Alpha Omega M.D. – Episode #175

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Alpha Omega M.D. – Episode #175

 …By the time anyone notices it missing, Clete is thundering up Route 12 and the safety of Quincy, Florida…

“Now go get that Clete idiot, before I elect another sheriff!”

Clete Wilsup is no fool, a little slow maybe, but not dumb enough to think he his in the clear. After he was let go, he made a bee-line across the bridge connecting Blountstown to Bristol, each are seats for their respective county, prepared to put as much distance between him and trouble. He does make one important stop: at the Liberty County Highway Department where he sees the Mack truck parked inside a fenced area, next to the smashed Chadwick. The one thing authorities had not counted on was the spare key in the bottom of his right shoe.

Under the cover of darkness, in a town whose wooden walks are rolled up at ten o’clock, the mesh fence is no match for the Mack truck. By the time anyone notices it missing, Clete is thundering up Route 12 and the safety of Quincy, Florida. He is fearing for Willy with every piston stroke. “I gotta get to Mr. Love. I’m ain’t stoppin’ for nothin’,” is his anthem.

At the Gadsden side of the Liberty County line there is a line of cars blocking the road, two or more private cars being checked inside and out. That tells Clete that they are probably looking for him, but don’t know he has the Mack.

“I ain’t stoppin’ for nothin’, so you best scatter boys,” he advises without letting up on the throttle.

In the range of his headlamps, is a frantically waving constable. The look of terror on his face is priceless, with five tons of 10 gauge steel bearing down on him at full speed. Clete sends him flying, as well as two police cruisers. A hail of bullets bounces off without effect.

Quincy 8 Mi    Just 8 more miles to Quincy.

          At mile seven the engine sputters, bringing the truck to a stop. “You can stop truck, but I ain’t.” It runs on a finite amount of fuel, he is running on adrenaline. In the voiding black of this moonless night, across a long flat expanse, he sees the bobbing headlamps of five cars. It is after midnight and he must assume to be the object of their haste.

Time to test his cross-country skills. He has never been there, but he he knows that Herbert Love lives somewhere to the west of Quincy, north of Route 12; on one of the oldest farms in all of Florida, with two huge equine statues at the head of a mile long driveway. Willy told him that it was a twenty minute walk from the ice plant, just after Seminole Ridge.

Poor Willy. Will he ever work for Love again? Clete cannot fathom the possibility.


Alpha Omega M.D.

Escape2-001

Episode #175


page 162

FYI NSA BTW – WIF Invasion of Privacy

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Intrusive Programs

Run by

the NSA

Before Edward Snowden revealed us an unprecedented amount of the National Security Agency’s activities in 2013, most of us were only vaguely familiar with the shadowy organization and its information-gathering ways. The NSA has its tendrils in virtually every digital aspect of our daily life, to the point that one of their automated information-collecting programs is probably reading this right now (Hi!) and trying to figure out whether we’re a threat to national security (We really aren’t!).

While reports of their current activities are understandably few and far between, thanks to Mr. Snowden and his leaked documents we do have some insight into the things the NSA were up to in 2013 and before that … and it’s not pretty. Here’s a look at some of the agency’s strangest antics.

10. Angry Birds

No, it’s not just a fun code name, or, for that matter, even code name. It’s that Angry Birds.

In 2014, the Guardian reported that the NSA, along with its significantly less catchy British counterpart GCHQ, were looking into various techniques where they can sneak all up the “leaks” of your favorite phone apps, up to and very much including the world’s premier “Birds Vs. Pigs” game. The idea was to slip through the security cracks of the apps in order to reach the users’ personal data, which would provide the agencies with a number of significant advantages. They would gain access to a huge amount of the kind of data that would allow them to exploit people’s phone information on a mass scale, instead of just having to hack their way into our phones one by one like some commoner. Location, as well: When you use Google Maps to find a place, the NSA can use it to find you.

The NSA seems to put great value on such technology, to the point where one 2010 presentation called it a “Golden Nugget” before rattling off a long list of information the agency could gather from just a single picture uploaded on social media. Fortunately, this plan was among the documents Edward Snowden leaked in 2013, so at least we’re aware that some of America’s taxpayer dollars go towards surreptitiously scrolling through your contact lists as you play Candy Crush or whatever.

9. Boundless Informant

Congress has occasionally challenged the NSA about what they do with all the data they collect from American citizens. One of the agency’s go-to defenses has been that they have no way of keeping track of the waves of information crashing on their shores, but in 2013, it turned out that a secretive agency might, in fact, have been lying about its methods. It’s shocking, we know.

Congress has occasionally challenged the NSA about what they do with all the data they collect from American citizens. One of the agency’s go-to defenses has been that they have no way of keeping track of the waves of information crashing on their shores, but in 2013, it turned out that a secretive agency might, in fact, have been lying about its methods. It’s shocking, we know.

Boundless Informant is a highly sophisticated data mining tool the NSA uses to analyze and record its surveillance information. It’s essentially a hyper-competent archivist that sifts through the sea of data and arranges it to neat folders. However, it doesn’t appear to do it by user — unless they decide to take a personal interest in you, Boundless Informant probably doesn’t have a folder of your most embarrassing emails and IMs. Instead, the system sifts through the incoming information by “counting and categorizing” the communications records metadata (sets of data that describe other data). However, the level of detail it goes to even includes individual IP addresses … which, as you may know, can totally be tracked down to the countries they’re from.

8. Dishfire

SMS texting is slowly but steadily going the way of the dodo as instant messaging platforms are taking over, but the NSA has been collecting them like they were coming back in fashion. According to the 2013 data leak, the Dishfire program performs a daily, global and supposedly untargeted sweep of SMS messages, and took them to a second program called Prefer, which automatically analyzed them for assorted red flags.

The agency was head over heels about this particular avenue of information collection, to the point where a 2011 presentation was titled “SMS Text Messages: A Goldmine to Exploit.” They weren’t exactly wrong, either: automated messages, international roaming charge texts, missed call alerts, electronic business cards and text-to-text payments gave them access to unprecedentedly clear metadata in ridiculous droves.

To put the scale of the operations in context, at the time of the leaks the NSA was able to collect over five million missed-call alerts (for contact chaining analysis), Around 800,000 money transactions, 1.6 million border crossings, over 110,000 names, 76,000 people’s real-time locations, and a total of nearly 200 million SMS messages. Per day. 

7. Egoistical Goat and its friends

The anonymous Tor network is obviously a bit of a problem for an information-gathering entity like the NSA, but it appears the agency had already made some progress to lift the veil of secrecy as early as in 2013.

To crack down Tor’s information safe, the agency created a number of programs with increasingly stupid names, all lovingly crafted to compromise Tor user anonymity. There was Egoistical Goat and its sister programs Egoistical Giraffe and Erroneous Identity, which tried to worm their way in the Firefox parts of the Tor Bundles in order to identify users. Before them, the NSA had Mjoliner, which was meant to divert Tor users to insecure channels, and a marking operation called Mullenize, which was the online equivalent of a surveillance helicopter trying to shoot a tracking device in a car before it drives in a hidden tunnel. Meanwhile, NSA’s British version, GCHQ, did its level best to outdo its American counterpart’s ridiculous code names by trying to crack Tor with operations called Epicfail and Onionbreath.

Despite all their antics, the NSA’s success rate at identifying Tor users was spotty at best — but really, who knows what they have come up with since 2013?

6. GILGAMESH

It’s one thing for the NSA to want to know about people’s information, and completely another to use that information to find out your location and giving it to the Joint Security Operations Command in case they need to bomb someone. This explosive application of NSA tracking technology is called GILGAMESH, and it’s essentially what would happen if a bunch of NSA’s geolocation tracking technologies married a Predator drone.

Thanks to the vast array of online information available to them, the NSA has taken to recommending drone targets with complex metadata analysis instead of relying on human intelligence. However, the Intercept points out that while the tactic has had some success it has by no means been particularly accurate and reliable. One drone pilot operating with NSA-dictated targets has admitted it “absolutely” has resulted in innocent people getting killed.

5. Optic Nerve

To be fair, Optic Nerve was technically a brainchild of the British GCHQ, but since they NSA happily assisted in it, we’ll let it slide. It was a code-name for a surveillance program that surreptitiously collected a bunch of images from Yahoo’s webcam chats from all over the world by the million, with little to no regard whether the people they were collecting them from were persons of interest or not.  This might be pretty creepy in and of itself, but becomes doubly so when you remember the sort of stuff that tends to go on in webcam chats. Yes, we’re talking about nudity, and judging by the scale of the operation, there must have been plenty of it, too. In fact, leaked documents reveal that the GCHQ actually had some trouble keeping all the naked pictures away from the interested eyes of its employees, which in a way is even scarier than just stealing images in bulk.

Understandably, Yahoo was less than thrilled to find out about the situation, which they say happened only when the British media reached out to ask some questions. The company called Optic Nerve a “whole new level of violation of our users’ privacy,” and really, it’s hard to argue with them.

4. PRISM

PRISM is massive surveillance program that started in 2007 and came into light when the Washington Post and the Guardian whipped out a pile of leaked documents in 2013. Technically, PRISM was/is a system for monitoring foreign communication passing through American servers. However, in practice, they monitored everything they humanly could, and gathered their data from “providers” that you might be familiar with.

As of 2013, tiny little companies like Google, Microsoft, Apple, Facebook, Yahoo, Skype and the like had to hand the NSA remarkable access to their servers, and the vast buckets of data from their users that lays within. NSA can use this giant pool of information to a terrifying accuracy, to the point where they could just directly access your — yes, specifically your — information and spy on every little thing you do online. The only caveat is that some analyst in their machinery has to vouch that they’re, like, 51% sure that you’re probably foreign, maybe.

3. Upstream

If you thought the NSA was happy just spying what you do on the internet, worry not — there’s more to come. Upstream is basically the same deal as PRISM, only with telecommunications companies such as Verizon and AT&T … and in a much more classic “spying” capacity. Where PRISM relies on intangible tech shenanigans of the “access to big company servers” variety, project Upstream has physically installed a host of surveillance equipment to the internet’s physical “backbone”: the routers, cables and other gear that carry all the online traffic.

The NSA uses this infiltration to track down specific keywords related to potential foreign intelligence activity, though even this noble-ish intent is rendered moot by the fact that they also often target the media, legal attorneys and human rights people instead of just supposed spies and suspected terrorists. The American Civil Rights Union has called the practice “unprecedented and unlawful.”

2. Bullrun

What good is stealing data from countless unwary people if you don’t know what to do with it? The NSA answered this question with code-name Bullrun, a state-of-the-art decryption program that can straight up decode the encryption used by several prominent providers, which means they can read your emails with the greatest of ease should the need arise. This powerful Sigint (signals intelligence) weapon is built by stealthily working with large tech companies to install weaknesses in their products, and then exploiting these openings with their own decryption tools. This way, the NSA and its British counterpart GCHQ are able to browse through not only their targets’ emails, but banking accounts and medical history as well. Essentially, if you have personal information online, Bullrun can find out how to decrypt it.

Bullrun’s importance to the NSA can easily be seen by looking at its budget: When Edward Snowden brought the system out in the open in 2013, PRISM’s operating costs were around $20 million a year. Bullrun? Over $250 million.

1. FASCIA

The FASCIA database was among the more interesting documents Edwards Snowden leaked. It was a massive collection of metadata, consisting of all sorts of call information, IP addresses and suchlike. What made the project so impressive(ly scary) was its sheer scale: Though the document dates back to January 2004, it said that FASCIA II had over 85 billion metadata records, and an estimated 125 million were added on a daily basis. Leaked graphs (like the one above) indicate that the system has since evolved, and in 2012, FASCIA already received five billion device-location records every day. There’s no telling what that number is now, but smart money would probably say that it’s significantly larger.

The NSA started getting hold of all this metadata during the War on Terror by straight up forcing phone companies to hand it over to the agency. Originally, this data included pretty intimate stuff, such as the numbers you called and the duration of said calls, though not the actual content. In 2015, the process was slightly changed so that the NSA could only collect bulk metadata and looking at an individual person’s records would require a court order. Even so, the NSA has been known to call this system one of their “most useful tools,” and they say it has even helped them capture multiple terror suspects.


FYI NSA BTW –

WIF Invasion of Privacy

Kitchen Hacks = Good | Computer Hacking = Get a Life!

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The Most Egregious

Hack(er)s

of All-Time

Image result for computer hacking gif

We are fortunate to live in an incredibly advanced age, where we can buy things on Amazon and have them at our doorstep within a day or two, instantly communicate with anyone around the globe, and have access to precisely all of the “crying Michael Jordan” memes ever created.

But with that massive power at our fingertips comes immense responsibility and an even greater need for security. Hackers have wormed their way into the very fabric of our lives. Sometimes the damage can be fixed with a simple virus protection program. Other times it can bring a country to its knees. These are some of the most egregious  hacks ever unleashed upon the world.

10. The Bitcoin hack

Cryptocurrency is a concept that not a lot of people understand, let alone use. But the people that use it, really use it. Basically, it’s a digital currency that uses encryption security measures, and is independent of a normal bank. There’s no physical, tangible money. You might ask, “but that doesn’t seem like it’s real,” and we would probably agree.

Nonetheless, many people online have fallen for adopted cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin, though those numbers may have dipped since a major hack in 2018 by cyberthieves. A major Bitcoin company in South Korea lost about 30 percent of its virtual money holdings, which led to about a 30 billion dollars loss for cryptocurrency overall in just seven hours of trading. It caused the price of Bitcoin itself to drop around 7 percent almost instantly. This is all interesting, in that the very idea of cryptocurrency is its inherent safety, which is paramount online. The fact that an encrypted digital currency can be undone in a day of hacking raises strong concerns about its longevity.

9. The Conficker worm

2008 may not seem very long ago, but in the digital age, that’s like decades. Whole hardware and operating systems that were ubiquitous at the time have been rendered obsolete. So it’s strange to hear that a simple computer virus that was prevalent at the time is still loitering around the digital wasteland.

The Conficker worm was discovered in 2008, when it infected around 15 million computers due to its ability to be shared easily, and spread through software and removable media devices. This virus is different, though. Conficker doesn’t even steal data — it’s method is to spread to as many computers as possible and disrupt things that way. And even as recently as 2017, there were several million successful infections of computers. That’s some serious service time for a bug. One of the most common ways it happens are unpatched computers on a network. Word to the wise: those annoying software updates are your friends.

8. The Iran nuke hack

The 1983 Matthew Broderick movie WarGames dealt with the vulnerabilities of military systems to motivated hackers. In the film, he toyed with the defense department and eventually scared the pants off everyone, making it seem like a Russian nuke launch was imminent. You would think the systems in place to make a nuclear winter possible would be secure enough to not be susceptible to computer shenanigans, right?

Well, the country of Iran would tell you it’s not that absurd. In 2010, a virus named Stuxnet invaded their nuclear systems, a product of Israeli-American computer wizardry. The virus targeted Iran’s centrifuges, which helped to enrich uranium that would be used for nuclear weapons. The bug would spin those centrifuges until they busted, all while reporting everything was normal. Eventually, up to 20 percent of the country’s centrifuges were useless. And this was over the course of a couple of years. Everything was going fine until Israel ramped up the program to be more aggressive, and Iran became wise to the plan. It has since set off a rash of hacked public services and secret government programs around the globe. All hailing from a tiny virus no bigger than 500 kilobytes.

7. Spamhaus

The Spamhaus Project is an organization whose entire purpose is the tracking and fighting of spam. They hate spam. The group scours the internet to find the worst of the spammers and compile them into a list. Some estimates put their success rate at 80 percent. 80 percent…of all the spam that gets blocked, like, ever.

One group that drew the ire of Spamhaus was CyberBunker. CyberBunker stores the data and content of literally almost anyone except for “child porn and anything related to terrorism.” Their words. Spamhaus blacklisted CyberBunker, claiming they allow themselves to be used as a host for megaspammers. CyberBunker didn’t react well to being ostracized, and though they claim they had nothing to do with it, someone likely took their side and initiated the largest cyber attack in history. In what’s called a DDoS attack, where a website is flooded with requests to the point of crashing, Spamhaus was knocked offline and Internet around the globe was slowed down. A reported 100,000 servers were used to inundate the site, and more bandwidth was taken up than any other attack ever attempted. That is a serious overreaction to wanting less ads for genital enhancement in peoples’ inboxes.

6. The Melissa virus

Ah, the growing pains of the early Internet Age. It seems so innocent, but even as your AOL connection page starting screeching its demonic language, there could have been one of the early Net viruses worming its way into your prehistoric computers.

The Melissa virus of 1999 was a document widely shared online, in which there were promises of all sorts of passwords to get into paid porn sites. The document attachment to the emails were opened, a bum Microsoft Word doc opened, and the Melissa virus took over from there. It would then hack into the user’s email program and mass-send itself to fifty of the recipient’s contacts. There wasn’t much those days that was sensitive on peoples’ computers, but it did wreak havoc on the business world, shutting down servers at companies as big as Microsoft. All told, the virus hit up more than a million computers and affected 20 percent of North American businesses, while racking up $80 million in computer damages.

5. The Fappening

Surely it’s not surprising that in the digital age, people are taking advantage of apps like Snapchat and other texting options to send each other photos of their nether bits. It becomes an even bigger deal when we find out celebrities are doing the same things we are. Going back to leaked sex tapes of Kim Kardashian and Pam and Tommy Lee, the spectre of celebrity genitalia sets the world on fire. But nothing on the level of 2014’s mass image dump of hacked iCloud photos, lovably known as “The Fappening.”

Almost 500 photos were leaked to the notorious 4chan site of celebrities in the buff, stolen from private iCloud accounts. Apple itself has seemingly had the reputation of being a closed system that is much more difficult to hack, but those responsible were well-versed in a technique called “spear phishing”, which involves gathering all the personal info on a target possible to hack their sensitive material. The FBI was quick on the case, eventually tracking the work to a few hackers spread throughout the United States, and they earned varying prison stints for their actions.

4. 2016 FBI hack

One Justice Department employee’s email account. That’s all it took for a hacker to become privy to every single person who works for the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security. From that compromised account, he was able to download roughly 200 GB of incredibly sensitive info, like a real version of the Mission: Impossible NOC list. He then tricked a DOJ rep into giving him access to the database itself.

The names, rank, and personal information of nearly 30,000 employees who work in a very guarded profession immediately had their cover blown. Phone numbers and email addresses were made public, and the hacker stated he had credit card numbers as well. The hacks were apparently done by someone with pro-Palestine sympathies. That someone, it turns out, was a 16-year-old teenager living in England.

3. One writer at Wired has his whole life erased and all his gadgets frozen in minutes

Mat Honan was a tech writer for the Wired site in 2012. When hackers wormed their way into his Google account, he became a nobody. In the space of an hour.

At first, the hackers made eight years of email correspondences vanish. They took to Twitter next to issue homophobic slurs and racist rants, before deleting photos off of his Apple devices. They invaded every corner of his digital life. Think of every interaction or post or photo you’ve been a part of in your existence on the Internet. They thought of that too, and made him basically disappear, digitally speaking. Once his Apple ID was compromised, they remotely erased every single thing throughout all of his devices.

He could have stopped the hackers in their tracks early if he had utilized the extra layer of security Google offers (his fault), but once they started exploiting security lapses within Amazon and Apple, they were able to unleash much more damage (not his fault). Through it all, the hacker, known as Phobia, was in constant contact. Phobia still hasn’t had to pay for his actions, though investigators may be getting closer to finding out his identity.

2. OPM hack

We mentioned earlier how FBI and Department of Homeland Security personnel information was severely compromised in 2016. Well, just a year before that, another government agency found that they had been hacked. This time, it was the Office of Personnel Management, which is in charge of all the civilians working for the U.S. government.

The OPM’s IT department came across the hack first, when they noticed a bunch of forms used for background checks for their employees had been whisked away. And by a bunch, we mean millions. Oh, and they fingerprint records, too. The hack itself had been in progress for the previous two years, and the OPM was actually onto them by 2014, but allowed them to keep working to gain intelligence on them. Unfortunately for millions and millions of civilian government employees, this extra time just allowed the hackers to gain more and more clearance into the OPM’s systems. The attacks were blamed on China-backed hackers, and in 2017, a Chinese man was arrested for reasons related to the OPM hack, even though it wasn’t directly stated.

1. DNC and election hack

There has been a veritable storm of crap related to Russia and just how far they got influencing the 2016 U.S. presidential election. It’s such an all-encompassing story and the tentacles spread so far that it’s almost impossible to wrap one’s head around the main crux of it all: that election systems in every state and the Democratic National Committee itself were hacked in 2016, and that Russian hackers were likely behind it all.

DNC servers had Russian digital fingerprints all over it, it was discovered in June that year, and had likely been compromised for almost a year. Using malware, they published documents clearly meant to turn the elections in the Republicans’ favor. It went further. Other hackers went after the election cyber infrastructure located in each state, attacking them and pulling voter registrations and sample ballots. And while it’s not clear if they were able to actually change votes, we may never know just how far the hackers made it into one of America’s most revered institutions.


Kitchen Hack = Good

Computer Hacking = Get a Life

Alpha Omega M.D. – Episode #62

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Alpha Omega M.D. – Episode #62

… All your children turn out beautiful Johann, though little Maggie looks notting like your vife…

Secret Life-001

They (being John, Ziggy and Frieda) have had nearly three months to prepare, time for contemplation and reflection. But, little Maggie Lou has hastened the workings by entering the world a month ahead of schedule. Doc Ziggy thought he knew exactly when she was supposed to arrive, thanks to the only one possible cause for Laura’s condition. He also thought that he and his wife were too old to have an infant living in their house, but he was wrong, once again.

It is hard for John Ferrell to argue against Princess Olla abiding so near his home. He had nearly secured a home Endlichoffer Chalet-001in Frenchtown for his parallel family, a humble abode in a not so great neighborhood. It would have been a good place for them to grow in anonymity. Conversely the Endlichoffer’s offer a safe and loving environment, virtually assures that father John cannot forget his legacy or his responsibilities.

“She is so tiny.” It has been fourteen years since he has held a newborn, John Ferrell that is; for Ziggy, not as long. He is surprised at the fairness of the child’s skin, not totally unexpected considering his 50% contribute, but you never know; only one out of four pea plants will have white blossoms, the rest having pink. Generations have not been skipped in this unintentional crossbreeding.

 Movie - Secret Life “All your children turn out beautiful Johann,” comments one who knows, “though little Maggie looks notting like your vife.”

“Enough Ziggy!” insists John, who fails to see the irony of the moment. Most of his irony is saved for the bevy of lies and acres of deception that will constitute a lifelong cover-up. Part one of ‘The Secret Life of Laura Bell’, featuring Maggie Lou, begins this day with only the County Clerk of Courts aware of this census change; and the filled in father space on the birth certificate unavailable for public consumption.

The clerk will have her job as long as she wants it. The good news, for her, is that she had recently been appointed as clerk, replacing the former clerk who had fallen very ill. She is just two years out of Florida State University and now she has the undying support of one of Leon County’s most influential businessmen.


Alpha Omega M.D.

Maggie Lou-001

Episode #62


page 57

Alpha Omega M.D. – Episode #53

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Alpha Omega M.D. – Episode #53

…My God, Herbert, this girl is has been orphaned…

Even though she had suspected a cruel end to this most fundamental of revolts, the girl is not at all prepared for this end. She falls faintly, directly to the sandy soil. Herbert Love wraps her in a blanket and cradles her in his compassionate arms, all the while praying for their departed souls. This horrifying moment will forever be etched in his long term memory.

Upon seeing Love’s ice wagon standing idle, seemingly midstream in the drive, John Ferrell, who has the Campbell family with him, stops to check on things. He jogs down the winding lane, passing the grazing team, looking for any signs of life, as did the mayor of Quincy before him. There behind the smoldering barn, he spies four silhouettes: two huddled figures and two swinging.

Abigail Smythwick

Abigail Smythwick

He knows one to be Love.

“Abigail!” He recognizes the other.

Love puts his index finger to his mouth, “Ssshhhhhh,” it implies.

“What on earth happened here?” he asks.

“This is what happens when a concept like freedom festers. Left unattended the infection will kill… and it has.” He has pondered this concept long before adulthood, hence his calling to lifelong dedication to thoughts thereof.

My God, Herbert, this girl is an orphan!” it occurs to Ferrell. That spawns another. “It appears the need for secrecy has expired.”

“Yes, I see the direction you are headed. The Campbells may as well come with me to Quincy. I can get them settled in, stabilize, acclimate and the like. There is no need to hide them away in Tallahassee now.”

Road 1900“And I believe that Martha would have insisted that Miss Smythwick should come to our house. James should be some comfort to her as well.” 

“Yes, that will be good. There is much adjusting to be done.”

  Back at State Road 268, all are in agreement, as to the changes in the master plan. The family Campbell disembarks the grocery truck but there is not enough room on the ice wagon. They will take their final step to freedom on foot, unaware of the fate of their former rulers. Grandma Lettie will ride shotgun, next to Herbert Love, giving him unsolicited advice about his teamster-ing, the way most females are led to do.

Abigail Smythwick wakens to the Ferrell bookends of John and Martha and a bumpy ride on yet another unpaved Panhandle road.


Alpha Omega M.D.

“Bend in the Road” Cezanne

Episode #53


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Alpha Omega M.D. – Episode #48

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Alpha Omega M.D. – Episode #48

… At Hillside Estate, Martha has a payroll of three, for duties in her house, grounds thereabout and a flower garden that puts other botanical creations to shame…

The elimination of slavery has proven to be a difficult task, one that mere laws of emancipation could not do and whose foothold is so strong that only the flood of generations will launder it from the stained fabric of the few.

The holder of the final and most rewarding segment of Escape from Fort Sumter South is prepared to do her part.

Martha Ferrell does little laundry these days. In pre-Civil War days, house slaves would clean the clothes of their masters, toiling in an unappreciated reward less cycle of work, work and more of the same. There are no labor laws protecting the length of work days or the minimum age of the person doing the work.

At Hillside Estate, Martha has a payroll of three, for duties in her house, grounds thereabout and a flower garden that puts other botanical creations to shame. John Ferrell needs four men to tend the stable, barns and fields. Their spread of 500 acres is one/tenth the size of Fort Sumter South, requiring less staff, but producing barely enough revenue to make Hillside a viable estate. However, unlike Sumter’s two hundred, the seven Negroes under the Ferrell watch are paid; a monthly sum that allows for autonomy, to live in houses of their own doing, in the enclave of the free.

A horse of a different color is an entire newly freed family like there will be soon. And though the Campbell sojourn is to be temporary, no act of kindness can ever be more sincere. The former slaves will be properly clothed and rested in preparation for a future in the considerable empire that is Herbert Love. On San Luis Lake they holiday, in Quincy they will thrive.


Alpha Omega M.D.

San Luis Lake-001

Episode #48


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Cold-War Warning Signs – Doomed to Repeat?

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Reasons for

the Start

of the Cold War

On the April 30, 1945 Adolf Hitler committed suicide in the ruins of Berlin. Six days later Germany surrendered, bringing about the final defeat of the Reich he had claimed would last for a thousand years.

The world had been changed forever. Germany had been utterly defeated; France had lost her great power status, and Britain, almost bankrupted by World War Two, barely clung to hers. The United States of America and the Soviet Union had emerged as the world’s dominant powers.

These two new superpowers were still nominally allies, having struggled together to overcome the terrible might of Nazi Germany. However, even as early as 1945, the seeds of future conflict had been sown.

In this list we’ll look at 10 reasons why the Cold War began in 1945.

10. The Death of Franklin Roosevelt

On April 12, 1945 President Franklin D. Roosevelt complained of a headache; just moments later he collapsed unconscious. He died later that same day.

When the news reached the heart of the imploding Third Reich, Hitler celebrated amidst the ruins of Berlin. The German dictator was desperate enough to clutch at any straws that presented themselves, and he convinced himself that the death of America’s president would mark a turning point in the war in Europe.

Despite Hitler’s initial optimism Roosevelt was replaced by Harry S. Truman, and World War Two continued its inevitable course towards Germany’s total defeat. However, Roosevelt’s death did significantly alter the dynamics of the post-war world.

Roosevelt is remembered as one of America’s great presidents, but he had something of a blind spot when it came to Joseph Stalin. He hadn’t recognized quite how wily and ruthless Stalin could be, and wrongly believed himself to be quite capable of charming the Soviet Union’s brutal dictator.

Harry Truman, Roosevelt’s successor, was altogether more suspicious of the Soviet Union in general and Stalin in particular. While Stalin initially believed Truman to be a nonentity who could be easily manipulated, this proved not to be the case.

9. Operation Unthinkable

Joseph Stalin spent much of World War Two haunted by the fear that Britain and America might betray him, make a separate peace with the Nazis, and leave the Soviet Union to fight on alone. In his worst nightmares his allies went even further and teamed up with Nazi Germany to destroy him.

While Stalin is remembered as one of history’s most murderously paranoid individuals, his concerns were not entirely without foundation. Winston Churchill in particular nursed a deep hatred of the Soviet Union that stretched right back to its creation.

In 1945, just days after the end of the war in Europe, Churchill asked his military planners to investigate the possibility of launching an almost immediate assault on Stalin’s Red Army. Churchill christened it Operation Unthinkable, for obvious reasons.

Quite how serious Churchill was about this extraordinary venture isn’t known for sure. In any event Operation Unthinkable was dead in the water with the report concluding there was no chance of success. The British couldn’t compete with the might of the Red Army. Even if the Americans could be persuaded to team up with the British, and they very much insisted they wouldn’t, the Soviets had more tanks and more men. The likely outcome was a long and bloody struggle.

Operation Unthinkable was shelved. However, Stalin soon learned all about it through his extensive network of spies. The news that at least one of his former allies was making plans to attack fueled his paranoia and contributed to the beginning of the Cold War.

8. Disagreements over the Fate of the Nazis

In November 1943 Winston Churchill, Franklin Roosevelt, and Joseph Stalin met face-to-face for the first time. There was still a huge amount of fighting and bloodshed to come; but the end of World War Two was finally in sight, and an Allied victory was all but inevitable.

The Tehran Conference was an opportunity for the “Big Three” leaders of the main Allied powers to discuss not just the war itself, but also how to handle the peace. One of the major questions to be addressed was what to do with any captured Nazis.

Stalin offered a solution that some 100,000 German Army officers should simply be shot.

While Roosevelt assumed Stalin was joking, Churchill took him more seriously and stormed out of the room in a fury. The British Prime Minister had himself suggested that senior Nazis should be hanged without recourse to legal aid, but as a former British Army officer he could not sanction the idea of slaughtering soldiers.

The three men eventually agreed that their enemies’ guilt should be established at trial, but they had very different ideas of what this should entail.

When Stalin held a trial he very much intended for the outcome, and even the script, to be determined well in advance. The British and Americans were determined that the trials be seen to be free and fair. As a result several Nazis walked free or escaped with their lives, including Albert Speer, who was Nazi Armament Minister and one of Hitler’s closest confidants. This was certainly not the outcome Stalin had been hoping for.

7. The Defeat of Japan

Japan had been at war with the United States of America and Great Britain since 1941, and with China since 1937. However, the Japanese Empire and the Soviet Union, despite sharing a land border, had not declared war on each other.

This had been a convenient arrangement for both powers. The Soviet Union had been locked in a life-or-death struggle with Nazi Germany in the west, and the Japanese more than had their hands full at land and sea in the east.

With the defeat of Nazi Germany Stalin turned his gaze east. Stalin had promised he would join the war against Japan once the war in Europe was over, and he was more than happy to grab some territory from the crumbling Japanese Empire.

On August 9, 1945 the Americans dropped a nuclear bomb on the city of Nagasaki. Earlier that day the Soviet Red Army had launched a huge surprise offensive against the Japanese in Manchuria. Some historians believe it was the Soviet assault, rather than the immense destructive power of America’s new atomic bombs, that persuaded the Japanese to announce their surrender just six days later.

While the Red Army’s war against the Japanese was brief, Stalin insisted that it warranted the Soviet Union a zone of occupation in the Japanese Home Islands. On August 16, 1945 Stalin wrote to Truman asking to be given part of the island of Hokkaido, adding that he hoped his modest wishes would not meet with any objection.

Roosevelt might, perhaps, have been amenable to the suggestion. Truman was far more suspicious of the Soviets and refused the request.

6. The Division of Korea

The Japanese announcement of their intention to surrender did not bring an immediate cease to hostilities. Stalin drove his armies on, determined to seize territory in the east while the going was good.

By August 1945 the Red Army was a devastatingly effective fighting machine, hardened by the titanic struggle against the forces of Nazi Germany. The forces of Imperial Japan, meanwhile, were much diminished. The best of the Japanese ground forces, and almost every serviceable aircraft, had been withdrawn from mainland Asia to the defense of the Japanese Home Islands.

The Red Army smashed aside the Japanese defenses making huge gains in Manchuria and pressing into Korea, which had been occupied by Japan since 1910.

There was no realistic possibility of the Americans mounting an invasion of Korea before the entire Korean Peninsula fell into Soviet hands. However, Stalin, prepared to trade influence in the Far East to strengthen his negotiating hand in Europe, agreed to divide Korea in two.

The Soviet Union would command the northern part of the country, which contained most of the heavy industry and mineral wealth, while the Americans took control of the largely agricultural south.

Both superpowers would install brutal puppet governments to serve their own interests. Korea was not split apart on any cultural, religious, ethnic, or historical basis, and the decision to divide the nation in two was destined to lead to future conflict. This came to pass when North Korea invaded South Korea in 1950, leading to the hottest conflict of the entire Cold War.

5. Clash of Ideologies

Adolf Hitler spent a good chunk of World War Two waiting for the alliance between the capitalist Western powers and the communist Soviet Union to fall apart. The long-awaited collapse in relations never materialized during his lifetime, but Hitler had not been entirely unreasonable in expecting it.

The alliance between the big three powers was one of the most unlikely in history. It was only made possible by the uniquely aggressive form of fascism that emerged in Germany, and it could not long survive the collapse of the Third Reich.

Communist ideology dictated that the collapse of capitalism was both desirable and inevitable. While communism is now a largely discredited theory, for much of the 20th century it posed a mortal threat to powerful individuals who reaped the main rewards of capitalism.

Stalin might have been paranoid, but it wasn’t without good reason. Shortly after the communist revolution Churchill had advocated “Strangling Bolshevism in its cradle.” The western powers had attempted to do just this, leading to a brutal civil war in Russia that lasted from 1917 to 1923.

Neither side can be absolved of blame for the Cold War. While it was perhaps not immediately apparent following the defeat of Germany in 1945, the incompatible nature of the two competing ideologies of communism and capitalism made future conflict inevitable.

4. Berlin Divided

On May 2, 1945 the German defenders of Berlin surrendered to the Red Army. The battle had cost the lives of around 80,000 Soviet and 100,000 German soldiers.

Dwight Eisenhower, commander of the Allied forces in the west, is sometimes criticized for failing to drive his armies on and beat the Soviets to Germany’s capital city. It was a race that he might just have won, but it would have made no difference to the post-war map of Europe.

The division of Germany had already been decided through politics. Berlin itself lay well within what would be Soviet territory. However, the city would be divided up into four, with the Soviet Union, the United States of America, Great Britain, and France all given a zone of control.

This tiny enclave of Western democracy deep within Soviet controlled Eastern Germany soon came to infuriate Stalin. In 1948 he attempted to heal the open sore as he ordered the city to be blockaded, denying the Western Allies any links to the city by road, rail, or water. The Allies responded by flying in the supplies they needed. Stalin balked at giving the order to shoot down American aircraft, knowing that to do so would very likely result in war.

3. The End of American Isolationism

The United States of America had been traumatized by her involvement in World War One, where more than 100,000 Americans lost their lives. Determined to avoid being dragged into any more foreign wars America pursued a policy of isolationism. The nation maintained only a small army and avoided intervening in the affairs of other countries.

It didn’t work. America was dragged into another World War, this one even more terrible than the first. By 1945 isolationism was well and truly dead. The US had emerged as a global superpower with a vast military arsenal at its disposal.

Rather than retreating from the world, America would attempt to shape and control it. This was done even at the expense of democratic ideals, with the United States of America installing and supporting numerous dictatorships.

This more aggressive approach to international relations would inevitably lead to conflict with the Soviet Union, which was itself emboldened by its newfound superpower status and determined to export communism around the world.

2. The Fate of Eastern Europe

The British went to war with Nazi Germany in 1939 with the express goal of defending the right of Polish self-determination in the wake of Germany’s invasion. This was complicated by the failure of the British to declare war on the Soviet Union when the Red Army invaded eastern Poland having done a deal with Hitler.

The United States of America claimed to be fighting a war for freedom. This position too was complicated by the necessity of fighting alongside Stalin’s Soviet Union, a totalitarian dictatorship with few if any redeeming features.

When the war in the west drew to a close in May 1945, the Soviet Red Army had already occupied Poland and much of Eastern Europe. Short of attempting something quite as extraordinarily reckless as Operation Unthinkable, there was very little the Western Allies could do about this.

The British and Americans demanded that Stalin must hold free and fair elections in the territories he had occupied. Stalin readily agreed but went ahead and fixed the results of the elections regardless.

The Soviet domination of so much of Europe, a continent which had dominated world power far more than it does today, was a source of considerable discomfort and fear for America and the Western powers.

1. Nuclear Weapons

The atomic bomb that destroyed Hiroshima in 1945 exploded with as much force as 15,000 tons of TNT. As many as sixty thousand people were killed instantly, many of them simply vaporized, as temperatures briefly exceeded those on the surface of the sun.

Both Roosevelt and Churchill hoped that America’s new atomic capabilities would intimidate Stalin. However, when the Soviet dictator was informed of the weapon’s immense destructive power at the Yalta Conference in February 1945, he had shown barely any interest at all. It’s now known that the news had not come as a surprise. Stalin’s spies had kept him well informed of America’s top-secret new weapon, and his scientists were already racing to deliver Stalin a bomb of his own. This mission was accomplished by 1949, far sooner than the Americans believed possible.

The dawn of the atomic age in 1945 vastly raised the stakes for both the Soviet Union and the United States of America. It was now possible for a single bomber, carrying a single bomb, to incinerate an entire city. The two superpowers would later develop intercontinental ballistic missiles and a stockpile of nuclear warheads capable of wiping out most life on the planet. Both sides were aware that if the Cold War turned hot, it might mean the end of civilization. This went a long way towards focusing minds on finding diplomatic solutions to disagreements that might otherwise have led to war.

As terrible as nuclear weapons are, and despite the threat they continue to pose to the future of humanity, they probably prevented all-out war between the United States of America and the Soviet Union.


Cold-War Warning Signs –

Doomed to Repeat?