Archive for December, 2009

How do you bump Cheney from Politico’s top headline?

December 31st, 2009 admin No comments

Let’s say you’re in the White House and a certain publication is stenographically touting attacks from the previous administration’s Vice President. Sure, that publication might be pushing self-contradictory double standards, but everybody reads it, and you know whining about it won’t get anything accomplished.

So what do you do to get them to lower the volume on the attacks against you? You give them an exclusive. Now you are in control of the message, at least for a little while, and your critics have been pushed aside.

But the only problem is, when you wake up tomorrow, you’re going to face the same problem when that publication goes back to some other random schmuck to line up an attack against you, forcing you to once again feed the beast, fueling the vicious circle.

You really don’t have much of an option other than to play the game, but man, does it ever suck. Big time.

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MI-Gov: Hoekstra’s Defense For Trying To Cash In On Terror

December 31st, 2009 admin No comments

After a DNC spokesman called Pete Hoekstra’s (R-MI) attempt to cash in on last week’s attempted terrorist attack, “beyond the pale,” a Hoekstra spokesman offered perhaps the lamest excuse in recent political memory:

Truscott, Hoekstra’s spokesman, dismissed criticism of his boss’s terrorism-related fundraising appeal as part of an effort by Democrats to undercut his gubernatorial bid.

“This is hottest issue going right now. Everybody’s talking about it’s the lead story in the news all across the country,” Truscott said. “As a leading national expert on this issue, it’s certainly appropriate to raise this issue as he talks about the leadership he could bring to Michigan.”

Uh, the problem isn’t raising the issue of terrorism, it’s trying to make money off of it — never mind the fear and hate-mongering language Hoekstra used in his fundraising letter.

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Tony Sachs: Ten Records That Made This Cruddy Decade A Little More Bearable

December 31st, 2009 admin No comments

Damn, I hated the ’00s — a decade so crappy that nobody ever even figured out what to call it. From the recession and stolen election that kicked it off to the near-economic collapse at its tail end, and all the bullshit in between, the last ten years was one long bummer after another. To my ears, the music of the decade didn’t make things much better. Fleet Foxes and Fiery Furnaces, Lady Gaga and Lil Wayne, Jay-Z and the Jonas Brothers, Bright Eyes and The Darkness, emo and screamo, and that goddamn Autotune. Almost all of it made me go “feh,” “eh,” or “meh,” if not all three.

But as the old saying goes, there’s always good music out there, it’s just that sometimes you have to hunt a little harder for the good stuff. I guess my problem was that, as a record store guy (now a former record store guy) in the age of downloads, blogs and viral marketing, I lost interest in hunting. So the ten records that made my decade may not be the most cutting-edge or most obscure or significant of groundbreaking. But they’re mine, and I love ‘em all passionately. Here’s my soundtrack to the decade of “Mission Accomplished”:

10. BRENDAN BENSONMy Old, Familiar Friend (ATO, 2009). I’m somewhat suspicious about placing a record that’s barely four months old in my top ten of the whole darn decade. I’m still largely in my infatuation phase; there’s no telling how it’s going to grow on me, or how much I’ll remember it six months from now, let alone ten years. But I can tell you that I haven’t gotten such intense pleasure out of a record for one listen, let alone the hundred or so times I’ve probably spun it, since the Dow Jones was still around 14,000. You probably know Brendan Benson from his stint with The Raconteurs; if you were paying closer attention, you may have checked out the critically acclaimed, sparse-selling power-pop masterpieces he’s been putting out sporadically for more than a decade. If you ask me, My Old, Familiar Friend is the most consistent of the lot. If the power chord-laden rockers don’t get you, the ballads will. If the harmonies don’t get you, the hooks will. If the Motown pastiche doesn’t get you, the new wave takeoff will. There’s something here for everyone, and all of it sounds dandy to me.

9. MOSQUITOSSunshine Barato (Bar/None, 2004). Combine a nerdy Brooklyn indie-popper with a wispy-voiced Brazilian chanteuse, and you get a warm, sunny, melodic and utterly charming album that’s just about guaranteed to transport you to a breezy beach somewhere, even if you’re standing ankle-deep in January slush. Sunshine Barato is a wispy album full of small pleasures which I never thought would make my end-of-the-decade list when it first came out. But every time I hear its jangling guitars, bossa-rock rhythms, and JuJu Stelbach’s girlish vocals, I fall in love with it as though I’m hearing it for the first time. This was their second album — a few years ago they put out a third one which was darker and less infectious, and they subsequently dropped out of sight. Wherever they are now, I hope there’s sand between their toes and a cold glass of cachaca in their hands.

8. BECKThe Information (Interscope, 2006). One thing you could count on with Beck is that each album would sound nothing like the previous one. The wiseguy pomo hipster of Odelay morphed into the oddball bluesy-folkie of Mutations, which begat the funky party animal of Midnite Vultures, followed by the morose singer-songwriter of Sea Change. None of these records were ever less than interesting, and they were all brilliant in places, but after a while I grew tired of the gimmick. Starting with 2004’s Guero, he started integrating the Many Moods Of Beck into a seamless whole, and he really hit paydirt on the followup, The Information. If you like Beck for his aural collages, his funky beats, his introspective songwriting, his dark lyrics, well, it’s all here in one handy-dandy package. And in every facet of his game, he’s in top form. Not only that, but you also get to make your own CD cover with a sheet of enclosed stickers, AND there’s a cheap, hastily-shot DVD featuring a video for every song. What’s not to love?

7. MORPHINEThe Night (Dreamworks, 2000). Morphine’s leader, Mark Sandman, died onstage in July 1999, with this album having just been completed; it was released the following February. Even though there were no warning signs of the heart attack that killed him, The Night seems eerily prescient — the music is haunted and somber, and many of the lyrics deal with mortality and abandonment. As Morphine’s saxophonist Dana Colley told me, “I think a lot of people who are big fans of Morphine couldn’t bring themselves to listen to it because so much of it sounds like a eulogy, in a way, or a swan song.” The Night was also intended to be a beginning. It adds strings, backing vocals, a second drummer and more to Morphine’s traditionally lean bass/saxophone/drums brand of “low rock.” It’s a tentative step in a new direction, and it’s not always successful. I was disappointed with it at the time, and I still think that Morphine’s next album, had Sandman lived, would have achieved everything he set out to do on this one. But I kept coming back to The Night for the entire decade, and its beauty and richness hits me anew each time. If that’s not the hallmark of a great album, I don’t know what is.

6. THE DETROIT COBRASLife, Love And Leaving (Sympathy For The Record Industry, 2001). Ever since the Beatles and Bob Dylan made the scene, the presumption has been that to be a truly Great Artist, you must write your own material. Well, the Detroit Cobras have made half a dozen killer records over the last decade which feature a grand total of, by my count, one original song. Bon Iver they ain’t — and I mean that in the best possible way. The Cobras dig up forgotten nuggets of rock n’ roll and R & B from the ’50s and ’60s, rev ‘em up, and spit ‘em out garage-punk style, making them their own in the process. Sounds easy enough, but try doing a version of “Hey Sah-Lo-Ney” by Mickey Lee Lane or the Otis Redding obscurity “Shout Bamalama” that can hold a candle to the original, and you’ll see just how tough it is to pull it off. Much of the credit must be given to frontwoman Rachael Nagy, whose bruising yet vulnerable vocals — think Joan Jett meets Motown — can caress a soulful ballad or belt out a 4/4 stomper as well as anyone on the planet. Truly awe-inspiring stuff.

5. THE LIBERTINESUp The Bracket (Rough Trade, 2002). 2002 was a nonstop drag of a year, with its post-9/11 hangover and pre-Iraq buildup, not to mention the evisceration of the Democrat party in the midterm elections. It was also the year it became clear that music retail — or my store, at least — was not going to survive the MP3 wars intact. It was such an annus horribilus that I must have blocked most of it out, because a few years later, when I tried to think of some of my favorite records of ‘02, I couldn’t recall a single one apart from this classic. The British music press annoints a new Greatest Band Ever every six months or so, but this is one of the few that lived up to the hype. Up The Bracket isn’t quite punk, postpunk, or Britrock, but some attitude-laden, adrenaline-heavy combination of the three, attacking the eardrums with one infectious raver after another. How co-frontman Pete Doherty survived the decade given his pharmaceutical excesses is a mystery. The band wasn’t so lucky, splintering after a good-but-not-great second album. This record, however, is a hell of a legacy.

4. WHITE STRIPESWhite Blood Cells (Sympathy For The Record Industry, 2001). If there was one band in this decade that just about everyone from teenyboppers to 20-something hipsters to grizzled classic rockers could agree on, it was the White Stripes. At first they were lumped in with the rest of Detroit’s lo-fi garage-rock revivalists, but if they resemble any one band to me, it’s Led Zeppelin. The coolest thing about Jack and Meg White, however, is that they betray no evidence that they’ve ever even heard one of their records. Rather than listening to Zep and imitating them, they took their inspiration from the same country blues and folk records that inspired Plant, Page and Co., and put a 21st century Dee-troit spin on them. The result is a record that sounds like a classic without being a study in classicism. And for the record, I never thought Meg White’s drumming was as bad as the kvetchers claimed.

3. THE STROKESIs This It (RCA, 2001). It’s all bullshit, of course, whenever we talk about a proverbial age of innocence in which we lived immediately prior to some awful game-changing event. But the summer of ‘01 does exist in my memory banks as a pretty idyllic time, especially for a New Yorker. The Twin Towers still stood, the Yankees were three-time world champs, and the hippest new band around — the Strokes — were NYC natives. Is This It, their debut record, didn’t come out in the States until after 9/11, but my store stocked the import version, and that summer, when it seemed like CDs and MP3s could possibly coexist, I sold it by the truckload. You can pinpoint their primary sonic influence not just to one band — The Velvet Underground — but to one song, “Coney Island Steeplechase” (from Another View, if you’re curious). But their catchy, concise and astute songs also took cues from downtown legends like Television and Richard Hell, as well as transplanted Manhattanite John Lennon. And what you get is a classic rock n’ roll record about what it’s like to be young and jaded and stoned, in a certain place, at a certain time, that ceased to exist all too soon.

2. NEW PORNOGRAPHERSTwin Cinema (Matador, 2005). This band features not one but three certified geniuses (certified by who, exactly, I don’t know): A.C. Newman; Dan Bejar; and Neko Case, all of whom also make records on their own. But they all bring their A games to the New Pornos’ records, which magnify their strengths and obscure their weaknesses. Newman’s songs are equal parts ’70s pop, ’80s new wave and ’90s alt-rock, but always with a unique twist that sends the hooks down a slightly different path than you’d expect. Case’s vocal showcases (written by Newman) prove that, as great as she sings her own mournful alt-country ballads, she’s an even more masterful pop chanteuse. And Bejar, whose quirky songwriting and speak-singing can wear thin over a whole album, is perfect for a couple of changes of pace per LP. Twin Cinema, their third of four records to date, finds the whole band firing on all cylinders, cranking out 14 ebullient, gorgeous pop songs that are as close to perfect as anyone came in this godforsaken decade.

1. BOB DYLANLove & Theft (Columbia, 2001). Say this much for Dylan — the man has amazing timing. This album was released, as luck would have it, on 9/11. Not knowing what else to do that morning, I showed up and opened the doors of my store for business. And wouldn’t you know it, we sold every copy we had that day. “I don’t care if the world’s ending,” one customer said, “I’ve gotta have my new Dylan.” For weeks and months afterwards, this record was one of the things that kept me sane. Dylan had already kickstarted his comeback with 1997’s Time Out Of Mind, a dark, resigned album about mortality and lost love. But what the hell was this? Rocking out like Bill Haley, making like a ’30s jazz combo, cracking corny jokes, casting a lecherous eye on sweet young things — Dylan wasn’t contemplating his mortality, he was giving it the finger. Without sounding anything like his seminal ’60s work, Love & Theft damn near matches it. A life-affirming album that came at the exact time when we desperately needed it.

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Humanitarian Bowl: Idaho Stuns Bowling Green, 43-42

December 31st, 2009 admin No comments

BOISE, Idaho — Max Komar made a sliding 16-yard touchdown catch with 4 seconds left and Nathan Enderle passed to Preston Davis for the 2-point conversion, lifting Idaho to a dramatic 43-42 victory over Bowling Green in Wednesday night’s Humanitarian Bowl.

The Falcons took a 42-35 lead with 32 seconds left on a 51-yard pass from Tyler Sheehan to Freddie Barnes, who slipped behind the Idaho secondary for his 17th catch of the game and No. 155 in his record-setting season.

But Idaho answered with a 50-yard heave from Enderle to Davis that got the ball to the Bowling Green 16. After an incompletion with 8 seconds left, Enderle found Komar – who had dropped a number of passes – in the middle of the field, and he slid to cradle the low pass.

Coach Robb Akey then decided to go for the 2-point conversion and Enderle threw to Davis alone in the back of the end zone.

When the Falcons were tackled on the ensuing kickoff, Vandals fans poured onto the blue turf of their rivals to celebrate the second bowl win in school history.

Idaho’s hopes of capping its turnaround from two victories in 2008 to a bowl win in 2009 seemed finished when Barnes struck again in his banner senior season. Needing just five receptions to set an NCAA Bowl Subdivision record, Barnes finished with 17 grabs for 219 yards and three touchdowns, the final one putting Bowling Green in prime position for its fifth victory in its last six postseason trips.

But Komar gave the Vandals decent field position with solid kickoff return and Enderle’s long throw landed in the arms of Davis, who finished with four catches for 119 yards. Komar then made his sliding grab and Akey confidently went for 2.

“Well, they hadn’t been able to stop us. … Let’s do it while we got some momentum,” Akey said.

With most of the 26,729 in attendance roaring their approval, Enderle had plenty of time to connect with Davis, setting off a wild, premature celebration. One overly joyous fan ran on the field to the Idaho bench, only to get shoved down by one of the Vandal players.

Idaho (8-5) was penalized but Trey Farquhar’s kickoff bounced inside the BG 5 and the fans finally got to celebrate for real when the returner was tackled.

“I tell you what, I love these players … Don’t doubt these players, they’ll prove you wrong,” Akey said.

The Vandals surged ahead 28-14 in the second half on touchdown runs of 8 and 13 yards by De’Maundray Woolridge, only to see the Falcons rally with 28 of the next 35 points.

Woolridge finished with 22 carries for 126 yards, and Enderle was 15 of 28 for 240 and four touchdowns after starting the game 1 of 6.

Tyler Sheehan was 33 of 47 for 387 yards and four TDs for Bowling Green (7-6). It was the 14th consecutive bowl loss for the Mid-American Conference.

The Falcons’ rally started when Jimmy Scheidler took a well-designed tight end screen 15 yards for a touchdown. After Idaho went three-and-out, Barnes had a 5-yard reception for his second TD catch of the game, tying it at 28.

Davis put the Vandals in front again with a nifty 30-yard, catch-and-run touchdown, leaving Roger Williams grasping at air. Again, the Falcons answered, this time with an eight-play drive capped by Willie Geter’s 2-yard plunge with 3:51 left that tied it at 35.

Idaho drove to the Falcons 40, but had to punt and BG took over with 1:49 left. Facing third-and-11 at their own 49, Barnes got lost in Idaho’s zone coverage and ran free down the sideline for the score.

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Ann Liguori: Hey Liguori, What’s the Story?: Sportscaster Ann Liguori’s pick for Athlete of the Decade

December 31st, 2009 admin No comments

Move Over Tiger – Roger Federer is my pick for Athlete of the Decade by Ann Liguori

My choice for top athlete of the decade is the legendary and classy Roger Federer.

Talk about dominating in sports — all of Federer’s fifteen major titles were won between 2003-2009 and he finished the decade claiming his first French Open title, giving him a career Grand Slam, and then a month later, won his sixth Wimbledon title for a total of 15 Grand Slam championships, earning more Grand Slam titles than any other male player in history. And he closed out the year ranked number one in the world – again!

For the entire decade, Federer was known for winning tennis tournaments, being a nice guy and giving back to fans. Being the top ranked player for most of the decade never distanced him from being ‘one of the guys.’ Players on the Tour will tell you how much they like and respect Roger Federer. And throughout his career, he has connected with the fans and makes himself available for media interviews. He is truly one of the nicest athletes on the planet and conducts himself with grace on and off the court.

A short review of his record 15 Grand Slam Championships are in order.

His first major title came at Wimbledon in 2003 where he lost only one set throughout the entire two weeks and beat Andy Roddick in the semis and then Mark Philippoussis to win his first of six championships on the grass at Wimbledon.

His second major title was won at the Australian Open in 2004 with a straight set win over Marat Safin. He beat Andy Roddick in the Wimbledon final that year and grabbed his first US Open championship with a win over Lleyton Hewitt. In 2005, Federer ‘repeated’ with Championships at both Wimbledon and the US Open, and in 2006 and 2007, the Swiss maestro won the Australian Open, Wimbledon and the US Open.

The 2008 Wimbledon final turned out to be the tennis match of the decade and one of the greatest matches in history. Through two rain delays, wind and darkness, the two top players in the game dazzled with spectacular shots. Federer was only two points away from victory but Nadal was able to prevail, 6-4, 6-4, 6-7 (5), 6-7 (8), 9-7 in a 4-hour, 48-minute marathon. Federer described the loss as his most devastating. A month later, Federer relinquished his number 1 ranking to Nadal, after being at the top for 237 weeks! But just when you thought that crushing Wimbledon defeat would deflate Federer for the rest of the year, he managed to win a fifth straight US Open title with wins over Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray. And a year later at Roland Garros, Federer (who had beaten Nadal on clay in Madrid a week earlier), won his very first French Open Title! Nadal suffered a shocking defeat to Robin Soderling in the fourth round. Although Nadal was out, it was not easy for Federer. He was within five points of a fourth round, straight sets loss to Tommy Haas, before turning it around. In the semi-finals, he had to come from behind to beat the talented Juan Martin del Potro in five sets before beating Robin Soderling in straight sets for his 14th Grand Slam title. Federer called it the most satisfying win of his life and up there with his very first win at Wimbledon.

And then it was on to Wimbledon where he and Andy Roddick played the longest match in Wimbledon history in number of games played, the fifth and final set going 30 games! Federer outlasted Andy Roddick 5-7, 7-6 (6), 7-6 (5), 3-6, 16-14, serving a career high 50 aces. With Pete Sampras watching, Federer won his sixth Wimbledon title and a record-breaking 15th Grand Slam Championship. Nadal withdrew before the tournament started with a knee injury.

Critics of Federer enjoying ‘Athlete of the Decade’ recognition will cite the fact that Nadal has beaten Federer in five of seven championship finals and holds a 13-7 edge over him. I disagree. Their intense rivalry is great for tennis and proves that in spite of such a talented player being a threat in the draw, any time he is healthy, Federer was still able to dominate the sport in this decade, beating a plethora of talented players along the way. And Nadal and Federer’s rivalry add to each player’s greatness.

But if Nadal can get healthy, he could carry the torch into the next decade, with some help from Juan Martin del Potro and Novak Djokovic. To date, Nadal has won six Grand Slam titles including the Australian Open in 2009, four French Open titles from 2005-2008, and Wimbledon 2008. The US Open is the only Grand Slam title that has eluded him. He got to the semifinal round there in 2008. At 23 years of age, Nadal is five years younger than Federer and if he can stay injury-free, he can continue to add major titles to his incredible resume. Unfortunately, his explosive, high-octane style of play contributes to knee injuries and other ailments.

And many of you will argue that Tiger’s stellar golf accomplishments in this decade make him your pick for Athlete of the Decade, choosing to overlook Tiger’s quadruple bogies off the course. As you know, the Associated Press named him Athlete of the Decade a few weeks ago. There is no doubt that Tiger dominated golf, winning 12 of his 14 major titles this decade. He won 64 tournaments over-all and 56 PGA Tour events. And there is no doubt that Tiger ruled golf like Roger did in tennis. Roger did it with a lot more class.

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Colorado Oil Regulators Understaffed: ProPublica

December 31st, 2009 admin No comments

Colorado oil and gas regulators have admitted to the Colorado Independent they’re spread too thin to handle a new set of EPA rules if proposed federal hydraulic fracturing legislation is passed by Congress, but a new ProPublica investigation suggests staffing may even be inadequate to handle current levels of state oversight.

According to an investigation published today, the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission (COGCC) had only 11 enforcement staff for 34,144 wells in 2008, or about 3,104 wells per inspector.

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Sarah van Gelder: Nine Ways Our World Changed during the ’00s

December 31st, 2009 admin No comments

What was the decade of the ’00s about? What trends showed up in the last 10 years that will set the stage for the ’10s? The following nine trends are a snapshot of some of the driving forces we’re dealing with now at the turn of the decade.

1. The rich got really, really rich, and then got a spanking. During the irrational exuberance of the ’90s and early ’00s, it seemed like anybody should be able to get rich betting on bubbles. Pundits predicted there would be no end to the expansion of wealth and that we had transcended the business cycle. But the dot com bubble burst, then the housing bubble, and the financial bubble. Most of the rich are still rich–the bailouts made sure of that. But driving a Bentley is now considered poor taste, and populist anger is growing. The gap between rich and poor is growing, too, while the ladder out of poverty is splintering.

2. Middle class existence went from steadily stagnant to downright precarious.
Necessities like housing, energy, food, education, and medical care all climbed, while incomes stagnated. Families survived by working increasing hours, and by going into debt, using their homes as collateral. When the Great Recession hit, we learned that being middle class had been a bubble, too. And the billions that Wall Street took in bailouts hasn’t “trickled down” to ordinary people or to the real economy.

3. Mother Earth came up to bat. At the beginning of the decade, it was just the environmentalists, scientists, and some very forward-looking elected officials talking about the hazards of climate change, along with the insurance companies that have to pay for the increasing rates of wild fires, floods, and other climate-related disasters. Today, Pentagon brass, business owners, religious leaders, farmers, foresters, and people at all levels of government are seeing the danger and looking for ways to stop the disruption of the climate. The global leaders at Copenhagen struck out, but Mother Earth bats last.

4. We found a new enemy. We called the enemy “terror,” and we made war on it. Rather than use proven counter-terrorism strategies of sophisticated police work plus intelligence, the Bush administration used the shock of 9/11 to justify ultimately futile invasions and occupations. Then they added torture and a crack-down on civil liberties abroad and at home. It’s hard to measure the costs in traumatized civilians and soldiers, the dead and dying, refugees and broken societies, billions of added national debt, and the tarnished reputation of the United States. But here’s one gauge: Invading Afghanistan has already helped bring down one superpower. The ’00s set the stage for us to follow the Soviet Union’s example.

5. First we hated government. Later, we loved it. Government was revealed at its worst during Hurricane Katrina, when sheriff deputies blocked fleeing citizens from crossing a bridge to safety and the federal government offered little more than black booted Blackwater guards to maintain “security” and a morale-boosting “Good job, Brownie!” from the commander in chief. Maybe it’s to be expected that a president who hates government would turn over emergency preparedness to cronies and crooks. On the other hand, when the uber-greed of Wall Street threatened to bring the global economy to its knees, it turned out government could act quickly and effectively to keep the money flowing.

6. The Republican Party collapsed as a trusted force for reasoned governance, driven into the ground by the incompetence of its president, by unjustifiable and devastating military campaigns, and by policies that turned the economy over to corporate powers, who took it over a cliff. Economic fundamentalism and neoconservativism are now understood to be dystopian fantasies, and all that’s left for those who remain in the party is to flail around with tea bagging, climate denial, and attempts to kill anything that doesn’t bolster the military-industrial complex, the wealthy, and big business.

7. The Democratic Party collapsed as a trusted force for reasoned governance when, in spite of having an overwhelming mandate from the American people for real change, elected officials allowed corporations and their lobbyists to call the shots on health care reform, regulation of Wall Street speculation, and climate legislation. The resulting policies shored up the stock market but did little to help ordinary people, who became increasingly alienated from the party.

8. China continued its rapid ascent, moving quietly into position to become the next superpower. The U.S. debt to China, coupled with the transfer of most manufacturing capacity abroad–especially to China–hampered efforts to rebuild the U.S. economy, and weakened our global position. (This is one more outcome of corporate power, to add to 1-7 above.)

9. We began to hear whispers of the End Times, including the best selling post-rapture “Left Behind” series, the new disaster flick 2012, and the prophesies related to the Mayan calendar (Google it, and you’ll get over 8 million hits). The real end times might be more straightforward. At the same time Wall Street wealth was soaring (with a short setback in 2008), the ’00s witnessed a crash in the real wealth that keeps civilizations alive: fresh water, climate stability, trust and solidarity with fellow human beings, reliable public infrastructure, healthy soil and forests, resilient agriculture, sound governance, livelihoods that can meet basic necessities. Our way of life is increasingly precarious as we import much more than our fair share of the world’s declining supply of fossil energy and of other resources, bring the climate to the brink of runaway change. The end times of this consumption lifestyle are, indeed, upon us.

But wait, there are signs, too, that people are pulling out of this downward spiral. In the ’00s, people around the world turned away from obsolete ways of life, and went to work building the foundations of a world where our families and communities can thrive along with the natural systems that we rely on. The seeds are already planted. In my next column, I’ll list the 12 innovations begun in the ’00s that we can build on in the 2010s.

Sarah van Gelder is executive editor of YES! Magazine, a national media organization that links powerful ideas and practical action toward a just and sustainable world.

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Guide To Breaking Cell Phone Security REVEALED

December 31st, 2009 admin No comments

FRANKFURT — A German security expert has raised the ire of the cell phone industry after he and a group of researchers posted online a how-to guide for cracking the encryption that keeps the calls of billions of cell phone users secret.

Karsten Nohl, 28, told The Associated Press this week that he, working with others online and around the world, created a codebook containing how to get past the GSM standard encryption used to keep conversations on more than 3 billion mobile phones safe from prying ears.

Nohl said the purpose was to push companies to improve security. The collaborative effort put the information online through file-sharing sites.

“The message is to have better security, not we want to break you,” he said of the move. “The goal is better security. If we created more demand for more security, if any of the network operators could use this as a marketing feature … that would be the best possible outcome.”

GSM, the leading cell phone technology around the world, is used by several wireless carriers in the U.S., with the largest being AT&T Inc. and T-Mobile USA. Verizon Wireless and Sprint Nextel Corp. use a different standard.

The GSM Association, a trade group that represents nearly 800 wireless operators, said it was mystified by Nohl’s rationale.

Claire Cranton, a spokeswoman for the London-based group, said that “this activity is highly illegal in the UK and would be a serious RIPA offense as it probably is in most countries.” RIPA, or the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act, is a British law governing the interception of user logs and e-mails of suspected criminals by security and intelligence agencies.

It has already been possible to intercept GSM calls, but the equipment is generally only available to law enforcement. Regular wiretapping of cellular calls is also possible, since they travel unencrypted over standard wiring after being picked up by a cell tower. As a result, terrorists or criminals may talk in code and use prepaid phones they then discard.

Even with Nohl’s exploit, expensive and sophisticated radio equipment placed close to the target is required to pull the calls off the air.

Sujeet Shenoi, a professor of computer science at the University of Tulsa in Oklahoma, said that while the code-breaking guide raises privacy issues, his main concern is that organized crime will take advantage of it to make money, perhaps by eavesdropping on transactions between consumers and merchants.

“It’s a shot across the bow” of the wireless industry, he said.

Nohl’s effort undermines the 21-year-old algorithm used to ensure the privacy of phone calls made on GSM (global system for mobile communication) cell phone networks.

That algorithm, dubbed A5/1, is a 64-bit encryption function and was adopted in 1988. Since then 128-bit codes have been implemented to ensure caller privacy on newer, third-generation networks. The GSM Association has developed the A5/3 algorithm, which it says is gradually being phased in to replace A5/1.

“The GSMA heads up a security working group which looks at all issues re: security and this isn’t something that we take lightly at all,” Cranton wrote in an e-mail to the AP. “We have a new security algorithm that is being phased (in), as the protection and privacy of customer communications is at the forefront of operators’ concerns.”

Nohl, who holds a doctorate in computer engineering from the University of Virginia, said that going from a 64-bit code to 128-bit code “makes it some quintillion times more difficult” to crack.

He said the codebook was compiled and posted online not for malicious intent but as a call to the cell phone industry to improve the level of security for those who use GSM phones that are found worldwide and offered through numerous network providers.

“Being security researchers, one thing we can do, and what we choose to do in this case, is to show how it can be done,” he told the AP on Tuesday by telephone.

“We have created a tool, a codebook, that’s used to decrypt GSM packets, or the GSM encryptions,” he added, noting that with the codes phone calls could be recorded using a high-end PC, a radio and some software.

“In GSM this flaw was pointed out 15 years ago, and 15 years seems long enough for the cypher to be replaced with something else. No one uses a phone that is 15 years old,” Nohl said. “If they had taken steps, they could have replaced everything three time times over.”

Nohl made the announcement Sunday at the Chaos Communication Congress in Berlin, a four-day event that ends Wednesday.

While there has been criticism, there is also some faint praise and admiration for the effort.

“We’re familiar with his work. It’s proper stuff,” said Simon Bransfield-Garth, chief executive of London-based Cellcrypt, which sells software to keep mobile phones secure.

“People have been trying to crack GSM for a long time,” Bransfield-Garth told AP. “I think the science behind it is pretty sound,” he added. “Whether putting it in the public domain was wise, is an entirely different debate.”


Associated Press Technology Writer Peter Svensson in New York contributed to this story.


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Youth Activist Ruchi Jain On Her Hope For Change

December 31st, 2009 admin No comments

As a young person in India, Ruchi Jain began to see the effects of global climate change all around her. She talks about farmers in the Himalayas who worry about their future due to warmer temperatures and decreased rainfall.

At 23, she quit her job as a marketer in Mumbai to become a climate change activist. In Copenhagen this month, she worked to organize other youth activists to deliver a clear message to delegates at the conference: the entire world is affected by our actions, and you must come to an agreement.

Sara Peach from compiled some great footage of Jain at the Copenhagen Climate Conference.

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Huff TV: HuffPost Editor Roy Sekoff Blasts Cheney For Latest Attack On Obama (VIDEO)

December 31st, 2009 admin No comments

HuffPost Editor Roy Sekoff appeared on MSNBC’s The Ed Show tonight to discuss how progressives should respond to false right wing attacks on President Obama that politicize security issues. Sekoff told Schultz that the Left needs to hit back hard with the facts.

Singling out Dick Cheney for his particularly harsh, and false, attacks on Obama in the wake of the failed Detroit plane bombing, Sekoff wondered why anyone even listens to Cheney when he “has absolutely no credibility on the issue… Getting lectured on terrorism by Dick Cheney is like getting lectured on parenting by Jon & Kate or fidelity by Tiger Woods.”


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