Category Archives: Europe

InSecurityWatch: Spies, hacks, zones, drones


Today’s walk on the dark side begins with this from Nextgov:

Sen. Feinstein Pushes to Delay Release of CIA Torture Report

Sen. Dianne Feinstein wants a classified report released on Bush-era “enhanced interrogation” policies. She just doesn’t want it out quite yet.

The chairwoman of the Senate Intelligence Committee sent a letter to Attorney General Eric Holder earlier this month urging the Justice Department to delay its compliance with a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit seeking the disclosure of her panel’s so-called torture report. Feinstein argued the report is not ready for the public because negotiations are ongoing between her and the CIA over the document’s heavily redacted material.

“Not only would it be inappropriate for the department to release documents related to the committee’s study prior to the committee’s own release, but the result of the ongoing negotiations will likely positively affect the redactions in the documents being sought,” Feinstein wrote in a letter dated Aug. 12.

From the San Francisco Chronicle, gee, ya think so?:

Police often provoke protest violence, UC researchers find

The violence that turns a small-town protest into a fiery national spectacle like the one that has played out this month in Missouri is often unwittingly provoked by police, according to researchers at UC Berkeley.

The research team, which studied clashes between police and activists during the Occupy movement three years ago, found that protests tend to turn violent when officers use aggressive tactics, such as approaching demonstrators in riot gear or lining up in military-like formations.

Recent events in Ferguson, Mo., are a good example, the study’s lead researcher said. For nearly two weeks, activists angered by a white police officer’s fatal shooting of an unarmed black teenager have ratcheted up their protests when confronted by heavily armed police forces.

From the Wire, eyes on:

Ferguson Police Department Implements Body Cameras

Police officers in Ferguson began wearing body cameras over the weekend, as residents continue to protest the fatal police shooting of an unarmed teenager three weeks earlier.

About 50 body cameras were donated by two security firms, Safety Vision and Digital Ally, last week, after talks with the Ferguson Police Department in response to differing stories coming out the of the shooting on Aug. 9 of Michael Brown Jr. by Ferguson officer Darren Wilson.

Ferguson Police Chief Tom Jackson said that officers are adjusting to working with body cameras, but that the overall response is positive now that nearly the entire department has been trained.

From Sky News, Cold War 2.0 arms up:

Nato Plans ‘Spearhead’ Force To Face Russia

  • The alliance unveils plans for a “high-readiness force” in eastern Europe amid more evidence of Russian aggression in Ukraine

Nato is set to create a “high-readiness” force and stockpile military equipment in Eastern Europe as a bulwark against potential Russian aggression, the alliance’s chief has said.

Anders Fogh Rasmussen said the proposed new force could be comprised of several thousand troops contributed to on a rotating basis by the 28 Nato countries.

Backed by air and naval assets, he said the unit would be a “spearhead” that could be deployed at very short notice to help Nato members defend themselves against any threat, including from Russia.

From the London Telegraph, waterboarding included?:

British jihadists to be forced to attend deradicalisation programmes, says Cameron

  • David Cameron announces moves to reverse Islamist brainwashing of British jihadists in new court order controls

British jihadists returning from Iraq and Syria will be forced to attend “deradicalisation” programmes to reverse their warped brainwashing, David Cameron announced.

Dangerous fanatics made subject to court controls will be ordered to engage in anti-extremism schemes as part of a raft of new measures to combat the risk of British Islamists returning to the UK.

The move comes amid growing concern over the threat posed by Britons who have joined the terror group Isil in Syria and Iraq.

More from International Business Times:

British Prime Minister David Cameron Proposes Seizing Passports Of Suspected ISIS Militants

British Prime Minister David Cameron Monday proposed expansion of police powers and a deradicalization program to head off terror plots hatched by returning militants. An estimated 500 Britons are suspected of fighting alongside Islamic State militants, the Guardian reported.

The Conservative Party’s Cameron proposed seizing the passports of suspected militants and forcing terror suspects into deradicalization programs to reverse their fanaticism. The Telegraph reported suspects also could be forced to move from their hometowns. In addition, airlines would be required to provide more information about passengers.

Addressing the House of Commons, Cameron called the idea of British citizens swearing allegiance to militant groups such as the Islamic State, formerly known as ISIS, “abhorrent.” He said he is looking for ways to keep them from returning to the U.K.

From RIA Novosti, a dissent:

Former British Ambassador to Uzbekistan Says UK Rogue State, Danger to World

The United Kingdom as a rogue state and a danger to the world, a former British Ambassador to Uzbekistan Craig Murray said.

“The British Government is deeply, deeply immoral. They don’t care how many people they kill abroad if it advances them. Anybody who votes No [to Scottish independence] is voting to support a pathological state which is a danger in the world, a rogue state and a state prepared to go to war to make a few people wealthy,” Murray said in a speech made ahead of an historic vote on Scottish independence to be held in just three weeks.

He told an open public meeting in St Andrews that the actions he witnesses as a senior diplomat had changed his “world view” and said it was now “impossible to be proud of the United Kingdom.”

From the Intercept, today’s allies, yesterday’s enemy:

How the NSA Helped Turkey Kill Kurdish Rebels

Documents from the archive of U.S. whistleblower Edward Snowden that Der Spiegel and The Intercept have seen show just how deeply involved America has become in Turkey’s fight against the Kurds. For a time, the NSA even delivered its Turkish partners with the mobile phone location data of PKK leaders on an hourly basis. The U.S. government also provided the Turks with information about PKK money flows, and the whereabouts of some of its leaders living in exile abroad.

At the same time, the Snowden documents also show that Turkey is one of the United States’ leading targets for spying. Documents show that the political leadership in Washington, D.C., has tasked the NSA with divining Turkey’s “leadership intention,” as well as monitoring its operations in 18 other key areas. This means that Germany’s foreign intelligence service, which drew criticism in recent weeks after it was revealed it had been spying on Turkey, isn’t the only secret service interested in keeping tabs on the government in Ankara.

Turkey’s strategic location at the junction of Europe, the Soviet Union, and the Middle East made the future NATO member state an important partner to Western intelligence agencies going back to the very beginning of the Cold War. The Snowden documents show that Turkey is the NSA’s oldest partner in Asia. Even before the NSA’s founding in 1952, the CIA had established a “Sigint,” or signals intelligence, partnership with Turkey dating back to the 1940s.

From the Associated Press, blowback:

Turkey summons US diplomat over spying report

The Turkish foreign ministry has summoned the most senior U.S. diplomat in the country for clarification of a report about American and British spying in Turkey.

Deputy Prime Minister Bulent said the U.S. charge d’affaires and Turkish officials had discussed the report Monday. German magazine Der Spiegel and the online magazine The Intercept said that documents provided by former U.S. National Security Agency analyst Edward Snowden show that Turkey was a high priority intelligence target for U.S. and British intelligence services.

According to Turkish news wires, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan downplayed the importance of the report, saying that all major countries spied on each other. An earlier report that Germany’s main intelligence agency had also targeted Ankara drew a more angry response from the Turkish government.

From TechWeekEurope, another front:

NATO Set To Ratify Cyber-Defence Declaration

  • NATO is set to add cyber-threats to its fundamental treaty – but reportedly has little idea about the computer arsenals of its member countries

NATO has confirmed that it plans to add cyber-attacks to the list of threats that would trigger a collective response when leaders of the organisation meet in Newport, Wales, later this week.

However, exactly what would constitute such an attack remains ambiguous, and NATO reportedly has little in the way of cyber-response capacity. The organisation, the headquarters of which is in Brussels, also lacks clear information on the cyber-weaponry of member states such as the US and the UK, which would be needed to form a detailed cyber-strategy, according to reports.

More from PCWorld , with a techie twist:

Europol launches international cybercrime task force

Europol launched a cybercrime task force Monday to fight online crime in the EU and other countries.

The Joint Cybercrime Action Taskforce (J-CAT) will be piloted for six months and hosted at Europol’s European CyberCrime Center (EC3), the organization said in a news release.

The J-CAT will coordinate international investigations to take action against key online threats and top targets, such as underground forums and malware, including banking Trojans, Botnets and online fraud, Europol said.

EC3, the EU Cybercrime Taskforce, the FBI and the U.K. National Crime Agency (NCA) are part of the initiative. Andy Archibald, deputy director of the National Cyber Crime Unit from the NCA will lead the task force.

From SecurityWeek, Tweet that!:

US Cyber-Warriors Battling Islamic State on Twitter

The United States has launched a social media offensive against the Islamic State and Al-Qaeda, setting out to win the war of ideas by ridiculing the militants with a mixture of blunt language and sarcasm.

Diplomats and experts are the first to admit that the digital blitz being waged on Twitter, Facebook and Youtube will never be a panacea to combat the jihadists.

But US officials see social media as an increasingly crucial battlefield as they aim to turn young minds in the Muslim world against groups like IS and Al-Qaeda.

From the London Daily Mail, searching for a cause:

Did iCloud’s ‘Find My iPhone’ function help hacker steal ‘nude’ photos of Jennifer Lawrence and 100 other celebrities? Flaw may have allowed 4chan hacker to break into their accounts

  • Nude photographs that purportedly show multiple celebrities leaked online
  • The photos were obtained through Apple’s iCloud and published on 4chan
  • When activated, iCloud automatically stores users’ photos and data online
  • Flaw in its ‘Find My iPhone’ function reportedly undermined its security
  • Twitter is apparently shutting down accounts disseminating the pictures
  • Lawrence’s spokesman confirmed the nude photographs were published
  • Kate Upton’s attorney called leaked pictures ‘an outrageous violation’
  • Actress Mary Elizabeth Winstead confirmed the photos of her are real
  • But not all ‘nude’ photographs that have been published are genuine
  • Hacker claims to have images of other stars, which have not been posted

From SecurityWeek, post-equine escape barn door repair:

Apple Patches Vulnerability Possibly Linked to Celebrity Picture Leaks

Apple has patched a flaw that may be linked to the leak of salacious celebrity photos on the Web.

The flaw existed in the ‘Find My iPhone’ service. In order to use it, hackers would need to know the username of the account they are targeting. The vulnerability allowed attackers to guess passwords repeatedly without being locked out and without notifying the account owner. If the password was successfully guessed, the attacker could then access the iCloud account.

A tool for brute forcing the accounts was posted on GitHub. News of the patch followed reports that nude photos of celebrities such as ‘Hunger Games’ actress Jennifer Lawrence and model Kate Upton had been leaked on the Internet, and Anonymous and 4chan users claimed to have taken images from roughly 100 different celebrity accounts.

“There have been claims that iCloud may be involved, but it’s tricky to confirm even if all of the celebrities affected use Apple devices,” blogged security researcher Graham Cluley. “Many folks are blissfully unaware about iPhone photos being automatically sent to an Apple iCloud internet server after it is taken. That’s great in some ways – it means it’s easily accessible on our other Apple devices – but might be bad in others.”

BBC News clouds the issue:

‘Cloud’ concerns after celebrity picture leaks

  • Jennifer Lawrence Jennifer Lawrence was one of the celebrities who had images leaked

Experts have raised concerns over the security of “cloud” storage sites following the leak of intimate pictures of celebrities.

It is understood some of the images were obtained from services such as Apple iCloud that back up content from devices on to the internet. Apple is understood to be looking into the issue.

One expert said that private data “becomes much more difficult to control” when using cloud services.

“It is important for celebrities and the general public to remember that images and data no longer just reside on the device that captured it,” said Ken Westin, security analyst at Tripwire.

“Although many cloud providers may encrypt the data communications between the device and the cloud, it does not mean that the image and data is encrypted when the data is at rest. If you can view the image in the cloud service, so can a hacker.”

PandoDaily gets scathing:

The celebrity photo leak is yet another example of Apple’s irresponsible approach to security

Apple might face the ire of several celebrities whose personal photographs were stolen and published over the weekend. In the latest example of the company’s irresponsible security practices, the images — at least those that haven’t been called forgeries by several celebrities and their spokespersons — are thought to have been taken from their subjects’ iCloud accounts.

Now, it’s clear that most of the blame should fall on the person who decided to violate the only shred of privacy that these celebrities had left, and on those who shared the images afterwards. This would never have been an issue if this person didn’t believe that personal photographs of people who happen to be famous should be stolen, skimmed through, and released to the Web.

But it seems that Apple will share in the blame, as the leak was followed by the revelation that before Sunday the company didn’t prevent brute force attacks, which gain access to accounts by submitting random passwords until the right one is found, from working on the iCloud website.

From TheLocal.se, Yar, matey:

Pirate Bay Swede’s trial set for final stage

The mother of Swedish Pirate Bay co-founder Gottfrid Svartholm Warg has told The Local about her son’s “suffering” in jail ahead of the final stages of his trial.

Swedish Pirate Bay co-founder Gottfrid Svartholm Warg and his 21-year-old Danish co-defendant are set to appear in Frederiksberg Court in Copenhagen in the latest development in the largest hacking case in Danish history.

The two men are accused of stealing social security numbers from Denmark’s national driving licence database, illegally accessing information in a Schengen Region database and hacking into police email accounts.

From Reuters, dronal executions:

Al Qaeda in Yemen executes three ‘spies’ for guiding drone strikes

Al Qaeda militants in Yemen executed three local men in the easterly Hadramout province on Monday whom they suspected of assisting U.S. drone strikes, security sources told Reuters.

In a statement posted online, Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) acknowledged the threat it faced from air attacks by unmanned U.S. drones, which require on-the-ground intelligence to guide them in.

AQAP said it had captured a group of spies, adding: “The greatest help they give to the crusaders against the holy warriors is the placing of trackers for American spy planes.”

The Los Angeles Times covers more blowback:

Gunmen seize government ministries as Libya spirals further into chaos

Armed militiamen have seized control of most Libyan government ministries in the capital, Tripoli, the transitional government acknowledged early Monday, in the latest sign of a dramatic deterioration of Libya’s trappings of statehood.

Energy-rich Libya has slipped ever deeper into chaos since the toppling of longtime dictator Moammar Kadafi in 2011. The armed groups that were allies in the fight to depose him have turned on one another, fighting for oil wealth and political control.

The government and the elected parliament last month decamped to the eastern city of Tobruk, near the Egyptian border, and Islamist-linked militias from the western city of Misrata hold sway in the capital, having driven out rival armed groups. Libya now has two competing parliaments, with each declaring the other illegitimate.

And from UCLA, a sobering question:

In our digital world, are young people losing the ability to read emotions?

Children’s social skills may be declining as they have less time for face-to-face interaction due to their increased use of digital media, according to a UCLA psychology study.

UCLA scientists found that sixth-graders who went five days without even glancing at a smartphone, television or other digital screen did substantially better at reading human emotions than sixth-graders from the same school who continued to spend hours each day looking at their electronic devices.

“Many people are looking at the benefits of digital media in education, and not many are looking at the costs,” said Patricia Greenfield, a distinguished professor of psychology in the UCLA College and senior author of the study. “Decreased sensitivity to emotional cues — losing the ability to understand the emotions of other people — is one of the costs. The displacement of in-person social interaction by screen interaction seems to be reducing social skills.”

After the jump, off to Asia and political arfrest and the Game of Zones, including more tensions in Pakistan and an Anonymous attack, signs of a deal for Japanese boats for Aussie sailors, hints of Hong Kong turmoil, a drone exposition in China, an assimilation push driven by Beijing, an ideological crackdown on Chinese campuses, more evocation of the “Anti-Japanese War,” Indo/Japanese security deals, and the emerging Sino/Russian partnership. . . Continue reading

Chart of the day II: Italian wages continue fall


From Istat, the Italian Statistical Authority:

BLOG Italian wages

EnviroWatch: Ebola, water, and nuclear woes


Long compendium today, so we open right up with this from the Associated Press:

Senegal monitors contacts of 1st Ebola patient

Senegalese authorities on Monday were monitoring everyone who was in contact with a student infected with Ebola who crossed into the country, and who has lost three family members to the disease.

An Ebola outbreak in West Africa has killed more than 1,500 people in Guinea, Liberia, Sierra Leone and Nigeria. The university student is Senegal’s first case of the dreaded disease.

The 21-year-old left Guinea on Aug. 15, just days after his brother died of the disease, according to Guinea’s Health Ministry. It said that the brother apparently caught Ebola in Sierra Leone.

We thought we’d look at local papers for a better sense of what the epidemic feels like to journalists there. First this from Punch in Lagos, Nigeria:

Ebola: Three new suspected cases in Port Harcourt

Three people have been taken to the Ebola Virus Disease   quarantine centre at Oduoha, Emohua Local Government Area of Rivers State.

The State Commissioner for Health, Sampson Parker, made this known on Sunday just as the Federal Government said another emergency meeting of the National Council of Health over the EVD would hold in Abuja today. The last meeting took place on August 11, 2014.

Parker, who addressed journalists,   said those quarantined were   a doctor, a pharmacist and a woman who came into contact with Dr. Iyke Enemuo, who died of the virus in Port Harcourt on August 22.

A related story from Leadership, another Nigerian paper:

Rivers Doctor: 60 Ebola Contacts Yet To Be Found

The Rivers State government has said about 60 people, out of close to 200 that had primary and secondary contacts with the late Dr Ikechukwu Sam Enemuo, who died of Ebola virus disease (EVD) in Port Harcourt, the state capital, are yet to be found.

Also, the state government has placed a ban on the movement of corpses within and outside the state without death certificates and explanations on the cause of such deaths, and has directed the police to demand such documents from ambulances conveying such corpses in the state.

This is as the state governor, Rt. Hon. Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi, will today meet with leaders of churches in the state, while a meeting with the traditional rulers will hold tomorrow, Tuesday, over the spread of the Ebola virus in the state.

The Associated Press covers another side-effect:

9 African wrestlers barred from worlds championships

The governing body of wrestling says nine athletes cannot compete at the upcoming world championships because of travel restrictions imposed since the Ebola virus outbreak in west Africa.

FILA says the ruling by the Uzbekistan health ministry affects seven wrestlers from Nigeria and two from Sierra Leone.

The decision follows similar travel bans imposed by China and Russia ahead of the recent Youth Olympic Games and judo worlds.

From International Business Times, another border closes:

Saudi Arabia Stops Issuing Visas To Workers From Ebola-Stricken Nations

Saudi Arabia announced Monday it has temporarily stopped granting visas to workers from the countries most ravaged by the Ebola outbreak. The decision follows repeated incidents in the past month that raised fears the hemorrhagic fever could spread to the Middle Eastern nation.

Saudi Arabia’s labor ministry has temporarily stopped issuing visas to laborers from the West African nations of Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone, Agence France-Presse reported. The three nations have seen the highest death tolls in the current Ebola outbreak, which was first detected in Guinea in March.

The visa ban was described as a “preventative measure,” the official Saudi Press Agency reported. Saudi Arabia had already instituted a ban in April on Muslim pilgrims visiting from the three nations because of concern the disease could spread as thousands of people descend on Mecca for early October’s hajj.

From StarAfrica, a blackout imposed:

Sudan bans reporting on Ebola

The Sudanese authorities have prohibited local media from covering any news related to the Ebola virus.Press sources who asked not to be mentioned for security reasons confirmed to APA on Saturday that the security authorities have circulated warning to all media outlets not to publish any news or articles related to the transmission of the Ebola virus in Sudan.

The prohibition came after local media reported on some suspected cases of Ebola in the west of Sudan.

The Minister of Health Affairs for the Darfur Regional Authority, Firdos Abdel Rahman Yousif denied reports of the deadly Ebola virus disease in El Geneina, capital of West Darfur State.

From New Dawn in Monrovia, another lack:

Ebola Survivors Lack Clothes

Health authorities at the Eternal Love Wins Africa or (ELWA) Hospital have disclosed that Ebola survivors leaving the treatment center do not have clothes to wear. Medical Director Dr. Jerry Brown, said nurses usually dress survivors in veils as they leave the hospital compound due to lack of clothes. Dr. Brown made the disclosure when the Citizens Organized for Transparency and Accountability (COPTA) presented items valued over US$5,000 to the ELWA Isolation Unit 2.

He appealed to well-meaning Liberians and NGOs to assist the unit with clothes for survivors to wear when leaving the hospital. But a non-governmental organization, Smile Liberia International, has promised to provide clothes for survivals returning home. An executive of the group, Ms. Fasiah Harris, said Smile Liberia in collaboration with COPTA will continue to provide needed services for Liberians.

COPTA is a local partner to Smile Liberia International and some Liberians working with the UN peacekeeping mission in the DRC. The project coordinator Christine Brooks-Jarrett said COPTA is an organization working to ensure a better Liberia in which leaders can be held accountable to the people in the discharge of their services.

National Geographic offers a reminder:

Doctors and Nurses Risk Everything to Fight Ebola in West Africa

  • Foreign and local caregivers are essential to stopping the virus’s deadly spread

In two Land Rovers, one fitted out as an ambulance, a small team of humanitarian workers last week headed deep into Sierra Leone’s jungle. After hours on deeply rutted paths that could barely be called roads, they stopped at a village that had seen ten reported cases of Ebola.

With the consent of the village chief, the team fanned out across the community, asking at each hut if anyone was feeling ill or had made contact with the earlier patients. At one, they found a mother nursing a seven-month-old, even though she had experienced bouts of bloody diarrhea and a fever of 102°F—possible signs of Ebola. A quick conversation revealed that the mother had recently attended the same funeral as the ten patients.

The aid workers knew right away they had to get the woman away from her village. It would improve her chances of recovery, even though those chances hovered at only about 30 percent. And it would protect her baby and husband, and the entire community, because Ebola is easily passed through bodily fluids such as diarrhea, vomit, and blood.

BBC News updates:

British Ebola patient ‘pretty well’

The parents of the first British person to contract Ebola during the outbreak in West Africa say he is recovering well.

William Pooley, 29, has spent the last week in a special isolation unit at Royal Free Hospital in London.

His parents, Robin and Jackie, say they knew he was improving when he ordered a “bacon butty” and praised the “world class” care at the hospital.

More than 1,500 people have died since the outbreak started in Guinea.

From the Wall Street Journal, a clearance:

Stockholm Patient Does Not Have Ebola

But Test Results Awaited on Another Suspected Case in Spain

Tests results have shown that a man who was hospitalized in Sweden on Sunday as a suspected Ebola case isn’t carrying the potentially deadly virus, Stockholm County Council health officials said in a news release on Monday.

An unidentified young man sought treatment for high fever and stomach pains at a local health clinic in Stockholm on Sunday evening.

After medical staff learned that he had recently visited a West African country affected by the Ebola virus, he was transferred to medical isolation at Stockholm’s Karolinska University Hospital.

ABC News initiates:

Human Trial for Ebola Vaccine to Begin This Week

The first human trial for an investigational Ebola vaccine is set to begin this week.

The ongoing Ebola outbreak in West Africa prompted the National Institutes of Health to expedite safety testing for several vaccines already in the works. Since March, the deadly virus has killed 1,552 people, according to the World Health Organization, which predicted last week that the virus could infect 20,000 people in the next six months.

An Ebola vaccine is different from the experimental Ebola drug ZMapp, which two Americans received last month and is designed to treat an existing Ebola infection rather than prevent one.

“There is an urgent need for a protective Ebola vaccine, and it is important to establish that a vaccine is safe and spurs the immune system to react in a way necessary to protect against infection,” Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases at the National Institutes of Health, said in a statement.

From StarAfrica, getting ready:

Malawi MPs to table Ebola preparedness

Members of the Malawi Parliament are expected to discuss and look at the country’s preparedness for containing the Ebola disease which is rampaging across West Africa.Parliament’s Health Committee Chairperson Juliana Lunguzi said on Monday in Lilongwe that the parliamentarians need to look at measures which government through the Ministry of Health have put in place to prepare for any eventuality.

“We need to know what has been put in place as a country in terms of preventive measures in entry points, border districts and capacity-building for caregivers” she declared.

She said that Malawi needs to be alert because the disease is gradually spreading across the borders of the region.

Reuters notes the obvious but often uncommented upon:

Poor response to Ebola causing needless deaths: World Bank head

The world’s “disastrously inadequate response” to West Africa’s Ebola outbreak means many people are dying needlessly, the head of the World Bank said on Monday, as Nigeria confirmed another case of the virus.

In a newspaper editorial, World Bank President Jim Yong Kim said Western healthcare facilities would easily be able to contain the disease, and urged wealthy nations to share the knowledge and resources to help African countries tackle it.

“The crisis we are watching unfold derives less from the virus itself and more from deadly and misinformed biases that have led to a disastrously inadequate response to the outbreak,” Kim wrote in the Washington Post.

Off to another continue and the update on another outbreak via the Asahi Shimbun:

19 new cases of dengue fever reported

Health ministry officials on Sept. 1 confirmed 19 new cases of dengue fever, bringing the total to 22 in a country that had not seen domestic infections of the disease for about 70 years.

The disease was found in individuals living in Saitama, Tokyo, Chiba, Ibaraki, Kanagawa and Niigata prefectures. None of the patients has ever been abroad, but all had recently visited Yoyogi Park in Tokyo’s Shibuya Ward.

Officials said the outbreak was likely caused by mosquitoes carrying the virus in the vicinity of the park.

We begin today’s water woes with the South China Morning Post:

Toxic waste mountains threaten Southeast Asia’s booming megacities

From Jakarta’s Bantar Gebang dump to Manila’s “smoky mountain”, open landfills blight Southeast Asia’s booming megacities, as urban planners labour to keep pace with rapid urbanisation and industrial growth.

Experts warn those dumps are an environmental and health time bomb.

Open dumping “offers a quick and easy solution in the short run”, the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and Pacific says in a study, warning of severe environmental problems and long-term health issues caused by contaminated water and land.

Of Thailand’s 2,500 open rubbish pits, just a fifth are properly managed, according to its Pollution Control Department. The rest are at the mercy of illegal dumping – including of hazardous waste – fires and seepage into nearby land and water systems.

TheLocal.de covers a warm water invader up north:

Vacationer killed by Baltic Sea bacteria

  • Six people were infected with a bacteria from the Caribbean which has made itself at home in the popular German vacation destination. One of them is now in a coma.

The bacterium, Vibrio vulnificus, is found in parts of the Baltic Sea and other regions of the world, though most-concentrated in the Gulf of Mexico. It spreads best in brackish waters with temperatures above 20 degrees Celsius.

“This could be found anywhere as long as the conditions are right,” Dr. Heiko Will, the first director of State Office of Health and Welfare (LAGuS) of Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania, told The Local. “It is just as prevalent in Denmark, Poland, and all along the German coast.”

The victim had been holidaying on the island of Usedom at the end of July, according (LAGuS). He passed away at the beginning of August.  Another pensioner has been in a coma for three weeks and there is a possibility he will lose a leg. He went swimming near Ahrenshoop with a small open wound on his leg. He went to the hospital after noticing on the drive home that his leg had turned blue. Doctors diagnosed blood poisoning caused by Vibrio vulnificus.

From Al Jazeera America, another invader off the Golden State:

On Calif. coast, biotoxins cause deadly sea lion seizures, seafood scare

  • An outbreak of algae-produced biotoxins that attack animals’?? brains also poses a grave risk to humans

The culprit? Domoic acid, a deadly neurotoxin produced by algae, that appeared at record high levels along California’s Central Coast this spring and summer, closing fisheries and taking the lives of many marine mammals. But toxic algae isn’t just limited to California– this summer various toxic blooms have poisoned coastlines across America, including Lake Erie and the Gulf of Mexico.

While the algae in Monterey, produced by the Pseudo-nitzschia genus of phytoplankton, are a common occurrence along the Atlantic and Pacific coastlines and around the world, its production of domoic acid is not.

First discovered in 1987 when 107 people on Prince Edward Island fell ill after eating mussels harboring domoic acid, the algae occasionally produce this deadly toxin, which scientists believe is triggered by changing ocean conditions and surges of nitrogen into bodies of water.

Another California water woe from the University of California Newsroom:

Drying Sierra meadows could worsen California drought

Carpeting the high valleys of Yosemite and other parts of the Sierra Nevada, mountain meadows are more than an iconic part of the California landscape. The roughly 17,000 high altitude meadows help regulate the release of Sierra snow melt into rivers and streams.

But climate change and California’s severe drought threaten to permanently alter these fragile and important ecosystems, according to research by Chelsea Arnold, who was awarded a doctorate in environmental systems from UC Merced in May. Her findings reveal that soil changes already are taking place that could have long-term implications for California’s water supply.
Impact of extreme weather

Arnold’s research found that meadows in the Central Sierra near Yosemite are drying out as a result of several years of unusual variation in climate and snowfall.

“What we’re seeing is that all kinds of extreme weather, including one dry winter like the one we just had, can totally change the structure of the soil,” Arnold said. “Part of that is an irreversible change.”

Under normal conditions, a mountain meadow acts like a sponge. Organic material in the soil allows the meadow to hold water, which is filtered and slowly released to mountain streams. Samples collected by Arnold and her colleagues found that the larger pores which trap and hold moisture are disappearing, to be replaced with smaller, more compact pores through which water doesn’t easily flow.

As meadows dry out, flooding in wet years is likely to increase. And in drought years, parched meadows could result in less snowmelt reaching streams, exacerbating the state’s already precarious water situation.

And another from the New York Times:

Desperately Dry California Tries to Curb Private Drilling for Water

California’s vicious, prolonged drought, which has radically curtailed most natural surface water supplies, is making farmers look deeper and deeper underground to slake their thirst. This means the drought is a short-term bonanza for firms like Arthur & Orum, which expects to gross as much as $3 million this year.

But in a drought as long and severe as the current one, over-reliance on groundwater means that land sinks, old wells go dry, and saltwater invades coastal aquifers. Aquifers are natural savings accounts, a place to go when the streams run dry. Exhaust them, and the $45 billion annual agricultural economy will take a severe hit, while small towns run dry.

Yet for a century, farmers believed that the law put control of groundwater in the hands of landowners, who could drill as many wells as deeply as they wanted, and court challenges were few.

That just changed. The California Legislature, in its closing hours on Friday, passed new and sweeping groundwater controls. The measures do not eliminate private ownership, but they do establish a framework for managing withdrawals through local agencies.

After jump, water woes in Mexico, ice caps on both poles in epic retreat, a decade-long drought looms in the American Southwest, Mediterranean tsunami dangers, Japanese dolphin slaughter, branding environmentalists as terrorists, volcanic eruptions in both hemisphere, a species extinction commemorated, and the latest chapter of Fukushimapocalypse Now! Continue reading

InSecurityWatch: History, bombs, drones, zones


And lots more.

First, some history with the Associated Press:

US trained Alaskans as secret ‘stay-behind agents’

Fearing a Russian invasion and occupation of Alaska, the U.S. government in the early Cold War years recruited and trained fishermen, bush pilots, trappers and other private citizens across Alaska for a covert network to feed wartime intelligence to the military, newly declassified Air Force and FBI documents show.

Invasion of Alaska? Yes. It seemed like a real possibility in 1950.

“The military believes that it would be an airborne invasion involving bombing and the dropping of paratroopers,” one FBI memo said. The most likely targets were thought to be Nome, Fairbanks, Anchorage and Seward.

So FBI director J. Edgar Hoover teamed up on a highly classified project, code-named “Washtub,” with the newly created Air Force Office of Special Investigations, headed by Hoover protege and former FBI official Joseph F. Carroll.

More history from PetaPixel:

US Spy Satellites Used to Drop Photos in ‘Film Buckets’ from Space for Airplanes to Catch in Mid-Air

So, you think taking your film to the local shop to get developed is a pain? Try being an American spy satellite in the 1960s. Getting your film developed then meant dropping it in a special ‘film bucket’ capsule from space, which the US Air Force then had to catch in mid-air.

Strange as this seems, this is in fact how it worked, as you can see in the video above. Photographs captured by these so-called “Corona” satellites were shot on special 70 millimeter Kodak film using two panoramic cameras that evolved over the course of the program.

The satellites carried anywhere between 8,000 and 16,000 feet of film per camera (depending on the year and thickness of the film) and once one of these rolls was spent, it would be jettisoned in a GE reentry capsule nicknamed “film bucket.” This is where it gets interesting.

Der Spiegel offers the latest Snowden leaks:

A Two-Faced Friendship: Turkey Is ‘Partner and Target’ for the NSA

  • Documents from the archive of whistleblower Edward Snowden reveal wide-scale spying against Turkey by America’s NSA and Britain’s GCHQ. They also show the US worked closely with Ankara to battle Kurdish separatists.

Documents from the archive of US whistleblower Edward Snowden that SPIEGEL and The Intercept have seen show just how deeply involved America has become in Turkey’s fight against the Kurds. For a time, the NSA even delivered its Turkish partners with the mobile phone location data of PKK leaders on an hourly basis. The US government also provided the Turks with information about PKK money flows and the whereabouts of some of its leaders living in exile abroad.

At the same time, the Snowden documents also show that Turkey is one of the United States’ leading targets for spying. Documents show that the political leadership in Washington, DC, has tasked the NSA with divining Turkey’s “leadership intention,” as well as monitoring its operations in 18 other key areas. This means that Germany’s foreign intelligence service, which drew criticism in recent weeks after it was revealed it had been spying on Turkey, isn’t the only secret service interested in keeping tabs on the government in Ankara.

Turkey’s strategic location at the junction of Europe, the Soviet Union, and the Middle East made the NATO member state an important partner to Western intelligence agencies going back to the very beginning of the Cold War. The Snowden documents show that Turkey is the NSA’s oldest partner in Asia. Even before the NSA’s founding in 1952, the CIA had established a “Sigint,” or signals intelligence, partnership with Turkey dating back to the 1940s.

The Associated Press brings us up to date:

German security official warns of terror threat

Germany’s domestic intelligence agency expects that Islamic extremists who have traveled to Syria and Iraq will return and commit terror attacks.

Unlike Britain, Germany hasn’t raised its national threat level for terrorism recently. But Hans-Georg Maassen, head of the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution, said in an interview broadcast Sunday that there was an “increased abstract threat” of attacks in Germany.

At least 400 people from Germany have gone to Syria and Iraq to fight with Islamic extremist groups, though the real figure may be significantly higher, Maassen told Deutschlandfunk radio.

And the Register covers iCloud insecurity:

JLaw, Upton caught in celeb nude pics hack

  • 100 women victimised as Apple iCloud accounts reportedly popped

Naked photos of US celebrities including Jennifer Lawrence, Kate Upton and Ariana Grande have been published online by an anonymous hacker who reportedly obtained the explicit pics from the victims’ Apple iCloud accounts.

Nude photos of 17 celebrities have been published online. The anonymous hacker posting on grime-‘n-gore board 4Chan claimed to have naked pics on more than 100 celebrities in total.

Lawrence’s publicist Bryna Rifkin confirmed the validity of the photos and condemned their publication.

More everyday insecurity from Threatpost:

Backoff Sinkhole Reveals Sorry Point-of-Sale Security

Kaspersky Lab researchers say that a recent analysis of two Backoff malware command and control servers paints “a very bleak picture of the state of point-of-sale security.”

Kaspersky Lab sinkholed two of the malware’s command and control servers. In just two days, nearly 100 infected systems, mostly in the U.S. and Canada but also in a number of other countries, attempted to contact the servers which are now no longer controlled by Backoff’s authors. Victims are said to include a popular Mexican restaurant chain in the U.S., a North American freight shipping and transport logistics company, a liquor store chain in the U.S., a North American payroll association and more.

Backoff is a piece of malware that targets the point-of-sale terminals that process payment information at retail locations. This year has been something of a golden age for such malware. Breaches at Target and Michael’s are known to have been caused by point-of-sale malware, and breaches of customer payment data at various other locations like the Albertson’s and Supervalu grocery store conglomerates, UPS, and others are all but confirmed to have been caused by point-of-sale malware as well.

In the past year, we’ve written about at least four different point-of-sale threats: Chewbacca, Dexter, a class of malware known as RAM scrapers and now Backoff.

The Latin American Herald Tribune covers another kind of domestic insecurity:

Hired Guns Slay Union Leader in Colombia’s Oil Industry

A union leader in the oil industry in the central Colombian province of Meta was gunned down by hired killers riding a motorcycle, officials said Saturday.

Edith Santos was hit with two bullets in the chest while in her office at San Isidro de Chichineme in Acacias, Meta Province, the USO petroleum workers union said in a communique.

The union leader’s family took her to a medical center in the region where she soon died.

Santos was president of a community association and assessor for the National Security Professionals Union, or Sinproseg, which represents bodyguards and security guards in all Colombia.

Across the Atlantic with an alarm from the London Telegraph:

Top general blasts Cameron’s weakness on Putin and Islamic State

  • A former British commander of Nato accuses the Prime Minister of demeaning himself with a ‘flaccid’ stance against the Islamic State

David Cameron has demeaned himself with a “flaccid” response to the crisis in Iraq a former British Nato commander has said in scathing attack on Government foreign policy.

Gen Sir Richard Shirreff likened the Prime Minister’s stance to the appeasement of the 1930s and said it would embolden Vladimir Putin, the Russian president.

Sir Richard, who until recently was the Deputy Supreme Allied Commander Nato Europe, accused Mr Cameron of losing his nerve and undermining Nato by declaring he does not want to send troops abroad to fight.

SINA English fires a counterblast:

Don’t mess with nuclear Russia, Putin says

President Vladimir Putin said on Friday Russia’s armed forces, backed by its nuclear arsenal, were ready to meet any aggression, declaring at a pro-Kremlin youth camp that foreign states should understand: “It’s best not to mess with us.”

Putin told the assembly, on the banks of a lake near Moscow, the Russian takeover of Crimea in March was essential to save a largely Russian-speaking population from Ukrainian government violence.

He said continued fighting in eastern Ukraine, where pro-Russian separatists launched an uprising in April, was the result of a refusal by Kiev to negotiate.

Vocativ covers ad hoc dronage:

Poor Man’s Drone Warfare in Eastern Ukraine

  • Crowdfunded pro-Ukrainian “nerd units” are using unarmed drones to spot separatist forces and guide their mortar attacks on target

Ukraine’s military geeks are bringing the fury to the front line. The pro-Ukrainian volunteer fighters were frustrated with the lack of organization and funding of the Ukrainian army, so the self-proclaimed “nerd units” decided to take matters into their own hands. They crowdsourced funds to purchase drones and quadcopters. And now the eye-in-the-sky machines are proving to be a game-changer in the fight against pro-Russian separatists.

Aerial information about enemy fighters is key in any conflict, but for a largely underfunded and inefficient army, like Ukraine’s, it’s hard to come by. The lack of such information hurts in terms of both intel and financing: Every badly aimed mortar is just more money wasted.

With their newfound aerial support, the pro-Ukrainian forces are now using a drone named “The Fury” to call in coordinates for their mortar attacks against the pro-Russian rebels. The Fury has located enemy tanks near Gorlivka, Ukraine, which the soldiers later destroyed, according to a drone pilot whose identity was withheld.

More drone from the Los Angeles Times:

Israeli military reports downing drone that entered from Syria

Israel’s air force shot down an unmanned aerial vehicle that entered the nation’s airspace over the Syrian border Sunday, Israeli military officials said.

According to an army statement, the drone crossed the border near Quneitra and was destroyed by a Patriot surface-to-air missile.

The military said that despite “sensitivity to recent occurrences in the proximity of the border,” it would respond to any breach of Israeli sovereignty. “We will continue to act to maintain safety and security” of Israeli civilians, said army spokesman Lt. Col. Peter Lerner.

From the London Daily Mail, a case of possession:

‘Dawn of Libya’ Islamist militia lets journalists TOUR American embassy in Tripoli after storming the compound evacuated by diplomats amid mounting violence

  • Footage reportedly taken inside the compound shows men gathered around the embassy villa’s swimming pool, with some even jumping in
  • An official claims the compound is being ‘safeguarded’ and was not ‘ransacked’
  • The compound has been unoccupied since July 26 when U.S. diplomats evacuated to neighboring Tunisia under a U.S. military escort
  • It comes near the two-year anniversary of the death of US ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans in Libya’s second-largest city, Benghazi

And a video report from the Wall Street Journal:

Raw Video: Militia Members at U.S. Embassy Grounds in Libya

Program note:

Amateur video shows what appears to be Libyan militia members enjoying the pool on the grounds of the U.S. embassy in Tripoli. The embassy was evacuated in July due to security concerns. Photo: AP/Amateur UGC Video

From Deutsche Welle, the enemy of my enemy:

PKK – from terrorist threat to ally?

  • The Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) is banned in Germany. The EU deems it a terrorist group. Now, however, regarding the threat from ‘IS,’ some German politicians appear ready to begin discussions over reconsidering.

Summer 1993: Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) members storm the Turkish consulate in Munich. They take hostages and demand of German Chancellor Helmut Kohl that he increase support for Kurdish rights.

The PKK carried out dozens of attacks that year on Turkish institutions in Germany, often as arson attacks. The battle that the PKK had been fighting against Turkey since the 1980s had also arrived in Germany.

The Kurds have long fought for their own state, an independent Kurdistan, as their settlements are spread across several countries: Turkey, Syria, Iran and Iraq. In these attacks, primarily in eastern Turkey and neighboring border regions, tens of thousands of people were killed – Turkish soldiers, PKK fighters, and thousands of civilians as well.

Al Jazeera English covers a crackdown:

Bahrain arrests top human rights activist

Maryam al-Khawaja, who campaigns against abuse in Gulf state, charged with insulting king and assault on arrival.

The prominent Bahrain human rights activist and critic of the ruling family, Maryam al-Khawaja, has been arrested by authorities on her arrival at the Gulf state’s airport.

Posts on the Twitter account of Khawaja said she had been charged with insulting the king, assaulting police officers, and faced charges for her involvement with the rights campaign, Wanted For Justice.

Khawaja, the co-director of the Gulf Centre for Human Rights, is the daughter of Shia Muslim activist Abdulhadi Abdulla Hubail al-Khawaja, who has been in custody in Bahrain since 2011 and is on hunger strike.

From International Business Times:

Al-Qaeda Suicide Bomb Attacks Kill Six Soldiers In Yemen

An Al-Qaeda affiliate killed six soldiers in Yemen Sunday, announcing on Twitter the deaths marked the start of a “widespread campaign.” The attacks by Ansar Al-Shariah were among the deadliest and most coordinated in southern Yemen since the army launched a campaign earlier this year to rid Abyan and Shabwa provinces of Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula militants.

Ansar al-Sharia announced on Twitter it had launched a “widespread campaign in Shabwa province on Sunday at noon that targeted a number of military and security locations for the Sanaa regime.” The attacks were in the form of suicide bombings — one in the Gol al-Rayda district, the other near a checkpoint in Azzan, both in Shabwa province.

Reuters reported security forces killed five militants who tried to take over a police station in the eastern province of Hadramount. Last week, thousands of supporters of the Shiite Houthi group protested in the streets, demanding the overthrow of the government. They expressed anger at corruption within the state an the recent increase in fuel prices.

Deutsche Welle covers an assault on a spook shop:

Al-Shabab militants attack Somali intelligence headquarters

  • Militant group al-Shabab has bombed Somalia’s intelligence headquarters in the capital, Mogadishu. The rebels were trying to reach a high-security prison within the facility.

The militants carried out a bomb and gun attack against the facility in central Mogadishu on Sunday. The complex is a key interrogation center for Somalia’s intelligence agency, and contains a high security prison. Many suspected militants are believed to be held there, along with political prisoners.

The attack took place at about midday, when a car bomb exploded outside the Godka Jilacow facility. At least three further explosions and a gun battle took place afterwards.

Al-Shabab has confirmed its militants were behind the assault.

After the jump, it’s on to Asia, with turmoil in Pakistain, plus the latest developments in the Game of Zones, including Indo/Pakistani cross-border clashes, Thai coup consolidation, an Indonesian social media crackdown, a Chinese crackdown on Hong Kong electoral rules and a promised response, Taiwanese regrets and Chinese drones, and much, much more. . . Continue reading

EnviroWatch: Ebola, water woes, and nukes


First up, sobering news from Science:

Disease modelers project a rapidly rising toll from Ebola

Alessandro Vespignani hopes that his latest work will turn out to be wrong. In July, the physicist from Northeastern University in Boston started modeling how the deadly Ebola virus may spread in West Africa. Extrapolating existing trends, the number of the sick and dying mounts rapidly from the current toll—more than 3000 cases and 1500 deaths—to around 10,000 cases by September 24, and hundreds of thousands in the months after that. “The numbers are really scary,” he says—although he stresses that the model assumes control efforts aren’t stepped up. “We all hope to see this NOT happening,” Vespigani writes in an e-mail.

Vespignani is not the only one trying to predict how the unprecedented outbreak will progress. Last week, the World Health Organization (WHO) estimated that the number of cases could ultimately exceed 20,000. And scientists across the world are scrambling to create computer models that accurately describe the spread of the deadly virus. Not all of them look quite as bleak as Vespignani’s. But the modelers all agree that current efforts to control the epidemic are not enough to stop the deadly pathogen in its tracks.

The accompanying graphic:

BLOG Ebola

From the Associated Press, a four-alarm alaert

WHO: Senegal Ebola case ‘a top priority emergency’

The effort to contain Ebola in Senegal is “a top priority emergency,” the World Health Organization said Sunday, as the government continued tracing everyone who came in contact with a Guinean student who has tested positive for the deadly disease in the capital, Dakar.

Senegal faces an “urgent need” for support and supplies including hygiene kits and personal protective equipment for health workers, the WHO said in a statement Sunday.

“These needs will be met with the fastest possible speed,” the WHO said.

Reuters reports a strike by those most vulnerable to infection:

Health workers strike at Sierra Leone Ebola hospital

Health workers have gone on strike at a major state-run Ebola treatment center in Sierra Leone, over pay and poor working conditions, hospital staff told Reuters on Saturday.

Sierra Leone’s government is struggling to cope with the worst Ebola outbreak in history, that has killed more than 1,550 people across West Africa, with the rate of infection still rising.

“The workers decided to stop working because we have not been paid our allowances and we lack some tools,” said Ishmael Mehemoh, chief supervisor at the clinic in the city of Kenema, in the country’s east.

Clothing to protect health workers being infected is inadequate and there is only one broken stretcher which is used to carry both patients and corpses, Mehemoh added.

The Independent sounds an urban alert:

Ebola virus: It’s ripped through towns – now the deadliest ever outbreak of the virus is heading for Africa’s cities

Ebola is now spreading from the remote provinces and into the teeming cities such as Freetown, where 1.2 million people jostle for space. Previous outbreaks had been limited to remote vil-lages, where containment was aided by geography. The thought of Ebola taking hold in a major city such as Freetown or Monrovia, Liberia’s capital, is a virological nightmare. Last week, the World Health Organization warned that the number of cases could hit 20,000 in West Africa.

“We have never had this kind of experience with Ebola before,” David Nabarro, coordinator of the new U.N. Ebola effort, said as he toured Freetown last week. “When it gets into the cities, then it takes on another dimension.”

The hemorrhagic fever has no cure. Odds of survival stand at about 50-50. Detection is difficult because early symptoms are hard to distinguish from those of malaria or typhoid, common ailments during the rainy season. While Ebola is not transmitted through the air like the flu, it does spread by close contact with bodily fluids such as blood, saliva and sweat — even something as innocent as a tainted tear.

From the New Dawn in Monrovia, Liberia:

Liberia: Dogs Feed On Ebola Victims

The residents of the Mount Barclay Community within the Johnsonville Township, outside of Monrovia woke up on last Friday morning in total dismay when the remains of dead Ebola victims were reportedly seen, eaten by dogs, something reminiscent of the brutal civil war here, when dogs ate dead bodies on the streets.

The Liberian Government, through the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare, buried some unaccounted-for corpses, suspected to have died from the Ebola Virus in that township few weeks ago.

The burial was done in a hurry at night following a standoff in the day between residence and the Ministry of Health burial team. The former had refused to grant the authority a piece of land to carry out the burial. The dogs, in their numbers, were seen pulling the bodies out of the shadowed grave and hastily eating them.

TheLocal.no sounds a Nordic Ebola alert:

Ebola threat to Norway: Sweden fears first case

  • Sweden has confirmed a suspected case of Ebola on Sunday, making it possibly the first Nordic case of the virus.

A hospital in Stockholm is investigating a possible case of Ebola, reported NTB.

A man who recently travelled to a “risk area” for the virus was taken to Karolinska University Hospital in the Swedish capital suffering from a fever. He is being treated in an isolation unit.

Åke Örtqvist, doctor at the infectious disease unit at Karolinska hospital, said to Aftonbladet: “The risk is minimal of it being Ebola, but we handle all such cases in seriously. We have a high level of safety to ensure we don’t overlook a possible case of contamination.”

From The Hill, a political call:

US should do more to contain Ebola outbreak, Sen. McCain says

The U.S. should do more, including possibly dispatching military assets, to combat the Ebola outbreak roiling at least five African nations, according to Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.)

“All of us would like to see the United States more involved,” he said on CBS’s “Face the Nation.” “We have [U.S. Navy] hospital ships because they can move from one place to another.”

Senegal on Friday became the fifth country to confirm a case of the disease. The World Health Organization (WHO) last week said there have been more than 3,000 cases of the disease reported so far in Liberia, Sierra Leone, Guinea and Nigeria.

Motherboard explains:

How the Ebola Virus Jams Immune System Signals and Kills

The largest Ebola outbreak in history has been making headlines for months. Health officials and government leaders from West Africa and well beyond have been left perpetually scrambling to get ahead of a disease still boasting a mortality rate near 50 percent. The current confirmed death toll: 1,552.

Researchers based at Washington University School of Medicine, however, have figured out how Ebola manages to be so uniquely deadly in humans, by mapping out in detail how one Ebola virus protein interacts with a protein integral to human immune systems. This is good news because deep knowledge of the ins and outs and intricacies of Ebola makes finding a cure and vaccine for the virus all that much easier.

Scientists have known for a while that this one particular Ebola protein was messing with our human one, but were unsure of these exact specifics, published this month in the open-access journal Cell Host & Microbe.

On to Asia and another disease outbreak from NewsOnJapan:

3 more people suspected of contracting dengue fever within Japan

Three more people are believed to have contracted dengue fever and all of whom recently spent time in Tokyo’s Yoyogi Park, government authorities said Sunday, raising to six the number of confirmed or suspected cases of domestic infection, the first in Japan since 1945.

The three new cases of infection by the mosquito-borne disease involve a boy from Niigata Prefecture, and a girl and man from Kanagawa Prefecture, all of whom recently visited the popular park in central Tokyo.

The National Institute of Infectious Diseases is examining other suspected cases involving people who have visited the same Tokyo park recently, with plans to announce the results of those tests as soon as known, possibly on Monday afternoon, health ministry officials said.

And from Nature, a domestic alert:

US government labs plan biohazard-safety sweep

The discovery of smallpox in a refrigerator at the US National Institutes of Health (NIH) in Bethesda, Maryland, on 9 July has apparently sparked some soul searching in the US government. On 27 August, the NIH designated September as National Biosafety Stewardship Month, encouraging researchers to take inventory of their freezers for potentially dangerous agents such as pathogens and toxins, and review their biosafety protocols. The White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) did the same in a memo released to the public on 28 August, suggesting “a government-wide ‘safety stand-down,’” and “strongly urging” both federal agencies and independent labs to complete these steps within the month.

Although the OSTP does not have the regulatory power to enforce inspections, documents obtained exclusively by Nature show that some government agencies are already starting strict surveillance of their labs. In July, the NIH began scouring its own facilities for any misplaced hazards. Its rigorous strategy, obtained through public-records request, requires laboratories at all of its campuses — whether they work with infectious diseases or not — to survey their vials and boxes for potentially dangerous pathogens, venoms, toxins and other agents.  The scientific directors of each NIH institute have until 30 September to submit affidavits confirming that this has been completed by the laboratories in their institutes.

Next up, the Reykjavík Grapevine covers an eruption:

Holuhraun Volcano Erupts Again

  • An eruption has commenced at Holuhraun again, replete with magma plumes some 60 metres tall.

RÚV reports that an eruption has re-opened at Holuhraun, just north of Vatnjökull, which began in the early morning hours. As can be seen, this is a lava eruption, and plumes of magma are reportedly reaching heights of up to 60 metres.

This eruption is at the same location as the one which began last Friday, and continued for a few hours, only this time the eruption is 10 to 20 times bigger, volcanologist Ármann Höskuldsson told reporters. The southernmost point of the eruption begins where last Friday’s eruption left off, and extends some 1.5 to 1.8 kilometres northwards.

Civil Protection in Iceland is on alert, although there are as yet no plans to elevate preparations, as the eruption is occurring in an area not considered to put any people or animals in danger.

After the jump, domestic water woes on both coasts, fracking pollution, and the latest chapter of Fukushimapocalypse Now!. . . Continue reading

InSecurityWatch: Terror, hacks, drones, zones


First up, a sad reminder from the Oakland Tribune:

Oakland workers outraged over noose hung from city truck

Police launched an investigation Wednesday into a noose found hanging from a truck at Oakland’s corporation yard, and top city leaders met for more than two hours with workers to discuss the racially charged incident.

“If we figure out who did it, that person will be a former employee of the city,” interim City Administrator Henry Gardner said.

A hanging noose is associated with the lynching of African-Americans in the South. “The symbol is extremely powerful, unmistakably hateful and clearly indicating the hanging of blacks,” said Gardner, who is African-American.

Two African-American Public Works employees spotted the noose hanging from a bar on the back of their city-issued pickup truck about 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, officials said.

From the London Telegraph, getting hyperbolic:

Britain facing ‘greatest terrorist threat’ in history

  • David Cameron warns that Isil have made ‘specific’ threats against Britain as the terror threat level is raised

Britain faces the “greatest and deepest” terror threat in the country’s history, David Cameron warned as he pledged emergency measures to tackle extremists.

The UK threat level was raised to “severe” — its second highest — meaning that a terrorist attack is “highly likely” in light of the growing danger from British jihadists returning from Iraq and Syria.

The Prime Minister said that the risk posed by Isil (the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant) will last for “decades” and raised the prospect of an expanding terrorist nation “on the shores of the Mediterranean”.

He disclosed that Isil had made “specific” threats against the UK and did not rule out military action to tackle the growing problem.

The Associated Press offers irony:

Saudi king warns of terrorist threat to Europe, US

The king of Saudi Arabia has warned that extremists could attack Europe and the U.S. if there is not a strong international response to terrorism after the Islamic State group seized a wide territory across Iraq and Syria.

While not mentioning any terrorist groups by name, King Abdullah’s statement appeared aimed at drawing Washington and NATO forces into a wider fight against the Islamic State group and its supporters in the region. Saudi Arabia openly backs rebels fighting Syrian President Bashar Assad, but is concerned that the breakaway al-Qaida group could also turn those very same weapons on the kingdom.

“If neglected, I am certain that after a month they will reach Europe and, after another month, America,” he said at a reception for foreign ambassadors Friday.

From the Guardian, a call to action:

The US government can brand you a terrorist based on a Facebook post. We can’t let them make up the rules

  • Innocent people’s lives are being ruined. Why isn’t anyone watching the watchlist?

The US government’s web of surveillance is vast and interconnected. Now we know just how opaque, inefficient and discriminatory it can be.

As we were reminded again just this week, you can be pulled into the National Security Agency’s database quietly and quickly, and the consequences can be long and enduring. Through ICREACH, a Google-style search engine created for the intelligence community, the NSA provides data on private communications to 23 government agencies. More than 1,000 analysts had access to that information.

This kind of data sharing, however, isn’t limited to the latest from Edward Snowden’s NSA files. It was confirmed earlier this month that the FBI shares its master watchlist, the Terrorist Screening Database, with at least 22 foreign governments, countless federal agencies, state and local law enforcement, plus private contractors.

On to drones, first with PetaPixel:

Yellowstone Levels Criminal Charges at Drone Users Who are Violating the Park’s Ban

Yellowstone is no longer taking a slap-on-the-wrist, “we’ll let you off with a warning” approach to people who violate the park’s ban on camera drones. Egged on by several incidents since the ban went into effect, the park is starting to file criminal charges against violators that could mean $5,000 fines and/or 6 months in jail.

The main reason for the crackdown seems to be Theodorus Van Vliet, who earlier this month crashed his drone into the Grand Prismatic Spring after it was widely publicized that the park had banned the use of the little RC helicopters.

This incident has led to a long and expensive search for the drone — which has still not been found — as concerns mount about what this piece of machinery might do to the delicate bacterial ecosystem inside the hot spring. But Van Vliet is far from alone in breaking the ban

And from the San Antonio Express-News, get droned for Jesus!:

Texas megachurch pastor uses drones to spread his message

  • Drones, dubstep and… God?

A North Texas megachurch pastor is using drones, which have killed more than 4,700 people in the past decade, to spread his message of the omniscient power of God through sermons and in a 45-second video ad.

The ad, which ran in Dallas-area theaters during previews for the movie “Guardians of the Galaxy,” promotes “Drone Month” at Pastor Ed Young’s Fellowship Church in Grapevine. The video features Young, standing in front of a predator drone armed with missiles, comparing drones’ ability to “know it all” and “see it all” to God while dubstep music plays in the background.

“The drone metaphor is a terrible and disturbing one,” said Matthew Gault, who wrote about the ads in Medium’s War is Boring blog. “It trivializes the big questions about a scary new technology and equates God with a weapon of war.”

And while we’re in Texas, gun blazing at the border via the Guardian:

Texas Border Patrol agent fires at armed militia member

  • Unknown number of militia members have come to the Texas border following a surge in illegal immigration this summer

A Border Patrol agent pursuing a group of migrants in a wooded area near the Texas-Mexico border on Friday fired several shots at an armed man who later identified himself as a militia member.

Border Patrol spokesman Omar Zamora said agents had been chasing a group of migrants east of Brownsville Friday afternoon when an agent saw a man holding a gun near the Rio Grande. The agent fired four shots, but did not hit the man. The man then dropped his gun and identified himself as a member of a militia. Zamora said no other details were immediately available.

Cameron County Sheriff Omar Lucio, whose agency is involved in the investigation, said the incident occurred on private property and it appeared the man had permission to be there. He was not arrested, Lucio said.

From the Latin American Herald Tribune, more cause for insecurity?:

Mexico’s Drug Cartels Said to Mull Alliance

Several of Mexico’s major drug cartels are pursuing an alliance, capital daily Reforma said on Friday, citing unnamed intelligence sources.

The Juarez organization and Los Zetas are among the groups trying to create a “cartel of cartels,” the newspaper said in a front-page story.

The impetus to band together comes after each of the criminal outfits has experience significant setbacks, the sources told Reforma.

Senior figures from the Jalisco Nueva Generacion Cartel, the Juarez-based mob run by the Carrillo Fuentes family, Los Zetas and the Beltran Leyva cartel met in June in Piedras Negras, a city in the northern border state of Coahuila, according to the sources.

The Nikkei Asian Review covers a quantum leap:

Toshiba creates leap in ‘unbreakable’ cryptography communication tech

Toshiba has developed a new technology for quantum cryptography communication networks, paving the way for commercial use of cryptographic communication.

The major Japanese electrical machinery maker aims to have this technology in commercial use within five years. The purportedly “theoretically unbreakable” encryption technology is designed to protect data from cyber-attacks, which are becoming more complicated and malicious in nature.

Quantum cryptography communication transmits encrypted data and their secret digital keys on photons passing through optical fibers. When outsiders, such as hackers, try to access such data without authorization, the keys are broken due to changes in the photons, which then makes the data impossible to decode.

After the jump, the latest plays in the Asian Game of Zones, including an Afghan spooky shootout, turmoil and threats in Pakistan, journalists murder in Balochistan, Indo/Japanese summitry, a Chinese warning, a military mandate, China bases a claim, Japanese dissent, UN warns Japan warned about epidemic of anti-Korean hate speech. . . Continue reading

EnviroWatch: Ebola, water, species, nukes


Again, we lead with Ebola, first from the Washington Post:

Ebola virus has mutated during course of outbreak

The Ebola virus sweeping through West Africa has mutated repeatedly during the current outbreak, a fact that could hinder diagnosis and treatment of the devastating disease, according to scientists who have genetically sequenced the virus in scores of victims.

The findings, published Thursday in the journal Science, also offer new insights into the origins of the largest and most deadly Ebola outbreak in history, which has killed more than 1,500 people in four countries and shows few signs of slowing. It also provided another reminder of the deep toll the outbreak has taken on health workers and others in the affected areas, as five of the paper’s more than 50 co-authors died from Ebola before publication.

In a collaboration led by scientists at Harvard University and aided by officials at Sierra Leone’s health ministry, researchers sequenced Ebola virus genomes from 78 patients beginning in the early days of the outbreak this spring. Those 99 samples — some patients were tested more than once — suggested that the outbreak began with a single human infection before spreading rapidly, like a spark that grows into a wildfire.

From the Associated Press:

Liberian Ebola survivor praises experimental drug

A Liberian health worker who recovered from Ebola after receiving an experimental drug urged the manufacturer to speed up its production and send it to Africa, while crowds celebrated in the streets Saturday after authorities reopened a slum that had been barricaded for more than a week to try to contain the disease.

Physician’s assistant Kyndy Kobbah was expected to be released from hospital Saturday after she survived Ebola, which has been fatal in more than half the cases sweeping West Africa. Kobbah contracted the disease while working at a government-run hospital north of the capital.

In an interview with The Associated Press before her release, she said when she informed her family that she had been cured, the home exploded with joy “and the house is on fire right now” with celebration.

CBC News covers a non-case in Canada:

Ebola tests negative for Gatineau girl who remains in isolation

  • Girl who was in Sierra Leone with family returned to Canada with flu-like symptoms

Tests on a young girl from Gatineau, Que., have come back negative for the Ebola virus after she was feeling ill upon returning from Sierra Leone, one of the west African countries hard hit by this year’s Ebola outbreak.

The girl was put in isolation at an undisclosed Ottawa hospital after her family took her to a Gatineau emergency room on Friday with flu-like symptoms after visiting family in Sierra Leone.

The tests, which were done in Winnipeg, came back negative on Saturday afternoon. The girl remains in isolation and she is in stable condition, according to health officials in western Quebec.

From Science, a question:

Experimental Ebola drug saves monkeys, but will this translate to humans?

This past Wednesday, at a discussion titled “Stopping the Deadly Ebola Outbreak” held at the Scripps Research Institute here, a local TV reporter repeatedly prodded one of the star panelists, Kevin Whaley, the CEO of Mapp Biopharmaceutical of San Diego.

After Whaley explained that he had no idea whether ZMapp, his company’s now famous experimental antibody cocktail used to treat Ebola victims, really worked, the journalist continued to press. “From what you’ve seen in your research—and what your heart says—what do you say?”

The audience of 100 people or so broke into nervous giggles.

“I’m not willing to speculate on that,” Whaley replied.

Same continent, different virus from United Press International:

AIDS progress in South Africa could suffer funding blow

The AIDS epidemic in South Africa has been devastating. Factors like lack of awareness and the indifference of political leaders such as President Thabo Mbeki did not allow any kind of control. However, in the last few years there has been major progress in AIDS treatment and prevention thanks to President George W. Bush’s Pefar program implemented in 2003.

New infections have gone down by a third, mother-to-child transmissions have dropped by 90 percent and life expectancy rose by almost 10 years. Around 2.4 million people are on antiretroviral medication and more healthcare workers are being trained in new facilities.

“We’ve managed a miracle,” said Dr. Salim Abdool Karim, one of the country’s leading AIDS researchers. “Undertaking is not a business you want to go into anymore.”

Due to projected cuts to funding, things could take a turn for the worse. South Africa now pays 83 percent of its own costs for its AIDS health programs and Pepfar funding will probably drop from $350 million to $250 million by 2016. Pepfar workers say the money needs to be used to combat the disease in poorer countries like Cameroon and Burundi.

From Public Radio International, on to the atmosphere:

Rising carbon dioxide levels may reduce the nutritional value of important foods

A study in the journal Nature finds that rising concentrations of carbon dioxide threaten global human nutrition by significantly reducing the levels of nutrients important to human health.

Researchers cultivated 41 different varieties of staple crops on three continents to examine how they might be affected by the expected increase of CO2 in coming decades. The crops included rice, wheat, soybeans, maize, field peas and sorghum — plant groups that are central to human nutrition around the world.

The study’s lead author, Sam Myers, says they found significant reductions in zinc, iron and protein in grain crops like rice and wheat, and similar reductions in zinc and iron, but smaller reductions in protein, in legumes like soybeans and field peas.

The reductions are statistically highly significant and represent a serious threat to public health, Myers says. Roughly two billion people around the world already suffer from zinc and iron deficiencies.

From Arctic News, threats from another global warming gas far more dangerous that carbon dioxide:

Warming waters threaten to trigger methane eruptions from Arctic Ocean seafloor

A new study looks at how, in the 21st century, surface warming slowed as more heat moved deeper into the oceans, specifically the North Atlantic.

Sun-warmed salty water travels north along ocean currents in the Atlantic. When this saltier water reaches the North Atlantic, its greater density causes it to sink. From about 1999, this current began to speed up and draw heat deeper into the ocean.

These huge amounts of heat moving deeper into the Atlantic Ocean are very worrying.

On to water with the Associated Press:

Online list IDs water wells harmed by drilling

Six years into a natural gas boom, Pennsylvania has for the first time released details of 243 cases in which companies prospecting for oil or gas were found by state regulators to have contaminated private drinking water wells.

The Department of Environmental Protection on Thursday posted online links to the documents after the agency conducted a “thorough review” of paper files stored among its regional offices. The Associated Press and other news outlets have filed lawsuits and numerous open-records requests over the last several years seeking records of the DEP’s investigations into gas-drilling complaints.

Pennsylvania’s auditor general said in a report last month that DEP’s system for handling complaints “was woefully inadequate” and that investigators could not even determine whether all complaints were actually entered into a reporting system.

From the Mainichi, victims of a pollution disaster:

32,000 people compensated for Minamata disease, more awaiting recognition

Over 32,000 people have been granted 2.1-million-yen compensation packages under the special relief measure for victims of Minamata disease established in 2009, the Environment Ministry reported on Aug. 29.

According to the ministry, some 65,000 people in Kumamoto, Kagoshima and Niigata prefectures applied for compensation by the end of July 2012 deadline. Of some 48,000 applicants, excluding those who applied to switch from the former relief system, a total of 32,244 — or 67 percent — were granted the lump-sum payment. A total of 19,306 successful applicants were in Kumamoto Prefecture, 11,127 in Kagoshima Prefecture, and 1,811 in Niigata Prefecture.

Meanwhile, 6,013 applicants have been granted only medical expenses, and 9,649 have been denied compensation altogether. The payments will be covered by Chisso Corp. and Showa Denko, which were responsible for the industrial pollution that causes the disease.

From the Chicago Tribune, a small win:

Judge tosses challenge to flame retardant rules

Consumers nationwide are closer to being able to buy furniture made without toxic, ineffective flame retardants after a California judge on Friday threw out a legal challenge from the chemical industry.

Chemtura Corp., one of the world’s largest manufacturers of flame retardants, sued in an attempt to block a new flammability standard that the furniture industry says it can meet without using the chemicals in products sold throughout the United States.

The regulations, scheduled to take effect Jan. 1, will require upholstery fabric to resist smoldering cigarettes, which federal statistics show are by far the leading cause of furniture fires.

Off to Britain and birds on the brink from the Guardian:

Warblers and turtle doves join RSPB list of birds at risk of dying out

  • Bad weather and loss of habitat blamed as more breeding native species are at risk of extinction

Any true love who wants to give their significant other two turtle doves to celebrate the second day of the 12 Days of Christmas may soon be looking for an alternative gift.

In a move that will dismay ornithologists and poets alike, the bird, immortalised in verse by Shakespeare and Wordsworth, could shortly find itself on the near 100-strong list of the rarest birds in the UK as compiled by the RSPB’s rare breeding birds panel – a sign that its numbers are plummeting by such a degree that there are fears it could become extinct in the UK within a decade.

The list compiled by the panel, now in its 40th year, is based on sightings by dedicated bird watchers who provide the society with a wealth of information that is used to track the fortunes of different species over time and is the envy of wildlife organisations around the world.

On to Fukushimapocalypse Now!, first with Kyodo News:

Fukushima nuclear plant chief feared catastrophe for eastern Japan

The chief of the disaster-struck Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant said in testimony before his death that he had feared catastrophic damage to eastern Japan while he was struggling to contain the crisis in March 2011, according to government documents obtained Saturday.

“Our image was a catastrophe for eastern Japan,” Masao Yoshida told a government panel that was examining the nuclear meltdowns at the plant about 220 kilometers northeast of Tokyo, triggered by a powerful earthquake and tsunami on March 11, according to his testimony. “I thought we were really dead.”

On the government’s interpretation that plant operator Tokyo Electric Power Co. was seeking a “complete withdrawal” from the plant on March 15, Yoshida denied such a view, expressing anger at the office of then Prime Minister Naoto Kan and TEPCO headquarters, which he thought had failed to understand the dire situation his workers were facing on the ground.

From the Japan Times, a challenge:

Fukushima families sue prefecture, government for radiation exposure during meltdown crisis

A group of parents and children who were residing in Fukushima Prefecture when the nuclear disaster unfolded in March 2011 is suing the central and prefectural governments for failing to take sufficient steps to protect children from radiation exposure during the crisis.

The 88 plaintiffs are demanding ¥100,000 each in compensation, according to the lawsuit filed Friday at the Fukushima District Court.

In a written complaint, they said the central and prefectural governments failed to promptly release accurate data on airborne radiation levels after the nuclear crisis, neglecting their duty to prevent residential radiation exposure as much as possible, and exposing children to radiation.

From the Mainichi, austerity meets tragedy:

Nuclear disaster evacuee compensation halved across board: internal document

The governmental Nuclear Damage Claim Dispute Resolution Center, tasked with reaching out-of-court settlements for individual claims filed over the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant meltdowns, has set compensation uniformly at 50 percent, a document obtained by the Mainichi Shimbun has confirmed.

The internal document is being circulated among center staff and used in the processing of individual cases — calling into serious doubt the center’s previous denials that the “50 percent rule” had been an official practice.

The center calculates the total amount of damages for pain and suffering in individual settlement proposals by multiplying a base amount by a percentage figure representing the impact of the nuclear accident upon the particular case at hand.

Jiji Press keeps it local:

Fukushima Governor OKs Polluted Soil Interim Storage

Fukushima Governor Yuhei Sato said Saturday he has decided to allow the planned construction of an interim facility to store soil and other waste polluted with radioactive fallout from the March 2011 reactor meltdowns.

Sato disclosed the decision to reporters after his talks with the mayors of Okuma and Futaba in Fukushima Prefecture, which have been chosen as possible host municipalities for the storage for the waste tainted due to the accident at Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s <9501> Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant.

The construction of the interim facility is expected to help speed up decontamination of polluted areas in the northeastern Japan prefecture and thus the reconstruction of the region, observers said.

The proposed storage is “necessary for the decontamination of Fukushima Prefecture,” Sato told reporters. “It’s a tough decision. But I will tolerate its construction.”

From the Yomiuri Shimbun, a leak:

Yoshida ‘never’ called for ‘total retreat’ at N-plant

Masao Yoshida, manager of the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant at the time of the March 2011 crisis, strongly denied that Tokyo Electric Power Co. considered a “full retreat” from the plant four days after the quake, according to interviews conducted with Yoshida in a government investigation of the disaster that were seen by The Yomiuri Shimbun.

However, Yoshida said having plant personnel evacuate to the Fukushima No. 2 nuclear plant on March 15, 2011, was the right decision.

The government is likely to release the interviews to the public in early September.

And for our final item, via RT, going green, remember?:

Marijuana compound may halt Alzheimer’s disease – study

Extremely low levels of THC compound, a chemical found in marijuana, may slow down or halt the progression of Alzheimer’s disease, US neuroscientists have found, thus laying the ground for the development of effective treatment in the future.

In recent research published in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease, scientists from University of South Florida revealed their findings, that may shed light on controversial therapeutic qualities of marijuana.

As the team found, extremely low doses of delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol chemical, also known as THC, reduce the production of amyloid beta protein, as well as prevent it from accumulating in abnormal amounts. What is special about this protein is that it is found in a soluble form in most aging brains. It also marks early evidence for Alzheimer’s disease.