Monday, November 29, 2010

Random Thoughts

China directed Google hacking: leaked US documents
by Staff Writers
Washington (AFP) Nov 28, 2010

The United States believes that China's leadership has directed a hacking campaign into computers of Google and Western governments, according to US diplomatic files leaked Sunday.

The documents obtained by whistleblower site WikiLeaks revealed the intense and sometimes fraught diplomacy between the two Pacific powers on a range of issues -- particularly Iran and North Korea.

In one cable, the US embassy in Beijing said it learned from "a Chinese contact" that the country's Politburo had led years of hacking into computers of the United States, its allies and Tibet's spiritual leader the Dalai Lama.

The New York Times, which viewed the cable, said the embassy found that attacks against Google were "part of a coordinated campaign of computer sabotage carried out by government operatives, private security experts and Internet outlaws recruited by the Chinese government."

Google announced in March that it would no longer follow the communist government's instructions to filter searches for sensitive material after attacks against the company and Gmail accounts of Chinese dissidents.

Hacking campaigns originating from China have been reported before, but US officials have stopped short of publicly accusing Beijing of orchestrating cyber warfare.

The thousands of leaked documents also recounted efforts by the United States to persuade China to rein in North Korea.

In one secret memo on the WikiLeaks website, the United States in 2008 instructed its embassies to press China and Central Asian nations to block a North Korean plane suspected of proliferating weapons to Iran.

In another cable a year earlier reported by Britain's Guardian newspaper, the United States asked Beijing to stop what it believed to be a missile shipment from North Korea to Iran transiting through China.

Beijing is considered the only country with real influence in reclusive North Korea.

In a meeting late last year, senior Chinese official Wang Jiarui is quoted as reiterating Beijing's call for stability on the Korean peninsula and urging the United States to reach out to the North by promising not to seek regime change.

Despite the lack of movement on North Korea, the documents gave an upbeat US assessment on China's position on Iran.

A cable on the WikiLeaks website said Wang praised US policy on Iran in a meeting with Williams Burns, the State Department number three, and said Tehran should not seek nuclear weapons.

In another cable, a Chinese official dismissed concerns that Beijing's standing in the Islamic world was hurt by its response to 2009 ethnic bloodshed in the Xinjiang region, whose indigenous Uighur population is mostly Muslim.

An official was quoted as saying that China had stepped up media outreach in the Middle East to prevent any backlash, including setting up an Arabic-language version of state-run China Central Television.

The cables show China venting anger at the United States for refusing to hand over 22 Uighurs originally held at the US prison camp at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

The United States cleared the men of wrongdoing but feared they would face persecution in China.

Cables depicted US officials searching the world asking countries to take Guantanamo inmates, with Slovenia's leadership told that a meeting with US President Barack Obama was linked to its decision on taking a prisoner.

According to another document, the US ambassador to Kyrgyzstan last year confronted her Chinese counterpart on information that Beijing offered three billion dollars if the neighboring country shut the Manas air base, a key US conduit for the war in Afghanistan.

The Chinese ambassador, Zhang Yannian, "ridiculed the notion of such a deal, he did not deny it outright," US Ambassador Tatiana Gfoeller wrote.

"'It would take three dollars from every Chinese person' to pay for it," she quoted him as saying. "'If our people found out, there'd be a revolution.'"

The United States eventually renewed US rights to the air base after the United States ramped up compensation.

Chinese Oil Drilling off Cuba

Who Will Elect Lebanon's President? Not the Lebanese
November 11, 2007 1:26 AM

The selection of a new president by the Lebanese parliament has - again - been postponed. Jeha writes that for the average Lebanese, “the election drama is nothing but a fight between marionettes in which we have little say.” That’s life in a country stuck next door to “a Syrian regime threatened by our freedom, and an Iranian theocracy insulted by our secular ambitions.”

Something in Lebanon today reeks of the 70’s… And I’m not talking about disco.

I am talking about the time when we were all huddled in makeshift shelters, reading about the plight of baby seals in a western Press that was too busy to talk about us… Back then, no one was looking while Lebanon was burning, with Syria and Israel fanning the flames. When they looked, they “farmed us out” to the Syrians, to reward them for their “support” in the first Gulf War.

It did not matter to the “free world” that Syria sponsored a few terrorists, that it co-sponsored Hezbollah, or as I like to call them, Hezbo’, Iran’s local chapter of the Pasdaran. Nor did it matter that the outgunned Lebanese army resisted their onslaught, fought to the death, and even counterattacked…

But things are different today.

Yes, today, everyone is looking again. Less than 2 years after the Cedar Revolution, the Lebanese find themselves unable to meet to elect a president.

But today, 9/11 got the “free world” got a ( somewhat better) new set of specs, and even French and Americans agree who’s to blame; it is a Syrian regime threatened by our freedom, and an Iran theocracy insulted by our secular ambitions…

For now; we live with neighbours I would not wish on my worse enemy, and all their squabbles ultimately reflect on us…

To be sure, we Lebanese share our part of the blame… Many of Syria’s useful idiots use that to berate us, as some of the reasons for that are appearing today, after the Syrian occupation melted away, issues that were suppressed for all those years started to appear.

Many Lebanese recall the 60’s, when international economic experts were asked to evaluate the Lebanese economic miracle. After much study, they decided that they had no clue how it worked. But since it worked so well, better not change anything. Back then, our per-capita GDP was comparable to Israel’s. In 1990, after the civil war, it was down to less than a third. Today, after 15 years of Syrian occupation, it is down to less than a sixth…

Not all of it is due to our neighbours. Our “system” has a deadly weakness; in the 21st century, Lebanon is still operated like a city-state, with everything concentrated on the capital, Beirut. As a result, the country is run like a (short term) for-profit business by whoever controls Beirut. Because of this short-term emphasis, the people who run the show tend to be more like “deal makers” than real businessmen, and few who “produce” anything “real” can hope to make much headway. The government becomes the largest economic player, generating 30% to 35% of GDP; all those plum jobs can be a great source of power, with little or no accountability . When the late Rafik Hariri came along, he tried to reform while still under Syrian tutelage… Since he could only tamper with the “system” without addressing the root causes of the civil war, we now have a nice downtown Beirut, a bloated government bureaucracy, and the highest debt to GDP ratio in the world.

The result of all this is that, even in “Free Lebanon”, people still need to “hedge” during election time, to make sure they maintain access to the powers of patronage of the winner.

So, when more than 70% of the nation went to the streets on March 14th 2005, at the heyday of the Cedar Revolution, our anger was not only directed against Syrian oppression and terror, it was also directed against a corrupt system that allowed the gangsters of Damascus to rule the streets of Beirut.

The demonstration was also partly a reaction to the March 8th demo in support of Syria, when about 10% of the nation showed up, backed by 50,000 or so Syrians… by choosing to celebrate the anniversary of the Syrian regime in downtown Beirut, Nasrallah and his goons had though they would intimidate the silent majority, but they only galvanized us even more… We all knew the time was different, and we all understood the threat posed by an organized, well funded outfit such as Hezbo’.

In the shadows of the Syrian occupation, Hezbo’ had been able to use the Lebanese “system” to their advantage, and hijack the Lebanese Shiite community by a combination of coercion and patronage. By diverting Lebanese government resources to their parasitic mini-state, Hassan Nasrallah and his followers were able to make optimal use of Iran’s yearly influx of USD 300 – 500 Million, and capitalize on Lebanese ingenuity to build the ” best guerrilla force in the world”. So it is no wonder they forced Israel out in 2000. And it is no wonder they were able to see off an ill-conceived Israeli invasion in 2006.

But Hezbo’ is hindered by its own nature, and the fact remains that the party is a sectarian force, and for all its armaments, it remains a guerrilla.

For all its calls for worldwide revolution, Hezbo’ remains a sectarian party with limited sectarian appeal, unable to expand beyond its core in the Shiite community. And it cannot “grow by acquisition” to reach the Lebanese political centre, as any allies they gain from other communities will themselves lose support from within their own “side”.

For all its power, Hezbo’ cannot grow its parasitic canton into a state. As it consolidates its canton, it is only “fixing” its guerrilla forces in three isolated regions where they can be easily targeted, and whose lines of communications remain vulnerable to other militias. Those mountain passes are easy to close, and this tent city is dangerously isolated…

The party and its Syrian and Iranian patrons are fighting hard to maintain a status-quo that benefited well in the past. But their “conservative revolution” will not work; aside from being an oxymoron, they picked off too many enemies at once. They are not only terrorising the Lebanese, but they are endangering Arab and western Interests.

With all the “noise” surrounding us in Lebanon, I like to take a break away from the news feeds, to try to listen to the life of people… To most real people, the election drama is nothing but a fight of marionettes in which we have little say. We did not know if there will be an election on November 12th, we don’t know if we’ll have one on November 21st, and I do not think the pawns who rule is have any more clue.

Those who will decide are not among us in Lebanon. They are not even close by in Damascus. The Syrian regime may feel its cause is winning, with the US in the Iraqi quagmire, the Lebanese divided, and the French still too amateurish.

The Saudis, however, are another matter, especially now that larger US interests in the region are aligned with an increasingly assertive House of Saud. They now consider that Syria is “in the way” of complex interests , and prefer to address its Iranian patrons directly when they want Damascus to do something

So now we know who’s electing our President. We just do not know when.

Chinese Claims Around the World