Category Archives: Labor

EbolaWatch: Numbers, hope, fear, & politics


First, the good news, via the U.N. News Center:

Ebola cases no longer rising in Guinea, Liberia, UN health agency reports

The United Nations World Health Organization (WHO) reported today that the number of Ebola cases is “no longer increasing nationally in Guinea and Liberia, but is still increasing in Sierra Leone”, and that preparedness teams have been sent this week to Benin, Burkina Faso, Gambia and Senegal.

Earlier today, UN Regional Humanitarian Coordinator for the Sahel, Robert Piper, had appealed for funding for Ebola preparedness in the swath of Africa consisting of Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Chad, Gambia, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Nigeria and Senegal making up one of the poorest regions in the world.

WHO, in its most recent update, said the evolving Ebola outbreak “highlights the considerable risk of cases being imported into unaffected countries.”

“With adequate levels of preparation, however, such introductions of the disease can be contained before they develop into large outbreaks,” it said.

Next, the latest official numbers released today for all countries by the World Health Organization:

BLOG Ebola stats

More optimism from the Associated Press:

CDC chief drops worst-case Ebola estimate

he government’s worst-case scenario forecast for the Ebola epidemic in West Africa won’t happen, a U.S. health official said Wednesday.

In September, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimated the number of people sickened by the Ebola virus could explode to as many as 1.4 million by mid-January without more help.

Things have changed. On Wednesday, CDC Director Dr. Tom Frieden said, “We don’t think the projections from over the summer will come to pass.”

Frieden did not provide new estimates.

And still more optimistic numeration from VOA News:

World Bank Sees $3B-$4B Ebola Impact in Africa

A World Bank official says the Ebola epidemic will not be as costly to West Africa’s economy as previously feared, thanks to effective containment efforts.

Francisco Ferreira, the bank’s chief economist for Africa, told an audience in Johannesburg Wednesday that he expects the epidemic’s economic toll on the region will range from $3 to $4 billion.

The World Bank in October had predicted the economic impact could be as high as $32 billion if the virus spread significantly outside the borders of Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone, the three countries hardest hit by the outbreak.

And the accompanying video report from VOA News:

Ebola Economic Toll Stirs W. Africa Food Security Concerns

Program notes:

The World Bank said Wednesday that it expects the economic impact of the Ebola outbreak on the sub-Saharan economy to cost somewhere betweenf $3 billion to $4 billion – well below a previously-outlined worst-case scenario of $32 billion. Some economists, however, paint a gloomier picture – warning that the disruption to regional markets and trading is considerable. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.

From StarAfrica, a vow of solidarity from the regional economic organization:

ECOWAS restates solidarity with Ebola nations

The President of the ECOWAS Commission, Kadré Désiré Ouédraogo has assured that all institutions of the sub-regional organization are fully behind the affected countries battling the Ebola epidemic. “ECOWAS will do its best to help address the current Ebola crisis,” Ouédraogo promised.

“Let me pay a special tribute to you Madam President for your country’s courageous fight against the further spread of the Ebola virus disease.

ECOWAS stands ready to collaborate with your government, the UN System and all partners for an effective and efficient response to the Ebola outbreak,” the ECOWAS Commission President said.

The medium and the message, via Al Jazeera English:

UN Ebola effort faces ‘information challenge’

Top Ebola official says trouble figuring out new infection cases in West Africa makes controlling outbreak difficult.

Authorities are having trouble figuring out how many more people are getting Ebola in Liberia and Sierra Leone and where the hotspots are in those countries, according to the UN’s top Ebola official in West Africa.

This is harming efforts to get control of the outbreak, Anthony Banbury said on Tuesday.

Over the past week, the US said, Banbury met the presidents of Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia, where Ebola has infected at least 10,000 people and killed roughly half of them, as he focuses on adapting an operational framework for international anti-Ebola efforts.

“The challenge is good information, because information helps tell us where the disease is, how it’s spreading and where we need to target our resources,” Banbury told the Associated Press by phone from the Ghanaian capital of Accra, where the UN Mission for Ebola Emergency Response, or UNMEER, is based.

From Punch Nigeria, a call for screening at the border:

Ebola: NMA wants W’ African travellers tested

The Nigeria Medical Association has urged the government to ensure that passengers coming into the country from West African countries are properly checked during Christmas period to prevent fresh outbreak of the Ebola Virus Disease in the country.

Chairman of the NMA in Osun State, Dr. Suraj Ogunyemi, gave the advice on Wednesday in Osogbo, the Osun State capital, at a press conference to usher in the 2014 Physicians’ Week.

Ogunyemi lauded the Federal Government, states and others who rose up in the battle against Ebola virus when it was brought into Nigeria by the late Liberian-American, Patrick Sawyer.

He said, “We must realise that the threat of importation of the EVD into the country is very much abundant. EVD could be imported from travellers from Liberia, Sierra Leone or Guinea to Nigeria, especially through Nigerians who work there and would return by road during Christmas.

“It can also be reintroduced by traders who travel across the nations of West Africa. So, government must ensure that our borders, seaports and airports are manned by health officials with adequate devices to check those coming into the country.”

On to the latest country to be stricken with the Associated Press:

Amid Ebola cases, Mali braces borders and beyond

On Mali’s dusty border with Ebola-stricken Guinea, travelers have a new stop: Inside a white tent, masked medical workers zap incomers with infrared thermometer guns and instruct them to wash their hands in chlorinated water.

After five recent Ebola deaths, Mali has become a front line in the fight against the virus, especially in the border town of Kouremale which two of those victims passed through last month. Malian authorities, with help from the U.N. and aid groups, this week deployed medical teams at the border to try to stop the disease’s spread.

“You are Mali’s portal. Don’t be the weak link in the fight against Ebola. Mali must not become a land of propagation for Ebola in the world,” President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita urged medical staffers and border guards during a visit as the deployment began. “We are counting on you to meet this challenge.”

Next, the bad news from Sierra Leone from Deutsche Welle:

Sierra Leone hit hardest in latest WHO Ebola numbers

The global Ebola infection tally has surpassed 15,000. Sierra Leone confirmed 533 new cases in the week to November 16, accounting for much of the increase.

Cases of Ebola reached 15,145, with 5,420 deaths, through November 16 – almost all in Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone, which reported the steepest uptick – the World Health Organization announced Wednesday. Sierra Leone has also reported 63 Ebola deaths since Friday.

“Much of this was driven by intense transmission in the country’s west and north,” the WHO announced. Sierra Leone has only managed to isolate 13 percent of Ebola patients, the agency’s figures show.

Ebola does not transmit easily, but it has particularly spread in the capital, Freetown, which accounted for 168, or nearly one-third of Sierra Leone’s 533 confirmed cases in the week to November 16, and nearby Port Loko. A doctor, the first Cuban infected with Ebola, who caught the virus in Sierra Leone will fly to Switzerland in the next 48 hours for hospitalization in Geneva. Five doctors from Sierra Leone have died of Ebola.

More from Reuters:

Ebola spreading intensely in Sierra Leone as toll rises – WHO

The figures, through Nov. 16, represent a jump of 243 deaths and 732 cases since those issued last Friday, and cases continue to be under-reported, the WHO said in its latest update.

Sierra Leone, a former British colony, confirmed 533 new cases in the week to Nov. 16, it said, accounting for much of the increase. It also reported 63 deaths since last Friday.

“Much of this was driven by intense transmission in the country’s west and north,” the WHO said.

The capital Freetown, which accounted for 168 new confirmed cases, and nearby Port Loko were particularly hard-hit.

British National Health Service help on the way, via the Guardian:

First NHS volunteers set to leave for Sierra Leone on Ebola mission

  • The 50 volunteers have undergone extensive training designed to ensure none of them return to the UK with the virus

The first batch of NHS staff who volunteered to treat Ebola patients in Sierra Leone are to leave the UK for west Africa after undergoing extensive training designed to ensure none return with the virus.

The 50 staff will depart nearly six weeks after they were shortlisted as suitable by UK-Med, the organisation funded by the Department for International Development to recruit NHS staff for secondment. Nearly 1,000 volunteered, but because of the need for careful selection and training, none have yet flown out.

The particular risk to health workers is highlighted by the news that one of the 250 Cuban doctors and nurses sent to the Ebola epidemic region has become infected. Félix Báez Sarría, one of about 165 Cuban medics in Sierra Leone, is being flown to Switzerland for treatment. “He’s not critical, he’s doing well, in a good condition,” said his boss, Dr Jorge Delgado Bustillo. “The most important thing now is to get him evacuated to Geneva.”

On to Liberia with some ominous numbers from another sector via BBC News:

Ebola crisis in Liberia: ‘One in two workers now jobless’

Nearly half of all Liberians who were employed when the Ebola outbreak began are no longer working, a survey by the World Bank has found.

It said many workers have been told to stay at home or have lost their jobs, while markets have been forced to shut.

Ana Revenga, a senior World Bank official, said even those living areas of Liberia that have not been hit by Ebola “are suffering the economic side effects of this terrible disease”.

The other side of the Ebola coin from StarAfrica:

Liberia’s Sirleaf delighted about decline in Ebola cases

Liberia President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf has expressed delight that most Ebola Treatment Units (ETUs) around Monrovia are experiencing a decline in patient intake.She however warned Liberians to continue to follow the measures outlined by healthcare workers in order to break the transmission of the disease, as there are still hotspots and pockets in communities.

According to an Executive Mansion press release, President Sirleaf made the statement following a tour of several ETUs around Monrovia to assess conditions there, including constraints if any, and to thank healthcare workers, partners, and volunteers for their services to the country especially in the fight against the Ebola virus disease.

The President’s visit took her to treatment units at ELWA-II, Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) ELWA-III, Ministry of Defense, the three ETUs under construction at the Samuel Kayon Doe Sports Complex, and the National Ebola Command Center in Sinkor.

An American de-escalation from the Associated Press:

Military scaling back treatment units in Liberia

A Pentagon spokesman says the U.S. military is scaling back the size and number of Ebola treatment facilities it is building in Liberia.

Army Col. Steve Warren said Wednesday that a total of 10 treatment facilities will be built; the Pentagon previously had planned to build as many as 17. Additionally, seven of the 10 will have 50 beds each rather than the 100 beds previously planned.

The first of the 10 treatment facilities has been completed and two more are expected to be finished this week. They are built by U.S. military personnel and are to be operated by local or international health workers.

Finally, a Liberian political impact from FrontPageAfrica:

Ebola Factor: Virus Crisis Could Dissuade Voters in Grand Bassa

It’s Friday, the busiest and most popular market day in Grand Bassa County’s second most populous district, and many people have turned out to either sell or buy at the Wayzohn Market, Compound Three – the district’s provisional capital. The most dominant issue nowadays is the Ebola crisis and it takes a lot to sway people from this discussion, especially in a county where new cases of the virus have emerged thus sparking fears amongst locals.

The debate now amongst many, not just those gathering at forums or market place, is ‘how much impact will the current Ebola crisis have on the Special senatorial election?’ The answer to this has prompted many to suggest, without any doubt, that the virus has already altered Liberia election’ time table. Like those men at the tea shop, many people who have spoken to FrontPage Africa fear that voters’ turnout will be lower than expected, mainly because of the compounded problem of the Ebola fear and the reluctance of people who see it meaningless to vote only because they claim the government has forsaken them.

“As we all know when elections is coming about this time the momentum is very high, but for this election, we’re only hearing about election, but the momentum is low,” Alexander Flankiah, a resident of Wayzohn, District Three said. Flankiah is expected to be on the campaign trail of one of the famous candidates in the race, but his pessimism about attracting a large crowd for rally is keeping him worried. During a recent trip to a town in rural Grand Bassa, he said it was difficult to bring people together. “People were stopping their immediate family from showing up because of the recent Ebola cases in the county.” he said.

Quote of the day: Why the Obamacrats lost


From former Secretary of Labor and current UC Berkeley Professor Robert Reich, writing at his blog:

If you want a single reason for why Democrats lost big on Election Day 2014 it’s this: Median household income continues to drop. This is the first “recovery” in memory when this has happened.

Jobs are coming back but wages aren’t. Every month the job numbers grow but the wage numbers go nowhere.

Most new jobs are in part-time or low-paying positions. They pay less than the jobs lost in the Great Recession.

This wageless recovery has been made all the worse because pay is less predictable than ever. Most Americans don’t know what they’ll be earning next year or even next month. Two-thirds are now living paycheck to paycheck.

So why is this called a “recovery” at all? Because, technically, the economy is growing. But almost all the gains from that growth are going to a small minority at the top.

Cranky old man sounds off again. . .


We’ve vented our frustration about robocalls, so now we turn our attention to call centers, and in particular call centers based in India and Pakistan, where an increasing percentage of both legitimate and scamster mass calling operations are based.

Over the years we’ve followed the migration of call centers with some interest.

Initiatially, centers calling folks in the U.S. were based in the U.S., and save for those based in the Deep South, callers spoke a form of Standard English that was easily intelligible.

Our all-time favorite call center was based in Orem, Utah, in those days when WordPerfect was the leading word processor. WP as a wonderful product, in part because when you bought the software you also got free, unlimited 24-hour tech support, a service we used on several occasions when confronted with problem as book deadlines loomed.

WordPerfect eventually faded from the scene, in part because of one badly designed iteration but mostly because Microsoft, during its initial rise to dominance, bundled free copies of the much-inferior Word with Windows for manufacturers to preinstall on their machines [We remain among the dwindling number still using it, both because we're accustomed to it and because of it's marvelous "reveal codes" feature that makes editing so much easier, though the free call center has long-since vanished and the company was sold to a Canadian firm.]

Sometime in the mid 1980s, call centers took on a subtly different accent, as the speakers intoned “aboot” rather than “about,” leading us to suspect and subsequently confirm in conversations that the centers were migrating to Canada.

Later in the decade, accents took on a delightful Irish brogue as the Canadian Loonie gained strength and the centers headed across the Atlantic to the Emerald Isle.

The callers were still by and large intelligible to someone with fairly decent hearing, and we have to admit at being enticed a time or two by the dulcet tones of a young woman’s voice speaking with a gentle brogue.

But then the accents changed radically, marking yet another evolution as corporations cut costs again and move shop to a country with three times as many English-speakers as the U.S., India, and nearby Pakistan, with more than 90 million English-speakers.

We’re rather found of English spoken with the lyrical meter rounded tones of the Subcontinent, and we had no trouble understanding it, thanks to three years spent living with an Indian family four decades ago.

But having fallen prey to the vicissitudes of years of loud noises [Rock and Classical music at high volume through headphones, plus several years of target shooting early on] and severe hearing loss following chemotherapy [one of those potential complications they don't tell you about beforehand], we have trouble hearing even Standard English in the flat accent of the California Coast, much less they heavily accented sounds spoken by a legitimate corporate call center employee.

When the call is a con artist, the frustration is even worse, given that we have to expend effort in order to determine that we have been targeted by — and let’s call ‘em what they really are — organized crime.

But then that’s globalization. Jobs that could go to Americans are shipped off overseas, by corporations concerned only about the bottom line and enabled by bought-and-paid-for stooges in Washington while scam artists [see our previous post], enabled by communications technology largely developed in the U.S., have at their disposal vast pools of cheap labor trained in English by an educational system created to serve the British Empire.

In the long run, it’s rather ironic. But then in the long run, as someone once said, we’re all dead.

We can’t fault government officials in Indian and Pakistan for welcoming call centers that bring jobs and taxes to their countries, and short of drones, nothing will stop the scammers, but national policies and laws could help return some of those call center jobs to the U.S. And the corporations that did bring the jobs back home would be doing a real service to older and other impaired customers.

But then maybe it’s all just the musings of a cranky old man. . .

InSecurityWatch: Spies, laws, peepers, drones


And much, much more. . .

We begin with the genome-incorporating corporate panopticon from the Asahi Shimbun:

Yahoo offers DNA tests, expects growth in gene-based advertising

Advertisements tailored to individuals’ genetic makeup have moved closer to reality with the start of a DNA testing service by Yahoo Japan Corp.

The service, which began Nov. 7, analyzes 290 genetic aspects of saliva samples–from the risk of such illnesses as lung cancer and stroke to physical traits, including a tendency toward obesity and alcohol-tolerance levels.

The service costs 49,800 yen ($430), including tax. Users can also receive advice from doctors and nutritionists, for an additional charge.

In June, the company revised its regulations on the protection of personal information to allow for the use of DNA analysis results in advertising.

From the Boston Globe, an inescapable conclusion:

Vote all you want. The secret government won’t change.

  • The people we elect aren’t the ones calling the shots, says Tufts University’s Michael Glennon

Why did the face in the Oval Office change but the policies remain the same? Critics tend to focus on Obama himself, a leader who perhaps has shifted with politics to take a harder line. But Tufts University political scientist Michael J. Glennon has a more pessimistic answer: Obama couldn’t have changed policies much even if he tried.

Though it’s a bedrock American principle that citizens can steer their own government by electing new officials, Glennon suggests that in practice, much of our government no longer works that way. In a new book, “National Security and Double Government,” he catalogs the ways that the defense and national security apparatus is effectively self-governing, with virtually no accountability, transparency, or checks and balances of any kind. He uses the term “double government”: There’s the one we elect, and then there’s the one behind it, steering huge swaths of policy almost unchecked. Elected officials end up serving as mere cover for the real decisions made by the bureaucracy.

Glennon’s critique sounds like an outsider’s take, even a radical one. In fact, he is the quintessential insider: He was legal counsel to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and a consultant to various congressional committees, as well as to the State Department. “National Security and Double Government” comes favorably blurbed by former members of the Defense Department, State Department, White House, and even the CIA. And he’s not a conspiracy theorist: Rather, he sees the problem as one of “smart, hard-working, public-spirited people acting in good faith who are responding to systemic incentives”—without any meaningful oversight to rein them in.

Reuters covers signs of overstretch:

As Obama visits Asia, old alliances face new strains in face of China’s influence

In November 2011, with the Arab Spring uprisings in full tilt and Europe rocked by a debt crisis, President Barack Obama flew to Asia to promote a shift of America’s military, diplomatic and business assets to the region. His then Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, declared in the same year that the 21st century would be “America’s Pacific century”.

Fast-forward to today: as Obama flies to Asia on Sunday, Washington’s “pivot” to the region is becoming more visible. It includes deployment of American Marines in Darwin, Australia, stepped up U.S. naval visits to the Philippines and many more joint drills with that nation’s armed forces, as well as the lifting of a ban on lethal weapons sales to Vietnam.

But just as Washington seeks to expand American interests in Asia as a counterpoint to China’s growing influence, some U.S. partners have shown less willingness to challenge Beijing. That may mean China will have a freer hand to assert its authority in the resource-rich South China Sea, where its territorial claims overlap those of Taiwan and four Southeast Asian countries.

The drubbing Obama’s Democrats took in this week’s mid-term elections, defeats that were blamed by many on his leadership, will hardly strengthen his position in discussions with China or with allies in the region. Obama will have less room for maneuver on foreign policy now he has a Republican-controlled Senate to deal with, and the political focus in Washington is already starting to turn to the 2016 presidential election.

More of the same, also via Reuters:

Unclear if China ready to sign IT agreement: WTO chief

China is part of “intensive” talks on a global trade pact regarding information technology products, the World Trade Organization’s chief said on Saturday, but it is unclear if a deal will be made at a meeting of Asia-Pacific leaders underway in Beijing.

The United States and other countries have been hopeful that China would sign on to the Information Technology Agreement (ITA), which requires signatories to eliminate duties on some IT products, during the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit that ends on Tuesday.

Washington has blamed China, the world’s biggest exporter of IT products, for derailing talks on an update to the 16 year old WTO pact on technology trade by asking for too many exemptions.

On to the war of the moment/clash of cultures/blowback via the New York Times:

U.S. Airstrikes in Iraq Target ISIS Leaders

An airstrike by a United States-led coalition hit a gathering of leaders of the Islamic State jihadist group in northwestern Iraq on Saturday, and Iraqi officials said they believed that a number of top militants had been killed.

Two Iraqi officials said that at least one strike had targeted a meeting near the town of Qaim, which is in Anbar Province, just across the border from the Syrian town of Bukamal. The area is in the desert heartland of the territory the group has seized for its self-declared caliphate.

Both officials said that the strikes had killed many militants from the Islamic State, also known as ISIS or ISIL, including two of its regional governors. Rumors also swirled that the group’s leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, had been at the meeting and was either wounded or killed. The officials said they had no confirmed information about Mr. Baghdadi’s presence at the meeting.

From the McClatchy Foreign Staff, strange bedfellows:

Sunni tribes join Shiite militias in battle for Iraqi town, a rare show of sectarian unity

Sunni Muslim tribesmen, Shiite militia fighters and Iraqi security forces set out Saturday to recapture a key city in Anbar province and stop Islamic State atrocities against a local tribe in an extraordinary coalition that could stir sectarian tensions or potentially serve as a model for future cooperation against the militants.

The operation to liberate Hit, about 90 miles west of Baghdad, could reshape the situation in Anbar in a way that would impact the mission of U.S. troops who are being deployed to the province from among the additional 1,500 U.S. military advisers the Pentagon said it is sending to Iraq at the end of the year.

“This is a dramatic change,” said Hisham al Hashimi, a prominent Iraqi defense analyst. “We have the Sunni Arab tribes fighting hand in hand with the Shiites.”

And from BBC News, another inescapable conclusion:

Ex-USSR leader Gorbachev: World on brink of new Cold War

The world is on the brink of a new Cold War, and trust should be restored by dialogue with Russia, former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev has said.

At an event to mark the 25th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall on Sunday, Mr Gorbachev said the West had “succumbed to triumphalism”.

He expressed alarm about recent Middle Eastern and European conflicts.

Along the same lines, via the New York Times:

As Russia Draws Closer to China, U.S. Faces a New Challenge

Mr. Obama is returning to Asia as Russia pulls closer to China, presenting a profound challenge to the United States and Europe. Estranged from the West over Ukraine, Mr. Putin will also be in Beijing this week as he seeks economic and political support, trying to upend the international order by fashioning a coalition to resist what both countries view as American arrogance.

Whether that is more for show than for real has set off a vigorous debate in Washington, where some government officials and international specialists dismiss the prospect of a more meaningful alliance between Russia and China because of the fundamental differences between the countries. But others said the Obama administration should take the threat seriously as Moscow pursues energy, financing and military deals with Beijing.

“We are more and more interested in the region that is next to us in Asia,” said Sergei I. Kislyak, the Russian ambassador to Washington. “They are good partners to us.” He added that a recent natural gas deal between Moscow and Beijing was a taste of the future. “It’s just the beginning,” he said, “and you will see more and more projects between us and China.”

The ante, via the Los Angeles Times:

Aging nuclear arsenal grows ever more costly

The nation’s nuclear weapons stockpile has shrunk by 85% since its Cold War peak half a century ago, but the Energy Department is spending nine times more on each weapon that remains. The nuclear arsenal will cost $8.3 billion this fiscal year, up 30% over the last decade.

The source of some of those costs: skyrocketing profits for contractors, increased security costs for vulnerable facilities and massive investments in projects that were later canceled or postponed.

“We are not getting enough for what we are spending, and we are spending more than what we need,” said Roger Logan, a senior nuclear scientist who retired in 2007 from Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory. “The whole system has failed us.”

The Defense Department’s fleet of submarines, bombers and land-based missiles is also facing obsolescence and will have to be replaced over the next two decades, raising the prospect of further multibillion-dollar cost escalations.

On to drones, first with a partnership from MercoPress:

Anglo-French defence co-operation contract to develop unmanned combat air systems

  • A set of defence co-operation contracts, worth £120 million, for the early phase of a joint development of Unmanned Combat Air System (UCAS) between the UK and French governments have been awarded in Paris. A UCAS capability would, by the 2030′s, be able to undertake sustained surveillance, mark targets, gather intelligence, deter adversaries and carry out strikes in hostile territory.

The contracts will underpin a two-year Future Combat Air System (FCAS) Feasibility Phase program and will involve six industry partners exploring concepts and options for the potential collaborative acquisition of a UCAS in the future.

The contracts award was jointly announced by Bernard Gray, the Ministry of Defence’s Chief of Defence Materiel and his counterpart, Laurent Collet-Billon, head of the French Directorate General of Armaments.

Mr Gray said that the development of Unmanned Combat Air Systems is of vital importance to the UK and France, “which have the most capable and experienced armed forces in Europe and well-established defence industrial bases”.

On a parallel track with Want China Times:

US must act soon to counter China droning on

Because the United States only allows its unmanned aerial vehicles to be exported to the United Kingdom, American experts fear that China will eventually dominate the global drone market, Washington’s National Interest magazine reports.

The Zhuihai Air Show held in Southern China every two years has attracted the attention of aviation experts from around the world. Beijing invested huge amounts of resources to improve the nation’s drone technology. With those drones displayed in Zhuhai, China seems to be ready to challenge the status quo of global arms control as it begins to catch up to its competition in the overseas market of unmanned aerial vehicles.

Following a report which indicated that China is cooperating with the Algerian military in developing unmanned aerial vehicles, Saudi Arabia announced that it purchased an undisclosed number of Wing Loong drones from China on May.

From the McClatchy Washington Bureau, the very curious:

Judge orders Obama to explain rejection of Chinese bid to buy Oregon wind farms on national security grounds

President Barack Obama and a secretive government committee that vets foreign purchases of American companies must explain to a Chinese-owned firm why they rejected its bid to buy Oregon wind farms, under a new order by a federal judge.

The unprecedented ruling by Amy Berman Jackson, a U.S. judge for the District of Columbia who was nominated by Obama, also requires him to justify withholding any information from the Chinese on grounds of executive privilege, a legal principle that presidents going back to George Washington have claimed.

Jackson’s order was issued under a July mandate from the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which ruled then that Obama had violated the constitutional due process rights of Chinese-owned Ralls Corp. in his September 2012 directive voiding its purchase of an Oregon wind-farm conglomerate.

MercoPress goes undercover:

Former US soccer leader Blazer spied on FIFA as an FBI informant

  • Chuck Blazer, once the most powerful man in US soccer, was an FBI informant used to spy on Fifa, the New York Daily News reports. Blazer, who is now suffering from cancer, secretly recorded conversations with officials he arranged to meet at his London hotel during the 2012 Olympics, the report said.

Union-busting at Scotland Yard, via the Guardian:

Police ‘covered up’ links with union blacklisting

  • Leaked minutes show senior officer met group targeting union activists

Scotland Yard has been accused of seeking to cover up its involvement in the blacklisting of more than 3,200 construction workers following the emergence of minutes of a meeting between a senior officer in its anti-extremism unit and the organisation running the list.

The leaked document proves that as late as 2008 a detective chief inspector in the National Extremism Tactical Coordination Unit (Netcu) briefed members of the Consulting Association, the secretive organisation that ran the blacklist keeping people out of work for decades. The association, which had a database of 3,213 names on which it held information, was raided and closed in 2009 by the Information Commissioner’s Office, but not before it destroyed the professional and personal lives of thousands of workers, according to those on the list.

A committee of MPs holding an inquiry into its activities heard evidence that at least two of those blacklisted committed suicide as a result. In 2012 the Information Commissioner’s Office told an employment tribunal that it believed information held in the files was from the police or security services.

From the London Daily Mail, peek-a-boo!:

Is this creepy website live-streaming YOUR living room? 73,000 webcams now viewable to anyone because their owners haven’t set a password

  • Website insecam.com running footage from more than 73,000 cameras
  • A total of 11,000 cameras in the United States are able to be viewed
  • There are 2,422 cameras in the UK which are also providing a live feed
  • Cameras which have not had their factory passwords changed are accessible
  • Users can view businesses, factories, building sites and private homes
  • The site states: ‘you can see into bedrooms of all countries of the world’
  • Easy to stop – just change the password on the camera

A creepy website has collected streaming footage from more than 73,000 cameras around the globe that are connected to the internet, because the owners haven’t changed their default passwords, making them accessible to virtually anyone.

Insecam claims to feature feeds from IP cameras all over the world with more than 11,000 in the U.S. and 2,400 in the UK alone.

Some of the shots are harmless with fly-on-the-wall views of stores, offices and parking lots, but there are also far more personal areas covered by the cameras, with living rooms and bedrooms featured prominently.

From Want China Times, the mal-adroit:

Apple blocks malware targeting Chinese iPhone user

Apple said they have blocked the malware hidden in apps of third-party app stores in China which aim to access information from Chinese iPhone users, Tencent’s online tech news outlet reports.

The malware, dubbed WireLurker, was brought to light by a Silicon Valley-based cyber security company Palo Alto Networks in a report published on Nov. 6. When users downloaded the apps from the third-party app stores in China and installed the apps on their Mac computers, the malware hidden in the apps stole user information from any iOS device, including the iPhone and the iPad, when it was connected to the computer with a USB.

iPhones are relatively safe from malware given the strong firewall protection Apple uses for the phones. Apps that aren’t developed by Apple have to be authorized first and users can only download from Apple’s app store. WireLurker is the first malware capable of invading privacy on iPhones and other iOS devices and it poses a big threat to Chinese Apple users, the tech outlet said.

And from Channel 4 News in Britain, selling you out:

eBay for credit card fraudsters: Thousands of details up for sale

Program notes:

How safe is your money? We’ve discovered that the credit card details of thousands of Britons are being offered for sale on the internet.

After the jump, hard times intolerance in Sweden and Austria, Israel lobby tanks British Labor Party funding, a Chavez ally charged with cartel links, Brazil prepares for war to defend the Amazon, an Israeli Arab general strike over a police shooting, military press censorship proposed in Egypt, protesters seize a Libyan oil port, new anti-gay laws in Uganda, a rare admission by India’s army in deaths of teens, arrested Americans feed by Pyongyang, discouraging words for Hong Kong Occupy activists, Abe confirms a summit in Beijing, Chinese media proclaim a win while China moves forward on a regional economic zone, and echoes from a battle a century past haunt the Beijing/Tokyo axis. . . Continue reading

Election 2014: Bernie Sanders sums it up


The short answer: An oligarchs win, and they’ll be out to cut Social Security, end Obamacare, and generally demolish anything standing in the way of their gaining control over all the wealth they can grab, leaving the rest of  us impoverished and disenfranchised.

From an interview he gave last night to Democracy Now!:

Sen. Bernie Sanders: The United States is on the Verge of Becoming an Oligarchy

Program notes:

We get reaction to the Republicans’ big midterm victory from Sen. Bernie Sanders, Independent of Vermont. “What frightens me is what Citizens United has done to the politics of this country and the ability of billionaires like the Koch brothers and others to put unprecedented sums of money into elections,” Sanders says. “I fear that we may be on the verge of becoming an oligarchic form of society where a handful of billionaires control not just the economy, but the political life of this country. And that’s just something we’re going to have wrestle with.”

That said, the Democrats themselves have do little more than practice placebo politics, recrafting all their social reforms of decades past into privatized functions in corporate hands [e.g., Obamacare] and endlessly surrendering to GOP fiats whilst hypocritically professing their allegiance to Franklin Delano Roosevelt, a stance which has contributed in no small way to the disillusionment of the party’s natural base of the young, women, the poor, and people of color.

Chart of the day: The real unemployment picture


From John Williams’ Shadow Government Statistics, a look at the real jobless picture, including those long-term unemployed who were simply banished from official existence in 1994 under by the Clinton Department of Labor as NAFTA came into force and the outflow of American jobs accelerated:

BLOG Jobless

Wages and sexual harassment in restaurants


The nation’s most powerful lobby in terms of its impacts on large numbers of people is the National Restaurant Association, a political and economic force solidly in control of Congress and ensuring that the nation’s largest employer is its poorest paying.

In a brilliant and passionate presentation, attorney and University of California, Berkeley, lecturer Saru Jayaraman presents a saga characterized by economic deprivation, vulnerability, and overt sexual harassment. . .and worse.

From University of California Television:

Behind the Kitchen Door: Wages and Conditions for Food System Workers with Saru Jayaraman

Program notes:

UC Berkeley lecturer Sara Jayaraman gives a rousing talk describing the harsh and unequal treatment of the nation’s restaurant staff as she argues for increasing the minimum wage in what is now the second largest and fastest growing industry in the country. Jayaraman is presented as the keynote speaker at the Fall 2014 Board of Advisors Dinner for the Goldman School of Public Policy at UC Berkeley.