Daily Archives: 11/01/2011

( Commentary by Eva Galperin

Demonstrations and protests over unemployment and poor living conditions have been ongoing in Tunisia since the beginning of December, but last week the Tunisian government turned up the heat on bloggers, activists, and dissidents by launching a JavaScript injection attack that siphoned off the usernames and passwords of Tunsians logging in to Google, Yahoo, and Facebook. The Tunisian government has used these stolen credentials to log in to Tunisians’ email and Facebook accounts, presumably downloading their messages, emails, and social graphs for further analysis, and then deleting the accounts entirely.

Among the compromised accounts are Facebook pages administered by a reporter with Al-Tariq ad-Jadid, Sofiene Chourabi, video journalist Haythem El Mekki, and activist Lina Ben Khenni. Unsatisfied with merely quelling online freedom of expression, the Tunisian government has used the information it obtained to locate bloggers and their networks of contacts. By late last week, the Tunisian government had started arresting and detaining bloggers, including blogger Hamadi Kaloutcha, and cyberactivist Slim Ammamou, who alerted the world to his whereabouts at the Tunisian Ministry of the Interior using Google Latitude. This weekend, Tunisian citizens began to report on Twitter and in blogs that troops were using live ammunition on unarmed citizens and started communicating with one another to establish the numbers of dead and injured.

Most notably, Tunisians have been posting videos of the protests, including the dead andwounded on Facebook, the only video-sharing site which is not currently being blocked by the Tunisian government, which makes access to Facebook especially important for the protest movement.

Because of the Tunisian government’s attacks on citizens’ login credentials, Tunisians should take the following steps to protect themselves:

  • If HTTPS is available, use HTTPS to login to Facebook, Google, and Yahoo. If you are using Firefox, EFF’s HTTPS Everywhere plug-in will do this for you automatically.
  • EFF has received reports that the Tunisian government is periodically blocking HTTPS access to Facebook, Google, and Yahoo. If that is the case and you must login over HTTP, install the following Greasemonkey script to strip out the JavaScript which the Tunisian government has inserted to steal your login credentials.
  • If you have logged in to Facebook, Google, or Yahoo recently over HTTP, login using HTTPS and change your password.

Additionally, EFF calls on Google, Yahoo, and Facebook to take action to protect the privacy of its users by alerting them of the potential compromise of their accounts and encouraging them to take the above steps.

Finally, Facebook has reported that is in the process of taking technical steps to protect the privacy of their users. We hope that they include the following:

  • Make Facebook logins default to HTTPS, if only in Tunisia, where accounts are especially vulnerable at this time. Google and Yahoo logins already default to HTTPS.
  • Consider allowing pseudononymous accounts for users in authoritarian regimes, where political speech under your real name is dangerous and potentially deadly. Many Tunisian activists are unable to reinstate Facebook accounts that have been erased by the Tunisian government because they were not using their real names.

Websites providing services to Tunisian citizens cannot afford to sit on the sidelines while the Tunisian government launches malicious attacks on the privacy of users and censors free expression. Facebook, Google, and Yahoo should take these concrete steps as quickly as possible to inform and better protect their users.

( Teachers in Tunisia were on strike last week along with thousands of young people and other trade unionists

The protests are about unemployment in a country with massive oil wealth, where the gap between rich and poor is widening and which has been praised as an economic success story by the International Monetary Fund (IMF). At least three Tunisians have been killed during the protests.

The struggles have now spread to neighbouring Algeria which has similar problems, where the governing class are enriching themselves at the expense of the poor and which also had a glowing report from the IMF in the autumn. Algeria is the sixth biggest exporter of natural gas.

The protests in both countries are being led by the young who are involved in continual clashes with the police – echoing the fury felt by many young people in Europe as they watch their futures threatened by the eoncomic crisis. Four Algerians have already been killed in the clashes. Columnist Fahmy Howeidi said (as reported in the website: “The revolution of the hungry and the deprived couldn’t be ignored any more…The message from Tunisia is that tyranny can extend the life of a regime but it cannot keep it alive forever. All Arab countries suffer similar conditions to the ones that started the Tunisian protests.”

(The Huffinton Post)
Michael DeJong

Author, “Clean: The Humble Art of Zen-Cleansing”
Posted: January 11, 2011 12:25 PM


“Sustainism” is but the latest in a long list of terms (“the new design,” “sustainable design” and part of the cultural movements of “polymodernism,” “supermodernism,” and “super-hybridity,” as identified in a recentNew York Times Arts piece by Alice Rawsthorn) being bandied about as we feebly attempt to define how we should live, how we should think, how we should act while we make our sincerest attempts to move forward while avoiding the tipping point of no return. Unfortunately, many researchers suspect that it might have already happened, that it might already be upon us, or might be imminent within the next generation — in other words, soon. Read more…

(The Equality Movement) ‘What is Imperialism?’ – Public Meeting; Report and Video


We had an aim on Friday evening.  To bring together young people from all sections of society, to discuss and educate ourselves on one of humanity’s biggest enemies; Imperialism.  From a glance across the sea of people crowded into the University of London Union, numbering 600 by most estimates, we had succeeded in our aim.

Logic introduced proceedings, describing Seamus Milne as “an all round legend” and Tariq Ali as “a brother you can’t mess with”, before stating the five principles of the Equality Movement.  We then heard an introductory speech from Lowkey via video-link:

“There will always be a moral difference between imperialism and legitimate resistance to that imperialism.”

Although his presence was missed, Lowkey’s words perfectly set the tone for what had become a truly massive meeting.  Seamus Milne was next to speak.

“To oppose imperialism,” Seamus began, “you have to understand it and grasp what drives it…”

Seamus described how imperialism had grown out of European colonialism, until “under modern capitalism, imperialism in essence is the use of force and coercion… to extort profits.”  He went on to describe the current role of the United States, which “during the second half of the twentieth century [has become an] unchallenged global capitalist power, and early rivals such as Britain became auxillaries.”  But he finished on a positive note:

“Our job is to oppose and expose imperialism, and to fight for an alternative to the economic order that drives it.  This very meeting shows that that process is already well underway.” More…


( A pattern of violence against the US government appears to have emerged over the last week, and another dead body connected to political inner-circles who turned up Monday has some on capitol hill trying their best not to speculate.

Authorities discovered Ashley Turton, former chief of staff to Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-CT), dead in a burnt-out car Monday. Turton’s husband was Dan Turton, the White House liaison to the House of Representatives.

She was employed as a lobbyist for Progress Energy at the time of her death.

And Turton is just the latest: a well-heeled former chief of staff to the president of Arizona’s state senate was found dead of a gunshot wound in mid-December. Police were investigating it as a homicide.

Read more…

Goldman Sachs Group Inc took a step toward greater transparency by pledging to disclose more about how it makes money, seeking to rebut criticism that it has been putting its own interest ahead of clients.

Goldman, due to report quarterly earnings next week, for the first time will break out how much it earns from trading on its own behalf rather than for clients. Other changes will aim to avoid conflicts of interest and ensure that staff are trained to think about the firm’s reputation in their day-to-day activities.

Read more…

(guardian) Skeleton argument outlined by Australian’s defence team claims he could face rendition to US if extradited to Sweden

Julian Assange, the founder of WikiLeaks, could be at “real risk” of the death penalty or detention in Guantánamo Bay if he is extradited to Sweden on accusations of rape and sexual assault, his lawyers claim.

In a skeleton summary of their defence against attempts by the Swedish director of public prosecutions to extradite him, released today, Assange’s legal team argue that there is a similar likelihood that the US would subsequently seek his extradition “and/or illegal rendition”, “where there will be a real risk of him being detained at Guantánamo Bay or elsewhere”.

“Indeed, if Mr Assange were rendered to the USA, without assurances that the death penalty would not be carried out, there is a real risk that he could be made subject to the death penalty. It is well known that prominent figures have implied, if not stated outright, that Mr Assange should be executed.” Read more…

(infoshop) The food riots began in Algeria more than a week ago, and they are going to spread. During the last global food shortage, in 2008, there was serious rioting in Mexico, Indonesia, and Egypt. We may expect to see that again this time, only bigger and more widespread.

The Future of Food Riots

by Gwynne Dyer
January 10, 2011

If all the food in the world were shared out evenly, there would be enough to go around. That has been true for centuries now: if food was scarce, the problem was that it wasn’t in the right place, but there was no global shortage. However, that will not be true much longer.

The food riots began in Algeria more than a week ago, and they are going to spread. During the last global food shortage, in 2008, there was serious rioting in Mexico, Indonesia, and Egypt. We may expect to see that again this time, only bigger and more widespread.

Most people in these countries live in a cash economy, and a large proportion live in cities. They buy their food, they don’t grow it. That makes them very vulnerable, because they have to eat almost as much as people in rich countries do, but their incomes are much lower.

The poor, urban multitudes in these countries (including China and India) spend up to half of their entire income on food, compared to only about ten percent in the rich countries. When food prices soar, these people quickly find that they simply lack the money to go on feeding themselves and their children properly – and food prices now are at an all-time high.

“We are entering a danger territory,” said Abdolreza Abbassian, chief economist at the Food and Agriculture Organisation, on 5 January. The price of a basket of cereals, oils, dairy, meat and sugar that reflects global consumption patterns has risen steadily for six months, and has just broken through the previous record, set during the last food panic in June, 2008.

“There is still room for prices to go up much higher,” Abbassian added, “if for example the dry conditions in Argentina become a drought, and if we start having problems with winter kill in the northern hemisphere for the wheat crops.” After the loss of at least a third of the Russian and Ukrainina grain crop in last summer’s heat wave and the devastating floods in Australia and Pakistan, there’s no margin for error left .

It was Russia and India banning grain exports in order to keep domestic prices down that set the food prices on the international market soaring. Most countries cannot insulate themselves from this global price rise, because they depend on imports for a lot of domestic consumption. But that means that a lot of their population cannot buy enough food for their families, so they go hungry. Then they get angry, and the riots start.

Is this food emergency a result of global warming? Maybe, but all these droughts, heat waves and floods could also just be a run of really bad luck. What is nearly certain is that the warming will continue, and that in the future there will be many more weather disasters due to climate change. Food production is going to take a big hit.

Global food prices are already spiking whenever there are a few local crop failures, because the supply barely meets demand even now. As the big emerging economies grow, Chinese and Indian and Indonesian citizens eat more meat, which places a great strain on grain supplies. Moreover, world population is now passing through seven billion, on its way to nine billion by 2050. We will need a lot more food than we used to.

Some short-term fixes are possible. If the US government ended the subsidies for growing maize (corn) for “bio-fuels”, it would return about a quarter of US crop land to food production. If people ate a little less meat, if more African land was brought into production, if more food was eaten and less was thrown away, then maybe we could buy ourselves another fifteen or twenty years before demand really outstripped supply.

On the other hand, about a third of all the irrigated land in the world depends on pumping groundwater up from aquifers that are rapidly depleting. When the flow of irrigation water stops, the yield of that highly productive land will drop hugely. Desertification is spreading in many regions, and a large amount of good agricultural land is simply being paved over each year. We have a serious problem here.

Climate change is going to make the situation immeasurably worse. The modest warming that we have experience so far may not be the main cause of the floods, droughts and violent storms that have hurt this year’s crops, but the rise in temperature will continue because we cannot find the political will to stop the greenhouse-gas emissions.

The rule of thumb is that we lose about 10 percent of world food production for every rise of one degree C in average global temperature. So the shortages will grow and the price of food will rise inexorably over the years. The riots will return again and again.

In some places the rioting will turn into revolution. In others, the rioters will become refugees and push up against the borders of countries that don’t want to let them in. Or maybe we can get the warming under control before it does too much damage. Hold your breath, squeeze your eyes tight shut, and wish for a miracle.

Gwynne Dyer’s latest book, “Climate Wars: The Fight for Survival as the World Overheats”, was published recently in the United States by Oneworld.

( The Wikileaks founder promises more revelations based on the group’s stash of confidential U.S. embassy cables

WikiLeaks will step up its publication schedule of secret documents, founder Julian Assange announced Tuesday, promising more revelations based on the group’s stash of confidential U.S. embassy cables and other leaks. (…) “We are stepping up our publishing for matters related to Cablegate and other materials,” Assange said. “Those will shortly be occurring through our newspaper partners around the world — big and small newspapers and some human rights organizations.” Read more…