Man accidentally ‘deletes his entire company’ with one line of bad code

4045408.jpg

 

Ok, this IS weird AND dangerous. Remembers me of Y2K and all that stuff which took our crap for a few months back in 1999. We depend more and more on networks, data storage and computers. What if a bad code destroyed not only one company, but all the datas in the Cloud, blocking banks and other essential services? Would it be possible, or not?

The Independent

A man appears to have deleted his entire company with one mistaken piece of code.

By accidentally telling his computer to delete everything in his servers, hosting provider Marco Marsala has seemingly removed all trace of his company and the websites that he looks after for his customers.

Mr Marsala wrote on a forum for server experts called Server Faultthat he was now stuck after having accidentally run destructive code on his own computers. But far from advising them how to fix it, most experts informed him that he had just accidentally deleted the data of his company and its clients, and in so doing had probably destroyed his entire company with just one line of code.

The problem command was “rm -rf”: a basic piece of code that will delete everything it is told to. The “rm” tells the computer to remove; the r deletes everything within a given directory; and the f stands for “force”, telling the computer to ignore the usual warnings that come when deleting files.

Together, the code deleted everything on the computer, including Mr Masarla’s customers’ websites, he wrote. Mr Masarla runs a web hosting company, which looks after the servers and internet connections on which the files for websites are stored.

That piece of code is so famously destructive that it has become a joke within some computing circles.

Normally, that code would wipe out all of the specific parts of the computer that it was pointed at. But because of an error in the way it was written, the code didn’t actually specify anywhere – and so removed everything on the computer.

“I run a small hosting provider with more or less 1535 customers and I use Ansible to automate some operations to be run on all servers,” wrote Marco Marsala. “Last night I accidentally ran, on all servers, a Bash script with a rm -rf {foo}/{bar} with those variables undefined due to a bug in the code above this line.”

Mr Marsala confirmed that the code had even deleted all of the backups that he had taken in case of catastrophe. Because the drives that were backing up the computers were mounted to it, the computer managed to wipe all of those, too.

“All servers got deleted and the offsite backups too because the remote storage was mounted just before by the same script (that is a backup maintenance script).”

Most users agreed that it was unlikely that Mr Marsala would be able to recover any of the data. And as a result his company was almost certainly not going to recover, either.

“I feel sorry to say that your company is now essentially dead,” wrote a user called Sven. “You might have an extremely slim chance to recover from this if you turn off everything right now and hand your disks over to a reputable data recovery company.

“This will be extremely expensive and still extremely unlikely to really rescue you, and it will take a lot of time.”

Others agreed that perhaps Mr Marsala was on the wrong forum.

“You’re going out of business,” wrote Michael Hampton. “You don’t need technical advice, you need to call your lawyer.”

Many of the responses to Mr Marsala’s problem weren’t especially helpful – pointing out that he could have taken steps to stop it happening before it did.

“Well, you should have been thinking about how to protect your customers’ data before nuking them,” wrote one person calling himself Massimo. “I won’t even begin enumerating how many errors are simultaneously required in order to be able to completely erase all your servers and all your backups in a single strike.

“This is not bad luck: it’s astonishingly bad design reinforced by complete carelessness.”

Mr Marsala’s problem is far from the first time that someone has accidentally destroyed their own system by missing a mistake. Indeed, responses to his post mostly referenced a similar thread posted two years ago, with the headline “Monday morning mistake”.

That error saw someone accidentally lose access to their entire server, after they didn’t notice a stray space in the code.

Anuncios

How America has waged an eternal war in the Middle East

GettyImages-1858351.jpg
Michael Brendan Dougherty, The Week

Every year the United States seems to be torn between further retreat from the Middle East and deeper military involvement in it.

Over the past four decades, America has bombed pharmaceutical plants in Sudan and cars from Yemen to Afghanistan. It has promoted democracy in the Palestinian territories, then subterfuge and civil war in Syria. In Iraq alone, it has tried war, sanctions, no-fly zones, shock-and-awe, regime change, withdrawal, and, now, bombing again.

Instead of seeing these and other conflicts as numerous and distinct, former U.S. Army Colonel and current professor emeritus at Boston University Andrew J. Bacevich describes it as a unified four-decade-plus struggle in his new book. In America’s War for the Greater Middle East,Bacevich covers the military failures and the near-successes as a military historian. But he engages the entirety of Middle East policy as something of a prophet, where the power fantasies of America’s elite and American society’s decadence are as much to blame for military failure as bad planning.

In Bacevich’s telling, our long war in trying to shape the Middle East was precipitated by the oil shocks of the ’70s, the Iranian Revolution, and the Soviet incursion into Afghanistan. President Jimmy Carter, looking at Soviet power just a few hundred miles from the Strait of Hormuz, announced that “an attempt by any outside force to gain control of the Persian Gulf region will be regarded as an assault on the vital interests of the United States of America, and such an assault will be repelled by any means necessary, including military force.” Perhaps more darkly, this war has been impelled by a concept of freedom that has gripped American thought, one that identifies America’s existence almost exclusively with power, riches, and consumption.

Bacevich casts a dark eye on American policymakers, blinded by their own ideological priors about American power and the direction of world history. America’s elite have tried to “shape” parts of the Islamic world according to American notions. American policy is made by leaders who share a view that history has an ineluctable direction, toward American-style freedom and managed market economies, who believe that America’s system of meritocracy and America’s preeminent military power empower them with the wisdom and wherewithal to shape events on a global scale. And perhaps most fatally:

A final assumption counts on the inevitability of America’s purposes ultimately winning acceptance, even in the Islamic world. The subjects of U.S. benefactions will then obligingly submit to Washington’s requirements and warmly embrace American norms. If not today, then surely tomorrow, the United States will receive the plaudits and be granted the honors that liberators rightly deserve. Near-term disappointments can be discounted given the certainty that better outcomes lie just ahead. [America’s War for the Greater Middle East]

The word for this is hubris. And hubris, along with a cultivated lack of America’s sustained public interest in this ongoing conflict, has led to chaos and indecision. In contrast to the victory and unconditional surrender effected by WWII, or the long-term effect of the Cold War military buildup that kept the Soviet Union contained, Andrew Bacevich concludes that the U.S. has tried multiple military strategies in the Middle East, most without a rational basis:

In the War for the Greater Middle East, the United States chose neither to contain nor to crush, instead charting a course midway in between. In effect, it chose aggravation. With politicians and generals too quick to declare victory and with the American public too quick to throw their hands up when faced with adversity, U.S. forces rarely stayed long enough to finish the job. Instead of intimidating, U.S. military efforts have annoyed, incited, and generally communicated a lack of both competence and determination. [America’s War for the Greater Middle East]

Bacevich’s book has an almost Solomonic authorial voice. America’s Warcan feel at times like a book written 50 years from now and narrated by a historian from a country that has succeeded America in world pre-eminence. He covers each discreet conflict and the illusions that impelled it or were birthed from it with an exacting and grave precision. Like John Quincy Adams, Bacevich longs for a doctrine that rationalizes America’s power and its purposes in the world. But like the famous Cold War diplomat George Kennan, there is something of a prophetic small-r Republican kicking around in Bacevich’s critique, a desire for an America with a truly engaged and self-governing citizenry.

And although the book is sweeping in its scope and gains a towering moral authority by its conclusion, Bacevich stops short of making any direct plea for the kind of introspection and even spiritual renewal that would lead to a different foreign policy, perhaps by cultivating a different ethic in the American people and their leadership class. Instead he points out that while the Middle East will still be an irritant to America for some time to come, the energy that the world depends on is now found in abundance in the Western hemisphere and the balance of economic power is shifting dramatically to Asia. The unstated and perhaps morally unsatisfying conclusion is that while America’s expansive military policy in the Middle East may reveal itself to be a bad deal in the near future, geopolitical forces may conspire to push America to move on without ever truly reckoning the cost of its folly.

Photo: Scott Nelson/Getty Images

Economic Collapse Is Erupting All Over The Planet As Global Leaders Begin To Panic

maxresdefault.jpg
by Michael Snyder, The Economic Collapse

Mainstream news outlets are already starting to use the phrase “economic collapse” to describe what is going on in some areas of our world right now.  For many Americans this may seem a bit strange, but the truth is that the worldwide economic slowdown that began during the second half of last year is starting to get a lot worse.  In this article, we are going to examine evidence of this from South America, Europe, Asia and North America.  Once we are done, it should be obvious that there is absolutely no reason to be optimistic about the direction of the global economy right now.  The warnings of so many prominent experts are now becoming a reality, and what we have witnessed so far are just the early chapters of a crushing economic crisis that will affect every man, woman and child in the entire world.

Let’s start with Brazil.  It has the 7th largest economy on the entire planet, and it is already enduring its worst recession in 25 years.  In fact, at the end of last year Goldman Sachs said that what was going on down there was actually a “depression“.

But now the crisis in Brazil has escalated significantly.

I want to share with you an excerpt from a recent article entitled “Brazil: Economic collapse worse than feared“.  I know, that title sounds like it comes directly from The Economic Collapse Blog, but I didn’t write it.

It actually comes from CNN

Amid political chaos, Brazil’s economic collapse is worse than its government once believed.

In the midst of rising calls to impeach President Dilma Rousseff, Brazil’s central bank announced Thursday that it now expects the country’s economy to shrink 3.5% this year.

That’s worse than the central bank’s previous estimate for a 1.9% contraction. The darker forecast matches what the International Monetary Fund projected for Brazil — Latin America’s largest country — and what many independent economists have suspected.

It is one thing for Michael Snyder to tell you that Brazil is in the midst of “economic collapse”, but it is another thing entirely for CNN to say it.

And of course I have been warning about the crisis down in Brazil for quite some time now.  For much more on this, please see my previous article entitled “The Economic Collapse Of South America Is Well Underway“.

Meanwhile, things are actually much worse in Venezuela than they are in Brazil.  Food and basic supplies are in short supply, the inflation rate has hit 720 percent, and crime is completely out of control.

The following is from an article in the Independent entitled “Venezuela is on the brink of complete economic collapse“…

The only question now is whether Venezuela’s government or economy will completely collapse first.

The key word there is “completely.” Both are well into their death throes. Indeed, Venezuela’s ruling party just lost congressional elections that gave the opposition a veto-proof majority, and it’s hard to see that getting any better for them any time soon — or ever.

Incumbents, after all, don’t tend to do too well when, according to the International Monetary Fund, their economy shrinks 10 percent one year, an additional 6 percent the next, and inflation explodes to 720 percent. It’s no wonder, then, that markets expect Venezuela to default on its debt in the very near future. The country is basically bankrupt.

Once again we see a very respected mainstream publication using the phrase “economic collapse” to describe what is happening in South America.

You can find some stunning video of the “economic Armageddon” that is taking place in Venezuela right here.  I would encourage you to watch that video, because what is happening down there will eventually be happening here.

Meanwhile, over in Europe the collapse of the Italian banking system has entered a disturbing new chapter.  Italy’s finance minister has called a meeting in Rome for Monday that will be focusing on a “last resort” bailout plan for the troubled banks…

Finance minister Pier Carlo Padoan has called a meeting in Rome on Monday with executives from Italy’s largest financial institutions to agree final details of a “last resort” bailout plan.

Yet on the eve of that gathering, concerns remain as to whether the plan will be sufficient to ringfence the weakest of Italy’s large banks, Monte dei Paschi di Siena, from contagion, according to people involved in the talks.

Italian bank shares have lost almost half their value so far this year amid investor worries over a €360bn pile of non-performing loans — equivalent to about a fifth of GDP. Lenders’ profitability has been hit by a crippling three-year recession.

As Italy descends into financial chaos, the rest of the continent better be paying attention.

Do you remember how hard it was for the rest of Europe to rescue Greece?

Well, Greece has the 44th largest economy on the planet.

Italy has the 8th.

It would be hard to overstate the seriousness of what is going on over in Europe, and it is not just Italy we are talking about.  All over the continent major banks are in deep trouble, and the chairman of France’s second largestretail bank recently told reporters that “I am much more worried than I was in 2009“.

And there is very good reason for concern.  On Sunday, we learned that a major “bail-in” had just been announced for one of Austria’s most prominent banks.  The following comes from Zero Hedge

And then today, following a decision by the Austrian Banking Regulator, the Finanzmarktaufsicht or Financial Market Authority, Austria officially became the first European country to use a new law under the framework imposed by Bank the European Recovery and Resolution Directive to share losses of a failed bank with senior creditors as it slashed the value of debt owed by Heta Asset Resolution AG.

The highlights from the announcement:

Today, the Austrian Financial Market Authority (FMA) in its function as the resolution authority pursuant to the Bank Recovery and Resolution Act (BaSAG – Bundesgesetz über die Sanierung und Abwicklung von Banken) has issued the key features for the further steps for the resolution of HETA ASSET RESOLUTION AG. The most significant measures are:

  • a 100% bail-in for all subordinated liabilities,
  • a 53.98% bail-in, resulting in a 46.02% quota, for all eligible preferential liabilities,
  • the cancellation of all interest payments from 01.03.2015, when HETA was placed into resolution pursuant to BaSAG,
  • as well as a harmonisation of the maturities of all eligible liabilities to 31.12.2023.

According to the current resolution plan for HETA, the wind-down process should be concluded by 2020, although the repayment of all claims as well as the legally binding conclusion of all currently outstanding legal disputes will realistically only be concluded by the end of 2023. Only at that point will it be possible to finally distribute the assets and to liquidate the company.

The dominoes are starting to fall in Europe, and I would expect even bigger announcements in the weeks and months to come.

Over in Asia, economic chaos is beginning to prevail as well.

In China, the stock market is already down more than 40 percent from the peak, Chinese exports were down 25.4 percent on a year over year basis in February, and Chinese economic numbers overall have not been this poor since the depths of the last global recession.

At the same time, the Japanese economy is really struggling right now.  As I wrote about the other day, Japanese GDP has shrunk for two out of the last three quarters, we just saw Japanese industrial production experience the biggest one month decline that we have witnessed since the tsunami of 2011, and business sentiment has fallen to a three year low.  The Nikkei has dropped by about 5,000 points from where it was last summer, and some analysts believe that Japanese markets “are being destroyed” due to massive intervention by the Bank of Japan.

Here in the United States, we haven’t been hit quite as hard as the rest of the world just yet, but there are lots of very disturbing warning signs all around us.

At the end of last week, we learned that it is being projected that U.S. GDP will have grown by just 0.1 or 0.2 percent during the first quarter of 2016.  And on Monday corporate earnings reporting season begins, and it is expected to be a very, very bad one.  The following comes from Business Insider

We are about to get confirmation that earnings growth for America’s biggest companies was negative in the first quarter, compared to the same period a year ago.

When aluminum giant Alcoa releases its results on Monday, it will mark the unofficial start of the heaviest reporting season for S&P 500 companies.

The final scoreboard is expected to show a 9.1% earnings drop for the quarter, according to FactSet senior earnings analyst John Butters.

If these projections turn out to be accurate, it will be the fourth quarter in a row of earnings declines.  This is something that we never see outside of a recession.

And for a whole bunch more numbers which indicate that the U.S. economy is in very serious trouble, please see my previous article entitled “19 Facts That Prove Things In America Are Worse Than They Were Six Months Ago“.

Of course I am just another voice in the crowd when it comes to predicting that the U.S. economy is headed for rough times.  For example, just check out what Societe Generale economist Albert Edwards is saying

A tidal wave is coming to the US economy, according to Albert Edwards, and when it crashes it’s going to throw the economy into recession.

…the profit recession facing American corporations is going to lead to a collapse in corporate credit.

“Despite risk assets enjoying a few weeks in the sun our fail-safe recession indicator has stopped flashing amber and turned to red”

He continued:

Whole economy profits never normally fall this deeply without a recession unfolding. And with the US corporate sector up to its eyes in debt, the one asset class to be avoided — even more so than the ridiculously overvalued equity market — is US corporate debt. The economy will surely be swept away by a tidal wave of corporate default.

As you can see, it isn’t just one nation or one region of the world that we need to be concerned about.

Economic chaos is erupting literally all over the planet, and global leaders are starting to panic.

Unfortunately, they have had seven years to try to fix things since the last global recession, and they didn’t get the job done.  Anyone that believes that by some miracle they will be able to pull us out of the fire this time and that everything will somehow be okay is simply engaged in wishful thinking.

by Michael Snyder, The Economic Collapse

Mainstream news outlets are already starting to use the phrase “economic collapse” to describe what is going on in some areas of our world right now.  For many Americans this may seem a bit strange, but the truth is that the worldwide economic slowdown that began during the second half of last year is starting to get a lot worse.  In this article, we are going to examine evidence of this from South America, Europe, Asia and North America.  Once we are done, it should be obvious that there is absolutely no reason to be optimistic about the direction of the global economy right now.  The warnings of so many prominent experts are now becoming a reality, and what we have witnessed so far are just the early chapters of a crushing economic crisis that will affect every man, woman and child in the entire world.

Let’s start with Brazil.  It has the 7th largest economy on the entire planet, and it is already enduring its worst recession in 25 years.  In fact, at the end of last year Goldman Sachs said that what was going on down there was actually a “depression“.

But now the crisis in Brazil has escalated significantly.

I want to share with you an excerpt from a recent article entitled “Brazil: Economic collapse worse than feared“.  I know, that title sounds like it comes directly from The Economic Collapse Blog, but I didn’t write it.

It actually comes from CNN

Amid political chaos, Brazil’s economic collapse is worse than its government once believed.

In the midst of rising calls to impeach President Dilma Rousseff, Brazil’s central bank announced Thursday that it now expects the country’s economy to shrink 3.5% this year.

That’s worse than the central bank’s previous estimate for a 1.9% contraction. The darker forecast matches what the International Monetary Fund projected for Brazil — Latin America’s largest country — and what many independent economists have suspected.

It is one thing for Michael Snyder to tell you that Brazil is in the midst of “economic collapse”, but it is another thing entirely for CNN to say it.

And of course I have been warning about the crisis down in Brazil for quite some time now.  For much more on this, please see my previous article entitled “The Economic Collapse Of South America Is Well Underway“.

Meanwhile, things are actually much worse in Venezuela than they are in Brazil.  Food and basic supplies are in short supply, the inflation rate has hit 720 percent, and crime is completely out of control.

The following is from an article in the Independent entitled “Venezuela is on the brink of complete economic collapse“…

The only question now is whether Venezuela’s government or economy will completely collapse first.

The key word there is “completely.” Both are well into their death throes. Indeed, Venezuela’s ruling party just lost congressional elections that gave the opposition a veto-proof majority, and it’s hard to see that getting any better for them any time soon — or ever.

Incumbents, after all, don’t tend to do too well when, according to the International Monetary Fund, their economy shrinks 10 percent one year, an additional 6 percent the next, and inflation explodes to 720 percent. It’s no wonder, then, that markets expect Venezuela to default on its debt in the very near future. The country is basically bankrupt.

Once again we see a very respected mainstream publication using the phrase “economic collapse” to describe what is happening in South America.

You can find some stunning video of the “economic Armageddon” that is taking place in Venezuela right here.  I would encourage you to watch that video, because what is happening down there will eventually be happening here.

Meanwhile, over in Europe the collapse of the Italian banking system has entered a disturbing new chapter.  Italy’s finance minister has called a meeting in Rome for Monday that will be focusing on a “last resort” bailout plan for the troubled banks…

Finance minister Pier Carlo Padoan has called a meeting in Rome on Monday with executives from Italy’s largest financial institutions to agree final details of a “last resort” bailout plan.

Yet on the eve of that gathering, concerns remain as to whether the plan will be sufficient to ringfence the weakest of Italy’s large banks, Monte dei Paschi di Siena, from contagion, according to people involved in the talks.

Italian bank shares have lost almost half their value so far this year amid investor worries over a €360bn pile of non-performing loans — equivalent to about a fifth of GDP. Lenders’ profitability has been hit by a crippling three-year recession.

As Italy descends into financial chaos, the rest of the continent better be paying attention.

Do you remember how hard it was for the rest of Europe to rescue Greece?

Well, Greece has the 44th largest economy on the planet.

Italy has the 8th.

It would be hard to overstate the seriousness of what is going on over in Europe, and it is not just Italy we are talking about.  All over the continent major banks are in deep trouble, and the chairman of France’s second largestretail bank recently told reporters that “I am much more worried than I was in 2009“.

And there is very good reason for concern.  On Sunday, we learned that a major “bail-in” had just been announced for one of Austria’s most prominent banks.  The following comes from Zero Hedge

And then today, following a decision by the Austrian Banking Regulator, the Finanzmarktaufsicht or Financial Market Authority, Austria officially became the first European country to use a new law under the framework imposed by Bank the European Recovery and Resolution Directive to share losses of a failed bank with senior creditors as it slashed the value of debt owed by Heta Asset Resolution AG.

The highlights from the announcement:

Today, the Austrian Financial Market Authority (FMA) in its function as the resolution authority pursuant to the Bank Recovery and Resolution Act (BaSAG – Bundesgesetz über die Sanierung und Abwicklung von Banken) has issued the key features for the further steps for the resolution of HETA ASSET RESOLUTION AG. The most significant measures are:

  • a 100% bail-in for all subordinated liabilities,
  • a 53.98% bail-in, resulting in a 46.02% quota, for all eligible preferential liabilities,
  • the cancellation of all interest payments from 01.03.2015, when HETA was placed into resolution pursuant to BaSAG,
  • as well as a harmonisation of the maturities of all eligible liabilities to 31.12.2023.

According to the current resolution plan for HETA, the wind-down process should be concluded by 2020, although the repayment of all claims as well as the legally binding conclusion of all currently outstanding legal disputes will realistically only be concluded by the end of 2023. Only at that point will it be possible to finally distribute the assets and to liquidate the company.

The dominoes are starting to fall in Europe, and I would expect even bigger announcements in the weeks and months to come.

Over in Asia, economic chaos is beginning to prevail as well.

In China, the stock market is already down more than 40 percent from the peak, Chinese exports were down 25.4 percent on a year over year basis in February, and Chinese economic numbers overall have not been this poor since the depths of the last global recession.

At the same time, the Japanese economy is really struggling right now.  As I wrote about the other day, Japanese GDP has shrunk for two out of the last three quarters, we just saw Japanese industrial production experience the biggest one month decline that we have witnessed since the tsunami of 2011, and business sentiment has fallen to a three year low.  The Nikkei has dropped by about 5,000 points from where it was last summer, and some analysts believe that Japanese markets “are being destroyed” due to massive intervention by the Bank of Japan.

Here in the United States, we haven’t been hit quite as hard as the rest of the world just yet, but there are lots of very disturbing warning signs all around us.

At the end of last week, we learned that it is being projected that U.S. GDP will have grown by just 0.1 or 0.2 percent during the first quarter of 2016.  And on Monday corporate earnings reporting season begins, and it is expected to be a very, very bad one.  The following comes from Business Insider

We are about to get confirmation that earnings growth for America’s biggest companies was negative in the first quarter, compared to the same period a year ago.

When aluminum giant Alcoa releases its results on Monday, it will mark the unofficial start of the heaviest reporting season for S&P 500 companies.

The final scoreboard is expected to show a 9.1% earnings drop for the quarter, according to FactSet senior earnings analyst John Butters.

If these projections turn out to be accurate, it will be the fourth quarter in a row of earnings declines.  This is something that we never see outside of a recession.

And for a whole bunch more numbers which indicate that the U.S. economy is in very serious trouble, please see my previous article entitled “19 Facts That Prove Things In America Are Worse Than They Were Six Months Ago“.

Of course I am just another voice in the crowd when it comes to predicting that the U.S. economy is headed for rough times.  For example, just check out what Societe Generale economist Albert Edwards is saying

A tidal wave is coming to the US economy, according to Albert Edwards, and when it crashes it’s going to throw the economy into recession.

…the profit recession facing American corporations is going to lead to a collapse in corporate credit.

“Despite risk assets enjoying a few weeks in the sun our fail-safe recession indicator has stopped flashing amber and turned to red”

He continued:

Whole economy profits never normally fall this deeply without a recession unfolding. And with the US corporate sector up to its eyes in debt, the one asset class to be avoided — even more so than the ridiculously overvalued equity market — is US corporate debt. The economy will surely be swept away by a tidal wave of corporate default.

As you can see, it isn’t just one nation or one region of the world that we need to be concerned about.

Economic chaos is erupting literally all over the planet, and global leaders are starting to panic.

Unfortunately, they have had seven years to try to fix things since the last global recession, and they didn’t get the job done.  Anyone that believes that by some miracle they will be able to pull us out of the fire this time and that everything will somehow be okay is simply engaged in wishful thinking.

Here’s the latest travesty of secrecy from the NSA

42-25917696.jpg

David W. Brown, The Week

The National Security Agency has never been particularly forthcoming. But its latest tight-lipped refusal to share information with the public is egregious, even for the NSA.

Now, in response to a Freedom of Information Act request, the National Security Agency is withholding its own ethical and legal guidelines, calling them “top secret.” This is ridiculous.

This all began with a 2013 press release issued by the agency, in which it sought to “clarify” troubling issues swirling around XKEYSCORE, a secret spy tool first revealed by Marc Ambinder and me, and later confirmed by the Edward Snowden documents. XKEYSCORE is basically the NSA’s Google, used for searching through the agency’s myriad databases and servers. Because of the sheer volume of data collected by the agency, the program is enormously flexible and allows data to be sliced and cross referenced with other agency tools.

The potential for abuse of such a system is obvious, and amid such Snowden revelations in 2013 as LOVEINT, a practice by some NSA employees in which the awesome power of the “panopticon” is used to spy on ex-lovers, the agency sought to set the record straight.

“Allegations of widespread, unchecked analyst access to NSA collection data are simply not true,” wrote the agency. “Access to XKEYSCORE, as well as all of NSA’s analytic tools, is limited to only those personnel who require access for their assigned tasks. Those personnel must complete appropriate training prior to being granted such access — training which must be repeated on a regular basis. This training not only covers the mechanics of the tool but also each analyst’s ethical and legal obligations.”

 

If those claims to such rigorous training are true, that would be a very good thing. And so Jeff Stein, a national security correspondent at Newsweek, had a simple question: What kind of legal and ethical training do NSA employees receive? Through his attorney, Kel McClanahan of National Security Counselors, a non-profit law firm that specializes in issues of privacy and government secrecy, he filed a Freedom of Information Act request with the agency, and waited. Almost three years after he filed the paperwork, the NSA finally had an answer.

The material responsive to your request has been reviewed by this Agency . . . and remains classified TOP SECRET as provided in Section 1.2 of Executive Order 13526. The documents are classified because their disclosure could reasonably be expected to cause exceptionally grave damage to the national security. [NSA]

“The funniest part of this entire thing,” said McClanahan, “is that they put out a press release saying, ‘We obey all laws and ethical obligations,’ and then you ask them which laws and ethical obligations and they say, ‘We can’t tell you.'”

If XKEYSCORE were so highly classified that the NSA couldn’t even acknowledge its existence, then its response would at least be defensible. Discussing the ethical guidelines related to a program would imply that the program is real. This line of argument was first put forth by the Central Intelligence Agency in 1975, when it rejected a request for records on Project Azorian, claiming that any response to the request would imply the existence of something it could “neither confirm nor deny.” But that’s not the case of XKEYSCORE. The program has not only been extensively covered, but revealed and explained by the National Security Agency in apress release.

There is no reason to believe that NSA guidance to employees on the handling of XKEYSCORE data should be inextricably intertwined with operational details of XKEYSCORE (which they might legitimately withhold), McClanahan says. “Ethical and legal guidelines are broad stroke authorities or statements that say, ‘Don’t disseminate this outside your office,’ or ‘Don’t use this for personal reasons.’ Or ‘Be aware that the Fourth Amendment applies.’ If they’re really saying that the ethical and legal limitations they place on their analysts are classified, then that’s really bizarre.”

If the agency is correct in its assertion that revealing its employees’ knowledge of ethics and how to obey the law will cause grievous injury to national security, then it is necessary to ask why that is.

The NSA did not respond to multiple requests for comment.

The possible explanations for the NSA’s refusal to disclose the sort of information one might expect them to be positively eager to discuss are troubling at best. Is it not the nature of the limitations, but the number? Are so few legal and ethical limitations placed on analysts that the agency fears disclosure of this might spark calls for tighter regulation?

“A lot of people are worried about the idea of ‘secret law,'” said McClanahan. “What if there is an executive order out there that nobody knows about because it’s classified? What if that is the legal obligation the NSA is talking about? If so, then by all accounts, technically speaking, the ethical obligation training would be classified.” The documents related to ethics and legal guidelines were not heavily redacted, page after page of solid black lines; they were withheld in their entirety. Not one syllable of their ethical obligations were deemed safe for public consumption.

“You’re telling me the only training that these people are being given on legal and ethical obligations is set forth in a classified piece of law?” McClanahan said. “There are no other legal obligations? There are no other ethical obligations that are not classified? That’s huge if that is the case.”

Indeed, just as scientists can only infer the existence of new planets by discovering tiny gravitational anomalies, the limits of a hypothetical secret law might be discovered only by records requests such as this one, and by the concerted efforts of sunlight activists like McClanahan and his colleagues. Something big is certainly orbiting the sun of the government secrecy apparatus. Remember, the NSA is directly stating that its ethics and legal guidelines are top secret because “their disclosure could reasonably be expected to cause exceptionally grave damage to the national security.” That sounds pretty big to me.

When people worry about NSA analysts using the agency’s capabilities for questionable reasons, the NSA brags about how super-trained its analysts are about their ethical and legal obligations. But revealing those ethical and legal obligations would devastate national security. Why?

Why the eurozone is still headed for total disaster

42-33838477.jpg

Ryan Cooper, The Week

For a few months in 2015, U.S. writers paid rapt attention to eurozone politics.

It seemed like tiny Greece was going to force European elites to finally fix some of the crippling defects with the currency area. Left-wing Syriza, led by Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras and Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis, leveled a challenge to the German-dominated eurozone grandees. With the economic situation in Greece worse than the Great Depression — very obviously the result of elite-imposed austerity — and much of the rest of the currency area doing only somewhat better, they demanded an end to austerity and a return to growth and shared prosperity.

Alas, the hopes of internationalist leftists worldwide were crushed.

Elites, mainly through the European Central Bank holding a gun to the head of the Greek banking system, forced Syriza to capitulate and give up their reform program even after they won a popular referendum. Varoufakis resigned, Tsipras seemed content serving as a local administrator for an economic empire run by eurozone technocrats, and politics settled down.

However, the lull is only temporary. The political force of anti-austerity is still there, just waiting to be picked up by a sufficiently bold political movement. If the technocrats are lucky, it will be a better-prepared left-wing movement. If they aren’t, it will be fascists.

Varoufakis is out with a new book trying to pave a way out of the continuing crisis, and by his account the various eurozone grandees were totally uninterested in any substantive argument. Instead nearly all “discussion” was centered around how to coerce Greece into accepting technocrat domination:

Prearranged communiques, prefabricated votes, a solid coalition of finance ministers around [German Finance Minister Wolfgang] Schäuble that was impenetrable to rational debate; this was the order to the day and, more often, of the long, long night. Not once did I get the feeling that my interlocutors were at all interested in Greece’s economic recovery while we were discussing the economic policies that should be implemented in my country. [The Guardian]

It’s a somewhat self-serving narrative, but it rings true. Basically every major economic policy decision made in the eurozone since 2010 has been utterly deranged by academic standards, and the ensuing disasters have arrived exactly as predicted. If someone wanted an example of management by a bunch of irrational incompetents immune to rational argument, the eurocrats could scarcely have done a better job if they tried.

What’s more, the eurozone has only barely improved since Syriza was cudgeled into submission in 2015. Eurozone GDP growth briefly nudged a pitiful 0.6 percent in early 2015, and has since fallen back down to 0.3 percent. Unemployment in Greece is still over 24 percent. In Spain it is nearly 21 percent. In Portugal it is over 12 percent. In Italy it is nearly 12 percent.

And in the meantime, the Syrian refugee crisis has added another screaming emergency to an already teetering system. Though to be fair, this crisis has been shouldered much more equally than the economic one, some of those same hardest-up countries — particularly Greece and Italy— have had the worst of it.

So countries suffering a second Great Depression, imposed from outside because of rancid politics and blinkered ignorance, have now been forced to deal with hundreds of thousands of foreign refugees. Traditionally, that’s how one develops a severe case of right-wing extremism.

Terrifying radioactive boars in Japan are multiplying faster than they can be killed and buried

nn20130925a5a-870x500.jpg

The Week

Radioactive boars living around the Fukushima nuclear site in Japan are wreaking havoc as they run rampant in the region unchecked, The Independent reports. Following the Fukushima Daiichi meltdown in 2011, a quarantine zone was established to keep humans safe from leaked radioactive material. As a result, the boars, whose population had been controlled by human hunters, have flourished, eating nuclear-contaminated foods and destroying the local agriculture. The boars have reportedly caused around $873,000 in damage to local farms.

In an attempt to curb the exploding population, the boars are being killed faster than they can even be buried. Containing 600 boars per mass grave, the city of Nihonmatsu has actually run out of public land they can use to dispose of the pests. Authorities have resorted to trying to incinerate the boars instead, but that too has proven to be difficult; hunters have tried burying carcasses themselves, but the boars are often dug up by wild dogs. The boars can grow to be massive, too, regularly weighing around 220 pounds.

While the boars were a local delicacy before the nuclear meltdown, tests have shown them to now be too contaminated for human consumption. The area directly around Fukushima remains at levels of radiation 300 times what is safe for people.

While local plants and insects have shown mutations from the radioactive material, there is not yet evidence the boars are suffering from the radiation.

Jeva Lange

From the Japan Times

Wild boars are taking a toll on agriculture in Fukushima Prefecture as farmers struggle to bounce back from the planting bans imposed after the meltdowns at the Fukushima No. 1 power plant in March 2011.

The boars are multiplying and entering areas they previously avoided as underbrush once routinely cleared in the nearby mountains grows back, affording them places to hide.

In late August, 61-year-old Noriyoshi Kato from the Onami district in the city of Fukushima looked at his rice paddy in despair.

“They came and did this at night,” the rice farmer said as he surveyed the damage done by the wild boars.

Kato began planting rice after the government lifted the ban imposed on the district after the disaster in 2011.

With harvest time just a month away, the boars apparently had crawled under an electric fence Kato had set up around his field to protect the budding ears of rice.

“The boars wouldn’t come near the rice paddies before the accident,” Kato said.

In those days, the wild boars kept to the mountains, apparently because they could not hide themselves in areas cleared of brush by humans.

Now overgrown, the areas are attracting the boars.

A 2012 study by the Environment Ministry found boars in almost every area inside the 20-km exclusion zone.

“It is very likely that the area of their activities expanded since many people were evacuated (from the exclusion zone) and the number of boars captured is decreasing,” the ministry speculates.

In fiscal 2010, 3,736 boars were captured in Fukushima Prefecture, rising to a record high of 4,856 in fiscal 2012. More wild boars are also showing up in towns and cities outside the 20-km exclusion zone.

Meanwhile, the number of licensed hunters in Fukushima Prefecture has decreased by one-third, from 4,779 in fiscal 2010 to 3,328 in fiscal 2011, a trend that shows no sign of reversing.

A local official in charge of hunting said the idea that wild boar meat could be irradiated has reduced interest in bagging the wild animals among the already aging population of hunters.

The government has offered subsidies and prize money to try to resolve the problem, while the Environment Ministry plans to set up boar traps within 20 km of the nuclear plant starting in November.

The situation has also prompted prefectural officials and farmers, seeking to revitalize the prefecture’s industry, to alleviate the damage by setting up electric fences and conducting large-scale hunts.

But “it is a cat-and-mouse game, because they reproduce quickly,” said Hiroshi Sakai, manager of Fukushima Prefecture’s nature conservation division.

Ideally, it would be better to go back into the mountains and create a buffer zone by cutting undergrowth, Sakai said, adding that the delay of decontamination activities in the mountains is hindering locals from managing the area.

 

Watch Japan – For All Is Not Well In The Land Of The Rising Sun

by Michael Snyder, The Economic Collapse

One of the epicenters of the global financial crisis that started during the second half of last year is Japan, and it looks like the markets in the land of the rising sun are entering yet another period of great turmoil.  The Nikkei was down another 390 points last night, and it is now down more than 1,300 points since a week ago.  Why this is so important for U.S. investors is because the Nikkei is often an early warning indicator of where the rest of the global markets are heading.  For example, the Nikkei started crashing early last December about a month before U.S. markets started crashing really hard in early January.  So the fact that the Nikkei has been falling very rapidly in recent days should be a huge red flag for investors in this country.

I want you to study the chart below very carefully.  It shows the performance of the Nikkei over the past 12 months.  As you can see, it kind of resembles a giant leaning “W”.  You can see the stock crash that started last August, you can see the second wave of the crash that began last December, and now a third leg of the crash is currently forming…

 

 

And of course the economic fundamentals in Japan continue to deteriorate as well.  GDP growth has been negative for two out of the last three quarters, Japanese industrial production just experienced the largest one month decline that we have seen since the tsunami of 2011, and business sentiment has sunk to a three year low.

The third largest economy on the entire planet is in a comatose state at this point, and Japanese authorities have been throwing everything but the kitchen sink at it in an attempt to revive it.  Government stimulus programs have pushed the debt to GDP ratio to 229 percent, and the quantitative easing that the Bank of Japan has been engaged in has made the Federal Reserve look timid by comparison.

But none of those extraordinary measures has been successful in stimulating the Japanese economy, so now the Bank of Japan has been been trying negative interest rates.  Unfortunately, these negative rates are also having some unintended consequences.  According to the Wall Street Journal, the negative interest rate program is putting additional stress on the Japanese financial sector…

The Bank of Japan started imposing a minus 0.1% rate on some deposits held by commercial banks in February, meaning that those banks now have to pay a small fee when they add to their money parked at the central bank. The financial sector has suffered amid worries that banks can’t pass on negative interest rate to their depositors and therefore will take a hit to their profits.

I would keep a very close eye on the big banks in Japan.  It is my conviction that there is a lot more brewing under the surface than we are being told about so far.

In addition, many analysts in Japan are complaining that all of this manipulation by the BOJ is essentially destroying normal market behavior.  The following comes from Bloomberg

Nobuyasu Atago, who also had worked at the BOJ and is now the chief economist at Okasan Securities Co., pointed out that instead of serving as a important source of cash for borrowers, the credit market has become a profit center for dealers looking to buy securities from investors and sell them to the central bank. While the strategy may be lucrative now, financial institutions face the risk of massive losses, he said.

“By making the trade with the BOJ the only source of profit, markets are exposed to unexpected volatility when that trade ends and the BOJ moves toward the exit,” Atago said. “Markets are being destroyed.”

The more global central banks try to “fix things”, the more they make our long-term imbalances even worse.

To me, it makes no sense to have a bunch of unelected, unaccountable central planners constantly monkeying with the financial system.  In a true free market system, we would allow market forces to determine the course of events.  But of course we don’t have a free market system anymore.  Instead, what we have is a heavily socialized system that is greatly manipulated by the central planners.

That is why global financial markets gyrate wildly if Janet Yellen so much as sneezes.  They know who holds all the power, and investors are constantly on edge as they wait for the latest pronouncement from our central banking overlords.

At this point, 99 percent of the global population lives in a country with a central bank.  Our world is more deeply divided than ever, and yet somehow everyone in the world has agreed to adopt this insidious system.

It sure is quite a coincidence, isn’t it?

Getting back to Japan, things are so bad now that the Japanese government is actually considering giving gift certificates directly to low-income young people.  The following originally comes from Bloomberg

The Japanese government plans to include gift certificates for low-income young people in its fiscal 2016 supplementary budget, Sankei reports, without saying who provided the information.

Recipients would be able to use them for daily necessities.

The government sees gift certificates as more effective in stimulating consumption than cash handouts, which may be deposited.

This is what the end of democracy looks like.

When the government just starts handing out money like candy, you might as well turn out the lights because the party is over.

Since 2008, global central banks have cut interest rates 637 times and they have injected approximately 12.3 trillion dollars into the global financial system through various quantitative easing programs.

Has all of this monkeying around solved our problems?

Of course not.

Instead, our long-term problems have grown progressively worse and now a new financial crisis has begun.

Keep an eye on Japan, and also keep an eye on Europe.  Huge problems are bubbling right under the surface, and when they come bursting into the open they will deeply affect the United States as well.