Category Archives: Idiocy

John Oliver tackles militarized police & Ferguson


Cutting through the bullshit, when done in a non-plummy British accent, is somehow funnier than the same message conveyed in plain old American media English. But when the accent comes with rapier-sharp wit, the result is simply delicious.

Sure, you can find fault with John Oliver’s message, but he gets a lot more right than otherwise, and his take on the Orwellian machinery at the heart of paramilitary hardware and attitudes employed in Ferguson, Missouri, in the wake of the police shooting of yet another unarmed black teenager merits kudos.

Pop it up to full screen and enjoy, via HBO’s Last Week Tonight with John Oliver:

Last Week Tonight with John Oliver: Ferguson, MO and Police Militarization

Program note:

In the wake of the shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, MO, John Oliver explores the racial inequality in treatment by police as well as the increasing militarization of America’s local police forces.

Rightist Israeli Jews adopt Nazi campaign slogan


Remember that ol’ Ein Volk, Ein Reich, Ein Führer [One people, One land, One leader]?

You know, the one the Nazi’s continually intoned first to win elections, then to justify their swallowing up other countries? As in this poster celebrating Hitler’s peaceful takeover of hiss native Austria?

BLOG Ein

Well, if any group of folks should be aware of the implications of the slogan, it’s Israeli Jews. So image our chagrin to discover an photo [via Activestills.org] of militants staging a pro-government counter-protest during Saturday’s anti-war march in Tel Aviv.  But that’s how Louis Proyect translates the Hebrew phrase on the posters held up by these right wingers: One People, One State, One Leader:

BLOG Israelis

If it’s ignorance, it’s appalling; if it’s not, it’s simply pathological.

EnviroWatch: Faith, Ebola, water, toxins, Fuku


Whilst we continue our focus on Ebola, we begin with an important dose of reality from Pacific Standard:

Faith in Scientific Progress Decreases Eco-Friendly Behavior

A new study finds affirming belief in scientific progress appears to reduce the likelihood of acting in environmentally responsible ways.

Advocates for environmental action also tend to be strong believers in science. Could this explain why they’ve had so little success in persuading people to change their behaviors?

That provocative question is raised by a newly published paper, which suggests faith in science takes some of the pressure off of us to behave responsibly.

“When media outlets paint a picture of omniscient science and unconditional and ongoing progress, one consequence may be that people become passive and less motivated to behave in environmentally friendly ways,” University of Amsterdam researchers Marijn Meijers and Bastiaan Rutjens write in the European Journal of Social Psychology.

And on to Ebola, first with an interesting headline from SINA English:

No Ebola cases spotted in China: official

The Chinese health authority has confirmed no Ebola cases have been reported in China so far.

Song Shuli, spokeswoman of China’s National Health and Family Planning Commission (NHFPC), made the remarks at a press conference held Thursday, adding a series of preventative measures have been taken to stop the virus from entering China.

Song said NHFPC has strengthened its communication with World Health Organization (WHO) to better monitor and predict the spread of the Ebola virus and has ordered border control authorities to intensify their checks of inbound travellers from related countries.

Next, concerns in the country next door via India Today:

EXCLUSIVE: Ebola virus could enter India through Delhi and Mumbai

Officials at the IGI International Airport and Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport are a worried lot these days. Immigration and Custom officials are on their toes. There are strict instructions to keep a hawk eye on all the passengers coming from Ethiopian Airways, Kenya Airways and Emirates. The fear is passengers with Ebola virus could enter India through the Indira Gandhi International Airport or the Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport.

Alert notification has been issued for airports at Delhi, Mumbai, Bangalore, Hyderabad and Kochi as well. Alert has also been sounded for various airports under Airport Authority of India. The government has also roped in Indian Medical Association to coordinate the efforts and be ready for any eventuality. This after the government learnt that 50 to 60 Indians in Liberia were in the process of returning to India.

Indian Medical Association spokesperson Dr. Rajinder Saini said, “We are coordinating with the government. The situation isn’t bad but then we have a huge population and resources could be limited.” Dr Saini added that people from African nations come to India not just for travel purpose but to get medical treatment as well and hence it was all the more important for the various airport authorities and hospitals in various metros to be careful of the situation and also be equipped to tackle the situation.

Homeland Security News Wire covers high anxiety:

Ebola outbreak could inspire African terrorist groups to weaponize the virus: Experts

Recent discussions about Ebola have mainly focused on the disease as a public health hazard, but counterterrorism officials are concerned that the new outbreak could inspire terror groups, specifically those based in West Africa, to weaponize the virus. The fear of weaponized Ebola dates back decades to when the Soviet Union’s VECTOR program, aimed at researching biotechnology and virology, was thought to have researched the creation of Ebola for warfare. In 1992 a Japanese cult group called Aum Shinrikyo tried, but failed, to collect samples of the Ebola virus in Zaire.

Recent discussions about Ebola have mainly focused on the disease as a public health hazard, but counterterrorism officials are concerned that the new outbreak could inspire terror groups, specifically those based in West Africa, to weaponize the virus. The Defense Threat Reduction Agency (DTRA) has been working with the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and biotech firm Mapp Biopharmaceutical Inc. to develop a treatment for Ebola.

While GlobalPost sounds concerns:

How the Ebola outbreak turned into a racism and responsibility debate

  • Should the experimental drugs that have been given to two Americans be sent to Liberia?

Should untested, experimental drugs to combat Ebola be made widely available? This potentially life-and-death debate is raging as the disease continues to claim lives in West Africa, where the death toll has now reached 932, according to the World Health Organization.

Two American missionaries who contracted Ebola while working in Liberia have shown a marked improvement in the past week after being given an experimental drug called ZMapp that had up until then only been tested on monkeys.

This past weekend, Kent Brantly and Nancy Writebol were flown to the United States where they are receiving medical care at Emory University Hospital in Atlanta. Samaritan’s Purse, a Christian charity they were working with, said the two “had received a dose of experimental serum while still in Liberia.”

The news has sparked an ethical debate over equality of access to medical care and racism as two white Americans were given potentially life-saving treatment denied to hundreds of Africans.

More on that concern from Techdirt:

Ebola Cure Not Fully Developed Because Big Pharma Not Interested In Saving Lives Of Poor People In Africa

  • from the back-burner dept

As you may have heard, there’s been a somewhat scary Ebola outbreak in western Africa. You may have also heard about what some are calling a “secret miracle serum” that effectively stops the impact of the virus for those who catch it. It’s an experimental drug that hasn’t undergone human clinical trials yet, but it was apparently given to a couple of Americans and appears to be working. There’s some indication that it would take a couple months to produce a larger number of doses — though, again, the lack of testing here means that people really aren’t sure if it will work (or if there are serious side effects).

That said, as one article notes, a big reason that there hasn’t been much testing on this is because treating poor people in Africa just isn’t very profitable for the drug companies:

“These outbreaks affect the poorest communities on the planet. Although they do create incredible upheaval, they are relatively rare events,” said Daniel Bausch, a medical researcher in the US who works on Ebola and other infectious diseases.

“So if you look at the interest of pharmaceutical companies, there is not huge enthusiasm to take an Ebola drug through phase one, two, and three of a trial and make an Ebola vaccine that maybe a few tens of thousands or hundreds of thousands of people will use.”

And still more from International Business Times:

US Cuts Resources For Project Involved In Ebola Battle In Sierra Leone

The U.S. government will not renew funding for a major research project into Lassa fever, a decision that will, in turn, cut resources for a facility in Sierra Leone that is at the forefront of the current battle against the Ebola virus.

The National Institutes of Health rejected a proposal from New Orleans-based Tulane University to renew the five-year contract which expires in November, according to a July 30 letter from NIH reviewed by Reuters. The expiring contract is worth $15 million.

NIH declined to comment on the decision, citing “federal government procurement integrity rules.”

While Raw Story brings us the despicable:

Conservatives rip Ann Coulter for blaming Ebola doc’s illness on ‘Christian narcissism’

Conservative gadfly Ann Coulter drew widespread condemnation for attacking a Christian missionary who contracted the Ebola virus while serving in Africa.

Coulter suggested in her column Wednesday that Dr. Kent Brantly chose to help the poor in Liberia instead of the United States because “serving the needy in some deadbeat town in Texas wouldn’t have been ‘heroic.’”

“American Christians go on ‘mission trips’ to disease-ridden cesspools [because] they’re tired of fighting the culture war in the U.S., tired of being called homophobes, racists, sexists, and bigots,” Coulter wrote. “So they slink off to Third World countries, away from American culture to do good works, forgetting that the first rule of life on a riverbank is that any good that one attempts downstream is quickly overtaken by what happens upstream.”

The Washington Post covers a poignant aspect of the crisis:

People are struggling to bury the Ebola dead.

Those treating Ebola victims are especially at risk of infection: When a Liberian-American government official named Patrick Sawyer managed to fly to Nigeria with the disease, which is spread only by direct contact with the bodily fluids of a symptomatic victim, several health workers in Lagos fell ill after treating him. Both Sawyer and one of his nurses have since died of the disease and the Nigerian government has declared a health emergency.

But there is a second group of people especially at risk for infection: those who treat and bury the bodies of the dead, which are even more contagious than living Ebola patients.

And a combination of inadequate infrastructure, logistical issues, conflicts with Western health care workers and burial traditions has contributed to widespread difficulties in containing the spread of the disease among mourners and those caring for the dead.

And on the the latest on the Gold State’s drought the latest and grim report from the United States Dought Monitor, which reveals no improvement despite the recent showers in parts of the state. Click on the image to enlarge:

BLOG Drought

One of the consequences [call it “Form pee to thee”], via the Guardian

Get used to toilet-to-tap water, Californians told

  • Drought-hit state plans $140m expansion at world’s biggest treatment facility to recycle more waste water

The golden state’s historic drought is forcing once-squeamish Californians to take a new look at “toilet-to-tap” water re-use. Or as they prefer to call it in Fountain Valley, “showers to flowers”.

The town in conservative Orange County is home to the largest water recycling plant in the world and an example during this epic drought of the life-altering changes California will have to make to avoid running out of water.

The first would be to get over the idea that water is an infinite resource, or that it pours out of the tap straight from a pristine, underground spring.

The San Francisco Chronicle keeps it dry:

Drought-busting El Niño looking less likely

Hope of an El Niño rescuing California from its devastating drought this year appears to be just about gone.

Not only have climate scientists downgraded the strength of a potential El Niño, but a report released Thursday by the U.S. Climate Prediction Center indicates that the odds of an El Niño happening at all have decreased.

El Niño is a warming of the Pacific Ocean that tends to influence worldwide weather. Strong El Niños have often been associated with wet winters in Northern California, something the state could use after three straight years of below-average rainfall.

Meanwhile, the Guardian covers another water problem:

Pollution triples mercury levels in ocean surface waters, study finds

  • Toxic metal threatens marine life as it accumulates faster in shallow layers than in deep sea due to human activity

The amount of mercury near the surface of many of the world’s oceans has tripled as the result of our polluting activities, a new study has found, with potentially damaging implications for marine life as the result of the accumulation of the toxic metal.

Mercury is accumulating in the surface layers of the seas faster than in the deep ocean, as we pour the element into the atmosphere and seas from a variety of sources, including mines, coal-fired power plants and sewage. Mercury is toxic to humans and marine life, and accumulates in our bodies over time as we are exposed to sources of it.

Since the industrial revolution, we have tripled the mercury content of shallow ocean layers, according to the letter published in the peer-review journal Nature on Thursday. Mercury can be widely dispersed across the globe when it is deposited in water and the air, the authors said, so even parts of the globe remote from industrial sources can quickly suffer elevated levels of the toxic material.

And Arctic News has a really, really alarming water problem:

Warm waters threaten to trigger huge methane eruptions from Arctic Ocean seafloor

The evidence of abrupt high methane releases in the Arctic Ocean is accumulating. The graph below shows in situ methane measurements taken at the Barrow Observatory, including recent levels as high as close to 2200 parts per billion (ppb).

Satellite data picture a similarly dire situation. Global mean methane levels as high as 1831 ppb were recorded on the morning of July 30, 2014, while peak methane levels as high as 2330 ppb were recorded that morning. More recently, peak methane levels as high as 2522 ppb were recorded (on August 2, 2014).

IPCC/NOAA figures suggest that methane levels were rising by some 5 to 6 ppb annually, reaching 1814 ppb in 2013. While methane levels at lower altitudes have indeed shown little rise, much larger rises have been recorded at higher altitudes, as illustrated by the image below.

And just how alarming? From Motherboard:

If We Release a Small Fraction of Arctic Carbon, ‘We’re Fucked’: Climatologist

This week, scientists made a disturbing discovery in the Arctic Ocean: They saw “vast methane plumes escaping from the seafloor,” as the Stockholm University put it in a release disclosing the observations. The plume of methane—a potent greenhouse gas that traps heat more powerfully than carbon dioxide, the chief driver of climate change—was unsettling to the scientists.

But it was even more unnerving to Dr. Jason Box, a widely published climatologist who had been following the expedition. As I was digging into the new development, I stumbled upon his tweet, which, coming from a scientist, was downright chilling:

Jason Box @climate_ice

If even a small fraction of Arctic sea floor carbon is released to the atmosphere, we’re f’d.

8:43 AM – 29 Jul 2014 Copenhagen, Danmark

Box, who is currently a professor of glaciology at the Geological Survey of Denmark and Greenland, has been studying the Arctic for decades. His accolade-packed Wikipedia page notes that he’s made some 20 expeditions to the Arctic since 1994, and served as the lead author on the Greenland section of NOAA’s State of the Climate report from 2008-2012. He also runs the Dark Snow project and writes about the latest findings in the field at his blog, Meltfactor.

More water problems from MintPress News:

Lake Erie Isn’t The Only One In Trouble

Climate change and an unwillingness to regulate have led to a vicious algae bloom that could spread to other Great Lakes and threaten the nation’s major drinking water supply.

The Great Lakes hold 84 percent of the nation’s fresh water and one-fifth of the world’s drinking water supply. With inland lakes from Minnesota to California being polluted with toxic algae, and with an oxygen-free zone the size of New Jersey being discovered in the Gulf of Mexico last year, the issue of industrial phosphorous runoff has grown to be an issue that can no longer be ignored or left to voluntary actions.

“We’ve worked with farmers, and we know it works,” Jordan Lubetkin, a Great Lakes spokesman for the National Wildlife Federation, told The New York Times regarding voluntary measures imposed to control oxygen-destroying runoffs. “Voluntary programs will take you so far. But at the end of the day, you need numeric standards. You’ve got to limit the amount of phosphorus coming into the lake. That’s why you see what we’re seeing in Toledo.”

From the New York Times, when opportunity knocks, run like hell:

A Texas County Sees Opportunity in Toxic Waste

Loving County is big, dry and stretches for miles, and is the perfect place, local officials say, to store high-level radioactive waste.

Officials here hope to entice the federal government — with $28 billion to spend on the disposal of high-level radioactive waste — into considering the possibility.

“With the money that this would generate for the county, we might even be able to pay the taxpayers back,” said the county judge, Skeet Jones. “We could build some roads. We could bring in some more water. We could have a town that’s incorporated, have a city council, maybe even start a school.” Loving County had a school, but it has been boarded up for years, and students are bused to neighboring Winkler County.

“Maybe even have a Walmart,” Mr. Jones mused.

And for our first Fukushimapocalypse Now! Item, this from the Japan Times:

Tepco to collect toxic groundwater at Fukushima, dump in ocean after treatment

Tokyo Electric Power Co. is planning to pump contaminated groundwater from drainage wells at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant and dump it into the ocean after removing almost all radioactive materials, company officials said Thursday.

The plan is aimed at reducing the amount of toxic water building up at the complex, a problem that has been plaguing Tepco since it started trying to clean up the stricken power plant in 2011.

An estimated 400 tons of untainted groundwater is seeping into the shattered reactor buildings and mixing with toxic water generated in the process of cooling the reactors.

While the Mainichi looks ahead:

Accident at Tokai nuke plant could force 520,000 to evacuate outside Ibaraki Pref.

A serious nuclear accident at the Tokai No. 2 Power Station in Ibaraki Prefecture could result in about 520,000 people living within 30 kilometers of the plant taking shelter in other prefectures, according to a prefectural evacuation draft.

Some 960,000 people live within the urgent protective action planning zone (UPZ) within a 30 kilometer radius of the plant in Tokai, Ibaraki Prefecture. Of these, some 520,000 would likely take shelter in five neighboring prefectures, while the remaining 440,000 would evacuate to other areas within Ibaraki Prefecture, according to the draft released on June 6 by the Ibaraki Prefectural Government.

Cities, towns and villages are expected to devise concrete evacuation plans to respond to a serious nuclear accident, but the large number of evacuees is expected to make it difficult to formulate plans securing places for them to stay while avoiding confusion.

Another fuel, another problem, via the Guardian:

Illegal coal mine encroaching on nature reserve in north-west China

  • Coalfield 14 times the size of the City of London turns alpine meadows into craters in Qinghai, Greenpeace investigation reveals

A Chinese coal company has been operating illegal open-pit mines in alpine meadows on the far-western Qinghai plateau, potentially endangering one of the country’s largest rivers, a new investigation has found.

Four opencast mines on the Muli coalfield, operated by the private corporation Kingho Group, could seriously endanger a fragile ecosystem high on China’s far north-western Qinghai-Tibetan plateau, according to an investigation by Greenpeace East Asia released on Thursday. The coalfield is 14 times larger than the City of London, Greenpeace said. Two of its mines overlap with a protected nature zone, making them illegal, and another two are preparing to expand into the zone.

“China’s natural reserve law says you shouldn’t be doing any large-scale operations within national parks,” said Li Shuo, the organisation’s climate and energy campaigner. “This is a clear violation.”

And from the Guardian, our final item, hardly a surprise:

The corporatisation of US green energy: a double-edged sword worth billions

  • As tax breaks and incentives for renewable energy increase, corporations are entering the green energy landscape

There’s a popular meme that surfaces on green energy blogs, forums, and Facebook pages. The gist is that large corporations love oil and gas because they can own and control it. They’re against renewable energy because no-one can own the sun or wind.

The problem for anti-corporate green-energy campaigners is, increasingly: the meme isn’t true.

As the materials for producing wind and solar energy become cheaper, tax breaks and incentives for renewable energy increase, and the prospect of finding more oil and gas becomes weaker, corporations are entering the green energy landscape to the tune of billions of dollars.

And to make you really, really insecure. . .


Just watch this chilling compendium assembled by John Oliver for the latest installment of his HBO series Last Week Tonight with John Oliver.

By the time you’ve finished his debunking of the purported security of America’s nukes, you’ll be thoroughly disabused of any lingering doubt that, as Pogo famously said, “We have met the enemy, and he is us.”

From Last Week Tonight with John Oliver

Last Week Tonight with John Oliver: Nuclear Weapons

Program notes:

America has over 4,800 nuclear weapons, and we don’t take terrific care of them.

It’s terrifying, basically.

Breaking the Set: The madness of watchlisting


Abby Martin of RT’s Breaking the Set hosts a discussion on the new revelations about Uncle Sam’s terrorism watchlists and the absurdly arbitrarily rules [or lack of them] for designation ordinarily folks as potentially extraordinary criminals.

Particularly chilling is the case of a man told by the FBI that they knew he wasn’t a terrorist, but they wouldn’t get him off the list unless he turned snitch and informed on fellow members of his community.

Can you say “Joe McCarthy,” kiddies?

From Breaking the Set:

The Absurd Criteria Needed to Put You on a Terror Watchlist Will Shock You

Program notes:

Abby Martin speaks with Susan Hu, Fellow at the Center for Constitutional Rights and Kevin Gosztola, journalist at Firedoglake, discussing a recent article on the intercept that exposes the National Counterterrorism Center’s criteria for adding individuals to the government’s terrorism watchlist, highlighting the arbitrary nature of the guidelines and how over the last 5 years nearly 1.5 million people have been added to the list.

InSecurity Watch: Spooks, woes, and dirty deals


While we’re unsure what’s to become of our blog, we remain committed to pointing out developments likely to impinge on the future of folks, both those alive today and the yet-to-be-born.

Developments in the realm of technology and their potential to shred the last remaining vestiges of privacy in the interests of corporations and their symbiotes in the National Security State in an era of enforced globalization — and thus creating a new context for the human experience in which all our vulnerabilities become transparent to folks with a powerful interest in exploiting them in the interests of deep politics and corporate profiteering.

And with that preamble, on with the shoe, starting with deplorable military action in a perennial tinderbox. Via The Independent:

Israel-Gaza conflict: UN school shelled by Israeli tanks, leaving 15 dead and 200 wounded

  • Doctors and officials described the strike as a ‘massacre’ mostly impacting children

While the Israeli Defence Forces (IDF) had no immediate comment on the incident, news agency photographers reported seeing pools of blood on the ground in the courtyard of the school near the apparent impact mark of a shell.

Israeli Radio, without citing a source, said that most of those killed at the UN compound were children.

It comes after the UN’s humanitarian chief drew attention to the “major concern” of child fatalities in the conflict, which has seen one child killed every hour over the past three days.

On Tuesday, a spokesperson for the UN’s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said: “There is literally no safe place for civilians [in Gaza].”

From The Hill, the ornamental fruits of ornamental umbrage:

Senate NSA compromise likely to come next week

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) is close but not yet ready to unveil a negotiated measure to rein in government surveillance.

Despite reports that the bill could be revealed this week, people familiar with the discussions said Leahy will actually release the compromise legislation as early as Tuesday.

Leahy has been working with the administration on a compromise.

Earlier this week, an aide said conversations had turned a corner and they were “within inches” of an agreement. Leahy said Tuesday that he was “far more encouraged that we can finally come up with some legislation that will do two things.”

Whilst the Guardian adds critical context:

US warned: surveillance reform hinges on change to Reagan executive order

  • John Napier Tye, a former State Department official, says Americans’ data remains vulnerable until executive order that provides NSA with a path to collect data is reformed

John Napier Tye is not Edward Snowden. He says he has no surveillance documents to disclose to journalists. He takes a nuanced position on Snowden’s disclosures.

Yet the 38-year old former State Department official has raised a Snowden-like alarm that Americans’ communication data remains highly vulnerable to surreptitious collection by the National Security Agency – and will remain vulnerable despite the legislative fixes wending through Congress to redress the bulk domestic phone data collection Snowden revealed.

Like Snowden, Tye means to spark a debate on the proper boundaries of NSA authorities. His focus is on an obscure, Reagan-era executive order that serves as a foundational set of rules for the intelligence apparatus. The order, known as Executive Order 12333, renders the current surveillance debate hollow, he said, even as it shows signs of traction in the Senate.

Next up, a critical Washington ally grows increasingly pissed, via intelNews:

Up to 20 US spies inside German government: media reports

German counterintelligence has intensified its surveillance of “certain employees of the United States embassy” in Berlin, after internal reports suggested that “up to 20″ agents of the American government are operating inside the German federal bureaucracy.

Citing information “from American security circles”, German newspaper Bild am Sonntag said on Sunday that the agents are German citizens who are secretly employed by a variety of American civilian and military intelligence agencies in return for money.

The Berlin-based tabloid noted that at least a dozen such agents have infiltrated four departments of the German federal government, namely the Ministries of Defense, Finance, Interior, as well as the Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development. The paper said that the latter has been targeted by the US Central Intelligence Agency because it is routinely employed by the BND, Germany’s main external intelligence organization, as a cover for clandestine activities.

From The Independent again, a response:

Germany begins spying on Britain and America for the first time since 1945

  • Government responds to a series of spy scandals which began last year with revelations that the NSA had bugged Chancellor Angela Merkel’s mobile phone

Chancellor Angela Merkel has ordered her counter-espionage services to begin surveillance of British and American intelligence gathering in Germany for the first time since 1945 in response to a series of US spy scandals which have badly soured relations between Berlin and Washington.

The Süddeutsche Zeitung and two-state funded German TV channels, WDR and NDR, quoted an unnamed Berlin government source who said Ms Merkel’s Chancellery and her interior and foreign ministries had agreed to launch counter-espionage measures against Britain and the US for the first time.

“Right now we need to send a strong signal,” the Süddeutsche Zeitung quoted the source as saying. The extraordinary measures are a direct response to a series of embarrassing US and British spying scandals in Germany which began last year with revelations that the US National Security Agency had bugged Ms Merkel’s mobile phone.

More from Spiegel:

Keeping Spies Out: Germany Ratchets Up Counterintelligence Measures

  • Officials in Berlin were long in denial that their closest allies were spying on Germany. Now, ministries are undertaking measures to improve security and counterintelligence. They’re anticipating frosty relations with the US for some time to come.

Last Wednesday, German Interior Minister Thomas de Maizière paid a visit to his colleague in the Foreign Ministry, Frank-Walter Steinmeier for a strictly confidential conversation about the currently tense relationship with the United States. Specifically, they planned to address the latest spying revelations and accusations. Before the meeting began, both ministers turned in their mobile phones. Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier has a small side room he uses for this purpose; part of the Foreign Ministry is in the former Nazi Reichsbank and has very thick walls. The room is now used to store smartphones and tablet computers when sensitive discussions take place.

The precaution reflects the significant disquiet and anxiety in Berlin’s ministries and in the Chancellery as the summer holidays get underway. Slowly, ministry officials are starting to grapple with the true meaning of “360 degree” counterintelligence. It means defending yourself not just usual suspects like Russia or China. But also against Germany’s closest allies, particularly the United States.

A few days ago, Chancellor Merkel reportedly told US President Barack Obama in a telephone conversation that anger over the US spying activities in Berlin’s government quarter as well as the recruitment of an informant inside Germany’s Bundesnachrichtendienst (BND) foreign intelligence service has in no way subsided. Because Obama apparently expressed little understanding for the commotion in Germany, Merkel is now taking action.

From the McClatchy Washington Bureau, a Washington diplomatic blitzkrieg:

Top Obama aides fly to Berlin to talk about spying allegations

Two weeks after Germany demanded that the top U.S. intelligence official stationed in its country leave, President Barack Obama has dispatched two top aides to Berlin.

White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough and Lisa Monaco, assistant to the president for counterterrorism and homeland security, met with their German counterparts in Berlin Tuesday “for intensive talks on the state of bilateral relations and future cooperation,” according to the White House.

The meeting came after German authorities said they were investigating new instances of spying, including one that targeted the parliamentary committee probing National Security Agency eavesdropping. Last year, reports indicated that the NSA was monitoring the communications of millions of Germans, including listening in on Merkel’s cellphone.

Meanwhile, from the Washington Post’s David Ignatius, meet that old Foggy Bottom familiar, Rosy Scenario:

Germany, U.S. rebuild a spy partnership

Given recent German indignation about the National Security Agency, it has been easy to overlook the fact that for decades the German government has cooperated extensively with the NSA on surveillance activities. But after a high-level meeting in Berlin this week, this long-standing but veiled cooperation may have a firmer legal and political base.

The two countries’ past partnership became so extensive that they even developed a special logo for their joint signals—intelligence activity, known by its initials, “JSA.” It shows an American bald eagle against the colors of the German flag, next to the words Der Zeitgeist, or “the spirit of the age.”

Like so much else we know about the NSA, the details about its activities in Germany come from Edward Snowden, the former NSA contractor now living in Moscow. He provided a trove of secret documents to Der Spiegel, which published more than 50 online last month.

German anger about American spying boiled over recently with the expulsion of the CIA station chief in Berlin. The Germans were furious when they discovered that the CIA was paying a “walk-in” German agent, adding to their anger that the NSA had tapped Chancellor Angela Merkel’s cellphone.

From the New York Times, more fallout from the Dark Side:

European Court Censures Poland Over C.I.A. Rendition Program

The European Court of Human Rights ruled Thursday that Poland had violated the rights of two terrorism suspects by allowing their transfer to a secret detention center run by the C.I.A. in Poland, where the two men were tortured.

The ruling says Poland failed to prevent the two men — Abu Zubaydah, born in Saudi Arabia, and Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, a Saudi citizen — from being subjected to “torture and inhuman or degrading treatment” after they were brought to a clandestine prison in northeast Poland. It ordered Poland to pay 100,000 euros, about $135,000, to Mr. Nashiri and $175,000 to Abu Zubaydah. Both are being held at the American detention center in Guantánamo Bay, Cuba.

Abu Zubaydah is believed to have overseen the operation of guesthouses in Pakistan where terrorism recruits arrived; he vetted them and provided letters of recommendation allowing them to be accepted for training at a paramilitary camp in Afghanistan, a former Guantánamo detainee said in a military court filing, for example. Mr. Nashiri is accused of plotting the 2000 bombing of the American destroyer Cole.

While The Intercept covers the Kafkaesque:

The Secret Government Rulebook For Labeling You a Terrorist

The Obama administration has quietly approved a substantial expansion of the terrorist watchlist system, authorizing a secret process that requires neither “concrete facts” nor “irrefutable evidence” to designate an American or foreigner as a terrorist, according to a key government document obtained by The Intercept.

The “March 2013 Watchlisting Guidance,” a 166-page document issued last year by the National Counterterrorism Center, spells out the government’s secret rules for putting individuals on its main terrorist database, as well as the no fly list and the selectee list, which triggers enhanced screening at airports and border crossings. The new guidelines allow individuals to be designated as representatives of terror organizations without any evidence they are actually connected to such organizations, and it gives a single White House official the unilateral authority to place entire “categories” of people the government is tracking onto the no fly and selectee lists. It broadens the authority of government officials to “nominate” people to the watchlists based on what is vaguely described as “fragmentary information.” It also allows for dead people to be watchlisted.

Over the years, the Obama and Bush Administrations have fiercely resisted disclosing the criteria for placing names on the databases—though the guidelines are officially labeled as unclassified. In May, Attorney General Eric Holder even invoked the state secrets privilege to prevent watchlisting guidelines from being disclosed in litigation launched by an American who was on the no fly list. In an affidavit, Holder called them a “clear roadmap” to the government’s terrorist-tracking apparatus, adding: “The Watchlisting Guidance, although unclassified, contains national security information that, if disclosed … could cause significant harm to national security.”

From Newser, the War on Photography continues, this time with violence [as well as another touch of Kafka]:

Border Official Points Gun… at Boy Scout: Troop Leader

  • Another scout gets threatened with 10 years in prison

A couple weeks ago, a US border patrol official held a gun to the head of … a Boy Scout. A troop leader explains what happened now that the scouts and adult volunteers from Mid-Iowa Scout Troop 111 have returned from their 23-day trip: Ten days into the trip, their four vans attempted to cross from Canada into Alaska. One scout made an innocent error: He snapped a photo of a US border official. Troop Leader Jim Fox tells KCCI that officials detained everyone in that van and searched them and their luggage, and one agent confiscated the boy’s camera, telling him “he would be arrested, fined possibly $10,000 and 10 years in prison.” But it didn’t end there.

When another scout removed some luggage to comply with the search, Fox says the boy heard “a snap of a holster, and here’s this agent, both hands on a loaded pistol, pointing at the young man’s head.” No one was ultimately hurt or arrested—just scared—and after a four-hour ordeal, the group was allowed to enter Alaska. A Boy Scout official says the scouts learned an important lesson about being a “good citizen” and following rules. But as for that cited rule against photographing federal agents? It’s not exactly true. According to Reason.com, the American Civil Liberties Union says that photographing “things that are plainly visible from public spaces,” including government officials, “is a constitutional right.”

From ZDNet, suspicions confirmed!:

Forensic scientist identifies suspicious ‘back doors’ running on every iOS device

Forensic scientist and author Jonathan Zdziarski has posted the slides from his talk at the Hackers On Planet Earth (HOPE/X) conference in New York called Identifying Backdoors, Attack Points, and Surveillance Mechanisms in iOS Devices.

The HOPE conference started in 1994 and bills itself as “one of the most creative and diverse hacker events in the world.”

Zdziarski, better known as the hacker “NerveGas” in the iPhone development community, worked as dev-team member on many of the early iOS jailbreaks and is the author of five iOS-related O’Reilly books including “Hacking and Securing iOS Applications.”

And from Military & Aerospace Electronics, there’s more than angels looking over our shoulders:

U.S. UAV spending to triple over next 5 years

The U.S. market for unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) will triple in size over the next five years, and should grow from $5 billion in 2013 to $15 billion in 2020, predict analysts at market researcher Information Gatekeepers Inc. (IGI) in Boston.

The IGI study entitled 2014 UAV Market Research Study takes a look at the total UAV market from large military UAVs to do-it-yourself (DIY) UAVs for amateurs, company officials say.

The study includes the following major market sectors including the U.S. Department of Defense (DOD), civil, commercial, small UAVs, amateur and hobby UAVs, and radio-controlled UAVs.

TechWeekEurope covers another private sector initiative:

European Central Bank Held To Ransom Over Stolen Data

  • Hackers steal partially encrypted records from an events website that belongs to the bank

Hackers have breached the public website of the European Central Bank (ECB) and made off with names, email addresses and other personal details of people who had registered for events there.

The attack came to light on Monday, after the organisation received an anonymous email which demanded an unspecified amount of money for the data.

The ECB said most of the stolen information was encrypted, and no sensitive market data has been compromised in the breach. It didn’t indicate whether it was going to pay the ransom.

The institution, which administers the monetary policy of the 18 members of the Eurozone who chose to adopt the single currency, was established by the Treaty of Amsterdam in 1998 and is one of the world’s most important central banks.

After the jump, the latest on the ever-escalation Sino-American trans-Pacific confrontation [including Latin American plays],  Britain goes all Orwell, why some Spanish cops have to pee in a bottle daily [and not for te reasons you might expect], and Rob Ford falls prey top a Sharknado. . . Continue reading

Our candidates of the day for liquidation. . .


Yeah, why not?

When corporations do malicious things that reek of patent [in both senses] absurdity motivated solely by greed, let’s liquidate them. Or better yet, let’s give their ownership over to the community of folks who’ve been vicitmized by their depredations.

And in that light, we bring you a delightfully bile-arousing clip from Abby Martin’s Breaking the Set:

Program notes:

Abby Martin goes over the top 5 most ridiculous patents in the US, citing everything from Amazon’s patent of white background photography to Apple’s patent of the shape of a rectangle all leading to the rise of patent trolling and a complete abuse of the system.