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Greek wiretapping scandal redux

by talos Mon Jul 9th, 2007 at 08:50:40 AM EST

IEEE Spectrum has an excellent article, written by two Greek Computer Scientists (V. Prevelakis and D. Spinellis) about last year's wiretapping scandal, a scandal about which I reported here in the European Tribune at the time (1, 2, 3, 4, see also the relevant Wikipedia article, and former US diplomat's Brady Kiesling summing up of the affair)

The article provides an astonishingly detailed investigation on the technical aspects of the wiretap, and explains the highly sophisticated methods used. This highlights the fact that the operation was surely the work of highly skilled professionals, with intimate knowledge of Vodafone's and Ericsson's systems (Prevelakis and Spinellis mention in a sidebar the various scenarios circulating). It's also a great introduction to various technical aspects of mobile telephony BTW.

Update: One of the two authors (Dr. Spinellis) of the IEEE Spectrum article was kind enough to comment on the issue in the discussion thread.

Promoted by afew

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Greek Police: Abu-Graibed again

by talos Sat Jun 16th, 2007 at 09:48:50 PM EST

The only facts you need to know to understand the enormity of what the following video shows is this: it was taped on a cell phone in a Central Police station in Athens, approximately a year ago. The two guys in blue and orange shirts are teenage Albanian immigrants (update: one Albanian and one Greek from Kazakhstan) arrested for armed robbery. The guy in black is a police officer. The two detainees are hitting each other because the police officer shown, orders them to do it. When the police officer thinks that they are not slapping each other hard enough, he beats the suspects. At the end the two immigrants are ordered to shout out loud "I'm an asshole", "I'm a big asshole", in Greek before hitting each other. The video is this:

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Public Services in Europe: defying privatization

by talos Fri May 18th, 2007 at 06:50:12 AM EST

The latest issue of Eurotopia [pdf file] - published on the Trans-National Institute's website - is about Public Services in Europe, their privatisation and the grass-roots efforts to build alternatives to it, all around Europe. It highlights the problems of accountability, democratic participation and efficiency that the privatisation process has created. It also showcases some of the (mostly but not totally) municipal-level grass-roots reactions to the privatization of the commons in Europe - thus its title: "Public Services in Europe: From privatisation to participation"

From the diaries ~ whataboutbob

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Russian economic data and analysis

by talos Sat Apr 28th, 2007 at 03:12:32 AM EST

New Left Review published two extensive articles on the Russian economy and the Putin regime's handling of it. Together they provide a summary of the economic and social situation in Russia, providing information not readily found in much of the western press - well beyond the usual stereotypes.

Vladimir Popov, in Russia Redux?, discusses Russia's "recent social and economic fortunes" that reveal "a number of problems that Putin's successor will inherit, presenting him with a difficult agenda".

Tony Wood from NLR, in Contours of the Putin Era, responds to Popov and "examines the geographical and social distribution of Russia's recent economic growth. What are the priorities and outlook of the emerging business-state elite--and whom will Putin's `stabilization' benefit?"

From the diaries ~ whataboutbob

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Illustrating the economy

by talos Fri Feb 23rd, 2007 at 01:05:16 PM EST

Matt Taibbi has yet another excellent piece over at Rolling Stone magazine, this time about proposed new Bush tax cuts and what they mean for the average US taxpayer - as well as about the utter indifference shown by the corporate media to a story with great "shock value" - because it's the wrong value.

The story is brilliantly written and worth your while anyway, but the way it illustrates the economic facts (as given to MT by the folks over at rep. Bernie Sanders' office, the socialist congressman from Vermont) is impressive and should be emulated. And so should its tone, because what is being presented is the sort of information that in the not-so-distant-past made peasants and craftsmen grab bats, pitchforks and torches - and march menacingly towards the palace...:

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Iraq's oil law: what does it say?

by talos Wed Feb 21st, 2007 at 11:04:22 AM EST

Raed Jarrar has obtained a copy of the Iraq Oil Law that will be heading to the Iraqi cabinet for approval. Jarrar has translated the Law in Eglish [pdf here] and comments that:

...This law legalizes PSAs (production sharing agreements) in Iraq. Iraq will be the only country in the middle east with such contracts privatising Iraqi oil and giving foreign companies crazy rates of profit that may reach to more than three fourth of the general revenue. Iraq and Iraqis need every Dinar that comes from oil sales. In addition to the financial aspects of this law, it can be considered the funding tool for splitting Iraq into three states. It undermines the central government and distributes oil revenues directly to the three regions, which sets the foundations for what Iraq's enemies are trying to achieve in terms of establishing three independent states.

From the diaries -- whataboutbob

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The Haradinaj case: Convenient deaths

by talos Sat Feb 17th, 2007 at 09:17:33 PM EST

So a few days ago Kosovo's former prime-minister Ramush Haradinaj, was called back to the Hague, after surrendering himself to the ICTY in 2005 (where he was indicted for crimes against Serbs, Roma and Albanians in Kosovo), and then being released and allowed to resume political activities in Kosovo.

As chance would have it, a key witness for the prosecution was killed yesterday in Podgorica, in what could be  murder or a stroke of exceptionally good luck for the indicted Kosovar Albanian politician...

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Kurdish questions

by talos Thu Feb 15th, 2007 at 06:10:31 AM EST

As a crackdown against the Kurdish Workers Party (PKK), the Turkish Kurd armed revolutionary organization, that Turkey (and most of the West now) considers "terrorist", seems to be (had been?) unfolding in Europe (possibly with US backing), and over 10.000 Kurds from all over Europe demonstrated recently in Strasbourg for the release of PKK leader Abdullah Ocalan... I'd like to recommend an excellent article on the Kurds, Turkey and Iraq from the NY Review of Books (titled The Uncontainable Kurds), which provides a good idea of the forces and attitudes involved in the greater Kurdistan area, forces that include Turkey, the Iraqi Kurdish leadership, the PKK (or whatever it calls itself nowadays), its Iranian Kurdish offshoot, the US, Iran and possibly Syria - not to mention assorted islamist groups, Shia and Sunni Iraqi leaders and the Iraqi insurgency/anti-occupation struggle.

The situation as it is currently unfolding doesn't seem to have a likely stable and peaceful long-term option...

From the diaries -- whataboutbob

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Lies, Damn Lies and Fertility Statistics

by talos Wed Feb 14th, 2007 at 06:06:00 AM EST

This article on "Social Security's Contribution to the Fertility Crisis" is an exceptional example of - lying with statistics I'd say, but this goes far beyond lying, into such realms of ideological foolishness and self-deceit, that words fail to describe, but it does have a high entertainment value... OK, the fact that it is from the von Mises Institute prepares the casual reader for the usual statistical acrobatics - but this... this ought to win some prize.

It isn't worth the time to debunk point by point (an easy but colossal task), but I'd like to single out a few things:

First of all, the two graphs presented as supporting empirical data: notice that the time-series for European countries stops at 1997 and tells a rather different story for, say, Ireland than the author suggests (and misses the recent demographic uptrend in "socialist" - by the authors standards - France which now has a higher fertility rate than the UK or Ireland - a fact that the author is silent about)...

Another hair-raising piece documenting how the high priests of the Economic Faith look at Europe and the world through coloured glasses. Promoted by DoDo

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Post Christmas Rampage: Is there nothing sacred?

by talos Tue Dec 26th, 2006 at 12:51:31 PM EST

On the aftermath of Christmas - and anticipating New Year's Eve:
...'Tis the season for some follies. A quick denouncement of the rotund commercialising icon in red, british parental concerns and the Perfect Christian Gift.

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Urgent: Refugee call for help

by talos Thu Oct 19th, 2006 at 11:04:10 AM EST

Via This is Not My Country, I repost the plea of the 225 detained illegal refugees at in the Greek Island of Chios:

To whom it concerned,

We as refugees in this camp have lost the hope even in complaining, so we take you as our only hope.

After many screams and complains about our conditions here, no-one has paid any attention. We are about 225 people in this camp for two weeks and about 190 for one month, and we know this camp can shelter only 108 people; about 21 people in each shelter sleeping over each other; about 90 without shoes, shampoo and blankets; toilets are damaged and many rooms are filled with dirty water which prevent many people sleeping; diseases are increasing and sick persons are ignored and the police is satisfied in giving just "Panadol"; two meals is not enough, bread like stones and some food is damaged; the increasing number of people creates trouble unwillingly.

We feel that we are in an isolated prison, no one talks to us and when we inform the police he says that it is not his responsibility. So we pledge you to inform any power or institution to save us because things have become unbearable and our situations turn to be under zero.

We don't know what crime that we have committed to take this punishment and harsh treatment; we escaped war, poverty, oppression and genocidal attacks and came here to find shelter in this peaceful land.

We call all committees, Red Crescent, Human Rights, UN and every power. We call the Greek nation and the civilised Europe.

The Camp

The situation is desperate, one of the results of a Greek-Turkish refugee "exchange" war, in which Turkey puts the refugees on boats and Greece sends them back - and so on, many times. The human toll of this exercise is agonizing (and often deadly) for the unfortunates caught in the middle (of the Aegean).

Since the Greek Government reacts much more promptly to pressures from abroad - and very little to "bleeding heart leftists" at home, I urge any of you that find the time, to send some form of letter of complaint to both the Greek Prime Minister's office (pressoffice@primeminister.gr) and the Council of Europe's Human Rights Commissioner (commissioner@coe.int) - or suggest any other meaningful recipient, and republish this plea wherever you can.

PS: Note the comment from a guy calling himself "Lawful European" in the original TINMC post. Exemplary fascism, eh?

On competing with China

by talos Fri Oct 6th, 2006 at 09:58:19 AM EST

Matt Taibbi, formerly of "The Exile" and now writing for Rolling Stone magazine, has a great piece on the whole "work harder to compete with China" meme, which I think most Eurotribbers will find close to their own hearts. Excerpt:

"Protectionism conveniently shifts the blame for trade-related hardships to foreigners, which is easier than adapting homegrown business practices to make America more competitive."
-- New York Times editorial, "Curing the Debt Addiction," Oct. 2

Well, that makes sense. According to The New York Times, what we need to do to compete with China economically is adopt commensurate "homegrown business practices" that will enhance our performance.

What do they have in mind? Eliminating the freedom of speech? Outlawing free trade associations? Legalizing child labor? Eliminating all environmental regulations and letting workers roll around in hazardous chemicals for fifteen hours a day for ten cents an hour? Ending all forms of corporate transparency? Come to think of it, we could solve our juvenile delinquency program and our trade competitiveness problem at the same time -- let's just lock up our high school dropouts in toy factories, get those little bastards making radioactive Lego sets six days a week for a buck a shift. Imagine the profits! Who'd be laughing then, Yunagjiang City?

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Greece: a lazy update and a note

by talos Fri Oct 6th, 2006 at 05:51:04 AM EST

I've been meaning to post a diary here about recent events in Greece, of which (with the local/municipal elections coming up in 10 days) there have been quite a few lately: things such as the Greek Teachers' strike, about to enter its fourth week, the scandal involving the local milk cartel and graft in the competition commission, in a country with laughably impotent regulators anyway, and the, already noted here, 25% GDP rise over the period of one day thanks to creative accounting taken to almost artistic extremes... I've been meaning to, but having a handful at the moment doesn't help...

Thus I present you Mike-Frank Epitropoulos' (A Greek American academic, who was active in the Green Party USA) review of recent events, who does the job for me nicely, in an article over at Znet, titled "Magic, Deception and stalemate in Greece"
He's pretty much spot-on, on most things, though his claim that:

"Greek teachers' starting salaries start at about €900 per month and the top of the scale, after twenty years of service reaches just under €1,500 per month, with the next lowest in the EU being €2,400 per month."

seems iffy: He certainly means to refer to the EU15 and not the EU25, but is it really true that top salaries in all of Southern Europe, say, reach at least 2400 Euros?

Promoted by Colman

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Slavery on the fields of Puglia

by talos Tue Sep 5th, 2006 at 09:19:56 AM EST

This is an astonishing and depressing story in L' Esspresso. Fabrizio Gatti spent a week undercover among the migrant workers in Southern Italy and came back with a horrifying account of 21st century slavery: I was a slave in Puglia (in English).

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***Macabre photographic counterpoint

by talos Thu Jul 20th, 2006 at 08:03:59 AM EST

This Republica article has a picture of little girls in Israel writing "messages" to Hezbollah on bombs. Makes you wonder where these bombs landed, given that other, less happy children, found themselves on the receiving end of Israeli "counter-terrorism" [warning: very gruesome photos of dead children, quite probably not Hezbollah members].

Back from frontpage

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The Invisible Congo Tragedy: elections and an EU military mission

by talos Tue Jun 20th, 2006 at 11:09:44 AM EST

If there was ever any real doubt that Africans are simply not considered important by the rest of the world - and particularly by the rest of the world's media - the sheer fact that this little news item, was indeed, a little news item, should put it to rest. I quote:

Some 1,200 people in the DRC die daily from conflict-related causes. More than 20 per cent of the children die before their fifth birthday and one in 10 die in the first year of life. The refugee agency's appeal last year for the repatriation and reintegration of Congolese refugees received only 14 per cent of the needed funding, or $10.6 million out of the $75 million required.

Meanwhile, of $14.7 million requested for UNHCR's programme for internally displaced people (IDPs) in a country the size of Western Europe, only $3.2 million had come in.

Now this is not the result of war - this is just the aftermath of a war: the deadliest war after WWII, whose victims direct and indirect numbered by 2004, a year after the peace accord was signed, around 4 million people. These were butchered, fell ill, starved or wasted away in the period of just five years. If the 1,200 figure is any guide we're talking about an extra ~0.8 million dead since the official ceasefire.

No wonder then that the UN has listed the Congo disaster as one of the "10 Stories the World Should Hear More About" or that Reuters had it at the top of its "forgotten" disasters list.

The sheer numbers are so huge as to be almost inconceivable. Yet it turns out that the per capita foreign aid that Congo receives is minimal, when it gets there at all. Why is that? Why is Congo receiving, per capita, 25 times less foreign aid than Kosovo for example? How are the needs prioritized? After all as dire as the situation in Kosovo might be, there certainly aren't any plague epidemics and reports of little girls being boiled alive, so by all indications one would expect a similar level of news exposure and humanitarian aid.

Promoted by Colman

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The European Constitution. Some thoughts**

by talos Thu Jun 1st, 2006 at 08:03:50 AM EST

[This was posted as a comment in Jerome's "Non to the Constitution - one year later" thread. Jerome was kind enough to suggest that I post this as a diary, in order to further the discussion. So here are my thoughts/responses to Jerome's earlier story, slightly edited and with a small intro. And now promoted by Jerome]

The aftermath of the rejection of the European Constitution one year on, is under debate. Jerome has made a few points disparaging the "non" vote and suggesting that the vote was an "unmitigated disaster". I respectfully disagree. When presented with a flawed document, especially in circumstances where you know the balance of power is such that its negative points will be dominant, the proper reaction IMHO is not to point to its positive aspects but to a. Fight it and b. Propose an alternative, better, document. As for b the European left has been lacking. But there is much to the idea of putting on the table an alternative Constitution, if only for the effect this will have on shaping the debate.

Anyway, far from being a disaster, I think that the result of the referenda on the European constitution presents an opportunity for the European left, and I'm not convinced by Jerome's arguments for reasons that I explain below:

**From the front page

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Stiglitz, Chirac(!) putting in a kind word for Evo

by talos Sat May 27th, 2006 at 10:56:57 AM EST

While W is concerned about the "erosion of democracy in Venezuela and Bolivia", as a result, obviously, of the "nationalization" of oil and gas resources in Bolivia, some more or less unexpected allies have come to Morales' defence.

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The Kissinger Secret Transcripts

by talos Fri May 26th, 2006 at 09:32:52 PM EST

Today the National Security Archive announces the publication of the most comprehensive collection ever assembled of the memoranda of conversations (memcons) involving Henry Kissinger, one of the most acclaimed and controversial U.S. diplomats of the second half of the 20th century. Published on-line in the Digital National Security Archive (ProQuest) as well in print-microfiche form, the 28,000-page collection is the result of a seven-year effort by the National Security Archive to collect every memcon that could be found through archival research and declassification requests. According to Kissinger biographer and president of the Aspen Institute Walter Isaacson, "Henry Kissinger's memos of conversation are an amazing, fascinating, and absolutely indispensable resource for understanding his years in power." Nearly word-for-word records of the meetings, the memcons place the reader in the room with Kissinger and world leaders, and future leaders, including Mao Zedong, Anwar Sadat, Leonid Brezhnev, Georges Pompidou, Richard Nixon, Gerald R. Ford, Donald Rumsfeld, and George H.W. Bush...

Let me point a few interesting items:

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NSA phone home (a scandal in Greece)

by talos Fri May 12th, 2006 at 12:52:38 PM EST

Following up the huge wiretap scandal I've posted about previously (1, 2, 3): there are many developments most of which seem not to be widely reported outside of Greece. They are quite interesting because they include the confirmation of a murder, a possible Hollywood movie and a smoking gun that points towards the Fort Meade, MD, area.

From the front page (with title edit) - whataboutbob

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