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A New Disney

There was an Italian, who has been famous for over 125 years, he is not the first or the only famous Italian. There was this guy who came up with Pizza, There was this other Italian who thought fast Ford cars were a joke and he created Ferrari, then there was this other Italian, who made tractors, disagreed with the previous Italian and created Lamborghini. It is actually none of those. It is Carlo Lorenzini who was born 190 years ago. You might not know the name, perhaps his alternative name? Carlo Collodi! If you are still in the dark, than remember the story of a wooden boy who wanted to become a real live boy. Steven Spielberg used the notion in AI, but the original remains the best, namely Pinocchio!

Yes, the story of a wooden boy going into the world, yet as a wooden boy he was not alone, there was a little Cricket accompanying him and he would be a lot more important than your average Cricket, Jiminy was his name. Today the story is even more relevant, you see, the name Yemini Cricket might be ringing bells, but the truth of the wooden boy is there. The question becomes, who is the wooden boy?

So when I read ‘US, Britain and UN demand Yemen ceasefire within days‘ (at http://www.sbs.com.au/news/article/2016/10/16/us-britain-and-un-demand-yemen-ceasefire-within-days),

Yet when I read “The United Nations envoy, Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed, said: “We are here to call for an immediate cessation of hostilities, which will be declared in the next few hours.” Cheikh Ahmed said he had been in contact with the rebel Huthi militia’s lead negotiator and with Yemeni President Abedrabbo Mansour Hadi’s government“, my recollection does not go towards the classical story, it goes to a reference a little closer to the present (at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZFZrKOCdHFs), the laughter applies to both the sketch and reality. Aleppo is a great example, how 5 years and 400,000-450,000 fatalities later, no solution is there, but they are still flying to places like Switzerland to talk. I wonder when we add up all the costs, how much did the taxpayer pay for this play?

A number of civilian casualties that have now surpassed the total US Military casualties, of those who died during WW2. Doesn’t that look like a clear message that massive change was required a few years ago? I reckon all the players know that, yet, having long conversations with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, whose only concern is to stall so that the population can be made extinct before the resolution passes, reads a lot more like the Friends edition of Pinocchio, than the original by Carlo Collodi, where we see the conscience that is Jiminy Cricket.

So as we see the beginning of the same slow train in Yemen, I have to wonder if creating a new version of Pinocchio with Yemini Cricket is the way to go. It educates politicians as well as bring some hard needed cash towards Hollywood (or Bollywood).

So why is this different?

To one degree it is not, towards the other degree it is very much so. The problem is that both Syria and Yemen could be on the same page, no degrees of separation. In this case there are two at least. You see, Yemen has limited ties to Russia, making it less complicated, what is the issue is that the Houthi’s are actively shooting missiles at the US Navy complicating matters a lot more. It only takes one direct hit, and Yemen would technically be in a state of war with the US. Now, normally, a bankrupt nation is not that much a bother, but Yemen is not an economic or military superpower, so going against America sounds like a PR approach to get them ‘involved’. What is an issue is that Yemen, the neighbour of Saudi Arabia could get lucky at some point, what happens after the hit will be an issue, because Americans tend to get cranky when you successfully blow up something American. Interesting is that there are now multiple sources claiming that Iran is now moving towards the Red sea. An interesting story as the Red sea is on the other side of the Persian Gulf and Iranian war ships have no actual business there (which could also apply to the Americans). The question becomes how is Saudi placed into all this? Here there are issues too. There is no stating if there is even any link but the changes and the Attention that members of the Saudi government are drawing attention to themselves become a factor (speculation from my side).

One part is from the Australian Financial Review (at http://www.afr.com/news/world/middle-east/saudi-prince-mohammed-bin-salmans-shatters-decades-of-tradition-20161017-gs3yt5), where we see the title ‘Saudi Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s shatters decades of tradition‘, is not giving us the ‘goods’. The first quote is “He has slashed the state budget, frozen government contracts and reduced the pay of civil employees, all part of drastic austerity measures as the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is buffeted by low oil prices“, which would be quite acceptable in one view, at least it appears that one government in this world is dealing with its budget issues, although not in the most ‘desirable’ way, when a nation is so dependent on oil, there might not be too many options. The second quote is “While vacationing in the south of France, Prince Mohammed spotted a 134-metre yacht. He dispatched an aide to buy the ship, the Serene, then owned by Russian vodka tycoon Yuri Shefler. The deal was done within hours, at a price of approximately €500 million (roughly $720 million today)“, which implies the opposite. The question is not the cut-backs or spending spree, the issue is neither quote, it is the quote I will give now “Many young Saudis admire him as an energetic representative of their generation who has addressed some of the country’s problems with uncommon bluntness. The kingdom’s media have built his image as a hardworking, businesslike leader less concerned than his predecessors with the trappings of royalty” as well as “Others see him as a power-hungry upstart who is risking instability by changing too much, too fast“. So is the prince a go-getter or power-hungry? I cannot tell as this is all based on third degree of information, what matters is how the view and the actions will reflect the counteractions of the US and Iran in regard to Yemen. The moment the conflict results in a direct attack on Saudi grounds, what then? Iranian warships in the Red Sea would only complicate that, making a harsh response from the Saudi Military even more destabilising.

In my view there are two sides within Saudi Arabia, yet how they should be seen is another matter. I do not claim to have a proper view. I have questions. You see Mecca is an Islamic Holy city (the most important one) and it is part of Saudi Arabia, so as Saudi Arabia is the caretaker of this holy site, the involvement if Iran is more than just a small issue. Whatever they decide to escalate could have large repercussions all over the Middle East. The Sovereign State of Saudi Arabia has every right to defend it in every way possible, so Saudi Prince Mohammed bin Salman is also Minister of Defence and the youngest one in the world, which as a stat sounds nice, yet it also means that in light of other decisions, he is ready to do that what the US has been unable to do, declare war on its enemy by actually acting against them! Not that the US needed to declare war, but in light of Syria, doing anything actively would have been nice, an absence of resolution that His Royal Highness Mohammad bin Salman Al Saud is less likely to show.

What is a problem is the fact that the complications are more and more likely as days go by and that is the one spark that this powder keg does not need. Iran cannot be denied access to international waters, which will not lessen the impact. One of the elements in all this is seen in the second quote regarding the ‘power hungry’ side of it. You see, the AFR article is also mentioning “Mohammed bin Nayef, the interior minister and longtime counter-terrorism czar“, which is now an element in all this. You see, whatever happens next is all surrounding the need for intelligence. So whatever issues there are between His Royal Highness Muhammad bin Nayef bin Abdulaziz Al Saud and His Royal Highness Mohammad bin Salman Al Saud gives wake to the Disney sequel, a tale of two princes. A new approach to the classic Dickens story where the plight of two members of the Royal family of Al Saud are protecting the Sovereign state of Saudi Arabia as well as the safety and security of all Muslims that are in and nearby Mecca. Even as the papers are expecting a ceasefire, the issue is that stalling is equally a tactic here. There is no way of telling why Iran is involving its warships in that region, other than trying to complicate matters and demanding a seat at the table of decision, which would only change the time table in the worst of ways. What the Deutsche Welle did give was the quote “the Saudi-led coalition has blamed an airstrike that killed over 140 people at a funeral ceremony in Yemen on “erroneous information” received from a “party” affiliated with the country’s embattled government“, it matters, because it gives light to the essential issue that the two princes need to rely on quality intelligence, sources that can be scrutinised. And in this matter, mentioning the yacht was to iterate that spending that money on a satellite over the area might not have been the worst personal idea I am having. And let’s face it, any prince that can claim that he has his own satellite wins the discussion with any other prince relying on yacht and status. So many have a yacht, but how many of these rich individuals (very wealthy people in general) would own their own satellite? Especially if it becomes a source of intelligence.

Of course there is a lot more to owning one’s own satellite, but I hope we can all agree that intelligence will be key in whatever escalates over the next week. My issue is that too many players have their own agenda, yet would those agenda’s be truly 100% be focussed on whatever is best for Yemen and/or Saudi Arabia? You see, oil prices are down now, but why and for how long? What happens when prices go through the roof again? What happens then? Suddenly all these political issues are all linked to the price of Oil and the profit it brings?

I do not claim to have these answers, but the fact that too many sources are not asking the questions that require asking is troubling, yet the AFR article gives us a lot more, even more than I bargained for, which is comforting to say the least. What becomes a matter of discussion is the one quote that shows the elements “People who have met Mohammed bin Salman said he insisted that Saudi Arabia must be more assertive in shaping events in the Middle East and confronting Iran’s influence in the region – whether in Yemen, Syria, Iraq or Lebanon“, giving the links that require addressing and the prince is not afraid to do just that, however it take two to dance rings around Iran and taking away its influence in the Middle East. As I see it, Riyadh will have to make changes to some degree. Counter-Intelligence will be key in dealing with Iran and the impression I get when I see a quote like “has deep ties to Washington and the support of many of the older royals” shows the speculative possibility of the older ‘let us see how this plays out‘ against the younger ‘let us get this party started through action‘. It is not about the balance, but about what works best. In that regard both princes might have to make changes a lot faster than they are comfortable with, because if the news is correct, the Iranian ships and submarines will soon be active in the Red Sea, but active to what extent is something that remains speculative, whatever they do, the fact that it includes Iranian submarine presence (as reported but not confirmed), will also raise tensions with Israel.

As I see it, the biggest issue is Iran and what they are trying to get out of it. Putting themselves in the middle of a conflict where they are now trying to imply that it is all about them (especially as they are in the Red Sea), yet is their presence less valid than that of the US? It seems to me that we are creating a new Vietnam, just not with the Russians involved (like Syria). So there are two solutions to consider. One is that the US is replaced by for example the Commonwealth, or France, which takes away the Iranian-US issues. That is, if Saudi Arabia would be willing to consider that move. No matter what, the navy that does that, could find themselves in an armed conflict with Iran, so it better be a competent and modern Navy which leaves not that many options. The Netherlands, the UK, France, South Korea and India. Giving the option to either South Korea or India would benefit, as Iran cannot spin some NATO link story. In addition Iran cannot afford to piss of too many additional nations as either could make short work of the ego of Iran as these navies decide to sink Iranian war vessels like rubber dinghies, because they pushed one button too many.

No matter what happens, Saudi Arabia must do what it can to keep safe and the Yemeni issue is one that tests many sides of those who see and witness it, because there is a dilemma in conscience. A revolution that got out of hand, a set government overthrown with its own agenda. When we see the Houthi’s slogan “God is great, death to the US, death to Israel, curse the Jews, and victory for Islam“, can we really show any kind of support or sympathy?

The most important part to realise is that we need to set aside our version of what is acceptable, we have seen the US and Europe at large impose their version of ‘civility’, whilst bending over, grabbing their ankles and let the financial industry quite literally get away with murder in many ways. We impose rules and expectations, whilst having no clue how to manage a budget or how to stem greed to the point of strangulation. In all this, we have given up the high ground in several fronts, so we are no lecturer with any level of confidence. It is my opinion, that the Middle East can only be decently governed by someone in the Middle East. I personally believe that Saudi Arabia should be at the centre of it, there is no doubt that it would beneficial that a coalition that would include Egypt, Jordan and the United Arab Emirates, but I am not knowledgeable enough to see whether it is just them, or that other players should be seriously considered. What does matter is that both General Intelligence Directorate (GID, aka Mukhabarat) and Jordanian General Intelligence Directorate would be important in ascertaining Iran’s hostile actions and if need be counter them. From my academic point of view is the challenge that the SIGNT of the three would pose to get one coherent reporting and analytical solution on Iranian intelligence. One that would definitely benefit all three nations. Yet perhaps that will evolve into a third Disney project, which could be the next big thing. It’s all just a thought, but think it over for yourself and ask yourself the question you did not hear voiced, this is important, because this stage could get ugly in a hurry and possibly before Christmas this year.


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The hungry Journalist games

Another day and another article on Sky News!

This all started a long time ago, but it seems that this article (at http://news.sky.com/story/1293651/internet-firms-take-legal-action-against-gchq), opens up new avenues to explore, aqs it already had taken the cake as one might say. There are issues for certain, they are on both sides, but what is this about?

The seven countries involved are the UK, the US, Germany, the Netherlands, South Korea and Zimbabwe. Let’s start by stating that this is an interesting group of nations to begin with. It was an article in Der Spiegel that set them off. Most sources seem to have copied and pasted the same message (Reuters Journalism as I tend to call it), one source also had this: “Their complaint follows in the wake of articles about mass surveillance published in the Guardian based on material released by Snowden“.

So again this could be a ‘Snowden’ story, but I want to take a look at another side and the quote by Eric King spokesperson (deputy director) of Privacy International who stated “It completely cripples our confidence in the internet economy and threatens the rights of all those who use it. These unlawful activities, run jointly by GCHQ and the NSA, must come to an end immediately

Is that the truth, or should the correct quote be “It completely undermines our support of optional criminal activities and threatens the opportunity of economic abuse for all who desire it. Their unlawful activities, run jointly by GCHQ and the NSA, must come to an end immediately, so that we may again focus on possibly deniable illicit profit

That is quite the change, isn’t it? Consider the following two issues. First the prices, for example ‘Greenhost’ offers the following:

Webhosting 120 GB storage and 1.2 TB data traffic for 132.75 euro’s a month and virtual data servers containing 50 GB storage and 1 TB bandwidth a month for 215 euro’s a month. Basically, just one account would fit the web space for most the ENTIRE Forbes top 50, not just one or two.

So, in light of recent events, I thought I had something here, the Dutch provider fits the bill, but then I got to Riseup, which no longer seemed to be active and the Chaos Computer Club (CCC) which seemed highly ideologically to me. More important, it did not fit the bill either. So am I barking up the wrong tree? (I have been wrong before you know!)

I still believe that the ISP’s are all about not complying as it is not about freedom, but about bandwidth (which directly translates into revenue), which seemed to fit the first part, but the others are not about that, which makes me wonder what is in play. Do you actually think that the NSA and GCHQ are about wasting time? So, is the Chaos Computer Club a waste of time? No, as far as I can tell, they are not. Are they a threat? Well, that remains the issue. They are hackers after all. Is it that farfetched that some people would want to keep track of some of these members? Let’s not forget that someone is feeding organised crime the knowledge that they need to avoid prosecution, when considering the power that both the Triades and the Russian Mafia have in the digital age area, looking into the CCC to some extent seems to be a given. However, knowing their skills, doing it in the way it is implied to have been done seems a little over the top as most of these hackers are pretty proud of themselves and they are for the most not in hiding. Let us not forget, they voice themselves to be about the freedom of the German people and the utter privilege of their data remaining private.

The fact is that this is an implied mess involving 7 countries, the next valid question becomes: ‘are they linked (beyond the accusation), or are they just a collection of elements?’

That question bares scrutiny, but should also indicate the view I have had of Snowden from the very beginning. I believe him to be a joke (and a bad one at that). Now, most of you will not believe this, but let us take a look at the EVIDENCE. I am not talking about some claim, but actual evidence partially on the common sense you and me hopefully tend to have.

1. The claims that he has made involves massive levels of access. Not the access a hacker will ever have, but the information from top level sources in the CIA, NSA and GCHQ. So were talking hacking into over dozens of top level secured servers, servers which are monitored 24/7. He, some hacker no one had ever heard from, did all that. These people behind the screens do NOT EVER give out passwords, do not give access, yet he had all the information and walked out of one of the most secure buildings in the world with all THAT data? This is a quote found in sources like ‘the Verge’ and ‘Wired’. I think we can agree that wired is a reputable source in regards to technology (at http://www.wired.com/2013/06/snowden-thumb-drive/) “‘There are people who need to use a thumb drive and they have special permission,’ an unnamed, ex-NSA official told the LA Times. ‘But when you use one, people always look at you funny.’” This is not unlike the view I have had for a year now. Let’s not forget, the NSA is the place where SELinux was developed, it was designed to keep close tabs on access control, specifically, who, where, how and with what. So ‘some’ technician, with the USB drive in the most secure server space on the planet is just not going to fly. The question I had from the very beginning is not how he did it, but what was actually at play here? The next part is assumption! Was it to give Booz Allan Hamilton more profit? That was my alleged first thought. If data was going to get ported to non-government institutions, this small caper could give BAH and whoever was getting oversight an easy and clean billion a year in revenue. That tactic, still ethically wrong, would have made perfect sense to me.

Here is how I see it and this is PURE assumption (I will get back to evidence in a minute for my next issue), consider the Microsoft disappointment with data collection plans for the Xbox One. We see some of the changes (at http://www.nytimes.com/2014/05/23/us/politics/house-votes-to-limit-nsas-collection-of-phone-data.html). The following quotes are essential here. The first one was from Jim Sensenbrenner, Republican of Wisconsin, “The N.S.A. might still be watching us, he added, but now we can be watching them“. It is a bold statement, but is it true; moreover, should they be watched? Yes, any intelligence operation needs oversight, which is fair enough in a democratic way of life, but how many should overlook this? Are the people in oversight not granted well above average powers and is it fair to any opposition party that they should have it?

2. What lies beneath this access is the amount of involvement. Prism is one of the named projects with supported links to Australia, the UK and the Netherlands, with Microsoft as a commercial partner. Really? One nation, known for clogs, cheeses, Hans Brinker and soccer is placed next to the NSA and the Commonwealth? It is a technological hub, no doubt about that, but it is the size of Maryland. So, this is just the first of several projects, involving secrecies that would be limited to the very top, most of it would not be written down and Snowden had it (as in having in past tense, details follow). The mention of projects like XKeyscore, Tempora, Project 6, Stateroom, Lustre and Muscular. They are not only different projects, but they are a scope of projects that would not ever be in one location to begin with. So, what is implied as ‘the top’ of data gathering and one IT person has it all? Is no one asking the questions the PRESS should have asked and openly doubted from the very beginning to begin with (a part that is not voiced in any way).

The funny part is that stateroom seems to be no more than the legal collection of information as EVERY government tends to collect diplomatic data and in his claim he made them ALL bitches to the NSA, they just do not know it. There is also a reference to Echelon, there are several references, but the one that matters is not named. A covert niche within the NSA and the name of the source is: Tom Clancy!

Is anyone starting to wake up now?

This is not about anything but the warped imagination that is not even close to a reality. Consider that every government has embassies and consulates, the Dutch have them, the Australians have them, so do the Brits and the Germans, not to mention the French and they have them too. Consulates and Embassies represent their governments. Consulates tend to be specific for people and companies, so that they have backups. Like getting home when your passport is stolen, or to help a company with a list of people they should talk to for starting to do business. Trade will always remain important anywhere. Embassies are more about ‘governing’ opportunities as I see them. The Dutch want to get first dibs on building a reliable bridge, so their ambassador talks the great talk. People skills is what it is all about and talking to the right people. There are other sides too, they try to resolve issues, like a Dutchman committing a crime in Melbourne (for example) and the Embassy tries to ‘help’ the Dutch person to get home again, or to assist local government with their investigation if need be. These people do work that they sometimes like and sometimes hate, it is a job that needs to be done. To get the best results some things need to remain confidential and secret and as such whether through encrypted ways or through other ways messages go back and front between a government and its local representatives and that needs a little more security. Some is as simple as a message of a first insight as to build a bridge; to keep the advantage this goes encrypted. It is the cost of business, plain and simple. There is no hidden agenda (other than national pride in trying to score the job). So, they do they do their job and they are not the NSA bitch in the process.

It is simple approach and the lie hidden within a truth was stated as “They are covert, and their true mission is not known by the majority of the diplomatic staff at the facility where they are assigned” Part of the truth is that the encryption specialist is usually not known, it is not a secret either, he used to be the person, who had one extra book with cyphers, he opened each page and set the encryption box and transmitted the information, often a NCO of communication (often has NATO duty reference A00x0). That person had two extra tasks and most in the diplomatic staff might not know, or better stated, they absolutely do not care.

When we saw the statements by certain key people in Australia or the UK they spoke the absolute truth. The small explanation I gave is done by all, the DSD (AUS), GCHQ (UK) and as I said it the Dutch have it too. It is a simple legally valid and required job that needs to be done, nothing secret about it, it is the cost of doing business and sometimes, to keep a lead profitable it sometimes gets handed over more secured, just like they do it at Microsoft (they just get heaps better equipment).

Another issue is the XKeyscore reference. Does such a thing exist, most likely! Now consider the implications of the following, there are mentions of 700 servers in 150 locations. The fact that it needs to intercept without visibility and analyse at the same time as a person does many things at the same time. Even if the best of the best was used (which likely is the case), then we are looking at a very select group trying to get a handle on perhaps no more than the most dangerous 2000 people on the planet. Does anyone believe that a system like this remains a secret if 4 Australian bases are involved? The next part can also be taken as a fact. Can anyone even guess the amount of bandwidth this takes? Most routers nearby the monitored person will truly get a beating, so whatever this is, it will show up. It is the scope that is claimed that makes no sense. Some in the NSA might find it nice if it was true, but the weak link in all this is the actual internet.

The last part of this is the kicker in this joke. If his life depends on it all, do you actually think he would ever part with the information? This came from the NY Times from October 2013 (at http://www.nytimes.com/2013/10/18/world/snowden-says-he-took-no-secret-files-to-russia.html) “Mr Snowden said he gave all of the classified documents he had obtained to journalists he met in Hong Kong, before flying to Moscow, and did not keep any copies for himself“, so his life depends on a journalist, who now has the thousands of documents?

Perhaps we should look at a much more likely explanation, the man has no value, the press is stretching the value of events, as they would and Snowden has played his part, I still think that the Chinese saw in him what I saw from the very beginning, a simple joke! They walked away and he had to flee to Russia who is keeping him around for entertainment and to piss of the Yanks (which they also regard as good entertainment). My issue is not him, but the fact that I see more wasted time and energy on laughable cases that keep us all away from actually moving forward. In this economy, as we are so stretched thin, rebuilding an economy is a first need, not waste time on some feigned attack on the ‘confidence in the internet economy‘ as Eric King puts it.

And for the love of whomever, let’s not compare Snowden and Assange, I completely oppose Assange and his view, but at least he seemed to believe in that what he did was a just cause and acted accordingly.

In the end this is just my view, but no one seems to be asking the questions the press are supposed to be asking. The Guardian and Der Spiegel seem to get a ‘free’ hand in boasting tons of data and a simple stamp ‘Snowden said it was so’ seems enough for people to just accept it.


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