Tech Thoughts Daily Net News – December 9, 2014

40 Reasons Why You DON’T Need An Antivirus;   How and why to set up and use a password manager;  11 Google Tricks That Will Change the Way You Search;  Report: Android Security Apps Improving;  Translate text into a different language as you type;  Why you should take another look at Google Keep;  Google offers $20 Play Store credit with Chromecast;  Beware this online shopping scam: Fake order confirmations;  Fedora 21: Worth the wait;  Hackers tell Sony to halt the release of The Interview;  Your Christmas Gaming Guide [Updated];  How to make the most money from old gadgets;  Corporate Abuse of Our Data;  Amazon Fire TV Stick or Google Chromecast: Why not both?  Samsung SSD Magician.

How and why to set up and use a password manager – A password manager stores the passwords for your various online accounts and profiles and saves you from having to remember and enter each one each time you visit a password-protected site. Instead, your passwords are encrypted and held by your password manager, which you then protect with a master password. With a password manager, you can create strong passwords for all of your accounts and keep all of those passwords saved behind a stronger master password, leaving you to remember but a single password. Which password manager you choose to use is less important than actually choosing one and then using it.

11 Google Tricks That Will Change the Way You Search – Google Search’s learning curve is an odd one. You use it every day, but still all you know is how to search. But the search engine has plenty of tricks up its sleeve. Here’s an overview of some of the most useful Google search tricks, from basic tips to new features just recently released.

Report: Android Security Apps Improving – The latest Android antivirus report from AV-Test comes with good news; almost half of the products earned a perfect score. While there aren’t nearly as many malicious applications aimed at Android devices as there are targeting Windows, that’s no reason to be complacent. If one of those malware apps hits your phone, you’ve got trouble whether it’s common or not. AV-Test Institute rated 31 Android security applications and found that for the most part they’re even more effective than when last tested.

Tablets growing at a faster rate than that of any other connected device, claims NPD –  Tablet ownership among US consumers is on the rise, and growing at a faster rate than that of any other connected device, claims The NPD Group Connected Intelligence, Connected Home Report. The report gives us a general idea of what people are doing with their tablet. For example, 55 percent of tablet users report leveraging a video feature of their device, which means that they used it for video calling or taking, posting, and uploading videos, as well as watching video from a streaming service or app from a TV channel or pay TV provider. Video usage is even more prolific among younger consumers, with 67 percent of tablet users aged 18-34 use these video features compared to 53 percent of 35-54 year olds, and 45 percent of users age 55 and older.

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Microsoft discounts its subscription services bundle to just $149 – Microsoft only announced its special “Work & Play Bundle” of subscription services last month, but the company is already discounting it in time for the holidays. The Work & Play Bundle, which includes Office 365 Home, Xbox Live Gold, Xbox Music Pass, and Skype Unlimited World subscriptions, is now just $149 for the year. Separately, the subscriptions would cost around $450 annually, so It’s more than 65 percent in savings for services that provide access to the full Office suite, unlimited OneDrive storage, Xbox Live gaming, music streaming without ads, and unlimited Skype calls.

Google Translate to decipher words in images, better recognize speech, says report – International travel could get much easier if all you have to do is point your phone at a menu, or speak into it for an instant translation. That’s the magic promised in a leaked build of Google Translate that’s apparently in the works. The new version of Google’s translation app adds features courtesy of Google’s acquisition of Word Lens, which already has much of this functionality in place. You can grab the app now to get an idea of what the new image translation in Google Translate will be like.

Translate text into a different language as you type – There are some amazing language-translation apps, everything from Google Translate to Word Lens. But few of them integrate with iOS proper. Translate Keyboard Pro ($1.99) does. It takes advantage of iOS 8’s support for third-party keyboards, effectively translating text from 30 source languages into as many as 80 other languages as you type. But using it can be a little confusing at first. Here’s how to get started:

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Google offers $20 Play Store credit with Chromecast – Google wants the Chromecast to be your one and only streaming stick this holiday season. The company recently launched yet another limited time offer to sweeten the deal for prospective Chromecast buyers. From now until December 21, anyone who picks up a Chromecast from Google Play or participating retailers such as Amazon and Best Buy will get a $20 credit for Google Play Movies. That’s on top of the two other deals you can get if you buy your Chromecast from Google Play: two free months of free Hulu Plus and three months free of Google Play Music All Access.

Amazon Fire TV Stick or Google Chromecast: Why not both? – The comparison is certainly inviting. Both streaming media devices fit in the palm of your hand and plug directly into your TV’s HDMI socket. The pricing is nearly the same as well, at $39 for the Fire TV Stick and $35 for Chromecast. But beyond those skin-deep similarities, Chromecast and the Fire TV Stick couldn’t be more different. You could choose one or the other, but owning both isn’t a crazy idea.

Kakao Talk adds encrypted ‘secret chat’ feature amid privacy worries – Chatting on Kakao Talk will become more secure with a new hidden chat feature that has end-to-end encryption for all messages. Secret Chat is a chat room that requires messages to be read with a decryption key stored in a user’s mobile device, Daum Kakao, the South Korea-based operator of the service, said in a release. That means the messages cannot be intercepted by outsiders, even if they’re going through servers, it said.

Why you should take another look at Google Keep, the best free organizational tool on Android – Google has been plugging away at strengthening its capabilities, making it a real contender for your home screen in a crowded field of productivity apps. It’s great not only for taking notes, but also saving articles and images, sharing lists, and setting reminders. It doesn’t have the same litany of features as software like Evernote, but that’s partly the point: There is great power in its simplicity.

Facebook Brings Graph Search To Mobile And Lets You Find Feed Posts By Keyword – Facebook is finally getting serious about search. Today it’s challenging Google for finding answers and Twitter for checking real-time chatter with the launch of keyword search. Two years after debuting semantic “My friends who…” search for people, places, and photos on the web, Graph Search is rolling out on iOS in the US along with a new keyword search option for dredging up old News Feed posts by friends.

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YouTube shows video creators what copyright restrictions their audio will face – With the new feature in Audio Library, video creators can see whether an audio track will affect playability in certain markets (YouTube will prevent videos containing copyright for certain tracks from being played in, say, Europe or Canada). Creators can also discover whether a track can be monetized (that is, whether a copyright holder will let a video creator use the copyrighted audio in exchange for a cut of the profit from pre-roll ads that run before the video).

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Google’s Android Studio now available, ready for your app creations – Android now has an official IDE. Android Studio has come out of beta today, and provides the first true cross-platform IDE for Developers who can’t get enough Javascript. Announced way back at Google I/O 2013, Android Studio is the first official IDE from Google, and could end up serving as a watershed moment in Android development history. It’s also likely to get some add-ons in the near future, which could make it much easier to work with for novices and experienced developers alike. With Android Studio, Google has done the hard work of making sure you can develop for any one of their Android platforms. Android Wear, Android Auto, Android Tv, and Google Glass are all included. Oh, yeah, regular Android, too.

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Windows 10: Microsoft plans to let users upgrade from Preview to RTM builds – The full launch of Windows 10 is still around 6-9 months away, but some users are already looking ahead to what the launch will mean for them. In particular, some have been wondering whether or not those enrolled in the company’s Windows Insider program – which gives them access to pre-release builds of the new OS – will be able to simply upgrade to the full and final version when it’s released. There’s good news on that front – although it does come with one important caveat.

Fedora 21: Worth the wait – After a full year of development, Fedora 21 is due for release on 9 December. I have installed Release Candidate 5 (RC5), which was declared ready for release and so should be the final released version. I actually have two consecutive posts lined up for this release: first, this one which will cover the five different desktops on five different laptops; and then a second one which will focus on Anaconda, the Fedora installer, which has been improved again, and is better than ever with this release.

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Fedora 21 Workstation (Gnome 3)

With Comcast’s Ethernet @Home, your holiday break could be even more like work – Want to work from home? Great. On your corporate network? So that your employer can monitor you 24/7? Comcast can help.

10 things end business users should ask when making tech purchases – More and more business users are taking on the role of IT decision maker — but they may not know what they should ask vendors. If you find yourself in this boat, keep these 10 critical issues in mind..

Seagate offers low-cost 8TB hard drives – Got a lot of data? Finding your PC a little cramped when it comes to free space? Would a Seagate 8TB hard drive help? Sold by Seagate under the “Archive Label” brand and aimed at those looking for a cost-effective storage solution, the drive retails for around $270, which is far more palatable than the $1,000 or so that 8TB drive from HGST are currently going for. That works out at around $0.033 per gigabyte.

Samsung SSD 850 Evo brings 3D V-NAND tech to consumer drives – Long promised, the day when 3D V-NAND would reach consumer SSDs has finally arrived with the launch of Samsung’s SSD 850 Evo family. The new technology promises enhanced endurance and lower costs, the latter of which is borne out by the competitive price of the new drives. While not dirt cheap, the 850 Evo’s starting price of $100 for a 120GB version is certainly not much more than traditional SSDs. Also in the series are 250GB, 500GB, and 1TB flavors for $150, $270, and $500, respectively.

Security:

40 Reasons Why You DON’T Need An Antivirus – There is no way around it: viruses do exist, trojans do infiltrate your PC, and most users will act to guard against them. With software, but also with sensible behavior online. Malware relies partly on users doing the hard work for them. Most of the time you know when you are straying into the murkier waters of the internet. Do you ever think that your good behavior is enough to protect you from attacks, and that antivirus software is not necessary? You may be right. Here are 40 reasons why you don’t need an antivirus.

Beware this online shopping scam: Fake order confirmations – Brian Krebs, a respected authority on security and all-things-cybercrime, wrote a cautionary post earlier this week. “If you receive an email this holiday season asking you to ‘confirm’ an online e-commerce order or package shipment, please resist the urge to click the included link or attachment: Malware purveyors and spammers are blasting these missives by the millions each day in a bid to trick people into giving up control over their computers and identities.” If you do receive a message about a problem with an order or shipment, don’t click any links or open any files. If it appears legitimate, open a new browser window and visit the vendor’s website yourself to check on order status, or just pick up the phone to clarify any potential issues without risking compromising your PC.

Hackers tell Sony to halt the release of The Interview – A new message has been posted on GitHub, purporting to be from the Sony hackers and offering a fresh batch of sensitive corporate data. The message threatens further consequences if the studio continues with its release of “the movie of terrorism,” believed to refer to The Interview, an upcoming comedy starring Seth Rogen and James Franco, which depicts the assassination of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un. It’s the most explicit reference to the film that the attackers have made so far, although many had previously linked the attacks to North Korean retaliation for the film’s release.

Company News:

Blackphone launches app store for personal security and privacy – Together with the launch of updated custom Android software PrivatOS, the handset maker has revealed a new store dedicated to security and privacy applications.

BlackBerry, NantHealth put genome browser on Passport – The collaboration, first in what the companies hope will be a series of offerings, highlights how BlackBerry is going after regulated verticals such as healthcare.

Amazon tipped to be testing bike delivery in NYC – Latest among Amazon’s new delivery projects is a bike delivery service being tested in New York City. The program is called Amazon Prime Now, according to sources that spoke to the Wall Street Journal, and it aims to provide customers with their orders within an hour of placing them. This will give the company an edge on competing online retailers, and will give consumers the immediacy that results from shopping at brick-and-mortar shops.

Oracle asks Supreme Court to reject Android copyright case – Oracle is trying to make sure its billion-dollar copyright dispute with Google over the Android OS doesn’t make it to the U.S. Supreme Court. The companies have been battling for years over whether Google infringed Oracle’s copyright when it lifted programming interfaces from Java for use in its Android mobile OS. There’s a lot of money at stake, with Oracle seeking at least $1 billion for the alleged infringement. Some programmers are also watching the case, believing the outcome will affect their freedom to use other software APIs (application programming interfaces).

Alibaba’s Alipay Now Sees Over Half Of Its Transactions In China From Mobile Devices – China is in the midst of a mobile commerce boom, according to a new report from Alipay, the Alibaba-affiliated payments service that handles more than 80 million transactions per day. The company‘s latest report found that 54 percent of the number of transactions on its PayPal-like service during the first ten months of 2014 were from mobile devices. That’s a huge increase on last year, during which mobile accounted for just 22 percent of all payments.

Portland sues Uber over unapproved launch – This past Friday, Uber announced its arrival in Portland, OR, with the ridesharing service sending out drivers to pick up riders without city approval. Portland officials immediately denounced the move, threatening to go after drivers and to “throw the book at” Uber. That didn’t deter the service, however, which encouraged its drivers to start working in the city despite the risks. Merely one weekend later, Portland has filed a lawsuit against Uber.

Games and Entertainment:

Mario Maker lets you change the game on the fly – Almost every game developer, at one point in their early lives, tried recreating the classic Mario game in one form or another. Last June, Nintendo made a surprise move by revealing Mario Maker, a Wii U exclusive that actually let you do exactly that, no programming required. At the Game Awards over the weekend, Nintendo stepped it up a notch and wowed would be game designers and gamers alike with a new trailer that shows the full power of Mario Maker’s interface, letting you change Mario’s world even as you play.

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General George Patton’s rights holders go to war with video game maker – US Army Gen. George S. Patton once said that “the object of war is not to die for your country but to make the other bastard die for his.” Decades later, the rights holder to the Patton namesake is launching another war, this one against California video game maker Maximum Family Games. The publisher produced a strategy game called History Legends of War: Patton, and it now has until Friday to answer a federal infringement lawsuit from CMG Worldwide, which owns the rights to the former World War II legend. It’s the third lawsuit of its type lodged this year. Former Panamanian dictator Manuel Noriega sued the publisher of Call of Duty: Black Ops II over his likeness being used without permission in that game. And celebrity Lindsay Lohan sued Rockstar, the maker of Grand Theft Auto V, alleging that elements of the game tread too close to her real life.

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A “let’s play” video from Outside Xbox of History Legends of War: Patton.

The Importance of Aimlessness in Gaming – One of the best ways to play Far Cry 4 is blindly. Don’t look at the map—either on the menu screen or the miniature version that sits at the screen’s bottom left. Just open the door, head on out and keep walking. You’ll soon enough find something to occupy your time: a skirmish between forces you’re loyal to and recruits from the royal army; a rampant rhinoceros wrecking a convoy; a glittering lake protecting its sunken secrets with a pair of all-teeth demon fish. Or, y’know what’s just as fun? Simply looking around. Or hanging out with elephants, or clambering over a hill just to see what’s on the other side (it’s usually something that wants to kill you).

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The procedurally generated space exploration game No Man’s Sky looks amazing – UK-based Hello Games released another trailer for its highly-anticipated upcoming PC and PS4 title, No Man’s Sky. The game, slated for a 2015 release, is a procedurally generated space exploration game with stunning visuals. In other words, players will be able to explore planets and solar systems that are randomly generated. The results continue to look promising; here’s a closer look.

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Your Christmas Gaming Guide [Updated] – We have put together a large guide to gaming gifts for Christmas. So if you are wondering what to buy a gamer for Christmas, look no further. We’ve covered the Xbox One, PlayStation 4 and the PC.

Off Topic (Sort of):

Grumpy Cat has made over $95 million in two years – Bad news, Internet. A smallish cat with a permanent grimace has earned more money in two years than you’re likely to see in your entire lifetime. According to her owner, Grumpy Cat has raked in $95 million in just two years. Nowadays, that money is coming from numerous sources. The original YouTube video posted in September of 2012 is still going strong; it’s now closing in on 17 million views. That’s nowhere near enough to break YouTube’s counter code, but it’s still a heck of a lot of views and a good chunk of advertising income.

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Bondic liquid plastic welds plastic, wood, and fabric together – A new product called Bondic has debuted and this isn’t a glue. The makers of Bondic say that people should think of it more as welding than gluing. Bondic is a liquid plastic that remains a liquid and hardens into a plastic that can be sanded and painted after exposure to UV light. Bondic can be built up layer by layer to achieve the strength needed for repairs. It will work on multiple materials include wood, plastic, and fabric. As far as glue goes, Bondic is rather expensive at $22 per tube. The tube contains the glue and a UV light source on one end for hardening the plastic.

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How to make the most money from old gadgets – Selling old electronics doesn’t need to be a hassle if your end game is making the most cash. The bad news first: if you want the absolute best price possible, shop around and compare deals. Don’t rely on one source, because a better deal may be waiting around the corner. The good news? With a few tips, that sweet cash return can help subsidise your new devices.

Something to think about:

“It’s so much easier to suggest solutions when you don’t know too much about the problem.”

–     Malcolm Forbes

Today’s Free Downloads:

FileBot Portable – FileBot is the ultimate tool for renaming your movies, tv shows or anime and downloading subtitles. It’s smart, streamlined for simplicity and just works.

Features:

A simple user-interface tuned for drag-n-drop

Rename hundreds of media files in a matter of seconds

Fetch episode lists from TVRage, AniDB or TheTVDB

Download subtitles from OpenSubtitles, Subscene or Sublight

Find exact/linked subtitles from OpenSubtitles and Sublight

Easily create and verify sfv, md5 and sha1 files

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Homedale – With Homedale you can monitor the signal strength of multiple WLAN Access Points.

You can view a summary of all available access points with their:

signal strength

encryption [WEP/WPA/WPA2]

speed

channel

other settings

You can also see the signal strength of selected access points in a graph over the time. With a right mouse click, you can start logging and create a screenshot.

Homedale is freeware. However, if you enjoy using Homedale and would like to help support its development, please consider making a donation.

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Samsung SSD Magician – The Samsung SSD Magician software facilitates easy maintenance and use of Samsung SSD products connected to a desktop or notebook computer.

In addition to providing information about the user’s system and SSD product, Samsung SSD Magician also supports advanced features, like SSD performance management, benchmarking for optimum performance, new firmware updates, etc.

Get Samsung SSD Magician and give it a try to fully assess its capabilities!

In Pursuit of Freedom – The Pushback Continues:

NSA warrantless bulk phone metadata spying continues unabated – The NSA’s bulk phone metadata spying program was renewed for another 90 days, the fourth time the warrantless snooping has been reauthorized following President Barack Obama promising reform last January, the government said Monday.

That means the nation’s telecoms will continue forwarding a database to the government that includes the phone numbers of all calls, the international mobile subscriber identity number of mobile callers, the calling card numbers used in calls, and the time and duration of those calls to and from the United States.

Whistleblower Edward Snowden revealed the program 18 months ago, but the numerous calls for reform since have fallen on deaf ears.

UK court to review legality of fast-tracked surveillance law – A surveillance law that was rushed through by the U.K. government will be reviewed by the country’s High Court to determine if it violates human rights.

The Data Retention and Investigatory Powers Act 2014, also known as DRIPA, was adopted in July by the U.K. government, after the Court of Justice of the EU (CJEU) invalidated EU laws requiring communication providers to retain metadata. The EU court said those laws seriously interfered with fundamental privacy rights. Since the U.K. law that preceded DRIPA was based on the invalidated EU laws, it needed replacement legislation.

However, the new law is worse than the one it replaces, according to civil rights groups which pointed out that, for instance, it not only gives law enforcement officers access to metadata but also allows them access to the content of messages, even if they are held by companies outside the U.K.

Even though DRIPA is quite new and now under review, the U.K. government is already planning to add onto the law to address a so-called “capabilities gap” that authorities face when trying to obtain communications data.

Idaho mom’s suit over NSA database gets a cool reception from appeals court – An Idaho woman named Anna Smith filed a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the NSA telephone database. She was represented by her husband, Peter Smith, pictured above at today’s 9th Circuit hearing.

Since the Snowden leaks first made clear the US government’s sweeping database of phone call data, four separate legal challenges to that program have been filed in federal courts. Three of them now await decision from appeals courts.

This morning, a federal lawsuit directly challenging the NSA’s vast phone call database was heard by the US Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit. And the three-judge panel that heard Smith v. Obama seemed skeptical of the plaintiff’s claims that the database should be ruled unconstitutional.

Anna Smith is an unusual plaintiff. In an interview last year with The Washington Post, she described herself as a “northern Idaho mom” with no particular legal background. “It’s none of their business what I’m doing—who I call, when I call, how long I talk… I think it’s awesome that I have the right to sue the president,” Smith, then 32, told The Post. “I’m just a small-town girl.”

Her husband Peter Smith, who argued the appeal this morning, is a commercial litigator with no experience handling a constitutional or national security lawsuit. For the appeal, Smith accepted legal help from the American Civil Liberties Union and Electronic Frontier Foundation, both of which have their own lawsuits challenging the NSA database.

Corporate Abuse of Our Data – Last week, we learned about a striking piece of malware called Regin that has been infecting computer networks worldwide since 2008. It’s more sophisticated than any known criminal malware, and everyone believes a government is behind it. No country has taken credit for Regin, but there’s substantial evidence that it was built and operated by the United States.

Right now, antivirus companies are probably sitting on incomplete stories about a dozen more varieties of government-grade malware. But they shouldn’t. We want, and need, our antivirus companies to tell us everything they can about these threats as soon as they know them, and not wait until the release of a political story makes it impossible for them to remain silent.

What Bad, Shameful, Dirty Behavior is U.S. Judge Richard Posner Hiding? Demand to Know – Richard Posner has been a federal appellate judge for 34 years, having been nominated by President Reagan in 1981. At a conference last week in Washington, Posner said the NSA should have the unlimited ability to collect whatever communications and other information it wants: “If the NSA wants to vacuum all the trillions of bits of information that are crawling through the electronic worldwide networks, I think that’s fine.” The NSA should have “carte blanche” to collect what it wants because “privacy interests should really have very little weight when you’re talking about national security.”

His rationale? “I think privacy is actually overvalued,” the distinguished jurist pronounced. Privacy, he explained, is something people crave in order to prevent others from learning about the shameful and filthy things they do:

Much of what passes for the name of privacy is really just trying to conceal the disreputable parts of your conduct. Privacy is mainly about trying to improve your social and business opportunities by concealing the sorts of bad activities that would cause other people not to want to deal with you.

Unlike you and your need to hide your bad and dirty acts, Judge Posner has no need for privacy – or so he claims: “If someone drained my cell phone, they would find a picture of my cat, some phone numbers, some email addresses, some email text,” he said. “What’s the big deal?” He added: “Other people must have really exciting stuff. Do they narrate their adulteries, or something like that?”

I would like to propose a campaign inspired by Judge Posner’s claims (just by the way, one of his duties as a federal judge is to uphold the Fourth Amendment). In doing so, I’ll make the following observations:

Australia: Data-retention costs report kept confidential – Attorney-General George Brandis has cited Cabinet confidentiality as being behind his decision to reject a Senate motion for the government to release a PricewaterhouseCoopers report on the cost of the government’s data-retention legislation.

Legislation currently being reviewed by the Joint Standing Committee on Intelligence and Security would require Australian telecommunications companies to retain a set of customer information, including IP addresses, call records, and other personal information for a period of two years for warrant-less access by designated law-enforcement agencies.

The legislation has been resisted by a number of telcos on cost grounds, as well as civil rights and privacy advocates, due to the associated privacy implications with a large wealth of data collected over that two-year period.

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2 Comments

Filed under Free Software Downloads, Internet Security Alerts, Latest Tech News

2 responses to “Tech Thoughts Daily Net News – December 9, 2014

  1. Fred

    Hi Bill!

    “Bondic liquid plastic welds plastic, wood, and fabric together”

    As I always say I learn more from Tech Thoughts than any other website. On just about EVERYTHING!

    “Grumpy Cat has made over $95 million in two years”

    In my innocence Bill, I thought it was just a couple posting cute photos of their cat. Silly me….

    “NSA warrantless bulk phone metadata spying continues unabated”

    What was that about “HOPE AND CHANGE” by the Nobel Peace Prize winner who won it before taking office. I am glad there are people like you, Bill, still in this world, people who BELIEVE in LIBERTY!

    With best wishes always,
    Fred

    • Hi Fred,

      I’ve got a few projects that Bondic liquid plastic sounds like just the ticket for.

      The tide may well be changing vis-à-vis the U.S. government’s (and it’s partners Canada, the UK, Australia, and New Zealand’s), psychotic behavior. To this point, these criminal governments have been operating as if in a vacuum – totally detached from reality.

      The release of the damming CIA torture report (and, it’s worth noting that the governments, as noted above, were complicit in this torture), may well be the impetus to tear apart this stinking mess of a so called democracy.

      Frankly, war crimes trials for all those involved in this barbaric behavior, should be started as soon as possible. Dick Cheney, in his freshly pressed orange prison jumpsuit, can lead the parade of inhuman characters. Truly, an evil man.

      As it stands, most countries will be disallowed by treaty and convention, from entertaining anyone legally associated with the barbarism disclosed in the CIA report. I suspect the carry over from all this will be akin to a tsumani. I fervently hope so.

      Best,

      Bill