Thursday, May 5, 2011

A Researcher's Caution to the Curious

So, more than a number of people, it seems, aren't buying the Osama bin Laden death story.  This is, after all, the third (or is it the fourth?) time he's been reported dead. Remembering all those questionable photos, recordings and videos that kept surfacing, time after time, which later analysis showed to be photoshopped or digitally altered, regularly being discovered by the same terrorist-hunter organization again and again, straining credibility, and now--he dies yet again.  One simply doesn't know what to believe anymore.

My gut reaction to this startling new event reported on Monday was one of a nagging ...  disbelief.  Maybe it was the timing, certain seemingly staged 'spontaneous' eruptions (hordes of people suddenly showing up at midnight near the White House wearing patriotic T-shirts and waving flags? where'd all the flags come from?), the often cringeworthy rhetoric that's followed, the predictable lively Internet outpourings from both celebrators and questioners; but most perplexing the discrepancies in details, the changing, conflicting narrative as reports are hastily revised.  I wonder if we'll ever learn the whole story; how much of the story was fact, how much a "story." 

We are asked to believe that the assault/killing, "taking custody" of the corpse, search and gathering of material on site, destruction of the 'malfunctioning' [a neighborhood guy claimed it was shot down] helicoptor, flight to Afghanistan, DNA test [usually takes 3-7 days; a rush job normally 72 hours] confirming his identity [shoot first, confirm later?], flight to the USS Carl Vinson, preparation for and burial at sea all took place within 10 hours; that though footage of the bloody aftermath was quickly shown on TV, there was a 25-minute-blackout "during which the live feed from cameras mounted on the helmets of the US special forces was cut off."  [CIA director says they "really didn't know just exactly what was going on... we did not have direct flow of information as to the actual conduct of the operation itself."]   The US Navy Seals made the final decision to kill bin Laden, not the president.["But according to Pakistani authorities one of bin Laden’s daughters, who was present during the raid, claimed that her father was captured alive before he was killed."]  ???   [And, depending on which source you believe, the Pakistanis were or were not aware of bin Laden's presence in the compound.][1]  

Others have better articulated this Lie-or-Truth?-bafflement, providing yet more examples of discrepancies and changing narrative. [Note the comment from the spouse of a sailor aboard the USS Carl Vinson re: the alleged burial at sea.]

And they wonder why people keep asking, "What actually happened? Did this really happen? Where's the body?  A film, a photo ... something!  Where's the proof?"   Trying to sort out the rapidly emerging different stories, I can't say I blame them. Each explanation elicits only more questions, each new question yet another version.

Moving on ... as one must.  (The head boggles otherwise!  :)   CNN yesterday warned that al Qaeda "will want revenge".  Still celebrating bin Laden's death, they hasten to re-insert the FEAR factor.  I don't like the timing on this.  Is something about to happen for which we should all be prepared?

I see that there's another one of those massive national TOPOFF exercises (National Level Exercise 2011), scheduled to take place May 16-20, "to prepare for catastrophic crises ranging from terrorism to natural disasters."   Kind of like what happened during 9/11, when an excerise practicing response to an attack by terrorists occurred the same time as an actual attack by terrorists was occurring, the latter which certain officials mistook for a drill.  The focus of the upcoming NLE-2011 will be on scenarios based on a possible massive earthquake along  the New Madrid fault line [check out the seismic activity in that area of Arkansas over the past several months; coinkydinkly omininous].  Last month's other gigantic public preparedness event  in the mid-West was called "The Great Shakeout", practicing for a similar scenario.  What happened in Japan recently has us all spooked, wondering about fault lines, etc.  According to a participant in one of the  preparation workshops, this NLE-2011 exercise is a "big deal," with 8 states in 4 different FEMA areas actively participating.

Interesting: The scenario calls for "a total systems failure for at least the first 24 hours."  I'm trying to imagine what might occur during a "total systems failure" for 24 hours, simultaneously in eight states, and the panic that might ensue among citizens who don't realize this is a planned event to test preparedness.  Are they going to merely simulate a Big Blackout or actually conduct one in real time? Just curious, in light of that warning about a possible al Qaeda attack as revenge on the U.S, for killing bin Laden--what if the big castrophic cyberattack professional hacker-watchers are concerned about were to actually occur at the same time as this national preparedness excercise?  (The dreaded Stuxnet comes to mind.)

Nah, that's just false-flag conspiracy talk.

And yet ...  as with any sensational news, five days later it's still being played out, the Osama death has taken on a life of its own, so many different interpretations, it gets morphed into what you want it to mean.  A monumental ... distraction, right after the 24/7 coverage of the Royal Wedding, a lesser distraction.  A compelling interest rapidly turned to weary confusion--too many loose ends, weird coincidences, ever-evolving new explanations. Noting  that people even mildly suspicious of the Osama bin Laden death news are quickly and systematically ridiculed,  berated for being Unpatriotic, or dismissed as raving conspiracy theorists, still--even for the slightly. skeptical or inherently curious, sometimes it's best not to go there.  Curiosity can have consequences.

Can't say that I wasn't  forewarned.  Am aware, for example, that hackers love huge, highly sensational events like this, because it draws people in droves to the Internet to get more information, fueled especially by increased chatter of Twitterers, Facebookers, MySpacers, Bingers, etc. on the social networking scene. Not only have gruesome fake corpse photos rapidly been making the rounds (for those who like looking at such things) but bogus websites have been instantly created simply to lure you into clicking on the URLs--a bonanza, I'm told, for data fishers.  Sadly, even legitimate sites may have been tampered with as well, certain items curiously absent or unavailable. (One Pakistani newspaper search function, for example, omitted the month of May in its searchable  archived articles. The column listing months of the year, somehow forgot to include the 5th month).   I avoided clicking on certain links, concentrating mostly on online legitimate news sites.

Maybe it was the terms I used when googling, who knows? But shortly after my little search for more information on the Osama bin Laden death this week, a large ominous WARNING!! box suddenly appeared on my screen,  announcing that my computer had been infected with 38 separate malware infiltrations. (38!!!). In all my years of Internetting, this has happened only perhaps two or three times, with only one or two 'attacks' being noted, easily traced and promptly removed, no real damage done. This one was different.

Normally I don't click on the portion of the warning message that offers to remove the viruses [Just click on "Remove", it suggests] because the announcement itself could be a virus. (Clever buggers,  relying on the initial panic where you might respond without thinking, and hit their Remove button.)   I was, however, prevented from employing my own available anti-virus programs or  downloading alternate trusted sources to excise the malware because my computer this time, with the mere appearance of the Warning, instantly CRASHED.

I am using a spare portable laptop now.  My mate, a computer technician, managed to erase the majority of the viruses yesterday but despite all the professional equipment at his disposal, was unable to locate, much less eradicate, this one remaining, deeply devious, nasty intruder.  Dagnabbit!  The entire hard drive must now be 'cleaned', reconfigured, files all restored, programs re-installed. Arrrrgggggg.

 [Update on my 'puter's prognosis as of noon: They're still trying to debug it.   Be careful what you search for--not just where but what --the terms you use in googling are also gathered and archived somewhere in a big invisible data cloud.  I know this because they've sometimes been later repeated back to me verbatim, on sites partnered with Google to increase the advertising potential.  (My "browsing history" on, for example, knew word-for-word an oddly-worded phrase I had keyboarded in a Google search for information re: a particular historical period; and Target's on-line department store knew I had recently been googling info about toaster ovens around Christmas time a few years ago.  (Both companies have contracted with Google to share Internet users' interests.) Google, of course, regularly sweeps by our blogs and poaches personal photos and images for its Images page.   (Not as scary, however, as once when emailing a family member through a gmail account I mentioned my mom always having wanted to go to Hawaii but never did, then all of a sudden ads from travel agencies featuring Hawaii start  popping up on a number of sites I next happen to visit.  Para-noid-i-a, ha ha.  I blame it on the cookies.)

I like the new laptop.  Took a while to get used to it.  A renewed interest in wanting to play with some art programs, learn how to design and publish books, figure out a way to maybe expand my freelance business.   Much as I like this new little laptop, I miss my (fast-becoming-obsolete) specially-ordered favorite square monitor.  These wider screens a bit hard to get used to, too much white space.  Love the keyboard though.  And that I can see the grandbubs with the embedded videocam when I talk to them on Skype.  Ah, the wonders of technology.  This, from someone who fought tooth and nail to hang onto the electric typewriter!

I feel the need to go read something poetic.  Or dig in warm garden dirt.  De-verbosify with a haiku.  Engagement with Bloggerville, however generally looked forward to, today bequeaths me staggering overload.

Shut eyes.  Take deep breath.  "Ommmmmm...."

A cat purrs alongside me, curious.


5:20 PM Update:  It's fixed!!!!   :)   Virus is gone!!!

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