Tag Archives: United Nations

Stephen Colbert might want to rethink his little declaration of war

Bill O’Reilly has a dream. He doesn’t think the United States armed forces should be fighting ISIS, and would rather see a mercenary army do the dirty work for us.

A lot of people who prefer to forget that the United States (and the rest of the developed world) does employ soldiers for hire — contractors and peacekeepers, to name two types — don’t love the idea.

Predictably, Stephen Colbert couldn’t resist the pigpile, and goaded O’Reilly into a back and forth, which culminated last night when Colbert addressed O’Reilly directly: “Let’s not fight. Or if we do fight, Bill, let’s at least pay other people to do it for us.”

Clever. But probably a mistake.

The optimal strategy for Colbert is to take on Papa Bear alone. That’s right: for once, bear-wrestling would constitute only the #2 threat to Stephen Colbert.

Continue reading Stephen Colbert might want to rethink his little declaration of war

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If you understand why the U.N. peacekeepers were released in Syria, you understand the conflict

Forty-five United Nations peacekeepers from Fiji were released by Syrian rebel group Nusra Front. They were taken hostage when the Al Qaeda-linked organization seized control of the Quneitra crossing on August 28th.

According to the BBC, in exchange for releasing the peacekeepers, Nusra Front had “demanded to be taken off the UN’s list of designated terrorist organisations, wanted humanitarian aid be delivered to parts of Syria, and sought compensation for three fighters killed in a gunfight with Undof forces in the Golan Heights.”

None of these demands were fulfilled. So why did the rebel group release the peacekeepers sua sponte?

Continue reading If you understand why the U.N. peacekeepers were released in Syria, you understand the conflict

The pettiest collateral damage from deteriorating U.S.-Israel relations

The relationship between the United States and Israel has been better. The Wall Street Journal published an article yesterday, titled “Israel Outflanks the White House on Strategy: White House Now Scrutinizing Israeli Requests for Ammunition“, that claims “U.S.-Israeli relations [are at their] lowest point since President Barack Obama took office.”

The article took pains to differentiate between Israel’s relationships with the U.S. Military and with Congress on the one hand, and the Obama administration on the other. To illustrate this divide, the article detailed the diplomatic fallout of Israel’s request for more American ammunition during Operation Protective Edge:

Continue reading The pettiest collateral damage from deteriorating U.S.-Israel relations

Don’t give Kim Jong-il too much credit

Kim Jong-un is not happy (and probably a little lonely).

After Seth Rogen and James Franco released their first trailer for The Interview, in which they play journalists charged with assassinating the North Korean dictator, Kim’s lackeys promised “merciless” retaliation:

Continue reading Don’t give Kim Jong-il too much credit

The most public defecation of all time. All time.

Millions of visitors* were greeted, at some earlier point today, by this Huffington Post “splash” screen:

Huff post defecation face obscured

…one more publicly than them all…

Listen, I get it, HuffPo: posting a picture of a person pooping in public is a good way to provoke concern.  And that’s likely step one for finding a solution.

But — in addition to the public hygiene component of the problem — there is also a certain degree of human dignity at stake. Nobody deserves to have the world wide web watch them defecate in a dump.

And even if you think it’s no big deal, and that this kid will never learn of his prominent placement so that he could become embarrassed about it — you’re probably right, but considering that, according to the UN, more people on this planet have access to cellphones than toilets, the chance he will is certainly higher than zero.

Next time, perhaps a drop of consideration** is in order. Even if, for the people you’re covering, the toilet is permanently out.

Continue reading The most public defecation of all time. All time.

I hope Kim Jong-un brushed up on his American geography

North Korea has been threatening the United States with nuclear annihilation for as long as you and I can remember, but a recently-successful nuclear test, a newly-installed leader, and seemingly-specific attack plans have US strategists unsure of the degree to which they must take all this seriously.

The most recent round of threatening exchanges began about three weeks ago, after the UN Security Council agreed unanimously to tighten sanctions in response to North Korea’s third nuclear test. Kang Pyo-yong, the country’s vice defense minister, declared, “If we push the button, they will blast off and their barrage will turn Washington, the stronghold of American imperialists and the nest of evil, and its followers, into a sea of fire.”

I can’t say I lost too much sleep in the immediate aftermath of the announcement. After all, D.C. is probably out of North Korea’s range – the New York Times noted that “North Korea does not have the technical ability to use nuclear-tipped missiles” – and besides, the city is hot and humid and full of Congressmen, so good riddance.

But in the meantime, North Korea supposedly launched massive cyber attacks against its southern neighbor, placed its military on the highest level of alert (presumably, red), and severed its only line of communication with the South Korean military. And the threats haven’t been all one-sided: last week, the United States signed a formal defense agreement obligating it to protect South Korea from even small provocations, and flew B-2 stealth bombers over the country.

And so, we got another round of threats, these much more specific, and — I have to admit — much more worrisome. In any event, it’s probably worth paying attention if only because it’s better not to be taken by surprise in a situation involving the nuclear capabilities of a short man.

Much like in the previous threat, North Korea helpfully provided a list of targets. Kim Jung-un himself is quoted saying that in the event of a US attack, North Korea would “mercilessly strike the US mainland… military bases in the Pacific, including Hawaii and Guam, and those in South Korea.” I count four specific targets on his hit list: Hawaii, Guam, South Korea, and the US Mainland. Which brings us to a game of One of these things is not like the others.

The first three share one feature in common: the targets are entirely in or on the Pacific Ocean, just like North Korea. In other words, Kim’s list makes a lot of sense: Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles must be able to travel 1000 miles before they can travel 2000 miles, so as North Korea continues to develop its rocket technology, some targets are sure to come in range before others. That the targets are so specific and relatively nearby — and not, say, Detroit, New York, and Miami — might lend some credence to Kim Jung-un’s threat.

But what of the Thing that is not like the others — that is, the threat to hit the US mainland? Just last week, North Korea got a lot of attention when it released a photo with a map in the background detailing a “US Mainland Strike Plan”, so you know at least someone is taking the possibility seriously:

Continue reading I hope Kim Jong-un brushed up on his American geography

BBC wonders: “Can you accidentally do a Nazi salute?” You tell me

Greek “footballer” Giorgos Katidis had a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad Sunday.

As you may or may not be aware, Giorgos Katidis was banned for life from playing for the Greek national football team after he celebrated a winning goal with a Nazi salute.

Let me back up for a moment. As you may or may not be aware, Wikipedia tells me that “football” is “a sport played between two teams of typically eleven players, though other variations in player numbers such as 5 and 7 are also played, with a spherical ball.” Presumably, scoring a “winning goal” is a good thing, but I have no idea, I don’t watch soccer.

Here’s what it looked like:

Continue reading BBC wonders: “Can you accidentally do a Nazi salute?” You tell me

Did this computer game shut down the internet across an entire country?

Recent coverage of cyberwarfare has focused largely on the battle raging between the United States-based corporations & its government, and a shadow unit of elite Chinese military hackers. But lest the world’s attention shift too far from the egos of petulant dictators, news of intrigue from the homepeninsula of PSY:

Police and South Korean officials were investigating the simultaneous shutdown Wednesday of computer networks at several major broadcasters and banks. While the cause wasn’t immediately clear, speculation centered on a possible North Korean cyberattack.

There are good reasons to blame the shutdown on North Korea:

The shutdown came days after North Korea blamed South Korea and the United States for cyberattacks that temporarily shut down websites in Pyongyang.

Tensions between the neighboring countries are high following North Korea’s recent nuclear test and U.N. sanctions that followed.

But when you take a moment to examine the evidence, that explanation sort of falls apart:

The Reuters news agency reports that South Korean government investigators haven’t found any evidence yet of an external cyberattack.

Reuters also reports that a major Internet service provider, LG Uplus, says it believes its network has been hacked.

And since when do North Koreans even have computers anyway??

So while the investigation is ongoing, I’ll take this opportunity to explain exactly what I think is going on, and it has nothing to do with cyberwarfare waged by North Korea — or anyone else.

In fact, I would suggest that South Korea is suffering from a unique species of “denial of service”-like attack that also happened to recently afflict a large number of cities in the United States.

I have extensive expertise in computer hackery (in that I am a hack who writes on a computer), so my suggestion that the technique employed in South Korea was “denial of service” has absolutely nothing to do with the fact that it is the only type of hack I could name off the top of my head. My explanation is, at the very least,  plausible — so bear with me. According to Wikipedia, from whence my detailed knowledge of DoS attacks:

A “denial-of-service” attack is characterized by an explicit attempt by attackers to prevent legitimate users of a service from using that service. There are two general forms of DoS attacks: those that crash services and those that flood services.

The attack in South Korea has been characterized as a “shutdown”, so we’ll assume it was the type that involves crashing (as opposed to flooding) services.

Perpetrators of DoS attacks typically target sites or services hosted on high-profile web servers such as banks, credit card payment gateways, and even root nameservers.

I don’t know what a root nameserver is (nor do I care enough to click on the helpfully-provided link), but the attack we’re dealing with did affect high-profile web servers, including banks, so: so far so good.

One common method of attack involves saturating the target machine with external communications requests, so much so that it cannot respond to legitimate traffic, or responds so slowly as to be rendered essentially unavailable.

This final piece of information is the one crucial to my analysis.

Consider what we know: a bank and a broadcaster and an internet service provider in South Korea reported that their networks shut down. Such network shutdowns can occur when machines are saturated by “external communications requests.” Such requests could come as part of a coordinated attack — or they could come as part of an uncoordinated deluge.

And when do South Koreans uncoordinatedly deluge banks, broadcasters, and internet service providers?

Well, just last week, I felt a great disturbance in the Force, as if millions of voices suddenly cried out and were suddenly silenced. It was the sound of millions of South Koreans getting their hands on this  for the first time — and suddenly ceasing to engage in the pretense of social interaction:

Continue reading Did this computer game shut down the internet across an entire country?