Thought for the day

"The object of terrorism is terrorism. The object of oppression is oppression. The object of torture is torture. The object of murder is murder. The object of power is power. Now do you begin to understand me?" -- George Orwell, 1984

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As the housing market continues to implode - marking a record drop in pending home sales last month amid canceled deals and price cuts, there are around 450,000 homebuyers who owe more than their house is worth as of the end of the third quarter, according to a new analysis from Black Knight. Of those, around 60%, or 270,000, bought their homes in the first nine months of 2022. In total, around 8% of mortgages taken out in 2022 are now marginally underwater, with another 20% having a low equity position.

In short, there is little risk for those who bought more than a year ago - but 2022 homebuyers haven't fared so well.

Among FHA purchase mortgage holders specifically, more than 25% have slipped underwater and more than three-quarters have less than 10% equity. This is an illustrative and, unfortunately, potentially vulnerable cohort that we will continue to keep a close eye on in the months ahead.”

What's more, Black Knight found that excluding the pandemic, the 'early-payment default' (EPD) rate which tracks mortgage delinquencies within six months of origination, has hit its highest level since 2009 for FHA loans, which are government-backed loans typically issued to low-income Americans who would not otherwise be able to obtain a loan.

Posted on: Dec 09 05:40

Apple already protects 14 sensitive data categories via default end-to-end encryption. Data covered by Advanced Data Protection includes iCloud Backup, photos, notes, reminders, voice memos, and more.

The move marks a turning point for Apple. While its iMessage and Facetime communications services are fully encrypted end-to-end, the large majority of what users back up remotely via iCloud, such as photos and videos, are not.

Apple said on Wednesday that the new data protections represent the “next step in its ongoing effort to provide users with even stronger ways to protect their data.”

However, the decision will also no doubt exacerbate ongoing tensions with law enforcement, including the FBI, which has requested that Apple hand over data from iPhones multiple times. Apple does so but only to an extent, according to the company, stopping short of handing over all of the data on the phone.

According to Apple’s most recent transparency report, the tech giant handed over data to law enforcement 3,980 times from January to June 2021, with the majority of the user data tied to Brazil and the United States.

“Account requests generally seek information regarding customers’ Apple ID accounts, such as account holder name and address and account connections to Apple services—for example, law enforcement investigations where an account may have been used unlawfully,” according to Apple. “Account requests may also seek customers’ content data, such as photos, email, iOS device backups, contacts or calendars.”

Posted on: Dec 09 05:40

As if a million merger arbs suddenly cried out in terror and were suddenly silenced.

Just before 2pm ET, the US Federal Trade Commission confirmed earlier rumors when it announced that it had voted 3-1 to sue to block Microsoft’s $69 billion acquisition of gaming giant Activision Blizzard, saying the tie-up between the Xbox maker and popular gaming publisher would harm competition in the gaming market.

The commission voted to proceed with the complaint, which will be filed in its in-house court Thursday, in a closed-door meeting, said two BBG sources.

Posted on: Dec 09 05:37

In November, the Pentagon announced it had failed yet another audit. In spite of the fact that the Department of Defense has had years to get its act together, the Pentagon still doesn’t know how it spends or maintains its trillions of dollars worth of taxpayer-funded assets and income. As Breaking Defense noted last month:

The Pentagon has failed its annual audit for the fifth year in a row, an expected result that nonetheless represents something of a disappointment for an effort that officials hoped would continue steady, if incremental, year over year progress. . . . The Pentagon has failed every audit since 2018, the first audit of the department ever performed in its history.

Accounting like this, of course, would land most private-sector C-suite executives in prison for various financial crimes. Moreover, this is the same government that insists it has the prerogative to spy on most of our banking transactions and that has even recently started demanding that we report every Venmo and PayPal transaction over $600. But that’s not how things work in the government sector. The Pentagon can fail an audit on literally trillions of dollars, and all that means is “there’s room for improvement.”

Posted on: Dec 09 05:36

On Wednesday Russian President Vladimir Putin gave a wide-ranging public war update during a televised session of his Human Rights Council, which at least one independent regional outlet said was tightly controlled in terms of the kind of questions Kremlin officials could ask.

Among the more important topics, he addressed related to the now over 9-month-long “special military operation” in Ukraine were future plans for broader mobilization and the prospect of deployment of nuclear assets. On the latter point, Putin lashed out at the United States and NATO, saying “Russia does not have tactical nuclear weapons in other countries, unlike the US.”

This was a reference to the fact that some NATO members in Europe, including extending as far east as Turkey, do act as host countries to many of the U.S.’s tactical nukes.

Posted on: Dec 09 05:35

The FBI held "weekly meetings" with social media giants ahead of the 2020 election and sent in "lists of URLs and accounts" for them to take down in the name of fighting "foreign influence operations," an FBI agent revealed Tuesday while under oath.

Webmaster addition: I want to see that actual list to see how many of those targeted URLs were really foreign and how many were right here in the US!

Posted on: Dec 09 05:31

The 2023 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) includes legislation that will give unprecedented US military support to Taiwan, a step that Beijing will view as a major provocation and the US moving further away from the one-China policy.

Sen. Bob Menendez (D-NJ), the chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said including the new support for Taiwan in the NDAA will “dramatically enhance the United States’ defense partnership with Taiwan by establishing, for the first time ever, a specific defense modernization program for Taiwan.”

The Taiwan Enhanced Resilience Act (TERA) will authorize $2 billion in annual military aid for five years. The aid is in the form of Foreign Military Financing, a State Department program that gives foreign governments money to purchase US arms.

Posted on: Dec 09 05:31

A group of House Democrats on Thursday released a statement welcoming Sen. Bernie Sanders’ (I-VT) plan to bring the Yemen War Powers Resolution to the floor of the Senate for a vote next week.

The resolution would end US support for the Saudi war and blockade on Yemen that, according to the UN, has killed at least 377,000 people, more than half of which were children under the age of five.

Americans can call 1-833-Stop-War to get connected to their senators and representatives and urge them to support the legislation that could bring an end to the over seven-year war. Go to for more information and to see if your member of Congress supports the legislation.

Rep. Adam Schiff, the chair of the House Intelligence Committee, and other lawmakers urged in the statement for the Senate to “swiftly pass this legislation with a strong majority and send it to the House for quick adoption, and then to the President’s desk for his signature before the end of the 117th Congress.”

Posted on: Dec 09 05:22

The Biden administration took a public stand last year against the abuse of spyware to target human rights activists, dissidents and journalists: It blacklisted the most notorious maker of the hacking tools, the Israeli firm NSO Group.

But the global industry for commercial spyware — which allows governments to invade mobile phones and vacuum up data — continues to boom. Even the U.S. government is using it.

The Drug Enforcement Administration is secretly deploying spyware from a different Israeli firm, according to five people familiar with the agency’s operations, in the first confirmed use of commercial spyware by the federal government.

At the same time, the use of spyware continues to proliferate around the world, with new firms — which employ former Israeli cyberintelligence veterans, some of whom worked for NSO — stepping in to fill the void left by the blacklisting. With this next generation of firms, technology that once was in the hands of a small number of nations is now ubiquitous — transforming the landscape of government spying.

Posted on: Dec 09 05:21

On December 1, French President Emmanuel Macron went to Washington for the first state visit of the Biden administration. After the pageantry, presents, hand holding and flattering words of fraternity and solidarity, Macron faced the gathered press.

"We will never urge Ukrainians to make a compromise that will not be acceptable for them." "That," said Helene Cooper of The New York Times, "is the money quote."

But it wasn’t the money quote by several euros. The money quote came days later when Macron was not standing shoulder to shoulder with Biden in front of an American audience, but standing on his own addressing a French audience. Macron told the French television network TF1, in an interview filmed during his visit to Washington but aired as he left, that “We need to prepare what we are ready to do, how we protect our allies and member states, and how to give guarantees to Russia the day it returns to the negotiating table.” Then Macron made his full meaning clear: “One of the essential points we must address – as President Putin has always said – is the fear that NATO comes right up to its doors, and the deployment of weapons that could threaten Russia.”

Posted on: Dec 09 05:21

It’s been almost two months since the UN-brokered truce in Yemen expired. Fortunately, the warring parties have not returned to the level of violence that helped precipitate the truce last April. Specifically, the Houthis have refrained from launching missiles and drones across the border of Saudi Arabia, and the Saudis have yet to reinitiate airstrikes on Yemen. If this relative calm prevails, hope persists that the parties might agree to recommit to a truce and perhaps even a lasting ceasefire.

That is not to say that violence has been absent. The Houthis have launched attacks on civilian areas inside Yemen. In a new development, they have warned oil companies operating in parts of Yemen outside their control to cease operations and have launched drones at various oil facilities to attempt to prevent the government of the Saudi-backed Presidential Leadership Council from profiting from Yemen’s oil resources.

Posted on: Dec 09 05:20

Consistent with today’s trend to render all defense as performance art, the unveiling of the new Northrop Grumman B-21 “Raider” bomber at the Northrop plant in Palmdale on December 2 was designed with the care and production values of a Superbowl commercial. 

The blue backlighting, the sonorous music (One Day, by Caleb Etheridge) the shiny shroud strip-teased off the partly hidden aircraft by shadowy figures, the flyover by the bombers the B-21 will allegedly replace, were military-industrial showmanship at its best, giving us not a scintilla of worthwhile information about the plane. Fittingly, its primary selling point, according to its promoters, is “stealth” – a supposed ability to remain invisible to radar and other sensors. Given that earlier systems advertised as being cloaked from radar scrutiny, such as the F-22 and F-35 fighters, have turned out to be visible after all especially to decades-old low frequency radar systems, the prospects are not hopeful. We do however know that it has the most important characteristic of stealth: invisibility to the taxpayers.

Posted on: Dec 09 05:19

In a press conference that Ars attended today, Department of Defense officials discussed the benefits of partnering with Google, Oracle, Microsoft, and Amazon to build the Pentagon’s new cloud computing network. The multi-cloud strategy was described as a necessary move to keep military personnel current as technology has progressed and officials’ familiarity with cloud technology has matured.

Air Force Lieutenant General Robert Skinner said that this Joint Warfighting Cloud Capability (JWCC) contract—worth $9 billion—would help quickly expand cloud capabilities across all defense departments. He described new accelerator capabilities like preconfigured templates and infrastructure as code that will make it so that even “people who don’t understand cloud can leverage cloud” technologies. Such capabilities could help troops on the ground easily access data gathered by unmanned aircraft or space communications satellites.

By signing up, you agree to our user agreement (including the class action waiver and arbitration provisions), our privacy policy and cookie statement, and to receive marketing and account-related emails from Ars Technica. You can unsubscribe at any time.

“JWCC is a multiple-award contract vehicle that will provide the DOD the opportunity to acquire commercial cloud capabilities and services directly from the commercial Cloud Service Providers (CSPs) at the speed of mission, at all classification levels, from headquarters to the tactical edge,” DOD’s press release said.

Until now, officials did not have direct access to cloud providers, and military personnel located around the world didn't have cloud technology capable of providing access to files at all three classification levels: unclassified, secret, and top secret. With JWCC, that’s changed, and now the defense department expects to be able to pass on intelligence more quickly.

Webmaster addition:

Posted on: Dec 09 05:16

"Tareq Damaj was wounded and asking for help when Atta Shalabi was passing by and Shalabi decided to help him. The [Israeli] soldiers shot dead Shalabi while he was helping Damaj and killed Damaj too," Mustafa Shita, a resident of Jenin, said.

58 Palestinians from Jenin have been killed by Israeli forces since the beginning of the year. [Qassam Muaddi/TNA]

Thousands in the occupied West Bank mourned three Palestinians killed on Thursday by Israeli forces, taking part in two separate funerals in Jenin city and the town of Qabatia, south of Jenin.

Israeli forces killed three Palestinians during a raid on Jenin city during the early hours of Thursday. The Palestinian health ministry identified them as 29-year-old Sudqi Zakarneh, 29-year-old Tareq Damaj and 46-year-old Atta Shalabi.

Posted on: Dec 09 05:16

Israeli authorities have rejected the travel applications of at least 260 Palestinian Christians in the Gaza Strip, denying them the chance to reunite with their families to celebrate Christmas this year.

Amongst a multitude of restrictive measures it imposes on Gaza, Israel has long limited the movement of Christians during their holiday seasons, preventing them from meeting with their families residing in the occupied West Bank or abroad.

A source in the Palestinian Civil Affairs Authority, the body responsible for communicating with the Israeli side and obtaining permits, said it had submitted applications for about 900 Christians, but only received approval for 650.

Posted on: Dec 09 05:15

Israel's presumed next finance minister has said his economic strategy will be infused with religious beliefs laid out in the Torah, arguing it will help the country to prosper.

Bezalel Smotrich, head of the far-right Religious Zionism party, said that as finance minister he will delve deep into the inner workings of the economy, adding that the Torah teaches that obeying God brings prosperity.

Smotrich was tapped by prime minister-designate Benjamin Netanyahu to serve as finance minister for two years. He will then be replaced by Aryeh Deri, who heads an ultra-Orthodox party.

Webmaster addition: Translation: "Give Israel all the money or God will smite thee!"

Posted on: Dec 09 05:13
Project Veritas on Wednesday released undercover video of a Dean of Students bragging about teaching “queer sex” to minors and giving them butt plugs to play with.
By: orraz
Posted on: Dec 08 19:43
New Jersey mom Angela Reading, who is also a member of the Northern Burlington Board of Education, wrote a Facebook post expressing concern over sexual posters on display at her 7-year old daughter’s elementary school.
By: orraz
Posted on: Dec 08 19:43

Since the murder of 22-year-old Iranian woman Mahsa Amini from injuries sustained at the hands of regime thugs after her arrest for the “improper” wearing of a hijab, Iran has been engulfed in massive protests against the government.

By: orraz
Posted on: Dec 08 19:42
Joe Biden’s Climate Envoy John Kerry on Thursday joined Washington Post Live to discuss the US’s ‘climate agenda.’
Posted on: Dec 08 19:40
The Bidens funneled $1.8 billion to Ukraine while Hunter bagged sweet deal with Burisma. (Breitbart)
By: orraz
Posted on: Dec 08 19:40
The payoff of Central States Pension Fund comes after the government told them not to cut benefits only a short time ago. This was in spite of the fact that the pension fund was spending billions more than it was saving.
By: orraz
Posted on: Dec 08 19:39
Joe Biden on Thursday delivered remarks on his administration’s agenda to ‘build a stronger economy for union workers.’ Biden announced a $36 billion bailout for the Central States Pension Fund – one of the nation’s biggest multiemployer plans.
By: orraz
Posted on: Dec 08 19:38
In return, the United States released International Arms Dealer Viktor Bout, also known as the “Merchant of Death.”
Posted on: Dec 08 19:38

Outgoing Arizona Republican Attorney General Mark Brnovich used a quote from former President John F. Kennedy after Democratic Secretary of State Katie Hobbs certified her own gubernatorial election victory earlier this week.

Alongside outgoing Republican Gov. Doug Ducey and the state’s chief justice, Hobbs pushed back on what she described as “false narratives” following the results of her closely-watched election against Republican Kari Lake.

For his part, Brnovich offered what some perceived as veiled remarks at the event.

“I didn’t know we were giving speeches today, but the governor and I merely serve as witnesses to the certification. We do not actually certify the election,” Brnovich said.

He added a quote from President JFK: “I am reminded of what John F. Kennedy often said: ‘Those who ride the tiger to seek power often end up inside.'”

Posted on: Dec 08 18:12

On November 8, 2022, at least 50% of the tabulators or printers were not operating on Election Day in Maricopa County.

Republicans waited 4 hours in the Arizona sun to vote in Maricopa county. Thousands were told they could vote at a different precinct after they signed in, which they couldn’t. And tens of thousands were told to dump their ballot into a bin that would be counted later.

Following Election Day, Democrat candidates won more than 50% of the votes despite only recording 17% of the turnout on Election Day. How is this possible?

Posted on: Dec 08 15:09

The bill requires that the federal government recognizes same sex marriages performed in states where it is legal. The bill also includes protection for interracial couples, should the Supreme Court overturn Loving v. Virginia, which bans states from outlawing interracial marriage.

Democrats celebrated the passing of the legislation. Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) shared her thoughts on Twitter.  

Posted on: Dec 08 14:42

Update(1228ET): The Daily Mail is calling it a "deal soaked in blood" after the governments of Saudi Arabia, the UAE, and Russia confirmed that Brittney Griner's release for notorious convicted arms trafficker Viktor Bout came via Saudi/UAE mediation efforts led by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MbS). Foreign ministry statements by both countries, hours after the now freed American and Russian walked past each other on a UAE airport tarmac, revealed the following per a leading Mideast regional news outlet

Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and UAE President Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed led mediation efforts that secured the release of two prisoners between the US and Russia, a joint statement issued by both countries’ foreign ministries said on Thursday.

"The ministries said the success of the mediation efforts was a reflection of the mutual and solid friendship between their two countries and the United States and Russia," the statement said.

Posted on: Dec 08 14:41

This is not The Onion, but CNN, which produced a whole report in effect arguing that internationally banned weapons are OK if given to Ukraine for the 'good cause' of fighting Russia...

"Ukrainian officials and lawmakers have in recent months urged the Biden administration and members of Congress to provide the Ukrainian military with cluster munition warheads, weapons that are banned by more than 100 countries but that Russia continues to use to devastating effect inside Ukraine."

BUT, the mainstream outlet writes, "For Ukraine, cluster munitions could address two major issues: the need for more ammunition for the artillery and rocket systems the US and others have provided, and a way of closing Russia’s numerical superiority in artillery."

Posted on: Dec 08 14:40

Webmaster addition: There are also the usual layoffs after the holiday shopping season ends.

Posted on: Dec 08 13:59