Category Archives: Europe

EnviroWatch: Climate, water woes, power


A shorter than usual assemblage today because Sunday was, how to say, a slow news day.

We begin with the latest episode of Moyers & Company, offering a religious perspective on climate change that doesn’t come from the far right:

Climate Change — Faith and Fact

Program notes:

The latest in a string of dire reports on climate change came this week from the United Nations’ meteorological advisory body, which said that the amount of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere reached a new record high in 2013, due to a “surge” in carbon dioxide, prompting fears of an accelerated warming of the planet.

A majority of Americans think global warming is real and that human activity’s a factor, believing in the science behind reports on climate change. But some two-thirds of white evangelical Christians aren’t convinced.

In the face of those who use religion to deny the worldwide crisis of climate change, climate scientist Katharine Hayhoe, an evangelical Christian, believes that her faith is compatible with science. This week she speaks to Bill about ending the gridlock between politics, science and faith in order to find solutions to the widespread threats associated with global warming.

“…The New Testament talks about how faith is the evidence of things not seen,” says Hayhoe, who was recently named one of Time Magazine’s 100 Most Influential People. “By definition, science is the evidence of things that are seen, that can be observed, that are quantifiable. And so that’s why I see faith and science as two sides of the same coin.”

The Guardian covers California agrarian water woes:

Alarm as almond farms consume California’s water

  • Extreme drought and soaring global demand is threatening supplies of one of the world’s favourite snacks

Touted as the ultimate superfood and an essential ingredient in everything from mezze to marzipan: the humble almond has never been so popular. But with prices at a nine-year high, almonds are in the frontline of a battle over water as California struggles to cope with one of its worst-ever droughts – stoking fears of an almond shortage over Christmas.

Californian farmers, estimated to grow around 80% of the world’s almonds, have been accused of siphoning off groundwater at the expense of the state’s future water reserves.

As rivers and lakes have dried up, with more than 80% of the state in the grip of “extreme” or “exceptional” drought, the state’s farmers have resorted to pumping groundwater – underground reserves – to nourish almond trees, vineyards and orchards. David Zetland, economics professor at Leiden University College in the Netherlands, says farmers are pumping water at a rate four to five times greater than can be replenished: “The people of the state of California are more or less destroying themselves in order to give cheap almonds to the world.”

From United Press International, global water woes to come:

Fracking may put drinking water supply at risk for many countries, study finds

  • Fracking is said to use 7 billion gallons of water a year just in Wyoming, Colorado, Montana and North Dakota alone

A new study by the World Resources Institute finds that many places with water scarcity are using too much of their resources on fracking. “Eight of the top 20 countries with the largest shale gas resources face arid conditions or high to extremely high baseline water stress where the shale resources are located; this includes China, Algeria, Mexico, South Africa, Libya, Pakistan, Egypt, and India,” the study states. The United States is also at risk, according to the study, since many of the places inside the United States that are good for fracking are going through a drought or generally have low water supply.

To drill a fracking well takes 5 million gallons of water, on average. States like Texas have a strong fracking industry, but lack of water supplies has forced frackers to import water from elsewhere to continue their business.

The study states that China faces water scarcity in 61 percent of its available fracking locations, Argentina is at 72 percent and the United Kingdom is at 34 percent. The report recommends water risk assessments before drilling, increased transparency of fracking company actions, cooperation between companies and governments and lowering freshwater use in fracking.

From the New York Times, a pattern shifts:

Sun and Wind Alter Global Landscape, Leaving Utilities Behind

Of all the developed nations, few have pushed harder than Germany to find a solution to global warming. And towering symbols of that drive are appearing in the middle of the North Sea.

They are wind turbines, standing as far as 60 miles from the mainland, stretching as high as 60-story buildings and costing up to $30 million apiece. On some of these giant machines, a single blade roughly equals the wingspan of the largest airliner in the sky, the Airbus A380. By year’s end, scores of new turbines will be sending low-emission electricity to German cities hundreds of miles to the south.

It will be another milestone in Germany’s costly attempt to remake its electricity system, an ambitious project that has already produced striking results: Germans will soon be getting 30 percent of their power from renewable energy sources. Many smaller countries are beating that, but Germany is by far the largest industrial power to reach that level in the modern era. It is more than twice the percentage in the United States

The Associated Press covers a call to spare the air:

Chinese march against incinerator for 2nd day

Residents in a southern Chinese town protested against a proposed garbage incinerator for a second straight day Sunday, according to witnesses, as police said ringleaders of earlier demonstrations that saw clashes with police should surrender.

Hundreds of people gathered on a long street in front of the offices of the government in Guangdong province’s Boluo county, with anti-riot police standing by, three residents said. They gave only their surnames, Chen, Huang and Wang, out of fear of reprisals from authorities.

The protest is the latest to highlight how Chinese have become increasingly wary of the environmental hazards of industrial projects but still lack public forums to voice their concerns and affect the government’s decision-making process.

And for our final item, via the Japan Times nuclear uncertainty:

Power companies mull further rate hikes with reactors on hold

A year after the nation’s last nuclear reactor was taken offline, utilities are exploring additional hikes in electricity prices as the cost of offsetting the loss of atomic power continues to climb.

On Sept. 15, 2013, the No. 4 reactor at Kansai Electric Power Co.’s Oi plant in Fukui Prefecture was switched off for scheduled checkups, leaving Japan without an operating nuclear power station.

The Nuclear Regulation Authority is screening applications to restart 20 reactors at 13 plants.

InSecurityWatch: Wars, cops, spies, bluster


Today’s coverage from the world of spies, politicians, militarists, and the merely criminal opens with this from BBC News:

Pope Francis warns on ‘piecemeal World War III’

A “piecemeal” World War III may have already begun with the current spate of crimes, massacres and destruction, Pope Francis has warned.

He was speaking during a visit to Italy’s largest military cemetery, where he was commemorating the centenary of World War I.

“War is madness,” the Pope said at a memorial to 100,000 Italian soldiers at Redipuglia cemetery near Slovenia.

The McClatchy Washington Bureau covers the conditionally belligerent:

Americans ready for military action – for now

A nation furious about the beheading of two Americans is eager for military action. At least for the moment. And at least for the kind of low-risk military action now planned.

But the moment could change. As history in Iraq and the Middle East shows, the campaign against the Islamic State might not go as planned. Allies could prove unreliable. The enemy could adapt. The U.S. might have to send in its own troops. And the image could _ could _ change from two U.S. citizens being beheaded to American GIs coming home without limbs.

The country has little patience for an extended campaign involving American combat troops and casualties. Years of prolonged, inconclusive U.S. fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan, not to mention Vietnam, linger in the public American psyche.

From Fox News, semantic disagreement:

White House, Pentagon contradict Kerry, say US ‘at war’ with ISIS

The White House and Pentagon acknowledged Friday that the U.S. “is at war” with the Islamic State — contradicting Secretary of State John Kerry and others who a day earlier refused to use that term, prompting criticism from lawmakers that the administration was downplaying the conflict.

White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest and Pentagon spokesman Rear Adm. John Kirby used almost identical language when pressed by reporters Friday whether or not the expanded military operation against the terrorist group is in fact a war.

“In the same way that the United States is at war with Al Qaeda and its affiliates … the United States is at war with ISIL,” Earnest said.

From the New York Times, another human sacrifice:

ISIS Video Shows Execution of David Cawthorne Haines, British Aid Worker

The Islamic State in Iraq and Syria released a video Saturday of the third beheading of a foreign hostage, a British aid worker. The execution was a clear message to Britain, a vital ally of the United States as it builds an international coalition to target the militant group, which has made stunning advances across Syria and northern Iraq in recent months.

The video shows the aid worker, David Cawthorne Haines, kneeling on a bare hill under the open sky, in a landscape that appears identical to where two American journalists were killed by the group in back-to-back-executions in the past month. In the moments before his death, the 44-year-old Mr. Haines is forced to read a script, in which he blames his country’s leaders for his killing.

“I would like to declare that I hold you, David Cameron, entirely responsible for my execution,” he said. “You entered voluntarily into a coalition with the United States against the Islamic State.” He added: “Unfortunately, it is we the British public that in the end will pay the price for our Parliament’s selfish decisions.”

From MintPress News, a reminder:

How The West Created ISIS

… with a little help from our friends

Military action is necessary to halt the spread of the ISIS/IS “cancer,” said President Obama. Yesterday, in his much anticipated address, he called for expanded airstrikes across Iraq and Syria, and new measures to arm and train Iraqi and Kurdish ground forces.

“The only way to defeat [IS] is to stand firm and to send a very straightforward message,” declared Prime Minister Cameron. “A country like ours will not be cowed by these barbaric killers.”

Missing from the chorus of outrage, however, has been any acknowledgement of the integral role of covert US and British regional military intelligence strategy in empowering and even directly sponsoring the very same virulent Islamist militants in Iraq, Syria and beyond, that went on to break away from al-Qaeda and form ‘ISIS’, the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, or now simply, the Islamic State (IS).

Since 2003, Anglo-American power has secretly and openly coordinated direct and indirect support for Islamist terrorist groups linked to al-Qaeda across the Middle East and North Africa. This ill-conceived patchwork geostrategy is a legacy of the persistent influence of neoconservative ideology, motivated by longstanding but often contradictory ambitions to dominate regional oil resources, defend an expansionist Israel, and in pursuit of these, re-draw the map of the Middle East.

Now despite Pentagon denials that there will be boots on the ground – and Obama’s insistence that this would not be another “Iraq war” – local Kurdish military and intelligence sources confirm that US and German special operations forces are already “on the ground here. They are helping to support us in the attack.” US airstrikes on ISIS positions and arms supplies to the Kurds have also been accompanied by British RAF reconnaissance flights over the region and UK weapons shipments to Kurdish peshmerga forces.

The Associated Press sounds another alarm with a familiar name:

al-Qaida’s Syrian cell alarms US

While the Islamic State group is getting the most attention now, another band of extremists in Syria — a mix of hardened jihadis from Afghanistan, Yemen, Syria and Europe — poses a more direct and imminent threat to the United States, working with Yemeni bomb-makers to target U.S. aviation, American officials say.

At the center is a cell known as the Khorasan group, a cadre of veteran al-Qaida fighters from Afghanistan and Pakistan who traveled to Syria to link up with the al-Qaida affiliate there, the Nusra Front.

But the Khorasan militants did not go to Syria principally to fight the government of President Bashar Assad, U.S. officials say. Instead, they were sent by al-Qaida leader Ayman al-Zawahiri to recruit Europeans and Americans whose passports allow them to board a U.S.-bound airliner with less scrutiny from security officials.

The Hill covers the predictable:

Senators: Curbing NSA could help ISIS

Critics of a proposal to reform the National Security Agency (NSA) say the rising threat of terrorism in the Middle East should give lawmakers pause as they consider harnessing the government’s spy powers.

The bill from Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) would handicap American intelligence officials at a crucial moment, they say, and make it harder to track terrorists around the globe.

Supporters of the bill — including top legal and intelligence officials in the Obama administration — deny that it would hamper the country’s ability to track groups like the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS). They say that it’s a practical response to the uproar over the NSA programs that were exposed by Edward Snowden last summer.

Vice News plays catchup:

The NSA Has Revealed New Details About Its Exhaustive Search of Edward Snowden’s Emails

Last year, the National Security Agency (NSA) reviewed all of Edward Snowden’s available emails in addition to interviewing NSA employees and contractors in order to determine if he had ever raised concerns internally about the agency’s vast surveillance programs.

According to court documents the government filed in federal court September 12, NSA officials were unable to find any evidence Snowden ever had.

In a sworn declaration, David Sherman, the NSA’s associate director for policy and records, said the agency launched a “comprehensive” investigation after journalists began to write about top-secret NSA spy programs upon obtaining documents Snowden leaked to them. The investigation included searches of any records where emails Snowden sent raising concerns about NSA programs “would be expected to be found within the agency.” Sherman, who has worked for the NSA since 1985, is a “original classification authority,” which means he can classify documents as “top-secret” and process, review, and redact records the agency releases in response to Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests.

In his declaration, Sherman detailed steps he said agency officials took to track down any emails Snowden wrote that contained evidence he’d raised concerns inside the agency. Sherman said the NSA searched sent, received, deleted emails from Snowden’s account and emails “obtained by restoring back-up tapes.” He noted that NSA officials reviewed written reports and notes from interviews with “NSA affiliates” with whom the agency spoke during its investigation.

TV3 News Auckland covers contested Kiwi claims:

Key hits back at Greenwald’s claims of mass surveillance

The Prime Minister has admitted for the first time that New Zealand spies did look into a form of mass surveillance on Kiwis, but never actually went through with it.

John Key was responding to the arrival of journalist Glenn Greenwald, with thousands of documents taken by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden that he says prove New Zealanders have been subjected to wholesale spying by the Government.

Mr Key has always said that he would resign if that was proven, but tonight he’s launched a counterattack.

Mr Greenwald claims he will produce evidence that could take down the Prime Minister, but just a short while ago Mr Key hit back and upped the ante big time, promising to get ahead of Mr Greenwald and declassify top-secret documents that will prove him wrong.

Mr Key has repeatedly denied spy agency the GCSB conducts mass surveillance of New Zealanders, even saying he would resign if it were prove, and he was standing by that today.

From Ars Technica, seeking a memory hole patch:

Senator demands US courts recover 10 years of online public records

  • “Restore access,” lawmaker says of docs purged because of computer upgrade issue.

The head of the powerful Senate Judiciary Committee is urging the federal bureaucracy to restore a decade’s worth of electronic court documents that were deleted last month from online viewing because of an upgrade to a computer database known as PACER.

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vermont) said the removal of the thousands of cases from online review is essentially erasing history.

“Wholesale removal of thousands of cases from PACER, particularly from four of our federal courts of appeals, will severely limit access to information not only for legal practitioners, but also for legal scholars, historians, journalists, and private litigants for whom PACER has become the go-to source for most court filings,” Leahy wrote Friday to US District Judge John D. Bates, the director of the Administrative Office of the Courts (AO).

From the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a sadly familiar story:

Proposed Anti-Terror Law in France Would Erode Civil Liberties

A proposed anti-terrorism law in France has freedom of expression advocates concerned.  The bill, as our friends at La Quadrature du Net frame it, “institutes a permanent state of emergency on the Internet,” providing for harsher penalties for incitement or “glorification” of terrorism conducted online.  Furthermore, the bill (in Article 9) allows for “the possibility for the administrative authority to require Internet service providers to block access to sites inciting or apologizing for terrorism” without distinguishing criteria or an authority to conduct the blocking.

Apart from specific concerns that the bill treats online speech as distinct from other speech, other provisions are just as problematic. For example, while Article 4 refers to “provocation aux actes de terrorisme” or “incitement to terrorism”—a clearly defined legal concept—it also refers to “apologie du terrorisme” or “apologizing” or “glorifying” terrorism, implying a condemnation of opinions alone rather than any overt acts, as Reporters Without Borders points out.  La Quadrature du Net’s mini-site on the bill addresses further concerns (in French).

Anti-terror laws have been used in various countries around the world to prosecute individuals for their speech about unpopular ideas. In the United States, the prosecution of Tarek Mehanna—a young Muslim who translated and posted material referred to by prosecutors as “Al Qaeda propaganda”—involved the use of conspiracy and so-called “material support” laws. In Ethiopia, anti-terror laws have been used to silence journalists and are currently being used to prosecute the dissident Zone9 Bloggers. And the list goes on.

From Davis, California, via the New York Times, buyer’s remorse:

Police Armored Vehicle Is Unwelcome in California College Town

The police department of this modest college town is among the latest California beneficiaries of surplus military equipment: a $700,000 armored car that is the “perfect vehicle,” the police chief told the City Council, “to perform rescues of victims and potential victims during active shooter incidents.”

It is well maintained, low-mileage and free, the chief, Landy Black, said in explaining why the department had augmented its already sizable cache of surplus matériel, including rifles, body armor and riot helmets, with an MRAP: a mine-resistant, ambush-protected vehicle.

But the City Council directed Chief Landy last month to get rid of it in the face of an uproar that had swept through this community, with many invoking the use of similar equipment by the police against protesters in Ferguson, Mo., after the fatal shooting of Michael Brown, an unarmed black teenager.

From the New York Times again, tax farming reconsidered:

Mistrust Lingers as Ferguson Takes New Tack on Fines

On Tuesday, the City Council decided to abolish fines that are routinely issued if a defendant fails to show up for court, repeal a “failure to appear” law that led to many incarcerations, and give people a month to come forward and void their warrants. It also created a special docket for defendants who have difficulty making payments on outstanding fines and moved to establish a civilian review board to oversee the Police Department, which is under investigation by the Justice Department’s civil rights division.

Residents and experts said that while the actions were significant, the problems many drivers face across St. Louis County, where a patchwork of municipal courts enforce an array of ordinances, were so widespread that Ferguson alone could not fix them. Many African-Americans, who are pulled over at higher rates than whites, face traffic fines that, if not paid, can land them in jail.

So the trust level was not high in court and at the police clerk’s window in Ferguson this week.

From the Guardian, another Ferguson revelation:

Ferguson video shows witness saying Michael Brown’s hands were raised

  • Footage of two construction workers moments after black teenager’s fatal shooting appears to support other witness accounts

Video of the moments after black teenager Michael Brown was fatally shot by a white police officer in Ferguson, Missouri, indicates that a witness on the scene said the unarmed 18-year-old’s hands were raised when he was killed.

The cell phone footage, released by CNN, of two construction workers at the scene early last month appears to support accounts by other witnesses that Brown was retreating or surrendering when he was shot by Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson, legal experts said on Friday.

The video shows one of the men raising his hands immediately after the fatal shooting and shouting, “He had his fuckin’ hands up.”

From the London Daily Mail, notable mostly because the victim was white:

Family’s outrage at cops who violently arrested a father of two for ‘appearing intoxicated while taking care of his kids’… but actually has a TERMINAL ILLNESS that makes him look that way

  • Jeffrey Banes, 39, was arrested in West Virginia by four cops who left him choking on his own blood while subduing him
  • His family says Banes’ illness, Huntington’s disease, can make it seem as if he’s intoxicated because it affects his motor functions
  • The violent arrest was captured on camera

And then there’s another arrest caught on camera, raising some interesting questions by an insanely idiotic form of pranking certain to lead to violent deaths should it continue. From RT America:

Swatting prank sends real life SWAT teams after gamers’ opponents

Program notes:

Online gamers are falling victim to a new prank known as swatting. The practice involves pranksters calling police with fake emergencies, resulting in heavily armed SWAT teams busting down gamers’ doors looking for hostages. California is among the first states to propose legislation formalizing a punishment for such fake distress calls, but many are worried the penalties may go too far. RT’s Marina Portnaya takes a look at the trend and the controversy surrounding it.

From Reuters, about damn time:

Next for Corporate America: Body wires and wire taps?

Wall Street executives may have personally escaped the wrath of the U.S. Department of Justice but executives at companies accused of foreign bribery schemes may not be so lucky.

Prosecutors say they are clearly shifting away from only big corporate settlements in such cases and are beginning to target more individuals. The numbers are not eye-popping. But officials say the results are encouraging and these cases may provide road maps for other financial fraud prosecutions.

“Certainly…there has been an increased emphasis on, let’s get some individuals,” said Leslie Caldwell, head of the Justice Department’s criminal division.

Reuters again, with a loathsome threat:

Foley family says was ‘threatened’ by U.S. official over ransom: ABC

The family of murdered American journalist James Foley says it was threatened by a U.S. official who warned that family members could be charged with supporting terrorism if they paid a ransom to his Islamist captors, ABC News reported on Friday.

ABC News quoted Foley’s mother and brother as saying a military officer working for President Barack Obama’s National Security Council had told them several times that they could face criminal charges if they paid a ransom.

The White House refused to discuss conversations that the family had with officials, but said they involved people from different government branches, including the White House, the FBI, the intelligence agencies and the Defense Department.

After the jump, with self-censoring cameras, the dance floor panopticon, Nazi nastiness in Germany, metadata revelations, a Crimean underwater warrior handover, a new malware threat, a stalemate in Pakistan, an anti-terror treaty sought, Down Under underwater hesitation, America’s pro-Japanese remilitarization push continues, Tokyo goes for the metadata, an American spy light justification, A Washington concession to Beijing, and a dispute over prisoners. . . Continue reading

America’s best-known Scot campaigns


From Fox:

Willie’s Views On Scottish Independence

Program note:

Groundskeeper Willie has a few things to say prior to the Sept 18 Scottish elections.

EnviroWatch: Dengue, water woes, toxics


We open with the latest on that other outbreak on another continent, via Jiji Press:

Dengue Fever Outbreak in Japan Shows No Signs of Ending

Despite Japanese authorities’ efforts for containment, dengue fever has not yet shown clear signs of subsiding in the country, with the number of domestic infections topping 100.

The health ministry calls for calm, saying there is no need to panic because the spread of the tropical disease, which is transmitted only by tiger mosquitoes, will not last long, daily reports of new infections are stirring up fears.

The first locally transmitted case of dengue fever in nearly 70 years was reported in late August.

From NBC News, water woes in the Golden State:

Not One Drop: How Long Will California Survive Life Without Water?

The old man knew of the $500-a-day fine for people caught wasting water. He heard the plea for conservation from Governor Jerry Brown. But the water police can’t scare a person whose water isn’t running in the first place.

“Look,” said Carlos Chavez, a retired farm hand in the small town of Seville. He turned the wheel on a big outdoor faucet, the kind of high pressure spigot that’s illegal to operate in California without at least a hose attached to it. Nothing came out except air. It was the same story inside his home, where his plates piled up beneath a kitchen faucet as dry as the shop model.

As the California drought approaches its fourth year, Seville’s well is one of hundreds of private water holes coughing up sand and spitting air in the Central Valley, according to Tulare County officials. As many as 100,000 more wells are at risk around the state if the rains don’t come by October.

From NASA Goddard, another water woe:

Phytoplankton Levels Dropping

Program notes:

New research led by NASA researchers has found populations of the microscopic marine plants, phytoplankton, have decreased in the Northern Hemisphere. An analysis using a NASA model in combination with ocean satellite data between 1998 and 2012, showed a 1% decrease of phytoplankton per year.

From the Guardian, all hat, no cattle in Old Blighty:

Richard Branson failed to deliver on $3bn climate change pledge

  • New book by Naomi Klein claims that Virgin founder gave less than a tenth of cash promised to develop low carbon fuel

Richard Branson has failed to deliver on his much-vaunted pledge to spend $3bn (£1.8bn) over a decade to develop a low carbon fuel.

Seven years into the pledge, Branson has paid out only a small fraction of the promised money – “well under $300m” – according to a new book by the writer and activist, Naomi Klein.

The British entrepreneur famously promised to divert a share of the profits from his Virgin airlines empire to find a cleaner fuel, after a 2006 private meeting with Al Gore.

From Chemical & Engineering News, chemical intransigence:

Syngenta Stands Firm On Neonicotinoids

  • Pesticides: Manufacturer seeks to expand uses of thiamethoxam as pressure against chemical mounts

Amid growing concerns and lawsuits linking neonicotinoid pesticides with bee declines, Syngenta is asking the Environmental Protection Agency to increase the allowable levels of the company’s controversial neonicotinoid product thiamethoxam on certain crops.

Syngenta is seeking the change so thiamethoxam can be used as a spray on the foliage of alfalfa, corn, barley, and wheat. Currently, the pesticide is approved for use only as a seed treatment on those crops. In explaining its request, the company says, “Mid- to late-season insect pests are not controlled by seed treatment.”

The environmental group Beyond Pesticides says the move would be a “step backward for pollinator health.” Syngenta’s request “comes at a time when researchers are discovering that even ‘near-infinitesimal’ exposure to this class of pesticides can result in harm to honeybees and other wild pollinators,” the group says.

From the Yomiuri Shimbun, global warming sets the stage for conflicts ahead:

U.N. to set new rules for N. Sea Route

The U.N. International Maritime Organization will create the first-ever mandatory safety and environmental regulations for the Northern Sea Route by revising relevant conventions, The Yomiuri Shimbun has learned.

The London-based organization decided to formulate international rules for maritime traffic because the number of ships using the route has surged, as global warming has been causing ice in the Arctic Ocean to melt. The new regulations are expected to take effect in 2016.

Currently, no international laws have been established for the Arctic Ocean like those in the Antarctic Treaty, which dictates that nations not make territorial sovereignty or other claims. There have also been concerns that coastal nations such as Russia may implement their own regulations.

The paper also illustrates the routes of the new Northwest Passage:

BLOG Seas

From the Contra Costa Times, hints of oily woes ahead:

Crude-by-rail: One federal inspector oversees all California’s railroad bridges, no state oversight

As concerns grow over aging rail infrastructure, earthquake readiness and a dramatic increase in crude oil shipments by train, state railroad regulators are scrambling to hire their first-ever railroad bridge inspectors — two of them.

Once they are hired, the California Public Utilities Commission plans to create a state railroad bridge inventory to determine which are most at risk. That’s right — neither the state nor federal government has a list of railroad bridges for California or the rest of the country. Until that happens, the safety of California’s thousands of railroad bridges — key conduits that carry people and hazardous materials over environmentally sensitive ecosystems and near urban areas — is left up to rail line owners and a single federal inspector who splits his time among 11 states.

“Two more inspectors is better than none, but it’s really a Band-Aid,” said Suma Peesapati, attorney with Earthjustice, an environmental group fighting the oil rail influx. “I think there should be no crude by rail over those bridges until there’s a comprehensive look at all of them.”

And from Global Times oil and water don’t mix:

Kunlun river polluted by oil pipe leaks

A river at the foot of Kunlun Mountain in the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau has become seriously polluted due to leaks from a diesel oil pipeline, which was broken by criminals who planned to steal oil, media reported Friday.

An unnamed government agency stated that broken valves on the oil pipeline in Qinghai Province, severed by prospective oil thieves, are the cause of the leaks, the Qinghai branch of China National Radio (CNR) reported on its Sina Weibo account Friday.

A total of 6 tons of oil had leaked, and 3 tons have been cleaned up, CNR reported, adding that the broken pipeline has also been repaired.

For our final item, China Daily hints of massive fracking ahead:

Experts: Potential of shale gas huge in China

China is one of the world’s largest markets for energy consumption, but some experts believe China can make significant headway in the natural gas sector by exploiting technology to tap its potentially huge reserves of shale gas.

China Energy 2020, an event that probed China’s place in the global energy market, was held Thursday at the Columbia Club of New York. The event was co-hosted by the China Energy Fund Committee, Columbia’s Center on Global Energy Policy and the National Committee on US-China Relations.

A report published by Columbia’s new energy policy center, titled Meeting China’s Shale Gas Goals, states that though China has “a huge shale gas resource,” production of shale gas in China is “just starting” to take shape and “will not be substantial” in the next few years.

EbolaWatch: Fears, help, hope, despair


We open today’s news from Africa and elsewhere with an assessment from the New York Times:

U.S. Scientists See Long Fight Against Ebola

The deadly Ebola outbreak sweeping across three countries in West Africa is likely to last 12 to 18 months more, much longer than anticipated, and could infect hundreds of thousands of people before it is brought under control, say scientists mapping its spread for the federal government.

“We hope we’re wrong,” said Bryan Lewis, an epidemiologist at the Virginia Bioinformatics Institute at Virginia Tech.

Both the time the model says it will take to control the epidemic and the number of cases it forecasts far exceed estimates by the World Health Organization, which said last month that it hoped to control the outbreak within nine months and predicted 20,000 total cases by that time. The organization is sticking by its estimates, a W.H.O. spokesman said Friday.

But researchers at various universities say that at the virus’s present rate of growth, there could easily be close to 20,000 cases in one month, not in nine. Some of the United States’ leading epidemiologists, with long experience in tracking diseases such as influenza, have been creating computer models of the Ebola epidemic at the request of the National Institutes of Health and the Defense Department.

Another alarm, via the Daily Climate:

Ehrlich: Ebola, population and evolution whip up a wicked recipe for disaster

  • The 1918 influenza pandemic infected one-fifth of the world’s population. On an increasingly hot, overcrowded planet, could Ebola be our next global scourge?
  • Stanford University Professor Paul Ehrlich calls for a holistic defense.

We have a problem with “emergent” diseases, ones that are becoming potentially serious to a larger and more vulnerable human population. Ebola and Marburg viruses, because of their high death rates, could become this generation’s version of the flu pandemic that swept the globe at the end of World War I.

If it does, we have only to blame ourselves: Our degraded environment, our unchecked population growth, our nonchalance at global poverty, hunger and disease and our jet-setting ways.

The filoviruses are native to Africa and commonly infect non-human primates (don’t eat chimpanzee meat) and some bats, which may be the main natural reservoir. The favorable conditions for transfer are directly related to human population size. The more people who come into contact with animal reservoirs and the more people who need “bushmeat,” the higher the odds of a virus transferring into people.

NBC News poses a question:

Just Who Is Leading the Fight Against Ebola?

The Ebola toll is fast approaching 5,000, with 2,400 people dead in the space of a few months, the World Health Organization said Friday. It’s getting worse and not better. Yet aid is not pouring into West Africa.

It mystifies Sophie Delaunay, executive director of the U.S. office of Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF or Doctors Without Borders). “We know what needs to be done but we don’t know why it’s not being done. It’s incomprehensible to us,” she told NBC News.

Dr. Oliver Johnson of the King’s Sierra Leone Partnership at Connaught Hospital in Freetown echoes the sentiment. “The international response to the outbreak remains virtually non-existent, in terms of actual impact on the ground,” Johnson wrote in a plea to international infectious disease specialists. “At Connaught … our isolation unit is full with adult and pediatric cases and we have suspected cases in the waiting area and emergency room that we can’t isolate — I don’t know how much longer the hospital will be able to stay open in these circumstances.”

CBC News carries a plea:

Ebola outbreak: Sierra Leone asks for outside help for sick doctor

  • 4th doctor from African country to be infected with deadly virus

Sierra Leone has requested funds from the World Health Organization to evacuate a doctor sick with the deadly Ebola disease.

Dr. Olivet Buck is the fourth doctor from Sierra Leone to come down with Ebola, which has been blamed for 2,400 deaths in West Africa, according to the World Health Organization. Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea have recorded the vast majority of cases.

Buck, a citizen of Sierra Leone, would be the first doctor from one of the countries hit hardest by Ebola to receive treatment abroad. The other three doctors from Sierra Leone died in the country.

A letter from President Ernest Bai Koroma’s office said he had approved Buck’s evacuation to a hospital in Hamburg, Germany, “where they are in readiness to receive her.”

From the New York Times on the ground in Monrovia, Liberia:

Back to the Slums of His Youth, to Defuse the Ebola Time Bomb

The girl in the pink shirt lay motionless on a sidewalk, flat on her stomach, an orange drink next to her, unfinished. People gathered on the other side of the street, careful to keep their distance.

Dr. Mosoka Fallah waded in. Details about the girl spilled out of the crowd in a dizzying torrent, gaining urgency with the siren of an approaching ambulance. The girl’s mother had died, almost certainly of Ebola. So had three other relatives. The girl herself was sick. The girl’s aunt, unable to get help, had left her on the sidewalk in despair. Other family members may have been infected. Still others had fled across this city.

Dr. Fallah, 44, calmly instructed leaders of the neighborhood — known as Capitol Hill, previously untouched by Ebola — how to deal with the family and protect their community. He promised to return later that day, and send more help in the morning. His words quelled the crowd, for the moment.

Another report from Monrovia, this time from the Washington Post:

As Ebola cases accelerate, Liberia’s sick must fend for themselves

Steps from a chance at salvation, or at least a less excruciating death, Comfort Zeyemoh walked slowly from the Ebola treatment center on Saturday. It was one of only three in a city devastated by the lethal virus. And it was nearly full.

Zeyemoh, 22, was not sick enough to gain entry, though she had started vomiting the night before and was feeling weak. Those are telltale signs of Ebola.

“They sent us here for a checkup,” her boyfriend, Moses Sackie, said outside the facility run by the aid group Doctors Without Borders. “Now they are telling us to wait for three days.”

With each day, the small group of caregivers trying to cope with the worst outbreak of Ebola on record falls further and further behind as the pace of the virus’s transmission rapidly accelerates. Health facilities are full, and an increasing number of infected people are being turned away, left to fend for themselves.

From Punch Nigeria, an act of despair:

Ebola hospital workers down tools over pay in Sierra Leone

Local workers have gone on strike in an overcrowded Ebola ward at a major district hospital in Sierra Leone’s disease-stricken east over claims the government is failing to pay them.

Up to 80 workers crowded the entrance compound to the hospital on Friday, deserting their posts and bringing operations at the Ebola treatment ward to a standstill. The workers were peaceful but frustrated.

The workers were recruited nationally to boost staff numbers at Kenema Government Hospital where they operate inside a tented ‘high-risk’ zone as nurses and support staff tasked with treating the sick, disinfecting contaminated equipment, cleaning faeces, vomit and blood and removing and burying dead bodies.

“I started working here one month ago and we have been paid nothing for the last two weeks,” Umaru, a hygienist, told Al Jazeera. “We have stopped everybody from working until we receive our risk incentive.”

The New York Times conveys a plea:

Liberian President Pleads With Obama for Assistance in Combating Ebola

The president of Liberia, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, has implored President Obama for help in managing her country’s rapidly expanding Ebola crisis and has warned that without American assistance the disease could send Liberia into the civil chaos that enveloped the country for two decades.

In a letter on Tuesday to Mr. Obama, Ms. Johnson Sirleaf wrote that “I am being honest with you when I say that at this rate, we will never break the transmission chain and the virus will overwhelm us.” She urgently requested 1,500 additional beds in new hospitals across the country and urged that the United States military set up and run a 100-bed Ebola hospital in the besieged capital, Monrovia.

Infectious disease experts have sharply criticized as inadequate the Obama administration’s response to the Ebola crisis, particularly in Liberia, a country founded by freed American slaves. Global agencies like the World Health Organization and the United Nations have also come under criticism for responding too slowly to the Ebola outbreak.

From Reuters, military assistance:

U.S. to train Liberian armed forces to help tackle Ebola crisis

The United States said on Friday it would train Liberia’s security forces to assist in isolation operations to tackle an Ebola epidemic ravaging the West African nation, after a boy was killed when soldiers opened fire on a protest last month.

The worst Ebola outbreak on record has killed more than 2,400 people in West Africa – more than half of them in Liberia. Liberian officials have called the outbreak the greatest threat to national stability since a 1989-2003 civil war.

Many in the country, founded by descendants of freed American slaves, have looked to Washington for support, as they did during the civil war, which killed nearly 250,000 people.

The New York Times covers another cost:

Rampant Ebola Fear Takes Toll on Africa Tourism

Ebola is thousands of miles away from Kenya’s pristine Indian Ocean beaches, but the deadly disease appears to be discouraging tourism there and elsewhere in this vast continent.

Harald Kampa, a hotelier near Mombasa, says the Ebola outbreak in West Africa is hurting his business.

For two weeks in August he had no international arrivals at his Diani Sea Resort, leading him to suspect that Ebola had frightened away his clients. He noticed an improvement only after Kenya Airways canceled flights to the Ebola-hit West African nations of Sierra Leone and Liberia, action that the local tourism fraternity said was necessary to assure tourists of Kenya’s determination to keep Ebola out.

Kampa is not alone. Tour operators across Africa say they face difficulties as the Ebola outbreak, which has killed more than 2,200 people in four countries, continues to defy international efforts to control it. Tourism, a major source of revenue for many African countries — especially Kenya and South Africa — is increasingly being hurt as some potential visitors hesitate over visiting the continent which is home to the disease.

And from Reuters, a helping hand:

Cuba answers WHO’s call for more Ebola help

Program notes:

The communist island nation of Cuba is sending 165 healthcare workers to West Africa to help fight Ebola, said to be the biggest commitment of personnel from any one country against the current outbreak. Mana Rabiee reports.

TheLocal.fr mixes in the politics:

French minister ‘first’ in Africa Ebola zone

The French development secretary said Friday she was the first minister in a European government to visit any of west Africa’s Ebola-hit nations as she prepared to fly to Guinea.

The French development secretary said Friday she was the first minister in a European government to visit any of west Africa’s Ebola-hit nations as she prepared to fly to Guinea.

Annick Girardin will visit Ebola units and healthcare workers in the Guinean capital Conakry on Saturday to discuss France’s contribution to the battle to halt an epidemic which has taken 2,400 lives in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone.

A video report Deutsche Welle covers another effort, potentially profitable:

German researchers help in fight against Ebola

Program notes:

In Eastern Germany’s Halle, a team of scientists is producing antibodies from tobacco plants. They will be used in the manufacture of a new drug that researchers hope can be used to treat ebola.

Punch Nigeria reports other assistance:

FIFA to set up Ebola treatment centres in Liberia, others

President of the International Federation of Football Associations, Sepp Blater, on Saturday said the organization would give full support to three West African countries heavily hit by the Ebola Virus Disease.

According to “Inside Games,” an online news provider, Blater made the pledge at FIFA headquarters in Zurich, Switzerland.

The publication stated that the world football’s governing body said that the issue would be discussed and agreed upon at its next Finance Committee meeting which would hold in France on Sept. 25.

And for our final item, another Westerner saved, via the Associated Press:

Ebola patient in Omaha eating ice cream

Officials at the Nebraska Medical Center where an American aid worker infected with Ebola is being treated say the patient is getting his appetite back.

Dr. Rick Sacra was flown to the Omaha, Nebraska, hospital on Sept. 5 for treatment in the hospital’s specialized 10-bed isolation unit.

Sacra’s doctors and his wife, Debbie, have said the 51-year-old doctor’s condition has steadily improved since he arrived.

Quote of the day II: The neoliberalism seduction


From Universität der Künste Berlin cultural theorist Byung-Chul Han, writing for Süddeutsche Zeitung:

Neoliberalism turns the exploited worker into a free entrepreneur — the entrepreneur of himself. Everyone is now a self-exploiting worker in his own business. Everyone is master and servant in one. Class warfare has changed into a running inner battle with the self. Failing today means blaming oneself and feeling ashamed. People see themselves as the problem, not society.

Any disciplinary system that expends a great deal of force to repress people is inefficient. Considerably more efficient is a system of power that ensures that people voluntarily align with the system. The particular efficiency here is that it doesn’t work based on forbidding and withholding, but through pleasing and fulfilling. Instead of making people obedient it aims to make them dependent. 

Neoliberalism’s logic of efficiency also applies to policing. In the 1980s, there were many protests against population censuses; even school kids protested against it. From today’s standpoint, the easy availability of information about our educational and career backgrounds is a given, but there was a time now long gone when people believed that the state was trying to wrest information from citizens. Today we give up information of our own accord, perceiving this as freedom. And it is precisely that perception that makes protest impossible. Unlike the days when we protested population censuses, we do not protest this monitoring. What does one protest against? Oneself? American concept artist Jenny Holzer expresses this paradoxical situation with a “truism:” “Protect me from what I want.”

Read the rest.

InSecurityWatch: Spies, lies, protests, and more


We turn to The Hill for our first headline from the world of spies, cops, cybercrooks, and suchlike:

Spy court renews NSA metadata program

With a surveillance reform bill stuck in the Senate, the federal court overseeing spy agencies on Friday reauthorized the National Security Agency’s controversial bulk collection of Americans’ phone records.

Reauthorization from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC) allows the NSA to continue to warrantlessly collect “metadata” in bulk about people’s phone calls. The records contain information about which numbers people called, when and how long they talked, but not the actual content of their conversations.

“Given that legislation has not yet been enacted, and given the importance of maintaining the capabilities of the Section 215 telephony metadata program, the government has sought a 90-day reauthorization of the existing program,” the Justice Department and Office of the Director of National Intelligence said in a joint statement, referring to the section of the Patriot Act that authorizes the program.

From the Guardian, a challenge:

Julian Assange lawyers lodge appeal against Swedish ruling

  • Prosecutors accused of gross breach of law by not travelling to UK to interview WikiLeaks founder in Ecuadorian embassy

Swedish lawyers for Julian Assange have argued that prosecutors are in “gross breach of Swedish law”, as they lodged an appeal in a fresh attempt to break the deadlock that has seen the WikiLeaks founder begin his third year living in the Ecuadorian embassy in London.

“Julian Assange has been kept under house arrest for two years with no medical treatment, no sunshine, no family, no nothing, and this harm should be taken into account when applying Swedish law,” Per Samuelsson, a lawyer for Assange in Stockholm, told the Guardian.

In July, a Stockholm judge ruled that Sweden’s prosecutor had sufficient cause to continue to pursue the arrest of Assange in order to question him about the crimes of which he is suspected. On Friday, his lawyers lodged their anticipated appeal against this ruling.

From the McClatchy Washington Bureau, umbrage is taken:

New sparks fly between CIA, Senate Intelligence Committee

Tensions between the CIA and its congressional overseers erupted anew this week when CIA Director John Brennan refused to tell lawmakers who authorized intrusions into computers used by the Senate Intelligence Committee to compile a damning report on the spy agency’s interrogation program.

The confrontation, which took place during a closed-door meeting on Tuesday, came as the sides continue to spar over the report’s public release, providing further proof of the unprecedented deterioration in relations between the CIA and Capitol Hill.

After the meeting, several senators were so incensed at Brennan that they confirmed the row and all but accused the nation’s top spy of defying Congress.

From United Press International, the perfect selfie venue:

Berlin’s newest tourist spot: abandoned spy station

  • The empty buildings at Teufelsberg, and their tour guides, are drawing crowds.

A Cold War listening post in the former West Berlin, used by Allied forces and now an abandoned ruin, has become a tourist attraction since the NSA spy scandal.

Admissions by the U.S. National Security Agency that it listened in on telephone conversations of German government leaders was the impetus for German citizens to reexamine Berlin’s days as a spy center. That means a climb up Teufelsberg hill to examine what is left of a collection of buildings erected by the NSA in the late 1950s to listen in on military radio traffic of the Soviet Union, East Germany and other Communist nations.

The facility closed in the early 1990s. After years of neglect, vandalism and trespassing, the property was bought in 2012 by Shalmon Abraham, and visitors can now wander the corridors of the vacant spy center legally after paying a 15-euro ($19.42) entry fee. With its many walls between offices, graffiti is encouraged.

BuzzFeed gets it right:

The U.S. Adds Another Enemy In A War Without End

  • After vowing to repeal post-9/11 war authority, Obama has now vastly expanded it by invoking it in the war against ISIS.

Last night President Obama said he already had the “authority” to carry out strikes on ISIS in Iraq and Syria. In a background briefing with reporters a senior government official explained exactly what authority the president was referring to: the 2001 AUMF.

Lawyers on both the right and the left, including some who used to work in the Obama administration, were shocked. Robert Chesney, a professor of national security law at the University of Texas, wrote in a quick reaction post that the decision was “just stunning from a legal perspective.” In a post titled “Democracy’s Failure,” Jennifer Daskal, a lawyer who once worked for the Obama administration, called the interpretation “implausible” and a case of “politics over law.” Writing for Time, Jack Goldsmith, a former attorney for the Bush administration, called it “presidential unilateralism masquerading as implausible statutory interpretation.”

Rarely in today’s deeply divided world of bipartisan politics do so many lawyers speak so forcefully and with such unison. The reasons we are seeing this sort of legal unanimity is because of what David Cole, writing in the New York Review of Books called “a presidential sleight of hand.”

BBC News ups the estimate:

Islamic State fighter estimate triples – CIA

The CIA says the Islamic State (IS) militant group may have up to 31,000 fighters in Iraq and Syria – three times as many as previously feared.

A spokesman said the new estimate was based on a review of intelligence reports from May to August.

IS has seized vast swathes of Iraq and beheaded several hostages in recent months, leading to US airstrikes.

US Secretary of State John Kerry is visiting Turkey, seeking more support for action against IS.

From BuzzFeed a spooky pitch:

GOP Congressman: Spy On U.S. Mosques To Stop ISIS Recruitment

“Undocumented Democrats are more important to [President Obama] than national security,” Iowa Republican Rep. Steve King says.

Iowa Republican Rep. Steve King is calling for the U.S. government to begin spying on American mosques to stop ISIS’ recruitment efforts, charging the militant organization is actively operating in mosques across the country.

Although there is no evidence that ISIS is running a nationwide recruitment effort or using mosques as centers to target would be jihadis, King insisted the Obama administration must target mosques for domestic surveillance activities.

“Here’s a thought that occurred to me,” King said speaking to the Deace Show Thursday. “I didn’t look at the population of Germany at the beginning of the Third Reich but it’s probably in the area of 70-80 million is my guess. And out of that Hitler in a few years build something that cost the lives of roughly 60 million people. The radical islamists have 1.3 or more billion muslims to work with. Now they aren’t all supporters. Daniel (inaudible) says 10-15% of them, but that is a huge population to draw from.”

And from TheLocal.fr, the odd couple:

France offers military help to Iraq against ISIS

During a state visit to Iraq on Friday France’s president pledged additional military support to the country as it struggles to combat the ISIS extremists who seized large swathes of its territory.

Eleven years after refusing to follow Britain and the United States into Iraq, France is now trying to take centre stage in a country overrun by jihadists with a leading diplomatic — and possibly military — role.

Just days before an international conference in Paris on peace and security in Iraq, French President Francois Hollande on Friday visited Baghdad, pledging “support and solidarity” for the country’s embattled government.

From BBC News, when spies draw the line:

Israeli intelligence veterans refuse to spy on Palestinians

Dozens of veterans of an elite Israeli military signals intelligence unit have said they will no longer serve in operations against Palestinians.

Forty-three past and present reservists signed a letter about Unit 8200, which carries out electronic surveillance. They said the intelligence it gathered – much of it concerning innocent people – was used to “deepen military rule” in the Occupied Territories.

Israel’s military said it held the unit to ethical standards “without rival”.

And a video report from the Guardian:

The Israeli military intelligence refusing to serve in Palestinian territory

Program notes:

Forty-three veterans of one of Israel’s most secretive military intelligence units – many of them still active reservists – have signed a public letter refusing to serve in operations involving the occupied Palestinian territories because of the widespread surveillance of innocent residents.

The signatories include officers, former instructors and senior NCOs from the country’s equivalent of America’s NSA or Britain’s GCHQ, known as Unit 8200 – or in Hebrew as Yehida Shmoneh-Matayim.

From the Guardian again, militarizing the campus:

Tanks at the school gates? San Diego school police acquires its own MRAP

  • Police captain plays down fears of militarisation and says ‘When we have an emergency at school, we’ve got to get in and save kids’

The nation gaped at the sight of a military-grade Mine-Resistant Ambush Protected vehicle trundling through Ferguson, but it turns out that was relatively restrained policing.

Relative, that is, to San Diego, where police will use a similar steel behemoth for the city’s schools. The San Diego Unified School District Police Department has acquired its own vehicle, known as a MRAP, and expect it to be operational by October.

From the London Daily Mail, the unspeakable:

‘I will f**king kill you. Do you know who I am?’ George Zimmerman is accused of threatening to shoot driver in road rage incident

  • Matthew Apperson, 35, reported Zimmerman pulled up next to him and the passenger asked, ‘Why are you pointing a finger at me?’
  • ‘Do you know who I am?’ Zimmerman followed up, and allegedly threatened the life of the other motorist
  • In 911 call, Apperson says Zimmerman, threatened to ‘kick my ass and shoot me’ and said ‘he was gonna shoot me dead’
  • The driver also reported seeing Zimmerman in his truck parked outside his work two days later
  • Zimmerman was acquitted last year of second-degree murder charge in the shooting of Trayvon Martin, an unarmed black teen

Reuters covers borderline discontent:

Mexico President slams Texas governor over border crackdown

Texas Gov. Rick Perry’s deployment of National Guard troops on the U.S.-Mexican border is “reprehensible” and puts neighborly relations at risk, Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto said in an interview published on Friday.

Perry, considered a possible contender for the 2016 U.S. Republican presidential nomination, in July ordered up to 1,000 Texas National Guard troops to the border, citing an influx of child migrants from Central America and drug cartel criminality.

“Not only is it displeasing, but I think it’s reprehensible,” Pena Nieto told Mexican daily El Universal in an interview published on Friday. “It is an attack on good relations and neighborliness.”

Off to Old Blighty and good intentions run amok with the Worcester News:

Dan Roach in EU right-to-be-forgotten plea to Google over old picture

CONTROVERSIAL internet regulations have struck the Worcester News for the first time.

Google has removed a five-year-old article from its searches, as part of the disputed EU ‘right to be forgotten’ law.

A ruling by the European Court of Justice earlier this year means stories deemed irrelevant or outdated can be removed from search engine results. The story in question was about artist Dan Roach, who received a scholarship from the University of Worcester in 2009.

In a statement to your Worcester News, Mr Roach said: “Since 2009, when the story and photograph originally appeared in the Worcester News, my paintings have developed; the work depicted in the 2009 article bears little resemblance to the paintings I’m now making.”

Reuters conveys a request:

Iran wants U.N. atomic agency to condemn Israeli drone ‘aggression’

Iran has called on the U.N. atomic agency to condemn an “act of aggression” by Israel for sending, Tehran says, a drone last month to spy on a site which is at the center of its decade-old nuclear dispute with the West.

The Iranian move comes ahead of a meeting next week of the 35-nation board of the International Atomic Energy Agency where Tehran likely faces Israeli and Western criticism for failing to address IAEA concerns about its suspected atomic bomb research.

In late August, Iran said it had shot down an Israeli drone that was heading for its main uranium enrichment site near the central town of Natanz.

BBC News covers blowback from that other 9/11:

Chilean MP charged over Pinochet-era killings

  • Rosauro Martinez (Biblioteca del Congreso Nacional) Rosauro Martinez is member of the conservative National Renewal party

A member of Chile’s parliament has been charged with the killing of three left-wing militants during the dictatorship of Gen Augusto Pinochet.

Rosauro Martinez was an army captain at the time of the incident in 1981.

He led a patrol in southern Chile in search of members of the Revolutionary Left Movement (MIR), which sought to overthrow the Pinochet regime.

A gun battle followed in which at least 11 people died, but the exact details of what happened remain a mystery.

And a video report from CCTV America on events in Chile Thursday marking the anniversary of that other lethal 9/11, a catastrophe back by Washington:

Memorials and violence mark 41st anniversary of Chilean coup

Program notes:

On Thursday, Chilean President Michelle Bachelet marked the 41st anniversary of the 1973 military coup that toppled Marxist President Salvador Allende by calling for more information for the victims of crimes during the country’s dictatorship. CCTV America’s Joel Richards reports from Santiago.

BBC News covers the curious:

India probes identity card for monkey god Hanuman

Authorities in India are investigating how Hanuman, the monkey god, has been issued a biometric identity card. The card photo features the character from the Hindu epic Ramayana wearing gold and pearl jewellery and a crown.

It emerged when a postman attempted to deliver the card, but could not find a Hanuman at the address.

When he looked at the photograph he realised it was probably a prank. It is not clear who the iris scan and fingerprints on the card belong to.

And from Al Jazeera America, preparing for blowback:

Australia raises terrorism threat level

  • Government says the move is in response to domestic threat posed by Islamic State movement supporters

The Australian government on Friday elevated its terrorism threat level to the second-highest warning in response to the domestic threat posed by Islamic State movement supporters.

Prime Minister Tony Abbott announced the increase from “medium” to “high” on a four-tier scale on the advice of the Australian Security Intelligence Organization.

The domestic spy agency’s Director-General David Irvine said the terrorist threat level had been rising in Australia over the past year, particularly in recent months, mainly due to Australians joining Islamic State to fight in Syria and Iraq.

From Channel NewsAsia Singapore, a lèse majesté warning:

Thai coup leader warns against insulting the monarchy

Thai junta leader Prayuth Chan-ocha on Friday (Sep 12) said his regime would use legal, psychological and technological measures to protect the monarchy against defamation in his first official policy speech as premier.

The warning came as Amnesty International said an “unprecedented” number of people have been charged with insulting the royals since the coup, with 14 Thais indicted under the controversial lese majeste law in less than four months.

Revered King Bhumibol Adulyadej, 86, is already protected by one of the world’s toughest royal defamation laws – anyone convicted of insulting the king, queen, heir or regent faces up to 15 years in prison on each count. “We will use appropriate legal measures, psychological measures and communication technology against ill-intentioned people,” Prayuth said in a televised speech to members of the National Legislative Assembly, without elaborating on the exact methods of scrutiny.

And for our final item, the Independent entertains suspicions:

‘Tiger’ Zhou Yongkang: Did China’s former security chief murder his first wife?

Little is known about the exact circumstances in which Wang Shuhua was killed. What has been reported, in the Chinese media, is that she died in a road accident some time in 2000, shortly after she was divorced from her husband. And that at least one vehicle with a military licence plate may have been involved in the crash.

Fourteen years later, investigators are now looking into her death. Their sudden interest has nothing to do with Ms Wang herself, it has to do with the identity of her ex-husband – once one of China’s most powerful men and now the prime target in President Xi Jinping’s anti-corruption campaign.

Investigators are probing the death of the first wife of Zhou Yongkang, China’s retired security czar, a source said. They are looking for evidence of foul play by Mr Zhou in the crash, the source added.