Category Archives: Intolerance

Schadenfreude alert: Setback for a troll


An old friend forwarded an email to us this week, and the body of the text was brief:

Bulldog Reporter has filed for bankruptcy and has closed its’ door for good as of today. It has been a rough road for us and will be an even rougher road ahead for Jim.

The Jim is James Sinkinson, and Bulldog Reporter was a newsletter for the public relations industry, full of tips on how to cozzen an already enfeebled press into reproducing corporate, political, and NGO press releases in the news media.

More on the bankruptcy from O’Dwyer’s:

Bulldog Reporter, founded in 1979 and which has covered PR and the media for the Infocom Group since 1986, has ceased operations, it was announced by Jim Sinkinson, publisher.

He said that many of the website’s key products and services have declined in profitability and it is winding down its relationships with clients and vendors.

Legal assistance has been retained to assess options in bringing the business to a close.

Some of the 11 members on the masthead of the publication are in the job market.

Sinkinson is also a militant Ziocon, and one of the three main instigators of a ruthless campaign that finally cost the Berkeley Daily Planet many of its advertisers, hastening the newspaper’s demise as a print publication and leaving the city without a non-collegiate newspaper.

Sinkinson and his partners smeared the paper and its publisher with the brush of antisemitism and made all manner of false charges, which we debunked in an extensive investigation.

Sinkinson wrote each of the Daily Planet‘s advertisers and warned them that should they continue to buy ads, they would create backlash in Berkeley’s richest neighborhoods, where the city’s Jewish population is concentrated.

In addition, militant acolytes would show up in businesses, and one advertiser told us she had been left frightened for her well-being after one such visit and would, therefore reluctantly have to discontinue her ads.

Back in 2009 when his campaign was running at fever pitch, Hamilton Nolan of Gawker wrote this about Sinkinson and his war on the newspaper:

Jim Sinkinson, the publisher of Infocom Group and owner of Bulldog Reporter, which many of you PR people subscribe to in an effort to more effectively influence journalists, is currently leading a campaign to put The Berkeley Daily Planet, a liberal weekly, out of business, because he doesn’t like the fact that they publish “letters and other commentary pieces critical of Israel.”

“We think that [Daily Planet editor Becky] O’Malley is addicted to anti-Israel expression just as an alcoholic is to drinking,” Jim Sinkinson, who has led the campaign to discourage advertisers, wrote in an e-mail message… “If she wants to serve and please the East Bay Jewish community, she would be safer avoiding the subject entirely.”

Please, take a moment to reflect on the unapologetically gangster philosophy behind that quote. Reflect, also, on the fact that Sinkinson objects to the paper publishing submitted items that are not even part of the paper’s own editorial output. In other words, this “media relations” mogul objects to free speech, and is an asshole of the first order.

“Serve and please”? Really?

So we will dedicate the following video to Sinkinson, via graphic artist Shane Koyczan:

Troll — Shane Koyczan

Program note:

From the album and Graphic novel, ‘Silence Is A Song I Know All The Words To’ available for purchase, here.

We do hope those 11 folks who lost their jobs will find new employment.

Chart of the day III: Racism behind the badge


From the Public Religion Research Institute’s American Values Survey, dramatic evidence that an increasing number of American’s see police treatment of minorities as racially biased:

BLO Race

H/T to Sociological Images.

InSecurityWatch: Bombs, hacks, drones, zones


From The Intercept, making the connections:

Syria Becomes the 7th Predominantly Muslim Country Bombed by 2009 Nobel Peace Laureate

The U.S. today began bombing targets inside Syria, in concert with its lovely and inspiring group of five allied regimes: Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, United Arab Emirates, Qatar, and Jordan.

That means that Syria becomes the 7th predominantly Muslim country bombed by 2009 Nobel Peace Laureate Barack Obama—after Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia, Libya and Iraq.

The utter lack of interest in what possible legal authority Obama has to bomb Syria is telling indeed: Empires bomb who they want, when they want, for whatever reason (indeed, recall that Obama bombed Libya even after Congress explicitly voted against authorization to use force, and very few people seemed to mind that abject act of lawlessness; constitutional constraints are not for warriors and emperors).

A headline from Bloomberg makes a similar point:

Who Still Thinks Obama’s a Pacifist Hippie?

The Los Angeles Times with pals:

5 Arab nations support U.S. in strikes inside Syria

The White House ordered air attacks on Islamic State militants in eastern Syria within 72 hours after five Arab allies agreed to participate in the attacks, the Pentagon’s top officer said Tuesday.

Gen. Martin Dempsey, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs, said the Arab governments only gave assurances they would join the operation over the last three days, prompting President Obama to give the order to commence the operation.

“The coalition came together quickly,” Dempsey told reporters traveling with him in Europe. “Once the coalition came together, that was the condition the president was most interested in.”

The White House withheld approval for strikes in Syria until Arab allies joined the attacks in hopes of showing that major Sunni regimes in the region were uniting against the Sunni extremist group after months of indecision, officials said.

The Independent notes an irony:

Syria air strikes: America’s attacks on Isis may help Bashar al-Assad keep his regime alive

  • But the Syrian leader will be watching with concern as the US’s use of air power spreads to include more targets outside its original stated aim

The moment America expanded its anti-Isis war into Syria, President Bashar al-Assad gained more military and political support than any other Arab leader can boast. With US bombs and missiles exploding across eastern and northern Syria, Assad can now count on America, Russia, China, Iran, the Hezbollah militia, Jordan and a host of wealthy Gulf countries to keep his regime alive. If ever that creaking old Arab proverb – that “the enemy of my enemy is my friend” – contained any wisdom, Assad has proved it true.

In his Damascus home, the Syrian leader can reflect that the most powerful nation on earth – which only last year wished to bomb him into oblivion – is now trying to bomb his most ferocious enemies into the very same oblivion. Sunni Saudis whose “charity” donations have funded the equally Sunni “Islamic State” now find their government supposedly helping the US to destroy it. As Shia Iran and its Hezbollah protégés battle the Sunni executioners and throat-slashers on the ground, US bom

More from the Associated Press:

Assad backs efforts to fight terrorism

Syrian President Bashar Assad said Tuesday he supports any international effort against terrorism, apparently trying to position his government on the side of the U.S.-led coalition conducting airstrikes against the Islamic State group. Damascus said the U.S. informed it beforehand that the strikes were coming.

Assad’s remarks came hours after the opening salvo in what the United States has warned will be a lengthy campaign aiming to defeat the extremists who have seized control of a huge swath of territory spanning the Syria-Iraq border.

One Syrian activist group reported that dozens of Islamic State group fighters were killed in the pre-dawn strikes, but the numbers could not be independently confirmed. Several activists also reported at least 10 civilians killed as well.

Still more from RT:

Airstrikes alone won’t help US to fight ISIS – Syrian FM to RT Arabic

Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Moualem says he is “confident” that those airstrikes will not be “effective, if there is no coordination of actions on the ground and if no ground military operations are carried out.”

“The US is mocking the whole world when they say that they are going to coordinate their actions not with the Syrian government, but with the moderate Syrian opposition. This is funny. What moderate opposition are you talking about?” Moualem told RT Arabic. “This moderate opposition is killing Syrians just like al-Nusra or ISIS.”

If the US wants to have positive results in their “fight with terrorism” they should “immediately” change their approach, he said.

TheLocal.at piles on:

Austria joins US-led coalition against Isis

Austria’s Foreign Minister Sebastian Kurz has announced that Austria is now part of the US-led coalition against Islamic State (Isis) militants.

Kurz said that Austria’s participation will be political, but not military and that as a neutral country it will provide mainly humanitarian assistance to persecuted religious minorities such as Christians and Yazidis in Iraq and Syria.

As does Nikkei Asian Review:

Japan, US affirm cooperation in fight against Islamic militants

Japan’s foreign minister on Tuesday expressed support for U.S.-led airstrikes against the Islamic State in Syria, offering humanitarian aid to refugees fleeing the Sunni militants who have terrorized the region.

In a meeting here with Fumio Kishida, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry explained the airstrikes conducted jointly with European and Arab nations and plans going forward.

In response, the Japanese foreign minister pledged Japan’s cooperation, noting that he understands that the action was taken to prevent the situation from worsening. Kishida said he hopes “the latest action will lead to a weakening and the eventual defeat of the Islamic State, which poses a serious threat.”

While News Corp Australia sounds the latest alarm:

Terror threat from al-Qaeda veterans in Khorasan eclipses that of the Islamic State, US intelligence officials say

As the world reacts with horror to the Islamic State, the United States raised an alert over an “unholy mix” of militants specifically targeting the West.

As al-Qaeda fragments after the death of its leader Osama bin Laden, one of its many offshoots in the Middle East has named itself Khorasan. It asserts the sole reason for its existence is to attack the United States and Europe.

The White House believes them. The US military launched air strikes in Syria on Tuesday, targeting the Khorasan group.

From United Press International, if they told you what it was for they’d have to. . .:

Invertix wins place on Army intelligence services contract

  • Army taps Invertix for global intelligence support.

U.S. Army has selected Invertix Corporation to provide it with global intelligence support services.

Invertix, a subsidiary of Altamira Technologies Corporation, said it is one of a number of large businesses on the indefinite-delivery/indefinite quantity contract, which is for the Army Intelligence and Security Command.

The contract’s estimated period of performance is through September of 2019. Its ceiling value for all recipients is more than $5 billion.

The Wire takes one small step for mankind:

U.S. Will Ban Deadly Landmines (Outside of Korea)

The U.S. announced on Tuesday that it will halt its use of anti-personnel landmines with one major exception – their ongoing deployment on the Korean peninsula.

Officials had said in June that in accordance with the 1999 Ottawa Convention, the U.S. would stop producing or acquiring “anti-personnel munitions,” and they characterized Tuesday’s announcement as another step in that process.

As part of the change, the U.S. also will not assist or encourage other nations in the deployment of deadly landmines and would destroy all landmines “not required for the defense of the Republic of Korea.”

Xinhua catches the bug:

Suspected NSA listening post discovered in Vienna

A series of photos of what is believed to be an NSA-operated listening post on top of a skyscraper in the Austrian capital of Vienna have been circulated by Austrian media Tuesday.

The IZD Tower building is situated next to the Vienna International Centre that hosts the United Nations Office at Vienna (UNOV), with media reports speculating the suspected listening hut atop the building, which at first glance appears to be a maintenance hut, is used to receive signals from bugs installed at the UN premises.

Erich Moechel from radio station FM4 reported that the hut has an air conditioning unit, suspicious in that this is unusual for a maintenance hut, and may indicate that either the hut is manned, or there are electronics situated inside that need protection from excessive heat during the summer months.

Details from TheLocal.at:

ORF journalist Erich Möchel believes he has identified the listening station – located on top of the 140 metre high IZD tower in Vienna’s 22nd district – not far from the UN headquarters.

A series of photos that were leaked to the journalist show a hut on the roof that is enclosed by solid steel bars and monitored by ten cameras. It cannot be seen from the street.

Möchel writes that it looks like “a maintenance building” but speculates that there may be equipment in the hut that can monitor mobile networks.

He adds that together with the US Embassy in Vienna’s 9th district and the ‘NSA villa’ in Pötzleinsdorf which is also assumed to be a listening post, the NSA could be spying on the whole city – as far as Schwechat.

The US embassy declined to comment on the allegations, as did the Interior Ministry.

While Assange was played on the big screen by Benedict Cumberbatch, a star of a different type has been picked to play NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden. From the Guardian:

Joseph Gordon-Levitt to play Edward Snowden in Oliver Stone’s NSA whistleblower movie

  • Dark Knight Rises star to take central role in one of two duelling versions of account of National Security Agency files leak, adapted from Guardian journalist’s book

Joseph Gordon-Levitt has agreed to take the lead role in Oliver Stone’s forthcoming biopic of the NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden, reports Variety.

Negotiations on the deal have not yet begun, but both men are keen on making it happen. Production on The Snowden Files, titled after the book by Guardian journalist Luke Harding, is due to begin late this year or in the early part of 2015.

The film, which Stone is writing and directing, now looks likely to be based on two books, Harding’s account – full title The Snowden Files: The Inside Story of the World’s Most Wanted Man – and Time of the Octopus by Snowden’s lawyer, Anatoly Kucherena. Stone recently picked up the screen rights to the latter tome after optioning Harding’s book in June.

And whilst on that personage portrayed by Cumerbatch, News Corp Australia assuages Assange:

Swedish prosecutors say it is ‘far-fetched’ to think WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange will be extradited to the US

SWEDISH prosecutors say it is “far-fetched” to think that fugitive Wikileaks founder Julian Assange could be extradited to the United States if he returned to Sweden.

It was the first time that Swedish prosecutors, who want to question the 43-year-old Australian on allegations of rape and sexual molestation, commented on the likelihood that he could be sent to the US.

Assange refuses to return to Sweden and has been holed up since 2012 in London in the embassy of Ecuador, which granted him political asylum the same year.

More from TheLocal.se:

Swedish prosecutors made their statement in a written reply to arguments made by Assange’s lawyers, who have appealed a decision by a Swedish court in July this year to uphold the arrest warrant against him.

The Court of Appeal in Stockholm is expected to announce its decision within the next week.

If it scraps the European arrest warrant against Assange, it could mean that he would be able to leave the Ecuadoran embassy.

The arrest warrant was issued to enable Swedish prosecutors to question Assange about charges brought against him by two women in their 30s. Assange denies the accusations.

And to complete the circle, uniting the interests of both, via RT:

A state within a state at an alarming rate: Assange says NSA just keeps on growing

In his book ‘Cypherpunks: Freedom and the Future of the Internet,’ Assange says that opponents of WikiLeaks aim to try to distract attention from actual revelations, rather than trying to provide answers to the questions posed.

“If we go back and look at what the US military is: Robert Gates and General McMullan said our publications were hypothetical and maybe they would cause harm. Our publications documented their involvement at a case-by-case level in the deaths of more than 20,000 people in Afghanistan and more than 108,000 people in Iraq. Those are the mistakes that we are talking about. Not only is this the dissolution of two societies, but also the deaths of over 100,000 people. So when you want to distract from this, you just make the same accusation to the person that is making the accusation against you. In 2013, in the trial of Chelsea Manning – who was subsequently sentenced to 35 years for giving information to the media and only for giving information to the media – the US government said that under the oath they could not find a single person who had been harmed, not a single person.”

Despite Snowden’s revelations about the NSA’s widespread spying, both domestically and abroad, the Australian does not think things will get better in the near future. Instead, he says things are getting worse – with the creation of a state within a state.

“There now six million people in the United States with security clearances. That is more than the population of Norway, New Zealand, or Scotland. That is in effect a state within a state. Why is it a state within a state? Because people that have security clearances have extra laws that they are meant to obey. That is extremely alarming [at the] moment, if we go back to 2010, just back to when it was 2.5 million. So there has been more than a doubling in the size of the National Security State within the US in just 4-5 years.”

After the jump, freakout over Google and Apple encyption, do your Like corporate datapervs? [and with drones?], hacks at Stanford, hacking away in Europe, the latest iHack, Google kicks the Koch habit, another moronic celebrity hacking threat and an overreaching legal effort to stem such things, an Argentine security threat, an expanded Pakistani nuclear arsenal, super-secrecy Down Under, the latest player in the Game of Zones and moves by another player, and more. . . Continue reading

InSecurityWatch: Spooks, hacks, war, weapons


For the first item in today’s compendium pf the world of spies, snoops, cops, crimes, wars, geopolitics, hackery, and the like, we turn to reassurance from the Guardian:

CIA chief: ‘If I’ve done something wrong, I’ll stand up and admit it’

  • John Brennan expresses frustration with Senate and media while decrying lack of trust in agency at intelligence conference

The director of the Central Intelligence Agency expressed frustration with his Senate overseers and the media on Thursday, even as he and his fellow heads of US intelligence agencies pledged to win back the trust of a skeptical American public.

“I certainly believe having the public’s trust makes all of our jobs much easier and better,” Brennan said on a panel at an intelligence conference, where he was joined by his colleagues at the helms of the National Security Agency, the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency and the Defense Intelligence Agency.

But ahead of an impending clash with the Senate intelligence committee, which is due to release a public version of a report into CIA torture in the coming weeks, Brennan rejected “the narratives I see floating around the media.”

From Gigaom, someone’s takin’ a bit out of the Apple:

Apple’s “warrant canary” disappears, suggesting new Patriot Act demands

When Apple published its first Transparency Report on government activity in late 2013, the document contained an important footnote that stated: “Apple has never received an order under Section 215 of the USA Patriot Act. We would expect to challenge such an order if served on us.”

Writer and cyber-activist Cory Doctorow at the time recognized that language as a so-called “warrant canary,” which Apple was using to thwart the secrecy imposed by the Patriot Act.

Warrant canaries are a tool used by companies and publishers to signify to their users that, so far, they have not been subject to a given type of law enforcement request such as a secret subpoena. If the canary disappears, then it is likely the situation has changed — and the company has been subject to such request.

Now, Apple’s warrant canary has disappeared. A review of the company’s last two Transparency Reports, covering the second half of 2013 and the first six months of 2014, shows that the “canary” language is no longer there.

From the Register, score another one for Edward the Leaker:

Snowden’s NSA leaks have galvanised the storage world

  • Vendors raise their game after gov securo-busting revealed

In a recent CyberArk survey of 373 C-level and IT security executives across North America, Europe and the Asia-Pacific, 37 per cent of respondents said Snowden’s breach of NSA security had influenced their security strategy more than any other incident over the past year.

Difficult decisions are having to be made across industries. Where and how to store data tops the list of priorities. Who to trust has also become a pertinent question when it comes to access management and procurement processes. Storage and security have become sexy again.

Indeed, one of the material outcomes of Snowden’s leaks has already been realised: inspired by renewed consumer and business interest in privacy, technology is becoming more secure.

From the New York Times, oversharing reported by James Bamford:

Israel’s N.S.A. Scandal

In Moscow this summer, while reporting a story for Wired magazine, I had the rare opportunity to hang out for three days with Edward J. Snowden. It gave me a chance to get a deeper understanding of who he is and why, as a National Security Agency contractor, he took the momentous step of leaking hundreds of thousands of classified documents.

Among his most shocking discoveries, he told me, was the fact that the N.S.A. was routinely passing along the private communications of Americans to a large and very secretive Israeli military organization known as Unit 8200. This transfer of intercepts, he said, included the contents of the communications as well as metadata such as who was calling whom.

Typically, when such sensitive information is transferred to another country, it would first be “minimized,” meaning that names and other personally identifiable information would be removed. But when sharing with Israel, the N.S.A. evidently did not ensure that the data was modified in this way.

Mr. Snowden stressed that the transfer of intercepts to Israel contained the communications — email as well as phone calls — of countless Arab- and Palestinian-Americans whose relatives in Israel and the Palestinian territories could become targets based on the communications. “I think that’s amazing,” he told me. “It’s one of the biggest abuses we’ve seen.”

From RT, bloody irony:

GTA-ISIS: Militants hooking youngsters with ‘Jihad video game’ trailer

Islamic State (IS) militants have released a jihadist video game trailer in which the aim is to destroy Iraqi and US forces, Arabic media report. The game, styling itself as a Grand Theft Auto adaptation, appears specifically aimed at young people.

The recruitment propaganda video trailer aimed to “raise the morale of the mujahedin and to train children and youth how to battle the West and to strike terror into the hearts of those who oppose the Islamic State,” according to the media wing of the IS (formerly known as ISIS), cited in Arabic media.

“The content includes all of the organization’s military tactics against its opponents,” the Islamic state said.

Homeland Security News Wire covers an intelligence failure:

U.S. intelligence, leaders unclear on exact danger posed by ISIS

Considerable discrepancies in the reporting from U.S. intelligence services regarding the strength of the Islamic State (IS) have led critics to the conclusion that the U.S. intelligence community knows little about the terrorists’ actual strength as the United States is in the process of developing a military strategy to defeat the Islamist organization.

Considerable discrepancies in the reporting from U.S. intelligence services regarding the strength ofthe Islamic State (IS) have led critics to the conclusion that the U.S. intelligence community knows little about the terrorists’ actual strength as the United States is in the process of developing a military strategy to defeat the Islamist organization.

From the Associated Press, The Most Transparent Administration in History™ flunks the test, again:

Journalists view Obama administration’s transparency as much worse than Bush’s

Editors and reporters meeting in Chicago raised concerns Wednesday about what they described as a lack of access and transparency undermining journalists’ work, several blaming the current White House for setting standards for secrecy that are spreading nationwide.

Criticism of President Barack Obama’s administration on the issue of openness in government came on the last day of a three-day joint convention of the American Society of News Editors, the Associated Press Media Editors and the Associated Press Photo Managers.

“The White House push to limit access and reduce transparency has essentially served as the secrecy road map for all kinds of organizations — from local and state governments to universities and even sporting events,” Brian Carovillano, AP managing editor for U.S. news, said during a panel discussion.

James Risen, a New York Times reporter who is facing potential jail time as he battles government efforts to force him to testify at the trial of a former CIA officer accused of leaking classified information, also spoke at the conference. Risen said intense pressure on reporters and their sources is having a chilling effect on newsgathering.

He spoke of scaring one source just by going to his home and knocking on the front door. “He opened the door and he turned white,” Risen said. “He marches me back through the kitchen [to a back exit] and said, “‘Go out that way.’”

Guns beat butter again, via the Guardian:

UN to cut food aid to Syria

Without more money, World Food Programme warns food rations will be reduced and voucher schemes slashed

The UN warned on Thursday that it will be forced to cut food rations for more than 6 million Syrians from next month unless it received more funding.

The World Food Programme said that while it still expects to reach almost 6 million Syrians inside the country and in neighbouring states in October and November, there will be significant cuts to the amount of food delivered. The WFP said it had no money for programmes in December.

A WFP official told Reuters that the food basket for Syrians could shrink to 825 calories, well under half the daily recommended intake.

From the Associated Press, bordering on sanity:

Border Patrol to test wearing cameras

The U.S. Border Patrol will begin testing body-worn cameras on agents next month, the head of its parent agency said Thursday, a step toward seeing if the technology should be used in the field as the government seeks to blunt criticism about agents’ use of force.

R. Gil Kerlikowske, Customs and Border Protection commissioner since March, said a variety of cameras will be tested beginning Oct. 1 at the Border Patrol’s training academy in Artesia, New Mexico.

He didn’t say when or even if cameras will be introduced to the roughly 21,000 agents in the field.

From Sky News, making a good point:

Assange: ‘Google Like A Privatised NSA’

  • Julian Assange tells Sky News the search engine gathers and files information just like America’s National Security Agency.

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange has accused Google of behaving like a “privatised version of the NSA” in the way it collects and stores information about people.

He told Sky News the internet giant was not doing anything illegal but its behaviour was highly questionable. “It is not doing things which are illegal, what it is doing is legal,” he said. “It is collecting as much information about people as possible, storing it, indexing it, and using it to create profiles of people and then selling that to advertisers and others.

“Those are the same procedures that security agencies go through. That is why the NSA has latched on top of what Google is doing. Since 2009 the NSA had been engaged in the Prism system where information collected online is available to it.”

The accompanying video from Sky News:

Julian Assange ‘Will Leave Embassy With Asylum Intact’

Program note:

Sky’s Sarah Hewson talks to Wikileaks founder Julian Assange inside the Ecuadorian embassy in London.

From BuzzFeed, and reminding us of the a high school joke about the cat, who crept in, crapped, and crept out:

U.S. Company Distances Itself From Egyptian Surveillance System

  • And the website of its Egyptian affiliate is taken down.

The U.S.-based Blue Coat company has issued a statement distancing itself from a project to monitor Twitter, Facebook, and Skype in Egypt, following a BuzzFeed News report.

Egyptian officials had told BuzzFeed News that a company called See Egypt had won a tender to begin providing the government with a surveillance system that would allow them to comb through data from Skype, Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube, among others. In interviews, the Egypt-based SeeEgypt called itself a “sister company” to Blue Coat, and listed the company as one of their affiliates.

Now, Blue Coat has issued a response saying that their products are not being resold to the Egyptian government.

From the Dissenter, gee, are we surprised:

Email Suggests Manufacturer of Stingray Surveillance Equipment May Have Lied to FCC

The American Civil Liberties Union has accused the manufacturer of StingRay surveillance products of providing inaccurate information and possibly even lying to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), which is the agency that is supposed to regulate communications over cable, radio, satellite, television and wire.

Harris Corporation is one of the leading manufacturers of StingRay technology. The technology was “initially designed for the military and intelligence community” and “operates by mimicking cellular service providers’ base stations and forcing all cellular phones in range to register their electronic serial numbers and other identifying information,” according to the ACLU.

The ACLU of Northern California chapter managed to obtain a series of emails from 2010 between the FCC’s Office of Engineering and Technology (OET) and Harris Corporation employees, where the “equipment authorization application for law enforcement use of Harris’ StingRay line of products” is being discussed.

After the jump, a death sentence for an Iranian blogger, beating the messenger in Russia, Plasticopalypse Now!, a horrifying traffic scenario suggested, China bases more claims in troubled waters, and a top cop’s curious pal. . . Continue reading

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.