part in all this. Personally I am not convinced that this is the complete picture, and I need to make it clear that this is speculative. It is my personal belief that when we consider The National (at http://www.thenational.ae) and some of its unconfirmed articles, some might have seen: ““This was no rogue operation but, rather, a function of Hezbollah’s “financial apparatus,” which “maintained direct ties” to both Hezbollah commercial and terrorist elements,” he wrote in a report published by the Washington Institute of the US Treasury designation of Nourheddine, which preceded the arrests. “Within days of this designation, Noureddine was arrested in France along with several other accused Hezbollah operatives“, as well as ‘Operation Cedar—of which the Treasury designation was just one part‘. I am amazed that the Netherlands were not more visibly mentioned in all this. It seems weird, almost unfathomable that this was all achieved without the use of Rotterdam as a point of transit. Even as transitional cargo is not really looked as, as the Netherlands was not the end destination, it is the biggest world hub in getting containers and bulk cargo from anywhere in Europe towards Asia and the US (and vice versa). This implies that Hezbollah political players are seemingly active there too. The article does mention the Netherlands, yet in a much more ‘timid’ capacity. We see: “Cash was dropped off at hairdressers in Antwerp in Belgium, a large hotel in Paris, a restaurant in Montreuil or a café in Enschede in the Netherlands. Transcripts showed that Mr Noureddine would hand out orders for the collection of as much as 500,000 euros at a time. Six figure sums were often delivered in small note denominations” and that makes sense for the German part (Enschede – Germany) is a distance you can walk (4.5 km) with a highway to Gronau, so that is a place to easily get into Germany (and the opposite direction), hundreds of containers a day take that route. when we consider the news a month ago, when the Dutch were confronted with: ‘Dutch politician praises pro-Palestinian kite show featuring Nazi symbols‘, my assumptions and speculations might be shown as correct, yet is that the actual part in that? So when the Dutch were treated to: “Rens Reijnierse, a lawmaker from the southern city of Vlissingen” and his Pro-Palestinian view “Kites at Pool Beach. Beautiful autumn day in Vlissingen. No wind so the kites won’t fly but the project for Palestine still succeeded,” he wrote” as it was tweeted gives light to not merely a Pro-Palestinian view (which should be allowed) to an optional facilitating Pro-Hezbollah view (a speculative view by me), which is another matter entirely, if that would prove to be true, and even as I mention one person, I am convinced that the anti-Semitic vandalism as shown 6 months ago in Amsterdam was recorded to have risen by 40%. From my speculative mind, there is no way that this does not include a wave of Pro Hezbollah people giving light to a much larger danger on a global scale.

The size does not matter here, the fact that the media is allegedly shuffling this part to the bottom of the news pile is an issue and the few parts I have shown here, should also give rise that the media to a much larger extent is seemingly doing this. Merely Google ‘Hezbollah‘ for the last 24 hours and I see an absence of The Guardian, The Independent, the Times, and several other large newspapers in Europe. Do you really think I was making that up? It is not merely what we see; it is what we do not get to see that shows us that there is a much larger problem. Optionally there is a hidden danger, which is nothing to speculate or allege to. Those who are not in the news are often quickly forgotten and that is the true danger that Hezbollah is representing on a global stage. You merely have to view the thousands of images that show the nightmare that Hezbollah has been part of to see the danger that they pose, the fact that Iran is willing and has been shown to fund this is the icing on the cakes of Iran and Hezbollah, the fact that the media skates around it makes the cake more delicious for both these players as they are not given the limelight of their actions.

 

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Annual medical bill $864,685

Yes, that is the price for keeping the doctor away. An Apple a day keeps the doctor away, yet at $2,369 per iPhone it will be a hefty bill, let me tell you that. And the news gets to be worse after that. Apple has been in the news and not in a good way. We all remember the big news earlier this year, when Apple announced that they had become the first trillion dollar company. It was just as the new Apple models had come to town and the impact has been seen. First we get the Financial Times 2 days ago with: ‘Apple falls into bear market territory‘ (at https://www.ft.com/content/c9dd38f0-e839-11e8-8a85-04b8afea6ea3). I thought it was merely metaphorically, yet it is not. You see, bear territory is when a company got into the state of: “The drop takes the stock’s decline from its intraday high of $233.47 on October 3 to 20.3 per cent, meeting the definition of a bear market“, the first corporation to surpass 1 trillion and lose 20% value soon thereafter. Apple did this t themselves in a few ways. It takes me to my dark Apple moment. Now do not get me wrong, I do not hate Apple, I still have the very first iPad and I will get the iPad Pro if my budget would ever allow for it, hopefully before my iPad passes away.

I bought an Mac Book Pro in 2005, I loved it and it set me back $5099, it was all I had and it after 11 months I had one line in my screen, then 3 then I went to the Apple store and I realised that my warranty had past. Two weeks later the screen was no longer usable, $5099 and nothing to show for it. When it ran it ran great, so for 11 months I never regretted buying it, and then the onslaught came. I was not happy, the $5099 was all I had, so there was nothing left for the Apple care and after 6 months I had forgotten to get it, it is my own fault, yet the longevity of Apple (lack thereof) will never be forgotten. The opposite is also true, my G5 and first iPad as well as an iPod Classic are still doing their stuff. So overall there is more good than bad. The previous parts I mentioned matter, as you are about to find out. Forbes, who also on last Thursday gives us (at https://www.forbes.com/sites/gordonkelly/2018/11/15/apple-new-iphone-xs-max-xr-upgrade-price-cost-camera-sales-face-id/#78e1e0302932): ‘Apple’s new iPhones have a Serious Problem‘. Here we see: “AMS revised its Q4 2018 revenue estimates down from highs of $610M to new lows of $480 citing “recent demand changes from a major consumer customer.” AMS is the latest in a string of iPhone suppliers to announce revenue cutbacks“. The setting here is not merely the suppliers; we see ““Many suppliers have lowered numbers because of their unnamed ‘largest customer,’ which is Apple,” Elazar Capital analyst Chaim Siegel told Reuters“. This shows that the shareholders could optionally panic before the end of the year and it will be an additional downturn for Apple, who is currently worth a mere $US886 billion, in addition the second wave might lower it to somewhere between $794-$811 billion, making Q4 2018 one of the worst moments in Apple history, lowering its value by almost 30%. So if 20% is bear territory, will passing the 30% make it the Groundhog tree stump area? #JustAsking

Yet all is not lost, there is still last moment Black Friday, Thanksgiving, Saint Nicholas (Belgium and Netherlands), and Christmas. It will mean a massive level of facilitation (by Apple mind you), but there is space for a partial turnaround and it was their own doing, this economy is not ready for upper class latest techno prices. Consider the $2365, whilst their opponent is offering a decently close solution for $1499 (Google) and $1599 (Huawei) all top end phones and the next model is 33% cheaper, in an economy where most people are turning around pennies (just look at Debenhams). It was a really bad market moment; one could argue that Apple believed their marketing whilst it was nowhere near realistic. In addition we see (at https://www.macrumors.com/2018/11/16/new-ipad-pro-bend-test/) ‘New iPad Pro Models May Be Prone to Bending‘, the image is very expressive on the curve, which might be moving towards boomerang shape over time (just guessing here). The quote “both forum complaints and a new bend test video suggest the two devices have the potential to bend without a huge amount of force“, gives us that the news is already out there, which gets us the Achilles heel of any corporation that is ruled by marketing deadlines. It is the proper testing of last minute changes. You see, if that was not done it implies that proper testing was never done and that is a lot worse at present for Apple. As the new iPad Pro could set you back $2689 that issue is a lot more important than you think. MacRumors also gives us: “Despite the video and the forum complaint, this does not appear to be a widespread issue. There are a couple of other complaints from MacRumors readers who were seeing slight curves in their devices and received replacements or sent the tablet back, but there aren’t complaints that match the complaints we saw back in 2014 with the original iPhone 6 Plus bendgate“, which should be noted too, just be certain (as it counts for me too) to keep an eye on it, and even as a prospective Apple marketeer gives us: ‘Apple released their folding display before Samsung 😉‘, we need to be certain that any gospel truth involving Apple, just in case it is still partially owned by Microsoft.

For Apple things are escalating in a few ways. First there is ‘Apple admits iPhone X ‘ghost touch’ screen issue, offers free repair‘, which we got form the Sydney Morning Herald last week (at https://www.smh.com.au/technology/apple-admits-iphone-x-ghost-touch-screen-issue-offers-free-repair-20181112-p50ffl.html), yet Apple did respond with: “Apple has announced that it has found issues affecting some of its iPhone X and 13-inch MacBook Pro products, and said the company would fix them free of charge“, which is good, but it is water under the bridge, the damage is optionally already done. The question rotates around the core of properly testing issues before the audience gets them.The issue gets worse when we see: “For the 13-inch MacBook Pro, it said an issue may result in data loss and failure of the storage drive“, no matter how repairs go, the entire matter of data loss is a nightmare for many people, the idea that a days work is lost for whatever reason is a massive push to look elsewhere for a solution and that will hurt Apple down the track as well. The battery issue has put a dent in faith in Apple with many people and the keyboard issue in the Macbook and Macbook Pro models only make matters worse, so as the list is added to the media and as the media gives more and more light to it all, Apple might be in extremely rough seas this coming January. A setting that proper testing might have avoided to a greater extent. If this was not enough, CNBC adds fuel to the fire two days ago with ‘I tested the new iPad Pro and it still can’t replace my laptop like Apple says it can‘. The article (at https://www.cnbc.com/2018/11/15/apple-ipad-pro-review.html) also gives us: “I’ve been testing the iPad for the past several days, and while it’s a very nice tablet, it’s still not capable of replacing my regular laptop. In fact, most people should probably just buy a Mac, or Apple’s cheaper $329 regular iPad“. I saw it in the store myself and the new Apple Smart Keyboard is a game changer, which is not available for the normal iPad. He might have a point to some degree, especially when we have to shell out a difference of $1200 at least. The only core issue is that the graphic part of the Pro is close to 300% faster than the not pro, so that is still a consideration to take in a graphic tablet life, but beyond that his view is harsh and optionally not wrong. I found the review of Todd Haselton extremely genuine, especially when he gives us: “The iPad Pro is great, but it isn’t for most people. Let me explain why“, he gives it the proper support, so it is a good part, yet it is also bad for Apple in another way, let’s go there together.

You see, the competition is never far behind and the device already available and several sources give it to us. In this case I selected ‘Huawei’s Matebook X Pro Is The MacBook Rival People Have Been Asking For‘ (at https://www.gizmodo.com.au/2018/11/huawei-matebook-x-pro-review/). Whilst we can look at Like Apple, Huawei starts with a solid aluminium body and then adds surprisingly powerful speakers to the sides, a big one-piece trackpad down below, and clever power button/fingerprint reader combo in the top left – and all of it is top notch. Then there’s Matebook X Pro’s backlit keyboard. While it is a bit on the shallow side, the keyboard’s relatively high actuation weight and deeper key travel feels vastly superior to the garbage you get on modern MacBooks” from more than one direction, it is the setting that gives is weight (as well as the keys I reckon). We also get two more interesting parts. The first is “the X Pro’s chin is equally thin too, resulting in a screen-to-body ratio of 91 per cent. That’s better than devices like the new XPS 13 (80.7 per cent) and the Galaxy S9 (83.6 per cent) by a fair margin“, as well as “Regardless of how shamelessly you think Huawei has copied Apple’s formula, it has absolutely improved on that template in a number of very important ways“. The second part is the most damning one. Apple had a good thing going and was willing to let marketing rule the ways, whilst improvements have been lacking (many users have made similar statements). When we see that the original has been improved upon and we see an equal in a field where they optionally did not belong, that is when the goose of Apple remains to be cooked (optionally for Christmas). With the final part “As of today we finally have Australian pricing and a release date for the Matebook X Pro, which is November 22, 2018. They start at $1,899 for the i5/8GB/256GB model and at $$2,599 for the i7/16GB/512GB model” we see the nightmare of Apple become a reality, not only is there an alternative available, as CNBC reflects on, we see that this alternative is out and it is with Huawei, which should upset Americans to no end. In addition that model comes with Windows 10 Pro Signature Edition, so you get the good stuff. Even as it is not a gaming PC, the optional Nvidia GeForce MX150 would enable you to truly enjoy places like Facebook in several ways and that is definitely an additional plus point all over the board. The battery was stated as good, not much beyond that, yet in light of the bank hey are bringing, we see that Huawei is optionally pushing into Apple territory and even as that is a really large field, the fact that Huawei moved into laptop space is something no one had really prepared for and that might be an issue over the next two months depending on how the Huawei Matebook X Pro is embraced by the audience, the fact that they are clearly on the radar should be regarded as an optional threat for Apple, they quite literally have a lot to lose at present.

There is also an IOS issue (and it goes way beyond IOS. hackers were able to exploit the JIT compiler flaw with a malicious access point, which Apple is expected to have patched in an upcoming iOS 12 update. This is always going to happen, we get that as an issue by itself it is not a biggie (or at least it is optionally not a biggie). When we see “An iOS 12 Security Flaw Allows Access to Deleted Photos on iPhone“, so OK, it is an issue and it will be fixed, in the worst case if you take photos of your wife/girlfriend you will just have to refrain from deleting them until the patch is out. It becomes a little more of an issue as the Mirror reported (at https://www.mirror.co.uk/tech/iphone-x-explodes-during-ios-13593046). The article ‘iPhone X EXPLODES during iOS 12.1 update – and Apple’s response is laughable‘. The article itself gives us: “@Apple iPhone X just got hot and exploded in the process of upgrading to 12.1 IOS. What’s going on here???“, yes it was done over twitter and the response: “That’s definitely not expected behaviour. DM us, so we can look into this with you” was indeed funny, yet not incorrect. Twitter is limited in the response usage, so it was an acceptable answer in all this. The article was not that great, but there is optionally another issue and whether this is a mere IOS 12.1 flaw, or a larger issue is unknown, leave it to the Mirror to not properly look into this and let emotions rise via responses on a mere Twitter setting and few words. The responses were exactly the ones we should expect to see and not worthy of repeating other than ‘And this deserved an article devoted to it?‘ This is acceptable and fair enough, yet the issue behind it is larger. You see if this is the update that is supposed to deal with the JIT compiler flaw; the update could optionally merely be making matters worse. The grand total is negative for Apple as a multitude of issues on devices and drop of value, as well as intensely lowered sales at present shows that Apple is in a not so good place. We cannot tell for certain because the end of year is 6 weeks away and a lot could optionally be repaired by then, yet the fact that there is a list of issues spanning the range of Apple models is not the greatest place to be in at present and proper testing could have prevented a lot of the issues involved before they happened, which leaves us to the setting: ‘Has Apple become too complacent in all this?

It is important because it only means that whatever comes out in the next 6 months could be as messy as anything they have released in the last year and it has not been a great year for Apple technologically speaking, and now that they have both Google and Huawei nipping at their heels on several fields could be a decent sign that there are more issues on the horizon making their shareholders even more nervous than in the previous 4 years altogether, so that too is likely to impact the total value of Apple over the coming quarter, they will survive, no doubt about that, yet it might be a while until they get to that 1 trillion mark again.

 

 

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Terrorism is OK

How is that for a title? Is it nice, cool, rad or merely scary? One would think that people wake up at some point, especially when we see the condoning of terrorism because of the ‘signs’. It is in that light that we need to see the New Yorker and what it brought to the people (at https://www.newyorker.com/news/daily-comment/the-ceasefire-in-gaza-a-turning-point-for-hamas-and-netanyahu). Here we see the writing of Bernard Avishai, a man who teaches political economy at Dartmouth, Dartmouth being a private university in Hanover, New Hampshire. It does not matter where he is teaching, from my personal point of view; the man has been in a stage of historic denial. You see, over the ages Hamas has only ever agreed to a cease fire when the ammunition was lot and they would only keep it until the stocks were back up. In this stage we need to consider what the impact is. You see, the issue is not that missiles were fired on Israel; it is the fact that 400 were fired. The storage for this would have been pretty enormous. This also implies that for the most, the rocket fire is done with the ‘blessing’ from the Palestinians to a much larger extent than we ever considered before. The even more hilarious view is given by the Washington Post with: “Why did Israel carry out this military operation at a time when many were heralding novel progress in diplomatic steps toward alleviating tensions between Israel and Hamas?” My response would be: ‘Didn’t you guys lose a temporary reporter recently? How much of a stink did you kick up over that one? So when 400+ missiles get fired at civilian targets in Israel, we see clear cause and even the consideration that the response was disproportionate (too light), in this that for every 10 missiles one building van get flattened, Israel can still lower the maximum altitude towards zero for at last 35 buildings at present‘.

From my point of view is that we need to hunt the money. These were not some 400 garage band projects, they were ‘commercial’ products (and not cheap) and there should be a trace on where they are from. 400 missiles, even over 10 months is just too much of an amount. There will be a trace and that stuff needed storage, even if it is after the fact, we need to look at the options at what could be backtracked. There is also debate over ‘Israel risks igniting a war that no one can win‘. I agree that there is a partial truth in all this, yet the risk is already ignited as the premise of premeditation that it takes to launch a 400+ missile attack, yet the Washington Post is not really that interested in giving us that light, merely keeping the darkness alive in hindering the light to shine on the truth of attacks against Israel. We can argue that Boaz Atzili has a point or two and he does have them, yet the lack of illumination on the actions of Hamas is also leaving me with a question mark in all this. In addition, the news (very generic) giving us Likud Minister Tzachi Hanegbi downplaying the rockets is also an issue, let’s be clear that it is a valid political play, but the stage with 400+ missiles is a changed stage and the denial over that is a little too weird for me. You see as a national security expert he knows better, the storage, the preparation to get this done was decently impressive. The timeline before this will be equally important. No matter how many rat tunnels are drowned. There is a direct need to look into the trace these missiles back as this will happen again and again and the next time it could optionally hit the wrong place (what Hamas calls the bullseye) and at that point the fence comes of and we do get a full scale war. We could consider that the pressure is removed as Gaza becomes part of Israel, yet another option would be preferred by pretty much every party (including Israel). It is there where we see the agreeing light to the statements by Dr. Mordechai Kedar. He gave us (more than once): “What would the UK have done to anyone who launched 400 rockets at its civilians? How about just one rocket? What would France do to anyone who dared launch one single rocket at its territory? What would any US president do to Mexico if it dared launch one mortar shell at America?” The bulk of the world has had enough of the mind games that Hamas and Hezbollah plays (as well as Iran and to some degree Turkey too) and the people are getting angry, they want it resolved it in any way that takes Hamas and Hezbollah out of the equation permanently. If anything that feeling is mostly fuelled by the images from Yemen, a situation that Hezbollah was a much larger part of than the news is letting on and the people are realising that too, hence the increased anger and frustration from the civilians in nations all over the globe.

Then we get one accusation that is a much larger issue. When we see: “Qatari money is being transferred at Iran’s behest. Iran’s rulers, under severe economic sanctions at present, do not want peace and tranquillity between Israel and Gaza. On the contrary, they want the smoke rising from a war between Israel and Gaza to divert media attention from Iran and the “deal” which granted the Ayatollahs 150 billion dollars in cash with which to destroy the Middle East. Qatar, a long-time supporter of the terror espoused by organizations whose ideology originated in the Muslim Brotherhood, backs Hamas publicly. It has, for the most part, built the infrastructure, including the military one, for a Hamas state in Gaza.” It is an issue as the evidence is required. It will not only end any nuclear deal, there would be enough public outrage that any politicians who was connected into diminishing this part in the equation, that person will be an outcast, the people will demand that person to be removed from office for life and the media is actually aiding some of these connected politicians. Certain people in the EU will see another light if we can ever clearly show evidence of their ‘assistance’ in feigned opposition to Hezbollah and Hamas, as it comes with a large consequence. One that needs to be put in legislation, yet the calls for an adjustment that a political voice is set to zero if any terrorist assistance could be clearly proven. To get there it is more and more important to trace the missile attacks not merely before the attack, but collect the evidence after the attack so that a much better case could be made against those supporting Hamas and Hezbollah through military hardware. I make it sound easy, but it is not, the water is deeply dark and there will be no clarity, not for a long time. Yet identifying the players in all this is becoming increasingly important., and there is a call to expose those who seemingly hide behind a humanitarian political cloak, and let’s face it the people have a right to know, do they not?

Yet the issue remains clouded and it will do so for some time. So as we see innuendo, gossip and covered information take the central road in all this, we need to consider the impact that inactions have. Even as we see US actions with: “The U.S. Department of State announced on Tuesday rewards of up to $5 million each for information or identification leading to the capture of the following terrorist figures: Hamas leader Saleh al-Aruri, and Hezbollah leaders Khalil Yusif Mahmoud Harb and Haytham ‘Ali Tabataba’i” we need to wonder if it has any impact at all. A Dark web ‘source’ made mention that one of them (Hezbollah) is supposed to be at a place called ‘مسجد الإمام الهادي يحيى بن الحسين’ either within the next 72 hours, of was there in the last 36 hours (the text was ambiguous and the translation by Google did not make any sense at all). Parts of the other text translated to a mosque supposedly in Sadat, which is in Egypt and that made even less sense to me. So relying on Google translate does not seem the best idea in any of this (as well as the fact that I cannot decipher the native Arabian alphabet), yet the exercise was important. Knowing the elements you cannot fathom in the first place is a first step in finding the limitations of a thought process. Data is the foundation of creating the timelines we need down the track and the lack of effort that are seemingly in place is impressive.

Even when we accept: “Qatar played a bad role in supporting the Houthis, especially after having already fought them as a former member state of the Arab Coalition, is self-destructive behavior, “ Al Adini said while explaining that Qatari leadership fully understands that Iran’s agenda in Yemen threatens both Arab and Gulf security“, we are seemingly missing a larger element in all this. You see, Hamas, Hezbollah, Houthi forces, Qatar and Iran are all elements in all this. They are all elements in a progressing destabilisation and money is the central key here. The issue has been going on for a year when we were first treated to “Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Egypt and Bahrain have imposed a near-total embargo on Qatar since June 2017 over allegations of Doha supporting radical groups and seeking closer ties with Tehran“, I always have doubts, but the given links are becoming overwhelming. It is not merely ‘where there is smoke, there is fire‘, it has evolved into: ‘There is so much smoke in this room, I can no longer see the walls‘, ignoring this and ignoring the games that Iran is playing in all this is becoming a very dangerous stance to maintain.

I did do some (highly speculative and debatable) research in this and there is more and more alleged links towards bitcoin exchange on the dark web. This leaves me with the worry that there are even more Qatari links active as there would be an easy method for Saudi’s to use their banks as they do not reveal anything to anyone ever, so whoever is using this path is requiring an almost total level of isolation. I am not stating that Saudi Arabia is innocent, but the implied facts give more and more rise that other players are using the dark web to launder money and make payments as well as supportive accounts. This is a stage that cannot be proven as any link will never go towards any source that has any value, yet I searched as 400+ missiles represent value and deployment of such resources will cost a fair bit too. So I looked into whatever dark web search I could. Now, there is no way to get anything remotely reliable and my method was as plain as it was useless. I merely looked at the haystack hoping I would see anything metallic (optionally the needle we all seek). That is as good as it gets and even as I got more and more details on optional events, finding the wheat from the chaff is unlikely to happen. I reckon me winning the lottery has better odds. Yet the idea that this path has been taken makes more and more sense so even as we cannot find the relative data, finding the relative data becomes increasingly important because there is every chance that places like Iran would use it to fund events for Hezbollah optionally all over Europe and finding the money is a top priority. Just on the side of all this, the fact that I (as a mere exercise) would have been able to get a Glock 17 & silencer for $1149 (and an additional $49 for two extra clips with a box of 50 rounds delivered to a drop place in the UK, and you still think the entire Novichok issue in Salisbury was as clear cut as everyone thinks? If I was able to find this, then the GRU would have known about it, that entire situation never did make any sense.

There were links that offered something more exotic, but I was unable to get there (reason unknown), so in all this there is a reason to check the links and there was even more reason to pursue or is that peruse the information? I believe that the dark web is the Chinese wall that both Iran and Qatar are allegedly using (extremely speculated by me at this point) to keep insulated from any accusations and therefor that data will become increasingly important. There was more, a Dutch Freelance (detective or Journalist) found an extremist with: “an .onion link in their bio. I thought, Wow, this is the first time I’ve ever seen a jihadist group using an onion link. So I opened it, and I was blown away. I sent the link around to a few different friends with similar interests, and they were also blown away. We wanted to think it was a scam, but there were just too many factors ruling against it being a scam“, I personally believe that the issue is larger and even as some can be stumbled upon, there is a growing trend to use .onion links like burner phones. To be merely there for a short time (a speculated 96 hours) and then abandoned. Yet in those 96 hours, traffic of goods and finances could have been completed. It would be the operations equivalent of an entire lone wolf operation with no chance to find it in time. That too gives rise to the need to start tracking with a long term need after the fact. Even as prevention should remain the initial need, the data could down the track be enough for conviction and that too is important. Yet, for the most I cannot prove any of this. There is a lot of implied and even more speculation linked in all this (as I stated earlier) yet the connections are too realistic and probable to ignore. If people like Ben Strick are correct and there is an actual setting of: ‘jihadi crowdsourcing‘ then the impact of escalations in Europe will only escalate with all the issues that follow, which is an additional reason to stat mapping all this. So unless we want to start living with the slogan: ‘Terrorism is OK‘ we need to start to think about creating solutions that can deal with inverted data funnels with an optional stage that an inverted funnel leads to 3-4 other inverted funnels. This is not an easy path and there is no real direct answer, because it is not merely which inverted funnel it goes into, it could be that the third tier is a funnel where the path is not where it leads to but where it went when the data bounced, that too is a destination and that path that skill will become increasingly important. To illustrate this is a lot harder, but I will try though market research. Consider an interview; it is a mere one on one event. Now we assume that the interviewee was the jihadi crowdsourcer’s data point. So we begin with a few simple narrow, closed-ended questions. From there on we move to broader, open-ended questions. This gives an optional pattern and we move from both specific and general questions. When we have asked enough questions (collected enough data), we enter a stage with Diamond questions, which is a combination of Funnel and Inverted Funnel questions.

Consider the image, we see inverted funnels (yes, go with it), so as we go from A, will B be the exclusion, or did it enter the funnel? If it entered, C is out of the question, so if F, yet E remains a player. This is near impossible and it is not in one transaction, it is over hundreds of connected transactions that certain players will be excluded, even more events are needed to find a group, yet there will be a pattern over time and that is what is needed. Yet if C is not an inverted funnel, but a funnel, or it as an inverted funnel and the traffic went through C, we now see that F remains an option and B, D and E were excluded. It will be a data collection over a much larger time frame that will prove this and time is what is needed. Most Jihadists will not care to live, yet the people behind it will always prefer to outlive events and it is the only way to get to them. You see, when we look at history, we all know Ghandi, many, especially Hindu will know that he was murdered by Nathuram Vinayak Godse. Yet the movie (by Sir Richard Attenborough) implies someone behind the screen and those are the people we need to find. It starts by proving that there was a person behind the screen. In case of Hezbollah that is actually decently simple as the amount of Yemeni missiles required is impossible Hezbollah to afford (or produce) in any way shape or form and it is easy to state that it was Iran, but we need the individuals to connect to it all and that takes time. ‘Follow the money’ is the most realistic path to take in this case. It is more realistic as Mossad has been unable to find actual missile traffic for the longest of times, and even if they did, it would be for one shipment. That too is still important as it links goods and money, so that path must not ever be abandoned, yet conviction without the money path proof is pretty much impossible and the time is now as we see more and more events leading to Europe and to a larger stage, so this path is becoming essential. If we translate the events to marketing (or market research) the same paths can be used. Whether we go via vendor, via drop point or via the path of the funds and buyer, we have the elements of awareness of what to get where, interest to get what is needed, choice of goods and purchase to go through and unless every stage was another person (not enough people) there is still a path. The unaware cannot purchase, the unaware cannot choose, the interested part is aware, a choice was made, it does not matter whether online or offline, it is not virtual, so there was traffic in some form. Even if the first two stages are negated a specific person has made the choice of goods to purchase, so now we have inverted or not a much smaller funnel to work with. In the end at the bottom we have the point of purchase (or point of sale) and there is a connection there. Something was bought/sold and funds are linked to that, so that part is optionally set in cement, the rest is not, yet the deployment path is still ‘riddled’ with actual people as well making the picture more complete. Now we need to find their optional connections to the dark web, if it is web and not dark it becomes increasingly easy, yet this is not a path where we bank on too much good news and there is in the end the question if convictions will be possible. Even if the path is an inverted funnel (showing what some call a Customer Experience Funnel view), we can see that the jihadists unite in certain views and if they were the advocates in this, it stands to reason that they try to engage to increase their footprint (and attempted funding). Finding that point will give optional identification of channels with an optional overlap to people linked to the buyer and/or shipper. It is a slow path, yet as time progresses an essential one. It achieves two parts, the first the optionally linked people, yet it also shows that those not linked to anything can optionally be excluded freeing up resources to refocus in this path, because this path drains resources and whatever resources there are available will be stretched. It is precisely the view we need to have as more data means more efficiency. One could argue that it could make it an optional track to find links to servers that have remained invisible for the longest of times, because if two people are found, there is the optional chance that they have gone to a .onion link that we have never noticed before and that would be a first true victory, yet in a short term span, if temporary is the name of the game, it becomes a near impossible task, should we therefore not do it? Are we ready to admit defeat by stating: ‘Terrorism is OK‘, or will we get the notion to get clever about it and limit the dangers we are exposed to. For this we can actually quote Tom Cruise (the Firm): ‘If you want the criminals, go after their lawyers‘, in the case of Hamas and Hezbollah, we need to go after their accountants and contributors, and optionally their military goods distributor as well.

If you truly want to decrease pressures in the Middle East, this will be the only path that really works. If you are delusional enough to consider peace talks, consider how many there have been since 1982 and how often it worked (as well as the cost involved). It is a discouraging picture that makes depression look like a healthy positive look on life.

Oh, and should you consider Europe to be completely innocent in all this, consider that Bloomberg gave us: ‘U.S. Warns Europe against Iran Payments after Austria Bows Out‘ (at https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2018-11-15/u-s-warns-europe-against-iran-payments-after-austria-bows-out). The quote: “Austrian officials rebuffed entreaties from France, Germany and the U.K. to host the so-called special purpose vehicle, a system that the European Union sought to handle payments to Iran in defiance of U.S. sanctions” has absolutely no bearing on terrorism or fuelling terrorism. Yet it does show a desperate need to keep a level of facilitation to keep some Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action in play, a situation that has not been realistic for several months now. The issue optionally becomes a much larger vessel. Even as we see: “EU nations have identified Austria as the best candidate to host a special purpose vehicle that could handle payments to Iran, according to three people familiar with the negotiations. Austria itself is not so keen. Belgium, Luxembourg and France have also been identified as potential venues but Belgium and Luxembourg have declined while France is looking to Austria“, we see a nation not interested and an EU ready to take a desperate step, in all this, when we see the earlier quote ‘France, Germany and the UK‘. Why isn’t France, Germany or the UK doing this? It is that setting that shows a political game of facilitation on too large a field. From my limited knowledge, I feel that the EU is all about non-accountability yet the impact will be felt in Europe. Unless direct evidence can be produced by all EU signatory nations that this Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action could prove to be an actual solution. And in this I mean that politicians have to put their name under it and live with the consequences of being cast out of politics (for life) when it backfires, at that point we will end up seeing that no one would have been willing to put their name under any of this and you still think that Iran is merely sitting on the sidelines?

We need to figure this out before the Middle East destabilises close to completely and we are running out of time, if we have to choose, I personally see no other option but to openly side with Saudi Arabia in all of this, they might not be perfect, but with Iran as an alternative, we are basically ending up not having any options for any stable future at all. That part of the equation was given to us by the SMH merely a few hours ago (at https://www.smh.com.au/world/middle-east/us-eyes-ways-to-remove-erdogan-foe-to-appease-turkey-nbc-20181116-p50gew.html). when we see that the US allegedly accused through: “The Trump administration is exploring possible ways to remove US-based Muslim cleric Fethullah Gulen, a foe of Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan, NBC News reported on Thursday“, Turkey an open ally of Iran, as they are openly strengthening trade relations, giving even more pressure to the European union in all this, when the US ends up handing over the ‘enemies’ of President Erdogan to Turkey, so that they can be lost forever, at what point was Iran even a choice?

How much longer must we wait until we make hard and essential choices in setting a path that actually stops terrorist actions, because 400+ missiles can be considered as actual evidence that there is clearly a lack of actions on that front by way too many political players and governments as a whole.

 

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Condoning terrorism

When do we do that? When do we find ourselves in a place where some acts of terror will be allowed and when do we say it is not? You might think that we do not condone it at all. When you think that, you would be wrong. That part is shown in the last few weeks when we look at the news and the bringers of news. In this the first part of the chain is weirdly enough coming from Denmark. It is the one place where the worst acts of torture will be the slicing of the subject with a knife, gut him and cut him, then roast until there is nothing left. Yet the subject was a dead pig and the result if “Æbleflæsk” (or Apple Pork). Yes those Danes do get around with a knife. So when I got treated to ‘Three held in Denmark over interview praising terrorist attack in Iran‘ yesterday, I was a little surprised. The Guardian (at https://www.theguardian.com/world/2018/nov/07/denmark-arrests-interview-praising-terrorist-attack-iran-asmla) gives us “Denmark has arrested three individuals on suspicion of having praised a terrorist attack in Iran two months ago that killed at least 24 people, including children“, which would be fine, yet when we are also treated to “Despite the fact that they are suspected of having committed crimes, they [the detainees] continue to be protected by extensive security measures because of the threat posed to them“. So it is not merely the fact that they spoke out. It is the underlying “stemmed from an alleged Iranian plot to kill an ASMLA activist. The person was not named“, is that not nice? For those not completely in the loop, the ASMLA (Arab Struggle Movement for the Liberation of Ahvaz) is about the aggressive consideration for a separate Arab state in Khuzestan Province from Iran. Let’s call it a partial independence of sorts. Iran has labelled Al-Ahvaziya a terrorist movement, which with more intelligence sources and data I cannot really comment on. Yet, does that not beat the clock by hours? In all this, Iranian murder Inc. or not, the EU reiterates commitment to the Iranian nuclear deal. Yes, because facilitating to nations that facilitates for terrorism is what Europe in their desperate economic situation really needs. This is all a month after “France had declared that Tehran was behind attempts by a number of Iranians – including a diplomat – to bomb a meeting of the Paris-based opposition group National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI) – also known as Mujahedin-e Khalq (MeK)“, I made some mention of this as well in an earlier blog, yet Europe will still want to continue the nuclear deal. Apparently enough is not enough. I get the Danish position. I get it that they cannot condone the situation. The mere ‘suspected of violating the Danish law … on condoning terrorism‘ should be addressed, even as one party is condoning certain acts, the other is acting certain acts and they are still in the clear, which gives the much larger stage where the EU is condoning terrorism. In addition, the Iranian proxy war where they are arming people to fire missiles into Saudi Arabia to hit Saudi civilian targets is for the most not looked at either. So as we see the absence of: “Saudi air defenses on Thursday intercepted a missile fired by Yemen’s Houthi rebel group into the kingdom’s southwestern Jizan region“, they are all eagerly reporting the other direction traffic with “Saudi-Led Coalition Bombs Air Base in Yemen Capital“. They do mention other elements, yet the part “Iran supplied the Houthi militias with missiles that targeted Saudi Arabia” is left out in many western news providers, giving the people an unbalanced view on what is actually happening in Yemen. In addition we see Miguel Miranda (RealClear Defense) giving us: “Since 2016 not a month has gone by without the Houthis in Yemen sending either large diameter rockets or ballistic missiles into the Kingdom, with successful intercepts by Saudi air defences up for debate.  Even with a defence budget considered the third largest in the world, Saudi Arabia’s collection of Patriot’s won’t be able to thwart multiple launches at its major cities and energy infrastructure. Worse, Riyadh’s orders for either the S-400 Triumf or the THAAD have yet to arrive.” It has been proven on several occasions that Yemen never had certain missiles and that production of some missiles would have been impossible, with the current status of its neighbours, the remaining party Iran as a Houthi supplier remains and the media seems to be clearly relying on not mentioning that part. The quality sources that both American and Israeli defence gives us, with added documentation from The Brookings Institution, all having high level data at their disposal, but for the European media it is of no matter, it is merely an inconvenient truth, is it not?

The question becomes twofold. In the first, why is Europe not a lot more outspoken on the Iranian actions in all this?

The second question is why certain parties remain pushing for a nuclear deal, whilst there are clear indications that Iran will break the agreements, optionally before the ink of the autograph has dried. There are indications that operations have been thwarted. Actions by Iranian players (too many question to precisely point a finger), yet the actions allegedly stopped included France and Denmark, as well as in Belgium, Austria, Germany and Sweden. So there is an increasing stage of events in place, but the nuclear deal is still being debated. Is it not time to actually do something about Iran? The Swedish part, which is seen with: “Officers from Sweden’s security police agency Säpo have arrested a suspected Iranian spy for planning an assassination on Danish soil”, would have remained invisible if I was not able to read Swedish. Now we do get that Säpo is not very outspoken on the best of days, yet the media remained largely silent, implying more and more that the media is actively downplaying Iranian events to a much larger degree, is that not a little weird?

So even as the local Sweden reports: “Danish Prime Minister Lars Løkke Rasmussen also promised “further actions against Iran”“, we have yet to see a much larger action against Iran in answer to the attacks within the national borders of their European ally, I mean, is the EU actually active in protecting its member states or is that all dependant on some nuclear deal? Denmark might be regarded as limited by merely a good cuisine and Bang and Olufsen, yet I am willing to bet that Denmark as well as the other nations has a lot more to offer. So the absence of actual actions against Iran is making less and less sense. If we compare all the western visibility on the actions of Iran versus all the articles that involve Jamal Khashoggi in the last month alone, it seems that the European media is willing to let Iran get away with murder, how weird is that?

When we are condoning acts of terrorism, we need to start looking at why this is happening and the media is becoming part of something rather distasteful. Not the true journalistic parts that keep newspapers afloat as much as they can, but those having a seemingly other agenda and calling themselves a member of non ‘fake news’ groups, those numbers are increasing and it is strange on how the media is not looking at itself in all this.

Now, let’s be fair, they are not their brother’s keepers, so it is debatable where they should stand in all this. Yet, when we are looking beyond a few curves, we get to see more, in this case a technology part. A side where we are notified of: “In testing, some third-party Windows 10 apps like Adobe Photoshop and Notepad++ no longer work as intended when users go to setting to choose either program as the default for .txt files. Windows 10 will instead absurdly ignore a consumer’s app default settings for both programs and open the file in NotePad on its own“, as well as “Microsoft does not document this bug on any list of known issues and also hasn’t yet issued a public response to related reports. The issue is instead believed to be linked to Cumulative Update KB4462919, initially released on October 9. Oddly enough, the Windows 10 October 2018 Update doesn’t appear to be impacted at the moment. It might be wise to temporarily pause updates or roll back and uninstall the problematic cumulative update if you’re in fear of this issue, or if you are already seeing that your file association settings aren’t holding

You might ask yourself how this relates.

That is a really good question, you see, from my point of view I believe that the filtering is not merely ‘terrorism’, it is economic. The media seems to have an intensified need to not go against the grain of economic needs (Iranian nuclear deal, Microsoft and Apple, you merely have search a little deeper to see the lack of reports in several parts. There is ‘Protesters are detained outside an Apple store in Beijing as they accuse the firm’s Chinese factory of ‘hiring student workers illegally’‘, which is only shown to people via the Daily Mail and the news is 11 hours old, it seems that no one else thought it was newsworthy, The Microsoft story is one that impacts millions of users and they only link I saw was from Digital Trends (at https://www.digitaltrends.com/computing/new-windows-10-bug-messing-up-file-associations/), it did have a reference to Reddit who reported 88 upvotes and 47 comments two days ago, yet I see it nowhere else.

This is where I personally see the problem, when the economic footprint is above a certain level, we see that there is a chance that certain players will condone terrorism and blanket consumer impacted issues with large blankets of silence. When we accept a world that has these slipped values, I would be very critical of anyone willing to voice some half-baked story on how wrong it is to be a salesperson in the weapons industry. I reckon that that person is at least willing to take action; we merely hide behind the inactions of others and flag whatever we consider wrong emotionally, it is perhaps the largest failing in all of us. If you wonder whether you should agree or disagree there; this would be a valid consideration mind you. Merely ask yourself, how many actions by Iran you were unaware of and why were you not aware? You could have a very valid reason to not know. Now consider how many Microsoft driven devices you have and were you aware of the delete bug and the latest issue that popped up two days ago? If the answer is no and you have a PC, ask yourself why you were not aware of it, you see it impacts your daily life pretty directly does it not?

Just as the media kept largely silent on the actions of Sony in October 2012, we have been left in the dark too often, and it has everything to do with shareholders, stakeholders and advertisers. This is where you see the impact, it is the economic footprint liked to all this and it impacts us one way or another.

Yet when we start condoning acts that are not merely illegal, how far have we fallen from grace?

 

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The price of identity

We all have needs, we all have identities. It is important to us, as it is for many others. No one debates or disagrees with it. Yet what to do when identity hinders us? When we see the Washington Post (at https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/national-security/former-nsa-deputy-is-mattiss-leading-choice-to-head-the-spy-service-if-it-splits-from-cyber-command/2018/10/05/1be8d7a8-c73d-11e8-b2b5-79270f9cce17_story.html) giving us ‘Former NSA deputy is Mattis’s leading choice to head the spy service if it splits from Cyber Command‘, we need to consider the impact of identity, corporate identity, governmental identity, military identity, projected and presented identity. They are not the same and can vary to a much larger degree. When someone is part of what used to be referred to ‘No Such Agency‘. We will get the impact of identity; we all know that and many faced it too. Look at any friend or co-worker you have ever known and ask him/her about the impact of a merger and they will tell you, there are changes. Some are subtly, some are not noticed, yet others are, usually in infrastructure and the way things were done. Now the change tends to be for the good in the long run but that is not a given.

So what gives?

It is my personal observation and a highly speculative one at that. Yet I believe that the Washington Post giving us: “The current head of both organizations, Gen. Paul Nakasone, has urged Mattis to keep the NSA and U.S. Cyber Command under one leader on the grounds that the nine-year-old military organization is not ready to stand on its own, these people said. In recent weeks, Mattis was close to a decision to separate the leadership arrangement, but Nakasone’s counsel has caused him to reconsider, according to two U.S. officials. The officials spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive internal deliberations“, is not entirely accurate. I believe that ‘military organization is not ready to stand on its own‘ is not the setting that matter. I believe that Stratfor who gives us ‘A New, More Aggressive U.S. Cybersecurity Policy Complements Traditional Methods‘ is very much at the heart of that. I believe that the general is not ready or perhaps unwilling to set the offensive and aggressive part in motion. Now, this is no bad reflection on the general, let that be a first. He is well decorated, he has seen the field in many ways and he has done a fair share of field events. He has earned his rank. I merely wonder that a man who has seemingly played a defence and protection game is the man for the offense. I think that this is a football moment, and as a non-football expert (and a 49ers fan) I would compare the General to DeMarcus Lawrence from the Dallas Cowboys against what the US seems to demand is a Derrick Henry (Tennessee Titans), or even a Tom Brady (New England Patriots), roles that are not really moveable. Even as a Quarterback might become a really good Derick Henry that Quarterback will never become a DeMarcus Lawrence. The defence and offense game is that far apart. This is where Chris Inglis comes in. He is an analyst (at heart), he is used to counter offensive strategies and introduce strategies of his own (effective one’s mind you). I believe that this is the game that is in the open at present and these two will need to find a way to make it work. Not merely because it is good for the needed strategy, but because the segregation of the two elements might hurt U.S. Cyber Command in a few ways, not merely funding, but the elements that U.S. Cyber Command currently have access to will partially fall away and getting two infrastructures like the NSA is unyielding, unaffordable and in the end will introduce flaws and dangers on both sides of the isle making the setting (as I personally see it) a non-option right of the bat. Stratfor gives us a few other items.

One of them is “A best-case scenario for a U.S. cyberattack would be disabling computer systems and networks being used against U.S. interests to prevent an attack from happening or to disrupt an attack that is in progress“. The problem there is that some of the opponents are getting to be really good at what they do and a few of them are not state driven, not by any state changing the dynamics of the solution. Even as I discussed the hop+1 strategy almost three years ago, settings like that require an expert layer one knowledge and the players cannot both have these experts changing the needs of the infrastructure overnight.

The second consideration is: “Perhaps the main challenge to U.S. engagement in tit-for-tat cyberattacks is that the United States is by far the biggest target for such attacks“. That might be true but that goes beyond mere true enemies, it includes a truckload of students wanting to finger the man (or is that giving them the bird)? Do they really want to waste resources to those people whilst the US has actual enemies in the world?

The larger issue is seen with: “Discussing the strategy, national security adviser John Bolton hinted that the administration had already taken steps to bolster offensive efforts in recent weeks, warning that the United States is no longer just playing defense when it comes to cybersecurity. But despite the Trump administration’s more hawkish tone regarding cybersecurity, it will continue mainly to rely on traditional measures such as the legal process, regulations and cooperation with the private sector when it comes to cybersecurity” It is here when we get the consideration of the resources required. The defence, offense and legal sides of it all becomes a real mess if the two split up giving the chance that targets and issues walk away on technicalities. How does that help?

The strategy s even more profound when we consider “Clandestine, discreet attacks are certainly already key elements of U.S. cyber tactics. There have likely been more examples of U.S.-launched attacks that have not come to light, perhaps because they were never recognized as cyberattacks. While the less known about U.S. cyber capabilities, the more effective they will be when deployed, this by definition limits the deterrence value of U.S. cyber capabilities“, at this point is the setting of ‘discreet’ that comes into play. With the two separated they will get into each other’s fare waters and more important give accidental light to the discreet part of the operation, there will be no avoiding it, only the most delusional person would think that it does not get out when more than one player is involved, because that will always introduce a third item being the intermediary, the cold war taught many players that part of the equation. And that is even before we get to the statement: “recent cases like the September indictment of North Korean cyber operatives, which displayed heavy FBI reliance on private security firms such as Mandiant and Alphabet to collect technical evidence and carry out investigations“, now we see the folly as Mandiant and Alphabet are mentioned, the entire matter grows further as soon as Constellis becomes part of the equation. That is beside the point of realising (highly speculative on my side) that neither three Mandiant, Alphabet and Constellis have the required safe servers in place to prevent names, places and facts from going out into the open. I might not be able to get in, but there are dozens who will get in and that voids the security of the matter to a much larger degree. For arguments sake I will leave Booz Allan Hamilton out of that equation, they have been snowed on long enough.

And even as we see the instance of legal preference, the US must realise that any attack from state or non-state parties in China or Russia has close to 0% of being successful (outside of the exposure part), the entire matter in case of the OPCW in the Netherlands is one. An attack was thwarted, yet was it THE attack? The guardian article (at https://www.theguardian.com/world/2018/oct/04/visual-guide-how-dutch-intelligence-thwarted-a-russian-hacking-operation) reads nice, and we see all these facts and from my point of view, things do not add up. You see, I would have used the car that we see mentioned “In the boot of their car was uncovered an arsenal of specialist electronic Wi-Fi hacking equipment” as a fire and forget consumable, use it as an access point, segregating the hacker from the accessing unit. When you have (as they stated) “cash: €20,000 and $20,000” getting a second car far enough to access yet not be directly linked is seemingly easy enough. Then there is the setting of the photo at Amsterdam’s Schiphol airport. I am not debating the issue of the photo, it seems genuine enough. In this operation they did not fly to Germany and took the train, or take a car and cross at Oldenzaal, Emerich, or even via Belgium and enter via Antwerp, or Eindhoven. It almost read like they wanted to get noticed. They know that Amsterdam Airport is high tech and nothing escapes their camera eyes. To me (a paranoid me) it comes across as ‘Where did they not want us to look‘. A mere sleight of hand deception, and again the entire GRU mention. A phone outside of that building and they had the taxi receipt? No one merely driving them to the airport in Russia or even them taking a bus from any hotel in Moscow. No a taxi receipt of all things, is anyone buying that? So in this it is not the Dutch, it is the Russian side that makes no sense at all.

How did I get there?

This is the initial setting of offense and defence. The proper application of strategy in all this matters, because we seem to undervalue and underestimate the need of either in all this. Because we get to push a button anywhere and anytime we seem to underestimate on what is recorded, what is collected and what can we verify. That entire mistake is how any offensive strategy can optionally become folly from the moment the instigation of ‘press any key‘ to start gets us. Proper offensive is not about doing what needs to be done, it is about being able to prove who did what. Perhaps Sony remembers that part as they were given that it was North Korea did something, whilst their computers were not even close to PC gaming ready, the mere processor, which was about 25% (at best) of a 1994 Silicon Graphics Indigo system is not the system that gives you what you need to hack the night away. The tools are equally as important as the access and ability to negate identity. When you see that part, the entire hop+1 intrusion path makes a lot more sense.

This now gets us to the end of the Washington Post, where we were treated to: ““As the build of the cyber mission force wraps up, we’re quickly shifting gears from force generation to sustainable readiness,” Nakasone said in a statement in May. “We must ensure we have the platforms, capabilities and authorities ready and available” to carry out successful cyber-offensives. Some former senior intelligence and defense officials oppose separating the “dual-hat” leadership arrangement, including former NSA Director Keith Alexander, former Director of National Intelligence Mike McConnell and former Defense Secretary Robert Gates. This week, former CIA Director David Petraeus, a retired Army general, said during a Washington Post cyber summit that he’d keep the dual-hat arrangement “for the time being.”” It is not merely the ‘we have the platforms, capabilities and authorities ready and available‘, you see, when we get to capabilities we see the need of offensive players and even as Cyber command might be aces in their field, the offensive game differs to some degree and even as we see that they are way above the student levels, we get back to the Football equivalent you see the application of defence and offense. It is not DeMarcus Lawrence versus Derrick Henry, the question becomes can DeMarcus Lawrence be a Derrick Henry that is good enough, that is the battle within. The mere realisation that if you fail this when the offensive is broken into a train wreck that makes the limelight in every paper, that is the game that is the dilemma that Gen. Paul Nakasone faces as I personally see it.

And when we see Stratfor with the one little gem we did not consider, the mere proposed fact that North Korea has a mere 9,000 IP Addresses, do you really think that they could have done this all, or are we in a setting where someone had the ability to act on BGP hijacking and was able to mask it to the level it needed to be masked at, because that was the offensive play that needed to be considered and there was no way that the evidence had been uncovered to that degree with a backdoor could be removed with a simple reset of routers.

#FourtyNinersRule

 

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Cheese Pizza with Oregano

I love Pizza, I hardly ever get it, merely because the people here tend to rely on Domino’s and Pizza Hut and neither tends to be a true pizza (as I personally see it). As I walked through Sydney over the last week, it dawned on me just the massive lack of actual decent Pizza places in Sydney. It is almost like they are no longer in a sustainable environment. People got used to the cheap solutions two chains bring and they call it Pizza. All the people in the neighbourhood accepted it as the real deal and now, we forgot what true awesome Pizza is like. Now, I am a little off the wall here. I love my Cheese Pizza, with the 5 cheeses and loads of Oregano on top. So when I think Pizza, I always think of the Bravo Trattoria Pizza’s at Crow’s Nest, they are my favourite! Yet, is it about pizza, or the place, or what Pizza actually is? You see, it does matter when we consider the Financial Review (at https://www.afr.com/personal-finance/italys-debt-barely-sustainable-ubs-chief-economist-20180601-h10uun), we see here what I said weeks ago and last week to some degree. When we see “Italy’s debt-to-GDP ratio of 130 per cent is “borderline sustainable”, the UBS top economist says. There is a level of the primary budget surplus which keeps debt stable, and above which you can begin to pay down your obligations, Kapteyn explains. For Italy this figure is a surplus of 1.3 per cent of GDP, versus the actual surplus of 2 per cent. It’s a skinny buffer of around 0.8 percentage points which at current debt levels “doesn’t inspire confidence”, Kapteyn says“. That is merely the tip of the iceberg. The issue is not that it is Italy, it matters more that it is one of the big four. UK, France, Germany and Italy are the large economic suppliers of a 27 nation bloc where they basically represent well over 50% of the EU economy, the fact that they all are in deep debt does not help and the fact that the UK is getting out, or is that ‘was trying to get out‘? So when we see add the issues of the UK and now we see how the Italian issues are growing and France is not far behind. A 27 nation failure due to the inability to set proper budgets, deal with debt levels and add to that a failed economy jump start that is now close to 3 trillion Euro printed with no real prospects to pay for any of it. That revelation is why Italy seems to be vacating the union. The action by President Sergio Mattarella by rejecting the Eurosceptic finance minister and put in his place Giovanni Tria a pro-EU professor. This is perhaps the first setting where we see that voting is no longer an issue for any government, the holier than thou setting of protecting the Euro and the EU against all odds, whilst those in the EU commissions are massively overpaid is setting the foundation of a dangerous mindset. The issue that the AFR is bringing to light is “markets are not pricing in the risk of an Italian exit, they are repricing the risk of a Italian default“. I always rated the Iexit (aka iLeave) setting very low, the two populist parties in charge was not that realistic in 2016 and when Marine Le Pen was ‘surpassed’ by a former investment funds manager we were all wondering what would come next and I thought it would lower the chances of the populists in Italy. And the news is not getting any better. We see that with “The European economy hit a wall over the final months of last year, with growth dropping from a quarterly growth rate of 0.7 per cent to more like 0.4 per cent. Economists are unclear of the reasons for the slowdown, but broadly believed the European economy would quickly rebound“, the issue I personally see is ‘broadly believed the European economy would quickly rebound‘, not the slowdown. You see there is no evidence that there is an actual quick rebound. There is every chance that there will be a rebound, but it will not be quick. The fact that these so called experts are all thumbs when it comes to their forecasting and with 0.3% unaccounted for, we can see that they are in the dark or playing the bad news cycle. I personally believe it to be the second one. And the Italian issues are increasing. Not merely the debt settings, it is a changed political landscape. Even as Paolo Savona was replaced by Giovanni Tria, there is still “Mr Di Maio will be vice-premier and minister for labour and economic development, including trade policy. Matteo Salvini, head of the League, will also be vice-premier and interior minister in charge of immigration“. This we got from the Financial Times (at https://www.ft.com/content/79cf905c-64a8-11e8-90c2-9563a0613e56). This duo is going to be a lot more important than even I initially thought. They now have a handle on labour economic development and immigration will see larger changes. There is no way to predict whether that is good or bad. If we listen to people like George Soros we are instantly rejecting liberalism, because it is easy to be a liberalist when you are a multi billionaire, yet he had no issues to short sell US$10 billion worth of Pound sterling, earning a billion in the process during the 1992 Black Wednesday UK currency crisis. He did nothing wrong, he played the system when he could and make a billion. Things like that never go away and he must regard the EU zone as a very profitable short sell opportunity, which makes whatever he is trying to do dangerous, so in that light all his settings for “Best for Britain pushes for second referendum on Theresa May’s deal with EU“, a cause he is backing is very dangerous. In this by pushing the UK away from Brexit, the pressure on Italy decreases. The dangers become that irresponsible spending in the big four can go on for several more years and there is no way to control the ECB and their puppet masters. Unelected people deciding on the descent of financial futures in 27 nations that is how I personally see it. You can agree or disagree, yet ask yourself when was the last time that any European got a decent explanation on who of how the 3 trillion euro spend was going to be dealt with? You see over a decade in an economic setting that is close to the late 90’s, whilst keeping strict austerity in play all over Europe. There is quite literally no way that this will happen, because politicians will adjust their policy towards any speculative proclaimer of ‘the European economy would quickly rebound‘ economists, whilst not prosecuting them when they get it wrong (merely because making any claim of expectation is not a crime, is it?). A setting that the people have no chance of winning, hell, they won’t ever be able to break even on this. This shows that Brexit will be a hard, but the better way to go. When billionaires start proclaiming how bad it is and how ‘we all’ can get a better deal that is when you become afraid for your life and that is what is at stake. And we see this in the Australian Financial Review with ““creeping into the market”, Kapteyn says – “a potentially dangerous one”. After the glory days of 2017 in which investors basked in a globally synchronised upswing, markets are now faced with the potential return of the two-speed world economy: the US vs the rest“, so when we get “America’s economy is growing around 3.5 per cent; some independent analysts estimate growth as fast as 4 per cent. Europe is “at best” growing by 2 per cent“, that shows the dangers, because as George Soros is getting the winnings, the other players do not, from my point of view it is a form of leeching, leeching Europe dry for the term of a generation or better. You see again it is a personal view, it is why Best for Britain is getting the support, it is about delaying Brexit at the very least for as long as possible, merely because it stops the game people like George Soros are likely to be playing and when that stops Europe can start bringing things about, hopefully for the better, especially as the ECB will be forced to print money for all kinds of dubious reasons, dubious because kick-starting the economy after you printed 3 trillion to try it twice is just ridiculous, that money has to be paid back at some point and everyone is in denial about the latter part.

Yet this is still about Italy, not the UK. You see, Italians want what is best for Italy and I am fine with that, I believe in a healthy sense of national pride. Yet with “Italy’s debt-to-GDP ratio of 130 per cent is ‘borderline sustainable’” they are facing an ugly truth, Italy needs to face 5-15 years of Austerity, yet with the ECB trying to economically equalise Europe, at the cost of the big four, so it amounts to Italy trying on top of an economy for 60 million Italians, whilst they are weighted with invoices for close to 250 million Europeans who can’t be bothered to get their house in order. it amounts to giving an addicted gambler $500 whilst they are only allowed to use $10 for gambling, you tell me how long it takes for things to go really wrong, and that is pretty much a given on this situation. It was seen in the Netherlands 2012 and 2013, and now we see, when we look at the Dutch government statements with in September 2017 we see “The economy will grow by 3.3% in 2017 and a projected 2.5% in 2018“, we see the EU commission giving the Netherlands a ‘mere’ 3.2% last month for that same timespan. Now the 0.1% is actually pretty good, but it is still dangerous when it is a 0.1% in Italy, the issue is seen when we see that the Netherlands has a 65% debt level against Italy at 130% of GDP, and the Dutch are actually in a much better position, so the 0.1% is no actual pain level. Portugal, Spain, Greece, Belgium and Italy all have debt levels well over 100% of GDP, several other nations are somewhere between 60% and 80% of GDP, whilst France is at 99.8%. It is the debt levels that are excellent for banks and not so good for the people. You see, when the big four are required to pay €254 billion in interest each year and that is just the large 4, how do you think that this gets paid for? A decade of inability to set a proper budget and all this is before we consider the €3,000 billion that the ECB printed for what they call Quantative Easing. That is what Italy needs to get away from and at 135% they have the hardest job of all. So when you see that all that money goes all to the banks, short sold loans that they never had the money for to pay for can you see just how dangerous the George Soros setting is in all this? It all impacts Italy to some degree. These are not merely the facts; there is also presentation, representation and misrepresentation. The issue is in the Australian Review, it is the view of Arend Kapteyn. Yet where is he at when he gives us “We are only now at the beginning to find out how responsible or irresponsible [the new coalition government] are going to be on the fiscal side“, you see, the setting then becomes what is irresponsible? Being not pro Eurozone, being forced to default whilst the alternatives are just too unacceptable for the Italian people? So is he the pro greed setting, or the pro solution setting, because with such debt levels we can almost unanimously accept that these two choices are mutually exclusive. The most interesting political part is that Enzo Moavero Milanesi is now Minister of Foreign Affairs. I would have thought that the populists wanted that part for themselves, the fact that this post is now with an Italian independent is an interesting choice, if the populists can work with this setting and use it to maximise their economy by setting new option and opportunities, Italy gets an optional path where minimised immigration and maximised economy could have a setting where the Italian unemployment rates could fall to a number below 10% over the next 24 months (highly speculative on my side). If they pull that off, the entire euro sceptic setting could grow a lot faster than would have been possible with Paolo Savona in the mix.

No matter how you slice the Pizza, the factual and actual quality Italian dish is under massive amounts of pressure on several sides and any Italian thinking that their life will get better in the short run is just gobbling down a [Unnamed Franchise] Pizza, bland food that look like a UFO and tastes not as great. The fact is that like Germany did earlier this decade, Italy will know 5-10 years of hardship, yet when persevered Italy could have an actual growing economy for a much longer time, something to look forward to (if you are Italian). Can this government pull it off? That is hard to say because it has been shown that the actions of the ECB are close to non-stoppable and that will still impacts the bottom line. It is good for America and George Soros in the short term, yet after that they will not care and Europe will not be going anywhere ever soon. That danger is just ignored all over the place. Just 2 days ago the Financial Times also gave us “There are still two weeks to go before Riga, but naming an end date for QE right now would be like the ECB shooting itself in the Italian boot,” said Carsten Brzeski, economist at ING-DiBa. “The Italian situation has tilted the balance towards the doves [and] clearly calls for the ECB to keep its options open and even to make clear that they will extend QE at least until December” (at https://www.ft.com/content/dd6b5d70-6413-11e8-90c2-9563a0613e56), which is already an extension of well over a year. so when we see “The ECB has pledged to reinvest an average of €15bn a month over the first four months of next year, using the proceeds of government bonds bought under QE that have now matured” in that same article, we need to consider ‘bonds that have now matured‘, so that danger is seen in the Spanish setting where we see from some sources: “Spain will have refinancing requirements that exceed €300 billion per annum before 2022. In 2018, 41.2 billion euro, in 2019, 82.4, in 2020 83.9 and in 2021 58.5 billion euro, with 60.4 billion maturing in 2022“, so this fiscal year Spain will be required to find €41 billion, or increase taxes or cut services, and it will be twice that amount next year around, so how exactly is Spain in a setting to get the economy back whilst the debts are rising beyond normal control? Italy faces “84 billion euro maturities in 2018, 161 billion in 2019, 164 billion in 2020 and 172.5 billion euro in 2021” do the Italian people know that they are in such deep and hot waters? I wonder, and when they get confronted with that part of the bad news cycle, what will the previous and opposition then proclaim? I wonder if we will see true honest coverage on that blame game. I will order a decent Pizza to watch that unfold, because there are merely the two larger players in the EU-debt zone bloc confronted with the hardships that will hit them hard. Pushing these debts forward is just not a workable solution, not when the debt exceeded 130% of GDP, if you doubt my words, just talk to the average Greek in Athens and ask him how his quality of life is nowadays.

So as you wanted that your slice of life included a slice of pizza, consider the 99% in Italy who soon face the reality that they are no longer able to afford that for a long time to come.

 

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Be not stupid

There is an article in the Guardian. Now, we all agree that anyone has their own views, that has been a given for the longest of times, and those reading my blog know that I have a different view at times, yet for the most, I remained neutral and non-attacking to those with a different view, that’s how I roll.

Today is different, the article “‘Easy trap to fall into’: why video-game loot boxes need regulation” by Mattha Busby (@MatthaBusby) got to me. It is time for people to realise that when you are over 18, you are responsible for your actions. So I have, pretty much, no patience with any American, Reddit user or not, who gives us “a Reddit user who claims to have spent $10,000“. If you are that stupid, you should not be allowed to play video games.

The Setting

To comprehend my anger, you need to realise the setting we see here. You see, loot boxes are not new. This goes all the way back to 1991 when Richard Garfield created Magic, the gathering. I was not really on board in the beginning, but I played the game. The issues connect when you realise how the product was sold. There was a starter kit (which we call the basic game) it will have enough cards to start playing the game as well as the essential cards you need to play it. To get ahead in the game you need to get boosters. Here is where it gets interesting. Dozens of games are working on the principle that Richard Garfield founded. A booster would have 9-13 cards (depending on the game), It would have 1 (read: One) rare card (or better), 3 uncommon cards and the rest would be common cards. I had several of these games I played and in the end (after 20 boosters) it was merely about collecting the rare cards if you wanted a complete set. Some would not care about it and they could play the game. So this is not a new thing, so if you truly spend $10,000 you should not complain. If you have the money it is not an issue, if you did not, you are too stupid for words. In games it is not new either. Mass Effect 3, the best multiplayer game ever (my personal view) had loot boxes as well, I am pretty sure that they were the first. Yes, you could buy them, with money, or with Microsoft credit points. The third option was that you could gather points whilst playing (at the cost of $0) and use these gained points to buy loot boxes, the solution most people used. Over time you would end up with sensational goods to truly slice and dice the opponents, all gained through play time, no extra cash required.

So when I see places like Venture beat (and the Guardian of course) state issues like: “some people, policymakers, and regulators — including the gaming authorities in Belgium and Netherlands — that those card packs have are gambling“. I see these statements as moronic and I regard them as statements of false presentation. You see, that is not what it is about! When you see the attached picture, you see that these cards are sold EVERYWHERE. The issue is that the CCG card games are sold in the shops, which means that revenue is TAXED. The online sales are not and now, policymakers are all up in arms because they lost out on a non-taxable ‘$1.25 billion during its last quarter even without releasing a major new game‘, that is the real issue and they are now all acting in falsehood. So, when I see “I am currently $15,800 in debt. My wife no longer trusts me. My kids, who ask me why I am playing Final Fantasy all the time, will never understand how I selfishly spent money I should have been using for their activities“, as well as “he became addicted to buying in-game perks, which he later described as ‘digital garbage’“. I merely see people without discipline, without proper control. So without any regard for diplomacy I will call them junkies, plain and simple. Junkies who have no idea just how stupid they are. And, since when do we adjust policy for junkies? Since when are the 99% who hold themselves all plenty accountable, have the proper discipline to not overspend and some (like me) never considered loot boxes in a game like Shadow of War, now being held to account, to lessened gaming impact by junkies? Can anyone answer me this?

Now, we need to take into consideration one or two things. Are the FIFA18 loot boxes set in a similar light? That is the one place where (seemingly) FIFA is in the wrong. You see I have been searching to get any info on what is in a FIFA loot box, but there is no information given. I believe that this lack is actually an issue, yet that could be resolved in 24 hours if Electronic Arts would dedicate 1 page (considering it brings them $1.25 billion a quarter) on what is to be found in a loot box (Rare, Uncommon, Common). The second part that I cannot answer (because I am not a soccer fan) is whether the game allows loot boxes to be earned through playing and finally. Can the game be played without loot boxes? It seems like such a small alteration to make and especially when we see the fuss that is being made now. Some additional facts can be seen in Rolling Stone Magazine of all places (at https://www.rollingstone.com/glixel/features/loot-boxes-never-ending-games-and-always-paying-players-w511655). So now that we get a fuss from several nations, nations that have been all open and accepting on games like The Decipher CCG games Star Trek and Star Wars, Magic the Gathering, The Lord of the Rings, My Little Pony, Harry Potter, Pokémon, and that list goes on for some time. In that regard, they are all gambling and in my view, I feel certain that these so called politicians and lime light seekers will do absolutely NOTHING to get anything done because the cards are subject to VAT and the online stuff is lost taxable revenue. That is what I personally see as the foundation of a corrupt administration.

You see, the fact is that it is not gambling. You buy something that is in 3 categories, Rare, Uncommon and Common, you ALWAYS get this in a setting of 1 rare, 3 uncommon and 5 common, which card you get is not a given, it is random, but they will always get that setting. Let’s for example state that the loot box is $7, you get one $3 card, three $1 cards and five $0.20 cards, so how is that gambling? For Electronic Arts, until they update the website to give a precise definition might be in waters that are a little warmer, but that can be fixed by the end of the day. Perhaps they do have such a page, but Google did not find it.

In addition, Venture Beat gave us (at https://venturebeat.com/2018/05/08/ea-ceo-were-pushing-forward-with-loot-boxes-in-face-of-regulation/) “EA will have to convince policymakers around the world that it is doing enough and that its mechanics are not the same as the kinds of games you’d find in a casino“, which is easy as these policymakers did absolutely nothing to stop CCG’s like Pokémon and My Little Pony (truly games for minors), so we can stat that this was never about the loot box, it was about missed taxable revenue, a side that all the articles seemed to have left in the dark.

The Guardian has one additional gem. With: “A bill introduced in Minnesota last month would prohibit the sale of video games with loot boxes to under-18s and require a severe warning: “This game contains a gambling-like mechanism that may promote the development of a gaming disorder that increases the risk of harmful mental or physical health effects, and may expose the user to significant financial risk.”” Here I am in the middle. I think that Americans are not that bright at times, a point of view supported with the image of paper cups with the text ‘Caution Hot’ to avoid liability if some idiot burns their mouth; we know that sanity is out of the window. Yet the idea that there should be a loot box warning is perhaps not the worst idea. I think that EA could get ahead of the curve by clearly stating in a readable font size that ‘no loot boxes are needed to play the game‘, which is actually a more apt statement (and a true one) for Shadow of War, with FIFA18, I do not know. You see, this is a changed venue, when you can add a world player to your team the equation changes. Yet, does it make it more or less enjoyable? If I play NHL with my Capitals team and I get to add Mario Lemieux and Wayne Gretsky my chances to get the Stanley cup go up, yet is that a real win or is that cheating? That is of course the other side, the side that the game maker Ubisoft enabled in their Assassins Creed series. you could unlock weapons and gear for a mere $4, they clearly stated that the player would be able to unlock the options during the game, yet some people are not really gamers, mere players with a short attention span and they want the hardware upfront. Enter the Civil war with an Uzi and a Remington, to merely coin a setting. Are they gamers, or are they cheaters? It is a fair question and there is no real answer. Some say that the game allowed them to do this, which is fair and some say, you need to earn the kills you make. We can go to it from any direction, yet when we are confronted with mere junkies going on with spending $15,800, adding to a $69 game, we are confronted with people so stupid, it makes me wonder how he got his wife pregnant in the first place. If the given debt $15,800 is true then there should be a paper trail. In that regard I am all for the fact that there should be a spending limit of perhaps $500 a month, a random number but the fact that there is a limit to spend is not the worst idea. In the end, you have to pay for the stuff, so have a barrier at that point could have imposed a limit on the spending. In addition, we can point at the quote “how I selfishly spent money I should have been using for their activities” and how that is the response of any junk to make, ‘Oh! I am so sorry‘, especially after the junk got his/her fix.

The Guardian gives in addition an actual interesting side: “Hawaiian congressman Chris Lee said “are specifically designed to exploit and manipulate the addictive nature of human psychology”“, it is a fair point to make. Are ‘game completionists’ OCD people? Can the loot box be a vessel of wrongdoing? It might, yet that still does not make it gambling or illegal, which gets us to the Minnesota setting of a warning on the box. It is an interesting option and I think that most game makers would not oppose that, because you basically are not keeping loot boxes a secret and that might be a fair call to make, as long as we are not going overboard with messages like: “This game is a digital product, it requires a working computer to install and operate“, because at that point we have gone overboard again. This as a nice contrast against: “In the Netherlands, meanwhile, lawmakers have said that at least four popular games contravene its gambling laws because items gleaned from loot box can be assigned value when they are traded in marketplaces“, which is another issue. you see when you realise that “you can’t sell any digital content that you aren’t authorized to sell” and as we also saw in Venture Beat ““While we forbid the transfer of items and in-game currency outside of the games, we also actively seek to eliminate that where it’s going on in an illegal environment,”“, we see a first part where we can leave it to the Dutch to cater to criminals on any average working day, making the lawmakers (from my personal point of view slightly short sighted).

So, in the end Mattha had a decent article, yet the foundation (the CCG games) which were the creators of the founding concept were left outside the basket of consideration, which is a large booboo, especially when we realise that they are still for sale in all these complaining countries and that in that very same regard these games are not considered gambling, which sets the stage that this was never about gambling, but several desperate EU nations, as well as the US mind you, that they are all realising that loot boxes are billions of close to non-taxable revenues. That is where the issue holds and even as I do not disagree with the honourable men from both Hawaii and Minnesota, the larger group of policy players are all about the money (and the linked limelight), an issue equally left in the dark. There is one issue against Electronic Arts, yet they can fix that before the virtual ink on the web page has dried, so that issue is non-existent as well soon enough.

It’s all in the game and this discussion will definitely be part of the E3 2018, it has reached too many governments not to do so. I reckon that on E3 Day Zero, EA and Ubisoft need to sit down in a quiet room with cold drinks and talk loot box tactics, in that regard they should invite Richard Garfield into their meeting as an executive consultant. He might give them a few pointers to up the profit whilst remaining totally fair to the gamers, a win-win for all I say! Well, not for the politicians and policy makers, but who cares about them? For those who do care about those people, I have a bridge for sale with a lovely view of Balmain Sydney, going cheap today only!

 

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