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Government Agency: If 9 Substations Are Destroyed, The Power Grid Could Be Down For 18 Months

Government Agency: If 9 Substations Are Destroyed, The Power Grid Could Be Down For 18 Months.

 By Michael Snyder, on March 18th, 2014

North American Power Grid

What would you do if the Internet or the power grid went down for over a year?  Our key infrastructure, including the Internet and the power grid, is far more vulnerable than most people would dare to imagine.  These days, most people simply take for granted that the lights will always be on and that the Internet will always function properly.  But what if all that changed someday in the blink of an eye?  According to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s latest report, all it would take to plunge the entire nation into darkness for more than a year would be to knock out a transformer manufacturer and just 9 of our 55,000 electrical substations on a really hot summer day.  The reality of the matter is that our power grid is in desperate need of updating, and there is very little or no physical security at most of these substations.  If terrorists, or saboteurs, or special operations forces wanted to take down our power grid, it would not be very difficult.  And as you will read about later in this article, the Internet is extremely vulnerable as well.

When I read the following statement from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s latest report, I was absolutely floored…

“Destroy nine interconnection substations and a transformer manufacturer and the entire United States grid would be down for at least 18 months, probably longer.”

Wow.

What would you do without power for 18 months?

FERC studied what it would take to collapse the entire electrical grid from coast to coast.  What they found was quite unsettling

In its modeling, FERC studied what would happen if various combinations of substations were crippled in the three electrical systems that serve the contiguous U.S. The agency concluded the systems could go darkif as few as nine locations were knocked out: four in the East, three in the West and two in Texas, people with knowledge of the analysis said.

The actual number of locations that would have to be knocked out to spawn a massive blackout would vary depending on available generation resources, energy demand, which is highest on hot days, and other factors, experts said. Because it is difficult to build new transmission routes, existing big substations are becoming more crucial to handling electricity.

So what would life look like without any power for a long period of time?  The following list comes from one of my previous articles

-There would be no heat for your home.

-Water would no longer be pumped into most homes.

-Your computer would not work.

-There would be no Internet.

-Your phones would not work.

-There would be no television.

-There would be no radio.

-ATM machines would be shut down.

-There would be no banking.

-Your debit cards and credit cards would not work.

-Without electricity, gas stations would not be functioning.

-Most people would be unable to do their jobs without electricity and employment would collapse.

-Commerce would be brought to a standstill.

-Hospitals would not be able to function.

-You would quickly start running out of medicine.

-All refrigeration would shut down and frozen foods in our homes and supermarkets would start to go bad.

If you want to get an idea of how quickly society would descend into chaos, just watch the documentary “American Blackout” some time.  It will chill you to your bones.

The truth is that we live in an unprecedented time.  We have become extremely dependent on technology, and that technology could be stripped away from us in an instant.

Right now, our power grid is exceedingly vulnerable, and all the experts know this, but very little is being done to actually protect it

“The power grid, built over many decades in a benign environment, now faces a range of threats it was never designed to survive,” said Paul Stockton, a former assistant secretary of defense and president of risk-assessment firm Cloud Peak Analytics. “That’s got to be the focus going forward.”

If a group of agents working for a foreign government or a terrorist organization wanted to bring us to our knees, they could do it.

In fact, there have actually been recent attacks on some of our power stations.  Here is just one example

The Wall Street Journal’s Rebecca Smith reports that a former Federal Energy Regulatory Commission chairman is acknowledging for the first time that a group of snipers shot up a Silicon Valley substation for 19 minutes last year, knocking out 17 transformers before slipping away into the night.

The attack was “the most significant incident of domestic terrorism involving the grid that has ever occurred” in the U.S., Jon Wellinghoff, who was chairman of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission at the time, told Smith.

Have you heard about that attack before now?

Most Americans have not.

But it should have been big news.

At the scene, authorities found “more than 100 fingerprint-free shell casings“, and little piles of rocks “that appeared to have been left by an advance scout to tell the attackers where to get the best shots.”

So what happens someday when the bad guys decide to conduct a coordinated attack against our power grid with heavy weapons?

It could happen.

In addition, as I mentioned at the top of this article, the Internet is extremely vulnerable as well.

For example, did you know that authorities are so freaked out about the security of the Internet that they have given “the keys to the Internet” to a very small group of individuals that meet four times per year?

It’s true.  The following is from a recent story posted by the Guardian

The keyholders have been meeting four times a year, twice on the east coast of the US and twice here on the west, since 2010. Gaining access to their inner sanctum isn’t easy, but last month I was invited along to watch the ceremony and meet some of the keyholders – a select group of security experts from around the world. All have long backgrounds in internet security and work for various international institutions. They were chosen for their geographical spread as well as their experience – no one country is allowed to have too many keyholders. They travel to the ceremony at their own, or their employer’s, expense.

What these men and women control is the system at the heart of the web: the domain name system, or DNS. This is the internet’s version of a telephone directory – a series of registers linking web addresses to a series of numbers, called IP addresses. Without these addresses, you would need to know a long sequence of numbers for every site you wanted to visit. To get to the Guardian, for instance, you’d have to enter “77.91.251.10” instead of theguardian.com.

If the system that controls those IP addresses gets hijacked or damaged, we would definitely need someone to press the “reset button” on the Internet.

Sadly, the hackers always seem to be several steps ahead of the authorities.  In fact, according to one recent report, breaches of U.S. government computer networks go undetected 40 percent of the time

A new report by Sen. Tom Coburn (R., Okla.) detailswidespread cybersecurity breaches in the federal government, despite billions in spending to secure the nation’s most sensitive information.

The report, released on Tuesday, found thatapproximately 40 percent of breaches go undetected, and highlighted “serious vulnerabilities in the government’s efforts to protect its own civilian computers and networks.”

“In the past few years, we have seen significant breaches in cybersecurity which could affect critical U.S. infrastructure,” the report said. “Data on the nation’s weakest dams, including those which could kill Americans if they failed, were stolen by a malicious intruder. Nuclear plants’ confidential cybersecurity plans have been left unprotected. Blueprints for the technology undergirding the New York Stock Exchange were exposed to hackers.”

Yikes.

And things are not much better when it comes to cybersecurity in the private sector either.  According to Symantec, there was a 42 percentincrease in cyberattacks against businesses in the United States last year.  And according to a recent report in the Telegraph, our major banks are being hit with cyberattacks “every minute of every day”…

Every minute, of every hour, of every day, a major financial institution is under attack.

Threats range from teenagers in their bedrooms engaging in adolescent “hacktivism”, to sophisticated criminal gangs and state-sponsored terrorists attempting everything from extortion to industrial espionage. Though the details of these crimes remain scant, cyber security experts are clear that behind-the-scenes online attacks have already had far reaching consequences for banks and the financial markets.

For much more on all of this, please see my previous article entitled “Big Banks Are Being Hit With Cyberattacks ‘Every Minute Of Every Day’“.

Up until now, attacks on our infrastructure have not caused any significant interruptions in our lifestyles.

But at some point that will change.

Are you prepared for that to happen?

We live at a time when our world is becoming increasingly unstable.  In the years ahead it is quite likely that we will see massive economic problems, major natural disasters, serious terror attacks and war.  Any one of those could cause substantial disruptions in the way that we live.

At this point, even NASA is warning that “civilization could collapse”…

A new study sponsored by Nasa’s Goddard Space Flight Center has highlighted the prospect that global industrial civilisation could collapse in coming decades due to unsustainable resource exploitation and increasingly unequal wealth distribution.

Noting that warnings of ‘collapse’ are often seen to be fringe or controversial, the study attempts to make sense of compelling historical data showing that “the process of rise-and-collapse is actually a recurrent cycle found throughout history.” Cases of severe civilisational disruption due to “precipitous collapse – often lasting centuries – have been quite common.”

So let us hope for the best.

But let us also prepare for the worst.

Digital surveillance won’t drive me off social media: Lauren O’Neil – Community – CBC News

Digital surveillance won’t drive me off social media: Lauren O’Neil – Community – CBC News.

CBC social media producer is an avowed ‘internet addict’

By Lauren O’Neil, CBC News Posted: Mar 07, 2014 5:00 AM ET Last Updated: Mar 07, 2014 5:00 AM ET

Lauren O'Neil is a producer on the Community desk of CBC News and a self-professed 'internet addict.'Lauren O’Neil is a producer on the Community desk of CBC News and a self-professed ‘internet addict.’ (Evan Mitsui/CBC)

I was 12 years old when I published my first blog post.

 

It was 1996 and, at the time, my biggest concern was that one of my parents would pick up the phone and kill our 14K modem’s connection to the internet while I was uploading images.

 

The concept of digital privacy didn’t even register in my mind – I was simply thrilled to put my thoughts and face on the web for the entire world to see.

 

A lot has changed since then, technologically speaking, but my desire to share my life online has never wavered. In fact, it’s only grown stronger with the advent of social networks, micro-blogging and, most significantly, smartphones.

 

Today, I live out much of my personal life through my iPhone and laptop. I communicate with my friends through Facebook Messenger, post photos of my daily adventures on Instagram and even publish blog posts through WordPress while I’m on the streetcar sometimes.

‘As this project shows, I’m revealing quite a bit more [about myself] than I’d expected.’– CBC News social media producer Lauren O’Neil

 

I tweet out jokes, musings, fun links and photos constantly – almost compulsively – and probably upload more selfies than is considered socially acceptable. I’ve also got a YouTube channel, a Tumblr blog, multiple Gmail addresses and accounts with Google+, Rdio, SoundCloud, Netflix, Pinterest and Foursquare.

 

As an associate producer on the Community desk for CBC News, I write multiple blog posts a day, host a weekly online chat show and sometimes appear on television to speak about internet-related things.

 

When my colleagues approached me to take part in a project tracking my daily surveillance habits, I was curious to see just how much information I’m giving away. Suffice it to say, I’m quite comfortable putting myself out there.

 

What I’m not comfortable with is the idea of anyone gaining access to information I haven’t explicitly made public – and as this project shows, I’m revealing quite a bit more than I’d expected.

 

The extent of online tracking

 

When I was first told about this project, I assumed that my online activity was being tracked at least a little bit.

 

I understood that leaving my iPhone’s GPS on would geolocate my Instagram photos, that checking into the gym on Foursquare could activate nearby marketing promotions and that third-party Twitter apps had access to my email address and other data I’d provided.

 

Surveillance interactiveClick on the graphic above to see an interactive on how we are digitally tracked on a daily basis. (CBC)

 

 

I was even aware that Facebook was selling my data to marketers – hey, that’s the price you pay for a free (and, to my mind, essential) service.

 

What shocked me was how much of my personal, private information could be accessed by the government and corporations through simple activities such as buying a coffee or checking my RSS feed over breakfast.

 

Every email and tweet I send contains metadata such as the date, time and subject of the message, as well as the IP address from which it was sent. With the amount of personal data I push through my iPhone every hour, it means I could be tracked down at almost any time of the day.

It’s scary to think about what could happen if that information came into the wrong hands.

 

Something else I’d never really considered was how vulnerable I was making myself by using public Wi-Fi networks, which can be insecure. Sure, I might save a few bucks on my wireless bill, but is it worth the risk of giving third-party corporations or even malicious hackers access to my data?

 

Participating in this project has opened my eyes to how much information I’m involuntarily sharing with marketers, the Canadian government and potentially even U.S. authorities.

 

But while privacy is important to me, so is communicating with my peers, having a creative outlet and contributing to the online culture I so deeply love and respect.

 

Without sharing so much of my life through the Internet, I wouldn’t be where I am professionally. I’d also have missed out on some of great social, creative and career opportunities.

 

The rewards outweigh the risks… for now. That said, I’ll definitely be turning off my iPhone’s GPS function. It’s a small but necessary step.

Digital surveillance won't drive me off social media: Lauren O’Neil – Community – CBC News

Digital surveillance won’t drive me off social media: Lauren O’Neil – Community – CBC News.

CBC social media producer is an avowed ‘internet addict’

By Lauren O’Neil, CBC News Posted: Mar 07, 2014 5:00 AM ET Last Updated: Mar 07, 2014 5:00 AM ET

Lauren O'Neil is a producer on the Community desk of CBC News and a self-professed 'internet addict.'Lauren O’Neil is a producer on the Community desk of CBC News and a self-professed ‘internet addict.’ (Evan Mitsui/CBC)

I was 12 years old when I published my first blog post.

 

It was 1996 and, at the time, my biggest concern was that one of my parents would pick up the phone and kill our 14K modem’s connection to the internet while I was uploading images.

 

The concept of digital privacy didn’t even register in my mind – I was simply thrilled to put my thoughts and face on the web for the entire world to see.

 

A lot has changed since then, technologically speaking, but my desire to share my life online has never wavered. In fact, it’s only grown stronger with the advent of social networks, micro-blogging and, most significantly, smartphones.

 

Today, I live out much of my personal life through my iPhone and laptop. I communicate with my friends through Facebook Messenger, post photos of my daily adventures on Instagram and even publish blog posts through WordPress while I’m on the streetcar sometimes.

‘As this project shows, I’m revealing quite a bit more [about myself] than I’d expected.’– CBC News social media producer Lauren O’Neil

 

I tweet out jokes, musings, fun links and photos constantly – almost compulsively – and probably upload more selfies than is considered socially acceptable. I’ve also got a YouTube channel, a Tumblr blog, multiple Gmail addresses and accounts with Google+, Rdio, SoundCloud, Netflix, Pinterest and Foursquare.

 

As an associate producer on the Community desk for CBC News, I write multiple blog posts a day, host a weekly online chat show and sometimes appear on television to speak about internet-related things.

 

When my colleagues approached me to take part in a project tracking my daily surveillance habits, I was curious to see just how much information I’m giving away. Suffice it to say, I’m quite comfortable putting myself out there.

 

What I’m not comfortable with is the idea of anyone gaining access to information I haven’t explicitly made public – and as this project shows, I’m revealing quite a bit more than I’d expected.

 

The extent of online tracking

 

When I was first told about this project, I assumed that my online activity was being tracked at least a little bit.

 

I understood that leaving my iPhone’s GPS on would geolocate my Instagram photos, that checking into the gym on Foursquare could activate nearby marketing promotions and that third-party Twitter apps had access to my email address and other data I’d provided.

 

Surveillance interactiveClick on the graphic above to see an interactive on how we are digitally tracked on a daily basis. (CBC)

 

 

I was even aware that Facebook was selling my data to marketers – hey, that’s the price you pay for a free (and, to my mind, essential) service.

 

What shocked me was how much of my personal, private information could be accessed by the government and corporations through simple activities such as buying a coffee or checking my RSS feed over breakfast.

 

Every email and tweet I send contains metadata such as the date, time and subject of the message, as well as the IP address from which it was sent. With the amount of personal data I push through my iPhone every hour, it means I could be tracked down at almost any time of the day.

It’s scary to think about what could happen if that information came into the wrong hands.

 

Something else I’d never really considered was how vulnerable I was making myself by using public Wi-Fi networks, which can be insecure. Sure, I might save a few bucks on my wireless bill, but is it worth the risk of giving third-party corporations or even malicious hackers access to my data?

 

Participating in this project has opened my eyes to how much information I’m involuntarily sharing with marketers, the Canadian government and potentially even U.S. authorities.

 

But while privacy is important to me, so is communicating with my peers, having a creative outlet and contributing to the online culture I so deeply love and respect.

 

Without sharing so much of my life through the Internet, I wouldn’t be where I am professionally. I’d also have missed out on some of great social, creative and career opportunities.

 

The rewards outweigh the risks… for now. That said, I’ll definitely be turning off my iPhone’s GPS function. It’s a small but necessary step.

Reddit Censors Big Story About Government Manipulation and Disruption of the Internet Washington’s Blog

Reddit Censors Big Story About Government Manipulation and Disruption of the Internet Washington’s Blog.

Reddit Moderators Go to Extreme Lengths to Censor the Most Important Story of the Year

The moderators at the giant r/news reddit (with over 2 million subscribed readers) repeatedly killed the Greenwald/Snowden story on government manipulation and disruption of the Internet … widely acknowledged to be one of the most important stories ever leaked by Snowden.

Similarly, the moderators at the even bigger r/worldnews reddit (over 5 million subscribers) repeatedly deleted the story, so that each new post had to start over at zero.

For example, here are a number of posts deleted from r/news (click any image for much larger/clearer version):

Related posts from other sites – like 21stCenturyWire – were deleted as well:

And here are a number of the posts deleted by the moderators of r/worldnews:

Write-ups of the same story from other sites – like Zero Hedge – were also deleted:

Two Redditors provide further information on the censorship of this story:

This isn’t the first time Reddit moderators have been caught censoring:

Source links: Hereherehereherehere and here.

Why Trolls Start Flame Wars: Swearing and Name-Calling Shut Down the Ability to Think and Focus Washington’s Blog

Why Trolls Start Flame Wars: Swearing and Name-Calling Shut Down the Ability to Think and Focus Washington’s Blog.

Internet Psychology 101

Psychological studies show that swearing and name-calling in Internet discussions shut down our ability to think.

2 professors of science communication at the University of Wisconsin, Madison – Dominique Brossard and Dietram A. Scheufele – wrote in the New York Times last year:

In a study published online last month in The Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication, we and three colleagues report on an experiment designed to measure what one might call “the nasty effect.”

We asked 1,183 participants to carefully read a news post on a fictitious blog, explaining the potential risks and benefits of a new technology product called nanosilver. These infinitesimal silver particles, tinier than 100-billionths of a meter in any dimension, have several potential benefits (like antibacterial properties) and risks (like water contamination), the online article reported.

Then we had participants read comments on the post, supposedly from other readers, and respond to questions regarding the content of the article itself.

Half of our sample was exposed to civil reader comments and the other half to rude ones — though the actual content, length and intensity of the comments, which varied from being supportive of the new technology to being wary of the risks, were consistent across both groups. The only difference was that the rude ones contained epithets or curse words, as in: “If you don’t see the benefits of using nanotechnology in these kinds of products, you’re an idiot” and “You’re stupid if you’re not thinking of the risks for the fish and other plants and animals in water tainted with silver.”

The results were both surprising and disturbing. Uncivil comments not only polarized readers, but they often changed a participant’s interpretation of the news story itself.

In the civil group, those who initially did or did not support the technology — whom we identified with preliminary survey questions — continued to feel the same way after reading the comments. Those exposed to rude comments, however, ended up with a much more polarized understanding of the risks connected with the technology.

Simply including an ad hominem attack in a reader comment was enough to make study participants think the downside of the reported technology was greater than they’d previously thought.

While it’s hard to quantify the distortional effects of such online nastiness, it’s bound to be quite substantial, particularly — and perhaps ironically — in the area of science news.

So why do people troll in a rude way?

Psychologists say that many Internet trolls are psychopaths, sadists and narcissists getting their jollies. It’s easy to underestimate how many of these types of sickos are out there: There are millions of sociopaths in the U.S. alone.

But intelligence agencies are also intentionally disrupting political discussion on the web, and ad hominen attacks, name-calling and divide-and-conquer tactics are all well-knownfrequently-useddisruption techniques.

Now you know why … flame wars polarize thinking, and stop the ability to focus on the actual topic and facts under discussion.

Indeed, this tactic is so effective that the same wiseguy may play both sides of the fight.

Postscript:  Fortunately, it’s not that difficult to isolate the trolls and stop their disruption … if we just point out what they’re doing.

For example, I’ve found that posting something like this can be very effective:

Good Number 1!

Or this might be better if the troll is a sociopath:

Isn’t that kind of “entertainment” more appropriate elsewhere?

(include the link so people can see what you’re referring to.)

The reason this is effective is that other readers will learn about the specific disruption tactic being used … in context, like seeing wildlife while holding a wildlife guide, so that one learns what it looks like “in the field”.   At the same time, you come across as humorous, light-hearted and smart … instead of heavy-handed or overly-intense.

Try it … it works.

Germany Wants to Keep Data Away from the NSA with a Europe-Only Network | Motherboard

Germany Wants to Keep Data Away from the NSA with a Europe-Only Network | Motherboard.

By Victoria Turk

Pictured here together at the G20 summit last year, Angela Merkel will discuss proposals with Francois Hollande on Wednesday. Image: President of the European Council/Flickr

Last week we reported on the European Commission’s proposals to cut back the US’s influence over internet governance in face of NSA spying revelations. But it looks like German Chancellor Angela Merkel wants even stronger steps to combat US surveillance of European web users: she’s called for a kind of walled-off network that would keep European data away from prying American eyes.

Reuters reported that in Merkel’s weekly podcast on Saturday, she announced plans to talk with French President Francois Hollande about building a “communication network” to maintain a higher level of data security for Europe’s web users. “Above all, we’ll talk about European providers that offer security for our citizens, so that one shouldn’t have to send emails and other information across the Atlantic,” she said. “Rather, one could build up a communication network inside Europe.”

Germany has been a particularly outspoken critic of NSA and GCHQ surveillance tactics in the wake of revelations leaked by Edward Snowden, and for good reason. The country seems to have been heavily targeted in the spying allegations; even Merkel’s own cell phone was allegedly tapped by the US government, while a potential electronic “spying tent” was discovered on top of the British embassy in Berlin, not far from the German parliament.

Since then, Merkel has been trying to get the US to agree to a “no-spy” agreement, but it looks like Obama’s administration won’t play ball (and given the clandestine nature of spying it’s hard to fathom how much trust could realistically be invested in such an accord).

This latest announcement launches a new counter-espionage offensive, and according to the Independent, it could just be the first of many to come. They cite German magazine Der Spiegel, which claimed to have uncovered plans for a “massive” increase in German anti-spying measures, such as surveillance on the American and British embassies in Berlin—a kind of cycle of surveillance on surveillance that seems the inevitable farcical conclusion of a saga in whicheveryone’s spying on everyone else.

As for the communications network proposal, the idea is to keep Europeans’ data under European data protection regulations. The problem is that, while the internet is a global network, different countries have different laws on privacy. Germany has particularly strict rules on personal privacy—perhaps a result of its Nazi and Communist past, in which oppressive surveillance played a regrettable role.

When Germans’ data leaves the country, however, it’s not necessarily protected by those laws (and could, for instance, be creeped on by the NSA). Merkel also singled out Google and Facebook for basing their operations in places with much less stringent data protection. She didn’t name the country, but Bloomberg’s Leonid Bershidsky points out both companies have their headquarters in Ireland.

Merkel will meet with Hollande on Wednesday to discuss the idea, and France has said they agree with the proposals. It’ll nevertheless take more than that to get anything off the ground. For a start, France and Germany only represent two companies out of Europe, albeit powerful ones. It’s not clear exactly how far their proposed European network would extend, but any closed networks like this risk undermining the global nature of the internet, which the European Commission last week emphasised it was keen to preserve. There are also practical questions, like what happens when you want to send emails from America to Europe, and vice versa?

Moreover, Germany and France have different data protection laws, and a shared policy would likely need to be adopted if a Europe-wide were scheme to work.

News agency UPI also points out that a European network likely wouldn’t be “NSA-proof” (a term we’ve seen bandied around a lot recently, not always very convincingly). They referred to a January interview with German broadcaster ARD in which Edward Snowden said that keeping data off US soil and in national cloud systems wouldn’t be enough. “The NSA goes where the data are,” he said. “If the NSA can pull text messages out of telecommunications networks in China, they can probably manage to get Facebook messages out of Germany.”

Scientists speak out against Canada’s ‘war on science’

Scientists speak out against Canada’s ‘war on science’.

by Peter Rugh, originally published by Waging Nonviolence  | TODAY

Dr. Katie Gibbs speaks at a Stand Up for Science rally at Parliament Hill in Ottowa last September. (Evidence for Democracy / Kevin O'Donnell)

Dr. Katie Gibbs speaks at a Stand Up for Science rally at Parliament Hill in Ottowa last September. (Evidence for Democracy / Kevin O’Donnell)

Seven of Canada’s most prized scientific libraries are being shut down and some of their contents have already been burned, thrown away or carted off by fossil fuel consultancy firms. This development is part of a Harper administration plan to slash more than $160 million in the coming years from the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, or DFO — an agency charged with protecting the country’s vast waterways.

The Harper government has portrayed the move as necessary in order to reduce the country’s deficit and provide Canadians with greater access to scientific information through the Internet. But alongside the cuts, the Harper administration has doled out billions in subsidies to the fossil fuel-dominated energy sector — $26 billion in 2011, according to a recent International Monetary Fund report. As for accessing the information at the shuttered libraries, an internal DFO document labeled “secret” obtained by Postmedia News in late December, along with the scientists who utilize the research facilities, tell a different story.

The once-secret DFO document speaks of “culling” materials in the libraries, a term that critics believe to be far more devastating than it sounds. Much like its original meaning — the killing of animals with undesired genetic traits — they see the budget cuts as a way to do away with undesirable science.

“The Harper government is not simply influenced by the fossil fuel industry, it isthe fossil fuel industry,” said Brad Hornick, a lead organizer with of the Vancouver Ecosocialist Group.

The Harper administration has long been known for its anti-environment stance. Harper’s environment minister, for instance, has publicly cast doubt on research documenting Arctic sea ice melt. Observers have also complained of a revolving door between the government and industry that has effectively placed Canada’s natural resources at the disposal of fossil fuel corporations supporting hydraulic fracturing, carbon-rich tar sands extraction and pipeline projects. In the process, a host of conservation laws and sovereignty treaties with Canada’s First Nations population have been unwound at the behest of oil and gas lobby groups. The Center for Global Development ranks Canada last among wealthy nations in terms of environmental protection.

Meanwhile, 2,000 government scientists have been fired over the past five years and hundreds of environmental programs that monitor food, water and air quality, study and prevent oil spills, as well as track atmospheric changes have been shut down for lack of funds.

Dr. Katie Gibbs with Evidence for Democracy, a grassroots organization composed of scientists mobilizing against the culling, said it is only the latest development in a “long trend.”

“Over the past few years we’ve seen huge cuts in funding for science, layoffs for scientists who work for the government and reduced funding for academic scientists,” Gibbs said. “Some are calling it a war on science.”

British Columbia’s independent online news magazine The Tyee detailed the scope of the latest assault, citing several research hubs where scientific literature has been trashed, burned or picked apart. According to The Tyee, they include, “[The] Maurice-Lamontagne Institute, which housed 61,000 French language documents on Quebec’s waterways, as well as the newly renovated $62-million library serving the historic St. Andrews Biological Station in St. Andrews, New Brunswick.” Also shut down, were “the famous Freshwater Institute library in Winnipeg and one of the world’s finest ocean collections at the Northwest Atlantic Fisheries Centre in St. John’s, Newfoundland.”

In a fitting addendum to this assault on science, the magazine noted that Rachel Carson — a founder of the modern environmental movement — corresponded with researchers at St. Andrews while writing her pioneering book on environmental contamination, Silent Spring, half a century ago.

According to Gibbs, whose group is circulating a petition against the cuts, “There’s no way this information was digitized. Many scientists have spoken out and said that everything is being done in a huge rush, completely disorganized. Private companies came and picked up truck loads of this material. They saw the value in it.”

The gas and dam powered-utility, Manitoba Hydro, plus North/South Consultants — a firm that counts oil and gas corporations among its clients in the heavily-frackedManitoba province — obtained troves of research documents pertaining to water treatment and aquatic habitats from Winnipeg’s Freshwater Institute. Scientists have also reported witnessing the incineration of literature at DFO libraries and one researcher at the Maurice Lamontagne Institute in Mont Joli, Quebec posted a photo online of a dumpster full of discarded books and journals. Although, scientists have done their best to salvage the research, more federal libraries are slated for culling.

Like the indigenous-led Idle No More movement and the climate activists who raised a sign that read “climate justice” over the prime minister’s head at a Vancouver Board of Trade meeting earlier this month, scientists are increasingly standing up to Harper, though doing so comes with great risk to their careers.

Last fall, Evidence for Democracy staged “Stand Up for Science” rallies in 17 Canadian cities against legal restrictions to their ability to share research and communicate with the public — one of the first steps in the so-called war on science taken by the Harper administration upon its ascent to power in 2006.

“The restrictions play into the library closures,” said Gibbs. “When scientists have spoken out they’ve had to do so anonymously because they fear for their jobs.”

According to critics of the Harper administration, such attacks on science are part of the prime minister’s small government, big business ideology, which assigns a negative value to any science that adversely impacts the production of fossil fuels.

“If you are going to be in favor of fossil fuel expansion, and tar sands in particular, and you are going to try to sell that to the Canadian public — part of doing that means dulling the awareness and importance of science,” said Rodger Annis, a Vancouver-based environmental activist and writer. “Science tells us in stark terms that if we want to prevent the very serious consequences of climate changethen we have to leave the tar sands in the ground.”

While the Harper administration may be able to dull, or even subvert the science behind such a message, it’s the scientists who are proving difficult to silence. And perhaps that’s just what’s needed. After all, science is only as strong as the scientists behind it.

Activist Post: Net Neutrality Dies: Is the Free and Open Internet Over or Just Beginning?

Activist Post: Net Neutrality Dies: Is the Free and Open Internet Over or Just Beginning?.

Derrick Broze
Activist Post

It seems that while internet activists and advocates of the free flow of information have been focused on the dangerous and looming Trans-Pacific Partnership, the debate for Net Neutrality has been absent from recent memory. The TPP has the potential to completely upend life as we know it and does warrant a great bit of your attention. However, the persistent debate of Net Neutrality rules has now been brought back front and center.

On Tuesday the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit ruled against rules originally adopted by the Federal Communications Commission in 2010. The rules, known as Net Neutrality, were designed to protect the openness of the internet. The 2-1 decision means the FCC created rules do not apply to broadband services such as Comcast and Verizon, the two companies behind the lawsuit.

The D.C. Circuit decided that the FCC had classified broadband services differently than it does traditional telecommunications companies and could not hold broadband services to the same standard. The FCC used the concept of “common carriage” when developing the basis of the Net Neutrality rules. The concept hinges on the idea that common pathways (the internet, waterways, roads) should be open to all. A business can charge for services using such pathways but they cannot discriminate.

With the internet this means that before Tuesday companies could not discriminate traffic based on a tier system, or payment of a fee. The idea was that the internet infrastructure that provides all internet content should be open to anyone. The end of the rules means that large corporations with deep pocket books could pay broadband providers extra cash to ensure their sites and services stream in excellent quality while viewers of smaller sites could suffer from a lower quality internet experience.

It doesn’t take long to see how this could affect internet censorship. Smaller journalist outfits, or independent entrepreneurial ventures could be blocked from the internet by being unable to pay fees that Verizon, Time Warner or Comcast may eventually impose. There are also fears that the United States government’s close relationship to certain corporations could lead to quality experiences of some sites and the slow elimination of websites critical of the government and its policies.

How did we get here?

In 2005 the Supreme Court ruled that broadband services should not be classified in the same manner as telecom services. The idea being that broadband providers’ infrastructure is not considered a public right and not regulated under the concept of common carrier. Based on that decision the appeals court rejected the FCC position that broadband services fall under Net Neutrality rules.

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The FCC put in place official rules for Net Neutrality after a failed attempt to fine Comcast based on Net Neutrality principles, but not official rules, that were in place in 2009. Comcast had slowed traffic from the torrent downloading service BitTorrent in order to manage traffic and limit downloads. In April 2010 the same D.C. court ruled that the FCC had no authority to enforce regulations on Internet providers. The case dealt with what many fear will happen in the coming age of tiered internet services.

Soon after, the FCC created official Net Neutrality rules. It was these new rules that Tuesday’s decision concluded, once again, that the FCC does not have the authority to regulate broadband services under. So what are the rules of Net Neutrality and how do they affect you?

Net Neutrality

The first of three rules required broadband companies to remain open and transparent to customers about how they handle traffic on their systems.

The second rule is designed to keep broadband services from blocking legal content on their networks.

The third rule, and the one which does not apply to broadband services any longer, prevents “unreasonable” discrimination against traffic.

It is important to note that the court did reject a claim by Verizon that Congress did not give the FCC jurisdiction over internet access at all. The court referenced section 706 of the Telecommunications Act of 1996 as giving the FCC authority over the internet. This means that the Commission is free to set rules for standard internet traffic but at this point broadband services are not under their jurisdiction. This goes for all broadband providers except Comcast. In the company’s 2011 merger with NBC they agreed to follow the FCC’s Open Internet Rules until 2018.

The End of the Internet or an Opportunity for Creation?

So although this battle is far from over we could begin to see the internet offered to customers at various prices for differing quality, speed, and content. The usual knee jerk reaction to this type of action or inaction by the government is to call for more regulation. Corporations continue to have a growing influence in our lives; from the food we eat, to the clothes we buy and the way we use the internet. It is frightening to think that the free and open internet we have grown to love could be stripped away. But, perhaps, this competition between the corporatist enslavement of our freedoms should be seen for what it truly is: a competition between free, intelligent, creative people and monopolistic, mechanical, corporate governance.

Instead of expecting the United States government of 2014 to hear our cries and pull back the tyranny, we should see this as an opportunity to create new ways of using the infrastructure of the internet and broadband services. Sure, the mainstream World Wide Web may be completely monitored and eventually censored, dull, and irrelevant, but that does not mean innovation will cease. With the open source technological revolution growing daily it is likely that some genius out there has already created the answer to our problems.

Ideas like alternative DNS server projects such as the Open Nic project, mesh networks, the Darknet, and more will stretch the boundaries of what the internet can be. These ideas will be the ones that eliminate the effectiveness of any government regulation anyways. They will also render any silly corporate takeover of communications largely pointless.

Now of course, those who choose to remain in the corporate mainstream culture will be left with the dry, carbon copy versions of music, clothes, technology and yes, the internet. But once the clamping down on individual expression and creation reaches a breaking point the population will seek a better alternative. With the growth of peer-to-peer, open source technology it is only a matter of time before the internet expands into a number of different, competing webs of information.

So spread the word about the looming dangers of censorship and internet favoritism, but don’t forget to remind others that information longs to be free. It is inevitable that governments and their corporate partners will work together to limit freedoms. It is also inevitable that the people will tire of such arrangements, create alternatives, and find ways to be even more free. If you want to keep the free and open internet – fight for it. Create it. Build it.

Sources:

Derrick Broze is an investigative journalist, community activist, gardener and promoter from Houston, Texas. He is the co-founder of The Houston Free Thinkers, and co-host of Free Thinker Radio. Broze also hosts and produces a weekly podcast under the name the Conscious Resistance Live. His writing can be found on TheConsciousResistance.com and at ActivistPost.com.

For Doomsday Cyberattack, China has Options – The Epoch Times

For Doomsday Cyberattack, China has Options – The Epoch Times.

Representatives from the National Security Agency claimed during a Dec. 15 segment on 60 Minutes that the department had foiled a plot by a foreign state—later revealed to be China—to destroy the U.S. economy by attacking the basic systems that allow computers to operate.

Experts and commentators poked fun at the “Dr. Evil” nature of the plot, and questioned its authenticity. Yet, such attacks already exist. The scale at which it could be carried out by China, however, is in question. There may be more efficient ways for Chinese hackers to cripple the United States economy and Internet access in the event of a conflict, experts say. One such massive attack has actually been engineered before.

China’s alleged attack was discussed by heads of the NSA in a Dec. 15 segment on 60 Minutes. It allegedly targeted the BIOS system of computers, which function as the set of instructions to a computer when it is turned on.

“One of our analysts actually saw that the nation state had the intention to develop and to deliver, to actually use this capability—to destroy computers,” Debora Plunkett, who directs cyberdefense at NSA, said on60 Minutes.

The NSA did not say clearly which country was behind the attack, yet 60 Minutes reported that other security experts familiar with the attack confirmed it was China. It said the NSA was able to work with computer manufacturers to prevent the attack.

A Practical Matter

While many security experts question the claim, cyberattacks that target BIOS systems currently exist. BIOS viruses are appealing to hackers because they are almost impossible to detect or remove—even if the user completely erases the contents of the computer.

Jonathan Brossard, CEO of security company Toucan System, demonstrated a BIOS virus at the 2012 Black Hat security conference. He described it as a way to hack computers like a nation-state would.

The core problem with the rumored Chinese attack, however, is not about whether it is possible. It’s about whether the attack is practical.

“There are so many other ways to destroy computers, that aren’t nearly as hard,” Chester Wisniewski, senior security adviser at cybersecurity company Sophos, said in a telephone interview from Vancouver.

Networked Destruction

The most practical way to—at least temporarily—destroy the global Internet has already been demonstrated. In April 2010, 15 percent of global Internet traffic suddenly routed itself through China Telecom networks for about 18 minutes.

“Although the Commission has no way to determine what, if anything, Chinese telecommunication firms did to the hijacked data, incidents of this nature could have a number of serious implications,” states a report from the U.S.–China Economic and Security Review Commission, regarding the 2010 attack.

Affected websites included those belonging to the U.S. government and military.

The incident was caused by what’s called “IP hijacking.” The form of attack targets the highly vulnerable system where Internet Provider (IP) addresses communicate.

Russian hackers had used a similar attack against Estonia in 2007 to cut the country’s communications. Wisniewski said, “What better way to do it than take all their IP addresses and say they belong to someone else, then they can’t talk to anybody anymore.”

Regarding the alleged BIOS attack, Wisniewski said it is feasible for a nation-state to target BIOS systems. Due to the nature of the systems, however, any large-scale attacks would be unnecessarily complicated.

Different types of hardware use different BIOS, and to launch an attack on the scale alleged by the NSA, a hacker would need to customize the attack for potentially thousands of systems.

If the NSA were referring to the BIOS of Internet routers, rather than computers, however, the alleged attack would be more feasible.

Such an attack has already been demonstrated by the NSA itself. Documents stolen by Edward Snowden and leaked on Dec. 31 allege the NSA gained access to the BIOS systems of many routers for spying purposes.

Using the same vulnerabilities, if a hostile nation-state were to even target a sufficiently large number of routers manufactured by Cisco, “basically the entire Internet would fail,” Wisniewski said.

He added, “If that’s what they were warning us about, I’d be concerned.”

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