DANCING NEBULA

DANCING NEBULA
When the gods dance...

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Astoria Scum River Bridge

Astoria Scum River Bridge

Astoria Scum River Bridge

Astoria Scum River Bridge

Astoria Scum River Bridge

Astoria Scum River Bridge

“For years, a leaking pipe on 33rd Street beneath the Hell Gate Bridge viaduct approach has submerged more than a hundred square feet of a heavily-trafficked sidewalk in a festering cesspool of standing water. In the winter, Astoria Scum River, as it’s called, ices over and becomes particularly hazardous to cross. Posterchild and I constructed this bridge as a gift to the pedestrians of Astoria.”

Back to the Garden, Flower Power Comes Full Circle

In 1988, director Kevin Tomlinson interviewed a group of back-to-the-land hippies at a “healing gathering” in rural Washington state, practicing peace and love. Now, in this poignant examination of this community over time, he tracks down those original interviewees and their children twenty years later to find out what the glories and sufferings of living out of the mainstream and off the grid might really look like.

pure-acid

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Johnny Depp reads Hunter S. Thompson Pt.1

Back in 1998, Hunter S. Thompson’s most famous piece of Gonzo journalism, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, was brought to the silver screen, with Johnny Depp playing a lead role. From this point forward, Depp and Thompson became fast friends. Indeed, Depp would end up paying for Thompson’s elaborate funeral, which involved shooting the writer’s ashes out of a cannon to the tune of Norman Greenbaum’s Spirit in the Sky and Bob Dylan’s Mr. Tambourine Man.

Can Occupy Wall Street work with the jobless? - F**ked - Salon.com

Can Occupy Wall Street work with the jobless?

The long-term unemployed go to a General Assembly hoping for support for their job demands. They got something else

VIDEO
Unemployed Connie meets the occupiers

Unemployed Connie meets the occupiers  (Credit: Immy Humes)

In the sixth installment of F**ked, the long-term unemployed meet the occupiers at a General Assembly in New York City, never expecting the generational and culture clash that ensues.

Immy Humes, a NYC documentary filmmaker, has produced stories for PBS, NBC News, and Michael Moore. Her short film, "A Little Vicious," was nominated for an Oscar. Her latest feature, "Doc," is a saga of the post-war generation of New York writers and of madness. Her web site is http://www.thedoctank.com/  More Immy Humes

1 in 7 Americans Pursued by Debt Collectors

Economic Shock Wave: 1 in 7 Americans Pursued by Debt Collectors
This is part of the new social contract. The sheer percentage of consumers with third party collections in pursuit is striking.
February 28, 2012  |  

Debtorsprisoninamerica

I went through the Federal Reserve’s Quarterly Release on Household Debt and Credit released today, and there were two notable trends.  One is that the amount of consumer debt is declining, but that delinquency rates are stabilizing above what they were before the crisis.  And the second is in this graph below, which is that the number of people subject to third party collections has doubled since 2000, from a little less than 7% to a little over 14% of consumers.  Ten years ago, one in fourteen American consumers were pursued by debt collectors.  Today it’s one in seven.

The experience of debt collection can be chilling, as this 2007 ABC News report suggests.

Consumers around the country have taped threatening phone calls from collectors who have called in the middle of the night, used abusive language and have threatened to have people fired from work or thrown in jail.  All of these tactics are illegal under federal law.

One of the characteristics of the new social contract ushered in by both George W. Bush and Barack Obama is the increasing power of creditors to govern outright, from tax farming by banks to the use of credit checks to access employment opportunities.

There are now thousands of people legally jailed because they aren’t paying their bills, ie. debtor’s prisons have returned.  Occasionally elites let it slip that this is not an accident, but is their goal – former Comptroller General David Walker has wistfully pined for debtor’s prisons overtly (on CNBC, no less).

This may be somewhat mediated by government action, as the CFPB is beginning to make noise around debt collection and credit ratings, and Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan is working to stop debt-related arrest warrants.  But only somewhat, only where the government can protect you and only when there is the political will to do so.  Increasingly, creditors are coming to set up the institutional structures for financial surveillance, state-sponsored enforcement of their claims through tightened bankruptcy laws and the selective use of jail, and the denial of economic opportunity based on one’s interaction with the financial system.

This is part of the new social contract.  The sheer percentage of consumers with third party collections in pursuit is striking.  Additionally, the uptrend through both Bush boom and Obama bust years of the percentage of people being tracked down by third party collection agencies suggests we live in a different country than we did just ten years ago.

Again, ten years ago, one in fourteen Americans were pursued by debt collectors.  Today it’s one in seven.  I suspect this number will keep going up.  And though debt collection is a highly competitive field, it’s also a growth industry.

Matt Stoller is the former senior policy adviser to Rep. Alan Grayson and a fellow at the Roosevelt Institute. He blogs frequently for Naked Capitalism. Follow him on Twitter at @matthewstoller. 

I went through the Federal Reserve’s Quarterly Release on Household Debt and Credit released today, and there were two notable trends.  One is that the amount of consumer debt is declining, but that delinquency rates are stabilizing above what they were before the crisis.  And the second is in this graph below, which is that the number of people subject to third party collections has doubled since 2000, from a little less than 7% to a little over 14% of consumers.  Ten years ago, one in fourteen American consumers were pursued by debt collectors.  Today it’s one in seven.

The experience of debt collection can be chilling, as this 2007 ABC News report suggests.

Consumers around the country have taped threatening phone calls from collectors who have called in the middle of the night, used abusive language and have threatened to have people fired from work or thrown in jail.  All of these tactics are illegal under federal law.

One of the characteristics of the new social contract ushered in by both George W. Bush and Barack Obama is the increasing power of creditors to govern outright, from tax farming by banks to the use of credit checks to access employment opportunities.

There are now thousands of people legally jailed because they aren’t paying their bills, ie. debtor’s prisons have returned.  Occasionally elites let it slip that this is not an accident, but is their goal – former Comptroller General David Walker has wistfully pined for debtor’s prisons overtly (on CNBC, no less).

This may be somewhat mediated by government action, as the CFPB is beginning to make noise around debt collection and credit ratings, and Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan is working to stop debt-related arrest warrants.  But only somewhat, only where the government can protect you and only when there is the political will to do so.  Increasingly, creditors are coming to set up the institutional structures for financial surveillance, state-sponsored enforcement of their claims through tightened bankruptcy laws and the selective use of jail, and the denial of economic opportunity based on one’s interaction with the financial system.

This is part of the new social contract.  The sheer percentage of consumers with third party collections in pursuit is striking.  Additionally, the uptrend through both Bush boom and Obama bust years of the percentage of people being tracked down by third party collection agencies suggests we live in a different country than we did just ten years ago.

Again, ten years ago, one in fourteen Americans were pursued by debt collectors.  Today it’s one in seven.  I suspect this number will keep going up.  And though debt collection is a highly competitive field, it’s also a growth industry.

Matt Stoller is the former senior policy adviser to Rep. Alan Grayson and a fellow at the Roosevelt Institute. He blogs frequently for Naked Capitalism. Follow him on Twitter at @matthewstoller.

ADBUSTERS TACTICAL BRIEFING


#OCCUPYCHICAGO

MIO CADE PHOTOGRAPHY

ADBUSTERS TACTICAL BRIEFING #26: Anarchic Swarms – The Emerging Model

Hey you wild cats, dreamers, redeemers, horizontals,

The stage is set for a climactic showdown in Chicago.

The crisis of capitalism is deepening. Youth unemployment has reached 50% in Spain and Greece… 30% in Portugal and Italy… 22% in the UK… almost 20% in the US. Hundreds of millions of people around the world are waking up to the fact that their future does not compute… that their lives will be a never ending series of ecological, financial, political and personal crises… and that if we don’t rise up and start fighting for a different kind of future, we won’t have a future.

That struggle ignites again May 1.

#OCCUPYCHICAGO

will be the focal point of this global spiritual insurrection… 50,000 of us will converge on the windy city and confront the G8 and NATO leaders with an ultimatum. We will set up impromptu encampments throughout the city and wage a full-spectrum memewar backed up by new tactics of anarchic swarming. Our militant in-your-face nonviolence will inspire thousands of towns, cities and campuses around the world to rise up in solidarity just like they did last October.

This is a worldwide, multi-front mutiny against the way our economic and military leaders are running the world.

On the 

CULTURAL FRONT we confront the corpo-commercial lie machine – we shift the way information flows and meaning is produced. We train a new breed of livestreamers, citizen journos and p2p visionaries and unleash them in the streets to be the eyes of the world during the month of May.

On the ENVIRONMENTAL FRONT we demand the G8 reach consensus on drastically reducing their carbon footprints and immediately ratifying a binding international accord on climate change.

On the ECONOMIC FRONT we throw our movement’s weight behind one simple demand: the implementation of a 1% Robin Hood Tax on all financial transactions and currency trades.

On the GEOPOLITICAL FRONT we tell Obama, Cameron, Sarkozy, Putin, Merkel, Noda, Monti, Harper and the NATO military leaders to stop the warmongering and start fighting for peace. We block the looming Iran war with a preemptive global initiative that just about everyone in the world can get behind: a nuclear-free world starting with a nuclear-free Middle East that includes both Israel and Iran.

On the PERSONAL FRONT, hundreds of millions of us vow to live the month of May without dead time… to experience joyous camaraderie… to open ourselves to an imminent life changing epiphany. We follow Miles Davis’ advice on how to play jazz: be spontaneously alive and “play what’s not there.”

Occupy has taught us all. It innovates, fractures, grows resilient and more diverse. In this spirit we celebrate the Gandhian ferocity of the Zuccottis who launched this movement with their magical assemblies and nonviolent ways … we extol the growing crop of working groups with their desire for a positive program of social and political change. And on the wild side we honor those in Oakland who have lost their fear against all odds. With this rainbow coalition, we hold our heads high and embrace the heady days of Spring.

Jammers pack your tents, phone your friends, get your affinity groups together and prepare to put your ass on the line for a worldwide people’s uprising starting May 1.

for the wild,
Culture Jammers HQ

OccupyWallStreet.org / Tactical Briefing #25 /OccupyWallst.org / G8Protest.org /OccupyChi.org / CANG8.org / Takethesquare.net /OccupyMay1st.org / NYCGA / Facebook / Twitter /Reddit

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Exclusive: Homeland Security Kept Tabs on Occupy Wall Street | Michael Hastings | Rolling Stone

Exclusive: Homeland Security Kept Tabs on Occupy Wall Street

POSTED: By Michael Hastings

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occupy wall street
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Occupy protestors during a demonstration at the UC Davis campus in November.
Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

As Occupy Wall Street spread across the nation last fall, sparking protests in more than 70 cities, the Department of Homeland Security began keeping tabs on the movement. An internal DHS report entitled “SPECIAL COVERAGE: Occupy Wall Street," dated October of last year, opens with the observation that "mass gatherings associated with public protest movements can have disruptive effects on transportation, commercial, and government services, especially when staged in major metropolitan areas." While acknowledging the overwhelmingly peaceful nature of OWS, the report notes darkly that "large scale demonstrations also carry the potential for violence, presenting a significant challenge for law enforcement."
 
The five-page report –  contained in 5 million newly leaked documents examined by Rolling Stone in an investigative partnership with WikiLeaks – goes on to sum up the history of Occupy Wall Street and assess its "impact" on everything from financial services to government facilities. Many of the observations are benign, and appear to have been culled from publicly available sources. The report notes, for instance, that in Chicago "five women were arrested after dumping garbage taken from a foreclosed home owned by Bank of America in the lobby one of the bank's branches," and that "OWS in New York staged a 'Millionaires March,' from Zucotti Park to demonstrate outside the homes of some of the city’s richest residents."
 
But the DHS also appears to have scoured OWS-related Twitter feeds for much of their information. The report includes a special feature on what it calls Occupy's "social media and IT usage," and provides an interactive map of protests and gatherings nationwide – borrowed, improbably enough, from the lefty blog Daily Kos. "Social media and the organic emergence of online communities," the report notes, "have driven the rapid expansion of the OWS movement."

The most ominous aspect of the report, however, comes in its final paragraph:

"The growing support for the OWS movement has expanded the protests’ impact and increased the potential for violence. While the peaceful nature of the protests has served so far to mitigate their impact, larger numbers and support from groups such as Anonymous substantially increase the risk for potential incidents and enhance the potential security risk to critical infrastructure (CI). The continued expansion of these protests also places an increasingly heavy burden on law enforcement and movement organizers to control protesters. As the primary target of the demonstrations, financial services stands the sector most impacted by the OWS protests. Due to the location of the protests in major metropolitan areas, heightened and continuous situational awareness for security personnel across all CI sectors is encouraged."

It’s never a good thing to see a government agency talk in secret about the need to “control protestors” – especially when that agency is charged with protecting the homeland against terrorists, not nonviolent demonstrators exercising their First Amendment rights to peaceable dissent. From the notorious Cointelpro operations of the 1960s to the NYPD’s recent surveillance of Muslim Americans, the government has a long and disturbing history of justifying the curtailing of civil liberties under the cover of perceived, and often manufactured, threats ("the potential security risk to critical infrastructure). What’s more, there have been reports that Homeland Security played an active role in coordinating the nationwide crackdown on the Occupy movement last November – putting the federal government in the position of targeting its own citizens in the name of national security. There is not much of a bureaucratic leap, if history is any guide, between a seemingly benign call for "continuous situational awareness" and the onset of a covert and illegal campaign of domestic surveillance.

Untitled

In Attack on Vatican Website, a Glimpse of Hackers’ Tactics

In Attack on Vatican Website, a Glimpse of Hackers’ Tactics

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The New York Times | February 27, 2012 | 10:43 AM EST

The elusive hacker movement known as Anonymous has carried out Internet attacks on well-known organizations like Sony and PBS. In August, the group went after its most prominent target yet: the Vatican.

The campaign against the Vatican, which did not receive wide attention at the time, involved hundreds of people, some with hacking skills and some without. A core group of participants openly drummed up support for the attack using YouTube, Twitter, and Facebook. Others searched for vulnerabilities on a Vatican website and, when that failed, enlisted amateur recruits to flood the site with traffic, hoping it would crash, according to a computer security firm’s report to be released this week.

The attack, albeit an unsuccessful one, provides a rare glimpse into the recruiting, reconnaissance, and warfare tactics used by the shadowy hacking collective.

Anonymous, which first gained widespread notice with an attack on the Church of Scientology in 2008, has since carried out hundreds of increasingly bold strikes, taking aim at perceived enemies, including law enforcement agencies, Internet security companies, and opponents of the whistle-blower site WikiLeaks.

The group’s attack on the Vatican was confirmed by the hackers and is detailed in a report that Imperva , a computer security company based in Redwood City, Calif., plans to release ahead of a computer security conference here this week. It may be the first end-to-end record of a full Anonymous attack.

Though Imperva declined to identify the target of the attack and kept any mention of the Vatican out of its report, two people briefed on the investigation confirmed that it had been the target. Imperva had a unique window into the situation because it had been hired by the Vatican’s security team as a subcontractor to block and record the assault.

“We have seen the tools and the techniques that were used in this attack used by other criminal groups on the web,” said Amichai Shulman, Imperva’s chief technology officer. “What set this attack apart from others is it had a clear timeline and evolution, starting from an announcement and recruitment phase that was very public.”

The Vatican declined to comment on the attack. In an email intended for a colleague, but accidentally sent to a reporter, a church official wrote: “I do not think it is convenient to respond to journalists on real or potential attacks,” adding, “the more we are silent in this area the better.”

The attack was called Operation Pharisee in a reference to the sect that Jesus called hypocrites. It was initially organized by hackers in South America and Mexico before spreading to other countries, and it was timed to coincide with Pope Benedict XVI’s visit to Madrid in August 2011 for World Youth Day, an international event held every other year that regularly attracts more than a million Catholic youths.

Hackers initially tried to take down a website set up by the church to promote the event, handle registrations and sell merchandise. Their goal — according to YouTube messages delivered by an Anonymous figure in a Guy Fawkes mask — was to disrupt the event and draw attention to child sexual abuse by priests, among other issues.

The videos, which have been viewed more than 77,000 times, include a verbal attack on the Pope and the young people who “have forgotten the abominations of the Catholic Church.” One calls on volunteers to “prepare your weapons, my dear brother, for this August 17th to Sunday August 21st, we will drop anger over the Vatican.”

Much as in a grass-roots lobbying campaign, the hackers spent weeks spreading their message through their own website and social sites like Twitter and Flickr. Their Facebook page called on volunteers to download free attack software and implored them to “stop child abuse” by joining the cause. It featured split-screen images of the Pope seated on a gilded throne on one side and starving African children on the other. And it linked to articles about sexual abuse cases and blog posts itemizing the church’s assets.

It took the hackers 18 days to recruit enough people, the report says. Then the reconnaissance began. A core group of roughly a dozen skilled hackers spent three days poking around the church’s World Youth Day site looking for common security holes that could let them inside, the report says. Probing for such loopholes used to be tedious and slow, but the advent of automated tools made it possible for hackers to do this while they slept.

In this case, the scanning software failed to turn up any gaps. So the hackers turned to a brute-force approach — a so-called distributed denial-of-service, or DDoS, attack that involves clogging a site with data requests until it crashes. Even unskilled supporters could take part in this from their computers or smartphones.

“Anonymous is a handful of geniuses surrounded by a legion of idiots,” said Cole Stryker, an author who has researched the movement. “You have four or five guys who really know what they’re doing and are able to pull off some of the more serious hacks, and then thousands of people spreading the word, or turning their computers over to participate in a DDoS attack.”

Over the course of the campaign’s final two days, Anonymous enlisted as many as a thousand people to download attack software, or directed them to custom-built websites that let them participate using their cellphones. Visiting a particular web address caused the phones to instantly start flooding the target website with hundreds of data requests each second, with no special software required, the report says.

On the first day, the denial-of-service attack resulted in 28 times the normal traffic to the church site, rising to 34 times the next day. Hackers involved in the attack, who did not identify themselves, said through a Twitter account associated with the campaign that the two-day effort succeeded in slowing the site’s performance and making the page unavailable “in several countries.” Imperva disputed that the site’s performance was affected and said its technologies had successfully siphoned the excess data away from the site.

Anonymous moved on to other targets, including an unofficial site about the Pope, which the hackers were briefly able to deface.

Imperva executives say the Vatican’s defenses held up because, unlike Sony and other hacker targets, it invested in the infrastructure needed to repel both break-ins and full-scale assaults.

Researchers who have followed Anonymous say that despite its lack of success in this and other campaigns, recent attacks show the movement is still evolving and, if anything, emboldened. Threatened attacks on the New York Stock Exchange and Facebook last autumn apparently fizzled. But the hackers appeared to regain momentum in January after federal authorities shut down Megaupload, a popular file-sharing site.

In retaliation, hackers affiliated with Anonymous briefly knocked dozens of websites offline, including those of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the White House, and the Justice Department. At one point, they were able to eavesdrop on a conference call between the F.B.I. and Scotland Yard.

“Part of the reason ‘Op Megaupload’ was so successful is that they’ve learned from their past mistakes,” said Gabriella Coleman, an associate professor at McGill University who has studied Anonymous. Professor Coleman said the hackers had been using a new tool to better protect their anonymity. “Finally people felt safe using it,” she said. “That could explain why it was so big.”

In recent weeks, Anonymous has made increasingly bold threats, at one point promising to “shut the Internet down on March 31” by attacking servers that perform switchboard functions for the Internet.

Security experts now say that a sort of open season has begun. “Who is Anonymous?” asked Rob Rachwald, Imperva’s director of security. “Anyone can use the Anonymous umbrella to hack anyone at anytime.”

Indeed, in the last six months, hackers have attacked everything from pornography sites to the web portals of Brazilian airlines. And some hackers have been accused of trying to extort money from corporations — all under the banner of Anonymous.

“Anonymous is an idea, a global protest movement, by activists on the streets and by hackers in the network,” the hackers said through the Twitter account. “Anyone can be Anonymous, because we are an idea without leaders who defend freedom and promote free knowledge.”

Yoga and Sex Scandals: No Surprise Here

Yoga and Sex Scandals: No Surprise Here

The wholesome image of yoga took a hit in the past few weeks as a rising star of the discipline came tumbling back to earth. After accusations of sexual impropriety with female students, John Friend, the founder of Anusara, one of the world’s fastest-growing styles, told followers that he was stepping down for an indefinite period of “self-reflection, therapy and personal retreat.”

George Rose/Getty Images

CELEBRITY GURU Swami Muktananda had many thousands of devotees, including celebrities. A senior aide charged that he was a serial philanderer and sexual hypocrite.

John Friend's sexual indiscretions upset many devotees of Anusara yoga, which he founded.

Mr. Friend preached a gospel of gentle poses mixed with openness aimed at fostering love and happiness. But Elena Brower, a former confidante, has said that insiders knew of his “penchant for women” and his love of “partying and fun.”

Few had any idea about his sexual indiscretions, she added. The apparent hypocrisy has upset many followers.

“Those folks are devastated,” Ms. Brower wrote in The Huffington Post. “They’re understandably disappointed to hear that he cheated on his girlfriends repeatedly” and “lied to so many.”

But this is hardly the first time that yoga’s enlightened facade has been cracked by sexual scandal. Why does yoga produce so many philanderers? And why do the resulting uproars leave so many people shocked and distraught?

One factor is ignorance. Yoga teachers and how-to books seldom mention that the discipline began as a sex cult — an omission that leaves many practitioners open to libidinal surprise.

Hatha yoga — the parent of the styles now practiced around the globe — began as a branch of Tantra. In medieval India, Tantra devotees sought to fuse the male and female aspects of the cosmos into a blissful state of consciousness.

The rites of Tantric cults, while often steeped in symbolism, could also include group and individual sex. One text advised devotees to revere the female sex organ and enjoy vigorous intercourse. Candidates for worship included actresses and prostitutes, as well as the sisters of practitioners.

Hatha originated as a way to speed the Tantric agenda. It used poses, deep breathing and stimulating acts — including intercourse — to hasten rapturous bliss. In time, Tantra and Hatha developed bad reputations. The main charge was that practitioners indulged in sexual debauchery under the pretext of spirituality.

Early in the 20th century, the founders of modern yoga worked hard to remove the Tantric stain. They devised a sanitized discipline that played down the old eroticism for a new emphasis on health and fitness.

B. K. S. Iyengar, the author of “Light on Yoga,” published in 1965, exemplified the change. His book made no mention of Hatha’s Tantric roots and praised the discipline as a panacea that could cure nearly 100 ailments and diseases. And so modern practitioners have embraced a whitewashed simulacrum of Hatha.

But over the decades, many have discovered from personal experience that the practice can fan the sexual flames. Pelvic regions can feel more sensitive and orgasms more intense.

Science has begun to clarify the inner mechanisms. In Russia and India, scientists have measured sharp rises in testosterone — a main hormone of sexual arousal in both men and women. Czech scientists working with electroencephalographs have shown how poses can result in bursts of brainwaves indistinguishable from those of lovers. More recently, scientists at the University of British Columbia have documented how fast breathing — done in many yoga classes — can increase blood flow through the genitals. The effect was found to be strong enough to promote sexual arousal not only in healthy individuals but among those with diminished libidos.

In India, recent clinical studies have shown that men and women who take up yoga report wide improvements in their sex lives, including enhanced feelings of pleasure and satisfaction as well as emotional closeness with partners.

At Rutgers University, scientists are investigating how yoga and related practices can foster autoerotic bliss. It turns out that some individuals can think themselves into states of sexual ecstasy — a phenomenon known clinically as spontaneous orgasm and popularly as “thinking off.”

The Rutgers scientists use brain scanners to measure the levels of excitement in women and compare their responses with readings from manual stimulation of the genitals. The results demonstrate that both practices light up the brain in characteristic ways and produce significant rises in blood pressure, heart rate and tolerance for pain — what turns out to be a signature of orgasm.

Since the baby boomers discovered yoga, the arousal, sweating, heavy breathing and states of undress that characterize yoga classes have led to predictable results. In 1995, sex between students and teachers became so prevalent that the California Yoga Teachers Association deplored it as immoral and called for high standards.

“We wrote the code,” Judith Lasater, the group’s president, told a reporter, “because there were so many violations going on.”

If yoga can arouse everyday practitioners, it apparently has similar, if not greater, effects on gurus — often charming extroverts in excellent physical condition, some enthusiastic for veneration.

The misanthropes among them offer a bittersweet tribute to yoga’s revitalizing powers. A surprising number, it turns out, were in their 60s and 70s.

Swami Muktananda (1908-82) was an Indian man of great charisma who favored dark glasses and gaudy robes.

At the height of his fame, around 1980, he attracted many thousands of devotees — including movie stars and political celebrities — and succeeded in setting up a network of hundreds of ashrams and meditation centers around the globe. He kept his main shrines in California and New York.

ACCUSED GURU Swami Satchidananda was a superstar of yoga who gave the invocation at Woodstock.
Barry Z Levine/Getty Images

In late 1981, when a senior aide charged that the venerated yogi was in fact a serial philanderer and sexual hypocrite who used threats of violence to hide his duplicity, Mr. Muktananda defended himself as a persecuted saint, and soon died of heart failure.

Joan Bridges was one of his lovers. At the time, she was 26 and he was 73. Like many other devotees, Ms. Bridges had a difficult time finding fault with a man she regarded as a virtual god beyond law and morality.

“I was both thrilled and confused,” she said of their first intimacy in a Web posting. “He told us to be celibate, so how could this be sexual? I had no answers.”

To denounce the philanderers would be to admit years of empty study and devotion. So many women ended up blaming themselves. Sorting out the realities took years and sometimes decades of pain and reflection, counseling and psychotherapy. In time, the victims began to fight back.

Swami Satchidananda (1914-2002) was a superstar of yoga who gave the invocation at Woodstock. In 1991, protesters waving placards (“Stop the Abuse,” “End the Cover Up”) marched outside a Virginia hotel where he was addressing a symposium.

“How can you call yourself a spiritual instructor,” a former devotee shouted from the audience, “when you have molested me and other women?”

Another case involved Swami Rama (1925-96), a tall man with a strikingly handsome face. In 1994, one of his victims filed a lawsuit charging that he had initiated abuse at his Pennsylvania ashram when she was 19. In 1997, shortly after his death, a jury awarded the woman nearly $2 million in compensatory and punitive damages.

So, too, former devotees at Kripalu, a Berkshires ashram, won more than $2.5 million after its longtime guru — a man who gave impassioned talks on the spiritual value of chastity — confessed to multiple affairs.

The drama with Mr. Friend is still unfolding. So far, at least 50 Anusara teachers have resigned, and the fate of his enterprise remains unclear. In his letter to followers, he promised to make “a full public statement that will transparently address the entirety of this situation.”

The angst of former Anusara teachers is palpable. “I can no longer support a teacher whose actions have caused irreparable damage to our beloved community,” Sarah Faircloth, a North Carolina instructor, wrote on her Web site.

But perhaps — if students and teachers knew more about what Hatha can do, and what it was designed to do — they would find themselves less prone to surprise and unyogalike distress.

William J. Broad is the author of “The Science of Yoga: The Risks and the Rewards,” published this month by Simon & Schuster.

A version of this article appeared in print on February 28, 2012, on page D
1
of the New York edition with the headline: Yoga and Sex Scandals: No Surprise Here.

Inside a failed Anonymous attack: report

Inside a failed Anonymous attack: report

Data-protection firm Imperva has undertaken an analysis of an Anonymous attack, claiming that it was able to witness a failed 25-day assault by the group and use its surveillance to map out Anonymous' attack methods.

The report (PDF) covers the three phases that it believes Anonymous uses over its 25-day hacking period, as well as the expected structure of the group, the tools that Anonymous members are suspected of using and the techniques used in the attack.

According to Imperva, the first phase of this attack was to begin recruitment and communications. In the attack, Anonymous uploaded a video to YouTube and used Facebook and Twitter to further promote it.

"This is really the essence of all hacktivism campaigns," the report said. "The raison d'ĂȘtre of hacktivism is to attract attention to a cause, so this phase is critical."

Imperva said that Twitter and Facebook were used to bring attention to the cause, and the video was used to rationalise the attack. Promotional material was also used to set the date and convey target details for a future distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attack. This communication phase lasted about 18 days.

(Credit: Imperva)

The second phase of the operation was a quick reconnaissance and application attack, aimed at surveying the target's state of security and identifying any vulnerabilities ahead of the scheduled attack that might aid in increasing the effectiveness of an attack.

Imperva's analysis of the attackers indicates that Anonymous had knowledge of hacking tools, used anonymity services to hide its members' tracks and kept a low profile to avoid being detected. According to Imperva's report, a small group of attackers of no more than 10 to 15 individuals scanned the target for web-application vulnerabilities, such as cross-site scripting, SQL injection and directory-traversal vulnerabilities, but they were unable to identify any opportunities for a more effective attack.

By examining the victim's firewall logs, Imperva identified that the attackers used at least three off-the-shelf products rather than software specifically created for the attack. These products were Havij, an automated SQL-injection tool; Acunetix Scanner, an automated scanner that was used to look for remote file-inclusion vulnerabilities; and Nikto Scanner, which looks for outdated server software and tests for dangerous scripts.

"Only when failing to find such vulnerabilities, the attackers resorted to searching a resource suitable for DDoS. Such resources involve actions which are time and resource consuming, and might lead to exhaustion of the server resources. Eventually, attackers spotted a specific URL that was later used in the attack itself," the report said.

This URL resulted in the server fetching data from a database, which takes up more resources than a regular web-page request and could potentially be used to deny services. By this stage, over 72,000 hits had been registered on the promotional video released as part of the communications phase.

In the final phase of the operation — the scheduled attack — those participating in the attack visited a website created by Anonymous, which contained JavaScript code intended to loop for as long as the page was open in the user's browser. Within the looping code was a request to the victim's site, pre-crafted to attack the specific URL that Anonymous had identified previously.

Imperva said that since the code was written in JavaScript, any device with a browser could be used to launch the attack. This included mobile devices, of which Imperva saw evidence. Imperva estimated that a regular computer would be capable of achieving 200 requests for information per second.

Although the core team behind the attack was relatively careful in hiding its tracks, Imperva noted that a majority of the actual attackers didn't bother or didn't know how to disguise their identities.

Although these combined efforts was not enough to bring down the victim, Imperva offered advice for anyone who thinks that they might be a target. It recommends monitoring social media, due to the fact that groups like Anonymous often announce their targets before attacking. It also believes that a DDoS attack actually represents the hacker's last resort when they're unable to identify vulnerabilities during the reconnaissance phase.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Untitled

11621-c23144-480-343

Upper classes 'more likely to lie and cheat'

Upper classes 'more likely to lie and cheat'

Members of the upper classes are more likely to lie, cheat and even break the law than people from less privileged backgrounds, a study has found.

Europe's markets climb in strongest week for two years
Psychologists suggested that the findings could help explain the origins of the banking crisis - with self-confident, wealthy bankers more likely to indulge in reckless behaviour
 
Photo: REUTERS

In contrast, members of the "lower" classes appeared more likely to display the traditional attributes of a gentleman.
It suggests that the traditional notion of the upper class “cad” or “bounder” could have a scientific basis.
But psychologists at the University of California in Berkeley, who carried out the study, also suggested that the findings could help explain the origins of the banking crisis – with self-confident, wealthy bankers more likely to indulge in reckless behaviour.
The team lead by Dr Paul Piff, asked several groups of people from different social backgrounds to perform a series of tasks designed to identify different traits such as honesty and consideration for others.


Each person was asked a series of questions about their wealth, schooling, social background, religious persuasions and attitudes to money in an attempt to put them into different classes.
The tasks included asking participants to pretend to be an employers conducting a job interview to test whether they would lie or sidestep awkward facts in pay negotiation.
They were told that the job might become redundant within six months but were encouraged conceal this from the interview candidate.
There was also an online game involving rolling dice in which participants they were asked to report their own score, thinking they would be in line for a cash prize for a higher score – and that no one was checking.
Members of another group were given a series of made-up scenarios in which people spoke about doing something unethical at work to benefit themselves and then questioned to assess how likely they were to do likewise.
The scientists also carried out a series of observations at a traffic junction in San Francisco.
Different drivers’ social status was assessed on the basis of what car they were driving as well as visible details such as their age.
Those deemed to be better off appeared more likely to cut up other drivers and less likely to stop for pedestrians.
Overall the study, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, concluded that those from richer or powerful backgrounds appeared greedier, more likely to lie in negotiation and more likely to cheat.
Being in a higher social class – either by birth or attainment – had a “causal relationship to unethical decision-making and behaviour”, they concluded.
Dr Piff concluded that having an elevated social rank were more likely to display “self focused” behaviour patterns than those from more modest backgrounds, were less aware of others, and were less good at identifying the emotions of others.
He said that the findings appeared to bear out the teachings of Aristotle, Plato and Jesus that greed is at the root unethical behaviour.
"On the one hand, lower-class individuals live in environments defined by fewer resources, greater threat and more uncertainty," he said.
"It stands to reason, therefore, that lower-class individuals may be more motivated to behave unethically to increase their resources or overcome their disadvantage.
"A second line of reasoning, however, suggests the opposite prediction: namely, that the upper class may be more disposed to the unethical.
"Greater resources, freedom, and independence from others among the upper class give rise to self-focused social cognitive tendencies, which we predict will facilitate unethical behaviour.
"Historical observation lends credence to this idea. For example, the recent economic crisis has been attributed in part to the unethical actions of the wealthy.
"Religious teachings extol the poor and admonish the rich with claims like, 'It will be hard for a rich person to enter the kingdom of heaven'."

Get A Free Coffee on Jonathan Stark

This is a wild but very cool social experiment. sbux-card

You download his card and you can buy a coffee with his card, so it’s free.

By downloading Jonathan’s Card to your smartphone and using it for free coffee, you’re taking part in one heck of a caffeinated social experiment.

Stark is a computer programmer in Rhode Island interested in how technology intersects with societal advancement. He’s inviting people to use the money on his card to buy coffee, then asking them to tweet about the project.

And it they want, they can put some money back on the card. He has a twitter account that updates the current amount on the card.

When I last checked, there was $54.90 for free coffee. About 40 minutes ago, it was empty. And even earlier in the day, there was $130.69.

Stark says it’s a modern-day take on the “take a penny, leave a penny” jars you see at markets and convenience stores. The idea is that the generosity of strangers will offset all those free lattes.

“Jonathan’s Card is an experiment in social sharing of physical goods using digital currency on mobile phones,” Stark writes on his website.

As seen on seattle pi

The Evolution of the Geek

7 Reasons the 21st Century is Making You Miserable

7 Reasons the 21st Century is Making You Miserable

September 09, 2007 1,870,992 views

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Scientists call it the Naked Photo Test, and it works like this: say a photo turns up of you nakedly doing something that would shame you and your family for generations. Bestiality, perhaps. Ask yourself how many people in your life you would trust with that photo. If you're like the rest of us, you probably have at most two.

Even more depressing, studies show that about one out of four people have no one they can confide in.


The Sad Bear 1, by Nedroid

The average number of close friends we say we have is dropping fast, down dramatically in just the last 20 years. Why?

#1. We don't have enough annoying strangers in our lives.

That's not sarcasm. Annoyance is something you build up a tolerance to, like alcohol or a bad smell. The more we're able to edit the annoyance out of our lives, the less we're able to handle it.

The problem is we've built an awesome, sprawling web of technology meant purely to let us avoid annoying people. Do all your Christmas shopping online and avoid the fat lady ramming her cart into you at Target. Spend $5,000 on a home theater system so you can see movies on a big screen without a toddler kicking the back of your seat. Hell, rent the DVD's from Netflix and you don't even have to spend the 30 seconds with the confused kid working the register at Blockbuster.

Get stuck in the waiting room at the doctor? No way we're striking up a conversation with the smelly old man in the next seat. We'll plug the iPod into our ears and have a text conversation with a friend or play our DS. Filter that annoyance right out of our world.


From outofbalance.org

Now that would be awesome if it were actually possible to keep all of the irritating shit out of your life. But, it's not. It never will be. As long as you have needs, you'll have to deal with people you can't stand from time to time. We're losing that skill, the one that lets us deal with strangers and tolerate their shrill voices and clunky senses of humor and body odor and squeaky shoes. So, what encounters you do have with the outside world, the world you can't control, make you want to go on a screaming crotch-punching spree.


Oh, yeah. Right in the crotch, buddy.

#2. We don't have enough annoying friends, either.

Lots of us were born into towns full of people we couldn't stand. As a kid, maybe you found yourself in an elementary school classroom, packed in with two dozen kids you did not choose and who shared none of your tastes or interests. Maybe you got beat up a lot.

But, you've grown up. And if you're, say, a huge DragonForce fan, you can go find their forum and meet a dozen people just like you. Or even better, start a private room with your favorite few and lock everybody else out. Say goodbye to the tedious, awkward, painful process of dealing with somebody who's truly different. That's another Old World inconvenience, like having to wash your clothes in a creek or wait for a raccoon to wander by the outhouse so you can wipe your ass with it.

The problem is that peacefully dealing with incompatible people is crucial to living in a society. In fact, if you think about it, peacefully dealing with people you can't stand is society. Just people with opposite tastes and conflicting personalities sharing space and cooperating, often through gritted teeth.

Fifty years ago, you had to sit in a crowded room to see a movie. You didn't get to choose; you either did that or you missed the movie. When you got a new car, everyone on the block came and stood in your yard to look it over. You can bet that some of those people were assholes.


Your parents, circa 1982

Yet, on the whole, people back then were apparently happier in their jobs and more satisfied with their lives. And get this: They had more friends.

That's right. Even though they had almost no ability to filter their peers according to common interests (hell, often you were just friends with the guy who happened to live next door), they still came up with more close friends than we have now-people they could trust.

It turns out, apparently, that after you get over that first irritation, after you shed your shell of "they listen to different music because they wouldn't understand mine" superiority, there's a sort of comfort in needing other people and being needed on a level beyond common interests. It turns out humans are social animals after all. And that ability to suffer fools, to tolerate annoyance, that's literally the one single thing that allows you to function in a world populated by other people who aren't you. Otherwise, you turn emo. Science has proven it.

#3. Texting is a shitty way to communicate.

I have this friend who uses the expression "No, thank you," in a sarcastic way. It means, "I'd rather be shot in the face." He puts a little ironic lilt on the last two words that lets you know. You ask, "Want to go see that new Rob Schneider movie?" And, he'll say, "No, thank you."

So one day we had this exchange via text:

Me: "Hey, do you want me to bring over that leftover chili I made?"

Him: "No, thank you"

That pissed me off. I'm proud of my chili. It takes four days to make it. I grind up the dried peppers myself; the meat is expensive, hand-tortured veal. And, now my offer to give him some is dismissed with his bitchy catchphrase?

I didn't speak to him for six months. He sent me a letter, I mailed it back, unread, with a dead rat packed inside.

It was my wife who finally ran into him and realized that the "No, thank you" he replied with was not meant to be sarcastic, but was a literal, "No, but thank you for offering." He had no room in his freezer, it turns out.


The Sad Bear #2, by Nedroid

So did we really need a study to tell us that more than 40 percent of what you say in an e-mail is misunderstood? Well, they did one anyway.

How many of your friends have you only spoken with online? If 40 percent of your personality has gotten lost in the text transition, do these people even really know you? The people who dislike you via text, on message boards or chatrooms or whatever, is it because you're really incompatible? Or, is it because of the misunderstood 40 percent? And, what about the ones who like you?

Many of us try to make up that difference in sheer numbers, piling up six dozen friends on MySpace. But here's the problem ...

#4. Online company only makes us lonelier.

When someone speaks to you face-to-face, what percentage of the meaning is actually in the words, as opposed to the body language and tone of voice? Take a guess.

It's 7 percent. The other 93 percent is nonverbal, according to studies. No, I don't know how they arrived at that exact number. They have a machine or something. But we didn't need it. I mean, come on. Most of our humor is sarcasm, and sarcasm is just mismatching the words with the tone. Like my friend's "No, thank you."

You don't wait for a girl to verbally tell you she likes you. It's the sparkle in her eyes, her posture, the way she grabs your head and shoves your face into her boobs.

That's the crux of the problem. That human ability to absorb the moods of others through that kind of subconscious osmosis is crucial. Kids born without it are considered mentally handicapped. People who have lots of it are called "charismatic" and become movie stars and politicians. It's not what they say; it's this energy they put off that makes us feel good about ourselves.

When we're living in Text World, all that is stripped away. There's a weird side effect to it, too: absent a sense of the other person's mood, every line we read gets filtered through our own mood instead. The reason I read my friend's chili message as sarcastic was because I was in an irritable mood. In that state of mind, I was eager to be offended.

And worse, if I do enough of my communicating this way, my mood never changes. After all, people keep saying nasty things to me! Of course I'm depressed! It's me against the world!

No, what I need is somebody to shake me by the shoulders and snap me out of it. Which leads us to No. 5 ...

#5. We don't get criticized enough.

Most of what sucks about not having close friends isn't the missed birthday parties or the sad, single-player games of ping pong with the wall. No, what sucks is the lack of real criticism.

In my time online I've been called "fag" approximately 104,165 times. I keep an Excel spreadsheet. I've also been called "asshole" and "cockweasel" and "fuckcamel" and "cuntwaffle" and "shitglutton" and "porksword" and "wangbasket" and "shitwhistle" and "thundercunt" and "fartminge" and "shitflannel" and "knobgoblin" and "boring."

And none of it mattered, because none of those people knew me well enough to really hit the target. I've been insulted lots, but I've been criticized very little. And don't ever confuse the two. An insult is just someone who hates you making a noise to indicate their hatred. A barking dog. Criticism is someone trying to help you, by telling you something about yourself that you were a little too comfortable not knowing.


Above: A flamboyant transvestite with about
five times as many friends as the average person

Tragically, there are now a whole lot of people who never have those conversations. The interventions, the brutal honesty, the, "you know, everybody's pissed off because of what you said last night, but nobody wants to say anything because they're afraid of you," sort of conversations. Those horrible, awkward, wrenchingly uncomfortable sessions that you can only have with someone who sees right to the center of you.

E-mail and texting are awesome tools for avoiding that level of honesty. With text, you can respond when you feel like it. You can measure your words. You can pick and choose which questions to answer. The person on the other end can't see your face, can't see you get nervous, can't detect when you're lying. You have almost total control and as a result that other person never sees past your armor, never sees you at your worst, never knows the embarrassing little things about yourself that you can't control. Gone are the common quirks, humiliations and vulnerabilities that real friendships are built on.

Browse around people's MySpace pages, look at the characters they create for themselves. If you've built a pool of friends via a blog, building yourself up as a misunderstood, mysterious Master of the Night, it's kind of hard to log on and talk about how you went to prom and got diarrhea out on the dance floor. You never get to really be yourself, and that's a very lonely feeling.

And, on top of all that ...

#6. We're victims of the Outrage Machine.

A whole lot of the people still reading this are saying, "Of course I'm depressed! People are starving! America has turned into Nazi Germany! My parents watch retarded television shows and talk about them for hours afterward! People are dying in meaningless wars all over the world!"

But how did we wind up with a more negative view of the world than our parents? Or grandparents? Back then, people didn't live as long and babies died more often. Diseases were more common. In those days, if your buddy moved away the only way to communicate was with pen and paper and a stamp. We have Iraq, but our parents had Vietnam (which killed 50 times more people) and their parents had World War 2 (which killed 1,000 times as many). Some of your grandparents grew up at a time when nobody had air conditioning. All of their parents grew up without it.

We are physically better off today in every possible way in which such things can be measured ... but you sure as hell wouldn't know that if you're getting your news online. Why?

Well, ask yourself: If some music site posts an article called, "Fall Out Boy is a Fine Band" and on the same day posts another one called, "Fall Out Boy is the Shittiest Fucking Band of the Last 100 Years, Say Experts," which do you think will get the most traffic? The second one wins in a blowout. Outrage manufactures word-of-mouth.

The news blogs many of you read? The people running them know the same thing. Every site is in a dogfight for traffic (even if they don't run ads, they still measure their success by the size of their audience) and so they carefully pick through the wires for the most inflammatory story possible. The other blogs start echoing the same story from the same point of view. If you want, you can surf all day and never swim out of the warm, stagnant waters of the "aren't those bastards evil" pool.


Actually, if you count the guy holding the camera, this man
statistically has more friends than most of us do.

Only in that climate could those silly 9/11 conspiracy theories come about (saying the Bush administration and the FDNY blew up the towers, and that the planes were holograms). To hear these people talk, every opposing politician is Hitler, and every election is the freaking apocalypse. All because it keeps you reading.


9/11 photos. Circled: Conspiracy

This wasn't as much a problem in the old days, of course. Some of us remember having only three channels on TV. That's right. Three. We're talking about the '80s here. So there was something unifying in the way we all sat down to watch the same news, all of it coming from the same point of view. Even if the point of view was retarded and wrong, even if some stories went criminally unreported, we at least all shared it.

That's over. There effectively is no "mass media" any more so, where before we disagreed because we saw the same news and interpreted it differently, now we disagree because we're seeing completely different freaking news. When we can't even agree on the basic facts, the differences become irreconcilable. That constant feeling of being at bitter odds with the rest of the world brings with it a tension that just builds and builds.

We humans used to have lots of natural ways to release that kind of angst. But these days...

#7. We feel worthless, because we actually are worth less.

There's one advantage to having mostly online friends, and it's one that nobody ever talks about:

They demand less from you.

Sure, you emotionally support them, comfort them after a breakup, maybe even talk them out of a suicide. But knowing someone in meatspace adds a whole, long list of annoying demands. Wasting your whole afternoon helping them fix their computer. Going to funerals with them. Toting them around in your car every day after theirs gets repossessed by the bank. Having them show up unannounced when you were just settling in to watch the Dirty Jobs marathon on the Discovery channel, then mentioning how hungry they are until you finally give them half your sandwich.

You have so much more control in Instant Messenger, or on a forum, or in World of Warcraft.

The problem is you are hard-wired by evolution to need to do things for people. Everybody for the last five thousand years seemed to realize this and then we suddenly forgot it in the last few decades. We get suicidal teens and scramble to teach them self-esteem. Well, unfortunately, self-esteem and the ability to like yourself only come after you've done something that makes you likable. You can't bullshit yourself. If I think Todd over here is worthless for sitting in his room all day, drinking Pabst and playing video games one-handed because he's masturbating with the other one, what will I think of myself if I do the same thing?


The Sad Bear #3, by Nedroid

You want to break out of that black tar pit of self-hatred? Brush the black hair out of your eyes, step away from the computer and buy a nice gift for someone you loathe. Send a card to your worst enemy. Make dinner for your mom and dad. Or just do something simple, with an tangible result. Go clean the leaves out of the gutter. Grow a damn plant.

It ain't rocket science; you are a social animal and thus you are born with little happiness hormones that are released into your bloodstream when you see a physical benefit to your actions. Think about all those teenagers in their dark rooms, glued to their PC's, turning every life problem into ridiculous melodrama. Why do they make those cuts on their arms? It's because making the pain-and subsequent healing-tangible releases endorphins they don't get otherwise. It's pain, but at least it's real.

That form of stress relief via mild discomfort used to be part of our daily lives, via our routine of hunting gazelles and gathering berries and climbing rocks and fighting bears. No more. This is why office jobs make so many of us miserable; we don't get any physical, tangible result from our work. But do construction out in the hot sun for two months, and for the rest of your life you can drive past a certain house and say, "Holy shit, I built that." Maybe that's why mass shootings are more common in offices than construction sites.

It's the kind of physical, dirt-under-your-nails satisfaction that you can only get by turning off the computer, going outdoors and re-connecting with the real world. That feeling, that "I built that" or "I grew that" or "I fed that guy" or "I made these pants" feeling, can't be matched by anything the internet has to offer.

Except, you know, this website.

David Wong is the Senior Editor of Cracked.com and the author of the dongtacular horror novel John Dies at the End, available wherever books are sold or by clicking those words.