Saturday, March 31, 2012

OMG online armageddon coming April 1?

Anonymous unmasked: The collective's disruptive influence

By Catherine Solyom
Saturday, March 31, 2012
A demonstrator wears a Guy Fawkes mask – one of the defining symbols of the Anonymous collective – during a protest against austerity measures last month in Athens, Greece. Fawkes was an Englishman who was involved in a failed plot to bomb the British Parliament in 1605. The masks in his image were popularized by the comic-book series and 2006 film V for Vendetta, in which a shadowy freedom fighter uses terrorist tactics to rebel against a totalitarian society. Members of Anonymous have worn the masks in public since their 2008 protests against the Church of Scientology. (Photograph by: Milos Bicanski , Getty Images)

Hack the planet – save the world.

That’s become the rallying cry of an army of keyboard warriors known as Anonymous, which in the last 18 months has targeted everyone from the Tunisian government to the Boston police, the Vatican to Sony, Public Safety Minister Vic Toews to PayPal, blocking their websites or retrieving embarrassing files and emails for the world to see.
MONTREAL - The elusive “hacktivist” collective, identified only by its logo of a headless man in a suit or its Guy Fawkes masks, has hacked into the Syrian defence ministry and Bank of America. It has eavesdropped on Scotland Yard and the FBI. And it has outed alleged white supremacists across Canada, including a couple in Quebec City.

With over 15 million page views on its main news website and more than 560,000 Twitter followers, it’s clear the world is paying attention to this nascent form of politics – and for good cause.

According to a report by Verizon released last week, 2011 was a bumper year for hacktivists. Their activities accounted for 58 per cent of all data theft (or about 100 million files), beating out hackers for profit in their zeal to steal state and corporate secrets, to promote their views or defend their followers.

In 2012 they have kept up the pace. Anonymous has vowed to shut down the Internet altogether on Saturday as a protest against new anti-piracy legislation, Wall Street, “our irresponsible leaders and the beloved bankers who are starving the world for their own selfish needs out of sheer sadistic fun.”

Then again, it might just be a pre-April Fool’s Day prank.

If and when they do create online Armageddon is almost irrelevant.

With about 2 billion people now connected to the Internet, the mere threat of global action by Anonymous – online terrorists to some, heroes to others – is enough to instill fear in corporations and governments alike.

Whether Anonymous can remain anonymous in the face of increased surveillance remains to be seen, however. Over the last year the group has had its share of setbacks, with arrests taking place around the world, in part thanks to traitors in their midst.

Back in 2004, as university students were waking up to Facebook, a very different type of Internet community, known as 4chan, was attracting non-Facebook types – the kind who wanted to share ideas and images, but not their snapshots, personal histories or even their names.

Contributors to 4chan did not need to register, they were not censored, and they most often signed their postings “anonymous” as they discussed everything from Japanese comics to hard-core pornography. (The Guardian once described the community as “lunatic, juvenile ... brilliant, ridiculous and alarming.”)

Then in 2006, 4chan members stepped outside their own forum and took aim at neo-Nazi Hal Turner, by launching a distributed denial of service attack – or DDoS – and prank-calling his radio phone-in show. (In a DDoS attack, hundreds or thousands of computers or mobile phones flood a website with requests for information, to overload the server so it cannot respond to legitimate requests.)

Later targets of 4chan included Sarah Palin, Justin Bieber and YouTube, which got on 4chan’s bad side for deleting music files and blocking a user under the age of 13.

By 2008, however, some of 4chan’s users had formed Anonymous and had zeroed in on one target: the Church of Scientology. In order to shield themselves from the litigious church, the protesters wore the now ubiquitous Guy Fawkes masks, popularized by the comic-book series and 2006 film V for Vendetta.

“As it turns out, it was a seminal moment for the group, when they first appeared in real life,” says filmmaker Brian Knappenberger, whose documentary on Anonymous, We Are Legion: The Story of the Hacktivists, premiered at the South by Southwest festival in Austin, Texas this month. “I was compelled to know what was going on with this group that was on the streets, wearing these masks created by a science fiction author, protesting a religion created by a science fiction author. This was a weird scene. Somehow they materialized out of the air, out of the Internet, and were called forth to the streets to protest what they saw as a restriction on freedom of speech on the part of Scientology.”

Knappenberger was surprised to see how the movement grew from there. Though Scientology remains one of Anonymous’s targets, a new wave of DDoS attacks on Visa, MasterCard and PayPal at the end of 2010 truly put the group on the map. Operation Avenge Assange, which made PayPal unavailable to users, was in retaliation for PayPal suspending its account with WikiLeaks, after the latter published classified U.S. government documents. Without PayPal, supporters could no longer donate online to WikiLeaks or its founder, Julian Assange.

“It was clear they were going somewhere, and I wanted to see where,” Knappenberger said.

Freedom of speech and Internet freedom are the two causes the group has consistently defended since 2008, including the freedom to share movies and music online, sometimes in violation of copyright law. As a protest against the Stop Online Piracy Act – which has since been shelved – and after law enforcement agencies shut down Megaupload, a file-sharing site with 50 million users, Anonymous launched its biggest attack ever in January. Within hours, it overloaded the websites of the FBI, U.S. Department of Justice, Universal Music Group, the Recording Industry Association of America, the Motion Picture Association of America and Warner Music Group, among others.

Since then, Anonymous has brought down the websites of the Boston police, in response to its handling of Occupy protesters; New York Iron Works, which supplies tactical clothing and equipment to police in and around New York; and the Vatican, to protest child sexual abuse by priests, to name just a few. In December, it stole 5 million emails and credit card information from Strategic Forecasting (Stratfor), a global intelligence company, embarrassing the company for its lax security and allegedly using the credit cards to donate to charities. In February, WikiLeaks began publishing the emails, including one in which the vice-president of Stratfor said Assange would “make a nice bride in prison” and will “be eating cat food forever.”

Gabriella Coleman, an anthropologist who specializes in digital media, hackers and the law, describes today’s Anonymous as an octopus with tentacles in both regional and international politics.

“It was so interesting to see this phenomenon that was all about Internet trolling and hellraising and pranking develop a political conscience. But it was so contained,” said Coleman, who teaches at McGill. “Then in the last year and a half, it has burst out of this niche and grown tentacles of all sorts.”

One of the reasons why Anonymous gets so much attention is because it is provocative, subversive and unpredictable, Coleman says.

Asked whether it uses politics as an excuse for hellraising, Coleman said, “Yeah, sure, they are a little bit wild and crazy and some individuals who participate don’t necessarily have justice or human good in mind. But a great majority in the political network do. But everyone has a different definition or sensibility, because there’s no universal mandate.”

In fact, anyone who wants to be Anonymous is – whatever their politics. According to the FAQ at AnonNews (, “Anonymous does not have a membership list, and you can’t really ‘join’ it either. If you identify with or say you are Anonymous, you are Anonymous. No one has the authority to say whether you are Anonymous or not, except for yourself.” And while some operations, like DDoS, require thousands of participants working from their computers or hand-held devices, other hacks can be the work of a single person.

Not surprisingly, there have been ideological and regional differences. According to Knappenberger and Coleman, both of whom have communicated with Anonymous members, there was a lot of disagreement about whether to attack media sites, like Fox News, or PBS, when it aired a less-than-flattering portrait of Assange.

And while some members erected digital picket lines around the Egyptian government last year – forcing its websites off-line until Hosni Mubarak stepped down as president – others targeted the Ku Klux Klan, (a website run by the Westboro Baptist Church in Kansas) and in Hungary.

For both Knappenberger and Coleman, these “virtual sit-ins” stem from a feeling of disenfranchisement by youths who don’t feel they can make themselves heard through real-life protests. The Anonymous movement has picked up where the Occupy protests left off, after protesters were driven from the streets in some cities by pepper spray and rubber bullets.

“This is a group that has grown up on the Internet and sees promise and potential on the Internet, and is deeply offended with acts of intrusion or surveillance and restrictions,” said Knappenberger.

“Anonymous doesn’t pretend that because they exist, the financial crisis will be over or health care will be given to everyone in the U.S.,” Coleman said. “But they represent the desire for political change, and they get a certain generation excited about the possibility.”

Among the posts to its forum last week was a plea from a Quebec student protesting tuition hikes: “The government refuses to listen and refuses to even talk with students or professors. ... I am begging you Anonymous, get the word out, we are being oppressed and no one can help.”

Of course, one person’s freedom fighter is another’s terrorist, and while Anonymous’s hacktivist attacks have garnered support in some quarters, the group has also created many powerful enemies and propelled law enforcement into action.

Gene McLean, a former RCMP officer and now managing director of the cyber-security firm Digital Wyzdom, makes no distinction between those who hack for profit and those who hack for a cause, whatever that cause may be.

“To me, they’ve broken the law. They may not have picked a lock to get in your office, but they’ve accessed your files and broken your privacy. So whether it’s for political posturing, airing someone’s dirty laundry to hurt them or breaking in to steal information and manipulate it into cash, it’s illegal and unethical.

There’s no way to sell it.”

Clearly that’s also the view of the FBI and Interpol, which have made significant arrests. The PayPal 14, as they are known, were arrested and charged in July with conspiracy and intentional damage to a protected computer for their alleged participation in the DDoS attack on PayPal. The 12 men and two women, aged 20 to 42, were arrested in eight states and the District of Columbia; each faces 15 years in jail and a $500,000 fine. A judge this month ruled that while awaiting trial they could re-access their Twitter accounts; their bail conditions had included a ban on using the service.

In February, Interpol, working with local police forces, arrested 25 alleged members of Anonymous in 15 European and South American cities for allegedly hacking into Colombia’s Ministry of Defence and the president’s website, Chile’s Endesa electricity company and its national library. In Operation Unmask, officers seized computer equipment, mobile phones, payment cards and cash, as part of an investigation into the hackers’ source of funding. Six new arrests were made in the Dominican Republic as part of the same operation on Wednesday.

“This operation shows that crime in the virtual world does have real consequences for those involved, and that the Internet cannot be seen as a safe haven for criminal activity, no matter where it originates or where it is targeted,” said Bernd Rossbach, acting Interpol executive director of police services.

That said, investigating a group without a face, adept at not leaving a digital footprint, is no easy task.

McLean, who in his RCMP days uncovered the Rizzuto crime family’s bank accounts in Switzerland, says it’s always possible to find out how someone hacked into a website or email account, but often impossible to pinpoint the culprit.

“I don’t want to give them any more bragging rights,” McLean said. “But when you’re called Anonymous and no one knows who’s on the team, including yourselves, it’s tough. … The method without fail is discovered. But can you identify them? Sometimes yes, sometimes no.”

And if you do identify them, the problem becomes how to prosecute them if they are in another jurisdiction.

“It’s a moving target to get your hands on.”

McLean worries that despite the threat to individual corporations, for whom a stolen secret can mean millions of dollars in lost revenue, hacking in general is not taken seriously. It can still fall under the category of theft over $5,000. As for hacktivism, he says, “if it doesn’t bleed” it’s not a priority for law enforcement.

“Cops are too busy working on the latest stabbing or shooting, but for a lot of cyber crime they don’t have the expertise or numbers of officers who are highly skilled.”

RCMP Staff Sergeant. Marc Moreau, who has been working on cyber crime since 1994, says the division’s staff has grown considerably, from 50 officers across Canada in 2001 to 170 today. But given that they are called upon for their technical expertise in investigations of all sorts – virtually every investigation today involves some sort of digital device – they are busy, Moreau said. And they are constantly trying to keep up with hackers and hacktivists who employ new strategies and software every day.

Recent arrests may have sent a chill through Anonymous, but whatever long-term effect they have on the collective will depend on the outcome of the trials, particularly the fate of the PayPal 14, Gabriella Coleman says.

“If the punishment for participating in a campaign is stiff, it can make people think twice about it.”

There is also the threat to Anonymous from within. This month it was revealed that one of the more radical participants in the group, New York resident Hector Xavier Monsegur, a.k.a. Sabu, had been arrested and turned informant with the FBI at least seven months ago. Sabu’s collaboration led to the arrests of five alleged hacktivists from LulzSec, a splinter group of Anonymous, who are believed to be responsible for the attack on Stratfor, among other things. The Stratfor emails were passed from Anonymous to WikiLeaks through an FBI-owned computer.

Given how decentralized the collective is, members of Anonymous say the risk of infiltrators being able to identify other hackers is minimal. If there are no leaders, no leaders can be identified.

And as one Anon said in an email to The Gazette, if some are arrested, others will take their place.

 “Anonymous cannot be killed any more than communism or pacifism. No matter how many you remove, there will always still be a few of us left. ... Ideas are bulletproof.”

But the risk of losing focus as Anonymous continues to expand its reach may be more significant.

It is already sometimes difficult to distinguish who is Anonymous from who is merely anonymous. A Briton last month stole thousands of records from an abortion provider’s website, and when arrested claimed to be part of Anonymous. Last week a trademark video was posted threatening European nations who kept their borders open, but was quickly disowned by Anonymous Sweden.

And there have been threats to shut down Facebook and the entire electric grid, often repeated to show Anonymous’s sinister side, even though Anonymous has steadfastly denied having any such intentions.

For Coleman, Anonymous will have staying power as long as it remains unpredictable and reacts to world events. The iconography of the headless man in a suit, and the Guy Fawkes mask, has the potential to become this generation’s peace symbols, she said.

But for McLean, the cyber-sleuth, Anonymous should be a wake-up call to all governments and corporations to lock their online doors and windows, before hackers for profit and hacktivists decide to join forces.

“I think we’ll see the political hacktivist and cyber-criminal thieves come together and share information,” McLean said. “It’s a natural evolution. And if that happens, then they will be propelled to another level – to a criminal empire.”

Hey! This is not funny who just turned off the lights?

Friday, March 30, 2012

Reality blogger?

Sarah Jones, Bengals cheerleader, indicted for having sex with student
The 26-year-old made headlines when she sued for a derogatory post

By Nina Mandell
Friday, March 30, 2012
Sara Jones is accused of having sex with a student at Dixie Heights High School where she taught English. (Police Handout)

The captain of the Cincinnati Bengals cheerleading squad was indicted for having sex with a student while she was working as a teacher at a Kentucky high school.

Investigators claim that Sarah Jones, 26, had sex with a 16-year-old high school football player four or five times in her apartment and exchanged numerous text messages with the student, the Cincinnati Enquirer reported.

Her mother, Cheryl Jones, was also indicted on tampering with evidence.

"Sarah has maintained her innocence. The indictment of her mother is completely baseless," the Jones' lawyer, Charles T. Lester Jr., said in a statement to the newspaper.

Sarah Jones resigned from her job at Dixie Heights High where she taught freshman English late last year, citing "personal reasons," but remains the captain of the Ben-Gals cheerleading squad, WPTV reports.

"The club is aware of the situation, and it's an ongoing process to collect the information that can guide appropriate actions as warranted," the Bengals said in a statement to Local 12 News.

Cheryl Jones, who is a middle school principal, is being held on a $30,000 bond at the Kenton County Detention Center. Sarah Jones is being held on a $50,000 bond.

The cheerleader made national news in 2009 after she sued founder Nik Richie for a picture posted of her claiming that she had had sex with Bengals players and other posts claiming that she had a sexually transmitted disease.

She claimed those allegations were completely untrue and last year told ABC her life had been destroyed.

"I literally broke down," she told “20/20” in June of 2011. “I worked my butt off to make sure I had a clean, great reputation and then it was ruined by one post.”

That case became a nationally discussed example of online bullying.

“I think I hit rock bottom when a student said she would never learn from a slut like me,” she told “20/20.”

While she was originally awarded an $11 million default judgment for defamation, litigation in that case continues.

That case is expected back in court in June.

The site, of course, had six posts reporting on Sarah Jones’ arrest as of Friday morning.
Cincinnati Bengals cheerleader Sarah performs during an NFL preseason football game last year.

video platformvideo managementvideo solutionsvideo player

So we went to .....

Why it took so long!

Good Day Readers:

This is an excellent piece of behind-the-scenes investigative journalism by veteran Winnipeg Free Press reporter Kevin Rollason.
Are you reading and learning journalism students?

Clare L. Pieuk
Doubts dogged trial from start
'... We don't have a case that we can win'

By Kevin Rollason
Friday, March 30, 2012
Mark Stobbe waits as his lawyer, Tim Killeen, speaks to the media on Thursday after Stobbe was acquitted of killing his wife. (Trevor Hagan/The Canadian Press)

Mark Stobbe was found not guilty of murdering his wife, Beverly Rowbotham -- but well before the trial even began, several out-of-province prosecutors figured there wasn't even a case against him.

In fact, while they expressed suspicions, four Alberta-based Crowns didn't believe the evidence was strong enough to charge Stobbe with the slaying in the first place. At least that was their opinion after looking at the same evidence the jurors would see later during the two-month trial and testimony from more than 80 witnesses.
And the prosecutors would have recommended Manitoba not charge Stobbe because they believed RCMP investigators hadn't built a strong enough case. That explains why the murder case was in limbo for several years until a fifth Crown attorney -- this time in British Columbia -- reviewed the same evidence repackaged by the RCMP's cold case unit and recommended a charge of second-degree murder.

But we don't know why that Crown prosecutor recommended charging Stobbe, because a Manitoba judge was later told the lawyer is sick and can no longer give "meaningful information."

Even the Crown attorney prosecuting Stobbe admits the case against him is entirely circumstantial with no direct or eyewitness evidence.

There are only a few facts that are clear in the case.

Rowbotham was viciously attacked with a hatchet or axe in the backyard of her St. Andrews home on October 25, 2000. Her body was put into the back seat of the family's Crown Victoria and driven to Selkirk where the car was abandoned.

A few hours later, the woman's body was discovered after Selkirk RCMP started looking for her after getting a phone call from a worried Stobbe.

But beyond that, even the Crown admits the rest of the evidence is all circumstantial.

Because Stobbe worked in a government department that would advise then-premier Gary Doer, the decision was made to hire an out-of-province prosecutor.

Alberta Crown attorney Gary McCuaig was hired by the Manitoba prosecutions branch to review the investigation on November 14, 2000.

But less than a week later -- and less than a month after the slaying -- McCuaig surprised RCMP investigators when he told them "there was not enough evidence to arrest/charge Stobbe."

It wouldn't be the last time RCMP investigators were offered that recommendation.

In fact, McCuaig went even further by suggesting RCMP "shelve" the investigation for up to two months to see if anything else popped up.

"Members of the investigation team were shocked and dismayed that a senior Crown attorney would suggest: 1) that the investigation of Beverly Rowbotham's murder be shelved; and 2) that investigators take a wait-and-see approach in a homicide investigation," McCuaig wrote.

More than a year later, during a meeting that was taped between McCuaig and RCMP investigators on April 3, 2002, after he had again reviewed the investigation findings -- and in between had two other Alberta prosecutors review the material and agree with his opinion -- he again told them "there was not sufficient evidence for a reasonable likelihood of conviction."

"Here's my view: We can prove when this happened, how it happened and where it happened... but we can't prove who and we can't prove why. And I think those, in this case, are fatal.

"And I don't think we can say in the end that without a doubt someone else could not have done it."

McCuaig also told the RCMP some of the evidence they believed implicated Stobbe could be turned around by the defence to say an unknown assailant had killed the woman.

He said while RCMP believed two buttons found in the backyard must have come from clothes that Stobbe was wearing and had disposed of, it could also be argued they came from somebody else. Same with a footprint found on Rowbotham's hat in the car, but not matched to any footwear Stobbe had in the house.

Put those two pieces of evidence together, along with a sample of unknown male DNA found by police on her purse strap in the car and "you've got, you know, a nice big red herring for the court that there's somebody else who has had contact with her," McCuaig said.

"I think we have a pretty good case, but we don't have a case that we can win."

McCuaig said the only thing left for investigators would be to launch an undercover investigation against Stobbe "but that wouldn't work with this guy" at this time.

But RCMP investigators countered they believed only Stobbe could have committed the slaying because not only did they believe the evidence pointed toward him but also because of something that happened when they asked to search the house.

"All of a sudden (Stobbe's) demeanor changed," RCMP Corporal Jack Van Dam told McCuaig.

"Up until that point he seemed... like a victim should be acting. But then all of a sudden, when we came there to ask him for a search at his residence, then all of a sudden his demeanor... his expressions on his face... the tone of his voice, everything changed."

But the Crown countered even that argument was dampened because Stobbe had informed police he didn't want them to disturb his young children and he had already brought an officer inside to have dinner with the family.

As well, court documents showed that at the time, Stobbe even invited an officer to stay in the house overnight.

RCMP investigators not only disagreed with the Crown's opinion, they "remained firm in the belief that sufficient grounds existed to charge Stobbe," and they sent a letter to Manitoba Justice asking for another review.

In September 2002, assistant chief Crown prosecutor Larry Stein, of Alberta Justice, concluded his review writing "The suspect probably killed his wife and I am highly suspicious that he did, but without more evidence I am not satisfied we could prove it beyond a reasonable doubt."

And, once again looking at the RCMP's insistence Stobbe hadn't let them in the house to do a voluntary search, Stein responded: "What murderer would invite the police in to dine with them if there was a risk of uncovering incriminating evidence?

"The suspect's actions here are far too consistent with innocence."

Ken Tjosvold, Alberta's Assistant Deputy Minister of Justice, was the final word on the case, summing up all the reviews to date in a September 10, 2002, letter to R. Embury, then Chief Superintendent of Manitoba RCMP, by saying: "We have at this point had four experienced prosecutors look at this case carefully.

"In my view, they have made a thorough assessment of the evidence in light of the proper charging standard."

But despite a lack of support from prosecutors, the RCMP kept working to have Stobbe charged.

A few years later, after the Department's cold case unit reviewed the evidence again, RCMP asked Manitoba prosecutions to take another look.

Investigators claimed they had new evidence. But later, Stobbe's defence counsel, Tim Killeen, told Justice Chris Martin he couldn't find anything not already known in the days after Rowbotham's slaying in more than 20,000 pages of evidence disclosed to him.

Even Martin, in a pre-trial decision, pointed out that while RCMP continued investigating between 2002 and 2007, "their efforts did not result in new material evidence, but rather... considerable re-analysis of the evidence."

Stobbe was finally charged in May 2008, after a Crown attorney in British Columbia looked at the RCMP case, and his trial began in late January before a Court of Queen's Bench jury.

A spokeswoman for Manitoba Justice said the department would not comment on the advice given by any of the out-of-province prosecutors in connection to the Stobbe case.

Prosecutors in both Alberta and British Columbia could not be reached for comment.

A legal house of cards

HERE are some of the holes in the case and weaknesses of the investigation against Mark Stobbe, from an August 9, 2002, letter from Assistant Chief Crown Prosecutor Larry Stein of Alberta to Ken Tjosvold, Alberta's Assistant Deputy Minister of Justice:

1. There is no direct or eyewitness evidence.

2. Mark Stobbe's story that his wife, Beverly Rowbotham, went grocery shopping the night of her death -- just hours after spending more than $100 on food at a store -- is possible. "People forget grocery items.

Indeed, a shopping list was found in her pant pocket at the autopsy."

3. Stobbe's claim he watched baseball on TV and phoned family members before lying down with his three-year-old son and falling asleep until hours later. It was later found there was a baseball game on TV and he did call relatives. "The version he has provided is plausible and the prosecution has no evidence whatsoever to refute his story however preposterous we may think it is... indeed the plausibility of his story... would tend to lead to a rational conclusion alternative to guilty."

4. Stobbe showed no signs of typical post-offence conduct including flight, destroying or attempting to destroy evidence, concocting a false alibi or lying or resisting arrest. "On the contrary, all of the evidence indicates that the person acted in a manner one might have expected to be consistent with an innocent person. He called the police, he remained at home, he attended his wife's funeral and he was available for investigative purposes." The Crown said an expert believed there should be more blood in the backyard, given Rowbotham's wounds, but even if you speculate someone cleaned up the crime scene, "there is no evidence whatsoever to prove (Stobbe) did it."

5. If Stobbe cleaned up the backyard, why didn't he clean up the garage? "It may be that he is not the killer or it may be he is, but didn't have time to clean it up... We have no evidence who cleaned up the scene and it would be speculative to suggest no one but the suspect did it."

6. Why didn't Stobbe hear his wife scream in the backyard? "There is no evidence that the victim in fact screamed. For all we know, she may have immediately been incapacitated, thereby preventing her from screaming.

7. Was Stobbe predisposed for violence? "To the contrary, by all accounts (Stobbe) and deceased were a loving and happy couple.

8. Nothing suggests Rowbotham was fearful of Stobbe. It "is consistent with death caused by some unknown person... the strength of this evidence is more harmful to the prosecution than helpful."

9. No relevant fingerprint evidence. He lived at the house and used the car.

10. Opportunity to kill Rowbotham. Stobbe was at home but "can it be proven he had exclusive opportunity? In my opinion no. The fatal attack took place outside where the public would have access. The matter would be entirely different if the attack occurred inside the home."

11. No murder weapon found. Without a weapon "the case is merely speculative on the issue of what it actually was. And without it, the suspect cannot be tied to the offence. Its absence is equally consistent with the suspect's story that someone else was the murderer."

12. Motive. "Proven absence of motive is an important factor supportive of innocence... there is no positive evidence the suspect had a motive to kill his wife... The suspect had a loving relationship with his wife, his children, no money problems, etc. Why would he need to kill his wife?"

13. No blood on Stobbe's clothing or anything inside the house. And the strongest DNA evidence, mixed blood from both Stobbe and Rowbotham on a refrigerator in the garage, can also be turned around. The blood on the fridge supports the theory Stobbe was bleeding when he brought Rowbotham into the garage, but "there is no evidence whatsoever that he was injured in any way when the police dealt with him... there is an equally consistent alternative explanation that it got there at some other time because there was no evidence of injury to the suspect upon police involvement."

14. Unknown male DNA on the strap of Rowbotham's purse. "This leaves open the possibility that the unknown male DNA was deposited by the actual killer in an attempt to take the deceased's purse."

15. Wiretap evidence. Nothing points to Stobbe.
Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition March 30, 2012 A4

How say you Your Lordship?

Good Day Readers:

We thought it a tad harsh, unfair and unwarranted when a Winnipeg Sun columnist recently gave Mayor Sam "Smiley" Katz the prestigious Jerk Of The Year Award after all aren't there bigger jerks out there? 

How can His Lordship redeem himself? Easy, introduce pole dancing at city council meetings. Besides, if nothing else it will enliven them while improving attendance.

Clare L. Pieuk


Now that brothels are legal perhaps Mayor Katz could see his way clear to have some sort of demonstration  at City Hall.
Pole dancer performs for Toronto city councillor
City committee reviewing rules for strip clubs

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Committee on the pole

It’s not often the words “city councillor” and “pole dancing” appear in a news story that isn’t about some kind of sordid sex scandal.

But on Thursday afternoon a pole dancer performed for Toronto council members during a committee meeting at city hall.

The pole dancer was there as the city’s licensing and standards committee reviews its guidelines on what acts are allowed — and which ones are verboten — inside city strip clubs.

The pole dancer performed (fully clothed) for a few minutes to give council members an idea about what goes on behind the closed doors of Toronto strip clubs.

Owners of the clubs are asking for guidelines from the city and in many cases want the rules relaxed.
The pole-dancer's performance triggered an immediate response on Twitter.

Coun. Janet Davis sent out this message on Twitter, and included a jibe at Councillor Giorgio Mammoliti, who often talks about the need for a red-light district in Toronto: “OMG. Watching Lic. Cttee live pole-dancing! AND they're talking about what sexual activity is acceptable in adult entertmnt. Where's Mammo?”
Councillor Mike Layton also took to Twitter:

“We've entered a new low at City Hall. An adult entertainer was just permitted to perform for the Licensing and Standards committee.”

In the alternative he could have been more taxpayer efficient and asked "Helicopter Pete" to help him!

World's stupidest inventions ..... then again

One-touch refrigerator pizza ordering magnet

The Score: Hackers =1 Canada's Ministery of Public Safety = 0 ..... "Offence always beats defence!

U. S. Outgunned in Hacker War
Wednesday, March 28, 2012
WASHINGTON—The Federal Bureau of Investigation's top cyber cop offered a grim appraisal of the nation's efforts to keep computer hackers from plundering corporate data networks: "We're not winning," he said.

WJS's Devlin Barrett reports the FBI is struggling to combat cyberattacks by hackers." We're not winning," FBI Executive Assistant Director Shawn Henry said. (AP Photo/Haraz N. Ghanbari)

Shawn Henry, who is preparing to leave the FBI after more than two decades with the bureau, said in an interview that the current public and private approach to fending off hackers is "unsustainable.'' Computer criminals are simply too talented and defensive measures too weak to stop them, he said.

His comments weren't directed at specific legislation but came as Congress considers two competing measures designed to buttress the networks for critical U.S. infrastructure, such as electrical-power plants and nuclear reactors. Though few cybersecurity experts disagree on the need for security improvements, business advocates have argued that the new regulations called for in one of the bills aren't likely to better protect computer networks.

Mr. Henry, who is leaving government to take a cybersecurity job with an undisclosed firm in Washington, said companies need to make major changes in the way they use computer networks to avoid further damage to national security and the economy. Too many companies, from major multinationals to small start-ups, fail to recognize the financial and legal risks they are taking—or the costs they may have already suffered unknowingly—by operating vulnerable networks, he said.
"You never get ahead, never become secure, never have a reasonable expectation of privacy or security," says Shawn Henry, Executive Associate Director of the FBI. (Associated Press)

"I don't see how we ever come out of this without changes in technology or changes in behavior, because with the status quo, it's an unsustainable model. Unsustainable in that you never get ahead, never become secure, never have a reasonable expectation of privacy or security,'' Mr. Henry said.

James A. Lewis, a senior fellow on cybersecurity at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, said that as gloomy as Mr. Henry's assessment may sound, "I am actually a little bit gloomier. I think we've lost the opening battle [with hackers].'' Mr. Lewis said he didn't believe there was a single secure, unclassified computer network in the U.S.

"There's a kind of willful desire not to admit how bad things are, both in government and certainly in the private sector, so I could see how [Mr. Henry] would be frustrated,'' he added.

High-profile hacking victims have included Sony Corp., SNE -0.95% which said last year that hackers had accessed personal information on 24.6 million customers on one of its online game services as part of a broader attack on the company that compromised data on more than 100 million accounts. Nasdaq OMX Group Inc., NDAQ +0.50% which operates the Nasdaq Stock Market, also acknowledged last year that hackers had breached a part of its network called Directors Desk, a service for company boards to communicate and share documents. HBGary Federal, a cybersecurity firm, was infiltrated by the hacking collective called Anonymous, which stole tens of thousands of internal emails from the company.

Mr. Henry has played a key role in expanding the FBI's cybersecurity capabilities. In 2002, when the FBI reorganized to put more of its resources toward protecting computer networks, it handled nearly 1,500 hacking cases. Eight years later, that caseload had grown to more than 2,500.

Mr. Henry said FBI agents are increasingly coming across data stolen from companies whose executives had no idea their systems had been accessed.

"We have found their data in the middle of other investigations,'' he said. "They are shocked and, in many cases, they've been breached for many months, in some cases years, which means that an adversary had full visibility into everything occurring on that network, potentially.''

Mr. Henry said that while many company executives recognize the severity of the problem, many others do not, and that has frustrated him. But even when companies build up their defenses, their systems are still penetrated, he said. "We've been playing defense for a long time. ...You can only build a fence so high, and what we've found is that the offense outpaces the defense, and the offense is better than the defense,'' he said.

Testimony Monday before a government commission assessing Chinese computer capabilities underscored the dangers. Richard Bejtlich, chief security officer at Mandiant, a computer-security company, said that in cases handled by his firm where intrusions were traced back to Chinese hackers, 94% of the targeted companies didn't realize they had been breached until someone else told them. The median number of days between the start of an intrusion and its detection was 416, or more than a year, he added.

In one such incident in 2010, a group of Chinese hackers breached the computer defenses of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, a major business lobbying group, and gained access to everything stored on its systems, including information about its three million members, according to several people familiar with the matter.

In the congressional debate over cybersecurity legislation, the Chamber of Commerce has argued for a voluntary, non-regulatory approach to cybersecurity that would encourage more cooperation and information-sharing between government and business.

Matthew Eggers, a senior director at the Chamber, said the group "is urging policy makers to change the 'status quo' by rallying our efforts around a targeted and effective information-sharing bill that would get the support of multiple stakeholders and come equipped with ample protections for the business community."

The FBI's Mr. Henry said there are some things companies need to change to create more secure computer networks. He said their most valuable data should be kept off the network altogether. He cited the recent case of a hack on an unidentified company in which he said 10 years worth of research and development, valued at more than $1 billion, was stolen by hackers.

He added that companies need to do more than just react to intrusions. "In many cases, the skills of the adversaries are so substantial that they just leap right over the fence, and you don't ever hear an alarm go off,'' he said. Companies "need to be hunting inside the perimeter of their network," he added.

Companies also need to get their entire leadership, from the chief executive to the general counsel to the chief financial officer, involved in developing a cybersecurity strategy, Mr. Henry said. "If leadership doesn't say, 'This is important, let's sit down and come up with a plan right now in our organization; let's have a strategy,' then it's never going to happen, and that is a frustrating thing for me,'' he said.

Write to Devlin Barrett at

A version of this article appeared Mar. 28, 2012, on page B1 in some U.S. editions of The Wall Street Journal, with the headline: U.S. Outgunned in Hacker War.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Was it something we said?

Anonymous has left a new comment on your post, You know you're getting old when ..... Madonna begins to sag!

I have 2 tickets to the September 8 New York show I need to sell CHEAP! (706) 635-5287.
Dear Anonymous:

Thank you for contacting CyberSmokeBlog. Jeeze, we hope it wasn't the recent article from the British tabloid The Daily Mail we posted, including photographs of Madonna's "sag" during a Miami concert, that resulted in you having to sell your tickets real CHEAP for her upcoming show at Yankee Stadium. However,  after all a sag is a sag. Good luck!

Clare L. Pieuk

World's stupidest inventions!

Wine Rack
Gals who want their cups to runneth over can now sip on the sly, thanks to a sports bra that disguises some whopping jugs. A New Jersey company that specializes in wacky gifts is selling the Wine Rack, an assets-enhancing piece of polyurethane that allows thirsty ladies to nurse their drinks. Equipped with a drinking tube that's connected to the right cup, the sports bra holds up to 25 ounces of a beverage while giving ladies a plastic surgery-like lift of up to two sizes.

Meet The Oinkers!

Mr and Mrs Canadian Senator

Good Day Readers:

After reading the following article ever get the feeling there are Senators detached from reality. Little wonder Ottawa is sometimes called Disneyland-Over-The-Rideau?

Clare L. Pieuk
Canada Budget 2012: Senators Not Happy About Canteen Cuts
By Althia Raj (
Wednesday, March 29, 2012
OTTAWA -- On the eve of a budget that will deliver deep cuts to the public service, a few Conservative senators are protesting the closure of a tiny subsidized canteen in a building where many of them work.

Conservative Senator David Tkachuk and Liberal Senator George Furey sent a notice to senators and staff Wednesday warning them that, in the interests of “greater fiscal responsibility” the Victoria Building Canteen will be closed permanently this Saturday.

A newly renovated cafeteria in the La Promenade Building, which is four times larger and “easily accessible” through a passageway that connects both buildings can be used instead, the senators suggested.

But their note was met with fierce disapproval by Conservative Senator, and former party president, Donald Plett.

“What a bad, bad idea. The Victoria cafeteria was for the Senators and staff,” he wrote in an email, apparently unwilling to eat with MPs and House of Commons staff.

Conservative Senator Nancy Ruth also responded to the note questioning why senators had not been consulted on other spending decisions.

“So who decided about that stupid slate wall in VB foyer & a Tv that's so high u have to bend your neck. And the winter carpets r the wrong way round. How about asking the users before u waste more $$$,” she wrote.

The Victoria Building is home to several senators’ offices and will now be the only building on the Hill without a canteen or full-service cafeteria.

But it’s far from the only place where senators can purchase subsidized food.
Liberal Senator Jim Munson wrote back, telling his colleagues to get some “perspective here about canteens.”

“We have access to four in the Senate … Losing one is not exactly hardship,” he wrote.

“Let’s not forget the big picture. There is a budget coming down that will affect people’s lives. That’s’where our focus should be.”

The Senate announced Wednesday that it will trim five per cent from its budget over the next three years.
It is shaving off 1.85 per cent next year, leaving it with a $92,215,846 for 2012-2013.

“While Parliament was not obligated to cut costs under the federal government’s Strategic Operating Review, we felt it necessary for the Senate to do its part,” Tkachuk, the chair of the Senate's committee on Internal Economy, Budgets and Administration, said in a news release. “No programs or expenditures were spared during our review,” he added, noting that office, committees, internal administration, caucuses and interparliamentary group budgets would all take a hit. Even the senators’ own “miscellaneous expenditures account” would be decreased.

Over on the House of Commons side, members of Parliament are also tightening their belts.

Joe Comartin, a spokesman for the Board of Internal Economy, an all-party committee that meets in secret to oversee House administration, said spending would decrease by 6.9 per cent — or $30.3 million — over the next three years.

The House's budget for 2011-2012 was $441,648,000.

“There will be some additional job losses, over and beyond attrition,” Comartin told The Huffington Post Canada. Some services will be reduced, he said, noting the there wouldn't be as many little green buses running throughout the day ferrying MPs from their offices, to committees and to the House of Commons.

The House of Commons cuts include a reduction of less than two per cent for MP office budgets, a reduction of nearly 7.5 per cent for the budgets of opposition party leaders and those with senior responsibilities, such as party whips and house leaders as well as the Speaker of the House, and the end of an office equipment replacement fund.

Comartin said the House had also been able to find $4.5 million in savings by buying flight tickets in bulk and by reducing the budgets for parliamentary associations and committee travel.


By The Numbers: At the trough with The Oikners

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Is zombiecare coming to the United States?

Will the Supreme Court Create Zombie Obamacare?
By Adam Seruer
Wednesday, March 28, 2012

The first question before the Supreme Court on Wednesday, the last of three days of oral argument about the constitutionality of President Barack Obama's health care law, was whether the individual mandate—the requirement that certain uncovered Americans purchase health insurance or pay a fine—was the "heart" of Obamacare. In other words, if that beating heart is ripped out by a majority of the nine black-robed justices, should the Affordable Care Act be allowed to stumble along or be put down with a double-barrel shot to the head?

Former Solicitor General Paul Clement, representing 26 states challenging the law, said that without the individual mandate the rest of the bill would not work and Zobamacare should not be allowed to rise from the remains.

"What you end up with at the end of that process is just sort of a hollow shell," Clement said. "You can't possibly think that Congress would have passed that hollow shell without the heart of the Act." Justice Antonin Scalia later asked Deputy Solicitor General Edwin Kneedler that particular question: "Can you take out the heart of the act and leave everything else in place?"

Kneedler had a tough position to defend. The Obama administration's stance is that if the individual mandate is struck down, popular provisions like the ban on insurance companies discriminating due to preexisting conditions must also go. Kneedler was telling the court that if a majority chooses to rip out the heart of the bill, they will have to tear out the entire circulatory system, too. The reason: Without the individual mandate to push healthy individuals to buy insurance, the insurance industry would go bankrupt trying to cover those with serious, expensive health problems. Yet Kneedler also argued that the Affordable Care Act created a "sharp dividing line" between those popular reforms and the rest of the law. The legal concept in play here is "severability": whether or not the law can remain if one piece is stricken.

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The administration's argument was essentially a plea to protect the health insurance industry should the mandate fall. Both Democratic and Republican– appointed justices seemed sympathetic to that argument. For the Republican-appointed justices, this would make it easier to overturn the entire Affordable Care Act. When Attorney H. Bartow Farr III—who the court designated to defend an appeals court ruling that neither the government nor the states embraced—stood up to argue that the law would still largely function as intended without the mandate, Justice Sonya Sotomayor worried aloud about an impending "death spiral." Likewise, Justice Anthony Kennedy, considered the swing vote on the court, suggested that it would be judicial overreach if "one provision was stricken and the others remained to impose a risk on insurance companies that Congress had never intended."

Despite all the focus on the individual mandate and whether it could be severed from the rest of the law, the constitutionality of the law's Medicaid expansion, which was also considered Wednesday, could have a more dramatic impact on Americans' health care. That expansion will lead to 16 million more Americans being covered, about half of the entire number of people who would receive coverage under the Affordable Care Act. (Medicaid offers federal money to states to help provide health care to the poor and elderly—the program is technically optional, but all states participate. Under Obamacare, the states have to accept the expansion or opt-out of the program.) Clement contended that this expansion should be struck down because the states would never refuse the money, and therefore this provision was unconstitutionally coercive.

"The chances for an adverse ruling [on the Medicaid measure] are lower but the stakes are higher," says Doug Kendall of the Constitution Accountability Center. "The stakes are higher because if the court does find coercion in this expansion of Medicaid, than a lot of other previous and future expansions of Medicaid are at risk."

The Democratic appointees on the court were pointedly unconvinced by Clement's argument. "It's just a boatload of federal money for you to take and spend on poor people's healthcare," Justice Elena Kagan said. "It doesn't sound coercive to me, I have to tell you." Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg pointed out that the court had never struck down a state-federal partnership program "because it was so good that it becomes coercive to be in it." Justice Sonya Sotomayor said that the main element of "coercion" here appeared to be politicians not wanting to face voters after declining Medicaid funding.

Clement's argument, however, received a favorable reception among the court's conservative wing. Scalia likened the expansion to "an offer they can't refuse," while Kennedy said there's "no real choice." Chief Justice John Roberts asked sharp questions of the attorneys on both sides. Not only is Obamacare in danger of being struck down—and 16 million uninsured Americans losing coverage the law would provide them through Medicaid—the legal basis for the federal government providing insurance to the poor and elderly is in the crosshairs.

Conservatives came to the court hoping to strike the individual mandate. It now appears entirely possible that they will kill the mandate, the law itself, and fundamentally curtail the federal government's ability to control how states use its money. This would be like asking for a pony for Christmas and actually getting it.
In the final moments, the arguments returned to first principles. Solicitor General Donald B. Verrilli, in an attempt to recover from his halting performance Tuesday, urged the court in his final remarks to consider the consequences of destroying the Affordable Care Act outright.

"There will be millions of people with chronic conditions like diabetes and heart disease, and as a result of the health care that they will get, they will be unshackled from the disabilities that those diseases put on them and have the opportunity to enjoy the blessings of liberty," Verrilli said. But that may not be the kind of liberty members of this court consider important. Clement shot back that "It's a very funny conception of liberty that forces somebody to purchase an insurance policy whether they want it or not."

So the arguments ended where they started: Whether the greater deprivation of liberty is dying for lack of affordable care, or being taxed into buying health insurance. For those Americans struggling to pay their medical bills, Zombie Obamacare could be better than nothing.

But nothing is sounding like a real possibility.

$140,000 fully indexed for life for advocating the separation of Quebec?

Budget to put brake on MPs' pensions
Tuesday, March 28, 2012

Finance Minister Jim Flaherty's budget will take the shine off what critics call MPs' gold-plated pensions, reports Greg Weston for CBC News.

The budget will make sitting MPs pay more, and wait longer, to collect less in their retirement.

MPs can now collect their pension at age 55. That will increase to 60 or 65. For every dollar MPs put into their pension fund, taxpayers now contribute about $5.

Former Bloc Québécois leader Gilles Duceppe, who was voted out of office in the last election after serving as an MP for 20 years, now enjoys a parliamentary pension of over $140,000 a year — for life
In future, politicians will pay a bigger share and taxpayers a lot less.
Finally, most MPs will simply get smaller pensions.

Bill Robson, from the C.D. Howe Institute, is an expert on MPs' pensions, and he points out the only money set aside for MPs is on paper.

"The MP pensions exemplify what is wrong with the federal government's pensions generally. They are very generous and they are very badly underfunded. In the case of the MP pensions, there is no money backing those promises at all."

The budget is also set to slash MPs' office spending by $13.5 million, which includes cuts to everything from telephones to travel.

The spending reductions won't make a dent in the federal deficit, but with MPs sharing the pain, it sets the stage to go after public service pensions.

CBC News has learned the budget will make public servants pay an increasingly larger share of the government pension plan.

Patty Ducharme, national executive vice-president of the Public Service Alliance of Canada, says her union members feel betrayed. "The minister has told the national president in public forums actually that there would be no increased funding equation for our members, and what this essentially represents is a cut in pay to our members."

Cabinet sources say they are expecting a fight from the public service unions, but they are willing to gamble public opinion will be on the government's side.

The pension changes alone would save taxpayers more than $700 million a year.

Readers, tell your Member of Parliament not to worry their pension "reform" doesn't kick in until next election.

"Security! Security!" Security!" .....

Zzzzzzzz .....

Rob "Sleepy" Anders in action

Calgary MP Rob Anders booted off veterans committee
MP made controversial comments after being accused of falling asleep at Halifax meeting

By Meagan Fitzpatrick
Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Calgary MP Rob Anders is no longer a member of the Veterans Affairs Committee, kicked off following controversial comments he made when he was accused of falling asleep in a meeting.

The controversy was prompted by Anders' behaviour at a meeting of the committee in Halifax. The group of MPs was hearing from an organization that helps former soldiers who are homeless and its president said Anders showed up late, then started text messaging on his phone, then fell asleep.

Anders denied that he fell asleep and suggested that his accusers were NDP "hacks" who praised Vladimir Putin.

The Veterans Emergency Transition Services group was angered by Anders' behaviour and comments he made after the meeting. The group called for his resignation from the committee.

Liberal MP Sean Casey said Anders had fallen asleep before and he was one of the critics who was calling for Anders to be kicked off the committee, along with the NDP's veterans affairs critic Peter Stoffer, who also demanded an apology from Anders in the House of Commons.

Anders did offer an apology on March 6, saying, "I have and continue to have enormous respect for the men and women who have sacrificed in the service of our country. I recognize that the democracy we have today is in large part attributable to them."

In his brief statement, he also said he wanted "to express my sincere apology for my comments with respect to Mr. [Jim] Lowther and Mr. David MacLeod."

"Further, I want to apologize for any offence my comments may have caused veterans or anyone else," he added.

But the apology wasn't enough, and Anders' removal from the committee was made official Wednesday in the House of Commons when a report recommending it was tabled. It received unanimous consent.

"It is clear that over the past couple of months, Conservative MP Rob Anders has become a distraction to the work of the Veterans Affairs Committee," Casey said in a statement.

"I wish Mr. Anders well with his new responsibilities on the Joint Senate-House Scrutiny of Regulations Committee."

When Anders fell asleep last year in question period, his office said that he had been in a car accident and had suffered whiplash and it was taking a toll on him.