ACLU, EFF challenging US ‘secret’ court orders seeking Twitter data

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ACLU, EFF challenging US ‘secret’ court orders seeking Twitter data

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Late last month, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) filed objections to the United States Government’s ‘secret’ attempts to obtain Twitter account information relating to WikiLeaks. The ACLU and EFF cite First and Fourth amendment issues as overriding reasons to overturn government attempts to keep their investigation secret; and, that with Birgitta Jonsdottir being an Icelandic Parliamentarian, the issue has serious international implications.

The case, titled “In the Matter of the 2703(d) Order Relating to Twitter Accounts: Wikileaks, Rop_G, IOERROR; and BirgittaJ“, has been in the EFF’s sights since late last year when they became aware of the US government’s attempts to investigate WikiLeaks-related communications using the popular microblogging service.

The key objective of this US government investigation is to obtain data for the prosecution of Bradley Manning, alleged to have supplied classified data to WikiLeaks. In addition to Manning’s Twitter account, and that of WikiLeaks (@wikileaks), the following three accounts are subject to the order: @ioerror, @birgittaj, and @rop_g. These, respectively, belong to Jacob Apelbaum, Birgitta Jonsdottir, and Rop Gonggrijp.

Birgitta is not the only non-US citizen with their Twitter account targeted by the US Government; Gonggrijp, a Dutch ‘ex-hacker’-turned-security-expert, was one of the founders of XS4ALL – the first Internet Service Provider in the Netherlands available to the public. He has worked on a mobile phone that can encrypt conversations, and proven that electronic voting systems can readily be hacked.

In early March, a Virginia magistrate judge ruled that the government could have the sought records, and neither the targeted users, or the public, could see documents submitted to justify data being passed to the government. The data sought is as follows:

  1. Personal contact information, including addresses
  2. Financial data, including credit card or bank account numbers
  3. Twitter account activity information, including the “date, time, length, and method of connections” plus the “source and destination Internet Protocol address(es)”
  4. Direct Message (DM) information, including the email addresses and IP addresses of everyone with whom the Parties have exchanged DMs

The order demands disclosure of absolutely all such data from November 1, 2009 for the targeted accounts.

The ACLU and EFF are not only challenging this, but demanding that all submissions made by the US government to justify the Twitter disclosure are made public, plus details of any other such cases which have been processed in secret.

Bradley Manning, at the time a specialist from Maryland enlisted with the United States Army’s 2nd Brigade, 10th Mountain Division, was arrested in June last year in connection with the leaking of classified combat video to WikiLeaks.

The leaked video footage, taken from a US helicopter gunship, showed the deaths of Reuters staff Saeed Chmagh and Namir Noor-Eldeen during a U.S. assault in Baghdad, Iraq. The wire agency unsuccessfully attempted to get the footage released via a Freedom of Information Act request in 2007.

When WikiLeaks released the video footage it directly contradicted the official line taken by the U.S. Army asserting that the deaths of the two Reuters staff were “collateral damage” in an attack on Iraqi insurgents. The radio chatter associated with the AH-64 Apache video indicated the helicopter crews had mistakenly identified the journalists’ equipment as weaponry.

The US government also claims Manning is linked to CableGate; the passing of around a quarter of a million classified diplomatic cables to WikiLeaks. Manning has been in detention since July last year; in December allegations of torture were made to the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights regarding the conditions under which he was and is being detained.

Reports last month that he must now sleep naked and attend role call at the U.S. Marine facility in Quantico in the same state, raised further concern over his detention conditions. Philip J. Crowley, at-the-time a State Department spokesman, remarked on this whilst speaking at Massachusetts Institute of Technology; describing the current treatment of Manning as “ridiculous and counterproductive and stupid”, Crowley was, as a consequence, put in the position of having to tender his resignation to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

Despite his native Australia finding, in December last year, that Assange’s WikiLeaks had not committed any criminal offences in their jurisdiction, the U.S. government has continued to make ongoing operations very difficult for the whistleblower website.

The result of the Australian Federal Police investigation left the country’s Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, having to retract a statement that WikiLeaks had acted “illegally”; instead, she characterised the site’s actions as “grossly irresponsible”.

Even with Australia finding no illegal activity on the part of WikiLeaks, and with founder Julian Assange facing extradition to Sweden, U.S. pressure sought to hobble WikiLeaks financially.

Based on a State Department letter, online payments site PayPal suspended WikiLeaks account in December. Their action was swiftly followed by Visa Europe and Mastercard ceasing to handle payments for WikiLeaks.

The online processing company, Datacell, threatened the two credit card giants with legal action over this. However, avenues of funding for the site were further curtailed when both Amazon.com and Swiss bank PostFinance joined the financial boycott of WikiLeaks.

Assange continues, to this day, to argue that his extradition to Sweden for questioning on alleged sexual offences is being orchestrated by the U.S. in an effort to discredit him, and thus WikiLeaks.

Wikinews consulted an IT and cryptography expert from the Belgian university which developed the current Advanced Encryption Standard; explaining modern communications, he stated: “Cryptography has developed to such a level that intercepting communications is no longer cost effective. That is, if any user uses the correct default settings, and makes sure that he/she is really connecting to Twitter it is highly unlikely that even the NSA can break the cryptography for a protocol such as SSL/TLS (used for https).”

Qualifying this, he commented that “the vulnerable parts of the communication are the end points.” To make his point, he cited the following quote from Gene Spafford: “Using encryption on the Internet is the equivalent of arranging an armored car to deliver credit card information from someone living in a cardboard box to someone living on a park bench.

Continuing, the Katholieke Universiteit Leuven (KUL) expert explained:

In the first place, the weak point is Twitter itself; the US government can go and ask for the data; companies such as Twitter and Google will typically store quite some information on their users, including IP addresses (it is known that Google deletes the last byte of the IP address after a few weeks, but it is not too hard for a motivated opponent to find out what this byte was).
In the second place, this is the computer of the user: by exploiting system weaknesses (with viruses, Trojan horses or backdoors in the operating system) a highly motivated opponent can enter your machine and record your keystrokes plus everything that is happening (e.g. the FBI is known to do this with the so-called Magic Lantern software). Such software is also commercially available, e.g. for a company to monitor its employees.
It would also be possible for a higly motivated opponent to play “man-in-the-middle”; that means that instead of having a secure connection to Twitter.com, you have a secure connection to the attacker’s server, who impersonates Twitter’s and then relays your information to Twitter. This requires tricks such as spoofing DNS (this is getting harder with DNSsec), or misleading the user (e.g. the user clicks on a link and connects to tw!tter.com or Twitter.c0m, which look very similar in a URL window as Twitter.com). It is clear that the US government is capable of using these kind of tricks; e.g., a company has been linked to the US government that was recognized as legitimate signer in the major browsers, so it would not be too large for them to sign a legitimate certificate for such a spoofing webserver; this means that the probability that a user would detect a problem would be very low.
As for traffic analysis (finding out who you are talking to rather than finding out what you are telling to whom), NSA and GCHQ are known to have access to lots of traffic (part of this is obtained via the UK-USA agreement). Even if one uses strong encryption, it is feasible for them to log the IP addresses and email addresses of all the parties you are connecting to. If necessary, they can even make routers re-route your traffic to their servers. In addition, the European Data Retention directive forces all operators to store such traffic data.
Whether other companies would have complied with such requests: this is very hard to tell. I believe however that it is very plausible that companies such as Google, Skype or Facebook would comply with such requests if they came from a government.
In summary: unless you go through great lengths to log through to several computers in multiple countries, you work in a clean virtual machine, you use private browser settings (don’t accept cookies, no plugins for Firefox, etc.) and use tools such as Tor, it is rather easy for any service provider to identify you.
Finally: I prefer not to be quoted on any sentences in which I make statements on the capabilities or actions of any particular government.

Wikinews also consulted French IT security researcher Stevens Le Blond on the issues surrounding the case, and the state-of-the-art in monitoring, and analysing, communications online. Le Blond, currently presenting a research paper on attacks on Tor to USENIX audiences in North America, responded via email:

Were the US Government to obtain the sought data, it would seem reasonable the NSA would handle further investigation. How would you expect them to exploit the data and expand on what they receive from Twitter?

  • Le Blond: My understanding is that the DOJ is requesting the following information: 1) Connection records and session times 2) IP addresses 3) e-mail addresses 4) banking info
By requesting 1) and 2) for Birgitta and other people involved with WikiLeaks (WL) since 2009, one could derive 2 main [pieces of] information.
First, he could tell the mobility of these people. Recent research in networking shows that you can map an IP address into a geographic location with a median error of 600 meters. So by looking at changes of IP addresses in time for a Twitter user, one could tell (or at least speculate about) where that person has been.
Second, by correlating locations of different people involved with WL in time, one could possibly derive their interactions and maybe even their level of involvement with WL. Whether it is possible to derive this information from 1) and 2) depends on how this people use Twitter. For example, do they log on Twitter often enough, long enough, and from enough places?
My research indicates that this is the case for other Internet services but I cannot tell whether it is the case for Twitter.
Note that even though IP logging, as done by Twitter, is similar to the logging done by GSM [mobile phone] operators, the major difference seems to be that Twitter is subject to US regulation, no matter the citizenship of its users. I find this rather disturbing.
Using 3), one could search for Birgitta on other Internet services, such as social networks, to find more information on her (e.g., hidden accounts). Recent research on privacy shows that people tend to use the same e-mail address to register an account on different social networks (even when they don’t want these accounts to be linked together). Obviously, one could then issue subpoenas for these accounts as well.
I do not have the expertise to comment on what could be done with 4).
((WN)) As I believe Jonsdottir to be involved in the Icelandic Modern Media Initiative (IMMI), what are the wider implications beyond the “WikiLeaks witchhunt”?
  • Le Blond: Personal data can be used to discredit, especially if the data is not public.

Having been alerted to the ongoing case through a joint press release by the ACLU and EFF, Wikinews sought clarification on the primary issues which the two non-profits saw as particularly important in challenging the U.S. Government over the ‘secret’ court orders. Rebecca Jeschke, Media Relations Director for the EFF, explained in more detail the points crucial to them, responding to a few questions from Wikinews on the case:

((WN)) As a worse-case, what precedents would be considered if this went to the Supreme Court?
  • Rebecca Jeschke: It’s extremely hard to know at this stage if this would go to the Supreme Court, and if it did, what would be at issue. However, some of the interesting questions about this case center on the rights of people around the world when they use US Internet services. This case questions the limits of US law enforcement, which may turn out to be very different from the limits in other countries.
((WN)) Since this is clearly a politicised attack on free speech with most chilling potential repercussions for the press, whistleblowers, and by-and-large anyone the relevant U.S. Government departments objects to the actions of, what action do you believe should be taken to protect free speech rights?
  • Jeschke: We believe that, except in very rare circumstances, the government should not be permitted to obtain information about individuals’ private Internet communications in secret. We also believe that Internet companies should, whenever possible, take steps to ensure their customers are notified about requests for information and have the opportunity to respond.
((WN)) Twitter via the web, in my experience, tends to use https:// connections. Are you aware of any possibility of the government cracking such connections? (I’m not up to date on the crypto arms race).
  • Jeschke: You don’t need to crack https, per se, to compromise its security. See this piece about fraudulent https certificates:
Iranian hackers obtain fraudulent httpsEFF website.
((WN)) And, do you believe that far, far more websites should – by default – employ https:// connections to protect people’s privacy?
  • Jeschke: We absolutely think that more websites should employ https! Here is a guide for site operators: (See external links, Ed.)

Finally, Wikinews approached the Icelandic politician, and WikiLeaks supporter, who has made this specific case a landmark in how the U.S. Government handles dealings with – supposedly – friendly governments and their elected representatives. A number of questions were posed, seeking the Icelandic Parliamentarian’s views:

((WN)) How did you feel when you were notified the US Government wanted your Twitter account, and message, details? Were you shocked?
  • Birgitta Jonsdottir: I felt angry but not shocked. I was expecting something like this to happen because of my involvement with WikiLeaks. My first reaction was to tweet about it.
((WN)) What do you believe is their reasoning in selecting you as a ‘target’?
  • Jonsdottir: It is quite clear to me that USA authorities are after Julian Assange and will use any means possible to get even with him. I think I am simply a pawn in a much larger context. I did of course both act as a spokesperson for WikiLeaks in relation to the Apache video and briefly for WikiLeaks, and I put my name to the video as a co-producer. I have not participated in any illegal activity and thus being a target doesn’t make me lose any sleep.
((WN)) Are you concerned that, as a Member of Parliament involved in the Icelandic Modern Media Initiative (IMMI), the US attempt to obtain your Twitter data is interfering with planned Icelandic government policy?
  • Jonsdottir: No
((WN)) In an earlier New York Times (NYT) article, you’re indicating there is nothing they can obtain about you that bothers you; but, how do you react to them wanting to know everyone you talk to?
  • Jonsdottir: It bothers me and according to top computer scientists the government should be required to obtain a search warrant to get our IP addresses from Twitter. I am, though, happy I am among the people DOJ is casting their nets around because of my parliamentary immunity; I have a greater protection then many other users and can use that immunity to raise the issue of lack of rights for those that use social media.
HAVE YOUR SAY
Do you believe the U.S. government should have the right to access data on foreign nationals using services such as Twitter?
Add or view comments
((WN)) The same NYT article describes you as a WikiLeaks supporter; is this still the case? What attracts you to their ‘radical transparency’?
  • Jonsdottir: I support the concept of WikiLeaks. While we don’t have a culture of protection for sources and whistleblowers we need sites like WikiLeaks. Plus, I think it is important to give WikiLeaks credit for raising awareness about in how bad shape freedom of information and expression is in our world and it is eroding at an alarming rate because of the fact that legal firms for corporations and corrupt politicians have understood the borderless nature of the legalities of the information flow online – we who feel it is important that people have access to information that should remain in the public domain need to step up our fight for those rights. WikiLeaks has played an important role in that context.I don’t support radical transparency – I understand that some things need to remain secret. It is the process of making things secret that needs to be both more transparent and in better consensus with nations.
((WN)) How do you think the Icelandic government would have reacted if it were tens of thousands of their diplomatic communications being leaked?
  • Jonsdottir: I am not sure – A lot of our dirty laundry has been aired via the USA cables – our diplomatic communications with USA were leaked in those cables, so far they have not stirred much debate nor shock. It is unlikely for tens of thousands of cables to leak from Iceland since we dont have the same influence or size as the USA, nor do we have a military.
((WN)) Your ambassador in the US has spoken to the Obama administration. Can you discuss any feedback from that? Do you have your party’s, and government’s, backing in challenging the ordered Twitter data release?
  • Jonsdottir: I have not had any feedback from that meeting, I did however receive a message from the DOJ via the USA ambassador in Iceland. The message stated three things: 1. I am free to travel to the USA. 2. If I would do so, I would not be a subject of involuntary interrogation. 3. I am not under criminal investigation. If this is indeed the reality I wonder why they are insisting on getting my personal details from Twitter. I want to stress that I understand the reasoning of trying to get to Assange through me, but I find it unacceptable since there is no foundation for criminal investigation against him. If WikiLeaks goes down, all the other media partners should go down at the same time. They all served similar roles. The way I see it is that WikiLeaks acted as the senior editor of material leaked to them. They could not by any means be considered a source. The source is the person that leaks the material to WikiLeaks. I am not sure if the media in our world understands how much is at stake for already shaky industry if WikiLeaks will carry on carrying the brunt of the attacks. I think it would be powerful if all the medias that have had access to WikiLeaks material would band together for their defence.
((WN)) Wikinews consulted a Belgian IT security expert who said it was most likely companies such as Facebook, Microsoft, and Google, would have complied with similar court orders *without advising the ‘targets*’. Does that disturb you?
  • Jonsdottir: This does disturb me for various reasons. The most obvious is that my emails are hosted at google/gmail and my search profile. I dont have anything to hide but it is important to note that many of the people that interact with me as a MP via both facebook and my various email accounts don’t always realize that there is no protection for them if they do so via those channels. I often get sensitive personal letters sent to me at facebook and gmail. In general most people are not aware of how little rights they have as users of social media. It is those of uttermost importance that those sites will create the legal disclaimers and agreements that state the most obvious rights we lose when we sign up to their services.
This exclusive interview features first-hand journalism by a Wikinews reporter. See the collaboration page for more details.
((WN)) Has there been any backlash within Iceland against US-based internet services in light of this? Do you expect such, or any increase in anti-American sentiments?
  • Jonsdottir: No, none what so ever. I dont think there is much anti-American sentiments in Iceland and I dont think this case will increase it. However I think it is important for everyone who does not live in the USA and uses social services to note that according to the ruling in my case, they dont have any protection of the 1st and 4th amendment, that only apply to USA citizens. Perhaps the legalities in relation to the borderless reality we live in online need to be upgraded in order for people to feel safe with using social media if it is hosted in the USA. Market tends to bend to simple rules.
((WN)) Does this make you more, or less, determined to see the IMMI succeed?
  • Jonsdottir: More. People have to realize that if we dont have freedom of information online we won’t have it offline. We have to wake up to the fact that our rights to access information that should be in the public domain is eroding while at the same time our rights as citizens online have now been undermined and we are only seen as consumers with consumers rights and in some cases our rights are less than of a product. This development needs to change and change fast before it is too late.

The U.S. Government continues to have issues internationally as a result of material passed to WikiLeaks, and subsequently published.

Within the past week, Ecuador has effectively declared the U.S. ambassador Heather Hodges persona-non-grata over corruption allegations brought to light in leaked cables. Asking the veteran diplomat to leave “as soon as possible”, the country may become the third in South America with no ambassadorial presence. Both Venezuela and Bolivia have no resident U.S. ambassador due to the two left-wing administrations believing the ejected diplomats were working with the opposition.

The U.S. State Department has cautioned Ecuador that a failure to speedily normalise diplomatic relations may jeapordise ongoing trade talks.

The United Kingdom is expected to press the Obama administration over the continuing detention of 23-year-old Manning, who also holds UK citizenship. British lawmakers are to discuss his ongoing detention conditions before again approaching the U.S. with their concerns that his solitary confinement, and treatment therein, is not acceptable.

The 22 charges brought against Manning are currently on hold whilst his fitness to stand trial is assessed.

Posted by 4MSd2yHc on August 14th, 2018

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Talks with TGWU and Gate Gourmet to resume later today

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Talks with TGWU and Gate Gourmet to resume later today

Saturday, August 13, 2005

The Transport and General Worker’s Union and Gate Gourmet, the company that laid off 500 workers after workers staged unofficial strike action, will attend further talks held at a conciliation service by the Advisory Conciliation and Arbitration Service (ACAS) on Saturday.

The director of Gate Gourmet, Richard Wells, denied that he was being “heavy-handed” over the dismissals. He insisted that the people affected were spoken to, and given written warnings before they were sacked.

As a result of British Airways (BA) staff at Heathrow joining Gate Gourmet’s staff in the strike action, BA are running 50% of their short-haul flights, and 40% of their long haul flights today from 0600 BST/UTC+1. They are expecting to add more flights to the schedule as the day progresses, so passengers are advised to check the British Airways website.

Analysts said that the disruption may lose BA next to £40m because of the refunds that the company are paying out, loss of flight revenue, and the costs of accommodating passengers in nearby hotels.

Only passengers with confirmed reservations have been allowed to board flights at Heathrow. Barriers have been placed around Terminal 4 to stop people without reservations from joining flights. There are limited catering services on-board the flights.

British Airways advises passengers to telephone +44 (0)800 727 800 or check their website before travelling to the airport. They also said that they would refund customers that had to stay in a hotel on Friday night up to £100.

It is noted by passengers, though, that the advice line can be engaged for long periods, so users of the telephone line need to be patient.

Qantas, Finnair, GB Airways, Sri Lankan Airlines, and British Mediterranean are also affected, as they were serviced by BA’s ground staff. Their telephone numbers are listed below.

  • Qantas: +44 (0)870 000 0123
  • Sri Lankan Airlines: +44 (0)208 538 2000
  • Finnair: +44 (0)8705 997711
  • GB Airways: +44 (0)870 850 9850
  • British Mediterranean Airlines: +44 (0)870 850 9850

Posted by 4MSd2yHc on August 14th, 2018

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“Woofstock” dog festival in Toronto, Ontario, Canada

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“Woofstock” dog festival in Toronto, Ontario, Canada

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

North America’s largest outdoor dog festival came back to Toronto last weekend for its fifth year. It ran from the 9th of June to the 10th of June at Toronto’s historical St. Lawrence Market. A Wikinews reporter was there on Sunday to report on some of the events that happened on the last day.

The “Woofstock” dog festival attracted as many as 140,000 people with their dogs. The festival had tons of accessories, sold under tents, to buy for dogs; food, toys, designer clothes, and more. About 400 vendors and exhibitors were there to promote their products, which also gave private dog companies or groups a chance to show their new products. The local SPCA and some animal rescues were under tents answering questions from visitors. While walking, all visitors could see the CN Tower and other very tall buildings.

One of the local TV stations, Citytv, was there. They hosted a live event at the show which was broadcast on TV. People came up on the stage and asked questions regarding their dogs and the host and co-host answered them.

A man, who called himself the “Chalk Master”, drew two pictures on pavement with chalk. He did it for free but donations were welcome. One was a picture of a girl’s head beside a dog’s head, and another with a wolf.

“Hello Humans. I’ve been invited here to provide your eyeball(s), with some pretty colours. I don’t get paid as I work this weekend strictly for tips… so, if you like what you see please make a DONATION. If you don’t like it simply reach into the pocket of the person next to you and give me their money. CHALK MASTER.”

A contest called “Canada’s top dog” had its own tent with a professional photographer taking pictures of dogs behind a white screen; the winning photo is to be published on the cover of “Puppy and dog basics” magazine.

Large “Gourmet” dog bones were also served from a cart and table.

Next year’s festival is expected to be bigger and better with even more attractions.

Posted by 4MSd2yHc on August 14th, 2018

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SpaceX scrubs Falcon I rocket launch

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SpaceX scrubs Falcon I rocket launch

Monday, November 28, 2005

SpaceX called off the much-delayed inaugural launch of their new Falcon 1 rocket on Saturday from Kwajalein’s Omelek Island launch site. The intent was to launch the U.S. Air Force Academy’s FalconSat 2 satellite, which will monitor plasma interactions with the Earth’s upper atmosphere and magnetosphere.

The launch was delayed, then finally cancelled after an oxygen boil-off vent had accidentally been left open. The oxygen was unable to cool the helium pressurant, which then proceeded to evaporate faster than it could be replenished. A main computer issue, probably serious enough to cause a scrub on its own, was also discovered.

This long-anticipated flight was originally expected to be launched in January 2005, however a series of setbacks forced a series of delays, with the flight most recently scheduled to be in early 2006. It was intended to be launched from the Kwajalein atoll in the middle of the Pacific Ocean.

The maiden voyage was originally intended to launch from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California with a Naval Research Laboratory satellite and a Space Services Incorporated space burial payload.

Posted by 4MSd2yHc on August 12th, 2018

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News briefs:January 03, 2008

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News briefs:January 03, 2008

Please note: there may be minor variations between this script and the associated recording.

Contents

  • 1 Introduction
  • 2 Kenya election struggles continue
  • 3 Three truck drivers killed in Australian woodland fire
  • 4 USAID diplomat dies in Sudanese shooting
  • 5 South Australian premier demands apology from former Guantanamo detainee
  • 6 Croatia abolishes military service
  • 7 Cyprus and Malta adopt the Euro
  • 8 Markku Peltola dies at 51
  • 9 Scientology unlikely to be banned in Germany
  • 10 Peace award posthumously given to Benazir Bhutto
  • 11 Pakistan’s election saga continues
  • 12 Police station in Algeria bombed
  • 13 Penguins beat Sabres by 2 to 1
  • 14 Footer

[edit]

Posted by 4MSd2yHc on August 10th, 2018

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Bat for Lashes plays the Bowery Ballroom: an Interview with Natasha Khan

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Bat for Lashes plays the Bowery Ballroom: an Interview with Natasha Khan

Friday, September 28, 2007

Bat for Lashes is the doppelgänger band ego of one of the leading millennial lights in British music, Natasha Khan. Caroline Weeks, Abi Fry and Lizzy Carey comprise the aurora borealis that backs this haunting, shimmering zither and glockenspiel peacock, and the only complaint coming from the audience at the Bowery Ballroom last Tuesday was that they could not camp out all night underneath these celestial bodies.

We live in the age of the lazy tendency to categorize the work of one artist against another, and Khan has had endless exultations as the next Björk and Kate Bush; Sixousie Sioux, Stevie Nicks, Sinead O’Connor, the list goes on until it is almost meaningless as comparison does little justice to the sound and vision of the band. “I think Bat For Lashes are beyond a trend or fashion band,” said Jefferson Hack, publisher of Dazed & Confused magazine. “[Khan] has an ancient power…she is in part shamanic.” She describes her aesthetic as “powerful women with a cosmic edge” as seen in Jane Birkin, Nico and Cleopatra. And these women are being heard. “I love the harpsichord and the sexual ghost voices and bowed saws,” said Radiohead‘s Thom Yorke of the track Horse and I. “This song seems to come from the world of Grimm’s fairytales.”

Bat’s debut album, Fur And Gold, was nominated for the 2007 Mercury Prize, and they were seen as the dark horse favorite until it was announced Klaxons had won. Even Ladbrokes, the largest gambling company in the United Kingdom, had put their money on Bat for Lashes. “It was a surprise that Klaxons won,” said Khan, “but I think everyone up for the award is brilliant and would have deserved to win.”

Natasha recently spoke with David Shankbone about art, transvestism and drug use in the music business.


DS: Do you have any favorite books?

NK: [Laughs] I’m not the best about finishing books. What I usually do is I will get into a book for a period of time, and then I will dip into it and get the inspiration and transformation in my mind that I need, and then put it away and come back to it. But I have a select rotation of cool books, like Women Who Run With the Wolves by Clarissa Pinkola Estés and Little Birds by Anaïs Nin. Recently, Catching the Big Fish by David Lynch.

DS: Lynch just came out with a movie last year called Inland Empire. I interviewed John Vanderslice last night at the Bowery Ballroom and he raved about it!

NK: I haven’t seen it yet!

DS: Do you notice a difference between playing in front of British and American audiences?

NK: The U.S. audiences are much more full of expression and noises and jubilation. They are like, “Welcome to New York, Baby!” “You’re Awesome!” and stuff like that. Whereas in England they tend to be a lot more reserved. Well, the English are, but it is such a diverse culture you will get the Spanish and Italian gay guys at the front who are going crazy. I definitely think in America they are much more open and there is more excitement, which is really cool.

DS: How many instruments do you play and, please, include the glockenspiel in that number.

NK: [Laughs] I think the number is limitless, hopefully. I try my hand at anything I can contribute; I only just picked up the bass, really—

DS: –I have a great photo of you playing the bass.

NK: I don’t think I’m very good…

DS: You look cool with it!

NK: [Laughs] Fine. The glockenspiel…piano, mainly, and also the harp. Guitar, I like playing percussion and drumming. I usually speak with all my drummers so that I write my songs with them in mind, and we’ll have bass sounds, choir sounds, and then you can multi-task with all these orchestral sounds. Through the magic medium of technology I can play all kinds of sounds, double bass and stuff.

DS: Do you design your own clothes?

NK: All four of us girls love vintage shopping and charity shops. We don’t have a stylist who tells us what to wear, it’s all very much our own natural styles coming through. And for me, personally, I like to wear jewelery. On the night of the New York show that top I was wearing was made especially for me as a gift by these New York designers called Pepper + Pistol. And there’s also my boyfriend, who is an amazing musician—

DS: —that’s Will Lemon from Moon and Moon, right? There is such good buzz about them here in New York.

NK: Yes! They have an album coming out in February and it will fucking blow your mind! I think you would love it, it’s an incredible masterpiece. It’s really exciting, I’m hoping we can do a crazy double unfolding caravan show, the Bat for Lashes album and the new Moon and Moon album: that would be really theatrical and amazing! Will prints a lot of my T-shirts because he does amazing tapestries and silkscreen printing on clothes. When we play there’s a velvety kind of tapestry on the keyboard table that he made. So I wear a lot of his things, thrift store stuff, old bits of jewelry and antique pieces.

DS: You are often compared to Björk and Kate Bush; do those constant comparisons tend to bother you as an artist who is trying to define herself on her own terms?

NK: No, I mean, I guess that in the past it bothered me, but now I just feel really confident and sure that as time goes on my musical style and my writing is taking a pace of its own, and I think in time the music will speak for itself and people will see that I’m obviously doing something different. Those women are fantastic, strong, risk-taking artists—

DS: —as are you—

NK: —thank you, and that’s a great tradition to be part of, and when I look at artists like Björk and Kate Bush, I think of them as being like older sisters that have come before; they are kind of like an amazing support network that comes with me.

DS: I’d imagine it’s preferable to be considered the next Björk or Kate Bush instead of the next Britney.

NK: [Laughs] Totally! Exactly! I mean, could you imagine—oh, no I’m not going to try to offend anyone now! [Laughs] Let’s leave it there.

DS: Does music feed your artwork, or does you artwork feed your music more? Or is the relationship completely symbiotic?

NK: I think it’s pretty back-and-forth. I think when I have blocks in either of those area, I tend to emphasize the other. If I’m finding it really difficult to write something I know that I need to go investigate it in a more visual way, and I’ll start to gather images and take photographs and make notes and make collages and start looking to photographers and filmmakers to give me a more grounded sense of the place that I’m writing about, whether it’s in my imagination or in the characters. Whenever I’m writing music it’s a very visual place in my mind. It has a location full of characters and colors and landscapes, so those two things really compliment each other, and they help the other one to blossom and support the other. They are like brother and sister.

DS: When you are composing music, do you see notes and words as colors and images in your mind, and then you put those down on paper?

NK: Yes. When I’m writing songs, especially lately because I think the next album has a fairly strong concept behind it and I’m writing the songs, really imagining them, so I’m very immersed into the concept of the album and the story that is there through the album. It’s the same as when I’m playing live, I will imagine I see a forest of pine trees and sky all around me and the audience, and it really helps me. Or I’ll just imagine midnight blue and emerald green, those kind of Eighties colors, and they help me.

DS: Is it always pine trees that you see?

NK: Yes, pine trees and sky, I guess.

DS: What things in nature inspire you?

NK: I feel drained thematically if I’m in the city too long. I think that when I’m in nature—for example, I went to Big Sur last year on a road trip and just looking up and seeing dark shadows of trees and starry skies really gets me and makes me feel happy. I would sit right by the sea, and any time I have been a bit stuck I will go for a long walk along the ocean and it’s just really good to see vast horizons, I think, and epic, huge, all-encompassing visions of nature really humble you and give you a good sense of perspective and the fact that you are just a small particle of energy that is vibrating along with everything else. That really helps.

DS: Are there man-made things that inspire you?

NK: Things that are more cultural, like open air cinemas, old Peruvian flats and the Chelsea Hotel. Funny old drag queen karaoke bars…

DS: I photographed some of the famous drag queens here in New York. They are just such great creatures to photograph; they will do just about anything for the camera. I photographed a famous drag queen named Miss Understood who is the emcee at a drag queen restaurant here named Lucky Cheng’s. We were out in front of Lucky Cheng’s taking photographs and a bus was coming down First Avenue, and I said, “Go out and stop that bus!” and she did! It’s an amazing shot.

NK: Oh. My. God.

DS: If you go on her Wikipedia article it’s there.

NK: That’s so cool. I’m really getting into that whole psychedelic sixties and seventies Paris Is Burning and Jack Smith and the Destruction of Atlantis. Things like The Cockettes. There seems to be a bit of a revolution coming through that kind of psychedelic drag queen theater.

DS: There are just so few areas left where there is natural edge and art that is not contrived. It’s taking a contrived thing like changing your gender, but in the backdrop of how that is still so socially unacceptable.

NK: Yeah, the theatrics and creativity that go into that really get me. I’m thinking about The Fisher King…do you know that drag queen in The Fisher King? There’s this really bad and amazing drag queen guy in it who is so vulnerable and sensitive. He sings these amazing songs but he has this really terrible drug problem, I think, or maybe it’s a drink problem. It’s so bordering on the line between fabulous and those people you see who are so in love with the idea of beauty and elevation and the glitz and the glamor of love and beauty, but then there’s this really dark, tragic side. It’s presented together in this confusing and bewildering way, and it always just gets to me. I find it really intriguing.

DS: How are you received in the Pakistani community?

NK: [Laughs] I have absolutely no idea! You should probably ask another question, because I have no idea. I don’t have contact with that side of my family anymore.

DS: When you see artists like Pete Doherty or Amy Winehouse out on these suicidal binges of drug use, what do you think as a musician? What do you get from what you see them go through in their personal lives and with their music?

NK: It’s difficult. The drugs thing was never important to me, it was the music and expression and the way he delivered his music, and I think there’s a strange kind of romantic delusion in the media, and the music media especially, where they are obsessed with people who have terrible drug problems. I think that’s always been the way, though, since Billie Holiday. The thing that I’m questioning now is that it seems now the celebrity angle means that the lifestyle takes over from the actual music. In the past people who had musical genius, unfortunately their personal lives came into play, but maybe that added a level of romance, which I think is pretty uncool, but, whatever. I think that as long as the lifestyle doesn’t precede the talent and the music, that’s okay, but it always feels uncomfortable for me when people’s music goes really far and if you took away the hysteria and propaganda of it, would the music still stand up? That’s my question. Just for me, I’m just glad I don’t do heavy drugs and I don’t have that kind of problem, thank God. I feel that’s a responsibility you have, to present that there’s a power in integrity and strength and in the lifestyle that comes from self-love and assuredness and positivity. I think there’s a real big place for that, but it doesn’t really get as much of that “Rock n’ Roll” play or whatever.

DS: Is it difficult to come to the United States to play considering all the wars we start?

NK: As an English person I feel equally as responsible for that kind of shit. I think it is a collective consciousness that allows violence and those kinds of things to continue, and I think that our governments should be ashamed of themselves. But at the same time, it’s a responsibility of all of our countries, no matter where you are in the world to promote a peaceful lifestyle and not to consciously allow these conflicts to continue. At the same time, I find it difficult to judge because I think that the world is full of shades of light and dark, from spectrums of pure light and pure darkness, and that’s the way human nature and nature itself has always been. It’s difficult, but it’s just a process, and it’s the big creature that’s the world; humankind is a big creature that is learning all the time. And we have to go through these processes of learning to see what is right.

Posted by 4MSd2yHc on August 10th, 2018

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South Korea: Fire in hospital housing elderly people kills at least 37

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South Korea: Fire in hospital housing elderly people kills at least 37

Friday, January 26, 2018

Fire broke out on Friday morning and destroyed the bottom two floors of a six-story hospital in Miryang, South Korea, killing at least 37 people, most of them elderly. More than a hundred injuries were reported, with eighteen people in critical condition. This is the highest death toll from fire in South Korea in almost a decade.

The fire is believed to have started at about 7:30 local time, according to fire chief Choi Man-woo. It originated on the ground floor in the emergency room as per various officials. The hospital has 98 beds and a medical staff of about 35, and specializes in long-term care of elderly patients. It adjoins a nursing home, all of whose 94 residents were evacuated. Staff carried some patients out of the hospital on their backs.

One patient, Jang Yeong-jae, who told his story to JoongAng Ilbo, said he escaped by removing a screen from a window to get to a ladder placed by firefighters. He described people “running around in panic, falling over and screaming as smoke filled the rooms”. The majority of the victims died from smoke inhalation and are believed to be elderly, said the head of the city’s public hospital, Chun Jae-kyung. A doctor, a nurse, and a nursing assistant have died, according to the fire service; it took three hours to put out the fire.

In a press briefing, Seok Gyeong-sik, the director of the hospital, apologized to patients and their families. Son Kyung-chul, its chairman, stated that there were no sprinklers because the facility was small. Sprinklers are being installed in the nursing home, where a new law requires them by June 30.

Last month, 29 people died in a fire in a gym in Jecheon; the owner and the manager were arrested for safety violations. In 2014, a blaze in a nursing home in Jangseong left 21 dead. The President of South Korea, Moon Jae-in, responded to the Friday fire by calling an emergency meeting of his staff, and promised that the cause would be found rapidly “to prevent the recurrence of the fire in the future”.

Posted by 4MSd2yHc on August 6th, 2018

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US state of Kansas in battle over “Intelligent Design” in education

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US state of Kansas in battle over “Intelligent Design” in education

Wednesday, November 2, 2005

Tempers are flaring in the U.S. state of Kansas, where a school board may be on the verge of passing a measure to require that Intelligent Design be taught in public school science classes.

Christian political activists such as Reverend Jerry Johnston of First Family Church in Overland Park Kansas are supporting the effort to shape Kansas science standards according to religious beliefs. Johnston said, “Getting intelligent design into school curricula is the worthiest cause of our time and the key to reversing the country’s moral decline.”

In an apparent attempt to make the inclusion of Intelligent Design into the curriculum seem foolish, “believers” in the Flying Spaghetti Monster are lobbying the Kansas school board, calling for it to require that creation by the Flying Spaghetti Monster be taught alongside Darwinism and Intelligent Design.

Bobby Henderson, the creator of “pastafarianism”, said “I think we can all look forward to the time when these three theories are given equal time in our science classrooms… One third time for Intelligent Design, one third time for Flying Spaghetti Monsterism, and one third time for logical conjecture based on overwhelming observable evidence.”

Several members of the Kansas Board of Education have already indicated that they might vote in favor of such an initiative. Board member Carol Rupe wrote, “The new version (of science standards) changes the very definition of science from ‘seeking natural explanations’ to ‘seeking logical explanations.’ That is why I think FSMism is able to be included. It is as ‘logical’ as any other theory.”

In 1999, Kansas also wrote Creationism, a precursor of Intelligent Design, into the public school curriculum. A later school board, however, overturned that directive.

Posted by 4MSd2yHc on August 6th, 2018

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US unemployment rate reaches 9.4 percent

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US unemployment rate reaches 9.4 percent

Friday, June 5, 2009

Data from the United States Labor Department says that the unemployment rate in the U.S. has reached its highest level in over 25 years, namely 9.4%.

The job loss rate, however, was only 345,000, which is the lowest monthly job loss rate since September of last year. Analysts had predicted that the loss could be as high as 525,000.

The news suggests that the US economy may be improving, as the job loss rate, which peaked at 741,000 jobs this January, has started to ease.

“Even as we see things start to stabilize and hopefully grow again, we do know that unemployment tends to lag, and so that the unemployment rate is going to be high and probably stay high for a while, precisely because that is sort of the normal pattern as we come out of recession,” said an economic adviser for the White House, Christina Romer.

Since the recession officially started in December 2007, the economy has shed over six million jobs, with 14.5 million residents now unemployed.

Posted by 4MSd2yHc on August 6th, 2018

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Former U.S. President Gerald Ford hospitalized

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Former U.S. President Gerald Ford hospitalized

Thursday, October 12, 2006

The office of Gerald Ford said Thursday that the former United States President was admitted to Eisenhower Medical Center for tests in Rancho Mirage, California.

“President Gerald Ford has been admitted to Eisenhower Medical Center in Rancho Mirage, California for medical tests. He is doing well,” Ford’s spokeswoman Penny Circle said. The statement didn’t release any information about the tests.

Ford has been hospitalized twice this year. In January, he was hospitalized to treat pneumonia. In July, he was hospitalized at Colorado’s Vail Valley Medical Center due to shortness of breath.

Ford was also hospitalized in August at the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota for heart procedures. Ford received a pacemaker to regulate his heartbeat. Ford also underwent angioplasty to increase blood flow in his arteries. Ford also suffered a small stroke five years ago.

Gerald Ford became the 38th United States President on August 9, 1974 after Richard Nixon resigned due to the Watergate scandal. At the age of 93, Ford is the oldest living U.S. President and could next month become the longest living U.S. President ever.

Posted by 4MSd2yHc on August 6th, 2018

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