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Editor, The Konformist
How The Pirate Bay sailed into infamy
By Flora Graham
Monday, 16 February 2009
The Pirate Bay was launched in 2003 and has established itself as the
world's most high-profile file-sharing site. But its founders are now
on trial for copyright violation and face imprisonment, if found
The Pirate Bay team aren't shy about what they are doing - they are
pirates, and proud of it. Their logo shows a galleon under full sail,
with a cassette tape topping a skull and crossbones in a nod to the
It is an accurate characterisation, according to Swedish prosecutors,
who have put three of the website's creators and one of its sponsors
on trial on charges of contributing to copyright infringement.
But the defendants claim to be more Robin Hood than Blackbeard,
freeing creative content from the shackles of copyright.
"There is not a cause closer to my heart," one of the founders told
Wired. "This is my crusade."
The Pirate Bay website hosts BitTorrent tracker files, and claims to
be the world's largest: in February 2009, it reported 22 million
BitTorrent connects people so that they can share files over the
internet. But users need a "tracker" link to find what they're
looking for - like the index card in a library catalogue. The Pirate
Bay provides a directory of these trackers, essentially becoming a
library of catalogues.
It doesn't store the books, or files, itself, just the information on
where to find them.
This distinction is what Pirate Bay claims will protect them under
"The tracker provides the user only with .torrent files which contain
no copyrighted data. The actual copyrighted material is to be found
on the individual machines of our users, not on our servers," says
The Pirate Bay's enormous success has enraged copyright protection
groups like the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA). And the
site's cheeky bravado rubs salt in the wounds. For example, it posts
all of the cease-and-desist letters that it receives, including its
"Please don't sue us right now, our lawyer is passed out in an
alley," says a reply to videogame giant Electronic Arts.
The site was founded by the Swedish file-sharing advocacy group
Piratbyran ("The Piracy Bureau") in 2003, but has been run
independently since 2004.
As other file-sharing websites were felled by threats and lawsuits
from industry heavyweights like the Recording Industry Association of
America (RIAA), the Pirate Bay held its ground.
Confident that Sweden's lax copyright laws meant that they were on
the right side of the rules, the site continued to defy legal threats
that caused other torrent sites, such as Isohunt, to remove links to
infringing torrents upon request.
As one of the few high-profile survivors, its piece of the file
trading pie grew. The site's antagonistic attitude and tangles with
copyright holders and rights organisations increased its profile, and
the site now claims to be among the top 100 websites in the world.
The Pirate Bay's fame became too much for Swedish authorities, and in
March 2006 the site's offices were raided by police investigating
allegations of copyright violations.
Truckloads of file server computers were seized, the site was closed,
and three people were held for questioning, including two of the
defendants in the court case, Gottfrid Svartholm Warg and Fredrik
Authorities denied that the raid was prompted by urging from the MPA,
the international arm of the MPAA, but the Swedish media revealed
that the MPA had met with the justice ministry in the months before
The Pirate Bay offers links to TV, films and music
The Pirate Bay's site administrators scrambled to get the site back
up and running, and with help from volunteers around the world, it
was restored within three days.
Since the raid, the Pirate Bay has set up a network of servers so
that shutting down any one site will only cause the site to go down
for minutes. Since then, site administrators have challenged all
comers to try to shut them down.
"I really want the pleasure of it being down three minutes, then up
again," Frederik Neij told Wired.
With Sweden's waters becoming less pirate-friendly, the Pirate Bay
looked for warmer climes. In January 2007, it reportedly tried to buy
Sealand, a platform in the North Sea off the Suffolk coast, which
claims national sovereignty. After that fell through, the Bay raised
money to buy an island, but the plan was never realised.
Some media companies have apparently decided to take matters into
their own hands rather than wait for the slow pace of the Swedish
In September 2007, hackers leaked six months of internal e-mails from
anti-piracy company Media Defender, which revealed that the company
was discussing hiring hackers to attack the Pirate Bay's servers.
It was the Pirate Bay's turn to go to the courts, and it filed
charges against the Swedish arms of Media Defender clients such as
Twentieth Century Fox, EMI and Paramount. The charges were not
pursued, which also led to protests after the police investigator,
Jim Keyzer, took a job for Warner Brothers, a member of the MPAA. Mr
Keyzer is scheduled to be a witness in the Pirate Bay trial.
But the Pirate Bay's Robin Hood reputation was sullied in July 2007
when a reporter, posing as a potential advertiser on the site,
estimated that the site was earning up to £55,000 per month that was
being channelled into a front company in Switzerland.
Mr Neij has denied that his team was getting rich from operating the
Pirate Bay. "I wish I earned that," he told Vanity Fair. "Do I look
like I have, like, $2m?"
Gottfrid Svartholm Warg, another defendant, pointed out that they
lost $60,000 worth of equipment in the raids. "It's not free to
operate a website on this scale," he said.
With the Pirate Bay facing its strongest challenge yet, its
administrators have not stopped rattling their cutlasses.
Mr Warg, in a webcast on Sunday, said: "What are they going to do
about it? They have already failed to take down the site once. Let
them fail again.
"It has a life without us."
Mark Mulligan, a digital media analyst at Forrester Research, agreed
that even if the Pirate Bay was brought down by the case, the file-
sharing genie could not be put back in the bottle.
"The industry knows this. But they also know that they need to go
through the motions, particularly with the big players. If they
don't, that essentially green lights file sharing."
He points to previous industry victories against companies like
Napster, which shut down the network but didn't reduce the market.
"After every victory, file-sharing has got bigger. I see no reason
why the same won't happen this time."
Michael Jackson auctions belongings from his Neverland ranch
Michael Jackson is holding a five-day public auction at the Beverly
Hilton hotel in Los Angeles this April to sell off over 2,000 items
ranging from personal effects and costumes through to his expansive
art collection as well as fixtures and fittings from his Neverland
Geronimo's Great Grandson Asks Yale Secret Society to Return
The great grandson of Geronimo says he wants to know whether Skull
and Bones secret society at Yale University has the remains of the
famous Apache chief and shaman.
By Stephen Clark
Tuesday, February 17, 2009
It's the stuff of legends: an elite secret society that includes what
would become some of the most powerful men of the 20th century
allegedly invading the grave of an Apache chief to steal his skull
for fraternal rituals. It's also the stuff of a new lawsuit filed
Tuesday by descendents of that Apache chief.
On the 100th anniversary of the death of Geronimo, 20 of his blood
relatives have asked the courts to force Yale University and the
school's secret organization, Skull and Bones, to release his remains
for return to his native land and a proper burial.
The lawsuit also names President Obama, Defense Secretary Robert
Gates and Army Secretary Pete Geren as defendants because they are
responsible for maintaining Geronimo's remains on a U.S. Army base in
Oklahoma, the group said.
"I believe it's a good cause because indigenous people over the
century have been annihilated, removed from their homeland," said
Geronimo's great grandson, Harlyn Geronimo, at a press conference in
Skull and Bones has never said whether any of Geronimo's remains are
in its possession. The descendants say they are investigating long-
held claims that in 1918, members of Skull and Bones, including
Prescott Bush, the father of George H.W Bush and grandfather of
George W. Bush, invaded Geronimo's grave at Ft. Sill and stole his
skull, some bones and other items buried with him.
"In this lawsuit, we're going to find out if the bones are there or
not," said the group's lawyer, said the group's lawyer, Ramsey Clark,
who was attorney general in President Lyndon Johnson's administration.
Gila Reinstein, a spokeswoman for Yale University, said she is
unaware of the lawsuit, but Yale can add nothing to the mystery of
the Indian chief's whereabouts.
"To the best of my knowledge, Yale University has no relics or bones
belonging to Geronimo," she said, adding that she couldn't speak on
behalf of Skull and Bones because it is independent of the
Geronimo fought for decades against Mexican and American expansion
into tribal lands. He and his small band of Apaches surrendered to
U.S. troops in 1886 and were sent to Florida as prisoners of war
before being transferred to Alabama.
Five years later, he was sent to Ft. Sill, where he lived the rest of
his life as a free-range prisoner. Geronimo became a celebrity in the
twilight of his life, appearing at fairs and selling souvenirs and
photographs of himself. He died of pneumonia in 1909 at Ft. Sill and
was buried at the Apache Indian Prisoner of War Cemetery on the
Three members of the Skull and Bones, including Prescott Bush, served
as Army volunteers at Fort Sill during World War I. They are accused
of stealing the items which supposedly are used in initiation
ceremonies. One alleged ritual includes kissing Geronimo's skull.
Geronimo said he's bringing the lawsuit now after contemplating it
over the past decade because he has the time to do it after retiring
from a tribal council in 2000. Clark added that at the 100th
anniversary of the shaman's death, "We really thought it would be a
good time to say enough is enough."
Geronimo said he has appealed to former President Bush for help in
returning the remains.
"According to our traditions the remains of this sort, especially in
this state when the grave was desecrated, need to be reburied with
the proper rituals to return the dignity and let his spirits rest in
Asked why he didn't appeal to Obama first, Geronimo said he thought
Obama may be too busy to heed his request.
Is Israel assassinating Iran nuclear scientists?
By Yossi Melman, Haaretz Correspondent
Tags: Iran, Nuclear, CIA
Israel is assassinating Iranian nuclear scientists as part of a
covert war against the Islamic Republic's illicit weapons program,
the Daily Telegraph on Tuesday quoted Western intelligence analysts
The British daily said Israel's Mossad espionage agency was rumored
to be behind the death of Ardeshire Hassanpour, a top nuclear
scientist at Iran's Isfahan uranium plant, who died in mysterious
circumstances from reported "gas poisoning" in 2007.
Other recent deaths of important figures in the procurement and
enrichment process in Iran and Europe have been the result of
Israeli "hits", intended to deprive Tehran of key technical skills at
the head of the program, according to the analysts.
The Telegraph also quoted United States intelligence sources as
saying Israel is using sabotage, front companies and double agents to
disrupt the regime's illicit weapons project as an alternative to
direct military strikes.
Nevertheless, it should be noted that Israel has been carrying out
similar covert activities for about a decade, ever since Iran was
first suspected of seeking nuclear weapons. The U.S. journalist James
Risen has written recently that the CIA and the Mossad have planned
together a number of sabotage operations against the Iranian program,
including damaging power lines to nuclear sites in order to cause
harm to computer systems and equipment.
The Telegraph also quoted Israeli officials as privately
acknowledging the new U.S. administration is unlikely to sanction an
air attack on Iran's nuclear installations and that President Barack
Obama's offer to extend a hand of peace to Tehran puts any direct
military action beyond reach for now.
As such, the reported goal of Israel's covert campaign is to delay or
interrupt the Iranian research program, without engaging in a direct
confrontation that could lead to a wider war.
"Disruption is designed to slow progress on the program, done in such
a way that they don't realize what's happening. You are never going
to stop it," a former CIA officer on Iran was quoted as saying.
"The goal is delay, delay, delay until you can come up with some
other solution or approach," he added. "We certainly don't want the
current Iranian government to have those weapons. It's a good policy,
short of taking them out militarily, which probably carries
Reva Bhalla, a senior analyst with Stratfor, the U.S. private
intelligence company with strong government security connections, was
quoted by the paper as saying the strategy was to take out key
"With co-operation from the United States, Israeli covert operations
have focused both on eliminating key human assets involved in the
nuclear programme and in sabotaging the Iranian nuclear supply
chain," she was quoted as saying.
"As US-Israeli relations are bound to come under strain over the
Obama administration's outreach to Iran, and as the political
atmosphere grows in complexity, an intensification of Israeli covert
activity against Iran is likely to result."
Barack Obama Administration Continues US Military Global Dominance
By Peter Phillips
The Barack Obama administration is continuing the neo-conservative
agenda of US military domination of the world albeit with perhaps
with a kinder-gentler face. While overt torture is now forbidden for
the CIA and Pentagon, and symbolic gestures like the closing of the
Guantanamo prison are in evidence, a unilateral military dominance
policy, expanding military budget, and wars of occupation and
aggression will likely continue unabated.
The military expansionists from within the Reagan, George H. W. Bush,
Clinton, G. W. Bush administrations all put into place solid support
for increased military spending. Clinton's model of supporting the US
military industrial complex was hold steady defense spending and to
increase foreign weapons sales from 16% of global orders to over 60%
by end of his administration.
The neo-conservatives, who dominated the most recent Bush
administration, amplified this trend for increased military spending.
The neo-cons laid out their agenda for military global dominance in
the 2000 Project for a New American Century (PNAC) report Rebuilding
America's Defenses. The report called for the protection of the
American Homeland, the ability to wage simultaneous theater wars, to
perform global constabulary roles, and to control space and
cyberspace. The report claimed that in order to maintain a Pax
Americana, potential rivals such as China, Iran, Iraq, and North
Korea needed to be held in check. Their military global dominance
agenda required forward deployment of US forces worldwide and
increasing defense/war spending well into the 21st century. The
result was a doubling of the US military budget to over $700 billion
in the last eight years. The US now spends as much on war/defense as
the rest of the world combined making American taxpayers the highest
war tax providers in the world.
Barack Obama's election brought a moment of hope for many. However,
the Obama administration is not calling for deceased military
spending, or a reversal of US military global dominance. Instead,
Obama retained Robert Gates, thus making Obama the first president
from an opposing party, in US history, to keep in place the outgoing
administrations' Secretary of Defense/War. Additionally, Obama is
calling for an expanded war in Afghanistan and only minimal long-
range reductions in Iraq.
The US military industrial complex is deeply embedded inside the
Washington beltway. According to the most recent reports from
OpenSecrets.org, 151 members of Congress in 2006 had up to $195.5
million invested in defense companies.
Major defense contractors were seriously involved in the 2008
elections. Lockheed Martin gave $2,612,219 in total political
campaign donations with 49% to Democrats ($1,285,493) and 51% to
Republicans ($1,325,159). Boeing gave $2,225,947 in 2008 with 58% to
Democrats and General Dynamics provided $1,682,595 to both parties.
Northrop Grumman spent over $20 million in 2008 hiring lobbyists to
consult to Congress, and Raytheon spent $6 million on lobbyists in
the same period. Nancy Pelosi received more money from registered
lobbyists than any other House candidate in the recent election cycle.
The International Monetary Fund's prediction for global economic
growth in 2009 is 0.5 percentthe worst since World War II. The
United Nations' International Labor Organization estimates that some
50 million workers will lose their jobs worldwide this year. There
are an estimated 62,000 U.S. companies expected to close this year,
and while official unemployment is at 7 percent in the US, when you
add people no longer looking for jobs and part-time workers, it is
closer to 14 percent. The military-industrial-political elite are
worried about the potential of increasing global insecurity. The
answer inside the Obama Administration is to continue high
defense/war spending to insure military control of both domestic and
The military, industrial, congressional, and administrative elite
profit from defense spending, both financially and ideologically.
Insider profit taking from pentagon spending is widespread in
Washington. But perhaps more important is the belief that this global
military machine is seen as necessary for the protection of US
corporate interests and the American upper classes in a increasingly
destabilized world. Given that belief, the Obama administration is
unlikely to change the established defense spending policies of the
previous US administrations.
Peter Phillips is a Professor of Sociology at Sonoma State University
and Director of Project Censored a media research organization. His
2006 study on the Global Dominance Group in the US is available on
Google Ocean: Has Atlantis been found off Africa?
A "grid of streets" on the seabed at one of the proposed locations of
the lost city of Atlantis has been spotted on Google Ocean.
By Matthew Moore
20 Feb 2009
The network of criss-cross lines is 620 miles off the coast of north
west Africa near the Canary Islands on the floor of the Atlantic
The perfect rectangle which is around the size of Wales was
noticed on the search giant's underwater exploration tool by an
aeronautical engineer who claims it looks like an "aerial map" of a
The underwater image can be found at the co-ordinates 31 15'15.53N 24
Last night Atlantis experts said that the unexplained grid is located
at one of the possible sites of the legendary island, which was
described by the ancient Greek philosopher Plato.
According to his account, the city sank beneath the ocean after its
residents made a failed effort to conquer Athens around 9000 BC.
Dr Charles Orser, curator of historical archaeology at New York State
University told The Sun that the find was fascinating and warranted
"The site is one of the most prominent places for the proposed
location of Atlantis, as described by Plato," the Atlantis expert
said. "Even if it turns out to be geographical, it definitely
deserves a closer look."
Bernie Bamford, 38, of Chester who spotted the "city", compared it to
the plan of Milton Keynes, the Buckinghamshire town built on a grid
design. "It must be man made," he said.
Google Ocean, an extension of Google Earth, allows web users to
virtually explore the ocean with thousands of images of underwater
Launched earlier this month, it lets users swim around underwater
volcanoes, watch videos about exotic marine life, read about nearby
shipwrecks, contribute photos and watch unseen footage of historic
The legend of Atlantis has excited the public imagination for
centuries. In recent years "evidence" of the lost kingdom has been
found off the coast of Cyprus and in southern Spain.
Plato described it as an island "larger than Libya and Asia put
together" in front of the Pillars of Hercules - the Straits of
Gibraltar. He said Atlantis was a land of fabulous wealth, advanced
civilisation and natural beauty destroyed by earthquakes and floods
9,000 years earlier.
Experts Warn of 'Terminator'-Style Military-Robot Rebellion
Friday, February 20, 2009
Autonomous military robots that will fight future wars must be
programmed to live by a strict warrior code, or the world risks
untold atrocities at their steely hands.
The stark warning which includes discussion of a "Terminator"-style
scenario in which robots turn on their human masters is part of a
hefty report funded by and prepared for the U.S. Navy's high-tech and
secretive Office of Naval Research.
The report, the first serious work of its kind on military robot
ethics, envisages a fast-approaching era where robots are smart
enough to make battlefield decisions that are at present the preserve
Eventually, it notes, robots could come to display significant
cognitive advantages over Homo sapiens soldiers.
"There is a common misconception that robots will do only what we
have programmed them to do," Patrick Lin, the chief compiler of the
report, said. "Unfortunately, such a belief is sorely outdated,
harking back to a time when ... programs could be written and
understood by a single person."
The reality, Dr. Lin said, was that modern programs included millions
of lines of code and were written by teams of programmers, none of
whom knew the entire program.
Accordingly, no individual could accurately predict how the various
portions of large programs would interact without extensive testing
in the field an option that may either be unavailable or
deliberately sidestepped by the designers of fighting robots.