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Sat, 17 Apr 2021
The World for People who Think

Puppet Masters


America's absurd stab at systematising sock puppetry

Air Force social media chart
The US has a chance to move on from a history of clandestine foreign policy - instead it acts like a clumsy spammer

The US government's plan to use technology to create and manage fake identities for social interaction with terrorists is as appalling as it is amusing. It's appalling that in this era of greater transparency and accountability brought on by the internet, the US of all countries would try to systematise sock puppetry. It's appallingly stupid, for there's little doubt that the fakes will be unmasked. The net result of that will be the diminution, not the enhancement, of American credibility.

But the effort is amusing as well, for there is absolutely no need to spend millions of dollars to create fake identities online. Any child or troll can do it for free. Millions do. If the government insists on paying, it can use salesforce.com to monitor and join in chats. There is no shortage of social management tools marketers are using to find and mollify or drown out complainers. There's no shortage of social-media gurus, either.

War Whore

Bombs Away! Britain, France and US line up for air strikes against Gaddafi


The lessons of Iraq have been learned: don't invade a country until you've got a really good cover story prepared!
UN security council expected to pass resolution calling for states to protect Libyan civilians as Gaddafi threatens counterattack

British, French and US military aircraft are preparing to protect the Libyan rebel stronghold of Benghazi after Washington said it was ready to support a no-fly zone and air strikes against Muammar Gaddafi's forces.

Jets could take off from French military bases if a no-fly zone is approved in a fresh United Nations security council resolution authorising "all necessary measures short of an occupation force" to protect civilians.

France, which has led the calls for a no-fly zone along with Britain, has offered the use of military bases on its Mediterranean coast about 750 miles from the Libyan coast. Several Arab countries would join the operation.

The finalising of military preparations came as Gaddafi's forces closed in on Benghazi and issued a strong warning that it would target all maritime traffic in the Mediterranean if it is targeted by foreign forces. In a statement broadcast on Libyan television the defence ministry said: "Any foreign military act against Libya will expose all air and maritime traffic in the Mediterranean Sea to danger and civilian and military [facilities] will become targets of Libya's counterattack." "The Mediterranean basin will face danger not just in the short-term, but also in the long-term."


Revealed: US spy operation that manipulates social media by creating online sockpuppets to spread propaganda

© Cliff Owen/AP
Gen David Petraeus has previously said US online psychological operations are aimed at 'countering extremist ideology and propaganda'.
Military's 'sock puppet' software creates fake online identities to spread pro-American propaganda

The US military is developing software that will let it secretly manipulate social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter by using fake online personas to influence internet conversations and spread pro-American propaganda.

A Californian corporation has been awarded a contract with United States Central Command (Centcom), which oversees US armed operations in the Middle East and Central Asia, to develop what is described as an "online persona management service" that will allow one US serviceman or woman to control up to 10 separate identities based all over the world.

The project has been likened by web experts to China's attempts to control and restrict free speech on the internet. Critics are likely to complain that it will allow the US military to create a false consensus in online conversations, crowd out unwelcome opinions and smother commentaries or reports that do not correspond with its own objectives.

Comment: This Guardian article is arguing slightly too much to convince us that this sort of thing would never be tolerated against anyone other than "Muslims in remote Muslim countries that we don't like (because they don't like us)!"

Army of Fake Social Media Friends to Promote Propaganda


Fukushima nuclear plant owner falsified inspection records

THE Japanese owner of the stricken Fukushima nuclear plant falsified safety data and "dishonestly" tried to cover up problems there.

Tokyo Electric Power Co injected air into the containment vessel of Fukushima reactor No 1 to artificially "lower the leak rate". When caught, the company expressed its "sincere apologies for conducting dishonest practices".

The misconduct came to light in 2002 after whistleblowers working for General Electric, which designed the reactor, complained to the Japanese government. Another GE employee later confessed that he had falsified records of inspections of reactor No1 in 1989 - at the request of TEPCO officials. He also admitted to falsifying other inspection reports, also on request of the client. After that incident TEPCO was forced to shut down 17 reactors, albeit temporarily.


Hundreds shot in Bahrain protest

© Agence France-Presse
Anti-government protesters gather outside the Saudi Arabian embassy in Manama.
At least 200 people have been shot and wounded in a Shi'ite village south of the Bahraini capital, a medic says, as the king imposed a state of emergency after bringing in Saudi and Emirati troops to help quell anti-regime protests.

As violence escalated, close ally the United States warned that there was "no military solution" to political upheaval in Bahrain and that any violence against peacefully expressed political demands "should be stopped".

"More than 200 people we received today had been shot with buckshot," a hospital doctor in the village of Sitra, south of the capital, said.

The doctor, who asked that his name not be used, said the hospital was under siege by armed gangs and security forces targeting Shi'ites - the backbone of anti-regime protests that have raged for a month.

War Whore

In sharp shift, US urges Libya air strikes, no-fly zone

The United States, in a sharp shift in tone, wants the United Nations to authorize not just a no-fly zone to aid Libyan rebels but also air strikes against Libyan tanks and heavy artillery, U.S. officials said Thursday.

The move toward a tougher stance in favor of military action comes after an extended internal debate within the Obama administration over how to stop Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi's battle to put down a rebellion that has threatened his 30-year reign.

The Libyan opposition has appealed for immediate assistance to prevent the rebel capital of Benghazi from falling to forces loyal to Gadhafi, and the question facing President Barack Obama and other world leaders was whether the action they planned to take would come in time.

U.S. officials said the United States has concluded a "no-fly" zone should be adopted and other measures that go well beyond a no-fly zone should be taken, including air strikes against Libyan tanks and heavy artillery.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said she hoped the Security Council would vote "no later than Thursday," and that a no-fly zone would require bombing targets inside the country.

"A no-fly zone requires certain actions taken to protect the planes and the pilots, including bombing targets like the Libyan defense systems," Clinton said as she neared the end of a Middle East trip dominated by worries about Libya, where a rebel offensive is apparently flagging.


Tsunami bomb: New Zealand's devastating war secret

Top-secret wartime experiments were conducted off the coast of Auckland to perfect a tidal wave bomb, declassified files reveal.

An Auckland University professor seconded to the Army set off a series of underwater explosions triggering mini-tidal waves at Whangaparaoa in 1944 and 1945.

Professor Thomas Leech's work was considered so significant that United States defence chiefs said that if the project had been completed before the end of the war it could have played a role as effective as that of the atom bomb.

Details of the tsunami bomb, known as Project Seal, are contained in 53-year-old documents released by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade.

Papers stamped "top secret" show the US and British military were eager for Seal to be developed in the post-war years too. They even considered sending Professor Leech to Bikini Atoll to view the US nuclear tests and see if they had any application to his work.


US: Obama the Invisible: Anti-leadership Amid World Crises

Obama appears on ESPN to reveal his NCAA March Madness picks
Where is the president? The world is beset. Moammar Khadafy is moving relentlessly to crush the Libyan revolt that once promised the overthrow of one of the world's most despicable regimes.

So where is the president?

Japan may be on the verge of a disaster that dwarfs any we have yet seen. A self-governing nation like the United States needs its leader to take full measure of his position at times of crises when the path forward is no longer clear.

This is not a time for leadership; this is the time for leadership.

So where is Barack Obama?

The moment demands that he rise to the challenge of showing America and the world that he is taking the reins. How leaders act in times of unanticipated crisis, in which they do not have a formulated game plan and must instead navigate in treacherous waters, defines them.

Obama is defining himself in a way that will destroy him.


Why Worry? Japan's Nuclear Plants at Grave Risk From Quake Damage

© unknown
Map showing location of the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa plant
I had warned that a major earthquake would strike the Chuetsu region around Kashiwazaki, Niigata Prefecture, and about the fundamental vulnerability of nuclear power plants.

The 6.8 magnitude temblor of July 16 caused considerable damage to the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa Nuclear Power plant operated by Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO), proving me right.

In the 40 years that Japan had been building nuclear plants, seismic activity was, fortunately or unfortunately, relatively quiet. Not a single nuclear facility was struck by a big quake. The government, along with the power industry and the academic community, all developed the habit of underestimating the potential risks posed by major quakes.

Since around the time of the Great Hanshin Earthquake that devastated Kobe in 1995, however, almost the entire Japanese archipelago has entered a period of brisk seismic activity.

In the past two years, major quakes took place in close proximity of three nuclear power plants: the Onagawa plant in Miyagi Prefecture (August 2005), the Shika plant in Ishikawa Prefecture (March 2007) and the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa plant. In each case, the maximum ground motion caused by the quake was stronger than the seismic design criteria for the nuclear power plants. The latest temblor near Kashiwazaki generated a peak ground acceleration of 993 gal, compared with the design value of 450 gal.


Alarmed US urges calm as Mideast uprisings grow

tunisian protester
© Agence France-Presse/Joseph Eid
The Obama administration on Wednesday sharply warned Bahrain against violent crackdowns on anti-government demonstrators as unrest worsened around the Middle East.

The warning came as U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton urged Egyptians to hold true to the ideals of their revolution while she toured Cairo's Tahrir Square, the symbolic heart of the peaceful uprising that toppled Egypt's longtime autocratic leader last month.

Carrying a message similar to that which she delivered in Egypt earlier in the day, Clinton arrived late Wednesday in Tunisia, where protesters demanding democratic freedoms inspired reformers around the Arab world. They succeeded in ousting their authoritarian ruler in January.

Clinton was to hold meetings with Tunisia's transitional leaders on Thursday, encourage civic leaders to press ahead with calls for change and pledge U.S. support for greater political, economic and social openness.

Clinton's democracy cheerleading tour to Egypt and Tunisia came as the situation in Bahrain deteriorated with soldiers and riot police expelling hundreds of protesters from a square in Bahrain's capital, using tear gas and armored vehicles. At least five people were killed Wednesday as clashes flared across the kingdom, according to witnesses and officials.

Bahrain, a strategic ally of the United States because it hosts the Navy's 5th Fleet, has sought and received hundreds of reinforcements for its security forces from neighbors like Saudi Arabia, raising fears of an escalation in violence and descent into the near civil war that is embroiling Libya. Forces loyal to Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi have pressed ahead with assaults on opposition-held towns.