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Tuesday, March 3rd, 2015 03:51 pm

Posted by US-CERT

Original release date: March 03, 2015

The National Security Agency (NSA)'s Information Assurance Directorate has released a report on Defensive Best Practices for Destructive Malware. This report details several  steps network defenders can take to detect, contain and minimize destructive malware infections.

US-CERT encourages users and administrators to review the NSA report and ICS-CERT TIP-15-022-01 for more information on destructive malware.

This product is provided subject to this Notification and this Privacy & Use policy.

Tuesday, March 3rd, 2015 04:08 pm

Posted by Josh Halliday

One journalist hacked phones of 100 celebrities every day for 18 months, says barrister acting for victims including Sadie Frost and Paul Gascoigne

The “mass industrial scale” of phone hacking at the Daily Mirror, Sunday Mirror and the People made the News of the World look like a “small cottage industry” in comparison, the high court in London has heard.

Scores of celebrities, including the actor Sadie Frost and ex-footballer Paul Gascoigne, were targeted thousands of times by journalists using the illegal practice from mid-1999 until 2009, it was claimed.

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Tuesday, March 3rd, 2015 04:08 pm

Posted by Alan Yuhas in Washington

Netanyahu enters to raucous applause at the introduction of “the prime minister of Israel!” Everyone stands and there’s a fair amount of hollering.

He come walking slowly up the aisle, shaking hands with members of Congress as he approaches the dais.

Speaker of the House John Boehner has just introduced Netanyahu and Congress is getting ready to begin any minute now.

Some anti-deal Iranians are echoing Netanyahu, my colleague Saeed Kamali Dehghan reports, quoting a senior Iranian politician who says that the greatest challenge to a nuclear agreement is not Netanyahu in DC but opponents to a deal in Tehran.

Israel’s prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, may be trying his best to sabotage a proposed Iranian nuclear deal with his speech at the US Congress but a greater challenge is coming from inside Iran, according to a senior Iranian politician.

Ayatollah Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, one of Iran’s great political survivors, who is seen as President Hassan Rouhani’s patron, said on Tuesday that internal opponents of Tehran’s nuclear negotiating team were echoing Netanyahu, and putting even more pressure on Iran.

The ultra-conservative newspaper, Kayhan, took a conspiratorial view of Netanyahu’s speech and published a front page article on Tuesday which said the Israeli prime minister is in favour of a nuclear deal but is instead showing opposition in order to trick Tehran to accept it. “Netanyahu’s mission: supporting the Geneva deal under the cover of opposition,” read Kayhan’s headline.

Many in Iran are closely watching Netanyahu’s movements in Washington. Those with access to illegal satellite dishes could watch his speech live but many were following it on social media such as Twitter and Facebook.

“We don’t have satellite. The state TV is not showing his speech? It would have been fun to watch,” tweeted one user. Another said: “Netanyahu is mirroring [former president] Ahmadinejad with his radical and illogical views.” Many Iranian users were using hashtag #ShutUpNetanyahu in order to show their opposition to his comments.

Boehner crashes the gavel down and calls the House to order, and the chamber rises to applaud politely as Mitch McConnell, Chuck Schumber, Dianne Feinstein and other senators enter.

Then everyone goes back to smalltalk and handshakes.

We’re in the gallery as members of Congress filter in – there are decidedly more Republicans than Democrats in attendance.

Up here in the press gallery it’s standing room only.

A pic from the first day of #NuclearTalks between #Iran & #US in #Montreux, #Switzerland. #NuclearTalks #IranTalks

Fifty-six Democratic lawmakers are expected to boycott Netanyahu’s address to Congress, according to an estimate by the Hill. My colleague Dan Roberts (@robertsdan), DC bureau chief for the Guardian, has more on the otherwise crowded (and partisan) state of affairs:

Demand for attendance elsewhere in Washington remains high, and an overspill room has been set up to accommodate visitors not able to watch the Israeli prime minister from the gallery of the House of Representatives.

Bob Menendez, a New Jersey Democrat who has been sponsoring legislation supportive of Netanyahu’s concerns over Iranian nuclear talks, will escort him to the House chamber – despite holding some misgivings:

On the eve of Netanyahu’s speech, Barack Obama revealed key details of an emerging deal that is designed to prevent Tehran developing nuclear weapons for “a decade or more”.

Obama said the chances of a successful deal remained difficult, but his interview appeared to contradict recent denials by his press secretary that a 10-year option was under consideration. Officials later told the Guardian there was “no discrepancy” because the president also said it could be longer.

Security is tight here at the Capitol and the Israeli press corp have set up shop at one of the main tables of the House gallery press offices. Everybody’s desperate for a plug, especially the Americans who’ve just arrived.

Dan Roberts, Guardian DC bureau chief, sees some protesters on the Hill.

“Netanyahu offers spine-chilling rhetoric but no answers,” says Daniel Levy, director of the Middle East and North Africa Programme at the European Council on Foreign Relations, criticizing the prime minister’s “incoherent” speechifying on Iran.

Netanyahu’s olive branch to Democrats and to the Obama administration will only take him so far. Israel’s most American and most Republican of prime ministers crossed the Rubicon on inappropriate political partisanship long ago. What’s more, Netanyahu’s attempt to reassert the US-Israel relationship based on Israel being a beacon of humanity, hope and shared values will ring hollow to anyone paying attention to Netanyahu’s own brand of narrow chauvinist nationalism, to the democratic recession he is leading in Israel or indeed to anyone who has heard of the Palestinians.

But those are long-term trends, more immediately President Obama is demonstrating his commitment to Israel irrespective, or even in spite, of the shenanigans of its Prime Minister.

Good morning and welcome to our coverage of Israeli prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s speech to Congress, which aims to galvanize popular opinion against nuclear negotiations with Iran but has been described by Democrats as an attempted “sabotage” of American policy, helping widen the largest rift between the allies in decades.

Netanyahu is expected to say that negotiations with Iran endanger Israel’s existence, an argument that flies in the face of President Obama’s renewed efforts to find compromise over its nuclear program. Republicans have embraced Netanyahu’s hardline rhetoric and Democrats have recoiled from it, saying Netanyahu’s criticism of US policy is a “dangerous mistake” and designed to embarrass the president.

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Tuesday, March 3rd, 2015 03:51 pm

Posted by Angelique Chrisafis in Paris

Human rights watchdog’s leaked report says law allowing ‘right to discipline’ is not clear enough, as polls find majority of French public opposes smacking ban

France has been plunged into a heated debate on smacking as Europe’s human rights watchdog prepares to publish strong criticism of the country’s failure to explicitly ban the corporal punishment of children.

The Council of Europe judgment expected on Wednesday will find French law is not “sufficiently clear, binding and precise” on the issue of hitting children, according to leaks to Le Monde.

Children who had never been hit were the best brought up, and better at listening to adults and their authority

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Tuesday, March 3rd, 2015 03:46 pm

Posted by Frances Perraudin

The Palace of Westminster, the seat of a busy parliamentary democracy, is crumbling. What are the restoration options and how much could it cost?

It is perhaps appropriate that just as dissatisfaction with Westminster politics is at an all-time high, the famous building it operates in is literally falling down.

Speaking at the Hansard society on Monday evening, the speaker of the House of Commons, John Bercow, warned that a failure to spend “not inconsequential” sums of public money on refurbishment could lead to parliament abandoning the site of the Palace of Westminster within 20 years.

Related: MPs could be forced to 'abandon' crumbling Westminster, Speaker warns

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Tuesday, March 3rd, 2015 03:44 pm

Posted by Sandra Laville

Serious case review says mindset that girls were ‘difficult’ allowed gang rape to continue, with victims perhaps totalling more than 370

Police and social workers in Oxfordshire perceived that girls as young as 11 had consented to sex with men, an independent report into the failure to stop their exploitation has said.

Throughout their interactions with six young girls in Oxford, professionals struggled with the law on consent, failing to understand that such was the power of the grooming process the children had no power to say no to gang rape, sexual torture and violence.

I went to the police, blood all over me, soaked through my trousers to the crotch. They dismissed it as me being naughty

Social workers asked me questions which showed they knew

I wouldn't ever have said no - they'd have beaten the shit out of me

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Tuesday, March 3rd, 2015 03:31 pm

Posted by Ben Hewitt

NYPC might have been consigned to the new rave recycling centre, but they’re still out there, making clever, catchy records that deserve to be heard

Ask me about cult heroes, and I can already smell the dust. Because cult heroes always seem to belong to the past, don’t they? It’s a musky old business, like an archeological dig in a giant record crate: we rummage around looking for neglected names to excavate and re-evaluate with the benefit of hindsight. There’s an undeniable whiff of history about the whole thing.

But I don’t think you always need the safety net of elapsed time to spot a cult hero. They’re here right now, in their prime, walking and working among us – even if they’ve fallen between the cracks. Mine is Tahita Bulmer, lead singer of NYPC. In 2005, NYPC – or, as they were called then, New Young Pony Club – were monstrously hyped. In the past 10 years, they’ve slowly slipped out of mainstream favour. And yet, she and her band have carried on just the same, making music that’s ridiculously smart, fun, inventive and ambitious; the type of pop music we always say we crave. It baffles me that more people don’t seem to notice.

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Tuesday, March 3rd, 2015 03:27 pm

Posted by Andy Bull

In an age when all teams are using computer analysis, a tactic isn’t good or bad because it looks that way. It is simply good if it works and bad if it doesn’t

In July 2007, after a history reckoned to stretch back almost 4,000 years, the game of draughts was finally solved. After two decades of work, a team of computer scientists at the University of Alberta finished sifting through the 500 billion, billion possible positions on the board. Their computer programme, Chinook, was now unbeatable. So long as neither player made a mistake, every game it played was guaranteed to end in a stalemate. Later that same summer, Peter Moores was appointed as head coach of the England cricket team. Moores was one of the new breed of coaches. A numbers man, and disciple of Michael Lewis’s much abused book, Moneyball. He even gave a copy to his batting coach, Andy Flower. Moores was so keen on advanced computer analysis that he used it as the sole basis for some of his decisions – the decision to recall Ryan Sidebottom to the side, for instance.

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Tuesday, March 3rd, 2015 03:25 pm

Posted by Scott Hunt

The German-born Austrian F1 driver, who was killed in practice before the Italian Grand Prix in 1970, remains the only man to posthumously win the world championship
• The 10 most dramatic F1 races of all time

Regular viewers of BBC’s Pointless will tell you that when a question arises asking the contestants to name a Formula One driver, two answers are normally given – Juan Pablo Montoya and Jochen Rindt. Both were great Formula One drivers of their respective eras and yet now earn maximum points on a quiz show that rewards obscure knowledge. It is enough to make hardened F1 observers shake their heads with disbelief.

While it may be understandable that Montoya’s exploits in the early 2000s have been overlooked, Rindt’s drives in the 1960s and 70s definitely deserve more widespread appreciation, especially given the German-born Austrian is the only posthumous F1 world champion. Scratch below the surface and you unearth a story that cuts to the heart of motor racing. A story of speed, aggression and an unquenchable will to win in the face of life-threatening danger.

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Tuesday, March 3rd, 2015 02:35 pm

Posted by Nilanjana S Roy

By giving a rapist a platform to justify his terrible crime, India’s Daughter risks reinforcing the views that have normalised violence against women

It was at a campus protest in March 2013 that I heard that Ram Singh had been found hanged in Delhi’s Tihar jail.

All through that winter, women and men had been out on the city’s streets, marching and organising in search of an elusive justice and equality. The city had been in a state of seething unrest since 29 December 2012, when Jyoti Singh, a medical student in her 20s, died of terrible injuries inflicted on her by a group of men who raped and tortured her on a bus. Ram Singh was one of those men.

In this, there is a very real risk of turning a rapist into the Twitter celebrity of the day

Related: India’s Daughter: ‘I made a film on rape in India. Men’s brutal attitudes truly shocked me’

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Tuesday, March 3rd, 2015 02:31 pm

Posted by Ami Sedghi

Fashion’s fascination with trainers has grown steadily over the last few years. See the rise of the trend in charts

Trainers have been having something of a moment in the fashion world over the past few years. From glittering versions on the Chanel catwalk to minimalist versions that have become the statement shoe of choice, it seems this trend - practical as well as stylish - can be seen as readily on the feet of the fashion pack as a designer handbag can be spotted dangling off an arm.

Although it’s certainly not the first time fashion has embraced trainers, this latest fascination, which as Lauren Cochrane points out started a few years ago in the year of the 2012 Olympics, has grown steadily since.

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Tuesday, March 3rd, 2015 03:35 pm

Posted by Tim Worstall

It’s a standard finding that the poor live less long than the rich. Given that access to health care is at least partially dependent upon income everywhere this is as we would expect. It’s also true that the higher income groups tend to be the more educated and thus more likely to change their lifestyles to take account of dietary and smoking advice, as another example. However, it’s also a fairly standard, if more modern, claim, that inequality itself either reduces the lifespans of the poor or, in the extreme version promulgated by Richard Wilkinson, reduces all lifespans. It has to be said that that last is really very difficult indeed to believe given that in-country inequality has been increasing in recent years while lifespans have also been increasing in those same countries.

However, almost by chance, today we’ve got two pieces that address exactly this point. The first is from a UCLA paper in the American Journal of Public Health:

But a commentary by researchers at the UCLA Fielding School of Public Health points out another disturbing impact of income inequality: its effect on people’s health. The article appears in the current online edition of the American Journal of Public Health.

It has long been recognized that, even beyond access to high quality health care, people’s income is a key factor in determining how healthy people are. But the commentary provides evidence that the degree of income inequality also can lead to a long list of health issues, including shortened life expectancy and poorer self-reported health status.

Dr. Linda Rosenstock, the report’s senior author, said lower- and sometimes middle-income wage workers often face additional workplace stresses that take a toll on their health — among them, lower pay, lack of paid sick leave, an inability to find full-time work, the need to work double shifts to make ends meet. Those challenges can lead to high levels of stress, exhaustion, cardiovascular disease, lower life expectancy and obesity, and the effects can easily trickle down to impact families and children.

That is pretty much the standard view. Not only that the poor have shorter lifespans simply because they are poorer (ie, live in worse housing, more polluted areas, have worse diets and so on) but also that inequality itself contributes to these shorter lifespans.

As it happens, Lane Kenworthy has a paper out which comes to the opposite conclusion. It’s worth noting that Kenworthy is not, unlike myself, some reflexive knee-jerk right winger. He’s very much on the left and is also a careful and thoughtful scholar. Here’s his conclusion on this particular point:

A large number of studies have concluded that income inequality is indeed negatively correlated with average life expectancy.21 However, virtually all of these studies are cross-sectional. They examine the association between the level of income inequality and the level of life expectancy across nations, regions, counties, or cities at a single point in time. Studies analyzing differences in differences across countries have not found a negative association between changes in income inequality and changes in life expectancy.22 Several relatively comprehensive reviews therefore conclude that the empirical case for an effect of income inequality on life expectancy is very thin.23 The most recent of these summarizes this conclusion in the following way: “A few high-quality studies find that inequality is negatively correlated with population health, but the preponderance of evidence suggests that the relationship between income inequality and health is either non-existent or too fragile to show up in a robustly estimated panel specification. The best cross-national studies now uniformly fail to find a statistically reliable relationship between economic inequality and longevity.”24

Life expectancy data are estimates, based on current mortality data and projections of future trends. They are nevertheless regarded as fairly reliable for comparison both across countries and over time. Life expectancy increased in all of the countries during these three decades. The eighteen-nation average rose from 74 years in 1979 to 80 years in 2007. In most of these countries, income inequality increased during this period. This suggests that if inequality does adversely affect life expectancy, its effect has been weaker than that of whatever has been driving improvements in longevity — increased access to medical care, improved quality of medical care, better diet, more exercise, less smoking, and so on. If income inequality has adversely affected longevity, it has done so by slowing the degree of increase over time.

We can’t actually find the effect that UCLA is talking about when we study populations over time. I therefore tend to think that it’s an artifact of the methods used to measure it, not something that is really there.

And there’s another reason why I tend not to believe the thesis. Wilkinson, he of the most extreme interpretation of it, wrote a book called The Spirit Level. He picks up those same cross country (but not over time) studies and insists that they show that inequality causes those different lifespans. His causative factor is similar to the one UCLA is using: the stress of being unequal kills people.

Hmm, well, maybe, is there any way to test this? For he does point out that what he really means is social inequality is what kills people. But he uses economic inequality as a proxy for that (we don’t really have good measurements of social inequality and rigidity). However, in his data set he’s got Japan as being an economically equal country and it has those lifespans to match it. Thumbs up for his theory so far then. But Japan is notoriously, while economically quite equal, not socially equal at all. The social stratification and social divide in that country is very much larger than it is in the UK or US, despite the greater economic inequality in those two countries. So it cannot be that it’s the social stress of being socially unequal (which is, recall, Wilkinson’s causative factor, as with the UCLA paper) which causes the variance in lifespans. And that’s roughly what Kenworthy has found: when you look at inequality and lifespans over time and countries we can’t actually see any evidence of correlation let alone causation.

In the end, of course, this does rather come down to who you want to believe and whose methods you approve of. My own sympathies lie with Kenworthy. While we are ideologically very different indeed I’ve been most impressed with the manner in which he confronts unwelcome truths in the field of taxation for example. He has, for some time now, pointed out that the US has a more progressive taxation system than other OECD nations, not as is commonly thought, a less progressive one. Further, he desires a social democracy in the US and he’s one of the very few who desire that who is also willing to point out the taxation burden that would be required. One that could not, possibly, be achieved simply by taxing the rich a bit more. A nationwide VAT system would have to be introduced to even begin to pay for such a social democracy.

I don’t agree with Kenworthy but I certainly do respect his work and his willingness to make uncomfortable points that make his underlying case rather more difficult to prove. So, on that balance of probabilities even if nothing else I’m inclined to believe him here. Inequality, as inequality itself, doesn’t decrease lifespans. Poverty obviously does but those two simply are not the same thing.