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Droning on again! December 26, 2015

Posted by wastedspacer in Everything Else, Global Industry, New Rules and Compliance, Political Issues, Rants, Technologies, The Fun Stuff.
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ARDrone

I guess I could be classed as a drone early adopter of sorts with a trusty 4 year old Parrot AR Drone. I am somewhat dismayed that the FAA demands I now need to register it! It doesn’t weigh very much, nor fly very high nor even get out much but it does exceed the paltry 250 gram weight.
Being a responsible and law-abiding adult I decided I had better respond to the FAA drone-user nagging by visiting the FAA drone registration site and send them my $5 :
So what’s the big deal?    You first have to set up an ID which should be simple but of course there are unnaturally complex password requirements. You are informed that you cannot proceed with drone registration until your identity has been verified by a web link that has just been sent to you by email. Of course hour after hour go by with no incoming email from the system. You cannot log on again as your verification remains in a pending state, I send a help request to the supplied usahelp@faa.gov contact. Many more hours pass with no response or verification email!
Eventually (later the next day) I see the FAA mail has finally arrived. I click on the supplied link and I get a 404 “not found” error! I try again an hour later with the same result, I send another Email to usahelp but once again receive no response. Many hours later the site finally appears operational and I can register my drone. I was hoping to pay via something other than a credit card (Amazon, Paypal, BitCoin etc). Certainly of concern would be the need for trusting a historically porous government entity such as the FAA with my credit card information!! But given no alternative, I am forced to supply my credit card details (perhaps I should place a bet on how long before the FAA manages to leak their customer details?)!

DroneLALAFinally I receive a printable certificate to stick on my box and I can write my FAA registration on my Parrot drone! In fact if I buy another drone perhaps I don’t need to register that, simply use the same registration number hmmm? Well the chances of me flying more than one drone at a time is unlikely to say the least.

DroneLALA2
But why do I need to register this at all? Just how dangerous is my drone – or is it more about who is actually using the drone, the where and how?  Or is it just another media fueled paranoia piece of legislation latched onto by a government department keen to elevate its own sense of importance by adding yet more “care-bear” bureaucracy that comes with a whole department of taxpayer supported employees?

bigkite
If we are registering drones why don’t we register big kites? I see 7-10 ft wide kites being sold that come with 1000 to 3000 or more feet of line! They seem to be potentially more dangerous and can also be fitted with cameras. We don’t even register guns for heaven’s sake and don’t get me started on the dangers there.
On the positive side, it is only costing $5 for every 3 years and the $5 is being rebated (though I will believe it when I see the rebate appear in my statement).  I do get a “Certificate” which makes my little drone seem just that bit more “official” than it did.
On the concern side, yet another massive, notoriously porous, allegedly incompetent and insecure government department is being needlessly inflated. The FAA itself has become a juicier target with the millions of new drone-owner identities and credit card details for harvesting and exploitation by nefarious individuals 
Sorry for droning on!!!

More Trumped-up nonsense? December 11, 2015

Posted by wastedspacer in Government, Islam, Political Issues, Rants.
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donald-trumpWhile I find almost all of the seemingly hateful rhetoric from the odious Donald Trump distasteful I find it even more challenging to totally condemn all of it when visiting the UK I stumble upon material that actually appears to support some of his claims. A particular example: as Trump alluded, there really may be seemingly radicalized no-go areas in London where many local inhabitants and some UK Police officers feel this way 😦

Daily Mail article citing a number of British Police Officers unable to wear a uniform in some parts of London.

News clip on emerging “No-Go” areas in London from 2012.

Trump’s approach to dealing with Islam are nothing new, here’s an interview from 2011 where he makes his views on Islam clear.

The problem with all of this material is that it focuses mostly on the most radical and extreme aspects of Islam. Nobody bothers making a documentary on “normal” tolerant Muslims since it would in all likelihood be rather boring.

However, I also think Trump in his incessant bouts of (possibly feigned) stupidity has extrapolated his suggestion of a ban for US incoming Muslims as akin to the wartime proclamations of President Franklin D. Roosevelt, including “Alien Enemies — Japanese” (No. 2525); “Alien Enemies — German (No. 2526).” . His kindergarten level logic suggests while not only the US but the entire civilized part of the planet is at war with “Islamic State” and IS claim to be the only “true” Muslims. Trump therefore is absurdly supporting the IS view and presents a statement that all Muslims must be banned from US entry for the time being! What he missed is that part of the civilized world IS MUSLIM most of who will declare that miniscule number of Islamic State followers violate just about every tenet of what it is to actually be a devout Muslim!

So why would we want to ban those who would be allied against IS rather than turn them away at the door and risk alienating a few to the point they become radicalized!

The same simplistic logic could be applied to ban Christians if we used the doctrine of Timothy McVeigh, the KKK or the Spanish Inquisition as paragons of Christianity they clearly would be unwelcome in a civilized society. However, when compared to other religions Islam has many political and more subversive components perhaps making it a more effective religious platform from which to launch radical ideals 😦 Take a look at the Islam and Politics Crash Course.

Perhaps Trump is merely a self-appointed spokesperson for a large contingent of society that refuses to evolve? Here in Britain there is an ever increasing backlash from both Islamic and non-Islamic factions.

Here’s a few examples from several years ago illustrating growing hatred within a polarized British society: Driving through a formerly innocuous part of London

A series of UK documentaries about the same time titled “Generation Jihad” paint a similar story:

The bottom line is that with the current trend, it would appear that civilized society as we know it is on the verge of collapse. Above all we need new counter-terrorism directions despite media fuelled societal, and political imperatives to react violently with even more indiscriminate military action or to create even more “care-bear” security policies with new taxpayer funded organizations. To fear, collectively identify, react and acknowledge the terrorist simply adds credibility and more encouragement to those hate groups.

If societal collapse is ever to have a hope of reversal,  massive majority of the civilized and tolerant world must rally together. Despite threats, enable avenues of communication, reach out to educate the ignorant and the religiously repressed and to ultimately stop fomenting hatred.  Easier said than done especially from within more radicalized societies but everyone who advocates tolerance over hatred and knowledge over ignorance needs to drive towards this goal despite the threats from within.

Where do we stop? Does banning Muslims at the US border actually provide a solution or merely further inflames the domestic Muslim communities already resident within each country’s borders?

Toxic Trains – Bay Area Rotten Transport January 13, 2015

Posted by wastedspacer in Political Issues, Rants, Social State.
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As seen from my seat (my bag was sitting on that)!BartMyseatBart1531xTowards Front

I’m writing this journal entry as I sit among the filth and squalor that is Bart carriage 1531x, part of the 10 car 10:14 am from SFO to Pittsburg Bay Point. A cringing couple, holding an infant sitting a few seats away, concerned on the seemingly infectious nature of this squalid carriage. A possibly mentally ill, foully aromatic individual who remained on the train when it arrived at SFO sits mumbling obscenities and threats like “I’ll kill you” or “In your eye” every time the train operator made an announcement. The rest of the time he spent grunting, chewing and expectorating on the floor. I look over the other side of the car and I see a sign proclaiming “This Car Proudly Maintained by the Concord Shop”,

BART1531XrearBART1531XBeepBeep

I wonder about what the cadence, is, perhaps an annual maintenance? I wonder how long it takes for a car to get into such a horrendous state and why there seems to be no enforcement of some of the disgusting things that violating passengers do?

Is this an isolated case? Not at all, I am an infrequent user of this relatively costly however mostly convenient service. Sadly my journeys on Bart seem to be beset with such unfortunate scenes. I have traveled on far less costly public transit in many cities around the world and have to note that Bart is possibly the very worst. In the days when it went straight to SFO, around the early morning commute hours at the Dublin/Pleasanton station it is not unusual to see numerous individuals carrying blankets getting off the inbound train and board the outbound one each one quickly snagging a double seat to lie down on, forcing commuters to stand.

Drunk, messy-food consuming, vomiting, urinating and defecating possibly homeless and/or mentally ill passengers are also regular sights in the evening hours. Panhandlers, usually passive but occasionally hostile, make their way through carriages while shaking folks down looking for money. Reporting these infractions to station agents at best get a tepid “we’ll look into it” for the most part, BART police are invariably nowhere to be seen during these unfortunate events.

A few years ago, I had the misfortune one time to sit behind a couple of ironically comedic hand-holding BART employees. They also happened to be “proud” Union badge bedecked workers who’s overheard conversation snippets were disturbing. They thought it hilarious that they were able to procure overtime then just sat around or slept and that the tax paying public could do nothing about it. In my opinion, they could start by cleaning these darned cars but I’ll bet that’s a different Union? I assume their union would not tolerate crossing work boundaries.

Sometimes I wonder why bother connecting to airports such as SFO, there’s no specialized luggage racks (is it for fear that some passengers might sleep on them), many of the early morning flights cannot be connected to due to the relatively late start times (especially at weekends).

Is it just me or are other travelers appalled at the state of our Bay Area Rotten Transport. Do we seriously believe that we should spend vast sums of money on high speed rail while critical connecting infrastructures such as Bart remain such a cesspool of inefficiency and squalid conditions?

Signing off as I stare at what looks like mold growing on the floor I pause to consider I really need a second shower today!

Net Neutrality – A presidential U-Turn? November 11, 2014

Posted by wastedspacer in Global Industry, Political Issues, Rants, Social State.
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NNewt*sigh* Too little too late perhaps? I hear all of the Comcast, Verizon and AT&T execs crying foul over this supposed U-Turn. It seems that now we have a president unfettered by the mountain of promises needed to get elected and able to say what he really thinks! Of course, it will make way for 2016 presidential candidates to “disagree” with a now unpopular leader and enable new cable company supporting politicians to line their campaign pockets with the vast trove of funding to decry the misguided neutrality musings of the former president!

I like the chart with the Netflix shakedown, Comcast (and to some extent Verizon/AT&T for that matter) is all about squeezing maximum profit so they can spend  what appears to be 90% of it on marketing, lobbying, lawsuits, civic “incentives” to help block private and community cable or communications initiatives and of course a large pot of money to buy up any of the smaller competition and supplemental organizations. Comcast doesn’t actually need to block access only neglect to add upgraded connections where customer streaming services like Netflix add burden. It can then shake-down those service providers to pay to accelerate the process. “XFINITY” marketing suggests is all about giving the customer fast access to the services they desire – yet their actions are completely counter to that!!!

Now we have a huge presidential support for Net Neutrality! Throwing all of his old-buddy election campaign backers under the bus now he no longer has a future presidential bid to worry about funding! Plus the chances of any future Democratic candidates seeking Obama endorsement are unlikely – OTOH I’m sure the cable guys will be only too happy to help them if they can oppose this Net Neutrality stance.

We have the appointment of the former pro-cable lobbyist Tom Wheeler as the chairman of the FCC. presidential golfing buddies – Comcast’s CEO Brian Roberts, campaign bundle specialist David Cohen Exec VP at Comcast who was a staunch supporter and massive fund-raiser for the Obama campaign with some really compelling Comcast promises including grand statements around “internet for the poor”. (How extensive was this and where did that actually end up)? No wonder all these folks are now crying foul – but I guess this is politics 101 when you no longer need the money from those former “buddies” toss them under a bus!

http://deadline.com/2014/11/comcast-responds-obama-net-neutrality-1201280353/

http://www.phillymag.com/articles/david-l-cohen-profile-david-l-explained/

Once again the end-consumer is going to be the one ultimately paying for this with increasing charges, no improvement and possible degradation in services!

Scotland: You say you want a devolution? September 17, 2014

Posted by wastedspacer in Political Issues.
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Adevolution

Just say NO to devolution – my two groats:

There don’t seem to be many ex-pat Scots I have talked to who actually wants to see Scotland leave the union. Alas, even though we were born there we don’t get to vote NO. I certainly consider myself as a Scot first which happens to be part of the stronger union with Britain. I have lived in England and later the US for many years so my perspective is more as an outsider trying to make sense of the implications.

Assuming the vote is YES, for me my first question is where do I get my passport renewed? Is there going to be a Scottish embassy or consulate in every location there is currently a British one? Do I get an EU passport or will I need to show it at every border crossing? Will I have to change my money at the border to a new currency? What happens to my NHS identity number? Will I need an SHS version?

I certainly understand the drive for a perceived “freedom” but what are us Scots actually saying YES to? The shackles of today’s Scotland are not about slavery, religion, oppressors and usurpers? For many who vote YES perhaps independence is more a euphoric state of mind, purely symbolic rather than the reality. Whilst that all sounds grand, the reality is the potentially massive cost of disruption to the Scots when living this new reality.

Is it really about the control of the money? Financial services is another major income generator but the Bank of Scotland seems set to move to London if there is a YES vote to leave.

If the YES vote happens, I dread the “what have we done” moment when reality sets in, trust and the sense of unity has been lost with the rest of Britain and changes that cannot be undone hit the pockets of those who are now wondering what has actually changed.

The defence services are gone, armies of Scottish Civil servants appear as new national services are duplicated. All this infrastructure needs to be built and paid for. this in turn requires the Scots pass these onerous burdens on in the way of taxes. Surely we have Oil to pay for all of this? Perhaps not as much as we thought?

One primary driver for devolution seems to be about Scotland’s resources such as OIL which seems to have no long-term future with the decline in the North Sea: as outlined in this recent Washington Post article http://wapo.st/1r1onuc .

I can’t help feeling a bit like the concerned parent who despite their guidance and warning sees their child about to make a tragic mistake. On the one hand, we feel that is is better for our child to learn by the school of hard-knocks. However, if the consequences of their action could be deadly or life-threatening then we have to step in….

…. in the case of Scotland seceding from the union, the outcome is somewhere between these concerned states. On that basis I would strongly urge a NO vote. If I was living in Scotland now, I would be right there frantically waving my NO flag.

Final thoughts – whether you vote YES or NO, why not put down a sizable bet on the opposite of whoever you voted for. Then regardless of the outcome you will have something to smile about 🙂

 

When does Preserve mean anything but preservation? September 12, 2014

Posted by wastedspacer in Political Issues, Rants.
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San Ramon Housing Insanity

So when does Preserve mean anything but preservation?

When it is used to hide the true intent of a high-density housing project. Check out the latest citizens outraged but council approved nonsense:

Faria Preserve:

After the fiasco of the veritable ocean of million-dollar homes that comprise the Dougherty Valley, the sneakily titled “Faria Preserve” is just another black-eye to the predominantly developer/real-estate enabled San Ramon Council. Not that the current council is squarely to blame, just that the 5 year old agreement/can was kicked down the road by the previous incumbents for the current folks to have to deal with. Reading between the lines, San Ramon is under an “obligation” to provide a certain percentage of affordable housing (or the state will penalize San Ramon). Vastly increased drought induced water consumption issues aside, this begs the question as to why that was not planned during the Dougherty Valley planning – oh yes, let’s not sully the high property values with the less desirable “affordable housing” blight and an even worse Bollinger Canyon Road nightly backup!!! But here we are in 2014 with a council forced to vote AYE to this fiasco.

The “Preserve” is nothing of the sort, normally that label suggests, peace and quiet, tranquility and a riparian setting. Nope, it is HIGH DENSITY HOUSING and all of its accompanying traffic, access and other problems. Expect massive delays at the Bollinger/Crow Canyon intersections. We the people of San Ramon seem unable to stop this obvious train-wreck of a project it seems that contractually and state mandate governed we are locked into a commitment to see this tragedy through to its ugly conclusion.

The council made these plans and agreements during the time when the San Ramon growth situation was vastly different than it is today (See this Bloomberg study:http://www.bloomberg.com/apps/… . The Bloomberg article identifies the “demand” for housing fueled by AT&T (moved to Texas), Chevron (moving many organizations to Texas), Zynga (rapidly declining revenues and massive layoffs), Robert Half (declining fortunes and recently voted the 7th worst company to work for by Fox Business). Thus there are strong arguments that the rationale behind pushing forward with the Faria Preserve no longer exists.

So why is the Council being so boneheaded on pulling the plug? Is there something else they are not telling us?

Serious Security Threat or Marketing Ploy? – WSJ “Night Dragon” February 10, 2011

Posted by wastedspacer in 1, Global Industry, IT Security, Notable Incidents, Political Issues, Rants, Spam, SPIM and other annoyances, Technologies.
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According to a report from the Wall Street Journal – on “Night Dragon” attacks:
Oil Firms Hit by Hackers From China, Report Says

How convenient for something like this to turn up the week before RSA! Seemed like an important headline and I suspect some additional news coverage could have been imminent given there was even a scrolling ticker about this on a couple of the local TV News channels this morning. Unfortunately for whoever thought this was a perfect time to disclose they got usurped by the Egypt breaking news alerts!

The McAfee PDF report is an interesting enough study however, there appears to be a number of shortcomings in the analysis, far too much circumstantial intelligence and many disclaimers of actual allegations. Furthermore “Night Dragon” is merely McAfee’s selected report moniker for their particular identification of a threat-bundle. Symantec, Microsoft, Trend, Sophos may select the same individual threats but call them different names and may not pull them together into a creative study such as McAfee sponsored. A couple of virus definitions are highlighted identifying known threats several months ago from May and August 2010.

I’m always skeptical when a security products company does a periodic security driven “the sky is falling” in-depth analysis. There may indeed be some bread crumbs of significance, my main concern is that it could just be another thinly disguised “wag the dog” company visibility increase exercise.

My more cynical side suggests that perhaps this is an effective security company marketing strategy that undertakes a “scientific” study around high-visibility targets, periodically wave a headline comprised of: (insert enemy state here) hackers attack (insert newsworthy Western iconic industry here) Gigabytes of data and trade secrets stolen. Then add some vague traffic analysis to show the volume, where it’s going and who’s allegedly controlling it, who knows, maybe some US bank or oil company outpost had been leveraged and was being unwittingly used as a Chinese/Ukrainian managed BitTorrent host for illegal videos? Or is it really corporate sensitive bidding information and active well log data? Without concrete proof in-stream or at the endpoint, any possible botnet C&C and network findings results would show pretty much the same data stream which could allow any security company to allege such a finding without actual proof.

We (or at least corporate executives as the target of this info when escalated to the lofty heights of a WSJ article) certainly appear to fall for it every time and then demand answers around what their internal security experts intend to do about it? Of course in the shadow of “cry wolf” warnings , once in a while there really are dire and present issues that require immediate remedial action so those security experts always have to remain vigilant but circumspect.

Perhaps if we (and apparently the WSJ) are really concerned about threats from “Chinese Hackers”, we should also address the oil industry “best-practice” of off-shoring to low-cost-geographies and perhaps consider that hiring an increasing number of our Western petroleum engineers and geologists from Chinese universities may pose a more insidious threat in the potential espionage space over the long term? We certainly should take security integrity and sustainability in mind when chasing the almighty short-term efficiency and cost savings fuelled drive to top ratings supporting the investors on Wall Street itself.

On a positive side, the WSJ article cited the attack vectors were typically via Microsoft vulnerabilities so companies that take an aggressive stance towards rapidly applying patches to help obviate threats. McAfee and Sophos share threat signatures so in this particular case where the detection was spearheaded by McAfee, at least, customers of these companies may enjoy a slightly better level of immediate protection and thus should benefit from any behind-the-scenes patching that McAfee had put in place to mitigate these threats. I just cant help wonder when Symantec, then Trend, then Kaspersky will see this approach as a “winning” strategy and start spinning their own versions perhaps “Soup Dragon” or “Nuts Dragon” analysis variations?

This seems like an ideal opportunity for security personnel to put in place better detection systems beyond IDS/IPS. Perhaps including honey-pots to at least be in a position to identify the liklihood of actual inside-the-perimeter threat activity. Furthermore, they will be able to consistently state whether they are being actively targeted over time and how frequently. Those metrics could be easily accumulated and used to not only track down current threats but also provide a current state report to executives when these kinds of issues are raised by the media.

In the meantime it’s ok to cry “wolf” (or depending on your security company’s naming convention: “loup”, “mac tíre”, “भेड़िया”, “الذئب”, “lupo”, “úlfur”), CVE goes a little way towards individual definitions but would help if anti-malware security companies got together and agreed upon a common name or at least resolution for a collection of threats from a suspected single source.

China – pesistent threat vs convenient “demon”? April 1, 2010

Posted by wastedspacer in IT Security, Notable Incidents, Political Issues, Social State.
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When average folk in the US are asked about what they think of China – it would seem that they simply parrot much of what the media peddles: human rights abuses, disregard for the concept of intellectual property, stealing manufacturing jobs from the rest of the world, state corruption, militarism, gulags, illegal software, brand-name knockoffs, the source of advanced persistent threats and a lot of other big-brother-state demonizing in general. While there are no doubt factual elements that reflect some or all of those issues, when an accusation appears, the media quickly escalates to the usual feeding frenzy to highlight any “facts” they can derive from reports. When it turns out that perhaps the issue was not so heinous or even a work of fiction, the retractions and general backing down reports are buried way down the page or even completely ignored. Come to think of it, that’s actually pretty normal for just about any sensationalized media news event.

Case in point the recent accusations of conspiracy between the infamous Aurora botnet and a series of attacks on US Companies – Google, Adobe, Intel, Northrop Grumman et. al. This has appeared in a recent DarkReading article on the retracted McAfee stance supporting this theory.

DarkReading Article.

This report paints a picture to indicate perhaps China should not always be the usual suspect root of all malware. Has McAfee been somewhat hasty in their “cry wolf” analysis that had solidly linked a series of targeted attacks as part of the overall Aurora malware efforts? McAfee initially had positively identified China as the perpetrator for the attacks against US Companies. Further analysis has subsequently identified this to be botnet establishment malware out of Vietnam that just happened to end up on commonly infected machines and probably not even related to Aurora at all.

Disturbingly, although primarily leveraging Chinese services such as 3322.org (a domain service run by one Peng Yong) it may simply be driven by the fact that statistically Chinese PC users have by far the largest percentage of its population using hacked/illegal OS and application software that typically come equipped with “free malware” or are much easier to infect since security update patching frequently gets disabled as part of the hack.

It will be interesting to see the knock-on effect of the recent Chinese edict and domain registration crackdown requiring a verifiable address (in China), business registration number along with a head/shoulder photograph. This was brought about reportedly (at least according to the Chinese Govt) following the identification of massive numbers of non-Chinese addresses registering .cn domains. GoDaddy recently pulled its registration policy while grumbling about loss of protection of identities, at the same time it may have a positive effect on the nefarious use of .cn domains as smokescreens for botnet operations run out of other countries. One wonders if GoDaddy is also inwardly grumbling more about the loss to its revenue stream?

GoDaddy Exit’s the .cn space.

Excellent HBGary Analysis on Aurora:

Ecuador – Another Chevron Lawsuit proponent disqualified February 9, 2010

Posted by wastedspacer in Global Industry, Political Issues, Rants.
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It seems there’s no end to the corruption elements involved in trying to pick the deep pockets of Chevron. Now we have one of the engineers supported by the Amazon Defence Coalition who despite previous denials has recently been found to be a significant owner of an eco-remediation company who would benefit significantly should the lawsuit succeed!

http://www.chevron.com/news/press/release/?id=2010-02-09

After a Judge is forced to recuse himelf and other prosecution supporting individuals are under clouds of suspicion – who will be next to get tossed off of the suit.

Cash for Hunkers August 13, 2009

Posted by wastedspacer in Political Issues.
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Unbelievable, so much for any kind of common sense on this program, seems that a number of folk are trading in their old inefficient land-boats for new land-boats like F150 Trucks, Hummers, Boat towing Caddies, Lexus and other monsters.

Recapping the declared point of the cash for clunkers program, I thought it was sold by the government as a way to cut emmissions and stimulate the economy? Seems it has merely redirected spending from the retail channel and encouraged many folk who already abuse the environment to keep on “trucking”!

The German program has to traps to stem this potential abuse since it has a sting in the tail with up to a $1000 tax addition based on vehicles with a more significant CO2 production.

The US program has no such clause!

http://tinyurl.com/myn7og