Iranians connected to phishing attempt on tortured Syrian activist

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Former Syrian National Council vice-president Nour Al-Ameer fled to Turkey after being arrested and tortured by the Assad regime -- that's when someone attempted to phish her and steal her identity with a fake Powerpoint attachment purporting to be about the crimes of the Assad regime. Read the rest

Why did Iran's Lake Urmia just change from bright green to blood red?

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Between April and July, Iran's salty Lake Urmia changed from a bright green color to a blood red. NASA's Aqua satellite captured the image above and reported on the science behind the strange transformation. According to NASA, the periodic color change is caused by micro algae producing carotenoids that help with photosynthesis and act as antioxidants and Halobacteriaceae, a bacteria in very salty water that releases "a red pigment called bacteriorhodopsin that absorbs light and converts it into energy for the bacteria." From NASA:

The color changes have become common in the spring and early summer due to seasonal precipitation and climate patterns. Spring is the wettest season in northwestern Iran, with rainfall usually peaking in April. Snow on nearby mountains within the watershed also melts in the spring. The combination of rain and snowmelt sends a surge of fresh water into Lake Urmia in April and May. By July, the influx of fresh water has tapered off and lake levels begin to drop.

The fresh water in the spring drives salinity levels down, but the lake generally becomes saltier as summer heat and dryness take hold. That’s when the microorganisms show their colors, too. Careful sampling of the water would be required to determine which organisms transformed the lake in 2016, but scientists say there are likely two main groups of organisms involved: a family of algae called Dunaliella and an archaic family of bacteria known as Halobacteriaceae.

While Lake Urmia has shifted from green to red and back several times in recent years, trends suggest that a red Urmia could become increasingly common.

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Iranian soccer star suspended for wearing SpongeBob pants

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Sosha Makani, 29, was goalkeeper of Tehran's Persepolis soccer club. But not any more, after Iranian morality police saw him photographed in a pair of SpongeBob Squarepants pants.

“Sosha suspended for six months because of yellow trousers,” read the headline of Varzesh3, an Iranian sports news agency. “SpongeBob [trousers] cause six-month suspension for Sosha,” said the online news agency Asriran. ... Last month, Iranian news agencies reported that Makani, who played for Iran’s national football team at the 2014 World Cup, was being scrutinised by the authorities over his trousers.

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Massive email leak reveals the worst bribery scandal in history

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Reporters from Fairfax Media and The Huffington Post obtained a huge trove of email from Unaoil, a business run by a rich Monaco family, that reveal that the family ran a corrupt bribery empire that spanned the world's oil-producing states, and that they world with companies like Rolls-Royce, Halliburton, Leighton Holding, Samsung and Hyundai, to rig contracts through a system of bribes and kickbacks that looted the national treasuries of some of the world's poorest countries. Read the rest

U.S. expected to charge Iran in network attacks on banks and New York dam

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The Obama administration will formally charge Iranian hackers for a coordinated campaign of digital attacks in 2012 and 2013 on several U.S. banks and a New York dam, Reuters reported today. The charges are expected to be announced Thursday.

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Iran: We snarfed up “13,000 pages of data” from detained Navy sailors' devices

Photo released by Iranian Revolutionary Guards on  Jan. 13, 2016, shows detained US Navy sailors in Iran prior to their release.  Sepahnews via navytimes.com

The government of Iran claims to have obtained “thousands of pages of information” from devices used by the U.S. Navy sailors briefly detained in January.

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Nude statues at Rome museum covered to not embarrass Iranian president

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Classical nude statues at Italy's Capitoline Museum were covered up this week in anticipation of Iranian President Hassan Rouhani's visit. Some politicians and art critics called out the stupidity. From The Telegraph:

The president’s aides were also reportedly anxious that he not be photographed too close to a giant bronze statue of the Roman emperor Marcus Aurelius on horseback.

The Iranians objected to what one Italian newspaper delicately described as “the attributes” or genitalia of the huge horse, which dates from the second century AD.

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Portraits of imprisoned Iranian girls awaiting capital punishment

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Though Iran won't actually execute people under 18, their courts will readily sentence children as young a nine to physical punishment, including death, and hold them in inhumane, crowded conditions until they are old enough for their sentences to be carried out. Read the rest

Elaborate spear-phishing attempt against global Iranian and free speech activists, including an EFF staffer

Citizenlab details an "elaborate phishing campaign" against Iranian expats and activists, combining phone-calls from fake Reuters reporters, mostly convincing Google Docs login-screens, and a sophisticated attempt to do a "real-time man-in-the-middle attack" against Google's two-factor authentication. Read the rest

Iran arms deal prosecution falls apart because of warrantless laptop search

The case against Jae Shik Kim -- a South Korean exec caught selling weapons components to Iran -- has collapsed because the prosecutors abused the rule allowing them to search laptop hard-drives without a warrant when someone is at a "border crossing" (in this case, LAX). Read the rest

Draw a picture of parliament members as animals, go to prison for 13 years: Iran

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A 28-year-old Iranian artist and activist has been sentenced to 12 years and nine in prison for making monkeys out of Iranian leaders. Tehran’s Revolutionary Court (which doesn't use juries) ruled that Atena Farghadani crimes included “insulting members of parliament through paintings” and “spreading propaganda against the system.”

One political cartoonist particularly knowledgeable about her plight is Iranian American artist Nikahang Kowsar. Now a CRNI board member based in the Washington area, Kowsar was jailed in his native Iran 15 years ago for his cartoons critical of the country’s leaders.

“Atena is being punished for something many of us have been doing in Iran: drawing politicians as animals, without naming them,” Kowsar tells The Post’s Comic Riffs. “Of course, I drew a crocodile and made a name that rhymed with the name of powerful Ayatollah, and caused a national security crisis in 2000. What Atena drew was just an innocent take on what the parliamentarians are doing, and based on the Iranian culture, monkeys are considered the followers and imitators, [and] cows are the stupid ones.

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Yes, an Iranian vampire western film noir

It's in Farsi, it's beautifully-shot film noir, it has a female lead, and you have to see it. Read the rest

Huge trove of surveillance leaks coming

Al Jazeera and The Guardian are set to publish "the Spy Cables," a massive trove of South African intelligence cables detailing the over-classification of information and the corruption of post-Apartheid South Africa by US political interference. Read the rest

Affecting sculpture about our relationship to technology

Soheyl Bastami's Extreme: an Iranian sculptor's beautiful and trenchant take on our relationship to technology.

(via Super Punch) Read the rest

Hackers in Iran set up fake news websites in cyberattack on US

"An elaborate, three-year cyberespionage campaign against United States military contractors, members of Congress, diplomats, lobbyists and Washington-based journalists has been linked to hackers in Iran." The NYT's Nicole Perlroth has more from a report released this week by the Dallas computer security firm iSight Partners. Read the rest

Netanyahu briefly follows Persian sex site on Twitter

Israel's prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, briefly followed an Iranian "sex feed" over the weekend. At the time, reports Ilan Ben Zion, @PersianHotBook had only 15 followers—and it soon lost its latest fan.

The apparent Twitter faux pas was the second for Netanyahu among Iranians in a little over a week, after he was roundly mocked on social media for telling BBC Persian that Iranians should overthrow their government so they can be free to wear jeans. That comment was followed on Twitter by a groundswell of pictures of ordinary Iranians showing off their denim duds.

The Likud Central Committee said that it runs the account, that it suffered a "malfunction," and that it is investigating the "malfunction." Read the rest

Leary's "Declaration of Evolution" in English and Persian

Lisa Rein sez "A first-ever Persian translation of any of Timothy Leary's writings is now available. The text, a 'Declaration of Evolution,' is a manifesto Leary wrote for the psychedelic generation, modeled on the 1776 American 'Declaration of Independence." It is presented in a bilingual (Persian and English) format.

"It was first published in Leary's The Politics of Ecstasy and reprinted in the underground press, before being published separately in 1970 as a pamphlet by the Brotherhood of Eternal Love, who later the same year engineered Leary's prison escape by the Weather Underground. It has been out-of-print since then." Read the rest

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