Category Archives: Blood on the Newsroom Floor

The latest news on news media layoffs and downsizings.

InSecurityWatch: Hacks, war, spooks, zones


Belated by exhaustion [16-hour blogging days taking a toll], but here tis. . .

First, from the Intercept, oh joy:

Hackers Could Decide Who Controls Congress Thanks to Alaska’s Terrible Internet Ballots

When Alaska voters go to the polls tomorrow to help decide whether the U.S. Senate will remain in Democratic control, thousands will do so electronically, using Alaska’s first-in-the-nation internet voting system. And according to internet security experts, including the former top cybersecurity official for the Department of Homeland Security, that system is a security nightmare that threatens to put control of the U.S. Congress in the hands of foreign or domestic hackers.

Any registered Alaska voter can obtain an electronic ballot, mark it on their computers using a web-based interface, save the ballot as a PDF, and return it to their county elections department through what the state calls “a dedicated secure data center behind a layer of redundant firewalls under constant physical and application monitoring to ensure the security of the system, voter privacy, and election integrity.”

That sounds great, but even the state acknowledges in an online disclaimer that things could go awry, warning that “when returning the ballot through the secure online voting solution, your are voluntarily waving [sic] your right to a secret ballot and are assuming the risk that a faulty transmission may occur.”

On to the war of the day, via the Toronto Globe and Mail:

Canadian warplanes launch air strikes against Islamic State militants

Canada has made its mark on the battlefield in Iraq with CF-18 warplanes dropping their first bombs in this country’s combat mission there.

Canadian fighter jets attacked Islamic State militant targets near the city of Fallujah on Sunday, Ottawa said.

It’s not clear how much damage the CF-18s caused. The military says it requires two days, until Tuesday, before it can tell Canadians what was achieved.

More from CBC News:

Canada’s forces face daunting mission against ISIS in Iraq

  • If mission remains an air war, it will neither be quick, nor easy to destroy ISIS

Canada has pitched its tent with the US-led coalition against ISIS, the radical Sunni Muslim militant group which has seized large parts of Iraq and Syria, terrorizing—and often executing—those in its way. Its aim is to topple the governments of both of those countries to create one huge Islamic state that is stricter in its interpretation of the Koran than either Afghanistan’s Taliban or Saudi Arabia next door. The coalition’s aim is to destroy it.

That will neither be quick, nor easy. It may not even be possible.

The coalition itself is awkward. It mostly consists of the United States, with some Arab countries offering token help against ISIS in Syria, and some western countries—Canada, Britain, Australia, France and others—helping in Iraq.

Canada shares its Kuwait base with U.S. forces, but the American military Central Command doesn’t seem to have noticed that Canadian planes have arrived. As recently as Sunday, news releases listing coalition activities and members left out any reference to Canada.

From the Guardian, more blowback:

Muslim leader shot outside Sydney prayer hall by alleged Isis supporters

  • Rasoul Al Mousawi to undergo surgery after he was shot in the face outside an Islamic centre in Greenacre just hours after threats allegedly made

A Shia Muslim community leader will undergo surgery after being shot in the face with pellets outside a Sydney religious hall, which witnesses say was targeted by supporters of Islamic State hours earlier.

Rasoul Al Mousawi, 47, was standing outside the building in Greenacre in Sydney south-west around 1.15am on Monday morning when a number of pellets were fired.

Police said Al Mousawi sustained wounds to his head and shoulder and is expected to undergo surgery, but his injuries are not believed to be life-threatening.

From McClatchy Washington Bureau, a serious setback:

Slaughter of Anbar tribesmen shows weakness in U.S. plan to beat Islamic State

Exhausted, hungry and low on ammunition, al Goud and hundreds of his tribesmen ceased firing on Oct. 22 in return for a pledge from the Islamic State that civilians wouldn’t be harmed. They then set out on a 15-hour overnight drive through the desert, leaving behind families and associates and nursing another in a long list of Sunni tribal grievances that are hindering reconciliation with the Shiite-led government and threatening to derail President Barack Obama’s plan to crush the Islamic State.

“They did nothing for us,” al Goud said in an interview last week in a rented house in Baghdad. “It’s all killing and disaster.”

A week later, the Islamic State executed more than 40 Albu Nimr captives on a Hit street and drove thousands of Albu Nimr civilians into the desert, where hundreds have been slaughtered – more than 400 by Monday. Tribal leaders’ calls for help from the Iraqi army and for U.S. airstrikes again went unanswered.

But good news for a very few from RT:

Head Hunters: ISIS offers top oil jobs for ‘ideologically suitable’ engineers

Program notes:

ISIS jihadists have a job offer for a professional to manage the seized refineries. Reports have emerged that Islamic State is scouring North Africa for a suitable candidate to oversee production. In return, the jihadists are offering over 200-thousand dollars a year. But for that, the right candidate will have to be a skilled industry professional – devoted to Islamic State’s ideology.

And not so good news for other, also from RT:

ISIS introduces ‘price scheme’ for selling enslaved women and girls

Islamic State has set fixed prices to sell Yazidi and Christian women who have been abducted by members of the militant group, Iraqi media have reported. The barbaric tariffs range from around $40 for older women to $170 for children.

The group, also known as ISIS or ISIL, says they will execute anyone who violates the controls, which have been implemented. $43 is the price for a Yazidi or Christian women who is aged between 40 and 50. For those aged between 20 and 30, the price is $86. The sickening trend continues, with girls falling into the 10 to 20 age group being sold for $129 and children up to the age of nine, commanding the highest prices of $172 or 200,000 dinars.

The document states that there has not been so much interest in purchasing slaves recently. “The market to sell women and spoils of war has been experiencing a significant decrease, which has adversely affected ISIS revenue and financing of the Mujahideen,” said the document, which was obtained by the website IraqiNews.com.

The document also says that no individual is allowed to buy more than three slaves. However there are no exceptions for foreigners, such as those from Turkey, Syria and the Gulf States.

While the Independent examines origins:

Camp Bucca: The US prison that became the birthplace of Isis

In March 2009, in a wind-swept sliver of Iraq, a sense of uncertainty befell the southern town of Garma, home to one of the Iraq War’s most notorious prisons. The sprawling detention center called Camp Bucca, which had detained some of the Iraq War’s most radical jihadists along the Kuwait border, had just freed hundreds of inhabitants. Families rejoiced, anxiously awaiting their sons, brothers and fathers who had been lost to Bucca for years. But a local official fretted.

“These men weren’t planting flowers in a garden,” police chief Saad Abbas Mahmoud told The Washington Post’s Anthony Shadid, estimating 90 percent of the freed prisoners would soon resume fighting. “They weren’t strolling down the street. This problem is both big and dangerous. And regrettably, the Iraqi government and the authorities don’t know how big the problem has become.”

Mahmoud’s assessment of Camp Bucca, which funneled 100,000 detainees through its barracks and closed months later, would prove prescient. The camp now represents an opening chapter in the history of Islamic State — many of its leaders, including Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, were incarcerated and likely met there. According to former prison commanders, analysts and soldiers, Camp Bucca provided a unique setting for both prisoner radicalization and inmate collaboration — and was formative in the development today’s most potent jihadist force.

Screens going up from BuzzFeed:

U.S. To Tighten Screening Of Europeans And Australians Amid Concerns Of Islamist Militants

Additional security measures will be imposed for millions of travelers from countries that do not require U.S. visas due to the rising threat of Islamic militants with Western passports.

The Department of Homeland Security will introduce heightened screening measures for travelers from Europe, Australia, and other countries exempt from U.S. visas on Monday due to growing number of Islamist militants in Syria with Western passports, the Washington Post reported.

According to the new rule, travelers who do not need visas to enter the U.S. will need to provide detailed information to authorities before boarding a flight to the country. Usually such travelers undergo lighter security.

And from RT, add fuel to fire:

Afghan police sell arms to Taliban ‘to feed families’ as wages go unpaid for months – report

The Afghan police service has been forced to sell its arms to the Taliban, as officers have not received wages for months. Some have even joined the insurgents, local Khaama Press newspaper reported.

The local police in Ghazni, Logar, and Maidan Wardak provinces say they have not been paid for three months and do not have money to feed their families.

“We have turned to begging for bread,” Mohmad Ajan, who had fought the Taliban insurgents for the last two years in Maidan Wardak, told Khaama Press. He added that the policemen face “hunger, thirst and the cold.”

Many officers reportedly say they have no other choice but to sell their personal arms and ammunition. The buyers are usually local people – but sometimes they are Taliban militants. It has also been reported that some of the policemen have joined the militants.

While the Los Angeles Times sounds a familiar theme:

U.S. Muslim leaders say FBI pressuring people to become informants

Muslim leaders nationwide say the FBI is pressuring some Islamic community members and religious leaders to spy on fellow Muslims as part of a government effort to combat extremist recruiting in the U.S.

The campaign has intensified in recent weeks, with mosques in California, Texas, Minnesota, Ohio, Florida and other states reporting unannounced visits by FBI agents, according to the Council on American-Islamic Relations, or CAIR, the nation’s largest Muslim civil rights and advocacy organization.

In a nationwide alert, the group urged mosque and community leaders to seek the advice of an attorney if they are approached by the FBI for questioning. They worried that the civil rights of numerous imams were being violated as the religious leaders were asked to meet with FBI agents, who then pressed them to inform on members of their congregations.

On to Cold War 2.0 from News Corp Australia:

Russian military flights sending message they are ‘great power’: NATO leader

RUSSIA’S recent military flights into European airspace are meant to demonstrate to the West that the country is a “great power,” NATO’s supreme allied commander said on Monday.

Although there has been an increase in Russian air activity over Europe during the past year, last week marked the first time Moscow had sent in larger formations of warplanes, General Philip Breedlove told reporters.

“My opinion is they’re messaging us. They’re messaging us that they are a great power,” Breedlove said.

Moscow wanted to show it can exert influence on the alliance’s calculations, he said.

The London Telegraph looks at the other cyberwar:

Britain’s spy chief says US tech firms aid terrorism

New GCHQ director Richard Hannigan accuses some Silicon Valley companies of becoming ‘the command and control networks of choice’ for terrorists

Technology giants such as Facebook and Twitter have become “the command and control networks of choice” for terrorists and criminals but are “in denial” about the scale of the problem, the new head of GCHQ has said.

Robert Hannigan said that Isil terrorists in Syria and Iraq have “embraced the web” and are using it to intimidate people and inspire “would-be jihadis” from all over the World to join them.

He urged the companies to work more closely with the security services, arguing that it is time for them to confront “some uncomfortable truths” and that privacy is not an “absolute right”.

He suggested that unless US technology companies co-operate, new laws will be needed to ensure that intelligence agencies are able to track and pursue terrorists.

The Independent takes a different tack:

GCHQ head demands internet firms open up to intelligence services, claiming privacy is not an absolute right

The new head of Britian’s GCHQ intelligence agency has demanded that internet firms open themselves up to intelligence services, and has claimed that privacy is not an absolute right.

Accusing internet companies of being “in denial” of the role they play in terrorism, Robert Hannigan said they had become the “command-and-control networks of choice” for a new generation of criminals and extremists, such as the militant group Isis which has swept across Iraq and Syria and is well known for its use of online propaganda.

Citing the group which calls itself the Islamic State (IS), Hannigan said it did not show the beheadings of hostages including British aid workers David Haines and Alan Henning in recent videos as proof of extremists’ increasing expertise in online propaganda.

“By self-censoring they can stay just the right side of the rules of social media sites, capitalising on western freedom of expression,” he said.

More from the Guardian:

Former NSA lawyer: the cyberwar is between tech firms and the US government

  • Stewart Baker said that Apple and Google could be restricting their business in markets like China and Russia by encrypting user data

The battle over encryption of consumer internet users’ data has pitched US technology companies against the US government itself, former NSA general counsel Stewart Baker said on Tuesday.

Speaking at Web Summit in Dublin, Baker claimed that moves by Google and Apple and others to encrypt user data was more hostile to western intelligence gathering than to surveillance by China or Russia.

“The state department has funded some of these tools, such as Tor, which has been used in Arab Spring revolutions or to get past the Chinese firewall, but these crypto wars are mainly being fought between the American government and American companies,” he said, in conversation with Guardian special projects editor James Ball.

And a rebuff from the Independent:

Tech giants reject GCHQ boss Robert Hannigan’s call for deal with government

  • Organisation representing major technology companies including Apple criticise comments by the new director of government listening post

A technology industry group which represents Silicon Valley giants including Apple, Microsoft and Google has insisted there will be no “new deal” with the Government to tackle web extremism.

Robert Hannigan – the new director of GCHQ, the government listening post – had earlier called for a pact between “democratic governments and technology companies in the area of protecting our citizens”.

But the head of a leading industry group tech UK representing 860 companies employing more than half a million people in Britain rejected the idea and said any new moves should instead be based on a “clear and transparent legal framework”.

Julian David, chief executive officer of techUK, also said Mr Hannigan was “wrong” to claim IT companies were in denial about misuse of social media and other technology by Isil terrorists and other extremists.

From the Guardian, most peculiar, in light of the above:

Apple users raise privacy concerns after hard-drive files uploaded to servers

  • Line between devices and cloud services fades as online storage allows users to switch without losing data

After security researcher Jeffrey Paul upgraded the operating system on his MacBook Pro last week, he discovered that several of his personal files had found a new home – on the cloud. The computer had saved the files, which Paul thought resided only on his own encrypted hard drive, to a remote server that Apple controls.

“This is unacceptable,” thundered Paul, an American based in Berlin, on his personal blog a few days later. “Apple has taken local files on my computer not stored in iCloud and silently and without my permission uploaded them to their servers – across all applications, Apple and otherwise.”

He was not alone in either his frustration or surprise. Johns Hopkins University cryptographer Matthew Green tweeted his dismay after realising that some private notes had found their way to iCloud. Bruce Schneier, another prominent cryptography expert, wrote a blog post calling the automatic saving function “both dangerous and poorly documented” by Apple.

The criticism was all the more notable because its target, Apple, had just enjoyed weeks of applause within the computer security community for releasing a bold new form of smartphone encryption capable of thwarting government searches – even when police have warrants. Yet here was an awkward flip side: police still can gain access to files stored on cloud services, and Apple seemed determined to migrate more and more data to them.

And from the Washington Post, more corporate cyberstalking:

Verizon, AT&T tracking their users with ‘supercookies’

Verizon and AT&T have been quietly tracking the Internet activity of more than 100 million cellular customers with what critics have dubbed “supercookies” — markers so powerful that it’s difficult for even savvy users to escape them.

The technology has allowed the companies to monitor which sites their customers visit, cataloging their tastes and interests. Consumers cannot erase these supercookies or evade them by using browser settings, such as the “private” or “incognito” modes that are popular among users wary of corporate or government surveillance.

Verizon and AT&T say they have taken steps to alert their customers to the tracking and to protect customer privacy as the companies develop programs intended to help advertisers hone their pitches based on individual Internet behavior. But as word has spread about the supercookies in recent days, privacy advocates have reacted with alarm, saying the tracking could expose user Internet behavior to a wide range of outsiders — including intelligence services — and may also violate federal telecommunications and wiretapping laws.

And another techie turmoil from the Guardian:

Six types of killer use Facebook to commit crimes, says study

  • Criminologists identify murderer profiles who use networking site but emphasise technology itself is inherently safe

Researchers at Birmingham City University have identified six types of killer who use Facebook to commit crimes, in the first-ever study on how the social networking site can affect criminal behaviour.

Dr Elizabeth Yardley and Prof David Wilson, from the university’s centre of applied criminology, analysed cases of murder in which the site had been reported as a significant factor. They found 48 examples from across the world, including that of Wayne Forrester, an HGV driver, who killed his wife Emma in 2008 after reading her Facebook posts in which she claimed that they had separated and she wanted to meet other men.

They identified the types of killer as: reactor, informer, antagonist, fantasist, predator and imposter.

intelNews covers a work-around:

Brazil builds direct Internet cable to Europe to avoid US spying

The government of Brazil is to construct a transatlantic cable across the Atlantic Ocean in order to avoid having its Internet traffic to and from Europe intercepted by American intelligence agencies. According to reports, the fiber-optic cable will stretch for 3,500 miles from the northeastern Brazilian city of Fortaleza to the Portuguese capital Lisbon.

It will cost the Brazilian government in excess of US$185 million, but it will allow the country’s existing Internet traffic to and from Europe to travel without going through cables owned by American service providers. According to Brazilian officials, the construction of the cable is among several steps announced by the Brazilian government aimed at disassociating its communications infrastructure from American companies.

The move follows revelations made last year by American defector Edward Snowden that the US National Security Agency specifically targeted Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff’s personal communications as part of its intelligence-collection efforts targeting Brazil.

The South China Morning Post covers another:

China to launch hack-proof quantum communication network in 2016

China will complete and put into service the world’s longest quantum communication network stretching 2,000km from Beijing to Shanghai by 2016, say scientists leading the project.

The quantum network is considered “unhackable” and will provide the most secure encryption technology to users.

By 2030, the Chinese network would be extended worldwide, Xinhua reported.

China is the first major power to come up with a detailed schedule to put the technology into extensive, large-scale use. The South China Morning Post earlier reported that Beijing would launch the world’s first quantum communication satellite in 2016.

From TechWeekEurope, help wanted:

Why The UK Desperately Needs 200,000 IT Security Specialists

  • Businesses must take urgent measures to protect themselves from growing cyber crime threat, cyber security recruiter warns

The UK’s lack of available talent with the right cyber security skills presents a very real danger to British businesses, according to a London-based cyber security specialist recruiter.

Responding to recent reports by EY and the office of the Minister for Universities and Science, Cornucopia IT Resourcing, warned that the unless the deficit in the number of available cyber security professionals is addressed, British businesses will remain the target of cyber attacks.
Security breach

Accordingly, 93% of large companies and 87% of SMEs have suffered at least one security breach in the last 12 months, at an average cost of £450k-850k and £35k-65k respectively, according to the Department for Business Innovation and Skills.

This has fuelled a demand for cyber security experts which the industry is struggling to meet.

While this headline from RT makes us wonder how the NSA, GCHQ, et al might use the tech involved:

Anti-depression app: Smartphones to analyze mental health through speech

If you are one of more than 350 million people globally who suffer from depression, then scientists are working for a new smartphone app for you that will detect when you’re having a tough time through speech analysis.

Researchers from the University of Maryland are seeking to develop an app based on their scientific finding that claim that as patients’ feelings of depression worsen, certain vocal features change in their voice.

Acoustician Carol Espy-Wilson and her colleagues have discovered that patients’ vocal patterns change as feelings of depression worsen.

“Their emotions are all over the place during this time, and that’s when they’re really at risk for depression. We have to reach out and figure out a way to help kids in that stage,” she said in a press release.

After the jump, American nuclear tests, more Air Force firings of nuclear commanders, nude-selfie-stealing Cal copper clapped in irons, a latter-day Berlin Wall protest, Mexican mayor suspected in college student protests busted with his wife as parents stand tall, a look at the unique college at the eye of the storm, and another Mexican police commander is slain, disproportionate punishment in Israel, religious slayings in Pakistan, on to China and a Japanese gambit rebuffed, a laser anti-drone defense locked and loaded, and major diplomatic moves toward Pakistan and Indonesia, a chemical warfare munitions destroying facility readied, and the latest from Hong Kong, on to Japan and jet-fueled anxiety, naval anxieties at Chinese naval encroachment plus lesser worries from Chinese poachers, the Philippines lust for closer military ties with Tokyo, and a famous author confront his country’s hysterical historical hypocrisies, Kim wants tourists [just not ones from Ebolaland], and the bloody plight of the Fourth Estate. . . Continue reading

Anne Armstrong: Finally, a totally honest politician


She’s running for governor of Rhode Island on the Compassion Party ticket, and she’s got a single issue she’s quite honest about. Especially at the end.

From Anne Armstrong:

Anne Armstrong: Fresh Air

Program note:

Future Rhode Island Governor Anne Armstrong breathes new life into an important topic.

She’s got out vote. . .or would have, if we lived in Rhode Island.

H/T to Wonkette.

New developments in the war on the press


Plus other casualties, one liely self-inflicted, a thousand more the consequence of harsh new economic “realities.”

First up, via The Real News Network, a report on the epidemic of arrests of journalists covering the unfolding drama in Ferguson, Missouri:

Police Continue to Violate Press Freedom In Ferguson

Program note:

With 11 journalists arrested thus far, Truthout.org investigative reporter Mike Ludwig describes how Ferguson police are using intimidation tactics against journalists

Next, from the Associated Press, a reporter withholding a confidential source is treated better in Afghanistan than in the U.S.:

Afghanistan orders NYT reporter to leave country

Afghanistan ordered a New York Times journalist Wednesday to leave the country in 24 hours and barred him from returning over a story he wrote saying that a group of officials were considering seizing power because of the impasse over who won its recent presidential election, the attorney general’s office said in a statement.

The attorney general’s office called Matthew Rosenberg, 40, into their office Tuesday and asked him to reveal his sources, which he refused to do, the Times reported. On Wednesday, the attorney general’s office said the story threatened Afghanistan’s stability and security, announcing that he was being expelled. The statement suggested that the reporting, which relied largely on unnamed sources, was fabricated.

The Afghan Foreign Affairs Ministry and security agencies had been notified of the expulsion, the statement said.

From Deutsche Welle, finding a message in killing the messenger:

Islam expert on IS: ‘The main message is revenge’

A video depicting the beheading of a US journalist is part of a highly professional media strategy by the “Islamic State,” Islam expert Christoph Günther tells DW.

DW: The “Islamic State” (IS), previously known as ISIS, has published a video which purportedly depicts the beheading of US journalist James Foley. What was the message of this video?

Christoph Günther: The main message is revenge. The aesthetic presentation speaks a clear language. By dressing the victim in an orange jumpsuit like the detainees in Guantanamo, they’re saying, “We are turning the tables on you.”

The second message is one of deterrence: “If you use military force against us, then we will hit back with all means available to us. If need be, we will target all of your citizens that we can get our hands on: Journalists, employees of Western companies in the Kurdish region, and people who work for aid organizations.”

More from the Associated Press:

Militants use British killer as propaganda

Islamic militants are using a beheading video to send a chilling message — not just through the gruesome act, but also by the choice of messenger.

The black-clad fighter who appears to kill journalist James Foley speaks with an English accent, underscoring the insurgents’ increasing use of Western militants to mobilize recruits, terrify opponents and project the image of a global force.

He is the latest in a string of international jihadis — Britons, Australians, Chechens, Chinese and Indonesians — to appear in propaganda for the Islamic State group.

“They like to suggest they have a presence around the world much stronger than it is,” said Charlie Cooper, a researcher at the Quilliam Foundation, a British counter-extremism think tank. “It does suggest that people all over the world are going off to fight in the tens of thousands.”

From the International Business Times, a mission that failed:

US Special Forces Operation Attempted Rescue Of American Journalist James Foley Before Beheading

Dozens of U.S. Special Forces conducted an operation with both air and ground components earlier this summer to rescue American citizens being held by Islamic State (ISIS) militants in Syria, the White House said Thursday. The news came just a day after the militant group published a video showing the gruesome beheading of U.S. journalist James Foley.

The dangerous rescue mission focused on a “particular captor network” within the Sunni militant group formerly known as the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria. Several ISIS members were killed and one U.S. soldier was wounded, according to CNN. The operation failed when no Americans were found.

“The United States attempted a rescue operation recently to free a number of American hostages held in Syria by ISIL,” the Pentagon said on Wednesday. “This operation involved air and ground components and was focused on a particular captor network within ISIL. Unfortunately, the mission was not successful because the hostages were not present at the targeted location.”

Vanity Fair hints at more potential tragedies to come:

James Foley’s Execution Raises Fears for Journalists Whose Kidnappings Remain Secret

Foley was not alone. I’d known for some time that he, along with a number of other Westerners, remained in the custody of ISIS. Many people who knew Jim, including his family and his employer, GlobalPost, had been making patient and valiant attempts to secure his release. In the video, the executioner shows off another kidnapped American journalist, Steven Sotloff, a freelancer who has contributed to Time magazine and was seized by ISIS in northern Syria in the summer of 2013, and threatens to kill him too. Foley’s family went public early with the news of his abduction, but most people don’t know about many of the other kidnappings. In large part this is because governments and families have persuaded themselves that the best strategy is to institute a “media blackout” in the hope of quietly securing the release of loved ones. Such blackouts don’t necessarily end with the release of hostages. The few who have been released from the custody of ISIS (about a half dozen, none of them American) appear to have been let go for money or other benefits—and to have been sworn to secrecy. There are arguments for and against such blackouts, and there have been lively debates among the families of the missing about their strategic value, but in principle they seem inimical to the spirit of journalism—and potentially counterproductive.

As a crime, kidnapping is uniquely cruel. Amid all the international concern about chemical weapons, thousands of ordinary Syrians have quietly been kidnapped in the last three years; there are no security companies to look out for them, and there is little outcry when they don’t come back. For a long period of time, Foley’s family, like many other families, had no idea whether their son was alive or dead. According to someone close to one of the cases, other prisoners who spent time with Foley noted that he had been severely tortured. He was also well liked: despite his travails over nearly two years of captivity, he remained upbeat and optimistic until the end. His killing will likely ignite a furious debate about the merits of President Obama’s decision to intervene in Iraq, and whether the administration could have done more to protect kidnapped Americans in Syria.

The Associated Press covers another journalistic fatality:

Press groups urge probe of Honduras reporter slay

Press freedom groups are urging Honduran authorities to thoroughly investigate the slaying of a broadcast journalist who was shot to death outside his home last week.

The Committee to Protect Journalists on Tuesday condemned Nery Soto Torres’ killing and urged authorities to launch a full investigation and punish those responsible.

Police say two gunmen waiting in motorcycles shot Soto Torres to death Thursday as he arrived home in the city of Olanchito, in northern Yoro state.

The 32-year-old journalist directed and hosted a news program on Olanchito’s Channel 23. At least 46 journalists, broadcasters and media executives have been killed in Honduras since 2003.

From Reuters, the journalism body count graphically depicted:

Journalists in danger worldwide

From the London Telegraph, another kind of information control:

Viewing or sharing beheading video could be a criminal offence, police warn

  • As YouTube and Twitter suspend the accounts of people who share the graphic beheading video, Scotland Yard ones sharing it online could be a crime

Viewing or sharing the harrowing video of James Foley’s beheading online could be regarded as a terrorist offence, Scotland Yard has warned.

A spokesman for the Metropolitan Police said specialists from the Counter Terrorism unit were continuing to examine the footage in order to look for clues as to the identity of the suspected British jihadist but said the public should refrain from viewing the video.

In a statement a spokesman said: “We would like to remind the public that viewing, downloading or disseminating extremist material within the UK may constitute an offence under Terrorism legislation.”

While India Today covers another journalistic wound, possibly self-inflicted:

Fareed Zakaria faces fresh plagiarism charges

Indian-American journalist Fareed Zakaria, who two years ago got away from a plagiarism controversy claiming he made a “terrible mistake”, is facing fresh plagiarism charges from anonymous internet watchdogs.

The website “Our Bad Media” in a Tuesday report by @blippoblappo and @crushingbort cited 12 instances where Zakaria appears to have lifted passages wholesale from other authors.

“Their findings cast doubt on the three news outlets — Time Magazine, CNN and The Washington Post — which claimed to have conducted reviews of Zakaria’s work and found the so-called ‘mistake’ to be an isolated incident,” said Politico, an influential news site.

And Columbia Journalism Review spots hypocrisy bordering on the surreal:

Why Obama’s statement on reporters’ arrests in Ferguson is hypocritical

Obama defends reporters in Ferguson, but demands compliance from James Risen

In a news conference Thursday addressing the killing of 18-year-old Michael Brown and resulting unrest in Ferguson, MO, President Barack Obama criticized the arrests of two reporters there on Wednesday night.

“Here in the United States of America, police should not be bullying or arresting journalists who are just trying to do their jobs,” Obama said in a news conference televised from Martha’s Vineyard, where he’s vacationing. On Wednesday, Washington Post reporter Wesley Lowery and Huffington Post reporter Ryan Reilly were arrested when working out of a McDonald’s in Ferguson. After being taken to the Ferguson Police Department, both were quickly released.

Just minutes after the president finished his remarks, a coalition of journalism organizations at the National Press Club in Washington began a news conference condemning the Obama administration’s attempt to compel James Risen, a New York Times reporter, to identify a confidential source. The menagerie of groups this morning presented a petition, signed by more than 125,000 people, calling on the Justice Department to end its six-year effort to force Risen to testify against his source.

In June, the US Supreme Court turned down a last-ditch appeal from Risen, removing the final legal barrier for federal prosecutors who want him to take the stand.

And from Common Dreams, another war on the press, this time in the interests of another nation:

The Double Identity of an “Anti-Semitic” Commenter

  • Smearing a Progressive Website to Support Israel

Like many other news websites, Common Dreams has been plagued by inflammatory anti-Semitic comments following its stories. But on Common Dreams these posts have been so frequent and intense they have driven away donors from a nonprofit dependent on reader generosity.

A Common Dreams investigation has discovered that more than a thousand of these damaging comments over the past two years were written with a deceptive purpose by a Jewish Harvard graduate in his thirties who was irritated by the website’s discussion of issues involving Israel.

His intricate campaign, which he has admitted to Common Dreams, included posting comments by a screen name, “JewishProgressive,” whose purpose was to draw attention to and denounce the anti-Semitic comments that he had written under many other screen names.

Finally, from the Guardian, another body count:

News Corp Australia leaked accounts show 1,000 jobs cut across mastheads

  • Major leak of confidential operating accounts reveal extent of losses with the Australian losing about $30m a year

The financial health of News Corp Australia’s newspapers has been laid bare by a leak of its confidential operating accounts, which reveal the extent of the Australian losses and that the company has quietly shed more than 1,000 staff.

Earlier this month it was revealed that News Corporation’s full-year profit was more than halved as revenue from its Australian newspapers continued to slide.

But the leak gives far more detail about the picture across the mastheads.

Blood on the newsroom & statehouse floors


The sad plight of reporting on state politics can be seen in two charts from the Pew Research Center’s report on state government reporting.

First, the makeup of the press corps covering state politics, in which newspapers remain the dominant medium for covering the ins and outs of state government:

BLOG State house pressNote that nearly half of the coverage is by reporters who don’t have full-time positions, including growing numbers of student interns and stringers, whose hopes for advancement of permanent employment depend not on serving the needs of readers but on pleasing editors..

And, second, the sharp and sad decline of the print press corps in state capitals:

BLOG Statehouse papers

Chart of the day IV: Blood on the newsroom floor


For some reason we’re experiencing a surfeit of charts today, so here’s another one on a favorite theme.

From the Pew Research Center, bad news for newspaper journalists:

BLOG Blood

Ted Rall: Editorial cartoonist’s economic plight


The Los Angeles Times op-ed contributor deftly defines the sad plight of a once proud figure in the American newsroom:

BLOG Rall

Chart of the day II: Watchdogs into lapdogs


From The American Journalist in the Digital Age [PDF], a survey of American journalists by the Indiana University School of Journalism, evidence of a disturbing trend among the national press corps. Most worrying to esnl is the first, item, showing a growing reluctance of the American press corps to use leaked documents. Without just such documents, Americans would’ve never learned about the sordid background and conduct of America’s war in Vietnam as revealed by the Pentagon Papers, nor of the massive extent of American electronic surveillance disclosed by Edward Snowden:

BLOG Journos

Among other findings from the survey:

  • Most see journalism going in “wrong direction.” Six in 10 journalists (59.7 percent) say that journalism in the United States is going in the wrong direction.
  • Job satisfaction drops further. Job satisfaction dropped from 33.3 percent of journalists who said they were “very satisfied” with their job in 2002, to 23.3 percent who said so in 2013. This trend continues the decline in job satisfaction that was observed between 1971 and 1992 but was interrupted with a positive bounce in 2002.
  • Perceived job autonomy also drops. The survey findings since 1982 document a continuing erosion of perceived professional autonomy in the nation’s newsrooms. While a majority (60 percent) of journalists said they had “almost complete freedom” in selecting their stories in 1971 and 1982, only a third (33.6 percent) said so in 2013.
  • Gender pay gap persists. Median income has climbed to about $50,000 in 2012, up 12.9 percent since 2002. This increase was less than half of the combined inflation rate of 29.5 percent during this decade (2001-12). Women’s salaries still trail those of men overall, but not among journalists with less than five years’ experience.