Tag Archive: Stuxnet


Stuxnet goes out of control: Chevron infected by anti-Iranian virus, others could be next

(AFP Photo / Justin Sullivan)

(AFP Photo / Justin Sullivan)

 

California-based Chevron, a Fortune 500 company that’s among the biggest corporations in the world, admits this week that they discovered the Stuxnet worm on their systems back in 2010. Up until now, Chevron managed to make their finding a well-kept secret, and their disclosure published by the Wall Street Journal on Thursday marks the first time a US company has come clean about being infected by the virus intended for Iran’s nuclear enrichment program. Mark Koelmel of the company’s earth sciences department says that they are likely to not be the last, though.

“We’re finding it in our systems and so are other companies,” says Koelmel. “So now we have to deal with this.”

Koelmel claims that the virus did not have any adverse effects on his company, which generated a quarter of a trillion dollars in revenue during 2011. As soon as Chevron identified the infection, it was taken care of immediately, he says. Other accidental targets might not be so lucky though, and the computer worm’s complex coding means it might be a while before anyone else becomes aware of the damage.

“I don’t think the US government even realized how far it had spread,” Koelmel adds.

Discovered in 2010, the Stuxnet worm was reported with all but certainty to be the creation of the United States, perhaps with the assistance of Israel, to set back Iran’s nuclear enrichment program as a preemptive measure against an eventual war. Only as recently as this June, however, American officials with direct knowledge of the worm went public with Uncle Sam’s involvement.

In a June 2012 article published by The New York Times, government agents with direct knowledge of Stuxnet claimed that first President George W. Bush, then Barack Obama, oversaw the deployment of the worm as part of a well-crafted cyberassault on Iran. Coupled with another malicious program named Flame and perhaps many more, Stuxnet was waged against Iran as part of an initiative given the codename “Olympic Games.” Rather than solely stealing intelligence through use of computer coding, the endeavor was believed to be the first cyberattack that intended to cause actual hard damage.

“Previous cyberattacks had effects limited to other computers,” Michael Hayden, the former chief of the CIA, explained to the Times earlier this year. “This is the first attack of a major nature in which a cyberattack was used to effect physical destruction.”

On the record, the federal government maintains ignorance on the subject of Stuxnet. With American companies perhaps soon coming out of the woodwork to discuss how they were hit, though, the White House may have to finally admit that they’ve had direct involvement.

After the Times published their expose in June, Senator Dianne Feinstein, chairwoman of Intelligence Committee, called for an investigation to track down how the media was first made aware of America’s involvement in Olympic Games.

“I am deeply disturbed by the continuing leaks of classified information to the media, most recently regarding alleged cyber efforts targeting Iran’s nuclear program,” Feinstein said through a statement at the time. “I made it clear that disclosures of this type endanger American lives and undermine America’s national security.”

When Feinstein spoke to DC’s The Hill newspaper, she said, “the leak about the attack on Iran’s nuclear program could ‘to some extent’ provide justification for copycat attacks against the United States.” According to the chairwoman, “This is like an avalanche. It is very detrimental and, candidly, I found it very concerning. There’s no question that this kind of thing hurts our country.”

Just last month, a shadowy Iranian-based hacking group called The Qassam Cyber Fighters took credit for launching a cyberattack on the servers of Capital One Financial Corp. and BB&T Corp., two of the biggest names in the American banking industry. Days earlier, Google informed some of its American users that they may be targeted in a state-sponsored cyberattack from abroad, and computer experts insist that these assaults will only intensify over time.

“We absolutely have seen more activity from the Middle East, and in particular Iran has been increasingly active as they build up their cyber capabilities,” CrowdStrike Security President George Kurtz told the Times.

Speaking of the accidental impact Stuxnet could soon have in the US, Chevron’s Koelmel tells the Journal, “I think the downside of what they did is going to be far worse than what they actually accomplished.”

Obama secretly signs the most aggressive cybersecurity directive ever

RT

© Reuters/Rick Wilking

Six years after the White House first started running amok on the computer networks of its adversaries, US President Barack Obama has signed off on a top-secret order that finally offers blueprints for the Pentagon’s cyberwars.

Pres. Obama has autographed an executive order outlining protocol and procedures for the US military to take in the name of preventing cyberattacks from foreign countries, the Washington Post reports, once and for all providing instructions from the Oval Office on how to manage the hush-hush assaults against opposing nation-states that have all been confirmed by the White House while at the same time defending America from any possible harm from abroad.

According to Post‘s sources, namely “officials who have seen the classified document and are not authorized to speak on the record,” Pres. Obama signed the paperwork in mid-October. Those authorities explain to the paper that the initiative in question, Presidential Policy Directive 20, “establishes a broad and strict set of standards to guide the operations of federal agencies in confronting threats in cyberspace.”

Confronting a threat may sound harmless, but begs to introduce a chicken-and-the-egg scenario that could have some very serious implications. The Post describes the directive as being “the most extensive White House effort to date to wrestle with what constitutes an ‘offensive’ and a ‘defensive’ action in the rapidly evolving world of cyberwar and cyberterrorism,” but the ambiguous order may very well allow the US to continue assaulting the networks of other nations, now with a given go-ahead from the commander-in-chief. Next in line, the Post says, will be rules of engagement straight from the Pentagon that will provide guidelines for when to carry out assaults outside the realm of what is considered ‘American’ in terms of cyberspace.

“What it does, really for the first time, is it explicitly talks about how we will use cyber operations,” one senior administration official tells the paper of the policy directive. “Network defense is what you’re doing inside your own networks. . . . Cyber operations is stuff outside that space, and recognizing that you could be doing that for what might be called defensive purposes.”

When The New York Times published an exposé on the White House’s so-called Olympics Games program earlier this year, the world became fully aware for once of America’s involvement in international cyberwar, but much to the chagrin of Washington. Officials including members of Pres. Obama’s national security team spoke on condition of anonymity to tell the Times that his predecessor, then-Pres. George W. Bush, began the program in 2006 to target Iran’s nuclear facilities and then passed it along to the current administration to continue under the leadership of the current commander-in-chief.

“From his first months in office,” David Sanger wrote for the Times, Pres. Obama “secretly ordered increasingly sophisticated attacks on the computer systems that run Iran’s main nuclear enrichment facilities, significantly expanding America’s first sustained use of cyberweapons.”

Congress has fought tooth-and-nail in the months since to plug any leaks that could potentially spill the beans regarding any further secrets with the potential of effecting national security, but those efforts appear unsuccessful given this week’s Post report on Presidential Police Directive 20.

Now take the example of Iran: according to the Post, Pres. Obama’s signature on last month’s directive means the US now has rules and regulations when it comes to protecting its own infrastructure from cyberattack, and can do so by means of launching what appear to be pre-emptive assaults of their own.

“It should enable people to arrive at more effective decisions,” a second senior administration official tells the Post. “In that sense, it’s an enormous step forward.”

That comment echoes US Defense Secretary Leon Panetta’s insistence earlier this year that “defense alone is not enough” in terms of keeping the country safe. But what it also seems to do is put on the books a presidential policy that equates an overzealous offense with a solid defense. While the US has cited Iranian hackers as the key players behind a recent attack on the websites of Capital One Financial Corp. and BB&T Corp., two of the biggest names in the American banking industry, the US has done little – on the record – to reveal any similar assaults from abroad. Instead, rather, it’s relied on fear-mongering to try and convince the country to accept a cybersecurity legislation that will assure American’s safety from foreign hackers, all for the small price of sacrificing their digital-age privacy.

While the Obama White House has failed to acknowledge the Olympic Games program or any involvement in the Stuxnet or Flames viruses linked to the initiative, computer researchers in both the US and Russia have tied Washington to the cripplingly malicious coding. Earlier this month, California-based Chevron, one of the world’s leaders in the oil sector, went public with claims that Stuxnet had infected – but not affected – their computers after the virus was unleashed.

The ability to slow down or speed up centrifuges in nuclear facilities from thousands of miles away made Stuxnet a virus that had very substantial powers. Refusing to speak of the Olympic Games program specifically, former CIA chief Michael Hayden told the Times, “This is the first attack of a major nature in which a cyberattack was used to effect physical destruction.”

According to the Post‘s latest, though, future assaults by way of Stuxnet or similar worms could be considered by Washington as defense mechanisms to make sure Iran doesn’t retaliate for what America has long-been lashing out with. One source tells the Times that, before last month’s directive, severing any link between a US-computer and an overseas server by any means possible would be an act that would put America on the offensive. Now even a preemptive attack that disconnects other countries could be considered a defensive ploy according to the president.

“That was seen as something that was aggressive…particularly by some at the State Department,” one defense official tells the Post. With the signing of Pres. Obama’s latest order, though, the paper writes that the directive “effectively enables the military to act more aggressively to thwart cyberattacks on the nation’s web of government and private computer networks.”

It is thought that, through the directive, any systems linked even remotely with America’s can be fair game for an assault. Given the expansion of cloud computing and the ever-expanding interconnection of communities across the globe on the Web, though, that could essentially enable Uncle Sam’s cybersquad to get away with a whole new slew of tricks to try and topple adversaries of any kind that threaten the American way of life. When and where those actions are necessary, of course, remains another topic of discussion. Will those orders be signed in secrecy as well, though?

Security Researchers Discover Link Between Stuxnet and Flame

By Lucian Constantin, IDG-News-Service:Romania-Bureau

Security researchers from antivirus vendor Kaspersky Labs have found evidence that the development teams behind the Flame and Stuxnet cyberespionage threats collaborated with each other.

The Kaspersky researchers determined that Flame, which is believed to have been created in 2008, and a 2009-version of Stuxnet shared one component that served the same purpose and had similar source code.

Back in October 2010, Kaspersky’s researchers analyzed a sample that had been automatically classified as a Stuxnet variant by the company’s automated systems. At the time, the researchers dismissed the detection as an error because the sample’s code looked nothing like the code in Stuxnet.

However, after Flame was discovered at the end of May, the Kaspersky researchers searched their database for malware samples that might be related to the new threat and found that the sample detected as Stuxnet in 2010 was actually a Flame module. The module uses an autorun.inf trick to infect computers via USB drives.

Upon further research, the Kaspersky analysts determined that Stuxnet.A, which was created in early 2009, uses the same autorun.inf trick to spread via USB drives. In fact, the source code responsible for this is almost identical to the one in the Flame module.

“It looks like the Flame platform was used to kick start the Stuxnet platform,” said Roel Schouwenberg, a senior researcher with Kaspersky Lab’s global research and analysis team, during a conference call with the press.

Same Flaw Targeted

The Kaspersky researchers already knew that Stuxnet and Flame leveraged the same EoP vulnerability, but this wasn’t conclusive proof that their developers collaborated. The exploit could have been created by a third-party that sold it to both teams, Schouwenberg said.

However, the new discovery suggests that the developers of the two malware threats actually shared source code, which is intellectual property and wouldn’t normally be shared between unrelated teams. “We are now 100-percent sure that the Flame and Stuxnet groups worked together,” Schouwenberg said.

The Kaspersky researchers discovered that the Flame module integrated into Stuxnet.A exploited a Windows elevation of privilege (EoP) vulnerability that wasn’t known at the time of the malware’s creation. This would be the fifth zero-day (previously unknown) vulnerability exploited by Stuxnet, Schouwenberg said.

The researchers believe that this vulnerability was one that Microsoft patched in June 2009, a few months after the creation of Stuxnet.A, but they are not yet certain and are still investigating.

Later Stuxnet versions stopped using the Flame module entirely and began exploiting a separate vulnerability that relied on malformed LNK (shortcut) files to propagate via USB drives.

Interestingly, the exploit code from Stuxnet.A’s Flame-borrowed module is very similar to the exploit code for a different EoP vulnerability that’s present in later Stuxnet versions. The researchers believe that both sections of code were written by the same programmer.

Same Source, Different Purposes

When Microsoft patched the EoP vulnerability in 2009 — a few months after the creation of Stuxnet.A — the Stuxnet developers stopped using the Flame module for propagation and began exploiting a new vulnerability, which relied on malformed LNK (shortcut) files.

The theory put forward by the Kaspersky researchers is that Flame and Stuxnet were created by two separate teams as part of two operations funded by the same nation state. Flame was probably used for espionage and Stuxnet used for sabotage, Schouwenberg said.

According to a recent New York Times report that quotes anonymous sources from the Obama administration, Stuxnet was created by the U.S. and Israeli governments as part of a secret operation called Olympic Games with the goal of crippling Iran’s ability to produce weapon-grade nuclear fuel.

Cyberwarfare Gets Political

By Stefan Hammond, cw.com.hk

This year there’s a Summer Olympics, a European football contest, and a U.S. presidential election. The Olympics return to London for the first time since 1948, the Euro Cup comes to Poland and Ukraine, and the U.S. election hinges on only a few states as the USA still uses a colonial-era “electoral college” which supersedes the popular vote.

This year’s Euro Cup features Eastern Europe locations — while Ukraine struggles with its public political image, Poland emerges as a player within the EU. Five years ago, I visited the stadium in Warsaw — it was a derelict, overgrown open-pit with rotting bleachers. Dodgy characters offered to sell me bootleg vodka and pirated CDs. Friends told me that handguns and AK-47s were sometimes on offer.

You’ll see the same stadium (considerably revamped) soon as a centerpiece for Euro Cup matches. Decades ago, Poland distanced itself from what former U.S. president Ronald Reagan called the “evil empire” (the Soviet Union), then the entire “Iron Curtain” came crashing down suddenly as Western newscasters struggled to pronounce the words “glastnost” and “perestroika” . . . and the USA lost its favorite arch-enemy.

But now the Euro Cup graces the former turf of the “evil empire,” and there’s another presidential election Stateside. Former U.S. chief executives could often conjure villains for the electorate — the now-kaput Soviet Union won’t do. What now? What appeals to “Generation Facebook”?

What else? “Cyberwarfare.” Given the rapid rise of personal-computing power, with resultant gaps in public-understanding of technology, the specter of villains lurking online — ready to crash essential systems in a concerted cyberstrike — holds more appeal than comparing Putin to Stalin.

Worm as Warfare

But a new report has wrenched the cyberwarfare-angle. According to the New York Times, the Stuxnet worm (one of the more sophisticated viruses ever found in the wild) is the result of “a joint US and Israeli effort to target Iran’s nuclear program.” IDG journalist Jaikumar Vijayan writes that the Times report “is sure to trigger a sharp increase in state sponsored cyberattacks against American businesses and critical infrastructure targets, security experts warn.”

“Alan Paller, director of research at the SANS Institute, said the revelation dramatically alters the cybersecurity landscape,” wrote Vijayan. “‘We are now going to be the target of massive attacks,’ Paller said…’for a long time everything has been under the radar, no one was really sure that the U.S. was practicing this kind of activity. The U.S. has acted like it was an innocent victim’ of state-sponsored attacks by other countries, he said.”

The damning Times article details some pithy moments: “‘Should we shut this thing down?’ Mr Obama asked, according to members of the president’s national security team who were in the room.”

Well, no, Mr. President, that’s not how properly constructed military-specification computer viruses work when they’re in attack-mode. You don’t hit the ‘Like’ button on your friend Mister Antivirus to make it all go away.

Stuxnet, (ironically code-named ‘Olympic Games’ and initiated by the Bush administration in 2006) “was of an entirely different type and sophistication,” according to the Times. “It appears to be the first time the United States has repeatedly used cyberweapons to cripple another country’s infrastructure, achieving, with computer code, what until then could be accomplished only by bombing a country or sending in agents to plant explosives,” said the article.

“Mr. Obama, according to participants in the many Situation Room meetings on Olympic Games, was acutely aware that with every attack he was pushing the United States into new territory, much as his predecessors had with the first use of atomic weapons in the 1940s, of intercontinental missiles in the 1950s and of drones in the past decade. He repeatedly expressed concerns that any American acknowledgment that it was using cyberweapons…could enable other countries, terrorists or hackers to justify their own attacks.”

Ready for Cyberbattle?

And in 2012, as Londoners discover the Ministry of Defense is considering placing surface-to-air missiles on residential flats during the Olympics, the Times article said “another cyberweapon called Flame was recently discovered to have attacked the computers of Iranian officials…American officials say that it was not part of Olympic Games. They have declined to say whether the United States was responsible for the Flame attack.”

The Olympic Flame seems to have acquired an unintentional double-meaning. But among these half-revealed tales of cyberwarfare, who are the real bad guys? Security experts know that malware is in a constant of flux, and actions often provoke reactions — just ask Sony about its experience with Anonymous.

Perhaps the U.S. president was prescient by repeatedly voicing his concern over the U.S. government’s actions. We can only hope that the technological expertise that created Stuxnet was also applied to hardening weak-points that may be attacked — now that the USA has lost the moral high-ground.

No word yet on whether the U.S. presidential candidates plan to make “cyberwarfare” a campaign-issue. Perhaps this particular issue has become too hot for mere politicians to handle.

 

 

 


Flame virus, most sophisticated malicious code ever seen, was developed by U.S. government

By J. D. Heyes, 
(NaturalNews) Anyone who has spent longer than a day on a computer knows how dangerous to your hard drive malware and other malicious code can be. Most of us have fallen victim to one or the other and have cursed the day the hacker who developed it was born. Now, according to reports, some of the most sophisticated malicious code ever developed is a product of the United States government, leaving more than a few tech experts and analysts concerned that maybe now, Washington has become a bigger…

Politics and Legislation

How California Could Force the Rest of the U.S. to Label GMO Foods

Tom Philpott
Published: Friday 1 June 2012
Everything from high fructose corn syrup-sweetened Coke to soybean oil-containing Hellman’s would have to bear a label reading something like “Contains GMO ingredients.”

California voters will decide on a ballot initiative that would require labeling of all foods containing ingredients from genetically modified crops. The initiative made it to the ballot after almost 1 million Californians signed a petition in favor of it—nearly double the 504,760 signatures needed under the state’s proposition rules. The campaign that organized the push to get the measure on the ballot focused on possible health effects of GMO foods.

This news will not likely be applauded by my friends over at Crop life America, the main trade group of the GM seed/agrichemical industry. The big GMO crops—corn, soy, sugar beets, and cotton—are processed into sweeteners, fats, and additives used widely by the food industry. Everything from high fructose corn syrup-sweetened Coke to soybean oil-containing Hellman’s would have to bear a label reading something like “Contains GMO ingredients.”

That would send a shockwave through the food industry—one that could ultimately be felt on the industrial-scale U.S. farms that have been devoting their land to GMO crops for years, and the companies that profit from selling them patented seeds and matching herbicides. The reason isn’t just that California represents an imposing chunk of the U.S. food market. It’s also that a food-labeling law that starts in California is unlikely to stay in California.

To see why, look at the case of another practice beloved of US agribusiness: that of stuffing egg-laying hens into cages so tight that they can’t turn around.

Read Full Article Here

Hope Burning

By Robert Scheer

Nation of Change

So now we have Rambo Obama, a steely warrior who, according to a lengthy leaked insider account in The New York Times, hurls death-dealing drones at anyone who threatens the good old USA. Including children. Those children are presumed guilty by virtue of proximity, and the Times plays along, not even modifying a targeted terrorist with the word “alleged,” as once had been the paper’s convention: “When a rare opportunity for a drone strike at a top terrorist arises—but his family is with him—it is the president who has reserved to himself the final moral calculation.”

Obama as the cool triggerman is an image useful to White House operatives as they buff the president’s persona for the coming election. But what it reveals is the mindset of a political cynic whose seductive words cloak the moral indifference of a methodical executioner. Forget Harry Truman, who obliterated the civilian populations of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, or Lyndon Johnson, who carpet-bombed millions in Vietnam. The Democrats have got themselves another killer, one whose techniques are as devastatingly effective, but brilliantly refined.

The story obviously was planted in The New York Times to benefit the Obama political campaign. Otherwise, why would the president’s former chief of staff, William Daley, and three dozen current and past intelligence insiders provide the newspaper with the most sensitive details of national security decision-making?

Pfc. Bradley Manning was held for many months in solitary confinement for allegedly disclosing information of far lower security classification. The difference is that the top secrets in the news article are ones the president wants leaked in the expectation they will burnish his “tough on terrorism” credentials. This is clearly not the Obama whom many voted for in the hope that he would stick by his word, including the pledge he made on his second day in office to ban brutal interrogation and close the prison at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba. “What the new president did not say was that the orders contained a few subtle loopholes,” the Times now reports concerning the early promises by Obama. “They reflected a still unfamiliar Barack Obama, a realist who, unlike some of his fervent supporters, was never carried away by his own rhetoric.”

Read Full Article Here

 

 

 

Obama Administration Stonewalls Declassification of Secret Court Rulings

Source: All Gov.

 

The Obama administration was supposed to begin declassifying key rulings of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC) two years ago. But to date nothing has been made available.
The court is responsible for hearing requests by federal law enforcement officials to conduct surveillance of Americans or foreigners in the U.S. who are deemed a threat to national security. It is commonly known as the FISA court after the law that created it, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978. During the presidencies of Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton, their administration submitted 13, 087 applications for warrants and 13,085 were approved. All this harmony ended after George W. Bush became president. The court rejected six requests outright and modified 179 despite the fact that all eleven members of the Bush-era FISC were selected by conservative Supreme Court Chief Justice William Rehnquist.
Officials in the Department of Justice and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence promised in 2010 to establish a new way for the public to access FISA opinions.
“But despite these assurances, and two years after that declassification review process began, nothing has been declassified,” wrote Steven Aftergood in his blog, Secrecy News.
Aftergood contacted the Justice Department after a Freedom of Information Act request turned up nothing in the way of declassified FISA rulings. He said he was told that the documents don’t belong to the Executive Branch, and that it was up to FISA to approve any declassification of its opinions.
Given what he was told, Aftergood concluded that it was “unclear how the factors that have prevented declassification for the last two years would change to permit disclosure in the foreseeable future.”
-Noel Brinkerhoff, David Wallechinsky
To Learn More:
Obama Fights to Retain Warrantless Wiretapping (by Matt Bewig and David Wallechinsky, AllGov)

What is the Bush Administration Trying to Hide? (by David Wallechinsky, Huffington Post)

**********************************************************************************

Economy

A Diabolical Mix: U.S Wages and European Austerity

Robert Reich: Nation Of Change Op-Ed

“Even if these measures were to reduce the cumulative public debt, a recession would increase the debt as a proportion of gross domestic product – making a bad situation worse.”

What if Europe and the US converged on a set of economic policies that brought out the worst in both – European fiscal austerity combined with a declining share of total income going to workers? Given political realities on both sides of the Atlantic, it is entirely possible.

So far, the US has avoided the kind of budget cuts that have pushed much of Europe into recession. Growth on this side of the pond is expected to be around 2.4 per cent this year. And jobs are recovering, albeit painfully slowly.

But a tough bout of fiscal austerity could be coming in six months. The non-partisan Congressional Budget Office warned last week that if the Bush tax cuts expire on schedule at the start of 2013, just as $100bn of budget cuts automatically take effect under the deal to raise the debt ceiling that Democrats and Republicans agreed to last August, the US will fall into recession in the first half of next year.

Even if these measures were to reduce the cumulative public debt, a recession would increase the debt as a proportion of gross domestic product – making a bad situation worse. That is the austerity trap much of Europe now finds itself in.

Meanwhile, real wages in the US continue to fall. A new “World Outlook” released by the International Monetary Fund last Friday showed that in the three years since the depths of the downturn in 2009, total national income has rebounded in most of Europe and in the US. But the share of national income going to workers has fallen sharply in the US, while rising in Europe as a whole.

The trend is even more striking measured from the start of the recession. It used to be that when a downturn began, profits fell faster than workers’ income because companies were reluctant to lay off employees and couldn’t easily cut wages given union contracts or the threat of unionization.

That is still the case in Europe, courtesy of stronger unions and labor-market regulations. But it is no longer the rule in the US. Since the start of the recession, the share of total US national income going to profits has risen even as the share going to the workforce has plunged. Profits in the US corporate sector are now at a 45-year high.

American workers have been willing to settle for lower wages in order to retain their old jobs or secure new ones. At the same time, US companies, intent on increasing profits, have more aggressively outsourced abroad, substituted contract workers and temps for full-time employees and replaced workers with computers and software.

Read Full Article Here

US job market all but stalls in May

Patrick Rizzo
MSNBC

© David Mcnew/Reuters
Job seekers fill out applications during the 11th annual Skid Row Career Fair the Los Angeles Mission in Los Angeles, California, May 31, 2012.

The U.S. economy created a scant 69,000 jobs in May, much lower than expected and all but confirming that the U.S. economy is heading into its third consecutive spring slowdown.

The Labor Department reported Friday that the unemployment rate edged up to 8.2 percent, its first increase in 11 months, as American employers fretted over Europe, higher pump prices and the persistent problems in the housing market.

Non-farm payrolls rose by 69,000, the lowest increase in a year and well below the 150,000 jobs that economists had expected. The previous two months’ numbers were also revised lower, adding to the concerns about a sputtering recovery.

“It’s an awful number. Not only is it awful in its numerical terms, it comes at a very skittish time in the markets because of the European crisis,” said Rick Meckler, president of Libertyview Capital Management.

“The hope for the U.S. investors had been that the U.S. economy at least could continue its growth even as Europe was declining. A number like this brings concern about a global slowdown. The time has probably come to for some new government action in the U.S., Europe and China,” Meckler said.

The news came after a government report Thursday that showed the U.S. economy expanded at a 1.9 percent annualized rate in the first quarter, below the initial estimate of 2.2 percent and much slower than the 3.0 percent pace clocked in the fourth quarter. Both reports spelled trouble for President Barack Obama as he battles for re-election against former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney.

“Today’s weak jobs report is devastating news for American workers and American families,” Romney said in a statement shortly after the data was released.

The Obama administration said that while the jobs data was unacceptable, Congress needed to act to help the economy.

“Congress has to take some action because while we see the unemployment rate where it is, it’s not acceptable,” Solis told CNBC.

Global markets go into meltdown: unemployment surges to record highs across Eurozone

Robin Emmott
Reuters

© Reuters/Vincent West
People look at job offers at the Clara Campoamor centre in Barakaldo during an annual open day in which local council organization Inguralde arrange interviews between job seekers and businesses, May 17, 2012.

Euro zone unemployment has hit a record high, and job losses are likely to keep climbing as the bloc’s devastating debt crisis eats away at businesses’ ability to hire workers while indebted governments continue to cut staff.

Around 17.4 million people were out of work in the 17-nation euro zone in April, or 11 percent of the working population, the highest level since records began in 1995, the EU’s statistics office Eurostat said on Friday.

“This 11 percent level is going to continue edging up in the coming months and probably until the end of the year,” said Francois Cabau, an economist at Barclays Capital who sees the euro zone’s economy contracting 0.1 percent this year.

“The economic activity situation tells you the story of the labor market. There’s been basically no economic growth since the fourth quarter of last year and indicators are pointing to very weak growth momentum for the second quarter,” he said.

ING economist Martin van Vliet said he sees the unemployment rate reaching slightly above 11.5 percent if the economy starts to recover later this year. But if the downturn worsens, “the risk is for an even higher peak in unemployment,” he said.

As the debt crisis intensifies, companies in the euro zone are trying to keep their labor costs low as they struggle with falling demand and profits, while a German-led drive to cut deficits and debt is pressuring governments to shrink spending.

But some economists say austerity policies in an economic downturn are self-defeating because governments receive less tax receipts as unemployment grows and must pay out more money in jobless benefits.

“The high level of unemployment is putting cyclical pressure on government expenditure in many of the euro zone’s economies and that is contributing to the lack of confidence in many of the euro zone’s sovereign debt markets,” said Philip Shaw, chief economist at Investec bank in London.

“Poison for the Economy”

Although April’s joblessness level was the same as March, as Eurostat revised upwards its earlier reading of 10.9 percent for the month, another 110,000 people were out of work in April and the jobless rate has risen every month over the past year.

While expected by economists polled by Reuters, the data came as a key business sentiment survey showed a deep slump in manufacturing across the euro zone and appeared to suggest the bloc’s economy will shrink in the second quarter of this year.

The bloc narrowly avoided recession in the first three months of this year as the economy stagnated but did not contract. Still, the picture masks the wide divisions in the health of Europe’s economy, and the same goes for joblessness.

While unemployment fell in Austria to just 3.9 percent in April, it rose to 24.3 percent in Spain, the highest in the euro zone. New data for stricken Greece was not immediately available, having reached 21.7 percent in February.

The number of people out of work also crept up in both France and Italy to 10.2 percent in April, the euro zone’s second- and third-largest economies respectively.

Joblessness in Germany fell to 5.4 percent of the working population from 5.5 percent in March, although economists say given the weakening business sentiment, even Europe’s largest economy cannot expect unemployment to fall much further.

“More uncertainty (from the debt crisis) would surely be poison for the economy and for companies’ willingness to hire staff,” Commerzbank analyst Eckart Tuchtfeld wrote in a note to clients.

***********************************************************************************

Wars and Rumors of War

Pak tests nuclear-capable Hatf-VIII cruise missile

PTI

(For the sec”The Ra’ad missile, with a range of over 350 km, enables Pakistan to achieve strategic standoff capability on land and at sea,” a military statement said.

The Ra’ad missile has stealth capabilities and is a “low-altitude, terrain hugging missile with high manoeuvrability”.

The test comes just days after Pakistan test fired its quick reaction tactical nuclear-capable Hatf-IX missile with a range of 60 km on May 29. The Hatf-IX is virtually a battlefield missile designed to hit massed armour.

The Ra’ad can deliver “nuclear and conventional warheads with pinpoint accuracy”, the statement said.

The military said today’s launch had also tested a new automated command and control system.

ond time in a week,…)

ISLAMABAD: For the second time in a week, Pakistan today successfully test fired another nuclear- capable Hatf-VIII cruise missile with a range of more than 350 km, the latest in a series of tests of missiles that can hit targets within India.

The military described the flight test of the air-launched Hatf-VIII or Ra’ad cruise missile as successful.

The Houla Massacre: US-Sponsored Terrorists “Killed Families Loyal to the Government”

Marat Musin
Global Research


Detailed Investigation from
ANNA NEWS (Original Russian) and syrianews.cc

Global Research Editor’s Note

This incisive report by independent Russian journalist Marat Musin dispels the lies and fabrications of the Western media.

The report is based on a chronology of events as well as eyewitness accounts. Entire pro-government families in Houla were massacred. The terrorists were not pro-government shabbiha militia as conveyed, in chorus, by the mainstream media, they were in large part mercenaries and professional killers operating under the auspices of the self-proclaimed Free Syrian Army (FSA):

Certain western governments doth protesteth too much…

“When the rebels seized the lower checkpoint in the center of town and located next to the local police department, they began to sweep all the families loyal to the authorities in neighboring houses, including the elderly, women and children.

Several families of the Al-Sayed were killed, including 20 young children and the family of Abdul Razak.

The people were killed with knives and shot at point blank range. Then they presented the murdered [corpses] to the UN and the international community as victims of bombings by the Syrian army, something that was not verified by any marks on their bodies.”We call on our readers to forward this report far and wide. The massacre in Houla is being blamed on the Syrian government without a shred of evidence. The objective is not only to isolate Syria politically and economically, but to develop a pretext and a justification for waging an R2P humanitarian war on Syria.

It is essential to reverse the tide of war propaganda which uses civilian deaths as a pretext to wage war, when those civilians deaths were carried out not by the government but by professional terrorists operating under the helm of the US-NATO supported Free Syrian Army.

~ Michel Chossudovsky, Global Research, Montreal, June 1, 2012

In the weekend of May 25, 2012, at about 2 PM, big groups of fighters attacked and captured the town of Al – Hula of the Homs province. Al-Hula is made up of three regions: the village of Taldou, Kafr Laha and Taldahab, each of which had previously been home for 25-30 thousand people.

The town was attacked from the north-east by groups of bandits and mercenaries, numbering up to 700 people. The militants came from Ar-Rastan (the Brigade of al-Farouk from the Free Syrian Army led by the terrorist Abdul Razak Tlass and numbering 250), from the village of Akraba (led by the terrorist Yahya Al-Yousef), from the village Farlaha, joined by local gangsters, and from Al Hula.

The city of Ar-Rastan has long been abandoned by most civilians. Now Wahhabis from Lebanon dominate the scene, fueled with money and weapons by one of the main orchestrators of international terrorism, Saad Hariri, who heads the anti-Syrian political movement “Tayyar Al-Mustaqbal” (“Future Movement”). The road from Ar-Rastan to Al-Hula runs through Bedouin areas that remain mostly out of control of government troops, which made the militant attacks on Al Hula a complete surprise for the Syrian authorities.

When the rebels seized the lower checkpoint in the center of town and located next to the local police department, they began to sweep all the families loyal to the authorities in neighboring houses, including the elderly, women and children. Several families of the Al-Sayed were killed, including 20 young children and the family of the Abdul Razak. Many of those killed were “guilty” of the fact that they dared to change from Sunnis to Shiites. The people were killed with knives and shot at point blank range. Then they presented the murdered to the UN and the international community as victims of bombings by the Syrian army, something that was not verified by any marks on their bodies.

The idea that the UN observers had heard artillery fire against Al-Houla in the Safir Hotel in Homs at night… I consider nothing short of a bad joke. 50 kilometers lie between Homs and Al-Houla. What kind of tanks or guns has this range? Yes, there was intensive gunfire in Homs until 3 am, including heavy weapons. But, to give an example, on the night of Monday to Tuesday shooting was due to an attempt by law enforcement to regain control for a security corridor along the road to Damascus, Tarik Al-Sham.

After a visual inspection of Al Hula it is impossible to find traces of any of fresh destruction, bombing and shelling. During the day, several attacks by gunmen are made on the last remaining soldiers at the Taldou checkpoint. Militants used heavy weapons and snipers made up of professional mercenaries were active.

Note that once, the exactly same provocation failed at Shumar (Homs) and 49 militants and women and children were killed, when it was organized just before a visit of Kofi Annan. The last provocation was immediately exposed as soon as it became known that the bodies of the previously kidnapped belonged to Alawites. This provocation also contained serious inconsistencies – the names of those killed were from people loyal to the authorities, there were no traces of bombings, etc.

However, the provocation machine is running all the same. Today, the NATO countries directly threat to bomb Syria, and a simultaneous expulsion of Syrian diplomats has begun … As of today, there are no troops within the city of Al Hula, but there are regularly heard bursts of automatic fire, nonetheless. Moreover, it is unclear whether the militants are fighting with each other, or whether supporters of Bashar al-Assad are being cleaned out.

Militants opened fire on virtually everyone who tries to get closer to the border town. Before us a UN convoy was fired upon and two armored jeeps of the UN observers were damaged, when they tried to drive up to an army checkpoint in Tal Dow.

In the attack on the convoy a twenty-year-old terrorist was spotted. The fire was directed on the unprotected slopes of the first jeep, the back door of the second armored car was hooked by a fragment. There are wounded among those accompanying.

According to a wounded soldier:

“The next day, UN observers came to us at the checkpoint and as soon as they arrived, gunmen opened fire on them. And three of us were injured. One was wounded in the leg, the second – in the back, and I was hit in the hip.

When the observers came, they could hear a woman who was standing next to them and cried, the woman stood and pleaded the observers’ help – to protect her from the bandits. When I was wounded, the observers watched as I fell, but none of them tried to help. Our checkpoint no longer exists. There are no civilians any longer in Taldou, only militants remain. Our relationship to the locals was excellent. They are very good to us; they called on the army to enter Taldou. We were attacked by snipers.”

Unfortunately, many of the militants are professional snipers. 100-200 meters from our group TV-crew, militants attacked a BMP that went to replace soldiers at the checkpoint. During this a soldier – draftee got a concussion and slight tangential wound in the head by a sniper bullet. Looking at the pierced Kevlar helmet, it seems he did not even realize that he survived by a miracle.

Snipers kill up to 10 soldiers and policemen at checkpoints each day. It is true, that the daily casualties of law enforcement agencies in Homs were dozens of victims daily. But, unfortunately, at 10 am, six dead soldiers were taken to the morgue. Most were killed by a shot in the head. And the day had just begun…

So, these are the names of those were killed by snipers in the early morning hours of May 29:

1. Sergeant Ibrahim Halyuf
2. Sergeant Salman Ibrahim
3. Policeman Mahmoud Danaver
4. Conscript Ali Daher
5. Sergeant Wisam Haidar
6. the dead soldier’s family name could not be clarified

The bandits even fired an automatic burst on our group of journalists, although it was clear that this is a normal filming crew, consisting of unarmed civilians.

How the Attack Began

After Friday prayers at about 2 PM on May, 25th a group from the Al Aksh clan started firing on a checkpoint of law enforcement officers from mortars and rocket-propelled grenades. Returning fire from a BRDM hit the mosque, and this was the very aim to lead to a bigger provocation.

Then, two groups of militants led by the terrorist Nidal Bakkour and Al-Hassan from the Al Hallak clan, supported by a unit of mercenaries, attacked the upper checkpoint on the eastern outskirts of the city. At 15.30 the upper checkpoint was taken, and all the prisoners executed: a Sunni conscript had his throat cut, while Abdullah Shaui (Bedouin) of Deir-Zor was burned alive.

During the attack on the upper checkpoint in the east the armed men lost 25 people, which were then submitted to the UN observers, together with the 108 dead civilians – “victims of the regime”, allegedly killed by bombing and shelling of the Syrian army. As for the remaining 83 bodies, including 38 young children, they were from the families that were executed by militants. These families were all loyal to the government of Syria.

Interview with a law enforcement officer:

“My name is Al Khosam, I am a law enforcement officer. I served in the village of Taldou, the district of Al-Hula, a province of Homs. On Friday, our checkpoint was attacked by a large group of militants. There were thousands.

Q: How do you protect yourself?

Answer: A simple weapon. We had 20 people, we called support, and when they were coming for us, I was wounded, and regained consciousness in the hospital. The attackers were from Ar-Rastan and Al-Hula. Insurgents control Taldou. They burned houses and killed people by the families, because they were loyal to the government. Raped the women and killed the children.”

Interview with a wounded soldier:

“I am Ahmed Mahmoud al Khali. I’m from the city Manbej. Was wounded in Taldou. I come from a support group that came to the aid of our comrades, who were stationed at the checkpoint.

Militants destroyed two infantry fighting vehicles and one BRDM standing at our checkpoint. We moved out to Taldou in a BMP, to pick up our wounded comrades from the checkpoint within the city. We drove them back in the BMP, and I filled in their place.

And after a while the UN observers came. They came to us, we led them to the homes of families who were cut by thugs.

I saw a family of three brothers and their father in the same room. In another room we found dead young children and their mother. And another one- an old man killed in this house. Only five men, women and children. The woman raped and shot in the head, I covered her with a blanket. And the commission had seen them all. They put them in the car and drove away. I do not know where they took them, probably for burial.”

A resident of Taldou on the roof of the police department:

“On Friday afternoon I was home. Hearing the shots, I came out to watch what was happening and saw that the fire came from the north side, towards the location of army checkpoint. As the army did not respond, they started to approach the homes, were subsequently the family was killed. When the army started to return fire, they used the women and children as human shields and continued firing at the checkpoint. When the army began answered, they fled. After that, the army took the surviving women and children and brought them into safety. At this time, Al Jazeera aired pictures and said that the Army committed the massacre at Al Hula.

In fact, they killed the civilians and children in Al-Hula. The bandits did not allow anyone to carry out their work. They steal everything that they can get their hands on: wheat, flour, oil and gas. Most of the fighters are from the city of Ar Rastan.”

After they captured the city, they carried the bodies of their dead comrades, as well as the bodies of people and the children they killed to the mosque. They carried the bodies in KIA pickups. On May, 25th, at around 8 PM, the corpses were already in the mosque. The next day at 11 o’clock in the morning the UN observers arrived at the mosque.

Media Disinformation

To exert pressure on public opinion and change the positions of Russia and China, texts and subtitles in Russian and Chinese languages were prepared in advance, reading: “Syria – Homs – the city of Hula. A terrible massacre perpetrated by the armed forces of the Syrian regime against civilians in the town of Hula. Dozens of victims and their number is growing, mainly women and children, brutally killed by indiscriminate bombing of the CITY.”

Two days later, on May 27, after the residents’ stories and video recordings made showed that the facts do not support the allegation of shelling and bombing, the bandits’ videos had undergone significant changes. At the end of the text appeared this postscript: “And some were killed with knives.”

Marat Musin, Olga Kulygina, Al-Hula, Syria

Original text / source: http://maramus.livejournal.com/86539.html

video: Russian

U.S. Labels ALL Young Men In Battle Zones As “Militants” … And American Soil Is Now Considered a Battle Zone

All Military-Age Men Are Labeled “Militants” In Areas of Conflict

Glenn Greenwald has two must-read posts on the reason that virtually everyone the U.S. kills is called a “militant” or “suspected militant”.

He wrote Monday:

glenn headlines 460x307 U.S. Labels ALL Young Men In Battle Zones As Militants ... And American Soil Is Now Considered a Battle Zone

Virtually every time the U.S. fires a missile from a drone and ends the lives of Muslims, American media outlets dutifully trumpet in headlines that the dead were ”militants” – even though those media outlets literally do not have the slightest idea of who was actually killed. They simply cite always-unnamed “officials” claiming that the dead were “militants.” It’s the most obvious and inexcusable form of rank propaganda: media outlets continuously propagating a vital claim without having the slightest idea if it’s true.

This practice continues even though key Obama officials have been caught lying, a term used advisedly, about how many civilians they’re killing. I’ve written and said many times before that in American media discourse, the definition of “militant” is any human being whose life is extinguished when an American missile or bomb detonates (that term was even used when Anwar Awlaki’s 16-year-old American son, Abdulrahman, was killed by a U.S. drone in Yemen two weeks after a drone killed his father, even though nobody claims the teenager was anything but completely innocent: “Another U.S. Drone Strike Kills Militants in Yemen”).

This morning, the New York Times has a very lengthy and detailed article about President Obama’s counter-Terrorism policies based on interviews with “three dozen of his current and former advisers.” I’m writing separately about the numerous revelations contained in that article, but want specifically to highlight this one vital passage about how the Obama administration determines who is a “militant.” The article explains that Obama’s rhetorical emphasis on avoiding civilian deaths “did not significantly change” the drone program, because Obama himself simply expanded the definition of a “militant” to ensure that it includes virtually everyone killed by his drone strikes. Just read this remarkable passage:

Mr. Obama embraced a disputed method for counting civilian casualties that did little to box him in. It in effect counts all military-age males in a strike zone as combatants, according to several administration officials, unless there is explicit intelligence posthumously proving them innocent.

Counterterrorism officials insist this approach is one of simple logic: people in an area of known terrorist activity, or found with a top Qaeda operative, are probably up to no good. “Al Qaeda is an insular, paranoid organization — innocent neighbors don’t hitchhike rides in the back of trucks headed for the border with guns and bombs,” said one official, who requested anonymity to speak about what is still a classified program.

This counting method may partly explain the official claims of extraordinarily low collateral deaths. In a speech last year Mr. Brennan, Mr. Obama’s trusted adviser, said that not a single noncombatant had been killed in a year of strikes. And in a recent interview, a senior administration official said that the number of civilians killed in drone strikes in Pakistan under Mr. Obama was in the “single digits” — and that independent counts of scores or hundreds of civilian deaths unwittingly draw on false propaganda claims by militants.

But in interviews, three former senior intelligence officials expressed disbelief that the number could be so low. The C.I.A. accounting has so troubled some administration officials outside the agency that they have brought their concerns to the White House. One called it “guilt by association” that has led to “deceptive” estimates of civilian casualties.

“It bothers me when they say there were seven guys, so they must all be militants,” the official said. “They count the corpses and they’re not really sure who they are.”

Read Full Article Here

U.S. Drone Policy: Standing Near Terrorists Makes You A Terrorist

The Huffington Post  |  By

 

Drones

The Obama administration has in turn been secretive about its use of targeted drone strikes, boasted about the program’s success, and fended off critics who say the strikes are killing and injuring too many civilians. A New York Times story published Tuesday has the administration’s human rights critics buzzing again. A key revelation comes near the end of the article, written by Jo Becker and Scott Shane, under the heading, “‘They Must All Be Militants.'”

Obama, Becker and Shane write, was angry when informed that the first drone strike after he took office had killed innocent Pakistanis. But one of the measures the administration embraced to prevent future innocent casualties was to embrace a method of counting combatants that would rope in more innocents.

“It in effect counts all military-age males in a strike zone as combatants, according to several administration officials, unless there is explicit intelligence posthumously proving them innocent,” the Times reports. “Counterterrorism officials insist this approach is one of simple logic: people in an area of known terrorist activity, or found with a top Qaeda operative, are probably up to no good.”

Earlier Tuesday, Jake Tapper of ABC News pressed White House spokesman Jay Carney on the reported policy, which one former CIA official called “guilt by association.” But Carney didn’t directly answer the question, instead ticking off other policies he says the administration has implemented to avoid killing innocents. “[O]ur military and our broader national security team is able to pursue al-Qaida in a way that significantly reduces the potential for and the fact of civilian casualties,” Carney said.

Tapper pressed again. “[T]his is the question — with the assumption that if you are with a terrorist when a terrorist gets killed, the presumption is that you are a terrorist as well and — even if we don’t even know who you are, right? Isn’t that part of the reason you’re able to make these assertions?”

And Carney again ducked the question: “I am not going to get into the specifics of the process by which, you know, these decisions are made.”

The administration has long discounted estimates of civilian drone strike casualties from the Pakistani media and human rights groups. In December, for example, the CIA claimed to have executed a perfect strike that killed nine militants near Pakistan-Afghanistan border. But British and Pakistani journalists on the ground reported that the strikes killed at least 18, including six innocent civilians.

 

Read Full Article  and Watch  Video  Here

***********************************************************************************

Articles of Interest

Report: Obama Ordered Stuxnet Attacks on Iran

By Grant Gross, IDG News

U.S. President Barack Obama ordered the Stuxnet cyberattacks on Iran in an effort to slow the country’s development of a nuclear program, according to a report in The New York Times.

The Times, quoting anonymous sources, reported that, in the early days of his presidency, Obama accelerated attacks related to an effort begun by the George W. Bush administration. The Stuxnet worm, long rumored to have been developed by Israel or the U.S., escaped from Iranian computers in mid-2010 and compromised computers across the Internet.

Obama considered shutting down the cyberattacks after Stuxnet began compromising other computers, but decided to continue with the program, according to the Times. The Stuxnet worm came from a joint U.S. and Israeli effort to target the Iranian nuclear program, the Times said. The newspaper interviewed U.S., Israeli, and European officials currently and formerly involved with the cyberattack program, it said.

Two-Year-Old Mystery Worm

Stuxnet was discovered in July 2010, when a Belarus-based security company detected the worm on computers belonging to an Iranian client. The consensus of security experts at the time was that Stuxnet was built by a sophisticated attacker, likely a nation state, and was designed to destroy something big, such as an Iran’s Bushehr nuclear reactor. Security experts examining the worm when it was first discovered said that it placed its own code into systems installed with Siemens software, after detecting a certain type of Programmable Logic Controller (PLC) device.

A White House spokesman declined to comment on The New York Times story.

Obama raised concerns that the Stuxnet program, code-named Olympic Games, would embolden other countries, terrorists and hackers to use similar attacks, but concluded that the U.S. had no other options available against Iran, the Times story said.

The goal of the attacks was to gain access to the industrial computer controls in Iran’s Natanz nuclear plant, the story said. The U.S. National Security Agency and a secret Israeli cyberunit developed the Stuxnet worm, the story said.

Predictable — But Risky

The report that the U.S. and Israel were behind the Stuxnet attack didn’t surprise Snorre Fagerland, senior virus analyst with Norman, an IT security vendor in Lysaker, Norway. The Stuxnet worm was “orders of magnitude” more complex and sophisticated than previous cyberattacks, he said, and the creation of the malware would have needed significant resources.

It would have taken a team of 10 to 20 people to write Stuxnet, Fagerland said.

The report of U.S. involvement may lead to an increase in cyberattacks, with other countries stepping up their offensive cybercapabilities, Fagerland said. “It raises the stakes,” he said. “That will cause others to think, ‘They’re doing it, so why shouldn’t we?'”

While several other countries may have offensive cybercapabilities, they appear to be “less organized” than the team that put together Stuxnet, he added.

Grant Gross covers technology and telecom policy in the U.S. government for The IDG News Service. Follow Grant on Twitter at GrantGross. Grant’s e-mail address is grant_gross@idg.com.

This article originally posted on PCWorld.com at 7 a.m. Pacific Time June 1.

************************************************************************************

[In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, this material is distributed without profit, for research and/or educational purposes. This constitutes ‘FAIR USE’ of any such copyrighted material.]