Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Anonymous (AntiSec) says we’re still here; takes down PandaLabs

It’s always sad, and more than a little embarrassing, when a security site gets owned. But that’s what happened to PandaLabs yesterday evening. AntiSec hit back in retaliation, it said, for PandaLabs’ involvement in the arrest of 25 Anonymous members reported on 28 February. The timing, and indeed the opening statement on AntiSec’s defacement, suggests that it had just as much to do with the FBI yesterday charging six LulzSec hackers, including Sabu (so-called leader of LulzSec) over the Stratfor hack. Sabu had been arrested last summer, but it was never officially announced. Yesterday it became clear that he ‘pled guilty’ at the time – which pretty much confirms that he has been acting as an informant for the FBI ever since.

Reports suggested that he turned President’s Evidence to minimize any prison term away from his family – and any parent will recognize the pressure. AntiSec’s opening statement on the PandaLabs’ defacement accuses PandaLabs of ‘traison’ – “something we don’t forgive”. But then it immediately goes on to say, “Yeah, yeah, we know… Sabu snitched on us. As usually happens FBI menaced him to take his sons away. We understand, but we were your family too (remember what you liked to say?).”

So in one sense PandaLabs was chosen to make a statement to the world: “We’re still here – expect us.”
However, AntiSec specifically accuses PandaLabs of helping “to jail 25 anonymous in different countries and they were actively participating in our IRC channels trying to dox many others.” At the time, because five of the 25 were arrested in Spain, I specifically asked Panda if it had been involved. “This time, we were not involved on this case,” came a very clear reply. I had earlier talked to Panda about its involvement in the takedown of the Mariposa botnet. “We co-operate with the Spanish police and some other institution on a regular basis,” he added, “but we were not informed about it.”

AntiSec also makes it clear that it takes exception to PandaLabs’ technical director, Luis Corrons. It’s personal. He is quoted: “Really good news. I have just read that LulzSec members have been arrested and that their main head Sabu has been working as an informant for the FBI. It turns out he was arrested last year, and since then he has been working with Law Enforcement. As I said, really good news :) ” He is also quoted as saying “sometimes if you want to infiltrate and you have to be one of the criminals, you have to do things that you shouldn’t. In that case, you need to be with law enforcement.” To be frank, neither of these statements sound like the Luis Corrons I know – but time will unravel all.

Perhaps more worryingly, AntiSec also claims to have back-doored Panda’s security products. Again, Panda is categoric: “Neither the main website nor were affected in the attack. The attack did not breach Panda Security’s internal network and neither source code, update servers nor customer data was accessed. The only information accessed was related to marketing campaigns such as landing pages and some obsolete credentials, including supposed credentials for employees that have not been working at Panda for over five years.”

The difficult thing, however, is to see the wider picture and to determine what is really going on. Remember Luis comment: “you have to do things that you shouldn’t.” Well, law enforcement has certainly been doing that in recent years. There’s the German police spyware, and the FBI’s very own CIPAV – and God know’s what that we haven’t heard about. So let’s look at the last week. Twenty-five Anonymous arrests rapidly followed by the disclosure that the Anonymous free DDoS tool (slowloris) had been poisoned with the, frankly, most well-known and feared malware of the day – Zeus – closely followed by charges against the main figures in LulzSec. That reads like a campaign organized by a marketing company to discredit Anonymous and sow seeds of distrust.

Read the DDoS-hacked announcement from Symantec here. Make up your own mind, but to me it simply doesn’t hang together properly. I’ve got a question mark there. Did the FBI poison slowloris? Now go back the Stratfor hack (late December 2011). It happened after Sabu became an informant, yet he is charged over it. Anonymous very clearly denied any involvement, stating “Sabu and his crew are nothing more than opportunistic attention whores who are possibly agent provocateurs.” And yes, Anonymous knew that Sabu had been turned by the FBI. But the wider and more worrying question is this: if Sabu was already working for the FBI when LulzSec hacked Stratfor, does that mean that Stratfor was sacrificed by the FBI on the altar of misinformation? As Luis is quoted: “you have to do things that you shouldn’t.” But if this is true, it’s going too far.

New 16-Year-Old Gymnast Shining Brighter than Champion

Gabby Douglas, 16, is an incredible gymnast that many say has a chance at making the Olympic team for London's Summer games in July.

The Summer Olympics is only five months away and America’s team looks like they will prevail with the same luster and strength as the past.  We already have a world champion on the American team, but there is new talent on the block upstaging her and she is also American.

The new kid on the block is 16-year-old Gabby Douglas and she outshined everyone on her team as well as the others at the American Cup which was held at Madison Square Garden Saturday.  The present world champion in gymnastics is Jordyn Wieber, but Douglas surpassed her in points.  Unfortunately, her points didn’t count because she was competing as an alternate.

But, it is the hope that this performance, the Huffington Post called “near perfect,” will not be discounted when the team is completed and finalized for the Summer Olympics.  She has shown the world that she is a true contender and more than qualified to be in the building.  She told the Huffington Post:
“When we won the team title it made me more confident,” Douglas said. “I realized, `Wow, I’m one of the best ones in the world.’”
The gymnastics world is excited about Gabby Douglas and so are we.  Read more here on the Virginia Beach native who moved to Iowa to perfect her skills and follow her dream in gymnastics.
-J.C. Brooks

Mother Gets 5 Years for Son Attending Out of District School

Tonya McDowell, 34, given 12 year sentence suspended after five years served and five years probation for falsifying documents to get her child in school.

The zoning laws that are in place aim to keep children in their rightful school seats where no one can take them away.  But in scenarios where students end up in the wrong zone either from a parent knowingly using the wrong address or from someone living with another to get their child in their district’s school, lawmakers translate that into theft.  At that point, the child’s parent is stealing another child’s seat from them…and the price is steep if you get caught.

Like her predecessor Kelly Williams Bolar, who we reported being jailed for falsifying documents to get her children into a school in a better district in Ohio, Tonya McDowell, 34, now faces five years in prison for the same offense.  The McDowell case is a little different though because there were drug sells involved.
Bolar was incarcerated for 10 days and put on three years probation for the crime of trying to get her children a better education in Norwalk, Conn. instead of Bridgeport.  McDowell has several other factors against her.  She was homeless, using her babysitter’s address and selling dope.  They threw the bookshelf at her.  The actual sentence is for 12 years in prison, suspended after she serves five years and another five years probation, according to Your Black World.

Do you feel that there really should be a fundamental change in the zoning laws or do you believe they are right to send them to jail for this offense?  Prison sentences are too much.  In Bolar’s case, she was studying to be a teacher and now she cannot ever teach children because of this felony charge.  Travesty or justice?  Read more here.
-J.C. Brooks

It’s Official! Peyton Manning is Released from the Colts

Peyton Manning is being released from the Indianapolis Colts today.

The quarterback position is the coveted spot on the football team that everyone remembers for game losses, the game wins, and the great mistakes.  In this year’s Super Bowl, one of two star brother quarterbacks made it into the game…one did not.  The other held back from the football season with an injury.  But after that injury has healed, the team has decided to let him go.

Eli and Peyton Manning represent the New York Giants and the Indianapolis Colts, respectively.  Their father even played the game for a while, but now the Colts want to retire Peyton Manning.  He’s shown that he’s ready to come back to the game, but they are going to announce today that he will be officially cut and not pay his $28 million roster bonus.

But don’t get pissed so quickly, Peyton will be a free agent and has been given the green light for a doctor to go back to the grid iron.   He will be relentless when he is picked up by any team.  He is a hot ticket that is being dissed for the new guy fresh out of Stanford, Andrew Luck.  This is the choice of a new management that has taken over the Colts.

Peyton walks away a four-time MVP winner and there’s already talk that the Miami Dolphins are looking to pick him up.  You had a good run Peyton.  Good luck out there!  Read more here.
-J.C. Brooks

Strangling Civil Liberties, One Twist at a Time

A Black Agenda Radio commentary by Glen Ford
Got an urge to protest the most obnoxious Republican presidential contenders, or demonstrate at the NATO meeting, in Chicago? Consult your legal counsel, because the rules have been changed, with no debate in either House of Congress. Legislation awaiting the president’s signature packs prison terms for protesting too closely to people guarded by the Secret Service or at a National Security Event Zone.
Strangling Civil Liberties, One Twist at a Time
A Black Agenda Radio commentary by Glen Ford
Anyone who is caught ‘trespassing’ in the Zone, whether they knew it was restricted or not, is liable for felony prosecution.”
There is a constituency for the right to assemble and protest in this country, but it appears as if that constituency has very little representation in the U.S. Congress. The Senate unanimously passed a law that has significant ramifications for the Occupy movement or anyone else that wants to exercise their First Amendment rights. H.R. 347 is also known as the Trespass Bill. Only three members of the House voted against it, all of them Republicans, including presidential contender Ron Paul. None of the major civil liberties organizations raised a fuss, either, but the silence will surely come back to haunt us.
The bill makes it a federal crime punishable by a year in prison for “trespassing” on places where someone under protection of the Secret Service is also present, and up to ten years if a weapon is involved, or someone is seriously injured. The restrictions cover not just the president, but also presidential candidates and foreign dignitaries and heads of state. The new version of the law makes protesters subject to felony prosecution even if they were unaware that people protected by the Secret Service were in the area. Rather than demonstrators freely congregating to protest the presence of their least favored presidential politicians, or to loudly demand that visiting foreign leaders go back home, would-be protesters would be best-advised by their lawyers to stay as far away as possible or face a long stretch in prison. Surely, that stands the right to peacefully assemble on its head.
The only No votes came from Tea Party Republicans.”
Even more ominously, the new law allows the Department of Homeland Security to designate whole areas as part of a so-called National Security Event Zone, off limits to protest. The United National Anti-War Coalition and others that are planning to demonstrate at the meeting of NATO nations, in Chicago, in late May, will almost certainly be confronted with, not only Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s aggressive protest containment policies, but a Homeland Security declaration putting large areas under a federal protective bubble, with even more serious criminal consequences. In the real, often chaotic whirl of mass outdoor protest, with police pushing crowds from place to place, and protesters trying to make themselves heard, large numbers of demonstrators could find themselves in a federal no-go zone. Under the old rules, the harshest penalties could be imposed only on those who “willfully” crossed into a National Security Event Zone. The new Trespass Bill omits the word “willfully,” so that anyone who is caught “trespassing” in the Zone, whether they knew it was restricted or not, is liable for felony prosecution. This brings to mind the mass arrests of Occupy demonstrators on Brooklyn Bridge, last year. Many in the crowd thought they were being escorted across the bridge by police, and were not willfully trespassing. Under the federal bill, lack of willfulness is no excuse.
What is more disturbing than the potential Bill of Rights-eroding aspects of the legislation, is the Congress’s cavalier attitude towards civil liberties. There was no debate. The only No votes came from Tea Party Republicans. Democrats behaved as if nothing important was happening, just as when President Bill Clinton first came up with the idea National Security Event Zones – where the public, by law, has nothing to say.
For Black Agenda Radio, I’m Glen Ford. On the web, go to
BAR executive editor Glen Ford can be contacted at

New Data Show Black Students Have Been New Jim Crowed

by BAR executive editor Glen Ford
New data indicate that Black stigmatization as criminals pervades the nation’s public schools, just as it saturates the larger society. “For teachers and school disciplinarians, just as with street cops and prosecutors, race is the most important factor in who is charged with an offense, and how severe the penalty is.” A doubling of school suspensions and expulsions has occurred since the early Seventies, the same period that brought us mass Black incarceration.
New Data Show Black Students Have Been New Jim Crowed
by BAR executive editor Glen Ford
More than 70 percent of students arrested or referred to law enforcement for school related incidents were Black or Hispanic – an approximate match to the ethnic composition of the nation’s prisons.”
Newly-released data on the nation’s public schools document what every Black school kid already knows: African American students are far more likely to be suspended or expelled than whites. Most striking, is how closely school discipline data tracks with racial incarceration numbers. According to the U.S. Department of Education’s Civil Rights Data Collection statistics for the 2009-10 school year, more than 70 percent of students arrested or referred to law enforcement for school related incidents were Black or Hispanic – an approximate match to the ethnic composition of the nation’s prisons.
The school-to-prison pipeline is a much talked about phenomenon, although volume should never be mistaken for clarity. The apparent “tracking” of Blacks and, to a lesser degree, Hispanics, from classrooms to cellblocks, is the direct result of the behaviors of teachers and administrators who perceive and treat Black kids as if they are already criminals – just as cops act on the assumption that Black pedestrians and drivers are probably guilty of…something.
The Department of Education figures have only recently become available, and have yet to be thoroughly sliced and diced. But the raw stats are damning. A Black student is three and a half times more likely to be kicked out of school than her white peer. Students with disabilities, who are disproportionately kids of color, make up only 12 percent of enrollment, but comprise 70 percent of those disciplined by being strapped down or otherwise subjected to physical restraints.
A Black student is three and a half times more likely to be kicked out of school than her white peer.”
The data show that schools that maintain “zero-tolerance” policies are actually less racist in meting out punishment than more free-wheeling systems. That’s because the more rigid disciplinary school regimes give teachers and administrators less discretion for lenience to white kids that misbehave. For teachers and school disciplinarians, just as with street cops and prosecutors, race is the most important factor in who is charged with an offense, and how severe the penalty is.
There would be much more federal information on public schools to study, if the racial data collection had not been halted by the Bush administration in 2006. At the time, Ward Connerly and other Republicans were busy trying to ban governments from keeping information on race, on the theory that racism would disappear as a point of controversy if there were no reliable data to discuss. White privilege would also be relegated to anecdote.
An earlier study of federal data by the Southern Poverty Law Center, published in 2010, showed that suspension rates in U.S. public schools nearly doubled – from 3.7 percent to 6.9 percent – from the early 1970s through 2006. This is also the period when modern mass Black incarceration makes its entrance, following the Black Freedom Movement of the Sixties. On both the streets and school campuses, whites responded to the end of strict apartheid with increased official repression. The New Jim Crow was taking shape.
As reported by educator and BAR contributor Sikivu Hutchinson, in August of last year, a study of Texas schools by the Council of State Governments concluded that Black and Latino students “were disciplined far more harshly than white students who had committed similar offenses” – just as in the adult criminal justice system, where Blacks face harsher penalties at every stage of the process, from arrest through final charges through length and conditions of incarceration. White students were much more likely to get counseling or on-site suspension or detention, rather than kicked out of the building – just as so-called “diversion” programs to keep offenders out of prison are disproportionately awarded to whites.
The disparate discipline was rooted in negative teacher perceptions about Black and Latino students, rather than the actual behavior of the students.”
Black students were more likely to be kicked out of class for making too much noise, showing teachers disrespect, for loitering, or appearing to present a “threat,” according to June, 2000, Indiana University study titled “The Color of Discipline.”
The Southern Poverty Law Center study concluding that “race and gender disparities in suspension were due not to differences in administrative disposition but to differences in the rate of initial referral of black and white students.”
The fault, said the Texas report, lay with teachers and administrators who piled charges on the Black and Latino kids. The disparate discipline was rooted in negative teacher perceptions about Black and Latino students, rather than the actual behavior of the students.
In Los Angeles, such race-based perceptions were shared by white, Black and brown faculty, alike, according to a study of the school district. Sikivu Hutchinson reported that “South L.A. schools with significant or majority black faculty and administrators are just as culpable” as their non-white cross town colleagues in disproportionately suspending Blacks – an internalized version of white racism that is reflected on the streets and in the cellblocks where Black cops and prison guards are just as brutal as their white co-workers. When Black life is cheap, everybody behaves accordingly, including Blacks.
Education Secretary Arne Duncan says he hopes the report will be an “eye-opener.” Racism, of course, is able to hide in plain sight because – well, because the racists are the ones in charge. We cannot expect Mr. Duncan to see the light, to propose a radical national program of community control of schools and school budgets, or to call off the Obama administration’s massive school charter privatization campaign. He will, therefore, continue to systematically degrade the public schools so that charters appear to be the only alternative. Duncan and his corporate masters are able to pull off the destruction of American public education by placing the dynamite in the inner cities, where Black children are already stigmatized – New Jim Crowed! – as criminals.

BAR executive editor Glen Ford can be contacted at

The destructive web of government welfare

By Rebekah Rast

A hypothetical single mother of two lives in Virginia and brings home $20,000 a year after the government takes out Social Security and other state and federal deductions. However, because of her low income she is able to collect Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC), food stamps, Medicaid/SCHIP and Section 8 housing.

In another scenario a recent college graduate is fortunate enough to find a job and makes a starting salary of $39,900.

Who makes more money — the single mother or the recent college graduate?

If you guessed the single mom, you’re right. With her income less taxes plus subsidies, she brings home just about $40,000, according to economist Clifford Thies.

When applying Thies research that the relationship of earned income and after-tax income plus subsidies is basically flat from $0 to $40,000, it paints a grim picture for today’s working class. During the fourth quarter of 2011 median weekly earnings for full time wage and salary workers in the U.S. was $764 — a yearly salary equal to $39,728. This means those who make this median amount or less essentially have less spending power than those who make a much lower salary and live off the government’s myriad welfare programs.

How can this be?
It’s simple really, when you consider that there are about 70 means-tested welfare spending programs overlapping in the U.S. today. These means-tested programs have nothing to do with Social Security, or other entitlement programs. Though they phase out as income increases, they keep people dependent on the government — even when they don’t want to be. They also discourage workers from moving up the ranks or from finding a job at all.

You see, someone making less than $40,000 a year might be penalized for accepting a raise or agreeing to work more hours because it might result in a much smaller personal budget. When low-income Americans move up in the tax code, they don’t just face a higher tax bracket, they also see their government benefits begin to disappear. Unfortunately for many, it economically makes more sense to stay at their current level and turn down that raise or extra hours of work.

This government trap ensures that the poor in America stay poor.
Get full story here.

Obama attempts to distract from Super Tuesday with a puppet show

By Rebecca DiFede
Is Obama smarter than a fifth grader? If you saw his less-than-impressive nationally televised press conference (his first in five months), you might not think so.
At 1:15pm yesterday, with a nation on baited breath, our illustrious president took the stage in the Brady Press Briefing Room. And for the next forty-five minutes he proceeded to say…

Hardly anything of substance was uttered for the entirely of the affair. It was actually kind of boring. It was as if Obama was a lost tourist and native people were asking him how to get to the nearest McDonalds.

It was as if, in an attempt to avoid scorn from Republicans for possibly making a mistake, our Commander in Chief stumbled his way through a nearly indistinguishable series of “buts” “ums” and “uhs” in response to the barely sophomoric questions posed to him by the press.

His questions wouldn’t give a kindergartener a second thought, and yet he reacted like Forrest Gump in a police interrogation. He seemed confused by the mere fact that spoken words were being uttered in his direction, and his inability to speak a cohesive sentence was Muppet-level ridiculous.
Guess he’s not so smooth without his trusty teleprompter. His hands were practically shaking with withdrawal.

This hilariously unscripted conference was supposed to show that the President was taking an initiative to be held accountable for his actions and promises, and hopefully be asked some questions that would require, oh, I don’t know, a complete rational thought.

Hard questions that Americans want answers to such as “what is your response to calls for the resignations of your recess appointees?” or “what are your plans regarding new forms of energy in light of the bankruptcies of taxpayer-subsidized green energy companies like Solyndra and Ener1?” were dropped, in favor of vague softball questions lightly tossed in his direction.

The rage and despair Americans are experiencing in this economy was glazed over like a bump in the road to re-securing the White House. Instead, he was asked several similarly worded questions about Israel and their possible war with Iran, a quick Super Tuesday plug where all Obama did was sarcastically wish Romney luck, and a few other assorted time wasters.

And when he was finally asked a question centered on gas prices, he danced around the issue like an out-of-time vaudeville performer.
Get full story here.

Green Pressure Groups Poised to Shut Down Production Even if Keystone Pipeline is Approved

By Kevin Mooney

Even if the Obama Administration reverses course on the Keystone XL pipeline prior to the November elections, there are any number of green pressure groups in circulation that could complicate production efforts. President Obama recently denied the pipeline’s application to cross between the Canadian-U.S. border. The pipeline itself would extend from Canada to Texas.

Transcanada, the Canadian firm behind the project, has announced that will move forward with plans to construct the portion of the pipe running from Cushing, Okla., to Port Arthur, Texas. TransCanada has also made it clear that will continue to apply for a federal grant from the U.S. to allow for the section that would cut across the U.S. and Canada. The company should expect to encounter stiff opposition. The overriding purpose of the pipeline is to transport oil from the tar sands in Canada to the Gulf Coast refineries.

With America’s military fighting terrorists in politically unstable and faraway regions of the world and rogue states like Iran and North Korea building their nuclear arsenals, the benefits here of having a safe, secure and reliable source of oil close to home should be evident.

Green groups are working to turn public opinion in the U.S. and Canada against the production of crude oil extracted from the oil sands in Alberta, Canada. And they are succeeding.
Bill Wilson, President of Americans for Limited Government noted, “It is absurd that Obama and his allies seemingly put every interest above our national security interest.”

The Alberta oil sands (also known as tar sands) occupy an area in the middle of western Canada that is roughly the size of Florida. The oil sands are ideally positioned to meet America’s growing energy needs. Yet green groups, often tiny but determined, have mobilized protests on the state and local levels using pressure tactics that are highly personal and, hence, effective. Their goal is to compel changes in corporate decision-making, sway public opinion, and influence government policies. The groups often coordinate their efforts with the big national and international environmental organizations, but they are careful to maintain their independence which guarantees their freedom of action.

Advocates for the West, for instance, based in Boise, Idaho, has attracted little media attention. But it has proven itself to be a powerful adversary of Alberta oil producers. The group has adopted a shrewd and carefully calibrated legal strategy that has prevented such oil giants as ConocoPhillips and Imperial Oil (an Exxon Mobil affiliate) from sending truckloads of heavy equipment through Idaho and Montana and into Alberta where it will be used to extract crude oil from the oil sands.

Get full story here.