Category Archives: Corpocracy

InSecurityWatch: Terror, cops, hacks, zones


From the world of spies, lies, military posturing, hacks, corporate voyeurism, and the ever diminishing realm of the truly personal, we open with a headline from Homeland Security News Wire:

Most of 2013 terrorist attacks took place in only a few countries

The majority of terrorist attacks occurring in 2013 remained isolated in just a few countries, according to the Global Terrorism Database (GTD), which is generated by the National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism (START). In 2013, 11,952 terrorist attacks resulted in 22,178 fatalities (including perpetrator deaths) and 37,529 injuries across 91 countries. More than half of all attacks (54 percent), fatalities (61 percent), and injuries (69 percent) occurred in just three countries: Iraq, Pakistan, and Afghanistan.

The majority of terrorist attacks occurring in 2013 remained isolated in just a few countries, according to the Global Terrorism Database (GTD), which is generated by the National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism (START) based at the University of Maryland. With the addition of nearly 12,000 terrorist attacks in 2013, the database now includes more than 125,000 events dating back to 1970 and, according to START, it remains the most comprehensive unclassified database of terrorist attacks around the world.

From the McClatchy Washington Bureau, business as usual:

In Senate-CIA fight on interrogation report, another controversy

The background of a key negotiator in the battle over a Senate report on the CIA’s use of interrogation techniques widely denounced as torture has sparked concerns about the Obama administration’s objectivity in handling the study’s public release.

Robert Litt, the general counsel for the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, is a former defense lawyer who represented several CIA officials in matters relating to the agency’s detention and interrogation program. Now he’s in a key position to determine what parts of the Senate Intelligence Committee’s 6,300-page report will be made public.

Litt’s involvement doesn’t appear to be an ethics issue, at least by the legal definition. But experts say that while it may be acceptable on paper, his involvement in the review should have been a red flag.

From the London Daily Mail, a story Lenny Bruce would’ve loved:

Former HHS cyber security chief convicted in CHILD PORN case after using screen names ‘F***Christ’ and ‘PT***eater’ on underground website

  • Timothy DeFoggi was found guilty Tuesday on all seven child-porn criminal charges he faced in federal court
  • Justice Dept says he ‘accessed’ and ‘solicited child pornography … [and] expressed an interest in the violent rape and murder of children’
  • DeFoggi ‘even suggested meeting one member in person,’ according to the DOJ, ‘to fulfill their mutual fantasies to violently rape and murder children’
  • The former cyber security pro was listed near the top of the HHS organization chart in a document describing budget requests for 2014
  • His screen names ‘F***Christ’ and ‘PT***eater’ were mentioned repeatedly in court and are part of the public record

Ars Technica takes the techgeek approach:

Cybersecurity official uses Tor but still gets caught with child porn

  • Timothy DeFoggi wrongly thought he was covering his tracks.

The former acting cybersecurity director for the US Department of Health and Human Services, Tim DeFoggi, was convicted yesterday on three child porn charges.

As reported by Wired, DeFoggi is the sixth suspect to be caught by the FBI’s Operation Torpedo, which used controversial methods of defeating the Tor anonymizing software in order to find child porn suspects.

One site frequented by DeFoggi was PedoBook, hosted by Aaron McGrath—a Nebraska man who was convicted earlier for his role in the operations. The websites were only accessible to users who installed Tor on their browsers. DeFoggi used names such as “fuckchrist” and “PTasseater” to register on the sites, where he could view more than 100 videos and more than 17,000 child porn images.

From Bloomberg News, they’ve got you covered:

Homeland Security Arms Local Cops With Super Spy Bug

Humvees and body armor, so jarring to see deployed in Ferguson, Mo., aren’t the only concern when it comes to the militarization of U.S. police forces.

The Tacoma News Tribune reported that police in Tacoma, Wash., bought—and quietly used for six years—surveillance equipment that can sweep up records of every mobile telephone call, text message, and data transfer up to a half-mile from the device.

Known as a Stingray and manufactured by Harris (HRS), a Pentagon contractor based in Melbourne, Fla., the device is small enough to be carried in a car. It tricks a mobile phone into thinking it’s a cell tower, drawing information, the paper said. Federal grants, including one from the Department of Homeland Security, were used to buy the equipment, according to public records the newspaper obtained.

Fusion raises an interesting question:

Fusion Investigates: How did America’s police departments lose loads of military-issued weapons?

Fusion has learned that 184 state and local police departments have been suspended from the Pentagon’s “1033 program” for missing weapons or failure to comply with other guidelines. We uncovered a pattern of missing M14 and M16 assault rifles across the country, as well as instances of missing .45-caliber pistols, shotguns and 2 cases of missing Humvee vehicles.

“[The program] is obviously very sloppy, and it’s another reason that Congress needs to revisit this promptly,” said Tim Lynch, director of the CATO Institute’s project on criminal justice. “We don’t know where these weapons are going, whether they are really lost, or whether there is corruption involved.”

More troubling yet is the possibility that some of the missing weapons, which were given to local police departments as part of a decades’ old government program to equip cops for the wars on terrorism and drugs, are actually being sold on the black market, Lynch said.

H/T to Cryptogon.

From the Latin American Herald Tribune, theatrical posturing:

Texas National Guard Deploys on Mexican Border

The first units of the National Guard contingent Texas Gov. Rick Perry is deploying to the Mexican border amid a surge in the arrivals of unaccompanied minors from Central America are in position, authorities said Tuesday.

“The Texas National Guard currently has troops all along the border between Texas and Mexico in support of Operation Strong Safety,” Lt. Col. Joanne MacGregor, public affairs officer at Texas Military Forces, told Efe.

Most of the roughly 63,000 unaccompanied minors from Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador who have arrived in the United States since last October entered the country via the 2,000-kilometer (1,200-mile) boundary between Texas and Mexico.

From the Associated Press, Sisyphus on the Mississippi:

In wake of Ferguson, police try to build trust

In the aftermath of the police shooting in Ferguson, Missouri, some police departments are renewing efforts to reach out to black communities to build trust — holding public meetings, fielding questions and letting people voice the anger they feel toward officers who patrol their neighborhoods.

Dallas Police Chief David Brown considers it a preventative step.

“I’d much rather they shout at me at a town hall meeting at a church and get to know me afterward than not have a relationship,” Brown said. After a police shooting has already happened, “it’s too late to try to establish relationships.”

From the Los Angeles Times, a Ferguson moment on Wilshire Boulevard:

Beverly Hills police regret holding black producer before Emmys

Beverly Hills police officials said Tuesday that it was “extremely unfortunate” that officers handcuffed and detained an African American film producer who was in the city to attend a pre-Emmy party.

Producer Charles Belk “matched the clothing and physical characteristics” of a suspected bank robber when he was pulled over by officers on Friday evening after he left a restaurant on Wilshire Boulevard, according to the Beverly Hills Police Department.

Belk said on Facebook that he was walking to his car when he was confronted by police, handcuffed and forced to sit on the sidewalk. He said he was detained for six hours.

“I get that the Beverly Hills Police Department didn’t know that I was a well educated American citizen that had received a B.S. in electrical engineering from the University of Southern California, an MBA from Indiana University … and an executive leadership certificate from Harvard Business School,” Belk said. “Hey, I was ‘tall,’ ‘bald,’ a ‘male’ and ‘black,’ so I fit the description.”

LA Observed has the blowback:

Producer’s ‘detention’ by BHPD creates big backlash

Over the weekend I noticed that producer Charles Belk had posted a lengthy, angry account on Facebook about being detained by Beverly Hills police, handcuffed on the curb and denied access to a phone or a lawyer for six hours after he was stopped while walking to feed his parking meter on La Cienega Boulevard. He is black. The police say he was identified as bank robbery suspect. Belt’s post has been shared and liked more than 34,000 times on Facebook and he has been interviewed about the incident by, among others, NBC News. This incident clearly has legs beyond the BHPD’s explanation that he fit the description and they regret his inconvenience. Belk’s Facebook post has triggered what can only be called a massive outpouring of comments from people who feel they have similarly been detained by police essentially for being black. The media coverage? International.

From the Independent, a possible solution to the above?:

Cannabis-smoking couples are ‘less likely to engage in domestic violence’

Married couples who frequently smoke cannabis together are less likely to engage in domestic violence than those who consume the drug less regularly, a new study has suggested.

Researchers from Yale University, University of Buffalo and Rutgers followed 634 married couples for nine years.

They found that those who used cannabis together three times or more each month reported the lowest number domestic violence incidents (intimate partner violence) over the first nine years of marriage.

From the Associated Press, reviving the Cold War:

Finland, Sweden increase ties to NATO

Finland and Sweden plan to work more closely with NATO by signing a pact that allows assistance from alliance troops in the Nordic countries in emergency situations, officials said Wednesday.

The move comes as NATO prepares for a summit next week in Wales amid heightened tensions with Russia over the crisis in Ukraine. Finland shares a 1,300-kilometer (800-mile) border with Russia.

The Finnish government said the Host Nation Support agreement applies to situations which include “disasters, disruptions and threats to security.” It also enables joint training exercises and military cooperation.

While the London Telegraph gets defensive:

Police build ‘ring of steel’ for Wales Nato summit

  • More than 12 miles of steel fencing and more than 9,000 police will guard the UK’s biggest ever gathering of world leaders

Police are putting the finishing touches to a “ring of steel” of more than 12 miles of security fencing to protect world leaders heading to south Wales for next week’s Nato summit.

The two-day summit in Newport is the UK’s biggest ever gathering of international leaders as the military alliance decides how to deal with crises in Ukraine and Iraq.

Nine foot high steel fencing is being put around key parts of the Celtic Manor Resort where the summit is being held and at venues in Cardiff city centre. Police are also setting up checkpoints and entry gates to screen people as they enter the cordon.

The operations is one of the biggest ever police deployments. More than 9,000 police officers will be drafted in to protect 180 VIPs including 60 heads of state and senior ministers.

Meanwhile plans are underway to give all those coppers plenty of work. From the People’s Assembly:

BLOG Nato

From the Guardian, why needs the Magna Carta?:

Met chief calls for new anti-terror powers and backs ‘presumption of guilt’

  • Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe also calls for return of ‘something like’ control orders, which tighten authority over terror suspects

Britain’s most senior police chief has called for wide-ranging new powers to tackle homegrown terrorism, including a “rebuttable presumption” that anyone who visits Syria without prior notice should be treated as a terror suspect.

Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe, chief constable of the Metropolitan police, also called for a return of control orders and said Britons who wage jihad in Syria or Iraq should be stripped of their passports.

Most significantly, however, Hogan-Howe became the first serving police chief to back Boris Johnson’s proposal for the presumption of innocence to be overturned for Britons who travel to warzones.

El País cites another source of insecurity:

Spain on alert over new biker gangs

  • Groups hail mostly from Germany and the Netherlands and have long records of criminal activity

Law enforcement agencies are warning about a new type of criminal in Spain: members of biker gangs, most of whom are coming in from central Europe.

An Interior Ministry report states that “this is the right time to increase preventive police activity and research, considering their incipient state in our country.”

The report mentions gangs such as Hell’s Angels, Satudarah MC, No Surrender MC and Bandidos MC, all of whom are well established in Germany and the Netherlands, among other countries.

All of them also have a long record of criminal activity, ranging from arms and drug trafficking, to money laundering, burglary, extortion and violent robbery.

Bloomberg raises hackery suspicions:

FBI Examining Whether Russia Is Tied to JPMorgan Hacking

Russian hackers attacked the U.S. financial system in mid-August, infiltrating and stealing data from JPMorgan Chase & Co. (JPM) and at least one other bank, an incident the FBI is investigating as a possible retaliation for government-sponsored sanctions, according to two people familiar with the probe.

The attack resulted in the loss of gigabytes of sensitive data, said the people, who asked not to be identified because the probe is still preliminary. Authorities are investigating whether recent infiltrations of major European banks using a similar vulnerability are also linked to the attack, one of the people said.

From TheLocal.no, Norse petro-hackery:

300 oil companies hacked in Norway

Around 300 oil and energy in Norway companies has been affected by one of the biggest computer hacking attacks ever to happen in the country, a government source said on Wednesday.

National Security Authority Norway (Nasjonal Sikkerhetsmyndighet – NSM) revealed 50 companies in the oil sector were hacked and 250 more are now being warned by the government agency. NSM is Norway’s prevention unit for serious hack attacks.

The attack was the largest of its kind against Norwegian interests to take place, reported Dagens Næringsliv on Wednesday.

From News On Japan, a terminal alert:

Japan airports’ Wi-Fi allows snooping

Users of free wireless Internet connections at Japan’s Narita, Kansai and Kobe airports are vulnerable to electronic eavesdropping of their e-mail and web browsing, a study by an information and communications specialist showed Tuesday.

Such risks can be prevented by encrypting Wi-Fi connections, but the three airports refrain from doing so in favour of user convenience, as password entry would be required for encrypted Internet connections.

Free Wi-Fi connections are available at about 900,000 locations nationwide including public facilities and convenience stores, but many of them are not encrypted, according to Masakatsu Morii, a professor at a graduate school of engineering at Kobe University.

SecurityWeek gets proactive:

Singapore Boosts Cyber Security After Hacking Incidents

Singapore on Tuesday announced new measures to strengthen cyber security to prevent a recurrence of attacks on government websites including those of its president and prime minister.

Information minister Yaacob Ibrahim said the government is upgrading its Cyber-Watch Centre, allowing it to track malicious activities and respond swiftly when there are security breaches. The upgrades are expected to be completed by January 2015.

“Large-scale cyber security breaches have made headlines and raised public concerns,” Yaacob said in a speech to a conference of experts in Singapore, referring to attacks against US retailer Target and other international incidents. “Governments, businesses, manufacturers and consumers must guard against data leakage, unauthorized access to corporate resources and malware attack against their networks,” he said.

From Network World, ad-umbration:

New malvertising campaign hit visitors of several high-profile sites

Some visitors to several high-profile websites last week were redirected to browser exploits that installed malware on their computers because of malicious advertisements on those sites.

The attack affected visitors to Java.com, Deviantart.com, TMZ.com, Photobucket.com, IBTimes.com, eBay.ie, Kapaza.be and TVgids.nl between Aug. 19 and Aug. 22, according to researchers from Dutch security firm Fox-IT.

“These websites have not been compromised themselves, but are the victim of malvertising,” the researchers said Wednesday in a blog post. “This means an advertisement provider, providing its services to a small part of a website, serves malicious advertisement aimed at infecting visitors with malware.”

After the jump, the latest from the Asian Game of Zones, including cyberwar, simultaneous blasts of rhetorical artillery are accompanied by feelers to set out the rules to a game they’ve been [dangerously] improvising, Abe again invokes vanquished imperialists while China evokes their mortal foes, Tokyo diplomatic posturing, a Pakistani challenge, beefed up Aussie security and a healed intel rift, Hanoi/Beijing fence-mending, Seoul/Tokyo talks, a Pyongyang riposte, a Chinese crackdown, and a telling suppression of free speech in the good ol’ U.S.A. . . Continue reading

DroneWatch: Flying high and on the ground


We open our collection with a video report on the latest military front from RT America:

Obama sending drones to monitor ISIS in Syria

Program notes:

The US is further ramping up its involvement in the Levant as the Islamic State threat grows. On Tuesday, the Obama administration revealed it will conduct surveillance flights over Syria to monitor the radical jihadists that have taken control of large portions of the country. Longtime foes, the US and Syria both announced they are not working together on the operation, and Foreign Minister Walid al-Moallem warned that while surveillance is acceptable, unilateral strikes will be viewed as acts of aggression. Matt Southworth of the Friends Committee on National Legislation speaks with RT’s Manila Chan on the expanding conflict.

And by away of an aside, consider a case of an earthbound munition you might call a drone of on wheels, via Spiegel:

Factory and Lab: Israel’s War Business

Israel invests more money in research than most other countries — and in no other place are research institutes, the defense industry, the army and politics as interwoven. The result is a high-tech weapons factory that successfully exports its goods globally.

There’s not much left of the high-tech car. In a warehouse about the size of an aircraft hangar, its remains look tiny. There are no wheels, no chassis, just the angular body of the car. And it’s not in good shape at all. There’s a gaping hole in its side with edges of lacerated metal. “Rocket-propelled grenade,” says Yoav Hirsh, smiling. Had a person been inside, he or she would likely not have survived the blast. But there was no one behind the wheel: The Guardium is a fully automated vehicle.

Pride radiates from Hirsh — who has a mix of gray and white hair, an athletic frame and a determined look on his face — when he talks about his cars. He’s the CEO of G-Nius, one of first companies in the world able to produce an army of robot fighters. The Guardium has been used since 2007 in patrols along the border of the Gaza Strip. It can be guided by remote control or can steer itself through a pre-selected route as its cameras and sensors capture data about the surroundings.

“Guardium already has 60,000 hours of operations behind it,” Hirsh says. “And it has saved many lives.” He says the aim is to complete “missions without any risk to the soldiers.” But in addition to saving lives, G-Nius vehicles can also destroy them, using remote-control weapons systems mounted on top of the unmanned vehicles. Hirsh notes that, although the weapons-equipped vehicles haven’t yet been used, they are deployable. In another warehouse, a standard Ford F350 pick-up truck is parked, one equipped with its own weapons station. The cameras and sensors are real but the machine gun is a dummy. “We’re a civilian firm, after all,” Hirsh says.

Back to those flying machines, this time from the corporate and private sectors.

From RT:

Dawn of Drones: Civilian UAVs to flood US skies amid fears of collision risks

Program notes:

In March a US airways pilot reported a near-miss with a tiny drone over Tallahassee Airport in Florida. And that is just one case of 15 recently registered. RT’s Gayane Chichikyan reports.

From The Hill, another one of those incidents:

FAA investigating drone over NFL game

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is looking into a drone that allegedly flew over an NFL preseason game in Charlotte, N.C., on Sunday evening.

The agency said in a statement provided to The Hill on Wednesday that it “is investigating a report it received from local law enforcement about an unmanned aircraft operating over Bank of America Stadium” while the Carolina Panthers hosted the Kansas City Chiefs.

The incident is not the first time the FAA has investigated drone use in connection with a sporting event. The agency stopped the Washington Nationals baseball team from using drones to photograph some of its spring training games in Viera, Fla., earlier this year.

The FAA also shut down drone operations for a Minnesota beer company earlier this year.

And from The Daily Dot, drones over the Magic Kingdom™:

Disney patents drone technology that’s still technically illegal to use

When you think of the technology at Disney theme parks, the images that likely come to mind are the dated autonomatronics of rides like Pirates of Caribbean and the Country Bear Jamboree. Yet, the Happiest Place on Earth has actually long been a leader in the mass adoption of cutting-edge technologies. Not only is the company investing more than a billion dollars in the tech required to track every move made by every single visitor to the Magic Kingdom, but, according to a newly uncovered trio of patents, Disney wants to get into the drone business.

If Disney decides to actually implement the technologies contained in the patents, the result would be a major step forward in how drones are both used and conceptualized by the vast majority of Americans. However, under current Federal Aviation Administration regulations, actually using that technology would be against the law.

Disney’s patents seem to center around doing large-scale stage shows featuring disney characters. The technology would allow Disney to coordinate multiple drones such that they can operate giant puppets.

EnviroWatch: Ebola, toxins, water, climate nukes


And a whole lot more, so let’s get right to it, first with Reuters:

Senegalese WHO doctor with Ebola arrives for treatment in Germany

A Senegalese doctor who contracted Ebola while working for the World Health Organisation (WHO)in Sierra Leone arrived in Hamburg on Wednesday for treatment at a tropical medicine unit, becoming Germany’s first patient with the disease.

At a news conference on Wednesday the clinic’s tropical medicine specialist said the man would not be given new experimental drugs such as ZMapp but that his treatment would at first focus on managing his symptoms.

The Senegalese doctor arrived in Germany on a specialist plane and was transferred to the university clinic Hamburg-Eppendorf in a special isolation ambulance, accompanied by a police guard.

CBC News adds more:

Ebola-infected WHO scientist in Sierra Leone goes to Germany, Canadians pulled

  • Public Health Agency of Canada pulls its team of 3 from Sierra Leone as precaution

The World Health Organization announced it has shut down a laboratory in Sierra Leone after a Senegalese health worker was infected with the Ebola virus.

Three Canadians from the National Microbiology Laboratory in Winnipeg are among the six workers who have withdrawn to Sierra Leone’s capital, Freetown, Christy Feig, a WHO spokeswoman in West Africa, told CBC News.

Feig said the Canadian government made the call to withdraw its workers in consultation with the WHO.

The WHO has sent in a team to see if this was a routine, straightforward infection or if structural changes need to be made to keep health-care workers safe.

Sky News tracks contagion:

Ebola Nurse ‘May Have Caught Virus From Child’

  • William Pooley, who is being treated in a London hospital, formed a bond with a boy whose mother died from the disease

A British nurse infected with ebola in Sierra Leone might have caught it while playing with a toddler whose mother had died of the deadly disease, a colleague has said.

William Pooley was flown home at the weekend and admitted to an isolation unit at the Royal Free hospital in Hampstead, where he has been given the experimental drug ZMapp.

While working as a volunteer at a clinic in eastern Sierra Leone the 29-year-old developed a bond with a baby boy named Sellu Borbor, according to his supervisor Finda Josephine Sellu.

As does Uganda’s own Daily Monitor:

Man steals phone from Ebola patient, gets infected

Security and medical officials in Kibaale District have registered a case in which a man allegedly went in an isolation ward at Kagadi Hospital and stole a cellular phone from one of the Ebola patients.

The 40-year-old resident of Kyakabugahya LCI in Kagadi Town Council travelled about three kilometers to the hospital to apparently obtain a phone estimated to be valued at Shs60,000 more than two weeks ago.

The suspect allegedly broke into the isolation ward on the night of Tuesday August 14, undetected by hospital guards. The patient, who has since succumbed to the deadly hemorrhagic fever, then reported the theft to the hospital security that then embarked on tracing the alleged thief.

Police detectives began tracking him after he apparently began communicating to his friends using the phone. But as police zeroed in on him, he developed symptoms similar to those of Ebola and sought medication at the hospital.

From the Guardian, another casualty:

Ebola claims life of third doctor in Sierra Leone

  • Dr Sahr Rogers was working in Kenema when he contracted the virus, raising fresh concerns over the country’s ability to fight it

A third top Ebola doctor has died in Sierra Leone, a government official in the west African nation has confirmed. The news came as another scientist, who also contracted the disease there, began treatment in Germany on Wednesday.

Health workers are trying to work out how the scientist, whose identity and condition are being withheld for privacy reasons, contracted Ebola before his overnight evacuation to a Hamburg hospital, it has been reported.

“The international surge of health workers is extremely important and if something happens, if health workers get infected and it scares off other international health workers from coming, we will be in dire straits,” said World Health Organisation spokesman Christy Feig.

Next, a video report from Agence France-Presse:

Liberian medical crew collects suspected Ebola victims

Program notes:

Ambulance workers in the Liberian capital don protective clothing to pick up people suspected of being infected with Ebola.

BBC News announces a shutdown:

Ebola outbreak: Nigeria closes all schools until October

All schools in Nigeria have been ordered to remain shut until 13 October as part of measures to prevent the spread of the deadly Ebola virus.

The new academic year was due to start on Monday.

But the education minister ordered the closures to allow staff to be trained on how to handle suspected Ebola cases.

Reuters covers economic costs:

Ebola travel bans threaten Ivory Coast cocoa crop forecasts

International cocoa exporters in Ivory Coast are restricting staff movements due to the worsening Ebola outbreak on the top grower’s western borders, risking leaving traders and exporters without accurate output forecasts for the upcoming season.

Ivory Coast produced nearly 1.45 million tonnes of cocoa last season, according to International Cocoa Organization estimates, almost 37 percent of world supply. Crop forecasts by experts who visit farms to count pods are closely watched by the market ahead of the main harvest that starts in October.

Traders said there are also concerns there could be an exodus of farmers if the disease spreads to the growing regions in the west of the country.

As does the Guardian:

Ebola epidemic takes toll on business in quarantine zones and across Africa

  • Repercussions have radiated from far-flung villages to financial markets, and from rural farmers to urban dollar boys

When his neighbours began falling ill with Ebola, Sheikh Kallon felt fortunate that he was well enough to continue tending his farm deep in the forested interior of Sierra Leone. Then, one of his drinking buddies died of the disease, and Kallon’s entire family was quarantined for 21 days.

“I asked my workers to keep going to the farm, but they said they don’t want to touch money from my hands in case they get Ebola,” he said.

With his crops rotting in the fields, Kallon now spends his days sitting with his family on their porch surrounded by soldiers enforcing the quarantine. The soldiers hardly need bother: lifelong neighbours are too terrified to approach, and a few miles away an entire community that has been unable to trade altogether has run out of salt.

From People’s Daily, news of absence is not absence of news:

China reports no cases of Ebola

China’s health authorities confirmed on Tuesday that a returnee who was hospitalized as “an observation case of Ebola” has been confirmed not infected.

The National Health and Family Planning Commission told Xinhua the returnee, a translator who arrived in Beijing on Sunday from Libya, developed symptoms of vomiting and fever, and was sent to the hospital as a precaution.

The patient has since been cleared as not infected with Ebola. China currently reports no case of the disease.

From Jiji Press, absent no longer:

Japan Confirms 1st Domestic Dengue Infection since 1945

A Japanese woman under 20 has been infected with dengue fever, the first confirmed domestic infection with the tropical disease since 1945, the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare said Wednesday.

The dengue virus is likely to have been transmitted to the woman from an infected traveler via a mosquito in Japan because she has never traveled overseas. She is in a stable condition in hospital, ministry officials said.

At a news conference, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said the government will identify the route of infection and collect more information on suspicious dengue cases.

From the World Health Organization, a plea:

WHO calls for stronger action on climate-related health risks

Previously unrecognized health benefits could be realized from fast action to reduce climate change and its consequences. For example, changes in energy and transport policies could save millions of lives annually from diseases caused by high levels of air pollution. The right energy and transport policies could also reduce the burden of disease associated with physical inactivity and traffic injury.

Measures to adapt to climate change could also save lives around the world by ensuring that communities are better prepared to deal with the impact of heat, extreme weather, infectious disease and food insecurity.

These are two key messages being discussed at the first-ever global conference on health and climate, which opens today at WHO headquarters in Geneva. The conference brings together over 300 participants, including government ministers, heads of UN agencies, urban leaders, civil society and leading health, climate and sustainable-development experts.

And from the New York Times, the political play:

Obama Pursuing Climate Accord in Lieu of Treaty

The Obama administration is working to forge a sweeping international climate change agreement to compel nations to cut their planet-warming fossil fuel emissions, but without ratification from Congress.

In preparation for this agreement, to be signed at a United Nations summit meeting in 2015 in Paris, the negotiators are meeting with diplomats from other countries to broker a deal to commit some of the world’s largest economies to enact laws to reduce their carbon pollution. But under the Constitution, a president may enter into a legally binding treaty only if it is approved by a two-thirds majority of the Senate.

To sidestep that requirement, President Obama’s climate negotiators are devising what they call a “politically binding” deal that would “name and shame” countries into cutting their emissions. The deal is likely to face strong objections from Republicans on Capitol Hill and from poor countries around the world, but negotiators say it may be the only realistic path.

Moving on to water woes with the Los Angeles Times:

Central California residents rely on bottled water as wells run dry

Extreme drought conditions have become so harsh for the Central Valley community of East Porterville, many of its residents dependent on their own wells have run out of water.

Roughly 300 homes have received a three-week supply of bottled water after Tulare County officials discovered their wells had gone dry.

In all, county officials distributed 15,552 1-gallon bottles of water, and have been filling a 2,500-gallon tank with nonpotable water so residents can flush toilets and bathe.

On a comparatively lighter note, this from Jim Morin, editorial cartoonist for the Miami Herald:

BLOG Envirotoon

A call for clearing the air from Newswise:

Trash Burning Worldwide Significantly Worsens Air Pollution

Unregulated trash burning around the globe is pumping far more pollution into the atmosphere than shown by official records. A new study led by the National Center for Atmospheric Research estimates that more than 40 percent of the world’s garbage is burned in such fires, emitting gases and particles that can substantially affect human health and climate change.

The new study provides the first rough estimates, on a country-by-country basis, of pollutants such as particulates, carbon monoxide, and mercury that are emitted by the fires. Such pollutants have been linked to serious medical issues.

The researchers also estimated emissions of carbon dioxide, the most common greenhouse gas produced by human activity.

Unlike emissions from commercial incinerators, the emissions from burning trash in open fires often go unreported to environmental agencies and are left out of many national inventories of air pollution. For that reason, they are not incorporated into policy making.

After the jump, a Reefer Madness recantation Down Under, Japanese whaling intransigence, [including dumps, price tags, and dislocation numbers], an American nuclear green light, offshore drilling anxieties in California and Spain, an Aussie coal mining investment review, water-splitting, and Superfund gentrification. . . Continue reading

Obliterating Fox News: John Stewart + Ferguson


Finally, one clear, scathingly brutal, and altogether spot-on evisceration of the increasingly blatant racism enshrined in the Fair and Balanced™ turd dropped in the already debased American journalist punch bowl by the Dirty DIgger.

Take it, John Stewart and the Daily Show, via vlogger The Stewart SHow:

Jon Stewart Goes After Fox in Powerful Ferguson Monologue

And if perchance the video is taken down, you can watch it at Salon in  a format we can’t embed.

Trashing paradise: A tragedy underway in Bali


From Australia’s Special Broadcasting Service‘s outstanding documentary series Dateline, a sad story of paradise lost in Bali, where tourism dollars, developer greed, and lax environmental laws are uniting in a perfect storm threatening what has long been regarded as one of the planet’s most remarkable places.

From SBS via Journeyman Pictures:

Mountain Of Tourist Landfill Threatening Bali’s Paradise

Program notes:

Mount Rubbish: Tourist demands in Bali are threatening the island’s future.

There’s another trashing underway as well, the savage gutting of the SBS itself by neoliberal Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott, a cultural crime that violates his own promise to voters proclaimed just last year:

The bad news came in May, reported by The New Daily:

The Coalition has unveiled plans to cut $43.5 million from the budget of the ABC and SBS over the next four years as part of the federal budget.

The ABC’s contract to run the Australia Network – an international television service that available throughout Asia, the Pacific and the Indian Subcontinent – has also been cancelled.

Despite Prime Minister’s Tony Abbott’s promise not to cut funding to the public broadcasters during his election campaign, the windback – equivalent to about one per cent of the public broadcasters’ public funding – is unlikely to be the last.

The budget documents describe the cuts of $35 million at the ABC and $8 million at the SBS as an initial “down payment” on an efficiency study aimed at finding ways to run the organisations at a lower cost.

The same forces are thus at play in both Australia and Bali, the neoliberal imperative to grease the skids for private capital at the expense of the commons, with banksters, corporateers, and developers as the beneficiaries.

InSecurityWatch: Cops, spies, drones, zones


Today’s compendium of matters of spies, borders, corportate snoopery, hacking, and such like begins with a reminder that sometimes it’s not Big Brother you’ve got to worry about. Sometimes it’s Big Daddy. From Rumble Viral:

Catching a daughter doing selfies on video

Program note:

Rod Beckham noticed a lot of movement in his rear view mirror and realized his daughter was in the midst of an epic photo shoot of her own creation. After watching and laughing for a minute or so, he realized he needed to capture this for posterity. It will definitely put a smile on your face!

On to the serious, starting with a call from BuzzFeed:

National Progressives Want A “Federal Czar” To Oversee Local Police Forces

“The proliferation of machine guns, silencers, armored vehicles and aircraft, and camouflage in local law enforcement units does not bode well for police-community relations, the future of our cities, or our country.”

A coalition of unions, members of Congress, progressive groups and others wrote a joint letter to President Barack Obama calling for drastic changes to local police forces around the country after the death of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri.

The letter, which was distributed via an ad in the Washington Post, calls for a demilitarization of police forces, an effort to increase diversity, and the establishment of a “federal czar” to promote “the professionalization of local law enforcement.”

“The proliferation of machine guns, silencers, armored vehicles and aircraft, and camouflage in local law enforcement units does not bode well for police-community relations, the future of our cities, or our country,” the letter said.

From Techdirt, sumptuary laws in a world of blue knights:

As Police Get More Militarized, Bill In Congress Would Make Owning Body Armor Punishable By Up To 10 Years In Prison

  • from the only-the-police-can-be-militarized dept

We’ve been writing an awful lot lately about the militarization of police, but apparently some in Congress want to make sure that the American public can’t protect themselves from a militarized police. Rep. Mike Honda (currently facing a reasonably strong challenger for election this fall) has introduced a bizarre bill that would make it a crime for civilians to buy or own body armor. The bill HR 5344 is unlikely to go anywhere, but violating the bill, if it did become law, would be punishable with up to ten years in prison. Yes, TEN years. For merely owning body armor.

Honda claims that the bill is designed to stop “armored assailants” whom he claims are “a trend” in recent years. Perhaps there wouldn’t be so much armor floating around out there if we weren’t distributing it to so many civilian police forces… Not surprisingly, the very same police who have been getting much of this armor are very much in favor of making sure no one else gets it:

Honda said it has been endorsed by law enforcement organizations including the California State Sheriffs’ Association, the Fraternal Order of Police and the Peace Officers Research Association of California, according to Honda.

The Guardian deals a blow to a call for a Medievalism, British style:

Cameron dismisses Johnson’s ‘presumption of guilt’ terror plan

  • PM rejects ‘kneejerk response’ after London mayor’s suggestion that people travelling to war zones should be presumed guilty

Downing Street has dismissed a call by Boris Johnson for the government to introduce a “rebuttable presumption” that anyone who visits a war zone without providing notice will be guilty of a terrorist offence.

The prime minister’s spokeswoman said David Cameron had no interest in”kneejerk” responses to the threat posed by Islamic State (Isis) fighters. She confirmed that Britain’s intelligence agencies had not been pressing for the London mayor’s idea.

Downing Street said the prime minister was focused on a “patient and resolute” response to what he described last week as the “generational challenge” posed by Isis in Iraq and Syria.

From Reuters, here’s looking at you, kid:

Camera-makers shares jump on interest in surveillance tech

A surge in interest in makers of security cameras drove shares of such companies higher on Tuesday, with heavy volume in particular seen in Digital Ally, which makes wearable cameras.

Digital Ally, which produces cameras compact enough to be pinned to shirts, belts or eyeglasses, has reported heightened demand for its product since Aug. 9, when a white police officer shot and killed an unarmed black teen in Ferguson, Missouri, triggering weeks of protests.

Interest in surveillance technology also drove investors to put money in Image Sensing Systems, a company that produces software and cameras for law enforcement agencies and traffic monitors. The stock spiked more than 40 percent.

From the Guardian, Cold War 2.0:

Nato plans east European bases to counter Russian threat

  • Nato chief announces move in response to Ukraine crisis and says alliance is dealing with a new Russian military approach

Nato is to deploy its forces permanently at new bases in eastern Europe for the first time, in response to the Ukraine crisis and in an attempt to deter Vladimir Putin from causing trouble in the former Soviet Baltic republics, according to its chief.

Anders Fogh Rasmussen, the former prime minister of Denmark, said that next week’s Nato summit in Cardiff would overcome divisions within the alliance and agree to new deployments on Russia’s borders – a move certain to trigger a strong reaction from Moscow.

He also outlined moves to boost Ukraine’s security, “modernise” its armed forces, and help the country counter the threat from Russia.

Droning on? Or more provocatively? From the Associated Press:

AP sources: US surveillance planes fly over Syria

The U.S. has begun surveillance flights over Syria after President Barack Obama gave the OK, U.S. officials said, a move that could pave the way for airstrikes against Islamic State militant targets there.

While the White House says Obama has not approved military action inside Syria, additional intelligence on the militants would likely be necessary before he could take that step. Pentagon officials have been drafting potential options for the president, including airstrikes.

One official said the administration has a need for reliable intelligence from Syria and called the surveillance flights an important avenue for obtaining data.

Drone it is. But this time, by other folks. From Vocativ:

New Video Shows ISIS Using Drones to Plan Battles

The beheading video that ISIS released last week was a vivid illustration of not only the group’s ruthlessness but also its growing media sophistication. The video, with its slick production values, spread rapidly on Twitter and YouTube.

ISIS, which now controls large stretches of Syria and Iraq, uses an elaborate web of social media accounts to recruit new members, mock the West in unusual ways and showcase its military and tech know-how.

In the latest example of this, a new video appeared this past weekend in an official ISIS forum showing ISIS forces preparing to conquer a key military base in Raqqa in northern Syria. The video includes aerial footage (at around the 1.55 mark) apparently taken by an ISIS drone, and viewers hear militants planning out the attack. One talks about “a truck opening the way so that a second suicide bomber can hit the headquarters.” The video also shows graphic images of ISIS executing Syrian soldiers.

Engadget covers cyberstalking:

Political TV ads will soon know who you are

Like it or not, another US election is almost upon us — and this time around, the incessant political advertising may cut a little too close to home. Both Democrats and Republicans are using a new TV ad targeting system from DirecTV and Dish that takes advantage of voter records to put personalized campaign ads on your DVR. If you tend to swing between both parties, you may get different commercials than lifelong supporters. You may also get reminders to vote early if you frequently cast absentee ballots. And unlike conventional targeting methods, which run ads on shows they believe certain demographics will watch, these promos will automatically appear on any show you record as long as there’s a free slot.

Yes, there’s a chance these pitches will get very annoying; there’s enough data that they could chastise you when you haven’t donated or volunteered. However, the sheer expense of producing customized ads makes it unlikely that candidates will get that specific. The DVR technology may actually spare you some grief, in fact, since politicians won’t waste your time if you’re set in your ways. There is a risk that this approach will further polarize voters by limiting their exposure to different views. With that said, many political TV spots aren’t exactly honest to start with — this may just reduce the amount of propaganda you have to put up with during commercial breaks.

The London Daily Mail gets all metaphorical:

Always use protection! £6 USB ‘condom’ stops hackers from giving you viruses and keeps your private data secure

  • The USB device was created by New York-based security experts int3.cc
  • It aims to protect against public charging stations that can download data
  • The USB condom is a small chip that has both male and female ports
  • These connect between a device and the unknown USB port, effectively severing any data connection but linking up the power cables
  • Millions of people worldwide are engaging in high-risk tech.
  • Now a ‘USB condom’ has been designed by security experts in an effort to keep sensitive data secure.
  • The device allows users to plug their phones or tablets into unfamiliar USB ports without risking being infected with a virus.

From MIT Technology Review, pimping exhibitionism:

How Much Is Your Privacy Worth?

  • Despite the outcry over government and corporate snooping, some people allow themselves be monitored for money or rewards.

People can use your sensitive personal information to discriminate against you.

Anyone paying attention knows that his or her Web searches, Facebook feeds, and other online activity isn’t always safe—be it from the prying eyes of the NSA or those of the companies providing a social networking service.

While a substantial chunk of the populace finds all this tracking creepy and invasive, though, there’s a demographic that collectively shrugs at the notion of being mined for data.

Some startups hope to exploit this by buying access to your Web browsing and banking data (see “Sell Your Personal Data for $8 a Month”). Luth Research, a San Diego company, is now offering companies an unprecedented window into the private digital domains of tens of thousands of people who have agreed to let much of what they do on a smartphone, tablet, or PC be tracked for a $100 a month.

From Motherboard, Ayn Rand is smiling:

Net Neutrality Is ‘Marxist,’ According to This Koch-Backed Astroturf Group

A mysterious conservative group with strong ties to the Koch brothers has been bombarding inboxes with emails filled with disinformation and fearmongering in an attempt to start a “grassroots” campaign to kill net neutrality—at one point suggesting that “Marxists” think that preserving net neutrality is a good idea.

The emails, which come with subject lines like “Stop Obama’s federal Internet takeover,” come from American Commitment, an organization that is nonprofit in name only and has been called out time and time again by journalists and transparency organizations for obscuring where it gets its funding.

In an email I received, American Commitment president Phil Kerpen suggests that reclassifying the internet as a public utility is the “first step in the fight to destroy American capitalism altogether” and says that the FCC is plotting a “federal Internet takeover,” a move that “sounds more like a story coming out of China or Russia.”

From Network World, so there’s more than one born every second?:

Hackers prey on Russian patriotism to grow the Kelihos botnet

The cybercriminal gang behind the Kelihos botnet is tricking users into installing malware on their computers by appealing to pro-Russian sentiments stoked by recent international sanctions against the country.

Researchers from security firms Websense and Bitdefender have independently observed a new spam campaign that encourages Russian-speakers to volunteer their computers for use in distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks against the websites of governments that imposed sanctions on Russia for its involvement in the conflict in eastern Ukraine.

“We, a group of hackers from the Russian Federation, are worried about the unreasonable sanctions that Western states imposed against our country,” the spam emails read, according to a translation by Bitdefender researchers. “We have coded our answer and below you will find the link to our program. Run the application on your computer, and it will secretly begin to attack government agencies of the states that have adopted those sanctions.”

Motherboard covers the cyberextortionate:

Hackers Will Leak Syrian Stock Exchange Database Unless Assad Tackles ISIS

A group of hackers took down the website of Syria’s only stock exchange this afternoon and are threatening to leak the exchange’s database unless president Bashar al-Assad takes military action against the Islamic State.

The group, called Project Viridium, says that over the last several weeks, it has infected several Islamic State operatives’ computers and have provided the Assad government with information about their whereabouts.

Earlier today, the group tweeted that it had successfully taken down the Damascus Securities Exchange. At the time of this writing, the exchange’s website is still inaccessible, due to what appears to be a fairly common DoS (Denial of Service) attack.

After the jump, the latest from the Asian Game of Zones, including Indo/Pakistani shelling, internal Pakistani tension, a case of diplomatic hypocrisy against accompanied by a Chinese peace feeler, Sino/Indonesian insular petro tension, an Aussie apology and spooky doings, another aerial line-crossing, supersonic submarines, Chinese military/security realignments, Beijing’s eyes in space, Japanese militarism questions, and much more. . . Continue reading

EnviroWatch: Ebola, water, toxins & nukes


Today’s compendium of headlines about the relationship between Homo sapiens and Planet Earth opens, as usual these days, with the latest of the Ebola front, first with a three-alarm screamer from News Corp Australia:

Peter Piot says ‘perfect storm’ has allowed Ebola to spread in West Africa

PETER Piot, the Belgian scientist who co-discovered the Ebola virus in 1976, on Tuesday said a “perfect storm” in West Africa had given the disease a chance to spread unchecked.

“We have never seen an (Ebola) epidemic on this scale,” Piot was quoted by the French daily paper Liberation as saying. “In the last six months, we have been witnessing what can be described as a ‘perfect storm’ — everything is there for it to snowball,” he said.

The epidemic “is exploding in countries where health services are not functioning, ravaged by decades of civil war.”

The Associated Press raises another alarm:

Ebola has ‘upper hand,’ says US official

The Ebola virus may have the “upper hand” in an outbreak that has killed more than 1,400 people in West Africa but experts can stop the virus’ spread, a top American health official said at the start of his visit to the hardest-hit countries.

Dr. Tom Frieden, director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, was in Liberia on Tuesday, and later plans to stop in Sierra Leone and Guinea. Nigeria also has recorded cases, but officials there have expressed optimism that its spread can be controlled.

“Lots of hard work is happening, lots of good things are happening,” Frieden told a meeting attended by President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf on Monday. “But the virus still has the upper hand.”

Nikkei Asian Review covers economic impacts:

Ebola crisis starting to affect economies across Africa

The worst-ever Ebola outbreak is hurting not just the countries in West Africa where the disease has been found, but the entire continent.

Neighboring countries have banned their citizens from traveling to the Ebola-stricken countries. Some international airlines have suspended some flights. And many countries on other continents have become wary about any travel to Africa, even if it is to countries far away from those with outbreaks.

All this could hurt future business investment in the continent, as disease experts say it will take considerable time to bring an end to the current Ebola outbreak.

Reuters covers the aid front:

WHO says sending supplies for Ebola outbreak in Congo

The World Health Organisation (WHO) said on Monday it has sent protective equipment for medical staff to Democratic Republic of Congo, where authorities have confirmed two cases of Ebola in a remote area.

“The ministry of health has declared an outbreak and we are treating it as such,” WHO spokesman Tarik Jasarevic said in Geneva in response to a query.

The current Ebola epidemic, which has killed at least 1,427 people, has focused on Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone with several cases also in Nigeria.

And from Quartz, compounding tragedy:

African survivors of Ebola have to deal with stigma, too

West Africa is still reeling from the worst-ever Ebola epidemic: at least 2,615 people have contracted the virus, and 1,427 have died from it. And while the Westerners who are being repatriated and treated at home are saluted as heroes, many African survivors are met with skepticism and face stigma in their own communities.

Displaying reactions that recall the AIDS epidemics, people are afraid of touching Ebola survivors. As Liberian doctor Melvin Korkor—who contracted Ebola while tending to patients and subsequently recovered from it—says that on his return on Cuttington University campus, where he teaches, he was only greeted from a distance. FrontPage Africa reports that students were afraid he may still be contagious:

“We want to hug our doctor, but fear we would come in contact with the virus [...] I will greet him from a distance.”

“I am happy doctor Korkor has returned, but I am totally not convinced he is Ebola-free. I will shake his hands after 21 days.”

Next, an African Ebola  video report from Down Under, with SBS Dateline via Journeyman Pictures:

Ebola Outbreak Becomes International Health Emergency

Program notes:

Ebola’s Epicentre: As the DRC becomes the latest country to be hit by Ebola, the situation at the outbreak’s epicentre in Sierra Leone is increasingly desperate.

The Ebola outbreak is claiming around a hundred victims a week and spreading fast. With the death toll rising daily, we head to the heart of the crisis to reveal the human tragedy behind the headlines.

“I’m doing the right thing, but people are ungrateful for my efforts. People are afraid of me”, says a ‘dead body worker’. He is one of many locals helping foreign NGOs like Medecins Sans Frontieres, the Red Cross and Doctors Without Borders to tackle the ebola epidemic. Yet it is a scramble to contain and treat the virus in makeshift facilities and as they desperately try to get control of this killer disease, locals remain suspicious. “They were claiming we were taking parts of the corpse to do rituals.” At a government hospital in Kenema a dirty ebola screening tent sits alongside a maternity ward. As chaos reigns, patients are free to wander in and out. Over 20 nurses have died at the contaminated hospital; one doctor warns, “don’t touch the walls”. Volunteers are travelling across Sierra Leone’s vastly dispersed population to educate communities in rural areas about the symptoms and prevention methods. “We have these charts which we use to display to the people and tell them what to do and what not to do.” Yet fear and distrust are spreading as fast as the virus. As one villager says simply, “We are totally afraid. This is the main point”.

The London Telegraph offers yet another fortunate European story:

British Ebola sufferer William Pooley given experimental drug ZMapp and sitting up in bed

  • William Pooley being given the same drug that was credited with saving the lives of two American missionaries

The British Ebola sufferer William Pooley is being given the experimental drug ZMapp and is sitting up, talking and reading in his hospital bed, his doctors have revealed.

Mr Pooley, 29, is being given the same drug that was credited with saving the lives of two American missionaries earlier this month and was described today as a “resilient and remarkable young man”.

It had been thought that supplies of ZMapp had run out, but doctors at the Royal Free Hospital managed to get hold of some from abroad and Mr Pooley was given the first dose on Monday. Further doses are expected to be given to him “in due course”.

From TheLocal.it, ditto:

Italian woman cleared of Ebola in Turkey

An Italian woman who was hospitalized in Turkey last week does not have the deadly Ebola virus and will return home soon, Italian media has reported.

The Italian woman became ill on a flight to Turkey’s Istanbul Ataturk Airport on Friday and was taken to hospital for tests.

She has now been cleared of the Ebola virus, which as of Friday had killed an estimated 1,427 people in West Africa. The Italian woman has also been cleared of malaria, Tgcom24 said.

While The Hill covers the American political front:

Pryor cites Ebola scare to attack Cotton

A new ad from Sen. Mark Pryor (D-Ark.) cites the Ebola outbreak in West Africa to hit GOP opponent Rep. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) for cuts to medical and emergency programs.

The 30-second spot opens with news reports of the current outbreak, the worst in the history of the disease. The ad accuses Cotton of voting against preparedness measures that could help prevent the virus from spreading to the U.S.

“Congressman Cotton voted to cut billions from our nation’s medical disaster and emergency programs,” says a narrator. “Instead Cotton voted for tax cuts for billionaires funding his campaign,” adds another voice.

On to another virus and another continent with South China Morning Post:

Number of new HIV cases in Hong Kong set to reach record high for fourth year running

  • Government consultant warns number could pass 600 this year for the first time

The number of new cases of HIV infections in Hong Kong is set to hit a record high for the fourth year running, says a government consultant who predicts this year’s figure could pass 600.

Some 304 new cases were diagnosed in the first half of this year, well up on the 262 new cases reported in the same period last year.

“It is worrying. It is likely that the annual figure will surge past 600, which will be the highest figure in Hong Kong history,” Dr Wong Ka-hing, a Department of Health consultant, said on Tuesday.

The accompanying graphic:

BLOG AIDS

And from the New York Times, back to Africa:

AIDS Progress in South Africa Is in Peril

Though few Americans or even South Africans realize it, the nation owes much of its success to a single United States program, the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, or Pepfar, started in 2003 under President George W. Bush. It has poured more than $3 billion into South Africa, largely for training doctors, building clinics and laboratories, and buying drugs.

Now that aid pipeline is drying up as the program shifts its limited budget to poorer countries, so the South African government must find hundreds of millions of dollars, even as its national caseload grows rapidly.

The country has six million infected and 370,000 new infections a year. That is seven times as many new infections as in the United States, which has six times the population. Condom use is dropping, according to a new survey, and teenage girls are becoming infected at alarming rates.

Next up, water woes, first via the Associated Press:

Drought leaves California homes without water

Hundreds of rural San Joaquin Valley residents no longer can get drinking water from their home faucets because California’s extreme drought has dried up their individual wells, government officials and community groups said.

The situation has become so dire that the Tulare County Office of Emergency Services had 12-gallon-per person rations of bottled water delivered on Friday in East Porterville, where at least 182 of the 1,400 households have reported having no or not enough water, according to the Porterville Recorder (http://bit.ly/1rsgwsZ ).

Many people in the unincorporated community about 52 miles north of Bakersfield also have been relying on a county-supplied 5,000-gallon water tank filled with non-potable water for bathing and flushing toilets, The Recorder said.

Motherboard offers a grim prognosis:

There’s a Good Chance the Southwest Will See a 35-Year Megadrought This Century

This probably isn’t what residents of the parched American Southwest want to hear right now, but there’s a good chance that the region is headed for a decades-long megadrought.

As if climatologists’ forecasts for a warming world weren’t dire enough, a new paper published in the American Meteorological Society concludes that current climate models “underestimate the risk of future persistent droughts.”

The study, spearheaded by Cornell’s Toby R. Ault, suggests that there is an 80 percent chance the region will be hit with a decade-long drought by the end of the century, a 20-50 percent chance it will weather a 35 year megadrought, and that the prospect of a severe dry spell afflicting the region for half a century is, I quote, “non-negligible.”

While the Guardian covers water woes in Old Blighty:

Abandoned landfills polluting UK rivers, research finds

  • More than 27 tonnes of ammonium leaches from an Oxford wetland into the River Thames every year, reports the Natural Environment Research Council

Abandoned landfill sites throughout the UK routinely leach polluting chemicals into rivers, say scientists.

At Port Meadow, on the outskirts of Oxford, about 27.5 tonnes of ammonium a year find way from landfill into the River Thames. The researchers say it could be happening at thousands of sites around the UK.

In water, ammonium breaks down into nitrogen. The extra nitrogen can trigger excessive plant growth and decay, damaging water quality and starving fish and other aquatic organisms of the oxygen they need to survive.

And ditto from Down Under with RT:

Danger to food chain? Microplastic contaminates found in Sydney Harbor

Scientists in the first study of its kind have found microplastic contamination at the bottom of Sydney Harbor, which may pose a threat to the food chain, Australian media reported.

The research by the Sydney Institute of Marine Science tested 27 sites across the harbor, with researchers finding up to 60 microplastics per 100 milligrams of sediment. This was a higher volume than expected even in the cleanest and best-flushed reaches.

Microplastics are tiny fragments and threads of plastic, which are less than five millimeters long. Professor Emma Johnston from the Sydney Institute, who leads the study, told ABC Australia microplastics represent the “emergence of a new contamination in our harbors.”

After the jump, a call for old school ag, sacrificing grain for oil, mercury troubles, Mexican mining anxieties, Icelandic eruption, California nuclear opposition, and the latest chapter of Fukushimapocalypse Now!. . . Continue reading