The Misfit Awesomeness of Neil Peart and Rush | The New Yorker

Neil Peart, legendary Rush drummer, died on Friday from brain cancer at the age of 67. I’ve seen Rush in concert a few times and enjoyed most of their music. I especially enjoyed their “Rush: Behind the Lighted Stage” documentary.

In spite of their misfit nature ad limited radio airplay, Rush sold a ton of albums.

Here’s a great piece by the New Yorker about Neil and Rush. Rest in peace, Neil.

Neil Peart, the lyricist and virtuosic drummer of the Canadian progressive-rock band Rush, died on Tuesday, in Santa Monica, California. He was sixty-seven, and had been fighting brain cancer for several years. Rush formed in Toronto, in 1968 (Peart joined in 1974), and released nineteen studio albums, ten of which have sold more than a million copies in the U.S. According to Billboard, Rush presently ranks third, behind the Beatles and the Rolling Stones, for the most consecutive gold or platinum albums by a rock band.
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Iran believed to have deliberately missed U.S. forces in Iraq strikes, Western sources say – Iran – Haaretz.com

Called this yesterday, too. Iran was fully capable of killing many Americans here but chose not to. They may be saner than Trump.

Iran is believed to have deliberately sought to avoid U.S. military casualties in missile strikes on bases housing American troops in Iraq launched in retaliation for the U.S. killing of an Iranian general, according to U.S. and European government sources familiar with intelligence assessments.

The sources, speaking on condition of anonymity, said on Wednesday the Iranians were thought to have targeted the attacks to miss U.S. forces to prevent the crisis from escalating out of control while still sending a message of Iranian resolve. A source in Washington said overnight that early indications were of no U.S. casualties, while other U.S. officials declined comment.

Source: Iran believed to have deliberately missed U.S. forces in Iraq strikes, Western sources say – Iran – Haaretz.com

Iranian Missile Accidentally Brought Down Ukrainian Jet, Officials Say – The New York Times

Called this yesterday. Loss of a single engine won’t down a plane and Iranian officials declared it a mechanical problem before the fires were even out. Condolences to the victims.

WASHINGTON — An Iranian missile accidentally brought down a Ukrainian jetliner over Iran this week, killing everyone aboard, American and allied officials said on Thursday, adding a tragic coda to the escalated military conflict between Washington and Tehran.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau of Canada said his country had intelligence that an Iranian surface-to-air missile brought down the jetliner, which was carrying 63 Canadians among its some 176 passengers and crew. Mr. Trudeau said his conclusion was based on a preliminary review of the evidence but called for a full investigation “to be convinced beyond all doubt.”

Source: Iranian Missile Accidentally Brought Down Ukrainian Jet, Officials Say – The New York Times

Who are Pat and Alex and why are they texting people about their homes?

Earlier this week, two separate neighbors received a curious text. A person calling themselves Pat expressed interest in buying their homes.

One from 919-373-6758 read:

“Hey there, so sorry if I have the wrong number. I am Pat and would love to contact [homeowner]. Regarding a property in [homeowner address], in order to determine if there is interest in selling. Do I have the right number?”

the other from 919-769-6879, read:

“Hey there, This is Pat, I am trying to reach out [homeowner – sic]. Regarding a property in [homeowner address], to see if selling it would be an option. You wouldn’t know the owner or would you?”

Both were sent at the same time of day, 9:33 AM, but on two separate days. They were from two different phone numbers as well. Another neighbor received a similar text on Nov 20th, I’m told. (Coincidentally, I’ve been getting and ignoring scammy calls at home from 919-769-68xx numbers for several weeks now).

Being the curious sort, I did a few Google searches for this text and came across a number of similar texts, only from different alleged people. A search of the venerable 800notes.com shows only one other similar text, this one from “Alex” from the number 832-934-9960:

“Hello, apologies if this is not a good number. This is Alex, I am looking for [homeowner]. Regarding a property in [homeowner address], in order to see if selling it would be an option. You don’t know the owner or do you?”

Obviously these are connected. How many people are getting them? How come there isn’t more information about them online? How is it that both my friends got the texts on separate days but at 9:33 AM on those days? And what’s the ultimate goal here? Is this just some bot that is out there, doing data cleanup to match phone numbers with names and addresses?

I’ll keep you posted as I learn more about this supposed scam.

Update 10 Jan:

I found another Internet hit, this thread on the City-Data website. This one’s from someone in Minnesota and dates from November 2018:

Over the past several months, I have been getting texts asking if I want to sell my house in Maricopa County. Each one has a different phone #. each message has a different message. My wife has gotten a couple as well (again, a different phone # and message each time).

Today, I got this one which is pretty typical:
Exact words:
“Hi (and my actual 1st name)! My name is Alex, I’m a local home buyer reaching out to see if you’re interested in an offer for your home on (my actual address)? Thx

I refuse to text back. But a couple of times, I called with my Google Phone # (same phone but with a hidden #) and got a vmail message asking to leave my name and address. I left out the address but gave my google, non-traceable #) and said that I wanted to sell my property”. No response….

I googled the number that came in on the text just today which is 480-531-6397. Another time from 623-295-0692 (he was “looking to buy a house in our neighborhood”). There are other phone #’s. I’m not alone with the 623 extension https://800notes.com/Phone.aspx/1-623-295-0692

Does anybody know what their scam might be? People who have called or texted back haven’t gotten a call back. Something smells fishy.

The most recent entry (again, November 2018) on that 800notes page adds a new name to the mystery, a “Tim.”

Got a text message. Says his name is Tim with Home Buyers. Wanted to see if I wanted to sell my house.
Scam?

The user “superstition480” on the City-Data thread says the outfit is “1 800 Fair Offer”:

The main company doing this, is called “1 800 Fair Offer”. They illegally robocall consumers trying to buy their houses FAR below market value. The company is owned by an arrogant guy named Sean Terry. This goof actually has videos posted on YouTube to teach his followers how to illegally robocall for more leads. I am in the process of filing a complaint with the Arizona State Attorney General’s office, and am also considering a class action suit against this company for their illegal robocalling.

I’m going to see what I can find out about “1 800 Fair Offer” and if there have been any complaints against them for illegal robocalling/texting.

Facebook bans ads from The Epoch Times after huge pro-Trump buy

Facebook kicked these guys off their ad platform in August 2019. Apparently that didn’t last long as I got two ads for The Epoch Times in my Facebook feed today:

Back by popular demand?


I guess Zuckerberg loves money more than morals.

Facebook has banned The Epoch Times, a conservative news outlet that spent more money on pro-Trump Facebook advertisements than any group other than the Trump campaign, from any future advertising on the platform.

The decision follows an NBC News report that The Epoch Times had shifted its spending on Facebook in the last month, seemingly in an effort to obfuscate its connection to some $2 million worth of ads that promoted the president and conspiracy theories about his political enemies.

“Over the past year we removed accounts associated with the Epoch Times for violating our ad policies, including trying to get around our review systems,” a Facebook spokesperson said. “We acted on additional accounts today and they are no longer able to advertise with us.”Facebook’s decision came as a result of a review prompted by questions from NBC News. The spokesperson explained that ads must include disclaimers that accurately represent the name of the ad’s sponsors.

Source: Facebook bans ads from The Epoch Times after huge pro-Trump buy

Teen Vogue story on Facebook prompts sponsored content fears, vanishes – Business Insider

This is some sneaky shit on Facebook’s part.

After pondering it for a day, I think its audience wasn’t Teen Vogue but actually Congress. Not that anyone in Congress reads Teen Vogue, but Facebook COO Sheryl Sanberg was all too happy to crow about this puff piece. I think Facebook was trying desperately to show Congress its serious about policing itself when in actuality it only cares about money.

I feel bad for Teen Vogue as the teen magazine has been running really good stories explaining cybersecurity. Of course, they also run stories telling teens about the joys of anal sex, so it’s a wash I guess. At any rate,any credibility Teen Vogue may have had is gone now. Hope the money was worth it.

Here’s the original story, captured by The Internet Archive’s magnificent Wayback Machine.

(Also, that’s the least clickbait-y headline EVER. Obviously it wasn’t meant for teens.)

An uncritical story in Teen Vogue about Facebook’s efforts to secure its social network ahead of the 2020 election caused bewilderment over contradictory messages about whether it was paid for by Facebook — before it just disappeared completely.

On Wednesday, Teen Vogue published “How Facebook Is Helping Ensure the Integrity of the 2020 Election.” It’s a 2,000-plus-word story comprising a series of interviews with various senior Facebook employees about how the Silicon Valley tech giant is working to avoid nefarious political activity in the US’s coming presidential election.

The positive tone of the piece, and lack of byline indicating who wrote it, led some on Twitter to speculate that it was a piece of sponsored content — that is, an article paid for and overseen by Facebook to promote itself.

This suspicion was seemingly confirmed when, some time after publishing, Teen Vogue appended a note to the top of the story, reading: “Editor’s note: This is sponsored editorial content.”

The note raised questions about editorial ethics — why wasn’t this disclosed from the start? — but the saga didn’t end there. Facebook instead denied that it was sponsored content, saying it was just a regular article, and the note disappeared from the top of the story again.

Source: Teen Vogue story on Facebook prompts sponsored content fears, vanishes – Business Insider

bellingcat – Guide To Using Reverse Image Search For Investigations – bellingcat

Reverse image search is one of the most well-known and easiest digital investigative techniques, with two-click functionality of choosing “Search Google for image” in many web browsers. This method has also seen widespread use in popular culture, perhaps most notably in the MTV show Catfish, which exposes people in online relationships who use stolen photographs on their social media.

However, if you only use Google for reverse image searching, you will be disappointed more often than not. Limiting your search process to uploading a photograph in its original form to just images.google.com may give you useful results for the most obviously stolen or popular images, but for most any sophisticated research project, you need additional sites at your disposal — along with a lot of creativity.

This guide will walk through detailed strategies to use reverse image search in digital investigations, with an eye towards identifying people and locations, along with determining an image’s progeny. After detailing the core differences between the search engines, Yandex, Bing, and Google are tested on five test images showing different objects and from various regions of the world.

Source: bellingcat – Guide To Using Reverse Image Search For Investigations – bellingcat

How Lindsey Graham Lost His Way – Rolling Stone

Lindsey Graham and Donald Trump were born nine years and one month apart. Trump came first, but when they appear side by side, as they often do these days, the men look about the same age. On November 6th, in the East Room of the White House, the president held an event to mark the record number of federal judges his administration has appointed, and Graham was there, having played a critical role in the achievement as chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee. Trump’s staff had scheduled the event in part to shift focus from the House impeachment investigation, to remind any wobbly Republicans of the reason they’d held their noses and voted for the guy in the first place.

Over the course of his three terms representing South Carolina in the Senate, Graham had become predominantly known for two things: extreme hawkishness on foreign policy, following the lead of his close friend and mentor, the late Arizona Sen. John McCain, and a bipartisan streak that resulted in high-profile attempts to cut big deals on issues like immigration reform and climate change. A former senior staffer for a Democratic senator who has worked alongside Graham on bipartisan legislation tells me, “Like John McCain, he was a conservative Republican, but it was always worth asking where he was going to be on a particular issue, because he wasn’t completely beholden to party orthodoxy. He’d often be way out ahead of his staff, negotiating on the Senate floor unbeknownst to them, and they would be playing catch-up.

Will Folks, a conservative political blogger in South Carolina, says, “The joke here is Graham has a ‘count to six’ approach to governing: He spends the first four years of his term doing whatever he wants, veering off toward the left, and then the last two years, when the electorate is paying more attention, he comes right.

”Graham is “never flustered, and just a natural at dealing with people who don’t like him,” says David Woodard, a political-science professor at Clemson University who ran Graham’s first two campaigns for the House of Representatives and recalls the first-term congressman as quickly becoming the unofficial social director for his freshman class, though he added, “You’re going to find Lindsey knows a lot of people, but he’s not close to anybody.”

Source: How Lindsey Graham Lost His Way – Rolling Stone

‘Shattered’: Inside the secret battle to save America’s undercover spies in the digital age

When hackers began slipping into computer systems at the Office of Personnel Management in the spring of 2014, no one inside that federal agency could have predicted the potential scale and magnitude of the damage. Over the next six months, those hackers — later identified as working for the Chinese government — stole data on nearly 22 million former and current American civil servants, including intelligence officials.

The data breach, which included fingerprints, personnel records and security clearance background information, shook the intelligence community to its core. Among the hacked information’s other uses, Beijing had acquired a potential way to identify large numbers of undercover spies working for the U.S. government. The fallout from the hack was intense, with the CIA reportedly pulling its officers out of China. (The director of national intelligence later denied this withdrawal.)Personal data was being weaponized like never before. In one previously unreported incident, around the time of the OPM hack, senior intelligence officials realized that the Kremlin was quickly able to identify new CIA officers in the U.S. Embassy in Moscow — likely based on the differences in pay between diplomats, details on past service in “hardship” posts, speedy promotions and other digital clues, say four former intelligence officials. Those clues, they surmised, could have come from access to the OPM data, possibly shared by the Chinese, or some other way, say former officials.

The OPM hack was a watershed moment, ushering in an era when big data and other digital tools may render methods of traditional human intelligence gathering extinct, say former officials. It is part of an evolution that poses one of the most significant challenges to undercover intelligence work in at least a half century — and probably much longer.The familiar trope of Jason Bourne movies and John le Carré novels where spies open secret safes filled with false passports and interchangeable identities is already a relic, say former officials — swept away by technological changes so profound that they’re forcing the CIA to reconsider everything from how and where it recruits officers to where it trains potential agency personnel. Instead, the spread of new tools like facial recognition at border crossings and airports and widespread internet-connected surveillance cameras in major cities is wiping away in a matter of years carefully honed tradecraft that took intelligence experts decades to perfect.

Source: ‘Shattered’: Inside the secret battle to save America’s undercover spies in the digital age

A Letter From Gary Larson | TheFarSide.com | TheFarSide.com

Gary Larson has finally arrived online and the promise of new The Far Side cartoons is in the air, yet I don’t know how I feel about this. I will always love The Far Side but I cringe at the thought of the new stuff not measuring up to old stuff. I also miss seeing the cartoon nestled in the comics pages of an actual newspaper. And, truth be told, Larson’s hero status fell in my eyes when he aggressively chased his cartoons off the Internet.

Twelve years after I wrote that I still feel the same way. Now that Larson wants to join the party is he still welcome? Does The Far Side belong on the Internet at all, even if it’s Larson’s own doing? Or should it ride off into the sunset along with the newspaper industry?

I kinda wish I hadn’t had to ponder this question.

Truthfully, I still have some ambivalence about officially entering the online world — I previously equated it to a rabbit hole, although “black hole” sometimes seems more apropos — but my change of heart on this has been due not only to some evolution in my own thinking, but also in two areas I’ve always cared about when it comes to this computer/Internet “stuff”: security and graphics.

Source: A Letter From Gary Larson | TheFarSide.com | TheFarSide.com