Category Archives: Europe

InSecurityWatch: Bombs, hysteria, hacks, pols


Today’s collection of headlines from the realm of threats and secrets, bombs and bugs, begins with a bit of déjà vu all over again from the Guardian:

US aims to wipe out Isis funding with air strikes on oil wells in Syria

  • Groups control an oil field for a few weeks until another leader seizes it while the engineers who serviced the wells have fled

The latest US air strikes in Syria targeted oil facilities controlled by Islamic State (Isis) in a deliberate attempt to wipe out a lucrative source of income for the rapidly expanding jihadist group.

US central command said 13 air strikes were launched against refineries in the east of the country. They included at least four oil installations and three oil fields around the town of Mayadeen. Also hit were targets near Al Hasakah, Abu Kamail and Deir el-Zour, on the Euphrates river.

The US said that these “small-scale refineries” provided fuel for Isis’s military operations as well as money to finance “continued attacks throughout Iraq and Syria”. According to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, at least 14 Islamic state militants were killed in Wednesday’s attacks. Another five people who lived near one of the refineries in Hasakah province also died. The Observatory said that they were probably the wives and children of the militants.

From the Independent, a man with a point to make:

Iraq and Syria crisis: Iran’s President Rouhani accuses West of turning Middle East into ‘haven for terrorists’

President Hassan Rouhani delivered a searing indictment of western governments in a speech in New York saying they were responsible for sowing the seeds of the outbreak of extremism that has brought turmoil to the Middle East and demanded that they “acknowledge their errors” and apologise.

“Certain intelligence agencies have put blades in the hand of madmen, who now spare no one,” Mr. Rouhani told the United Nations General Assembly. “Currently our peoples are paying the price. Today’s anti-Westernism is the offspring of yesterday’s colonialism. Today’s anti-Westemism is a reaction to yesterday’s racism.”

“The strategic blunders of the West in the Middle-East, Central Asia, and the Caucuses have turned these parts of the world into a haven for terrorists and extremists,’ President Rouhani declared. “Military aggression against Afghanistan and Iraq and improper interference in the developments in Syria are clear examples of this erroneous strategic approach in the Middle East.”

And for anyone interested, here are his full remarks, via RT:

‘Certain states helped create Islamist extremism’ – Iran’s Rouhani to UN Gen Assembly

Program notes:

The rise of violent extremism around the world is the fault of “certain states” and “intelligence agencies” that have helped to create it and are failing to withstand it, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said in an address to the UN General Assembly

BBC News responds:

French hostage beheading: France to boost Syria rebels

France has announced it will tighten security around transport and public places following the killing of a French hostage by jihadists in Algeria.

It will also boost its support for Syrian opposition forces fighting Islamic State (IS) militants.

The move was announced by the office of President Francois Hollande after a high-level emergency meeting.

Militants allied to IS killed French tourist Herve Gourdel after demanding that France halt air strikes on IS.

Allegations, via the Associated Press:

Iraqi PM: Plot to attack US, Paris Subways

Iraq’s prime minister said Thursday that captive Islamic State militants told his intelligence agents of an alleged plot to attack subways in the United States and Paris.

A senior Obama administration official said no one in the U.S. government is aware of such a plot, adding that the claim was never brought up in meetings with Iraqi officials this week in New York. President Barack Obama met with al-Abadi Wednesday.

The administration official was not authorized to discuss the matter publicly by name and spoke on condition of anonymity.

Consequent disparagement from BBC News:

Islamic State crisis: US ‘no evidence’ of subway plots

US officials have no indication of a plot by Islamic State militants to attack underground rail systems in the US and Paris.

Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi has said his intelligence officials had uncovered plans for such an attack. Speaking on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly, he said the details he received looked credible.

But senior US sources have said they have no knowledge of a plot on any subway systems.

From BBC News, warming up the jets:

Islamic State air strikes in Iraq ‘would be legal’ – No 10

The Iraqi government’s request for support in its fight with Islamic State means UK air strikes in the country would be legal, Number 10 has said.

A summary of the government’s position said the call “provides a clear and unequivocal legal basis for deployment of UK forces”.

On Friday MPs will debate a motion backing strikes against IS militants in Iraq – but not in Syria.

Channel NewsAsia Singapore covers recruits:

1,000 fighters from Asia join IS group: US commander

About 1,000 volunteers from the Asia-Pacific region have sought to join the Islamic State group, a senior military officer said on Thursday (Sep 25).

Admiral Samuel Locklear, who oversees American forces across Asia as head of Pacific Command, gave the estimate a day after the United States pushed for a resolution committing major powers to block the movement of foreign militants to Iraq and Syria.

“It certainly is an issue that we’re paying very close attention to today,” Locklear told a press conference in Washington. There’s probably been about 1,000 potential aspiring fighters that have moved from this region, based on kind of our overall assessment. That number could get larger as we go forward, but certainly that’s about the size or the magnitude that we perceive at this point in time,” the admiral said.

From Kyodo News, Abe antes up:

Abe pledges $50 mil. in humanitarian aid to stem Islamic State crisis

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe pledged $50 million in emergency aid for the Islamic State-induced humanitarian crisis in the Middle East in his address to the U.N. General Assembly on Thursday.

World leaders have gathered in New York at a crucial time when the international community is grappling with three major issues — the Islamic State militant group, also known as ISIL, the Ukraine crisis and the outbreak of the Ebola virus striking West Africa.

The ISIL is “a serious threat to international order,” Abe said. “What is important now is preventing extremism from taking root while also responding swiftly to the region’s humanitarian crises.”

VICE News covers consequences:

Australia’s New Anti-Terror Campaign Backfires Against Its Own Citizens

This summer, as Australian domestic politics hit a tumultuous peak amid mass protests on the government’s draconian federal budget reforms, a complex conflict in far-flung lands threw a lifeline to the country’s leadership.

The Islamic State has posed a real and terrifying threat for thousands since the group began its violent offensive across Syria and Iraq. For Australia’s wildly conservative prime minister, Tony Abbott, who has stumbled, winked, and nodded from one scandal to another, the crisis abroad has also presented a chance to redeem his drop in popularity at home.

At a key moment when the PM, elected in November 2013, was at risk of becoming mired in dissatisfaction over his unpopular social policies — including regressive stances on health, higher education, and climate change — the government’s new anti-terror campaign has tranquilized the public’s animosity. But the proposed raft of reforms presented with it has also opened the doors to increased anti-Muslim sentiment and threatens Australians’ right to free speech, movement, and fair prosecution.

“Tony Abbott is fully aware that potential threat plus strong leadership equals good poll outcomes,” Clive Williams, a former Australian military intelligence officer and counter-terrorism lecturer, told VICE News.

TheLocal.no covers noble aspirations:

‘Norway can stop drone war’: UN advisor

Norway has been urged by one of the UN’s top human rights advisors to challenge the US-led coalition for an end to the drone war, branding it ‘dangerous’ and ‘a violation of international law.’

Professor Christof Heyns asked Norway on Thursday to challenge its allies on the US’s use of armed drones which Heyns states violates international law and will, in the long run, make the world become a more dangerous place, reported NTB.

Heyns, who normally investigates and reports to the UN on extra-judicial and illegal executions, said: “The world listens to the voice of Norway for it is often the voice of reason.”

The professor thinks Norway should bring the case to a human rights council of the UN and the general assembly.

Drone ground rules advance, with the San Francisco Chronicle:

Drones for moviemaking win FAA approval

The government granted six movie and television production companies permission to use drones for filming, an important step toward greater use of the technology by commercial operators, Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx announced Thursday.

Dozens of other industries are lined up to follow Hollywood’s lead. Until now, the Federal Aviation Administration, which is part of the Transportation Department, had banned commercial drone operations with the exception of a lone oil company in Alaska.

The FAA permits come with limitations, including that the unmanned aircraft be used only in a restricted area, that they be flown under 400 feet in altitude and that flights last no more than 30 minutes at a time. Nighttime flights are prohibited, and reality television shows or other unscripted events won’t qualify for the permits.

From the London Daily Mail, utterly abominable bankster kill-switchcraft:

Driver nearly crashes when her car suddenly shut down on a busy interstate because auto lender hit remote kill switch when she missed a payment

  • T. Candice Smith had to have her car pushed out of on-coming traffic
  • Starter Interrupt Devices allow auto lenders to ‘shut down borrower’s cars at any moment’
  • The devices emit flashing lights, beeping noises and then shuts down the car and prevents it from starting
  • These devices have been installed in more than two million vehicles

T. Candice Smith, 31, and her friend were driving down a three-lane Las Vegas interstate in 2012 when her steering wheel began to lock up. The car’s engine stopped and Smith’s friend had to push the car to the side of the highway to avoid being hit.

Smith told the New York Times that the car’s shutdown wasn’t due to a mechanical failure — it was her auto lender.

Smith’s story is similar to that of many people who have borrowed from auto lenders that utilize what are called ‘Starter Interrupt Devices.’

From the Independent, another lethally trigger-happy cop:

‘Disturbing’ footage shows US officer asking to see man’s driving licence and then shooting him as he tries to fetch it

Shocking video footage has emerged of the moment a US patrol officer asked to see a man’s driving licence and then shot him as he reached inside his car to get it.

In a case described as “disturbing” by South Carolina police, state trooper Sean Groubert, 31, pulled driver Levar Edward Jones over at a petrol station in Colombia for allegedly not wearing his seatbelt while driving.

Footage captured by the dashboard of a patrol vehicle shows Groubert pulling up in front of Mr Jones’ car and asking to see his licence.

When the 35-year-old reaches into his car to fetch it, Groubert suddenly shouts: “Get out of the car!” and then “get on the ground!” while firing four shots at him. At least one of the bullets hit Mr Jones in the hip, leaving him requiring hospital treatment.

Here’s the video via The State in Columbia — and we suspect you can guess the respective skin colors of the shooter and his victim:

Sept 4 Groubert traffic stop

Program note:

Sept. 4, 2014 traffic stop by Trooper Sean Groubert of a motorist for a seat belt violation. The motorist was shot during the traffic stop.

And an update form USA Today:

Ex-S.C. trooper who shot unarmed man faces charges

A former South Carolina state trooper who shot an unarmed man was charged Wednesday with assault and battery of a high and aggravated nature.

Sean Groubert, 31, was booked at the Richland County Detention Center. He faces up to 20 years in prison if convicted.

The charges were brought by the 5th Circuit Solicitor’s Office, which reviewed the findings of an investigation into the incident conducted by the State Law Enforcement Division.

The New York Times covers a rare thing, an apology:

Ferguson Police Chief Offers Apology to Michael Brown’s Family

The police chief of Ferguson, Mo., issued a rare public apology on Thursday, for the death of Michael Brown, addressing the Brown family directly in a short video posted online.

“I want to say this to the Brown family. No one who has not experienced the loss of a child can understand what you’re feeling,” the police chief, Thomas Jackson, said, wearing a polo shirt and standing in front of an American flag.

“I am truly sorry for the loss of your son. I’m also sorry that it took so long to remove Michael from the street,” Chief Jackson said. “The time that it took involved very important work on the part of investigators who were trying to collect evidence and gain a true picture of what happened that day. But it was just too long, and I’m truly sorry for that.”

Another case of lethal misconduct by people with badges from the Guardian:

Mentally ill North Carolina inmate held in solitary confinement dies of thirst

  • Medical Examiner’s Office said Anthony Michael Kerr died of severe dehydration in March of this year

A North Carolina inmate with mental illness who had been held in solitary confinement died of thirst, according to an autopsy report released Thursday.

Anthony Michael Kerr, 53, was found unresponsive in the back of a van on 12 March after being driven roughly three hours from Alexander Correctional Institution in Taylorsville to a mental hospital at Central Prison in Raleigh.

The North Carolina Department of Public Safety subsequently fired a captain and four nurses at Alexander. A nurse and a staff psychologist resigned.

At the time, Public Safety Secretary Frank L Perry pledged an “an aggressive, yet thorough internal investigation” into Kerr’s death. However, nearly nine months later the agency has not made public any results of that probe.

From CCTV America, a mighty fine notion:

Denver police to record public interactions

Program note:

It’s a high-tech tool that could lessen tensions between the police officers and the citizens they’re paid to protect.

From the Express Tribune, a Pakistani cop turns religious executioner:

Policeman kills blasphemy accused in Adiala jail

A policeman shot two men in jail on Thursday, killing one accused of blasphemy and wounding another condemned to death on the same charge, lawyers and an activist said.

Christian pastor Zafar Bhatti was killed and 70-year-old British man Muhammad Asghar, who has a history of mental illness, was wounded in the attack in Rawalpindi, next to the capital, Islamabad.

In recent weeks, Bhatti had received death threats in prison from both inmates and guards, his family told a human rights group Life for All. He was being held in the same cell as Asghar.

From the Independent, and go they come with apple pie?:

Louisiana high school attempts to raise money raffling guns

An American high school band has attempted to raise money by raffling off guns, in a state which claimed the sixth highest number of firearm murders in the United States just three years ago.

Students at Ovey Comeaux High School, in Lafayette, Louisiana, attempted to sell 52 guns after successful similar fundraisers were held at two schools in neighbouring parishes.

Prolonging the fun, students planned to raffle off a gun every week for the next year, and had already sold an estimated 50 tickets at $50 each – totalling $2,600.

After the jump, cartel petrocrimes in Mexico, blood on the Mexican newsroom floor, an Italian presidential mob trial courtroom appearance, Potemkin nuclear ignorance enshrined, declining NSA Yahooing, FBI cybernanxiety, Shellshock the cybermegavirus, ISIS or isn’t it in China, Hong Kong Occupy activists challenge Beijing, a deadly attack in northwestern China, Abe does a semantic remilitarization two-step, Tokyo moves toward an Aussie military alliance, a push for China to beef up special forces, and a provocative Russian visit. . . Continue reading

EbolaWatch: Numbers, pleas, claims, & help


We begin with numbers from Punch Nigeria:

Ebola death toll more than 2,900 –WHO

The World Health Organisation has announced that the number of people killed by the Ebola Virus Disease has reached at least 2,917.

According to the global health body, the increasing casualty figure is driven by the continuing rapid spread of the disease in Liberia and Sierra Leone.

The New York Times reported that the UN agency made the announcement on Thursday.

At least 2,909 people have died in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone, with 6,242 reported Ebola cases over all, according to the latest report of the UN health agency. Nigeria and Senegal have recorded a total of eight deaths and 21 cases of infection.

More from Punch Nigeria:

… kills 200 people each day, says Ban

The United Nations Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon, has said the Ebola Virus Disease kills more than 200 people every day.

Ban made the statement on Thursday at a high-level meeting on EVD in the United States of America. Present at the meeting were President of the Republic of Guinea, Alpha Conde; President of Sierra Leone, Ernest Koroma; and the Liberian President, Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf.

The UN secretary-general called the world’s attention to the ravaging impact of the Ebola outbreak, saying that despite the “valiant efforts of local communities, health systems are buckling under the strain.”

The McClatchy Washington Bureau conveys pleas:

West Africa pleads for faster help to fight Ebola virus

The presidents of three West African nations pleaded Thursday for much faster help from the world in battling a deadly Ebola outbreak that’s killed nearly 3,000 people and might infect more than a million others in the coming months as the virus continues to spread.

“Partners and friends, based on understandable fears, have ostracized us,” Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf said at a meeting on the Ebola crisis at the United Nations. “The world has taken some time to fully appreciate and adequately respond to the enormity of our tragedy.”

Sierra Leone President Ernest Bai Koroma, who took the drastic step Thursday of putting more than a million people under quarantine, said the disease his nation was fighting was “worse than terrorism.”

The president of Guinea, Alpha Conde, attended in person, while the presidents of Liberia and Sierra Leone stayed in their countries and participated by video.

A video report from Reuters:

West African leaders call for more aid for Ebola at UN

Program note:

Discussions on combating the spread of the Ebola virus are dominating much of the talks at the United Nations, where the affected countries are demanding more aid. Nathan Frandino reports.

Sky News covers tragic resistance:

Ebola: Roadblocks To Stop Health Workers

  • More disease ‘hotspots’ are put under quarantine amid reports that locals are putting up barricades to stop health teams

Roadblocks have reportedly been set up by residents in ebola-hit Guinea in a bid to stop health teams entering the area.

The number of people to die from deadly virus in West Africa has risen to nearly 3,000 – almost half of those so far infected – and further ‘hotspots’ were put under quarantine in an attempt to halt its spread.

But in some areas of Guinea, where an ebola team was killed last week, there was still resistance to such efforts, the World Health Organisation (WHO) said.  There are reports from the Fassankoni area that locals were setting up barricades to intercept ebola response teams trying to enter the region, WHO said.

Star Africa News covers the arrival of tangible help:

U.S donates Ebola protective gears to Liberian govt

The United States government Thursday turned over the first batch of 9,000 home protection kits to the Liberian government.

The presentation of the items was made by a representative of the US International Agency (USAID) to Information Minister Lewis Brown. It is part of a batch of 50,000 home protection kits the US government promised Liberia for its fight against the spread of the Ebola virus at the level of homes.

In remarks, Information Minister Lewis Brown commended the Americans saying the kits are intended to help Liberians prevent themselves from contracting the virus.

Star Africa News again, with boots on the ground:

Liberia receives additional US military personnel, supplies for anti-Ebola war

Another C-17 aircraft carrying 39 US military personnel and equipment have arrived in Liberia as part of efforts to help in the anti-Ebola fight in West Africa.

The 39 military personnel including 15 US Navy SeaBees and 24 Operation United Assistance (OUA) Headquarters personnel arrived in Liberia on Tuesday, according to a US embassy release issued here Thursday.

The SeaBees make up the US Navy Construction Battalion. The SeaBees will be conducting site assessments and providing mentorship for the Armed Forces of Liberia (AFL) construction teams, which will be charged with building additional Ebola Treatment Units (ETU). Discussions are underway on the sites for ETUs and how many will be built.

The release said the C-17 US military aircraft also brought in a tactical truck, a tent system and three pallets of medical supplies.

From the Independent, another facet of reality on the ground:

Ebola virus outbreak: ‘Just two doctors’ available to treat 85,000 people in Liberia county

There are just two doctors available to treat 85,000 people in the Bomi County of Liberia, one of the countries hardest hit by the deadly outbreak of Ebola.

The World Health Organisation said 2,917 people have died of Ebola out of 6,263 cases in the five West African countries affected by the disease. There were 99 deaths in Liberia between 17 and 21 September.

Recent worst-case estimates suggest a staggering 1.4 million people could be infected with Ebola by January in Liberia and Sierra Leone – more than ten per cent of their combined populations.

Similar problems in Nigeria from Punch Nigeria:

‘Only 13 pharmacists in Kwara’

Chairman of the Pharmaceutical Society of Nigeria, Kwara State chapter, Mr. Francis Olayiwola, has said that the state government has only 13   pharmacists employed in 31 health institutions across the state.

Olayiwola said the level of pharmacist staffing in the state was “dangerously low.”

He said the situation had done harm to the people of the state and that it would do greater harm if not addressed urgently.

He spoke in Ilorin, the Kwara State capital, on Thursday during a media briefing to mark the World Pharmacy Day.

Star Africa News wins support:

Liberia in $52m contract with UN agencies

The government of Liberia has signed a $52 million contractual agreement with four agencies of the United Nations to implement emergency Ebola response projects.The grant to support the intervention of the World Health Organization, United Nations Children’s Fund, World Food Program and the United Nations Office for Project Services, was provided by the
World Bank in the amount of $52 million.

In remarks at the signing ceremony held Thursday in the capital Monrovia, Finance Minister Amara Konneh, who represented government, said the World Bank $52 million grant will be used to underwrite the operational cost of existing Ebola Treatment Units (ETU’s) for the next six months.

He further disclosed that the grant under the emergency Ebola response projects will also finance the construction of additional ETU’s as well as provide medical personnel and patients various necessities to combat the Ebola virus.

From Star Africa News, righteous anger:

Sierra Leone: Angry youths protest delay in burial of the dead

Some angry youths disrupted traffic in a part of the Sierra Leonean capital on Wednesday as a protest against delays in of burial of the dead by relatives.
Because of a state of emergency declaration, Sierra Leoneans have been banned from burying anyone, regardless of the cause of their deaths, unless with an official approval to do so.

This, the government said, is to ensure that all Ebola cases are identified and internment done properly, but also so that necessary quarantine measures are put in place.

As a result, dozens of bodies have been piling up across the country because of the inability of the relevant authorities to respond timely to suspected Ebola cases or dead bodies.

In some cases, bodies have spent over three days, and sometimes longer, awaiting a burial team. This poses serious health risk to not just the immediate family of the victims but the neighbours.

From BBC News, expanding the hot zone:

Sierra Leone widens Ebola quarantine to three more districts

Sierra Leone’s President Ernest Bai Koroma has widened a quarantine to include another one million people in an attempt to curb the spread of Ebola.

The northern districts of Port Loko and Bombali, and Moyamba in the south, will in effect be sealed off immediately.

Mr Koroma’s announcement follows a three-day nationwide lockdown that ended on Sunday night.

Two eastern districts have been isolated since the beginning of August and the extension of the indefinite quarantine means more than a third of Sierra Leone’s 6.1 million population now finds itself unable to move freely.

From CCTV Africa, help from China:

Ebola: Over 60 Chinese Medics Working in Sierra Leone

Program notes:

China was among the first countries to send in medics to the Ebola-hit region. In recent days, it’s provided more help with nearly 60 medical personnel flying into Sierra Leone. They’ve rushed to set up a much-needed testing facility just outside the capital, Freetown. It’s due to begin operations this weekend. CCTV’s Nina DeVries reports

More Chinese help from Xinhua:

China vows to stand alongside Africa in fight against Ebola

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi on Thursday said the people of China will always stand beside the African people in the fight against Ebola.

Wang made the pledge while addressing a high-level meeting on response to the outbreak of Ebola virus disease on the sidelines of the annual UN General Debate.

“The epidemic may be merciless, but people with love help each other,” said Wang. “The Chinese government has provided instantly drugs, medical equipment and other disease prevention and relief materials to Guinea, Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea-Bissau.”

Star Africa News covers a funding increase:

W/Bank raises $400m for anti-Ebola effort

The World Bank on Thursday announced that it would nearly double its funds to Ebola-hit West Africa to $400 million to help address the emergency situation in the region and build stronger health systems for the future.The original funding by the World Bank was $230 million but a further $170 million has been cleared for the Ebola nations of Sierra Leone, Guinea and Liberia.

“The global community is now responding with the urgency and the scale needed to begin to turn back this unprecedented Ebola crisis,” said World Bank President Jim Yong Kim, who was speaking on Thursday at a special session on the Ebola crisis at the United Nations in New York.

“The real challenge now is to bring care and treatment to the most remote areas as well as the cities and then to build a stronger health care system,” he added.

More help from Kyodo News:

Japan to boost aid for Ebola fight nearly 10-fold to $45 mil.

Japan will increase its aid to help West African countries fight the Ebola outbreak nearly tenfold to $45 million while also providing more protective equipment, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said Thursday.

Japan, which already provided some $5 million to help contain the virus, made the fresh offer at an emergency U.N. meeting that Secretary General Ban Ki Moon convened as the death toll topped 2,900 in Liberia, Guinea, Sierra Leone and Nigeria.

Abe said Japan will increase the supply of protective equipment including goggles for people fighting Ebola to 500,000 items, up from 20,000 decided earlier this month.

The Washington Post covers another Northerner healed:

Third American with Ebola, Richard Sacra, discharged from Nebraska hospital

Richard Sacra, the third American aid worker evacuated to the United States from West Africa to be treated for Ebola, has been discharged from the hospital.

Sacra was treated at Nebraska Medical Center after contracting the deadly virus in Liberia while he worked to deliver babies. He was not treating Ebola patients.

Two other Americans have been discharged after they were successfully treated for Ebola in the United States, including another medical doctor, Kent Brantly, who later donated a unit of blood, or convalescent serum, to Sacra.

From Punch Nigeria, the first of two origins stories:

Ebola: A death courier from unclear source

THERE is no known cure for Ebola. That is about a common knowledge now. But where did Ebola come from? The source of this messenger of death is apparently unknown too.

In some parts of Africa, myths that Ebola was brought to the regions by health care workers have hurt the ability of workers to respond to the outbreak. But where did Ebola really come from?

The true reservoir for Ebola — that is, where the virus hides when it’s not causing outbreaks in people — is not known for sure, but experts say that bats are the likely source of the deadly virus.

“There’s a strong circumstantial case, but we haven’t actually got a total smoking gun,” said Derek Gatherer, a bioinformatics researcher at Lancaster University in the United Kingdom.

And the second, from RT America:

Accused: The US manufactured Ebola

Program notes:

The Liberian Daily Observer, which is the largest newspaper in Liberia, just published an article on their front page with the headline, “Ebola, AIDS Manufactured By Western Pharmaceuticals, US DoD?” The article basically accuses the US of manufacturing this Ebola outbreak in what they call an American Military-Medical-Industry scheme to use Africa as a testing ground for bioweapons. The Resident discusses.

The story in question is here.

For our concluding item, we would also note this story from the same paper:

2-Month-Old Baby Turns Into ‘Full Grown Man’

Residents of Foquelleh in Panta District in Bong County were said to have been in unbelievable shock when a two-month-old baby, identified by family members as Smith Freeman, Tuesday, September 23, morning grew into a full grown man and escaped into the bush with his mother’s lappa.

According to the mother of the child, Lorpu Kollie, 16, on Tuesday she and the child were on their way to the farm when the child on her back tied in lappa spoke to her and told her to put him down.

She told the Daily Observer that as they approached the crossroad, the child repeated his call on the mother to untie her lappa and put him down.   As soon as she put the baby down, she continued, the two-month-old boy instantaneously began to grow into a full grown man!

Lorpu Kollie narrated that the child informed her that he (the child) was on his way back home since his grandmother, Lorpu Kollie’s mother, was in the constant practice of raining insult at him.  He even threatened bring incense and garlic into the home.

Chart of the day: English, Europe’s lingua franca


At least in public schools, where its almost universal, according to the latest numbers [PDF] from Eurostat:

BLOG Euroenglish

InSecurityWatch: Wars, hacks, cops, troubles


First up, The Ministry of Hope™ and Change™ pronounces, via the Guardian:

Obama vows to destroy Isis’s ‘brand of evil’ as Iraq requests help from Britain

  • Isis fighters ‘should leave the battlefield while they can’
  • UK parliament to vote on Friday to approve air strikes in Iraq
  • David Cameron issues rallying call against Isis at UN

Western leaders vowed to lead a global coalition to destroy the Islamic State extremist movement on Wednesday, as President Obama warned the militants to “leave the battlefield while they can” and British prime minister David Cameron recalled parliament for a Friday vote on UK air strikes in Iraq.

The quickening pace of the military campaign against Isis dominated proceedings at the United Nations general assembly in New York, where Obama issued a call to arms against what he called Isis’s “network of death”.

“No God condones this terror. No grievance justifies these actions. There can be no reasoning – no negotiation – with this brand of evil. The only language understood by killers like this is the language of force,” Obama said, urging fighters for the Islamic State group to flee Syria and Iraq while they still had a chance.

In case you missed it, here’s Obama’s full UN address via The White House:

President Obama Closes the U.N. Security Council Summit

Program note:

On September 24, 2014, President Obama delivered closing remarks at the U.N. Security Council Summit on Foreign Terrorist Fighters.

From the New York Times, more madness:

French Hostage in Algeria Is Beheaded in New Video

A French tourist captured in North Africa by a group aligned with the Islamic State is seen beheaded in a video circulated on Wednesday, according to SITE Intelligence, which tracks jihadist groups.

The Frenchman — Hervé Gourdel, a 55-year-old mountaineering guide from Nice — was abducted in Algeria on Sunday by the terrorist group, known as Jund al-Khilafah. Mr. Gourdel had arrived only a day before on a trip to go hiking in Algeria’s northern mountains.

The terrorist group issued a statement after his abduction, saying that it was following the guidance of the Islamic State, also known as ISIS or ISIL, which has seized large parts of Syria and Iraq and has called on its sympathizers to strike Westerners — especially the French — wherever they can.

In the statement, the Algerian group had demanded that President François Hollande of France cease his country’s intervention in Syria within 24 hours or face seeing Mr. Gourdel killed.

TheLocal.dk covers additions to the ranks:

More Scandinavians joining Isis

The number of Europeans fighting for the Islamic State has increased dramatically in the past month with fears that Danes, Swedes and Norwegians are among them.

The EU’s counter-terrorism chief Gilles de Kerchove has said that around 3,000 people from across Europe are now working alongside Islamic State (Isis) fighters, compared with about 2,000 just a few months ago.

Gilles de Kerchove told news agency AFP that at least eleven European countries including Denmark have seen citizens travel to Iraq and Syria.

Just over a month ago a Swedish terrorism expert – Magnus Ranstorp – estimated that between 300 and 350 Scandinavians had links to Isis.

A Swiss miss from TheLocal.ch:

Iraqis in Switzerland suspected of ‘attack plan’

Three Iraqis arrested in Switzerland in March are suspected of having planned an attack in the name of the Isis group, Swiss media reported on Wednesday.

The daily newspaper Tages Anzeiger said that Switzerland’s Federal Intelligence Service had been tipped off by a western counterpart which intercepted the men’s phone calls.

Switzerland’s national prosecutor’s office has confirmed the arrests but declined to give further details.

The newspaper said that the Swiss were informed that the three men were believed to have formed a pro-Isis cell.

South China Morning Post covers anxiety in Beijing:

China to boost counterterrorism measures amid fears of attacks from returning IS fighters

Beijing is expected to step up counterterrorism measures, analysts say, amid fears that militants will return from Syria and Iraq to launch attacks in China.

Like many of the countries that have seen their nationals fighting for Islamic State, China is wary of the threat posed by militants who have fled to the Middle East to join the brutal jihadist group.

However, experts said it was unlikely China would join the United States-led military campaign against Islamic State. The US and Arab allies bombed Syria for the first time yesterday.

Gauging the number of Chinese militants who have taken part in IS activities was difficult, as most of them had left the country by crossing the country’s vast western border illegally and some might have joined while they were already abroad, said Li Wei, an anti-terrorism expert at the China Institutes of Contemporary International Relations.

From Agence France-Presse, estimates of volunteers:

BLOG ISIS

Indonesian ISIS woes from the Jakarta Globe:

Islamic State Support in Indonesia Seen Posing Threat to Foreigners

Foreigners could again become the target of militant attacks in Indonesia as extremists there pledge loyalty to the Islamic State group, a thinktank warned on Wednesday.

In a report, the Jakarta-based Institute for Policy Analysis of Conflict (IPAC) also warned that Indonesian and Malaysian fighters who have joined IS in Syria appear to have formed a military unit there, likely strengthening militant networks in Southeast Asia.

After a series of attacks on foreigners in the last decade, Indonesian extremists have in recent years directed their violence at domestic “enemies of Islam”, mostly police. There have been no attacks against foreigners since the 2009 twin hotel bombings in Jakarta which killed seven people.

From Reuters, Obaman angst:

‘Too many Israelis’ ready to give up on peace, Obama laments

U.S. President Barack Obama lamented on Wednesday that “too many Israelis” were ready to abandon Middle East peace efforts and urged them to reflect on the matter, saying the status quo with the Palestinians was unsustainable.

As part of a broader speech to the United Nations Assembly, Obama appeared to gently chide close U.S. ally Israel against giving up on peace a week before he hosts Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the White House.

While Obama used his address primarily to rally support in the fight against Islamic State militants in Iraq and Syria, he also recommitted to the pursuit of a two-state solution between Israel and the Palestinians despite what he called a “bleak” landscape. U.S.- brokered negotiations collapsed in April.

From the Associated Press, well-deserved:

Snowden Honored With ‘Alternative Nobel’

Edward Snowden was among the winners Wednesday of a Swedish human rights award, sometimes referred to as the “alternative Nobel,” for his disclosures of top secret surveillance programs.

The decision to honor the former National Security Agency contractor with the Right Livelihood Award appeared to cause a diplomatic headache for Sweden’s Foreign Ministry, which withdrew the prize jury’s permission to use its media room for the announcement.

Snowden split the honorary portion of the award with Alan Rusbridger, editor of the Guardian, which has published a series of articles on government surveillance based on documents leaked by Snowden.

The 1.5 million kronor ($210,000) cash portion of the award was shared by Pakistani human rights activist Asma Jahangir, Basil Fernando of the Asian Human Rights Commission and U.S. environmentalist Bill McKibben.

Contemplating a hang-up with Global Times:

Taiwan mulls selective ban on Xiaomi phones

  • Reported privacy breach a common problem of Android phones: experts

The security breach concerns surrounding Beijing-based Xiaomi Inc are common with mobile phones running Google’s Android system, experts said Wednesday, after Taiwan authority revealed it was considering whether to ban the use of Xiaomi phones by its public servants.

“It is just a mobile phone. People should not attach too much importance to it. At the same time, I believe Xiaomi is wildly popular among compatriots across the Taiwan Straits,” Ma Xiaoguang, spokesman for the State Council’s Taiwan Affairs Office, told a regular press conference in Beijing Wednesday when he was asked to comment on the information security issues concerning Xiaomi in recent months.

Taiwan authority is now discussing whether to prevent public servants from using Xiaomi phones and a decision could be taken in three months, Taiwan-based Economic Daily News reported Wednesday.

The latest in hackery from The Verge:

Worse than Heartbleed? Today’s Bash bug could be breaking security for years

Linux users got a nasty surprise today, as a security team at Red Hat uncovered a subtle but dangerous bug in the Bash shell, one of the most versatile and widely used utilities in Linux. It’s being called the Bash bug, or Shellshock. When accessed properly, the bug allows for an attacker’s code to be executed as soon as the shell is invoked, leaving the door open for a wide variety of attacks. Worse yet, it appears the bug has been present in enterprise Linux software for a long time, so patching every instance may be easier said than done. Red Hat and Fedora have already released patches for the bug.

Errata Security’s Robert David Graham has already compared the bug to Heartbleed, for its broad and potentially longterm effect on system security. “An enormous percentage of software interacts with the shell in some fashion,” Graham wrote in a blog post. “We’ll never be able to catalogue all the software out there that is vulnerable to the bash bug.” Reached by The Verge, Berkeley ICSI researcher Nicholas Weaver agreed with the pessimism, saying, “It’s subtle, ugly, and will be with us for years.”

The Japan Times covers another breach:

Data on up to 750,000 JAL mileage club members may have leaked

Japan Airlines Co. said Wednesday that personal information on up to 750,000 JAL mileage club members may have leaked after someone gained unauthorized access to the company’s computer system

The data include members’ names, addresses, birthdays and email addresses, the company said, adding that it has not confirmed the leak of passwords or credit card numbers.

A program to extract customer data and send them to a server in Hong Kong was planted on 23 personal computers at JAL. Seven of the 23 computers are believed to have actually sent data.

And from the Guardian, nihilism:

The Emma Watson nude pictures hoax shames our ‘news’ culture

  • The global news agenda is now regularly held hostage by small bands of loud but tech-savvy idiots. We can do better than this

The internet is eating itself. This week’s cycle of backlash and counter-backlash has swirled around Emma Watson and a string of apparent threats of public humiliation made against her after she addressed the UN on feminism and gender equality.

Shortly after Watson spoke, a site supposedly created by users of the now-notorious 4chan message board appeared, threatening to publish naked photos of the actress. The threats prompted a huge response of support for Watson and the #HeForShe campaign, alongside an absolute flurry of coverage in virtually every online outlet in the world.

The problem is that it’s not at all clear that the threats, which didn’t make a great deal of sense, were ever real. By Wednesday, a supposed PR firm had stepped up to claim responsibility for the threats against Watson, as part of an effort to take down 4chan. All the signs suggest that that PR firm itself was a hoax promulgated by an outfit known to engage in poor-taste stunts to get surges of traffic and advertising revenue.

While Salon covers corporate stifling:

Report: Apple was told of holes in iCloud security six months ago

  • However, there is no clear connection between the holes and the hacking of celebrity nude photos

A report, published on Wednesday, by the Daily Dot, reveals that Apple was told about an security flaw in iCloud back in March of 2014.

The Daily Dot obtained leaked emails between Apple and Ibrahim Balic, a software developer based in London, showing that Balic found and reported a security hole in iCloud. The Daily Dot reports that a team of security experts reviewed the emails.

The security of Apple’s iCloud came under fire after celebrity nude photos were hacked and disseminated, apparently from users’ iCloud accounts. However, it is still unclear if this security flaw played a part in the “celebgate” nude photo hack. As of now, no clear lines can be drawn.

Cyberamnesia in the FBI from Nextgov:

FBI Can’t Find Files After Spending $550M to Digitize Them

FBI special agents and technicians say the agency’s first-ever, decade-in-the-making computerized case system has slowed their investigations and work, according to an internal audit.

The computer application, called Sentinel, was flipped on in 2012 to make cases easier to search, both for clues and possible links to other ongoing investigations. Previously, FBI personnel had shared information, approved documents and updated files by circulating piles of paper.

But most special agents “reported that the increase in the administrative burden” spent filling out database fields to improve search results, “leaves less time for investigative activities,” states an inspector general report released Wednesday.

From the New York Times, and we guess curriculum bans discussion of the original Tea Party?:

In Colorado, a Student Counterprotest to an Anti-Protest Curriculum

A new conservative school board majority here in the Denver suburbs recently proposed a curriculum-review committee to promote patriotism, respect for authority and free enterprise and to guard against educational materials that “encourage or condone civil disorder.” In response, hundreds of students, teachers and parents gave the board their own lesson in civil disobedience.

On Tuesday, hundreds of students from high schools across the Jefferson County school district, the second largest in Colorado, streamed out of school and along busy thoroughfares, waving signs and championing the value of learning about the fractious and tumultuous chapters of American history.

“It’s gotten bad,” said Griffin Guttormsson, a junior at Arvada High School who wants to become a teacher and spent the school day soliciting honks from passing cars. “The school board is insane. You can’t erase our history. It’s not patriotic. It’s stupid.”

After the jump, cop corruption behind bars in L.A., Clintonian journalism stalking, the color of statehouse corruption, putting faces with badges in Hungary, another way of stifling the press in the U.S., turning the tables on the Fourth Estate in Mexico, a deadly Mexican security problem, a lighter drone story from Germany plus two deadlier headlines from Pakistan, Chinese ships join with Iranians in an exercise in the hot zone, plus a nuclear war warning. . . Continue reading

EnviroWatch: Illness, climate, fires, nukes


We open with a potential outbreak from the Guardian:

Texas nurse assistant may have exposed tuberculosis to 750 infants

  • El Paso hospital assistant showed symptoms of TB long before going on leave, meaning hundreds of babies must be tested

An official at a Texas hospital where a nurse assistant potentially exposed more than 750 infants to tuberculosis said Tuesday that her symptoms were discovered in July but that more than a month passed before she was tested for the infectious lung disease.

The administration of the Providence Memorial Hospital in El Paso “should have done more” when the employee’s symptoms were revealed during her annual screening, Sierra Providence Health Network CEO Eric Evans said at a news conference. Sierra Providence is the parent company of a network of hospitals that includes Providence Memorial.

The hospital submitted a corrective action plan to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services on Tuesday and expects its approval, Evans said.

TheLocal.dk covers flesh-eating bacteria on aisle four:

Every fifth pack of pork carries MRSA

An analysis of pork products in Denmark’s supermarkets found that every fifth pack is contaminated with MRSA. Just five years ago, a similar analysis found the bacteria in just five percent of products.

TV Syd asked the Danish Food and Veterinary Administration (Fødevarestyrelsen) and the Techinical University of Denmark’s National Food Institute to analyze 100 packages of pork chops, roast pork, tenderloins and other pork products. The MRSA 398 bacteria was found in 21 of the 100 packages.

All of the pork was produced in Denmark and the samples also included organic pork products.

From the Daily Climate, linking disease spread to climate:

Lyme disease surges north, and Canada moves out of denial

Canada should have seen this coming. In the United States, reported cases of Lyme disease have increased from fewer than 10,000 reported cases in 1991 to more than 27,000 cases by 2013. Canada was well-positioned to be affected by the spread of the disease. As early as 2005, modeling published by researcher Nicholas Ogden, then at the University of Montreal, indicated that the geographic range of the Lyme-carrying tick could expand northward significantly due to climate change in this century.

Scientists long have anticipated that global warming would harm human health, and the most recent Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report highlights the risk for poor populations that don’t have access to quality health care or other public services. For example, the risk of heat stroke is greatest in areas without access to power for air conditioning, and water-borne illnesses like cholera and intestinal viruses flourish in areas without safe drinking water.

But one of the clearest signs of the changing health risks in a warming world has emerged in two of the world’s most advanced economies, the United States and Canada, as Lyme disease spreads in North America.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency this year added Lyme disease to its list of climate change indicators, a report meant to aid in public understanding of the effects of warming that scientists have been able to document.

From the Guardian, a California Burning update:

California King fire destroys 12 homes as states issue smoke warning

  • Crews of more than 7,000 firefighters extend their lines around huge fire in northern California as smoke shrouds Nevada

More than 7,000 firefighters in better than expected conditions managed to extend their lines around a huge and unwieldy wildfire, which threatens thousands of homes for well over a week and fouled the air in two states.

The King fire east of Sacramento was 35% contained Tuesday after burning about 140 square miles and destroying a dozen homes, said the California department of forestry and fire protection.

Expected high winds up to 35mph that could stoke the flames and send embers flying ahead of the blaze failed to materialize Tuesday but could still come Wednesday.

From the Los Angeles Times, a preview of coming attractions:

Northern California fires may offer a grim preview for Southland

Northern California is bearing the brunt of wildfires that have destroyed scores of homes and consumed huge swaths of land. The state has seen 1,000 more wildfires so far this year compared to the average, many of them in northern forest areas left bone-dry by the drought.

But Southern California is about to enter its traditional fire season, and officials worry that the destruction to the north offers a grim preview of what’s ahead.

“Conditions are ripe, and it only takes one day of hot, dry weather with Santa Ana winds for a large wildfire to cause destruction,” said Daniel Berlant of the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.

The latest forecast from the National Weather Service released Wednesday only added to the concern. Northern California typically gets 30% to 40% of its rain in the next three months, but meteorologists said they see largely dry conditions ahead. The drought outlook is similar for the south.

Next up, from NASA Goddard, a video with a dramatic animation of the extent of the loss of arctic sea ice in the past five decades:

NASA | Arctic Sea Ice Reaches 2014 Minimum Extent

Program notes:

Sea ice acts as an air conditioner for the planet, reflecting energy from the sun. On September 17, the Arctic sea ice reached its minimum extent for 2014. At 1.94 million square miles (5.02 million square kilometers), it’s the sixth lowest extent of the satellite record. With warmer temperatures and thinner, less resilient ice, the Arctic sea ice is on a downward trend.

BBC News covers tragic rejection:

Brazil refuses to join pledge to end deforestation

Brazil has refused to sign up to a pact setting a deadline for ending deforestation entirely by 2030.

The US, Canada and European Union nations were among 30 states that agreed to halve forest loss by 2020 and work towards a 2030 goal.

But Brazil, which owns the largest continuous rainforest on the planet, refused to sign because it could contravene national law.

UN officials said they hoped the pact would be adopted in 2015.

From ABC Australia via Journeyman Pictures — and do note the helmet cams worn by the marine cops:

Last Chance For Pacific Tuna Stocks?

Program notes:

Net Loss: How over-fishing has driven Pacific Bluefin Tuna stocks to the brink of extinction

Pacific Bluefin tuna have been fished to within an inch of existence. Stocks are at an all time low, but demand has never been higher and the trawlers pursuing them have never been more powerful or relentless.

East of the Philippines, well north of Indonesia and with nothing but hundreds of kilometres of wide blue ocean for a neighbour, Palau is determined to protect its own subsistence fishing interests and its pristine reefs; waters and wildlife that make it an international eco-tourist hotspot. Now the president is drawing up plans to make the 200 nautical miles of ocean surrounding it – about 630 thousand square kilometers – a no-go zone for international fishing fleets. According to Tommy Remengasau Jnr. President, Palau, “Palau is so fragile and so beautiful that you just have to take the responsible action and minimise the risk that would destroy all of this for our children and future children”. Remengesau admits that this will be a tough fight against powerful forces, both locally and internationally. But Palau has established an international reputation for taking a brave lead on conservation.

The Yomiuri Shimbun covers hands across the border:

U.S., Canada tribes sign bison treaty

Native tribes from the United States and Canada signed a treaty Tuesday establishing an inter-tribal alliance to restore bison to areas of the Rocky Mountains and Great Plains where millions of the animals once roamed.

Leaders of 11 tribes from Montana and Alberta signed the pact during a daylong ceremony on Montana’s Blackfeet Reservation, organizers said.

It marks the first treaty among the tribes and First Nations since a series of agreements governing hunting rights in the 1800s. That was when their ancestors still roamed the border region hunting bison, also called buffalo.

From the Guardian, Big Oil gets a rejection slip:

Judge orders BP to stick by Deepwater Horizon payouts agreement

  • BP had argued in court that flawed formula gives money to businesses for questionable claims relating to 2010 spill

A federal judge has ruled that BP must stick by an agreement with companies that received payouts after claiming the 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill hurt their business, ruling against the oil company’s argument hundreds of millions of dollars should be returned.

BP argued on Wednesday that a flawed funding formula in the settlement is giving money to businesses for questionable claims, and they should be forced to return it.

But US district judge Carl Barbier says a deal is a deal. Barbier had ordered the formula changed several weeks ago.

Pueblo Lands covers the climate-warmer hired to handle investments for Global Corporate University:

UC’s Chief Investment Officer Envisions Coal-Fired Power, Cement Factories as “Green” Investment Opportunities

The news this week that the University of California’s chief investment officer (CIO) will not be recommending divestment from fossil fuel companies to the university’s governing board of regents isn’t a surprise.

A coalition of UC students, faculty, staff and alumni have pressed the UC regents to divest from fossil fuel stocks and bonds. On Tuesday, the UC’s CIO released a recommendation that regents not pursue divestment, and instead develop “a framework for the management of environmental, social , and governance considerations.”

UC’s CIO, Jagdeep Singh Bachher was recently hired by the regents to run the university’s finances, more than $90 billion in funds. Bachher previously helped run the Alberta Investment Management Corporation (AIMCo), the sovereign wealth fund of Alberta, Canada. While helping pick investments for AIMCo, Bachher steered the province’s money into coal, oil, and gas companies and projects in North America, China and beyond. He also prioritized renewable energy and clean tech investments. But nothing in his record indicates that he would support divestment from fossil fuel companies. Instead it appears that Bachher sees clean tech as simply one part of a diversified investment portfolio which includes fossil fuels.

On to Fukushimapocalypse Now!, starting with this from NHK WORLD:

System to remove cesium at plant stops

Apparent human error has resulted in stoppage of a system for removing cesium from radioactively contaminated water at Tokyo Electric Power Company’s Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant.

The firm says the stoppage is thought to have resulted from mistaken closing of a pump valve. It adds that a pump for sending tainted water to the system stopped with an alarm around 8:30 AM on Wednesday. The operator later shut down the system.

Officials of the firm say the error lowered power to siphon off contaminated water, stopping the pump.

The system can treat 30 tons of tainted water per hour.

The Japan Times covers the big picture:

Fukushima cleanup going painfully slow

  • Opposition to waste storage complicates project

Three and a half years after Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s crippled Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power station spewed massive amounts of radioactive materials into the air and water, decontamination work in Fukushima Prefecture has yet to draw to an end.

The government initially hoped to complete the decontamination by the end of last March, but the process continues to lag far behind, prompting the government to push back the goal by three years to 2017.

Due to the slow progress, huge bags filled with contaminated soil can still be seen piled up at hundreds of temporary storage sites across the prefecture, and many residents are in limbo, unable to make up their minds about whether to return home in the near future or to relocate for good.

From NHK WORLD, filling in:

Regulator: Cementing radioactive water unavoidable

The head of Japan’s Nuclear Regulation Authority says tunnels containing radioactive water may have to be blocked off by cement at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant.

Acting chief Toyoshi Fuketa expressed his opinion at a news conference on Wednesday.

Highly radioactive water flowing into tunnels at the Fukushima Daiichi plant is believed to be mixing with groundwater and leaking into the ocean. Tokyo Electric Power Company initially planned to freeze some of the contaminated water to stop the flow and allow its removal.

Fuketa said work to freeze the water has been unsuccessful and there may be no choice but to fill the tunnels with concrete.

The Asahi Shimbun takes it to the streets:

16,000 activists turn out in Tokyo in outcry against nuclear power plants

Even though reactors at the Sendai nuclear power plant have cleared final safety checks, more than 10,000 anti-nuclear activists at a park in Tokyo’s Koto Ward on Sept. 23 pledged to continue their opposition.

According to Citizens’ Committee for the 10 Million People’s Petition to say Goodbye to Nuclear Power Plants, which organized the protest, about 16,000 activists rallied at Kameido Chuo Park on the autumn equinox national holiday.

“I want Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to pledge that the central government will abandon nuclear power plants in the nation,” said writer Hisae Sawachi, who is a member of the group along with Nobel Prize-winning author Kenzaburo Oe.

And for our final item, opposition across the English Channel from TheLocal.at:

Austria challenges UK’s nuclear ambitions

Austria will launch a legal challenge if the European Commission approves Britain’s ambitious plan to build its first new nuclear plant in a generation, Vienna’s environment minister said Wednesday.

To the alarm of environmentalists, a spokesman for EU Competition Commissioner Joaquin Almunia said on Monday that Brussels will “recommend a positive decision” on the Hinkley Point project, reported Agence France-Presse.

“This scandal has to be fought by all legal means possible,” Andra Rupprechter told the Kurier daily, adding that he would apply to the European Court of Justice to have the decision annulled.

EbolaWatch: Hope, warnings, attacks, & more


First from Canada’s The National, a good overview of the Ebola crisis to date in the form of a panel discussion that hits most of the key points. Panelists include physicians Danielle Martin, Doctors Without Borders physician Tim Jagatic, and Ahmed Tijan-Sie of the University of North Carolina:

Ebola Checkup Panel

Program note:

Our health panel looks at the Ebola outbreak that has turned into a global crisis.

Next, from CCTV Africa, Kenyan physician Esther Waithira Wanjiru describes her experiences in helping to battle the outbreak in Sierra Leone:

Ebola: Kenyan Doctor returns From Sierra Leone

Program notes:

Health services in the Ebola hot zone have been overwhelmed. But medics from across Africa are answering the call for help. Among them is a young Kenyan who asked for her family’s permission to go. CCTV’s Jane Kiyo reports

And on to the days’ hard news, starting with a positive development from Star Africa News:

Ebola vaccines accessible by year’s end – WHO

The World Health Organisation has said that vaccines to treat the deadly disease Ebola ravaging West Africa may be more accessible by the end of 2014.
In a statement seen by APA on Wednesday, the WHO said the more vaccines are made available to the three worst affected countries the better it will be to contain the epidemic which has killed over 1, 660 people in the region since March.

Up till now there has been no certified vaccine to treat Ebola, which is mostly contracted by contact with victims’ body fluids.

Tests are already at an advanced stage for two types of vaccines which may be certified for use.

And the first item of grim news comes from BBC News:

Ebola-hit nations may ‘face collapse’

The Ebola outbreak threatens to become a political crisis that could unravel years of effort to stabilise West Africa, a think tank has warned.

“The worst-hit countries now face widespread chaos and, potentially, collapse,” the International Crisis Group (ICG) said.

The world’s largest outbreak of Ebola has caused 2,811 deaths so far, mainly in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone.

Punch Nigeria delivers a plea:

Ebola: More hands needed in the battle

Nigeria may be out of the woods in the current outbreak of the Ebola Virus Disease, but the increasing number of cases in Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone has ensured the country cannot yet sleep with two eyes closed. Only last week, 700 new cases of the virus were confirmed by the World Health Organisation in Liberia and Sierra Leone, a development which has sent jitters across the region.

Hundreds more cases may be unearthed in the coming weeks. Findings from a joint study by officials of the WHO and the Imperial College, London, released on Monday warned that there might be more than 20,000 cases of the virus by November. To contain future outbreaks in Nigeria, however, a director of the Yale World Fellows Programme, Dr. Michael Capello, has offered to train 150 health workers on the management of the disease.

Capello, who is also a Professor of Paediatrics, Microbial Pathogenesis and Public Health, will be working in conjunction with the Private Sector Health Alliance of Nigeria, a body which coordinates private sector intervention in the management of the EVD.

From Nextgov, turning to the digital:

Scientists Turn to Computer Models to Predict Ebola’s Next Move

In the early stages of the Ebola outbreak, the World Health Organization, Doctors Without Borders and other aid organizations concentrated their efforts on the ground. They tried to convince patients to go to hospitals or let aid workers set up quarantine areas in their homes. Unfortunately, these and other interventions did little to slow the outbreak. According to the WHO, the number of cases has nearly doubled in the last three weeks, prompting Sierra Leone’s government to enforce a three-day lockdown over the weekend.

On September 17, WHO director general Margaret Chan said there are now at least 5,357 reported cases, including 2,630 deaths, in Guinea, Sierra Leone, Liberia, Nigeria, and Senegal. “None of us experienced in containing outbreaks has ever seen, in our lifetimes, an emergency on this scale,” she said. She has previously said the numbers are an underestimate, as there are many unreported cases. On September 16, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention called the outbreak the world’s first Ebola epidemic.

As the speed of this outbreak increased, experts planning the response started relying more heavily on computer models, says Dr. Martin Meltzer. Meltzer is a senior health economist at the CDC, where he leads the Health Economics and Modeling Unit. On August 4, Meltzer started building the CDC’s Ebola models, called EbolaResponse.

From the Associated Press, another assault:

Red Cross team attacked while burying Ebola dead

A Red Cross team was attacked while collecting bodies believed to be infected with Ebola in southeastern Guinea, the latest in a string of assaults that are hindering efforts to control West Africa’s current outbreak.

One Red Cross worker is recovering after being wounded in in the neck in Tuesday’s attack in Forecariah, according to Benoit Carpentier, a spokesman for the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies.

Family members of the dead initially set upon the six volunteers and vandalized their cars, said Mariam Barry, a resident. Eventually a crowd went to the regional health office, where they threw rocks at the building.

The attack is the most recent in a series that have plagued teams working to bury bodies safely, provide information about Ebola and disinfect public places. The most shocking was the abduction and killing last week in Guinea of eight people, health workers educating people about Ebola and the journalists accompanying them.

Star Africa News covers a major break in an earlier and deadlier attack:

Guinea rounds up 27 suspects in massacre of anti-Ebola sensitizers

Guinea’s Justice Minister, Cheikh Sacko has announced the arrest of at the least 27 persons suspected to be involved in the violence in the town of Wome in the Forestry Guinea region during which eight people who were sensitizing the population over Ebola were killed, official sources disclosed here Wednesday.

According to the minister, the main suspect in the affair, Labile Haba was arrested in a village called Yomou near the border with Liberia.

Two other suspects were also rounded up by the security forces as they had been attempting to flee to Cote d’Ivoire to join another suspected co-author of the deadly massacre of the anti-Ebola crusaders.

Furthermore the minister has confirmed the apprehension of 22 more suspects who have already appeared before a judge.

From the Guardian, more numbers from a nationwide lockdown:

Ebola epidemic: house-to-house search in Sierra Leone reveals 358 new cases

  • Teams of volunteers also find hundreds of unburied corpses, according to leaked email from senior American diplomat

Door-to-door searches during a three-day curfew in Sierra Leone identified more than 350 suspected new cases of Ebola, according by the top US diplomat in the country.

Charge d’affairs Kathleen Fitzgibbon said teams of volunteers had also discovered 265 corpses, of which 216 have since been been buried, in an email to organisers of the curfew that has been seen by the Guardian.

Fitzgibbon said the home visits had identified a preliminary 358 new suspected cases, with 85 patients sent to treatment centres.

Although there had been some “challenges” during the curfew, which saw the normally chaotic streets of the capital Freetown replaced by eerie silence after the government ordered everyone to stay in doors, it could be seen as the “beginning of the end” of the Ebola epidemic, which has killed more than 2,800 people, primarily in Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea.

The Independent covers the despicable:

4Chan’s latest, terrible ‘prank’: Convincing West Africans that Ebola doctors actually worship the disease

The message-board 4chan has been rightly blamed for many unsavory Internet things: the celebrity nude scandal, the dangerous “bikini bridge” meme, the brief virality of the self-harm hashtag #cuttingforBieber.

Now, the denizens of one of the Internet’s least-principled places are attempting to propagate another tasteless meme: She’s called Ebola-chan, and she’s some cross between a prank, a witless joke and a truly vile strain of racism.

“Have you welcomed her into your heart yet?” Asks one post on 4chan’s “politically incorrect” message board, /pol/. “I’m talking, of course, about Ebola-Chan. The viral goddess of love and Afrocide … Our shrines and incantations give her strength.”

Ebola-Chan is not, needless to say, a goddess anywhere outside of 4chan’s diseased imagination: The character is a /pol/ invention, a cartoon mascot for the virus that could infect half a million people within the next four months.

Liberian Observer has more new numbers — and troubles:

Ebola Weakens Liberia Food Security

Liberia has been the hardest hit country in West Africa’s Ebola outbreak of the Ebola virus disease (EVD) with more than 3000 cases, Voice of America (VOA) reports.

With this latest development, it is reported that 14 of Liberia’s 15 counties have been affected. Some of the first cases in Liberia were reported in northern Lofa County. The U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (ANFAO) said, the outbreak has had a big effect on food security in the country.

The FAO has just completed a four-day assessment of Lofa County, where a three-man team visited the towns of Foya and Barkedu. The far northern area is close to the border with Guinea. That’s where the World Health Organization (WHO) reports the Ebola outbreak probably began early this year with the case of a two year old boy.

BuzzFeed covers another Liberian development:

Liberia Opens New Ebola Wards But They Won’t Be Nearly Enough

A new rural facility brings hope to the country hardest-hit in the Ebola outbreak, but experts warn Liberia could see as many as 10,000 cases in a matter of months

For once, there’s good news in rural Liberia.

Last week, the International Medical Corps opened Liberia’s newest Ebola treatment center, in rural Bong County. It’s one of only a handful of treatment centers in the country hardest-hit by West Africa’s Ebola outbreak, and it’s the first treatment center to open since the disease spread from Liberia’s two key epicenters to most of the rest of the country.

The treatment center came too late for its first two patients — a 45-year-old man and his stepson, both of whom who died — but it’s an irrefutable mark of progress in a response that has been hampered by delays and malaise.

“Every week that goes by that an Ebola treatment unit doesn’t open up, we probably need to add another one or two [treatment units] on the back end. The growth is exponential now, so if there’s a delay, that means the scale of the response has to grow,” Sean Casey, the International Medical Corps’ Ebola emergency response team director, told BuzzFeed News by telephone from Bong County.

From Al Jazeera English, another complication:

Senegal gold miners hit by Ebola measures

Thousands of miners stranded as government imposes trade restrictions to contain Ebola outbreak in West Africa

The government of Senegal has placed restrictions on gold trade to contain the Ebola outbreak in West Africa.

Thousands of informal gold miners living along the Senegal-Guinea border are now stranded, with no money to leave.

Punch Nigeria covers a reasonable demand:

Union demands insurance cover for nurses

The National Union of Allied Health Professionals on Tuesday demanded Personal Protective Equipment and comprehensive health insurance for its members.

The union said the first victim of the Ebola Virus Disease after the index case was a Nigerian nurse, hence nurses and other heath workers were more exposed to hazards than medical doctors.

This was contained in a communique issued by the NUAHP after its National Executive Council meeting in Abuja. President and Secretary of the union, Mr. Felix Faniran and O.C Ogbonna, respectively signed the communiqué.

Businessweek lays some blame to the North:

How the U.S. Screwed Up in the Fight Against Ebola

Since appearing in Guinea in December, Ebola has spread to five West African countries and infected 5,864 people, of which 2,811 have died, according to the World Health Organization’s Sept. 22 report. This number is widely considered an underestimate. The CDC’s worst-case model assumes that cases are “significantly under-reported” by a factor of 2.5. With that correction, the CDC predicts 21,000 total cases in Liberia and Sierra Leone alone by Sept. 30.

A confluence of factors has made it the biggest Ebola outbreak yet. For starters, West Africa has never seen Ebola before; previous outbreaks have mainly surfaced in the Democratic Republic of the Congo in Central Africa. The initial symptoms of Ebola—fever, vomiting, muscle aches—are also similar to, and were mistaken for, other diseases endemic to the region, such as malaria.

Then, when officials and international workers swept into villages covered head to toe and took away patients for isolation, some family members became convinced that their relatives were dying because of what happened to them in the hospitals. They avoided medical care and lied to doctors about their travel histories. Medical staff at local hospitals became scared and quit their jobs. Aid workers trying to set up isolation units or trace infected people’s contacts were attacked by angry villagers. With these countries short on resources, staff, medical equipment, and basic understanding of the disease, Ebola took hold and spread.

The San Francisco Chronicle covers consciousness-raising in an unlikely setting:

Nurses simulate Ebola deaths on Vegas Strip

U.S. hospitals aren’t ready for an Ebola outbreak, according to nurses who staged a “die-in” Wednesday outside a Las Vegas Strip resort where they are holding a union convention.

A union spokesman pointed to a recent case of a patient tested for Ebola at a northern California hospital and said nurses don’t believe U.S. hospitals have the training, equipment and isolated areas where patients with the deadly virus could be quarantined.

“If there’s disaster plans in hospitals, the people who are supposed to implement them aren’t aware of them,” said Charles Idelson, a spokesman for the California Nurses Association and National Nurses Organizing Committee.

Many protesters in the crowd of perhaps 1,000 wore bright red T-shirts, and several hundred wore suits resembling hazardous materials gear as they crossed Las Vegas Boulevard from the Planet Hollywood to Bellagio resorts.

And the Guardian warns:

US hospitals ‘unprepared’ to safely handle infectious Ebola waste

  • Waste management companies refusing to haul waste citing federal guidelines requiring special packaging for Ebola waste

US hospitals may be unprepared to safely dispose of the infectious waste generated by any Ebola virus disease patient to arrive unannounced in the country, potentially putting the wider community at risk, biosafety experts said.

Waste management companies are refusing to haul away the soiled sheets and virus-spattered protective gear associated with treating the disease, citing federal guidelines that require Ebola-related waste to be handled in special packaging by people with hazardous materials training, infectious disease and biosafety experts told Reuters.

Many US hospitals are unaware of the regulatory snafu, which experts say could threaten their ability to treat any person who develops Ebola in the US after coming from an infected region. It can take as long as 21 days to develop Ebola symptoms after exposure.

From People’s Daily, more assistance:

China offers Ebola prevention materials to Benin

The Chinese government has offered Benin materials worth 840,000 U.S. dollars for the prevention of Ebola virus, an official source in Cotonou has said.

An agreement in this regard was signed on Monday in Cotonou between Benin’s Foreign Minister Arifari Bako Nassirou and China’s ambassador to Benin Tao Weiguang.

Besides this gesture by the Chinese government, the ambassador announced that the Chinese Embassy will give 10 million CFA Francs (20,000 U.S. dollars) to Benin Red Cross to help it prepare to fight against Ebola.

And for our final item, Reuters reassures:

Scientists see risk of mutant airborne Ebola as remote

The Ebola virus raging through West Africa is mutating rapidly as it tears a deadly path through cities, towns and villages, but the genetic changes are for now not giving it the ability to spread more easily.

Concern that the virus could gain capability to transmit through the air – creating a nightmare scenario of the disease being able to spread like a flu pandemic, killing millions – was fueled by a top infectious disease expert in the United States.

Michael Osterholm, director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota, said in an opinion article he believed the risk of airborne Ebola is real, and warned: “Until we consider it, the world will not be prepared to do what is necessary to end the epidemic.”

Yet many other virus and infectious disease specialists say that while the prospect of an airborne Ebola virus is not impossible, it is extremely remote.

‘Mr. Cameron, keep your mitts off my NHS’


It takes a lot to bring jaded politicians to tears, but a 91-year-old British World War II did just that with a rousing address to members of the Labor Party.

Form the BBC:

Sky News describes the event:

A 91-year-old Second World War veteran has upstaged Ed Miliband at the Labour Party conference with a passionate and tear-jerking speech on the health service.

Harry Smith moved audience members to tears as he made a passionate case for the NHS and warned David Cameron: “Keep your mitts off my NHS.”

Mr Smith received a number of standing ovations as he detailed his life in a “barbarous, bleak and uncivilised” Barnsley slum where he listened to the screams of a woman dying of cancer because she could not afford the medicine to dull the pain.

>snip<

Labour politicians, including the shadow health secretary Andy Burnham, wept openly as he described how his sister had to be buried in a paupers’ pit after dying of tuberculosis at the age of 10.

He said the family watched as she faded away, unable to help because they “just didn’t have the dosh to keep her comfortable”.

Read the rest.

We first learned about Britain’s National Health Service back in the early 1960s, when friends who had spent the summer in London described their experiences with what was then described in the American press as “socialized medicine.”

It took five more decades for this country to achieve something that was even distantly similar to the revolutionary program Smith helped usher in, and in recent years even the Labour Party has acquiesced in radical cutbacks.

The free care for which my American friends were automatically able to receive [and which our own younger daughter received just a few years ago during a London visit] would no longer be available to them today the result of cuts passed under the aegis of “austerity,” and Cameron’s conservatives want still more cuts.

How refreshing to hear an honest human voice among all the political rhetoric.

Health care should be a right. It’s really that simple, especially in an era where we live and move and have our being in a stew of toxins and novel chemicals created by the same industries whose leaders are working so relentlessly to cut taxes and eliminate regulations that prevent them from add still more hazards to the commons.