…who knew? [DOT 8/7/21]

ask a stupid question...

…you know how sometimes it seems like there’s an obvious answer to some things?

The computer code behind the massive ransomware attack by the Russian-speaking hacking ring REvil was written so that the malware avoids systems that primarily use Russian or related languages, according to a new report by a cybersecurity firm.

It’s long been known that some malicious software includes this feature, but the report by Trustwave SpiderLabs, obtained exclusively by NBC News, appears to be the first to publicly identify it as an element of the latest attack, which is believed to be the largest ransomware campaign ever.

“They don’t want to annoy the local authorities, and they know they will be able to run their business much longer if they do it this way,” said Ziv Mador, Trustwave SpiderLabs’ vice president of security research.
Trustwave said the ransomware “avoids systems that have default languages from what was the USSR region. This includes Russian, Ukrainian, Belarusian, Tajik, Armenian, Azerbaijani, Georgian, Kazakh, Kyrgyz, Turkmen, Uzbek, Tatar, Romanian, Russian Moldova, Syriac, and Syriac Arabic.”

In May, cybersecurity expert Brian Krebs noted that ransomware by DarkSide, the Russia-based group that attacked Colonial Pipeline, “has a hard-coded do-not-install list of countries,” including Russia and former Soviet satellites that mostly have favorable relations with the Kremlin.

In general, criminal ransomware groups are allowed to operate with impunity inside Russia and other former Soviet states as long as they focus their attacks on the United States and the West, experts say.

Krebs noted that in some cases, the mere installation of a Russian language virtual keyboard on a computer running Microsoft Windows will cause malware to bypass that machine.


…so when they say they haven’t figured out where the attack originated…that might be misleading…sort of like when this idiot went to the holocaust museum & claimed she got it now

Greene, who recently apologized for comparing mask mandates at the U.S. Capitol to the Holocaust, said in a tweet that people have a choice to get vaccinated and don’t need “medical brown shirts” knocking on doors to urge them to do so. She was responding to remarks Biden made Tuesday about deploying people into communities to get people to take the vaccine.


…so if anyone else is feeling like there’s a groundhog day thing going on with the news…it’s not just you

In a 33-page decision, the New York court panel wrote ruled that “there is uncontroverted evidence that [Guiliani] communicated demonstrably false and misleading statements to courts, lawmakers and the public at large in his capacity as lawyer for former President Donald J. Trump and the Trump campaign in connection with Trump’s failed effort at reelection in 2020.”


…but then…that’s likely not an accident

Trump and the other plaintiffs may be right that their speech is being suppressed by these companies. It’s just that no legal remedy is available to them, much less one in which the court forces the social media platforms to restore their accounts and pay them damages for the time they were shut down.

Relatedly, the two main prongs of legal immunity granted to social media companies under Section 230 are so broad that most lawsuits like this one are dismissed by courts before they even get to a jury trial. The first prong says social media companies only provide information and are not editorial publishers, a classification upheld in an earlier case against Facebook. Since they are merely providers, social media companies are shielded from liability for information posted by a third party on their sites and therefore mostly can’t be required by law to remove any content.
But here’s where this lawsuit gets even stranger: It may be that getting thrown out of court could be the best thing that happens to Trump and the other plaintiffs, while the worst thing for them could be winning the case. If Section 230 were declared unconstitutional and disappeared, social media companies would be exposed to massive civil liability for the content on their platforms.

Suddenly, lawsuits like Trump’s would be more likely to succeed. In response, social media companies would then immediately start censoring any speech that might remotely cause them liability. They might face more lawsuits like this one by plaintiffs claiming their free speech rights were denied. At that point, social media companies might be sued out of existence, and the platforms would disappear entirely.


Trump already has banked the headlines and he’s collecting cash. The only risk to him — the perils of discovery and under-oath deposition — is limited by the likelihood that the court will dismiss his suits nearly as quickly as they materialized Wednesday.

So it’s reasonable to conclude that he’s using the courts, as he has often done in the past, to gain advantage outside of them.
“I have not seen that argument get past the straight-face test,” said Vanderbilt University law professor Brian Fitzpatrick, who predicted defense lawyers would win motions to dismiss.
But if Trump isn’t likely to win his cases, as many legal experts were quick to point out, that doesn’t mean he gains nothing from escalating his fight with the social media companies. While his legal action wasn’t the lead story for news outlets Wednesday, it was prominently placed on many of their web sites.

And, of course, there’s the money.

“Pres Trump: I am SUING Facebook and Twitter for UNCONSTITUTIONAL CENSORSHIP,” Team Trump sent in a text message that quickly circulated on — you guessed it — Twitter. “For a short time, 5X-IMPACT on all gifts! Donate NOW.”


…hard as it is to swallow…we know how this works…but apparently it still works

Former president Donald Trump on Wednesday declared that a police officer defending lawmakers and the Capitol on Jan. 6 had “no reason” to shoot an individual involved in the attack and echoed calls from the far right for the officer to be publicly named.
In April, a U.S. Capitol Police officer was cleared of criminal wrongdoing for fatally shooting Air Force veteran Ashli Babbitt as she attempted to breach a set of doors deep in the Capitol during the January siege.

Authorities said that there was insufficient evidence to prove Babbitt’s civil rights were violated, and that it was reasonable for the officer to believe he was firing in self-defense or in defense of members of Congress and aides who were fleeing the House chamber.

Trump says ‘there was no reason’ for officer to shoot rioter who stormed the Capitol on Jan. 6 [WaPo]

The night of May 29, 2020, was a frightening one for President Donald Trump. The killing of George Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer had spawned massive protests throughout the country, including on the streets of Washington. Concerned about the unrest, the president’s protective detail moved him into a bunker inside the White House, a precautionary measure that Trump would later claim involved nothing more than a tour. (This was not true.)
“[N]obody came close to breaching the fence” outside the White House, Trump added. “If they had they would have been greeted with the most vicious dogs, and most ominous weapons, I have ever seen. That’s when people would have been really badly hurt, at least.”

Seven months later, a very different crowd of protesters threatened the seat of the legislative branch of government. Pro-Trump rioters not only breached the fence outside the Capitol on Jan. 6, but also made their way inside the building through smashed windows and forced-open doors. Scores of them used improvised weapons and fists to batter and repel law enforcement officers. At times, the crowd chanted explicitly for violence against lawmakers — Democratic leaders, Vice President Mike Pence. And, at times, parts of the mob got perilously close to those officials themselves.
One of the grimly fascinating aspects of the Jan. 6 riot is how it exposed the boundaries of right-wing support for police. Those officers tasked with defending the building were attacked; an effort to recognize their service was later opposed by some of the House’s furthest-right members. The man who shot Babbitt has become a target of fury as Babbitt has increasingly been cast as something of a martyr for the day’s cause. Because that cause was Trumpism, Trump himself has spoken of Babbitt more and more often.

The death of Ashli Babbitt offers the purest distillation of Donald Trump’s view of justice [WaPo]

US retail giants Sears and Kmart have apologized and pulled from sale a T-shirt featuring the words “Ashli Babbitt American Patriot” after an outcry on social media.


…no, really…they made those shirts…because there’s a market for that shit…mostly made up of the sort of people who approve of this sort of thing, I’m guessing

As expected, Abbott made new election laws one of nearly a dozen items – including border security and other Republican lightning-rod issues – that he is instructing lawmakers to revisit over the next 30 days in a special session that begins Thursday.

The two-term governor, who is up for re-election next year and has not ruled out a presidential run in 2024, offered no immediate guidance about what changes he wants in Texas’ elections laws.

Texas governor revives Republicans’ thwarted efforts to pass voting laws [Guardian]

…it’s like the world’s shittiest chorus

Trump’s Cult of Animosity Shows No Sign of Letting Up [NYT]

But for more than a decade, the 53-year-old has also pursued a less conventional path: anonymously promoting conspiracy theories about dark forces in American politics on websites and social media accounts in a business he runs out of his home. His audience numbers are respectable and his ad base is resilient, according to corporate records and interviews.

Turnbull has identified himself online for 11 years only as “Sean from SGT Reports.” He has amassed a substantial following while producing videos and podcasts claiming that the 9/11 attacks were a “false flag” event, that a “Zionist banker international cabal” is plotting to destroy Western nations, that coronavirus vaccines are an “experimental, biological kill shot” and that the 2020 election was “rigged” against President Donald Trump, according to a Washington Post review.

His online venture became profitable enough that Turnbull acknowledges he left his film production job in 2015 to run it full time. He continues to do so, despite being barred from major platforms by social media companies in recent years.

An examination of Turnbull’s activities — based on an interview with Turnbull and interviews with former colleagues, as well as court and corporation records — offers a view of how online conspiracy promoters have flourished in the past decade.

From corporate America to conspiracy theory promotion: How a Minnesota man made a career out of anonymously amplifying dark plots [WaPo]

US urged to investigate deceptive Facebook ads tied to rightwing group [Guardian]

A coalition of progressive advocacy organizations are urging journalists to challenge charged rhetoric in a document they’re describing as “guiding principles” to cover so-called culture war issues without amplifying misinformation.

Groups who specialize in immigration, gun reform, LGBTQ+ and reproductive rights banded together in the effort, saying it was frequently difficult to counter the volume of misleading statements on a one-on-one basis.


‘Radicalized’ anti-abortion movement poses increased threat, US warned [Guardian]

…& that seems to go for rather more things than I’d like

A group of state attorneys general have again teamed up to file an antitrust lawsuit against Google, this time alleging the company abused its power over app developers through its mobile Play Store on Android.

The case marks the fourth antitrust lawsuit lodged against the company by U.S. government enforcers in the past year.
Besides the latest antitrust challenge, Google faces an ongoing lawsuit from the Department of Justice and several states alleging it used exclusionary contracts to ensure default status for its apps on devices from manufacturers that used its Android mobile operating system. It also faces a lawsuit from a group of Republican attorneys general focused on its advertising technology business and alleging it entered an anticompetitive agreement with Facebook.


Software developers have accused the company of harsh policies and taking a large cut of financial transactions in their apps.

Dozens of States Sue Google Over App Store Fees [NYT]

…but I guess the direct approach isn’t exactly a pleasant prospect

Haiti’s national police chief said Wednesday night that four suspects were killed and two others arrested following the early-morning assassination of Haitian President Jovenel Moïse.


…even when you can sympathize

Women have taken up guns in northern and central Afghanistan, marching in the streets in their hundreds and sharing pictures with assault rifles on social media, in a show of defiance as the Taliban make sweeping gains nationwide.


…although, in the face of provocation

Conservative political groups are mobilizing against a key element of a bipartisan infrastructure deal, and their opposition could make it harder for the U.S. government to collect unpaid taxes.

Congressional Democrats and Republicans have agreed to increase funding for the Internal Revenue Service so that the agency can bring in more tax revenue, hoping the money can help pay down some of the infrastructure package’s expected price tag. The early contours of the infrastructure blueprint have won the White House’s support, but the IRS provision in particular is drawing opposition from well-funded conservative groups, which are strongly opposed to expanding the reach of a tax-collection agency that they long have alleged is politically motivated.

Among the conservative groups spearheading the opposition are the Committee to Unleash Prosperity, FreedomWorks, the Conservative Action Project, and the Leadership Institute. They are preparing a letter that warns Republicans should not negotiate with the White House unless they agree to “no additional funding for the Internal Revenue Service.”

Conservative groups mount opposition to increase in IRS budget, threatening White House infrastructure plan [WaPo]

…a bit of plain talking might not go amiss

In the decades after World War II, close to 50 percent of American companies’ earnings went to state and federal taxes. Economically, it was a golden period. Middle-class incomes grew at roughly the same rate as those of the richest Americans.

But as globalization gave companies the ability to choose where they recorded profits, Congress scrambled to keep their business by lowering corporate taxes. In 2018, American companies were taxed at an average effective rate of less than 14 percent, by our calculations.

Corporate tax breaks have helped business owners amass inconceivable amounts of money over the past few decades. Meanwhile, middle-class Americans have footed the bill, as Congress has propped up the budget by raising taxes on wages.

This is Tax Evasion Pure and Simple [NYT]

[…that one’s worth clicking through to…some of the graphics make a pretty clear case]

…& that’s hardly the only statement of the obvious that seems like it might be a little late

A rapid analysis of last week’s record-breaking heat found that it would have been virtually impossible without the influence of human-caused climate change.

Climate Change Drove Western Heat Wave’s Extreme Records, Analysis Finds [NYT]

Hundreds of excess deaths were blamed on the brutal heat, which established records by margins of 10 degrees or more in spots. This was not “just another heat wave,” Christopher Burt, an expert on world weather extremes, wrote in a Facebook message, but rather “the most anomalous extreme heat event ever observed on Earth since records began two centuries ago.”

An analysis conducted by the World Weather Attribution group, which specializes in using computer modeling to examine the links between ongoing weather events and climate change, finds that the extreme heat wave would have been “virtually impossible” without human influence.

“I want the public to know that climate change has already affected extreme weather in a big way, especially heat waves,” Michael Wehner, a senior scientist at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and a contributor to the analysis, wrote in an email. “Global warming is not our grandchildren’s problem; it is ours, here and now.”

Pacific Northwest heat wave was ‘virtually impossible’ without climate change, scientists find [WaPo]

Another intense heat wave to roast Western U.S., southwest Canada [WaPo]

The world needs to step up preparations for extreme heat, which may be hitting faster and harder than previously forecast, a group of leading climate scientists have warned in the wake of freakishly high temperatures in Canada and the US.


More than 8 billion people could be at risk of malaria and dengue fever by 2080 if greenhouse gas emissions continue to rise unabated, a new study says.


…which I guess is going to be good news for the crowdfunding platforms

Why is a 108-year-old resorting to GoFundMe to pay for home care? [Guardian]

…so if it’s all a bit much to take

For more than a year, Darnella Frazier has struggled with the trauma that came from witnessing — and recording — George Floyd’s pleas as he struggled for air under the unyielding knee of a Minneapolis police officer. Mr. Floyd was a stranger to her, but his death has haunted her ever since.

This week, Ms. Frazier suffered an even more personal tragedy involving the Minneapolis police when an officer who was pursuing a robbery suspect crashed into her uncle’s car in an intersection, killing him.

Bystander Killed in Police Crash Is Uncle of Teen Who Filmed George Floyd’s Death [NYT]

…& it probably is

As cities across the United States are recording significant increases in homicides this year, police departments and some politicians have pointed at criminal justice reforms, low morale in police departments and officer resignations to explain the surge. Pushes to defund police departments coupled with surging gun sales have led to lawlessness, they argue, and cities should bolster police budgets and hire more officers to combat the violence.

That analysis fails to fully explain the current dynamics of rising violence. It doesn’t factor in the impact of the pandemic on vulnerable communities and the disruption brought on by lockdowns to violence prevention strategies. Furthermore, research has shown that cities that increased police budgets were just as likely to see a rise in murders as cities that reduced them.

While Democrats and Republicans are invoking the murder of Black and brown people to make their political arguments, organizers from the most affected communities say their own voices and solutions are not being heard. Relying on arrests and prosecutions to reduce violent crime has helped fuel mass incarceration and has led to the overrepresentation of Black and Latinx people in the nation’s prisons and jails, organizers say, destabilizing many already underserved families and contributing to the cycle of gun violence in these communities. And the emphasis on arrests ignores the strides that have been made by grassroots violence prevention and victim advocacy groups in past years, efforts that have proven to save lives.

‘A slap in the face’: crime rise warnings ignore years of work by local organizers [Guardian]


…maybe it’d be better to look for a different sort of reading material

The U.S. Senate has set aside $52 billion in hopes of increasing the U.S. share of semiconductor manufacturing. A visit to a chip fab in Upstate New York shows why that might not be enough.

Three months, 700 steps: Why it takes so long to produce a computer chip [WaPo]

…although…no promises that stuff going to make you feel better?

Today, efforts to enact a total ban on lethal autonomous weapons, long demanded by human rights activists, are now being supported by 30 countries. But the world’s leading military powers insist that isn’t necessary. The U.S. military says concerns are overblown, and humans can effectively control autonomous weapons, while Russia’s government says true AI weapons can’t be banned because they don’t exist yet.

But the facts on the ground show that technological advancements, coupled with complex conflicts like the Syrian and Libyan civil wars, have created a reality where weapons that make their own decisions are already killing people.
These kinds of weapons are moving firmly into the mainstream. Today, there are dozens of projects by multiple governments to develop loitering munitions. Even as countries like the United States, China and Russia participate in discussions about a treaty limiting autonomous weapons, they’re racing ahead to develop them.

“The advanced militaries are pushing the envelope of these technologies,” said Peter Asaro, a professor at the New School in New York and a co-founder of the International Committee for Robot Arms Control, which advocates for stricter rules around lethal autonomous weapons. “They will proliferate rapidly.”

The U.S. says humans will always be in control of AI weapons. But the age of autonomous war is already here. [WaPo]

…might need more tunes than an average day?



  1. And now for something completely different. In the DOT where that “New Republic” piece by William Shawn about Donald Trump was discussed, I mentioned my quibbles with it, new money vs. old came up, and I revealed my own snobbery when it came to real estate. This is what Donald Trump should have gone for:


    What makes this house so special? Built in 1917 (+1) and designed by architect C. P. H. Gilbert (+3) for Frank Winfield Woolworth (founded Woolworth’s, so I’ll give that a +2 for provenance), the property is called Winfield Hall (+2; it has a name) and has 56 rooms (+3) including a clocktower (+5: you don’t see those every day.) It is in Glen Cove, Long Island. Before you dismiss Lawn Guyland, this is the famous Gold Coast. Across a small inlet is Sandy Point, and a house there is thought to be the inspiration of the Jay Gatsby place, and just south of Sandy Point is Port Washington, where the North Shore Animal League is located and is where we got our Loyal Hound, so I give the location a +5. It featured in a Taylor Swift video, so that’s a -3.

    Yes, this is what I think about in my spare time.


      • That link (sorry it’s to the New York Post, but I couldn’t find the listing on Mansion Global, another site I read religiously) has tons of photos, including one devoted to the clock tower. From that angle the house looks like a tony prep school, and indeed, in the 1960s it was used as a training academy for “stewardesses” (!). I forgot to mention that. 1960s stewardesses give it a +1, but the commercial purpose gives it a -1, so it’s a wash.

    • One of the things that interests me about that section of Long Island is how the Great Gatsby makes it clear it started out as a pretty cheesy place. The Gatsby and Buchanan mansions were glitzy, but Nick is living in a dump next door. Fitzgerald goes to lengths to describe how shoddy the road from Gatsby’s house is, with the garage and the weird billboard with the eyes on it. Back then it was a try-hard cousin to places like Newport, perfect for bootleggers like Gatsby and trashy rich like Daisy and Tom.

  2. Tucker Carlson, as many people suspected, was using his story of US surveillance to try to create a smokescreen for his engagement with Russia:
    One very good analyst has noted that the ultimate source for this claim fits the methods of Devin Nunes. Also, Carlson filed a FOIA request for 30 months of information on alledged intercepts of his phone.
    30 months is not how long it takes for what Carlson claims was an attempt to set up an interview with Putin. 30 months is what is involved in a long standing relationship with Russian operatives.

    • Well, let us assume Carlson has presidential aspirations. It’s no great stretch to think he might be lining up Russian support for his eventual campaign. It worked for his orange inspiration. Giving them information is the fastest way to get in their good graces. We’ve already talked about his actions as a “supersource” for other media outlets, so handing over information to people who can “help” him is completely on-brand. 

      • My guess is that Carlson’s motive is even broader than any presidential aspirations. He has wanted to help Trump, and acting as a go between is a useful way. He has wanted to shape the right wing message in the US, and the Russians are big enough players now that coordinating with them helps him push the message in the way he wants to go — letting them know when to drop immigration, letting them know what buttons to push with racists.
        He may also be working as a conduit and facilitator within the Murdoch world. Rupert and Lachlan may have their own needs, and Carlson may want to be the guy they turn to for intel, or to keep them from helping out rivals like OANN.
        Which doesn’t rule out he wishes to use Russian propaganda for his own political ambitions down the road. But I can see him doing multiple things all of this time.

        • Speaking of conduits & facilitators, check out the names dropped in this older story, about the *previous* Mrs Murdoch…
          It’s like a who’s who, of TrumpCo folks, FoxCorp’ers, and assorted other world-leaders, and really kinda fascinating…
          Especially in light of the Amy Choua/Federalist/Yale/Kavanagh/Coney-Barret stuff, the mention of Thiel, *and* the fact that Wendi’s the one credited with setting up Jared & Vanky!🤔
          I don’t want to imply that Wendi is necessarily tied up in any of the nefariousness & bullshittery of the TrumpCo outer-ring!
          And DEFINITELY don’t think that she’s out for anything other than enriching herself, perhaps enriching some friends, and “making matches” amongst powerful folks.
          But it is fascinating  to see so many names from what we now know was an absolute Rogues’ gallery of awful mentioned in *one* article!

    • I know absolutely nothing about the case, but I’m hoping it’s some sort of reduced-sentence deal for turning state’s witness or similar.
      I clearly am rather dumb, as I repeatedly fail to learn from my mistakes…

  3. welp…i think the gubment fucked up my daughters plans to vacay
    looks like we are going back on the red list…5500 new cases today up from about 700 a day last week… 
    anyways..3 guesses who is/was going to france in 2weeks time
    im thinking those plans just became a lot less certain

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