Category Archives: Corpocracy

InSecurityWatch: Cops, spooks, zones, drones


Today we open our coverage with the ongoing tragedy in Missouri, with a particular focus on the transformation of America’s cops from officers on the beat into an occupying paramilitary.

First up, a major development from Canada’s National Post:

Security of Ferguson will be taken over by Highway Patrol after local and county police lose community trust

Captain Ron Johnson of Highway Patrol, will be leading the security efforts in Ferguson, Missouri, going forward after several nights of racially charged provocation has left residents feeling little trust in local and county police forces.

The St. Louis suburb has been the scene of violent protests since a police officer fatally shot an unarmed black teenager on Saturday.

Gov. Jay Nixon said the change is intended to make sure “that we allow peaceful and appropriate protests, that we use force only when necessary, that we step back a little bit and let some of the energy be felt in this region appropriately.”

Johnson, who is black, said he grew up in the community and “it means a lot to me personally that we break this cycle of violence.”

And on to our primary focus, first from Businessweek:

A Federal Effort to Reuse Military Gear Turned Cops Into Commandos

The heavily militarized police force in a St. Louis suburb is hardly an anomaly. Local police departments across the country deploy not just military-style equipment but actual castoffs from the U.S. military.

Federal grant programs fund the police acquisition of military weapons and vehicles, and a U.S. law has sent more than $4 billion of surplus Pentagon gear to law enforcement over the past 17 years. Now protests following the fatal police shooting of unarmed teenager Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo.—and the heavily armed response by local police—seem likely to spark a national debate on the militarization of law enforcement. Do local cops from from Maine to New Mexico need military rifles and armored personnel carriers to do their jobs?

“I know that many Americans have been deeply disturbed by images we’ve seen in the heartland of our country,” President Barack Obama said Thursday, urging calm amid the investigation of the Aug. 9 shooting. Police have said Brown fought with a police officer and tried to grab his service weapon, while witness have said the 18-year-old did not struggle with police and was surrendering when he was shot.

But Businessweek is somewhat disingenuous, as witness this from Pacific Standard:

Lockdown Nation

How military-style policing became America’s new normal.

In the fascinating and sometimes terrifying Rise of the Warrior Cop: The Militarization of America’s Police Forces, journalist Radley Balko traces the changes in American policing from colonial times to the present. His focus, though, is law enforcement’s increased reliance on military hardware and strategy in the last 45 years, especially in the form of SWAT (special weapons and tactics) teams.

As recently as 1969, the Los Angeles Police Department had one of the only SWAT teams in the country. Its first raid targeted a group of Black Panthers. Four police officers and four Panthers were shot and wounded. After hours of gunfire, the raid’s leader, Daryl Gates, called the mayor, who received permission from the Department of Defense to use a grenade launcher. “My words seemed unreal,” Gates would later remember. “Anytime you even talk about using military equipment in a civil action, it’s very serious business. You’re bridging an enormous gap.” The Panthers were charged with conspiracy to murder police officers, but acquitted on self-defense grounds. “Practically, logistically, and tactically,” Balko writes, “the raid was an utter disaster. But in terms of public relations, it was an enormous success.”

Paramilitary policing quickly spread across the country. Today there are more than 1,000 U.S. police forces with SWAT or SWAT-type units. In 1980, nationwide, they carried out an average of eight paramilitary raids a day; now there are well over 100. Balko attempts to explain why this happened, and why it matters.

Nextgov has some details:

The Pentagon Gave the Ferguson Police Department Military-Grade Weapons

According to Michelle McCaskill, media relations chief at the Defense Logistics Agency, the Ferguson Police Department is part of a federal program called 1033, in which the Department of Defense distributes hundreds of millions of dollars of surplus military equipment to civilian police forces across the U.S.

That surplus military equipment doesn’t just mean small items like pistols or automatic rifles; towns like Ferguson could become owners of heavy armored vehicles, including the MRAPs used in Afghanistan and Iraq. “In 2013 alone, $449,309,003.71 worth of property was transferred to law enforcement,” the agency’s website states.

All in all, it’s meant armored vehicles rolling down streets in Ferguson and police officers armed with short-barreled 5.56-mm rifles that can accurately hit a target out to 500 meters hovering near the citizens they’re meant to protect.

Glenn Greenwald offers a specific focus at The Intercept:

The Militarization of U.S. Police: Finally Dragged Into the Light by the Horrors of Ferguson

The intensive militarization of America’s police forces is a serious menace about which a small number of people have been loudly warning for years, with little attention or traction. In a 2007 paper on “the blurring distinctions between the police and military institutions and between war and law enforcement,” the criminal justice professor Peter Kraska defined “police militarization” as “the process whereby civilian police increasingly draw from, and pattern themselves around, the tenets of militarism and the military model.”

The harrowing events of the last week in Ferguson, Missouri – the fatal police shooting of an unarmed African-American teenager, Mike Brown, and the blatantly excessive and thuggish response to ensuing community protests from a police force that resembles an occupying army – have shocked the U.S. media class and millions of Americans. But none of this is aberrational.

It is the destructive by-product of several decades of deliberate militarization of American policing, a trend that received a sustained (and ongoing) steroid injection in the form of a still-flowing, post-9/11 federal funding bonanza, all justified in the name of “homeland security.” This has resulted in a domestic police force that looks, thinks, and acts more like an invading and occupying military than a community-based force to protect the public.

And one hopeful response, via BuzzFeed:

Democratic Congressman Will Introduce Police Demilitarization Bill

  • Rep. Hank Johnson pivots off Ferguson to introduce the “Stop Militarizing Law Enforcement Act”

Amid growing criticism of the military-style equipment and tactics deployed by police in Ferguson, Missouri, a Democrat from Georgia plans to introduce the “Stop Militarizing Law Enforcement Act” in Congress next month.

Rep. Hank Johnson asked his all his colleagues Thursday to join him in supporting the bill, which he said in a letter “will end the free transfers of certain aggressive military equipment to local law enforcement and ensure that all equipment can be accounted for.”

Images of assault rifle-carrying camouflaged police riding through Ferguson on military vehicles similar to the IED-resistant equipment used by American armed forces in combat have proven to be a jolt of energy for a long-simmering debate about police militarization.

While the Independent makes a telling point:

America is one nation, still divided: Protests over the shooting of a black teenager could have erupted in any number of US cities

While Ferguson is the latest flashpoint in America’s struggle to overcome a legacy of racial tension going back to slavery, it could just as easily have been somewhere else; Los Angeles, where 24-year-old Ezell Ford, also black, was shot and killed by a police officer on Monday, or perhaps New York, where the death of Eric Garner while in custody, after an officer held him in an illegal chokehold last month, is still fuelling anger.

The grievances still felt by many African-Americans are rooted in the life experiences of many of them, particularly young men, which are also reflected in the sometimes shocking statistics. Statistics just from Ferguson are startling but by no means unique to the town, which, on the edge of downtown St Louis, became majority black after whites fled decades ago to escape rising violence and sinking schools.

Until last weekend, few beyond Ferguson will have known that only three of its 53 police officers are black, even if the community is overwhelmingly more black than white. Or that 483 blacks were arrested in town last year but only 36 whites. Or that blacks, who make up less than two thirds of the driving-age population, account for 86 per cent of all traffic stops by police.

From International Business Times, an intersection of two threads:

Anonymous Twitter Suspended Amid St. Louis Police Hack; Other Anon Accounts Decry Naming Officer

The St. Louis County Police confirmed to multiple outlets Thursday that the department has been hit by a cyberattack, with the agency’s website and emails down since Wednesday. Word of the hack came at the same time Twitter suspended the account of the Anonymous hacker collective, who’ve been feuding with the police online over details withheld in the Mike Brown shooting.

The confirmation also comes after the Ferguson, Missouri, police reported their system was infiltrated, with Anonymous claiming responsibility for briefly rendering the department’s phones and computers useless.

More from The Wire:

Anonymous Stops Releasing Information on Alleged Officer Who Shot Michael Brown

The online activist group Anonymous has threatened to reveal the identity and other personal information of the police officer they say is responsible for the shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri. However, they have called that effort (for now) after denials from St. Louis area police that they had the right person, and after Twitter suspended one of their accounts. No other media outlets have been able to verify whether their information is correct or not. Read below for the latest updates…

The latest:

1:21 p.m.: After switching to a secondary account (@TheAnonMessage), the group that named the alleged shooter says they won’t be releasing any more information for the time being.

The McClatchy Washington Bureau takes us to another scene of conflict and a triumphant declaration:

U.S. declares Yazidi intervention a success, says rescue mission unneeded

The United States military has concluded that there are too few Yazidi refugees still trapped in the mountains of northern Iraq to warrant mounting a potentially risky rescue, the Pentagon said late Wednesday.

Military advisers who earlier in the day visited the Sinjar mountains, where as many as 30,000 people were thought to still be trapped, said that they found “far fewer” Yazidis than expected and that those who were there were in better condition than anticipated. Food and water dropped in recent days have reached those who remain, the Pentagon statement said.

The Pentagon said the visit proved that the actions the United States had taken in recent days had succeeded in preventing the Islamic State from capturing and executing the Yazidis, members of a religious sect that Sunni extremists view as heretics. It said the assessment team encountered no hostile forces during its visit and “did not engage in combat operations.”

While the Guardian foreshadows:

British SAS sent to Iraq on ‘intelligence’ mission before airlift of Yazidi refugees

  • Deployment to Mt Sinjar ahead of US-led rescue of civilians follows plan for RAF to deliver arms to Kurds fighting jihadists

British SAS soldiers have been deployed to northern Iraq to “gather intelligence” ahead of any potential rescue operation, led by the US, to airlift thousands of Yazidi refugees from Mount Sinjar.

In the most dramatic sign of Britain’s growing involvement in the Iraqi crisis, the SAS soldiers have moved to the region near Mount Sinjar where US special forces are coordinating the rescue effort.

Last night, a small team from the US landed on Mount Sinjar to assess the situation, and said that an evacuation mission was less likely as “there are far fewer Yazidis on Mount Sinjar than previously feared”, according to Pentagon press secretary Rear Admiral John Kirby.

Deutsche Welle covers a related development:

Morocco breaks up recruitment cell for ‘Islamic State’

  • Moroccan police have dismantled a jihadist network suspected of recruiting volunteers to fight with the radical “Islamic State” group in Iraq and Syria. The operation was carried out with help from authorities in Spain.

The Moroccan Interior Ministry said on Thursday that it had broken up a network that was used to recruit and send volunteers to fight with the “Islamic State” (IS) in Iraq and Syria.

“The operation, based on detailed investigations carried out in close collaboration with Spain, stems from a proactive security approach aimed at battling terrorist threats,” a ministry statement said.

According to Moroccan police, the group was operating in the Moroccan cities of Fez and Tetouan, as well as the town of Fnideq, close to the Spanish exclave of Ceuta.

On to rampant Orwellianism, first with the New York Times:

Reagan-Era Order on Surveillance Violates Rights, Says Departing Aide

After President Obama delivered a speech in January endorsing changes to surveillance policies, including an end to the National Security Agency’s bulk collection of Americans’ domestic calling records, John Napier Tye was disillusioned.

A State Department official, Mr. Tye worked on Internet freedom issues and had top-secret clearance. He knew the Obama administration had also considered a proposal to impose what an internal White House document, obtained by The New York Times, portrayed as “significant changes” to rules for handling Americans’ data the N.S.A. collects from fiber-optic networks abroad. But Mr. Obama said nothing about that in his speech.

So in April, as Mr. Tye was leaving the State Department, he filed a whistle-blower complaint arguing that the N.S.A.’s practices abroad violated Americans’ Fourth Amendment rights. He also met with staff members for the House and Senate intelligence committees. Last month, he went public with those concerns, which have attracted growing attention.

While Techdirt notes another development:

Newly Released Documents Show NSA Abused Its Discontinued Internet Metadata Program Just Like It Abused Everything Else

  • from the so,-more-of-the-same,-then? dept

James Clapper’s office (ODNI) has released a large batch of declassified documents, most of which deal with the NSA’s discontinued Section 402 program. What this program did was re-read pen register/trap and trace (PR/TT) statutes to cover internet metadata, including sender/receiver information contained in email and instant messages. (Not to be confused with the Section 702 program, which is still active and harvests internet communications.)

Notably, this marks only the second time that the ODNI has acknowledged the document release has been compelled by a FOIA lawsuit.

Following a declassification review by the Executive Branch, the Department of Justice released on August 6, 2014, in redacted form, 38 documents relating to the now-discontinued NSA program to collect bulk electronic communications metadata pursuant to Section 402 of the FISA (“PRTT provision”). These documents are also responsive to a Freedom of Information Act request by the Electronic Privacy Information Center.

As EPIC’s site notes (and the ODNI’s doesn’t), the program was authorized in 2004, but no legal justification was provided to Congressional oversight until a half-decade later

And Nextgov adds a touch of the Kafkaesque:

Watchdog: The FBI Spied on the Wrong People Because of Typos

The FBI unintentionally spied on the communications data of some Americans who were not targets of investigations because of typographical errors, according to a government watchdog.

The Justice Department’s inspector general concluded in a report Thursday that the FBI has improved its overall handling of national security letters, which permit the agency to collect telephone and Internet data of suspects believed to be tied to a national security investigation.

But the inspector general identified a number of areas that “require additional effort and attention,” such as a tendency to collect data on the wrong person because of routine mistakes.

From The Hill, another bizarre revelation:

IRS wrongly allowed contractors access to sensitive data

IRS contractors without background checks had access to sensitive information, potentially putting confidential taxpayer data at risk, according to a federal audit.

The Treasury inspector general for tax administration found more than a dozen cases in which the IRS awarded contracts that required access to taxpayer information without background investigations or before those checks were completed.

Under IRS policy, background checks are mandatory for contractors who work with that kind of data.

More from Nextgov:

IRS Gave Sensitive Data to Convict Sentenced to 21 Years

At the IRS, contractors hired for courier, printing, document recovery, and sign language and interpreter services who accessed sensitive information had not undergone investigations, which is a policy violation.

A Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration report released today details several situations where employees had ample opportunity to steal data.

In one, a courier who daily delivered IRS documents and mail to post offices and other locations had previously served 21 years in prison for arson, retaliation and attempted escape.

The Intercept takes action:

Five Muslim-Americans Sue Feds Over Watchlisting

Relying in part on recent Intercept reporting on the vast breadth of the government’s watchlisting system, several Muslim Americans filed a complaint in a Michigan federal court today, arguing that they have been wrongly ensnared in an unaccountable system without any opportunity to defend themselves.

Citing “recent media accounts,” including secret government documents published exclusively by The Intercept, the complaint claims that the plaintiffs—five men on the terror watchlist—have been falsely stigmatized and punished without trial by a system motivated by “bigotry and misguided, counterproductive zeal.”

“This lawsuit is an expression of anger grounded in law,” the 28-page complaint begins. “Our federal government is imposing an injustice of historic proportions upon the Americans who have filed this action, as well as thousands of others.”

From the London Telegraph, a fascinating tale:

Google removes Telegraph stories about explosives arrests

  • Google has removed links to two Telegraph articles, each more than a decade old, describing arrests for possession of explosives after receiving requests under the EU’s ‘right to be forgotten’

Google has removed links to two Telegraph articles from certain search results describing arrests for possession of explosives after receiving requests under the EU’s ‘right to be forgotten’.

The first story is a news article from June 2001 reporting that three men had appeared in court after being arrested when explosives were found in a Dublin apartment.

The three men had been seen looking at something in a car, then refused to stop when police later attempted to pull them over. Inside the car were balaclavas and plastic boxes with switches attached to them, which “could be used as incendiary devices”.

Follow-up searches of a number of homes found explosives and similar equipment to that found in the car.

The second story is a collection of brief articles, one of which refers to the case above.

On to the hacking front, first with the National Post:

Several rallies planned to support alleged hacker Matt DeHart before his Canadian refugee hearing

The bizarre case of a former U.S. airman seeking asylum in Canada — claiming he was tortured by U.S. authorities probing his links to the shadowy Anonymous hacker collective — is sparking protest rallies and an international day of action.

Matt DeHart, 30, is in prison in Ontario awaiting an Aug. 20 refugee hearing in Toronto during which he will argue his claim for refugee protection.

“It is a very serious case that could set a lot of dangerous precedents for activists, hacktivists whistleblowers and journalists,” said Stacie Te Korako, director of #FreeMattDeHart, a support group based in New Orleans.

SecurityWeek covers another front:

Ukrainian Hackers Claim Attack on Polish Websites

Ukrainian hackers hostile to the government claimed Thursday to have launched a cyber attack against the websites of Poland’s presidency and the Warsaw Stock Exchange.

The hacker group Cyber Berkut said it blocked the sites, both down on Thursday afternoon, in response to what it said were Poland’s actions as “sponsors of fascism in Ukraine”.

“Our western neighbour on orders from Washington renders political, diplomatic and military assistance to nationalists and oligarchs who destabilise and wreck Ukraine,” the group alleged on its website.

SecurityWeek again, charting a hack attack whack:

Lockheed: Attackers Went Quiet After APT1 Report Exposed Chinese Hackers

Threat actors targeting Lockheed Martin immediately halted their cyberattacks against the defense contractor following the release of Mandiant’s APT1 report, Lockheed executives said Wednesday.

In February 2013, Mandiant released its bold, unprecedented report that made direct allegations and exposed a multi-year, massive cyber state-sponsored espionage campaign from a unit of China’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA).

The threat actor group, dubbed APT1 by FireEye-owned Mandiant, is alleged to be one of the most persistent of China’s cyber threat actors, which the security firm claims has “systematically stolen hundreds of terabytes of data” from at least 141 organizations.

China Daily tracks another web crackdown that could make a reader Yelp!:

Micro-blogger in court charged with spreading rumors

A popular Chinese micro-blogger went on trial on Thursday for allegedly spreading rumors to attract followers and helping others delete posts for profit.

Yang Xiuyu, founder of Erma Co and with the online identity Lier Chaisi, was accused of illegal business operations after receiving 531,200 yuan ($86,312) for helping people remove Internet posts and publish rumors, according to Beijing Chaoyang District People’s Court.

Yang, 41, from Northeast China’s Jilin province, was charged with running the illegal operation between May 2012 and September 2013, the court said.

From the Independent, bids to cop a deal:

Chief Constable bombarded with offers for private contracts

One of Britain’s most senior police officers has repeatedly rebuffed attempts by former service colleagues to use their contacts to push for contracts on behalf of their new private sector employers.

Lynne Owens, the Chief Constable of Surrey Police, said that she had been “bombarded” with requests for meetings from people who used to work in policing to tap into the £2.3bn market in private police services.

Industry watchers say the approaches signal a new drive by security companies for deals with police forces after the political furore died down over the failure of the world’s biggest security company G4S to supply enough security staff for the 2012 Olympics. Under pressure from 20 per cent budget cuts, some police forces have done deals with outside companies for technology, human resources and detention services.

On the drone front, there’s this from Aviation Week & Space Technology:

France, U.K. Move Toward Joint UCAV

  • UCAV feasiblity study renews French-British aerospace industry cooperation

New low-observable technologies, a highly reliable turbofan engine and multifunction radar are among the technologies that could be destined for an Anglo-French unmanned combat air vehicle (UCAV) in the 2030s.

A two-year feasibility study, signed by defense ministers from the two countries at the Farnborough air show last month, could mark the return to an era of close cooperation between the British and French aerospace industries not seen since the development of the Concorde in the 1960s.

Now more details have emerged of some of the ambitious capabilities and technologies being envisaged for the Future Combat Air System (FCAS), which both nations hope will give them a leading edge in air power and defense exports in the coming decades.

After the jump, it’s off to Asia with an allegation of a seditious Like and a non-illegal ISIS fan club, tensions in Pakistan, and the latest in the Game of Zones, including Korean missiles and a papal plea, Chinese arms developments, another “comfort women” demand, Japanese protests, Russo-Japanese tensions, the real Men in Black, and much, much more. . . Continue reading

Human workers or redundant meat puppets


From C.G.P. Grey, a sobering look at the jobs likely to vanish as robotics extends its reach into virtually every sector of the labor force.

Humans Need Not Apply

His account is compelling, and the now-existing intrusions of machines making and moving products, and so much more cannot be denied.

One obvious question remains: All that “stuff” robots make, sell, and transport requires folks to buy it, but if people no longer have jobs that pay decent wages, then how will any economy sustain itself?

Just wondering. . .

EnviroWatch: Ebola, water woes, frackin’ toxins


Today’s events from the interface of people and planet begins, once again, with the latest Ebola news, first from the New York Times:

Using a Tactic Unseen in a Century, Countries Cordon Off Ebola-Racked Areas

The Ebola outbreak in West Africa is so out of control that governments there have revived a disease-fighting tactic not used in nearly a century: the “cordon sanitaire,” in which a line is drawn around the infected area and no one is allowed out.

Cordons, common in the medieval era of the Black Death, have not been seen since the border between Poland and Russia was closed in 1918 to stop typhus from spreading west. They have the potential to become brutal and inhumane. Centuries ago, in their most extreme form, everyone within the boundaries was left to die or survive, until the outbreak ended.

Plans for the new cordon were announced on Aug. 1 at an emergency meeting in Conakry, Guinea, of the Mano River Union, a regional association of Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia, the three countries hardest hit by Ebola, according to Agence France-Presse. The plan was to isolate a triangular area where the three countries meet, separated only by porous borders, and where 70 percent of the cases known at that time had been found.

The Guardian add complications:

Ebola epidemic heightened by poor facilities and distrust of healthcare

Children are dying of preventable diseases all the time in Africa. The nastiness of the Ebola outbreak shouldn’t let us forget that

In June and July approximately 5,000 women and children in Sierra Leone died of diseases. The vast majority of these deaths were avoidable. For women and children in Sierra Leone, June and July were just like any other month: unnecessarily dangerous and largely forgotten.

The Ebola outbreak in the country killed 233 people during the same period, and the story made headlines around the world. Why do the relatively small number of people dying of Ebola occupy the world’s media while the thousands of women and children who die of other illnesses barely get mentioned? Is it an attempt to raise awareness, mobilise resources and halt the epidemic? Or is sensationalism to blame? Children dying in Africa is old news, while an Ebola outbreak sounds like the setting for a Hollywood blockbuster.

The people in the global health community, a nebulous conglomerate of UN agencies, NGOs, charities and academic institutes, who spend most of their lives in relative obscurity desperately tying to raise awareness and funds, now appear on news bulletins and in the newspapers. Understandably, the focus of their discourse is the pathophysiology, containment and treatment of the Ebola outbreak. There are the predictable calls for more funding to be allocated to neglected tropical diseases.

BBC News identifies the latest addition to the at-risk list:

The World Health Organization (WHO) has classified Kenya as a “high-risk” country for the spread of the deadly Ebola virus.

Kenya was vulnerable because it was a major transport hub, with many flights from West Africa, a WHO official said. This is the most serious warning to date by the WHO that Ebola could spread to East Africa.

The number of people killed by Ebola in West Africa has risen to 1,069, the WHO said in its latest update.

The Guardian adds a donation:

Ebola: Canada to donate experimental vaccine to the WHO for use in Africa

  • Canada has so far produced only about 1,500 doses of vaccine, which has not been tested on humans

Canada will donate a small quantity of an experimental Ebola vaccine developed in its government laboratory to the World Health Organization for use in Africa, the country’s health minister said on Tuesday.

The decision to donate the vaccine came after the WHO said on Tuesday that it was ethical to offer untested drugs to people infected by the virus.

The Canadian government will donate between 800 to 1,000 doses of the vaccine, with the final number dependent on how much Canada holds back for research and clinical trials. The government will also keep a small supply in case it is needed domestically.

The Hill plays catch-up:

Governments scramble to develop Ebola drugs

Governments and drugmakers are scrambling to develop new treatments for the Ebola virus now that the World Health Organization (WHO) has eased restrictions on untested vaccines.

The United States government is putting cash into experimental treatments, and on Tuesday, gave $4.1 million to the drugmaker BioCryst to advance its Ebola drug BCX4430, the company announced Wednesday.

The North Carolina pharmaceutical company in 2013 had received a five-year, $22 million contract from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to develop the drug but is now being given extra funding to speed up trials.

China Daily makes a plea:

Ebola collaboration urged

  • US, China teamwork in Africa could leverage both countries’ strengths

With teams of researchers and medical experts in West Africa, the US and China should concentrate their efforts on working together to combat the Ebola epidemic, showing that the two countries can cooperate for the common good, experts said.

“The US and China have comparative advantages: China has medical teams on the ground and the US has advanced technologies and disease-control expertise,” said Yun Sun, a fellow at the Stimson Center who previously focused on China-Africa relations at the Brookings Institution.

“Through inter-governmental coordination, it is possible to coordinate their individual aid efforts to maximize results.”

Deutsche Welle issues an evacuation call:

Germany urges citizens to leave Ebola-hit nations

The German government has urged nationals to leave three countries in west Africa affected by the Ebola virus. The outbreak has now killed more than 1000 people, including a second prominent physician in Sierra Leone.  

Following a meeting of a crisis unit working to stem the ongoing Ebola outbreak, Germany on Wednesday updated its travel warnings for the hardest-hit regions.

“It was decided that all German nationals who are in Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia are called upon to leave due to the still-critical situation,” foreign ministry spokesman Martin Schäfer told reporters, adding that German medical personnel needed on the ground were “explicitly exempt.”

German embassies and consulates in the three countries would remain open, Schäfer also said.

Want China Times calls an alert:

Customs alert against Ebola in China

The Chinese customs authority said Tuesday it has asked customs checkpoints across the country to strengthen inspections to prevent the deadly Ebola virus from entering China.

The General Administration of Customs (GAC) said customs inspectors were told to carry out stricter inspections on transportation facilities, goods and materials from regions affected by Ebola.

Customs checkpoints nationwide were also asked to closely cooperate with the quarantine authority in case of any suspected infections.

The Christian Science Monitor poses a question:

Ebola and ethics: Are rich nations doing enough to fight the outbreak?

  • The Ebola outbreak in West Africa is a matter of justice and ethics, experts said Tuesday. This has to do with medical testing and international funding.

The battle to contain the Ebola virus is not just about disease control in West Africa, it’s also about global ethics.

The ethical issues include questions about when experimental treatments should be used in the current outbreak and who gets them. But they also include whether greater global coordination is needed on health policy before such an outbreak occurs.

That’s partly a matter of money. In this case, a public-health emergency is centered in some of the world’s poorest nations – Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone. These are countries that haven’t set up the basic disease-response infrastructure called for by the UN’s World Health Organization (WHO).

And for our final Ebola item, there’s this from Nextgov:

Hacked Yahoo News Tweet Reports Atlanta Ebola Outbreak

A prominent publication’s Twitter feed announced Sunday afternoon the Ebola disease had spread beyond an Atlanta hospital where two infected Americans are quarantined, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports.

“BREAKING: EBOLA OUTBREAK IN ATLANTA!” a Yahoo News tweet blared. “Estimated 145 people infected so far since Doctors carrying the disease were flown in from Africa.”

Few of the hundreds of people who retweeted the message seemed to take it seriously.

SINA English opens today’s water woes:

N. China province suffers worst drought in 63 years

North China’s Liaoning Province is suffering the harshest drought in 63 years, and things could get worse.

Since July, the province has received the least precipitation since meteorological records began in 1951, the provincial meteorological bureau said in a statement.

The lingering drought has affected a majority of the province,devastating 2 million hectares of crops. The drought may affect more crops with forecasts predicting less-than-normal rainfall for the remainder of August, the statement said.

The San Francisco Chronicle brings it closer to Casa esnl:

California drought: San Francisco puts caps on watering

San Francisco on Tuesday joined a growing number of cities that are rationing water amid a statewide drought, imposing a mandatory 10 percent reduction on outdoor watering.

The mandate, which requires customers to use no more than 90 percent of what they used outdoors in 2013, is meant for all the agency’s customers. But it will be enforced mostly on large accounts that use water outside exclusively, including golf courses, shopping malls and office parks.

Enforcement is limited because water meters at most homes and businesses don’t distinguish between indoor and outdoor consumption.

And the Contra Costa Times brights it to our doorstep:

EBMUD outlaws wasting water, but sets no fines for violators

Two of the Bay Area’s largest water agencies on Tuesday took steps to reduce outdoor water use, but stopped short of penalizing residential customers.

Responding to a state water board push for stronger conservation measures statewide, the East Bay Municipal Utility District Board outlawed water wasting practices such as flooding gutters and watering lawns more than twice a week — practices it previously only asked customers to avoid.

The board, however, said it wouldn’t fine customers as is done in some other areas with more severe water shortages such as Dublin, Santa Cruz, and Sacramento.

From the Los Angeles Times, another kind of water woe:

Oil companies fracking into drinking water sources, new research shows

Energy companies are fracking for oil and gas at far shallower depths than widely believed, sometimes through underground sources of drinking water, according to research released Tuesday by Stanford University scientists.

Though researchers cautioned their study of hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, employed at two Wyoming geological formations showed no direct evidence of water-supply contamination, their work is certain to roil the public health debate over the risks of the controversial oil and gas production process.

Fracking involves high-pressure injection of millions of gallons of water mixed with sand and chemicals to crack geological formations and tap previously unreachable oil and gas reserves. Fracking fluids contain a host of chemicals, including known carcinogens and neurotoxins.

And an earlier story by the same Los Angeles Times reporter, Neela Banerjee:

Hormone-disrupting chemicals found in water at fracking sites

Water samples collected at Colorado sites where hydraulic fracturing was used to extract natural gas show the presence of chemicals that have been linked to infertility, birth defects and cancer, scientists reported Monday.

The study, published in the journal Endocrinology, also found elevated levels of the hormone-disrupting chemicals in the Colorado River, where wastewater released during accidental spills at nearby wells could wind up.

Tests of water from sites with no fracking activity also revealed the activity of so-called endocrine-disrupting chemicals, or EDCs. But the levels from these control sites were lower than in places with direct links to fracking, the study found.

From the Guardian, another fracking anxiety:

Fracking’s impact on wildlife remains unknown, study finds

  • Lack of data on pollution and habitat loss makes it hard to gauge wider effect of shale gas development in North America

A decade into North America’s fracking boom, the impact on wildlife and the environment remains largely unknown, according to a new study.

“We’re conducting a giant experiment without even collecting the important data on the water, air, land or wildlife impacts,” said Sara Souther, an ecologist at the University of Wisconsin, one of the co-authors of the peer-reviewed research examining the environmental impacts of shale gas development in the US and Canada.

Although the technique of hydraulic fracturing shale has been used for at least 20 years, there is “surprisingly little research” on impacts, found the study, published in the journal Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment.

“We do know chemical contamination of ground and surface water is happening all the time but no one knows what the impacts are because the data isn’t being collected,” Souther said.

After the jump, another fracking woe, a petro protest, poison in the home, Canada’s lax environmental laws, a poisonous alien invader, and pot-powered batteries. . .. Continue reading

EnviroWatch: Ebola, weather, water, FukuFolly


Plus ad woes and household toxics. And as with today’s InSecurityWatch, a long post cuz we wuz under the weather.

We open with the first Ebola story, via the Los Angeles Times:

Spanish priest becomes first European to die in Ebola outbreak

A 75-year-old Spanish priest suffering from the Ebola virus died Tuesday in an isolation ward in Madrid — the first European death from the outbreak that has killed more than 1,000 people in West Africa and the first known death on European soil.

Miguel Pajares died around 9:30 a.m. Tuesday at Madrid’s Carlos III Hospital, Spanish officials announced.

A Roman Catholic missionary, Pajares was airlifted Aug. 7 from Liberia, where he is believed to have contracted the deadly virus at a hospital where he worked. Thousands of Spaniards had joined a social media campaign urging their government to rescue and repatriate him. He was the first Ebola patient evacuated to Europe amid the current, fast-spreading outbreak in Africa, which is already the worst in history.

BBC News closes the borders:

Ivory Coast bans flight from three states

Ivory Coast has banned all passenger flights from three countries hit by Ebola in an attempt to prevent the spread of the deadly virus.

It is the only country, after Saudi Arabia, to impose such a ban, amid mounting concern about the outbreak which has killed nearly 1,000 people.

The ban covers Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone, which are worst affected by Ebola, Ivorian officials said.

From the Guardian, another case:

Ebola: Nigeria confirms new case in Lagos

  • Health minister says nurse who came into contact with American Patrick Sawyer is 10th confirmed Nigeria case

Nigeria has confirmed a new case of Ebola in the financial capital, Lagos, bringing the total number in the country to 10.

The health minister, Onyebuchi Chukwu, said the latest confirmed case was a female nurse who came into contact with a Liberian-American man, Patrick Sawyer, who died of Ebola in a Lagos hospital on 25 July.

Another nurse who had contact with him died last week, while seven other people have been confirmed to have the virus in the city, he added. “The 10th case actually was one of the nurses who also had primary contact with the index case. When he [Sawyer] got ill, we then brought her into isolation,” the minister told a news conference in Abuja. “We just tested her over the weekend. So, that’s what made it 10. So, between Friday and today we had one additional case. That brings it to 10 and the 10 includes the index case.”

SINA English covers a Chinese angle:

Eight Chinese quarantined in Ebola-hit Sierra Leone

Eight Chinese medical workers have been placed in quarantine in Sierra Leone, as health experts grappled on Monday with ethical questions over the use of experimental drugs to combat the killer Ebola virus.

Gripped by panic, west African nations battling the tropical disease ramped up drastic containment measures that have caused transport chaos, price hikes and food shortages.

Chinese ambassador to Sierra Leone Zhao Yanbo told journalists seven doctors and one nurse who treated Ebola patients had been placed under quarantine, but would not be drawn on whether they were displaying symptoms of the disease.

The Guardian covers a U.S. quarantine:

Husband of American Ebola patient arrives for quarantine in Georgia

  • Three missionaries arrive in US from west Africa for three-week quarantine but do not show signs or symptoms of Ebola

The husband of a woman being treated for Ebola in a Georgia hospital is among three quarantined missionaries who arrived in the US on Sunday night after departing west Africa, where they worked with patients infected with the deadly virus.

David Writebol and the other aid workers do not show signs or symptoms of Ebola, but they will be quarantined for at least three weeks as a safety precaution.

The missionaries are with SIM USA, a Christian mission organization that sends volunteers abroad to provide humanitarian aid and “evangelize the unreached”.

Channel NewsAsia Singapore gives the go-ahead:

WHO approves experimental Ebola drugs

The World Health Organisation authorised on Tuesday (Aug 12) the use of experimental drugs to fight Ebola as the death toll topped 1,000 and a Spanish priest became the first European to succumb to the latest outbreak.

The declaration by the UN’s health agency came after a US company that makes an experimental serum called ZMapp said it had sent all its available supplies to hard-hit west Africa.

“In the special circumstances of this Ebola outbreak it is ethical to offer unregistered interventions as potential treatments or prevention,” WHO assistant director general Marie-Paule Kieny told reporters in Geneva, following a meeting of medical experts on the issue.

But The Hill notes that victory was largely symbolic:

More Ebola drugs may be months away

It will take months to produce even a small batch of a promising new drug to counter Ebola, according to U.S. health officials.

Mapp Biopharmaceutical’s drug ZMapp has shown some promise. The drug has been used to treat two Americans who have contracted Ebola.

But the company said Tuesday it has run out of supplies.

Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases says it will take months to make more of the drug. Even in that timeframe, the company will only be able to produce less than a hundred treatment courses.

More from Deutsche Welle:

Liberia to receive experimental Ebola drug from the US

The US government has confirmed that it will send doses of an experimental Ebola drug to treat doctors in Liberia. The treatment has been so far used on just three people, however, there is no vaccine for the virus.

US President Barack Obama and the Food and Drug Administration approved the request Monday to send the experimental drugs to Liberia, the West African nation’s government said in a statement.

Mapp Biopharmaceutical Inc, which makes the drug ZMapp, released a statement on their website that said, “In responding to the request received this weekend from a West African nation, the available supply of ZMapp is exhausted.”

“Any decision to use ZMapp must be made by the patients’ medical team,” it said, adding that the drug was “provided at no cost in all cases.”

TheLocal.de covers a negative:

German student tests negative for Ebola

Rwandan authorities said on Tuesday that a German man put in isolation with fever had tested negative for the deadly tropical disease Ebola.

“We would like to inform you that the suspected case of Ebola tested negative,” the Ministry of Health said in a statement.

“There’s no Ebola in Rwanda.”

United Press International has a tech angle:

Geo-spatial technology to help combat Ebola outbreaks

  • A U.S. company reports it is supplying portable geo-spatial mapping devices to Liberia to aid fight against Ebola outbreak

A U.S. geo-spatial technology company is providing Liberia with portable mapping devices to help in the effort to contain and defeat an outbreak of Ebola.

The virus outbreak in Liberia, Guinea, Sierra Leone and Nigeria has killed more than 900 people and appears to be spreading.

Addressing Homes LLC said it is supplying its portable AimObserver devices to Liberia without charge as emergency assistance. The AimObserver uses “Mobile Mapper” technology to produce an instant latitude/longitude location for any dwelling, structure or pathway at any point in the world.

TheLocal.no covers a fright:

Ebola scare forces flight to land in Norway

An airplane travelling over Norway was forced to land in Trondheim after an African passenger having a coughing fit triggered an Ebola fear on Monday.

Around 100 passengers were kept back on a KLM flight from Amsterdam to Værnes for more than two hours – but with little good reason for the fear.
The dreaded Ebola disease is ravaging throughout several countries in West Africa and countries, like Norway, are on guard to prevent the disease spreading further.

Chief physician in the Stjørdal municipality, Leif Vonen, said to NRK: “There was suspicion of an infectious disease and thoughts went quickly to Ebola. But it became clear from the health situation that this was not the case. The person had just an innocent respiratory infection.”

And South China Morning Post bolsters the defense:

Hong Kong officials to discuss improved Ebola security measures

Health and hygiene officials will meet today to discuss how to improve precautions against the spread of infectious diseases in the wake of the city’s first suspected case of the Ebola virus.

Announcing the meeting, Centre for Health Protection Controller Dr Leung Ting-hung defended the handling of the case on Sunday. The Nigerian man at the centre of the brief scare was found not to have the deadly, incurable disease.

A security guard called the ambulance after the 32-year-old, who was staying at Chungking Mansions in Tsim Sha Tsui, suffered vomiting and diarrhoea, early symptoms of the disease that is spreading through three West African countries.

News On Japan bugs out:

Japan aid agency pulls staff from Ebola-hit nations

Japan’s foreign aid agency said Tuesday it was evacuating two dozen staff from Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone, as the death toll from the Ebola virus continued to mount.

The move came as eight Chinese medical workers who treated patients suffering from the virus were placed in quarantine in Sierra Leone.

Sierra Leone, as well as Guinea and Liberia, has been at the centre of the outbreak.

And TheLocal.es reassures:

Ebola risk in Spain is ‘almost zero’: WHO

A spokesperson for the World Health Organization said on Monday that the risk of contagion from the Ebola virus in Spain was “almost zero” and described the repatriation of an infected Spanish priest as “correct”.

Speaking to Spanish TV channel Cuatro, WHO spokesperson Gregory Hartl said that “many” Spanish health workers were well-trained to deal with any possible Ebola cases.

He reassured Spaniards that the WHO and Spain’s Ministry of Health, Social Security and Equality were following international protocols to remain in “constant contact”.

On to the weather, first with the Guardian:

Extreme weather becoming more common, study says

  • Rise in blocking-patterns – hot or wet weather remaining stuck over regions for weeks – causing frequent heatwaves or floods

Extreme weather like the drought currently scorching the western US and the devastating floods in Pakistan in 2010 is becoming much more common, according to new scientific research.

The work shows so-called “blocking patterns”, where hot or wet weather remains stuck over a region for weeks causing heatwaves or floods, have more than doubled in summers over the last decade. The new study may also demonstrate a link between the UK’s recent flood-drenched winter and climate change.

Climate scientists in Germany noticed that since 2000 there have been an “exceptional number of summer weather extremes, some causing massive damage to society”. So they examined the huge meanders in the high-level jet stream winds that dominate the weather at mid-latitudes, by analysing 35 years of wind data amassed from satellites, ships, weather stations and meteorological balloons. They found that blocking patterns, which occur when these meanders slow down, have happened far more frequently.

The Los Angeles Times cites an example close to home:

California’s 1st seven months of 2014 have been its warmest on record

The first seven months of this year have been the warmest on record for California, according to the National Weather Service.

Forecasters averaged high and low temperatures from January to July for the entire state this year and recorded an average temperature of 60.2 degrees, said Paul Iniguez, National Weather Service Hanford’s science and operation officer. “It’s quite a bit warmer than the previous record,” he said.

The temperature beats the record temperature of 59.3 degrees set in 1934 by nearly a full a degree, he said.

USA TODAY covers the other extreme:

Parts of central U.S. had coolest July on record

Summer heat was on holiday in much of the central U.S. last month: Most of the region had a very cool July, with 13 states seeing July temperatures that ranked among the 10 coldest since weather records began in 1895, NOAA’s National Climatic Data Center reported Tuesday.

Both Indiana and Arkansas had their all-time coldest July on record. Indiana was a whopping 5.3 degrees below average in July, while Arkansas was 4.6 degrees below average.

While the central U.S. shivered in July, the heat continued to scorch the West. Six states sweltered through one of their 10 hottest Julys on record.

The San Francisco Chronicle consequences of another weather extreme, drought:

130,000 acres charred in blazes across California

Several wildfires raged across Northern California on Monday, with many of them touched off by lightning strikes in dry vegetation, including a fast-growing 9,500-acre blaze in Mendocino County.

Forecasters were calling for more lightning Monday and Tuesday, leaving fire crews worried that new blazes would spark up as fast as they could control other ones.

“We’re holding all personnel on just to see what happens when this lightning comes through,” said Capt. John Hotchkiss of the California Department of Forestry and Fire Prevention. “A lot of it will depend on whether we have wetting rain with the lightning.”

At least 130,000 acres were burning statewide as of Monday morning, Cal Fire officials said, fueled by extraordinarily dry conditions.

The Los Angeles Times covers another Golden State extreme:

‘Remarkable’ warming reported in Central California coastal waters

Ocean temperatures along the Central California coast experienced a “remarkable” warming period during the first three weeks of July, leading to unusual encounters with some fish species, scientists reported.

The warmer ocean correlated with weaker winds, which reduced coastal upwelling, allowing warmer water to move inshore, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

The warming is related to unusual weather pattern seen in the Sierra Nevada, where recent thunderstorms have pummeled dry forest lands with bursts of rain and lightning, Nate Mantua, Team Leader of Landscape Ecology for Southwest Fisheries Science Center, said in an email.

Bloomberg brings us our first water story, this one with an austerian twist:

L.A. Faces $15 Billion Bill as Pipes Spring Leaks: Cities

Los Angeles is showing its age, and city officials don’t have plans for financing the facelift.

From buckling sidewalks to potholed thoroughfares to storm drains that can’t handle a little rain, the infrastructure that holds the second-largest U.S. city together is suffering from years of deferred maintenance. Bringing pipes that deliver water to 3.9 million people up to snuff could cost $4 billion — more than half the city’s annual operating budget. The bill for repaving streets will be almost that much, according to estimates from a city consultant, and patching or replacing cracked sidewalks will require $640 million.

City Council members recently gave up on a proposal to ask voters for a sales-tax increase to finance street and sidewalk repairs, and Mayor Eric Garcetti has ruled out raising water rates anytime soon to upgrade pipelines.

The San Diego Union-Tribune covers another water woe:

Southwest braces as Lake Mead water levels drop

Once-teeming Lake Mead marinas are idle as a 14-year drought steadily drops water levels to historic lows. Officials from nearby Las Vegas are pushing conservation but also are drilling a new pipeline to keep drawing water from the lake.

Hundreds of miles away, farmers who receive water from the lake behind Hoover Dam are preparing for the worst.

The receding shoreline at one of the main reservoirs in the vast Colorado River water system is raising concerns about the future of a network serving a perennially parched region home to 40 million people and 4 million acres of farmland.

NBC News Digital covers another consequential water woe:

Heartland Water Crisis: Why the Planet Depends on These Kansas Farmers

America’s Breadbasket, a battle of ideas is underway on the most fundamental topics of all: food, water, and the future of the planet.

Last August, in a still-echoing blockbuster study, Dave Steward, Ph.D., and his colleagues at Kansas State University, informed the $15 billion Kansas agricultural economy that it was on a fast track to oblivion. The reason: The precipitous, calamitous withdrawal rates of the Ogallala Aquifer.

The Ogallala is little known outside this part of the world, but it’s the primary source of irrigation not just for all of western Kansas, but the entire Great Plains. This gigantic, soaked subterranean sponge – fossil water created 10 million years ago – touches eight states, stretching from Texas all the way up to South Dakota, across 111.8 million acres and 175,000 square miles.

The Los Angeles Times covers water woes down South:

Brazil’s water crisis amid drought could lead to rationing

A drought in Brazil has led to a water crisis and the country’s largest population center is facing the prospect of rationing.

Brazil’s Public Ministry, a federal regulatory agency, has recommended that Sao Paulo state immediately commence water rationing to avoid a “collapse of reservoirs,” but the state government missed an initial deadline on Wednesday to take action.

Because of scarce rain in 2014, water levels are low, especially at Sao Paulo’s Sistema Cantareira watershed. The Public Ministry says the watershed could soon run dry.

From Reuters, oceanic water woes:

Man-made ‘dead zone’ in the Gulf of Mexico is the size of Connecticut

Scientists say a man-made “dead zone” in the Gulf of Mexico is as big as the state of Connecticut.

The zone, which at about 5,000 square miles (13,000 sq km) is the second largest in the world but still smaller than in previous years, is so named because it contains no oxygen, or too little, at the Gulf floor to support bottom-dwelling fish and shrimp.

The primary cause of the annual phenomenon is excess nutrient runoff from farms along the Mississippi River, which empties into the Gulf, said Gene Turner, a researcher at Louisiana State University’s Coastal Ecology Institute.

From BBC News, another kind of water woe:

Mexican mine was slow to report leak, officials say

A private copper mine in north-west Mexico did not immediately alert the authorities that large quantities of a toxic chemical were spilling into a river last week, Mexican officials say.

The authorities in Sonora state said the spill only came to light the next day, after residents downstream noticed the river had turned orange. Some 40,000 cubic metres (10 million gallons) of sulfuric acid have leaked into a tributary of the Sonora river.

The mine is owned by Grupo Mexico. “The company deliberately concealed the accident,” said Cesar Lagarda, an official at the National Water Commission, according to Mexico’s La Jornada newspaper.

After the jump agricultural woes domestic and foreign, toxic spills, household toxins, wildlife woes and a win, fracking fights, nuclear woes, and the latest chapter of Fukushimapocalypse Now!. . . Continue reading

InSecurityWatch: Bombs, spies, hacks, zones


Bit under the weather, so two day’s worth of headlines from the realms of spies, hacks, privacy, and the geopolitical Game of Zones underway in Europe.

We’re using just a couple of stories form the escalating Iraqi debacle, given the wide coverage in the mainstream press. First up, this from Sky News:

US Military: Airstrikes ‘Won’t Stop ISIS’

  • Islamist militants in Iraq will continue to seize territory and attack security forces despite airstrikes, the US warns.

Islamic militants fighting in northern Iraq are unlikely to be stopped by targeted airstrikes, a US general has warned.

Joint staff operations director Lieutenant General William Mayville told a news conference that 15 airstrikes on Islamic State (IS) positions were focused initially on protecting US facilities and citizens, as well as aiding the humanitarian mission.

He said: “These airstrikes have helped check the advance of missile forces around Mount Sinjar and in the area west of Irbil.

And the New York Times offers a timely reminder:

U.S. Actions in Iraq Fueled Rise of a Rebel

  • Baghdadi of ISIS Pushes an Islamist Crusade

When American forces raided a home near Falluja during the turbulent 2004 offensive against the Iraqi Sunni insurgency, they got the hard-core militants they had been looking for. They also picked up an apparent hanger-on, an Iraqi man in his early 30s whom they knew nothing about.

The Americans duly registered his name as they processed him and the others at the Camp Bucca detention center: Ibrahim Awad Ibrahim al-Badry.

That once-peripheral figure has become known to the world now as Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the self-appointed caliph of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria and the architect of its violent campaign to redraw the map of the Middle East.

From the Washington Post, adding yet more arms to the pile:

U.S. sending weapons directly to Kurdish forces, officials say

The U.S. government has begun to funnel weapons directly to Kurdish forces fighting Islamist militants in northern Iraq, U.S. officials said Monday, deepening American involvement in a conflict that the Obama administration had long sought to avoid.

The decision to arm the Kurds, via a covert channel established by the CIA, was made even as Pentagon officials acknowledged that recent U.S. airstrikes against the militants were acting only as a temporary deterrent and were unlikely to sap their will to fight.

“I in no way want to suggest that we have effectively contained, or that we are somehow breaking, the momentum of the threat,” said Army Lt. Gen. William C. Mayville Jr., the director of operations for the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

More Indonesian blowback from the Jakarta Globe:

Maluku Police Arrest Four Students Over Alleged ISIS Ties

  • Maluku Police have arrested four high school students in Ambon for alleged ties with the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria.

“I was reported last night [Sunday] by the police that four students were arrested because of their ties to ISIS,” Maluku Governor Said Assagaff was quoted as saying by newsportal Harianterbit.com on Monday. “They have to be intensively questioned to find out to what extent they were involved and what were their exact roles.”

One of the suspects is a junior high school student, while the other three were senior high school students.

“The junior high school student is still very young, so [he’s] easy to provoke. Therefore [this case] needs to be handled seriously,” Said told the state-run Antara news agency on Monday.

On to that agency that gives everyone the shivers, first with the Wall Street Journal:

Surveillance Court Judge Criticized NSA ‘Overcollection’ of Data

  • Decision Offers Scathing Assessment of Agency’s Management of Internet-Surveillance Program

Newly declassified court documents show one of the National Security Agency’s key surveillance programs was plagued by years of “systemic overcollection” of private Internet communications.

A 117-page decision by Judge John Bates of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court offers a scathing assessment of the NSA’s ability to manage its own top-secret electronic surveillance of Internet metadata—a program the NSA scrapped after a 2011 review found it wasn’t fulfilling its mission.

The newly declassified documents suggest another possible reason for its demise. The surveillance agency struggled to collect metadata, such as the “to” and “from” information of an email, without also collecting other information, such as the contents or partial contents of such communications, information that is supposed to be beyond what it legally is permitted to gather.

Reuters covers up:

U.S. can keep court orders, phone cos secret in NSA spy case

The U.S. government need not turn over a secret surveillance court’s orders or the names of phone companies helping it collect call records, because it might reveal methods needed to protect national security, a federal judge decided on Monday.

U.S. District Judge Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers in Oakland, California, rejected the Electronic Frontier Foundation’s argument that the U.S. Department of Justice should turn over the materials, in the wake of unauthorized disclosures last year by a former National Security Agency contractor, Edward Snowden.

The EFF noted that the government had already declassified hundreds of pages of other documents discussing data collection under the U.S. Patriot Act, including some that the data privacy advocacy group had requested. These declassifications came after Snowden’s leaks had been revealed.

While The Intercept covers boosterism:

NPR Is Laundering CIA Talking Points to Make You Scared of NSA Reporting

On August 1, NPR’s Morning Edition broadcast a story by NPR national security reporter Dina Temple-Raston touting explosive claims from what she called “a tech firm based in Cambridge, Massachusetts.” That firm, Recorded Future, worked together with “a cyber expert, Mario Vuksan, the CEO of ReversingLabs,” to produce a new report that purported to vindicate the repeated accusation from U.S. officials that “revelations from former NSA contract worker Edward Snowden harmed national security and allowed terrorists to develop their own countermeasures.”

The “big data firm,” reported NPR, says that it now “has tangible evidence” proving the government’s accusations. Temple-Raston’s four-minute, 12-second story devoted the first 3 minutes and 20 seconds to uncritically repeating the report’s key conclusion that “just months after the Snowden documents were released, al-Qaeda dramatically changed the way its operatives interacted online” and, post-Snowden, “al-Qaeda didn’t just tinker at the edges of its seven-year-old encryption software; it overhauled it.” The only skepticism in the NPR report was relegated to 44 seconds at the end when she quoted security expert Bruce Schneier, who questioned the causal relationship between the Snowden disclosures and the new terrorist encryption programs, as well as the efficacy of the new encryption.

With this report, Temple-Raston seriously misled NPR’s millions of listeners. To begin with, Recorded Future, the outfit that produced the government-affirming report, is anything but independent. To the contrary, it is funded by the CIA and U.S. intelligence community with millions of dollars. Back in 2010, it also filed forms to become a vendor for the NSA. (In response to questions from The Intercept, the company’s vice president Jason Hines refused to say whether it works for the NSA, telling us that we should go FOIA that information if we want to know. But according to public reports, Recorded Future “earns most of its revenue from selling to Wall Street quants and intelligence agencies.”)

Defense One braves a new frontier:

Navy Chief Says the Future of War Lies in ‘Information Dominance’

Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Jonathan Greenert views “information dominance” as key to the future of warfare while the service’s new transformation framework calls for development of a “data-savvy” workforce.

Speaking at a ceremony last Thursday at which Rear Adm. David Lewis took command of the Space and Naval Warfare Systems Command in San Diego, Greenert said: “SPAWAR is the technical agent for information dominance, we know that. It is also the technical agent for a new era in Navy and naval warfare. Control of the information is going to be the key to the future.”

That control includes electronic warfare systems. Greenert focused on shortcomings in jamming systems used by the EA-18G “Growler” electronic attack aircraft in his SPAWAR speech.

Here’s another kind of “information dominance,” via the Guardian:

Kuwaiti media owner is stripped of his citizenship

The owner of a newspaper and TV outlet is one of five people who have been stripped of their citizenship by the Kuwaiti authorities.

It means that Ahmed Jabr al-Shammari, proprietor of the independent Alam Al-Yom newspaper and the Al-Yom television station, has been rendered stateless.

The decision, a parliamentary decree, was announced by the Kuwait news agency on 21 June 2014 following a call by the Kuwaiti cabinet for a crackdown on people who “undermine the country’s security and stability.”

But it has only just emerged through Human Rights Watch (HRW) in an interview with al-Shammari, who explained that the revoking of citizenship was based on Kuwait’s nationality law.

Defense One again, this time with a piece by a former Obama Pentagon official:

The U.S. Needs More Drones

Al-Qaeda is morphing and metastasizing, spreading like a cancer in an arc of jihadism from the deserts of Northern Mali through Libya, Nigeria, Somalia, Yemen, Syria, and Iraq. Islamic extremists continue to gain ground in Iraq, and President Barack Obama has authorized more than a dozen airstrikes as fighters with the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant threaten to take Irbil, the capital of Iraqi Kurdistan.

Meanwhile, the Defense Department is cutting one of the most vital tools against this threat: loitering unmanned aircraft, aka drones, to provide persistent surveillance of terrorist networks.

While DOD has had drones flying over Iraq for over a month, a drastic shortfall in global supply means that their presence in Iraq is at the expense of another vital mission elsewhere. And yet not only is DOD not moving to address this shortfall, it is taking steps to reduce its drone fleet, a dangerous move that will make it harder to keep tabs on a growing and changing terrorist threat.

From the Associated Press, getting dope the old fashioned way, illegally:

DEA improperly paid $854,460 for Amtrak passenger lists

The Drug Enforcement Administration paid an Amtrak secretary $854,460 over nearly 20 years to obtain confidential information about train passengers, which the DEA could have lawfully obtained for free through a law enforcement network, The Associated Press has learned.

The employee was not publicly identified except as a “secretary to a train and engine crew” in a report on the incident by Amtrak’s inspector general. The secretary was allowed to retire, rather than face administrative discipline, after the discovery that the employee had effectively been acting as an informant who “regularly” sold private passenger information since 1995 without Amtrak’s approval, according to a one-paragraph summary of the matter.

On Monday, the office of Amtrak Inspector General Tom Howard declined to identify the secretary or say why it took so long to uncover the payments. Howard’s report on the incident concluded, “We suggested policy changes and other measures to address control weaknesses that Amtrak management is considering.” DEA spokesman Matt Barden declined to comment.

TheLocal.dk covers reconsideration:

Denmark to reconsider its terror laws

Following through on a 2011 promise, the government will appoint a commission to look at the effectiveness of national terror laws and their effects on residents’ rights.

The Danish government will set up a commission to examine the effects of the nation’s anti-terror laws on personal rights and freedoms.

The tax minister, Morten Østergaard, announced the move on Tuesday.

“In the words of former Norwegian Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg, it is important that we don’t trample the same freedoms we are trying to defend,” Østergaard told Politiken.

From Ars Technica, more digital spookery:

Espionage programs linked to spying on former Soviet targets

  • Same malware was previously linked to attacks on US and European targets

A one-two combination of malware programs has infiltrated the embassies and government systems of a number of former Eastern Bloc nations as well as European targets, according to a technical analysis by security researchers.

Using exploits and malicious downloads delivered through phishing attacks or on compromised websites, attackers first infect a system with a program, known as Wipbot, according to an analysis posted by security firm Symantec on Friday. The program conducts initial reconnaissance, collecting system information and only compromising systems that correspond with a specific Internet address. After the target is verified, a second program—alternatively known as Turla, Uroburos, and Snake—is downloaded to further compromise the system, steal data, and exfiltrate information camouflaged as browser requests.

The one-two combination has all the hallmarks of a nation-state intelligence gathering operation targeting the embassies of former Eastern Bloc countries in Europe, China, and Jordan, according to Symantec.

While IDG News Service covers hacks at home:

Many home routers supplied by ISPs can be compromised en masse, researchers say

Specialized servers used by many ISPs to manage routers and other gateway devices provisioned to their customers are accessible from the Internet and can easily be taken over by attackers, researchers warn.

By gaining access to such servers, hackers or intelligence agencies could potentially compromise millions of routers and implicitly the home networks they serve, said Shahar Tal, a security researcher at Check Point Software Technologies. Tal gave a presentation Saturday at the DefCon security conference in Las Vegas.

At the core of the problem is an increasingly used protocol known as TR-069 or CWMP (customer-premises equipment wide area network management protocol) that is leveraged by technical support departments at many ISPs to remotely troubleshoot configuration problems on routers provided to customers.

PCWorld has more:

Fifteen new vulnerabilities reported during router hacking contest

Routers appear to be as insecure as ever, after hackers successfully compromised five popular wireless models during a contest at the DefCon 22 security conference, reporting 15 new vulnerabilities to affected vendors.

The SOHOpelessly Broken contest pitted hackers against 10 router models from different manufacturers: Linksys EA6500, ASUS RT-AC66U, TRENDnet TEW-812DRU, Netgear Centria WNDR4700, Netgear WNR3500U/WNR3500L, TP-Link TL-WR1043ND, D-Link DIR-865L, Belkin N900 DB and the Open Wireless Router firmware developed by the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF).

There were three challenges. In one researchers had to demonstrate unpatched—zero-day—vulnerabilities in the preselected devices, and received points based on their criticality. The second challenge was a capture-the-flag-style game in which contestants had to hack into routers running known vulnerable firmware to extract sensitive information, and the third was a similar surprise challenge targeting a router from Asus and one from D-Link.

And from Network World, non-reassurance:

Study finds firmware plagued by poor encryption and backdoors

The first large-scale analysis of a fundamental type of software known as firmware has revealed poor security practices that could present opportunities for hackers probing the “Internet of Things.”

Firmware is a type of software that manages interactions between higher-level software and the underlying hardware, though it can sometimes be the only software on a device. It’s found on all kinds of computer hardware, though the study focused on embedded systems such as printers, routers and security cameras.

Researchers with Eurecom, a technology-focused graduate school in France, developed a web crawler that plucked more than 30,000 firmware images from the websites of manufacturers including Siemens, Xerox, Bosch, Philips, D-Link, Samsung, LG and Belkin.

Frontera NorteSur covers discontent to the south:

Indigenous Mexico Rising Again

Representatives of Mexico’s indigenous peoples have issued a new declaration and announced upcoming mobilizations to further their cause.  Unveiled on August 9, the UN-celebrated International Day of the World’s Indigenous People, the declaration followed a week-long meeting between the Zapatista National Liberation Army (EZLN) and National Indigenous Congress (CNI) in the southern Mexican border state of Chiapas.

Detailing 29 points, the Declaration of the Plundering of Our Peoples blasted the Pena Nieto Administration, big corporations and capitalism in general for threatening the culture and survival of indigenous peoples.

Couched in historical terms that reference the sacrifices made by indigenous people and small farmers for a Mexico that was denied to them,  the statement was read by Venustiano Vazquez Navarette, indigenous resident of Tepotzlan, Morelos, in the Zapatista base community of La Realidad.

It read in part:  “Capitalism has grown from plunder and exploitation since the beginning.  Invasion and plunder are the words that best describe what is called the conquest of America, plunder and robbery of our lands, our territories, our knowledge, our culture.  Plunder accompanied by war, massacres, jail, death and more death…”

And Brazzil Magazine benefits from blowback:

Brazil Talks About a Revolution in Exports After Russia’s Embargo on US’s and EU’s Produce

Russian president Vladimir Putin Russia’s announcement about its embargo on agriculture products from the US and Europe opens “a great window of opportunities for Brazil” to get into the Russian market, says Secretary for Agricultural Policy Seneri Paludo from the Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Supply.

Russia has imposed a ban on imported food products from European countries and the US in response to their economic sanctions against Moscow over its involvement in the Ukrainian war. This embargo includes beef, pork, chicken, fish, cheese, milk, vegetables and fruit originated from the US, the European Union and also Australia, Canada and Norway.

“From the point of view of Brazilian agriculture policy, this is positive,” stated the secretary, because “Russia is a big consumer not only of grains but also of meat.” In his view, Russia’s move may result in a “revolution” in Brazil’s meat, corn and soy exports.

After the jump, the latest from the Asian Game of Zones, including expanding arsenals, political posturing [domestic, regional and trans-Pacific], dirty war deaths, historical assertions, and much, much more. . . Continue reading

From wiseguys to banksters, nasty payday loans


Wiseguys call it “the vig,” those extortionate rates guys with names like Vinny or Frankie Fists used to collect on loans you got from your friendly neighborhood loan shark.

But wiseguys have fallen on hard times because Uncle Sam has legitimated those muscular interest rates. And now you get ‘em from your friendly neighborhood corporate bankster.

Indeed, the guys who used to hand out in candy stores and dimly lit pool halls have been replaced by grinning hucksters who operate out of brightly lit storefronts that now outnumber Starbucks and Mickey Ds.

But fear not, John Oliver and Sarah Silverman are on the cash.

From HBO’s Last Week Tonight with John Oliver:

Last Week Tonight with John Oliver: Predatory Lending

Program notes:

Payday loans put a staggering amount of Americans in debt. They prey on the elderly and military service members. They’re awful, and nearly impossible to regulate. We’ve recruited Sarah Silverman to help spread the word about how to avoid falling into their clutches.

What a world! There’s now no separation between underworld and upperworld.

EnviroWatch: Ebola, water woes, toxics, nukes


One again, the Ebola virus claims the top spot on our collection of headlinies about the intersection of humans and the world they live in, starting with this from Xinhua:

Senegal reports suspected Ebola infection

A Malian national living in northern Senegal has been quarantined in a hospital due to suspected Ebola symptoms, Senegalese News Agency reported Saturday.

The 27-year-old patient had just returned to the northern city of Ourossogui from a trip to Mali, where he was in contact with nationals of Guinea, said the head doctor of the local medical team, adding samples have been sent to Dakar for analysis and the results could be available within 48 hours.

A doctor accompanied by officers of health services has already been dispatched to the city to disinfect the home of the patient and the bike that was used to transport him.

The Associated Press covers a domestic precaution:

US Ebola check means quarantine of missionaries

Missionaries retuning to the United States after working with patients infected with Ebola will be put in quarantine and monitored, health officials said Sunday.

The quarantine will last at least three weeks since the missionaries were last exposed to people infected with the Ebola virus, the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services said.

The missionaries are with Charlotte-based SIM USA. None of them are sick or have shown any signs of having Ebola, but they agree with health officials that everyone should be as cautious as possible, SIM USA president Bruce Johnson said in a statement.

And the New York Times parses epidemiology:

Tracing Ebola’s Breakout to an African 2-Year-Old

Patient Zero in the Ebola outbreak, researchers suspect, was a 2-year-old boy who died on Dec. 6, just a few days after falling ill in a village in Guéckédou, in southeastern Guinea. Bordering Sierra Leone and Liberia, Guéckédou is at the intersection of three nations, where the disease found an easy entry point to the region.

A week later, it killed the boy’s mother, then his 3-year-old sister, then his grandmother. All had fever, vomiting and diarrhea, but no one knew what had sickened them.

Two mourners at the grandmother’s funeral took the virus home to their village. A health worker carried it to still another, where he died, as did his doctor. They both infected relatives from other towns. By the time Ebola was recognized, in March, dozens of people had died in eight Guinean communities, and suspected cases were popping up in Liberia and Sierra Leone — three of the world’s poorest countries, recovering from years of political dysfunction and civil war.

From BBC News, chaos on the ground:

Ebola virus: Liberia health system ‘overtaxed’

Liberia’s information minister has admitted that the country’s health care system has been overwhelmed by the spread of the deadly Ebola virus.

Lewis Brown told the BBC the system had been “overtaxed” by the outbreak, but that authorities were doing their best in the face of an unprecedented crisis.

The medical charity MSF said officials underestimated the outbreak and that the health system was “falling apart”.

More from the London Telegraph:

The Liberian slum where Ebola spreads death among killer virus ‘deniers’

Blue crosses on houses in New Kru Town mark the few residences to have complied with the advice of visiting health officials, while countless others rely on prayer and witchcraft to fend off Ebola in Monrovia

When some initial cases first appeared in Liberia’s northern Lofa County back in March, health officials initially thought they had it under control. But in June, a resident of a district of New Kru Town known as Carpet Street died, as did several others. According to Dr Bernice Dahn, Liberia’s chief medical officer, three of the victims passed away while they were being sheltered in a local church – a sign of how many some people believe the disease is a curse that can be cured by prayer or witchcraft.

“We must stop keeping people suspected of Ebola in our churches on ground that we can heal them,” she warned at the time. “The churches are not hospitals.”

Liberian hospitals, however, do not always inspire the kind of faith that people have in Liberian churches. A fortnight ago, one the main local health facilities, Redemption Hospital, was stoned by a mob after a woman died in there from a suspected Ebola case, following nationwide rumours that health workers were themselves passing on the disease. Today, the squat, single storey building offers redemption no more, having

A fear abated from the Associated Press:

Saudi: Suspected Ebola victim did not have virus

A Saudi man who died last week after returning from Sierra Leone did not have the Ebola virus, according to initial international laboratory results, Saudi Arabia’s Health Ministry said.

The ministry said late Saturday that samples submitted to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention came back negative for the Ebola virus, adding that samples were also sent for testing to a laboratory in Germany. The ministry said the CDC is conducting additional tests to further confirm the negative Ebola finding and determine if the patient was infected with a different virus found in Sierra Leone.

The 40-year-old Saudi national died Wednesday in a hospital isolation ward in the Saudi coastal city of Jiddah after showing symptoms of the viral hemorrhagic fever. He was the only suspected Ebola case in the kingdom and had just returned from a trip to affected Sierra Leone.

Channel NewsAsia Singapore eases another fear:

Man tests negative for Ebola in Hong Kong

A Nigerian man in Hong Kong has tested negative for  Ebola, said Chinese broadcaster CCTV. He had been placed in quarantine after he was suspected of carrying the virus, said Chinese media on Sunday (Aug 10).

According to CCTV, the 32-year-old had arrived in the southern Chinese city from Nigeria on Thursday. He was sent to hospital after experiencing vomiting and diarrhoea.

From the Toronto Globe and Mail, ditto:

Brampton, Ont. patient tests negative for Ebola

The Ebola virus has been ruled out in patient at a Brampton, Ont., hospital who was placed in isolation on Friday as a precaution after showing flu-like symptoms and travelling from Nigeria.

“I can now confirm a recent case that underwent testing at the National Microbiology Laboratory in Winnipeg was found to test negative for Ebola virus disease,” said Eric Hoskins, Minister of Health and Long-Term Care, in a statement released early Sunday morning.

Reuters prepares:

U.S. emergency labs ready to work on Ebola drugs if asked

All three U.S. facilities established to quickly make vaccines and therapeutics in the event of a major public health threat say they are standing by to support any U.S. government effort to scale up a treatment for Ebola.

The facilities, called Centers for Innovation in Advanced Development and Manufacturing (ADM), were set up by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services in partnership with private industry, to respond to pandemics or chemical, biological, radiological, or nuclear threats.

They have the expertise to quickly switch production lines to manufacture, for example, a smallpox vaccine if that scourge were to re-emerge, or an anthrax vaccine, and other life-saving compounds against both natural outbreaks and bioterrorism.

And TheLocal.es prescribes that drug the U.S. says they aren’t sending to Africa:

Spanish priest to receive experimental Ebola drug

A Spanish priest infected with Ebola will be treated with an experimental drug that has been used on two Americans infected with the deadly virus, the government said.

The drug called ZMapp arrived at Madrid’s La Paz-Carlos III hospital where the 75-year-old missionary was being treated in isolation, the health ministry said in a statement late on Saturday.

Spain’s drug safety agency allowed the “exceptional importation” of ZMapp under a law that allows “the use of non-authorised medications in cases where a patent’s life is in danger and they can’t be treated satisfactorily with an authorised medication,” it said.

From the Christian Science Monitor, an African counter-example:

Uganda offers lessons on how West Africa can contain Ebola outbreak

So far, the current epidemic has killed nearly 1,000 people in four countries, but it hasn’t touched East Africa. Countries like Uganda, which faced a major outbreak in 2000, are prepared with strategies to isolate and treat patients.

Uganda’s experience shows the importance of moving quickly. Indeed, as soon as laboratory tests confirmed that Lukwiya’s patients had Ebola, the government immediately called a news conference with the World Health Organization (WHO), the US Centers for Disease Control, and major donor nations, asking for assistance.

“In Uganda we have a government with very little shame about infectious disease,” says Roy Mayega, an epidemiologist and lecturer in the school of public health at Makerere University in Kampala. “They are not proud. When there is a crisis, they communicate it quickly.”

Uganda’s Health Ministry immediately blanketed radio stations and newspapers with public service announcements explaining the disease and describing proper procedure for burying the dead — in sealed plastic bags. And crucially, the government hired more than 1,000 local villagers from the area around Gulu and sent them door-to-door, looking for Ebola patients hidden by their families, and offering counsel on treatment and burial.

China Daily sends help:

Chinese Ebola doctors leave for Africa

Chinese disease control experts will leave for three West African nations affected by Ebola on Sunday evening and Monday, the National Health and Family Planning Commission (NHFPC) said on Sunday.

The NHFPC announced on Saturday that China will send three expert teams and medical supplies to Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone to assist the prevention and control of the Ebola virus.

China dispatched emergency humanitarian aid supplies from Shanghai to West African nations hit by Ebola on Sunday.

And from Xinhua, a Cuban alert:

Cuba acts on WHO Ebola alert

Cuban health authorities took steps Friday to protect the country against the Ebola virus, after the World Health Organization (WHO) issued a global alert to prevent the spread of the disease.

Niurka Molina, head of the Public Health Ministry’s international disease control, said the measures apply to both travelers and Cuban doctors arriving from Africa, where an Ebola outbreak has claimed nearly a thousand lives.

Thousands of Cuban doctors and healthcare workers are working in Africa, and other regions, as part of the country’s four-decade outreach policy, which has come to be known as medical diplomacy.

Deutsche Welle covers worries in Paris:

Ebola concerns hit home in France

With the World Health Organization now calling the Ebola outbreak a global emergency, the virus is no longer seen as a distant problem. That message is hitting home in France, a major hub for West African air traffic.

So far, no cases have been detected in France, although an Air France flight from Conakry was briefly quarantined in April over an Ebola scare.

“Even if the risk of contamination cannot be ruled out, it remains very low,” says Dr. Francois Bricaire, a specialist in infectious and tropical diseases at the Pitie-Salpetriere hospital in Paris. “But, in my opinion, the risk of an epidemic appears unlikely. Because from the moment a case is diagnosed, measures will be taken immediately to stop the transmission.”

Still, the country is beefing up its guard. Air France flights from West Africa now screen passengers before departure and French airports watch out for suspect cases. A number of French hospitals, including Pitie-Salpetriere, are equipped with special isolation rooms.

And for our final Ebola headline, Salon ponders the Next Big Thing:

How to survive the next plague: Why we’re unprepared for the outbreak of a super-virus

  • Ebola isn’t going to become a pandemic, but we still need to be better prepared, argues Dr. Stephen Morse

Last week, the World Health Organization declared the West African Ebola epidemic an international health emergency. Since its emergence this spring, the hemorrhagic fever  has killed more than 900 people across three different countries. And since two infected American aid workers returned to Atlanta for treatment, the media has exploded, highlighting any number of horrific (and unlikely) scenarios. But might there be some merit to the fear-mongering? What would happen if a similar disease — say, MERS, or the avian flu — found its way, uncontained, to American soil?

Last week, Salon spoke with Dr. Stephen Morse, professor and director of the Infectious Disease Epidemiology Certificate program at Columbia University Medical Center. Morse has served on numerous governmental and civilian committees for public health preparedness, most recently at the Department of Defense where he co-directed the Pathogen Countermeasures program.

The Oakland Tribune brings us our first water woes headline:

California drought: Lawmakers consider historic rules to limit groundwater pumping

In what would be the most significant water law passed in California in nearly 50 years, lawmakers in Sacramento are working with Gov. Jerry Brown on a landmark measure to regulate groundwater pumping for the first time.

With an Aug. 31 deadline until the end of the session and billions of dollars at stake, negotiations among farmers, environmentalists, cities and elected officials are reaching a crescendo.

Although landowners who want to divert water from reservoirs and rivers have been required to get a permit from the state since 1914, farmers and cities who tap underground aquifers — California’s largest water source — can pump as much as they want, when they want and with almost no oversight or limits.

One of the accompanying graphics:

BLOG Cal water

The Latin American Herald Tribune covers water woes to the south:

Mexico’s Yaqui Indians Defend Water Rights in Meeting with Senators

Representatives of the Yaqui Indian tribe demanded a halt to the operation of an aqueduct in the northwestern Mexican state of Sonora, saying in a meeting with senators that it will leave their communities without water.

“Yaqui elders, men, women, youth and children have come to this city to make ourselves heard because we’re sure that what’s happening on our land is a violation of our rights,” Yaqui spokesman Tomas Rojo said, according to a statement by Mexican civil society organization Serapaz.

Rojo also accused Sonora Gov. Guillermo Padres of continuing “with his crassness of taking our water away with projects like the Independence Aqueduct.”

More than 100 Yaqui Indians, who arrived Friday via caravan in Mexico City to meet with legislators and federal authorities, explained to the senators their position in a long-running dispute with the Sonora government that has included road-blocking protests by the indigenous group.

The Washington Post covers suburban sprawl run amok:

Southeast could become an overdeveloped ‘megalopolis’ in the next half century

Giant urban sprawl could pave over thousands of acres of forest and agriculture, connecting Raleigh to Atlanta by 2060, if growth continues at its current pace, according to a newly released research paper from the U.S. Geological Survey.

“We could be looking at a seamless corridor of urban development,” said Adam Terando, a research ecologist with the USGS and an adjunct professor at North Carolina State University who was the study’s lead author.

The development will engulf land from North Carolina to Georgia, and possibly spread to Birmingham, Ala., “if we continue to develop urban areas in the Southeast the way we have for the past 60 years,” he said.

And our first and only Fumushimapocalypose Now! headline comes from the Yomiuri Shimbun:

Fukushima to make decision on soil storage this month

Central and local government officials met in Koriyama, Fukushima Prefecture, Friday to discuss the government’s offer of a total of ¥301 billion in financial assistance to the prefecture and two towns there that are candidates for interim facilities to store soil contaminated with radioactive substances released from Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant.

At the meeting, Environment Minister Nobuteru Ishihara and Takumi Nemoto, state minister for reconstruction, presented the national government’s financial support plan to Fukushima Gov. Yuhei Sato, Okuma Mayor Toshitsune Watanabe and Futaba Mayor Shiro Izawa.

Sato, Watanabe and Izawa responded favorably to the offer. The Fukushima prefectural government will decide by the end of this month whether to green-light construction of the facilities to store tainted soil collected during decontamination work.

From the Mainichi, tempting fate in the Arctic:

Russia starts drilling its northernmost oil well

Russia has begun drilling on its northernmost oil well, in the Kara Sea off the northern coast of Siberia.

The well is part of a joint project between the Russian state-owned oil company Rosneft and ExxonMobil to develop the region’s oil reserves, which are estimated at up to 100 billion barrels.

The Russian-American project comes despite deteriorating relations between Washington and Moscow over the crisis in Ukraine, in which each side has hit the other with sanctions.

The Guardian covers sin of fracking omission in Old Blighty:

Fracking campaigners criticise ‘censored’ report on house prices

  • Government urged to publish sections cut from study into impact of shale gas wells on local communities

The government has been criticised for censoring a report into the impact of shale gas drilling that examines the effect on house prices and pressure on local services.

Campaigners are calling for full publication of the study carried out by Whitehall officials, as the government continues to resist the idea of offering compensation to individual householders near proposed fracking sites.

The report, called Shale Gas: Rural Economy Impacts, was written in March and a draft was released under environmental information laws with large portions of the text removed. In particular, the section looking at the effect of drilling on house prices has three missing chunks.

And the Associated Press covers a tar sands recalculation:

Study: Keystone carbon pollution more than figured

The much-debated Keystone XL pipeline could produce four times more global warming pollution than the State Department calculated earlier this year, a new study concludes.

The U.S. estimates didn’t take into account that the added oil from the pipeline would drop prices by about $3 a barrel, spurring consumption that would create more pollution, the researchers said.

Outside experts not connected to the study gave it mixed reviews. The American Petroleum Institute found the study to be irrelevant because regardless of the pipeline, the tar sands will be developed and oil will be shipped by railroad if not by pipeline, spokeswoman Sabrina Fang said.

The new estimates, from scientists at the Stockholm Environment Institute, were published Sunday by the journal Nature Climate Change. Peter Erickson, lead author, said his work implies that the pipeline could basically wipe out reductions from some potential pollution-cutting policies under discussion.

For our final item, LiveScience, well, at least its not chemicals:

Computer Games Better Than Medication in Treating Elderly Depression

Computer games could help in treating older people with depression who haven’t been helped by antidepressant drugs or other treatments for the disorder, researchers say.

In a study of 11 older patients, researchers found playing certain computer games was just as effective at reducing symptoms of depression as the “gold standard” antidepressant drug escitalopram. Moreover, those patients playing the computer games achieved results in just four weeks, compared to the 12 weeks it often takes with escitalopram (also known by its brand name, Lexapro).

The computer games even improved what researchers call executive functions more than the drug did, according to the study. These functions are the thinking skills used in planning and organizing behavior, and their impairment has been linked to depression in elderly patients.

InSecurityWatch: Bombs, bluster, spooks, Asiana


With Iraq inflame and political and military posturing ramping up in Asia, American spookery in the spotlight, hacks, drones, and all the rest, there’s lots of ground to cover.

First up, via CBC News, the Iraqi meltdown continues:

Iraq conflict: Political crisis deepens as PM deploys militia

  • Canada increases humanitarian aid amid U.S. airstrikes and reports of civilians buried alive

Shia militia forces loyal to Iraq’s Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki stepped up patrols around Baghdad on Sunday night after he delivered a tough televised speech indicating he would not cave in to pressure to drop a bid for a third term.

Political deadlock has prevented Iraqi politicians from uniting against Islamic State militants whose advance in the north has rattled the Baghdad government and its Western allies.

A senior U.S. official for Iraq said on Sunday he fully supported Iraqi President Fouad Masoum after al-Maliki, who the United States has blamed for stoking Iraq’s security crisis, accused Masoum of violating the constitution.

U.S. jet fighters and drones conducted four more airstrikes on ISIS militants in Iraq over the weekend, taking out armoured carriers and a truck that were firing on civilians, as Iraq’s human rights minister said ISIS militants killed at least 500 members of the Yazidi ethnic minority.

The Observer delivers a warning:

Obama warns of long campaign as Iraq strikes continue against Isis

  • US president admits there is no quick fix as minorities flee Islamist onslaught and British planes join relief effort

Barack Obama has committed the US to long-term involvement in Iraq, warning that the rapidly evolving crisis in the north would not be solved quickly.

US aircraft have targeted armoured vehicles and militant positions in a second day of strikes against Islamic State forces. A mix of US fighters and drones attacked and destroyed armoured personnel carriers after Yazidi civilians near Sinjar came under attack from the vehicles, US central command said.

US forces “successfully [conducted] four air strikes to defend Yazidi civilians being indiscriminately attacked” near Sinjar, said a statement from the United States Central Command (Centcom), which covers the Middle East.

The Independent covers an inciting incident:

Iraq crisis: Islamic militants ‘buried alive Yazidi women and children in attack that killed 500′

Militants in north-western Iraq have buried women and children alive during their offensive against the Yazidi ethnic minority, according to Iraq’s minister for human rights.

The bodies were reportedly found in a mass grave in the wake of Isis’s push towards the Sinjar mountain range, where tens of thousands of Kurdish-speaking refugees have been trapped to the point of starvation.

Mohammed Shia al-Sudani said his government had evidence that 500 Yazidi civilians had been killed so far, and that some of the victims had been buried alive. A further 300 Yazidi women have been kidnapped as slaves, he added.

From the McClatchy Foreign Staff, more context:

In backing Kurds, Obama ‘confident’ in protecting refugees

Obama was elected largely on the promise that he would extricate the United States from its two long and costly wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, a promise he then took to a further extreme by refusing to get militarily involved to any significant degree in the Syrian civil war despite tremendous outside pressure.

But the rapid advance by Islamic State militants in northern Iraq against Kurdish positions in the wake of June’s collapse of the Iraqi Army and most of central and northern Iraq to the radicals suddenly changed the equation.

West of the Islamic State-controlled city of Mosul, the takeover of Sinjar, a city heavily populated by the ancient Persian Yazidi sect considered heretics by the Islamic State, sent tens of thousands of civilians fleeing last week into a barren mountain range, where harsh heat and a lack of food and water have pushed the situation into a humanitarian catastrophe shadowed by the threat of an even larger massacre by the Islamic State.

At the same time, another offensive by the Islamic State against forces protecting the Kurdish capital of Irbil captured not only Iraq’s largest dam and hydro electric plant, but also took over four of Iraq’s largest Christian villages. That drove a wave of refugees into a Kurdish region already hosting tens of thousands of refugees from the June collapse of the Arab sections of Iraq. And as Islamic State forces closed to within 25 miles of Irbil, the United States said it was forced to act with both air strikes to protect the capital and a humanitarian airlift to help alleviate the Yazidi suffering.

While The Hill amps up, rhetorically:

McCain: Iraq airstrikes ‘clearly ineffective’

Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) on Sunday blasted President Obama’s strategy for limited airstrikes in Iraq, calling it “very, very ineffective.”

“Launching three strikes around a place where horrible humanitarian crisis is taking place, meanwhile [the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS)] continues to make gains everywhere, yes is clearly very, very ineffective, to say the least,” McCain said on CNN’s “State of the Union.”

ISIS is making gains in Syria, Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey, McCain said.

McCain said the president’s decision to approve targeted airstrikes and drop humanitarian aid to refugees under siege in northern Iraq was “far from sufficient to meet the growing threat that ISIS poses.”

And the Jakarta Globe covers metastasis:

Police Arrest Suspected Terrorist Involved With ISIS in Bekasi

The National Police on Saturday arrested a member of hard-line Islamic group Jamaah Ansharut Tauhid, or JAT, for his alleged involvement in funding a paramilitary training camp in Aceh, which is suspected to be a training ground for Al Qaeda-linked extremists, in 2010.

“We have taken action against Afif Abdul Majid … in Jatiasih, Bekasi [West Java] at 10:45 p.m. on Saturday,” National Police spokesperson Insp. Gen. Ronny F. Sompie said on Sunday.

Ronny said that the arrest was a cooperation between the Jakarta Police and anti-terrorism agency Detachment 88 (Densus 88).

And from The Wire, bringing it home:

Republican Leaders Warn Obama ISIL is Coming to U.S.

Republican leaders took to the Sunday talk show circuit to criticize what they see as a weak response by the Obama administration to the crisis in Iraq, making the case that the emboldened militant group ISIL is also a threat to the United States.

On “Fox News Sunday,” Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) accused Obama of having no game plan for handling ISIL and simply attempting to avoid “a bad news story.”

“So Mr. President, you have never once spoken directly to the American people about the threat we face from being attacked from Syria, now Iraq,” said Graham. “What is your strategy to stop these people from attacking the homeland? They have expressed a desire to do so.”

On to the latest from the world of spooks, first with The Hill:

Left to Obama: Check spy agencies

  • Activists on the left are demanding President Obama flex his muscle over the country’s spy agencies.

The CIA’s admission that a handful of officials spied on Senate staffers is proof that the White House has lost control of the intelligence agencies, critics say. They are also discomforted by the continued support Obama has offered for agency Director John Brennan.

“This is not an isolated incident,” said Becky Bond, political director with the progressive group Credo.

“The fact that these intelligence officials are able to keep their job when major breaches or major assaults on the Constitution are made public — let alone all the things that are happening that we don’t know about — it sets a very dangerous precedent,” she added.

New Scientist covers consequences of loose reins:

US is wasting money on too many spy satellites

THE US government is wasting billions of dollars on spy satellites. According to a report released by Congress last week, the US National Reconnaissance Office, which maintains the nation’s eyes in the sky, is buying new satellites at a faster rate than necessary.

The NRO says that regular purchases are the only way to maintain the nation’s satellite-building expertise. The Congress report questions this assumption, arguing that any saving in efficiency through increased expertise is outstripped by the cost of launching extra satellites.

We already know the NRO has excess satellites, thanks to its surprise donation in 2012. The spy agency gave NASA parts for two Hubble-quality telescopes that it had lying around. NASA is still deciding how to use the scopes, but to avoid any suspicion of spying will not point them at Earth.

And from the Washington Post, spooky chutzpah:

The CIA isn’t reporting any data to federal transparency site

Among the revelations in a new Government Accountability Office report on the completeness, or lack thereof, of the federal transparency site USASpending.gov is that the CIA not only doesn’t disclose contracting data on its classified programs, which isn’t so surprising. But the agency also doesn’t share data with the site on its unclassified programs, despite the fact that, as GAO notes, “[the White House Office of Management and Budget] does not have guidance that clearly exempts agencies from doing that.”

The CIA argues that because its unclassified programs are in support of its classified work, reporting on the former inexorably leads to insights about the latter. As the GAO reports in its assessment of the transparency site’s 2012 data, a CIA “official added that the agency also does not report unclassified contract information because of the risk that an individual could use it, along with other publicly available information to develop a picture of Central Intelligence Agency requirements.”

That’s exactly right, says CIA spokesperson Preston Golson. The policy wasn’t merely in effect in 2012, the time scale of the report, he confirms — it’s in effect now, too. Of course, the CIA’s budget, as well as the budget of the intelligence community writ large, has been the subject of debate, with the Obama administration opting to release a top-line number on total intelligence spending, only. What we know about the CIA budget comes in the form of leaked documents first reported by The Washington Post. In 2013, the CIA’s budget, we’re now aware as a result, was a requested $14.7 billion.

From The Hill, don’t hold your breath:

Feinstein squares off with Obama

Sen. Dianne Feinstein is squaring off with President Obama again, this time over a long-awaited Senate report on the Central Intelligence Agency’s harsh interrogation practices.

Feinstein, the senior senator from California and chairwoman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, has repeatedly battled the administration on a string of different issues.

An institutionalist who has repeatedly sought to defend congressional power, Feinstein takes her oversight role seriously. And while she is from a left-leaning state, the five-term senator frequently pushes Obama from a centrist point of view.

VICE News covers another report, other secrets:

Campaign Mounts to Declassify 9/11 Report’s References to Alleged Saudi Involvement

Nearly 13 years after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, the extent of Saudi involvement in the deaths of almost 3,000 people remains unclear — but according to members of Congress and the families of victims, information about this has been suppressed ever since the publication of a 2002 congressional investigation into the plot.

Prior to the release of the final report of the Joint Inquiry into Intelligence Community Activities Before and After the Terrorist Attacks of September 11, 2001, the Bush administration classified a 28-page section in the name of national security.

Though speculations, accusations, and denials have swirled around these pages over the past decade, the call for their declassification has steadily grown since December 2013, when House Representatives Walter Jones (R-NC) and Stephen Lynch (D-MA) introduced Resolution 428, a two-page document urging President Obama to release them to the public. Nine other representatives from both parties have co-sponsored the resolution.

And from News Corporation Australia, hints of spooky things to come:

Satellite photos reveal new hangars being built at Area 51, the United States top-secret testing facility

  • WHAT’S going on in Area 51? The mysterious US government air base in the middle of nowhere is undergoing an expansion. But nobody knows why.

Dreamland. Watertown. The Ranch. Whatever its name, the facility has entered common culture as Area 51 through a string of novels, movies, and far-fetched alien conspiracy theories.

Which may be why many people eagerly watch for every clue as to what may be going on in the dried-up lake bed.

Now, new satellite photos reveal ongoing construction work.

From RFI, hacker or spook?:

Franco-Israeli hacker poses as police officer to harass journalist

French hacker Grégory Chelli, who lives in the Israeli city of Ashdod, is under investigation for allegedly harassing a French journalist with the news website Rue89 and his family.

Known by the pseudonym of Ulcan or Violvocal, Chelli, 32, has been accused of making threatening calls to journalist Benoît le Corr and his parents since he published a profile of the hacker on July 29.

Reporters Without Borders (RSF) is urging the French justice system to pursue legal action against Chelli on the grounds that his actions “have combined violence, perversity and foolishness in an attempt to intimidate Le Corre and silence Rue89.”

However, the investigation launched in France could be difficult as there is no extradition agreement between Tel Aviv and Paris.

BBC News delivers a call:

John McAfee in surprise rant over Google and privacy

Notorious computer security pioneer John McAfee has used a surprise appearance at a hacking conference to warn of threats against “freedom” thanks to privacy issues with technology.

Speaking at Def Con in Las Vegas, Mr McAfee called on hackers to “make a stand” against companies that seek highly personal information.

He blamed laziness for the spread of apps and websites that glean information from users.

And from The Register, another kind of digital threat?:

Twitter can trigger psychosis in users

  • 140 characters or less leaves too much to symbolism, study finds

Twitter can trigger psychosis in predisposed users, according to a team of doctors from the Universitätsmedizin hospital in Berlin.

A study Twitter Psychosis A Rare Variation or a Distinct Syndrome? concluded that Twitter may have “a high potential to induce psychosis in predisposed users” based on the case of a 31 year-old woman who developed the condition from spending too much time reading and writing in 140 characters or less.

The unnamed woman named “Mrs C” imagined non-existent connections between tweets sent from random users that she during the time of her psychosis considered to be hidden messages from a celebrity.

Meanwhile, the British camel’s nose sniffs deeper into the tent, via the Guardian:

Police want right to see medical records without consent

  • Greater Manchester chief constable says move is needed to help police deal with people struggling to look after themselves

Police want new and expanded rights to access medical records and other confidential data without an individual’s consent, a senior police chief has told the Guardian.

Sir Peter Fahy, the Greater Manchester chief constable, said the extra access to sensitive data was needed to help police cope with growing numbers of vulnerable people.

Fahy said police frequently dealt with people struggling to look after themselves, including elderly people, people with dementia or Alzheimer’s, those with drug or alcohol problems, those with mental health issues and problem families. Perhaps most controversially, he said medical professionals should share information about women suffering from domestic abuse, even against the victim’s wishes.

TheLocal.de objects:

German coalition bickers over arms exports

German Economy Minister Sigmar Gabriel has met opposition from conservatives in the coalition government with plans to tighten rules on arms exports, amid tit-for-tat sanctions between the West and Russia.

“If you’re not very careful, (selling arms abroad) can very quickly become a deal with death,” Gabriel, who is also vice chancellor, warned recently on public television.

Normally, the position of deputy chancellor is largely a symbolic one. But Gabriel, a Social Democrat, is taking advantage of the absence on holiday of conservative Chancellor Angela Merkel to lobby publicly for a topic close to his heart.

And from Want China Times, a perfect transition to the jump:

Sanctions prompt Russia to turn to China for precision components

Russia is looking to acquire electronic precision components worth several billion dollars from China in light of economic sanctions from Europe and the United States, reports Global Times, a tabloid under the auspices of the Communist Party mouthpiece People’s Daily.

Citing Russian media reports, Global Times said Russian manufacturers will struggle to meet demand for electronic components required for the country’s aerospace and military fields over the next two years due to ongoing sanctions over the Ukraine crisis.

As a result, Russia is turning to China to fill the gap, with one source from the Russian Federal Space Agency telling media outlets that they are currently working with the China Aerospace Science & Industry Corporation, the main contractor for the Chinese space program. The Chinese company’s research and development center has already offered several dozen proposals on how their products can replace those previously acquired from the US, the source said, adding that they are currently in the process of translating the technical data, testing product sensitivity, temperatures and vibrations to assess component compatibility.

After the jump, all the latest on the Asian Game of Zones, with China, Japan, the Koreas, and others, all jockeying for position and power a global economic might shifts Eastward. We’ve got hack attack, political approaches [both those spurned and those embraced], military arsenal enlargement, plus a uniquely fitting punishment that’s so wrong but so gol-derned right. . . Continue reading

Corporate medicine and Ebola injustice


A much-needed perspective on the implications of corporate control of the medical sector from The Real Network in the form of a Jessica Desvarieux interview of Harriet A. Washington, medical ethicist and author of notable books on the intersection of race, class, and the corporate sector in medicine.

From The Real News Network:

Economic Justice and the Ebola Outbreak

From the transcript:

DESVARIEUX: So, Harriet, the big news is that this serum that is ZMapp that I mentioned in the introduction was offered to the two American health care workers, and now they seem to be recovering. Why hasn’t it been made more widely available?

WASHINGTON: Well, what we’re told is that it’s not been made more widely available because there were initially only three doses. Of course, my first question was, why wasn’t it given to Sheik Umar Khan, the chief ebola health care worker in Sierra Leone who died just a week or so ago of Ebola?

DESVARIEUX: Then at the root of this would you say that the serum was—-essentially, whose interest is it for it not to be more widely available?

WASHINGTON: Well, it’s a very complex question. And I think–I’m not inclined to personalize it. Rather than asking whether a person has an inclination to deny it to Africans, my question is: what forces tend to separate drugs like this from Africans? There are networks, informal networks sometimes, of availability that are available to Westerners and not to Africans.

And there are also economic pressures. Decisions about the expense of producing large enough quantity of doses of this drug to give it to Africans is an expensive proposition, as it always is, and that is a factor as well. There’s a feeling among some that it would be too expensive to produce for African Americans. But my point is I always notice that they talk about the cost, but with they’re actually referring to is the price: it’s a manufacturer’s decision to impose a certain price, and that is what puts it out of the reach of people in the developing world.

DESVARIEUX: Yeah. And being out of reach for people in the developing world, I mean, there are going to be some real consequences. As I mentioned in the introduction, 1,700 people have been affected. More than 900 people have died from Ebola. So can we name some names here? Which kind of pharmaceutical companies are we talking about?

WASHINGTON: I’m not inclined to single them out by name, because what’s interesting about this is although most pharmaceutical companies are guilty of an economic mentality that tells them not to produce drugs for the needs of people in the developing world, an economist at Harvard, Michael Kremer, wrote some time ago about this tendency of pharmaceutical companies not to even test drugs for diseases of the tropical lands, because people there, quote-unquote, cannot afford them. In fact, if you look at the data, between 1975 and 1997, there were 1,233 drugs developed by pharmaceutical companies. Guess how many were intended for the use of people who lived in developing countries?

DESVARIEUX: How many?

WASHINGTON: Four.

DESVARIEUX: Wow. Only four.

Chart of the day: Blood on the newsroom floor


From Pueblo Lands and drawn from data from the California Employment Development Department, a look at projected job growth and decline anticipated during the current decade in the Golden State, with journalism jobs continuing to fall while corporate, NGO, and government PR jobs continue to growth. Call it a clear win for the spin amidst the ongoing strangulation of what’s left of the free press [which continues to be swallowed up corporate giants and banksters with their fellows than with the public and the notion of an informed electorate], with spinners outnumbering the spun by a five-to-one ratio:

BLOG Media

Accompanying the job growth/decline rate was another sober reminder of the power of spinners, and one of the key reasons the nation’s journalism school graduates no longer flock to jobs in the pitifully diminished press corps[e]:

BLOG Press pay

EnviroWatch: Ebola, water woes, Fuku’d, more


In the world of people, planet, and their interactions, we begin with the leading story of the recent days, first from the International Business Times:

Liberian Rioters Shut Down Highway To Protest Government Delays In Collecting Ebola Victims’ Bodies

Rioters in central Liberia blocked the country’s busiest highway Saturday to protest the government’s delay in collecting the bodies of Ebola victims. Police raced to the scene to quell the demonstrations before they reached a violent pitch, the Associated Press reported.

“There are reports of dead bodies lying in streets and houses,” Lindis Hurum, the emergency coordinator for the Doctors Without Borders charity group, told the AP. In the central town of Weala, about 50 miles from the capital of Monrovia, several bodies had by lying by the side of the road for two days.

The World Health Organization, or WHO, on Friday declared the Ebola pandemic in West Africa an international public health emergency. The outbreak — the deadliest on record — has so far killed at least 961 people in the region, including nearly 300 in Liberia. Many people have contracted the virus after touching or handling corpses of Ebola victims, the AP noted. Liberia’s government has ordered bodies to be cremated to stem fears the virus would spread via neighborhood burials.

More on the crisis from Deutsche Welle:

Lagos overwhelmed, Nigeria asks for Ebola outbreak help

  • Nigeria has appealed for volunteers to stop Ebola’s spreading. On Friday, President Goodluck Jonathan declared a national emergency over Ebola, which has so far claimed two lives there

Authorities in Lagos, home to 20 million and the largest city in Africa’s most populous country, have said they are facing a shortage of medical personnel. Lagos has nine confirmed Ebola cases, including two deaths.

“I won’t lie about that,” Lagos health commissioner Jide Idris said about the staff shortage Saturday.

Declaring Ebola a national emergency on Friday, President Goodluck Jonathan called on Nigerians to avoid gatherings to prevent the spread of the virus. In addition, he warned against moving the corpses of people who had died from Ebola.

BBC News takes action:

Ebola virus: Guinea shuts Liberia and S Leone borders

Guinea has closed its borders with Liberia and Sierra Leone to contain the spread of Ebola, which has killed 959 people in the three countries. The latest outbreak is thought to have begun in Guinea, but Liberia and Sierra Leone are currently facing the highest frequency of new cases.

Guinea said it was closing its borders in order to stop people from entering the country.

“We have provisionally closed the frontier between Guinea and Sierra Leone because of all the news that we have received from there recently,” Health Minister Remy Lamah told a news conference. He added that Guinea had also closed its border with Liberia.

The Guardian has more from on the ground:

Ebola crisis in Liberia brings rumours, hygiene lessons and hunger

  • As aid workers offer health advice on the streets, residents fear emergency measures are starving the capital of supplies

Another day has just broken in Liberia’s capital, Monrovia. Outside a block of humble flats on Centre Street, two women in long overcoats jump out of a taxi, avoiding the torrents of rainwater pouring along the gutter as they carry a large plastic bucket. On the porch, a crowd of young homeless men take shelter. They are about to receive a lesson in handwashing, non-contact and recognising symptoms of the deadly Ebola virus. It has killed 249 of their countrymen so far since March, 961 worldwide, and prompted 1,779 reported cases internationally.

The fact that Ebola is spread through bodily fluids such as sweat and saliva means that reducing physical contact has become a national obsession. At any time of day, outside banks, shops and homes, people disinfect their hands with chlorinated water. Shaking hands is forbidden and some have donned latex gloves.

Last week the government ramped up anti-Ebola measures. On Wednesday, Liberia’s president, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, declared a state of emergency for 90 days. Her televised statement sent a new wave of fear through communities following two weeks of alarming announcements.

And from the Independent, fears coming closer:

Ebola outbreak: Fears strike Canadian hospital as patient isolated following ‘flu-like symptoms’

A hospital in Ontario, Canada, has isolated a patient with flu-like symptoms after the person was revealed to have recently travelled from Nigeria – one of the Ebola-hit areas.

The measure is just a precautionary one and the patient has not yet been diagnosed with the deadly disease – a virus with a mortality rate as high as 90 per cent and which has swept through west Africa killing 961.

The unnamed patient has been admitted to Brampton Civic Hospital, with a diagnosis yet to come.

Dr Eileen de Villa from, Associated Medical Officer at Peel Public Health said: “Measures that are being taken are indeed precautionary. I mean, there are health concerns ongoing in West Africa at this stage of the game,” reports the Toronto Star.

National Post covers another phase of the crisis:

International response to Ebola outbreak that’s killed almost 1,000 has been slow and inadequate, aid groups say

The international response to the Ebola outbreak that has killed almost 1,000 Africans has been slow and inadequate, and the World Health Organization is at least partly to blame, said spokesmen for two key aid groups.

The WHO on Friday designated the outbreak as an international public health emergency, eight months after it began. On May 18, when the situation seemed to be stabilizing, the Geneva-based organization said the outbreak “could be declared over on May 22.”

The WHO’s leaders “need to do a reality check and step up,” Koen Henckaerts, a health expert at the European Commission’s humanitarian aid division, said in a telephone interview from the Liberian capitol of Monrovia. “There is a lack of coordination among all the different partners.”

From the Associated Press, an interesting aside:

US bots flagged Ebola before outbreak announced

The Ebola outbreak in West Africa is focusing a spotlight on an online tool run by experts in Boston that flagged a “mystery hemorrhagic fever” in forested areas of southeastern Guinea nine days before the World Health Organization formally announced the epidemic.

HealthMap uses algorithms to scour tens of thousands of social media sites, local news, government websites, infectious-disease physicians’ social networks and other sources to detect and track disease outbreaks. Sophisticated software filters irrelevant data, classifies the relevant information, identifies diseases and maps their locations with the help of experts.

“It shows some of these informal sources are helping paint a picture of what’s happening that’s useful to these public health agencies,” HealthMap co-founder John Brownstein said.

The Economic Times covers another front:

Ebola vaccine to go on trial next month, may be ready by 2015: UN

Clinical trials of a preventative vaccine for the Ebola virus made by British pharma company GlaxoSmithKline may begin next month and made available by 2015, the World Health Organization said on Saturday.

“We are targeting September for the start of clinical trials, first in the United States and certainly in African countries, since that’s where we have the cases,” Jean-Marie Okwo Bele, the WHO’s head of vaccines and immunisation, told French radio.

He said he was optimistic about making the vaccine commercially available. “We think that if we start in September, we could already have results by the end of the year.

Homeland Security News Wire rationalizes:

Quantities of experimental Ebola drug used in U.S. too small to be shipped to West Africa

Nigerian health authorities said yesterday that West African patients infected with the Ebola virus will not have access to experimental drugs being used to treat American cases of the disease for several months, if at all. Health minister Onyebuchi Chukwu told a press conference he had asked the U.S. health authorities about the unproven medicines used on two American doctors who became infected while treating patients in Liberia, but was told such small quantities of the drug existed that West Africa would have to wait for months for supplies, even if they were proved safe and effective. The two Americans were given the drug ZMapp after being flown to the United States, and appear to be recovering.

Nigerian health authorities said yesterday that West African patients infected with the Ebola virus will not have access to experimental drugs being used to treat American cases of the disease for several months, if at all.

Health minister Onyebuchi Chukwu told a press conference he had asked the U.S. health authorities about the unproven medicines used on two American doctors who became infected while treating patients in Liberia, but was told such small quantities of the drug existed that West Africa would have to wait for months for supplies, even if they were proved safe and effective.

And from the Los Angeles Times, the more mundane:

Ebola outbreak causes postponement of taekwondo tournament

The Ebola outbreak in West Africa has prompted organizers to postpone a large taekwondo tournament in the Nigerian capital of Abuja.

The Chika Chukwumerije Sports Foundation event was expected to draw more than 400 athletes from 11 countries in the region.

Taekwondo’s close contact “provides an ideal environment for a highly unlikely spread of the Ebola virus if only one infected person comes to the venue,” Chukwumerije said in a statement.

From the Hindu, Indian precautions:

No Ebola case has been reported in India: Harsh Vardhan

The Indian government is maintaining intense surveillance to prevent the spread of the Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) in the country. A control room with helpline numbers 23063205, 23061469 and 23061302 got operational on Saturday morning at the Health Ministry and it dealt with 30 calls during the day, according to an official statement.

Union Minister for Health Dr. Harsh Vardhan has clarified that India does not have any confirmed or even suspected Ebola virus affected person. The World Health Organisation (WHO) had informed that one Indian passenger had travelled on the same flight in which an Ebola virus patient (a foreign national) was travelling from Monrovia to Lagos. This Indian passenger is back in India. He has been tracked and his health is being regularly monitored. The Health Minister said, “We are happy to share that the person is healthy, fit and fine.”

The Minister expressed satisfaction with the reaction of the general public to the awareness campaign launched by the government. “Most of the callers to the helpline reflected a mature understanding of the collective responsibility in times like this. They wanted to know details about the symptoms and preventive measures,” Dr. Harsh Vardhan said in the statement.

South China Morning Post covers another Asian response:

Hong Kong installs detection systems as WHO declares Ebola a global problem

  • Detection systems installed at Hong Kong’s borders as epidemic that has killed nearly 1,000 in Africa is declared international emergency

Hong Kong’s Centre for Health Protection (CHP) said the risk of the city being affected remained low, but it has stepped up precautions, such as installing detection systems at hospitals and border crossings.

Beijing announced a donation of 30 million yuan (HK$37 million) worth of medical equipment, such as protective clothing, monitoring devices and drugs, to the Ebola-hit areas.

“This is the largest, most severe and the most complex outbreak in the nearly four-decade history of this disease,” said the WHO chief Dr Margaret Chan Fung Fu-chun.

For our final Ebola item, Nikkei Asian Review covers the economic front:

Spreading Ebola epidemic has widening economic ramifications

The International Monetary Fund predicts GDP growth in Guinea will be 3.5% instead of 4.5%, as canceled flights hamper business and some farmers leave their fields to escape the virus.

Infectious diseases and disasters are the archenemies of the tourism industry. Japan’s tour companies suffered blows from the SARS and H1N1 epidemics, so they know what could be in store.

Business people in the energy and infrastructure sectors from Japan, China and South Korea make frequent trips to Africa. If the Ebola epidemic spreads to the West and Asia, it could impact a broad range of industries and financial markets.

From the Guardian, a dismal dietary dispatch:

Salmonella trial reveals US food safety relies on self-reporting

  • Three ‘knowingly shipped’ contaminated peanut products
  • Company allegedly failed to act on positive tests

Jurors in the first US federal criminal trial stemming from a deadly outbreak of food-borne illness are learning a disconcerting fact: America’s food safety largely depends on the honour system.

Witnesses say Stewart Parnell and others at Peanut Corporation of America knowingly shipped salmonella-tainted products, and that they sent customers lab results from other clean batches rather than wait for tests to confirm if their products were free of deadly bacteria.

Defence lawyers correctly noted for the jurors that salmonella tests are not even required by federal law.

After the jump, water woes hit critical levels at home and abroad, planning for the inevitable, a Superfund’s Silent Spring, China’s soil pollution crisis, the latest chapter of Fukushimapocalypse Now!, and Chinese fracking anxieties. . . Continue reading

InSecurityWatch: Bombs, blather, zones, spooks


Lots of ground to cover, and we’ll start with the biggest story, the latest violent blowback for American violence, the little war we waged on a false pretext to satisfy deeper geopolitical motivations.

First, we turn to the Los Angeles Times for the latest in imperial hubris:

Obama sets ambitious goals for Iraq intervention

President Obama said Saturday that U.S. forces will seek to deny a safe haven to “barbaric terrorists” in Iraq and will help create a humanitarian corridor to rescue thousands of religious refugees trapped on a mountaintop, broadening his goals for the latest U.S. intervention in Iraq.

Speaking on the White House South Lawn, the president also suggested that the airstrikes by U.S. Navy fighter jets and Predator drones against Islamist militants that began Friday near the major city of Irbil won’t be a short-term operation.

The U.S. is prepared, he said, to continue bombing the fighters of Islamic State, an Al Qaeda breakaway group, as long as thousands of Americans living and working in Irbil are threatened. “We’re going to maintain vigilance and ensure that our people our safe,” the president said, before departing for Martha’s Vineyard on a family vacation.

More from Deutsche Welle:

Obama declines to put timeframe on Iraq operation

  • US President Barack Obama has declined to say how long the current American military operations in Iraq will likely continue. He also said the crisis could only be resolved after a unified Iraqi government is in place

Speaking to reporters on the South Lawn of the White House on Saturday, President Barack Obama said airstrikes, which US forces began carrying out on Friday, had “successfully destroyed arms and equipment “ used by a group of militants who call themselves the “Islamic State” (IS). Obama said that the US had “stepped up” military assistance to Kurdish forces fighting the Sunni extremists near the northern Iraq city of Irbil.

The US president said an operation to provide humanitarian aid through airdrops to members of Iraq’s Yazidi religious minority trapped on Sinjar mountain would continue. The Yazidis were left without food or water after taking refuge on the mountain to escape IS militants advancing into the city of Sinjar one week ago.

Obama also said he had secured the support in that humanitarian operation of British Prime Minister David Cameron and French President Francois Hollande.

And the predictably belligerent response from the London Daily Mail:

‘A message from ISIS to the US’: Islamist militants tweet gruesome images of dead American soldiers and vow to blow up embassies as terrorist convoy is wiped out in SECOND round of airstrikes

WARNING: GRAPHIC CONTENT: Militants who support the terror group ISIS tweeted threats to America on Friday after Barack Obama began airstrikes in Iraq

  • Some warn of car bombs at embassies while others taunt US military personnel with death threats
  • A handful of biting retorts have mocked the ham-fisted attempt to use social media as a tool of war
  • Tweets coincided with first U.S. airstrikes authorized by Obama to protect American staff and relief efforts
  • Food and water supplies have been airdropped to 50,000 refugees trapped on mountain
  • ISIS have been accused of taking hundreds of women hostage

Supporters of the ISIS terror group tweeted thousands of messages on Friday bearing the hashtag #AmessagefromISIStoUS featuring gruesome photos and threats to U.S. soldiers and citizens after American airstrikes took out terrorist targets in Iraq for the first time.

Some tweeted photos depict dead U.S. Army soldiers, U.S. marines hung from bridges in Fallujah, decapitated men, human heads on spikes, and the twin towers in flames on September 11, 2001.

‘This is a message for every American citizen,’ read one message sent with the hashtag. ‘You are the target of every Muslim in the world wherever you are.’

From the McClatchy Washington Bureau, a question:

New Iraq mission’s tough question: What does U.S. do if Islamic State survives?

“The words ‘limited’ and ‘deterrence’ don’t belong in the same sentence. There has to be the threat of a disproportionate size,” said Christopher Harmer, a senior naval analyst for the Washington-based Institute for the Study for War. “ISIS is not going to respond to limited strikes. They understand the West is reluctant to get involved.”

Senior military officials, speaking on condition of anonymity because they weren’t authorized to speak to a reporter, conceded as much, with one explaining: “There is probably some gray area” in the latest U.S. effort in Iraq.

Part of the concern is based on the most recent “limited” mission the Obama administration undertook on behalf of a besieged group: Libya. In 2011, as residents of Benghazi, Libya, faced an imminent attack from forces loyal to the country’s leader, Moammar Gadhafi, the U.S. announced it would intervene as part of a NATO mission to protect civilians from harm. The effort was billed as humanitarian, but it ended up toppling Gadhafi and leading to his death and empowering Islamist militias that now control much of the country. Libya is convulsed in a civil war between those Islamists and secular forces, the U.S. ambassador and three other Americans were killed in an attack in Benghazi in 2012, and last month the United States evacuated its embassy in Tripoli, the country’s capital.

And from the McClatchy Washington Bureau again, another question:

When is it genocide? U.S. interests help decide

Obama’s use of the word genocide _ which was echoed on Thursday by Secretary of State John Kerry _ is extremely unusual, said Jonas Claes, a conflict analyst for the United States Institute of Peace.

Claes couldn’t recall any other time during Obama’s presidency when he had used the term to describe current events.

Usually presidents dance around the word because it implies a legal responsibility to act, Claes said.

Meanwhile, the tragic legacy of using vaccination programs as covers for spooky operations continues to unfold, reports the Express Tribune in Karachi, Pakistan:

Unavailability of security cover forces polio drive in Quetta to be postponed

Despite the first reported case of polio in over a year in Balochistan surfacing last month, the government has been forced to postpone its immunisation drive in parts of the crisis hit province since it cannot provide security.

A three day anti-polio drive scheduled for Quetta and Pishin from August 11 to August 13 has been postponed.

With the security focus on Independence’s day celebrations, the government apparently can’t spare enough forces to safely oversee the immunization drive.

From the London Daily Mail, fuel poised for a toss into the flames:

The Spark that ignites quite a fire:’ Imminent release of CIA ‘torture’ report could put Americans and embassies in harm’s way, warn intelligence officials

  • National Intelligence Council pressures White House against the release of information on CIA interrogation techniques
  • Officials say the report could inflame anti-US passions in the Middle East
  • Sen. Dianne Feinstein remains locked in battle with the Obama administration over redactions that ‘obscure key facts’ in the report
  • The report shows CIA techniques were ‘far more brutal than previously understood’

American citizens and embassies could be at risk of attacks if the US Senate releases a lengthy intelligence report on CIA interrogation techniques.

The warning comes from the National Intelligence Council, which is pressuring the White House to keep the report under wraps to avoid inflaming anti-US passions abroad, lest more violence breaks out throughout the Middle East, reported Yahoo News.

‘It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out if you release a report like this at a time when terrorism is surging all over the Mideast you are handing the other side a recruitment tool,’ ex-CIA Director John McLaughlin told the news outlet. ‘It’s blindingly obvious.’

On to the desperation of the outfit once dubbed No Such Agency, via Reuters:

NSA, struggling to recruit top talent, turns to Silicon Valley

The U.S. National Security Agency is turning to Silicon Valley for topflight talent, but first it has to rebuild trust.

Anne Neuberger, special assistant to NSA Director Michael Rogers, said this week she feared the agency would no longer be able to recruit top technologists, since former contractor Edward Snowden blew the lid off the extent of its spying activities.

At a seminar organized by the non-profit LongNow Foundation in San Francisco, she extended a plea to an audience replete with tech workers to consider a career in government, or at least apply for a fellowship.

And some NSA blowback from TheLocal.de:

Berlin seeks names of secret service agents

Berlin has asked all foreign diplomatic missions to provide names of secret service agents working in Germany, according to a media report on Friday, amid a rift with Washington over allegations of US spying.

Contacted by AFP, the German foreign ministry did not refute the report, originally published in Der Spiegel, which said that a note has been sent to embassies asking them for “lists of names of all active agents”.

The move came about a month after Germany ordered the Berlin CIA station chief to leave the country in an unprecedented show of anger after uncovering two cases of suspected US spying, hot on the heels of mass surveillance by the National Security Agency (NSA).

The Spiegel report said the circular to embassies was sparked by Berlin’s frustration over Washington’s repeated denials that its agents were operating in Germany.

For a change, some increased security from El País:

Ministry to cut bodyguard protection to minimum levels as ETA threat recedes

  • Protection will gradually be withdrawn from more than 1,500 public figures, saving millions of euros

The Spanish Interior Ministry says that it is to begin withdrawing armed protection for senior members of the former Socialist Party administration, along with that given to other public figures and journalists. The announcement reflects confidence that Basque terrorist organization ETA no longer represents a threat, and will see some 200 police bodyguards and around 30 vehicles return to normal duties.

When Popular Party Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy took office in late 2011, more than 1,600 officials were under police protection. In most other European countries, that figure is usually around 30, and applies only to senior members of government and other institutional posts.

In March 2012, the secretary of state for security said that “given the ostensible reduction in the threat from ETA,” it would be cutting back on the number of bodyguards, a process that has gradually been underway since.

The Latin American Herald Tribune covers security sought:

Busy Mexican Highway Blocked by Protesters

The expressway linking the Mexican capital with the Pacific resort city of Acapulco was re-opened early Friday after being blocked for more than 10 hours by peasants demanding that authorities do more to fight crime, the Guerrero state government said.

Members of the Union of Towns and Organizations of Guerrero blocked the expressway outside Chilpancingo, the state capital, at some 200 kilometers (120 miles) south of Mexico City.

Authorities agreed to install a round-table to review the peasants’ demands, as a result of which the blockade was removed after about 10 hours, the Guerrero Public Safety Office said.

And from the Mainichi, digital stalking:

Stalkers use GPS devices to track down victims

In recent years, there have been multiple instances of stalkers using global positioning system (GPS) devices to track down victims and police are urging people who feel they are being stalked to quickly contact authorities.

According to Akiko Kobayakawa, head of the anti-stalking NPO Humanity, even when victims take all the steps available for them to flee, such as putting restrictions on the viewing of their resident’s card, there have been many instances recently where stalkers have located them. “There has been an increase in cases where GPS trackers are used,” says Kobayakawa.

Many GPS devices can be found for sale in Tokyo’s Akihabara district. Their original purpose is to, for example, keep track of the locations of people like children or the elderly. A store employee introduced one such product, saying, “The battery lasts four days. As long as this device is above ground, you will know where it is.”

From TechWeekEurope, and will the outcome be real or ornamental?:

Yahoo And Google To Work Together On Encrypted Email

  • Yahoo promises to implement end-to-end PGP encryption by 2015

Yahoo is planning to introduce end-to-end encryption and advanced privacy features into its email service by 2015, helping customers avoid both cyber criminals and government surveillance. The company will collaborate with Google, which detailed its efforts in June after contributing its encryption implementation to the open source community.

According to the Wall Street Journal, Yahoo’s email encryption will rely on the Pretty Good Privacy (PGP) standard developed by Phil Zimmerman, currently the president of secure communications provider Silent Circle. This means even Yahoo itself won’t be able to access the contents of the messages.

The sudden popularity of encrypted messaging services is seen as a response to the mass surveillance practices employed by government agencies such as US National Security Agency (NSA) and UK’s GCHQ, revealed by Edward Snowden last year.

On a related note, this from Ars Technica:

Father of PGP encryption: Telcos need to get out of bed with governments

  • Zimmermann’s Silent Circle working with Dutch telco to deliver encrypted calls

Phil Zimmermann, the creator of Pretty Good Privacy public-key encryption, has some experience when it comes to the politics of crypto. During the “crypto wars” of the 1990s, Zimmermann fought to convince the US government to stop classifying PGP as a “munition” and shut down the Clipper Chip program—an effort to create a government-mandated encryption processor that would have given the NSA a back door into all encrypted electronic communication. Now Zimmermann and the company he co-founded are working to convince telecommunications companies—mostly overseas—that it’s time to end their nearly century-long cozy relationship with governments.

Zimmermann compared telephone companies’ thinking with the long-held belief that tomatoes were toxic until it was demonstrated they weren’t. “For a long time, for a hundred years, phone companies around the world have created a culture around themselves that is very cooperative with governments in invading people’s privacy. And these phone companies tend to think that there’s no other way—that they can’t break from this culture, that the tomatoes are poisonous,” he said.

The Verge covers corporate resistance:

Google, Microsoft, others backing Facebook in fight over user privacy in New York

  • Tech companies and civil liberties unions are trying to fend off warrants

Facebook’s getting some company in its fight with the New York district attorney’s office over the protection of user data from government investigations, something that has quickly become a battle over constitutional rights. Today, a number of major tech companies including Dropbox, Foursquare, Google, Kickstarter, LinkedIn, Meetup, Microsoft, Pinterest, Twitter, Tumblr, and Yelp, along with the New York Civil Liberties Union and the ACLU, filed amicus briefs in support of Facebook.

In a trio of filings today, the groups collectively argue that bulk warrants like the one that required Facebook to hand over user data for 381 users over to the NYDA are problematic, especially when attached to so-called “gag orders” that keep companies from alerting users that they are under investigation.

“Unless Facebook is able to assert its subscribers’ constitutional rights — and any of its own rights — the legality of the government’s actions with respect to those subscribers will escape review altogether. And had the government chosen to indict no one, no one would have been the wiser,” reads the opener of a filing from Google, Pinterest, Microsoft, Twitter, and Yelp.

From Channel NewsAsia Singapore, a major unLike:

Malaysia to study whether Facebook should be blocked

The Malaysian government will study whether it is necessary to block Facebook following a case of abuse involving the social website, said Communication and Multimedia Minister Datuk Seri Ahmad Shabery Cheek.

He said his ministry was conducting studies to gather public views on the matter. “If the people are of the opinion that Facebook should be closed, we are prepared to look into the matter but it is a radical approach,” he told reporters after closing the Cheras Wanita Umno Delegates Meeting on Saturday (Aug 9).

Also present were Cheras Umno head Datuk Seri Syed Ali Alhabshee and Cheras Wanita Umno chief Datuk Hajah Zurainah Musa.

From TheLocal.ch, old school spookery? Journalism? Curiosity?:

Swiss man arrested in Tunisia for ‘spying’

A Swiss man is under arrest in Tunisia for suspected spying activities in Kasserine, a city in the North African country.

Tunisian police arrested the tourist on Thursday afternoon, according to media reports from Tunisia picked up by media in Switzerland.

He was apprehended after being caught attempting to take pictures of the house of Tunisia’s interior minister, Lotfi Ben Jeddou, and military posts in Lasserine, local radio station FM Express reported.

In the man’s camera police discovered hundreds of images of police stations, government buildings and other structures with strategic objectives, the radio station said.

From Ars Technica, less than reassuring:

Hacking is simple, says author claiming role in breach of spyware firm

  • DIY guide provides instructions for carrying out similar muckraking exploits

An anonymous author who claims to be the hacker who penetrated controversial UK-based Gamma Group International and aired 40 gigabytes of its dirty laundry has published a how-to guide for other hacktivists.

“I’m not writing this to brag about what an 31337 h4x0r I am and what m4d sk1llz it took to 0wn Gamma,” wrote the author, who rightly cautions that the unauthorized access of other people’s networks is illegal. “I’m writing this to demystify hacking, to show how simple it is, and to hopefully inform and inspire you to go out and hack shit. If you have no experience with programming or hacking, some of the text below might look like a foreign language. Check the resources section at the end to help you get started.”

The do-it-yourself guide explains how hackers can map entryways into a target’s network, scan for vulnerable services and exploit any that are found. It also lists some of the most common methods hackers use to keep their IP addresses and other digital fingerprints off their attacks. Among other things, the how-to suggests installing Whonix inside a hidden encrypted volume created by TrueCrypt and carrying out all operations from there. It also counsels against using Tor and instead using hacked servers. Again, this is illegal.

From the Associated Press, maple leaf imperialism sure to inflate an Arctic Game of Zones, one abetted by icecaps shrinking because of dependence on the same resources being sought in the Far North:

Canada sends icebreakers to Arctic to gather data

Canada is sending two icebreakers to the High Arctic to gather scientific data in support of its plan to bid for control of the sea floor under and beyond the North Pole.

The coast guard vessels have set out on a six-week journey that will take them to the eastern side of the Lomonosov Ridge.

The undersea ridge starts near Ellesmere Island and runs northward over the pole. Some say the ridge could give Canada a claim on a vast section of Arctic sea floor.

From the Associated Press, allegations with a certain resonance in those Ivy Bells of yesteryear:

Russia: Apparent US sub driven from Barents Sea

Russian state news agencies say the country’s navy claims to have driven away a submarine believed to be American that entered Russia’s northern waters.

The reports Saturday cited an unnamed representative of the navy’s general staff as saying the incident occurred Thursday in the Barents Sea. The Barents Sea lies off northwest Russia and the Russian navy’s Northern Fleet is based on its shores.

The reports said the fleet sent several vessels and an anti-submarine Il-38 aircraft to drive the submarine away.

After the jump, the Asian Game of Zones intensifies with hacks, web crackdowns, rhetorical and military hardware escalations, espionage arrests, deep political plays, and a sudden German love of the good old-fashioned sound of a typewriter key hitting platen-encircling paper. . . Continue reading

EnviroWatch: Ebola, fishy foes, killers, FukuNews


We big Ebola coverage on an upbeat note from United Press International:

Ebola patient Kent Brantly: ‘I’m growing stronger every day’

  • “I witnessed the horror first-hand, and I can still remember every face and name,” recalls Kent Brantly

American doctor Kent Brantly, the first known Ebola patient treated in the United States, said his condition is steadily improving in his first public statement since being transported to U.S. shores.

“I am growing stronger every day, and I thank God for His mercy as I have wrestled with this terrible disease,” Brantly said in a statement released by Christian humanitarian organization Samaritan’s Purse.

Brantly was transported to Emory University Hospital in Atlanta after contracting the Ebola virus while treating victims in Libera.

And having delivered a ration of cheer, we promptly bring you a downer, from Dr. Brantly’s own organization via RT America:

Ebola’s spread to US “inevitable”

Program notes:

The World Health Organization on Friday declared an “international public health emergency” over the spreading Ebola outbreak. The rash of infections has killed 961 since March, making it the largest outbreak in history for the virus, and officials warn that its spread to more corners of the world is “inevitable.” Ken Isaacs of aid group Samaritan’s Purse is one of the experts working to combat the spread of the disease, and he sat down with RT’s Manila Chan to explain the perils of the deadly virus.

Next, the alarm sounds, via BBC News:

WHO: Ebola ‘an international emergency’

The World Health Organization (WHO) has declared the spread of Ebola in West Africa an international health emergency.

WHO officials said a coordinated international response was essential to stop and reverse the spread of the virus.

The announcement came after experts convened a two-day emergency meeting in Switzerland.

And from Al Jazeera America, another alarm:

Medical ethicists to meet on use of experimental Ebola drugs

  • WHO announcement comes after controversy over two Americans – but no Africans – being treated with Ebola drug

Medical ethicists will meet next week to discuss the use of experimental medicines in the West Africa Ebola outbreak. The World Health Organization (WHO) announced the talks in the wake of a controversial decision to treat two infected American aid workers with an Ebola “serum,” never before tested on humans, called ZMapp. The move sparked debate over whether using experimental Ebola treatments is ethical — and why Africans have not been offered the same option.

“We are in an unusual situation in this outbreak. We have a disease with a high fatality rate without any proven treatment or vaccine,” Marie-Paule Kieny, assistant director-general at the WHO, said in a Thursday statement announcing the meeting. “We need to ask the medical ethicists to give us guidance on what the responsible thing to do is.” The statement did not give a location for the meeting. On Friday, the WHO declared the outbreak an international public health emergency.

The New York Times reported that the U.S. government is forming a group to consider the same issues.

CBC News analyzes:

Ebola outbreak: it’s not the virus but Africa that’s changed

  • Death toll in West Africa nearing 1,000

Why do health-care workers in West Africa find this current Ebola outbreak, the worst ever, so difficult to control? The strain of the virus, the Zaire, is the same one behind most of the previous outbreaks.

This is not a case where the virus is any different, says Dr. Richard Olds, a tropical disease specialist.

But at least part of the explanation for the current dilemma may be found in how Africa has changed since the first known outbreaks of Ebola in 1976 in the Democratic Republic of Congo and in Sudan.

For one, this outbreak is taking place in parts of Africa that are “much more densely populated, much more urban in their nature and those populations are much more mobile,” says Olds. Also, “these were populations that had never seen Ebola before.”

Urbanization, travel and the personal connections that come with economic development appear to have helped the virus spread. At the same time, a more formidable health-care infrastructure that could go a long way to stopping Ebola before it reaches outbreak status has not kept pace, and without that, Olds says, Ebola is “a little like Russian roulette.”

Al Jazeera America again, with countermeasures:

Travel restricted within Ebola-affected West African countries

  • Restrictions follow reports that families are hiding sick relatives, abandoning bodies in streets

West African countries hard-hit by the Ebola virus have issued travel restrictions in an effort to contain the spread of the deadly disease after reports emerged of families hiding sick relatives and abandoning bodies in the streets.

Soldiers clamped down on people trying to travel to Liberia’s capital on Thursday from rural areas with high rates of Ebola infection, hours after the president declared a national state of emergency.

Similar efforts were underway in eastern areas of neighboring Sierra Leone after officials there launched “Operation Octopus” to try to keep those sick with Ebola in isolation.

On the ground with the New York Times:

‘Don’t Touch the Walls’: Ebola Fears Infect an African Hospital

KENEMA, Sierra Leone — So many patients, nurses and health workers have died in the government hospital that many people in this city, a center of the world’s worst Ebola epidemic, see it as a death trap.

Now, the wards are empty in the principal institution fighting the disease. Ebola stalks the city, claiming lives every day, but patients have fled the hospital’s long, narrow buildings, which sit silent and echoing in the fading light. Few people are taking any chances by coming here.

“Don’t touch the walls!” a Western medical technician yelled out. “Totally infected.”

Some Ebola patients still die at the hospital, perhaps four per day, in the tentlike temporary isolation ward at the back of the muddy grounds. But just as many, if not more, are dying in the city and neighboring villages, greatly increasing the risk of spreading the disease and undermining international efforts to halt the epidemic.

“People don’t die here now,” said the deputy chief of the hospital’s burying team, Albert J. Mattia, exasperated after a long day of Ebola burials. “They are dying in the community, five, six a day.” Mr. Mattia was particularly disturbed that many of the bodies his team were putting in the ground had come from outside the hospital, thwarting attempts to isolate patients and prevent them from passing the disease to others.

Off to Spain and another patient from El País:

Government will cover cost of ebola priest’s repatriation

  • US, England and France request information about the transfer of missionary Miguel Pajares

The Spanish government will cover the costs of transfering a Spanish priest with the ebola virus from Liberia, official sources have been cited as saying by news agency EFE. The San Juan de Dios religious order, to which both Miguel Pajares and his fellow missionary Juliana Bohana Bohé (also brought back from Liberia, but not suffering from ebola) belong, had this morning announced that they would cover the expenses of the operation.

“We assume the cost and the responsibilities that need to be assumed,” said José María Viadero, the director of the Juan Ciudad NGO, to which San Juan de Dios belongs. The religious order counts on 300 hospitals in 52 different countries.

Pajares and Bohé were flown across half of Africa to Madrid in the early hours of Thursday morning. The priest, who has been confirmed as having caught the virus, and the nun, who is not currently showing any symptoms, were then taken in a convoy of more than 12 vehicles to from the Torrejón de Ardoz airbase to the Carlos III hospital in the city center. The San Juan de Dios religious order requested the repatriation from Liberia.

Greek Reporter prepares:

Ebola Outbreak: Greece Takes Special Measures As World Health Organization Declares Emergency

Greece is the latest country to undertake special emergency measures after the World Health Organization (WHO) declared the virus outbreak an international health emergency.

The Greek government alerted all related authorities to report immediately any possible incidents. Greece has also warned its citizens to avoid non-essential travels to Nigeria, Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone.

A Greek man who was suspected of being infected with the Ebola virus has tested positive for malaria, health authorities said Friday.

The Times of India covers preparations on the subcontinent:

India sets up 24-hour Ebola emergency helpline

As the World Health Organisation on Friday issued a global health emergency due to Ebola virus disease (EVD) outbreak, the government opened a 24-hour emergency helpline and said it has put in place the “most advanced surveillance and tracking system”.

All infected patients in the national capital will be treated at Ram Manohar Lohia hospital, a health ministry statement said.

Health minister Harsh Vardhan, however, said there was no reported case in India and one traveller, who landed in New Delhi on July 20 and was confirmed by the WHO as a case of EVD, was found to be healthy. He had been traced to Dwarka in south-west Delhi.

Nature newsblog offers a timely reminder:

Geneticists say popular book misrepresents research on human evolution

  • Posted by Ewen CallawayCategories: Anthropology, Evolution

More than 130 leading population geneticists have condemned a book arguing that genetic variation between human populations could underlie global economic, political and social differences.

“A Troublesome Inheritance”, by science journalist Nicholas Wade, was published in June by Penguin Press in New York. The 278-page work garnered widespread criticism, much of it from scientists, for suggesting that genetic differences (rather than culture) explain, for instance, why Western governments are more stable than those in African countries. Wade is former staff reporter and editor at the New York Times, Science and Nature.

But the letter — signed by a who’s who of population genetics and human evolution researchers, and to be published in the 10 August New York Times — represents a rare unified statement from scientists in the field and includes many whose work was cited by Wade. “It’s just a measure of how unified people are in their disdain for what was done with the field,” says Michael Eisen, a geneticist at the University of California, Berkeley, who co-drafted the letter.

Next up, the first of three GMO stories, this one from the Guardian:

Sweet victory for Mexico beekeepers as Monsanto loses GM permit

  • Evidence convinced judge of threat posed to honey production in Yucatán – but firm will almost certainly appeal against ruling

A small group of beekeepers in Mexico has inflicted a blow on biotech giant Monsanto, which has halted the company’s ambitions to plant thousands of hectares of soybeans genetically modified to resist the company’s pesticide Roundup.

A district judge in the state of Yucatán last month overturned a permit issued to Monsanto by Mexico’s agriculture ministry, Sagarpa, and environmental protection agency, Semarnat, in June 2012 that allowed commercial planting of Roundup-ready soybeans.

The permit authorised Monsanto to plant its seeds in seven states, over more than 253,000 hectares (625,000 acres), despite protests from thousands of Mayan farmers and beekeepers, Greenpeace, the Mexican National Commission for the Knowledge and Use of Biodiversity, the National Commission of Natural Protected Areas and the National Institute of Ecology.

EurActiv takes us across the Atlantic:

GMO cultivation in Europe: A decade of legal battles

The European Union has agreed on a new approach to the cultivation of Genetically Modified Organisms (GMO) which allows member states to ban or restrict GMOs in their territory. The agreement should mark the end of a decade of legal problems, but in the context of ongoing EU-US free trade negotiations, vocal GMO opposition from member states and civil society is unlikely to subside.

After a decade of legal battles, the European Union reached an agreement in June 2014, allowing its member states to restrict or ban GMO crops in their territory.

The new president of the Commission, Jean-Claude Juncker, has backed the new comprehensive legal framework which will give EU member states a legal basis they have been wanting for years.

The EU regulatory system is based on tight safety standards and freedom of choice for consumers and farmers. The tools used to ensure freedom of choice are effective labelling and traceability.

And GM Watch covers scandal:

GM golden rice paper to be retracted amid ethics scandal

AT LONG LAST, the serious breaches of medical and scientific ethics of the GM golden rice trials on Chinese children appear to have been recognised – in this case, by the journal that published the research paper reporting the experiments.

The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition is reportedly retracting the paper. The main concerns appear to be lack of informed consent on the part of the human subjects – neither the children nor their parents were told the rice was GM, nor were they informed of the possible risks. Ethical breaches are among the valid reasons for retracting a study, according to COPE (Committee on Publication Ethics).

While the blame for the fiasco is being placed on the lead researcher, Guangwen Tang of Tufts University, a large part of the responsibility should lie with the Tufts University ethics board that was supposed to be supervising the trial.

After the jump, fishy pollution, lethal players in endangered wildlife smuggling, an old poison lingers, fracking bans, and the latest chapter of Fukushimapocalypse Now!. . . Continue reading

InSecurityWatch: Bombs, hacks, drones, more


We’ve got a major collection today, including some items revealing how vulnerable our phones, cars, planes, and more are increasingly vulnerable to government, corporate, and other hackers, the latest developments in Asia’s Game of Zones, and a whole lot more. . .

We open with the newest phase of America’s endless wars — call it Iraq.3.0 — via the New York Times:

U.S. Warplanes Strike Militants in Iraq

The United States on Friday afternoon launched a second round of airstrikes on Sunni militants in northern Iraq, sending four Navy fighter jets to strike eight targets around Erbil, according to Pentagon officials.

The attacks came hours after an initial wave of strikes by military aircraft and armed drones, escalating the American involvement in Iraq a day after President Obama announced that the United States military was returning to a direct combat role in the country it left in 2011.

Military officials said they believed that the second round of attacks resulted in a number of casualties among the militants with the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria. The Navy fighters launched from the aircraft carrier George H. W. Bush, which has been deployed in the Arabian Sea.

Earlier Friday, two F-18 fighters dropped 500-pound laser-guided bombs on a mobile artillery target that had just begun shelling Erbil, Pentagon officials said. A senior military official said on Friday that the artillery unit hit in the earlier bombing was being towed by a truck toward Erbil.

The Associated Press has some context:

Iraq official: Militants hold 100s of Yazidi women

Hundreds of women from the Yazidi religious minority have been taken captive by Sunni militants with “vicious plans,” an Iraqi official said Friday, further underscoring the dire plight of Iraq’s minorities at the hands of the Islamic State group.

Kamil Amin, the spokesman for Iraq’s Human Rights Ministry, said hundreds of Yazidi women below the age of 35 are being held in schools in Iraq’s second largest city, Mosul. He said the ministry learned of the captives from their families.

“We think that the terrorists by now consider them slaves and they have vicious plans for them,” Amin told The Associated Press. “We think that these women are going to be used in demeaning ways by those terrorists to satisfy their animalistic urges in a way that contradicts all the human and Islamic values.”

While the London Daily Mail rattles sabers:

TWO retired four-star generals blast Obama for failing to use ‘decisive’ force in Iraq with ‘pinprick’ attacks for ‘political posturing’

  • Retired Gen. Barry McCaffrey laid into Obama on Friday, saying bombing runs against ISIS positions are political posturing
  • ‘These are political gestures using military power,’ he said, lamenting the president’s lack of commitment to a full-blown military campaign
  • Obama ran for president on a platform of getting US military out of Iraq but began bombing runs Friday morning in the country’s northern region
  • White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest assured reporters on Friday that a ground-troop incursion is out of the question
  • GOP critics are hammering the White House for not being more aggressive
  • House Speaker John Boehner said the White House has an ‘ongoing absence of a strategy for countering the grave threat ISIS poses’
  • Obama underestimated ISIS in January, telling The New Yorker that ‘If a jayvee team puts on Lakers uniforms that doesn’t make them Kobe Bryant’

CNBC raises an ironic question:

Will US airstrikes target US-supplied weapons?

As American pilots fly new airstrikes over northern Iraq Friday, they’ll see some very familiar weaponry in the hands of Islamic State forces: Humvees, MRAP transports, American-made heavy machine guns and American artillery.

Islamic State (which also goes by ISIS or ISIL) forces captured the haul of American weapons as the U.S.-supplied Iraqi Army retreated in the face of the extremist onslaught, leaving expensive American equipment littered on the battlefield.

All that raises the prospect that, at some point during these airstrikes, American taxpayer-financed fighter jets will fire on and destroy American taxpayer-financed weapons on the ground.

And the McClatchy Washington Bureau adds a dash of bitters:

Why can’t Islamic State be stopped? Analysts say it’s better armed, better organized

Observers on the ground and analysts in Washington believe that the latest push was possible because the peshmerga forces are stretched trying to defend a frontier with the Islamic State that is nearly 900 miles long. The Islamic State is also better equipped, with U.S.-supplied weapons that its forces have looted from every Iraqi military based it has seized. It also has recently captured major Syrian arsenals.

On Twitter, the Islamic State often posts photos of its bounty from military bases, which include rocket-propelled-grenade launchers, artillery and weapons that are far more sophisticated than those in the peshmerga arsenal.

The Islamic State also has the advantage of momentum. According to the Long Wars Journal, citing a tweet by the Islamic State, its forces have taken control of 17 communities in the area around Mosul. Its push stretches all the way to Diyala province in northeast Iraq, which borders Iran. On Thursday, the Islamic State claimed to control the Mosul Dam, the largest water supply source in Iraq _ a claim U.S. and Iraqi sources confirmed.

And perhaps most importantly, the Islamic State has very simply put together a smarter offensive plan. Its push toward Irbil is believed by many not to be a move to take that city but to force the peshmerga to defend its capital, allowing the Islamic State to harden its grip on places nearby it’s more interesting in holding.

And for our final item on the subject, no comment needed, via The Verge:

The Pentagon used a tweet to tell the world about airstrikes in Iraq

  • Tweets are the new briefings

From United Press International, gettin’ real [somewhat late]:

New York Times will now use the word ‘torture’

President Barack Obama made waves last Friday when he admitted the United States tortured terror suspects in order to get information.

The New York Times will now use the word “torture” in stories regarding interrogations in which the paper is sure pain was inflicted to get information.

The Times has faced criticism for its hesitation to use the word when speaking about the controversial interrogation techniques used by the United States and specifically the Central Intelligence Agency when trying to get information from terror suspects. They had previously used Bush administration-coined euphemisms such as “enhanced interrogation techniques.”

In an editorial published Thursday, executive editor Dean Baquet said The Times will no longer use these euphemisms and instead call it what it is.

From Aviation Week, Skynet fears continue unabated [thank heavens]:

‘Certifiable Trust’ Required To Take Autonomous Systems Past ‘Unmanned’

  • Deployment of autonomous capabilities across aerospace faces major hurdle

Aviation has been built around humans since before the origins of powered flight, but unmanned technology is opening new design spaces in unexpected ways. Now shaped by the strengths and weaknesses of pilots and controllers, how aircraft are flown and air traffic managed could change dramatically in coming decades as autonomy becomes understood, accepted and, eventually, trusted.

“Aviation has been very successful with a -humancentric paradigm, the idea that it is humans that save the day,” says Danette Allen, chief technologist for autonomy at NASA Langley Research Center. Even with the Northrop Grumman RQ-4 Global Hawk—arguably the most automated of today’s unmanned aircraft—“the human is still on or in the loop for situational awareness, just in case they have to jump in and solve problems,” she says.

But autonomy means machines making decisions, not humans, and behaving in ways that are not painstakingly pre-planned and pre-programmed. It requires safe and trusted systems than can perceive their environment for situational awareness and assessment, make decisions on uncertain and inaccurate information, act appropriately, learn from experience and adapt their behavior. “In Washington, autonomy has become the ‘A’ word. It has become a negative,” says Rose Mooney, executive of the Mid-Atlantic Aviation Partnership, one of six civil-UAS test sites established by the FAA.

“Certifiable trust”? Does that mean you have to be certifiable to trust ‘em?

For our next drone story, we turn to the Associated Press:

Central NY airport new site for drone safety tests

Federal regulators have approved drone research flights at a central New York airport, one of six sites nationally chosen to assess the safety of the aerial robots in already busy skies.

The other mission at Griffiss International Airport in Rome will be to study how drones can help farmers stay on top of pests, weeds and the conditions of their crops.

The NUAIR Alliance, a consortium of private industry, academic institutions and the military, says flights could begin in a couple of weeks after the Federal Aviation Administration approval Thursday. Future operations will include Massachusetts. The other test sites are in Alaska, North Dakota, Nevada, Texas and Virginia.

And for our final dronal delight, there’s this from Ars Technica:

San Jose Police Department says FAA can’t regulate its drone use

  • FAA disagrees, says law enforcement definitely needs permission to use a drone.

Newly published documents show that the San Jose Police Department (SJPD), which publicly acknowledged Tuesday that it should have “done a better job of communicating” its drone acquisition, does not believe that it even needs federal authorization in order to fly a drone. The Federal Aviation Administration thinks otherwise.

Late last month, a set of documents showed that the SJPD acquired a Hexacopter called the Century Neo 660, along with a GoPro video camera and live video transmitter. The nearly $7,000 January 2014 purchase was funded through a grant from the Bay Area Urban Areas Security Initiative, a regional arm of the Department of Homeland Security. San Jose, which proclaims itself the “capital of Silicon Valley,” is the third-largest city in California and the tenth-largest in the United States.

The documents, which were sent to MuckRock as part of a public records request and were published on Wednesday for the first time, make a number of statements suggesting that the SJPD has a deep misunderstanding of current drone policy.

Next up, more dirty dealing at Scotland Yard from the Independent:

Secret internal police report points to ‘highly corrupt’ cells in the Met

Three former Scotland Yard detectives were part of “highly corrupt cells within the Metropolitan Police Service” but have never been brought to justice, according to a secret internal report seen by The Independent.

The police officers, who left the Met to open a private investigation agency, were suspected of seizing tens of thousands of ecstasy tablets from criminals and selling the drugs themselves, according to a file produced by the force’s anti-corruption command.

The 2000 report said the officers also had links to London’s criminal underworld and were capable of tracking down and threatening witnesses involved in sensitive trials.

On to the world of hackery, starting with the latest biggie, first from ProPublica:

Leaked Docs Show Spyware Used to Snoop on U.S. Computers

  • Software created by the controversial U.K. based Gamma Group International was used to spy on computers that appear to be located in the United States.

Software created by the controversial U.K. based Gamma Group International was used to spy on computers that appear to be located in the United States, the U.K., Germany, Russia, Iran and Bahrain, according to a leaked trove of documents analyzed by ProPublica.

It’s not clear whether the surveillance was conducted by governments or private entities. Customer email addresses in the collection appeared to belong to a German surveillance company, an independent consultant in Dubai, the Bosnian and Hungarian Intelligence services, a Dutch law enforcement officer and the Qatari government.

The leaked files — which were posted online by hackers — are the latest in a series of revelations about how state actors including repressive regimes have used Gamma’s software to spy on dissidents, journalists and activist groups.

And The Intercept covers one country amongst the targets:

Leaked Files: German Spy Company Helped Bahrain Hack Arab Spring Protesters

A notorious surveillance technology company that helps governments around the world spy on their citizens sold software to Bahrain during that country’s brutal response to the Arab Spring movement, according to leaked internal documents posted this week on the internet.

The documents show that FinFisher, a German surveillance company, helped Bahrain install spyware on 77 computers, including those belonging to human rights lawyers and a now-jailed opposition leader, between 2010 and 2012—a period that includes Bahrain’s crackdown on pro-democracy protesters. FinFisher’s software gives remote spies total access to compromised computers. Some of the computers that were spied on appear to have been located in the United States and United Kingdom, according to a report from Bahrain Watch.

Earlier this week, an anonymous hacker released 40 gigabytes of what appears to be internal data from FinFisher on Twitter and Reddit, including messages between people who appear to be Bahraini government officials and FinFisher customer service representatives.

In those messages, Bahraini software administrators complained to FinFisher that they were “losing targets daily” due to faults in its software. In one message employing the language of a frustrated consumer, a spy appeared to complain that he or she had to keep re-infecting a targeted computer, risking detection: “[W]e cant stay bugging and infecting the target every time since it is very sensitive. and we don’t want the target to reach to know that someone is infecting his PC or spying on him” one message reads.

For our next hackery item, RT America covers a major conference and some revelations aired during sessions:

Black Hat hackers conference exposing flaws in everyday electronics

Program notes:

The “Internet of Things” is a hot topic at this year’s Black Hat cybesrsecurity conference in Las Vegas. With more household, security and even medical devices being connected to the internet, the threats posed by hackers and nefarious governments are growing. Web connected insulin pumps, home thermostats and other technologies are easily hacked and have had numerous security flaws exposed, potentially putting lives at risk, warn experts. Erin Ade, host of RT’s Boom Bust, is at the conference and has more.

Al Jazeera America has another overview:

Hackers sound alarm about Internet of Things

  • By reframing cybersecurity as a public safety issue, white-hat hackers may be making inroads in Washington

A hacker with a smartphone can unlock your front door. Your refrigerator becomes infected with a virus that launches cyber attacks against activists in Bahrain. Criminals and intelligence agencies grab data from your home thermostat to plan robberies or track your movements.

According to computer-security researchers, this is the troubling future of the Internet of Things, the term for an all-connected world where appliances like thermostats, health-tracking wristbands, smart cars and medical devices communicate with people and each other through the Internet. Many of these products are already on the market, and over the next decade, they are expected to become dramatically more commonplace.

For consumers, the Internet of Things will allow high-tech convenience that not long ago seemed like science fiction — a car’s GPS automatically turning on the air conditioner in your house as you drive home from work, for example. But security experts see a dystopian nightmare that is quickly becoming reality. A study released last week by Hewlett Packard concluded that 70 percent of Internet of Things devices contain serious vulnerabilities. Experts say it’s the latest evidence that our dependence on Internet-connected technology is outpacing our ability to secure it.

Defense One covers one session’s fruits:

Hacker Shows How to Break Into Military Communications

Soldiers on the front lines use satellite communications systems, called SATCOMS to call in back up, lead their comrades away from hot spots and coordinate attacks, among other things. Airplanes use SATCOMS to rely on data between the ground and the plane, and ships use them to avoid collisions at sea and call for help during storms or attacks. A well-known hacker says he’s found some major flaws in the communication equipment that ground troops use to coordinate movements. The equipment is also common on a variety of commercial ships and aircraft rely on to give pilots vital information. In other words, you can hack planes.

Speaking at the Black Hat cyber security conference, analyst Ruben Santamarta of IOActive presented a much-anticipated paper showing that communications devices from Harris, Hughes, Cobham, Thuraya, JRC, and Iridium are all highly vulnerable to attack. The security flaws are numerous but the most important one — the one that’s the most consistent across the systems— is back doors, special points that engineers design into the systems to allow fast access. Another common security flaw is hardcoded credentials, which allows multiple users access to a system via a single login identity.

Santamarta claims that a satellite communication system that’s common in military aviation, the Cobham Aviator 700D, could be hacked in a way that could affect devices that interact with critical systems possibly resulting in “catastrophic failure.”

MIT Technology Review covers another:

Black Hat: Google Glass Can Steal Your Passcodes

  • Footage of people unlocking their phones can be used to steal mobile passcodes even if the typing can’t be seen.

Criticism of Google Glass has often focused on the way its camera makes surreptitious video recording too easy. Now researchers have shown that footage captured by the face-mounted camera could also pose a security threat.

Software developed by the researchers can automatically recover the passcodes of people recorded on video as they type in their credentials, even when the screen itself is not visible to the camera. The attack works by watching the movement of the fingers to work out what keys they are touching. It also works on footage from camcorders, webcams, and smartphones, but Glass offers perhaps the subtlest way to stage it.

The work suggests that “shoulder surfing”—stealing passwords or other data by watching someone at a computer—could become more of a threat as digital cameras and powerful image processing software become more common.

Ars Technica covers a third:

Security expert calls home routers a clear and present danger

  • In Black Hat Q&A, In-Q-Tel CISO says home routers are “critical infrastructure.”

During his keynote and a press conference that followed here at the Black Hat information security conference, In-Q-Tel Chief Information Security Officer Dan Geer expressed concern about the growing threat of botnets powered by home and small office routers. The inexpensive Wi-Fi routers commonly used for home Internet access—which are rarely patched by their owners—are an easy target for hackers, Geer said, and could be used to construct a botnet that “could probably take down the Internet.” Asked by Ars if he considered home routers to be the equivalent of critical infrastructure as a security priority, he answered in the affirmative.

Geer spoke about the threat posed by home routers in advance of “SOHOpelessly Broken,” a router hacking contest scheduled for the DEF CON security conference later this week sponsored by the Electronic Frontier Foundation. “Because they are so cheap, you can get a low-end router for less than 20 bucks that hasn’t been updated in a while,” Geer explained.

Attackers could identify vulnerabilities in particular models and then scan the Internet for targets based on the routers’ signatures. “They can then build botnets on the exterior of the network—the routing that it does is only on side facing ISPs,” he said. “If I can build a botnet on the outside of the routers, I could probably take down the Internet.”

MIT Technology Review covers a fourth:

Black Hat: Car Security Is Likely to Worsen, Researchers Say

  • In-car applications and wireless connectivity are a boon to hackers who take aim at cars.

The electronic systems in cars increasingly control safety-critical functionality.

As more cars come with wireless connectivity and in-car apps, more of them will be vulnerable to potentially dangerous hacking, two well-known researchers warned at the Black Hat security conference in Las Vegas on Wednesday.

In a study of nearly 20 different vehicles, Charlie Miller, a security engineer with Twitter, and Chris Valasek, director of vehicle security research with security services firm ioActive, concluded that most control systems were not designed with security in mind and could be compromised remotely. The pair created cybersecurity ratings for the vehicles, which will be published in a paper later this week.

And from Wired threat level, that darned cat:

How to Use Your Cat to Hack Your Neighbor’s Wi-Fi

Late last month, a Siamese cat named Coco went wandering in his suburban Washington, DC neighborhood. He spent three hours exploring nearby backyards. He killed a mouse, whose carcass he thoughtfully brought home to his octogenarian owner, Nancy. And while he was out, Coco mapped dozens of his neighbors’ Wi-Fi networks, identifying four routers that used an old, easily-broken form of encryption and another four that were left entirely unprotected.

Unbeknownst to Coco, he’d been fitted with a collar created by Nancy’s granddaughter’s husband, security researcher Gene Bransfield. And Bransfield had built into that collar a Spark Core chip loaded with his custom-coded firmware, a Wi-Fi card, a tiny GPS module and a battery—everything necessary to map all the networks in the neighborhood that would be vulnerable to any intruder or Wi-Fi mooch with, at most, some simple crypto-cracking tools.

Reuters covers another blow to online anonymity:

Russia demands Internet users show ID to access public Wifi

Russia further tightened its control of the Internet on Friday, requiring people using public Wifi hotspots provide identification, a policy that prompted anger from bloggers and confusion among telecom operators on how it would work.

The decree, signed by Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev on July 31 but published online on Friday, also requires companies to declare who is using their web networks. The legislation caught many in the industry by surprise and companies said it was not clear how it would be enforced.

A flurry of new laws regulating Russia’s once freewheeling Internet has been condemned by President Vladimir Putin’s critics as a crackdown on dissent, after the websites of two of his prominent foes were blocked this year.

The Guardian covers the Down Under version of a familiar story:

Warrantless metadata access is already taking place at higher rate than ever

  • A multitude of agencies currently have access to metadata and in 2012-13 used those powers on 330,640 occasions

Given the current debate about metadata retention in Australia it’s worth pointing out that various organisations can access your metadata already, without a warrant – and it’s occurring at a higher rate than ever before.

In mid 2013 we wrote about how agencies from the police to the RSPCA to the Victorian Taxi Directorate are able to access “existing information or documents” from telecommunications companies without a warrant. The information can include details of phone calls (but not the contents of the call) and internet access details such as subscribers’ personal information, and dates and times of internet usage.

The most recent figures, released in December 2013, show warrantless access to metadata occurred on 330,640 occasions in the 2012-13 financial year. The agency requesting the data is required to fill out a request form, however there is no judicial oversight or requirement that law enforcers prove suspicion of a crime being committed.

And from the McClatchy Washington Bureau, idiotic obstructionism:

Judge dings FBI for response to inmate’s FOIA requests

A federal judge has slapped the FBI, or maybe just laughed at it, for making “transparently implausible” arguments while resisting a prison inmate’s Freedom of Information Act requests.

The feds, U.S. District Judge James E. Boasberg wrote, in what sounds like a state of near-incredulity, argued that the “FOIA request need not be disclosed because they reside on two CDs and a thumb drive.”

That’s right. The FBI seemed to say that information was exempt from disclosure because of the medium it was stored on.

After the jump, the latest developments in the Game of Zones, including spooky arrests, an Orwellian anecdote, an X-rated protest, and a whole lot more. . . Continue reading

Chart of the day II: GMO failures accelerate


Dramatic evidence that Monsanto’s “killer crops” — plants engineered to produce a bug-killing toxin from a bacterium [Bacillus thuringiensis, shortened to "bt" in corporate-bestowed names]  — are being checkmated by that ol’ Natural Selection comes in the form of this map [click on the image to enlarge] from Testbiotech  via GM Watch:

BLOG GMO fails

And now for a word from our sponsor. . .


From the Other 98‘s Koch-Blocked campaign:

Koch Bros: It’s the Evil Thing

Program note:

See this kick-ass video. Then join the campaign to push Koch money out and bring democracy back in.

EnviroWatch: Faith, Ebola, water, toxins, Fuku


Whilst we continue our focus on Ebola, we begin with an important dose of reality from Pacific Standard:

Faith in Scientific Progress Decreases Eco-Friendly Behavior

A new study finds affirming belief in scientific progress appears to reduce the likelihood of acting in environmentally responsible ways.

Advocates for environmental action also tend to be strong believers in science. Could this explain why they’ve had so little success in persuading people to change their behaviors?

That provocative question is raised by a newly published paper, which suggests faith in science takes some of the pressure off of us to behave responsibly.

“When media outlets paint a picture of omniscient science and unconditional and ongoing progress, one consequence may be that people become passive and less motivated to behave in environmentally friendly ways,” University of Amsterdam researchers Marijn Meijers and Bastiaan Rutjens write in the European Journal of Social Psychology.

And on to Ebola, first with an interesting headline from SINA English:

No Ebola cases spotted in China: official

The Chinese health authority has confirmed no Ebola cases have been reported in China so far.

Song Shuli, spokeswoman of China’s National Health and Family Planning Commission (NHFPC), made the remarks at a press conference held Thursday, adding a series of preventative measures have been taken to stop the virus from entering China.

Song said NHFPC has strengthened its communication with World Health Organization (WHO) to better monitor and predict the spread of the Ebola virus and has ordered border control authorities to intensify their checks of inbound travellers from related countries.

Next, concerns in the country next door via India Today:

EXCLUSIVE: Ebola virus could enter India through Delhi and Mumbai

Officials at the IGI International Airport and Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport are a worried lot these days. Immigration and Custom officials are on their toes. There are strict instructions to keep a hawk eye on all the passengers coming from Ethiopian Airways, Kenya Airways and Emirates. The fear is passengers with Ebola virus could enter India through the Indira Gandhi International Airport or the Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport.

Alert notification has been issued for airports at Delhi, Mumbai, Bangalore, Hyderabad and Kochi as well. Alert has also been sounded for various airports under Airport Authority of India. The government has also roped in Indian Medical Association to coordinate the efforts and be ready for any eventuality. This after the government learnt that 50 to 60 Indians in Liberia were in the process of returning to India.

Indian Medical Association spokesperson Dr. Rajinder Saini said, “We are coordinating with the government. The situation isn’t bad but then we have a huge population and resources could be limited.” Dr Saini added that people from African nations come to India not just for travel purpose but to get medical treatment as well and hence it was all the more important for the various airport authorities and hospitals in various metros to be careful of the situation and also be equipped to tackle the situation.

Homeland Security News Wire covers high anxiety:

Ebola outbreak could inspire African terrorist groups to weaponize the virus: Experts

Recent discussions about Ebola have mainly focused on the disease as a public health hazard, but counterterrorism officials are concerned that the new outbreak could inspire terror groups, specifically those based in West Africa, to weaponize the virus. The fear of weaponized Ebola dates back decades to when the Soviet Union’s VECTOR program, aimed at researching biotechnology and virology, was thought to have researched the creation of Ebola for warfare. In 1992 a Japanese cult group called Aum Shinrikyo tried, but failed, to collect samples of the Ebola virus in Zaire.

Recent discussions about Ebola have mainly focused on the disease as a public health hazard, but counterterrorism officials are concerned that the new outbreak could inspire terror groups, specifically those based in West Africa, to weaponize the virus. The Defense Threat Reduction Agency (DTRA) has been working with the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and biotech firm Mapp Biopharmaceutical Inc. to develop a treatment for Ebola.

While GlobalPost sounds concerns:

How the Ebola outbreak turned into a racism and responsibility debate

  • Should the experimental drugs that have been given to two Americans be sent to Liberia?

Should untested, experimental drugs to combat Ebola be made widely available? This potentially life-and-death debate is raging as the disease continues to claim lives in West Africa, where the death toll has now reached 932, according to the World Health Organization.

Two American missionaries who contracted Ebola while working in Liberia have shown a marked improvement in the past week after being given an experimental drug called ZMapp that had up until then only been tested on monkeys.

This past weekend, Kent Brantly and Nancy Writebol were flown to the United States where they are receiving medical care at Emory University Hospital in Atlanta. Samaritan’s Purse, a Christian charity they were working with, said the two “had received a dose of experimental serum while still in Liberia.”

The news has sparked an ethical debate over equality of access to medical care and racism as two white Americans were given potentially life-saving treatment denied to hundreds of Africans.

More on that concern from Techdirt:

Ebola Cure Not Fully Developed Because Big Pharma Not Interested In Saving Lives Of Poor People In Africa

  • from the back-burner dept

As you may have heard, there’s been a somewhat scary Ebola outbreak in western Africa. You may have also heard about what some are calling a “secret miracle serum” that effectively stops the impact of the virus for those who catch it. It’s an experimental drug that hasn’t undergone human clinical trials yet, but it was apparently given to a couple of Americans and appears to be working. There’s some indication that it would take a couple months to produce a larger number of doses — though, again, the lack of testing here means that people really aren’t sure if it will work (or if there are serious side effects).

That said, as one article notes, a big reason that there hasn’t been much testing on this is because treating poor people in Africa just isn’t very profitable for the drug companies:

“These outbreaks affect the poorest communities on the planet. Although they do create incredible upheaval, they are relatively rare events,” said Daniel Bausch, a medical researcher in the US who works on Ebola and other infectious diseases.

“So if you look at the interest of pharmaceutical companies, there is not huge enthusiasm to take an Ebola drug through phase one, two, and three of a trial and make an Ebola vaccine that maybe a few tens of thousands or hundreds of thousands of people will use.”

And still more from International Business Times:

US Cuts Resources For Project Involved In Ebola Battle In Sierra Leone

The U.S. government will not renew funding for a major research project into Lassa fever, a decision that will, in turn, cut resources for a facility in Sierra Leone that is at the forefront of the current battle against the Ebola virus.

The National Institutes of Health rejected a proposal from New Orleans-based Tulane University to renew the five-year contract which expires in November, according to a July 30 letter from NIH reviewed by Reuters. The expiring contract is worth $15 million.

NIH declined to comment on the decision, citing “federal government procurement integrity rules.”

While Raw Story brings us the despicable:

Conservatives rip Ann Coulter for blaming Ebola doc’s illness on ‘Christian narcissism’

Conservative gadfly Ann Coulter drew widespread condemnation for attacking a Christian missionary who contracted the Ebola virus while serving in Africa.

Coulter suggested in her column Wednesday that Dr. Kent Brantly chose to help the poor in Liberia instead of the United States because “serving the needy in some deadbeat town in Texas wouldn’t have been ‘heroic.’”

“American Christians go on ‘mission trips’ to disease-ridden cesspools [because] they’re tired of fighting the culture war in the U.S., tired of being called homophobes, racists, sexists, and bigots,” Coulter wrote. “So they slink off to Third World countries, away from American culture to do good works, forgetting that the first rule of life on a riverbank is that any good that one attempts downstream is quickly overtaken by what happens upstream.”

The Washington Post covers a poignant aspect of the crisis:

People are struggling to bury the Ebola dead.

Those treating Ebola victims are especially at risk of infection: When a Liberian-American government official named Patrick Sawyer managed to fly to Nigeria with the disease, which is spread only by direct contact with the bodily fluids of a symptomatic victim, several health workers in Lagos fell ill after treating him. Both Sawyer and one of his nurses have since died of the disease and the Nigerian government has declared a health emergency.

But there is a second group of people especially at risk for infection: those who treat and bury the bodies of the dead, which are even more contagious than living Ebola patients.

And a combination of inadequate infrastructure, logistical issues, conflicts with Western health care workers and burial traditions has contributed to widespread difficulties in containing the spread of the disease among mourners and those caring for the dead.

And on the the latest on the Gold State’s drought the latest and grim report from the United States Dought Monitor, which reveals no improvement despite the recent showers in parts of the state. Click on the image to enlarge:

BLOG Drought

One of the consequences [call it “Form pee to thee”], via the Guardian

Get used to toilet-to-tap water, Californians told

  • Drought-hit state plans $140m expansion at world’s biggest treatment facility to recycle more waste water

The golden state’s historic drought is forcing once-squeamish Californians to take a new look at “toilet-to-tap” water re-use. Or as they prefer to call it in Fountain Valley, “showers to flowers”.

The town in conservative Orange County is home to the largest water recycling plant in the world and an example during this epic drought of the life-altering changes California will have to make to avoid running out of water.

The first would be to get over the idea that water is an infinite resource, or that it pours out of the tap straight from a pristine, underground spring.

The San Francisco Chronicle keeps it dry:

Drought-busting El Niño looking less likely

Hope of an El Niño rescuing California from its devastating drought this year appears to be just about gone.

Not only have climate scientists downgraded the strength of a potential El Niño, but a report released Thursday by the U.S. Climate Prediction Center indicates that the odds of an El Niño happening at all have decreased.

El Niño is a warming of the Pacific Ocean that tends to influence worldwide weather. Strong El Niños have often been associated with wet winters in Northern California, something the state could use after three straight years of below-average rainfall.

Meanwhile, the Guardian covers another water problem:

Pollution triples mercury levels in ocean surface waters, study finds

  • Toxic metal threatens marine life as it accumulates faster in shallow layers than in deep sea due to human activity

The amount of mercury near the surface of many of the world’s oceans has tripled as the result of our polluting activities, a new study has found, with potentially damaging implications for marine life as the result of the accumulation of the toxic metal.

Mercury is accumulating in the surface layers of the seas faster than in the deep ocean, as we pour the element into the atmosphere and seas from a variety of sources, including mines, coal-fired power plants and sewage. Mercury is toxic to humans and marine life, and accumulates in our bodies over time as we are exposed to sources of it.

Since the industrial revolution, we have tripled the mercury content of shallow ocean layers, according to the letter published in the peer-review journal Nature on Thursday. Mercury can be widely dispersed across the globe when it is deposited in water and the air, the authors said, so even parts of the globe remote from industrial sources can quickly suffer elevated levels of the toxic material.

And Arctic News has a really, really alarming water problem:

Warm waters threaten to trigger huge methane eruptions from Arctic Ocean seafloor

The evidence of abrupt high methane releases in the Arctic Ocean is accumulating. The graph below shows in situ methane measurements taken at the Barrow Observatory, including recent levels as high as close to 2200 parts per billion (ppb).

Satellite data picture a similarly dire situation. Global mean methane levels as high as 1831 ppb were recorded on the morning of July 30, 2014, while peak methane levels as high as 2330 ppb were recorded that morning. More recently, peak methane levels as high as 2522 ppb were recorded (on August 2, 2014).

IPCC/NOAA figures suggest that methane levels were rising by some 5 to 6 ppb annually, reaching 1814 ppb in 2013. While methane levels at lower altitudes have indeed shown little rise, much larger rises have been recorded at higher altitudes, as illustrated by the image below.

And just how alarming? From Motherboard:

If We Release a Small Fraction of Arctic Carbon, ‘We’re Fucked’: Climatologist

This week, scientists made a disturbing discovery in the Arctic Ocean: They saw “vast methane plumes escaping from the seafloor,” as the Stockholm University put it in a release disclosing the observations. The plume of methane—a potent greenhouse gas that traps heat more powerfully than carbon dioxide, the chief driver of climate change—was unsettling to the scientists.

But it was even more unnerving to Dr. Jason Box, a widely published climatologist who had been following the expedition. As I was digging into the new development, I stumbled upon his tweet, which, coming from a scientist, was downright chilling:

Jason Box @climate_ice

If even a small fraction of Arctic sea floor carbon is released to the atmosphere, we’re f’d.

8:43 AM – 29 Jul 2014 Copenhagen, Danmark

Box, who is currently a professor of glaciology at the Geological Survey of Denmark and Greenland, has been studying the Arctic for decades. His accolade-packed Wikipedia page notes that he’s made some 20 expeditions to the Arctic since 1994, and served as the lead author on the Greenland section of NOAA’s State of the Climate report from 2008-2012. He also runs the Dark Snow project and writes about the latest findings in the field at his blog, Meltfactor.

More water problems from MintPress News:

Lake Erie Isn’t The Only One In Trouble

Climate change and an unwillingness to regulate have led to a vicious algae bloom that could spread to other Great Lakes and threaten the nation’s major drinking water supply.

The Great Lakes hold 84 percent of the nation’s fresh water and one-fifth of the world’s drinking water supply. With inland lakes from Minnesota to California being polluted with toxic algae, and with an oxygen-free zone the size of New Jersey being discovered in the Gulf of Mexico last year, the issue of industrial phosphorous runoff has grown to be an issue that can no longer be ignored or left to voluntary actions.

“We’ve worked with farmers, and we know it works,” Jordan Lubetkin, a Great Lakes spokesman for the National Wildlife Federation, told The New York Times regarding voluntary measures imposed to control oxygen-destroying runoffs. “Voluntary programs will take you so far. But at the end of the day, you need numeric standards. You’ve got to limit the amount of phosphorus coming into the lake. That’s why you see what we’re seeing in Toledo.”

From the New York Times, when opportunity knocks, run like hell:

A Texas County Sees Opportunity in Toxic Waste

Loving County is big, dry and stretches for miles, and is the perfect place, local officials say, to store high-level radioactive waste.

Officials here hope to entice the federal government — with $28 billion to spend on the disposal of high-level radioactive waste — into considering the possibility.

“With the money that this would generate for the county, we might even be able to pay the taxpayers back,” said the county judge, Skeet Jones. “We could build some roads. We could bring in some more water. We could have a town that’s incorporated, have a city council, maybe even start a school.” Loving County had a school, but it has been boarded up for years, and students are bused to neighboring Winkler County.

“Maybe even have a Walmart,” Mr. Jones mused.

And for our first Fukushimapocalypse Now! Item, this from the Japan Times:

Tepco to collect toxic groundwater at Fukushima, dump in ocean after treatment

Tokyo Electric Power Co. is planning to pump contaminated groundwater from drainage wells at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant and dump it into the ocean after removing almost all radioactive materials, company officials said Thursday.

The plan is aimed at reducing the amount of toxic water building up at the complex, a problem that has been plaguing Tepco since it started trying to clean up the stricken power plant in 2011.

An estimated 400 tons of untainted groundwater is seeping into the shattered reactor buildings and mixing with toxic water generated in the process of cooling the reactors.

While the Mainichi looks ahead:

Accident at Tokai nuke plant could force 520,000 to evacuate outside Ibaraki Pref.

A serious nuclear accident at the Tokai No. 2 Power Station in Ibaraki Prefecture could result in about 520,000 people living within 30 kilometers of the plant taking shelter in other prefectures, according to a prefectural evacuation draft.

Some 960,000 people live within the urgent protective action planning zone (UPZ) within a 30 kilometer radius of the plant in Tokai, Ibaraki Prefecture. Of these, some 520,000 would likely take shelter in five neighboring prefectures, while the remaining 440,000 would evacuate to other areas within Ibaraki Prefecture, according to the draft released on June 6 by the Ibaraki Prefectural Government.

Cities, towns and villages are expected to devise concrete evacuation plans to respond to a serious nuclear accident, but the large number of evacuees is expected to make it difficult to formulate plans securing places for them to stay while avoiding confusion.

Another fuel, another problem, via the Guardian:

Illegal coal mine encroaching on nature reserve in north-west China

  • Coalfield 14 times the size of the City of London turns alpine meadows into craters in Qinghai, Greenpeace investigation reveals

A Chinese coal company has been operating illegal open-pit mines in alpine meadows on the far-western Qinghai plateau, potentially endangering one of the country’s largest rivers, a new investigation has found.

Four opencast mines on the Muli coalfield, operated by the private corporation Kingho Group, could seriously endanger a fragile ecosystem high on China’s far north-western Qinghai-Tibetan plateau, according to an investigation by Greenpeace East Asia released on Thursday. The coalfield is 14 times larger than the City of London, Greenpeace said. Two of its mines overlap with a protected nature zone, making them illegal, and another two are preparing to expand into the zone.

“China’s natural reserve law says you shouldn’t be doing any large-scale operations within national parks,” said Li Shuo, the organisation’s climate and energy campaigner. “This is a clear violation.”

And from the Guardian, our final item, hardly a surprise:

The corporatisation of US green energy: a double-edged sword worth billions

  • As tax breaks and incentives for renewable energy increase, corporations are entering the green energy landscape

There’s a popular meme that surfaces on green energy blogs, forums, and Facebook pages. The gist is that large corporations love oil and gas because they can own and control it. They’re against renewable energy because no-one can own the sun or wind.

The problem for anti-corporate green-energy campaigners is, increasingly: the meme isn’t true.

As the materials for producing wind and solar energy become cheaper, tax breaks and incentives for renewable energy increase, and the prospect of finding more oil and gas becomes weaker, corporations are entering the green energy landscape to the tune of billions of dollars.

InSecurityWatch: Bombers, hacks, spooks, zones


Today’s InSecurityWatch opens with another crack at the ol’ Pottery Barn Rule.

First the prextext, via the Christian Science Monitor:

Islamic State persecution of Yazidi minority amounts to genocide, UN says

Tens of thousands of Yazidis have taken refuge on a mountain in Sinjar province after Islamic State fighters overran their town and other areas, pushing out Kurdish paramilitary forces.

Sunni Arab militants in northern Iraq are hunting down and killing large numbers of minority Yazidis, acts which amount to genocide, according to a senior United Nations official.

On Sunday, fighters from the self-declared Islamic State overran the city of Sinjar, part of a widening offensive that on Thursday saw IS take control of other Christian and Yzedi towns on the Nineveh plains. According to UN officials and Yazidi elders, the militants have killed hundreds of Yazidis, a secretive faith with pre-Islamic roots. Others have been taken as slaves. Tens of thousands have taken refuge on Sinjar Mountain, their traditional refuge over centuries of persecution, and are appealing for emergency aid.

Unlike Christians, who have been told they must either pay a religious tax or convert to Islam to avoid death, the Yazidis are considered by Sunni militants to be infidels who deserve extermination.

And the response, via the Los Angeles Times:

U.S. will use airstrikes to avert genocide in Iraq, Obama says

President Obama, saying that he was acting to avert a threatened genocide, announced that he had authorized airstrikes against Sunni militants who have advanced quickly across northern Iraq, driving tens of thousands of people out of their towns and villages.

In addition to the threat of airstrikes, Obama said U.S. cargo planes had dropped supplies to the refugees in the area of Mt. Sinjar, who he said faced the risk of imminent starvation.

“Today, America is coming to help,” Obama said. But he repeated his vow that no American combat troops would be sent back to Iraq.

And another country invaded, another lingering blowback, via the McClatchy Washington Bureau:

‘Green-on-blue’ killings in Afghanistan raise tough questions about U.S. strategy

In the hours after a suspected coalition-trained Afghan soldier opened fire at Afghanistan’s national defense university, killing an American two-star general and injuring more than a dozen others, a question that has plagued U.S. efforts arose again in quiet murmurs at coalition bases and camps across that country:

How are we supposed to train people who often want to kill us?

Attacks by Afghan forces on their coalition partners _ the Long Wars Journal has counted 87 since 2008 _ reached a peak in 2012. That’s when the U.S. military imposed security and education measures intended to protect coalition troops from the very people they are supposed to help. Until Tuesday’s attack, those measures were thought to have been successful; it had been six months since a uniformed Afghan had attacked American soldiers.

And from the newly issued World Drug Report [PDF] of the United Nations Office of Drug and Crime, another Afghan invasion result. Click on the chart to embiggen:

BLOG Smack

And some good news for America’s leaker-in-exile via Al Jazeera English:

Snowden gets three-year residence in Russia

  • NSA whistleblower granted asylum allowing him to move about freely and travel abroad.

Edward Snowden, the former US intelligence contractor turned whistleblower, has been granted a three-year residence permit to remain in Russia.

Snowden’s lawyer, Anatoly Kucherena, told reporters on Thursday that Snowden had been granted asylum allowing him to move about freely and travel abroad.

“The request was accepted and accordingly Edward Snowden was given a three-year residence permit,” Kucherena said.

Techdirt raises an interesting question:

As DOJ Hunts For ‘Second Leaker,’ Will It Also Explore Who Leaked The Intercept’s Story To The AP?

  • from the questions-to-ponder dept

Earlier this week, Tim Cushing wrote about The Intercept’s latest scoop, concerning the makeup of the US government’s federal terrorist watchlist, and the fact that a large chunk of it isn’t affiliated with any terrorist groups. While most of the article focused on that point, he made two other notes in passing — the first was that it was obvious that this release was from a second leaker, not Snowden, and the second was about how the government “leaked” the story in a “friendlier” manner to the AP in order to beat The Intercept. We thought both of these asides were interesting, but they’ve both turned into big stories on their own.

CNN later confirmed that US government officials are now searching for the second leaker (though “second” may not be accurate either…), more or less confirming what many people had been suspecting. Meanwhile, the “scoop spoiling” by the federal government actually resulted in a semi-apology from the National Counterterrorism Center (NCTC) who gave the scoop to the AP. The NCTC claimed it had been working with the AP on a story for a while, and after seeing what The Intercept was doing, felt it needed to give them the heads up, though it also says it could have handled the situation better. Of course, this also makes it more likely that The Intercept won’t bother giving the government much time (if any) to respond on future stories. Why risk the chance of having the government spoil the scoop again?

From the Dept. Of We Say So, via Defense One:

The CIA Can’t Hack Senate Computers Because They Own Them, Experts Say

CIA personnel probably didn’t commit a hacking crime by rummaging through congressional computers used to research the agency’s torture activities, former federal attorneys and scholars say.

Some lawmakers are calling for a criminal probe into new findings by a CIA inspector general that the agency improperly searched Senate intelligence committee files about its detention and interrogation program. Committee staff has been compiling a report condemning the program.

Under an agreement, only CIA information technology employees were allowed to access the system, says committee Chairwoman Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif. The CIA violated that agreement by removing about 920 agency items and searching through the committee’s own internal work, she maintains.

SecurityWeek covers turnabout:

Attackers Used Multiple Zero-Days to Hit Spy Agencies in Cyber-Espionage Campaign

Kaspersky Lab said that it has discovered how victims of an ongoing massive cyber espionage campaign were infected, shedding light on questions previously left unanswered in earlier research.

The campaign, called Epic Turla, targeted intelligence agencies, government institutions, embassies, military groups, education institutions, and research and pharmaceutical companies in more than 45 countries, the security firm said on Thursday.

Turla, also known as Snake or Uroburos, is considered by researchers to be one of the most sophisticated ongoing cyber-espionage campaigns. Earlier research by G-Data published in February of this year on Turla/Snake didn’t address how victims were getting infected in the first place, or the role Epic Turla/Tavdig played in the infection path.

From Wired threat level, let’s make a deal:

CIA Insider: U.S. Should Buy All Security Exploits, Then Disclose Them

To increase the security of the internet and computers, the government should corner the market on zero-day vulnerabilities and exploits, offering top-dollar to force out all other buyers. At least, that’s what Dan Geer thinks, and his opinion matters. Geer is chief information security officer at the CIA’s venture capital arm In-Q-Tel, which invests in technologies that help the intelligence community.

Geer, an icon in the world of computer security, delivered his controversial stance during a keynote at the Black Hat security conference in Las Vegas today. His talk, entitled “Cybersecurity as Realpolitik” was provocative throughout, including advocating that software companies make their unsupported products open source to keep them secure. He even quoted the Code of Hammurabi (circa 1700 B.C.) while suggesting that product liability be applied to source code. “If a builder builds a house for someone, and does not construct it properly, and the house which he built falls in and kills its owner, then the builder shall be put to death,” he said. While the death penalty may be a little severe for software makers who fail to adequately secure their products, criminal and civil liability isn’t, he suggests.

But the highlight of Geer’s talk was definitely his suggestion that the U.S. government own the zero-day market. Zero-day vulnerabilities are security holes in software that are yet unknown to software makers or to antivirus firms. They’re unpatched and unprotected, leaving them open to exploit by spy agencies, criminal hackers, and others.

From Reuters, color them embarrassed:

U.S. Homeland Security contractor reports computer breach

A company that performs background checks for the U.S. Department of Homeland Security said on Wednesday it was the victim of a cyber attack, adding in a statement that “it has all the markings of a state-sponsored attack.”

The computer breach at Falls Church, Virginia-based US Investigations Services (USIS) probably involved the theft of personal information about DHS employees, according to the Washington Post, which first reported the story.

DHS said it had suspended all work with the company amid an investigation by the FBI. A “multi-agency cyber response team is working with the company to identify the scope of the intrusion,” DHS spokesman Peter Boogaard said in a statement.

The Sacramento Bee covers another major embarrassment:

Homeland Security official arrested in sting involving sordid Sacramento Craigslist ad

A Homeland Security employee has been arrested in connection with a sting that alleges he used a Craigslist ad in an effort to get a mother and an underage daughter to have sex with him.

George Hristovski, 54, of Elverta, was booked into Sacramento County Jail on Monday after his arrest by the Federal Bureau of Investigation. His LinkedIn posting identifies him as an inspector for the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

A federal court filing requesting an arrest warrant for Hristovski said that Placer County Sheriff’s Department detectives noticed an ad on Craigslist on July 14 in the “Casual Encounters” section of the Sacramento area part of the website.

The person who placed the ad sought a mother who wanted a man to teach a daughter about sex. Detectives, posing as a mother and a 13-year-old daughter, corresponded via e-mails with the person who took out the ad.

And from the Guardian, yet another embarrassment:

‘Jedi Council’ sex ring: 171 Australian Defence Force staff disciplined

  • Ten soldiers were sacked and another 161 received censures, warnings, performance counselling or punishment

More than 170 defence personnel were sacked or disciplined over the allegations around the creation and distribution of explicit and degrading emails, including images of a woman having sex which were taken without her knowledge.

In June 2013 the chief of army, Lieutenant General David Morrison, revealed the Australian Defence Force (ADF) was investigating a large number of military personnel who had allegedly created or shared the “explicit, derogatory, demeaning and repugnant” emails. A number of ADF personnel were sacked over the incident, and several were referred to police.

The army has since terminated the service of 10 soldiers ranked from lance corporal to major – six of them in November last year – in response to the ADF investigation into the allegations, and another 161 officers and noncommissioned officers were identified as involved.

From Greek Reporter, austerity blowback:

Greek Armed Forces Protest Merging of Pensions; Prepare For Strike

Members of the Greek armed forces protested in Athens on Wednesday morning against the Greek government’s plans to merge their auxiliary pension funds with others.

According to the president of the Panhellenic Federation of Police Officers, Christos Fotopoulos, Greek police officers are considering going on strike.

“If our demands, which are absolutely reasonable, are not met, the members of Greek armed forces will take the next step” he said during the Greek police officers protest in central Athens on August 6.

And yet another embarrassment, via Bloomberg News:

TSA Checkpoints Vulnerable to Hacks Through Backdoors

The Transportation Security Administration, that guardian of airports for whom we have all shed shoes, jackets, and loose change, has a worrisome safety issue of its own, according to a cyber researcher for Qualys.

Two devices that may be used at airport and other security checkpoints have “backdoors”—usernames and passwords hard-coded into the equipment that a hacker could use to get into the machines, says Billy Rios, in findings he discussed yesterday at the Black Hat security conference in Las Vegas.

Why would a manufacturer create that kind of risk? It’s actually quite common—usually for ease of maintenance, so technicians can get in and service the machine.

From RT, another hack attack:

Smartphone hack: Malware able to steal anything infects 500,000+ devices

Banks should look for new – secure – ways of exchanging information with their clients after the emergence of malicious software which allows criminals to steal passwords and text message security codes from people’s phones, security firm Group-IB warned.

More than 541,000 smartphones running on Android in Russia, Europe and the US are already infected with malware which grants the perpetrators full access to people’s mobile devices, a report by the Moscow-based company said.

The hostile program is distributed through “massive spam on the SMS-messages,” Nikita Kislitsin, head of botnet intelligence at Group-IB, told RT.

And another one from Wired threat level:

Hacker Redirects Traffic From 19 Internet Providers to Steal Bitcoins

Among all the scams and thievery in the bitcoin economy, one recent hack sets a new bar for brazenness: Stealing an entire chunk of raw internet traffic from more than a dozen internet service providers, then shaking it down for as many bitcoins as possible.

Researchers at Dell’s SecureWorks security division say they’ve uncovered a series of incidents in which a bitcoin thief redirected a portion of online traffic from no less than 19 Internet service providers, including data from the networks of Amazon and other hosting services like DigitalOcean and OVH, with the goal of stealing cryptocurrency from a group of bitcoin users. Though each redirection lasted just 30 second or so, the thief was able to perform the attack 22 times, each time hijacking and gaining control of the processing power of a group of bitcoin miners, the users who expend processing power to add new coins to the currency’s network.

The attacker specifically targeted a collection of bitcoin mining “pools”–bitcoin-producing cooperatives in which users contribute their computers’ processing power and are rewarded with a cut of the resulting cryptocurrency the pool produces.

From TheLocal.it, really?:

‘Jail pro-anorexia web writers’: Italian MPs

A group of Italian MPs has proposed jail terms and hefty fines for people encouraging eating disorders, an idea rejected as criminalizing mental illness by one organization.

The law put forward would make it a crime to “incite practicing a diet which causes anorexia and bulimia,” Tgcom24 reported.

The multiparty proposal has been put forward by MPs including Michela Marzano, from the ruling Democratic Party (PD), Forza Italia’s Mara Carfagna and Valentina Vezzali from Civic Choice (Scelta Civica).

From TheLocal.it again, isn’t this more worthy of their zeal?:

Italy’s journalists live in fear of mafia threat

Journalists in parts of Italy are being forced to live in fear due to an increase in mafia intimidation of the press, with one journalist in Calabria telling The Local that he was recently given state protection due to “very violent threats” from the mafia.

Journalists in Calabria, the stronghold of the ‘Ndrangheta mafia clan, are most at risk, with 89 out of the every 1,000 members registered with the Order of Journalists, receiving “verbal and physical threats”, according to a study by the research group, Istituto Demoskopika.

The next most under threat are journalists in Basilicata, Sicily, the home of the Camorra, and Campania.

The Independent answers that Cui Bono?:

Google removes links to notorious criminals’ Wikipedia pages

Some of Europe’s most notorious criminals are among those to have successfully sanitised their past, after Google agreed to remove links to content on Wikipedia, it has emerged.

New information released by the Wikimedia Foundation, the organisation behind Wikipedia, today reveals that Google has deleted 50 links to information on the website. It comes in the wake of a controversial European court ruling earlier this year granting people the right to be forgotten.

One of the latest beneficiaries of the ruling is Renato Vallanzasca, a former crime boss who has committed seven murders, three kidnappings and scores of armed robberies. A link to the gang he led in Italy, Banda della Comasina, has also been removed.

And the Telegraph trumpets support:

Information Commissioner defends ‘right to be forgotten’

  • The UK’s data protection watchdog insists that the EU’s Right to be Forgotten legislation is working

The UK’s data protection watchdog has defended the EU’s Right to be Forgotten legislation, claiming that the House of Lords’ criticism of the judgment as “unworkable” is misplaced.

Last month the House of Lords EU Committee published a report claiming that the EU’s Right to be Forgotten is “unworkable and wrong”, and that it is based on out-dated principles.

“We do not believe that individuals should have a right to have links to accurate and lawfully available information about them removed, simply because they do not like what is said,” it said.

After the jump, the latest form Asia, including a texting crackdown, spy busts, and the latest escalations — including some biggies — in the Game of Zones, plus a couple of headlines indicating the End is Nigh. . . Continue reading

EnviroWatch: Ebola, toxins, Fuku, folly


Today’s compendium about the world and our troubled relationship with it opens with an Ebola digest, starting with this from the Guardian:

Barack Obama pushes for ‘global effort’ to combat spread of Ebola

  • President claims Ebola can be controlled and contained with the right resources, despite claiming 900 lives in west Africa

Barack Obama has said a global effort is required to combat the spread of Ebola which he blamed on weak and overwhelmed health systems in west Africa.

Speaking at the end of a summit of African leaders in Washington, the president said the disease – which has claimed the lives of more than 900 people in Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea – can be controlled and contained with the right resources. A single case has also been confirmed in Nigeria.

“The Ebola virus both currently and in the past is controlled if you have a strong public health infrastructure in place and countries that have been affected are first to admit that what’s happened here is their public health systems have been overwhelmed. They weren’t able to identify and then isolate cases quickly enough,” he said. “You did not have a strong trust relationship between some of the communities that were affected and health workers. As a consequence it spread more rapidly.”

From the Washington Post, deadly scapegoating:

‘God is angry with Liberia,’ local religious leaders say, blaming Ebola on ‘homosexualism’

Amid the reports emerging out of Liberia, it’s difficult to discern what is true and what isn’t. But the fear they carry is undeniable: Fear of the disease, fear of dead bodies, fear that God himself has sent down a terrible plague to blight the people of Liberia for their transgressions.

There are local reports that “armed men” are allegedly trying to poison wells “to kill in the name of Ebola.” There are reports that the government is dumping bodies by the truckload at a mass grave on the west bank of a river and nearby residents fret over water contamination. And there are Reuters reports of bodies lying in the streets of Liberia’s capital Monrovia for days.

The Ebola pandemic — which has killed 887 in West Africa including 255 in Liberia — has terrified people so much that some local leaders discern divine meaning in it. According to Front Page Africa and the Daily Observer, President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf called on Tuesday for all residents to fast for three days and pray for forgiveness.

The London Daily Mail treats the story with typical restraint:

Now Ebola victims are left to rot in the streets: Terrified relatives dump them outside for fear of catching deadly virus

  • Relatives of Ebola victims are dragging their bodies onto streets of Liberia
  • Disease-ridden bodies are left to rot in view of everyone, including children
  • In doing so, relatives hope they will avoid being quarantined by authorities
  • They view Ebola isolation wards in country as death traps, officials claim
  • Last week, Liberia announced raft of tough measures to contain the virus
  • Include imposing quarantines on victims’ homes and tracking their relatives
  • Ebola has claimed the lives of nearly 900 people across West Africa so far

From BBC News, the inevitable:

Liberia declares state of emergency over Ebola virus

Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf has declared a state of emergency as the country grapples with an outbreak of the deadly Ebola virus.

Speaking on national television she said some civil liberties might have to be suspended.

Announcing a state of emergency for 90 days, President Sirleaf said in a statement that the government and people of Liberia required “extraordinary measures for the very survival of our state and for the protection of the lives of our people”.

El País brings it on home:

Spanish priest infected with ebola to be treated in Madrid’s Carlos III hospital

  • Miguel Pajares, 75, contracted the virus while treating another patient

A priest who has been confirmed as the first Spaniard to be infected by the current outbreak of the ebola virus is soon to be brought back to Spain for treatment. Miguel Pajares, aged 75, is one of the 1,600 cases to have been confirmed since March, when the most deadly wave of the condition began. As well as Liberia, where Pajares was based, the epidemic is also affecting Sierra Leone and Nigeria, with nearly 900 deaths reported so far.

The Spanish Health Ministry announced that the government has put into place a plan to repatriate Pajares, “in accordance with the highest security protocols from the World Health Organization.” These include a medical plane staffed by specialized personnel, and strict isolation measures.

According to the Defense Ministry, the aircraft that will collect the priest has been prepared at the Torrejón airbase in Madrid. It is expected to take off at around midday on Wednesday.

From the Los Angeles Times, a call for action:

Three leading Ebola experts call for release of experimental drug

Three leading experts on the Ebola virus said Wednesday that experimental drugs should be provided to Africa, and that if the deadly virus was rampant in Western countries it would be “highly likely” that authorities would give people access to the medications.

A decision to allow two American health workers infected in Liberia to have access to an experimental treatment — while dozens of African doctors and nurses have perished — has ignited a controversy over the ethics of the decision, which reportedly side-stepped Liberian health regulations.
Rise in reported African Ebola cases

The latest figures, through Aug. 4, show that 1,711 people in West Africa have been diagnosed with the disease and 932 have died, the World Health Organization announced.

Bloomberg evaluates:

Ebola Drug Panel Set by WHO to Weigh Unproven Drugs Use

The World Health Organization will convene a panel of medical ethicists next week to explore the use of experimental treatments for Ebola amid the worst outbreak of the disease on record.

An experimental antibody cocktail developed by Mapp Biopharmaceutical Inc. was used to treat two infected American health workers whose conditions have improved. The WHO’s announcement came after Nigeria’s health ministry said it has written to the director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to request access to the drug.

Use of the drug, called ZMapp, is raising questions about whether a medicine that hasn’t been shown as safe in humans should be distributed more widely during the outbreak and, given the limited amount of medicine available, who should get it, the WHO said in a statement.

The Los Angeles Times gives the go-ahead:

FDA approves Ebola virus test; vaccine will probably take until 2015

The FDA has authorized use of an unapproved Ebola virus test under a special emergency-use provision, although efforts to develop a vaccine for the deadly illness are unlikely to bear fruit until 2015, officials say.

The test-tube diagnostic test was developed by the U.S. military and is used to detect the Zaire strain of Ebola, which has infected at least 1,711 and killed 932 in West Africa.

“The test is designed for use in individuals, including Department of Defense personnel and responders, who may be at risk of infection as a result of the outbreak,” FDA spokeswoman Stephanie Yao said in a statement.

And Al Jazeera America adds more context:

Costs have delayed Ebola vaccine for years

  • Promising treatments have never been tested on humans because of expense, not lack of potential

Since March, the Ebola virus has killed at least 932 people in West Africa, the deadliest ever outbreak of the disease, and as the lethal hemorrhagic fever continues its spread, governments are taking drastic measures — from quarantining villages to closing schools — to stem the epidemic.

But perhaps there could have been another option to fight the virus. More than four years ago, a team of U.S. government scientists developed vaccine candidates that shielded monkeys from multiple strains of Ebola. Those vaccines, however, were never tested in human clinical trials — and not because the science wasn’t promising. One small trial on the monkeys, for example, had a 100 percent success rate of protecting the animals from the disease.

The factor preventing such trials in humans, though, has been cost, said Dr. Daniel Bausch, an associate professor of tropical medicine at the Tulane University School of Public Health who is currently stationed at the U.S. Naval Medical Research Unit 6 in Lima, Peru.

MIT Technology Review takes a step back:

Challenges Remain for Technologies to Fight Ebola

  • Efforts to contain Ebola in West Africa suffer from a lack of effective tools to treat and prevent the disease, although several are in development.

Technologies that might prevent the spread of Ebola beyond West Africa are under development, and work could accelerate if the outbreak continues to worsen. But even if a vaccine were available today, deploying it could prove surprisingly difficult.

As of last week, the Ebola outbreak had claimed the lives of 88 percent of the more than 1,000 people who had contracted the virus. The virus causes fever, headache, sore throat, and other symptoms, followed by vomiting and diarrhea. It can lead to internal and external bleeding, and often death.

Ebola has affected relatively small populations in Africa since it was discovered in the 1970s. There has therefore been little incentive for companies to invest in developing treatments or vaccines, experts say. One treatment that has shown promise in animals but has not yet been tested in humans is called ZMapp—a combination of three monoclonal antibodies manufactured in tobacco plants by Mapp Biopharmaceuticals in San Diego. These antibodies are designed to mimic the antibodies the human body naturally produces as part of an immune response that’s typically disabled by the Ebola virus. The monoclonal antibodies attach to a part of the Ebola virus and trigger an immune response that neutralizes any virus particles floating around in the body to keep them from doing additional damage.

Urgent measures from the Associated Press:

Nigeria rushes to get isolation tents for Ebola

Nigerian authorities rushed to obtain isolation tents Wednesday in anticipation of more Ebola infections as they disclosed five more cases of the virus and a death in Africa’s most populous nation, where officials were racing to keep the gruesome disease confined to a small group of patients.

The five new Nigerian cases were all in Lagos, a megacity of 21 million people in a country already beset with poor health care infrastructure and widespread corruption, and all five were reported to have had direct contact with one infected man.

Meanwhile, the World Health Organization began a meeting to decide whether the crisis, the worst recorded outbreak of its kind, amounts to an international public health emergency. At least 932 deaths in four countries have been blamed on the illness, with 1,711 reported cases.

People’s Daily reassures, sort of:

Health staff at games on lookout for Ebola virus

Citing feasible plans and disease control precautions, the Jiangsu provincial epidemic prevention agency is urging the public not to worry about the Ebola virus during the Nanjing Youth Olympic Games.

With 10 days before the Youth Olympics kick off in Nanjing, the number of international visitors has been surging, raising public concern that the crowds – particularly with people from Ebola-hit West Africa – could cause the virus to spread.

“The public doesn’t need to panic as we are sufficiently prepared against the virus, which now remains contained in limited areas of the world,” Tang Fenyang, director of the center’s acute-disease institute, told China Daily on Tuesday.

The New York Times has another Golden State drought story:

Dry California Fights Illegal Use of Water for Cannabis

Amid the state’s crippling drought, many communities are fighting not the mere cultivation of cannabis — which is legal in the state, though subject to myriad restrictions — but the growers’ use of water. Marijuana is a thirsty plant, and cultivating it at a time when California residents are subject to water restrictions has become a sticky issue.

When a statewide drought emergency was declared in January, “the first thing we wanted to address was water theft and marijuana,” said Carre Brown, a supervisor in Mendocino County, a major cannabis hub west of Lake County.

By mid-July, the sheriff there, Thomas D. Allman, had already caught growers siphoning water from springs because wells had run dry too early in the season. “I have told my marijuana team, ‘I want you to fly the rivers, fly the tributaries; let’s prioritize the water diversion,’ “ Sheriff Allman said.

Grist has another:

Don’t worry, Californians can paint their dead lawns green

When California regulators approved $500-a-day fines for overwatering lawns, suburbanites across the state gasped, “However will I keep my neighbors in check without a superior lawn to lord over them??”

Now, a solution: Slap on a fresh coat of green paint. The specially formulated (and supposedly nontoxic) grass dye lasts three to six months. It’s catching on. “Companies that promise to paint lawns are cropping up all over California,” National Journal reports. “The service lets homeowners cut back on water use without sacrificing curb appeal.”

The resulting “glittering shade of emerald green” might be even flashier than the real deal. “People think it sounds ridiculous when they first hear about it,” Jim Power, operations manager for LawnLift, told National Journal. “But then they try it, and they’re instantly hooked.”

From Truthout, about damn time:

Feds to Phase Out GMO Farms and Neonicotinoid Pesticides at Wildlife Refuges

After facing a series of legal challenges from environmental groups, the United States Fish and Wildlife Service will phase out the use of genetically modified (GMO) crops and controversial neonicotinoid pesticides at farming projects on national wildlife refuges.

National Wildlife Refuge System chief James Kurth has directed the agency to stop using GMO crops and neonicontinoids on refuge farms by January 2016, according to a July 17 memo obtained by activists last week. The Fish and Wildlife Service is the first federal agency to restrict the use of GMOs and neonicotinoids in farming practices.

Neonicitinoids are a class of insecticides related to nicotine that act as nerve agents and are typically sprayed on crop seeds to kill insects. Scientists suspect that some neonicitinoids are responsible for declining populations of pollinating insects, and researchers in the Netherlands recently linked neonicotinoids to deaths among farmland birds.

And an environmental setback Down Under, via the Guardian:

Repeal of Queensland’s Wild Rivers Act is a ‘tragedy’, Wilderness Society says

  • Queensland government argues repeal was necessary after federal court decision and new protections would be brought in

The Wilderness Society says the passage of Queensland government legislation to repeal the state’s Wild Rivers Act is a tragedy for some of the last free-flowing rivers on the planet.

But the Newman government says it reflects a federal court decision earlier this year, and a new framework will ensure river systems are protected.

The Queensland environment minister, Andrew Powell, has told parliament that all former sites protected under the act would now be declared “strategic environmental areas”.

CBC News covers and environmental disaster closer to home:

Mount Polley mine tailings pond breach: Local state of emergency declared

  • Imperial Metals president says crews were working all night to stabilize debris and close the dam

A local state of emergency has been declared in an area where a B.C. tailings pond wall collapsed, sending millions of cubic metres of mine waste water and metals-laden sand into local waterways.

The Cariboo Regional District (CRD) made the declaration roughly 48 hours after the Mount Polley mine’s tailings pond wall gave way.

The breach sent 10 million cubic metres of water and 4.5 million cubic metres of metals-laden sand out into local waterways, scouring away the banks of Hazeltine Creek and sending debris flowing into Quesnel Lake and Polley Lake, which rose 1.5 metres.

On to Japan and a Fukushimapocalypse Now! admission from the Japan Times:

Fukushima reactor 3 meltdown was worse than estimated: Tepco

Tokyo Electric Power Co. said Wednesday that its new estimate shows that all the fuel rods in reactor 3 at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant apparently melted down and fell onto the bottom of the containment vessel.

In November 2011, the company had said it believed only about 63 percent of reactor 3’s fuel core had melted.

The utility updated its estimate as part of an effort to probe unclear points about the triple meltdown at the Fukushima No. 1 plant caused by a megaquake and monstrous tsunami in March 2011.

The revised estimate is based on the finding that an emergency cooling system, known as HPCI, of reactor 3 stopped working six hour earlier than previously thought, and that the meltdown had also started more than five hours earlier.

A major Oops! from NHK WORLD:

Tsunami projections for nuclear plant to be redone

The operator of a nuclear power plant in central Japan has been found to have miscalculated the simulated maximum height of a tsunami that could hit the complex.

The Nuclear Regulation Authority once approved tsunami projections submitted by Kansai Electric Power Company for the now-offline Takahama plant in Fukui Prefecture.

The estimates include tsunami heights and tremor intensity associated with earthquakes of the largest conceivable magnitude in the area.

From The Hill, another fuel, another problem:

Ethanol explosive for Cruz, Paul

Sens. Ted Cruz (Texas) and Rand Paul (Ky.) are trying to avoid an ethanol landmine in Iowa.

Both Republican senators have criticized federal subsidies for ethanol, which are popular in Iowa, the state hosting the first Republican contest in the 2016 race for the White House.

Iowa kingmakers in the party such as Sen. Chuck Grassley want the Republican presidential nominee in 2016 to champion ethanol. That’s a problem for Cruz and to a lesser extent for Paul, who are both crisscrossing the state this week in advance of possible campaigns for the presidency.

Cruz has introduced legislation that would repeal the renewable fuel standard over the next five years. The standard mandates that gasoline contain 10 percent ethanol by volume.

And for our final item, from Grist, yet another fracktacular impact:

Frackers are strip-mining the Midwest for sand

There’s a new gold rush: sand. The golden-brown stuff has become the latest, hottest commodity on the market — actually, that’s inaccurate. It’s Northern White sand that’s all the rage now, according to The Wall Street Journal, because it can withstand intense heat and pressure underground. Why is that important? Because what’s driving the white sand demand is fracking.

The process of hydraulic fracturing for natural gas involves blasting a mixture of sand, water and chemicals into the underground shale rock. It can take millions of gallons of water for a fracking operation (which can result in poisoned groundwater). But dig the numbers on sand: It can take 4 million pounds of sand to frack a single well, according to WSJ’s Alison Sider.

Which is why sand prices and stock values are going up and mining activities for sand are expanding, notably in Wisconsin and Minnesota.

InSecurityWatch: Hacks, hackery, spooks, zones


And so much more.

We begin today’s collection of tales from the world of spooks, corporate voyeurs, militarism, and the constantly escalating Asian Games of Zones on as rare upbeat note, the story of a woman whose unrelenting struggle for truth in a dark war by secret police has led to a major, tearful victory.

From BBC News:

Argentina Plaza de Mayo activist finds ‘stolen grandson’

Estela de Carlotto promised to carry on searching for other “stolen children”

An Argentine activist who searches for people who were snatched as babies by the 1970s military junta has found her own grandson.

Estela de Carlotto said finding her grandson, a victim of the practice, was “reparation” for her and for Argentina. She said he had come forward for DNA testing because he had doubts about his own identity.

The junta snatched hundreds of babies from their opponents and gave them to sympathisers to bring up.

And an interview with de Carlotto via Journeyman Pictures:

Estela Carlotto On Searching For Abducted Grandson

Program notes:

Missing Generation: Today Estela Carlotto, the leader of Argentina’s famous Grandmothers of the Plaza de Mayo, finally meets her grandson. Filmed over a decade ago in the powerful documentary ‘Missing Generation’, Estela expressed her hope that one day she would embrace her kidnapped grandson.

It has been 36 years since Estela Carlotto’s pregnant daughter was abducted and murdered by the Argentine military dictatorship.

These clips show the incredible resolve fuelling Estela’s search for the disappeared before she found her grandson. “I don’t want to die without having had him in my arms”, she says. “I believe this is a dream that will never abandon me. I’m faithful, I do have hope.”

‘Missing Generation’ tells the haunting tale of families torn apart by Argentina’s brutal military dictatorship. During the reign of the junta, thousands of men, women and children simply disappeared. Parents lost their children; orphans were forced into unknown and uncaring families. Estela is head of the Grandmothers of the Plaza de Mayo, an internationally renowned charity that tries to find missing children. Since 1979, her unending work has found just 23. She too, suffers the absence of her murdered daughter and missing grandson, but also of her husband. Her work is motivated by the desire not to die, like her husband, never having known her grandson “He is here. In every corner. But physically I have lost him”, she chokes. “What keeps me going is an affection that transcends death”.

The full documentary is available here.

And now back to the SOS [in both sense of that acronym, first from the McClatchy Washington Bureau:

Senate Intelligence Committee members protest administration deletions to CIA torture report

Senate Intelligence Committee members protested Tuesday over the Obama administration’s censorship of a report on the CIA’s use of “brutal” interrogation methods, charging that the deletions hid key facts and blacked out information that was made public years ago.

The senators raised their objections to the redactions in emailed statements sent within minutes of each other, indicating a coordinated effort to drive home their anger and further highlighted the serious frictions between the Democratic administration and Democrat-run panel that oversees the 17 U.S. intelligence agencies.

Relations between the committee and the CIA also have soured over the agency’s admission last week that it had broken into a computer database that by agreement was supposed to have been accessed only by the panel staffers who compiled the report.

From the Guardian, California’s plutocratic senator’s outrage affirmed as the ornamental variety:

Shrewd Feinstein shows restraint in bid to reverse CIA torture report redactions

  • Chair of the Senate intelligence committee has yet to demand John Brennan’s resignation – and it could help her cause

As the Senate intelligence committee continues its battle to declassify evidence of CIA torture, two members of the panel have called for Director John Brennan’s head. Not among them is the committee chairwoman, and her restraint is striking observers as a shrewd strategic move.

Senator Dianne Feinstein, a California Democrat typically inclined to defend the intelligence agencies she oversees, has drawn a line short of demanding Brennan resign in the wake of a CIA inspector general report released last week that found five agency officials breached a network firewall and accessed emails of committee staffers investigating torture. Whatever her intent – Feinstein’s office would not field questions on the subject – her restraint has benefits for her effort over the coming weeks to roll back CIA redactions to her committee’s forthcoming report.

As much as the agency has no choice but to do business with its lead Senate overseer, “by withholding that demand, I think she has kept open the possibility of negotiating the further disclosures,” said Steven Aftergood, a longtime intelligence observer at the Federation of American Scientists.

From Techdirt, that good ol’ ever-profitable revolving door/cash cow spins out another tanker-load of cream:

Ex-NSA Boss Defends Patenting His Totally Brand New, Not Developed On Gov’t Time, Patent-Pending Cybersecurity Brilliance

  • from the yeah-that’s-believable dept

We recently wrote about Keith Alexander claiming that he’s worth as much as $1 million a month (actually, the number is now being lowered to $600k) because he’s magically come up with a totally brand new anti-hacking concept that will have many patents. As we noted, this story raised all sorts of questions. First, if he had such a brilliant idea to stop hackers, why didn’t he use it back when he was in charge of the NSA and the US Cyber Command? His answer to that was that he magically came up with it after he left office in March. Of course, if that’s the case, it’s difficult to see how it can be worth many hundreds of thousands of dollars per month because it’s a totally untested and totally brand new idea. He can’t both be claiming that his years of NSA experience make it worthwhile and that this idea has nothing to do with his work at the NSA — but he seems to be doing exactly that.

Either way, he’s given an interview to the Associated Press in which he tries (and fails) to defend himself concerning the new operation, IronNet Cybersecurity:

“If I retired from the Army as a brain surgeon, wouldn’t it be OK for me to go into private practice and make money doing brain surgery?” he asked. “I’m a cyber guy. Can’t I go to work and do cyber stuff?”

The “brain surgery” analogy is not even close to be analogous. This is more like he was the administrator of an army hospital who has now retired and says, despite never having personally done a brain surgery, he’s now invented a miraculous new way to do brain surgeries so powerful people have only dreamed of them before. Naturally, most people should be skeptical of such claims.

From BuzzFeed, Orwellian rhetoric a Tea Partyer might endorse:

Government Declares Undocumented Immigrant Child, Mother A “National Security Threat”

  • Homeland Security attorneys are using a Bush-era Department of Justice ruling in opposing bond requests by undocumented immigrants at a New Mexico facility.

The Obama administration is using a Bush-era decision by former Attorney General John Ashcroft to classify the flood of undocumented immigrants that have hit the southern border as a “national security threat” in an effort to deny them bond during immigration status hearings.

Immigration attorneys said the argument, based on a 2003 decision by Ashcroft, has been employed against undocumented immigrant mothers with children being held at the Artesia, New Mexico, detention facility.

The nation’s immigration courts are overseen by the Department of Justice, and the attorney general has the authority to rule on any appeal of a case before it can be taken to the judicial system for review.

More Orwelliianism from the Center for Public Integrity:

Nuclear weapons lab employee fired after publishing scathing critique of the arms race

  • Los Alamos lets a 17-year employee go after retroactively classifying his published article

James E. Doyle’s ordeal with Washington began one morning in early February last year, when his supervisor stopped by his desk at Los Alamos National Laboratory and told him that senior managers wanted copies of all his publications.

The 55-year-old political scientist asked the reason for the request, and he eventually was told that someone at the House Armed Services Committee wanted to see the publications. But Doyle said officials refused to tell him who it was or why.

Later that day at the lab’s New Mexico campus, he said, two members of a Security Inquiries Team abruptly arrived with a special, silver-colored briefcase for secure documents, and pulled out an article he published a few days earlier on the website of a London nonprofit group.

They claimed that the article, an impassioned critique of the political theories undergirding the nuclear arms race and a defense of President Obama’s embrace of a nuclear weapons-free future, contained classified information.

From the San Francisco Chronicle, their deepest regrets:

San Jose police: We regret secrecy about drone

San Jose police officials said Tuesday that they “should have done a better job of communicating” with the public about the department’s recent purchase of a drone that hasn’t yet taken to the skies.

Officials released a statement a week after they came under fire from civil rights activists for not informing the public of the device either before or after its purchase in January.

On Tuesday, the department said it will create a community outreach plan before deploying the unmanned aircraft system.

San Jose police bought the drone for just under $7,000 in federal grant money to help the bomb squad assess threats and inspect explosives, officials said.

And from Jacobin, an all-too-familiar story:

Another Professor Punished for Anti-Israel Views

  • Pro-Israel forces have consistently been on the wrong side of the academic freedom debate.

Until two weeks ago, Steven Salaita was heading to a job at the University of Illinois as a professor of American Indian Studies. He had already resigned from his position at Virginia Tech; everything seemed sewn up. Now the chancellor of the University of Illinois has overturned Salaita’s appointment and rescinded the offer. Because of Israel.

The sources familiar with the university’s decision say that concern grew over the tone of his comments on Twitter about Israel’s policies in Gaza….

For instance, there is this tweet: “At this point, if Netanyahu appeared on TV with a necklace made from the teeth of Palestinian children, would anybody be surprised? #Gaza.” Or this one: “By eagerly conflating Jewishness and Israel, Zionists are partly responsible when people say antisemitic shit in response to Israeli terror.” Or this one: “Zionists, take responsibility: if your dream of an ethnocratic Israel is worth the murder of children, just fucking own it already.”

From BBC News the governmental-corporate panopticon strikes again:

Microsoft tip leads to child porn arrest in Pennsylvania

A tip-off from Microsoft has led to the arrest of a man in Pennsylvania who has been charged with receiving and sharing child abuse images.

It flagged the matter after discovering that an image involving a young girl had been allegedly saved to the man’s OneDrive cloud storage account.

According to court documents, the man was subsequently detected trying to send two illegal pictures via one of Microsoft’s live.com email accounts.

From SecurityWeek, the panopticon Down Under:

Australia PM Says New Terror Laws Will Not Invade Privacy

Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott on Wednesday defended tough new terror laws under which digital data will be retained for up to two years, denying it is an invasion of privacy.

The government plans to overhaul laws to make it easier to arrest and prosecute terrorists and make it an offense to travel to designated hotspots overseas without a valid reason.

It has also substantially increased resources to security and intelligence agencies and wants telecommunications companies to retain metadata for up to two years.

“They’re not invading privacy,” Abbott told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation of the proposed laws which were announced Tuesday.

Ditto from Deutschland, via Deutsche Welle:

German agencies pinpoint cell phone users via SMS

German police and intelligence agencies are increasingly using “silent” SMS messages to localize cell phones, unbeknownst to their users. Details have emerged in a government answer to a parliamentary question.

Four of Germany’s agencies sent more than 150,000 “silent” short-service-messages (SMS) to trace mobile phone users in the first half of this year, according to a disclosure published on Wednesday by the German federal government.

It was replying to a formal question lodged by the opposition leftist parliamentary group in Germany’s Bundestag federal parliament in Berlin at a time when government officials are increasingly focused on their own anti-spying protection.

So-called “silent” or empty SMSs are not displayed on cell phones, but, when sent en masse to a single device, an agency can pinpoint the location of the user and observe his or her geographical movements within the mobile phone network.

From TheLocal.fr, brownshirts go to camp:

Commando camps sound alarm bells in France

The emergence of a video posted on the website of a notorious French far-right activist, showing commando training camps in a forest near Paris has caused a fair bit of concern among France’s Socialist Party.

French newspaper Le Canard Enchainé revealed on Wednesday that the Socialist Party is deeply worried over commando training camps, videos of which appeared on the website of far-right polemicist Alain Soral.

According to the site the courses are aimed at helping participants become a “responsible citizen” but rather than being like a scouts training camp, a video posted on Soral’s website “Egalité et Réconciliation”(equality and reconciliation) shows “students” engage in combat, using knives and firearms.

From PCWorld, digital Alzheimer’s?:

Wikimedia: Right to be forgotten results in ‘Internet riddled with memory holes’

Google has removed over 50 links to Wikipedia from its search results on European domains as a consequence of the EU’s “right to be forgotten” ruling which, according to Wikimedia, “punches holes in free knowledge.”

The foundation behind Wikipedia last week started receiving notices that certain links to Wikipedia content would no longer appear in search results served to people in Europe, Wikimedia’s general counsel Geoff Brigham and legal counsel Michelle Paulson wrote in a blog post Wednesday.

The links to Wikipedia were removed as a direct result of a May ruling by the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU). The decision gave EU citizens the right to compel search engines to remove results for queries that include a person’s name, if the results are “inadequate, irrelevant or no longer relevant, or excessive.”

After the jump, the Asian Game of Zones amps us across a wide front, from missiles to media gambits and hardening divisions, plus yet another proof that our minds are more susceptible to subtle suasion than we might like to admit. . . Continue reading