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Technical Developments in Cryptography: 2016 in Review

eff.org - Mon, 26/12/2016 - 11:34

While 2016 may not have been the banner year for cryptographic exploits that 2015 was, researchers around the world continued to advance the state of the art.

TLS 1.3 design finalized

The biggest practical development in crypto for 2016 is Transport Layer Security version 1.3. TLS is the most important and widely used cryptographic protocol and is the backbone of secure Internet communication; you're using it right now to read this blog! After years of work by hundreds of researchers and engineers, the new TLS design is now considered final from a cryptography standpoint. The protocol is now supported and available in Firefox, Chrome, and Opera. While it might seem like a minor version upgrade, TLS 1.3 is a major redesign from TLS 1.2 (which was finished over 8 years ago now). In fact, one of the most contentious issues was if the name should be something else to indicate how much of an improvement TLS 1.3 really is.

How might users notice TLS 1.3? Speed. TLS 1.3 is designed for speed, specifically by reducing the number of network round-trips required before data can be sent to one round-trip (1-RTT) or even zero round-trips (0-RTT) for repeat connections. These ideas have appeared before in experimental form through the QUIC protocol and False Start for earlier TLS versions, but as part of the default behavior of TLS 1.3 they will soon become much more widespread. This means latency will decrease and webpages will load faster.

In addition, TLS 1.3 should be a big improvement security-wise. It has absorbed two major lessons from decades of experience with TLS. First, the protocol is much simpler by removing support for a number of old protocol features and obsolete cryptographic algorithms. Additionally, TLS 1.3 was designed with the benefit of model checking (which has been used to find flaws in many older versions of TLS and SSL). TLS 1.3 was analyzed extensively by the cryptographic community during the standardization process, instead of waiting until the protocol is widely deployed and it's difficult to patch.

The quest for post-quantum cryptography continues

The cryptography community has been hard at work trying to transition away from today's algorithms (many of which are completely insecure if practical quantum computers are developed) to post-quantum cryptography.

This was nudged forward towards the end of last year as NIST announced a standardization project for post-quantum algorithms. NIST published its first report on this effort in February and a draft call for algorithm proposals in August. Researchers continue to debate what the goals for post-quantum algorithms should be (and if NIST should take a leadership role in this process after its involvement in the backdoored DualEC standard).

Meanwhile, Google ran a practical experiment in which it used the New Hope post-quantum key exchange algorithm to protect real traffic between Google servers and the Chrome Web browser, one of the first real-world deployments of post-quantum cryptography. Results from the experiment suggested that computation costs were negligible although bandwidth consumption increased due to larger key sizes. Another team of researchers experimented with adding quantum-resistant key exchange to TLS using a different algorithm. 

There's a lot we still don't know about post-quantum cryptography but we're starting to learn about the practical engineering implications.

New thinking on how to backdoor cryptographic algorithms

The concept of designing cryptographic systems that appear secure but have subtle backdoors has been discussed for a long time. (The term kleptography was coined in 1996 to describe this type of concept.) But the Snowden revelations, in particular that the DUAL_EC pseudorandom number generator was deliberately backdoored by NSA, have inspired more research on how backdoors might be created. A very clever paper by a team of French and American researchers showed that it's possible to carefully choose a prime number such that computing discrete logarithms becomes easy, which is enough to make Diffie-Hellman exchanges insecure.

What's worse, such a backdoored prime would be indistinguishable from any other randomly-chosen prime.

RFC 5114: Another backdoored crypto standard from NIST?

Speaking of backdoors, another potentially compromised standard was identified this year: RFC 5114. This little-known standard, written back in 2008, is somewhat mysterious all the way around. It was written by defense contractor BBN to standardize some parameters previously published by NIST. It defines eight Diffie-Hellman groups "that can be used in conjunction with IETF protocols to provide security for Internet communications" which eventually made their way into some widely-used cryptographic libraries like OpenSSL and Bouncy Castle. However, some of the groups have been identified as suspicious: They provide no explanation of how they were generated (meaning they might be backdoored as described above) and they're vulnerable to small group confinement attacks if parameters aren't checked carefully. This has led to some discussion about if the standard could have been intentionally backdoored, although there is no smoking gun. In response, one of the authors of the standard stated it was written in part to give an intern a "relatively easy" project to complete. A NIST cryptographer stated that it was written just to provide test data for people using the curves and "certainly not as a recommendation for people to use or adopt them operationally." It's certainly possible that this bad standard arose simply due to incompetence, but the suspicion around it highlights the ongoing lack of trust in NIST as a standardization body for cryptography.

Cryptographic deniability pops up in the US presidential election

Deniability and its antithesis non-repudiation are basic technical properties that cryptographic communications can have: should the system provide proof to outsiders that a message was sent by a specific sender (non-repudiation)? Or should the system ensure that any outsider can alter the transcript as desired (deniability) so that leaked communications are not incriminating? The real-world desirability of these properties is an age-old controversy in the cryptographic community. Mostly lost in the coverage of the 2016 election was that non-repudiation cropped up in a major way. Senior Democratic Party politicians, including vice-presidential nominee Tim Kaine and former DNC chair Donna Brazile, stated on the record that leaked DNC emails had been doctored and were not accurate. However, web sleuths quickly verified that the emails were correctly signed using the DKIM protocol with the correct keys for the hillaryclinton.com email server. There are a lot of caveats to these signatures: some of the emails were from outside addresses not supporting DKIM and hence could have been modified, DKIM only asserts that a specific email server sent the messages (and not any individual user) so it's possible the hillaryclinton.com DKIM key was stolen or used by a malicious insider, and it's possible the leaked email caches were modified by omitting some emails (which DKIM evidence would not reveal). Still, it's perhaps the most high-profile data point we have on the value (or lack thereof) of non-repudiable cryptographic evidence.

Attacks only get better

A number of new and improved attacks were discovered, building on prior work. Among the highlights:

  • The HEIST attack improves the versatility of previous compression-oracle attacks like BREACH and CRIME, potentially stealing sensitive data across Web origins using malicious JavaScript. While it was decided back in 2014 to drop support for compression altogether in TLS 1.3 due to the risk of these attacks, this vulnerability further shows how difficult it can be to add encryption into complicated protocols like HTTP.
  • The DROWN attack leverages weaknesses in the decades-old SSLv2 protocol to compromise a Web server's RSA signing keys. Like many previous TLS/SSL attacks (POODLEFREAK, etc.), this relies on an old protocol that no modern Web browser supports. Yet this is still a major flaw in practice because an attacker can use this method to steal the same key a Web server uses with modern clients. This attack is another reminder of how much insecurity is caused by maintaining support for outdated (and in some cases deliberately weakened) cryptographic protocols.
  • The Sweet32 attack showed that old 64-bit block ciphers (notably Triple DES and Blowfish) can be vulnerable in practice to collision attacks when used in CBC mode. Due to the birthday bound, this requires observing about 2^(64/2) = 2^32 encrypted blocks-or about 32 GB of data. Again, these are legacy ciphers that should have been disabled years ago, but are still used in about 1% of encrypted Web traffic.
  • A bit further away from practical systems, new attacks were found on certain classes of pairing-friendly elliptic curves, including the popular Barreto-Naehrig curves. While pairing-friendly curves are not commonly used today for encryption on the internet, they are essential to a number of advanced cryptographic systems like efficient zero-knowledge arguments of knowledge used in Zcash or group signatures used in Pond.
  • Secure randomness continues to be a fragile point in cryptography: if you can't generate truly random numbers, you can't create truly unpredictable cryptographic keys. The GnuPG project (who maintain widely used PGP software) announced and fixed a bug in the way Libcrypt generates random numbers from 1998–2016. While no easy way to exploit this in practice has been shown, the attack shows how subtle bugs in PRNG libraries can exist unnoticed for decades because they never cause any visible loss in functionality.
Out with the old, in with the new: HTTPS still being slowly hardened

HTTPS is also slowly being made more secure:

  • The SHA-1 hash function turned 21 years old in 2016, but nobody's celebrating that birthday. Instead we're nearing the end of a long process to retire the obsolescent algorithm. Somewhat surprisingly, no SHA-1 collision was found this year, which would be an irrefutable public demonstration that the algorithm is cryptographically broken. Yet browser vendors aren't waiting for a collision. Microsoft, Google, and Mozilla have all announced that their browsers will no longer accept SHA-1 certificates after early 2017. While it took a while, we consider the coordinated deprecation of SHA-1 a big win for the community. It's been observed that the browser market incentivizes vendors not to unilaterally remove insecure old protocols, so it's a positive sign that the vendors were able to agree on a timeline to kill off SHA-1 before it's completely broken.
  • Support for Certificate Transparency, a protocol designed to provide public logging of which certificates have been issued for which Web domains, continues to grow. All Symantec certificates issued since June 1 are included in CT logs (and will be rejected by Chrome and Firefox otherwise). Domains can opt-in to require CT using Chrome's HSTS preload list (also used in Firefox). Just this week Facebook released a preliminary Web-based tool to monitor Certificate Transparency logs.
  • RFC 7748, standardizing the elliptic curves Curve25519 and Curve448 ("Goldilocks"), was finalized. These two curves are both available already in TLS 1.3, offering fast performance and an alternative to the classic set of NIST-supported curves such as P-256.

This article is part of our Year In Review series. Read other articles about the fight for digital rights in 2016.

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Categories: Aggregated News

This Year in U.S. Copyright Policy: 2016 in Review

eff.org - Mon, 26/12/2016 - 07:01

Three years into Congress's copyright review and it's still more talk than action.

The talk: at the start of the year, the Commerce Department released its long-awaited recommendations for copyright reform, and in the spring, the Copyright Office moved forward with three major copyright policy studies. President Obama sent two international copyright treaties to the Senate for ratification, and the White House called for more shadow regulation

The action: there were high-profile personnel changes at both the Library of Congress and the Copyright Office, the Copyright Office made a dangerous new rule for website owners, and some anti-circumvention exemptions came into effect.

We still don’t know whether any big changes to copyright law are imminent, but 2016 sure set the table for an interesting 2017. 

Three years into the “Next Great Copyright Act” review process

2016 marked the third year in Congress’ review of U.S. copyright law – a process that began in 2013 when then-Register of Copyrights Maria Pallante called on Congress to overhaul copyright law in “The Next Great Copyright Act.” This year, that review continued to move forward, with the Copyright Office undertaking three policy studies on contested areas of copyright law. While copyright law has long been shaped by a few powerful industries, EFF is working to make sure that if Congress proposes further changes to the law, the public won't be left out of the process.

Fighting for your freedom to tinker

EFF kicked off 2016 by urging the Copyright Office to make sure that its recommendations to Congress protect users’ ability to truly own their own devices – to use, tinker with, modify, repair and sell the software-enabled products that are commonplace in our daily lives. EFF encouraged the Copyright Office to support changes to the law that would fix major problems with how the law treats software, to reform the broken process the Office uses to grant limited exceptions to the DMCA’s blanket prohibition on DRM circumvention, and to support real reform of Section 1201’s unconstitutional limits on users’ freedom of expression. And this fall, EFF and 11,000 supporters urged the Copyright Office to support strong, meaningful permanent exemptions from liability under 1201 for security research, repair, and accessibility.

The Copyright Office released the results of its study on software-enabled consumer devices on December 15 (the 1201 study is ongoing as of publication) and it's clear they failed to adopt the proposals suggested by EFF and other public interest groups. We’re disappointed that the Copyright Office missed an opportunity to support reforms that would benefit the public, but we’ll keep up the fight in 2017, in Congress and in the courts, for a copyright law that makes sense for today’s software-driven world. 

Security research and vehicle repair exemptions take effect

The Librarian of Congress’ Section 1201 exemptions for security research and vehicle repair finally came into effect in October. Unlike the other exemptions issued in 2015, the rules for security research and vehicle repair were (unlawfully, unnecessarily) delayed by a full year. The exemption gives people some protection against legal threats when they repair, modify, or tinker with their vehicle, or perform security research on consumer devices - including medical devices and vehicles - at least until the next rulemaking period.

Preserving critical Internet safe harbors

EFF also urged the Copyright Office to protect safe harbors for online intermediaries in the Office’s study on Section 512 of the DMCA. Those safe harbors have allowed the Internet to develop as a platform for innovation and free expression and provide crucially important protections for users. Without them, users’ ability to freely express themselves online, to share ideas, information, and to create and innovate would be severely curtailed. EFF advised the Copyright Office against adopting entertainment industry-backed recommendations to undermine those safe harbors by requiring service providers to monitor or filter online content.

At the same time, EFF educated the Copyright Office on how abuse of the DMCA’s notice and takedown process harms users and keeps important speech offline. We outlined steps the office should take to prevent those abuses and protect users from bogus takedowns. That study is ongoing. 

Under protest from EFF and a broad coalition of public interest groups, library associations and industry groups, the Copyright Office moved forward with an ill-advised new rule that could undermine safe harbors for millions of service providers. The rule, which went into effect in December, requires all Internet services, including websites that host user-posted content, to renew their DMCA agent registrations every three years, or risk losing the safe harbor’s protections against copyright liability. Internet services now have until December 31, 2017 to re-register. 

The Copyright Office is in a library for a reason

Over the last two years we’ve seen a couple of high-profile, entertainment industry-backed proposals to "yank the Copyright Office out of the Library" of Congress, where it’s been since 1870. These proposals have only gained momentum after the public resignation of Register Maria Pallante. But as Public Knowledge explained in its blistering report on the agency, the Copyright Office displays a bias towards the entertainment industries. Why should we give an agency that’s already shown itself vulnerable to industry capture more of an opportunity to cater to those interests, with even less oversight? Like copyright law, the Copyright Office should serve the public as a whole, not just the entertainment industries. As we’ve said before, we think it’s best able to do so under the guidance of someone dedicated to promoting the public’s access to knowledge and culture – a librarian.

The U.S. dawdles in ratifying Marrakesh, and there’s still time to halt Beijing

Beyond the purely domestic, President Obama sent two international copyright treaties to the U.S. Senate for ratification in February. Depending on whether and how they’re implemented, those treaties could affect U.S. copyright law.

The first, the Marrakesh Treaty to Facilitate Access to Published Works by Visually Impaired Persons and Persons With Print Disabilities, reached its ratification threshold and came into effect for countries that had ratified it in June. The United States is not yet one of these. The treaty requires member countries to adopt broad exceptions to copyright law for print-disabled persons, and makes it legal to import and export accessible works without the need to seek permission from the copyright holders. Overly restrictive copyright laws around the world have contributed to a shortage of works in accessible formats. The Marrakesh treaty is a significant step in improving print-disabled persons’ access to accessible books, and there is no excuse for Congress to delay any further in ratifying it.

The Senate has also not yet ratified the second treaty, the Beijing Treaty on Audiovisual Performances. If ratified, this treaty could grant new copyright-like rights to performers—including not only actors, musicians, and dancers, but a potentially broad swath of loosely defined performers—that allow them to restrict access to their performances for decades into the future. This could have serious consequences for journalists, musicians, artists, and anyone who wants to capture and repurpose documentation of live events. EFF and our supporters urged the Senate not to ratify Beijing, and to reject the USPTO’s even more extensive implementation proposal. In 2017 the Senate will have another chance; it’s not too late to tell your member of Congress to reject the USPTO’s proposal and refuse to ratify the treaty.

The White House “IP Czar” gives the nod to shadow regulation

Shadow regulation, the attempt by private companies and government officials to regulate the Internet using secretive, backroom agreements, earned a ringing endorsement from the Obama administration at the end of the year. The U.S. Intellectual Property Enforcement Coordinator (IPEC)—an office inside the White House tasked with developing the administration’s intellectual property enforcement policy—released its new Joint Strategic Plan [PDF] in December. While it acknowledges the importance of limitations and exceptions to copyright, including fair use, the report commends existing agreements, like this one between the MPAA and domain name registries, and calls for increased participation across sectors of Internet services. As we’ve said before, these agreements place substantial power over users’ online behavior in the hands of a few powerful companies, and create opportunities for abuse. They’re especially problematic when government officials encourage such agreements as a way of bypassing normal democratic processes. If the federal government is supporting these agreements, then it should make sure they adequately protect their users’ rights and are accountable to those users.

After Congress’s listening tour in 2015 and several rounds of comments and public roundtables with the Copyright Office, there’s still little to show in terms of concrete legislative proposals for the “Next Great Copyright Act.” But the entertainment and content industries haven’t let up in their pursuit of more draconian copyright laws, and there’s a risk that the copyright reform process could really go off the rails in 2017. If it does, we’ll all need to be ready to let Congress know how powerful Internet users really are. 

This article is part of our Year In Review series. Read other articles about the fight for digital rights in 2016.

Like what you're reading? Support digital freedom defense today!


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Obama: Liar-in-Chief

sjlendman.blogspot.com - Mon, 26/12/2016 - 04:30
Obama: Liar-in-Chief
by Stephen Lendman
Throughout his deplorable 8-year tenure, he broke every major promise made, including pledging:
  • hope and change;

  • peace in our time;

  • observance of democratic values;

  • ending torture, illegal spying and detention without trial;

  • “a new era of openness;”

  • helping Israel and Palestine “fulfill their national goals: two states living side by side in peace and security;”

  • on Afghanistan (October 27, 2007): “I will promise you this, that if we have not gotten our troops out by the time I am president, it is the first thing I will do. I will get our troops home. We will bring an end to this (and the Iraq) war(s). You can take that to the bank,” implying an era of peace under his leadership; and

  • closing Guantanamo in one year; more on this below.

Instead we got endless wars of aggression. Hope and change became despair and continuity. Rule of law principles and democratic values were trashed.
Torture continues throughout America’s global gulag. Illegal spying is worse than ever. A “new era of openness” became the most secretive administration in US history, worse than Nixon.
Guantanamo remains open along with numerous other US torture prisons - run by the Pentagon and CIA, closure off-the-table.
Eight years after Obama pledged Guantanamo’s closure, it remains open - even though shuttering it and returning the land to Cuba, its rightful owner, is as simple as implementing his January 22, 2009 Executive Order, saying:
“The detention facilities at Guantanamo for individuals covered by this order shall be closed as soon as practicable, and no later than 1 year from the date of this order.”
“If any individuals covered by this order remain, they shall be returned to their home country, released, transferred to a third country, or transferred to another United States detention facility in a manner consistent with law and the national security and foreign policy interests of the United States.”
No congressional approval is needed. Obama lied claiming otherwise. Guantanamo is a torture prison, illegally operating on occupied land Cuba wants back.
Only 59 prisoners remain, held for political reasons alone. Trump wants the facility kept open, saying he’s “gonna load it up with some bad guys,” maybe including US citizens accused of terrorism.
None were guilty of this high crime in modern memory - innocent patsies blamed for offenses they didn’t commit, some summarily executed. Dead men tell no tales.
Instead of closing Guantanamo before his tenure ends, Obama is renovating it, maybe expanding it - over $20 billion dollars earmarked for new dining, medical, housing, and perhaps other facilities for CIA and Pentagon personnel on the base. 
They’ll have all the comforts of home while brutalizing political prisoners unaccountably - no credible evidence proving anyone there now or earlier guilty of any crime.
Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago. He can be reached at lendmanstephen@sbcglobal.net. 
His new book as editor and contributor is titled "Flashpoint in Ukraine: How the US Drive for Hegemony Risks WW III."
http://www.claritypress.com/LendmanIII.html
Visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com. 

Listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network.

No Christmas Respite in Syria from US-Supported Terrorists

sjlendman.blogspot.com - Mon, 26/12/2016 - 04:10
No Christmas Respite in Syria from US-Supported Terrorists
by Stephen Lendman
After liberating Aleppo, Syrian and allied forces, together with Russian aerial support, are focused on freeing Idlib province and Palmyra of its US-supported terrorist scourge - along with preventing these elements from mounting an effective counteroffensive.
Reports indicated cutthroat killer “moderate rebels” murdered scores of captive Syrian soldiers before leaving the eastern Aleppo, many beheaded. Bodies of other victims were discovered, some with “severed heads and poked out eyes,” others lethally shot at close range.
Hundreds of eastern Aleppo families returning home on Christmas day was reason for them to celebrate, though unable to undo the horrors they’ve endured because of Obama’s imperial viciousness.
Separately, he approved supplying US-supported terrorists in Syria with man-portable air defense systems (MANPADS) - able to down low-flying aircraft and helicopters.
They’ve been covertly getting these and other heavy weapons all along. Tanks and artillery, etc. don’t materialize out of thin air. America and other foreign countries supply them.
Obama wants endless war continued. Hopefully Trump intends stopping the madness, earlier saying:
“We’ve spent $4 trillion trying to topple various people that, frankly, if they were there and if we could have spent that $4 trillion in the United States to fix our roads, our bridges, and all of the other problems - our airports and all the other problems we have - we would have been a lot better off, I can tell you that right now.”
“We have done a tremendous disservice not only to the Middle East. We’ve done a tremendous disservice to humanity. The people that have been killed, the people that have been wiped away - and for what?” 
“It’s not like we had victory. It's a mess. The Middle East is totally destabilized, a total and complete mess. I wish we had the 4 trillion dollars or 5 trillion dollars. I wish it were spent right here in the United States on schools, hospitals, roads, airports, and everything else that are all falling apart!”
He’ll shortly be in a position, along with a Republican-controlled Congress, to concentrate more on homeland needs instead of imperial adventurism.
Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago. He can be reached at lendmanstephen@sbcglobal.net. 
His new book as editor and contributor is titled "Flashpoint in Ukraine: How the US Drive for Hegemony Risks WW III."
http://www.claritypress.com/LendmanIII.html
Visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com. 

Listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network.

Russian Transport Plane Crash: Accident or Foul Play?

sjlendman.blogspot.com - Mon, 26/12/2016 - 03:22
Russian Transport Plane Crash: Accident or Foul Play?
by Stephen Lendman
In recent days, Russia suffered multiple tragedies. Ambassador Andrei Karlov was assassinated in Ankara, a likely strategically timed false flag incident.
Russian Latin America diplomat Petr Polshikov was found dead in his home, shot in the head. It’s unknown if both incidents are related.
Perhaps so, and now the tragic Christmas day Tupolev transport plane crash - 84 passengers and eight crew members lost, including the famed Russian Armed Forces Alexandrov Emsemble choir, along with conductor/composer Valery Khalilov.
Radar lost contact with the plane shortly after departing from Sochi for Latakia, Syria Khmeimim military base - scheduled to be part of a Christmas performance for Russian personnel on the ground.
A Russian Defense Ministry statement said “(h)ull fragments of the Tu-154 plane operated by the Defense Ministry have been found about 1.5 km off the Black Sea coast of Sochi at a depth of 50-70 meters.”
Everyone on board is believed dead. Dozens of divers, vessels, drones and helicopters are involved in the search for passengers and crew member bodies.
Weather conditions were reported favorable at the time of the crash. Putin “express(ed) (his) most sincere condolences to the families of our citizens who died in the plane crash in the Black Sea this morning.” 
“The government will do everything to provide support. Tomorrow will be a national day of mourning in Russia.”
A thorough Transport Ministry criminal investigation will be conducted to determine precisely what happened. It’s too early to know if it was a tragic accident or foul play.
At his yearend press conference, Obama threatened Russia with “serious consequences” for nonexistent US election hacking, suggesting Putin’s direct involvement.
Were the assassinations of Karlov and Polshikov, along with Sunday’s Tupolev transport plane crash part of what he had in mind, perhaps with more to come before leaving office?
Russian investigators will get to the bottom of who’s responsible for all three incidents. They won’t go unanswered if a foreign power was involved.
Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago. He can be reached at lendmanstephen@sbcglobal.net. 
His new book as editor and contributor is titled "Flashpoint in Ukraine: How the US Drive for Hegemony Risks WW III."
http://www.claritypress.com/LendmanIII.html
Visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com. 

Listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network.

No Joy to the World Throughout the Year

sjlendman.blogspot.com - Sun, 25/12/2016 - 23:00
No Joy to the World Throughout the Year
by Stephen Lendman
How can there be with wars raging out-of control! Who's celebrating while mass slaughter and destruction persist?
No Christmas cheer this year for billions. No Feliz Navidad. No happy holiday. No Wise Men spreading good will. 
No silent, holy night. No decking the halls. No herald angels singing. None heard on high. 
No coming all ye faithful. No telling it on the mountain. No merry gentlemen resting. No peace on earth coming upon a midnight clear. No white Christmas dreams.
No most wonderful time of the year. No having yourself a merry little Christmas. No holly jolly one. No wishing you one in times of war, injustice and human suffering. They rage on an unprecedented scale. 
No frosty the snowman fun. No winter wonderland. No jingle bells joy. No auld lang syne.
No Christmas 2016 to remember. No Santa on his sleigh. None coming to town. No gifts for billions. 
No peace with war winds raging. None with global human misery. America is scrooge on steroids. It's the grinch that stole Christmas.
Western media scoundrels claim otherwise. They support the worst of all possible worlds. They pretend aggressive wars are liberating ones. 
They claim nations are destroyed to free them. They call imperial dominance democracy.
They glorify wars in the name of peace. Humanitarian intervention and responsibility to protect (R2P) mask ravaging one country after another. Mass slaughter and destruction reflect it. 
They call plunder economic development. They pretend Christmas 2016 reflects peace and good will on earth. 
They ignore what matters most. They turn a blind eye to US imperial savagery. Unprecedented human suffering reflects it. 
It persists globally. They sweep it under the rug. They air brush it from history. They ignore reality. Hypocrisy and indifference substitute.
The slightly edited above content was part of an earlier yearend article. How can there be joy and good cheer with America waging war on humanity at home and abroad?
Good sense rejects the idea of giving thanks for punishing poverty, unemployment, underemployment, hunger, homelessness, untreated diseases, starvation, and human misery on an appalling scale.
Festiveness is meaningless when survival matters most. Holiday season is no time off from global suffering, especially in US war theaters, millions victimized by imperial viciousness.
Book of Matthew passages, saying “(b)lessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth…Blessed are the merciful…the pure of heart…the peacemakers” seem out-of-place in a violent, chaotic world showing no signs of change.
How can there be joy to a world plagued by pain, torment, heartache, misery and human suffering - the price humanity pays for its privileged few to benefit at the expense of most others.
Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago. He can be reached at lendmanstephen@sbcglobal.net. 
His new book as editor and contributor is titled "Flashpoint in Ukraine: How the US Drive for Hegemony Risks WW III."
http://www.claritypress.com/LendmanIII.html
Visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com. 

Listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network.

Israel Hysterical Over Security Council Put-Down

sjlendman.blogspot.com - Sun, 25/12/2016 - 22:48
Israel Hysterical Over Security Council Put-Down
by Stephen Lendman
Israeli settlements and occupation of Palestine are flagrantly illegal. Friday’s Security Council Resolution 2334 affirmed the former. 
Action on the latter should follow, despite no UN enforcement authority to change things on the ground.
Even so, Palestinians are joyous over Friday’s vote, Israeli officials hysterical. Netanyahu called Obama hostile to Israel, ludicrously accusing him of “a shameful anti-Israeli ambush.”
He ordered funding cut off for five UN agencies, promising more measures against the world body, possibly banning its officials from entering Israel and Occupied Palestine.
Israeli aid to Senegal was halted, one of the four countries behind Res. 2334. Israel’s ambassador to the country was recalled, along with its envoy to New Zealand, also pushing the measure.
Malaysia and Venezuela have no diplomatic relations with Israel, the other two countries urging the resolution be adopted.
Netanyahu vowed to ignore it. Israel breaches international law with impunity - without fear of punitive action, especially from Washington, its longstanding paymaster ally, supplying it with billions of dollars in mostly military aid.
It’s used to brutalize and massacre Palestinians, along with bullying and attacking its neighbors. It’s at war with Syria without declaring it, intermittently terror-bombing its territory, a cowardly war crime.
Fascist, zionist lunatics run Israel, a pariah state. Netanyahu blustered, saying “(w)hen I spoke yesterday with congressional leaders and the incoming US administration, they told me most clearly: ‘We are fed up and it will not last. We will change this decision, we will not let anyone harm the State of Israel.’ “
He vowed to extract a price from anyone challenging Israel’s right to do whatever it damn pleases, no matter the rule of law or human cost. 
Public security minister Gilad Erdan called for “immediate annexation of the settlement blocs (along with accelerated) construction throughout the land,” including beyond the Green Line.
An earlier postponed controversial measure to authorize West Bank outposts is “back on the table,” perhaps certain to pass despite Israel’s High Court ruling them illegal.
The so-called Regulation Bill would legalize 4,000 housing units on privately owned/stolen Palestinian land.
Trump vowed “things will be different after Jan. 20.” Neocon Senator Ted Cruz called for no US funding for the world body until Res. 2334 is reversed.
Neocon Senator Lindsey Graham intends proposing a congressional measure to block UN funding, blustering “I am going to lead that break.”
House Speaker Paul Ryan, John McCain and other congressional neocons may support it, perhaps Trump going along.
On Christmas eve, he tweeted “(t)he big loss yesterday for Israel in the United Nations will make it much harder to negotiate peace. Too bad, but we will get it done anyway!”
Decades of attempts failed because Israel wants endless conflict and instability, not peace and Palestinian self-determination.
Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago. He can be reached at lendmanstephen@sbcglobal.net. 
His new book as editor and contributor is titled "Flashpoint in Ukraine: How the US Drive for Hegemony Risks WW III."
http://www.claritypress.com/LendmanIII.html
Visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com. 

Listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network.

Julian Assange on Hillary and Trump

sjlendman.blogspot.com - Sun, 25/12/2016 - 22:36
Julian Assange on Hillary and Trump
by Stephen Lendman
Assange is a political refugee, given asylum by Ecuador in its London embassy since 2012 - unable to leave because of fabricated rape charges, fearing arrest and extradition to America.
A sealed indictment disgracefully charges him with spying under the long ago outdated 1917 Espionage Act. He’s a conduit, not a spy, involved with others, publishing leaked material they’re given, what everyone deserves to know.
The same miscarriage of justice got Chelsea Manning imprisoned for 35 years for exposing US war crimes the Pentagon wants suppressed.
A petition urging Obama to commute her sentence to time served exceeded its goal of 100,000 signatures, my name among them.
Assange faces brutalizing treatment like Manning if extradited to America. In an interview with Italy’s la Repubblica broadsheet, he blasted Hillary, largely withheld judgment on Trump while expressing guarded hope for change.
Asked to reply to accusations of helping Trump defeat Hillary, he said “(w)e published what the Democratic National Committee, John Podesta, Hillary Clinton’s campaign manager, and Hillary Clinton herself were saying about their own campaign, which the American people read and were very interested to read, and assessed the elements and characters, and then they made a decision.” 
“That decision was based on Hillary Clinton’s own words, her campaign manager’s own words.”  They were their own worst enemies.
Hillary has a longstanding deplorable record as first lady, US senator and secretary of state. For years, WikiLeaks published her cables, emails and other materials, supplied by insiders leaking them.
Asked with her defeated by Trump did WikiLeaks win, Assange said “(w)e were pleased to see how much of the American public interacted with the material we published.” 
“That interaction was on both sides of politics, including those to the left of Hillary Clinton those who supported Bernie Sanders, who were able to see the structure of power within the Democratic National Committee (DNC) and how the Clintons had placed Debbie Wasserman Schultz to head up the DNC and as a result the DNC had tilted the scales of the process against Bernie Sanders.”
Asked about prospects under Trump, Assange expressed “mixed” feelings, saying “Hillary Clinton and the network around her imprisoned one of our alleged sources for 35 years, Chelsea Manning, tortured her according to the United Nations, in order to implicate me personally.”
Hillary “was the chief proponent and the architect of the war against Libya. It is clear that she pursued this war as a staging effort for her presidential bid. It wasn’t even a war for an ideological purpose.” 
“This war ended up producing the refugee crisis in Europe, changing the political colour of Europe, killing more than 40,000 people within a year in Libya, while the arms from Libya went to Mali and other places, boosting or causing civil wars, including the Syrian catastrophe” - the other imperial she orchestrated, far more devastating than against Gaddafi. 
He was targeted to destroy Libya’s sovereign independence, wanting it transformed into another US vassal state, its resources plundered, its people exploited, the same goals America pursues in all its imperial wars.
Assange: “If someone and their network behave like that, then there are consequences. Internal and external opponents are generated. Now there is a separate question on what Donald Trump means.”
Hillary’s election assured continued unchallenged deep state rule, especially geopolitically. Trump is a political outsider, “part of (America’s) wealthy ruling elite…(He’s) gathering around him…other rich people,” said Assange.
“It is a new patronage structure which will evolve rapidly, but at the moment its looseness means there are opportunities for change in the United States: change for the worse and change for the better.”
Assange had no chance for justice while Obama remained in power. Whether coming under Trump awaits his ascension to power. Assange helped him defeat Hillary. One good turn deserves another.
Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago. He can be reached at lendmanstephen@sbcglobal.net. 
His new book as editor and contributor is titled "Flashpoint in Ukraine: How the US Drive for Hegemony Risks WW III."
http://www.claritypress.com/LendmanIII.html
Visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com. 

Listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network.

Celebrating Christmas in Rubble

sjlendman.blogspot.com - Sun, 25/12/2016 - 22:24
Celebrating Christmas in Rubble
by Stephen Lendman
For the first time in four-and-a-half years, Aleppo residents have reason to celebrate this holiday season.
On Thursday, thousands took to the streets, marching, expressing joy over US-backed terrorists expelled from the city.
They carried flags, displayed pictures of President Assad, while mosques called the faithful to pray and church bells tolled.
RT correspondent Lizzie Phelan spoke to residents. A young woman said “(w)e did not expect that this moment would ever actually come. We had four years of pain, of war and blood.”
“We are so happy that we can celebrate once again. Aleppo has been returned to us. This is our homeland. We couldn’t even imagine that we would once again see all this joy and celebration.”
A teenager explained “(l)ife without (her older sister killed by terrorist sniper fire) is very hard. (She) think(s) about her every minute and…feel(s) like she is with us.”
Phelan tweeted “(n)ow world may stop talking about #Aleppo, but it's destroyed. With or without the fighting, suffering and pain will continue here for years.” 
Many children lost all family members. They’re dependent on orphanages for care. One boy said “I just want peace all over Syria. That is all.”
On Friday, Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu said “I believe we are on the verge of reaching an agreement on a full ceasefire in the territory of Syria.”
A long ago popular holiday season song in America was titled “All I want for Christmas Is My Two Front Teeth.” All Syrians want, young and old, is peace, stability, elimination of the terrorist threat, and restoration of their country.
Washington bears full responsibility for raping a nation threatening no one. Interviewed on NPR, CIA director John Brennan admitted “some (agency) responsibility for the horrific bloodshed,” adding:
It won’t stop “until there is some type of viable and genuine political process that will bring to power in Damascus a government that is representative of the Syrian people,” he added.
Rubbish! It won’t stop unless Washington abandons its rage for world dominance, no matter the human cost. 
It’s Trump’s call once inaugurated. Whether he’s up to challenging longstanding rogue CIA practices and what bipartisan neocons want remains to be seen.
Separately, Vladimir Putin no longer concealed his contempt for Obama at his annual tour de force press conference - answering dozens of questions straightforwardly like all his public remarks.
Without mentioning Obama by name, he said “(t)oday’s administration (in Washington) is very clearly dividing the nation.”
“They are losing on all fronts and looking for scapegoats on whom to lay the blame. I think that this is an affront to their own dignity. It is important to know how to lose gracefully.”
A new administration succeeds the current deplorable one in January. It’s unclear what Trump intends geopolitically once in office. A lot depends on what he decides.
Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago. He can be reached at lendmanstephen@sbcglobal.net. 
His new book as editor and contributor is titled "Flashpoint in Ukraine: How the US Drive for Hegemony Risks WW III."
http://www.claritypress.com/LendmanIII.html
Visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com. 

Listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network.

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