RECEIPTS:    Auctions     Direct    Video/Internet     Total
This Week     231,500     40,500         6,100        278,100 
Last Week     157,200     50,800        37,900        245,900 
Last Year     254,000     46,600        50,000        350,600

Compared to last week, yearlings traded mostly firm to 5.00 higher, with instances 6.00-10.00 higher throughout the Midwest and Northern Plains. 

Weather has interrupted trading over the last couple of weeks mainly through the Southwest and Southeast as the movement of stocker cattle and calves has been hampered in these regions.

Many markets quoted a sharply higher undertone on feeders, with instances 10.00-15.00 higher on calves in most cases compared to two weeks ago or compared with light receipts from a week ago; but definitely a sharply higher market.

It is currently prime time for the stocker market during the narrow window between the end of wintry weather and the beginning of warmer weather and green grass in the major cattle production areas.

Over the weekend weather patterns turned spring-like across much of the country and it seemed this week that “grass fever” could be infectious for the rest of the month.

Feeder Cattle futures last week exhibited a change in behavior and maybe even starting to embrace a new attitude with an impressive rally since last week.

There is no way to say for sure if there is a little more upside or a lot for cattle futures but we are seeing Feeder Cattle futures trading at levels not seen since the first week of January.

Last week’s feedlot trade saw the Bull return and prevail over the Bear as success of higher feedlot sales of tight fed supplies spurred short bought packers to spend more money on available fed cattle.

Hopefully the concerns that grappled the cattle futures in December, January and February has dissipated.

Cattle futures have seen open interest drop dramatically, but over the last couple of weeks have seen open interest start increasing and seen funds start to come in on the long side.

Buyers aggressively this week purchased cattle for summer grazing and seemingly started to throw caution to the wind as they try to fill orders early enough to get their stockers assembled and straightened out before turn-out dates and before offerings completely dry up.

On Wednesday at the Hub City Livestock Market in Aberdeen, SD sold near 100 head of fancy steers averaging 637 lbs. top the market at 274.50.

At the St. Joseph Stockyards in St. Joseph, MO on Wednesday sold near 275 head of steers averaging 725 lbs. for weighted average price 236.62, with over 80 head of steers in thin condition averaging 713 lbs. averaging 246.87.

The beef cut-out value this week has seen strength in Select cuts compared to the Choice product with Select closing within 5 cents of Choice on Friday at 244.07 compared to 244.12 on Choice.

Auction volume included 67% over 600 lbs and 39% heifers.

AUCTION RECEIPTS:  231,500   Last Week:  157,200   Last Year:  254,000

Buckhannon Livestock, Buckhannon, WV
Weighted Average Report for Wednesday March 11, 2015

Cattle Receipts:  29 

Slaughter cows made up 66% of the offering, slaughter bulls 3%,
replacement cows 17%, other cows 10%, and feeders 3%.

The feeder supply included 100% steers.

Near 100% of the run weighed over 600 lbs.

Feeder Steers                Holstein Medium and Large 2
 Head   Wt Range   Avg Wt    Price Range   Avg Price
    1    640-640    640       120.00         120.00

Bred Cows                  Medium and Large 1 - 2 Young
 Head   Wt Range   Avg Wt    Price Range   Avg Price
    1   1100-1100  1100   999.00-1440.00    1440.00   Per Head  4-6 Months Bred
                            Medium and Large 1 - 2 Middle Aged
    2   1200-1200  1200   999.00-1250.00    1250.00   Per Head  1-3 Months Bred
    1   1000-1000  1000   999.00-1200.00    1200.00   Per Head  4-6 Months Bred
    1   1395-1395  1395   999.00-1150.00    1150.00   Per Head  7-9 Months Bred

Slaughter Cows                 Boner 80-85% Lean
 Head   Wt Range   Avg Wt    Price Range   Avg Price
    2   1305-1340  1323    113.50-115.00     114.24
    1   1325-1325  1325       124.00         124.00   High Dressing
    3   1165-1385  1240     93.00-95.00       94.37   Low Dressing
    3   1430-1660  1543    115.00-117.50     115.99
    1   1560-1560  1560       123.00         123.00   High Dressing
    1   1470-1470  1470       107.00         107.00   Low Dressing
                                Lean 85-90% Lean
    4   1180-1395  1259    104.50-109.00     106.78
    4    945-1320  1099     82.50-100.00      93.64   Low Dressing

Other Cows                  Medium and Large 1 - 2 Middle Aged
 Head   Wt Range   Avg Wt    Price Range   Avg Price
    3    955-1065  1025    107.50-127.50     117.65   Per Head

Slaughter Bulls                Yield Grade 1-2
 Head   Wt Range   Avg Wt    Price Range   Avg Price
    1   1115-1115  1115       108.00         108.00
Baby Calves			Beef
 Head Age Range			Avg Price
  1   Newborne to 4 Weeks        240

South Branch Livestock, Moorefield, WV
Weighted Average Report for Wednesday March 11, 2015

Cattle Receipts:  65 

Slaughter cows made up 60% of the offering,
replacement cows 9%, other cows 24%, and feeders 7%.

The feeder supply included 33% steers, 33% heifers, and 33% bulls.

Feeder Steers                Medium and Large 2
 Head   Wt Range   Avg Wt    Price Range   Avg Price
    1    530-530    530       210.00         210.00

Feeder Heifers                Medium and Large 2
 Head   Wt Range   Avg Wt    Price Range   Avg Price
    1    360-360    360       189.00         189.00

Feeder Bulls                Medium and Large 2
 Head   Wt Range   Avg Wt    Price Range   Avg Price
    1    305-305    305       224.00         224.00   Red

Bred Cows                  Medium and Large 1 - 2 Young
 Head   Wt Range   Avg Wt    Price Range   Avg Price
    2    705-805    755   875.00-1200.00    1048.26   Per Head  4-6 Months Bred
    1   1070-1070  1070   999.00-1465.00    1465.00   Per Head  4-6 Months Bred
    1   1265-1265  1265   999.00-1520.00    1520.00   Per Head  4-6 Months Bred

Slaughter Cows                 Boner 80-85% Lean
 Head   Wt Range   Avg Wt    Price Range   Avg Price
    7   1055-1320  1174     87.00-99.00       96.14
    6   1035-1285  1145    104.00-117.00     112.00   High Dressing
    1   1425-1425  1425       105.00         105.00
                                Lean 85-90% Lean
    1    755-755    755       110.00         110.00   High Dressing
    6    910-1175  1058     94.50-105.00      98.74
    2   1005-1025  1015    111.00-114.00     112.51   High Dressing
    4    845-1185  1040     82.00-94.00       86.89   Low Dressing

Heiferettes                  Medium and Large 1 - 2 Young
 Head   Wt Range   Avg Wt    Price Range   Avg Price
    3    795-880    850    126.00-128.00     127.03   
    8    920-1110  1032    121.00-145.00     129.12  

Cow/Calf Pairs				M&L1		M&L2
 Head	Age Range
    1   Over 8 w/calf under 250lb	1570.00

Baby Calves
 Head	Age Range		Dairy		Beef
    2   Newborn to 4 weeks			270.00

South Branch Livestock, Moorefield, WV
Weighted Average Report for Tuesday March 10, 2015

Cattle Receipts:  945 

Feeders made up 100% of the offering.

The feeder supply included 50% steers, and 50% heifers.

Near 100% of the run weighed over 600 lbs.

Feeder Steers                Medium and Large 1
 Head   Wt Range   Avg Wt    Price Range   Avg Price
   80    625-625    625       252.00         252.00   Load
   64    785-785    785       216.25         216.25   Value Added
   60    835-835    835       201.00         201.00   Load
   60    875-875    875       194.00         194.00   Load
  160    900-930    920    189.00-192.50     190.55   Load
   48   1040-1040  1040       183.75         183.75   Load

Feeder Heifers                Medium and Large 1
 Head   Wt Range   Avg Wt    Price Range   Avg Price
   53    800-800    800       187.00         187.00   Load
   60    825-825    825       189.50         189.50   Value Added
                             Medium and Large 1 - 2
  360    650-650    650       230.00         230.00   Load

Greenbrier Valley Livestock Market, Caldwell, WV
Weighted Average Report for Friday March 06, 2015

Cattle Receipts:  15 

Slaughter cows made up 53% of the offering, other cows 33%, and feeders 13%.

The feeder supply included 50% steers, and 50% bulls.

Feeder Steers                Medium and Large 1
 Head   Wt Range   Avg Wt    Price Range   Avg Price
    1    520-520    520       215.00         215.00

Feeder Bulls                Medium and Large 1
 Head   Wt Range   Avg Wt    Price Range   Avg Price
    1    510-510    510       210.00         210.00

Slaughter Cows                 Boner 80-85% Lean
 Head   Wt Range   Avg Wt    Price Range   Avg Price
    2    995-1190  1093     98.50-102.00     100.41
    2   1450-1510  1480    106.00-109.50     107.79
    1   1655-1655  1655       120.00         120.00   High Dressing
                                Lean 85-90% Lean
    2    955-1200  1078     90.00-94.00       92.23
    1   1060-1060  1060        80.00          80.00   Low Dressing

Other Cows                  Medium and Large 1 - 2 Young
 Head   Wt Range   Avg Wt    Price Range   Avg Price
    2   1115-1115  1115       132.00         132.00   Per Head
                            Medium and Large 1 - 2 Middle Aged
    3    940-1115  1057    132.00-139.00     134.08   Per Head

Cow/Calf Pairs			M&L1
 Head Age Range			Price
  1   Over 8 w/calf under 250   1075

 Head	Wt Range	Price Range
   1     425               50

 Head     WT Range       Price Range
  1        35               35

Weighted Average Report for Saturday March 07, 2015

Cattle Receipts:  34 

Slaughter cows made up 24% of the offering,
replacement cows 3%, other cows 3%, and feeders 71%.

The feeder supply included 25% steers, 29% heifers, and 46% bulls.

Near 38% of the run weighed over 600 lbs.

Feeder Steers                Medium and Large 1 - 2
 Head   Wt Range   Avg Wt    Price Range   Avg Price
    1    485-485    485       197.50         197.50   RED
    1    515-515    515       230.00         230.00
    1    590-590    590       217.00         217.00
    1    625-625    625       200.00         200.00

                             Medium and Large 2
    1    615-615    615       161.00         161.00
    1    705-705    705       149.00         149.00

Feeder Heifers                Medium and Large 1 - 2
 Head   Wt Range   Avg Wt    Price Range   Avg Price
    1    260-260    260       240.00         240.00
    1    340-340    340       205.00         205.00
    1    425-425    425       220.00         220.00
    2    472-472    472       217.00         217.00

                             Medium and Large 2
    1    370-370    370       197.50         197.50   RED

                             Medium and Large 3
    1    550-550    550       162.50         162.50

Feeder Bulls                Medium and Large 1 - 2
 Head   Wt Range   Avg Wt    Price Range   Avg Price
    1    270-270    270       225.00         225.00
    1    390-390    390       197.50         197.50   RED
    2    447-447    447       200.00         200.00
    1    545-545    545       208.00         208.00
    1    680-680    680       160.00         160.00
    1    715-715    715       161.00         161.00
    1    895-895    895       129.00         129.00
    1    875-875    875       131.00         131.00   SMOKE
    1    940-940    940       131.00         131.00
    1   1010-1010  1010       125.00         125.00

Bred Cows                  Medium and Large 1 - 2 Young
 Head   Wt Range   Avg Wt    Price Range   Avg Price
    1   1185-1185  1185      1600.00         1600.00   Per Head  4-6 Months Bred

Slaughter Cows                 Boner 80-85% Lean
 Head   Wt Range   Avg Wt    Price Range   Avg Price
    2   1070-1330  1200    104.00-107.00     105.66
    2   1080-1110  1095    114.00-122.00     118.05   High Dressing

                                Lean 85-90% Lean
    1   1090-1090  1090       110.00         110.00
    1   1075-1075  1075       125.00         125.00   High Dressing
    1    975-975    975        93.00          93.00   Low Dressing
    1   1445-1445  1445        99.00          99.00   Low Dressing

Heiferettes                  Medium and Large 1 - 2 Young
 Head   Wt Range   Avg Wt    Price Range   Avg Price
    1   1000-1000  1000       140.00         140.00   Per Head

Cow Calf Pairs
 Head    none

Baby Calves
    6   New Born Beef   285.00
        New Born Dairy  35.00-285.00

Goats                        Sel 1          Sel2
 Head     Sm Billies    85.00-135.00
   20     Bg Billies       235.00
          Sm Nannies    85.00-100.00
          Big Nannies   100.00-132.50
Slaughter Hogs
    1     400lbs      60.00

Slaughter Ewes
    2     78.00-105.00



The Wicked Husbandmen.

Jesus told a parable about a man who planted a vineyard and let it out to husbandmen.  At the time of harvest, he sent a servant to receive his portion of the fruit.  They beat him, and sent him away empty.  So he sent another servant who received much the same treatment.  He sent a third servant.  The husbandmen wounded him and cast him out.  Finally the lord of the vineyard sent his son, and they cast him out of the vineyard and killed him.  What will the owner of the vineyard do now?  “He shall come and destroy these husbandmen, and shall give the vineyard to others.”   Luke 20:16.

The Application.

The vineyard was the Jewish nation.  God had blessed them and expected the fruit of worship from them.  For centuries He had sent prophets, priest, and kings, but they were rejected.  Finally He sent His Son, but they cast Him out and killed Him.  What is He to do now?  Paul said it this way, “It was necessary that the word of God should first have been spoken to you:  but seeing ye put it from you, and judge yourselves unworthy of everlasting life, lo, we turn to the Gentiles.”   Acts 13:46.

Some Things About God.

There are a number of lessons we can glean from this parable, but in the space that is left we want to notice some things about God.

His Benevolence.

The owner of the vineyard had provided everything needed to make his vineyard a choice one.  For centuries, during the times they were faithful, God provided for Israel’s every need in abundance.  “But my God shall supply all your need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus”   Philippians 4:19.

His Expectation.

Just as the owner of the vineyard expected fruit,  God expects the fruit of respect and worship from His vineyard.  Jesus said, “Every branch in me that beareth not fruit he taketh away.”   John15:2.  The only miracle Jesus did that was destructive in nature was to place a curse on a fig tree.  Why?  Because it was barren.  Matthew 21:19.

His Severity.

As with the owner of the vineyard, God is longsuffering and patient with His people, but His goodness and patience has an end.  “Behold therefore the goodness and severity of God.”   Romans 11:22.  Folks like to think of God as a God of grace, mercy, and love,  and indeed He is,  but many fail to see the other side of His divine nature.  The one talent man was called a wicked and slothful servant.  He lost the talent he had, and was cast into outer darkness where there was weeping and gnashing of teeth.  Matthew 25:25-30

His Judgment.

As with the husbandmen in the parable,  the day of reckoning always comes.  When the Lord comes again,  He will come;  “In flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ.” 1 Thessalonians 1:8.

Steer Creek Church of Christ,  3466 Rosedale Road,  Stumptown WV 25267
Minister: Gene H Miller, 3281 Rosedale Road, Shock WV 26638-8410.
Phone:  304.462.0384     E-Mail:  “”  Web Site:

G-MM™: Meditation Moment   150315


Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come; Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.

For Thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever and ever.


Psalm 65:16-18

As for me, I will call upon God,
And the Lord shall save me.

Evening and morning and at noon
I will pray, and cry aloud,
And He shall hear my voice.

He has redeemed my soul in peace from the battle that was against me,
For there were many against me.

James 3:6-12
The Tongue [1]

6 And the tongue is a fire, the very world of iniquity; the tongue is set among our members as that which defiles the entire body, and sets on fire the course of our life, and is set on fire by hell. 7 For every species of beasts and birds, of reptiles and creatures of the sea, is tamed and has been tamed by the human race.

8 But no one can tame the tongue; it is a restless evil and full of deadly poison. 9 With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in the likeness of God; 10 from the same mouth come both blessing and cursing.

My brethren, these things ought not to be this way. 11 Does a fountain send out from the same opening both fresh and bitter water? 12 Can a fig tree, my brethren, produce olives, or a vine produce figs? Nor can salt water produce fresh.

Notes on the Scripture

Like the bit in a horse’s mouth or the rudder on a ship, the tongue, in spite of its size, can direct the course of a human life. Like an uncontrollable fire started by the toss of a match, the tongue can put into motion a chain of events that goes beyond a speaker’s sway. And like an animal that cannot be tamed, the tongue can do unexpected and often harmful things. “For every species of beasts and birds, of reptiles and creatures of the sea, is tamed, and has been tamed by the human race. But no one can tame the tongue.” (Jas. 3:7-8a).

Think for a moment of the birds, marine life, reptiles, and mammals of every description that have been brought under human dominion. The tamed elephants, lions, dogs, and seals at the circus give impressive and sometimes amusing testimony of our ability to train creatures that were formerly wild. But this is child’s play compared to the formidable task of taming the tongue, because “the mouth speaks out of that which fills the heart” (Matt. 12:34). This is why the Proverbs say, “He who is slow to anger is better than the mighty, and he who rules his spirit, than he who captures a city” (Prov. 16:32).

As if the images in these verses were not enough, James adds another: “it is a restless evil and full of deadly poison” (Jas. 3:8b). Consider the plague of fiery serpents that were sent to punish the children of Israel because of the venom of their murmuring and grumbling in the wilderness (Num. 21; cf. 1 Cor. 10:9-11). Along similar lines, Paul paints this portrait using the vivid palette of the Psalms: “Their throat is an open grave, with their tongues they keep deceiving, the poison of asps is under their lips; whose mouth is full of cursing and bitterness” (Rom. 3:13-14).

And yet the tongue has the power to do great good. James recognizes this enigma in verses 9-12: With it we bless our Lord and Father; and with it we curse men, who have been made in the likeness of God; from the same mouth come both blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not to be this way. Does a fountain send out from the same opening both fresh and bitter water? Can a fig tree, my brethren, produce olives, or a vine produce figs? Neither can salt water produce fresh.

Continued next Sunday . . .

Pauline Whelan Kurtz

The Gilmer Free Press

Pauline Whelan Kurtz

departed this earthly world on Friday, March 13, 2015, with her loving husband of 63 years, David H. Kurtz, by her side.

Born May 30, 1933 in Weston, WV to Paul Joseph and Mabel Nixon Whelan, who preceded her in death, she was also preceded in death by her older sister Mary Catherine Chapman and younger brother Dannie Paul Whelan.

Mother to Constance S. Kurtz of Weston and Laura Kurtz Kuhns of Fairmont, who survive along with son-in-law Donald, she was beloved grandmother to Sarah Virginia (Boyd) Fallon and great-grandmother to Abigail, Emily and Joshua, all of Weston. Also surviving are her nieces and nephew, Melissa Whelan Woody (husband David) of Weston, Susan Chapman Daugherty of Parkersburg, and Randall Chapman (wife Carol), along with several grand-nieces and nephews, and sister-in-law and her husband, Sheila and William Hicks of Jane Lew.

A graduate of Weston High School Class of 1951, Pauline lived briefly in Germany with Dave during his stint in the US Army, and later accompanied him throughout his adventures in stock car racing in the 1950s. Later they became state skeet champions and enjoyed fishing, camping and golfing together. She worked with Dave at his gun shop, Dave’s Sport Shop, throughout the sixties and seventies, and later worked for the local cable company in Weston and Sutton. After closing the sport shop, she and Dave spent time in Marco Island, Florida, where they enjoyed fishing and boating.

In the early 1990s, she and Dave opened a popular local restaurant and bar, Eli’s, which they operated for 10 years. She also worked with him later in his most recent business in Weston, and after retiring in recent years, greatly enjoyed spending time with her great-grandchildren and other family members and Peg, her devoted Boston Terrier (her other Boston, Buster preceded her in death).

A Catholic by faith, Pauline’s life will be celebrated with a graveside memorial on Monday, March 16,2015 at 1:00 PM at Forest Lawn Memorial Gardens of Jane Lew, WV with Reverend J. Stephen Vallelonga as celebrant.

Interment will follow services.

Hardman-Paletti Funeral Home of Weston is honored and privledged to serve the family of Pauline Whelan Kurtz.

Glen David Burkhammer

The Gilmer Free Press

Glen David Burkhammer

Age 65, of Weston, WV passed away on Friday, March 06, 2015 following an extended illness.

He was born in Weston on July 12, 1949: a son of the late Glen Burkhammer, Sr. and Pauleen (Tomey) Burkhasmmer.

Mr. Burkhammer is survived by one brother: Steven Burkhammer and wife Elsie, one sister: Betty Griffith and husband Ron, three sons: Glen Junior Burkhammer and wife Christina and John Henry Burkhammer both of Wooster, OH and Jason David Burkhammer of Mount Vernon, OH and one daughter: Betty Sue Weimer of Weston. He is also survived by several grandchildren, nieces and nephews.

He was thrice married: first to Edna Sue Garrison, who preceded him in death, second, Phyllis (Rupe) Burkhammer, and third: Tammy Montgomery who both survive.

Mr. Burkhammer was a self -employed mechanic and cut right-of-ways for oil and gas companies. He worked as a custodian for the Lewis County Board of Education and worked at the Lewis County Senior Center as a van driver. He also was a custodian and groundskeeper for the Lewis County Park and drove taxi for the city of Grafton.

Mr. Burkhammer was a veteran serving in the United States Navy with the Seals. He loved the outdoors: hunting, camping, fishing, hiking, and nature walks. He loved to dance and riding motorcycles. He was always willing to lend a hand to help those in need. He was a loving father, grandfather, brother and uncle. He was a hard worker and good provider for his family and touched many hearts with his kindness and generosity.

At Mr. Burkhammer’s request, he will be cremated.

At a later date, an interment will be held at the West Virginia National Cemetery of Pruntytown, WV.

Hardman-Paletti Funeral Home of Weston is honored to serve the family of Glen David Burkhammer.

Comics - YAWN

The Gilmer Free Press

Students Achieve in Advanced Placement

The Gilmer Free Press

The number of West Virginia public high school students taking Advanced Placement (AP) courses and earning college credit continues to increase, according to a national report. The College Board’s 2014 AP Cohort Data (formerly known as the AP Report to the Nation) revealed that the class of 2014 took more AP courses and passed more AP exams than previous graduating classes in the state.

Advanced Placement is an international College Board program that allows students to take college-level courses in high school and earn college credit with the successful completion of standardized exams. These tests are scored from one to five, and a three is considered as a passing score by most colleges and universities.

The AP Cohort Data reports that 3,817 members of the class of 2014 (23.2%) took at least one AP exam while in high school. That number has nearly doubled since 2004 when 2,170 graduates (12.5%) took at least one exam.

Out the 2014 test takers, 1,677 (10.2%) earned a three or higher. The percent of students scoring a three or higher on an AP exam has jumped from 7.7% (2009), to 8.6% (2011), to 9.4% (2013).

“We are seeing gains every year which is encouraging news,“ said Michael Martirano, West Virginia Superintendent of Schools. “A key goal of the One Voice, One Focus: All Students Achieving Vision Plan is that every student graduates ready for college or a career. Students participating and succeeding in AP courses will help achieve this goal.“

According to College Board statistics, students who participate in the AP program are more likely to graduate from college in four or fewer years. During the past 10 years the state has implemented a number of policy changes that support student access to and success in AP courses. Even with this effort, large segments of students are not pursuing high-level courses, even though data reveal they have the potential to succeed in these types of classes.

The West Virginia Center for Professional Development (WVCPD) provides the required professional development for AP teachers in the state, and will work closely with Dr. Martirano to implement the vision plan. “WVCPD is a committed partner to the West Virginia Department of Education as we all strive to increase the success of our students in Advanced Placement,“ said Dr. Dixie Billheimer, Chief Executive Office of WVCPD. “We believe that working together, we can move the state forward to a higher level of student achievement in AP and other rigorous courses,“ she said. “We want our students to leave high school prepared to pursue any number of options, and we think that AP is an important part of that preparation,“ Dr. Billheimer said.

According to the Cohort Data, the national percentage of all U.S. public high school graduates scoring a three or higher on at least one AP exam increased from 12.7% for the class of 2004 to 21.6% for the class of 2014.

Archives and History Library to Present “The West Virginia Lobotomy Project” Lecture on March 19

The Gilmer Free Press

Dr. James L. Spencer will present “The West Virginia Lobotomy Project” on Thursday, March 19, 2015 in the Archives and History Library at the Culture Center, State Capitol Complex in Charleston.

The program will begin at 6:00 PM and is free and open to the public.

Spencer will discuss the West Virginia Lobotomy Project (WVLP), which was authorized by the State Board of Control primarily as a means of reducing overcrowding at state mental health facilities while saving the state much needed money during difficult times. It is estimated that 900 West Virginians received transorbital lobotomies between 1948 and 1955.

The procedures were conducted at Lakin, Weston, Spencer and Huntington state hospitals, and most were performed by Walter Freeman, the American neurologist who pioneered the original procedure in the United States in the mid-1930s. Spencer will delve into the human consequences to the individuals who underwent the operation.

A native of western New York, Spencer has a bachelor’s degree in psychology from Canisius College in Buffalo, NY, and master’s and doctorate degrees in comparative psychology from The Ohio State University. He taught at West Virginia State University from 1983 until his retirement in 2013, serving as chair of the psychology department from 1993 to 2002.

Spencer twice won the southeastern region’s Advisor of the Year award and is the author of Recollections and Reflections: A History of the West Virginia State College Psychology Department, 1892-1992, in 1994. This spring, he will make a presentation on Herman Canady, chair of the department from 1928 to 1969 at the Second Annual Conference on International Human Rights.

For additional information, contact the Archives and History Library at 304.558.0230.

West Virginia News     150314

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Lawmakers have approved a push to scale back a law safeguarding against chemical spills from aboveground tanks.

A January 2014 chemical spill that contaminated drinking water for 300,000 residents for days spurred the law.

The House passed the bill 78-21 Friday to deregulate about 36,000 aboveground storage tanks from the new law. Senators already passed a similar version.

Currently, about 48,000 tanks are registered under the law.

Approximately 12,000 tanks within a certain distance of water supplies, or containing hazardous materials, would remain regulated with the bill.

Inspections would be every three years, instead of annually under current law.

Some lawmakers and industry groups have said current law goes too far. Governor Earl Ray Tomblin has spoken in favor of scaling back the regulations.

Environmental groups have opposed reducing protections.


House Speaker Tim Armstead says a campaign finance reform proposal is likely dead in the Legislature.

The Kanawha County Republican tells The Associated Press there are more pressing concerns in the final days of session.

The bill was moved off the calendar Friday.

The campaign finance bill would increase how much candidates can take from donors. Currently, a donor can give $1,000 per primary and $1,000 per general election. The bill would have allowed $2,700 per primary and $2,700 per general election. It also would have allowed candidates more coordination with political party committees.

Senators passed a version that included disclosure of donors to third party groups that currently don’t name their contributors.

A House committee stripped out the disclosure, which many Democrats said was the reason they supported it.


The approval of an interim president for West Liberty University is before a meeting of the Higher Education Policy Commission.

The commission is scheduled to meet Friday in South Charleston to take up that matter among many other items on a long meeting agenda.

The interim leadership is needed because President Robin Capehart resigned this week following an ethics complaint and a vote of no confidence by the faculty senate.

Capehart’s executive assistant, John McCullough, was named interim president while a search is conducted for a permanent successor.

The faculty senate’s March 02 vote of no confidence followed a West Virginia Ethics Commission complaint in January alleging Capehart used university resources to promote his film company’s movie “Doughboy.“

Capehart has denied the allegations.


West Virginians who served their nation and the things they brought home are being honored at the Great Hall of the Culture Center in Charleston.

“West Virginians Answering the Call” will run through July 11th.

Charles W. Morris is director of museums for the state Division of Culture and History. He tells the Charleston Daily Mail the exhibit has attracted school groups and out-of-state visitors.

All branches of the military are covered and every war documented.

The exhibit includes the expected — uniforms, guns, helmets, hats, shells, swords and medals. But visitors will also see personal items. They include a cigarette case and a Bible with notes in it written by a soldier.


The West Virginia Department of Agriculture is accepting proposals for specialty block grants.

Specialty crops include fruits, vegetables, tree nuts, maple syrup and Christmas trees, among others. Excluded are livestock, eggs and field crops such as soybeans and corn.

To be considered for funding, projects must focus on industry-related research, education, improved production or marketing of specialty crops. The program is available to groups and organizations and cannot be used to fund individual farms or enterprises.

The department said it expects to receive about $200,000 in 2015.

The grant application deadline is April 10.


Democratic Governor Earl Ray Tomblin has signed a bill scaling back the state’s prevailing wage for public construction projects.

Thursday’s action ends months of pushback by construction workers over possible repeal or adjustment to the wage. The Legislature passed the bill largely along party lines, with Republicans in favor and Democrats opposing.

It will remove the wage’s calculation from the state Division of Labor. Workforce West Virginia and West Virginia University and Marshall University economists will calculate it.

Lawmakers can approve the methodology. There won’t be a prevailing wage if it’s not calculated by July, or September 30, if the deadline is extended.

Projects less than $500,000 wouldn’t be subject to the wage.

Tomblin called the bill a compromise and a “common sense approach to continued investments in our infrastructure.“


West Virginia would join a handful of states not requiring concealed-handgun permits under a bill that appears headed for Governor Earl Ray Tomblin’s desk.

The Republican-run House of Delegates voted 71-29 Thursday to drop concealed-carry permit requirements, with some crossover from both parties. Alaska, Arkansas, Arizona, Vermont and Wyoming have similar laws.

Senators approved a slightly different version of the bill late last month.

Open carry, such as in a holster on a hip, is legal without a permit in West Virginia. Thirty-one states have some variety of open-carry rules.

Covering up handguns out of plain sight — such as with a coat — requires a permit now.

The House version requires people who carry concealed handguns to be 21 years old, with exceptions for people older than 18 who serve in the military.

Proponents said the bill is about 2nd Amendment rights.

“It preserves fundamental rights, and yet it enhances the ability for people to protect themselves,“ said Delegate Tom Fast, R-Fayette.

Law enforcement groups, including the West Virginia Sheriffs’ Association, oppose the bill, saying it could let more dangerous people carry concealed weapons, since no training would be required. They also are concerned about potentially losing permit money that helps local law enforcement.

“If we mess up on this one, it could cause someone to lose a life, or be injured permanently,“ said Delegate Linda Phillips, D-Wyoming.

It’s the main pro-gun push under newly minted Republican majorities in the 60-day legislative session, which ends Saturday. West Virginia Democrats were historically gun-friendly, too, in the eight-plus decades they ran the state Legislature.

Delegate Rupert Phillips, D-Logan, said he would like to try to require every household in the state to have a gun. Phillips noted that such a law has been in effect, but only at the municipal level, in Kennesaw, Georgia, since 1982. It has not been enforced, however.

“Next year, that’d be my bill,“ Phillips said.

Tomblin, a Democrat, signed a bill last year to allow handguns at city swimming pools, tennis courts, after-school centers and similar municipal venues. Guns would have to be stored out of sight and be inaccessible to others.

The city of Charleston filed a lawsuit for more clarity on whether the law contradicts prohibitions on bringing guns to venues that host school functions.

Tomblin hasn’t taken a stance on the concealed-carry permit bill yet.

U.S. Senator Joe Manchin, also a pro-gun Democrat, came out in opposition Thursday to the measure.

“There is not one West Virginian whose Second Amendment rights will be infringed without this bill,“ Manchin said in a statement. “With the right to bear arms comes the responsibility to use it in a safe and reasonable manner.“

U.S.A. News   150314

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New research suggests there are hot springs bubbling beneath the icy surface of a tiny Saturn moon.

If confirmed, it would make the moon Enceladus the only other known body in the solar system besides Earth where hot water and rocks interact underground.

That activity would make the moon an even more attractive place in the hunt for microbial life. On Earth, scientists have found weird life forms living in hydrothermal vents on the ocean bottom where there’s no sunlight.

The research comes from Cassini, a NASA-European spacecraft that launched in 1997 to explore Saturn and its numerous moons from orbit. It previously uncovered a vast ocean beneath Enceladus and a giant plume of gas and ice streaming from cracks in the south polar region.

In the latest study, a group led by Cassini team member Sean Hsu of the University of Colorado in Boulder used spacecraft observations and computer modeling to show that the plume is connected to what’s happening on the lunar sea floor.

Judging by their size and makeup, the team believes particles in the plume are the result of hot water coming into contact with rocks on the ocean floor. The resulting mineral-rich water then shoots up through the icy crust and erupts into space in a plume of gas and ice. Some particles settle around Saturn, replenishing its biggest ring.

The new work also suggests that the ocean is deeper than previous estimates — more than 30 miles deep below the icy crust. It did not provide details on how big the ocean might be, but the Cassini team last year said it could be as big as or even bigger than North America’s Lake Superior.

Cassini should get a better glimpse of the plume later this year when it flies through it, passing within 30 miles above Enceladus’ surface.

The findings were published online Wednesday in the journal Nature.

In an accompanying editorial, Gabriel Tobie of France’s University of Nantes said the environment beneath Enceladus appears similar to the underwater system of hot springs and towering spires nicknamed “Lost City” in the mid-Atlantic.

It would take future missions such as a lander on the surface of Enceladus to “fully reveal the secrets of its hot springs,” he wrote.


U.S. Senator Joe Manchin cosponsored commonsense legislation that moves America toward a national energy efficiency strategy. Senator Manchin remains a strong supporter of this updated version of the Energy Savings and Industrial Competitiveness Act (ESIC), which was originally introduced by Senators Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) and Rob Portman (R-OH). The legislation saves consumers money, creates jobs and reduces pollution. It has received widespread support from Democrats and Republicans as well as industry leaders, energy-efficiency advocates and environmental stakeholders.

“It is past time our nation develops a reasonable and realistic clean energy policy that utilizes all our domestic resources to produce affordable and reliable power,” Senator Manchin said. “I am proud to cosponsor this bipartisan legislation that would create nearly 200,000 jobs and keep hard-earned dollars in consumers’ pockets, while also reducing carbon emissions. The bill strikes that important balance between promoting economic growth and addressing environmental concerns, and is a huge step toward generating American energy cleaner and more efficiently through commercially-available technologies. I hope members of Congress from both sides of the aisle swiftly vote this commonsense bill into law.”

The legislation uses a variety of low-cost tools to help energy users become more efficient while making the country’s largest energy user – the federal government – reduce its energy use through the use of energy-efficient technology. The deficit neutral bill incentivizes the use of efficiency technologies that are commercially available today, can be widely deployed across the country, and quickly pay for themselves through energy savings. The reintroduced bill incorporates an additional ten bipartisan amendments that will help the United States transition to a more energy-efficient economy while driving economic growth and private sector job creation.

A study by the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE) estimates that this bill will create more than 190,000 jobs, save consumers $16.2 billion a year, and cut CO2 emissions and other air pollutants by the equivalent of taking 22 million cars off the road – all by 2030.

In addition to Senators Manchin, Shaheen and Portman, the legislation is cosponsored by Senators Kelly Ayotte (R-NH), Michael Bennet (D-CO), Maria Cantwell (D-WA), Susan Collins (R-Maine), Chris Coons (D-DE), Al Franken (D-MN), John Hoeven (R-ND), Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), Mark Warner (D-VA), and Roger Wicker (R-MS). 


In contemporary life, we respect failure only if we can interpret it as a stepping-stone to accomplishment. But this makes us miss failure’s special beauty.

If ever you doubt that nature loves futility and failure, go to the sea. Walking in the surf last month in South Africa, I saw a plethora of little blue snails burrowing into the sand. The precision and the effort they put into it was amazing: first the pinprick of a hole in the beach, then a wriggle until only the round ends of their shells peeked out. They looked snug, at home. And then, of course, the wave: it demolished all their effort, sending them tumbling back and leaving them squirming, slimy foot upturned, in the receding surf. Repeat. Every effort they made was repulsed, and still they turned themselves over and persisted in rooting into the sand.

I wondered if their efforts had some hidden purpose. I asked a pair of marine biologists: Hunger, they suggested, or the drive for shelter. But whatever their goal, the fact remained that they were overturned over and over, and tried again and again, in a perfect cycle of failure and desire. It was a reminder that Nature doesn’t operate according to the four-hour workweek, the laws of maximum efficiency and effectiveness, whereby every misstep and wrong choice is a source of shame. On the contrary: mistakes combat stasis; missteps yield evolution; a thousand seeds drift in the wind that never take root, and those that take root crumple again in the hurricane.

In contemporary life, we respect failure only if we can interpret it as a stepping-stone to accomplishment. This is the premise of a raft of recent books, from “Failing Forward” to “The Upside of Down: Why Failing Well Is the Key to Success”. A week ago, a group of young writers asked me what my favorite writing achievement was; I proudly told the story of an essay that was at first rejected by a favorite magazine and then, after much work and rewriting, accepted at another. The tale, presented as a celebration of the necessity of making mistakes, was in fact a sly way of revealing not my fallibility but my tenacity. My reaction to initial failure, I was claiming, is what makes me not fail in the long run.

The real truth, though, is that most of our mistakes cannot really be said to have such obvious redemptive power. Most of the time, we simply lose time. We retrace our steps. We let friends fall away; we hurt our families. We do idiotic things in our work. We make mistakes from which we learn and, more often, mistakes from which we fail to learn. Aware of our errors, but frequently unable to do better, we hang our heads.

The writer Kathryn Schulz has suggested that acknowledging the distinctive essence of failure rather than straining to invest it with positive utility actually allows us to experience a greater range of emotions and see more texture and color in the world. Just as understanding the night as merely a period that gives birth to day would cause us to miss so much of its particular charm, so seeing failure only as an element of success causes us to dismiss at least half of the human experience. Failure, she says, can feed imagination, as we construct ideas of what might have happened if we hadn’t made mistakes. It gives rise to black humor. It can make us less arrogant, more empathetic.

I think failure has a special beauty to it. Like a piece of furniture that falls apart, a mistake reveals more of its construction — of the efforts and motivations of the mistake-maker — than a success does. Paradoxically, it can thus provide a source of inspiration to others. How moving was the viral video of the Kenyan marathoner who lost a race because she ran too hard at the beginning but so yearned to cross the finish line she nearly died trying? Or the early aviators who crashed for the sake of a dream?

In my walk on the South African shore, further up on the sand and out of the surf, I found the paw-prints of a tiny dog. Deep holes at the front of the prints showed it had its claws out, trying to gain a purchase on the friable earth. Clearly, it was failing. Slid-marks revealed where it stumbled, and a few body prints where it fell. And I smiled: the thought of the struggling dog was at once sad and lovely. I imagined it so eager to run it just persisted in trying, despite the evidence it wasn’t possible, like the snails persisted burrowing in the sand. And its sheer desire, uncoupled from any outcome or achievement, was something wonderful.

At the sea, in nature, we recognize the beauty in effort alone, in movement alone. We don’t hold a scorecard. Let’s give our own lives the same grace.

World News   150314

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The World Health Organization marked a grim milestone Thursday in the biggest-ever Ebola outbreak, estimating that the virus had killed over 10,000 people, mostly in the West African nations of Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone.

Fifteen other Ebola deaths also occurred in Mali, Nigeria and the United States.

When Ebola was first detected in March 2014 in Guinea’s forest, officials assumed the deadly virus could quickly be stamped out, just as it had in more than two dozen previous outbreaks, mostly in central and eastern Africa. But health officials now acknowledge they were too slow to respond to this emergency, allowing Ebola to cross porous borders in a region where broken health systems were unable to stop its spread.

A huge global response — including soldiers sent by Britain, the U.S. and other nations — has slowed the deaths from Ebola dramatically, especially Liberia, but the virus appears stubbornly entrenched in parts of Guinea and Sierra Leone.

A look at the Ebola outbreak:



WHO declared Ebola an international health emergency in August — but critics have slammed the agency for waiting until there were nearly 1,000 deaths to do so. WHO recently announced it was forming an independent expert panel to assess its response. Ebola cases also emerged elsewhere in Africa, including Nigeria, Senegal and Mali, and small outbreaks were later identified in the U.S. and Spain.



Liberia, once the hardest-hit country in the Ebola outbreak, released its last Ebola patient on March 5. It has now begun a 42-day countdown and if no new cases are found in that period, it will be declared Ebola-free according to WHO standards. To mark the epidemic’s downturn, Liberian President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf re-opened the country’s borders with neighboring countries. Ambulances in Liberia have also been dispatched to help stop Ebola in Sierra Leone and the government recently bought a 25-acre plot of land outside the capital to bury Ebola victims



Both Guinea and Sierra Leone are still reporting dozens of new cases every week and the number of Ebola deaths taking place outside of hospitals remains high, suggesting that people are wary of seeking help or are hiding cases. In both countries there are still regular attacks against Western aid workers and officials are unable to track where the Ebola virus is spreading.



Dr. Bruce Aylward, who is leading WHO’s Ebola response, said scientists have sometimes been tracking the wrong people when looking for potential Ebola cases.

“It’s like one of those bank robber movies where the car comes out and everyone follows the wrong car,” he said.

He noted that West Africa’s upcoming rainy season — beginning in April — may make it difficult to get into remote areas. He said last year’s rainy season was when Ebola began to explode, but experts are still not sure why.

“We don’t know if the rainy season in some way affected behavior in the way people moved or how the virus spread,” Aylward said. “But I don’t want to do that natural experiment.”



The outbreak has had one silver lining — it has sped up the development of Ebola vaccines and treatments, something researchers have been working on for years.

WHO and its partners have already started testing two experimental shots, including a recently launched large-scale study to see if a vaccine can help protect people already exposed to the lethal virus but who haven’t yet developed the disease. Even though the vaccine may come too late to make a difference to this Ebola outbreak, it could prove invaluable later.

“If we (have) a vaccine stockpile for the future, we might be able to prevent (future outbreaks) from turning into what has happened in West Africa,” said Sebastian Funk, an infectious diseases expert at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine.

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The CIA Campaign to Steal Apple’s Secrets

RESEARCHERS WORKING with the Central Intelligence Agency have conducted a multi-year, sustained effort to break the security of Apple’s iPhones and iPads, according to top-secret documents obtained by The Intercept.

The security researchers presented their latest tactics and achievements at a secret annual gathering, called the “Jamboree,” where attendees discussed strategies for exploiting security flaws in household and commercial electronics. The conferences have spanned nearly a decade, with the first CIA-sponsored meeting taking place a year before the first iPhone was released.

By targeting essential security keys used to encrypt data stored on Apple’s devices, the researchers have sought to thwart the company’s attempts to provide mobile security to hundreds of millions of Apple customers across the globe. Studying both “physical” and “non-invasive” techniques, U.S. government-sponsored research has been aimed at discovering ways to decrypt and ultimately penetrate Apple’s encrypted firmware. This could enable spies to plant malicious code on Apple devices and seek out potential vulnerabilities in other parts of the iPhone and iPad currently masked by encryption.

The CIA declined to comment for this story.

The security researchers also claimed they had created a modified version of Apple’s proprietary software development tool, Xcode, which could sneak surveillance backdoors into any apps or programs created using the tool. Xcode, which is distributed by Apple to hundreds of thousands of developers, is used to create apps that are sold through Apple’s App Store.

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The modified version of Xcode, the researchers claimed, could enable spies to steal passwords and grab messages on infected devices. Researchers also claimed the modified Xcode could “force all iOS applications to send embedded data to a listening post.” It remains unclear how intelligence agencies would get developers to use the poisoned version of Xcode.

Researchers also claimed they had successfully modified the OS X updater, a program used to deliver updates to laptop and desktop computers, to install a “keylogger.”

Other presentations at the CIA conference have focused on the products of Apple’s competitors, including Microsoft’s BitLocker encryption system, which is used widely on laptop and desktop computers running premium editions of Windows.

The revelations that the CIA has waged a secret campaign to defeat the security mechanisms built into Apple’s devices come as Apple and other tech giants are loudly resisting pressure from senior U.S. and U.K. government officials to weaken the security of their products. Law enforcement agencies want the companies to maintain the government’s ability to bypass security tools built into wireless devices. Perhaps more than any other corporate leader, Apple’s CEO, Tim Cook, has taken a stand for privacy as a core value, while sharply criticizing the actions of U.S. law enforcement and intelligence agencies.

“If U.S. products are OK to target, that’s news to me,” says Matthew Green, a cryptography expert at Johns Hopkins University’s Information Security Institute. “Tearing apart the products of U.S. manufacturers and potentially putting backdoors in software distributed by unknowing developers all seems to be going a bit beyond ‘targeting bad guys.’ It may be a means to an end, but it’s a hell of a means.”

Apple declined to comment for this story, instead pointing to previous comments Cook and the company have made defending Apple’s privacy record.

SECURITY RESEARCHERS from Sandia National Laboratories presented their Apple-focused research at a secret annual CIA conference called the Trusted Computing Base Jamboree. The Apple research and the existence of the conference are detailed in documents provided to The Intercept by National Security Agency whistleblower Edward Snowden.

The conference was sponsored by the CIA’s Information Operations Center, which conducts covert cyberattacks. The aim of the gathering, according to a 2012 internal NSA wiki, was to host “presentations that provide important information to developers trying to circumvent or exploit new security capabilities,” as well as to “exploit new avenues of attack.” NSA personnel also participated in the conference, through the NSA’s counterpart to the CIA’s Trusted Computing Base, according to the document. The NSA did not provide comment for this story.

The Jamboree was held at a Lockheed Martin facility inside an executive office park in northern Virginia. Lockheed is one of the largest defense contractors in the world; its tentacles stretch into every aspect of U.S. national security and intelligence. The company is akin to a privatized wing of the U.S. national security state — more than 80 percent of its total revenue comes from the U.S. government. Lockheed also owns Sandia Labs, which is funded by the U.S. government, whose researchers have presented Apple findings at the CIA conference.

“Lockheed Martin’s role in these activities should not be surprising given its leading role in the national surveillance state,” says William Hartung, director of the Arms and Security Project at the Center for International Policy and author of Prophets of War, a book that chronicles Lockheed’s history. “It is the largest private intelligence contractor in the world, and it has worked on past surveillance programs for the Pentagon, the CIA and the NSA. If you’re looking for a candidate for Big Brother, Lockheed Martin fits the bill.”

The Apple research is consistent with a much broader secret U.S. government program to analyze “secure communications products, both foreign and domestic” in order to “develop exploitation capabilities against the authentication and encryption schemes,” according to the 2013 Congressional Budget Justification. Known widely as the “Black Budget,” the top-secret CBJ was provided to The Intercept by Snowden and gives a sprawling overview of the U.S. intelligence community’s spending and architecture. The White House did not respond to a request for comment.

As of 2013, according to the classified budget, U.S. intelligence agencies were creating new capabilities against dozens of commercially produced security products, including those made by American companies, to seek out vulnerabilities.

Last week, CIA Director John Brennan announced a major reorganization at the agency aimed, in large part, at expanding U.S. cyber-operations. The Information Operations Center, which organized the Jamboree conferences, will be folded into a new Directorate of Digital Innovation. Notwithstanding its innocuous name, a major priority of the directorate will be offensive cyberattacks, sabotage and digital espionage. Brennan said the CIA reorganization will be modeled after the agency’s Counterterrorism Center, which runs the U.S. targeted killing and drone program.

THE DOCUMENTS do not address how successful the targeting of Apple’s encryption mechanisms have been, nor do they provide any detail about the specific use of such exploits by U.S. intelligence. But they do shed light on an ongoing campaign aimed at defeating the tech giant’s efforts to secure its products, and in turn, its customers’ private data.

“Spies gonna spy,” says Steven Bellovin, a former chief technologist for the U.S. Federal Trade Commission and current professor at Columbia University. “I’m never surprised by what intelligence agencies do to get information. They’re going to go where the info is, and as it moves, they’ll adjust their tactics. Their attitude is basically amoral: whatever works is OK.”

Bellovin says he generally supports efforts by U.S. intelligence to “hack” devices — including Apple’s — used by terrorists and criminals, but expressed concern that such capabilities could be abused. “There are bad people out there, and it’s reasonable to seek information on them,” he says, cautioning that “inappropriate use — mass surveillance, targeting Americans without a warrant, probably spying on allies — is another matter entirely.”

In the top-secret documents, ranging from 2010 through 2012, the researchers appear particularly intent on extracting encryption keys that prevent unauthorized access to data stored — and firmware run — on Apple products.

“The Intelligence Community (IC) is highly dependent on a very small number of security flaws, many of which are public, which Apple eventually patches,” the researchers noted in an abstract of their 2011 presentation at the Jamboree. But, they promised, their presentation could provide the intelligence community with a “method to noninvasively extract” encryption keys used on Apple devices. Another presentation focused on physically extracting the key from Apple’s hardware.

A year later, at the 2012 Jamboree, researchers described their attacks on the software used by developers to create applications for Apple’s popular App Store. In a talk called “Strawhorse: Attacking the MacOS and iOS Software Development Kit,” a presenter from Sandia Labs described a successful “whacking” of Apple’s Xcode — the software used to create apps for iPhones, iPads and Mac computers. Developers who create Apple-approved and distributed apps overwhelmingly use Xcode, a free piece of software easily downloaded from the App Store.

The researchers boasted that they had discovered a way to manipulate Xcode so that it could serve as a conduit for infecting and extracting private data from devices on which users had installed apps that were built with the poisoned Xcode. In other words, by manipulating Xcode, the spies could compromise the devices and private data of anyone with apps made by a poisoned developer — potentially millions of people. “Trying to plant stuff in Xcode has fascinating implications,” says Bellovin.

The researchers listed a variety of actions their “whacked” Xcode could perform, including:

— “Entice” all Mac applications to create a “remote backdoor” allowing undetected access to an Apple computer.

— Secretly embed an app developer’s private key into all iOS applications. (This could potentially allow spies to impersonate the targeted developer.)

— “Force all iOS applications” to send data from an iPhone or iPad back to a U.S. intelligence “listening post.”

— Disable core security features on Apple devices.

  The Intelligence Community is highly dependent on a very small number of security flaws, many of which are public, which Apple eventually patches.

For years, U.S. and British intelligence agencies have consistently sought to defeat the layers of encryption and other security features used by Apple to protect the iPhone. A joint task force comprised of operatives from the NSA and Britain’s Government Communications Headquarters, formed in 2010, developed surveillance software targeting iPhones, Android devices and Nokia’s Symbian phones. The Mobile Handset Exploitation Team successfully implanted malware on iPhones as part of WARRIOR PRIDE, a GCHQ framework for secretly accessing private communications on mobile devices.

That program was disclosed in Snowden documents reported on last year by The Guardian. A WARRIOR PRIDE plugin called NOSEY SMURF allowed spies to remotely and secretly activate a phone’s microphone. Another plugin, DREAMY SMURF, allowed intelligence agents to manage the power system on a phone and thus avoid detection. PARANOID SMURF was designed to conceal the malware in other ways. TRACKER SMURF allowed ultra-precise geolocating of an individual phone. “[If] its [sic] on the phone, we can get it,” the spies boasted in a secret GCHQ document describing the targeting of the iPhone.

All of the SMURF malware — including the plugin that secretly turns on the iPhone’s microphone — would first require that agencies bypass the security controls built into the iOS operating system. Spies would either need to hack the phone in order to plant their malware on it, or sneak a backdoor into an app the user installed voluntarily. That was one of the clear aims of the Apple-focused research presented at the CIA’s conference.

“The U.S. government is prioritizing its own offensive surveillance needs over the cybersecurity of the millions of Americans who use Apple products,” says Christopher Soghoian, the principal technologist at the American Civil Liberties Union. “If U.S. government-funded researchers can discover these flaws, it is quite likely that Chinese, Russian and Israeli researchers can discover them, too. By quietly exploiting these flaws rather than notifying Apple, the U.S. government leaves Apple’s customers vulnerable to other sophisticated governments.”

Security experts interviewed by The Intercept point out that the SMURF capabilities were already available to U.S. and British intelligence agencies five years ago. That raises the question of how advanced the current capacity to surveil smartphone users is, especially in light of the extensive resources poured into targeting the products of major tech companies. One GCHQ slide from 2010 stated that the agency’s ultimate goal was to be able to “Exploit any phone, anywhere, any time.”

THE FIRST JAMBOREE took place in 2006, just as Apple was preparing to unveil its highly-anticipated iPhone. In March 2010, according to a top-secret document, during a talk called “Rocoto: Implanting the iPhone,” a presenter discussed efforts to target the iPhone 3G. In addition to analyzing the device’s software for potential vulnerabilities, the presentation examined “jailbreak methods,” used within the iPhone community to free phones from their built-in constraints, that could be leveraged by intelligence agencies. “We will conclude with a look ahead at future challenges presented by the iPhone 3GS and the upcoming iPad,” the abstract noted. Over the years, as Apple updates its hardware, software and encryption methods, the CIA and its researchers study ways to break and exploit them.

The attempts to target vulnerabilities in Apple’s products have not occurred in a vacuum. Rather, they are part of a vast multi-agency U.S./U.K. effort to attack commercial encryption and security systems used on billions of devices around the world. U.S. intelligence agencies are not just focusing on individual terrorists or criminals — they are targeting the large corporations, such as Apple, that produce popular mobile devices.

“Every other manufacturer looks to Apple. If the CIA can undermine Apple’s systems, it’s likely they’ll be able to deploy the same capabilities against everyone else,” says Green, the Johns Hopkins cryptographer. “Apple led the way with secure coprocessors in phones, with fingerprint sensors, with encrypted messages. If you can attack Apple, then you can probably attack anyone.”

According to the Black Budget, U.S. intelligence agencies have tech companies dead in their sights with the aim of breaking or circumventing any existing or emerging encryption or antiviral products, noting the threat posed by “increasingly strong commercial” encryption and “adversarial cryptography.”

The Analysis of Target Systems Project produced “prototype capabilities” for the intelligence community, enabled “the defeat of strong commercial data security systems” and developed ways “to exploit emerging information systems and technologies,” according to the classified budget. The project received $35 million in funding in 2012 and had more than 200 personnel assigned to it. By the end of 2013, according to the budget, the project would “develop new capabilities against 50 commercial information security device products to exploit emerging technologies,” as well as new methods that would allow spies to recover user and device passwords on new products.

Among the project’s missions:

— Analyze “secure communications products, both foreign and domestic produced” to “develop exploitation capabilities against the authentication and encryption schemes.”

— “[D]evelop exploitation capabilities against network communications protocols and commercial network security products.”

— “Anticipate future encryption technologies” and “prepare strategies to exploit those technologies.”

— “Develop, enhance, and implement software attacks against encrypted signals.”

— “Develop exploitation capabilities against specific key management and authentication schemes.”

— “[D]evelop exploitation capabilities against emerging multimedia applications.”

— Provide tools for “exploiting” devices used to “store, manage, protect, or communicate data.”

— “Develop methods to discover and exploit communication systems employing public key cryptography” and “communications protected by passwords or pass phrases.”

— Exploit public key cryptography.

— Exploit Virtual Private Networks, or VPNs, which allow people to browse the Internet with increased security and anonymity.

The black budget also noted that the U.S. intelligence community partners with “National Laboratories” to conduct the type of research presented at the CIA’s annual Jamboree conference. It confirms the U.S. government’s aggressive efforts to steal encryption and authentication keys, as occurred in the NSA and GCHQ operations against Gemalto, the world’s largest manufacturer of SIM cards, through the use of Computer Network Exploitation attacks. In that case, spy agencies penetrated Gemalto’s internal networks and cyberstalked its employees to steal mass quantities of keys used to encrypt mobile phone communications.

The CIA’s Information Operations Center is currently the second largest of the spy agency’s specialized centers. It not only conducts cyber-ops, but has operated covertly in other nations, working to develop assets from targeted countries to assist in its cyber-surveillance programs, according to the Black Budget. At times, its personnel brief the president.

AT THE CIA’s Jamboree in 2011, the computer researchers conducted workshops where they revealed the specifics of their efforts to attack one of the key privacy elements of Apple’s mobile devices. These machines have two separate keys integrated into the silicon of their Apple-designed processors at the point of manufacture. The two, paired together, are used to encrypt data and software stored on iPhones and iPads. One, the User ID, is unique to an individual’s phone, and is not retained by Apple. That key is vital to protecting an individual’s data and — particularly on Apple’s latest devices — difficult to steal. A second key, the Group ID, is known to Apple and is the same across multiple Apple devices that use the same processor. The GID is used to encrypt essential system software that runs on Apple’s mobile devices.

The focus of the security researchers, as described at the CIA conferences, was to target the GID key, which Apple implants on all devices that use the same processors. For instance, Apple’s A4 processor was used in the iPhone 4, the iPod Touch and the original iPad. All of those devices used the same GID. As Apple designs new processors and faster devices that use those processors, the company creates new GIDs. If someone has the same iPhone as her neighbor, they have the exact same GID key on their devices. So, if intelligence agencies extract the GID key, it means they have information useful to compromising any device containing that key.

At the 2011 Jamboree conference, there were two separate presentations on hacking the GID key on Apple’s processors. One was focused on non-invasively obtaining it by studying the electromagnetic emissions of — and the amount of power used by — the iPhone’s processor while encryption is being performed. Careful analysis of that information could be used to extract the encryption key. Such a tactic is known as a “side channel” attack. The second focused on a “method to physically extract the GID key.”

Whatever method the CIA and its partners use, by extracting the GID — which is implanted on the processors of all Apple mobile devices — the CIA and its allies could be able to decrypt the firmware that runs on the iPhone and other mobile devices. This would allow them to seek out other security vulnerabilities to exploit. Taken together, the documents make clear that researching each new Apple processor and mobile device, and studying them for potential security flaws, is a priority for the CIA.

According to the 2011 document describing the Jamboree presentations on Apple’s processor, the researchers asserted that extracting the GID key could also allow them to look for other potential gateways into Apple devices. “If successful, it would enable decryption and analysis of the boot firmware for vulnerabilities, and development of associated exploits across the entire A4-based product-line, which includes the iPhone 4, the iPod touch and the iPad.”

At the CIA conference in 2012, Sandia researchers delivered a presentation on Apple’s A5 processor. The A5 is used in the iPhone 4s and iPad 2. But this time, it contained no abstract or other details, instructing those interested to contact a CIA official on his secure phone or email.

“If I were Tim Cook, I’d be furious,” says the ACLU’s Soghoian. “If Apple is mad at the intelligence community, and they should be, they should put their lawyers to work. Lawsuits speak louder than words.”

FOR YEARS, Apple has included encryption features in the products it sells to consumers. In 2014, the company dramatically broadened the types of data stored on iPhones that are encrypted, and it incorporated encryption by default into its desktop and laptop operating system. This resulted in criticism from leading law enforcement officials, including the FBI director. The encryption technology that Apple has built into its products — along with many other security features — is a virtual wall that separates cybercriminals and foreign governments from customer data. But now, because Apple claims it can no longer extract customer data stored on iPhones, because it is encrypted with a key the company does not know, the U.S. government can be locked out too — even with a search warrant. The FBI director and other U.S. officials have referred to the advent of the encryption era — where previously accessible data and communications may now be off limits because of the security technology protecting them — as “going dark.”

In the face of this rising challenge to its surveillance capabilities, U.S. intelligence has spent considerable time and resources trying to find security vulnerabilities in Apple’s encryption technology, and, more broadly, in its products, which can be leveraged to install surveillance software on iPhones and Macbooks. “The exploitation of security flaws is a high-priority area for the U.S. intelligence community, and such methods have only become more important as U.S. technology companies have built strong encryption into their products,” says the ACLU’s Soghoian.

Microsoft has, for nearly a decade, included BitLocker, an encryption technology that protects data stored on a computer, in its Windows operating system. Unlike Apple, which made encryption available to all customers, Microsoft had included this feature only in its more expensive premium and professional versions of Windows, up until a few years ago. BitLocker is designed to work with a Trusted Platform Module, a special security chip included in some computers, which stores the encryption keys and also protects against unauthorized software modification.

Also presented at the Jamboree were successes in the targeting of Microsoft’s disk encryption technology, and the TPM chips that are used to store its encryption keys. Researchers at the CIA conference in 2010 boasted about the ability to extract the encryption keys used by BitLocker and thus decrypt private data stored on the computer. Because the TPM chip is used to protect the system from untrusted software, attacking it could allow the covert installation of malware onto the computer, which could be used to access otherwise encrypted communications and files of consumers. Microsoft declined to comment for this story.

In the wake of the initial Snowden disclosures, Apple CEO Tim Cook has specifically denounced the U.S. government’s efforts to compel companies to provide backdoor access to their users’ data.

“I want to be absolutely clear that we have never worked with any government agency from any country to create a backdoor in any of our products or services. We have also never allowed access to our servers. And we never will,” Cook said last September in announcing Apple’s new privacy policy. More recently, Cook said, “None of us should accept that the government or a company or anybody should have access to all of our private information. This is a basic human right. We all have a right to privacy. We shouldn’t give it up. We shouldn’t give in to scare-mongering.”

As corporations increasingly integrate default encryption methods and companies like Apple incorporate their own indigenous encryption technologies into easy-to-use text, voice and video communication platforms, the U.S. and British governments are panicking. “Encryption threatens to lead all of us to a very dark place,” declared FBI Director James Comey in an October 2014 lecture at the Brookings Institution. Citing the recent moves by Apple to strengthen default encryption on its operating systems, and commitments by Google to incorporate such tools, Comey said, “This means the companies themselves won’t be able to unlock phones, laptops, and tablets to reveal photos, documents, e-mail, and recordings stored within.”

Under current U.S. regulations, law enforcement agencies can get a court order to access communications channeled through major tech companies and wireless providers. But if those communications are encrypted through a process not accessible by any involved company, the data is essentially meaningless, garbled gibberish. “In a world in which data is encrypted, and the providers don’t have the keys, suddenly, there is no one to go to when they have a warrant,” says Soghoian. “That is, even if they get a court order, it doesn’t help them. That is what is freaking them out.”

Comey alleged that “even a supercomputer would have difficulty with today’s high-level encryption,” meaning a “brute force” attempt to decrypt intercepted communications would be ineffective, and, even if successful, time-consuming.

“Encryption isn’t just a technical feature; it’s a marketing pitch,” Comey added. “But it will have very serious consequences for law enforcement and national security agencies at all levels. Sophisticated criminals will come to count on these means of evading detection. It’s the equivalent of a closet that can’t be opened. A safe that can’t be cracked.”

A few months after Comey’s remarks, Robert Litt, the general counsel for the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, also appeared at Brookings. “One of the many ways in which Snowden’s leaks have damaged our national security is by driving a wedge between the government and providers and technology companies, so that some companies that formerly recognized that protecting our nation was a valuable and important public service now feel compelled to stand in opposition,” Litt said. He appealed to corporations to embrace “a solution that does not compromise the integrity of encryption technology but that enables both encryption to protect privacy and decryption under lawful authority to protect national security.”

Green, the Johns Hopkins professor, argues that U.S. government attacks against the products of American companies will not just threaten privacy, but will ultimately harm the U.S. economy. “U.S. tech companies have already suffered overseas due to foreign concerns about our products’ security,” he says. “The last thing any of us need is for the U.S. government to actively undermine our own technology industry.”

The U.S. government is certainly not alone in the war against secure communications. British Prime Minister David Cameron has suggested that if he is re-elected, he may seek to ban encrypted chat programs that do not provide backdoor access to law enforcement. “Are we going to allow a means of communications which it simply isn’t possible to read?” Cameron said in a speech in England earlier this year. “My answer to that question is: ‘No, we must not.’”

When the Chinese government recently tried to force tech companies to install a backdoor in their products for use by Chinese intelligence agencies, the U.S. government denounced China. “This is something that I’ve raised directly with President Xi,” President Obama said in early March. “We have made it very clear to them that this is something they are going to have to change if they are to do business with the United States.” But China was actually following the U.S. government’s lead. The FBI has called for an expansion of U.S. law, which would require Apple and its competitors to design their products so that all communications could be made available to government agencies. NSA officials have expressed similar sentiments.

“Obama’s comments were dripping with hypocrisy,” says Trevor Timm, executive director of the Freedom of the Press Foundation. “Don’t get me wrong, his actual criticism of China for attempting to force tech companies to install backdoors was spot on — now if only he would apply what he said to his own government. Since he now knows backdooring encryption is a terrible policy that will damage cybersecurity, privacy, and the economy, why won’t he order the FBI and NSA to stop pushing for it as well?”

~~  Andrew Fishman, Alleen Brown, Andrea Jones, Ryan Gallagher, Morgan Marquis-Boire, and Micah Lee contributed to this story ~~

G-TechNote™: Google Officially Announces Android 5.1

It’s still Lollipop, but this update will improve stability and performance.

After prematurely launching an Android One site with tons of references to Android 5.1, Google has finally announced Android 5.1 via its official Android blog. It looks to be a minor update, with Google saying it “improves stability and performance” over 5.0.

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The update isn’t all bugfixes though. Android 5.1 adds support for multiple SIM slots and HD voice. There’s also a new security feature called “Device Protection,“ which will lock a lost or stolen device until the user signs in with their Google account—the lockout even survives a factory reset.

We’ll dive in as soon as we get a copy. Google has only said it is “rolling out” 5.1; the company didn’t say where. We’d imagine it will hit AOSP and Nexus devices soon.

Movie Review: ‘Chappie’

In “Chappie,” a dystopian robot thriller from South African director Neill Blomkamp (“Elysium”), we’re introduced to an awkwardly stiff humanoid with something funny-looking sticking out of his head.

And that’s just Hugh Jackman, who, along with a ridiculous mullet, plays the movie’s wooden, one-dimensional villain. The real automaton hero — a rabbit-eared police droid that develops artificial intelligence and a streetwise swagger after being adopted by a gang of Johannesburg thugs — is Chappie (South African slang for “young man”). As voiced by Blomkamp regular Sharlto Copley, Chappie is far more human than even his human nemesis Vincent, a muscle-bound soldier-turned-robot-designer who stomps through every scene like one of his automated combat troops.

In the role of a man who will stop at nothing — including allowing the streets of Johannesburg to descend into chaos in order to create more demand for his product — Jackman is simply painful to watch.

But not as painful as it is to contemplate how naively the film treats the concept of artificial intelligence and robotics. Co-written by Blomkamp with his “District 9” writing partner Terri Tatchell, and set in 2016 — that’s right, one short year from now, in a world that’s gone straight to hell! — “Chappie” imagines a universe in which human consciousness is capable of being uploaded to a thumb drive, and where the Internet, that repository of everything from porn to the owner’s manual for the space shuttle — is all one needs to access the entirety of human knowledge. (Never mind that last month I couldn’t find a 1987 episode of “SNL” that I was looking for.)

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“Chappie” is a ball of contradiction. It takes the concept of “Transcendence,” crosses it with the storyline of “RoboCop,” and then delivers it, seemingly, to the target demographic of “Short Circuit.” It is, in other words, simultaneously dumb, hyperviolent and cutesy.

Why, for instance, do Chappie’s “eyes” — represented by eight-bit black-and-white computer graphics that look like the screens of an old Motorola cellphone — narrow cartoonishly to slits when he gets “angry”? Why does he even have eyes, for that matter? Okay, okay, I get the anthropomorphizing. But a scene where Chappie, who is made out of bullet-resistent titanium, is shown getting some kind of tactile pleasure out of petting a dog is beyond illogical.

There’s more pleasure to be had from watching Chappie’s human caretakers, a couple of criminals called Yolandi and Ninja, who find Chappie and try to enlist him as a partner in crime. Played by non-actors Yolandi Visser and Ninja, a South African rap duo who perform as Die Antwoord (or The Answer), the antiheroic characters are the best thing about the movie, despite being largely unsympathetic (i.e.,they’re murderous thugs). They exude a raw appeal that, if not quite charm, is nonetheless highly watchable.

As Deon, the software engineer who wrote the computer code for Chappie, Dev Patel is adequate, if under-used. When he’s wounded by one of Vincent’s walking death machines — a remotely-operated war drone called the Moose — the scene fails to elicit the pathos it might otherwise warrant, simply because Patel is such a cipher. As for Sigourney Weaver, who plays Vincent and Deon’s boss, she turns in a performance that’s almost as heavy-handed as Jackman’s.

Visually, “Chappie” has the cool and expensive look of a video game. It’s adrenaline-stimulating eye candy. Despite Blomkamp’s efforts to make some kind of commentary about the human soul, which the auteur bolsters with his trademark social consciousness — a tone of preachiness that, after three films, has worn out its welcome — the movie exhibits precious little humanity.

Like Chappie, the movie seems human, but has a cold metal heart.

★ ½

R for violence, obscenity, drug content and brief nudity. 124 minutes

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