Daily Archives: September 5, 2013

Let me know when you start getting concerned about this

NYT: NSA has hacked and broken almost all encryption codes.

The National Security Agency is winning its long-running secret war on encryption, using supercomputers, technical trickery, court orders and behind-the-scenes persuasion to undermine the major tools protecting the privacy of everyday communications in the Internet age, according to newly disclosed documents.

The agency has circumvented or cracked much of the encryption, or digital scrambling, that guards global commerce and banking systems, protects sensitive data like trade secrets and medical records, and automatically secures the e-mails, Web searches, Internet chats and phone calls of Americans and others around the world, the documents show.

Many users assume — or have been assured by Internet companies — that their data is safe from prying eyes, including those of the government, and the N.S.A. wants to keep it that way. The agency treats its recent successes in deciphering protected information as among its most closely guarded secrets, restricted to those cleared for a highly classified program code-named Bullrun, according to the documents, provided by Edward J. Snowden, the former N.S.A. contractor.

Beginning in 2000, as encryption tools were gradually blanketing the Web, the N.S.A. invested billions of dollars in a clandestine campaign to preserve its ability to eavesdrop. Having lost a public battle in the 1990s to insert its own “back door” in all encryption, it set out to accomplish the same goal by stealth.

The agency, according to the documents and interviews with industry officials, deployed custom-built, superfast computers to break codes, and began collaborating with technology companies in the United States and abroad to build entry points into their products. The documents do not identify which companies have participated.

The N.S.A. hacked into target computers to snare messages before they were encrypted. In some cases, companies say they were coerced by the government into handing over their master encryption keys or building in a back door. And the agency used its influence as the world’s most experienced code maker to covertly introduce weaknesses into the encryption standards followed by hardware and software developers around the world.

 

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A final shot of real estate news for the day: price cuts

Five of ’em

31 Chapel Lane

31 Chapel Lane

31 Chapel Lane, Riverside (and when have you seen a price cut in Riverside? Must be serious), from $2.295 then, $1.995 now. Sold for $2.270 in 2004. I’ve somehow missed seeing this house, but Chapel’s a decent street, albeit with noise.

5 Knollwood

5 Knollwood

5 Knollwood sold for $2.850 million in 2006, asked $3.995 million back in May, wants $3.195 today. There were some improvements made after that 2004 purchase, so even at full price, this won’t be much of a home run.

15 Reynwood

15 Reynwood

15 Reynwood is now at $13.750 million after being for sale since 2007 (!), when it asked $23.9 million. Still offering a mere 2% commission which might have made sense when its deluded owner thought he’d be getting $24 million, but after all these years he’s going to need the cooperation of every agent in town to find a buyer for a property no one has wanted in six long years.

122 Clapboard Ridge

122 Clapboard Ridge

122 Clapboard Ridge will accept $3.6 million. The listing says it was built in 1998, in which case its caveat “as is” seems odd – can a house really deteriorate that much, so badly, in such a short time? Doesn’t inspire much confidence in the builder, certainly. Judging from its mortgage debt, there are a couple of lenders out there who’d heave a sigh of relief if this fetches anything close to this price. On the other hand, who knows disappointment better than banks, these days?

Fortunately, salt water melts snow

Fortunately, salt water melts snow

And over in Byram, 3 Gamecock has not actually reduced its price, it’s just back on the market at exactly the price; $1.150 million, it’s been seeking since 2010. That s, however, an improvement from its first price of $1.498 in 2009. Four years, no buyer, and now FEMA flood zone regulations – bad combination.

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After five years of serving as a White House organ, the AP suddenly rediscovers the joy of actual reporting

Did everyone at the White House  have a spine – removal procedure this weekend?

Welcome back to fight, Rick…this time I know we’ll win.

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Open House report

Three suitable for comment, in my opinion.

20 West End Avenue

20 West End Avenue

Star of the day was undoubtedly 20 West End Avenue, $4.189 million. The drawback first: it’s on a long, shared driveway, and everybody hates those. That out of the way, the house is fantastic: open, beautifully finished, just livable and unstuffy. I didn’t hear a negative word about it from the dozen or so brokers who were there when I was, and in this nasty business, that’s unusual. Is this the right price? Who knows, but it feels about right.

340 Stanwich

340 Stanwich

340 Stanwich’s price I’m not so sure about. It’s asking $3.495 million which, on first walk-around, I figured was at least $1.2 too much, but that’s before I went outside. Inside, it has a nice, but cluttered layout that looks as though it would make for excellent entertaining space. The clutter can be removed of course (one man’s clutter, by the way, is someone

view from 340 Stanwich patio

view from 340 Stanwich patio

else’s prized possessions, I get it – but I’m looking at it from a buyer’s perspective, not a collector’s). There are bedrooms upstairs that feel like a ski lodge dormitory but that could also be changed.

It’s the outside that transforms this place – 3.5 acres, including a pool an a great lawn sweeping down to Frye “Lake” (I was told by father that any body of water you can see across is a pond “unless”, he added, “you’re a real estate agent”. I’m a real estate agent now, a life decision that would have my father spinning in his grave, if he had a grave, so I’ll go with “lake”).  But all that land poses a problem: it, and the pool, and the Frye Whateveryoucallit, are down a long, steep stairway built into a rock wall. Not a big problem at all for an active family, but the house itself will presumably a couple of old fogies who need its first-floor bedroom. So that’s a conundrum, but one I’m sure will be worked out by the market. Stay tuned.

40 Winthrop

40 Winthrop

40 Winthrop Drive in Riverside is priced at $3.395 million, a price that gave me pause when it came on this week and still has me a little unconvinced after seeing it; a little, but it also wouldn’t surprise me if it sold for this price. I think I’ll follow the lead of our president and Senator Markey and vote “present”.

Plus side: very nice inside, good layout, and a fantastic yard, in the back and on the (western) side. These days, finding an acre of yard in Riverside is just about impossible, and an acre on Winthrop, a beautiful, traffic-free street within easy walking distance of the schools and trains, is even rarer. If someone pays what I consider to be a premium for this location and this acreage, I wouldn’t be surprised.

I do think, however, that if you’re reaching for top dollar, it would be wise to spend a little bit up front to make a good first impression. This is a pretty plain looking house as is, and a rusty handrail on the front steps, an uneven, sagging stone walkway to the front door and a banister on the third floor that threatens to fall off in your hand raises questions, unjustified, surely, that maintenance wasn’t in the budget during this owner’s tenure. I am not saying that the house is in poor condition; to the contrary, it appears to be in great shape, overall, but as a general tip to homeowners thinking of selling, fix up the minor cosmetic problems that detract from a home’s appearance. You know what your grandmother told you about first immersions? It’s still true.

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We’re back!

First, some market activity that was reported while I was out enriching the Saudis.

4 Cat Rock

4 Cat Rock

4 Cat Rock Road closed, for $1.750 million after 302 days on market. Nice old (1908a house and nicely renovated, it’s real problem was that it sold for $1.880 in 2005, was improved, yet sold for $1.860 in May, 2011, and when this was put back on a year later at $1.995, buyers balked, probably because they saw the price decline and speculated that it would continue down. If that’s what they guessed, they were right.

1361 King Street

1361 King Street

1361 King Street sold, $2.125 million ($2.495, ask), proving only that you can get a lot of house for $2 million if you’re willing to live under the flight path a long way from town. Some people are.

5 Butler Street

5 Butler Street

5 Butler Street, Cos Cob, on the other hand, didn’t linger. It was priced at $835,000 and went via bidding war for $842,100. As an aside, it’s often smart to throw in an odd number in one of these things. Win or lose, you don’t want to tie, which will only set off another round of bidding.

15 Upper Cross

15 Upper Cross

And waay, way up in nose bleed territory, 15 Upper Cross whacked a cool million from its price today so that what would have cost you $9.1 million yesterday can be yours today for $8. That’s an improvement over its 2011 price of $11.995 but, at least to my taste, this is about the land this old pile of stone sits on and not the house itself. So, what’s five acres near the Banksville border worth? Not $8.1 million, certainly, so we can anticipate more price reductions in the years to come. Of course, that’s just my opinion of the house; someone else may come along who falls in love with the place and will pay for the privilege of restoring it. Maybe.

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Off to (a few) open houses

Limited list today, presumably because of the Jewish holiday, and that, in turn, pushes many new listings to wait until next week, when schedules return to normal, before being entered into the Greenwich MLS.

16 Dingletown Road

16 Dingletown Road

One I won’t have to see because I’ve seen it before is 16 Dingletown Road. I’ve always liked this house; 10,000 sq. ft., removed from Dingletown itself, on a nice yard, but when it first showed up new in 2008 its builders listed it for $8.995 million, a price that caused me to predict it would take a long time to sell. That prediction was borne out, and it didn’t sell until the close of 2011, for  “just” $5.6 million. The buyers put it back up for sale last May for $6.150 and are holding another broker open house today, inviting us to see it with it’s new “huge price reduction” price, which, after two previous cuts, is now $5.5 million. Even allowing for the excesses of Realtorese, is “huge” an apt adjective?  A net reduction of $100,000 from its 2012 purchase price may be painful to the owners, but it doesn’t exactly scream “Fire sale! This one won’t last!” , to me.

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So here’s the Paldunas letter regarding his competition for a school board seat

Only fair to read it, certainly. My objections: I’m sorry to see Brian Peldunas get involved with the RTC’s infighting and suppression of dissent; I’m even sorrier to see him join the RTC and its flunkies on the school board ignore the question of the constitutionality of the state’s raced balance mandate. While I do think Paldunas has the better of the argument on the exemption loophole for “unique schools” – I think it’s weak -he and his cohorts seem determined to ignore the real issue: is the law itself illegal? I say it is, the BOE says it isn’t, but where is the legal opinion they ordered June 23rd to research the issue and give n opinion?

To the Editor

Given the issues facing our public schools, we need a Board of Education that can work collaboratively. However, threatening a return to the in-fighting seen several years ago, two members introduced a “proposal to save neighborhood schools” via an article (Greenwich Post, Aug. 29) without sharing it with colleagues first.

The two members would have you believe that neighborhood schools in Greenwich are under “threat” of attack. That’s far from the truth. The board, listening to the community, is doing all it can to protect neighborhood schools. They’ve embraced choice and rejected major redistricting and forced busing. We support this and believe the focus needs to be on achievement of students at all schools.

The “proposal” is an amalgamation of existing programs and ideas. That would have been clear to the two members if they’d worked cooperatively with colleagues and attended the many public forums on this matter. Instead, the result of putting this “proposal” forward was to disrupt a public process that has been playing out over the last several months. One of the other board members called the “proposal” misguided.

Relying on parent volunteer lawyers, the two members claim there’s a loophole that will exempt compliance with the state racial balance law by calling New Lebanon and Hamilton Avenue “unique” schools. Interestingly, one of the authors previously indicated the board needed to consult a “highly experienced constitutional lawyer.” The state has already indicated that the schools don’t qualify for “unique” status. The authors would have realized they could not simply ignore the statute had they done some basic due diligence and asked the State Department of Education a few basic questions.

Also, while any board member could have called for a vote to ask the state to render a formal opinion, the two proponents remained silent. An opinion from the state would allow Greenwich to decide whether to continue moving forward or mount a challenge.

We need to move beyond posturing. It’s time for the board to work cooperatively to reach conclusions about advancing student achievement, eliminating capacity constraints and dealing with the racial balance law.

Peter Bernstein
Brian Peldunas

 

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I doubt Wal-Mart or its shoppers will miss them.

 

Wal Mart Job applicants Georgia, Dec. 21, 2011

Wal Mart Job applicants Georgia, Dec. 21, 2011

Labor union trying to stage walk-out of Wal-Mart employees today.

Walmart associates in 15 cities will walk off the job Thursday in the latest in a series of actions against the nonunion retail giant organized by the United Food and Commercial Workers union through the activist group it backs, OUR Walmart.

The group claimed that “thousands” would walk out.

According to the news release, walkouts are planned by employees at stores in Baton Rogue, Boston, Chicago, Cincinnati, Dallas, Denver, Los Angeles, Miami, Minneapolis, New York City, Orlando, Sacramento, Seattle and San Francisco.

Washington, D.C., was included by the group in its announcement but there are currently no Walmart stores located in the nation’s capital. [Because that city, with one of the highest unskilled labor unemployment rates in the nation, bans them – Ed]

A planned post-Thanksgiving action largely fizzled due to poor turnout. Many of the protesters at the events were not actually Walmart employees and in some cases were bussed in from outside. But UFCW and other unions have kept at it hoping to build legitimate grassroots support.

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He learned from the master

They told me this vote was coming up and ...well, you can SEE what I did to my pants

They told me this vote was coming up and …well, you can SEE what I did to my pants

Senator Ed Markey (D. MA) votes “present” on Syrian war resolution.

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