Category Archives: Deep Politics

InSecurityWatch: Spies, laws, peepers, drones


And much, much more. . .

We begin with the genome-incorporating corporate panopticon from the Asahi Shimbun:

Yahoo offers DNA tests, expects growth in gene-based advertising

Advertisements tailored to individuals’ genetic makeup have moved closer to reality with the start of a DNA testing service by Yahoo Japan Corp.

The service, which began Nov. 7, analyzes 290 genetic aspects of saliva samples–from the risk of such illnesses as lung cancer and stroke to physical traits, including a tendency toward obesity and alcohol-tolerance levels.

The service costs 49,800 yen ($430), including tax. Users can also receive advice from doctors and nutritionists, for an additional charge.

In June, the company revised its regulations on the protection of personal information to allow for the use of DNA analysis results in advertising.

From the Boston Globe, an inescapable conclusion:

Vote all you want. The secret government won’t change.

  • The people we elect aren’t the ones calling the shots, says Tufts University’s Michael Glennon

Why did the face in the Oval Office change but the policies remain the same? Critics tend to focus on Obama himself, a leader who perhaps has shifted with politics to take a harder line. But Tufts University political scientist Michael J. Glennon has a more pessimistic answer: Obama couldn’t have changed policies much even if he tried.

Though it’s a bedrock American principle that citizens can steer their own government by electing new officials, Glennon suggests that in practice, much of our government no longer works that way. In a new book, “National Security and Double Government,” he catalogs the ways that the defense and national security apparatus is effectively self-governing, with virtually no accountability, transparency, or checks and balances of any kind. He uses the term “double government”: There’s the one we elect, and then there’s the one behind it, steering huge swaths of policy almost unchecked. Elected officials end up serving as mere cover for the real decisions made by the bureaucracy.

Glennon’s critique sounds like an outsider’s take, even a radical one. In fact, he is the quintessential insider: He was legal counsel to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and a consultant to various congressional committees, as well as to the State Department. “National Security and Double Government” comes favorably blurbed by former members of the Defense Department, State Department, White House, and even the CIA. And he’s not a conspiracy theorist: Rather, he sees the problem as one of “smart, hard-working, public-spirited people acting in good faith who are responding to systemic incentives”—without any meaningful oversight to rein them in.

Reuters covers signs of overstretch:

As Obama visits Asia, old alliances face new strains in face of China’s influence

In November 2011, with the Arab Spring uprisings in full tilt and Europe rocked by a debt crisis, President Barack Obama flew to Asia to promote a shift of America’s military, diplomatic and business assets to the region. His then Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, declared in the same year that the 21st century would be “America’s Pacific century”.

Fast-forward to today: as Obama flies to Asia on Sunday, Washington’s “pivot” to the region is becoming more visible. It includes deployment of American Marines in Darwin, Australia, stepped up U.S. naval visits to the Philippines and many more joint drills with that nation’s armed forces, as well as the lifting of a ban on lethal weapons sales to Vietnam.

But just as Washington seeks to expand American interests in Asia as a counterpoint to China’s growing influence, some U.S. partners have shown less willingness to challenge Beijing. That may mean China will have a freer hand to assert its authority in the resource-rich South China Sea, where its territorial claims overlap those of Taiwan and four Southeast Asian countries.

The drubbing Obama’s Democrats took in this week’s mid-term elections, defeats that were blamed by many on his leadership, will hardly strengthen his position in discussions with China or with allies in the region. Obama will have less room for maneuver on foreign policy now he has a Republican-controlled Senate to deal with, and the political focus in Washington is already starting to turn to the 2016 presidential election.

More of the same, also via Reuters:

Unclear if China ready to sign IT agreement: WTO chief

China is part of “intensive” talks on a global trade pact regarding information technology products, the World Trade Organization’s chief said on Saturday, but it is unclear if a deal will be made at a meeting of Asia-Pacific leaders underway in Beijing.

The United States and other countries have been hopeful that China would sign on to the Information Technology Agreement (ITA), which requires signatories to eliminate duties on some IT products, during the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit that ends on Tuesday.

Washington has blamed China, the world’s biggest exporter of IT products, for derailing talks on an update to the 16 year old WTO pact on technology trade by asking for too many exemptions.

On to the war of the moment/clash of cultures/blowback via the New York Times:

U.S. Airstrikes in Iraq Target ISIS Leaders

An airstrike by a United States-led coalition hit a gathering of leaders of the Islamic State jihadist group in northwestern Iraq on Saturday, and Iraqi officials said they believed that a number of top militants had been killed.

Two Iraqi officials said that at least one strike had targeted a meeting near the town of Qaim, which is in Anbar Province, just across the border from the Syrian town of Bukamal. The area is in the desert heartland of the territory the group has seized for its self-declared caliphate.

Both officials said that the strikes had killed many militants from the Islamic State, also known as ISIS or ISIL, including two of its regional governors. Rumors also swirled that the group’s leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, had been at the meeting and was either wounded or killed. The officials said they had no confirmed information about Mr. Baghdadi’s presence at the meeting.

From the McClatchy Foreign Staff, strange bedfellows:

Sunni tribes join Shiite militias in battle for Iraqi town, a rare show of sectarian unity

Sunni Muslim tribesmen, Shiite militia fighters and Iraqi security forces set out Saturday to recapture a key city in Anbar province and stop Islamic State atrocities against a local tribe in an extraordinary coalition that could stir sectarian tensions or potentially serve as a model for future cooperation against the militants.

The operation to liberate Hit, about 90 miles west of Baghdad, could reshape the situation in Anbar in a way that would impact the mission of U.S. troops who are being deployed to the province from among the additional 1,500 U.S. military advisers the Pentagon said it is sending to Iraq at the end of the year.

“This is a dramatic change,” said Hisham al Hashimi, a prominent Iraqi defense analyst. “We have the Sunni Arab tribes fighting hand in hand with the Shiites.”

And from BBC News, another inescapable conclusion:

Ex-USSR leader Gorbachev: World on brink of new Cold War

The world is on the brink of a new Cold War, and trust should be restored by dialogue with Russia, former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev has said.

At an event to mark the 25th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall on Sunday, Mr Gorbachev said the West had “succumbed to triumphalism”.

He expressed alarm about recent Middle Eastern and European conflicts.

Along the same lines, via the New York Times:

As Russia Draws Closer to China, U.S. Faces a New Challenge

Mr. Obama is returning to Asia as Russia pulls closer to China, presenting a profound challenge to the United States and Europe. Estranged from the West over Ukraine, Mr. Putin will also be in Beijing this week as he seeks economic and political support, trying to upend the international order by fashioning a coalition to resist what both countries view as American arrogance.

Whether that is more for show than for real has set off a vigorous debate in Washington, where some government officials and international specialists dismiss the prospect of a more meaningful alliance between Russia and China because of the fundamental differences between the countries. But others said the Obama administration should take the threat seriously as Moscow pursues energy, financing and military deals with Beijing.

“We are more and more interested in the region that is next to us in Asia,” said Sergei I. Kislyak, the Russian ambassador to Washington. “They are good partners to us.” He added that a recent natural gas deal between Moscow and Beijing was a taste of the future. “It’s just the beginning,” he said, “and you will see more and more projects between us and China.”

The ante, via the Los Angeles Times:

Aging nuclear arsenal grows ever more costly

The nation’s nuclear weapons stockpile has shrunk by 85% since its Cold War peak half a century ago, but the Energy Department is spending nine times more on each weapon that remains. The nuclear arsenal will cost $8.3 billion this fiscal year, up 30% over the last decade.

The source of some of those costs: skyrocketing profits for contractors, increased security costs for vulnerable facilities and massive investments in projects that were later canceled or postponed.

“We are not getting enough for what we are spending, and we are spending more than what we need,” said Roger Logan, a senior nuclear scientist who retired in 2007 from Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory. “The whole system has failed us.”

The Defense Department’s fleet of submarines, bombers and land-based missiles is also facing obsolescence and will have to be replaced over the next two decades, raising the prospect of further multibillion-dollar cost escalations.

On to drones, first with a partnership from MercoPress:

Anglo-French defence co-operation contract to develop unmanned combat air systems

  • A set of defence co-operation contracts, worth £120 million, for the early phase of a joint development of Unmanned Combat Air System (UCAS) between the UK and French governments have been awarded in Paris. A UCAS capability would, by the 2030′s, be able to undertake sustained surveillance, mark targets, gather intelligence, deter adversaries and carry out strikes in hostile territory.

The contracts will underpin a two-year Future Combat Air System (FCAS) Feasibility Phase program and will involve six industry partners exploring concepts and options for the potential collaborative acquisition of a UCAS in the future.

The contracts award was jointly announced by Bernard Gray, the Ministry of Defence’s Chief of Defence Materiel and his counterpart, Laurent Collet-Billon, head of the French Directorate General of Armaments.

Mr Gray said that the development of Unmanned Combat Air Systems is of vital importance to the UK and France, “which have the most capable and experienced armed forces in Europe and well-established defence industrial bases”.

On a parallel track with Want China Times:

US must act soon to counter China droning on

Because the United States only allows its unmanned aerial vehicles to be exported to the United Kingdom, American experts fear that China will eventually dominate the global drone market, Washington’s National Interest magazine reports.

The Zhuihai Air Show held in Southern China every two years has attracted the attention of aviation experts from around the world. Beijing invested huge amounts of resources to improve the nation’s drone technology. With those drones displayed in Zhuhai, China seems to be ready to challenge the status quo of global arms control as it begins to catch up to its competition in the overseas market of unmanned aerial vehicles.

Following a report which indicated that China is cooperating with the Algerian military in developing unmanned aerial vehicles, Saudi Arabia announced that it purchased an undisclosed number of Wing Loong drones from China on May.

From the McClatchy Washington Bureau, the very curious:

Judge orders Obama to explain rejection of Chinese bid to buy Oregon wind farms on national security grounds

President Barack Obama and a secretive government committee that vets foreign purchases of American companies must explain to a Chinese-owned firm why they rejected its bid to buy Oregon wind farms, under a new order by a federal judge.

The unprecedented ruling by Amy Berman Jackson, a U.S. judge for the District of Columbia who was nominated by Obama, also requires him to justify withholding any information from the Chinese on grounds of executive privilege, a legal principle that presidents going back to George Washington have claimed.

Jackson’s order was issued under a July mandate from the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which ruled then that Obama had violated the constitutional due process rights of Chinese-owned Ralls Corp. in his September 2012 directive voiding its purchase of an Oregon wind-farm conglomerate.

MercoPress goes undercover:

Former US soccer leader Blazer spied on FIFA as an FBI informant

  • Chuck Blazer, once the most powerful man in US soccer, was an FBI informant used to spy on Fifa, the New York Daily News reports. Blazer, who is now suffering from cancer, secretly recorded conversations with officials he arranged to meet at his London hotel during the 2012 Olympics, the report said.

Union-busting at Scotland Yard, via the Guardian:

Police ‘covered up’ links with union blacklisting

  • Leaked minutes show senior officer met group targeting union activists

Scotland Yard has been accused of seeking to cover up its involvement in the blacklisting of more than 3,200 construction workers following the emergence of minutes of a meeting between a senior officer in its anti-extremism unit and the organisation running the list.

The leaked document proves that as late as 2008 a detective chief inspector in the National Extremism Tactical Coordination Unit (Netcu) briefed members of the Consulting Association, the secretive organisation that ran the blacklist keeping people out of work for decades. The association, which had a database of 3,213 names on which it held information, was raided and closed in 2009 by the Information Commissioner’s Office, but not before it destroyed the professional and personal lives of thousands of workers, according to those on the list.

A committee of MPs holding an inquiry into its activities heard evidence that at least two of those blacklisted committed suicide as a result. In 2012 the Information Commissioner’s Office told an employment tribunal that it believed information held in the files was from the police or security services.

From the London Daily Mail, peek-a-boo!:

Is this creepy website live-streaming YOUR living room? 73,000 webcams now viewable to anyone because their owners haven’t set a password

  • Website insecam.com running footage from more than 73,000 cameras
  • A total of 11,000 cameras in the United States are able to be viewed
  • There are 2,422 cameras in the UK which are also providing a live feed
  • Cameras which have not had their factory passwords changed are accessible
  • Users can view businesses, factories, building sites and private homes
  • The site states: ‘you can see into bedrooms of all countries of the world’
  • Easy to stop – just change the password on the camera

A creepy website has collected streaming footage from more than 73,000 cameras around the globe that are connected to the internet, because the owners haven’t changed their default passwords, making them accessible to virtually anyone.

Insecam claims to feature feeds from IP cameras all over the world with more than 11,000 in the U.S. and 2,400 in the UK alone.

Some of the shots are harmless with fly-on-the-wall views of stores, offices and parking lots, but there are also far more personal areas covered by the cameras, with living rooms and bedrooms featured prominently.

From Want China Times, the mal-adroit:

Apple blocks malware targeting Chinese iPhone user

Apple said they have blocked the malware hidden in apps of third-party app stores in China which aim to access information from Chinese iPhone users, Tencent’s online tech news outlet reports.

The malware, dubbed WireLurker, was brought to light by a Silicon Valley-based cyber security company Palo Alto Networks in a report published on Nov. 6. When users downloaded the apps from the third-party app stores in China and installed the apps on their Mac computers, the malware hidden in the apps stole user information from any iOS device, including the iPhone and the iPad, when it was connected to the computer with a USB.

iPhones are relatively safe from malware given the strong firewall protection Apple uses for the phones. Apps that aren’t developed by Apple have to be authorized first and users can only download from Apple’s app store. WireLurker is the first malware capable of invading privacy on iPhones and other iOS devices and it poses a big threat to Chinese Apple users, the tech outlet said.

And from Channel 4 News in Britain, selling you out:

eBay for credit card fraudsters: Thousands of details up for sale

Program notes:

How safe is your money? We’ve discovered that the credit card details of thousands of Britons are being offered for sale on the internet.

After the jump, hard times intolerance in Sweden and Austria, Israel lobby tanks British Labor Party funding, a Chavez ally charged with cartel links, Brazil prepares for war to defend the Amazon, an Israeli Arab general strike over a police shooting, military press censorship proposed in Egypt, protesters seize a Libyan oil port, new anti-gay laws in Uganda, a rare admission by India’s army in deaths of teens, arrested Americans feed by Pyongyang, discouraging words for Hong Kong Occupy activists, Abe confirms a summit in Beijing, Chinese media proclaim a win while China moves forward on a regional economic zone, and echoes from a battle a century past haunt the Beijing/Tokyo axis. . . Continue reading

Noam Chomsky: When a hegemon overreaches


An interesting interview with the MIT philosopher/linguist/anarchist by RT’s Sophie Shevardnadze, with some interesting insights on the rise of ISIS.

From Sophie&Co:

Noam Chomsky: NATO became US-run intervention force

Program notes:

How did Russia and the West slip back into what seems like the Cold War all over again? How dangerous is the current confrontation? Should the world be ready to face a nuclear war? World-famous academic, linguist, philosopher and political commentator Noam Chomsky is on Sophie&Co.

From the transcript:

SS: Professor, I want to talk about crisis around ISIS a little bit. You’ve said that the appearance of ISIS and the spread of extremism is a natural consequence of U.S. actions in Iraq. But the emergence of ISIS seemed a surprise to all, how did U.S. intelligence miss it?

NC: I suggest that you look up on the Internet a recent article by Graham Fuller. He is a very highly regarded commentator on Middle Eastern affairs, coming straight out of the U.S. establishment with a long background in the CIA, a highly respected, very knowledgeable commentator. What he says is and I’m quoting him: “The United States created ISIS”. And then he goes on to say: “The U.S. didn’t plan ISIS of course”. These conspiracy tales have no basis. But the U.S. actions in region, including the invasion, have created the circumstances, under which ISIS emerged, and I think he is correct. What happened is the U.S. basically hit Iraq with a kind of sledgehammer. U.S. forces instantly instituted a governmental structure, which was sectarian in nature, they designed a system with particular participation by Shiites and Sunnis in various proportions, but they had to be divided that way. That, along with the counter-insurgency operations – there was of course resistance to the invasion – counter-insurgency operations are always very brutal and destructive. All of this came together to create sectarian conflicts, which had not existed before. If you look back at Bagdad in 2000, Shiites and Sunnis were intermarried, living in the same areas, they often didn’t even know who’s a Sunni and who’s Shia, it’s kind of like knowing which Protestant sect your neighbor belongs to, you may not know and you may not care. If you look at Bagdad ten years later, five years later, it’s broken up into separate regions, walled off from one another, brutal military conflicts, much of the population expelled. That has since expanded, and now it’s tearing the whole region apart. Syria is one element of it. Iran-Saudi confrontation is another aspect. And out of this emerged ISIS. Graham Fuller is quite correct.

SS: You just quoted a man that you respect a lot, who said, it’s the United States who involuntarily actually created ISIS, so if it’s the United States actions that brought about ISIS, isn’t it only fair that the United States should lead the fight against it today? I mean, it’s only obvious that political and diplomatic means to solve this mess aren’t there. So, do you support the U.S.-led bombing campaign?

NC: There are ways to respond diplomatically, one conceivable possibility, conceivable, is to act in accordance with the law. There is a reign of international law, that’s in principal. It debars the use of force or the threat of force in international affairs, except under authorization by the UN Security Council. A law-abiding state would go to the Security Council, ask for a declaration by the Security Council of a threat to peace, and request the Security Council to organize direct response to it. And that could be done. The U.S. could then participate in it, but so could Iran. Remember, look at the Iraqi Foreign Office, what they want is for Iran to become involved. It’s a major military force. If it did enter it would probably wipe out ISIS in no time. But the U.S. won’t permit that. The U.S.-run coalition, which is in violation of basic international law, excludes Iran, excludes the PKK and its affiliates, which apparently are doing the ground-fighting – according to the U.S., they are terrorist group. Turkey, which is closest U.S. ally, is opposed to them. The central U.S. ally, Saudi Arabia – that’s been the source of funding, the main source of the funding of ISIS, but also it’s the ideological source. It’s the Wahabi-Salafi extremists, that’s radical Islamic doctrines, which are kind of a fringe of Islam in Saudi Arabia, a fringe of that radical doctrine is ISIS. So, this coalition is kind of a meaningless coalition, apart from being illegal. There would be ways of handling, at least approaching the problem legally, which could work.

Bill Moyers looks at Chevron’s Richmond defeat


Bill Moyers, once press secretary to President Lyndon Johnson, knows politics and he know Big Oil, which puts him in position to ask all the right questions of Richmond Mayor Gayle McLaughlin, target of a massive, very expensive, and scurrilous negative campaign by one of the world’s most powerful corporations, and UC Berkeley journalism student Harriet Blair Rowan, who covered the election for the school’s Richmond Confidential website.

From Moyers and Company:

Facing Down Corporate Election Greed

Program notes:

In the midst of the midterm elections and the obsession with which party would control the US Senate, there were races at the local and state level with deeper implications for the future of the country.

In the small city of Richmond, California, a slate of progressive candidates faced off against a challenge from pro-business candidates backed to the tune of more than $3 million by the energy giant Chevron. For years, Chevron has treated Richmond like a company town and its large refinery there has been a constant source of health and safety concerns.

Since 2007, Mayor Gayle McLaughlin, a Green Party leader, and her allies on the city council have faced down not only Chevron but other corporate interests like the real estate and financial industries as well. This year, Chevron fought back with an expensive barrage of negative campaign media. But on Election Day, the progressive slate triumphed, despite the roughly $250 per vote Chevron spent.

McLaughlin – who this year was term limited as mayor but won a city council seat — and Harriet Blair Rowan, a college student and journalist who uncovered the Chevron money story for the news website Richmond Confidential, talk with Bill this week about the role unlimited sums of corporate cash have played in Richmond. They discuss the great success of the billions spent by wealthy individuals and companies in other races across the country and how to fight back, using Richmond’s example as a model for future fights of organized people versus organized money.

EnviroWatch: Sun, fuels, climate, & nukes


And a lot more.. . .

We begin with the ultimate source of all that global warming, caught by NASA in spectacular effulgence. From  NASA Goddard:

NASA | Five X-class Flares

Program notes:

This movie shows 8 days – from Oct. 19-27, 2014 — in the life of the largest active region seen on the sun since 1990, including five X-class flares that erupted during that time.

Next, another reminder of the critical state of African health infrastructure, this time from the Daily Monitor in Kampala, Uganda:

Fix hospitals’ waste issues

The Ministry of Health should help Adjumani and Masaka hospitals sort out their piles of medical wastes and stop random disposal. Masaka hospital’s pit is now filled up and medical wastes dumped on open ground, while Adjumani has its incinerator blown up because of overuse. As a result, support staff at Adjumani hospital dumps the wastes within the enclosure of the incinerator because they cannot burn them.

Unless the ministry and the district authorities move fast, this devil-may-care disposal predisposes the residents to serious health risks, environmental pollution, and even water sources being polluted. This situation means some solid wastes such as used cotton wool, blood stained bandages, surgical gloves and blades, syringes, blood drip bottles and plastic bottles cannot be disposed of entirely.

So just fencing of the stinky open-pit as suggested by Masaka Resident District Commissioner Linos Ngompek is not enough. Neither is the suggested frequent but uncontrolled burning to stop the wastes piling up any better. These options won’t amply protect the residents from these hazardous wastes. Neither would this burn entirely some solid wastes such as needles.

More African public health woes from StarAfrica:

Lack of anti-malaria drugs leads to many deaths in South Sudan – MSF

Cases of deaths from malaria are on the rise in western South Sudan due to lack of anti-malarial drugs in the country, in the peripheral health centers, Medecins Sans Frontieres( MSF) said on Thursday.

Every year, with the commencement of the rainy season, mosquitoes multiply in the stagnant water and the number of malaria cases increases.

This year, the epidemic is widespread in the western parts of the country. The unusually prolonged and heavy rainfall in many areas of the country and the lack of available treatments in some peripheral health centres means that many patients have had to travel to MSF health structures to be treated, said MSF in a statement issued in Nairobi.

Reuters covers an ominous discovery:

Drug-resistant superbug found in 1915 soldier killed by dysentery

Scientists who unlocked the genetic code of bacteria grown from a soldier who died of dysentery in World War I say it revealed a superbug already resistant to penicillin and other antibiotics decades before they were in common use.

The discovery sheds light on the history of antibiotic resistance – now a global health threat – and offers fresh clues on how to tackle dysentery, a disease that kills hundreds of thousands of children every year in developing countries.

“Even before the description and widespread use of penicillin, this bacterium was resistant to it,” said Kate Baker of Britain’s Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute, who worked on the research with colleagues at Public Health England (PHE).

Next, one bright spot in all that electoral misery, via Grist:

Chevron spent $72 per voter to defeat these green candidates — and failed

At the headquarters for the Richmond Progressive Alliance (RPA) Tuesday night, a man in a superhero mask made to look like the Chevron logo was capering around, handing play money to people and saying, “Vote for me!”

It might have been a depressing piece of political theater, but given how the election turned out, it wasn’t. By the end of the night, it was clear that the RPA’s entire slate of candidates had won by a landslide — despite Chevron’s funneling at least $3 million into defeating them (about $72 for each registered voter in the city).

RPA city council candidates Eduardo Martinez, Jovanka Beckles, and outgoing mayor Gayle McLaughlin all won, and RPA-endorsed candidate and city council member Tom Butt became the city’s new mayor. Butt’s election will free up a city council seat, which the RPA will try to fill with one of their own. If that happens, the group will have the four votes that will give them a majority on the council.

The campaigning continued right up until the end. Moving Forward, a political action committee funded primarily by Chevron, portrayed the RPA’s candidates as a group of commie troublemakers who couldn’t decide which they loved more, Cuba or Occupy Oakland. The morning of the election, a last-minute hit piece appeared in the Richmond Standard, a newspaper created by Sam Singer and Associates, a PR firm that often works with Chevron, alleging that “supporters of Team Richmond, candidates supported by the Richmond Progressive Alliance, have been harassing voters” at polling places.

From CNBC, more California environmental electoral news:

Despite water bond vote, California drought relief elusive

Voters in California on Tuesday easily approved a $7.2 billion bond initiative to fund various state water projects.

The measure includes funding for new water storage projects, water recycling efforts, storm water recovery, building of new dams and efforts to provide safe drinking water for those in need.

But relief from the severe drought—now heading into its fourth year—won’t be so easy to come by, analysts admit.

Back to the dark side with the Guardian:

Climate change denier Jim Inhofe in line for Senate’s top environmental job

Obama faces a fight to protect his climate change agenda after midterm results suggest Senate’s top environmental post will fall to Republican stalwart of climate denial

The Senate’s top environmental job is set to fall to Jim Inhofe, one of the biggest names in US climate denial, but campaigners say Barack Obama will fight to protect his global warming agenda.

Oklahoma Republican Inhofe has been denying the science behind climate change for 20 years – long before it became a cause for the conservative tea party wing. Following midterm elections which saw the Republicans take control of the senate, he is now expected to become the chairman of the senate environment and public works committee.

However, advocates believe Obama will work to protect his signature power plant rules from Republican attacks, and to live up to his earlier commitments to a global deal on fight climate change.

More from EcoWatch:

Dark Money Fuels Election Wins for Climate Deniers

In what turned out to be a bad midterm election for the environment, climate deniers won a slew of races across the country, fueled by big spending from fossil fuel interests such as the Koch brothers. Their money overruled increasing public support for reigning in carbon-spewing industries to address climate change.

Dirty energy money also overshadowed the heaviest pro-environmental spending yet from climate-friendly billionaire Tom Steyer and his organization NextGen Climate. Some of the media are spinning this as a big defeat for Steyer and environmentalists. But it was more a matter of more money drowning them out—and how much more is unknown. While Steyer has been open about his spending through NextGen Climate, estimated at more than $50 million, the Koch brothers conceal much of their money in so-called 501 (c) 4 organizations, a form of nonprofit that can spend unlimited amounts of “dark money” without revealing its funders.

In fact, three of the seven candidates that NextGen Climate made top priorities prevailed: Senator Jeanne Shaheen in New Hampshire, Senator-elect Gary Peters in Michigan and governor-elect Tom Wolf. Shaheen beat Scott Brown, who has changed positions on climate more often than he’s changed the state he’s run in. Peters squelched Terri Lynn Land who has said there should be a “debate” on the extent of human involvement in climate change and called Peters and Steyer “radical liberals.” Wolf beat sitting Governor Tom Corbett who also has said climate change is a “subject of debate” and ordered references to it that he thought took a position on it deleted from a state website. Corbett is also head cheerleader for Pennsylvania’s booming fracking sector.

From AJ+, the new Al Jazeera Amrerica YouTube channel, one ongoing struggle against the tar sands pipelines from a Canadian tribe:

How To Stop An Oil And Gas Pipeline: The Unist’ot’en Camp Resistance

Program notes:

Over the past four years, the Unist’ot’en clan of the Wet’suwet’en nation have literally built a strategy to keep three proposed oil and gas pipelines from crossing their land. Concerned about the environmental damage a leak could cause on land they’ve never given up, they’ve constructed a protection camp to block pipeline companies. As opposition to the development of Alberta’s tar sands and to fracking projects grows across Canada, with First Nations communities on the front lines, the Unist’ot’en camp is an example of resistance that everyone is watching.

And from the Toronto Globe and Mail:

Ozone-destroying chemical making comeback, scientists find

An ozone-destroying chemical long thought to be on the decline in Earth’s upper atmosphere is making an unexpected comeback, an international team of scientists has found.

Backed by years of global observations including key contributions from a Canadian satellite, researchers reported in the journal Nature on Wednesday that concentrations of hydrogen chloride in the Northern Hemisphere have been edging upward since 2007.

The effect is pronounced enough to slow the recovery of the ozone layer, which helps to screen out harmful ultraviolet radiation from the sun. Ozone thinned dramatically in the past because of the use of chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), which were phased out after international adoption of the Montreal Protocol in 1987.

Declaring victory in the Potemkin Village, via Want China Times:

Beijing netizens thank APEC foreign leaders for ‘expelling smog’

In a mocking jab at the Beijing authorities’ efforts to make sure the Chinese capital has relatively clean air during the upcoming APEC leadership meetings there, Chinese internet users have posted messages saying that “we thank the foreign leaders for ‘expelling the smog hazard’ and wish that the meetings would last for 10,000 years.”

Notorious for its winter smog, Beijing has pulled out all the stops to reduce air pollution during the Nov. 5-11 meeting.

The measures include strictly limiting the number of vehicles allowed to enter the city, banning the burning of coal, ordering some factories to close and some of the city’s public servants to go on a six-day leave during the series of meetings.

The most recent measure, according to the Beijing News, a Chinese language newspaper run by the Communist Party of China’s Beijing chapter, is to ban people from burning the clothes of their newly departed relatives at funeral parlors — a traditional Chinese practice — during the meetings.

Making fun of the new measure, the netizens said that “Yama (the king of Hell) has ordered that no deaths should be allowed in Beijing or its neighboring areas, and none of the dead should be allowed to accept the clothes promptly delivered by their live relatives.”

From BBC News, climatus interruptus:

Australia is ‘holding back’ global climate change fight

Australia is a drag on international efforts to tackle climate change, says leading economist and former government adviser Professor Ross Garnaut.

Prof Garnaut said the country had failed to make its “fair share” of greenhouse gas cuts.

Earlier, Prime Minister Tony Abbott reiterated his position that coal was the foundation of global energy needs.

Australia has the world’s highest carbon emissions per capita and is its second biggest coal exporter.

Organizing against another Big Oil depredation, from the Guardian:

Virunga film-makers ask viewers to join campaign against oil company Soco

Makers of a documentary set in the DRC’s Virunga national park are calling on viewers to help protect the heritage site by putting pressure on Soco to rule out all future development there

Film-makers hoping to force a British oil company to rule out all future development in a war-torn world heritage site in Africa have urged viewers to protest to the company’s financial backers.

Producers of the documentary Virunga, set in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) park which is home to many of the world’s remaining 800 mountain gorillas, will on Friday publish a list of all major British and international pension funds, companies and banks who back London-based Soco’s search for oil in some of the world’s most volatile regions. They include the Church of England investment fund, M&S, Aviva, Scottish Widows and and several high street banks.

Joanna Natasegara, a co-producer, said: “Many funds and financial investments tie into Soco without people knowing. We want people to write to the [financial] companies and ask them if Soco intend to really stay away from Virunga forever and what they will be doing to safeguard the park for the future.”

Another electoral bombshell? From EcoWatch:

Will GOP Try To Fast-Track Keystone XL Pipeline?

Now that Republicans have taken control of the Senate in addition to the House of Representatives, the attacks on the environment they’ve long advocated for will most likely rise to the top of the congressional agenda.

One prominent item on their wish list is the Keystone XL pipeline to transport tar sands bitumen oil from Alberta, Canada to the Gulf of Mexico for export overseas. They’ve been open about their frustration that President Obama has so far heeded the mounting opposition and not allowed the project to move forward. But, with backing from the fossil fuel interests that fund their campaigns, Republican leadership will likely work to push Obama hard to get the Keystone XL done.

Current Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, who will hand over his gavel to a Republican, most likely to current Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, in January, is a pipeline opponent and so far has blocked Republican efforts to force approval of the project.

“The election of several pro-Keystone Senators puts the passage of Keystone that much closer and shows energy projects like Keystone is a priority for our country,” Ryan Bernstein, chief of staff for leading pipeline proponent Senator John Hoeven’s (R-ND) chief of staff, told The Hill. “We will be working with Senator McConnell to get a vote on the floor shortly after the new Congress is seated.”

And partial victories from the Associated Press:

Fracking bans pass in 2 California counties, lose in 1

Voters in two counties approved prohibitions on fracking to extract oil and gas, while voters in Santa Barbara County rejected a ban.

Voters in San Benito and Mendocino counties adopted the ban Tuesday.

Fracking is a method of forcing chemicals and liquids underground to extract deposits from aging oil and gas fields. None of the three counties is known to have fracking operations now, and there is no oil drilling of any kind in Mendocino County.

Chevron, ExxonMobil and other oil companies donated about $7 million to try to defeat the fracking bans in the three counties.

More from the Guardian:

Texas oil town makes history as residents say no to fracking

  • Denton, Texas, is probably most heavily fracked town in US
  • Oil and gas industry asks court for immediate injunction

The Texas town where America’s oil and natural gas boom began has voted to ban fracking, in a stunning rebuke to the industry.

Denton, a college town on the edge of the Barnett Shale, voted by 59% to ban fracking inside the city limits, a first for any locality in Texas.

Organisers said they hoped it would give a boost to anti-fracking activists in other states. More than 15 million Americans now live within a mile of an oil or gas well.

“It should send a signal to industry that if the people in Texas – where fracking was invented – can’t live with it, nobody can,” said Sharon Wilson, the Texas organiser for EarthWorks, who lives in Denton.

After the jump, a climate threat to a ravaged part of Africa, climate change disrupting pollination and worsening allergies, alien invaders in Chile, a British shark and cetacean alert, highly placed Chinese ivory smugglers just one piece of a larger predation, another furor over America’s massively overmedicated livestock, the ongoing flap over Bill Gates’s charitable priorities continues, then on to Fukushimapocalypse Now!, first with a radioactive removal, plans for removals elsewhere, a radioactive waste rebuff, Taiwan runs radioactive checks on Japanese cargo, no Fukushima birth defect spikes in wake of radiation release, another thumbs up for a reactor complex restart, Germany becomes a litigation target in wake of nuclear power shutdown order, A leaky nuclear shutdown across the border from Germany, and words you never wanted to hear: Google wants your genome. . . Continue reading

Election 2014: Bernie Sanders sums it up


The short answer: An oligarchs win, and they’ll be out to cut Social Security, end Obamacare, and generally demolish anything standing in the way of their gaining control over all the wealth they can grab, leaving the rest of  us impoverished and disenfranchised.

From an interview he gave last night to Democracy Now!:

Sen. Bernie Sanders: The United States is on the Verge of Becoming an Oligarchy

Program notes:

We get reaction to the Republicans’ big midterm victory from Sen. Bernie Sanders, Independent of Vermont. “What frightens me is what Citizens United has done to the politics of this country and the ability of billionaires like the Koch brothers and others to put unprecedented sums of money into elections,” Sanders says. “I fear that we may be on the verge of becoming an oligarchic form of society where a handful of billionaires control not just the economy, but the political life of this country. And that’s just something we’re going to have wrestle with.”

That said, the Democrats themselves have do little more than practice placebo politics, recrafting all their social reforms of decades past into privatized functions in corporate hands [e.g., Obamacare] and endlessly surrendering to GOP fiats whilst hypocritically professing their allegiance to Franklin Delano Roosevelt, a stance which has contributed in no small way to the disillusionment of the party’s natural base of the young, women, the poor, and people of color.

InSecurityWatch: Hacks, war, spooks, zones


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

First, from the Intercept, oh joy:

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

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

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

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

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

Canadian warplanes launch air strikes against Islamic State militants

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

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

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

More from CBC News:

Canada’s forces face daunting mission against ISIS in Iraq

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

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

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

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

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

From the Guardian, more blowback:

Muslim leader shot outside Sydney prayer hall by alleged Isis supporters

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

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

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

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

From McClatchy Washington Bureau, a serious setback:

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

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

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

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

But good news for a very few from RT:

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

Program notes:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

While the Independent examines origins:

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

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

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

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

Screens going up from BuzzFeed:

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

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

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

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

And from RT, add fuel to fire:

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

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

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

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

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

While the Los Angeles Times sounds a familiar theme:

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

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

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

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

On to Cold War 2.0 from News Corp Australia:

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

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

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

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

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

The London Telegraph looks at the other cyberwar:

Britain’s spy chief says US tech firms aid terrorism

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

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

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

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

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

The Independent takes a different tack:

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

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

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

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

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

More from the Guardian:

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

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

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

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

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

And a rebuff from the Independent:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And from the Washington Post, more corporate cyberstalking:

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

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

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

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

And another techie turmoil from the Guardian:

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

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

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

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

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

intelNews covers a work-around:

Brazil builds direct Internet cable to Europe to avoid US spying

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

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

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

The South China Morning Post covers another:

China to launch hack-proof quantum communication network in 2016

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

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

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

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

From TechWeekEurope, help wanted:

Why The UK Desperately Needs 200,000 IT Security Specialists

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

InSecurityWatch: War, fear, law, hacks, spies


Plus more murders in Mexico, and more. . .

First, a hint of things to come from Techdirt:

If GOP Takes Senate Next Week, Expect The CIA Torture Report To Disappear

  • from the bye-bye dept

We’ve heard some mumbling about one of the main reasons that the CIA has been dragging its feet on declassifying the executive summary of the CIA torture report that the Senate Intelligence Committee put together: it knows there’s a decent chance that the Republicans will win the Senate next week, and suddenly the report may disappear from view. As you may recall, the Intelligence Committee (with support from GOP Senators) voted to declassify the 480 page executive summary of the 6,300 page report (which the Senate spent $40 million putting together). Multiple leaks concerning the report have suggested that it’s devastating and details how terrible the CIA’s torture program was, how it was completely ineffective and how the CIA lied about it all.

But most of the support for releasing the report is coming from the Democrats on the Senate Intelligence Committee, led by Dianne Feinstein (who sides with the NSA on plenty of stuff, but is more willing to challenge the CIA). But if the Republicans take the Senate next week, then the chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee will likely shift to Senator Richard Burr, who has made it quite clear that he’s on the CIA’s team and against the public interest.

“I personally don’t believe that anything that goes on in the intelligence committee should ever be discussed publicly,” Burr told reporters in March. “If I had my way, with the exception of nominees, there would never be a public intelligence hearing.”

On to the war zone with Homeland Security News Wire:

Foreigners from 80 countries are joining ISIS on “unprecedented scale”: UN

A report by the UN Security Council has warned that foreign jihadists are swarming into Iraq and Syria on “an unprecedented scale” and from countries that had not previously contributed combatants to global terrorism.

The report finds that 15,000 people have travelled to Syria and Iraq to fight alongside the Islamic State (ISIS) and other extremist groups. These volunteers come from more than eighty countries, the report states, “including a tail of countries that have not previously faced challenges relating to al-Qaeda.”

ISIS is estimated to have more than $1 million in daily revenues from oil smuggling operations alone. It controls territory the size of Texas in Iraq and Syria, a territory which is home to between five and six million people, a population the size of Finland’s. The UN reports says that ISIS’s treasury also benefits from up to $45 million in money from kidnapping for ransom.

From TheLocal.ch, another case of blowback?:

Swiss confirm European terror plot by three Iraqis

Swiss authorities confirmed on Friday that three Iraqis arrested in March are suspected of having planned a terrorist attack in Europe on behalf of the Islamic State group.

At the end of March, authorities “arrested three Iraqi citizens suspected of providing support to the criminal organization known as the Islamic State (Isis),” Switzerland’s attorney general said in a statement.

“They are thought to have been planning a terrorist attack in Europe,” the statement said.

Swiss news media reported the arrests at the end of September, saying Switzerland’s Federal Intelligence Service had been tipped off by a Western counterpart which intercepted the men’s phone calls.

Want China Times covers more trouble in China:

Xinjiang terrorists planning attack on Beijing APEC summit: report

Terrorists from northwest China’s Xinjiang Uyghur autonomous region are rumored to be planning an attack on the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit in Beijing next month, reports Hong Kong’s Oriental Daily.

Though there has been no confirmation of a suspected terrorist plot from official Chinese channels, it is rumored that the terrorists have already infiltrated north China’s Hebei province, which encircles Beijing, with the intent of striking domestic and foreign leaders attending the summit. The report did not specify what kind of attacks were being planned or how they might be carried out amid the intense security.

The Hebei provincial government has reportedly mobilized 1.5 million security volunteers, including 100,000 students from 15 military schools, the special police and armed police, to begin an intensive search of local households to check for suspicious individuals and items in the lead up to the event.

The searches will reportedly be carried out under the guise of checking household water meters.

The ongoing war in a familiar venue from the Express Tribune:

Fresh offensive in Khyber Agency displaces thousands

Over 150,000 people have fled from Khyber Agency after the military launched a fresh offensive against militants, officials said Friday.

Pakistan launched an operation in Khyber agency in mid-October against militants who had taken a sanctuary there after fleeing strongholds in North Waziristan where the military had launched a large-scale operation against them in mid-June.

“Since October 13, 171,559 people have moved from Khyber to Peshawar and Kohat,” tribal disaster management department spokesperson Haseeb Khan told AFP, referring to two cities that border the tribal region.

Khan said that a few of the displaced people had chosen to stay at government-run camps while most of them were staying with relatives.

Over a million people had fled flighting in North Waziristan when the army began their offensive against militants in June, codenamed Zarb-e-Azb.

From Vocativ, time for a scare:

NYPD: Terrorists Could Slap Guns or Bombs on Drones

There are plenty of respectable reasons why New Yorkers might not want drones hovering around office buildings and apartment complexes. First of all, it’s creepy. Second, if one should come crashing down to the street, it could potentially kill someone.

But the newest drone paranoia comes from the New York Police Department, which says drones might be used by terrorists.

This week, the NYPD’s deputy chief, Salvatore DiPace, told CBS that the country’s largest police force is concerned that terrorists might use drones in an attack on the city. “We look at it as something that could be a terrorist’s tool,” he said. “We’ve looked at some people that have jury-rigged these drones to carry guns, to carry different types of explosives if they wanted to; there’s just so many possibilities that we’re very worried about.”

More scare-mongering from News Corp Australia:

Threat to attack Australian teachers posted on jihadist forum

JIHADISTS are encouraging attacks on Australian teachers working abroad, the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade has advised expatriates.

DFAT on Friday night updated its terror threat advice in light of an online forum post, which urged attacks against teachers at international schools around the world.

However, DFAT says it’s not aware of any specific information to suggest an attack is being planned.

“A recent posting on a jihadist forum website encouraged attacks against teachers, including Australian teachers, at international schools around the world,” the advice said.

Legislative overstretch from the London Telegraph:

Sharia law or gay marriage critics would be branded ‘extremists’ under Tory plans, atheists and Christians warn

  • New Extremism Disruption Orders would class secularists or evangelical Christians alongside Islamic state or Boko Haram, campaigners claim

Anyone who criticises Sharia law or gay marriage could be branded an “extremist” under sweeping new powers planned by the Conservatives to combat terrorism, an alliance of leading atheists and Christians fear.

Theresa May, the Home Secretary, unveiled plans last month for so-called Extremism Disruption Orders, which would allow judges to ban people deemed extremists from broadcasting, protesting in certain places or even posting messages on Facebook or Twitter without permission.

Mrs May outlined the proposal in a speech at the Tory party conference in which she spoke about the threat from the so-called Islamic State – also known as Isis and Isil – and the Nigerian Islamist movement Boko Haram.

But George Osborne, the Chancellor, has made clear in a letter to constituents that the aim of the orders would be to “eliminate extremism in all its forms” and that they would be used to curtail the activities of those who “spread hate but do not break laws.”

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