Monthly Archives: June 2019

Logano goes from rejection to redemption

While it was Logano’s maiden visit to Victory Lane in NASCAR’s showcase event, it was also just the second for team owner Penske, an American motor racing giant known to race fans as “The Captain” who has record 15 Indianapolis 500 winners.

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But success has been harder to come by in Florida, Penske and Logano coming together to form a Daytona dream team.

“It feels just like the way you dream it,” Logano said in Victory Lane.

Growing up in Connecticut, Logano dreamt of following in the tire track of four-time NASCAR champion Jeff Gordon, a three-time winner of the ‘Great American Race’ who ran his final 500 on Sunday.

Later he would come under the watchful eye of NASCAR driver, Mark Martin, who told tell anyone who would listen that the young Logano was a future champion.

Nicknamed “Sliced Bread”, an American term often used to described the next best thing, Logano was tipped for stockcar stardom.

He was hired by three-time Super Bowl winning coach Joe Gibbs in 2009 to replace three-time NASCAR champion Tony Stewart who was forming his own team.

Expectations were unrealistically high for then 19-year old and even a victory in his rookie season was not enough to lighten the load.

After four seasons that produced only one more win in NASCAR’s top series he was set loose by Gibbs in favour of veteran Matt Kenseth.

“I think it’s no secret that I probably got thrown into this series too young – inexperienced, didn’t know what I had to do,” offered a reflective Logano. “The emotions you go through when you start to think about if you will have a job next year – it is hard.

“Especially for me because I poured all my eggs into one basket. I was banking on this…it is scary and you don’t know what will happen.”

The door opened at Team Penske for Logano when Kurt Busch, who was suspended for domestic violence on the eve of Sunday’s race, was fired.

Logano rewarded the team with one win in 2013 and five more last year earning a spot in NASCAR’s playoffs known as ‘The Chase’.

“Who would have ever guessed three years down the road (after being fired by Gibbs) that we would be Daytona 500 champions,” smiled Logano. “That is just crazy. Life is a roller coaster and you have to roll with the punches.”

(Editing by Steve Keating in Toronto.)

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Australian telcos may face mass SIM card recall

Three of Australia’s largest telecommunications companies have confirmed to Fairfax Media that they sold SIM cards made by Gemalto, a Dutch company at the centre of an alleged large-scale hack.

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Last week an investigative news website reported that US and British spies had hacked into Gemalto, the world’s biggest maker of phone SIM cards, allowing them to potentially monitor the calls, texts and emails of billions of mobile users around the world.

The Australian telcos may now be forced to recall large numbers of SIM cards produced by the company but none have said whether customers would be offered replacement SIMs, Fairfax Media reports.

The alleged hack on Gemalto would expand the scope of known mass surveillance methods available to US and British spy agencies to include not just email and web traffic, as previously revealed, but also mobile communications.

The Franco-Dutch company said on Friday it was investigating whether the US National Security Agency (NSA) and Britain’s GCHQ had hacked into its systems to steal encryption keys that could unlock the security settings on billions of mobile phones.

The report by The Intercept site, which cites documents provided by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden, could prove an embarrassment for the US and British governments.

It opens a fresh front in the dispute between civil liberties campaigners and intelligence services which say their citizens face a grave threat of attack from militant groups like Islamic State.

It comes just weeks after a British tribunal ruled that GCHQ had acted unlawfully in accessing data on millions of people in Britain that had been collected by the NSA.

The Intercept report said the hack was detailed in a secret 2010 GCHQ document and allowed the NSA and GCHQ to monitor a large portion of voice and data mobile communications around the world without permission from governments, telecom companies or users.

“We take this publication very seriously and will devote all resources necessary to fully investigate and understand the scope of such sophisticated techniques,” said Gemalto, whose shares sunk by as much as 10 percent in early trading on Friday, following the report.

The report follows revelations from Snowden in 2013 of the NSA’s Prism programme which allowed the agency to access email and web data handled by the world’s largest Internet companies, including Google, Yahoo and Facebook.

A spokeswoman for Britain’s GCHQ (Government Communication Headquarters) said on Friday that it did not comment on intelligence matters. The NSA could not be immediately reached for comment.

A European security source said that mobile devices were widely used by terrorist groups and that intelligence agencies’ attempts to access the communications were justified if they were “authorised, necessary and proportionate.” The source did not confirm or deny that the documents were from GCHQ.

The source also said Western agencies would sometimes hold on to data over time in order to decrypt the communications of specific intelligence targets.

The source added that wireless networks in Iran, Afghanistan and Yemen were viewed as having significance intelligence value.

These were identified by the Intercept as countries where Britain’s GCHQ intercepted encryption keys used by local wireless network providers.

Surveillance 

The new allegations could boost efforts by major technology firms such as Apple Inc and Google to make strong encryption methods standard in communications devices they sell, moves attacked by some politicians and security officials.

Leaders including U.S. President Barack Obama and British Prime Minister David Cameron have expressed concern that turning such encryption into a mass-market feature could prevent governments from tracking militants planning attacks.

Gemalto makes SIM (Subscriber Identity Module) cards for phones and tablets as well as “chip and pin” bank cards and biometric passports. It produces around 2 billion SIM cards a year and counts Verizon, AT&T Inc and Vodafone among hundreds of wireless network provider customers.

The European security source said that an assertion by The Intercept that GCHQ had taken control of Gemalto’s internal network was speculative and not supported by documentation published by the website.

The Intercept, published by First Look Media, was founded by the journalists who first interviewed Snowden and made headlines around the world with reports on U.S. electronic surveillance programmes.

It published what it said was a secret GCHQ document that said its staff implanted software to monitor Gemalto’s entire network, giving them access to SIM card encryption keys. The report suggested this gave GCHQ, with the backing of the NSA, unlimited access to phone communications using Gemalto SIMs.

French bank Mirabaud said in a research report the attacks appeared to be limited to 2010 and 2011 and were aimed only at older 2G phones widely used in emerging markets, rather than modern smartphones. It did not name the source of these assertions.

Some analysts argued that if a highly security-conscious company like Gemalto is vulnerable, then all of its competitors are as well.

Gemalto competes with several European and Chinese SIM card suppliers. A spokesman for one major rival, Giesecke & Devrien of Germany, told Reuters: “We have no signs that something like that happened to us. We always do everything to protect our customers’ data.”

But while security experts have long believed spy agencies in many countries have the ability to crack the complex mathematical codes used to encrypt most modern communications, such methods remain costly, limiting their usefulness to targeted hijacking of individual communications.

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Govt crackdown will create ‘lone wolves,’ warns former terror suspect

The first person to be charged and later acquitted under Australia’s 2003 anti-terror laws has condemned the government’s plans to toughen up on national security and target “hate preachers.

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Zaky Mallah was jailed for two years over an alleged terror plot before being acquitted on appeal.

He told SBS he thought the government’s plan to strip passports from terror suspects would only breed discontent.

“In my opinion it will only create more lone wolves,” he said. “I mean, I’ve had my passport confiscated for seven years. I was a very angry young man. Luckily I didn’t turn into a lone wolf. But there are many people that will be very angry; very frustrated.”

Tony Abbott today spoke out against “hate preachers,” naming Muslim group Hizb ut-Tahrir.

“Organisations and individuals blatantly spreading discord and division – such as Hizb ut-Tahrir – should not do so with impunity,” he said.

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But group spokesman Wassim Doureihi said the government was seeking to “exaggerate the size and influence of Hizbut Tahrir to justify its scaremongering efforts.”

Today, the group blames what it calls “imperialist adventures abroad,” including like the Iraq war, for garnering recruits to Al-Qaeda and the so-called Islamic State, not the activism of groups like it.

Keysar Trad of the Islamic Friendship Association said he opposed the targeting of Hizbut Tahrir, despite disputing some of its positions.

“Anybody who creates hate speech, and divides society – certainly the law should be able to stop them creating hate speech,” he said. “But we need to be careful that when we introduce these laws that we don’t go too far as to curb legitimate free speech.”

Australia’s most senior Muslim leader, Grand Mufti Ibrahim Abu Mohamed, would not comment on the government’s announcements today.

“I mean, I’ve had my passport confiscated for seven years. I was a very angry young man. Luckily I didn’t turn into a lone wolf. But there are many people that will be very angry; very frustrated.”

But earlier this month, in the lead-up to the security crackdown, Dr Muhammad said he wouldn’t “repeat the mistake” of voting for Tony Abbott.

Another Imam, Dr Amin Hady, responded to Tony Abbott’s call for more Imams talk more about Islam being a “religion of peace”.

“We did and we have done and we are doing about this matter, it is part of our job and it is our view,” he said.

Opposition Leader Bill Shorten said the proposed measures deserved careful consideration, but liberties of citizens should only be reduced when existing arrangements proved inadequate.

But Australian National University terrorism expert Clarke Jones described the proposals as window dressing, saying they were unlikely to make Australia more secure.

“In reality, new measures may even go the other way and exasperate the underlying causes of violent extremism and further damage Australia’s already fragile social cohesion,” he said.

– With AAP

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Three million Aussies suffering anxiety: beyondblue

Three million Australians experience it, yet many still think anxiety is simply feeling stressed.

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 But anxiety is a treatable mental health illness that is more common than depression in Australia, says mental health charity beyondblue.

A new survey of 700 Australians found half believe anxiety is a part of someone’s personality.

And 40 per cent think anxiety is when a person feels stressed.

The findings have prompted beyondblue to revive its national anxiety campaign, which centres on a short film starring actor Ben Mendelsohn.

“Australian Bureau of Statistics data shows 26 percent of people experience an anxiety condition in their lives and nearly three million currently have an anxiety condition, making it more common than depression,” said beyondblue CEO Georgie Harman. 

Ms Harman says the charity wants to remind Australians that anxiety is a major mental health problem that can be treated successfully.

“You don’t have to put up with it,” she said.

“Anxiety is a debilitating condition that robs people of their peace of mind.

“It can stop people leaving their homes, holding down a job, maintaining relationships or doing everyday things because of irrational fears of what could happen.

“No one should have to live with the relentless worrying, panic attacks or compulsive rituals that often characterise anxiety conditions.”

MOST COMMON ANXIETY DISORDERS:

* Panic disorder: when a person has panic attacks, involving often uncontrollable feelings of anxiety combined with a range of physical symptoms.

* Generalised anxiety disorder: when a person feels anxious on most days, for a period of six months or more.

* Social phobia: when a person has intense fear of being criticised or embarrassed even in everyday situations.

* Specific phobias: when a person feels very fearful about a particular object or situation, eg having an injection or travelling on a plane.

* Obsessive compulsive disorder: when a person has ongoing unwanted thoughts and fears that cause anxiety. They often try to relieve their anxiety by carrying out certain behaviours, eg washing hands.

* Post-traumatic stress disorder: This can happen after a person experiences a traumatic event, eg war, assault, accident, disaster.

(Source: beyondblue)

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Pacquiao hints at retirement

Philippine boxing hero Manny Pacquiao hinted on Monday that his long-awaited fight against American Floyd Mayweather could be his last, saying he would head into the May bout with retirement on his mind.

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“It is coming close. We will announce it,” the 36-year-old told local television network ABS-CBN with a meek smile when asked about retirement. He gave no further details.

After years of failed negotiations, Pacquiao and Mayweather hammered out a deal to face each other in Las Vegas on May 2 that will finally give fans the chance to see the best “pound-for-pound” fighters of their generation face off.

Pacquiao said he agreed to take a smaller cut of the purse just so the fight could push through.

“If we only thought about our pride, there would not be a fight. If we had equal pay, the fight would not have pushed through so for the fight to push through, I agreed to it,” he said.

US media has reported that the undefeated Mayweather, who turns 38 this week, will receive 60 percent of the purse and stands to make some $120 million with the Filipino taking $80 million.

But more importantly for fight fans, the match will finally show which of the two boxers can really be called the best.

Pacquiao has held world championships belts in an unprecedented eight divisions, and will go into the Mayweather fight with a record of 57-5, with two draws and 38 knockouts.

Mayweather has a 47-0 record with 26 knockouts. He is homing in on the iconic 49-0 record of 1950s legend Rocky Marciano, who retired as an undefeated heavyweight champion.

Pacquiao, a devout Christian, said he was confident of winning because he had God on his side.

“God is with me and I believe the Lord will deliver him into my hands,” he said.

Pacquiao, who last year embarked on a much-criticised professional basketball career with a playing-coaching role for a Philippine team, said Monday he intended to play again in the local competition this week.

He said he expected to then head to the United States late in the week to resume full training under the guidance of his long-time mentor, Freddie Roach.

Pacquiao reiterated that he actually enjoyed being rated below Mayweather by oddsmakers in Las Vegas.

“I like being the underdog. I am more motivated,” he told ABS-CBN.

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