This Morning at Harvard Law School We Woke Up to a Hate Crime

This Morning at Harvard Law School We Woke Up to a Hate Crime
Nov 19 2015

The hallways of Harvard Law School are lined with portraits of every tenured professor in the history of the university. As a first-year law student, the first time that I walked down those hallways I was painfully aware of the white men that take up most of the space on the walls, but also proud to see black professors hanging right beside them. The portraits make me feel a strange tension of pain yet promise. I am constantly reminded of the legacy of white supremacy that founded this school and still breathes through every classroom and lecture hall. I am also shown the small inroads that professors of color have made, breaking apart the notion that whiteness is the epitome of legal scholarship. This is how I felt yesterday walking through those hallways.

The portraits of black professors, the ones that bring me and so many other black students feelings of pride and promise, were defaced. Their faces were covered with a single piece of black tape, crossing them out of Harvard Law School’s legacy of legal scholarship. Their faces were slashed through, X-ing them out, marking them as maybe unwanted or maybe unworthy or maybe simply too antithetical to the legacy of white supremacy on which Harvard Law School has been built. Harvard Law School was, after all, founded with the money from the sale of over 100 Antiguan enslaved people (because they were not slaves but people who were brutally and inhumanely enslaved) by the Royall family. To this day, the Royall family crest is the seal for Harvard Law School, and their legacy of white supremacy drips from every corner of the campus, like the blood of the 77 enslaved people murdered after a slave revolt on the Royall plantation. The defacing of the portraits of black professors this morning is a further reminder that white supremacy built this place, is the foundation of this place, and that we never have and still do not belong here.


Decoding Daesh: Why is the new name for ISIS so hard to understand?

[Note:  This item comes from friend Shannon McElyea.  Shannon’s comment:’Hopefully all nations and all media will start using the term and label Da’esh / Daesh … here is a great explanation why.’ DLH]

Decoding Daesh: Why is the new name for ISIS so hard to understand?
Arabic translator Alice Guthrie investigates ‘Daesh’, the new name for ISIS recently adopted by several world leaders because it delegitimises the group’s activities. But how can a new name undermine a terrorist organisation? And why do the English-speaking media find the name so difficult to understand?
By Alice Guthrie
Feb 19 2015

Over the last few months, there has been a concerted effort by several senior global politicians to give a new name to the group known as ISIS, or Islamic State, IS or ISIL. That new name is ‘Daesh’. If you’ve followed coverage of this attempted official linguistic sea change, you’ll have gathered that the new name, although it’s just an Arabic acronym equivalent to the English ‘ISIS’, apparently delegitimises the organisation, mocks them, and thus drives them to threaten taking violent retribution on anyone who uses it.

But why does this acronym have this power, and what’s so offensive about it? If your access to news media is only in English, you might still be none the wiser. You may have got the impression from this coverage that the exact meaning and connotations of the word cannot quite be fathomed by anyone – that this word is a nebulous drifter, never to be pinned down. Basically, the coverage seems to imply, it’s obscured by a veil, like so much else in the Arabo-Islamic world, and we can’t hope to get it spelled out for us. It’s far too Eastern and weird for that.

Well, I’m an Arabic translator, so my work revolves around pinning down and spelling out Arabic words and explaining them in English, and I’m here to let you know that there’s nothing mysterious about this new acronym: it may be from a language quite different to English, and an Eastern one at that, but trust me: it can be explained.

I’ve come across some wildly inaccurate blethering lately about the word’s significance and its signification: even if you don’t know any Arabic at all, you might have been surprised to read in your major liberal broadsheet that although this new name is a transliteration of the Arabic acronym equivalent to ISIS, there are ‘certain schools of thought’ as to what the name means, or that you are being offered analysis based on ‘rough translations’ of the words in the acronym. If you’re particularly observant, you may have asked yourself how one of the words in the Arabic acronym of ‘Islamic State’ in Iraq and Syria can also mean ‘to crush or trample underfoot’ (as a major UK broadsheet faithfully ‘explained’ recently) – perhaps pondering, over your cornflakes, which of the words is the one with this double meaning: ‘state’ or ‘Islamic’, ‘Iraq’ or ‘Syria’? And wondering why you haven’t ever heard tell of this strange phenomenon before? If you’re a linguist, you will have scoffed at repeated references to a word that seems to shift between being a noun and a verb according to how it’s ‘conjugated’, taking extravagant semiotic leaps along the way. Perhaps, getting the impression from all this that the Arabic language is such uncharted territory, you even got inspired to start learning it, and get stuck in at the East-West decoding coalface? Is this ringing any Orientalist bells? But it’s really not that complicated, and certainly not uncharted territory at all.

The main misapprehensions about the word currently circulating in our media boil down to the following list:

That daesh is an Arabic word in its own right (rather than an acronym) meaning ‘a group of bigots who impose their will on others’
That it can be ‘differently conjugated’ to mean either the phrase above or ‘to trample and crush’
That one of the words in the acronym also means ‘to trample or crush’
That it is an insult or swearword in its own right
That is has different meanings in the plural form

Read around a bit, across several UK and US broadsheets, and you will quickly spot the same misinformation being repeated almost word for word: publications are either quoting each other as supposed reliable sources on the story, with acknowledgments, or simply repeating each other’s lines without explicitly referencing them. In most cases, the explanation is not only wrong, it doesn’t actually make sense. But why all this speculation? Why so much mystery? Why are phrases like ‘rough translation’ and ‘possibly linked to this word’ being used, making the story out to be as elusive and contested as many of the political developments on the ground in Syria? Clearly none of these journalists or their researchers have accessed an Arabic/English dictionary (there are many freely searchable online) nor – even easier – contacted an arabophone, to check these basic facts.


The Myth of the Terrorist Mastermind

The Myth of the Terrorist Mastermind
Why do we need to keep telling ourselves the plotters are special?
By Jack Shafer
Nov 16 2015

Why do we need to keep telling ourselves the plotters are special?

Now that French authorities have named a suspected chief planner of the Paris attacks—27-year-old Belgian ISIS veteran Abdelhamid Abaaoud—the press is building him up as if he’s 100 feet tall. Abaaoud isn’t just another opportunist butcher of innocent flesh, he’s a “mastermind,” concur the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, the Associated Press, CBS News, Fox News, Time, NPR, the Guardian, NBC News, the Independent, and other outlets. Even POLITICO gets in on the act, though hedging it as the “alleged mastermind.”

It doesn’t diminish the horror of Paris slaughter in the least to note that there was nothing “masterful” about the operation that took place last Friday. Nor was any special genius on display at two failed operations from earlier this year, on a high-speed train and in a church, attributed to Abaaoud’s know-how. These two operations—providing shooters with firearms and pointing them in the direction of a group of unsuspecting civilians—took about as much imagination and skill as ordering a pizza. The Paris assault was more complex: Abaaoud allegedly dispatched three teams of attackers to six or seven locations to perform their killing chores. But no true mastermind would brag about the results. At or near the stadium, where upwards of 80,000 fans were watching a soccer match between Germany and France, the three suicide bombers detonated their charges and killed only one other person.

About two score victims were killed at restaurants by gunmen, and other 89 were killed at the sold-out Bataclan theater (1,500 capacity) by three shooters and their suicide bombs. It might take a cold heart to say this, but by one measure the Paris attack was a failed plan. Several hundred or maybe even 1,000 could have died if a real mastermind had been in charge. If we accept estimates that eight killers were responsible for the Paris attacks, they managed to kill fewer people, on average, than one unbalanced person did at Sandy Hook Elementary School. Nobody calls him a mastermind.

What makes us so susceptible to the idea that the author of the Paris killings is a “mastermind”? Why can’t he be called something more mundane, like an organizer or a commander? I think we ascribe evil brilliance to terrorists because we can’t accept that a normal working Joe of standard intelligence could kill so freely as this. We see this again and again in novels and movies, presenting us with villainous killers who possess a commanding intellect, like Professor Moriarty, Ernst Stavro Blofeld, and Hannibal Lecter.

But if we’re serious about contending with the problem, we need to resist the mastermind trope. Our enemies are nowhere near as invincible as Moriarty, Blofeld, or Lecter. If the leading terrorists are so brilliant, how come we’ve taken so many of them out with a drone or a Delta Force team, a fate that will soon visit Abaaoud, too, even if he hides himself in a spider hole? The “mastermind” narrative treats terrorism like 24, in which the forces of good predictably vanquish the forces of evil in each season’s finale; a far better framework for the terrorist perplex might be The Wire, a world of basic human limits and long, painful, insoluble conflicts.


After Endless Demonization Of Encryption, Police Find Paris Attackers Coordinated Via Unencrypted SMS

After Endless Demonization Of Encryption, Police Find Paris Attackers Coordinated Via Unencrypted SMS
from the anonymous-sources-say dept
By Karl Bode
Nov 18 2015

In the wake of the tragic events in Paris last week encryption has continued to be a useful bogeyman for those with a voracious appetite for surveillance expansion. Like clockwork, numerous reports were quickly circulated suggesting that the terrorists used incredibly sophisticated encryption techniques, despite no evidence by investigators that this was the case. These reports varied in the amount of hallucination involved, the New York Times even having to pull one such report offline. Other claims the attackers had used encrypted Playstation 4 communications also wound up being bunk.

Yet, pushed by their sources in the government, the media quickly became a sound wall of noise suggesting that encryption was hampering the government’s ability to stop these kinds of attacks. NBC was particularly breathless this week over the idea that ISIS was now running a 24 hour help desk aimed at helping its less technically proficient members understand encryption (even cults help each other use technology, who knew?). All of the reports had one central, underlying drum beat implication: Edward Snowden and encryption have made us less safe, and if you disagree the blood is on your hands.

Yet, amazingly enough, as actual investigative details emerge, it appears that most of the communications between the attackers was conducted via unencrypted vanilla SMS:

“…News emerging from Paris — as well as evidence from a Belgian ISIS raid in January — suggests that the ISIS terror networks involved were communicating in the clear, and that the data on their smartphones was not encrypted.

European media outlets are reporting that the location of a raid conducted on a suspected safe house Wednesday morning was extracted from a cellphone, apparently belonging to one of the attackers, found in the trash outside the Bataclan concert hall massacre. Le Monde reported that investigators were able to access the data on the phone, including a detailed map of the concert hall and an SMS messaging saying “we’re off; we’re starting.” Police were also able to trace the phone’s movements.


Signs Point to Unencrypted Communications Between Terror Suspects

Signs Point to Unencrypted Communications Between Terror Suspects
By Dan Froomkin
Nov 18 2015

In the wake of the Paris attack, intelligence officials and sympathizers upset by the Edward Snowden leaks and the spread of encrypted communications have tried to blame Snowden for the terrorists’ ability to keep their plans secret from law enforcement.

Yet news emerging from Paris — as well as evidence from a Belgian ISIS raid in January — suggests that the ISIS terror networks involved were communicating in the clear, and that the data on their smartphones was not encrypted.

European media outlets are reporting that the location of a raid conducted on a suspected safe house Wednesday morning was extracted from a cellphone, apparently belonging to one of the attackers, found in the trash outside the Bataclan concert hall massacre. Le Monde reported that investigators were able to access the data on the phone, including a detailed map of the concert hall and an SMS messaging saying “we’re off; we’re starting.” Police were also able to trace the phone’s movements.

The Telegraph reported that “eyewitness accounts and surveillance of mobile telephone traffic” suggested that Abdelhamid Abaaoud, the suspected strategist of both the Paris attack and one that was foiled in Belgium, was staying at the safe house.

Details about the major ISIS terror plot averted 10 months ago in Belgium also indicate that while Abaaoud previously attempted to avoid government surveillance, he did not use encryption.

A prescient bulletin sent out in May by the Department of Homeland Security assessed “that the plot disrupted by Belgian authorities in January 2015 is the first instance in which a large group of terrorists possibly operating under ISIL direction has been discovered and may indicate the group has developed the capability to launch more complex operations in the West.”

Abaaoud’s planned operation in Belgium was blown when authorities, who had been closely surveilling his three accomplices, stormed their safe house in the city of Verviers after determining that they were planning a major attack — very much like the one that took place in Paris on Friday. A pitched firefight between Belgian commandos and the ISIS veterans firing Kalashnikov rifles and lobbing grenades ended with two suspects dead and a third captured.

Belgian investigators concluded that Abaaoud directed the foiled operation there by cellphone from Greece — and that despite his attempts to avoid surveillance, his communications were in fact intercepted. Just a few days after the raid, Belgian news website RTL Info ran a whole article titled “What the Terrorist Suspects under Surveillance Were Saying.” It described surveillance over several months, through wiretaps and listening devices placed in the suspects’ car and their apartment.


Stats are wrong: The public cloud is already the norm

Stats are wrong: The public cloud is already the norm
Analyst reports say public cloud adoption in the enterprise is less than 3 percent, but their stats ignore the real world
By David Linthicum
Nov 17 2015

It’s no longer new or odd for enterprises to use the cloud. The cloud is now a reliable workhorse, and it brings a great deal of value to the business.

A recent Verizon report shows what everyone already knows: Use of the cloud is no longer new or specialized; it’s become a solid part of our IT arsenal that most enterprises have already established as a core resource.

If the cloud is not so strange anymore, why isn’t everyone doing it? The use of public cloud makes up less than 2 or 3 percent of total enterprise workloads, the major analyst firms concur.

Some enterprises are still holding out on the move to the public cloud by citing security, control, and regulatory rationales. But many of them are starting the transition with a private cloud or two. They’re not counted in the analyst figures.

A much bigger undercount involves so-called shadow IT, where employees and even entire departments have bought into public cloud computing. They have SaaS or IaaS cloud assets that will eventually find their way back into corporate IT, which will reluctantly accept the use of public cloud resources. This has already occurred at most Global 2000 companies. But until these unofficial deployments work their way back to IT, these public cloud uses aren’t counted either in analyst stats.

Those unofficial deployments will help corporate IT see that the sky doesn’t fall when users deploy the public cloud. Indeed, agility goes up and costs drop. Moreover, if the right security approaches and technologies are applied, security actually improves.

This isn’t the common wisdom these days, but as time passes and there are no major breaches, cloud will get redemption in the minds of many CIOs.


Inside Faraday Future, the secretive car company chasing Tesla

Inside Faraday Future, the secretive car company chasing Tesla
By Tamara Warren
Nov 19 2015

Inside a suburban Los Angeles industrial building that once served as an R&D facility for Japanese automotive giant Nissan, natural midday light spills through the windows. Today, a very different company occupies this space. I arrive at lunchtime. It’s catered, in true startup fashion — there’s no time to have your employees actually leaving the building for lunch, of course. By 1 o’clock, the cafeteria cleared out; there isn’t much time for kicking back, even on a Friday afternoon.

This is the headquarters of Faraday Future, a young, seemingly well-funded company with an odd name that hasn’t said much about what it’s working on. We know that electric cars are involved, and we know that they’re probably years away from production. In the year and a half since Faraday’s founding, it has transformed this facility into a bustling corporate campus, stacked with a who’s-who list of poaches from some of California’s most prominent tech companies.

Tesla is one of those companies. For the past decade, Tesla has made the cars of the future: sleekly designed, technically advanced machines that brought with them a vision of how amazing and practical electric cars could be. Tesla, despite its problems and lack of profitability, has disrupted the auto industry by forcing it to think bigger. But now trading as a public company, Tesla is no longer the feisty new kid on the block — and it could be ripe for disruption, if Faraday gets its way.

Faraday Future first came into the news last summer when news leaked of its existence and its intention to produce electric cars. But speculation swirled around the company’s origins, its finances, and exactly what kind of car it was intending to build. In recent weeks, intrigue has heightened, as news has trickled about its links to Chinese investors and the identity of its unnamed CEO.

This week, Faraday Future chief designer Richard Kim is expected to announce that the company will participate at CES in January, its first major trade show. Though Faraday is still very much in stealth mode, it recently announced that it plans to spend $1 billion on a US factory that will produce electric cars using a non-traditional sales model — possibly where owners would temporarily “subscribe” to different vehicles depending on their needs. While a prototype might be introduced soon, mass manufacturing could still be years away. Making cars isn’t easy; Google, for instance, farms out the production of its self-driving prototypes to a third party.

In Faraday’s engineering facility, the floors are a spotless white with sundry car parts and brightly colored machines tucked in corners. A large 3D printer sits on a table. Engineers are hunched over terminals. During my visit, conversation among the employees was the only audible sound. The work of developing modern electric cars is quiet, it turns out.