Category Archives: Asia

InSecurityWatch: Drones, bombs, cops, hacks


Plus lots of Hong Kong headlines after the jump. . .

First, via The Verge, a real source of insecurity:

The US is holding on to nuclear weapons to defend the Earth against rogue asteroids

As noticed by The Wall Street Journal, a 67-page Government Accountability Office report on the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) said that some US nuclear warhead components that were scheduled to be disassembled by next year are in fact being kept whole to be used to defend the Earth against a potential asteroid impact. The report specifically states that some warheads “are being retained in an indeterminate state pending a senior-level government evaluation of their use in planetary defense against earthbound asteroids.”

The threat of a direct asteroid impact has gotten more attention in recent months after a huge meteor exploded over Russia in February 2013, injuring hundreds with its debris. Last year, NASA said that the Earth was sitting in the path of over 1,400 asteroids that could cause potentially significant damage, but said that none seemed likely to hit the planet — at least for the next 100 years or so. And even those asteroids coming “close” to the Earth are millions of miles away, but that isn’t stopping the US from being prepared. Whether or not these nuclear weapons are kept to battle asteroids remains to be seen, but it’s at least something the government is keeping in its back pocket in case of an Armageddon scenario.

Now on the war in the Mideast, first flying blind with the Associated Press:

Airstrikes launched amid intelligence gaps

The Pentagon is grappling with significant intelligence gaps as it bombs Iraq and Syria, and it is operating under less restrictive targeting rules than those President Barack Obama imposed on the CIA drone campaign in Pakistan and Yemen, according to current and former U.S. officials.

The U.S. military says its airstrikes have been discriminating and effective in disrupting an al-Qaida cell called the Khorasan Group and in halting the momentum of Islamic State militants. But independent analysts say the Islamic State group remains on the offensive in areas of Iraq and Syria, where it still controls large sections. And according to witnesses, U.S. airstrikes have at times hit empty buildings that were long ago vacated by Islamic State fighters.

Human rights groups also say coalition airstrikes in both countries have killed as many as two dozen civilians. U.S. officials say they can’t rule out civilian deaths but haven’t confirmed any.

From TheLocal.fr, from stoner to slayer?:

Pot-smoking Frenchman is Isis ‘executioner’

The man accused by the US State department of carrying out executions for the Islamist extremist group Isis was a “fun-loving” Frenchman who enjoyed smoking weed and going out clubbing, according to this report.

As a teen, Salim Benghalem smoked weed and went out clubbing. Now, the Frenchman is an Islamic State jihadist wanted by Washington which accuses him of carrying out execution-style killings for the extremist group.

The US State Department last week singled him out as one of 10 wanted “foreign terrorist fighters”, describing him as “a Syria-based French extremist and ISIL member” – using an alternative name for IS – as well as an executioner.

But this description has left friends and relatives of the 34-year-old, who grew up in Cachan near Paris, baffled.

And another interesting development from the Associated Press:

Iran to help Lebanon army fight extremists

Iran will supply the Lebanese army with military equipment to be used in fighting Muslim extremist groups, a visiting senior Iranian official said on Tuesday.

The announcement marks the first time that Iran has said it would give Lebanon military assistance. Tehran has offered help in the past but such offers did not materialize because of sharp divisions among Lebanese political groups over Iran.

Iran is the main backer of Lebanon’s militant Hezbollah group, which has a force more powerful than the Lebanese national army. The group has thousands of rockets and missiles — many of them from Iran.

Enduring Snowden blowback, via the McClatchy Foreign Staff:

NSA eavesdropping is still roiling relations with Germany

Juergen Hardt’s position in the German government, coordinator of trans-Atlantic cooperation, once was considered a major honor – the official liaison to the United States, arguably Germany’s closest ally.

But since the revelation that the United States’ National Security Agency eavesdropped for years on Chancellor Angela Merkel’s cellphone, U.S.-German relations have been a twisting, stomach-churning roller coaster ride so wild that many Germans wonder whether it’s possible to get off. The pro-America crowd, meanwhile, can only warn that despite the nausea, it’s not safe to leave a ride in motion.

“We have gone through challenging times in the bilateral relationship in the past,” Hardt said in an interview. “As in every relationship, there have been ups and downs. Right now, we are going through challenging times when it comes to public perception.”

And from BBC News, an almost blast from the past:

Henry Kissinger ‘considered Cuba air strikes’ in 1976

US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger drew up plans to “smash Cuba” with air strikes nearly 40 years ago, government papers obtained by researchers show.

He was angered by Cuba’s 1976 military intervention in Angola and was considering retaliation if Cuban forces were deployed elsewhere in Africa.

The information comes from documents declassified at the request of the National Security Archive. They show that Mr Kissinger was eager for the US to stand up to Cuba.

The documents from the Gerald R Ford Presidential Library show that US officials devised plans to attack ports and military installations in Cuba in addition to measures ordered by Mr Kissinger to deploy Marine battalions based at the US Navy base at Guantanamo Bay to “clobber” the Cubans.

Hitting the panic button with the Guardian:

Eric Holder raises concerns over privacy advances by tech companies

  • US attorney general suggests an increase in privacy protections may thwart attempts to crack down on child exploitation

US attorney general Eric Holder said on Tuesday he was worried that attempts by technology companies to increase privacy protections were thwarting attempts to crack down on child exploitation.

Speaking at the biannual Global Alliance Conference Against Child Sexual Abuse Online in Washington, Holder warned that encryption and other privacy technologies are being used by sexual predators to create “more opportunities to entice trusting minors to share explicit images of themselves.”

“Recent technological advances have the potential to greatly embolden online criminals, providing new methods for abusers to avoid detection,” he said. “When a child is in danger, law enforcement needs to be able to take every legally available step to quickly find and protect the child and to stop those that abuse children. It is worrisome to see companies thwarting our ability to do so.”

From the McClatchy Washington Bureau The Most Transparent Administration in History™, a major escalation in the War on Leaks:

No lie: Obama administration issues new polygraph policy

The Obama administration has issued a new polygraph policy for tens of thousands of federal employees who take lie detectors for security clearances or to obtain “sensitive” jobs.

The policy issued by Director of National Intelligence James Clapper comes after his office ordered agencies conducting the tests to ask applicants or employees if they had leaked classified information to the media. The new policy, obtained by McClatchy under the Freedom of Information Act, reiterates the requirement.

Steven Aftergood, who runs the Federation of American Scientists’ Project on Government Secrecy, said that section is “striking because it elevates leaking of classified information to the same level as espionage and sabotage.”

The Washington Post covers a major security fail:

Armed contractor with criminal record was on elevator with Obama in Atlanta

A security contractor with a gun and three convictions for assault and battery was allowed on an elevator with President Obama during a Sept. 16 trip to Atlanta, violating Secret Service protocols, according to three people familiar with the incident.

Obama was not told about the lapse in his security, these people said. The Secret Service director, Julia Pierson, asked a top agency manager to look into the matter but did not refer it to an investigative unit that was created to review violations of protocol and standards, according to two people familiar with the handling of the case who spoke on the condition of anonymity.

The incident, which took place when Obama visited the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to discuss the U.S. response to the Ebola crisis, rattled Secret Service agents assigned to the president’s protective detail.

The McClatchy Washington Bureau covers the consequences:

Secret Service director resigns

Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson said Wednesday that he has accepted the resignation of Secret Service director Julia Pierson, who stepped down amid rising discontent in Congress over her leadership.

Johnson said Pierson offered her resignation, adding, “I salute her 30 years of distinguished service to the Secret Service and the Nation.”

Obama called Pierson and thanked her for her service, White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said. He noted Pierson on Tuesday had taken responsibility for the latest mishap to befall the agency, when an armed man vaulted over the fence at the White House and gained entry.

Cocking a snook at Washington, via the Guardian:

The Guardian wins an Emmy for coverage of NSA revelations

  • Interactive NSA Decoded explained implications of the Edward Snowden leaks on mass surveillance by intelligence agencies

The Guardian US has won an Emmy for its groundbreaking coverage of Edward Snowden’s disclosures about mass surveillance by US intelligence agencies.

The Guardian’s multimedia interactive feature NSA Decoded was announced as the winner in the new approaches: current news category at the news and documentary Emmy awards in New York on Tuesday night.

The comprehensive interactive walks the audience through the facts and implications of the NSA’s mass surveillance program, revealed by the Guardian last year in coverage based on leaks by Snowden.

On to drones, first with the Guardian:

‘We see ourselves as the vanguard’: the police force using drones to fight crime

Grand Forks police department in North Dakota believes unmanned drones are a vital part of its toolkit of law enforcement – but are UAVs a threat to individual privacy?

The video begins with a suspect in a red car screeching to a halt outside an abandoned farmhouse with two police vehicles, sirens blazing, in hot pursuit. The suspect makes off on foot, waving a large handgun in front of him.

Then something unusual happens. Out of the back of a police car, officers grab a gadget about the size of a suitcase, assemble it within seconds and then launch it buzzing into the air. It hovers directly over the suspect, streaming images of the man from a high-definition camera down to a mobile computer screen. “I have a visual of the suspect,” an officer says into his radio device. “Positive ID of a gun in his right hand – proceed with caution.”

The film is an elaborate piece of theatre, replete with hard-rock soundtrack, designed to show off the law enforcement potential of the Qube, an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV). The gadget – which has four rotor blades, is three feet long and weighs 5.5lbs – is at the forefront of the use of drone technology by police forces in the US

And the film itself from AeroVironment Inc.:

Qube™ Public Safety UAS

Program notes:

Qube is a rugged and reliable small Unmanned Aircraft System (UAS) targeting the needs of first responders. The packaged system fits easily in the trunk of a car, and can be assembled and ready for flight in less than five minutes to provide a rapidly deployable eye in the sky, transmitting live video directly to the operator at a fraction of the cost of manned aircraft.

Drones for a private sector fraud squad from News Corp Australia:

British company Air and Space Evidence will use satellites and drones to detect insurance fraud

TWO British academics have opened the world’s first space detective agency, using drones and satellites to uncover insurance fraud, search for freshly dug graves or to monitor how foreign aid money is spent.

Founder Ray Purdy, a lawyer who specialised in satellite law at the University College of London, has teamed up with geographer colleague Professor Ray Harris in a private firm that will use before and after aerial imagery in criminal and civil cases.

As an example of the work that Air and Space Evidence is undertaking, Mr Purdy pointed to a case following Hurricane Katrina, where a couple claimed their New Orleans home was severely damaged by wind and water.

Aerial photos showed the house had survived Katrina intact.

On to the world of cybercrime with Network World:

FBI opens malware tool to public as part of radical crowdsourcing plan

  • Public Malware Investigator portal nears launch

The FBI is close to allowing anonymous outsiders to use its Malware Investigator tool for the first time through a dedicated crowdsourcing portal, an official reportedly confirmed at last week’s Virus Bulletin conference.

News of the malwareinvestigator.gov initiative emerged earlier this year, at which point the plan was to give state investigators and enterprises – the FBI’s ‘community of interest’ – the ability to submit malware samples for rapid assessment.

From descriptions offered at the time, Malware Investigator was designed to work like a more sophisticated version of Google’s VirusTotal malware portal that can be used by anyone to check files and URLs against antivirus and web scanners. The plan involved offering one website for law enforcement, launched in August, and a second for mixed third-parties.

TechWeekEurope covers a private sector partnership:

Interpol Opens Cybercrime Base, Partners With Kaspersky, Trend Micro

  • New Singapore facility will help Interpol tackle cybercrime

Interpol has forged partnership deals with two leading security vendors, as it opens up a new “nerve centre” to combat the threat of cybercrime.

The international police body said that the INTERPOL Global Complex for Innovation (IGCI) building in Singapore will provide it with a state of the art facility to help lead the fight against online crime.
Nerve Centre

The state-of-the-art IGCI will provide Interpol with include a digital forensic laboratory “for the identification of crimes and criminals, innovative training, operational support and partnerships.”

The new facility will reinforce Interpol’s existing cybercrime units at Interpol’s General Secretariat headquarters in Lyon and its Regional Bureau in Buenos Aires, Argentina.

After the jump, Mexican cops fired at students and 43 are missing, an Obama/Modhi Sino snub, Doubts about the Aussie anti-ISIS campaign, another Aussie military move questioned, a stern warning from Beijing to the protesters, an admission from Hong Kong’s top pol and his admission that there’s no end in sight to the Occupy Central action, Washington ups the pressure, Beijing names a point man, a blow to the tourist trade, Anal probes are for the birds in Beijing [really], Obama mulls a new Pacific strategy, an enforcement date set for Japan’s new state secrets act, a revanchist Japanese mayor tackles an anti-Korean hate group, and a remilitarized Japanese agenda for its American alliance. . . Continue reading

EnviroWatch: Fires, ills, eruption, nukes


A shorter than usual compendium today, and we begin with Golden State woes from the Christian Science Monitor:

California wildfires: 2014 budget spent, as typical high-fire season begins

Facing historic drought conditions, California firefighters are tapping into a state backup fund. As a result, firefighting crews can still be deployed and water tankers flown, despite spending beyond annual firefighting budget.

As California heads into peak fire season – in the worst drought in state history – firefighters are already tapping into reserve funds.

That means that in just the first three months of the fiscal year, the Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (known as Cal Fire) has already spent all of the $209 million budgeted this year for wildfires. Once lasting about three months, the California wildfire season now runs pretty much year round.

If that’s the bad news, here’s the good: The massive King fire, which has destroyed 97,000 acres just northwest of Yosemite National Park, is 92 percent contained. And the first snow of the season dumped up to three inches along the Lake Tahoe Basin.

Reuters covers another outbreak:

Rhode Island child with Enterovirus dies after infection: officials

A Rhode Island child hospitalized with Enterovirus D68 has died of a bacterial infection, in what state public health officials described on Wednesday as an unusual and dangerous combination.

The child, a 10-year-old girl who was not named, died last week as a result of a staphylococcus aureus sepsis alongside the respiratory virus, the Rhode Island Department of Health said in a statement, calling it a “very rare combination that can cause very severe illness in children and adults.”

An outbreak of Enterovirus D68 has swept the country, with 500 confirmed cases, mostly children, in 42 states plus the District of Columbia, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

From the Japan Times, updated numbers for a deadly eruption:

Mount Ontake death toll rises to 47, making it Japan’s worst volcanic disaster in almost 90 years

Rescuers combing the peak of Mount Ontake have found more bodies, officials said Wednesday, bringing the death toll in Saturday’s unexpected eruption to 47. The figure makes it Japan’s worst volcanic disaster in almost 90 years.

Precarious conditions at the summit have made the search an on-off effort, and other bodies may still be undiscovered.

Japanese media reports have said up to 20 people remain unaccounted for, although local emergency services say a greater number have been reported missing.

And on to Fukushimapocalypse Now!, first with NHK WORLD:

Evacuation order lifted in Fukushima village

The Japanese government has lifted an evacuation order for part of Kawauchi Village near the crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant.

The measure — for the eastern part of the village in Fukushima Prefecture — took effect on Wednesday at midnight. It affects 274 residents in 139 households.

The government says decontamination has been completed in the area. The roads and other infrastructure have been rebuilt, and utility services are up and running.

NHK WORLD again, with a word of caution:

Nuclear risk center chief urges change in mindset

The head of Japan’s newly established Nuclear Risk Research Center has urged everyone involved with nuclear energy to change their mindset.

The center opened on Wednesday as part of the Central Research Institute of Electric Power Industry, which is run jointly by Japanese power companies. Center chief George Apostolakis served on the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission until June. He specializes in analyzing risks at nuclear plants.

The center’s aim is to pinpoint such risks, including those at plants that have met government requirements to restart, and to help power companies fix the problems.

Apostolakis said Japan has been slow to introduce risk analysis, perhaps because most people think everything that meets government requirements is safe. He added that such attitudes must change, to ensure safety.

And closer to home, nuclear littering from Nextgov:

Watchdog: Don’t Rule Out Organic Kitty Litter as Culprit in Nuclear Waste Radiation Leak

Kitty litter may yet turn out to be the culprit behind a radiation leak at a nuclear waste site earlier this year.

An Energy Department inspector general report released yesterday raised once again the possibility that the addition of organic kitty litter to nuclear waste drums may well have led to a rupture of one drum at an underground storage facility and a subsequent radiation leak Feb. 14.

The report raises concerns about the safety of hundreds of other waste drums.

The New Mexico Environment Department’s Hazardous Waste Bureau theorized this May that a combination of organic cat litter and nitrate salt waste in nuclear waste drums at Los Alamos National Laboratory prior to shipment to the underground Waste Isolation Pilot Plant near Carlsbad, New Mexico, may have led to the drum rupture and the eventual radiation leak.

And for our final item, the Guardian covers carbonaceous claims:

Canada switches on world’s first carbon capture power plant

  • Boundary Dam held up as first commercial-scale CCS plant and proof that coal-burning is compatible with cutting emissions

Canada has switched on the first large-scale coal-fired power plant fitted with a technology that proponents say enables the burning of fossil fuels without tipping the world into a climate catastrophe.

The project, the first commercial-scale plant equipped with carbon capture and storage technology, was held up by the coal industry as a real life example that it is possible to go on burning the dirtiest of fossil fuels while avoiding dangerous global warming.

Saskatchewan’s state-owned electricity provider is due to cut the ribbon on the $1.3 billion Canadian project on Thursday. But officials from SaskPower International Inc told guests invited to the ceremony the 110 megawatt plant went live on Tuesday night.

InSecurityWatch: War, malware, hacks, China


And a whole lot more.

First up, hyperbolic ramp-up; from the London Telegraph:

Theresa May: Isil will become nuclear threat if we don’t stop them

  • Home Secretary Theresa May warns Isil could acquire “chemical, biological or even nuclear weapons” in the “world’s first truly terrorist state”

The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant could acquire nuclear weapons if they are allowed to consolidate their hold in Iraq and Syria, Theresa May has warned.

Isil could get hold of “chemical, biological or even nuclear weapons” in the “world’s first truly terrorist state,” the Home Secretary said, in a wide-ranging speech to the Conservative party conference.

The Home Secretary dramatically highlighted the threat to Britain from the terrorist group, which is operating “within a few hours flying time of our country”.

From BBC News, British bombs away:

RAF jets strike first IS targets in Iraq

RAF jets have attacked a “heavy weapon position” and an armed pick-up truck in Iraq, the Ministry of Defence has said.

In the first attacks since Parliament approved military action on Friday, two “precision strikes” were launched and both were “successful”, the MoD said.

The attacks, by two Tornado jets, were part of an international effort against militant group Islamic State (IS).

From the Toronto Globe and Mail, bloviation north of the border:

Canadian military intervention in Iraq is ‘noble,’ Harper says

Stephen Harper is calling Canadian military intervention in Iraq a “noble” cause as his government prepares for an expected air combat mission in the region, saying this country must respond to a direct threat from the Islamic State extremists.

“These are necessary actions, they are noble actions,” Mr. Harper said during Question Period on Tuesday. “When we think that something is necessary and noble, we don’t sit back and say that only other people should do it. The Canadian way is that you do your part.”

He promised a decision on whether and how to extend the mission in the coming days.

Reuters goes against the grain:

Special Report: Islamic State uses grain to tighten grip in Iraq

The group now controls a large chunk of Iraq’s wheat supplies. The United Nations estimates land under IS control accounts for as much as 40 percent of Iraq’s annual production of wheat, one of the country’s most important food staples alongside barley and rice. The militants seem intent not just on grabbing more land but also on managing resources and governing in their self-proclaimed caliphate.

Wheat is one tool at their disposal. The group has begun using the grain to fill its pockets, to deprive opponents – especially members of the Christian and Yazidi minorities – of vital food supplies, and to win over fellow Sunni Muslims as it tightens its grip on captured territory. In Iraq’s northern breadbasket, much as it did in neighboring Syria, IS has kept state employees and wheat silo operators in place to help run its empire.

Such tactics are one reason IS poses a more complex threat than al Qaeda, the Islamist group from which it grew. For most of its existence, al Qaeda has focused on hit-and-run attacks and suicide bombings. But Islamic State sees itself as both army and government.

From the McClatchy Washington Bureau, a drone’s-eye view:

Once targeted, Global Hawk drone now hidden weapon in U.S. airstrikes

The squabbling between the Pentagon and Capitol Hill over whether to kill the biggest of the military’s drones – the Global Hawk – is finished for the moment, with the remotely piloted surveillance aircraft and its builder emerging as the victors.

Now there’s every indication that the rise of the Islamic State has offered the pilotless wonder a chance to show its stuff.

If only its intelligence, reconnaissance and surveillance activities, conducted from as high as 11 miles off the ground and on flights of up to 32 hours, weren’t classified. Pentagon officials are tight-lipped about the drone’s role in recent U.S. airstrikes in Iraq and Syria.

And next door, via the Guardian:

New Afghanistan pact means America’s longest war will last until at least 2024

  • Bilateral security deal ensures that President Obama will pass off the Afghanistan war and his new war in Iraq and Syria to his successor

The longest war in American history will last at least another decade, according to the terms of a garrisoning deal for US forces signed by the new Afghanistan government on Tuesday.

Long awaited and much desired by an anxious US military, the deal guarantees that US and Nato troops will not have to withdraw by year’s end, and permits their stay “until the end of 2024 and beyond.”

The entry into force of the deal ensures that Barack Obama, elected president in 2008 on a wave of anti-war sentiment, will pass off both the Afghanistan war and his new war in Iraq and Syria to his successor. In 2010, his vice-president, Joe Biden, publicly vowed the US would be “totally out” of Afghanistan “come hell or high water, by 2014.”

CBC News covers spooky rhetoric:

Homegrown terrorism remains biggest threat, Jeh Johnson says

  • U.S. Homeland Security secretary arrived Monday for 2-day visit, keynote speech

U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson says homegrown terrorism by previously unknown individuals is the threat that worries him the most.

Johnson, in remarks to a business audience in Ottawa today, pointed to last year’s Boston Marathon bombings as an example of terrorist threats that are difficult to predict.

In his midday speech to the Canadian American Business Council, he also spoke about measures by the U.S. government to improve the flow of good across the border while maintaining security.

Canada counts security state costs, via the Toronto Globe and Mail:

Security could drive Pan Am costs higher, minister warns

The rising cost of next year’s Pan American Games may balloon even more because of security costs, the Ontario cabinet minister in charge of the file said Tuesday.

“How can I guarantee the cost of the Games when I don’t know what the threat level is going to be?” Culture Minister Michael Coteau told a legislative committee. “I will not put a price tag on the safety of Ontarians.”

The current total for the event is $2.57-billion, of which $239-million is set aside for security. The cost of security has already grown twice from its initial estimate of $113-million. The Games will be held next summer in Toronto, Hamilton and several surrounding suburbs.

Old Blighty takes an Orwellian turn, via the Associated Press:

UK government plans curbs on nonviolent extremism

Britain’s interior minister has proposed new powers to bar people with extremist views from appearing on television or publishing on social media even if they are not breaking any laws.

Home Secretary Theresa May told a conference of the governing Conservatives that if re-elected next year the party will introduce powers to disrupt people who “spread poisonous hatred” even within the law.

May said Tuesday that only a minority of extremists are violent, but there is “a thread that binds” nonviolent extremism to terrorism.

May says tougher powers are needed to stop young people becoming radicalized. She says at least 500 Britons have traveled to Syria and Iraq, mainly to fight with militant groups.

The Associated Press embarrasses:

Germany unable to meet NATO readiness target

Germany’s military is unable to meet its medium-term readiness target should NATO call on its members to mobilize against an attack, officials said Monday.

The revelation follows days of embarrassing reports about equipment failures that included German army instructors being stranded in Bulgaria en route to Iraq when their plane broke down, and delays in sending weapons to arm Kurdish fighters because of another transport problem.

In the latest incident, the military said one of two aging C-160 aircraft flying German aid to Ebola-affected West Africa has also been grounded on the island of Gran Canaria since the weekend, awaiting repairs.

Asked about a Der Spiegel report that Germany at this juncture wouldn’t be able to offer the appropriate number of military aircraft within 180 days of an attack on the NATO alliance, Defense Ministry spokesman Jens Flosdorff confirmed that was the case.

New Europe drones on:

France, Germany to offer drones to monitor ceasefire in Ukraine

France and Germany offered to deploy drones as part of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE)’s efforts to monitor Ukraine’s ceasefire, a government official said on Monday.

At a daily news briefing, Foreign Ministry’s spokesperson Romain Nadal announced “France and Germany have proposed to provide drones aimed at monitoring the ceasefire’s implementation as requested by the OSCE.”

The drone deployment proposal was being discussed, he added without elaborating.

“The cease-fire is an important opportunity to find a lasting political solution to the conflict and which respects Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity,” Nadal noted.

A cumulus, not the fog of war, via Aviation Week & Space Technology:

Pentagon’s ‘Combat Cloud’ Concept Taking Shape

  • Pentagon envisions “combat cloud” as force multiplier for shrinking fleet

The Pentagon has been bitten by the Steve Jobs bug.

The latest vision for data-sharing across ships, aircraft and satellites—a perpetually chased but unrealized plan—is now being dubbed the “combat cloud.” And a retired U.S. Air Force officer is leading a first-of-a-kind charge to bring stakeholders from each of the services, industry and academia together to shape the cloud and attain buy-in, despite the Pentagon’s spotty track record of gaining traction on similar efforts.

Today the Air Force’s very expensive, stealthy aircraft cannot talk to its -legacy systems, and without that crosstalk the effectiveness of those investments will be marginalized. While officers are scrambling to solve the so-called “fifth-to-fourth” problem, a larger dialogue has blossomed about the objective beyond simply connecting F-22s, B-2s and F-35s to the fleet. But will this dialogue produce an executable program to buy the technology that can make the vision—eventually, the cloud—real?

The goal, likely to take a decade or more to realize, is to form an overarching network of data, each platform a node contributing information to the cloud and downloading from it, even in the heat of battle. It would include fighters, intelligence aircraft, satellites, ships and helicopters.

German victim-blaming from the Guardian:

EU’s new digital commissioner calls celebrities in nude picture leak ‘stupid’

  • Germany’s Günther Oettinger says stars who put naked photos of themselves online could not count on his protection

Former EU energy commissioner Günther Oettinger, 61, is used to accusations that he is more digitally naïve than digitally native by now. But at a hearing in front of the European parliament, the EU’s next commissioner designate for digital economy and society raised some serious questions about his suitability.

During a three-hour grilling by MEPs in Brussels, Oettinger said it would not be his job to protect stars “stupid enough to take a nude photo of themselves and put it online” – seemingly unaware that the recent leak of celebrities’ nude photographs had come about as a result of a targeted hacking attack.

Oettinger said: “We can mitigate or even eliminate some risks. But like with any technology, you can’t exclude all risks.

Maledictions enabled, via Ars Technica:

Advertising firms struggle to kill malvertisements

  • One provider finds a vulnerable advertising tool that allowed attackers access

In late September, advertisements appearing on a host of popular news and entertainment sites began serving up malicious code, infecting some visitors’ computers with a backdoor program designed to gather information on their systems and install additional malicious code.

The attack affected visitors to The Jerusalem Post, The Times of Israel, The Hindustan Times, Internet music service Last.fm, and India-focused movie portal Bollywood Hungama, among other popular sites. At the center of the malware campaign: the compromise of San Francisco-based Internet advertising network Zedo, an advertising provider for the sites, whose network was then used to distribute malicious ads.

For ten days, the company investigated multiple malware reports, retracing the attacker’s digital footsteps to identify the malicious files and shut the backdoor to its systems.

A major hack counterattack from the Guardian:

Four hackers charged with stealing $100m in US army and Xbox technology

  • Indictment unsealed on Tuesday reveals Department of Justice charged four people in international computer hacking ring

Four men have been charged with breaking into the computer systems of Microsoft, the US army and leading games manufacturers on Tuesday, as part of an alleged international hacking ring that netted more than $100m in intellectual property, the US Department of Justice said on Tuesday.

The four are alleged to have stolen Xbox technology, Apache helicopter training software and pre-release copies of games such as Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3, according to an unsealed indictment. Two of the hackers pleaded guilty earlier on Tuesday, the DoJ said.

After the jump, protesting the educational memory hole, a cartel photobomb in Mexico and a protest for the disappeared, More Pakistani religious murders, forging Indo/American military alliance, FBI-initiated anti-terror raids Down Under, a large collection of items for the ongoing Occupy protests in Hong Kong [international reactions, censorship and other Beijing reactions, specultation, and more], an unofficial peace feeler from Tokyo to Beijing, China’s search for an Indian Ocean base, a major Chinese stealthy air expansion, a hate speech rebuke in Tokyo, and sniffing for bombs in sewers. . . Continue reading

EnviroWatch: Eruptions, water, nukes, losses


We begin with images, closed circuit footage of a spectacular eruption from Agence France-Presse:

CCTV footage shows Japan volcano eruption

Note:

CCTV footage captured the whole eruption of Mount Otake last Saturday, which left at least 36 people lifeless.

From the Associated Press, cannabis vs Cohoe:

Biologists identify pot gardens as salmon threat

Water use and other actions by the marijuana industry in the Emerald Triangle of Northern California and Southern Oregon are threatening salmon already in danger of extinction, federal biologists said Tuesday.

Concerns about the impact of pot farming were raised by the NOAA Fisheries Service in its final recovery plan for coho salmon in the region. The full plan was to be posted on the agency’s website.

A copy obtained in advance calls for determining then decreasing the amount of water that pot growers illegally withdraw from creeks where young fish struggle to survive.

From Want China Times, a land grab in the North:

Norway up in arms over Chinese tycoon’s Arctic ambitions

A Chinese billionaire entrepreneur who once worked for the Communist Party’s propaganda department has sparked controversy in Norway after being named as a potential buyer for a large tract of Arctic land near Longyearbyen, the capital of Norway’s northernmost territory.

Based to a report from the New York Times, Huang Nubo, a property developer and entrepreneur who heads the Beijing Zhongkun Investment Group, could end up being the new owner of the uninhabited land unless the Norwegian government can scrap together a competing bid in time to ensure that the property does not fall into foreign hands, as it had promised to do in May amid a public outcry over the mere mention of Huang’s name given a fiasco over a previous attempt to buy land to develop a resort in Iceland and knowledge of Beijing’s ambitions in the Arctic region.

Huang, 58, is currently ranked the 90th richest person in China with estimated assets of US$2.3 billion according to the Hurun Report, the “China rich list” published by Rupert Hoogewerf. He is believed to have strong ties to the Communist Party after having worked in its publicity department from 1981 to 1990.

On to the illness beat, starting with a Chinese outbreak from Global Times:

South China province sees 1, 152 new dengue fever cases

South China’s Guangdong Province reported 1,152 new cases of Dengue on Sunday, boding ill for the week-long National Day holiday that begins on Oct. 1, local health authorities announced on Monday.

The number continues rising with the total number of cases reaching 11,867, according to the provincial health and family planning commission.

A fatality was reported on Sunday in the provincial capital Guangzhou, bringing the death toll to four in the province, three in Guangzhou where 9,987 cases have been reported. The other was in adjacent Foshan city, where 1,254 cases were confirmed, according to the commission.

BBC News covers causation:

Antibiotics ‘linked to childhood obesity’

Young children who are given repeated courses of antibiotics are at greater risk than those who use fewer drugs of becoming obese, US researchers say.

The JAMA Pediatrics report found children who had had four or more courses by the age of two were at a 10% higher risk of being obese.

But scientists warn this does not show antibiotics cause obesity directly and recommend children continue using them. Many more studies are needed to explain the reasons behind the link, they say.

From TheLocal.ch, taxing all for corporate contamination:

National tax planned to cut water micropollutants

Starting in 2016, an annual tax of up to nine francs ($9.43) per resident will help finance equipment in around 100 sewage treatment plants across Switzerland to remove microscopic pollutants from lakes and rivers, the federal government announced on Tuesday.

Revenues from the tax will finance 75 percent of the cost of the measures called for in new national legislation to protect water from pollution, the government said.

The new facilities will be installed at existing purification plants to remove micropollutants originating from products such as drugs, hormones, cosmetics or insecticides that even in small quantities can have an adverse impact on fish and other aquatic life.

Existing plants are unable to screen out the microscopic pollutants.

Another contaminant, another affliction form Environmental Health News:

Water contaminant linked to children’s low IQs

Babies born to mothers with high levels of perchlorate during their first trimester are more likely to have lower IQs later in life, according to a new study.

The research is the first to link pregnant women’s perchlorate levels to their babies’ brain development. It adds to evidence that the drinking water contaminant may disrupt thyroid hormones, which are crucial for proper brain growth.

Perchlorate, which is both naturally occurring and manmade, is used in rocket fuel, fireworks and fertilizers. It has been found in 4 percent of U.S. public water systems serving an estimated 5 to 17 million people, largely near military bases and defense contractors in the U.S. West, particularly around Las Vegas and in Southern California.

On to the endangered Latin American environment, first with the Guardian:

Nicaragua canal will wreak havoc on forests and displace people, NGO warns

  • Forests of the World says shipping firms must pressure Nicaragua and Chinese backer to limit canal’s impact

Shipping firms should pressure the Nicaraguan government and the Chinese backer of a proposed canal to ensure that the project does not force indigenous people off their land and inflict massive environmental damage on the country’s ecosystem, an environmental advocacy group has urged.

The proposed 178-mile waterway seeks to rival the Panama canal by offering an alternative Atlantic-Pacific passage which cuts voyage times. Construction is scheduled to begin in December with $50bn (£31bn) funding from the Hong Kong Nicaragua Canal Development Investment Company (HKND), which is owned by Chinese lawyer Wang Jing.

But Danish NGO Forests of the World has accused the Nicaraguan government and HKND of failing to involve indigenous people in the planning process, saying the canal will wreak havoc on forests and force people to move.

“The canal is to be built straight through the Rama and Kriol territory, fragmenting it into two parts,” said Claus Kjaerby, Central America representative at Forests of the World. “It’s just like if someone wanted to build a bicycle trail through your garden and they do not consult with you.”

And the second, from Al Jazeera America:

Oil in the Amazon: Who stands to win and lose?

  • In eastern Ecuador, unemployment is high despite the area’s oil boom, which could also endanger rainforest biodiversity

Yasuni National Park is unique. It’s regarded as one of the world’s most biodiverse places. A refuge to more than 20 types of endangered mammals, just 2 ½ acres of its Amazonian forest contains more than 100,000 species of insects, and is home to nearly as many kinds of trees and shrubs as there are in the United States and Canada, combined.

In 2007, Ecuador’s government announced it wouldn’t drill for oil in an untouched section of Yasuni, what’s known as the ITT block. In exchange for leaving the oil in the ground, President Rafael Correa demanded $3.6 billion from developed countries. But Ecuador received just $13 million. Last year, Correa announced oil extraction would go ahead.

Since then, oil companies have been busy surveying Yasuni’s ITT block, with plans to start drilling in 2016. Correa says the project will help alleviate poverty, but members of the Waorani tribe, which has lived in the Amazon for centuries, say the drilling will disrupt their way of life. Scientists, meanwhile, say they’re concerned about the park’s fragile ecosystem.

The Independent covers another water tragedy, a sea starved for decades by irrigation for a Soviet-era industrial cotton scheme:

The Aral Sea: Nasa pictures show how what was once the fourth largest lake in the world has become almost completely dry

It was once the fourth largest lake in the world, but what used to be an expanse of water in the basin of the Kyzylkum Desert now lies almost completely dry.

The Aral Sea has been retreating over the last half-century since a massive Soviet irrigation project diverted water from the rivers that fed it into farmland.

Images taken from the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer on Nasa’s Terra satellite have now depicted how since the turn of the century the lake has increasingly shrunk until this year saw its eastern lobe dry up completely.

After the jump, the vanishing Mexican maize gene pool, a Chinese pro-GMO propaganda push, preparing Los Angeles for the Big One, Fukushimapocalypse Now! — first with exclusion reduced, hot waste plans revealed and other plans delayed, volcanic nuclear anxiety, a longer wait for a long-awaited restart, Anglo/Japanese decommissioning alliance, firing up alternatives, and payment for a bitter Navajo uranium mining legacy. . . Continue reading

InSecurityWatch: Debt, death, hacks, disorder


Lot of ground to cover, with major disruptions in Hong Kong after the jump, plus much more.

We begin with the greatest bomb threast to global civilization, the debt bomb, via the Guardian:

Record world debt could trigger new financial crisis, Geneva report warns

  • Concerted effort required to tackle economic woes as slow growth and low inflation cause global debts to balloon

Global debts have reached a record high despite efforts by governments to reduce public and private borrowing, according to a report that warns the “poisonous combination” of spiralling debts and low growth could trigger another crisis.

Modest falls in household debt in the UK and the rest of Europe have been offset by a credit binge in Asia that has pushed global private and public debt to a new high in the past year, according to the 16th annual Geneva report.

The total burden of world debt, excluding the financial sector, has risen from 180% of global output in 2008 to 212% last year, according to the report.

From the New York Times, spy anxiety:

Spy Agencies Urge Caution on Phone Deal

An obscure federal contract for a company charged with routing millions of phone calls and text messages in the United States has prompted an unusual lobbying battle in which intelligence officials are arguing that the nation’s surveillance secrets could be at risk.

The contractor that wins the bid would essentially act as the air traffic controller for the nation’s phone system, which is run by private companies but is essentially overseen by the government.

And with a European-based company now favored for the job, some current and former intelligence officials — who normally stay out of the business of awarding federal contracts — say they are concerned that the government’s ability to trace reams of phone data used in terrorism and law enforcement investigations could be hindered.

On to the other bomb-athon, with The Hill leading the way:

Rogers: Intel officials warned Obama about ISIS ‘for over a year’

House Intelligence Committee Chairman Mike Rogers (R-Mich.) said the intelligence community had warned President Obama about the threat from the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria for “over a year.”

“This was not an Intelligence Community failure, but a failure by policy makers to confront the threat,” Rogers said in a statement Monday.

His statement comes after the president said that intelligence officers had underestimated ISIS in an interview that aired on “60 Minutes” Sunday.

RT covers an unfolding scenario:

ISIS+Al-Nusra Front? Islamists reportedly join forces, new threat against West issued

Al-Qaeda-linked Al-Nusra Front has issued a new threatening audio message featuring its leader warning the West “will pay the heaviest price” for its actions. The Syrian group is reportedly now joining up with the estranged Islamic State militants.

The leader of Syria’s most prominent terrorist group, Abu Mohamad al-Golani, in denouncing the US-led air strike campaign, has urged Westerners everywhere to do the same “by standing against the decisions of your rulers,” otherwise bloodshed would be brought to their soil.

“Muslims will not watch while their sons are bombed. Your leaders will not be the only ones who would pay the price of the war. You will pay the heaviest price,” Reuters cited him as saying. He threatened viewers that the fight would be brought “to the hearts of your homes.”

Der Spiegel covers reconsideration:

The Caliphate Next Door: Turkey Faces Up to its Islamic State Problem

  • For years, Ankara has been tolerating the rise of the extremist Islamic State. But now that the jihadists are conquering regions just across the border in northern Syria, concern is growing that Islamist terror could threaten Turkey too.

The country has been strangely reserved when it comes to dealing with the Islamic State. It is the neighboring country that is perhaps most threatened by the jihadist fighters, but it has refrained thus far from joining US President Barack Obama’s anti-terror coalition, even if Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan strongly hinted over the weekend that it might do so soon. When it comes to combatting the Islamic State and putting an end to the Syrian civil war, Turkey has a key role to play.

The government in Ankara had justified its hesitancy by pointing to the dozens of Turkish diplomats taken hostage by the Islamic State in Mosul. Now that they have been released, however, all eyes are on Turkey to see what responsibilities it might take on. On the way back to Turkey from the United Nations General Assembly in New York, Erdogan told reporters that his country is now prepared to join the coalition. At the World Economic Forum meeting in Istanbul on Sunday he added, in reference to the fight against the Islamic State: “We cannot stay out of this.”

From the US perspective, Turkey has often been a difficult partner. Still, after the civil war in Syria began, the two countries expanded cooperation, with American intelligence agencies operating centers in southern Turkey and delivering information about intercepted extremist communications to their Turkish counterparts in near real time.

News Corp Australia covers collateral damage:

Office fitout company ISIS Group Australia considers name change after staff abused as ‘terrorists’

A NATIONAL construction company could be forced to change its name of 25 years because staff members are being abused as “terrorists”.

ISIS Group Australia — an Australian company that has specialised in commercial office fit-outs and refurbishments since 1989 — has been forced to scale back signage on worksites and asked workers to not wear uniforms branded with the company name.

It comes as a Sydney family has been urged to change the name of their eight-year-old girl, whose name is Isis.

In recent weeks, site workers have been abused as “terrorists” by passers-by and angry messages have been left on the company’s office line.

Salon poses allegations:

Glenn Greenwald: U.S. manufactured militant threat as pretext to bomb Syria

  • In an extensive new report, The Intercept questions whether the much-hyped Khorasan Group actually exists

Until the Obama administration announced last week that it was launching air strikes in Syria to target the Islamic State (ISIS) and an al-Qaida affiliate called the Khorasan Group, most Americans had never heard of the latter organization.

That’s because the U.S. government invented the threat, the Intercept’s Glenn Greenwald and Murtaza Hussain charge. In an extensive new report, the journalists document a carefully orchestrated campaign by U.S. officials to depict an imminent threat of terror attacks by Khorasan against U.S. targets. Media outlets suddenly zeroed in on Khorasan, hyping the alleged threat the group could pose, Greenwald and Hussain write.

Claims that Khorasan planned to launch attacks on the U.S. came from anonymous officials who provided thin evidence that any such plans were at risk of being carried out. But, Greenwald and Hussain contend, “American media outlets – eager, as always, to justify Americans wars – spewed all of this with very little skepticism.”

Greenwald’s report is here.

Well-grounded boots from the Los Angeles Times:

U.S. troops to stay in Afghanistan after historic transfer of power

Afghanistan’s new government plans to sign a strategic agreement Tuesday with the United States that would allow for approximately 10,000 U.S. troops to remain in the country after the U.S.-led NATO coalition’s mandate expires in December.

U.S. officials say the extended troop presence is needed to continue training Afghanistan’s 350,000 soldiers and police, and to conduct counter-terrorism operations.

The pact – which outgoing Afghan President Hamid Karzai refused to sign in his final months in office, fueling tensions with Washington – is expected to be signed by U.S. Ambassador James Cunningham and a senior member of the Afghan government.

International Business Times casts a pall:

US Troops In Afghanistan Could Lose Combat Role, Face Bigger Risk From Taliban Attacks

Ashraf Ghani was sworn in as the new president of Afghanistan Monday, clearing the path for a bilateral security agreement that will allow nearly 10,000 U.S. military personnel to stay in the country beyond the end of 2014. The agreement will see U.S. military personnel deployed as  advisers to train and equip Afghan security forces, with U.S. special-operations personnel for anti-terrorism missions against al Qaeda and other terrorist groups.

While the new role puts an end to regular combat missions for the U.S. military, the reduced number of overall personnel may leave the force more exposed.

“In terms of the protection issues, this was a concern of the vice president who wanted the zero personnel option, but Obama disagreed,” said Lisa Curtis, senior research fellow at the Washington-based Heritage Foundation’s Asian Studies Center. Vice President Biden’s “main concern was that as U.S. forces decrease, they will become more susceptible to being attacked.”

From the ACLU Speech, Privacy, and Technology Project, with the documents at the link:

New Documents Shed Light on One of the NSA’s Most Powerful Tools

Today, we’re releasing several key documents about Executive Order 12333 that we obtained from the government in response to a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit that the ACLU filed (along with the Media Freedom and Information Access Clinic at Yale Law School) just before the first revelations of Edward Snowden. The documents are from the National Security Agency, the Defense Intelligence Agency, and others agencies. They confirm that the order, although not the focus of the public debate, actually governs most of the NSA’s spying.

In some ways, this is not surprising. After all, it has been reported that some of the NSA’s biggest spying programs rely on the executive order, such as the NSA’s interception of internet traffic between Google’s and Yahoo!’s data centers abroad, the collection of millions of email and instant-message address books, the recording of the contents of every phone call made in at least two countries, and the mass cellphone location-tracking program. In other ways, however, it is surprising. Congress’s reform efforts have not addressed the executive order, and the bulk of the government’s disclosures in response to the Snowden revelations have conspicuously ignored the NSA’s extensive mandate under EO 12333.

The order, issued by President Ronald Reagan in 1981, imposes the sole constraints on U.S. surveillance on foreign soil that targets foreigners. There’s been some speculation, too, that the government relies directly on the order — as opposed to its statutory authority — to conduct surveillance inside the United States.

More from The Intercept:

The Ghost of Ronald Reagan Authorizes Most NSA Spying

U.S. intelligence agents have broad authority to spy on U.S. companies as long as they are “believed to have some relationship with foreign organizations or persons” — a description that could conceivably apply to any company with foreign shareholders, subsidiaries, or even employees—according to newly released government documents published this morning by the ACLU.

The trove, which includes documents from the NSA, Department of Justice, and Defense Intelligence Agency, confirms long-standing suspicions that the bulk of U.S. foreign surveillance operations are governed not by acts of Congress, but by a 33-year-old executive order issued unilaterally by President Ronald Reagan.

The documents were released in response to a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit filed by the ACLU and the Media Freedom and Information Access Clinic at Yale Law School, and they detail the extent of the order — which is extraordinarily broad and until recently largely obscure — and which underpins expansive U.S. surveillance programs, like siphoning internet traffic from Google and Yahoo’s overseas data centers, recording every call in the Bahamas, and gathering billions of records on cellphone locations around the world.

Recruitment advancement from the Associated Press:

Israel’s shadowy Mossad looks to recruit online

It used to be that if you wanted to join one of the world’s most secretive espionage organizations you had to sneak into a foreign embassy, answer a cryptic newspaper ad or show up in a nondescript building in Tel Aviv to meet a shadowy recruiter. Now all it takes to apply for a job at Israel’s Mossad spy agency is a click of the mouse.

The typically hush-hush Mossad revamped its website last week to include a snazzy recruiting video and an online application option for those seeking employment. With versions in Hebrew, English, French, Russian, Arabic and Persian, the sleek site looks to revolutionize the way Israel’s legendary agency seeks out potential agents after generations of backdoor, cloak-and-dagger antics.

“We must continue to recruit the best people into our ranks so that the Mossad might continue to lead, defend and allow for the continued existence of the state of Israel,” Mossad Chief Tamir Pardo said in a statement announcing the launch. “The Mossad’s qualitative human capital is the secret of our success.”

From the Guardian, the latest from The Most Transparent Administration in American History™:

US bid for secret Guantánamo force-feeding hearings prompts cover-up fears

  • The Guardian is among several news organisations planning to file a motion to challenge the administration’s secrecy reques

The Obama administration has asked a federal judge to hold a highly anticipated court hearing on its painful force-feedings of Guantánamo Bay detainees almost entirely in secret, prompting suspicions of a cover-up.

Justice Department attorneys argued to district judge Gladys Kessler that allowing the hearings to be open to the public would jeopardize national security through the disclosure of classified information. Should Kessler agree, the first major legal battle over forced feeding in a federal court would be less transparent than the military commissions at Guantánamo Bay.

Attorneys for Abu Wa’el Dhiab, a Syrian detainee on hunger strike whose court challenge is slated to begin next week, said the government was using national security as an excuse to prevent the public from learning the extent of a practice that the judge in the case has considered brutal.

A spooky brew-ha-ha from the London Daily Mail:

Inside the CIA’s Starbucks: Coffee shop known as Store Number 1 bans names on cups and runs background checks on baristas

  • Cafe is deep inside the agency’s Langley, Virginia, forest compound
  • Is referred to as ‘Store Number 1′ on customers’ receipts
  • However agents working in the building call it the ‘Stealthy Starbucks’
  • Baristas are given security briefings on a regular basis
  • Staff are also escorted by agency ‘minders’ when they leave work
  • Double espressos and sugary Frappuccinos are said to be popular orders

From PCWorld, a cell for cell phone hacking?

CEO indicted for company’s alleged mobile spyware app

The CEO of a Pakistani company has been indicted in the U.S. for selling a product called StealthGenie that buyers could use to monitor calls, texts, videos and other communications on other people’s mobile phones, the U.S. Department of Justice said.

The indictment of Hammad Akbar, 31, of Lahore, Pakistan, represents the first time the DOJ has brought a criminal case related to the marketing and sale of an alleged mobile spyware app, the DOJ said in a press release Monday.

Akbar is CEO of InvoCode, the company selling StealthGenie online. Akbar is among the creators of StealthGenie, which could intercept communications to and from mobile phones, including Apple, Android and BlackBerry devices, the DOJ said.

On to the world of online insecurity, starting with this from Network World:

Malvertising campaign delivers digitally signed CryptoWall ransomware

The cybercriminals behind the CryptoWall ransomware threat have stepped up their game and are digitally signing new samples before using them in attacks in an attempt to bypass antivirus detection.

Researchers from network security firm Barracuda Networks found new CryptoWall samples that were digitally signed with a legitimate certificate obtained from DigiCert. The samples were distributed through drive-by download attacks launched from popular websites via malicious advertisements.

Several websites in the Alexa top 15,000 list were affected by this latest malvertising—malicious advertising—campaign including hindustantimes.com, the site of Indian daily newspaper Hindustan Times; Israeli sports news site one.co.il; and Web development community codingforums.com.

“In every case, malicious content arrived via the site’s use of the Zedo ad network,” the Barracuda researchers said in a blog post Sunday.

Serious insecurity from SecurityWeek:

What We Know About Shellshock So Far, and Why the Bash Bug Matters

Security researchers around the world have been working around the clock analyzing the recently disclosed flaw in Bash which can be exploited to execute code and hijack vulnerable devices. Attackers are already targeting the bug, which has been nicknamed Shellshock, and security experts warned organizations to prepare for more attacks and messy cleanup.

The investigation is still in the early stages and there are a many unanswered questions about how Shellshock can be abused. Opinions also vary wildly among experts as to its potential impact. What is known—and agreed upon—at this point, is that Shellshock is a very serious vulnerability because it allows remote code execution and gives the attacker full access to the system. Being able to get shell and execute any kind of program on the target system is a major coup for attackers

Bash “is widely used so attackers can use this vulnerability to remotely execute a huge variety of devices and web servers,” said Tod Beardsley, engineering manager at Rapid7.

The most obvious initial targets will be large hosting providers, “which are riddled with bash-enabled administrative functions, as well as innumerable PHP-based forums, blogs, stores,” suggested Daniel Ingevaldson, CTO of Easy Solutions.

From Network World, corporate surveillance anxieties:

Facebook’s new ad sales plan raises hackles in Germany

As Facebook began rolling out a global advertising network on Monday that will capitalize on all it knows from tracking users across the web, German consumer organizations immediately raised their voices in protest.

Called Atlas, the new ad network is supposed to allow advertisers to use Facebook’s detailed knowledge about its users to reach their desired customers across devices and target ads at them across apps and websites.

From The Verge, foiling 4Chan?:

George Clooney gave his wedding guests burner phones to prevent photo leaks

It’s a tricky security problem: how do you let your wedding guests take photos, but make sure none of the photos leak? If you’re George Clooney, you collect everyone’s phone and give each of them a burner phone just for the occasion, to be tossed away once the big day is over. It’s an expensive way around the problem, sure, but if you’re a movie star, it’s a small price to pay.

The bigger question, tossed around in security circles, is how all this actually worked. Supposedly, Clooney’s people had access to all of the photos taken with the burner phones, so they would know who took which photos and would be able to trace back any leaks that came out. Vogue had bought exclusive photography rights to the wedding (donating the fee to charity), so Clooney had reason to be protective of the photos. But as some in the security world have noted, it may not have been an airtight system.

Of course, from a security perspective, the race is hard to win anyway. If someone was really dead-set on leaking that million-dollar wedding photo to TMZ, they could have just smuggled in a camera of their own. If the burner phones worked — and Clooney’s photo embargo has held, so far — it may be more due to well-behaved guests than airtight infosec.

After the jump, Indian police bust self-snappers, Jerry Brown vetoes a bill to curb cop drone ops, 58 Mexican students “disappeared” and a politician gunned down in public, privatized security abuse in Germany, China censors online posts about the turmoil in Hong Kong and condemns the protests, Beijing warns would-be interveners, media savvy and Global solidarity rallies called, Beijing’s deepest fear, a significant move in the Game of Zones, a Chinese missile advance and a demonstration of force, and an ill-matched pair divorces. . . Continue reading

EnviroWatch: Illness, climate, nukes, & fuels


And so much more.

We begin with a mysterious outbreak here in the U.S. via the Washington Post:

CDC probing reports of paralysis in 9 Colorado children, including some with Enterovirus 68

Several children in Colorado, including some that have tested positive for the Enterovirus 68 respiratory illness, also reported neurological symptoms including muscle weakness and paralysis.

Colorado health officials say nine children were identified between Aug. 8 and Sept. 17 after they developed neurological symptoms that are not commonly associated with Enterovirus 68, which causes severe breathing problems particularly in children with pre-existing asthma or respiratory problems.

That virus has been confirmed in the District of Columbia and all but 10 states, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and it has sickened more than 277 people, mostly children.

A video report from WTHR television:

Mystery illness gives Colorado kids polio-like symptoms

The Japan Times covers the ongoing outbreak in Japan:

Another type of dengue virus found in Japan

The government said Monday that a man in Shizuoka Prefecture is infected with a dengue virus that has a different genetic sequence than the virus first detected in Japan in August.

The finding indicates that the new-type virus arrived in Japan via someone other than the person carrying the virus that infected several people through mosquitoes, mainly at Yoyogi Park in central Tokyo.

The man in his 20s was identified Sept. 18 as having developed a dengue symptom on Sept. 10. But the site of his infection has not been fixed as he said he visited Tokyo in early September and was bitten by a mosquito Sept. 9 or 10 in the eastern part of Shizuoka Prefecture.

The Latin American Herald Tribune covers a lethal outbreak on another island:

Chikungunya Kills 3 in Puerto Rico

Three people in Puerto Rico have died after being infected with the Chikungunya virus, Health Department chief epidemiologist Brenda Rivera Garcia said.

Two of the dead were residents of greater San Juan, while the third lived in the northeastern coastal town of Fajardo. Health authorities are investigating two other fatalities to determine if the Chikungunya virus was the cause.

There have been more than 2,000 confirmed cases of Chikungunya in Puerto Rico, though health officials suspect the actual number is higher, pointing out that the symptoms are similar to those of dengue fever.

From the Express Tribune, rising numbers in a Pakistani outbreak:

10 more cases of polio reported as national total rises to 184

Even as vaccination drives kicked off in various parts of the country on Monday, a government official confirmed that ten more polio cases have been reported from different parts of the country.

An official from the health ministry said the polio cases were tested at the polio virology laboratory at National Institute of Health (NIH) and then confirmed.

The official added with these 10 cases, the year’s total has risen to 184. Of these, 127 cases were reported from Fata, 33 from K-P, 17 from Sindh, two from Punjab and five from Balochistan.

And the threat of contagion in Uganda from the Daily Monitor in Kampala:

Government has only 3,000 TB vaccines

Children in Uganda are likely to miss the Bacillus Calmette-Guérin (BCG) vaccine which protects them against TB – at least until the production issues at the global level are sorted.

According to the Uganda National Expanded Programme for Immunisation (UNEPI) manager, Dr Robert Mayanja, the country has been experiencing a shortage since the beginning of 2014.

But the shortage is expected to escalate in the coming months after receiving only 300,000 out of 1.8 million doses of the vaccine they had ordered for the last quarter of 2014.

TheLocal.dk covers an outbreak concealed:

Officials kept yet another food scandal secret

Up to 130 people, including a three-year-old boy, may have gotten ill from salmonella in ground beef in an outbreak that was kept hidden from the public until now.

Metroxpress obtained access to documents that reveal that ground beef infected with multi resistant salmonella was sold by the Vejen-based food company Skare in June.

Skare delivered the beef to stores on June 13th but did not recall it as required by law when an analysis the following day found the presence of salmonella.

The latest numbers from another disaster in Japan via the Associated Press:

5 more bodies found at Japan volcano; toll now 36

Toxic gases and ash from still-erupting Mount Ontake forced Japanese rescue workers to call off the search for more victims Monday as dozens of relatives awaited news of their family members.

Rescuers found five more bodies near the summit of the volcano, bringing the death toll to 36. They have managed to airlift only 12 bodies off the mountain since the start of the eruption on Saturday because of dangerous conditions.

How the victims died remains unclear, though experts say it was probably from suffocating ash, falling rocks, toxic gases or some combination of them. Some of the bodies had severe contusions.

More from the Asahi Shimbun:

Experts warn of second eruption on Mt. Ontakesan

Volcanologists warned that Mount Ontakesan could erupt again, based on the continuing fumes rising from the crater and the volcanic earthquakes that keep jolting the area.

The Japan Meteorological Agency’s committee of volcanologists said Sept. 28 that the eruption the previous day was a phreatic one that released a column of smoke as high as 7,000 meters from the 3,067-meter peak and sent a pyroclastic flow of relatively low temperature down the mountain slope. At least four climbers were killed on the mountain, which straddles Nagano and Gifu prefectures.

The Coordinating Committee for Prediction of Volcanic Eruption said an eruption of a similar scale could take place on Mount Ontakesan, although it would probably not be a major magmatic eruption, which releases magma from the mountain surface. The committee said there are no signs of crustal deformities caused by magma rising through a volcanic vent.

From the Associated Press, climate change symptoms:

Global warming linked to several extreme weather events

  • Better computer models help determine odds of events increasing because of climate change

Scientists looking at 16 cases of wild weather around the world last year see the fingerprints of man-made global warming on more than half of them.

Researchers found that climate change increased the odds of nine extremes: Heat waves in Australia, Europe, China, Japan and Korea, intense rain in parts of the United States and India, and severe droughts in California and New Zealand. The California drought, though, comes with an asterisk.

Organized by the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, researchers on Monday published 22 studies on 2013 climate extremes in a special edition of the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society.

More from the Oakland Tribune:

Drought linked to greenhouse gases, climate change

Stanford study concludes California’s extraordinary drought is linked to the abundance of greenhouse gases created by burning fossil fuels. It is one of the most comprehensive studies to investigate the connection between climate change and California’s ongoing drought.

California’s extraordinary drought is linked to the abundance of greenhouse gases created by burning fossil fuels and clearing forests, according to a major new paper Stanford scientists released Monday morning.

The new study used a combination of computer simulations and statistical techniques to show that the high pressure system parked over the Pacific Ocean — diverting storms away from California — is much more likely to form in the presence of concentrations of greenhouse gases.

“Our research finds that extreme atmospheric high pressure in this region — which is strongly linked to unusually low precipitation in California — is much more likely to occur today than prior to the human emission of greenhouse gases that began during the Industrial Revolution in the 1800s,” said Stanford climate scientist Noah Diffenbaugh, associate professor of Environmental Earth System Science at Stanford, in a prepared statement.

The Sacramento Bee covers one consequence:

California harvest much smaller than normal across crops

It’s harvest time in much of California, and the signs of drought are almost as abundant as the fruits and nuts and vegetables.

One commodity after another is feeling the impact of the state’s epic water shortage. The great Sacramento Valley rice crop, served in sushi restaurants nationwide and exported to Asia, will be smaller than usual. Fewer grapes will be available to produce California’s world-class wines, and the citrus groves of the San Joaquin Valley are producing fewer oranges. There is less hay and corn for the state’s dairy cows, and the pistachio harvest is expected to shrink.

Even the state’s mighty almond business, which has become a powerhouse in recent years, is coming in smaller than expected. That’s particularly troubling to the thousands of farmers who sacrificed other crops in order to keep their almond orchards watered.

Global Times covers other water woes:

Police investigate into polluters in East China

Three chemical factories found illegally dumping wastewater into city sewage systems and the sea have had their cases turned over to police.

After being investigated and fined by the local environment authorities,the three factories in Lianyungang city in East China’s Jiangsu Province will now be probed for possible criminal charges. In one case, a company built its own pipelines to dump toxic wastewater into the sea.

The three cases are very serious and have left a large environmental impact, said a statement by the Ministry of Environmental Protection released in Beijing on Monday.

While the Guardian has some rare good news on the endangered species front:

‘Extinct’ cat-sized chinchilla found alive in shadows of Machu Picchu

  • Living arboreal chinchilla rat thought to have been extinct is tracked down in Peruvian cloud forests, reports Mongabay

Below one of the most famous archaeological sites in the world, scientists have made a remarkable discovery: a living, cat-sized mammal that until now was only known from fossils.

The Machu Picchu arboreal chinchilla rat (Cuscomys oblativa) was first described from two enigmatic skulls discovered in Incan pottery sculpted 400 years ago.

Dug up by Hiram Bingham in 1912, the skulls were believed to belong to a species that went extinct even before Francisco Pizarro showed up in Peru with his motley army. Then in 2009, park ranger Roberto Quispe found what was believed to be a living Machu Picchu arboreal chinchilla rat near the original archaeological site.

But BBC News immediately dampens any exuberance:

World wildlife populations halved in 40 years – report

The global loss of species is even worse than previously thought, the London Zoological Society (ZSL) says in its new Living Planet Index.

The report suggests populations have halved in 40 years, as new methodology gives more alarming results than in a report two years ago.

The report says populations of mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians and fish have declined by an average of 52%.

Populations of freshwater species have suffered an even worse fall of 76%.

More endangerment from the New York Times:

UN Experts Say World’s Mangrove Forests at Risk

U.N. experts are warning that the world’s mangrove forests are being destroyed at a more rapid rate than other forest ecosystems because of land conversion, development and pollution.

A U.N. Environment Program report presented Monday said mangroves are disappearing three to five times faster than other forests. It said by 2050, southeast Asia could potentially lose 35 percent of the mangroves it had in 2000.

Described in the report as one of the world’s most threatened ecosystems, mangrove forests mitigate global warming by trapping vast quantities of carbon that would otherwise be released into the atmosphere.

Still more grim news from the Guardian:

World Bank accuses itself of failing to protect Kenya forest dwellers

  • Leaked document says World Bank violated its own safeguards in dealings with Sengwer people evicted from their lands

A leaked copy of a World Bank investigation seen by the Guardian has accused the bank of failing to protect the rights of one of Kenya’s last groups of forest people, who are being evicted from their ancestral lands in the name of climate change and conservation.

Thousands of homes belonging to hunter-gatherer Sengwer people living in the Embobut forest in the Cherangani hills were burned down earlier this year by Kenya forest service guards who had been ordered to clear the forest as part of a carbon offset project that aimed to reduce emissions from deforestation.

The result has been that more than 1,000 people living near the town of Eldoret have been classed as squatters and forced to flee what they say has been government harassment, intimidation and arrest.

CIP Americas Program covers another grab of the commons:

Yaqui Tribal Authority’s Jailing in Water Conflict Signals Need to Implement Environmental Justice

Hermosillo, Sonora, Mexico — The Sept. 11 jailing of Yoeme (Yaqui) Traditional Tribal Secretary Mario Luna Romero was a wake-up call for environmental and human rights defenders globally.

Symptomatic of escalating repression against indigenous community members who refuse to conform with free trade’s increasing demand for resources, Luna’s arrest on allegedly false charges sparked widespread grassroots response and highlighted the imperative of forging a united front against further abuses of environmental activists.

The most visible leader of the Yoeme resistance to Sonora Gov. Guillermo Padrés Elías illegal aqueduct construction project to divert Yaqui River water from its rightfully entitled users in the tribe’s eight villages, Luna immediately declared himself a political prisoner.

After the jump, the latest chapter of Fukushimapocalypse Now!, including another breakdown of water containment systems, enduring radiation hazards, a major increase of laborers on the scene, a major anti-nuclear protest coupled by a major push to reopen other nuclear plants, a fuel recycling plant closure to come, a drive for nuclear power in emerging economies, another fuel, another problem in North Dakota, tar sands pipeline pushback in Nebraska, looming disappointment for Chinese fracking, and predictions of a solar boom. . . Continue reading

InsecurityWatch: War, spooks, hacks, drones


We begin with beating war drums from  the Guardian:

Top Republican calls for US ground war amid fresh strikes on Isis

  • New US-led wave of bombing raids target Islamic State oil supplies as John Boehner ramps up military rhetoric

The Republican speaker of the House of Representatives, John Boehner, on Sunday ramped up the political rhetoric over Syria and Iraq by saying American forces will need to be put on the ground in the battle against the Islamic State (Isis).

Boehner’s comment that at some point “boots have to be on the ground” marks a significant inflation in the terms of the debate over how to deal with Isis. President Barack Obama has repeatedly said US ground forces will not be used in the conflict, which on Sunday saw US-led strikes in Syria and the first British strikes in Iraq, though the Pentagon has ordered the dispatch of 1,600 US troops to Iraq for what it insists will be training and other support functions.

Speaking to ABC News, Boehner criticised Obama’s plan to degrade and ultimately destroy Isis. “If the goal is to destroy Isil as the president says it is,” he said, “I don’t believe the strategy he outlines will accomplish it. At the end of the day I think it’s going to take more than airstrikes to drive them out – at some point somebody’s boots have to be on the ground, that’s the point.”

McClatchy Washington Bureau steps up the tempo:

U.S. combat role in Iraq not off table, Gen. Dempsey says

The nation’s top military commander refused Friday to back off his controversial stance in Senate testimony that he would recommend committing U.S. troops to combat in Iraq if he believed they were needed to help defeat Islamic State militants.

The steadfastness of Army Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, revealed a potential gap between President Barack Obama’s senior military and political advisers over whether there might once more be American “boots on the ground” in Iraq three years after the last American combat troops left.

In another sign of the expanding American mission in the region, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said the first U.S. military personnel had arrived in Saudi Arabia to lay the groundwork for training 5,000 “moderate” Syrian rebels to fight the Islamic State.

Misunderstimation from the Washington Post:

Obama: United States underestimated rise of Islamic State

The United States has underestimated the rise of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, President Obama said during an interview with CBS’s “60 Minutes” in which he also acknowledged the Iraqi army’s inability to successfully tackle the threat.

According to excerpts, “60 Minutes” presenter Steve Kroft referred to comments by James Clapper, the director of National Intelligence, in which he said, “We overestimated the ability and the will of our allies, the Iraqi Army, to fight.”

“That’s true. That’s absolutely true,” Obama said. “Jim Clapper has acknowledged that I think they underestimated what had been taking place in Syria.”

USA Today itemizes the bill:

ISIL fight already near $1 billion as strategy shifts

The air war in Syria and Iraq has already cost nearly $1 billion and ultimately could cost as much as $22 billion per year if a large ground force is deployed to the region, according to an analysis by the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments.

The study, due to be released Monday, shows a range of costs based on sustained but low-intensity combat up to a force of 25,000 U.S. troops on the ground.

President Obama and the Pentagon have ruled out the the use of American boots on the ground, making the most expensive option the least likely. Yet as Todd Harrison, the lead author points out, war is “an unpredictable enterprise” and the ability to forecast its costs is limited.

And the Guardian covers the media war:

Isis’s online propaganda outpacing US counter-efforts, ex-officials warn

  • Batch of US initiatives seeking to undermine Isis’s sophisticated online image is unlikely to work on internet-affluent youths

Former US public diplomacy officials fear the sophisticated, social media borne propaganda of the Islamic State militant group (Isis) is outmatching American efforts at countering it.

Aimed less at Isis itself than at potential supporters, a bevy of US diplomatic and communications initiatives seek to undermine Isis’s portrayal of itself as an authentic, successful Islamic resistance. But even some who helped push the State Department into confronting extremists online fear that US counter-propaganda is amorphous, slipshod and unlikely to persuade internet-fluent youths to whom Isis attempts to appeal.

“I honestly don’t think the government should be in the position of directly engaging jihadis on Twitter. It’s a silly game,” said Shahed Amanullah, who last year left the State Department after helping establish programs to promote anti-extremist Muslim voices abroad.

The Independent covers spin:

Isis in Syria: Militant group al-Nusra claims US air strikes are a ‘war against Islam’

The Syrian terror group Jabhat al-Nusra has denounced US air strikes against Isis as “a war against Islam” and vowed to take revenge against the coalition of countries supporting military action in the region.

In an online statement on Saturday, al-Nusra spokesman Abu Firas al-Suri called on jihadists around the world to strike against the global alliance opposing the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq.

He said: “These states have committed a horrible act that is going to put them on the list of jihadist targets throughout the world”

Deutsche Welle covers a possible casualty:

Khorasan leader believed dead after airstrikes

US-led airstrikes are believed to have killed a leader of an al Qaeda splinter group. The Khorasan group was believed to have been plotting imminent attacks against the West, according to defense officials.

The leader of the al Qaeda splinter group Khorasan, which US officials say was plotting imminent attacks against the West, is believed to have been killed, the SITE (Search for International Terrorist Entities) monitoring service announced on Sunday.

A twitter account managed by an al Qaeda member said that the Kuwait-born Muhsin al-Fadhli, a high-level al Qaeda operative and former close associate of Osama bin Laden, had been killed in coalition airstrikes conducted on September 23 in Syia.

SITE said a series of tweets expressed condolences for the deaths of Fadhli and Abu Youssef al-Turki, another Khorasan leader. The monitoring group said the tweets also bemoaned conditions in Syria, where the US-led coalition has been conducting airstrikes against “Islamic State” militants.

Defense One looks at munitions:

How American Precision Weapons Opened the Door to an Arab Coalition

President Obama’s insistence that Arab states join in on U.S.-led air strikes against Islamic State militants in Syria and Iraq serves a political purpose for Washington and the region. But that Arab states were able to play a key role in the strikes at all is owed to years of purchases of made-in-America, high-tech, precision-guided bombs.

The U.S. military has gone to great lengths to detail the precision of the air strikes conducted against Islamic State militants in Syria and Iraq.

But outside the Middle East, NATO leaders long have expressed concern that the alliance lacked sufficient stockpiles of these types of guided weapons and could limit a countries’ participation in long-term air strike campaign. “We do not have enough precision-strike munitions to carry on a concentrated campaign, at length, helping all of our allies to be there with us,” said Gen. Philip Breedlove, NATO supreme allied commander Europe and head of US European Command, last week. “We need to think through where we are on precision munitions.”

Bloomberg mulls blowback:

Asians Chase Apocalypse in Syria, to Tick Like Time Bombs Back Home

As nations around the world grapple with the threat of Islamic State, the Southeast Asians fighting in the Middle East pose a risk in several ways, security analysts say. They could return and breathe new life into militant groups in a region with a history of extremism and occasional large-scale terror attacks, and they could radicalize friends and family at home via social media, aided by slick Islamic State promotional videos.

“It is not IS per se that might pose a danger to the region but rather its extreme militant ideology as well as the skills, battleground experience and international networks that Southeast Asian jihadists got from Syria and Iraq,” said Navhat Nuraniyah, an associate research fellow at Singapore’s S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies who looks at terrorism and radicalization.

“If even a small minority of them do return, they will be highly respected by existing local groups,” she said. “If they do intend to continue their mission they will have no problem finding recruits and support.”

Yet another drone strike from the Guardian:

US drone strike kills four suspected militants in Pakistan

  • Two Arab militants and two local allies killed in tribal region along border with Afghanistan, officials say

A US drone strike killed four suspected militants on Sunday in a north-western tribal region in Pakistan along the Afghan border, intelligence officials and Taliban fighters said.

Those killed included two Arab militants and two of their local allies in a compound in the town of Wana in South Waziristan, the two officials and three Taliban fighters said.

All of them spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorised to talk to journalists. Authorities don’t allow journalists into Pakistan’s tribal areas, which have long been a safe haven for local and al-Qaida linked foreign militants.

German journalist Udo Ulfkotte has some startling allegations, via RT:

‘Bought Journalism’: German bestseller reveals CIA pay Western media for spin & bias

Program note:

The media is a key tool in the battle for hearts and minds. But a new bestseller by a German author reveals some details on journalism that would be considered too outlandish, even in a spy novel. RT’s Peter Oliver reports.

South China Morning Post covers old school spooking:

Arms-smuggling Taiwanese duo snared in FBI sting plead guilty

  • Pair claimed to be acting on behalf of Beijing official when they tried to send hi-tech military gear to mainland; HK ‘mastermind’ awaits trial

Two Taiwanese accomplices of an alleged Hong Kong smuggling mastermind face decades in US prisons after being caught trying to export high-grade military technology to mainland China.

The pair claimed to be acting on behalf of a senior Beijing official when they were snared in an FBI sting, FBI reports and legal documents seen by the Sunday Morning Post show.

Charlie Shen Hui-sheng, 47, and Alice Chang Huan-ling, 43, pleaded guilty in a New Jersey court on Monday to both the arms charge and their involvement in a drug-smuggling operation led by Hongkonger Kow Soon-ah. Kow was extradited to the United States from the Philippines in 2012 and faces 14 drug and contraband charges that could see him jailed for life.

From the Canadian Press, reasonable grounds for suspicion:

Spy watchdog’s past oil ties spark concerns in civil liberties complaint case

A civil liberties group is objecting to Canada’s spy watchdog assigning Yves Fortier to investigate alleged spying on environmental activists, citing a conflict due to his former petroleum industry ties.

The British Columbia Civil Liberties Association’s lawyer has written to the Security Intelligence Review Committee asking that Fortier “recuse himself from any participation” in the matter since he once sat on the board of TransCanada Pipelines — the company behind the Keystone XL project.

Fortier, one of three review committee members, was recently appointed to lead an investigation into the association’s complaint that the Canadian Security Intelligence Service gathered and shared information about activists opposed to Canada’s energy policies.

After the jump, Internet founder sounds the alarm, a Snowden-inspired push, a Down Under online sting nets a biggie, a rare win for U.S. reporters, Hong Kong turmoil continues [with injuries], Beijing’s opposition, Beijing sends a verbal blast at Tokyo, North Korea sends at verbal blast at Washington, and the vanishing Kim. . . Continue reading