07/21/2015 archive


I’m not quite geeky and paranoid enough to claim that this really is a Sontaran plot to take over the Earth or that the Skynet is falling, but I know a bad idea when I hear one and ‘driverless’ cars is a bad idea.

Jeep owners urged to update their cars after hackers take remote control

by Samuel Gibbs, The Guardian

Tuesday 21 July 2015 10.30 EDT

Security experts are urging owners of Fiat Chrysler Automobiles vehicles to update their onboard software after hackers took control of a Jeep over the internet and disabled the engine and brakes and crashed it into a ditch.

A security hole in FCA’s Uconnect internet-enabled software allows hackers to remotely access the car’s systems and take control. Unlike some other cyberattacks on cars where only the entertainment system is vulnerable, the Uconnect hack affects driving systems from the GPS and windscreen wipers to the steering, brakes and engine control.

The Uconnect system is installed in hundreds of thousands of cars made by the FCA group since late 2013 and allows owners to remotely start the car, unlock doors and flash the headlights using an app.

The hack was demonstrated by Charlie Miller and Chris Valasek, two security researchers who previous demonstrated attacks on a Toyota Prius and a Ford Escape. Using a laptop and a mobile phone on the Sprint network, they took control of a Jeep Cherokee while Wired reporter Andy Greenberg was driving, demonstrating their ability to control it and eventually forcing it into a ditch.

Unlike the majority of hacking attempts on cars, the vulnerability within the Uconnect system allows cybercriminals to take control of the car remotely, without the need to make physical contact with the car.

The security researchers notified Fiat Chrysler nine months ago, allowing the car manufacturer to release a security update to fix the problem, which it did on 16 July.

However the update requires users to manually update their cars by visiting the manufacturer’s site, downloading a programme onto a flash drive and inserting it into the car’s USB socket. FCA dealers can update the car for owners, but the company is apparently unable to automatically update the cars over the internet.

Newsflash: Car Network Security Is Still A Horrible, Very Dangerous Joke

by Karl Bode, Tech Dirt

Tue, Jul 21st 2015 10:33am

As we’ve noted for years, the security on most “smart” or “connected” cars is aggressively atrocious. And in fact it’s getting worse. As car infotainment systems get more elaborate, and wireless carriers increasingly push users to add their cellular-connected car to shared data plans, the security of these platforms has sometimes been an afterthought. Hackers this week once again made that perfectly clear after they demonstrated to a Wired reporter that they were able to manipulate and disable a new Jeep Cherokee running Fiat Chrysler’s UConnect platform.

The exploit appears to work on any Chrysler vehicle with Uconnect from late 2013, all of 2014, and early 2015. Chrysler/Fiat posted a notice to its website last week informing users that they need to update their in-car software either via USB stick (you can download the update here) or by taking it in to a dealer. Of course like many patches, most users won’t be paying much attention to the warning. And we’re only talking about Chrysler’s UConnect; there’s a bounty of half-assed security measures implemented in infotainment systems from automakers worldwide just waiting to be tinkered with by pranksters (or worse).

Am I Really Going To Eat This?

The host of “Last Week Tonight” John Oliver took a critical look at food waste management in America and the shocking amount of food we don’t eat. With his usual aplomb, he discusses the causes from arbitrary expiration dates and  inconsistent tax breaks for charitable business donations to impulse buying.

According to the Natural Resources Defense Council, “as much as 40 percent of the food produced in the U.S. never gets eaten” and “Americans throw away $165 billion worth of food every year,” roughly “20 pounds per person every month.” That’s enough waste to annually fill 730 football stadiums. How is that possible in a country where so many go hungry? A recent USDA report found that “in 2013, 49.1 million people lived in food-insecure households.”

“At a time when the landscape of California is shriveling up like a pumpkin in front of a house with a lazy dad, it seems especially unwise that farmers are pumping water into food that ends up being used as a garnish for landfills,” Oliver cracks. According to the Natural Resources Defense Council, “as much as 40 percent of the food produced in the U.S. never gets eaten” and “Americans throw away $165 billion worth of food every year,” roughly “20 pounds per person every month.” That’s enough waste to annually fill 730 football stadiums. How is that possible in a country where so many go hungry? A recent USDA report found that “in 2013, 49.1 million people lived in food-insecure households.”

“At a time when the landscape of California is shriveling up like a pumpkin in front of a house with a lazy dad, it seems especially unwise that farmers are pumping water into food that ends up being used as a garnish for landfills,” Oliver cracks.

We all need to be more aware of what we purchase at the grocery store and in restaurants, asking ourselves “Am I really going to eat this?”

Punting the Pundits

“Punting the Pundits” is an Open Thread. It is a selection of editorials and opinions from around the news medium and the internet blogs. The intent is to provide a forum for your reactions and opinions, not just to the opinions presented, but to what ever you find important.

Thanks to ek hornbeck, click on the link and you can access all the past “Punting the Pundits”.

Follow us on Twitter @StarsHollowGzt

New York Times Editorial Board: A Senate Bill That Makes Roads and Railroads Less Safe

Last month the House passed an appropriations bill that would put bigger trucks with overworked drivers behind the wheel on the nation’s highways. If that weren’t irresponsible enough, the Senate is now considering legislation that would allow trucking companies to hire 18-year-old drivers for interstate routes and undermine safety on roads and railroads in numerous other ways.

Even by the low standards of the current Congress, these bills are egregious examples of faithfully saying yes to everything industry wants, in this case the transportation companies. The Senate is expected to take up its disingenuously named Comprehensive Transportation and Consumer Protection Act of 2015 this week as part of a larger transportation package that reauthorizes federal agencies and programs.

Dean Baker: Wolfgang Schauble, the Hero of the Greek Austerity Crisis?

Like many people following the negotiations between Greece and its creditors, I was inclined to see Wolfgang Schauble, Germany’s finance minister, as the villain of the story. After all, Mr. Schauble insisted on severely punitive measures for Greece as a condition for continuing support from the European Central Bank (ECB). He appeared to be the bad cop relative to others in the negotiations, such as German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who was willing to make at least some concessions to keep Greece in the euro. But a more careful analysis arguably leads to the opposite conclusion.

Schauble did not argue for throwing Greece out of the euro simply as a punitive measure, although he quite obviously disapproved of the way Greece had run its budget and its economy. He argued, quite possibly sincerely, that at least a temporary departure from the euro zone would be the best path forward for Greece. [..]

The Greek government had not prepared itself for the process of leaving the euro. Perhaps the world will be surprised and the deal it reached with its creditors will provide a basis for renewed growth. But if not, it may want to get back in touch with Mr. Schauble.

Wendell Potter: Revolving Door Puts Former Medicare Czar In Charge Of Health Insurance Lobby

Washington’s notorious revolving door was in full swing again last week as the health insurance industry snagged another top federal official to help it get what it wants out of lawmakers and regulators. America’s Health Insurance Plans, the industry’s biggest lobbying and PR group, announced Wednesday that its new president, starting next month, will be none other than Marilyn Tavenner, who served as the chief administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicare Services from 2013 until she stepped down in February.

Tavenner’s appointment comes just a few months after the industry recruitedformer Congresswoman Allyson Schwartz, a Pennsylvania Democrat, to head its newest front group, the Better Medicare Alliance.

These two hires tell us all we need to know about where insurance companies see their pot of gold in the not-too-distant future. Some insurers, in fact, have already discovered that taxpayer-supplied pot of gold and want to make doubly sure that nobody in Washington dares take it away.

Nathan J. Robinson: A frightening proposal to intern Muslim citizens

In the wake of the Chattanooga shooting, a dangerous suggestion appears from right and left

Terrorist violence can make the previously unthinkable suddenly seem acceptable. The levels of surveillance introduced after 9/11 could have been considered reasonable only in the climate of collective panic that the attacks induced. But this week’s reaction to the fatal shooting of four Marines and a Navy petty officer in Chattanooga, Tennessee, by a 24-year-old Muslim has to win the prize for the worst proposed civil liberties infringement to come out of a violent disruption. No matter how high tensions may have run after the Boston Marathon bombing or 9/11, few dared to propose what figures of both left and right have now suggested: the segregation and internment of Muslim citizens. [..]

One might point out, in the first place, that the idea of detaining people for “the duration of the conflict” means, in practice, imprisoning them forever. Since the “war on terrorism” is a fight without end, it will never have some ticker-tape-strewn V-Day, and Clark’s suggestion is for the government to deem particular Muslims too radical to live freely and isolate them permanently in camps.

But more generally, one might inform him that the United States’ heinous civil liberties abuses during World War II are often considered a particularly dark patch in the nation’s history. The rounding up of more than 100,000 Japanese-Americans – and their placement in squalid camps – was a racist disgrace that the country apologized for in 1988 and left traumatic scars that last to this day. The lesson supposedly learned was that the humiliation and segregation of an entire ethnic group is an indefensible assault on principles of dignity and equality. Clark, however, appears to have taken this cautionary tale as a useful suggestion.

Lawrence Lessig: The Only Realistic Way to Fix Campaign Finance

FOR the first time in modern history, the leading issue concerning voters in the upcoming presidential election, according to a recent Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll, is that “wealthy individuals and corporations will have too much influence over who wins.” Five years after the Supreme Court gave corporations and unions the right to spend unlimited amounts in political campaigns, voters have had enough.

Republican candidates, including Chris Christie, Ted Cruz and Lindsey Graham, and the main Democratic candidates, Hillary Rodham Clinton, Martin O’Malley and Bernie Sanders, all acknowledge the problem, with some tying it to the Supreme Court’s 2010 decision in Citizens United, which unleashed virtually unlimited “independent” political spending.

The solution proposed by some, notably Mrs. Clinton, Mr. Graham and Mr. Sanders, is amending the Constitution.

It sounds appealing, but anyone who’s serious about reform should not buy it. For a presidential candidate, constitutional reform is fake reform. And no candidate who talks exclusively about amending the Constitution can be considered a credible reformer.

Scott Ritter: On Military Service and Politics

The chattering class is abuzz over erstwhile Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump’s recent attack of Arizona Senator (and fellow Republican) John McCain’s record of military service. In front of an enthusiastic audience, Trump snidely remarked that he “liked people who weren’t captured,” noting that Senator McCain was a “war hero because he was captured.”

Many pundits have declared that Trump’s attack on Senator McCain has dealt a fatal blow to his bid for the presidency, but such analysis is disingenuous — Donald Trump has never been a serious candidate for president. His presence among the ranks of Republican presidential hopefuls is more a reflection of a certain segment of America’s infatuation with the baser aspects of reality television than any viability as a contender for office. Donald Trump is the Kim Kardashian/Kaitlyn Jenner of American politics — all self-promotion, no substance and, among serious company, downright embarrassing.

The Breakfast Club (Follow Your Own Path)

Welcome to The Breakfast Club! We’re a disorganized group of rebel lefties who hang out and chat if and when we’re not too hungover  we’ve been bailed out we’re not too exhausted from last night’s (CENSORED) the caffeine kicks in. Join us every weekday morning at 9am (ET) and weekend morning at 10:30am (ET) to talk about current news and our boring lives and to make fun of LaEscapee! If we are ever running late, it’s PhilJD’s fault.

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This Day in History

First major battle in America’s Civil War fought at Bull Run in Virginia; Scopes ‘Monkey Trial’ concludes; Peace deal ends Indochina War; Author Ernest Hemingway and actor-comedian Robin Williams born.

Breakfast Tunes

Something to Think about over Coffee Prozac

No matter what people tell you, words and ideas can change the world.

Robin Williams

On This Day In History July 21

This is your morning Open Thread. Pour your favorite beverage and review the past and comment on the future.

Find the past “On This Day in History” here.

Click on images to enlarge

July 21 is the 202nd day of the year (203rd in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 163 days remaining until the end of the year.

On this day in 1861, the first battle of Bull Run.. In the first major land battle of the Civil War, a large Union force under General Irvin McDowell is routed by a Confederate army under General Pierre G.T. Beauregard. . . .

On the morning of July 21, hearing of the proximity of the two opposing forces, hundreds of civilians–men, women, and children–turned out to watch the first major battle of the Civil War. The fighting commenced with three Union divisions crossing the Bull Run stream, and the Confederate flank was driven back to Henry House Hill. However, at this strategic location, Beauregard had fashioned a strong defensive line anchored by a brigade of Virginia infantry under General Thomas J. Jackson. Firing from a concealed slope, Jackson’s men repulsed a series of Federal charges, winning Jackson his famous nickname “Stonewall.”

Meanwhile, Confederate cavalry under J.E.B. Stuart captured the Union artillery, and Beauregard ordered a counterattack on the exposed Union right flank. The rebels came charging down the hill, yelling furiously, and McDowell’s line was broken, forcing his troops in a hasty retreat across Bull Run. The retreat soon became an unorganized flight, and supplies littered the road back to Washington. Union forces endured a loss of 3,000 men killed, wounded, or missing in action while the Confederates suffered 2,000 casualties. The scale of this bloodshed horrified not only the frightened spectators at Bull Run but also the U.S. government in Washington, which was faced with an uncertain military strategy in quelling the “Southern insurrection.”

Bull Run was the largest and bloodiest battle in American history up to that point. Union casualties were 460 killed, 1,124 wounded, and 1,312 missing or captured; Confederate casualties were 387 killed, 1,582 wounded, and 13 missing. Among the latter was Col. Francis S. Bartow, who was the first Confederate brigade commander to be killed in the Civil War. General Bee was mortally wounded and died the following day.

Union forces and civilians alike feared that Confederate forces would advance on Washington, D.C., with very little standing in their way. On July 24, Prof. Thaddeus S. C. Lowe ascended in the balloon Enterprise to observe the Confederates moving in and about Manassas Junction and Fairfax. He saw no evidence of massing Rebel forces, but was forced to land in Confederate territory. It was overnight before he was rescued and could report to headquarters. He reported that his observations “restored confidence” to the Union commanders.

The Northern public was shocked at the unexpected defeat of their army when an easy victory had been widely anticipated. Both sides quickly came to realize the war would be longer and more brutal than they had imagined. On July 22 President Lincoln signed a bill that provided for the enlistment of another 500,000 men for up to three years of service.

The reaction in the Confederacy was more muted. There was little public celebration as the Southerners realized that despite their victory, the greater battles that would inevitably come would mean greater losses for their side as well.

Beauregard was considered the hero of the battle and was promoted that day by President Davis to full general in the Confederate Army. Stonewall Jackson, arguably the most important tactical contributor to the victory, received no special recognition, but would later achieve glory for his 1862 Valley Campaign. Irvin McDowell bore the brunt of the blame for the Union defeat and was soon replaced by Maj. Gen. George B. McClellan, who was named general-in-chief of all the Union armies. McDowell was also present to bear significant blame for the defeat of Maj. Gen. John Pope’s Army of Virginia by Gen. Robert E. Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia thirteen months later, at the Second Battle of Bull Run. Patterson was also removed from command.

The Daily/Nightly Show (Semi-Penultimate)

It’s a real word, it means third to last.

I suppose I ought to be writing brilliant little essays about Jon and what he’s meant to me personally and my career (such as it is) as a blogger, but that’s too hard and I’m too tired and besides- I’m already maximally depressed by the prospect and I understand the great hidden mystery of continuity.

It was just a matter of knowing the secret of all television: at the end of the episode, everything is back to normal.

And I like it.  Why do you think I’m in therapy?  You know how long February 2nd lasts?  Thirty four years.

Bree Newsome

What makes you think we’re not going to talk about Cos tonightly?  The panel is Kerry Coddett, Sunny Hostin, and Mike Yard.


First they came for our team names, and I said nothing

This week’s guests-

Paul Rudd will be on to talk about Ant Man which I’m given to understand is modest and quirky for a Marvel movie, though I wouldn’t feel compelled to fork out $14 just so I could set up Captain America: Civil War.

The real news (Donald Trump) below.