Web Analytics :- key to e-coMMerce BusineSS

Web analytics is the measurement, collection, analysis and reporting of web data for purposes of understanding and optimizing web usage. However, Web analytics is not just a process for measuring web traffic but can be used as a tool for business and market research, and to assess and improve the effectiveness of a website. Web analytics provides information about the number of visitors to a website and the number of page views.

Importance of Web Analytics
We need Web Analytics to assess the success rate of a website and its associated business. Web analytics used to

  • Assess web content problems so that they can be rectified
  • Have a clear perspective of website trends
  • Monitor web traffic and user flow
  • Demonstrate goals acquisition
  • Figure out potential keywords
  • Identify segments for improvement
  • Find out referring sources

Google Analytics

Google Analytics is a freemium web analytics service offered by Google that tracks and reports website traffic. Google Analytics is now the most widely used web analytics service on the Internet. Google Analytics is offered also in two additional versions: the subscription-based Google Analytics 360, previously Google Analytics Premium, targeted at enterprise users, and Google Analytics for Mobile Apps, an SDK that allows gathering usage data from iOS and Android Apps.

Google analytics helps you to track and measure visitors, traffic sources, goals, conversion, and other metrics (as shown in the above image). It basically generates reports on −

  • Audience Analysis: As the name suggests, audience analysis gives you an overview of the audience who visit your site along with their session history, page-views, bounce rate, etc.
  • Acquisition Analysis: Acquisition means ‘to acquire.’ Acquisition analysis is carried out to find out the sources from where your web traffic originates. Using acquisition analysis, you can Capture traffic from all channels, particular source/medium, and from referrals and also Trace traffic from AdWords (paid search).
  • Behavior Analysis: Behavior analysis monitors users’ activities on a website.
  • Conversion Analysis: Conversion is a transaction by a user on your website. For example, download, checkout, buy, etc. To track conversions in analytics, you need to define a goal and set a URL that is traceable.

KISSmetrics

KISSmetrics is a powerful web analytics tool that delivers key insights and user interaction on your website. It defines a clear picture of users’ activities on your website and collects acquisition data of every visitor.

KISSmetrics helps you identify the following −

  • Cart size
  • Landing page conversion rate
  • Customer activity on your portal
  • Customer bounce points
  • Cart abandoned products
  • Customer occurrence before making a purchase
  • Customer lifetime value, etc.

Best Features of KISSmetrics

  • Ability to track effective marketing channels.
  • Figure out how much time a user takes to convert.
  • Determine a degree of which user was engaged with your site.
  • A convenient dashboard. You do not need to run around searching for figures.
  • Installation
  • Just sign-up for an account and customize accordingly.

Tracking
Add a java snippet under tag of the source code of your website.

Event Setting
By default, KISSmetrics sets two events for you − visited site and search engine hit. To add more events, click on new event, add an attribute and record an event name.

Setting up Metrics
Click on create a new metric. Select your metric type from the list. Give metric name, description, and event. Save metric.

Measures

You need to find a few key metrics for your business. You have a website and it has a tracking code in it.

Audience

Pageviews − Pageviews is the number of views of a page. Multiple pageviews are possible in a single session. If pageviews is improved, it will directly influence AdSense revenue and average time on website.

Bounce rate − Bounce rate reflects the percentage of visitors returning back only after visiting one page of your website. It helps you to know how many visitors do so. If the bounce rate of a website increases, its webmaster should be worried.

Pages per session − Pages/session is the number of pages surfed in a single session. For example, a user landed on your website and surfed 3 pages, then the website pages/session is 3.

Demographic information − Demographic data shows Age and Gender. With the help of Demographic Info, you can find the percentage of Male/Female visitors coming to your website. Analyzing the ratio of this data, you can make a strategy according to genders. Age group data help you find what percentage of age group visiting your website. So, you can make a strategy for highest percentage of age group visitors.

Devices − This data shows the devices info. In devices info, you can easily find how many percentage of visitors come from mobile, how many come from desktop, how many come from tablets, etc. If mobile traffic is high, then you need to make your website responsive.

Acquisition

Traffic sources − In the acquisition, you have to check all your sources of the traffic. Major sources of the traffic are −

Organic traffic is the traffic coming through all search engines (Google, Yahoo, Bing….)

Social traffic is the traffic coming through all social media platforms (like − Facebook, Twitter, Google+, …)

Referral traffic is the traffic coming through where your website is linked.

Direct traffic is the traffic coming directly to your website. For example, typing the url of your website, clicking on the link of your website given in emails, etc.

Traffic Sources

Source/Medium − This metrics gives you an idea of the sources from where you are getting traffic (Google, Yahoo, Bing, Direct, Facebook…).

Site Content

Landing pages − Landing pages are the pages where the visitors land first (normally, home pages of the websites are the landing pages). With the help of this metrics, you can find the top pages of the website. Using this metrics, you can analyze how many pages are getting 50% or more traffic of the website. So, you can easily find which type of content is working for you. Further, based on this analysis, you can plan the next content strategy.

Site speed − Site speed is the metrics used for checking page timing (average page load time). Using this metrics, you can find which page is taking more time to load, how many pages have high load time, etc.

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Where to buy the best phones of 2017

We’ve now crowned the winner of our best Android phone of 2017 award, and you can view all the results at the previous link. After testing the handsets in various categories, the best phone honor went to the Huawei Mate 10 Pro, while you guys voted for the Samsung Galaxy Note 8 as your favorite of the past 12 months. 

If you aren’t the proud owner of one of these handsets yet, there’s just enough time to pick one up before the end of the holiday season. We’ve rounded up the best deals we can currently find on the phones from our list and laid it all out for you below. Devices are listed in alphabetical order based on manufacturer, with links to where you can each handset underneath. Enjoy. 

BlackBerry KEYone Black Edition

Given that it’s a limited edition device, that isn’t officially sold in the US, the BlackBerry KEYone isn’t easy to get hold of at a low-cost price. It did get a reduction in Canada when it was first released, a 24-hour flash sale offering $100 CAD savings, but you’ll be lucky to find it for much less than $700 now. That’s the current asking price on Amazon, though top-rated eBay seller never-msrp has it at even cheaper. 

never-msrp is usually an eBayer to be cautious of because it sells many international unlocked models that come without a US warranty. As that’s the same circumstances as on Amazon, though — just at a much better price — it’s worth taking a look at. 

Buy Now: Blackberry Keyone 64 GB – $545.99
Buy Now: BlackBerry Keyone black edition 64 GB – $699

Google Pixel 2 XL

The Google Pixel 2 XL arrived with its fair share of problems, but a few OTAs later and it’s back in action as one of the finest phones available right now. Currently, it’s on sale at the official Google Store with savings of around $75 until December 31 — and it looks like that is the only place you’ll get such a price.

What’s more, you can make use of Google’s trade-in program to give up your current device for an even better deal; check out the two storage variants at the Google Store via the buttons below. 

Buy now: Google Pixel 2 XL 64 GB – $774
Buy Now: Google Pixel 2 XL 128 GB – $874

Huawei Mate 10 Pro

The Huawei Mate 10 Pro is our phone of the year, but it’s another handset that you can’t officially get in the US. That’s set to change early next year, with more information to be unveiled at CES 2018, but in the meantime, your best bet will be to get it through Amazon. You’d be taking your chances with third-party sellers on international devices without warranty, but if you’re okay with that, the Mocha Brown variant at $844.99 is the best deal you’re likely to get right now.

Buy Now: Huawei Mate 10 Pro 128 GB – $844.99

LG V30

The LG V20 saw plenty of deals in its time, so you’d expect the same to happen in time with the latest LG flagship, the V30. Though it was the subject of a flash sale but a week ago, it’s back at $799 or more at most retailers now or more, and with most of the major carriers. We’ll keep our eyes peeled on this one, but until another deal pops up you can check out the cloud silver variant on AT&T at the button below.

Buy Now: LG V30 64 GB – $799

Lenovo Moto Z2 Force

No other Moto Z2 Force deal comes close to what T-Mobile is offering, serving up the recent Lenovo flagship for $435 (the handset is still upwards of $600 in many corners of the internet). If that doesn’t float your boat. you can get it for $11.00 per month on a Sprint Flex 18-month contract, down from $33 per month, which ain’t bad savings either. 

Buy Now: Moto Z2 Force 64 GB – $435
Buy Now: Lenovo Moto Z2 Force 64 GB – $11 per month

Nokia 8

The Nokia 8 is another smartphone which isn’t officially supported in the US, but you can pick it up warranty-less and for GSM networks (like AT&T and T-Mobile) at Amazon for $480. It’s available in all four color variants at, though Tempered Blue is the least expensive, and Amazon undercuts the prices of a number of other resellers who are charging a bomb for it.

Buy Now: Nokia 8 64 GB – $479.43

OnePlus 5T

OnePlus tends to discount its accessories rather than its hardware, which is why it avoided the Black Friday shenanigans last month. Thus, the best offer for the OnePlus 5T is still directly from OnePlus — coming in at $499 and $559 for the 64 GB and 128 GB models respectively.

That being said, if you’re a student, OnePlus does provide 10% discount on any order, including those on the OnePlus 5T: full details here.

Buy Now: OnePlus 5T 64 GB – $499
Buy Now: OnePlus 5T 128 GB – $559

Razer Phone

The Razer Phone landed this year and the company hit the ground running. While its camera is substandard, its display, audio and performance capabilities are well above average, and it doesn’t look half bad, either. 

It’s a brand new phone and will cost you $699 from the official Razer store, however, as we noted yesterday, you can get it with a Leviathan Mini Bluetooth speaker worth $180 if you order by the end of today (December 19): just use the promo code PHLVLUP at the checkout when you’re ordering the phone.

Buy Now: Razer Phone 64 GB – $699

Samsung Galaxy Note 8

The Samsung Galaxy Note 8 was the fan favorite handset of 2017, and it was a runner-up in our own tests. It’s been seen for around $949 since launch and still costs that in most places. You can pick it for a fair discount eBay right now without warranty, but considering the last Note’s troubles, I’d hesitate to recommend it without some kind of protection.

You can get the Note 8 for up to $400 off with Samsung’s official trade-in offer (which you can find via Samsung.com at the first link below) while Amazon has it available for a slightly lower price at $919 (Midnight Black color only).

Buy Now: Samsung Galaxy Note 8 64 GB – $950
Buy Now: Samsung Galaxy Note 8 64 GB – $919.42

Sony Xperia XZ1

There were probably fewer words written about the Xperia XZ1 online than there should have been. It might not have had the trendy bezel-less design of other flagships, but it’s still an excellent phone. Most places are holding firm with a $599 price tag at the moment, but this is already $100 less than what the XZ1 was introduced for; check it out on Amazon underneath.

Buy Now: Sony Xperia XZ1 64 GB – $597.90

Have you seen any better deals than what’s on our list? Let us know what they are in the comments.

As the Trump Administration Continues to Threaten the Planet, This Is No Time to Be Complacent

As the days get darker, we must keep the flame burning.

Before he died on November 7, 2016, the great poet Leonard Cohen offered a prophetic warning in his final album’s title song: “You want it darker / We kill the flame.” As we near the northern hemisphere’s longest night of the year, it seems like a monumental challenge to keep the flickering flame from being extinguished.

In the U.S., human rights, environmental protections and social services are being snuffed out by executive order. Angry rhetoric from an administration that appears to thrive on division is fueling racial tensions. As drought-fueled fires rage, storms become more intense and unpredictable and flooding devastates communities, much of the world outside the United States plans how to meet commitments under the Paris Agreement. Yet the fossil fuel industry and its government sycophants continue to destroy ecosystems in their race to exploit every bit of climate-altering product they can before shrinking markets halt their rampage.

Even governments that say they’re committed to tackling climate change continue to promote pipelines, fracking and other fossil fuel projects and infrastructure. We also face the spectacle of two mad nuclear-armed heads of state trading childish insults, inching us closer to catastrophic confrontation.

Another great poet, William Butler Yeats, wrote presciently in 1919: “The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere / The ceremony of innocence is drowned / The best lack all conviction, while the worst / Are full of passionate intensity.”

It’s not really true that the “best lack all conviction.” But as the days get darker, it sometimes feels overwhelming, hopeless.

We must keep the flame burning.

The light will return to this part of the world and the days will get longer, but we must act to make our lives brighter. The “passionate intensity” (or maybe just banal indifference to suffering) of those who would impose misery on many for the benefit of the few may be little more than the death throes of an outdated, destructive order. But it’s no time to be complacent. We must show that we shine brighter. Knowledge, kindness and solidarity can overcome ignorance and fear.

This truth is coming to light as more and more people reject the forces of darkness. #MeToo. Black Lives Matter. Idle No More. Women are speaking out against those who have oppressed them through rape, abuse and systemic sexism. People of color are standing up to the violence, hatred and inequality they have faced in countries claiming to value freedom and equality. Indigenous Peoples are demonstrating their knowledge and power and demanding an end to colonial oppression. Business people, religious leaders, politicians and citizens are demanding action on climate change and other environmental challenges. People everywhere are developing solutions to the problems we have caused through ignorance and avarice.

We must also work for better education, at home and throughout the world. Stabilizing population growth requires education for women and families, along with access to birth control and family planning. Democracies function best when people cast their votes and base their decisions on facts, critical thought and understanding rather than tribalism and rigid ideology. Those who have learned how to critically assess the overabundance of information that floods our daily lives are in a better position to contribute to positive change.

For many cultures, the winter solstice is a time to reflect, regroup and rededicate. As the light slowly returns, it’s a period of renewal and eventual rebirth. It’s a good time to celebrate that which holds true meaning and brings real happiness in life: friends, family, nature, connection. It’s also a time to reach out to help those who are less fortunate.

Every good deed, every positive act, helps the flame burn a little bit brighter. No matter how small or insignificant our contributions may seem, when we do good in the world, it adds up—and it will eventually overcome the darkness. Even an unconditional smile given to a stranger can cheer that person, who may then offer smiles to others, multiplying the effect and spreading joy.

As we near the solstice and enter the holiday season, I and the David Suzuki Foundation staff wish you peace and happiness for this year and the days to come. Let us all shine our lights to make the world a brighter, better place for all.

This article was written by David Suzuki with contributions from David Suzuki Foundation Senior Editor Ian Hanington and originally published by the David Suzuki Foundation.

 

 

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Is a Twitter Purge of the Alt-Right Underway?

The site just banned a prominent white supremacist, who could be the first of many.

Finally bowing to public pressure, Twitter is enforcing a series of rules Monday that will potentially suspend accounts affiliated with hate groups, and lead to a long overdue crackdown on the so-called alt right, Recode reported on Sunday. 

The rules were initially announced in November but are only now going into effect. According to Recode, “Twitter will also start penalizing accounts that include ‘hateful imagery and display names,’ presumably including Nazi insignia, or those who ‘use [a] username, display name, or profile bio to engage in abusive behavior.'”

Hate groups have exploited Twitter’s incredibly lax oversight to harrass Jewish journalists; organize the Charlottesville Neo-Nazi rally, which killed Heather Heyer and injuried countless others; and help propagate Pizzagate, which led to a shooting in a DC pizza place, among other offenses.

Users have complained for nearly two years that the company has squandered its considerable resouces on cosmetic changes and expanded character limits, all the while providing a platform for racism and violence online and off. Most critically, Twitter said that in addition to banning accounts, it “would be monitoring groups’ behavior outside of the website, as it makes its decision as to which users have run afoul of its new guidelines.”

Twitter’s new policy also states that, “You also may not affiliate with organizations that — whether by their own statements or activity both on and off the platform — use or promote violence against civilians to further their causes.” 

Not ones to go quietly, many of the hate groups are already shifting to another social media platform, Gab, which has proven friendlier to white nationalists.

The purge began Monday morning. As Will Somner, Campaign Editor at the Hill and alt-right expert is documenting on his Twitter feed, so far Jared Taylor and his American Renaissance site were off as of 10am EST. 

Follow Sommer for more updates on Twitter’s progress.

 

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Elemental Evil: Session 11

In the previous session the group entered Rivergard Keep, the second of the elemental evil surface keeps. More by chance than by design they had managed to enter directly into the main building where the boss resided. However the boss was described in the adventure as being a wereboar who was out hunting at night. So the group ended up looting his room without having killed the boss. But that only got them treasure, and not the elemental key they were after.

Searching the building further resulted in them finding a group of commoners sleeping in a dormitory next to the kitchen. They carefully abducted one without waking up the others and questioned him. That gave them a bit more information about the keep and the boss, including the fact that he was out hunting and would return later in the night. But first they searched the great hall and found a letter in which somebody from Red Larch warned about a group of troublemakers, giving the description of the group. They also found a secret door, leading to a staircase downwards.

They followed the staircase and ended up at a landing of an underground river, complete with two rowboats. So they boarded those and followed the river further. However the river was guarded by a group of aquatic ghouls, who managed to topple one of the boats, which made the combat somewhat more interesting. Poppée the wild magic sorceress tried to save herself with magic, which resulted in a wild magic surge that ended up randomly summoning a unicorn. The unicorn was understandably confused by being summoned into water, and decided to “save” Poppée by teleporting her and itself out. But of course the others didn’t know what happened, only that Poppée had disappeared. After killing the ghouls it turned out that the way was blocked anyway, by the same sort of portal they had already encountered near Feathergale Spire, requiring the 4 elemental keys to open. (An addition of mine to the adventure to prevent them from randomly wandering into a dungeon of 4 levels higher than the surface keep).

The group went back up into the keep and in the courtyard also found back Poppée. However in preparation of the adventure I had decided to randomize the time of return of the keep boss by letting the group roll for an encounter every time they crossed the way the boss would take home. And by chance this encounter now took place. As the boss had an entourage the fight was challenging, with a priest of the water cult casting sleet storm on the group. The group managed to kill the opponents without waking the rest of the keep up, but the paladin got bitten by the wereboar.

As the boss had the elemental key on him, the group decided to flee and leave the rest of the water keep be. On the one hand that was understandable and consistent with their actions in the air keep. But technically they are skipping a bunch of combat encounters and thus xp. I think I need to make sure that they don’t kill the boss of the next keeps too early and rush through the adventure, the adventure isn’t designed for that.

How abundance makes us poorer

Maybe it was to be expected with an offer that involves charity, but it turns out that for me the Humble Bundle Monthly is mostly an investment in a source for philosophical thoughts. When I initially bought the bundle in order to get Civ VI for cheap, I went for the three-month plan. So even if I since unsubscribed I just got my second months worth of games. And compared to the first month, there are even less games in there which I can see me playing. That is not to say that the offer is a bad one, or the games on offer are bad. Rather it reflects upon how my interests got narrower over time.

I am old enough to remember a time before video games. The first video game I played was Pong on a console that couldn’t play anything else, in black and white on a TV screen. When people got the first consoles with cartridges and computers, kids typically had just a handful of games, not necessarily chosen by themselves. If you only have 3 game cartridges, you will play the hell out of each of those games, whether those are your favorite games or not. Fast forward to 2017, where 7,672 games were released on Steam alone, again nearly doubling the number of Steam games available for a fourth year in a row.

Everybody has favorite games and favorite genres. If you are limited by the number of games available to you, you play what you got regardless of genre. If you have an abundance of choice, you get more and more picky and only play your favorite genres. The bottleneck becomes the amount of time available to play, so why should you play let’s say a platformer if you prefer role-playing games? Of course the consequence of that is that you end up with a much narrower experience. You only play a handful of favorite genres and don’t have the time for a bunch of other genres, which might offer a very different experience of gaming.

I see a parallel to the world of news and politics. Back in the day where your only source of news was one paper you and everybody in your street was subscribed to, you all got the same variety of news and opinions. Today there are so many sources of news and opinions that you can choose one which aligns well with your own opinions. If you are a fan of Trump, you watch Fox News and read Breitbart, if you are on the other side you watch CNN and read Huffington Post. But the result is that you end up in an echo chamber which doesn’t allow for a variety of opinions. This has gone so far that the echo chambers of today don’t even agree on the same set of facts. A news source that reports something uncomfortable to you is “fake news”, truth has become subservient to opinion.

The future is one in which we lead comfortable lives in which we play only our favorite games, see only our favorite genre of movies and TV shows, hear only news that please us. Until we have become so isolated from another group of people (which might well be our neighbors) that the two groups don’t consider each other of being of the same kind any more, and start killing each other off. The internet, which had a promise of offering us a much wider offer of everything from information to entertainment, ends up making us all poorer and more narrow-minded.

Why Even the Idea That Neocon Senator Tom Cotton Might Run Trump’s CIA Is Scary

The Strangelovian senator apparently subscribes to a world war without end.

In a recent profile of Tom Cotton, the Wall Street Journal’s Jason Willick characterized the 40-year-old junior Republican senator from Arkansas as “hawkish and realistic” and described his worldview as “tinged with idealism.” Yet it was unclear what the unabashedly Strangelovian Cotton did to earn such a charitable description, as he rattled off a series of opinions that amounted to a call for world war without end.

Cotton told Willick he favored arming Japan and South Korea with nuclear weapons to counter North Korea, an unprecedented escalation that would bring the region a stride closer to armageddon. China, according to Cotton, is a “rival in every regard” that must be isolated economically and confronted militarily with aggressive freedom of navigation operations in the South China Sea. (The senator ignored a recent Rand assessment that found the US could easily find itself outmatched in a duel with the Chinese military.) From eastern Europe to Asia to the Middle East, Cotton urged regime change operations to replace governments that resisted Pax Americana with “countries that share our principles.” On Iran, Cotton would accept nothing short of war, imagining a cakewalk that would only require “several days” of bombing, as he has previously said.

Cotton’s comments are worth considering in light of his status as a rumored potential CIA director in the Trump administration. Reports recently surfaced of a coming reshuffle that would move Mike Pompeo, a longtime stooge of the Koch brothers and evangelical Muslim basher, from CIA to Secretary of State, dislodging the insufficiently loyal Rex Tillerson, who Trump has trashed as “weak on everything.” While the Cotton rumor has been tamped down in recent days, if Cotton truly is next in line for the CIA, a key agency of the US empire stands to fall into the hands of a militant neoconservative whose worldview was formed through prolonged cultivation in a right-wing hothouse.

Cotton would hardly be the first ideologue to take the helm at Langley. During the 1950s, Allen Dulles used the CIA as a vehicle to recruit a collection of Nazi war criminals and mafia henchmen for covert anti-communist campaigns across Europe, develop the failed mind control program MK ULTRA and plot assassinations and international intrigues in order to topple popular governments. Then there was Bill Casey, who painted the Soviet Union as the puppet master of international terrorism in order to justify secretly funding Central American death squads through the world’s most unsavory third parties.

But Cotton is in a class of his own, not because he is an unbridled zealot, but because he would be the first fully developed product of the neoconservative movement to rise to such a sensitive position. If appointed, he is almost certain to militarize intelligence in the service of the Saudi-Israeli axis and drive their destabilizing anti-Iranian agenda to terrifying extremes.      

The path to power, from Harvard to Iraq

Cotton’s grooming as a neocon cadre began at Harvard University, where he won a fellowship from the Claremont Institute, a right-wing think tank in California that fused the anti-gay kulturkampf with libertarian “starve the beast” economics. At the Harvard Crimson, Cotton emerged as a prolific voice of preppy reaction, promoting divorce-proof “covenant marriages” as a remedy for social decay, upholding political apathy as a virtue and activism as a vice, and hailing the valor of professional golfers. Cotton’s senior thesis at Harvard was an ode to the most elitist, anti-democratic themes contained in the Federalist Papers. “Inflammatory passion and selfish interest characterizes most men, whereas ambition characterizes men who pursue and hold national office,” Cotton wrote of the Founding Fathers. “Such men rise from the people through a process of self-selection since politics is a dirty business that discourages all but the most ambitious.”

His own ambition vaulted him into the ranks of the U.S. Army as it barreled across Iraq and sent the country spiraling into a sectarian bloodbath. From inside armored personnel carriers and behind the barrel of a gun, Cotton experienced his only substantive engagement with the people of the global south. It was clearly a formative period that left him brimming with hostility. “One thing I learned in the Army is that when your opponent is on his knees, you drive him to the ground and choke him out,” he reflected this October. Though he failed to earn any special distinction on the battlefield, Cotton resorted to opinion writing to earn a bit of fame back home.

In January 2006, New York Times correspondents Eric Lichtblau and James Risen revealed the existence of a warrantless CIA program that examined the financial records of American citizens suspected of terrorist involvement. The story appeared almost simultaneously in several other papers, triggering a public tantrum from Vice President Dick Cheney. From his garrison in Iraq, Cotton saw a perfect opportunity to rally the conservative shock troops back in the States. He fired off an indignant email to the New York Times and cc’ed a right-wing blog, Powerline, for good measure. Citing his credentials as a Harvard Law grad and former law clerk, Cotton demanded Lichtblau, Risen and their editor, Bill Keller, be jailed under the Espionage Act: “By the time we return home, maybe you will be in your rightful place: not at the Pulitzer announcements, but behind bars,” he thundered at the journalists.

George W. Bush’s approval rating was hovering around 30 percent by this point, public support for the war had evaporated and Americans were coming home by the thousands in wheelchairs and coffins. But here was a young platoon leader—a Harvard Law grad, no less—willing to defend the war on terror against the treasonous nabobs of negativism. When Powerline published the letter, Cotton became an instant folk hero among right-wing Iraq war dead-enders. Before he had even returned home to his family’s cattle farm in Arkansas, his political career had been made.

The great neocon hope

Cotton first entered Congress in 2012 as a representative from the formerly Democratic Arkansas district that contained Bill Clinton’s hometown. Iran-bashing became his hobby horse, prompting him to introduce an extreme “Corruption of Blood” bill that would have forbidden trade with the relatives of Iranian individuals who were under sanctions, from their great-grandchildren to their nieces and uncles. Panned as an outrageous violation of the Constitution, the bill died on the House floor, an embarrassing rebuke to the self-styled constitutional law expert. (Article III of the Constitution forbids punishing the relatives of those convicted of treason, while the Fifth Amendment grants due process even to non-citizens charged with crimes.) 

Cotton struck out the following year on a campaign to unseat incumbent Democratic Sen. Mark Pryor. On the stump, he demonstrated all the charisma of a filing cabinet, compensating for his lifeless delivery with incendiary warnings that a coalition of ISIS terrorists and Mexican drug cartels would overrun the country unless the southern border was sealed off with a Maginot-style wall. Cotton won in a landslide, sailing into the Senate on the strength of surging anti-Obama sentiment and piles of cash from Likudnik oligarchs.

As Eli Clifton and Jim Lobe reported, the second largest source of funding for Cotton’s senate campaign was Paul Singer, the pro-Israel venture capitalist who has bankrolled a who’s who of neocon outfits in Washington. Cotton also benefited from nearly a million dollars in supportive advertising from the Emergency Committee for Israel, a right-wing group founded by the face of the neocon movement, Bill Kristol. ECI operated for a time out of the offices of the Committee for the Liberation of Iraq, the group that drummed up support for regime change in Iraq. This office also housed Orion Strategies, the lobbying firm that has represented the governments of Taiwan and the Republic of Georgia, two of the key US-backed bulwarks against China and Russia.

A relentless drive toward war with Iran

In the Senate, Cotton’s obsession with Iran deepened by the day. Within weeks of his swearing-in, he orchestrated an explosive letter signed by 46 Republican senatorial colleagues and addressed to the “Leadership of the Islamic Republic of Iran.” Published on Senate letterhead, the missive aimed to convince Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei to disregard the power of President Barack Obama to implement the internationally brokered P5+1 nuclear non-proliferation negotiations. The arguably unprecedented stunt led to accusations that Cotton had violated the Logan Act, which forbade diplomatic freebooting.

While the White House fumed, Cotton tweeted a translated version of his letter to Khamenei, Foreign Minister Javad Zarif and President Hassan Rouhani. But in his haste, it appeared Cotton had acted without the help of a native Farsi speaker and simply run the letter through Google translate: “We hope while the nuclear negotiations are progressing this letter enriching your knowledge of our constitutional system and mutual clear understanding elevating,” the concluding line read.

A day after the diplomatic fiasco, Cotton scrambled off to a private event with the National Defense Industrial Association, the lobbying arm of America’s top arms merchants. Cotton’s rhetoric on Iran was music to the ears of the weapons industry. “The policy of the United States should be regime change in Iran,” he declared. “I don’t see how anyone can say America can be safe as long as you have in power a theocratic despotism.” The senator found a natural ally in Riyadh, the political vortex of theocratic despotism. “This arms deal sends the right message to both friend and foe alike,” Cotton stated, describing it as a step “to maintain peace in the region.”

Cotton has insisted that “there are no mythical moderates” among Iran’s leadership. Even worse, according to him, was the fact that the Iranian government was “already in control of Tehran.” While Cotton melted down over the Iranian government’s presence in its own capital, most Iranians seem to have accepted that the United States was comfortably in control of Washington.

Trump’s open embrace of the Saudi-Israeli axis has elevated Cotton’s influence, transforming him into the administration’s congressional Iran whisperer. While advising efforts to whittle away at the Iran nuclear deal, he has co-sponsored legislation to make it easier to reimpose sanctions despite Iran’s faithful compliance with the agreement. Cotton’s presence in the Senate is so central to the neocon agenda that the Weekly Standard’s Fred Barnes has argued against his promotion to CIA director. But as Cotton made clear in his senior thesis long ago, he views himself as a man of destiny driven to the heights of power by limitless ambition. Before long, the world could become a laboratory for his own “inflammatory passion.”

 

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BlackBerry ditching Priv updates is a frustrating missed opportunity

BlackBerry’s track history in the enterprise game and the marketing material plastered all over its website would lead anyone to believe that it’s one of the few smartphone companies actually taking the security issue seriously. So it was a little surprising to hear that BlackBerry is cancelling its smaller updates for the Priv, and so soon after declaring that it wouldn’t be providing a Nougat update to the handset either. It’s a disappointing situation for fans of the Priv, and even more disconcerting for customers who rely on BlackBerry to protect their sensitive information.

Now, I’m fully aware that providing long running updates for aging handsets that aren’t selling anymore is an expensive and often frustrating endeavor for OEMs. However, BlackBerry is missing a trick by not positioning itself as the major manufacturer with security at its forefront, by going a step further than the minimum two years of patches that almost every OEM promises.

BlackBerry Indeed, BlackBerry, indeed…

The case for long-running security updates cannot be understated these days. Although there are plenty of reactionary scare stories about various vulnerabilities, the fact that our mobile devices are increasingly used to store sensitive banking information, make mobile payments, and secure our biometric data makes patching exploits regularly more important than three or four years ago. Not forgetting BlackBerry’s historic audience of business users looking for additional security and encryption for sensitive emails, contacts, documents, and the like.

Between biometric storage, online banking, and payments, the case for long running security updates cannot be understated.

Ditching this commitment to Priv owners is poor form. But just as importantly, this decision leaves customers uncertain about the state of similar update promises made for the KEYone, Motion, and DTEK series. Can we take BlackBerry more seriously on security matters than any other OEM anymore?

The crux of the matter, for me, is that this announcement isn’t just disappointing for Priv owners, it undermines the whole concept and potential of BlackBerry as the go-to brand for serious Android security. That’s a particularly disappointing revelation for the enterprise market, where companies need an OEM they can rely on to keep a fleet of handsets secure in the long term.

No one else, bar perhaps Google, has been tackling this issue seriously enough, and certainly no major brand has gone as far as BlackBerry in the amount of marketing emphasis placed on security. The company’s Document Locker and Privacy Shade are great features for the privacy conscious, as are the company’s Hub+ apps and its broader Secure Platform. However, without also ensuring that the operating system is kept up to date and secure too, the hard work on the software front is undermined.

BlackBerry could have owned the privacy and security niche in the Android space, but that trust fades with the Priv.

I should make clear that BlackBerry isn’t completely ditching all its obligations with the Priv. The company states that it would “engage [its] partners as needed to develop and deliver necessary patches” should any critical problems arise, and that it would “fulfill all warranty obligations” regarding the handset. Even so, what counts as critical or only a moderate security issue, and how high up the priority queue the Priv would be for a fix are concerning unanswered questions.

Based on its well-earned historic reputation, BlackBerry could have owned the privacy and security niche in the Android space. A solution very much needed given the price comparison with Apple’s iPhones. Instead, BlackBerry may find that its potential customers flock to Apple for its ability to provide updates over many years, or to Samsung for the promises made by Knox.

BlackBerry’s compromise on this issue is the introduction of a “trade-up” program for Priv owners and those holding onto BB10 and BBOS devices. While all the details aren’t out in the open yet, the gist is that existing customers will be able to purchase a newer KEYOne or Motion handset with some sort of discount. Perhaps that will tide some customers over, but as I already mentioned, what happens if/when BlackBerry gives up on updates to these handsets within the next two years also?

No matter which way you slice it, BlackBerry failing to properly update the Priv to Nougat, not even Oreo, and refusing to extend important security updates beyond the “standard” 2 years promised by everyone else is an undeniable sign that the company isn’t willing to go the distance with security. That’s more than a little disappointing.

Rage of Demons: Session 4

In the previous session the players had reached the duergar city of Gracklstugh, and had started to explore the Whorlstone Tunnels. Unfortunately their companion who had told them that they could find a way to the surface had turned out to be a mad serial killer who had just wanted to get to the tunnels for his own reasons. But they continued to search the tunnels, having been asked to find out about the Grey Ghosts, a thieves guild of renegade duergar and derro.

After some exploration they found an alchemist of the Grey Ghosts and some duergar, which they captured. Having also found a shortcut back to the city, they brought the prisoners to the Keepers of the Flame. There they found out that the Keepers suspected the Grey Ghosts of having stolen a red dragon egg from Themberchaud, the dragon of the city, and were told to go back and look for it.

This time the group collected some of the mushrooms that could grow or shrink people, and used them to explore the narrower tunnels. That way they managed to sneak up on a group of enemies they hadn’t really been looking for: Cultists of Demogorgon, who were doing a ritual that apparently was responsible for the curse that made the giants sprout a second head and go rampant. They killed the cultists and reversed the ritual.

Finally they found the dragon egg with the leader of the Grey Ghosts near a strange obelisk, guarded by a spectator. The Grey Ghost turned out to be annoying due to his Blink spell. But in the end they killed him and his pet spectator, and got the red dragon egg. They found that the obelisk was a teleport out of the city, so if they had wanted they could have kept the egg and raised a dragon baby. But instead they brought the egg to the dragon (and not his keepers), who promptly destroyed the egg, as he suspected his keepers to use it to replace him.

So they left the city and traveled north towards Neverlight Grove. They only had two NPC companions left, who were myconids and wanted to go home. And Blingdenstone, the deep gnome city north of Neverlight Grove, was their best hope of finding a way back to the surface.

[Note that this journal entry is somewhat abbreviated, as there was a lot of dungeon exploring and fighting going on, which I didn’t want to recount in detail.]

Ex-CIA Director Warns ‘Inaccurate, Unprofessional’ Fox News Against Its ‘Conspiratorial Hit Job’ on Robert Mueller and the FBI

The network has attempted to discredit special counsel Robert Mueller and undermine his Russia investigation.

Ambassador James Woolsey, a former CIA director under President Bill Clinton, has put Fox and their host Lou Dobbs “on notice” amid the network’s continued attempts to discredit special counsel Robert Mueller and undermine his Russia investigation.

In a statement provided to Raw Story, Woolsey’s representative Jonathan Franks said the former CIA director is “extremely disappointed” in Dobbs, Fox Business and Fox News “over this inaccurate, unprofessional [and] conspiratorial hit job.”

“We’ve placed Fox on notice,” Franks added.

He referenced a Friday night Fox News clip in which commentator Christopher Bedford, editor-in-chief of the conservative Daily Caller website, said the special counsel lacks integrity and his probe has been “hopelessly compromised.”

Dobbs then said that he finds it “stunning that [Deputy Attorney General] Rob Rosenstein doesn’t find any need for any concern whatsoever, and even as his entire department has been ripped asunder by so many conflicts of interest.”

Ambassador Woolsey resigned from Trump’s transition team on January 5, 2017 amid tensions between the two stemming from the then-president-elect’s increasingly critical rhetoric about the intelligence community. He was subsequently interviewed in late October by Mueller regarding his knowledge of Trump’s former aide Mike Flynn, who Woolsey knew through sitting on the board of the latter’s lobbying firm. A month later, Woolsey was seen dining with the president at Mar-A-Lago.

Watch the Fox News clip that the former CIA director calls a “conspiratorial hit job” on Mueller below.

 

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