Category Archives: Intolerance

InSecurityWatch: Wars, spies, hacks, threats


While environmental news was in short supply today, not so stories from the realms of the bellicose, the intrusive, and the criminal.

First up, from the Los Angeles Times, that way madness lies:

Cameron vows to destroy Islamic State ‘and what it stands for’

British Prime Minister David Cameron on Sunday praised slain British aid worker David Haines as a hero and pledged to continue working as part of an international coalition to “hunt down those responsible and bring them to justice no matter how long it takes.”

The militant group Islamic State, also known as ISIS or ISIL, released a video Saturday purporting to show his beheading. Britain’s Foreign Office said the video appeared to be authentic.

“Step by step we must drive back, dismantle and ultimately destroy ISIL and what it stands for,” Cameron said. “They are not Muslims, they are monsters.”

From BBC News, boots on the way to meet ground:

Islamic State crisis: Australia to send 600 troops to UAE

Australia says it is sending 600 troops to the Middle East ahead of possible combat operations against Islamic State (IS) militants in Iraq.

Prime Minister Tony Abbott said the deployment, initially to the United Arab Emirates, was in response to a specific US request.

Nearly 40 countries, including 10 Arab states, have signed up to a US-led plan to tackle the extremist group. France is hosting a regional security summit on Monday.

From the New York Times, piling on:

Arab Nations Offer to Conduct Airstrikes Against ISIS, U.S. Officials Say

Several Arab countries have offered to carry out airstrikes against militants from the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, senior State Department officials said on Sunday.

The offer was disclosed by American officials traveling with Secretary of State John Kerry, who is approaching the end of a weeklong trip that was intended to mobilize international support for the campaign against the group, also known as ISIS.

“There have been offers both to Centcom and to the Iraqis of Arab countries taking more aggressive kinetic action,” said one of the officials, who used the acronym for the United States Central Command, which oversees military operations in the Middle East.

The Associated Press covers the revenue front:

Oil smuggling, theft, extortion: How ISIS earns $3M a day

Islamic State militants, who once relied on wealthy Persian Gulf donors for money, have become a self-sustaining financial juggernaut, earning more than $3 million a day from oil smuggling, human trafficking, theft and extortion, according to U.S. intelligence officials and private experts.

The extremist group’s resources exceed that “of any other terrorist group in history,” said a U.S. intelligence official who, like others interviewed, spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss classified assessments. Such riches are one reason that American officials are so concerned about the group even while acknowledging they have no evidence it is plotting attacks against the United States.

The Islamic State group has taken over large sections of Syria and Iraq, and controls as many as 11 oil fields in both countries, analysts say. It is selling oil and other goods through generations-old smuggling networks under the noses of some of the same governments it is fighting: Kurdish-controlled northern Iraq, Turkey and Jordan.

From BuzzFeed, the hyperbolic:

Arizona Congressman Claims It’s “True That We Know That” ISIS Is On The U.S. Border

“It is true that we know that ISIS is present in Ciudad Juarez or they were within the last few weeks.” It appears he’s citing a report that federal authorities have dismissed.

A Republican Arizona congressman says ISIS currently is or has operated on the U.S. border in the past couple weeks, appearing to cite a report that federal authorities have dismissed.

Rep. Trent Franks, appearing on E.W. Jackson’s radio program over the weekend, appeared to cite a report from a conservative website that has been dismissed by federal law enforcement officials about ISIS operating in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, on the border with El Paso.

“It is true, that we know that ISIS is present in Ciudad Juarez or they were within the last few weeks,” Franks said. “So there’s no question that they have designs on trying to come into Arizona. The comment that I’ve made is that if unaccompanied minors can cross the border then certainly trained terrorists probably can to. It is something that is real.”

BBC News eavesdrops:

US and UK spy agencies ‘have access to German telecoms’

US and British intelligence services are able to secretly access information from German telecoms operators, according to a German newspaper report.

A programme called Treasure Map gives the NSA and its UK counterpart, GCHQ, data from operators including Deutsche Telekom, Der Spiegel said. The data is said to include information from networks as well as from individual computers and smart-phones.

Der Spiegel cites documents provided by US intelligence leaker Edward Snowden.

And from Der Spiegel itself:

Treasure Map: The NSA Breach of Telekom and Other German Firms

According to top-secret documents from the NSA and the British agency GCHQ, the intelligence agencies are seeking to map the entire Internet, including end-user devices. In pursuing that goal, they have broken into networks belonging to Deutsche Telekom.

When it comes to choosing code names for their secret operations, American and British agents demonstrate a flare for creativity. Sometimes they borrow from Mother Nature, with monikers such as “Evil Olive” and “Egoistic Giraffe.” Other times, they would seem to take their guidance from Hollywood. A program called Treasure Map even has its own logo, a skull superimposed onto a compass, the eye holes glowing in demonic red, reminiscent of a movie poster for the popular “Pirates of the Caribbean” series, starring Johnny Depp.

Treasure Map is anything but harmless entertainment. Rather, it is the mandate for a massive raid on the digital world. It aims to map the Internet, and not just the large traffic channels, such as telecommunications cables. It also seeks to identify the devices across which our data flows, so-called routers.

Furthermore, every single end device that is connected to the Internet somewhere in the world — every smartphone, tablet and computer — is to be made visible. Such a map doesn’t just reveal one treasure. There are millions of them.

From Spiegel via Cryptome [PDF], the cover of the Treasure Map PowerPoint:

BLOG Treasure

And Deutsche Welle has more:

While NSA ‘maps’ the Internet landscape, German tech companies want Cloud cover

Microsoft Germany wants Cloud services to be regulated at home in a bid to protect data from foreign espionage. The announcement coincides with a new report pointing to NSA activities targeting German telecommunications.

In the latest efforts toward warding off foreign hackers, the head of Microsoft Germany is planning to develop Cloud technology that would be offered only within Germany.

Microsoft’s current computing centers in the Netherlands and Ireland are becoming more popular with the company’s biggest clients, Microsoft Germany head Christian Illek told the German daily Tagesspiegel on Sunday.

“But this is obviously not enough for medium-sized German companies,” Illek said.

And from the Intercept, still more:

Map of the Stars

  • The NSA and GCHQ Campaign Against German Satellite Companies

“Fuck!” That is the word that comes to the mind of Christian Steffen, the CEO of German satellite communications company Stellar PCS. He is looking at classified documents laying out the scope of something called Treasure Map, a top secret NSA program. Steffen’s firm provides internet access to remote portions of the globe via satellite, and what he is looking at tells him that the company, and some of its customers, have been penetrated by the U.S. National Security Agency and British spy agency GCHQ.

Stellar’s visibly shaken chief engineer, reviewing the same documents, shares his boss’ reaction. “The intelligence services could use this data to shut down the internet in entire African countries that are provided access via our satellite connections,” he says.

Treasure Map is a vast NSA campaign to map the global internet. The program doesn’t just seek to chart data flows in large traffic channels, such as telecommunications cables. Rather, it seeks to identify and locate every single device that is connected to the internet somewhere in the world—every smartphone, tablet, and computer—”anywhere, all the time,” according to NSA documents. Its internal logo depicts a skull superimposed onto a compass, the eyeholes glowing demonic red.

From the Guardian, another country, semantics elevated:

New Zealand PM deceiving public over spying claims, says Glenn Greenwald

  • Journalist says he will produce documents by Edward Snowden that prove John Key approved mass surveillance of citizens

An already tumultuous New Zealand election campaign took another dramatic turn less than a week before polling day when the prime minister, John Key, responded angrily to claims by the American journalist Glenn Greenwald that he had been “deceiving the public” over assurances on spying.

Greenwald, who is visiting New Zealand at the invitation of the German internet entrepreneur Kim Dotcom, says he will produce documents provided by the NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden that prove the New Zealand government approved mass surveillance of its residents by the Government Communications Security Bureau (GCSB), New Zealand’s equivalent of the NSA.

Dotcom, who is sought for extradition from New Zealand by the US on copyright charges relating to his now defunct Megaupload file-storage site, is hosting an event in Auckland on Monday called The Moment of Truth, which doubles as a rally for the Dotcom-founded Internet party.

From the Independent, the latest police flap:

Daniele Watts: Django Unchained actress detained in Los Angeles after being mistaken for a prostitute

Daniele Watts, an African-American actress who has starred in Hollywood films such as Django Unchained, has claimed she was “handcuffed and detained” by Los Angeles police officers after being mistaken for a prostitute.

Two police officers approached Watts and her white husband Brian James Lucas when they were seen showing affection in public, the actress said in a Facebook post.

She claims she refused to produce her photo ID when asked by police, and was then handcuffed and held in a police car as the officers tried to figure out who she was. She reportedly cut her wrist as she was handled roughly by the LAPD officers.

Watts also posted pictures to Facebook, in which she is handcuffed and crying. She was released shortly afterwards.

And from RT America, how ‘bout them apples, eh?:

American police scammed Canadian visitors out of $2.5 billion

Program notes:

American police are targeting their northern neighbors, according to a travel warning from the Canadian government. State and federal law enforcement officers are reportedly shaking down Canadians visiting the US, illegally confiscating legally carried cash. Over 61,000 of these incidents have occurred since 9/11, resulting in $2.5 billion being seized, according to The Washington Post. RT’s Alexey Yaroshevsky has more details on the trend.

From the Guardian, a ghost from the past:

Italy targets former Uruguayan naval officer over role in alleged torture

  • Jorge Néstor Fernández Troccoli denies any wrongdoing after accusations relating to South American’s dirty wars

Italian prosecutors are poised to seek charges of murder and kidnapping against a former Uruguayan naval intelligence officer accused of participating in South America’s dirty wars.

Jorge Néstor Fernández Troccoli has denied any wrongdoing. But in a 24-page document, he was said to have acknowledged that, in the 1970s when Uruguay’s civil-military government was cracking down on suspected leftwing insurgents and sympathisers, torture was a “normal procedure” in his unit. He insisted, however, that it did not go beyond “keeping prisoners for several hours on their feet without eating or drinking”.

In what La Stampa reported was his only statement to investigators, he was quoted as saying: “I declare myself innocent. I do not accept the accusations.”

After the jump, on to Asia starting with penal tourism, a Chinese anniversary, Sino/Canadian rapprochement, a Game of Zones escalation, and a rejection. . . Continue reading

InSecurityWatch: War, pols, spies, hacks, zones


Lots of ground to cover and some very interesting stories from the world of deep politics, spooks, hacks, blunders, and the Asian Game of Zones.

First up, from the New York Times, ignorance of history or simply slippery politics?:

A President Whose Assurances Have Come Back to Haunt Him

The comment that has caused Mr. Obama the most grief in recent days was his judgment about groups like ISIS. In an interview last winter with David Remnick of The New Yorker, Mr. Obama sought to make the point that not every terrorist group is a threat like Al Qaeda, requiring extraordinary American action.

“The analogy we use around here sometimes, and I think is accurate, is if a JV team puts on Lakers uniforms, that doesn’t make them Kobe Bryant,” Mr. Obama told Mr. Remnick. He drew a distinction between Al Qaeda and “jihadists who are engaged in various local power struggles and disputes, often sectarian.”

Asked about that by Chuck Todd on “Meet the Press” last weekend, Mr. Obama denied that he necessarily meant ISIS. “Keep in mind I wasn’t specifically referring to ISIL,” he said, using an alternate acronym for the group.

“I’ve said that regionally, there were a whole series of organizations that were focused primarily locally — weren’t focused on homeland, because I think a lot of us, when we think about terrorism, the model is Osama bin Laden and 9/11,” Mr. Obama said. And some groups evolve, he noted. “They’re not a JV team,” he added of ISIS.

But the transcript of the New Yorker interview showed that Mr. Obama made his JV team comment directly after being asked about terrorists in Iraq, Syria and Africa, which would include ISIS. After Mr. Obama’s initial answer, Mr. Remnick pointed out that “that JV team just took over Fallujah,” a city in western Iraq seized by ISIS. Mr. Obama replied that terrorism in many places around the world was not necessarily “a direct threat to us or something that we have to wade into.”

From Want China Times, blowback metastasis:

Influence of ISIS felt in China, Southeast Asia

The influence of the brutal jihadist group known as the Islamic State, formerly the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) or the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), may be spreading in Southeast Asia and China despite strong opposition from governments in the region.

According to a report from Singapore’s New Straits Times, Malaysian security authorities have identified four new terror groups that have the same broad goals as Islamic State and may eventually join forces to carve out territory in countries like Thailand, the Philippines, Malaysia and Indonesia to form an independent, unified “super” Islamic caliphate to rule parts of Southeast Asia.

The four organizations, identified by the acronyms BKAW, BAJ, Dimzia and ADI, are said to have strong links with similar groups active in the Southeast Asia region as well as Islamic State and the terrorist group Abu Sayyaf.

From RT, maybe they should bust ‘em for trademark infractions:

‘Brand suicide’: Companies sharing name with ISIS forced to rebrand

Program note:

RT looks at how sharing the same name as the infamous extremist group is causing a major headache for a number of companies with no links to jihad. And it’s not just corporations that are suffering because of being called ISIS.

From the London Daily Mail, another intellectual property assault?:

ISIS declares war on Twitter: Terror group warns employees they will be assassinated for closing down Islamist propaganda accounts

  • Jerusalem-based group connected to ISIS tweeted threat to Twitter
  • Called on ‘lone wolves’ to assassinate employees for closing accounts
  • Issued specific warning to staff at headquarters in Silicon Valley
  • The social media site is a key platform for the group’s propaganda

From Reuters, blowback in Africa continues to rage:

Battle for Benghazi could break up Libya

Pro-government Libyan forces, already reeling from the fall of the capital, are fighting to prevent Islamist militants from seizing the eastern city of Benghazi and splitting the North African country into three warring parts.

Three weeks after losing Tripoli to a different militia, the army now faces an offensive in Libya’s second-largest city from the Islamists of Ansar al-Sharia, which has overrun special forces bases and is attacking Benghazi airport.

Losing the port city would not only leave the government looking impotent and irrelevant. It would also increase the risk of the country crumbling into de facto autonomous regions: the militants demand Islamist rule, while other armed groups want greater powers for the eastern region they call by its ancient name of Cyrenaica.

From Want China Times, recognition:

US planned industrial espionage against China, Russia: report

Though the United States claims that it does not engage in economic and industrial espionage to benefit American corporations, a secret document issued by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence revealed that Washington had plans to steal information from corporations in China, Russia, India and Iran, says the Intercept, a news platform established to report on the documents released by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden.

The secret document known as 2009 Quadrennial Intelligence Community Review anticipates a series of potential scenarios that the United States may face by 2025 from China, Russia, India and Iran. “One of the principal threats raised in the report is a scenario in which the United States’ technological and innovative edge slips”— in particular, that the technological capacity of foreign multinational corporations could outstrip that of US corporations,” said the report.

It then recommended that the US government launch a multi-pronged, systematic effort to gather open source and proprietary information through clandestine penetration and counterintelligence. Furthermore, the report envisions cyber operations penetrating covert centers of innovation such as R&D facilities. The report also suggested the use of cyber espionage to bolster the competitive advantage of American corporations.

From the Guardian, takin’ it to court:

‘Five Eyes’ surveillance pact should be published, Strasbourg court told

  • Appeal lodged at European court of human rights for disclosure of intelligence sharing policies of UK and foreign agencies

The secret “Five Eyes” treaty that authorises intelligence sharing between the UK, US, Australia, Canada and New Zealand should be published, according to an appeal lodged on Tuesday at the European court of human rights.

The application by Privacy International (PI), which campaigns on issues of surveillance, to the Strasbourg court is the latest in a series of legal challenges following the revelations of the US whistleblower Edward Snowden aimed at forcing the government to disclose details of its surveillance policies.

The civil liberties group alleges that the UK is violating the right to access information by “refusing to disclose the documents that have an enormous impact on human rights in the UK and abroad”.

Network World lobbies:

Tech industry groups ask US Senate to ‘swiftly pass’ NSA curbs

Tech industry organizations have written a letter to leaders in the U.S. Senate, to ask them to swiftly pass the USA Freedom Act, legislation that is expected to end the collection of bulk domestic phone data by the National Security Agency.

Disclosures about the U.S. government’s surveillance programs since June 2013 have led to an erosion of public trust in the U.S. government and the U.S. technology sector, anti-software piracy group BSA, Computer and Communications Industry Association, Information Technology Industry Council, Reform Government Surveillance and the Software and Information Industry Association wrote to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and Republican Leader in the Senate Mitch McConnell on Monday.

Reforms contained in the USA Freedom Act “will send a clear signal to the international community and to the American people that government surveillance programs are narrowly tailored, transparent, and subject to oversight,” the industry groups added.

But California’s plutocratic senator suggest a politically convenient delay, via the Guardian:

Feinstein: CIA torture report will be delayed as Democrats decide redactions

  • Though 600-page report was planned for September, top senator says arguments may not finish until after midterms

The public release of a long-awaited US Senate report detailing the CIA’s use of harsh interrogation techniques could be held up for weeks as the Senate Intelligence Committee and Obama administration negotiate what material can be included in the document, the committee’s chairwoman said on Monday.

The committee had hoped to release its 600-page summary of the report on the Central Intelligence Agency’s use of tactics many label as “torture” before Congress left for its August recess, a target that was pushed to September as discussions continued.

On Monday, as Congress returned from its five-week break, Senator Dianne Feinstein said the document would not be released this week, and might not come out before lawmakers leave later this month to campaign for the 4 November congressional elections.

Vice News covers a homicidal excuse:

A Justice Department Memo Provides the CIA’s Legal Justification to Kill a US Citizen

“This white paper sets forth the legal basis upon which the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) could use lethal force in Yemen against a United States citizen who senior officials reasonably determined was a senior leader of al-Qaida or an associated force of al-Qaida.”

So begins a 22-page, heavily redacted, previously top-secret document titled “Legality of a Lethal Operation by the Central Intelligence Agency Against a US Citizen,” which provides the first detailed look at the legal rationale behind lethal operations conducted by the agency. The white paper [pdf below] was turned over to VICE News in response to a long-running Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit against the Justice Department.

It’s one of two white papers the Justice Department prepared in 2011 after lawmakers demanded to know what the administration’s legal rationale was for targeting for death the radical Muslim cleric Anwar al-Awlaki, a US citizen. The first white paper, released last year, addressed why the targeted killing by the US military of an American abroad was lawful. This second white paper addresses why it was lawful for the CIA to do so. Neither white paper identifies Awlaki by name.

The May 25, 2011 document is based on a 41-page Justice Department memo that lays out the government’s legal basis for targeting Awlaki without affording him his right to due process under the US Constitution. For years, the Obama administration was pressured by lawmakers to share the memo, but officials refused — and wouldn’t even confirm that such a memo existed.

From The Intercept, the usual suspects, pocketing loot:

Murky Special Ops Have Become Corporate Bonanza, Says Report

The U.S. government is paying private contractors billions of dollars to support secretive military units with drones, surveillance technology, and “psychological operations,” according to new research.

A detailed report [PDF], published last week by the London-based Remote Control Project, shines a light on the murky activities of the U.S. Special Operations Command by analyzing publicly available procurement contracts dated between 2009 and 2013.

USSOCOM encompasses four commands – from the Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marine Corps – and plays a key role in orchestrating clandestine U.S. military missions overseas.

Researcher Crofton Black, who also works as an investigator for human rights group Reprieve, was able to dig through the troves of data and identify the beneficiaries of almost $13 billion worth of spending by USSOCOM over the five-year period. He found that more than 3,000 companies had provided services that included aiding remotely piloted drone operations in Afghanistan and the Philippines, helping to conduct surveillance of targets, interrogating prisoners, and launching apparent propaganda campaigns.

From the Guardian, don’t hold your breath:

Police using military gear in riots could be forced to repay millions in grants

  • Senators express concern over scenes in Ferguson in review hearing on federal militarisation of local police forces

US police forces that use military equipment earmarked for counter-terrorism to handle public order disturbances instead could be forced to repay millions of dollars in grants, under a review revealed during the first congressional hearings into this summer’s riots in Ferguson, Missouri.

The Department of Justice and the White House were already investigating whether to limit federal programs that have showered local law enforcement agencies with armoured vehicles and military-style equipment in recent years.

But the Department of Homeland Security, one of three US agencies primarily responsible for providing the equipment, said it was now considering whether to demand that its grants be repaid if police are found to have broken a little-known rule prohibiting its use in riot suppression.

More from USA Today:

Senators: ‘Police militarization’ needs more oversight

The federal government is sending more than $1 billion a year to police departments across the country — in the form of equipment and grants — with little assessment of whether that aid is needed and with minimal follow-up on how the weapons or money is used, according to testimony at a Senate committee on Tuesday.

The hearing — co-chaired by Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., to probe “police militarization” in the wake of the police response to protests in Ferguson, Mo. — focused on three federal programs designed to help local police departments respond to drug crime and terrorist attacks. Lawmakers and witnesses suggested those programs have run amok, haphazardly doling out military equipment and federal funds and transforming some local police into paramilitary forces.

Pressed by McCaskill and others on the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, federal officials who oversee the programs testified they had no way to track any “military-grade” equipment supplied by the government or purchased with federal dollars.

Next, from Mother Jones, a story close to Casa esnl:

Video: What We Saw Before Being Kicked Out of the SWAT Convention

This weekend, my colleague Prashanth Kamalakanthan and I attended Urban Shield, a first-responder convention sponsored by more than 100 corporations and the Department of Homeland Security. The five-day confab included a trade show where vendors display everything from armored trucks to sniper rifles to 3-D printable drones. (We documented a few of the more remarkable offerings here.) It also involved the largest SWAT training exercise in the world. Some 35 SWAT teams competed in a 48-hour exercise involving 31 scenarios that included ambushing vehicles, indoor shootouts, maritime interdiction, train assaults, and a mock eviction of a right-wing Sovereign Citizens group. The teams came from cities across the San Francisco Bay Area, Singapore, and South Korea and included a University of California SWAT team, a team of US Marines, and a SWAT team of prison guards.

But on Sunday, at a competition site near the Bay Bridge, our coverage was cut short. A police officer confiscated our press badges, politely explaining that his captain had called and given him the order. The captain, he said, told him we had been filming in an unauthorized location, though he could not tell us where that location was. (We’d been advised earlier that it was okay to film so long as we did not go on the bridge itself.) After several phone calls from both me and my editors, no one could tell us exactly what we had done wrong, but Sergeant J.D. Nelson, the public information officer for the Alameda County Sheriff’s Department (which hosts the Department of Homeland Security-funded event) made it clear that we could not have our passes back.

And the video, also via Mother Jones:

Inside Urban Shield: The World’s Largest SWAT Training Event

Program note:

At Urban Shield, a first-responder convention sponsored by over 100 corporations and the Department of Homeland Security, our coverage was cut short by police.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution covers another misbehavior:

Former Atlanta officer indicted for alleged brutal assault

A Fulton County Grand Jury has indicted a former Atlanta police officer accused of assaulting a suspect, the District Attorney said Wednesday.

Nicholas J. Dimauro, 32, was indicted on two counts of aggravated battery, two counts of violation of oath by a public officer and one count of aggravated assault for the 2010 attack, DA Paul Howard’s office said.

The indictment alleges that in 2010, Robert Wormley was returning to his home at 3 a.m. on Woods Drive when he was approached by Officer Dimaur, Howard said. Dimauro claimed that Wormley was illegally walking on a public street and ran when he tried to question him.

Dimauro apprehended Wormley behind a house on Hood Street, where the officer allegedly hit and kicked a man on the ground, later identified as Wormley, for 15 minutes, according to prosecutors. A resident of the home allegedly witnessed the assault.

After the jump, protesting a Mexican cop’s conviction, a clarion call for reform, a Confederate militia forms, remilitarizing the Axis powers, major league malware, cyberbuffing and cyberamnesia, terrorism allegations in Pakistan, a Chinese admonition, hints of Sino/American thaw?, neo-Nazi woes in Japan and the view from Beijing, a Sino/Indian feeler, verbal sparring over Chinese jets [and problems thereof], and a Sino/Japanese sit-down sought. . . Continue reading

EnviroWatch: Including a tragic Ebola update


Though we broke out Ebola coverage for today’s earlier EbolaWatch, we have one crucial update — a demonstration once again that racism, tinged with eugenics, lies at the heart of today’s Grand Old Party. [And there’s lot of environmental news, including a series of very serious alarms.]

First, via The Hill, the deplorable:

GOP cuts funding request to fight Ebola

House Republicans indicated Tuesday that they will provide less than half of the White House’s funding request to fight Ebola in the next government spending bill.

According to a source familiar with the negotiations, House Appropriations Committee Chairman Hal Rogers (R-Ky.) agreed as of Tuesday morning to spend a total of $40 million to fight the epidemic in the 2015 spending bill.

This would include $25 million for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and $15 million for the Biological Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA) to ramp up production of an experimental anti-Ebola drug, the source said.

The White House had asked for $88 million for Ebola in total, including $58 million for BARDA, which is involved in coordinating experimental treatments during public health emergencies.

On to that other outbreak we’ve been coverage, first with JapanToday:

81 dengue fever cases reported in 15 prefectures

The Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare said Tuesday that the number of reported dengue fever cases stood at 81 in 15 prefectures as of Tuesday morning.

The ministry is working with Tokyo metropolitan government health officials to spray insecticide in three parks in Tokyo, where the disease spread by mosquitoes, is believed to have originated, TV Asahi reported.

Since the weekend, parts of Yoyogi, Shinjuku Gyoen and Meijijingu Gaien parks have been closed to the public, resulting in the cancellation of many events.

Jiji Press notes a spread:

1st Dengue Case outside Tokyo Reported

A man in his 60s is believed to have been infected with dengue fever in Chiba, east of Tokyo, the first infection outside the capital since the first domestic case in nearly 70 years was reported last month, the health ministry said Tuesday.

This is the third infection confirmed outside Tokyo’s Yoyogi Park and surrounding areas, where most of the recent infections originated.

It remains unclear whether the man has come into contact with others infected with the virus. The National Institute of Infectious Diseases is now investigating.

And from the Mainichi, same disease, another continent, another notable development:

Brazil looks to introduce genetically modified mosquitoes to tackle dengue fever

While Japan is experiencing a domestic dengue fever outbreak for the first time in decades, the same virus claimed 603 lives in Brazil last year. The Brazilian government is implementing numerous efforts to prevent the mosquito-borne virus from spreading.

Last year, some 1.4 million people were infected with the dengue virus in Brazil. While the country had tried to eliminate dengue virus-carrying mosquitoes by spraying insecticide and informing residents about the disease, pest control could only be done in limited areas, and the effect was temporary.

Recently, the Brazilian government has focused on eliminating puddles of water where mosquitoes lay their eggs. Local governments have advised residents not to leave water in items such as empty cans, old tires and dishes under plant containers while fining home owners when mosquito larva are found on their premises.

From Environment News Service, another epidemic, one we created ourselves:

Poor European Air Quality Linked to Poor Adult Lung Health

Children who suffer poor lung health from breathing polluted air are not alone – so do adults.

In the first study of its kind, published Saturday, researchers from across Europe evaluated the correlation between air pollution and lung function in European adults and found that the harmful effects of breathing polluted air persist into adulthood.

The researchers used indicators of vehicle traffic in the area and modeled the exposure levels to different pollution measures, including nitrogen oxides (NO2 and NOx) and particulate matter (PM).

Their conclusions may seem obvious, but the study’s authors, Nicole Probst-Hensch and Martin Adam from the Swiss Tropical and Public Health Institute based in Basel, say their findings are “crucial” as they demonstrate that air pollution is having a negative effect, not only on children, as previously demonstrated, but also on adults.

Along the same lines, via the Guardian:

South Africa’s coal-fired power stations carry heavy health costs

In the settlement of Masakhane near the Duvha plant, residents wear masks to avoid breathing in the coal dust

South Africa’s dependence on coal to generate 85% of its electricity is taking a substantial toll on human health, according to environmental groups. A report from Greenpeace (pdf) in February estimates that up to 2,700 premature deaths are caused every year by emissions from the country’s 16 coal-fired power plants.

Greenpeace released the report in the wake of an application by Eskom, South Africa’s public power utility, to postpone compliance with new minimum emissions standards aimed at reducing the damaging health impacts of air pollution.

These new standards are particularly vital for the country’s north-eastern Mpumalanga province where 12 coal-fired power plants are clustered on the western high-altitude side of the Highveld. They pump out sulphur dioxide, nitrogen dioxide and particulate matter (PM) at levels often more than double the maximum recommended by the World Health Organisation (WHO). As a result, levels of air pollution in Mpumalanga’s Highveld are the highest in the country and among the highest in the world, according to news reports.

From BBC News, alarms shriek:

Greenhouse gas levels rising at fastest rate since 1984

A surge in atmospheric CO2 saw levels of greenhouse gases reach record levels in 2013, according to new figures.

Concentrations of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere between 2012 and 2013 grew at their fastest rate since 1984.

The World Meteorological Organisation (WMO) says that it highlights the need for a global climate treaty. But the UK’s energy secretary Ed Davey said that any such agreement might not contain legally binding emissions cuts, as has been previously envisaged.

Reuters covers a consequence:

Climate change increases possibility of megadrought in Southwestern U.S.

  • A new study finds an increased possibility of severe and long-term megadrought affecting Southwestern United States

The Southwestern United States could face a decade long drought according to a new study by Cornell, University of Arizona and U.S. Geological Survey researchers.

According to lead author and Cornell assistant professor of earth and atmospheric sciences Toby Ault, climate change is increasing the possibility of a “megadrought” – a drought that could last over thirty years.

The study is based on historical data of previous droughts and uses current changes in precipitation patterns caused by global warming to evaluate the risks of severe droughts in the near future.

MercoPress covers another:

Antarctica sea levels rising faster because of fresh water from melting glaciers, say researchers

  • Sea levels around Antarctica are rising faster than anywhere else in the southern ocean. The global average rise in ocean heights in the last 19 years has been 6cms, but the rise in seas around Antarctica is 2cms higher.

This seemingly counter-intuitive finding is certainly a consequence of melting ice in the Southern Ocean, but the connection with global warming is, for the moment, tenuous. The agency that is behind the rising sea levels is simply an excess of fresh water from melting glaciers – about 350 billion tons of it.

“Fresh water is less dense than salt water, and so in regions where an excess of fresh water has accumulated we expect a localized rise in sea level,” says Craig Rye, an oceanography researcher at of the University of Southampton in the UK, who, with colleagues, has published the findings in Nature Geoscience.

From New Europe, yet another:

Spain sees increased damage by forest fires in 2014

Forest fires in Spain burned a total of 39,410 hectares of land in the first eight months of 2014, the country’s Ministry of Agriculture, Food and the Environment said Monday.

The amount of damage to the nation’s forests has increased by 15 percent, compared to the 34,268 hectares burned down during the same period in 2013, data showed.

2014 has seen a 40.5 percent rise in the number of fires burning an area of over a hectare. This implies that fires have been able to both become established and to spread faster this year than in 2013.

And yet another, via the Guardian:

North America’s key birds facing extinction, study finds

  • 314 species, including the bald eagle and 10 state birds of US at risk from climate change

Half of North America’s bird species, from common backyard visitors like the Baltimore oriole and the rufous hummingbird to wilderness dwellers like the common loon and bald eagle, are under threat from climate change and many could go extinct, an exhaustive new study has found.

Seven years of research found climate change the biggest threat to North America’s bird species.

Some 314 species face dramatic declines in population, if present trends continue, with warming temperatures pushing the birds out of their traditional ranges. Ten states and Washington DC could lose their state birds.

And from RT, more anthropogenic environmental havoc:

Lake Baikal, world’s deepest body of freshwater, turning into swamp – ecologists

The world’s oldest and deepest body of freshwater, Lake Baikal, is turning into a swamp, Russian ecologists warn. They say that tons of liquid waste from tourist camps and water transport vehicles is being dumped into the UNESCO-protected lake.

One of the natural wonders and the pearl of Russia’s Siberia, Lake Baikal has recently been a source of alarming news, due to an increased number of alien water plants which have formed in the lake waterlogging it, ecologists said at a roundtable discussion recently held in the city of Irkutsk.

A recent scientific expedition discovered that 160 tons of liquid waste are produced every season in Baikal’s Chivyrkui Bay, said the head of Baikal Environmental Wave, one of Russia’s first environmental NGOs, according to SIA media outlet.

From BBC News, another tragedy:

Four Peruvian anti-logging activists murdered

Four Peruvian tribal leaders have been killed on their way to a meeting to discuss ways to stop illegal logging.

The men from the Ashaninka community were attempting to travel to Brazil when they were murdered. Campaigners say the men had received several death threats from illegal loggers, who are suspected of being behind the killings.

Correspondents say indigenous people have felt under increasing threat from deforestation in recent years.

An optimistic note from Business Insider:

The End Of Fracking Is Closer Than You Think

Canadian geologist David Hughes has some sober news for the Kool-Aid-drinking boosters of the United States’ newfound eminence in fossil fuel production: it’s going to go bust sooner rather than later.

Working with the Post Carbon Institute, a sustainability think-tank, Hughes meticulously analyzed industry data from 65,000 US shale oil and natural gas wells that use the much-ballyhooed extraction method of hydraulic fracturing, colloquially known as fracking. The process involves drilling horizontally as well as vertically, and then pumping a toxic cocktail of pressurized water, sand, and chemicals deep underground in order to break apart the rock formations that hold deposits of oil and gas.

Hughes found that the production rates at these wells decline, on average, 85 percent over three years. “Typically, in the first year there may be a 70 percent decline,” Hughes told VICE News. “Second year, maybe 40 percent; third year, 30 percent. So the decline rate is a hyperbolic curve. But nonetheless, by the time you get to three years, you’re talking 80 or 85 percent decline for most of these wells.”

But if you really want some to worry about, consider this from RT America:

Yellowstone supervolcano eruption to be a countrywide disaster

Program notes:

Although the odds are low for a major eruption happening anytime soon, a new study is once again raising fears over the Yellowstone supervolcano. A paper in the “Geochemistry, Geophysics, Geosystems” journal lays out the suffering the US would undergo in a worst-case scenario disaster, predicting most major cities in the US being covered in layers of potentially deadly volcanic ash. RT’s Lindsay France takes a look at the study and breaks down its findings.

And for our final item, today’s lone Fukushimapocalypse Now! event, via the Guardian:

Fukushima fallout continues: now cleanup workers claim unpaid wages

  • Last month Tokyo Electric Power was ordered to pay $500,000 compensation, now workers sue for promised danger money

The legal net has started to tighten around the operator of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, as victims of the accident, and those responsible for clearing it up, take their grievances to the courts.

Last week, Tokyo Electric Power (Tepco) said it would not contend a court ruling ordering it to pay almost $500,000 in compensation to the family of a woman who killed herself two months after being forced to flee her home near the plant.

That claim, which could pave the way for similar suits, has been followed by a unprecedented attempt by four Fukushima Daiichi workers to sue the utility for unpaid wages.

InSecurityWatch: War, cops, drones, zones


We begin today’s tales from the work of the insecure with a not-so-surprising helping hand from the Japan Times:

Israel provides intelligence on Islamic State, Western diplomat reveals

Israel has provided satellite imagery and other intelligence in support of the U.S.-led aerial campaign against Islamic State in Iraq, a Western diplomat said on Monday.

Once “scrubbed” of evidence of its Israeli origin, the information has often been shared by Washington with Arab and Turkish allies, the diplomat said.

Israel’s Defence Ministry neither confirmed nor denied involvement in any international efforts against the militant group.

The London Telegraph has one possible result:

Predator drones being flown over Isil’s Syrian ‘capital’

  • Attempt to target al-Baghdadi, the jihadist group’s leader, comes as Iraq’s MPs back first government, appointments by new prime minister

US drones are being flown over Isil’s Syrian “capital” for the first time as part of a drive by America to target Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the jihadist group’s elusive leader.

Residents of the northern Syrian city of Raqqa have captured photo and video footage of remotely-piloted planes, which Western weapons experts have identified as American Predators, the same drones used in Pakistan and Yemen to attack suspected terrorists.

The US has not publicly stated that it is flying drones over Syria, and the sightings over Raqqa are the first indication that it is doing so.

While Homeland Security News Wire questions another assault:

State Department’s social media campaign against ISIS questioned

The State Department is advancing its anti-terrorism efforts on social media by reaching out to vulnerable English-speakers who could be recruited to join the Islamic State (IS).

The campaign emphasizes IS’s brutality, and, mockingly, advises would-be recruits to learn “useful new skills” such as “blowing up mosques” and “crucifying and executing Muslims.”

Experts say that there is a psychological error in trying to scare people off with threats that something might be exciting and thrilling. “If you challenge a young adult, particularly a male, with the fact that something might be especially difficult or challenging, you’re just exciting them,” says an expert in the psychology of terrorists.

From the Guardian, another sort of insecurity:

Petition calls on Obama to respect rights of journalists to do their job

The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), the New York-based press freedom body, has launched a petition today calling on President Obama’s administration to respect journalists’ right to gather and report news.

The petition, “Right to report in the digital age”, makes three key demands of the US government:

It should prohibit the hacking and surveillance of journalists and media organisations; it must limit prosecutions that ensnare journalists and intimidate whistleblowers; and it must halt the harassment of journalists at the US border.

In its preamble to the petition, the CPJ argues that incidents of surveillance, intimidation and exploitation of the press “have raised unsettling questions about whether the US and other western democracies risk undermining journalists’ ability to report in the digital age.”

And from the New York Times, insecurity that flows from the barrel of a gun:

The Rise of the SWAT Team in American Policing

Posse comitatus is not a phrase that trips lightly off every tongue. It is typically translated from Latin as “force of the county.” Anyone who has ever watched an old Western movie will instantly recognize the first word as referring to men deputized by the sheriff to chase down some varmints who went thataway. (Rappers and their tag-alongs later gave “posse” a different context.) The full phrase is more obscure, but the concept that it embraces is enshrined in American law. The Posse Comitatus Act, passed in 1878 at the end of Reconstruction and amended but slightly over the decades, prohibits the nation’s armed forces from being used as a police force within the United States. Soldiers, the reasoning goes, exist to fight wars. Chasing local wrongdoers is a job for cops.

But many police departments today are so heavily armed with Pentagon-supplied hand-me-downs — tools of war like M-16 rifles, armored trucks, grenade launchers and more — that the principle underlying the Posse Comitatus Act can seem as if it, too, has gone thataway. Questions about whether police forces are overly militarized have been around for years. They are now being asked with new urgency because of the recent turmoil in Ferguson, Mo., where unarmed demonstrators protesting the fatal police shooting of a teenager faced off for a while against mightily armed officers in battle dress and gas masks. What the world saw were lawmen looking more like combat troops in the Mideast than peacekeepers in the Midwest.

And the accompanying online video from the New York Times:

SWAT: Mission Creep | Retro Report | The New York Times

Program note:

SWAT teams were created in the 1960s to combat hostage-takings, sniper shootings, and violent unrest. But today they’re often used in more controversial police work.

From the Guardian, insecurity commodified in Oakland:

Urban Shield: after Ferguson, police and suppliers consider fate of military-grade tactical gear

Giant black armoured vehicles, assault rifles, gas masks and drones: the modern face of policing in America is on display at a four-day police trade show in Oakland, held mere weeks after a fatal police shooting in Ferguson, Missouri

“Warriors”, says the sign emblazoned in huge letters across the top of the Marriott conference center in downtown Oakland. It refers to the Golden State Warriors, the hometown basketball team who have their practice facilities here, but it might equally apply to the unusual gathering inside the hotel.

Sprawled across the ground floor of the Marriott, a trade show was under way that represents the modern face of policing in America. Hundreds of burly men (they are largely men), heads shaved and dressed in battlefield uniforms in black, green or camouflage are milling around in groups of 10 or 20. There to greet them are scores of weapons manufacturers and military-grade technology companies eager to win their business.

On three sides of the hall, giant black tactical armoured vehicles are stationed, wheels chest-height, sides armour-plated to resist an AK-47 round or blast of a roadside bomb, roofs decked out with spotlights, surveillance cameras and swivel turrets able to house machine guns. One of the vehicles, the aptly named Sentinel – 21ft long, 17,500lbs in weight, and costing $250,000 and up – was developed by a Florida-based company called International Armored Group that began supplying the US army in Iraq and Afghanistan. “With all that experience in blast resistance, we decided to branch off into tactical vehicles tailored to police departments at home,” said the company’s Sally Stefova.

The Guardian again, with the same in Spain:

Spain prepares for an autumn of discontent by buying €1bn of riot gear

  • Amid concerns about heavy handed policing, protesters will face a newly equipped force and truck-mounted water cannon

The Spanish government is readying itself for an autumn of discontent, spending nearly €1bn on riot gear for police units as disparate protest groups prepare a string of demonstrations.

Since June, the interior ministry has tendered four contracts to purchase riot equipment ranging from shields to stab vests. The ministry also finalised its purchase of a new truck-mounted water cannon, an anti-riot measure used during Spain’s dictatorship and the transition to democracy but little seen in recent years. Despite attempts by opposition Socialist politician Antonio Trevín to paint the purchase as “a return to times that we would rather forget”, the ministry said in its tender that the water cannon was necessary, “given the current social dynamic”.

The government’s spending spree comes as groups across Spain are predicting a season of protests. “We’re calling it the autumn of confronting power and institutions,” said the activist group Coordinadora 25-S which has its roots in the indignados movement.

From TheLocal.de, overly Aryanized?:

Police ‘must do more’ to reflect diversity

People from immigrant backgrounds are massively under-represented in Germany’s police forces and security agencies, which are not making enough effort to track the problem, a study published on Monday found.

Migration information service Mediendienst Integration asked all 16 state police agencies, the Federal Criminal Police (BKA), the Federal Police and the Office for the Protection of the Constitution about their workers’ origins.

Most states do not collect figures on the backgrounds of their entire police forces, and neither do the federal agencies.

In the states which do record such figures, numbers were low.

Ditto, from EnetEnglish.gr:

Greek island police chief snapped giving Nazi salute

  • In 1999, same officer fired shots at funeral of junta leader Papadopoulos
  • Hydra island police chief is photographed giving a Nazi salute in a transport museum in Germany, where such behaviour is punishable with imprisonment of up to three years or a fine

A photograph has emerged showing the police chief of a Greek island giving a fascist salute in front of a Nazi-era train in a German museum.

In the image, published in Ethnos on Sunday, Lieutenant Yiorgos Kagkalos, chief of police on the island of Hydra, can be seen with an outstretched right arm. Behind him, on a red locomotive, is a large Reichsadler, a stylised eagle combined with the Nazi swastika used as a national emblem in Nazi Germany.

According to Ethos, the photograph was taken on 13 March 2011 when Kagkalos visited the Nuremburg Transport Museum. The train appears to resemble a Elektrolokomotive E 19 12, a model of which is kept at the museum.

And the key part of said image:

BLOG Heiler

From the Guardian, stirring the insecurity pot:

DHS chief: ‘unacceptable security risks’ if Congress withholds border funds

  • Obama administration’s Homeland Security chief renews request for $1.2bn as flow of unaccompanied migrants slows

The Obama administration renewed its plea Monday for Congress to provide additional money to deal with the unaccompanied migrant children at the border. The request seemed likely to fall on deaf ears as neither party showed an appetite to revive the issue.

Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson said in a statement that without the $1.2bn in additional funding for 2015, he will be forced to take money from other accounts, such as $405m moved earlier this summer from the disaster relief fund.

“This reprogramming is not sustainable, and leaves the nation vulnerable to unacceptable homeland security risks,” Johnson said.

From the Los Angeles Times, insecurity in the ranks:

Scathing report on Alaska National Guard forces out commander

The Alaska National Guard’s commander was forced to resign after a six-month federal investigation found that some members of the Guard had been ostracized and abused after reporting sex assaults and that Guard members lacked trust and confidence in their leaders.

Alaska Gov. Sean Parnell asked the National Guard Bureau Office of Complex Investigations to conduct the review. After receiving the report,  he requested  the resignation of Maj. Gen. Thomas H. Katkus, who also served as commissioner of the state Department of Military and Veterans Affairs.

The scathing 229-page report, released late Thursday, found that complaints by some sexual assault victims before 2012 were not properly documented, that the victims were not referred to victim advocates, that their confidentiality was breached and that “in some cases, the victims were ostracized by their leaders, peers and units.”

Reuters covers a body count:

Fueling drug gangs’ impunity, unidentified corpses pile up in Mexico

Authorities’ failure to catch the killers in the vast majority of cases or even identify many of the dead is largely down to poor police work and a haphazard patchwork of forensic services across Mexico.

It also helps fuel impunity and further violence. More than 100,000 people have been killed since former President Felipe Calderon ordered a military offensive against drug gangs in late 2006, a move that led to waves of extreme violence.

Despite repeated requests by Reuters, the attorney general’s office did not say how many victims are yet to be identified.

But partial figures from the National Human Rights Commission offer a glimpse: Between 2006 and 2011, more than half of the 40,000 people reported killed in armed confrontations were never identified.

On to the spooky front, first with the predictable, from National Journal:

NSA Reform Will Likely Have to Wait Until After the Election

Legislation to reform the government’s surveillance programs looks destined for a lame-duck session of Congress—and might not get touched at all until next year.

A bill that would curtail the government’s broad surveillance authority is unlikely to earn a vote in Congress before the November midterms, and it might not even get a vote during the postelection lame-duck session.

The inaction amounts to another stinging setback for reform advocates, who have been agitating for legislation that would rein in the National Security Agency ever since Edward Snowden’s leaks surfaced last summer. It also deflates a sudden surge in pressure on Congress to pass the USA Freedom Act, which scored a stunning endorsement from Director of National Intelligence James Clapper last week.

The hard-fought bill has a wide array of backing from tech companies, privacy and civil-liberties groups, the White House, and even the intelligence community. But multiple sources both on and off Capitol Hill say the measure is not a top legislative priority on a jam-packed Senate calendar filled with other agenda items, including unresolved fights over a continuing resolution and the Import-Export Bank.

RT gets protective:

Switzerland ‘unlikely to extradite Snowden’, if he appears for NSA testimony

Switzerland will most likely guarantee safety to National Security Agency whistleblower Edward Snowden, if he comes to testify against the NSA’s spying activities, Swiss media said.

In the document, titled “What rules are to be followed if Edward Snowden is brought to Switzerland and then the United States makes an extradition request,” Switzerland’s Attorney General stated that Snowden could be guaranteed safety if he arrives in the country to testify, Sonntags Zeitung reported.

In the document, the authority said that Switzerland does not extradite a US citizen, if the individual’s “actions constitute a political offense, or if the request has been politically motivated,” Swiss ATS news agency reported.

A different response in a different country from TheLocal.no:

‘If Snowden wins Nobel Prize, arrest him!’: MP

Should Edward Snowden get a Nobel Peace Award this year, the US dissident faces arrest if he comes to Norway to collect his prize, said Norwegian politician Michael Tetzschner on Monday.

MP Michael Tetzschner of the Conservative Party believes that if the American whistle-blower Edward Snowden receives the Nobel Peace Prize in December this year, then Norwegian police could and should arrest him if he comes to Norway.

Snowden has been nominated for the Peace Prize amid growing support for him to receive the award this year.

A counterprovocation from Canadian Press:

Canadian warship HMCS Toronto buzzed by Russian fighter jets during NATO military exercise in Black Sea

A Canadian frigate taking part in a NATO exercise in the Black Sea was buzzed by Russian military jets off the southern coast of Ukraine on Sunday.

Defence Minister Rob Nicholson calls the incident unnecessarily provocative and says it risks escalating tensions in the region even further at a time when a fragile ceasefire is just taking hold.

The minister says the planes circled HMCS Toronto in a manner that did not pose a threat.

From intelNews, he shoulda been a Bush:

Egypt ex-president charged with spying for Qatar, faces death penalty

Egypt’s ousted president Mohammed Morsi has been officially charged with spying for the government of Qatar, in what Egypt’s state prosecutor calls the biggest espionage case in the country’s history.

In the summer of 2012, Morsi, representing the Muslim Brotherhood, became the first democratically elected national leader in Egyptian history, after winning the presidential election with nearly 52 percent of the vote. But he was ousted in a military coup a year later, following widespread protests against him and the Muslim Brotherhood, and has been held in prison ever since.

Now Egypt’s state prosecutor has charged Morsi and eight others, including two former presidential aides, with spying on behalf of the government of Qatar. Egypt’s government accuses Morsi of selling classified documents “with direct bearing on Egypt’s national security” to the intelligence services of Qatar in exchange for $1 million. The documents allegedly included sensitive information on Egyptian military strategy, as well as tactical “positioning and the nature of its armaments”.

After the jump, the latest the Asia and the Game of Zones, including Chinese military budgets reimagined, Japanese sartorial stupidity in China, a Sino/Formosan realignment sought, another alleged Chinese line-crossing and a Japanese response, Heil fellows well met in Tokyo, and more opposition to a U.S. base in Okinawa. . . Continue reading

InSecurityWatch: War, threats, hacks, hate, zones


First up, this from the McClatchy Washington Bureau:

In face of Russian aggression, Obama tells Baltic states NATO, US have their back

President Barack Obama accused Russia of fomenting violence in Ukraine and told the Baltic states that NATO and the United States military will respond if Russia attacks a member of the alliance.

Speaking in Estonia before traveling to a NATO summit, Obama pledged that the three countries independence “will always be guaranteed by the strongest military alliance the world has ever known.”

He said the former Soviet Republics had successfully embraced democracy, but that Russia’s aggression against Ukraine threatens that progress.

From the McClatchy Washington Bureau, Cold War revitalization:

NATO may create quick-strike force over Ukraine crisis

President Barack Obama and allied leaders will respond to Russian aggression in Ukraine by moving to set up a quick-strike force of several thousand troops at the NATO summit this week in Wales.

NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said Monday the new multinational force would be part of a “Readiness Action Plan (that) responds to Russia’s aggressive behavior,” adding that “it equips the alliance to respond to all security challenges wherever they may arise.”

Rasmussen acknowledged that a NATO conference originally scheduled to focus on Afghanistan will now be dominated by the Ukraine crisis when heads of the 28 member nations gather Thursday and Friday in Newport on Wales’ southern coast off the Bristol Channel.

From the Guardian, vroom-vroom:

Nato summit: US and UK to debate military options for tackling Isis

  • Britain will discuss possibilities with US, including joining in air attacks in Iraq, and chance of rescue attempt for threatened Brit

The United States and Britain will discuss a range of military options for tackling Islamic State (Isis) at the Nato summit, opening in Wales on Thursday, ranging from joining in air attacks in Iraq and possibly Syria, to providing more arms to the Kurds and Iraqi government forces fighting them on the ground.

The British military will also discuss internally and with its US counterparts, following their own failed attempt last month, the realistic chances of special forces mounting a rescue operation to save the Briton threatened by Isis with beheading.

On Wednesday, after a meeting of the government emergency group Cobra, the British foreign secretary Philip Hammond said the UK government had to discuss the wider threat posed to the British public as well as the individual British citizen under threat.

From Sky News, a declaration:

US Vows To ‘Degrade And Destroy’ Islamic State

  • A video is released showing an IS militant killing a US reporter – and warning that a kneeling British hostage will be next.

Barack Obama has vowed that justice will be done against the Islamic State after it beheaded a second American journalist.

The US President said America would “not be intimidated” by IS violence and promised to “degrade and destroy” its forces.

He spoke after a video was released apparently showing a masked IS militant killing US reporter Steven Sotloff – and warning that a British hostage will be next.

The Independent covers a stumbling block:

Tory anti-terror laws in trouble after Lib Dems raise serious legal concerns

David Cameron’s plans to tighten the anti-terror laws are in trouble amid a deepening split inside the Coalition.

The Liberal Democrats have warned they will not be bounced into backing new legislation, and would not allow the Conservatives to blame them for blocking a crackdown.

Lib Dem sources claim Mr Cameron overreached himself when he floated new laws last Friday without considering whether they were workable, saying that the problem was not Lib Dem opposition, but doubts among Government legal advisers.

In the Commons, the Prime Minister vowed that plans to toughen the laws so that terror suspects could be forced to relocate to another area “will go ahead.”

From intelNews, spooky blowback continues:

Turkey summons US chargé d’affaires to protest spying claims

The government of Turkey has summoned the interim head of the United States diplomatic mission in the country to lodge an official protest over reports that Washington has been spying on Turkish leaders for nearly 10 years.

German publication Der Spiegel said on Sunday that American intelligence agencies, with the help of British operatives, have engaged in “intensive spying” of Turkish government officials since at least 2006. The German newsmagazine said the information was based on internal documents released by American defector Edward Snowden, a former employee of the US National Security Agency who is currently living in Russia.

The documents show that the NSA, which conducts worldwide communications interception on behalf of the US government, places Turkey “ahead of Cuba” when it comes to intelligence collection in the service of American national security.

From the Guardian, takin’ it to the judge:

NSA bulk collection of phone data under scrutiny as federal case opens

Justice Department officials face pointed questions on opening day of case that could push NSA privacy to supreme court

Federal judges pointedly questioned a Justice Department lawyer on Tuesday about the National Security Agency’s bulk collection of US phone data, in the opening day of case that represents a major step toward a supreme court ruling on the constitutionality of the program.

A three-judge panel from the second circuit court of appeals aimed skeptical questions at assistant attorney general Stuart Delery about the scope and breadth of the call-records dragnet, reported last year by the Guardian thanks to leaks from Edward Snowden.

Judge Gerard Lynch, a Barack Obama appointee, asked what was “so uniquely valuable about phone records” that compelled the NSA to collect all domestic phone records, in bulk, without individual suspicion of terrorism, espionage or any other wrongdoing.

From The Hill, if they support it, can it really be reform?:

Holder, spy chief support Senate NSA reform bill

Attorney General Eric Holder and Director of National Intelligence James Clapper are lending their support to the Senate’s effort to rein in the National Security Agency, a boost for advocates of reform.

The two sent a letter this week to Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) in support of his bill to end the NSA’s bulk collection of Americans’ phone records.

“Overall, the bill’s significant reforms should provide the public greater confidence in our programs and the checks and balances in the system,” Holder and Clapper wrote in the joint letter, which Leahy released on Wednesday.

On to hackery, first with Businessweek:

Does Apple’s HealthKit App Have a Nude Celebrity Photo Problem?

The nude photos stolen from Jennifer Lawrence, Kate Upton, and other female celebrities could spell trouble for Apple’s forthcoming health-care app. It wouldn’t be a stretch for those following news of the leaked photos to worry about trusting their iPhones with intimate health data.

Apple (AAPL) has already acknowledged that “certain celebrity accounts were compromised by a very targeted attack on user names, passwords and security questions” while denying “any breach in any of Apple’s systems.” But that carefully worded defense may not reassure those nervous users busy taking their own private pictures off iCloud, Apple’s online storage program.

Apple’s new app, HealthKit, is expected to combine data from activity trackers and medical records in one place. The company is expected to discuss the program and associated tools with developers at a high-profile event on Sept. 9. The idea is to let other app developers tap into health data, with permission from the iPhone user. “You can allow the data from your blood pressure app to be automatically shared with your doctor. Or allow your nutrition app to tell your fitness apps how many calories you consume each day,” promises a preview of HealthKit on Apple’s website.

From Business Insider, another kind of blowback:

Apple Shares Tank After The Celeb Nude Scandal, And Pacific Crest Tells Everyone To Sell

Last week, the company was flying high as anticipation built for the iPhone 6, and the iWatch, which are expected to be announced next week. The stock was hitting new all-time highs, trading up to $103.20, but today it’s back under $100.

It all came to a screeching halt over the weekend for Apple, when nude photos of celebrities hit the web. Apple’s weak security on iCloud, where the photos were backed up, was blamed for the photos hitting the web.

The timing couldn’t be worse. Apple is about to roll out a new mobile payments feature, as well as health tracking data tied to your iPhone. Most of that data is likely to be stored right on the phone, and therefore more secure. However, most people won’t understand that delineation. Most people will think, “If Apple can’t be trusted with photos, can it be trusted with banking data and health data? “

Summing up with Jimmy Kimmel Live [and catch that “commercial” at the end:

Jimmy Kimmel’s Leaked iCloud Photo

Program notes:

Nude and intimate photos of Jennifer Lawrence, Kate Upton and many other stars were posted online over Labor Day weekend, believed to have been hacked from their Apple iCloud accounts. It’s embarrassing, especially for Jimmy since he happens to be one of the people who got caught up in this.

Nextgov covers other implications:

What Does Alleged iCloud Hack Mean For Federal Agencies?

Most federal agency employees with iPhones probably don’t have to worry about hackers ogling naked photos of them saved in Apple’s iCloud backup system.

But they might have cause for concern about attackers targeting the cloud service to peer at sensitive government information, cybersecurity experts warn.

The problem, experts say, is a lack of awareness. iCloud, by default, automatically backs up a user’s device over Wi-Fi every day, according to Apple’s website.

Federal employees could be uploading sensitive information when they work on their personally owned iPhones — unless agencies take action. And it is not clear that they are.

The Los Angeles Times covers another hackery consequence:

Hacker may have sent bomb threat at O.C. schools; no explosives found

Police in Fountain Valley now say they believe a 17-year-old student’s email account was hacked and that there’s no evidence he sent a threatening message that forced the closure of Fountain Valley High School and an adjoining continuation school as police searched for weapons and explosives.

Teachers and administrators have been allowed back on the campuses but are being escorted by police officers, part of a final precautionary step before the schools are reopened, police said.

All classes, though, have been canceled for the day.

From MIT Technology Review, oh joy:

Networked Home Gadgets Offer Hackers New Opportunities

  • Connected appliances such as TVs can provide hackers a way into your house.

Connecting a new appliance to your home’s Wi-Fi network or broadband modem could increase the risk that data such as passwords will be taken from computers in your house. Such is the warning from antivirus company Kaspersky Lab in a forthcoming report on the side effects of more and more home devices being connected to the Internet.

By now most consumers are aware that security is a major problem for their laptops and PCs, says David Jacoby, a security researcher at Kaspersky Lab. But they don’t realize that appliances like TVs, DVD players, and printers that connect to a home network are vulnerable to similar threats. What’s more, most such devices have no security protections built in whatsoever, he says (see “Securing the Smart Home, from Toasters to Toilets”). “Consumers need to understand that the devices that they buy might be vulnerable,” says Jacoby.

Jacoby recently hacked several Internet-enabled devices connected to his own home network, including his TV, printer, router, and remote storage devices. He came up with a laundry list of flaws in several everyday products, and is working with manufacturers to fix them before making a report public to highlight the severity of the problem.

Network World covers hackery in Latin America:

Attack hijacks DNS settings on home routers in Brazil

An ongoing attack in Brazil tricks users into visiting malicious websites that attempt to silently change the Domain Name System settings of their home routers.

If the attack is successful, the routers are reconfigured to use rogue DNS servers that redirect victims to phishing pages when they open banking sites, said Fabio Assolini, a security researcher at Kaspersky Lab, in a blog post Tuesday.

The attack starts with spam emails that tell recipients they’re being cheated and asks them to click on a link. The link leads to an adult content website that in the background forces browsers to load specifically crafted URLs.

SecurityWeek covers another vulnerability:

Enterprises Warned of DDoS Attacks Leveraging Linux Malware

Akamai Technologies has published a threat advisory to warn organizations of attacks where cybercriminals are infecting Linux servers with malware capable of launching powerful distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks.

According to the alert released Wednesday, attacks leveraging Linux malware dubbed IptabLes and IptabLex have been launched against the entertainment industry and other verticals. The threats are designed to target Linux distributions such as Debian, CentOS, Ubuntu and Red Hat, and have been placed on servers by exploiting vulnerabilities in Apache Struts, Apache Tomcat, the open source search and analytics engine Elasticsearch, and other software components.

According to the alert, attackers are leveraging flaws in these programs to breach servers and escalate their privileges, which enables them to drop and execute the malicious binary. Administrators can detect infections by looking for files named “.IptabLes” or “.IptabLex” in the “/boot” directory. However, Akamai points out that these are post-infection indicators since these are not the names of the malicious files at the moment when they’re dropped.

And from Nextgov, downgrading a threat:

Instagram Identity Theft: New Spam Bots are Copying Real Accounts, Pic-for-Pic and Word-for-Word

On Instagram, if it looks like you, and talks like you, and posts like you, it may not actually be you. A new wave of spam bots are apparently avoiding detection by Instagram’s filters by copying real people… picture for picture, word for word.

The harmless-but-creepy occurrence was revealed in an article on The Verge, whose own video director Christian Mazza recently had his account hijacked… and he’s not the only one.

Others are reporting the same thing, and though it’s not causing any issues — the bots are literally just copying your profile photo, setting up under a new username and then reposting some of your images, caption and all — it’s oddly unsettling to know that someone out there might be pretending to be you.

We said downgrading, because they miss one key implication: By stealing the work of others and reposting it as their own, they could sell the photos for commercial use and collect money right due to the actual photographer. Odd that Nextgov would miss the implication.

Popular Science covers a mystery:

Mysterious Phony Cell Towers Could Be Intercepting Your Calls

  • Every smart phone has a secondary OS, which can be hijacked by high-tech hackers

Like many of the ultra-secure phones that have come to market in the wake of Edward Snowden’s leaks, the CryptoPhone 500, which is marketed in the U.S. by ESD America and built on top of an unassuming Samsung Galaxy SIII body, features high-powered encryption. Les Goldsmith, the CEO of ESD America, says the phone also runs a customized or “hardened” version of Android that removes 468 vulnerabilities that his engineering team team found in the stock installation of the OS.

His mobile security team also found that the version of the Android OS that comes standard on the Samsung Galaxy SIII leaks data to parts unknown 80-90 times every hour.  That doesn’t necessarily mean that the phone has been hacked, Goldmsith says, but the user can’t know whether the data is beaming out from a particular app, the OS, or an illicit piece of spyware.  His clients want real security and control over their device, and have the money to pay for it.

To show what the CryptoPhone can do that less expensive competitors cannot, he points me to a map that he and his customers have created, indicating 17 different phony cell towers known as “interceptors,” detected by the CryptoPhone 500 around the United States during the month of July alone. Interceptors look to a typical phone like an ordinary tower.  Once the phone connects with the interceptor, a variety of “over-the-air” attacks become possible, from eavesdropping on calls and texts to pushing spyware to the device.

From the Guardian, more corrupt cop capering:

Plebgate: Met obtained phone records of Sun political editor without consent

  • Tom Newton Dunn said to be unaware of intervention which led to arrest of officer on suspicion of leaking information to paper

Police investigating the Plebgate saga obtained the telephone records of the political editor of the Sun without his consent, despite laws which entitle journalists to keep their sources confidential.

The Metropolitan police report into the scandal reveals that the force arrested an officer on suspicion of leaking information to the Sun after an analysis of Tom Newton Dunn’s phone records.

The Met also obtained call records to the Sun newsdesk to try to identify a second potential source to the Plebgate scandal.

France 24 drones on:

US extends Niger drone capabilities in cooperation with France

The United States is preparing to redeploy drones already in Niger to set up a forward base in the Sahara closer to Islamist militants blamed for attacks across the region, according to US military and Defence Department officials.

In a move that illustrates growing cooperation between France and the US to combat militant Islamism in Saharan Africa, Washington deployed unarmed surveillance drones to Niger in 2013.

The move followed a French-led military operation that destroyed an al Qaeda enclave in neighbouring northern Mali.

And the U.S. Naval Institute News covers another step toward Skynet:

Navy’s Next Fighter Likely to Feature Artificial Intelligence

Artificial intelligence will likely feature prominently onboard the Pentagon’s next-generation successors to the Boeing F/A-18E/F Super Hornet and the Lockheed Martin F-22 Raptor.

“AI is going to be huge,” said one U.S. Navy official familiar with the service’s F/A-XX effort to replace the Super Hornet starting around 2030.

Further, while there are significant differences between the U.S. Air Force’s vision for its F-X air superiority fighter and the Navy’s F/A-XX, the two services agree on some fundamental aspects about what characteristics the jet will need to share.

From Shanghai Daily, a hazard of online shopping:

Online customer gets body bag for posting poor rating

A LOCAL customer was sent a dead body bag in an act of revenge for posting low ratings on an online shop based in Fujian Province.

The customer, surnamed Xue, had ordered a pair of shoes from the online shop on taobao.com, China’s largest online shopping platform. He received the shoes three days later but gave a poor rating to the shop because of the poor quality of the shoes and its slow delivery.

In return, he was bombarded with over 80 phone calls before being sent the body bag.

And the New York Times debunks a myth:

Deportations Don’t Lower Crime Rates, Study Says

Six years after the federal government opened an immigration enforcement program intended to improve public safety, deporting hundreds of thousands of people, many of them convicted criminals, a new study has concluded that the program has had “no observable effect on the overall crime rate.”

The finding “calls into question the longstanding assumption that deporting noncitizens who commit crimes is an effective crime-control strategy,” said the study, conducted by two law professors at the University of Chicago and New York University.

The analysis, scheduled for publication in the November issue of The Journal of Law and Economics, a journal for peer-review research, coincides with the Obama administration’s internal review of the program, known as Secure Communities. Jeh Johnson, the homeland security secretary, has suggested that he might overhaul the program, saying it needs “a fresh start.”

From the London Telegraph, inviting more terrorism?:

IRA suspects protected by human rights as ‘comfort letters’ are annulled

  • Theresa Villiers, Northern Ireland Secretary, warns recipients of comfort letters that they can no longer rely on them to avoid prosecution

Theresa Villiers has refused to name the IRA suspects sent “comfort letters” because it would breach their human rights, despite admitting more could have been sent in error.

The Northern Ireland Secretary confirmed the Government was effectively annulling the assurances given to the so-called IRA “on-the-runs” that they no longer faced prosecution.

The Daily Telegraph disclosed on Wednesday that recipients of the letters, sent out in the years after the 1998 Good Friday Agreement, are to be told they are not worth the paper they are written on and they will still be pursued by police.

While BBC News warns of woes for those already behind bars:

Ministry of Justice fined over prison data loss

The Ministry of Justice has been fined £180,000 for “serious failings” in the handling of confidential data.

The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) said the penalty was related to the loss of a hard drive containing the details of almost 3,000 prisoners at Erlestoke prison in Wiltshire.

The disk was not encrypted.

The records, lost in 2013, included material on organised crime, prisoners’ health and drug misuse, and information about inmates’ victims and visitors.

And from TheLocal.de, a point we’ve been regularly making:

Sinti, Roma are most discriminated against

A new study has found that the Sinti and Roma people encounter more discrimination than any other group in Germany, with more than a fifth of Germans supporting their deportation.

The study found that 22 percent of respondents were for their deportation.

The head of the Federal Anti-discrimination Agency, which conducted the survey, is calling for politicians to act against discrimination of the Roma and Sinti populations in Germany.

“People don’t know anything about the Sinti and Roma. Their image is dominated by what people see on the streets,” Christine Lüders said on Wednesday on her appearance on ZDF’s morning news show, Morgenmagazin.

After the jump, the latest from Asia including a fascist visit and legal reforms Down Under, Al Qaeda expands to the subcontinent, a body count in Pakistan and protest suspicions, anger at a draconian sedition law in Malaysia, Chinese drone boasting, Sino/Canadian peace feelers, a political realignment in Japan, tightening those Indo/Japanese ties, and why LA’s 911 operators hate Facebook. . .
Continue reading

InSecurityWatch: Terror, hacks, cartels, drones


Straight to it, starting with a headline from CBC News:

Steven Sotloff beheading shown in video, ISIS claims

  • U.S. journalist was captured in Syria in August 2013

The militant Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) has released a video it says shows the beheading of U.S. journalist Steven Sotloff, according to the website Siteintelgroup.com.

The video of reporter James Foley’s beheading released in August also showed Sotloff, warning he would be killed next if U.S. airstrikes continued.

The reports cannot yet be confirmed, Pentagon press secretary Rear Admiral John Kirby told reporters Tuesday afternoon.

From the Los Angeles Times, the tragedy that is blowback:

Amnesty International: Islamic State carrying out ethnic cleansing

The militant group Islamic State, which has seized large areas of northern Iraq in recent months, has “carried out ethnic cleansing on a historic scale,” according to a report released on Tuesday by the monitoring group Amnesty International.

The 26-page report, based on field investigations and hundreds of interviews with witnesses and victims of the Al Qaeda offshoot, is a litany of massacres and abductions.

The militant group Islamic State, which has seized large areas of northern Iraq in recent months, has “carried out ethnic cleansing on a historic scale,” according to a report released on Tuesday by the monitoring group Amnesty International.

The 26-page report, based on field investigations and hundreds of interviews with witnesses and victims of the Al Qaeda offshoot, is a litany of massacres and abductions.

Much of the northern Iraqi province of Nineva, with a multiethnic population of 3.2 million that includes Christians, Yazidis, Turkmen and Kurds, is now under the control of Islamic State. The militants espouse a particularly harsh interpretation of Islamic sharia law that views non-Muslims and Shiite Muslims as infidels.

The Express Tribune covers blowback metastasis:

Spillover effect: ISIS making inroads into Pakistan, Afghanistan

In a bid to extend its influence in the South Asian region, the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, (ISIS), commonly known as Daish, distributed pamphlets in Peshawar and border provinces of Afghanistan as well.

The booklet titled Fatah (victory) is published in Pashto and Dari languages and was distributed in Peshawar as well as in Afghan refugee camps on the outskirts of the city. The logo of the pamphlet has the Kalma, the historical stamp of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) and a Kalashnikov assault rifle. Some copies were also mysteriously sent to Afghan journalists working in Peshawar.

On the last page of the pamphlet, the editor’s name appears to be fake and where the document has been published cannot be ascertained. Since long, Afghan resistance groups, including Haqqani Network, Hizb-e-Islami Afghanistan and Tora Bora group have been publishing similar pamphlets, magazines and propaganda literature in Peshawar black markets.

The Diplomat questions:

ISIL’s Rise Highlights Afghan War’s Shaky Premise

  • The U.S. ought to reassess what it is building in Afghanistan.

As the Pentagon explores all options short of “boots on the ground” for Iraq, little attention is being paid to the boots still on the ground in Afghanistan, even as weekly losses continue – including the recent loss of Major General Harold Greene, the highest ranking U.S. officer killed in combat since Vietnam. Hagel vowed in his press conference to “take a cold, steely, hard look” at the ISIL threat, but the strategic assessment for Afghanistan, where the Taliban kills aid workers and journalists on a monthly basis, seems to have concluded last May with a Rose Garden statement by President Barack Obama. “[T]his is how wars end in the 21st century,” he noted, as he stressed a “narrow mission” focused on “the remnants of al Qaeda.”

What remains unfinished, however, is an explanation of not only of why these phantom remnants pose a greater threat to Americans than ISIL does, but of how a U.S. troop presence in Afghanistan will help defeat them. Indeed, in the minds of most Taliban-sympathizing Afghans, al Qaeda – which has not claimed responsibility for any attack in Afghanistan since 2009 – is less a varsity jihad team than a CIA concoction for justifying a continued U.S. presence in Afghanistan. Conversely, the ISIL “junior varsity team” has rapidly secured in Mosul a writ more destructive and globally minded than that which existed in Kabul during even the most powerful days of the Taliban regime. Indeed, Iraq is quickly becoming more “Afghan” than Afghanistan itself: one Iraqi journalist recently described how new tastes for an “Afghani look” have Mosul men donning the shalwar kameez of Afghan Taliban fighters, leaving locals to ask themselves if their city has become another Kandahar.

Homeland Security News Wire ups the ante:

Captured documents reveal IS’s interest in acquiring bioterror weapons

Terrorist organizations for a while now have been trying to acquire or build biological weapons of mass destruction. After the U.S.-led invasion of Afghanistan, soldiers found at least one chemical weapons laboratory used by al-Qaeda. Now, with the growing threat of the Islamic State (IS), analysts are concerned that the Islamist group may gain access to bio-labs in Syria or Iraq.

Foreign Policy reports that Abu Ali, a leader of a moderate Syrian rebel group in northern Syria, recently found a laptop containing instructions for building bio-terror weapons. The laptop, found after the rebel group raided an IS building, belonged to Muhammed S., a Tunisian national who joined IS. Hidden in several folders on the laptop were 35,347 files containing documents and speeches of leading jihadi clerics, videos of Osama bin Laden, and practical training on how to carry out deadly campaigns. The laptop also contains documents about how to build and use biological weapons.

The Los Angeles Times covers litigation:

Missouri residents sue police over use of force in Ferguson protests

Six Missouri residents filed a federal lawsuit Thursday alleging excessive force and false arrests by the Ferguson and St. Louis County police departments during the street protests that followed the shooting death of Michael Brown.

Among the allegations:

–Dewayne Matthews Jr. says he had his hands up when police officers in riot gear pelted him with rubber bullets, slammed his face into the concrete and doused him with a chemical spray.

–Tracey White and her 13-year-old son were waiting to leave a McDonald’s, she says, when police stormed the restaurant and arrested them without cause.

–Damon Coleman and Theophilus Green say they were part of a peaceful protest in Ferguson on Aug. 11. Confronted by officers clad in riot gear, the two men shouted “hands up, don’t shoot,” the refrain that became a battle cry for demonstrators. Police responded with rubber bullets, tear gas, stun grenades, racial slurs and a beatdown.

From the Oakland Tribune, beat the press:

Bay Area TV reporters targeted in two separate incidents

Police in Oakland and San Francisco are investigating after television news reporters were targeted in unrelated crimes — one beaten, one robbed — in the last several days.

Oakland police are seeking a woman who assaulted a KTVU Channel 2 news reporter Sunday as the reporter covered a fatal shooting at the Coliseum Swap Meet in East Oakland.

At roughly 5 a.m. Tuesday, San Francisco police responded to a robbery on 18th Street and Pennsylvania Avenue. Two armed men robbed a KRON-TV news reporter while the reporter was sitting in his van, a station official confirmed. The men opened the van’s doors, told the victim to get in the rear of the van and stole his laptop, wallet and tripod, police said. Both suspects covered their faces with bandannas and they remain at large, police said. The reporter was not injured.

Calling out the feds, via BBC News:

FBI investigates ‘Cloud’ celebrity picture leaks

The FBI is looking into allegations that intimate pictures of celebrities have been stolen and posted online.

About 20 personalities, including the US actress Jennifer Lawrence, have had images of themselves leaked over the Internet.

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

Apple says it is investigating whether iCloud accounts have been hacked.

BuzzFeed hushes:

Apple Silent As Blame For Nude Celebrity Leaks Remains Unclear

Security researchers say Apple may not be directly at fault in what some have called an “iCloud leak.” Key new features depend on a safe and secure cloud.

As the dust begins to settle on the initial image dump of nude celebrity pictures that began circulating Sunday afternoon, security researchers, law enforcement, and regular cloud-fearing phone users are looking for answers. And Apple, largely thought to be the weak security link, is silent.

Across the internet, the image leaks are being regularly referenced as an “iCloud hack,” thanks to the original 4chan leaked photo posts, which alleged the photos were retrieved via Apple’s cloud storage. And multiple sites have identified both notable vulnerabilities in iCloud (via Find My Phone) as well as well-documented communities of iCloud hackers, who can crack passwords with “brute force” programs (which allow for unlimited password guessing attempts) and download photos stashes in bulk.

However, three security researchers told BuzzFeed that it’s too early to pin this security security breach on the Apple cloud service, suggesting instead that the photos were obtained through multiple, individual hacks over a long period of time and then assembled into a larger collection through trading on obscure online forums.

From the Guardian, not rotten to the core?:

Apple blames ‘very targeted attack’ for hack of nude celebrity photos

  • Denying fault over hacked naked photos of celebrities, Apple fights off criticism of iCloud and Find My iPhone app

In a statement the company said it was “outraged” by the news and “immediately mobilized Apple’s engineers to discover the source”.

“After more than 40 hours of investigation, we have discovered that certain celebrity accounts were compromised by a very targeted attack on user names, passwords and security questions, a practice that has become all too common on the internet. None of the cases we have investigated has resulted from any breach in any of Apple’s systems including iCloud or Find my iPhone. We are continuing to work with law enforcement to help identify the criminals involved,” said Apple.

The breach has become a PR nightmare for Apple. Shortly after the hack was made public actress Kirsten Dunst Tweeted: “Thank you iCloud” followed by the emoji for pizza and a pile of shit.

And here’s the Tweet:

BLOG Dunst
Valleywag scoffs:

iCloud Isn’t Safe, Because Everyone’s a Target and Apple Doesn’t Care

So, in the meantime, want to know how to get into someone’s iCloud? It’s this easy. Tell Apple you forgot that person’s password, and then guess their security questions with readily available biographical information other Silicon Valley corporations have goaded us all into sharing.

But even as it acknowledges that its systems are easy prey for basic social engineering—a handful of Google or Facebook searches and a winning manner on the phone—Apple would like you to believe that you’re not at risk. The celebrities whose private photos are now all over the internet, it declares, were victims of a “very targeted attack”—exposed only because they’re public figures.

It’s true that Kate Upton and Jennifer Lawrence were victims of a “very targeted attack.” But the idea that only celebrities are being targeted is horseshit. There are people out there ripping the iCloud accounts of ordinary people, right now. iCloud will betray you whether you’re McKayla Maroney or a kindergarten teacher.

The Independent organizes:

Naked celebrity photo hacks the work of ‘an underground nude trading ring’, reports claim

Posters on anonymous image-sharing boards 4chan and AnonIB claim that the cache of stolen images was assembled by a group of hackers and took “several months of long and hard work by all involved”.

Another poster on 4chan has claimed that an “underground celeb n00d-trading ring” that finds these images has “existed for years,” with individuals conducting trades with another to “expand [their] collections”.

“These guys conduct individual attacks on celebs through (I presume) a mix of social engineering and (esp for more high-profile targets) straight-up hacking,” wrote the anonymous tipster. “The only way to join the ring is by ‘buying in’ with original pics (“wins”, as they call them) you’ve acquired by yourself.

“[The] circle hardly ever widens to include more people – very few people even find out about this ring, and fewer still have n00ds to buy in with.”

From Wired threat level, copping selfies:

The Police Tool That Pervs Use to Steal Nude Pics From Apple’s iCloud

As nude celebrity photos spilled onto the web over the weekend, blame for the scandal has rotated from the scumbag hackers who stole the images to a researcher who released a tool used to crack victims’ iCloud passwords to Apple, whose security flaws may have made that cracking exploit possible in the first place. But one step in the hackers’ sext-stealing playbook has been ignored—a piece of software designed to let cops and spies siphon data from iPhones, but is instead being used by pervy criminals themselves.

On the web forum Anon-IB, one of the most popular anonymous image boards for posting stolen nude selfies, hackers openly discuss using a piece of software called EPPB or Elcomsoft Phone Password Breaker to download their victims’ data from iCloud backups. That software is sold by Moscow-based forensics firm Elcomsoft and intended for government agency customers. In combination with iCloud credentials obtained with iBrute, the password-cracking software for iCloud released on Github over the weekend, EPPB lets anyone impersonate a victim’s iPhone and download its full backup rather than the more limited data accessible on iCloud.com. And as of Tuesday, it was still being used to steal revealing photos and post them on Anon-IB’s forum.

“Use the script to hack her passwd…use eppb to download the backup,” wrote one anonymous user on Anon-IB explaining the process to a less-experienced hacker. “Post your wins here ;-)”

Hacking the hardware, via the Guardian:

Home Depot investigating possible breach by hackers hunting credit cards

  • Report from Krebs on Security suggests ‘unusual activity’ and raises fears that eastern European hacker group is responsible

Home Depot said Tuesday that it is investigating “unusual activity” after a security expert reported the home improvement giant may have become the latest victim of credit card hackers.

The company was responding to a report from Krebs on Security, the security blog that broke the news of Target’s massive credit card hack. Brian Krebs, the site’s founder, said “multiple banks” were reporting that Home Depot may be the source of a “massive new batch of stolen credit and debit cards that went on sale this morning in the cybercrime underground”.

In a statement Home Depot said it was working with investigators assess the situation. “Protecting our customers’ information is something we take extremely seriously, and we are aggressively gathering facts at this point while working to protect customers.”

And from MIT Technology Review, the truly despicable:

Hackers Are Homing in on Hospitals

  • Computer criminals are increasingly capturing valuable information stored on hospital computer networks.

The shift from paper medical records to digital ones brings new security risks.

Cybercriminals are increasingly targeting the computer networks of hospitals—one recently announced theft involved data from 4.5 million people who had received treatment from Community Health Systems (CHS), a company that runs more than 200 hospitals. Malware attacks are on the rise in many industries, but researchers from the security firm Websense say the rate at which attacks on hospitals has grown during the past year is unparalleled.

Data security is often lax within health-care facilities, and hackers are targeting systems that store troves of valuable personal information held in electronic medical records, according to the Websense researchers, who say they’ve observed a 600 percent increase in attacks on hospitals over the past 10 months.

Carl Leonard, senior manager of security research for Websense, says the so-called Heartbleed vulnerability was used in some of the hospital attacks. The bug, whose existence was first revealed to the public in April (two years after it first appeared), is a flaw in a widely used encryption software called OpenSSL. Criminals can exploit the flaw and trick vulnerable computers into revealing information stored in their memory. The Web security firm TrustedSec, citing sources close to the investigation, reports that the hackers who targeted CHS gained access to the network via the Heartbleed vulnerability.

From BBC News, Mexican domestic insecurity:

Mexico mayors to be charged over alleged cartel links

Two serving and one former mayor in the western Mexican state of Michoacan are being held over allegations they have links to a notorious drugs cartel.

A federal judge has ordered they be charged with organised crime.

The move follows the publication on social media of videos showing them apparently meeting the leader of the Knights Templar cartel.

The Knights Templar control much of the methamphetamine and marijuana trade in western Mexico.

After the jump, the latest from the Game of Zones, including the latest from Pakistan, Hong Kong censorship, a rebuke for Old Blighty, China plants the flag on more islands, a celebration of Victory Day in the Anti-Japanese War, anti-China terror thwarted, and a military hardware tit for a stealthy tat. . . Continue reading

The American Frankenstein faces its monster


For years the American government’s black ops boys and girls stirred up religious fundamentalists to rise up against strong central governments, invoking populist justifications.

Needless to say, students of history will recognize parallels with other extremists bent on purification through extermination of “impure” or parasitic elements.

And now the blowback, plus a lot more dark arts games are unfolding, with the ironic twists becoming ever more blatant.

First, this from intelNews:

US sharing intelligence with Syrian government, say sources

The United States is secretly sharing intelligence about the Islamic State with the government of Syria, according to sources.

On Monday, American officials told the Associated Press that US President Barack Obama had authorized reconnaissance flights over Syrian airspace with the aim of gathering intelligence on the Islamic State —known previously as the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham, or ISIS.

Pentagon officials said the reconnaissance flights are intended to collect “additional intelligence” on the Islamic State’s troop movements in Syria. Their ultimate goal is reportedly to assist the president and his advisors as they contemplate whether the US should launch airstrikes against Islamic State targets on Syrian soil.

From The Intercept, the latest from Glenn Greenwald:

The Fun of Empire: Fighting on All Sides of a War in Syria

It was not even a year ago when we were bombarded with messaging that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad is a Supreme Evil and Grave Threat, and that military action against his regime was both a moral and strategic imperative. The standard cast of “liberal interventionists” –  Tony Blair, Anne-Marie Slaughter, Nicholas Kristof and Samantha Power – issued stirring sermons on the duties of war against Assad. Secretary of State John Kerry actually compared Assad to (guess who?) Hitler, instructing the nation that “this is our Munich moment.” Striking Assad, he argued, “is a matter of national security. It’s a matter of the credibility of the United States of America. It’s a matter of upholding the interests of our allies and friends in the region.”

U.S. military action against the Assad regime was thwarted only by overwhelming American public opinion which opposed it and by a resounding rejection by the UK Parliament of Prime Minister David Cameron’s desire to assume the usual subservient British role in support of American wars.

Now the Obama administration and American political class is celebrating the one-year anniversary of the failed “Bomb Assad!” campaign by starting a new campaign to bomb those fighting against Assad – the very same side the U.S. has been arming over the last two years.

The Progressive notes another irony:

ISIS’s Brand of Islam Similar to U.S. Ally’s

While the Obama Administration is figuring out the best way to combat the extremism of groups like ISIS, it continues to maintain close ties with the Middle Eastern regime that promotes the same brand of Islam.

“The ideology of the Saudi regime is that of ISIS even if the foreign policies differ,” California State University-Stanislaus Professor Asad AbuKhalil tells The Progressive.

In an online column, AbuKhalil elaborates on his view.

“Mainstream Islam frowns upon the views, excesses, practices and interpretations of ISIS,” he writes. “But Wahhabi Islam [the official ideology of the Saudi monarchy] is fully in sync with ISIS.”

Finally, from The Real News Network, a Jessica Desvarieux interview with veteran Middle East beat journalist Patrick Cockburn, who has reported for both the Financial Times and, currently, the Guardian. His latest book is The Jihadis Return: ISIS and the New Sunni Uprising.

From The Real News Network:

The Islamic State, Assad, and the Contradictions Faced by the US in Syria

From the transcript:

DESVARIEUX: So, Patrick, there are so many contradictions in this story. Let’s try to work out some of these contradictions. First explain the U.S.’s objectives in Syria. And how did it come to be that they are now fighting the very same forces that they once supported?

COCKBURN: Yes. It’s something of a diplomatic disaster. The U.S. supported the opposition to President Bashar al-Assad to weaken and replace him over the last three years. But over the last year and a half, the main opposition has been jihadis, al-Qaeda type organizations, and over the last six months it’s been the Islamic State, ISIS, which the U.S. is fighting in or were helping the Iraqi government and the Kurdish government fight in Iraq. So in one country they’re supporting the government against ISIS, in Iraq, and in Syria they’re doing exactly the opposite, they’re opposing the government, which is fighting ISIS. And I don’t think this contradiction can go on very long. I think soon they’ll have to decide whose side they’re on.

DESVARIEUX: Yeah, and that’s a good question, because there are consequences depending on which side they choose, because if they look to topple Assad, that benefits ISIS. If they look to attack ISIS, that helps Assad. So it seems like quite a mess. What would you suggest they do?

COCKBURN: Well, there’s no doubt in my mind that the great threat to both these countries is ISIS, which is a very horrible, in many ways fascist organization, very sectarian, kills anybody who doesn’t believe in their particular rigorous brand of Islam. They killed last week a single tribe that opposed them. They killed 700 members. Another 1,500 have disappeared. So these are big-scale massacres. So I think they should oppose ISIS. But they need to do it effectively, which means that they have a parallel policy with the Syrian government, which they’ve been trying to overthrow. I don’t think they’re going to have a U-turn in that policy, because it would be to humiliating. But covertly I think that they’re shifting their ground. They need to prevent Assad’s government falling to ISIS.