US and UK banning the use of Kaspersky anti-virus

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

kaspersky-internet-security-21-700x393Not only the government agencies are on the bandwagon, even Barclay's Bank is advising its customers who got it free via the Bank to stop using it.

I am going out on a limb here now and say that this is because Kaspersky anti-virus is one of the best in catching Trojans and thus the government agencies want people to stop using it under false pretenses.

A little like the list of security software that the FBI published a while back where those that catch (almost) all viruses, malware, etc. were listed as bad performers.

Britain's main cyber security agency has warned British government agencies to avoid using anti-virus software from Russian companies, the latest in a series of moves targeting Moscow-based security software maker Kaspersky Lab.

In a letter to departmental permanent secretaries, the director of the UK National Cyber Security Centre, Ciaran Martin, said Russian-made anti-virus software should not be used in systems containing information that would harm national security if it was accessed by the Russian government.

He said his agency is in talks with Kaspersky Lab to develop a system for reviewing its products for use in Britain.

Kaspersky's anti-virus software was banned from U.S. government networks earlier this year on concerns the company has close ties to intelligence agencies in Moscow and that its software could be used to enable Russian spying.

Kaspersky has strongly denied allegations about the safety of its products or ties to the Russian government, saying it has become a scapegoat in the midst of rising tensions between Washington and Moscow.

British bank Barclays said on Saturday it had stopped offering Kaspersky anti-virus products to customers.

“Even though this new guidance isn't directed at members of the public, we have taken the decision to withdraw the offer of Kaspersky software from our customer website,” Barclays said in a statement.

This is (1) Russophobia gone over the top and (2), and I may be going out on a limb here, could just be that Kaspersky's products (and some others from Eastern Europe) recognize government Trojans and such like better than possibly those that the agencies wish to promote instead. Can't have government Trojans now recognized, can we.

Just thinking aloud...

© 2017

Churchill & Orwell – Book Review

Review by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

Churchill & Orwell – The Fight For Freedom
by Thomas E. Ricks
Published 1st June 2017
Royal Hardback, £25
352 pages, with 26 b/w photographs
ISBN 9780715652374

9781594206139_ChurchillAnd_JKF.inddLiberty and truth have never been so topical. In an era when belief and freedom are being questioned, and increasingly challenged, the figures of Churchill and Orwell – those two exemplars of Britishness who preserved individual freedom and democracy for the world, through their far-sighted vision and inspired action – loom large, casting a long shadow across British culture and politics. This new, overarching work by the #1 New York Times bestselling and Pulitzer Prize-winning author Thomas E. Ricks explores their extraordinary, epoch-defining lives in detail.

Churchill and Orwell, the two great thinkers who indelibly marked post-war history, are titans of their age, each standing in political opposition to the other, but each committed to the preservation of freedom. However, in the late 1930s they occupied a lonely position: democracy was discredited in many circles and authoritarian rulers, fascist and communist, were everywhere in the ascent. Churchill and Orwell had the foresight to see clearly that the more salient issue was human liberty – and that any government that denies its people basic rights is a totalitarian menace and has to be resisted.

Churchill and Orwell proved their age’s necessary men. The glorious climax of Churchill & Orwell is their drive in the 1940s to triumph over the enemies of freedom. Churchill may have played the larger role in the defeat of Hitler and the Axis, but Orwell’s reckoning with the menace of authoritarian rule in Animal Farm and 1984 (which Churchill admired so much he read it twice) would define the stakes of the Cold War for its 50-year course, and they continue to inspire to this day.

With Orwell’s 1984 at #1 on Amazon and so many other bestseller lists and the intricacies of freedom in national and international politics thrust into the limelight once more, Churchill & Orwell elucidates the extraordinary men behind a victory hard won, and as important to our lives today as it ever has been.

‘If liberty means anything at all it means the right to tell people what they do not want to hear’ ~ George Orwell

‘We seek only the right of man to be free; we seek his rights to worship his god, to lead his life in his own way, secure from persecution’ ~ Winston Churchill

Thomas E. Ricks is the bestselling and award-winning author of The Gamble, The Generals, and the no. 1 international bestseller Fiasco – ‘the most authoritative account of how the Bush administration and the US Army created a disaster in Iraq’ (Max Hastings, Sunday Times). He is a former writer for the Washington Post and the Wall Street Journal, and has covered military operations across the globe. He now contributes to the New York Times, Washington Post and New Yorker, and has appeared on the BBC, Sky News and in the Guardian and other UK press. He is also contributing editor at Foreign Policy magazine, for which he writes the prize-winning blog The Best Defense.

Today probably more than ever Orwell's books “Animal Farm” and “1984” are important. In “Animal Farm” we find the idea that all are equal but some more equal than others and this is exactly how the neoliberals operate today while “1984” presents us with the nightmarish scenario of an all pervasive totalitarian surveillance state. While it is claimed that Orwell was aiming at the Soviet Union of the day with it today it more appears like a scenario that we are sleepwalking into right this very moment in our neo-liberal capitalist societies. Neo-liberalism is but one side of the coin the other side of which is fascism.

While in their day Churchill & Orwell, especially the latter, were concerned with the rise of totalitarianism that is to say Hitler (& Stalin), today totalitarianism is on the rise again in the guise of neo-liberalism.

Personally I do believe that Orwell may have been mistaken as to Stalin – or why would Stalin still be loved by the Russian people today – and much if not indeed all of what may have happened was more due to Stalin's lieutenants rather than Stalin himself and he, Stalin, may have trusted his lieutenants far too much than was good.

When the author praises the likes of Solzhenitsyn and Lech Wałęsa so much as change makers he is either not aware of who and what they were or is mislead or otherwise confused. Both were not mere dissidents but paid agents of the Western intelligence services, and the same goes for Václav Havel. His name best be not mentioned to many young and not so young Czechs today.

This is a book for anyone interested in politics, especially how today's neo-liberalism is headed towards a totalitarian system, by increments in such a way that most people do not even realize it and call anyone pointing this out conspiracy theorists.

© 2017

Not my circus, not my monkeys

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

monkey1“Not my circus, not my monkeys”, is a Polish proverb and one that we do well to remember each and every time someone wants to drag us into their dramas.

All too often others, even good friends, try to draw us into dramas that have absolutely nothing to do with us and in which we should, on no account, involve ourselves. Not if those people are our friends and even less so if they are just acquaintances or even less. They may do it unintentionally but there may be times when they are trying to do it on purpose and especially then we have to remind ourselves that it is not our circus and not our monkeys, as the Poles would say.

But all too often, rather than reminding ourselves of this fact, we get drawn into such dramas – and often even happily as we think that we are helping the other person by doing so – which then affects us badly and also those around us and on the relationship with others.

Helping a friend or relation to deal with a problem in one thing, allowing oneself to be drawn into dramas that have nothing to do with us, another altogether. And it is the latter that will drain us of positive energy.

© 2017

Unlock the untapped potential of your faucet

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

plastic-in-ocean-670x388Drinking tap water might be the simplest solution to ocean plastic pollution (oh dear, and this even rhymes).

The solution to plastic water bottle pollution could be as simple as educating the general masses that (their) tap water is safe to drink. While it is not the case everywhere – the safety of the tap water, that is – and unfortunately also in many places in the US, in most places in the more civilized countries it is the case. Also, tap water undergoes far more rigorous testing for purity and safety than does any bottled water.

Bottled water, for anyone who does not know it as yet, is also one of the greatest scams ever created by industry. In the great majority of cases the water is nothing more than tap water filled into plastic bottles – the latter which then end up polluting the environment – and while it is true that in some cases that water went through some additional “filtration” treatment to remove chlorine, for instance, it still is tap water.

And for a bottle of that, which as tap water would cost you just a fraction of a cent, you end up paying hundred times as much and more. That sure does not make sense. Not only are we hurting the environment with the plastic (bottle) waste, we are also hurting ourselves in our own pockets.

The pollution of those bottles, which more often than not are not recycled in any way, shape or form, pollutes the environment even if they are properly disposed off into the waste stream.

In 2017 about 480 billion bottles of plastic will be produced and less than 10% of them will be recycled. The remaining 90% will end up somewhere – whether discarded in nature or in landfills – where the plastic then breaks down into microplastic and ends up in our groundwater, rivers and eventually lakes and oceans. In addition to plastic pollution, bottled water also has an enormous carbon footprint from production and transportation.

And the problem is getting worse as bottled water consumption is growing, all while households may already have access to a clear and present solution, namely their kitchen tap.

Unfortunately, some people are afraid to drink from the tap. A survey of 1500 households in the US and Europe found a growing mistrust in tap water. The concerns are based on a myriad of factors including multiple water crises like the one in Flint, Michigan, the water database by EWG and microplastics reported in tap water by Orbs, preference in taste, health expert opinions, bottled water advertising, and urban myths.

There is also a misconception around recycling, mineral water, and everything else related to bottled water. And so more people are turning to bottled water.

While there are some issues here and there the fact is that, generally, tap water has gotten better in both Europe and the US over the last ten years. More importantly, there is no scientific evidence that bottled water is healthier than tap water.

So here are a couple of recommendations:

1. Drink tap water. It is almost free and in most places in Europe and North America it is as healthy and clean, if not even more so, as bottled water.

2. Anyone worried about the quality of the tap water or who does not like the taste can use a water filter, such as a filter jug even, costing very little to buy and “run”.

3. Always bring a refillable water bottle to stay hydrated.

4. Ask for tap water in restaurants and bars. This, alas, may not always be successful.

It is time to stop polluting the environment with plastic and to clean up the oceans. This way our children and grandchildren can enjoy clean oceans full of life and plastic free sand beneath their feet on the beach. We also must not forget that, if we eat fish, those tiny particles of plastic find their way into the food chain – they already have done so – and end up in the fish that we eat and thus in us.

© 2017

The wasteful toilet flush

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

toilet-cisternNo, I am not taking the proverbial though about it we have to talk, in a way.

The primary use of water in many Western homes is flushing the toilet and it is reckoned that in the US 18.5 gallons (US gallons not Imperial gallons) are used per person per day, which equates, for the US, in US terms again, 5.7 billion US-gallons of clean drinking water going down the drain, literally wasted.

There is an old saying that goes: “If it's yellow, let it mellow. If it's brown, flush it down” and that could be a start to save water in this department. If your water usage is metered and you pay according to how much water you and your family use then thinking along those lines not only saves clean drinking water from being wasted but also stops you flushing money down the drain, literally.

Aside from that there is another option or one could even say two. If you have a garden then you do not want to waste this fantastic source of nitrogen, phosphorus, etc. that you tend to flush away. You want to use it beneficially for your plants. Saves too in the garden fertilizer department.

This is, if you have a garden, have the males of your family pee on the compost heap or, alternatively, have them pee into a plastic bottle, such as one of those that you buy your milk in, and then, every evening or such, empty this onto the compost heap. It acts as a compost agitator – you see, something else you don't have to buy then – and (one) helps to speed up the composting process and (two) makes a very nutrient rich compost.

If you don't have a garden then still do the bottle thing and only once a day flush the contents of the bottles (all of them together). That way you only flush once. But, if possible, urine should be utilized in the garden, ideally as a compost agitator. While it is a “plant food” it should never be applied to plants directly nor the soil around them even, as it will burn plants and roots when still “fresh”.

© 2017