Category Archives: Europe

InSecurityWatch: War, hacks, cops, Hong Kong


And lots more. . .

We open with diminished expectations, via The Hill:

Obama: Expect ‘setbacks’ in ISIS fight

President Obama on Tuesday warned that there would be periodic “setbacks” in the fight against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) as the administration faces criticism over its strategy.

“This is going to be a long-term campaign, there are no quick fixes involved,” Obama said after a meeting with coalition military leaders at Joint Base Andrews, adding that there were “going to be periods of progress and setbacks.”

The president acknowledged that the terror network, which controls large swaths of land in Iraq and Syria, did not present a “classic” military challenge.

From BBC News, what a difference a border makes:

Turkish jets bomb Kurdish PKK rebels near Iraq

Turkish F-16 and F-4 warplanes have bombed Kurdish PKK rebel targets near the Iraqi border, as their ceasefire comes under increasing strain.

The air strikes on Daglica were in response to PKK shelling of a military outpost, the armed forces said.

Both sides have been observing a truce and it is the first major air raid on the PKK since March 2013.

Kurds are furious at Turkey’s inaction as Islamic State (IS) militants attack the Syrian border town of Kobane.

From BBC News again, adding fuel to flame:

Terror trial: Suspect ‘had Tony Blair’s address’

A terror suspect was considering an indiscriminate Mumbai-style attack and had an address for Tony Blair and his wife, Cherie, the Old Bailey has heard.

Erol Incedal plotted to attack a “significant individual” or killings similar to the 2008 Mumbai attacks, which left 174 dead, prosecutors said.

He also had a phone containing material supporting Islamic State, they added.

Mr Incedal, 26, from London, denies preparing for acts of terrorism. He is being tried partly in secret.

From the Guardian, noteworthy:

US security contractor shot dead in Saudi Arabian capital Riyadh

  • One American killed and another wounded in gun attack at petrol station in eastern district of city

A US national was shot dead and another wounded in Saudi Arabia’s capital Riyadh on Tuesday, police said, in what appeared to be the first killing of a westerner in years in a gun attack in the kingdom.

Police later shot and wounded an assailant and then arrested him, said the brief statement, carried by SPA, the state media agency said.

“The attack resulted in the killing of one person and the wounding of another and it turned out they were of American citizenship,” it said.

A US official said both victims were working with a private security contractor, Vinnell Arabia. The company was working with the Saudi national guard, the official said.

An echo from Cold War 1.0, via the London Daily Mail:

Atomic bomb spy David Greenglass, whose false testimony sent his own sister and her husband to the electric chair, dies aged 92

  • David Greenglass served 10 years in prison for his role in the most explosive atomic spying case of the Cold War
  • He gave testimony that sent his brother-in-law and sister, Julius and Ethel Rosenberg, to the electric chair in 1953
  • Greenglass, 92,  died in New York City on July 1
  • He lived for decades under an assumed name in Queens, hoping to be forgotten for his part in the case that is still furiously debated to this day

A clarion call from the Guardian:

UK intelligence agencies need stronger oversight, says David Blunkett

  • Former home secretary tells committee continued secrecy is undermining public confidence in wake of Snowden revelations

The former home secretary David Blunkett has called for stronger oversight of the UK’s intelligence agencies and warned that the “old-fashioned paternalism” of secrecy based on perceived security interests was undermining public confidence in their activities.

Blunkett called for the legal framework on mass surveillance to be updated on a regular basis and for judicial oversight to be made much more robust and transparent.

The Labour MP’s call came during only the second public evidence session ever held by the intelligence and security committee. Its inquiry into security and privacy was set up following the disclosures by Edward Snowden of the scale of the bulk collection of personal data by GCHQ and the US National Security Agency.

From the National Journal:

Snowden’s Closest Confidant Reveals What It Was Like Spilling the NSA’s Secrets

  • “We knew we were going to piss off the most powerful people in the world,” Laura Poitras told National Journal

There’s a prolonged scene in Laura Poitras’ new documentary, Citizenfour, when Edward Snowden looks in his hotel room’s mirror and tussles his hair in a nervous—and, ultimately fruitless—attempt to defeat bedhead.

The shot is a revealing and humanizing moment for Snowden, the former National Security Agency contractor who became known the world over last summer after his leaks exposed the agency’s vast phone and Internet surveillance programs.

Despite his notoriety, such an intimate look at Snowden has been missing from the story of arguably the greatest heist and disclosure ever of U.S. government secrets—until now.

Cyberwar revelations from SecurityWeek:

Russia-linked Hackers Exploited Windows Zero-day to Spy on NATO, EU, Others

Attackers exploited a zero-day vulnerability in Windows to spy on NATO, the European Union, Poland, Ukraine, private energy organizations, and European telecommunications companies, according to cyber-intelligence firm iSight Partners.

Microsoft is expected to patch the flaw today as part of October’s Patch Tuesday release.

The espionage campaign began five years ago and is still in progress, iSight said in its advisory. It has evolved several times over the years to adopt new attack methods, and only began targeting the Windows zero-day with malicious PowerPoint files in August, according to the company. iSight analysts have named the operation “Sandworm Team” because the attackers included several references to Frank Herbert’s Dune in the code.

Very curious, via the Guardian:

Chat logs reveal FBI informant’s role in hacking of Sun newspaper

  • US agency faces questions after records show Lulzsec leader, who was informant at time, helped attack that closed UK sites

The FBI is facing questions over its role in a 2011 hacking attack on Rupert Murdoch’s Sun newspaper in the UK after the publication of chat logs showed that a man acting as an agency informant played a substantial role in the operation.

In July 2011, a group of hackers known as Lulzsec – an offshoot of Anonymous – posted a fake story about the death of Murdoch, penetrated several News International (now News UK) corporate sites, and claimed to have obtained gigabytes of material from the company’s servers.

The attack was so successful that the publisher took down the websites of the Sun and the Times while technicians worked out the scale of the hack.

Dropbox punts, via SecurityWeek:

Dropbox Denies It Was Hacked, Says Passwords Stolen From Other Services

On Monday, a group of hackers posted a message on Pastebin claiming they have “hacked” nearly 7 million Dropbox accounts. The cloud storage giant said the data was stolen from other services, not from its own systems.

The hackers have already published hundreds of email addresses and associated passwords in clear text. They claim they will publish more as they get Bitcoin donations, but so far only 0.0001 BTC has been transferred to their address.

Reddit users have confirmed that at least some of the credentials are valid, but Dropbox says the information has been stolen from other services. In an effort to protect its customers from such attacks, the company is resetting the passwords for compromised accounts.

Another hack from TechWorm :

Personal Data of 850,000 job seekers of Oregon potentially compromised

  • 850,000 Job seekers from Oregon at risk of data theft

News emerge of another hack taking place, this time in Oregon, USA. The system in question is Oregon Employment Department’s WorkSource Oregon Management Information System (WOMIS).

This system is in short, a database for job seekers. Potential candidates share personal information on the site, information that might help them secure a job. This information has apparently been breached.

An anonymous tip was sent to the organization notifying them of a security vulnerability in the WorkSource Oregon Management Information System (WOMIS).  As per the reports available, the data that may be compromised includes names, addresses and Social Security Numbers.

On to Ferguson with BBC News:

Dozens arrested in Ferguson protests

Nearly 50 people have been arrested at protests in Ferguson, Missouri, over the shooting of an unarmed black teenager two months ago.

Civil rights activist Cornel West was among those held after he led a march to the police station.

Riot police lined up outside the building and arrests were made when people tried to break the line.

The protests were part of four days of events called “Ferguson October”, which calls for an end to police brutality.

A video report from RT America:

Police shut down protests in Ferguson

Program notes:

Marches continued in Ferguson, MO on Monday, with protesters descending on several Walmarts to demonstrate against police violence and what they call racial discrimination by law enforcement. Part of “Moral Monday,” the activists demanded justice for the killings of Ferguson resident Michael Brown and John Crawford III, who was gunned down inside an Ohio Walmart in August. RT’s Lindsay France followed the protests and has more details.

After the jump, it’s on to Mexico and the deepening mystery of the missing students, protest takes an inflammatory turn, Mexican anti-riot police dispatched, on to Asia and a reappearing Kim, it’s police to the barricades in Hong Kong, Japan sends mixed messages on the eve of a China trip as maritime talks also draw near, and Shinzo Abe grabs the power of the state secret and protests ensue. . . Continue reading

EnviroWatch: Ills, climate, fracking, nukes


We begin today with another reminder that Ebola is only one of health crises facing Africa with this from the Ghana Broadcasting Corporation:

Cholera outbreak at the Upper Denkyira East

Program notes:

The people of Upper Denkyira East are appealing to the government
to complete construction of the clinic and provide more places of
convenience.

This is in the wake of a cholera outbreak in the municipality. Currently over thirty eight cases have been recorded with no deaths.

The Verge covers other microbes:

NYC rats are infected with at least 18 new viruses, according to scientists

  • Fortunately bubonic plague was not found

Rats: some people enjoy their company as pets, to many others, they are virulent pests that helped the spread of the bubonic plague (“black death”) in Medieval Europe. For New Yorkers, they are just one of many interesting local daily sights on the subway tracks and platforms. I can tell you from experience (source: I live in New York City) that they often seem healthier and in better spirits than many of the humans that call this fair city home. Yet it turns out some of them are carrying a surprising number of previously undocumented viruses, according to the results of a study of the Big Apple’s rodents published today in the journal mBio and reported by The New York Times.

Specifically, scientists captured 133 rats from traps set in five locations around New York City, euthanized them, then took genetic samples of the bacteria specimens found in their tissues and excretions (saliva, feces, etc). The scientists found lots of viruses, not surprisingly. But while many of the bacteria detected were expected — including e. coli and salmonella — the scientists also found at 18 completely new viruses. None of these new viruses have been found in humans, at least not yet, but two of them are structurally similar to Hepatitis C, which does occur in people and raises the risk of liver scarring and cancer. While there’s no immediate cause for alarm, the scientists note that that the spread of these new viruses from rats to humans could theoretically already be occurring and is possible in the future, and are advocating for more comprehensive disease monitoring in humans. Something to think about the next time you’re waiting for the downtown F train.

From the Guardian, another African tragedy:

China ‘main destination’ for illegally traded chimpanzees

  • Baby chimpanzees are being hunted and sold to populate country’s growing number of wildlife parks and zoos, reports

Karl Ammann, in Beijing to show a new documentary on China’s involvement in the illegal trade in chimpanzees, is blunt: “China is the biggest destination for illegally traded chimpanzees.” Almost all chimpanzees performing in Chinese zoos have been obtained illegally, he says.

Ammann, a 66-year-old Swiss wildlife photographer who once said “the lens is my weapon”, was in 2007 named as a Time magazine Hero of the Environment. He first published images of illegal wildlife smuggling in publications including the New York Times and National Geographic20 years ago – showing readers around the world the truth of the bloody trade.

On to climate, with a fascinating video from NASA Goddard:

The Arctic and the Antarctic Respond in Opposite Ways

Program notes:

The Arctic and the Antarctic are regions that have a lot of ice and acts as air conditioners for the Earth system. This year, Antarctic sea ice reached a record maximum extent while the Arctic reached a minimum extent in the top ten lowest since satellite records began. One reason we are seeing differences between the Arctic and the Antarctic is due to their different geographies. As for what’s causing the sea increase in the Antarctic, scientists are also studying ocean temperatures, possible changes in wind direction and, overall, how the region is responding to changes in the climate.

And a water warning from the Guardian:

Sea level rise over past century unmatched in 6,000 years, says study

  • Research finds 20cm rise since start of 20th century, caused by global warming and the melting of polar ice, is unprecedented

The rise in sea levels seen over the past century is unmatched by any period in the past 6,000 years, according to a lengthy analysis of historical sea level trends.

The reconstruction of 35,000 years of sea level fluctuations finds that there is no evidence that levels changed by more than 20cm in a relatively steady period that lasted between 6,000 years ago and about 150 years ago.

This makes the past century extremely unusual in the historical record, with about a 20cm rise in global sea levels since the start of the 20th century. Scientists have identified rising temperatures, which have caused polar ice to melt and thermal expansion of the sea, as a primary cause of the sea level increase.

A two-decade-long collection of about 1,000 ancient sediment samples off Britain, north America, Greenland and the Seychelles formed the basis of the research, led by the Australian National University and published in PNAS.

From BBC News, a new permutation:

Climate change: Models ‘underplay plant CO2 absorption’

Global climate models have underestimated the amount of CO2 being absorbed by plants, according to new research.

Scientists say that between 1901 and 2010, living things absorbed 16% more of the gas than previously thought.

The authors say it explains why models consistently overestimated the growth rate of carbon in the atmosphere.

But experts believe the new calculation is unlikely to make a difference to global warming predictions.

From the Guardian, even castles?:

UK to allow fracking companies to use ‘any substance’ under homes

  • Proposed amendment in infrastructure bill would make mockery of world class shale gas regulation claims, campaigners say

The UK government plans to allow fracking companies to put “any substance” under people’s homes and property and leave it there, as part of the Infrastructure Bill which will be debated by the House of Lords on Tuesday.

The legal change makes a “mockery” of ministers’ claims that the UK has the best shale gas regulation in the world, according to green campaigners, who said it is so loosely worded it could also enable the burial of nuclear waste. The government said the changes were “vital to kickstarting shale” gas exploration.

Changes to trespass law to remove the ability of landowners to block fracking below their property are being pushed through by the government as part of the infrastructure bill.

It now includes an amendment by Baroness Kramer, the Liberal Democrat minister guiding the bill through the Lords, that permits the “passing any substance through, or putting any substance into, deep-level land” and gives “the right to leave deep-level land in a different condition from [that before] including by leaving any infrastructure or substance in the land”.

The Guardian again, desperate measures:

Lost Louisiana: the race to reclaim vanished land back from the sea

  • World’s fastest submerging state is looking to nature in an ambitious plan to turn back the tide, and to BP to fund it – but will it work?

Louisiana is losing land to the sea faster than anywhere else in the world.

But the authorities say they have a plan to turn back the seas – and get BP to pay a substantial share of the $50bn (£31bn) cost out of criminal penalties from the blowout of its well in the Gulf of Mexico.

The plan includes proposals for more than 100 engineering projects along the coastline, diverting the Mississippi, dumping fresh sand on barrier islands, and re-planting degraded wetlands to reinforce the coast. The state’s computer forecast shows that, if all the projects come in on time, by 2060 Louisiana could start regaining land.

The big question is: will it work?

Next up, Fukushimapocalypse Now!, first with NHK WORLD:

Briefing on Fukushima waste storage plan completed

The Japanese government has completed a series of briefings on its plan to build intermediate storage facilities in Fukushima Prefecture.

The government plans to buy up land in Futaba and Okuma Towns that host the destroyed Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant to house facilities to store radioactive soil and other waste.

The series of 12 sessions for landowners in the 2 towns began in September after the Fukushima prefectural government accepted the construction of the storage facilities.

Things are heating up, via News On Japan:

Cesium level rises in TEPCO plant well

Tokyo Electric Power Co. on Tuesday reported a sharp rise in cesium levels in water collected from an observation well near the sea at its disaster-crippled Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power station.

Water samples collected Monday contained a record 251,000 becquerels of radioactive cesium per liter, 3.7 times the cesium level in water collected on Thursday.

The well, located to the east of the damaged No. 2 reactor, is one of the observation wells that sit close to the seawall in the port of the northeastern Japan nuclear power station. Monday’s reading was the highest level that has been marked by water samples from any of these wells.

Of the total, cesium-134 accounted for 61,000 becquerels and cesium-137 190,000 becquerels.

From NHK WORLD, a precautionary failure:

Official arrested over iodine stockpile failure

Japanese police have arrested a former prefectural official on suspicion of forging documents to conceal not having purchased iodine tablets to prepare for a possible nuclear accident.

The suspect, Junichi Ito, handled medical and pharmaceutical affairs for the government of Niigata Prefecture in central Japan.

In April, the prefecture was found to have failed to procure more than 1.3 million iodine tablets for over a year. The tablets are said to protect the thyroid gland from radiation exposure.

The prefecture said Ito concealed the failure to make the purchase. It has filed a criminal complaint against him

And our final item, from the Japan Times:

Japan to pressure South Korea to lift ban on seafood from Fukushima, seven other prefectures

Tokyo plans to use foreign pressure to get South Korea to remove its import ban on seafood produced in eight prefectures, including Fukushima, officials said Tuesday.

The central government will continue expressing its concern about South Korea’s import ban at meetings of the World Trade Organization by saying that the South Korean measure runs counter to international trade rules.

Tokyo will appeal to the international community so that it can resume exports of seafood from the eight prefectures to South Korea, according to the officials.

EbolaWatch: More alarms, US angst, African woes


And much, much more. . .

We begin with a shrieking alarm, via the Guardian:

WHO warns 10,000 new cases of Ebola a week are possible

  • UN agency says fatality rate at 70% and that ‘a lot more people will die’ unless world steps up its response to crisis

The Ebola outbreak could grow to 10,000 new cases a week within two months, the World Health Organisation warned on Tuesday as the death toll from the virus reached 4,447 people, nearly all of them in west Africa.

Dr Bruce Aylward, the WHO assistant director-general, told a news conference in Geneva that the number of new cases was likely to be between 5,000 and 10,000 a week by early December.

WHO’s regular updates show that deaths have resulted from 4,447 of the 8,914 reported cases, but Aylward said that any assumption that the death rate was 50% would be wrong. He put the death rate at 70% because many deaths are not reported or recorded officially.

Where detailed investigations have been carried out, it was clear that only 30% of people were surviving, he said, adding that the figure was almost exactly the same in the three hardest hit countries, Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone. “This is a high-mortality disease in any circumstances but particularly in these places,” said Aylward.

More from Sky News:

Sixty Days To Beat Ebola, United Nations Warns

  • If the deadly outbreak cannot be reined in by Christmas then the UN says there is no plan in place and it could be overwhelmed

The UN says the ebola outbreak must be controlled within 60 days or else the world faces an “unprecedented” situation for which there is no plan.

The United Nations made the stark warning as it warned that the disease “is running faster than us and it is winning the race”.

Nearly 9,000 cases of ebola have been reported so far in West Africa, including 4,447 deaths.

“The WHO advises within 60 days we must ensure 70% of infected people are in a care facility and 70% of burials are done without causing further infection,” said Anthony Banbury, the UN’s deputy ebola coordinator.

“We need to do that within 60 days from 1 October. If we reach these targets then we can turn this epidemic around.”

A video report from RT:

‘Key to containing Ebola is getting more intl help’ – WHO spokesperson

Program notes:

Ebola deaths are being recorded in more and more countries around the world – a United Nations worker has died in hospital in Germany – the latest victim of the virus outside Africa. At the heart of the pandemic – in West Africa – the outbreak has already killed more than 4,000 people. For more RT is joined by Winifred Romeril from the World Health Organization.

From Voice of America, a lament:

International Ebola Support is Lethargic, MSF Says

South Africans working for Doctors Without Borders, known by its French initials MSF, are calling on their fellow citizens to support efforts to stem the Ebola outbreak in West Africa.  More than 4,000 people have died and the number of new infections is doubling every three weeks. Yet there is a severe shortage of medical facilities, contact tracing, surveillance and education on Ebola in affected communities.

The message from MSF is a simple one: the international community is failing the people of West Africa.

MSF says that despite promises from various countries to help stem the deadly virus, to date, few pledges have translated into concrete action on the ground.   Sharon Ekambaram, head of a MSF South Africa unit, says there are critical gaps in all aspects of the response.

“And so the spread of Ebola continues unabated as the response fails to curtail and bring down new infections,” she explained. “MSF is really angry that the world and the international community is failing the people of Sierra Leone, Guinea and Liberia. It is hard to understand, to be frank, the media frenzy about individual contaminations of people in the USA and in Europe… rich nations have the resources to contain spread of Ebola if it reaches their shores. It is the people of the impoverished communities of West Africa that are at the highest risk of infection and death.”

While Nikkei Asian Review examines another impact:

Ebola casting shadow on global economy

Rising concern over a possible global outbreak of Ebola, especially in the wake of the new cases in Spain and the U.S., is putting investors on edge and has begun affecting the global economy.

The disease will likely prove a long-term drag on the African economy. Ebola’s two-year financial impact could reach $32.6 billion by the end of 2015 in West Africa alone, World Bank President Jim Yong Kim said Thursday.

Expectations that global travel will slow sent airline stocks down in the U.S. market Monday. The government has begun screening travelers from West Africa at major airports.

From the New York Times, reassurance:

Scientists Rein In Fears of Ebola, a Virus Whose Mysteries Tend to Invite Speculation

News that a nurse in full protective gear had become infected with the Ebola virus raised some disturbing questions on Monday. Has the virus evolved into some kind of super-pathogen? Might it mutate into something even more terrifying in the months to come?

Evolutionary biologists who study viruses generally agree on the answers to those two questions: no, and probably not.

The Ebola viruses buffeting West Africa today are not fundamentally different from those in previous outbreaks, they say. And it is highly unlikely that natural selection will give the viruses the ability to spread more easily, particularly by becoming airborne.

“I’ve been dismayed by some of the nonsense speculation out there,” said Edward Holmes, a biologist at the University of Sydney in Australia. “I understand why people get nervous about this, but as scientists we need to be very careful we don’t scaremonger.”

From the Washington Post, angst:

Ebola poll: Two-thirds of Americans worried about possible widespread epidemic in U.S.

Nearly two-thirds of Americans are concerned about a widespread Ebola epidemic in the United States, despite repeated assurances from public officials that the country’s modern health-care and disease-surveillance systems will prevent the type of outbreak ravaging West Africa.

In a Washington Post-ABC News poll conducted in recent days, the number of Americans who say the government should be doing more to prevent additional Ebola cases in the United States is almost twice the number who believe the United States is doing all it can to control the spread of the virus.

That includes overwhelming support — 91 percent — in favor of stricter screening for people traveling to this country from West Africa. Such screening began this past weekend at John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York and soon will begin at four other international airports in the country.

And the New York Times covers the political front:

Debate Over Ebola Turns to Specific Policy Requests

The public health concerns about Ebola have now spread to both political parties, which are engaged in a finger-pointing policy debate that could jar midterm elections just weeks away.

For a week, Republicans have advocated severely limiting — if not eliminating — flights from West Africa, accusing President Obama of complicity in a looming epidemic for failing to take their advice. On Monday, Democrats joined the debate, blaming Republican budget cutting for the government’s failure to prepare for Ebola.

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee unveiled an Internet banner advertisement charging Republicans with undermining the Ebola response by cutting funds for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention while protecting tax breaks for special interests. A little-known liberal group, the Agenda Project Action Fund, showed a 60-second advertisement that it says will run in Kentucky next week. It includes gruesome images of dead and dying West Africans. “Republican cuts kill,” the ad says as it ends, accompanied by the sound of breathing through a respirator. “Vote.”

More from the McClatchy Washington Bureau:

Pols trade blame for Ebola, but both parties cut budgets for health

The political blame game over the deadly Ebola virus is in full swing just weeks before the November elections – with each side ignoring the facts.

Several Republicans, including House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio, contend that President Barack Obama has been too slow or hasn’t done enough in response to the outbreak. Some Republicans, such as Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, want to restrict air travel from West Africa, the outbreak’s epicenter, or bolster the U.S. borders.

Democrats are pointing fingers, too, blaming congressional Republican budget-cutting zeal for crippling the response of federal health institutions to the crisis. On Monday, a liberal group and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee linked Republican fiscal policies to the Ebola outbreak.

Still more from the National Journal:

Lawmakers Want Answers on U.S. Ebola Cases

  • Hearing Thursday will examine whether the country is prepared to cope with the virus.

Amid rising anxiety over the Ebola outbreak, a congressional panel is to convene Thursday in Washington to hear details of the two confirmed cases in Dallas and whether America’s ports of entry, hospitals, and health care workers are adequately prepared to prevent a further spread of the virus.

The lawmakers’ inquiry will include the question of why screening procedures did not prevent Thomas Duncan from entering the U.S. from Liberia on Sept. 20, the handling of his diagnosis, and his treatment prior to his death last week, according to a memo released Tuesday by majority staffers of the House Energy and Commerce Committee.

The committee will also be updated by officials scrambling to determine how a nurse who helped treat Duncan at a Texas hospital has become the first person to contract Ebola in the U.S.

Reuters covers the White House response:

White House to seek more Ebola funds in FY2015 spending bill

The Obama administration expects to ask Congress for additional funds for a growing U.S. government effort to halt the spread of Ebola, White House Budget Director Shaun Donovan said on Tuesday.

Donovan told Reuters that the request, which would come on top of more than $1 billion in federal funds currently available, would be made in the coming weeks as Congress reconvenes in November to consider a 2015 fiscal year spending bill in the post-election “lame duck” session.

“Our expectation is that we will be talking to Congress about additional needs,” Donovan said at the Reuters Global Climate Change Summit in Washington.

On to the first home-grown American case with the Guardian:

Dallas nurse infected with Ebola gets blood transfusion from survivor

  • Dr Kent Brantly, the first American to return to the US from Liberia to be treated for Ebola, donated plasma to Nina Pham

A Dallas nurse who caught Ebola while treating a Liberian patient who died of the disease has received a plasma transfusion donated by a doctor who beat the virus.

Ebola has killed more than 4,000 people nearly all of them in West Africa in an outbreak the World Health Organisation has called “the most severe, acute health emergency seen in modern times.” US health officials say they are ramping up training for medical workers who deal with the infected.

Nurse Nina Pham was among about 70 staff members at Texas Health Presbyterian hospital who cared for Thomas Eric Duncan, according to medical records. They drew his blood, put tubes down his throat and wiped up his diarrhoea. They analysed his urine and wiped saliva from his lips, even after he had lost consciousness.

More from the Washington Post:

The decades-old treatment that may save a young Dallas nurse infected with Ebola

In late July, when it looked like Dr. Kent Brantly wasn’t going to make it, a small news item escaped Liberia. It spoke of Brantly’s treatment – not of the Ebola vaccine, Zmapp, which Brantly later got. But of a blood transfusion. He had “received a unit of blood from a 14-year-old boy who had survived Ebola because of Dr. Brantly’s care,” the missive said.

Now months later, Brantly, who has since recovered from his battle with the virus, has passed on the favor. A 26-year-old Dallas nurse named Nina Pham, who contracted the illness while treating the United States’ first Ebola patient, has received Brantly’s blood. It’s not the first time it has been used to treat Ebola patients. Recovered Ebola victim Richard Sacra got it, as well as U.S. journalist Ashoka Mukpo, who last night said he’s on the mend.

Injecting the blood of a patient such as Brantly, who has recovered from Ebola and developed certain antibodies, is a decades-old but promising method of treatment that, academics and health officials agree, could be one of the best means to fight Ebola. Called a convalescent serum, it might also save Pham, an alum of Texas Christian University.

And the Daily Mail offers the usual omnium gatherum:

Ebola-stricken nurse breaks her silence from quarantine unit to say she is ‘being cared for by the best team in the world’ at Dallas hospital

  • Nina Pham, 26, said on Tuesday: ‘I am blessed by the support of family and friends and am blessed to be cared for by the best team of doctors and nurses in the world’
  • The nurse has received blood transfusion from Dr Kent Brantly, who was given the all-clear from Ebola
  • Antibodies in his blood could help the patients fight the disease
  • Miss Pham, from Fort Worth, caught the Ebola virus while treating Thomas Eric Duncan, 42, in Dallas
  • Second person who some identified as Miss Pham’s boyfriend is being monitored for symptoms
  • Miss Pham raised in Vietnamese family in Fort Worth and graduated from Texas Christian University in 2010 with Bachelor of Science in Nursing
  • About 70 staff members at Texas hospital were involved in the care of first Ebola patient Thomas Eric Duncan after he was hospitalized

Support, via Reuters:

U.S. health workers rally on Facebook for Dallas nurse with Ebola

Thousands of U.S. health workers have joined social media campaigns in the past few days to support a Texas nurse who became the first person infected with Ebola in the United States, which she contracted caring for a dying African patient at a Dallas hospital.

The nurse, Nina Pham, 26, was diagnosed over the weekend and is in an isolation unit at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital, where she worked. She has been swept in questions on whether a lapse in infectious disease protocols was behind her becoming infected.

“She isn’t sick because she is a bad nurse, didn’t follow protocol, or was inadequately trained. She is the RN (registered nurse) who made a sacrifice to care for a very sick man,” Roy Rannila, a staff member for the Texas hospital group caring for Pham wrote on his Facebook page.

A Facebook page, “Nurses for Nina”, has garnered over 4,500 “likes” in less than 24 hours and messages of support from healthcare providers in areas such as Texas, Oklahoma, Arizona, Tennessee and Washington D.C.

From the McClatchy Washington Bureau, playing catch-up:

Dallas health officials scramble to identify staff who treated Ebola patient

Health officials on Monday were scrambling to identify and monitor a large number of health care workers at a Dallas hospital who could be at risk of contracting Ebola after they cared for Thomas Eric Duncan in the hospital’s isolation ward.

It’s unclear how many caregivers could be at risk; some reports indicated as many as 70 were involved in Duncan’s treatment. Dr. Tom Frieden, the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said he wouldn’t be surprised if more workers develop the disease in the coming weeks.

A 26-year-old nurse at the hospital, who was identified Monday by her family as Nina Pham, tested positive for the virus Saturday even though she had worn protective clothing in her multiple contacts with Duncan.

More from the the Washington Post:

CDC doesn’t know how many health-care workers in Dallas may have been exposed to Ebola; AP says it’s ‘about 70’ people

A day after a nurse who treated an Ebola-stricken patient in Dallas was diagnosed with the virus, public health officials are still trying to figure out how many health-care workers may have had similar exposure.

It is still unclear how, exactly, the nurse at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital Dallas became the first person to contract the virus in the United States, said Thomas Frieden, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

But if one health-care worker was infected, “it is possible other people could have been infected as well,” Frieden said during a briefing with reporters on Monday.

The Associated Press covers a confession:

CDC acknowledges it could have done more on Ebola

he nation’s top disease-fighting agency acknowledged Tuesday that federal health experts failed to do all they should have done to prevent Ebola from spreading from a Liberian man who died last week in Texas to the nurse who treated him.

The stark admission from the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention came as the World Health Organization projected the pace of infections accelerating in West Africa — to as many as 10,000 new cases a week within two months.

Agency Director Tom Frieden outlined a series of steps designed to stop the spread of the disease in the U.S., including increased training for health care workers and changes at the Texas hospital where the virus was diagnosed to minimize the risk of more infections.

While the Los Angeles Times covers serious allegations:

Dallas nurses describe Ebola hospital care: ‘There was no protocol’

A Liberian man who arrived by ambulance at a Dallas hospital with symptoms of Ebola sat for “several hours” in a room with other patients before being put in isolation, and the nurses who treated him wore flimsy gowns and had little protective gear, nurses alleged Tuesday as they fought back against suggestions that one of their own had erred in handling him.

The statements came as Nina Pham, a 26-year-old nurse at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital in Dallas, fought off the Ebola virus after contracting it from the Liberian, Thomas Eric Duncan. The statements by the Dallas hospital nurses were read by representatives of the Oakland-based group National Nurses United.

RoseAnn DeMoro, executive director of National Nurses United, said the nonunionized Texas nurses could not identify themselves, speak to the media independently or even read their statements over the phone because they feared losing their jobs. In a conference call, questions from the media were relayed to the unknown number of nurses by National Nurses United representatives, and the responses were read back to reporters.

While here in the San Francisco Bay area, hospitals are getting ready, reports the Contra Costa Times:

East Bay hospitals brace against Ebola

East Bay hospitals are prepared to screen, diagnose, isolate, and if necessary, treat and stop the threat of Ebola, according to U.S. Rep. Eric Swalwell.

“They are ready,” he said. “They know what to look for … and I’m confident that if someone does present Ebola-like symptoms, they will be immediately isolated and treated so we can stop the spread.”

Swalwell, D-Dublin, held a conference call Tuesday with about 20 East Bay health care leaders at San Ramon Regional Medical Center, allowing them the opportunity to query Dr. John Brooks, the medical task force lead for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Emergency Ebola Response, on the latest on the outbreak and how to protect against it.

“Hospitals are understandably concerned,” Swalwell said, adding that the spread of the virus has become a humanitarian crisis in West Africa where 4,000 people have died of Ebola and there are 8,000 cases. “I can’t think of a recent illness in the United States that is so deadly that could be spread by direct bodily fluid and have such a high fatality rate in such a short amount of time.”

And from United Press International, an apology from a talking head:

NBC’s Nancy Snyderman apologizes for violating Ebola quarantine

Nancy Snyderman issued an apology after she was caught leaving her house, despite being under quarantine after a member of her crew contracted Ebola in West Africa

A group of NBC journalists, including NBC’s chief medical editor Nancy Snyderman, are now under mandatory quarantine after they were spotted out in public last week, violating a voluntary quarantine after one of their crew contracted Ebola on a trip to Africa.

Dr. Snyderman issued an apology Monday, acknowledging that they had indeed left confinement against advice, but assured the public that they were not showing signs of the disease.

“While under voluntary quarantine guidelines, which called for our team to avoid public contact for 21 days, members of our group violated those guidelines and understand that our quarantine is now mandatory until 21 days have passed,” Snyderman said in a statement.

While Vocativ covers an act that mandates an apology:

College Allegedly Rejects Nigerian Student Because of Ebola Fears

  • The Texas school might have turned down the young man, even though he lives in a country that has been Ebola-free for more than a month

The latest outbreak of Ebola hysteria in the U.S. comes from a community college in central Texas called Navarro College. The school recently turned down an application from a student in Nigeria, writing that it’s not accepting international students “from countries with confirmed Ebola cases.” Idris Ayodeji Bello, a Nigerian who currently lives in east Texas, learned about the rejection letter from a friend in Nigeria, Dr. Kamorudeen Abidogun, who also happens to be the student’s brother-in-law. Bello posted the document on his website and to Twitter, and it looks to be signed by Navarro College Director of International Programs Elizabeth A. Pillans.

Abidogun tells Vocativ that the rejected Nigerian student hopes to major in computer science, and he “was motivated by the high standard of U.S. colleges and universities” to apply to Navarro College. The young man has written an email to Navarro expressing his disappointment with the rejection letter, Abidogun says, but he hasn’t yet received a response. It doesn’t make much sense for an American college to reject Nigerian students because of Ebola fears. Though Nigeria has had 20 confirmed Ebola cases, the country’s efforts to quash the disease have been largely successful—and could serve as a model for other West African nations.

The New York Times covers a death in Germany:

Ebola Patient Dies in German Hospital

A 56-year-old man who had been working with the United Nations in Liberia died overnight at the hospital in Leipzig where he was being treated for Ebola, the hospital said Tuesday in a statement quoted by the German news media.

The brief statement gave no further details. The man was the third patient to arrive in Germany in recent weeks for treatment of Ebola, and the first to die.

The first patient, a Senegalese man who worked for the World Health Organization, was treated in Hamburg from late August until Oct. 3, when he was released. He has since returned home. The second patient, a Ugandan doctor who was working in West Africa for an Italian aid organization, continues to receive treatment at a hospital in Frankfurt.

A video report from Deutsche Welle:

Ebola patient dies in Germany

Program notes:

A Sudanese UN medical worker has succumbed to Ebola in a Leipzig clinic after receiving intensive medical care.

On to Spain with El País:

Number of patients being monitored for Ebola symptoms rises to 100

  • As well as 15 high-risk contacts, a further 83 are under “active vigilance”

The number of people currently under observation after having come into contact with Spanish Ebola patient Teresa Romero has risen to 100. All of these people interacted with the nursing assistant during the six days that she was presenting symptoms of the virus, which is when contagion can occur.

As well as the 15 people currently admitted to the Carlos III Hospital in Madrid, considered “high-risk contacts,” there are a further 83 that are being monitored, EL PAÍS has determined. The last official figure supplied was 52.

These 83 people are in their homes for now, and are subject to what the experts call “active vigilance” – i.e., they are being called by Madrid regional public health personnel twice a day to ensure that they are taking their temperature and to find out the results. This kind of passive observation is the same process used with people at risk, as was the case of Romero, who became infected with Ebola while treating two Spanish missionaries with the virus who had been repatriated from West Africa.

And an apology, also from El País:

Madrid health chief apologizes to nursing assistant with Ebola

  • Javier Rodríguez admits comments were “unfortunate,” but stops short of resigning

Madrid’s regional health chief has issued a public apology to Teresa Romero, the nursing assistant who contracted Ebola after treating two infected Spanish missionaries, after accusing her of concealing information from medics and of being clumsy with her protective suit.

In a letter to Romero’s husband, who had called for his resignation, Javier Rodríguez admits that his public statements last Thursday were “unfortunate” and that he never meant to offend the patient, who remains in a serious but stable condition in Madrid’s Carlos III Hospital.

“I know these are very tough moments for you and your family, and I understand that my words may have caused even more pain,” writes Rodríguez in a letter that was published by news agency EFE. “I in no way meant to add to the pain that you are going through.”

An Ebola scare in Canada from CBC News:

Ebola test result awaited by member of Canadian Forces aid mission

  • ‘Extremely unlikely’ aircrew member will test positive for Ebola, doctor says

A man quarantined in a Belleville, Ont., hospital while awaiting Ebola test results is a member of the Canadian Forces aircrew who dropped off supplies to combat the disease in Sierra Leone, CBC News has learned.

The patient is currently in isolation and samples have been sent to the National Microbiology lab in Winnipeg. Results should be ready late Tuesday evening or early Wednesday morning.

The patient arrived at the Belleville General Hospital emergency room early Monday. He had recently returned from West Africa and showed some symptoms common with the Ebola virus.

From the London Telegraph, the military angle:

More troops tackling Ebola than battling Isil or the Taliban

  • The military campaign to help defeat Ebola becomes the Armed Forces’ biggest overseas deployment

Britain will soon have more troops tackling Ebola than battling Isil or the Taliban, as the military campaign to help defeat the deadly disease outbreak becomes the Armed Forces’ biggest overseas deployment.

Michael Fallon, the Defence Secretary, said the UK had to act to help stop the spread of the disease, or it would tear through West Africa, then into Europe and the UK.

By the end of November around 750 British troops will be in Sierra Leone helping to set up medical centres and train staff to tackle the outbreak which has killed more than 4,000.

He said by then it would be the UK’s “biggest deployment overseas” as it pulls back from its 13-year war in Afghanistan.

After the jump, preparations in Japan, capitalizing on crisis, vaccines promised and researched, a hefty Zuckberg donation, an atomic helping hand, a UN official’s prescription, a British hospital ship heading to Sierra Leone, an expanding Ebola text-message system, Ebola outbreaks in Nigeria and Senegal over, on to Sierra Leone and scare resources, then on to Liberia and one county’s tripling of cases, division over a desperate measure in desperate times, a ministerial quarantine, the perils of care, a hospital reopens, a warning over burials, high-level visits to Monrovia, Cote d’Ivoire quarantines arrivals from Liberia, and to close on a note of absurdity, two stories about shouting Ebola on crowd bus. . . Continue reading

Chart of the day II: Europe heads toward a fall


From Eurostat [PDF], the latest industrial production figures show an industrial production drop of 1.8 percent following a modest post “recovery” rise and levelling off. Click on the image to enlarge:

BLOG Europrod II

InSecurityWatch: War, spies, hacks, Hong Kong


We begin with suspicions confirmed from the Christian Science Monitor:

Islamic State: Britain’s top diplomat says endgame is regime change in Syria

British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond says training up to 50,000 Syrian rebels is crucial to fighting Islamic State militants. The US said Monday that Turkey had agreed to train rebels there.

Britain’s top diplomat says the US-led military campaign in Syria against Islamic State militants must be followed by regime change in Damascus, the seat of power for President Bashar al-Assad.

In an interview, Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond said Britain would help the US to stand up a proxy army in Syria that would be capable of fighting both Islamic State, also known as ISIS or ISIL, and President Assad’s forces. The US Congress last month approved a spending bill to train and arm a force of moderate Syrian rebels.

Mr. Hammond says Britain, which has carried out airstrikes in Iraq against IS targets, may join the US-led bombing campaign in Syria. But he insists that the end goal of military intervention in Syria’s civil war, now into its fourth year, must be the removal of Assad. And he rejects the suggestion by some former defense officials in Britain, including the former head of the army, that the West may have to make common cause with Assad against IS, as the greater threat to global security.

Curious, via Reuters:

Syria’s air force ramps up strikes in west as U.S. hits east

Syria’s air force carried out strikes against rebels at more than double its usual rate on Monday, according to a monitoring group, ramping up its offensive near the capital while Washington strikes Islamic State fighters far away.

The intensified air strikes by President Bashar al-Assad’s government will add to the fear among Assad’s opponents that he is taking advantage of the U.S. strikes to crush other foes, including the “moderate opposition” that Washington backs.

The United States says it does not want to help Assad’s government despite bombing Islamic State, the most powerful group fighting against Damascus in a three year civil war. Washington aims to help arm moderates to fight against both Assad and Islamic State.

From the Associated Press, chaos reigning:

Militants take Iraq army camp, bombs grip Baghdad

Militants with the Islamic State group on Monday captured a military training camp in western Iraq, inching closer to full control of the restive Anbar province, as a spate of deadly bombings shook Baghdad, hitting mostly Shiite neighborhoods and leaving at least 30 dead.

The attacks, which came as Iraqi Shiites marked a major holiday for their sect with families crowding the streets in celebration, raised new concerns that the Sunni militant group is making gains despite U.S.-led coalition airstrikes.

Meanwhile, British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond on a visit to Iraq warned that the airstrikes will not be enough to defeat the militant group and stressed that the Iraqi security forces would have to do the “heavy work on the ground.”

From Reuters, the ineffable:

Islamic State seeks to justify enslaving Yazidi women and girls in Iraq

The Islamic State group said it enslaved families from the minority Yazidi sect after overrunning their villages in northwestern Iraq, in what it praised as the revival of an ancient custom of using women and children as spoils of war.

In an article in its English-language online magazine Dabiq, the group provides what it says is religious justification for the enslavement of defeated “idolators”.

The ancient custom of enslavement had fallen out of use because of deviation from true Islam, but was revived when fighters overran Yazidi villages in Iraq’s Sinjar region.

“After capture, the Yazidi women and children were then divided according to the Shariah amongst the fighters of the Islamic State who participated in the Sinjar operations, after one fifth of the slaves were transferred to the Islamic State’s authority to be divided as khums,” it said. Khums is a traditional tax on the spoils of war.

Feeding the flames with the Guardian:

Tunisia becomes breeding ground for Islamic State fighters

  • By some estimates, there could be more Tunisians fighting for Isis than combatants from any other single country

Though Tunisia is in many senses the most advanced and secular of Arab states – and the only country to have come through the revolutions of 2011 relatively unscathed – that is only half the story. According to some estimates, there are more Tunisians fighting for Isis than from any other single country.

The Tunisian interior ministry itself estimates that at least 2,400 of its citizens have become combatants in Syria since 2011, and that around 400 have returned. Several thousand more have been prevented from travelling, they say, and there has also been an attempt to close down the recruitment networks. The well-worn routes led through Tunis airport, especially flights to Istanbul, or across the southern land border, via Libyan training camps.

In Douar Hicher, a poor district at the edge of Tunis, it is common knowledge that 40 or 50 young men have left to fight and perhaps a dozen have been killed.

The same neighbourhood contributed four “martyrs” to the 2011 revolution that ousted long-time dictator, Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali. Since then, amid a general loosening of the control of the state, radical Islam has moved into the mosques and an overexcited free-for-all has overtaken the internet and social media now that censorship has ended.

British blowback from the Independent:

Three more men arrested in London on suspicion of planning terrorist attack

Three more men have been arrested in central London on suspicion of planning a terrorist attack. The suspects, aged 24, 21 and 25 are being held in custody after being detained on Monday by the Metropolitan Police.

A spokesperson said: “All three were arrested on suspicion of being concerned in the commission, preparation or instigation of acts of terrorism.”

A search was also conducted at a business address in west London and at a further four homes in the north-west of the capital.

The arrests on Monday were in connection to an alleged Islamist plot that was foiled last week.

Comparative media chops from Defense One:

ISIS Is Better Than Al-Qaeda At Using the Internet

Al-Qaida has an Internet presence nearly two decades old, using various platforms and—more recently—social media to push its message. But it is ISIS, the relative newcomer, that has escalated its Internet efforts to the point that governments are beginning to see winning the Internet as central to the fight against terrorism.

European government officials reportedly met Thursday in Luxembourg with heads of tech companies—including Twitter, Facebook, and Google—to discuss how to combat online extremism. And the U.S. State Department launched its own Center for Strategic Counterterrorism Communications in 2011.

Much of ISIS’s online strategy stems from lessons learned while its members were still in al-Qaida’s fold. But when the groups split apart, their online strategies diverged as well—especially in how they use social media.

Cjurious covert ops from the Washington Post:

Probe of silencers leads to web of Pentagon secrets

The mysterious workings of a Pentagon office that oversees clandestine operations are unraveling in federal court, where a criminal investigation has exposed a secret weapons program entwined with allegations of a sweetheart contract, fake badges and trails of destroyed evidence.

Capping an investigation that began almost two years ago, separate trials are scheduled this month in U.S. District Court in Alexandria, Va., for a civilian Navy intelligence official and a hot-rod auto mechanic from California who prosecutors allege conspired to manufacture an untraceable batch of automatic-rifle silencers.

The exact purpose of the silencers remains hazy, but court filings and pretrial testimony suggest they were part of a top-secret operation that would help arm guerrillas or commandos overseas.

Black prison blowback from the McClatchy Washington Bureau:

UNC legal team, rights advocates take up cause of tortured ex-prisoner

North Carolina human rights advocates and a legal team from the University of North Carolina School of Law are pressing for an apology on behalf of a man who was tortured in Pakistani and Moroccan prisons over nine years, and, according to documents, secretly transported by the CIA on a North Carolina-based plane.

“I would like recognition of the injustice I went through,” Abou Elkassim Britel, an Italian of Moroccan descent who lives in Italy, said in an email Friday to McClatchy, written with his wife, Anna. “My honor and my dignity have been violated. I was deprived of family and freedom, or a future and career. I returned home after a 10-year exile with my health and mental state ruined, with no work and with much suffering.”

Britel said he wanted the apology as a public recognition of his wrongful suffering and to press the United States and other governments involved “to put an end to abuse and torture.”

The Independent covers reciprocity:

Bahrain ‘spied on political activists living in the UK’

The police National Cyber Crime Unit has been asked to investigate allegations that the Bahrain government and a UK-German technology company criminally conspired to spy on political activists living in the UK.

Three British-based Bahrainis say that sophisticated “spyware” software was introduced to their computers so that the Gulf country could monitor their activities.

Privacy International (PI) has made a criminal complaint against British company Gamma International after evidence was posted online, including real-time conversations in which the company’s staff gave technical support to Bahraini officials in using its FinFisher spyware. The leak of 40 gigabytes of information suggested 77 people had been targeted by Bahrain.

From the Guardian, an Aussie spooky giveaway:

Australia’s defence intelligence agency conducted secret programs to help NSA

  • It is unclear, from documents leaked by Edward Snowden, whether programs to hack computer networks continue at ASD

Australia’s defence intelligence agency has conducted secretive programs to help the US National Security Agency hack and exploit computer networks, according to documents published by the Intercept.

The documents, which were leaked by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden, reveal new details about some of the NSA’s most closely guarded secrets. The documents describe a class of “exceptionally compartmentalised information” (ECI) that strictly classifies information about select NSA programs.

The information is so secret that some parts of these operations are only released on the approval of the NSA director. The US’s “five-eyes” partner countries, which include Australia, Canada, Britain and New Zealand, have access to some of this information although release is handled “on a case-by-case basis”.

A collective effort from the Japan Times :

Millions of voiceprints quietly being harvested

Over the telephone, in jail and online, a new digital bounty is being harvested: the human voice.

Businesses and governments around the world increasingly are turning to voice biometrics, or voiceprints, to pay pensions, collect taxes, track criminals and replace passwords.

“We sometimes call it the invisible biometric,” said Mike Goldgof, an executive at Madrid-based AGNITiO, one of about 10 leading companies in the field.

Those companies have helped enter more than 65 million voiceprints into corporate and government databases, according to Associated Press interviews with dozens of industry representatives and records requests in the United States, Europe and elsewhere.

The Register delivers a dressing down:

Cops and spies should blame THEMSELVES for smartphone crypto ‘problem’ – Hyppönen

  • Spooks are ‘imperfect’ warns top securo-bod

Law enforcement and intel agencies have no right to complain about the improved security of smartphones because they brought the problem on themselves, according to security guru Mikko Hyppönen.

Policing and government officials on both sides of the Atlantic have been vociferous in their complaints about Apple and Google’s respective decisions to include more effective encryption on their smartphones.

FBI Director James Comey, US attorney general Eric Holder and Europol boss Troels Oerting have all waded in to say that the changes would make life difficult for law enforcement.

“Governments annoyed by companies taking a stand on security should remember they caused this themselves by hacking companies from their own countries,” Mikko Hyppönen, chief research officer at F-Secure, told El Reg.

“Instead of just considering attacks from criminals some of the largest software companies have to consider attacks from their own governments too.”

Nextgov covers a hacking claim:

DHS: Attackers Hacked Critical Manufacturing Firm For Months

An unnamed manufacturing firm vital to the U.S. economy recently suffered a prolonged hack, the Department of Homeland Security has disclosed.

The event was complicated by the fact that the company had undergone corporate acquisitions, which introduced more network connections, and consequently a wider attack surface. The firm had more than 100 entry and exit points to the Internet.

The case contains a lesson for civilian and military agencies, both of which are in the early stages of new initiatives to consolidate network entryways.

From the Independent, modified resoration:

‘Rich Kids of Tehran’ are back on Instagram – but this time they’ve been forced to clean up their act

The first post of the new account defended their use of social media as a way of showcasing an alternate view of Iranian culture and society to the rest of the world.

They said: “We have changed the way the world looks at us. People don’t use camels for transportation but some choose to use ‘Italian and German horses.’

“We did not have any bad intentions and we are not against anyone. We wanted to show the luxurious side of Tehran to the world. Only thing we did was to post some pictures on Instagram.

“We love our country and like any other country we have rich and we have less fortunate people. Some rich people in Iran come from wealthy families who have been rich for generations. Others simply made their wealth by working hard.”

Snappish blowback from The Hill:

Snapchat under fire following photo leak

Snapchat could be in hot water with federal regulators after private images and videos from as many as 200,000 people were posted online.

The widely popular photo-sharing service has denied that it was hacked and has instead blamed the release on outside companies that users rely on to store their photos.

But the smartphone application is under new pressure from privacy advocates just months after it settled with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) over charges it misled consumers about its data collection, and only weeks after an unrelated leak of hundreds of celebrities’ nude photos.

After the jump, foundation funding for U.S. police spyware, protests in Ferguson, another police shooting in Mexico, Chinese Premier Li Keqiang heads to Moscow as ties between the two countries tighten, police and triad thugs attack protesters, an ultimatum follows, and on to North Korea with Kim unapparent and a bodies of dead Americans are used as a political ploy. . .   Continue reading

EnviroWatch: Ills, toxins, climate, & GMOs


And nukes. . .

First up, this from BBC News:

Kenya Catholic Church tetanus vaccine fears ‘unfounded’

Kenya’s government has dismissed allegations made by the country’s Catholic Church that a tetanus vaccine can cause sterility in women. “It’s a safe certified vaccine,” Health Minister James Macharia told the BBC.

Catholic priests have been telling their congregations to boycott a campaign that begins on Monday to vaccinate women against tetanus.

Tetanus is regarded as a big threat to babies in Kenya, with a new-born child dying every day of the infection. According to Kenya’s health ministry, about 550 babies died of tetanus in Kenya last year.

Our pills, drugging the fish, via the Guardian:

Drugs flushed into the environment could be cause of wildlife decline

  • New studies show antidepressants causing starlings to feed less and contraceptive drugs reducing fish populations in lakes

Potent pharmaceuticals flushed into the environment via human and animal sewage could be a hidden cause of the global wildlife crisis, according to new research. The scientists warn that worldwide use of the drugs, which are designed to be biologically active at low concentrations, is rising rapidly but that too little is currently known about their effect on the natural world.

Studies of the effect of pharmaceutical contamination on wildlife are rare but new work published on Monday reveals that an anti-depressant reduces feeding in starlings and that a contraceptive drug slashes fish populations in lakes.

“With thousands of pharmaceuticals in use globally, they have the potential to have potent effects on wildlife and ecosystems,” said Kathryn Arnold, at the University of York, who edited a special issue of the journal Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B. “Given the many benefits of pharmaceuticals, there is a need for science to deliver better estimates of the environmental risks they pose.”

From the Independent, an aquatic conquest dreaded:

Alien species in UK could cause an ‘environmental catastrophe’ for British rivers

Five of Europe’s deadliest freshwater species are now in UK waters wreaking havoc on the environment, a Cambridge University study has warned. At least 10 more are expected in the next half-decade.

Invasive species impact on the biodiversity of Britain by eating native species as well as affecting human health and the economy. Many originate from the Black, Asov and Caspian seas around Turkey and Ukraine. Scientists worry that some may already be in Britain, but as yet undiscovered.

Fears have now been raised by the discovery of the quagga mussel in a reservoir near Heathrow. The molluscs, originally from Ukraine, were identified as the single greatest potential threat to the UK’s wildlife of any alien species in 2013. They have now arrived.

The Ecologist covers other kinds of invasive species:

Big Biotech’s African seed takeover

Monsanto, DuPont, Syngenta, Limagrain are among the companies to buy into Africa’s indigenous seed companies. It’s all part of the corporate takeover of the continent’s agriculture at the expense of the small farmers who feed most of Africa’s people.

French seed giant Groupe Limagrain, the largest seed and plant breeding company in the European Union, has invested up to US$60 million for a 28% stake in SeedCo, one of Africa’s largest home-grown seed companies.

In another transaction, SeedCo has agreed to sell 49% of its shares in Africa’s only cottonseed company, Quton, to Mahyco of India – which is 26% owned by Monsanto.

Mahyco specialises in hybrid cotton varieties, and has a 50:50 joint venture with Monsanto to license its genetically modified (GM) Bt cotton throughout India. By contrast Quton produces unpatented , non-GMO ‘open-pollinated varieties’ (OPVs) of cottonseed.

From the Ghana Broadcasting Corporation, organized resistance mounts as a nation’s legislators prepare to pass corporate-backed pro-GMO legislation:

Do not pass the “Plants Breeders Bill”

From the Jakarta Globe, lax ecocidal punishment lamented:

Riau Police Lament ‘Light’ Sentences for Those Burning Forests

As thick haze continues to cover large parts of Sumatra, police in Riau say that those responsible for the problem are getting away with sentences so lenient that there is hardly any deterrent effect.

“It has come to our attention that the sentences are around three months in prison on average, which is very light, and the toughest sentence is only five months,” Brig. Gen. Dolly Bambang Hermawan, the chief of Riau Police, was quoted as saying by state-run Antara news agency on Monday.

Dolly said that the courts are ignoring the fact that the raging forest and bush fires are a major problem. “Many people get sick, flights are disturbed,” he said.

The courts are not only lenient in cases of private individuals caught setting fire to swathes of land, but also to companies, Dolly said, citing the example of Adei Plantation and Industry.

A Bankster’s carbon bubble alert, via the Guardian:

Mark Carney: most fossil fuel reserves can’t be burned

  • Bank of England governor lends his support to ‘carbon bubble’ theory that coal, gas and oil assets are at risk, reports BusinessGreen

The governor of the Bank of England has reiterated his warning that fossil fuel companies cannot burn all of their reserves if the world is to avoid catastrophic climate change, and called for investors to consider the long-term impacts of their decisions.

According to reports, Carney told a World Bank seminar on integrated reporting on Friday that the “vast majority of reserves are unburnable” if global temperature rises are to be limited to below 2C.

Carney is the latest high profile figure to lend his weight to the “carbon bubble” theory, which warns that fossil fuel assets, such as coal, oil and gas, could be significantly devalued if a global deal to tackle climate change is reached.

Pentagonal perceptions of climate change, via the Verge:

Even the Pentagon agrees: climate change is a ‘threat multiplier’

  • Climate change makes pretty much everything worse — including terrorist groups

A new report from the Pentagon says that climate change poses a threat to national security — multiplying risks from terrorism, infectious disease, and food and water shortages. The bottom line? There may be a greater need for military response to disasters, as the changing weather creates new catastrophes.

The Pentagon isn’t the only one that’s concerned. Earlier this month, the British Medical Journal called on the World Health Organization to declare a public health emergency, based on a projected 250,000 additional deaths from 2030 and 2050. Today’s report from the Pentagon suggests ways for the military to respond to rising sea levels, as well as extreme weather such as violent storms or droughts. There are no specific budget recommendations in it, however.

Climate change may cause large-scale migrations of people away from areas affected by drought or heavy weather. That could give rise to more terrorist threats, Marcus King, an expert on climate change at George Washington University, told The New York Times. He suggested that climate change may have played a role in the rise of the Islamic State.

On to Fukushimapocalypse Now! with the Mainichi:

Contracts for interim radioactive waste storage sites in Fukushima due to expire

Property leases for many interim radioactive waste storage facilities in Fukushima Prefecture are set to expire staring this month, a Mainichi Shimbun survey of local municipalities has found.

A total of 46 out of 47 municipalities in the prefecture subject to Fukushima nuclear disaster decontamination work responded to the Mainichi survey request, sent out in August this year. According to the results, as of the end of July, there were 859 temporary storage sites in 40 of the municipalities, holding some 3,194,688 cubic meters of radioactive soil and other contaminated waste from the disaster cleanup.

A government plan drawn up in October 2011 stated these sites would be closed in roughly three years. Accordingly, the central and local governments leased properties for many of the facilities for a three-year term. The leases for lands hosting 105 facilities storing 178,192 cubic meters of waste will reach their third year by the end of January 2015 — shrinking storage capacity even as the volume of waste increases as decontamination work continues.

Similar problems elsewhere, via the Japan Times:

As nuclear waste piles up, South Korea faces storage crisis

The world’s fifth-largest user of nuclear power has around 70 percent, or nearly 9,000 tons, of its used fuel stacked in temporary storage pools originally intended to hold it for five or six years, with some sites due to fill by the end of 2016.

It plans to cram those sites with more fuel than they were originally intended to hold while it looks for a permanent solution, suggesting little has been learned from the Fukushima disaster in Japan.

In the Fukushima crisis that started in 2011, the storage of large amounts of spent nuclear fuel in elevated pools posed a threat of massive radioactive release on top of meltdowns at three reactors. Spent fuel rods heated up after a quake knocked out water-cooling pumps, underlining the dangers of holding troves of radioactive material in relatively exposed cooling ponds.

And our final item, a British nuclear challenge via the Guardian:

Ecotricity considers legal challenge over EU go-ahead for Hinkley Point C

  • Energy supplier joins growing number of firms and organisations seeking to block planned subsidy scheme for new nuclear plan

Independent energy supplier Ecotricity is among companies and organisations considering a legal challenge against the European commission decision to give approval to Hinkley Point C nuclear plant.

Austria has already promised to fight the decision in the courts but Dale Vince, the founder of Ecotricity, said he might stand as an “interested party” in the European court of justice to block the planned subsidy scheme for the £24bn project in Somerset.

“This is a mad decision by Brussels and a patriotic issue for us. The financial support agreed for Hinkley would be an enormous burden for the country and there is the costs of decommissioning on top of that. Where is the money going to come from?” said Vince, whose company builds windfarms as well as supplying gas and electricity.

Chart of the day: Brutal costs of Greek austerity


From the just-released Statistics on Income and Living Conditions 2013 [PDF] from the Hellenic Statistical Authority [Elstat], dramatic evidence of the cost of Troika-imposed austerity on the Greek people:

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